Updated: 17/9/05; 13:49:39

David Davies' Weblog

 Wednesday, December 31, 2003

New Year's greetings blog bot!

For a limited time only (probably 24 hours) I've set up a Happy New Year blog for anyone to post to! This is an email blog so to post a message just send an email message to the blog's address and your message will be automatically posted to the web for all to see! If you have a mobile phone then why not post a message from wherever you're celebrating. Better still, if you have a picture phone attach a picture to your message and it'll be added too! In fact pictures of your New Year's celebrations are particularly welcome.

So here are the instructions. Send your New Year's greeting email messages to:

'weblog at med1450.bham.ac.uk'

obviously replacing the ' at ' with the @ symbol. I didn't want this address scraped by spammers! Anything you enter in the subject line will become the title of your post. Your email address will not be posted so remember to add your name in the body of your message.

You can attach GIFs, JPEGs, and 3GP video clips. Try not to include huge signatures or ads as everything gets posted! All your posts will appear here.

The weblog is automated and therefore unmoderated but I'll look in from time to time to remove any offensive posts (please no!) or any corrupted/failed posts. This isn't a foolproof system due to the variability of email clients but it is pretty robust. I know I'm taking a bit of a risk with this but hell, it's New Year and I know you won't abuse it :)

Happy Posting!

Sony Ericsson P900 vs Nokia 7650

Having now had a week to play with my new phone I thought I'd do some benchmark tests to see which is better, my new Sony Ericsson P900 or my trusty though now old Nokia 7650. The first test I did was to compare the quality of pictures taken with the built-in camera on each device. Lighting and subject matter were the same for each. I took a picture using every setting offered by the phones. In the case of the Nokia all pictures are 640x480 pixels with 3 quality settings, High, Normal and basic. The P900 offers more options with quality settings of High, Medium and Low for each of 640x480, 320x240 and 160x120.

A contact sheet of all pictures in the test is here.

The results are interesting. Although it'll doubtless be a matter of subjectivity I think the P900 wins. The pictures are sharper and the light more natural looking. The Nokia takes pictures that are slightly softer and all seem to have a slight blue tint. What's more interesting are the file sizes. The Nokia's images are all roughly the same size with little difference between the quality settings. The P900 on the other hand seems to be using quite different compression settings for each picture and file sizes reflect that. The highest quality picture on the P900 at 640x480 pixels was 82Kb compared to 27Kb for the equivalent size/quality picture on the Nokia. Taking into account file size the Nokia performs really well as its high quality image is only marginally inferior to the equivalent on the P900 but is 1/3 the file size. For mobile blogging that could be a significant advantage although it's unlikely you'd want to display a picture at full size i.e 640x480. More likely you'll want to display your images at no more than 320x240 in which case you have a choice, display the full-sized images scaled down in the browser or take pictures at a lower resolution, in which case the P900 wins hands down as you can't specify pixel dimensions on the Nokia.

More tests later.

 Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Fancy a Snak?

Thanks to a recommendation by Wesley Mason in response to my plea for help yesterday I'm now using Snak as my preferred IRC client. It's a piece of cake to set up, even for an IRC newbie like me. Not sure that I'll ever be a big IRC user but at least I can now join in the chat over at Mobitopia. Despite being a robust protocol that predates all the other more popular instant messaging services IRC does seem a little esoteric, an impression I'm sure the IRC buffs aren't in any rush to change. I think for daily chat I'll stick with iChat. You'll find me here.

Image editing because I can

A picture called Zappa.jpgThe P900 also comes with picture editing software. Oh OK I don't know what you'd use it for either but that's not the point, it's there if you need it! Snap, edit, post.

 Monday, December 29, 2003

Help wanted for Mac OS X IRC newbie

Can any kind soul who uses both Mac OS X and IRC help me get started? The Mobitopia weblog has an IRC channel but damned if I know how to make it work. Which client should I use and how do I get connected? Internet relay chatting is just like instant messaging, right? How/why is IRC better than the other instant messaging protocols? IRC is one of those things that has passed me by.

Another new phone

Bleedin' marvellous. The new Sony Ericsson P900 I got just before Christmas died on Christmas eve. It wouldn't boot up once I switched it off. Tech support said return it to the shop, nothing can be done. A post to the Esato P800/P900 discussion forum confirmed that my phone was indeed dead. More worryingly I found that I wasn't the only person to be having this problem. I do hope I haven't made a mistake moving away from Nokia. That new 7700 Media Device does look rather fancy.
 Wednesday, December 24, 2003

P900 first impressions

A picture called 3BNC0015.jpgThe camera on the phone is better than the Nokia but only marginally so and certainly not next generation better. The handwriting recognition is good but diffrrent enough from Graffiti on the Palm to take a bit of getting used to. The memory expansion is great as I never felt I had enough room on the Nokia. More later, I just wanted to try out mobile blogging with this first picture!

 Tuesday, December 23, 2003

A picture called 030902(03).jpgYou are looking at a grande Americano, a skinny blueberry muffin and my new Sony Ericsson P900! This phone is awesome and will be online later tonight. Mind boggling feature set. Just read it even has an instant messaging client. I bought it for the camera and high quality video but the PDA features will replace my ageing Palm V.
 Monday, December 22, 2003

Mobile video formats

I'd like to hear from people who use their mobile phone to record video clips. In particular I'd like to know what video format your phone uses. My phone is a Nokia 7650 so I know about those but do all phones record 3GP video? I guess not and would expect at least MP4. Supporting alternate video file types in the assetManager tool is easy but I need to know what they are. My Christmas present to myself is a shiny new Sony Ericsson P900, the smartest of the smart phones. So in a couple of days I'll know how they store and send video. If video blogging is going to take off in Radio weblogs we need to build in support for all video formats.

Incidentally, this post was simultaneously posted to my weblog and emailed to a Yahoo email group. A little known feature of the assetManager tool is the ability to mirror weblog posts to an email address, in this case an email list. If you already have a copy of this tool you can configure email notification here. If you don't yet have a copy you can download the latest version here.

 Saturday, December 20, 2003

Frankfurters in Birmingham

For the last few years at Christmas time Birmingham plays host to market traders from Frankfurt. The German market sells all kinds of fancy goods and is a great source of gifts. However the best part is the food section. Seen here are the fabulous red and white sausages cooked on a huge gridle. Washed down with some mulled wine it's a very satisfying way of finishing a hard day's shopping!

Video moblogging comes to Radio Userland

An updated version of the assetManager tool now handles video clips so let's see those video moblogs! I've only tried posting video clips from my Nokia 7650 so in this first beta version only the 3GP video format is supported at a default frame size of 128x96 pixels, however a preference in the assetManager allows you to edit the HTML code that embeds your video clips. I'm keen to try out other video phone file formats so please let me know if you have any problems using your phone or moblogging device with this version of the tool. If you need a 3GP video player then I can recommend QuickTime though other video player software such as Real Player works fine too.

For those of you new to mobile blogging, basically you can post to your weblog from anywhere you happen to be, you're not restricted to sitting at your computer. Weblog posts are typically sent as an email message using mobile phones, PDAs or other devices. If you have a camera phone you can post pictures and video clips by sending them as an attachment to your moblog email message. There are a number of good weblogs following mobile blogging developments including moblogging.org and sites such as Text America host hundreds of moblogs.

Here's my mobile blogging how-to guide, written a little while ago but still relevant.

 Thursday, December 18, 2003

Guardian reviews Radio Userland

Well whadya know, someone must have read my last post as Radio gets reviewed by the Guardian today. Today's been a busy day for weblogs over at the Guardian.

The verdict on Radio? "...even a tech nincompoop can get a basic, cleanly designed blog up and running very quickly" and Radio is "... a cinch to set up..." although "...you can't edit or remove unwanted reader comments, and documentation is informal". Fair comments I think.

This weblog is proud to be, and shall remain, a Radio Userland powered weblog.

The best blogging in Blighty

The Guardian hands out its awards for best British blogs. Sadly their related link on how to set up a blog doesn't mention Radio Userland. Maybe the PR section of the new management team at Userland should get on the case with some evangelizing.

The best blog in the quality of writing category is Belle de Jour, the diary of a London call girl (please excuse the shaky typing).

The Special Judges award goes to Darren Shrubsole's LinkMachineGo.

 Wednesday, December 17, 2003

assetManager tool updated

I've updated the assetManager tool, the first and still the best mobile weblogging tool for Radio Userland weblogs. Update your copy now to get improved mobile webloging instructions, the ability to add a title to your mobile weblog post plus the ability to specify how pictures posted with your moblog post are handled (e.g displayed actual size or scaled).

Get started with the new features by visiting your assetManager's home page here:

You're also welcome to join my new Yahoo group to discuss feature requests for this tool and to report bugs.

Today's mobile webloging tip, use Radio's shortcuts feature to simplify your mobile posts. Why keep typing commonly used phrases or links on your mobile phone when you can use a simple shortcut instead.

 Monday, December 15, 2003

Semantic Web Designer Post

Here's your chance to make a difference and help create the semantic web. This new post is based in the UK at QinetiQ, the largest science and technology research enterprise in Europe. Don't hang around though as the closing date is 10 January 2004. The job advert states "... the initial focus is on military applications ..." so you'll get to work on black ops too but at least you'll have access to a large budget!
 Friday, December 12, 2003

Mine's a pint!

I am proud to be a part of a university that officially endorses beer drinking, reaffirming that age-old association between higher education and alcohol. Old Joe's Winter Warmer, will be available at the university's staff bar over Christmas for £2.15 a pint. So see you there then, the first round's on me! Pictured is our leader and Vice Chancellor Michael Sterling. Hic, hic, hooray!
 Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Pitch in

I can't bear the thought of Alan not having anything to read via RSS so here's a quick post. It's nice to be missed, though I don't feel as though I've been away. As Seb has written, sometimes other things just take over your life. I've also been keeping my typing fingers busy with other projects.

While I was away doing other things David Wiley and team have set up their pitch with a new peer reviewed publishing project. Bravo! It's early days although a few papers have already been published. I'm not yet sure how Pitch will be different from other collaborative systems though with the pedigree of the first three authors I expect we'll see some great things. I anticipate that many of the hidden strengths of the project are in the work flow. Anyone who's had a paper peer reviewed and published in the 'established' literature will know that even rapid communications can take weeks to appear (though some are very rapid I accept) and a full paper can take months. Still, once your paper is accepted though it must be good, right? Well (stop the presses), no, peer review is no guarantee of truth, quality, and non-biased writing. That's reflected by the fact that we have tens of thousands of peer reviewed academic journals, often many tens or even hundreds of individual journals in the same small field. There are different degrees of 'truth', 'accuracy' and 'non-bias', at least there are in the published literature although in terms of absolutes there aren't of course (read this for a readable piece on understanding science and the science-based literature). Community interest and custom-and-practice can inadvertently perpetuate bias despite the most rigorous peer review.

But I digress (this is a topic that tried writing about before but have yet to get it right), back to the work flow advantages and community commentary offered by journals like Pitch. With regards the lengthy traditional peer review process, of course it doesn't have to be this way. It's as much about peer consent as it is about peer review. By that I mean the academic community accepts that in order to publish in the literature you have to (as a generalisation) submit your paper to a journal's editorial team, submit to their peer review process, assign your copyright to the journal's publisher, and then finally pay to buy back a copy of your (hopefully) published paper. Well times they are a changin. Increasingly authors are retaining their own copyright, are contributing to electronic journals (though not all offer the apparent cost and time saving that the electronic medium would seem to offer thanks to the strangle-hold of the existing publishing industry) and through entrepreneurial publishing ventures are getting their papers for free. Communities are springing up around some online journals where commentary extends debate.

So, let us welcome Pitch and let's all pitch in and make it a success because it'll likely only ever be as successful as you make it.