Saturday, July 31, 2010

Politics and Technology

I woke up this morning, milked the cow and then sat down with a coffee and perused my Twitter feed. I came across this discussion between Adam Schwab and Stilgherrian, both commentators for

I'm no technology or political or broadband expert, so I'm not going to get bogged down in the politics or minutiae of the arguement. But I'll take Schwab to task on a few things. He says that "In return, Australians will then need to spend upwards of $100 a month on a high-speed internet service that most don’t really want (for that price) and almost all don’t really need." My graphic designer that we use for work lives a stones throw, literally, from one of the major highways in Brisbane, Australia's third biggest city. She cannot get ADSL2+ or cable but relies on satellite broadband. It recently went down and she had to rely on a 3G modem. For two weeks. I had to post, by mail, all the images that i needed in our next mailout. Instead of talking by Skype, with the images on the screen that we could talk about and change, she was emailing me a low resolution image and we talked about it on the phone. And repeat and repeat and repeat. Is this good enough in 2010?

This is what we have now. I have three reps on the road working off 3G and it is far from reliable for data. I am trying to build a new application for our business for the iPad and after using technology like Skype and GoToMeeting i made the decision that they are just not robust enough to rely on, I employed a local developer.

In other countries where broadband is seen as an essential part of doing business they demand speeds that will outstrip the pace of the technology that is developing it. With devices like the iPhone and iPad and all the different devices of the Android marketplace becomes commonplace the demand on our internet has jumped markedly. Soon we will be expecting wireless everywhere we go, in the doctors and in cafes in train stations and anyone who has used 3G for business would laugh at you if you think that network can cope with mainstream internet as well.

Here is my main point, Telstra, Optus and the rest are there to make money. If they can do that without putting large amounts of money out there to build a new network they will. But if we want to develop as a nation economically we have to keep pace with the rest of the world, there are third world countries in Africa that have faster broadband speeds than we do. So isn't the government's responsibility to ensure we don't get left behind? Instead of talking to Liberal MPs and former Optus executives try talking to the people that rely on these technologies, today, tomorrow and into the future. Take the politics out of it and deliver us something. Now.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Keeping Up With My Mind

I love my technology, as anyone who knows me even slightly on the blogosphere or twitter will know. I particularly like my iPhone, and the convenience and utility contained in such a small device. Sometimes though I get thoroughly frustrated with the pace of technology to keep up with my mind, to produce what I see as quite logical leaps to applications that can take advantage of the world we live in.

My main frustration this year has been with our national broadcaster, the ABC. The ABC has this amazing amount of content, in particular audio content. Local ABC radio has these little regular segments on their shows, probably too small to podcast, but incredibly interesting nonetheless. Stuff like the AFL and NRL sunday shows, Spencer's chats with Susan about kids entertainment, The Hidden Persuaders, the radio version of Gruen Transfer that came before Gruen, Richard Fidlers friday afternoon cocktails or Kelly HD chats with Amy Gray, which while incredibly funny could do with less Glee and more Dr Who.

Now you can access a lot of this content on the presenters blogs, where it is put up, in f*&^ing flash. Flash is the twilight vampire of the web, sparkly, but ultimately utterly, utterly useless. I spend a lot of time in the car for my job, as do a lot of other people, and a lot of people spend times in trains or buses, where they have the time and inclination to listen to the wonderful content the ABC can provide and I do have a lot of the podcasts on my iPhone. But the hassle of getting that content from the web onto a device is too hard for me, a tech nerd, so it would be way too hard for the ordinary punter.

Which brings me back to the iPhone, which is almost as ubiquitous as the sparkly twilight celery eaters, but much more useful. It has apps. The ABC has an app, which for all intents and purposes, is useless. It doesn't provide me with anything more than the webpage does. Now if they had been trying to push the envelope, here is what they could have done. They have recordings of all these little segments from all the incredible shows the ABC has. And i only know of the ones for my local ABC. What about all the cool segments from Sydney or Alice Springs or North QLD? What I'd have is a virtual radio station. Let me build my own station, dragging and reordering my segments how I wanted them. Then let me cache 10 hours of it on the phone when I have a wifi connection, or let me straem bits over 3G.

I don't really care how its done, but the ABC is doing itself and its stakeholders, us, a disservice by trapping the content, by not realising that there are ways that they could be giving us all that content easily. There are over 1 million iPhones in australia already, not counting iPod touch's and iPads and you could just as easily write an app like this for Android as well. Considering the market for a 24 hour news network and the money spent there, is there really more people who are interested in that than being able to easily access their favourite ABC segment as they sit on the train on the way to work?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Early morning cows.

Despite a few years running a bar, I am without doubt, a morning person. Now The Wife is not and while I'm sure she loves me at least to about 90% at 5am, she doesn't like my habit of singing nonensical lyrics to my favorite songs at that hour. "Crazy" is probably the nicest of the terms hurled at me. That's why I'm really enjoying my 5am milking of the cows.

I get up, heat the water and sterilize the bucket, rouse Tally and head up. Laf is already penned up so I go and fetch the calf and Dolores and bring them down before letting Laf lunge into the pen so she can start inhaling her feed. I smear lanolin over her nipples and get to work.

I've been singing quite a bit of The Roots new album to her while I milk, mixed with a bit of Hey Jude and Hunters and Collectors. She doesn't seem to mind, well her milk hasn't curdled yet so maybe she's just deaf.

Each milking is yeildng between a litre and 1.5L. You can tell she's dried off a bit, she's never really bulging with milk. The grass is not particularly lush so I'm not keen to force her production higher. It means it will be another nine months before I can really start paying the herd sharers back in good kind, but they will be getting something.

Yesterday I made my first real cheese. It was, I hope, a farmhouse Bree, unpasturised of course, from 5L of Laf's finest product. It will be interesting to compare to shop bought cheese. For a start everything I've read and been told is that the quality of the feed determines the quality of the cheese and Lantanaland's pasture is pretty poor. It will get better of course, I am already knocking back the long stemmy grass and sowing clover and mung beans and pigeon pea. Secondly I have no idea what I'm doing. The curd felt very firm when it went into the molds, did I work it too much? At least it is a five week turnaround to find out, not twelve months like cheddar. On the plus side, raw milk cheese, with it's own bacteria, will be idiosyncratic but on the whole, a nicer product.

The process itself seems to be quite easy, but damn me but it is slow food. Lots of waiting for whey to express and to turn molds. Good for a Saturday arvo. I've already learnt a fair bit and I'm saving this weeks milk for another batch. Then I might bust out an improvised press to make a rough farmhouse cheddar. We'll have to see.

So if you come over and milk the cows with me I'll try not to deafen you with my singing, but don't blame me if the cows are grumpy, they like their tunes!

Lantanaland From My iPhone

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The future?

I want to give people money and they refuse to take it. In fact they are actively making it harder for me to give it to them. Sound insane? Well, welcome to a large media industry waking up to the digital age.

I am a curious mix of old school and high tech. I milk a cow by hand, but also love my iPhone and use it for a whole bunch of things (as opposed to 95% of iPhone users, who use phone, web, photos and music. Maybe a few games.) Books had always been firmly in the old school camp, I love the feel of them, they way you can look at my bookshelves and tell which books I love by the level of abuse they have been subjected to. Plus all the normal things like reading in the bath (essential) and lending to other people.

The iPad triggered an interest in ebook readers and after having a look at the Kindle app on Monster Yuppy's iPad I thought I'd download the kindle app onto my iPhone in anticipation of us getting ipads for work. I was pleasantly surprised by the experience. Once I'd read a few paragraphs and was into the story, I completely forgot about the medium. All I was interested in was the book, the plot and the characters were far more important than whether I was holding paper or electronics.

When I did notice the difference was later that day in a waiting room, killing time before an appointment. Instead of pulling up twitter or playing a mind dulling game, I pulled up the kindle app and was away, back in the story. I'd never remember to take my book with me.

Ok. Techy bloke likes a piece of tech. No great story there. But wait, here comes Techy blokes slightly angrier twin, Ranty bloke. You see amazon, or perhaps more accurately the publishing industry, want to make it very hard for me to buy books. First of all I opened my amazon account and went to the kindle store. And was amazed as I put in author after author, title after title and got back nothing. I'm pretty sure unless it's Dan Brown or John Grisham, it's not in the Oz kindle store.

So, as all good tech blokes do, I consulted twitter on how to set up a US amazon account. Easily done and a whole new, slightly bigger world opened up. I mean a few of the books I was chasing were available. Which I bought, obviously, to give the app a spin. But what I was hoping for was a nice swim in Lake Nostalgia. A bit of the Three Investigators or The Hardy Boys. Even a bit of Blyton's Famous Five for a giggle.

None of the back catalogue of my youth is there and I think that publishers are missing a great niche market here. Fair enough, hold back the new books till they've had a run in print first. I can understand that. However in the not too distant future devices like the iPad will be common place. Hell at the way it's selling in the very close future. I can easily download a song or TV show or movie that I have a sudden urge to buy. Compare that to the effort I'd have to go to on a rainy Sunday to go and buy a copy of a Three Investigators novel. There would be no copies in print, so I'd probably have to trawl the second hand shops. Say a whole day to maybe, just maybe find a book .... Oh look season two of Arrested Development on iTunes, let's watch that instead.

I know that the publishers are afeared that once they let the digital genie out of the bottle that there is no turning back. But consider this. I lend any book I own to anyone who wants to read them. Make all those back catalogue books say, three bucks and people wouldn't need to lend books as much. You already sell a whole bunch at that price point already. And it's just a matter of time before someone invents an easy way to digitize a book and if there is no digital copy for people to purchase, they will take the illegal copy available.

So while you still can, make it easier for me to give you my money please.

Lantanaland From My iPhone