I’m very encouraged by a recent trend for science programming. The trend throughout is an agnostic view of the universe. Nothing said in the programmes denies the existence of the supernatural but at the same time they ask questions and reveal answers which directly infer that we are but microscopic motes in a macrocosm. We are certainly not in the centre of the universe.


Channel 4

  • Genius of Britain with Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins, James Dyson, David Attenborough, Robert Winston, Paul Nurse, Jim Al-Khalili, Kathy Sykes and Olivia Judson
    Dyson, Hawking, Dawkins, Attenborough

You can catch these programmes from these links (may be limited to UK only).

I am inspired. The story of how the Invisible College were formed, with the patronage of the king, into the Royal Society. The story of how the Penny Universities formed around coffee houses in London. The dual purpose of the Monument to the Great Fire as both memento and scientific instrument.

I know there are two humanist groups (Belfast Humanists and Humani) in Northern Ireland but I’m not interested in the Humanist agenda, per se, more in the investigation and promotion of science over superstition.

I hope I’m not alone in this.


This presentation was being re-tweeted a few times. It’s on the subject of what motivates us. Ten minutes long. Watch it and then come back to me.


So, as long as the tasks are manual, mechanical and don’t require much brain use, more money means better performance.

When the job requires thought, more money generally means poorer performance. People need to paid enough so that the question of money isn’t on the table – otherwise you’re demotivating them. You have to provide other methods to motivate.

Money is a Motivator, but....

Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose

I’m not going to explain more. You’ll understand it all if you took my advice and watched the presentation.

Yesterday was iPad Day UK

Christian echoes some of the sentiments I’ve seen regarding the large but not immense queues yesterday.

Screen shot 2010-05-29 at 08.51.27

As long as you remember that people have been pre-ordering them for three weeks in the UK and heaps of them received their iPads via courier on Thursday and Friday, it’s not that surprising that the queues were not immense and that in many cases the stores did not sell out.

On Wednesday, MacBuddha had asked me which iPad I really wanted (I already have a 16 GB WiFi model):

Screen shot 2010-05-29 at 11.47.39

and based on figures from an exit poll, I’m not alone.

Screen shot 2010-05-29 at 08.59.11

You can see where the sweet spots are for technology purchases. The 32GB 3G model is, as I surprised, the perfect blend of technology for most people and the model people were more likely to choose after that was the 64GB 3G model. All in all, 74% of buyers chose the 3G model which has to mean that in the UK we consider 3G to have the best options (especially considering the cheap cost of some of the data plans. Three are out in front with a £7.50 pm plan and for an additional £2.50 you can get an O2 plan which includes the Cloud and BTOpenzone WiFi access. )

All in all, I think the iPad launch was a success for Apple by any measure and it will be interesting to hear/see what is announced next week by Steve Jobs. I reckon around 3 million of the devices will have been sold by the time the WWDC keynote comes around in just over a week.

On another note, having iPad Day UK mere days after Towel Day seems entirely appropriate. Don’t Panic.

Sponsor my Daughter. Please.

Meggan at the Race for Life in 2009 My 8 yr old daughter Meggan is joining the Race For Life on Sunday in aid of Cancer Research UK.

Meggan lost her beloved Granny Elizabeth to cancer a couple of years ago and it affected her deeply. She ran the race (around Stormont Park) last year and she’s ever so keen to run it again.

Help Cancer Research UK by sponsoring her.

Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading charity dedicated to beating cancer through research. Our groundbreaking work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has saved millions of lives. Survival rates have doubled in the last thirty years and we have been at the heart of that progress. But one in three of us will still get cancer at some point and our vital work, funded entirely by the public, will help ensure that millions more people will survive.

30 day Tariffs for iPad in UK

I don’t consider any of the daily or 7 day plans to be worth writing about so if you’re interested in them, go look them up. This is a comparison of the 30 day plans available from the 4 UK carriers who have announced support for the iPad 3G.

Click on the Corporate Logos to be taken to their respective pages.

Carrier Cost £ Data included Notes
Three 7.50 1 GB
O2 10 1 GB and Cloud, BTOpenZone
Vodafone 10 1 GB
Three 15 10 GB
O2 15 3 GB and Cloud, BTOpenZone
Orange 15 3 GB and BTOpenZone
Vodafone 15 3 GB
Orange 25 10 GB and BTOpenZone
Vodafone 25 5 GB

So how do you choose which to buy?

The table above is sorted on Increasing Cost, Decreasing Data, Decreasing ‘additional’ benefits. You should be able to quickly discern which are the best plans.

If you want to keep your costs low, then look at the tariffs from Three. They’re certainly the cheapest and you get heaps of data inclusive.

If coverage matters then you should probably look at Orange as they have the widest coverage in the UK.

If you want fast access and tend to be around urban areas, then having ready access to BTOpenzone when you need it (and the Cloud I suppose), would mean O2 is a good option.

If you plan to travel with your iPad and can’t get a local SIM, Vodafone’s roaming rates are a fraction of the costs of other networks.

Northern Ireland culture does not include Creationism

The BBC:

The culture minister has asked museums to give more prominence to Ulster-Scots, the Orange Order and alternative views on the origin of the universe.

He said that he wanted the views of creationists – the concept of God creating the universe in contrast to the scientific theory of evolution – to be represented in the exhibitions.
Without specifically mentioning creationism, Mr McCausland’s letter includes a request for the trustees to consider how alternative views of the origin of the universe can be recognised and accomodated.

I am 100% behind Culture Minister’s proposals to recognise the contribution of the Ulster-Scots to Northern Ireland’s modern society. Northern Ireland is composed of many cultures and therefore it’s only proper that we do not exclude any society

I am 100% opposed to any introduction of creationist fairy tales into our museums and would be 100% in favour of striking off from the teaching register any educator who taught creationism as anything more than a fable.

I had the misfortune of meeting some Militant Christian Biology and Zoology undergraduates in my degree class who were active Creationists and sat sniggering through the Evolutionary Biology lectures and declared that they were going to get a PGCE and teach their beliefs as Science Teachers.

See Me, See Her

(See Me, See Her refers to the 1978 book by John Pepper, a man who spent years trying to decode the Ulster dialect for the good of it’s people)

For a couple of years I had a Sony Ericsson K800i on the Orange network. I used it as a phone, as a camera, I used it for email, I tethered it over Bluetooth to my laptop as well as to my Nokia N800 proving internet access where there was no internet access and I very seldom surfed on it because the experience was so painful. I also didn’t buy any apps though I did download one.


The camera, though only 3.2 Mpixel, was excellent but the K800i had two cameras – the second was front facing and while I may have launched the app which controlled it a couple of times, I never once used it for it’s actual purpose – video calling.

Now, by all accounts, the next iPhone will have a front-facing camera which will enable all sorts of video-calling shenanigens. This is based on some leaked photos and the appearance of a lense and CCD just beside the ear-piece. On top of the video calling rumours is the rumour that iChat, long the province of the Mac, will finally make it to Windows as well.

Click to go to
Click to go to

Some folk reckon this will go the way of past efforts in video-calling and there’s a chance they are right. But the difference I foresee is that when I had a K800i, I didn’t know anyone else with a K800i. I had no idea if the video-calling feature would work with any other phones. No-one had a data package or a calling package that included any reasonable amount of video-calling minutes.

That’s not the case now. We all have unlimited “fair use” data plans with monthly limits measured in the hundreds of megabytes. And nearly everyone I know, bar a couple of holdouts, has an iPhone. I mean, iPhone, despite having a low market share, is one of the easiest to recognise and most widely used phone models. And the video-calling software included with the iPhone v4 will be typically easy to use. It’ll tap into iChat (possibly, AIM), Game Center (definitely) and likely allow you to call home to your MobileMe-connected Mac. These factors will, I believe, fuel future adoption of video-calling.

Unwire me, please.

Back when Tiger was news, Apple displayed these banners at WWDC. This was funny because Vista was still delayed and Microsoft seemed to be having difficulties getting the operating system out the door with a fraction of the features promised. How we laughed.


Last week, Apple rejected the “WiFi Sync” app from the AppStore. This nifty app would reduce the need for us to plug our iPhones and iPads into our computers in order to get the piece of media we just bought onto all of our devices. This has been a frustration for me today – realising I needed to sync twice just to get Lisa Miskovsky’s excellent Still Alive onto both my iPad and iPhone. I can only assume that Apple intends to bake this functionality into a later release? We have iTunes Home Sharing which is part of a solution. We have the Apple TV. We have the iPad. All of these things are disconnected methods of sharing content. Why can’t my iPad truly be a remote for my Mac or an Apple TV. Why can’t we use BackToMyMac to access these things – why do we have to be on the same LAN or worse, connected by USB!

Just days later, Google gave us some hints about what they want to do with Android – some of the most interesting things being the ability to push data items between devices. For instance pushing a URL from phone to desktop because it will be easier to read on a bigger screen or pushing a call to the phone because it’s more sensible to take the call there. Apple has introduced Data Detectors into iPhone OS but

Add to that the strange necessity to plug in an iPad or iPhone at all into a computer to make it work and we can see that Apple has some work to do in catching up to the Joneses in these areas.

Apple has MobileMe which is a horrendously underused service. Why I can’t use my MobileMe space to sync my media to devices is beyond me. Or why can’t I use BackToMyMac to access files on my laptop at home when I’m out on the road. Why can I only download my songs once from iTunes when I can download Apps a dozen times or more?

Steve may say “You Won’t Be Disappointed” regarding what’s going to be announced at WWDC, but I wonder whether they’ll get the same coverage. This week Google demonstrated two things: Flash on Android and greater cloud integration. I suspect Apple will be showing off new hardware, a new operating system, a new video chat ecosystem (iChat for Windows included) and some other things that we haven’t even had hints of.

Will this be enough to dissuade the folk who reckon Google has leap-frogged Apple? I doubt it.

Apple has all of the pieces – all of the ingredients – it’s up to them to make something of them.

Taking Stock

Things are changing.

A brief conversation this morning regarding atoms versus bits. With bits you never run out of stock and the rate you can sell is limited only by the ‘transactions per second’ permitted by your web server application and database limits. With atoms, you have to realise that every person sold to usually takes a small amount of time to serve; time that is paid for.

Portal + Mirror’s Edge = Super Mario Bros

(There’s not really a blog post here, I’m just musing about my recent enjoyment of games which have been, for the most part, strangely non-violent.)

I’m a little struck about how much fun Portal was. I know everyone on Windows with Steam got very bored with Portal when they completed it in 2007 but it’s new to us Mac-heads and even though I bought it as part of the Orange box 18 months ago, I’d never played it because I was too busy shooting Zombs in Left4Dead).

I’m also, as you may have guessed, a little struck on Mirror’s Edge (on iPad as opposed to other platforms). And I think part of that is that it reminds me of Oni which (despite being a smorgasbord of violent action) was a great TPS/Fighter from, you guessed it, Bungie. Oni sadly was a casualty of the financial problems Bungie had with the Windows install bug in Myth 2.

Mirror’s Edge is little different from Super Mario Bros on the face of it – it’s all about jumping over obstacles, using the environment, discovering the easter eggs, collecting things and either slide-tackling or jumping on enemies (who later recover). The only thing really missing are the pipes – which are ably supplied by Portal.

So I find myself wishing for a game to be developed that doesn’t exist without anyone planning to make it.