Sunday, 15 February 2015

On Smartwatches...

A belated happy new year, all :-) Hope your holidays were good, and that you got everything you thought you deserved the week before new year ;-)



The next big thig, it seems, is 'wearables'. Now, while I, and probably many, many others, view clothes (especialy in this chilly time of year) as wearables, what the marketing mens is wrist-worn electronic devices, which are designed to impart lots more information to you than just the time. Offerings thus far include makes such as Android Gear, LG, Motorola ("Moto"), Sony, and others; the Apple thing is due soo as well, apparently, but as I'm not being a fan of that brand, you can research that thing.


While the added functionality of these things is nice, the main hiccup with them is the battery life; my current wrist watch, (an analogue-face ex-army watch, as it happens) which is reasonably accurate, tells me the time. It also has an easily changable battery, and that battery has an average life of five years.

Were I to change up to a smartwatch, I'd want that watch to have a week-long (that's seven days) battery life at the very minumum. Now, I may be asking the moon here, but it's not unreasonable to expect a smartwatch to at least equal a mechanical wristwatch in its ability to function between winds of the mechanism - and the last one I had lasted a week between complete winding cycles. I would expect a smartwatch to at least be capable of lasting that long, given that it's supposed to replicate the basic functions of a watch, and only once that is accomplished, have additional fuctionality that is being touted as well.

As to additional functionality. Yes, interface with the phone via bluetooth. Yes, notify us of incoming comms, be they calls, SMS, email, Social Media, or whatever. Tell us the weather? OK, nice. GPS? Gravy. Heartbeat monitor? Cool (if you interface it with an app to call the emergency services if the heartbeat stops while being worn, even better!).

But hey, let's solve the absolutely stupidly short battery life issue first, eh? Frankly, I wouldn't be at all surprised that this is the issue that's preventing wider smartphone takup in the marketplace.

YMMV, of course.

Thoughts and comments appreciated :-)


Friday, 21 November 2014

Here's another reason to tell Brussels to go stuff itself...

They told Coleman's to stop making French Mustard.

...Colman’s French Mustard is now unobtainable, since they stopped the line after 65 years, following an EU competition law ruling in 2001 after parent firm Unilever also acquired Amora Maille. It was told to sell the brand or stop making it.

Source (not sauce!):

So, they stopped making it.

A brand that we'd had on the dinner table when I was a child - and which I'd come to know, trust, and even - dare I say it - love, and which I haven't seen on the shelves for ages. And now I know why.

Yes, I know that as an Englishman, I should prefer English Mustard, but ye gods, the stuff's a tad overpowering for the meat - it drowns out the flavour of the rest of the meal, and I find that all you can taste afterwards is the mustard! Which is why, when all's said and done, I preferred Coleman's French Mustard with beef.

Yes, there are other forms of French Mustard. There are even other brands, such as Heinz.

But NONE of them taste the same as I remember.

Brussels, my taste buds HATE you :-(

Yet another reason to tell those gravy-train bureaucrats to go stuff themselves!

* And yes, the title and suffix jokes were intended!

Thursday, 20 November 2014

R.I.P. Transport Direct, the most useful UK Journey Planner for ten years.

Transport Direct is no more. It's been permenantly deleted from the servers.

And I only found out AFTER the event.

To add insult to injury, they only gave us seven days notice that they were going to kill it off, too.

Transport Direct website closes on 30 September 2014
From: Department for Transport
First published: 23 September 2014
Part of: Making transport more accessible to all and Transport"


More than closing it prematurely, closing it was a travesty of good judgement: Here was a perfect example of a working, effective, USEFUL tool provided to the taxpayer at their expense, a shining example of prolonged and effective competency. And someone obviously got green with envy at this, and decided to remove this thing that offended both commercial concerns and all the ineffective and thoroughly incompetent Sir Humphreys of HM Government.

A truly sad day indeed.

It now takes on average, five times - or more - the time it used to take to plan jorneys, all because of one arguably questionable and definately damnably stupid decision.

By way of example, I tried planning a journey from the west country to south London for Boxing Day, using public transport.

Door to door wasn't possible, so a lift at one end (the south London end) from the station to the front door would be required. Luckily, at the other end, it was a five minute walk to the station. However, It just wasn't feasable by any reasonable measure.

The National Rail site said there were no available services on boxing day, and the main Traveline website petulantly froze up and did nothing. I had to use Travelines mobile web site to get any kind of result, and the journey presented was a nightmare lasting "7:34" hours. Compare this to the usual daily trip of around two and a half hours, and you get an idea of the scale of the journey problem. To be fair, there IS a shorter journey of "6:22" hours, but it's 8 legs long and involves four changes. Which is still completely bloody insane.

This was only the public transport side of things. Now I had to check the driving side of things.

For driving there and back, I do, at least, know the route I want to use. In my Land Rover, it takes about two and a half to three hours, depending on traffic and roadworks.

So, first check, a date-filtered look at No apparent problems were discovered from that source, so I guess the Motorway Coneheads were given the Christmas period off, for a change.

Onto the journey itself, and I decided to give the AA Route Planner a try. Fairly reliable, although you can't set the time and date of your trip in advance, more's the pity. Nor, unlike the now-defunct transport direct website, can you set the maximum speed for your journey - a major factor when considering older vehicles on the motorways. I stick to a maximum of fifty in my Series 3 Land Rover, for both fuel economy and wear reduction (both on the wagon AND the driver!).

Anyhow, the AA said 74.7 miles in about 1 hr 45 min. About what I expected, distance-wise, and horribly optimistic for the timescale they gave. Mind you, the London leg of the journey went through places I'd sooner avoid in an aged Land Rover, purely on the stop-start factor - I know the areas they wanted me to go through, and traffic lights breed like flies in those places. Not fun. So, new route needed.

Time to try Google. Google Maps has a useful feature,  where you can drag the route they suggest to avoid places you don't want to go,  or would prefer better than the route they suggest. It's a useful feature for people who know where the heavy traffic spots are likely to be.

After adjusting the route to follow what I knew would be a less aggravating journey,  they suggested it would be a 75.2 mile trip, taking 1 hour 41 mins. Like the AA, you couldn't set your maximum speed.

And there's the main problem with ALL the current popular offerings from the likes of Google, Bing, the RAC, the AA, and even ViaMichelin; not one of them allows you to specify what speed you would like to set as a maximum. They assume you will be doing driving along at the speed limit of all the roads you travel along. That's where Transport Direct scored points. It was light years ahead of the competition - and there's the most likely reason it got killed off.

The current Conservative Government is highly critical of government doing what the Tories think that industry can - or should - be doing. And then kills off anything it sees as competing - even if only slightly - with commerce (and don't get me started on what they're trying to do to the NHS). Even if the government offering is supplying a service to which there is no comparable commercial offering.

Transport Direct offered two things that commerce CANNOT give. Comparisons of different modes of journey at the same time, and customisation of results.

The DfT were insanely fast to kill off Transport Direct, leaving no room for appeal or question: They literally pulled the plug with hardly a word of warning to ANYONE. Their quoted reasons for doing this are dubious, to say the least. So, there were a few possible real reasons for killing off such a useful service to the tax payer.

One of the more intersting ones, is that it competed with commercial interests. I'd argue this vehemently, for the reasons noted above - if anything, it was a catalyst for commerce to pull their finger out and do something useful. Which they haven't, as yet. In addition, they're not likely to, either: The public transport companies do not share with each other, and they give their information to the government only reluctantly and under contractual obligations - for example, train and bus timetables. They'll publish their data and timetables, often in limited format, on their own websites, but share with the other kids in the playground? Not a chance.

Then there's the lack of a single source of information to compare the best journeys side by side, both public and personal - train/bus etc, versus car, versus cycle, versus walking, and so on. There is no longer a source for this kind of information, following the closure of Transport Direct.

There is, as a result of the somewhat smelly way they disposed of Transport Dircet, therefore no easy way of easily deciding which journey is best for you to undertake, without knowledge of what's availble to help you decide (not everyone is aware of the choice options, and tend to go to the easiest solution out there, even if the results are limited in the extreme). So, congratulations, Sir Humphrey. You've done as your political masters desired: Killed of something useful.

I can only say that this is possibly one of the most insideous decisions the government have made in a long time.

It should NOT have happened.

It was NOT in the public good.

It WAS arguably most likely spurred by Commercial concerns not liking the fact that government was providing a service they'd never even thought of, FOR FREE at the point of delivery.

Frankly, there will probably, eventually, be a service like Transport Direct with its' myriad options provided by some company or other. But for a fee.

And here's the thing: They shouldn't be allowed to charge a fee for something you've already paid for. Transport Direct was paid for you through your taxes, using information paid by you through your taxes, using trained programmers, computer personnel, and equipment from within the Civil Service - paid by you through your taxes. It collated information from the Highways Agency on road conditions, roadworks, and so on; it highlighted possible problems on routes, public transport, enginering works and so on, and provided options, all from information you'd paid for through your taxes. So, it wasn't technically free, as you'd paid for it already.

And they took it away.

With hardly a by your leave.

Now that's not right, is it?

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Not bloody happy.

Well, today was a write-off from about 2pm onwards.

That was the time I got back from the Council Dump (garden waste disposal), and began working on replacing a faulty part on my Series 3 Land Rover.

What got me pissed off? I had originally thought that it was the one of the shambolic :evil: moronic pea-brained halfwit cost-cutting round-spectacled office-bound HB-pencil-wielding financial times-reading ACCOUNTANT cretins (I don't hold the profession in much esteem, despite my late Dad being one) who cost-specified the parts and materials that went into a 1983 Land Rover.

But, it now transpires, it may well not have been the afore-mentioned penny-pinchers.

So, what set my temper to a dial setting of 4½?

I had the part. I had the tools. I had the time available and then some. I was in the mood for some easy, if time-consuming, electro-mechanical messing about. The sun was out, and it was shaping up to be a really nice day.

So much for that bloody idea.

I was about to replace the blower motor switch on the dash board of my Landie. I got the damn thing out (no mean feat), and was about to test the new one, when the combination Wiper/Washer Switch (Land Rover part number 579006) literally fell apart as I nudged an errant wire out of the way.




Seriously: It just took a brush past of a finger, and it fell to bits. The bits were now all over the ruddy floor of the cab of the wagon. And a simple job that should have taken no more than two hours, took my wagon off the bloody road until I can get yet another new part in, and fit it.

A part to replace something that was, it seems, made out of :evil: BAKELITE?!?!?!?!?!?!?! What the blue bleedin' hell?!

I swear to whatever deity you believe in, I was THAT sodding livid.

I wanted to know what kind of :evil: LUNATIC specified a fragile, frangible, degradable material like bloody BAKELITE for a vehicle designed to go boldly and roughly over the landscape, and which was built in the ruddy 1980s?! I was so angry I wanted to find them all, round 'em all up, and do unspeakably evil things that would have made the middle ages Spanish Inquisition run home to Mummy, screaming in terror. THAT'S how angry I was. :evil:

And just to add insult to injury, I had to go and order a replacement part AFTER the next-day delivery slots had gone, so my wagon was, and is currently, off-road until I can get a new part, and fit it.

Did I say how thoroughly bloody livid I was?

I was NOT bloody happy :evil:

A few hours later...

As I edit this Blant, I'm down to a slow burn, rather than a full-blown homicidal fury.

Having talked to a couple of people I know, it seems that the shattered switch may well have been an after-market part; in other words, after the Landie left military service, a later owner of the wagon fitted another manufacturers part: one not supplied to Land Rover by Lucas, the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) of choice for Land Rover at the time, but with something that is these days called a 'pattern part'. Pattern parts are components that are no longer made by the manufacturer of the original equipment, so can fairly safely be made by other companies without to much worry over legal issues.

By the time I acquired the wagon, this pattern part had obviously passed it's use-by date (to coin a phrase) as it shattered with barely a light touch applied in passing, so a replacement would have been required at some point in the near future anyhow so, best it shattered now, than while I was driving down the motorway in thick pelting rain, I suppose. I'm still angry that it shattered of course, but the alternative could have been much, much more problematic.

And I STILL have to order a replacement switch, dammit.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Statesmanship, shmatesmanship (on the West Lothian Question)...

I don't often rant about politics on here. It tends to be a very contentious issue with many people.


Mr Brown today accused the current Prime Minister, Mr. Cameron, of being unstatesmanlike. All, it would seem, because Mr. Cameron (whose party I did NOT vote for) is suggesting that Scottish Members of Parliament be barred on voting for issues that affect only those in England.

Really? This is what's blown Mr Browns kilt up over his head?!

Ye gods.

Mr. Brown needs to revisit the issue in question. It's called the West Lothian Question, and boiled down, says this:

The so-called West Lothian (or English) Question asks why MPs from the non-English parts of the UK can vote on all English matters, while English MPs cannot generally vote on Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish domestic matters (which have largely become the responsibility of the devolved bodies).

Source: (third paragraph)
Mr Cameron has already stated that he is opposed to a purely English parliament; I presume, because England is the founder of the Union (originally through conquest, as was the way that most countries in those days expanded themselves), we can't devolve ourselves from it. I guess that makes sense, in a somewhat cockeyed manner, though.

So, in the fullness of time, should Mr. Camerons ideas on English issues come to fruition, while the Houses of Parliament (including Scottish MPs) will still vote on matters affecting the Union as a whole, no-one but MPs representing English wards will be permitted to vote on those issues affecting only England - at least, that's how I understand his ideas; if I'm wrong, I suspect someone reading this might correct me on it!

In any case, it makes sense, really. MPs from Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland can vote on issues affecting their parts of the Union, and due in part to to devolution, English MPs cannot, so it seems only right and proper that those from non-English wards be barred from voting on issues that affect only England.

So, I'll ask again: What IS it about this issue that has Mr. Browns kilt over his head?

Is it possibly because he's no longer the PM, and can't set the agenda (in other words, if this is the case, then he's a sore loser), or that he just doesn't like Mr. Cameron (not unheard of)? Or is it something else less palatable (let's not go into the culinary delights of either side of the border!)?

Time will tell, I suppose, but in the interim, I would put it to Mr. Brown that it might just be that we, the English voters, know what we want for England, in the same way that Scottish voters know what they want for Scotland, and that maybe, just maybe, he should take the bloody hint, and keep his ruddy mitts of OUR damn country, and concentrate on the issues facing his, instead?

Thank you. I'll return you to the irregularly scheduled Blanting now ;-)

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Time to find a new team to follow :-(

With todays announcement that Wasps Rugby Football Club is set to move even furter away from London, from Adams park in Oxford to Coventry, it has finally nailed shut the notion that it's "London Wasps" for all time. As a result, and because I live within the M25 belt, and am a firm believer in supporting a team from London as I'm a Londoner, I am having to find another team to follow.

There have been ups and downs over the last couple of decades that I've followed Wasps. I've enjoyed them all, for the most part (even the losses), but the new ownership of the club, under Mr. Derek Richardson, appears to have completely ignored the wishes of the fans who have supported the club through thick and thin, and whose gate returns helped, in whatever small way, keep the club afloat. In any case, the management decided that they knew best for the club (and would appear to have decided, on the face of it, to capitalise on the name of the "brand"). Well, maybe they know best, and maybe they don't. But they certainly alienated this former fan, and I know for a fact that they've done the same or similar with many others. This has been commented on by others, too.

So, enough is enough, thus it's high time for me to return my attention and loyalty to a club based in London.

The London rugby scene has shown some of the best rugby I've seen - with the possible exception of Bath and a certain northern team who I shall not mention (even if crying into me beer when they regularly - almost annually - pounded the trys out of Wasps in the Heineken cup!) - so it's going to be a hard act to follow. Of the remaining London teams, London Irish play in Reading, so are disqualified (even though I travel over to the area regualrly); London Scottish, well, I'm English (and don't like Haggis, and no offence to any Scots reading this!); so, this leaves either Harlequins, or Saracens.

Both are good teams, and both have had problems over the years, Quins with the infamous "bloodgate" affair, and Saries with their nomadic grounds last year. Both have managed to put those issues behind them. And both have hammered Wasps one time or another over the years.

It's going to be a hard choice as to which one to follow....

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Time to wave a placard in the air and yell: "Male Rights now!"... or is it...?

BBC News - Liverpool hairdresser bans women from Barber Barber salon

I think it's high time that someone took a stand for modern male rights, and this barber would appear to be the first to do so.

For me, it's the utterly tunnel-visioned mania of the feminist movement that grates. Let's look at this objectively for a moment. Having been treated like second-class citizens for a massive percentage of recorded history, women quite obviously have a damn good basis for wanting equality, and requiring that both society as a whole, and the the law, respects and upholds this - I agree that wholeheartedly. However, the way that the feminist movement, and certain band-wagon politicians, seem to imply that men-only places are bad and evil is rank hypocrisy on their part.

There are an ever-increasing number of places such as shops, gyms, and clubs that prohibit men from even being on the premises - I'm not arguing this, there's obviously a demand for such from women. And yet they're screaming blue murder about there being places that prohibit women from being on the premises, such as, oh, shops, gyms, and clubs? Hmm. What does that smell like to you?

Let's face it squarely: Without question, there IS a case for mono-sex places and establishments: At the most basic need, seperate public toilet facilities are a perfect example. In the broader sense, though, a bit of common sense is desperately needed, so, wether a stunt or dead serious, this stance by mens barber is a perfect example of why we neeed places where only men are permitted.

Politically Correct? No. Not even close. But Perfectly Sensible? Definately.

Carry on, that man!