Friday, 22 March 2013

Biggest Stadium Wireless Development

The San Francisco 49ers NFL team have announced plans to build the biggest stadium wireless network so far (source here).

Set to open for the 2014 season the 49ers goal is to support connections for all 68,500 fans simultaneously. The stadium could have anywhere up to 1500 access points, their senior IT Director said.

The 2013 Superbowl had up to 30,000 simultaneous wireless connections during the game (source) and traffic totalled more than 360GB.

It will be interesting to see what technology they use to deploy the network (with 802.11ac and 802.11ad device starting to arrive with high potential throughput). It is said to have a terabit capacity to support all the connections.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

What is it?

Took me a while to work out what it was, but this is probably the most original (and kookiest) android desktop/launcher I have seen:

Source: androidpolice

Monday, 18 March 2013

Google Reader Alternatives

Looking for an alternative to Google Reader, that is being closed in the summer, I have come across three possibilities so far. All have their pro's and con's.

Note: I am immediately discounting the likes of Pulse, Flipboard, Currents etc, as I am looking for a direct replacement for Google Reader and not a tiled aggregation service that puts content it thinks you will enjoy at the top.

Feedly can provide the feeds in the form of tiles (like Pulse, Flipboard, etc) but also has a number of different layout options, including the layout in the screenshot above that looks familiar to Reader users. It also has the ability to share content.

Multiplatform (android, iOS, desktop)

Currently uses Google Reader for synchronisation (as does FeedDemon that has decided to call it a day)

Another similar interface to Google Reader. You can star and share stories like you could on Google Reader and also change the layout or get rid of pictures. There are free and premium account options.

Multiplatform (android, iOS, desktop)

The android app is, according to the reviews, awful and often doesn't work:

The free version only allows 10 articles at a time and 64 subscriptions
Free accounts are currently not available due to high demand
Text-only previews is a premium feature
You have to provide a credit card to sign up

Currently in beta, The Old Reader is a project designed to work like Google Reader used to. You can log in via Google or Facebook.

Most like Google Reader

No mobile apps
Will be introducing paid accounts for full features in the future (link).

I am not sold on any of the three so far. Others I have been looking at all seem to use Google Reader to do the work with syncing and aggregation, so many of them may disappear the same time that Reader does. What would be ideal is an amalgamation of the three.

I was very tempted to pay for Newsblur, but all the recent reviews for the app on my portable devices say that it doesn't work, it force closes, crashes or just displays a black screen. I would need the premium version as I have so many feeds, but I am not going to pay if the android version does not work.

The Old Reader looks to work just as I would want it to on the desktop and works most like Google Reader. However, there is currently no mobile app which, with so many feeds, is how I keep up to date with most of the news.

Feedly, then, seems to be the pick of the bunch, but hopefully they will make their own engine (and that it works well) before the Google Reader switch off.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Goodbye old friend

Anyone logging into to Google Reader from yesterday will have seen the message above reporting that Google Reader will shortly no longer be available. This is a great shame in my opinion as it was one, if not the only, app I used just about everyday on mobile and visited most often online.

You may have seen the Google blog post entitled 'The Second Spring of Cleaning', in which Google states that "...over the years usage has declined. So, on July 1, 2013, we will retire Google Reader. Users and developers interested in RSS alternatives can export their data, including their subscriptions, with Google Takeout over the course of the next four months".

If usage has declined then it still seemed to be doing pretty well. The android app was pulled from the Play store yesterday too, but I was able to  take a look at how many people downloaded it. It was listed between 1,000,000 and 5,000,000. It also had an average rating of 4.2 out of 5.

With regards to the web version, I can only speak of myself, but I found it an invaluable way to organise over 120 subscriptions.
I know not everyone shares my disappointment. There was a lot of comments on Twitter yesterday from people saying that they use Pulse or Flipboard, for example, so they don't see what all the fuss is about. Both applications are good examples of what they do, but for me they present two problems.

First of all, they don't do the job I want on the desktop. Flipboard is only available in android and iOS varieties, while Pulse, which can be read on the desktop, displays a mash-up of tiles rather than a clean, ordered list of articles...and things were so much easier to find in Reader.

Secondly, I follow a huge number of blogs, both work-related and of personal interest. Some people might only post once in 6 months, while others would post 10-15 times a day. Google Reader was great at keeping these organised with unread counts, folders, labels, ability to rename feeds, star them, etc. It was clean and organised. It was also capable of group editing your feeds the same way Gmail can change the labels, status and location of any number of emails. You never felt you were bombarded with information that you had to sort through to find what you were looking for, or that you would miss something, perhaps an important instruction manual related to changes at work, because it was buried by a hundred other posts that went up when you went to sleep.

I would need a solution that could sync read, unread (and labels or 'starred') articles across platforms (without looking at your Google Reader account to do the job).

For many years Google provided this excellent free service and they should be thanked for that.They see the company going in a different direction, perhaps moving people from Reader to Google+ projects in the hopes of toppling Faceboook's crown? Despite the introduction of communities though, I can't ever see Google+, or any social media for that matter, replacing the RSS reader. There is just too much information to sort through, your hands would seize up with the endless scrolling before you had read them all, or sorted through them to read later.

I know there are other RSS readers out there*, I have tried many of them in the past. I went with Google Reader because it did the best job of meeting my needs. It worked on my Windows and Linux machines as well as my iOS and portable android devices. So, yes, I will be very sorry to see it go and will spend the next few months trying to find an adequate replacement. Hopefully, I will be able to keep up with everyone and every site that is currently important to me and my work.

*It seems Newsblur, that do support web, android and iOS, have suspended their free accounts (probably because of the influx of new users. Anyway, they only supported up to 64 feeds in the free version).

If anyone knows of a good (and free?) cross-platform replacement let me know.

Goodbye Google Reader 2005-2013.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Worth a weekend - The best Geek TV boxsets

I finished watching the Battlestar Galactica prequel, Blood & Chrome, this morning. It wasn't bad, but afterwards I was left with the memory of how truly great the 'noughties' version of Battlestar was. I decided I would compile a list of the best geeky boxsets to while away a weekend on.

I like lists. So, in no particular order:

Battlestar Galactica

Frak! That's a good looking toaster!

The Cylons are robots (or 'toasters'), created by the humans of the Twelve Colonies, who then turned on their creators and started a war. The war ended in a stalemate and truce but, 40 years later, the Cylons came back with 'suicide bombers' in human form. They destroyed all the planets and anyone on them, leaving just the people who were aboard starships to make an escape. The soon-to-be decommissioned Galactica is now responsible for protecting the last remaining members of the human race.

If I had a spare 50 or 60 hours, this is one box set I would like to watch again. Another good point, despite it being an American show, it has an ending. It doesn't just get cancelled while the story is ongoing or with a cliff hanger ending (see V, Invasion, Tru Calling, Pushing Dasies, 4400)

The X-Files

Mulder strong! Lift torch high, grr!

I can't believe there are people who haven't seen the X-files, but those that have may have forgotten how truly great it used to be (partly thanks to a couple of terrible final series' and mediocre films).

A creepy, outcast, UFO 'nut' who works for the FBI gets a new partner who, originally it seems, has been hired to refute and debunk his work on the 'X-Files', a series of unsolved cases that could contain paranormal or extraterrestrial phenomena.

Some of these episodes were fantastic. Gripping and suspense-filled and didn't feel over the top or silly.

I was reminded to include this show by the wonderful posts of Jennifer Cates over at Den of Geek who has been re-watching The X-Files from the pilot episode, and can write about it much better than I can. Those early episodes like 'Squeeze' are still fresh in the memory and fondly thought of. Her reviews can be found here. If you decide to have a weekend X-Files-a-thon though, I will forgive you for stopping after series 7.


We picked this table despite 
it only having three chairs

It is quite appropriate that this should follow The X-Files in the list as, to me anyway, this is The X-Files of the 21st Century. It follows the X-Files formula of 'Monster-A-Week' style combined with a story arc that flows through it at the same time, leading to stand-alone or mythology-based episodes.

Again the main characters are working for a almost-secret subdivision of the FBI. Instead of aliens, however, the unknown threats often arrive in the shape of time-travellers, genetic or psychological experimentation and parallel worlds.

Unlike the first two in this list, Fringe is still going, but with the final series soon to be released.


Quick! I think I see Harry Styles

Sherlock Holmes in a contemporary setting (a theme recently copied in America with Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu), this time he has access to the internet and GPS while Watson has returned from Afghanistan. Smart writing and story telling. Despite being adapted from Conan Doyle's originals you still don't always know where or how it's going to go.


Look, wings! B*tches love wings

Probably one of my two favourite current shows (with Sons of Anarchy being the other), not really that 'geeky', but Dexter does work in a forensic lab so it does...because I said so.

Who'd have thought you would root for a serial killer? Great writing means you do.


Pull stupid

What Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost did before Shaun of The Dead.  You sure know it was going to be 'geeky'. With references from Star Wars, The Matrix and Close Encounters... to name but a few, it had to be included didn't it?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Tru Calling

Before I go vampire hunting I make sure 
I put on my lipstick and makeup

I have put these two together on the list because they are both guilty pleasures. A guy in his thirties probably shouldn't like these shows, but I do.

It is easy to forget now that there weren't a lot (or any?) vampire shows about at the time Buffy started. In a post-Twilight world they are everywhere, but few have as many cute and funny moments as Buffy does. Episodes such as 'The Body' were genuinely poignant, while 'Hush' was a gripping, funny and scary take on Fairy Tales. Plus, if you plough through the series box sets, you will find it has a satisfactory conclusion. A proper ending.

If you settle down with Tru Calling on the other hand, be warned you will find it was cancelled on a cliffhanger ending. If you missed the stories of Tru Davies it also stars Eliza Dushku, this time as a medical student having to work in a morgue to cover her student fees. She finds out after coming into contact with a body that she can re-live the day and she ends up trying to prevent them from ending up on the slab.


Eww. Why is the floor wet?

Future, space travel, inventions, robots. I know, another show that has gone downhill recently, but I challenge anyone not to get emotional at the 'Jurrasic Bark' episode.