Monthly Archives: May, 2008

Watch the birdie!

My friend Phil Endecott has a webcam in the bird box on the side of his house, where some bluetits have made their nest.

You can see them here, where you’ll also find a great sequence of photos and movies of some of the more exciting moments in their lives so far.

Great stuff.

Infinite knowledge

The fact that I have both an iPod Touch and a Nokia E61 in my pocket means that, over the last year or two, I’ve come to assume that I can find out almost anything wherever I am. At lunch today, out in the garden, the word ‘sardonic’ came up in conversation, and I wondered about its etymology. Could it have something to do with Sardinia? Was the population of the island once noted for its cynicism? Here’s the answer, by the way, which was trivial to find out while sipping a glass of Rioja in the sunshine.

This is made much easier since most of the places I go to look things up are now easily-accessible icons on my iTouch screen:

iTouch icons

Another example – Rose has decided, after avoiding clothes shopping as much as possible for the last couple of decades, to do a little catching up. But she won’t buy anything without my encouragement and approval, especially since prices seem to have risen somewhat in that period.

The upshot is that I’ve spent a lot of time in the “husband’s chair” in women’s clothing stores recently, and have been grateful for having the web at my fingertips. In one store today, I liked the music that was playing, and by typing a few words of the lyrics into Google was able to discover the name of the song and artist. What’s more, since the Apple Store opposite had wifi, I was able to buy and download a copy of the song from iTunes before Rose came out of the fitting room. All without getting out of the chair. All without using a PC – in fact simply using the kit in the pockets of my shorts.

And I pondered just how fast the world had changed.

Quality or quantity?

As I, and many of my friends, become more frequent posters to Twitter or Facebook, I suspect the frequency of blog posts decreases somewhat. Is this a good thing? Wheat and chaff, and all that?

Do longer and more thoughtful posts now make it onto blogs for the benefit of posterity while shorter and more trivial stuff that once polluted the RSS stream is now swept swiftly away in the flow of tweets? Or is this post evidence to the contrary?

Answers to ‘quentinsf’ on the social network of your choice… 🙂

Camvine is hiring!

We’re looking for software people – we’ve had a lot of good candidates already, so that one is going to close very shortly – but we’re also now looking for a Sales & Marketing Director who’ll have a very significant role in the business.

More info here.


Most people know about the Kindle and the Sony eReader, but what about the iRex Iliad? No, I hadn’t come across it either, but it has a few interesting features:

  • A great name
  • An even higher price tag than the others

but most importantly, and this could be especially interesting in certain professions:

  • You can annotate documents, as well as read them.

I’d like to try one out…

Thanks to Steve de Gabrielle for the link

There are Blu-rays over the white cliffs of Dover…

For anyone looking for a backup medium, rewritable Blu-ray drives are starting to become quite interesting. Dabs have an LG one for £160 now, and that includes VAT!

The disks are 25GB or 50GB and come in write-once or rewritable form, but since even the cheapest ones seem to start around £6, you wouldn’t want to have too many write-failures!

Watch those prices drop, though… it won’t be long.


Wow – this is a cool story!

Many thanks to Bill Thompson for the link.

Happy talk?

I’ve always had very little luck with speech recognition systems. I don’t think my voice is that strange, but I’ve spent too much time on the phone trying to book flights and getting “I’m sorry I didn’t understand that. Please say yes or no” repeatedly as I try everything to make the blasted machine understand one simple word. Ah well.

Still, people tell me that Dragon NaturallySpeaking on Windows is getting really quite usable now, but there hasn’t been an equivalent package for the Mac. Until now, apparently.

MacSpeech Dictate (formerly iListen) has been rewritten to use the Dragon recognition engine, which is generally said to be the best on the market.

It’s not too cheap at $200 (though the price does include a microphone), and there’s no try-before-you-buy option, but if you want or need this, it might well be worth it.

The reviews on Amazon seem to suggest that people love it or hate it – if it works, the recognition quality is exceedingly good – some say even better than the Windows product – but if you want complex features, unusual vocabularies, or customer support from the company, it sounds as if it might be worth waiting. More here.

Jay walking

I met a jay the other day as I was picking up my bike at Cambridge station. A cheerful chap – he dodged most of my attempts to photograph him… as I crept up on him he would flutter up in the air, circle round behind me, and land there. I’d turn around and creep in that direction, and when I got almost close enough, he’d take off and land back behind me again.

We kept this up for a while, until he decided that a passing sycamore leaf was more interesting than me, and started teasing that instead, at which point I headed for home.


Roger McGuinn, partly in an effort to save some old folk tunes from being lost, has released a number of recordings for free at, under a Creative Commons licence.

Many of them are really quite good, if you like that kind of thing. I keep finding myself humming Blow the Man Down after listening to his recording, for example. Recommended.

Boris Wooster

Following on from my previous post about dull politicians, I’m glad to see that Boris Johnson got off to a good start.

He denounced as ridiculous the lights at Trafalgar Square. “They are red for one minute 45 seconds and go green for only 12 seconds!” He vowed to fix this as the audience shouted “Yeah! Yeah!”.

It’s splendid stuff – more here. I only hope Sir Roderick Glossop doesn’t turn up and spoil the fun.

Shortcut to inspiration

Mac users will appreciate these poster designs.

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser