Wired on the iPad

Wired has launched a true digital magazine for the iPad. Some thoughts, from the perspective of a geek who works in publishing:

As a turbo-charged magazine, it’s very good…

…but better can be done.

What is a magazine? In the issue, there are reviews of glasses for geeks, with a beautifully-shot picture of them. It would be cool to let you virtually try them on using a photo from your library, but you can’t. And there is, as yet, no exploiting of, say, location-awareness or the always-on internet connection to parse data from the web for live charts. But is this the role of a magazine? To what extent can we play with its definition and still deliver something that makes sense and that, crucially, the public will ‘get’ enough to buy into?

Interactivity ≠ tapping a button to play a video full screen.

Yes, it’s a big download. Perhaps ironically, some of that heft comes from advertisers’ videos, the stuff buyers don’t actively want. (But if advertisers want to, they can take advantage of the fact that the line between editorial and advertising seems peculiarly blurred here, and create ‘advertising’ with genuine ‘editorial’ value.)

Flickability is poor. Despite the nav, it seems to focus you to a linear reading style. The print magazine format is still peerless for browsing.

Whether as a consequence of the low-res screen (forcing large point sizes) or the fact that content ‘reflows’ when the orientation changes, I don’t know, but there’s a real rash of ugly hyphenation. (I assume the pages are static, flattened graphics, and that text isn’t in any real sense reflowing; the level of layout and typographic control Condé Nast surely demands would be difficult to the point of impossibility with truly dynamic content, I suspect.)

I dislike, as I have begun to in some traditional utility apps, that the content changes depending on orientation. Not just the layout; some content only appears in particular orientations. While gamers might like this hidden feature malarky, it gets right up my tits. One reason magazines are good is that they’re finite; they curate, unlike the constantly-fed web, and you can ‘finish’ one. I have never in my life finished a game (actually, I could end that sentence there, but let’s carry on) and felt the need to go back through it to ‘collect all the coins’ or whatever; I have no desire to reread a magazine in a different orientation solely to see a few fragments that I might have missed the first time round.

If you believe £2.99/issue is too much,
  • you are an American who has had your reasonable perspective on pricing trashed by the American market’s ad-driven (rather than coverprice-driven) model, or
  • you have no idea of how much work goes into the production of a print magazine (or that you need to square it for a layout that can change, and cube it for anything that includes even basic interactivity or multimedia content), or
  • you’re a moron

(And I can’t think of even a good business reason, never mind a good UX reason, to sell individual issues as discrete apps.)

It is, ultimately, the best digital magazine on the best platform yet for digital magazines. Don’t dismiss it, but don’t hold it up as a paragon either. I’m sure Condé Nast is delighted with what has been achieved; I’m equally sure it recognises it has built a 1.0 experience.

Using a Canon Pixma MP640 over Wi-Fi with Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard

So I bought myself a Canon Pixma MP640. It’s just about the perfect multi-function device, with stellar print quality, separate ink tanks – including a second black for text – Wi-Fi (and Ethernet and USB), duplex, and the ability to print onto CDs and DVDs. It doesn’t have a document feeder, a fax, or the dedicated grey cartridge of its big brother for beautiful mono photos, but for around £140/$160, it’s a sodding brilliant device.

There’s just one problem: the installer doesn’t like Snow Leopard, at least if you want to use it on Wi-Fi. It’s easily remedied, however, and in fact, even when Canon gets round to updating the installers, I’d still recommend this method simply because it doesn’t clutter your Mac with relatively low-quality Canon ‘value-add’ software. It’s likely that this process will work with all recent Wi-Fi MFDs from Canon, but I’ve only tried it with the MP640.

01 CONFIGURE THE PRINTER FOR YOUR WI-FI NETWORK After you’ve unpacked the printer, installed the print head and cartridges, and run through the calibration process, use the Easy-Scroll Wheel to go to the settings menu on the printer, and join it to your Wi-Fi network.

02 PLUG IN OVER USB Snow Leopard has a new (Windows-like; shhh!) feature that will automatically grab printer drivers; plug the (switched on) MP640 into your Mac over USB – don’t worry, this is only temporary – and when the OS pops up a message asking you if you want to download and install the software for it, click Install.
Screen shot 2010-03-17 at 16.10.53
03 ALLOW THE MAC TO INSTALL THE DRIVERS Will take it a while to find, download and install; be patient!
Screen shot 2010-03-17 at 16.13.41
04 ADD THE PRINTER Now launch System Preferences and click the Print & Fax icon. You can delete the newly-added printer from the list (and disconnect the USB cable) unless you also want to be able to print/scan over USB as well as Wi-Fi. Click the + icon and up pops the window below; ignore the Bonjour scanner for the moment. Wait a few more seconds, and a second entry will appear, this time of the kind ‘canonijnetwork’. (The name for yours will be different; I changed the Bonjour Service Name prior to starting by connecting to the printer from Safari’s Bonjour browser; this is unimportant, however.) Select that printer then click Add.
Screen shot 2010-03-17 at 16.21.45
05 WI-FI SCANNING You can also scan over Wi-Fi. You don’t actually need to do anything extra here. You can fire up Image Capture and, after a few seconds, your MP640 will appear under Shared devices. You can, though, repeat step four, selecting the Bonjour scanner in the screen above, which will give you a wireless scanner ‘app’ – complete with pretty icon for the Dock – that you can double-click to launch from the Print & Fax pane, then choose optionally to keep in your Dock. It’s actually reasonably accomplished, too, though the full proper scanner driver – part of the MP Navigator EX program, that you may be able to install separately; I didn’t try – offers more control over variables such as descreen.
Screen shot 2010-03-17 at 16.29.11
Screen shot 2010-03-17 at 16.36.13
BONUS TIP One thing you might miss from the official package is the ability to print directly onto CDs and DVDs. (Well I say “miss”, but Canon’s CD-printing utility is dreadful.) Happily, Disc Cover from the Ukrainian geniuses at BeLight Software is compatible, and it is a joy to use. If you don’t already own a copy, it’s $35 well spent, but if you have a recent version of Roxio Toast, you probably have a lite edition already; have a look in your Toast Titanium folder. In my testing, using some printable Sony CD-Rs, I got better results – less bleed, in other words – by picking Printable Disc rather than Standard for the Sizes option, but once you’ve designed your label, you just have to choose Direct to CD/DVD printing, and the Canon Tray Type F,G (CD Tray) preset. (Look at the CD tray that came with the printer; it’s got a big G at the bottom left.)

Overall, though, I’m delighted with the MP640; I installed from the enclosed CD on a Mac running Mac OS X 10.4, another running Mac OS X 10.5, and a PC running Windows XP without incident. And, like I say, I actually prefer the purity of my two Snow Leopard systems, which are free of Canon crapware.

Please do Digg, Stumble, tweet and, best of all, link to this post so that anyone having trouble can easily get their MP640 up and running with 10.6 on a wireless network!

More complex need not equal more difficult

I am horrified at the sight of people vomiting up reactionary, unconsidered or plain wilfully ignorant rhetoric about the iPad, especially when a vanishingly small fraction of the world’s population has actually seen one. To quote, um, myself: if anyone tells you that the iPad “is” anything – especially if they tell you that it “is just” anything – they’re a fool, a cretin and an arsehole. Or, perhaps, merely a bit egotistical, a bit unimaginative, or just ever-so-slightly desirous of generating revenue from the contextual advertising that accompanies their masturbatory ramblings.

Two things strike me as sufficiently important (and sufficiently non-self-explanatory) to warrant my time to write and yours to read. The first is that while that part of the industry – hacks, devs, users, retailers and sundry analysts – which is possessed of adequate humility, imagination or integrity is quietly positing a future in which less time is spent using computers to tend to computers, Apple itself was peculiarly restrained in its stated vision for the iPad. We weren’t told that this was a new computing paradigm. We weren’t told that this was a shift from Old World to New World computing, regardless of how logical that shift might seem. I’ll entertain as plausible the idea that this was because the notion of telling people that ‘the Mac/PC is dead’ is too big to sell – especially to investors – or that, as it stands, Apple’s implementation of the iPhone OS ecosystem is simply too immature to serve as a convincing replacement even for those relatively simple tasks it excels at. But still: it’s notable that it’s the industry that is even debating the future of the personal computer paradigm, not Apple. (Caveat: …at least publicly.)

Glass-bottle-bottle-glass3
The second point develops the argument so well-articulated by Steven Frank. (Not familiar with it? It’s impossible to summarise without ripping out the nuance, and that does the thesis a disservice; make time to read it. It’s not dazzlingly original – in a good way; it’s a statement of fact, and facts have only a limited quotient of original – but the case is better made than I’ve seen most people achieve.) And here’s my flourish, my addition to the discussion: for once, technology is decreasing in complexity from the user’s perspective, while increasing in complexity in the absolute. My example of this is a button in the National Rail application for the iPhone, marked ’Next train home’. Tap this button, and the iPhone works out where it is, where the nearest station is and, knowing which is your ‘home’ station, tells you what time the next train you can get is, displaying delays on services as it does so. Think: that’s a colossally complex task. Monumental. Herculean. Involves billions of pounds of infrastructure, enormous gouts of code, uncountable man-hours of work on making sure that this cog works with that cog; alloying just staggering – and staggeringly-different – technologies together.

There has always been a drive to make the complex accessible, to abstract away the mind-buggeringly difficult, and present just the bits we need to see in order to control. (I know how an internal combustion engine works in theory – couldn’t build one – but I can make a car go by pressing the accelerator. I know how the internet works – couldn’t build it – but I can buy a new lens for my SLR by going to Amazon.) The National Rail app, however, is emblematic of a tempo change in this push towards accessibility, usefulness and merit.

I would be disappointed if, by the time I retire, even this use of highly complex and interdependent technology to present a simple, human-centric – ‘human-parsable’ – result is seen as anything other than dreadfully old-fashioned, yet I say again: if the iPad represents a future in which the highly complex isn’t merely made less so, but is mashed up with other stuff to create usefulness far in excess of its constituent parts, then that’s something worth feeling happy about.

Further reading
Steven Frank: I need to talk to you about computers
Fraser Speirs: Future Shock
My post at MacFormat: Is the iPad a computer or a peripheral?
Tom Royal: There are two ways to reduce complexity
John Gruber: Various iPad thoughts (Aaaargh, car analogy!)
Craig Hockenberry: iPad liberation (Describes what I usually refer to as ‘sitting forward’ and ’sitting back’ computing. Has resonance for me as a journalist, as I suspect that one of the reasons e-mags remain niche is because the dominant paradigm for computers is ’sitting forward’, requiring thought and attention, and reeking of work.)

Carlos has a broken nose

It's a good job that MacFormat's photoshoot with our car took place yesterday…

Carlos fine

IMAGE COURTESY OF FUTURE PUBLISHING LTD/JOBY SESSIONS

...as today an MPV reversed into us and now Carlos has a squished nose:

Carlos damage

The Essential iTunes & iPod Handbook

How remiss of me; completely forgot to pimp my latest project, MacFormat presents The Essential iTunes & iPod Handbook, chez recedinghairline.co.uk, so get ready for some pimpin’. Basically, it’s an everything-you-need-to-know guide for anyone with an iPod, with reviews, tutorials, features and more, and it’s written for Mac and PC users in clear, jargon-free English. Plus, there’s purdy pictures – you can download a pack of stunning images of the iPod range to use as desktop backgrounds – and a free copy of the excellent CoverScout 2 (worth €30) for Mac users. Look at the pretty example spreads!

Buy
Use
Add

International food parcels

The MacFormat Cultural Outreach Programme

Chatting to one of my colleagues from our sister magazine, Mac|Life, the idea of The MacFormat Cultural Outreach Programme was born. I bought and packaged up a selection of the finest comestibles this great nation of ours has ever produced, and mailed them off to the peeps in San Francisco.

The journey wasn’t kind to the box; when we sent it, it looked like this:
Before
...but when it arrived in the US of A – after a baffling detour to Germany, apparently – it looked like this:
After
More photos from the American end here, and if you’d like to know what was in the box o’ treats, you can read Wife’s PDF commentary here. Now, we wait; American deliciousnessnessness will be here before long.

Gizza job

I may be a technology journalist, but I trained as a graphic designer. I was always a geek, and when, a few weeks after graduating, I saw an ad for a Labs Assistant for MacUser, I applied. I got the job and the rest, as people have an egotistical habit of saying, is history. I was planning on applying for design jobs, though, and had even got as far as designing and prototyping the little bit of direct mail I had intended to send. I found it the other day:
Knickers
Knickers text
Wife insists that this was originally her idea; this may be* technically true.

*is

MacFormat v5.5β1

We've redesigned! Or rather, in deference to Cameron Moll's Good Designers Redesign, Great Designers Realign manifesto, we've realigned; this was no mere facelift, but a chance to make MacFormat a more coherent, accessible magazine. We've reorganised to bring hitherto-disparate sections together, introduced some new sections and page elements, and increased legibility. We've reduced our use of reversed-out text, switched to a new family of typefaces, and both increased the point size and line spacing of text. The new issue will hit the newsstands next week, but I am empowered to give a sneeky-peeky right here, chez Receding Hairline.

01 News03 Feature04 Tutorial07 Review08 Buyers' Guide
Apologies for the geeky post title, by the way. I have no idea how often MacFormat has redesigned before.

Apple gets name of own product wrong

I’m not saying that someone at Apple should be shot – something I have been told about staff on a magazine I’ve worked for when a reader spotted a typo – but I am genuinely surprised to see Apple, a company famed for meticulous, anal attention to detail, making gaffes like this one. The lack of an intercap B on MacBook, right on the www.apple.com/uk homepage, is weird. Was Steve personally proofing the pages before he took some time off?

“Its – it’s hardly hard!”

Picture 1
And this in the interface to a high-profile Apple application, too. I am genuinely shocked; Apple is usually at last least as anal as I when it comes to grammar. Blargle.

Clever Wife!

Wife, who has been at Future for less than two months, has already been nominated for an Online Excellence award, part of the company’s internal awards scheme. She didn’t, ultimately, win, but even to be nominated so soon after joining is fantastic, and what her contributions did for the company is phenomenal. The nominations blurb says:

Production Assistant Jenny Phin posted daily content throughout the Christmas period, with links to ideas for things to make and freebies to download for card making viewers. She did a great job in producing short, snappy, high-value content, which kept users coming back to the blog on a daily basis at a key time of the year. This resulted in Papercraft Inspirations’ highest traffic figures yet, and with REDACTED page views it achieved the highest traffic of all craft blogs at Future during this period.

You Rock, wife. It’s official.

Thing equals other thing

San Francisco = current location
Up for = more than 24 hours
Internet connection = shitty
Me = too tired to write proper sentences
Below = some night time pics from SF
Flickr = not updated yet
Wife = missed

SFflowers
SFleaves
SFshadow

Switch to Mac!

And as my hairline takes another leap towards the nape of my neck, Future Publishing Ltd is delighted to announce another special, MacFormat presents Switch to Mac!, this time aimed at the burgeoning ‘switchers’ market, those krazy kats who are switching from PC to Mac in their tens of thousands. (Over half of all Macs sold are sold to those who’ve never used a Mac before, Apple tells us.)

Like its stablemate The Essential iPhone Handbook, it’s a thing of beauty. I didn’t edit this one, but I wrote about a third of it all told; I’ve been going through it again just now to put the graphics together for this post, and I’m really proud of what we’ve created. There’s loads of information in there, including which Mac is right for you, how to migrate your data from your PC to your new Mac, and how to use all the best-of-breed media applications that all Macs ship with. Plus there’s troubleshooting advice and some ideas on essential kit you can add to your Mac setup; it’s all written specifically for ex-Windows users, too, with liberal use of terms Windows users will be familiar with, and jargon-busters and dictionaries galore.

Go! Buy a copy for the switcher in your life!

MACS12-1MACS12-2MACS12-3MACS12-4MACS12-5MACS12-6MACS12-7

Job swap

Do you ever do that thing with your significant other where you wonder what it would be like if you swapped jobs for a day? Wife and I pretty much did that today, with she on her second day of life as a Futureite, and me on the first of three days teaching some lovely folks at the company how to use Apple’s presentation app, Keynote.

It was strange, going home together and comparing notes on our day that sounded like the wrong person was saying them; her concerns were all editorial, and mine were all about teaching, learning objectives and assessment. Still, it was fun, and I’m looking forward to the next two sessions – intermediate and advanced – over the coming days. (Picture included below simply because I think posts can look a bit bereft without images, but it’s just a static PNG; no free Keynote training for you, Jimbob.)

Keynote training

While you’re here, why not pop over to my ma’s Picasa page and witness the demolition* of my childhood home?

* It’s not actually being demolished; only the manky modern extension is being knocked down, and in its place a phoenix† will arise.
† A smarter new extension with lots of storage and an en-suite, I meant to say.

Oh hai

Look what happens when you search for ‘Phin’ in the Future directory:
Picture 2
That’s right, people; we is a power couple. Tomorrow we’ll be skipping, hand in hand, to Future Towers, as Wife embarks on a new career that doesn’t involve getting up at 5:45, cleaning up spilled yoghurt, or threats of physical violence from sixth formers. Unless we’ve horribly misjudged PaperCraft Inspirations.

And yes, I’m a crap blogger just now. Pax.

The Essential iPhone Handbook

So, yes, things have been A Bit Busy recently, as pointed out by Wife, and as has been apparent from my veering-wildly-between-euphoria-and-despair status updates over there on the right. I can now exclusively (read: not exclusively at all) reveal what has been behind it all: I’ve been nurturing our latest baby, the snappily-titled MacFormat presents The Essential iPhone Handbook, into existence.

And what a pretty thing it is too. A hundred pages long, it’s packed with beautiful photography and easy-to-understand, authoritative advice, and includes independent buying information, helpful tutorials, reviews of the very best third-party applications and hardware, clear and concise troubleshooting guides, and interviews with celebrities about their iPhones.

Go! Buy a copy! Justify Future’s faith in making me its editor! (And please note that the cover image currently on My Favourite Magazines is incorrect; I’m chasing to get it changed.)

Gesture Guide
Tutorial
App reviews
Earphones
Feature
Me My iPhone
Told you it was a pretty, pretty thing. That portrait of Woz is my work, too; I must remember to mail a copy to my old (read: former) art teacher to demonstrate that I haven’t completely forgotten how to hold a paintbrush*.
* Actually, it’s a digital painting, created using the ever-excellent ArtRage, so it was not so much a paintbrush that got wielded as a stylus, but the point still, just, stands.

A liguistic stinker

The toilets in Future Towers recently sprouted some signs. They read:

To Avoid Blockages, Please Only Put Toilet Tissue Down The Toilet Pan

Clearly, there’s some weirdness with the <twat>wonderfully vernacular</twat> setting of the type, and the persistent Crazy Caps™ are a bit odd as well, but the thing that stands out most is that it lends itself to a particularly anal kind of, if you’ll excuse the pun, piss-taking, of the “Oh, so we can’t put bodily waste down the toilet now?” stripe. And every time I visit, my mind wanders and tries, vainly, to reword it so it’s concise but immune from gags.

So here’s your task, web peeps: reword this sign, presumably from scratch, so it is both elegant English – nothing cutesy, please – and not open to any kind of punning abuse from work-monkeys. Go!

Let there be light!

I’m working late at Future, and because folks here rarely work past 5:30, I’m the only one here. (Goldberg Variations cranked up to 11; now that’s that I’m talkin’ about.)

CLARIFICATION People here aren’t lazy bastards, and often some folks do put in prodigious unpaid overtime; it’s simply that as an institution Future’s much less about the late working than, say, Dennis was when I was there.

It’s a bit spooky, though; the lights are all motion controlled, so as I sit, lights switch off around me till I’m left in a fitful pool of light on one corner of the office. If I don’t move enough – sitting in one spot typing solidly will trigger it – even these lights will die.

The weird thing comes when you walk across the office to get a drink, say; as you walk, the lights along your path come on in a distressingly messianic way. Set the whole thing to Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi, slow to half speed, crop to CinemaScope, and it all feels a bit like the watershed moment in an arthouse flick about office workers.

Or maybe I should simply stop getting #13s from the coffee machine.

↑ = ✓

So a few weeks ago I had a white board fitted at MacFormat so we could keep track of reviews stuff. The plan went slightly awry, however, and it was horribly abused. And so, before we wiped it the other day in order to use it properly, I took a (shitty iPhone*) shot of the madness so that it was recorded for posterity.
The board
Please note: every single thing on the board is pure wank. Nothing is based in fact and nothing here should be taken as characterisation of MacFormat, the market, publishing in general, humanity, the people at the magazine or, indeed, anything at all.

* The iPhone’s camera is utterly mediocre; for the first time ever today, however, I took a photo in relatively low light using my iPhone that wasn’t dreadful. iPhone in ‘not taking terrible photos’ shocker.

The magazine-as-roast-chicken analogy

The perfect magazine, for me, should be just like a roast chicken* – bear with me on this, and excuse the crunching gears of metaphor and reality.
  • There should be a real feeling of anticipation before you begin reading.
  • You should be excited about getting started on a nice bit of breast – the big main coverfeature that attracted you to the magazine. And it should be mighty satisfying...
  • ...but there should also be delicious legs and wings – smaller features that are just as delicious as the main ones but that you didn’t necessarily buy the chicken for.
  • And even when you think you’ve finished, there should be a few little regular treats – the oysters, say, or bit of crispy skin – that you tend to forget about before you actually start eating the chicken, but that when you remember about, you’re really glad the chicken’s, um, editor, implemented them some years ago.
  • Even then – after the breasts, legs, oysters, skin and everything else have been eaten – there’s still some enjoyable picking to be done. Captions to be read, sidebars to be enjoyed, letter to be read; that sort of thing.
I think that I should start an editorial and management consultancy course where I espose various ‘x-as-x’ food-based analogies for every kind of product imaginable. Except food, which I would of course compare to magazines, cars and luxury cosmetics. Who’s with me?

* Assumes you like chicken, and that, like me, you’re a breast man.

No pain, no gain

Remind me never again to suggest a feature that requires dozens of pieces of kit and four on-location photoshoots. Remind me particularly to schedule a heavy cold for a different couple of days. Enjoyed mucking about with my camera in the Blue Rooms today, though. Got a few interesting shots when my longer exposures, metered for the dim light, synced with Jesse's flash that was being used for the shoot proper.
2536565631_d6f9afc7dc_b

A year at MacFormat

May 14 marks my one year anniversary at MacFormat. Yes, it really has been a year. No, seriously, dude; I know it seems like just yesterday, but it has been a full twelve months since I moved from the rat race to the dormouse race† so to celebrate here are some vital a-year-at-MacFormat numbers for you stat-monkeys.

107,423 Total words written
≈366 Average wordcount per day
612KB* Words generated
114.3MB Screenshots generated
607 Number of times I've written ‘Mac’
13 & 55 Favourite Future machine drinks

† Remarkably similar to the rat race and with just as much squeaking, but decidedly cuter. And with less Yersinia pestis.
* Aaaaaargh – a year's work! 600K! It would fit on a pissing floppy disk. Twice!

Ridding oneself of Fraggles

Yeah, so I'm writing a piece for one of our sister titles (it's all a bit incestuous) and asked Mrs P to cast her deliberately untechnical eye over it to make sure it read OK to the n00b. I showed her how to use Track Changes, which is just as well as I discovered when I opened her draft that she had – in an act of undeserved subversion – changed defragging to defraggling.

Funny.

Ma mamma tol’ me...

The ’Format Crü were chez Phin today for a photoshoot – very Homes & Gardens – and while everyone including Jenny was hard at work, James and Graham indulged in a little Blues, caucasian-style.
White Blues

An open letter to the PR industry

Dear everyone in PR

I am writing to you today just to say hi and to explain a few things about how a journalist does his job and about how you can help me, MacFormat’s readers, yourself and your client.

Y’see, it’s all really, really simple. I know you have all sorts of other things to do – campaigns to formulate, ROI to track, lunches to have; those paradigms won’t shift themselves – but me, the journo-hack, basically just wants three things.

First and foremost – PR 101 – I want you to know about the product you’re representing. I don’t expect you to know every technical detail and be able to answer any arcane question I might have the temerity to put to you, but I think it’s fair to assume that you will at least be familiar with the broad brushstroke stuff. And for pity’s sake don’t confuse ‘marketing tag line’ with product knowledge; that’s just tiresome and I’ll get curiously polite on the phone.

Second, if I request a product for review, please send it in. Soon. I might be on the borderline of deciding whether I think it’s worth our readers’ time anyway, so I’m not going to chase it unless it’s a major release or some product I suspect is crap but that folks are in danger of buying. Failing that, let me know when I should expect it. Magazines are usually pretty tightly planned, so if I know your thing won’t arrive for another three weeks, that’s fine; I’ll just plan around it. And don’t dare try to pull the ‘I’m putting you at the top of the list’ line unless you actually are.

Third; press releases. This is kinda related to my first point. I really want to hear about your products, so make sure you have my email address for press releases. But only if they’re relevant. We’re a consumer Mac magazine; what possible relevance do you think your blanket, all-points email about a new PC laptop, enterprise SAN system or mobile industry awards has for us? Ah, yes, you didn’t think, did you?

All the fun stuff that you do – lunches, briefings in exotic locations, Christmas parties – is great, but all the corporate special-edition cocktails in the world won’t make up for any deficiencies in these three basic tenets, nor will it make me ignore all the utterly cretinous dribble we have to wade through on a daily basis.

Don’t be hurt. I love working with you guys and most of you do a great job, especially with some of the tat you’re given to market.

Hugs and kisses
Sig

I can't put flowers in my hair; I'm bald

San Francisco is proving much more enjoyable this year than on past trips; partly it's just that I have more time – a clear two and a half days before work proper starts – partly it's because Mrs P is here and I feel more up for doing touristy things, and partly it's because I've been here sufficiently frequently now that I have a decent idea of the geography of the place and of where's fun. Photographic shennanigans follow.

Lines
SF
Lombard
Alcatraz
Rockies
Sunrise

From my diary next week

3am – 5:30am: Dinner with Apple

I fucking hate time zones.

I don't have the ability to write anything more; go and read the wife's blog instead.

Also, it was Dave's last day today. *Sniff* Bye, Dave and Mendy. *Sniff*

Webcam of wonder

Are you creepy? Do you want to see what I do all day? Then you'll enjoy the recently-insigated webcam; there's a link over there on the right.
periscope

The krazy kids at Dennis are obviously enjoying it. Here, accompanied by the note "Future Publishing forced to ban Tippex after staff bullying incident" is Barry's effort.
Twat

Nik wasn't to be outdone.
Nevermind

And then came this from Ross. "Ooooh. You should really nail that page furniture down more securely. Imagine if that had been an ACME anvil, for example."
Fedora
It's not like they have magazines to publish or anything.

The Designer's Desktop Manual

They say that every man has a book in him. By that measure, I only have two thirds of book left in me, having contributed heavily to Jason Simmons' tome for designers. A copy arrived on my desk the other day, and very swish it is too. It covers everything from theory to practice, and, though I say it myself, it's a damned fine resource.
TDDM
There are some sample chapters up for browsing at the publisher's site, and if you want a copy – it's only £15 – you can buy it from Amazon; click here or on the graphic in the sidebar, and I'll get a little slice of commission from Amazon.

In other news, I tottered through to London on Thursday for a press briefing which was held at the O2. I now more than ever regret not making it down to Greenwich when 'the O2' actually was the Millennium Dome. It's a phenomenal building, and I'm really looking forward to next weekend's trip to see the Foo Fighters performing there.
O2

When in Paris

I am in Pareeee for the expo, and, as usual, using my pretty convincing French accent and Gallic shrugs to fool waiters into thinking I can actually speak the damned language. I can usually make myself understood, with many crunching gears as tenses and verb endings are treated more as Platonic ideals than actual grammatical rules, but the problem with translation is not necessarily understand what the individual words say, but a grasp of idiom as well. Take this poster as an example:
French poster
I understand that the top line translates as “Your new best friend”, so I'm assuming the French call dogs man's best friend too. I understand that in response to one dog's question “But what does it have that we haven't?”, the other answers, “Dog, Oscar, dog”, and I imagine that there is some hilarious play on words there – ‘chien’ meaning both simply dog and something else – but without knowing what that ‘something else’ is, the whole thing takes on a surreal quality which is only heightened by how dazed I already am from this whole expo thang. Bleh.

In at the deep end

MacFormat pool
Despite a to-do list that is running to a third volume, MacFormat took the afternoon off to celebrate its recent circulation announcement that puts it as the highest circulating Mac magazine in the UK. (Actually, you can cut the pie in different ways to say the same thing about MacUser or Macworld, but as far as the bare stats go, MacFormat is #1.)

So we had lunch at a rather nice little Italian next to the weir and then went next door to a pleasantly grotty pub to play pool. I had to confess that this was essentially the first time I had ever played. And the wine and gin didn't really help. Despite this rather phenomenal handicap, James and I managed just to pull in front of Michelle and Graham to win four games to three. How very exciting. So this is what normal people did at university. As well as bonking like bunnies.

A little housekeeping: RSS

Just a quick note to say that the address for the RSS feed for this site has changed. The old one will continue to be published, but if you could resubscribe to the new address it will make things a bit easier down the road. Apologies if your RSS reader went a bit nuts with Receding Hairline posts.

Also, this article on the ol’ Amstrad PCW brought back fond memories; my first proper computer was the PcW10 with its 'paper-white' display. I'm a LocoScript boy at heart.

And finally, below is the phenomenal volume of paper and assorted tat – note that the mug and pen are special Induction-branded examples, though you can't see it – from my official Future induction. Note too that the foil-wrapped thing is a lolly, not a condom; they don't encourage that degree of colleague interaction. Future. Is. The. Best. Better. Than. All. The. Rest. *beep*

Future tat

Why the BBC will never distribute DRM-free TV programmes

As a public service, and because this sort of intelligent contribution to the public debate is what blogging should strive to be, here is a link to Mr Betteridge's superb post entitled Why the BBC will never distribute DRM-free TV programmes. Thoroughly, thoroughly worth the read, and though he is, I believe from his writing, an advocate of liberalising the intellectual property laws, it's not a Doctorow-style rant, and addresses the reality of the system in which the world does business. Cory might well have valuable things to say, but he has never managed to convince me that he's not simply a dangerous alloy of wide-eyed dreamer and stickin'-in-to-the-man zealot.

Favourite email eva

Hello Chris,

Please can you call Phil Hadler @ FSC Music on no peeking, folks.

The message I took is 'Rock Frog £89'. He said you would know what that meant.

Thank you
Sam @ Monmouth Street Reception



Try saying the last sentence in an ominous voice: “He said you would know what that meant...” Also, I'd like to point out that this entire communication was intended for a colleague of mine, Chris Vinnicombe. I thought not working with Chris Finnamore at Dennis would have put paid to hilarious crossed wires...

Random fact I learned today: the phrase “the man on the Clapham omnibus” has been incorporated in Canadian patent jurisprudence. Canadian, I tell you. Madness.

The Three Thousand Dollar iPhone

Prices
With the announcement of the iPhone's price plans today, I dusted off my calculator (widget) and worked out how much an iPhone would cost me over the length of my mandatory two year contract with AT&T. The result is that if you choose the cheaper iPhone and the cheapest price plan, I'd be looking at just under $81 a month. Put another way, it's a total of just under $2000 for the whole of the two years, assuming I don't go over the bundled minutes and SMS allowance in that plan.

Want a better value deal? The 8GB iPhone allied with the $99/month plan would cost me a rather terrifying $2999 over the course of the contract, a price so neat and tidy that you wonder if someone has done this calculation before me...

Price table

Transcribe those prices straight to pounds sterling, and the more expensive options works out at £62 a month, and even that price makes me wince a little. It's impossible to calculate how much the iPhone and its data plans will be when it's available here in the UK. Normally, figuring out the UK price involves doing a straight conversion (halve the dollar price), then replacing the dollar sign with a pound sign on the original price, and splitting the difference depending on the size and attitude of the company involved. With phones, it's a wholly different matter. The price of the phone is much more at the whim of the carriers – apparently driving a hard bargain here in Europe, much to nobody's surprise – and is entirely bound up in the nature of the price plans.

All AT&T's price plans in the States, for example, include unlimited data for email and web browsing; that could turn out not to be the case in the UK, which could in theory mean that the handset itself is cheaper. (Why? The iPhone encourages people to use data, either by making web/email easier and more pleasant than ever, through using Web 2.0 apps, or just by pinging weather and stocks services for updates. The data traffic, if billable, ensures revenue in the future for the carriers and so they can further subsidise the cost of the handset.)

All of this makes me much less decided about buying an iPhone. Nothing has changed with the device itself – it's still a superb piece of immaculately-executed technology, and the spell I fell under when I had it in my hands in San Fancisco in January hasn't broken – but the figure of three thousand dollars sounds a hell of a daunting. Are you tempted?


* UK prices converted using the exchange rate of 0.50014

MacFormat: The definitive reaction to Leopard

Cut through all the Leopard misinformation and rhetoric with MacFormat's special edition podcast, in which I talk about what the new operating system offers, how it disappoints, and what Apple's announcement about no SDK for the iPhone really means. Information on how to download or subscribe to the podcast can be found at MacFormat's site, and be sure to let us know what you think.

MacFormat podcast

Infinite Loop, start your photocopiers

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Transparent menu bar; that's just so Vista, dude.

page4_blog_entry335_2
Downloads folder; Vista has that. (So does every bloody operating system if you create a new folder and can master your motor functions sufficiently to bash the letters D, O, W, N, L, O, A, D and S on a keyboard.)

page4_blog_entry335_3
Proper thumbnail previews; Vista got there first, though adding Quick Look makes the experience much richer.

page4_blog_entry335_4
Spaces; in damn near every Linux distro under the sun.

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Parental controls; Vista, Vista, Vista, Vista.

page4_blog_entry335_6
OS-level backup; XP, for goodness' sake.

The point I'm making, here, folks, is that good ideas are good ideas; please don't get all arsey about who had them first. Integrate backup into an OS, and the users win. Give us proper thumbnail icons, and the users win. Put any good idea at all into an operating system, and the users win.

Apple's “Redmond, start your photocopiers” line is a very dangerous and frankly a little silly game to play. Grow up, please, boys and girls.

A new safari vista opens up

Vista Safaripng

Safari? In my Windows? Dirty bastards.

User Format

MAC182cover2
It's with a weird mix of emotions that I finally write here that I'm moving jobs, and moving moving too. My new working week this coming Monday will begin not with me running down stairs and jumping on the 453 heading for Regent Street, but walking down from Sion Hill in Bath to my new job at MacFormat. Friday is my last official day at MacUser, though I'm having a quiet mojito or six on Thursday evening to mark the end of my employment with Dennis. (Was I rude enough not to invite you? Send me an email at for details.)

And boy does it feel weird disengaging from MacUser. I've worked there for almost five years – my first job after finishing university – and in that time have gone from a wet-behind-the-ears sonofabitch to an arrogant sonofabitch. I've acquired a bulging address book, met more nice people than many people can hope to meet in a lifetime, ditto utter wankers, laughed, cried (literally, genuinely), been proud of what we do, seen my wife get a job because of low-grade nepotism but keep it because of her talent, and much more besides. MacUser has given me skills, opportunities and earning potential afforded few lucky souls – a career, when you get down to it – and it'll always be a bit special for me for this and other reasons.

I'm going to love moving to a monthly title rather than a fortnightly one, though, and I'm a huge fan of what MacFormat have been doing over the last couple of years. There's a real enthusiasm at the magazine that I'm going to really enjoy being a part of; regardless of all this, however, I imagine I'll get a tad emotional as I take my leave from The Mighty ’User.

It remains a fantastic magazine for professionals – the perfect foil to MacFormat's more approachable, consumer-friendly approach – and I wish it and all the spectacularly gifted individuals behind the brand all my very best.

Onwards and westwards, folks; onwards and westwards.

CS3: The definitive verdict

CS3
Creative Suite 3 is finally here, and MacUser has spent weeks with the final betas to delivery the definitive verdict on this huge collection of applications. Go and read the reviews, and see what's new, what hasn't changed, and if you should upgrade. If you have a Digg account, please Digg this story too.

Like a jewel in the sun

Barcelona panorama
The last couple of days saw me in Barcelona, working very hard and getting very little sleep. I visited once as a youth; quite fortunate, really, as this Photoshop CS3-beta-created panorama was about the closest I got to the city this time around – we barely had time to sprint to the Sagrada Familia and back. There are some more photos here.

It was while here that I came up with a slightly more sophisticated version of my definition of 'what is art'. Up to now, this was best summed up as "if you call it art, it's art", but by this definition I could call a paving slab – in situ, I mean, just part of a pavement – art, which I think many people would have a problem with. Theory 2.0 – and I'm not claiming this is original; it's just original to me, and may have/probably has been thought before – is that art is "anything created with the express purpose of being art". This usefully excludes a paving slab on a pavement, but allows for a paving slab to be shown in a white space gallery as part of an artist's reaction to or dialogue with his or her environment. Discuss.

C'mon! Work it!

Contrary to all sense and common decency, 5:30am does actually exist. I know this for a fact because that's the time I rose this morning to join my lady wife on her commute to school. Only a hella strong mocha saved me from lapsing into a hypothermic, sleep-deprived coma while standing on the station platform. Early morning urban landscapes are picturesque, though, no? A couple more pics here.

New Cross Station

Live coverage of Steve Jobs' keynote address

As y'all may be aware, on Monday I'm off across the Pond to San Francisco to cover the expo there for MacUser. I will have Internet access all week, of course, so I hope to blog a few of my personal experiences here.

For official coverage of the event, we hope to cover the main event live. Traditionally, there's no Wi-Fi coverage in the hall during Steve Jobs' keynote, so I'll be connected via a data connection over Bluetooth to my mobile phone. It's a 3G/GPRS phone, though, so the connection should be plenty fast.

Details of this coverage are available on Digg, and we'd be most grateful if as many people as possible could Digg this story to promote it up the list; so long as the technology works, this will be the the fastest way to find out about the exciting new announcements.

iPhone? Tablet Mac? Leopard? Video iPod? You can find out first with MacUser!

Power and effluence

Much excitement at Dennis Towers yesterday, as a power cut left the building dark and eerily silent. Seriously, air conditioning is a spectacularly noisy thing, and when the power died, there was a few seconds of utter quiet as reams of journalists and associated folks stared dumbly at blank screens trying to comprehend the enormity of the event. But while we were all chucked out onto the pavement while the problem was investigated, I was delighted to notice that one of my esteemed colleagues didn't allow the relocation to stop him working. With a PDA glued to his ear and ThinkPad on his lap, the wonderful Timothy had a Duracell moment and just kept on going. Class.

Working man
Later in the evening, we decamped to Wax bar for the Dennis Christmas party. The theme was 'movie stars' – at which I pulled off my by now semi-traditional Dr Evil by painting on a scar using liquid latex – and there were predictably a very few good costumes. Some random chap did do a spectacular Child Catcher, but for my money, one of the best cozzies was created by the lovely chaps at PC Pro:

Malkovich
The only problem was that few people at the party had actually seen Being John Malkovich, and so they spent a remarkably large proportion of the evening explaining their costumes to other revellers. Their response – "Malkovich, malkovich, malkovich. Malkovich!" – did nothing to clarify the situation to the bemused party-goers.

A Mac Using Christmas Lunch

The ol' company Christmas Lunch today, which is always fun. Mr Christopher Brennan commuted from Leeds for the event, and it was good to see him; I suspect he may have quickly tired of us asking him what life was like Ooop North ("Grim?"), and how his house was progressing, but he was gallant enough not to show it. Here's a luvverly pic of us troughing at the very lovely La Trouvaille, and there are a few more pics on Flickr.

MacUser lunch at La Trouvaille

Tony Tyler

The funeral of Tony Tyler, who has contributed to MacUser since its second issue, takes place today. It's astonshing how little you know someone until they die, at which point everyone starts talking about their life; in Tony's case, we are privileged to have illuminating obituaries in the Independent and the Guardian. MacUser will mark his passing in the next issue.

His was an astonishing life, and his dignified death should prove heartening to us all: his last words, addressed to his mother-in-law, were: “I just want you to know, for when it’s your turn, that this [dying] isn’t actually so bad.”

MacUser Awards

Awards

Last night was the MacUser Awards ceremony, which both I and my lady wife – as a contributor to the magazine – attended. Many and frequent high jinx ensued. Some documentary evidence of the event to be found here and here.

No sign of a replacement hard disk for my MacBook yet. Gah.

Oh, OK then

Illustrator
Thanks for the helpful dialogue box, Illustrator...

Brennan's been busy

Brennan

So that's why he wanted to go freelance...

(One for colleagues only, this one, apologies)

Fashion victims

<tongue-in-cheek>
From a release that arrived chez the magazine today:

“M Style, a new publication aimed at men and women in the Midlands with high disposable incomes, launches in September. M Style will be a quarterly glossy lifestyle magazine specifically targeting the Midlands, providing readers with all the latest news on shopping, style, fashion, grooming, living, eating, drinking and going out...”

So, basically, they've found a warehouseful of GQs, and will circulate them round the Midlands four months after they've appeared in London, where they'll appear to be cutting edge Midlands style bibles.

“The magazine will also include reviews and news on all the best places to be seen at...”

So... London then?
</tongue-in-cheek>

In other news, this list of common interview questions could prove very useful.

Bye bye, email

Dennis 0 Messages

I've just lost all my work email, so here's a tip to ensure nobody else makes the same mistake.

My account was playing up, and in an attempt to track down the problem, I created another account with exactly the same settings. The original problem remained, so I trashed this second, 'duplicate' account. Because of the way Mail differentiates accounts – they're held in folders with names built from account details, such as POP-chris.phin@pop.dennis.co.uk – trashing an account with the same details also immediately erased all the mail held in my original work inbox. It's irretrievable except by rebuilding the directories with a data rescue tool.

The moral of the story: Don't create an account with the same settings as an existing account, or you run the risk of interfering with mail held in the original account.

I do have a backup, never fear, and as it's only a couple of weeks old, the interim mail should still be on the server ready to be pulled down once I've replaced the local mail folders with those from my backup, but it's inconvenient to say the least.

The great cover up

Magazine covers

Proof, if any were needed, that MacUser is always ahead of the curve. Compare the front cover of the current issue of Digit with one of MacUser's covers from last century!

(1999 to be exact... undecided)

Macworld Awards 2006

Me as a cat

Last night's excuse for a knee's up prestigious industry event was mucho fun. Too much booze + Cigars + Incredibly loud music + 4am = bleh. And croakey voice.

We also discovered a Fun New Thing, illustrated above, of taking pics of other people (or cats, obviously) with cameraphones and re-photographing them held over others' faces. Note: may only be funny in the wee small hours after a few glasses of cooking lager. Selected photographic evidence here.

The end of an era

Giovanni

Since I started at Dennis Publishing over three years ago, I've been making frequent visits to the greasy spoon across the road, Giovanni's. Me, I have an irrational fondness for this kind of caff, and Giovanni's twice-fried sausage sandwiches have seen me through many a drear morning. Tales of threats by health inspectors to shut the place down thanks to cockroach infestations never deterred me – "cockroach inna bun from Giovanni's, anyone?" – but today we suddenly discovered that this was the last day it would be open; the man himself was moving back to Italy. Quite why I felt I had to mark this occasion is beyond me now, but when I nipped out this afternoon to treat us all to an ice cream, I also bought him a bottle of wine, and got a teary, over-masculine handshake in return. How will I maintain my body shape now? To whom shall I turn to keep my cholesterol nice and high? Via con Dio, Giovanni...

Bye bye, Brennan

Well, that's Chris B gone from MacUser. Well, ish, as he'll continue to write for the magazine on a freelance basis and edit some sections for us too, but in effect he's off, back oop North to be a house-husband. Friday, therefore, was bittersweet. We did the traditional leaving presentation, replete with faintly embarrassing photographs of the chap himself projected onto the board room wall and then went out for a fantastic evening's drinking at the Green Man, but it's a real shame to see him leave.

paul
There was a good turn out, though. A few other ex-'User folks turned up, most notably Julian whom none of us had seen for ages. We all got a little squiffy, and the humour progressed – if that's the right word – from imitating esteemed colleagues to drawing pictures of willies. Here is Paul Trotter's attempt to render his proud manhood – are those two potatoes? 'Meat and two veg' right enough. Nik has a picture of Paul modelling the look.

It's a measure of how tipsy I got that when Dave suggested food at McDonald's, my immediate reaction was 'OK then'. Over a McChicken Sandwich meal – you can't buy class – we talked of work and weddings. I recognise the stress he feels from both – my good lady and I reached a stage when we just didn't want to get married any more because it was causing so many problems.

Yesterday was spent pottering and tidying, and today is all about catching up on paperwork and trying to get ahead on next week's work. Oh, and watching the Muppets.

The eagle-eyed (and terminally-bored) may have noticed that I've updated the Work section to reflect my new job title. New business cards ahoy, methinks.

Um, that's it for now. This has been a pretty disappointing post, n'est ce-que pas?

All the best, Mr B.

My what a big one you have

I told you it was a big cigar. The picture – courtesy of Macworld's news editor – is a little out of focus, but then that's how I remember the evening. The other chap in the picture is Digit's reviews editor, Neil Bennett. I particularly like the way he is managing both to hold a cigar, and give the universal sign of 'rock on' with his hand. Genius.

Image-AC82D8DA68A111DA_2

A hard day's night

While waiting for the bus this morning (Thursday; hell knows when this will get posted), I saw a van for New Old Scaffolding, whose slogan was "Our erections take you to new heights." I know of one other who markets itself with the tagline "Satisfaction guaranteed with every erection," which is also fun.
Tonight was a Christmas party from one of the companies in the market. Good time had by all, and I saw loads of folk I hadn't spoken to for ages. (It's very odd when your relationship with some people is formed and maintained through pre events.)
According to a rather fetching chap I met, I am "a chatty geezer". This was, I'm sure, a compliment, and appeared to be nothing to do with being talkative, or, in the lexicon of my rural Scottish youth, someone who is unclean. It appears to be something the kids are saying these days, despite the fact that he was older than me. The revelation could have something to do with instructing a group in the finer points of how to light and enjoy a cigar. Or maybe showing him from the bar at the foot of St Martin's Lane to Charing Cross station.
A most pleasant evening, and writing this up on the bus home while listening to trash pop appears to be doing wonders for any residual giddiness caused by mixing various cocktails with wine, beer, and a fuck-off Romeo and Julietta cigar very kindly paid for by the account of the company throwing the party. Many photos were taken, and if I can get some of the more entertaing examples from the paparazzi, I'll post them here for your amusement.
[ETA: The below picture shows New Cross in the still of early morning,shrouded in mist.]

DSC07279_2

*Blows raspberry* As predicted,

Well, put it this way: I've had weekends in my life which were more fun.

As predicted, it was spent largely writing for the magazine, and that's me just travelling home from the office now (it's 10:15 as I write this).

There are two small chunks of copy still to be written, but I have to wait until Monday before I have the information which will allow me to write them. As it stands, it's 6413 words long and currently backed up in a quite amusing number of different ways.

I'm going home now. Smell you later...

Gah

THE CONCEPT OF VALUE ADDED TAX DOES NOT REQUIRE PHD-LEVEL INTELLIGENCE AND DILIGENCE TO COMPREHEND. WHY THE BADGERY HELL DOES IT CONTINUE TO ELUDE SO MANY PEOPLE? I WANT TO GO TO BED, DAMMIT, AND THIS FEATURES TABLE HAS MORE HOLES IN IT THAN A POOR FISHERMAN'S NET.

DAMN, DAMN, DAMN, DAMN, as professor Higgins says.

I feel better after that rant. Thanks for listening. I'll just leave the money on the sideboard as usual, yeah?

Work sux

I ♥ my job 85% of the time, but at times like this, when I'm just sitting down to do work on a project which was due in days ago, with no end in sight, with my fiancée lying in our bed on her own, I plain hate it.

The lateness of my copy has very little to do with me; I'm reliant on a project like this on so many other people getting stuff to me in time, and it pisses me right off that other people's lackadaisical attitude is costing me my own time.

I'm feeling more then a little pooped at the moment (archaic English expression meaning 'tired', just to anticipate any furrowed brows on the faces of American readers) and am in dire need of a decently long break. This weekend is going to be another marathon sesh trying to get this bastard project finished, and what with one thing and another, I can't remember the last time I had a weekend clear which I could waste as my fancy took me.

Ah well. Fine words butter no parsnips, as Captain Mainwaring says, and blogging does not a labs write. See you the other side of midnight, peeps.

Quietly dehydrating: it's better than working for a living

I have a piece to write for the magazine by tomorrow morning, and it's so hot that my eyelids are sweating. I have put this piece off in so many imaginative ways but realised that I hadn't used the old 'Let's blog about it' fall-back. I now have, and there really isn't anything to stop me writing the fucking thing now. Hell. See you in the morning, assuming that by the time the sun comes up I'm not some sweated-out, dried up husk which toppled over onto my keyboard.

Turns out that, complicated though I thought the process was of setting up digital certificates to sign your emails, the reality was much worse.

It really is a bastard of a process, with the result that what had started out as a four-step tutorial grew to an eight and then a twelve step, as I realised that we just couldn't fit all the detail needed into smaller tutorials.

However, once it's all working (and I'll post a link to the workshop once it's online in a few week's time) it really is pretty cool. Messages which have been tampered with in between being sent and being received display a warning that the message could not be verified (left), and if you're sending to someone who also has a digital signature set up, you also have to option to encrypt as well as digitally sign your email (right) adding a further layer of security.



Even better, because the S/MIME system used is pretty generic, Windows users can understand the signatures too. Outlook also recognises that messages are secured, though since with less sophisticated applications and webmail options all that happens is that your public key gets displayed as an attachment, there are concerns that people you're sending email to might think they're being infected with a virus. Some education needed, methinks.

It's not a foolproof system (many thanks to The 'Fold for the useful links to this useful article) but should help provide an extra level of security.

Quick techy post (Skip this post unless you actually care about this shit)

After an afternoon of tussling with Thawte's website (how folks with a life – ie no technical knowledge – are supposed to do this stuff I have no idea), both my personal and work email addresses have encryption certificates, allowing me to send entirely private emails to people.

In traditional Apple style, the implementation in Mail (the mail client included with Mac OS X) is very slick. All the process does is add a small encryption button to the compose window which you just have to click, and bam! private email.

And perhaps even more sweetly, it tells you which sent mails have been digitally signed with this smart graphic:

Bloody Blogger has bloody redesigned!

This is A Good Thing in general; the new site looks fresh and slick, and new features (such as native comments, the new BlogThis! bookmarklet, and the ability to post via email) are to be welcomed and applauded. The new templates look genuinely spectacular.

So why am I pissed off? Because I had just completed a workshop which featured Blogger, and I not only had to go through setting up and capturing all twelve screengrabs, but substantial chunks of the text had to be rewritten too. This on top of the floods of work piling up (to unashamedly mix metaphors... and split infinitives, why don't I?) was mind-buggeringly inconvenient.Bloody Blogger mumble mumble MindSay mumble grunt...

I have just been invited to Cannes for a two-day unveiling of 'a new digital concept' in June.

It's being held at Pierre Cardin's mansion, and the man himself will apparently be in attendance (wonder how much the company have paid him for all this?) along with the requisite gaggle of supermodels.

So: sun, sand, Cannes, supermodels.

Must. Lose. Weight.

We missed our publisher so much...



(And yes, we were perfectly aware that 'back' is spelled incorrectly. It's a welcome back gift to her, as she will adore proofing it for us. My suggestion of adding a giant Post-it® note was greeted with enthusiasm but was considered to be taking the piss just that bit too much...)