Archive for June, 2004

Guitar Heroes: G3 – Satriani/Vai/Fripp National Indoor Arena Birmingham 26 June 2004

June 28, 2004


Heh… I’m not even gonna *TRY* to review the concert I went to Saturday night, instead choosing to make a somewhat different commentary. {OK, if you’re curious anyway, then suffice it say that I waited 12 years to see Joe Satriani, and WOOHOO am I glad I went!; if you don’t know of these guys then let’s just say the ultimate guitar heroes’ guitar heroes strutted their stuff for three or four hours last night, to a very happy crowd. You can watch excerpts from last year’s similar gig at Epic Records’ G3’03 Site}… note that the photo at right, from Carl Bergman, is from a two-week earlier gig, but gives you the idea;

But I wanted to say something ELSE, because reviewing these guys is like reviewing a religious experience (so a textual review would kind of miss the point, at least coming from me, until I figure out how to write music reviews). I’ve had the very good fortune in my life to see many (non-classical) guitar legends, representing many different genres from Delta Blues, City Blues, and Bluegrass, to Jazz, Rock, Psychedelic, Heavy Metal, Progressive Jazz, and, well, ‘Insane’. With this in mind, my comment is more on the nature of ‘genres’… and please note that I can’t even hope to name all the genres that have emerged nor even classify them very sensibly any more!

In the early 1980’s I deliberately avoided a concert by Queen that was taking place less than a mile from my house. Reason: I was in rebellion against ‘guitar heroes’, ‘strutting/posing on stage’, ‘glamour’, ‘wailing guitars’, and was generally much more enthusiastic about various local punk and progressive groups. BIG MISTAKE. I discovered in 1985, watching the famous Live Aid gig on TV at the time, that Freddie Mercury had more charisma in his little finger than all the other famous acts put together, and he knew it, too! The moral of this little story: if you have a chance to see living legends, even if you’re not a convert to their particular ‘genre’, then GO. Satriani and Vai are such legends, in a genre that, if you’re not already well into it, will probably give you a permanent headache. Go anyway!

June 22, 2004

The State of Wireless London

This study looks at how wireless networking (WLAN) in London has developed over the last three years from hacktivist pastime to mainstream pursuit. Comparing networks built by freenetwork groups, commercial hotspot providers, and public sector initiatives the study also examines the sales and uptake of WLAN equipment and makes some direct measurements of wireless activity in the Greater London area. Finally the study looks at the development of WLAN in the home and makes a recommendation for a Wireless Festival for London in 2004/2005.

Cool! Many thanks to Mark Gaved for this and numerous other tipoffs

June 22, 2004

The State of Wireless London

This study looks at how wireless networking (WLAN) in London has developed over the last three years from hacktivist pastime to mainstream pursuit. Comparing networks built by freenetwork groups, commercial hotspot providers, and public sector initiatives the study also examines the sales and uptake of WLAN equipment and makes some direct measurements of wireless activity in the Greater London area. Finally the study looks at the development of WLAN in the home and makes a recommendation for a Wireless Festival for London in 2004/2005.

Cool! Many thanks to Mark Gaved for this and numerous other tipoffs

June 22, 2004

The State of Wireless London

This study looks at how wireless networking (WLAN) in London has developed over the last three years from hacktivist pastime to mainstream pursuit. Comparing networks built by freenetwork groups, commercial hotspot providers, and public sector initiatives the study also examines the sales and uptake of WLAN equipment and makes some direct measurements of wireless activity in the Greater London area. Finally the study looks at the development of WLAN in the home and makes a recommendation for a Wireless Festival for London in 2004/2005.

Cool! Many thanks to Mark Gaved for this and numerous other tipoffs

June 18, 2004

BBC NEWS: Nokia unveils mid-air messaging
Nokia is making a mobile that lets you write short text messages in mid-air. The messages are written using a row of LEDs fitted on the rear cover of Nokia’s forthcoming 3220 phone. A motion sensor in the phone makes the lights blink in a sequence that spells out letters when the handset is waved in the air. A trick of human vision turns the sequence of letters into a message that hangs in the air. The phone is due to go on sale in the summer of this year.

June 18, 2004

BBC NEWS: Nokia unveils mid-air messaging
Nokia is making a mobile that lets you write short text messages in mid-air. The messages are written using a row of LEDs fitted on the rear cover of Nokia’s forthcoming 3220 phone. A motion sensor in the phone makes the lights blink in a sequence that spells out letters when the handset is waved in the air. A trick of human vision turns the sequence of letters into a message that hangs in the air. The phone is due to go on sale in the summer of this year.

June 18, 2004

BBC NEWS: Nokia unveils mid-air messaging
Nokia is making a mobile that lets you write short text messages in mid-air. The messages are written using a row of LEDs fitted on the rear cover of Nokia’s forthcoming 3220 phone. A motion sensor in the phone makes the lights blink in a sequence that spells out letters when the handset is waved in the air. A trick of human vision turns the sequence of letters into a message that hangs in the air. The phone is due to go on sale in the summer of this year.

CitiTag Rumbles Bristol

June 18, 2004

Woohooo… we were out there in force on Wednesday in the Bristol City Centre, with the first major rollout of CitiTag. Fantastic!!

See KMi’s internal Planet story, our main CitiTag page, and Howard Rheingold’s blog entry with associated commentary.

As I wrote in that Planet story linked above, CitiTag uses a combination of technologies which, despite the media excitement surrounding massively multiplayer games and 3G telephony, has hitherto been unavailable: in particular, CitiTag brings together GPS-satellite-tracking location services with WiFi networking to provide large multiplayer support in a modern handheld PDA, in this case an HP iPaq 4150. This really pushes the limits of GPS/WiFi integration: each technology is designed for radically different conditions, yet only this combination provides the full functionality needed to play the game. Although both WiFi and GPS signals have a tendency to ‘drop out’ in such a dynamic city environment (where even a passing bus can alter the signal characteristics), connectivity was ‘good enough’ to provide either a continuous or nearly-continuous gaming experience for at least a dozen of the players: enough to gather very valuable data. Stay tuned, and follow the links above for some other insights and links to the tech reports and data.

Why I said “learning online is soul-destroying”

June 13, 2004

Someone has emailed me to argue that their new online language-learning activities are an antidote to the March 2001 Wall Street Journal article/interview in which I said “learning online is a soul-destroying experience”

I felt that my negative remarks, and indeed my other similar remarks about “E-Learning is Dead” might be misconstrued, so I wrote the following as part of my reply, which I post herewith for the benefit/interest of others:

I hope you’re aware of the fact that the emphasis of the WSJ article, and certainly my personal stance within it, concerned the weaknesses inherent in “purely online” experiences. The UK’s Open University (which has all of its 200,000 annual student enrollment online anyway as a natural consequence of the way it functions), succeeds precisely because the “online” element is merely an incidental and natural facet of how we work with our students, rather than the MAIN concept! In other words, it’s all part of the mix. The five key ingredients of our success (no secret because they have been widely discussed elsewhere) are as follows:

1. Quality content – teams of experts of international standing produce, review and edit all materials, backed by multimedia/graphics/design/BBC crews of “Hollywood-blockbuster” proportions and quality

2. Quality accreditation – Open University degrees are consistently very highly valued by employers

3. Quality support – almost 10,000 part-time tutors (academic staff at other instutions), around the globe, provide the monitoring, mentoring, tutoring, marking, and general support for the 200,000 students; a 20-to-1 ratio that typically involves a significant amount of face-to-face interaction at local study centres, colleges, even pubs if necessary.

4. Quality experience – the overall ‘shared experience’ is an important attribute by which students select from among rival institutions, and on which the Open University is highly regarded

5. Quality research – when teaching staff are engaged in front-line quality research, they make better teachers, so the OU encourages a strong research profile.

Any institution that can consisitently achieve the above 5 can be a top player in distance learning, and yes, there will of course be a major online element too. The Open University is consistently ranked (by formal national assessment criteria) among the top 10 Universities in the UK for the quality of its teaching. Yet any “Online” institution, I personally believe, will fail on most of the above 5 criteria, because achieving *ANY* of the 5 above is orders of magnitude harder than it looks. Achieving all 5 is nearly impossible. But we’ve done it!

I say all of the above just to set the record straight. Yes, “online learning sucks” (or whatever I claimed in that article). I’ve even gone so far lately as to claim “E-Learning is dead”. But supported, open, distance learning, as The Open University has shown, can be a great experience for students: it just has to be done well! And the “online” element is increasingly a routine component, like, well, electricity – though of course this component has to be done well, too!

The Open University does a lot of language tuition by the way– indeed, I’m even a student on an OU Spanish course at the moment, and we use a very-large scale voice-on-the net tool (Lyceum) that I created originally in the mid-1990’s, and which now supports many thousands of simultaneous users. This provides a great end-user experience at a distance, for those who have problems attending the normal face-to-face tutorials, which is why we built it.

OK, I’ll get off my soap-box now. I have absolutely no doubt that motivated individuals like yourself can produce very high quality online language learning materials, and it would be interesting to see what they are like. I thought it would be useful in my comments above to make it clear that “distance learning”, “supported open learning” (both specialisms of The Open University) and “online learning” are not necessarily the same thing.

June 10, 2004

Bertrand Sereno’s diary: Social Bookmarks
“Yet another thing that I have discovered … is this social bookmark manager application called del.icio.us (but who created it ? I can’t find any name on it). …. Basically, you add the pages you want to keep in this repository via a bookmarklet (a piece of Javascript which takes the current URL and send you to the del.icio.us insertion form, where you can add any number of tags (which you define yourself). “

Thanks to Bertrand Sereno for the tip.