Category: Technology

Complimented by a BAFTA-winner, no biggie

New Star Soccer retirement suggestions by Stuart Waterman

New Star Soccer. To paraphrase Foreigner, I’ve been waiting for a game like this to come into my life.

I won’t bang on about it, but if you’re into football and you haven’t played it, downstall New Star Soccer into your device immediately (but not if you have exams or important stuff coming up – this thing will eat your life). It beat some big guns to win a BAFTA Games award earlier this year, in a victory pleasingly comparable to, say, Rotherham United beating Chelsea in the FA Cup final.

If you’ve played the game you’ll know there are elements of New Star Soccer that could be improved. And, like any good modern-day outfit, the company behind the game tends to ask for opinions/suggestions from users through sozialmedia. I happened to have some time on my hands, so I submitted my suggestions regarding incorporating players’ retirement age into the game on their Facebook page.

They were warmly received by the person behind the feed, who I believe is the game’s creator, Simon Read. I reproduce them here for posterity/royalties should they be taken up in the next update of the game.

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How to send articles from your Android phone to your Kindle

Send to Kindle AndroidThis is just a quick follow-up to my post about sending articles from Longform.org to your Kindle. While I’d sussed out how to do this with just one click from my laptop, I hadn’t found a reliable way to do so from my Android phone. Or at least not a way that didn’t require lots of annoying tapping around to get it done.

What I wanted was a way to use the ‘Share via’ function in the Android browser, and have ‘Send to Kindle’ be one of the options presented (alongside the usual suspects like Facebook, Twitter, etc).

After trying a couple of apps that didn’t consistently do the trick (nor offer much guidance on how to fix the glitches), and plus not really wanting to have the Amazon Kindle app taking up space on my phone, I tried the Push to Kindle app by FiveFilters.org.

Hey presto! It works really well and I found the instructions on how to set it up straightforward, which means it’s worth paying the £1.50 they charge. And even better, it uses Readability‘s early open source code – which means the article that reaches your Kindle is all cleaned-up and easy to read.

The developers even made a little video to show you how to use it:

(Tip: In the ‘Send from’ section of the set-up screen I just used my personal email address, because I’ve already set that up to be one of the email addresses from which my Kindle will accept articles.)

Download Push to Kindle from Google Play

By the way, if you’re looking for good longform stuff to send to your Kindle, some other sources I’ve been using recently in addition to Longform.org are:

And a few recent favourite articles I’ve encountered:

A graphical representation of office chat

I made this using easel.ly, which is a pretty good tool for making your own “data visualizations”.

(Click to enlarge)
OFFICE_CHAT title=easel.ly

Kindle + Longform.org = a reading paradise

Longform articles on KindleWhen I was weighing up whether to get an Amazon Kindle I’m not sure if I thought it would make me read more. I usually had a book on the go, so I couldn’t see it helping me squeeze in any more of them – it would just make it more convenient when I wanted to buy one.

I certainly didn’t foresee that it would widen my reading so much, or that this would have nothing to do with books.

I’d been to longform.org previously and I really liked its notion of providing a place to encounter lots of quality journalism. But like a lot of folk, I imagine, I rarely seemed to have the time to read as many of them as I’d have liked.

So when I got my Kindle I went to Longform and started making use of its handy Send to Kindle button, which converts the text through Readability (whose button you should really install in your browser, by the way) and sends you the article via wi-fi. The result is that I’ve only read about three books in six months – but the articles I’ve been reading have been about a much wider range of topics than I would have encountered through books.

Not a week goes by when I don’t stop by Longform and send more articles to my Kindle. I’m a pretty slow reader, so it’s challenging to get through them all. But it’s less daunting than a bookcase (or Kindle) full of books.

This post happens to coincide with Longform’s 2nd anniversary, which means there’s loads of stuff to read – almost 3,000 articles. Longform partners with sites like Slate to present articles around certain themes, and invites guest editors to curate pieces. And while its selections are perhaps overly biased towards U.S. publications, they are from big players: The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Smithsonian, Time, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone and the like. It also invites you to submit articles you’ve found.

It has a lovely open source kind of feeling, and the clean design means there’s nothing to distract you from the important business of browsing through the stories. Or, as they put it in a recent blog post:

There’s no Most Popular box to keep the numbers churning for particular stories, we don’t SEO the hell out of posts, and every piece we recommend spends roughly the same amount of time at the top of the homepage.

You can browse in a variety of ways, too – by topic, by writer, by publication, by decade (one of the things I love about the site is the fact that you’re as likely to come across something from the 70s as you are a recent story). It’s a bit like having all the best magazine articles ever at your disposal, without having to buy the magazines or get ink on your fingers.

(What this means for the model of journalism that funds these articles nags at me constantly, and I think what I’ll do here is what I tend to do in my mind – uneasily try to ignore the potential implications. One thing’s for sure: this Longform-Kindle paradise wouldn’t be as seductive if you had to actually pay for the content. Ew!)

Another interesting thing about this way of reading articles is that you’re not exposed to the way magazines traditionally present them. I read Getting Bin Laden, from the New Yorker, last week. I don’t buy The New Yorker, so it’s unlikely I would have encountered the article without Longform; but if I had bought the magazine it’s the kind of piece I might very well have skipped over in favour of articles closer to my other interests.

But there’s something democratising about reading things on the Kindle – everything’s in the same font, there are no ads, no sidebars and one tends not to flick through looking at how long stories are and surmise whether it’s worth embarking on reading it. If you send it to your Kindle it’s because the subject sounds interesting, and that’s it. You know it’s going to be long, and that becomes a positive rather than something that may turn you off. It might take three or four commutes to/from work to get through it, but it’s a pleasant way of keeping your brain ticking over and you know that soon you’ll be onto another piece.

Over the past few months I’ve indulged my fascination for, um, creepy subjects like missing persons, nazis and serial killers, but I’ve also read about the Marfa Lights;  how Hollywood stars would look rubbish without stylists; what happens when pet chimps go nutsKFC’s plans for world domination; a 1991 piece about Guns N’ Roses on the verge of implosion; a portrait of a paranoid, joyless Tiger Woods; battles and rivalries in the breathable outerwear industry (?!); a whole series of stories about Saturday Night Live.

Now, this orgy of article-reading isn’t helping to assuage one of my grim, enduring fears, which is that I’m never going to read all the books I want to before I die. But that’s a stupid fear anyway. And I do wonder what it means that I’d seemingly rather read lots of shorter things than one long thing. Is it good for my brain to read stuff from lots of different sources, or is it symptomatic of a shortening attention span? (I suspect it’s both.)

I also wonder what the magazine publishers think about this form of reading. On the one hand their content is being exposed to more people, but on the other hand people using the Send to Kindle button are reading it without actually going to their sites and adding pageviews or ad impressions. Like lots of the entertainment the web enables you to access for free, the fact that this feels too good to be true has me suspecting that it is, and that it may not last.

But while it does, I’d recommend that anyone with a Kindle give this way of reading a go. It’s a readolution!

The varied and often electric delights of Dalbeattie museum

My mum’s family comes from the Scottish Borders, and on a visit there we went to visit my Auntie & Uncle who live in a town called Dalbeattie.

Dalbeattie has a small museum of local history, which my Auntie & Uncle help to run. The artifacts on display there cover a range of periods, and there’s a sizeable space dedicated to local man William Murdoch, who was First Mate on the Titanic. That section takes pains to clarify that, contrary to how he was portrayed in James Cameron’s moderately successful film, Murdoch wasn’t a grubby, murderous coward. There’s a letter from one of the film’s producers on the museum’s wall acknowledging this fact.

There are a number of weird and wonderful exhibits elsewhere in the museum. My photos document my favourites, with the latter shots taking a definite turn for the… the… the… electric.

Vintage till

Dalbeattie museum vintage till

Dalbeattie museum old till

I couldn’t help looking at this beautifully decorated old thing and mentally comparing it with the bleeping Serve-U-Bots in my local Tesco. Old tills never barked at you for putting unauthorised items in the bagging area, did they?

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The public, tear-stained diary of a T-Mobile customer

One of the marvellous things about having your own little corner of the internet is that it gives you the chance to “speak out” against people you feel have wronged you. Some choose to do this directly – “John Johnson, you are a shit!” – while others like to go down the passive aggressive route – “Some people who shall remain nameless are shits!” – which deludes the writer into believing that they are spitting feathers in a more civilised manner.

Neither tends to make for very interesting or dignified reading, which is why I generally avoid indulging in either. However, my recent experience with T-Mobile left me both dumbed and founded, so I’m going to break my own rule here.

Let me just say that this is pretty much for my own sanity, because it has been a lonely experience and if just one person can empathise with my pain then I shall feel that little bit more connected to the human race. T-Mobile won’t mind if I share this experience with you; “Life’s for Sharing”, remember.

(By the way, I agree with Louis CK when he rants about people’s phone moans. Obviously, mobile phones are not essential to life – but this is more about customer service and, like, the ability of huge, billion-pound companies to deliver what they say will. Um. OK, on with the whining.)

My diary begins, like so many before it, on Sunday 17th July 2011.

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A Dell XPS 15z notebook-winning rap about a Dell XPS 15z notebook

In July the London Bloggers Meetup was sponsored by Dell, who ran a competition to win a shiny new Dell XPS 15z notebook.

Reader, I won it. I won it good.

The brief was:

Tell us in a witty, creative, or imaginative way how a new Dell XPS 15z laptop will help you be successful in your quest for blogging greatness.

As someone who has been trying to attain blogging greatness for quite some time now, I was in no doubt that a rap was the only way to approach this contest. Here is my entry.

I was totally surprised and delighted to emerge victorious, but then I thought about it for a bit and realised that while I was still totally delighted, I was actually only moderately surprised after all. I mean, come on.

So, what of the machine itself?

Well, the Dell XPS 15z is quick! It is quick like the wings of a hummingbird! (Especially if you use Google Chrome.) The screen resolution and video playback are splendid, and at last – oh, at last – I find myself watching streaming video without lagging. I knew it could be like this, I just knew it – looks like all I needed was an Intel i5 processor. Doy!

It is robustly constructed and encased in aluminium, and it’s so thin it makes a Ryvita look fat (kind of). I like to stroke its lid.

I will say that the USB ports are too close together, meaning bulky USB periphs can’t fit at the same time – but I have one of those adaptor extension things anyway, so it’s not the biggest of biggies. The sound could be beefier, but again I use a wireless speaker thing anyway so it’s not the end of the world.

Overall I am very happy with my prize. Only a loon wouldn’t be. Did I mention it didn’t cost me anything except the use of my fevered imagination?

Thanks a milli to London Bloggers Meetup and Dell, obviously.

Five ways libraries need to improve their internet offerings

After moving flat, I found myself at the mercy of the internet connection of my local library. Hoo boy.

Herewith bees a thing about how libraries need to improve their I.T game (for Dork Adore).

Trialling the Toshiba Satellite X200

Working from home a couple of months back I happened to remark on Twitter that I was experiencing a bit of laptop trouble. That was enough to get the attention of a nice man at Toshiba who offered me the loan of a Satellite X200, with a view to getting my opinion on the laptop from the point of view of someone who listens to a lot of music online.

It’s a hefty piece of equipment, that’s for sure – I’ve seen someone using the X200 in a pub, but I’m not sure I’d want to lug it around due to its chunkiness. Having said that, this bulk does make it feel like a rather macho toy, which is cool for people like me who don’t have enough manly status symbols in their life.
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