A menagerie of Microsoft Mice

Way back in the mists of time (2002 to be precise) Microsoft were doing an interesting deal on their new optical mice, trying their best to make us not buy ball mice any more. To qualify for this you needed to

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post them a mouse ball and in return you got £10 cashback on a Microsoft Intellimouse USB.

11 years later I’m finally replacing that mouse with a Microsoft Comfort 4500 mouse. Let’s see if I get 11 years of usage out of this one. It’s a good chunky size, so fits nicely in my hand.

I’ll stick the Intellimouse in a box as my emergency backup mouse. It can live next to a selection of Apple USB mice that I also own.

Google Communication

I’ve got a Google Voice invite…

You are invited to open a free Google Voice account. To accept this invitation and create your account, visit https://www.google.com/voice/

If you haven’t already heard about it, Google Voice is a service that makes using your current phones much better!

Here’s what it offers:

  • A personal phone number that rings all of your existing phones when people call
  • All of your voicemail in one inbox with unlimited online storage and free voicemail transcripts sent to your phone and email
  • Low-priced international calling to over 200 countries and free SMS
  • Other powerful features like the first phone spam filter to protect you from unwanted callers, the ability to ListenInTM on your voicemail messages while they are being left, conference calling and more
  • Which is great, except…

    Google Voice is US only at the moment
    Google Voice is US only at the moment

    So I suppose I have to wait until they make it work in the UK. It sounds like a great idea, having one number for everything that you can divert to any phone you like. I just wonder how reliable and ‘permanent’ it will turn out to be; what if I become reliant on it and then Google decide to discontinue it. I quite liked Google Notebook and Google Browser Sync was a great piece of software, but they’re now discontinued.

    Anyway, I’m more interested in what Google Wave will be like. Over the past few days I’ve been arranging a trip to the US with my cousin, we’ve been using Google Talk’s IM feature to arrange things, and then continuing the conversation via email, using GMail’s ability to archive chat logs in the ‘Sent’ items box. I’ve also been able to sit at a friend’s house chatting on my G1 and reading the same emails. My cousin, as it happens, is in Sweden at the moment using someone’s laptop.

    It’s really good that I can communicate with people in these mixed ways, without having to install a specific client on my own personal computer. All I need is an Internet connection and a web browser, or a signal on my mobile phone.

    I hope someone creates a real standard for this sort of seamless communication and then gets it turned into an official RFC or something. It needs to be ‘The Way’, rather than something Google’s invented, or something Microsoft has copied off Google and then ‘added value’ to by making it incompatible. That way we’re protected against companies going bankrupt, or deciding to discontinue services.

    It irritates me that I cannot talk to my MSN friends through my Google Talk account. Why should I have several different logins just to talk to people? This isn’t the 1980s American telephone system, with lots of little companies fighting against each other. The users of these systems don’t care, they just want to chat to their friends. Why can’t I take a FaceBook chat session and continue it via my Google Talk client on my mobile phone, or through Skype?

    Why? It’s because everyone tries to create their own little walled garden, separate from everyone else, with their own particular ‘added value’ to make their generic service appear more interesting. It all seems very short sighted since these services are free, so customers have no real loyalty to particular brands. “What, you’re on ICQ? I don’t have an ICQ… oh my multi-protocol chat client can log in though, I’ll just make an account with them”. Not that multi-protocol chat clients are the solution, they’re just a temporary fix, covering over the underlying problem…

    The underlying protocols of the Internet should be standard, with everyone agreeing to use them, and everyone agreeing not to tweak their HTML implementation so that only their browsers render pages served from their webservers correctly. There should be a standard chat protocol, and a standard website authentication system so that users can be individuals on the Internet, rather than a collection of hundreds of logins for different sites. I like to buy things from places that understand Google Checkout, and I like to use my LiveJournal openID to log into sites that allow it. Not because I am particularly attached to those companies, it’s just it works, and it’s less hassle.

    Your ISP should be an OpenID provider, and your ISP’s login details should be the only ones you need to log into anything.

    Linux is doomed

    Over on his blog Thoughtfix has written about why he thinks Linux on mobile devices is doomed. Having read the post, I can see his points and think the argument is valid for desktop Linux too, but he suggests a few ideas that would be exceedingly hard to implement

    “Linux has the opportunity to learn from these competitors and blow them away.”

    And yes, it does… but who is “Linux”? Arrange me a meeting with the CEO of “Linux” and its board of directors. That can’t be done, can it? There’s no one person in control, no one single vision or direction keeping things consistent… There’s just millions of individuals running around doing what they (or their own little communities) think is best.

    He also says

    “I hope some company is strong (or wealthy) enough to provide developers with the tools, distribution channels, and incentives to provide a rich application directory for their devices.”

    But then we’ve just got another distribution out there justifying its existance as being “the one”. Every large Linux distro is the result of someone thinking these exact thoughts and saying “God this is a mess, I am going to sort it out and do things properly”.

    The OSS community has, for so long, been hell-bent on competing with Microsoft and getting itself noticed. We’ve done that part now – I can buy a multitude of Linux based devices, my mum knows what a Linux is and compared with five years ago she could probably install it with as much difficulty as she’d encounter installing XP. It’s like winning a war and realising you’ve now got to create some law and order, without causing a riot.

    Now the community needs to create some standards for what a “Linux” distribution really is. We’ve got to take the spirit of Open Source and apply it not just to the source, but to the whole concept.

    Unfortunately none of this will happen since the instant you tell RedHat users that Debian’s package system is good you’ve got a holy war. And if a large company suddenly pops up and tries to do it, they’ll be knocked down instantly since the OSS community is riddled with people that hate any form of large business for no real concrete reason.

    And that’s the whole damn problem from where I’m sat – there’s too many frothy mouthed zeolots running around on crazed holy missions to insert their own brand of Linux into as many PCs as possible, rather than people sitting down together and thinking “OK, so when someone sees a software package on the Internet and they click it… what exactly will happen?”, “They plug in a 1TB external HDD, where exactly will it mount?” “Let’s make KDE and Gnome operate in exactly the same way, with the same file manager standards so that when a user bookmarks their favourite locations in Firefox they can also see them in The Gimp”.

    You know, basic stuff that Apple, Microsoft and everyone else has had since they first came out over 20 years ago…

    Then again, Linux was never designed with any particular goals, so it’s hardly surprising things are chaotic.

    Are YOU using a stolen XBox 360?

    I hope not, Microsoft don’t like it… You may recall I had my XBox 360 stolen earlier in January. Well today I received an email in my inbox that was a little odd; in the “hello, we’re the bank and want to know why your card has just been used in Japan” style odd. After checking it for being a hoax or phishing email (I even went to the XBox Live website to confirm the phone number) I gave them a ring. First though, here’s the email:

    Dear James,

    We are trying to reach You to verify Your Xbox 360 console serial number, because another customer has called in wanting to register the same number.

    It would be very helpful, if You could call us back and let us know, if You have sold or given Your Xbox away. If that is not the case, maybe we have the serial number written down incorrectly. Could You verify the 12-digit number on the back of the console (under the bar code, usually ending in 05).

    Please give us a call back or reply to this email.

    Best wishes,

    Xbox Customer Support

    So I gave them a ring. It was a freephone number, which is good considering I spent about 90% of the call on hold. Amusingly my call was routed to the US where a nice helpful person took my details and gave me a bit of a help when I got my address wrong and couldn’t remember my phone number. Top tip: when you move house, update your XBox details too!

    So far the call was fairly routine and getting a little tedious. This soon changed when I mentioned my 360 had been stolen, not sold or given away. I had to have my call escalated to a supervisor – who seemed to be Danish, just where is my call going? – he took some more details, including my correct phone number, and said I would be called within 48 hours as this was very important and they would need some more information from me.

    Looks like the new owner of my stolen XBox 360 has just kicked the giant wasps nest known as Microsoft. I hope they’ve got their receipt, I’ve got mine with the serial number on, and a crime reference number from the police.

    I hold no hope of anything much happening except the 360 being banned from XBLA, but still… it’s interesting to follow.