Archive for October, 2004

Exclamation Folder Fun or It only took six weeks for my iPod to die

Sunday, October 24th, 2004

Life with the iPod has been great and groovy, easing my commute and blocking out waffle at the office when I’ve needed to focus. Until one evening earlier this week that is when it froze/hung/stopped being an iPod and would not do anything other than display the Apple symbol and the dreaded Exclamation Folder icon. Placing an ear to the beast, I could hear the drive ceaselessly cycling up to speed and then stopping, whilst displaying the last song that played. Tried the reset thing but to no avail so tried the ‘drain completely and hope it comes back to life’ thing but still no luck. After four frustrating attempts to log a return and replace service via Apple’s web site (where I got a ‘We’re sorry we can’t process your request’ message during the SSL session), I then spent a pleasant enough Ã‚½ hour jumping through hoops and waiting on hold (with dire ‘world’ music rumbling on) for a call centre guy called Tarquin (name changed to protect the oblivious) in Cork to tell me that he had “checked with the technical authorisers who have evaluated this case and have agreed that your iPod is not usable”.  In my mind, what actually happened was that this:

  1. Tarquin, listened to my lengthy description of the steps I had taken to try and resurrect my Pod by following Apple’s own troubleshooting guides and a variety of forum posts by those suffering similar problems.
  2. He then wrote “blowk’s eyepod browk” on the back of his Cork Municipal Traction Co. bus ticket and scrabbled around for his inter-departmental phone list.
  3. He called Miguel the Technical Authoriser, apologising profusely for interrupting him whilst he was blasting the living c**p out of some poor bugger in a networked Doom game, and asked him for his advice on this call he has on hold.
  4. Miguel says ‘Damn it…wait…this is a tricky bit….’ then proceeds to flame-throw Sandy in Palo Alto, mortar Andy Jr in Seattle and atomise Nguyen, who’s hooked in via the mainframe at White Sands Missile Range.
  5. Blood-lust momentarily satisfied, Miguel tells Tarquin ‘Sure, have him send it in, we’ll just swap it for one of the others lying around here and tell him we spent $3,000 in man hours working to fix his $200 Pod’.
  6. Tarquin then nips to the loo, grabs his mung bean & organic huumous wrap from the communal fridge, not forgetting his mandarin smoothie and heads back to his workstation.
  7. Tarquin reconnects saying ‘I’m sorry I was a bit longer than I anticipated’ before regaling me with the fantastic news that a ‘technical authoriser’ has graciously agreed that Apple will take time out of their busy schedule to repair or replace my six-week-old iPod.

Once back with the ‘good news’, Tarquin then launched into a labarynthine description of their ‘despatch > box > label > collect > despatch >arrive > swap > relabel >despatch >get lost > get found > deliver 3 times whilst I’m out > return to lose somewhere in depot’ service.  Comforted by this, I now await UPS delivery of the box and instructions on how to mail my iPod to oblivion.  Stayed tuned for updates.

my lo-fi ears are listening to Heat/Balligomingo

Are you sure it’s me you want?

Sunday, October 10th, 2004

Haven’t done this for a while.  Here, without embellishment or alteration, are a few selected search terms that have brought folks to this blog:

  • snoochie boochies
  • evil hand
  • gambas pil pil recipe
  • hugh fearnley-whittingstall guardian weekend
  • military equipment emergency aid bag for soldier in wool
  • ‘full body photo of kelly holmes’
  • 2004 contacts mail address mr numbers in portugal

So unless I am getting repeated hits from a one-handed survivalist Kevin Smith movie fan who spends time on their smallholding by reading broadsheet newspapers, surrounded by questionable pictures of female athletes whilst wishing they hadn’t lost the contact details for an Portuguese chef who makes great tapas, my readership is a very broad church.

‘Soldier in wool’?

my lo-fi ears are listening to All The King’s Horses/Joss Stone

Funny shorts

Sunday, October 10th, 2004

Ten and How to BBQ a man are two great short films. ‘Ten’ shows just how easy it is to break all of the Ten Commandments before breakfast and ‘How to BBQ a man’ is a small but well formed study of social mores in the US ‘burbs. Enjoy.

my lo-fi ears are listening to Run/Snow Patrol

McCarthy, Wyatt and Bigley

Sunday, October 10th, 2004

“Pete’s books caused seismic public laughter on suburban trains, transatlantic planes, storm tossed ferries, in cheap student accommodation and very definitely on the London Underground.” says Adrian Mealing, friend and tour manager of author and presenter Pete McCarthy in an interview today. 

Very true, as fellow Jubilee passengers will attest having watched me snort and laugh my way to work and back this week whilst reading The Road To McCarthy.  As I am halfway through the book, I was surprised and a little saddened to find two column inches in The Guardian announcing his death whilst supping my Sunday morning coffee just now. 

McCarthy’s death is not the only one to have registered with me this week.  I found myself moved by particular images of Charlotte Wyatt and Ken Bigley.  Putting aside the enormity of the decisions made regarding her future this week, to me it was Charlotte’s wide eyed but blank expression that brought a lump to my throat.  In an instant, I realised that, if the doctors’ prognosis is correct, this tiny blank face masks an world of pain inside that is beyond my comprehesion – that I and millions of others were staring at the face of an infant that, in all probability, was experiencing unbearable suffering at the very same moment. 

In stark and desperate contrast, Ken Bigley’s tired, drawn and seemingly resigned features spoke wordlessly of an almost certain knowledge of what was to come.  A face with downcast eyes, set against harsh orange overalls and heavy chains, is bisected by the wire cage to resemble some diabolic jigsaw.  These separate instances have reminded me how dislocated and remote we have become from the human lives behind the sound bites and the images that flash before us on the television each day. 

Whether by the ravages of terminal illness, the hands of an executioner or the deliberations of doctors and judges, the finality of an impending and untimely death is a reality that we hope is never visited upon ourselves, whether a child of 11 months or 62 years old, whether a family man or a solitary soul.

my lo-fi ears are listening to Little Friend/Nickelback

Tube Train Tunes

Saturday, October 9th, 2004

Listening to music through earphones on London’s Tube trains is a three-way exercise in balancing one’s need to actually hear the music against the roar of the train without imposing one’s taste taste in music on surrounding commuters.  Whilst the iPod’s earphones are more than capable of producing a decent enough quality of sound, the noise of the Tube is sufficient to cancel out the top end treble and the low end bass notes, leaving the listener with just mid-range waffle.  To combat this, I took Emchi‘s advice and grabbed a pair of Sony Fontopia earbuds to plug into my iPod’s remote cable. 

With three different size earbuds to choose from, the Fontopias are designed to fit directly into the ear canal so that the tight fit provides a deep and fullsome bass and crisp trebles without the need to jam them into your ears with your fingers.  Having just tried them with a quick ride out to London Bridge and back (for a liquid brunch at The Market Porter in Boro Market), my low-fi ears can vouch for the great sound quality and concur with the rave reviews elsewhere on the web, although they are more expensive than most.  With that, I’m off to try them on the DLR whilst picking a sprog up from dance classes. 

my lo-fi ears are listening to Sing It Back (Boris Musical Mix)/Moloko

World On Fire – shame on us

Wednesday, October 6th, 2004

Although I listen to my fair share of music, Sarah McLachlan is not an artist that I have heard before or even heard of.  If she walked past me in the street, I’d be none the wiser.  However, in the last four minutes or so, she has become an artist that I have admiration for because she made this video* for her song, World On Fire.  When you have watched the video, stop and think about what could be achieved using the $10,000,000 prize paid out to Mojave Aerospace Ventures for getting SpaceShipOne into sub-orbital space a second time this week.

* iTunes required – via Tim Bray’s ongoing and geekgrrl.

Woodsmoke and warm smiles

Monday, October 4th, 2004

A slow walk to the postbox this evening provided a moment of sensory contrast for, although it is warm enough to saunter comfortably in shirt sleeves, the smell of woodsmoke was in the air and for me that is inextricably tied to autumn.  Whether or not it is the result of global warming, the weather does seem to be a little kooky these days.  This morning, on the day that I returned to car-less commuting, howling winds and driving rain didn’t bode well for a future that includes standing on platforms and walks between stations.  Yet, in the finest ‘If you don’t like the British weather, just wait a minute’ tradition, my bus and train journeys this afternoon were bathed in warm sunshine that had folks smiling and being pleasant to one another.  I’m sure the encroaching winter chill will cause such behaviour to vanish like warmth from frost-nipped fingers but it was a nice way to ease back into world of communal travel.  Talking of which, my hearty congratulations to the combined ranks of London Buses, First Great Western and London Underground for speeding me door-to-door in a little under one hour and fifteen minutes with good connections and minimum waiting.  Let’s hope it lasts…

my lo-fi ears are listening to Let’s Get It On /Marvin Gaye

I couldn’t agree more

Monday, October 4th, 2004

“Once you say something is evil, you absolve people of responsibility, as though it is something that comes from outside over which they have no control.”

Taken from Sally Vincent’s Guardian Interview of Jon Snow.

Toolbar Toolset

Sunday, October 3rd, 2004

Slowly but inexorably, a good number my online activities have moved to web-based tools in recent months, as the partial screengrab of my links bar below shows. Although there was no one conscious decision to do this, I suspect the desire to have access to all my main resources from any location had a lot to do with it – in short, if there’s an internet-connected box with a screen, keyboard and mouse, I can function.

This being the case, the key to successfully doing this has to be a solid weapons-grade browser and on my PC, Firefox is my browser of choice and have done so for a good while now. Even when a site is totally IE-oriented (thankfully rare these days), I can use a handy Firefox extension to give me right click access to IE. With Firefox, I can open just one browser session and still have each service run in it’s own tabbed window, leaving my taskbar far less cluttered (those who like this approach may also like to take a look at Exodus, which offers tabbed Jabber IM windows in a single session also). So what do I have tabbed in Firefox when I’m online? Here’s a brief rundown:

  • Gmail for email: the email beta that’s better known than many fully fledged applications. I miss Thunderbird but there’s no denying Gmail makes managing list and group mail a doddle.
  • Blogger for blogging: with Blogger, if there’s a problem other than spelling and composition, then it’s their job to fix it, unless it is a problem with my server, then I call my friend and host and ask nicely. After that, it’s as simple or as complex as my template tinkering makes it.
  • Google Groups for Usenet: or more specifically the Google Groups2 beta, which is better laid out and more user friendly than it’s predecessor and updates appreciably faster than before.
  • Bloglines for RRS news and blog feeds: for a quick overview of my favourite 41 feeds, Bloglines is great and now includes facilities for webclipping, sharing favoured feeds, blogrolling and feed directory searches.
  • Furl and for bookmarking and archiving: both offer slightly different ways in which users can create private or social bookmarks and/or retain links to, and copies of, web content for future use.
  • MyPip for web-based bookmarks: the precusor to the above but still useful as a backup that carries the core links that I like to have access to.
  • Wikka for my personal wiki: for some time, I have been using a wikki to post and share articles and links with friends, colleagues and folks on user groups I post to.

So, what’s the upshot? Ditch all those expensive apps and rely on web-based services entirely? Hmm – not quite; let’s consider these:

  • Access and availability: Web-based stuff can be a pain too – there’s little more frustratin than when a server’s down for maintenance or your ISP is playing up and you can’t get at your stuff . On the whole, the services in the package above work well and downtime/inaccessibility is rare.
  • Free but…for how long?: The list of killer free services that hook users, get them reliant and then move to a subscription-based model is a long one and drenched in tears fro some. However, the growing inclusion of unobtrusive text ads like those of AdSense seem to be changing this and an increasing number of services are pledging ‘free for ever’ on the back of such advertising. This brings me to…
  • Security & privacy: much has been written regarding the Gmail’s scanning-to-target-advertising and such like and, it seems, no amount of common sense or debate will placate the nay-sayers. For my part, and leaving aside SSL and ecommerce issues for now, if your stuff is so super-secret, I’d advise against having it anywhere close to the internet. Who was it that said if you wouldn’t want to read it on the front page of the New York/London Times, then you shouldn’t email/post it?

Quite simply, it’s a matter of horses for courses and personal preference. If your online activities are confined to the odd hour or so in front of a home PC, then the applications that came with it will be more than enough. However, if like me your screen time is significant and spent at any one of several boxes running different OS and using different browsers and you want access to the same resources, it’ll certainly make life easier most of the time.

my lo-fi ears are listening to Spunky/Eels


Sunday, October 3rd, 2004

Jeremy Ruston has come up with an interesting take on the wiki. TiddlyWiki is wiki that runs in your browser without the need for server side stuff. Yup – a wiki that is just a web page crafted from HTML and Javascript. Very neat indeed – only wish I could think of a way to use it.