The Allure of Kidmans

My esteemed brother is currently filling in as guest editor on Gizmodo, which maximises the already fairly high potential for people to get us confused. Indeed, we kicked off the week by both attending the same Telstra launch (you can read his take on it here).

For me, the Telstra launch of its Ultimate USB modem (read: high speed, high price, business users) was serendipitous on several levels. I wrote a consumer-slanted account of its launch for Lifehacker, and a story for iTnews about the introduction of unlimited plans for business users. Perhaps more importantly, Telstra also handed out loaner devices for people to test. Over the next week, I’m going to visit four states and six major cities, so the ability to test reception at a bunch of locations is going to be interesting and (eventually) informative.

The Tech Ed story well continued to drip, with a piece about Microsoft’s co-operation with the Samba team running on iTnews. This also included a video interview with Microsoft’s head open source dude. I’m quite happy with the questions, but the camera work is an object lesson in why I need to buy a tripod.

Tech Ed was also indirectly responsible for my review of the Jetstar lounge on the Gold Coast, which was this week’s Road Worrier column. As if this week’s manic travel wasn’t enough to be getting on with, it’s also Spring Cleaning Week on Lifehacker. That’s informed several of the lengthier pieces, including a Lifehacker Top 10 on how to deal with clutter and today’s Streaming column on keeping your physical media organised.

Over at Gizmodo, I had a photo tour of the Plantronics lab which I toured in California earlier this year. Despite the appearance of a photo story and a video story today, I’d much rather write. And that’s a segue into the rest of the Lifehacker pieces:

  • Must-Have In-Car Items For Lifehacker Readers (another Spring Cleaning Week piece)
  • Build An IKEA Laptop Stand From Handles And Brackets
  • Ensure Your Twitter Client Is Up-To-Date To Avoid Access Problems
  • Lunchtime Wrap: Spring Cleaning & Text Recognition
  • Ask Lifehacker: What’s The Best Scanning Software? (yet another Spring Cleaning Week piece)
  • Joss Whedon Can’t Write Until The Whole Idea Is Ready
  • Lunchtime Wrap: Per-Megabyte Plans & Hard Drives
  • Don’t Get Fooled Into Disabling Gmail’s Free Calls (which got a mention in Lifehacker US’s ‘Remains Of The Day’ roundup)
  • Welcome To Spring Cleaning Week On Lifehacker
  • Vodafone, 3 Increase Data Allowances On Contract Phone Plans
  • ATO Has Finalised 4.5 Million Tax Returns
  • Last Week’s Top Ten Posts
  • Whedon the headlines

    Bad seat, bad camera, bad result

    One of the things I get to do as an occasional contributor to Gizmodo is write up notable comments from geek celebrities when they make public appearances in Australia. I did that for Stephen Fry a couple of weeks ago, and yesterday I performed the same task for Joss Whedon, who is nipping through Australia on a brief speaking tour.

    I’m a properly tragic Stephen Fry fan boy, while my acquaintance with Whedon is much more casual. But while the two articles use a similar format, the Whedon piece is much longer. I’m not sure whether that’s because my detachment made it easier to write, or whether he’s just a more natural Gizmodo subject. Guess I’ll go with the latter.

    Lifehacker’s big post on Friday was the Planhacker column looking at how much you pay per megabyte for wireless broadband. Boy, that was some Excel work. And here’s the rest of the Lifehacker stuff to round out the week:

  • Ask Lifehacker: Why Does Mobile Signal Dry Up?
  • Ice TV Android App Goes Into Beta
  • Lunchtime Wrap: XBMC Blu-Ray & Loan Exit Fees
  • Why Are Workplace Help Desk Systems So Rarely Used?
  • Telstra Outlines Its Future Windows Phone 7 Hub Plans
  • JB Hi-Fi Has Two $20 iTunes Cards For $30
  • An eventful life

    Apologies for not updating for a week, but I’ve been at a lot of events. When we last met, I was at G-Force, which turned on the usual OTT entertainment at the Gala Dinner on the first day:

    This week, I’ve been on the Gold Coast for Microsoft’s annual Tech-Ed conference, which has been the source of quite a few stories. On the strictly enterprise front, there were a couple of interesting stories for iTnews:

    On the consumer front, there have been a couple of pieces looking at Windows Phone 7 for Lifehacker and Gizmodo, the latter of which includes an obviously unwarranted reference to ejaculation:

    And of course if a week has gone by, there will have been a bunch of regular columns for Lifehacker:

    And now (brace yourselves) the short posts:

    I am feeling the G-Force

    The above picture (of me asking a question at last week’s TechLines event) is included for no other reason than to prove yet again I am not photogenic.

    Today: Lunch may have led to me spraying the word clusterfuck across Twitter a tad liberally, but G-Force did deliver the goods story-wise. For iTnews, I wrote up how Telstra will use remote workers for its planned 24-hour call centres, along with some of the technology challenges those centres will face. The emphasis this year on using social networking tools as part of the customer response mix also informed a long-ish piece I did for Lifehacker on the rights and wrongs of using Twitter for customer service.

    The regular Lifehacker 101 column looked at lesser-known tricks for getting more from Word. And then (as ever) we have the shorter posts:

  • Aldi Has Cheap HD Set Top Box Tomorrow
  • iiNet Increases Broadband Download Limits, Starts Counting Uploads
  • Lunchtime Wrap: TV Recording & Word Pasting
  • Ask Lifehacker: Can I Read PDFs Using Kindle For Android?
  • OzRecycle Lets You Give Unwanted Stuff Away
  • Apple Free iPhone 4 Bumper Offer On Australian Site
  • Feel the G-Force

    I’m in Melbourne for the next couple of days for the G-Force 2010 conference, which means lots of call centres and IVR and social media and executives rocking out to Aussie classics. The Twitter experience is bound to be better than last year, when the hamster movie was stealing focus.

    Today’s Streaming column for Lifehacker looked at how time-shift ratings are calculated and why the process is a tad dodgy. Other hints on hacking your life from my virtual pen:

  • Is My Blog Working? Ranks Your Site’s Performance
  • DIY Hanging Garden From A Bathroom Basket
  • Ask Lifehacker: What Should I Do On A Sydney Staycation?
  • Lunchtime Wrap: Frequent Flyers & Windows Mac
  • HopShopGo Ships From US-Only Stores
  • Niggle It Organises Warranties And Reminder Dates (promptly picked up by the US Lifehacker site)
  • Conference call confessions

    I don’t like conference calls — the sound quality is often poor, there’s not always an obvious system for chiming in and asking questions, and they never start on time. But I sat through iiNet’s results announcements call yesterday, and ended up writing a story about them for iTnews. iTnews also featured a piece from me about the challenges Human Services faces in finding IT graduates, largely because there’s not enough people taking tertiary IT courses. This feast-or-famine scenario has been going on as long as I’ve been a journalist.

    At Gizmodo, I had a brief piece noting that Apple’s attempts to block jailbreaking of in-store phones don’t seem to have fully extended to Australia, though the comments suggest it’s an even bigger issue in various JB Hi-Fi branches. As ever, Monday’s main Lifehacker column was Road Worrier, critically examining a survey ranking how easy it is to actually get seats on various frequent flyer programs. Elsewhere on Lifehacker:

  • Migrate Your Nokia Sports Tracker Data Before August Ends
  • Exetel Dumps Prepaid 3G Broadband Plans
  • Lunchtime Wrap: Fibre Networks & Brain Sabotage
  • ESTA For US Travel Will Now Cost You Money
  • Last Week’s Top Ten Posts
  • The rest of July and half of August, as written by me

    Clearly I’m too slack/busy to do this in mega-detail. So apart from noting that I’ve finally recorded an appearance for Letters & Numbers, I’ll need to be brief. Let’s make some lists of what I’ve had published online since the last entry.



    Lifehacker: The rest of Mastercheap

    Lifehacker: Road Worrier

    Lifehacker: Streaming

    Lifehacker: 101

    Lifehacker: Loaded

    Lifehacker: Planhacker

    Lifehacker: Features

    Lifehacker: Everything else


    A couple of days on

    So far, Mastercheap is going pretty well. I’m not going to repeat myself, so you can find all the relevant details in the diary posts for day 2 and day 3:

    I’ve also put together a Mastercheap FAQ, covering off the details for people who haven’t read the original posts. Ahem.

    For iTnews, I covered off SAP’s “World Tour” event, where the software giant revealed its plans for cloud computing and working with Microsoft.

    Monday’s Road Worrier column drew on my recent trip to Perth, looking at how well the Next G network work’s across the city’s rail system. Streaming on Tuesday looked at the pros and cons of ABC News 24. And in amongst the more compact posts:

  • Free Wifi Wiki Lists Free Hotspots Worldwide
  • Bendigo, Suncorp Joint ATM Network Helps You Save On Fees
  • Tech-Savvy Voters Reject The Filter
  • ACMA Wants Your Telco Horror Stories
  • Lunchtime Wrap: Mobile Note Taking & Torture Tests
  • Making Your Senate Vote Count Against The Filter
  • Why OneNote Has A Hidden Ribbon
  • Use Blu Tack And Other Oddities To Keep Printers Running (also reproduced on the US Lifehacker site)
  • Lunchtime Wrap: iPhone 4 & Mastercheap
  • Last Week’s Top Ten Posts
  • And so Mastercheap begins

    I promise you, it’s still not my intention to only update this blog once a week with a summary of what I’ve written, even if that’s how it might be coming across right now.

    Mind you, for the next week or so, you’ll be able to get a closer-than-normal look at my daily life, since the Mastercheap project has begun on Lifehacker. This is an idea I’ve had for quite a while (indeed, it first occurred to me in Britain more than a decade ago): seeing just how well you can eat on a minimal budget. In this case, the budget is $25. There’s already been four instalments so far on Lifehacker, and the daily posts will continue throughout this week:

  • Mastercheap: Eating For $25 A Week
  • Mastercheap: The $25 Shopping List
  • Mastercheap: Would Aldi Make A Difference?
  • Mastercheap Day 1: Measuring Up To The Task

    That hasn’t been all the work I’ve done, of course, though it has been one of those weeks where Lifehacker was in the ascendancy in online terms. However, for iTnews I did look at Google’s expansion into the government advertising space. At Gizmodo, I wrote up Optus’ LTE trial launch and looked at why FetchTV won’t be offering porn.

    Amongst the Lifehacker columns, Road Worrier examined how to get the best from in-seat power on planes. Streaming took a geeky turn with a look at how Python is used to make movies, while Lifehacker 101 examined the less obvious ways social networking can reveal information. Planhacker looked at BlackBerry contract plans, which made depressing reading for someone who does want to buy a BlackBerry. One post about setting USB drive volume names with your mobile number also got a run on the US Lifehacker site.

    And in the long stream of standard posts for Lifehacker:

  • Australian iPhone 4 Release Set For July 30
  • Lunchtime Wrap: Cheap Shopping & iPhone 4
  • How To Change Measurement Units In PowerPoint
  • Taxi Books A Taxi From Your iPhone
  • Does Your 3G Broadband Ever Go On The Road?
  • DIY IKEA iPad Stand
  • Why We Won’t See The iPhone 4 In Australia This July
  • Lunchtime Wrap: Mastercheap & Caffeine
  • iCalcy Replicates The iPhone Calculator On Windows
  • Coles Has 20% Off iTunes Cards
  • Why The Filter Proposal Won’t Work
  • How To Make Your Vote Count In The Election
  • Lunchtime Wrap: Text Capture & Filter Politics
  • eBay Adds Paymate To Payment Options
  • Make Your Own Wallet From Teabag Tags
  • HTC Wildfire Hitting Telstra In August
  • Australia Post Launches Mobile Site, iPhone App
  • Lunchtime Wrap: In-Seat Power & iPad SNES
  • Testing Qantas’ In-Seat Economy Power
  • Will The Filter Influence Your Election Vote?
  • Social Networking Sites Free On New 3 Contract Plans
  • Regional Airlines May Be Forced To Raise Fares In NSW
  • Vodafone Bonus Bank Offers Credits For Prepaid Recharges
  • Lunchtime Wrap: Postpaid 3G Broadband & USB Tricks
  • Ovi Maps Adds Time Out Listings
  • Last Week’s Top Ten Posts
  • Week at the knees

    I don’t have the excuse of being overseas to explain why I slacked off on daily posts about my activities this week. I guess the best excuse I can come up with is that I was busy writing other stuff.

    With my enterprise hat on, I produced three stories for iTnews, all of which had something of a cloud computing bent. Firstly, I looked at how speakers at the recent PyCon 2010 revealed that recoding apps for the cloud wasn’t easy. Then I looked at a survey suggesting that many IT pros still see the cloud as a risky move. And finally, I chatted to Dr Kevin McIsaac from IBRS about what EMC’s purchase of Greenplum might signal about its plans.

    With my gadget hat on: yes, I now have a gadget hat of sorts. I’m writing the occasional post for Gizmodo (the gadget-obsessed wonderland which is one of Lifehacker’s sibling blogs), which lets me cover stuff that doesn’t fit within Lifehacker’s fairly well-defined “practical information” parameters. This week, I got in early with the much-reported news that Prince thinks the Internet is dead, and did a hands-on test of the LG 3D demonstration lounge in the Qantas Club.

    And all that’s before we consider Lifehacker in its many and varied forms. Monday’s Road Worrier column updated Lifehacker’s list of free public transport options in major Australian cities. Tuesday’s Streaming column examined why SBS has a Tour de France YouTube channel. Wednesday’s Lifehacker 101 explained how to set up Google News Alerts. Loaded on Thursday looked at what Australian online stores do wrong. And Friday’s Planhacker table looked at postpaid broadband plans.

    And then the short posts. So many short posts.

  • Making Sense Of The Filter Delay
  • Lifehacker Tests Southern Cross’ Free Wi-Fi
  • How To Put A Tab In A Table Cell In Word
  • Lunchtime Wrap: Android Migration & Online Shopping
  • Archive Bookmarks As PDFs For Safe Easy Reference
  • Austar AnyWhere Offers Online TV Viewing Service
  • Australia Post Plans Greater eBay Integration
  • NBN Extended To New Locations
  • More Tactics For Putting Off Telemarketers
  • Lunchtime Wrap: Firefox 4 & Email Annoyances
  • Brisbane Promises Google Maps Transport Integration By Year End
  • Vodafone Increases 3G Mobile Broadband Allowances
  • eBay Begins Free Listings Scheme Today
  • When Android 2.2 Will Hit Your Phone In Australia
  • Give False Names To Confuse Telemarketers
  • Adam Joins Upload Counting Trend
  • Lunchtime Wrap: Streaming Media & Online Fraud
  • eBay Launches Android App In Australia
  • Improve iOS4 Performance On iPhone 3G With Hard Resets
  • Check Your BlackBerry’s Uptime With A Keyboard Shortcut
  • Internode Drops Easy Naked Price By $10
  • Lunchtime Wrap: HTML Editors & Free Transport
  • ATO Updates Information Sheets For New 2010 Tax Rules
  • Is Online Fraud Really Costing Australians $1.3 Billion?
  • Kobo Reader Still Suffering Rendering Issues
  • Coles Selling Virgin Prepaid Broadband Modem For Half Price
  • Apple Playing Dumb With Consumer Refund Rights
  • Trove Lets You Locate Books In Any Australian Library
  • Lunchtime Wrap: Naked DSL & Speed Tests
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini Pro Has Keyboard, Outright Buy Price
  • Last Week’s Top Ten Posts