Writings on technology and society from Wellington, New Zealand

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Finity – Confronting Limits

Tomorrow I’ll be talking at NerdNite Wellington. As the title suggests, I’ll be talking to how unprepared we are to confront finite limits.

This article sets out the thinking I’ll be basing my talk on. And here is the Prezi I’ll be using.


posted by colin at 5:48 pm  

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The new Windows Mobile – A teenager’s perspective

A guest entry today – I lent the HTC Trophy running Windows Mobile 7 to my teenage son. Here’s his take on it.

One 17 year old’s opinion on this phone may be somewhat redundant, I don’t pretend to be the target market for a phone this expensive (possibly attributing to my ogling when being handed this for a play by my father?). But from the perspective of one who’s owned many Nokias and an iPod Touch, this phone seems to be a mix of the two with money thrown at it. So I’ll assume that you, reader of this post, who almost certainly spends more than $10 a month on their phone don’t really mind about spending a bit of money on some data. Not that I pretend to be an expert on data pricing.

Seeing as I have just spent 114 words outlining why I am completely unsuited to providing my opinion on this phone, I will now proceed to give it. In terms of hardware I can find no fault with it. It has a few buttons that are easy to grasp, but relies predominantly on its touch screen as an interface. The screen seems to be as good, if not better than my iPod, and it has a 4.1 megapixel camera. The Windows-driven interface is also easily manageable, their ‘tiles’ approach seems to work effectively, and maneuvering between the phone’s functions is easy and efficient.

The Internet user will also find that their address book is integrated with Facebook, and I would guess heaps of other stuff which my teenage phone experience has warranted little exposure to.

However, I still find myself maintaining my initial judgement of this phone, that the software, after a harsh upbringing in an orphanage, has been adopted into the hardware’s family, unlike with an iPhone where the components seem to be blood brothers. Oh please, elaborate on your confusing comparison I hear you ask. Very well. (i’m drunk on power by this stage.) Many of the phone’s menus and titles don’t fit, or are just a little too small for the screen, with seemingly random areas of blank screen space for no apparent reason. Stupid. Also, this may sound typical of someone who has grown up on Macs [the computers, not the beer -Ed], but the ‘Windows’ factor becomes apparent sooner rather than later. I have found myself turning to Google far too often to solve my problems, with a depressing rate of success. In this way (and many others) the phone seems more restrictive than the iPhone, and indeed it would be hard to not view the iPhone as more varied.

Thanks for taking the time to read this uncomprehensive (and in hindsight shockingly pretentious) report on my time with this phone. In conclusion, This phone seems to be good at being a phone, and I’m sure if you wanted to fork out around $900 for it, it could make your telephonic experience easy and simple. Comparing it to an iPhone seems harsh, despite them being in the same price bracket, and my Mac experience makes me question why you would buy one over an iPhone, but i’m sure Windows users will quite justifiably belittle this opinion. Whatever, man.

posted by colin at 12:10 pm  

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

That Windows phone

I’m on record as saying that Microsoft really needs its new phone platform, called Windows Phone 7, to succeed. It’s not that the loss of revenue from the declining sales of its old Windows Mobile phones hurts Microsoft much, but rather that it needs to be seen to be competent in a really important market.

Since the first iPhone, smartphones have come to challenge laptops for complexity and, in some cases, capability. Ten years ago, Windows on the desktop faced a small challenge from Linux and a larger (but still relatively small) one from Mac OS X. Now, despite the rise of the easy-to-install and use Ubuntu distribution, Linux is still very small on the desktop, but OS X is increasing strongly, up to about ten percent of total PC sales. But the interesting change is in the hardware: starting with the iPad, we are seeing devices using phone operating systems which are expanding into the space normally occupied by laptops. That’s a threat to Windows, not because of the iOS operating system, but because of Android – which is, of course, a version of Linux – becoming available in large numbers on slate-type devices and challenging Microsoft’s hold on the desktop and laptop operating system market. So, the question for Windows Phone 7 has got to be – not “is it good enough to sell?” but “is it good enough to keep Android out of the market, or at least out of the slate and tablet market?”.

posted by colin at 10:51 am  

Saturday, October 9, 2010

After the quake

On waking up five weeks ago and hearing an Radio New Zealand announcer saying “we’ll tell you more about the earthquake in the news in ten minutes”, I did what everyone seeking instant news does these days – I reached for my iPhone and the Twitter feed on it. It was immediately clear that Christchurch had been hit by a large quake, at the time said to be 7.3, shallow and close to the city. There were many, many tweets about people’s experiences and their shock, and some were already carrying pictures of devastated buildings.

There are many human stories associated with the quake – the best being that no-one died – and it’s not my purpose here to go through those. I will say, though, that I was touched to discover that the thoughts of many Christchurch folk, after the main quake struck, were toward Wellington which they feared had been wiped from the map.

There are many people who have lost their houses or are living in homes with no sewage facilities. There are those who have lost businesses, and there is pretty much everyone in Canterbury who just wishes the endless aftershocks would stop. If that describes you, you have my sympathy and my respect. I’m not going to write more about the human cost, though. It just seems too early.

This post is a lament for the beautiful old buildings in the CBD, many of which have been lost already or will be over the next few weeks.

posted by colin at 11:15 am  

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Homage to a piece of Kiwiana

A whimsical story referencing a piece of Kiwiana that we all know. Figure out which one before you get to the end!

posted by colin at 10:00 am  

Friday, August 20, 2010

iPhone: Getting back to 3

I’ve always kept my iPhone pretty much up to date with Apple software. After all, upgrades are free, and they often deliver exciting new stuff. Over the two years I’ve had my iPhone 3G, it has got more and more capable due to improving software.

Then Apple pushed iPhone OS 4 – or iOS4, as it’s now called – and the trouble began. Programs on my phone kept crashing, the sound kept getting interrupted and it became glacially slow. My phone went from being a thing of beauty and a joy to use to being a clunky machine to be endured and cursed. Using Wellington’s helpful text-to-park feature became nearly impossible because the parking machine would time out in the time it took me to send it a text message. And, in what was the last straw, it started ignoring incoming calls and going straight to voicemail.

This is the story of how I fixed all that by going back to iPhone OS 3.

posted by colin at 1:29 pm  

Friday, July 30, 2010


Last night at its annual general meeting InternetNZ made me a Fellow of the Society. This puts me in a very small group with people who have done amazing things, such as Internet pioneer Professor John Hine, Liz Butterfield who founded NetSafe and Hector’s World and Peter Dengate Thrush who is the chair of ICANN. I am deeply honoured.

posted by colin at 8:35 am  

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Disconnection is wrong

That’s the key message I gave to the Commerce Select Committee when I spoke to it today. You don’t get your Internet disconnected if you use it to commit fraud. You don’t get your Internet disconnected if you use it to make threats of violence. Why should copyright infringement, of all things, be such a special offence? And why should it attract a fine of up to $16,000, well above the fines levied on drink-drivers? Are we saying that driving drunk is less of a crime than unlawfully downloading a movie?

I gave the Committee some suggestions on how this law should work – if we have to have it at all. They are all in my submission to the Committee.

posted by colin at 3:41 pm  

Friday, July 23, 2010

Making law the good way

Yesterday I saw two popular quotes being disproved: the old saw about a committee having many stomachs and no brain, and the one about law being like sausage because you wouldn’t want to watch either being made.

I went to observe the Commerce Select Committee hearing submissions on the Copyright Amendment (Infringing Filesharing) Bill, which is the law designed to replace the failed S92A of the Copyright Act. I saw the first three submissions, and I’ll write a little about them below.

But first I want to say that the select committee process really does seem to work. It’s a really important part of New Zealand democracy that bills (that is, draft acts of Parliament) get looked at by small teams of MPs who call for public submissions. Anyone can have their say. And the committees generally listen and do their best to balance the interests and concerns of the people submitting. As a nation, we are blessed by having such an open government process.

posted by colin at 8:27 pm  

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Broadband as a Human Right (updated)

One year ago Finland passed a law declaring access to a broadband Internet connection to be a legal right. What does that mean? There’s a discussion of this over on Red Alert, after Jonathon Penney delivered a really interesting talk at Victoria University entitled “Open Connectivity, Open Data”.

Incidentally, it’s really good to see a major political party actually trying to develop policy in the open on the Internet. I’d love to see them both doing it. Where are you, National?

I wrote a comment on the Red Alert blog trying to explain what I think statements like “Broadband is a Human Right” mean. Here’s an expanded and tidied up version.


posted by colin at 2:32 pm  
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