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Saturday, 18 June 2011

A Sign of the Times

No posts for weeks, and then three come along! This one's been on my mind for a while though.

We moved our wireless router recently. No longer sat on my desk, it's now attached to the wall at the bottom of the stairs. I'm moving room soon, which was the principle reason for moving it, but in any case it was becoming inconvenient to keep it there. Without noticing it happen, we now have no less than nine devices that connect to the internet by wi-fi: three computers, two mobile phones, two game consoles, a TV and even a printer.

When the router first arrived in our house, the Wi-Fi was almost an optional extra. The main PC plugged straight into it, and only my wife's laptop needed wireless. Slowly the creep began, driven more by manufacturers pushing wireless into their devices than by us seeking it out. Every time we upgrade a machine now, it seems that it comes with internet access.

All this is probably just the beginning, if the Internet of Things is to be believed. For now I'm just amused that our household routine has acquired a slight alteration after all these years: the last thing to do before bedtime is no longer checking the front door, it's making sure the router's turned off.

Searching by Image

Google Images now lets you search by image instead of keywords. You can give it an image and it returns images that look similar, at least to its algorithms. I immediately put it to the test by giving it my mugshot from Stack Overflow. Hmm. Mostly women, with a few babies thrown in. It seems to be having more luck noticing that I'm wearing a black shirt than that I'm male.

Maybe it's because the photo I gave it has the top of my head cropped off? I try the mugshot from this blog. This time it successfully finds web articles containing that same photo, and also comes up with a few faces that do look vaguely like me. Not sure what Angelina Jolie's doing in there though.

Okay, clearly these are early days for this technology, but I applaud what they're trying to do. I look forward to the day when it's so reliable that it can spot family resemblances. That would make a useful complement to the Relative Finder in 23andMe. Another search engine I would like to see is one that let's you hum a few notes of a song and then tells you what it is. Targeted ads could include places to buy the song, or Singing Lessons if it thinks you're off tune.

Jazz FM Reaches Yorkshire

Spinning the stations dial on our DAB radio last night, I was delighted to find, lurking among the pop channels and the dubious attractions of the numerous Christian stations (who listens to all these?), a newcomer to the Yorkshire area: Jazz FM. Seems they went national in March, but this was the first I've heard of it.

I bought the radio back in early 2008 in order to listen to "theJazz", which dutifully went t*tsup a couple of months later. Since then I've mostly listened to Planet Rock, where music from my youth is played by DJs even older than me. And though I really enjoy Rock, I honestly wouldn't miss Heavy Metal, so Jazz FM will make a nice alternative refuge for me when I'm not in the mood for pounding, endless guitar solos.

It may also save me a bit of money, as I'd been wondering for a while if I could justify buying an Internet Radio in order to get access to Jazz again. The main thing that had held me back was not the price, but the enormous choice I would have been presented with. A simple decision like Planet Rock or Jazz FM I can cope with, but when the choice is pretty well every radio station on the planet, my listening pleasure might be ruined by the continual worry that there was something better on the next channel.