Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

One dumb note

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

I really like the idea of MS OneNote, and find it very useful for scribbling ideas into and recording interviews. It also has exemplary synchronisation. But it is a pig to use as a repository for web clips, unless you also use IE. There is a firefox clipper but it’s slow, ugly and obtrusive. There’s no quick easy way to tag what has been clipped or to get an overview, later, of subject lines. There is an API, but it demands that the programmer read and write long strings of XML to accomplish even the simplest tasks. So, while it would be perfectly possible for someone fluent in Javascript and XML to write firefox extension that clipped at usable speed, that person is not me, and certainly no one has done it. Really irritating. I don’t doubt that the people who work for microsoft find it quite easy to program extensions in C# or whatever. But even inside MS there aren’t many people doing it, and I suspect that it will quietly wither away because, although good software, it’s just too hard to extend. And any type of intelligent dustbin program has to talk easily to everything else on the machine. That’s half the point.

Evernote dumbed down

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

This is a quick note, really for the benefit of Google, to point out that Evernote, which is growing more and more popular, was in important respects much better in version 2, now neither sold nor supported, than in the various versions three that are now available on all sorts of platforms. In fact the software changed so much between the two versions, both in what it does and what it’s trying to do, that it’s best to think of them as almost entirely different. (more…)

Google and Nokia (dull)

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

I have been frustrated for months by the inability of my nice new Nokia phone to synch usefully with any of the three places where I keep contacts. None of them, you understand, are perfect, but I dont need a fourth.  Ecco would be the most useful, since it links to each contact all the relevant information. Buit it’s very old, no longer properly supported, and has no email links and limited contact fields. So everything was exported from there into CSV a long time ago, and reimported into Thunderbird (if there were email addresses); contacts with phone numbers went into my old Sony Ericsson phone. One of these lists got imported into Google Contacts. (more…)

Greatest google maps mashup I’ve seen

Monday, October 13th, 2008

Hey, what’s that?. Generates a panoramic view with a crib from anywhere in the continental US, and possibly outside it. Awe-inspiring.

The street finds its own uses

Monday, October 13th, 2008
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It turns out that modern graphics cards are so powerful that they can be used to crack the passwords which secure wireless networks more or less in real time. So the unassuming Russian gent playing with his laptop in the car park outside a merchant bank is having more fun than you can possibly imagine.


Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

I’m obviously going to try the new Google browser, Chrome, when it comes out. But there are two three things to note. The first is that it seems to me a further instance of Norwegian world domination: it is based on Apple’s Webkit, which is in turn based on the KHTML part, which is in turn based on Trolltech’s Qt toolkit. This is bad news for another bunch of Norwegians, at Opera, but it it’s still true that the most advanced browsers on the planet from the Oslo or thereabouts.

This was obviously a browser built by very smart people, which brings me to the second point. Google’s publicity material for it is mostly in the form of a comic book. Is this really the future of literacy? Do smart young people find reading plain print so hard?

Thirdly, although the broswer has a “porn mode” concealing all your tracks from the operating system and from other users of the same computers, I will bet everything I own that it has no way of disabling Google’s tracking of users, which makes thier database even more valuable.

Bloody Nokia

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

I just bought — well, changed my contract to — a Nokia 6220: a very flashy phone with a nice camera, a GPS receiver, and in fact everything you could possibly want in a phone — except one tiny thing: any phone numbers.

For some reason the software that comes with it won’t import from anything except Outlook, and Lotus Notes. This is not software that I use. It won’t read normal interchange formats like CSV or even vcard. I have my contacts in several places on the PC, but all the phone numbers are at the moment consolidated in google contacts. This worked well enough with my old Sony Ericsson phone, but to make it work on Nokia, you have to subscribe to a service called goosync. I did that. All my calendar entries were imported flawlessly. The 540 or so phone entries, on the other hand, came in with all their detail except the phone numbers. Further attempts failed in ever more baroque ways, so that there is at present one entry in the contacts book of the phone: it’s called “unknown” and has no telephone numbers of any sort. I would like to complain to tech support at goosync, but in a remarkable refinement of customer-unfriendliness, they only accept complaints through a web board interface, after you have registered, deciphered a captcha — yes, a captcha to make a support request — and then responded to the email sent automatically. Except that the email has not been sent.

I know that bits of their system are working, as the email thanking me for my money turned up five minutes after I had filled out that form. But the request to be allowed to log into their support forum and ask for help was made six hours ago and I still haven’t had a reply. I’m wondering whether to send the phone back. It’s no use to me at all right now.

A simple thought on the management of software

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

I just wrote a column for Charles Arthur about how I had celebrated Firefox day by switching back to Opera and this thought didn’t quite make it in.

The organisational division between the users and producers of software should follow its patterns of use. Open source software is predicated on the idea that users ought to become producers too. Most of the time this is simply false, and when it is, commercial or at least closed source software will work better. The clear organisational distinction between producers and consumers corresponds to the reality of function. That is why Opera is better than Firefox. With the great open source success stories — LAMP, essentially — there has been a more permeable barrier between users and producers precisely because the user/customers are themselves producers of software to start with. Even then, the successful projects are run as despotisms.

The half-failures like OpenOffice have failed to understand which side of the barrier they are on, and to organise themselves accordingly. Actually I am inclined to think that OOo ought to be open source. There’s certainly no commercial justification for another disk-based office suite. But in that case the distinction between Sun as the inner oligarchy of producers, and everyone else as more or less favoured consumers simply won’t hold. The balance, difficult and unpleasant though it clearly is for Sun to understand, is not between professional engineers and happy, laughing amateurs with their intoxicating natural rhythms, but between the Sun-salaried workforce and their competitors from the real world, at IBM and the various Linux companies. The end-users are wholly irrelevant.

Windows 3.1 lies athwart my future

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

I have two CD roms on my desk right now which retailed for about £500 each in the early Nineties. Each one holds a year’s run of the Independent; so far as I know they are my only way of getting at very early cuttings, since the Essex Libraries database only goes back to 1996. Each disk contains a dos batch file to install the reader software (FT Profile, by Personal Library Software) onto a hard disk, whence it would interrogate the CR-rom drive (£250). The batch file won’t run under anything later than MS Dos 5.

Can anyone suggest how I might get this running under some kind of emulator? It might be possible to fake the action of the installation file and then run the search software, I suppose, if I had set up the environment variables it is looking for. hmmm. I actually need this because I have to write a speech about the future of the Anglican Communion, a subject on which I know nothing. So I thought I would go back and look at its past, and what we thought the future would turn out to be.

Nerdly weekend note

Sunday, June 15th, 2008

Opera 9.5 is out and I am back too using it instead of Thunderbird/Firefox. This is mostly because it is very much faster, especially at mail. But it comes with most of the essential Firefox add-ins built in—Ad-blocking, Javascript blocking, synchronised note-taking (though I have not experimented with the synchronisations bit) and it is very much faster to load. So far, the only incompatibility I have discovered is with the TinyMCE editor built in to WordPress, which for some reasons adds successive paragraphs before the preceding ones. But this will be fixed in the new release. In the meantime, Opera is still badly integrated with delicious, but its email is the closest thing to gmail offline, even if—a pet, lasting peeve—it won’t do Mapi.