Wednesday, 30 April 2008

living with the iPhone

It's been almost six months since my inital post on buying an iPhone, and it's about time I had a bit of a rant about it.

a friend for meThings that are great:
  • The touch interface. Lovin it!

  • Google maps with the 'locate me' functionality. Very cool, tho I hear in the US they are adding Wifi connections to the 'locate me' functionality to get the location even more precise. Can be a bit random in the City sometimes, showing me anywhere within a 1km radius, which in the City of London can mean the difference between getting a cold beer, and a warm flat beer!

  • Data on the run - 24/7 email and internet is great. A bit slow at times when stuck on a GPRS connection. And not worrying about the bill is great too!


  • Things that are annoying:
  • Safari getting a bit grumpy occasionally and not loading pages or responding to 'clicks'. Sometimes sorted by resetting Safari (holding the 'home' button down for 5 secs until Safari closes), but sometimes I have to resort to a hard reset (power down). Not a biggie, but annoying (will have to check the crash reports when I get home and see if I can spot what's causing it)

  • HTML emails which are designed for 'wider' screens (yup, some people hard code the width of html elements in emails grrrr) - should be able to flip the screen sideways for these

  • Some text areas are a bit hard to type in as they don't fit on the screen, so it's often a case of type and hope for the best! Not too sure how that could be solved, perhaps limiting the width of text area fields, or scrolling horizontally as you type?

  • The endless demos to friends/co-workers/random joes on the street :) (actually, I don't mind too much!)


  • Things that need improving:
  • Text messaging! It's pretty basic at the moment - no forwarding of texts, no picture messaging. This really needs looking at, and could be done by software updates.

  • The camera needs some work. Really bad in low light (gets the shakes), and is slow to take a pic

  • The included headset/earphones are a bit rubbish. People I'm calling can barely hear me when I talk on them - I might just have a bad copy
  • latest stock images for sale



    All for sale on shutterstock. Go grab a subscription!

    Tuesday, 29 April 2008

    crazy for caffine

    Coffee and Moleskine III (color)
    It always frustrates me that some coffee chains in the UK are so hopeless when it comes to ordering and recieving your order. This morning I went to one of the many UK coffee chain (not the one in the pic!), and was totally amazed at the hopelesness of the ordering system.

    After standing in one queue, I got to the counter and ordered, where the girl kindof barked the order to the barristas (well, the guys who push the buttons on the automated espresso machines). Who didn't acknowledge her, but carried on with whatever they were doing. Then I hung about with everyone else that was waiting for their coffee/teas, while they asked everyone again what they wanted (as they had forgotten), and did the drinks in the wrong order. This was still going on when I finally left.

    As much as I don't like that big american coffee chain that is trying to take over the world, at least they have the most successful system I've seen so far for passing on coffee orders - writing the order on the cup, and queuing it up so it doesn't get missed.

    At 8.30am in the city, we need our caffine fast and efficient!

    Photo thanks to Lost in Scotland(Creative Commons license)

    daily dilbert

    The Dilbert site finally has its own RSS feed... only a few years late guys!
    Go subscribe here: http://feeds.feedburner.com/DilbertDailyStrip

    Monday, 28 April 2008

    Slightly missing the point?

    I've just got annoyed about a rss feed I read regularly via google reader.

    The rss feed link goes off to an ad page, before redirecting to the actual permalink. As much as this annoys me at home, I just put up with it. However, when reading from work, the ad page is blocked by the internet filter, so I can't get to the permalink via the rss reader, and have to go to the site directly.

    There are two WTF's with this:
    One, the feed is for articles posted by one of the most prominet user interface usability 'experts' in the field. Two, the rss feeds from his site never contain ANY content, just the title, so we're forced to go to his site to read the article... which rather defeats the purpose of using a rss feed!

    My suggestions:
    - Remove the ad redirect page. Put the ads in your feed, or on the site, so those of us stuck behind a firewall with content blocking can still get there from the feed.
    - Put some content in the feed. IE in Blogger (and probably most rss engines/blogging engines) there is the option to show only a short synopis version of the post, or cut off at 200 characters etc. Enough content to get people interested, but still get them to go to the permalink.

    Mighty mouse weirdness

    Every now and then, my mac bluetooth mighty mouse refuses to scroll up the page. Scolling down, left and right works fine, just won't go up.

    After a while it just starts working again. Slighty weird, huh. Maybe I have a flakey scroll button.

    Saturday Walk

    Tower Bridge
    Saturday Walk
    Originally uploaded by rachaelr

    Friday, 25 April 2008

    oh behave!

    I forgot I took this while out shooting the London Olympic torch relay. Just around the corner from our flat. Not too sure what the City of London Police mean by this, maybe they are congratulating the local residents on their nice manners?

    oh behave!

    Wednesday, 23 April 2008

    Who's got the right stats?

    So I've been running a little competition between Google Analytics and Feedburner's Site Stats functionality to see who reports the better stats on my blog.

    The stats are relatively similar, but yesterday showed a difference of 5 visits (which for my teeny readership) is quite a difference. I guess to really work it out who's the most accurate, I need to go trawl the apache logs to see what's really hitting the domain.

    I suppose if one or the other sites tracking javascript is too slow to load, they might miss the 'hit', whereas at least the Apache logs are faithful to the end, tho pretty ugly to read :) And for free tracking services, they do both offer a lot of value.

    Monday, 21 April 2008

    fav favicons

    Found an article posted by 'Smashing Magazine', that has 50 great favicons.
    I really like these - nice and simple. Inspired me to do the Alternative Context favicon as just typography and very basic.

    The article is here.

    Sunday, 20 April 2008

    Creating easy web galleries with Lightbox2

    I've been doing a bit of work the last few days on redesigning and actually adding some content to my business website. Part of the website includes some galleries - photography, and also a portfolio of web design and other work I've done.

    Rather than embed flash or run something dynamic, I've gone down the static HTML pages route (the most dynamic bit is the server side includes!), and for galleries, I'm using Lightbox2 to generate the 'large' views as overlays on top of the current page. It works really well with my dark 'granite' (as I'm calling it) theme, and kind of mimics the 'lights out' functionality seen in Photoshop LightRoom.

    Have a look at it in action on my 'Places' gallery (architecture and various landscapes).

    Not going down the dynamic gallery route is causing me a bit of grief, having to type in all those image links, but I could spend months coding something up, which would probably annoy me even more :)

    If you've interested in finding out more, have a look at the Lightbox2 site, and check out their examples.

    Friday, 18 April 2008

    O-HAI to you too Flickr!

    o_haiJust signed on to flickr to be greeted in lolspeak. Very cute :)

    No longer a bride

    Nearly three months after our wedding, I can finally say we're officially done with wedding-related stuff.

    Posted out the thankyou cards a couple of weeks ago, which I should have done earlier, but had to wait for the cards to arrive from the photograher, and come up with something to write in them!

    And the last wedding thing happened this morning: the big official wedding photo album arrived by courier from NZ. It's a lot bigger than I expected (takes up the whole coffee table!), so I'll have to find a good home for it in our teeny flat. I'll post up some 'unboxing' photos later.

    Almost feel a bit sad that the wedding stuff is all over - guess I'll have to unsubscribe from those wedding related blogs now huh :)


    BRK3196

    Edit: I've just uploaded some unboxing pics to flickr

    IMG_7486

    Thursday, 17 April 2008

    Comin at ya live from the alternative context domain

    Finally got around to switching the url of this blog over to my own domain - blog.alternativecontext.com. Took a full 5 mins for my personal tech support geek (yay!) to set up the cname record on our server, then 2 secs to change the url in blogger to use a custom domain. Pretty much 100% pain free! DNS seems to have propogated already around too.

    Any links to the old blogger url (http://rachmobile.blogspot.com/) *should* redirect OK. I'll check feedburner is doing its thing with the feeds still.

    Once I get really organised, the next step is to set up a typo or wordpress or something blog on my domain, and migrate everything over. Can't imagine that will be pretty :(

    Sunday, 13 April 2008

    A cold, dark and wet marathon!

    Some pics from the London 2008 Flora marathon. I stuck it out shooting in the cold until it started pouring with rain! Must have been pretty hard for the runners (most of whom are still out there - I just heard the Mens race finish on the BBC)

    Yonas Kifle (Kenya)

    Liz Yelling


    More pics on flickr here -- drop me a flickrmail if you want to buy a copy.
    There are a whole lot for sale on dreamstime also.

    Friday, 11 April 2008

    The king is dead, long live the ...

    An old workplace of mine has gone into receivership. Pretty sad really, as I met a lot of great people there, who I still see every now and then.

    These guys gave me my first insight into the software world - they worked us hard and long, and there were a few tears here and there, but all up it was an experience that I think has helped me in the long run.

    The software still lives, tho under a different company, so there is a little bit of my influence still out there in the world :)

    Mac OS X background tutorials


    Found a nice tutorial on creating backgrounds that look a bit Mac OS X ish.


    I made this one after following it. Not too bad for 5 mins photoshoppin, thanks Veerle!

    (feel free to grab the full size version - can't remember what size I made it, think it's a 6x4 crop ratio tho - might need to recrop or resize to get it to fit your desktop - pls note the cc license)

    Creative Commons License
    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

    Tuesday, 8 April 2008

    London for Dummies :: Begone the Meanderthal

    K and I have been slowly formulating an "Idea!" to create a book/pamphlet or something to guide the uninitaited through the funny little things that go on in London, which every seasoned Londoner knows about, yet nobody ever tells you.

    If only there was a compulsory test at all UK immigration points to check any visitor/newcomer had at least this amount of knowledge, it would make my life a whole lot happier :)

    So here's my first entry, entitled: Begone the Meanderthal!

    Definition: See the Urban dictionary entry

    Habitat: Usually congregating around Oxford and Regent Streets, the common London Meanderthal are also to be found in tight congregations around Tube Station and Bus Exits. They generally surface when the Londoner is late for a train, meeting, or dying for a pint.

    Combatting the menace: The majority of Londoners tend to smash straight through a Meanderthal gathering, muttering and stomping on feet/bags/any loose appendages. While this causes a temporary weakening of the Meanderthal herd, the herd quickly regroups to protect the outsiders.

    Survival: For a Meanderthal to survive in the wilds of London, it is advisable for them to: a. pull off to the side of the street if lost or undecisive of their destination; b. always move away from exits to stations/buses/stores on exiting and regroup in a more defendable position; c. avoid wandering at times when Londoners be hunting en masse - between 8 and 10 am, and 4pm to 6pm

    For the rest of this series, follow the "London for Dummies" tags

    Header Image

    If anyone wondered, my header image isn't of London... it's Madrid's Plaza Mayor on a wet, dark and cold day in Easter 2008 a few weeks ago.

    Just to confused any readers a bit more :)

    More Madrid images are on my flickr photostream.

    Monday, 7 April 2008

    An Olympic Dissapointment

    The Bejing 2008 Torch relay just went through Tower Bridge, so we hustled down to watch it go through. Despite having a really good posse on a traffic island in the middle of the road, there was barely anything to see.

    IMG_7293
    Look closely, and you might spot the torch in a huddle of police.

    Loads of police vans and motorbikes, a bizzare parade of buses with people rocking out on them, then 20 mins later the torch came through, but the runner (no idea who he was!) was completely surrounded by about 10 rows of chinese security and Metropolatian police officers (who were shoving spectators off the road).

    Pretty weird! Only saw a few people protesting, and they were pretty quiet.

    IMG_7287
    This lady was having a rather animated discussion with a Chinese guy next to her, but nothing out of hand.