June 30, 2005
The Democracy Project
You might be wondering what Bleeding Edge has come up with in the 15 minutes we've been able to devote to considering the current political crisis in which, as indicated by its erstwhile leader, M. Latham, the ALP has become a train wreck, the Libs have run amok, the Nationals would run there too, if they had the collective intelligence to discover where it is, the Democrats have discovered how to become dishonest bastards, rather than keeping other bastards pure-minded, and the Greens ... umm, has anybody seen the Greens lately?
We'll be rolling out our humble suggestions over the next few weeks, but here's some rough details:
It's clear that we'll all feel a lot better if we become involved in some positive steps, rather than simply clutching our stomachs and moaning, as most of us have been doing increasingly over the past few years. What we propose is establishing a Democracy Project.
One of the first steps this movement might take is to set up a Registry of Politicians, and a cataloguing system. Our initial thoughts are to allocate each MP to the following categories:
- Dangerous Bastards (e.g. M. Latham, P. Keating)
- Useless Bastards (35 per cent of current MPs)
- Stupid Bastards (another 35 percent)
- Slimy Toads
- Almost Human (John Button)
Next, in order to make the system more transparent, we recommend a Nincompoops Registry, in which individuals involved in the pre-selection of each MP would be publicly identified, named and shamed, and possibly singled out for forcible re-education.
You might like to toss in your ideas and the odd thousand bucks to support research, food and wine and a decent art collection.
June 29, 2005
Google gives you the Earth
Anyone played with Google Earth yet? It's a free 3D satellite mapping application that is "part flight simulator, part video game and part world atlas". It allows you to fly around the planet to locations you specify. You can ask directions, and zoom in from space to street level.
It works only with Windows desktop machines built in the past four years (two years for laptops). Google is still working on a version for the Mac.
Pay $US20 extra, and you get a version that has GPS device support, the ability to import spreadsheets, drawing tools and better printing. And there's a version for professionals. Or enthusiasts willing to spend $US400.
On seeing less of us
"By the way," Justin notes in a comment, "since the advent of "Razor" we see much less of you here. Is that a long term time and priority thing, or just something temporary?"
We've been thinking quite a bit about that, as a matter of fact. It's surprising how writing two blogs is ever so much more demanding than writing one. Aside from the effort of posting, housekeeping on the Razor blog is much more time-consuming. Each post has to be made separately on The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald sites, because of some problems with the copying software that unfortunately obliterate all comments. And approving the comments and answering them is also demanding.
But one of the reasons we've been posting less than usual over the past week or so is the fact that we've been having a bit of a break in Tathra, while finishing off some freelance assignments that we had to take on in order to fight off bankruptcy.
We're driving back tomorrow (which means we probably won't have the time to post), but after that, things should start getting back to normal.
We still haven't worked out a natural separation between what we write in Razor, and what we write here. Although we can demonstrate our political views here. And be a little less polite.
June 28, 2005
Not worth leading?
Now that he's had the chance to reflect on his time as Leader of the Opposition, Mark Latham has discovered that he wasn't really a leader at all. What he actually was, according to his new book, was a loner - which sounds much better by far than being a loser - and the party that mistook him for a leader wasn't worth leading.
Furthermore, says Mr Latham, now that it's gone back to the leader it rejected - that is, the one it rejected before it rejected Mr Latham, and the leader it rejected immediately preceding him - the party is beyond hope, without vision, and umm, lacking leadership.
Somehow we suspect that John Howard just revised any plans he might have had for retirement. Peter Costello's going to have to dig him out with a jackhammer.
But even if the nine justices have given the recording industry a hammer to crush file-sharing, hope springs eternal. Perhaps this one actually will reinvent public broadcasting. But that may depend on whether or not they avoid inciting people to do naughty things with the software.
June 27, 2005
Google discovers Australia
As we've just observed elsewhere, while we weren't looking, Google Maps appears to have wandered across the Pacific, and discovered Australia. We're pretty sure this has only just happened, but let us know if it's old news. The last time we looked, they fell off the earth somewhere off Hawaii.
Lean, mean and possibly dead
For the latest in Bleeding Edge's ongoing series of Excuses for Not Dieting, we cross to The Guardian, which informs us that the "healthy overweight" and obese who succeed in losing weight, unfortunately are twice as likely to expire before their alloted span as those who remain slobs.
Nobody quite knows why this is so, but they suggest that it could have something to do with the fact that our bodies are utterly undiscriminating about where they lose the extra kilos. Apparently while one might be overweight, some of one's organs might be perfectly lean. While one's heart, for instance, might tolerate being forcibly shrunk, something else - say, for instance, one's liver or giblets - might get starved to death.
This is not an excuse, by the way, to go out and eat a block of chocolate, because people who added to their normal generous dimensions also were more likely to expire. Better polish off only half a block of chocolate, just to be safe.
June 23, 2005
A free lifesaver for your PC
The average Windows user regards Linux as an exotic country. They can't imagine ever having a use for it. The fact is, however, that Linux can be a lifesaver for your PC, even if you don't intend to learn the intricacies of another operating system or take advantage of all those free, open-source applications.
We were reminded of this recently after we came across a Slashdot article about Ubuntu - a complete Linux-based operating system that comes in versions that are specifically designed to work with Intel, AMD and Mac platforms, with good support for both PC and Mac notebooks.
We looked at the website and discovered they were offering a free CD. The distribution includes more than 1000 pieces of software - standard desktop applications such as word processing, spreadsheet applications, internet access applications, web server software, email software, programming languages and tools and several games.
In keeping with the ideas enshrined in the Ubuntu Manifesto - that software should be free of charge - they suggested that we might even offer some to our friends. We asked for 10.
We promptly forgot all about it but, sure enough, some time later we got 10 Ubuntu CDs - well, 20 actually - in the mail. They even paid for the postage.
That is a reflection of the fact that Ubuntu is funded by Canonical, set up by the South African security expert Mark Shuttleworth, who made an awful lot of money when he sold Thawte to VeriSign.
That also explains the rigorous development schedule that is increasingly making Ubuntu the most popular derivative of the well-regarded Debian. The Debian GNU/Linux version 3.1 distribution, "Sarge", was released this month after almost three years of development.
What arrived in the mail were 10 copies of an installation disk and 10 copies of a live boot CD. Had we been aware of its existence, we could have downloaded it here.
The package arrived at just the right time. The night it was delivered a friend rang with the news that his hard drive had died and he'd lost everything on it. By the time we arrived, he had already installed another hard drive and installed Windows but it couldn't see the data on the old drive. As far as it was concerned, the disk was empty. He'd also downloaded a hard disk recovery program but after hours of scanning the best it could do was to try to recover information in just four directories.
We inserted the Ubuntu Live CD and rebooted. This was the first time we'd used this distribution, so we weren't sure what to expect.
It performed without the slightest hitch. Within minutes we were looking at the Ubuntu desktop, which is a customised version of the GNOME desktop.
From one of the menu options we opened a drive browser and there was an icon for the damaged disk. We double-clicked on the icon and another window opened. For a moment it was blank, then miraculously - given this was an NTFS partition and Linux support for NTFS isn't great - the contents of his old disk popped up.
It was absurdly simple from there to copy all our friend's data off the disk. While a few files were not retrievable because of physical damage to the disk, we got back pretty well everything in about an hour.
A few weeks later, we had to copy files from an old PC to a new one, with Serial ATA hard drives.
For some reason we could not get the computer to boot from the SATA drives when the old drive was connected. So we inserted the Ubuntu CD into the old computer, booted up in Ubuntu and copied the files onto a network share.
Given our experience of Ubuntu, we weren't surprised to learn that Hewlett-Packard is offering its European notebook customers a free copy of an Ubuntu version designed for their hardware.
Ubuntu popped into our head again when a small non-profit organisation needed something to manage its lending library. Given a later-model computer and a budget, we'd probably have recommended FileMaker Pro, which includes a lending library program in its free starter applications.
But all they had was an elderly notebook so we installed Ubuntu and checked out freshmeat.net for Linux lending library software. Given that the solution is absolutely free, it might be worth learning just a little bit more of Linux.
June 22, 2005
Transparency in journalism
Journalism as traditionally practised, has been a lecture, almost completely one-way, from journalists to readers. But it’s changing now to a conversation between and among journalists and readers, one that breaks down artificial barriers between us and readers and involves unprecedented levels of transparency in how we do our work.
Journalists: We don't believe what we're stealing
Less than 1 per cent of journalists participating in the 11th Annual Euro RSCG Magnet Survey of the Media - conducted with the participation of Columbia University - are willing to grant any credibility to bloggers, but more than half of them are happy to steal their ideas.
It turns out, in fact, that journalists are probably the biggest readers of blogs, but typically, of course, they don't acknowledge them as sources, let alone put anything back into the blogging community. Instead, they take refuge in the assertion that blogging would compromise their reputation for objectivity. Pardon?
Mind you, the average journalist's opinion of bloggers is no more flattering, it seems, than his estimation of his peers. According to the survey: "Journalists' trust in each other has plummeted in the wake of recent scandals; 93% note that they are less trusting of colleagues who are paid to act as spokespeople, and 79% believe that recent revelations about journalists taking payment from third parties has had quite a strong effect on media credibility."
By the way, in a revelation that's interesting only because of its tardiness, they don't trust corporations much these days, either. It's probably going to take a lot of journalists a similar amount of time to wake up to the fact that if they don't start displaying the same energy and innovative ideas as the best of bloggers, nobody's going to want to read their type of journalism.
Posted by cw at 05:09 PM
June 20, 2005
On the beach
Sorry it took so long to approve all those comments on laptops for students. The fact is, we slipped out of Melbourne under cover of darkness early Sunday morning, and about seven hours later pulled into Tathra, on the NSW south coast.
We'll try to post once a day, thanks to this.
But we intend to spend most of the next week or so sleeping, reading, and walking on the beach. And eating the best oysters in Australia.
June 18, 2005
A cheap student laptop?
"Anyway," our correspondent informed us today by email, "as a student at university it is imperative I have a working laptop. I've had the same one for about five years now and as you can tell, it's fallen apart and doesn't seem to work anymore. Nor is it up-to-date as all computers should be.
"So, with a budget of about $1500, I was wondering which computer you would recommend me. I would mainly be using it for word processing but would also use it for photos and the Internet. I've decided I don't need a whiz bang laptop nor any of the fancy equipment such as wireless Internet but I would like one that is fast, easy to carry around and won't empty my hip pocket."
Before we started the Bleeding Edge blog, we would have attempted to answer that question. We would probably have started by suggesting that while the price of laptops has dropped, the best you can hope for out of those requirements - fast, easy to carry around and $1600 is at best, two out of three, and even those two will have to be considered in relative terms.
For $1500, you're not going to get either the lightest of laptops or the fastest. And indeed, people who - like us - put size and weight above everything, don't care all that much about speed. Ironically, the fastest laptops these days are the so-called desktop replacements, and they're only marginally more portable than a bucket of bricks.
So far as university students go, we'd have suggested that the best portable computer these days isn't a conventional laptop. We'd prefer a Tablet PC. Toshiba's just released a budget version, in the Satellite R10, but it's roughly double this particular budget.
We'd have added that when you're hunting for a laptop, you need to also consider things like battery life, size of screen and hard drive, the amount of RAM, the graphics system, whether or not it has a CD/DVD player built-in, and whether the brand you're considering has a reputation for reliability. Although there are a lot more OEM laptops around these days at good prices - and they generally come from the same factories that produce the best-known brands - we don't know enough yet about their build quality to recommend them.
We'd have done a little hunting around, and discovered for instance that Dell seems to be offering a particularly good deal on its Inspiron 6000MUA. It's got a 15-inch screen and weighs just over 3kg, which isn't particularly light, but the Centrino chip is probably fast enough for this reader's purposes and it comes with wireless. But even with the reduction, it's going to cost more than $1500. The answer to the question might be to look for a good second-hand laptop, but we thought we'd turn the question over to the Bleeding Edge community. Any ideas?
June 17, 2005
Hopping into tourism
Have you noticed that there are fewer American tourists around these days? They're not as keen as they used to be to pop over and throw a few prawns on the barbie, largely because, according to tourism experts, the Government has forgotten all about barbies, and instead has been trying to promote the place as a sophisticated destination with lots of nice wines and fine dining opportunities.
And it turns out that Americans aren't all that keen to pay a lot of money and fly 14 hours to eat in an Australian restaurant, when they can enjoy a great meal and a bottle of Burgundy in New York or Los Angeles. And possibly even Boston and San Francisco.
According to American travel experts, we've got to start promoting Australian flora and fauna. According to Californian-based president of Qantas Vacations, Ross Webster, quoted in this morning's Financial Review "It's the kangaroo down Collins Street that appeals."
OK. We're going to have to make some sacrifices here. It's going to cause a few traffic jams, and no doubt we'll lose a few kangaroos and wombats etc, but it's going to be WAAAaay cheaper than Federation Square. Maybe we can even dress the little critters in slouch hats and swags, before we turn them loose in the mall?
June 16, 2005
Listen to your computer
Listen up. Have you noticed yet that all those traditional sources of audio - the radio, the CD player, cassette tape etc – are being replaced by computers? PCs and Macs and MP3 players like the iPod, iRiver etc not only have taken over from their predecessors, they’ve also extended the utility of audio devices.
More radio stations are using streaming audio to make their shows available over the Internet. The more enlightened, like the ABC and the BBC are starting to make them available as Podcasts, which you can download and listen to at your convenience, or transfer them to your MP3 player.
It seems a wise defensive move, given the existence of hardware like Griffin Technology’s Radio Shark, which not only allows you to listen to AM and FM broadcasts through your PC or Mac, but also gives you the option of scheduling them for recording, or time-shifting them if you happen to miss the beginning, or are interrupted by a phone call. The initial release wasn’t all that impressive, but recent software updates have turned it into a great aid for the dedicated radio listener, at around $120.
Another great source of audio is podcasting, which allows amateur audio enthusiasts to record shows and pop them on the Internet for downloading. While there’s a lot of self-indulgent podcasting out there, there’s a growing number of high-quality ones.
We find ourselves constantly visiting itconversations.com, for instance, to listen to fascinating programs about computers and the Internet.
Last week’s Livewire revealed the increasing number of audio books that are being produced in MP3 format. While existing copyright makes it illegal in Australia to copy those that aren’t in digital format – let’s hope the Government quickly changes that with the legislative review we mentioned recently – it’s quite easy to turn those titles that still come out only on CD and cassette into MP3 files.
The reason you might want to do that is not just because it gives you a backup, but also because MP3 files can be played through your PDA, your MP3 player, and increasingly even your telephone.
Given all those options, it’s much more likely that you’ll be able to enjoy the real benefit of digital audio – the ability to listen to the recorded information when you’re doing other things, such as driving or taking the dog for a walk for instance, without the hassles of skipping or tape shredding etc.
And if you’re one of those people who can’t bear to waste a single minute, once they’re in that format, they can also be speeded up. We have friends who take great pride in the fact that they can listen to Late Night Live or a book they’ve downloaded from audible.com in much less time than would be possible with the original format. They don’t mind at all that the speaker sounds like a harassed chipmunk.
Programs that are delivered only by streaming audio can also be captured and turned into MP3 files with the use of software like High Criteria’s Total Recorder ($US11.95) for the PC, or Audio Hijack ($US16). These programs use drivers that capture all sound from programs like Real Player, Windows Media Player, and iTunes etc.
You could also use them to record audio files you’ve downloaded from audible.com, which would give you a far more versatile file than the restrictions imposed by audible.com’s licensing. You’d have to decide for yourself, of course, whether this represented a misuse of copyright. Both programs could also be used to record Internet telephone conversations.
In each case, the companies offer Pro versions that have more capabilities, but even the basic ones allow you to schedule recordings. The latest version of Audio Hijack works with Tiger.
High Criteria also has some companion products that are worth looking at. Dictation Buddy, for instance, turns your PC into a great dictation tool, particularly when you add the Melbourne-designed VPedal.
BOOKSHELF: With the number of blogs increasing at a phenomenal rate, more people than ever will find themselves dealing with the market-leading Movable Type. The Movable Type 3 Bible, from Wiley, gives you a thorough grounding in the complexities of a blogging platform that on the surface looks relatively easy to master, but repays the effort required to learn about its more powerful features. Increasingly, these books are rendered somewhat out of date with the release of new versions, which this book promises to solve with an update site. Frankly there’s not much there, but there is a link to the author’s site.
June 15, 2005
Bleeding Edge was hoping to drive up to Tathra on the weekend for a bit of a spell by the seaside, but what with Mobil having suddenly increased the price of petrol to record levels - a 14c jump in one day - we're going to have to seriously examine the contents of the piggy bank.
What do they think they're selling? Inkjet printer ink?
OK, Bleeding Edge has been a loyal Bomber fan since we first moved to Melbourne, rented a house in Aberfeldie St, Essendon, and spent an awful lot of Saturdays at Windy Hill. We've had a lot of ups and downs since then, and now that we've settled in at St Kilda, maybe we could justify switching sides.
But football loyalty dies hard ... particularly, it appears, when you're an Essendon supporter. According to a Sensis survey, in Victoria at least, Essendon supporters outnumber those of any other team. And where the supporters of other teams lose interest when they're not winning, Essendon supporters retain their passion. What's wrong with us? Are we just thick?
Maybe we could take a pill.
June 14, 2005
We have never been tidy. Ever since we learnt, as a child, how to pick things up, we have been putting them down in the least appropriate place. We have devoted a lifetime to the accumulation of disorder.
What we can achieve with a decent supply of newspapers, magazines, books and clothing, dishes and pots and pans, to say nothing of sundry computer gadgets, could possibly be matched by a couple of heavy earthmoving machines, but only if the operators worked 24-hour shifts.
We're pretty sure this is a psychological condition - Obsessive Clutter Disorder, or something like that - but we've never seen any studies on it, and we're not aware of any drugs to treat it.
It's not, by the way, a happy situation to be in. We spend an awful lot of time looking for things that we've dropped God knows where, and the mess bothers us ... to say nothing of the strife it causes with the local Institution of Marriage.
Last week, when the IoM took off for a holiday, we knew that the normal pattern would run something like this: we'd accumulate enough debris in a few days to turn the place into a junk heap, and we'd end up feeling out of control and helpless.
Instead we vowed to change our ways. We forced ourselves to make the bed every morning. We cleaned benches and washed up. If we got something out of a cupboard, we put it back. We did all the laundry, and did all the folding and ironing.
Then we started looking for other things that had been annoying us. We straightened out the tangle of cords and cables in the hi-fi cabinet. We started doing the same thing in the office - although that's going to take a lot more time to complete.
Six days after the IOM departed, the house is as tidy as -if not more tidy than - it was when she left. We're beginning to think that we may have overcome a bad habit.
June 12, 2005
Apple/Intel? No worries
The Wall St Journal's Walter Mossberg can't see any problems with Apple's switch to Intel CPUs.
There's no reason not to buy a Mac right now, he says: "If you need a new computer and the Mac was the right choice for you last week, it's still the right choice. Today's PowerPC Macs are, in my view, the best consumer computers on the market, and Apple plans to roll out additional PowerPC models this year.
"Plus, all new software for the Mac will continue to run on PowerPC models for at least a few more years, the likely life of any Mac you buy now. That's because Apple has created a tool for software developers that easily creates "universal" programs capable of being run on either the PowerPC or Intel models." Umm, didn't someone else create that tool?
But he does acknowledge that "if Apple fails to execute the switch well or the Intel processors don't meet expectations, the Mac could be in trouble". As we said: it's too soon to tell. But we're not sure if we'd be eager to rush out and buy any future PowerPC models.
June 10, 2005
Apple/Intel: Wise move/disaster?
Apple, it seems, is going to have trouble managing the hiatus between the existing PowerPC chip, and the Intel line, one year away at the low end, and two years for higher-end models. Over on The Register, early indications are not good. They suggest, in fact, that Apple sales are going to drop off, as users delay purchasing.
More than half their emails to the editor took that line. Others, however, indicated that there was never a better time to buy a Mac. We've been talking to some local retailers, and they report that there is some increased interest in the G5s, on the apparent reasoning that either this will be as good as it gets, or Apple's going to run out of stock of the things. Hmm! Don't know about that. There's a reasonable chance that Apple might be forced to discount, so we'd wait a little while yet before doing anything.
The key factor, in all this, in our opinion, is the performance of Rosetta, which converts PowerPC code to Intel code on the fly. One of our programmer friends has pointed us to a couple of links which indicate the news is good and bad.
Since all graphics/interface stuff will be recompiled as native code and not emulated, you can expect the end user experience to appear snappy, even if some of the underlying things are running 10 times slower. For example, recalculating a spreadsheet might be 10 times slower, but these days how many spreadsheets take more than a fraction of a second to recalc anyway? Really for end users it's the display and scrolling speed that people tend to use as the judge of "snappiness" of an interface anyway.
Andrew Bolt ... twerp!
It's official. Andrew Bolt is a twerp. The most pompous, pontificating finger-pointer in recent history cops a few criticisms from Stephen Mayne on the ABC and he demands a right of reply! When he gets it, he demands a Royal Commission into the Mistreatment of Mr Bolt, accusing Mayne of persecuting him because of "long-standing personal anomosity against me".
Then he accuses ABC management of "a gross error of judgment", and appears to be threatening official retaliation.
Really, Andrew, the rules of engagement are these: if you've been given a forum for criticising others - even the ABC has given you a free run on its Insiders program [to our great disgust they actually pay you for it] - you cop counter-criticism on the chin.
You have to be able to take it, you see, as well as give it out. You don't go whining to the umpire, complaining that somebody bit back.
What a sorry little person. No brains. No backbone.
Getting intimate with new Telstra chief
We do hope you're ready for this. It seems that the new Telstra chief executive, Solomon Trujillo, plans to have a close relationship with you. A very close relationship.
Solomon will want to know more about you, because he's convinced that the only way to create value in Telstra, is for the company to understand how its products are relevant to its customers. He's going to want to know what you need, rather than just trying to sell you things. We're not sure how Telstra is going to cope with this, given its deeply entrenched view that the customers ought to be bloody happy with what they're given ... and pay through the nose for the stuff.
"Pick any device," says Solomon, "and you’ll find only a few of its capabilities are used. That’s because companies haven’t been focused enough on customers, trying not only to understand what they need and want from devices but how to make them easy to use. The companies that will win are those that achieve customer intimacy, those who not only know their customers best but can execute against that knowledge."
Customer intimacy, he says, is the only sustainable differentiator for any company.
And the new Telstra chief is obviously going to be demanding that every Australian has access to genuine broadband, as opposed to the pretend-broadband that Telstra has been dispensing.
We're not sure how this is going to affect his intimacy with Chairman McGauchie, who's popped a little clause into the employment contract which declares that that a "close and constructive" relationship with the chairman will be critical to the chief executive's success. In the past, Solomon has got frustrated when he hasn't been given independence.
June 09, 2005
We know pain. Of course we know pain. Anyone who has ever tried to pair Bluetooth devices – those short-range wireless connections that link things like mobile phones to headsets and GPS systems and PDAs and laptops - has a rich experience of suffering.
That’s why, when we decided it was time to be a little more responsible, and get a car kit for the Bleeding Edge vehicle – the Edgemobile – rather than allowing ourselves to get distracted whenever the mobile phone rang while we were driving, we expected to have trouble.
Unlike the world of Wi-Fi, where one manufacturer’s products can be virtually guaranteed to work with another, the Bluetooth consortium in the past seems to have taken the idea of compatibility purely as an option. We have spent hours, for instance, trying to pair earlier-generation Nokia phones with various Bluetooth devices.
But Bluetooth makes a lot of sense, particularly for automobile hands-free units. You don’t have to pay to have them wired in, for a start. The Edgemobile still has a cradle for a Nokia hands-free screwed into the dashboard, despite the fact that it ceased being useful close to a decade ago.
We weren’t about to go down that path again. We were prepared to take the risk of pairing hassles, in return for greater flexibility, and the prospect of having some more holes drilled into the dashboard.
We’re happy to report that it turned out to be a remarkably pain-free experience, possibly because, in the past year or so, Bluetooth has spread to about 50 per cent of mobile phones, compared to only 15 per cent previously. In the next year or so, it will become pretty much a standard offering.
We chose a newly released product, the Supertooth II, from St Kilda-based Blue Ant Wireless (blueant.com.au). It retails for $199, but we notice Telstra phone shops are selling it this month for $179.
The first thing that attracted us was its sheer good looks. This is a beautifully engineered little device ,with almost Apple-like elegance. It’s thin and light, and mounts on your sun visor, using a magnetic clip. It ships with two clips, which makes it easy to transfer between two cars. Just put the magnets against the clip housing, and it snaps firmly into place and stays there.
To turn it on, you simply pull down the pivoting microphone arm. To pick up a call, or hang up, you press the button on the arm. It’s a nice size, which makes it easy to find. There’s an adjustable volume control, and the signature blue flashing light that tells you it’s operating.
The package includes both an AC charger and a cigarettle-lighter adapter. You’ll find yourself using them relatively rarely, however, because the internal lithium ion rechargeable battery lasts up to 20 hours of talk time, and 800 hours on standby.
The acid test, however, is the pairing operation. The nice thing about the SuperTooth II is that you can use it out of the car, in those situations where you might need a hands-free. We therefore did ours in the Cacao chocolate shop in Fitzroy Street. Coffee and chocolate, we’ve discovered, are invaluable thinking agents.
The first phone we tried it with was a Palm Treo 650. It took little more than a minute or two. We’ve since done the same thing with a Nokia, again without trouble. The only phone we’ve heard of that was less than simple was the Siemens SK65, but given that Siemens has decided to pull its mobile phone business out of Australia, we’d recommend you don’t buy one of those, anyway.
The next thing to test was voice quality. The reception via the system’s Digital Signal Processor was never less than perfect on our side. The first few people we called, however, reported a slightly hollow sound. That turned out to be pretty easy to fix. We’d mounted the phone back to front.
Our verdict? A great little pain-free product. It comes with a two-year hardware warranty.
BOOKSHELF: One of the great Internet resources for Windows users is annoyances.org. it sprang from a series of books on Microsoft’s operating systems and applications, and has continued to give users invaluable help. Now O’Reilly has brought out Windows XP Annoyances for Geeks, SecondEdition, by David A. Karp. It covers SP2, and it lives up to the series’ reputation.
It will guide you through the more tricky things like setting up networks and sharing Internet connections while copy with SP2’s new firewall, help you customize Windows, fine-tune it for better performance, troubleshoot problems, and in all sorts of ways, eliminate those annoying shortcomings of Windows ($65).
June 08, 2005
Repurposing the news
Too many jobs, not enough Indians
Got a taste for curry? Fancy an exciting career in a former chicken shed in Bangalore? Slashdot reports that so many jobs have moved to India from Europe, the US and even Australia, that there aren't enough Indians to fill them. Well, apparently not enough who can speak something other than Hindi. ZDNet India is reporting that "India faces a massive shortage of workers with European language skills over the next five years which could see the country needing to recruit up to 120,000 foreigners..."
They might also require some help running their Web sites. And some disk space. When we checked, ZDNet India was down. Like a lot of Indians with foreign language skills, apparently, the guy who built it is quite busy on his own projects.
June 07, 2005
Don't bug Russell Crowe!
Poor Russell Crowe got himself arrested in New York after a faulty telephone so infuriated him that he pulled it out of the wall, took it down to the front desk and remonstrated with a hotel clerk whose "attitude" induced Russell to throw the phone against the wall. Somehow the clerk ended up having to have stitches inserted in a facial wound.
Now Russell faces a possible eight years in jail on charges of second-degree assault and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon - the telephone. If that's the way Russell reacts to bugs, we suggest that if ever he is introduced to a computer, they should clear the building.
June 06, 2005
Our next PowerBook ... a Pentium?
There we were, wondering if Apple was going to use the worldwide developers' conference to announce a G5 PowerBook ... which would mean an abrupt devaluation of our investment in the new 15-inch Aluminium. But maybe we don't have to worry about that quite yet.
John Markoff reports that the reason Apple will announce, overnight, that it's going to migrate to Intel chips, includes the fact that IBM hasn't been able to come up with a version of the G5 PowerPC chip that generates less heat - a crucial feature for notebook computers.
Mac Man, however, is sceptical.
Google cache can affect your cachet
As we told Life Matters this morning, in an era where 80 million individual users visit Google every month, and you don't get to a first date or an important interview without someone Googling you, your social or career cachet is likely to be seriously affected by what's in the Google cache - the vast computer storage farm that houses the search engine's index.
If you're going to be on society's A list, or avoid outright scandal or serious loss of face, it's not enough, these days, to hire a publicist. You're also going to need an expert in search engine optimisation.
While most blog owners engage in desultory search engine cheating to boost their hits, some people are trying to defeat Google's Page Rank algorithms to obscure less than photogenic images, poor reviews and inconvenient personal histories. And it's not just individuals. Companies and other organisations are also trying to manage their image against the background of the Web.
If you own the blog or Web site, it's easy to correct these things. You just follow the advice at Google's Remove Content page. If not, you're going to have to convince the owner of the page to cease and desist. What with organisations like the Chilling Effects Clearing House coaching bloggers in resisting these things, that could prove tricky.
It isn't just Google, by the way. You've got all those other search engines, and even worse, the Way Back Machine, which lets you view snapshots of whole Web sites, year by year, whether the content has been erased or not. Unlike Google, whose cache deletes files every month or six weeks, it never deletes its cache files - although again, if you own the site, you can insert a robots.txt link.
That New York Times ">article suggests some strategies for burying unflattering details or images by way of a little Google bombing ... "create a preferred version of the facts on a home page or a blog of your own, then devise a strategy to get high-ranking Web sites to link to you".
If you're running a popular blog, you might find yourself getting lots of invitations in future from people looking for a cleansing link.
June 05, 2005
Back from the dead
You might remember that we had that problem where users of Big Pond (and ISPs that used the Big Pond system) had trouble finding us? Well, on Friday afternoon we decided to fix it. Great fix! For the next two days, NOBODY could find us.
We're still trying to work out exactly what went wrong, but it had something to do with DNS servers as opposed to Web server entries. We'll see if we can isolate the exact cause during the week, so that if we ever have to shift servers again, we'll know what to look out for.
June 03, 2005
Big Pond breaks Bleeding Edge
What with Bleeding Edge's tendency, every now and again, to slip into paranoia - it's the natural consequency of a few decades in journalism, in our opinion - we're trying not to take this personally. But the fact is, we have made some rather pointed criticisms, from time to time, about Big Pond. So maybe the fact that it's apparently impossible to reach Bleeding Edge from Big Pond servers - and a lot of ISPs use Big Pond servers - is a bizarre retaliation? Sorry. We said we wouldn't take it personally, so we'll take it back.
It's just that we happen to be among maybe a hundred or so sites that suddenly started experiencing problems when Big Pond [SIGH!!] decided to fix something. Alas, in what we can only assume is yet another dispplay of their technical expertise, the repair work has produced the following brilliant consequences: when somebody looks for Bleeding Edge, and some other unfortunate sites, as the DNS is routed through the Telstra network, it loses packets, which results in a very long, and ultimately unsuccessful wait.
This, of course, is costing us untold amounts of traffic, at just the time when we might have expected to get some substantial gains from the new Razor blogs. We are not going to get paranoid. Honestly. But it's amazing isn't it, that despite the fact that we escaped their clutches to join the Optus cable network, they can still stuff us around?
June 02, 2005
Getting the best out of a PowerBook
We know that you, dear reader, will understand why Bleeding Edge had to buy a 15-inch Mac PowerBook, even if the local Institution of Marriage required a technology transfer - she got the Portege - before applying the "Grudging Approval" stamp.
It wasn't gross extravagance, really. It was the call of duty. How could we justify the very name of this column if we didn't have a device that was capable of running Tiger at a decent clip? We'd cease to be an ubergeek and be relegated, instead, to the category of mere user. Perish the thought. So we had to cast all caution and several thousand dollars to the wind, and invest.
Have you noticed, by any chance, how much work is involved in breaking in a new operating system? In addition to being flat broke, we are physicallly exhausted. Emotionally drained. In need of a holiday.
It wasn't just the effort of setting up email accounts, transferring contacts and calendar details, documents and databases, etc, plus the iTunes library of course.
We had to reconsider our modus operandi. Although we're still using Windows XP too, the fact that we're spending increasing amounts of time on the Mac required a whole new way of looking at things.
And some things we didn’t want to leave behind. One thing about the Windows interface that we prefer is the quick Alt-Tab task switching key combination. OS X has a similar function, but it switches you between applications, rather than cycling through your open windows. [And we've subsequently discovered that Command-~ cycles you through windows in an open application.]
But we wanted a more consistent replacement, and eventually came up with something called Witch.
We also started experimenting with Quicksilver which is a fascinating launcher cum keyboard navigation system. In fact it’s hard to describe precisely what Quicksilver is, completely. Initially it creates a catalog of applications and some frequently used folders and documents, which you can search. Once you locate what you’re looking for, you can perform various operations on it, including, of course, launching it.
We think we’re going to like Quicksilver, but it takes quite a bit of getting used to, however, so have a look at the tutorial.
With most of Bleeding Edge's work on Windows PCs, we'd grown used to using InfoSelect, our favourite flatfile database to record interviews and contacts and practically everything else that we need to remember.
We weren’t interested in running it under emulation with Virtual PC. That would be far too much messing about. We had to find a replacement for that, and Spotlight, one of the elements of the new Tiger version of OS X, provided an answer. It meant exporting the contents of the database as individual files, which Spotlight could index and quickly search.
As for keeping track of things, we decided that VoodooPad looked pretty interesting.
But that wasn't the end of it. We were in the mood to examine everything we did. We wanted to see if the Mac could improve our productivity.
Some of the things we investigated work equally well on a PC , as it happens. Backpack, for instance, is a Web-based intelligent planner and organiser – half wiki, half blog - that allows you to manage to do lists, dated text notes, images and files, with features like checkboxes, links and email reminders.
In the US and Canada you can get it to send SMS reminders, but we haven’t been able to get that working in Australia.
You start with a blank page, then use Backpack’s simple but effective interface to build the elements as you need them. We’ve been using it as a personal planning tool, but there’s a more serious version for business called Basecamp.
There’s some quite brilliant features in this program. Everything you create has an email address, for instance so you can post something by sending an email to the page.
What makes it a perfect family planning tool is the fact that you can share your projects.
It will email you reminders and RSS you if anyone makes any changes to your collaborative projects. If you’re using an iCalendar application, it will synchronise with the iCal calendar. And someone has already come up with an AppleScript that uses Growl to prompt you with a pop-up when you receive an email reminder from Backpack.
June 01, 2005
Deep Throat surfaces at last
It wasn't Fred Fielding, Pat Buchanan, or any of the many people who have, with varying degrees of certainty, been identified over the years since the Watergate scandal as Deep Throat.
It turns out that the mysterious source who provided the tip-offs that allowed Bob Woodward (with Carl Bernstein) to break so many stories that led to the impeachment trial and eventual resignation of Richard Nixon was the former FBI No. 2, a man called W. Mark Felt.
The Watergate sleuth and former Nixon aide, John Dean, was way off the mark. In his book, he claimed it couldn't have been anyone from the FBI. No wonder Nixon couldn't track him down.
The New York Times offers some interesting sidelights on the revelation, including the fact that there's been something of a tussle over the intellectual property of Deep Throat. And Mr Felt's grandchildren might get to have a good education.
A fine start to the day
Look, if economists can't think of anything good to say, shouldn't they be turned into fertiliser, and put to some useful purpose?
This sort of stuff - "Retailing is on the slide and the current account deficit has gone bananas" - is only going to depress people, and keep them away from the Myer's sales.