From July 2007

Join the British Secret Service on Facebook.

While casually poking around the crack du jour – i.e. Facebook – tonight, I started searching for a friend working at the Intelligence group and Facebook casually informed me that some people from the British Secret Intelligence Service were on there too:
British Intelligence on Facebook

Huh? What? That’s pretty crazy. I mean, I realize that actual people work for these organizations, but don’t you think they’d have some type of restriction on identifying themselves as being part of a covert government organization? Doesn’t this negate the whole point of the word “Secret” in their name?

My next attempt was to see if someone like say Valerie Plame… er… Wilson was on there too?

CIA

Sadly, she wasn’t there, and even if she was, it’s too late for her. Some other Facebook-lovin’ recruit of the CIA is just hanging out, waiting to be discovered by the next Scooter Libby. A casual search turned up networks for the FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency (which could be the American one or the Indian branch) and not much else. Israel’s Mossad and Shin Bet are noticeably absent, as is Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Organization, Belarus’ KGB, Russia’s GRU and FSB and other popular covert workplace networks. Luckily, the Watercooler Interrogation Society, and the Boardroom Templars haven’t broken their cover yet. I’m looking at you Dennis, Frank and Kevin. Don’t even think about it.

Five things I love and hate about the iPhone

As the sheer volume of iPhone articles, posts, videos and hacks rises to epic proportions, threatening to displace cute baby pictures from their strangehold of the premier position atop the Internet, I thought I’d toss my hat into the ring on the side of the humble iPhone and give the cute widdle guy some badly needed press. Plus I don’t have any babies. That may have been a factor.

I’ve had a few days to stroke it’s sleek glass surface now and the bad news is that it’s not all gorgeously rendered graphics and zippy interfaces. Here are my shortlists:

I hate

  1. The SMS implementation. Although iChat is a superb IM application, the same bubble loving engineers and designers that created it needed to cut back on the backslapping and spend some time using SMS on other smartphones before deciding to shove SMS into iChat clothing. Major gripe – you cannot send an SMS to multiple recipients. More to follow.
  2. No way to forward contact details. This is retarded. Surely I should be able to quickly SMS contact details to someone? No? Ok. How about email? No? Ok. Fine. You win. I’ll just email them from Quicksilver. Gah!
  3. Camera mostly sucks. Ok. Maybe it doesn’t. But taking non-blurry pictures with it is a heroic task, involving coordination between as many as twenty major muscle groups, your hand, your eye, the subject of the picture and of course the position of the iPhone. On the plus side, it does take pictures relatively quickly.
  4. No cut and paste. I know this one has been done to death in the blogs, but lack of cut and paste functionality is a killer. On a related note, without the ability to forward SMSes, this means you’ll have to retype coordination messages multiple times. Or just use email.
  5. No customizable ringtones. C’mon. Seriously. If ATT or Apple tries to start selling @#$!@ DRMed ringtones for this puppy, I will personally fund an Estonian hacker to make me a ringtone app. Come on. It’s an iPod + phone. What else am I going to do with my music? I’d rather wake up to Desert Search for the Techno Allah by Mr Bungle than that crappy Alarm klaxon anyday.

I love

  1. SMS messages are grouped by person/conversation rather than by most recent. Awesome.
  2. Speed. Say what you like you about Apple, but the designers and engineers working on the iPod line realized one thing – that a zippy interface is better. How? Well, by shaving precious milliseconds off the time you have to wait for a screen to jump to the next one or by creating some type of eye candy to fool you into thinking it’s actually doing something (love those cube transitions), your enjoyment and appreciation of the interface will be magnified 10-fold. iPhone apps are rendered swiftly and fluidly (for the most part) and the interface remains extremely responsive. Except when it crashes. See #3.
  3. Crashes. I know what you’re saying. I should have put this up into the section where I rant about all the stupid minor crap that I dislike. Not so. The iPhone crash is a thing of beauty. There are a few types of crashes.

    (a) The Innocent-Until-Proven-Guilty Crash – you’ll be doing something like reading mail or playing with Safari and suddenly you find yourself on the home screen. Wha? What the hell happened? The iPhone acts like nothing has really happened, and will refuse to acknowledge this crash. Ever.
    (b) The Ok-You-Got-Me Crash – total freeze. The interface locks up and refuses to respond to any kind of stimulus or mild pleading. The only way out of this one is to hold the lock button and the home button for about 8 seconds until that beautiful black screen with a silver Apple logo appears.
    (c) The Stuttering Crash – temporary freeze. Occasionally the phone will return to a locked state for no apparent reason. Don’t be fooled. There was a reason. This was no glitch in the matrix. Agent Smith is not after you. Agent Jobs may be.

    Finally, the reason I like the way the iPhone crashes so much is the elegant interface that Apple provides for error reporting, uploading crash logs through iTunes when the phone docks with the computer. Bravo. Pay attention Nokia, SonyEricsson and Samsung.

  4. Spelling correction. When I first started using the iPhone’s mock QWERTY keyboard (please can we have more layouts!) – I was a terrible typer. Slow, inefficient and distrustful of the predictive text, it took me a substantial length of time to type even simple sentences without speeelink errrors. That all changed when I relaxed and learned to love the corrections. Surprisingly, they’re spot on most of the time. And when they aren’t, it’s actually quite easy to change things.
  5. Video. I never thought I was that excited about mobile Youtube until I started watching Dancing Robot videos on my iPhone. Anywhere. This is huge.

links for 2007-07-08

links for 2007-07-04