Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Photosharing Rant, Episode III

And to complete my Photo Sharing trilogy...

I got round to it sooner than I thought I would. Mostly because it only took five minutes to set up. Here's a demo of a (Google) Picasaweb photo album. Check out the slideshow. I must say the LARGE slideshow is something that's really been missing from Flickr. I like to look at photos nice and big.

Checking out Picasaweb
Aug 29, 2006 - 4 Photos

Geotagging on Zooomr

Brixton from the 35
If you click the image above it'll take you to its page on Zooomr.com, a relative newcomer and alternative photo sharing website to Flickr. I created my account a while ago but haven't used it much, largely because I already have lots of contacts on Flickr and don't want the hassle of using two sites. Flickr got there first you might say.

Now there's lots of things about Flickr that are still better than Zooomr: it's more refined, it's easier on the eye, it has great features like the Organizr and a great user-expandable groups system. But, Zooomr has some stuff that Flickr does not. And in my frustration at the geotagging functionality added to Flickr yesterday I thought I'd give Zooomr another go.

And its Geotagging facility is much better. I'd say this is largely down to the fact that it's based on Google Maps which is far superior to Yahoo Maps, but there are other differences too.

Apart from a few problems I had searching for locations on Zooomr, ("London, UK" didn't work for example, but I navigated to it easily using the GMaps controls) geotagging works great. OK, I can't drag and drop like on Flickr but I can select an image and just click the spot where I want it to go and that's just as easy. Check out Zooomr's tagmap here.

Here's Flickr's map of London for comparison. Now try to zoom in on that. Drag and drop or no drag and drop, it's pretty useless right now. Hopefully they'll improve it soon and prove me wrong!

So, the previously infallible Flickr has some competition. And competition is ultimately good for the customer. I had wondered whether Google would buy out and pour money into Zooomr but they recently launched a test version of Picasaweb which is an online sharing extension to their long-running Picasa desktop image management software.

So much to choose from! All jolly clever stuff anyway...

Oh, one more thing:

Check out the Zooomr's 'Portal' feature I've used on this image. It's great to see this sort of innovation.

Greenwich Foot Tunnel (2)

Monday, August 28, 2006

Flickr has added a mapping tool

Flickr has added a map tool for geotagging photos.

Now this functionality was previously already available to early adopter tech-savvy types who used Firefox with the GreaseMonkey plugin, which allowed an 'add geotags' link to be added to each Flickr photo page. This in turn got the location from Google Maps and that returned longitude and latitude data as tags on the image. These tags could then be used to collect images from a certain location or region, even outside of Flickr owing to its API.

This system worked, and still works, perfectly well in fact.

But... If all of that tech stuff goes over your head you're probbly thinking 'it sounds like a bit of a hassle'. And for some it is.

So Flickr have added their own system. And it works like this:

1. Drag your photo or batch of photos onto a map in the Organizr

2. View the map location from the photo page.

"Great", I immediately thought. But hang on a minute. There's one obvious shortfall: the map.

They're using Yahoo's mapping tool, of course. Flickr's photo elements work really nicely as usual, but the navigation on the map itself is clumsy and slow. And maybe it's all shiny and high-res for those of you in the USA, but the map data for London (you know that 'not so inconspicuous little town in the South East of England' ?) is terrible. Most of the roads aren't named, most smaller roads are missing and if I zoom into anywhere at the highest three zoom levels I just get grey. This is the closest I can get to London:

So, it fails completely because I have no idea where I'm pinning my photo!

In short, I'm afraid to say I think it's crap.

Also, it doesn't add geoTAGS to the photos. The location data is embedded. Now, arguably, tags weren't meant for positional data and some say they were undermining the tagging system, but so what? Wasn't it an inventive way to use them thought up by the users?

Well, apparently there's a way to convert them to the new system should you wish to. And Flickr's Stewart Butterfield laid to rest my fears that the existing geotagging system would cease to function in this thread.

Still, the bottom line is that I won't be using Flickr's map tool until it works properly. Maybe I'm spoilt by Google Maps but that means having a fast and easily navigable map with every road on it.

Until then, well, I know they're taking over the world but at times like these I wish it was Google that had bought Flickr and not Yahoo.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Day Twenty Eight

Day twenty eight of my alcohol-free month, that is. The end of the experiment is approaching and I'm happy to report that it has gone well. On the whole it's not been a problem at all, in fact I've quite enjoyed the change (not to mention the absence of hangovers). I wouldn't like to quit drinking altogether though - once every few days it's nice to go for a few drinks with friends. This month I've nearly OD'd on pints of lemonade and lime a couple of times.

So what have I been doing instead? Well, as you might have noticed I've been busy pimping out a new version of my game Flashteroids. I spent so much time on it when I originally made it (in 2002) that I thought it would be nice to make a bit of cash out of it. And it's had its moments of popularity. Back in 2004 there was a week during which it had around 3000 players per day. It's popular with the kids.

So the new version is basically the same old game but with a few improvements. And the key addition of some Google advertising on the website. Sold my soul to the devil you say? Oh well.

Also - and I hope I don't jinx it by shouting about it on the web - I'm 99% of the way towards having purchased my first property, a studio flat in Camberwell. 99% because it's not signed and sealed yet. It's in the hands of solicitors, doing whatever it is they do in return for monolithic stacks of money. Here are some photos of the flat.

So, quite a productive month. I'm looking forward to that cold beer at the end of it. Now, what to do with the bank holiday weekend?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Flashteroids embed demo

This post is just for demonstration purposes. It shows how Flashteroids can be embedded into any webpage or blog.

If you're interested in putting Flashteroids on your site, you can set it up here. It only takes a couple of minutes.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Flashteroids 1.5+

After many a night of grappling with arcaic Flash 5 code I've finally got the intermediate update to Flashteroids finished. That means it's the same old 2002 game (started in 2001, hence the Flash 5 code), but with 11 completely new levels, lots of new features and a bit of a facelift.

Check it out here or alternatively watch the obligatory YouTube video:

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


The copy of Windows XP on the tired old PC in my kitchen has been complaining of late that it's a pirate copy and that "I may be a victim of software piracy." Yeah, spot on... (well, sort of.)

It's funny though that only now- when they're (supposedly) close to releasing Vista - they've started asking people to pay up for XP. I 'built' this computer about four years ago! The odds of me being willing to pay (directly at least) for a copy of Windows XP are pretty slim. Similar to the odds of selling me, say, a 10 year old Ford Fiesta for £3000. Yeah, it was alright in its day, but now it looks to me like Microsoft are getting left in the dust. Maybe they'll pull it out of the bag with Vista, but they're taking their bloody time!

Anyway, all these piracy warnings were doing my head in so I thought "OK, screw you then", and stuck a copy of Ubuntu on there instead.

Now for those of you who don't know, Ubuntu is a computer operating system (i.e. like Windows) based on GNU/Linux (i.e. not like Windows). It's also free and open source.

I thought about setting up a Linux machine a few years ago, mainly for the learning experience and a bit of a project, but it all seemed to involve just slightly too much effort - doing things like compiling it yourself and stuff.

This on the other hand was really easy. I just downloaded a CD image, burnt it to disk, popped it in the drive and clicked a button. It even runs a demo version off the CD without changing anything so you can see if you like it. No techie questions asked, no settings to set, just two or three steps and it's done in about 20 minutes.

Anyway, this may be a bad reputation move. I'm forever trying to shake off the 'techie guy' image. I do creative work for a living and 'creating stuff' is what I enjoy most, but I can't help it - curiousity gets the better of me. Must... play... with... gadgets...

So... hmmm... I now run two Macs, one Windows PC and one Linux box. OK, maybe I'm a bit of a geek then. But please stop saying I 'work in IT'. Innaccurate. And no I can't come round fix your network, I've forgotten how. Honest :)

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Day Eight

It's the eighth day of my alcohol-free month. So far so good.

After work on Thursday I went to the pub and sat there quite happily drinking lime and lemonade while my workmates steadily got drunk. There is limit to how many soft drinks one can manage though – when I left I felt a little bit radioactive from all the sugar. I suppose there's always diet coke, but that comes packed with caffeine instead. I might have to do some research... Oh yeah, water.

Despite it being OK, I've not been back to a drinking establishment since. And this weekend I've felt a strange feeling that I've actually opted for a month of isolation. It seems – from ‘the outside’ – that the sole mission of the masses is to get pissed between Friday night and Sunday night, and if you’re not taking part then: “Sorry pal, you're on your own.”

Of course this isn't really the case, entirely. I could have gone to meet some friends on the common (but I knew they'd probably have been drinking all day) and I could have gone out to my mate's night at 93 Feet East last night (but the thought of a [very] crowded bar on a Saturday night without a few beers really didn't appeal). I just chose not to.

On the flipside I did do some useful flat-hunting research yesterday. I checked out some previously unexplored (by me, I mean) parts of Camberwell and now have a better idea of where I do and don't want to live. I also checked out a few properties, one of which looks promising.

Right, I'm off to have another highly productive day. Don't get too drunk, you lot.

I can't work out whether to be smug or jealous.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Blair Witch Project

I've not seen it before. It's on TV. I've just turned it off half way through because it appears to be a bit: rubbish.

It's so blatantly not all shot in sequence with one camera. The sound continues on when the video cuts to a different angle all the way through, for a start. Yes, this can be done in the edit suite but not when there's two angles on a live conversation shot with one camera.

And am I supposed to be scared when they find a pile of rocks and some twigs tied together?

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Curse of the Letter A


a. My name begins with A and I'm therefore at the top of most my friends' mobile phone contacts lists.


b. A considerable amount of people apparently don't have the technical know-how to activate their phones' key locks (most have automatic key-locks for god's sake).

I often receive a large number of empty messages from one person over the space of 20 minutes or so. It also happens with calls. I receive lots of four minute long (the maximum) voicemails of the sound of someone sitting on their phone on a bus or wherever. I get this pretty much every day.


Please, if you can't manage to not do this, then add a blank contact at the top of your contact list. Or take me out altogether and revert to using a pen and paper.

Maybe I should change my name to "Zade".

</ venting anger>

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Wasting My Time

I've been working on an interactive ad since last Tuesday, including ALL weekend, 2am finishes on both Sunday and Monday nights, lots of changing it around significantly, changing it back how it was, last minute stress and such...

And we've just heard that the client is nervous about running it and wants to go with a more conservative ad instead.

Sometimes I hate my job.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Sober till September

Inspired by the decision of one of my friends to give up booze, I've decided to go without for the duration of August. It's a kind of experiment - testing the water, if you like. My main reasons are:

  • I think I'll save a fortune

  • I think I'll lose weight

  • I think I'll feel healthier

  • I think I'll be more efficient at work

  • I'm more likely to significantly chip away at my massive 'to-do' list (which includes buying a flat)

Of course, like many such abstentions, the idea occurred to me in the depths of a hangover - the one that arrived two mornings after this night out with mywork mates, in fact. Day One, however, was Sunday because I had a glass of wine and two pints on Saturday night.

I don't have what most Europeans would call a drinking problem, though I do probably consume over the average for a London-living, works-in-the-media-type. So still some.

Obvious hurdles will be: company meetings (there's always a crate of cold Beck's), company nights out (two celebratory dinners lined up), and seeing friends at the weekend (we always go to the pub).

But zero alcohol is the plan. I don't think it will be difficult. I hope not anyway. As I said to someone today, the worst possible outcome would be for me to secretly fail and pretend that I still did it. So if I crumble under peer pressure I'll be sure to let you know about it.