I'm not likely to be blogging much this next week or so. It's pretty imperative I be finding a new job, so that's what'll have my full attention. I'll continue to microblog via txt at The Twitter, so I'll hardly be gone at all.

I'm not presenting Website Outlook to you as anything other than a curiosity, but a curiosity it most certainly is. Submit your website domain (or indeed, any other domain) and it returns a valuation. For example, Google.com:

Net Worth : $1.2 Billion
Daily Pageview : 550000000
Daily Ads Revenue : $1650003.16

It also supplies PageRank, backlink count, Dmoz listing and other basic info. I have serious doubts that this has any real bankable value, (the site is full of typos and sloppy writing, so one wonders about the attention to detail behind the calculations) but if you're wondering about the potential value of your web properties, this is an interesting place to start. I'm certainly curious enough to delve a little deeper.

Learn how to use Yahoo Pipes and TwitterFeed to keep your Twitter followers up to date on your latest blog posts and anything else you happen to be up to on the internet.

You can get a glimpse at the end result by paying a visit to @foobot, my personal robot slave. There are several improvements I want to make, so he should be considered as 'in beta' for the meantime. As I add features I will add other parts to this tutorial series.

Let's get started, shall we?

Step 1: Create a fresh Twitter account

This step is entirely optional. Consider how your followers will react to receiving automated tweets - many will feel like they're being spammed. In the final stage of this guide you will be able to control how many tweets-per-hour get fed to your Twitter account, but I chose to create a separate account. You will need a different email address for each new Twitter account you create, but you should have no other problems.

It's going to be handy to be able to post messages manually to this account. Twhirl makes it easy to manage multiple Twitter accounts. Alternatively TwitterBar lets you post directly from your Firefox address bar.

Step 2: Yahoo Pipes

'Pipes is a powerful composition tool to aggregate, manipulate, and mashup content from around the web' according to the blurb. It's also surprisingly simple to use, so don't be overwhelmed by all the options - we're not going to try anything complicated. If this is your first time watch the quick video 'Learn how to build a pipe'.

You'll need a Yahoo account if you don't have one. When you're all set, click 'Create a pipe' at the top. You should be presented with this:

The menus at the top lets you name your pipe and the left hand menu contains all the modules you can use to create and manipulate your feeds. Lets drag the 'Fetch Feed' module into the main window. Now we'll need an RSS feed. In this example, I've taken my del.icio.us feed. The easiest way to grab the RSS URL is to right click on the link and select 'Copy link location' (or similar, depending on browser). Paste that into our module.

Ta-da. If you select that box and look in the debug window you can see the feed output. Repeat this for all the feeds that you want to broadcast on Twitter.

Now we need to join all these feeds together, using the 'Union' module (under 'Operators'). Then wire the output of that up to the 'Sort' module. Sort should update itself so the dropdown menu has all of the relevant attributes. We are going to sort by item.pubDate in descending order. Wire that up to the 'Pipe Output' module, and we should have a working feed. Click on the screenshot below to take a closer look at what you should have:

Make sure your pipe is saved and click the 'Run pipe...' link at the top. This will take you to a page that displays the appearance of the RSS feed and gives you a multitude of ways to put it to use. We just need to grab the feed from the dropdown menu at the right and keep it handy for step 3...

Step 3: TwitterFeed

Finally, we need to get our RSS feed into Twitter, and this is exactly what TwitterFeed does.
You'll need an OpenID to sign into TwitterFeed. I like ClaimID, but it makes no odds which one you use. I don't think a step-by-step guide is necessary here as the process is so simple: Enter your Twitter login info; your RSS feed and how often you want TwitterFeed to tweet.

I chose to include only the RSS titles in my tweets, and I like my URLs to be shortened with TweetBurner. Consider if you want your automated tweets to have a special prefix so your followers can tell which updates are automated (A good idea, but since I'm using a special account for this, I didn't see the need). Finally, make sure the 'active' checkbox is checked and go ahead and click 'Create'.

Step 4: Wait...

That's it, we're done for now. You may have to wait a while for your first update, and there is no guarantee that every single item in your feed will be tweeted, but I think we're off to a good start.

Check back for part 2 later. In the meantime you're most welcome to subscribe to my RSS feed, or join me on Twitter.

Mixwit simply lets you produce a mixtape out of whatever music you can find via seeqpod, skreemer or just as plain mp3's on the interweb, and embed them as a snazzy widget on your webpage. Well, you can see how cool it looks below...

The process was really simple - just search for tunes and drag the ones you like from the results list to your playlist. I rather liked the default templates, but you can upload your own image to truly customise the look of your tape. I didn't need give out my email address or sign up to anything to produce the widget above, although doing so would let me go back and edit the tape in the future. If you write a music blog, this would make a great sidebar widget.

So, another little service that does something simple, incredibly well.

Just as I was calling it a night, I noticed on Summize that the term Jaiku is trending. From what I can gather, most of the posts are Brazilian and they seem to be dissatisfied with Twitter and leaving en masse for Jaiku. Here is a translation of the results page, updated in real time.

Orgoo describes itself as 'your personal communications cockpit'. In real terms this means that you can send and receive email through multiple accounts, through a single inbox (unless you use free Microsoft or Yahoo webmail). It similarly collates all your IM accounts and uses Joopz to let you send SMS messages (in the US and Canada). The interface is one of the cleanest I have used - It's as polished as Yahoo Mail but with more of the simplicity of Gmail.

They recently added video chat to the mix, which is well implemented and promises to be embeddable in the future. You are able to invite anyone by sending them a unique URL, and your guests don't have to be Orgoo members - an open minded approach that makes the service potentially much more useful.

Sadly Orgoo won't become my 'personal communications cockpit' for a while yet, for the simple fact that I would have to pay for my Hotmail and Yahoo services to make it really valuable, and those accounts are not worth the money. Pidgin is a more robust IM client too. I am forever opening and closing Firefox, and I suspect this is pretty common behaviour, so I like to have an IM running constantly in the background and not taking up a tab in my browser.

Also, in my tests Orgoo was deadly slow. It took forever to load up my Gmail inbox and then to view the individual messages. This may well be because of heavy load due to the sudden influx of new users from TechCrunch and the like. There are privacy issues to consider too as you will be trusting this one small company with a lot of your account information and personal data.

That said, I have six invites to hand out. Send your email address to foomandoonian (at) orgoo.com, and I'll shoot out invites to the first six requests I get.

TinyURL is the original URL shortener. The service is very simple - take a long URL like:


and make a much tinier URL, like: http://tinyurl.com/3qyjpe. TinyURL offers several additional features that are standard for most URL shortener services, including 'preview' links (eg: http://preview.tinyurl.com/3qyjpe) and bookmarklets, so you can streamline the process of creating short URLs.

So that's all pretty simple, right? Why would you want to use one of the many copycat services? Well, as with my other round-ups this one is not going to be comprehensive. Instead, here are a selection of URL shorteners that have some genuine value add. Still too much text? Skip to the end. Enjoy.

is.gd is one of my favourites. It produces some of the shortest URLs (eg. http://is.gd/mdt). Users can see a preview page by appending a hyphen to the URL (eg. http://is.gd/mdt-). You are also free to add any hints you like, after another "/", for example: http://is.gd/mdt/meow.

snipurl, snurl or snipr.com, by contrast with is.gd, makes a simple service seem complicated. They have tons of features, and I hate to do them a disservice, but I wasn't prepared to create an account for something that is so non-critical. If you need Excel integration, RSS feeds, support forums, 'multi snips', privacy keys and tons of other features, check them out. Example url: http://snipurl.com/2atwu.

memurl tries to generate mnemonic URLS, like http://memurl.com/kepumi.

doiop.com lets you pick a keyword (provided you can find a unique one) to produce more memorable URLs: http://doiop.com/flyingrat. It seems short of other features though.

icanhaz.com does the same as doiop, but with extra LOLcat, making for some amusing URLs: http://icanhaz.com/schrodinger. You have the option of entering your email address so you can edit your URLs later, but I could see no way of logging in. Just to be safe, I would advise against it.

moourl.com's unique selling point seems to be 'cuteness'. It also has the option to personalise your URL. http://moourl.com/hownow. And it is cute!

Metamark can also generate custom URLs. A typical URL is http://xrl.us/tortoisefail, but that link will fail unless the user knows to append the password (in this case, add: -fail)

notlong.com is the only one I found that actually uses a custom subdomain, allowing you to create URLs like http://kingarthur.notlong.com. It also, by default, gives you a password to access your stats and manage the URL. One of the neater shortening services!

TweetBurner caters to the Twitter market by giving you stats associated with your account, and making it easy to tweet your twurl (!). Again, the bookmarklet simplifies the process. Typical URL: http://twurl.nl/5wucdf.

HURL.WS is hosted on Google, so won't go down unless Google does. The URLs are not the shortest (eg. http://www.hurl.ws/7y) but it does let you check how many people have clicked through one of your links by appending /hits - for example: http://www.hurl.ws/7y/hits.

urlTea is open source and has some extra funkyness. Typical URL: http://urltea.com/38vd. You can also append descriptive info to the URL after a question mark, http://urltea.com/38vd?like_this.

Finally, LinkBunch does something a bit different and creates a short URL for multiple links: http://linkbun.ch/dw1. It does mean that users have to be routed through a special linkbun.ch page, but there are many useful applications that make this compromise worthwhile.

In conclusion...

Use is.gd to keep it simple and short. Use Tweetburner if you use Twitter. Use notlong if you want the URL to look semi-professional.

TechCrunch on Twitter. Nothing much to add, except the comments are great - in fact I think I'm now sold on the benefits of video commenting.

Muxtape quite simply lets you roll your own mp3 mixtape on the internet to share with others.

As you can see from the main menu on the left, things are kept very simple. Upload your files, rearrange the playlist and rename any tracks you need to, and settings lets you name and caption and associate a colour with your muxtape.

The social networking features are pretty basic too. You can add anyone else's Muxtape to your list of favourites and you can explore a random selection from the front page. Last.fm this is not. Take a look at my muxtape to see the player in action.

A nice alternative is altertone, which is very slick looking and open source, but lacks the minimalism of Muxtape.

One final note worth mentioning is the official Muxtape blog. There was a short service outage over the last few days and this kept the users very well informed - something that Twitter has only just figured out!

We Heart It is a simple image bookmarking site, without the elitism of Ffffound. The service stands out because it keeps things simple and does things well.

After signing up, be sure to add the bookmarklet to your browser. Then it is just a matter of clicking a button, and optionally tagging and writing a comment on the We Heart It site. The tagging makes it easy to find similar images. You can choose to filter out NSFW content and there are rudimentary social networking features, but that in itself is no weakness. There is also the usual RSS feed so you can export your discoveries to your tumblelog or wherever.

I'm going to be writing about several other sites that serve a small niche but do it very well this week, so stay tuned for some more high quality discoveries.

Twitter is going a little nuts over a new social network called Pheltup, with people clamouring for invites. It's a hoax people, pure and simple. I'm a Web 2.0 geek and was at first seduced by the sexy logo and bold colour palette, but read on and you'll see why you should keep your email address to yourself.

If you're not a member you don't get to take a look at what's going on inside (at least not yet) leading people no alternative but to speculate. The site only hints vaguely, saying on the front page that it is "The first social network that not only tells you WHO is doing WHAT; but also WHY." Wired posted a short piece saying "This is what we know about Pheltup: It's probably an elaborate inside joke."

Wired also notes that WhoIs information shows that the domain was registered on the 21st of May, saying "Could a social network spring up overnight? Not likely." The WhoIs gives no other clues, but does reveal that the company Pheltup.com are based in Vancouver.

Sources for more information are currently pretty scarce. There is a Pheltup account on Twitter, a thread on Get Satisfaction and a room on FriendFeed for people wanting an invitation.

If it is a hoax, as Wired suggests, then they have persuaded a lot of others to play along, including Nick Douglas and Scott Beale. Neither journalist has blown the whistle, but Laughing Squid could just be playing along. In fact no source from the inside has yet written a review or provided any screenshots or anything concrete.

Mike Monteiro has probably done the most to convince me that this is all a big joke. In various tweets he 'reveals' that big Twitter users Zappos and Will Wheaton have an account (although they haven't mentioned Pheltup themselves) and hints at some cool 'tutorials' feature and something called a 'socialspirograph' (which sounds very cool, or could be utter nonsense). Mike's bio says 'You have fair warning that I will lie to you'. Also his most recent posts (after the teasing) say ' Got ONE. First-come, first-served.' then '...and there it goes.' So was the lie a lie? I give up...

Some users are utterly convinced it's just a wind up, including Aaron Muszalski: 'That's it. I'm fed up with pheltup. They were cool 20 hours ago, but now, between the downtime, the privacy holes and this TOS kerfluffle...'

Even the initial David McCreath and Merlin Mann tweets link to jokey URLs like:
pheltup.com/bayareatraffic, and pheltup.com/pantiefight (age verification req'd)

So I had to go around in a few circles to come to this conclusion, and now I feel like a big dork because the clues were right there from the start. The ultimate question seems to be, is it just a friendly poke at social networking addicts who 'must have an invite' or a scam to harvest thousands of email addresses from a very specific demographic?


Simon Wistow gets the joke. Last year he 'created' Flume, a similarly vague 2.0ish site, big on hype, low on detail.

It would appear that Pheltup is running off the same technology that the stillborn Flume did. I believe it was originally called "Smoke and Mirrors" but has been renamed "Bullshitr" for marketing purposes.

He gives more of the story here.

In a perfect link with my post about useful Twitter applications from earlier today, Get Satisfaction have just announced a new service called Overheard:

Get Satisfaction's powerful Overheard feature enables you to support customer conversations across the Web by bridging the Twitter stream to your Get Satisfaction community. Hear what your customers are saying, and respond to them in a channel they are already using. Simply set the keywords you want to track, and you'll see all the messages on Twitter ("tweets") that match your search terms. See someone you want to reach out to or a customer idea worth exploring? Turn that tweet into a topic and quickly bring the rest of the Get Satisfaction network into the conversation.

Get Satisfaction have built a fantastically useful website built around a concept so simple and brilliant it's staggering to me that it hadn't been done before. Essentially it's a tech support forum, linking customers with companies, including Twitter.

Get Satisfaction is a direct connection between people and companies that fosters problem-solving, promotes sharing, and builds up relationships. Thousands of companies use this neutral space to support customers, exchange ideas, and get feedback about their products and services. Get Satisfaction is open, transparent, and free. You’re free to ask, free to answer, and free to start a new conversation. Everyone is invited and encouraged to participate: companies, employees, customers — anyone with an opinion, an answer, or something to say.

Overheard is powered by Summize. The company or individual simply runs a search on the company name and identifies an issue. They can then get a topic started on Get Satisfaction:

The topic starting page makes you narrow the problem down over several stages until it is well defined. It even estimates the likelihood of the discussion getting noticed once it is posted! Presumably this could also be an ideal forum for companies to steal away customers of their competitors who are less web savvy! All in all, this use of Twitter is probably smarter than any of the others I listed earlier.

There seems to be a new Twitter app every few hours. Some, like Twitter Mood Status or Twistori are entertaining distractions, but are hardly essential tools. Here are some of the more useful applications of the Twitter API:

Search & Filter

Summize and Quotably both allow you track conversations and see what topics are popular. Quotably attempts to thread the search results from Summize, but in my experience it is impossible to do this effectively.

TwitBuzz is one of many similar sites to take the idea of monitoring trends a step further and does an excellent job or organising popular links and popular conversations. See also Tweetmeme, which seems a little more polished and Twitt(url)y with its simple and clear layout powered by Summize.

TweetWire does a good job of categorising the information in draws into newspaper style categories like sports, celebrities, tech and current election coverage.

TwitLinks narrows its sources to 'the worlds top tech twitter users', but - apart from the Jason Calacanis spam - the results are typically high quality.

Favrd keeps to the popularity contest just by listing the most 'favoured' current tweets.

Hashtags and Twemes take a different approach. Both search for tweets that have been explicitly tagged by users with the hash character (eg: #hashtag). These are commonly called hashtags, although naturally enough Twemes prefers the term tweme. I have a strong preference for Hashtags because of the much cleaner presentation, the interesting trend graph and a better selection of related search results (photos, videos, blog posts etc, all similarly tagged).


Twubble helps you expand your Twitter bubble (geddit?) by scanning through your current friends and looking at who they follow. The theory being that you'll probably appreciate those people too.

Twerp Scan helps you with the opposite problem. It checks the followers-to-following ratio for all your contacts and clues you in on those who may be trying to spam you. At the least, you can remove or block those users who clearly aren't taking any real interest in you.

My Tweeple is probably the most useful way to trim your followers into shape. It imports all your contacts and lets you immediately see who you follow, who follows you and when the relationship is mutual. You can view their Twitter page in a floating iframe window and you can see the same stats that Twerp Scan will give you. Best of all, you can follow, unfollow or block people from the page and even ding them to help other My Tweeple users identify spammers.

Tweet Clouds generates a cloud of keywords based on the text in your tweets. This can be pretty fascinating and has all sorts of SEO type potential. Tweet Clouds is a prefect example of a really simple but valuable idea executed perfectly. You can even mash in your del.icio.us tags and hopefully more services will be included soon. Similarly, TweetVolume will compare the total use of up to any five words or phrases from the public timeline.

I'd like to be able to review Twistory, which is apparently a way getting your tweets into your calendar, but I'm still waiting for an invite.


TwitPic probably adds the most value. You can upload a picture to the site directly or send one with your mobile phone and it will post a link via your Twitter account. People can leave comments below the photos and they will be sent as @ replies on Twitter. Perfect integration. SnapFoo is an uglier alternative, but it does support FriendFeed, Facebook and others.

Twitter Feed takes any RSS feed and posts from it directly to a Twitter account. You can control how often it tweets, so be sure not to spam your followers. If you want people to link to your content over Twitter themselves, then TwitThis gives you a simple badge you can add to your site.

I used to use Twitter to make little notes for myself when I was out and about and now TwitterNotes makes this practice more useful. Starting your tweet with a plus (+) character tells TwitterNotes to keep track of it for you so when you login later you get a list of your current notes to manage. Simple and handy.

plusplusbot also looks for user entered metadata to gather its information. In this case it searches for ++ (plus plus) or -- (minus minus). This slightly Orwellian construct lets you rate people (or anything). For example '@Foomandoonian++ because He wrote an excellent article about Twitter applications at http://is.gd/k6e' Try it!

Tweetburner is a URL shortening service in the same vein of TinyURL. While there are many, many alternatives already out there, Tweetburner has some extra features that make it ideal for use with Twitter. As you would expect, it can turn your long URL into one like http://twurl.nl/xe247i, saving you valuable space in your 140 character tweet and then you can post directly to Twitter. There is the usual bookmarklet, making the whole process effortless. But the unique selling point are the statistics. You can come back later and login with your Twitter information and see how many people clicked on your links, complete with cute little graphs.

And finally...

Is Twitter down? Probably. And when Twitter is down, what are you going to do?

(Did I miss any really good ones? Please leave a comment and I will add them to the list :-)

EDITED ON 23 MAY 2008: Added Tweetburner and twit(url)y

UNIX Airways

Everyone brings one piece of the plane along when they come to the airport. They all go out on the runway and put the plane together piece by piece, arguing non-stop about what kind of plane they are supposed to be building.


Everybody pushes the airplane until it glides, then they jump on and let the plane coast until it hits the ground again. Then they push again, jump on again, and so on...

Mac Airlines

All the stewards, captains, baggage handlers, and ticket agents look and act exactly the same. Every time you ask questions about details, you are gently but firmly told that you don't need to know, don't want to know, and everything will be done for you without your ever having to know, so just shut up.

Windows Air

The terminal is pretty and colourful, with friendly stewards, easy baggage check and boarding, and a smooth take-off. After about 10 minutes in the air, the plane explodes with no warning whatsoever.

Windows NT Air

Just like Windows Air, but costs more, uses much bigger planes, and takes out all the other aircraft within a 40-mile radius when it explodes.

Windows XP Air

You turn up at the airport,which is under contract to only allow XP Air planes. All the aircraft are identical, brightly coloured and three times as big as they need to be. The signs are huge and all point the same way. Whichever way you go, someone pops up dressed in a cloak and pointed hat insisting you follow him. Your luggage and clothes are taken off you and replaced with an XP Air suit and suitcase identical to everyone around you as this is included in the exorbitant ticket cost. The aircraft will not take off until you have signed a contract. The inflight entertainment promised turns out to be the same Mickey Mouse cartoon repeated over and over again. You have to phone your travel agent before you can have a meal or drink. You are searched regularly throughout the flight. If you go to the toilet twice or more you get charged for a new ticket. No matter what destination you booked you will always end up crash landing at Whistler in Canada.


You enter a white terminal, and all you can see is a woman sitting in the corner behind a white desk, you walk up to get your ticket. She smiles and says "Welcome to OS X Air, please allow us to take your picture", at which point a camera in the wall you didn't notice before takes your picture. "Thank you, here is your ticket" You are handed a minimalistic ticket with your picture at the top, it already has all of your information. A door opens to your right and you walk through. You enter a wide open space with one seat in the middle, you sit, listen to music and watch movies until the end of the flight. You never see any of the other passengers. You land, get off, and you say to yourself "wow, that was really nice, but I feel like something was missing"

Windows Vista Airlines

You enter a good looking terminal with the largest planes you have ever seen. Every 10 feet a security officer appears and asks you if you are "sure" you want to continue walking to your plane and if you would like to cancel. Not sure what cancel would do, you continue walking and ask the agent at the desk why the planes are so big. After the security officer making sure you want to ask the question and you want to hear the answer, the agent replies that they are bigger because it makes customers feel better, but the planes are designed to fly twice as slow. Adding the size helped achieve the slow fly goal.

Once on the plane, every passenger has to be asked individually by the flight attendants if they are sure they want to take this flight. Then it is company policy that the captain asks the passengers collectively the same thing. After answering yes to so many questions, you are punched in the face by some stranger who when he asked "Are you sure you want me to punch you in the face? Cancel or Allow?" you instinctively say "Allow".

After takeoff, the pilots realize that the landing gear driver wasn't updated to work with the new plane. Therefore it is always stuck in the down position. This forces the plane to fly even slower, but the pilots are used to it and continue to fly the planes, hoping that soon the landing gear manufacturer will give out a landing gear driver update.

You arrive at your destination wishing you had used your reward miles with XP airlines rather than trying out this new carrier. A close friend, after hearing your story, mentions that Linux Air is a much better alternative and helps.

Linux Air

Inspired by the possibility of free air travel you decide to fly Linux. You search through hundreds of similar sub-companies. They all claim to be able to get you there quickly and safely, but some airlines don't seem to have been used for years and many just specialise in freight. Almost none offer any in-flight entertainment and lack for any instructions but all claim that the other passengers will know what's going on and you should have no problem finding help.

You select Ubuntu Air and have an enjoyable and speedy journey. You even liked the brown suede décor. However you didn't hear anything through the headsets, even though everyone else seemed to have no problems!

(I know this gets circulated around the internet a lot, but I'm posting it here because the final 'Linux Air' analogy is my own. I posted it in a comment on digg over a year ago.)

Twitter avatar Twitter avatar Twitter avatar Twitter avatar Twitter avatar
The amount Twitter has been down lately, it may prove to be entirely unnecessary to boycott it on May 21st. Although I'm not supportive of the Twit-Off 'protest', it would be hilarious to use Twitter's own graphics to make a sarcastic point. Help yourself.

"England is a country where accent and vocabulary can stamp a person’s identity like a brand" according to the new Rough Guide to England. which is pretty harsh on the English character.

Apparently we're self-important and irritating, an insular country full of overweight, binge-drinking, sex-and-celebrity obsessed, reality TV addicts. We are also hailed as a nation of animal-loving, tea-drinking charity donors who love nothing better than forming an orderly queue. I often wonder what foreigners do instead of queuing - I imagine a lot of fights break out!

The guide apparently says we are proud of our multi-culturalism, a sentiment. In fact it describes us as "a genuine haven for refugees," which is true, but a subject of great resentment. Sadly, I tend to see my fellow Englishmen as mostly xenophobic and intolerant of multi-cultural trends.

It goes on to point out that there are constant contradictions. "In a country priding itself on patriotism, they have a Scottish Prime Minister, an Italian football coach and a Greek married to the Queen" and "as a glance at the tabloid newspapers will confirm, England is a nation of overweight, binge-drinking reality TV addicts." The particular Scotsman wasn't elected, nor was Prince Philip, and in fact both figures represent more than just England, but the England football manager is a curious phenomenon. I have never really understood why such a patriotic sport has managers and players from all over the world and this is never seen as an issue!

We're also "animal-loving, tea-drinking, charity donors thriving on irony and Radio 4". The guide also goes on to warn that attempting a conversation with a stranger “can be seen as tantamount to physical assault”, an amusing exaggeration, but with a kernel of truth.

As with all unhelpful stereotypes, there is a lot of truth in here but plenty of exceptions to every rule. Then again, the guide is only supposed to be rough.

(via Reuters and the press release - and thanks to Chef JoAnna for pointing me to the original story)

One of the software picks on the last Mac Break Weekly was the cool-sounding Tape Deck.

It is just a very simple audio recording/playback app. that mimics the look of a classic tape deck. Open source software developers should consider using this approach where it is applicable - it could do a lot for the perception of 'ease-of-use' of Linux.

(Tape Deck is Mac only and not open source)

[Ars Review]

It is being proposed that on May 21st Twitter users should boycott the service to protest the frequent and annoying downtime issues that plague the service. This paragraph seems to sum up the issue best:

Yes, Twitter is a free service. But it’s also a COMMUNITY-driven service. And a nice chunk of the said community is pretty frustrated about the stability of their beloved site. This isn’t a call of distress or aggression. It’s simply a way to show Twitter that we are here, and the downtime effects us. It’s a call to Twitter to choose their scaling scheme effectively and a call for a little stability to a site that’s rapidly becoming a communication mainstay.

I can understand why people are upset, but there is no point in protesting. Every time Twitter goes down, it pisses off thousands of people. Admittedly we're not paying customers, but if we all got fed up and left, they would go from having an unclear business model, to no business at all. The point is, I'm sure they're trying.

Twitter should be doing better than they are, but it's no good to piss and moan. You're just missing your crack fix.

The BBC are reporting that Windows XP will be shipping as an alternative OS on the One Laptop Per Child. Techcrunch dumbs the story down, typically, but a commenter links to an insightful essay by a former OLPC developer, Ivan Krstić about his anger over the direction the project has taken.

This is good for Microsoft of course, because they get their hooks into a massive emerging market. It's also good for OLPC Foundation, because right or wrong most people still consider Windows to be the only true standard.

I do wonder why OLPC chose to devise a bizarre and unique OS (The Sugar OLPC Human Interface). Matching the UI to the intended target audience sounds like a great idea, but surely emulating a more 'standard' desktop environment, like Gnome or KDE, would have been much more appealing to nations who would see that skills learned would be transferable. Krstić makes a similar point in his post:

Windows is a requirement because enough people grew up with it, not the other way around. If OLPC made a billion people grow up with Linux, Linux would be just dandy for business.

So instead these new users will have to use an operating system that Microsoft is trying to persuade those in the developed world to leave behind. After all, XP isn't going to be available after June... or is it?

Microsoft plans to offer PC makers steep discounts on Windows XP Home Edition to encourage them to use that OS instead of Linux on ultra low-cost PCs (ULPCs). To be eligible, however, the PC vendors that make ULPCs must limit screen sizes to 10.2 inches and hard drives to 80G bytes, and they cannot offer touch-screen PCs.

This is exactly why developing nations should want open source software. It is tragic to me that Microsoft are using their clout to force themselves into markets that have been made possible by open source software and free thinking. The Eee PC runs perfectly on Linux, and Asus were able to customise Xandros to make a unique interface, perfectly suited to the limited capabilities of the tiny computer and full of free software. But the current Eee 900 has the option Windows or Linux, and the tragedy is that most retailers will probably sell more Windows machines - because that's what people want.

I'm trying not to sound like some Linux hippy, but it's hard not to be frustrated. I have only been using Linux exclusively on my home PC for six months now and it's pretty clear to me that all Linux needs to be ready for mass market is ... more users. High profile machines like the Eee or OLPC is exactly what free software needs to prove its worth. And, of course, Microsoft knows this.

Right now, I can think of no reason I would want to use a decommissioned operating system on such a small laptop. Web browsing, emailing, word processing and all the other basic software food groups are perfectly well catered for. Linux still falls behind Windows or OSX for some advanced software users, but this isn't an issue here. If you could run Photoshop, I doubt you would want to! The game isn't over here fortunately: the Linux version comes with 20GB of hard disk space, while the Win version has 12GB and is reportedly much slower to boot.

It'll be interesting to see what happens next. I have a feeling that the OLPC project has no soul behind it. Nicholas Negroponte comes off pretty poorly in the Krstić essay:

In fact, I quit when Nicholas told me — and not just me — that learning was never part of the mission. The mission was, in his mind, always getting as many laptops as possible out there; to say anything about learning would be presumptuous, and so he doesn't want OLPC to have a software team, a hardware team, or a deployment team going forward.

The ramifications for Microsoft forcing themselves onto Eee PCs doesn't seem like such a big disaster for the future of humanity. After all, most of us use Windows already - it is only fair for it to be an option.

The truth, as I see it, is this: Free software is the future. Right now, it works and the more people who use it, the better it will get. The takeaway from these stories is that we can't trust businesses to have our best interests at heart, because they are necessarily more interested in the bottom line than progressive ideologies.

We need to do something more to spread the message ourselves.

Ever notice how web-celeb Chris Pirillo looks like mystery man J.J. Abrams? (He also looks, less oddly, like his brother, Adam Pirillo)

I've been watching Lost since the beginning and I think it's probably fair to say that the show is less compelling than it was. I hear a lot of dissenting opinions about the show, but in my opinion people aren't being entirely fair.

Lost is suffering from the answers not being as interesting as the questions, but that was inevitable. The mystery has been handled better than any other show I can think of. Remember how sick we got of the ‘black goo’ plot in the X-Files, or how convoluted the twists and turns became in JJ Abrams earlier Alias.

Lost may still prove to be a giant let down, but I see plenty of evidence that the writers have a plan. The difficulty with this type of show is it can only end in a few ways:

  1. A Prisoner/Twin Peaks/Quantum Leap style enigmatic riddle of a finale (which will retain the mystery, but piss off most people), or
  2. An ‘all is revealed’ ending, which will most likely not live up to the hype that has been generated, or maybe...
  3. Premature cancellation!
I expect we'll end up with mostly 2 and a little of 1 for good measure. The writers deserve a lot of credit for keeping up the intrigue for so long without tiring it out. Lost and Battlestar Galactica have produced some of the best SF TV there has ever been, and as a long-standing SF fan, I'm thrilled that we should see two such highly intelligent and complex genre shows come to a satisfying conclusion.

Here is a bonus video from JJ Abrams TED talk, 'The Mystery Box', which will give you an insight into the mind behind Lost.

J.J. Abrams traces his love of the unseen mystery -- the heart of Alias, Lost, and the upcoming Cloverfield -- back to its own magical beginnings, which may or may not include an early obsession with magic, the love of a supportive grandfather, or his own

A response to How bad is Lost? Posted at No Soap, Radio! (and found via Twitter)

Jeffro has an interesting article (Un Authorized Syndication) about the pros and cons of allowing readers to subscribe to a full RSS feed, and problem of sploggers.

I weighed in with my perspective:

As a reader, I think full RSS feeds are important. When I stumble across an interesting blog, I add the feed to Google Reader and categorise it. If I notice at this stage that the RSS is truncated, I usually unsubscribe straight away. There is every chance that I will forget all about that site and never return, but if I get a full feed then I will continue to read and occasionally return to the source to make a comment (like now). I also share interesting stories via Reader, which gives the site some additional promotion.
I am sympathetic to the authors, who may want the visits, and I have no answer to the splogger problem (although you have my permission to flog any sploggers that you find!).

Drop on over to the comments and share your opinion.

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