Blog Archive

28 November 2005

TalkMan: Talking Global with PSP

Whilst my PSP is absolutely brilliant, I can’t help thinking that it must still have loads more to offer than just games, movies and music...

Imagine if I could take my PSP on holiday with me, speak English into it and have it instantly translate what I said into another language and speak it back to me. Well, if I want to translate what I say into Chinese, Korean or Japanese, this review suggests that’s not such a crazy idea after all. TalkMan was recently released in Japan and does exactly that. It’s bundled with a USB microphone that screws into the top of your PSP and uses speech recognition software to try and find a match for what you’ve said in its huge list of common phrases. You can even play games to help you with your language learning and pronunciation.

It’s not quite a Babel fish, but it’s one step closer I guess.

(What else could that USB microphone be used for though? I’m thinking that SingStar for the PSP would certainly keep my fellow tram passengers entertained on the way into work...)

[Via Waxy]

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Goodbye Mr Miyagi

Over the weekend, I found out that Noriyuki “Pat” Morita – the actor who played Mr Kesuke Miyagi in The Karate Kid films – died on Friday aged 73. I’m sure that many 80s karate kids (like myself) were inspired by Mr Miyagi and will agree that he was an absolute legend. I doubt that The Karate Kid films would’ve managed to have even half the success they did if it wasn’t for the way that Pat played the character.

Rest in peace Mr Miyagi.


15 November 2005

AOL and WildTangent

I’m afraid that AOL have overstepped the mark this time. Under normal circumstances, I stay well clear of AOL based on the principal that I’ve heard plenty stories about them allegedly ripping off customers who signed up for their free dial-up Internet trials. (This was, of course, many years ago – when you used to get an AOL CD through your door every few weeks – but first impressions and all that...) I’ve also recently been made aware of how AOL software can be practically impossible to get rid off, even if you choose not to install all the bloatware! Unfortunately, in this case I was installing AOL Instant Messenger because some colleagues use this as their preferred IM tool. Anyway, I’m going off at a tangent... which brings me quite nicely to WildTangent.

So, who or what is WildTangent? The first I heard of it was when I saw this:

WildTangent Cookie: Privacy Alert

Now, I wouldn’t say I’m paranoid at all when it comes to the Internet, but I do find it interesting to see what sneaky web developers are trying to stuff into my cookies. I usually just click the Allow Cookie button and be done with it, but this alert caught me off guard because I didn’t even have Internet Explorer open when it popped up – and it had a crazy looking icon in my Windows taskbar!

Admittedly, the first thing I thought was, “ARGH! VIRUS ALERT! EVACUATE THE AREA!!!” After I calmed myself down, I clicked Block Cookie and Googled [wildtangent]. The first result was for the company’s website but the second result was PC Hell: How to Remove WildTangent. Now that sounded like something I wanted to read...

Having read that page, it appears that AOL partnered with WildTangent to provide games from within AOL Instant Messenger. Great. That sounds fun. But wait a minute... I don’t remember giving my permission for WildTangent to install anything, so what the hell is this doing in my Add or Remove Programs window?

Add or Remove Programs: WildTangent Web Driver

More to the point, what are they doing trying save cookies on my computer even though I’ve never been to their website and I’m not even browsing the Internet!?!

Oh... and I nearly forgot to mention that the AOL Instant Messenger license doesn’t mention WildTangent anywhere!

The dirty bastards...

Update: 15 November 2005 (23:01)

Having uninstalled WildTangent via the Add or Remove Programs window, I’m still seeing parts of it scattered around my computer in the usual places – i.e. the Program Files folder and the registry. According to their website, I’m supposed to email their support department if this happens. BTW, just for the record, it’s not spyware. It’s just unwanted and annoying.

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14 November 2005

Google Analytics

If you run a website, you’ll no doubt appreciate how interesting it is to view your visitor statistics and see how many people have found your website by searching for [google subdomains] or [who is tony ruscoe?]. (If you’re running an e-commerce site, you’ll probably pretend that you’re more interested in conversion goals and revenue. Whatever...)

Well, Google have taken aim at yet another battleship and blown it out of the water. This time they’ve rebranded the Urchin software that they acquired earlier this year and released it as Google Analytics. So, how much does it cost? A few thousand dollars a month perhaps? Nope. A couple of hundred then? Nope. In true Google style, they’ve gone and done it for free.

Personally, I use the statistical analysis software that my web host provides for me. It does what I need it to do, but then I’m not interested in complex tracking, fancy graphs or increasing my conversion rates. (I’ve still added the Google Analytics code to my website though just so that I can see what it does.) However, for the small to medium companies who want instant reports on how they’re site is doing, this appears to be the answer – and it’s going to be a serious blow to companies like WebTrends and Omniture whose software costs hundreds and thousands of dollars (depending on the size of your site or the number of hits you get).

Of course, all the usual folk will be screaming and shouting about how Google is invading their privacy because they’ll now know about every website they’ve been visiting (or at least, the ones that are using Google Analytics). I can only see this as a good thing though. To Google, the information being tracked by Google Analytics is obviously priceless, which is why they can afford to offer the service for free. Imagine if they use the data to enhance their search results and page rankings... that would certainly shake things up a bit!

On the surface, it looks like Google are about to put the entire web statistics and analysis industry out of business, but whether this is true depends entirely on how the industry responds to this release and how Google continues to develop this service.

[Via Matt Cutts]

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11 November 2005

Forty Faces: Who Just Blogged?

Earlier this week, I emailed my photo and blog URL to Philipp Lenssen for a new website he was planning after he requested people to do so via Google Blogoscoped. I had no idea what the site would do, but all became clear when it was released earlier today.

Forty Faces is a very simple idea, but I like it. The home page displays forty faces (some of which are duplicates) that correspond to a blogger who has submitted a photo and blog URL for inclusion on the site. Whenever one of the bloggers makes a post to their blog, their portrait is added to the top of the page and it links to their latest post.

In his article on Weblog Usability: The Top Ten Design Mistakes, Jakob Nielsen claims that a photo “offers a more personable impression of the author” and connects the virtual and “physical worlds”. To some extent, I think he’s right. He also suggests that author biographies add credibility to the opinions and thoughts expressed in a blog, so it will be interesting to see whether Philipp adds these to the Forty Faces site too.


9 November 2005

This is not a post about Google

My last post was sooooo popular that I can sense the Internet’s eyes have been watching me closely, anticipating my next move. Naturally, I feel like I should be following it up with something that will get the whole web talking again, but that’s simply not going to happen. Things have been unusually quiet on the Google front, so if you’re after some breaking news about “The Mighty G” I’m afraid you’ll have to look somewhere else as this is going to be one of those boring posts about what I’ve been up to recently – and I’m sorry about that because I hate posts like this too. Anyway...

A couple of weekends ago I went to the school reunion that I’d been organising since January. Only twelve people turned up, so it wasn’t a great turn out, but it was pretty much what I expected really. It was good to see the people who’d made the effort though. I did learn one very important lesson from the experience: not everyone uses the Internet as much as I do. (Some people don’t even have a computer, never mind an email address – can you even believe that!?) Maybe I’ll organise another reunion in five or ten years and use the good old Royal Mail to deliver my invites rather that rely on email.

In other news, I finally dusted off my credit card and purchased myself a Sony PSP. What a pain in the arse it was to get hold of one those! I should’ve listened to what people were saying back in May and either purchased an import or pre-ordered a UK version. After um-ing and ah-ing for a couple of days, I decided to order one from Play because their website said they were “In Stock”. However, after clicking the “Place Order” button and waiting for them to release my order, they suddenly decided that they were “Awaiting Stock” instead. Three weeks later, I was still PSP-less so I phoned my local Virgin Megastore – just on the off chance that they might have some – only to discover that they were expecting a delivery later that week. A couple of days later, they gave me a call and I had one in the palm of my hand... quite literally! My advice? Buy! Buy! Buy!

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