Losing my mind, over committing my time.

Losing it
First, I show signs of obsessive behaviour and don’t leave the flat for two weeks. Then I have a bout of paranoia. No, it’s not drugs, I’m just going crazy. Either that or I’m becoming an engineer.

In other news…
As explained in #alug last night, I returned a library book at 7pm last night and seeing as it’s a 20 minute walk from my flat to campus I decided that I may as well go for a beer while I was there. I walked into Joe’s bar wanting a swift pint and by the time I walked out I had joined the BurnFM (student radio) committee and become their designated webmaster. That’ll teach me to sit around with the IndieSoc people.

Wiki Spam, Flock

Wiki Spam

Today I had my first wiki spam. Wasn’t much, just rolled back a couple of pages and blocked the IP address with reason set to “Spamming Scum”. This is becoming a serious problem for a lot of groups that I know and while the “with enough eyes all bugs are shallow” theory does generally stand up, it doesn’t stop it being frustrating. I’m generally against requiring registration for things that are supposed to be public and I wish there was a better solution, I’ve been thinking more about a “web of trust”.

Hailed by many as the first browser for “Web 2.0” (really just a buzz word for hype itself), I tried the preview of Flock today. I have to say I’m not really sure what they’re doing that’s innovative here. I think the key thing is that they’ve recognised the potential of grouping together web applications, but realistically they’re not doing anything that you couldn’t already do with Firefox extensions and plugins – it’s just they’ve packaged it as a product. The only advantage I can see is tighting up the integration between web services slightly.

To me the whole point of web services as opposed to packages is that features are added without the user upgrading and you connect to them, you don’t install them. Is providing a software package to access web services really the way to go? Surely a better approach would be a web service to access web services. Hint, hint.

Google seem to be pushing the idea of a desktop application to access web services too with taking some unusually forward steps to promote their Google Toolbar. There’s also the Google Desktop and Google Earth, but from reading a recent interview with an employee, the latter is probably just to fill in the gap until they can figure out how to implement that monster in a web interface.

Amsterdam ’05, Fire Alarms

Amsterdam December 9th-11th, be there or be less poor.

The biggest student tour to Amsterdam this year” including 3 days and 2 nights of fun, return travel and accommodation, £89. Anyone want to come? I’ve booked in me and lauperr.

They say visitors to Amsterdam always go back and they’re right 😛

Fire Alarms

I’ve been at Uni a month now and I’d say there’s been more nights with a fire alarm going off than not. It started at Shackleton by the lake and has slowly been getting closer and closer until it was two blocks away from me one night, one block away and then finally it was our turn. I’d just been to the train station to wave laura off and walked back along the canal to my flat. I unlocked my door, sat down and it went off.

On the way out I looked at the fire alarm panel which tells you exactly what flat in what block has triggered an alarm anywhere in Maple Bank. Someone in the flat above me had been cooking with door open and not closed it quick enough and it set off the alarm in the hallway. A member of staff turned up, followed by the fire service and they were all very cross.

This is just a week or so after my department was evacuated because something set fire in the printed circuit room because of a dodgy thermostat and we were stood outside for an hour and a half waiting for the alarm to be reset.

In other news…
Today we were shown the circuit diagram to make a broken numerical display, useful kind of thing to know. Two hours of digital logic makes my brain ache, soon I will be thinking in binary all the time. I’ve soldered together a light flashing device and programmed a PIC chip to make it count in binary like my binary clock which is quite nifty. I was sat in the lab after everyone else left, programming the damned thing (in Assembler) until it ran out of memory and begged for mercy. Ben 1, PIC chip 0.

I’m hungry.

Tim hits the nail on the head

In my last post I mentioned that I’ve been “struggling to articulate the things in my head into words”. Well, it seems for a large chunk of it I no longer have to. On 30th September Tim O’Reilly published an article entitled “What Is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software“. Although I wouldn’t refer to it as “Web 2.0” because it’s more just the web evolving into something else slowly rather than a new version as such (which Tim actually hints at himself), it covers a large chunk of what I’ve been thinking about recently in terms of the web’s next step in building the “Information Age”.

From the article:

1) Services, not packaged software, with cost-effective scalability
2) Control over unique, hard-to-recreate data sources that get richer as more people use them
3) Trusting users as co-developers
4) Harnessing collective intelligence
5) Leveraging the long tail through customer self-service
6) Software above the level of a single device
7) Lightweight user interfaces, development models, AND business models

Although at least from an engineering perspective I’m still not convinced the web is the right platform for all this, it is evolving and it’s likely better to let the web become something new rather than trying to create something new from scratch simply because it’s already out there, everywhere. I believe that this list of seven identifiable trends ultimately set the scene for the convergence of computing, communications and media in a really big way and for the ideas I’m working on to come to fruition. My ideas are still very underdeveloped but at least I have something to aim at.

And now back to my ordinary everyday life, I have to make something to eat.

But first, while I’m in a wild, predictive mood… Look out for a Google Calendar, iPod Video (and another new iPod of some variety by the end of next week), eventually a handheld device which is basically just a lot of storage and a big display with approximately one button and *lots* of connectivity, a replacement for the traditional office suite, the death of 3G by 2009 and the old-school-set-in-their-ways software and media industries getting very scared. OK I’m done with speculation now.

University, Work, Coventry, Towers

Three weeks of University
I’ve reached the end of my third week at the University of Birmingham and it’s been brilliant.

I’m living in a flat with Duncan who’s studying medicine and has a skeleton called Ernie, Fernando from Peru who drinks cocacola for breakfast, Bayo from Nigeria “Stop your jibber jabber” and Hugh. The flat is great because it was completely refurbished (and I mean completely) over the summer so everything is brand new. There were a few teething problems like the inspired person who put our front door’s lock on the wrong way around so when locked people could get in but we couldn’t get out. My accommodation is a 20 minute walk from my department which is a bit of a pain but at least I’ll be getting *some* exercise! The 35Mbit Internet connection is nice except for the *ludicrous* 100Mb per day download limit, but I’m working on that.

I’ve been chucked completely in the deep end cooking cleaning and ironing for myself (OK so it’s three weeks in and I haven’t unpacked my iron yet). I’ve only really had two cooking disasters which I won’t talk about, but I did eat them. Shopping, cooking, cleaning is very tedious.

More interestingly I’ve been out in Birmingham a great deal including a club tour of Broad Street, the Freshers Ball with DJ Spoony and Colin Murray and a night with Scott Mills, The Works which is my favourite and countless bars. We’ve had flat parties with the people in my block and I’ve met sooo many people. I’ve got lost plenty, including the time I left my flat, walked for 20 minutes, looked up and I was back at my flat.

The course is brilliant and exactly what I was hoping for. Despite finding the maths and electronics hard I’m very glad they’re part of the course and the Psychology aspects are fascinating. I get to learn C (though I’m miffed the Bioinformatics students get to use Linux and GCC and I’m stuck with Visual Studio) and I’ve made a circuit board with a PIC chip on it and soldered lots. The work load is going to be hard but I don’t mind it so much when I find it all interesting.

Something that really struck me when I first arrived and we were all in someone’s kitchen upstairs was that people were having conversations with the words “Physics”, “Maths” and “love” in the same sentence. People were having intelligent conversations but nobody was accused of being “sad” or “square”, because we’re *all* geeks!

I’ve tried to join up with societies and the one I want to be most heavily involved with is BurnFM, the radio station. I’ve missed out a lot on that front a bit because they have a four week FM broadcast and due to a bout of Fresher’s Flu and not being at Uni for two weekends I haven’t been able to take part much. I was shown their brand new studio and got to play with it and volunteered to help with the technical side, both sound engineering and web development. I’m helping with some poster distribution tomorrow to try and get back into it though.

I’m bursting with ideas at the moment and addicted watching very interesting events unfold in front of my eyes on the Internet. I’m keeping a note of everything (a wiki actually) but I’m struggling to articulate the things in my head into words. I’m selfishly hoping I get to actually tell people about it before others do it all before I get chance. I’ll be happy if it happens either way but I’m dying to tell people my ideas. There’s a competition for business ideas at the University in a couple of months which I’m thinking of entering. Being around researchers doing fun things is inspiring me (which is bad in some ways because I was showing signs of obsession months before I even got here, here that kind of behaviour is actively encouraged!)

Today I was in London doing an installation with a five-strong Twisted Lemon team and I’m very happy how it’s going. 6am start this morning was hard after going out last night but hey. There’s also the possiblity of some part time work in Birmingham if I want it from one of our major clients. It was really great to see the team again and it’s going to be brilliant working with them.

Also I still seem to have a steady trickle of tolatech work coming out of nowhere which I can’t keep up with.

I’ve spent a weekend with my Laura and she cooked lots of real food for me. I met her cool flat mates and we went out in Coventry. Missing her. That’s all I have to say about that.

Alton Towers
Went to celebrate Big Sis’ very special birthday with a trip to Alton towers which was brilliant despite feeling ill. So nice to see her and J again. Met Ellie properly for the first time and I think she’s great *big friendly wave in the direction of sfr* and of course the rest of the group – Lou, Sigh and attachments. Btw, 0-100mph in 3 seconds is *fast*.

I have a to-do list the length of three arms and need more sleep, more vegetables and more exercise but I’m in good spirits and loving my new life though sad for things I’ve had to leave behind. It’s comforting to know they’re still there when I need them though 🙂

I want to write letters to so many people but I just can’t find the time, why can’t everyone use Email? I find it much easier than this putting ink on bits of dead tree thing. I don’t even have a working printer at the moment so I have to do it manually.

With love from Brum.