Author Archives: qsf

The Opposite of a Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
24 Feb 2021

The Global Online-Traders’ and Community-Hosters’ Association

CAMBRIDGE, UK — Today sees the launch of a new industry body for major technology companies in the online-shopping, social-networking and other related fields. The Global Online-Traders’ and Community-Hosters’ Association (GOTCHA) exists to protect the value of news stories about its members, and ensure fair compensation of those whose activities actually generate the news.

“This is a problem which dates back to the dawn of the industrial revolution”, said William Boot, the organisation’s chairman and CEO. “Newspapers and other media have always been fascinated by the activities of large companies and the personalities who lead them. It is fair to say, in fact, that a significant proportion of their revenues are derived from such stories, and today you can barely open a newspaper or visit a news website without reading about the wealth of an Amazon chairman, the activities of a Facebook CEO, or the supposed iniquities of a Google algorithm.”

Boot, a low-paid former journalist himself, says that he gradually became persuaded of the lack of fairness in the current system and determined to do something about it by joining the other side and forming a campaigning organisation on behalf of those who actually feature in the news.

“Nobody is saying that articles shouldn’t be written about these organisations and entrepreneurs”, he explained. “However, we are clearly living in an unbalanced world when media organisations can make significant amounts of money simply by writing a few words about those who do the hard productive work. These technologists give up years of their life creating services that provide value, products that enrich people’s lives, and platforms that dramatically reduce the friction of global trading. It seems only fair that, when an article is written about a major technology corporation or one of its officers or investors, some portion of the revenue derived from that story should go to the company or individual concerned, since, without their success, there would be no story to write. GOTCHA will be campaigning tirelessly on behalf of its members and will be facilitating the resulting payments made by the traditional media outlets.”

GOTCHA, though founded in Cambridge, England, has yet to announce the final location of its headquarters, though the association has made it clear it won’t be based in Australia.

Round here, she’s called Strider

Rose sets off on the morning walk. Her four-legged companion has already scampered out of the frame.

Observation of the day

During lockdown, the frequency with which one needs to shave is inversely proportional to the quality of one’s webcam.

A Day in the Life of Your Data

This is a nicely-written document from Apple which is intended to give people an idea of the amount of data that can be gathered about them as they go about their normal lives.

It is also, of course, intended to persuade you that it’s a good idea for your phone to run software from Apple, rather than from a company that makes its money from selling data about you. But it’s pretty balanced overall, and might be useful if you have non-technical friends who haven’t considered this stuff.

As a photographer, I have quite a few photo-related apps, and I often give them access to my entire photo library, because I may want to use them to edit any of my images. And even though the article doesn’t highlight this directly, it did make me realise that, by doing so, I’m also giving them access to a great deal of my location history, because all of my photos are geotagged. Something to consider.

All’s well that ends well

Rose and I don’t really watch any television. Not live television, anyway, and this is evident, I suppose, from the fact that we’ve been in our current house for a little over three years now and haven’t yet got around to connecting up the aerial! But it goes back much longer than that: I did watch a few minutes of the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics, I remember, but I turned it off when the dancing nurses got too silly. That whole thing must all have been completely mystifying for most foreigners, I imagine, but even here I think we missed a golden opportunity: it could have been such a wonderful comedic event if only they had got Terry Wogan to do the narration! I would probably have watched the lot! Anyway, I can’t remember when I last watched any live TV before that, so I guess it must have been more than a decade ago.

That doesn’t, however, mean that we don’t watch anything. Almost every evening we settle down in front of the screen for a film, a TV drama, or something similar before we go to bed. And often these are things that have stood the test of time… which means they aren’t always available through streaming services.

So we get a great deal of value from our Cinema Paradiso subscription. Yes, DVDs through the post! This is how Netflix started, and in the UK we had LoveFilm, which was eventually bought by Amazon and then finally closed down. Cinema Paradiso continues, however, and has a much larger catalogue, I think, than anything streamable. In the last few weeks I’ve watched the latest Star Wars movie, early Fritz Lang films, Ealing comedies, and a recent ‘Nordic noir’ crime series. You don’t have the same spur-of-the moment decision opportunities as with, say, the current Netflix, but we do always have two or three disks of content that we know we want to watch — because we gave it some thought in advance — ready and waiting. After viewing, the disk goes in the pre-paid envelope, and Tilly and I stroll off in the direction of the postbox for her late-night comfort break.

We do, however, also have a reasonable DVD library of our own, and alongside the Woody Allens and Merchant Ivorys we have some box sets of things like Sherlock Holmes — Jeremy Brett, of course — and Star Trek, especially the original series and ‘Voyager’.

We find these can be very good ways to finish the evening, because you can be sure that, whatever other issues you’ve had to deal with during the day, and whatever challenges the crews may encountered on the nearest M-class planet, by the time you go to bed, Captain Janeway will have the ship back on course for home, James T. Kirk will have sorted out the enemies with a nice clean and sporting right hook, and all will be well again. You don’t have to wait for the next episode to relieve the angst or stop hanging from the cliff.

It was a more down-to-earth recommendation that led me to start writing this post, however! We bought ourselves a Christmas present of the complete Miss Marple, and, even though we’ve seen them all before at some point, we often can’t remember whoactuallydunnit. It has proved to be a very good purchase, and we can comfortably recommend that before bed — whatever you may have had to endure in the day’s news, Zoom calls, or tweets — heading to St Mary Mead with Joan Hickson is a very pleasant way to finish the day.

Looking down from on high

Yesterday evening, I got a toy that many of my friends and family were surprised that a gadget enthusiast like me hadn’t been seduced by many years ago!

And today, I took it for a walk. I’m very pleased to discover that Tilly doesn’t seem at all fazed by the drone, only by the fact that I’m not paying enough attention to her.

It’s a tribute to how good the technology is, that a complete amateur like me can produce a pretty video on the first day. Having the sunshine and a light dusting of snow helped a lot too, though!

Not Just Bikes

A friend of mine, who hails from Ontario originally, has lived in many cities around the world. I haven’t seen him for some years, so I didn’t know that he had moved to Amsterdam, but I also didn’t know that he’s started a YouTube channel about why, having lived in London, Toronto, Taipei, San Francisco and numerous other places, they liked Amsterdam the best, and asking the question what makes a city great?

It’s called Not Just Bikes, and I think he does a really nice job, which explains why he has also amassed a significant following.

Here’s a short example:

And another:

Recommended.

Take Control of your Video Calls!

Do you wish you could incorporate videos, music, or views from multiple simultaneous cameras in your video calls & webinars?

In this video I take a look at one way in which Mac users can blend multiple media sources, sound and video, and send them out through calls on Zoom, Teams, Webex and similar apps.

Squelching in the Rain

After Rose and our fluffy-pawed spaniel Tilly came back from their walk across the muddy fields this morning, Tilly composed the following and asked me to share it, because it might help other canine readers to know they are not alone.

A Muddy Spaniel’s Lament

Rose’s supposing my toeses need hosing
Shows Rose is supposing erroneously.
‘Cause nobody’s toes can need quite as much hosing
As Rose is supposing my toeses to need!

Good Morning!

Everything is muddy at the moment. Some of us just know how to glide above it.

Office Meeting 2.0.1

In my post yesterday, I forgot to mention the final twist to my open-air Teams meeting, which made it even more surreal.

Just after pressing the ‘Leave meeting’ button on the app, I walked through our village churchyard and fell into conversation with a gravedigger. No, really. He was filling in a hole, and, leaning on his spade, told me that the heavy clay around here was nothing compared that that around Lavenham. It was a strangely Shakespearian encounter; I half-expected him to bend down, pick up a skull and ask if I recognised it.

After a brief but cheery discussion, I bade him good day and departed, thinking that I should probably have tossed him half a crown for good luck, or something.

Definitely not my typical office meeting, I thought to myself, and Tilly and I walked home debating the whims of Lady Fortune in iambic pentameter.

Office Meeting 2.0

Every Wednesday afternoon during term, we have a departmental meeting for the senior staff, which used to take place in an efficient but not-very-inspiring and rather windowless room in the Lab. There are typically 50-100 attendees, and so, when it moved into the virtual world, we don’t in general use video; most people only turn on their cameras when they’re talking.

Well, this week, a rather wonderful thought occurred to me.

Since this meeting is essentially an audio-only experience, I realised I didn’t need to postpone my dog-walk until after it had finished. Why not do them at the same time? Especially since I was more likely to be in the role of audience than presenter for the duration of this one. Much more efficient.

So I fired up Microsoft Teams on my phone, put it in my jacket breast pocket where I knew the speaker would be clearly audible (since that’s how I normally listen to podcasts and audiobooks), and headed out.

Now, it’s rare for me to say anything good about Teams — actually, it’s rare for anyone to say anything good about Teams, as far as I can see — but on this occasion it performed beautifully, the audio quality was excellent and the video, when people did turn on their cameras, was excellent too, albeit slightly blurred by the raindrops.

At the end of the meeting, as people were saying goodbye, I turned on my camera to reveal that I was in fact wrapped up and squelching through the mud in pursuit of my spaniel, something nobody had been aware of up to that point. And for me, it had been a thoroughly enjoyable meeting. Just imagine what it would be like in sunshine!

Anyway, strongly recommended, if you have the option. Combine your meetings with your daily exercise. Go and watch the rabbits. I promise you it’ll be a more pleasant experience than sitting in your average office meeting room.

And remember, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser