Around the web

Thanks to Stephen for two election related links, Channel 4 news online features alternative political party adverts made by a creative team at a London advertising agency. Makes for more interesting viewing than the actual party political broadcasts. The Unincredibles is a flash animation that encapsulates political satire with voter apathy in a homage to Pixar Pictures The Incredibles, this is so much touching on the public pulse that it made Friday’s Evening Standard newspaper

Uri sent me a link to the Dubtribe Sound System site as they are now doing regular mixes available via Podcasting. This seems to have be a bit of a theme as the BBC is also starting to distribute programming via Podcasting.

Star Wars Revelations is a 40-minute fan film with DVD disk images available via BitTorrent. The movie has the same wooden dialogue that we have come to expect from George Lucas. What is really impressive is the special effects that have been created on a budget.

Living with Tiger


Walter Mossberg, the Wall Street Journal’s famous tech journalist and Apple advocate gave Tiger a positive review below. I haven’t lived with it enough yet to make too much of a call on it. I installed my copy last night whilst I was asleep and it seems stable so far. The already slick interface fo Panther has been further honed.

I was disappointed to see that Safari did not have some more fundemental problems ironed out in favour of building on more wizzy features. For instance, I use Firefox to write this blog because Safari does not show most of the editing tool bar buttons available on Blogger :(.

Dashboard has some interesting features including integration the UK train timetable, UPS and Fedex parcel tracking and online bookmark store Delicious, however so far there is no support for superior personal search products now available from most of the usual suspects.

Automator has a series of scripts available for Photoshop and InDesign users, what advantages these offer over AppleScript I don’t know.

Tiger Leaps Out in Front By WALTER S. MOSSBERG

Despite all the advances in personal computing, one problem has remained constant: It often is really hard to find a file months or years after it was created. To have any hope of doing so, users have to create a logical, structured system of folders, and take care to give consistent, descriptive names to their files. But few have the patience to do that.

Tomorrow, Apple Computer will introduce a new edition of the operating system for its Macintosh computers that finally solves the missing file problem, and introduces other features as well, including a new “Dashboard” that instantly displays small, frequently used programs like a calculator, dictionary and stock tracker.

The new release, called Tiger, is the latest version of Apple’s excellent Mac OS X operating system. Its key feature, called Spotlight, is the first universal, integrated search system ever offered as part of a mainstream consumer PC operating system. In seconds, Spotlight can peer inside e-mail, office documents of all kinds, photos, songs, address books, calendars, and all manner of other files to see which ones match a search term you type in.

Spotlight is vastly better than prior built-in search functions on either the Mac or on Microsoft’s Windows operating system. It also beats the add-on search programs for Windows. Spotlight can rapidly find almost any file, any time — even years after it was created, and even if it is hidden among tens of thousands of other files. So as users learn to trust it, they no longer will have to worry about where they store files and what they name them.

This is a big deal. Along with a similar built-in search capability Microsoft is working on for its next version of Windows, Spotlight could spark a major change in the way people use computers. Instead of hunting for documents or clicking on programs, people may now start activities by searching for relevant files and then opening them as needed.

Spotlight is only one of the impressive new features in Tiger, which will be free on all new Macs and will cost $129 for existing users. The others include the Dashboard feature; parental controls on what kids can do on the computer; dazzling built-in video conferencing; and a revised Web browser that allows private surfing and quick reading of news headlines.

Tiger’s built-in search system, Spotlight, finds soccer-related files (bottom) no matter where they’re stored on the Mac; the Dashboard feature (top) offers quick access to stock quotes, yellow pages, flight data and other information.

Overall, Tiger is the best and most advanced personal computer operating system on the market, despite a few drawbacks. It leaves Windows XP in the dust.

It also adds to the Mac’s general superiority over typical Windows computers as the best choice for average consumers doing the most common computing tasks. Apple’s hardware already was the best in the business, and Mac OS X has, so far, escaped the virus and spyware problems that plague Windows.

The new Apple system boasts some key capabilities Microsoft won’t introduce for another 18 months or so, when it finally rolls out its long-awaited next version of Windows, code-named Longhorn. Chief among these is the integrated, universal search. A second is “virtual folders,” called Smart Folders by Apple, which can automatically scoop up files that meet criteria you set.

In my tests, on three different Macs during the past couple of weeks, Tiger performed generally well. Installation took about an hour and went smoothly in each case. None of the computers ever crashed, and every program I tested worked fine, despite the change in operating-system versions.

The only significant problem I noticed was that the computers seemed to run into slight, but greater-than-normal, delays from time to time. Certain functions, like Spotlight searches and the updated Safari Web browser, were very fast. But with other tasks, I noticed more spinning beach-ball icons, Apple’s symbol for delays, than I had with the prior Panther version of the Mac operating system.

In particular, the built-in e-mail program, Apple Mail, was slower. There was a perceptible lag in opening a new e-mail form, beginning a reply, and displaying the drop-down contact list that appears when you begin typing in an e-mail address.

Apple acknowledges it will need to tweak Tiger to eliminate the delays, and it promises to address the problem within a few months. It might be wise for users with older, slower Mac models to wait until then to upgrade to Tiger.

The company claims Tiger has 200 new features. Here is a rundown of the most important ones.

Search: The new Spotlight search system can be summoned by just clicking on a small magnifying-glass icon that appears in every menu bar at the upper right. You simply start typing in a word or series of words, and as you type, an organized list of results instantly appears. The list tells you how many hits were found and displays the results in categories by file type, like e-mail messages, contacts, documents and so forth.

If you click on “Show All,” you get a larger window with a handsomely formatted list of results that you can organize by date, file type, person mentioned or other methods. Spotlight even finds words inside Adobe’s PDF files. It also can search on the data stored inside music and photo files, such as the names of artists and camera information. If picture files are found, thumbnails of them are displayed right in the list, and you can view them in a slide show.

Spotlight is far superior to add-on desktop search programs available for Microsoft Windows from Google and others, because it doesn’t have to constantly “index” the hard disk, looking for new files while the disk spins constantly. Since it is built deeply into the operating system, Spotlight learns about each new file as soon as it is created, saved or downloaded.

Prior built-in search functions in the Mac and Windows operating systems were slow and couldn’t search on some kinds of data, like e-mail. So you had to use separate search features in each type of program. Spotlight makes that unnecessary, though separate search functions are still available.

Dashboard: With the press of a single function key, a new translucent screen appears that holds large, stylish icons for useful little programs you might want to get to quickly. These programs, called Widgets, include a dictionary and thesaurus; a calculator; a weather display; a calendar; a language translator; a weights and measures converter; a stock tracker; an electronic yellow pages program; and a flight tracker.

These things are already available on the Web or through separate programs on many PCs. But with Dashboard, they pop up instantly, over whatever screen you are using, without disturbing any work you are doing. You don’t have to launch separate applications or employ a Web browser.

Apple ships 14 Widgets with Tiger, and starting tomorrow, the company will make available downloads of many more written by third parties. Some of these, already posted on other Web sites, include Web cam viewers, simple games, and small panels for searching encyclopedias.

Parental Controls: Tiger is the first operating system I have seen with built-in, system-wide parental controls. You can create a separate user account for a child that restricts his or her computing actions in a wide variety of ways.

Parents can limit what programs a child can launch and ban the child from burning CDs and DVDs, changing system preferences, or even printing.

You can restrict a child’s Web surfing to the sites you specify, and limit his or her exchanges of e-mails and instant messages to the people you specify. If anyone else sends the child an e-mail, it is forwarded to the parent. If the child wants to send an e-mail to a nonapproved person, the parent can be asked for permission electronically. The e-mail controls require both the child and the parent to be using Tiger.

Video Conferencing: If you have a video camera on your Mac, Tiger allows you to hold a video conference via its instant-messaging program with up to three other people simultaneously. Each participant is shown in a large panel of a handsome, three-panel display. I tested this, and it worked perfectly. Other built-in video chat systems, on Windows and earlier Mac operating systems, typically allow video conferencing with one other person.

Smart Folders: Tiger allows you to create special folders, which are, in effect, saved searches. For instance, you could set up a folder to hold all files containing the word “Fenway” that were created after a certain date and are above a certain size.

This kind of special folder isn’t a new idea. Apple has had them in its iPhoto and iTunes programs for awhile, and Microsoft included them in the latest version of its Outlook program. Third-party programs have them as well. But in Tiger, they can now be created right on the desktop, to capture many kinds of files, with no added software needed.

The only drawback is that you can’t directly turn a Spotlight search into a Smart Folder, and desktop Smart Folders can’t include some of the file types Spotlight can retrieve, including e-mails. Apple has added a separate Smart Folder feature to its built-in e-mail program.

Web Browsing: Apple’s built-in Safari Web browser was already better than Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, and in Tiger it is now much faster and has some great new features.

One is called Private Browsing, which allows you, with two clicks, to enter a mode where the browser doesn’t save most traces of which Web sites you visited.

Another is a built-in RSS reader. This function, usually found only in separate software programs, displays summaries of the latest headlines for items posted to many news sites and Web logs, or blogs. In Safari, these can be viewed right from within the browser, in pages that are formatted handsomely and can be sorted in various ways. Tiger even includes a screen saver that displays the latest headlines Safari has retrieved.

Security: The Mac already had a key security feature missing in Windows. On a Mac, most software installations require the ID and password of the computer’s owner. That makes it harder for digital criminals to carry out the kind of surreptitious software installations that place spyware on computers.

In Tiger, this has been ratcheted up a notch. When you download anything from the Internet using the Safari browser or Apple Mail program, Tiger examines the download for hidden application programs and warns if one is present. Unless the user approves the download, Tiger won’t save it to disk in a form that allows the application to open.

In addition, Tiger seeks the user’s permission any time any application program is run for the first time.

Automation: A new feature called Automator allows nonprogrammers to string together common tasks to automate them. For instance, you could create an automated sequence that would play certain songs, or retrieve and change certain photos. It’s a nice idea, but I found it too complicated for most average users.

In addition to the delay problem, I found one other small thing lacking in Tiger. The new version of Apple Mail, while sleeker looking, offers less information on what is happening in downloads of new mail, unless you bring up a special window.

Still, Tiger is a beautiful and powerful operating system that advances personal computing. It is a big gain for Mac users right out of the box. If Apple can wring out the delays, it will be a home run.

Something fishy

Something fishyThe picture is the last in a series of image that I took at the recent Red
Bull Art of Can event recently at The Truman Brewery.

Talking all things fishy, Spin Bunny, the UK PR industry blog has risen
from the dead following a recent run in with an unnamed UKPR agency’s legal
team.

Dude, that Mary Jane’s email is the chronic


hp’s UK PR machine got a survey done with TNS, the most publicised part of the story was that email damages ones IQ more than using marijuana. I guess they don’t want to sell more iPaq’s, laptops and ProLiant servers then? More details at CNN online.

Dude that PowerPoint attachment you sent me left me wasted, man I had the munchies.

Its all gone Damien Hirst

Its all gone Damien Hirst

Copying as the greatest form of flattery or “Great artists steal” as Picasso said. There is no doubt about the influence of Damien Hirst on this Red Bull Art of Can entry.

Corporate Citizenship & Edge Networks


Business Ethics magazine in the US has launched its top-100 businesses of 2005. What I found interesting was the amount of smoke stack industries appearing high in the list from semiconductor manufacturers like Intel to diesel engine company Cummins. More here, kudos to Smalldog.com’s Kibble & Bytes newsletter.

Over at PBS.org Bob Cringely talks about how BitTorrent is currently costing ISPs a fortune in fees to pay for the bandwidth they used over the Internet. He also talks about how wireless networks using WiMAX will drive BitTorrent sharing networks to the edge, and facilate the ISPs launching their own video-on-demand services.

Expect the traditional telephone exhange facilities that have lots of empty space with the move to IP networks turning into neighbourhood Internet hotels for content hosting servers.


Jargon Watch: Kronenbourg


Kronenbourg – Named after a French beer brand called Kronenbourg 1664, a derogatory term for a person (usually female) who dresses so that they look 16 from behind and 64 up front. Heard on BBC Radio 4 surprisingly enough.

Patently Ridiculous


Starbucks or (Cafezilla as it is known to the No Logo lot) is looking to patent a combined loyalty and credit card full legalese packed details here. However, I would have thought that there would be a good amount of prior art to put the kibosh on this with BAA’s world points card and the GM card in the UK alone? Kudos to El Reg.

Brand Disassociation


Associating a brand with a celebrity or TV show through product placement or sponsorship is tricky to get right. Celebrity gossip newsletter Holy Moly had a story that highlighted how Cisco’s attempt to do an Apple with TV show 24 has all gone a bit Pete Tong:

24 TRUFAX!
The phones featured through every series of 24 are Cisco featurenet phones. The ringtone was made up by Fox and unique (clever use of Intellectual Property) to the series.

Cisco customers complained when they ordered millions of dollars worth of the phones and they DIDN’T sound like CTU. They now do.

Executives at SKY use it as their mobile ringtone

Around the web


I am just about old enough to remember the effects of rampaging inflation. Over at AlwaysOn is an interesting article that discusses the likely return of double-digit inflation rates ending the economic run of the past decade and a half. The current reader poll on AlwaysOn, shows that most of their readers are expecting a African papal appointee breaking the European monopoly on the role.

Redbull Art of Can

Junk RoyalAs promised part two in our Marshall Cavendish-style series of pictures from the recent Red Bull Art of Can event at the Truman Brewery.

How We Got Here and Other Stories

How We Got Here and Other StoriesOver at R/C Towers we have been a bit quiet being all bookish, reading Al Qaeda by Jason Burke, When Genius Failed by Roger Lowenstein and a preview PDF of Andy Kessler’s forthcoming book How We Got Here.

Through a former work colleague of mine, I managed to get an invitation to a lecture run by The Policy Exchange, a UK think-tank. The lecture was given by Jason Burke on the subject of Islamic terrorism. I found the lecture enlightening as it highlighted the fragmented, loosely connected, fluid nature of Islamic extremism. The credibility of Mr Burke’s lecture was heightened by the amount of ‘FCO and Home Office’ staffers in attendance. Burke’s book expands on the themes of his lecture and goes into much more detail. He writes in a clear and concise style that gets a lot of information over very quickly. One of the big takeouts is the long term difficulty in achieving victory in the war on terror by hard measures alone.

The collapse of Long-Term Capital Management was something I was only vaguely aware of, as I was too focused on keeping up with the latest technology news starting my PR career representing TMT clients. When Genius Failed documents how arrogance, dogma and market conditions almost tore apart the world’s stock markets. It is a very easy read and tells the story of the hard and soft issues behind the collapse. The collapse affected some of the biggest names in Wall Street economics including Robert Merton and Myron Scholes, both of whom were
responsible for the Black-Scholes model used by investors to calculate the ‘true value’ of a share or other financial instrument. (In a six-degrees of separation sort of way, one of my friends had met Myron Scholes when they went for an interview at Salomon Bros many years ago. The meeting went badly, Scholes was described to me as very arrogant and opinionated. Though in When Genius Fails he comes across as one of the more human characters.)

Finally, How We Got Here tells the story of how the technology sector and the market economy got were it went today. Written by financier, perfect-market advocate and writer Andy Kessler, he traces the technology sector from the steam engine, patents from when they were awarded by royal warrant and stocks and shares from the privateering ways of Sir Francis Drake. Whilst you may not agree with Kessler’s views on economics (he famously riled Wired magazines readership with an op-ed advocating getting rid of the US Postal Service), he writes in an intelligent, accessible and humorous fashion. I would go as far as to put his forthcoming book as essential reading for anybody looking to work with modern technology companies alongside Accidental Empires by Robert X Cringely and Steven Levy’s Hackers.

Silicon Valley Resurrection


Peter Cochrane in his column for Silicon.com Valley Lessons visits the new shoots of innovation that are starting to bud in Silicon Valley. Cochrane proposes that the traditional way of working in the valley and traditional IT innovation has been lost, unwittingly exported as immigrant engineers went back home away from the last bust with valley knowhow and networking skills. This may be true and there are challenges to the valley from India, China and Taiwan.

Peter’s argument has some merits, with the exception of RFID and wireless-orientated applications the enterprise software market is not the ever expanding pie it once was. Slow growth and long buying cycles will mean that growth is likely to come from consolidation rather than innovation. Unless someone comes up with an application that has as much an impact on business life as the mobile phone, the market for enterprise applications is going to be very slow in penetrating small and medium-sized enterprises.

Many successful wireless applications such as RIM Blackberry devices are likely to have their wings crimped by compliance related issues requiring tracebility of emails and back-up.

Web services have the potential to be a bright spot, the biggest issue is that outside of the United States you cannot patent a business process like Amazon’s ‘One-Click’, so the idea can be copied in the high-growth markets of Asia.

However, I think that the picture is brighter than Peter suspects.

Peter thinks that VCs are and will be too cautious, and that they will not have so much money to invest. OK consider this, the Western world’s population are getting older, pension funds and investors are having to turn to devices like hedge funds and exotic markets to invest all their money. This was one of the factors that inflated the technology investment boom in the first place. At the present time VCs in Silicon Valley are sitting on some 25 billion USD in uninvested funds due to be handed back by venture capitalists to their investors in the next year to 18 months. If the funds are handed back the VCs have to also refund their two per cent annual management fee, that equates to some three billion USD in lost fees. VCs have a powerful reason to bank on the valley again.

Secondly, although the Silicon Valley engine is run by an army of programmers and engineers, what makes it special is the dreamers like Trip Hawkins and Steve Jobs. In the same way that China, Korea and Japan have become hot beds for mobile services due to the nature of their ideogram-based languages being much more expressive in a small screen area, so Western culture offers opportunities with its more individual-based approach and world view.

Thirdly, much as I hate to agree Bill Gates, there is a lot of challenges out there that will provide opportunities for businesses. In the same way that a rapidly expanding Internet in the 1990s, created a need for Yahoo! directory and search, so the mass of, still images, audio, multimedia content, video, IP television and languages create new challenges to be met.

Unimpressive impressionists

Unimpressive impressionistsHere at Chez R/C we had a cultural Saturday taking in two of the biggest exhibitions currently in London. At the Tate Britain there was a special exhibition that focused on the work of Turner, Whistler and Monet. The exhibition didn’t really grab me and because of the crowds you could not view many of the larger Turner paintings from a far enough distance to appreciate many of the elements in the picture. It was interesting to read about how the air pollution of the industrial age affected London, its views and the art of these painters. Turner
in particular appreciated the unique light quality affected by the ‘pea soupers’.

A train journey across London, to Liverpool Street and a walk took us over to the Truman Brewery, were we had the opportunity to see the fruits of Red Bull’s ‘art of can’ campaign. This was a national campaign that encouraged the general public to create works of art from these cans. The winner of the competition was a portrait of Tony Blair made out of cans called ‘No Bull’.

I particularly liked the can-can dancers and will share some more with you over the coming days.