Category Archives: Tech

Well done America: APIs are copyrightable now

Oracle Headquarters

Back in 2012 after a six-week trial of critical importance, Google won a decisive victory over Oracle concerning the rights to use the Java APIs. Now that victory has been overturned by an appeals court in a ruling that is as misguided as it is dangerous.
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The machine has spoken: EyeQuant

EyeQuant Banner

A few days ago I read about EyeQuant in an Ars Techinca article. EyeQuant, a Berlin-based startup, have developed and trained an AI they claim can tell you how clear your website it and what people will pay attention to. The company claim a number of success stories with big-name companies.

They charge a hefty monthly fee but also offer a free demo so I thought I’d give it a whirl.
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Having a poke at responsive web design

Responsive Web Design Banner

Responsive design. You can’t go anywhere on the internet without tripping over the term. And what a wonderful thing it is. Using modern CSS and Javascript techniques to let the same site reflow its content to fit different window sizes, growing and shrinking, showing and hiding as needed. It makes for some truly slick sites and, perhaps more importantly, reduces the maintenance effort by having less code and design to maintain since you no longer have to have separate sites for different sizes and devices – at least not to the same extent you’re used to.

But how does it work? That’s what I wanted to know, and this article is the fruits of my – admittedly lazy – research. A simple style sheet for a bare-bones responsive page.
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Microsoft thinking about planning the possibility of maybe trying to design a 360 emulator for the Xbox One

Xbox One Sixty

Microsoft’s Mattrick says he doesn’t think compatibility is really a problem. He said only 5% of customers play older games on a new videogame system anyway, so spending time and money to develop technology to allow them to play older games isn’t worth it.
“If you’re backwards compatible, you’re really backwards,” he said.

» Wall Street Journal, May 2013

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Are there plans for an Xbox 360 emulator on Xbox One?
SAVAGE: There are, but we’re not done thinking them through yet, unfortunately. It turns out to be hard to emulate the PowerPC stuff on the X86 stuff. So there’s nothing to announce, but I would love to see it myself.

» Build Developer Conference, April 2014

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Finally – Office for Android and iOS free at least

Microsoft Office Logo

Being an armchair corporate strategist is easy, but just occasionally a company does something that has people saying “What took you so long?” Today the company is Microsoft, the reason is “new CEO Satya Nadella has new vision for company” and the decision is “dump the subscription fee and make Office for Android and iOS free”. That’s right, from now you can view and edit office documents natively on your phone or tablet.
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Oculus: Now part of the Facebook family


The Oculus Rift is one of the more exciting things to happen to gaming in a while. Forget 4K displays, 3D monitors and next-gen consoles – consumer-grade virtual reality headsets that aren’t rubbish are actually on the horizon. Future!

And now Facebook have bought Oculus for $2 billion in cash and stocks. That leaves me conflicted. On the one hand, Facebook are doing very clever things with hardware these days and their devotion to improving the state of technology and computing is beyond question.

It’s on the social and personal level that the misgivings begin – Facebook not exactly known for being privacy- or user oriented. The most visible fallout of the announcement so far has been Notch’s decision to end talks to bring Minecraft to Oculus because “Facebook creeps me out”. We’ll surely hear more of this sort of thing over the coming weeks, as well as the secondary fallout among fans.

Honestly, I think this is a good thing for Oculus – facebook will bring them a level of hardware expertise and resources that should open up whole new vistas of potential, and hopefully with John Carmack as CTO Oculus will be able to avoid wandering too far down the Facebook rabbit hole. The move is obviously going to cost Oculus goodwill among it’s early supporters – the set of people who mistrust Facebook overlaps pretty heavily with the sort of tech enthusiast who gets excited about new technology like the Rift. Yes, Facebook comes with it’s own marketing platform and immense user-base which will more than cancel that out, but I’m sure a lot of folks will see the deal as a betrayal.

Me, I’m cautiously optimistic that Oculus gets the “Facebook technology” treatment rather than the “Facebook social” treatment. In the meantime, no Minecraft on the Rift. Boo!

Robot uprising time


My Sparki arrived! Soon the fun will begin. I’ll probably run a series of articles on the basics of programming it and then maybe a couple more articles on some larger, in-depth projects.
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Nintendo bosses taking pay cuts

Wii U

In the wake of poor Wii U sales (the beleaguered and under-appreciated console is about to be outsold by the much younger competitors from Sony and Microsoft) and the attendant drop in share price, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata will be temporarily halving his pay while other members of the board are taking pay cuts of 20-30%.

Nintendo have had hard times before and come back strongly, and I have no doubt they’ll manage it again (especially if they resist calls to get out of the hardware market and start making free-to-play mobile games – ewww). In the meantime though the pay cuts are a gesture not often seen in western companies, especially ones the size of Nintendo. It’s a culture and an ethos that some might do well to emulate. Even if it’s only temporary and will likely make zero difference to their lifestyles, the gesture cannot hep but be appreciated by employees, fans and investors alike.

Facebook on ice: Using Blu-ray for cold storage

Facebook Cold Storage

Facebook has a lot of data, a frankly mind-boggling amount of data, and vast swathes of it are accessed approximately never. Rather than keep that archive-level data readily at hand on expensive, distributed, replicated content delivery networks Facebook keeps it in cold storage, saving money at the expense of recall speed. The company recently announced plans to replace their existing hard-drive-based cold storage system with a custom Blu-ray archive. 10,000 discs in a seven-foot rack with a capacity of about a petabyte. That’s a lot of photos of cats, parties and babies. However…
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The Sparkis Are Coming!


Excitement! They’re coming! The robot uprising is at hand, and I’m planning on making sure our robot masters know who their friends are.