Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist

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13 August 2005
Visiting the Edinburgh Festival

Visiting the Edinburgh Festival,
originally uploaded by D & D.

This packed schedule gives you an idea of the richness of this amazing event. Of course we won’t be able to see even a fraction of the tens of thousands of performances at this the world’s biggest arts festival. The advent of the Internet has been a godsend in helping to arrange our upcoming visit. Not only can we listen to interviews with the artists and read several blogs by performers and critics but we can access the invaluable reviews by the Scotsman and others mixed in with the comprehensive listings for all five of the currently-running festivals, and read comments by fringe festival-goers as well on the Fringe Festival’s own site. The latter even offers SMS voting for shows. The Stage also has a pretty comprehensive Edinburgh review festival and fringe reviews and listings site. This way we can get some idea of the ‘buzz’ around shows before we take the sleeper up and book what we are interested in – which is just as well since I’m sure a lot of the best stuff will already be sold out for the rest of its run…

8 August 2005

As a quick glance at the links on the right hand side of this weblog clearly shows I like listening to speech online (or rather I like using Total Recorder to transform realaudio streams into MP3s which I then listen to on my MP3 player). So the increasing prominence of podcasting should be a godsend for me you’d think. Indeed, a few interesting programs I already know like Go Digital have embraced podcasting. But I’m still finding it hard to find anything much out there I want to listen to – I haven’t found a good trusted source to guide me through the profusion of sources out there.

There are 437 “audio blogs” registered with the iTunes podcast directory (which you need iTunes to visit), and hundreds of “technology-related” podcasts, plus 191 “politics” podcasts and 134 movie and television podcasts but seemingly no way of sorting the wheat from the chaff. Apple provides a Top 100 podcast list but without reviews, and there is seemingly no way to get to their list of “top n” by category (plus there is some suggestion the ‘top lists’ can be manipulated). Random sampling of ‘top’ podcasts recommended by sites like Podcast Alley was at first disappointing.

Fortunately, I have started to find the odd interesting podcast at last. Resonance FM an experimental station in London featured quite a funny mock-lecture by Kevin Eldon, This is England by a pair of Brits features interviews with random people doing interesting jobs in the English countryside, “Escape Pod” – a podcast of SF authors reading their short stories (excellent idea – I want to find more free short story feeds – preferably of classic and/or out of print authors) and best of all Ewan Spence and a gang of colleagues are doing a daily podcast from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival which will be very useful for keeping up with what’s hot and not over the coming weeks.

I would be interested in anyone else’s recommendations either for individual podcasters or for sites that help you find the best ones. It will be interesting to see whether podcasting gets to be as big a phenomenon as blogging. Speaking seems to be a more ‘natural’ way of communicating with people than typing does but it turns out that making something that people will actually want to listen to is even more difficult than writing something because editing audio is a lot harder to do…

27 July 2005

As Salon pointed out to me, the wonderful folks at the Internet Archive have 150 tracks of Caruso singing – part 1 and part 2 – turned from 78s into MP3s. Download what you like before some idiot lengthens the term of copyright even more and it goes out of the public domain again…

And along similar lines, I was encouraged to learn that the BBC’s recent experiment with free Beethoven downloads garnered millions of downloads – many more than any commercial single sales.

19 July 2005


I just heard about the Blogathon. On August 6th, bloggers will participate in a 24 hour marathon of posting for charity – one post every half hour. I think this is a nifty idea and there are some good charities on their suggested list (though in fact you can blog for any charity you like). I encourage anyone reading to participate themselves, though it turns out I can’t do it myself.

If you are thinking of doing this yourself and trying to find a charity to support, I did some investigation and chose wateraid as my potential beneficiary (when I thought I might participate in the blogathon) because potable drinking water is a basic necessity without which it’s hard to do any further development and the organization appears to be doing good environmentally sensitive and sustainable work in this area.

26 June 2005

If like me you have a CD collection and a computer with a very large hard disk, do what I am doing and ‘rip’ large parts of your collection to your hard disk then give the CDs away to charity – Oxfam in my case. I have a laptop so I can plug my computer directly into my stereo (and I can’t tell the difference in sound quality between MP3s and my CDs). If you don’t have a laptop though you can get an inexpensive MP3 player (I see they cost as little as £15/$25 these days) and just plug that into your stereo when you want music.

That way you have convenient access to music, you rediscover discs you have probably forgotten about, you have cleared clutter out of your life, and you get to help people lift themselves out of poverty (or whatever charity you prefer). A real win win act!

P.S. If you are worried about how much storage space this would take on your hard disk, I currently have 2730 songs – 7.6 straight days worth of music – in 10Gb of disk space (and you may not need to store every track on every disc – there are probably plenty of tracks you find you don’t want on each one). An external 80Gb drive costs from around £50/$90 these days and would be very useful for backing up as well as music storage (you are backing up regularly, right?)

3 June 2005

A ‘smart bag’ that tells you when you’ve forgotten something. It’s one of several ‘smart fabric’ applications that have been explored in the bYOB (build your own bag) project at the Media Lab. This kind of thing has been discussed for many years now. I hope they stop talking about them and start marketing them soon – I’m always worrying I’ve left stuff behind when I’m packing.

21 May 2005

New GPS-based bus tracking will replace the never-accurate ‘countdown’ system based on roadside beacons starting in two years’ time, the BBC and Silicon.com report. I wouldn’t mind paying a small fee to get a text message when a bus is about to arrive at the stop nearest me, although these days they arrive so often we never have to wait long…

A bit like voice over IP now that I think of it – it became easy to talk to people over broadband just around the time that conventional telephone rates here using alternative providers (who probably use VOIP anyway) sank to nearly zero anyway making free computer to computer calling not nearly as advantageous…

18 May 2005

While Skype (which I am using extensively these days) makes it easy to call your Internet-using friends for free you normally have to pay something if you want to call a conventional phone using a voice over IP service (BBC hype notwithstanding). One organization, however, is enabling completely free of charge phoning – the fwdOUT Network. The catch is that you have to be running a Linux-based PBX on your own phone (thus enabling others to share your line) in order to participate.

Free World Dialup (by some of the same people) used to offer free calls to a number of locations around the world to anyone using an IP phone but I guess that wasn’t economically viable and it now offers straight computer to computer telephony….

25 March 2005

I just read in “Wired”:http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/13.03/start.html?pg=7 about NASA World Wind – a free application which (if you have a powerful enough PC) lets you hover over the globe and zoom in on any part you like to see a satellite overview of it. It only runs on Windows, alas.

21 March 2005

“A home for all your digital media”:http://ourmedia.org/ – for free and forever. A very exciting prospect! See my posting on the LSE group weblog for more details.

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