Month: February 2008 (page 1 of 2)

Head in the Cloud…

…and other shorts. Been pretty busy since switching jobs. Enjoying getting my teeth into Oracle tools again although once thing that is VERY frustrating are Oracle application installers. Unless you have full admin rights to your Windows client then installation is a pain. In fact I’d go as far as saying installation is impossible. At our work our rights are pretty limited and even with what are called ‘developer rights’ you don’t have full client admin. It made installing Oracle, BI Publisher and a couple of other tools a nightmare last week.

To get round it I now use a VMWare image at work that I full rights over. Installations are now almost painless…although then you get caught up in some nasty bugs. Hey-ho. Performance isn’t ideal either but at the moment I don’t have much choice.

Anyway…head in the clouds. I’ve moved away from a couple of desktop tools to some hosted options. The first issue was tasks. I’ve been using iGTD for around a year now and it’s been great. A couple of time the syncing between machines got a bit screwy but it was easy to recover. There’s a big but though – I could never see my tasks at work as they were separate and in Outlook. Not ideal. So I tried Tracks and installed it on my domain. It was a lovely app, did most things I wanted but I couldn’t find a couple of key features and I had to hack in things like e-mail support. Then I remembered the milk.

So I know GTD using Remember the Milk. I can get access to my tasks and lists from Mac or PC and in future they look to have a fabby interface for iPhone users. I also like being able to subscribe to tasks in iCal and the Google Calendar plugin is excellent. Sorted. Just need to do the tasks now.

I’ve also got my own wiki installed now. Helps me have one area for notes, procedures etc. I tried a couple of hosted options but preferred my own MediaWiki install with plugins.

My final ‘find’ was Zoho. I can’t believe how feature rich this set of applications are. Very handy and they also have a wiki…I just don’t believe that my firm won’t ban access to these app’s eventually.

I guess what I’m realising is that putting more info on the cloud rather than on the desktop is a reality, is pretty easy for all and that it’s no longer a pipe dream. Not a startling conclusion but it’s been good to take more advantage of some of the web 2.0 app’s than normal.

Anyway, other stuff. Burnout Paradise is a cracking game and one that shouldn’t really be missed. I haven’t played as much as I would want to over the last couple of weeks but the few sessions I’ve played have been great. It does the online side of things really well.

Sold my old amp on eBay. Quite pleased getting £150 for it. Still to post up some thoughts on the Onkyo 705 which will probably take another couple of weeks but so far it’s been excellent, especially Blu-Ray. Thank goodness one of these formats has emerged on top. Hopefully that will lead to better hardware and cheaper prices.

Apple updates – there’s been something new in the store every Tuesday this year. The Macbook Pro updates today were pretty small – increases to processor speeds, hard disk sizes, graphics card’s and the addition of multi touch which I guess is more extensive than the current model’s use of two fingers on the touchpad. I’m pretty pleased as the laptop I bought 15 months ago hasn’t really changed much apart from the expected speed increases. I still have no regrets with the hardware…touch wood.

Finally, a rant. I do wish Virgin Media would piss off and stop calling me about their inferior TV service. While I’m happy with their broadband reliability (although not always with speed which can be pathetic sometimes) I really hate when they try and sell me TV and even maintain they have a better HD service than Sky. Liars. Better package – don’t make me laugh. Well, they eventually do but only after annoying me. I’ve asked a few times now never to call again but they still do. Time to take the matter further.

when I am through with you there won’t be anything left

Did I say finally? If you recognise the quote you’ll have been watching Damages. If not, then try and catch up with it via downloads as it’s the bet thing on TV at the moment.

New Start

First day of new job. Now an IT geek at work and not just at home! If the first day is anything to go by then I’ve made the right move. The day flew by compared to the last few months of my old job. I know all days won’t be as good or interesting but hopefully they will be more common than not.

The next few weeks look like a steep learning curve back into Oracle development especially round APEX and getting all web 2.0 with it. Should be interesting. Also nice is that instead of having a window that looked directly onto a large shed I’m a bit higher up in a different building and get a wonderful view of Glasgow. On a nice day like today it was stunning.

War Over?

It’s taken long enough but it finally looks like next gen HD disk format has been chosen – Blu-Ray has won. Ever since Warner went Blu-Ray only the writing has been on the wall. Most people seemed to give HD-DVD until the end of the year. That looks to have been optimistic.

Reuters are now reporting that Toshiba are giving up on the format. RIP HD-DVD. This comes in the same week that many large retailers moved to either Blu-Ray exclusive or to promoting Blu-Ray as the first choice format. I couldn’t give a toss about what format was the best from a technology standpoint. I just wanted one to succeed and for the HD market to grow with a sole format like CD’s and DVD’s. Hopefully thats what will happen now even if the HD-DVD fanboys think that Blu-Ray is a bad choice or that downloads will now take over.

The downloading options are starting to get interesting though. Apple TV Take 2 launched last week offering HD video rentals. I’d dismissed these as although they are HD in terms of resolution there bitrate is usually low to reduce bandwidth, so making them not much better than DVD, especially a good upscaled DVD. However the reviews have so far shown the rentals to be very good, in between Blu-Ray and US cable broadcasts. With start times rumoured to be under a minute it’s starting to look good for HD, especially with Apple TV. However why spend £200 on Apple TV when a PS3 costs £280, can play Blu-Ray disks, is a very capable media playback device (for Mac users try MediaLink) and when Play TV is released will be a Freeview player including HD and also act as a PVR. Even more impressively, the PS3 allows you to browse the internet and again with Play TV can do a slingbox and broadcast TV to the PSP. All very impressive. Almost forgot – it plays games too.

If someone asked me today to recommend one media player it would easily be the PS3. That’s something I didn’t expect to say even a year ago.

Three Strikes

The Times this morning is leading with a story that the UK Government is to propose banning UK net users who download illegal material. It looks like under the scheme the ISP will be responsible for identifying and banning users using a three strikes and your out principal. Caught once and you get a warning. Caught a second time and your temporarily banned. Caught a third time and your banned by that service provider. What the article doesn’t discuss is whether the ban would apply to all service providers or whether your banning would be passed among other ISP’s.

This is a pretty tough stance and at the moment I don’t know what to think of it. How will the ISP’s identify users? What about falsely accusing a user? Will there be a way of appealing a ban? Will we create a large number of users who won’t be able to use broadband in the UK due to bans? How much information is currently being tracked and how much is readily available to government now? Will media companies make content available at more reasonable prices i.e. at least the same as US is paying? Will the hardcore pirates always be one step ahead of ISP’s so making the system redundant apart from stopping the casual downloaders?

If this does become law and the system is reliable (big if’s at the moment for me) then there’s at least one positive. Broadband speeds will be a lot more reliable and the high end speeds will be dropped by a high percentage of users. Still can’t see this becoming law, or at least one that’s reliably enforceable any time soon.

More Quickies

  • I prattled on the other day about backups and how SuperDuper is now out for Leopard. Since then Shaun Blanc has published a superb post on Bulletproof Backups. It’s a great read like most in his Mac Software Reviews (Coda is a great example).
  • Open source is good. Usually. This list of 50 Proprietary Programs and their Open source Alternatives has already delivered a couple of nice programs that I hadn’t heard of before. For Windows, Mac and Linux users.
  • Everyday Shooter is finally out this week for European PS3 owners. It’s only about 4 months after the USA release and while I appreciate it can take time to add languages the delay has been pretty sucky. Looking forward to it all the same. PS3 has got a great crop of arcade style titles now – just need to sort out their full price catalogue.
  • This week is my last week working for engineering at my current firm. From next Monday I’ll be working in IT, mixing analysis with a bit of hacking. For my sins I now have a laptop at work and boy do I miss my Macbook when I’m using it. I don’t think the hardware’s really to blame. It’s Windows. Well, maybe it’s both. Wireless on the PC is really flaky so much so it’s blue screened a few times, something I hadn’t seen in a long time. Sleeping/waking is also an issue for the PC compared to Mac. Even though the PC is newer and has a better spec than the Macbook it’s really slow in day to day use, probably down to the security software on the PC and stuff like Becrypt. It will be interesting to see how it pans out over the next few months but in 4 days it’s reinforced my Mac loving opinions. Still, looking forward to new job. In fact, I can’t wait!
  • New Leopard update out tonight. Lot’s of fixes (> 300 Mb download) and just when you think thats the last update there’s some new graphic drivers to grab as well. Nice to see them addressing stacks list view and transparent menu bar (some of the biggest grumbles on Leopards release) in that they are now user options. Should have been there for Leopards release but shows how tight it’s original release date probably was. Impressive how quick the update is to download when you think about how many Mac users are downloading it right now.
  • Any good backup software for Windows? Need something to back up work laptop.
  • New Sony Ericsson Xperia looks like a great phone. Loving that screen resolution.
  • FancyZoom – nice effect for images that’s easy to add.
  • Frustrated with the amount of sites blocked at work. A well as the pron, torrents, e-mail, IM and normal stuff you’d expect it now extends to social networking sites (Facebook etc) and also Twitter, every hosted WordPress blog, anything to do with games and the playing/buying/reviewing off and some real oddball sites including some on Oracle. Bizarre, frustrating but I guess I’m at work and should be…working?
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