The Dell XPS 8300

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that my ancient Pentium 4 powered desktop died on Saturday. I had powered it off and unplugged from the socket while I was away in holiday. So it died a peaceful death in its sleep. Smile My it rest in peace forever more….


So I had to go off to Dell and spec a replacement PC.

I settled on an XPS 8300 with a nice new Intel i7-2600. Its the latest Sandy Bridge CPU, 4 cores clocked at 3.40Ghz.

Intel® Core™ i7-2600 Processor (3.40GHz, 8MB)

8192MB Dual Channel DDR3 1333MHz [2×4096] Memory

Video Card
Graphics : 1GB AMD Radeon HD 6670

Hard Drive
1.5TB (7,200rpm) Serial ATA Hard Drive

Microsoft Operating System
English Genuine Windows®7 Professional SP1 (64 BIT)

Sound Cards
Sound : Integrated 7.1 with THX® TruStudio


I’m quite looking forward to playing with this once it arrives. All that power…..

Once again I’ll be able to run Visual Studio on the desktop. As well as  Virtual PC and Virtualbox.

Not to mention the fact that Flight Simulator is going to rock on this machine Smile

Expect a review in about 2 weeks  Smile

YouTube Symphony Orchestra 2011

Again in the spirit of truly random things, the YouTube Symphony Orchestra is doing it again in 2011. This time at the Sydney Opera House.

I so enjoyed last years concert from Carnegie Hall that I still listen to it (their performance of Brahms No.4 3rd movement is brilliant).

Here’s a taste of next years concert with an example piece from the London Symphony Orchestra with Micheal Tilson Thomas conducting.

Its called “Mothership” by composer Mason Bates.


Blogging: I need my Mojo back


Blogs still have a very important place in the on going conversation. There is no medium quite like it, not even Friendfeed. Like books, blogs are the long form, the canvas on which we write our longer thoughts. Whether we use it for venting or ranting, commenting or telling or just plain writing, blogs are the corner stone of the online presence.

The one blogging tip I’ve consistently found is the “stick to it” rule: find your subject and stick to it. Which, in all honesty is not something I’ve done very well with this blog. There is so much to talk about and comment on and just plain only chat about that it can be easy to lose your focus :).

This is partly due to the fact that I only joined Twitter and Friendfeed recently, both of which are better for the kind of wide ranging discussion i enjoy.

And its also to do with the fact that, originally, this blog was set up at the drop of a hat, without any thought as to where it would go and what I would be doing online. It was almost an experiment with this newfangled thing that had come along. The whole idea was to witness the internet from the driving seat, rather than from the RSS feeds. This was at the dawn the of the social networking age, before Twitter and Facebook. Before a lot of stuff.

But I digress.

So what is my focus?? All things technology related. But as you can see, everyone else covers this far better than I ever could. Politics is too much of a heated subject for me blog about. Photography, one of my new passions in life, and programming (the passion), and music (the classical kind) and books (I joined Goodreads the other day).

My online presence at the moment is spread throughout Twitter, Freindfeed, Delicious and Smugmug. I’m seeing more and more people moving to bring these strands together in one site. This is perfectly logical and its the right thing to do.

A new site, a new blog, a new platform seems to be what I need. Sometimes I think setting up a WordPress blog is a little too easy. When you put the time and effort into the creation of something, you regard it totally differently.

So that what I’m going to do – set up a new site, part of which will include my blog.  And it’ll be me on the web, a personal presence tying together all of these desperate strands. Kind of like Austin’s Jet:

So I’m on the lookout for a new platform on which to run it. .Net is the preferred option, mainly because I can code it. I’ve looked at Oxite closely and the more I play with it the more I like it.

Why the effort?? You see, I enjoy writing. I really do. I don’t have English teachers after me for essays, or books to write. So writing a blog is the next best thing (maybe THE best). There really isn’t any other medium like it.

Now this particular blog will remain. No doubt I will find some use for it, but all that info is staying on line 🙂

I will continue posting here till things are sorted out, its probably some time away in any case.

Favorite Tweets/ FriendFeed Comments of the Day

Ok, quickie post here. I’m still alive but busy on university projects and studying for exams :(.

In no particular order

  1. FF : Ian May posted “My wife said, "Whatcha doin today?" I said, "Nothing." She said, "You did that yesterday." I said, "I wasn’t finished."”
  2. FF: Stupid Sleepy (aka Tina) asked: “Caption, please!”


    See the suggested captions at FriendFeed here.

  3. FF: BreakingNewsOn – Tweeted:

    “Statement from Israel on boat collision involving former US Congresswoman McKinney:

    To which Evan Brown commented: “Thankfully, McKinney is no longer in Washington screwing things up. Unfortunately, she is now oversees screwing things up”

  4. FF: Stupid Sleepy (aka Tina) posted this story:

    Mr Fixit’s Emily Newton, left, and Sara Cooper are ready to make the Taste toilet experience more enjoyable.

    I beg you to read the hilarious comments on FriendFeed here.

  5. And finally, while there its not funny, theres a twitter/Friendfeed effort to get Robert Scoble an interview with Steve Jobs of Apple. See here (FriendFeed) and here (Scoble’s original tweet) and here (@joshaidan’s response).

To be honest, emailing Steve Jobs is a bit daunting. But I will get round to it.

So come on,  help Scoble get an interview with Steve Jobs: email Steve: @joshaidan says to make it personal.

Bad Design, Illustrated


So here I am. Sick as a dog. And I need to renew my tvtv subscription. Which mean I need to re-select my device (why I need to do this in the first place is a mystery to me).

So I get to the above screen. What does it say? Read it: Select Device Password. Which leaves me wondering.

Call it stupid ( or not, depending on you point of view – but remember that this is seen through the fog of a muddled brain), but I check all my instruction manuals in vain. I spent a few hours scouring various forums. Only then did it dawn on me that since there was nothing on this mythical device password, there must be none.

So I went back and checked ever so carefully the help section of TVTV’s website for the 21st time. And there it was “Please re-enter your password for security reasons”. Since this is not part of the shopping bit, I can’t imagine why all the security.

My point being that a little clarity on the above page would have saved me loads of time.

In 20/20 – hindsight, the page does make some sort of sense. “Select” is never used in conjunction with a textbox. But the style of both the headings (since they are indeed supposed to be separate) is the same – font, weight, colour, size. And they are right underneath the other, as if following on. Separation of these two headings in some way – certainly i terms of style or better yet, in spacing – would clear any confusion.

“Please retype your password” makes sense in the light of know that its your password they want. But given the design miscues above, looked out of place and perhaps referred to when I’d actually have to retype this mythical device password .

There is no obvious help button or icon, or even tooltip that is visible on this form – bad practice in any situation. A tooltip/label saying “Please enter you TVTV password here” would do wonders. I’ve seen websites that actively display help in a side bar, explaining the purpose of each and every form field. A “what does this do” explanation never hurts either.

Even when one is confronted with readily intuitive fields such as credit/debit card forms online, help makes the process a whole lot less daunting ( one is after all, dealing with real money. Making mistakes is not the way forward).

The point is that as winforms, webforms, WPF, Silverlight –developers and UI designers, making our users happy is the number one priority. That means designing good, intuitive UI’s and helping them to use it, too.

I’ve had my share or websites that the thought of using them gets me angry. There are others that I think are a little too liberal with their help information, coddling their users in wool. But I’ve never ever had an issue with those websites, ever.

The iPhone is, I think, the canonical expression of a good UI. My very tech-limited mother likes mine so much that she is getting one herself ( she’s had her current phone for two years and still hasn’t figured out how to text/SMS, yet has almost total command of the iPhone). Its a combination of UI touch screen that makes the difference. touching, pointing, dragging, pinching. These are all actions we use naturally every day – no mice to move and click, no keys to press. Its the intuitiveness of the whole experience that makes it so successful as a UI.

So while we may still depend on mice and keyboards, intuitiveness in our UI is something that our users will be grateful for.

As the World Turns – Social Median, Cuil, Knol

Its quite interesting that the Internet continues to spawn new incarnations of social networks and search engines.

One question: Why?

I think is got to do with the fact that we all perceive things differently. Twitter and FreindFeed is the perfect example of this. I’m on FriendFeed (excuse the extra hype) but not on Twitter. This is because FreindFeed is the kind of social network I can use. Twitters central axiom of “What are you Doing?” is very different to FreindFeed’s approach whereby we share things. I’m more comfortable with the thought of having something more concrete to talk about and comment on.

In like manner, there are a Billion people on the Internet today and there is not going to be a one size fits all solution to the way people want to interact with each other. There might as well be as many social networks as there are people. Consider that Flikr and  SmugMug are social networks in themselves, yet they use photographs as a catalyst for conversation. So this illustrates my points about different approaches to the social interaction that people crave.

This weeks entry into the Social network race was SocialMedian. I have not tried it myself anad reviews seems to be mixed. We will see what happens.

Search is another area that people use based on how comfortable. I’m a Google user at the moment. yet there is Windows Live Search, Yahoo and now Cuil, a new take on the search engine by former Googlers. Its presentation of results in a magazine format is instantly recognizable to readers of print publications. Its presentation of possibly related information- for example I searched for myself and got my blog posts as a expected, but also a list of Italian football players – is very well done as well.

So my point is that even for something as simple as search, people have different perceptions and there will always be ways to improve to better meet users expectations.

Google Knol, and I’m mentioning it in passing is an attempt to upset Wikipedia’s cup. A Knol is supposed to be a unit of knowledge. And I’m sure you can see where this is going. And remember that not everything Google comes up with is an instant hit. It will probably be in perpetual beta for a while. So don’t write it off just yet.

Will there be an end to this? Its possible that some form of consolidation will take place if these startups, and others, take off. After all, the big players will continue to want to improve their offerings and some of the radical ideas now days come out of the startups rather than the established companies.

Quote of the Day

Echoes’ outlines Microsoft’s biggest challenges: the inordinate amount of time they spend on developing products that are either a platform or a suite forces them to make too many compromises. One can’t blame the company whose DNA is Windows (Platform) & a Suite (Office.) This is a malady which makes them unable to move ahead and define the future.

Om Malik

Normal posting resumes shortly.

Quote of the Week

I’ve been looking for quotes to post here for a while. Until I read Scott Adams’ blog post:

Talking of the lawsuit to stop the Large Hadron Collider:

If the lawsuit succeeds, imagine trying to get another job with that project failure on your resume.

Interviewer: “So, you spent $8 billion dollars trying to build a machine that would either discover something cool or destroy the universe. Is it fair to say you are not a people person?”