A technology blog for The Economist Group IT team

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Who would sell a broken laptop on eBay? 

Amir Massoud Tofangsazan maybe. Looks to good to be true.
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Friday, May 26, 2006

Selling bugs 

This is an interesting article on software quality.

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Hypeing up the charts - the Sandi Thom story 

You can tell that older folk (and I don't mean seniors) still don't get the web when stories about bands making it big because of MySpace or through some other internet presence appear in mainstream media and are apparently believed by people that still read them.

How many people really believed that all the Arctics did was wait for a fan's site on MySpace to sell records for them? Not many - especially the band themselves who claim that they only heard of MySpace three months ago. What they did was play lots of gigs and get signed to a label that already had Franz Ferdinand on their books.

Then there's that daft cow Sandi Thom. On the same weekend that The Clash became the first band to get into XFM's hall of fame, there she was, on Top of the Pops singing "I wish I was a punk rocker".

I bet Joe Strummer is still spinning in his grave.

Unfortunately I caught the end of an interview where she was still peddling the line that she got a deal from playing to first 60, then thousands of people using a £48 webcam from her basement flat after her car broke down meaning she couldn't travel to gigs.

Well, Amazon wasn't started in Jeff Bezos's garage and neither did Sandi Thom start in her flat. The difference is that Amazon is actually not bad.

The Guardian among others found out that to get her music on the web (and listened to by anything from 60,000 to 250,00 people at any one time depending on which gullible hack you read) the services of Streaming Tank had been used. Well, using anything more than a couple of hundred simultaneous streams on the web costs a lot of money - so much so that the likes of Sky and the BBC can't afford to do it and instead use peer to peer technology instead.

It's already well known that Ms. Thom was signed by Windswept/Pacific Publishing (who also have small basement bands like The Who and Beyonce on their books) a year ago with blogs like chartreuse publishing the news over six weeks ago, so why does the story still have legs? Because big company PR still works and punters believe what they're told

There are two lessons here - one for us and one for Sandi.

The first is that the web is not yet the force that it will be. If it were, the Sandi Thom story would have been debunked sooner and more prominently.

The other lesson is one that Sandi will learn and that is that a £1m record deal is in effect a loan that is paid back to the record company over the years in the form of their cut. The Clash understood this and squeezed theirs by releasing a great double album and a so-so triple album both priced as single albums with the record company taking the hit. If she really did hit upon the huge audience she claims she had, why didn't she record and sell her music herself?

*Hypeing up the charts- a line from the rather relevant The Clash song Histville UK.
Sandi Thom's Tooting
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Thursday, May 25, 2006

No more software patents in the EU 

An article on ZDNet reports the suprising decision that no software patents will be granted by the European Patent Office.

My only worry with this is that it's almost as white as the US Patent Office's view is black. I doubt that this is the last we'll hear on this, though.
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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Ion turntable magic 

If you've got a few days to spare, then what about saving some space and putting your vinyl collection onto your iPod?

The Register gave a pretty good review to the Ion USB turntable, which is available fromFirebox for £120.
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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

TinyURL as a file-sharing system? 

I bought a copy of 2600: The Hacker Quarterly whilst in New York and a pretty good read it is.

I suppose we all have a pretty good idea that what TinyURL does is store a url as a string and allows access to that string via a short one (the tiny url). What 2600: The Hacker Quarterly highlights is that TinyURL doesn't check that the long url is actually a url. With that knowledge you can store any string of characters on TinyURL's servers and access that string via the tiny url. If you then have a mechanism to read a file as hex (with the hex editor that came with Norton Utilities, for example) and post that to TinyURL, BINGO!, you have a file transfer mechanism.

A bit clunky if not automated, but an interesting use of the service, though I'm sure that if TinyURL's servers start getting bunged up with huge "urls" then a fix will be put in place.

As the article points out this is a great example of people using something other than for its intended use. Another is using a hairdryrer to get those pesky barcode labels off the bottom of new crockery (I have remnants of labels on some plates that have resisted 100's of cycles in the dishwasher).

Do you have any other examples?
I saw another use for a hair dryer on scrapyard challenge. They started a really old diesel by blowing hot air into a vent?
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Friday, May 05, 2006

Whenever we feel like decisions around here are difficult... 

Shuttle to Fly Without Tank Fix
April 28, 2006— Despite ongoing concerns about foam insulation breaking off and damaging the space shuttle during launch, NASA will not make any more changes to the tank's design until after the next flight, which is targeted for July, officials said Friday.

Entire article here
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Thursday, May 04, 2006

You can't cure a hangover 

No compelling evidence exists to suggest that any conventional or complementary intervention is effective for preventing or treating alcohol hangover. The most effective way to avoid the symptoms of alcohol induced hangover is to practise abstinence or moderation.

Do people get paid to come up with this?
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01:02:03 04/05/06 

Didn't notice it, did you?
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