I love Newsfire.   Arguably it is the sexiest and most pleasant way to read your RSS feeds.

But I’m putting it on hold.  Our household has two macs, I have a work PC, and I have a home PC.  Oh – and I have a HTC Apache in the back pocket for feed reading on the bus.  Quite simply, maintaining a consistent state of what feeds I have read and not read is just too difficult.  So it’s back to Google Reader for now.

A lot of people are going on about how important it will be for web apps to be offline enabled.   My problem is similar to this, but I need a desktop app to be more “online enabled”!  Imagine, if Newsfire (and your other desktop apps) could maintain state between other desktops and web apps.

I’m sure we’re gonna see this real soon.

Before my two beloved daughters were unleashed on this planet, I used to be an avid gamer.   I still try and squeeze in a bit of “thumb action” once they’ve all gone to bed!

I was thinking that the evolution of gaming isn’t too far removed from the evolution of IT applications.  Okay, maybe I’m pushing it – but read it and hopefully you’ll see where I’m coming from.

One of my passions is soccer games.   I started off with a Vic 20, complete with a whopping 5KB of RAM, but as far as I remember I never had a soccer game for it.

Then I upgraded to a Commodore 64.  A brilliant little machine.  It had a decent soccer game in Emlyn Hughes international soccer.


Just like those other Commodore fanboys (as opposed to Sinclair spectrum fanboys), I upgraded to the Amiga.

This brought a plethora of quality soccer games, my favourite of which had to be Kick-Off.  But there were other notable mentions in Emlyn Hughes (Amiga Version), Sensible Soccer, and Kick-Off2&3.  The beauty of Kick-Off was that it encapsulated the very randomness and spontaneous nature of “the beautiful game”.  Not a single goal was the same.  You could pull off incredibly dirty tackles.  You could literally pull a goal off from anywhere.  Magic.  It was just breathtakingly simple.

KickOff  Sensi

Then the Playstation ushered in a changing of the guard.  The switch to 3D and TV style coverage.  Through the various iterations of the console we’ve seen the Actua Soccer series, a gazillion FIFA soccer titles, and we’re now up to episode 6 of the brilliant Pro Evolution Soccer.  You can even play online with players around the world and participate in remote tournaments (Soccer 2.0).

Fifa  ProEvo

Over the years, I have to say that my favourite was Kick-Off on the Amiga.  Simple graphics and simple sound, but spontaneous and unpredictable gameplay that really worked.  It was gameplay that gave users the next best experience to scoring a real life goal (not that I experience that very often).  It was simply magic.

The Lesson

It’s not about the graphics. It’s not about the full motion video.  It’s not about the teams that are licensed.  It’s all about the end user experience.  Concentrate on those parts that really touch a chord with your users.  And implement them very very well.   That’s why FIFA doesn’t do it for me.  Too slow.  Too much on the surface.  Nothing under it.  It’s just not true to the game of football. (non footy fans, at this point you’re thinking I’m crazy).

Another lesson – everyone has different tastes.   Some people want the glitz and glam.  Some people just don’t want deep gameplay – they just want a quick fix.  The sales prove it.  There’s plenty of niches to full.  When the next “EA Sports” of web apps comes along, don’t run off scared.

After all, if Burnley can beat Liverpool, then anything is possible!

[even if it was a long time ago]

Quicksilver = Godsend

March 23, 2007

quickMac freaks out there will know all about Quicksilver.

When I first got my Mac all those many months ago I wondered where the start menu was.  Macs don’t really do this.   To run programs I used to open a finder window (from the doc), select go|applications, and then select an app.

“What a pain in the arse!”, I thought.

Then I quickly discovered Spotlight.  Type the app name into the top right hand corner of the screen, and hey presto, a link to the app pops up.  Pretty good I thought.

Then I found Quicksilver.

Start Menus no more.  Finder windows no more.  Apps (hardly any more).

You see, in Quicksilver, with a number of keyboard spaces you can open apps or files, do stuff with them, then do more stuff with them.  Without having to open the app itself, and without having to touch the mouse.

Here’s a couple of quick examples:

  • [ctrl-space | cyb | return ] – opens my cyberduck FTP utility
  • [ctrl-space | mum | ema | return] – opens up an email addressed to Mum!
  • [ctrl-space | pp ] – plays and pauses iTunes.

And it learns your most popular commands!

Once you get your head around this it is brilliant.

Anyone know of a windows equivalent (for work!)?

Check out this fun little link to work out how much your blog is worth.

I’m not gonna give up my day job anytime soon.

Some fun figures:

On my recent bus journeys into work, I’ve been listening to the Future of Web Apps (FOWA) conference podcasts. A great and productive way to while away your dead time.

DropsendI was listening to Ryan Carson about how much it cost them to build DropSend – a fantastic little web app used to get around sending large files by email. They spent no more than 30,000GBP (about 80,000NZD) to build this great little business.

The speech was given over a year ago now, and at that time DropSend had over 10,000 registered users (this was two months after launching)! Their pricing plans range from free, through to a full business service costing US$99pm.

And then this morning, I came across Telecom’s billing analyst service. Effectively it is an online web app to view your Telecom bill. Great, I thought! Something they should have done years ago, but better late than never. Not rocket science, or anything revolutionary though.

Billing AnalystThen, imagine my surprise shock and horror, when I was informed that, as a valued Telecom customer, there is a $250 setup fee and a cost of $99 per month! Now, our company already pays Telecom (literally) thousands of dollars per month for services – but to be hit with this as an additional charge is taking the p*ss.

Now, look at the numbers. These are crude, but hopefully lead me to my points.

  • let’s assume 3,000 businesses need this function
  • at NZ$99pm, AND a NZ$250 setup fee, that’s NZ$4.3m per year
  • Telecom tell us that billing analyst was “off-the-shelf”. It looks nothing special to me – but let’s take the Telecom factor into account here and assume it cost them five times what it cost DropSend (5*NZ$80k = $400k)
  • Year One Profit = just under $4m

My Points

  • Telecom should be looking after me as a customer, not charging for what should be a given.
  • Either Telecom are shafting my bottom line and making theirs much fatter, or it cost them millions upon millions to install their “off-the-shelf” product – I imagine both! (something sound familiar)
  • If I am right about my second point above, big corporations are incapable of doing anything cost effectively, and
  • That buying products “off-the-shelf” saves you bugger all money at all.

At the end of it all, though, we’re still gonna sign up and pay since Telecom bills are harder to understand than a Chinese encyclopedia, so anything upon anything will help. But it kind of feels like you’re paying them more money to fix what is a crappy billing system in the first place.

They’re a funny bunch! I can’t wait for the day that these big dudes see the light.



This is post number 54 on the Up North Down South blog.  It’s been going for almost six months.

So is it worth it?  Well, yes.

I’ll be honest, I don’t get gazillions of readers, but I know I have a few – which is better than none.  Thanks all of you for reading – your time is very much appreciated.

The missus and I also run a blog for our family which we’ve been running since mid 2003 but we get far fewer visits on that – I found that surprising.

Here’s my thoughts on why you should blog:

  • It’s a brilliant way of collecting your thoughts.  I spend a lot of time going back over old posts (often thinking “what the hell was I on?”)
  • It provides a good record of your favourite bookmarks, and the blog text usually tells you why you like them!
  • It feels good to contribute and share.   If you’ve done something good, or have a tip to share, then why not.  The world will be a better place.
  • It improves your writing.  The more you do it, the better you get (at least it feels that way!)
  • Sometimes it’s just good to get things off your chest.
  • For your family, a blog makes a brilliant online “scrapbook”.  A blog is so much more than just a photo album.   The missus is now Chez Lee’s chief blogger.

If you haven’t already tried blogging then I’d thoroughly recommend you give it a shot.  Both Blogger and WordPress are good starting points.

DiggWent to another great presentation hosted by Unlimited Potential the other night.

Tim Ellis, the DBA from Digg, gave a free and frank presentation on how they manage to cope with the massive loads they receive.  Up to 3000 requests per second!

Tim’s approach was refreshing, and real good wake up call for corporate business.  Here’s a few takeaways I managed to glean:

  • Scale out, not up.
  • It doesn’t have to cost (at all).  Digg run on MySQL, Google run on MySQL.  So why the bloody hell do you need Oracle (or Sybase, or SQLServer, or DB2)?
  • Use lots and lots of small bits of hardware.
  • You can do it all with server side scripting languages.
  • Use the likes of Nagios and Cacti for monitoring.  They’re, erm, free.
  • Memcached is cool – use it.
  • Don’t worry too much about the usual “corporate best practice” – just be sensible and do what you need to do.   It may not be pretty, but it will work.  Sod best practice.
  • People from Kansas pronounce Wiki as “Wee-Kee”.
  • Hell Pizza and Beers remain the best post-match fodder.

Big thumbs up to Tim for sharing all his knowledge – especially since he was actually on holiday.

If only more people all shared how they manage to do these wonderful things…