Out with the old, in with the New Twitter!

September 29, 2010

As one bird’s song is ending a new tweet begins. Alright, enough of the imagery! Twitter’s got a brand new look and it’s here to stay!

There’s no doubt that New Twitter (or #NewTwitter as some will prefer) has caused quite a media storm. It’s the first major revision the site has ever undergone. But what’s the big difference? Surely it’s still the same idea of just 140 character messages sent between users in real-time. Last night my New Twitter account was activated and here’s what I found.

The Positives

I would say the whole move to new Twitter has been very positive. The main reason, it doesn’t feel like the clunky old web-interface we’re used to, this feels more like an app in your browser. When I say app, I of course refer to the several Twitter clients out there (Tweetdeck, Twhirl, Hootsuite etc). The site now behaves very much like one of these installed programs on your computer and I love it.

For example, when viewing pictures on the site, instead of navigating away from Twitter, the picture will be displayed in the right hand bar, in a nice size but at the same time, out of the way. The same is done with videos. So long as the website hosting (ie TwitPic, Plixi etc) has signed up with Twitter, their content will display right on the Twitter homepage, how handy is that.

New Twitter uses the right hand bar for media

A lot of other features have been moved to more conveinient places. Your different feeds for example @replies (which are now @mentions), lists and favourites, are all listed at the top of the left hand column so you can easily switch between each one. There’s a navigation bar at the top so you can always go back home, to your profile and Tweet from any page (something which really used to annoy me about the previous web Twitter). ‘Trends’ and ‘who to follow’, have also been cleared up on the right hand bar, meaning you can see everything from the top of your homepage (rather than scrolling in the past).

There’s much more information available instantly from New Twitter. From any one Tweet you can easily find out more by clicking on it. A side bar will slide out and you will have access to people who have replied to the tweet, who’s reTweeted it, recent things the poster has said. If there are HashTags you can even see what other people are saying with that tag. It gives a quick snapshot of extra information, making a Tweet, much more than just a Tweet!

I also personally like the new layout. It will take getting used to, it is a bit fat, yes that wonderful background you made has been ruined by it. But at the same time, profile pics are shown big enough to actually see, personal info is displayed in a nice professional style rather than hidden away and you can pull up profiles instantly on your home screen – brilliant!

The Negatives

Inevitably there are some negatives, the first – coming back to what I said earlier – there’s much more information on New Twitter. Although great, it can become a bit overwhelming and hard to take in. It’s not always brilliant spaced out in the new right-hand bar and the use of both Times New Roman and Arial confuses and annoys me! People are also bound to complain that the increase of info is going to keep them on Twitter for even longer. Not brilliant for a site which is already notorious for sapping up people’s time!

New look profiles

Another problem is that New Twitter doesn’t seem finished. It doesn’t crash, well, not yet. But it does feel like something’s missing. There are weird mixes between the old and the new which don’t work. Profile pages look far to spaced out with the new larger right bar. It’s almost as of they didn’t know what to do with it. Of course, Twitter are still billing the new site as a preview and no doubt things like this are being looked into a hopefully changed for the final release!

I’m also a bit annoyed that new Twitter hasn’t brought me the one thing I wanted from it, live tweet updates. The apps can do it, why not the site? By live I of course mean I want my tweets to appear in real time at the top of the page when they arrive. It would be so much easier and I’m sure it’s possible (after all, Facebook can do something similar). Please, please, please Twitter give us live updating, I don’t want to click to see 23 waiting Tweets…

The Verdict

The verdict is I like new Twitter. I think it’s a vast improvement over it’s predecessor and shows people who use only the web version how much more there is to Twitter. If you’ve ever used Twitter for iPhone, you’ll be right at home with it, the layout is very similar, but others will find it a challenge to get to grips with at first. Stick with it though, I genuinely believe this site can offer a much better experience than before.

But I suppose the true fact of the matter is this. I never used to use web Twitter because I preferred the apps and although I will no doubt use the site for a few weeks now (It’s new and shiny!!), I’ll inevitably return to my apps… they’re just better!

New Twitter is being rolled out to users right now, if you don’t have it yet, you probably will very soon!


Blackberry Playbook – The Professional tablet??

September 28, 2010

It’s been one of the most anticipated technology announcements of the year. As soon as Apple reinvigorated the Tablet computer market, it was obvious that others would jump in and who better to challenge juggernaut of Apple than the only one beating it in the smartphone market, Blackberry.

A few months ago the idea of ‘Blackpad’ was put out there and instantly started trending on sites like Twitter. Today we learnt more, and thank heavens it’s not called the ‘Blackpad’, but the new name is almost as bad. For a device which is marketing itself as ‘The rofessional tablet computer’, is ‘Playbook’ really the best name? I seriously thought Blackberry had announced a new kids version of their device when I first heard the name this morning. But no, this is the actual tablet’s name.

I know name is not everything and we must take each product on it;s actual merits rather than something so insignificant. But be honest, as a business person, would you rather claim to own a Playbook or an iPad… hmmm.

But as I said, name isn’t everything, and it seems RIM (the makers of Blackberry) have been looking very closely at Apple’s iPad and more importantly what they left out. For example, the iPad has no camera’s whereas Playbook has two, allowing you to video conference in a similar way to iPhone 4’s Facetime.

When it comes to multimedia ports, the Playbook boasts both a micro USB jack and an HDMI port so you can watch yourvideos on the TV. The iPad will give you neither of these instead only providing Apple’s own media dock port. The size is quite different also, with the iPad having a bulky 9.7″ screen whilst the Playbook has a more convenient but also limited 7″ screen.

The Playbook is also running a brand new OS from RIM designed specifically for the new device which claims can do multitasking like no other device. From videos posted around the internet, the multitasking aspect does indeed look very good and simpler than Apple’s solution, but with no-one actually having tested the device, we’re going to have to wait to find out if it’s as it looks.

One thing which may hurt the Playbook’s launch is it’s lack of 3G meaning you are limited to utilising Wi-Fi networks for the internet. You can tether the Playbook to an existing Blackberry smartphone’s 3G, but that does kind of scream what’s the point to me… just use the phone!

I also have to say the whole business marketing plan confuses me slightly. I know Blackberry have always been seen as the professional option, but at the same time, I see nothing (except video conferencing) which the Playbook can bring to business that the iPad can’t. I also think the name will seriously go against them here.

Blackberry will release the Playbook early next year and look to become the first manufacturer to truly rival Apple in the Tablet market. But with other tech companies like Google, Samsung and Microsoft all planning Tablets and Apple’s revision of the iPad expected early next year, it could be an uphill struggle for the Playbook.

See the advert for the PlayBook below:

The Fast Lane #1 – Alonso sparkles in Singapore

September 26, 2010

As formula one came under the dazzling spotlights of Singapore for the third time, it was crunch time for Ferrari and Fernando Alonso – be the best or forfeit this years championship. The team stood up to the challenge.

It was claimed by everyone in the paddock that this was to be Red Bull’s race. It was a track suited to the team and if the practice sessions were anything to go by, this was Sebastian Vettel’s for the taking.

But as the race weekend got underway, the cracks started to show and with Vettel failing to clinch pole in qualifying, it was Fernando Alonso that headed up the grid in Singapore’s late night spectacle.

Today’s race really showed how important track position is on a track like Singapore’s. Throughout I think it’s fair to say that Vettel was faster than Alonso, but just didn’t ever quite get the opportunity to pass. So in a way I suppose move of the race has to go to Alonso for his lunge across the track at the start of the Grand Prix, preventing the fast starting Vettel from taking the lead.

Some strong laps from Alonso, a great strategy from Ferrari and an admittedly poorly planned pitstop from Red Bull won the race for Alonso and Ferrari today. They’ve proven that at last they have a car capable of winning this championship. I’m also pleased to say that despite some howling mistakes this season, Alonso managed to prove what a great driver he is with a stunning drive from start to finish in horribly humid conditions. He never really looked in trouble, but full credit to Vettel who kept with him to the end and made the last couple of laps edge of the seat stuff.

But of course there was a bigger race going on than just Alonso and Vettel, with the biggest moment of the grand prix taking place between Hamilton and Webber. Now this is a tough one to call. It was after the second re-start that Lewis Hamilton saw his opportunity to pass Mark Webber and a fantastic move it ALMOST was. I think he will seriously regret his actions looking back. If he had squeezed just a few centimetres less on the apex of the corner, he could have stayed in the race.

But of course that’s not what happened and Hamilton was knocked out again. I do have great sympathy for him in both the last two races. He’s been taken out by trying to give us a race, by actually trying to overtake on track rather than in the pits. But at the same time, it’s been a bit of a return of the original Lewis Hamilton, the one that would take risks and go for the over-ambitious moves. The problem being that these moves can either bring great rewards or complete disasters. Lewis couldn’t afford another DNF and it has to be said he’s now fighting a losing battle for this years championship.

Of course this did also affect the championship leader Webber’s race. It’s been found out after the race that the Red Bull’s tyre was in fact damaged heavily with Christian Horner claiming it could’ve only done another half mile. A lucky escape for the Aussie.

A driver that did shine today, all be it in the final stages, was Robert Kubica. I was extremely impressed with his late moves and particularly clean overtaking style. Yes, he was on new tyres, but all the same, he showed a side of himself that’s been missing for a while – the potential world champion.

Speaking of world champions, or at least former one’s, it was another dreadful day for Michael Schumacher. The German has never driven the twisting streets of Singapore before and it really showed today, spending the entire race seconds off the pace. He’s still a racer as his altercation with Nick Heidfeld (who seemed to be getting into trouble with everyone) showed, even if it did result in a broken wing for the seven-times world champion.

And as if all the action wasn’t enough, Heikki Kovalainen decided to have the biggest engine blowout I’ve seen in years. You certainly had to feel sorry for the Fin when even the marshall’s wouldn’t put the fie out, instead giving him the extinguisher and asking him to get on with the job, what a bizarre scene!

Today’s race was in my opinion the best we have seen from Singapore. In the past I have always enjoyed the spectacle of the cars racing at night, but this has been marred by a lack of action. Not this year though. Action packed and one of the tenses endings of the season. This was a brilliant Singapore GP.

Full Results

The Championship

Despite the DNF of Hamilton, the championship is still very tight and all 5 down to Button are still in contention. In fact there’s only a race win between them, so it’s all to play for.

But my personal tip? With that Ferrari back on fine form and with a firm rear-gunner in Massa, I wouldn’t put it past Alonso turning this around and becoming world champion for a third time. It’s going to e a tense final 4 races!

Pictures from F1-Pics.com

I’ve interviewed the Labour leader!

September 25, 2010

Within the last hour the result came in. After weeks of campaigning, Ed Miliband has become the 23rd leader of the Labour party.

And it was the closest of votes.

Ed had been trailing his brother all the way through the various rounds of the election, only edging the victory in the final round of the ‘alternative vote’. It’s interesting to see how this AV vote works in action (especially with the Lib Dem’s call to use it in general elections), as it meant the original victor from the round one vote, David, did not win out overall.

Of course the mass media are now jumping on the story, claiming there’ll be a divide in the party. That’s quite possible as nearly half the party wanted David over Ed and the fact that Ed won on the UNION’s vote alone.

But that’s for the coming weeks to show us, as for right now, I’m happy for another reason. I’ve met Ed Miliband before, in fact I’ve interviewed him only a few months ago. Back then he was in Stoke-on-Trent, campaigning during the general election. It was a flying stop so I was only able to get a few questions in, but he gave very full answers and came across as a genuinely nice guy.

Now he is a politician, so how genuine he really is is up for massive debate, but you can decide for yourself from my original interview for StaffsLive below.

Now of course the real work begins for Ed, but with the coalition already starting to crumble, maybe it’ll be easier than he thinks…

The weekend Muse took Wembley… again!

September 13, 2010

In 2007 I saw a rock band at Wembley stadium for the very fist time, not really knowing what to expect. Little did I know that three years later I would be returning the very same stadium to see the very same band, this time as an avid fan.

The band in question are of course Muse, who finished their latest European tour at the weekend with two sell out nights at Wembley stadium. To say I was looking forward to this would be a massive understatement. I had great memories of seeing Matt Bellamy, Chris Wolstenholme and Dominic Howard under the Wembley arch and was hoping for a repeat. I was also hoping for a more striking performance that when they performed on last years Resistance tour. Not a bad show at all, but clearly not Muse at their best.

When the lights shut off in the main stadium, I can say without doubt it was the most excited I had ever been before a show.

In traditional use style, there was a bit of theatre at the start with several ‘protestors’ running on stage with banners reading ‘they will not control us’ and ‘these wars, they can’t be won’, two of Muse’s most prominent lyrics. They soon cleared to reveal the band, with frontman Matt Bellamy dressed as usual in outrageous attire, this time a sparkly silver suit.

They opened unsurprisingly with Uprising, which has surely now become the staple opener for the band. It really got the crowd going and set an atmosphere which was maintained for most of the gig. Uprising gave way to Supermassive Black Hole (Muse’s top charting single ever) before we got our first treat of the night. MK Ultra, a track of the bands latest record, ‘Resistance’. Personally I think it’s one of strongest on the album and doesn’t get played enough, so I was more than happy to experience it, even if Matt’s mic was cut off half way through.

After a return for ‘Map of the problematique’ we were also given another rare treat in ‘Bliss’. I was lucky enough to see the ‘Origin of Symmetry’ track last time Muse were at Wembley, but this performance easily topped it and was clearly one of the best moments of the night. The extended ending was simply superb.

Muse played through a couple more obvious hits, with ‘Guiding Light’ providing a brilliant spectacle when streamers were launched into the crowd whilst Matt proved why he’s a guitar hero with ‘Hysteria’.

I was not prepared for what happened next.

Citizen Erased.

It’s seen by most Muse fans as the quintessential Muse track, the band at their best. But due it’s ‘prog rock’ style and length, in recent years it hasn’t fitted with more ‘mainstream Muse’ and has been left out of most shows. I was starting to think I’d never see it live until those unmistakable drum beats signalled it’s arrival. For me it was the highlight of the night with all three members of the band putting their heart and soul into it. It was particularly pleasing to hear Bellamy’s amazing falsetto. But alas, it was evident why the song doesn’t get the gig time it deserves. I saw many people around the stadium looking on bemused at it. They sadly, just don’t understand it’s genius!

Muse kept the show going strong with a combination of more pop style sings (Starlight and Resistance) combined with their more unusual side (Unnatural Selection and surprisingly Ruled By Secrecy).

When the band returned for their first encore, they were joined by a rather bodged looking UFO! To be fair, it was rather eerie and cool at the same time, but there could have been some lights, ah well! The UFO had a spaceman/woman? performing underneath while the band performed the beautiful Exogenesis: part 1. It panned round the length of the stadium and got really rather close to the crowd.

For their second and final encore Muse really pulled out the stops, even if they were a bit obvious! Take a Bow saw Matt elevated in the centre of the stadium whilst wearing a suit full of LED’s flashing in time to the music. The traditional giant ball of ‘Plug In baby’ made a welcome return, but with a twist, they were giant eyeballs. And as we’ve become accustomed to, Chris played his harmonica proudly to signal the ONLY song to close a show with, ‘Knights of Cydonia’.

And that completes the set, one of the most original I have ever seen Muse play. It’s clear that this one was more for the fans than the night before (which saw more mainstream songs like Neutron Star Collision). It was amazing to see some of the now more rare songs performed and were done amazingly well. There were some disappointments, I was very surprised not to see ‘New Born’ make the line up, but overall, one of the best sets Muse have done in a long time.

I should also point out at this point that the set design was absolutely top notch. Such an original and different idea which worked so well with the sort of band Muse are, it was simply stunning. A big round of applause has to go out to the production team.

So that was Wembley all over again. As always I thoroughly enjoyed the show, but this was perhaps one more for the fan than the average listener of Muse. I just can’t wait for another three years so we can do it all over again!

Here’s a vid of MK Ultra from the night, I’ll upload more on my YouTube channel: