Thursday 26 July 2007

Mobile Music at the Pub

I missed this Uni in the Brewery session in Wollongong about making music from mobile phones the other day, but heard Associate Professor Greg Schiemer interviewed on local radio before the event. One of the interesting challenges of Schiemer's work is that the mobile phones they are programming to create the music are rapidly becoming out of date and therefore in short supply.

Schiemer's approach to making music with mobile phones is quite different from the "spitting" approach I have heard about before. But what they have in common is that neither need a service provider - at most they use personal area networks.

BTW For those of you following my own connectivity saga, there is still no Internet at home.

Tuesday 24 July 2007

Dreaming of a seamless personal area network

As I'm still part of the digitally divided, my attention has turned to other gadgets within my personal (computing) networking space such as a recently acquired Nokia 6288 mobile phone.

Now, don't get me wrong as I still like my Palm T|X, but full credit to Nokia for bundling Nokia PC Suite with the phone as it was just so, so easy to get my Lotus Notes-based calendar to automatically synchronise with the phone using Bluetooth. The experience with my Palm on the other hand has never been quite as easy - in fact if a Palm application can't access or synchronise directly across Wifi then I won't even bother with Hotsync these days.

However, what I can't appear to do is to get all three devices - phone, PDA and laptop - to collaborate together using Bluetooth. If only I could mesh them together into a seamless personal area network. Any ideas that don't involve have a thousand different sync'ing applications running in the background?

BTW Good news... as of this morning I have a landline. No broadband yet, but at least I have dial up :-) Whoops spoke to soon - no dialup yet either!

Wednesday 18 July 2007

The trials of churning and porting

I'm still not connected yet. I don't even have a land line at the moment while the phone company works out how to churn and port my home phone number before we can even think about getting broadband switched on. While the break to blogging has been nice in a way, I'm learning how much I take for granted that always on connection to not only the blogosphere, but also the practical stuff too. Fingers crossed it won't be too much longer.

Its also a shame as there are some interesting things going on right now at CSC with internal wikis and blogs that I'd like to get my teeth into.

BTW I gave in a installed Google Gears (using portable Mozilla Firefox) so I could take my RSS feeds offline, but to be honest its still less than satisfactory; unless I replicate the whole of the Internet offline I can't follow up any of the interesting links anyway.

Monday 9 July 2007

The separation is terrible...

If you're wondering why its little bit quiet here on the ChiefTech blog at the moment, well its because I'm currently in the process of moving house. Unfortunately despite Nick Carr's best efforts, connecting broadband in Australia isn't quite as easy as getting an electricity connection...

We've lost the TV remote too and can't tune the television either, so over the weekend we have resorted to talking with each other. Terrible, I know.

Of course I'm not looking forward to catching up with all my RSS feeds.

Monday 2 July 2007

Dealing with the last mile of enterprise RSS

I've been discussing the issue of enterprise RSS on an internal CSC forum - someone suggested that RSS is still "too flaky" for serious use inside an organisation. Certainly there are what you might describe as last mile challenges in large organisations, such as even having the right tools to consume internal RSS feeds.

With good timing I came across this whitepaper from Worklight on Secure RSS (registration required)- they dissect what I would group into three broad issues (they actually break them into five): 

  • Multitude of Data Structures;
  • Scalability; and
  • Security.

This whitepaper is quite technical, but I think fundamentally what this demonstrates is that if you want to use RSS for anything beyond sharing public content then you'll need a system that can take care of the above issues without reducing the simplicity of subscribing to a feed. They conclude:

"RSS faces significant challenges in the enterprise world, because of the unique security and scalability issues that are not addressed by RSS specifications. RSS server and viewer vendors offer non-standard security solutions, so that interoperable solutions present the lowest common denominator of features, which is ultimately non-secure."

However, far from being flaky, this says to me that we understand what these challenges are and how to deal with them.

Sunday 1 July 2007

The Circle of Computing Life

I came across a great book a few weekends ago, called A Computer Called LEO, that tells the story of the first computer to be used by business.

Its a particularly unusual story, because the idea for the computer in question emerged in the first half of the last century on the back of early management thinking (particularly scientific management) and the needs of Joseph Lyons and Co.'s expanding English tea shop empire in the 1920s (the McDonalds of its time in many ways).

The first LEO or ""Lyons Electronic Office" consisted of:

"5,936 valves, plus another 300-400 in auxiliary equipment. The LEO used 64 mercury tubes for storage (twice the memory capacity of the EDSAC machine built in Cambridge). Each memory tube was 5 feet, four inches in length and weighed half a ton. The computer was controlled from a control panel, with several oscilloscopes set up to monitor contents of the storage area."

The LEO and later versions were eventually used by a number of large companies and government organisations in the UK and also in Australia, South Africa and Czechoslovakia.

But don't be put off by the hardware described above. There really are a number of interesting layers to this story, including innovation, information system design and even technology entrepreneurship. In fact this book really should be compulsory reading for anyone in the IT and consulting industry!

The LEO computer series was in operation between 1950s and mid-1970s but is far from forgotten and there is even a LEO Computer Society. I haven't read them but there have also been some early books looking at the history of the LEO: