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Warning - I am not a linguist, nor do I play one on TV.

I was intrigued recently to see (anecdotal) proof of something I thought that might happen.

A friend who is training to be a teacher in the US posted that she had to tell her 13 year old pupils how to use the Save icon in Powerpoint - after all, they probably have never seen a 3.5" floppy disk, so why would the icon make any sense to them?

Essentially, the icon is losing the link between what it represents and what it does. It stops being something where you would say 'click on the thing which looks like a disc to put your file on the disc'.

This naturally happens in alphabets - in fact, from my supremely uneducated view, that's what an alphabet is. It's a series of symbols that represent either sounds or concepts. (Non-ideographic vs. ideographic alphabets.)

Usually, this disassociation takes generations to occur, but with the speed of technological change, we're seeing it happen within a single generation.

I am (geekily) very excited about this.
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I don't know if it's an easter egg, or if I just missed the memo, but if you're in Google Maps, and look at Street View (ie drag the little yellow person onto the map), there's a hidden (and geekily cool) feature.

Right click on the Street View picture. Along with the usual 'zoom in / out' etc. there's a 3d view. Select that and the image changes to an anaglyph, so you need the funky red / blue 3d glasses to view it.

I don't know if it's something they've programmed Flash to do on the fly, or if they've created an anaglyph for each Streetview image they have, but either way, it's very cool.

If only I could get away with wearing 3d glasses at work ....
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A Python script which takes any audio file and creates a swing version of it.

Go have a listen - it's great fun :-)
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Yesterday was Ada Lovelace Day - I thought it was today. Byron's only legitimate daughter, and the world's first computer programmer. Fittingly, Ada Lovelace Day celebrates girl and women geeks the world over.

(I've just checked; according to http://findingada.com/ I can still post this as part of Ada Lovelace day - it is still March 24th in some part of the world. Geeks love bending rules.)

I was, at the age of 18, pretty much a know-it-all. (The cheap seats may remain quiet on this point.) I went to college and studied Librarianship, and right from the word go, knew that I wanted to focus on IT. This was in 1988 when that wasn't a given; computers weren't ubiquitous and at Manchester Polytechnic at the time, the Library School had the largest computing labs outside of the Computing and Engineering departments.

My first year of IT was a disaster. I was being taught by a lecturer called Peter Stephens, and he was a Local Studies Librarian; a field that even in 1988 was dying - few libraries were employing such specialists, and even fewer students were signing up for his cohort. So rather than making him redundant, he got shunted sideways into IT teaching. And I was in the unfortunate position of knowing more than him about his chosen subject, with the sort of personality that didn't really do very well at hiding that. I probably owe him a huge amount of apologies for being such a brat. On the other hand, his response to me finishing all his exercises early was to exile me to the Terminal room (logging onto mainframe rather than execution) so I "didn't distract anyone else".

My second year, though, I signed up for the IT Cohort, under Jennifer Rowley. She was an IT specialist, and very well regarded internationally thus. Her book, "Information Technology for Libraries", was our textbook for the year, and is still in print today. And our first class with her was using a desk top publishing program called Timeworks.

Now, the 80s being the 80s, my dad got made redundant a couple of times, and in one case, was working for a magazine when it went bankrupt. As part of his pay from the bankrupt magazine, he brought home an Atari 1040ST with Timeworks installed, which is what they were using for page layout. So I'd been using this software for about 2 years when I sat in on Jenny Rowley's first class.

I raced through the exercises. There wasn't anything that she had in there that I hadn't done, and I knew all the concepts that she was talking about because I'd actually read the instruction manual. For a class that was supposed to take 2 hours, I was done in 15 minutes.

She noticed, of course. I hadn't reached the fidgety stage yet, but I was definitely not working. So she came over and asked what was up.

"I know this", I said. "I've used this software before, and I've finished the exercises."

And then I waited to be sent out of the room again.

Instead, she asked me a few questions about Timeworks. How had I achieved this effect? What could I do to achieve this desired end. And then she pointed to half of the class.

"That half of the room? Yours. Answer any questions they have. Help them where you can. If you don't know the answer, don't make something up - say so, come and ask me, and I'll tell you. And if I don't know, we'll work it out together."

That's pretty much the conversation that started me on my career as a trainer, and which pretty much still encapsulates my attitude in a training room. Help if you can, and if you can't, admit it, and then find out together.

Professor Jennifer Rowley is still at Manchester Metropolitan University, still publishing, and, I devoutly hope, still inspiring cocky know-it-all students today.

Happy Ada Lovelace Day, Jenny!
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I found a new feature of my phone yesterday; one that a cursory google tells me is completely undocumented.

iTunes has a feature called 'Genius' which allows it to suggest music that you might like based on a tune you've selected. Highlight a song in your library, click the Genius button and it builds a playlist of 25 / 50 / 100 songs that are 'similar' to that song.* (I don't know if it's doing 'similar' in the same way as Pandora - analysing the tune, or as Last.FM - looking at other songs that people who like your track like, though my gut is that it's more like Last.FM ...)

This feature has been part of iTunes for a while now, and you've been able to set up Genius playlists and transfer them to your phone when you sync - set some parameters (I have an Electronica one, for example, which will look at all of the songs of that ilk on my phone and choose a selection) and go.

But my phone also has voice control - very useful when I'm listening to music and my phone is buried in my pocket to be able to press a button on the microphone and say 'Call Tim'. You can also say 'Play [playlist]' or 'Play [artist]' and so on.

Yesterday I found out that if I activate voice control and say 'Genius this' when I'm listening to a particular track, my phone will create a 25 song playlist based on the track I'm listening to at the time, and start playing it.

I'm inordinately pleased with this.

*This process involves sending details of your music library to Apple. It's opt in, but don't do it if you're unhappy that Steve Jobs will then know of your deep and abiding love for Rick Astley.
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The internet is, in many cases, the proof that we have too much time on our hands. Most of us aren't worrying day to day about shelter, food or companionship, so we can afford to spend time on higher (and yet at the same time more trivial) matters.

Like this, for example:


Someone has, as the URL indicates, put together a 70 minute long review of the first Star Wars film (narratively, rather than chronologically) taking it to pieces comprehensively.

At times tasteless, almost always funny, it's well worth a look - because of the limitations of YouTube it's posted in 7 segments. Watch the first one. If you don't like it, you won't like the rest.

Me? I've just sat here for 70 minutes, alternately laughing and nodding or wincing in agreement. In a way, it's a shame that the best sections are the last two - the creator's dissection of light-saber duels and conclusions is spot on, and almost worth watching on their own. But there are enough in-jokes in there that have been building throughout the 70 minutes that may well jarjar if taken in isolation.
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It's not the police getting younger you have to worry about, it's the Doctors ....

(See [livejournal.com profile] amberite's post here for the original inspiration for the above piece of frippery, and the methodology behind it - very minor Dr. Who spoilers on that link.)

The error bars indicate a +/- 5 year range - so when they overlap, I'm within 10 years of Dr. Who's age - in effect, I could call the Doctor a peer. So that's McGann, Eccleston, Tennant. Is that my Golden Age over and done with?

I am not going to do the same thing for the companions; they've generally tended to be younger than the Doctor anyway.
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Last night, I found a lovely feature in Dreamweaver CS4 which should allow any website to have a CMS element; allowing other people to edit the web pages through their browser. Fantastic for collaborative work such as the Circus of Marvels website.

This morning, I googled for more information. It's called Adobe InContext Editing, so of course, I searched for 'Adobe ICE'.


Adobe ICE is completely different software. It's collation and database software for 'security consultants' collating information 'in the field', often in 'hostile environments'.

Have a look at Adobe Spy.

I haven't been quite this amused since I found a job advert on the CIA website for a spy.
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There's a lovely idea - take a GPS phone with video camera and a compass, then overlay the location and distance of your nearest tube station.

You're going to look a bit of a plonker standing by the side of the road, but still, it's a gorgeous concept.

Software out Real Soon Now.
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Come on ... we all know how this is going to end :-)

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Years ago, there used to be a book you could get which told you which carriage of the tube to stand in so that you'ld be nearest to the exit you needed for the station you were getting off at - for those who aren't used to the tube, this can literally save you 5 minutes or so at each station if the tube is crowded.

Now it's available as an iPhone / iPod Touch application for £1.79.
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I can think of many of you ([livejournal.com profile] hekai especially) who will probably find that self-evident, but it's worth a read. It's a lovely definition of what the Internet actually is.
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Google Wave.

Google Wave is a new way of communicating; redrawing email, social networking, instant messaging, blogging and a whole heap of other features. After all, as they say in the introduction, email is 40 years old and predates the internet; it's based on the metaphor of snail mail and that hasn't really changed despite all of our experience of internet based communications.

The system is still in development; Google are opening the APIs up to developers because they want a whole raft of Wave based applications ready when they launch the service. Wave is open source, invented by the guys who wrote Google Maps - look at all the fantastic mashups that have been created because of their openness.

It's a 1h20m presentation and well worth watching - especially the first 40 minutes or so when they're showing off some of the possibilities of Wave - it starts going into the APIs after that, which is frankly a little bit over my head.

But this is exciting stuff.
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I have a two-monitor setup here at work.

One of my monitors is currently displaying my computer at home. Just because I can.

The connection isn't quite solid enough to stream video or audio over, but then I'm doing it using http://www.logmein.com, which is a completely free service. It's perfectly acceptable to edit text or run several other applications.

I don't care about jetpacks and food-pills. I'm living in the future right now.
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Okay - this might be the geekiest thing ever. Way geekier than having an extra second in the countdown at New Year because of the leap seconds.

At 23:31:30 UTC on Friday the method that Unix computers use to work out time will read


This will never happen again, and only holds true for that second.

I think a very short celebration is in order!


Jan. 8th, 2008 12:54 pm
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Would you like a 50 quid interactive whiteboard?

How about really, really cheap 3D interaction?

Or Minority-Report multiple-point tracking in thin air?

Johnny Chung Lee - we salute you :-) Here's his blog which can also be read through [livejournal.com profile] procrastineerin.

[livejournal.com profile] bytepilot - I'm looking at you.
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How do I change the icon of a file in Windows XP?

I know I can change the icon of a shortcut, but that's only useful in certain circumstances.

If I have a .pps file, how do I stop it looking like a .pps file?
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Far more pleased than I have any right to be.

But I have a completely legitimate reason to use the following image in a PowerPoint presentation for a course I'm teaching this afternoon ...

What could it be? )

New toy!

Aug. 26th, 2006 09:42 am
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Answered the door to the postman this morning to be handed a package containing my iTrip - it's a little device that plugs into the bottom of my iPod to act as a miniature radio station.

Obviously, until they are made legal to use in this country, I will only be using it when I am abroad. But it's very, very cool indeed.

The other thing in the package is even cooler, if that's possible. It's a USB port that plugs into the lighter socket in the car, allowing me to recharge the iPod (an possibly other devices? I shall have to check) on the move.

I like tech :-)
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For those who might not have seen it, there's a new article up on the BBC website with some details of the new series of Dr. Who.

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