Category Archives: geekery

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 UK2.net 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, UK2.net 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™.

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.”

Goodbye!”

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.”