This Just In

Regular readers – Dad, I’m talking to you – will have noticed that my blog disappeared for about two weeks last month.

Well, it’s back.

Apparently, somebody over at tripped over a plug, bungled the muffin That’s not an idiom. I made it up especially. or tried to force a square widget into a round doohickey. Why? Who can say.

They’ve resurrected my blog, which is nice. However, like the clumsy child who stumbles into the carousel of breakable nick-nacks in a seaside shop, have not been entirely successful in putting my blog back together in the order it enjoyed before event.

Any published text that contains a non-Latin character will no longer render correctly. Accent acutes and graves, for instance, come out as weird copyright symbols and such. As a author who wrote a book called Déjà Vu, this is a problem.

Never mind. There’s a new Dan Brown out tomorrow. I can always shoot myself.

Bill Thompson: Brave, New, Inscrutable World

Beeb techie pundit chap Bill Thompson makes an interesting point about the two cultures – computer literate and computer illiterate – growing apart in the digital age.

Far too many people who use computers every day, and have them in their homes, aren’t even capable of applying the system updates that Microsoft and Apple automatically send out, leaving them with buggy and insecure systems vulnerable to all sorts of attack.

You can follow Bill on Twitter, naturally.

BBC NEWS | Technology | A nation of programmers?

Nike plus Apple equals iSmug

nike_overviewhero20070905.pngImagine all the hand-rubbing and maniacal laughter that greeted the arrival of this little beauty – the NikePlus iPod attachment – through Hocking’s letterbox this afternoon, just when I thought my eyes were going to explode from proofreading (don’t laugh; editing-related ocular decompression is a recognised phenomenon). Aha! I thought, fondling the parcel. A method of combining my innate geekery with a bit of exercise.

The parcel was chunkily promising and it did not disappoint. Inside were two bits of kit: first, a tiny pedometer/transmitter that fits perfectly into the trapdoor within one’s NikePlus trainers (good and, let me add, grief – into the sock it goes); second, a wee dongle that clicks into the bottom of my first-gen iPod Nano. Bosh. Nothing else to it. The iPod doesn’t even need to be restarted. A new menu item appears, and it is a simple matter to enter one’s weight and start running. Apple efficiency – it just works. Designed in California by Your Betters(TM).

The interface is a delight. Runs can be of a time, of a distance. Calories are counted. If the pedometer component doesn’t do a good enough job of accurately capturing distance, it can be simply calibrated. Once you’ve completed the run, the iPod will sync the data (distance, times, continuous speed, etc.) with iTunes and you can review your progress. The data are even uploaded to Nike, if you want, so you can compete with people called Chet.

This is so cool I could bust. When preparing for runs in the past, I’ve actually resorted to driving the route just to get an idea of how long the route is; now, all I need to do is select ‘half marathon’ or – gulp – ‘marathon’ from the list.

The uber-cool thing is that, periodically, the music track quietens and a sexy American lady tells me how long I’ve been running for. She’ll say things like “You’re half way,” and this is just solid gold information. That’s exactly the stuff you need to know.

A last thought: I can’t quite tell whether this next bit is freaky or cool, but as I finished my run (at the door to my house; how’s that for timing?), the sexy American lady told me how long I’d been running for, calories burned, and so on…and then I heard another voice.

“Hi, this is Paula Radcliffe!”

Nervously, I checked the bushes.

“You’ve just run your longest time. Congratulations!”

“Er, thanks. But that’s only because it’s the first time I’ve -“

“Be sure to check your stats online with NikePlus!”

“OK. Bye, Paula.”


I stared, awestruck, at the device.

Eighteen quid for geekery like this?

I got in, gave Britta a five-minute debriefing of all the features (in case she missed something during the five-minute briefing I gave her on the way out) and went upstairs to my office. I put the Nano on the desk.

That’ll do, Nano.” I wiped a tear from my eye. “That’ll do.”