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Game changers? Any suggestions?

Game changers? Any suggestions?

Does this do anything for you? Source: Wikipedia

Warning a more than slightly geeky post is about to happen! This list is not in any particular order… (warning most of the list below is linking to wiki)

  1. Commodre 64
  2. PC 1512
  3. Microsoft Windows 3.1
  4. Microsoft Word for Windows
  5. AutoCAD
  6. InkJet printers
  7. iPod 
  8. SketchUP
  9. Freedom of Information/OpenData
  10. GIS
  11. PlanningPortal and Planning Delivery Grant
  12. Kindle
  13. Twitter
The items on the list above all have something in common, yes they are technology related but that’s not necessarily it.   It is an incomplete list in many respects and depending on who you are and your interests you may wish to add and subtract from the list.

So what do they have in common?  As the title of this post suggests they are technologies, software and ideas that I consider to be ‘Game Changers‘ and by that I mean that these have changed how we do things or think about things completely.   I must stress this is a personal list and is based on my bias towards technology, but I think you’ll get the point.

The idea for this post really started with me thinking about how best to produce drawings and display boards in the office where I work.  In the past AutoCAD has been more than adequate, but now I have more choices than I know what to do with and I don’t necessarily have to choose AutoCAD!  The trouble is a lot of people’s mindsets are stuck a few years behind and if its always been done a particular way it’s difficult to change that mindset.  For example I could produce a display board entirely in AutoCAD or SketchUp or combine it with Photoshop and InDesign to get something really special.

So there you have it, a silly little idea for a blog post but one that I hope makes us re-evaluate the jobs we do now and look at things different;y.

Below is my reasonings for each item on the list, would you like to comment on any of them?  I would appreciate it!

Commodre 64 – Okay my family had the Commodore Pet and Vic20 before it, but this was what made computer ownership an integral part of the family environment.   Not just good at games it could Word Process as well!   (some might add ataris, amigas and bbc micro here too).
PC 1512 –  The first computer that looked like something we might have today in our household, with a pre windows DOS (I think MS not DR, but I could be wrong), it was mainly for business.   Working at home using a computer became a reality for us.  I first experienced Elite and pinball on this beauty as well as weird things
Microsoft Windows 3.1 – What can I say a graphical pseudo OS running that made using a PC easier for more people.  Gone was most of complexity of command line DOS and hello to world of icons, windows and desktops!  Game changing because Windows basically hasn’t changed an awful lot since then.  (I am aware of other graphical OS out there, but windows I have used throughout)
Microsoft Word for Windows – (more specifically 2.0)  Up until my first contact with Word I really had no use of anything else for I was to young.  But I’ve only ever used Word in Windows, I have been known to dabble in WordPerfect and OpenOffice but these have never come even close to the familiarity and ease of use I get from Word and all its incarnations.  Word processors allowed people to be free from typewriters and correct errors before they were printed.  Once you could do that the nature of how people worked changed, drafts could be perfected and seen by many more people for instance!
AutoCAD – My first dabble in the world of work was at an architects office where my mother worked, drawing boards and the smell of ammonia for the copier are what give me very vivid memories. Combine that with the ‘salty’ language of the resident architects and the smell of cigarettes and pipes (not from my mother on either account)!!  Here a computer was purchased and after school I got to play on it, it had AutoCAD (release 11 I think) and digitizer, there was also a plotter which used real pens to plot drawings!  Some didn’t see the writing on the wall, but the days of using razor to get rid of mistakes on your drawing were long gone as the result of AutoCAD.  My first job outside of university was using AutoCAD and every subsequent office I’ve been to has basically been at least 2 or 3 versions behind the latest release, which shows how useful AutoCAD can be.

InkJet printers – Printing at home anyone, and cheaply?  Enough said.
iPod – Not so much the device but the whole ecosystem.  The shockwaves of this product are still to this day upsetting the music industry who until Spotify came along were playing catchup to a technology and product which changed the business model entirely.   I see the iPod as having basically reduced recorded music to next to valueless in monetary terms.   Real money can be made by artists but this is from live performances, and advertising (tv/radio or to sell a newspaper).   With an electronic format why are artists not looking more at getting away from the traditional album format?  
SketchUP – 3D modelling software that is the easy to use, if you are even remotely CAD/computer literate this product is amazing and for most people free!   With its layout tool and easy export to many formats this is the way forward.   Forget AutoCAD, it is too expensive, difficult to train someone in and for the most part far too powerful for most uses.  SketchUp means anyone can make a 3D model that looks professional.

Freedom of Information/OpenData – The concept of being able to access government held information freely sounds so reasonable one wonders what we did before to discover what our elected officials and government got up to…   Forget the naysayers that dislike the amount of time which is wasted chasing up ‘stupid’ questions from the public, this has made people think about government differently.  As to OpenData well, as soon as someone figures out how to make use of the flood of data from government and make it usable things will be different.  Which brings us neatly to :
GIS – Geographic Information Systems, before this it was called a map.  Nowadays you can’t escape GIS, its everywhere and that’s why you don’t notice it.  Google/Yahoo Maps? = GIS, SatNav? = GIS, postman/courier? = GIS, rubbish/trash collection? = GIS, Planning Applications? = GIS.   Had enough yet?
PlanningPortal and Planning Delivery Grant –  A bit different this as it relates more to my profession.  The planning delivery grant in the England and Wales forced and encouraged Planning departments to get more efficient and go online by offering financial incentives to meet various Pendleton Point criteria.   Before this came in very few councils made it easy for the public to find the planning departments section of their website.   Pendleton made it a key requirement.  
Is that important to have a link on a council’s frontpage I hear you all ask?! Well yes considering that residents often need the planning department and are consulted by them as well.  Hiding your consultation documents and planning applications is hardly open and transparent is it?   Yes a paper register is kept that you can see if you visit the council offices, but who can take time off from work to do that?  Suffice to say I think the Planning delivery grant was one of the few government schemes that has increased participation of residents in the democratic process.  As to the Planning Portal, heaven forbid that us professionals are forced to stop spending money on printing and delivery of planning application documents!   
Kindle –  Yes, yes my blog post and radio debut due to a kindle blah blah…  Hang on a minute though, the Kindle like the iPod has challenged a long established industry of paper, bricks/mortar and publishers.  Yes other eReaders are available, but Amazon’s delivery method and their Kindle (hardware and software) is amazingly simple.  

Publishers must get a grip on this and innovate with the technology and not just sit there like the music industry did until it’s too late suing ‘John Smith’ for allowing his children to download music that they can listen to for free on radio…  

Oh sure there are deep meaningful conversations to be had about the nature of book reading, and the relationship between publisher, authors and the consumer.  But just remember technology and in particular the consumer adapts.   For instance I didn’t know this until recently but you can’t purchase legally any Harry Potter book for an ereader.  Why? Because of the fear of piracy?  Sorry but that ship has sailed if I want a copy of any Harry Potter book electronically I can get it now with the help of a search engine… result one lost sale for publisher and author.  I’m not advocating stealing (that’s what piracy is often) but there are ways to get good profits out of digital sales of books (not just film rights!).

Twitter – I’m not going to be a typical twitter advocate here,  after my initial scepticism and resistance I came late to Twitter.  Perhaps it was the constant twitter this, and twitter that from radio DJs (I’m looking at you BBC) but I hated the idea.  Why on earth would you share with the world your life’s smallest details??!  Who the hell cares if celebrity A is drinking with celebrity B.  

Oh and an endorsement from Stephen Fry a person I respect and admire greatly didn’t do it for me either, as far as I was concerned Twitter was for patting famous people on the back.

Then for some unknown reason I caved completely, I think I had searched for something to do with GIS and then realised a whole community for GIS users were on twitter. Damn it!  I joined up and have slowly realised that twitter is populated almost without exception with polite helpful people.  Of course this is a product of who I follow and what I’m interested in.   

The fact is that now news and information I would not have found otherwise comes to me.  Yes I still use Google and my main sites but for the most part I sit in front of Hootsuite (a twitter client) soaking it all up.  As to it being a game changer think of it this way:  

If you are in a small business advertising is a bloody nightmare and expensive too.  What if by being yourself you could talk to your potential customer base directly.   For the most part you only follow people who interest you, so my contacts are mostly GIS and planning related (as well as localgov).   This works in reverse so people will follow you and look at your links because they are interested in what you have to say.   This brings me to state the bleeding obvious “content is important” give people interesting articles or weblinks and they will trust you further and look more closely out for your ‘tweets’.

All I can say is try it out and get involved, you will see pretty quickly that twitter, far from being a social tool is a simple and potentially effective tool for communicating with prospective clients as well as gaining knowledge.

So that’s my list apologies for its length, but now I would really like your comments, anything I’ve missed out or that you agree/disagree with?  I won’t be offended, but I will be interested!


#Kindle post gets me on the radio (#BBC #Cumbria)

#Kindle post gets me on the radio (#BBC #Cumbria)

Well my post on Kindle’s hidden features certainly surprised me on the statistics front, what I didn’t expect was to appear on radio in part because of it…

Yesterday (27th October) I got phoned at work by a chap called John Bowness, who asked whether I would like to come on Mike Parr’s breakfast show on BBC Radio Cumbria, to talk about ‘ereaders’.  He said it would be at 7.45am this morning (28th October) and would last for 5 to 10 minutes.   He said Lucy Mangan a Guardian Columnist would be talking about how she didn’t approve of ereaders and I would be there in defence of them.   It was amusing to be asked whether my Kindle made noises so that it could be heard on radio!   Unfortunatley it doesn’t make beeps and I thought it unwise to mention the text to speech feature… (not exactly its best selling point)

These lifts are never working… (source Google)

He said he had found me by typing in “ereader cumbria” in Google and my blog GeoPlanIT came up top of the list (try it and let me know if it works for you!).  So okay looking at the post that comes up its actually a link for downloading this site for an ereader (check it out here).   However I don’t think I would be so prominently listed in google if it weren’t so popular my original Kindle post, combined with my activities on twitter.

My first instinct was to say no, those of you who know me will understand I’m not that shy and am somewhat outgoing.   However I can assure you I go weak at the knees at the thought of public speaking!   Then a little voice in my head said “why not, you don’t get the chance to go on radio everyday”  this time the little voices in my head won out.

The lifts didn’t work then either

Fortunately I was somewhat prepared for my appearance thanks to a friend of mine Matt Deegan who works in the radio industry.  His calm reassurance in the form of an email was much appreciated.

So this morning I went to BBC Radio Cumbria in Carlisle with my wife and 16 month old daughter (moral support in reception).   We had to take the detour from the Castle carpark as pushchairs and that bridge don’t work!

You can listen to it here:
My 6-7 minutes of fame on BBC Radio Cumbria (1hour 18 minutes in)

So barring my hopeless performance (hey its my first time), I was surprised that there was no discussion, I thought that’s what Lucy was there for and the whole thing went by so quickly I was out of the building as before I knew it and struggling to cross Castle Way in Carlisle (I think they’ve given up on those elevators on the bridge)…

Good luck going 100% internet!

One last thing I noticed: I was on directly after the owner of Fluffy Bums, who are located next door to BBC Cumbria and it’s where we got our daughters reusable nappies from.

It’s a shame they are closing down the shop and going 100% internet as we always enjoy going in and getting our ‘poop’ related supplies!  They’re helpful and always chatty and friendly I hope that ethos continues online.

So there you go a meaningless blog post but I hope you found it slightly interesting.  For those of you interested some related links are below.

Updated: I added the bit about Fluffy Bums… later on the 28th October 2010
    Creating #ArcGIS #Maps for the #Kindle 3

    Creating #ArcGIS #Maps for the #Kindle 3

    A6 seems good…

    Well just out of curiosity I thought I’d see if I could create some maps using ArcGIS’ PDF export ability to make maps for use on my Kindle.  

    The ‘ease of use’ of the Kindle combined with the method of updating content (email to device) and availability of Kindle software on many devices might make it a good method of getting information to people…
    I certainly think e-readers in general are a good method for distributing policy documents from governments (see previous post).   I would have loved to have my authority’s local plan on one of these…. (but then I am a geek)
    1. Step one was to figure out a reasonable template size for viewing as a PDF on the Kindle without having to zoom in.   Papersize A6 seems reasonable…
    2. Next step is to come up with a proper grey-scale palette…
    You can Zoom in as its a standard PDF

    It turns out its relatively easy to do, perhaps people could make suggestions as to the method of choosing a greyscale palette? (I’m looking at you @PetersonGIS)

    Updated 26th October 2010: 

    The Kindle 3s reported screen specification is as follows:

    “Amazon’s 6″ diagonal electronic paper display, optimised with proprietary waveform and font technology, 600 x 800 pixel resolution at 167 ppi, 16-level grey scale.” Source: Amazon UK

    Using a #Kindle and interested in UK legislation and policy?

    Using a #Kindle and interested in UK legislation and policy?

    Struggling to justify your new toy?

    You may be interested in this post if you are a Planner, Architect or someone interested in policy and legislation in the UK and owns a Kindle!    Otherwise you may just be interested in ways to convert PDFs for your Kindle.   Please note that this is for PDF documents that are mainly text, I’m not sure PDFs of scanned documents will work that well…. (if at all)


    As most UK policy documents and legislation can be obtained online as a PDF I’ve found a quick and easy way to convert them to a format the Kindle can read.


    First download your favourite policy/legislation document from here for example: DCLG Planning Policy


    Go to mobilpocket.com and download Mobipocket Creator

    1. Install Mobipocket Creator for advanced users (this is what I did)
    2. Load up Creator 
    3. Once loaded under the heading “Import from existing file” click on Adobe PDF
    4. Choose your PDF file and an output location
    5. The next screen you can more information and add a cover page (hint pictures from the PDF are stored in its own directory).
    6. Once you’ve done this click on “Build”
    7. The new file for the Kindle should a Kindle Content filetype (in Windows 7 with Kindle for PC installed it is).
    8. Plugin your Kindle via USB and drag and drop this new file into the “documents” folder

    I wonder if I can get some nice maps on it….

    Kindle 3 : Some Hidden Features : Part 2 Technical stuff

    Kindle 3 : Some Hidden Features : Part 2 Technical stuff

    Following on the back of my last post I have found some more hidden features/functions for the Kindle 3.   As before please be careful using these, I’ve looked at them myself and had no problems.  That doesn’t mean you should do it though, if you are anyway unsure please don’t use these.   That is all!

    Okay these little functions bring up some information on your Kindle, they’re not hugely useful as I’m not as what one might call a ‘hacker’ (I’m just a bit geeky) but I like to know what else my Kindle can do.

    Navigate to the Settings screen on your Kindle (Menu – Settings, from the home screen):

    1. “Switching Wireless Providers”: type 311 (ALT+EQQ) – I’ve not said okay on this so you try at your own risk!
    2. 411 Page (serial Number MAC address etc): ALT+RQQ
    3. 611 Page (Modem, SIM and Network details) : ALT+YQQ
    4. 711 Page (Connection, Wi-fi and IP):  ALT+UQQ
    From the home screen
    • Serial and Barcode displayed: ALT+SHIFT+. (period)
    Bonus! Using the experimental web browser, when the page you are viewing is bigger than the screen (e.g, BBC full site and zoomed in).
    • ALT+J scroll right
    • ALT+H scroll left
    That’s it for now, hope you are all still enjoying your Kindle 3!
    My little #Kindle Hidden Feature post and some statistics…

    My little #Kindle Hidden Feature post and some statistics…

    I thought I might write a quick post after what I thought was a pretty limited interest piece on my Kindle.  Okay it was about some hidden features, but really I wasn’t expecting this.  I thought a quick summary of my website statistics was in order.

    So up until yesterday my most popular post was this one :
    HP DesignJet 500 and Windows 7: Yes it does work even without the HPGL2 card!
    It had about 420 pageviews in its life time (I keep getting comments on this post, which is nice).

    Now my post yesterday :
    Kindle 3 some hidden features
    This got over 4500 pageviews, yesterday alone.

    All I can say is wow, I thought this was a bit odd so I did some checking…. I have a “who’s among us” (see bottom of page) counter and had a look earlier today at the history:

    As you can see at the height of yesterdays visitations I had 114 visitors on my site at one stage.
    Now I know that statistics for websites aren’t an exact science, but I guess this post hit some interest nerve in people (and hit the right website listings!).   I do have referral information and it seemed traffic came from some ‘technical’ sites and news boards.   I also saw that if you type in “kindle 3 hidden” in Google this site is third on the list, hurrah!

    Well that’s it, I just thought it was interesting to see how the correct content can drive visitors to your site.   A big thank you to all those who visited and left comments, it’s really appreciated!  I hope future posts of mine can be deemed as interesting and of value to people.

    Kindle 3 : Some Hidden Features

    Kindle 3 : Some Hidden Features



    After much research I’ve found something out about my new Kindle 3, it has hidden features and two simple (read: crap) games!

    I must warn you though to please take care when using these instructions. Obviously they’re not supported otherwise we’d see them in the manual.  I have not broken anything by using these (yet) however I can’t take responsibility for anything that goes wrong.

    The instructions for these ‘features’ are widely available elsewhere I just thought I’d consolidate them here, mainly for my consumption.  If you are unsure about using them my advice is don’t.

    This is an expanding list, I have more technical stuff to put up but hey I thought I’d put up the easy stuff first.

    Oh and if anything does go wrong please tell others, like me and comment on this page, I’ll make sure to add warnings or remove anything that causes problems.
    Mmm keyboard…
    Hidden Games (don’t get that excited)
    1. shift + alt + m = play minesweeper (from homescreen)
    2. GoMoku: press G from Minesweeper
    3.  

    Hot Keys at any time
    1. alt + shift + G = screenshot (plug your Kindle in via the USB and navigate to the folder ‘documents’ screenshots are GIF and named something like “screen_shot-******.gif”)
    2. alt + G = screen refresh
    3. alt + home = Kindle Store
    4. alt + top row of letters on keyboard = numbers 1-0
    5.  

    Menu
    1. Press menu to check the time
    2. Press menu on homescreen to see available memory
    3. To change the primary dictionary by going to settings then menu
    4.  

    Power Switch
    1. Standby (uses minimal power is my understanding) Quick switch of the power slide.
    2. To turn off kindle 3 (i.e switch off the screen as well) by pressing and holding the power slide for 7 seconds
    3. To reset the kindle by pressing and holding the power slide for 15 seconds (restart is also in settings then menu)
    4.  

    Hot Keys Whilst Reading
    1. alt + B = add and remove bookmarks
    2. shift + Sym = Turn text to speech on and off
    3. set cursor down the page to start text to speech from there
    4. right arrow on nav controller = skip to next chapter
    5. left arrow on nav controller = skip to previous chapter
    6.  

    Music Controls
    1. alt + space = turn music on and off
    2. alt + f = skip to next track
    3.  

    Kindle 3 Image Viewer (don’t get that excited Part 2)
    Kindle has an image viewer, who knows why its hidden (other than maybe its not very good) still its there and simple to set up.  I’m assuming a windows based PC for these instructions, but it probably is similar for a Mac and others…
    1. Plug your Kindle 3 into the computer with the USB.
    2. Open the Kindle drive that is now in your displayed with your removable drives, in the root (i.e. not in another folder) create a folder called “pictures” within that folder you can create a number of other folders (think of them as collections), then add your images/pictures to this (or these) folders.  I’ve only tried Jpegs and they work fine.
    3. Once finished safely unplug the kindle and then press “alt” and “z” on the homescreen, this will refresh the screen and add your new folders.
    4. Click on the folder/collection and Image Viewer should launch.
    5.  


    Image Viewer Functions
    Page forward and back to see different images
    1. f = full-screen
    2. q = zoom in
    3. w= zoom out
    4. e = reset zoom
    5. c = actual size
    6. r = rotate
    7. nav controller = pan
    8.  

    That’s it for now I’ll be posting some other functions in a bit.   Also I have not discovered most of these out myself by hacking the Kindle.  I’ve just found them out by searching the World Wide Web for Kindle features, hot keys and  easter eggs.

     

    As Requested… by kuroikaze85





    Update (1st October 2010): Acknowledgements
    Apologies for not posting this sooner, I only compiled this list for my benefit (and limited followers) but now others are interested!


    Articles and posts that made this page possible and some more I’ve found after I posted this list.   If you want some more technical stuff you could look at these but be careful.  NOTE Not all relate to Kindle 3 (latest version):



    There are more sites with information just goto Google like I did and search for “Kindle hidden” or “kindle easter eggs”


    Update (1st October 2010): This post was featured on Geek.com thanks Matthew Humphries!


    Update (2nd October 2010): This post was linked to on Teleread.com Ebook Roundup from Resource Shelf


    Update (3rd October 2010): This post was linked to on Mike Cane’s xBlog GeoPlanIT: Kindle 3 : Some Hidden Features


    This Article now has a part 2 : Click Here