I’ve decided to try Twitter and I don’t know why.

My tweets (that term is always going to sound wierd) are here, if you really want to know.

This is what happens when you get bored waiting for a train and you have mobile broadband web access in your pocket.

Ten years of MSDN Magazine could be yours!

I have ten years of Microsoft Systems Journal / MSDN Magazine (Oct 1997 to Feb 2007) taking up space in my house. The local universities have (wisely) declined my offer to donate them. If you want them and Google has brought you here then you can have them. You collect. I’m in South Manchester (UK).

After this I’ll try freecycle and then (reluctantly) they go in the recycle bin.


Being Mobile

Yesterday I bought a T-Mobile G1 – the “Googlephone”.

I haven’t had much time to play with it yet, but it seems like a great piece of technology.The broadband access to email and maps, the user-interface, and the general build quality are very good. I hear it also does phone calls. I hope to have more to say about it later.

But there’s a story here.

Some time in early 1998 I read the following on David Bennahum’s (now long-defunct) Meme mailing list:

8:30 am, mid-April, standing on the platform of Track 3, waiting for the Times Square shuttle to take me to Grand Central Station. About six hundred people are queued up, clustered in blobs along memorized spots where we know the subway doors will open. Most are just standing. Some are reading the morning papers. I’m downloading email through a metal ventilation shaft in the ceiling. I point my wireless modem like a diving rod toward the breeze coming down from the street above. I can see people’s feet criss-crossing the grate. If wind can get down here this way, I figure packets of data can too.   (Link)

He was describing his experience of mobile, wireless internet connectivity using Palm Pilot with an attached (bulky) Novatel Minstrel modem. This image stuck in my mind. I had had net access since the late eighties as a student, and limited access at work (I’m a developer) since about 1993, but always tethered to a desk. This mobile internet idea was cool. I decided that I had to get some of this.

In late 1998 I bought my first mobile computing device – a Philips Velo 500. This was pretty curring-edge at the time: about as big as a thick paperback, it ran Windows CE 2, had a monochrome LCD display with a green backlight, and a “chicklet” keyboard. Crucially, it also had a built-in 19.2kb/s modem, and built-in browser and email client. I had great fun plugging it into phone lines and showing people “look… email… web…!”. It wasn’t all that impressive, though, and it was too big and heavy to fit into a pocket.I didn’t yet have a mobile phone, and the Velo wouldn’t have connected to it anyway. All in all, not really what I’d imagined.

In late 1999 I bought a Palm Vx. This was a significant improvement. Even with its tiny 33.6kb/s modem clipped on it would fit comfortably in a jacket pocket. I bought some third-party brower and email software. Then I got a mobile phone with an IRDA modem, and suddenly I could sit in Starbucks downloading my email like a proper alpha geek. For a couple of years that was my primary personal email system. It was slow, though – GSM data runs at about 9kb/s. Also, making sure that the phone stayed in line of sight with the Vx was awkward. But it worked.

By 2004 I had acquired an HP 4150 PDA and a GPRS phone. This was more like it! The 4150 had a colour screen with decent resolution and the Bluetooth/GPRS connection was quite fast. It was annoying that that I had to fiddle with both devices to turn bluetooth on before accessing the net, the data charges were pretty steep, and I now had two devices to carry around. The main problem, though, was that Windows CE was just plain awful to use. Hmm. Still not right.

So now I have this G1. It has a high-resolution screen, okay keyboard, always-on broadband, and its fairly small. Its my fourth personal generation of mobile internet device, and it finally seems that it might be what I wanted back in 1998 – although I didn’t know what that was at the time. We’ll see.

(I still have the velo and the Vx.)

Thank you America

As i read my newspaper on the train this morning, with the Cheshire countryside slipping past, reading about the hope and joy being expressed by ordinary Americas for what might come next, you made me quietly and briefly cry.

Blog update

I’ve just updated this blog to WordPress 2.5.1. The theme that I’m using doesn’t seem to want to use any of the new gadgets, but I’ve had enough of dicing with death for one night. Expect some cosmetic changes soon…


A short walk

It’s now two weeks since I get back from a very enjoyable week spent backpacking in the Scottish Highlands, and a blog post is long overdue.

I walked from Shiel Bridge to Glenfinnan by way of Inverie in Knoydart, a distance of just over a hundred miles in six days, and passed through some amazing landscapes. I also met some great people.

On the first day I took a rather long route following valleys to camp in a glen above Kinloch Hourn. The next day was an incredible walk in bright sunshine along the side of Loch Hourn to the remote settlement of Barrisdale. On the following day I climbed a bealach (mountain pass) into the Knoydart peninsula, finishing the day at the village of Inverie. After a day off in Inverie, during which time I made extensive use of its excellend pub – The Old Forge – and bought some more food, I set-off for the final three days walking. On the first day I walked over to the head of Loch Nevis, spending the night in the wonderful Sourlies bothy. From there I took a high path over to Glendessary and camped on a headland at the end of Loch Arkaig. On the final day I walked through an amazing V-shaped valley into the alpine looking Glen Finnan to finish near Glenfinnan village, passing under the famous viaduct.

(when I figure-out how to, I’ll post a kml file of the route).

I passed through only one village, Inverie. Apart from the short section of road at Inverie,which isn’t accessible from the rest of the UK road network, I passed over no roads during the week. I camped five nights, spent one night in a bothy due to heavy rain (I had intended to camp nearby), and slept for two nights in the Knoydart Foundation bunkhouse at Inverie. It rained several times every day (I had expected it to), usually for about half an hour at a time, but was generally fairly warm.
I took a few new, untried items of kit with me. The Primus Gravity stove worked well but seemed quite heavy. I appreciated its stability, though. On a previous trip to Scotland my Pocket Rocket stove tipped-over and dumped my food on the ground – rather alarming at the end of a long, hungry day (didn’t stop me eating it though!). I also carried two 1 litre platypus water containers instead of a heavier Sigg bottle and Ortleib water bag. As well as being lighter the Platypus bags didn’t seem to taint the taste of the water. I used one while walking, and both when camped. Although I took chlorine tablets, I didn’t find it necessary to treat the water I drank.

I also took a new Sprayway Compact jacket, which did a good job of keeping me dry in some quite heavy rain. At the last minute I also bought a Sony DSC-W130 camera, which I’m quite pleased with. The photos are here.

Evening at Loch shielBarrisdale BayOutside Carryhully bothy

Apart from a long weekend in the Lake District a couple of years ago, this was my first first time away backpacking for about five years. I used to spend a lot of hiking and backpacking, but having a young family has meant that such things become much less frequent. Although I missed my family a lot, it was great to be out there with my own thoughts in such a beautiful place. I’m very grateful to Debra (who became a solo parent for the week) for the opportunity.

An Iraq Story

Four years and one month after the ‘liberation‘ of Iraq, the Guardian reports on the end of the sad story of Rand and Leila Hussein.

While I have no doubt that many Iraqis find ‘honour killing’ repugnant, and it is dangerous to generalise these events to an entire country, its clear that Iraq has a long way to go. I can’t believe this is even close to being an isolated case.

Iron Woman

Congratulations to my sister Helen, who completed her first Iron Man yesterday at Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. She swam 3.8 km, cycled 180 km, and then ran a marathon (42.2 km) back to back. An awesome achievement – well done Helen!