Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Nobody needs two mobile phones

With services like Google Voice, nobody should need to carry two phones (one for business, one for personal) and there should certainly not be any demand for dual-SIM handsets. When you join a company, they'll assign you a new Google Voice number. You can control when such a number reaches you at your mobile and when it forwards to your desk phone or voice mail. If/when you leave the company again, the number is simply deactivated. No cost to the company, no extra physical device to carry and no fuss on termination.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - They would still need to set you up with a phone on your desk.
PPS - And reimburse you for company calls on your mobile.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Visual call forwarding interface

I can imagine a visual drag and drop interface for phone system forwarding and call queue management that is vastly superior to the keypad-only systems currently in play. How do you forward a call from your extension at work to another? Chances are that, unless you're the receptionist, you don't know. Or maybe you're a phone geek and you do. As for me, I don't believe I have ever successfully transferred an incoming call from my phone to any other, whether it was the intended one or not. Either way, if your calls were coming through a controller on your computer and you needed to forward a call to someone else, you could select the call, choose "forward" and select or type the extension or the number to forward to, or just drag the call onto another contact. I'd bet you'd understand that the first time and never forget it.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I know Microsoft Exchange now has some phone features like voice mail.
PPS - It's a step in the right direction, at least.

Monday, 29 March 2010

TV I've been watching: V and Psych

I tend to have at least one TV show I'm keeping track of at any given time. At the moment, I'm watching V and Psych.

With V, I have a vague recollection of the show from when I was a kid. And when I say "vague", I mean really vague. Like a 2-second shot seared into my childhood memories of a woman swallowing a live rat. Now that I'm older and watching the remake, there's a little more context, and so far I like it. I'm starting to feel like I might need a diagram to keep track of the different factions and attitudes towards the apparently-benevolent-but-secretly-evil visitor aliens and the humans who love or loathe them, but on the whole I'm enjoying it.

With Psych, I just enjoy watching James Roday playing his way through police cases like a kid with the best toy ever. At times his pseudo-psychic antics remind me of Ben Stiller, and once or twice I thought he reminded me of Jim Carrey, too. He's neither, since he does his own thing too, and I like the dynamic between him and his best friend. Hilarious stuff, and the quality of comedy writing that's usually reserved for movies.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Maggie Lawson as Juliet O'Hara reminds me a bit of Alicia Silverstone.
PPS - But a bit more cultured and articulate.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Typos on eBay

On eBay, sellers have an incentive to spell their item titles correctly so that they show up in searches, and buyers have an incentive to search for typos (as has been said before, you can usually pick up a bargain "pLAm pilot" on eBay). What would happen if eBay started incorporating typo search into their interface? The incentive for proper spelling goes down and the typo discount goes away too. The secondary effects are more careless spelling in auction descriptions and the end of services like Auction Bloopers.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'm thinking of looking for a bargain "iopd touch".
PPS - But all the auctions I found were spelled correctly.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Fantasy Battle Royale

Apparently, out of a group of 16 fantasy creatures, the zombie comes out on top of an imaginary battle royale. You'll have to use your imagination, though.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'm not entirely clear on how a zombie beats a ghost, though.
PPS - Thanks to Stu for posting the link.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Nokia Ovi Suite

Nokia has recently updated their PC Suite software to a newer, probably entirely rewritten program called Ovi Suite. It looks flashier, and has a few new features that I like, such as automatic scheduled backups and boasts an integrated UI rather than the several different programs and windows comprising PC Suite. The down side of installing this spiffy new software is that some features have been dropped.

After synchronising my phone data, I used to check the sync log to see what had been changed, and correct any errors or duplications that had occurred. This is no longer possible. The other thing I do is export my text messages to files on my computer, which also saves space on the phone. The only actions now possible with messages via Ovi Suite are "Reply" or "Delete". So on the whole, my feelings are mixed about the upgrade. I expect I'll adapt to the lack of a sync log, but being unable to export my messages is a real problem for me.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I may have just missed a feature.
PPS - At least the old suite is still available and should still work.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Automatic mobile phone volume adjustment

A mobile phone, since it contains a microphone, could easily sample the ambient noise level in a room and adjust the ringer volume accordingly, if you so desire. So you wouldn't need to switch between profiles where the volume is different for various situations, just set it once to "loud enough".

Mokalus of Borg

PS - You may still encounter environments too noisy for the ringer to overcome.
PPS - But it also won't blow out your eardrums in a quiet meeting, either.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

The nickname for Terabyte

What will be the nickname for terabyte? Meg and Gig are well established, but Ter sounds weird and TB is tuberculosis. Maybe, like kilobyte, there will never be a good nickname for terabyte.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It's going to become more of an issue in the next couple of years.
PPS - Bigger hard drives are already past the terabyte barrier.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Football tipping by imaginary mascot fights

I've heard that some people choose their football tips based on which team's mascot or name would win in a fight. For instance, the Cowboys should beat the Roosters (unless I'm mixing football codes). My point is that, if I had a team of my own, I'd name them the "Ninjas Riding Velociraptors" just to get on the top of everyone's tips.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Yeah, I know. Flawless, right?
PPS - Now all I need is the team.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Friday Zombie Blogging - Shadow Maker

What every home needs: a zombie shadow maker. Use it as a night light and traumatise your kids for life!

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Not that I'd do such a thing to my hypothetical kids.
PPS - Or anyone's kids. On purpose.

Smelling nice

The smells we like about other humans are artificial. If we meet someone and remark that they smell nice, we are always referring to the residue of some shampoo, soap, laundry detergent, hair spray, makeup or deodorant. Real men and women smell like blood and sweat.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Shouldn't we smell naturally good to one another?
PPS - Maybe it's a cultural thing we've been trained into.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Generic software and customisation

There's a problem with most software in that it needs to include a broad range of features to suit a broad range of users. However, if you only require a small subset of those features, generic software is unable to accommodate just that part. All features are exposed and all must be acknowledged, used or ignored, making the software seem like overkill for everyone. Your only real option is to find something more specifically tailored to you or to write it yourself, both of which present their own problems. What we need is a way to hide features we don't want, so that generic software seems more personally suitable. Not that everyone will take the time to customise their programs, however.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I've been using Microsoft OneNote at work.
PPS - It's hard to adjust from my own custom note-taking program.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Agreeing to EULAs on behalf of others

I wonder, when installing software on a corporate machine, whether the IT department can agree to EULAs on behalf of the users of the machines, or whether the users should really agree themselves. What about users at net cafes or other public machines? Do they agree to what the software does, or is their agreement implied in sitting down at the machine? Who would you prosecute if a patron of an internet cafe broke an EULA? Can't be them, and can't be the owner.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - And you can hardly set up a net cafe without agreeing to a few EULAs.
PPS - I don't think they're strictly enforceable.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Blu-Ray is region-free for DVDs

I've heard that most Blu-Ray players are region-free for DVDs. So, what, does Hollywood just not care any more, or was it too much effort to implement? Or perhaps it was too difficult to explain different regions for different discs, so they just hope you won't notice. The last possibility I can think of is that this is intended to be an incentive for people to upgrade to Blu-Ray, but it fails at that because there are region-free DVD players too.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - They've never used "actually does what you want" as a selling point before, though.
PPS - Blu-Ray prices are coming down. That's probably going to be where they start selling better.

Monday, 15 March 2010

What the VCR did for TV and why TiVo is different

The VCR was a revolution in television viewing. It was free to operate as long as you provided the tapes, it let you record any shows and watch them back as often as you'd like, you could fast-forward through the ads and even pass the tapes on to friends when you were done with them.

TiVo, on the other hand, requires a monthly subscription, lets you record only the shows they allow, may restrict the number of times you can watch them back, doesn't let you skip ads and certainly won't let you share recordings with friends. TiVo is trying to fill the void left by the passing of the VCR, but doing it so badly that we should be appalled.

We are not appalled. Instead, we bypass TiVo entirely and go to the internet to download our shows over BitTorrent. It's free (except for the ISP subscription you were paying anyway), you can watch any shows as often as you'd like, there are no ads and you can share them with friends (where "friends" in this case means pretty much everyone).

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I've wondered about getting a hard drive recorder sometimes.
PPS - But then I remember where TV comes from these days: the internet.

Friday, 12 March 2010

No kitchen computers for a while

Why haven't computers taken off in the kitchen? My guess is that it's a question of utility and mess. There's not that much we want to do with a computer in the kitchen (and what we do want can usually be handled by cheap index cards). Even if the computer was a good solution to some kitchen problem, it would have to be built in such a specialised way that it could only be sold to that niche market, which reduces demand, which raises costs and so on.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Of course, similar arguments could be made about computers in cars.
PPS - And every year, those arguments get weaker.

Friday Zombie Blogging - The Pitch

You know what zombie movie I'd totally see? Zombies on a cruise liner. All those rich toffs getting turned into delicious undead pate while the captain sits up on the bridge in the foetal position trying to ignore the incessant banging and screaming from the decks below. Cue the plucky machine-room mechanic who rises up with a band of economy-class survivors, pushes all the zombies overboard through ingenious MacGyver-esque devices then gets the girl and plays shuffleboard for the remainder of the journey home. Then goes to jail for mass murder because who ever heard of a whole cruise turning into zombies and being pushed overboard?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - For the sequel: zombies on a submarine. Pretty much the same plot.
PPS - The zombies got to the ocean floor when some git on a cruise liner pushed them overboard without cutting them into pieces first.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

The upgrade path out of MS Access

There needs to be a better upgrade path for databases from Microsoft Access to something else. Most people will go from paper records to Excel, outgrow Excel into Access (which entails a full but not excruciating rewrite) then hit a wall when they reach the limits of Access. The tools exist for better databases, but getting there involves a long and painful rewrite, including duplicating many built-in features of Access. It's not that Access is a bad tool, either. It does its job well enough, but once you're into Access you're pretty much stuck there, even if you're a software developer.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I don't know whether Access 2010 will improve the situation.
PPS - Perhaps I should research that.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

I really could be on Twitter

I've realised that I probably could be tweeting right now. I don't know how interesting it would be, but the half-formed thoughts that eventually become full-fledged entries on this blog could just as easily be on Twitter. And the ones that never make it because they're too short would be shared instead of deleted. I think what's holding me back, then, is easy access. My mobile provider currently has temporary free access to Twitter, but that's designed to get you hooked and make you pay later. I want it free forever, because I'm cheap like that.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I guess I could still do it from my desktop computers.
PPS - But then it seems less in the spirit of Twitter.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Personality testing

I took a personality test for a new job application, and it consisted of 104 groups of three statements, one of which you had to pick as most true about yourself, and one as the least true. They were all starting to look exactly the same by the end. "I like to hypothesise" appeared in many different permutations, as did "I like to win" and "I am comfortable around others". I don't know what the 104 variations of the same questions told the examiners, but I hope they know it's really difficult sometimes to choose between "I finish things" and "I am organised".

Mokalus of Borg

PS - And quite often one choice meant I had to say something negative about myself.
PPS - I guess that's all part of the process.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Justifying moral choices

You may at one time or another be confronted with a choice that highlights whether you are a force for good or evil in this world. You make your own choices, as do I, and of course I urge you to choose the side of good. (The villain option is often to deny that good and evil exist, or to claim that they are just relative, which is a way of denying you have chosen evil.)

The important thing to ask about your choice is why you align yourself that way. If it's just "good is good and bad is bad" then I answer that "tautologies are tautologies" and you might need something more solid. If it's because good is better for society, who are you to decide what's better for the rest of us?

A long-winded justification, drawing on many areas of statistics, law and speculation might make you feel better, but statistics change with time, as does the law, and none of us knows well enough to speculate without bias or error. So why have you made the choices you made?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'm not giving answers here.
PPS - That would spoil the process for you.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Biotechnology and biomimicry

Personally, I see biotechnology having further-reaching and more readily-accessible outcomes than nanotechnology. The best nanotech work done so far is theoretical, but the best biotech - especially biomimicry - is producing results today.

It seems quite often when we accuse nature of having bad design that it turns out to be subtly brilliant. So how long before we cut nature some slack and assume it's designed pretty well? You may not choose to use the term "design", but you have to admit that all of nature seems to work pretty well, even when we think it's poor at first.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The allegedly "backwards wired eye" is a classic example.
PPS - Knees could probably be a little more robust, though.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Gummy Brains

This week I present:
Gummy Brains
Gummy Brains. Perfect for feeding to your miniature pet gummy zombie.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I thought it was supposed to be spelled "gummi".
PPS - Perhaps that's a trademark and these are just "gummi-like".

Thursday, 4 March 2010


Have you tried I have. I haven't provided the link just in case you click without knowing what you're getting into. The site connects you with strangers for video chat. It's okay, except for a few things. I think it would be improved if you could specify up front whether you are male or female and who you'd like to chat with. I suspect I was disconnected from a lot of my random strangers because they were young males looking for females. Of course you'd also need to be able to flag people as liars in that regard, and marking people as inappropriate would help too. The only words I exchanged were to gratefully receive a compliment on my beard.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I don't think there's any way to make the site kid-safe, as hysterical current affairs shows have noticed.
PPS - Fortunately, if you don't like what you see, you just hit "Next" and it goes away.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Music as a service

I wonder whether it is an artifact of my middle age that I don't buy so much music any more. It might be the changing world, or I might have less money available, what with having a mortgage and a wife, or maybe I just don't care about music the way I used to. Or it might be that music is more like a service now, rather than a product, and it's everywhere. Do you want to hear a particular song right now? Just go on YouTube and you can watch the video, or minimise the window and just listen. Wherever you drive, the radio plays the same few songs from their current playlist, and they do you the courtesy of updating it regularly too. Why would I ever need to buy more music?

Well, there are some things that I'd like to have, like Pink and Green Day (who should definitely do a collaborative album, with names that go together like their colours) and when we drive from Brisbane to Roma once or twice a year we pass through several radio dead zones where recorded music is a necessity. Apart from that, there's little reason to bother buying anything. My enthusiasm for a given song is likely to run out by the time it disappears from the radio.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Often my enthusiasm disappears long before that.
PPS - I don't understand why some songs get so much air play.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Experts online

We live in an age where most information (where I mean know-how and technical data) is available for free if you look hard enough. However, I think we are rediscovering the age of experts. We might be able to get the info ourselves, but we don't necessarily want to spend the time becoming our own travel agents, tax accountants, mechanics or landscape architects. It is usually more efficient to defer to someone who has already spent the time learning about these things and fortunately the internet is very good at putting people in touch with other people.

What it's not good at, however, is sifting the wheat from the chaff. There are as many opinions on the net as there are people, and it's only the true experts who know who the other experts are. So that's our dilemma: we can find experts online, but because we are novices or laymen, we can't tell experts from posers.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - There's probably ways to dig up the experts if you look at the conversations they have.
PPS - Or, more specifically, the conversations everyone else has about them.

Monday, 1 March 2010

AFACT vs iiNet in appeal

If the AFACT is so convinced that internet providers can and should stop all copyright violations on their network, they should start their own ISP. People on this ISP would be subject to all the restrictions that AFACT can dream up, and would furthermore be immune from prosecution for copyright violation, since AFACT is in total control of what happens on their network.

My guess is that this would result in two things. One, some copyright violation would still take place, which would leave AFACT in a tricky position. Two, most people wouldn't bother signing up, because they'd realise that increased surveillance, decreased bandwidth and increased cost is not worth the flimsy assertion that no prosecution will take place.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I mean, would you pay extra so your internet provider can spy on you?
PPS - Even if you're doing nothing wrong, it's a bad deal.