2006's predictions

At the start of the year, I made a few predictions for 2006:

Crazy Frog crazyness will cease.
Well, this has kinda happened. I mean the ringtone isn’t on TV all the time and nobody has it as their ringtone anymore. He released a single this Christmas and it went nowhere…

Less "AJAX"/"Web 2.0" hype as most people realize that most "Web 2.0" products aren’t really that great.
Hasn’t really happened. The Web 2.0 bubble still seems to be going strong.

People will begin finding more useful uses of XmlHttpRequest and related rich internet application technologies.
A lot of the stupidity has disappeared and people are now using XmlHttpRequest for some great things.

Internet Explorer 7 gets released to reviews of "a big improvement but not doesn’t match Firefox". Firefox continues growing. Opera will probably gain some marketing share too.
IE7 has been released but most critics still prefer Firefox. Opera has gained some market share on mobiles and the Wii and has launched a marketing campaign for the PC browser.

Freeview continues to get better. Five are planning a multi channel launch with Five.2 (general entertainment) and Five.3 (movies) whilst ITV plan to launch a kids channel. More great TV shows and if I had my way, X Factor would be cancelled. However, I doubt it’s likely.
X Factor is still around. Freeview has got a bit better over the last year.

Sunny Boy starts blogging more and stops getting Mozilla Corporation and Foundation confused in Links.
Kinda true…

Microformats!
Nothing much has happened on the microformat front. 2007 could be a big year for microformats though as there is talk of integrating it into Firefox.

No one can be bothered to upgrade to PHP 5 because there is nothing new which is particularly useful. Talk of PHP 6 also slows down PHP 5 adoption.
PHP 5 hasn’t seen mass adoption by the market. Haven’t heard too much talk about PHP 6.

More people stop waiting for XHTML 2 and go back to HTML 5 (or use the corresponding XHTML-ized version, XHTML 5.0).
Nobody cares about XHTML 2 anymore.

Blogs get even more popular.
Blogs still growing.

RSS becomes more mainstream with it’s introduction into Vista. Attempts at adding adverts to RSS will fail.
RSS has been adopted in all the major browsers now. RSS advertising hasn’t taken off. Vista still isn’t out of the door…

More crazy weather.
We had some stupidly hot weather over the summer.

Apple are going to continue charging crazy money and their products are going to become more popular.
Yep…

Intel revival.
Intel is no longer seen as if they are following AMD’s lead. Core Processors are great.

Google keeps on adding new features and becomes more like Yahoo! doing everything from music to video.
They do cinema reviews, maps, word processing and finance.

The island of Samoa adopts PageRank as it’s national currency.
Hasn’t happened… not yet.

Merry Christmas!

I love Christmas. It’s a time for meeting up with friends, family and giving. This Christmas I hope to meet up with several friends and family members who I haven’t seen in quite a while and I’m really looking forward to it. White Christmases are really nice too, but I doubt we’ll be blessed with that luck this year.

I’m going to take a bit of a break from the internet and blogging over Christmas.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! All the best for a happy and prosperous 2007!

The Cost of Memory

I got a little bit of a shock whilst browsing Amazon earlier.

You can now get a Viking 512MB Secure Digital memory card for £2.99. Brand seems pretty decent and SD memory is now more or less standard for use in cameras, mobile phones and I’m told the Nintendo Wii uses SD memory.

This was quite a shock; when I bought SD memory for my camera earlier this year it cost about £8 plus P&P for 512MB. I ran out of memory on holiday and looking around the department stores, the SD cards there cost about £25 for 512MB. 

SD memory is now cheaper than film, even if disposed. On a 512MB memory card at insanely high resolution and filesize (say 6MB per image), you could fit 85 photos. It’d cost about £9 for the same amount of pictures with traditional film (around £3 per 28 photo film) 

A few years ago a 64MB Memory Stick Duo for my mobile set me back £45. My camera came with a 8MB memory stick and buying 4 64MB memory sticks in order to get a decent number of photos cost quite a bit. A 512MB Memory Stick Duo today costs £7.72 through Amazon Marketplace and £17 through Amazon.

A 1GB USB memory stick costs a tenner. Since I’ve been stuck with my 512MB USB drive for a while and often been annoyed at how a CDs worth of data couldn’t fit onto it this could be a worthwhile investment. This is a far cry from the cost of even a 128MB memory stick few years ago. 128MB USB drives seem to have become the standard freebie from every company now.

A rough comparison of memory costs from a search on Amazon: 

  • Hard Drive: £0.18 per GB
  • CD-R: £0.28 per GB
  • Blu Ray Rewritable: £0.55 per GB
  • CD-RW: £1.90 per GB
  • SD Card: £6 per GB
  • USB Drive: £10 per GB
  • Sony Memory Stick: £15 per GB

Seeing as an SD card for my camera now costs less than my lunch, I don’t think I’ve ever got another excuse for running out of pictures on holiday.

Mobile Phones and Computer Speakers

Recently I’ve noticed that my computer speakers have been making strange "Bzzz" sounds periodically. I tracked down the cause to my mobile phone; I now place the mobile phone away from the computer and the sound has stopped.

This isn’t an ideal solution because the phone will need to be placed by the computer in order for data to be transferred or for the phone to be charged.

I did notice in the user manual that the mobile phone shouldn’t be used near computers but I suspect that this is simply a disclaimer for the manufacturer just incase anything does go wrong.

Has anybody experienced anything similar with their mobile phone? Are there any ways to prevent it? 

Apple distributes Windows Virus on iPod

How on earth did this happen?

Apple is warning that some video iPods are harbouring a Windows virus.

In a statement on its website Apple said that a small number of video iPods sold after 12 September are carrying the RavMonE virus.

And Apple even had the guts to have a go at Microsoft on their website. It’s quite amusing how Apple keep on reiterating the fact that it’s a Windows virus on their website (I counted 17). Also of interest is the fact that Apple called OneCare "Microsoft Live OneCare" rather than "Windows Live OneCare". It almost seems as if Apple are trying to avoid the blame by blaming it all on Windows.

A few days ago McDonalds Japan distributed MP3 players with spyware. 

On the topic of anti-virus, I currently use AVG. Does anyone have any preferences with free anti-virus programs? Are they really neccessary? 

Photography

Whilst reading around the blogs of web designers, programmers and webmasters I’ve noticed that quite a lot of them share a common interest in photography. I really enjoy photography too; I’ve snapped over 500 photos on my new camera since getting it about 2 months ago.

I suspect the reason that photography may be so popular with programmers and web designers is that compared to many other forms of art such as drawing and painting, it is in some ways a more "scientific art". It’s dead easy for beginners to start and for more advanced photographers, you can twiddle around with features such as different ISOs, exposure times and F-numbers to get desired effects. 

I’ve managed to get some quite nice effects on my entry-level digital camera by using the Manual shooting mode and turning the exposure time up to 1 or 2 seconds – this gives quite a nice streak/motion blur effect with cars and other vehicles. When taking a photo of the moon, I used the manual shooting mode to decrease the exposure time in order to capture more detail on the moon.

I came across a set of photography lessons at morguefile.com which are kinda nice. It explains some things such as composition, aperture, shutter speeds and provides some tips on how to take beautiful photographs.

Anyone else into photography? Any particular reasons why you prefer it over other arts (if you do)? 

Merry Christmas

It’s the 29th of September and there are still 86 days until Christmas but it seems like Christmas is already beginning. Christmas seems to be getting earlier every year.

Over the last few days I’ve heard an Argos advert on the radio which seems to have Christmas background music. Although it doesn’t actually mention Christmas; it does remind me of Christmas and I presume the idea of the advert is to subconciously remind people that Christmas is coming up and that we should begin to think about Christmas gifts.

A few days ago, I read an article somewhere about a town which has already put up their Xmas decorations already. Perhaps the world is just conspiring against me. Even Bill Gates is in on the act; Windows Media Player’s shuffle feature decided to play me 3 Christmas songs including a very strange R&B Christmas Remix.

Just earlier in IRC, there were a few guys discussing the last posting dates for mail to be sent if it’s to arrive by Christmas. And whilst tidying up a bit earlier, I came across a cool little Grinch freebie from McDonalds. It says Merry Christmas when you press it or something.

This all reminds me a little of when I went to Canada earlier this year on holiday. It’s a beautiful country but imagine my surprise seeing a well-stocked Christmas gift and decoration shop in August. It was a hot day; the sun was out and it was the middle of a heatwave. I decided to check out this Christmas shop armed with my short sleeve t-shirt and shorts. The shop had the air-conditioning on overkill; it was probably the coldest shop you could find in a mile radius. But it was a lovely shop with a huge range of Christmas decorations – trees, tinsel, other stuff for the tree and a whole load of different christmas ornaments from around the world. It really was quite strange being surrounded with all the Christmas music and decorations in the middle of August.

But maybe that’s not so odd – it’s September and already the retailers are beginning to get into Christmas mode. It’s feeling more like Christmas everyday. Perhaps it’s because the hot summer months are over, the weather is changing, and everybody is calling in sick with the cold and flu. And we need something to look forward to. 

DRM Idiocy

As if we needed more proof of the idiocy of media companies and DRM:

DVDs get Radio Transmitter Chips:

DVDs will soon be tracked with embedded radio transmitter chips to prevent copying and piracy, according to the company which makes movie discs for Warner, Disney, Fox and other major studios.

The technology, which can also be used for Blu-Ray and HD-DVD discs, will allow movie studios to remotely track individual discs as they travel from factories to retail shelves to consumers’ homes.

Yes, in order to comat piracy, media companies are going to embed chips in our DVDs which will allow them to track where the DVDs are. Presumedly, every time to take a DVD which you own to your friends house to watch, the media company knows.

That is just plain scary and Orwellian.

Zune’s Viral DRM:

The new Microsoft Zune player (their soi-disant "iPod Killer") applies DRM to all the files you move onto it, even the Creative Commons-licened music. The problem is that CC licenses prohibit this.

Thats right, Zune won’t even let you share files properly even if you wrote the song and performed it yourself. That’s just idiotic; if you write a song and perform it and share it with a friend using Zune, they can only listen to it 3 times.

I don’t see quite how this is any better than just allowing your friend to borrow your MP3 player over lunch. 

Additionally, Zune breaks the Creative Commons license by applying viral DRM to CC-licensed music.

DRM has not stopped piracy in the past; it only makes legitimate content purchases less attractive. I have still not got round to buying a single song online because of DRM; I buy music on CDs from WHSmith or Amazon because I can rip it and burn it as many times as I want.

I wish media companies would get a grip on reality. 

Artificial Meat

Damn Interesting’s article on Meat-o-matic is actually kind of scary. NASA scientists managed to grow artificial fish meat in a vat. They took a few small chunks of fish meat, placed it in growth solution and presumbly use some tumour cells or something to make it divide quickly. To replicate exercise, the meat also needs to be stretched. The main aim is to give astronauts travelling to Mars or people living on the Moon a cost-effective way of eating meat.

I don’t find the idea of test tube meat very appetising and I can’t see myself ever willingly trying or eating it but I can certainly imagine a world where artificially-grown meat is commonplace. The population of the world is growing quickly and there are only a limited amount of resources. It’s said that meat demand in China is doubling every 10 years. Growing edible muscle is a more efficient and effective way of enabling everyone to eat meat without the problems associated with waste, pollution and space.

Artificial meat production could evolve into technologies such as the replicators from Star Trek. Damn Interesting has an alternative vision:

Because the idea of vat meat isn’t particularly appetizing, one has to wonder whether these meat machines will become the source of cheap meat for the massive underclass of the future. The rich will dine on corn-fed Iowa beef while the poor masses slave away in the underground factories, lunching on cultured meat tumor-chow laced with obedience-enhancing drugs. It seems almost inevitable.

Perhaps cultured tumour muscle meat is something that we’ll all have to get used to in a couple of decades. 

Three Topical Thoughts: Cameras

Standards Sell

I bought a new camera a few months ago. It threw me into a world of terms such as f-numbers, centre-weighted averages, TTLs, CCD sensors, megapixels, et al.

I’m no camera expert and I had a much harder time selecting a camera than I would have had if I was buying a computer. In the end however, many of the cameras seemed to have pretty similar specs and with cameras there is no end of choice.

You’d think that the most important thing which sells you a camera is megapixel number. I purchased my camera because it used standard batteries and standard memory. I’ve had bad experiences with proprietary batteries and when they run out of power after half a day of shooting, you can’t recharge them or replace them.

Excessive Snapping Syndrome 

When people go on holiday, many of them always have their cameras at the ready and try to capture every single image. Every place they go and walk a few steps they take a new image. Certainly I have had this problem too. Looking at waterfronts, scenes and animals through your camera’s screen is nothing like seeing it with your own eyes.

I guess it’s particularly bad for people who try to record their holiday on a camcorder.

Power Saving

Does anyone have any particular techniques on saving power on their cameras? I’m really talking about the time in between taking photos – when you’ve just taken a photo and you know you might want to take another one very soon.

I’ve tried three things:

  • Photo Mode but turning off display: This means the screen won’t have to update whilst your walking about. I’m unsure if the sensor will still be active; it may still be white balancing.
  • Display Mode: This will keep the screen on, but turn things like the sensor off, saving power. It will contract the lens, using up power.
  • Turning Off: This is a bit slower; it contracts the lens and then has to start up (taking about 3 seconds) which obviously uses power. But it doesn’t waste power doing white balancing, showing display, etc.

Does anyone have any tips for getting the most out of their batteries?