Saturday, 24 October 2009

One to think about

Here's an interesting one from TechCrunch
I never understand why people who blog/tweet/im think that they own the words and can therefore just simply delete them and think that they then do not exist. Despite Twitter's T's and C's, stating that you own the 'tweets', the ownership of the words is irrelevant. Someone some where will read them, and that fact cannot be deleted and therefore the responsibility of the words are yours.
Treat all media the same as the spoken word.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Top tip

When was the last time you sent an e-mail with an attachment and forgot to attach the attachment. Why do we do this. I've done it lots and I know I'm not alone, as I get lots of emails with missing attachments closely followed by an "ooops" email.

If your using GMail, then have you noticed the "Labs" tab in the Setting?

Click it and have a look at some of the extra options. Some of them are just daft! Like adding "beta" back on the GMail icon, or making you do a maths question before it will allow you to send a mail late at night. But one of them caught my eye.

This one looks for the words "Attachment" in the body of your email, and then warns you if you try to send a mail without one attached. Simple eh! I want that in my Microsoft office.

So that's my "Top tip". Well, not quite... my tip is go to the Labs. Lots of companies try out idea's in the labs first. Autodesk Labs and Google labs are the ones I use the most (mainly with my work) but keep your eye out for others like Microsoft Office Labs. You get to play with some really useful stuff.

Written and submitted from home

Comment: Just noticed that Microsoft have a "forgotten attachment" feature in their labs. Should have looked before posting!!

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Picasa Update

Well, that's the latest round of Local Government presentations completed, and a success I believe!

All this running around has given me little time for anything lately, but hopefully that's it for the year.

Just a quickie for now. If your using Picasa for managing your pictures and video's, then don't wait for the automatic update to the latest version (3.5.0). Go straight to the download page (click the link above) and get it now. What's new? Well, the headline is the face recognition. It will scan all your photo's for faces, you can then tag it with a name. Picasa will then look for similar faces and tag them too.

It does come up with some strange and often humorous results occasionally, but in the main it gets it right. It even picked up some baby pictures for my daughter who is now 10.

Regardless if you find this useful or not, it's great to watch it pick up all the faces on your computer. On mine it picked up some gargoyle's and statues also!

I was amazed how may pictures I had of people on my computer.

Written and submitted from Home

Friday, 3 July 2009

Surveying the scene

This week has been incredibly busy...

First was a trip up north to plan an implementation and do some work for one of our clients with the World Cup Bid. Next a Jaunt down south for a bit of Surveying with Trimble in Farnborough. Jack has posted about that one, so I don't have to. Click here to read all about it. Then it was back to Bradford for "Back to Basics" with some CAD training for a GIS guy in one of our Utility Companies. Then back to the World cup bid for some late night (deadline pending) work transforming some ESRI Shape Contour data (2D with elevation attributes) into a GeoTIFF DTM. Next it was day 2 of the CAD training, then an early start to do some Civil 3D training for a client who designs Holiday parks. All interjected with some support for our Police with some ODBC connections. Somewhere in that lot I also managed to have various conversations and meetings about Business in general.

With all this work on, I have had no time to plan next week, Including a training session on Monday, so it looks like I will be working some of the week end too.

Anyway, why am I telling you all this? Well it's the recession. It's absolutely awful out there for some people, including friends of mine who have lost there jobs, and with no sight of any employment in their field. But as I have said before (somewhere) the recession could be the best thing that has happened to the UK in a long time. I do mean the UK and not the individuals who suffer, so don't chastise me for that statement.

People value money again. It's not something to be borrowed cheaply and spent cheaply. On the flip side, the banks are also made to respect the value of money, and are going back to the commonsensical and simplistic approach of balancing the books the way they used to (well, so they say, time will tell). The government has possibly made the best move by buying the banks. A 20p rise in the share value of RBS will net the UK £8b.

Estate agents realise that sitting on their arses and watching the till fill up is not good enough. Car dealers now have to actually try to sell their cars and be nice to their customers (well all except mine!!) and best of all, we may well see the end of the chav the same way we saw the end of the Yuppie after the last recession. Before the last recession in the 80's we saw a massive increase in the number of Yuppies. You remember Harry Endfields "Loads of Money" character. I don't know if the Yuppie was a symptom, a cause or just the result of the excess' in the middle classes, but they epitomised the time and died out when the recession hit. The Chav epitomises the excess of the oo's. They are the lower class' who could buy things cheap, due to the influx of cheap consumables from the likes of China, and could borrow money easily due to ridiculous way the banks ran themselves with people who didn't understand the market, the customer or even the products they were selling.

Then of course there is the "spend our way out of the recession" plan like the USA did in the 20's. This means that we have lots of projects on the go. We have lots of work fixing our infrastructure (the reason why I am busy). Although why our local authority saw fit to re-surface the road to my village when it was perfectly fine in the first place is beyond me! Some of the roads I drive on are not fit for a tractor.... anyway, I digress.

The point is, I feel very lucky to be in the position I am, and remind myself of that fact every day. Something we all can do, as there is always someone having a tougher time somewhere.

Written and submitted home

Sunday, 21 June 2009

New User interface

I have been using the latest Autodesk releases, 2010, for a few months now and in this post I am interested in the UI (user interface).

When Microsoft released Office 2007, we got a new interface. It had a Ribbon which replaced the tool bars. It had a big button like the Start menu in Windows Vista and was designed to be a "task" based interface, making it easier to find what your looking for. Except no one could find what they were looking for...

Now, Autodesk and indeed Adobe with their Photoshop product have had a Task Based interface for some time now, but still used toolbars. They have what is called "Workspaces". You selected the task you are doing in in the "Workspace" toolbar and all the buttons you need for that task appear. This system works, but was not widely adopted. Ask 100 Autodesk users "who uses workspaces?" and only about 10 would say "yes!" I don't train Photoshop, but although I suspect the figure would be higher, I doubt it would be by much more (I stand to be corrected on that one if anyone knows better). The point is that the UI needs to change. Microsoft know this, and so does Autodesk and Adobe. We have too many functions, too many buttons and therefore too long is spent learning how to use these programmes or waisting time finding functions you need. The fact that creating a function to make things easier, such as Workspaces, and for it not to be adopted because it is just another thing to learn must prove my point.

So we now have a task based UI called a Ribbon. So why does no one (i have met anyway) like it? I can't answer that for anyone but myself, but lets take Excel for example. Finding the button you want has been improved with the context sensitivity. Select an image and all the image buttons appear. But look for something like "Conditional Formatting", well, that's a different matter. In Office 2003, this would be found in the "Format" drop down. This made sense to me! In 2007 this is found in the "Home" tab. My brain says "Formatting" my software says "Common" task. It just doesn't hit the mark, or my brain needs more than 2 years to get it!!

OK, lets skip forward to the 2009 release of Autodesk's AutoCAD programme, and the ribbon appeared here too. When I asked for a show of hands at the last round of Launch seminars "Who installed 2009 software and turned off the Ribbon?" out of the 300 or so people, most did! Why? Well probably because they don't want to "learn yet another thing" and just need to get the job done, so revert back to what they know. Well we have Ribbon V2 in the 2010 product and I recon more people will adopt this time. Why, well because it just makes sense. Not only has it appeared in the vertical markets, Architecture, Civil and Map along with the Companion products such as Revit and Max, it makes using these incredibly complex programmes much faster, it also has been improved by working faster and having more adaptability with the customisable UI.

Lets take AutoCAD Civil 3D 2010, one of my specialities. As an expert in this programme, with the old versions I would need to find the function I want, and more importantly I needed to know what functions are available. Something that just took a little time. In 2010, just select the item in your drawing that you want to do something with, and all the buttons appear on the Ribbon. Brilliant! Select a surface, all the Surface tools are there. Select an Alignment, and guess what? all the buttons you need for Alignments are there. It really is that simple.

So what's different? Why is MS office not as good as AutoCAD? Well, I think that Task Based Work is just more relevant in a programme such as AutoCAD. We have work flows in Architecture, GIS and Civil Engineering. We don't in Office programmes. Or at least I don't in Office! I'm convinced the Ribbon is a step in the right direction, but it's not perfect for all programmes. Once again I revert to my posts on Surface Computing and Siftables. The need to change is important, and a step in the right direction should be applauded... with honest feedback.

Written and submitted from home

Monday, 4 May 2009

Google Latitude

I am currently experimenting with Google Latitude as a personnel locator. So for now we will have 2 locator's on this site. Plazes has been moved to the bottom. The reason for this is that Google is much easier to locate me as it's done via the GPS on my phone. I can also ask it to only locate me down to city level, so my exact location is not published, something I like. The problem with Plazes is only that updating it is not very good. It will only allow me to text in my location or use the web (unless I'm on the computer as there is a gadget for locating you by your IP address). As for the Web, I haven't found very reliable and "phone" friendly and so far every location that is texted and not already on their database is totally ignored, so despite my efforts and love of Plazes, it looks like I am going to have to drop it.

What google doesn't do yet, that Plazes does, is show "my world". The places where I have been. It also looks pants compared to the simplicity of the Plazes widget. Although I do like the fact that you get an icon with my profile picture on it.

I have used Google when meeting up with people and found it brilliant. When Mark was stuck in traffic, I could see his location on my phone and estimate his arrival time with out bothering him on the phone while he was driving.

As with all these things, there never seams to be a perfect answer. Each offering has benefits and drawbacks. What I want is a locator that will locate me via GPS or GPRS (Google), one that links directly to my Blog (Google and Plazes), looks good on the blog (Plazes), links to Facebook and Twitter (Plazes). But as the 1st one is the most important, no point if it can't locate me, then Google wins for the time being. Come on Plazes, I'm rooting for you!!!

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Nokia's new one

Hears an interesting one, courtesy of Mark, found on Nokia's "Point and Find" service.

Just point your camera phone at a film poster and the service will use a database to find the film and return relevant results like reviews and trailers. Now we already have a music version of this service, but a visual equivalent is quite a big jump in technology.

My main interest here is the use of Nokia's GPS to make the results location based and therefore more relevant. No point returning results for London when you live in Scotland. As if you need another angle for the power of location based services! Without the GPS, you know the service will just return useless results.

It's only for films at the moment, but think on... I bet you can come up with 10 more things that you would like this service to be expanded into. Point your phone at a restaurant and get a menu and booking info. Point it at your car and get a list of garages near you. Point it at a person and get their contact details!!! Mad, maybe. Possible, definitely.

Written and submitted form Home

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Earth Hour

Don't forget, you lights should be off at 8:30. It's fantastic with just candles. I might do this more often

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Useful, cool or just big brother?

I have always blogged about Location based services and how powerful and useful they are in the private and public worlds. I spend a lot of time defending LBS against what I called the "Luddite Lobby". I often got quite animated about it, and things like "mobile e-mail ruined my life" made my blood boil. The debate has hotted up with Google's Street View albeit at a slight tangent.

Once again, my initial reaction was to tell them all (the Luddites) to go and live an an island with only sheep for company. I've seen Street View in the States for some time now and loved it. However, now I see it in a place where I work, and can see into the living rooms of people I know, I am more forgiving and accepting of a debate. Although my opinion hasn't changed, I have to accept that their fears are legitimate and should be taken seriously.

I still think that most of these fears are born out of films and books about governments watching our every move and repressing our "civil liberties". If only people could be more "civil" then maybe I would have listened more! They're driven by fiction, not the reality. However, the fear or worry, however you want to put it, is still real. What we need are clear defined boundaries and complete transparency when it comes to revenue, data holdings, ownership and use. We need to ensure this code is clearly identified and communicated to everyone.

Once the boundaries are there and we all know what's what, then we can all enjoy the benefits of Location Based Services without fear. This type of technology should not be repressed through something as avoidable as ignorance. When the line is crossed, we can then react appropriately.

Of course we all hold the ultimate OFF button! And until "they" implant a microchip into my body, I will exercise my rights on my terms.

Written and submitted from the mobile

Sunday, 15 March 2009


I love this. It very much follows on from my post about surface computing ("It drives me Mad!!") where we are trying to get away from this insular computer environment. We want our computers to be invisible, and we want to use them without detaching from the real world like we have to at the moment. Both "Siftables" and "Surface Computing" do this to some extent.

My first thought when watching this video was "so what!". Then i realised how important this was when we see the toddler using Siftables as bricks, the child creating a story and the adult using it for word games and to make music. It's not about the computer anymore. David Merrill is absolutely on the button when he talks about making computers fit our lives, our physiology and our psyche.

Computing is really on the cusp of a monumental organic change....or even, in homage to the great Darwin, an evolutionary change.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

New User content

Ah, the new Sea content is comming:

Written and submitted from Home

Friday, 13 February 2009

Twitter and Plazes

I've been "Twittering" now for a week or so, and am liking it's simplicity. I'm finding it useful for Civil and GIS stuff as well as breaking news and the Brilliant Stephen Fry. Although some of the posts appear a little pointless, I like that too!!

I was looking for an app that would georeference my twittering. I found one for the symbian system, one for the i-phone and one for windows mobile that I couldn't get to work in the 5 nano-seconds patience allowed tonight.

Before I had a little (cyber) paddy, I thought I better just check Plazes, my favoured locator at the moment, and yep, they came up trumps again. No effort required, no software needed, no problem. Job done!

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Darwin Day

In view of Darwin's Birthday tomorrow I was looking at a fun web site:
After devolving myself, I decided that it would be better to devolve Boris instead!!

Written and submitted from Home

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Google Earth V5.0

Ah, the new GE again. 

I've had some hardware issues (and still have!!) so haven't looked into this in any detail at all yet. First job when you update yours, is to check out the sea. It is brilliant, and you can dive beneath the water too! Very nice.

Everytime I look at Google Earth, it gets a little closer to the vision I presented right at the begining (see earier blogs on Google Earth).

Still had poor data though!!!

Written and submitted from Home


I am now Twittering! Civil3DUK. I am not totaly sure of it's value, or even it's point yet, but will be persisting on this until I can decide either of the above.