Monday, 21 December 2009

Seasons' greetings...

Well. Been a while (again). Seems to come in fits and starts, this blant.

Then again, I've been damnably busy over the last few months, so that might explain a few things. I'm back on the day shift again (currently on a batch of early shifts), and when I've not been working, I've been recovering (the new rota I'm on has a truly punishing set of shifts - I don't think I've been so busy in years), and when I've not been recovering at home, I've been over at my partners place, getting away from it all (and spoiling Achtung & Chunky something rotten - oh, and the better half as well, too! )

Anyhow, the photo. Right. More bleeping snow. And since it was raining when I got home this afternoon, I couldn't put the cover over the car, so at oh-my-****ing-god tomorrow morning, colour me pushing ****ing snow off the car. Again.

And since we're talking Silly Season antics, let's ask why the average Amateur Driver (those who are not in possession of a "vocational" driving licence, i.e. those who are not PSV or LGV drivers) find it impossible to follow Highway Code rule 223?

223

Buses, coaches and trams. Give priority to these vehicles when you can do so safely, especially when they signal to pull away from stops. Look out for people getting off a bus or tram and crossing the road.


This does NOT mean that when you're a hundred yards away, you should stand on the accelerator pedal and overtake come hell or high water, does it now? No. It means, boiled down, GIVE WAY to buses indicating that they wish to pull out from the kerb. Unless some moron is trying to crawl up your exhaust, you should slow down, and allow the bus to pull out. Who knows, you might even get a meaty thumbs up out the window from the grateful bus driver!

Be nice, folks. It's the Silly Season, after all

Oh, and how do I feel in the morning?

Well, some company's got it about right, I think...



It's actually an advert, designed to be part of the corrugated "hold the cup here" ring that they put blisteringly hot paper coffee cups into, so as to avoid coffee shop customers dropping the coffee and holding the palms of their hands in pain on receiving ninetieth degree burns first thing in the morning. Good idea, that company. And no, I'm not naming you - you don't pay me for advertising space

Oh, and on Achtung...

This is Achtung (NOT her actual name. She gets to have privacy too ). here, she appears to have charged her lasers... obviously not impressed that we weren't about to share our sausages with her. Again.

Friday, 9 October 2009

What the HELL is Brown thinking?!

OK, the Territorial Army...

Currently, the TA supplies a massive amount of its' troops to assist our Regular Forces in places like Afghanistan.

Now, to save money, the T.A. has been told by the Government to cease any and all training, which includes the regular weekday Drillhall evenings, monthly weekend exercises/training and, in fact, all normal T.A. training, for six months.

See this article...

They say this will save twenty million quid.

What they DO NOT SAY is that it'll destroy unit cohesion. It'll ruin standards of training - these days, many T.A. soldiers are undertaking things like NVQs, safety courses, required skillset update courses, and so on. It'll completely wreck such training, resulting in increased costs when the T.A. soldiers return to their training schedules in six months.

They have, of course, said that continuation training, when a T.A. soldier is called up to serve in, say, Afghanistan, will not be affected.

Frankly, that's highly likely to be bunkum as well: I have now completely lost faith in this government.

They've cut public services, while voting themselves fat increases in salaries (that's a matter of public record). They've screwed up our Armed Forces, Police Services, Fire Services, and healthcare, while apparently fiddling their expenses (it's in the papers, and where there's smoke, there is invariably fire as well).

They have, in short, wasted money themselves.

And now they want to cut the training of one of the most important areas of defence spending?!

Words fail me. Well, they don't, but if I put down here what I really think, I'll be done under section 5 of the Public Order Act!

God help serving T.A. soldiers - because this bloody government won't.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

It was THAT kind of shift, last night... (part two)...

OK... typing this up before I go to work tonight :)

So, there I was at our Friday night lunch stand (at 04:08 in the morning! Ye gods, I gotta find an easier and more sociable-hours usable way to earn a living!), when our nice friendly roadside controller comes up and says, "Sorry mate, I gotta nick yer bus, chummy's got a water leak, you'll get a sub" - he meant a substitute bus from the depot - "soon, OK?"

This, when for the first time in close to a fortnight, I actually had a bus whose cab heater worked as advertised, and pushed out warm air, not frozen air from the Siberian regions!

OK, so the bus wasn't exactly all systems go, the nice new shiny just-out-of-its'-wrapping iBus system on it was somewhat stuffed (it wasn't taking trip data, so no recorded bus stop location announcements for the punters to fall asleep by as they usually do), and the front route blind winding mechanism wasn't working properly (it only wound in one direction: naturally, this was not the desired direction!), meaning that I had to change from the day route number to my night route number by opening up the front route blinds cabinet from the upstairs saloon, and winding them by hand (laborious, that!), but forget that - the damn bus had a working cab heater!

And he wanted to nick it off me!

On a bloody freezing night just like it was last night!

Sometimes you just can't win.

So he got my bus.

Naturally, I muttered dark imprecations about the driver of the stuffed bus, the stuffed bus, the controller, engineers, et all. In my very best "Victor Meldrew" impression (from the telly series "One Foot In The Grave"), of course. Must retain some kind of sense of humour, or I'd wind up talking to myself, AND getting answers, too!

Anyhow, I wound up spending my break in a not-very-warm, and very drafty, staff room at the bus stand. Muttering dark imprecations about engineers, spit balls, baling wire, and chewing gum usage...

Hmm... I was talking to myself again, wasn't I?

Add to this the fact that my better half is off with a bunch of our friends this weekend, and partying hard without me, because I couldn't get the time off work (probably just as well, I don't dance, and I really don't do discos - they make my ears hurt!), and you might understand why I was a tad hacked off last night...

The kind of things speeding through my sorry excuse for a brain bucket (skull) at this point were similar to "I've had enough, I don't wanna play no more, gimme me ball back", and "Stop the world, I wanna get off!". You get the idea.

This somewhat less than ideally motivated attitude was inspired by previous incidents of this nature. Whenever you needed a sub bus, the bus the engineers would send out would be about one step away from being a candidate for the knackers yard... and specifically on a night shift, would likely as not have (1) no working cab heater, and (2) probably about as much acceleration ability as a slug, meaning that I'd not only be freezing my toes off, but would have to work my backside off to keep to time, even on an empty road.

So, imagine my shock and amazement when they sent not only a bus that had a working cab heater, but which was actually able to do nought to thirty in less than five hours!

Colour me not only impressed, but totally gob smacked! I sincerely took it all back about what I'd been muttering about engineers earlier (well, until next time, anyhow )

To even things out, it was all things back to normal when I got home a little while later. Once again, I'd failed to win the Euro Lottery jackpot. Hell, I hadn't even got any numbers whatsoever!

Oh... pooh. Back to work again tonight, then!

Friday, 4 September 2009

It was THAT kind of shift, last night...

It was the kind of shift where you find that Morons From The Planet Zog have replaced most of the human population (there's a good title for a comedy Sci-Fi movie - you saw it here first! ..um... the title, I mean, not the movie!).

The kind of shift that you only get when it's a full moon.

The kind on shift that makes you want to scream at the top of your lungs "Stop the world, I wanna get off!".

The kind of shift where said Morons From Zog all seem to want to moan and meander onto your bus (when you're already ten minutes late due to traffic), all spending (seemingly) hours searching for their passes in the most bizarre of places (no, their inside coat pockets would definitely be too easy a place to search first, naturally)...

The kind of shift where you ask someone not to drop the empty coke can on the floor lest it get stuck in the doors.

Yep. He did. of course, they jammed. I then had to spend five minutes unjamming the sodding things.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!

That kind of shift.

It's the kind of shift that had me about ready to pull my hair out in sodding great clumps (if I had any clumps, of course. A No 2 haircut knows no clumps!).

And to cap it all, I got back to the depot, to find that my car was covered in that horrid brown crap called dust that drifts over from the landfill site over the road. My car, that I cleaned not 48 hours earlier.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!

Yup. It WAS that kind of shift.

Stop the world, I wanna get off!

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Welcome to the Great British Summer!

As you might have noticed last night, it was ****ing down. Cats, dogs, frogs, rabbits, stair rods, you name it, the whole enchilada was coming down at one point...

Then, it decided to get a mite chilly. The kind of chilly that sends folks who've been drinking all evening a tad, how can we put this, wobbly. Not physically wobbly, you understand. Oh, no, that'd be far too easy. No, this is the wobbly in the head kind of wobbly.

The wobbly that makes brave men attack streetlamps for having one shining eye, and looking at them funny, requiring a slap or ten. That they don't notice that they've probably broken every bone in their fists doing that probably only occurs in the morning, once semi-sober.

It's the kind of wobbly that makes folks get on a bus with no pass, no money, and no idea of decent conduct. Who then insult the driver, as they're looking to get a free ride, and want no arguments or challenges about the fact that they're being complete muppits, criminals (it's technically fraud, that being "attempting to obtain pecuniary services by means of deception"), and, frankly, bloody boring drunkards.

THAT kind of wobbly.

It'd be nice if there were such a thing as a "Sober-Up-Instantly" pill. Better yet, it'd be nice if the Old Bill could come down hard on these gits (as a deterrent, you understand), like they used to be able to in the 60s and 70s ("Come 'er, son" *slap* "we wannaword wiv you" *knee in the groin* "OI! Stop upchucking on me shoes!")... oh, hang on... I'm reliably informed that only happened in "Life On Mars".

Oh... pooh :(

So, back to the initial topic... why the crap weather? Global Warming? Nope. Not in my book, or it'd be bloody hot and dry. I think someone, somewhere, needs to rethink what our climate's doing, and come up with a more accurate - and punchy - name for it.

WEBUG (Weather B*****ed)... that sound about right?

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Trials, Toasted arms, Trumpton, and Tattoos...

Well, Jury Service was... Long. Not that much I can add to it, really, mostly due to the restriction on what Jurors can say in public both before, during, and after, a trial. We spent the first week sitting around waiting to be called to form a Jury (being "Jurified" would seem to be a good word for that, wouldn't it?), and eventually got sent home early on the Friday - like most days that week, in fact.

The reason? Seems H.M. Court Service summonsed a few too many of us for that week - go figure. Well, I suppose that's better than not enough Jurors, on balance, but believe me, sitting on your backside doing stuff all is a right royal pain in the (appropriately) rear!

So, into week two, and it begins to look as if we're never going to see the inside of a Jury Box, when lo and behold, we're called to form a Jury Panel. A Jury Panel is fifteen people, of which twelve are selected at random by the Clerk of the Court, to serve as a Jury. I was number twelve - whoopee! I actually got to do something!

Regrettably, I can't do much more than that, due to the rules governing Jurors and what goes on in the Jury Room. Which is a hell of a shame, as it'd make for very interesting reading - the whole Judicial process appears to be covered in a fog-like substance, and while we may know, from the television (from things like "Cops With Cameras" and suchlike), how crooks are caught, it's the process of bringing them to court, and the trial process itself, that exists in a murky world of rumour, confusion, and not a little fear and ignorance, to the general public.

Maybe it's time the lid was lifted, at least a little, to provide a little more reassurance to Joe Public on the whole and complete Criminal Justice System?

Toasted Arms...

Well, following on from my fortnight in and around court, I managed to attend one of my Living History Groups' main events :-)

The "Military Mayhem" event is held in Faversham, Kent, around the middle of August. Now in its' second year, we've attended it for both years now, walking away with Best Static Display 2008, and now Best Living History Display 2009 - you may indeed colour us well and truly chuffed to the max :-)

However, to temper my chuffedness, I picked up the worst case of sunburn to my neck and arms that it's been my misfortune to suffer in many a year.

In the next week, I fully expect to look like the incredible snake man, shedding his skin, as my sunburn peels off

Trumpton playing with hoses again...!

There I was, thinking "Ah, a nice quiet Tuesday"...

Wrong!

From the moment I got to work, I realised that "quiet" wasn't going to describe this night...!

On getting to work, I found that the Fire Brigade (known reasonably affectionately to many as 'Trumpton' (see "Camberwick Green")), were in attendance over the road from our bus depot, at a landfill fire... Um... Uh-oh... Anyhow, to help them make a new urban swimming pool - I mean put the fire out - they'd draped their big bore fire hoses from the hydrant, across the road, to the landfill...

Which made getting on and out of the depot an exercise in care and attention, let me tell you - those hoses are BIG bumps in the road, and when you run over them with a twelve ton bus (even with the greatest of care), it makes for interesting facial expressions from the assembled players from Trumpton!

Chest Tattoos...

And then, to cap the start of a truly long shift, we had someone running around in the road, literally playing with the traffic. Now, I'm NOT one to make fun of the afflicted, but this poor sod definitely should not be out in the community: He was obviously not all there upstairs, and that he was running from vehicle to vehicle, in the middle of the road, trying to say God knows what to the various drivers, was not only sad, it was bloody dangerous.

Add to this that he was visibly physically disabled (serious limping due to a gammy right leg, and a visibly disabled right wrist), means that Social Services somewhere were (again) falling down on the job again - that lad needed constant supervisory care, not freedom to potentially commit suicide by car, for Gods' sake.

I'm just glad that I did not hear that Brixton got gridlocked by a pedestrian incident. His being found with "Pirelli" impact tattooed to his chest would have been a truly criminally preventable incident, to say the least.

Thank the stars the rest of the shift was quiet (if bloody long).

Oh, and Trumpton? Yup. They were still there when I logged off duty at 08:22 - they had a long night of it too, by the look of things!

Friday, 21 August 2009

Freeware Windows Mobile Satnav? Ummmmmmmmm... not quite, unfortunately :(

Well, it's a nice idea, but it's not *quite* here yet, unfortunately.

Recently, I became aware of something called the "OpenStreetMap" project, or "OSM". It's ambitious, and exceedingly well-intentioned. Using open source data, and a veritable army of volunteers across the globe, it aims to provide free GIS (Geographical Information System) data to all who want it. The look is a little like "google maps" in appearance, but that's pretty much, as I understand it, where the resemblance ends. Unlike Telemaps or other commercial mapping data providers, the data is not updated quarterly, but almost daily. The data is updated by the users themselves, and is thus based on first-hand knowledge of a given place.

To stop the nay-sayers in their tracks before they even hit that "comment" button below, I am well aware that such a system is well open to abuse, but as far as I know, this has not happened (yet). I would imagine that before that happens, there will be a few checks and balances instituted. We shall see, anyhow.

So, to get back to the SatNav theme... who's making use of this data?

By the look of it, a fair amount of folks.

And how about freeware turn-by-turn GPS-based satellite navigation applications for Windows-based mobile devices? Well, no, not yet - but that's not for want of trying by some, though.

NavIt utilises OSM data for off-line usage. The map for the UK and Northern Ireland, for example, downloaded from an extractor using OSM data, is around a hundred megabytes (100 Mb) - that's almost the same as the size of map that Navigon MN7 uses (yes, I checked!).

There are a few problems, though.

NavIt is not yet able to perform to any level of navigational capability on Windows Mobile platforms - the location search is not working yet, all roads are treated the same, as far as I can tell, in that there are no database annotation as to whether they're urban streets, motorways, or whatever, no speed limits, and configuration to specific phones means a fair amount of head scratching and brain overheating (if not burning) for those of us who are not exactly not technically- or programming- inclinedand so on. Now, you might think that I'm having a dig at the idea.

Not so.

The idea of a freeware product, utilising publicly-available data, is a blindingly outstanding one, that I'm all in favour of (especially so when you remember the rumour that every time my wallet opens, a new crop of moths emerges!).

However, as you can see from the above, there's a fair amount of work to be done - not surprising, given that it's a project done for free, and typically in these projects, while the end results may be blindingly good, they take a LOT of time to come to fruition - to say the very least!

Instead, the development team appears to be concentrating on the iPhone and Symbian platforms first. Hardly a surprise there, to be honest, most of the teams' developers appear to be more at home with Linux-based operating systems, and that's something of an antithesis of ideology for Windows-based proponents

Still, that they're working in semi-slow-time on the WinMob platform is promising, anyhow

So. Nice idea, not yet mature enough in the Windows Mobile environment for use in turn-by-turn satellite navigation...

But they're working on it

Watch this space

Monday, 17 August 2009

VERDICT: Navigon MN7 trial on HTC Touch Pro 2 WinMob 6.1 - FAIL.

So, there I am, on the way back from spending the weekend at my better half's place, and using the Navigon MN7 trial package to navigate back before I bin it to try NavMii... Yeah, I actually do know the way, but I *was* giving it the full trial period to give it it's fair crack of the whip...

Everything was going reasonably well, it'd actually taken my preferred route - M4 east to the A329M, the A322, M3, and M25, and then I noticed that I never refuelled after I got to my better half's place - and the car was close to empty! OOPS!

So, knowing there are a few fuelling stops near the various junctions of the M25, I came off the motorway at the very next junction (junction 8 (Reigate & Epsom), cancelled the route guidance, and consulted the petrol station POI in MN7. And found, luckily, that BP have a petrol station not a mile up the A217 at Lower Kingswood.

So, I dropped in there, stuck a much-needed twenty quid of unleaded in the car, and disappeared inside to pay for it - their coffee machine was broken, dammit - and reset the MN7 to get me home again from there.

And that's when the problems started again with MN7. It pointed me towards Banstead, and then petulantly locked up - and not knowing the area, I was carefully paying my fullest attention to the roads, listening for the audio prompts from the satnav - which I realised after one roundabout and a junction, weren't forthcoming. So, I found a safe place to stop, and checked the PDA.

Yep, The routing was locked up solid again - it did this twice on the way over to my better half's on Friday, but I'd attributed this to a mid-route pause while I got a take-away at the Bracknell KFC (this time they HAD chicken!) to get a bargain bucket, as requested (it's a veritable standing order for my Better Half - "You coming over tonight?" "Yup" "Bring us a bucket, willya?!"), and then it locked up again under a rather thick canopy of trees at a junction, which I attributed to a process fart as it tried to find satellites again.

This time the map was stuck a hundred yards past the petrol station I'd just left, and I didn't know why - still don't, as a matter of fact. Completely random, that lock-up, by the look of it. There was no interruption of route, and hardly any tree coverage over the road (dual carriageway). And would it shut down?

No chance. Believe me, I tried almost every method short of a soft reset.

So, one soft reset later, I had the damn thing running properly again.

And it bloody went and locked up twice more AGAIN within two miles of each lock-up.

By this time, as one might imagine, I was practically fit to be tied.

Luckily, I had found my way to Sutton, and knew my way home without the need for satnav, which is probably just as well, as I'd probably have launched it and my phone into orbit, I was that hacked off. I HATE being lost (my better half will attest to this!). I find it grossly embarrassing, annoying, and a waste of expensive petrol to boot. This is why I like having a working turn-by-turn satellite navigation package on my PDA/phone.

So, now that I've learned that I cannot trust this package when the chips are down, I've deleted Navigon MN7 from my PDA, and the control program (Navigon Fresh) from my PC as well. No more trials from them - I just cannot trust their software anymore, even in a free trial. You would expect them to have the thing stable, and ready for Windows mobile 6.1, but apparently not, which is a shame, as there ARE things to like about this otherwise excellent package.

"Excellent"? I hear you ask. Yep. Excellent. Its' routing - when it isn't locked up - is spot-on. The TTS (Text-to-Speech) function is damn good. Its' verbal guidance is spot-on, and lane guidance excellent. In all those respects, it gets full marks.

But then it goes and loses those points and more besides almost immediately, because it can't accept 3rd party POI files, it doesn't like mid-trip interruptions, pauses, or petrol stations, locking up each time because of those and other unexplainable reasons, and frankly, the mapping, while up to date, is - even on the WVGA screen on my Touch Pro 2 - too damn small to read in a glance. So there's a whole brace of reasons not to buy this otherwise excellent package.

Hell of a shame, that lot.

Navigon, you've got a shedload of work ahead of you to make this package reliable.

Oh well... NavMii should be interesting, when I get around to it...

Friday, 14 August 2009

Hmm... now the yanks are taking shots at the NHS...

This is a very long and involved Blant with rather heavy political overtones, so bear with me, please.

Check this BBC News article first...

So, some yanks don't like the idea of free healthcare for all, eh? Can't say I'm surprised. It is, after all, a socialist idea - and for any yanks reading this socialist does NOT mean communist, which while having some core ideas of a similar vein, are not, and never will be, the same - socialism accepts that there is a need for a free market - communism does not, and that's just for starters before you get your shorts in a knot!

Anyhow... chances are that I wouldn't be here but for the NHS. Without an NHS emergency paramedic and Ambulance response system, my heart attack a year and a half ago would probably have killed me. It was a sobering thought for me, and having bitched and barked about failings in the NHS for years before, made me sit up and think.

Yes, there are failings in the NHS. Decades of mismanagement, "market driven thinking" (what the hell?! what bloody market - the NHS is not a fee-driven system, it's a Public Service available to all!), and so on, have added layer upon layer of administrative and managerial levels on top of on another - and side by side to one another - that no-one truly knew who did what, how they did whatever it was they did, for whom, and for how much.

Even after some token restoration and reorganisations over the years, it still is in several areas, a bit of a mess, to say the least. And now we have "NHS Trusts", merging of responsibilities, closure of local A&E (yank translation: ER) facilities to super A&Es covering larger areas, that results in longer travel time, eating into the "Golder Hour" of treatment time, and other "initiatives" designed, at the end of the day, to cut costs.

I'm all for efficiency savings, but NOT at the cost of cutting the time it takes to get a patient from incident to A&E - the so-called "Golden Hour" is exactly that, and the patient who gets to A&E inside the golden hour is more likely to survive than one who doesn't. By the same token, the quicker you see specialist help inside that golden hour, the better your percentage of making a full and complete recovery.

This is why the NHS is funded, in large part, by National Insurance. Everyone is required to pay it, that's UK law, and very right and proper this is, too - everyone benefits from it. Over the years, I've paid National Insurance, which while theoretically paying for the NHS, only pays a portion of the monies required to keep it going. But it doesn't pay for it all. For that, there are annual funding additions in the Budget - what yanks would call "appropriations", which are needed to maintain the NHS as an effective healthcare provider.

Indeed, the NHS has been used to form other national healthcare systems, such as the French system - and you lot don't bleat on about the French being communists, do you?

Of course not. What decent self-respecting Red eats snails, for God sake?

But this is all getting away from the core issue: Money.

What some folks have missed is that the USA already has a form of national heathcare system. It's called the The Health Maintenance Organization system, or HMO system. This is an insurance-premium-funded healthcare system, that originated in the need for a national system of healthcare funded in the private sector in the USA. As a result, it's turned into a multi-billion dollar industry, and has fingers in pretty much every pie from genetic research into pharmacology, medical instrumentation, and so on. It's a damned powerful lobby in the USA.

But it's got a major failing built-in. Bean-counters ultimately control what level of care you receive, when you need that healthcare. If you don't have insurance, you don't get healthcare. If your insurance has a certain limit to it's financial value, and your required healthcare would go over this value, you won't get that needed healthcare.

What the yanks need is a form of NHS - and that's where the doctrinal and financial arguments have collided over there.

For a land with political masters that quote the Bible so frequently, and which bleats on about free trade all the time, I think it's quite ironic that we're seeing a country that's trying to serve two masters: God, and Mammon. Here's a reminder to all you yanks out there: There's a lesson in the Good Book that says that you cannot serve two masters. Go ahead, look it up (It's Matthew 6:24, by the way).

Personally, I think the Yanks have lost the plot somewhat when it comes to nationwide healthcare.

Do they want to Bible-thump, or Billfold-thump? They cannot have it both ways, after all: They have to choose one or the other, not both.

So, when it comes to a national healthcare system, their choices are initially simple: Either they adopt a mandatory tax-funded NHS-style system modelled somewhat on ours, and put thousands in the insurance industry out of work (in a recession, no less), or they leave the system as-is, and condemn thousands of their own citizens to a continuing lack of decent and affordable healthcare.

Of course, they could merge the two ideas into one, but good Lord, what a mess that would be - and it's make the NHS's admin/management mess look like a storm in a teacup, but at least everyone'd get a chance at having a healthcare system that was actually worthy of a great nation...

However you look at it, frankly there is no easy solution: you pays yer money and takes yer choice.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Juries, GPS, and General Updates...

It's gonna be a fairly quiet fortnight on the Blant... I'm in court for a fortnight.

No, I've not tattooed the word "Dunlop" on someone's midriff or anything like that (though one does get sorely tempted from time to time what with all the muppits one sees on the roads these days)... no, instead, I'm doing penance - I mean Jury Service - for a fortnight.

Now, I'm not allowed to give or discuss details regarding any case(s) I might sit on as a juror, so I'm sorry to say that it's gonna be a fairly quiet fortnight on the Blant.

However, if I do spot anything worth sticking up on here, be assured: It'll go on fairly quickly :)

GPS issues...

The GPS on my phone went a little skew-whiff the other day. Dunno why, it just would not lock onto the satellites. Result? No SatNav worth a damn.

So, I went hunting for a diagnostic tool that I could use to try to figure out what the hell was happening. Found one, too - GPS Test, which, strangely, appears to have solved the problem, though God alone knows how - all I did was load the software onto the phone, and presto, all of a sudden I was getting proper GPS performance again.

Go figure!

General Updates...

On a related note, HTC recently (in the last week or so) issued updates to the Touch Pro 2's ROM - the firmware on the phone - for SMS numbers to use the mobile international direct dialling prefix of "+" in IDD numbers (e.g. landlines use "0044" for the UKs' IDD, Mobiles/Cellphones use "+44" instead). In addition they also released a "radios" update to allow better GPS performance. Then they released a full ROM update as well.

Apparently, none of these work altogether as intended for a fair number of TP2 users. I certainly couldn't get the GPS update to work - and found out that one needs to use a specific piece of third-party software to generate what's called a "Gold Card" specific to my phone, before I could update the firmware.

Interestingly, my phone is quite happy with Mobile format IDDs, and aside from the hiccup last week, the GPS on my phone seems to be working alright too.

I've not even tried to upload the full ROM update yet - apparently that results in erratic performance issues for some users, according to what I've seen over on the XDA-Developers forums...

And now, it appears that HTC have withdrawn the Radios/GPS ROM update...

As the saying goes, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it...!"

Friday, 7 August 2009

First impressions of Navigon MN7 trial...

OK, initial impressions now that I've got it installed and working on my TP2 PPC/Phone...

The maps, both 2D and 3D, do not zoom into what I call a nice large size- this is not good for at-a-glance usage.

Routing is patchy, but then from what I've seen, most satnav routing has good and bad days. The better packages have less bad days than good ones, of course.

Navigation, both visual (map based) and verbal (spoken routing instructions) is damned good. Best I've seen so far. I'm particularly impressed with the "text-to-speech" or "TTS" feature, although is does tend to bite off the beginnings of road names more often than not. Still, the turn indications are spot on - and it not only coped with the previously spotted failures of CoPilot, but added lane guidance as well for the same stretch of road - VERY impressive!

However.

I'm not sure it'll be able to handle the speed camera database I subscribe to over at PGPSW - there seems to be some confusion over that, and I'm awaiting clarification from a number of sources on this issue.

So the deal breaker is this: If it cannot handle the PGPSW speed camera files, then I won't be carrying on the trial of MN7, as excellent features and performance thus far or not, it'll be no use to me.

More when I know it.

UPDATE

Looks like my trial of MN7 is due to come to nothing, as I'm unlikely to buy it, even if it's a favourable trial. From what I've been able to piece together, MN7 can see speed camera files, but only if you subscribe to Navigon's own service. Since I already subscribe to Pocket GPS World's more effective and informative service, that's not only an expense I won't take, it's an added expense I don't need from Navigon. In addition, while yes, you can fudge it to take the PGPSW files, you apparently need a third party add-on called (confusingly) POI-Warner marketed by navigating.de in order to do this.

Now, remember that the specs I set for the replacement SatNav package included the ability to accept the PGPSW files, this inability to accept the PGPSW cam files off the shelf is a BIG deal-breaker as far as I'm concerned. Pity, as (aside from the map zoom issue mentioned earlier) the rest of that package is the dogs' smelly bits, as far as I can see.

Oh well.

Looks like an email to NavMii for a trial activation key is on the cards. Would happen over the blasted weekend, wouldn't it?

That's Sods' Law, I suppose *sigh*

Arrrrrr, matey!

Welcome to aquabus, rivers forded, oceans sailed, scourge of the Seven Sisters and Whitehall Main! Aaaaaaar, matey, shiver me timbers an' splice me mainbrace, I'll have kippers for breakfast!

Ahem. Getting a tad carried away there, but ye gods, it was a trifle damp tonight. Damp? Scratch that... I wasn't driving a bus, I was sailing a bloody submarine most of the first round!

The photo is of the southern bus stand on the route. Note the reflections on the ground of the turning circle - yep, it's completely submerged! Heck, the water only just failed to come over the edge of the platform as I floated over it!

Glub, glub, where's me aqualungs?!

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

There's gotta be a better way of doing this...

Navigon's the next package I'm testing...

But there's naturally a hiccup. The file you download from their website is a zip style archive, which contains the package files and executables. You then transfer these directly into a storage card. However, as there isn't a CAB (installation) file, there's no automatic installation of the software into your pocket PC. So, here's the burning question of the moment... and I can't see it in the FAQs over on the Navigon site either...

How the heck do you run Navigon Navigator 7 once you've copied all the runtime files onto your storage card - it doesn't have a dedicated CAB file, and thus doesn't get assimilated into the WinMob device registry, and thus doesn't appear in the program listings?!

Are they seriously telling me that I have to run File Explorer, go to the Navigon folder on my storage card, and find and run the main program executable file in there, EVERY time I want to run the software package on my TP2?

Either they're having a laugh, or this is gonna be one of the shortest trial runs in history...

On problems, here's another...

I would be looking at Nav N Go iGO 8 Europe, but there's a problem... of course.

The problem with iGo8 is the limitation on the card used to run the package - 2 gig non-transferable. In these days of increased storage capacity, that's a pretty feeble attempt at Corporate Humour.

OK, so limiting the card size helps them prevent software piracy, I can follow the logic - they issue the card themselves, and can thus make sure that the package looks to particular places on the card for particular run-time files, libraries, and maps, for example... Common sense there. Copying the card will change the address on the card of those files, and thus render the software useless. No arguments there, but hells bells, surely they could figure out a safe way to allow users to migrate the package onto a larger size storage card for ease of use with other data as well?

That's the ONE sticking point I have with iGo8 - the card. Not the package - the reviews I've seen look excellent. It's the storage limitation. Without a satnav package on it, the 16 gig card I currently use is already pushing 4 gigs of saved data, from MP3s to video files, documents of one form or another, imagery (photos and diagrams) and so on. Adding a satnav package to THAT card makes sense - I don't wanna be forever changing out cards willy-nilly.

THAT'S the limiting factor, and thus the deal breaker as far as iGo8 and my hard-earned cash is concerned.

This leaves NavMii... and this is possibly the best option, to be frank. It's brand new on the market, although it's backed by a firm that's been working (subcontracting, in effect) in the satnav solutions field for many moons for other companies. It's still teething, ironing out the bugs, and so on, but it's integrated with the best safety camera file set out there - pocket GPS World's weekly-updated subscription service - and it works. There is, though, no trial version, darn it...

So I'm back to Navigon's laughably farcicle method of running the software.

There HAS to be a better way to do things, surely?!

Six Hours later...

AHA! Navigon does, it appears, have a CAB file... just took forever for my TP2 to "see" it, which it only just did, some six hours after I installed the software

Friday, 31 July 2009

The penultimate pith taking by Orange...

OK, new phone, new provider, new contract. And Orange are still taking the pith. Be warned: Requesting a PAC (Port Authority Code) from these muppits is like getting blood from a stone. Oh, they'll give it to you, but NOT on the phone. They WANT their extra pound of flesh. They'll send it to you by mail instead.

That's a marked difference to one2one, when I left them close to twelve years back, one call to their customer service department, on their phone, and I had a PAC to give to Orange the day I signed with them. No fuss, no problems.

Orange, on the other hand, refuse to do this. Oh, yeah, I know the regs are there from OFCOM to provide us number "portability", but Orange know the rules better than thee or me, and get around them by sending the PAC by mail.

Vodafone are under no obligation to accept a PAC after you've signed the contract with them, and this was made clear to me at the point of purchase, so there y'go. I could have delayed, but frankly I've had more than enough of Oranges stuff and nonsense (VERY polite way of putting it, lemme tell you), and just want the hell shot of them.

And I'm now at part one of "Operation Launch Orange Into Space". Part two will be replacing their broadband service with a more cost-effective (and cheaper) alternative, and for that, I'm gonna be doing a LOT of research over the coming weeks.

Parts three, four, and five will comprise replacing the broadband, and paying the final bills to orange, after which, you may well and truly colour Orange as greyed out.

I've been trying to compose a pithy end to this Blant, but really and truly, can't find one. Pity. Oh well. Obviously too early in the day - I mean night - for me. Oh well, breakfast calling...

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

It's shaping up to be one of those nights...

I'm writing this one on my nice shiny new toy, while I'm on the stand in my layover. Makes a pleasant change to be doing something other than staring into space at 01:40 am!

This evening got off to a wonderful start... First the heavens let go. Cats, dogs, stairs, bannisters, etc. etc. Makes for wonderful driving, lemme tell you.

Especially if you drive a bleedin' great bus... Everyone and their son then seems to leave their brains behind at home, and carves up every other road user they can find - especially if it's a big red thing designed to carry lots of people, like, oh, a bus.

One of these brainless twits, apparently having decided that letting folks know what he intended to do was a burdensome trouble, stopped in the middle of the road (at least two feet from the kerb), and waited to let someone get in - it was a minicab, of course. Now, when I was driving a minicab (close to seven years ago now), I never would have done that - not only is it inconsiderate to other road users, it is also asking to have someone less alert crash into the back of the car. Even more so if one doesn't indicate - let me remind some of you - telepathy only works when BOTH brains are working!

Anyhow, later on, I then had a rather dumb passenger and his two mates get on at a major South London route nexus (Where many routes cross paths); chummy thought it a great wheeze to play pass-the-pass.

Problem was that not only was he calling "take it! Take it!" to his mate behind him in a loud voice (What, they think I'm deaf?), but I could also see what was going on too (hmm... I must be blind too). Needless to say, the ticket machine bleeped twice and came up "Attempted Passback".

I pointed out that (a) I knew what he'd tried to do, (b) he was going to have to pay a cash fare to travel, and (c) had there been a Revenue Protection Officer on board, they'd most likely be in a spot of rather serious bother.

Anyhow, he didn't say a thing, just stumped up the two quid required, and naffed off to find his mate, who'd left him there to sink or swim. Nice having mates like that!

Then, I get a refugee from a Jamaican road movie, playing his harmonica at full tilt - thankfully he wasn't one of those beggars we occasionally see on the buses, and his playing was at least competent (in tune!), but his singing... Well to be charitable, it didn't break any windows, but then he couldn't pitch his voice high enough!

(Photo taken while killing time halted (service brake on) at a bus stop... sometimes, the scheduling gives a little too much time...!)

Then he got into a heated argument with another passenger upstairs... I thought I'd cornered the market in four-letter non-repetitive speeches, but ye gods, I'm glad the paint didn't peel!

Like I said. It's one of those shifts, and I'm only a third the way through!

Ye gods!

EDIT...

Later on, we had another fool on the road... this time, a regular. Seeing as I was for once this night empty of passengers, I took a minute to very briefly park the bus, stuck the hazard lights on, and took this photo. Note the blind bent to the right. To get past this idiot, one has to obviously cross onto the wrong side of the road. If someone's hammering it the other way, there's no way in hell they'll stop in time: Even at thirty, it'll be even odds if two vehicles can stop in time - especially in wet or damp conditions.

Wonder if he'll get a ticket, a summons, or just be ignored like so many other road offenders, when the accident he causes happens?

Monday, 27 July 2009

long wet tongues and mis-directions...

OK, got back home this morning from a long weekend away with the better half :) Damn, I needed that :) So did the dogs, when they saw me - they went somewhat nutso :) Especially Chunky, although she did wake me no less than five times on Sunday morning, presumably checking that I was still there, or that she was pleased to see me, or something like that... but at "oh-my-bleeping-god-not-again-in-the-morning!" one tends not to ask these questions, one merely buries ones head beneath the pillow! ... especially when you're having a cold nose thrust in your face immediately followed by a rasping seemingly ten yard long tongue haul across your face... when you aren't expecting this, it is a little... disconcerting... to say the least!

Anyhow, coming home again I used the trial version of CoPilot 7 that I'm trying out.

Having driven down about half the English side of the M4 into London, while I had no major issues with the actual route it supplied, there's a serious problem with the route information and safety Camera handling, to say the least.

I won't mention the roads I came down, but at two major traffic-lit junctions, it failed to give proper voice directions, and the visual confirmation on the screen merely showed the road apparently continuing to either left or right, taking no account of the fact that there was a junction. Luckily I knew the route it was taking me along, so no harm was don, but in an area that I didn't know, this could be potentially dangerous. This can be directly attributed to the fact that while the route follows a major "A" route, road names change: I'm assuming that the "A" route takes precedence over the road names, or even junctions - that's a very poor method of navigation, frankly - I expect to be told "turn left" or "take the (number) exit" and so on, from modern satellite navigation software. I don't expect the damn thing to try to stuff me on several major junctions, frankly.

In addition, it didn't report a "Monitron" safety camera on one road, and in several cases over the weekend away, I've noticed it reporting "caution safety camera" five times for the same camera - most annoying.

Now, remembering that this is on the trial version, I should add that I'm vastly impressed with the quality of the mapping, and clearness of the display: However, I'm not so impressed with the rest of it. I'll give it the full two weeks test to be fair, but I can't see me buying this - there are too many capability issues with it, which is odd, as it's been well reviewed and praised in the magazines and web sites that I've seen.

Maybe I'm expecting too much, but at the very least, I expect the latest generation of SatNav software to at least be able to match what TomTom put out THREE YEARS ago, in TT version 6.

really, that's not too much to ask for in TomTom's competitors, is it?

Friday, 24 July 2009

Testing times... a first look at ALKs CoPilot v 7 Trialware...

I'm trying out new software on the new phone now...

The main thing I'll use on the move (aside form the internet, and I'm doing that now via Opera Mobile from my partners' home this weekend) will be satnav software, of course. Since I got cheesed off by TomTom's total ignorance of it's long-term customer base, I've been looking for other products to go with whatever new PDA/phone I got. Now that I have the phone, it's time to try the software!

I'm ditching TomTom, for the reasons noted in previous Blant entries, main amongst these being a complete and utter lack of map updates - and software updates come to that - for PPC users, which has had a telling rebound effect for TomTom. To be blunt, TomTom (and this is the polite version) hacked off their formerly loyal PDA/PPC customer base, by ignoring them and concentrating on PND users instead, causing a large number of these former TT v6 customers to go to other manufacturers and products.

The upshot was that up until TT v7 was released this year (and which is STILL an obselete product as TomTom PNDs have been issued with v8 for almost a year now), the others had time to improve their products and get an edge into TT's virtual PDA/PPC satnav monopoly.

So, first on test is the free trial version of ALK's CoPilot version 7, one of TomTom's main rivals now that Navman have left the PDA/PPC satnav scene.

Initial downloading and installation of CoPilot was excellent; Downloading was straight-forward, with the software downloaded right off ALKs free trial page, and the maps from a page notified by immediate e-mail. Both the downloadable files (program and map files) came down the pipe and were transferred to the Touch Pro 2 via ActiveSync without a hitch; Installation was easy, but it was immediately after this that the problems started.

Once I'd accesed the intitial configuration files, I then tried to get CoPilot to accept my old TomTom v6 'OV2' Point Of Interest files, as ALK advertised that CoPilot could handle them. Well, it may well do, but certainly the evaluation copy that I'm using had major problems - I'm not convinced that "operator error" was the cause, as the software crashed each time I tried to import the Pocket GPS World OV2 camera files.

I eventually gave up, and downloaded the native CoPilot formatted CSV files instead. This went swimmingly, of course.

I found the menus in CoPilot to be reasonably intuitive and easy to use. I found, though, that the handling of "Safety Cameras" was a tad disappointing, when compared to TomTom: you don't get the option to have dedicated icons for the various types of cameras and speeds - for example, it doesn't differentiate between red light, Gatso, or even SPECS cameras. Likewise, you can't get dedicated warning icons for the various types of cameras. This is where TomTom definately scores over CoPilot.

Where ALK's CoPilot scores hand over fist over TomTom, is in the way it handles the Touch Pro 2 PPC's increased WVGA screen real estate (800 x 480 in portrait mode, as I await a Brodid clip car mount for the new phone) with ease - not once did I get any pixilation, pauses, hangs or video trouble - it was smooth and seamless, just the way it should be.

I did have one major problem, though.

The software got caught in one of those many and small GPS black spots you tend to find dotted around the place. TomTom handled these well, it just paused until it got a signal again, recalculated your position, and carried on.

CoPilot though, suffered a major hissy fit. On LOS (Loss Of Signal), it paused alright, and despite getting a valid RAS (Re-Aquisition of Signal) a few seconds later, petulantly refused to acknowledge this, remaining paused. Luckily for me, this happened in Bracknell at a place I know reaponably well enough not to have to use SatNav to drive through, and just as I was about to nip into the KFC (they HAD chicken this time!) for my better half. I was avble to stop the car in a safe place (the KFC car park, actually!), shut down the paused CoPilot, and re-start it, in order for the software to relise that yes, there was indeed a valid GPS signal coming in.

I had been half-expecting this problem, to be honest - it's been noted by others on various forums over the last few months. ALK need to look into this rather quickly - if it happens on, say, a motorway, where you're unfamiliar with the area, and cannot safely re-start CoPilot, you could find yourself with a very annoying and costly missed turn. NOT what one wants from bleeding edge technology, of course.

So, all things balanced out thus far, if TomTom v6 is graded at, say 7 (lack of maps is a big problem), then while CoPilot should get a 9, it also gets a 7, due to the LOS/RAS issue.

We'll see how it behaves for the rest of the 14 days of the 15 day trial period...

Watch this space :)

Helpful Customer Service - what a change!

Just got off the phone with Vodafone Customer Services - what a pleasure it was to actually speak to someone in this country in IT (Information Technology) who KNOWS what they're on about, rather than bluffing it or reading from a script!

I had to get my phone's SIM card enabled to allow access to "t'infernalnut" (as a mate up north once called it!). Phoned Vodafone at 0830 (right smack dab on opening hours, no less!), and got a lad named "Jake". Wondeful lad, asked how I was finding the phone ("turn left at London!") as he was considering getting one - aside from the technical whoopsie I had last night (read below), no problems, aside from getting the net on the phone. So, he guided me, step by step, through the process, including the wap and two different sets of mms settings et al, until it was all sorted - excellent work, that man - much appreciated :)

And WHAT a difference in attitude from Orange, who couldn't care less, from my last phone call to them when I cancelled my Orange contract, not even a plaintive "what can we do to keep you" was uttered, let me tell you. Frankly, I'm rather glad to be shot of orange - and back to Vodafone, who I recall from the dim and distant past (like, 1993 or so) were my first mobile phone service provider!

They were originally binned for being much too expensive (I eventually went to one2one back in 1997 - remember them? They're called T-Mobile now!), then to Orange (before the French take over they were good, then it all went downhill!), and now back to Vodafone...

Small world, innit? ;)

A new toy, a suborbital orbital teddy bear, and a EUREKA! moment...

Well, change day for my mobile phone is now here :)

Having a spare day to do whatever I wanted, I went out and told orange to shove it, and went over to Vodafone instead, purely on reasons of coverage, data, and cost. That and the nice shiny new HTC Touch Pro 2 that was on offer too :)

Then, of course, I got stuck in a God-awful snarl-up on the roads. Someone must have had one hell of a fender-bender or something, took me ages to drive home. Anyhow, I eventually got home, and unboxed all the goodies, loading the new version of ActiveSync into the CD drive, and installed it onto my PC. And that's when things started to go pear shaped, writ large :(

Before I got this new toy, I was using ActiveSync 4.2 with my HP iPAQ hw6915 with no trouble at all: That worked like a dream.

I spent about two hours tonight, getting more and more hacked off - and that's putting it exceedingly mildly... those who know me will readily translate that as turning the air blue, sending my dummy (American: Pacifier) through the nearest Oak tree, and my teddy bear into low earth orbit, and then some ;)

The problem surrounded getting the PC, running Windows XP (SP3, yes, it's fully up to date with all patches and so on), to recognise and play with my new toy. Now, while it happily did this for my iPAQ, it steadfastly refused to do it for the Touch Pro 2. I thought that this was something to do with the new version of ActiveSync, but no, it wasn't. Wish I'd known about this BEFORE I'd started... ho hum...

Before finding the solution, I'd tried messing around in the hardware manager, reloading the drivers, unloading and reloading ActiveSync 4.5, the whole nine blasted yards, and at the two hour point, I was pretty much ready to launch the bloody planet into the sun, let alone all the high-tech stuff on my desk!

But then, in a moment of weakness, I actually looked at the ActiveSync help files... and had a EUREKA! moment!

I'd FINALLY found the solution. Buried beneath the HTC TouchFLOtm interface on the TP2 screens is the actual windows mobile 6.1 operating interface. It's a right sneaky wotsit to find (well, I thought it was, anyhow), but find it I did. Combined with the information from the help files, it did the job :)

Here's the process:

Start -> settings (cog icon) -> ALL SETTINGS (bottom left of screen) -> Connections (tab, bottom right) -> USB to PC

You will now see a radio button "ActiveSync (Sync with outlook) - leave that clicked.

There's a check box immediately beneath - "Enable faster data synchronisation" - UNCHECK THIS.

You will find the Touch Pro 2 will now communicate with XP :)

Ye gods, it was a right bugger to figure out - couldn't find anything online, only stumbled on this by chance!

Hope this helps new TP2 owners like me, anyhow :)

Next up... phone Vodafone customer services tomorrow morning and find out why my unlimited internet hasn't been activated yet...

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Bikes, bumps, and a burn-up...

Another pedicab (a.k.a. another traffic hazard) caught my eye last night. Note the lack of lighting (hours of darkness, around 2am in Central London off a busy Oxford Street on Saturday Night). It's also parked up illegally on not one but two crossing points, this being the corner of a traffic lit junction. If a car parked there, it'd be lifted rather rapidly by Westminster... yet this gormless candidate from the Darwin School of Parking seems to have got away with it.

I'll say it until I'm blue on the face, most likely, but the riders of these things are dangerous. They do NOT obey the rules of the road, and they appear to have no regard for others on either the road or the pavement. Their machines do not meet even the bare minimum of regulations for road-going conveyances - hells bells, they don't even have red reflectors, let alone lights, and they weave in and out of traffic with wild abandon, whether they have paying passengers or not. When the hell will someone actually DO something about these morons?

Next up... bump!

The owner of the somewhat wrecked vehicle behind the Police car obviously watched too much Dukes of Hazard as a kid... he tried to impact weld the post he hit to his engines' piston block! Messy!

I was a bit luckier than my colleagues following me a few minutes later, mind... shortly after I passed the scene, a broadcast over my two-way radio informed me that the road had closed "for a short hold" to allow for recovery of the wreck. "Short hold" in this case meant, I was later told, forty-five minutes of waiting for a recovery truck driver to meander all over the place trying to get a good angle from which to lower his stingray lift flat bed recovery truck, attach a cable, and drag the thing onto the back of his flat bed - oops!

And lastly this time around... a burn-up :)

I've been trying to get a decent photo of this guy for ages :) Finally got a half decent shot this time :) he's shown great initiate in setting up his BBQ set opposite a night club in south London, but unluckily for this lad, it was not only cold, but a tad damp last night, which reduced, rather dramatically, the amount of potential customers he could serve!

He did, however, have a full rack of (presumably) chicken on the go when I passed him at five a.m. this morning morning, though - being a little blocked of nose, I couldn't smell it - which may or may not have been a good thing ;-)

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Leaving Orange... part three...

I've had a LOT of problems with Orange in the past while I was in contract, and I've been looking to leave them (at least, their mobile service, anyhow). The complication has always been the provision of their home broadband service as part of the last contract... so... having seen the blurb for the TG01, and thinking "ok, so I'm with Orange, so it might count for something, even if I'm out of contract now, so let's see what Orange can do"...

Note that I'm well out of contract lock from their Canary 30 calling package (with no data plan). This was the plan I signed up to when I got their broadband service a couple of years back; I also pay a notional fiver a month for their "unlimited" home broadband service. On the phone to their helpful young lady at orange Broadband, it turns out that if I leave orange Mobile, the fiver will rise to a score (twenty quid) a month.

That's an extra £15 a month for what I'm using!

OUCH Part one

I was then on the phone for something like 20 minutes to a fairly helpful (for a change I got an intelligent human there as well - I must've been on a roll!) bloke at Orange Mobile Retentions, to see what kind of deal they could do me on the latest gadget to hit the shelves, the Toshiba TG01, one heck of a powerful Windows Mobile PDA/Phone (details over on GSMArena)

However, despite looking at every dodge, from reduced calling plans, increased calling plans, length of contracts, and so on, the best they could offer was two years (24 months) at 50 quid a month including 1 gig of data allocation (that's a tenner a month) and a one-off charge of 100 quid for the Toshiba TG01 handset itself.

With the insurance, the Canary 30's costing me roughly £35 a month. They'd be asking an extra £15 to twenty (if you add in the Orange Car Insurance) a month.

OUCH part two

I think it's time to (1) revert to my original idea of a lesser phone (HTC Touch Pro 2 or Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 come immediately to mind) and (2) look at another service provider (T-Mobile comes to mind on data/phones alone) ...

Although getting all the figures to balance out on what the yanks call a "revenue neutral" model is gonna be... challenging...

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Silent Callers (Part Deux)

I am now really really really ****** off with these morons. You would think that someone would pay attention to the Telephone preference Service.

I've been using "Who Called Me" to find out the details of these idiots who call when either I'm trying to sleep, or when I'm out, and who don't leave a message or hang up on answering their damned calls. It's an excellent resource, and I commend it to you. Here're the logs from others who are getting the same as I am from this one damned number... "Who called me" website details.

It appears that BT think that they're immune from the silent calls regulations. While I investigate how to disabuse them of this notion, I've now also registered with "SilentCall-Gard". Let's hope this works where TPS have failed.

I really am getting rather bloody tired of this.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Round and round the merry-go-round ;)

*sigh*

It was one of those shifts again, last night!

First off, Parliament Square. They're resurfacing and adding what appears to be Shell SureGrip to the road surface as well. As a result, they'd closed off lanes in all directions, on all approaches.

The traffic was, as you'd expect, even in very late evening, a bloody nightmare.

It took fifteen minutes to crawl round Parliament Square northbound, to find that the Whitehall exit was closed off.

Joy.

Instead, we had to go along Bridge Street, turn onto Embankment, and then up Horseguards Avenue and onto Whitehall instead. Anyone who's driven that rout in heavy traffic will tell you: It adds another ten to twenty minutes onto your journey. Include the 15 minutes around the merry-go-round that was parliament Square, and you'll get the correct impression that I was well late.

So, it was into the stand in central London, spin the blinds, scribble madly onto the log card, check the bus for sleepers (more later), and off we go again.

South bound was a tad better - the traffic was moving more quickly, and the delays were manageable, meaning I only had to toe it for half the trip, not the remainder of the trip. Still, it kept the punters happy, as I wasn't having to "drag the road" and crawl along at 20-25mph for a change :)

Mid-duty, and getting to the southern end of the route for my meal (supposedly lunch, this at four in the morning!) break, the heavens decided to open up. Writ large.

One solid ten minute deluge of stair rods, cats, dogs, and any other notional live creatures dropped from altitude (yeuch, what a messy thought!) later, the road was as slick as, well, you supply the simile ;)

Just as well it was a Thursday night in the outer suburbs - the roads were extremely empty, helped me to keep to time at the reduced speed due to the slightly slippery road surface :)

Then, later, we got the last trip down south... and a sleeper, who really needed to be charged room and maybe even half board...? You decide if he needed to pay £48 for the bed *evil grin* - the photo was taken off the CCTV monitor - I've sanitised it to cover his face and preserve his anonymity (ain't I nice, lol), but damn, I was chuckling at the cheeky wotsit.

Then I realised that I'd probably have to wake to poor sod up at the other end, and my grin faded. Nothing worse that being the last bus south, and a punter waking up to find that he'd have to catch three more buses to get home after falling asleep. They tend to vary in reaction on that news, some good, some bad, most grumbling like you just ate their last Rolo or something.

Not this one, though :)

He actually woke up for his stop, and got off all on his own!

Nice one, guv! Hope the crick in the neck wears off!

Monday, 29 June 2009

Um... stating the bleeding obvious?


This had me guffawing loudly. Probably made the passengers wonder if I'd completely lost the plot, but what the hell :)

If you're the driver of it, yep, I was the guy with the flashing camera at the lights, in the bus ;) Thanks for giving me a much needed belly-laugh :)

PS - it's me birthday today :) Happy Birthday to me :) I'm on (for the first time in what, six years on the buses, is it?) two days off over my Birthday, so whoopee :) No work tonight!! OK, so I had to work last night, into my Birthday, so there's one of the reasons for the much-needed belly laugh above :)

PPS - this is an anniversary posting in more ways than one - I just noticed that this is the Hundredth Blant on here :)

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Megablant: Pink, Pedicabs, and Parking....

First off, one for my better half :) Who, oddly enough, has an apparent fixation for the colour Hot Pink ;)

This one's for you :)

Enjoy :)

Next up... pedicabs... one of the current plagues on Central Londons' Streets...

These are pedicabs. Note there are no licence plates, registration numbers, or even mirrors. They're also blocking the road.

This is typical behaviour for these immigrant machines from the Orient, and frankly such behaviour is a right pain. Additionally, the Riders apparently have no need of any for of drivers' licence, and from what I've heard, do not even have to undergo a Criminal Record Background (CRB) check.

For those of us who (1) have worked hard to earn their Driving Licences, (2) are REQUIRED to follow the rules of the road, (3) have to undergo CRB checks to get our licences, and (4) get prosecuted if we park like those pedicabs, it's a complete and total insult.

Hells bells, estimates by Westminster Council even put the numbers of these things that have been illegally modified (illegally modified meaning that a battery-powered motor is installed to add speed, making it a POWERED road-going machine, or electo-car, in other words) at close to 80 percent of the total number on the streets. Add to this that the multi-seat bikes they use have no requirement for any form of regular MoT inspection in order to remain on the road, or even to show fitness for purpose, and you begin to see the scale of the problem. Something MUST be done to keep the public safe from these maniacs, who weave in and out of traffic - regularly - WITH passengers on board, with no form of protection for their paying customers - not even cycle helmets.

And TfL are apparently doing NOTHING?! Yes, there was a consultation exercise on this - in 2006 - THREE YEARS AGO.

There are regular rumours of these maniacs being eventually licenced, but after well over three years of these potential death traps being on Central London's roads, there's no concrete sign that the Authorities are actually doing something about it, and that's a bloody disgrace.

There's more on this that I could add, but I'm gonna keep this Blant printable.

Next up... Parking. Specifically, illegal parking.

This is Haymarket, in Central London, looking south. Forget that it's a bus lane, for a moment. Look as the road markings, and the TRAFFIC LIGHTS.

The Mincabs are always parking here, and it's bloody dangerous, to say the very least, as they force us to move into the right hand lanes smack dab after a blind right-angle corner from Piccadilly.

It is illegal to park on top of traffic light junctions, and the Highway Code makes this abundantly clear - Rule 250 applies...

250

Cars, goods vehicles not exceeding 1525 kg unladen weight, invalid carriages, motorcycles and pedal cycles may be parked without lights on a road (or lay-by) with a speed limit of 30 mph (48 km/h) or less if they are

* at least 10 metres (32 feet) away from any junction, close to the kerb and facing in the direction of the traffic flow
* in a recognised parking place or lay-by

Other vehicles and trailers, and all vehicles with projecting loads, MUST NOT be left on a road at night without lights.

[Laws RVLR reg 24 & CUR reg 82(7)]


The operative note here is TEN METRES. That's roughly thirty (30) or so feet. Look at that photo and tell me truthfully - does that look EVEN CLOSE to thirty feet?

Of course not.

Westminster and the Police have the right to uplift and impound offending vehicles, after all, and it's a nifty source of revenue for them. So, with all the above in mind, is it not about time that this was enforced?

Final note (In Pink, for my better half ;)). All photos were taken while halted in stationary traffic, with the Service Brake ("handbrake") applied.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Probably the best one yet...?

Seen outside a Baptist (I think) church on one of our night bus routes last night. Apologies for lopping off the bottom of the poster, the bush (not a burning one, lol) got in the way!)

It says, in full:
"There is probably no bus....
So why not come in and enjoy God?"

Nice comeback on the original the Atheist version, I think - ten out of ten to them for the riposte ;-)

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Silent Callers...

OK, rant time.

For the past five days (Sunday excepted), I've been woken from my slumber by some anonymous muppit (and that's the polite version) on an unavailable number (means it's a foreign caller according to BT), who persists on letting the phone ring until the answerphone picks up the call, and then hanging up.

I was woken THREE SODDING TIMES today by this (insert your insult of choice here).

Enough is more than enough. Because of this (insert your insult of choice here), doing my shift tonight's gonna be challenging as hell, to say the least.

Frankly, this is completely unacceptable, outrageous, and irresponsible. It's also bloody rude to boot (It's called silent calling - link here). And yes, I registered with the Telephone Preference Service over six months ago to block marketing calls.

Now, while there is no specific law against it per se, the Communications Act 2003 states:

127 Improper use of public electronic communications network

(1) A person is guilty of an offence if he—

(a) sends by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character; or

(b) causes any such message or matter to be so sent.

(2) A person is guilty of an offence if, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another, he—

(a) sends by means of a public electronic communications network, a message that he knows to be false,

(b) causes such a message to be sent; or

(c) persistently makes use of a public electronic communications network.


(3) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable, on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or to both.

(4) Subsections (1) and (2) do not apply to anything done in the course of providing a programme service (within the meaning of the Broadcasting Act 1990 (c. 42)).


This has a loophole. It's called Foreign Call Centres, who are generally not subject to English Law.

BUT.

If the call centre makes the call on behalf of a UK entity, be that a retailer, person, or whatever, then an offence has been committed by that entity under s. 127(2)(b) CA 2003.

So, whoever the hell you are, be warned.

I'll have you.

And if you're really, really REALLY lucky, silent caller, I won't stuff your curly corded phone somewhere that even your proctologist won't be able to reach

Neat logo :) Made me smile :)

OK, as company logos go, this one's rather natty :) I like it. It's simple, to the point, and rather imaginative.

It also got me grinning, imagining how Tower Bridge might look if it actually WAS made from Tetra Paks...

Monday, 15 June 2009

*cough - splutter choke* How much?!?!?!

OK... next to one of the bus stands we use on one of the night bus routes we run from my depot, there is a branch of a fairly well-known chain of sandwich - well, long roll, anyhow - retailers.

It regularly supplies our many day shift drivers with their lunch, and coffee for those of us night drivers lucky enough to get there before it closes.

It also does cut price 'meal deals' for students, as evidenced by the photo to the left.

At a cost of Three Hundred And Forty Nine Quid for a bleedin' sandwich?!?!?! (OK, now I'm bug of eye and splutter of cough or something)...

Ahem.

Sorry, my mistake.

That one's obviously for the lottery winners amongst us.

In all seriousness, I actually realise that someone, somehow, forgot to put the decimal point there not once, but twice ;)

If not, as the Carlsberg misquote goes, "Probably the most expensive sub roll out there"