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Words and bits from Michael Flanagan

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June 13th 2012

Stop-motion: The Blu Man

I made a little stop-motion animation using blu-tack:



Pretty short and insignificant but I had good fun creating it. Also I think I managed well enough with the character movements and timing for a first attempt!

I used the iStopMotion app for iPad to create it, which, along with a good iPad stand, was a fun and easy way to do it. I quickly tried a couple of other stop-motion apps but concluded that iStopMotion was the best all-round. Although I'd like to be able to export the individual frames of the film, or maybe an animated gif file (at the moment it will only export video). Maybe they'll include that in a future update.
June 9th 2012

Hacktivism / Understanding Bitcoin [Aljazeera]

A good article about an interesting subject (Bitcoin) on Aljazeera:

Understanding Bitcoin - Aljazeera.com

In particular I like what they have to say about 'hacktivism':
Real hacktivism, then, is less about denial of service attacks, which are acts of digital protest, than about the clever creation or intervention of software forms for social change. It is less about sabotage than about alternatives.

Hacktivism allows dissent to overcome the limitations of protest, actually implementing alternatives and making them widely available without asking for permission from the status quo. It gives wings to the possibility for gradual peaceful revolution: alternatives no longer need to remain dreams, but can become real options for real people.

Hacktivism often opens real spaces by "selling the idea" first to the machines, after which people realise other ways are possible and allow themselves to think in new ways.
June 8th 2012

New Music

Recently, and increasingly, my musical world has been split in two. There's the old music, the stuff I've bought and paid for probably many times over. The stuff they're still trying to charge me for again and again -- most recently with subscription services like Spotify, Deezer or Rdio. I love that music and damn it, I'll probably be paying the labels for access to it for a long time to come.

Then there's the new music. Music that's discovered, distributed, shared and often purchased online. Sometimes directly from the artist (which works well for new material from established acts, such as Radiohead or Nine Inch Nails), and sometimes discovered through sites such as SoundCloud, Ex.fm, Mixlr and Bandcamp.

It's really great to see this new breed of music distribution and discovery sites appear online, and seemingly doing quite well. I've certainly grown to love and rely on them.
April 16th 2012

The Open Web

I think some common notions on the importance of Internet "privacy" are misguided.

When Google talk about defending the open web against the evils of Facebook and Apple's walled garden services, it's easy to point out their ulterior motives. Google's business model is built around the notion, the ideal, of open, free and accessible information. Indexable, searchable (findable) by anyone -- and readable by a legion of scripts and bots to serve up the very best Google Ads, relevant to the content on the page. Of course they're going to protest the "walled garden" approach.

However, the reality is that the walled garden approach to Internet services simply is rubbish. Fair play to Google for working with a business model which encourages, and relies upon, open and free access to information. I'm not suggesting Google are perfect or saintly but they at least seem a good ally in the very worthwhile fight to foster and protect the free flow of information.

I think sometimes irrational and often over-blown fears about Internet privacy are both encouraged and taken advantage of by these walled gardened supporters, who spin "your data won't be indexed/searchable" into a selling point. The comments on the Guardian article linked above reflect that pretty strongly.

A level of privacy is important -- the ability to have private conversations and personal relationships hugely important, of course -- but one shouldn't be afraid to be themselves and express their thoughts because they might be "tracked" or "indexed" by someone, something, a search engine, or a government. I believe the openness of the web should be strongly encouraged -- both from a technological and a personal point of view.

I don't mind that information I put out onto the Internet is indexed. I'm fascinated by what can be achieved, calculated and predicted by having access to vast amounts of data like that. And I particularly like the fact that anyone can do it. With an open web, knowledge is truly democratic.

What I fear is that erecting barriers to 'protect' ourselves from the open web is counter-productive to achieving the Internet's full potential on many levels. Socially and politically it makes an easy target of anyone who does express alternative points of view, much harder for that person to find support, and -- if the Internet were to become dominated by these singularly-controlled walled gardens -- trivial for any subversive thought to be stamped out before it begins.

What I'd like to see is not 1, 2 or 3 Internet silos which we fill with our data. What I'd like to see is a return to, or at least broader encouragement of, personal websites under control of one individual -- all interconnected using open standards.

The Internet, or the public manifestation of it, still feels like a very new frontier, but perhaps not as young and innocent as it once was. Where it once seemed direction-less and full of endless possibilities, it's starting to seem as though the tracks are getting laid down and decisions being made about the direction they face. If we're heading to a place where the worlds knowledge and information (social or otherwise) is closed and locked-up for "our security", under control of just a few (and their customers), well that's not the ticket I queued up for.
April 15th 2012

Instagram

James Whelton put together GramGrab during the week (code available on GitHub), which acts as a handy web front-end for viewing and downloading your Instagram photos.

It's useful and inspired me to have a quick look over the Instagram API. I've used it to add some recent shots to the top of this blog. I think that works well.
April 5th 2012

Weekend (film)

Weekend

A very simple story -- boy meets boy and they spend the titular Weekend together -- the film centres on the conversation between the two lovers. A bit like a gay Before Sunrise. Only less American. And with more (gay) sex.

It's not too raunchy, though. It is very well constructed and feels very real. Fantastic performances from both actors.

If you're gay: you should go watch it. If you're not, there's actually a point made in the film when Glen (Chris New) is talking about an art exhibition he's wanted to put on, which would have a "gay" theme. But he's not sure to bother. He laments, because of the theme, that the straights won't go because "gay" has nothing to do with them, and the gays will only go to try and catch a glimpse of cock.

So, yes, there is gay sex in the film -- but it's not about that. It's also not often or gratuitous. It's a film about a conversation, a fleeting relationship, and a well made piece of low-budget indie film-making. If you're straight, you should go watch it.


Weekend (2011): IMDb -- Wikipedia -- Netflix (US)
April 4th 2012

Pearl Jam 20



I'd usually be a bit apprehensive about "rockumetaries". Danger of them being either officially sanctioned and self indulgent, or independent and frankly useless... but I gave this one a chance recently and I'm glad I did.

The music is, of course, brilliant. The journey of the band from early 90's Seattle to massive success is as interesting as any other (or perhaps more so, due to my foundness for early 90's Seattle rock groups) and there's no denying Cemeron Crowe can stitch a film together.

Well worth watching. IMDb -- Wikipedia -- Netflix (US).
April 3rd 2012

iPhones and Androids, Prices and Contracts

Bill Pay Plans

I was looking at the cost of smart phones recently on the Irish network, Meteor. I couldn't really understand why the iPhone was so much cheaper at €49, compared to €119 for Galaxy Nexus, or €129 for the Galaxy S2. But I wasn't looking with any intention to buy, so didn't dwell on it at the time.

Yesterday, there was a somewhat related thread on Boards.ie and I mentioned that the price on offer makes the iPhone much more attractive. Someone cleared it up: look at the contracts.

Meteor have special contracts for their iPhone users. These start at €45/month for 24 months, which gets you 200 texts, 200 minutes and 5GB of data. Plus the €49 once-off fee, that means you're locked into paying €1174 for the phone + service over 2 years.

The Android phones use the standard meteor contracts: a minimum €20/month for 18 months, getting you 200 texts, 200 minutes and 1GB of data. (18 * 20) + 119 = €479. So actually, much much cheaper. Just a bit more up front.

The only difference the iPhone contract has over a standard contract is the tasty 5GB of data (compared with 1GB) but if you need more than one (which is probably fine for most), a 10GB add-on costs €15.24/month, and that's still cheaper: (18 * 20) + 119 + (18 * 16) = €767. And twice the size! Although I'd prefer 5GB and half the price myself, but unfortunately they don't do that.

Sneaky feckers.
March 19th 2012

Return of The Show

Ze Frank

Great to hear The Show is coming back! Ze Frank crowd-sourced $150k via Kickstarter to make it happen.

I remember I was living in Prague when the original was released in 2006. Good times. A fantastic little bit of Internet.

 

The whole concept of The Show seemed barely more thought out than "release a video on the Internet every Monday to Friday for one year". Mostly everything else was improv, ranging from whacky and surreal to sombre and heartfelt. A public experiment in forced creativity every day.

Hopefully this new Show won't suffer too much for being that "difficult second album" -- or from having $150k to play with and a legion of waiting fans. I'm definitely looking forward to finding out!
March 15th 2012

Paul Irish talks new HTML5 at SXSW



A 'lightning talk' and Q+A session with Paul Irish, at SXSW, talking about some new features in HTML5. Including CSS regions, filters, network connection API's, fullscreen API's and more.