All 11 entries tagged Technology

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February 09, 2009

What's wrong with a book?

I don’t get the Amazon Kindle.

Someone basically saw the iPod and thought “Yeah, we’ll do that but with books”.

And that was probably as much thought as went into it.

The device – and it’s newly announced successor the Kindle2 – is jaw-droppingly expensive. $359, or £240. For something that replicates, albeit badly, the idea of a book.

Don’t forget that unless you’re going to commit to a life of nothing-but-Dickens, you’ll still have to pay another £5 for every book you want to read on it. And that’s before we get to the device’s USP, newspapers and blogs. They also cost money to read (up to £7 a month), even though they’re available online completely free.

Some of the technology is very clever – the so-called ‘e-ink’ is impressive and it does look more like reading a book than your typical computer screen. And yes, you can store billions of words all on one little chip.

But then some of it is awful. It’s got a wholly unnecessary keyboard. It has an operating system that takes up more than 600Mb (for a book!). And it tries really hard to make you hate it by banning RSS feeds.

The Kindle completely kills the idea of what a book is all about. Books can be shared, given pride of place on a bookshelf, passed down to future generations, and loved.

The iPod made music portable. The Kindle is just making books look like even better value.

January 16, 2009

Searching on Google about as damaging to planet as farting

Writing about web page

Last week’s Sunday Times ran a prominent story explaining how two “typical” Google searches use produce as much CO2 as boiling a kettle, due to their enormous (and secretive) data centres.

But now, according to The Guardian, it seems that’s not entirely accurate.

The figure for each individual search is actually closer to a whopping 0.2g

Which is… er… not very much.

Here’s the clarification on the Times website:

A report about online energy consumption (Google and you’ll damage the planet, Jan 11) said that “performing two Google searches from a desktop computer can generate about the same amount of carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle” or about 7g of CO2 per search. We are happy to make clear that this does not refer to a one-hit Google search taking less than a second, which Google says produces about 0.2g of CO2, a figure we accept. In the article, we were referring to a Google search that may involve several attempts to find the object being sought and that may last for several minutes. Various experts put forward carbon emission estimates for such a search of 1g-10g depending on the time involved and the equipment used. (emphasis mine)

How many times has Google taken two minutes to answer one of your searches?

And here’s the top two paragraphs of the original story:

Performing two Google searches from a desktop computer can generate about the same amount of carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle for a cup of tea, according to new research.

While millions of people tap into Google without considering the environment, a typical search generates about 7g of CO2 Boiling a kettle generates about 15g. “Google operates huge data centres around the world that consume a great deal of power,” said Alex Wissner-Gross, a Harvard University physicist whose research on the environmental impact of computing is due out soon. “A Google search has a definite environmental impact.” (emphasis mine)

According to The Guardian, the Times is sticking by its story. Hmm…

September 28, 2007

Apple owns you

It’s an adage of the internet world that if you compare something to the Nazis, then your argument is defeated.

So I won’t. But…

Apple have issued a compulsory update to their iPhones which means that anyone who’s tried using the device on a phone network other than AT&T, will now find the iPhone is basically dead. Permanently.

If this isn’t the most authoritarian technology company in the world, then who is?

“Microsoft” – I hear you shout!

Well, not really. I don’t think they’ve ever charged someone £900 per year for a product which you can’t mess around with.

Most companies have something called a ‘EULA’ – or End User Licensing Agreement – which most people have traditionally ignored.

These put restrictions on what people can do with a product, such as a computer game. They’re often disregarded by modders and people who play games on friends’ machines.

I can’t think of an example of a hardware company using the EULA in such a measly way as Apple are doing.

And as every device on the planet (including, maybe one day, your own body) becomes connected to the net, what other products could be shut down once you play around with them? Perhaps Olympic athletes should have a chip in them that injects them with lactic acid if it detects an illegal drug?

So do you own an iPod or iPhone? Or do they own you?

P.S. I don’t own an iPhone.

May 31, 2007

Geek blog

Look away now if you’re not even slightly interested in science fiction, technology, computers or anything like that.

This is really cool – and I’m sure it’ll be used in TV sport in a couple of years’ time… The video starts at a pedestrian seen-it-before level, but the snowboarding stuff is brand new.

The kit looks like this:

There’s 11 high-resolution cameras on that thing.

Could have come in handy during Woolsack Day actually!

February 20, 2007

OFCOM: Capitalism at its stoopidest


They lurve ‘market forces’. They like auctioning off radio spectrum to the highest bidder and “letting the market decide”. It doesn’t quite work like that, of course. If Rupert Murdoch wanted to launch an unprofitable right-wing opinion station, he could. And he could outbid anyone. But OFCOM wouldn’t care that much, because “the market” would have decided.

Well now they’ve outshone themselves.

They want to auction off the spectrum currently used by those nasty socialist theatre performers and broadcasters. They tend not to make a profit, so rather than bleed them dry, OFCOM’s just going to make life really hard for them.

You see, radio microphones use the spectrum inbetween other channels. They don’t take up much space, but OFCOM doesn’t mind that, because they’re just worried that the commies are getting away with something for free.

They’d quite like to auction that small bit of space off to mobile phone companies or broadcasters. Even though it would make virtually every theatre production in the country practically unworkable.

They’ve already said they won’t ring-fence any space for High Definition TV services on Freeview. Instead we’ll have to pay – you guessed it – Rupert Murdoch for the privilege of shiny picture quality on our TV sets.

OFCOM’s policy on “letting the market decide” is complete madness. Hopefully even they’ll see sense on this one and realise that theatre companies aren’t going to pay millions of pounds for a tiny bit of the radio spectrum.

January 31, 2007

BBC iPlayer a step closer

The BBC iPlayer might revolutionise television. It’s potentially bigger than Digital TV. And it’s coming. Because today the BBC’s Trust approved the software.

You’ll be able to watch all of the BBC’s programmes online, live. And then you’ll be able to download them to your computer for 30 days. You can set series links and keep hold of series like Doctor Who and watch them all at once.

They’ve made a few changes, some good and some bad. You won’t be able to download some classical music, or keep hold of certain radio plays. But it will have to be content neutral (initially it was Microsoft-only). This is great, but might delay the product launch. It’s already looking like late-2007, early-2008.

It’s what broadband was made for, and I can’t wait.

January 21, 2007

Google's is the only model for digitising books

Have you ever tried converting vinyl or tapes to CD? Ever tried transferring video tapes to DVD? It’s a nightmare. Imagine doing this on an industrial scale. It would cost millions.

So I’m surprised whenever I hear opposition to the Google Books Library project. The project’s aim is to scan (mostly out-of-copyright) books and make them searchable online. So as if scanning the books wasn’t hard enough, you then have to use optical character recognition so the words can be ‘read’ by a computer.

It costs millions and takes decades.

But publishers are so upset by the plans they have set up their own ‘Open Content Alliance’ which is a not-for-profit organisation. They’re annoyed that Google might make a profit from the system by placing adverts alongside online books.

These publishers are probably worried that Google will eventually charge for content. In which case they don’t get Google’s business model. Google makes billions of dollars from its tailored advertising, which props up many of its not-for-profit businesses (like the consumer versions of Google Earth, Google Desktop, GMail). It’s unlikely that Book Search will ever directly make Google any money, let alone cover its costs.

Adverts alongside the books seems to me the least intrusive and most cost-effective way of getting these books online. The alternative is to hope for donations from big-money philanthropists, who may not have a huge interest in paying for the conversion of foreign-language or niche books.

Monopolies aren’t a good thing. But Google is leading the way in this technology, as with many others. And book publishers should get on board.

January 08, 2007

Google Reader Saved My Life

Google Reader Picture the scene. I’d visit a blog like Adam Meets World several times a day, just to see if he’d written anything earth-shattering. Of course he hadn’t. But I had to be first to see if he had.

I’d do this for several blogs, probably accounting for 90% of some people’s hits as I clicked ‘refresh’ out of boredom.


That’s right. I chose not to choose boredom. I’ve chosen something else. And it is Google Reader.

Google Reader gets all my favourite blogs, tells me when they’ve been updated and displays them all in a handy list (see left).

Not only has it saved time, but it’s also extended the life of my mouse. I heartily recommend it.

December 27, 2006

Chris's Crystal Ball: Technology

If 2006 was the year of user-generated content, 2007 might be the year that the big boys bite back.

The iPlayer

If the new BBC Trust give it the go-ahead, then the BBC iPlayer (or whatever it ends up being called) will be the first step towards the fourth generation of TV. The first was black and white, the second was colour, the third was Digital TV and the fourth is online and on-demand. Forget setting the video recorder. From 2007 you can just go online and – legally – download any of the programmes you’ve missed. You’ll be able to watch every BBC channel online and it’ll be the first time many people have come face-to-face with High Definition. I’m very excited.


Where on earth will mobile phones go next? Do they need to go anywhere else? Well, you won’t be surprised to hear that the phone companies are throwing more pointless twaddle inside phones to make them more attractive. Surely it’s only a matter of time before there’s a phone with in-built SLR 10-megapixel digital camera. We’ll be watching more TV on our mobiles (apparently), and using more of that squint-or-you’ll-miss-it mobile internet. Can you tell I’m sceptical? Anyway, it’s rumored Apple will bring out an iPhone in 2007, which few people think will be very good. And finally, if 2005 was the year of the clamshell, 2006 was the year of the sliderr, then 2007 will be the year of the… Nope, my crystal ball fails me.


Despite what people might tell you, virtual worlds like Second Life will only ever appeal to those people who spend hours in Games Workshop or play first-person shooters all day long and fancy a break. I’m not expecting Tony Blair to maintain a permanent presence any time soon. But I think 2007 will be the year that we start using the virtual ‘real-world’. Google Earth is halfway there, but something called Microsoft Photosynth is nearly the real deal. It blends photos of well-known places into one never-ending (in theory) 3D canvas. It’s a bit hard to explain, but combine this with a Google Earth or Microsoft Virtual Earth and we might start approaching a virtual 3D model of the planet. Combine it with one of these sexy 3D controllers (only about £30 and built especially for such tasks) and you’ve got a whole load of possibilities, including online shopping where you click on the shop you want to buy from (Selfridges on Oxford Street, for instance).


Every product has a life-cycle. Even KitKat bars will one day leave the shelves (probably to be replaced with something healthier). But when will blogging peak, and once it has, will it start to decline? I think it will, as cleverer things come along instead. But I’m not sure it’ll happen as early as 2007. Meanwhile, vlogging is still a bit too cumbersome, but expect to see something ‘embedded’ in just about every blog entry by the end of the year, whether it’s something from YouTube or an utterly pointless Flash movie.

Computers and Consoles

Britain will get its hands on the PS3 in March, although expect people to have a Vicky Pollard-esque ‘un-bothered’ face when it eventually arrives. The Xbox 360 has already got the serious gamers (and more importantly, many of the serious games) and the Wii has opened up the market to a new generation of game-players. It seems PCs will continue to be neglected by the big game-makers. While things like Call of Duty 3 appear on just about everything, it’ll still look better on a console. The only exceptions will be the games that work better with a mouse and keyboard, although someone’s built a box that lets you use them on an Xbox anyway. But PCs aren’t resting on their laurels. Windows Vista hits in the next few months, and offers a few things that will delight gamers. Namely, DirectX10, which might level the playing field with consoles. There’s also MS Office 2007, which won’t be radically different to Office 2003.


You might think “technology… radio?” but DAB is taking the radio further and further away from being a good old wireless. And not only because they consume so much electricity you have to plug them in at the mains. This year you’ll be able (on certain players) to buy tracks that you hear, as you hear them. Commercial radio stations are looking for new ways to make money, and selling you an MP3 of a track is a pretty good way of doing it. There’ll also be an auction for another batch of national digital radio stations. Channel 4 are among the frontrunners, and by the end of the year we might have an extra 7-10 stations on that dial.

And beyond 2007…

I still think that Virtual Real-Worlds will be the technology that really revolutionises the internet, making blogs and YouTube look tame. Another technology I think might, eventually, take off is video-goggles. Semi-transparent sunglasses with video-screens built into the lenses. It’ll make it worthwhile watching video on the move (rather than with those ‘portable’ media players) and could be the next shape of mobile phones too. Beyond that, who knows?

October 17, 2006

*We're all making television now…

Iain Dale is worried that his new internet TV station, 18 Doughty Street is about to be regulated out of existence by the EU. Similarly, YouTube could have to make sure its videos comply with EU legislation as would anyone hoping to put videos online. The British government are against it, saying it would harm future online businesses hoping to put videos online, but few other European countries oppose it.

So what’s going on?
Well the EU is updating its Television Without Frontiers Directive which ensures that standards in television are the same across Europe. The European Commission wants to extend the definition of ‘television’ to include:

  • Broadband, Digital TV and 3G Networks
  • Video on demand
  • Peer-to-Peer video sharing
  • Internet TV

A wide definition would mean that almost any video delivered publicly on the internet would be “on demand” and therefore subject to EU legislation. But it’s important to note that the EU isn’t necessarily including a definition that wide.

But is there a need for any regulation in this area?
Well, not necessarily. The rules need tidying up because they were written in 1989 with only minor revisions in 1997, just when Digital TV was starting up. And there’s an argument that there should be some rules which protect people from videos on the internet of questionable content.

But should these rules be set by the EU?


The internet has never been regulated thoroughly by governments and it seems pretty dangerous to start doing that. The EU’s argument is that a dangerous video which is banned in Britain can easily be uploaded in Slovakia and then viewed by anyone in the EU regardless.

But it can just as easily be hosted in the Bahamas! The EU’s regulation in this area is utterly pointless as there are so many ways to avoid it that it’ll be redundant in about five minutes flat.

Iain’s gone quite over-the-top in proposing we quit the EU (this seems to be being used as an excuse for doing so). Instead he should be listening to what Jose Manuel Barroso said last night: try and change things from the outside rather than lecture from the outside. Only as a full and committed member of the EU will we stop these daft pieces of legislation from being created.

July 06, 2006

Is this racist?

Sony's new ad campaign for the White PSP uses an interesting method of showing the difference between the two available models…

But is it racist? It seems slightly provocative, especially considering the recent history of racial tension in Holland, where the advert's being displayed.

Personally, it's evocative, maybe deliberately controversial, but would it have caused the same furore if it was the other way round??? Probably not. Especially in Holland, it seems like a bit of a daft idea to me. But then, as they say, all news is good news.

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