We’re Living in a Database

Apple’s iLife ’09 – brilliant, but does it offer too much?

Apple’s senior VP delivered an impressive keynote address earlier this week at the company’s annual Macworld event in San Francisco.

Aside from the headline-grabbing DRM-free iTunes tracks that are on the way, I was particularly impressed with their work on iLife ’09. I love Apple products, even if they are biblically expensive and, in the iPhone 3G’s case at least, put together by children.

iLife includes some incredible features – photo organisation in iPhoto is iBloody incredible, supporting face recognition which, after you’ve told it the ugly mug on the screen is your cousin Dave, will run off and bring back all the photos it believes include Dave. You can also geographically tag your photos and it includes a map which pinpoints where each photo was taken. It even links to Facebook so that you can very quickly upload pictures to your profile, complete with name tags. And, if there’s someone within the photo who you don’t know (which is a common occurrence on drunken nights out), and someone tags them on your Facebook, that name tag is automatically sent back to iPhoto’s face recognition thing! …breath.

Brilliant!

iMovie now resembles something Spielberg would quite happily use. Honestly, the demo one of the developers gave was unbelievably slick. Within minutes he had completed a short safari film that wouldn’t look out of place on the BBC’s Planet Earth.

Garageband has been given a lift too and it now includes famous musicians teaching you how to play either the piano or guitar. I personally use Logic for all my music production, but I was instantly hooked once they demonstrated the user interface for this new teaching area.

All this stuff is incredible and so easy on the eye. There is one glaring issue, though. When on earth will any of us get the time to make use of it all?

True, iPhoto ’09 can turn your photo collection into a wonderland of detailed statistical information and criss-crossed linkage to geographical reference points and face recognition’d family albums… but who has the time to do all this stuff, regardless of how simple it is? And when you have done it, what do you do with it exactly?

I once spent a truly friendless amount of time organising my iTunes music so that it was all properly categorised and had corresponding album artwork. It took too long and whilst it’s all very pretty now, I can’t really say I benefit from it in any way. All the music sounds the same after all.

All of these applications centre around one thing – our growing personal databases. Everything is interlinked – our email, Facebook, iTunes, photos, blogs – all tagged so that they mould into one being. Databases are essentially very simple entities – a group of fields that can be infinitely linked, but the possibilities currently available to all of us are just mind boggling.

Is there simply too much stuff to do? I certainly feel there is. All the tools Apple throw our way (after we’ve increased our credit card limit) are fabulous, but in reality does anyone really have the time to fully make use of them all?

So that’s it, then. We’re all going to lose our jobs.

It appears the credit crunch crisis is only deepening as we dive nose first into a sub-zero January. The last Woolworths store finally closes today and high street stores Next and Debenhams have both reported losses this morning.

Indeed, if you take a glance at Sky News’ business page, we’re also informed that M&S might be announcing job cuts, consumer confidence is at a record low, hundreds of high street jobs have been axed and house prices have fallen at a record rate. Hand me the knife…

Forgive me for being blasé, but this isn’t quite the optimistic start to the year I was hoping for. Delve a little deeper and you discover that the drop in sales for Next is actually countered by a rise in profits, a far more important figure. Turnover: vanity, profit: sanity – a motto I regularly think back to whilst conducting my day to day work. I understand that a drop in sales revenue is indicative of a lack of consumer confidence, but at least these companies are making money. If they’re making money, they can pay staff, and those staff will eventually regain the confidence to pop into town and spend a bit of their hard-earned. And we all benefit from that (it’s a bit like the circle of life reference in The Lion King, only far more boring and lacking any cutesy lion cub).

But this is the crux of the problem. How do we get that confidence back? It certainly isn’t easy with all the doom mongering in the media and the po-faced heads of industry predicting colossal job cuts. We’re supposed to be a stoic, proud country, but one glance at the headlines this morning suggests we’ve simply given in and begun crying into our empty wallets.

The answer certainly isn’t to spend our way out of recession, it is to lift our heads, get back to our desks and work our proverbials off. That’s what I’ll be doing this year. I just hope everyone else does, or else we will be in the sticky stuff.

Oh, and don’t take anything Eamonn Holmes says too seriously. He used to present GMTV, remember.

3ft tall and back ache – it’s the same deal, really

After a regrettable absence in 2008, Celebrity Big Brother is gracing our screens again and it couldn’t have had a more promising opening. Certainly, the spectacle of 3ft tall movie star and ‘stunt man’ Verne Troyer teaching ageing rapper Coolio cockney rhyming slang will already take some beating as TV highlight of 2009.

I’ve never been ashamed to admit I watch Big Brother and can think of nothing better to while away these freezing cold winter nights than watching ailing, desperate stars attempt to revive their flagging careers by giving us an intimate glimpse into their state of mind.

Shooting stars regular Ulrika(ka-ka-ka-ka-ka) Johnson certainly got off to an intriguing start, comparing Verne’s dwarfism to her recent bout of ‘a bad back’. I can see the similarity, and I’m sure Verne could appreciate her somewhat ham fisted gesture of support – it certainly made for addictive, if infinitely uncomfortable, viewing.

However the early shining star, without a shadow of a doubt, is 45-year-old Coolio who on entry to the house expressed his desire not to find any ‘ugly chicks’. He may therefore have been a little dismayed on entry to find unpronounceable ex-Sugarbabes backing vocalist Mutya discussing something doubtlessly chav-based with Tina Malone. I have no idea who Tina is, but it appears she has been plucked from a land where the words ‘fuck’, ‘fucking’ and ‘fucked’ are substituted for every second word of every sentence. She’s also far too keen on telling us about her sex life: ‘this is my shagging hair’ – something I would rather spoon my eyes out than think about.

I’m looking forward to this one; in particular the unravelling of another Jackson which is sure to take place. ‘This is probably the best thing that’s ever happened to me’ said Latoya on the second day. I’m not entirely sure what she was referring to, but I doubt it was Coolio’s incessant Michael Jackson impersonations.

Coolio to win!

Not a Happy New Year post

It’s 2009. Having switched on the internet, radio and TV this morning, I’ve been bombarded with people wishing me a happy new year and it’s getting rather dull.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m perfectly happy, I’m just not a huge fan of making a big thing about the calendar clicking over to a new year. I had an enjoyable ‘NYE’ but even that consisted of me simply getting drunk and paying no particular attention to the clock – just another night in, then.

I’ve never been ‘out’ on new year’s eve. I have either worked (do it if you can – you’ll make a shed-load of cash) or have chosen to spend the night in with loved ones, far from the crowds that hit the local town centre. I just simply can’t understand the fascination with going out, on what is essentially a normal night, and spending an inordinate amount of time queuing to get into pubs which, upon paying money to get in (?) you’ll spend the remainder of the night being shouldered about at the bar in a vain attempt to buy your first over-priced drink. You probably won’t get that drink either, as you’ll be distracted by someone you used to go to school with who you’d much rather punch in the face than talk to but will be coerced into doing the latter. Because it’s new year’s eve.

And then I suppose you’ll need to get home which will inevitably involve hailing a taxi. Only ‘hailing’ on new year’s eve actually means standing in a four mile queue in sub zero temperatures for an hour before eventually getting into a taxi that will rid you of your life savings in exchange for a two mile drive.

It’s all over so quickly, too. It’s now the 2nd of January and all the festive merry-making seems so long ago. I had to resist the urge to put my foot through my TV last night when an advert for a Christmas saving company was aired. ‘Start saving now for Christmas 2009’ was the depressing tag line. Surely, amongst all the current financial turmoil, the last thing any of us should be worrying about is next Christmas. Add to that holidays. As is always the case at this time of year, advert breaks are filled with images of sun drenched Spanish beaches and (even more uninviting) Butlins. According to Sky News, we’re all going to lose our jobs next week so I fail to see how any of us can be planning expensive foreign holidays or putting £100 aside each month to pay for Christmas 2009.

Some good news, though – I’m off on a stag do tomorrow in London which should prove far more enjoyable than any forced festive enjoyment.

Happy New Year!

Whoops.