Thursday, 30 December 2010

Another day, another... um...

Well, pick your currency of choice. The Deutchmark went the way of the Dodo a few years back, and "another Euro" just doen't have the same ring to it. Ho hum.

Anyhow, the rest of yesterday went if not swimmingly, at least passably.

Today, though, has the ring of Muppitday to it.

Evidence the gormless minicab driver with his fog light on, and five miles after the halt sign at the lights. What is it about traffic signals that some of these motorists find so difficult to understand?

Answers on a postcard to the DSA (Driving Standards Agency) please!

Then, on reaching the high point on the western end of the route, I found out why he though he needed his fog light on. Mist.

Fog lights are supposed to only be used when visibility is severely degraded - there's no distance noted, as it's a variable feast, after all.

Which probably explains the gits with fully blacked out windows ands fog lights in the middle of the day, come to think of it!

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

It's turning into one of *those* days...

So, I get to the bus stop five minutes early, having had to run, as the night bus that takes me to work was running early...

The first bus I take out develops a brakes problem, and then the replacement bus blows its turbo...

OK, so bad luck comes in threes, allegedly.

Wonder if anything else will go wrong today?

Saturday, 25 December 2010

OK... panic (almost) over...

...The Christmas shopping had been done almost a week earlier... the last work shift before Christmas Day was over, and I was on the way home, when AAAAAAAAAARGH!

Memory resurfaced - I'd forgotten one of the most important pressies - the one for my Mum!?! OH HELL!!!

So, last minutes shopping hell for me - again. Sigh. you'd think I'd've learnt my lesson on this from ages part (well, the last 46 years of my live, actually), wouldn't you?

Yeah, right, and if you believe that, I've a bridge that I want to sell to you...!

Anyhow, it wasn't actually as painful as the above makes out; we've a family tradition here that my folks are positively absolutely and most definitely the most awkward on the planet to secure presents for.

So, we pass the buck writ large, and leave it to them to decide what they want.

As the advert for car insurance says, "Simples *squeak*".

Well... not quite.

Generally, they drop completely obscure hints all over the place that everyone misses, then give up and tell each other what they want, and then shop for each others pressies, and pass them about for us to give to them on the day.

Only this year, there was a miscommunication, communications failure, fubar, screwup, or the planets got misaligned somehow (...Allegedly, Patrick Moore's still trying to explain how Mars got put into Saturn's orbit...), but the end of the cock-up was that my Mum's pressie, well, the major bit of it, got missed.

Oh

Hence the last minute dash into Bromley (bugger Croydon, I'd seen what that place was like earlier, driving me damned bus, and the word "Mental" only scratched the surface!), so, Bromley it was, at 4pm. One hour to the shops closing....

I accomplished the task, end to end, in - wait for it - three quarters of a bloody hour.

45 minutes.

It's a sodding record!

Me Great Hunter! YAH!


Weeeeeeeeeell... not quite.

The Great Hunter was actually led by his tracker (Dad, over the phone), who told me what to get, and where to get it, and the expected price. He was right on all three counts.

I'll never hear the bloody end of it, most likely. Well, until the end of Christmas Day, when I can retreat - I mean 'tactically withdraw in contact' - back home again, anyhow!

And the moral of this story?

I'm doing ALL my Christmas Shopping on bleedin' Amazon next year. Saves a mile of grief, writ large!

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

It's official. I'm pissed off.

We just got a new rota schedule in a couple of weeks back at work.

Needless to say, it got changed within a week.

And in doing so on both counts, they screwed up my, and more to the point, my better halfs, Christmas and new year arrangements

The idea was to have been for my other half to come up from the west country, and spend the new year with me. So much for that idea, when the new rota came out. Nope, new days off are over Christmas (four of them), and one day off on New years' Day.

So, we re-arranged our arrangements. I'd travel down there for Christmas, and have a quiet New Year at home instead.

Well, that was the idea, until I tried to get travel arrangements sorted out. Remembering that my sodding car is off the road (long story, repeated often and at irritatingly regular intervals to some of the folks at work, so trust me, no car is the order of things right now), I considered the trains. No joy there. There aren't any trains worth a damn running on Boxing Day, of course - and as to getting between London Victoria and Paddington, forget it: The tubes are on strike on boxing day, just to add icing to the transport chaos bug... So, Coaches, then. Nope, no coach stop within five miles of where I live. However, there IS a coach stop at Mitcham Junction, ten miles away, and I can grab a tram to get there, so all was not lost... or so I stupidly thought...

Anyway, I then tried National Expresses online system, to find that it wasn't taking bookings for the trip until the 2nd of January - DO WHAT?! So, I tried their phone service.

An 0871 number.

Half an hour later I gave up in disgust after hanging on in their queuing system with the sodding thing ringing off the hook.

Now, I understand they need to sort out the cancellations due to the weather we've been having of late. I'm not totally without common sense, even if I do work on the buses, k?

However, you might have thought that they'd INCREASE the number of "agents" at the call centre at this very expectedly busy time of year, wouldn't you? ("Agents"?! what, they carry guns and yell "FREEZE! FEDERAL AGENT!" down the phone when a punter looses their rag at their appalling customer service?)

Well, apparently, they haven't thought of it, or the bean counters hit, or Martians landed, someone's planning to shoot down Father Christmas, or whatever the hell goes on up on Birmingham at this time of year that buggers things up again.

Anyhow, the upshot is that I've exhausted all possible ways of being able to spend meaningful amounts of quality time with my better half over Christmas, so I guess it's plan "C". Some time in January for a link up. As you might imagine, it's got me well depressed. I wanna hug (Sorry, the other half likes teddy bears, and I promised ages ago I'd find a way to stick one into the Blant!)

Trust me when I say this: Without my better half to keep me going and cheer me up beyond all reasonable expectations, I am going to be so bloody bored witless over Christmas that it's positively frightening.

And as to organising my next visit to my better half, I haven't a clue WHEN in January - or February come to that - it'll be, as the current rotas so truly stuffed up six ways from Sunday that it'll be a sodding miracle if the scheduling section even manages to work out that a Sunday follows a Saturday, and that there isn't a "Z" in any month in the English Speaking Calendar

Anyhow, I just tried phoning my better half, but I guess they're all up to their armpits in Turkeys in the pub ...um... I meant the food, not the customers!

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Last minute (almost) Christmas shopping...

So, there I was, on the way into Croydon, to perform my almost last minute Christmas shopping. By bus and tram, since I've got the handiness of a staff pass, and the car's off the road - naturally, it was snowing again - and who wants to drive in this bleeping clag, anyhow?

So, I get to the tram interchange, and the coffee stand windows were up, there was a woman there, and whoopee! It looked like I was actually going to get a coffee while I wait for the tram!

Wrong. Of course. You'd think I'd learn that it's never that easy when I want a coffee on a Sunday.

Anyhow, seeing no tram at the stop, I walked over to the coffee stand, and before I'd even had a chance to order a coffee, the lady looked up from wiping some jug-like stainless steel implement, and in a very heavily accented eastern European voice, said "Zorry, izz owt ov zervise, izz clozed, yes?"

Oh, Well, that was that. I shrugged, and tromped off in the falling snow to the tram stop.

The rest of the day, luckily, was far better; I got the presents I was looking for (no clues here, folks - my family actually read this!), and a few other items besides, and that was that. Getting back home again took about the same amount of time as getting into Croydon - ages. At least the drivers of the trams didn't need to stir soup-like manual points controls this time

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Snowpocalypse 2010 (v.3)

Well, we've been hit again. Snow, wonderful on the telly on "Snow Sunday" and suchlike, but not so hot (sic) when it's a few inches thick (and getting thicker by the hour), and still falling.

Even the Trams, informally famous for having little trouble coping last time (a few weeks ago, no less), were having a few problems this time - frozen points were the hiccup, this time around.

The photo (taken through the drivers door to the saloon of the tram, hence the blind grid lines) shows the tram driver at the Church Street tram stop, working with one of his engineering colleagues, to free up the points there. The previous two drivers had few problems with this; they took a special pole-like tool with a spade point, cleared some clag from the rails set into the road, stuck the point in a manual lever slot, and stirred the pole around like they were making an industrial-sized pot of soup, and presto, the points were freed up.

Not so this time, of course, and naturally, this time, it was for the tram that I was on. Figures, really.

This time, it took a great deal longer this time, a driver, an engineer, and a LOT of stirring. And yet more clag removal, more stirring, more clag removal, more - well, you get the gist of it. Something like five or ten minutes later, we were finally on the move, and I got to work.

Which was a pity, because we all thought someone might actually see sense and pull us all back off the road for an early dinner.

No such luck.

Someone in city hall must have done a reverse snow dance or something, because once I got out there in a bus, the roads quickly got back to close to passable, despite some truly appalling and frankly cringe-worthy driving from the amateurs out there. Frankly, I was amazed to note that I didn't see a single wreck out there today - mind you, the roads were about ten times lighter on the traffic side than they were normally on a Saturday, so I guess most folks took heed of the weather, and left their cars at home!

Oh well, day off tomorrow.

What's the betting we get ten more inches of the muck overnight?

Thursday, 9 December 2010

It would appear that Wikileaks is commercially driven... big fat hairy surprise.

Read this: Wikileaks are for-hire mercenaries - Cryptome.

Wouldn't surprise me one bit if it's true. The reading between the lines on all recent leaks on wikileaks seems garnered to be sensationalistic crap (with the possible exception of the BNP membership list, which was actually quite public spirited).

Oh, and in my view, naming it Wikileaks is, by the way, insulting to the wiki system, and not a little bit misleading. Look into what the wikipedia and wiki style system is all about if you're at all confused (google it).

Monday, 6 December 2010

It *was* quite funny. Now it's endangering our people..

It was fun to watch the American Diplomatic Corps running around in ever-decreasing circles, but now the fun's over. The individual who released the sodding stuff is now directly endangering BRITISH subjects. Read here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-11923766.

Releasing a US National Security Interests list that is frankly a target list for locations in Britain is not only irresponsible, it's now, in my not so humble opinion, a matter of espionage by a foreign citizen against Great Britain.

If Julian Assange IS, as has been rumoured, in Great Britain, then bugger the USA and their legal system that's even more full of holes than ours: We MUST catch and prosecute the bugger HERE, and bang him up forever and lose the damned key.

Let's be perfectly frank: That damned list has NO place being available on the internet - or anywhere else, come to that: It's an invitation for terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda to use the damned thing to target this country with a viciousness that we've not yet seen, and I for one am NOT happy about that one little bit.

Mr Assange needs, desperately, to be stopped and brought to British Justice, before he releases anything more that can be used by terrorists.

I don't know whether he's doing this out of some insane plot to destroy the world, or through some lunatic idea of open government, but either way, he's stepped well over the line now.

I won't say "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?" - that's asking for trouble (besides which, I'm not a king!).

I WILL, instead, say this:

Will someone please arrest the maniac before he does even worse harm to this country?

UPDATE: Tuesday 7th December 2010: Assange has been nicked, on the basis of a Swiss Extradition Warrant. I'd rather he'd been nicked under UK law, say under the Official Secrets Act and/or the Theft Act, but at least he's now under lock and key, at least until the relevant authorities get their bleeping acts together.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Rolling on the floor laughing my *** off!

Well... not exactly like that, but it was a close-run thing!

Wish I could take credit for the cause, but it's so damn funny, I have to share

I had cause to look up a telephone number that called me while I was otherwise occupied the other day (I'm on the late shift this week, and was having a shave, if you must know)

Anyhow, the phone rang, and I nipped out of the bathroom, hit the handsfree answer button, and heard what sounded like the background chatter of a call centre. On saying "hello" a couple of times, to no reply, the caller hung up. Really annoying, that. So I noted the number that appeared in the caller display, and made a note to look it up, which I only just got around to doing just now.

Here's the link, which leads to a reference page on the "Who Calls Me?" website... You're looking for the sixth reply, as follows...

bobdope2002

i had a call From these Today in the middle Of A twating Meeting

Guess how i answered

"Hello Derbyshire Cremtoriom u kill em we grill em"

the phone soon went dead lol

I'm actually thinking of adding this quote to my standard answerphone greeting

Friday, 3 December 2010

Oh... nuts... NFC, coming to a cellphone near you...

I really have had enough of the banks.

It's bad enough that the banks like Barclays went and added NFC (Near Field Communications, otherwise known as "contactless card technology", much like an Oystercard for public transport in London) to credit and debit cards, and then issued them without opt-in or opt-out to their customers - we've no damned choice, it seems - add to this that Barclays then RAISED the maximum amount that could be charged on their contactless cards from £10 to £15 - again, no choice in the matter. Now, when you consider that it's apparently easy to have an electronic version of someone picking your pocket with these damned things - and now they want to add them to our phones as well?!

It seems that the banks have become tired with waiting for the cellphone manufacturers to install NFC technology into their new models, and are starting to go it alone. Read about it here.

Now, given the security threat that exists with NFC cards (there's hardly ever a requirement for cardholder verification, you don't even have to enter your PIN most of the time, you just swipe and run), I'll happily bin my smartphone upgrades, and use my current, non-NFC mobile phone, and a normal wallet with cash, when the time comes - and I'm looking forward to when someone, somewhere, manages to make a reliable, cheap, wallet with a built-in Faraday cage for the damned card that they've already damn well issued to me!

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Ten hours later... it's Snowpocalypse 2010 (v.2)

Well, isn't it horrifying what ten hours of cruddy weather'll do, eh?

This is what greeted me on glancing out the window at 1pm this afternoon, having hit the sack at 5.30am or so.

As you can see, (and probably have experienced for yourself if you live in the London area), we got blitzed by the snow again - it kept on dropping, like soft frozen bomblets, clogging up pretty-much everywhere it came into contact with.


Dunno what happened to the gritters, but I'm guessing that inbetween the times they have to go back and re-fill their spreading hoppers, and the time they managed to get out again, the snow turned from light and slightly wet, to heavy, and very wet. Not good.

It's gonna be an interesting trip to work later. yeah... 'interesting'.. that's the word, innit :-(

Just a light dusting, thus far...

OK, I was on late shift this evening, and having seen the forecasts, was wondering i I was going to make it home this evening - every forecast from doom and gloom to bright and sunny have been spread about with great glee by all and sundry over the last week, and truth be told, naff all has happened down here, aside from a rather huge drop in temperature. Well... that was, until this evening... Now, while we haven't got it as bad as they have up in the north of the country, if the weathermen are any judge, we're going to get a medium-sized dose of it before long...

Anyhow, the forecast they issued earlier for tonight was for six or so inches of snow down here by now (3am). I'm happy to report that they got it wrong :-)

Thus far, we've had a very light sprinkling; it's settling on the untreated roads, pavements, and a fair few roofs, but it would appear that the local councils have pulled their fingers out of their... um... ears... (...yeah, that's the bodily orifice they unblocked... their ears...!) and spread road salt about with wild abandon -as you can see from the photo, taken from my front room a few minutes ago. As you can see, the pavements have a light dusting, and the tarmac of the road is completely devoid of the white stuff.

As I said, on the untreated areas, it's settling, and given that it's now rather colder than it was earlier, I suspect it may be freezing in place now.

You can see the car park out the front of my block of flats, and there it is, that light dusting again...


I wonder if the postie'll do a repeat spot of break dance-inspired littering this time around...?

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Soldiers' Rank and their Pensions - A worthy Parliamentary Early Day Motion.

I tend to bin these most of the time as generally, they cannot be verified. I've checked the ARRSE website however, and this appears genuine. Here's the link there for you to verify it for yourselves: http://www.arrse.co.uk/intelligence-cell/152968-power-arrse-required-pen-mightier-than-sword-scenario.html. It also appears in the Parliamentary Early Day Motion website, as follows: http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=40685.

I feel so strongly about this, that in addition to forwarding it to several friends of mine, I've posted it here, too; frankly, the bean counters at MoD need something a tad stronger than a kick up the backside on this, and many other matters, but this is one of the few things we can do to support such a motion. Anyhow, I consider this Parliamentary Early Day Motion signature appeal to be a worthy cause, and recommend it to you all.

Sent: 24 November 2010 7:40 AM
To: Undisclosed-Recipient;
Subject: Soldiers' Rank and their Pensions

Dear All,

Sergeant Matthew Telford of the Grenadier Guards was promoted to that rank in June 2009.

In November of that same year, Sergeant Telford was one of 5 British soldiers killed when a rogue Afghan policeman opened fire on them.  His wife and family will only receive a Corporal's pension since he only held his rank of Sergeant for less than a year. However, he was killed on operations by the enemy whilst wearing three stripes of a Sergeant on active service.

Please sign the petition below to support a change in the rules that deny a hero’s widow the pension she deserves.

Copy/paste http://soldiers-pensions.co.uk/?q=petition

Please forward this on to any sympathetic contacts that you may have in your address book

Denise Edgar

National Trustee
The Royal British Legion
Home [deleted for privacy]
Mobile [deleted for privacy]

Monday, 22 November 2010

Whoops!



Heh, saw this on the first trip this morning...

It reads "Bored Suzuki driver: Warning: I wanted a Land Rover"!

Well, he may have wanted a better 4x4, but at least he's got a sense of humour!

Friday, 19 November 2010

...um... "Oops, Occifer Dribble?"

Well, there I was this morning, on the second trip of the day, a third full of passengers, having left the western stand, when, two minutes down-route, I'd just entered a roundabout, and a police car came screaming across, and blocked the exit I wanted, leaving me perched on the inside lane, between exits - not good. Luckily, I wasn't blocking the exit or entrance I was straddling with my bus, but ye gods, I can think of better ways to come to an abrupt halt!

Anyhow, it seems someone had done something stupid or careless just a couple of hundred metres up the road, and an "RTI", or Road Traffic Incident (not a collision, not an accident, an "incident", whatever that means), had then ensued.

Must have been serious, whatever is was, as the Traffic Bill and an Ambulance were there too.

So, it was "welcome to the mystery tour" for my passengers, as we eventually had to take an unscheduled diversion.

Thanks also to the controller on our iBus desk at the main depot, and some judicious use of a curtailment at one of the turning points nearer to the eastern end of the route, I managed to get back to the western end of the route only five or so minutes late for my meal relief, which was nice :-)

I've still got no idea what the heck happened at the RTI, as passing it a couple of hours later on the way back showed a completely clean scene, devoid of the usual detritus and debris associated with most road messing muck-ups.

So, not good for someone in the ambulance, but I guess we'll hear all about it in the local papers next week.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Linux Lumps...

I've been thinking about moving from Windows XP to a Linux distribution for a while now; I don't really want to have to pay Microsoft oodles of hard earned just to operate a computer anymore, and the Open Source movement is gathering quite a bit of pace - just look at Android phones, for example: That operating system is based on Linux (an open source, and therefore free, operating system), after all.

Anyhow, I did a bit of homework (don't tell my old school teachers, they'd probably die of shock!), and decided to see what all the hype was about; I therefore downloaded both the latest ISO release of Ubuntu, version 10.10 (or "distribution", as they call versions), and the recommended Infra Recorder that would burn the ISO image to the CD ROM. And that's where the problems began, of course.

While it reported that it had successfully burnt the ISO to the disc in the CD/RW drive, in fact, it had not. In fact, nothing meaningful made it to the blasted disc: it was unreadable. Shrugging, I put that down to a four-year-old CD/RW drive that was probably knackered. So I proceeded to try to make a bootable USB Pen Drive version, instead. That, at least, copied across OK using the recommended Universal USB installer, but, you guessed it, I got an error message, instead, when I tried to boot off the resulting USB pen drive:

No DEFAULT or UI configuration directive found
Boot:

So, I guessed that it was a problem with the most recent distribution, went back and downloaded distribution 10.04.1 (the previous version), and repeated the Pen Drive process. Same result, and the very same error message.

By now, this was, as you might imagine for a neophyte 46 year old non-technical twit, beginning to grate just a tad (read: steam slowly building from the ears), so I had a look on the Ubuntu help forums, and found to my dismay that there may be problems with the Universal USB installer on recent distributions. Luckily, an alternative package was suggested, Unetbootin, to create the bootable USB pen drive, so I downloaded that as well...

Yep, you can see where this is going, can't you?

I repeated the process using Unetbootin, and got the self same bloody error message. Confused and frustrated? You bet I was. Still am, in fact. Read on.

I could only assume that something had gone a tad, shall we say, fubar, in creating the bootable bits on my machine. Question was, how the heck could this be fixed?

Well, there being no such thing as a stupid question (I was taught this in the T.A., so it must be right!) I asked. And lo and behold, within half an hour, I was recomended to another page on the ubuntu site, describing how to create a bootable USB pen drive, and, well, you guessed it. Stuffed again.

I extracted the file usb-creator.exe from the USB pen drive, which was at least, readable, if not bootable. That went well enough.

I tried the process suggested in the article, but again, fell at the first hurdle, in that usb-creator.exe was not allowing either ISO selection I downloaded. It's recognising the pen drive, but not the ISOs.

By now, I'd spent an entire morning on the damn thing, and frankly, I've just about had it up to here (waving at a point just above my head). I'm going to try again, once the folks on the forum have had a chance to get back to me with any more suggestions, but from the current showing, I'm either destined to pay macroshaft more sodding money, or launch the entire kit and kaboodle out the blasted window (which given the name of the current OS, is kind of ironic).

More later, once I've calmed down a tad.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Two weeks leave :)

Well, here I am at the tram stop, having knocked off for just over a fortnight away from work, and I see a rather nice red sky...

Hopefully, that'll be auspicious for a good couple of weeks off :) Here's hoping, anyhow!

Monday, 25 October 2010

That's a nice suprise!

So, there I am, wandering into work at my relatively normal twenty minutes to half an hour before my shift starts (I like a coffee before I start, sets the shift up right), when lo and behold, I find myself "stepped up" to do the earlier shift. Nothing was said about the bloke who should have done it, so I guess he overslept - we've all done that, after all!

Anyhow, the upshot? I got what we call "DX'd", and get paid for doing my assigned shift, even though the shift I'm doing is actually shorter!

Now THAT'S a nice start to the week :-)

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Daylight full moon...

It's not very often that you get to see a full moon in broad daylight, but that's what we got this morning :)

Must explain why there were so many damned idiots on the roads yesterday... *evil grin*

OK, here are the photos; first off, the wide angle shot, no zoom...


Taken leaning on a rest, the photo has only been reduced in size for file size.
This photo was taken at the cameras' maximum optical zoom (x10); it's then been cropped for file size. You can see a lot more detail, of course :-) It's not been adjusted or "shopped" in any other way, no gamma correction or anything.

I'm actually rather proud of this shot, it's probably the best one I've done of such a long-range object ;-)

Thursday, 21 October 2010

They're madmen. And we, the morons, put them there.

There is no argument that spending cuts need to be made, in order to get the national deficit under some measure of control. But the scale of these cuts is frankly horrifying - and reading between the lines, even hardened politicians on all sides of the current government are shocked at the levels of cuts that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is demanding.

And now, as expected, he's hit the defence sector. And in a moment of complete insanity, he's killing off any chance we have at keeping our ability to project power, by scrapping HMS Ark Royal, and removing the fixed-wing assets of the Fleet Air Arm, and the V/STOL capability of the RAF, by scrapping all the harrier Jump Jets currently in British service.

BBC News link.

To follow up on the last line of that article: it's not just pathetic, it's tragic.

Successive governments have wielded bigger and bigger axes at the military budget, and the result is mission creep, overstretch, combat stress in troops in record numbers due to appalling under-manning, and a military that's close to being the poorest funded in the developed world per head of the nation.

And we, the idiot public, put the politicians there. What does that say about us, then?

Monday, 4 October 2010

Hmm... lost in the mists of time...

Someone I know from another blog recently got back from holiday, and made the following observation...

"Isn't it amazing that we don't have FILM cameras?"

Y'know, I hadn't even thought about that for many, many moons, until she mentioned it; I switched to digital a while back, something like eight to ten years ago, I think, and while I still have a point-and-shoot film camera, I hardly ever use it these days, since I've got both a camera on my phone (yeah, I know, who hadn't these days), and a dedicated pocket digital camera that aces out the old film camera anyhow (it does video too - whoopee! - it's good for Candid Camera at Christmas, lol).


Ahem.

Anyhow, it used to be over here in Great Britain, that chemists (Americans would call them Pharmacies, I think) and most large retail chains (I'm including Boots, Sainsburys, Tescos, other supermarkets, and so on) would stock film in many and various sizes, formats, and speeds - not any more, though: I can't recall seeing film in anywhere other than dedicated camera shops for quite a while, now (not, really, that I was looking, I suppose).


Makes you wonder - well, makes me wonder, anyhow - what else we've changed to, and never really noticed is missing these days.

Anyone care to chip in with observations?

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Tea Threat level...!

I saw this image recently, being used as the avatar for someone online...


It made me laugh, and then my mind went sideways (as it sometimes does), thinking about how one might define the other threat levels...

  • Low – No real chance of tea being spilt
  • Moderate – Not very likely that tea might be spilt
  • Substantial – Mild chance of tea being spilt
  • Severe – Tea WILL be spilt.
  • Critical – I SAY, old boy! That was my monocle!
Any ideas on improving this will be read with great amusement :-D

Saturday, 25 September 2010

This caught my eye. Talk abut hypocracy.

The BBC News reported about the seizure of Chinese Fishing vessels recently. An international incident obviously arose, and words on the diplomatic level were exchanged - even after the Chinese crews were released to China. But for them to then say this is the height of hypocrisy:

"This was an action that gravely violated Chinese sovereignty and the human rights of a Chinese citizen, and the Chinese government strongly protests,"

Who the bloody hell do they think they're kidding? Human Rights? In CHINA?

This, from a country that apparently has one of the highest rates of penal execution on the planet. This, from a country where, when the execute someone by gunshot, they bill the family of the executed person for the cost of the round fired. This, from a country that censors pretty much everything, where the merest hint of dissent or questioning of the State is followed up by visits from Secret Police who can do pretty much anything they want with virtual impunity.

So I'll ask again.

Who the hell do they think they're kidding?

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

A personal message...

This goes out to the driver of a black BMW, index V174KVP, who not ten minutes ago, overtook me on the zigzag markings of a pelican crossing, uphill, on the wrong side of the road, into the face of a downhill-travelling bus coming the other way.

Matey, next time you want to try becoming crunchy salsa, do it on someone elses' time, eh? Forgetting that it's totally illegal to overtake on Pelican Crossing zigzag markings, you tried to commit suicide by bus - a remarkably selfish way of offing yourself.

Be considerate next time: why not drive off a cliff, instead?

Monday, 23 August 2010

Drip drip drip little April showers my *#@!

Well, not with a whimper, but a flood warning, instead: Summer's finally over, by the look of it. The photo is of one of the main roads near where I live, on my way to work this morning.

YEUCH!

Friday, 6 August 2010

Oh, brilliant. As if the tubes weren't bad enough!

Well, now. The tube is running a fairly conprehensive set of engineering works at weekends at the moment. A fair few bus companies are doing well off this, of course, running replacement bus services. And now the trams are getting in on the act - almost. They seem to have forgotton on bit, though.

They're not laying on any replacement bus services.

Which means that my trip to and from work is going to be stuffed up one side and burgered down the other for a week, in a fortnight or so.

Oh deep, frabjouous, joy.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Proud of their Prejudice

I had a right pair of ignorant fools on my bus yesterday.

Both were apparently parents, if the kid and shopping-laden push-chairs were anything to go by.

As you can see from the photo, the WHEELCHAIR bay is clearly marked as such. It is not a pram bay, nor a pushchair bay. It is a wheelchair bay.

The signage clearly states that wheelchairs have priority over prams and pushchairs (or "Baby Buggies" as they are apparently called now. Another Twee Americanism hits the English Language. Ho hum.).

So, we get to a stop where a wheelchair user is waiting to board, and I've a fairly crowded bus to begin with anyhow, so I ask the push-chair owners to please fold their pushchairs so that the wheelchair user can board and travel. They feign ignorance of what I'm asking. So I ask again. One of them hauls their push chair into the corridor - not allowed, it's a safety hazard - and states that she'll put it back behind the wheelchair. No, that's not going to work, I tell her: The wheelchair user MUST have room to get herself out again without hindrance and unaided. They start to argue the toss with me. At this point, I'm ready about to leap out the cab and eject both these ignorant cows out of sheer bloody mindedness, when the wheelchair user, who'd been observing, calls to "forget them, I'll get the next one, and thanks anyhow". The "next one" being a different route, which takes twice as long to get to the town centre.

While the young woman in the wheelchair undoubtedly took a pragmatic and long-suffering view to all this, I frankly don't see why she had to, and was thoroughly disgusted at these individuals masquerading as Humans with Children. In my view, they ought to have been thoroughly ashamed of themselves and their outlandishly selfish, prejudiced behaviour, and told them "I hope you're proud of being so damn prejudiced".

Please, let them complain. With the aid of the video evidence (CCTV footage can be sooooo useful sometimes), I'll (verbally) whack 'em back to the basics of human decency and consideration so fast, it'll make the hair on their heads turn prematurely grey and fall out and then some.

 Now, you might think that there aren't proper signs for this. Wrong. Look right.

And, as if THAT sign isn't enough, there's another right beside it...



Frankly, I've just about had it with ignorant, selfish, half-witted, moronic, arrogant twits like this (and that's mild, compared to what I'd REALLY like to be saying about them. Obscenity laws over here being what they are, I'll have to leave it to the above). The good news is that the other passengers were of a more decent nature, and let these two ***** know what they thought of them, which cheered me right up again *insert massive cheesy grin here*

Oh yeah - these two women, both black, were most effectively summed up by a massive black guy: "You're both prejudiced, you know that? You make me ashamed to be black!"

It was such a poignant and effective comment, bellowed at full tilt, that it stuck in the mind. It also shut everyone on the bus right up, just like that. I never had such a peaceful ride into the town centre for ages!

Problem is, there are many more like those two, from all colours of the spectrum.

And they seem to think that they have a right to be that way, as if the disabled don't matter.

Well, we (and, in fact, half the rest of the world) fought a war over a similar issue back in the 1940s. You may remember what it started with: One man, targeting minorities in his own country (the disabled, the immigrants, and a religion, to name but a few) then other countries, until a world war ensued. We call that "Ethnic Cleansing" these days, and it tends to result in War Crimes Trials in The Hague.

This is WHY we have laws to protect and aid the disadvantaged.

And Wheelchair bays on buses.

So, next time you see an ignorant git with a pushchair denying, in a similar manner, a wheelchair user travel, please, lend an oar. Ask them WHY they're so damn prejudiced.

I guarantee, it'll make waves, but we might actually learn how these small-minded selfish and prejudiced gits think - and eventually, who knows, maybe, just maybe, they'll learn to be a bit more considerate to others?

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

What the ****?!



Simple enough - is he collecting for charity, or Cain Hill's latest inmate-in-waiting?!

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Not exactly driving related...

I was chatting to the better half earlier, and the subject of movies and pub quizzes came up. Seems my pub quiz for her to run at the pub the other day was a tad too hard for one of the regulars, who threw a cushion at her in frustration (it was good natured, for all that, so no harm done). I replied that it must have been the references to various movies, and the conversation meandered about a bit until "Pulp Fiction" came up...

... and that's when the two watt bulb over my head illuminated, and I visualised a couple of characters from that movie in a pub setting... think of the scene where John Travolta (playing 'Vincent Vega') and Samuel L. Jackson (playing 'Jules Winnfield') are selecting weapons from the trunk (Boot) of their car. the scene opens as they open the trunk, viewed from inside the trunk, looking up and out, at them... it's a method of filming that apparently become known as the "Tarantino Trunk Shot". So, imagine the Tarantino Trunk Shot applied to the pub business...

In this fake scene, we have Mr. Bitter, played by Tarantino himself, in the persona of the pub landlord...

Mr. Stout is naturally Harvey Kaitel, in the persona of The Cleaner from Pulp Fiction, "Winston 'The Wolf' Wolfe"... let the comedy commence...!

Black screen. Voices fade in from off screen, somewhat muffled, as if by cushions, getting louder.

Bitter
Yeah, we got someone cheap to do the job. Big mistake. Made a hell of a mess.

Stout
No kidding. Coulda toldja that'd happen. Cheap means amateur, after all.

Bitter
I'm not kidding, there was cleaning fluid all over the place!


Picture clears from the bottom, as the lid is lifted off the seat from where we view Bitter and Stout looking down at us, into the seat.

Stout
(pulling a facial expression of abject replusion)

Gagh-! You weren't kidding! That's disgusting!


Bitter
(in a resigned tone of voice, wincing as he reaches into the seat, off-screen over the top of the camera, and lifts out a stack of beer mats literally dripping green coloured thick glutinous cleaning fluid onto the camera)

Yeah. Tell me about it. There ain't a dry beer mat in the joint, and we open in half an hour.



It got my better half laughing, which was the main reason for doing it, so job done, then :-)

Hope you enjoyed it as much as my better half did ;-)

Saturday, 17 July 2010

It's Saturday...

Saturday, as any professional driver will tell you, is actually Sunday, in a not too cunning disguise.

How do we know this?

Easy. From the sheer number and quality - or lack thereof - of amateur drivers, pulling incredibly insane and/or stupidly dangerous stunts in close proximity to buses.

Like the muppit behind the wheel of a mid-green Mondeo-sized car, S 578 NKV, who, tired of tailgating my bus, decided to overtake - on the trailing side zigzag lines of a zebra crossing just as the road went under a railway bridge, with narrowing carriageway and parked cars on the left, as well as a concealed road to the right, both smack-dab after the bridge, - *right as the road began to narrow*, causing me to have to brake hard to avoid a wedging style collision, while sounding the horn, and probably yelling something rather strongly profane. Lucky, then, that it was at around seven am, and that there was stuff all else on the road, and that my passenger loading was exceedingly light (maybe five passengers).

Needless to say, Mr. Gormless, of Number zero, Muppet Street, Idiottown, Nobrainshire, ZZ1 2ZZ, sped off down the road, without a backward glance or even acknowledgement that he screwed the pooch something horrid.

If you're reading this, pal, would you care to tell us why you pulled such a bone-headed stunt?

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Self-Important Scatologic Crania...

It really is turning into one of *those* days, today. First, we get the punter from hell, who, probably like his idiot parents before him, has no concept of the phrase "timetable", or "Scheduled Service", and seems to believe that the bus, if he yells loudly enough at the driver, will somehow achieve light speed (however impossible that may be).

Further, when he eventually does want to get off the bus at a request stop, he waits until the bus has passed the stop, and blames the driver for missing the stop with much use of profane, insulting, and frankly thoroughly disgusting language that is in no way suitable for the young - or anyone else, come to that - to hear.

I've searched high and low for a suitably Latin definition for folks like these, and finally found it: "Caput stercoris".

I'd do a search for English-Latin online translation, if you want to know exactly what it means ;-)

In any case, one often wonders if they are the product of the low end of the gene pool, or the rejected matter thereof...

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Now these are truly strange trains!

A little while ago, Transport for London (TfL), bought into a train franchise. Naturally, as it's within the London area, it's called London Overground. And very swish these trains, and their infrastructure, are. Everything's nice, fresh, clean, and still has the "New from the workshop" feeling for the trains, and "New from the builder" feeling for the stations (where they've completely renovated them, that is).

Up until very recently, I could use the buses, trams, and Tube (London Underground), but since the London Overground hadn't been extended to my area, hadn't used it - the service was only available in north London, or from Clapham Junction in South West London. However, since they extended the service to the south east London area a short time ago (West Croydon being the southern-most point), and I wanted to visit a shop in central London, I decided to use my staff pass and save some money, by using the new service, rather than paying for a train ticket on new Southern region. Makes sense, really, even if the trip winds up being about twice as long. what the hell, it's free, it's new, and I like a mystery tour every so often...

What spaced my mind, though, was the layout of the rolling stock (the trains). See the photo on the left. Instead of individual carriages, strung together, separated by doors, with rows of forward and rearward facing seats, you've got a completely open-plan train, much like the Croydon Tramlink carriages, but with a single row of bench-seats on either side of the carriages.

Yes, it feels nice and roomy.

Yes, I'm sure they're a dream to clean quickly and easily.

Yes, I'm sure you can fit many more cattle - I mean commuters - in them during the rush hour.

I'm also well aware that these things could save me money in train fares, as I go to visit the better half regularly by Public Transport, than the car (saving me ooodles of cash a month, my staff pass is!)

But, and bear in mind it's a bloke saying this, who's got a fair handle on how to handle himself in a pinch - I'm damned if I'm going to travel in them after dark, given that the route of the trains takes them through some of the most deprived - and violent crime-ridden - areas of London. It'll be far too bloody easy for a gang of steamers to run rabid down the train, mugging all and sundry in sight, as has been done in the past. It'd be bloody asking for trouble. And I've always been taught that the first way to avoid trouble, is to keep away from it, after all.

Now, with that all said and done above, it is, I will admit, a rare event these days, for steaming to happen, in these days of in-your-face CCTV, but crime's still there, and doesn't look like it's going to go away any time soon, dammit.

So, given that I'm liable to be very encumbered with luggage the next few times I use the train, and bearing in mind the advice I was given (avoid trouble where possible) it looks like I'll be spending money on train fares for a while yet.

Dammit.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

"We aren't going noplace, guv - me cab's broken down!"


Oops! Just what a taxi driver DOESN'T want - especially when he's stopped on a bus stop!

Quick update...

Jeroen, over at the EDCForums, told me that Flashaholics have apparently taken delivery recently of a lot of Maxpedition kit.

Since I just ordered a Jumbo at a UK store (Flashaholics, if you're curious) when I read your post, I thought it best to check with them concerning availability. According to them, they have no problem at all getting supplies, and they just took delivery of a large shipment of Maxp stuff.

I know you're not planning on getting Maxpedition stuff, so consider this an FYI for other people who may be following this thread :).

Jeroen

So, if you're not bothered by what's been alleged, by all means, nip over there; they carry a few bits and pieces of that gear there.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Update time....

OK, while I'm waiting for my account over at the EDC Forums to be validated/approved/flattened with a rubber stamp (or whatever it is they do over there), I chatted to a retailer (who will remain nameless for the moment - he wasn't exactly plugging his own stock, but he'll get a plug for his advice soon ;)) over here. Seems that getting MaxP stuff over here is currently difficult, at best. Apparently, the wholesaler deal was revoked, and MaxP took back the UK wholesale business... Result: Yet more delays on getting stock in the UK.

We then talked about the various options, and I briefly went over the choices I'm looked at. I was told in no uncertain terms that the BHI bag was the "biggest of the lot". I've still got misgivings over it though: For one thing, there's no method of securing the sides at the top when the lid's closed - things look like they could drop out, which is not ideal in any shape or form. If BHI were to add an under-flap draw-string storm neck closure to their Tactical handbag (as done on the MaxP Jumbo bag), it'd be a great incentive for me to buy one.

I've also looked at the purely civvy man bags out there on the web: I'm none too impressed, to be honest. By my reckoning, I need, including the blister pouches and drink container capacity, about 6 to 7 litres of capacity in whatever bag I get. For the "tacticool" look, thus far, I thought only the Jumbo gave that, but I'm now told the BHI Tactical Handbag (what I will now call the THB) has that. Civvy kit-wise, I'm looking at a blasted messenger - or Pizza - bag, and remembering my earlier comments, that's just a non-starter. Even a laptop bag's out, as it screams "Expensive stealable gear inside!", and one of the ideas here is to try to keep a semi to low profile.

It's a tricky one, to be sure... More thinking and research is indicated here...

On the plus side, I saw a civvy-style bag that made me chuckle a bit (the Police line tape), which, capacity and features-wise, came close... It's a nice bag to be sure, definitely has the right amount of storage capacity, but, and these are big buts, first off, it's a Pizza Bag style of bag, and it's got no external pouch for drinks (meaning you have to open up the massive messenger flap at the front to get at the stuff inside); in addition, it's a non-rigid bag, meaning that fragile items - such as one's very expensive smartphone - could get broken if the bag bounces off a lamp post, corner, or other hard object by accident. So, while it may be nice for some of you (hence the Amazon link to the right), it's not, regrettably for me. The search goes on, anyhow :)

hmm... always happens...

well, no sooner do I post my preferred choice of man bag, than I come across this thread over on the EDC forums...

http://edcforums.com/showthread.php/54279-Maxpedition

Not very good reading for Maxpedition. Granted, it's two years old, but there's apparently no apology apparent, no resolution apparent for the offence, and thus no apparent closure to the sorry tale.

The really chilling post in the thread is this one, where the forum owner was apparently threatened merely for asking questions. I'm therefore holding off on any purchase, until I've revisited what possible choices I have that exclude a manufacturer whose management exhibits such apparent and blatant bully-boy tactics. I've suffered such behaviour from a previous employer many years ago, and wouldn't wish it on anyone.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Time for a decent capacity man Bag...!

Well... having finally managed to coax a fresh locker key from the deputy guv'nor at my depot, to replace the one that was nicked with me cash tray when I was on nights a fair few months back (um... 12 months plus, if I recall correctly!), so I should soon be able to stop lugging around a damn daysack all the time!

So... what do I carry when I'm at work?

Quite a hell of a lot, actually. Surprised the hell out of me when I listed it a while back...


  1. Current daysack, and it's starting to get a hole in the bottom!
  2. SPITKIT (DNA swab kit in case we have to collect the muck from someone spitting at us at work. Now I've got access to my locker again, this is held at the depot.)
  3. A small Personal First Aid kit
    (If I don't carry it, I'll damn well need it. Sod's law and all that!)
  4. Cash Tray
    (Now I've got access to my locker again, this is held at the depot).
  5. MEDALERT sheet in plastic zip-lock wallet with spare repeat prescription order sheets
  6. Rite-in-the-Rain spiral notepad
  7. High-Visibility vest
    (Now I've got access to my locker again, this is held at the depot).
  8. Glasses case with spare glasses and lens cloths
  9. Big Red Book
    (a reference manual for all London Bus Drivers. Mine's a bit tatty these days. Gotta ask for a fresh one!)
  10. Moleskin notebook
  11. Portable phone re-charger
    (battery-like device with a separate mains recharger unit as well)
  12. A5 clipboard
    (for use with daily Duty card, Vehicle Report Card, and Log card. Makes it easier to do the paperwork on the job. Now I've got access to my locker again, this is held at the depot.)
  13. Mini-maglite torch
    (doing the mandatory walk around a bus when taking it over from the previous driver in the dark is much easier with a torch, after all)
  14. Pens and pencils
  15. Shoe and boot laces.
    (You never know when you'll need the damn things!)
  16. Dextrose (Glucose) tablets. Getting tired is NOT an option!
  17. Emergency piezoelectric squeeze light, TfL (Transport For London) supply item.
  18. Gloves
  19. Card and pass wallet
  20. Lens cleaning solution pump spray bottle
  21. Spare batteries for the torch and camera
    (4 x AA size)
  22. Wallet
  23. HTC Touch Pro 2 Smartphone
    (yep, still on Vodafone, in case you were wondering!)
  24. Tee Key
    (a drop-forged "T"-shaped key about the size of a pair of smallish pliers, used to gain access to various lockers, doors, and hatches on a bus that the general public shouldn't mess with!)
  25. Bus ignition key, locker key, and self-retracting key cord clip
  26. Business card wallet

NOT Shown:


  • Headphones/mike for the phone
    (wired, not bluetooth)
  • Home keys
  • My daily prescription meds
    (enough for two days)
  • Gerber Multi-Tool
    (always handy to tighten someones nuts - I mean a loose bolt on a bus!)
  • Digital camera
    (Blog and incidents for the use of)
  • Pocket tissues
    (You would not believe how dusty it is on the roads over here)
  • Customer Service Pad
    (A yellow and white chit book, distressed/non-paying punters for the use of)
  • Water bottle
    (VERY essential what with the hot weather over here of late)

So, less the cash tray, high-vis vest, SPITKIT, "special items", and clipboard, almost all the rest of it goes with me wherever I go, either in the ruck, or more normally in a very big bum bag that's a right royal pain.

Well, that's the lot. That's my every day carry, as some call it, and what a load it is too. This fits into belt pouches, pockets, and a rucksack. Since I can trim down the major bulk items now, it's time to rationalise what I carry to and from work and home... so, having had me birthday a couple of days back, it's time to treat myself :)

Time, in other words, for a decent-sized Man Bag :)

Over the last few months, I've concluded that a messenger bag, while being fine and dandy for messenger and student types, just didn't cut the mustard for me (I tried one. What a disaster: I couldn't find a damn thing I wanted, it all kept falling down the bottom of the bag!). The daysack I currently use is getting there, but is heavy with the mass of crud I carry (see the list above), and it's not wearing too well - the bottom's getting well worn :(

The Specifications and Main Contenders...

So, whatever bag I get will be subjected to a fair bit of hard use, so it's gonna have to be a bag designed for that kind of use. There should be external pouches - blister pouches - that make it easy to get at regular use items easily, but which keep those items reasonably securely. Internal pockets should have dedicated spaces for such things as keys, pens, notebooks, and so on, and all should be secured reasonably safely and effectively. in addition, the bag should offer a measure of mild impact protection to its' contents, and that means robust materials should be used in its construction - 1000 denier thickness ballistic nylon as a minimum. Unfortunately, that means the specifications will have to be militarily robust, and that realistically means expensive kit. It also limits the available manufacturers a fair bit - British manufacturers would be preferred, but they don't do civvy - or military come to that - kit to that specifications requirement. The yanks, on the other hand, do. Which leaves the list as follows:

  • Maxpedition Jumbo S-Type
    (I prefer carrying this stuff on my left. Don't ask why, I just do: MaxP do a version of their Jumbo versipack in southpaw carry (i.e., carry it on the left hip, not the right), hence S-Type).

  • Royal Robbins 5.11 PUSH pack

    Forget the gun butt in the photo. It's an American thing. The most lethal thing I'm likely to carry around is a rather poor attitude to the weather ;-)
  • Blackhawk "Tactical Handbag"



There may be others, but these are the ones that stood out as meeting my general requirements for the capacity I need, the mode of carry I prefer (cross-shoulder-strap hip carry), and materials used in their construction.

MaxP...

The one that stands head and shoulders above the others is the MaxP Jumbo S-Type, not just because it meets my southpaw carry preference, but it's features are also far and above those offered by the other two, what with the way the pouches are places and the way in which they are accessed, but in the thought that has gone into making the bag so user-friendly - also, note the storm cover on the main section -0 that's right, it's got draw string closure - which will help keep loose items IN the bag, not slipping out of it. Nice touch. MaxP have a history of good robust design, and they've supplied both civilian and military alike for many years now, gaining consistent respect and high praise for their equipment.

5.11...

Royal Robbins made their name selling hard-use tactical clothing to the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation - their "tactical pants" are apparently basic issue kit at the FBI Acadamy at Quantico, and they're well-respected by both civilian and military agencies across the globe. I've already got one of their tactical load bags, which I use for a weekend bag, and what an excellent bit of kit it is too.

So, the 5.11 PUSH Pack was a definite contender based on previous experience, until I saw what they offered for the drinks pouch and blister (external) pouches. The one on the MaxP Jumbo is much better than the one on the 5.11 PUSH pack, and the BHI Tactical Handbag doesn't even have that, merely an after-thought mesh pocket on the side that's well exposed. The main problem with the drinks pouch on the PUSH pack is that it's designed to be collapsible into a zip-up pouch; getting caught on a sharp corner or snag on a bus, and that's a pouch ripped off. More to the point, continued zipping and unzipping would weaken the construction through the stresses and strains of extended usage, eventually rendering the pouch useless: It's happened to me before with military issue kit, and with other civvy kit I've bought in the past. That's my view, not anyone else's, by the way, and please note that I'm going by the photos, not physical examination - there are very few places over here that I can actually get to see this kind of stuff in the flesh, and then, not all together at once to compare them side-by-side, so I may be well off target in my assessment; never the less, it's what I can see that I have to base my judgement on, so that's that.

BHI...

I've also used BHI gear in the past: It's reasonably robust, and does what it says on the tin. At first however, the BHI offering also looks to be a slightly modified design of ALICE Webbing Butt pack, to be brutally honest, and that wasn't a good start - things tend to bounce around in those writ large, there being no dedicated slots or internal pouches in the ALICE Butt Pack.

However, having seen the photo of the Tactical handbag (God, what a horrendous name for it! With all the imagination they've had in the past in naming their gear, they couldn't come up with a more cool-sounding name than "Tactical handbag"?!) over at "8th Regiment Armoury", I was a little more impressed, but the lack of available blister pouches and stowage spaces in this pack was unfortunately limited, so it was also a 'no go' on the BHI pack, which is a shame, as I generally quite like their kit.

Army Surplus...

This brings me to another point that was suggested by a few mates of mine - old military kit. Yep, in principle, that's a damn good idea. The main problem is that those bits of gear don't have the features I want, tend to be camouflaged, so are no good for work or casual wear, and so we're back to the Jumbo S-Type and the PUSH pack. The PUSH pack, while having the capacity, was edged out on the features side, even though it was cheaper. However, remember that if you compromise on cost, you loose out on what you want, and this is a pack that I'm going to be using on a daily basis, so don't want to worry about it not meeting my very picky and stubborn needs, so the specification requirements stand.

The final selection...

So, by a paper sift process of elimination, it's the MaxP Jumbo S-Type that I'll be going for.

And that's where the problems started.

Uh-Oh... here we go again...

I LIKE the instant gratification you get when you buy something in person. However, that tends to be pricey for specialised kit like the above, so realistically, I'm looking at the internet to buy this thing.

I found them over on Amazon.com, but for some bloody weird reason that I frankly cannot see the common sense in, they won't ship this kit to the UK, and while the normal version of the Jumbo pack is available through Amazon.co.uk, the S-Type is not, dammit. Which means that I have to pay the bloody stupidly expensive prices UK retailers stick on - which more often than not results in the dollar sign being swapped for a pound sign.

I'm still looking at retailers, on both sides of the pond, anyhow. I'll post an update when I eventually get the bag ordered.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

It's official: TomTom - Third party POI Alerts R Not Us

Well, here's a great big honking surprise. Not.

Having just read the article over at Pocket GPS World (click for article in a new window), I can't really say I'm too surprised. It's about TomTom, after all.

TomTom's ability to accept 3rd party POI lists that you could tailor an alert to, was a major selling point - indeed, it was why the first satnav package that I ever bought for my smartphone a few years back was made by TomTom.

Then their customer services went over a cliff, plunging groundwards as if propelled by rockets.

First, they failed to reply to enquiries; then, they failed to update mapping - even if a fee was required. Then they failed - nay, refused - to update the software, with the "read between the lines" comments being that software piracy was obviously to blame for a loss of sales - what utter and complete rot. It was their failure to maintain and update the software for smartphones that was the cause of the loss of sales: Common sense would have told them that, had they paid attention.

Then, when a major manufacturer (HTC) released a brand new smartphone, they up and generated a bundled version for the German Market release of that phone only, tied to one network.

The release was then widened to a couple more models of phone (still a bundled release), and eventually,and grudgingly, released to retail: It was still a generation behind their stand alone Personal Navigation Device (PND) releases, however.

Now, yet again, TomTom's institutional arrogance seems to have no limits. Having captured a significant proportion of the market with their support for 3rd party POI warning-capable lists with easily adjustable warning features (distance to warning, sound used, and so on) - NOT just speed cameras, but such things as supermarket, petrol stations, banks, Cash machines, and Post Office locations, which many folks find exceedingly useful on a daily basis, TomTom have apparently decided that we cannot be trusted to use such a feature responsibly. They said:

TomTom has stopped supporting 3rd party POI proximity warning sounds in speed camera products


For a DUTCH company to make a read-between-the-lines comment like this is gob-smackingly astounding - The Netherlands are supposed to be a haven for liberal views and thinking. Not for TomTom any more, it seems. Well, OK, they have a right to form their own opinions: It's a relatively free world, after all.

But for TomTom to have the arrogance of then removing a previously free feature that helped to sell their products, by a read-between-the-lines comment that we cannot be trusted to use this feature responsibly, is totally unacceptable. The era of Nanny-Life-Management is over, TomTom. Wake up: We're adults, not children.

It's more likely, frankly, that in developing new versions of the package, they want to simplify the software, thus reducing the development costs. I can follow that line of thinking a damn sight more understandably. We're in the midst of a depression, after all.

In short though, it's yet another damn good reason to tell TomTom go take a long hike off a short pier.

I'm sure their own POI lists will warn them in time that they're going to have to brake hard to avoid going off the pier, after all...

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

OK, so it's my birthday. Happy Birthday, me :-)

Naturally, it's hissing it down. Quelle Surprise. Someone out there's been and gone and done the blasted Pategonian Rain Dance, of course, the utter muppit.

And there I am, having looked at the weather summary for today last night, with no umbrella, no rain coat, and feeling rather let down by the weather.

On my birthday. I should have remembered that the Wimbledon tennis championships are still on!

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Everyone and their dog has probably commented on this... now it's the turn of their bus driver, too...

I'm not a huge fan of Football... the British game, I mean, not that strange American game of a similar name, with all the padding, helmets, face guards, twenty teams per side, and a misshapen Rugby Ball...

I now know why.

Ye gods, what a bloody shambles. Since hanging the whole bloody lot of them is sadly out of the question (more's the pity), I trust and hope that all concerned with the team that we sent to South Africa, right from the top, the Chairman of the Football Association, to the bottom (pick a job to axe), do the decent thing, and resign en-mass. In fact, I strongly suspect that the bog washer at the Football Association in London is probably the only one who has no blame to take in this damnable fiasco whatsoever. It's made (and not for the first time) English football a laughing stock for the rest of the world.

Four bloody ONE?! I damn near cried into me coffee. My colleagues were in a worse state, I assure you.

I fully expect us all to be learning to speak German in time for the next damn world cup.

Thank the stars for English Rugby, which is in a damn sight better health than the so-called "National Game" of Football.

Bobby Moore's probably spinning in 'is grave, t'poor bugger.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Oho... a reaction - and it's for the better!

Well the roastpost I left on NavMii's forums appears to have sparked someone's attention - for the moment, at least. Seems their customer service bloke's eyes got a tad rivetted to his terminal's screen today - because he replied in double quick time - make that ten orders faster, even - than he has of late. Interesting, that. I post there, and here, and *BING!*, we get intelligent responses!

In fairness to the lad, I half suspect he's one body, catering not just to the public retail arm of GeoLife, but to their B2B (Business Clients) as well, but never the less, the recent trend of leaving customer comments, observations, and even a couple of tech support questions on their forums to fester for days, often weeks, on end, was hardly the right thing to do.

Still, he's paying attention at the moment so, while the iron is hot, I'm asking the questions I want to ask, and getting, if not 100% satisfaction, at least halfway decently intelligent answers and a certain amount of commitment from him. He's even apologised for using the word "Soon" again!

So... watch this space!

Microsoft Office?! Who the bleep wants that?!

This just in from The Register...

Microsoft throws Office 2010 at shoppers
Free online, charged on desktop
http://go.theregister.com/news/http://www.reghardware.com/2010/06/15/office_2010_hits_retail/


Um.... Has anyone told those guys at Redmond that Open Office has (1) a MUCH smaller footprint, and (2) is totally free?

I tend to think not, given the above!

Hmm. Satnav customer services... a generally bodily-fluid-poor relationship...

From Pocket GPS World...

The arrival of TomTom's START device saw the first unit that could not natively support third party POIs including our speed camera warnings.

Now it seems that TomTom have seen fit to roll out this dumbed down feature list to the XL-2 IQ, XL-2 IQ Live and Ease. Whilst there was a work-around that permitted users to install custom POIs, TomTom have now blocked this with a software update.

Is this a move to differentiate budget models from premium devices or are we seeing a move by TomTom to control their devices and restrict what users can install upon them?

As content providers it is only fair that we declare a vested interest in this issue but the move sets a worrying precedent. Are we going to see further moves to secure the content and prevent third parties from competing with them?

If we take speed camera data as an example, our subscribers have long known how poor TomTom's data is in comparison. If they lock down their units then you will no longer have the benefit of choice in choosing who provides the speed camera data or be able to install community provided POIs.


This is a major issue, folks: none of us have the time to go out and research where the next petrol station, rest stop facilities, bank, cinema, tescos/asda/whatever is in relation to where we are at any given time, which is where POI, or Point Of interest files come into their own when used with satellite navigation systems (Sat Nav).

Generally speaking, the POI files that manufacturers may supply (or not), are horrendously out of date by the time we get them, which is where 3rd party POI suppliers, like PGPSW, come into their own. The POI files are updated by the members, in a similar manner to the way the Open Street Map is updated by its' contributors. The result is timely, pretty-much up-to-date and thus accurate POI files, that many rely on.

For TomTom to remove the ability of new customers to use these files is frankly an absurd move on their part that I for one fail to understand. It is, in my view, another sign of an arrogant company trying to have absolute control over what choices are available to its customers.
Only this time, I reckon they've shot themselves in the foot.

TomTom has, in the past, been recognised for it's easily usable and user-customisable Satnav systems. Not any more, by the look of things.

They are being challenged by the online providers such as Google Maps and Ovi maps; there are many more providers of the on-board satnav packages than ever before, and now they're locking their products down, and thus limiting their usability to the customer?!

I'm darn glad I jumped the TomTom ship last year.

Only one problem, my current provider's not much better when it comes to customer service, so I'd hold off on NavMii for the moment too: Their promises appear on the face of it to be very much like vapourware: Loads of promise, with nothing materialising to justify the claims. Example: we've been promised updates for everything from TTS (Text To Speech) to better routing, and updates to many areas of the package (just have a read of their forums - it's all there); nothing's materialised. There's a public beta out, but given the features they've said they've "improved" in this very minor beta release, I'm not bothering with it, in case something else in there has been broken.

Frankly, I'm getting very hacked off with the lack of reliable service we customers are getting, and I'm about ready to jump provider AGAIN.

I went to NavMii from TomTom for several reasons, the two main ones being price and compatibility with the Pocket GPS World speed - sorry - safety camera POI database. For these two reasons, it's been successful.

However, they promised updates not just to me, but to all their customers, and this was reason three: I expected that they would release updates to fully enable the package to utilise POI files, in much the same way that they enabled it for the PGPSW files.

This, they have not done.

Likewise, they have been saying that they would release regular updates to the maps. Well, here's a thing: Their mapping provider, TeleAtlas, allegedly release updates every three months. This from their website:

Do Tele Atlas’ partners use the most current Tele Atlas product?
We deliver the latest release of our products to all our partners and customers on a quarterly basis. Each release includes extended content and coverage and improved quality, which enables our partners to deliver robust, turn-by-turn navigation systems and innovative location-based services that address the needs of millions of consumers every day.


So, how come no updates for the last five months on the maps, then?

Like I said above: Vapour promises.

Once again, I'm very disappointed with these people. All we, the little people, seem to get, are placations and pats on the head.

I for one am thoroughly sick of it.

Damned if I know how it's going to be achieved, but isn't it time that things changed for the better?

A couple of hours later...

OK, update time already

The following ius a slightly truncated quote from Darren over at PGPSW...

My original news item is incorrect in suggesting that these dumbed down models have removed ALL support for custom POIs in that Start/Start2, and XL IQ2/XL IQ2 Live.

I need to clarify this as it was a misunderstanding on my part caused by the lack of POI options in the new simplified menu. There is no longer any option for managing POIs but any that you install do appear in the "Navigate to POI" menu.

So you can still install third party POIs and navigate to them, what you cannot do it set alerts and so speed camera warnings are no longer possible.

However, the forthcoming GO LIVE 1000 is a different beats entirely and with no direct access to its file system it remains to be seen how or indeed if TomTom will manage the install of third party data.


So, existing units can still accept speed camera files, they just in certain cases won't issue alarms for safety cameras.

It's effectively the same thing, though: many folks use these POI files to keep themselves on track and within the law, by reminding themselves of speed limits. This is where the safety camera alerts initiated by the POI files come into their own.

As TomTom has now effectively removed the facility for those alerts, what's the point of using their products, then?

None at all, from what I can see.

Follow-Up...
I got some feedback for this entry from someone who, while making a very poigniant and sensible point about the value of good customer relations, also included a really blatent and 'in-your-face' plug for a commercial website for people to obtain tailored Curriculum vitaes...

Now, in principle, I haven't a problem with someone being enterprising. Hell, I like making money, just like the next bloke. I just don't like people tring to do it off my back, especially when it has absolutely nothing to do with the subject at hand. It's just very poor manners.

So, as I couldn't edit out the web address, I've had to reject the comment. It's for this very reason that comments are fully moderated here, by the way.