DIY geek jokes on tea/ coffee mugs: Mug<T> arrives

Mug of teaOne of my weaknesses in life is a love of (well really a need for) a constant feed of tea throughout the day. As such, the mug from which I drink that tea is important to me: it needs to be big (saves on too many trips to the kitchen) and I like it to be personal to me in some way. Around a year ago, the Daily WTF website started selling a big mug carrying their logo. It was perfect and thus started my geek mug collection.  Soon after I received a free .NET Rocks mug in lieu of an email I’d sent to the show. It was the same large size as the Daily WTF mug. I don’t think the email every got read out, though I’ve missed some shows in the last year, so may have missed it. My mug collection stood at two, and there it remained for the next year.

Recently I came across the website of the company that I think makes both the the mugs I have: zazzle.com. They offer a great way of designing your own one-off mugs. For some time I’ve wanted a mug I’d seen with Cup<T> (which reads as “cup of T” – it’s a generics thing) and this seemed the ideal way of getting one. I could even “fix” it to a more pedantic Mug<T>. There was one problem: Zazzle UK charge a hefty fee in Britain for their mugs and worse, they charge a piss-taking amount for postage. They are great if you live in the USA, as they charge less than £10 if you don’t mind slow delivery. Here though, they wanted a minimum of £7 just to deliver the thing, on top of the £13 for the mug itself. £20 for a mug with a seriously geeky joke on it? I tried contacting Zazzle to point out how insane their postage charges were, and got a generic “thanks for your enquiry about our new P&P prices” response. I doubt a human had even bothered to read my email, so no joy there. So the idea died a death.

A couple of weeks back, I mentioned the matter on Twitter, and as a result, I got a recommendation for a cheaper – much much cheaper, ie nearly half Zazzle’s price – company here in Britain that could also do such mugs for just £11 including P&P. A special thanks to @Graham White for finding the company- Focus Prints – for me by the way, as I’d failed to find them myself. So I whipped up the simple graphic I needed:

Mug with CSS is Awesome upon it. Visual joke.

The problem is, whoever came up with this idea gets money every time someone buys the mug from Zazzle. As zazzle are way too expensive, I’ll not use them. I have no way of paying the copyright owner if I get it made elsewhere. I’ve yet to resolve this ethical conundrum.

You wait ages for someone to use the name “Wave” and then three come along at once

It’s not just buses that come in threes: “webby things” appear to do so too. Adobe, Microsoft and Google have all recently taken it upon themselves to come up with a service called Wave.

ms-waveMicrosoft Wave
By far the least interesting Wave, Microsoft Wave is a UK-based advertising portal for new-ish Microsoft products and services. As ars technica puts it, “Microsoft Wave: yet another Microsoft site about Microsoft”.Not very interesting at all therefore.

adobe-waveAdobe Wave
Adobe Wave is a still-in-beta product that bigs itself up thus:

When a friend posts a status update or there’s new content on your favorite site, be the first to know.  Adobe® Wave™ software gets the information you care about right to your desktop.  Click on the Adobe Wave badge on a website you want to follow and you’re ready to go.  Best of all, you’re in control: you choose which sites can contact you.  If you’re no longer interested, turning it off is a click away — Adobe Wave does not share your email address with websites.

Now it might occur to you, as you read the above, that RSS already does this. Such thoughts certainly occurred to me. Even the idea of having a central server that aggregates all updates seems nothing new as feed aggregators have been around for a while too.

Unlike RSS though, content publishers have to sign up with Adobe to get their content published. If this service can persuade the likes of Facebook and Twitter to join up, along with news websites, blogs etc, then one might be able to do away with multiple readers and just use the Wave desktop client. That would be a great step forward.

I’ve signed up to be an Adobe Wave publisher. If approved, I’ll write another piece later going into far more detail on Adobe Wave.

google-waveGoogle Wave
If Google’s plans with Google Wave take off, then it is safe to predict that this wave will swamp the competition and become the de facto wave of the future. In a potentially classic case of disruptive innovation, Google Wave seeks to re-write the rules on electronic communication. It seeks to be what email could have been if invented now, rather than 40 years ago. It aims to be email, instant messaging, social networking, blogging etc all rolled into one communication channel.

To play the devil’s advocate, Google Wave will not likely replace email. Email remains the dominant electronic communication medium  because its standards are completely open (despite Microsoft’s best efforts) and anyone can set up an email server. Whilst Wave looks brilliant, it is likely to need the involvement of Google’s servers. As history shows us with the likes of instant messaging, such restrictions are like a red rag to a bull to many and fragmentation is likely.

Google Wave is something to watch, and hopefully I’m going to be eating my words in a few years. Email is past its retirement date and we need a replacement. Maybe Google Wave will be that replacement.

What goes around, comes around: Microsoft win one XML patent and lose another

xmlThere is a saying that irony is lost on Americans. I’ve no idea if such a crass generalisation has any truth to it or not, but if any American (or anyone else) is in any doubt over what irony means, they need look no further than our friends at Redmond: Microsoft.

Last week, Microsoft were awarded a patent on what they claimed would be an open standard, namely OXML. OXML is an XML based file format and the patent is intended to protect the formatting and editing of Word documents that use XML. Fast forward five days and this time a judge in Texas rules that Word documents that use XML are in violation of an XML-related  patent held by i4i.

In an ideal world, this ironic turn of events will cause people to wake up to just how broken and stupid the American patent system is. In a perfect world, everyone would then look at XML and wonder what sort of insanity caused humanity to think XML was anything other than possibly the most idiotic way of storing data ever imagined. We don’t live in either an ideal or perfect world though.

More likely, the i4i case will drag on through the courts before a settlement is reached and Microsoft’s patent will be used in any future stand-off with the EU over open standards and word processing. And the insanity of software patents will continue unabated.

Gestalt: why I now (almost) officially love Microsoft to pieces

gestaltI hate JavaScript. I loath and despise it. I worked as a web developer for a number of years, but I gave it up and moved back to “proper” programming in part because of the growth in AJAX, and thus the need to do JavaScript. Almost exactly a year ago, I proposed the following question be put to Scott Guthrie:

Given the recent announcement that JavaScript 4 will likely never see the light of day, has JavaScript finally outlived its usefulness as the ubiquitous browser language? Is it now time to retire JavaScript, or at least to open up the DOM to multiple languages? The .NET runtime code can be created from C#, Visual Basic, Ruby, J# etc, yet all compile to the same byte code ready to run on the CLR. Likewise these days JRuby, Java etc can all be compiled to the same byte code ready to run on the JVM. Are there any plans to create a JVM or CLR type environment for a future version of IE? Or are we stuck with the inadequacies of JavaScript for years to come?

The question was a suggestion for a question to put to the Speaker Panel at last year’s Remix UK. Whilst I never asked it, it looks like someone at Microsoft has – metaphorically speaking – answered my question in the best way possible. And that answer is Gestalt.

So what is Gestalt, and why my enthusiasm? Gestalt builds on Silverlight to enable web developers to do away with JavaScript within web pages and to replace it with Ruby or Python code using

and

tags directly within the HTML. As Gestalt uses the DLR, this need not be limited to Ruby and Python either.

Gestalt at the moment is just an early beta, available from the Mix Online Labs. Add to this the fact that Silverlight is only available for Windows and OS X, and JavaScript isn’t quite dying just yet. With luck though, we might see Gestalt take off and spread to Linux and other fringe operating systems. Then we might finally see the death of JavaScript, and it’ll not happen a day too soon in my view.

Microsoft dither over IE in European Windows 7, but happily rip us off as usual.

Windows 7Yesterday, I commented on the shoddy business practices of Apple. Luckily for me, before people have had the chance to accuse me of anti-Apple bias, dear old Microsoft come to my rescue with a piss-take of their own.

Not long ago, it was widely reported that Microsoft were planning on shipping Windows 7E in Europe, which would be a version of Windows 7 with no browser installed. This was to get around and EC ruling regarding Microsoft’s near-monopoly of the browser market. Yesterday though they did an about turn and dropped the plan. Laughably, this decision appears to have been taken in isolation by Redmond, with Microsoft UK finding out about it no sooner than the public.

Of course all this “will they/ won’t they?” debacle over  the “E” addition of Windows 7 could simply be a distraction away from plans to charge us more than twice as much as US folk for some Windows 7 upgrades.  And let’s not forget that Apple are offering an equally major upgrade to OS X for just $29/ £19, making the Windows 7 upgrades a rip off for just about everyone.

Is the iTunes app store just a “get rich quick” scheme?

App store logoThe iTunes app store comes in for a lot of flak due to the seemingly random way they reject apps. Then there are the stories that the developer must repay the full cost to the customer (including Apple’s cut) whenever a refund is provided. This week though, Apple plumbed new depths of piss-taking over its handling of its developer-partners when it insisted the developer must meet the cost of refunding money to customers after Apple pulled well-established apps from the app store.

Such stories make me think that anyone getting involved in developing an application for the iPhone must be really quite mad. You have to stump up cash up front – both in terms of buying the right to be a iPhone developer and in development costs – with no guarantee that you’ll even be allowed to publish your app. Then, assuming it is published, it could be removed without proper warning and explanation at any time, and all of the money you do earn demanded back off you. To set up a business on top of such a house of cards is sheer madness.

Assuming iPhone developers aren’t all mad, another possible conclusion comes to mind. There are various schemes that have similar rings to Apple’s app store business practices: pyramid schemes, “get rich quick” books and foreign banker/ lottery email scams. All of these scheme pray on people’s gullibility and greed to con them out of money on the promise of huge riches in return. Does that sound familiar?

Now if only I could get my hands on a list of the email addresses of all iPhone developers, I’m sure I could flog many of them a copy of a “get rich quick” ebook and retire a billionaire!