Merry Christmas!

Time for a seasonal update to Matthew’s photo gallery!

As you’ll see, his mum and dad have been having a bit of fun (as you do!) with some Xmas accessories. Aside from the somewhat repetitive little tune that Rudolf emits, Matthew seems fairly oblivious to this whole silly season, but I’m sure that will change come the 25th when he gets buried in a mountain of presents…

The wee man is doing just fine and has just started giggling in the last week (very cute).

He’s also taken a keen interest in his hands and fingers which provide endless entertainment as they move in a seemingly random fashion before his eyes!

Now then, on to the greets and well wishes… Given that we won’t be getting cards out to everyone that has helped out, donated or loaned us baby gear, visited, and sent us their best wishes over the last few months, we’ll take this opportunity to say thanks and wish you a very merry christmas wherever you’ll be. Have a good one and be safe if you’re travelling these holidays.

Chris, Louise and Matthew.

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Introducing my new favourite search site

Here’s a nifty search site that I reckon is worth you checking out and using: SearchMash.com. Possibly the best reason is that it’s actually operated by Google and is their little sandbox to test interface ideas. Not only will you get good results, but there’s some nice extras built in, and taken out!

With SearchMash you currently get ad-free results (sweet!) with extra searches on the side for images, blogs, videos and Wikipedia links – initially hidden, but expandable via some nice AJAX functionality. Instead of opening new pages for extra results, clicking the “more web results” at the bottom of the page loads the next 10 results below and auto-scrolls the page. Want to try a different search term while on a results page? – simply start typing and it will be entered in the search box, even if your cursor isn’t there. Note there’s no “search” button so just hit [enter] after typing your query. Another option currently available is to hide the results details and just display the titles as links. And in true Google style, the site is Clean and fast.

It will be interesting to see what, if any, features that are tested there eventually get incorporated into Google.com. In the meantime, I give it ‘two thumbs up’ and plan to use it for my web searches.

I am the “Person of the Year”…

…according to TIME magazine. Well, actually, since you are reading this then you are also the person of the year!

Why are we people of the year? Because we are part of an enormous community that is sharing knowledge and resources on a scale never before seen in history. And the how is the internet. Among the tools we use are popular Web 2.0 and social network sites like digg, YouTube, Wikipedia and of course blog sites – like the one you’re reading now.

From TIME.com,

…for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, TIME’s Person of the Year for 2006 is you.

So am I worthy of such a title? Maybe. Maybe not. I run a blog and have contributed content to several websites including YouTube. I regularly digg stories I think are worth a look (appearing on the right of this blog as “My Diggs”) which helps drive the social news website digg.com. Without ordinary people like me these sites, with their wealth of content, would cease to exist. So yes, I’ve contributed to and helped shape our digital world.

On the flipside though, I can’t help thinking it’s a bit of a cop-out for TIME to announce that every internet user is the Person of the Year. Or maybe it’s an elaborate publicity stunt (it got a mention here afterall) and this certainly isn’t the first time they’ve pulled something like this. In 1982 the title went to “The Computer”! For more info on the topic, where else to head but Wikipedia! There you’ll find all the Persons of the Year dating back to 1927, along with some history and controversy.

So, now that you’ve read this, continue surfing, blogging, linking, tagging, uploading, commenting and bookmarking. The internet exists because of you and I. Yay us!

Tis the season for a new website

It seems a number of popular websites have probably had the developers working overtime to meet pre-Xmas deadlines for a visual refresh.

Here in NZ, three sites I frequently visit have launched a new look in the last week. Click through and check out new styles at news sites stuff.co.nz and nzherald.co.nz, both sporting a change to horizontal navigation. The third is my favourite computer retailer ascent.co.nz.

Also launching in the last week was a new homepage at microsoft.com, which apparently follows “months of research, testing, customer feedback, and refinements”. Even their dedicated site for Office at office.microsoft.com is looking pretty and mimicks the new “ribbon” user interface of the 2007 software.

I must say I like all the re-designs, but my pick of the best change goes to stuff – two thumbs up!

Update – Tue 19th Dec: I’ll add another site to the list – digg.com – the hottest social news website on the net where all the content is user driven. A huge update just yesterday with loads of new features, incl the interface with media players now embedded in the site.

Dumb and Dumber

Time for a tech rant!

Introducing dumb and dumber – Telecom and Microsoft.

First up, Telecom. I can’t understand why they are still advertising their “Go Large” plan as unlimited internet usage with no data caps. If it’s unlimited, why does Telecom limit your usage at peak times through their traffic management policy (aka throttle) and allow you to only download 700MB between 4pm and midnight before contacting you with advice on how to reduce your usage? The Consumers Institute even complained to the Commerce Commission, yet Telecom still continue with the misleading ad campaigns.

Still, this headline – “Telecom ordered to open up lines” – from stuff.co.nz should make a few people happy. The government has just passed a bill forcing Telecom to unbundle the local loop which should (in time) lead to actual better and cheaper broadband in NZ…

And so to dumber, Microsoft and the Zune – their portable music player for the uninitiated. Dumber, because this brand spanking new player doesn’t even work with Microsoft’s own exisiting copy protection scheme “PlaysForSure” which is currently used by online services Rhapsody, Yahoo! Music and Napster. Intstead they’ve introduced a new copy protection scheme which effectively locks out all their existing customers. The Zune even adds copy protection to tracks transferred to another Zune, even if you don’t want it to happen because, say, you created the content and want it distributed freely. Worse, the transferred content can only be played 3 times over 3 days before it is locked down. At least with iTunes I can transfer any music I please onto any number of iPods without further restriction.

My advice? If you’re considering an ISP, support someone other than Telecom. And if you want a portable music player, don’t buy a Zune!

NZ iTunes Store open for business

If you happened to visit the NZ Apple website yesterday you may have noticed the following announcement,

It’s been a long time coming, and now finally kiwi’s are able to purchase music via the most excellent iTunes Store. Prices are generally $1.79 for a song, $3.59 for a music video and $17.99 for an album – not bad, but just a little more than digiRAMA which is mostly priced at $1.75/$17.00 for singles/albums.

I signed up on opening day and tried it out by purchasing a Snow Patrol music video and U2 single. Signing up (with a credit card) is easy and purchasing is just a couple of clicks. Music comes in the mp4 format, encoded with AAC at 128kbit/s as a .m4p file, while video arrives in a .m4v file.

One thing worth noting is that anything you purchase is copy protected by Apple’s “FairPlay” Digital Rights Management – meaning you can only play purchased content on up to 5 authorised computers, but can transfer it to any number of iPods (but not other portable players).

Don’t have an iPod? No problem. You can still use iTunes, which I highly recommend for organising your digital music. iTunes can burn CD’s of your purchased music which you can then use to play or rip for your other portable player… 😉