Sunday, December 24, 2006

"Surely You're Joking Mr Feynman"

Just finished this book. Read it very quickly even though it's a relatively long read - think it was just because it was very interesting.

Richard Feynman was considered one of the top minds of the last century. Reading this book, you'll get an idea why. Obviously, as an autobiography it does bring to the fore how great he thought he was. He never really goes into detail about his achievements, so it's tough to know details about what exactly it was that he achieved.

This book really blows stuff like Freakonomics out of the water in terms of thinking differently. I think the fundamental reason Feynman stood out was a combination of the persistence he asked the question 'Why?' and his ability to obtain answers.

'Why' is a fundamental word that should really be used more often. Ben Goldacre's wonderful 'Bad Science' column in the Guardian fulfils the modern day version of Feynman - asking awkward questions of what Feynman calls 'Cargo Cult Scientists.'

Asking the right questions of quacks and trash peddlers should smoke them out pretty quickly.

I often get frustrated at work when people give presentations that aren't necessarily backed up by facts. I too often put up charts without properly sourcing them. I think this is a problem that needs to be addressed in society in general.

Too often newspaper report only the findings of a study. It's amazing how often they won't actually tell you which journal the research is appearing in. They often won't even include who the authors are. I often moan about the number of headlines revolving around 'cancer risk' in newspaper stories. The old method of ignoring stories with quotation marks in the headlines needs to be followed more rigorously.

In summary, I remembered the Feynman lectures from my physics course and it's refreshing to find out that there was a genuinely interesting (if sometimes tipping towards the insane side of eccentric) person behind them. Well worth a read if you're looking for some popular science stuff.

Fantastic

For anyone who doesn't like the Daily Mail nor the Evening Standard, here's a great little thing.

Managed to get it to say "Londoners fear Ken fiasco." Wonder if that's what the headline writers actually use - will have to see if I can see a similar machine at the Sun.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Heat - George Monbiot's New Book

I do hate George Monbiot on many levels. He has a very strong 'holier than thou' attitude to almost all of his campaigning issues. He very rarely gives people credit for trying. "You may have saved one million dolphins, but you still don't pay your migrant workers a living wage".

This book is a vision of how to deliver an almost Carbon Neutral Britain (and world) by 2050. It's very ambitious and very interesting. Once you get past his first two chapters, it's quite a good read. It should be used as a model for people wishing to make a point about anything campaigny. Everything he refers to is sourced, he talks through his calculations and he is good at actually using decent numbers.

Overall, there were some interesting ideas which I'm going to have to check out:

  • DC Power Lines (a new, more efficient way of moving large amounts of electricity around)
  • Passive Houses (extremely well insulated houses which don't need heat)
  • Peer to Peer National Grid

The Peer to Peer National Grid sounds the most promising. The majority of energy inefficiency in electricity generation is due to heat escaping. This could be harnessed by putting small scale generators in each home. THe power transmission lines would then allow energy exchanges between households.

My main problems with his book is that the assumptions used to postulate that we need to reduce a carbon emissions by 90% seem slightly ropey. He goes out of his way to criticise a group of people for not being fully trained in science, but then talks about a wonderful paper by someone who wasn't trained in science (one page later!?).

To be fair though, this is a good effort and worth a read or two.


Here

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Harryhausen

The original special effects guru. Impressive what could be achieved with a stop motion camera, a projection screen and large amounts of plasticene.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Learning - Crip on a Trip

Title of the programme seems to have been done by a Sun subeditor...

Sounds like an interesting show.

What's next?

Tourettes on Tour?

Spastic spend with plastic?

Midgets play with Widgets?


Possibilities are endless

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The next deputy PM

A very rare example of a Lib Dem being able to use numbers well.

Amusingly, Stephen Tall (random Lib Dem from Oxfordshire) has managed to twist a press release supporting Harriet Harman for deputy PM into a case for Hillary Benn.

I think everyone is convinced Hillary Benn is a nice guy, but he still seems a little obscure to me.

The other question many people must be asking is "What does the deputy PM actually do?"

It always seemed to be a job for someone who couldn't be trusted with a 'proper' cabinet position. Michael Heseltine needed something grand without too much potential to mess things up. John Prescott needed to the same treatment.

We'll see if Hillary Benn can manage to achieve anything in the position.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Gates Goes Green

Microsoft, the company geeks love to hate, is going to make itself eligible for the award of greenest company on Earth. It would be churlish to ask why they haven't done this before - energy inefficiency is mainly a product of computer manufacturers rather than Microsoft.

It's an interesting idea that it's possible to save that much energy without putting too much effort in. 100 million computers seems to be quite a low estimate for the number of computers in the world - I seem to remember seeing a stat that there were almost a billion computers in the world.

Anyway - we'll see if this actually adds something to the computer or if it just makes the computer constantly try to turn itself off when you're not looking.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Social Suicide Suits

I love my industry. Selling things to people who don't need them.

What's a good example?


This link.

I would love to go into a shop and try and get someone to sell this product to me.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Why is this man now Minister for Science?

'pioneering work on hypothermia, Old and Cold: hypothermia and social policy'

Now that sounds like good science.

Admittedly Lord Sainsbury wasn't much better, but at least he'd been in a position before government to appreciate how important Science is to modern life.

I don't believe a sociology lecturer is the right person to be in charge of Britain's research budget.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

New degree reflects music's digital direction

Coventry University is setting up an 'e-music degree' - a degree in how to distribute and promote music online.

How can you do a degree in how to upload stuff to MySpace?

Where do the teachers come from - the internet has been a mainstream medium for around six years, maximum. Who can claim to know more than the people who have grown up through the system?

I doubt the contacts that Coventry University offer their prospective students are very strong - MySpace UK has about thirty staff, up from one at the beginning of the year.

Looks to me like a waste of time for whoever does it. Their best option is to ignore the course and use the student loan to fund their time making music.

The internet is a good distribution option for good music . Student's time would be best spent learning how to make good music rather than learning how to distribute the end product. I also think it will be tough for any university or teacher to show people how to make good music. If you're composing, you've either got it or you don't (in my opinion)

Monday, October 30, 2006

Video Blog!

An attempt at a video blog. Just talking about the activity I was up to on the weekend.

Before:




After


Sunday, October 22, 2006

Beer fingerprints to go UK-wide | The Register

There appears to be a scheme to check people's fingerprints before they drink alcohol.
This is wrong. The government will be collecting data on where you drink. This will also give them the names of the people you hang out with. There is no reason for the government to need to know this information, and definitely intrudes way too far into people's lives.
Interesting to see that councils are able to setup a ID system that is hugely cheaper than the government's proposed cards...

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Now that's just silly


Now that's just silly
Originally uploaded by mild_swearwords.

Some people get into the christmas spirit.

Others put a couple of decorations up around the house.

The REALLY committed can't bear to not have Christmas imprinted on every single thing they do. This means they have to involve Christmas at their most intimate moments.

Morrissons have bravely stepped up to the challenge and provided what we've always wanted - christmas themed loo roll.

Idiots. Anyone who buys this deserves to have their money stolen.


Might make cheap wrapping paper though!!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Stand up

'Feeling Good' ad for Co-Operative Bank

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Aftermath


The Aftermath
Originally uploaded by mild_swearwords.

Amusing story.

Went to a house party last night, to celebrate(?) Charlie leaving on a round the world trip.

He was having a fantastic time. Until he accidentally told his shiny new girlfriend about the fact that he'd had sex with one of the girls there. Six years ago. Once and never again.

For some reason this annoyed her out of all proportion. She stormed off to bed and then in the morning tried to run off without saying goodbye to anyone.
In order to move her car out, she needed to move someone's car out of the way. She tried and failed miserable, crashing the car which wasn't hers into Charlie's sister's car.
Obviously, after this convoluted series of events, it was decided (by Charlie's sister) that it was Charlie's fault everything had happened.

Therefore Charlie has to pay because he annoyed his girlfriend and she broke stuff.

Who says it's a man's world?

Friday, October 13, 2006

Dogs On Acid - Whats your favourite name on DOA?

Dogs On Acid - Whats your favourite name on DOA?

Just found this page!!!

Thanks Ben!

Cultural Week

This week has been slightly different.

On Monday I went to see 'an inconvenient truth' the Al Gore film which shows how he's single handedly trying to save the Earth. With a PowerBook apple computer. Might start staring into my laptop with an intense expression while making random presentations. Seems to work for him!

Wednesday I had a lovely dinner party with a Barrister and someone who is about to start studying to become a Rabbi. Most interesting and civilised talking over dinner.

Tonight I have been to see the new Kevin Spacey play in the Old Vic. I really enjoyed it. It wasn't the most sophisticated of plays, I think my dad would have moaned and said it was predictable and derivative. However Spacey was very impressive and the lead female (whoever she was) did a solid job. Worth seeing.


Admittedly on Tuesday I got drunk in the Roadhouse in Covent Garden. That wasn't quite as cultured...

Monday, October 09, 2006

MediaGuardian.co.uk | Broadcast | Terry Lloyd killed by US fire, say ballistics expects

MediaGuardian.co.uk | Broadcast | Terry Lloyd killed by US fire, say ballistics expects

If this was French troops being accused of accidentally shooting a journalist dead the press would be baying for blood. It's slightly concerning how much this story has been buried in many of hte papers.

Admittedly this is happening on the same day that a concerning nation has acquired nuclear weapons, but still!

MediaGuardian.co.uk | Broadcast | Terry Lloyd killed by US fire, say ballistics expects

MediaGuardian.co.uk | Broadcast | Terry Lloyd killed by US fire, say ballistics expects

If this was French troops being accused of accidentally shooting a journalist dead the press would be baying for blood. It's slightly concerning how much this story has been buried in many of hte papers.

Admittedly this is happening on the same day that a concerning nation has acquired nuclear weapons, but still!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Risky Business

Banning gambling on the internet = supporting terrorism.

Fantastic!

Brilliant

I'm watching the third season of Battlestar Galactica.

The aliens are occupying the humans. They're running terrorist operations to attack the aliens. The aliens think they've come along to help the humans, but have no clear idea of what they're going to do.

The humans want to bomb collaborators and are looking to recruit suicide bombers. One of the terrorist leaders has been tortured and now wants to go further.

They've taken the old darkness and retacheted it up even further.

Fetal babies

Really good article on abortion. It's really hard to define the difference between a foetus and a baby. Viability is one - can it survive outside the womb?

Maybe the solution to the time limit should be that the foetus is removed from the woman's womb and the resulting baby is given to people willing to adopt. This (probably HUGE) cost would be covered by an optional baby saving tax.
Happy solution - the people who care pay, the woman has the option to change her mind (and a small scar) and the pope will smile.

"Malcolm Murdoch" - Google Search

Finally!

Now when you search for me on Google, the top result isn't the silly page that says I once played Diplomacy.

Also, there's a little Ziki thing where they're bidding on my name. In some ways that's cool. In others it's probably not.

Anyway - check out Ziki it's quite a funky service and there are some people on there who are worth subscribing to.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Clothes Buying

Seem to be going through a phase of spending literally hours hunting for good clothes. Then ending up settling for one in the shop very nearby to my house.
I think part of the move to London is that I like having anonymity. It is nice to be recognised and thought of as local, but I don't like people seeing my patterns of behaviour. I think it's nice to be slightly unpredictable but my shopping shows the mundane facts - I am extremely predictable.
The salesperson showed me some clothes at the beginning and he was right. I like to think that I'd be able to find something in the shop I liked more. However, he was able to balance price and how much I might like it pretty well.
Ah well. Predictable as always

Friday, September 29, 2006

Google Reader Redesign

OK. I admit I do see to be turning into a Google fanboy.

I'm using Blogger (Google owned), my photo manager is Picasa (Google owned), I have Google desktop search, I use personalised search (really does make a difference), I use Google translate, the only thing I don't seem to use is Google talk.

Rather annoyingly I use Google reader too. I wasn't too keen on the whole bloglines thing and I liked the idea of being able to read the RSS feeds on any computer.

They just redesigned it and it's bloody amazing. Honestly. It has loads of additional features. Check it out!

I do use some Yahoo products though - delicious, Yahoo Mail and I am registered on Yahoo instant messenger. My photos, in case you haven't noticed, are on Flickr!

That's many internet services which I use. Slightly worrying!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Getting Rained On

Had a most upsetting day on Thursday. Was on my way home and the heavens opened. Like some kind of biblical flood starting, the rain started pounding its way down.
I'd been well prepared and had my umbrella in my bag.
Unfortunately it decided that this would be the best possible time to no longer work.
This was a picture I took while having a ten minute wait under a nice shop front hoping and praying for the rain to end.
It didn't. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Guardian Unlimited | Gallery | Tony Blair's speech at the Labour conference

Evil video by the Guardian showing the Chancellor's expressions through Tony Blair's speech.

It must be annoying to have to live life under the gaze of cameras at all points. You've got to pay attention to how 'well' you pay attention during a speech.

How can you look good while paying attention to a speech. It's really hard to look attentive at all points!

Guardian Unlimited | Gallery | Tony Blair's speech at the Labour conference

Evil video by the Guardian showing the Chancellor's expressions through Tony Blair's speech.

It must be annoying to have to live life under the gaze of cameras at all points. You've got to pay attention to how 'well' you pay attention during a speech.

How can you look good while paying attention to a speech. It's really hard to look attentive at all points!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Legend

Is it a boy? Is it a midget?

Whatever - he's damn cool

Friday, September 22, 2006

Soul:R

Just listening to a mix on this site.

I sometimes forget just how amazing Calibre and Marcus Intalex are. Then I hear things like their July mix.

Listen to it now!

Cunning Shop

Wandered into Bath last weekend.
There was a very good shop there. Can't remember what it was called, but the design was very original. All it sold was oil and spirits.
The oil and spirits were all sold from barrels or big glass jars like this:

Very old school. Really good for making it seem a very wholesome shop - the shop was extremely clean and they had little labels describing exactly how excellent each of their products was. The prices looked very reasonable too - I think it was around £2 for 100ml of Limoncello directly form the slopes of Limoncello land.
There was a cunning catch though. You had to buy both the glass bottles and the corks separattely. They also took the chance to make up reasons why you should pay silly prices for special corks and beautifully made bottles.

Overall though, the shop was really good. Sold tons of wholesome sounding products. Would definitely go there and buy stuff (spirits will go into my own Thomas the Tank Engine Thermos) if it was in London...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Hackney wins logo case against Nike

Nike somehow managed to sell clothing with Hackney's logo on it across the world.

Shows the difficulty of trademarks - someone should have checked. You'd have thought a global brand like Nike would remember, but they didn't.

Still, respect to Nike for managing to salvage some positive PR. This could easily have turned into one of those 'mega evil corporation kills children' type stories.

Al Gore and Yahoo! team up to offer TV channel

Interesting - Al Gore and Yahoo! have teamed up to offer four broadband based channels.

This should be interesting - proper content available on the internet. I bet it's region locked, but we'll see if there's a way around that.

Ignoring the fact that Current TV has pretty rubbish ratings in the US, it'll be quite interesting to see how Yahoo! approach setting up this 'broadband channel.'
Will the user get a choice of programmes to watch or are they running in a loop? Yahoo! usually fund by advertising, how will they be slipping this in?

Good luck to them though - will be good to see this when it gets to the UK!

Science World: Acid | Ads of the World


Slightly geeky I know, but a great advert. Not sure how long you can make a program last if it's just about Hydroflouric acid. I'm sure there's been some pretty nasty accidents, but that's probably about it isn't it?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

EnvironmentContract - JotSpot Wiki (defra)

EnvironmentContract - JotSpot Wiki (defra)
Very interesting.

DEFRA tried to catch the Wiki bug. Really good idea - invite consultation by allowing people to edit their 'environmental contract'.

Unfortunately they didn't think it through very thoroughly.

Some of the more amusing results:
http://wiki.defra.gov.uk/WikiHome/EnvironmentContract?revision=159
http://wiki.defra.gov.uk/WikiHome/EnvironmentContract?revision=125

I think this shows that user generated content does allow very original comments and ideas. However, it also attracts bored people who are willing to write contributions which are not quite as serious as the government would like.
'Jeremy Clarkson... should be penalised thrice over' was a good comment though. I'd also like to know what COI think of the comment about 'Expensive advertising campaigns designed by coked up metrosexuals'...
As the Wikipedia has learnt, wikis on controversial subjects need to be looked after.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Annoying CD Players

Just been 'ripping' some new cds I got.

Winamp annoyingly ripped some of them with skips and noise in them. This isn't a problem just confined to Winamp, I've experienced it with iTunes too. It wouldn't be too difficult at all to put a little detector in that would warn us that the tunes haven't been copied properly.

I admit it's not that difficult to fix, but when I put music on my work computer, the CD isn't usually easily at hand. Fix it please!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Advertising.com Party


Jos and Miltos
Originally uploaded by mild_swearwords.

Went along to the Ad.com party at Egg last night.
Really fun night running around and catching up with people.
It was a reasonably good venue to hold a party in, though I was slightly disappointed that there weren't that many people there. The usual problem of South London-ites holding sway, not willing to move themselves up North...

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Guardian Unlimited | Comment is free | We should go down on our knees to thank Blair

"If the delegates had any sense of history - or just any sense - they would go down on their knees in thanksgiving for his achievements and the chance for the future he has provided."

Slight exaggeration, but good points no less. The fact that the people signing this silly letter have never been in proper opposition is quite telling.
Blair should go, but with dignity.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

SPECIAL: "Winning Online" -- A Manifesto

A US based trade mag for the printing trade has published a manifesto for 'winning online'.
They represent the 'quality news'. These guys are being squeezed from two sides - free papers eating up the people who aren't that interested in the news and online competitors eating up the people who are interested in the news.
What can they do?
I think they are trying to preserve something that shouldn't be kept. There is no need for hundreds of different quality news outlets. The internet allows for readers to concentrate on only the articles they like.
News is threatened because in the online world, they only get money for content which people like. Impressions will only appear against good articles. Good journalists and good columnists will generate good money. Bad journalists and bad columnists will not generate money. More than that, the bad people will push people away from titles.
Once people start moving away from papers in huge numbers, we will see some of the titles surviving in an online incarnation. We will see some titles die though, which should be mourned. However they should not be protected - if a title has good editorial content, it will survive. If it doesn't it will perish and deservedly so.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Another rant against Hippies

Shopping in Waitrose the other day and I spotted these.
You can get stock already made in packets. What's so difficult about putting a stock cube in boiling water? Have they no idea how bad this is for the environment?

Idiots, though the fact that these were around £1.50 a pop means these are, effectively, idiot tax. In some ways I hope Waitrose makes lots of money out of these.

Equally I hope that it's Nestle who actually makes it. That would make the hippies choke! Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Associated Newspapers buys SimplySwitch for £22m

"LONDON - Associated Newspapers has acquired SimplySwitch, the utility, broadband and phone price comparison service, in a £22m deal that includes a three-year earn-out for the management team."

I suspect they're grossly overpaying. Simply Switch have been roundly thrashed by USwitch in this arena. Utilities suppliers generally pay around £20 per switch. There are around a million regular switchers, making a total of £20 million potential revenue over the year for all the players. If Simply Switch can capture 10% of the market (I suspect they probably have a share around that size now) and have a 50% profit margin (not impossible) we can see £1 million profit a year. As the wholesale prices rise, we should see consumer becoming more accustomed to switching and the number of people switching will also rise.
Unfortunately, this rosy picture is about to be assaulted. Xelector and USwitch are battling it out between them to provide third party listings on major sites. MoneySupermarket and some of the other financial aggregators are moving into the utility bill provision market, hoping to capitalise on their strong brands in the personal finance market.
I think this is the wrong price to pay for a company and the wrong time to buy it. Good luck associated!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Search Medica - The GPs search engine

Yet more vertical search engines. Though this one is in the UK.

It could get quite useful for the medical community, though it will have to struggle to gain usage above Google Scholar.

Good to see people taking on Google on it's own turf though. The interface itself seems to use the clustering idea in order to deliver the best results.

It'd be interesting to see how they intend to make money out of it. Doesn't seem to be anything very obvious here. As I'm cynical, this makes me slightly suspicous. The site is being run by CMP medica who run a large number of journals. Might there be some kind of bias going on?

Is Myspace A Patent Violator?

Friendster was one of the first generation of the social networking sites. They were the first to try many of the ideas from which MySpace and bebo built their empires.
Another thing that they were first to do, it seems, is to run tot he patent office to protect their 'intellecual property'. It seems perverse that the idea of social networking should be granted a patent. Although the technology behind the platform is impressive and deserves protection, the idea of being able to get in touch with your friends seems to be pretty generic.
The problem that America seems to have is their government's willingness to bend towards the wants of business. In this case the patent office has gone too far.
Friendsreunited could be considered one of the first social networking sites. Surely they missed a trick here in patenting their technology? Did BT have something when it tried to patent the hyperlink?
If patents are so important, how did both Microsoft and Apple end up having 'desktops' and 'windows' within their operating systems? Companies and individuals are allowed to challenge the patents, if the owner tries to enforce it.
There should be some kind of method for alternative patent offices to challenge patents approved by foreign companies. Under WTO rules, all members must accept patents awarded by other WTO members. This creates a false market with the most lax patent office winning out.
Currently, the patent office of choice seems to be the US one as it is easier to get a patent and they award patents based on who came up with an idea first rather than when the idea was patented. Something needs to be done!

Hoff for Mayor!

Hoff living here?

I think little could be more perfect than having the Hoff wandering around London. If he can break down the berlin wall, think what he can do for us!

Ryanair.com - CHEAP FLIGHTS - Fly Cheaper, Car hire, Hotels, Travel Insurance

Ryanair trying to go back to being people's champions.
Interesting tactic to pressure the government, but it's probably a good thing that someone is taking a stand against government knee jerk reactions.
Good little piece of branding for them too!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Signs of Witness

Site find from Boing Boing.
It's very difficult to tell whether this is some kind of spoof site or not. It seems to be the world through the prism of a psychotic Christian.
To me, it is difficult to believe that anyone with a world view THIS out of kilter with normality is able to maintain it. The person seems to be getting information from reputable news sources. It can't believe they are this ignorant.
The concerning thing about the growth of user generated content is that some people are going to end up relying on sources like this for news, culture and information. The ways in which people can distort fact in an environment where fact is difficult to prove are worrying.
Alarmists would start moaning that Osama bin Laden is going to start recruiting through his blog. This would be a standard overblown overreaction. We should have faith in the vast majority of people who are still going to seek trusted sources of information.
Brands are key to trust. Information without a source is useless. Sources which are not linked to a reputable brand are worthless.
The current 'social search' as exemplified by Digg and Delicious can help direct people to information but we still need landmarks to rely on for veracity and consistency.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Living Room of the Future

What's in the living room of the future?

Video is coming from new sources, from DVDs, consoles, digital cameras and even mobile phones. We are now moving to a situation where televisions are no longer the central and only consumer entertainment object within the living room. What else is invading this space? What's going to be in front of our sofas?

Displays

There is ongoing competition between three different technologies for the mainstay of any digital living room, the display.

These are the Plasma screen, the LCD screen and the projector (and a resulting screen). Note the use of the words 'screen' or 'display' rather than television. There is a definite trend for televisions to be used as screens. The role of decoding television transmission is rapidly being delegated to distinct, separate boxes.
Tuning into external signals (television) is rapidly being delegated to boxes (Sky+, freeview, media centres). Internal signals such as DVDs have traditionally been delivered from external devices too.

Plasma Screens

To be brutally honest, the average consumer doesn't really know the difference between the two competing flat screen standards. Overall, plasma screen has one main advantage over LCD screens and that is price. On a 'price per square inch' basis, plasma wins at the moment. However, they have an ongoing (though slowly being solved) problem with 'screen burn'. This is a major issue as people start shifting towards media centres which will need to be able to surf on the Internet. Wanting to play computer games will also impose further limitations on the people who want to use their screen for games.
Power efficiency is not very good at all - Fujitsu are currently attempting to run some negative PR about the efficiency of the screens. They cannot achieve levels that can beat CRT, let alone beat the LCDs.
Image quality is supposed to be strongest on these screens, as they have the ability to get the strongest 'contrast ratios'. The contrast ratio tells you the difference between white pixels and black pixels. LCD screens tend to be around 500 whereas plasma screens will be around 3000. This leads to more impressive colours, if you believe the marketing blurbs...

LCD Screens

These screens are the most reliable and tend to last the longest, having a very low tendency to suffer from screen burn. LCD is the most price efficient for smaller screens, but they are having difficulty competing with the plasma screens on the larger sizes.
In terms of power efficiency, LCD screens win hands down. They are far more efficient than the average CRT (traditional TV screen) and manage to thrash the plasma screens.
Image quality is not as strong as the other two, however whether the quality is detectable without specialised equipment is a very good question. I strongly suspect that most people will not be willing to pay extra for the plasma screens.

Projectors

Some might consider a projector a bit of overkill for the average living room. Though a projector can be a more practical solution than a 42" television.
Projectors sit somewhere between LCD and Plasma in terms of picture quality, though they can be the best if you are willing to pay eye watering amounts of money.
Costs tend to vary hugely. If the consumer is not worried about having enough resolution to run HD content, they can get a decent sized projector without spending more than LCD screens.
Projectors will more than likely become a more specialised choice as they will not be a 'space saving solution'. Reliability issues can come into it as projectors can get through their horredously expensive bulbs on a very regular basis.

Video Delivery

PVR

Sky+ penetration is growing steadily and heavily. The popularity of the PVR product is very impressive, and does not seem to be something consumers are willing to give up. Sky report seeing their retention rates leap significantly with the introduction of their PVR service. The fact they are willing to subsidise the introduction of the PVR to UK households indicates we will see the majority of homes with this device by the end of the decade.
BARB estimate that PVR penetration will rise to 78% within the next ten years. This is particularly interesting as it predicts that time shifted viewing will still only consist of around 20% of TV watching by this point.
PVRs are very simple to install and extremely easy to use. These two factors are the most important in terms of mass consumer adoption. It is very difficult to see a way in which PVRs, or something very like them will not become the dominant method of watching television. Products are coming to market which combine DVD functions with PVRs, allowing people to have a one stop shop for their video needs.
HDTV will result in more expensive PVRs, but shouldn't produce any signifcant changes to these devices.

Media Centre

Although media centres are currently being touted as the future by Microsoft, the costs of the systems are prohibitive at the moment. Microsoft (and the hardware companies) are looking to people to invest an extra £1,000 in a 'home entertainment system'. Since this is being targeted at people who have already invested in a large screen, companies are looking for a certain class of consumers. Suspicions abound that these consumers will not be found in large numbers.
Media centres offer people the opportunity to combine their PC and therefore internet browsing with the television. This is an interesting proposal, as many research papers (including Touchpoints) have pointed out that many people watch TV while using their PCs for other tasks. Will Microsoft expect people to use more than one computer in their living rooms?
HDTV will be a necessity for the media centres, as many of their functions will not work well on normal, non-HDTV screens.

Consoles

Video doesn't have to be TV or films, it could also come from consoles. Video game usage among younger people is increasing, and the original 'gamer' generations have now reached the ages where they have serious amounts of spend behind them. Can the console makers convince consumers to spend large amounts of money on their products?
Already people are spending more on games than on cinema. A US study found that a significant proportion of men are spending more on gaming than on music. The average annual UK music spend is around £170. Will we see this being cut into to go towards games?
Both Microsoft and Sony have two strategies available. They can either look to incorporate their 'media centre' product into the new generation of computers emerging, or they can look to upgrade their consoles. The new generation of consoles have the capability to fulfil all the functions of a media centre, should their manufacturers choose to upgrade them.
The most likely scenario will be that the manufacturers will give the media centre another 18 months (until a while after Windows Vista has been launched) to see if they can make more money by selling the more expensive platforms. If this cannot be achieved, then they will move towards providing the necessary functionality on their proprietary platforms.
I suspect that we will see some kind of package come out for the consoles which will allow them to be used as 'digital hubs'. Sony are already pushing the PS3's ability to play the new blu-ray disks. Will they start enabling their PS3s to take TV signals and become PVRs? Will they give the PS3 a fully functional web browser?
Some of the answers are visible from Microsoft. They are trying to extend their 360 brand. Their online presence has recently rebranded to 'Windows Live', deliberately reminiscent of the XBox live. XBox live is one of Microsoft's few web successes (which wasn't bought) so it seems natural that they want to build on success. Plans to sell advertising on the XBox live system would also start their ability to fund an expansion of this service to cover a wider range of content.
Consoles offer the manufacturers a chance to roll back the development of the web and begin to offer 'walled garden internet'. Only allowing approved (or paying) partners within it. This content rich network would then be milked for all the advertising cash they could justify. If any of the three companies (Nintendo could get into this game too) can attract a good number of people to their network, we should see some interesting media opportunities.

Internet (IPTV)

IPTV is a serious proposition. Watching TV over the internet is something which can already happen (BBC's 'watch again' has been in testing for a long period of time). Internet delivery systems for film and video are under development from Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and other companies. Internet delivery requires large amounts of bandwidth to work effectively. Downloading large amounts of video content will result in large costs for the broadcaster and, potentially, for the consumer. Many consumers have deals with their ISPs that limit the total amount they are allowed to download a month. IPTV will be impossible to realise while these caps remain in place for the majority of consumers.
IPTV is a technology that covers a large range of possible solutions. There are current systems in place, being run by Homechoice, NTL and Telewest. Although they currently have a large amount of UK households with the service, details are currently sketchy as to usage.
The homechoice platform is of most interest, as it not only represents a live implementation of IPTV but also shows a possible server \ client implementation of the media centres. This means the homechoice servers (currently physically installed in the telephone exchanges) will be able to run web browsers for living rooms.
The fact that some of the services allow people to watch programmes whenever they want to makes them similar to PVRs. There are consistent rumours that the BBC will introduce a system similar to 'Listen Again' on an IPTV platform.
DVD playing will also be threatened by IPTV. A physical copy of films will no longer be necessary. Many consumers are now comfortable downloading their music. They will be able to download films. Currently, cable operators offer their users the opportunity to 'rent' movies which are then playable for the night through their platform. The rise of Netflix shows there is demand for easy and flexible film hires.

Conclusion

The next major battleground for consumer electronics will be the living room. There are a number of different solutions to the wants and demands of the modern consumer. The television battleground will end with LCDs on the top, though there will never be a uniform technology again in the same way that CRT once ruled the roost. There is constant innovation within this field and we should expect to see new technologies being able to deliver visuals in the near future.
The method of receiving the signals is where the majority of uncertainty lies. IPTV has the potential to deliver the majority of people's video content, though it will be necessary to develop enough infastructure to deliver the required bandwidth. In the short term, however, the PVR will be the most used solution before the rise of IPTV.
Consoles represent an attractive route into the living room for the major players. Sony is definitely using the PS3 as an 'advance guard' into the living room. Once the PS3 has been bought, consumers will then have a need for a HDTV. Microsoft hope to keep their operating system at the heart of home users, and so will aim to start extending the possibilities of their console offering.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Microsoft Training Video

Don't quite see why Microsoft have made this video, but Gervais always manages to amuse.

I'd be interested to know how much he charged them to appear

Friday, August 18, 2006

More hippies

The middle eastern conflict is very serious and important. Huge risks are taken on by each side. Both sides are ready, willing and seemingly eager to hurl themselves at the enemy not caring if they live or die.

Since these are small countries, they both also represent proxy wars by the region's major powers.

Therefore the Guardian decides the most relevant way to gain insight into the situation is to talk to local authors. On both sides.

Bloody arts students.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Guardian Unlimited Business | | London Lite risks newspaper 'bloodbath'

"Paul Zwillenberg, at OC&C Strategy Consultants, suggested paid-for and free papers could co-exist if they catered for different readers. Free papers opened an audience for advertisers they had not been able to reach with paid-for papers"

I want to be a strategy consultant - it sounds easy. I'd be good at it - look!
"If you give people free things, you might attract people who wouldn't normally pay for it"

"You can sell two of the same thing if you sell them to two different people"

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Plasma screens threaten eco-crisis

I really do hate hippies very very much.

There's a story in the Observer today bemoaning the current crop of consumers who are running into shops to buy 'flat screen TVs.' These TVs are going to result in so much energy demand that we'll need two new nuclear power stations to cope with the demand.

The calculations are rubbish - and also stupidly flawed. They calculate the amount of energy needed to have all the TV sets on at the same time, not taking into consideration the fact that a large percentage of these TVs will be replacements. Each TV will not result in incremental demand, just the difference in power between the old tv and the new tv.

They also confuse Plasma screen and flat screen the whole way through the article. Plasma screens are about twice as power hungry as old CRT screens. However, LCD screens are about half as power hungry as old CRT screens. Guess which ones are cheaper?

The problem here is that Fujisu Siemens have done some PR with their 'Chief Technology Officer' telling the newspaper about the problems with Plasma screens (hoping that they will then talk up the power consumption of LCD screens). The stupid arts graduates at the Observer obviously then has no idea of the difference in technologies making up flat screens. The idiots
(names: David Smith and Juliette Jowit) then got up on their environmental high horses and bemoaned the new british consumer.

Then, to top it all off, they go on about the wasted energy in standby electronics. Yes, a small amount of energy is wasted in standby electronics. If you compare this waste with the amount of energy saved by getting 5% of the UK population to use energy saving bulbs, you'll see where the best use of time and effort is.

Lesson - don't trust journalists. They are stupid.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Yet another one in the eye for the Hippies

A quick story from the BBC news site pointing out that wind turbines aren't generating as much energy as originally planned. Only attaining a third of the planned capacity sounds pretty rubbish.
However, the stats that they're looking at are slightly misleading. The story is reporting that they are only generating 30% of their 'capacity'.
The capacity is measured by the amount of energy that the wind farm would produce if they turned at full power 100% of the time. To be fair to the builders, reaching 30% of this number is extremely good going. If wind farms are being built the on assumption that they could get much higher than this, then that is slightly worrying.
Go nuclear!

LEGO.com MINDSTORMS NXT Home

Lego has always been one of my favourite things in the whole world.

Now they've released a robot! That's prorammable.

And made of LEGO!

I feel yet another boyhood regression coming on...

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Brick

Damn good film. Transposing a noir film into an American high school.
The whole idea of cliques and politics running rampant across a school works extremely well. Would have enjoyed going to a school like the one portrayed in the film. An adult world within a child's environment.
I like the idea of being called 'the pin'. I want to be a master criminal.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Big Brother and rant against BARB

Sometime there are times when I fell proud to be a snob, other times when I don't.

Big brother is one of those times where I feel justified in looking for slightly more quality than the average Peon. I think Peon is the right term. The people you see in the TV show represent the most extreme ends of the spectrum of Britain. More than that, they represent only the 'scum' end of this spectrum.
The programme itself is designed to make people feel better about themselves. "I might be an annoying person, but at least I'm not as bad as [insert relevant BB character here]." Maybe it fulfils a role within society of keeping the peons quiet through the summer. Maybe we should be grateful - without BB, people might be burning cars in the estates like the French in their equivalents.
I know there is a certain degree of snobbery in deciding that I don't like Big Brother. There's a whole media commentator beast out there determined to find things to disgust them within BB. I, quite proudly, have seen no more of the series than possible. Once I work out that BB is on, I either leave the room or change the channel.
My own personal boycott shows up the problems inherent within the BARB TV ratings system. I've got to hope that the people who 'represent' my demographic on the panel aren't watching the thing. If the people who represent me are watching, C4 will get the money and will commission more programmes like it to take advantage of this perceived niche. How anyone can even hope that a panel of 5,100 homes can possibly represent the almost 25 million British households is beyond me.
We are fast approaching the point where there is almost one TV channel for every five BARB homes. Soon we will see homes using IPTV. Where will these shows count? They won't be at the correct time. BARB has enough trouble with PVRs, let alone people watching shows independently of the channel. It might have advertising in it, it might not. WHo knows?

Not BARB.

Bloomsbury Bowling


P8080049
Originally uploaded by mild_swearwords.

Went bowling again last night, courtesy of Ad.com.

Really fun - want more chances to go bowling! Strangely, the food we were having was Sushi. Didn't know bowling was that big a thing in Japan.

Must be, the place we went (Bloomsbury Bowling) had Karaoke booths and everything.

Unforunately didn't do very well - I was doing my usual spinning thing, but I just couldn't get it consistent. Or I hadn't had enough beer. One of the two.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

New Conspiracy Theory

Interesting piece of detective work by a blogger.
Not the kind of stuff I usually read as this is some kind of right wing nutjob, but nevertheless quite interesting.
To be fair, both sides know how to play the PR game and are quite willing to exploit casualties to make sure that there is maximum publicity.
The fact that Hizbollah is willing to use civilian casualties against the Israelis is a positive thing, in my opinion. They should use them for maximum impact because it is giving the Israelis additional incentives (which they shouldn't really need in the first place) to not kill innocent civilians.
I haven't read this blog that thoroughly, but it doesn't seem to be implying that the Qana bombing was anything apart from what it appeared to be.
Quite good and convincing detective work by the blogger though. Maybe we'll see them turn up an actual story at some point soon!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A cool solution to waste disposal (July 2006) - News - PhysicsWeb

Interesting...


I remember being taught in school that half lives couldn't be changed by any physical process at all. If half lives can be reduced, we can bash all the hippys out of the land and start building nuclear power stations.

I'm sure people would start making new funky tools which would increase the half life within nuclear weapons, thus disarming countries without them knowing. Would involve a James Bond style infiltration of a nuclear bunker and attaching some kind of device to it. But you never know!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Michael Portillo

Am watching Newsnight. Michael Portillo seems to be the one defending Blair against the evil people from the Lib Dems and Jack Straw's version of the labour party.

What's going on? I was expecting Portillo to open his mouth and say how he didn't think Blair knew what he was doing. The ex-special advisor for Jack Straw seems to be all about criticising Blair.

The Israelis need another ten days. To do what? Ten days aren't enough to take the county over by ground. What are they going to acheive by further bombings and arbitrary raids into random villages slightly close to their northern border?

Scary stuff.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Stange Sign in Piccadilly Circus

Outside a chinese medicine shop. It lists the causes of different diseases and purports to show the traditional chinese cure.

Fine.

But what the hell is the sign about cancer? Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

British business under American rules

The Sharpener » Blog Archive » British business under American rules

Quite interesting article. Basically the usual moan about Sabarnes Oxley - the cruel cruel burden of accountabiltiy on the poor, put upon chief executives.

However, they have a good point asking where the protest from the CBI & co is...

It porbably has put a greater burden on major UK companies than any single European directive ever has. It's even had a knock on effect on paperwork for people in the UK. I've had people delay stuff because they need to get a counter signature on something due to 'SOX compliance'.

If the EU tried to introduce anything that would lead to jail terms for company executives, you wouldn't be able to move for posters printed out from the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph.

Something to remember the next time they decide to complain about Euro legislation. At least we can do something about it, whereas SOX just ends up people shrugging and getting on with it.

For once, it's a reasonably coherent and strong regulation. Another couple of years and it'll have been emasculated to a piece of paper for CEOs to sign coupled to another, longer page of waivers.

Go America

Monday, July 17, 2006

Flickr: Photos from arabist

There's a guy who is posting onto Flickr frm Lebanon at the moment. Quite interesting. Seems to show that the areas that are being bombed aren't very military at all.
In fact not very nice at all.
Who built a city like this - shoddy apartment blocks all bunched together. Craziness.

An embarrassing mistake

Not an article about clothing worn by Courtney, but an article about a mistake someone made using Wikipedia.

Basically, someone's just released an 'Open film'. An Open film is intended to be similar to an open source programme - every possible element of the film has been publicly released so that people can mix it up (mash ups and the like). The film has been released under the creative commons licence.

The creative commons licence allows people to edit, retouch and mess about with a film as long as they release it under the same terms. It's a slowly growing movement on the internet to try and democratise content against a growing onslaught of IP lawyers.

Anyways, the person in charge of releasing the DVDs had managed to get the film script translated into a whole host of different languages. He thought it arrogant to give subtitle options only in English rather than native (German vs Deutsch).

He went through Wikipedia to try and update the subtitle menu with the correct words. Unfortunately, the day he did it for Catalan, someone had vandalised the page and replaced it with something else. So, instead of it saying Catalan, it said 'Polaco' which is the Catalan equivalent of Taffy for the Welsh.

How humourous. Not as bad as Microsoft who managed to translate one of their brazilian offerings so that it gave you a choice of being a male or a bitch. Nice.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Nuclear Power

Guardian Unlimited | Comment is free | Sure, nuclear power is safer than in the past - but we still don't need it

Even George Monbiot is coming round to see that Nuclear is necessary. His only stumbling block is what to do with the waste after it has been generated.

Dumping it into an area which humans are unlikely to live in seems the best solution - deep sea trenches anyone? I think it was Lovelock who proposed that we just put it into the Amazon. Animals won't notice the effects of radiation and are unlikely to be unduly hindered by a slightly reduced overall lifespan when they tend to die of being eaten anyway.

Cost savings would be massive if we didn't have hippies continously trying to disrupt nuclear shipments and could transport them covertly but under tight security to avoid terrorists.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Good Grafitti on a tree

Went for a quick wander around Hampstead Heath. Kind of looks like it's watching you. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Economist Cover

Great little piece of photoshopping! Might try and get this on a t-shirt Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 07, 2006

i-level Summer Ball

Good clean fun had by all. In the picture, Courtney who's on my team and Gosia from the search team. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 06, 2006

My new phone rocks


But will I be able to publish this?

Thursday, June 29, 2006

My Cousin Noah

Although I do think it's a great idea to have video covering your entire life, I wouldn't be that happy with the idea that people had videos of me running around playing firemen while naked.

Ah well, making your children cringe seems one of the main advantages of being a parent.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Flowerbox

Went to see an awesome little dance \ play thing tonight with Laura.

Losing street cred by the fact that it was recommended by the Metro, it did redeem itself by being really good. If I had read the description, I would have been sceptical.

The plot loosely followed Romeo and Juliet, although it lacked any dialogue whatsoever, instead relying on dance and expressions to convey the relevant messages.

It was, however, enjoyable and managed to engage for the whole of the performance. Might even go along to another of these cultural things. That's two in a fortnight!! Posted by Picasa

Monday, June 26, 2006

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Old Landrover

Tried to take a shortcut on my way to Angel, and found this old Landrover on the way. Looks like it's been there for a good long time! Posted by Picasa

Friday, June 23, 2006

Mobile phones and iPods can kill, doctors warn

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Mobile phones and iPods can kill, doctors warn

There should be some kind of law that makes people show risk assesments for this type of story.

Anything which doctors warn should kill should compare the likelihood of being killed by the new warning story with the likelihood of being killed crossing the road in London.

I strongly suspect that the chances of being killed by an unlucky combination of mobile phone combined with lightning would be slightly less almost anything. You're far more likely to die of hypochondria than you are of this.

Bloody doctors.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

I love my job

Yahoo took me to watch the football last night. They'd found an old cinema, ripped out all the seats and made them into terraces. Then used some pretty damn powerful projectors (three all overlapping in order to make the screen bright enough) in order to broadcast the match live for us all.

Really good atmosphere, which was then boosted by the copious amounts of free alcohol and free food flowing around the venue. Sickeningnly, none of my usual sales reps were there, they were all in Germany watching the real thing.

Admittedly, the party last year was much better - they put far more effort in and gave someone (Lyndell) a trip to Miami. However, this one had more visceral fun - grimy venue and not too many of the traditional shiny people.

 Posted by Picasa

Monday, June 19, 2006

Croquet

May be slightly old fashioned, but Croquet is still really fun.

Went to my parent's for Father's day and managed to squeeze in a quick game. Perfect sunny afternoon activity - not too strenous but still lots of exposure to the sun while engaging in particularly competitive activity. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Google's Web TV plans

MediaGuardian.co.uk Advertising Google 'listens' in to web TV habits

Still a white paper rather than a developed system, but this sounds like a strong system. Being able to identify what people are watching and then give them more content along the same veins sounds like a good idea (see Last.fm, Launch and others for music).

However, it does involve more loss of privacy. The way it's going for Google is that they will know what you're watching, what files you use on your computer, what pages you look at on your computer and how you use your money.

Slightly worrying? At the moment, the data is completely secure and none is shared with anyone. However, if Google is ever bought or becomes strapped for cash, there's a host of applications for data as granular as the data Google owns. Then what happens?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Hmmm

Admittedly cheating, I think this is an undercoat before they make the pub properly red. However, I thought it would make a good photo!

It's a student pub just round the corner from my house, that seems to make the majority of its business from the students that live in the cramped looking halls of residence above it.

Not sure how well I could have coped with a student life that was fulfilled by living in cramped cubes and mixing in an utterly filthy pub at the bottom of my stairs. Posted by Picasa

Ice Bar

Went to the ice bar for a quick cocktail after lunch. Really fun little place, though slightly excessive. You have to wear these hooded parka things in order to go into the bar.

The gloves are necessary in order to hold your cocktails which are in ice glasses. They're very kind. After paying £10 to get in, they give you a free cocktail. Isn't that nice!

Luckily the nice guys at a certain financial publication were more than happy to foot the hefty bill. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Sting Enjoying the Day

I've very rarely seen anyone love Cars as much as Sting Posted by Picasa

Red Arrows

Saw the red arrows for the first time for ages. It was really good as we were right at centre stage while the demonstration was going on.

The show was pretty spectacular, including many rolling games of aerial 'chicken.' However, the commentator was simply awful. His job is to make the Red Arrows, and hence the RAF sound like somewhere you'd like to join. His patter was dull, filling us in on which university each pilot had been to and which types of Jet they'd begun training in.

This is information that could easily be omitted and we could have instead been entertained with tricks and tales of how the tricks were invented, together with stories about how dangerous the ridiculously risky maneuvers were... Posted by Picasa

Enjoying the Sights and Sounds of the Grand Prix

(and the hospitality tent!) Posted by Picasa

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Birthday Boy

Romit's a doctor and has a girlfriend!

Everyone's growing up and becoming more mature. As you can see by the happy and mature expression on Romit's face! Posted by Picasa

Enjoying Romit's little birthday bash

Me, Lydz and Pavey Posted by Picasa

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Overly offensive Legal Tactics

Boing Boing: Hideous company sends Boing Boing a pre-emptive nastygram

Seems a bit overly harsh. Wonder how much Baker and Mackenzie charged the client for writing this letter. Looks like another 'me too' internet strategy.
Oh dear lots of people seem to be using this internet thing for naughty stuff. We'll protect you by writing a letter to every website likely to violate your copyright. How do they identify the targets?
Wouldn't it be cheaper to have someone in the internet department using Technorati and Google to investigate actual violations and then report them to the lawyers? Surely marketing assistant salary will be less than a qualified lawyer salary?

Idiot company, clever lawyers.

Gav Visiting

Went down to a comedy show in the LSE bar. Really good fun and nice to see the guys Posted by Picasa

Friday, June 02, 2006

NMA Awards

Went to the NMA awards in the Grosvenor last night. Really good fun. Presented by Dara O Brian, who I'd not heard of before. He was OK, but I wasn't paying much attention.

First awards ceremony where I've gone with a rep I like - with the Telegraph (boo hiss), but the guys were good fun. Posted by Picasa

Monday, May 29, 2006

Dancing like a Legend

Those are my legs. That is a seventies disco floor. That is all. Posted by Picasa