Archive for December, 2011

Double-Speed Time Saver

There’s tons of great content video content online and it’s also a big time-sucker; it’s extraordinarily easy to start watching watching one video on YouTube and find yourself still on the site an hour later.

I recently got introduced (thanks Tom!) to the wonders of double-speed and it’s proving to make a big difference to how I consume video content.

YouTube natively supports double-speed, providing you opt into their HTML5 trial. Once that’s done, you’ll see a new speed selection option on the video player controller:

For other video content, you can use the ‘Inspect Element’ feature commonly found in modern browsers, or use a browser extension, to fetch the .flv or .swf file. Save it to your disk and then open it up in VLC where you’ll be able to increase the speed up to 31x (although anything beyond 3x becomes incomprehensible).

You can use the same method to speed up podcasts and other audio files (using something like Audacity). It’s especially nice for listening to someone who’s sharing some great information but has a very boring and slow speech. Enjoy!

 Tags: Random   Published: 14th December '11

Nokia 3210 vs. iPhone 4S

My precious Nexus One lost another life, suffering from a common known issue with a withering power switch. Whilst I wait to receive a replacement part to make the fix, I was in the need for a new phone to tie me over. Nokia still rules the market in developing countries, and I picked up a new Nokia 1280 for just £14 here in Bali.

It feels torturous to be go back to a world of predictive texting, no email or maps, and small screens. Don’t get me wrong – I can’t wait to return to smartphone bliss. That said, it’s been incredible to reminisce in all the wonders of this old technology and contemplate both how far we’ve progressed with modern phones, yet have also taken steps backwards in so many ways.

Let’s review some of these benefits (using the classic Nokia 3210 as a benchmark):

Long lasting battery life. The most obvious, yet the most remarkable point to make. Most smartphones are known for not seeing through more than a day and I’d completely forgotten what it’s like to be able to charge a phone and forget about it for a week. It’s quite profound.

Instant UI. Forget about the latest OS release being a notch quicker than before. The phones of yesterday have a near instant responsiveness. Circling through menu options slows down the overall experience, but it’s amazingly refreshing to not have to wait a millisecond to progress through anything.

Sexiness. Certainly for its time and I think it’s still true today. The phone is light, curvy and just feels right in your hand. You can greatly customise the exterior aesthetics. The clip-on cover market was enormous and no doubt had a big influence in what we see today with iPhone accessories.

Light or dark agnostic. I always find myself ducking into the shade to avoid the sun’s glare on the smartphone screen. No such problem with the Nokia – it’s easy to read in the full glare of the Sun (ala Kindle) or in pitch black.

Smudge free screen.Touch-sensitive screens are amazing, don’t get my wrong, but it’s nice to see a screen that’s pretty much free of any fingerprints.

Bug free. The ultra simplistic UI and lack of upgrade ability means that real care was made to make it essentially error free. Usability is really well thought out.

Resilience to splashes. Getting even just a droplet of water on an iPhone can send you into a frenzy. Yet, many folk can tell of stories where their 3210 has survived rather perilous accidents eg. plucked out of sinks, toilets, pools: a pat down with a towel, maybe a blast of a hairdryer, and it’s as good as new. Extraordinary.

Resilience to drops & knocks. Similarly, a Nokia can survive being thrown to the floor a dozen times, whilst you roll the dice if the iPhone is knocked off a table. You’re going to drop or bash your phone, it’s inevitable, the phone should be able to handle it.

Battery replacement. Of course you can replace your battery, it goes without saying. And they’re two a penny.

Snake. Nah, I seriously don’t know how this was once popular – it’s not survived the test of time at all! 

It reminds me of a story someone once shared with us at Google; if you stick an old Wintel 3.1 box next to something pretty modern, you’d find the task of opening up a spreadsheet, creating a pie chart and printing it off to be a simpler, and often a faster endeavor on the older machine. Probably absolute nonsense in reality, but it’s certainly true technology is progressing at such a rapid rate, but we’re still not always making better products.

 Tags: Random   Published: 10th December '11

2009 Book Review

This post has been sitting in my draft list for quite some time, as you might imagine. Better to post rather than delete, I think.

I set the goal at the beginning of 2009 to read 12-books across the year. As previously noted, I came in quite a few books short – but it’s still progress. Here’s a quick review of the books that I read (my memory is foggy in places):

Think and Grow Rich (Napoleon Hill)
The title is a giveaway on the topic. Despite it being a highly-rated book, I can’t say it was a particularly rememberable read. Will have to try again.

Rich Dad, Poor Dad (Robert Kiyosaki)
Another “get rich” self-help classic. The premise can be boiled down to a couple of sentences. Obtain income generating assets, build up a passive income streams and become incorporated to be tax efficient. The only solid example provided was real estate and  buy-to-let, which doesn’t play too nicely with current times, you could argue. I could firmly relate the content with the ‘virtual real estate‘ model that I’m familiar with. He rambles on about how a house should be regarded as a liability than an asset which gives interesting food for thought, although my father would certainly disagree.

Trick of the Mind (Derren Brown)
I’ve been a long-time fan of Derren and have seen him live on several occasions – so I was eager to get ahold of his first book. It’s not so much about his magical trickery, but rather how feeble our minds are. As a fellow atheist, I enjoyed some of his thoughts on religions and their survival.

The 4-hour Work Week (Timothy Ferriss)
Has become something of a bible for the digital nomad crowd. I was already on the path to become location independent (I naturally stumbled into using AdSense and other online income streams) but it was amazing to read something that resonating so much with my own views. The book contained a healthy dose of information on productivity and lifestyle design – something I should certainly read again. Not quite about how realistic some of his recommendations are for those in full-time occupations and I think he lacks some thought on the merits of building assets that could be passed down the family. Overall; a gem.

Lucid Dreaming (Stephen LaBerge)
LaBerge is the preeminent authority on the subject of lucid dreaming (the practice of being aware of dreaming during a dream). Part academic, part fruitloop, LaBergre provides all the practical theory with suggestions of the cool things you could achieve. The second half of the book takes a bit of a nose dive and reminds me of my university papers; sprinklings of semi-relevant quotes from a myryiad of sources just to pad out more content. There’s a lighter, less acedmic version of the book now available and provides a more well suited introduction to to the subject.

Let the Great World Spin (Colum McCann)
We collectively read this in our AdSense book club. A thick read, which I found largely overly descriptive. It was almost poetic with similes galore – it felt like the author/editor (who is still a relatively junior) has gone through the text with a fine tooth comb and sexed up anything and everything. The three chapters have conjoined stories, that come together – a concept perhaps pinched from films like Babel and Crash. There are many positive reviews, but it’s almost something you should like – a bit of intelectual snobbery. All in all, not that bad – interesting, but not a page turner.

The Official Driver Theory Test 4th Edition (DTT)
Okay, okay… I’m clutching at straws. It’s still a book, no? Hardly a cracker of a read, but it got the job done.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
It’s downright shameful that it’s taken me 25-years to read this book. Adams is a genius. The original TV and radio series are quite brilliant also, and certainly much better than the recent movie incarnation.

That’s all I can remember from 2009, but I believe there might have been 1 or 2 more additions. 2011 has involved a lot of articles (the Instapaper-to-Kindle link is incredible) which has put me behind schedule for this year. Time to catch up.

 Tags: Random   Published: 5th December '11