Category Archives: Journal

RIP FriendFeed

friendfeed-logo

A website called FriendFeed shut down last week after years of being disassembled and neglected after Facebook bought them over. It’s been about 7 or 8 years since I first stumbled upon it. In its heydey, FriendFeed was a vibrant social network with realtime updating and interactions, it connected to all of your other social networks and provided all your updates in one place – so you didn’t need to traipse round half the internet to see what your friends were up to. The design was simple, the themes were fun (there was a Duck Hunt one with a flying duck you could “shoot” at – which was amusing for all of about 5 seconds, but still, it serves as a nice illustration of the “feel” of the site), and it worked seamlessly. Admittedly, it didn’t really take off with the masses – only with a few, but the few who used it absolutely fell in love with it.

I spent hours on FriendFeed and made friends with a lot of lovely (and awesome) people I’d never, ever have come across otherwise (I still keep in touch with them even years after we all stopped using FriendFeed) and I know that this is a sentiment that is shared with many from the FriendFeed community. For me, FriendFeed was a place to come and get away from it all, where I could confide, laugh, and see the world in a completely different way. I found a group of people who didn’t know anything about me in real life but we all connected in a way and FriendFeed almost encouraged silliness and fun – the fact that we could bounce ideas off each other in real time meant for some really lively conversations.

Everything was awesome until Facebook took over the company in 2009 – then it became the black sheep of the family. It seemed like things stopped working left and right and they’d be left like that for days or weeks (or in the case of the Advanced Search, just never get fixed). It became more unreliable, and as that sense crept in people lost hope that it’d be improved. The community started to dissipate (something that FriendFeed cited as one of the reasons for closing – a bit of a catch 22, I’d say).

Facebook took on some of the attributes of FriendFeed when they bought it over, but they changed them in ways to fit their own rigid design and almost seemed to take the soul out of them. Facebook is far removed from FriendFeed, despite having similar functionality when you boil it right down.

I logged back in just before it was closed down to salvage my posts and comments, and to save some memories (pages) from being lost in the ether. I was really surprised how much it made me reminisce about the days when I’d used it daily and the fondness I felt seeing the old site again (admittedly, I was mildly irritated to find that the search feature still hadn’t been fixed after about 3 years). I found some old posts that were downright hilarious, the group live-chats about Eurovision which had about 60 people involved from countries all around the world, silly posts about ridiculous things – we had a great time.

This may sound like I’m describing some kind of IRC chatroom uber-nerd session but I’m not, and that was the best thing about it – these were all regular people (OK, some of use were pretty nerdy). If you ask me, the internet lost something special in the closure of FriendFeed.

Impressions on Android: Redux

I had an Android phone several years ago – the HTC Hero.  You may remember it as the one with the weird ‘chin’. Initially, I was quite pleased with it but I slowly started to notice issues with the apps and general ‘feel’ of the OS.

I kept getting a ridiculous ‘Socket is not connected‘ error. WTF? Signal strength in hilly Scotland back then was, let’s say, patchy at best – so I assume it was due to that but still, I don’t think that’s something an end-user should be viewing. Then there was the lack of finesse in the apps. They looked basic, like no one had bothered to design them beyond using bog standard UI.  The whole phone slowed down when it was downloading app updates, lockscreen clock lagged (which I found incredibly irritating) etc. etc.

Then I became most irritated when I discovered that my 6 month old phone wouldn’t be updated to the next version of Android.  Meanwhile, the shiny new Windows Phone 7 OS came along with its slick design. Android & I parted ways shortly afterwards – with me vowing never to go back.

Cut to last year, when, after several years of insisting that I had no use for a tablet, I decided that for £100, I could find a use for one. I bought a Nexus 7 (2013 edition) and I actually quite like it. Contrary to my previous beliefs I do have a use for it too. Don’t get me wrong there are moments when it’s installing things in the background & it lags the keyboard etc. where it drives me absolutely potty but on the whole, it’s pretty good. Continue reading Impressions on Android: Redux

Preliminary thoughts on Windows 8

I bought a new laptop a few months ago, which means I had the opportunity to upgrade to Windows 8 for only £14.99. I don’t think I’ve ever bought a new OS that didn’t come bundled with a computer so this is a bit unusual for me.

I’ve been quite the fan of the Metro style interface since I got my first Windows Phone – the HTC Trophy – so I was quite keen to see how it worked on the desktop/laptop. Looks-wise, it’s nice. However, implementation-wise it’s a bit clumsy. Kudos to them for trying new things though – it’s leaps and bounds from the safe route they normally take.

PS3 hard drive upgrade

Hard drives hate me. I can look at them the wrong way and they’ll develop faults. I once bought a 120Gb IDE HD from PC World, brought it home formatted it and discovered it would only allow me to use 70ish Gb.  That same year I think I went through about 3 hard drives (at least one of which was DOA).  I am super-careful so my power seems to lie somewhere in my ability to pick the product with the highest failure rate.

So when it came to upgrading my 40Gb PS3 hard drive, I thought ‘Well, everything I read says it’s easy and everyone seems to be using the same hard drives for it’ and it was approaching the stage where I’d need to start deleting things before I could install new games.  I love my PS3, so I was quite nervous despite the supposed ease of the process.

I followed this guide from Gamespot (yes, of course, I could have followed the actual Sony guide but I object to official instructions unless I’m really stuck, deal with it), the enclosure being different was a bit of a shock but getting the old hard drive out was easy.  I needed two screwdrivers (both had the same head on them but it’s best not to ask questions with these things) to get those damn screws out.  Everything went fine (the cat lurking around showing great interest in the hard drives was the most worrying part)….until I restarted it and then the whole plan veered off the beaten track a bit.

GameSpot PS3 upgrade instructions

According to the guides I should turn it back on and be asked if I wanted to format and restore the drive.  I sat with my eyes closed praying it’d work fine and I hadn’t bought yet another dud.  Nope.  It couldn’t find something on my backup drive.  I was told it needed to search for the latest firmware before it could do anything.  Great.  After the initial ‘Nooooooooooooooo!’ (think Darth Vader in Revenge of the Sith), there was much grumbling.

A few minutes on Google brought me this which escalated my grumbling up to swearing but at least it put my mind to rest.  Ah, the comfort of knowing that you’re not alone in your technological issues.  I had to resort to downloading it via pc, saving to a USB flash drive in folders named ‘PS3/UPDATE’, plug it in, then I was allowed to the next stage: format the drive, fill in the wifi details, restore from the backup…hey presto.

Thumbs up

The whole process was actually super-easy but man, a tiny little hiccup can really add a little spice to it – especially when all you’ve seen is comments from people saying ‘Great guide, it was so easy’ etc. on a guide that doesn’t explain your issue at all.  (And especially if you have my expectations of failure.)

Anyhoo, my PS3 now has room enough to swing a cat storage-wise so I’m off to download a ton of demos and Guitar Hero tracks.

Microsoft’s Windows 7 ‘Party’ instructions

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cX4t5-YpHQ&hl=en&fs=1&]

OK, the acting is terrible, the ‘characters’ are ridiculous, and the script is almost painful to listen to, but this is not an advert asking people to host a party (as many people seem to have taken it) – it’s an info-mercial for the people who signed up to get a free pre-release copy of Windows 7 in return for hosting a party and uploading their photos.

Since it therefore does not have the same aim as an advert and thus was not destined for the same audience, they obviously weren’t designed to have the same marketing impact. Admittedly, they really should have thought that it would be picked up.

Apple ad

One thing I’d like to point out is that Microsoft have at least attempted to represent the different aspects of society. Compare that with the famous Apple ads (which are an entirely separate blog post in themselves): Justin Long (a frigging movie star – no matter how geeky he may appear) is compared with an old bloke with glasses.

Also, I was dragged to queue (in the rain) for the chance to be one of the first to buy a copy of OS X Leopard on release day (sorry, Bryan, you’re not living this down), where people were rewarded with free t-shirts handed out by clapping, fixed-smiling staff holding balloons and faking ‘excitement’. Precisely how is Microsoft’s latest venture any less ridiculous? Queuing to buy an operating system?

I think Microsoft are making a mistake in trying to compete with Apple in this department – I know plenty of Windows users, but not a single one of them would be willing to queue for a new operating system (unlike the Mac users I know). OK, the offer of a free copy is enough to lure some people into hosting a Windows 7 party but I really think they should refrain from this form of publicity campaign in the future – Windows really does not attract the same kind of religious fanaticism and frankly, it’s better that way!