Notes on stuff

Tagged Posts: Technology

Links for 2013-12-10

Bookmarks I’ve shared on 2013-12-10:

Links for 2013-03-15

Bookmarks I’ve shared on 2013-03-15:

Links for 2012-02-07

Bookmarks I’ve shared on 2012-02-07:

Problem with iTunes 5 and D-Link DSL-G604T

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I’ve been having a problem with DNS failures on my home setup for the last week or so. So, it would appear, have a lot of other people with similar setups, and it turns out to be the fault of Apple who introduced a version of Bonjour into iTunes for Windows version 5.

D-Link have published a workaround, but the answer seems to be to install version 5.0.1 of iTunes

Update: It seems that even with 5.01 of iTunes installed you still need to put in the ISP DNS server address in the Windows network config to keep Windows working

Appliances as small pieces loosely joined

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A fascinating series of posts by Leslie Michael Orchard at 0xDECAFBAD applying the principles of small pieces loosely joined to computing hardware and appliances: Security and the State of The Computer, The Meta Lathe, On Exploding PCs and Appliance Relationships and Miscellaneous Thoughts about Exploded PCs

A life where Tivo has always existed

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A life where TiVo has always existed is a great example of how subsequent generations take for granted technology that was new and strange not long ago. [via The Shifted Librarian]

A Travel Guide To Collaboration

Great article on the why of business collaboration from [via Tris Hussey]

Disruptive Technology – BBC News Wiki Proxy

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New media activist Stef Magdalinski has produced a great example of the way new technologies allow people to interact with broadcasters in different ways – the News Online wikiproxy

The site proxies BBC News online and does the following things to pages retrieved through it:

  • retrieves a page from News Online, and regexes out “Capitalised Phrases” and acronyms. It then tests these against a database of wikipedia topic titles. If the phrase is a topic in wikipedia, then it’s turned into a hyperlink. This way you can see in-context links to definitions of terms or background information on topics discussed.
  • uses the technorati API to add a sidebar of links to blogs referencing the story – this way from the same page as the story you can see who else is talking about the story

For a good example of it working see here

Magdalinski, who amongst other things led the They Work For You project, explains his rationale:

News Online has decided to start linking to other news sites.

News Online is the most trafficked site in Europe, easily the most successful new media venture the BBC has produced, but to my mind has failed to really innovate since launch. They’ve added clutter, an RSS feed or two, but it’s still flat news articles with a few video clips, using hyperlinks only for navigation, much as CEEFAX use 3 digit numbers. News Online is exactly what I would expect as a baseline from any news site, commercial or otherwise.

News Online doesn’t engage with its users, it doesn’t provide tools that allow me, the licence payer, to slice and dice their stories, and by refusing to link from its body text, it fails to understand how hypertext works.

Also, with its conservative link policy (I can’t show you an example of the news stories where the tech described above is working, because the links get removed after 2 days, because they might break), that only connects the BBC to established brands, it snubs the wider web, the great teeming mass of creativity. Patrician is not authoritative. Aloof is not respected. Conservative and fearful is not engaging. The gap between the BBC’s utterly laudable self image and ambitions and delivery could not be any clearer than at News Online.

Finally, by not really allowing user interaction or commenting, News Online forces that debate and activity away from its site, and out onto the wild wild web.

Now think a year or two ahead and imagine this sort of thing done with moving pictures…

[via Cory Doctorow, Matt Jones, Alex Halavais ]

A couple of tools

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As requested by various people at Blogwalk, details of a couple of content tools I use / am investigating

“Wikidpad”: is a personal wiki-like notepad for Windows. I use the registered version of this every day as my main personal note-taking tool at work.

“Qumana”: is currently in beta – a microcontent editing / publishing tool that is designed to make it easy to pull together links and text then post to various destinations.

The Lure of Slide Rules

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Over at “Davos Newbies”: Lance Knobel is writing about “the lure of the slide rule”:

bq. “Those of us who love slide rules are by definition not Luddites. It’s the tactile nature of the technology that excites, rather than a revulsion against the technologies that replaced it. There were gains provided by electronic calculators. Our work, lives and society are being dramatically transformed – and I believe generally improved – through near-ubiquitous computing. But there are losses from the slide rule age that are more than nostalgia. It’s better to be a tool user than a tool manager.”

I too was one of the last generation at school not only to learn about this device but to use it on a daily basis. Lance touches (!) on the tactile nature of the tool yet this goes beyond pure pleasure – I don’t think it is too far-fetched to say that using a slide rule gives you a real _feel_ for numbers… After all how else can you easily demonstrate that to multiply two numbers you can add the logarithms? (yes, we used log tables too!).

Enterprise Architecture

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On Monday this week I sent myself on a one day course from “Architecting The Enterprise”: – a management introduction to the “TOGAF”: enterprise architecture framework.

Hard going in parts because (by their nature) architecture frameworks are very conceptual – I was struggling a bit on the day to see how this could be applied in the messy real world of work. However over the next couple of days it has gelled with some conversations about work goals for the next year and I’ve started seeing new ways of doing things as a result of having the new concepts.

Still struggling a bit with how to use and adapt, but I think I can see a path…

I’d love to blog the whole process of incorporating the model into my work, adapting it to work for us – unfortunately that would cross my “no public blogging about work” boundary. If I can extract some generalisable concepts though I’ll post them here…

Strange CSS bug in Mozilla Firefox

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Just upgraded to Firefox and discovered that all my hyperlinks were jumping to the right when I hovered over them…

Replacing the original style declaration of
A:hover { border-bottom: 1px dashed #555; }
A:hover { color: #999999; text-decoration: none;}
has worked around it…

Anyone know how to report bugs to Mozilla?

iSociety Report on Technology in UK workplaces

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iSociety, part of The Work Foundation (previously known as The Industrial Society) have published Getting by, not getting on: Technology in UK workplaces.

From the abstract:

Three quarters of British workers now use a PC or other ICT at work. Over the past decade, new technology has swept across Britains workplaces. It has been the most dramatic change in British companies for a decade. But workplaces across the UK are suffering from a low tech equilibrium: they are getting by, not getting on. This report draws on original research in eight very different British workplaces to provide a wart[s]-and-all look at how technology really works, how it is really used and what people really think about it. It shows how we are not getting the most out of ICT in the workplace, and sets out practical steps for Government, managers and the technology industry to help us move forward.

The report itself is quite thick, so it’s worth starting with the executive summary.

These two items from the summary go to the heart of the matter:

While technology can influence people, the reverse influence is just as strong. What organisations do – or fail to do – with technology is a more important predictor of success than any technical specification. The ‘productivity paradox’ illuminates this point. Research suggests that investment in ICT has modest returns in the first year, comparable to most capital expenditure: over a 5-7 year timeframe, however, the return can increase five-fold. But – and it is big but – these returns depend on time-consuming organisational changes. Firms that simply install new technology will see a dismal return. It is the indirect contribution of ICT that is significant – which comes only when technology is coupled with other organisational changes.
Getting the best out of ICT therefore requires an understanding of how it fits into the ecology of the organisation – its attitudes, culture, rituals, structure, networks, processes and behaviour. Simply dropping ICT into an organisation is unlikely to pay many dividends. It has to be embedded.

[via VNUNet, via Tim Strafford-Taylor]

Learning XML / XSLT / XPATH

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As per a previous entry I’ve started playing with these technologies as a way of interfacing between MindManager and arbitrary document formats. On the way I’ve found an excellent freeware editor. Debugging XPATH statements to understand why the latest “<xsl:apply-templates select =” hasn’t selected what I thought it would is a real “refresher” for the logical parts of the mind!

Mind-mapping for projects and Wikis

I’ve been spending time re-familiarising myself with the nuances of this tool. I’ve been using it for about six months, and now use it for planning meetings and pretty much any major document. I’m about to start a project that will also benefit from its ability to link with MS Project and Powerpoint, so I’ve been digging into that part of the functionality.

What I love about the project management link is the way the functionality of this tool complements the total left-brain-ness of standard project management tools. The most important part of any project is the first meeting where the people involved get engaged with breaking the scope down into manageable chunks – to be able to do that with a mindmapping tool and then export a first-cut WBS or PBS is just…cool…

I’ve played around a bit with mind-mapping for a number of years and although you can’t beat the flexibility of pen and paper for personal notes, for collaborative work some kind of electronic tool seems essential. (apart from anything else, I lose paper!)

Links to old broken wiki removed
The other idea that’s nagging me tonight is a need for a MMToWiki tool. I’ve slowly started putting some NLP Wiki pages together but I’m finding the flat-file format of a Wiki rather frustrating when writing a set of interlinked documents. I’d love to be able to outline and write the first major tranche of those pages in MindManager, then export to a set of Wiki-formatted text files.

Hmmm… and when, I wonder, is tool-building a displacement activity from the writing? :)

[update 2003-02-13] Have found Mind2XML an add-in for MindManager that does “exactly what it says on the tin”. So now the gap in my knowledge that comes into focus is how little I know about XSL

[update 2007--4-11] And almost exactly 4 years after I wrote this post, a very similar idea about the combined use of wiki and mindmaps emerges over at Activityowner.Com – with the big difference that he has actually produced a first draft of a conversion tool…

The Neighbourhood

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Thanks to GeoURL you can now see who’s near me.
[Credit to The Obvious and Jon Udell (amongst others) for beating me to it!]

Links on FOAF and RDF

Been reading up on FOAF and RDF generally – here are some links for my own reference.

The Law of Leaky Abstractions

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Joel On Software   says

“learn how to do it manually first, then use the wizzy tool to save time”

The article is about software writing, but I reckon it’s generalisable to any form of technology…

Code generation tools which pretend to abstract out something, like all abstractions, leak, and the only way to deal with the leaks competently is to learn about how the abstractions work and what they are abstracting. So the abstractions save us time working, but they don’t save us time learning.

[via Sam Ruby]

Bluetooth Luggage

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Samsonsite’s Bluetooth-enabled luggage
[via Boingboing]

PHP Blogroll

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Added Phil Ringnalda’s PHP blogroll to the site.

Some useful web/RSS related sites

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Share website content with ASPRSS
XML-RPC programming with ZOPE

So what is an application?

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Jon Udell picks up on Peter Drayton asking the question “What is an application” and expands our thinking by asking an obvious question – (having set up an anti-spam inbox rule in Outlook)

..I don’t see a quick way to transfer this behavior to Larry’s instance of Outlook. The Outlook rules, when exported, are binary, not nice readable/editable ASCII like Netscape’s exported rules. In any case, even in Netscape, there’s no easy way to create this behavior, name it, export it as a service, and enable someone else to acquire it with a click. There are a million things like this. People have to start expecting this to happen always and everywhere. Then, it will.

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