New technology, old problems

Overheard on the train: "what we'll do is I call her mobile and see if she picks up. If she does then you call her straight after and if she doesn't pick up then you'll know she's avoiding you innit?" (He really did say 'innit' by the way, I didn't put that in just because that's how kids speak.)

Pruning the RSS feeds

I spent this morning and part of yesterday ploughing through the hundreds of unread blog posts that accumulated in my RSS reader over Christmas. Google Reader's new trends page informs me that I've read more than 1,700 posts this weekend. I've also been unsubscribing to a few feeds. I had 127 on my list and I'm trying to get it back down to 100. I'm down to 109 at the moment with a few feeds on 'probation'. Some of those ditched include Guy Fawkes, Ask MetaFilter and music blog Idolator.

Guy Fawkes has been a disappointment for a while now. Instead of sharp-witted political gossip it's devolved into lame satire and deeply partisan lame satire at that, which I imagine is a bore to all but the most faithful Tories. It had reached the point where I was finding something interesting on there only about once a month.

Idolator just never really hooked me. If I had more time I'd stick with it.

I really wanted to keep the AskMeFi feed. There's some great stuff on there but there are just too many posts everyday and too many of them aren't interesting to me, so it has to go.

Of course, there are those who devour far more feeds than I do. A very rough Technorati search turned up Chris Leckness, who has more than 600 subscriptions, and Mauricio Freitas, who cut back to 309 from a high of 600.

Of course, the number of feeds you can handle depends on the volume of posts. I could probably handle 600 blogs like mine, where I barely manage to post once a day, but if I added a few of the big boys - the BoingBoings, the Gawker stable and so on - I'd be overwhelmed in no time.

You will hear the shrillest highs

I've written before about the first law of the internet: whatever you just thought of, someone else is probably already doing it. I came across another example today on Lifehacker's Geek to Live post about how to make your own mobile phone ringtone from an MP3. Gina Trapani follows the same process I used when I made my own ringtone a few months back, like me she uses Audacity and like me she prefers to use a tune that sounds a bit like a ringtone to start with.

And so we both ended up with the opening seconds of Such Great Heights by The Postal Service.

It's an odd song because offline it's pretty obscure but online it's all over the place. Look. See?

Nobody who has heard my ringtone has ever recognised the song - apart from Dave Green who said 'isn't that the song Iron and Wine sing?'

Anyway, I'm not sure how long I'll stick with it. Not because Gina has it now too - I'm sure that only makes it cooler - but because I keep thinking my phone is ringing when it's not. There's something about those high-pitched beeps at the beginning of the song - everything sounds like them.

I need a new idea.

To cross the street, push button

Or not. This is an old story - two-and-a-half years old, in fact - but I'd never seen it before and it's interesting. It turns out that most of the buttons for pedestrian crossings in New York don't do anything at all. They were disconnected years ago.

Most of the buttons scattered through the city, mainly outside of Manhattan, are relics of the 1970's, before computers began tightly choreographing traffic signal patterns on major arteries. They were installed at a time when traffic was much lighter, said Michael Primeggia, deputy commissioner of traffic operations for the city's Transportation Department.

I wonder whether that's true at traffic lights in Britain. It certainly feels like it in many places. [via Digg]

Software licensing ate my car

From Wired comes a ridiculous story about a robot parking garage in New Jersey, USA, which trapped hundreds of cars inside when the software license expired. It's almost impossible to remove the cars once the robot is shut down, so when the manufacturers and the City of Hoboken fell out it was hapless motorists who suffered.

The dispute was resolved last week but only after the cars had been trapped for several days. I for one welcome our new robot parking overlords.