Wednesday, 24 August 2011

I am really, really, REALLY, starting to hate Apple...

Here's why...

These guys just really take the sodding cake, they really do. The idea of a hand-held computer is nothing new, after all. It's been around in science fiction for decades, even longer, maybe. Likewise, the idea of using a touch-sensitive screen is nothing new either - there are two types, resistive, where only one touch works at a time, and capacitative, where you can use two simultaneous touches to achieve a better result - that, by the way, is a hardware solution, not software, and has been known about for a fair while as well. Neither, come to that, is there anyting remarkably new in the way to show icons on a screen, or to combine the lot into a mobile (or cellular) telecommunications package, and call it a smartphone.

Yet, here's bloody Apple, waving a shedload of patents that should NEVER have seen the light of day, crying "foul" because, frankly, someone else has the temerity to challenge their so-called right to dominate the market. What Apple appear to be trying to do, by the way, is get a stranglehold, a complete dominance and monopoly, on mobile tablet computing. That's called restrictive trading practices, in my opinion. Wonder if a court will catch onto that theory and make it stick?

The people who run Apple are described in other places online as something of a bunch of control freaks, who demand that you only buy "Apps" from THEIR online store. They also apparently demand as much as 30% of the sale price as a fee for allowing such software packages to be sold there. So much for reasonable commisions. So much for free enterprise.

Microsoft have never demanded that third parties do that, and that's on a so-called 'closed' or proprietory operating system (Windows, in all its various incarnations), for pities sake. Even Android (Google) don't demand you use their "market place", there being a couple more out there, such as the Amazon version, to name but one.

Yet, here's Apple, screaming "Foul" at the top of their army of lawyers lungs, whenever they feel like it.

Enough is enough, and to misquote a King, will not SOMEONE rid us of this troublesome "Priest" (preferably in the courts, of course)?

Anyhow, the upshot for me would appear to be that unless I find the readies to buy a Galaxy S 2 inside the next seven weeks, I probably won't be able to get one at all, ever, thanks to those bloody ranting and tantruming brats over at Apple.

I mean, come ON, you'd think that having more disposable cash than the US Government would've been more than enough, right?

I really have had more than enough of those patent-waving wotsits, I really have.

Monday, 22 August 2011

I.C.E. / CRASH Cards...

It occurred to me, while watching a clip on youtube (of collisions caught on video), that many of us out there don't carry any form of emergency identification at all.

Even bike riders, for pities sake.

So, in the hope that this might actually help someone someday, a few ideas...

I have a pair of ID discs that I always wear; they're modelled on my old Army ID Discs, they've got the "big 6" on them (Surname, Initials, Service Number, Date of birth, Blood Group, and Religion), and there's an extra disc, red in colour, that says "HEART ATTACK RCA", to give the hint to anyone providing emergency medical help to me that I've had a heart attack in the past.

In my wallet, I also have what I call an ICE card, or "In Case of Emergency" card, printed on high-visibility yellow card, briefly detailing my personal details, who to call in the event of emergency, who my General Practitioner (Doctor) is, and what medications I'm prescribed.

I found a website a while back that allows you to fill in an online form, and print out your own ICE card. here's the link. They assure you that they do not record anything you put there; the details you enter are used to produce the image that you then print out, fold, laminate, and carry with you. Or, you could do what I did, and make your own design up. As long as it's got the details outlined in the online generator, you're on the right track. And don't forget your ten-digit NHS and nine-digit National Insurance numbers, while you're at it!

There are, of course, many, many, many other ways of carrying this information around with you.

Existing ones, that have been around for a while, include medical alert style jewellery, such as necklaces, bracelets, bands, and so on. There are a few retailers of this stuff online, and a simple google search will find them. Remember to use google UK, and specify UK results, so that you get results that have a chance of being useful over here in Great Britain; American resources, while obviously very useful over there, might omit certain details that British medics need (and vice verse, if you're an American, search, and specifiy US results, and so on, for whatever counrty you live in).

An innovative one is ZAP tag (click for link); tied into your Doctor's records on you, the card incorporates a small USB storage device, which can be synchronised with the secured online files held with zaptag themselves; the hiccup with this is that it requires a computer to access the files, of course. But that's the only drawback, as far as I can see.

Still, it's important that you carry at least one thing that lets the emergency services know who you are, and of any medical problems that you may have, such as allergies, and so on; a low-tech solution for all situations is, in my view, a better solution, so human-readable discs or tags around the neck, or a bracelet/band around the wrist, coupled with a crash or ICE card in the wallet, is the best bet.

And if you're thinking of sticking this very useful information onto your nice shiny phone, well, don't bother. The emergency services will take one look, see that you're password locked the damn thing, and carry on regardless - which COULD spell disaster.

So go low-tech.

Cards, tags, bands, whatever, but carry at least ONE thing to let them help you is you're unable to communicate with the emergency services for whatever reason.

It may just help to save your life.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Fast work indeed...

Well, following the truly disgusting events of monday night, it appears that triple Seven (777) demolition pulled out all the stops in performing their task for the Reeves Family; the roads are once again open to traffic, four or five days earlier than expected by London Buses (Our diversion notices were saying it'd be the weekend before things got back to normal).

Congratulations on the fast work, folks.

Just sorry it had to happen because of a retarded fudgewit with no common sense or respect for others.

I still hope they throw the offender UNDER the gaol, and lose the key, though.

OK... and now everyone's staring at me like I've grown a second head...!

This "Nemi" cartoon in todays' Metro got me laughing myself practically off my chair in the cafe opposite the eastern Bus Stand in my meal relief this morning - and got me some very odd looks from staff and customers alike ;-)


Sunday, 14 August 2011

More aftermath photos from Reeves Corner in Croydon.

This is a shot from Google Streetview, from a year or two ago.

That's close to a hundred and fifty years of building history, family history (The Reeves Family), and local history as well, all wrapped up in one, there.

I took the next set of photos on the way home from work yesterday. Unsurprisingly, a fair few others were doing the exact same thing.

This is all that's left.

It's almost as one might have expected from a German bombing raid during the Blitz in the Second World war, minus a crater, of course.

I'd imagine the feelings of the Reeves Family were close to the same as many families felt when their homes were hit during the war.

Sadly, this was not caused by war. This was caused by an unthinking, malicious, (delete certain words guaranteed to earn me a few days in court). You get the idea, anyhow.

This is the view of the re-set tram tracks towards Wimbledon. Note the relaid aphalt. The heat from the fire actually melted the original seals between the cobble bricks and the rails, requiring this quick fix. I'd imagine that there'll be some more engineering works to be performed to make a more permenent fix, before long.

Notice also the cut-down street light pole (wrapped in red-and-white fire cordon tape; there's a few like this all around the site of the building. Hardly surprising, I'd imagine the aluminium poles melted due to the heat involved.

Next, the buildings on the Church Street side of the block, singed and burnt in places through the heat and ashes from the main Reeves Furniture building on Monday. The Chemist on the left corner of the block here (you can just see the green frontage on the ground floor at the edge of the photo) is only just able to be open again. Note the relaid road surface. Like may things around the fire, the original asphalt actually melted due to the temperatures that the fire generated. Gives you a good idea just how savage that fire was.

The almost completely demolished Reeves building, with their original and remaining annex in the background (the white building). Even that got some of the heat. Note the two pole bases, wrapped in red-and-white barrier tape, in the foreground.

The demolition work went on all weekend, by the way. The next stage, I'd imagine, will be the removal of the rubble, and finally, one has to assume that the site will be partitioned off with a fence, before any rebuilding takes place. That'll require planning permission, architects, and so on. I'd imagine it will, barring more miracles, be at least a year or two before we see anything resembling a shop on this site again. It's a crying shame, it really is.

There's no other way of describing this horrendous event but by using the right words: It was a tragedy of horrendous proportions.

This is the remaining wall still standing.

That'll be gone soon, too. You can see the heat and fire damage to the other nearby buildings behind it (Church Street side).

Let's hope that the Reeves family manage to get everything rebuilt as fast as possible - and not with some horrid modern monstrosity, but something that actually resembles what was lost to the arson attack.

We're told that the areas going to be blocked to road-going traffic for around another week, according to the London Buses 'Notice Of Event' that details our diversions in Croydon at the moment. At least they've got the trams running again, anyhow.

How no-one was injured or killed by this arson insanity I'll never fathom. Small miracles, and all that.

Before the riot, I'd walked, driven, and riden past the Reeves Furniture store countless times in my lifetime without really giving it another thought; My parents bought their latest sofa and chairs from them in the last couple of years, even.

To say that it almost all went up in smoke and flames thanks to one thoughtless and malicious individual, would have been unthinkable mere days beforehand.

Suffice to say, I hope that they throw the bloody book at the half-arsed slow-witted pea-brained jerk of the lowest order that caused the fire, and throw away the damn key.

I'd say more, but I'd only be re-hashing what professional journalists, polititians, and so on, have been blathering on about since the riots happened.

Every so often...

...there's a view that I have to photograph. Here's two such photos, taken this morning.

This is looking across south east London, at about 6.30 this morning. Rather appropriate for a Sunday, with all the beams of light shining down.

I like it, anyhow.

It's not often that I've got a camera of doing such a sight even half its justice, so whenever I can, and I've got the camera with me, I try to get the shot.

Hope you like it.

This next one was taken this moring, on the way to work, at about 3.45 am.

A right ungodly hour of the morning, you will doubtless agree, but occasionally, itr results in a shot like this.

And the same again, a few moments later...

 Again, hope you liked them :-)

Thursday, 11 August 2011


Having spent the last couple of days off sick with a crook neck (I was reversing a bus on the southern bus stand, and CRACK, there went me neck, aaaargh!), I got into work this morning to find the wreckage of the bus that was torched in the Riot in Croydon on Monday night. That's it, on the left. the yellow bit is the "Vehicle off Road - Do not Use" steering wheel cover that some comedian has stuck there. As if.

Anyhow, this is the aftermath for us. Luckily, I'm told that our driver got away from it unharmed, if somewhat shaken, of course.

This, when new, was about three hundred grands-worth of double-decker Alexander Trident bus and fittings.

Now? Maybe a couple of hundred quids-worth of scrap steel, aluminium, and maybe a little scrap of rubber here and there that may have escaped the fire.

Thanks be to whoever you believe in, that no-one was hurt, or worse, killed, by the completely brainless thuggery that caused this.

I think it's high time that we told Europe to naff off, and stuck Stocks and pillories back in Town Squares, along with the required rotten vegetables retail stand, to be used in the first case against the scum that do these things. we might also think about a Ducking Pond for repeat offenders, followed by actual Hard Physical Labour sentences for third-time losers.

What sayest thou? Yay or nay?

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Hmm. Vodafone retentions need to wake the hell up, I think.

OK, my major rant below done, time for a smaller one...!

It appears that my current contract with Vodafone's up for renewal soon; I had Mobile Phones Direct tell me this the other week (I got my current HTC Touch Pro 2 from them), so looked into it today.

I'm far from impressed.

Seems that if I go for the phone that I want (a Samsung Galaxy S II running Android v2.3 "Gingerbread"), then instead of the £26 a month contract that Vodafone are offering new punters, as an existing punter, I won't be paying less, I'd be paying MORE?! What?!

Have they completely lost their marbles?!

Add to this, if I want the phone at my current 36-odd quid a month contract, I'd have to shell out something like 60-65 quid for the privilage?!

I think that they can stick their ideas into a dark smelly place, thank you very much.

I'll save some money, and buy an unlocked, SIM-free one in a few months time, then DOWNGRADE my contract to a SIM-Only contract instead, thus saving me ooodles of money in the long term.

Think about it: Sim-Free, one of these phones is around the 500 quid mark.

How much am I paying in contract terms over two years? £864 or so. Add in the off-plan phone, text, and data, and that adds to the cost, and let's also not forget that Vodafone aren't paying retail pricers for the phones - they're probably paying about a half to two-thirds the retail price through bulk purchasing from Samsung.

Now, let's call the two year cost £870, plus the £65 upgrade charge, that's £935 over two years.

Costs of Sim-Free? £500 for the phone. SIM-Free contracts can be had from all the Mobile operators, of course, and a comparison of those costs can be found here. It's quite revealing.

Now, I've got a SIM for mobile internet (for a dongle) from 3, their tenner a month PAYG (Pay As you Go) option, and very good it is too; I use it on my Acer "Aspire 1" netbook. On the strength of that, if I go SIM-Only, it's going to be a toss-up between Vodafone and 3; currently, I'm thinking a 15/month SIM-only contract from 3, so costs on that would be, over two years: £360.

The deal that 3 offer, by the way, is VERY attractive:

Talk Time Text Messages Extras Contract Length Monthly Cost
300 minutes anytime cross network 3,000 inclusive text messages 1GB mobile internet;
FREE Delivery;
14 Day return;
Keep your number
30 day rolling contract £15.00


So, total costs over two years on that combination, would be: £500 + £360 = £860, a tenner less over two years than my current contract, if I replace my existing phone with a new one. Even excluding one-off accessories (belt pouch, and such like), it's still a good deal.

It's an even better deal if I instead deep-six Vodafone altogether at the end of my contract, and go with the deal from 3, while retaining my existing phone - it would also save me fifteen to twenty quid a month., which is somewhat attractive too.

You do the maths.

Don't get me wrong: Vodafone have been good for me over the last couple of years; their customer services folks, the very few times I needed them, were pretty fast on the nuptake, and good at their jobs. But customer loyalty is all about giveing your existing punters a good deal, while also making sure that they KNOW that they're getting a good deal. It's therefore rather sad that their marketing and sales department can't seem to grasp this concept. To a certain extent, it would appear that all the Mobile Operators need to pull their fingers out for their existing punters. So, again, I'll ask: WHY do existing punters get the short shrift from Vodafone and similar?

it's easy enough to follow, sadly. It's because they know that the vast majority of us will NOT look twice, we'll simply nod blindly, and accept the charges that'll cost them more in the long term.

Well, Not me, folks.

I'm buying SIM-Free again. It may well mean that I have to wait just a little longer for that new phone, but, long-term, it'll be a damn sight cheaper for me to do so!

It's about time I really ranted, so here we go.

I cannot, in this place, call the people that did all of this by the words I want to use; the Blant wold be censored so fast it'd make my head spin.

Last night, the violence that hit Tottenham and then Brixton came to Croydon.

Live, on the news, the BBC showed a bus and a major landmark shop being razed to the ground, for no more reason than to give the offenders a cheap laugh.

Frankly, I'm completely sickened by this; I work in the Croydon area, travelling past Reeves Corner every day; this wasn't a protest on 'globalisation', 'poverty' or any other such dubious tripe and nonsense: This was plain vindictiveness from those who quite probably haven't, and never will have, a job, towards those who they hate, those who have actually have got a job. Its the haves and have nots all over again. And the courts, having been so hellishly lenient towards those who commit crime over the last decade or so - especially when youths were involved - are a major factor in the blame game that's now coming home to roost.

The polititians that we send to Parliament every four or five years need to sit up and take notice: Enough is bloody well more than enough.

If the courts will not be harsh, then MAKE them be harsh, and impose real punishment on those who offend; prisons are places where the offender now has more rights than the victims of the crimes - and offenders now appear to see it as a holiday camp, and even seem to sue the government if their in-cell telly is taken away.

Again: Enough is enough.

Fix that first: Re-establish a regime in prison that actually makes prison a place of punishment, not of leisure.

I will freely admit that we're in a recession, and that money is far too tight. But we NEED to make examples of those who offend, now more than ever.

Despite what some say, do NOT send the offenders into the Armed Forces: it's the wrong place for them, and the Armed Forces frankly do NOT want them, either.

Instead, if you canot (or will not) put the offenders in prison, put them to work - and I do mean work - in the most demeaning and humiliatingly disgusting jobs you can find, that will benefit and/or restore the communities that they harmed.

Next up: Order must be restored forthwith; if the Police canot do it on their own, then declare an Emergency, and put the Armed Forces to work in their MACC role (Military Aid to the Civil Community), to assist the Police with their task of restoring Law and Order.

Once you've done that, make sure the Police treat everything as Zero Tolerance. maybe then we'll start to see a bit of common decency and respect re-enter our communities. One can only hope, anyhow.

Further, here's my call to our elected representatives in Parliament: Actually Do the sodding job you were given by us, the general public. Stop the stupid Etonian-style upper-class horsedroppings and games you play in those corridors and chambers of power, and LEAD in a meaningful and acceptable way. Ensure that the rule of law, and that proper order, and returned to the streets, making them safe for all law-abiding subjects to conduct their lawful goings-on, and put the offenders on immediarte and unconditional notice that they will be dealt with by the harshest possible means known to man.

And if that means telling Europe to go stick a sharp and pointy barbed object up their backsides, so be it: This bleating on about this or that breaching an offenders Human Rights excuse nonsense we hear all too much of these days has GOT to be reigned in to the light of Common Sense.

Then: Re-introduce the death penalty for murder, like the public have been demanding in that online petition, and bugger what Europe says on the topic. What the hell do THEY know? It's OUR damned country, NOT theirs, and it's what we, the subjects, want.

Yes, i said "Subjects". We are not bloody "citizens", we, as British people, are subjects of the Crown. Get that right, too, and stop trying to be so damned politically correct. I would remind you lot in Parliament that PC also stands for Prime Crud (and other less polite words, too), and the PC rubbish you lot come out with on an almost daily basis smells like it too. So dump the PC rubbish where it needs to go to, and see a bit of CS, or Common Sense.

On Europe and the so-called EC. Frankly, I've had my fill of Europe and it's wishy washy stupidity to last many lifetimes, let alone the one I'm alloted; the Common Market (Forerunner to the EEC, and then the EC and now the EU) was a good idea. What it's morphed into is a nightmare of truly hellish proportions, and we need to get out now, and allow our country to be run by us, not them.

Next: Foreign Aid. I admit, it's heart-rending to see the extreme poverty and suffering in the developing - or 'third' - world, but charity begins at home, after all, and until we've put our own house in order, what the hell are we doing sending monies that could better be spent fixing up this place, than a place many thousands of miles away? Moreover: These foreign aid deals seem to include conditions, like do politics this way, not that way, put irrigation in, don't buy more arms and ammunition wuth this money, and so on. Seems to me that these conditions are moot: They're going to do just what the hell they please with the money, so don't bother. Spend it here, where you CAN guarantee that it'll be spend properly. Maybe, just maybe, when we've put our own house in order, we can then show the rest of the world a shining beacon of respectability and decency that's the envy of the rest of the world, that may even command a bit of respect, so that what we suggest may actually happen across the globe.

Again, one can only hope, but it's down to the polititians we put in Parliament to actually stand up and do their part for us to have a chance at it working.

Listen in, you Parliamentarians: We put you lot there, you damn well listen to us - or we may well wind up voting you out next time, and bang goes your gravy train. Think about it.

The time for Common Sense is apon us all.

Who's with me?

Monday, 8 August 2011

Rioting, and the aftermath costs...

Not, I strongly suspect, that those rioters in London yesterday give a toss, but once there's been that kind of disorder and damage, there are aftermath costs to consider. Increased insurance for the shops is a fairly safe bet. Increased council and policing costs to add to already high council tax bills is a no-brainer, as the yanks like to call that kind of logic. Costs associated with some people having to replace personal property that may have been trashed in the riots, and so on, almost inevitably. So. Aside from that last item, who's going to wind up paying for all of this mass stupidity?

Yup. You and me.

There are thing I'd love to do to those rioters, but doing those things would get me locked up faster that you can say "oops", dammit.

Addition, a few hours later...

Another thought on the riots. They trashed a McD's and a KFC in Brixton. What on Earth have those got to do with the shooting in Tottenham? Correct. Nothing at all. Likewise, Curries, Smiths, et all, who all got looted and/or burnt out, are staple shops with the lower paid working folks out there - and yet, they got hit.

I'll ask again: Were they in any way, even remotely, to do with the shooting in Tottenham?

Answer: No. Of course not.

Yet, they were targeted by the rioters.

So, one has to ask: What were the riots (the origninal and the copy cat ones later on) all about?

Short answer: Thievery and Thuggery.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

On using your Oystercard on a bus...

First things first. It's not a bog-standard single lump of plastic cut to card-shape. It's actually several thin layers, bonded together to form a composite 'near-field' RFID card.

That means it's got a small computer chip inside the card, linked to an antenna, also built into the card. It's all 'passive', and doesn't need a power source. When it's held to ("touched") a card reader, the card reader does all the work, and using radio technology, gets the required information off the card, such as the amount of money to pay the fare, or if it's got a period pass on the card, that it's in date, and so on.

For the teenagers amongst you, that means that if you're on this apparent 'plastic diet' where you seem to chew or nibble the edges of the card, don't be too surprised if the damn thing stops working, as likely as not, you just chewed through the antenna in the card, and may well have to stump up £2.20 in cash to buy a ticket. We can't take your word that it's valid, as it *may* have been stopped for certain reasons (can you say "anti-social behaviour" and "free travel withdrawn"?).

Anyhow, here are the audio clues to listen for, when you touch (not slam, bend, or pound) your Oystercard to the reader unit...

  • One 'Bleep' heard from the reader:
    All OK, carry on and try to find a seat on the bus.
  • Two 'bleeps' heard from the reader:
    OOPS! Something's gone wrong, either the card couldn't be read, or it's not got enough money to pay the fare, or something. See the driver, anyhow.
  • Six short 'bleeps' heard from the reader:
    Child rate pass. If you're an adult and the driver hears this, you've got a problem!

An additional clue is the little light above and to the left of the reader unit. Normally orange, if it turns red and you hear those two bleeps, then you have a problem. See the driver. If it turns green (one or six bleeps), carry on, all is well.

Oh yeah, if you get the two bleeps, don't argue the toss with the driver. He or she has to take the machines' word for things. We have very little discression in this - and those of you who ask for yellow tickets ("Unpaid Fare Notices"), you're chancing your arms - we're only supposed to issue those in exceptional circumstances, such as for the elderly, those in distress, young kids, and similar: They're not supposed to be used if you "forgot" your card, wallet, or whatnot. It that's the case, then tough cheese, get off and walk. It's your fault you forgot the where-with-all to pay for the trip, after all. Man up (as I believe the term is these days), and take the fault on the chin, like the rest of us.

I hope this helps clear up the confusion some of you seem to have!