How the Web works, information flow.

For a long time people have known that information flow has value. Also, that preventing its flow gives power to ‘those in the know’.

After reading an interesting article in the Irish Times that, reading between the lines, was complaining about their information flowing without their permission, I got to thinking.

T J McIntyre wrote a good account of the duplicity that these papers have when dealing with Google and their ilk.  At first glance, it seems that the Print Media Moguls don’t understand the internet.  In fact at the top of the chain they probably don’t, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t armed themselves with a team of people who do. I think far from failing to understand the new social news revolution, they understand it enough to fear it.

For a long time people have known that information flow has value. Also, that preventing its flow gives power to ‘those in the know’.

Since the 18th century, newspapers have been a major source of news for the average person. Selling these papers was an effective way of taxing information flow.  There was a good chance that your “news” was, well “new”, and the quickest way to read this new information was to buy the paper.

Therefore, the concept of owning a story took deep root and those with the information had the power.  But mistakenly they started to see the story as the item with value – forgetting that their money comes from taxing the flow of information.

Fast forward to the internet age.  Now there are far better ways for information to flow.  And this information flows freely.

As T J McIntyre wrote, Media companies are not rejecting this. They actively build their sites to encourage their stories to flow.  But they have now realised that the story is not where they make their money.  Now, by the time the press’ roll, their story is already circulating the globe.  So they look towards taxing the distribution.

Worryingly, even some governments like France and Ireland think that Google and its brethren should pay a fee for information it has found on other sites, information that I once again stress has been freely offered up for use.

A little nagging voice might now be in the back of your mind asking, well why shouldn’t they?

If history teaches us nothing else, it should teach us that when information flows, when ideas are circulated and discussions happen, civilization advances.  Writing is heralded as mankind’s biggest leap, the ability to record information for transmission to other people at a different time.  Stopping the flow, or worse, destroying information leads to things like the Dark Ages.

So how should media companies be making their money?

The answer is not from the traditional ways of charging to read, but by offering an opinion.

Facts should always flow free – but opinions ARE a valuable commodity.  The trick comes in how you (to use an evil word here)  “monetize” them.

The best way to do this is to get a following, people who respect your opinion and want to hear it.  Once you have that, you can charge others to sponsor, advertise, etc.  In other words – charge to be associated with your opinion.

Ironically it is the blogger, often ridiculed by the media, who understands this shift in the land of information flow best.  You can see evidence of this in the many bloggers who now make their living via their opinion alone.

 

In summary, the Media Giants are trying to force governments to maintain the old system of information tax, and governments DO like maintaining old systems.  By dressing this tax up as preventing property theft and screaming “pirate”, or “hacker”, they play to common fears.  All the while they forget that it is not the information itself, or access to the information, that is a sustainable way to make money. It is by offering a valued opinion that garners a following that others want to be associated with.

 

WordPress Developer Debug.

When developing themes and plugins for WordPress I often find myself with the dreaded white page – or just half a page with no useful error information.

You may already know about the WP_DEBUG constant, if you don’t its found in your wp_config.php file and you just change it to…

define('WP_DEBUG', true);

to turn it on debugging.
Chances are that with this turned on your WordPress will start spewing out a load of warnings you never even knew were happening!

This ‘error noise’ is fine for a development site. But what about if your site is live and need to code a new feature?

I came up with this little trick so I can turn on debug mode in the page request.

$debugmodeon = false;
if (isset($_GET['debug'])) {
	if ($_GET['debug'] != "") { 
		$debugmodeon = true;
	}
}
define('WP_DEBUG', $debugmodeon);

Just add ?debug=true and voilà – debugging info only when you need it 😉

Once your done – you’ll want to swap back to define('WP_DEBUG', false); so your ‘debug mode’ can’t be triggered by accident..

Asus Transformer TF301F Review

Having played with the first model in the Asus Transformer series, I was eager to get my hands on the latest model to see how it performed...


The Geeky Bit

  • OS: Android 4.0.1 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS)
  • Processor: Quad Core Nvidia Tegra 3 – 1.2GHz
  • Memory: 1GB DDR3
  • Storage: 32GB (16GB Models available)
  • Screen: 10.1″ WXGA (1280 × 800) IPS
  • Sensors: G-Sensor, Light Sensor, Gyroscope, E-compass, GPS
  • Radios: 8.2.11 b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 3.0
  • Cameras: 8MP AF rear, 1.2MP front
  • Size: Pad – 263 × 180.8 × 9.9mm , Dock – 263 ×180.8 × 10.2 mm
  • Weight: 635g (pad) + 546g (dock)
  • Connectors:
    • Pad:
      • 2-in-1 Audio Jack (head-out + MIC-in)
      • 1 x micro-D HDMI 1.4a port
      • 1 x microSD Card Reader (SDXC)
    • Dock:
      • 1 x USB 2.0 (Low Power)
      • 1 x SD Card Reader (SDXC)

Having played with the first model in the Asus Transformer series, I was eager to get my hands on the latest model to see how it performed.

This particular machine was purchased from PC World, who seemed to be the only UK stockist at the time of purchase.  I must mention here that regardless of PC World’s somewhat lacklustre reputation at times, reserving online was simple and I just turned up and collected it easily with no fuss.

So what exactly is it?

I’m not quite sure that it knows what it is itself!  The transformer is a tablet similar to the Apple iPad, Blackberry PlayBook or Kindle Fire…  but it comes with a keyboard dock that ‘transforms’ it into a notebook – and boosts the battery life as a bonus extra!

The housing is plastic – but it doesn’t feel cheap. It’s well built and feels solid. The slight pattern on the back helps give some grip when holding it.

Without the dock it’s very hard not to draw comparisons with the iPad.  However, these are comparisons that go favourably for the Transformer. No apparent slow-downs no matter what apps and videos I threw at it, and even when a misbehaving app was encountered (Chrome Beta for those who need to know!) it quickly let me know and let me shut it down rather than having to sit and wait.

There was a bit of a redraw effect when resizing web pages, but these appear to be Android issues and not due to the tablet. Chrome Beta was a little better – but I think it’s beta for a reason – it seems to lock up a fair amount. Still, if browsing is your thing there’s plenty of choice in the Android Market. Oops sorry, “Google Play” as it is now 😉

Most impressive was when I tested SplashTop HD. This remote desktop software works really well. Surprisingly, I was able to play desktop games like Portal 2, Mass Effect and MineCraft in full screen, remotely, with no lag over the inhouse wireless network.

For those iPad users out there daunted by Android, don’t worry. Android 4.0 is just as intuitive and easy to use as iOS, but not quite as restrictive with regards to what you can run on it. Therefore, emulators (anyone for some classic C64 games?), Flash and lots more can all be found here!

Overall it’s a good pad and probably more versatile than an iPad. However , when you attach the keyboard you now have a notebook; or are we supposed to call then netbooks now? I can never remember…

The keyboard connects via a 40 pin connector & two hooks and feels incredibly secure. It’s clear that attention has been paid to the docking mechanism. My only gripes are that it’s tricky to detach the keyboard whilst closed, and as most of the weight is in the pad itself, the centre of balance is way off. This makes it want to tip back, especially when you’re trying to use it in your lap.

They keyboard is small as you’d expect, but quite well constructed and responsive. The trackpad is superior to some laptop trackpads, and once you’ve got the hand of using trackpad, mouse and touch together you’ll find yourself mistakenly trying it on regular laptops too 😉

Best of all the keyboard has an integral battery giving an extra 5 hours battery life. With a basic 10 hours for the tablet alone, this gives Transformer probably the longest battery life available in a tablet, erm, netbook, erm whatever it is!

So who is this for?

Good question.

Tablets fit into a niche for people who want to remain connected and manage emails, browse the net a little, plan their calendars and the like but don’t want to lug a laptop around. The Transformer fills the same niche – but with the option to be just that little bit more. If you’re the kind of person who has or would buy a Bluetooth keyboard for your pad then this is for you.

Price wise – the Transformer is comparable to an basic iPad 3, but with better battery life, more storage capacity and a keyboard – but at the expense of the amazing retina screen. That said, the Transformer’s display is higher resolution than that of the iPad 2.

Pros & Cons

So down to the basics…

Pros

Performance: It does everything you throw at it.
Price: At £399 you get a lot of tech for your money.
15 hour battery life: This is really not to be sniffed at. Even on the performance setting I was getting 12 hours of use between charges.
OS: Asus haven’t messed about with Android, this Ice Cream Sandwich is definitely vanilla flavoured. The bundled apps can be uninstalled if you want to, which means you don’t get the usual suppliers bloatware.

Cons

Weight: With the keyboard attached its nearly twice the weight of a typical tablet alone – weighing in at nearly 1.2kg – and with the weight mostly at the rear it does tend to tip back in use if you’re not careful. Just the pad alone however is comparable to other 10.1″ tablets.
Browser: As mentioned before, the only lack of fluidity becomes apparent when browsing. Screen redraws, whilst brief, can be seen. Hopefully future updates to Android will nail this quirk.
Screen: The screen is ‘only’ IPS not IPS+ – so in bright sunlight you may have to pump up the brightness – but with those extra 5 hours of battery life – this isn’t too much of a problem.

Where to get

Currently here in the UK you can only get the Transformer from PC World/Dixons/Currys (why, essentially, the same shop goes by 3 different names is still a mystery to me!).

In summary…

It’s powerful, good value for money and versatile. I’d recommend this wholeheartedly to anyone looking to fill that portable tech niche. 9/10.

Joining Imagiscape

Lots of new things happening in the world of Sabletopia.

Firstly I’ve joinned the team at ImagiScape as one of their plugin developers.  Already my first plugin for them (ZombieMod) is providing several different flavours of zombie for their Zombie Apocalypse server.  I’m also working on bringing the wiki uptodate 🙂

Sabletopia has now moved over to join with my plugin testing server, so it’ll have lots of new weird things.  Already it has a new flatlands WorldGenerator, and I’m testing Cityword to see if I can make it more apocalyptic so we can have an infinite MmineCraft city!

Existing projects continue – MobHealth is now on version 4.8.2 (4.8.3 is coming out soon).  And my super secret project is still, well.. secret but progressing well 😉

WoodDye / Impact and more!

Spate of new Minecraft/Bukkit plugins have joined the ranks at http://dev.bukkit.org/profiles/sablednah

WoodDye:
Change the colour of already placed wood.

Impact:
Leave behind impact craters.  the bigger the fall the bigger the hole.

ChatFilter:
Now has a whole load of tweaks and options – bit still remains a simple to setup and use family filter.

 

You can find out more about each plugin on the relevant plugin pages at dev.bukkit.org 🙂  Over the next few weeks each will get some tweeks – ChatFilter will get some extra filtering to spot common ways of hiding words…  WoodDye will extend to half-blocks and fire-proofing as soon as the snapshots are released 🙂