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  • Jul 26th, 2010 @ 2:54am

    I'm sorry, I could be misreading you...

    But it looks like you're almost saying that having literature locked into a single proprietary format, protected (in the US at least) by the force of criminal law, is a good thing?

  • May 14th, 2010 @ 4:16am

    Seems pretty clear-cut in this case...

    The account name is "PressSec" and the first 5 words in the account bio are "An official WH twitter account" - and it uses a picture of the WH press room as its backdrop. This is a self-identified official administration communications method, and probably should not be used for casual 'neighborly' posts. This is clearly not Robert Gibbs' personal account - in other words, it's the position speaking, not the man. It's not like it would be hard or complicated for him to have a separate and personal account for personal opinions...

  • Feb 27th, 2009 @ 6:53pm

    I assume that means...

    that they'll be dropping the price, since they've just (effectively) removed one of the significant features over the Kindle1? I think it's fair to assume that publishers are going to make it opt-in, rather than opt-out, since Amazon has given them a veto...

  • Jun 21st, 2008 @ 9:24am

    Note Severed Fifth

    Severed Fifth (not severed filth) is a conscious effort by a well-known activist and member of the Linux/Free Software world, who also happens to be a musician, to explore alternate business models. He reckons he could get signed to a 'proper' label relatively easily, but since he already has a day job, he's willing to see what he can achieve with free distribution and online promotion. Pity he's a metalhead, but we can't have everything...

  • Dec 28th, 2007 @ 1:53am

    Re: what? educated but unskilled?

    When I say "educated-but-unskilled" I mean someone who has a decent education, who is literate and numerate, normally with at least some English, and who is at least comfortable with a computer or a PDA. Someone who has been through an education system which is above normal 'western' standards, but who does not have any specific vocational training or skills. These are normally relatively young women who - from what I know of HK - are probably taking an evening class or two, and while they get that qualification are working a low-paid but relatively safe/warm/comfortable job in retail service. I'm not saying it's the best job in the world, but it's not that bad...

  • Dec 27th, 2007 @ 7:50pm

    McDonalds in Hong Kong

    Here in the Fragrant Harbour, it's common to see staff in McDonalds wandering around with PDAs when the queues get big. They take your order, enter it on the PDA, send it to the tills using either Wifi or Bluetooth - I'm not sure which - and give you a post-it with your order number on it. When you get to the front of the queue, you give your post-it to the person serving, they enter the number, confirm your order and serve you. To be honest, I'm not really sure they save too much time, but Hong Kong is a city which largely works on the basis that educated-but-unskilled labour is very very cheap and plentiful, so I suppose they've decided it's worth it.

    This doesn't sound like quite the same thing, but maybe close enough to be prior art...

  • Dec 13th, 2007 @ 8:29pm

    (untitled comment)

    I'm used to reading Dilbert strips and wondering how Scott Adams managed to get hold of a transcript of a conversation I had a few days earlier in the office. I never expected to see xkcd do the same. Okay, it wasn't exactly that conversation, and we didn't have it in bed, but it was approximately 12 hours later, and it captures the gist pretty well...

    One of the problems is that it's not granular enough. When someone is listed as 'in a relationship' and they remove that from their public profile - without replacing it with another status - it can mean a few things. It happened to a friend of mine earlier this year, who was in a long-distance engagement; his fiancee came to visit him, and a few days later, he removed his status from his profile. It could have been a desire for privacy or - as in this case - that they had broken up, but he didn't want to declare himself single.

    The other slightly-related thing I can mention is people who don't connect the 'interested in' field with the 'looking for' one - and thus accidentally announce a random and incorrect sexual orientation...

  • Jul 3rd, 2007 @ 7:46pm

    Come on now!

    I'm as much of a supporter of the "distribution as promotion" idea as anyone, but you know as well as I do that you're not being fair here.

    A lot of the problem, as you've mentioned before, is that it's very hard to estimate the influence of free/online distribution on a film/album/etc. - so to say that having the last Star Wars movie available online before it was released in cinemas "certainly didn't hurt sales" is a fallacy. You can say that it certainly didn't lead to the failure of the film at the box office, you can say that it didn't appear to hurt sales, but there is no way of knowing what the sales would have been without the online distribution, so there's no way of knowing the effect. I think it's fair to say that having a film/album be available online for free probably does lead to some lost sales, but it also probably leads to some gained sales, as people who enjoy it decide to pay for cinema quality, sleeve notes, honour, etc. In general, unfortunately, we do not know how large these two effects, positive and negative, are - and therefore we cannot say if the online distribution was an overall gain or loss to the sales of the 'product'.

  • Nov 12th, 2006 @ 7:42am

    You do have to wonder...

    why Motorola would want to buy in an NTP lawsuit...

  • Aug 15th, 2006 @ 12:06am

    It's in London

    The one important thing missed out from the article summary is that this is talking about taxi (black cab) drivers in London. Cabbies in London have to learn a significant amount of the city off by heart, and are examined on it, before they are given a license - it's one of the reasons why being a cabbie is a pretty respectable career choice in London. The average time taken to learn The Knowledge ranges from 26 months for a suburban application to 34 months to someone who is an 'All London' applicant.

    In other words, the article is not saying that cabbies in general don't like satnav - it's saying that a particular group of cabbies, who are justifiably proud of their knowledge of their city, don't like satnav.

  • Jul 10th, 2006 @ 5:38pm

    Things are a bit different here...

    Here in Hong Kong, that is.

    They do tend to charge a booking fee, which is pretty annoying, but the cinemas all have reserved seating with live online 'maps', so you can see exactly what you're buying. I have ruled a showing out before because while there were available seats, they were all either singles or right at the front or side of the room. Also, most cinemas have automated ticket machines for online bookings, which normally have a much shorter queue (if any) than the regular box office, and except maybe for a popular showing of a popular new film at the most expensive cinema in town (in one of the poshest malls), you'd struggle to pay more than US$10 for a ticket, even including the booking fee. Okay, different value of money, but in pure cash terms, the prices are pretty decent...

  • May 15th, 2006 @ 7:51pm

    Yes, but then again no...

    I spent a couple of weeks in hospital in the UK about 18 months ago. While in A&E (casualty, ER, etc.) I asked for a phone so I could call my parents and my boss to tell them where I was, and was told to just go ahead and use my mobile - fortunately, I'd just slipped it into my pocket as I was waiting for my ambulance, so I had it with me. During my entire stay, only one nurse ever batted an eyelid at my using my mobile on the ward, and to be honest, it really helped. I was in no real medical trouble after the first couple of days, but to have my own phone with my own number, so friends, family and colleagues could get in touch with me - in many cases without even knowing I was ill - made it much easier to be in there.

    I did use a porta-payphone once - I think my mobile battery had run down and I didn't have my charger there yet. They wheeled the little trolley over to me and gave me the cable to plug into the wall - when they offered to help me plug it in, I made some smart-arse comment about being perfectly capable of plugging a phone into the wall myself... I'm pretty sure I was the only person on the ward with enough electrical kit that I needed someone to bring me in a 4-way adapter, since there weren't enough plugs for patient use :-)

  • Feb 7th, 2006 @ 4:03am

    They could, but they can't

    Google could turn on the necessary transports to get gtalk to interoperate with MSN, Yahoo, ICQ/AIM et al tomorrow - but they won't, for two reasons:

    • The proprietary networks tolerate third parties connecting to them at the moment for the simple reason that none of the competitors (trillian, gaim, web-based things, other jabber servers) are big enough for them to notice. The IM networks are a combination of brand/marketing tool and an ad-revenue tool, and having a few thousand (tens, hundreds of thousands?) of the more savvy people on their network doesn't do their brand any harm, doesn't cause a significant drop in ad revenue, and just doesn't bother them. Google may be a different story, and it's pretty trivial for the proprietary networks to break third-party clients whenever the whim takes them...
    • Without the support of the proprietary network, there is no sensible way to interoperate without requiring the user to have an account on all the networks, and having either the gtalk client (trillian/gaim-style) or the gtalk servers (jabber transport style) login to the proprietary network on their behalf. You can provide one-way comms, from gtalk into the proprietary network, but unless the proprietary network is cooperating, there will be no return route for a conversion - which makes it a dead-end for communication. Having multiple accounts multiplexed through a single client or server works fine for techies and other people who may be willing to take a little inconvenience in the name of interop and communication - but my mum (who uses MSN, unfortunately) isn't going to stand for it.

    • Apr 21st, 2005 @ 11:17am

      Counter-examples (as Richard Cohen)

      I have had dealings with two companies this week by email - neither being on the same continent as me. The two companies were Lik-Sang (a question about something bought from their German office but not received) and Mobility Electronics, aka iGo (a question about buying a replacement part without paying extortionate trans-Atlantic shipping charges). In both cases the responses were quick - well within the day - accurate and helpful and was easily enough to retain me as a happy customer - enough for me to want to commend them on their service. Mobility, in particular, deserve mucho credit for going far beyond the call of customer service.