Monthly Archives: November, 2006

An ace up 007’s sleeve

I must confess I felt that the last Bond film was evidence that the franchise was in terminal decline, and after seeing it decided I probably wouldn’t bother with any future ones.

But then, through a slight connection with a charity of which Judi Dench is a patron, we had a chance to get early preview tickets for Casino Royale, and went to see it tonight. And I have to say that my faith has been restored. This is not just a significant improvement on the last couple of movies – I think it could qualify as one of the best of the bunch.

It’s rather more serious than most Bond films because they’ve cut much of the buffoonery. Fond as I am of John Cleese, for example, I always thought him a little out of place, and wasn’t sad to lose him. The acting is good and the script well above average; chiefly, perhaps, because it is remarkably close to Fleming’s original story.


As an aside, though, every time I’ve been to a film in the last few years I’ve found them almost painfully loud, with the exception of those in our local arts picturehouse. Does that just mean I’m getting old, or is the volume creeping ever upwards? I’m going to try and borrow a decibel meter from somebody next time I go. In the meantime, it’s just one more reason to watch things at home. Perhaps the cinemas think that demonstrating the power of their amplifiers is a way to emphasise their difference from home cinema. Well, it worked, but not quite in the way they wanted!

It’s green. It’s very green.

The first real prototype devices from the One Laptop Per Child project are coming off the production line.


More pictures here.

Bias lighting

I’d heard a bit about bias lighting recently so decided to try it. The basic idea is that, instead of your monitor being a bright square on a dark background, you put some lights behind it so that your eyes have a more consistent brightness level to deal with. I just found an old spotlight with a dimmer switch and stuck it behind my screen – not exactly the most sophisticated installation:

Bias lighting

But I have to say, I’m a convert. I haven’t done any scientific tests here, but my impression is that I can read my screen for much longer in the evenings with much less strain. The idea makes sense, after all, and I think it probably does work.

Here’s some discussion about the topic.

Quick film review

The Prestige. Saw it last night. Loved it. Recommended.


Last month Guy Kawasaki wrote about the good and the bad answers to the question “What makes your startup defensible?”. His first point is that patents aren’t really much use unless you’re in “biotech, chip design, and medical devices where a patent really means something”. As he puts it, ‘”suing Microsoft” isn’t a viable (or attractive) business strategy’. It’s a good read.

When some patent attorneys responded to his comments, he also published their response. Excerpt:

Factor in some of the higher backlogged tech areas such as web business and Internet business methods, and it will realistically be at least five years before the Patent Office even starts to examine your application.

We’ve even heard of delays up to and beyond ten years in certain technology areas. Your competition could run you over by then, and it’s more than likely we’ll all be onto Web 5.0 by the time you get the pretty ribbon copy of your patent.

But they offer some good reasons why they’re “not changing our day jobs anytime soon” because “patents still play an important role in building a defensible business — ”they’re just not the whole enchilada”. It’s also worth reading if you play in this space.


Some questions for you:

  • How often do you use the speakerphone facility on your mobile? If you’re like me, only very occasionally.
  • How often do you get the urge to listen to music through the (probably mono) speaker or headset on your mobile? Again, I would suggest, probably not often. Even the cheapest iPod will do a much better job.
  • How often, when listening to podcasts while shaving, do you wish that your iPod had built-in speakers so you don’t have to keep plugging it into those speakers with the battery that runs down and makes Leo Laporte sound like a dalek? Well, there may be fewer of you here, but I’m sure you can at least sympathise with those of us for whom this is a source of distress.

So I’m quite intrigued by the new software that I’ve just installed on my Nokia E61: Nokia’s Podcasting application. This is not, as the name might suggest, something that lets you create podcasts on the phone, but something that lets you subscribe to, download and listen to them. And the phone’s audio, limited and monophonic though it may be, is just fine for most podcasts, either through earphone or through the loudspeaker – speech is what it was designed for, after all!

This would also be a good way to generate phenomenally large phone bills if I were charged per megabyte for my 3G connection, or if I couldn’t set the phone to do the downloads via my wifi connection. And I’ll have to watch my settings carefully. My real worry is that I’ll accidentally go abroad and the application will download the latest episode of TWiT over a roaming GSM connection, which would, I calculate, cost me something in the region of £280.

Escape on a Donkey

Due to a slight linguistic error, Scottish fire services are encouraging people to escape from burning buildings on a donkey.

Full story

Ammo with flavor

Tired of discovering little bits of lead shot in your roast partridge? You need Season Shot:

Season Shot is made of tightly packed seasoning bound by a fully biodegradable food product. The seasoning is actually injected into the bird on impact seasoning the meat from the inside out. When the bird is cooked the seasoning pellets melt into the meat spreading the flavor to the entire bird.

I’m wondering what would have sufficient density to work as shot and yet still be edible…

Newnham has a Newname

DisplayLinkAs of about now, my old company, Newnham Research, has a new name. Welcome, DisplayLink!

Newnham is the part of Cambridge where the company started, but it’s one of those names which I only really intended to be temporary. That was three and a half years ago! Unfortunately, though, it proved somewhat non-intuitive for anybody outside the UK to pronounce or spell, so the change has been planned for some time.

DisplayLink is a much better name for what they’re doing now, and it sounds like an industry standard, which is what they’re going to become. I like it.

A bunch of tubes

The London Tube map, created by Harry Beck in 1933, is considered a design classic and, for us Brits at least, is so iconic that maps representing reality look weird and distorted, and so are strangely fascinating.


More maps on this Wikipedia page, and there’s even an interactive animation on the Transport for London site.

Thanks to Tom Coates for the initial links for both this and the previous post.

A stitch in time saves nine (months)

There’s some fun lapsed-time stuff on YouTube:

A UI puzzle

What do user-interface designers do to indicate function when everything becomes a button? I saw this on a train recently:


I like the little icon. But for how many more generations will it be meaningful? And what will the little picture show after that? The mind boggles…

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser