Blogging from Sydney | Australia
Some past thoughts

PREMIX11 - Keynote to REMIX11 - Highlights

My first time at the web conference REMIX - Sydney 2011, and PREMIX is apparently having its first year (REMIX has been running for four).

I'd say pretty good so far, the keynoters (not quite speakers - but I'll explain) were excellent.
  • Mr Percival is a wizard of sound, not my kind of music but very superbly performed and very entertaining. Not sure how to explain this, but he used real-time recording and playback, then sang to the playback. A few iterations of this and his track is sounding like it's recorded by a half-dozen people at once. My guess is excellent use of a shotgun microphone and/or some great software and hardware behind the scenes.
  • Dan Ilic, self-styled hypocrite (working in network television); of Hungry Beast fame is predicting that TV will be dead by 2013 due to the rise and rise of internet TV with companies like Next New Networks.
  • Gordon Bell of Microsoft Research gave a presentation on his fascinating MyLifeBits project - could you record everything a human being has ever experienced? I got the impression he was predicting that by 2020, it may even be the norm.
  • And well it wouldn't be a Microsoft event without some Windows Phone 7 and Kinect goodness. Looks like some really cool stuff coming down the pipe - there was a hybrid dancer / musician who performed on a good dozen instruments for our pleasure, and a tech demo of a high quality CAD of a Toyota concept car, running in real-time, e.g. the demo guy changed the colour, rotated at will and what looks like exploded the which I mean the car parts flew out in several directions so you could see how they fit together. There was also a Qantas WP7 app which really reminded me of Paul Thurott on Windows Weekly - the phone is really designed around the user more than the corporate brand. It's looking like it will be more and more difficult for me when my Android phone contract comes up for renewal soon enough. 
I'm happy I decided to go after all, and hey - free food, drinks and networking is always good as well!


Chrome to Phone is awesome

Soooo fast, and cool!

More details via the official Google Blog:

Starting to get a little scared though, if Froyo is the requirement, hopefully Gingerbread/Honeycomb don't become requirements too soon for these new features (or HTC and Telstra update more frequently). Still this was heartening:


CSE Camp - Epic bus fail, broom game, newspaper towers and internet memes

It's been about 6 years since I've had the pleasure of being on a camp, the last I can remember was a Year 11 Thredbo/Jindabyne trip. So ending yesterday, for a little over 48 hours CSE@UNSW first years, and me since it's my first year at UNSW, were at Wombaroo Adventure Center in the southern highlands about half way from Sydney to Canberra, Australia.

Internet Memes
The theme, one pretty awesome one. I just couldn't resist going as Happycat (pics may come later). Memes in attendance (by Ben Pinto):

Pirates vs ninjas
Im on a boat
Troll science
F**k yeah
Forever alone
Milhouse is not a meme
Mac vs pc
Wonka bar
The ring/ grudge girl
Charlie the unicorn
Shamwow guy
Old spice guy
Hello world
Dancing star wars kid
Hide yo kids guy
Double rainbow guy
Engineer (teamfortress)

The engineer won the award for best costume...not sure I agree since Callum's PC was epic but that's democracy for you.

Broom Game
Simply put - hold broom and face upwards, spin 15 times then jump over it. Your inner ear's motion detector will deceive you - good luck! (Not me but some of those who participated - the end is a must see :- )

Newspaper Towers
aka Fun with Newspaper. The Australians were by far the best general building material, literally just separate, roll up and build up. You learn quickly the best ways to build things like rope to tie things together.

The two most successful teams maxed out their towers to the 4 m ceiling using tripod-based designs with a spire on top. One other got very close with a spire like a knight's jousting post on top of a 3 very solid base rings of compacted newspaper. Guess which one I was ;)

Epic Fail Bus
Well 'twas begging to have little more than the chance of a wee snowball in the fires and brimstone of hell. A little context and story:

  • Driver tries to start bus on slight slope at Wombaroo. Driver fails a couple of dozen times, including rolling backwards several meters (luckily no one was back there).
  • Driver finally succeeds in starting the engine for more than 15 seconds, gets the bus up the incline. This is over 30 minutes after we should have left!
  • Bus breaks down at least twice on the freeway (I dozed off so it may have been more).
  • Driver decides to continue following M5 into the longest and most congested tunnel in Sydney (and possibly still the world), despite his engine trouble.
  • Driver continues in the right hand lane, starts off well on the tunnel descent.
  • ...
  • *Kffppppphh*...*splutter*...*cough*...*bang*...and we're coasting to a stop.
  • ...
  • Driver attempts a restart a good dozen times before giving up.
  • Realisation of being (semi) trapped inside a bus inside a 4 km tunnel with hundreds of cars passing very close sets in for some team members. I feel for their claustrophia.
  • Some 15-20 mins in, a redirecting sign truck arrives behind us.
  • To great applause, 52 minutes in, we greet the tow truck...
  • Only to wait another half hour to be fully towed out!
  • And another 20 minutes trapped inside on the side of Marsh Street, or thereabouts. But at least with fresh air through the top air vents...some compared it to being reborn or other life changing experiences. Quite the saga.
Clearly the cases of:
  • the forgotten sleeping bag (yes someone slept the entire night before discovering their sleeping bag was actually right where it should have been), and 
  • the 7 am fire alarm (don't go playing with circuit breakers at 4am, you don't know when the cabin battery power will run out)
were awarded camp's "Biggest fail" far too soon. Everyone scored a trophy - the limited edition purple cake camp shirt.

In summary:


LaTeX3.1415926 on Win7x64 = pain, on Ubuntu 10.10 = pleasure

I can't be bothered ranting...title said it all. I wasted a good 2-3 hours setting stuff up on Windows (and didn't get there), it was like 2 commands on Ubuntu Linux Maverick Meerkat (10.10). Those two commands were discovered by typing the commands found at:

Basically typing latex and thumbpdf, and following the Ubuntu command prompt instructions. Kind of felt like xkcd's python:
import antigravity

<3 Ubuntu + LaTeX, especially awesome for all the math-oriented stuff. Donald Knuth's years of toiling were not in vain!


Google and social, go together?

So here's one experience I've just had - and an insight into why it's sometimes said Google doesn't get social.

Social is about conversation and interaction - here's something I can do for you, would you mind doing this for me?

So here's why - the first comment on this blog, 3 months ago. Discovered by me just because I decided to go back and see what I was writing on this humble weblog, see what I was thinking.

Now Blogger has the option to turn on comment notification email. But if I'm not Engadget, Gizmodo, Dvorak, i.e. someone or something that can afford a real hosting / blogging / content management solution, this is the kind of thing I'd like to know about!

Basically this "Comment Notification Email" box, buried at the bottom of Settings > Comments, should have had the email address I signed up with. It's not spam if its a real person behind the scenes (and the link that's not a link and contains the Session ID and a blog behind it is a clear example of that =). And it's easy enough to link back to these settings in such an email so if the user decides it is spam - they have the option to turn it off.

Google - time to listen to dear leader turned advisor and think a little less engineering and a little more social. We'll like you more for it, promise!