From October 2007

Web Application Ubiquity

There’s been a lot of talk of web applications overtaking and replacing traditional client-side applications and in some respects it’s already happened. I spend approximately 80% of my computing time in Firefox and to me a computer without an internet connection is a bit of a blunt tool these days. The main upside to moving online is that you can access your data/services anywhere regardless of what operating system you’re using and there is no need to worry about backups. Some paranoid types worry about privacy and security but at the end of the day it’s in the best interests of the service provider to protect your content and respect your privacy if they want to retain the trust and custom of its users.

Web Operating System Stack

With all this in mind you’ve got to wonder what the market is for a bloated operating system like Windows Vista where users will only ever use 20% of it’s functionality (mainly because the rest of it’s utterly incomprehensible/broken). I’d love to see someone develop a bare-bones operating system based on Linux (kernel, core GNU services & X11) which provides simply the browser as the user interface with common plugins & codecs, necessary networking facilities and nothing else. With a bit of polishing you’d have a potentially powerful system which wouldn’t require high-end hardware to run. For those who need an even more integrated experience there are plenty of plugins available for browsers such as Firefox which enrich the experience even further.

If you’re not already familiar with the world of online applications here are my top-10 favourite web apps:

  1. Meebo – Instant messaging with multiple protocol support
  2. Flickr – Photo sharing
  3. YouTube – Video sharing
  4. Google Docs – Online word-processor/spreadsheet/presentation suite
  5. – Bookmark sharing
  6. Gmail – Email & contact management
  7. WordPress – Blogging
  8. Google Reader – RSS feed reader
  9. Wikipedia – User written/edited encyclopaedia
  10. Facebook – Uber social network/platform

To my mind this is all a precursor to something much bigger – clearly the likes of Google have already seen this coming and are quietly ramping up in preparation as well as leading the way. I still like my idea of the E-brain Construct but it needs more refinement with some practical examples… we live in exciting times 🙂

N.B. I installed Mac OS X Leopard (10.5) last weekend – now there’s an OS to write home about!

Internet Addiction

Dilbert Internet Addiction Comic

Somehow today’s Dilbert seems worryingly close to the truth… how did anyone survive before the Internet? Are we all becoming information addicts? Lets look at the positive and negative effects of this:

  • Pros – Know lots about stuff, approximately 20% of it is useful, 80% completely inane. 24/7 instant access to more information than is comfortably conceivable.
  • Cons – Every free waking moment is taken up cramming more of it leading to a restless hunger and thirst for more. Slow death of the physical library and the dewey index.

Q) Is there such a thing as being too well read? Discuss.

If you like the work of Scott Adams you might want to check out his blog – it’s a good read.

Back to School

It’s been a long time since I posted anything under the “University” category since I graduated over two years ago and whilst I may be a little older and wiser the learning never ends! Since visiting Korea twice this year I felt it was about time I learned a bit of the language so signed up for the Beginners Korean course at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. Three lessons later and it’s not going to badly but I think I’m going to have to put a fair bit of effort in to be able to keep up with the work – somewhat reminiscent of when I studied Japanese!

Korean is significantly easier to learn than Chinese or Japanese as the alphabet (called Hangul) contains only 40 characters, compared with tens of thousands in the others! If it’s of any help to anyone I’ve put together a quick reference chart which contains the consonants (19) and vowels (21) along with English sounds to help with pronunciations.

Korean Hangul Chart

You can download the chart in a variety of formats on Scribd. Please remember that I’m in no way a language expert so can’t guarantee the accuracy of the chart (although it’s been fairly thoroughly checked by native speakers)!

Update (29/12): I’ve also updated a Korean Numbers Chart (Pure Korean & Sino-Korean) and Korean Verbs & Patterns Chart.

Play-doh Rabbits

If you liked Sony’s rather creative Bravia adverts (remember the bouncing balls and exploding paint?) then you’re probably going to enjoy their latest “colour like no other” commercial, coming to screen near you very soon:

Sony Bravia Play-doh Advert

Featuring hundreds of bunny rabbits animated in play-doh directly on the streets of New York the commercial has the same sense of playful surrealism like its predecessors. To achieve the effect in a very short space of time separate bunny models were made for each frame of each sequence which were meticulously rehearsed before shooting on the streets of NYC, a particularly cool backdrop! To create the high volume of bunnies in each sequence the same models were reused in different positions thus getting more for less. Here’s the final ad:

Check out the equally innovative official site for a higher-res video and more behind the scenes information [via].

Elsewhere… I’m having an exceedingly busy week consisting mainly of working, eating and sleeping. Lots going on but hopefully I should have a chance to update more soon 🙂

O2 SMS Woes

If you have international roaming on your phone enabled (most people do) you should be able to send SMS text messages to people abroad, right? Not if you’re with O2 it turns out.

Having switched to O2 at the beginning of the month, because they’ll be the sole iPhone carrier in the UK, I found out to my great annoyance this week that you can’t SMS people in South Korea and visa versa… if you’re on O2 anyway (Orange works fine). Several missed text messages later, which mysteriously vanished into a black hole somewhere, I called and emailed customer services who eventually came back with this:

“Thanks for emailing us about not being able to send text messages to a South Korean mobile number. I understand it’s important for you to send text messages to your friends in South Korea. We don’t have an agreement with SK Telecom, so we can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to send text messages to any mobile numbers of this network”

What?!!! “Can’t guarantee” – it simply doesn’t work!

On their website O2 boldly proclaim “our international coverage is unsurpassed” – clearly not if they don’t have an agreement with the biggest provider in South Korea, the most digitally connected country on the planet. This is a pretty annoying state of affairs and I can only imagine how many other gaping holes there are in their international coverage.

Cultural Differences

Came across these cool infographic cultural comparisons from Chinese-born German designer Yang Liu. Depicted are some typical East versus West cultural differences, some possibly a little stereotypical, but nevertheless very true!

Here’s a small selection (pictures from the actual exhibition here):

Chinese vs German Culture
Weekend Street Scene

Chinese vs German Culture
Shower Time

Chinese vs German Culture

In many ways German and Chinese culture are about as far apart as you could probably get and for me that’s a large part of the attraction of Asia from a Western perspective. It’s about as close as you can get to visiting an alien planet but sad to say that these differences are diminishing by the day. Pseudo-American culture is engulfing all corners of the globe via the upwardly mobile youth – ask any young person in Asia what their favourite TV show is and a large proportion will probably reply with an American drama or sitcom.

Funnily enough the respective governments have noticed this phenomenon and in some countries have gone out of their way to cleanse the TV networks of American exports but this has done little to diminish peoples appetites who have simply gone elsewhere to consume – via the internet and pirate DVD’s.

The homogenisation of the world through globalisation seems to be somewhat inevitable but I can’t help but wondering that when we look back in 50 years time at the desertified wastelands of the 21st century we’ll be known as both environmental and cultural vandals by our children…

Update (29 Sept 2009): I used some of these illustrations in a presentation about understanding cultural differences which you can find here.

New Terror Threat

Last week saw a terror alert in central London sparked by a pot of burning chillies in a Thai restaurant which some people confused for a chemical attack. Funnily the chef didn’t even realise as he was used to the smell!

Mudchute Chillies!

Not far away some equally fiery chillies were about ready for the picking at my very own chili plantation! You may remember back in May I planted 7 “Demon Red” chili plants – unfortunately growing conditions this summer have been pretty poor with the strange weather we’ve had in the UK. Given this the speed of growth and yield have been below expectations but there were still reasonable results and the above are the first harvest!

I cooked some last night in a pasta sauce and can confirm that they indeed live up to their name.

Red Deer in Richmond


I had a pretty busy, but very enjoyable, weekend spent mostly in the leafy suburbs on Surrey (just outside London). On Saturday afternoon I visited Richmond Park, the largest of the Royal Parks in London (2500 acres), which is home to over 650 free roaming red deer. My uncle had brought with us his Nikon D200 and 300mm lens so it was the perfect opportunity for a bit of wildlife photography Ray Mears style!


As they were in the middle of rutting season the male stags were in fighting mood so we made sure to keep down wind and a safe distance! Every so often when a stag strayed onto another’s territory they would bellow at each other but unfortunately we didn’t witness any antler clashing action! The 300mm was great for getting some nice close-ups but you certainly need a tripod to get a steady shot at that distance.


Unsurprisingly the female hinds seemed pretty oblivious to all this and were just wandering around having a nice time. More photos here.

China Blocks RSS

China Blocks RSS Feeds

I hate to sound like a broken record but this is getting ridiculous – in further efforts to “create a harmonious and prosperous society” China has begun to block RSS feeds in addition to their other draconian internet censorship measures [via]. From the communist party’s perspective this makes perfect sense as RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a great way to stay up to date with the latest news and up till now has flown under the radar.

At the beginning of the year you could read and subscribe to my blog in China with no problems at all. Now both images and feeds are blocked. I wonder how long before the whole thing’s out-of-bounds? It really makes me mad to see the internet being abused like this, after all, its founding principles were to create a platform for free information exchange without boarders or controls.

Along with blocking other major sites like Wikipedia, BBC News, & Flickr this just marks another blow to the governments credibility, especially in the run-up to the Olympics.

How about a nice propaganda video to round it all off:

United States Population: 298,444,215
Chinese Womens’ Army: 324,701,244

Check out my post here about how to get around the “Great Firewall of China”.

Back to Basics

September was all about Korea so it’s about time to get back to the basics and a little more random! The past few weeks have been predictably busy at work. I’ve been busy designing a web service API (Application Program Interface) for a major organisation which basically allows it to syndicate it’s content and data to others for various purposes. It’s been an interesting challenge with many different aspects to it, not just technical, but that’s about all I can say here!

iPhone UK Launch

We’ve been waiting so long for this magical piece of technology to hit British shores that you would imagine the hype would have died down by now but since getting my hands on an iPod Touch for a few minutes I for one am still very excited! Yes, it’s not cheap, not 3G yet, and Apple haven’t exactly warmed to the 3rd party apps/hacks but it still marks a landmark device which fuses a host of technologies in revolutionary ways to create something pretty unique. The iPhone is just the first step in changing the way we interact with technology, the internet, and ultimately each other. I’ll certainly be lining up on Nov 9 to get my hands on it!


During my long flights to and from Korea I read the final Harry Potter instalment. To be honest I was a little disappointed. Two-thirds of the book are spent with the characters in a tent arguing with each other and the rest watching countless other characters getting killed in rather predictable ways. After all that Rowling could have at least killed Harry off properly without all this resurrection nonsense and then a sappy flash-forwards to their future lives. I guess there’s no satisfying everyone and it’s somewhat sad to see the end of the series.

China Is Getting Ready

China Is Getting Ready

“In the name of ensuring stability and harmony in the country during the 2008 Olympic Games, the Chinese Government continues to detain and harass political activists, journalists, lawyers and human rights workers. Get involved:” [via]

I know Amnesty is somewhat controversial but I still wholeheartedly believe that China are continuing to sweep human rights under the proverbial carpet. It’s such a shame because the Olympics were the perfect opportunity for China to clean up it’s act. As I once heard someone say, China likes to seem democratic on the outside but on the inside it’s as despotic as it ever was. The sad thing is that many of the Chinese I’ve spoken to don’t really care as long as they have a satisfactory quality of life.