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When ping doesn't get you much pong

When ping doesn't get you much pong

Yahoo! Ping Pong-23

Originally uploaded by Ping London

(In other words, great, you got sponsorship, where’s the return?)

Across London, ping pong tables have sprouted up to encourage Londoners to have a go at ping pong/whiff whaff. All nicely decorated with the various sponsors’ logos, including Yahoo!

Accompanying these tables are some leaflets about the Ping London project, which also – of course – encourage you to share your participation, by using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or maybe even Flickr

Note that of those four websites, only one belongs to Yahoo – one of the main sponsors.

Surely a major dotcom company, upon committing some sponsorship money to a project, would want their websites or services to be promoted – perhaps Buzz or Pulse – alongside the rest of the web offerings?

OMG, I can hack a Firefox extension!

OMG, I can hack a Firefox extension!

Believe it or not, I used to be able to develop and program a computer (and yes, I can choose the perfect time). Admittedly, nothing more complicated than BBC Basic, HTML and adjusting a Javascript code, but I did think I’d lost those skills.

I was – and am – a huge fan of the LJ Hook Firefox extension. It basically allows me to add HTML code to a Firefox text entry window via a simple right-click – but it doesn’t work out-of-the-box in Firefox 3.

Tonight, since I couldn’t sleep and am still coughing/spluttering/snorting/having difficulty breathing, I ended up fiddling with the extension, having vaguely remembered reading a blogpost about tricking Firefox into installing old extensions.

And somehow, I’ve managed to get LJ Hook to work – and even slightly improved it by letting it work on all websites. Now, I’m wondering about the ethicacy of uploading an improvement to someone else’s extension when it’s not Creative-Commons licensed but the original author seems to have disappeared…

Cuil – not a Google-beater. Not yet anyway.

Cuil – not a Google-beater. Not yet anyway.

Fair play to whoever runs Cuil’s press relations – they’ve managed to get coverage in pretty much all the mainstream press I’ve seen today, including the BBC. Very impressive, considering the number of companies who have claimed to be better than Google at searching, but doing nothing more than aiming a slingshot to Google’s Goliath.

However, I think the next time before they launch their press releases, they might be advised to do a little more work on the search results and their engineering resiliencce. An ego search for Andrew Wong on Cuil does retrieve my LinkedIn profile – but attaches a picture of a totally different person. and a Chinese athlete. Try to run another search, and then you’re told that Cuil’s servers are over-boiling. Which you never get on Google, it has to be said.

Wired UK – take two…

Wired UK – take two…

A sample issue of Wired UK

Wired UK magazine

Originally uploaded by jovike

Back in 1994, Wired magazine tried to launch a UK version, working closely with the Guardian. Since I was barely in university, I couldn’t afford to waste precious money on such a future-looking magazine, so it came and went from my local newsagent but Jem Stone has kindly linked me to a fantastically grimly hilarious email about the trials and tribulations of Wired UK take 1.

Skip to today, and Conde Nast (the current publishers of Wired) have also announced plans to take Wired to the UK – to be edited by the Jewish Chronicle’s editor, David Rowan.

Not being part of the A-list (or even C-list) crowd of tech journalists, I can’t help but to wonder if it’s going to work second time around, just when the credit crunch is slowly being felt and the second dotcom boom is beginning to fade as a consequence. Besides which, I can only think of a couple of Brit-based tech journalists off the top of my head. And one of them only because she has a fantastically unique name.

There is a rising appetite for gadget magazines in the UK, already well served by the likes of Stuff and T3, but merging that with the internet era on a dead tree format? I’m assuming that TechCrunch UK and sites like it aren’t exactly burning up page impressions – and that’s on a free website.

But of course this gets back to my personal flaw in offering problems and reasons not to do something – but never to point out a solution.

BT's ineptitude (part 257)

BT's ineptitude (part 257)

Of course, everyone *expects* British Telecom to be slightly inept – it’s the very definition of a UK broadband provider – but to be fair, I’ve had reasonable service from them. Even now, my paid-for net access doesn’t seem to work – yet I can access the Internet through the BT/Fon Wi-Fi community I set up, using my .. erm… paid-for Internet access. Strange…

But that’s not the inept part. When accessing BT’s broadband help service, you’re advised to:

check the broadband service status line on Freephone 0800 169 0199 to see if your area is listed as having a problem.

Call that number – and it gives you the last update for … November 2007. Not exactly up to date!

However, because I can still use the Net via the BT Fon Wi-Fi link, BT do not make THE LIST. I’m sure they’re gutted.

BBC Three – it's gone retro!

BBC Three – it's gone retro!

Last night, I settled down to watch the new re-launched BBC Three, complete with new logo, new idents and no blobs. And lest we forget, Lily Allen going chat.

The in-vision continuity announcers certainly made an impact, making you realise you weren’t watching any of the other channels. It certainly sparked feelings of retro nostalgia – but then I’m at the tail-end of BBC Three’s target demographic. Viewers under twenty will probably have no memories of the decades where you saw the person introducing the next programme.

Unfortunately, it soon became very apparent why they were phased out in the first place. Someone you’ve never seen delivering a piece-to-camera about the programme you’re about to watch tends to be very boring visually. Plus I was never sure whether I was seeing genuine viewers talking about the programmes, or paid actors.

But never mind the junctions, what about the programmes?

Tuesday night’s BBC Three started with a whole hour of The Real Hustle in Las Vegas. Which played a lot like The Real Hustle, but with American bystanders instead of British ones. This was followed by Find Me A Face, where two model scouts stalked pretty people in Southern England in the hope of finding a woman with a C-cup bra to front a lingerie advert. So far, so standard Southern England BBC.

Then came Phoo Action, a one-off drama you certainly wouldn’t expect to see on any other BBC channel. A comic strip from the creator of Tank Girl brought to live-action, it had tons of primary colours, caricatures from across the globe and a green man with a basketball for a head trying to become King of England. It’d certainly be interesting to see what happens next to these characters if it goes to series.

Following the compulsory 10pm repeat of EastEnders came the much-hyped Lily Allen And Friends. The only social-networking angle that hadn’t been seen since Graham Norton’s Channel 4 chatshow was to invite the actual stars of the Internet onto the show itself. Unfortunately, the two chosen were Chris Crocker – the man chiefly remembered for sobbing to the camera ‘LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE!!!’ – and talented singer Tay Zonday, who was depressingly professional in person.

But then, I’m just on the cusp of falling out of BBC Three’s demographic. What did you think of it?

How does one go freelance?

How does one go freelance?

Thanks to a lovely blogger friend of mine (who says blogging gets you nowhere?) I have now embarked on the strange and interesting world that is freelancing, for one major employer (spending weekdays in ol’ London town), doing some online editing and writing, which is nice. It’s a bit of an eyeopener into the way that “real” publishing works, and I’ve got some stuff to learn but as the Amerikanski would say, It’s All Good.

However, the vexed question of my official status and how I should be paid has arisen. Should I:

– go completely freelance, and just invoice the company direct, and sort out tax and National Insurance at the end of the year? The slight flaw being I’m not sure i can be a “sole trader” if I’m just working for one employer.

– go on their payroll as a casual? Easiest option, but least lucrative I guess…

– employ an umbrella company to be the middle man for sorting out invoices and the like…

What do you think?

Apple make something useful ?!

Apple make something useful ?!

Let’s face it, while most of Apple’s products have been somewhat cool and nifty, they’ve never actually been particularly useful. Or innovative in terms of functionality, for that matter. MP3 players were around before the iPod came out. Mobile phones were around before the iPhone came out.

But now, Apple have brought out something that – to my mind – no-one else has done yet, and is genuinely useful.

The Apple Time Capsule is a router with a built-in hard drive. Simple as that. Apple sell it as a way of doing automatic backups – but think about it. A router with a built-in hard-drive. In one fell swoop you remove the need for a modem, a router and a network hard drive in one go. I really really want one.

Shame it probably won’t work with PCs.

Oh, and don’t get me started on the Apple Macbook Air. In a world where we’re trying to make things last longer, Apple bring out a product that becomes landfill trash after three years. It’s almost as if Apple is sticking its tongue out at Greenpeace

Analogue 1, Digital 0

Analogue 1, Digital 0

A long time ago, thanks to my ex-workchums at BBC Wales (thanks guys!), I bought myself a Freecom Network Mediaplayer – basically a hard drive which you can connect to your TV. I gleefully set about downloading about 350 Gigabytes of ancient TV programmes from your local friendly non-official sources, looked forward to my digitally converged future, and pretty much left it sat underneath my TV set while I watched endless repeats of Top Gear instead.

Then last night, I rashly invited my neighbours to come and watch the recent Doctor Who 2007 Christmas special (the one with the Titanic) with me.

First problem – my Sky Plus had inconveniently forgotten to record any of the Christmas programmes I’d set it to record. So instead, I set about downloading it off the Internet, transferring it over to my Mediaplayer, and we could all watch it from there. After 20 minutes of frantically trying to get the laptop to see the hard drive (by mostly rebooting endlessly, and sticking the USB cable in and out), the file transferred over and I thought all was fine and dandy for the big show.

So the doorbell was rung, dinner was ready, wine was poured, and we all sat down to re-watch Doctor Who. Except about half an hour in, the hard drive started spluttering and freezing. Despite numerous reboots, the device refused to work, although the file itself was fine. Bah.

Thus it was that after a suitable soujourn into town for drinks, we all stumbled back into another neighbour’s house at 1am, to finish off watching Doctor Who. On her trusty ol’ VHS tape. Analogue 1, Digital 0.

Can you recommend any handy devices that’ll let me watch downloaded videos on my TV? Preferably ones that come with a DVD player that’ll upscale via HDMI, and ones that’ll also record off a digital TV signal on demand. Oh, and if it can connect directly to my sound system, that’d be great too.

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