Saturday, November 27, 2004

Just in... A Real Digital Rangefinder

http://www.luminous-landscape.com

One of my wishlist cameras was the Leica/Panasonic that was fashioned on the classic Leica rangefinder range; that is, until I saw one in the metal and plastic. The whole idea of a rangefinder camera is the great view you get through the optical viewfinder. The Leica/Panasonic doesn't have an optical viewfinder. Added to that, IT'S HUGE!

This isn't huge. It has an optical viewfinder, and all of the displays are mechanical analogue. Heaven. Now, I must go back and read the test. Hope it's as good as it looks...

Friday, November 26, 2004

Shameless Self-Promotion

Zero Seven Operating System (http://www.andrewburke.orcon.net.nz)

Here's an excerpt from one of my other sites. It's a step-through online book that describes a new kind of computing experience where you don't sync files between devices -- you swap out the actual guts of your operating system and files between the devices.

Imagine a block the size of a PC card. The block would contain the operating system, all of the enhancements to the operating system and all of the documents, music, images and other data files. It would also contain a set of smart batteries. Whatever other device the block was connected to would contain a CPU, display, input devices, modem, networking devices, optical drives etc. It would also have firmware to match the operating system to its display type and input method.

So the block would be the heart of the system. The block would be "Me." The block is also the switch to turn on the other devices. Insert the block into the faceplate of the desktop device and the desktop device turns on. The desktop charges the block's smart batteries while you check your email and update your pages.

You pull the block from the desktop, turning the desktop off and insert it into your combination phone and PDA. The display automatically adapts to the PDA screen size and pen input. Once in your car you slot the PDA into its cradle and the car tops up the battery. The car stereo now adds the music in the block to its playlist. A call comes in and its routed through the stereo as well.

At work you plug the block into your wifi tablet. When you checked your mail at home the desktop dialed up, in the car the cellular phone dialed up, now at work the tablet fetches mail from the company server. The block knows where it is by what its plugged into, you don't have to do anything. Meanwhile back at home your son plugs his block into the desktop. Nothing that you did remains on the desktop so there's no way your son can damage your operating system or data.

Click on the link at the top to go to the actual book. And feel free to develop the idea...

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Wonderful Icon

Wonderful Icon (http://www.thewonderfulicon.com)

A good way to gauge software is to re-install Windows and see what you simply must put back first. One of the handful of programs I'd choose is The Wonderful Icon.

From the aforementioned icon, which sits in the tray, I can access a huge list of enhancements that help me work with Windows every day. These enhancements are configured via a separate window where I can choose to include them on the pop-up menu, or via shortcut keys. It's those shortcut keys that are the key strength of this app. I love the fact that the shortcut keys don't need to be combinations; I can use any function or numeric key on it's own.

As I never otherwise use the Insert key, this is used to close any window with one tap. F12 shuts down Windows without even prompting. There are countless other things it can do for you; it's really up to your imagination. It's compact, installs easily and performs flawlessly.

The Shortcut Keys that I Use...

  • F1 Launch the Default Browser
  • F2 Launch Metapad Text Editor
  • F4 Launch Microsoft Word
  • F6 Lauch Regedit
  • F8 Open the Run Command Dialog
  • F9 New Folder
  • F10 Launch Microsoft Outlook
  • F12 Shutdown Windows without Prompting
  • Insert Close the Current App
  • Num / Hang Up the Modem
  • Num * Open the My Documents folder as a Single Window

And get this... It's free!

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Swoopy look for new Audi interiors - News - Autocar Online

Swoopy look for new Audi interiors

No... Please... Tell me this isn't true!

Friday, November 19, 2004

Who says Clowns are Scary!?!

Amazed and Disappointed, but Hopeful...

Picasa (http://www.picasa.com)

I just tried Picasa. It's been such a long and confusing night -- I couldn't sleep again -- that I can't remember why I downloaded it in the first place, but I'm glad that I did.

The quickest way to describe it is: iPhoto for Windows. Those wonderful folks at Google bought the company and now Picasa is free. I have other apps that I use for browsing and managing images, but none are as attractive as this.

I don't know how they do it, but the interface is ClearType, and semi-transparent; and that's with me still using Windows 98! I love the way I can drag thumbnails around to re-arrange them, causing the others to shuffle out of the way. It's not that big a deal productivity-wise to have an interface this attractive, but it doesn't hurt. Well, maybe it wouldn't if I had a newer system. I suspect it's calling on DirectX and Java to do some of the tricks, and it's pushing my setup a bit too much; I had a couple of "Fatal Exceptions."

Never mind. This is one app I'm setting aside for when I upgrade...

Thursday, November 18, 2004

There's more than one way to measure success

In the past, other Peoples' Car manufacturers have tried to offer ranges that span the cheap transport to luxury range. Both Fiat and Peugeot have had a go at the top end. They both failed, as they should have failed; the cars they offered simply weren't that great. What they offered were simply scaled up versions of ordinary sedans.

Toyota managed to make the leap with Lexus, and Honda, to some extent, with Acura. Now Volkswagen is offering the Phaeton at the top end.

Now, the Phaeton is not selling well. It is every bit as sophisticated as a comparable Benz or BMW; probably as innovative, and certainly as well built. No-one is really arguing on those counts. It seems the real stumbling block is the fact that so many people who can afford such cars can't see themselves spending those amounts on a Volkswagen. It's as simple as that. The snob thing. I don't even think the resale value side enters into it. Resale value is pretty terrible no matter what you choose.

So why do I think the Phaeton is a success? Because it's there. VW, for a while, took on the "Damn the Torpedoes" attitude that advanced Honda so far ahead of their opposition in the 80's. The sort of attitude that says "We will do it simply because we can." In the 80's Honda made two kinds of car and 130 kinds of motorcycle. They decided to make a turbocharged bike to show off their technological prowess. The easiest path would have been to tubo charge an inline four cylinder model, but they chose instead to base their new bike on the CX500 -- an eighty degree V-twin.

No engine could have been a worse configuration to start with; but that was the whole point. The resulting bike was massively complex, and no, it didn't sell well. But it showed that Honda had the expertise to build anything they set their mind to. As a wonderful by-product it started a whole new range of models that incorporated such features as anti-dive suspension, properly integrated styling, single shock rear suspension, fuel injection, aerodynamics, new ways to mold seat coverings, new ways to paint plastic; you name it.

Now VW has shown the confidence to produce a car that can cruise all day at 150mph, and touch 200mph. The Phaeton itself might not sell in large numbers, but it's offshoot, the Bentley Continental GT will, and the Bentley Sedan will as well; the people who buy the Bentley sedan might be the same ones who rejected the Phaeton, and it will be an open secret that under the bodywork they are one and the same. But everyone will win.

Car Talk

Car Talk (http://www.cartalk.com/Radio/Show/)

Never mind whether you're going to learn anything about cars (you will). These guys are just plain funny.

Favorite quote:

"Tornadoes and Southern divorces have a lot in common. Either way, someone is going to lose a trailer..."

Virgin Mary, or Marlene Dietrich? You decide...

Monday, November 15, 2004

The New English

They say that, as far as the different types of jokes go, puns are the ones that make you cringe. I think it's the bastardization of the language that does it; there's something almost palpably painful about them. This brings me to something else that's palpably painful – this "New English."

What I'm talking about is the way, over the past five to ten years, there's been a movement to substitute a new soft and fluffy terminology for perfectly respectable words and phrases that we used to use every day. "All the time" becomes: "24/7;" "This also applies to" becomes: "This speaks to..."

Here are some more:

  • Learning has become up-skilling
  • Result has become outcome
  • Measurement has become metric
  • Manager has become team leader
  • Answer has become solution
  • Consultant has become coach
  • Category has become space
  • Room has become space
  • Breaking and entering has become home invasion
  • Stupid looking or impractical has become lifestyle version
  • "Total" goes in front of everything

Now, I'm not the greatest writer in the world, but I do remember being taught that good writing avoids the use of jargon. Jargon is supposed to be specialist language – unintelligible to most. So are any of the above examples even jargon? I strongly suspect that they are even less than that. I'll have to invent a "New" word of my own for words that are sub-jargon.

Let's see how quickly that word becomes part of the new English...

Viv the Cat (Number 1 of 9)

This is Viv.

Although he's about five years old, he's much smaller than most of his brothers and sisters. Two things set him apart from the other cats when he was a wild kitten:

  • First, rather than snarl and bare his teeth, or run like the others when approached, he would simply hunker down.
  • Second, and I've never seen this before or since, when he was little he had absolutely no hair on his tail; just like a rat.

I could have put him up for adoption because he was so tame, but I didn't because I feared that no-one would want a cat with a naked tail. Another reason I kept him was because Tiger, his older brother, took him under his wing and they became inseparable best buddies. Even today they swirl around each other and do a little dance every time they meet.

In the end Viv's tail caught up with the rest of him, fur-wise, and today he's a very handsome fellow, if a little tiny.

Now that's more like it...

Just when you think Sony have really lost their way, they come up with this: a pro-sumer HD video camera. What a piece of kit!

Bentley by way of VW... Stunning!

Bentley Continental (http://www.andrewburke.orcon.net.nz/04/bentley.htm)

Spied the other day in Auckland. I went to the site and asked for and got the brochure. It was the only online form I'd seen that asked for my title; as in "Sir, Earl, Viscount or Lord."

That had to Hurt!

Tablog PC

Tablog PC (http://tablogpc.blogspot.com/)

I'm a PC and a Pocket PC user, and I'm seriously considering the Tablet PC. I recently came across this blog by Charlie Wood. In his own words:

"Hi! My name's Charlie Wood, and I've been thinking of buying a Tablet PC ever since Motion Computing started selling them oh so long ago. Well, after years of hand-wringing, rationalizing, and fence-sitting, I've placed my order. Mind you, it's for a reconditioned demo unit, a previous-generation M1300, but it will be new to me."

I'll be visiting that blog often to see how he gets on...

Future Tense

Future Tense (http://www.publicradio.org/columns/futuretense/)

I really like this site; it's updated every day with a fresh audio item that -- unlike most podcasts -- is short, easy to listen to and very professionally done.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Stop the World. I want to get off!

Here in New Zealand there's a government department that looks after retired people; it's part of the Social Welfare Department. Social Welfare is now called: "Social Development." First off, I don't like the sound of that.

Now, the woman in charge of that department wants the country to stop using the word "Retirement" when referring to what people do when they stop working; she prefers the term: "Time of Choice."

Time of Choice! Why! What a bunch of crap!

I simply CAN NOT believe that highly paid professional department heads actually sit around discussing such things. She had two other fall-back phrases -- they were: "Third age" and "Down-shifting."

And what was the news media's reaction to this suggestion? "Mmm. What an intriguing idea..."

Monday, November 08, 2004

iCapture Discovered

iCapture (http://www.danvine.com/icapture/)

I've been putting together another site on a new server; it's a sort of hub that points to my other pages. You can find it at:

http://andrewburke.orcon.net.nz

So anyway, I did the usual thing of testing it in all the usual browsers -- Netscape; Opera; Firefox... This is easy enough because they're all installed on my PC. But what would it look like in Safari, which is only for Mac?

I figured that "If you think of something, someone's probably already implemented it somewhere on the net," and sure enough, there IS a website where you can enter your URL and a Mac visits the site and takes a screenshot for you. It works like a charm, and yes, I do need to jigger the code on a couple of pages...