From August 2007

See You On The Other Side

In a few short hours I’ll be jetting off to South Korea; my sleep experiment to avoid jet-lag has felt like more of a lesson in self control and trying to concentrate on work whilst pretty fatigued. Somehow I’ve managed to get up successive nights 1 hour earlier each day (this morning was 2am) and attempted to sleep 1 hour later. I’m not quite sure how well I’ve managed to fool my body clock, the next couple of days should be interesting!

Since I’m flying via Dubai (20 reasons not to move to Dubai) I wont arrive in Seoul till later tomorrow – I’ll try and post an update here when I do. Since Korea is the king of consumer electronics I’ll leave you with a few titbits of life on the other side:

Update (02/09): I made it ok to Korea, this time without any drama’s!! This morning I’m feeling pretty jet-lagged (aching all over) so it doesn’t look like my sleep experiment did much good. Hopefully it will pass in the next 24 hours. More soon ๐Ÿ™‚

Yomiko Readman Lives Here

INSANE Book Store 1 (SALEM, MA)

I came across this picture of a rather insane book store earlier today and it immediately reminded me of the residence of a certain Yomiko Readman of “Read or Die” fame. The similarities are striking but goodness knows how they get away with the health and safety aspect of having thousands of books stacked this way ๐Ÿ˜‰

Read or Die - Yomiko Readman

Read or Die - Yomiko Readman

The film and tv series are well worth watching; of course reading the manga would be even better! More pictures of the crazy shop can be found here.

In unrelated news I’ll be starting my rather rigorous jet-lag avoidance experiment tomorrow whereby I’ll be getting up and going to bed an hour earlier, progressively each day pushing my body clock closer to Korea time (GMT +9). By Friday I should be getting up at 2am, ouch!! If you’re in the UK, enjoy the bank holiday tomorrow!

Return to Korea

Moon rising over Seoul, South Korea
ยฉ Topic Photo Agency/Getty Images

This time next week I’ll be at Heathrow airport about to embark on a rather epic journey (for me anyway) to the other side of this small world of ours. My previous visit to South Korea only lasted 4 days so I decided another dose was required, hence I’m heading back for a further 10 days exploration! The actual journey there is going to take a tortuous 20 hours going via Dubai which will be a good excuse to read the final Harry Potter book (stolen from my younger sibling ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

London to Seoul

During my stay I plan to spend around half my time in Seoul and the rest in the southern cities of Gyeongju (the ancient capital & UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Busan (also know as Pusan, the largest port city). Drop me a line if you happen to be in the vicinity!

Analogue People

The Japanese apparently have a saying for people who aren’t much good with technology – “Analogue Person“, literally translated. Futurologists have long predicted that eventually an underclass of people who do not have access to/do not want to use/don’t know how to use technology would evolve and some even go as far as to say that this would cause the human species to split into two sub-species of the elite and the digital underclass. Whilst this isn’t predicted to happen for thousands of years if this isn’t an early sign I don’t know what is!

Of course there is another line of thought which says this has already happened in Japan. You don’t have to look far for the evidence:

This twelfth generation android from Sony Robotics dubbed “Sony-san” is a particularly disturbing example of the future anthropomorphisation of humanity! Sony-san has appeared in music videos, variety shows, the occasional advert, and reportedly “lives” in a Buddhist temple (so much for secularity of science!).

1984 was a turning point in many ways (think Apple Computer, George Orwell, Linux, the Space Programme, Terminator, my birth…) and a mere 23 years later the world has been revolutionised by technology. But this revolution is not like it’s predecessors; it has no end. Like it or not things are not going to move at an ever accelerating pace. Don’t look back in 50 years and say I didn’t warn you!

Knock-on Effects

My innocuous little post yesterday about the Skype Outage had some quite unexpected effects – within a few hours I’d had thousands of hits and nearly 100 comments from frustrated users around the world. It quickly became the most popular post on Randomwire since I started the blog over five years ago.

WordPress Hits Go Through The Roof

My WordPress hit stats went through the roof and the post was the no. 1 hit on for “Skype Outage” and “Skype Down” as well as being on the first page of results for I’m rather please that my post even comes above an article by The Times (one of the UK’s largest newspapers)!

Top Hit in Google for 'Skype Outage'

It quickly became clear that the downtime was a pretty big deal with both individuals and businesses suffering as a direct result. 24 hours later and although some regions are slowly coming back online the network doesn’t seem to be in a usable state yet. My favourite comment so far…

“Finally! I see 3 million folks online. Relief, at last! with a realization that we’re so ardent slaves of technology!”

Worryingly it’s so true, perhaps this is the first time that the dependencies we have on IP based communication technologies today have been demonstrated on such a large scale. It will be interesting to see how this effects Skype’s competitors and any other knock-on effects that may come out of this.

Skype Down Worldwide

If you’re like me and use IM pretty much constantly throughout the day then you can imagine what it’s like to have it suddenly turned off… pretty frustrating. As of the time of writing Skype seems to be down (confirmed here) and has been for the last few hours. Considering the millions of people who rely on it everyday I’m sure there must be a lot of angry users punching their keyboards about now! Having to send emails seems positively stone age compared with the instant gratification of the answer being a click away.

The Taiwan earthquake earlier in the year which damaged undersea cables showed just how much disruption can be caused by the failure of communication lines so if one service going silent is a mild annoyance I dread to think what would happen if there was a major outage.

How is this effecting your day?

Skype Logo

— Updating below as more news comes in (RSS Feed) —

Update: Some interesting theories as to what’s causing the problems here and here. The outage appears to be worldwide.

Update 2: Skype have said they “expect this to be resolved within 12 to 24 hours“. I wonder if there is any liability for all the businesses who rely on Skype and will have lost out as a result…?

Update 3: People are not having any luck getting any further information from Skype. Regarding liability, their terms of service seem to indicate that compensation is “limited to the amount actually paid by you for the Skype services during the year in which such damages occur” up to 5000 Euros. Wont be much constellation to small businesses I guess!

Update 4: Conspiracy theories already beginning – Could the Russians have DOSed Skype, are the Neocons taking action because they can’t wiretap it, or is this just a simple “software glitch”? Hmmm… I think a liberal pinch of salt is needed here ๐Ÿ˜‰ Any way you look at the situation, it sucks!!

Update 5: So far had reports from Hong Kong, Denmark, Belgium, Malaysia, San Diego, Germany, Brazil, Orlando, Texas, Lithuania, Canada, Argentina, Australia, Montreal, Quebec, Thailand, China, Switzerland, Italy, London, Finland, Turkey, South Africa, Memphis, Florida, Malaga, Poland, France, India, Cyprus, Barbados, Netherlands, Italy, Singapore, Macedonia, Tokyo, Seoul, Bulgaria, Norway, Ireland, Jordan, Philippines… is there anywhere where Skype is actually working now? Apparently some users have been without service for over 14 hours already.

Update 6: Some interesting commentary on the situation from GigaOM (P2P limitations), Mashable (eBay stock down), Disruptive Telephony (end of the world?) & Epicenter (Skype wont comment).

Update 7: Skype have posted a new message on their Hearbeat blog –

“We’d like to thank everyone who has taken the time to send us their thoughts, concerns and good wishes. It means the world to those working so hard to resolve this thing.”

…touching, but doesn’t really tell us any more about what the problem is! I guess there must be some pretty stressed out engineers at Skype today, so good luck to them! Acording to one user who was able to logon for a short time there are only 6000 users online – on a normal day there would be around 6 million.

Update 8: Last update before I head for bed – check out these pretty interesting graphs from Skype Journal, they show that there were over 6 million users online just before the service flatlined. Also another update from the Skype team:

“The Skype system has not crashed or been victim of a cyber attack. We love our customers too much to let that happen. This problem occurred because of a deficiency in an algorithm within Skype networking software. This controls the interaction between the user’s own Skype client and the rest of the Skype network.

Rest assured that everyone at Skype is working around the clock รขโ‚ฌโ€ from Tallinn to Luxembourg to San Jose รขโ‚ฌโ€ to resume normal service as quickly as possible.”

At least this is a little more informative, here’s hoping that it’s back up tomorrow!

Update 9 (17/08 – 9am BST): Some users are able to connected intermittently as the service begins to come back online. No definite confirmation from Skype yet but the signs are certainly positive. Should be interesting to see how this goes as Europe wakes up today. Is Skype working for you yet?

Update 10: Apart from having to deal with millions of disgruntled users, eBay (who own Skype) have also seen a slump in their share prices which, according to TechCrunch, knocked $1 billion off eBay’s market cap. It’s now been over 24 hours since the outage began.

Update 11 (7.30pm BST): Not a great deal of change since this morning although anecdotally more people are reporting being able to connect for short periods. Skype say they’re on the road to recovery but there seems to be little evidence for that yet. The O’Reilly Radar has raised some interesting points about Skype and the General Public Licence – would it help Skype to be less secretive about their network technology?

Update 12 (18/09 – 12.30pm BST): Welcome Back, World! So it finally looks like after 48 hours of downtime that Skype is back online. As of now I can see close to 6 million people online which is the normal average. Skype have said that they’ll provide a more detailed explanation on Monday – should be interesting to hear what actually happened! Happy skyping all ๐Ÿ™‚

Update 13 (20/09): Skype have posted a slightly more detailed explanation of what happened last week. Turns out the effect of peoples computers restarting on mass after a windows update caused the network meltdown when they all tried to login again and in turn the inbuilt self-healing mechanisms failed.

Combating Jet Lag

I’ve been on a fair few flights recently (15 in the last three years and counting) and, climate change issues aside, the one thing which I find the most difficult about long distance travel is jet lag. Arriving at your destination exhausted, disorientated, irritable, unable to concentrate, and with a raging headache is not much fun. This is especially problematic when you’re somewhere for the the first time, don’t speak the language, and don’t know your way around!

Word Time Zones Map

The phenomenon is caused by a mismatch between the time zone you’re in and your body clock thinking it’s still somewhere else (regulated by circadian rhythms determined by daily light/dark cycles). Whilst jet lag effects different people in different ways there are some basic measures you can take to minimise the effects of crossing multiple time zones and get your biological clock back in sync:

  1. Start to shift your body clock in advance by gradually adjusting the time you go to bed and wake up in the direction your heading.
  2. Avoid dehydration on the plane by drinking plenty of water (1 cup per hour) but avoid alcohol and caffeine.
  3. Make sure you stretch your legs and arms every few hours on the plane to keep your blood circulation flowing.
  4. When flying through the night try to get some sleep in accordance with the time at your destination – be sure to take earplugs, an eye mast, neck pillow, and wear comfortable clothes.
  5. Force yourself to stay awake if it’s daytime when you arrive – combat the desire to sleep by taking a cold shower and getting some fresh air/sunlight outside.
  6. Go to bed and eat meals at the local time – high protein foods (meat & vegetables) will help you stay awake while carbohydrates (rice & noodles) will make you feel sleepy.

Also be warned that travelling east is worse than travelling west due to the effects of shortening the day, giving the body less time to adjust. When going eastwards point 1 is even more important to soften the blow. As a general rule the body can take up to a day to adjust for every time zone travelled through, as always time is the best cure.

Anyone else have any useful travel tips?


Matt Cutts, a software engineer at Google, recently did an interesting talk on search engine optimisation (SEO) tips for bloggers – if anyone should should be an expert in this dark art you’d expect it to be him! It’s pretty useful stuff (for those who care about this sort of thing) and you can find the video of the talk, presentation, and a number of commentaries on his blog. I’ve already implemented some of his suggestions but at the end of the day good content is king and only your readers can be the judge that!

During my University days I used to aim to post every other day but since entering the real world it’s down to once or twice a week. I wish I had more time to put into the site but I guess it’s about the quality over the quantity ๐Ÿ˜‰ On the plus side I’m intending on dragging my laptop with me to Korea next month and will be “live blogging” my adventures whenever possible – it’s said than in London you’re never more than a meter away from a rat, whereas in Korea you’re never more than a meter away from a super-fast fibre channel!

Visually Frivolous

There is so much creative (and sometimes perhaps frivolous) visualisation work being done at the moment – I really couldn’t resist posting this, the Uniqlock – turn the sound on for the full effect.

This one had me in fits of laughter (a rare occurrence, believe me)! Other examples can be found at The FWA.

[via Coding Horror]

Another article which caught my eye on Digg was this comparison of some modern visualisation techniques. It reminded me of a simpler post I wrote two years ago along the same lines which shows just how far things have come in terms of the way people think about displaying information. How much of it is genuinely useful and not just eye candy is yet to be answered…

British Ingenuity (or lack of)

Why is it that the Japanese have had bullet trains (Shinkansen) for decades which can travel at over 300 km/h (186 mph) and experimental Maglev trains which have set a world record of 581 km/h (361 mph) while here in Britain our ageing trains rarely reach 130 km/h (80 mph)… are overpriced… unreliable… and overcrowded… you get my point!


Considering we invented the railways it’s a pretty depressing situation. Sometimes I wonder if we just gave up after the Industrial Revolution and decided to leave it to the rest of the world to invent the future!

This is how it should be done!

Interestingly a group called UK Ultraspeed are proposing a network of high speed Maglev trains based on the German Transrapid technology, first used in Shanghai, which would link the major cities of Britain at speeds up to 500 km/h (311mph). Sadly their website is a rather amateur affair which doesn’t add much credibility to their cause, but all the same we painfully need some like this to bring our rail infrastructure into the 21st century.