Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Out of office autoreply

I'm on holiday this week so please leave a comment and I'll get back to you on my return.
If it's a more urgent matter then tough. Eagerly anticipated posts will resume next week, meanwhile burglars have a whole few nights to swing by ClickTowers unhindered by anything other than some highly trained houseplants and a forlorn basil.

"My Verdict: The new Yahoo! Mail is far superior..." � The Wall Street Journal.

Now you can scan emails quickly with a reading pane. Get the new Yahoo! Mail.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Are iSoft exclusively to blame for NHS delays?

It has been widely reported this week that a review of the readiness of iSoft's Lorenzo programme, which is intended for 3 out of 5 of the NPfIT regions and is therefore crucial to the running of the UK's National Health Service, has concluded that there is "no believeable plan" for completion. You can read more about this at the Guardian, E-health Insider and numerous blogs including Blogzilla.

The report was compiled by Accenture and CSC who are leading the Local Service Providers that include iSoft in their teams. Naturally, iSoft are being heavily criticised for major programme management failings but the question I've not seen raised is "Why have CSC and Accenture not reacted earlier?". Afterall, the Lorenzo problems were well known up to a year ago. Accenture say they will loose around £500million as a result of the delays in their LSPs caused by iSoft. When there is so much of their money on the line, surely they should have managed their risk appropriately. Were reviews like the one just conducted, not built into the relationships between Accenture, CSC and iSoft from the beginning? iSoft is rightly taking a pounding in the press, but the NPfIT LSP structure designs the risk to be managed, and carried, by the consortium leaders. Those leaders should be looking hard at themselves right now.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Specific vs Agnostic- which is your Healthcare IT killer App?

I've worked in many sectors including manufacturing, retail, aviation and distribution... always on the technology side. Recently, I've been intensively working in Healthcare and already there are a life time of conversations we could all have about sector comparisons. In this post, I want to focus on the observation that I've never seen an industry so full of technologies that have been tweaked and tailored to be sector specific.

Some tweaks are hugely superficial, being a thin veneer of marketing whilst others are profoundly fundamental. For the sake of my legal team (which I'll be watering later) I'll not distinguish one from the other here. I've seen entire integration engines JUST for sharing EPR. I've been presented with video conferencing suites targetting telemedicine. I've used databases focussed on nothing but healthcare. I've been pitched phone circuits as healthcare backbones.

There are many possible reasons for this more extreme focussing of effort than in other sectors, a few of which here readers might be able to add to:

1. The healthcare sector is particularly unique
2. Healthcare sector procurement having a larger than average critical mass per programme
3. A revolution in healthcare delivery models driving a rapid pace of change
4. Low influx of technical expertise from other sectors

All might be appropriate on different days and when describing different technologies. Some are hugely value adding and some are little more than crackpot moonshine.

However, what is very interesting is when the reciprocal must also be true- that there are generic, industry-agnostic, technologies which you swear by as a Healthcare IT professional. Go on, spill the beans... which dull consumer products have grown to be the backbone of your organisation. MS Excel? Which technologies would see you suffer if you were to remove. Skype? Which technology could I stick the word "Care" in front of and masquerade it as £50m of development exclusively for the use of hospitals?

Get in touch and let me know.

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500 Years saved by Support

Many thanks to the folks at support who kindly sent me the installs for Ancestry Family Tree and brought back to life, figuratively speaking, 500 years of ClickRich ancestors. I'll keep a closer eye on backwards compatibility in future.

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Monday, August 21, 2006

Raw, Amazing High Performance Computing

What is the most impressive IT demonstration you've ever seen? Almost everyone has something which springs to mind. Perhaps it was some time ago and has now become the norm, but back then it blew your socks off.

Well, I've just had one of those moments. It was a country mile ahead of the first time I saw ClickTowers on Google Earth. This, my beloved readers, was probably something I will never forget.

This was the next best thing to making time stand still or looking into the future.

Imagine being able to play a piece of music into a microphone. Almost any piece of music. I chose the relatively obscure "Song of Life" by Leftfield on my mobile. Within 5 seconds, the supercomputer had identified the track from its databased catalogue, found the exact position we were listening to and then begun playing the music 5 seconds ahead of where my mobile phone was. Amazing. I must have tried 6 tracks and the system was faultless.

My hosts, who have interests in furthering raw unadulterated computing power, asked for their identity to be kept under wraps. This isn't something they're productising in anyway and don't want the publicity. It's simply a demonstration- a very impressive demonstration. Sadly, I can't see how this power, or concept, can be leveraged into anything useful (besides, Shazam has that covered), but it just goes to show what they mean when they talk about being able to process TeraFLOPS (floating point operations per second) of information. By way of comparison, Wikipedia rates a Pentium4 at a few GigaFLOPS. Also impressive is the database reads that process entailed. My mind is blown, I may post a more balanced view when I've settled down a touch.

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Web Access Crippled by 'Downloader' Virus

I consider myself to have been fairly lucky (or solidly locked down) when it comes to PC viruses. However, at the weekend I was hit by the Downloader virus. I immediately started running updates on all 3 security products I use and began some full scans. The virus is embedded into a file called epl.exe and Symantec had trouble quarantining and/or deleting it.

I've not done much research on "Downloader"- mainly because Symantec eventually claimed to have deleted it. However, it looks like it is still there because Symantec told me again that it has deleted it. I very much doubt that I've been infected twice, but probably it never actually went away.

It's something I'll have to look into more seriously some time.

Surf safely kids. It's a jungle out there.

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Are Kids becoming Desensitised?

Courtesy of Camster FactorWhat do you have to do to excite kids these days? On Friday my lunch was pleasantly interrupted by the annual Bournemouth Red Arrows display. I'd have been gobsmacked as a child to see these daredevil antics. However, the children sat near my position on West Overcliff were seriously non-plussed, asking very practical questions such as "Why are they red?", "Where are they going?" and "Why are they smoking?". Good questions, but all the ooohs and ahhhs were coming from the parents.

Even when a lone jet surprised us by screaming right over our heads from behind, I swear that I saw nonchalant shrugs from some kids. Is this a symptom of modern life, or was it always like this?

I have to commend Camster Factor for their great photos posted on Flickr.

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Friday, August 18, 2006

Oakenfold gets Grief

Thank goodness, it's not me getting old. I've been validated. I am young. Why?

Well, I was non too complimentary about Paul Oakenfold's latest Essential Mix on Radio1. Given that the three people who read this blog chose not to write in to me, I was thinking perhaps that I'd been harsh. Maybe that's how the kids mix these days? Afterall, those Radio1 producers have more fingers on the pulse than my small hands (it's all lies) permit.

How relieved I was, then, when I saw the Radio1 web page inviting comments with the headline "Worst Essential Mix Ever?". Following the link made me realise that I was relatively middle of the road. The militant branch of Anti-Perfecto was out in full force.

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Whose problem- my network provider or my handset maker?

Ok, so today I decided that my long reported synchronisation problem between my Nokia N70 and PC should be nipped in the bud. It's become a major productivity problem. As I sit here typing this, I'm losing the battle and, after an hour on the phone with Orange, my grip on the will to live.

You can read more here, but to summarise, the phone synchronised fine for about 6 months. Now, Nokia PC Suite (version 6.6.16) says that it is connected to the phone (and indeed you can browse around it in File Manager), but when you select Synchronise > Synchronise Now (which isn't ghosted by the way) the system tray icon flashes for a while, but nothing otherwise happens. When you click Settings, you get no response at all.

Nokia's FAQ troubleshooting is very limited- it says something along the lines of "make sure you are using a Nokia cable". I am. I'm using a CA-53. It came in the same box as the phone. So did PC Suite.

To check that is wasn't the cable, I purchased a Bluetooth USB and that brings me to the same problem. I have to therefore assume the cable wasn't the problem. Just to rub it in, a first time use of iSync on the Apple worked fine over Bluetooth. I have therefore to also assume that the phone is fine.

I've tried uninstalling and reinstalling PCSuite. No progress. Same problem.

Although I didn't buy the phone from Nokia, they obviously are more likely to have the knowledge to support me, so I went to their website. I posted my problem on their discussion boards where, it seems, there are many disgruntled users. In fact, what has solved the problem for some people hasn't helped others so there are clearly many causes of the problem. The attitude of the Nokia's moderator on these boards is not exactly 'can-do'. They steered me to the support page where I had to describe the problem all over again. Why the moderator couldn't flag it up on behalf struck me as lazy. So, after typing out the problem as helpfully as I could, what happened? The page wouldn't submit. There was a web site error.

OK, so I resorted to the phone number. After selecting the appropriate options I was invited to ring a premium rate number where I'd be charged 75p per minute to have the pleasure of reporting that my phone doesn't work. All is forgiven Microsoft- at least you guys listen, tell us when we're buying a beta and to expect flaky product and immature support.

At this point I decided that I'd tried everything reasonable under my own initiative and that I should take up my consumer rights with those whom my contract is with- I bought the phone from Orange. Orange say that they aren't trained to deal with problems relating to Nokia's PC Suite. I can understand that, but surely they have some responsibility, as the phone retailer, for the product being fit for purpose? Afterall, it was Orange that decided that they would help with the phone and not the associated products (which were all in the same box), not the consumer. Could they take up my grievance with their supplier, Nokia? Not according to them. Orange provide the network. Nokia supply the phone and accessories. I need to go to Nokia. I'm sure that my contract is with Orange- I bought the phone from Orange. Orange provided the phone.

I have to say that Orange graciously offered to credit £5 to my account so I could call Nokia. That really is a great offer on the part of the Orange employee but I was concerned that my accepting it would compromise my statutory rights.

If you have a problem with your TV, you take it back to the retailer. They would liase with the manufacturer. Obviously, not with phones.

So, I'm resolved to live out my lacklustre relationship with my N70 until my next upgrade is due. Nobody is interested in helping. And this, I believe, is why the take up of smartphones isn't what the industry had hoped for. They're simply not 'consumer' enough- as a product or service. I'm a tech nerd and still can't do it.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Windows Live Early Impressions

I've been comparing Blogger to Windows Live for publishing posts to my Blog. The fact that I'm writing this review through the web interface of blogger sums up my experience so far.

After setting up a Test Blog, I posted once using each method. With more confidence, I made the first post to the ClickRich Blog with Windows Live but I'm still experiencing teething problems. I suspect that in making Blogger user friendly, much control has been taken away from tools such as Windows Live- such as editing the layout and adding images. I'll try persist and see if I can make it through the niggles because it would definitely be a more productive tool.

Windows Live Edited Post

This post was created with Windows Live.  I couldn't add the image I wanted to because apparently its not supported by Blogger.  I think the truth is in the detail on that one.  However, it did offer me the option of creating an FTP facility for the image which would have worked.



and with links

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Google buys Neven Vision... read why

In buying Neven Vision, Google is one step closer to my Visual Search Engine. The pieces of the jigsaw are coming together.

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Open Source Buildings

Crazy? Think about it...

Modularity. Reuse. Generic platform, customised configuration. Convergence. Increasing rate of change. Technology.

The Open Source Building Alliance is bringing this together and builds on MIT's work with PlaceLab.

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Pocket Sized Projectors

I'm trying to think of quite what the benefits will be to the end user for small projectors built into portable devices like mobile phones and laptops, but I have to say that I'm very taken with the idea. I suppose this is probably one of those technologies, like SMS, that will just create its own demand. Like Henry Ford said- before the advent of the car, if you'd asked people what they want, they'd probably have asked for a faster horse.

The company behind this technology, Light Blue Optics, have been nurtured through the Cambridge-MIT Institute (CMI), a technology transfer unit of Cambridge University in the UK and MIT, Cambridge, US. Their website is something of a showcase for innovation so worth staying tuned to. The site is packed with articles, so would benefit from an RSS feed.

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New Blogger in Beta

Blogger, the thing which provides the environment around, behind and under what you are reading now is going through a revamp. According to ZDNet the days of me having to manually code the tags in HTML will be over... and there was you thinking that ClickRich just sits there and does all of this from drop downs and forms.

Further searching found Blogger's own announcement where a tour showed other new features including locking posts for designated viewers, some drag and drop editing facilities, more feed options and information on blog activity. There is no mention of integrating Google Adsense (Google's online advertising service) which seems a missed opportunity given that Blogger is owned by the one and the same Google.

Unfortunately, only a few bloggers will be using the beta for a while yet, but progress on the horizon- that's good enough for me.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Oakie- stick to Remixes and Producing

Paul Oakenfold is probably the biggest name DJ out there. Yes, he's the bloke who did the Big Brother theme. He even cropped up in the credits of the new Pink Panther film which I watched at the weekend. However, on the performance of the last two times I've heard him in a club, he should probably stick to what he's REALLY good at- remixing and producing.

Don't get me wrong, he's perfectly adequate at holding a crowd, but in a world rammed with talent, I find the big intros by the likes of BBC Radio 1 this last Saturday nauseous. I'm sorry Annie Mac, he's not the highlight of your week in Ibiza. You might need to justify that to your accountants but he was, at best, OK. Look past the legend. I don't mean to sound bitter but let someone else take to the stage-like DJ booth at Amnesia for Cream. Can they not hear that Paul dropped the beat in at least two mixes... you couldn't hear the euphoria of the crowd like you could with other DJs on the night.

Ironically, the last time I heard Oakie live was Cream @Amnesia in Ibiza too. We were lucky enough to be up in the gods, and I remember even on that night in 2004 we didn't have high expectations of his set- in fact, most people had turned out to see Tiesto who unfortunately had to cry off ill. An OK night, but not top drawer.

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Google Desktop Lease of Life

I'm feeling that I'm some way behind the techno-masses on Google Desktop so I'm going to refrain from a protracted review. Instead I shall say that it has given a whole new lease of life to my Windowing. Ok, so the Gadgets are clearly lifted from Mac OS X Widgets, but who cares where the inspiration comes from?

The Google Desktop search is remarkable (a proper indexed search) and makes Microsoft's delay to introducing WinFS look bordering on the farcical. Possible room for consolation for Redmond is that in Google Desktop's indexing of my harddrive, it has neglected to pick up on keywords in MS Office file properties.

I'm still playing with the rest of Google Desktop like a kid in a sweetshop (not even started to test any of the other Gadgets on offer) so more to follow later.

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Recruit a Geek- TODAY!

Well, this week has got off to a funny start. Some colleagues are actually asking what they need to do to become a geek. The answer- get blogging. The chat was even lubricated with a Starbucks Vente Latte so they're half way there.

The world is going blogging mad. It makes sense really, with David Sifry reporting that the Blogosphere doubles in size every 200 days, statistically, someone else in this company needs to join the melee if that growth is in anyway to continue. I'm one in about 30 of us at the moment. Plenty of increase still available then...

Hopefully, reading this blog won't put my colleagues off. By the end of the week, we'll be running an all night hacking session with more pizza than you can shake a dongle at.

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

500 years of Ancestry data up the swanny?

I've been storing up research on 500 years worth of hundreds of ancestors and related data using the Ancestry Family Tree software. I was running this software which I'd downloaded from on a work PC. I no longer have access to that PC (it's been recycled), but I made sure that I'd grabbed the data file (.aft) and all the back ups (.afz) so I could set up the application at home and retrieve my information.

However, when I went to download the AFT software from the site, I saw that it had been succeeded by Family Tree Maker and a web based equivalent. The web based version I am hugely in favour of, but I though I'd stand more hope of handling any potential file format problems with an installed app in the first instance.

I installed Family Tree Maker at home and was relieved to see the promise that it can open an .aft file. Unfortunately, it doesn't work. Even though .aft is one the Open file drop down list file types, when you try it, FTM says that it does not recognize the format of the file.

I welcome progress, but hope I have not lost years of research! I thought I'd made adequate provision for backups, but I'd not forseen this. So, I've asked in support from, so fingers crossed.

In future I will save backups in a more open standard such as GEDCOM. I'd like to hear from anyone else who has come across this problem.

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Friday, August 11, 2006

What's happening to our phones? What's 21CN all about?

I met with a senior director of BT recently and he was really excited about something. He was falling over himself to tell me all about "21st Century Network" or 21CN as they call it. Working more at the application and systems levels, I found it hard to see what was so special. Sure, I can appreciate that £14billion will buy BT something very impressive, but at the end of the day don't telecom networks just get faster, more resiliant, higher bandwidth? We know that we've reached optical so surely nothing can be faster than that. So that leaves resiliant and higher bandwidth right?

Well, yes that is right. But I've been digging around on YOUR behalf and there is another dimension to this.

In essence 21CN is replacing the traditional phone network, PSTN, with an IP based solution. So what that first tells us is that BT will not just be interested in phones. Or rather, any IP-enabled device (which will be most things in a few years) will be able to be a phone given the appropriate software. BT will not be billing addresses. Accounts will not centre on the phone line. BT will be billing humans.

Services will be driven out of the core of the telecom network. What does this really mean? Well you might not realise it, but you're probably compartmentalising your life into your landline answerphone, your mobile answerphone, your email account etc. Well, this will unify all your services architecturally (although I'm sure the retail market will be competitive as ever). You will access your communications from any device at any time. You might feel that you have this already, but in reality it is being delivered by a mish-mash of technologies enabled by providers and applications that are a veneer across the top of many infrastructures. That costs. That costs alot. That's flaky.

That also has limitations. At the moment you cannot transfer your voice call between devices beyond a phone switch. And what if you want to continue your conversation as an Instant Message chat because you've stepped onto the bus? Seamless. No longer will your contacts need to be synched between different parts of your life. It isn't just stored centrally, at the deepest level, but it's everywhere- ubiquitous.

Bandwidth becomes unlimited.

Then things get really clever. Imagine if you buy your applications as services from your telco. A whole world of applications as yet unimagined is going to explode into out lives from 2007 and I, for one, can't wait. I think we forget how much of a chore it is to constantly log in and out of applications through our modern working lives. I'm going to start counting. But, 21CN holds the possibility of never having to log in ever again. Never will any consumer or SME ever need to buy data storage hardware again. You will pay per byte for storage. You will pay for data transfer in many different ways. Your application will decide how to route a packet of data. Sending a Petabyte of data from London to New York in the next minute will not only be possible, but it will be priced differently to if it doesn't need to be there until 24 hours later.

And it will be cheap. In the last 10 years the cost of calls has dropped by 80%. This will continue and, I believe, accelerate.

So, when you hear BT talking about 21CN, sit up and listen. So far, it takes some leap of imagination to picture what they are describing, but as the time approaches for services to launch the message will become clearer about what it means to us.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

News Map GUI

Many thanks to John Ludwig whose post led me to the NewsMap. Now this is a fantastic example of a great GUI. Not only does it cleverly use size, colour and shades to denote the scale, topic and age of each top story on Google News in a tapestry, but the screen holds its validity as you resize it. According to the file extension, this presentation layer seems to have been built with Macromedia ColdFusion MX and looked great on my MacBook Pro with Safari and Windows Laptop with IE6, no matter how I resized the windows.

It reminds me that I should catch up on where Macromedia is at with ColdFusion. Is this observation part of a concerted client device independence strategy? Is this inherent to ColdFusion or something Marumushi worked hard at?

Marumushi have a whole range of clever visualisations of data to play with.


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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Technology Usage and Wealth- the Postcode Survey

Ilkley is a town nestling at the foot of the Yorkshire Dales. Nothing too controversial ever happens there, so when you do read about Ilkley in the news, it is often as a result of some sort of survey into wealth or affluence. For example, in this HBOS survey, Ilkley is named amongst places such as Altrincham, Richmond-Upon-Thames, Harpenden as having an average house price which exceeds the Inheritance Tax threshold (the only place in Yorkshire on the list). On a different aspect of life 'affluent' Ilkley is reported as having an infant mortality rate of 5 times less than Bradford and Keighley- just 16 and 5 miles away respectively.

Well now another survey, this time in the area of technology, singles Ilkley out for special attention. The research by UCL and published through Spatial-Literacy shows that Ilkley is made up of the highest but one of seven groups of people measured by tech savviness (and top but two of all the twenty three subtypes), and twins them with such postcode districts as Alderley Edge, Cheltenham, Woodstock and Wirral. If you know anything about these areas, the inevitable conclusion you have to draw from this is that technology usage is associated with wealth. This needn't be as obvious as it seems, but this survey is probably the most detailed study yet as it looks at all 17 million postcodes cross referenced against Experian (credit reference agency) data.

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Monday, August 07, 2006

What will Foo Camp deliver this year?

Last year Foo Camp, the invitation-only geek ideas-fest, caused a bit of a stir by not inviting one or two folks who felt they were a shoe in. They went on to found an alternative event... Bar Camp.

So, with Foo Camp set to kick off, what will happen this year? As always, this is a low key event- not needing to market itself to draw a crowd. However, this means that in the build up, you see many a technologist lamenting the lack of an invite. Is this deliberate on the part of the organiser, Tim O'Reilly? Does he have his finger on the pulse? Has he got it wrong? Does he turn over the invitees to keep things fresh?

Who knows? Well, I will have to ask one of those who has been invited how it went (and how he got on with the tent).

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Power Mac becomes Mac Pro and Intel

Further to my earlier hint, Steve Jobs has finally unveiled the replacement for the Power Mac and unsurprisingly it has Intel Dual Core (Intel Xeon) under the hood.

The Mac Pro... Windowstastic.

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MacBook Pro Trial

Here at ClickTowers we have two new MacBook Pros on trial courtesy of Apple. So firstly, apologies that this is taking longer to type, but I'm just getting used to all the basics. Hopefully you will wait for me at the end of the post.

So far I have to say that this has been a pleasure. Macs feel good. It's a product design thing- this is simply a highly desirable machine and using it makes you feel good. After all the expectation of contacting our office IT folks to arrange to set the machine up on our network, I just plugged the MacBook Pro in and it worked. Ok, only at the network, wireless access point and file server level, but that's easier than I expected. By the end of the week we should be running Entourage on one and Parallels Windows XP with Office on the other. That's right, Microsoft.

Then we'll be road testing them for a couple of months and deciding what role they will play in our technology strategy. I have to say that no matter how clinically you approach your technology architecture, you can't fail to be impressed by things such as the power supply being attached with a magnet so that if someone trips over the cable, it just detaches without causing any damage to equipment... or the mains power light being on the MacBook Pro connector end of of the cable rather than hidden on a black brick under the table... or the built in camera... or the remote control...

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

When will the OS cost more than the PC?

There was a time when a computer cost about $1,000 and the OS was about $100. Many factors have come together to drive hardware costs down (most of which are embodied within the Dell Corporation). However, operating systems from Microsoft have stayed at around the same price point. Therefore, the OEM OS license makes up around a third of the price you pay for an entry level PC which works out of the box.

Here's an example. Right now Dell are shipping their entry level PC (with monitor) for $299. It is preinstalled with Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition and that's included in the price. Pricegrabber found me CDW selling the same OEM license of XP Home Edition for $101.99. Therefore, in the Dell package more than a third of the price is comprised of the OS. I wonder what the proportion would be if you excluded the monitor? Incredible.

Not only is that an amazing indicator of the pace of change in the industry over the last ten years, but it also makes you wonder whether the OS will eventually be more expensive than the PC. How will that change buying patterns?

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SyncML- what's that all about?

My recent post about frustrations with my Nokia N70 led Undone to comment that I should try a http synch of my contacts and calendar to an online service such as Zyb. Being the dutiful blogger, I do everything my readers suggest (I wonder where I find the time too) so I watched the video as to what it's all about, read a little bit more to ensure I wasn't sending my contacts straight to Mr Bin Laden (turns out it will be in the hands of some trusty Danes) and then went through the set up process. How easy was that? Simple, and with every step explained, right down to the phone specifics. Now I can see and manage all my contacts and calendar entries online through a very rich and intuitive interface. All the contacts fields seem to transfer ok (including images and notes). The calendar was a little less successful with the recurring meetings and all day events not being transferred. When will I be able to upload my tasks and notes too?

Zyb is free to use as a back up and to transfer info between phones. They're quite open that they will charge a modest fee for extra services which they will introduce. Can't argue with that. One such service I will be delighted to pay long as it's not too much... is to sync between Zyb and Outlook. Then I can throw away the menace of the cable and, hopefully, bring the whole sync between phone and laptop back to life (yes, that's right- still no fix to the original problem).

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

That was Yorkshire Day

As Yorkshire Day draws to a close across British Summer Time, I ask you to raise your glass of broad acres' finest and drink a toast to moors, dales, snickets, short arms/deep pockets, stubbornness, white roses, queer folk and t'internet baht 'at.

But not whippets. Definitely not whippets. I'm a Yorkshireman (if you hadn't guessed) and I don't know anyone with one.

Anyway, for those who were caught outside the county today, I recommend using Flickr to find images that bring the homeland back- for me I suggest SovietUK's Ilkley set... but there's plenty more inspiration out there.

And in conclusion, it's not grim up north.

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The World's Greatest Site gets new Blog... my opinion.

That's right (as if you haven't guessed what I'm talking about), the mighty Justgiving has a new home for its blog on Typepad. It looks like it has the making of being a more potent tool for folks fundraising for charities. Very Web 2.0.

It's great to see people really making their fundraising pages work for their chosen charities. On the Another Chance to See site (inspired by Douglas Adams and Mark Cawardine's trip around the world to see endangered animals), they're using their Justgiving thermometer to track progress of their fundraising for one of Douglas's favourite charities, Save the Rhino.

In another example, a group are raising funds for Sam, a little boy who was paralysed in a car accident, by selling books via Justgiving.

Inspiring. It's not all marathons you know.

Hop to it. Do something daft and raise some doh.

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Visual and Audio Search Engines

Popgadget reminded me of an idea I looked into a while ago. If you take the search engine and put an image recognition wrapper around it, could you create something which tells you what real world images are of? I call it a Visual Search Engine. Clearly this works in niche applications such as biometrics and the manufacturing industry, but what about something with as broad appeal as Google? Unfortunately for my bank manager, my research showed that someone has this seriously in hand, but Popgadget has showed how a UK designer called Callum Peden has added a new dimension to this- a Google Device. You'd have to question why you wouldn't just use a phone with in-built camera, but I'm intrigued by the notion of Google moving into appliances and devices. Will it happen one day?

This is possibly also an opportunity to mention an Audio Search Engine called Shazam I was made aware of several years ago and, to this day, remains the mainstay of my party piece repertoire. Basically, forget their website for a moment and engage your mind's eye. Imagine, when you want to know the name of some music you're listening to, just dialling 2580 (down the centre of your phone) in the UK and holding your phone to the music... wait a few seconds and a text message arrives with the artist and title. Marvellous eh? Yup, and this actually exists... right now. It's one of technology's best kept secrets (which doesn't say much for their marketing).

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More bad news for NHS IT, but let's not lose focus

According to e health insider, the NHS PAS outage reported in an earlier post as being due to be resolved by last night... is still down. Some Trusts face being without systems until Thursday.

We need to keep this in perspective. Yes, it is a disaster. No, this should not have happened with the plethora of systems and knowledge available today. However, many people are taking this as an opportunity to knock the vision of an integrated nationwide electronic patient record. I disagree with this tactic wholeheartedly. Why? Well, if I have a life threatening illness, actually any illness requiring intervention by a surgeon, I would happily travel the length and breadth of the country to find the best qualified surgeon, with the best measured results, for my specific condition. I do NOT want to be constrained by what the chaps at the local golf club... ahem, sorry, General Hospital can do.

A car crash does not make the car a bad idea.

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Integration Engines Turned on their Head

Integration engines have emerged over the last 5 years or so to enable businesses to orchestrate interoperability between systems and facilitate electronic data interchange. Platforms such as BizTalk from Microsoft and Ensemble from Intersystems lead in the marketplace. At the same time, industry specific standards have emerged, such as HL7 for healthcare and "adaptors" are available to help developers of BizTalk and Ensemble to work with these standards.

However, today Shahid's Healthcare IT blog pointed me at an example of this adaptor layer taken to the next stage. A whole integration engine specific to an industry vertical. This might not be a new thing, but Mirth is the first sector focussed integration engine I've seen. In this case, WebReach Inc have made their interface engine (as they call it) open source which has obvious cost advantages when you cannot spread the platform investment across other parts of the business; e.g. billing and procurement EDI.

I did notice that on the website there is no mention of SOAP as a supported messaging protocol with Mirth. Not sure if this is a deliberate ommission.

Has anyone else seen anything industry specific before?

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