Apple Imported From Epistula


Being a mobile company, it’s vitally important we get to test the new and shiniest phones, which is why I will never buy a Motorola, don’t think the N95 is as shiny as many people appear to think, and how I got to borrow the Office iPhone for a while.

The Office iPhone was bought when we launched last autumn and is a US model with the hack so we could use it in this country and install applications on it. I didn’t use many third party apps, simply because doing so was more complicated than I could be bothered to do. I look forward to the day we can develop for it easily, though.

The Good

The interface is shiny and spinny and nice. It is one of the nicest phone UIs I have had the pleasure of using. Things transition between states – often ignored in interface design – rather than instantly changing to other things.

The SMS interface, which is laid out roughly like an IM session, is a revolution someone should have thought of years ago, it’s a very simple threading implementation, but makes dealing with SMSs as a form of conversation – rather than alert – much easier.

The orientation-aware interface is very well done. It flips only when its obvious that you want it that way up.

Safari works very well, though the inability to edit (You can only append or replace) URLS was a bit annoying. Google Maps was very nicely done, and I do like the use of the multitouch interface for pan and zoom, I think they could have done more with multitouch, though.

The less good

On the opposing side, the SMS interface makes dealing with SMSs that are actually alerts rather than conversations – daily updates, calendar tasks, SMS warnings, Twitter – a little less intuitive, and I’d like the ability to say “display messages from this contact individually”.

I didn’t get on with the keyboard very well, possibly it takes practice, possibly my fingers are too big.

The iPod bit… sucks. I hate to say it, but it does. The new interface makes the way I use playlists more difficult (I tend to flip though my oversized music collection adding stuff to an “on the go” playlist. Previous iPods let you do this from any playlist, artist or album list. In the new interface you can only add to On The Go from a dedicated full track list), the recessed headphone socket is incompatible with my headphones. You can’t operate it while its in your pocket, because there’s no tactile feedback for the volume or track changing interface, you have to bring it out and look at it. Coverflow’s useless unless you have art for everything. As a replacement for my 5th generation iPod, it wasn’t wonderful.

The ugly

I will, however, be buying one. Not because I want one, although it’s a nice enough device I don’t believe it’s worth £300 and a new contract.

No. I will be buying one because some enterprising bastard pinched the borrowed iPhone from my pocket on the tube home on Monday night, and it falls to me to replace it. Which is, of course, the big problem with having and obviously shiny, obviously expensive device that you have to bring out of your pocket to operate.

I’ll stick to my Z310i for now.

Imported From Epistula trutap


trutap, the startup who employ me, are looking for PHP webdevs and Perl devs. Details of the perl positions are on the site, PHP stuff will be up soonish. If you want more details, talk to nicholas at trutap dot net.

We’re also looking for producty people and mobile-focused QA-like people. See the link above for further details.

All positions are London based, the office has a wii but no ball pool (yet) and does do Real Coffee. We get singing cleaners and occasional dancing drunks. I should put more of this kind of stuff on the official company blog, I suppose.

2008 Imported From Epistula

One score and a baker's half dozen

Today, I:

  1. Made vegatable soup. It was nice.
  2. Played Meteroid Prime. It was nice.
  3. Looked at sofas. They were nice.
  4. Drank a lot of tea. It was nice.
  5. Became 27. It’s indifferent.
  6. Told various banks and organisations of my new address. It was complicated.
  7. It was complicated because one of the standard security questions is “How old will you be on your next birthday” and the answer is, today, inconsistant between systems.
  8. Watched episodes of CSI:NY.
  1. Played more computer games. They were also nice.
computing Imported From Epistula intertwingularity


I am a qualified sysadmin. Whilst I currently am in a “I will never be on-call ever again” phase of my career (Very much like the “I will never drink again” phase of a hangover, with much the same future), the fear of people coming to your desk at 17:25 saying “The little lights have stopped flashing on my disk drive, and I’ve got a report for the board due, is this a problem?” never truly goes away. The other thing that office-environment sysadmins learn to hate with a passion usually reserved for Windows ME is this:

Wireless Networking.

It used to be a truism of security that the only secure computer was one with six inches of air beyond every port. Then came WiFi, Bluetooth, IRDA and such other mechanisms. Unfortunately, it appears that every single writer of wireless router firmware, Wireless card firmware and wireless card driver software is the type of person who go to “Information wants to be free” rallies. Everything is fine, providing you don’t, ever, try to do something as freedom-limiting as secure your wireless fucking network.

(Aside: I know of no way of fucking wired-ly, and that all fucking networks will, by their nature, be mostly wireless. I can, in fact, not think of any exceptions to this last statement and would further request that I not be educated in this regard. Aside ends)

I have borrowed a Belkin wireless router for my new flat, which I configured in no-time flat. Well, no time I was being paid for, at any rate, so in contractor terms it was free. In actual terms it was several hours of faffing with ports and cables and netmasks and reset switches and that was before I turned on the wireless network.

Then I turned on the wireless network. I configured it to be WEP secured with a 128 bit key, generated from a ten byte string set by the administrator – me. I fed this to my laptop, and it was happy. I was suspicious, because my laptop is rarely happy with anything, but I moved on.

My desktop, though it won’t be on wireless often, was also happy. I began to fear.

Sure enough, the Wii disagreed, and demanded I enter the full hex key. Since I don’t have a USB keyboard right now, I did so with the wiimote, over a Long Time.

I’ve borrowed an iPhone from work (I may get one, because (a) SHINY, and (b) I hate freedom). That required the full hex key too.

So did my Windows Mobile smartphone.

I’m beginning to notice a pattern here. Every device without a proper keyboard demands the full hex key. Every device with easy entry of such just needs the passphrase.

I hate computers.

2002 2004 2006 2008 Imported From Epistula Personal

A decade of geek codes

Traditions are fun. Every two years for the past ten I’ve run though Robert Hayden’s Geek Code test (which hasn’t changed in that time). The rules are simple: I run it without looking at previous years tests. That’s it. I haven’t put it in this entry, because it’s slightly clearer as a text file

See my brief flirtation with Babylon 5 and X files! Watch as my dream of owning a mac comes true! Watch the ebb and flow of my housing situation! it’s like ten years of history in condensed form.

It’s a little scary.

2008 Imported From Epistula

New flat is new

  • I have new flat.
  • I am the king of boxes, all boxes flock to my presence.
  • Somehow, in moving from one small room in E17 to two medium/large rooms in E10, I have manged to cover the entire floorspace in the latter with the contents of the former.
  • By which I mean, I have a lot of boxes.
  • Some of which haven’t been opened since the last time I moved.
  • Sleeping on a proper bed for the first time in a while is comfortable.
  • Carefully made lists of vital things I do not currently own.
  • Including “a knife”
  • Left list at home.
  • Avoided eating scrambled eggs out of a shoe with a comb.
  • Had cornflakes instead.
  • New house has hot and cold running water
  • But neither hot nor cold running tinternets.
  • But does have ladybirds.
2008 Imported From Epistula

Ladybird, Ladybird, fly away home

So, I have a new flat in Leyton. It’s physically further from the station, but with a bus it’s quicker than walking from my old place, though I intend to put my bike back together and cycle.

Some more ladybirds by Aquarion, on Flickr Things that will get progressively less cute about my new flat: The windows appear to have nests of ladybirds in them over wintering, which is fun to take photos of but I suspect might get irritating.

Now to box up all my stuff to move it across tomorrow…

Then, because I have packing to do, I got the rotating banners and taglines working in the new design. Enjoy this nice picture of a ladybird.

Imported From Epistula weblog

Because when you need to know, you need to know now

How to say ‘Oh my god! there’s an axe in my head!’ in 117 languages

Imported From Epistula intertwingularity social trutap web development weblog

It's not for you

Chris Selland:

But as a biz dev guy (who doesn’t have time – or a reason – to be online much) – and despite the fact that my job is all about relationships – I find twitter to be pretty pointless. LinkedIn, on the other hand, I use every single day.



I’ve been watching the Social Networking backlash with something of a professional interest, seeming as I’m working for a company whose primary product is to interact with many of them, and my primary response to “I can’t use Facebook as a professional Customer Relationship Management system” and “Twitter’s no use in maintaining business relationships” and “Google’s not helping my website get more hits” is… er…:



Twitter is ambient sociality. It’s what it is good at. It’s for “this is what I’m doing” and – more often – a ping in the background with something that someone else is doing. Attempting to use it as a network management tool, either for people or servers, is not what it is designed to do. It works suprisingly well as a command-line interface to remote websites (I’m a new convert to remember the milk), but complaining that Twitter doesn’t help you manage your business is kin to complaining that you can’t use lego for your corporate HQ. It may look the right shape, but you need a heavier tool.

Facebook is at its best as a social – in the “go out with friends” sense – network. Not as a network of everyone you have ever met, but as everyone you’ve ever wanted to keep in touch with. I have a simple criteria for adding people to facebook. a) Can I remember something you’ve said to me, b) Were you on fire, would I look an extinguisher or piss on it if the former is not an option. Subquestion: If the former _is_ an option. As a kind of online contacts directory of everyone I’ve ever met or worked with, or wish to maintain a professional relationship with, it’s not really the target market.

LinkedIn is, though. Facebook I use daily – more this week than ever before – LinkedIn I’ll visit periodically to add someone I’ve worked with/for, or more often if I’m looking for people to work with (trutap is, incidentally, hiring perldevs, Ops team & QA folks), but I wouldn’t use it to keep track of – for example – my best friends from secondary school.

There appears to be a tendency within the web technologist literati to see there only being one online social network to which you throw your allegiances and all others can hang, but they’re all better at some things than others, and until we can transport all our networks from one place to another though an defined standard format (I have my doubts as to this ever actually happening, but leave the floor open to the more optimistic) you’re always going to have more people on one network than another, so you have to decide on whether you’re going to miss out on a person for a website account, which – to me – isn’t any choice at all.

There is no silver bullet. There’s no best language as there will never be a best social network, best operating system, best text editor (though emacs will retain it’s bottom position, obviously), there is merely the best tool for what you’re looking for right now, and you can find me on most of them.

And if just one of them is perfect for everyone you want to list as a friend,



Current Affairs Imported From Epistula music web development weblog

Pandora closes the box

I just got an email from pandora

It says:

As you probably know, in July of 2007 we had to block usage of Pandora outside the U.S. because of the lack of a viable license structure for Internet radio streaming in other countries. It was a terrible day. We did however hold out some hope that a solution might exist for the UK, so we left it unblocked as we worked diligently with the rights organizations to negotiate an economically workable license fee. After over a year of trying, this has proved impossible. Both the PPL (which represents the record labels) and the MCPS/PRS Alliance (which represents music publishers) have demanded per track performance minima rates which are far too high to allow ad supported radio to operate and so, hugely disappointing and depressing to us as it is, we have to block the last territory outside of the US.

I would gladly pay a fee to have access to Pandora, it is a wonderful thing from wonderful people, and it is depressing that the organisations who think they are protecting the artists are doing so by fucking over their customers.

Yes, there are technological ways around the IP block, though I won’t discuss them here. This is a sad day for online music.