The thoughts of a web 2.0 research fellow on all things in the technological sphere that capture his interest.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Eee 901 finally spotted for sale!

Looking through ASUS's official sellers, I still expected to find the Eee 901 missing in action (as I did last week). However, whilst it is yet to appear on most sites, it is now available to order from Laptopsdirect.co.uk and Clove Technology.

Whilst Clove currently says that it will be available in late July, Laptops Direct say that stock is available in 2-7 days.

After my girlfriend's trouble ordering the Eee 900, you would have thought she would be quick off the mark...unfortunately not.

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Wednesday, 25 June 2008

iPlayer 2.0 - a long way to go

On the same day that the BBC announce tomorrow's launch of version 2 of the iPlayer, comScore release some details of where UK internet viewers are watching their videos. Despite all the whinging from the ISPs, the BBC is a distant second to Google's collection of video sites, both in terms of the number of videos watched and the number of unique users, unfortunately they don't compare the number of hours watched (the BBC programmes are likely to be a lot longer...and in the whinging ISPs defense, higher quality).

What is particularly interesting is that neither 4OD or ITV's catch up service even make it on the top ten list. Reiterating the point I made when the BBC were criticised for over-spending on their online services: The BBC is not competing with commercial UK companies. Rather than criticising the BBCs spending, other content providers should be looking for ways of working with the BBC. Whilst the elusive project Kangaroo will help create an online presence for the traditional TV viewer, it is probably not enough.

People have changed the way they watch video, they are now seemingly watching shorter videos as they click through sites like YouTube. The traditional providers need to find ways of getting part of that market. Whilst attempts are made to make short clips available, it tends to be with a top-down approach, rather than giving the users the free reign that they want. Obviously such free reign is difficult as the BBC, Channel 4, and ITV work within copyright rules, whereas YouTube takes a more laissez-faire approach.

Its obviously not all doom and gloom for the traditional video providers. The iPlayer is still relatively new, Kangaroo will put a bit of bounce in the figures, and as the TV is replaced by computer entertainment systems people will probably start watching longer programmes again. Nonetheless, before the UK tv stations fall further behind, they need to start thinking outside the box a bit more :-)

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Thursday, 19 June 2008

Eee 901: Has the UK launch been delayed?

Supposedly the UK launch date for the Eee PC 901 was July 1st, but with less than two weeks to go and no sign of it being available for pre-order I am beginning to wonder.

This morning I made a point of looking on the sites of all the Eee PC UK suppliers ASUS mentions on their web site (http://www.asus-uk.com/eeepc/about/), but not one of them has the Eee PC 901 listed yet. I even looked on RM.com, where I got my original Eee PC. Nothing.

In comparison the slightly delayed MSI Wind is sitting there waiting to be ordered, and will be delivered on June 30th.

If I manage to get an Eee PC 901 delivered on the 1st July I will be very surprised.

Updated: 25/06/08 Finally spotted for sale.

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Wednesday, 18 June 2008

UK to Map Crime

Good old Gordon has announced that online maps with crimes plotted on them every month are set to be introduced in England and Wales. Whilst it will help to counter the right-wing-press's claim that we are all about to be stabbed by hoodies the moment we step out the door, it needs to be done properly. We want access to the data, not just 'online maps'.

A report last year called for the government to open up public data for the brave new web 2.0 world, whereas online maps sounds extremely web 1.0. Giving us the data gives us the opportunity to put together the maps people will want to see:
-house prices and burglary
-bars and assaults
-public art and graffiti (well I would be interested...)
I don't want access to a criminal's or victim's personal details, or end up with some Megan's law mashup, but I do want more than 'online maps'.

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Missing Medical Records

Whilst there have been some extremely large scale losses of personal data, such as the 25 million child benefit records last year, personally I haven't worried too much, often the details are things we are happy to share with people anyway. Today, however, notice of the susceptibility of my data to the criminal elements dropped onto my door mat. A burgarly at the home of a doctor from my local practice included the theft of a laptop with all my medical details...unencrypted!

The loss of most details wouldn't particularly bother me, medical records, however, are particularly personal. Whilst I don't particularly want anyone reading my medical records, I am lucky in that my records will consist primarily of comments about my hypercondria, my childhood addiction to verrucas, and the strange rash I had from the age of 11 to 15...not exactly blackmail material.

Others, however, are likely to have things on their record that they may not even want to share with their partner. That the laptop "appears to have been stolen for its re-sale value, rather than for any information stored upon it", is unlikely to do much to calm their fears.

Reports in the past have said that doctors will shun a national medical database because it will put our records at risk. Our records are already at risk, but maybe a national database would at least ensure that the data was encrypted.

Update: I am 1/11,000th of a BBC story.

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Monday, 16 June 2008

A culture of plagiarism?

As someone who has never been tempted to plagiarize anything, I have always been surprised by the prevalence of plagiarism in academia. It seems that students do it, academics do it, and now even media doctors do it. The BBC has reported that Raj Persaud, of This Morning fame, has admitted plagiarizing for a book and articles published under his name. Whilst plagiarism has always struck me as stupid, it seems particularly stupid for someone in the public eye and whose profession is based so much on trust.

If public recognition is going to continue being the primary reward of public science, then academia needs to be seen to punish plagiarism:Students should be thrown out, staff should be sacked, and qualifications revoked. Unfortunately public flogging is seen as old fashioned these days, and I can't imagine masses of students being thrown out for cheating. The alternative, however, is far more radical: a move towards the wikification of science, and the loss of public recognition for the individual. Personally I am not convinced that academics would do half as much work if you took vanity out of the equation.

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Saturday, 14 June 2008

Eee 901...just in time

Finally the UK launch date of the Eee 901 was announced yesterday: 1st July, £319. Curiously yesterday was the date that RM had said they would deliver my girlfriend's Eee 900 order, so I am pleased we canceled it as the quick launch of the Eee 901 would have definitely put a downer on the day.

The quick launch has also probably saved Asus one sale, as I had started to look at some of the numerous other mini-laptops available:
Acer's Aspire One
Dell's Mini Inspiron
MSI Wind Notebook
Without getting to spend a week with each of the laptops, it is difficult to see how people will choose between the options that are now available. The biggest concern with mini laptops is generally the keyboard, but you can't really tell which you will prefer from reading the laptops spec online.

Update: 25/06/08 Eee 901 finally available to order

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Thursday, 12 June 2008

Image Copyright on the Web

I am unashamedly addicted to Google Analytics. If I am not looking at the number of visitors, I am investigating where they are coming from, and for Webometric Thoughts, many of them are coming from Google Images. I have had visits from 53 different country-specific Google Image search engines, and a little probing finds it is probably driven (bizarrely) by photos of me in different t-shirts! Whilst I found I am the top result for both'blog t shirt' and 'qr t shirt' (as well as appearing in the results for similar queries), I was surprised to find that other people have used my image on their blogs!

Along with the rest of the blogosphere, my blog does occasionally use other people's images to illustrate a point. Personally I am never sure whether it is better to embed the image, thus using the other person's bandwidth, or to copy the photo to my server. Whilst embedding the photo is less likely to be a breach of copyright, copying the photo seems to be the politer option.

But really people, are photos of me really the best illustration you can find??

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Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Blogging is far from dead

When I started 'Webometric Thoughts', almost ten months ago, there was a lot of talk about the death of the blogosphere in favour of the newer (and shinier) social networks and microblogging. Hitwise figures, however, show that far from dead traffic to blogs and personal websites is at an all time high (in the UK at least): Blogs and personal websites account for 1.19% of all UK traffic.

The new high is particularly impressive as it shows traffic to blogs and personal web sites rebounding from a dramatic fall during the first three quarters of 2007, from just over 0.8% of the traffic in January down to just over 0.4% of the traffic in August. It was August that I started to blog, and the blogosphere was unsurprisingly discussing its own demise.

Whilst the blogosphere has weathered the storm of social networks, and is in a stronger position to weather the possible coming storm of microblogging (if Twitter ever gets its act together), the statistics give no insights into why there has been an increase. Have blogs and personal web sites responded to falling traffic by improving the quality of their sites? Is it a greater emphasis on blogs by the big players (e.g., Windows Live Spaces & MySpace Blog)? Or is it all the result of small changes in the Google algorithm promoting the heavily interlinked blogs?

Whatever the reason, blogs and web sites will need to improve if the recent traffic increases are to continue, probably including aspects of social networks and microblogging, as well as technologies not yet thought of. Hopefully, however, blogs will continue to be primarily independent affairs that are not too reliant on the whims of the big organisations.

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Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Is the web linguistically on the left or right?

I am currently in the middle of reading David Crystal's (2006) 'Language and the Internet', an interesting book that, when it started mentioning style guides, got me wondering about whether style guides could be used to determine whether the UK web space was politically on the left, or on the right. The leading broadsheets from both sides of the political debate have publicly available style guides (i.e., The Telegraph and The Guardian), and the differences could be used for the basis of such a linguistic-webometric investigation.

My personal favourite style guide section is The Telegraph's Banned Words. Whilst the banning of terms such as 'Europhobe' have obvious political motivations, you have to wonder whether it was really necessary to explicitly ban referring to 'perverted Scout leaders' (Whilst Google Trends does not show the phrase to be endemic, that may be because of the Telegraph's quick action). It is interesting to note, however, that despite the Telegraph's authoritarian values, they seem seem to be very lax with their own language, the supposedly banned 'mass exodus' was used only a few days ago. Surely there will be letters to the editor!

Unfortunately these days search engines try to be helpful, and ignore many of the differences. For example, 'Yahoo' and 'Yahoo!' are both treated as the same, when any fool would know that the exclamation mark reflects the searching for more conservative opinions on the search engine. It would be nice to be able to turn a search engine's 'helpful' features off occasionally.

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iPhone Crazy...Again!

It would seem as though the blogosphere is getting itself into a frenzy all over again as Apple announced its much anticipated 3G iPhone. Of the 180 items in my RSS aggregator this morning, I would guess about 50% were about the iPhone. However, whilst the US-centric blogosphere spanks its collective monkey about the 3G iPhone, I will take the opportunity to put it in perspective.

Despite all the rhetoric, the original iPhone was for the fashionistas, whilst the more seriously technologically minded looked to the N95. Now the iPhone has caught up technologically with the inclusion of 3G and GPS, its glossy bits seem to give it a bit of an edge over the current competitors. However the competitors have not been standing still, and the forthcoming N96 looks likely be an extremely impressive beast (with the launch hopefully coinciding with the contract on my N95 coming to an end).

The problem with the iPhone is that it is difficult to distinguish between the reality and the hype. Will this "help usher in the mobile media revolution in a major way"? Only in as much as it is one of a group of major players whose competition is pushing a mobile media revolution, on its own it is not making half as much impact as noise.

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Monday, 9 June 2008

Virgin Media Warnings

It turns out that on the same day I was having my new Virgin Media services installed (last Friday), it was being reported in the Telegraph that Virgin Media has agreed to send out warning letters to the thousands of users downloading and sharing music illegally online in a 10-week trial. This can be seen as the first step in the British Phonographic Industry's desired three strikes process. Whilst I am not bothered by the move, it will be interesting to see how other customers react.

The Telegraph's story places teenagers at the centre of their story:
Teenagers building vast music collections by downloading songs illegally from the internet should beware. Their access to free music faces being cut off by irate parents.

But the illegal downloading of music is obviously not restricted to teenagers, the broadband bill payers are just as likely to be stealing music, and it seems unlikely that they will welcome Virgin's helpful reminders about the illegal nature of their activities. How many annoying letters will make the average broadband customer jump ship? Virgin is obviously in a stronger position than some other broadband providers, as the broadband is just one part of a larger package of services which will tempt customers to stay, however, it may encourage people to start keeping an eye open for alternative suppliers.

The only definite outcome of Virgin Media's move is that it has tempted me to download some music illegally, just so I can see exactly what the letter says. Luckily, however, I know some rather unsavoury Virgin Media customers who seem likely to be in the first bundle of warnings, so I will continue to polish my halo instead.

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Saturday, 7 June 2008

Virgin TV...extremely tempting

After finally having enough of my old broadband provider, I got Virgin Media installed yesterday. However, the free Virgin TV has quickly become very expensive. Whilst you can theoretically get the medium package installed for free, it was only a matter of hours before I had convinced myself to upgrade to the XL package!

Whilst I have previously managed to resist the temptation of subscription TV, when it was made so easily accessible I quickly succumbed, especially with all the added bits and pieces:
-TV Choice On Demand- a lot of TV series that you can watch as and when you want.
-Music On Demand- the important leverage in persuading my girlfriend that she needed the XL package too.

Access to the BBC's iPlayer makes Virgin TV a great service, but unless you have better self control than me, you're better-off accessing it online.

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Thursday, 5 June 2008

Do you still need to take photos?

As photos are increasingly tagged with the times and places that they were taken, it would be interesting to see how much of a photo album you could create from other people's photos. How many photos of you are there online where the uploader isn't even aware of who you are?

Personally I have managed to find four. One of me with Prince Charles:

And three from when I did a Wolverhampton half marathon (you should be thankful I didn't include the one of me running):

It seems likely, however, that there are many many more...and I don't even go out that often.

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Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Eee PC 900 or Eee PC 901?

Whilst I had no problem ordering my Eee PC all those months ago, my girlfriend's ordering of one of the newer versions has been nothing but trouble. The trouble has been a combination of my girlfriend's indecisiveness, ASUS's quickly rolling out of newer models, and RM's appalling stock control.

When I want something, and if I can afford it, I tend to order it. If my girlfriend wants something, and if she can afford it, she ums-and-ahhs about it until she drives me mad and I am forced to threaten her with being pushed off a cliff. Although she has always liked my Eee PC, she was always concerned about the screen being a little bit too small, and that it ran Linux. The Eee PC 900 with Windows XP seemed the perfect solution. So, back in April, I told her when it was launching (May 12th) and she agreed that she would get one. However she didn't get around to ordering one until last Wednesday (May 28th), at which point stock was beginning to be a problem.

Although there was already news in mid May of the imminent launch of ASUS Eee PC 901's (with a better chip), it was still worth getting the 900. Even towards the end of May it was worth getting the 900. But when RM.com informed my girlfriend (a day before delivery was to expected) that the Eee PC 900 wouldn't be arriving until 13th June, I am no longer sure what she should order. The spec of the Eee PC 901 is much better, but the price and a UK launch date are not yet known.

For now the Eee PC 900 order has been cancelled, and RM has a big black mark against their name for future orders. The only good thing is that my girlfriend has realised that it is best to order things when I first suggest it, rather than when she manages to get around to it.

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