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Love, Cannibalism and Adventure - A true short story from 1777

Almost two hundred and fifty years ago the famous explorer Captain James Cook arrived on his third and ultimately fateful voyage to the Pacific. He arrived in two ships - the Discovery and the Resolution. On this trip he would discover Hawaii for the first time, and visit many other places including Australia and New Zealand. Ultimately he would lose his life to Hawaiian natives, in a violent spat escalating over a stolen rowing boat.

I became interested in this story having recently visited the place where Captain Cook died. Yesterday I found a scan of the original manuscript, written by an American writer (John Ledyard), who happened to be travelling onboard the British ships at the time. As an interesting aside, this same manuscript was the very first work to be protected by US copyright.

Within the manuscript, John Ledyard gives an astonishing account of a true love story between a young native New Zealand girl and a young British sailor. It is utterly mesmerizing and shows how aside from the popularity of cannibalism, very little has changed in 230 years.

I strongly recommend taking 5 minutes of your life to read this.

Continue reading "Love, Cannibalism and Adventure - A true short story from 1777" »


Super Mario Bros - in the Browser!

Free Mario Image

If you're looking for some old school video games action, head on over to Free Mario - the latest game from the Free Video Games Project.

Free Mario is a faithful and totally awesome re-creation of the original NES version of Super Mario Bros, with a twist. New characters have been added so you can play as Link from Legend of Zelda, or even Mega Man. The developer put these characters in to make it a true fan game, and to get round copyright issues that are holding some of these 8 bit classics back from a new and wider audience.

The game also has its own Facebook fan page and Mario game fans are encouraged to post their high scores there.

The quality and resilience of Flash games continues to surprise in an age of apps and HTML 5 everything. Somehow I think Flash is going to be around for a while yet, and may even see a resurgence.

Still reading? What are you waiting for? Play Free Mario today! ;)


iPad 2 - First Impressions

I've come late to the iPad party, a principle to do with its lack of Flash support, but work is work, times must, and I wanted to jot down my impressions as I enter into... iPad world.

Continue reading "iPad 2 - First Impressions" »


Music Piracy? Your sentence is $25 per year

music-pirate-flag.jpgIf like me you are suffering from iTunes mess (nay.. hell), yesterday's iCloud announcement from Apple promises to clean up your mess and confusion. It might even make you like iTunes again.

If like me you've bought tracks from Apple's music store on multiple devices, you almost certainly have those tracks and apps spread haphazardly across your devices. Buy a new Mac or iPhone and your problems worsen. You end up with music on your old laptop or iPod, and it's infuriatingly complicated to get it on the new one. I'm a complete Mac geek and I am totally confused by it.

In my collection (spread across several devices) I know I have a mix of paid tracks which I feel good about, and a bunch of MP3's which I don't. The MP3's are mis-labeled and dis-organized, don't have artwork images for them and are quite annoying.

Trying to sync them all together, or sort them out IS ACTUALLY ROCKET SCIENCE.

The truth is, iTunes is terribly un-Mac like and bloody awful software. It just doesn't work the way you want it to, or think it should, and it has completely floundered in an era of multiple devices and any desire (gee whiz!) to consolidate.

With iCloud, for the first time you will be able to log into your Apple account from any Apple device, see a list of every track you've ever purchased, re-download the entire collection if needed, and do the same on all your Apple devices. You can even choose to download just the songs you don't already have on that device.


Where things gets really clever is that for $25 per year, iCloud will scan your collection of non-Apple purchased tracks (read... pirated MP3's) and for no extra cost, download and replace those dodgy tracks with fresh perfect Apple ones - complete with professional artwork, proper labeling, consistent genre tagging and a high quality audio upgrade too.

This is actually revolutionary and Apple have paid big for the privilege.

The devil of course will be in some of the details... Can you for example merge the music from two people's accounts? What happens if a device doesn't have as much storage space as the others?

Apple are also increasing the 5 device limit per Apple account to 10 devices. This is clear acknowledgment that many people are already hitting their 5 device limit as the number of iPod's, iPhones and iPads proliferate in people's households.

iCloud comes to Apple users later this year... I can't wait.


The House where Facebook started in Silicon Valley

Having recently watched 'The Social Network' I was intrigued by the residential house that Mark Zuckerberg and his early employees rented in Palo Alto - where in the movie they ran a zip line across the pool.

The actual 'Facebook House' is located at 819 La Jennifer Way and according to the book 'The Facebook Effect', the zip line was run from the chimney on the house to a Telephone Pole on the other side of the pool. From an aerial photo you can clearly see the house, the pool and looking closer, the telephone pole. It all adds up.

Aerial Photo

819 La Jennifer Way

Some other tidbits of info...

  • The house is 2,026 square feet
  • Lot size is 6,765 square feet
  • It has 4 bedrooms
  • 3 bathrooms
  • It's worth around $1.4 million
  • It was really used for both living in and working in
  • The guys threw regular parties there advertised to Stanford students via Facebook
  • One exec described the scene... "It's Lord of the Flies up there"
Mark Zuckerberg used to wave a fencing sword around in the house and it sounds like they generally had a fun time. For more background info, check out this investigation into what was true and what wasn't in the movie...

Sources: Google Maps, Zillow and ChasingTheFrog


The Top 26 Websites in the UK & USA (according to Google Instant Search)

Google's new Instant Search facility has got the web all a flutter. As an experiment I entered each letter of the alphabet to see what came back for each. This indicates Google's own records of what we really really want.


A - Argos
C - Curry's
D - Debenhams
E - Ebay
F - Facebook
G - Google Maps
H - Hotmail
J - John Lewis
L - National Lottery
N - Next
O - O2
P - Paypal
R - Rightmove
S - Sky
T - Tesco
U - YouTube
V - Virgin
W - BBC Weather
X - XBox
Y - YouTube (again)
Z - Zara


A - Amazon
B - Best Buy
C - Craigslist
D - Dictionary.com
E - Ebay
F - Facebook
G - Gmail
H - Hotmail
I - Ikea
J - JetBlue
K - Kohls
L - Lowes
M - Mapquest
N - Netflix
O - Orbitz
P - Pandora
Q - BrainyQuote.com
S - Sears
T - Target
U - USPS (United States Postal Service)
V - Verizon
W - Weather.com
X - Xbox
Y - Yahoo!
Z - Zillow


Hunting down an old codec (Avid AVRN) - implications for all of us

The issue of old digital footage being able to be retrieved years later came to the fore this weekend as I went to access some of my old journalism stories from when I worked at CNBC in the early noughties.

After a (relatively) short 7 years, the codec used to archive those stories was all but impossible to track down. I simply could not play back the files from disk no matter what I tried. And I'm pretty good at this stuff - usually.

I had tried a couple of times over the intervening 7 years to hunt down the pesky codec and had failed each and every time.

Fortunately this time round I succeeded, but it serves as a cautionary tale for anyone with video files stored on disk (i.e. all of us!).

For the benefit of those hunting for the same file, here is the Avid AVRN (aka AVDJ, aka M-JPEG) codec for PC which I'm RE-HOSTING so it doesn't disappear.

Avid AVRN codec for PC

Mac users will have to borrow the wife's PC (as I did), borrow somebody else's, or use emulation / Bootcamp to do it. I'm a Mac user and completely failed to find a Mac version of the codec, even though the original Media Composer Edit Suite where the stories were archived was all Mac based.

The average home user is unlikely to be faced with finding such an obscure 'broadcast' codec, but operating systems come and go, software companies go out of business, or, (in the case of Avid), fail to make available their old codecs adequately.

The lesson learned is that a digital 'audit' of all your precious video files should be something you do every 5 years at least. Try to play your video files back, be aware whether they're encoded with a codec that's going out of use (use tools like Gspot and MediaInfo Mac to know which codec you're using and do research) and consider re-encoding them to a currently popular codec that is widely available and unlikely to disappear. If you use something widely used like H264, you probably will never have to re-encode them again.


Review of Sky's First Live 3D Sports Broadcast

sky-3d-glasses.jpgIt was billed as "the world's first ever 3D broadcast of live sport". Nine pubs across the UK and Ireland kitted out with a special 3D television from LG, and with a mouthwatering clash between Arsenal and Manchester United to provide the excitement.

The location of the pubs was a closely guarded secret with Apple-like clandestineness and attention to detail. Even the power of Twitter and a concerted effort by many to find them was not enough. In the end only a few choice journalists and friends of the pubs in question got to see what was billed as a historic broadcast to the public.

Continue reading "Review of Sky's First Live 3D Sports Broadcast" »


The Great 3D Pub Mystery

sky-3d-pubs-not.jpgYou could call it "the blind leading the blind..."

Mystery has surrounded today's broadcast in 3D of the Premier League clash between Arsenal and Manchester United. Sky who are claiming (incorrectly) that it is the first TV company anywhere to "broadcast a live 3D TV sports event to a public audience" will not disclose which 9 pubs are kitted out with the necessary 3D TVs. They've done a very good job of keeping it secret.

A list has been going round on popular forums including Digital Spy which is almost certainly incorrect. In fact it appears to be completely fabricated. Sirocco in London is definitely not showing it, a number of people have said Qbar in Dublin is a no-no and The George in Liverpool Street has a sign outside saying "no 3D football".

I've spent all day trying to get to the bottom of it and so far, the pubs that have been mentioned or rumoured to be showing the game (which are not on that forum list) are...

**Only one of these are confirmed and there is mass disinformation abound**

Dublin - Copper Face Jacks (source) or could be Fagan's in Drumcondra (source) (It was Fagan's)
Manchester - The Red Lion Withington (source but pub saying no) (It was the Red Lion)
Edinburgh - Belushis (source but now looking unlikely) / McGuffies (aka the Doric Tavern) (source) | Was shown at Sportsters
Cardiff - Vulcan (source) | Was shown at the Old Arcade
London - The Drayton Ealing CONFIRMED BUT SEE BELOW | The Slug and Lettuce Angel (source) | The Railway Tavern, Liverpool St Station

The info on the pub in Ealing is legit which I've managed to confirm unequivocally BUT it is being shown in a private room for invited press and other contacts of the pub only. The Drayton will be showing a first-come, first-served rerun of the game at 7pm, and the other pubs could well be doing the same.

I hope to update the post with the actual, final list of the 9 pubs so do tell me if you have the info. You can contact me on Twitter or post in the comments below.

One thing is for sure... If you definitely want to see a game in 3D, go to a match, or as one Twitterer suggested... stay home, put on Sky Sports, and drop acid.

Incidentally, the 3D TV being used is a special 47" model from LG to show the game in the pubs. More info on the technology behind the broadcast is here.

UPDATE: My review of the 3D broadcast is here.


Apple iPad... iUnderwhelmed

Apple and Steve Jobs really missed the element of surprise with the launch of the iPad. The biggest surprise was that more people didn't figure out what the name would be... iSlate... iTablet... err nyet.

It made watching yesterday's Stevenote (once it had been finally uploaded many hours later) all very humdrum. At one point I was fidgety and... dare I say, bored? The most hyped product launch in all of Apple's history had become a bland exercise in telling us what we already knew or expected. That's not how Steve notes usually go.

My biggest disappointment was the virtual keyboard. It was here that I thought Apple would genuinely wow us. Clearly the ultimate virtual keyboard (for touch typists at least) would be one where you don't actually see the keys. Simply lay your fingers down on the screen in any position or orientation, and start typing. As you type, the keys you are typing appear like magic, with clever algorithms and phrase and spell checking figuring out what you are trying to type. Context and learning your own styles of phrase, size/positioning of your hand and style of writing can all contribute.

This to me was what I was hoping for, and short of that or the device actually levitating, flying over the audience and coming back to the Hand of Steve - the presentation was always going to be a disappointment.

The iBook store / interface was cool and the options for new gaming interactions will lead to genuine innovation and paradigm shift. Price point is good too - I wonder if they are taking a leaf out of the gaming console manufacturers and starting to think loss leader. With the Apps store they can.

Of course I will be buying one, like every other Apple fan boy. As Steve was forced to say in an almost embarrassed way due to lack of general applause (the first applause was 23 minutes in)... "it's much better when you have one in your hands".

I'm sure he's right, and I'll be back saying how amazing it is in future.

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