Writings on technology and society from Wellington, New Zealand

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Where it all began

Bletchley Park.jpgI was privileged yesterday to visit Bletchley Park, the home of the British WWII codebreaking effort.

As well as the story of Alan Turing and the Enigma, which I’ve talked about many times before, Bletchley Park has many tales to tell. One I didn’t know was the Colossus computer built to crack a later German code. It really was the first programmable digital computer in the world. Twelve were built, but all were destroyed after the war by Churchill’s order. He didn’t want the Russians to know the extent of Britain’s codebreaking abilities.

Today you can see a rebuilt Colossus made out of radio valves and old telephone exchange equipment. It’s about the size of six modern computer racks, and generates over 5kw of heat (nothing changes!). It also has a loop of paper tape running at over 30mph. It’s all part of an intitiave called The National Musueum of Computing.

So, Bletchley Park is the place where the modern computer was invented. And then covered up.

posted by colin at 8:16 am  

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Travelling again – staying connected

I’m away from New Zealand for a few weeks, visiting my extended family. Here in this sceptred isle the weather is cold and I’m already missing Wellington. But the company here is great, and I’m actually looking forward to Christmas.

I’m doing some interesting things to stay connected while I’m travelling. There’s no way you want to pay our outrageous data roaming charges, so the iPhone “Data Roaming” option is firmly off. But there are things you can do. The house I’m staying in at the moment, for instance, has wireless broadband but it’s all locked down by my host’s employer. So, I’ve bought a little wireless access point with me – also locked down hard – and connected it directly to his router. That means that the four different wi-fi enabled gadgets I’m carrying can all get online. I bought one of these when I arrived but I haven’t needed it yet.

As to those who might say that I should just leave everything behind and ignore the Net for while – maybe I should. But, then, who would pay my bills while I’m away or keep my business running? And how would I have managed the Skype teleconference I needed to have on my arrival?

posted by colin at 10:43 pm  

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The little phone that could

For years Apple’s Mac OS X has been making slow inroads into Windows’ installed user base. But it’s slow progress. Windows is still massively dominant on the desktop.

That’s the context for today’s story about Apple’s venture into smartphones, the much-hyped iPhone. The sales of iPhones exceed the sales of every type of Windows Mobile smart phone put together.

The article linked above speculates as to why this might be. It suggest two reasons, both of which come down to developer preference: one is that Windows Mobile runs on a wide variety of hardware and that makes life hard for developers; and the other is that the iPhone is just sooo cool. That’s right, it’s the third party applications developers who are driving the adoption of the iPhone and deserting Windows mobile.

This is significant because we are seeing Microsoft being taken on and beaten handsomely – not just little chips away at a huge installed user base. It must be an unfamiliar feeling for them.

posted by colin at 6:10 pm  

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Geek toys for Christmas

Today on Radio New Zealand National I have a light hearted look at things to buy for Christmas for your friends of a geekier persuasion, or, let’s face it, things to just go out and buy for yourself! Read on for my notes or download the audio as ogg or mp3. (more…)

posted by colin at 9:20 pm  

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Changing your Internet provider

Today on Radio New Zealand National I talked about changing your ISP. The subject was prompted, in part, by yet another failure at Xtra – and by the Consumer magazine survey which says, every year, that Xtra delivers the worst customer satisfaction of all Internet providers.

And these Internet failures hurt New Zealand businesses. I was talking to a business at the weekend which had been prevented from getting their business done for a while. I asked why they don’t change providers and I was told: we don’t know how. Sue, this one’s for you.

I’ve written some instructions on what you do to change ISPs. I’m going to keep them live on the front page of this blog for a while, near the top right. And – it’s easy. Don’t let your ISP get away with bad service – vote with your feet.

Read on for my speaking notes, or download the audio as ogg or mp3. (more…)

posted by colin at 12:17 pm  

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Co-working comes to Wellington

Recently I went to the launch of Altspace, a co-working venue in Wellington. Co-working is a phenomenon among tiny companies and freelancers. The idea is, that you join a club where there are desks, meeting rooms and an Internet connection. You bring your own phone and laptop. You pay a membership fee and that gives you access to the club, and to a network of other clubs around the world.

Why would people do this? Many of us can’t justify offices of our own. But co-working is a bit more than a serviced office. Co-working stresses interactions among its members – hence the name. Sometimes it’s more productive and more fun to work in the company of others, rather than alone in a home office.

Co-working looks to be the start of something new. It looks really interesting. I hope it takes off.

posted by colin at 10:34 am  

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