“Linux and the Internet broke everything wide open. It’s taken 20 years to get a lot of it boxed back up again.”


Matt Haughey interviewing CmdrTaco:

Matt: What’s your biggest disappointment in the tech world these days?

Rob: The internet is simply not as free as it was when Slashdot began. Government is increasingly legislating away our rights and criminalizing actions that are impossible to regulate. I know it’s inevitable, but it’s still disappointing to witness. The joy of logging in to an IRC chat room in the early 90s, to talk to people who were innovating powerful technologies simply for the sake of it was absolutely intoxicating. To be able to talk to the guy who was responsible for some component of your system. We were all pseudo-anonymous strangers brought together by the technology that we loved, and the belief that an open future was spread out before us. The future will be exciting for my children, but I’m afraid that their technology will come in boxes welded shut at the factory. Their software locked down. Linux, and the Internet broke everything wide open. It’s taken 20 years to get a lot of it boxed back up again. I hope there are still air cracks by the time my kids are old enough to jam screwdrivers in there.

Rob “CmdrTaco” Malda – interviewed by Matt Haughey – webstock.org.nz

The Telegraph thought councillor thought cloud computing depended on rainy weather

Telegraph fail Today The Telegraph reported that a (non-existent) ‘Councillor thought cloud computing depended on rainy weather‘ (dead link). A quick Google search reveals a forum post on this same ‘story’ from 2009, and blog post from four days ago. Both of these places found the story and quickly identified it to be a hoax. Neither of these places are a national news source.

Making this kind of mistake is embarrassing, but I find it unconscionable that any organisation that even pretends to have any journalistic integrity considers it acceptable practice to simply remove stories from their website, with no retraction, as though the mistake never happened.

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If you’re trying to find a great Christmas present for a gadget-loving somebody (or just thinking of something to ask for in your letter to Santa), I’d just like to throw in a timely reminder for the Jambox.

They’re not cheap (around £150), but I’ve never regretted buying mine. The audio is good, and they’re fantastic pieces of industrial design. I have the black one above, and use it every day. It’s one of my favourite gadgets.

Icon Project

Buyer beware: A recent iOS update seems to have broken the shortcuts this app produces. I haven’t investigated any fixes/alternatives yet. I probably won’t bother.

Icon Project (Home Screen Icon) Icon Project (£0.69) is an iPhone app for designing iOS style icons to use as shortcuts on the homescreen.

These icons can be used as shortcuts for making calls and sending SMS or email messages to specific contacts. You can also create shortcuts to web pages or web apps, just like you can from within Safari, but with your own icon. This is where things get interesting…

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The future is boring

I’m going to start collecting corporate promotional videos that imagine a sterile touchscreen future of attractive and successful people using unlikely (but attractive) user interfaces. Starting with this new one from Microsoft:

Productivity Future Vision (2011) – Microsoft Office

In 2019, two years after desk clutter was outlawed in the US, office workers are all prescribed strong drugs to improve their focus and help them block out the distractions visible through their glass workstations. Witness the confusion of the asian worker who, while waiting for his train, briefly runs out of tasks to perform on his phone and quickly seeks out an interactive advertisement to occupy him for the next 30 seconds.

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This looks great. Sadly, judging by the roadmap it doesn’t look like the NoteSlate will be really useful until version 2 (which adds handwriting OCR), so I hope the device can survive until then. An iPad type tablet may be a lot more fun, but I can see a £50 tablet like this being incredibly useful.

When it’s produced, supposedly by June, you’ll be able to select from the traditional white background and black foreground or go with a black background with white. Other colors, including green, blue, or red text, or a “4 colour edition” that does all of them at once, are due sometime down the road. The tablet works with touch or pen input, will offer 180 hours of battery life, and is to be fully open-source, with the initial software release supporting simple drawing, storing of notes, and MP3 playback. Version 1.5 will add PDF and text viewing, while version 2.0 will be rocking OCR handwriting recognition. The best news? It’s said to be just $99, though surely the multi-color edition will cost more. Right now it exists only as renders but with, a release mere months away and a decidedly attractive price point, we’re intrigued. Skeptical, but intrigued.

(emphasis mine) via $99 concept NoteSlate tablet does electronic ink in color, but only one at a time – engadget.com

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Extend battery life with finger power

[…] a helpful solution for a tricky situation. The situation being: you running out of juice on your mobile phone. So what do you do? Remove the battery from the back of the phone; give it a few good turns around your index finger and its gathered enough power to last you a conversation or a safe trip to your charger and electric point.

(via Cheers To Finger Power! – yankodesign.com)


How Andrew Plotkin raised $31,337 on Kickstarter

There’s no easy answer here. Andrew ‘Zarf’ Plotkin is a big name in interactive fiction, and without his reputation backing up his idea, it would probably have failed. Still, he has some smart suggestions:

Some subjective factors that I can’t measure, but which I’m sure helped:

  • Say up front what you want to do, why you want money, and how that money will be converted into something awesome. (A list of features is not exciting, of itself. Describe an experience.)
  • Have a great video. I wrote a script, and then my co-conspirator Jason McIntosh and I whaled over it. Jason threw away a bunch of stuff and added a bunch of stuff; then we filmed it. Twice.
  • Think about your audience and who wants what. I have contributors who want an iPhone game, contributors who want interactive fiction, contributors who want to support my open-source projects, and contributors who want to support me. These are not all the same people. Rewarding all of these groups appropriately is non-trivial, and there has been some discussion about the way I did it.
  • For a game project, include a demo. (I realized this only barely before launch-day! The demo that I posted represents two intense weekends of work; I hope that’s a good omen for my production rate in 2011.)
  • Don’t be afraid to plug yourself and your CV. I know you’re all saying “how could you fail to promote yourself?!” but I had to be chivvied into it. (Thanks, Jason Scott.)
  • Contrariwise, don’t be a jerk. Actively don’t be a jerk. Say thank you to everybody, early and often.

via Andrew Plotkin: How I raised $24,000 on Kickstarter – money.cnn.com

Related: Hadean Lands: Interactive Fiction for the iPhone – kickstarter.com

8mm Vintage Camera

I had my first visit to a Yo! Sushi today, and took the opportunity to try out 8mm Vintage Camera, a newish iPhone app. Unlike Cinema FX for Video (from the same company), 8mm applies the retro effects to the footage as you shoot it. It’s a bit like Hipstamatic in that respect. Video you shoot is stored in the app, and you can export it to the camera reel or YouTube later.

Footage was edited together with ReelDirector (another Nexvio app).

What your apps know about you

This diagram is one of many interactive infographics from the Wall Street Journal, illustrating how many apps are accessing more of your personal data than you may realise.

An examination of 101 popular smartphone “apps”—games and other software applications for iPhone and Android phones—showed that 56 transmitted the phone’s unique device ID to other companies without users’ awareness or consent. Forty-seven apps transmitted the phone’s location in some way. Five sent age, gender and other personal details to outsiders.

The findings reveal the intrusive effort by online-tracking companies to gather personal data about people in order to flesh out detailed dossiers on them.

via Your Apps Are Watching You – online.wsj.com
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Most common passwords in the Gawker database

This is a Wordle showing the 80 most common passwords from the cracked Gawker database. There are 2090 passwords containing the word ‘password‘ (132 clever people used ‘passw0rd‘). Next is ‘lifehack‘, appearing 680 times and then ‘qwerty‘ at 663.

I haven’t really explored this a great deal, but I saw many numerical passwords that were clearly birthdates and loads of names and short dictionary words. Basically, everything you’re not supposed to use as a password.

[Check the updates at the bottom of this post for more info]

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Do filesystems have a future?

The iPhone OS completely removes the concept of a “file.” It promotes apps to being the primary level of user interaction, and it stores related things inside databases that are content-specific. When you pick up your iPhone and want to view photos, you open the Photos app, which connects to the photos database and shows you all of your photos. When you want to listen to music, you open the iPod app, which connects to the music database. Everything on the iPhone is task-centric, not file-centric. The “file” part of completing tasks is completely insulated from the user.

via The Death of Files – dustincurtis.com

Not exactly true. Many apps on the iPhone like to keep the data to themselves. Apps like Layers can export to the camera roll, but if you want the layered file to use elsewhere you’ll have to email yourself a PSD. Also RjDj, like most apps, will let you share creations to the internet, but not with other apps.

I’ve been able to edit movies using multiple apps without leaving the phone, but it means exporting footage to the camera roll a few times and the quality suffers as a result.

The lack of a filesystem is the single greatest limitation to the usefulness of iOS.

Hopefully someone will think up a system that offers the best of both worlds. I’d love a Dropbox space that my phone could just dump data into, allowing apps to create standards for sharing the information they need.

Interactive magazines

REQUIRES iOS 4.2 – you will need a broadband connection to download the issue.
NEW! A revolutionary multimedia magazine built specially for your iPad – packed with international culture, entertainment, design, business and travel. And nuclear weapons. Oh, and Jeff Bridges.

(via Project – By Virgin Digital Publishing Limited – itunes.apple.com)

Project is the latest iPad magazine application (mag app?) after Wired’s effort and before Rupert Murdoch’s iPad newspaper (pad paper?), The Daily.

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IOGraphica: Make mouse movements into modern art

Here’s a fun little IOGraphica diagram showing 2.5 hours of me browsing the web, reading Twitter and using Photoshop for a bit. I also wrote the previous blog post. The black and white doodles in this gallery are what the app produces. I’ve overlayed it to a screenshot of my desktop showing the typical positions of Google Chrome and YoruFukuoru for context.

The large dots represent times when my mouse was stationary. I have a hot corner set up in the bottom right to put the display to sleep.

Though IOGraphica is only presented as a curiosity for making ‘modern art’ pieces, I imagine it could be used as a basic heat map tool for running basic usability tests on software or websites.

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Make retro computer game sound effects with sfxr/cfxr



This is a little tool I made in connection with the 10th Ludum Dare competition held in December 2007. Its original purpose was to provide a simple means of getting basic sound effects into a game for those people who were working hard to get their entries done within the 48 hours and didn’t have time to spend looking for suitable ways of doing this.

The idea was that they could just hit a few buttons in this application and get some largely randomized effects that were custom in the sense that the user could accept/reject each proposed sound.

via sfxr – drpetter.se

You can grab Windows and Linux versions of sfxr from that page. He also links through to cfxr, a Mac port (screenshot above).

I found this through a Unity video tutorial I’m watching.

F.lux: Set your screen’s colour temperature based on time of day

F.lux preferences

During the day, computer screens look good—they’re designed to look like the sun. But, at 9PM, 10PM, or 3AM, you probably shouldn’t be looking at the sun.


F.lux fixes this: it makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day.

It’s even possible that you’re staying up too late because of your computer. You could use f.lux because it makes you sleep better, or you could just use it just because it makes your computer look better.

via stereopsis.com/flux

My 27″ monitor throws out a lot of light, and F.lux instantly makes it much easier on my eyes. I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to live with it though, as even after 15 minutes, I can still perceive a yellowish hue. It may be because I have two types of fluorescent bulbs in this room, and neither are giving the colour temperature the app expects. A fine-tuning control may help.

For someone who isn’t interested in graphics work of any kind, this free download may be a lifesaver (or at least a life-improver).

Available for Mac, Linux and Windows.

(via @randallb / Tumblr)