Living with Technology reviewBy Martin Hansen. Published: 22nd Feb 2004, 12:22:57 | Permalink | Printable
Archive's sister publication under the spotlightMedia Watch Paul Beverley is best known in RISC OS circles for his steady, caring, editorial hand which has been at the helm of Archive, the subscription magazine for RISC OS users, for the last sixteen years. I recently caught up on developments at both Archive and Paul's other publication, Living With Technology, when he sent me some issues to review for drobe.co.uk.
First some background: I used to receive Archive four years ago and have fond memories of it as a bath-time read, it's handy A5 format of around 81 pages being somewhat easier to manipulate in a water and steam environment than the Daily Telegraph. Having not seen a copy since June 2001, it has been a real tonic to see this old friend again, and all the more so because it is still in fine health, still with a strong and full page count, and still marching on in the unpretentious but strong manner that I recall from days of old.
The Archive issue that I have is dated January 2004. It gives the impression of having come to terms quite some time ago with many of the aspects of the current RISC OS scene that can still get folks wound up elsewhere. VirtualRiscPC is past being a 'hot' issue, and is accepted as a part of the RISC OS landscape that is here to stay. A three page technical piece looks at solutions to readers' VirtualRiscPC teething troubles, while another gives hints on printing and a third provides a brief SpaceCube review. For those making the move to an Iyonix there is a useful piece that looks at introducing the new machine in a way that appeals to me, by connecting it to the much loved existing RiscPC. In fact, networks in general feature heavily, with Eddie Lord writing in considerable depth about IP addresses and netmask numbers in one eight page article and Paul Vigay talking us through connecting RISC OS to Mac OS machines in another. Variety is provided with Part 3 on the Series "Elements of Music", and a one off piece on how to generate a "Calendar from a Spreadsheet".
I don't know what the secret of Paul's success is but, he has certainly got an impressive portfolio of big name RISC OS writers penning quality articles for Archive. I've read and learnt a fair amount of stuff on topics that would not normally interest me because I noticed first the author's name; Ray Favre, Gerald Fitton and Julian Fry, for example. So, I don't have any trouble at all in recommending Archive. I am going to have to catch up on all the issues I've missed which means paying 19 quid for the Archive double disc CD.
The twin that I find a lot harder to love is Living With Technology. The problem is with me: I just don't find that articles on Windows machines turn me on, and this is from someone with an all bells and whistles WinXP machine sitting next to him running VirtualRiscPC. But then, I am one of those folks who can't be bothered to learn how to set up the timer on the Video recorder to record part 4 of a series I've been following avidly but will otherwise miss. The aspect of Living With Technology that got me most excited initially was the fact that it came on a CD ROM that worked no trouble, no matter what web browser I fired up under. Fresco, Browse, Webster, and even the demo of Oregano 1 all rendered it perfectly. Impressed, I started looking, for the first time in my life, at the HTML code. I had noticed some articles on writing web pages on the CD and it occurred to me that it was time to finally hand craft my first web-site. Living With Technology got me started. Then I remembered my old issues of Archive and the series "Spinning a Web". That enabled me to polish it off.
There is a vast amount of information on the CD and I feel that over time I shall come to appreciate it more. I enjoyed reading about one reader's experience with their new iBook. A series titled "Linux - An Alternative Reality" provided an excellent introduction that held my interest through issues 1 and 2 but thereafter became too technical without having the Linux distribution described to try out the ideas. Alas, it's not the Debian distribution that one can ask to have pre-setup on an Iyonix, so I doubt I'll return to that thread.
As the CD contains two years worth of the paper magazine, inevitably, some article are out of date; the technology has moved on. However, the final issue contained a fascinating piece called "Zapping The Telemarketers". I have had odd calls from double glazing manufacturers with strange pauses, and things said out of context or with a wrong timing and it was enlightening to read about how computers are being used to initiate cold calling so that the human sales-person is only involved once a likely sale is detected. Also, with 'traffic speeding' becoming a bigger and bigger issue with every passing day I enjoyed reading about the technology behind TrafficMaster. This is an impressive system that I knew nothing about. It is interesting to know what some of the many poles sticking up along the UK's highways are actually for, what they do, and what they could be made to do.
I feel that Living With Technology is a brave attempt to do something different. It is finding its way as it goes along, and I did start thinking about how it might profitably widen its remit. For me, it's at its best when looking at technologies that impinge upon our daily lives and over which we have little control or choice. I'd like to see it focus more on the technology behind topics such as speed cameras, ID cards, preventing fraud, clever manufacturing techniques, and the use of computers in marketing and on-line enterprises. I also think there is scope for dwelling on the associated moral issues. Quirky, one off uses for computers can also be quite interesting, like the guy in the Alps using them to predict when snow slopes will avalanche.
Looking through the CD now, which is remarkably simple and easy to navigate, there is much that I will come back to read, especially, as I'm a hill-walker and sailor, the articles on GPS. This is the first magazine that I've seriously studied from a CD. It's not quite as relaxing as my bath-time reads. Castle, I need an Iyonix laptop so that I can read it in the bath. Now there is an interesting "make it safe" technology problem for Living With Technology to discuss. Perhaps there are some moral issues too; I do lock the door and ignore the kids whilst so immersed.
Living With Technology website
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