Thursday, 30 May 2013

I believe I hate Microsoft.

Not a unique feeling, I somehow suspect.

Here's why...

I have a new notebook, an early birthday present from my better half (fed up, I suspect, with my frustration with my old Windows 7 machine's inability to my much else than fall over and crash regularly); so, here I am getting to grips with Windows 8, and I find that to read my kindle books on it, I need the new windows 8 version of the Amazon Kindle reader. Not a problem, thinks I, and following the instruction from Amazon, trundle off to the MS 'app store', all innocent-like, to download said thing.

And then, the infernal and almost terminally homicidal rage-inducing logic loops began.

It seemed that I already had a Microsoft account. God knows when this was created, but there it was. So, not knowing the password, I had to try the recovery process. The moment I plugged in my name and post code to recover the password, it locked onto my name and postcode, and asked me a security question. The answer hasn't changed in over seventy years (related to my Mum), and the system - wow, what a surprise, rejected it.

After filling in a form to try to wrest control back, the system told me not five minutes later, by email, there was insufficient information, and locked my more than six years-old dormant account.

So, I tried talking to a human (not on the phone, it's apparently too old fashioned for Microsoft, as it could have solved the problem in about ten seconds flat) on their 'help chat' thingamabob, and got nowhere. It's probably an Artificial Intelligence, it was certainly doing similar logic loops.

Now, bear in mind: I have a birth certificate, a driving licence, I pay my income tax, national insurance, council tax, and various bills every month; I hold a driving licence and Certificate of Professional Competence to drive big vehicles on British roads, and thus my identity is government-sanctioned and approved in big red letters, which were stamped upon my forehead with a nice environmentally-friendly synthetic rubber stamp when I was born nearly forty-nine years ago.

Yet, here I am, with a nice shiny new computer, unable to download even FREE software from Microsoft, because they retain data way past its shelf life, and BLOCK real people, because we cannot give them our electronic inside leg measurement to the nine millionth decimal place.

To say that I'm almost terminally frustrated with this gargantuan bunch of electronic jobsworths is putting it mildly. They are NOT a government, yet they behave like they own the planet. Hell, if you believe the press, they don't even pay their decent slice of taxes. And oh, by the way, what the hell are they doing, retaining data that's over six years old, which has never been accessed in all that time and is clearly expired? Aren't there laws about that sort of thing?

Oh yeah, forgot. They own the sodding planet.

God, I am so bloody angry right now, it's amazing I haven't popped a blood vessel.

If anyone has a way of fixing this huge pile of poo, I'm all ears.


Saturday, 25 May 2013

I'm a Hoopy Frood!

What? Have I lost my marbles? Has a Vogon read me poetry?

Nope. Not even close.

I, like many thousands of others, enjoy the works of the late Douglas Adams, the author of, amongst other things, "The Hitchhikers' Guide To The Galaxy".

So, International Towel Day is in celebration of That Guy. yeah, the one with the outrageous idea that launched a pair of petunias from Orbit. And a Whale; the ground was NOT its' friend, of course. Splat.

Ahem. ITD. Right.

So, on this day, fans of his work (Adams, not the whale, may it rest in messy pieces) grab their towels (or at least know where their towels are located), and make sure that all and sundry know that they're Hoopy Froods.

It's celebrated world-wide, naturally. Dunno about galaxy-wide though, the local Galactic Express news office is over on Alpha Centauri, and some silly bugger here forgot to invent a way to get around the light speed barrier, but that's another story altogether (wrong script, sorry!).

Here, though, you can have a look over at, or even better, at


Sunday, 19 May 2013

Back on home broadband again...

You'll recall from the previous Blant that my broadband went ***s-up the other day, when the wall-plug  power supply unit (PSU) to my TalkTalk-supplied Huawei HG521 modem/router failed.

Now, the part in question that failed was a mass-produced power supply unit that probably cost less than two quid to mass produce, and which took the mains-supplied 240 Volts Alternating Current at 13 Amps, and sent it through a built-in step-down transformer in the plug, down to the required output of 5 Volts Direct Current at 1 Amp, with voltage and current regulation built into it. Variations of these units, differing only in output voltage/amperage, are bog-standard mass-produced bits of kit that, these days, come with most modern personal electronics devices you buy in the shops (such as mobile (cellular) phones, cordless phones, and so on). So, you'd think that suppliers would carry spare or replacement units, given that unit longevity appears to be a tad lacking.

Not so.

Following the circular illogic of talking over the phone to their 'customer care' person the other night, I found the @talktalkcare twitter feed, and complained there instead, then having to fill in a form to get them to be able to email me directly (ye gods, so much for existing customer databases!), I finally got hold of someone who actually followed what I was trying to get them to understand. However, even though they now understood the problem, they wouldn't help. "Unfortunately your router is now out of warranty. We are unable to place orders for power supplies independently of a router. If you require a replacement router they can be purchased from..." was the reply.

You'll note that there was no form of empathy, no apology, not even sympathy for the problem I was experiencing, just a words equivalent to a flat "it's out of warranty and we can't help you. We can sell you a new modem, though". Now, I will freely grant that companies exist to make money, but bloody hell, this was taking the bodily fluids. By now, spitting nine-inch nails through the walls, and turning the air a vivid shade of electric blue as a habit, rather than a hobby, I was beginning to understand what all the ire about their lack of customer service was all about.

Previously, when dealing with other companies customer service departments, the response has usually been something like "OK, sorry to hear that, but that unit is no longer supplied by us, and is, at two and a half years old, no longer in warranty; we can supply a new PSU, but it'll cost £xx". This, I would have swallowed without fuss had TalkTalk offered it up, as the unit, being two and a half years old at the time of installation, was well and truly out of warranty. Never the less, given that this was needed to access their services, one could have been forgiven for thinking that they'd keep a few spares lying about their warehouse, in case of failures. Guess not. Silly me (add more nail purchases and a new can of vivid electric blue air paint)...

However, given that the output voltage is a common one (5 Volts is, by the by, the same voltage supplied by the USB sockets on your computer to to devices you plug into it, although they only give half an amp to those per socket), and that the manufacturer, Huawei, still use the same PSUs on other devices they currently manufacture, I find it a bit bloody rich that TalkTalk cannot get hold of spares for the damn thing. Frankly, it's beyond ludicrous, and well into the scale of Victor Meldrew-isms.

As a result, and given that they weren't about to help, I had to get a new router or PSU. Huawei don't, from what I could find out, sell replacement PSUs to the public, instead preferring to push mobile phones to their customers over here, so that meant finding an alternate PSU.

Before I did that, however, I decided to check that the router still worked. Using my variable output PSU (most hobby electronics buffs will have something like this, and - like me - most radio amateurs likewise), I supplied the unit with 5VDC, variable draw current. Nothing. It failed to power up. Typically, this meant one thing: When the PSU had died, it sent a surge of unregulated power to the router, and fried its circuitry somehow. It was now just a paperweight (and a light one at that).

So, I needed a new broadband modem/router. I wasn't about to reward TalkTalk for their complete lack of help, humanity, or empathy, so decided to get a new one from anyone other than TalkTalk.

In the mean time, I was accessing the net from home using my 3G mobile dongle from 3, which, while being effective (full strength signal at home, unlike Vodafone on my mobile - and guess who's getting my business come the current mobile phone contract expiry?), was a tad costly in the long run, compared to home landline broadband costs.

This wasn't an acceptable long-term solution, so I started in on my homework, and researched routers. I'll spare you the details of the saearch, but the short version is that I settled on a Netgear N300 N300 Wireless ADSL2 + Modem/Router, specific Netgear model number DGN2200. I found, exceptionally, that instead of it being cheaper from online sources such as, that it was cheaper, when you factored in shipping costs, and the fact that there is a store on my route to work, to buy it in person from PC World - by a tenner!

So, Off I trundled to PC World, bought it, and installed it that evening (after a long eleven and a bit hours long shift at work) - it was a doddle to set up, with the manual being clear, simple, and straight-forward to follow, to the point that within ten minutes of unboxing and laying out the router, stand, filter, PSU, and two cables (phone and ethernet), I was again surfing the internet!

This was practically a first for me - most times with a new bit of electronic kit, I find that I'm buying stocks of nails and air paint, but not this time, so kudos to Netgear! Whoopee!

I chose, by the way, the Netgear DGN2200 for a couple of reasons; first, as a well known and respected brand, Netgear has a reputation for making good quality equipment, and for having excellent customer service; second, the reviews of this model mentioned that due to the chipset used in this model, it had good resilience with higher than average signal-to-noise ratios on telephone line copper-based broadband (as opposed to fibre-optic broadband, or cable); high signal-to-noise ratios tend to happen when you're a fair distance from the telephone exchange (as is the case with my phone line: I'm close to the maximum ADSL range from the exchange); it's to do with the way that the signal over a copper phone line degrades over distance; this doesn't affect speech to badly, but digital signals are very susceptible to this degradation over distance, which is why fibre-optic cables are all the rage - and why those fibres can increase the speed of your broadband tenfold or better over copper.

Since I'm on a copper wire telephone-based broadband connection, the signal-to-noise ratio is somewhat important, and the DGN2200 has good reviews on that score - they weren't wrong. I wasn't expecting miracles, but checking my broadband speed today showed that my throughput had increased slightly, from around 5.2 Mbps to around 5.85 Mbps, over the failed Huawei RG521 - this during the daytime on a weekend, when most hardcore network gamers are online - at the times I'll normally access the net (when I get home in the well small hours, after a shift at work), I'd imagine the speeds will be even better, so colour me reasonably pleased and impressed!

My Broadband Speed Test

Job done!

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Days off are supposed to be relaxing...

...not vein-poppingly aggravating. At least, that was what I thought, until I got home this morning.

IT has taken a couple of hits over the last couple of days, and since bad luck comes in threes, here we go...

Gmail suffered a series of outages over the last couple of days, which they have now, it seems, fixed for the most part. Nice job working on it, guys; I didn't notice until today, when I got a 502 error for all of five minutes; there's a note on this on their status page, by the way.

Then, my home broadband decided to go and fall over; seems the wall wart (a step-down transformer and voltage/current regulator with a moulded three-pin mains plug on the back) died. I haven't a clue if fried the router as well, since I can't get power to the router. So, I tried called TalkTalk customer services. No joy. the woman there, who didn't speak English as a first language (in yet another outsourced foreign call centre, I suppose), got locked in a loop of trying to test my broadband connection. Well duh, I have no broadband connection because the router has no power, as the wall wart is dead. "I'm going to test your connection again" God, it's enough to make you beat your head on the desk.

So I hung up, and sent a frustrated - but printable, thankfully - plea for help to the @talktalkcare help desk. They've asked what kind of router I use, and at the time of writing this Blant entry, they have not provided any other response.

And I'm still without home broadband, so to get online, I'm having to use my emergency 3G dongle from "three" to get online. And that works out bloody expensive, compared to home broadband.

And then, later this afternoon, while I was in a Skype conversation to my better half, bemoaning this TTU (that's electronic engineering shorthand for "Technical T*ts-Up"), the PC at the other end borks, requiring my other half to reboot it. Joy. "IT problems untie the world", or something. So, while awaiting my better half's return to the ether of the internot (well, that's what I'm beginning to call the world-wide web, anyhow), I decided to update my Gmail contacts lists in Skype.

Imagine my irritation when I discovered that Skype have removed that facility. Completely.

After damn near popping yet another vein whilst turning the air in my flat a vivid shade of electric blue, I will freely admit that I'm not at all impressed with their decision to stop allowing Gmail contact imports; it smacks of senseless and meaningless obstacle emplacement, with only one end result: Annoying your existing customer base.

Granted, Google are touting their own VOIP solution (Google Chat, part of their raft of "Google+" offerings), but for pities sake, for Skype to react by throwing their toys out of the pram, and launching their dummy (US Translation: pacifier) into low earth orbit is not the way to endear themselves to their existing customers. It's more like a challenge to those customers to tell Skype to (for lack of a more suitable and industrial set of words) bog off, and use the self-same Google Chat service that Skype are whining about instead.

Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face!

The most intelligent thing that Skype could do, right now, would be to get over their over-inflated ego problem, and restore the Gmail contact import wizard.

You KNOW it makes sense.

I'm bloody glad bad luck only comes in threes. Any higher quantity, and I'd be about ready to do a Freddy Kruger!

Monday, 6 May 2013

Engineering just too a backward step...

A self-styled Crypto-anarchist (what the hell is that? In English, please?) has just proved that he can produce and successfully fire a handgun, through the medium of 3D printing.

Click for article on the BBC.
Click for article on

Yes, it's a huge advance for 3D printing and the uses it can be put to, but for pities sake, why the hell did this person of questionable common sense have to print a sodding gun? And then make the 3-D template plans for it freely available online?!

Granted, you need the use of what is currently an expensive 3D printer, and ammunition that is more (I damn well hope) conventionally produced, but for a one-shot weapon, that you can then replace the barrel (3D printed) and shoot again, this is quite honestly a bloody bad move. Think about the funds that your average drug dealer has at their disposal in places where firearms controls actually seem to work reasonably well (such our fair shores), and then think of what they could do with those funds (over and above what they already do, that is). Frankly, the possibilities are quite horrifying.

There are those who scream "plastic gun" at the top of their lungs. Fine, it is, indeed, a plastic gun. But it's still detectable by conventional airport X-Ray machines - and if those can see a plastic childs toy gun (made of considerably thinner plastic, I might add), then they can see this thing, obviously.

However, such x-ray machinery cannot be used to scan people (it's unsafe through excessive x-ray dosage, remember); so, I guess we can look forward to a reintroduction of those pervert-view Airport body scanner machines again, thanks to this apparently socially short-sighted and quite probably self-centred (I want to use stronger language, but don't want to get sued, obviously) person.

Now, it's all well and good you saying that he wouldn't have been the only one to try to make a gun using a 3D printer. I quite easily agree the point. But not only is he is the one who designed one, and then printed it, he's the only one who then stated that he'd make the template available to anyone who wanted it through the mechanism of the internet. In my view, that's irresponsible at best, and quite probably criminally reckless at worst.

It's highly probable therefore, that until firmware systems can be put in place to prevent a 3D printer for making a firearm or its parts (a bloody unlikely prospect, given the Artificial Intelligence in computing that would be needed in such a stand-alone system), that it's only a matter of time before 3D printers are added to the list of export control restricted items (can you say "End User Certificate"), thus putting the kybosh on the legitimate world-wide uses that 3D printers were originally intended for, such as allowing small firms to make out-of-production spare parts for such things as home domestic machinery, such as old washing machines etcetera, or even small-run production of items such as bicycles, cars and their 'pattern parts', and so on.

At the very least, Mr Cody Wilson has a hell of a lot to answer for. To say that he's set a lot of peoples' tempers on a setting of 'Fusion Reaction' (mine included), is likely as not the understatement of the damn century: he's quite probably buggered up a huge advance in small-scale engineering manufacturing.

He's done the world a massive disservice, and no amount of excuses or fringe political clap-trap can forgive his colossal misjudgement.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

After the bustling... the silence.

"Funerals are big business, everyone's dying to have them". It's a morbidly amusing, if true, statement, even if in somewhat poor taste. Never the less, it's true.

Dad's funeral cost a packet; and some of you reading this know just how expensive sending a loved one on their final journey can be.

But there's also a hidden expense. Your time. The effort involved in sending your loved one on that journey is not just measured in pounds, shillings, and pence; it's measured in those metaphorical pounds of flesh as well.

There's the time involved in organising the funeral; contracting the Funeral Directors, the place where the funeral will be held (in Dad's case, a crematorium, per his final wishes), getting the orders of service printed, making arrangements for all manner of other things, like a place for the wake, and so on. In all of this, if you've a small family, you have to try to fit your work around the myriad details - oh, and you have to let people know where and when the funeral is to take place as well. Our family were lucky: We rallied round, the tasks were parcelled out (I was remarkably lucky, I had very little to do, really), and then we were off to the races to get it all done in time.

In this regard, undertakers, to use a more traditional name for them, are rather good at taking up the reins of this administrative loading, of course - they're not called Funeral Directors these days for nothing, after all; they see this day in, day out, and take a considerable weight off the shoulders of the bereaved, in getting the minutia of sending your loved one on their final journey down to a few key decisions that you have to make, and organising it on your behalf. This leaves the after-funeral details to be organised by the family; either a small(ish) gathering at your home for the wake, when you have to organise food (snacks) and drinks (invariably by the boat load) all by yourself, or, in our case, contracting somewhere to hold a somewhat larger three-ringed circus of mourners for a more organised wake, where the catering and victualling is taken care of by the venue staff.

I wound up waking early yesterday. It was a nice, warm, sunny morning, and the forecast was for a bright summery day. It didn't feel right, somehow: Funerals are supposed to be cold, wet, and miserable days, suitable for nothing less than a full-on mood of sadness and sorrow. Not this one, but then Dad had wanted his funeral to be a celebration of his life, not misery at its' passing, so the weather was there to fulfil one of his final wishes. A rather nice touch by the weather, when you think about it.

I hadn't got that good a nights sleep, truth be told. Not really surprising, all things considered. I had, thankfully, taken the time, yesterday, to do a final check on my suit (clean and still sharply pressed out of it's wrapping), shoes (highly polished, close to the military standard that I learned over two decades ago in the T.A.), shirt clean and pressed, tie likewise, and so on; I even printed off two copies of the Eulogy I'd written for Dad onto cue cards (the second copy for a friend who had agreed to be my 'back up' if I found myself unable to deliver it myself at the service), figuring it would be easier to use those, than a sheet of A4.

Even so, I skipped breakfast, as I wanted to make sure I got to Mum before everything went into overdrive - frankly, while I'd been to funerals before, I'd never been so closely involved in getting one done, and didn't know what to expect; I've heard every possible story from amazingly easy to downright horror-like in description, and wanted the load on Mum to be as light as possible.So, when I mentioned that I'd skipped breakfast to get there on time, what did she do? She sat me down, and, brooking no argument, gave me a coffee and some toast and home-made marmalade. Mums are wonderful; they always look out for you, no matter what!

Anyhow, I shouldn't have worried. Everything went smoothly: As I mentioned, Funeral Directors are good at this: It's their profession, after all. The hearse, bearing Dad in his coffin, and the limousine (to cart us along to the service) arrived bang on time, and we trooped out to take our seats in the limo, via a brief stop at the back of the hearse to examine the flowers that lay by Dad's coffin.

We'd chosen to have everyone else meet us at the crematorium, so as to avoid a massive funeral cort├Ęge (convoy). In hindsight, this was a very wise move. Our route took us past the local high street, and we received what I can truly describe as the one mark of respect of the day from a passer-by that a stranger can bestow. He lowered his head, and drew the sign of the cross over his chest, as Dad's hearse and we passed by.

In not so distant times past, it used to be that most people would stop, remove head wear (known as 'doffing your cap'), nod their heads, and stand in silence as a hearse passed by; I'm old fashioned - I still do this: I consider such respect for the passing dead as an obligation to those who go on before us. In Dad's case, it was just the one person who performed this mark of respect for Dad, and I'd shake his hand for it, if I knew who he was.

The rest of the journey was smooth, slow, and amazingly, ten minutes early at the crematorium. I guess were were lucky with the traffic, which had been remarkably light, all things considered. And at that time I began to understand just how popular my old man was to a lot of people - there were cars parked all over the place, with some people hurrying up the road to the crematorium to get to the service on time, they having had to park several hundreds of metres away, due to the overcrowding of the parking on-site.

Arriving there, we had to wait for the previous service to finish and clear, before we could proceed. I took a quick and rough estimate of how many mourners were present for Dad, and counted well over a hundred - I though it was more, but it was difficult to get an accurate count, as they were all milling about, of course. Once inside the crematorium, it was standing room only for a great many of them, there being something like a hundred and fifty mourners present (we counted it out later) when they closed the doors and began the service. There were two Eulogies; one from his friends, extolling his virtues in his many hobbies and pastimes, and then I was up, with the family Eulogy.

I fluffed reading aloud what I'd written for the Eulogy in only two places (both of which I caught and corrected, thankfully), and managed to get myself seated again afterwards, without completely messing it up or loosing it, and then it was over, and we were outside, examining the flowers, and exchanging greetings with some close friends, before being driven in the limo to a local outdoor sports centre's club house and bar, for the wake.

It was a free bar, with snacks. I managed to secure a pint of Bombardier - a decent bitter, if not my preferred tipple of either Oxford Gold or Spitfire, and I mingled. I was greeted by more people than I can even remember - I'm normally good with faces, and lousy with names, but this time I was pretty much lousy with both. Big surprise. Anyhow, they all seemed to blend into a common form of "Hi, sorry for your loss, I'm (name), well done on the Eulogy", and I'd hand back a "Thanks, and thanks for coming" in return. A few that I'd met previously, or knew of through Dad or Mum, I'd talk to for longer, but this was not a time for me to stay in one place; at such a wake, I was very much expected to meet and greet all and sundry, so this I did: It helped take the pressure off Mum , who could then spend time with people she knew and wanted to talk to. In short, I ran a kind of interference for her to do what she needed to.

So, by the way, did my Sister and, as a result, we both wound up missing out of the snacks. Drinks, no: We both had those, but snacks? It was as if a plague of locusts had descended on the three tables-worth of bite-sized edibles, and whoosh, one moment they were there, and when we turned around again, all that there were was crumbs. Humph. And other, less printable, comments. Lesson learned: At my wake, there's likely to be a burger stand instead. Locust swarm that, if you can!

Towards the end of the wake, I found myself talking to some of my own close friends who'd known Dad, mentioning, in passing, my dark epithets about the plague of locusts - sorry, guests and the food - to quickly brushed-off crumbs off their own clothes and fairly amused expressions of sympathy on this sad lack of grub, and then, as the venue staff laid out the tea and coffee, I got my first decent laugh of the event, when one of my friends pulled the most remarkably comical face as she tried the coffee. Knowing her as I do, I was amazed she didn't do something more drastic - or messy - but merely commented, after a really memorable and hilarious expression of disgust crossed her face, that "This is NOT coffee. I don't know what it is, but it's NOT coffee!" Knowing her tastes on coffee to be similar to my own (OK, I'm a snob when it comes to coffee!), I decided to stick to the beer. Incidentally, the bar tab was, we discovered afterwards, over five hundred quid. Ouch.

Retiring to the family home after the wake, we were scheduled to be having a small gathering of relatives and a couple of our closer neighbours gather there for supper, before we all buggered off to our own homes again. I actually managed to snare a sandwich off Mum - didn't I say Mums are marvellous earlier? - and grabbed a much-needed hour or so's kip, before they decended for the meal.

It was a success, of course; everyone loves free grub, after all; but a family gathering, with a couple of close friends, after such an emotionally-charged day, was just the wind-down we all needed.

And today, after close to a month of running around like lunatics, playing catch-up with my Dad's life to write the Eulogy and do the man proiper justice, without seeming to rush it or leave out important details, I have a weekend to relax. To do my own thing. To get on with what I need to get on with.

And yet, I suddenly find that it's a strangely empty day.

I go back to work next Tuesday (the day after the May Bank Holiday), after a week of leave that was already booked before Dad passed away; I was intending to join a 4x4 weekend over at Salisbury Plains this weekend. That got the kybosh as events unfolded, of course. One of those things, regrettably. There'll be other 4x4 weekends, though. That week of leave was, instead, spent helping my better half move home, then coming back here to get the final details of Dad's funeral arrangements - like getting a new suit - in place, and making sure the Eulogy was just right.

So, I've not really had time to just stop, and relax. And now, when I can do my own thing, when I have no demands on my time, I find that I'm actually bored out of my tiny mind: I have no challenges to overcome, no tasks to accomplish, no-one I really need to go and see (that all having been done yesterday or in the last week, of course), absolutely nothing at all to do.

On reflection, I guess this is where the real battle begins: Life after Dad.

In many ways, this loss has brought us all closer together, but at the expense of a truly close loved one. Tragedies work like that, of course, but life must, after all is said and done, go on. Sad, but true, and one day at a time.

But first, I gotta find something to do, before I go completely bananas.

Oh yeah. I'm doing that right now, as I write another Blant entry!

SO... *looks around the living room for inspiration*... what next...?

So, here's day one.

Let's make it a good one.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

In a holding pattern...

I'm not in a very charitable mood today, as it's my Dad's funeral tomorrow.

I've gone out and bought a new suit (I haven't needed a suit for decades until now, so didn't have one), I've got a decent shirt, I found my old regimental tie (buried at the back of the sock drawer, of all places: how the hell it got there I'll never figure out), I've polished my shoes to the highest shine they've had in years, and now I'm sitting around with naff all to do except wait.

So, I hit the news feeds.

And found that Friends Of The Earth were at it again the other day.

Now, don't get me wrong: They can do wonderful and much needed things, but they do tend to bleat on about a hell of a lot of things that they've a snowballs chance in hell of doing anything about, either by choosing the wrong target, or by choosing the wrong audience. Or both.

Take their latest "campaign". It's about the tin used in  - amongst other things - mobile phones. Apparently, they were in Croydon last Saturday, getting in the way of Joe Subject on this. Thank the stars I was in the West Country, depressurising with my other half or, with me in the upset mood that I was in earlier this week, there may have been a protester with a clip board stuffed sideways up his backside. Messy would not have been the word to use, trust me.

Here's the link to the story in the Croydon Guardian newspaper:
'Your mobiles are destroying lives': Croydon phone shops told by Friends of the Earth campaigners

These days, with everyone and their dog having a phone (or two, or three), and with them being used all the time for both work and leisure, and in a recession as well, where jobs are well and truly on the line, Friends Of The Earth trying to bang on at the ordinary Joe Subject in the street is a sucker move, writ large. Frankly, they're so way off target it's amazing they even thought it possible to have a chance at making a change.

Let's look at a few things. Gold, Silver, Lead, Aluminium, Nickel, Chromium, Carbon, Copper, Gallium Arsenide, Mylar, Silicon, Polystyrene, Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), Polyvinylchlorate (PVC), Antimony, Bismuth, Cobalt, Fluorite, Garnet, and Magnesium, are just a general selection of typical materials used in modern consumer electronics, not just mobile telephones. And Friends Of The Earth're going after tin? I would have thought the Chinese open-cast mines would be a better target for their ire, but hey, tin's an easier target, I guess. Less chance of being arrested by over-zealous Chinese Ministry of State Security goons with sticks as well, as well, come to that.

Here's the thing: Tin is used (most often in combination with lead) in something called solder, which once heated and applied, then allowed to cool and solidify in place, holds the components in a both solid physical and electrically-conductive join on the circuit-boards of pretty-much ALL consumer electronics, not just phones. Try getting the vast membership of the population of this country to stop using their kettles, Fridge/Freezers, and microwave ovens for example: you've got no chance.

So, until Friends Of The Earth - or, perhaps, a scientist would be a better choice in this endeavour - can come up with a viable, cost-effective, and ecologically-friendly alternative to tin/lead solder, I suggest Friends Of The Earth stop their ranting at ordinary people, and redirect their verbal bleeding to the people failing to finance the primary research into suitable alternatives.

That'd be the politicians, by the way.

Who, in a double-dip recession, aren't likely to say anything favourable - or charitable - to FOtE, in all likelihood.

Which is probably why they were bleating on at the poor sods in Croydon, as they knew that they were s*** out of luck with anyone else.

And I'm still sitting here, waiting for one of the worst months in my life to be over.