Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

Knocking Down (Geo Data’s) Brick Walls

Earlier this week I was interviewed by Cian O’Sullivan for GoMo News as part of the run-up to the Location Business Summit in San Jose. The interview is now up on the GoMo News site and is reproduced here with permission.

Ovi Places: Mobile Navigation needs to knock down its brick walls

When Ovi Maps launched at the start of this year, it really shook up the navigation industry. The free software gave everyone with access to Nokia’s Ovi Store a perfectly serviceable Personal Navigation Device (PND), completely for free. But Ovi Maps is just the first exposure of the Nokia branch called Ovi Places. Recently appointed Director of Ovi Places, Gary Gale, took some time to talk to GoMo News about the state of mobile navigation ahead of his appearance at the Location Business Summit, USA, 14-15 September, San Jose.

Most people know about Ovi Maps, but a lot won’t have heard about Ovi Places. What is it, exactly?

It’s the slightly unglamorous name for a set of back-end systems that understand what people are looking for. Within the Ovi Maps client, on both mobile and internet, there’s the ability to look for what the industry calls Points Of Interest – or POIs. But we prefer the term “places” – because POIs comes laden with preconceived baggage. Our colleagues in Japan consider anything that isn’t nailed down as a POI, including bus stops, park benches or traffic lights. That can lead to too-much data, an overflow that can’t be easily consumed. People tend to think of these kind of location and navigation services as a yellow pages business listings – which is certainly important for the classic LBS model of “where am I, and what’s around me”. But Ovi Places takes into account local information, colloquial information, landmarks and places you’d want to go to as a tourist. For example, where I am in the Nokia office in the middle of Berlin, we’ve got the really common tourist POIs showing up – like the Brandenburg Gate, for example – but Places also refers to an excellent restaurant in the courtyard below me, and a local coffee shop.

If there were more signs like this.......

Where do you source that info? Are there Places fact finders or do you buy the info?

It comes from a variety of sources. Some of it comes from commercial data providers – this is actually one of the main reasons we acquired NAVTEQ, and why TomTom bought TeleAtlas. Digital mapping companies have a rich set of data above and beyond the normal PND stuff. But there are also a whole variety of specialist premium partners that we do deals with; we’re talking about regional specialists that we talk to on a country-by-country basis in order to gain their local insight.

There is no “one true” source of data – you need to make a lot of partnerships to get the best local data available.

At the moment, Ovi Places really only powers the Ovi Maps application. Are there plans for more services to exist under a Places umbrella?

At the moment, it’s exposed only through Ovi Maps. For the future… I can’t say anything specific, but watch this space!

How do you plan to make mobile location more personal to the mobile user?

Actually, the mobile user is probably the easiest use case for navigation. Your device has lot of options available to it to determine your location. From there, services like Places can provide rich experiences. The key problem is whilst all of this is pretty much mainstream now, there is a “Bay Area bubble” where a lot of the products and services coming out seem to think your user will always have a smartphone, and will always have a GPS lock with an excellent data connection. That may be fine for San Francisco, and even Western Europe. Sometimes even areas you think would be well served are awful. I recently went on a trip to Calais – when I got off the ferry and the GPS took 15 mins to pick up a lock. So you have to realise that there can be patchy 3G data coverage in even highly developed countries, and then look at areas which have growing economies and even worse connections. There are places in Africa and Asia that won’t have 3G data in the next 5 or 10 years.

You mentioned that mobile users are the easy use cases – what would you consider to be a challenging case?

The challenges arise when you’ve got infrastructure problems. Consider some of the poster child location services, like Foursquare, Gowalla and Yelp. Lack of 3G data infrastructure doesn’t appear to be factored into the business models for these companies. Try using one of them in Africa, or India, or Asia. The infrastructure isn’t there to address these needs. The populace simply don’t have access to these services.

Is Places doing anything to address that problem?

We’re looking at potential handsets that don’t need a dedicated on-board GPS or AGPS. They don’t need the typical app store economy. We’re able to tap into cell tower triangulation, where local laws and legislation permits it. It may not be as accurate as a GPS lock, but it’s better than nothing.

Is that really important for a developing country? How worried is a resident really going to be about their location services.

I think the best answer to that is from an article by Dr. Tero Ojanperä (Executive Vice President of Services, Mobile Solutions, Nokia). He said that the target is less about producing a device that runs apps than it is about creating a really useful platform – it’s more about producing a context-aware device, that gives you the best relevancy depending on the services available to it.  ”It’s about devices that offer truly connected services and learn your habits so well that they can give you what you want“. That means you have a service that will provide good services to every customer, no matter what the state of their local infrastructure is.

Last month I was at the GeoLoco conference in San Francisco, talking on a panel about the challenges the industry is facing. An audience member asked “what advice would the panellists give to someone who is trying to establish a foothold in location?” I felt my answer got the most responses, at least on the Twitter back-channel. which was “I come from Europe – don’t forget that we exist! There is a market outside of North America that is different in its needs and infrastructure“.

Services like TeleAtlas and OpenStreetMap (OSM) make a lot of use of crowd-sourced info. Does Ovi Places allow for that?

Very much so. We already have this kind of functionality built into the newer handsets, allowing you to add corrections and updates while you are on location. Crowd sourcing is very much a part of this industry’s future – but I don’t think it’s the panacea that people think it might be. It’s a vital additional source, but not the best thing since sliced bread until; at least, not until the industry gets together and comes up with a way to verify and editorialise new info. It’s a benevolent technological anarchy – because there’s no formalised control over how you tag a place, a consumer has to accept that finding out how to use the data will take significant time and revenue investment. If your local authority is trying to map its assets, you want to make sure those assets are exactly where you claim – because taxation and revenue streams can be assessed on that. If you get that wrong, it will lead to the kind of bad press a local authority doesn’t want. Especially if emergency services are trying to get to a specific street address – you need that data to be 100% accurate.

What do you think the main challenges facing mobile navigation are?

I think there two main challenges.

First is the privacy angle. People don’t quite understand what it is that they’re giving up to use the latest LBS app. You need to make sure that people understand the value proposition on the table when they’re giving up their location to gain relevance in their local search. The public as a whole needs to understand this. And it will probably be driven by tabloid headlines – some celebrity who gets divorced because a location service proves they weren’t where they said they were. And it would be better if it didn’t happen that way. I hope the Industry is open and transparent about it as much as possible. It will be to our detriment if we don’t expose this kind of information, and something sensationalist does happen.

Second, there’s a need for people to talk to one another. We’re all building loads of very rich data sets – OSM is doing it, Facebook, Foursquare, government services, NAVTEQ – but at the moment, to unlock their potential, they need to talk to each other. The current licensing set up means location data is still stored in a series of vertical silos which aren’t allowed to work with each other. And the actual industry moves so fast that even those who are involved in it find it hard to keep up with developments. So keeping the legal and licensing system up-to-date with it must be nightmarish. It’s getting increasingly more difficult to get solid patents in this area – and patents being wielded by the patent troll houses are being used in a way they were never intended. In order to work around this, I think the future will have to be less about aggregating these data silos, and more about synchronising the end-point exposure. If you have an identifier in one data set that corresponds to an identifier in another data set, they can sync up and present a united service to the end user… without having to share protected data.

Plant on Brick Wall

Gary Gale will be speaking at the Location Business Summit, 14-15 September, San Jose, where he’ll be further addressing the issues surrounding the “silo problem” and licensing issues.

Photo Credits: William Warby and Ajith Kumar on Flickr.
Written and posted from the Nokia gate5 office in Berlin (52.53105, 13.38521)

Lost London Under Your Feet

Stand with your back to the “looks like it’s built out of Lego” St. Gile’s development and you’ll see New Compton Street.
Follow it for a while, running parallel to Shaftesbury Avenue and it comes to an abrupt end, due to someone building 125 Shaftesbury Avenue, which is also the Yahoo! London office, right across it.
New Compton Street used to continue through the Yahoo! office, across Crown Street, or Charing Cross Road as it’s now called, into Little Compton Street and into Old Compton Street in Soho. If you walk down Stacey Street onto Shaftesbury Avenue, turn right toward Cambridge Circus and start to walk up Charing Cross Road, you’ll see Old Compton Street on the right.
But wait. Little Compton Street? Where’s that? It used to be there, at least it was there in 1862, but it’s long gone now. Or has it? Slap bang in the middle of the Charing Cross Road is this strange, cast iron grid set into an island. It’s almost-but-not-quite a pedestrian crossing.
With your back to Old Compton Street walk over to the grid, peer down and there in the tunnel below you’ll see two old road signs for Little Compton Street, fixed to the brick wall. No one seems to know how they got there or how long they’ve been there but they’re a hidden-in-almost-plain-sight reminder of the London that used to be there, right under your feet.

(With thanks to Roman Kirillov for the loan of his arms, his eyes and his camera for the close up shots; there’s times when an iPhone camera just isn’t anywhere near good enough)

Posted via email from Gary’s Posterous

Online There’s More Than One of You

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article on this blog that highlighted the issues around managing our digital identity.

Managing our digital identity through those sources we know about is a challenge for a significant percentage of the online population

Then this morning, (ex Yahoo!) Cathy Ma posted a link to her recent blog post about the Personas project being run by Aaron Zinman at MIT. Personas tries to “show you how the internet sees you”. So I duly surfed over to http://personas.media.mit.edu/ and plugged in my full name and some time later a rather slick Flash animation gave me this supposed “characterization of the person”.

gary gale Persona

Anything but the most cursory of glances quickly showed that something was wrong. If this is how the internet sees me, where does sports, fashion and medicine come from? So I tried again, this time under my usual net nickname, vicchi. Some more chugging and analysing later and I had a second characterization of the online me.

vicchi Persona

It’s different but it’s still not right, sports are still there but now they’ve been joined by military, aggression and illegal. So I reran both characterizations and this time looked at what was going on and I went through the full spectrum from WTF to OMG.

3158864420_cca98b531a_oThe characterizer was looking at a selection of web references to Gary Gale and to vicchi, but it wasn’t just me, it was any reference that could be found, which means that my supposed characterization is a mashup of all the possible Gary Gale’s and vicchi’s.

Sadly, this relegates the Personas project to merely an intriguing but ultimately flawed experiment, because unless you have a really unique name, online there’s going to be more than one of you.

Harvesting Your Digital Dandruff, Crumbs and Footprints for Fun and Profit

“I’m just a face in the crowd,
Nothing to worry about,
Not even tryin’ to stand out,
And I have nothing to say,
It’s all been taken away,
I just behave and obey”

Trent Reznor, Nine Inch Nails, Getting Smaller

Ten years ago our online identity, if we had one at all, was a simple affair to manage, comprising of an email address and perhaps an avatar name or two. Fast forward to the close of the first decade of the 21st century and it’s an altogether more complex affair. You’ve probably got several email addresses, possibly some domain names and then there’s the plethora of social networking sites that you frequent, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Bebo, MySpace and so on. All of which define the online version of “you” in much the same way as your passport, driving licence and bank account defines the offline “you”.

The key difference is that the online version of “you” is much more subtle, complex and diffuse. We leave scraps of our path through the internet behind us. At the Being Digital conference in London earlier this year, I tried to explain this with the clumsy phrase “digital dandruff”; in the soon to be published book, “My Digital Footprint”, Tony Fish far more elegiacally describes it as our digital footprint, which is “the digital ‘cookie crumbs‘ that we all leave when we use the some form of digital service, application, appliance, object or device, or in some cases as we pass through or by”.

Managing our digital identity through those sources we know about is a challenge for a significant percentage of the online population. But despite being a challenge, it’s one which is achieveable if you’re willing to put enough time and effort into it. But most of us don’t have the time or are unwilling to put in the effort, so our digital cookie crumbs and the varying online versions of “us” stay online, ready for someone with the time and effort to search for, find and put together with profit in mind.

Some people take an active role in managing their digital footprint and try to exploit it. Some people also try to exploit other people’s digital footprint. Let’s look at a concrete example of this.

Not Your Average Star Trek Reference

garygale.com Screen Grab

My site at garygale.com pulls together a subset of my digital footprint into one place, drawing on my blog, my social bookmarks on Delicious, articles I’ve written, photos from Flickr and presentation decks from talks I’ve given. Inspired by an article written by the Yahoo! Developer Network’s Christian Heilman, garygale.com uses PHP and YQL to dynamically pull in the latest version of all my content so my site is always up to date

Spock.com Screen Grab

Now compare and contrast this information with that available on Spock.com, “the first search engine for finding people on the web”. It’s not as complete as my version, nor formatted as coherently but the key facets of my digital footprint are there. If I wanted to I could add to this digital portrait, supplying tags, biographic information, pictures, quotes and so on.

Spock has crawled the web for my data and it’s created a profile on me, without my permission and without my control. It encourages me to enrich the data held but then requires payment for me to access that information. Now would be a good time to point out that in April 2009, Spock was acquired by Intelius, a company that provides background checks and identity theft protection.

Those that Fail to Learn from History, are Doomed to Repeat It?

Can I stop Spock finding and presenting this information about me, without my request or, more importantly, without my control? Spock’s help page says the following:

“Before requesting removal, please make sure the original source of the information Spock found for you has been removed or made private (MySpace, blog, Friendster, etc). This will prevent you from being re-indexed on the site.”

This means that unless I contact every source that Spock crawls, and not all sources are identified on Spock’s site, and then have each source take down content on me or make them private, Spock will crawl these sources again and find my content and republish it. An evident parallel of this Web 2.0 behaviour is the Web 1.0 problem of large scale harvesting of email addresses for subsequent resale to commercial spammers.

My site speaks for me because I control the information and the way in which it’s presented; Spock’s version of me is out of my control and doesn’t speak for me.

What I do know is that neither the privacy advocates nor the aggressive marketers who want to know all about me – let alone the government that thinks my life should be an open book – can speak for me. I want to make my own decisions about what I disclose, knowing all the while that I cannot control what others say about me.

Esther Dyson

In “My Digital Footprint”, Tony Fish describes a Rainbow of Trust, which categorises people’s online activities as one of Untrusting and Stupid, Untrusting and Wise, Accepting Authority, One Way or My Way.

Untrusting and Stupid give up data without any thought as to the consequences; their online participation is passive and will click on anything, including banners and search ads.

Untrusting and Wise are the opposite of Untrusting and Stupid; they are extremely selective about the information they reveal, concerned about privacy and frequently hide their identify behind multiple digital personas.

Accepting Authority have their computer’s default home page still set, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, etc and are either happy with a portal approach to their online experience or are unwilling or unable to change it. Their digital experience has to work first time, be simple and work with one click.

One Way experiment with one one thing at a time, continuing until they’re happy with it and then move onto another online service.

My Way want it their way, un-tethered, un-filtered and unadulterated, trusting no one until they have mastered it and push the boundaries of what’s possible online.

The readers of this article will (hopefully) fall within a combination of Untrusting and Wise and MY Way, but the reality is that we are but a small percentage of the global population who have access to the Internet, which as of March 2009, numbered around 1,500,000,000.

Two Cultures; Those Who Understand Tech and The Rest of Us

Mentoring programs such as DigitAll go some way to help inform people about their usage of the internet, not only how to use it, but how to use it responsibly and knowledgeably. At this year’s OpenTech in July at the University of London Union, technology critic Bill Thompson lamented the Two Cultures problem; people who understand technology and everyone else. As illustration of this he highlighted how the UK education syllabus places more emphasis on “the ability to format text in Microsoft Word” than on understanding how to use the net and how to identity and protect your digital identity. Until your digital dandruff, crumbs and footprint becomes an integral part of our children’s education, we all have a responsibility to understand what is being done with our personal data and pass this onto our colleagues, our friends and our family.

Improving Mac Office 2008 Startup Times

Ever since my MacBook Pro was upgraded to Mac Office 2008 I’d had appallingly slow app start up times, with hangs and delays of over 3 minutes being pretty much the order of the day.

After some determined surfing this I’ve managed to dramatically improve my startup times to around 15 seconds by applying a combination of hints and tips.

With the standard disclaimers of YMMV, here be dragons and so on …

1. In PowerPoint go to Preferences -> General and deselect “Show Project Gallery at Startup”

2. In Excel go to Preferences -> General and deselect “Open Project Gallery when application opens”

3. In Word go to Preferences -> General and deselect “Show Project Gallery at Startup” and “WYSIWYG font and style menus”

4. In Entourage go to Preferences -> General and deselect “WYSIWYG font menu”

5. Quit any running Office 2008 apps

6. Remove any folders called either “Fonts Disabled” or “Microsoft” from /Library/Fonts and from ~/Library/Fonts; either drag them to the Desktop or into Trash to verify this has no adverse effect before deleting them permanently.

7. Restart your Office apps. I found that the increase in speed was the best for Entourage and Excel, with PowerPoint occupying the mid-group and Word being the slowest. Despite this the startup time for Word is still increased by around 2 and a half minutes.

Latitude Media Coverage Needs More Latitude

A product launch from Google is accompanied by a massive media campaign that reaches far beyond the techy demographic; Google is a consumer brand these days and their messaging generates headlines in both traditional and new media. This is a good thing; right?

It’s certainly high profile messaging, Ted Dziuba writing in the UK based Register with less than his usual profanity laden prose, first brought the term Googasm to my attention and the recent launch of Google Latitude certainly has all the hallmarks of Googasm, but this has rapidly turned into an inverse Googasm of shrill, rhetoric laden, fin de siecle doom with the BBC commencing and London’s Metro newspaper going way overboard.

  • Spy in your pocket?
  • Google spying on workers?
  • People covertly tracking you after leaving your phone in a bar?
  • Suspicous partners tracking their loved ones?

Please. This is certainly media coverage, but is it good coverage? Compare and contrast with Yahoo’s launch of the Fire Eagle location brokerage service last year. Whilst there were privacy concerns raised at the time, the Fire Eagle team’s common sense and honest approach to user privacy has quietened all but the shrillest of critics.

So let’s have some sanity on the discussion of Latitude and of location privacy in general. Latitude is certainly the beginning of a major play in the location space for Google but …

  • Latitude requires users to download and install a stand alone app onto their mobile handset.
  • Latitude’s social permissioning is on a per-user basis with no categorisation, fine tuning or broad controls such as that found in Fire Eagle.
  • Latitude does not take your location to other applications such as BrightKite, Twitter or Fire Eagle. Yet. Given Google’s closed approach in other fields this may be an unlikely development but one which users are already asking for.
  • Latitude generously fuels the paranoia of Google owns all your data … now including where you are. The question is not so much should you share your location but should you share your location with Google?
  • Latitude does not have an API or web service. Yet.

Now both Google and Yahoo! have problems with their launch announcements, a point which Robert Scoble made when Latitude and Search Pad coincidentally launched on the same day. But I have difficulties with Scoble’s conclusions on this. Scoble argues that Yahoo’s problem is that stuff is launched in selective or private beta while Google launches a complete product. But the approach taken between Yahoo! and Google differs substantially. Yahoo!, especially with their Open strategy, releases stuff targeted at the developer community with APIs and web services leading the way. Contrast this with Google’s approach who launch consumer facing applications first and serve the developer community later, if at all.

Google’s entry into the location was never a case of if and much more a case of when and it’s certainly not the end of the location space as we know it. Fire Eagle’s remit and scope is significantly different from Latitude’s, though it’s true there is some overlap. But there will be some casualties, of which Loopt will probably be the first alas.

Google’s consumer brand ensure launches garner a blaze of publicity but as Latitude has shown, the mantra “all publicity is good publicity” is not always true. Everyone I’ve spoken to has certainly heard of Latitude but it’s “that thing from Google that tracks me”.

Disclosure; I currently work for Yahoo! as part of the Geo Technologies group whose products includes Fire Eagle and I update my location via Fire Eagle many times a day; the views expressed in this post are purely my own and not that of Yahoo! or the Yahoo! Geo Technologies group. So now you know.

An Unscientific View of Location Usage in London

With the Yahoo! Geo Technologies sponsored, London #geomob meetup coming up this week, this weekend I took a look at how many companies were actively using location within London. No easy task. After much web searching this weekend I took a trawl through those companies tagged as being in London in CrunchBase, the database of tech companies that TechCrunch operates.

Not strictly scientific but then again this is more about gauging a trend than being strictly empirical.

crunchbase_thumbnailMinor detour; in CrunchBase you can search for companies by location with London being flagged as a popular city. For the first page of London companies this works fine, with all the companies being shown within the boundary of the M25 on an embedded Google map. But on the second page it would seem that rather than geocoding the company address, CrunchBase are either doing keyword matching on tokenised text, picking up London Ontario or using the address of a parent company in the continental US. Whatever is happening it looks very odd when a company with an address in London WC2 is shown in Kansas.

The executive summary is that one of the prime drivers, and one presumes source of direct or indirect monetisation, is real eastate and property search, either as a direct USP for a site or as a side effect of a social network community. Another is that Google Maps API integration continues to dominate, both from a geocoding API perspective and as a geospatial presentation layer. I’m also particularly pleased to see innovators within this domain recognise the benefits and appeal of integrating with Fire Eagle, with the disclosure that I’m both a massive fan of Fire Eagle and work for the group within Yahoo! which provides the geotechnology which underpins the Fire Eagle platform.

Adviva

Online ad network offering geotargeted campaigns.

Archlight Media Technology

Operates Zoomf, a property search engine allowing searches tailored to a range of geo granularities from city to postcode district, though not to postcode sector or unit.

Cheapflights.com

Flight price search and comparison engine; allows geo search by country, city, resort and airport name and IATA code.

Chinwag

Not a location user per se but a media community platform which is particularly strong in championing LBS/LBMS and location in general.

Dopplr

Travel sharing platform with Fire Eagle integration.

Dothomes

Real estate search engine allowing searches tailored to range of granularities from city to postcode district, but again not to postcode sector or unit.

Mapness

Online travel journal sharing platform. Places/locations are geotagged within each entry via the Google Maps API.

My Neighbourhoods

Service allowing users to find out more about the area in which they live. The service would appear to support full postcode search, which implies PAF licensing, but searches are truncated to postcode district. Biased towards property search, which is supplied via Nestoria.

Rightmove

The “UK’s number one property website”; property searching can be selected by county, city/town/village, borough/suburb, postcode district (again full postcode search is claimed but not implemented) and some POIs. Searches can also be constrained at a distance from the focus of the search.

Rummble

A location based discovery tool and social search platform which is integrated with Fire Eagle.

School of Everything

Social networking platform which attempts to match tutors with pupils by subject and location.

Where Are You Now?

Travel based social networking platform, which is directly competing with TripUp, HereOrThere and TravelMuse, allowing ‘friends’ met whilst travelling to keep in touch.

Here Or There?

Travel based social networking platform, using Yahoo! Maps based location identification and geotagging.

WorkHound

Job and recruitment inventory platform; offering job searches by county, city/town/village, borough/suburb and postcode district. Searches can also be constrained at a distance from the focus of the search.

Nestoria

Home and property search engine which aggregates content from property portals. Used by Google as a Maps showcase and Yahoo! as a YUI showcase. Nestoria has also recently launched where-can-i-live.com which uses OpenStreetMap as the preferred Maps API and presentation layer.

GeoPostcodes

A ZIP and postcode search engine which offers geocoded databases of localities, ZIPs (to district level), admin hierarchies and subdivisions and centroids in 60 countries. As an example the Jan 2009 update for the UK, with ~37,000 records is on offer for EUR 29.95/GBP 28.00/USD 39.00.

What’s In Your Dock?

It’s not original and it’s been done so many times before but … what’s in your dock and where is it? Mine’s at the bottom of the screen, hiding off, magnification off.
The Dock - the left hand bit
On the left hand side there’s the the Finder, Dashboard, Mail, Firefox, Safari, Adium, Vienna, Address Book, iTunes and iCal.

The Dock - the middle bit

In the middle there’s Terminal, SSH Tunnel Manager, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, OmniGraffle Professional, OmniOutliner, FastTrack Schedule, Xcode and System Preferences.

The Dock - the right hand bit

Finally, on the right hand side, there’s Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection, Cisco VPN Client, iSync, smcFanControl, Think and VMWare Fusion.

So there.

Running Shell Scripts With AppleScript

While I was playing with AppleScript earlier this week I wanted to run a shell script I’d written from within Finder rather than from a shell prompt in Terminal.app.

On Windows I tend to write scripts to run under Cygwin and then write a wrapper batch file to run the script under the control of Cygwin’s bash executable.

Turns out the AppleScript solution is identical in principal and is as simple as

do shell script "/full/path/to/shell/script"

You may need to adjust the path to the script dependent upon whether the directory where your script resides is in your $PATH or not.

Mounting Network Volumes With AppleScript

One of my standard lunchtime reading web sites started me off on this; The Unofficial Apple Weblog got me reading an article on PC Magazine’s site about Argh! moments. That sort of moment when you try to do something really simple on OS X but find it isn’t. In this case, Robyn Peterson’s struggle to mount a network volume on login struck a chord. I’d gone down a similar route and come up with an alias to a network volume in my login items, a solution which seems to be well documented after a quick Google search.

But this wasn’t quite enough for me; my main Mac is an iBook and that means I access network volumes at home and at work so automatic reconnection to a non existant volume at home when I connect my iBook to my employer’s corporate LAN wasn’t really a solution. But from Robyn’s article I decided to take the plunge and write my first AppleScript.

Maybe write is too strong a word; I found the script I needed almost verbatim on the MacFixIt forums. All I needed to do was modify it to my own ends.

Firstly I needed Apple’s Script Editor, which lives in /Applications/AppleScript; then I was able to enter the following script.

tell application "Finder"
open location "smb://user:password@server/share"
end tell

A few words of explanation. Firstly the names have been changed to protect the innocent so I’m not using a real user name, server name or share name and I’m most definately not using a real password. Secondly the network volume I’m connecting to is on a machine running Fedora Core and which is made available to the network using Samba, hence the smb: part of the URI.

I then saved the script somewhere meaningful; I keep a directory called Scripts which unsurprisingly contains scripts so that seemed as good a place as any. I also made sure that when saving the script I saved it as an application and not a script to prevent me being prompted whether I wanted the script to run each time I ran it, as well as ensuring that the Run Only, Startup Screen and Stay Open check boxes were deselected.

Then it was a simple matter to run the script either from a Finder window or via Spotlight and my network volume mounted and was available.