Off-topic I know – but I read an interesting article on Mauritius today. The growth in HIV and AIDS along with drug use has been the major news on Mauritius lately. This story goes into a bit more detail than most. So for those that think Mauritius is an African shinning beacon of hope – think again. I only hope the Government of Mauritius wake up and smell the coffee before its too late Read the article here
In a week of pretty much zero tech news, I thought I’d take a look at podcasts I’m listening to and watching. So, in alphabetical order:
- Apple Phone Show
- Ask a Ninja
- Buzz out Loud – CNET
- CommandN h.264
- Cranky Geeks
- Daily Breakfast
- Farming Today (I know – but it has sentimental value)
- Fr. Geek’s Video Podcast
- FT Digital Business podcast
- The Future of Business
- The Mac Observer’s Mac Geek Gab
- Mac OS Ken
- Mac Roundtable Podcast
- MacBreak Weekly
- MacCast Loop
- Mahalo Daily
- Meditation Oasis
- The Meditation Podcast
- Meditation Station
- The Merlin Show
- Monty Man’s Blog (an early pilot podcast I produced and hosted)
- National Geographic Video Shorts
- Pray Station Portable
- President’s Weekly Radio Address
- The President’s Weekly Radio Address (The Comedy version)
- The Ricky Gervais Podcast
- The Ricky Gervais Show
- The Saintcast Catholic Podcast
- Screencasts online – Mac Video Tutorials
- Smartphones Show
- Steve Jobs and Bill Gates at D5 Conference
- This Week in Tech (TWIT)
- Today in Parliament
- Typical Mac User Podcast
According to iTunes, as of today this collection includes 166 items or 3 days of content and approximately 5.22GB of data. Note to self……..I need a longer commute
Well it certainly feels like the blogosphere has fallen head over heels for the Asus Eee PC. There was an interesting discussion last week on Leo Laporte’s TWIT podcast about the new Linux based UMPC. Overall there was genuine excitment about the potential of the laptop. At £229 it is really a steel. From my perspective – it certainly looks hot. I would have liked to have seen from the outset a slot for an HSDPA sim card for mobile connectively – but hey, for the money we can’t have everything. Besides, I understand that ASUS are working on a compatible card that slots right into the unit. There have been a number of reviews out there – but I discovered an excellent account by Ars Technica a couple of days ago…. An iPhone beater – possibly not. A big seller – possibly. A hit amongst geeks – certainly. Check out the review here
Phew. I made it through the first 12 hours of the Apple reality distortion field. The frenzy and buzz that surrounds the launch of the iPhone is still in full force. But I have decided I won’t get one and here are my five reasons why. 1. I’m still in contract with Three for five months. An obvious show stopper.2. The iPhone is awesome – but not for a power user. Sounds a bit arrogant I know. But the iPhone is without a doubt the best overall consumer cellphone on the market. From form factor to software, from touch to web implementation this system rocks for the masses.But my requirements make the iPhone significantly under spec. I require 3g (and wifi), I require third party apps (now), I require Skype, I require an IM client, I require full mobile computing. I absolutely require full web experience and now blogging on the go. I simply do not want to compromise on my technology. 3. The price is not right. As a free marketer I believe for the spec., the iPhone is set at a price I am not willing to pay. It simply costs too much for too little. 4. Mass appeal: Yes I admit it. I am a slightly snobbish uber geek. I tend to loose interest when a device enters the realm of spotty teenager. 5. 18 months is too long for me. I am not prepared to suffer an 18 month contract. Tech moves on – and so will I in that period. Make no mistake. The iPhone rocks – big time. It is fantastic and I genuinely believe it will change the cellphone market for the better. But it’s not there yet. It comes painfully close to being the greatest mobile device in consumer history. But not yet. So my solution. The Nokia n810.
I have been running OS X 10.5, better known as Leopard for about two hours now. My first impression – awesome. I opted for an upgrade install rather than a clean install or install/archive. My first impression is that this os X rocks. The installation was painless, took around one hour. Once installed, Spotlight took a further thirty minutes or so to index my data. I am discovering new features all the time. But what stands out so far is a feature I didn’t actually think would be that impressive. I was wrong. The ‘cover flow’ in the finder is fantastic. I can now look browse through mini documents across my harddrive. Clearly this came across from iTunes . Very impressive. Secondly, Front Row has had a major makeover. It is now basically an Apple TV! Yes that’s right. I can stream content from across my network through to it. A major step. Think of the possibilities……A server or even a NAT could be installed on the network. It would only have media on it. I could then call it up on any Mac running 10.5…… All this so far….I’ve not even begun with Time Machine yet 🙂
Now everyone knows I am an Apple fanboy. I admit it. However, I must confess that the iPhone falls far too short for my requirements. The cost, lack of 3G and the endless struggle for third party apps means it fails to scratch my itch. Perhaps most significantly the lack of IM and VOIP makes it a non starter for me.
Now, I did consider the Nokia E90 communicator as the holy grail. An all in one device that pretty much covers all the requirements. However, it has limitations. A screen that, whilst big, falls short when trying to render the latest 2.0 sites, along with other sites.
Well it looks like my wait is over. Nokia have released the latest in their line up of Linux based Internet tablets. The N810 covers all my requirements (bar mobile telephony). Quite simply, the spec is awesome. Go check it out here . I want one.
So the hot news from Apple is that OS X 10.5 is due for release on Friday 26 October. It promises to be a significant OS with over 300 new features. Perhaps some of the most noteworthy include ‘Time Machine’ an innovative approach to back up for the typical user. Other call features include a radically enhanced iChat, cover flow view on all files and a cleaver way to remotely connect to your Mac via .mac.
I know I’ll be grabbing my copy from Regent Street next week. I can’t wait.
So the guys at Ubuntu have released 7.10 earlier this week. From all accounts it seems like a pretty awesome update. The FT give it a glowing review. Perhaps a sign of just how far Linux has come these last few years…..Now I just need a laptop to run it on 🙂
Welcome to my new blog
So now the interesting work begins. To recap briefly. All
three computers are now fired up and connected via the
ADSL Gateway/router to the internet. The basics are there.
Now the task in hand is three-fold.
Firstly, to run all the necessary Windows patches on each
machine. (And as you know Microsoft do tend to release a lot
of these). This was a pain free process, if somewhat time
consuming – due to the 512k link.
Secondly, to install all the relevant applications on the
machines. Specifically, to decide the appropriate software on
the client machines. The one golden rule I applied to this
project was that I did not want your average cyber cafe
customer to install / or tamper with software on the
machines. It would be very difficult to manage and open up
all sorts of vulnerabilities.
Assuming some of the key user requirements for the client
computers I installed the following applications :
1 • Open Office (of course)
2 • MSN Messenger
3 • Yahoo Messenger
4 • Skype
5 • Internet Explorer 7 (I did review Firefox – but felt IE7
was surprisingly good – and users would be familiar
6 • Antivirus software
So in addition to the standard applications on a vanilla
Windows XP box I installed the above applications on all
three computers. Again, a relatively standard procedure – but
it required a bit of manual labour, toggling between the three
machines. Bandwidth limitation, proving, the main constraint.
But I’m not complaining – 512k is fit for purpose for a small
cyber cafe with just two primary client computers.
Finally, I made sure that the firewalls were up and running on
all three computers. Then the next step.
Phase three – cyber cafe management of software
Thirdly, I begun a short one day review of appropriate cyber
cafe management software. It is day two now. I am getting to
the crucial part of the project. The computers are now ready
for the next major step. If the project was to succeed this
was to be the key.
Being the open source geek I am, I begun the application
review of a piece of opensource cyber cafe management
software called, Cybera . This initially seemed like a sound
piece of software. It was relatively straightforward to install,
but alas a documented bug revealed its ugly head during
testing. It was proving tricky to find a work around, and I was
not impressed with some of the functionality. The
customization was quite good, but I felt it was clumsy and far
from intuitive. Failed. The search continued…..
Having tested a further two further applications (they were
too poor to mention) I opted for a proprietary application
called, CafeZee . This programme simply stood out amongst
all the others. It is based around a standard client / server
relationship. Having installed the server element on the
managers PC, I then installed the client element of the
software on the client computers. A no brainer so far.
I must confess I did struggle to get the three computers seeing
each other. Then I realized the firewalls were all running. I
disabled them all temporarily and bingo, all three could see
The user-interface (GUI) was very easy to use and it
immediately became obvious how the software worked. I
won’t go into all the features – far too many to name – but
essentially, the server controls all aspects of the clients.
Everything from simultaneous reboots through to
simultaneous shutdowns were all possible via the server.
One of the features that sold this killer application for me –
was the ability to apply lock-downs on the clients. Via the
server I was able to apply two preset security settings on the
clients. Given the nature of a cyber cafe I wanted security to
be high. I restricted everything from rebooting, software
installs, downloads and visibility of the desktop. Additionally,
I set the cache, history and cookies of IE7 to reset after each
client session – just be be sure. So each computer would
revert to its standard settings after each session.
Given the dual purpose of the computers, I set a low-level
security preset for when the computers were being used for
computer training classes. As with the whole design of the
setup, I trained the cyber cafe manager on how to make the
Client session based approach
Cafezee proved outstanding on managing the sessions for
each client. Essentially, the software generates codes and the
user, once paid, can input the code to gain access to the
computer. The pre-pay code based service, offered a
minimum of one hour per session. I also enabled a post-pay
minimum session of 30mins. The server side did all the work
– and it really impressed me. The codes could be printed out
for the customer, invoices could be prepared and sessions
could easily be extended or terminated if necessary. A
Other functionality included the client computers being able
to order additional services from the cyber cafe, such as
drinks, media and other services. This was simple to set up –
but the project executive decided not to use this functionality,
but the project executive decided not to use this functionality,
at this stage.
With the hardware and software all configured, running and
tested I begun the most important part of the project –
training. This could make or break the success of the cyber
The senior user, was a friend of the project executive – an IT
teacher in a local school. Whist she would not be able to
work daily in the cyber cafe, she would be running the IT
training classes. Furthermore, after I trained her, she would
then, in turn, train the project executive and Rene family in
running the cyber cafe.
I ran through the design, specifications and importantly,
Cafezee with the IT teacher. Clearly, she knew her stuff – and
having tested her – she was quickly able to pick up even the
most advanced features in Cafezee. I must add at this stage,
that she does have a background in IT, so it made this
potentially difficult stage very easy.
With everything running and the IT teacher up to speed, I ran
through Cafezee and the computers with the project executive
and family. Again, they quickly grasped the basics. Further
training would be had via the IT trainer.
So, by roughly day 6 the work was done. Project complete
and accepted by the customer. I am sure the cyber cafe will
be a success – and I wish them well.
This was a first for me. I had a theoretical understanding of
how I might set a cyber cafe up, but had never actually put it
into practice. I don’t pretend to claim this is the best setup –
far from it. There are open-source alternatives out there,
which may be superior. In particularly I know a thin-client
terminal server setup is often used in this type of
environment. However, I opted for a compromise solution
that everyone would be familiar with. I will state , for the
record, that Windows is far from perfect. However, in this
instance it proved the idea OS for a simple, hopefully,
sustainable cyber cafe.
I will return back to the cyber cafe in December. I’ll post a
post-project review in January next year.