My head and my data are in the Clouds

I first mentioned GMail in my blog on 26 September 2004. I think I was using it at the time, but only for an @gmail.com account as opposed to my primary email account on this domain. Its main use was as a gateway into Google Chat.

Soon after that post, I migrated my primary email account into the Cloud, Google managing this for me through the Google Apps Standard offering. With it went my calendar information. I’m tempted to upgrade to Premium, primarily for the security that it brings. But that’s another story.

I was slow to take on to digital photography, finally getting a digital camera in December 2006. And my photos didn’t move to the Cloud until 1 October, 2007, when I opened my Flickr account, upgrading it to Flickr Pro on 30 July 2008.

I have now organised my contacts, more out of necessity than design owing to the demise of my old phone. These are now in Google Apps, squarely in the Cloud.

And this blog is currently in a mini-Cloud, on my mate’s server in Sydney. I’m hoping it will be moving to a separate mini-Cloud in Jersey (of the UK variety) imminently, as it moves from pLog to WordPress, which I first mentioned in December 2006.

There is still some data that I keep locally: important files, application configuration (e.g. Firefox) and music (iTunes). I’m sure with time these will all move into the Cloud. It’s wonderful how things change.

A quote from Gordon Brown

"No longer the boom-bust economy, Britain has had the lowest interest rates for forty years.

"And no longer the stop-go economy, Britain is now enjoying the longest period of sustained economic growth for 200 years.

"And no longer the country of mass unemployment, Britain is now advancing further and faster towards full employment than at any time in our lives.

[…]

"From being the party not trusted with the economy, this conference should be proud that Labour is today the only party trusted with the economy."

Gordon Brown, Labour Party Conference, September 2004

BlackBerry Storm in a teacup? I think not

I recently acquired a BlackBerry Storm. While heffing our three tonne TV downstairs to make way for its slimline replacement last Monday, I rested it against my leg on each step, such was it weight. I later found out that at each of the eleven such steps, my keys were being jammed against my MDA Vario III’s screen, rendering it defunct by the time the TV’s potential energy had been reduced by the desired amount.

Five months from the end of my contract, I had mixed emotions: glee at never having to use the shit-brick again; annoyance at not having an immediately-obvious replacement.

Through means I won’t go into right now, I happened upon a replacement in the form of the BlackBerry Storm. And my oh my what a wonderful phone it is.

I’d heard about it before, in comparison with its Bold sibling. But I’d never seen one. Desperate, I took the Storm, no questions asked.

The most significant feature of note is the touch screen. Unlike the iPhone, it reacts to the touch. The glass clicks when pressed sufficiently to warrant what might amount to a click, giving me feedback that the click has been recognised. Given that it doesn’t have a physical keyboard, this feature is vital when using the on-screen keyboard, as it attempts to approximate the feel of a genuine keyboard.

The 480×360 screen is a good size and bright, but it’s not huge when represented as a keyboard, particularly when some of the screen is necessarily taken up by the application that you’re typing into. But the SureType™ input mechanism in portrait mode that mimics an old-world BlackBerry keyboard, where each key represents multiple letters, makes for easier typing through bigger "keys". Day by day, my typing is becoming faster and more accurate.

Its accelerometer is not as good as that of the iPhone, either in terms of hardware or software. It doesn’t always detect a rotation from landscape to portrait or vice versa, and when it does it flips the screen display in a single change rather than rotating it smoothly like the iPhone.

But that’s a minor annoyance. I have Google Mail installed to manage my mail through Google Apps; the content-light Facebook application that is dwarfed by its browser-based equivalent, SMS (although apparently MMS doesn’t work—I never used it anyway), Weatherbug, Flickr Uploader, Google Maps and Google Talk. My calendar is sync-ed to my Google Apps Calendar, and I’ll no doubt install a WordPress editor as soon as this blog is ported across to WordPress.

The only thing that I’ll miss from my Windows Mobile Vario III is Microsoft Mobile Office, in which I used text and text colouring in Word, and simple formulae in Excel. I’m sure there’ll be a couple of free downloads that can satisfy these trivial requirements.

GMail offline and new feature requests

While Google announces the great news that GMail and GCalendar will soon be available offline, through a random rollout to all GMail and Google Apps customers, I feel it needs to sort out a few things with its online offering.

As well as the aforementioned contacts issue, Google needs to offer a few additional features as part of its standard package. I would like all of my emails to be spell-checked automatically when I press the Send button, and for the system to allow me to add words and acronyms that I use to the dictionary. I’d like to be able to define my default font (Georgia) as opposed to changing it in each email I send (which I never bother doing). When I click Attach a file, I want a browse dialog box to appear straight away, as opposed to having to then click a Browse button. (Who the hell types a file path? If they want to, they can click cancel on the dialog box, as I’m sure they’re the minority.)

That’s not a lot to ask, right? I’ll submit my request to Google Labs and see what comes back.

Irrelevant stats.

In the BBC’s article titled "Store refuses wine for woman, 68", they caption the video with "Jennifer Rogers and her friend have combined age of 138". Hardly relevant, given that the same could be said for a group of twelve tweens.

And Mrs Rogers’ dismissal of One Stop’s policy as a joke is naïve and doesn’t help. A policy such as this is a good thing to prevent the purchase of alcohol by kids, and to take the responsibility for subjective age estimation out of the hands of the shop assistant.

Probability: it’s not what you think

I had a conversation the other day about probability. The guy I was speaking to convinced me rather easily that probability is not a study of the odds of events happening. It is the study of people’s ability to correctly predict the outcome of events whose outcome is out of their control and, arguably, already determined. They do this based on knowledge that they have.

If I roll a die, the outcome of the roll is not the subject of probability. Its outcome could be considered pre-defined, its outcome not the subject of chance at all. Assuming, let’s say, that the state of the universe has determined that the die will come up with a 4, then the chances of it being a 1, 2, 3, 5 or 6 are zero; and the chances of it being a 4 are 1, or certainty.

Probability only becomes useful on multiple trials of the same event, when the laws of the universe are such that the percentage of trials ending up with a certain outcome approximate to what we are taught is the probability that a single event will have that outcome. In poker, if I have a full house, aces and queens, then I don’t have, say, a 98% chance of winning. The cards are such that either there is a 100% chance of be winning, or a 100% chance of me losing. Nothing I can do will change that.

The rhythm is gonna get her

Me: I wonder if my daughter will inherit my sense of rhythm.
My wife: please God no.

Poles at the pole

I wonder who the first Pole was that reached a pole, north or south.

January 20, 2009. An historic day

Tomorrow is an historic day for the USA and the world. Let not the relief and joy at the termination of perhaps the worst president in the country’s history overshadow the enormity of the first mixed-race president occupying the White House.

Have a fabulous day, America. And see you soon.

Scary pop-up

The US government has a new website. It’s designed to avoid the frantic search for a pen aboard trans-Atlantic flights when handed the green visa waiver form. Probably more accurately, it’s designed to capture the information therein electronically to see who’s up to what in an attempt to predict why. Oh, and the completion of the information online is mandatory, as of 12 January.

Apart from being a pretty rubbish website, somewhat unintuitive, with little attention to user experience an inexplicable tab order, and little inherent authority, its most striking feature is the pop-up that greets you upon arrival. It takes up much of the screen, filled with the text below.

You are about to access a Department of Homeland Security computer system. This computer system and data therein are property of the U.S. Government and provided for official U.S. Government information and use. There is no expectation of privacy when you use this computer system. The use of a password or any other security measure does not establish an expectation of privacy. By using this system, you consent to the terms set forth in this notice. You may not process classified national security information on this computer system. Access to this system is restricted to authorized users only. Unauthorized access, use, or modification of this system or of data contained herein, or in transit to/from this system, may constitute a violation of section 1030 of title 18 of the U.S. Code and other criminal laws. Anyone who accesses a Federal computer system without authorization or exceeds access authority, or obtains, alters, damages, destroys, or discloses information, or prevents authorized use of information on the computer system, may be subject to penalties, fines or imprisonment. This computer system and any related equipment is subject to monitoring for administrative oversight, law enforcement, criminal investigative purposes, inquiries into alleged wrongdoing or misuse, and to ensure proper performance of applicable security features and procedures. DHS may conduct monitoring activities without further notice.

Scared? You’d better be!

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