Google is still shady

Google would consider keeping a user’s search data for longer than 18 months if they had explicitly consented, one of the firm’s key executives has said.
The web giant currently anonymises a user’s search history after 18 months.

I have always been suspicious of Google. Ever since I noticed that their cookies don’t expire for like… a bazillion years, I have been fairly wary.

It may just be a over-healthy sense of paranoia, but I don’t like the idea of some company in another country knowing who I am and what I do in so much detail.

And keeping all this data on people can’t be good.

The obligatory Second Life entry

Second Life.

At some point, I suspect nearly every blogger interested in technology will mention it. It’s just one of those things. Even the BBC is getting in on the act. I know a short while back they ran an article on the BBC news site about it and just the other day I was contacted to see if I wanted to appear in a tv show or news item about people who spend a lot of time in Second Life (I don’t think I spend nearly enough time there to count I suspect and they were looking for people whose lives had been changed by it in some way).

I’ve been an on and off resident of Second Life since last May (coincidentally, my Second Life “birth” day is only the day before my real birthday) and it’s been a lot of fun, even with the lag I suffer from. I spend a little over a week in January playing the Smokin’ Aces Assassin game in SL, desperately trying to shoot assassinate people who had already moved from where I could see them and failing to run away from people trying to assassinate me!

There are also a lot of nice looking sims to visit – including one I spent the last weekend wandering about in, which was a replica of an ancient Roman town.

The only real problems I have with SL are the lag I experience (mostly due to being on a wireless network and not exactly the fastest broadband connection in the world), the time it takes for stuff to rez and the odd occasion where my avatar’s hair or shoes randomly move. Then there’s also the resources that the SL program sometimes decides to eat up.

Mostly, all this means for me is that I don’t go into busy areas and try to get into SL in the morning GMT time, when the US is asleep and not in SL. It’s also limited my activities at the moment to just sightseeing, rather than roleplaying, opening a shop or buying land and constructing a house.

Police to fingerprint on streets

Motorists who get stopped by the police could have their fingerprints taken at the roadside, under a new plan to help officers check people’s identities.

I know there’s a lot of concern about how this is all Big Brotherish and turning the UK into Orwell’s “1984” state but my concern about this mobile fingerprinting is slightly different.

My problem with this is that the devices used to take the fingerprints is bound to be something that will get dirty and not correctly capture fingerprints – possibly giving incorrect information to the police officers involved. This is especially a problem if the fingerprint capturing surface is made of glass or plastic – it’s bad enough when you get fingerprints on windows and mirror, but having a glass surface full of mucky fingerprints when you’re trying to use fingerprints to identify someone is wacky and crazy. I’d be interested to know how they get around this potential problem.

Computer industry ‘faces crisis’

The computer industry faces a skills crisis, the president of the British Computer Society has told BBC News.

Unless steps are taken now, there will not be enough qualified graduates to meet the demands of UK industry, warned Professor Nigel Shadbolt.

Prof Shadbolt said there was increasing demand but decreasing supply of graduates in computer science.

As a computer science graduate, this story makes me giggle a bit. Mainly because I’m now working in an area nothing to do with computer science. In fact, studying computer science may well discourage graduates from going into that area when they enter the workplace. I know I certainly learnt to hate programming and a number of my fellow students learnt to hate computers entirely.

Coupled with a seemingly high drop-out rate for Computer Science degrees (I’m sure only about a third of the students I entered university with stuck around to graduate), I’m not surprised that there is this concern about a lack of graduates.

One solution would perhaps make Computer Science more attractive to female students – I was one of only two girls graduating with my particular degree, and there can’t have been more than 40 girls total graduating from my department. Alternatively, another idea would be to give oppotunities in IT related careers to people without Computer Science degrees, but relevant experience and expertise from other sources.

Loc8tor – tracking your stuff

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A new electronic gadget called the Loc8tor uses radio waves and multiple aerials, plus some fancy software, to locate postage stamp sized transmitters which can be attached to almost anything, within a range of up to 600 feet.

This thing sounds really useful. I know I put things down and then spend ages looking for them. It’d also come in handy when trying to find my glasses (if an incredibly small chip could be developed to attach to my glasses) as the loc8ter device is far easier to see when not wearing glasses than my glasses are.

This could especially be very useful for paticularly scatty people who have a heck of a lot of gadgets, keys and other small items.

Concrete monitor

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This screen comes from the people at Innovation Lab, who have embedded optical fibers that work like pixels into concrete. The optical fibers can be lit to create monochromatic images. Even more amazing, the optical fibers work with natural light as well as artificial light, making it effectively transparent. This technology has many applications for architecture and urban planning. I’m particularly interested in it’s application in transportation infrastructure, such as subway stations, highways, and sidewalks.

This is really cool and would could be used for advertising in places that have a lot of concrete, like car parks, or just to make them look less dreary. Another good use would be for information for pedestrians on the street, about stuff in the local area and offers in nearby shops. There are probably loads more nifty useful uses as well as the usual arty just looking cool kind of uses. 🙂

Google Checkout

“When we’ve had to contact Google about issues (such as the suspected fraud), we’ve received intelligent customer service and the problems were quickly resolved. Contacting PayPal customer support, on the other hand, has been a complete nightmare. Automated response hell, followed by canned responses that didn’t address our issue, followed by silence.”
TechCrunch

That alone is enough to tempt me into using Google Checkout. Any alternative to paypal is worth a look actually, though I’m going to have to investigate if and how I could use this with ebay. Even without being able to use it with Ebay, it could certainly be useful for selling on forums and on my journal. Something to think about.

Unconventional watches


These watches look very cool, though I guess they’re not really that practical. But then, they’re not meant to be practical and are instead a kind of commentry on the relationship people can have with their watches.

From the
Mr Jones Watches website
:

“Summissus revives the traditional memento mori – an object designed to remind people that death should be prepared for at any time. Summissus has a mirrored display that reflects the wearer and alternates the time with the statement, ‘Remember you will die”. In this way Summissus fosters humility in the wearer.”

The Summissus is the watch on the left in the picture. I guess, aside from “fostering humility”, it could also make people worry less about other things. Day going badly? Don’t worry, you’re going to die some day. 🙂

Young drive ‘radical media shift’

Young drive ‘radical media shift’

Sixteen to 24 year olds are spurning television, radio and newspapers in favour of online services, says the regulator’s study.

I can’t say that I’m surprised really. Most people in that age group would probably have grown up with computers and the internet. Personally I used to watch hours and hours of tv when I was younger, but in the last 4 or 5 years the amount I watch has really dropped off. Whether it’s because the content on tv has got less interesting, or because the content online is more interesting… I don’t know. The only time I really watch tv is when I’ve checked the tv guide (online of course) and there is something I want to watch on. I don’t watch just for the sake of watching anymore.

As for radio and newspapers… I still listen to the radio, but mostly in the car and the reception for the station I like to listen to isn’t that great anyway. Newspapers… perhaps on a train journey, or I’ll flick through the paper that my mum gets on Saturdays. I’ve always got my news either from television or radio, so the change to getting it online and from multiple sources wasn’t that much of a stretch. The Internet is quicker for news, especially you’d only really get a newspaper with the previous day’s news in it, rather than what is happening this very second.

Boing Boing – Only traitors try to make us afraid of terrorists

Boing Boing – Only traitors try to make us afraid of terrorists

The paper this article takes about seems to have a point. Terrorism is highly unlikely to kill me. I mean… I live in the UK and here we’ve had various terrorist acts from the IRA, Islamic militants and so on… but I’m still here. No one I know personally has been hurt. I’ve even visited Israel and missed being in the area of a bombing by a day. So why should I worry? Surely the point of a terrorist act is to frighten and scare people, to have some measure of control over them.

After the Tube bombings on 7th July last year, my mum was worried about me going places on the underground and on the train. I reasoned that if I was going to get blown up on the Tube, then there would be nothing I could do to stop it and so there was no point worrying and hiding indoors.