All items by Alex Bowyer


Finland becomes the first country in the world to make Internet access a legal right for its citizens, at a minimum speed of 1Mbps, when a new law comes into force today.

This means that ISPs cannot refuse to connect someone, no matter how costly or remote. It’s a technical and financial challenge for ISPs, but great for helping the world move towards an open, connected future and avoiding a divided society with “haves and have nots”.

Meanwhile, the UK is moving in the opposite direction, with the recently passed Digital Economy Act threatening to disconnect users who are accused of copyright infringement. A new government initiative called Your Freedom invites the public to reclaim lost freedoms by voting for laws to repeal. Perhaps we will see a course-correction soon.

Read more here and here.


The WWW of 18th Century London

A new website, London Lives, has been created by researchers at the University of Sheffield in the UK. 240,000 pages of manuscripts from between 1690 and 1800, from hospitals, courts, local governments and parishes have been digitized and made available online – that’s half the size of the world-wide web in 1996.

What’s new here though is that the documents have been cross-linked so that you can track individual people’s lives across the different institutions of 18th century London, building up a picture of London life in the period much as you might while browsing the web or reading people’s Twitter updates today.

It’s a refreshingly different way to examine the past, and reminds us the value of open data and what we get from having a cross-linked web of public data sources today.

Read more at or browse London Lives directly.


Augmented reality is getting a lot of attention in the media, but is often misunderstood. It’s only when you see examples that it really makes sense. This video demonstrates an impressive new application of the concept at the Wimbledon tennis championship in the UK.

With IBM’s new Seer 2010 app for iPhones and Androids you can simply point your phone at a court and get live video of the match being played there – effectively you can see through walls. You can also use the app to find food and drink stands or even get a live video view of the taxi queues.

It’s a great example of how augmented reality is already here today and making itself useful. You can read more here.


iPads at Breakfast (picture from the source article at

This article in the New York Times looks at a typical “connected” family’s life, and how the constant pull of e-mail, Twitter and Facebook has interfered with their business and family lives. Here’s an example:

Recently,[Mrs Campbell] was baking peanut butter cookies for Teacher Appreciation Day when her phone chimed in the living room. She answered a text, then became lost in Facebook, forgot about the cookies and burned them. She started a new batch, but heard the phone again, got lost in messaging, and burned those too. Out of ingredients and shamed, she bought cookies at the store.

Is technology diminishing the amount of empathy and the quality of contact we have with each other? As an expert quoted in the article says, “The way we become more human is by paying attention to each other. It shows how much you care.”

The more challenging question of course, is what we can do about this. I’m guessing abandoning technology is not really an option!

Read the full article at


Did Google kill the phone book?

A stack of Yellow Pages, unopened because nobody needs them

A few months ago I noticed a stack of Yellow Pages directories delivered to my apartment block had laid unopened for months on end in our porch, and I realized, people don’t need phonebooks any more. We all use Google to find business contact information now.

According to the Globe and Mail, the Yellow Pages Group have announced that they will no longer deliver their directory in Canada’s seven largest cities unless it is requested. This seems to confirm that the phone book’s days are numbered, it is now a relic from a time when we didn’t have the world’s information at our fingertips, on our phones and on our desktops. No longer do we need to cut down forests just to stay informed. Besides, if you’re missing the Yellow Pages, you can always download the iPhone app!

There’s more discussion of the story on Slashdot.


An Atari 130XE, one of the more obscure 80s home computers

For a while, in the 1990s and early 2000s, the computing landscape was simple: Everyone used Windows. The Windows PC had become the dominant computer, supplanting the myriad platforms of the 80s: Acorn, Amiga, Atari, Commodore, Sinclair and others, which caused everyone no end of headaches with incompatibilities. Developers had to choose which platforms to support, as there were too many to support them all, and consumers were left with a difficult choice about which to buy, and often ended up regretting their decisions.

This article by Ben Werdmuller reminds us that we may now be entering a similar age of chaos. We have Windows, OSX and Linux on the desktop, HTML5, Flash and Silverlight in the browser, and Android, Blackberry, iPhone OS, Symbian (Nokia’s platform), Windows Mobile, and many others on the smartphone, not to mention new devices like the iPad or Microsoft Surface and new operating systems like Google’s Chrome Web OS.  Ben argues that the most likely outcome is to standardize on the Web, regardless of device, as we did on Windows in the 80s.

Myself, I’m not so sure, at least not until we have web standards for features like multi-touch, location awareness and 3D navigation. But it’s certainly true that we now face those same difficult choices as consumers or developers that we did in the ’80s.

Read the full article


Highest definition picture ever taken of Cape Town; 9 gigapixels, 25Gb storageNext week the FIFA World Cup kicks off in South Africa. We’ve written previously about virtual tourism, the idea that you can explore a place before you go ever physically go there.

Unfortunately Google Street View hasn’t been to Cape Town yet, but map layer specialists Virtual Africa have produced a series of “hyper-definition” images which allow you to zoom from a vista of the whole city right down to the level where you can see construction workers building the Green Point Stadium (this first image was taken last year).

This image pushes the limits of current photographic and processing technology, clocking in at 9 gigapixels and 25 Gigabytes of storage. The source image apparently takes an hour to load! Click the image to zoom and explore Cape Town from the comfort of your own home. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a hidden Wally/Waldo.


For six years, I’ve shared my life with Facebook, dutifully posting my status and responding to constant pleas to read or comment. We were happy at first, Facebook helped me rekindle old friendships and spark new ones. But now, with the passage of time, I can see her for what she really is, a heartless bitch with no respect for me, my privacy or my feelings.

Read more »


We’ve written previously about the benefits of bringing Internet-enabled screens to different parts of the home. This video from Jesse Rosten shows how with a couple of packets of Velcro and an iPad, you can change the iPad from a handheld Internet device into a way of putting information exactly where you need it, hands free.

In the future, perhaps iPad-like Internet touchscreens will become so cheap we can just install these permanently on our walls and into our appliances.


This video from Carnegie Mellon University and Microsoft demonstrates the Skinput project, which uses a combination of audio and vibration sensors and a handheld projector to create buttons and displays on your forearm, which can then be used to control anything from MP3 players to cellphones. Devices are getting smaller and smaller, and the size is often defined by the size required for input and output. This is a significant step forwards towards removing that restriction.

Powered by WordPress, based on Mina theme.