Nov 29

The Ultimate Films

Over the weekend, caught a fair bit of Channel 4′s The Ultimate Film Top 100 Movies. Plenty of good clips and some surprising films. This was based on actual box office numbers and showed the high cinema attendence in the ’30′s and ’40′s. Of the top 10, I’ve only seen one of them at the cinema (Titanic), have seen Star Wars enough times on TV, plus DVD and The Sound of Music was a continous background to family Christmas’s all the time i was growing up, with the added soundtrack album. I’ve seen clips of the Jungle Book, Snow White and Gone with the Wind and that’s it.

So I need to go and find 7 films to see all the fuss is about – or was about. Got a feeling that some of the high attended films may not have survived.

Nov 29

Zen Portable Media Centre

Downloaded my mp3s/podcasts this morning to load them up for the commute. Got 2 minutes down the road and it just stopped. Looked at it and it was displaying a pretty generic, non-language based error screen that basically told me that the hard drive is shot, put it in it’s box and take it back to the shop – don’t pass go, don’t collect £200. So called on the support line who have now arranged to collect it and replace it with another (once I’ve dug up a receipt and prove I own it!). No fuss, no messing around – good support

So that’s a product I’ve had less than 30 days completely down the tubes. Let’s see how the next one is!

I’ve pulled off a very bad picture of the error page.
Zen_Error.jpg

Nov 28

Apple Store

I wandered down to the new Apple Store on Regents St at lunch time on Friday. I was strangely underwhelmed by it for some reason. I’ve never used a Mac and don’t have an iPod, so the first thing I did was walk round trying all the stuff. The layout is great, with plenty of machines set up – even thought there were many customers around, there was plenty of opportunities to try things. However, what I wanted was something to tell me what these machines did – there was nothing except a name lable, with no description of the features. I know I’m supposed to ask the store personnel, the shear number of them gave the game away but I prefer to shop on my own, not to be talked to – read, get some comparisons and then ask, not to have no information to start with. Alhtough I did spend a lot of time just wandering and playing – the design aspect is wonderful, especially on the speakers

On the iPod front, I’d never actually seen one in action, so played around and did not find them too intuitive. The wheel thing did not work for me, I’ll stick to my Creative Zen – i can play videos as well and controls were easy enough

Apart from the informatiom (lack of) aspect, the rest of the store is brilliant. The upstair lecture theatre with the wide ranging list of seminars, the peronsal tuition/Genious Bar (although it had a 5 hour wait!) and the studio sessions all combine to make this a great store. Just needed better labelling – I ended up going back to work and looking the laptops up on the web to work out which one I like. Take a look and take a visit – find it here.

Nov 28

Blogs and Spam

Reading the UK Blogs Aggegator there seems to be a fair number of people trying to get to grips with spam, like BigBabbleBlog, More a way of Life and Nik’s Journal.

This blog was only up for 24 hours before being hit by lovely gambling spam. Took a few attempts to understand the implementation of MT-Blacklist, but finally got it and now it works well (although no attacks for a week). I’m trying to install MT-scode but cannot get this to work, even if disable Blacklist. I’d prefer a Captcha method as it’ll allow comments about stuff thay may be included on the blacklist. I’ll need another go after a google trawl to work out what’s going wrong.

Nov 28

Weekend

Spent the weekend just doing stuff. Tidying the house, packing things away in boxes, just general sorting. I spent a fair bit of the weekend getting the family history files up-to-date ready for the next assault on the Family Records Office. Whilst I get some lines back to about 1560, I need to focus on the ones that only go back to 1920.

Other computer things involve getting my speakers working again…no idea what the repair guy did, but it knocked these out. Plus re-installing Linux as a dual-boot and installing a TV capture card. Next step – networking the TiVO once i get the parts

Nov 26

Champagne

I had a few things to say today, about my first attempt to follow the rules for a positive day and my wander round the corner at lunchtime to the new Apple store…but I’m afraid the staff bar, good gossip and 2 bottles of champagne have put paid to that. Tomorrow.

Nov 25

Suits

I put in a little people watching whilst sitting in the lounge at Edinburgh airport tonight. The predominate occupant was male and in a dark suit. Realised how unusual that is in our office, where casual clothes are the norm and if someone does turn up in a suit they are either presenting in front of the board or have an interview somewhere.

Nov 25

The Power of a Positive Attitide

A day off work…hooray! Sort of.

Spent today at a a seminar up in Edinburgh, put on by the IMS Scotland, by a motivational speaker called Ed Foreman. It was all about having a positive attitude and how this can improve your life.

This was booked for me by my previous boss last January…no consultation or ‘development’ planning, just an email telling me date and time. So now, with a new boss and 2 new team colleagues, there was a little surprise at this…the question was why? So a good reflection on my current team dynamics!

Got there 2 minutes before the start time – BA flight delays – to find around 150 people from all types of Scottish business, sitting in a large, stuffy room, on hard chairs and no daylight. Did not bode well for me to keep awake for the day after a 5am wakeup.

The first challenge was understanding the speaker – a New Mexican/Texan accent combined with a rapid rate of delivery made it necessary to concentrate very hard for about the first hour until the accent started to make sense.

The day was a combination of lectures, anecdotes, ‘life plans’, sound bites and standing up and chanting motovational statements in unison. There was nothing new, most of the principles I’ve covered before, in other team building days, yoga clases and other means of study. They can be summarised in 2 key points:

– choose your attitude every day
– think positive, act positive, be positive

But the guy was a good speaker, knew enough stories and funnies to keep everyone focused and laughinh and had enough practical tips to be meaningful – guess that’s why he makes a living out of this. The ‘mind-controlling relaxation’ was great; I definitely fell asleep at this bit but was a lot more awake a the end of it.

Will it make a differenc – not sure. Need to think positively about it….

We did get one freebie though. Usually he gives out bags with Terrfic printed on them; however the last time he was in Scotland, he got taking to someone who thought that Scots were too dour to ever use the word Terrific, but instead may, if they were feeling really good, just about stretch to a different phrase – so that is what we got on the bag.

Lifesnaebaad2.jpg

Nov 22

Long hours again

A new project is happening and I spent most of the day on phone calls. Only really got to produce something concreate after normal hours – and then had to write up a lot of today’s calls. I’m waiting for Thursday and Friday now – the US are off for Thanksgiving and I won’t be having late calls or coming into an inbox full of emails.

Should be fun though – some real opportunties!

Nov 21

Meritocracy – good or bad?

Reading the Sunday papers, I was struck by the contrast betwen the outrage against Prince Charles complaint about people been led to expect more than they are capable of (or ‘raising above their station’ as some papers describe it) and the praise for the new Pixar movie The Incredibles which argues against people been forced into a box that matches everyone else, with no opportunity to use skills or powers that are different to the average.

I read meritocracy as meaning that everyone has the chance to do what they are good at, not that everyone has to have the chance of doing the same things.

People are different and treating everyone the same can only result in frustration all around. My Mom works with children who think nothing of stealing, of mugging, of damaging other people to get what they are ‘entitled’ to – because that;s what other peopel have. I think they confuse things with opportunties – everyone is entitled to the same opprotunities, but they have to take them and earn the things.

That’s today’s rant over. Lots more to do!

Nov 20

Photos

I’ve been trying to put up a photogallery so that I can share with family and get them to put their own pictures up. Got all the config sorted, but can’t load any pictures – tomorrow’s job to debug it.

Nov 20

Emigrating

My granddad emigrated to Australia this week. He was 83, born into a flapper woold that moved into depression and war. He married my Nan over 60 years ago; a great tale was told about how Nan’s dad had come to visit them on their honeymoon in Buxton bringing some fresh eggs that he’d obtained – a treat in a time of rationing. But Nan passed away earlier this year and so my Grandad decided he would try something different and took up the invitation of his daughter Linda to join them in Canbera, Australia.

This is his first trip abroad, the furthest he’d been before was the Channel Islands. All the hassle and red tape of getting him a visa are over. He boarded a plane for the first time for a 22 hour journey- at least he’s flying business class.

Hopefully everything goes OK on the journey and he settles in – more news to follow.

Nov 15

Spooks

Just finished watching Spooks – did they upset all the actors this year? At least with Tom there was some kind of build up to his leaving. Zoe – boom, one episode and gone. No warning, no build up, just a single story. Looks like we’re going to have more standalone episodes and little story arc as we’ve had move before.

Still an enjoyable show though.

Nov 14

Images from Australia

Here’re some images from holiday. First we have a view from the cable car down from Kuranda. This is over 7km of cable car over rainforest – you need to be able to cope with heights.

Cairns View from Skyrail

Here’s an attempt at an arty shot – a cycad they were saying was about 2000 years old. We were in the Daintree rainforest

Cycad in the Daintree Rainforest

Next, a tropical beach – DayDream Island in the Whitsundays

A beach on Daydream Island

A shot at sunset from my hotel balcony in Mission Beach

Mission Beach views

A view of Sydney from the harbour

Sydney view

Nov 14

Back to Scotland

spent the weekend up in Glasgow at my first Committee meeting for the 2005 World Masters rowing champs which will be taking place in Strathclyde Park in Sept next year. This was a walkthrough meeting with the FISA Master committee to ensure they are happy with every thing we have got set up for the event.

The weekend started off badly, with a delayed flight from Heathrow, so did not get to the hotle til 10.30. But troubles magically melted away when I got offered a complementary glass of wine on check-in. The hotle is new since the last time I was up there, Alona’s, in the theme park at the top end but it was extremely comfortable for what is in essence a travellers’ place.

It was weird walking into the meeting room; I’d worked with many of the other people in organsing regattas over the years, so it felt a little like I had nver left. Four of the Masters team were there, and we spent the day going through the ‘cookbook’ line by line to ensure that any questions were answered and that the commission went away feeling htat we had everything in hand – which we do. Many of the team were on the 96 Worlds team or the 88 Masters team.

The day all done, it was time for a drink and a meal. The Motherwell Provast (or was it of North Lanarkshire?) was the guest of honour. Great fun was had, and lots of wine consumed…too much. the head was tough this morning. I slept most of the way back down – at least BA was on time.

All I have to do now is come up with a simple, easy and useful method of managing all the event tickets, whilst giving a hand to the marketing team.

Nov 10

RSS, podcasts and PMCs

Seemed to spend the day talking enthusiastically about blogs, RSS feeds and podcasts to my boss and a few other team members. And then setting them up with Newsgator and iPodder so that they can access the information. Two new converts to this type of information feed.

Now my boss wants to work out how, or if, we can use this, for some of the brand sites we have. I can definitely see its use in some of them (and the audience) but the only problem is…the lawyers. This type of content is made for quick, rapid use, getting it out there in real time. When I work in the alcohol industry, getting anything anywhere in the public domain has to run through three teams of lawyers and can take 5 days or more. Challenges ahead, to smoothline these processes to be able to use it in a useful way.

Listening to the Podcasting session from BloggerConIII, I was struck by the comment about how the techs make great products and then the lawyers come in and, err…challenge it? All our marketing information is vetted by lawyers – it kind of goes with the industry. But reviewing and approving a 30 second TV commercial or a bilboard ad has a different approach to multiple batches of content on a website, that, and this is sometime the scary part for them, can link out to other sites and can be linked to from anywhere.

So over the last 18 months there has been a huge learning curve in our legal teams and we are now geting reasonable turnarounds and great co-operation. The teams are becoming educated in requirements and possibilities and we’ve moved away from one team giving contradictory advice to another – and it was always advice, we could never get information up front as the medium was in development.

Where was I going? Corporate blogs, marketing blogs, making money out of blogs. I doubt I’ll see a corporate blog in my company, at least in the near future. I doubt we’ll ever sponsor/provide money to a blogger to comment onthe products, or the events, or the venues – no control over content. We could however utilise the tools and technology to as ways of providing content through to consumers.

Nov 08

Blogs – the new diaries?

Reading the multiple comments about Blogger.com that took place this last weekend, I was struck by the comments about the number of people that blog for their own use. Definitely the reason I got round to starting ths; a long time irregular diary keeper, I am now far more used to typing then writing. So when I finally moved away from ISP ‘free’ web spave to my own domain, it was time to transfer the medium to an electronic one.

Nov 08

A new Audience for Star Wars

Visiting the family this weekend, got into a typical converstion about films, likes and dislikes, this time with my neice. Her favourite films are the Star Wars films, she loves C3PO and the Ewoks, and watches the films regularly. In fact, most Saturday mornings she demands her parents put Star Wars on the video. She’s 3 years old. She has not yet seen any of the newer films, but it would be interesting to see her reation to Jar Jar.