Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Scotland to raise your management profile

So it happened. I think when I first heard his "anything can happen" spiel I knew it was inevitable. The Scotland Manager (left) Alex McLeish has resigned.

He has moved to Real Madrid AC Milan Manchester United Birmingham!! Now I lived in Birmingham and feel the place gets a hard deal from people who haven't been there, but is McLeish for real?

Are we now at the point where someone who i would have regarded as a REAL Scottish manager - and I remember him from his playing days - is happy to dump the team after 10 months in charge??

Indeed Alex :"To be manager of your home nation is a very proud day indeed for Alex McLeish, my family and friends". *
[* footnote : Unless more money comes my way]

Walter Smith did something similar before, but although i don't think it was the right thing to do, moving to Rangers is probably the only thing that would have made his leave his post. But Alex McLeish - a Scotland "great" has left after 10 months.... and i know how short a time that is as my daugter is only 11 months old.

He has basically used the National team to springboard to a higher paid job. Don't tell me this isn't about money - i mean he must be really badly off after managing Rangers. Come on Alex - you could have been a huge figure in this country by guiding team to the next World Cup in South Africa... he even managed to screw us just a little bit more by even attending the DRAW in South Africa!

It pisses me of that these guys are always talking about player loyalty and yet this is the most obvious case of UNLOYALTY i have seen in years. 10 months. I could understand it if were were an awful team but we have progressed pretty well in recent years - which bring me to my next point....

If anything positive comes from this, it is that we will now see that we have a team pretty much independent of manager. Smith and McLeish did a good job obviously but (and I wish i had recorded this) I said a number of years back that we would have a decent team as you could see the young players coming through the ranks at club level. This was during the Berti era. It came as no shock to me that we started getting results. Vogts was a terrible man motivator which is what you got from the Scottish lads, but it's important to remember that it was under him that this young team came together.

My view is that we simply need someone passionate and let the team run itself. I have a 4 year old and once he realized he could read the alphabet he started making up all kinds of words - only every so often does he need to come to me for help.

And don't kid ourselves we run on passion - sure we have passion, but the second half against the Italians shows us we have no skill shortage either!

WhoIs On Seesmic

I was interested in finding out a bit more about who is on Seesmic - so i asked people to make short videos of who there are and where they are from ... we have three thus far - hopefully get more!

You can see who is on Seesmic by hitting the following :


If you wish it text format you can hit the following:


Hopefully a few more will join so we can follow who is on there! Just add "whois" to your Seesmic video subject line!

Gregg Brockway at Web 2.0

I just watched the presentation given by Gregg Brockway of http://tripit.com at the Web 2.0 Conference last month on Blip.tv.

There is a part where his phone went off and he said it was his wife. It was really well done (despite the audio folks needing a prod) and having been in similar situations I actually thought his wife was maybe having a baby! Of course it was him demonstrating how simply someone could be directed to use the service on a mobile via email.

It was quite an original way of presenting and demonstrating an idea. Worth taking note.

Embed Seesmic in your blogs and so on

So you use Seesmic and want to have the latest version of your videos, or other videos in your blog without having to copy, paste and edit each time. You can do it now.

There are some options. Whether you show the video preview or a text link is based on the querystring parameter "f" which takes the value "vid" or "txt".

So, say i want to just show a text list of the latest (20 by default) videos - i put this in my html page:

<script language="JavaScript" src="http://livz.org/seesmic?f=txt"></script>
Bon! But my dear Steven, i want to show only the last 5 posts - can you do THAT? Well, yes we can... as follows using the "c" querystring value:

<script language="JavaScript" src="http://livz.org/seesmic?f=txt&c=5"></script>Sacré bleu i hear you say. But you want more... you want to display only YOUR latest posts. So for myself who goes under the name "@weblivz" i would show the latest 5 posts as follows:

<script language="JavaScript" src="http://livz.org/seesmic?f=txt&u=@weblivz&c=5"></script>Ah, but video. Seesmic is about video, can i show my latest video?? Of Course - just change the "f" parameter to "vid" rather than "txt":

<script language="JavaScript" src="http://livz.org/seesmic?f=vid&u=@weblivz&c=1"></script>
Of course you can point at ANY username you wish by changing the "u" parameter. Additionally if you do NOT use the "u" parameter you can use the "t" parameter and add any text you wish to be matched as so:

<script language="JavaScript" src="http://livz.org/seesmic?f=vid&t=berners&c=1"></script>
Mon Deu! Can it tell me what I should say in my next video to make sure people watch???

Unfortunately I had to pull that feature at the last minute, but as a work around I suggest clicking the "I'm feeling lucky" Google button and just talking about the first page you come to.

You can see all of this in action at http://livz.org. Play away :)

Xavier wins Enjoy a Ball trophey

Xavier won the Enjoy-a-ball trophey this week for kids so he decided to show it off and by the way he is holding it i get the feeling it may not be the last!! Well done wee man!

Question to Tim Berners-Lee

I noticed Scoble Twittered that he is talking with none other than Tim Berners-Lee this evening!! Well, i have been reading his book Weaving the Web which he wrote a few years back and so even though i love all of Robert's shows, this one will be particularly interesting for me!

So he asked if anyone had a question for him, and although i have an infitinite owl:List of questions this is my first attempt (happens to be the similar to Sam's which was way freaky as it was also at the same time) .

On page 196 of "Weaving the Web" (which i am reading again just now) you voice your concerns specifically over the effect of patenting on reasoning engines for the Semantic Web and i guess the general effects of patenting on the fundamental Semantic Web technologies.

The Semantic Web is certainly progressing although perhaps not quite as fast as we may have expected (I was looking at RDF when writing my first book on Xml around 10 years ago now). In fact most of the good work I have used has come out of research labs in Universites in the US, UK and Germany.

Do you think the constant desire for patents around emerging Semantic Web concepts and the counter fact that a lot of the good work has actually come out of Universites and has been fairly open and flexible (and hence trickier - although not impossible - to build patents on top of), has slowed the rate of large scale commercial adotoption of Semantic Web technology development?

As a startup one of the first things i often hear is "What can you patent?".

Or perhaps more simply a large consumer facing Semantic application has just now taken hold yet? Rather it is dominated by mashups of existing standards - i.e. using the code to hack the meaning rather than the data containg it.

PS. When are you writing the follow up to Weaving the Web?

IF you have time for a follow up question Robert (and you read this!), I'd also like to know whether he can see the existing P3P standards emerging to fit into a Social Environment as privacy is perhaps the most fundamental issue of Social Networks that has not really been tackled yet (identity has been discussed much more than privacy) and a standard looks the best way to ensure this very important aspect is included!

Seesmic Feed

Thanks for all the positive feedback on the work I did. Actually the first thing i did this morning was this:




This returned no results, but i DID get some great feedback on the blogs and privately by email.

Anyway, glad to receive any feedback and hope it comes in useful. Back to my own plan to rule the world now ...

Monday, November 26, 2007

Playing with Seesmic feeds - 3 small features

One of my frustrations with Seesmic was simply knowing what was going on without hitting the site all the time and filtering posts. The provide a Twitter feed which is pretty good but it's getting busy and although they have an RSS feed on the top of the Twitter feed i never knew this til i looked at their JSON code....

... in any case there are a number of things i wanted to do and will likely want to do in the future to the JSON to XML stuff i did will likely come in useful again.

ANYWAY - what have I done??

Well ....

1. An RSS feed of Seesmic - updates around every 15 minutes and can be found here :


2. You can discover posts relevant to you using the "u" querystring value. So


... will return feeds created by me - or directed to me (if you really only want things created by you, then add "by " to the query, such as http://livz.org/seesmic?u=by @weblivz).

3. You can filter based on content using the "t" querystring value. So you can find posts about Seesmic with the following query:


THIS means you can see if anyone has replied to you by just appending "Re: " to the first few characters of your original subject line. So looking at the site just now, i can find replies to "Reload Seesmic for new features !" with the following query ....

http://livz.org/seesmic?t=Re: Reload

It's a bit of a start - hope it is of some use. I already use it to quickly check the last N posts - i guess the fact i can now translate their JSON to RSS will be more useful when it comes to RSS on a person basic - rather than public (which may be quite soon as it's getting busy). In any case hope the filtering features are of some use.

Seesmic is a conversation

I watched a Seesmic video by Loic Le Meur of Seesmic trying to state the point that unlike YouTube, Seesmic is a conversation - much likfe Twitter.

I've been using it since the weekend now and it really is very cool and yes, it is a conversation (although the actual conversation part is something they need to work on - following parts of a conversation is tricky).

The difference from YouTube is that you are talking to your friends. Sure, just now everything is public, but over time it will be your friends because as the public timeline gets noisier, you want to follow only things interesting to you - i.e. your friends.

I have made many friends online recently and many through Twitter, blogs and even Seesmic - so the definition of a friend is pretty flexible.

We all feel a little self-concious when creating these videos but over time this (i hope) will improve and you (or I) will feel more confortable with it all. I DO think that feedback and people talking back to you on Seesmic in a response to your video is a big part of that.

Perhaps we should all be teamed with a mentor who is confortable with it all and can give some feedback. Or maybe just an abrupt "hot or not" system :)

Oh, Seesmic is COOL!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Optimizing NTFS Performance

If you are writing any web services that store large files on an NTFS volume, this section is very useful - full article here.

Optimizing NTFS Performance

NTFS performance is affected by many factors, such as cluster size, fragmentation level, and the use of programs such as antivirus software. In addition, NTFS features such as compression and Indexing Service can also affect performance. Optimize the performance of NTFS volumes by using the following guidelines.
Determine Cluster Size

Before you format an NTFS volume, evaluate the types of files to be stored on the volume to determine whether to use the default cluster size. Some important questions to answer include:

* Are the files typically the same size?
* Are the files smaller than the default cluster size?
* Do the files remain the same size or grow larger?

If the files are typically smaller than the default cluster size (for example, 4 KB) and do not increase, use the default cluster size to reduce wasted disk space. However, smaller clusters can increase fragmentation, especially when files grow to fill more than one cluster. Therefore, adjust the cluster size accordingly when you format the volume. If the files you store tend to be large or increase in size, use 16-KB or 32-KB clusters instead of the default 4-KB cluster size.

Note Compression is supported only on volumes that use 4-KB or smaller clusters.

Cluster size is also an issue for volumes that were converted from FAT to NTFS in Windows 2000 or earlier because the default cluster size for converted volumes is 512 bytes, and the MFT was most likely fragmented during the conversion. For optimum performance, back up the data on the volume, reformat the volume, specify the appropriate cluster size, and then restore the data.

For more information about choosing a cluster size, see “Cluster Size” earlier in this chapter.
Use Short File Names

Every time you create a file with a long file name, NTFS creates a second file entry that has a similar 8.3 short file name. A file with an 8.3 short file name has a file name containing 1 to 8 characters and a file name extension containing 1 to 3 characters. The file name and file name extension are separated by a period.

If you have a large number of files (300,000 or more) in a folder, and the files have long file names with the same initial characters, the time required to create the files increases. The increase occurs because NTFS bases the short file name on the first six characters of the long file name. In folders with more than 300,000 files, the short file names start to conflict after NTFS uses all the 8.3 names that are similar to the long file names. Repeated conflicts between a generated short file name and existing short file names cause NTFS to regenerate the short file name from 6 to 8 times.

To reduce the time required to create files, use the fsutil behavior set disable8dot3 command to disable the creation of 8.3 short file names. (You must restart your computer for this setting to take effect.) For more information about disabling 8.3 short file names, see “MS-DOS-Readable File Names on NTFS Volumes” later in this chapter.

If you want NTFS to generate 8.3 names, improve performance by using a naming scheme in which long file names differ at the beginning of the name instead of at the end.

For more information about short file names, see “File Names in Windows XP Professional” later in this chapter.
Determine Folder Structure

NTFS supports volumes with large numbers of files and folders, so create a folder structure that works best for your organization. Some guidelines to consider when designing a folder structure include:

* Avoid putting a large number of files into a folder if you use programs that create, delete, open, or close files quickly or frequently. The better solution is to logically separate the files into folders to distribute the workload on multiple folders at the same time.

* If there is no way to logically separate the files into folders, put all the files into one folder and then disable 8.3 file name generation. If you must use 8.3 names, use a file-naming scheme that ensures that the first six characters are unique.

Warning The time required to run Chkdsk.exe increases with larger folders. For more information about determining how long Chkdsk takes to complete, see Chapter 28, “Troubleshooting Disks and File Systems.”

Seesmic Citizens Collective

Thanks to Jeff Pulver and his tweet, I got a Seesmic invite and signed up and sent in my first video - it was all spur of the moment and the two kids were kicking off so it was slightly chaotic (whether it gets less chaotic, only time will tell!).

Anyway, i wanted to simply ask whether there were any other Scottish Seemsic folk and wasn't sure what you call a collection of Seemic folks - i.e. "Are there any other Scottish ..... out there"?

1. Seesmicites - i'm sure i saw one of these in a nature program

2. Seesmatics - sounds like a hoover

3. ?

Any ideas?

I should have posted this as a video but the kids are approaching bedtime and so all hell is breaking loose!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

23AndMe, and Geni

So I just visited the http://23andme.com site, a personal genome service which
"... is intended to help people understand their inherited traits and to allow them
to compare themselves with friends and family."

At first i thought WHAT?! OK, so I thought it was a gentic based dating site (perhaps that's in their future plans ;) ) but once i looked around i thought - COOL !

It's not cheap at $1k per person but based on the extremely qualified backers and advisors of this site i'd more likely believe it actually works pretty well. I think we'd need educated as to exactly what to take and understand from any results we were given - as well as perhaps some clue as to what to do with it (other than - "i told you you had your fathers stubborness"). Could it be beneficial in education, sports and health?? Even a marginal improvement here can only be a good thing (especially as a father with two kids)!

Now, imagine this.... They do a deal with Geni (one of my fav sites) and over time (as things get slightly cheaper) you get larger percentages of families getting involved. Imagine the kind of searches you could do - even within your own family.

I don't know how far this will extend from the family but clearly their are huge opportunities - with a whole set of new privacy issues to watch over. But clearly this is a direction these kind of services will move into.

Has anyone used the service? If so please let me know.

A startup idea to make £56 Million in one week

Here is my idea to making £56 million in one week. Any investors out there?

1. Start a Credit Reference Agency

2. Get loads of people's credit information.

3. Wait 'til the government loses 28 million items of personal information.

4. Charge two pounds per reference check.

5. After one week, sell to someone else who can make cash the next time it happens.

6. Check the bank account to see your lovely £56 Million.

Oh crap, someone stole it when they got your credit details. Doh!

This is obvously tounge-in-cheek but this is what they are asking you to do. Credit Agencies must be loving it!

Alastair Darling - we have technology to fix this

Having worked on a project for schools in Scotland that required the export and trasportation of some personal information I cannot believe the basic flaws that have been made by the "technical people" at HM Revenue and Customs.

Here is it in one line.


This is not difficult. The technologies are far enough advanced. In an attempt to save the trillions of consultancy fees, here is how to fix this.

1. Give every member of staff a certificate and/or smart card.

2. Ensure they use a very strong password when using that certificate

3. Any EXPORT routine MUST ask for the private key of the user exporting the data and signs that data. This ensure you know who exported the data.

4. Additionally, any export routine MUST ask for the public key of the EXACT user you intend to send the data to and encrypt that data. Now only that person can read that data as only they have the private key for that certificate.

5. Now, with the IMPORT routine, when the person wants to read the data they need their own private key to decrypt the data.

6. The IMPORT routine should also check the signature an alert the user as to confirm who SENT them the data.

Additional steps should be :

7 .Use Key Revocation to ensure that should any key be lost, that key becomes IMMEDIATELY invalid and hence can't be used to view the data.

8. Know and ensure that every application that uses this data has a common import/export routine with encryption and logging as standard.

9. Log every interaction with that data. You don't even need the personal data to do this - just an identifier for the user (say the certificate hash) and an identifier for the data items.

This stuff sounds tricker than it is. I have now done this with the Government, Barclays and a few other places.... in short - you CANNOT just allow people to export this kind of data.

Now we are all checking our bank accounts - i have an additional post coming next on the business side of this ...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

YouTube for Parents - you have it the wrong way around

Update : Ian Hayward the founder of Glubble corrected me below in that you CAN indeed restrict on a page basis. We both agree the comments (and links with previews) by others can be quite unfortunate. Tricker to deal with outside of YouTube.

I've just spent 15 minutes trying to find a video for my 4 year old son to watch on YouTube. It's not the fist time. Simply put due to some idiotic and outdated rules on the US site which says only kids in the US can see a certain 5 minute cartoon, it leaves him asking why and me hunting for an equivalent on YouTube.

However, I would never let him use that site himself as some of the "cartoons" content and comments aren't stuff i want him to see. So i can't even use software like Glubble as it works on a site by site basis. In any case - this is for YouTube to sort out. Oh, and YouTube is not alone, please read on if you have any mixed content with some intended for kids.

Here is my guide:

1. Everything should be opt out
Yes, if i say i am under X years of age or go into "parent mode" (doesn't exist but should) then plesae make EVERYTHING opt in. That means when *I* hit the site there are NO videos. Well, perhaps you can suggest some that have been vetted. *I* will then decide precisely what my kids can see. PRECISELY. I will choose what comments and what content- and you will like to other stuff i have suggested. So that means NO previews of stuff you THINK may be suitable and no "That was fucking awsome. The older stuff was shit but this is good." comments.

2. Let you and your friends decide which moves you wish to set as opt in
OK, so i am willing to go one further step and I should be able to specify what friends i have who i also trust to recommend kids material (no offence to any friends :)). If i say my sons Grandma can recommend a kids video to him then i expect you to respect that.... but just because i may be friends with "womanizer77" (i made that up completely btw) does NOT mean i trust his movies by proxy for my kids.

3. Don't recommend clips from the Exorcist when showing a Ben 10 clip to a 4 year old
I really don't think much needs said here. It happened.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

OpenID provider fitness

I'm adding OpenID support to a site i am working on, but came up with an interesting question.

Typically i have the username/password/email and email verification process. Alternatively you enter your OpenID.... but this is where i started to think. Do I limit the OpenID to trusted OpenID providers or do i just accept ANY OpenID? How do i know they haven't juset set up their own provider and how do i know whether the email is valid??

Do I request their email and ask them for yet another verification before they can use the site.... something that could get quite annoying overall.

Would be nice to have an online service which you can query every so often to check the "fitness" of providers so you can decide whether a provider is valid or not. Similar to the certificate lists you get in your browser. This could be managed and be very beneficial for the community i would have thought!? Anyone working on such a service?

If you are reading and have implemened an openid client on your site, how have you gotten round this?