real life

8 Random Facts About Me (Tagging Meme)

  Envelopes by Audunn @ Flickr

Envelopes by Audunn @ flickr

James’ very nicely tagged me in the game-du-jour “8-random-facts-about-me-tagging-meme”.

I’ll be completely honest; this is the second post I’ve written. The first time round, I compiled a list of 8 interesting random things about me, which was lots of fun for me to do. It is, of course, a bit of an ego-stroke to write things that make the reader go “goodness, I never realised that” or “what an interesting person”. I can see that it would have been nice, in the run-up to Christmas, to have the on-line equivalent of having the neighbours around, swapping stories.

Then I got to the second part of the challenge, which was the bit where my conscience was pricked. I had to “tag” 8 more people to play the game, and then (as others have noted) it begins to turn into a chain-letter. One of those never-ending Internet things that goes on to plague people for years. It would be really very hypocritical of me to moan about people sending me chain-emails about boys with cancer, or 419 scammers, or whatever – and then be part of promulgating something similar. This sense of “not doing the right thing” grew even more when I drew up my list of 8 people to tag onwards, and realised that half of them had already been tagged.

Then I looked at my list of 8 things, none of which are particularly secret, and all of which I’ve told various people at various times, and I thought “these are more fun shared in person, over a beer, with a laugh and some interaction”. I don’t really want to just cold-post all this lot on the Internet for ever. Story telling is much better in person.

So I’m afraid, curmudgeonly as it sounds, I’m not going to play. I’m going to be the equivalent of the speccy kid in the corner of the playground reading a book who won’t spring into action when tagged. Sorry.

Next time we meet in person, I’m more than happy to share them, and hopefully you’ll have some funny random things to tell me too, and it’ll be interesting social interaction.

real life

A380 – First Impressions

Singapore Airline's A380

Singapore Airlines 9V-SKA Airbus 380 by fox2mike@ flickr

I’m feeling rather euphoric, and I’m not sure if it’s because I’m watching a glorious sunrise across Australia’s Eastern seaboard, or because I’m enjoying a quite lovely cup of tea and croissant, or because I’ve got Ultimate Kylie belting out of my noise cancelling headphones, or because I’m on board Singapore Airline’s A380, which is a quite extraordinary aircraft.

First impressions are very positive. The boarding gate at SIN is well organised, and surprisingly small security and boarding queues for a plane carrying 471 people. There are handy boards explaining to people how the split level boarding for economy will work, and the gate manages to board on both levels without actually making it feel like you’re boarding either “upstairs” or “downstairs”.

First step onto the plane, and it actually has that “new plane” smell to it (no, it really does). It’s also big – you can feel the extra space when you walk in. On the top deck, there’s no centrally slung luggage bins, which immediately makes the ceiling higher.

Anyone who flys, even a bit, knows that there are some inequalities in a plane; first, business and economy. On SQ’s A380, the gap between the First Suites and Economy is huge, but that’s more a reflection of sumptuousness of the First Suites rather than a shoddy economy class. You can’t really do a lot about where you fly in the plane – you’re either rich, lucky, or some mix of the two.

So here’s the big thing that I’ve enjoyed from my first A380 flight, and something everyone on the plane will enjoy. It’s humid.

By that I mean that the air feels comfortably damp, as opposed to bone dry as it is in many aircraft. I felt far less dried out than I normally do, and I did a little test by spilling a bit of water on to my napkin. On the worst offenders (yes, hello A340-600 – I mean you), it would be dry in a few minutes, the moisture sucked out of it. On the A380 it was still damp 10-15 minutes later. Bad news if your neighbour spills wine all over you, good news if you don’t appreciate having to down 2 litres of water an hour and then still feeling like a sheet of dessicated sandpaper.

SQ have also seriously upped the game for inflight entertainment. Microsoft should take notes on how good their User Interface to the inflight entertainment is – really clean, clear, and visually attractive. The functionality is good (but is basically a soup-up of the  system which has been in SQ planes for a while). Brilliantly, in C and A, you can use StarOffice applications with a USB key and a little keyboard. Not sure if I’d want to edit Powerpoint on a keyboard the size of a mobile phone, but hey, for those last minute panic edits – why not?

Other nice things. It’s big (did I mention that?), it’s unbelievable quiet and the take off from Singapore was frankly breathtaking by being almost unnoticable. The aircraft appeared to amble down the runway, taking its time, then just gently rotated and went into the air. It simply wasn’t possible to hear the 4 RR engines roar, or feel the point where the wheels lost contact with the ground. Smooth is not even close to describing it.

The amenities are great; I mean, airline toilets are always going to be small for many reasons (you work it out), but these ones are bright and the one with the child-changing area is big enough to have a small party in. (For the amorous; top deck, far front toilet, left hand side).

The touch that I really loved, but wasn’t in use, was the front staircase between the two decks. It’s been inspired by the sweeping staircases from ocean liners, but scaled to fit a commercial aircraft. It’s glamour, 2007 airline style. I liked it. I hope to be able to use it one day.

Overall the A380 really is a wonderous aircraft; the commitment to building “a bloody big plane” could have led to all sorts of horrid things happening in the cabin. In fact, it’s curiously understated (maybe that’s a European thing), and subtly glamorous. It’s so classy, it doesn’t need to shout about it. I’m keen to fly A380 again.

dab digital radio radio real life technology

Long range radar calibration available

Radio At The Edge Flier

This is just a quick reminder that if you’re the kind of person who enjoys debate and discussion about the effect of new technology on good old radio, then Radio At The Edge is a realworld event you might also enjoy.

RATE is the Radio Academy’s annual conference looking at how radio is being disrupted by technology, and it’s usually a sell-out, so if it’s of interest get it in your diary now and contact to book your place.

real life

Tony Wilson

Tony Wilson by Jason Slack @ flickr Tony Wilson by Jason Slack @ flickr

It’s a sad day. Tony Wilson, ‘Mr. Manchester’ as the BBC has dubbed him, has died of cancer at the age of 57.

I’m feeling a bit shell-shocked. He was a man of tremendous energy and confidence, and he led a life that regularly thumbed its nose at risk and convention.

I was living in Manchester during the Madchester era. I felt the energy that it generated, and so much of it eminated from Tony and Factory Records.

I met him a few times; about a radio licence I was applying for, and around In The City, the music conference that he brought to life. He was by turns infuriating and utterly inspirational. I wish that I’d had the chance to work with/for/against him in radio in Manchester.

When I heard he had cancer, I simply didn’t believe it would overcome him. So little has swayed his course over the years, it seemed quite reasonable to assume that he’d shrug this off to. But the end seems to have been very swift.

Many people have given their recollections of Tony, and I was pleased to see Manchester City Council acknowledging the immense role he played in the regeneration of the city.

The media and music industry needs more people like Tony. He was passionate about music, and his passion drove him to achieve and create incredible things. I’m sure the words “but where’s the business plan?’ or ‘how does this fit into our strategy?’ never passed his lips.

The world will be a duller place without Tony.

real life

Twittered to distraction

This is the first chance I’ve had to really experience Twitter via SMS, and it’s not been much fun. Usually I’m logged in on IM somewhere, and the inbound messages cause little distraction. Maybe it’s indicative of how ‘connected’ I’ve been recently that I’ve maybe only had one or two texts from Twitter prior to this weekend. And I recently started to use some of the higher traffic feeds.

I ought, of course, have MGTalk running on the Nokia, but the memory on this phone is so small that if I start the camera it tends to shut all the other apps down, so effectively the IM is out.

So it’s been a beeping weekend. I can’t even customise the alert tone based on sender. I could turn it off, but I don’t want to lose it entirely. Maybe it’s my phone’s fault for not having customisable SMS alerts. But I do wonder if it’s worth the probably considerable expense to the Twitter project to enable SMS alerts? (On a similar note this week, I was in the bizarre situation of receiving Twits from James C whilst going and buying us both a beer. I remarked then that proximity detection would save some money).

Now that I’ve been on the receiving end of Twitter via SMS, I’m reconsidering how useful it is. I’ve had some ideas for Twitter apps that would be really cool on IM, but an absolute disaster if someone got them via SMS.

I’ll have a fiddle with my Twitter settings when I get back, but I suspect I might be deciding to turn SMS Twits off….

real life

An experiment…

This is my first shot at mobile blogging entirely from the mobile (Nokia 6680) on GPRS. The reason is that I’m camping in North Devon (just a short skip from home, compared to those poor Londoners who arrived at 2300 having spent 6 hours on the motorway), and everyone else is watching the Manchester derby match in the bar. This is wrong in a big way, as it’s a glorious day here on the beach. I may be blogging on the mobile, but my tan is great and I’m topping up my karma.That’s something that some people misunderstand. I enjoy playing with technology, and it’s as relaxing as it can be stressful. This is a bit of play time, with a beer on a beach in the sun. I expect to play some beach cricket once the footy ends. That’ll be equally as fun, despite my appalling bowling.

I know opinion over mobile interaction are sharply divided between those who beleive in the uniform availability of content and functionality across mobile and fixed platforms (that’s me) and those who see mobile as merely an awkward shopfront for ringtones and wallpapers. The basis of their argument is that mobile screens are so small as to make serious use unlikely. The way that I’m persevering typing this blog entry using predictive text designed for SMS probably does nothing to dispell that. I also expect to spend twenty minutes or so linking this entry to the photo I just uploaded to flickr from this same mobile.

But this will change. New text entry systems, better browsers, larger screens, and a more mobile generation will even out the differences between the wired and wireless modes, and blogging from the mobile on the beach will be the norm. Until then, it’ll be an interesting way for geeks (like me) to kill time in the sun waiting for boring football matches to end.

real life

Losing Good People

James Cridland is leaving Virgin Radio to join the BBC. It’s probably a superb move for James, as I suspect the BBC is infinitely more resourced and inclined to support experimentation and innovation than Virgin Radio will be in the future.

It’s disappointing for commercial radio though. Through his work at Virgin, commercial radio did get some great press coverage for innovation, and he is/was a darned useful sounding board and foil for ideas that should benefit all commercial broadcasters. Hopefully that insight will still be available over beer (but no longer at the Midas Touch, thank goodness), but it’ll be a different kind of discussion now.

I have always felt that James embraced the principles of “agree on technology, compete on content”, and I hope he’s allowed to continue doing so within the Corporation.

Meanwhile commercial radio has lost a star, albeit not one in front of a microphone. There’s historically been a talent drift from commercial radio to the BBC, as the BBC offers platforms and opportunities on a bigger scale than commercial radio. In the past that talent drift has mainly been presenters and programmers; I wonder if this is the beginning of a similar process for smart technologists?

real life

Wok N Roll

Here’s something that made me laugh this week. Say hello to “Wok & Roll“, which is a Chinese style (emphasis on “style”) food outlet at Pier C of Newark International Airport (EWR).

There’s so many connections between Chinese restuarant owners and Elvis Presley, that I was dying to find a boke dishing out special friend rice in sideburns and a white diamante jumpsuit. But I wasn’t in luck

It was, however, pretty good sushi and generous (American-sized) portions of Sweet and Sour chicken, which was just brill prior to jumping onto CO076 back to Bristol International Airport (BRS). Once at Bristol (6hrs19mins later) it was 45 mins from landing on the runway to being back at my desk, which is another darn good reason to use a regional airport rather than slavishly going to Heathrow.

real life

View From Melody FM

View From Melody FM
Originally uploaded by NickPiggott.

I’m just remincising here. When I used to work in Austria, this was the view from my office window. I miss it. My view from the office here in Bristol is nice (park, harbour), but not quite the same.

real life


Posted by Picasa

I’d better get it out of my system.

It’s 15 years, near enough, since I got my first domain. (OK – sub-domain of I’m still paying £11.75 a month for it, which is frankly ludicrous, but goddamit, I’m emotionally attached to it now. I still get mail on it – from spambots, from ex-colleagues, from friends I’d lost touch with (intentionally and unintentionally). So I fork out £10+VAT a month for Internet nostalgia. As it’s a demon sub-domain, I have no alternative but to keep paying them.

It’s 20 years since I started communicating with people digitally.

I wrote BBS software for the Acorn BBC B. It was fun, and threw me in the deep end of dealing with customers and users. I ran a BBS, on a “Ringback” service on my parents’ phone line. I squeezed the code into about 25k of RAM, playing lots of memory tricks. I hacked up old 1200/75 baud modems. We had backdoors for friends (the cassette tape relay), and trapdoors for abusers. I ran a little business (XFS) with Dan Mills and Chris England, and it was OK.

My two favourite functionalities in XFS were “gatewaying”, which allowed us to create nested microsites within the main site (sub-domains anyone?); and mail exchanging where many of the boards running XFS would dial each other up and exchange mail with each other (SMTP?!) twice a night. One day I’ll suck the XFS source code off a 3.5″ disk (on one of my existing Arcs) and give myself a good solid dose of nostalgia and sit there rocking gently and raging at today’s bloatware. 25k of RAM.

Simple code is beautiful code; simple code is functional code; simple code is reliable and easy to maintain. Maybe by over-extending the object/property/method model, and relying so much on libraries and modules, we’ve lost sight of that simplicity?