The Internet and Legislation

Coming from a heavily regulated industry, I’ve always felt that the Internet will find itself mired in regulation sooner or later. Piracy, long lobbied on by the entertainment industry has given way to regulations on Privacy for the consumer and a robust discussion of the use of twitter and the right to privacy.

Taking the consumer angle first; the great EU Cookie Law which needs websites to gain explicit consent before placing a cookie came into force today. The ICO website has implemented its view on how to meet the legislation, which isn’t particularly pretty and boils down to “accept it or the website won’t work” – well duh. The ICO advice on the rest of the subject is limited, in particular the advice on  ICO advice on 3rd party cookies boils down to “your users need to know what you’re doing – but we don’t have an answer on how that works yet.”

The right to privacy and celebrity injunctions has had wall to wall coverage in the UK this week. Of course, 13 years is a long time in the internet and Jack Straw (then home secretary) was the first notable person to find the Internet breaking an injunction, after users named his son in connection with cannabis dealing. As a savvy internet user, I was aware of CBT’s identity over a month ago but as the twitterati worked together – there was a suggestion that Twitter was liable since it had “published” the tweets. Still in a time warp, I couldn’t help but recall the Demon Internet Defamation case.

I’ve long felt as the Internet matured, government will create legislation, that will be good intentioned but be poorly implemented. If it happens, I can  guarantee it will infuriate the tech community.

Windows 7 N and Multi-media

You’ve probably seen all the ‘broo haa haa’ about Microsoft offering European customers a choice of web browser. All of this came about because of an agreement between the EU and Microsoft reached in December 2009.

While ‘browser choice’ is the highest profile, it isn’t the first time EU have forced Microsoft to change Windows. Way back in 1993, Novell complained to the EU about Microsoft’s licensing and anti-competitive practices. In 2004, the EU ruled against Microsoft:

  • forcing Microsoft to pay a £381 million fine (and eventually more fines for arguing with the EU)
  • forcing Microsoft to reduce licensing fees and divulge technical information about their server technologies to allow interop with other vendors
  • forcing Microsoft to produce a version of Windows that doesn’t have Windows Media Player installed

The third requirement is met by Microsoft producing an “N” version of Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7. I installed Windows 7 N on my new rig over the weekend – Windows 7 N is a painful experience, so much so I wonder what the freaking point is? By stripping out media player, it is impossible to calculate the “Windows Experience Index” – your left with a cryptic message about the computer not having any “multi-media” capability and Windows is unable to decide if you should be able to use aero or not.

After I stopped blaming my motherboard and drivers, you’re left with two choices to get Aero switched on:

  1. Run winstat -dwm from the command prompt (as administrator)
  2. Install the Windows Media Feature pack (KB968211)

If you want a Windows Experience score you have to install the Windows Media feature pack mentioned in step 2. And yes, the Windows Media Feature pack contains Windows Media Player…

RoadSync is the must have app for corporate email

Another android loving colleague made me aware of an application called RoadSync last week and it has transformed my android device. My employer uses exchange and they allow employees to connect to it over the internet. Little known to me at the time, Microsoft have a technology called ActiveSync which devices can use to sync with exchange.

RoadSync uses this technology to make my corporate email and calendar available on my android device. Apparently, native support for ActiveSync is in the pipeline for android – but until then RoadSync is an excellent and affordable stopgap.

Android 8 months on

After 8 months of Android use; I decided it was time to tackle the biggest issue that I have with the phone and that is the lack of OS updates provided by t-mobile. Things really came to ahead once a colleague purchased the HTC hero.

So as of now my G1 is free! It was a fairly painless process, the biggest issue being that I needed to repartition my SD card – thanks to the blog at for the guide!

No Piracy Legislation for the UK?

I wrote about this subject nearly a year ago, so I thought it was worth of note that the UK Intelectual Property Minister David Lammy has stated that the government have no plans to introduce legislation against piracy. The original interview was with The Times.

This change of tone suggests that the Digital Britain report due at the end of the month, might have less bite than originally expected.

My Blackberry is Dead

My Blackberry died last week after the charging port on my 8800 became “wobbly” and would no longer charge. After accepting that this was something that would take sometime to fix, and that I was due a contract renewal anyway I came to terms with selecting a new device. I should say, that my Blackberry served me well. The push email connectivity really made me feel more connected to the world.

The main use case I wanted to address with my new device was to smooth up my podcast work flow. I was finding myself getting frustrated with my morning “download and sync” of my favourite podcasts to my iPod Nano. It was taking 5 to 10 minutes out of my morning to get organised and sometimes the sync didn’t have completed as I had expected.

The obvious choice was to look at the iPhone. My brother owns one and I have always been impressed by the quality of the web browsing experience, mainly due to the multi-touch interface. I was also excited to learn that apple had updated iTunes on the iPhone and iPod touch to support podcasts. However upon investigation I discovered that podcasts on the iPhone are limited to  up-to 10MB in size.

On top of this, there has been a lot of controversy regarding independent applications, in particular the podcaster application that apple rejected from their application store. Having fiddled with the iPhone SDK I was already familiar with the whimsical nature that governs which applications are approved.

Needless to say, these points were dealbreakers for the iPhone. The other negative for the iPhone was the lack of a physical keyboard. That left me with two options the new Blackberry Bold or a G1. Both have WiFi, 3G and an application that supported my desired workflow of syncing podcasts over the air.

After considering the deals on offer, I am now the owner of a G1. After a week of use i am fairly happy with the device. The G1 has a few flaws:

  1. The keyboard is not to the same standard as either the Blackberry Bold or the 8800. The general form factor when typing feels flimsy, but it is servicable. I also find the ‘chin’ to be on the warm side. I don’t ever remember feeling that the 8800 was running warm.
  2. The lack of multitouch support on the android operating system is a let down. I am getting used to the zoom buttons but it lacks the iPhones slickness. I am encouraged that the hardware supports it, hopefully we will get an operating system update that introduces it.
  3. The shutter speed on the camera is shockingly slow. I wasnt able to get any good photos of my fidgity kids out of the native camera application. I;ve played with a few developer applications and SnapPhoto seems to take better photos.
  4. Battery life – although this is a general smartphone problem.
  5. The lack of a built in headphone jack. Although, i have acquired a mini-usb to 3.5mm jack. The supplietd headphones are shockingly poor.
  6. No native touchscreen keyboard. I prefer a tactile keyboard, but for those times when you just want to hit a couple of letters or numbers. Although this will be fixed in an update this month.

With those three short comings in mind, the star features of the G1 are:

  1. It has very tight integration with gmail. I had the gmail application on the 8800 and it was ok. The G1 is far superior, i put it down to the navigation by touchscreen and the fact the UI is optomised for the device. The email experience on the blackberry is its strength and it sets the benchmark. The main weakness in android at the moment is in bulk processing items. Also, there is no way to access gmail tasks.
  2. The syncing of contacts with my gmail address book. Assuming I stick with android forever, I will never have that annoying task of reentering/importing/exporting my contacts.
  3. The Android market. This is what makes the phone better than the Blackberry. The over-the-air experience is superb on the G1. As good as the iPhone. I will give a more detailed review later in the week. But if you’re just starting out, check out SnapPhoto, PicSay, Locale, Scoreboard and DoggCatcher. They are all awesome.
  4. The fact the operating system is being continuely worked on and that an update has already been released, with more likely at regular intervals. It is awesome to see that my major gripe with the software might well be sorted in the next week or so.

In summary, the G1 is a good phone that is taken into a different stratosphere due to an awesome, snappy operating system and a list of fantastic applications that is growing daily. While discussing Windows 7, the BBC quoted Steve Balmer:

“I believe our digital lives will only continue to get richer,” said Mr Ballmer. “There’s no turning back from the connected world.”

That future is already here with the G1.

It Matters!

I wanted to give a quick shout out to the people behind Matter. Matter is a service from the Royal Mail where you are sent a box containing weird and wonderful advertising merchandise you’ll want to keep. In the last edition of Matter that I received a few weeks ago the stand-out item was a DVD of a roaring fire from Bell’s whisky. The next edition is due out in February so sign up now if you don’t want to miss out.

Update: Link fixed – Cheers Mike.

Awesome Demo of Silverlight Deep Zoom

Courtesy of Scott Hanselman and Scott Stansfield.

I could care less…

Incompetech tackles one of those misused sayings with a neat diagram.

Amateurs and Credibility

Jeff Atwood has openly responded to some criticism of his blog Coding Horror by Alastair Rankine. I get where Alastair is coming from. But I really enjoy Jeff’s posts and I find him credible. Sure, he misses the mark sometimes but generally I find a quite high signal to noise ratio. He talks about technology from a developers perspective, his articles are well researched, it’s original content and it’s written in a comparatively humble style. If anything, some of the professional bloggers could learn a thing or two from Jeff and Alastair.

I’m not even an amateur blogger, not even a hobbyist blogger, I’m an occasional blogger. Alastair Rankine does gets this point right in his blog on credibility.

Professional bloggers deserve more scrutiny than dabblers…

In the spirit of scrutiny, Industry leader TechCrunch are on the verge of hitting my Google Reader “deadpool”. I generally enjoy their posts, but I’m tired of the increasing noise level and abrasive manner. The latest example is a fairly abrupt post questioning Twitter’s architecture

  • Is it true that you only have a single master MySQL server running replication to two slaves, and the architecture doesn’t auto-switch to a hot backup when the master goes down?
  • Do you really have a grand total of three physical database machines that are POWERING ALL OF TWITTER?
  • Is it true that the only way you can keep Twitter alive is to have somebody sit there and watch it constantly, and then manually switch databases over and re-build when one of the slaves fail?
  • Is that why most of your major outages can be traced to periods of time when former Chief Architect/server watcher Blaine Cook wasn’t there to sit and monitor the system?
  • Given the record-beating outages Twitter saw in May after Cook was dismissed, is anyone there capable of keeping Twitter live?
  • How long will it be until you are able to undo the damage Cook has caused to Twitter and the community?

This obsession with twitter and it’s internal workings lacks credibility, TC aren’t authorities on how to architect applications for scale and performance. Bonus points to Twitter for responding to TC in such a detailed manner.