Inventionism! – Mike Dixson

Ideas and Innovation from the active mind of a lazy body

Could 3D Printing be Internet Dating’s Next Step?

It’s occurred to me that it doesn’t matter how many photos you see of a prospective Internet date you see the reality on date night can often be a very different one indeed.

Whilst reading about some 3D printing technology recently I thought that a possible next step for Internet Dating could be for dating websites to require a front and profile shot uploaded and they could then render a 3D model on the website for prospective partners to view. Going one step further you could make a 3D print of the face, maybe at designated 3D print house which are spreading rapidly, the prospective partner could then get a real sense of the person before meeting them and avoid any awkward first dates.

Alternatively it could just be really creepy to print off strangers faces.

Self Imposed Poverty – How to force yourself to save more

Most people would say money burns a hole in my pocket, that’s not entirely true, I’m not as frugal as some, but I enjoy the money I do have and have enough to get buy on.

But, I’m trying to save to buy a property and so every penny counts. Changing your spending habits takes discipline and saving as much as I need to in the time that I want to takes a lot of saving, thus a lot of discipline.
So I’ve been trying out self imposed poverty.

As with most of you, in the last week of a month I’m pretty poor, and start spending more frugally, watching what I spend more, making the cheaper choices and so on. So what if I move the poverty line? What if I shift the date when the pinch hits forward to midway through the month?
So the last couple of months after I get paid and my regular transfer to my savings occurs, I transfered an extra £100 to my savings.

So now I’m poorer sooner, but start spending more frugally sooner. Even if I need grab that money back towards the end of the month I’m not dipping into my regular savings, and I’ve already started spending more frugally by then anyway, so will have still made some in roads to spending less that month than I otherwise would have.

So what do you reckon? Think you can try and impose some poverty on yourself for your own greater good?

 

Apache mod_rewrite Redirecting Directories Without Looping

Wow! It’s true what they say, mod_rewrite rules are a dark art, and whilst I’ve combed the Internet to find, what I thought would be a simple redirect, I’ve found countless examples that didn’t work.
So now I have one that does work I’m sharing.

Goal

To redirect hits to a subdomain sshwindows.webheat.co.uk to a subdirectory (in my case cause that is the link to the page within my wiki) /display/sshwindows/

Traffic to any other domain hosted on this same server should not be redirected.

All without looping.

Solution

Check two conditions not just one. Check the host header and the uri to ensure the root had been hit, and only then redirect.

Code

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^sshwindows\.webheat\.co\.uk$ [NC]
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} /$
RewriteRule ^(.*)?$ http://sshwindows.webheat.co.uk/display/sshwindows [L]

For me I put this into my /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/000-default file, but you can equally put this into a .htaccess file. For me this was to be a global thing.

Additional Notes

The [nc] is the no-case flag to make the host header match case-insensitive.
The [L] is the Last flag, so after this rule no further ones will be processed. In all honesty I don’t need this here, but that part came from another source and it’s 4am so I’ll be damned if I’m going to remove it now when it’s all working :-)

SOPA and PIPA Alternatives

SOPA and PIPA seek to prevent and punish piracy thru law and technical obstruction. Piracy, is wrong, most of us have pirated something in our time, even if it was copying a friends cassette or cd so you could have a copy of an album your mate owns, in our hearts we all know we’re being a little bit naughty when we do it.

Here’s the thing, the music and film industry don’t care too much if you are recording a film off TV at home that they own the rights too, or record a copy of a song off the radio. It’s small scale, it’s not really affecting their bottom line.
They care when it starts to make their fat wallets thinner and makes them look inaffective at protecting their intellectual properly.

However the gist of it is that as long as the amount of legal plays/buys of a song/movie Vs the amount of pirated copies of a song or movie is in their favour and keeps their wallets fat they won’t really give a rats arse.

So why not embrace the new digital landscape, why not make music and movies so easy to get and reasonably priced that piracy seems like idiocy?
Since buying a Spotify premium account subscription I’ve been lovingly listening to more new albums than I ever did before. I’ve been able to share these tracks via Spotify to friends and colleagues, and instead of a radio playing in the office now we have Spotify playing with a collaborative playlist that we all add tracks to. We have our own, very eclectic, radio station thru Spotify and it’s exposing colleagues to new tracks continually.

With the recent launch of Netflix in the UK, I’ve watched films and tv series, old and new, much of which is shared on my Facebook timeline and I’ve recommended films, and Netflix to friends.

So why is the film and music industry trying to make it so hard for me to get a hold of the product that they want me to have. Just make it easy and cheap enough and we’ll take the deal.

The downside to this streaming, legitimate consumption of movies and music is that some labels and/or artists choose not to release their product this way, and some major labels release their latest products.
I look forward to watching Netflix deal grow in the UK so their provision grows, and I look forward to being able to get hold of the latest albums immediately on Spotify.
Why record, movie companies and artists feel the need to be so prohibitive and restrictive in this I don’t know. They seem to be scared of technology.

The message is simple, make the gatorade taste nice and we’ll gladly gulp it down.

Tablet’s will not cure all that ails you

As I read the article Tablets Will Transform the Classroom [OPINION] I found myself getting increasingly frustrated at this article’s view on what Tablets like the iPad, Galaxy Tab, etc would bring to the classroom.

Scraping texts books is one thing, though I suggest that many publishers are still dragging there heels into this century, afraid that everyone will automatically pirate all books and their cash flow will disappear. Text books are heavy and dull, and largely in some ugly typeface that is hard on the eyes, so by all means makes them available as an ebook.
However  believes that tablet computers will enable teacher to facilitate teaching at different speeds/levels in a single class. I’m unclear how this magic would happen, unless the under paid teacher is likely to want to spend three times the amount of time working on class plans for three different levels that all tie in together at key points so that the teacher can orate on them.

I’m all for students learning at their own levels, I believe that it encourages great growth and keeps students interested in their studies, instead of waiting for everyone to catch up with you or feeling like you are never going to catch up to others.
But this is more an argument for virtual learning environment(online learning), and having the whole class plan/notes available and having students progress at a pace that is comfortable to them. In this case the teach becomes almost like a project manager, ensuring that the students stay on schedule for their milestones, but allowing students who are so inclined to zoom ahead.

This would also allow for some learning disabilities to be catered for, larger text for people with learning disabilities, colour schemes adjusted for accessibility, etc.

I do agree that this is an excellent opportunity for academia to get with the times, but in order to do that teachers/lecturers need to get up to speed, and be completely competent with the Operating System and Office applications at least.
Students need to emerge out of  secondary school completely familiar with computers and, perhaps more importantly, the ability to investigate and work out how to use a new applications or systems without having to be walked thru it.

The tablet is not a magic bullet, no bit of technology is really, but how people use technology and continue to do so is important, and the future of computing in the classroom depends on all parties involved investing themselves in the technology, not being afraid to work with it and to be creative in the ideas that they come up with for how the can get more use out of the technology in the classroom.

Reverse Timesheeting

I’m lazy and forgetful, not in a bad way, but I don’t like to do more than I have to if I can simplify something and streamline it, and I have a bad memory for the more mundane things.

So when I was asked to keep a work log I cited some problems. I’ve no issue with keeping a work log or time sheeting but if I try ad start a timer at the start of a task, or make note of the time, when I remember I’ve already been doing some other task too and don’t know how long for.
And if I keep a sheet next to me or a text file to log what I’m working in I’ll forget to fill it out after a while so the data becomes useless.

So I figured there must be a way to passively capture that data, like maybe I could record my screen all day. The problem with that is it’s going to be a nightmare to scrub thru and take up loads of hard disk space.
I thought, what if I could just capture my screen every once in a while, a snapshot of what I was doing.

A quick check and sure enough Mac OS X has a screencapture command to do just that.

Here’s the script

picdate="whatIworkedOnAt-"$(date +%Y%m%d%H%M)".png"
outputdir="/Users/Mike/Documents/WorkCapture/WorkCapture-"$(date +%Y%m%d)
if [ -d $outputdir ]; then
/usr/sbin/screencapture -xS $outputdir/$picdate
else
mkdir -p $outputdir
/usr/sbin/screencapture -xS $outputdir/$picdate
fi

 

Why You Should Put Your Friends In Boxes

I’ve fairly recently entered into a new relationship after my last one ended about a year before. When I broke up with my last girlfriend Facebook became a bit of a painful experience for me, seeing everyone having such a great time when I was feeling down in the dumps but more so because Facebook had a plethora of photos of me and my ex-girlfriend on at various events we’d been to over the years together.
As they were painful to ok through I didn’t go thru and remove all of them, I just ended up stopping looking at them. In time it was no longer painful and I moved on but I didn’t bother going back thru all my photos to delete

Now I’ve entered a new relationship and, of course, my new girlfriend isn’t too happy about seeing photos of me and my ex on Facebook. As such I’m faced with the labourious task of taking all the photos down or changing the permissions so that my girlfriend can’t see them.
As more than just my ex and I are in these albums and the others in those albums might like the photos of them and want to keep them online still, changing the permissions seems like a logical option. Note, that’s man logic, girlfriend logic would probably dictate that I’m keeping them online so I can look through them whenever I want. I’m going to work with man logic for this post.

So if you want to prevent your new girlfriend from seeing photos of you and your ex by exclusion then you’d need to go through each album the very instant you add your girlfriend on Facebook and add her as someone who can’t see this album.
Far better than when you start dating a new girlfriend you put her and friends who are likely to be in the albums with you, into one Facebook friend list, then only allow access to that group.
That way if you need someone to see those photos you have to add them to that group, rather then have to hide it from whomever you need to.

As such it seems like putting your friends, and girlfriends into little boxes is the best way to ensure that people don’t see what they don’t want to see.

Security: Where’s The App For That?

So you might be on the ball enough to change your Facebook, or Google settings to use HTTPS, the secure way to browse websites. However when you fire up your Facebook or your bank app on your smart phone are you still being smart? Is it using secure protocols to talk to the servers or is everything you do being sent in clear text over your coffee shop’s wireless network.

It’s reasonable to assume that the lack of up roar from the geek community means it is secure, but with no visual indication of this end users aren’t to know. Stats mentioned in the news lately suggest that app usage is starting to outstrip website usage. This is fine for most end users, however it should be done right and securely, and there should be transparency if this security to the end user.

The future of newspapers

Newspaper publishers are finally coming to terms with new media and trying to work out where there business model lies in this new landscape.

However it occurred to me that they’ve missed a very basic thing in the current transition to new media.
All newspapers that are currently working with charging models are all using a subscription based service.
As someone who had a few paper rounds in their youth I know that there are far more houses I’d cycle by than deliver too. I also don’t know anyone at work who get’s a regular paper on their way in.
I’ve been enjoying the Guardian’s iPhone app. I’d never read the guardian before but actually got some semi-regular use out of the app, particularly as I could just read those sections and contributor’s columns that I enjoyed. However now they’ve introduced a new app with a charging model. The price is very reasonable at £3 per month and comes with a few new features over the old app. However it’s still a subscription model. For occasional newspaper readers like myself and everyone I know at work a subscription isn’t what they are after.
And so I got to thinking how comes Newspaper publishers, who were so fearful of change, have moved to a model where you can’t replicate the real world activity of being able to buy just one news paper.
Even if this translates to paying a one off fee for a period of access those people who don’t want to sign up to a recurring subscription don’t seem to be being catered for and are a missed business opportunity.

I hope that Newspaper publishers redress this oversight and allow the occasional buyers access and themselves to get the extra revenue to realise new media is not a threat, it’s an opportunity.

Time O’The Signs

Via gizmodo.com, and email a couple of webbased service pricing changes that affect me came to light this week.

Mozy.com is cutting it’s unlimited service to a tiered pricing system. There’s a couple of things that suck about this, firstly a service that was costing me in the region of £3 per month, and I was backing up 350GB too was now going to cost me over £22, and secondly they only gave half a month’s notice in which to decide and either migrate your data or pay up.

Now it took me the best part of a month to back up my data in the first place with Mozy.
I’m now in the process of backing up to Carbonite which will cost £5 a month for unlimited backups.

I can see that an unlimited model can be unsustainable, you will always end up with some people abusing it, but with that sort of offer you are playing the averages game, assuming that most won’t and so are covering the costs of those who will.
Why they jumped the pricing up quite so much I do not know. They are going to lose customers in great swathes.
They cited trying to make customers more aware of the data they are backing up, but surely this defeats the set it and forget it motto that they use to sell the product in the first place.

I’m curious why they opted for a model which costs users so steeply. Switich to Carbonite has nearly doubled my cost of back up but is still a negligible cost for an offsite backup for me, where as Mozy’s new model was a hike I couldn’t swallow.

Last.fm is the other network based service that is changing it’s pricing model. Now wanting users to have premium accounts in order to stream to devices.
I’ve got no issue with a great service like Last.fm trying to have a workable long term model, but I think this change is lacking in a couple of ways.
I use a Sonos S5 for my music needs at home, and often stream Last.FM via it, in fact far more than I used to on my computer. Thru Last.fm I discovered new artists based on artists I already liked or by listening to Last.fm ‘radio’ stations based on a tag. If I liked a artist enough I’d go and buy their album.
So here’s a few thoughts, shouldn’t the record companies be paying Last.fm a subscription fee to keep playing artists on their label and enabling new listeners to find their artists.
Also now, I can listen to Last.fm for free on my computer and even put that thru a line out into my Sonos to get the same audio quality, but I can’t use my Sonos S5 to listen to last.fm directly without paying £3 a month.
Maybe they should move to an ad supports free version like Spotify and premium users get no ads.
My issue is that for £3 a month, I get the same service I’ve had for free for years, nothing extra as far as I can see, no exclusive offers, or even the option to choose which artist’s album I want to listen to and listening to in it’s entirety, no I get to listen to a random selection of songs based on one criteria I specify.
At which point I have to question, do I pay £3 for discovering music, or do I pay £10 for spotify and then get the option to listen to albums I want to hear and be able to download them for offline playing on my iPhone?
Last.FM I’m an advocate of yours, I want you to succeed, I want to support you, but you’re not offering me anything that I can’t get for free. Innovate to survive, please!