Uganda photos: finished

Isaac Newton School #260I finally finished processing the Uganda photos/videos this afternoon. Hooray! It is quite the relief, not least because now they’re in the cloud I can stop worrying about hard drive failures taking out my summer’s work.

Much as I love Flickr, I have to admit it’s easier to browse the shots on Facebook. FB’s new album layout makes everything look pretty, and the refresh-less Next/Previous is very pleasant. Flickr has the edge in pretty much everything – quality, information, accessibility – but FB is hard to beat for quick browsing. The albums (of selected shots) are here if you’ve a login. If not: Mustard Seed School, Humanist Academy, Isaac Newton School, Elsewheres.

Everything’s neater on Flickr, though, and there are far more images: the collected albums are here, with just the highlights here.

I’m pleased with how the photos turned out, and hopefully the Uganda Humanist Schools Trust will find them useful. After six weeks of editing it’s easy to notice the mistakes, and the shots I didn’t take, but that’s just all the more incentive for next time. I was hoping to go back to Uganda before the end of the year, but I don’t think that’s going to happen – no money, for a start, and finding the time would be tough. But I’ll make sure the schools get prints of all the shots.

The plan is to have an exhibition – with the focus on raising money for the schools – early next year. With a bit of luck I’ve now taken all the images for my final major project, too – I just need to sell it to my tutors.

Not a fan

Facebook updated its layout last month, and people got very upset. I had lots of fun reading updates that tried very, very hard to put ‘I don’t like new things’ into bigger words, and that was all the interest I took. Andrew says it’s generally better, and I believe him. And that was that until just now, when I abruptly started taking offence:

Palin Facebook

No. Just, no. Christ. Don’t do that. Ever.

Location Location Location

High-end phones like the iPhone and the Google G1 have built-in GPS. Atm this is mainly used for directions, and maybe google maps searches for attractions nearby, but that’s just the shoot of the carrot. Location data, when combined with an internet connection, lends itself to all sorts of social uses and place-based filtering. Like, broadcasting local tweeters for recommended restaurants nearby, or publicly announcing your location to anyone who fancies meeting up, or turning your phone to ‘silent’ in certain areas, or finding people tweeting from the same cafe as you. That kind of thing. I quite like this idea, and I was very interested in this guy’s experiment with the ‘location-aware lifestyle’.

My plan: Load every cool and interesting location-aware program I could find onto my iPhone and use them as often as possible. For a few weeks, whenever I arrived at a new place, I would announce it through multiple social geoapps. When going for a run, bike ride, or drive, I would record my trajectory and publish it online. I would let digital applications help me decide where to work, play, and eat. And I would seek out new people based on nothing but their proximity to me at any given moment. I would be totally open, exposing my location to the world just to see where it took me. 

He immediately hits the barrier of other people not liking it. His wife, for example, wasn’t keen on his broadcasting when he was out of town and she’d therefore be alone at their – also publicly-available – address.

Tricky.

I suspect this might be the tech issue that breaks my generation from the next. The ‘oh, that’s going a bit far’ scenario. I know lots of people who still get antsy about information I give away when blogging, for crying out loud, let alone Twitter or Facebook albums. This might push them into This-Is-Against-The-Way-Of-Things terrority.

The article concentrates on the negatives, but seems positive about the future possibilities. At minimum, it’ll evolve a whole new field of etiquette. But it’s not ridiculous to think it might inspire new privacy laws. too. An embarrassing facebook photo is one thing, but location-data affects other people much more significantly.

And this isn’t a horizon-technology – it’s here now. As the article points out, it’s already theoretically possible to walk past a Starbucks and have ‘it’ SMS you a 50%-off voucher. If I had an iPhone, I’d certainly have all this stuff enabled, just to see what happened.

Personally, I’ve never been much for privacy, and at the moment I don’t have any problem with people knowing where I am. Rationally, I tend to view People-Will-Do-Unpleasant-Things as paranoid, and akin to the many people I know who won’t leave sat-nav rings on their car windows, just in case

That said, I haven’t – afaik – geotagged my flat. Because I in fact am irrationally paranoid some nutter might take offence to something on my blog and come find me. I tend to think this is ridiculous – it happens, but not with enough frequency that I need take notice – but I’ve still erred on the side of what-if. I don’t know which way I’ll swing on this one. Similarly, what if a Significant Other took exception? I don’t know.

Presumably, there’d be ways to smear yourself out. You’ll be able to, say, specify a certain 500m radius within which you can’t be pinpointed. But the evolution will undoubtedly be bumpy.  It should be fun, though. I’m looking forward to it.

eStarling wifi photo frame review

eStarling frame and JeremyWe bought my Dad an eStarling Wifi Photo Frame for his birthday. I picked it out, after specifically looking for a frame that worked over the wifi. In my experience memory-card based units are disappointing – you update the images regularly for a couple of months, then the novelty wears off. I wanted a frame that would be constantly changing.

Sadly, no consumer frames were capable of grabbing images from a networked computer1, but the eStarling comes close – it downloads its images from your account on the eStarling website. The site can grab images from RSS feeds, email or direct upload, and resizes them to 800px for the frame. This is a free service, but means you’re locked into their system. However, if eStarling ever go under the frame can work from memory-cards too (although not both at once).

Verdict after a couple of months: it’s ok.

The good:

  • The website picks up Flickr / Picasa Web Album RSS feeds pretty well, updating them every 6hrs (ish – it’s occasionally taken much longer). Or you can ‘push’ a manual update.
  • Emailing photos to the system has worked every time. You get a (somewhat garbled) confirmation response, and there’s a filter to prevent obvious hijackings.
  • The quality. Images are resized to 800 pixels and look terrible on the web interface, but pretty good on the frame itself. Viewing angles aren’t wonderful, but I’ve been spoilt by my fancypants LCD monitor. They’re good enough if you can put the frame at an appropriate height.
  • It’s a nice looking frame. Black and sleek, it looks good on the shelf. It’s not too deep, is heavy enough to be stable, and is completely silent.
  • It has a sensible 4:3 aspect ratio. This is the same as my parents’ digital camera. Mine’s a 3:2, and the frame puts bars on the edge rather than cropping. Plenty of other ‘widescreen’ frames might look nice, but they must either display *tiny* photos or crop them to hell.

The bad:

  • It originally crashed a fair bit, but turning it off overnight seems to have helped with that. It has a built-in activation/deactivation timer, but if it crashes overnight it just never turns back on. A bit of googling suggests this is common.
  • There’s no random mode, so images loop in the same order. This is a shame, and quite odd – the website lets you view/add/delete images, and I can’t think it’s too much database work to (roughly) randomise a list. It’s fair enough that the frame doesn’t support automatic randomising, but it’d be nice to do it manually.
  • It doesn’t remember all its settings. It can change images every 10s, 60s or 180s. I prefer 180s, but it reverts to 10s each restart.
  • The website claims ‘unlimited storage’, which is a bit OTT. Even at 800px, that’s quite the claim from a company I’ve never heard of.
  • Flickr’s RSS feeds are limited to 20 images. Not a problem with the frame, but annoying when you’ve added a batch.
  • The transitions are a bit…1980s corporate training video. And can’t be changed.
  • I couldn’t connect to WPA2 security, but to be fair I’m can’t see this explicitly supported anywhere.
  • It wasn’t cheap. ~£200 is pretty expensive for something with all these problems.

The ugly

I logged on last week and spotted a new feature: Facebook / Flickr integration. Great! I hoped that would get around the 20 RSS-image limit, so I clicked the button to link into my accounts (via the API so it doesn’t need any passwords). Nothing happened. I figured it was broken, and forgot about it.

A few days later I arrive at the house when nobody’s in. I’m walking through the kitchen and do a classic double-take. Why is the frame displaying drunk people in bars? Who are these people? Has the frame been hacked? Is the website broken? It’s not like Mum and Dad will mind, but it’s not exactly the intended use, and I have no idea what could appear next…So I log onto the website.

It turns out, they fixed the Facebook / Flickr integration. But it doesn’t grab my images, it grabs my friends’ images.

If you’re on Facebook, you’ll appreciate why this is Not A Good Thing.

So I turned that off pretty sharpish. The ‘organise’ section isn’t that great, and it took a while to manually delete each shot, but I got there in the end.

Verdict

The eStarling, as I said, is ok. I’ve managed to work around most of its little quirks, and my research suggests none of the consumer frames are any better2. I’m not sure it’s really really worth ~£200, but it’s not a total rip-off. Mum and Dad like it, which is the main thing.

I really like the idea of wireless photo frames. If I had one I’d set it to show images from my flickr contacts, updating every 5 minutes or so, and I’d probably waste half my day looking at the thing. I imagine the technology will improve and they’ll eventually be cheap and cheerful, but right now it’s way more effort than it should be.

  1. a couple had some kind of Windows Media Player link, but they all had major issues []
  2. which is weird, if you ask me – making one is obviously much more difficult than you’d think []

Herd a Word

Scrabulous is still the king of addictive facebook apps, but Herd A Word is pretty compulsive. It’s simple stuff: you have three minutes to link letters together to create words, the longer the better. I’m not sure of the best strategy yet. Anything above six-letters gets hundreds of points, so it’s possibly worth searching for these at the expense of everything else. On the other hand, rattling through 3 and 4 letter words might work just as well, although likely doesn’t scale. Found via Ryan, who claims to have a score of 1700. I’m at 580…

The BNP and Joosters

Kudos, hat-tips and smiley-faces to B4L, who says everything I was thinking about Facebook/BNP shenanigans, only in actual well-arranged words.

And while we’re talking Facebook, everybody should join the Bring Back Joosters group. Because they should. A world without Joosters is worse than one with and furthermore everyone knows it. My mouth is literally watering at the thought of Joosters. I was in the fan club, you know, although their website has now been squished, like a proverbial Jooster.

And while we’re talking about sweets, I would like to say that I am terribly conflicted over stories of cricketers and jelly-beans. On the one hand, just another example of cricketing muppetry. On the other, terribly endearing.

Scrabulous

I’m sure many are aware that Facebook can be diverting. It’s tempting to log on every hour and see what people are up to, but I try to resist until the evening, and am usually successful. Its applications have added to the timewasting potential, but nothing, nothing, comes close to the addiction that is Scrabulous. It’s ridiculous. I’m sure I could have been playing online Scrabble for years if I’d wanted, but I’ve never had the urge. Now I can’t stop. Facebook friends challenge me to a game, and I simply must play. I had to drag myself away from it this afternoon. I haven’t even won a game yet. I wish to complain that the dictionary doesn’t contain ‘alm’. This is all your fault, Nod.