Snickers. Or is it a marathon?

I entered myself into the ballot for the London marathon yesterday.  I would have done it Monday had the site been able to deal with my traffic.  But it couldn’t; so I didn’t.

If I were successful in securing a place, it would be my first marathon, unless I decide to go for New York in November.  (That ain’t happening.)  I’ve done a few 10km runs in my time, peaking at 42m 30s a good few years back, my most recent such outing taking 45m 40s a year ago in the driving, driving rain.  And 15 years ago I did a half-marathon for fun on my own, catching the Metro to Tyneside with a couple of quid and my house keys in hand, and running back home to west Newcastle, an informal 13 miles or so.

Anyway, my name is in the tombola and come September/October, I’ll find out if I’ve got a place.  Fingers crossed, I think.

Twitter: givers, takers and lovers

As far as I can tell, there are three types of Twitter account.  (I purposely didn’t use the phrase Twitter user, because I reckon there are many people out there with multiple accounts.)  The three types are: givers, takers, lovers.

Givers are people who use Twitter solely to tweet, but don’t read other people’s stuff.  Their number of followers will generally be a similar number to the number of people they follow.  A good example of a giver, as it were, is @BarackObama who, at the time of writing, was following 764,329 people, and had 972,597 followers.  I would hazard a guess that the president doesn’t sit down to find out what his 764,329 friends have been up to.  @StephenFry is also a proverbial giver, following over 50,000 people, but I strongly believe he has another, more personal account with which he keeps up to date with the few people he wants to keep up with.

Takers are those who read stuff, but don’t tweet so much.  They will be following lots of people but won’t necessarily have lots of followers, and are unlikely to have many updates.  These are largely made up of the spammers of this world, and often result in closed twitter accounts.

Then there are the lovers.  They’re unselfish, giving as well as taking.  They have a more discerning list of people they follow.  They might have lots or few followers, but they tweet regularly and they follow a sufficiently small set of people to physically be able to follow them.  @lilyroseallen is a lover, following 17 people but being followed by 165,766.  I am too, following a few more than Lily, but also being followed by one or two less.

And that’s pretty much it.

I’ve often wondered how people get so many followers.  I conclude that they do so either by being famous or by following others and relying on reciprocal behaviour.  I’m not famous, and I don’t want to go following lots of randomers on the off chance that they’ll “follow me back”, because then I won’t be able to read the stuff that I care about from the people I want to follow.  So I’m quietly contented with the 66 people following me.  Hello everyone!

Embracing interoperability

I receive alerts from Google Apps. whenever they enhance their offering—for GMail, Google Docs, Calendar etc.  The frequency of the updates is impressive, although each one offers what could often be deemed a trivial piece of functionality.  On the Docs front, they have 15 years plus of Microsoft investment to catch up on, but their web-based applications methodology allows them to release new stuff as and when they see fit, rather than wrapping it up in the latest version of Office and hoping people upgrade.

(A recent update on Calendar was their newly introduced support for the Chinese calendar.  Not something that I’ll be adopting but impressive, I’m sure.  Gregorian’s working just fine for me, thanks.)

I was notified of the latest offering at 2.32am today: easier viewing of .ppt and .tiff attachments from Gmail.  On the .ppt front, this reminds me of Microsoft’s acceptance of wk1 and wk3 Lotus 1-2-3 extensions, both as formats which could be read and ones which could be saved as.  To this day, 24 years after its introduction, I still love the fact that hitting forward-slash in Excel prompts you with the menu bar, a hang-over from Lotus 1-2-3 which I remember so fondly, no doubt with rose-tinted glasses.

It’s the only way to go.  Be open, and people will like you and embrace your offering.  Ignore the world around you and your competitors, and people will ignore you, or at best get pissed off trying to find middleware with which to interoperate (is that a word?) with what they need to interoperate with.

Anyway, users of Standard, Premier, Education, Team and Partner Editions of Google Apps can now view .ppt and .tiff files online, directly in their browsers. A Flash plugin is no longer required. The viewer can also zoom in and out, select text to copy and paste, and ‘print’ the presentation to a PDF document.

Who’s on first?

My recent post about my struggle to keep up with technology reminds me of a promise I made to myself in my teens that I would always ensure I knew what constituted the Top 40—the hit parade, if you will.

The top ten artists current read as follows:

1. Calvin Harris
2. La Roux
3. Lady Gaga
4. AR Rahman Ft Pussycat Dolls
5. Ciara Ft Justin Timberlake
6. Beyoncé
7. Noisettes
8. Eminem
9. Metro Station
10. Lily Allen

I couldn’t have safely confirmed any of these to be in the top ten, although I’m surprised to learn that I’ve heard of 6.0 (Calvin Harris, Lady Gaga, the Pussycat Dolls, Justin Timberlake, Beyoncé, Eminem, Lily Allen).

As such, I broke my promise.  Maybe the same trend will become true of technology.

New technology overload: help needed

I’m struggling to keep up with technology.  Or more to the point, websites.  I want to.  But trends are becoming more short-lived, my learning curve is increasing in length, and maybe I’m not the intended target market.  Either way, I’m struggling.

I get Twitter; and I enjoy it.  I get Facebook; and in the main, I enjoy it, although its novelty has worn off.  But I was introduced today to del.icio.us and last.fm, both at my request and both of which I was previously aware of, and I switched off.

last.fm is certainly too much for me right now.  I have neither the time nor the inclination at work to listen to music, and my mobile plan means that I’d pay through the nose if I were to use this even to a moderate degree via my mobile phone.  So I can strike that one off easily.

As for del.icio.us, it feels like the straw that might break the camel’s back, straw being represented by websites, and the camel being poor old me.

I will investigate del.icio.us, mainly because I think it might solve the problem I referred to yesterday.  But if we can hold fire for a few months before introducing anything new that I might need, that would be marvellous.  OK?

Bookmarks, unsubscribed content and RAIDed SSDs. (FTW.)

I access the internet from a number of places—m BlackBerry, my home laptop and my work laptop. Content to which I subscribe I access through Google Reader, and the stuff I like I either share or I star for later reference.

My issue is twofold:

For the former, I’m talking about sites that I would have traditionally bookmarked.  (Wow, how archaic bookmarking sounds.)  But in the multi-device world, what is its replacement?

For the latter, I increasingly use Twitter to share this stuff. But shortening URLs from my BlackBerry is by no means fun; and Twitter as a medium is very temporary, even more so than shared items on Google Reader.  I certainly wouldn’t have the inclination to sort through my tweets months from now to sift out the shared stuff of interest from the futile shite.

So, advice needed.  How do I manage my unsubscribed content?  And how do I seamlessly jump between devices and retain my browsing world?

Anyway, thanks to @willsh, here’s the inspiration behind the frustration: a video showing what can be done when you RAID together 24 SSD drives.  Geekery at its best.

If the earth’s land formed a kippah

If, instead of being distributed as it is around the globe, all of the planet’s land masses were amalgamated to form a kippah-style cap on the top of the earth, it would come down to 27° 8′ 2″N.  Everything south of that would be water.

The shore would be a line a little north of the Tropic of Cancer, running through Tampa, across the Atlantic, through the Canary Islands, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, southern Pakistan, passing a smidgeon south of New Delhi, through Nepal, Bhutan, the northern tip of Burma, lots of China, even more of the Pacific, reaching landfall on Mexico’s Baja California Sur, through the northern Mexican states and the southern tip of Texas before traversing the Gulf of Mexico and heading back to Tampa.

Naturally, these countries would not actually be there, their land having been moved north to accomplish the experiment.

Not sure what prompted me to ponder this problem.  But I did, and here’s the answer.

Chinese restaurants: new numbering system

In similar fashion to the proposal to limit the denominations of stamps produced by the Royal Mail, here is a proposal to revamp the numbering system adopted by Chinese restaurants.

There are two alternative proposals on offer:

Under each scenario, a number quoted would uniquely identify the dishes being requested.  It could be argued that the scenarios are somewhat unwieldy.

Let’s take the former.  If a restaurant has 100 dishes, then instead of numbering them 1 to 100, it would number them 2, 3, 5, 7, … , 541.  An order for dishes traditionally numbered 5, 12, 36, 37, 44 and 83, say, would now be ordered by quoting the number 802,611,888,067.

Under the latter scenario, the dishes would be numbered 1, 2, 4, 8, … , 1,267,650,600,228,229,401,496,703,205,376.  (Wider menus would be required.)  And the same set of six dishes would be ordered using the numer 9,671,406,556,925,932,569,888,784.

Just a matter of time, I expect.

Three thousandths of a second

Last weekend in the Malaysian Grand Prix qualifying, practice or some such, two drivers completed the circuit in times three thousandths of a second apart.  I have no idea which drivers, but apparently it was significant, and led to Eddie Jordan (I think) suggesting that it was the equivalent of the width of a matchstick.

Based on Jenson Button’s pole position time of 1m 35.181s and the circuit length of 5.543km, he covered an average of 17.5cm every 0.003 seconds.  Matches are generally 50mm long by 2mm square.  So that equates to a match 4.36m in length.

Maybe Eddie meant one of those huge, ornamental matches that you can hang on the wall.

Twitter to Google Docs: complete

Having done some more playing with Google Spreadsheets, I’ve got something close to a finished product: Twitter integrated with Google Spreadsheets.

Permissions in Google Spreadsheets are global.  People can either view or edit the spreadsheet.  You can’t specify which bits they can and can’t touch.  So I made the tough decision to split the friends sheet from the feed sheet.  If I’d kept them together, then by allowing people to add new friends, they would also have been able to tinker with (screw up) all the logic behind the feed.

So you add your friends here; and view your feed here.  There is a small (20 seconds or so) latency between adding your friends and their tweets appearing in the feeds sheet.  This is because the friends sheet publishes to a web page, from which the feed scrapes the content.  Doesn’t happen in perfect realtime, for whatever reason.  The good thing is that you can’t screw things up by deleting and inserting rows.  Up to 20 feeds can be added.

The CONTINUE formula behaviour for IMPORTFEED and IMPORTRANGE has made this much harder than it should have been—such a stupid idea, Google.  Thanks to Francis for discovering the friendly versions of the RSS URLs.

Anyway, enjoy playing.  I did.

Next Page →