Tag Archives: australia

Welcome to AppleTalk →

Last week, I quit MacTalk. Yesterday, I, along with a number of other co-conspirators, launched AppleTalk Australia, a new site for Apple enthusiasts to chat about anything related to Apple.

Yours truly on the welcome post:

So, this is us. A new name, a new front page, a new discussion platform. A fresh start in many respects, and a clean slate in every other. We’ll still be covering all things Apple, Mac, and iOS, and we’ll do so from that unique Australian perspective you’ve come to know and enjoy. For starters, we’ll be taking it slow with a daily news summary from the world of Apple from yours truly. Over time, we’ll add reviews, how-tos, and editorials into the mix, and we’ll see where things go from there.

It’s our own foray into the big, bad world of online publishing. We’re funding the entire thing ourselves for the time being, and once we get something resembling a readership, we’ll look into sponsorships, running ads, or other alternatives for revenue. We’ve put a bunch of effort into it, and it’s turned out pretty well so far — I can only hope it lives up to our readers’, and our own, lofty expectations.

If you’re wondering whether I knew about it before I left MacTalk, the answer is: yes, of course I did. After a number of years writing the daily news, I just wanted something of my own — a property (besides this blog) I could be proud of, one that I could look back on and pat myself on the back about.

The front-end is powered by WordPress, and the forums are powered by Discourse. I’ve been using WordPress for years, but Discourse is an entirely new thing.

Ever since it was introduced, I’ve wanted to work with Discourse. Something about it just seemed like the future of online discussion platforms — and from everything that I’ve seen of it so far, I’m wondering why people are even bothering with the alternatives, the established players in the forum space (phpBB, vBulletin, etc). There’s just so much to love about it that everything else seems outdated by comparison. It’s modern. It’s open-source. I have no experience with Ruby, the language that it’s built with, but thankfully I haven’t had to dive into any code thus far — the admin panel is well-organised and fully featured enough so that hasn’t had to happen.

There are those that think Discourse looks “samey”, and like any default theme, I agree wholeheartedly. We’ve customised the AppleTalk install a little, and it’s amazing what you can do with a splash of colour and a few custom avatars.

As Mr Wells said on the Reckoner podcast (where I spilled the beans about AppleTalk before it was actually live), it’s been a long time since there was a good Apple forum for Australians, by Australians. It’s my fervent hope that AppleTalk becomes that new forum, and I, along with my partners in crime Toby and Bart, am prepared to commit as much as it takes to make that happen.

As they used to say, “this is my next”.

— permalink to this post

Made in Australia for iOS 7 →

Instead of writing some epic thing about stuff you probably don’t care all that much about anyway, I thought I’d substitute one of my monthly pieces on here for something I wrote over on MacTalk.

I dug up a few apps designed for iOS 7 by Australian app developers, emailed a few guys, and asked some questions.

It took a little longer to write than I would normally spend on the news, but I think it was worth it.

Microsoft: Tasmania secedes from Australia – istartedsomething

kinect-rollout

Microsoft’s map graphics, which are known to be highly accurate, highlights that while the Kinect for Windows hardware is currently available in mainland Australia, it is neither available in Tasmania or coming soon.

via Microsoft: Tasmania secedes from Australia – istartedsomething.

Seems like Microsoft has updated the original article with an updated (read: more accurate) map. Grabbed this from a MetroTwit developer’s blog.

Enjoy the tunes, indeed.

@bdyling You are excellent, thanks. We did try to get the balance right. Enjoy the tunes 🙂Fri May 14 01:12:05 via TweetDeck

Enjoy the tunes, indeed.

I guess this particular story begins with Telstra. They ran a competition a little while ago for “social reviewers” of the HTC Desire, currently the flagship Android handset available in Australia. The HTC Desire boasts pretty impressive specs, and judging by the amount of tweets, Telstra seem to be pushing this one pretty hard, far harder than they ever promoted the iPhone (both models). Maybe they prefer Android to Apple’s “walled garden”, maybe it’s because they can load the device with as much BigPond-branded content as they desire (hurr, hurr, get it? Desire?), but whatever the reason, it’s certainly getting some attention.

As this is a pretty big deal for Telstra, having “social reviewers” means that it gets exposure, and all that yummy PR stuff which I won’t go into here. As a bonus, all the “social reviewers” get a free HTC Desire handset to hang onto, but they have to, as their namesake suggests, review the Desire.

Being fairly active on Twitter, and having a randomly-regularly updated blog, I thought I was in with a shot. Add to the fact that I resided in a semi-rural area (Tasmanians made up some 3% [or maybe 6%, I can’t remember] of the 2000+ entries they received Australia-wide), and I thought I had a real shot at this whole “reviewing a product via social media” thing.

Evidently, I was wrong.

Anyway, it turns out I didn’t get in. Boo. More on this in a second.

As a consolation prize for giving up 15 minutes of my time filling out the online application, I did, however, receive a $15 BigPond Music voucher for my personal info.

Tonight’s mission, should you choose to accept is, it to find $15 worth of music to download via BigPond Music. Wish me luck! =}Fri May 14 09:11:25 via Tweetie

Wanting to get my money’s worth, I set forth to purchase $15 worth of songs from BigPond Music. The songs that I chose meant I actually ended up having to pay about a dollar more, but I guess that was the idea all along.
Anyway, I ended up grabbing the following songs:

  • My First Kiss [feat Ke$ha] – 3OH!3
  • Airplanes [feat Hayley Williams] – B.o.B
  • Pyromania – Cascada
  • Not Myself Tonight – Christina Aguilera
  • Caught In The Crowd – Kate Miller-Heidke
  • Your Love Is My Drug – Ke$ha
  • Blah Blah Blah – Ke$ha
  • Burn It To The Ground – Nickelback
  • If We Ever Meet Again – Timbland
  • Drops Of Jupiter – Train
  • Mr Mysterious – Vanessa Amorosi

Say what you want about my music tastes (I wish I could say I set out to purchase the worst of the worst music currently available, but sadly not), but I chose this music based on the top 200 list on iTunes. I’d listen to the preview in iTunes, and then if I vaguely recognised the song (and didn’t already have it in my iTunes library) I’d add it to my BigPond Cart.

At this point, I have a couple thoughts to share. One, the BigPond music website isn’t the most user-friendly or accessible. It certainly has an alright search feature, but it places the songs where you have to scroll a considerable amount to find the song you’re after and add it to your cart. I didn’t even try using the previews as I knew it would have been in some horrible Flash implementation, but in the end too many clicks, too much scrolling, and a whole lot of wasted space made for a convoluted experience. Oh, and the shopping cart was in Flash too.

That being said, I wasn’t sure what quality or flavour of DRM the music downloaded from BigPond would come in – I had a hunch it was DRM free and of reasonable quality, but I didn’t know for sure. Upon completing my download I was pleasantly surprised that the files were completely DRM-free and of 256kbps or greater – the majority of my files are actually in 320kbps MP3. Nothing like iTunes’ own 256kbps “purchased AAC” that laces the file with your user ID so that they can track if you share a file simply by using some strings command, if my memory serves me correctly. I did have to re-download the artwork (which came pre-embedded in the files, but 128×128 is sooo 1998) and raise the volume of the tracks a bit, but apart from that I was pleasantly surprised.

Two more thoughts about the music itself and I’ll move on to talking about some social media things.

One, the price. Most of the tracks that I downloaded were $1.65, and others still were just 99c. Compare that to iTunes’ current extortionist price of $2.19 for the more popular songs and $1.69 for pretty much everything else, and you’ve got a real situation. I’m not saying i’ll give up the iTunes store anytime soon, just that I was previously unaware that decent alternatives exist. Ignorance on my part, but it is what it is.

Two, people these days listen to utter shit. Seriously. Going through each and every song in the top 200 list in iTunes, listening to the previews along the way made me lose all faith in humanity on more than one occasion. I mean, that beaver fellow? And some other so-called “rap artists” who couldn’t produce a decent track if their lives depended on it? Gimme a break. The kind of music on that list downright horrified me, pure and simple.

Finally, the social media part.

While I won’t deny being a little miffed at not winning (being able to experience a Desire* for a month or so would be an awesome introduction for the next-generation iPhone due to launch in about a month), I do have a couple of gripes about how the whole thing went down.

Now I can understand why Telstra wanted the most influential, the most socially “out there” people for their “social reviewers” program. It makes sense because they’d want as much coverage as possible if they’re going to be outlaying some amount of money north of $20,000 for this Desire social review program. I’m no expert on what the marketing industry is like, but I’d infer that a substantial sum like that is a pretty big deal, especially for a single handset in Australia’s largest telecommunications company’s arsenal. Someone up in Telstra’s upper echelons must really like that phone.

Maybe it’s because I’m a little too bitter than I really ought to be about the whole thing, but if Telstra wanted the best of the best social media people to review the thing, why couldn’t they have just hand-picked the people to begin with? Hey, look at so-and-so, they follow over 1000 people on twitter, they’re followed by quadruple that amount, and their recent tweets express a desire to check out the Desire (previous puns notwithstanding), let’s pick them! From there, those actually interested in the program could ave gone on to be shortlisted, and so on and so forth.

Instead, they invited everyone in Australia who was over the age of 18 and interested in FREE STUFF that had a decent social profile on the internet to enter their competition, setting up a whole lot of people to be disappointed. To be honest they probably weren’t expecting as many people to apply as they did, but the lesson here is to never underestimate the intensity of human greed. Or to follow more people and have a Daring Fireball level of activity on your blog before you apply to be a social media reviewer for Telstra.

But it doesn’t end there.

You see, the numbers of this social media review program went a little like this: 25 HTC Desires for the social reviewers valued at $779 each, with $100 of Telstra pre-paid credit tacked onto that for a total of just over $21,000. But that’s only what the official terms and conditions mention. What isn’t mentioned is the $15 BigPond Music credit (presumably) given to all the people that weren’t accepted into the program – all 1975+ of them (Telstra only states that they received over 2000 entries). It doesn’t take a genius to work out that they gave out over $30,000 in vouchers. Like Beau, I too think that they should have had more Desires available and less vouchers. Why Telstra, why?

Doing some serious stalking of the people actually involved with this whole shebang reveal two interesting things – I know a couple of people on the list by name (and reputation) only, and there’s even one person from Franklin, Tasmania – not too much further south than where I live.. FFS. No one from WA that immediately stood out, but I’m sure Telstra chose someone.

Also, looking over their social profiles reveals that most of them are now “Telstra-branded”, and by that I mean they all have a little disclaimer saying: “I have been given a HTC Desire handset by Telstra free of charge to review. Comments expressed by me reflect my user experience and personal opinion”. Read into that what you will.

Final thoughts, and I’ll wrap it up – just before I posted this I came across an eye-opening article on Why I went back to the iPhone from the HTC Desire. It’s a brilliant read, and affirms my decision; I’ll take Apple’s walled garden any day, thanks! Maybe if they gave those same reviewers the next-generation iPhone to review… ? Would certainly make for some eye-opening comparisons – how much do ordinary consumers care about what resolution the screen is? Or what format it captures it’s video in? Or even how it handles different audio codecs? Or how the memory management on Android is anything but automatic? I mean, closing the Sense UI over an app? Seriously?

Signs I’m feel way, way too bitter about this: 1500 words, man. One thousand, five hundred. How’s that for in-depth, Telstra?

Oh, and by the way – comments, criticisms, and any inferences expressed by me reflect my user experience and personal opinion.

Isn’t that the norm on a blog anyway? 🙂

* not to mention the puns. Oh, the puns.

Borderlands, Steam, and one screwed up release date.

rage

Yep – the above image was pretty much me at 6:30am this morning. (Image credit Whirlpool forums)

Having done lots of study the previous day to make up for what I had hoped was going to be an excellent day of FPS/RPG fun, I was greeted with the words “Pre-load complete; unreleased” when I looked at Borderlands in my Steam Games.

Shock turned to horror as I visited the Steam page for Borderlands, which happily, even casually, informed me that the unlock date had been pushed back a little over three days.

Horror turned to pure anger (much like the ragetoon above) when I realised what Steam had actually done – screwed Australian gamers over once again.

The official Steam comment is nothing short of abysmal:

Sorry for the confusion, guys. There was a slight mix-up with the release dates. North America will be releasing in an hour or so while Europe, Australia, etc. will be releasing 12:01am GMT on the 30th.

The count-down you see on the page now should be accurate.

A SLIGHT MIX UP is the understatement of the year.

Here’s a quick recap as to what’s happened in relation to Borderlands so far:

  1. Firstly, it wasn’t available for preorder in Australia, when it was in the US.
    Steam later said this was an issue with their store, which they then rectified by adding a new item to the store: “Borderlands Australia”.
  2. This, combined with the fact that there’s a “borderlands_low_violence.ncf” file somewhere among the Borderlands files, lead people to assume that Borderlands is censored for Australia. However – this isn’t the case.
  3. Internode then broke the news that there was a wrong version of Borderlands that Australian Steam users received. They managed to confirm with 2K Games that the Australian version was indeed censored. This was then wrong, however – “The full violence version of Borderlands was successfully rated by the Classification Board. […] Just to reiterate, Aussies will be playing the full violence version of the game, complete with gibs and all.” This was further confirmed by the fact that new Borderlands installs on Australian Steam accounts contain no such “borderlands_low_violence.gcf” file.

So. Here we are – 3 days out of the official Borderlands release in Australia, all while our US counterparts are playing the game.

That’s not the real issue here, though – it’s the fact that, up until ONE HOUR before the game unlocked (that is, 5am this morning), the countdown on an Australian Steam client showed the US countdown. This just doesn’t make sense, especially when you take into account that there was a separate “Borderlands Australia” store item created in the first place.

Don’t kid yourself if you think that Steam don’t have the technology to have two separate countdown timers, oh no – when they can clearly differentiate between different regions based on IP address, remember things like credit card details, account passwords – don’t tell me they can’t have two separate countdown timers.

Sigh.

Enough about that, though.

I’ve played Borderlands for a good 3 hours now, and can say it’s completely awesome, and deserves all the credit it gets.

This post part of Blogtober 2009 (where, I think you’ll know by now, I post a blog post every day of October 2009) – Borderlands is one of the best games of 2009 (that I’ve played).

What is the meaning of cricket bats in L4D2?

There’s a cricket bat in Left 4 Dead 2, and after pondering how such an instrument could find its way to the southern United States (we certainly don’t make them here, and every American knows that we don’t allow people with them to enter the country), we’ve come up with a few theories…

via Thwack! Left 4 Dead 2 survivors play a bit of cricket.

The REAL reason there’s a cricket bat in L4D2 is that the Ashes is currently being played in England, and the cricket bat symbolism in L4D2 is simply Valve’s way of saying that Australia (as represented by the Infected) are going to be beat silly by the English, as represented by the Survivors.

Or something.

I don’t really know, I’m just speculating 😉

Happy Australia Day

Apologies for the lateness of this post; I can’t get access to the Internet every day, much less if I’m posting from my iPhone… In any case, here it is anyway:
Happy Australia Day.

On this most excellent of days, it’s a shame I can’t be in Australia to er… be Australian (what else do you do in Australia?). Patriotism and all that, you know?

In actual fact, this year’s Australia day coincides with Chinese New Year’s Day. It doesn’t happen all the time, as Chinese New Year’s Day doesn’t happen on the same day each year…

In any case, my Australia day was spent doing pretty much crap all…

Woke up blastedly early, washed, ate, went to some exceptionally boring church service for Chinese New Year’s day, ate lunch, slept, went out with cousins to return a mahjong set (that failed – no reciept, d’oh), ate some spicy deep fried chicken from Maccas with curly fries (also with aforementioned cousins), had an epic gambling session with more cousins where we played the non Texas Hold-Em version of poker, blackjack, and Big 2 (overall, I won RM 3 – the Australian equivalent of about $1.20 😛 ). Finally, watched some Dragon Ball Z (up to the Android saga now), blogged, and it’s now 1am on my birthday, and I’m sitting here typing this in the dark on my iPhone…

Ahh, perfect.

As for you, I hope you did something outrageously Australian on Australia day… I’d be mega proud of you if you did, but if you didn’t, well, there’s always next year, hey?

Comment below, mates.

Great Firewall of Australia: What’s not mentioned makes it even more scary

Many in Australia, and those overseas interested in censorship would have now read a post from the Australian Minister for Censorship Stephen Conroy responding to concern over the implementation of the Great Firewall of Australia.

I won’t rehash what’s already been reported, but having read it several times since publication, it’s what’s left out that makes the proposal even more scary.

via Great Firewall of Australia: What’s not mentioned makes it even more scary.

Oh noes.

If you have a look at the image on that post (duplicated here for the lazy amount you), then you’ll see that Australia will become and Internet Black Hole.

Australia: The Internet's Black Hole.