Sunday, October 29, 2006

What happens to your data when you die?

Posted by Chris @ 9:58 PM

I know it is a bit of a morbid thought, but during my extra hour of sleep in bed this morning (thank you BST) I wondered what happens to your online life when you die?

Allow me to explain further. All of my blog posts are stored in Blogger, my photos are in Flickr, my videos are in YouTube, and my email is stored in GMail. What happens to all that when I die?

In this time of blogs and online community I'd wager the majority of users of these services are under 40. So come 50 years time when we're dropping like flies what happens? How do we pass on our photos, blogs, videos to our loved ones. They are all password protected, do we have to start including our passwords in our wills? Do companies like Google, Yahoo, etc have policies in place to deal with the death of users and the appropriate transfer of digital properties to the next of kin?

Not a terribly upbeat conversation I know, but does anyone have the answers? A quick scan of terms and conditions of some of the larger sites shows no mention of death. I'm genuinely interested, do people have passwords ferried away in safety deposit boxes for when the time comes? Certainly one to ponder.....

Death of a President

Posted by Chris @ 9:28 PM

More4 recently showed “Death of a President” and it piqued my interest enough for it to be sat recorded on my Humax for a few weeks before I finally got around to watching it this weekend.

For those who don't know Death of a President is set a year from now, and depicts in documentary style the assassination and subsequent investigation of George W Bush. It had piqued my interest because of the obvious shock factor (fancy making a film about an assassination of the sitting President, shame on you Channel 4!), but also because I was interested in how they were going to present it.

Sadly what I endured for 2 hours was pretty much a propaganda film for the “Stop the War Coalition”, and quite frankly I had hoped for better. I'm not particularly for or against the war in Iraq, but propaganda like this just annoys the hell out of me. Certainly they aren't the only ones at it, the news media are just as bad, but somehow I expect better from Channel 4.

Oh well, a quick search shows the shock factor certainly worked. Did anyone else see this programme, what did you make of it?

Friday, October 27, 2006

twitter.com

Posted by Chris @ 10:05 PM

Chris highlighted a fantastic little service called twitter. It is basically a really easy way of letting people know what you are up to without needing to talk to them, or enter into any kind of conversation. Simply send a text, type it into the website, or use your instant messenger to add your latest twitter, and then with the magic of JSON, or some pre-built bits, you can add your twitterings to your own website (blog, myspace, etc). You can also start to build a friend network, and they can be notified of your latest twittering.

Obviously I've gone the JSON route, so in the side nav of my site you'll see my latest twitter (and yes, from time to time it may contain swear words) and if you click on it, you'll get to see my last 10 twitterings, with links off to twitter.com to see all of my twittering.

Not much more to it really. Simple, easy, quick, brilliant.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Windows Vista Gadgets

Posted by Chris @ 8:48 PM

Ok, so I posted like an excited child about Yahoo! Widgets, and may now have been a little premature. You see, the main stumbling block I see with Yahoo! Widgets is that you have to download the Yahoo! Widget engine to run any widget, and whilst it is only a 10MB download, that's still an extra step you have to explain to web novices who just want a simple way to interact with your website / business etc.

So I thought, well if Mac OSX Tiger (or whatever) has it with the dashboard, will Windows Vista offer something similar. Low and behold Windows Sidebar and Gadgets!. Having a quick read about it seems the functionality, whilst not documented as well as Yahoo!, is all pretty similar in terms of what you can access and do. So I think I'll put any Yahoo Widget development on hold and dig a bit deeper into Windows Gadgets.

Apologies if you've already ditched your 9-5 career in search of Yahoo! Widget goodness....oops

RDFRS website disappointing

Posted by Chris @ 7:36 PM

A while back I blogged about a tv programme called “The Root of All Evil?” in which Richard Dawkins, a person at the fore front of secular and atheist thinking, presented a case for religion being the root of all evil.

I enjoyed this programme, and as an atheist I generally agree with a lot Richard Dawkins has to say, and so when I saw a link on Tom Coates blog to a website of his, I clicked through to have a look.

The website is the The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (RDFRS) and unfortunately is disappointing. Even though I understand what Richard Dawkins is about, if you're new to Richard Dawkins and the foundation, this website does very little to help explain within 10 seconds what they are about.

Their main way of communicating this is a video that lasts for 10 minutes, along with a transcript of the audio. After 8 minutes of the video (dinner was ready) and skimming the transcript, I felt like I was being indoctrinated into some kind of cult. The video lacked the usual absolutely undeniable reasoning I've come to expect from Dawkin, and instead talked too much about money, publications, his books, etc.

Changing tack I thought maybe his more established website RichardDawkins.net would be a better bet. Sadly not, it is a jumbled mess of nothing. Its a shame, these websites could be a fantastic tool for helping to communicate the foundation's aims, but it seems his “expert web site designer” (who has a shameless plug in the video transcript by the way - point 3) is pretty shit, that or he's actually a code monkey, and someone who has no website design skill is calling the shots.

Disappointing.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Yahoo! Widgets

Posted by Chris @ 4:31 PM

A while back, you probably didn't hear about Yahoo! buying Konfabulator - a small Javascript runtime engine for Mac OS X and Windows that enabled you to build and run Widgets. You probably don't know what a Widget is, and I'm guessing right now you don't care. However I'd like to change that because Widgets are quite cool.

Ok, so what are Yahoo Widgets?
Simply put, a Widget is a little application that sits on your desktop and can do quite a lot of things. (For an idea of the kinds of Widgets already out there check out the Yahoo! Widget gallery.) They can be on your desktop, float above all your other windows, or never be seen until you hit a certain key. They are all opened and managed within the Yahoo! Widget engine, the small application that you download and have running on your machine in the system tray.

Ok, so I know Widgets are cool little applications that run on my machine, but why are they cool?
Because you can make them do whatever you want them to do. And if you can't do it, you can ask for someone who can to do it for you! All that makes a Widget work is a bit of XML and Javascript. So pretty much anyone who's used Javascript (a lot of web developers) can write an impressive Widget. The docs supplied by Yahoo! are pretty darn good too.

But Javascript can't do that much cool stuff?
Oh, but it can, and this is where the Yahoo! Widget engine comes into its own. Essentially they have extended and improved Javascript so you can do things like access the file system, monitor the system's status (CPU, memory usage), mute the system volume, open URLs, make AJAX requests, control iTunes (if installed), and via COM calls control any program on the users machine. There is so much more, and it is all really easy to do.

My God Chris, that sounds amazing, tell me more!
Well browsing through the Widget gallery all the submissions seem a little boring, clocks and the such, and this is mainly because people are trying things out, taking baby steps in Widget development. But the cool stuff is there, just hunt around a bit. For instance, a Widget I've been fiddling with plays you BBC Radio 1 (using Real player COM calls) through the Widget, but also using the Last.fm API it retrieves information about the song being played, and adds that songs details to your Last.fm account. Genius, and what I've been doing is adding playback support, so I can stop and start the radio at my pleasure.

But it doesn't stop there, what about applying this to business use? Whilst it might not be a primary upload mechanism, because a Widget can access the file system what about having a Widget that you can just drag files into, and they automatically get uploaded into your Click2Translate.com account (that you're already logged into using your saved Widget preferences), or create an image uploader for Flickr, that works how you want it to work, not the way Flickr wants it to work. Or a translation tool for FreeTranslation.com. It is another way for users to interact with businesses, and one that keeps the brand on the users desktop, and is easy to use.

I've only just started on this Widget stuff (less that 5 days) so I'm guessing I've only scratched the surface of what can be achieved. But I'm excited, can you tell!

Disclaimer - I work for the company behind Click2Translate.com and FreeTranslation.com

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Cock - Channel 4 loses Lost to Sky One

Posted by Chris @ 11:40 AM

Cock - Channel 4 loses Lost to Sky One.

That is very annoying. So how do I watch it now? If Sky do as they say and put it on Sky One quicker than Channel 4 would have then my only hope is that they stick it on Sky Three as soon as they've finished showing it on Sky One, so people with Freeview will have a chance to watch it at pretty much the same time as they would on Channel 4. As for terrestrial folk, tuff init.

[via plascticbag.org]

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Sneaky Google Toolbar update

Posted by Chris @ 10:33 AM

Google have released a sneaky Google Toolbar update which trys to set your default search engine to Google and manage changes. Sneaky. I've already posted this, with screenshot, in the Google Blogoscoped forum, so follow the discussion there.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Beat the insurance companies!

Posted by Chris @ 7:30 PM

I've just had to renew my car insurance for another year. As usual the renewal documents came from Direct Line, and as usual I was disappointed not to see my renewal price drop. This time it was £726.60 (don't forget I drive a large engine car for those whose jaws have just dropped) so I decided I'd have a fish about for some cheaper quotes.

And cheaper quotes I found with Churchill and RAC Insurance both coming in around £640 / £660 on a like for like basis. So armed with this I phoned the Direct Line renewal “hotline” after a discount. You see I'd rather stay with Direct Line as their customer service, in my experience, has been very good and I'm very happy with them. Unfortunately I was promptly told that they don't do price matching, certainly not against online prices. But then she let slip a nugget of information.

If I were to get a quote on Direct Line.com, save the quote (which would include a 15% online discount) and then ring them up again, I could renew at the online price I'd saved! Genius!

So off I went to Direct Line, got my quote and saved it. I fiddled my voluntary excess slightly to £150 to make it a little cheaper, but in the end got a quote for £609.00 - a saving of £117.60.

So my tip from the top, go and get yourself an online quote from your insurance provider first, save it, then ring them up and get a better renewal deal :o)

MMC is back and AJAXed!

Posted by Chris @ 3:22 PM

Oh yes my friends. When I first launched Mini Mini Cabs™ all those months ago you laughed and pointed and said there goes a fool. Well laugh no more, because I've just updated the Mini Mini Cabs™ website, and it is better than ever, with AJAX!

Over the months it has had a rough time, sat in the lower section of the right nav, unloved and broken. But no more. For after some inspiration from Ben (yes, it is your fault, and get a website so I can link to it) I have updated the MMC website to use the Virtual Earth API to get its distance data, and thus have been able to make it into an AJAX monster.

To use simply enter your start and end postcodes and choose you type of Mini, and MMC will instantly go off and get you a price, all within the same page! It is AJAX magic. Obviously it is still completely useless and a bit of fun, but none the less it has served its purpose in entertaining you, the cgriley.com massive, and helping me understand a little bit more about these Javascript based APIs.

Go forth and get Mini Mini Cab™ taxi fares. Oh, and if you break it, which you likely will with rogue postcodes, I don't care.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Winter has arrived

Posted by Chris @ 7:23 PM

This weekend has seen us undertake a rather wintry set of activities. Saturday we were skiing and snowboarding at Xscape Castleford, and in the evening we were watching the Sheffield Steelers at the Hallam FM Arena.

I'll admit I was a little nervous about going to Xscape. Their guidelines for recreational use being controlling speed, linking turns and able to use a poma (button) lift meant I worried about being thrown off the slope for being crap. However that was not the case! Firstly, the poma lift, easy peasy, nice and slow and shouldn't be a problem for anyone. The slope is great; not too steep, not too flat, and then of course it is real snow! Excellent, because it means falling doesn't hurt (although I only fell once) and it makes turning a hell of a lot easier. Although it seemed busy from outside actually it wasn't too bad on the slope. I've gone away from Xscape only wanting to go back. Downsides - realising that Dawn is better than me at snowboarding (I need to up my confidence with turning at speed), and the price, 2 hours for Dawn and I was £62. Ouch. All that said if you've not yet caught the winter sports bug, then get down here, get on the snow and learn to ski or snowboard. You won't regret it, it is easier than learning on the artificial stuff, and once the snow mountain is built in Sheffield you won't have far to travel and you'll be able to have a great time.

Ice hockey on the other hand is also great fun. Its fast, on ice, and involves quite a lot of clattering into each other and occasionally a fight. Great! The only downside, the Steelers lost last night 3-1, bummer.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Welcome to my new host!

Posted by Chris @ 8:43 PM

If you're reading this then welcome to the other side! I've moved host, and this post is only on my new host, so fantastic news, your DNS servers are bang up to date!

If you've no idea what that means, don't worry, you didn't, don't and won't need to do anything. I've simply changed who stores all of my web pages to GoDaddy - possibly one of the worst websites in the world, but with some great hosting deals! Anyway hopefully this new host will be more reliable, a bit quicker, and should hopefully stop my site from being hacked!

By the way, at the same time my mail will use this new host, but I'm not sure if its all setup correctly, so if I don't respond to your mail its probably because I haven't got it!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Blackpool

Posted by Chris @ 7:28 PM

As Chris has already alluded to, we went to Blackpool this weekend. It was very enjoyable, and a real eye opener. The Grand National at the Pleasure Beach is possibly one of the scariest rides I've been on, simply for its stomach inducing dips, and rickety wooden nature! It was jolly good fun, and the walkie talkies we had in the cars on convoy provided hours of amusement!

Anyway, there is a wealth of pictures and videos kicking about, below are my contributions:

Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The economy

Posted by Chris @ 1:17 PM

I'm not an economist, I haven't studied it, and I don't particular have a huge interest in it. But having lived a little, I feel I understand the basics, and it is this understanding the below is based upon.

As I understand it, we're having quite a good time of it at the moment, interest rates have been kept pretty low, and generally we've got a stable economy. Inflation is a little higher than they'd like, so a quarter point rise is on the cards for November, just to help keep us Brits from overspending and pushing inflation up further.

Now based on my understanding of the economy, tax cuts affect things. They affect things because tax cuts mean more money in the bank for ordinary folk. Consumer confidence is boosted and spending increases, increased spending pushes up inflation, and the Bank of England raises interest rates to curb this rise in inflation. So suddenly everyone's mortgage repayments are too high, they stop spending, and the BoE have to work hard tinkering with the interest rates to sort everything out, before the economy collapses. All due to a tax cut.

So then I start hearing about Tory MPs calling for new Tory leader Cameron to promise tax cuts to help them get into Government. Hmm, I get the feeling on this one Cameron is quite right not to promise tax cuts, but try and maintain economic stability. Its a shame his party have these fringe members trying to get tax cuts. Not that I like Cameron or the Conservatives, but at least his economic policy seems to be a little better that the last guy, who was promising tax cuts and increased public spending (as I mentioned at the time), now that really didn't add up!

So, am I right, does my brand of simplified economics make sense, or am I talking rubbish and a tax cut wouldn't do that much harm to my mortgage interest rate? I'd like to know.