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Posted by Tom Cheesewright on

Twitter Clients and Adobe Air for Ubuntu Netbook Remix

I confess I’ve gone from a convert to a zealot in 24 hours. Ubuntu Netbook Remix is cool.

OK, cool might be taking it a little far, but it is far and away the best option I’ve seen for a powerful, lightweight OS for netbooks. Latest evidence? Twitter clients.

More specifically, the ease with which you can install Adobe Air, the platform on which so many Twitter clients are based. Here are some modified instructions taken from Sizlopedia:

Download Adobe Air to your Home directory from http://get.adobe.com/air/

Open the terminal and run the following commands:

chmod +x AdobeAIRInstaller.bin

then

sudo ./AdobeAIRInstaller.bin

Wait a while — it will look like it’s not doing anything for a bit. Eventually though, the Adobe Air installer will appear and take you through the process.

Once you have Air installed, you can add sorts of cool apps, including the popular Twitter client, Twhirl. I’ve tried all the others and I’m fast coming to see what everyone’s been raving about. Just download the file from the website, open up the appropriate directory, and double-click on it to install. It’s that simple.

Now you can tweet to your heart’s content.

Posted by Tom Cheesewright on

CCTV Call Awakens Freedom Fears

Two years ago I wrote about CCTV. We are the most watched nation on earth, and my concern was that the police/government might try to automate the monitoring of CCTV images with some kind of computer system. I don’t have too much of a problem with isolated cameras, monitored by human beings: you can argue (rightly or wrongly) that they have a preventative effect on crime and at worst provide evidence after the fact.

Link all the cameras together and apply some form of intelligence though, and a single person or agency can begin to monitor people’s lives in great detail. That for me is an invasion of privacy, the downsides of which overwhelm any security arguments.

At a conference last week the director of information for the Association of Chief Police Officers reported that officers are being overwhelmed by the volume of CCTV data available. One of his major concerns was that officers cannot track a car in real time using Automatic Number Plate Recognition.

This for me sounds very much like the top of a long and greasy slope. At the bottom of that slope is automatic facial recognition and real-time tracking of people.

Sure I can see the security benefits. But do they outweigh the risks?

However right-minded they might appear, you can’t just hand powers over to a government and trust they will always be used responsibly. Look at the current government’s record: rendition; torture; infiltration of protest groups; heavy-handed control of demonstrations; RIPA.

We live in a very safe, democratic society, but at the fringes our rights to privacy and freedom of expression are definitely being eroded. We all ought to be aware of further changes. You never know how future governments might use the powers we give them today.

Posted by Tom Cheesewright on

Flashback: The top gadgets of 1989 on BBC Radio Manchester

Last week was so manic that I didn’t get a chance to post these updates. If you want to, you can still listen to the show — Becky Want’s Flashback from Thursday with me talking about the gadgets of 1989 and 2007 will be available on the iPlayer until Thursday this week.

Anyway, here’s some more information about the stories we discussed from that year, and some that didn’t make it:

  • Before touchscreens took off, we had pen-based computers, the first of which was introduced by GriD Systems Corporation this year. The device’s inventor, Jeff Hawkins, went on to found Palm Computing and later Handspring, the companies responsible for bringing handheld computers to the mainstream. Look out for the Palm Pre when it appears later this year — could be a serious contender for the iPhone’s crown.
  • Also in portable computing in 1989, the first ‘portable’ Apple Mac was introduced. It weighed over 16 pounds and cost more than $6000. The critics loved it but very few people bought it. Compare it to a modern netbook, such as the Acer AspireOne, which has a processor a thousand times as fast, and weighs less than one eighth as much.
  • “Ding, ding ding ding, ding ding ding, ding ding ding, ding ding ding, ding ding, ding ding ding ding.” Recognise the theme tune? In 1989 Nintendo introduced the GameBoy and households across the nation rang out to the theme tune of Tetris. I have very fond memories of kicking everyone’s butt at the two-player version on long school trips. Did that make me cool?
  • Megalomaniacs everywhere rejoiced: SimCity was introduced, spawning one of the longest-running and most popular game franchises in the world.
  • Ever ahead, Japan started HDTV broadcasts, though they were only analogue with limited programming.
  • Deep Thought became the first computer to beat a master human chess player when it defeats David Levy, who had been winning matches against computers since 1968. However, later in the year Gary Kasparov defeated Deep Thought over a two-game match. Conclusion: computers were clever in ’89 but far from infallible.

Now, I also talked about the web in this year, specifically the invention of HTML and HTTP by Tim Berners Lee at CERN in Switzerland, now home to the Large Hadron Collider. I realise posting this that I also put that in 1990, last time I was on. Truth seems to be that he defined the ideas in ’89 but built the first server and client software in ’90. So they’re kind of both right. But I think I’ll stick with ’90 in the future, since that was the year his invention became tangible.

I also referenced the GameBoy in 1990, although this was the year it was launched in Europe, so this time I’m going to stick with 1989, when it was launched in the US and Japan. In future I will try and be more careful with my dates!

Tom Cheesewright