New York here we come!

We have booked our tickets for New York last night. Very excited, now need to sort a hotel, and start figuring out what we get up to for a week. In fact we’ve got quite a few ideas already, but we need to decide on what we want to do most of all, and work around those. I’d kind of like to do an event or two, go to a gig or a show on Broadway, something like that. Living the dream!

Will gladly take any New York suggestions in the comments, all ideas greatfully received.

While I’m here, can I give a quick plug to my new site Wrestling with Consciousness. If you like wrestling, you’ll like it, if you don’t, then well, you won’t.

Using Brightside in Ubuntu

A simple little app today, Brightside. What this does is to allow you to traverse your desktops in Ubuntu Edgy by mouse, so that you can use the mouse to scroll from one virtual desktop to the next. A colleague introduced me to this years ago on a Linux install, and I couldn’t find it on any others since, until today. I’m now back to the setup I had then, where I have 4 desktops in a square shape, and move around them by mouse. It also allows you to define custom actions for moving the mouse into corners of the screen, so now if I move the mouse to the top left the screensaver starts, if I move it to bottom left it mutes what is playing. Very nice features. Simple install:

sudo apt-get install brightside

Once it is installed, go to System > Preferences > Screen Actions to set up as you wish.

The Thick of It USA

I’ve just been reading over at TV Squad that Christopher Guest is going to direct an American version of The Thick of it, one of my favourite comedy shows of recent years. I’m sure, knowing Guest, it will be pretty good, but why not set him off doing a political comedy on his own? Stop nicking our ideas! This is a long-standing tradition, but it is picking up speed again at the moment, with The Office in its third season, The IT Crowd in production, and probably versions of everything from the past twenty years from Father Ted USA down to My Hero being pitched to US studios. We’ve got precious enough good ideas of our own. What I don’t understand it why the American TV companies can’t possibly risk showing the original version. Well I do, but I know deep down that America loves good comedy, and don’t need it focus-grouped into blandness. Just like we wouldn’t have got ever nuance of Tanner 88, but many of us loved it, in it’s natural state The Thick of It is stunning comedy, and would be much loved given a chance. Don’t get me wrong, I liked The Office USA for instance (in no small part due to Steve Carrell), but again, he could have made any role of that nature his own. Let’s keep our own ideas separate, and enjoy twice the creativity.

Captcha – How very annoying

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I’m sure I must not be the only one whose heart sinks a little whenever I see a Captcha box on a form. The above example is taken from the signup for a hotmail account. I understand the reason of protecting against automated applications for servers, but they are hard to read, often cause you to have to input entire forms against, and rate about -20000 on the useability front, particularly for users with sight disabilities. The sooner they are gone the better.

Of sushi and suchlike

Have been making sushi for the first time tonight. Harder than it seems, should be just rice and rolling in my book, but there seemed to be several little stages in the instructions I had, and it was quite the faff. Still, I’ve got my first two long rolls cut, so after a couple of test portions I’ve got lunch for tomorrow, and a starter for dinner tomorrow. They seem to come out bigger than I’m used to, but I don’t have a bamboo mat to roll with, so I don’t think I was prepared to risk getting them tighter without splitting. Will report back soon with how they tasted having been chilled. Also discovered the joys of wasabi peanuts tonight. They are hot. Damn hot.

I’ve also bought some new trainers for cycling, sort of a combination of trainer and hiking boot. Possibly the most comfy shoes I’ve had in a while, will post a photo of them soon, would highly recommend them.

Crackdown – Xbox 360 (mini-review)

You get to be a super-hero, jump amazing heights up, down, and across buildings. Everything is done at your own pace, charge dead ahead and take down bosses, or build yourself up, and sneak about more. It looks great in its cel-shading glory, basically, what is not to love?

A virtual marketplace for us all

I’ve been playing Phantasy Star Universe this week, and I finally had enough money to open my own store. This is a place where I can sell the items I find in the game to other players, and also items I have made myself (you do this by combining items you’ve found). Now what surprised me was the volume of players looking at my shop almost as soon as I had started selling. It is constant, there is a very lively business to be made selling on there.

This got me thinking, what if I could design my own items, say on my pc, upload them to their servers, then sell them myself on there. Or even better, if I could sell them myself in Xbox Live, for money rather than the messata I get in Phantasy Star Universe.

Now this isn’t rocket science in gaming terms, pretty much this sort of model is what is ultimately supposed to happen with Xbox Live and the Playstation 3 version of Live. Even then though, it is a very closed system.

And it shouldn’t be. I want to be able to sell pretty much anything, virtual or real, from any location I chose. If I made music say, it would be great if I could sell it easily directly from this blog. If I made t-shirts, or sold something on ebay, I should be able to drop it into a post, or onto the sidebar on the right there, and let people know about it. Equally, anywhere I’ve got a profile, say on Xbox Live, or BTPodshow, or Myspace, I should be able to offer my things for sale.

Ideally, I’d also like the option to trade services as well. Maybe I could get some credits for setting up a blog for someone, then use them to buy hosting for another project somewhere, topping it up with a bit of cash if need be.

I think this is something that Google are probably most likely to be closest too, but are still some way from. I think if I was going to do it, I’d be able to take advantage of the APIs for many existing services, wrap them all together under one blanket service. I’d probably go with Paypal for now, but I’d want an overall account structure in there including the opportunity to barter services as well. I can just see clearer now the possibility of a massively intertwinned virtual marketplace, where everyone is a buyer and seller. Just as blogging has started to change how news works, maybe easily accessible virtual shops will change retail even further, the social networking spin on the groundwork laid by Amazon et al.

There is a service starting to approach this, Zlio, who allow you to set up a shop and integrate it with your site. It draws in “stock” from other online retailers, allowing you to mix and match a shop out of them. You can’t unfortunately sell your own items with them yet, althought they do state they will permit this soon. And there may be a UK version of the site in the offing soon, so check back in a little bit.

WP-Amazon plugin – Add Associate Links to Amazon the painless way

So what you would like is an easy way in the middle of a blog posting to find a link to a product, and an image, and tie the link up with your associate ID? Have you tried doing this quickly on Amazon? Not much fun. Here to save the day is WP-Amazon.

I’d suggest installing this using Matt Read’s installer plugin, as you can just upload the zip file for WP-Amazon via your admin interface, and set it up in a minute or two. You just need to choose which country’s Amazon you want to use, and add in your associated ID, and you are ready to go. From there, when you are writing a blog posting, you can just click on the Amazon logo on the right hand side, search for a product, drag and drop an appropriately-sized image and link in place, and you are done.

For example, one of my favourite books is Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. And that was pretty painless to drop in, although it doesn’t like to flow the text around the image, may have to play with that. For a quick book or album reccomendation, it looks spot on.

Diagnosis for WordPress

Well Lorelle has got me writing again, with her article about admin plugins for WordPress. There were a few in there I liked the look of, so I’m going to work through them and see how I get on. The first is Diagnosis, which is a simple but very useful addition that tells you quite a lot about how your blog is set up. Installing it just adds a link on the dashboard, which then shows you information such as the versions of MySQL, PHP and WordPress you are running, which ports are being used for various things, what modules are installed in PHP, and so on.

If your command line skills are sometimes lacking, it is very useful for getting a lot of knowledge about these backroom things very quickly, and gives you a handy place to check such things when you are debugging issues with your blog. I’ll put this on any blog I install in future, particularly if I was installing on someone elses hosting, as it would tell me a lot about the setup there without having to dig to much.

Old Skool like Happy Shopper

Listening to 90s rap mainly today, from the somewhat more aggressive era. And Crazy by Gnarls Barkley, which is one of the few songs I like recorded this century. Really like in fact, love hearing that incredible voice echoing around my head, hearing the dirty noise in the background that whooshes in for the chorus, then just turns off, the insistant bassline, and those truely unhinging lyrics.

Have been playing about with autoblogging a bit on other sites, it is interesting to see you can create a whole site off other peoples content, with very little work. I’m actually going to step back from it a bit, what I really want is a site that shows other stuff, but that the main focus is still my own writing, just seems fairer really.

BrotherinlawFB is down to visit tomorrow, will be good fun, he has booked tickets for us all to see Hot Fuzz, and if that wasn’t good enough, he has booked the fat bastard seats at the back that I love so much. How to get on my good side right there, take me to a good movie, and let me sit somewhere that doesn’t wreck my back for two hours. Normal cinema seats hurt me, have done for a good decade or two, but these don’t. These are hald sofas, and I love them. Can’t wait. Should also get a little meal out somewhere, possible the noodle bar in the centre of town, then meeting friends for drinks, so looking forwards to the weekend arriving. Ideally no later than tomorrow please.