Saturday, December 03, 2005

A9 Maps...what is it good for who knows but it's great fun

A9 Maps...what is it good for who knows but it's great fun (you need to sing that line in the tune of Frankie Goes To Hollywood's "WAR...What is it good for").

Ah the bubble of the 90's what were we thinking, dot coms that were going to all let us retire at 40, giving us an endless supply of wealth and prosperity (not quite sure who was going to be left to take out the garbage but what did we care we were on the investment rollercoaster).

So here we are in 2005 all the smarter and the wiser, we only leverage ourselves with mortgages to 90% instead of 110%, and technology is there to earn substantial ROI's....not to deliver the cheapest pet food possible.

Well i don't know about you but I've seen enough "interesting ideas" over the past few months to make me think that the boom times are here again.

Welcome to A9 Maps, (A9 is the privately owned search engine from Amazon), now I know you have seen quite a few new mapping engines over the past few months, and some of them were more usable (a craigslist/google api) than others (an internal google staff members project).

So what is so unique about A9 Maps...well it's the guys driving around the entire USA in 4 wheel drives and a high speed camera, yep you read that right, they are taking photographs of every city, town and street of America.

What's it good for? well I'm not sure, I've certainly found it enjoyable checking out different streetscapes across the USA, we looked at a suburb in SF that we were thinking of moving to at one stage, I've been able to look at places in Boston that I wanted to go, it's not perfect, there are some sections that the photos obviously haven't worked and are blank but it's great to take a virtual tour around our block (and as much of the rest of New York that you have time for).

Can I explain the business model for this, no not really, who really knows but until then it's a nifty tool, i for one would be lost without my google mobile on my Treo (it's google mapping on a mobile via gprs) would I pay a monthly fee for it? sure maybe - I'd like to see some additional functionality and I also think that you would need to deliver a highly level of service and funtionality in order to charge for it but it's a great first generation application.

Have fun with it.


Friday, November 25, 2005

You have to love Sir Isaac Newton and US Cable TV

Who would have thought that these two items belonged together in a sentence.

Lets start with US Cable TV, without a doubt it is the one thing that I already know I will miss when I leave the USA - 600 channels with on demand movies (and dual tuner pvr even though I know these are already being rolled out around the world).

The coolest part of having 600 channels is that you get super specialized channels (there are at least 4 dedicated cooking channels and 4-6 other home design/renovation etc) One is a channel just on the Military (24 x 7 army seals, world war 2 tactics, famous commanders etc).

One of my favorite shows is on the Science Channel, it's basically a series about scientists and their impact on the world today.

Last week was Sir Isaac Newton, what can I say, this guy was nothing short of a legend - everyone knows the story sitting under a tree, apple falls on his head = gravity.

What I didn't know was how amazing this guy really was, I also had no idea how prolific this guy really was, he totally redesigned the telescope from lens based to mirror concentrator (the same design is still used today), he re-evaluated how we understand light waves to work and for a 30 year period he didn't bother to tell anyone he designed a new maths that today is the basis of calculus he only 'revealed' this to a fellow scientist who was trying to understand what shape of orbit a body under the effect of gravity would result (ellipse).

Gravity whilst his best known result, was only one of at least 6 to 9 other discoveries of at least equal value. I have a new respect for Sir Isaac Newton and a new respect for the ability of multiple channels to deliver truly specialized content, this more than anything might be molding what I work on next.


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Walking Under Ladders Cause Terrorism included something sensible in today's issue as lawyer Julian Burnside points out, the response should be proportionate to the threat - and the likelihood of a Westerner dying from jihadist violence is around 0.0001%.

By contrast, the annual probability of an Australian dying of smoking-related causes is 0.1%.

Or as economics commentator Ross Gittins notes, Americans are almost nine times more likely to die falling off a ladder than in a terrorist attack.

If the government and media response to Australia's biggest problemswas based on reality, probability and relativity, the SMH's top fiveheadlines might read something like this:
"Govt's new laws to reduce road toll"
"Moves to double price of cigarettes"
"Suicide research grants quadrupled"
"Push to increase cancer funding"
"Death: as easy as falling off a ladder"

well it made me smile :)

Friday, November 11, 2005

Sony's new Root Kit = "Welcome to Sony's World"

Bought a Sony CD lately? played it on your pc?.....then you no longer own the rights to prevent Sony modifying any and all of your pc's files from root.

Yep Sony installs a Root Kit (a software program that you cant see or delete, have no idea of what it's doing without looking at the binary code, runs in the background even after you stop playing the CD) from the first time you play one of their new cd's in your pc. It also phones home via the internet with your details each and ever time you play the CD again...thought you owned the rights to use the CD anyway you see fit? nope not with these new 'content enhanced cds' and also Sony have the rights to brick (prevent from working ever again) your computers CD player should they feel you are using a pirated version of the CD.

Oh by the way, dont mind having Sony access these files ..... well it also lets anyone else hack into your pc and modify these files using a $SYS$DRV prefix, the first trojan has already been reported by Sophos.

You didn't realise that this CD was anything other than a music CD .... sorry yes you can remove the software, however Sony dont tell you how to do it without adding your name to their email marketing list and there is a fair chance you will need to reinstall windows when you finish

Ahh what happened to the good old days when you liked a bought their CD, you listened to like it so much you bought another one of their cd's..... etc etc

It's a fairly technical read but if you want this is one of the best articles written on this issue (and also one of the first discoverers of the root kit)

(Sony free and going to stay that way until they change their ways)

Sony have suspended production of these cd's, at this moment they have refused a recall of the existing cd's but I suspect this space.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


You know I was just looking over the first 2 weeks worth of posts and I realised that I hadn't posted at all about Asterisk.

Considering how cool I think this software application is I'm surprised it's taken me this long. I know Asterisk may seem like a geek toy or something only companies can use but considering you can run Asterisk on a $100 P3 - 1Ghz pc it's something that everyone should look at for even the smallest of home offices.

Asterisk is an open source Linux based ip-pabx. That means you can download for free one of the smartest and most flexible IP PABX solutions available today.

To start check these links out;

There is a growing wealth of information on the wiki
(although a little unorganized)

Asterisk includes features out of the box such as
· Voicemail to email
· Fax to email
· Conference rooms with secured passwords
· Gui web control for conference rooms
· Agent and call centre stats
· Web displayed operators console including drop and drag transfers
· Dial from outlook/dial from html command.
· Text to speech – when I dial extension *61 my asterisk box downloads a text file of the New York weather report from the bureau of meteorology and then reads it aloud to me – (to get it to do this took only 40 lines of code)
· Remote agents – you could answer your office extension from your home pc.
· Auto/manual recording of calls (auto archive or email of calls to conversation participants)

Asterisk also gives you the ability to intuitively customize your solution as much or as little as you want, allowing this project to be open sources means you have 1,000+ developers out there working for you on customizations you can implement when/if you choose and as this technology is gpl’d you never need to worry about increasing costs or license fees.

For the non technical there is now asterisk@home (don’t be put off by the name – people run entire companies on this version)

Here is a link to the latest Beta version of Asterisk@home 2.0

The asterisk@home solution the easiest way to get started. It is an .iso cd that you burn, load into a suitable PC (I run mine on a P3-700) and this super smart scripting code automatically installs the following software;

- Asterisk (the open source switching software)
- AMP (an open source release of a gui configurator) they have their own separate sourceforge website
- FOP (a graphical web page for transferring calls, monitoring who is online etc)
- Web meetme (a graphical web page for monitoring and controlling conference calls)

Asterisk gives you today for free what the very best Cisco, Nortel or Avaya can offer you for $40k+ and allows small companies (or the largest) the latest in technology.

Examples of this include my Sydney phone number which for $A9.50 a month is actually just an extension of my Asterisk PABX in New York.

I can make local calls across Australia for 10c unlimited, or I can receive calls from people in Sydney which only costs them a local call (and doesn't cost me anything at all apart from the $A9.50 per month).

Who doesn't have friends, families or customers overseas that they could take advantage of with something like this. Plus the ability to answer your home phone from your laptop in the office is always a cool feature.

Feel free to ask me any question you might have as I love this software and want to see it widely supported.


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

lol - wasn't what I was thinking of posting today but.....

1. Player Name dean.collins, General Rating 10339

I finally made it to Number 1 on - it's a web based version of the Risk board game.

I found out about global combat over a year ago and probably play a game at least once a day...... dont even try to calculate how much time I've spent playing this game but being number 1 out of 64,586 players feels pretty good.

Ok now back to work


Sunday, October 30, 2005


A group of us went for a hike at Cold Springs yesterday with some of the friends (man am I out of shape after spending a year living in NY city).

It's about 60 miles north in upstate New York on the Hudson river opposite the West Point Academy.

Spectacular scenery, changing of the leaves and sweet as pie small town America with a flag in front of every second home.

I know Americans are renown for being Patriotic, in war more than ever, but it it got me thinking.........How Come Australians Aren't More Patriotic?

A straw poll with some of my Australian hiking buddies drew responses such as "Australians are modest, we keep our patriotism on the inside" and "Australians never fought in a war for independence".

Are we less patriotic or do we just show it in a different way?

Is Americas patriotism seen in a different light from the Arab world?

When i watch shows like "Off To War" (an insiders 'fly on the wall' view of 10 soldiers all from the same small town in middle America - actually pretty well balanced in it's reporting) I cant help as an outsider but draw similarities between this and the imagery we see on CNN about Arab women crying over their dead 'terrorist' sons or the religious chanting of a large group of Arab men.

Are we really all that different? Is what we are proud about so dissimilar that we need to blow each other up? Is the middle view of both America and the Arab world being distorted out by a few fanatics, distracting us from reality?

Is there a way to get a better mutual understanding?


Thursday, October 27, 2005


You need to check out Sensiva software and what it can do (seriously one of the coolest pieces of software out there-the first coolest is of course

Sensiva is a windows app that enables you to create various actions by clicking and holding the right mouse key and then drawing a shape.

Those actions may be anything from opening a specific web page (eg I draw a G and google opens up in a new explorer page and if you highlight the text before hand automatically cuts and pastes it into the search box)

To close an application (for example when I draw a L it closes the window I'm looking at (or if I draw a line left to right-down like an italic I it minimizes the page - makes it easy to jump from one app to another).

My favorite action however is a reverse upper case L (right to left), I have set this up as delete so when browsing through email I can delete an email quickly and easily without needing to move the mouse and click the delete key each time.

It's a little expensive for such a simple application but to be honest if you are on a pc all day like I am this thing will be indispensable within a week of trialing it. I've been using it for over a year and this is one of the first apps i reinstall onto any new pc.


PS Update...found out that the app is no longer being sold...and the website got sold to a female products company. lol i figured the cheque must have been huge. Anyway not sure if it is being sold/branded under a new product name but they have some patents and as gestures are a huge business....i imagine David Dupouy (or his investors) are doing just fine. Patent number: 6057845

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Hasidic Reggae

Matisyahu is my new favourite singer.....this guy absolutely blows me away.

Check out three of his tracks here;

Ok so you may have worked out from the title that Matisyahu is an orthodox Hasidic jew, but his reggae style is amazing, his totally original lyrics are an amazing blend of religion and self empowerment.

It's great to see how someone can take totally diverse areas and make it their own so powerfully.

He's local to NY but touring at the moment so hopefully I'll get a chance to see him live sooner rather than later.

He's got a great sounding but average looking live video here


Monday, October 24, 2005

Rainy Soul

Jodie left for Australia for 3 weeks this weekend :(

This rainy day is how I feel today.

p.s. This is the view from the corner of 72nd and York (the first intersection from our apartment in order North, East, South and West (towards the river and our apartment) .

Friday, October 21, 2005

Secret Code in Color Printers Lets Government Track You

I promised my wife I wouldn't be too anti-American in this blog (she thinks the visa police are going to come after me because I'm a guest in the USA on a 3 year renewable visa) but this move by the US government is insane.

Tiny Dots Show Where and When You Made Your Print

A research team led by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) recently broke the code behind tiny tracking dots that some color laser printers secretly hide in every document.
The U.S. Secret Service admitted that the tracking information is part of a deal struck with selected color laser printer manufacturers, ostensibly to identify counterfeiters. However, the nature of the private information encoded in each document was not previously known.

"We've found that the dots from at least one line of printers encode the date and time your document was printed, as well as the serial number of the printer," said EFF Staff Technologist Seth David Schoen.

You can see the dots on color prints from machines made by Xerox, Canon, and other manufacturers (for a list of the printers we investigated so far, see:

The dots are yellow, less than one millimeter in diameter, and are typically repeated over each page of a document. In order to see the pattern, you need a blue light, a magnifying glass, or a microscope (for instructions on how to see the dots, see:

EFF and its partners began its project to break the printer code with the Xerox DocuColor line. Researchers Schoen, EFF intern Robert Lee, and volunteers Patrick Murphy and Joel Alwen compared dots from test pages sent in by EFF supporters, noting similarities and differences in their arrangement, and then found a simple way to read the pattern.

"So far, we've only broken the code for Xerox DocuColor printers," said Schoen. "But we believe that other models from other manufacturers include the same personally identifiable information in their tracking dots."
You can decode your own Xerox DocuColor prints using EFF's automated program at

Xerox previously admitted that it provided these tracking dots to the government, but indicated that only the Secret Service had the ability to read the code. The Secret Service maintains that it only uses the information for criminal counterfeit investigations. However, there are no laws to prevent the government from abusing this information.

"Underground democracy movements that produce political or religious pamphlets and flyers, like the Russian samizdat of the 1980s, will always need the anonymity of simple paper documents, but this technology makes it easier for governments to find dissenters," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Lee Tien.

"Even worse, it shows how the government and private industry make backroom deals to weaken our privacy by compromising everyday equipment like printers. The logical next question is: what other deals have been or are being made to ensure that our technology rats on us?"

EFF is still working on cracking the codes from other printers and we need the public's help. Find out how you can make your own test pages to be included in our research at
Contact: Seth Schoen
Staff TechnologistElectronic Frontier

A good friend of mine has posted some interesting comments on this here

To All - this is insane, I cant believe this is happening, what is happening in the world we live in when something like this happens. There has been a total collapse in the morality of the US government and even worse in the printer manufacturers.

When Republicans wonder why the lost the next election this is one of the turning points, what country are we living in Russia?

I currently own a very good quality Cannon Pixma, Unfortunately it is relatively new so I wont be junking it but you can be sure that my next purchase will be from a manufacturer not listed here (guess you lost at least one customer Mr Cannon).


Thursday, October 20, 2005

Street Art

As some of you know I've been a huge fan of Street Art for some time. I was in Brooklyn recently when I saw this poster.

This piece of work grabs me on so many levels, the absurd and funny, the sad and tragic, the all knowing and above it all with the final realisation that you are still part of the machine at the same time. The artists website is located here

One of the best online collections of Street Art I found is located here

Hope this affects your day.


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Cool Plates

ok so I really just wanted to test out my new mobile blog feature but I saw this motorbike number plate and snapped a photo using my treo 600 and uploaded it via gprs.

Btw for the phone geeks of you out there check out the new imate jas jar ( ), this will be my new handset as soon as I can convince my wife that $US 1100 is a totally reasonable price for my newest favourite toy (anyone in the market for a well maintained treo with all of the latest software?)


Joining the masses?

Well I finally have succumbed to joining the masses and publishing a blog. Mainly because my wife wanted me to stop posting irrelevant junk to my other website
but also because she keeps saying I have more to say about stuff than anyone she knows.

I'll probably be posting a mix of personal thoughts, some points of view on Life in NY and I'm sure way to much geeky IT 'news' and useless other thoughts.

Will it mean anything or fall apart as a waste of time....we'll see. I keep being amazed at the quality of some of my friends blogs but I also note whenever I browse the majority of blogs it's probably only of interest to close personal friends to keep track with whats going on in their lives.

For those of you that are wondering this blog is being driven by and delivered onto my homepage through the use of Iframes.

The advantages of using Blogger is that I can post via a website, email and also posts from my mobile phone.

You'll also be able to use a xml feed using the following url lol - if you understand what that means then you understand what to do with it otherwise just keep moving.......nothing to see here....)

Well here goes, hope you find something of interest.