Friday, January 19, 2007

Goodbye Moddin.net

Posted by Chris @ 8:04 PM

Well, I suppose the time had to come eventually, but Anthony has announced that Moddin'.net is to close it's doors on 31st January 2007.

For those who don't know, Moddin'.net started all those years ago in our second year of uni, when Anthony started fiddling with his computer case and LCD screens. This quickly spread into him moddin' his case most evenings, and so Moddin'.net was born. I have to congratulate him on an excellent idea for a website, the fact it has lasted this long, and grown such a community of modders is testament to the hard work he and the rest of the team have put in over the years.

So why do I care? Well, 1.) I'm a mate of Ants and I'm sad to see it go for him, but 2.) because it was the website where I got stuck into ASP and helped turn Moddin'.net into what it is today. In the team page I'm quite proudly listed as “ASP Guru” (even though Ant has streaked past me into an ASP.net guru now!) In the grand scheme of things my contribution has been small, aside from helping to code it, I think I wrote one review, and hardly visited the forums (my signature was rather proudly “It's his rarity in the forums that makes him so special”). But I'm proud that the bits of code I did write have lasted this long! I learnt many a thing from writing that site, and I shall be sad to see it go, not least from my C.V!

It is not too late to go and marvel at what is 5 and a half years of hard work from people more far dedicated than me, and pay your last respects before it vanishes from the web for good.

Goodbye Moddin'.net, those were the days.....

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Train chaos

Posted by Chris @ 9:12 PM

Arriving at the station today we were greeted by hundreds of people stood on platforms, and a passenger information display board that looked like this.

Train Chaos

In case you can't make it out from the amazing quality of my new phone camera and my steady hands, the right hand column (blob) says “cancelled” or “delayed” next to each departure. Hmm, not good. It seems some strong winds and a bit of rain turns Sheffield station into a large waiting room, rather than a place to arrive and depart from. We waited for quite a while, trains came and went, just not to our station. They never came, or went, in fact. Eventually we were lucky enough to be offered a lift by someone who we see on the train every day, but never really talk to, a good Samaritan if you will, and they took us from Sheffield back to Wombwell on roads not snarled up by lorries being blown over. Had they not shown up God only knows what we'd have done, or what time this blog post would have been written.

Oh, and whilst I'm here I'd like to sort out this Celebrity Big Brother racism scandal. The UK isn't racist towards Indians, how do I know this? Because we've just enjoyed a nice curry :o) (Who's Jade Goody?....)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Albums

Posted by Chris @ 8:44 PM

Having a new mobile that plays MP3s, plus a shed load of code to write at work (I wonder how many lines that works out at) means I've been listening to a bit of music over the last couple of days. Hear are my thoughts.

Muse
I first introduced myself to Muse around last year, when I'd heard one of their singles on the radio, and thought that sounds good so I listened to the current album of the time Absolution, and loved it. Since then I've grown to be quite a fan of the Muse, listening to the latest album (Black Holes and Revelations) was a joy, although it's not as strong as Absolution. Anyway, since I liked them I've looked up their previous two albums, Showbiz and Origins of Symmetry, and it is these I've listened to at work. Whilst they are both obviously Muse in style, Origins of Symmetry is much more the style of Muse I prefer - Showbiz I found to be too easy listening, it didn't make me pay it any attention or challenge me. Origins of Symmetry was much better, more aggressive and, well, just better. However, neither beat Absolution, which for me is still the best Muse album.

Pendulum
I doubt any of you will have heard of Pendulum, they are a drum and bass band that has been getting a few mentions hear and there, and people have been saying their album is pretty good. So I've given it a listen, and yep, they aren't wrong. Obviously the big tracks Slam, Fasten Your Seatbelt, Through the Loop and Tarantula are great, but around those are some very pleasant ambient DnB tracks. For me the first half of the album was better than the second, with the second half making me think, “what was that” a couple of times, but it still wasn't bad by any stretch of the imagination. In some ways it is a very playful album, with the beats taking on almost childish characteristics in places before returning to form.

Now I know most of you probably don't like drum and bass, but I think it's a great genre of music. It certainly does the job when you're coding, the sheer energy in the bassline makes you type quickly, but you also have the breakdown moments to take stock and think about the next section of code you're about to write. One thing is for sure, listening to Pendulum has woken up my interest in DnB once more, and in this podcast age hopefully there is a lot more DnB to be had....

Monday, January 15, 2007

The return of Pan's People

Posted by Chris @ 9:36 PM

I've just had a thought. What with the recent shake up of the top 40 singles chart rules allowing downloads into the chart without a physical CD release, this means we'll get more and more unsigned acts popping up in the chart, like Koopa

This surely leads to a certain problem for the music TV channels. Unsigned artists typically won't have flashy videos, if a video at all. In the past this wasn't a problem as they didn't get in the charts, so the kids didn't want to watch them. But now they are in the charts, with no video to show, what do the music channels do? I give you the spectacular return of Pan's People. It is the only solution! The kids want to hear the music, so show Pan's People dancing when you have no video, keep the kids happy, keep your viewers, and keep the ad revenue pouring in. With no Pan's People, you have no kids watching, so no viewers and no ad revenue - radio becomes king again!

Video killed the radio star, downloads are killing the video star, what's gonna kill downloads I wonder?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Web and competition

Posted by Chris @ 7:55 PM

I live in the UK, and a big part of our economy is competition. Industry and services alike are opened up to competition to improve service and value to the consumer. Our government is such a fan of this the rail network, gas and electric, phone network, broadband, banks, etc. are all out there touting there wares and getting you to switch to them. And for all of these the process is pretty painless. Overseeing this are various commissions and official bodies to make the companies work together to allow us to switch, and so improve the competition in the market place.

Competition like this is in effect on the Web, but not as much as it should be. The most obvious example is in the web mail area, when GMail came along and offered GBs of storage, and an improved interface, compared to Hotmail which at the time offered MBs of storage, and was ridden with ads and a not perfect interface. The competition forced Hotmail to up its storage limits and make things a bit better for their users. But switching wasn't easy, you got a different email address, and Hotmail stored address books and archived mails with no easy way to transfer them to GMail.

That is the problem with today's Web 2.0 services, they are geared to getting you in the door, once signed up you're part of the community, and can't leave. Photo sharing sites encourage you to enter tags, titles, descriptions, comments, as do video sites; rss readers store your subscriptions, tags, favourites. All of the services are perfectly fine, they work, but there is no easy way to switch. In the last couple of weeks I've discovered a couple of new photo sharing sites similar to Flickr that looked quite good. However because I'm tied in to Flickr, there is no way way for me to try these services out.

Perhaps if I could export my photos, tags, descriptions, titles, comments, sets etc in one easy method, switching might be more of an option. I could give the new site a go, see if it works for me, and if not, switch back, be quite nomadic rather than loyal to a site, shop about, with my data set, for the features I want. And if everyone started doing this then the sites would take note - they would have to innovate further, improve customer service, lower prices, make switching to them easier, think of new ways to get us to stay. Competition would drive Web 3.0!

In my opinion this competition approach applies to several keys parts of the web today; photos, videos, mail, rss readers and blogs. All the meta data we provide around the source item, be it a photo, video, email, feed subscription, or our entire blog, needs to have a simple easy way to be packaged up and transported from site to site along with the source data item. At the very least, and this is happening, web sites should offer tools that import content from competitors into their website, the downside being the competitor doesn't export all of the data you've entered! APIs help, because clever developers like myself can then access all of this data, package it up in nice xml file formats (or something like it) and pass that onto the new website for them to import. And finally, you could do it manually, using tutorials or similar to help you speed up the laborious task, the downside, it takes so long, you want to know its worth the switch!

What we really need is an agreement in place, a standard drawn up that stores all of the common information we assign to a piece of data, that websites can then export to and import from. That way, the users are free to shop about, and competition wins the day! Obviously such data sets could be quite large, and that presents some logistical issues, but I think if the Web is to continue to evolve, it has not got to be just about the new users, websites will have to start thinking about their existing users and how best to keep them from straying to the next new thing!

There, my stream of consciousness is complete, I'm sure it is not perfect, but basically give us a way to let us swap web sites willy nilly, and let competition build the best web sites Web 3.0 will have to offer.

Granny's 80th birthday (and cake)

Posted by Chris @ 6:03 PM

Granny's 80th Birthday Cake

It is my Granny's 80th birthday on Tuesday, and to celebrate my Mum and Dad had this cake made for her. It has been done by Creative Icing and they have done a fantastic job. From what I understand they've produced this cake from a photograph, and the likeness they have achieved is fantastic. Hopefully you can make it out from the photographs (click them to go to Flickr and get bigger versions). Suzy, we expect something like this from you in a couple of years time!

Granny's 80th Birthday Cake

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Update on the fading and yellow stuff

Posted by Chris @ 10:22 PM

Prior to Christmas I introduced some fading and yellow funky shit to my site to liven it up a bit. Well I've listened to your feedback and made some changes.

The blog roll and twitter now only highlight yellow if the content is less than a day old, and the tags and recent comments don't turn yellow ever - although with comments I may try and get that working another evening, as that would be nice to let users know there is a fresh comment somewhere on my site.

Anyway, that's it, feedback as always is welcome.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Destination

Posted by Chris @ 7:03 PM

Do you remember a while back on Dragons' Den there was a board game that came on called Destination, a bit like Monopoly but with taxis and stuff? Well if you don't not to worry, because this idea succeeded without the Dragon's help, and Destination has been available for a while now.

Anyway, wandering through Debenhams during the sales, I spotted Destination Sheffield! Not only that it was reduced from £25 to £7.50, bargain! Needless to say I've bought it, played it with the parents on New Years Day, and I have to say it was great. It is not only a good game, but the fact it is based on Sheffield made it even better! The selection of destinations is a little bizarre, but I'm thankful Sheffield is on there.

I fully recommend it, and if you don't want to shell out for it, pop round ours and we'll give you a game ;o)

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Smoking age to rise to 18

Posted by Chris @ 8:53 PM

This seemed to slip under the radar of a few people on New Years day. The Government have announced the age to buy cigarettes is to rise to 18 in October 2007. This is on the back of the ban on smoking in public places in July.

Good I say, about time. Now retailers only need to ask for one kind of ID, one that says you are 18 or over, and there are plenty of established schemes for that. Anything that minimises underage sale of cigarettes is a good thing in my book. That's all really, just thought I'd help raise the profile of this story a little. Oh, and happy new year!