Friday, September 22, 2006

Web Directions now with Connections

Web Directions 06 begins next week in Sydney and I'm not the only one looking forward to it. The line-up of speakers is fantastic, and their topics sound nice and geeky. Not only that, but it's a great chance to catch up with friends and colleagues, and others working in the Australian web industry. I always come away from these conferences seriously inspired.

Talking about seriously inspiring, in preparation for the conference Cameron Adams and Tim Lucas have built a great web app called Web Connections. Conference attendees can login and use the app to find fellow attendees, find conference-related events, view geo data on where people are coming from, find out who else is attending and what they look like, and discover people with like-minded interests through tags, and more. Cam sums it up beautifully: "... It's got maps, tagging, AJAX, and microformats spouting from all orifices ..."

The tagging functionality is extremely useful, not to mention great fun. By browsing the tags, I have discovered there are other new dads going as well, meaning I'll be able to compare Flickr baby photos :-) On the other hand, I'm don't want to ask what this tag means ...

The Web Connections app is a very well implemented example of using the available free data that is out there (thanks to API's) to create something that's not only extremely useful, but well designed and fun to use. Great work, guys.

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Friday, June 23, 2006

10 Things That Would Improve Foxtel Digital

Foxtel, for those who are unaware, is Australia's answer to America's cable TV. Originally it was broadcast in analog format, but in the last few years they have transitioned to a digital format and Foxtel have been heavily promoting this digital format as something that will "will change the way you feel about television forever".

I would have to disagree. I am frustrated with some aspects of Foxtel Digital, and after reading about what some of the cable companies in America are now offerering, here is my opinion on what Foxtel Digital could do to improve their service.

  1. Redesign the on screen TV guide to make it more useable.
  2. Allow me to watch missed shows - when I want to.
  3. Allow me to watch movies when I want to, not at designated times.
  4. If I pull down a movie, give me at least 24 hours to watch it. At present, I am locked out of all downloaded movies at 2:00am, even if I downloaded it at 1:00am.
  5. Get some new content. I must have watched the same 2 series of NYPD five times now.
  6. Do something interesting with the interactive component. If an ad for a show that I want to watch comes on, why can't I add that show to the planner right then with a click?
  7. Don't charge me an expensive monthly fee just to enable time shifting ie, Foxtel IQ.
  8. Make the channel websites more interesting. Not just flash promos, but make then an interesting extension of the channel content, involve users and create community. HBO have done a great job with the Sopranos website.
  9. The planner only shows future shows for the next 3 days. If I've just seen an ad for a show I want to watch and it's on next week, I can't add it to my planner until next week.
  10. Allow the planner to give me an option to select a whole series, rather than single episodes. Why do I have to go back every week and add the same show to the planner?

Some of the above issues are standard features on much of the cable networks in the States. I understand that the market here in Australia is smaller and therefore less profitable, but I do feel that Foxtel could be doing much more with what they have.

Do you agree with the list above? Are there any other features you would like to see on Foxtel Digital? If so, leave your comments and let me know.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Too Many Google Accounts

I like testing out and using a lot of the services that Google are building and experimenting with. For example, I use Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Notebook, Google Desktop, Google Analytics, Personalised Search, Personalised Homepage, Adwords and Adsense to name a few. I signed up to some of these services a while back, while I have only recently signed up to others.

Therein lies the problem. Way back before Google Accounts was launched, it was necessary to sign up to some of these services using a non-Gmail email address. With some of the newer Google services, you have to sign up using your Gmail address. This means that for some services I have more than one account and I can only use some services with a Gmail address account. I have to login and out frequently between services, therefore segragating all my data and losing the value of some of the services.

Here's an example:

  • Using the Gmail Notifier extension for Firefox, I am alerted when email arrives in one of myGmail accounts. I open Gmail and read that email.
  • Now, I go to my Adsense account. This uses my non-Gmail email address, so I have to log out of my Google Account and sign in again to Adsense.
  • I want to add an item to Google Calendar. I have to login to my Google account again, making sure that I use the same Google Account linked to my preferred Gmail account, otherwise Calendar sends email to the wrong account.
  • I want to check my web stats, so I have to log out of my Google Account, and log into Google Analytics using my non-Gmail email address.
  • Between all this, I do some searching. I have been swapping between Google Accounts and Gmail addresses for a few hours, so my Personalised Search History is now divided between 3-4 different accounts, making it almost useless to me.

I'm not the only one confused and frustrated by this. A quick search reveals that Danny Sullivan has posted about the same issue.

To solve this, I think there needs to be a way to consolidate all your Google services to one account, using one email address. However, I can't see any way to do this - in fact I believe there is no way to do this. Can you move Gmail data between accounts?

Is anyone else frustrated by the mess of different Google accounts and logins? Is there a way to consolidate it all? If you have found a way to do so, please reply and let me know.

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Friday, May 26, 2006

Whirlpool Releases Australian Broadband Survey Results

Whirlpool, the Australian Broadband news site, have released the results of their Australian Broadband Survey 2005. The survey was actually held from 29 December 2005 until January 2006 and was completed 16,590 times by Whirlpool readers.

Not suprisingly, as most of the Whirlpool readers are 'informed consumers' or 'prosumers', Tesltra cops some flack. Only 1.9% of those surveyed think that Telstra's management team are doing a good job and 81.5% believe that other ISP's need to reduce their reliance on Telstra's broadband network.

VOIP (Voice Over IP) use has doubled since last year's survey with 29% now using it. However of those that have used VOIP, only 6% mainly use VoIP and keep their landline connected for emergency calls, whilst only 1% use VoIP for all their home telephony and have disconnected their home phone line. I am using VOIP through iiNet for the majority of our calls and the service and quality has been fine up until recently, when I started noticing that I would be randomly disconnected at times. Unfortunately, as with most VOIP contracts, there is no Quality of Service Agreement. But at 10c untimed for a call, I'm not complaining (yet).

Overall, the survey provides an interesting insight, and is worth reading.

Read the results of their Australian Broadband Survey 2005. Do you agree with most of the results, or fit the profile of these broadband users?

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Monday, May 08, 2006

Hacker saw UFO images

Gary McKinnon, an Englishman accused by the US Military of perpetrating the "biggest military computer hack of all time" by hacking into the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Department of Defence and NASA, has given a video interview to the BBC where he says he was motivated by trying to uncover photographic evidence of UFO's and suppressed technology. He also says he found that evidence.

In a rebuttal to US press hysteria over the case, McKinnon says that he broke in by finding Windows computers that had emtpy Administrator passwords, used RemoteAnywhere to do control the remote desktops, and there were constantly other hackers from around the world on these systems already. "There were no lines of defence" says McKinnon.

Things get really interesting/strange when he says that he was told by a NASA photographic expert that NASA "... regularly airbrushed out images of UFOs from the high-resolution satellite imaging." McKinnon says he found a satellite image before it had been retouched, viewed it on the remote system and started to download it, but was discovered and disconnected. Wouldn't you know it?

The story has been debated by uber-geeks over at Slashdot, where most agree that, technically, some parts of his story don't hold up. Some Slashdot readers suggested that McKinnon actually broke into a NASA honeypot, a deliberate trap filled with false, though tantalizing, information in order to catch hackers.

Whatever the truth, it makes for an interesting story whichever way you look at it. The US want McKinnon jailed for 60 years and are trying to extradite him from the UK. Are the US Government's networks really that insecure? Did McKinnon find real information or was he deliberately fed misinformation so he could be caught? Is 60 years too much for accessing an insecure system? Let me know what you think.

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Do You Trust the Internet for Your News?

An recent article in The Age newspaper titled 'Internet gains trust as news source', outlines the findings of a recent Reuters poll where 10,230 participants from 10 countries were asked to name their most trusted news sources.

Not suprisingly, national television was the most trusted news source overall for 82 per cent of the participants. This was followed by newspapers and radio. 25 per cent said they trusted internet sources, such as blogs, while another 23 per cent admitted they did not trust blogs.

However, internet sources were seen as the most important news source among 19 per cent of those participants aged between 18 to 24. No suprises there either.

I depend on a few blogs and aggregators to report and break news stories, especially in the areas of the web and technology. But like anything else, you need to choose your sources carefully.

Now, if a story I watch on TV interests me, I will sometimes follow it up online where I can see people's pics of it on Flickr, read eyewitness accounts on blogs and discuss it with others on Metafilter. There's a convergence of different mediums happening, which enables the viewer to also become the participator.

Do you follow up news stories online? If so, what other techniques and sites do you use to do this?

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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Dylan on XM

Xm Satellite Radio recently announced they have signed up Bob Dylan, who will be hosting a one hour weekly radio show starting next week on May 3rd. Dylan will play his own selections of music, based around a weekly theme, and will relate stories and anecdotes as well as answer listener emails.

That's a pretty big coup for XM. It's also a strange, but exciting new direction for Bob Dylan, and it sounds like it would be fascinating listening. According to a Reuters article, in a preview of the first show, in which the theme is 'the weather', Dylan plays and chats about tracks ranging from 'Blow, Wind, Blow' by Muddy Waters to 'I Don't Care if the Sun Don't Shine' by Dean Martin to and 'The Wind Cries Mary' by Jimi Hendrix.

Future themes will include cars, dance, police and whiskey.

Also of interest is the story behind how XM landed Bob Dylan, told by Lee Abrams on his blog. What comes through in Lee's blog is how passionate he is about both Bob Dylan and music in general. It's refreshing to hear him talk about how he's not sure that everyone at XM 'got it' with the Dylan thing, and how "... Bob is not a typical content deal that takes money and a good PowerPoint. This is engaging BOB DYLAN to do something that you’d never think he’d do ...". Dylan's business manager tells Abrams, "... You know Bob is not a 'CEO' kind of guy ..." when it is suggested by XM that their CEO chat with Dylan.

Here's an exec that gets it. There's no business speak here about marketing, return on investment or any other bland terms, but rather an honest, passionate account of how he convinced one of the world's most innovative and reclusive artists to do something new and exciting.

Being in Australia, I'm going to have to subscribe to XM Radio Online to hear this. Is there a better way for non US residents listen to satellite radio? If you know of one, please let me know.

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