Monthly Archives: February, 2009


Nice quote from Ben Goldacre’s book Bad Science:

But these are just stories, and the plural of anecdote is not data.

The CUI (Coney User Interface)

If you’re like most normal people, you’ve probably never heard of ‘digital signage’. My family, certainly, looked at me in a puzzled but caring way when I first told them that was what I was doing. Digital signage, in general, is the name for systems that drive those big, expensive, boring displays in airports that tell you that your flight is delayed by an hour and a half. And part of the reason we started Camvine is because we believed that a system for distributing dynamic, glowing pictures to dozens of screens didn’t have to be big, complex, boring and expensive… it could be small, easy, fun and affordable.

Perhaps this is why, as we started to develop an API which would allow our CODA system to integrate with other things, we didn’t immediately focus on controlling it through a strategic leveraging of your enterprise-wide SAP installation. Instead we focused on bunny rabbits.

So here is our new experimental user interface for controlling your digital signage system. It reminds me a bit of Monty Python.

TIM: There!
ARTHUR: What, behind the rabbit?
TIM: It is the rabbit.

You can read more about it on Michael’s blog and on the Camvine site.

Safari 4 beta is out

The traditional concept of a 2D home page is so 2008….

You can get the beta here… thanks to Michael for the link.

Today’s handy free utility

Foxmarks synchronises your bookmarks across multiple machines, and multiple browsers.

Book early…

Excitement here last week… the first copies of Rose’s next book arrived on Friday.

The UK launch is in 10 days’ time and it’s available to pre-order from or your local bookshop. American readers can also pre-order it but they will need to wait a few more months, unless they get it from over here…

Nokia Magnifier

A simple but great idea: turn your phone into a magnifying glass.

Sadly, it only works on the Nokia N95, N82 and E90.
Now, if I could only find that tiny little icon that starts it up…

Where has all the wisdom gone?

A wonderful TED talk by Barry Schwartz calls for a return to practical wisdom.

Stick it on your iPod for your next train journey. Most inspiring.

The next social network

Given the valuations that have been floating around for social network companies, there must be quite a financial reward in store for anyone who can predict, or invent, the next one. Sadly, I don’t have time to create it just at present, but I can tell you what it will look like.

Forsaking blogs, where you have to write reasonably coherent paragraphs, and Facebook, where you could at least write sentences, the youth of today are flocking to Twitter, where 140 characters is the limit of self-expression, partly so you can send and receive ‘tweets’ via SMS, which can’t do much more.

It’s clear, I think, that this trend must continue.

I expect the next killer network – let’s call it something monosyllabic like ‘Flub’ – to restrict you to one word only for each post. A post will automatically be submitted if you hit the space key, and conversations will be much more efficient, yet still allow you to share your plans with your pals:

A: coffee
B: yeah
A: starbucks
B: ‘k

You get the idea. Of course, some devices you might use to flub are capable of more complex interaction, but the beauty of flubbing is that you can type your response in morse using only the button on your iPhone headset.

Quick VNC on Mac

A quick way to get a VNC connection from a Mac to another machine’s desktop:

  • Right-click on the Finder icon in the Dock, and choose Connect to server…
  • In the Server Address box, type vnc://machinename

That’s it!

Marketing speak

“Brevity”, said Polonius, “is the soul of wit”, and I fear this needs more emphasis in our schools, particularly amongst those destined, in later life, to compose marketing materials.

A screen in a hospital waiting room shows a succession of slides about the services on offer; one begins:

BreastHealth UK

The concept of BreastHealth UK is to help women organise and manage their breast health.

A certain superfluity, perchance?

Besides, it seems unlikely to me that any of the fairer sex start their Monday mornings thinking, “This week I intend to organise and manage my breast health”.

The pen is mightier… than it used to be

My favourite recent gadget is a Livescribe Pulse. Described in their Architecture Overview as ‘a Montblanc-sized computer’, it’s a pen which incorporates the Anoto technology – there’s a small camera which points at the tip, and a very faint dot pattern on the paper which allows it to recognise its position. The upshot is that it records what you write and can transfer it to the computer when you put it in its USB dock.


The technology has been around for some time… you can get similar pens from Nokia and Logitech, and the paper is quite widely available. But there are a few things that persuaded me it was the right time to try one:

  • The pen is aesthetically more pleasing, I think, than its predecessors.
  • There is support for the Mac. Decidedly beta quality at present, but the 1.0 release is out on Tuesday.
  • The coolest bit of all: it has a microphone built in. If you’re in a meeting, making notes, you can also be recording the audio. Later, you can tap on some text you wrote – or click on it if you’ve transferred it to your PC – and it will play back what was being said at the time you wrote the text. Quite brilliant.

There are quite a few fun things you can do with this beyond simple note-taking, and they’ve even got an SDK so, if you want to, you can write your own ‘penlet’ applications for it.

I got mine from a UK supplier, Magicomm. Livescribe have just announced another round of investment funding. They deserve to do well, I think.

Update: Bother… they’ve postponed the Mac release for a month or so.

An app a day…

The Camvine February Twitter Feed is going well – one new thing to do with your CODA screens every (working) day. We’re up to nine so far!

Some of them are just hints and tips, and some require a little more technical ability – though even those are pretty straightforward if you understand a bit of Python or PHP.

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser