Archive for Technology

Kindling

From the (estimable) inventor of Kindle It:

Kindle It lets you send articles you find on the web to your Kindle or other e-reader for easy reading. It is being developed as part of the Five Filters project to promote independent, non-corporate media.

Kindle It works by processing web pages in roughly the following way:

  1. Article extraction using our Full-Text RSS tool
  2. HTML cleanup
  3. Conversion to Mobipocket (the Kindle format)
  4. Email to user’s Kindle address

This is damn’ handy if you have a kindle and you encounter a web page or blog article (pretty much anything really) which you would like to read, but it’s too long, or you’re too busy at work. You think I must remember to read this when I get home tonight and promptly forget about it, or where it was.

With this browser add-on, you can – instead of forgetting – take instant action in your browser as soon as that ‘I’d like to read this at home tonight’ thought occurs to you. Just click on the kindle icon, or use one of those there deft keystrokes (here, it’s Control-Shift-K) and a window pops up with the article in it (so you can have a quick look to see if what you want is all there – it usually is). If you’ve set up your kindle to allow emails from this service address (kindle@fivefilters.org) then just click the button and your kindle will pick it up for you the next time you refresh it.

The text is well laid out – not too surprising since you’re generally starting from html and not pdf – and you’ll probably find all of the relevant images (if – say – there were any photos in a blog article) have arrived too.

And of course you don’t even actually have to have a kindle – you could just use the kindle emulator software (but it’s not the same).

This is why they invented computers.

Yore Gala

19280804tynemouthpoolgala

Here’s a picture – and we know the date it was taken because it helpfully says so in the album whence it was scanned – of a swimming gala held at Tynemouth Pool on the 4th of August 1928. It was probably taken by one of my great aunts or uncles. Maybe Ethel, maybe Lily. or maybe even by their brother Henry my grandfather. We just don’t know.

ÜberGøgl

How does one ask google to find out if there’s a technical term for the practice of deliberately leaving struck-out text in place?

There are probably two cases

  • in proof-reading, a need to see prior versions the history of the text.
  • in rhetoric, to pretend to hide an insult in praise

It’s specifically the second rhetorical use I’m after. There’s clearly no need for it. Technology has eliminated that. Why leave the ‘uncorrected text’ when you can just delete or reword without trace? Leaving it behind can only be to make a point, to amuse or to otherwise mess with the reader’s brain.

And that’s why the Ancient Greeks were invented, to provide us with those classy classical Greek terms like anacoluthon and catachresis. But it seemed unlikely I’m going to find one, principally because they didn’t have this kind of technology.

But we practiced such nonsense^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^hdeceptions on teletypes before we could tracelessly remove text. We’re not likely to see old stone carvings visibly showing explicit ‘control h’ (or some ancient equivalent of a carved mark for backspace delete). But there are many documents (including ones cast in stone) with visible corrections or amendments. Doubtless some deliberately left more unhidden than they strictly needed to be.

So the Greeks probably did have a word for it. But what is it? Are there any examples out there? And how do you ask google?

Soft sell

Introducing the LIBRE | PRO eBook Reader by Aluratek and the latest craze in the current digital revolution. … Also boasting superior battery life you can read up to 24hrs continuous use with an auto off feature if you just happen to fall asleep. Try the LIBRE | PRO eBook Reader and experience why the future of books has gone digital.

Not completely sure about the marketing approach here. First of all, I’m being told that this device is just part of a craze, so maybe I shouldn’t take it too seriously. Secondly, it’s hinting that the very act of reading is so boring I may fall asleep. And finally I’m being invited only to try – not to embrace with any kind of commitment – the new world of digital bookery.

I am a Camera

Not sure if this is what Christopher Isherwood had in mind when he came up with Goodbye To Berlin 60 years ago. His protagonist’s position was essentially as a passive recorder of things encountered. But how about actually streaming live video straight from your smartphone to a website, which anyone in the world can watch? This seems to me – for the next few years at least – to be something you’d actively commit to as a concious (though possibly spontaneous) decision.

In a few years time, when cameras are built in to your spectacles or headbands or even right into your bionic eyeballs, you may find it simpler to assume that everyone you meet is probably recording you on their own personal live streaming video channel. This should make everyone behave a bit better towards each other shouldn’t it? (Well, that’s one way of looking at the total lack of privacy).

So how easy is it right now? Turns out it’s a doddle and you can set up your phone to do it in about five minutes. And it can cost you nothing at all beyond what you’re already paying for your mobilistry.You can choose your phone from quite a large selection of them – if your phone can record video at all then you’ll probably be able to download the qik app for it.

I got it the usual way, by having my app store send me an sms with a link, from which I installed it. Then your phone camera starts and you’re invited to create an account (user name, an email address, your mob number if you like, a password) and – if you’re doing this at home (or on the move with a nearby public browser to hand) – within minutes you can see your live phone video streaming away in a little window on a website whose sole purpose is to stream your live video. To be able to do that so quickly is quite gratifying. Even just five years ago it might have been considered witchcraft by most mobile phone users.

But you might want to create your qik account first, before you download the app to your phone (but obviously this may turn out to be a waste of time if you can’t later get the app installed). If you do it that way, then you can instead opt to use your facebook or twitter account (smoke ‘em if you got ‘em). So you may not need to create yet another set of credentials for yet another web service.

On the qik website itself, you can set up your profile and connections to your blogs, to your tumblr account, to your aforementioned facebook and twitter accounts, to your youtube account, etc. “Now why would it be that it’d be that which you’d be wanting to be doing?” I hear you say in your best faux-Irish accent. Well, it’s because you can save your videos to any of those services you’re already using for sharing videos or audioboos or pictures with your extant social circle (or ring).

So when you encounter a difficult public servant or a truculent official or a cowboy builder or whatever – and it occurs to you to start recording them on video, you can be reasonably confident that even if nobody happens to be watching your live video stream at the time (which you have to admit is going to be pretty damn unlikely, who the hell do you think you are anyway – Tarantino?) your video will be posted to facebook or youtube or your blog where you and your chums can gasp in awe and point with appropriate derision at the antics of your filmed adversary. And this video will stay up on the intertubes for as long as you like.

Falling Colours

Do you remember photographic paper? I mean the old fashioned light-sensitive monochrome or chromogenic silver-halide coated paper upon which you develop images with various liquid chemicals. I don’t mean what they call photo-paper these days (e.g. for inkjet printers).

Mariah Robertson is at Baltic until the end of October.

Not for her the ten by eight print. She uses industrial sized rolls of the stuff. A meter or so wide and hundreds of meters long. The so-called ‘law’ of supply and demand would suggest that this stuff is now incredibly cheap because nobody’s buying it. Who’s doing chemical photography any more? The truth is the reverse of this (strange how often the laws of economics fail you) because of the ever rising price of silver halides. People are still doing analog, film-based photography, but they’re developing only the negatives and digitally scanning them. Use of enlargers and paper has pretty much gone.

Be that as it may, that it must cost a small (or even moderately substantial) fortune to produce these works, are you thinking of this cost when you look at the results? Clearly I cannot know what’s in your mind but I’d say not. They’re more fascinating than they have any right to be. They look mostly like accidents involving much chemical spillage, but the colours are fabulously glassy (the paper is glossy, not matte or that ‘orrible ‘satin’ finish) and radiate, emanate, in a way which my poor digital photographic record ironically fails to capture.

Mind the Gap

Media_httpimagesicnet_zxztc

So, it’s still here then. Seven months after the couple of dozen metres or so of riverside path collapsed into the river Tyne, the pile of dis-integrated bankside remains visible on your left as you cross the river by tram from Newcastle to Gateshead over the Queen Elizabeth II Metro Bridge. There doesn’t appear to be any online information about this either at the Gateshead Council, or Newcastle Council, or the River Tyne Authority (although this last bunch might have little interest in it since it’s so far upstream from the actual port).

Here’s an interesting comment, by one ‘mikeymo’, on the Chronicle’s article:

I was with a friend when walking along the river a couple of weeks ago and noticed the ground had split opened! I even stated to my pal that it could fall into the river!! 2 days later walked along the same path and the council had patched the gap witht tarmac!! I still thought that that there could be internal damage! The council are trying to cover up by blaming vandals when thy actually sent workmen to patch it!!! Thank God I had not been out that night!!

It rather looks as if the collapse was hastened by the ‘patch’, doesn’t it? I wonder how much the repair will cost and indeed – in this economy – if it’s just too difficult to do anything about. Rebuilding a riverbank has got to be quite a tricky and expensive piece of engineering.

Here’s an idea though – they could build a flat mini-bridge to span the gap. I suggest of a thick glass, or at least a transparent polymer. Kids could have a bit of a thrill walking along it and cyclists along the Sculpture Trail might encounter an unexpected surprise. Cats (scaredy or real) – well – they could just mosey nonchalantly up the bank a bit and walk around it. Like it’s what they meant to do all along, like whistling insouciantly as you avoid walking under a ladder.

It might be quite cheap and also a tourist attraction. Just sweep the muddy rubble into the river, by the way – it could do with a bit of a re-dredge.

If you don’t trust long words – see the five letters or fewer version of this post

Early Morn

Just a bridgy styling, early one morning in summer 2011. You don’t need to be in some sort of an aircraft to take a shot like this. You don’t have to be on a boat, and you don’t have to be on stilts. There are shadows, of things on each side of the river, so you can tell it’s morning and not evening. Anyone who knows the city can deduce where the picture was taken. But where exactly? And whose name is nearby?

20110710morn