Monthly Archives: September, 2008

‘Vanishing’ points

The road from Krakow to Auschwitz

Auschwitz I

Birkenau disembarkation point

A ‘dormitory’ at Auschwitz-Birkenau

iRex digital reader

Slowly but surely, e-paper-based digital book readers are going from strength to strength.
I’ve written before about the Iliad and several times about my Sony PRS.

iRex have now released their Digital Reader series – ‘the largest, yet thinnest e-reader ever’ – with a 10.2-inch display, and 1024×1280 resolution.

Starting at £469, though – that’s quite a lot of paperbacks…

Update: Plastic Logic have been showing off the prototype of their new reader at DEMO, as well.

Thanks to Stephen De Gabrielle for the links.

“New action plan to make greener city”

Don’t you just love local newspapers? A constant source of amusement, I find. Take, for example, the following introductory paragraphs from an article in the Cambridge Crier under the above title:

Plans to fight climate change and cut the carbon footprint of Cambridge by 89 per cent have been announced.

City councillors say it is time for action and have set out 92 ways to tackle climate change and reduce the risk of increased flooding, water shortages, higher temperatures, high winds and subsidence. The area of severe flood risk in the city from the river Cam is predicted to increase by 2055.

More people could suffer strokes, disease and food poisoning, and there could be more hosepipe bans, more people taking time off work, more damage to crops and harm to the environment.

I think this is brilliant in so many ways. Hosepipe bans and people taking time off work? Food poisoning, high winds and subsidence. (Hopefully not connected too directly). No wonder the council’s document needs to include 92 measures. The area at risk of severe flooding is expected to increase by some completely unspecified amount over the next 47 years. And the paragraph breaks make it rather unclear just how many of these disasters are the direct result of the document…

It reminds me of that great scene in Ghostbusters:

Dr. Peter Venkman: This city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.
Mayor: What do you mean, “biblical”?
Dr Ray Stantz: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath of God type stuff.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Exactly.
Dr Ray Stantz: Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!
Dr. Egon Spengler: Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes…
Winston Zeddemore: The dead rising from the grave!
Dr. Peter Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!

Anyway, fortunately, the city council has adopted this plan. That’s good. So I’ll be less likely to suffer food poisoning in 2055 but, sadly, may not be taking so much time off work. Maybe by then I’ll have moved away from the high winds of disease-ridden Cambridge to avoid a stroke.

I must go and read The Shipping News again…

Genius is not always recognised

If you’ve upgraded to iTunes 8, but not actually watched Steve Jobs’ keynote or listened to lots of Mac podcasts, it may be easy to miss the best bit of the ‘Genius’ feature. The obvious bit – the Genius sidebar, shows you all the music you can buy at the iTunes store that might coincide with your tastes.

The more subtle bit is the Genius Playlist, which appears with your other playlists on the left hand side. If you select a song in your collection and then click the little ‘genius’ button at the bottom right, this playlist will populated with that song and a selection of your music that should go with it.

On my brief experiments, it seems rather good. The things you can do when you can draw on millions of users’ data…

Connected in Kent

Hap snapped this picture of Rose and me in Tonbridge Castle car park last weekend trying to find somewhere to stay for the night (using a combination of an OS map and a wifi connection to my phone).

I was successful in finding places, but not ones with any spare rooms at such short notice. At least, not before my phone’s battery ran out. It was tired after a long day of being my SatNav.

Incidentally, Quentin’s theory of technological linguistics says that a technology is truly pervasive when you no longer capitalise it. How would you write ‘satnav’?


US government now owns all your homes. Russian stock market booms. Let’s hope nobody’s waking up from 30-year coma.

Charles Arthur (on Twitter)

Disk Dock

After having a couple of hard disks do slightly wobbly things recently, I’ve been thinking about backups again, and have just treated myself to a Drobo – a wonderful, if somewhat pricey gadget. Storage Supplies had the best UK pricing I could find for the Firewire version, if anyone else is considering one…

This device looks like an interesting option for making backups to be taken offsite, though:

Cathedrals in the mist

We had dinner in Ely tonight and walked around the cathedral afterwards in a wonderful, autumnal mist. I only had my little pocket camera with me, but got a nice photo or two by doing things like setting the timer and using Hap’s hat as a tripod (which works better when he isn’t wearing it, by the way).

A couple of others here.


You know those coverage maps that mobile service providers create? The ones that tell you that, yes, there’s blanket 3G coverage in your favourite holiday destination, but when you get there you discover mean ‘slight 3G coverage for people sitting on top of their chimneys facing west under optimal stratospheric conditions’?

Well… it strikes me that, now phones have accessible GPS data, we shouldn’t need to rely on these particular bits of marketing propaganda. Somebody could write a phone app which periodically captures details of the signal and the phone’s location, and uploads them to a service which creates a map showing the true picture. Imagine you could look at your movements over a month or two and discover which operator would really provide you personally with the best service. If you were running the application, the system could even tell you that automatically! (Which would be a good way to get the data-gathering mechanism widely adopted).

Has anyone done this? I might write it up as a student project proposal…

Today’s motto

…for a fuller and happier life.

Carpe Dessertum

which, liberally translated, means “Seize the pudding”

Sorry – it’s late – getting silly….

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser