Wednesday, August 12, 2009


"Those were the Golden Days, the days of lore. We'd spend all day tearing round the pillfields, stuffing ourselves on the God-given supply of spirits - plentiful and free. We wished for nothing more. We were happy.

"But time wears on, and pacbones don't get any younger. I remember that day the Doctor told me I had an intolerance to pills. I'd been feeling tired, down on energy for a while - but sometimes you just gotta push through the barrier for Good Times' sake, y'know? I guess we never wanted to stop and even ask if we were overdoing it.

"She assured me there were plenty of pill-free alternatives out there... that I didn't have to eat less, just differently. But I knew the truth. I knew there was no alternative for Akorah: the Ghost-Hunter substance, that once-in-a-lifetime freak occurrence where Mother Nature let slip and permitted us to open our stomachmind to forces outside of normality. That route is closed to me now.

"Sure, I'm alive. I live. I verb. I am adjectives. But there's alive, and there's alive. And in between there's so much difference that sometimes you can't even believe it's the same word you're looking at."

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Uses for the Ubiquitous Internet

Back in May, my old mobile phone went a bit funny in the head, so I kind of forced myself to upgrade. I had something of a nice, comfortable relationship with my old one, I have to admit. We made calls together; we hung out with my laptop, swapping calendars and to-do lists; we fooled around with SMS and came up with ways to actually use Twitter without the web. Simple, summery days, dressed up in breezes of nonchalance and simplicity.

So I guess I was in a fairly specific frame of mind when I got my new one. I did not want something that would bog me down. Slow interfaces, buggy hardware of software, unnecessary expenses. I've seen phones before that couldn't take calls, or that had buttons too small to use. I wanted to avoid all that. I have enough pain and middle-class emo suffering in my life already, I don't need more, even if it was geeky and artificial.

So in the end I went for a Nokia 6210 Navigator. I list the phone, because, I think, it's fairly unique. It has built-in GPS, and a built-in compass. And yes yes yes this was before all that hype about the iPhone thingyjig hit the streets too. I liked the phone, the price, and figured I didn't have to use these swishy features if I didn't use them.

Vodafone also threw in a month's free data usage and, still inherently being some weird type of geek, I figured I could have a play with that too, see what it was about, and again dump it if I didn't use it. Nobody's every managed to really persuade me it's a necessity, or even a great idea. 3G? Video on your mobile? Meh. Real life is the highest-res video you can get, man...

So how is it, a couple of months later? Well, I'd like to maybe do a more ... "philosophical" blog post about the nature of having the Ubiquitous Internet, - available whenever, wherever - at some point, but right now I'm starting to find some interesting little things that might make the whole thing actually "valuable", rather than just "gimmicky" or "time-passing". Here's what I got so far:

  • I couldn't use Internet in Japan without actually, literally, winning the lottery. But I am glad I installed a Semacode reader before I went. These little 2D barcodes are everywhere in Japan, and even if I couldn't read the content of the pages they pointed to, I love the idea and really want to use these more over here.

  • This week I played a little with RSS feeds. The most useful one is the recipe of the day feed from the BBC Good Food site. The beauty of having it on your mobile is that you've got access to a little backlog of ideas and inspiration when you're wandering around a supermarket/local food shop, too tired to think, or too hungry to filter. Also, it's easier than having a laptop in the kitchen.

  • Most intriguingly, I've installed Nokia's Mobile Web Server to turn the device into a source rather than just a gadget for consumption. So far, I'm fairly impressed - for something that's fairly "geeky", everything has gone really smoothly and been pretty intuitive. When my phone is on, you can access it at the address, with appropriate offline redirection, and status badge displayed somewhere in the right-hand menu of this blog...

    Not only can you instantly post small blog stuff (with photos) on the fly, but you can also use it to track your phone if you lose it (you can remotely start the server via SMS, and log-in to get location details from GPS, use the phone camera, or get access to call logs). I think there's a lot of potential here, but haven't managed to figure out what it actually is just yet. Would love to know if anyone else has had bright ideas, although some of the charm is just that it's a web site that is tied to my own activities - it sleeps when I do.

I've been playing with some other apps that overlap with the above, such as Qik streaming video and GPS tracking. I think these are more useful in very specific situations, or for very specific purposes, although it'll be fun to find out what these are exactly. You can also, it turns out, watch video and listen to music and even - eh? - talk to people, if you really want. But I've been doing that for some time now, anyway.

So if you've made it this far, thanks. What things have you been doing with your data package that excite you? What Really Useful Apps could we come up with to start getting away from our desk-based screens, and out into the real world?

C'mon, punk. Make my data.