It's good to talk

Now that supermarkets are starting to offer IP phone packages (£15 from Tesco for a basic model – although it's not Mac compatible and according to my mate Nick doesn't work too well with wi-fi), can it be long before the VOIP revolution reaches the masses?

With Sky and Orange announcing free broadband offers for their customers and internet phone companies like Skype selling 'free' internet calls to other internet phone users all over the world, things are surely looking up. Evidence surely of web 2.0 (or even 2.1) coming into effect.

I have a VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) phone (although I still haven't managed to set it up at Castle Smith due to lack of internet*) and I know a couple of others (Serge, Nick) who have them or are using VOIP via MSN or AIM. Not many though. I think it will be a while before we adopt the internet phone quite as readily as we have done with the mobile phone. Mind you, I did hear an interesting story about some enterprising folk who are using their web browsers on their mobiles to run their VOIP phones via wireless connections, letting them use their internet phones like a mobile. Clever.

This piece in the Guardian today is slightly worrying and could have a serious impact on the mass take up of internet phones. Security is all well and good but this has a distinct whiff of KGB/Big Brother about it. I wonder if it will be enough to distract people from the magic word of the VOIP revolution's USP – FREE calls.

*also responsible for sporadic posting – I've been leeching wi-fi from friends and my local coffee shop for outside work web use


om mane padme hum

The last few days at work have been eventful, stressful and seemingly endless all at once. The hot weather (and our British inability to cope with anything above 22c) is making people uncomfortable and irritable. Add to that a pinch of uncertainty (changes are afoot) and a dash of insecurity (people feeling threatened by some of the changes) and you've got a pressure cooker waiting to boil over. All credit to the University (although I think the timing was fortuitous rather than planned), the workplace wellbeing event on Friday afternoon certainly seemed to diffuse a bit of that tension.

Most people shunned the makeshift volleyball court and headed straight for the free food and drink although I did see a few brave souls taking salsa lessons in Chancellor's Court. I headed for the shade of the trees and tried my hand at meditation with the University's buddhist chaplain. I think the goofy smile speaks for itself. Ommmmmmmmm


Blogging's a dangerous game

Seems like not everyone is a fan of bloggers and blogging. I checked Paris-based Petite Anglaise's blog this morning to see if she'd come out of self-imposed blogging exile only to find some disturbing news. Petite has been Dooced (I'll admit, I didn't know what that meant until I followed the link either).

Apparently her employers in France have accused her of gross misconduct (faute grave) via her blogging activities. And not just for updating at work (although she does admit to doing that occasionally when she'd finished her work duties), for bringing the company into disrepute via her blog.

Petite's lawyers are bringing a landmark case against her employers. In the meantime, check out her (very entertaining) blog and send her some words of support.


Mad dogs and Englishmen

I don't know about the mid-day sun but last night at 8pm it was still in the high 20's. Pub beer gardens were packed out, pink shoulders and faces were bared and remarkably not a sock/sandal combination in sight (could it be that the British middle-aged male has finally got the message?).

Today is forecast to be the hottest day of the year with temperatures in the Midlands hitting the mid 30's with the possibility of a record-breaking 37c (98f). Tonight is the first night of pre-season training at my rugby club. With last night's early evening temperature in mind I am not particularly looking forward to running drills for an hour and a half in the still hot sunshine and no shade. Predictably the camp is split. Those who want to build on last season's promotion (and plug some of the gaps we've got in the squad) want to go all out and train hard. And some of us fancy a bit of a run out to blow away the cobwebs and then a few drinks in the clubhouse afterwards.

The British and Irish Lions took a hammering in New Zealand last year. Maybe this rugby player should take his example from the Lions of the Serengetti. Hakuna Matata


Can I Digg it? Yes, you can!

Here's a real testament to how communities are building up around web technologies like Flickr and Digg. One of the distinguishing elements of social media 'hubs' like these are the groups of users who spend time creating and making available little applications and hacks that enable other users to use these sites in new and original ways. Often these micro-evolutions shape the way a site is used in the mainstream and can open up user streams that the site designers may not ever have thought of.

For those of you who don't know about Digg you can read more about it
here. In short, it's a site that lists the news stories that its user base vote for (or digg) in order of popularity. "[It] is all about user powered content. Every article on digg is submitted and voted on by the digg community". It's a great way of seeing what people are reading and what stories people think are important at that moment.

Digger Alex Bosworth has come up with a script that generates a 'digg this' button that bloggers etc can add to their posts to encourage people to submit their stories to digg [NB - it works but it needs a bit of tinkering with to get it looking right]. The guys behind dig have already mentioned that this is a facility they want to offer their members in the near future. I'll be interested to see whether they do and if/how they get around the potential for rigged votes. Rumour has it that an email campaign cost Christian Ronaldo the Young Player of the Tournament at the recent World Cup. I wonder whether a similar coordinated attack could promote a band/political viewpoint/corporate message?

Pic from jerseyimage via flickr


Boozy shmoozy

While I don't yet have the butler (see previous post), I am working on the champagne lifestyle. Tonight is our annual boozy schmoozy media networking event at work. Take 1 marquee set in beautiful campus grounds, add in 200 'media types', 1 chocolate fountain and a free champagne bar and brace yourself …

(pic nicked from Dan Robinson via flickr)

What every dashing young blade needs...

Castle Smith is mine again. Now that Anna has moved into her place (I'd been doing my good Samaritan act and offered her my spare room until her sale went through) I've got a whole new room that I've barely even been in. Just as well really as I sense several boxes of books and Pub paraphernalia winging their way up the motorway from my parents' house to make space for my sister's imminent return to the homestead before she goes off to the RCA. Mind you, my sister's already put her 'dibs' on the spare room so I'm going to get her to do some illustrations in the alcoves in lieu of B&B rates.

Anna came around to collect the last of her stuff last night and was telling me about her new 'lodger' – a 13-week old kitten called Izzy. I've never really been much of a one for pets; I'll take a slick new macbook or an SLR over a cute puppy or a parakeet anyday. But with
the Monkey in London for a couple of days, I did briefly wonder if I was to have a pet, what kind I'd have. Any suggestions?

Maybe I should go back to my
previous ambition and get myself a butler instead. According to 'hip hop mogul' Damon Dash he'd be a sartorial disaster without his. Your bling sir…


Social media in action

As an Englishman I don't think I have an accent. Even most English people would probably be hard pushed to place my accent much closer than 'south', 'near London maybe'.

I had thought that over a decade of mixing closely with people from up and down the country and all over the world had managed to neutralise and mix up my accent all at the same time. Not so. 5 minutes spent catching up with an old friend (reunited via blogger – hence the title of this post) from the village I grew up in and both of us were laughing at how strongly our 'village' accents stood out. Well, at least to each other. We both spotted the flat vowels and elongated stresses on certain words that marked us out as sons of Toddington, even if the others didn't.

And we even won the quiz at the Sunflower Lounge so there's obviously no truth in the saying 'Befordshire born, Bedfordshire bred. Strong in the arm, thick in the 'ead.'


Two wheels or four?

For the last four years or so I've been spoiled. Until recently I lived close enough to walk or cycle to work and did so every day (apart from 3 days) for four years. I walked/cycled in every type of weather imaginable and didn't once feel guilty about the smug feeling I got when I walked past all the commuters stuck in a jam on a sunny day while I was enjoying the stroll home.

My new house is probably not walking distance (even at my marching pace I reckon it would be 45-50 minutes) but the bike is still an option. I've been pretty slack recently though. My green sensibilities are fast fading each time I get in the car to drive to work. I have been car sharing and I've even ventured onto the bus a couple of times but I still feel like I should make more of an effort to take the bike option. I don't even have the battle that London cyclists face to dissuade me (although there are a couple of hairy points on the ride in). My main problem is clothes. It's not really feasible to wear my day-to-day office wear for the ride in. I don't have to wear a suit and tie (so I don't) but I still have to be smart/presentable and sweaty, oil-stained clothes just don't cut the mustard.

If I was organised enough I could probably use the showers at the sports centre before I went in to get cleaned up. I could probably even devise a 'take 4 clean shirts in on Monday and 4 dirty ones home on Friday' routine but I'm not sure where I'd keep them.

Any suggestions? I know there's at least one keen cyclist out there amongst you.


Riders on the storm

First off, I'm not complaining about the weather. Far from it. There were times this year when I thought winter was never going to end. I love it when it's hot like this. As soon as I'm back from work I'm in shorts and flip flops; straight into the garden with all the windows open in my house.

The sunshine makes everyone look prettier, act happier and we all know that it's easier to get up for work when it's not pitch dark outside. But today I am suffering. Yesterday I suffered worse. The build up of pressure and muggy atmosphere are prime migraine conditions. 'My head hurts' does not describe it. I can't see properly, I feel sick and it really does hurt.

There's definitely a storm coming. As soon as the weather breaks I will start to feel better. What with my busted bones and old man's joints, I've become a finely tuned weather station. I can tell you when it's going to rain and snow and when there's a storm brewing. I just wish this one would hurry up and brew.