Category Archives: Chat

Binary Output

Last night Owen started experiencing the symptoms of his first cold, which prompts me to talk about communications with babies. Newborn babies have only one output mode: screaming. Communicating with the world is a somewhat limited experience when joy, fear and hunger are all exhibited using the same mode of operation. From observation, crying may mean:

  1. Please feed me.
  2. I need to burp.
  3. I’m cold.
  4. I’m tired, please put me to sleep.
  5. I wish my nappy to be changed.
  6. The { toy | valuable object | fragile object } that I can’t reach – give it to me. Now.
  7. No, not that one, the other one.
  8. I’m bored. Amuse me.
  9. Ow, that really hurts.
  10. Carry me / lift me up.
  11. Holy crap! Don’t let that happen again! Are you listening?

Often, context will allow distiction between these options. It’s like a computer system saying “Something went wrong.” I’ve seen computer systems, particularly embedded ones, behave in a similar way. Often through design. Like, if they give you one red / green LED, then you’ve got green – all is good, red – not so good. You might get away with blinking them, and maybe even combining them to form orange, but there’s only so far you can take that (“Hmm, 600ms blink rate – that must mean that ethernet port two has a receive failure – because a 650ms blink rate would mean RAM failure”). That BIOSes doing their Power On Self Test use the PC speaker to report error codes prior to the video system coming online, I think the maximum number of beeps you’d get out of that was eleven… better pay attention and count them out. And a lot of Common Object Model errors are along the lines of “COM didn’t work because something failed”.

Interestingly, often babies don’t care too much that you understand them. They’ll keep on with the output, secure in the knowledge that you’re doing everything you can to determine what it is that they’re trying to say. And servicing one system fault may merely unmask another – a wet nappy may be followed by the need for a feed.

Screeching may also mean:

  1. This is great fun.
  2. Ha! You found me!
  3. Look at that guy, he’s funny.
  4. Hello, toy. You’re red.

The point being, the obviously inferior nature of binary output means it’s replaced as soon as possible by something else. Talking, outputing to screen, COM+, whatever. Oh, except COM+.

Cathy and I want to increase the output vocabulary of our son by using Baby Sign Language, mainly as a way of avoiding the expected trantrums: apparently, kids can sign much earlier than they can talk – like, children of deaf parents are signing from six weeks of age. Most excellently, I got given a book on the subject for Christmas, and joy-of-joys it was Australian made, so rather than American Sign Language, it was filled with AUSLAN, meaning it will have some use as a language outside on family communication (6500 Aussies – my perceived use rate is higher, because I work on St Kilda Road – home of the Victorian College for the Deaf). I’m seeing some comprehension from him, but I’m yet to see him generate any signs. Having re-read the Wikipedia article on the subject, I’m going to try to sign with Cathy when he can see us. I’ll let you know how this little experiment turns out.

How open is open?

While Google Talk will use the Jabber protocol, there are concerns over network interopability, with Jabber Australia President (and Geekrant reader) Jeremy Lunn questioning how (and if) Google Talk will work with existing networks.

Meanwhile, the extremely popular but extremely proprietary Skype has opened up… just a teensy bit… with an API to let developers hook into Skype a little more easily. Doesn’t mean other clients will be able to use the Skype protocols, or extend Skype support onto new platforms, mind you.

Google Talk

Google have launched Google Talk, a chat service that uses GMail logon/password for authentication, and supports instant messaging and voice.

It uses the XMPP protocol for instant messaging, so other clients can connect (including those on non-Windows platforms that their client doesn’t support yet), and they say they will support SIP in future for voice.

Now… why wasn’t this included with their Desktop sidebar? That would be one killer helper app. Not that I’m convinced the world needed another IM network.

Primus – not with-it, hoopy froods

Primus are hopeless. They make Telstra look like really with-it, hoopy froods. I had no problems at all for about 4 years while I had just one phone line connected and didn’t try to change anything.

We signed up for another line. They connected the new line, and cut off the old one. Ring, complain, apologies. Disconnect the new line, reconnect the old. Ring, complain, apologies. The fun continued for a while.

Remember I said iPrimus had a great deal on ADSL? Not long after we signed up for ADSL, our line went dead. “Completely unrelated” says Primus. “Telstra line fault”. Sure. Have you tried reporting a dud phone line when the phone line’s dud? Doesn’t work so good.

Then there was a massive delay with the modem. Eventually we rung up and asked where it was. “We tried delivering it two weeks ago. No one was home. We left a card.” Searching high and low produced no card. However, we found the card the following weekend – they tried to deliver the modem to our old address. Which is not our billing address, or the address where the ADSL line was being set up. I have no idea why they’d want to deliver to that address.

They rung up last night about a missing payment. I didn’t get that bill. Somehow they sent it to 457/457 St Kilda St so I don’t know what would have happened to it. Probably lost in that great postal delivery hole in the sky. Much apologies later, late payment fee waived, all that stuff.

These guys seem to have a lot of bugs in their computer system. Being a telco in Australia only requires that you bill the customers and pay Telstra’s bills. So all primus needs to do is run a billing system. How hard could it be?

But their customer service after these stuff-ups is always really good. Once you get through to a human which can sometimes take a while. At least their call centre isn’t in India. That would be the last straw.

Trillian 3 feature

Happy new year!

One Trillian 3 feature that seems largely pointless is that it does Wikipedia lookups of some words. Hmmmm. I suppose it could occasionally be useful, but I don’t know how it chooses the words to lookup, and Wikipedia may not always be the first choice for finding what the word means in context.

For instance:

That would have to count as one of the most out-of-context, inaccurate and pointless definitions I’ve ever seen. Thus, I’ve turned that option off.

A few brief things

Some people aren’t so happy about Google suggest… certainly not Eric Rice, who gets his name listed with words like “child molestor”. Wouldn’t be delighted about that, myself. (via the G’Day World podcast)

New version for WordPress (minor fixes) (hopefully it fixes the thing where if you forget your password and need it mailed to you, it sends it in some incomprehensible encoding format that can’t be read… at least not on any web or Windows email client I have access to).

New version for Trillian (major new release). Haven’t had the chance to try it yet… no time Bellamy, no time.

Why Trillian rocks

Was listening to the latest G’Day World Podcast, interesting stuff as always guys, keep it up. Noted the discussion about Trillian, ICQ, and MSN Messenger.

Until about a year ago, it seemed to me like most Australians on the IM circuit were on ICQ. I’ve been on ICQ so long I have a 7 digit UIN (though I forgot about it for a while, and subsequently have an 8 digit one I use more often, in the 26-million range, if that dates it).

But it became apparent that (like Hotmail) MSN Messenger was bigger than I thought. Even among people I knew, there were a number of people who I didn’t IM with, but who used MSN. Ditto Yahoo Messenger (which has some popularity with corporate users, since it’s long been usable through firewalls using HTTP). I understand AOL Instant Messenger is huge in the States, due to the vast numbers of people who use AOL as an ISP, but virtually nobody in Australia uses it.

When I realised I knew people who were on MSN but not on ICQ, I moved over to Trillian, which of course works with all of these. Although Trillian isn’t perfect with every protocol (some older versions didn’t do well with ICQ’s file transfer, for instance) even the free version is pretty damn good, and on my aging 2000-era PC, I’d rather not be filling my meagre 256Mb RAM by running lots of clients.

But even when I do get my brand spanking new super-duper fast-as-you-like mega-PC (before too long), I won’t want the hassles with clicking around on multiple windows just to talk to everybody. That’s just silly.