Monthly Archives: February, 2006

Google Pages

Google Pages is simple but effective. Another entry in the list to suggest that Firefox will become the new desktop.

Here’s a quick test page that I created, partly because I couldn’t resist that photo…

The Dilbert Blog

If you like Scott Adams’ cartoons you may also like his blog.

Here, from a recent post, is some advice for new graduates starting in business:

Your potential for senior management will be determined by the three H’s: Hair, Height, and Harvard degree. You need at least two out of three. (Non-Harvard schools will be acceptable if it’s clear that you “could have gone” to Harvard.)

Your hard work will be rewarded. Specifically, your boss’s boss will reward your boss for making you work so hard.

There’s no such thing as good ideas and bad ideas. There are only your own ideas and other people’s. If you want someone to like your idea, tell him he said it last week and you just remembered.


The thing that annoys me most about sitting on the phone in a call-centre queue is the underlying assumption. Companies who do this are saying, in essence, “You are our source of revenue. We rely on you. But we consider your time to be less important than that of our lowliest operatives”.

Anyway, that’s why I was grateful to John for the link to this NYT article about gethuman, “a consumer movement created to change the face of customer service”. They have tips on how to bypass the IVR systems and get to real people.

Companies are slowly waking up to the downsides of annoying their customers. My own bank, LloydsTSB, recently made the news by ditching the scripts that their employees used to follow. I always found their phone support to be good, but it’s even better now.

I hope this could also have a beneficial side-effect: the greater the variety of queries that the operators have to deal with, the better trained they’ll need to be and the more interesting their jobs will become. Well, we can hope…

The Patent Cold War revisited

In November I wrote a little piece entitled The Patent Cold War, outlining my frustrations with the patent system and a couple of thoughts on how it might be improved.

I stand by everything I said there, but it’s a pity that I hadn’t seen Kenneth Cukier’s excellent survey for the Economist, “A Market For Ideas“, published a month beforehand.

I was lucky enough to sit next to Kenn at a dinner recently and he listened with great grace to my outpourings without even hinting that most of them were a small subset of what he had worked on only a few months before.

This is a very interesting, well-researched and well-balanced 14-page survey, and comes highly recommended for anybody with an interest in this area.

It’s too bad that the Economist makes it so hard to get hold of a copy if you’re not a subscriber. I almost never pay for premium online content, but I would recommend doing so for this. It doesn’t look as if there’s any way to buy a copy of one survey without signing up for a subscription, though, so if you don’t subscribe I’d find a friend who does and ask them to order reprints.

Ah, and as a follow-up, have a look at John’s Observer column about the Blackberry proceedings.

Blackberry and TomTom

Yesterday I updated my Blackberry 7100t to v 4.1 of the OS. I also updated the OS on my TomTom Go 500. One, or other, or the combination, means that I can now use the TomTom as a hands-free kit for the Blackberry, something which wasn’t possible before. This posting will probably be of very little interest to anybody not Googling for ‘TomTom Blackberry’!

The Blackberry update is not generally available yet, but one provider, Hong Kong CSL, had a version for the 71xx series. You can find links here. Note the bit about deleting vendor.xml . There are few obvious benefits on the surface, but quite a few under the skin. One thing I haven’t yet managed, though, is to use the BB as a modem for my Mac 🙁

A pasteural scene

There are some people, perhaps even amongst my readership, for whom milk is only milk if it comes straight from the cow. For some of you, the very thought of pasteurisation is an abhorrence. That, at least, was my assumption when I saw that my local supermarket had created an aisle which wholeheartedly rejected the UHT concept:

Free from longlife milk

On closer inspection, I discovered that this aisle not only contained long-life milk, but that it was right next door to the ‘Free from’ section: “Free from gluten”, “Free from sugar”, “Free from artificial preservatives”…

Multi-touch user interaction

Some work on Multi-touch interaction by Jeff Han, Yann LeCun and friends. Very pretty videos; well worth watching.

Undercover salesmen

On the latest TWiT programme they mention a job advertisement… a company looking for somebody to establish a good reputation in online forums and then promote their products. We all suspect that this happens, but it’s starting to get more blatant.

Don’t believe what you read on the net, guys. And remember the user reviews and comments may be much more suspect than the page content they’re commenting on…

VMware server now free

As of tomorrow, there will be a free version of VMware server available.

This is good news – VMware have a great product – and it’s particularly interesting for us at Ndiyo. We’ve been starting to plan some experiments using a single machine to serve terminals with a mix of Linux and Windows – an organisation where one user really has to stay on Windows software could then still make a switch to a predominantly Linux system. Another option is that somebody with a Windows machine might be able to run a virtual Ndiyo server, and support multiple Nivo-based users, without having to pay any more licence fees.

It’ll be interesting to see whether any of this is viable on a modestly-priced PC.

Jose, can you see, by the dawn’s early light?

I have happy memories of a small backpacking hostel in Indonesia, where, in the evening, the owner and some friends sat around strumming guitars.

I joined in, in my amateurish way. We played variations on the greatest hits of Eric Clapton – the variations coming from the fact that they, without much knowledge of English, often misheard the original lyrics and were very keen to check with me that they were getting them right. They knew the basic sounds, and I remember one guy earnestly singing, “Snog, snog, snogging on the seventh floor”, where I think Clapton had intended to convey the concept of knocking on heaven’s door.

But I’ve been guilty of some of these, too. I remember being puzzled, in my youth, by the Toto song ‘Africa’ which stated that “there’s nothing that a hundred men on Mars could ever do”. (It’s actually ‘a hundred men or more’.) And, at a rather earlier age, my somewhat parochial horizons could be deduced from my belief that the Abba lyrics, “I was sick and tired of everything / When I called you last night, Francesco” actually referred to somebody calling ‘last night, from Tesco’ (a big supermarket chain here in the UK). Rose thought it was nice that Paul Simon could report that “Rene and Georgia agreed with their dog after the war”.

Anyway, I discovered today that such mis-hearings have a name. They’re called Mondegreens. Rose found a nice section on this page entitled “The ants are my friends, they’re blowing in the wind” which explains the name, and, of course, there are quite a few on Wikipedia.

But, go on – add your own favourites in the comments. The original ones are the best…


What’s this?

Curlew at Woodbridge

It’s my attempt to photgraph this chap using a cheap camera and a cheap pair of binoculars:

Curlew at Woodbridge

I actually got some rather more successful shots, but they weren’t so pleasingly mysterious 🙂

Any colour, so long as it’s Windows

Some recommended weekend reading for you:

Why the net should stay neutral by Bill Thompson:

A canal has no idea what is being carried in the narrow boats, and it doesn’t really care.

and John’s column in The Observer highlights what happens when market forces go wrong.

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser