Think inside the box


Earlier Steve Daniels sent me a link to a BBC Manchester news story about offices made out of shipping containers. Long time readers may recall that I have a bit of a thing about using shipping containers for interesting purposes so it’s worth a read read:

“These are new shipping containers where, in very simple terms, we’ve taken the front of the container off and we’ve put a glass screen in with glass doors.

“We’ve fitted them out with carpet and supply power and broadband connectivity and the tenants bring their own furniture – very simple and very affordable.”


Creative commons photos by James K Thorp

Homeward Bound

Not content with putting server rooms in shipping containers, I’d love to see student housing making use of them. Boing Boing featured them and have even produced a list of examples ranging from Florida suburban houses to Russian market stalls. From accounts coming out of Amsterdam they seem to be pretty attractive and popular as student housing.

There are apparently 700,000 unused shipping containers in US ports – I imagine there’s a fair few around the UK. Other than exporting rubbish (actual waste – I’m not taking a shot at UK manufacturing!) there’s not a lot that can be done with them so this seems like a great, environmentally friendly and economical use for them.

Bob Cringely from the Pulpit

So I’m off on holiday for a few weeks, but as promised I’ll be reviewing some of the feeds I subscribe to starting off with one of the most interesting people in technology journalism – Robert X. Cringely.

The history of Bob Cringely is bizarre – he’s a character from US trade rag InfoWorld and written by a series of authors. One of these – Mark Stephens – took the character off paper and onto the screen in the 1996 documentary Triumph of the Nerds. It tells the story of the rise of the PC including very interesting interviews with Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. There was a falling out at some point which resulted in Stephens being able to keep using the character for certain purposes so he’s still able to keep writing on the PBS website for a column titled The Pulpit.

Project BlackboxCringely has been blogging for a decade in the form of a weekly column and they’re well worth a read. He might not always be right (like the recent article claiming that the iPhone had hidden 3G capabilities, published after it had been stripped down to prove it didn’t!) but more often he writes insightful, well informed articles. For example, back in November 2005, Cringely wrote about Google’s plan to use shipping containers as data centres – almost a year before Sun announced Project Blackbox. He does this time and time again.

The most interesting articles each year are his annual predictions in January. With an average accuracy of 75% they can be a good indicator of the year ahead. We’re into July so they’ve already started coming true:

Some smart or lucky company will buy FeedBurner, which ought to be the YouTube or Skype equivalent for 2007. Yahoo really needs it and ought to buy, but being without a brain or a required sense of urgency Yahoo may miss the opportunity. Google ought to buy it but may not because Google has a similar service in beta that probably won’t succeed. But SOME company will buy FeedBurner and start printing money as a result.

Well done Google and well done Bob!

Hope you’re able to check out Robert X. Cringely’s columns – it’s always good when they drop into my feed reader on Friday morning. Enjoy the summer and look out for another feed review soon!