Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Google Street View Nailed Me.....

.....but I got them back.
Wilton Bush
Back on 8th August, we took the family across to the Wilton Bush Reserve as it was a lovely Sunday afternoon and we fancied a walk. When we pulled into the car park, the Google Street View car was parked there and the poor fella was changing his tyre. He was an Aussie over in NZ doing the mapping and he had been through a fair number of tyres. He wasn't too happy owing to the shitty coverage in Wellington which was making mapping a damn hard job. He told me that the satellite signal kept fading in and out because of all the "bloody hills". I wondered if we'd get snapped by him, so I pulled out my iPhone and snapped him first!
Google Street Maps Car
Our car is the gray Hyundai and the Google Car is to the right, if you scroll below. Preserved for ever, ah, the power of Google.

View Larger Map

Saturday, July 26, 2008

2G iPhone on Version 2.0

Well, I thought I'd better check out all the new cool iPhone stuff on the Apple Store.  Now, this was gonna be a bit of a challenge for me as I'm using a jailbroken 1.14 (2G) iPhone and the only way to get to the store is by upgrading to version 2.0 which will immediately brick my "non-approved, pre-vodafone deal" phone.  Not happy with paying through the nose to Vodafone for a new 3G and getting locked into some ludicrous contract, I set out to upgrade the good old fashioned hackers way.

It is a somewhat nervy process and you're never far from tears as you go through a few steps that basically brick your phone and then reopen it.  It took me about an hour all up and now I have version 2.0 nicely installed and all applications working. I've even bought my first application at the Apple store.

To be honest, it took a bit of effort to get everything back up and running and you'll need to have SSH installed (and WinSCP if you're a PC user like me) to be able to get into some local folders to tweak stuff.  I'm missing some of the really neat applications that the dev community put out on the 1.14 but I installed the Cydia installer as part of my custom built v2.0 and it is only a matter of time before they are ported I'm sure. 

I've noticed that a lot of the stuff that was free and well refined for jailbroken 1.14's is now in the Apple Store.  I think that the iPhone versions up to 1.14 were nothing but a giant global beta test of how people would use the device and where Apple should concentrate........all the good stuff is worth paying for and I'm happy to shell out some dollars for a good ebook reader and RPN calculator.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ponoko Rocks

I'd been a bit nervous of trying out the very cool Ponoko and then I met a Ponokoite and he gave me a two minute overview.  Deeply inspired I went home and with Miss R (age 6 3/4) we drew up some designs together and I loaded up Inkscape.

After about an hour we were ready to upload our designs to the Ponoko web site and began the exciting wait to see how they would come out.  We got update e-mails as the design was turned into our goodies and I went into their offices today to pick up our test run.

We got out the beads tonight, some leather twine and hey presto, personalised jewellery.  Can't wait to try out some more complex stuff now we've mastered the basics.  One more thing that technology lets me and my daughters learn together; nothing beats turning a paper design into a real world item!

Thursday, July 10, 2008


It is officially the coldest morning this year for me, brrrrrr.  It is also one of those spectacular winter days in Wellington that we all talk about.  Absolutely crisp and still outside with the sun shining and the spring flowers coming through.  Perfect day to take a flight to Nelson which is what I'm about to do......got to love this country.

Audi TT Dash

Wellington Harbour from Khandallah

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Girl Levitates on Fifth Birthday!

I can't believe she is five already; I read the post from Alan the other week when he talked about his youngest daughter turning five and all that it means. Well it was my turn today when Little Ms R hit five and catapulted herself towards being a grown-up and starting school. She is an explosive child and is turbo charged with energy; they have no idea that the tornado is coming and she will hit the class running tomorrow. Her report from her pre-school stated that life would be quiet without her as she announces her arrival in any room with great gusto.

We had Nigel Kennedy the magician (again!) as he is such a hit with the kids (and Fairy Trina was in the family way with twins last time we saw her) and I think even he was taken aback with the energy of this new birthday girl. In fact, he was so amazed that he managed to levitate her during the show. Amazing; most magicians pull a rabbit out of the hat, but the energy radiated out of my little bundle and she vibrated herself upwards.
Little Miss R Levitates at her Birthday Party!

I'm sad that she is growing up but I know that she will hit life full-on and then some as it is the only way she knows how. Pity the fool the tries to stifle such energy; let's hope the school system can cope with this nuclear kid.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Go on, make a difference

Here's some questions for you. When you leave this world, will you have left behind a better place for you having lived? Will your children grow up to be happy and content in their lives and will they strive to make a difference also?

It doesn't matter how small, go on, do something that makes a difference today and leave a legacy to be proud of. It needn't be much and doesn't need to cost anything; a smile to a stranger, loose change to a charity, a shoulder to a friend. Once you've done it once, repeat until satisfied.

If you can't make a difference doing what you're doing and believe that you never will, move on, change your frame of reference, and start again. Be brave, stand straight and aim high.

So ends the sermon of Mr Reasonable today. Normal service resumes tomorrow. Oh, and I've changed jobs which was kinda brave and exciting and stupid and brave and exciting.......

Sunday, June 01, 2008

iGet better and better

Am I an addict? A night does not pass when I don't pick up my iPhone and check out my feeds, latest Installer apps or to read a chapter using the eBook reader. This truly is a life changing device. Prior to buying one I got sucked into the hype and then got over it. Then I bought one and got all excited again and again got over it as I thought I'd discovered everything but wait, there's more.

The number of applications available is growing by the day and is truly staggering in the variety. My latest install is Nemus Sync which lets me sync any of my Google Calendars to the native iPhone Calendar. This means I can keep an eye on interesting things going on around town through my subscription to the Wellingtonista calendar feed, and Mrs R knows where I am and where I am going to be as it is a two way feed and she can access it from home!

I've just been watching TV with one eye and listening to snippets of the Top Ten on iTunes on the iPhone. Number four is "Sweet About Me" by Gabriella Cilmi and a double tap gives me the whole album to peruse. Some great tracks so a few taps later and I've bought it; easy. Weirdly enough, some of the tracks remind me of Tears For Fears, whose tracks fill a large slug of my iTunes library; strange how your music tastes slowly alter but the theme is never far from your youth.

Now I don't mind paying for music (a musician's gotta live and talent don't pay the bills) and I remember back a few years when Napster was the rage. A lot of people wanted free music but the power of Napster was the enormous variety and common meeting place for file sharing of often non-mainstream music. Forget the big record labels, file sharing is the home of the long tail and this is the model that helped to make Amazon the success it is and clearly Apple knows this.

I remember having a conversation with my father in law back in 2001 and he had been trying to find a single track by a humorist called Victor Borge that he had heard many years before. I found it in minutes on Napster and would have happily paid a premium for the track if the model had existed back then. So fly forward 7 years and I'm sitting on my sofa, I type Borge into iTunes and in seconds can preview a wide collection of his work and can pay for any tracks or albums I want, right there, no delay, no fuss. Amazing really; record stores can't possibly last another 2 years.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

iPhone Update 2 of 2

Lets get down to business, why should you jailbreak an iPhone. Well, you just should. It's yours and you should be able to do what you want with it!

An absolute must is the Installer application. This gets you connected to the community of developers who are writing apps that can happily sit on your iPhone and add value to it. I have installed, and uninstalled, a good number and there are a few absolutely essential items and more every day. Unless you have WiFi don't consider this though as your data charges will kill you.

One of the essential apps is a good e-booker reader. I travel almost every week on a plane to Auckland and back and this is pretty much my only down time to read. I tried out two different options, one in the cloud and one locally installed and both are good. With the former, Readdle, you upload books to your web space, either as a file upload or by e-mail (which can be multiple files and with tags) and with the later, you move TXT or HTML files to your iPhone. The only downside of Readdle if of course the relatively slow data connection through Vodafone although the free WiFi at Wellington Airport is handy. I much rather have everything on the web but until NZ gets EDGE or blanket free WiFi, I'm snookered and store my books locally. Once connectivity is sorted though, then mobile devices will really take off and become mainstream. The later, (books.app) is great but does require you to know how to get files into the right directory on the iPhone.

If you're a PC user, like me, there is a question mark over how you get files transferred to the iPhone. It is not like a flash drive that you can just plug in but there is a very simple method using SSH. I use WinSCP, an open source SFTP client and have installed OpenSSH on the iPhone and tie the whole thing together through my wireless network. There are loads of sites with really detailed instructions on how to do this, just Google it.

The benefit of the SSH connection is that I can now store any file in any place and can manage the directory structure myself. Certain apps require a bit of poking around to work but there is nothing too advanced.

There are a good number of cool games to trial out which make use of the tilt features but the old favourities are still the best and there are a number of emulators such as the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo and buckets of ROMs around (although there are some legal issues with ROMs if you don't own the original licence). Good if you're stuck in a airport lounge and want to kill something in the style of Atari.

I should mention that the iPhone is also a phone. I'm not too impressed with the Vodafone connection having been used to Telecoms rock solid coverage; there do appear to be some black spots and calls do drop more often. Nonetheless, the SMS is great and the on screen keyboard is excellent once you learn to trust it; I can now type a message significantly faster that my old phone.

So there you have it. Even when the iPhone gets here legally, you need to break it to get the most out of it, at least for the moment anyway. This device is going to set the standard of design and function for many years to come; in the same way that the Audi TT defined a generation of copy-cat sports cars, this phone will spawn a whole army of increasingly sophisticated models but will stand above them for a good few years still.

iPhone Update 1 of 2

Thought it would be useful to talk about my iPhone, now that I've had it a wee while. Whilst it is a very neat device, it does have some minor shortcomings but these are few and it is clear that a ridiculous amount of thought went into the design of the interface and usability.

There is an article in The Dom Post today which gives a reasonable commentary but misses some key points I think. I have been a user of a PDA for about 8 years, starting off with a Cassiopeia E-105 before moving on to a Dell Axim X51v, which was a quantum leap, and now the iPhone, which, again, is a massive leap forward.

Ignoring dimensions, battery life, memory and processing power, some would say not much has changed but you'd be so wrong. What has changed is quite simply the world and how we expect to interact with it; lets leap back in time to 2000.

I used my E105 at work and it was useful as a diary, some fun games and my contacts list. At the time I thought it was compact but I've just dug it out of a draw and it is a monster:

The iPhone vs the Cassiopeia E-105

Lots of buttons and I could play music and, at the time, it was a good introduction to mobile computing. Of course, the big difference between then and now is the widespread use of WiFi and ubiquitous cellphone connectivity, but the major change is the simple fact that everything and anything can live in the cloud.

When I first started work in in 1990, I worked for one of London's major investment banks and sat in the equity dealing room with a green screen terminal that was hooked up to a whopping great mainframe computer somewhere; I vaguely recollect it was called Sperry or something and these things were indestructible. During my time, we moved away from the dumb terminal to a IBM PC set-up with a Rumba terminal emulator to connect to our host and a more classical mouse driven interface away from the hundreds of short-codes that we had to know to navigate around screens.

With this change came the requirement to run lots of applications at the same time and so faster PCs were needed and more and more memory. We've now come full circle. Here I am with a powerful Windows PC with oodles of memory and storage yet I upload my life to the cloud with Flickr and use Google Docs and it is the speed of my connection to this world that is important.

The reason this works for me is simple; I don't live my life at home yet I still want to be connected to my home life. There is no need to actually connect to my home PC as I just go to where the information is and voilĂ . It is this ability to connect to my personal data, from anywhere, that has revolutionised the mobile device. Whether it is my calendar, my contacts, my documents or my photos, I want, and demand, access to it from anywhere but I don't need to actually carry it with me.

Think of money. You used to have to carry it with you and then came plastic. You could leave you cash in the bank, earning interest, and still access it from a shop. Data is the same. Why carry it with you when you just need to be able to get to it when you want it. Like money, data in the cloud earns interest but the interest is the way in which disparate pieces of information clump together to be more useful; think of adding geolocation tags to photos and looking at them in a map view or pulling contact address details into a street map linked to a GPS device.

I don't want to have to remember to synchronise, I just expect everything to be connected and available to me whenever I want.

The iPhone gives me this, just. There still isn't enough good WiFi coverage in Wellington but the power of the iPhone comes from the literally thousands of sites that have popped up to support information sitting in the cloud. I'll cover off some of these shortly and why a jailbroken iPhone and home wireless network are a must.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Never thought I'd say this, but....

.....thank you to young and knowledgeable sales assistant in Dick Smith. Someone slap me. Did I dream it or did the young guy actually know what he was talking about. I'm not exactly a techie but I know bits and pieces and my general tactic is to appear ignorant and assess the quality of the sales advice. If I'm being scammed, I walk out claiming a silent moral victory.

Today I wanted a wireless router to replace my crappy old D-Link 302G freebie that I'd been using since Telecom dumped it on me a few years back and which survived the switch to iHug. I'd never got round to changing it and I know it has loads of faults, least of all it's inability to cope with any torrent and web connection at the same time; it is dated mind you and I wanted an excuse to have a wireless network for my iPhone.

Well I knew what I wanted, at least 2 wired connections and an ability to connect a couple of wireless devices. There are a few options, all very similar (and probably the same under the skin), so I asked a few questions and got intelligent answers. $129 later and a LinkSys ADSL Home Gateway (4 ports and up to 32 wireless devices) is mine. Cheap as.

Took all of 2 minutes to configure, and now I'm running a torrent at over 280Kb/s which is better than the sub 50Kb/s from before, and I have my iPhone motoring and surfing. All together. Damn, the only bandwidth restriction is only having ten fingers.....

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Zoo Food

When I heard the news about the Eve Dixon cafe closing at the Zoo, due to some ridiculous decision about revenue and blah blah Spotless Catering blah blah, Mrs R and I agreed that we would not step foot in there again in silent protest. We used to enjoy a good coffee and a brunch prior to taking the kids around the zoo and would plan the trip that way.

Well, it looks like we're not alone. We were at the zoo today; went in at 10:30am and the cafe was pretty empty. Left the zoo at 12:15pm and there were empty tables everywhere. I expect at some point, a bean counter will suggest that the zoo just doesn't need a cafe as clearly people are not eating there. At some point in the future they'll work out that the old cafe was a meeting place and that most parents with young kids were looking for 45 minutes of peace prior to heading into the day and that the Zoo benefited as a result. I suspect that those people have found another spot now and they have taken their cash with them.

At least the lioness was hungry.
Lioness - Wellington Zoo 12th April 2008

Saturday, April 05, 2008

They Don't Like It Up 'Em

Had a bit of a party this week. First off was the appointment of two new oncologists to Wellingtons Hospital which has been a personal crusade; second up was the announcement that the Children's Hospital would be moving into better premises which will give the kids a much better environment and provide the staff with better working conditions.

And the cherry on the cake?

A bitter sweet victory as a lot of people will lose money but the failure of these utter shits (in my personal opinion) after playing with other peoples money for far too long. May the earth swallow them whole. Sadly, I'm sure they'll have money spirited in cross-company loans to keep them fat and in good wine for a while but hopefully any future enterprises can be shunned when they are exposed as the backers or shareholders. It took a few years, but I knew they'd get it in the end and revenge is a dish best served cold.

Workin' too hard

Friday night. Arrived home and it was still light and the girls were still up. Kinda rare over the last few weeks with travel and work and other commitments.

Little Miss R "I know who YOU are!". Such a small statement and very innocent, yet I'm saddened to hear it. Time to reassess what I'm doing I think.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Truly Mobile Blogging

In March 2006 I conducted an experiment with the help of Alan. I had recently bought a Dell Axim X51v, a very neat little device which had both Bluetooth and WiFi and ran Windows Mobile 5.0, and I wanted to test the mobile abilities. I spent a week blogging from different cafes around Wellington to test the WiFi coverage and conduct some coffee reviews.

What I found was that MoJo was the best coffee (which validated what Alan and I already knew) and that the CafeNet connection at Rise on the Terrace was the fastest by far. So that was exactly 2 years ago.

Now I have an iPhone; bought from "man on street" in Auckland with a handover of folding stuff in exchange for a tiny black box with a shiny new iPhone inside, all ready for a Vodafone Sim. I plugged it in and bam, everything works. No set-up, no mucking around, it just works; "Man on Street" did the breaking and this baby is truly revolutionary.

I have spent a week now and I cannot put it down; I'm on a massive data plan, thanks to my employer who (quite recently and finally) recognises the value of keeping on top of this stuff, and have been installing (and uninstalling), oodles of apps across the Vodafone network and any convenient WiFi spots.

What I find most incredible is the amount of apps available. It strikes me that we have entered a new era of collaboration where individuals with a desire to develop cool stuff and share it with the world have found a common place to do this.

On my Dell I bought a lot of extra stuff to make it more useful; one of these was a HP 12C emulator which is something I used to use pretty much every minute of every day, less so in my life in NZ, but old habits die hard. I just downloaded a HP12C for the iPhone and, as you can see below, both the Dell and the iPhone are exact replicas. The only difference is that one cost me dosh and had to be installed and one is obtained by magic with no fuss.

HP 12C emulators

My Dell had my calendar. My iPhone has my calendar. Syncing Outlook through iTunes is easy; using ActiveSync was fine and gave a bit more control between my work laptop and home PC but I don't miss it. I do miss the Bluetooth sync as I'll have to buy another docking station but whatever.

The other big use of my Dell was the eReader for a vast library of eBooks that I had been ploughing through. I travel a lot and it was very convenient to sit on a plane and read in down time. With the iPhone I found Readdle where I can upload my books and retrieve them online from anywhere; I can even just e-mail the files to my Readdle account and store my library in the cloud; how cool is that.

The best advantage of course is that I now have live e-mail from GMail and my Pop mail server with iHug and can respond to anything. I'm working on how to tie this into my work exchange server and I have heard that there is a man over the ditch who is doing just that. I have abandoned Telecom (who are the major provider of services to my employer), ported my 027 to Vodafone and will be roaming in Australia on Tuesday; Telecom offer a loan phone for those travelling overseas and that sucks when you want everything in one device.

All in all, the iPhone is a quantum leap in integration of technology. The changes in two years are simply staggering and a good comparison is my two daughters who are about 2 years apart; a lot changes in two years, don't you think?

Miss and Little Miss R

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Bookhabit Launches

Saw a post on Rod Drurys blog last week about Bookhabit, a neat new way to get published if you are an author wanting to get your book out there. Through a new relationship at work, I managed to get an invite to the launch party from Stafan of WebFund and got to see what it is all about first hand.

The idea is brilliant and just to get you interested, the lovely Clare, who is the smarts behind the concept, is running a competition with a prize of US$5,000 (yep, real dollars). Go see. Go write and good luck.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Queen Leaves

A short stop for her and what a day. The town was packed, the weather was great and Wellington sure showed off. She was glorious up close and simply towered above the wharf.

She made her way out, just after 6pm tonight.
The Queen Victoria
Out of the harbour.
The Queen Victoria
Past the airport.
The Queen Victoria
On her way to the Cook Straight.
The Queen Victoria

The Queen Arrives

The Queen Victoria is here. With a loud blast on the horn, at 7:30am this morning, she made her way through the early morning mist towards the berth by the Westpac Stadium. She is simply huge, like a skyscraper on its side and dwarfs the stadium. We're going to head in to town later to get a close up tour.
The Queen Victoria
The Queen Victoria

Just discovered there is a live web cam on-board, link here.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Seatoun Light Show

Wow, Seatoun is getting a light show extravaganza! Just sitting here watching a couple of planes racing the storm in and the lightning is incredible, just like fireworks. Wasn't quick enough on my camera but I got some video footage that I'll stick on YouTube shortly once I've edited out the oohs and ahhs and general mayhem that is my house. [Found an old Alphaville Track to stick over it to cover over the screams and cat meowing!]

There is a serious storm building out in the Cook Straight but it is remarkably calm outside, with not a breath of wind. Sky Weather gives a feel for what is close by but it does seem to have completely bypassed us so far.
Wellington Storm 11th Feb 2008
Glad I'm not flying through this one. The little dot that comes right through the middle of the storm is probably the 8pm from Auckland. I took 15 minutes of footage and squezed it down to 3ish; lots of flashes in that time!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Not a Native Bird methinks

I was in Auckland on Saturday. I spoke to Mrs R on the phone back in Welly and she said there had been a strange bird on the deck. We often get the odd Tui enjoying the flax and sitting on the deck to have a sing but I'd never seen anything "strange". I asked what kind of strange and she said parrot strange. I said Kea? She said no, Cockatoo. Don't be silly says I. She said, I knew you wouldn't believe me so I took a photo for when you get back. Whatever, thought I.

Bugger. Looks like a Cockatoo to me. Anyone lost one in Khandallah? I'm pretty sure they're not native birds.....

Cockatoo in Khandallah