Monthly Archives: November 2003

Paul drew me, which is a good thing

Enigmatic Paul Murphy has drawn my portrait from a photograph he found on the Internet. I think there’s a reasonable chance that this isn’t a drawing at all but just the application of the Photoshop ‘drawing’ filter to a photograph but I’m not asking – they don’t call him ‘Enigmatic Paul’ for nothing. Paul is plugging a show he’s curated at a gallery in Hackney (which is London’s Brooklyn) called Transition. To complete the picture, Paul has included some of my photos in the show and wants me to give his blog my vote in the Guardian’s weblog competition. To be honest, he’s going to have to take this payola thing a bit more seriously if he expects results – like maybe put some of my photos on the web site if he wants to secure my patronage any time soon (duh).

Endless deferral

Voodoo Pad is one of those applications that promises to get me organised. Of course, I long ago resigned myself to never actually getting organised – in fact, downloading and trying organisers like this one is my substitute for actually getting organised. My Powerbook’s hard drive is a graveyard for PIMs, contact trackers, unstructured databases, brainstorming tools, outliners and freeform doodlers – going all the way back, while I’m being honest, to Hypercard in about 1985. Each carried with it the tantalising promise of actually getting organised. None delivered.

The latest crop look like they might be going in the right direction, though (but I’ve said that before). ‘Unstructured’ seems to be the keyword these days. Simson Garfinkel’s groovy NeXT-derived SBook (if it did Bluetooth I’d dump Apple’s Address Book), Casady & Greene‘s evergreen iData Pro, the classic data shoebox for the Mac (used to be called InfoGenie for you old Macheads – and the admirable C&G just went bust, by the way), Creo’s Six Degrees (now available in an IMAP version that’ll turn your mailboxes into a fast filing system) and now Voodoopad (all resident on my hard drive right now): they all promise to get out of my way and not try to impose any kind of nasty structure on my information.

The whole category plays to the very human desire (a real Freudian fantasy) to get a grip, be in control, impose structure on the increasingly dense and fugitive world of information and, as such, they really rely on the final impossibility of actually getting organised (it’s the entropy, stupid). So, since satisfaction is, by definition, impossible, the category has unlimited potential, and Voodoopad’s elegance and trendy Wiki structure will win it lots of Geek fans but I’m pretty sure it’s just another stop on my endlessly delayed journey towards actually getting organised. Thanks to Azeem for showing me Voodoopad (he reckons he’s actually getting organised).

Should I buy a Tivo?

Never shy of jumping on a bandwagon nearly a year after it closes its UK operation, I’ve been bidding on Tivo PVRs (‘Personal Video Recorders’) at eBay. Do you think I should buy one? I don’t have Sky so can’t buy a Sky+ box (although maybe it would be a smart move for Sky to make the box work with digital cable – then they’d be able to score sales even to Sky refusers). Are there any comparable devices I should be looking at?

places and camphone privacy

Camphone hysteria is building. Gadgets with built-in cameras are being banned all over the place. Looks like we’ll see an arbitrary patchwork of camphone rules emerge ??some will ban them, others encourage them ??most, presumably, try to ignore them.

But maybe this is actually a rational response to new surveillance tech. Maybe an evolved public realm provides a spectrum of degrees of privacy. From totally transparent, 100% surveilled spaces like malls and street corners to private zones like cafes and swimming pools ? maybe even using opportunistic, new technologies to automatically disarm personal surveillance gadgets. I’d rather see an explicit new urban grammar of surveillance ? places and environments publicly marked up with their ‘personal surveillance status’ (Matt could do the signage) than have no idea who’s watching and when.

How strange are the Electric Light Orchestra?

Juliet asked me to download some of their stuff so that she could be fifteen again for a while so I did and now I’m speechless at how we let this utterly kooky blend of The Beach Boys and Wagner work its weird way up the charts so often when I was a kid ??I suppose thirty years is enough to make even the stuff we took for granted back then seem utterly strange.

ELO must be ripe for some kind of revival ??they’ve been cropping up on the soundtracks of films set in the Seventies for a while (The In-laws and Boogie Nights, for instance) and their preposterous, spangly, melodic, falsetto, melancholy, orchestral boogie is bound to strike a chord with the kids buying The Darkness.

Looking for Laurent

Laurent Byford (or is it Bayford?) used to work at a web design firm called Designercity (now defunct). I need to contact him urgently on some business. Do you know him? Do you have any idea where he might be? I understand he is French and returned there after he left Designercity but that he’s now back in the UK.