Production values and quality. The Doctor Who legacy. I love it!
By David HAGUE
With Dr Who starting again on the ABC, once again all the tragics are out – including me. Probably especially me as I have every episode it is possible to get since 1963 when it first aired in the UK (and I was only 7!) in videotape, CD, DVD or digital form. I say “possible to get” as some particularly iconic episodes have been lost somewhere in the giant vaults of the BBC. Hopefully they will re-surface at some time. I have a special softness for the Celestial Toymaker as it depicts in a manual form, my very first computer game, The Towers of Hanoi.
I also have most of the literature written as serious synopses of the show, episodes, characters, aliens and of course the Doctors themselves. I am seriously interested in the background of everything that is involved with the show. Call it a fad, obsession or what you will, simply the creativity of the whole package intrigues me, as do other shows such as The Avengers, Blakes’ 7, and other slightly off beat programs of the genre.
For those that don’t know, Dr Who is accepted as the longest running science fiction show on television – cop that Trekkies – and it is fascinating to go back to the original scripts of the early days and see what the thoughts of the then writers, directors and producers were. It is also interesting to see the description of the sets and the ‘monsters’ and how various effects were created in those, by the standards of today, electronically primitive times.
It’s a testament to people involved at the time that the show continues today. Much must go to the individual Doctors of course and to a lesser degree to their companions of the period. But the fact that specific characters still continue to frighten and terrify is a reward to the genius of these people, with special mention of the late Terry Nation who created the Daleks (and later Blakes’ 7).
Who is / was your favourite Doctor, companion or alien? How does Matt Smith rate as the newest Doctor? I’d genuinely like to hear.
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Google Ad Manager has had a facelift. Thank goodness!
By David HAGUE
Moving from a paper based publication to a purely web based one had its challenges. There were of course the normally to be expected ones such as persuading advertising clients to switch models, convincing readers to buy into a new subscription system and of course generating the site itself in a method that was easy to regularly easily update to keep the content fresh.
By far the hardest thing though was to work out an advertising model. Google Ads are all very well, but they are not going to put too much diesel in the tank or pork chops on the table. Banner ads of course are the way to go, but by simply inserting Flash code or animated GIFs into your code doesn’t give much control and nor does it allow any tracking feedback and information to give back to the client.
Thankfully, built into the CMS I eventually decided to use – PressPublisher (www.presspublisher.com) - they have included support for Google Ad Manager, which allows all this and more including integration with Google Analytics.
The only problem was that I found it about as intuitive as Arabic language Meccano set instructions. Whole new terminologies had to be learnt and understood (ad slots, line items, creatives and more) and workflow – very confusing workflow I found – to be untangled with much cutting and pasting of specific code. I have never been a fan of the Google implementation of interfaces I admit. Gmail I think stinks!
Once Google Ad Manager worked though, t’was good.
Thankfully, they have totally rewritten it and now it makes much more sense which can only be a good thing. SO if you have been putting off switching to Ad Manager, take another look.
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This is NOT an iPad story. Oh OK, it is. Nearly trick'd ya!
By David HAGUE
Everyone has been talking about the iPad (I refuse to follow certain commentators and refer to it in the same way as people refer to ‘Council’ – as against the Council, or ‘Doctor’ ie. dropping the preceding ‘the’).
I am aware that many think I am anti-Apple products. To put the record straight, I am not. I don’t have a huge affinity for the Company due to its often arrogance, and I am often more than bemused by the attitudes of Mac users and their rampant defence of anything said in the negative about the fruity company and its shiny goodies.
I like some of their products too; I own an iTouch and the only negative there is I bought one with too low a capacity. I don’t own a Mac, and probably never will, simply due to the fact my investment in other software and devices in the Windows environment is too high (I know I can now run Windows on a Mac, but it doesn’t make sense to me to go that way).
Then there is the iPhone. Sorry, but a phone to me is primarily something that rings and I can say “hello” or I can call out on as necessary. I like my gadgets, but I can’t see a use for all these apps I am told I can buy. I use a Blackberry and this has more than enough power for my minor needs – I’ll never type a story on it, chomp numbers on a spreadsheet or play games. Or need a compass.
So in essence, I am a practical person – I went through the ooh...ahh stage very early in the computing revolution and am happy with my lot. I did buy a Kindle, and the sole reason initially was to investigate it as a publishing platform for my own magazine(s). I do use it as a reader, but I am in no hurry to throw away my collection of paperbacks or hardbacks.
And this leads us to the iPad - and especially it as a saviour for publishers (like me). I can see the benefits in this area such as portability, rich media, instant updates and so on, and they are all valid. But they can be drawbacks too. For instance, is the alleged 10 hour battery life going to be enough? The Kindle has around 4 days in my usage, and I still get frustrated at this. My Blackberry gives me 3 days (less with Bluetooth turned on) and that is frustrating too. My HP mini notebook is 3 hours and a bit which is just enough for a Perth – Sydney flight. There can never be too much battery life and I suspect this will be a limitation. In flight charging helps these days of course, although as yet, not too many aircraft have them. I’ve seen one in 5 years of hopping back and forth, and not even an Emirates 747 had them. This then means you have to carry the charger with you, thus offsetting some of that portability.
With so much reliance on Flash for rich media content, I suspect this will be a major issue. One of the selling points is that videos etc can be embedded as a part of newspaper articles. Of course, Apple and Adobe don’t see eye-to-eye – which is commercially foolish – but I am guessing that other tablets from say HP, Dell, Lenovo and there are whispers of a Blackberry one WILL support Flash. Will developers be happy to create two versions of the same newspaper? One for the Windows world and one for the iPad? We’ll have to wait and see.
One thing that has not been mentioned too much is the cost of delivery. The Kindle in Australia has very limited graphics and the reason at this point is the cost of 3G delivery. Bear in mind that the Kindle is monochrome and the iPad is full colour. With the Kindle, Amazon cops the delivery charge, but this is not mooted at this stage for the iPad. Someone has to pay, and you can be sure it won’t be Apple! And with continuous updates a distinct possibility – and let’s face it news thrives on that – the iPad could become very expensive to operate. Included in that operating cost too is the delivery of the adverts that pay for the content creation. I bet you won’t be able to turn ads off! (Kindle has no adverts in case you didn’t know).
This may sound like I am unashamedly a Kindle proponent as against an iPad one. Umm. No. The Kindle has drawbacks too. But I think in certain critical areas, it has advantages over the iPad in the one area many are betting on with the iPad – primarily news delivery.
Now, I have been accused of making an opinion without the benefit of actually playing with an iPad. Agreed. But to be fair, so have many of my peers. And yes, I may change my mind after getting hold of one – but I can’t see a reason to buy one at this stage, so it could be a long wait.
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English, as she is spoke. I never tyre of it.
By David HAGUE
I confess I wasn’t quite sure how to approach the subject matter of this edition of Hydrapinion. Initially, my thoughts were influenced by a comment from a colleague about how a sub editor used to change his copy to suit a personal whim – for example “orientated” to “oriented”. Or vice versa.
When I was writing and directing TV scripts a decade and a bit ago, the elderly and distinguished voice-over man we had did something equally as annoying to me. In the script I would writen for example “we will now ....” and on the fly during recording he would spontaneously change it to “we SHALL now ...”. By way of explanation, he was Shakespearean trained so maybe it WAS correct English, but still bloody annoying. I guess it is beholden for us creative types to hate things changed on us without permission.
Having said that, TV and radio news readers all over the world use correct English to make sure the meaning of what they are saying is not misconstrued and the diction is such that we can understand it. So maybe Richard was doing me a favour.
But I confess, I have trouble coming to grips with what I wrote in my notes for this piece as “stupid speak”. In fact I have “unfriended” (ugh) some people on Twitter because their written diction just seemed so silly to me.
OK, maybe I am being a bit odd here and over the top, even old-fashioned. But why say “I am heading to teh coffee shop” (knowing full well it is not a typo) just because it is trendy? This is just one example and there are many others. Yes, I agree that using acronyms etc with Twitter / SMS saves space, but I worry that language will degenerate to such a point that we all end up simply grunting again to pass on information. Progress? I think not.
Today in WA there is a furore that the State Government is cutting funding to public libraries by 40%. The reaction by the public and academics has been swift; already we have a literacy and numeracy problem and many say dumbing down our language can only exacerbate that.
One part of the problem I feel is the penetration of Americanisms into language due to the blanket effect of TV and films; just today I was pointed to an Australian written laptop review that had “flavor”, “fiber” and “under the hood” in its content.
Australian newspapers often speak of “sulfur” and I have seen “center”, trunk (for boot in a car) and "tire" (for a round rubber thing, not fall asleep). Some may say that unifying the language – and we cannot escape that English has become a de facto global one – can only be a good thing. I argue that losing localisms is cultural lexicographic genocide. Imagine “2B or not 2B”. Looks like a Staedtler pencil commercial. Or “Romeo, Romeo, where iz U dude”?
I KNOW they mean the same thing, but the romanticism of language I think is lost. And for all the sneerers out there, travel broadens the mind and when you see and feel the language of another country – French is a goodie
Fads come and go, but I hope correct and rich language continues to evolve and grow, without being distorted by laziness.
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The interface. We have a LONG way to go before it's perfect.
By David HAGUE
With my eagerness to re-install Windows Media Center last week, in the process, a very important point was overlooked that I should have mentioned. Maybe because it was so obvious I missed it, but after a week of fiddling and fine tuning, it struck me like a piece of 4 * 2.
We have a long way to go. And sod all seems to be being done about it.
No, contrary to popular opinion I am not barking mad. I am talking about interfaces.
Consider. To set up a complete home theatre and Windows Media Centre, apart from the relatively simple act of putting the red cable into the red connection and the white in to the white etc (exactly which red and white is another thing altogether I know), we have to understand the Windows interface, the Windows Media Centre interface, and the separate interfaces for the receiver amp, TV, DVD player/recorder (or Blue-ray or even Sony PS3), Foxtel unit, perhaps a digital settop box, XBOX etc etc.
Clearly this is silly and why it is so difficult for the lay person to connect all this stuff.
There is an ad on the TV for Telstra which shows various members of a family all using a PC in their own “space” connected to a single modem via wireless. The ad hints that it is very easy to simply plug it all together.
Ha! I spent three days last week just trying to add an extra switch to increase my number of available ports to plug stuff into. The manual that came with it suggested it was a simply two cable hook up. Eazi-Peezi! Like hell it was.
Oh it SHOULD be, but that doesn’t mean it is. How silly is this for example, when the on screen page of the setup system (using a browser interface) tells you to “save settings and exit” and there is no such option on that page. After a two day (weekend) wait for their apologetic tech support boffins, I find out that that option is under a different menu!
That’s alright then, I am of course David Albert Einstein Hague and can work that out in a flash. Actually I’m not, I am an average person doing the same thing as every other average person; the only distinction might be I also write about it and maybe have more access to the toys.
In the 80s and 90s, interface design was all the rage; there were some very good ones including those from Apple and Microsoft, and some truly bizarre ones (Kai springs to mind). These two in particular were supposed to standardize how we approached computer program usage. Lately though it seems we are drifting off into some weird Tower of Babel world where everyone wants to be better (ie different).
Let’s hope sanity prevails and the path narrows again. I’m all for innovation, but not at the cost of simplicity for the complex, logical for mad as a stabbed rat or just plain wackiness.
I just want to USE the stuff!
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