I am the hippygeek and I am a readaholic

I think I might be addicted to reading. I know I’m technically “reading” for a degree, but I can’t seem to stop it.

When I got up this morning I was reading the course notes for my software engineering project. I decided I wanted to try and use a version tracking system so I was read the installation instructions for trac, then realised I needed to know about subversion first, so I’ve been skimreading the SVN Book. I got bored of that after a few hours so I decided to read the news in my RSS reader. I realised that I needed a break from my screen so I sat on my bed and read a chapter of “The Invisible Computer” by Donald A. Norman. Then I realised I hadn’t left my room for most of the day apart from coffee making, so I went to the Kitchen and talked to my housemate but was distracted by the University Newspaper he was reading, stole it from under his nose and started to peruse the articles.

Now it’s dark outside and I’m reading what I’ve just written.

I think I may have a problem and I feel sorry for my eyes.

Braindump on public wiki != fact

“Journalists”, listen to me and listen hard. Something written on a public wiki and marked as “braindump” is *not* fact.

News articles on Linux Today and PC Pro stated (as fact) that “The makers of Ubuntu Linux are planning to develop an equivalent to Apple’s .Mac service.”

This is not true. I’ll tell you why I know this isn’t true, because I *wrote* most of that frelling wiki page *myself* and I have nothing to do with Ubuntu or Canonical short of being a user of their products. It is not officially endorsed in any way and is clearly marked as a “brain dump” on the corresponding launchpad page.

The articles stated that the proposed name, “Ubuntu.Mac” is a name which Apple’s lawyers are unlikely to allow to stand. I actually put a comment on the page suggesting that it be moved to wiki.ubuntu.com/TribeLife (the actual suggested name for the service), but someone kindly removed my comment yesterday.

Journalists – *think* before you write something, check your sources.

Rant over.

Looking for a flexible UIDL

I posted this in an XSLT newsgroup, but I’m putting it here in case anyone has any ideas.

I’m looking for a very flexible XML-based User Interface Description language which can be transformed using XSLT for rendering on a range of devices.

I found a list of them in this paper – “A Review of XML-Compliant User Interface Description Languages.” By Nathalie Souchon and Jean Vanderdonckt. which compares UIML, AUIML, XIML, Seescoa XML, Teresa XML, WSXL, XUL, XISL, AAIML and TADEUS XML. However, as far as I can tell, none of these meets all of my requirements, which are as follows:

* The ability to write one generic description which can be implemented on all target devices
* Open-ended support for any language for rendering the final user interface (e.g. XML markup languages, VoiceXML, even a traditional desktop application using the GTK toolkit or similar.)
* Support for a large variety of form-factors (e.g. Desktop PC, Tablet, handheld, TV and remote)
* Cross-platform support
* Open standard free of limiting copyright or licensing restrictions

I’m asking a lot, but I feel that it’s not an unreasonable specification for someone wanting to write very generic user interface descriptions which can be implemented on many different platforms.

Any ideas?

Guinness loves me

It’s official, I’m loved so much by the Guinness brewery that they’ve recorded a video Happy Birthday message especially for me! OK, so it’s a few days premature (birthday’s on the 17th) but I guess they were just really keen to start celebrating. I know I drink a lot of Guinness and everything, but this was an unexpected suprise! I’m obviously a very valued customer 😉

In other news…

Finished all my post-christmas exams yesterday which is a *massive* weight off my shoulders. Maths went better than expected, but I’ve realised that the “average of 60%” I need to maintain my scholarship (you know, the one which pays for my food) isn’t quite as easy as it first seemed!

Just got my psychology assignment to hand in on Monday and then I can launch into our froody Software Engineering project. Watch out Martians – the Birmingham EECE department are coming your way with their Mars Rover, and they’ve only been programming in C for a few months!

Back in Brum, CES anticlimax as expected, new year

Back in Brum
The hippygeek is back in the city, rotting his mind with boolean algebra. At least this time I have a decent sized bottle of single malt. Wait, maybe it’s not the algebra after all…

What actually happened at CES
So, Google Pack was what the fuss was all about, a sort of linux-esque package management for Windows. And the adoption of DRM of course, I guess that answers the question of whether AOL is now 5% less evil or Google is more evil. C’mon guys, you know as well as we do that DRM is fundamentally flawed, don’t play along. The video I want to search for is the video of Larry’s keynote to see the bits with Robin Williams in and the interesting stuff about common standards.

Why is yahoo writing phone-specific software to access their web services? It’s going to take a while to write software for every model of mobile phone out there… there are much better ways.

Is it me or has Bill Gates lost his interest in IT?

Intel and Yahoo pushing XP Media Centre Edition, oh well.

New Year
2005 was a year of planning, 2006 is a year of action, then hopefully 2007 will be a year of great things to follow.

Wal-Mart selling Google PCs? I doubt it!

A speculative article by the LA Times suggested that Google will “will unveil its own low-price personal computer” as soon as Friday and has been in “negotiations with Wal-Mart Stores Inc.”. First this article was picked up by Slashdot and then The Register and I believe has been blown completely out of proportion.

The original Los Angeles Times article was one of those speculative lists of what will happen in 2006 by “analysts”. The Google PC prediction sat alongside Microsoft buying Ask Jeeves, Expedia, and Ticketmaster and Steve Jobs becoming a Disney Chairman – yet the Register reports it almost as fact.

Ignoring the dubious sources for a moment here, I just don’t think Google would do this. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love it if Google branded a distribution of GNU/Linux (it would almost certainly be Linux derivative) and sold cheap PCs without the Microsoft tax, finally distributing their changes to Open Source software instead of keeping them to themselves to provide services. Google is a company full of suprises – but I don’t think it’s their style. Why bother? Their services are cross platform and independent of the OS, their main environment is the web browser. Google’s main strengths are in their clustered supercomputer as a general platform for software as a service, they have no need to provide desktop PCs to access their services because they’re already out there.

I believe Google are more interested in rendering the traditional Desktop paradigm obsolete than making their own desktop OS. If they released hardware for the home it is more likely to be a derivative of their business search appliance for multimedia or very cheap little boxes in a cluster or mesh which glue the digital home together and I doubt very much they’d call it a PC, it would be something completely different to the Personal Computers we know today.

Just for reference, I don’t believe in the whole idea of them making a web-based OpenOffice either, it’s simply too bloated. If Google were to create an office suite it would be minimalist, lightweight and completely different to its desktop counterparts with focus on ubiquitous access, collaboration and open standards.

There’s scope for Google to want to put hardware in people’s homes in the future, the main crux of the software as a service model taking over from desktop applications is that you simply can’t buy latency, and for some applications where the speed of light (fibre) just isn’t fast enough, this is going to cause problems. Putting Google hardware in peoples houses creates a great deal of new opportunities. Just not now, and not like this.

I can see where people are coming from. Google has ties with Sun and OpenOffice, they’ve released a range of desktop applications recently, they’re making aggressive moves towards Microsoft and have put desktop PCs in a London airport for usability testing. Due to 20% time projects by staff and a certain amount of freedom for the next couple of years due to being flushed with money from the IPO – they seem to be going off on all sorts of tangents leading people to believe they have a masterplan for something big. I just think that Google have a long way to go with their web services before they’re ready for a move like this.

I have to admit, part of my dismissive argument is due to the fact that if on Friday Google *do* announce that they’re selling PCs through Wal-Mart, it has a lot of implications for my Krell experiment. We’ll wait and see.

Edit: Just noticed that the BBC picked it up too.