My parents aren’t exactly what you’d call “tech savvy” — little can illustrate that more accurately than their continued (and begrudged) use of a 333Mhz Celeron PC — but occasionally they surprise me. Their fax machine had gone on the fritz and I’d commandeered their printer and scanner, so Mum decided it was high time for something new: some kind of nifty all–in–one printer/scanner/fax/memory card drive thingy.
At the time, it was a purchase that could hardly be justified, given that they had no use for a scanner, barely ever printed anything, and didn’t have any devices that would necessitate a memory card reader… but it was as funky a fax machine as they could want. Looking at it now, I want one. Lately I’ve been popping around to their place, sticking the Memory Stick from my camera into the slot, and printing off proof sheets; a process so simple you’d wonder why you needed a computer in the first place. This is obviously a thought that has the manufacturers salivating, but today I found my very first insanely great use for it.
Keeping in mind that my parents’ computer is a 333Mhz PC, has no CD–R, and isn’t even connected to the internet (don’t get me started), the only possible way to get media off of it is a conventional 1.4Mb floppy disk. My Mac has no disk drive, and the average computer file nowadays far exceeds 1.4Mb, so I’d ordinarily be mighty screwed if I wanted to, say… get some of my old shit off their computer. Memory Stick to the rescue. It’s not just a nifty storage media for a digital camera, it’s a nifty storage media… period. Drag my files aboard, grab the stick, bring it home, plug my camera in, the volume mounts, and there I have my files; home at last. Maybe Stevey–boy was right all those years ago — the floppy disk really is dead.
Now if only I could find a way to rename the Memory Stick volume… “Unlabeled” isn’t quite as descriptive as I might like it to be.
Hit reload. Then hit it again. Hit it more if needs be, but here it is: another iteration of decaffeinated dot org’s layout. It’s one step closer to looking like Dave Winer’s Scripting News, which is unfortunate, but I think it’s a step in the right direction for now. It uses PNG extensively, taking advantage of its super–awesome compression, but doesn’t rely on transparency as the old layout did; meaning it plays nicely with Internet Explorer.
Also in the playing–nicely–with–a–shitty–browser–with–massive–market–penetration department, this layout makes absolutely no use of CSS’
display: fixed property; welcome to the IE6/Win era. The upside to that lack of
fixed elements is improved keyboard navigation: when you hit Space or Page Down (expecting to scroll one page–length), none of the text is obscured by the masthead. It’s the little things that make the difference. The layout is fixed–width, something that’s partially against my own web design regulations, but it reinforces the ‘printed page’ look so I’ll let it slide.
Over all it’s a nice, elegant layout and works wonderfully in all major browsers; somewhat of a departure from this site’s checkered past. IE5/Mac, IE6/Win
(yet to test IE5/Win), Opera 6+, Safari/OmniWeb/KHTML, Netscape/Mozilla/Gecko… it’s all good.
UPDATE: IE5/Win tested and passed. I won’t say it passed with flying colors, since it still makes a bunch of mistakes rendering the page, but it’s passable… which is a good thing, because I passed it.
UPDATE: Upon further inspection (that is, coming around to Fiona’s place and seeing for myself, rather than relying on a screenshot she sent me), the problem with IE5/Win is related to its handling of
display: inline and the adjacent sibling selector. Simply put, my CSS says “Hey, if you see a list that’s called ‘navigation’ display it inline (ie– a horizontal list, rather than vertical) and put some padding around each list item”… something it doesn’t do particularly well. It also tells the browser “If you see a Header–2 element next to a paragraph element, make them inline too, so the Header looks like it’s part of the paragraph.” Again, it doesn’t do too well. Oh well, they’re not deal–breaking errors and I have plenty of time to address them from my own computer; shit like this seems simple until you’re stuck on Fiona’s P2 200MHz Win98 box… on dialup.
Today wasn’t a total geek–out, I also replaced the brake pads on my car — a learning experience for all involved. Over the last few weeks, I’d noticed an odd grinding noise coming from my front driver’s–side wheel whenever I braked… turns out my pad was nonexistent, I was grinding metal on metal. Mmmmm.
What with Greg’s Camp (our biannual camping trip to jolly–old Dwellingup) all up on us, I felt it was time for a fix. Safety is, after all, first.
Being, as I am, on the verge of starting a photolog (one of extreme dorkery, might I add); I thought I’d compare the various image–resizing tools at my disposal. Clearly I don’t plan to upload the full 2 megapixel images to my server, so resizing is a must… and not just the thumbnail creation offered by Movable Type through the Image::Magick module. iPhoto has a fairly basic export functionality, nothing exciting, and of course Photoshop Elements (excuse me for not shelling out for full–version Photoshop) has its own batch processing feature, but a shootout between the two has proven most interesting.
First off: Any entries to my photolog would likely be 640 by 480 pixels, so I exported part of my iPhoto library to that size, and batch processed the same images using Photoshop. iPhoto offers no options as to quality, so I had to go with the default, but Photoshop presents you with a slew of controls; I went with High Quality JPG. Not all that surprisingly, Photoshop won on the file size, but the output was of visibly lower quality. Interesting. I pushed on to thumbnails.
This is where the shit really starts flying. A low quality 100 by 75 pixel thumbnail pushed out of Photoshop is a full 72 kilobytes… an astounding figure. iPhoto pushes out noticeably higher–quality thumbnails at one fifth the file size, which pleases me greatly, but is still way too much for a thumbnail. Elsewhere, Image::Magick happily produces a (fairly low quality) thumbnail at 3Kb, and running a photo through Photoshop’s ‘Save for Web’ panel yields a (fairly high quality) thumbnail weighing just 4Kb. I’m stunned. Must I convert these damned photos all by hand? What hath God wraught?
My penchant for laziness leans me towards iPhoto exports: simple, safe, reasonable. My maddening neuroses demand smaller file sizes. It’s a battle I just can’t win… so I’m thinking I might have to kill… everyone.
During my time with iPhoto (ie– since I bought my camera), I’ve come to wish for a lot of features that just aren’t there. When something boasts an “iTunes–like” interface featuring Albums (something functionally identical to iTunes playlists) I’d like it to also feature iTunes–like Smart Playlists… or Smart Albums, or whatever. It’d be nice to be able to define dynamically–updating albums that contain all my photos of Scotty, or Fiona, or Birthdays, or Birthdays that also feature Fiona in 2003; the data obviously being mined from photo titles, keywords, comments and metadata.
A search bar similar to iTunes’ is obviously needed, since the “Keyword/Search” dialog is a fucking joke, and while I’m at it some quality control in the exporting would be nice, along with customizable HTML generation. Oh yeah, and XML–RPC support so I can post Movable Type photolog entries (customizable) from within iPhoto. Yeah, I know that last bit is asking too much… but a man can dream, can’t he?
I’ve always been fond of lodging my annual tax return via the tax department’s E–Tax software; it’s a simple question–and–answer based quiz instead of the complicated rigmarole you normally find in tax forms, and it generally means your return will be processed faster (since the monkeys down at the department only have to check your return, instead of checking it, entering it into the computer themselves, then checking it again).
This year, being the first new financial year that I’ve been aboard the Mac OS X train, I thought I’d check if there was a version available for me. Yes, apparently. The software is indeed Mac–compatible… “with suitable Windows Emulator software installed”. Lazy bastards.
OK kiddies and kiddettes, I’m off to Dwellingup for the weekend: Greg’s Camp 5: Platinum Edition. I’ll be back Monday, if not Sunday due to a total washout. Drinking, campfires, dirt–sledding, you name it. There’ll be plenty of footage on the still cams and the video cameras, so it should all turn out shiny. I’m rambling now, I’d better stop.
Total radio silence commencing… now.
Yes, I’m back; it was a fun weekend, I’ll tell you that much. Dangerous driving, explosions, bath tubs used for purposes beyond their construction, drinking, games, drinking games, Philippoussis losing the Wimbledon final: fun, fun, fun.
The name “Greg’s Camp” is taken from our old volleyball team “Greg’s Team”; named for a former member of that team, Greg. Greg was more of a dictator/coach/madman than a member of the team, hence the fun of naming it “Greg’s Team” once he was ejected from the team. Stop me if I’m saying ‘team’ too much. Though the volleyball team isn’t named after him any more, the camp remains.
Our aim, if any, is to escape civilization for a weekend, get drunk, fuck around, and have a lot of fun doing it. It’s a time for bonding, a time for relaxing, a time for singing songs, kicking tires and lighting fires. And to think I have to wait another 6 months before the next one.
I’m not sure why, but Microsoft has been advertising an awful lot lately on local TV and billboards. I can’t watch a show (or drive anywhere) for more than twenty minutes without seeing an ad for Windows XP or Office XP… it’s really quite bizarre. Not that it’s strange for a multinational corporation to advertise, per se, but I came to the conclusion long ago that big companies saw Australia as being too technologically/socially backwards to bother with. Then again, that’s a case for the chicken–or–the–egg.
I’d already mentioned this over at Rands’ the other day, but with the exception of a few games I’ve never bought any Windows software in my life. To memory, I’d never even had a legal version of Windows running on my machines. That’s all changed now that I’m a legal–software, piracy–hating–dude, but imagine my surprise when rummaging around the storeroom looking for long–lost certificates of such–and–such (I’ve been updating my resumé) when I stumble upon a genuine, license–papers–intact, working copy of Windows 95.
Yeah. I know. Shocking.
Despite initial thoughts that I might have to move back into my parents’ house next year (so I can afford to study while saving my ass off for my 2005 world tour), my roommates and I have started househunting. The lease on our current place has expired, and though the landlord has begged us to stay we’ve decided to look elsewhere. The simple truth? Our place is just too nice.
We live in a nice place. Three bedrooms, two bathrooms (my en suite bathroom kicks all kinds of ass), a nice kitchen, nice decor throughout, no garden to worry about (nice courtyard though) and, well… for some reason we’ve come to believe that it sucks. This is a house that we’re paying way too much for, just for the privilege of living somewhere nice (hell, the pool table doesn’t even fit properly — the cues leave nasty marks on the walls). It’s like the high–maintenance woman of the real estate world… which is to say it’s a high maintenance house, and we’re not high maintenance guys.
That’s not to say we don’t like living in nice places — we enjoy living here a great deal — but I think we’ve decided that there are two primary criteria to be satisfied by any house we choose to live in.
- the pool table must fit comfortably
- the cost of living there must not be ridiculous
Those are fair demands, demands failed in our current place. Dave is about to become a first–year apprentice in a bakery, for christ’s sake… and let’s just say I’ve had kicks in the bean bag that were more satisfying than his paycheck. I’m planning to go back to full–time study soon, meaning I can’t work a great deal, but still plan to go cavorting around the globe in 18 months’ time. Garth? Well, Garth does fine. No doubt we’ll be inspecting and applying for all manner of house in the near future… I’ll keep you posted.
I just flipped on the ‘tube (I’ve been watching a lot of TV lately, for reasons unknown) and caught the last five minutes of the Guardian. Nick Fallon and his crusty old Dad are in a parking lot. Some dude steals their spot. Crusty Old Dad gets out of the car to yell at the guy that stole their spot. Biffo ensues. Nick beats crap out of stranger, Dad lays the boot into stranger’s side (and, quite conceivably, his head). With stranger down and out, they retreat to their car and make a hasty exit.
Remember kids: if you happen to turn on the evening news some time soon and happen to see that somebody has happened to have been brutally assaulted in a parking lot, remember to blame the Guardian, not Grand Theft Auto.
There’s a great article by Nicholas Blachford over at OSNews investigating the technical differences between x86 CPUs (famously produced by Intel and AMD, arguably the most popular PCs in the world) and PowerPCs, Apple’s architecture of choice.
Over the last few years we’ve come to appreciate the fact that clock speed is not the be–all–and–end–all of computer performance. Even if you’re a “Macs suck” kinda guy, you have to acknowledge that a 1.8GHz Centrino can kick a 3GHz Pentium 4’s ass… whether you can explain it or not. Talk to your parents, talk to my parents (if yours aren’t techno–retarded enough), they’ll probably stumble a bit before asking “how can something that’s slower be faster?” It’s that whole damned ‘megahertz myth’ again; read the article, be informed.
Some time last month I noticed something a little odd in decaf’s log files. No, it wasn’t an abundance of search queries for “I wish Chris Clark would shut up and die” (though if it were, I would assume it to be related to the NewsChannel 5 anchorman of the same name), it was a lonely little IP address by the name of 22.214.171.124… hitting my site hundreds of times a day.
Once every two minutes, 16 hours a day, 126.96.36.199 checks my front page. It’s not following any links, so it’s technically not spidering the site, and though it might be watching the site it’s a little tough to comprehend why. After all, it appears to belong to an investment brokerage by the name of Bristol & West, hosted by BT Internet… so what the hell do they want? Since I’m not sure I care to find out; I cast thee out with the wonder of mod_rewrite and the help of Mark Pilgrim. It’s a strangely liberating feeling, this; though I’m sure it becomes tedious the more you need to do it. It’s one more reason I’m glad my blog isn’t horrendously popular.
I mentioned not too long ago that my roommates and I have been househunting of late, trying to find the perfect house filling vague criteria of rentworthiness. After days (days!) of searching, our prayers have been answered with the discovery of a four–bedroom, one–bathroom (no more en suite for yours truly), polished–floorboard beauty. Air conditioning, no lawn, plenty of room, and noticeably less “don’t touch anything, it might break” than the place we’re living in now. Though I might’ve protested against the “niceness” of our current digs before, I guess it’s just the wrong kind of nice; the new place is our kind of nice.
We only looked at it for the first time this morning and, expressing our approval, let Paula (of Spraggon George Realty, I highly recommend them) handle the rest. Consequently, we’ll be moving house in just 15 days. Which means I need to have the DSL transferred. Shit.
Surprising even myself, I’ve listened to the Dixie Chicks’ new album three times already today. I’m at my parents’ place and my Mum has recently added it to her collection; so to be perfectly honest, I’m disgusting myself. I think I’ve discussed my erratic musical tastes before, but this is a new low.
More than anything, though, I think it outlines how particularly terrible our current standards of musical taste discernsion (I know that’s not a word, but dammit it should be) are. I know that I don’t like most of the tracks on this album, since many of them are toothless backwater country tracks (listen to White Trash Wedding if you don’t believe me), but if you can’t appreciate songs like Landslide and Top of the World then you don’t have a soul.
So where’s the line drawn in the sand that makes me feel guilty for listening to the Dixie Chicks? I like female vocalists: I like Veruca Salt, I like Garbage, I like Avril Lavigne, I even like Alanis Morissette sometimes… so what’s wrong here? Personally I’m thinking it has to do with genre, since I normally wouldn’t be caught dead listening to country music; which brings me to my point about “musical taste discernsion”. As a means for discerning similarities in musical taste, the notion of ‘genre’ is lacking… at best. The problem is, nobody acknowledges it.
The CDDB relies on genre, digital jukebox applications like iTunes and WinAmp rely on genre, AudioScrobbler relies on genre. All of these applications and organizations use genre as if it’s the Universal Indicator of music, but they’re wrong. AudioScrobbler takes another quantum leap into wrongness by using genre and track–listening frequency as a base for musical matchmaking! If listening frequency were an indicator of taste, then my habit of randomizing the playback of my entire iTunes music library would generate utterly random (not to mention disastrously inaccurate) results. If this tells us anything, it’s that we’re being limited by the short–sightedness of our predecessors.
If song metadata were to be useful in any kind of taste–comparison application, things like mood, tempo, vocal style, instruments used, and lyrical subject matter would need to be considered. I like Propagandhi a lot, but that’s an indicator of my affections for politically–themed, aggressive, fast–paced, distorted–guitar punk rock; it is not an indicator of an affection for the “punk” genre as a whole, something that encompasses wholly–dissimilar bands like the Clash, the Ramones, Jets to Brazil, the Ataris, and Blink182. It’s easy to call those bands “punk bands”… it’s hard to discern what I, as some kind of punk afficianado, might find appealling.
When you take out–of–town friends out for a night in Northbridge (Perth’s club district), you probably don’t expect to wind up in a karaoke bar having the most lo–fi night of your life. It’s damn good fun, though — I highly recommend it. Highly.
Of course, there‘s more than a little trouble to be run into in terms of selection, you‘re mainly limited to pop hits from 1963–1997… but that‘s not necessarily a bad thing. Songs worth singing with your cronies include:
- Zoot Suit Riot
- Piano Man
- Hotel California
- I Love Rock & Roll
- …and many more.
As long as you don’t mind Japanese subtitles.
Watching the Terminator 2 Ultimate Edition DVD left me feeling cold. While I think Terminator and Terminator 2 are some of James Cameron’s best work (alongside Aliens, but that goes without saying), this ‘edition’ teaches us all a lesson about why films are edited.
- The additional minutes of explanatory dialogue (why Dyson was working on the Terminator CPU, for instance) prove tiresome and only glancingly informative.
- The Reece–hallucination Sarah has in the mental asylum gives us all the feeling that maybe she is crazy… and that’s not cool. She’s supposed to be our hero.
- Flipping the ‘read–only’ switch on Arnie’s CPU is, although kinda cool, not really warranted. Originally I considered it to be worth leaving in the final cut — the interaction between Sarah and John, arguing over the presence of the Terminator, is nice — but it’d become one of those scenes that the audience would come out of thinking “of course she couldn’t destroy his chip half way through the movie… it’s his movie!” Thumbs up for coolness (Terminator surgery is always cool). Thumbs down for plot dilution.
- Teaching Arnie to smile… terrible.
- The ‘malfunctioning T1000’ schtick is irritating at first, and foreshadows his impending defeat a little too much. When you mix his malfunction with the ‘imitating Sarah to get close to John’ scene, the whole illusion is shattered. All these years I’ve been comfortable in the thought that John could tell his mother apart from the T1000… as if by instinct, or through a great degree of trust. To have that smeared with ‘Mr. Sloppy Feet’ is depressing.
In all, it proves to me how valuable the original cut is; how tight and well–produced it is. And while I look forward to the release of Rise of the Machines, I’m expecting to have my heart broken; I guess I’ll just have to wait ‘til Thursday to find out.
Well, it’s been almost two months since Pixadex was announced (much to ChickenByte’s chagrin, no doubt) but they’ve finally come up with the goods. It’s a nice package, beautifully done as always… the kind of shit that makes me want to buy it; though I have no immediate use for an icon management utility.
It’s customary in this country to warn other drivers if you notice a multanova or police radar by the road. Driving past one, whether it’s on your side of the road or not, you generally flash your headlights at the oncoming traffic to save them the inconvenience of a speeding ticket. It’s a practice that fosters fraternity between strangers, between people whose only link is the shared use of the road, but it’s also quite illegal.
Though the police department will likely feed you a ‘road safety’ line, the simple truth is that it’s illegal because it interferes with police business; if less people speed past the camera, less fines are sent out, and less money is collected. It’s a terrible way to work, but what do you expect them to do… solve crimes? The saddest part of it all is that the intended purpose of these ‘road safety initiatives’ is exactly that — road safety. They’re supposed to be saving lives by making speeding a risk not worth taking; it’s just a pity it doesn’t work out that way. With that in mind, I’d like to propose a little social experiment.
Next time you’re driving down a road — any road — flash your headlights at the oncoming traffic and watch ’em slow right down. There’s no speed trap, of course, but they’ll keep driving at (or, more likely, below) the speed limit until they see one… they might be so foolish as to think “maybe he meant after the Marmion avenue intersection” and drive safely all afternoon. After a few minutes they’ll realize you were full of shit and resume their usual harried pace, but those minutes were worth it, right? Eventually people will wise up to the false alarms and ignore the flashes from other drivers… but they’ll cop a fine the next time they pass a real speed trap; it’s a win–win situation. Cry wolf — it’s more fun that you think.
Steven Frank never fails to impress. His opinion on the “digital distribution is contributing to the downfall of the album as an art form” argument is uplifting. He gets a gold star.
Likewise, Eugenia Loli–Queru’s suggestions regarding a low–end “BrandX” OS X–capable machine (we’ll call it a Notamac, shall we?) intrigue me; I guess this is the kind of market Core Computing would’ve liked to target with their CoreBox… if that ever got off the ground.
Expecting to come away from Terminator 3 disappointed, it was a little strange finding myself getting into it. Yeah, it should’ve been longer, it could’ve gone a little further with the plot, and it definitely could’ve been more emotionally jarring… but I get the feeling that complaints like that are no longer warranted in this day and age. Hollywood feeds us crap every fucking day and calls it candy; it’s our own fault for eating it up.
As long as it keeps the pre–teens happy with it’s special effects and sexy broads, it’s done it’s job. If it keeps the rest of us from overturning cars in the parking lot by giving us a credible plot that’s true to the franchise… even better. Given the current state of the entertainment industry, I should be ecstatic.
I guess, to a degree, I am. Wooooooo.
Helpful reader Chris Brown pointed out a display issue in IE6/Win; specifically that several of my posts (the Opinion: Reloaded, for example) introduce a sliver of white to the right of the content area. Combing through the code, block by block (it’s a hobby of mine, donchaknow), revealed the source of my woes: justify–align and the CSS box model.
One of the beauties of designing with HTML tables (back in the day) was that the browsers would willfully fudge the layout to accommodate ‘problems’ with your code. If you put a 500–pixels–wide image in a 200–pixels–wide table cell, browsers would simply push the cell out to fit the image… it was a very forgiving way to work. Modern browsers working with CSS, however, are not so forgiving: putting that 500px image in a 200px
div means the image will float magically (read: disturbingly) over and above the dimensions of its container. The
div, on the other hand, will stay at its defined size of 200 pixels.
Internet Explorer for Windows is another matter.
Sometimes, when justify–aligned text is busy wrapping tidily to the edge of the box, IE fucks up. More specifically, when that justify–aligned text has other formatting applied to it (emphasis, strong emphasis, citation,
code, et cetera) and the extra formatting wraps to a new line, it pushes the box beyond its specified dimensions. It breaks the box. Doing as it pleases, it breaks the illusion created by the box’s background image… breaking the site’s aesthetic. Simple as the problem is, the solution poses more of a challenge than it seems.
Forfeiting my precious justify–aligned text is an obvious fix, but it’s one that I don’t care to pursue. Likewise, wrapping another
div around the offending content and resizing it would do the trick, but it’s a trashy solution to a trashy problem. I’m not fond of hackery, so anything involving Tantek’s box model hack would be faux pas… leaving me with, well, nothing. Defeated once again at the hands of a terrible browser.
On the upside, this site’s design is constantly in flux (read: in flux whenever the hell I go nuts) and it’s never ever truly complete, so you might find comfort in the knowledge that the problem will one day go away. You might also find comfort in Mozilla Firebird, but that’s really up to you. For now, though, I feel like a pizza.
How is it that some clown can be out in the street, smashing something with a hammer, the TV can be up loud, and some other clown is out cutting a tree down with a chainsaw, all between 8AM and 10AM; effectively ruining my precious Saturday–morning sleep?
Moreover: how is it that as soon as the clock strikes 10, all of these noises suddenly disappear… but I need to get up anyway?
A massive design inspiration has struck me, as though the hand of God were directing my mouse.
It’s not often I’m struck with such inspiration, since I fancy myself more as a coder than a designer, (if there are any talented graphic designers out there willing to team up with an able–bodied standards–compliance fan for fun and profit, my contact details await you) but I’m incredibly happy with the mockup I’ve photoshopped tonight (I hear that’s a real word nowadays).
Yes, that means another new site layout… but this could just be the one that I stick with for more than a month. It’s understated, ultra–minimalist, and I think it’s beautiful. You, on the other hand, will just have to wait.
Just before I hit the sack though, I must point out that the new layout will likely be extremely IE–unfriendly. The way I’m picturing it, it looks to use semitransparent PNGs extensively (for which IE has no native support) and an abundance of fixed–in–relation–to–the–viewing–port background effects (which Internet Explorer has an awful lot of trouble with). While I believe I have a very sensible and very non–hacky method for dealing with the former, the latter poses an obvious problem. I guess we’ll see.
For fun, here’s a super–rough public beta of the new layout I was cawing about. Considering I haven’t spent a great deal of time on it, I’m pretty happy with the way it’s looking. Simple, elegant, valid… kinda like me. Testing shows problems in KHTML browsers (Safari, OmniWeb, Konqueror), Internet Explorer (all flavors and versions) and Opera (all flavors and versions). Mozilla wins again.
Keep in mind, though, it is a scraggly, haggard, lousy beta… things change. Aside from the crummy browser support, I’m yet to even consider things like navigation, the W’s of weblogging, and, uh… stuff. But, I mean, look at it! How can you mess with that? How can you throw links and search boxes and crap into that?
Oh, uh… sorry about that. Sometimes I get a little uptight about the integrity of the design and all that… stuff. Bed time!
Most times I read anything about SMS communications, I hear complaints about text input. Maybe it has something to do with the fat, arthritic fingers of the critics; or maybe they see twelve–key typing as some kind of threat to the 101–button keyboard… I just get the impression they’re jackasses.
Yeah, typing with the twelve keys of a normal mobile phone in ‘Multitap’ mode is a massive pain in the ass… especially if you need to write “seventy” or something similar; that’s seventeen keystrokes right there. If your phone is less than six or seven years old, though, (simple test: does it weigh less than three pounds?) you probably have access to T9 ‘predictive text’ input, something that is normally activated by default… something most people turn off immediately because they have no idea how it works or how to control it.
T9 tries its best to predict what word you’re typing (you only need to hit each key once, so typing “seventy” now a seven–keystroke affair), but it’s far from perfect and it’s often wrong. “Gone” and “home” are both rendered “good”, “if” is constantly displayed “he”, and “no” will get you “on”. You do, fortunately, have access to the list of potential word matches for your input; so when you’re presented with “good” and you wanted “home”, hitting a special modifier key will clear things up. Unfortunately, that key differs from manufacturer to manufacturer, making it difficult to get used to a Sony Ericsson if you’re been using a Nokia.
Relying on its internal dictionary to check words, T9 is often missing something important (try swearing)… but the dictionaries can be edited. It also relies heavily on correct punctuation, something a lot of people have trouble with, so typing “dont” will get you “foot” unless you include the requisite apostrophe. Given all its flaws, it’s no surprise so few people see T9 as a viable text input method; sending them back to Multitap, an even worse technique. I do, however, have a small suggestion to improve predictive text input, bringing it closer to being a viable text input method.
- Expand the dictionaries — modern phones have more than enough memory to store a few thousand extra words; including common names, abbreviations, colloquialisms and swear words.
- Consider context — when rolling through the potential candidates for words, given the input, the phone should examine the surrounding words (and indeed the entire sentence) for context. Typing “4261431466314663#” shouldn’t produce “Has he good good.”, it should give me exactly what I wanted: “Has he gone home?”. Given a knowledge of the basic structure of the English language, that shouldn’t be too hard for a computer to come up with.
- Consider your users — remember that most of the people using SMS are teenagers and/or morons. Their spelling is terrible, IRC–style abbreviations run rampant, and punctuation is nonexistent. Deal with it.
Of course, none of this is likely to ever happen. To big–business software manufacturers, “improved functionality” means “added features… even if many of them are useless”. It almost certainly never means “work on what you’ve got, and make it better”.
Mitch Clem is back, meaning I can stop contemplating the removal of Nothing Nice to Say from my ‘Comics et al’ tab group and resume enjoying Nothing Nice to Say… in my ‘Comics et al’ tab group.
The radio tells me this Sunday is National Tree Day… I guess ‘Arbor Day’ got to be too much for them after a while.
We get the keys for our new digs tomorrow, meaning the next week will be a flurry of packing, movement, cleaning, organizizing, unpacking, arranging, and shining; give or take a few steps.
What it also means is that I’ll be without DSL for a few days while the phone company and iiNet sort things out amongst themselves. I’ll have dialup to tide me over, but given the amount of work to be done in the next seven days, I’m not sure I’ll have a lot of time for it. I guess that means I’ll have plenty of email and a few billion news items to catch up on when I return. See you all on the flip side.
Read Marshall Brain’s intriguing Robotic Nation article. Think about it; it’s not outside the realms of possibility.
Brain’s article isn’t all that original, mind you; robot–populated dystopic futures have been a part of Science Fiction for as long as there’s been a Science Fiction. The thing that does make his piece unique is the timeline: it’s our world, very, very soon. Most of us never consider how close we really are.
With that in mind, here’s a beauty from the archives. The Parking Lot is Full writer Pat Spacek used to pad their mailing list’s announcements with his own fiction; largely pornographic, ultraviolent, extremely funny tales from the depths of his twisted mind… great stuff. His last story before PLIF imploded was one of the aforementioned robot–future stories. Personally, I see myself as the guy bombing the school. Shit, aside from writing this very weblog, there’s nothing I do in my everyday life that couldn’t easily be overtaken by a robot… probably not even a very good robot.
If there’s anything that Terminator 3 and the Matrix have taught us, it’s stay the fuck away from artificial intelligence.