Monday, July 31, 2006

Fair Trade Ice Cream

So Ben & Jerry (the corporation presumably - the guys probably sold out years ago) have launched fair trade ice cream in the UK.
But can't people see that EVERYTHING should be fair?
Why isn't everything fair trade?
Surely, anything that isn't labelled "fair trade" is essentially saying "we swindled a load of 3rd world folks out of the true and fair price for the ingredients of this product - but don't worry, it all helps our profit, and ultimately we don't care about the people of the world".
I dunno. Some people!

Last Top Of The Pops

One of the nice bits of attention to detail on the final Top Of The Pops was that each presenter had the same microphone from the era in which they presented.

Friday, July 28, 2006

London's 102.2 Smooth FM

I started listening to London's 102.2 Smooth FM this week. For the first couple of days, I have to say I was pretty impressed. I almost thought it was going along the lines of PrimeTime when I heard a few Frank Sinatra songs in one day. But 5 days on and now I realise it's not that great after all. I hear the same tracks day after day - nothing new. Freakpower's "Turn on, tune in, cop out" is on EVERY DAY at around the same time. Same few adverts again and again. And crap hard-sell adverts at that. Like the stock market talk with Darren Winters -- you just know he'll try to sell your town a monorail.
I'm not entirely sure why a radio station from London for London is on national DAB and national Freeview. Even XFM is called "XFM NE" now. I think if Century north east was still run by John Myers, it would be on a Sky radio channel.

Sky Go Home

Mum called Sky today to stop the subscription. We got Sky back in 1991 when it was an analogue service with a large dish. There were far fewer channels, and the programmes were better. There were 48 'channels' (frequencies), and quite a few of those were either not in service or German TV.
They are putting the price up again just for the basic package, so it's £21 a month soon. I knew they would from reading Martin's Money Saving Expert website, and indeed, she was put through to another operator who started to bargain with her about giving her the package for £18 because she wasn't watching all the channels! Or £9 for the next 3 months. Seems odd. I wonder if you gave them a list of just the ones you would watch whether billing could be done on a pro-rata type basis.
Anyway, it will go off in 30 days (she wasn't swayed). There really isn't anything worth watching on Sky these days. And most (if not all) you can get on Freeview. The production values on some of the African channels are absolutely appauling. And the number of quiz chat text ones increases daily. Rubbish! Bring back a 4 channel world!!!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

H20 Power

Surely hydrogen power is the way to go. You could use water (H20) from the sea to create huge amounts of hydrogen(?) with the by-product being oxygen, whilst lowering the sea level at the same time?

Or am I just loopy?

Waxwork baby

Janine DiGioacchino, general manager at Madame Tussaud's in New York, said Shiloh [Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's baby] was "already an iconic figure in world popular culture".

I'm sorry, but I disagree for the following reasons:

a) it is a baby
b) it is only 30 days old
c) it has made no contribution to popular culture in the US, let alone the world. It cannot talk. The only reason some people are aware of it is because of the 'celebrity' status of its parents. That is all.

Crap haggling

Someone's just asked if "some sort of deal could be arranged" for him to buy two boxes of 6 widgets.
Not really many economies of scale to be achieved when you only buy 2 of something is there?
"Your products are of high quality but I think they are expensive for what they are."
Oh ok - well, here -- have them for nothing then. Don't worry - we make a loss, but the customer is always right!
Get out!

Yahoo! Chat and Messenger

So very poor these days. Unreliable, inability to video conference, inability to connect to chat servers seemingly 95% of the time, inability to change chat rooms - the whole thing's a bloody mess and reflects poorly on the Yahoo brand. Perhaps it's a good thing the java chat's being phased out soon.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Poor Communication

There's an advert on Smooth FM for an anti-virus program, and the only details given are its website address - which is spoken twice.
The address is Obvious when written down, but when said over some load music and sound effects meant to sound like a movie trailer in the commercial, it could be anything: not32, naught32, nord32, nard32, nort32
It's another case of the company executives hearing the commercial for approval and being 'immune' to the name and possible mis-hearings it could spawn. It took me a number of goes to guess what it actually was. I'd never heard of it before.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Dora Dale on the radio again

One time commenter on this blog and funny old lady Dora Dale will be appearing on the wireless with Martin Kelner on BBC7 (DAB, Freeview and online) on Wednesday 26th July at 11.30pm. Sounds like it'll be a hoot, and there's a series of 3 more. This week though, it's about pirate radio.

FM Switch Off and DAB

There is NO proposed or even rumoured date for FM switch off, because it almost certainly won't happen within the next 20 years.

DAB radio is nowhere near as popular as Freeview has been, and has serious problems which prevent it from replacing FM:

-Low sound quality: The digital nature of DAB means the owners of multiplexes can cram more stations into the same bandwidth by reducing the quality of the stations already there. Because of this, many DAB stations now have worse sound quality than their FM equivalents.

-Expensive equipment: FM radios cost so little that almost everyone has one. DAB costs far more so they've mostly been bought by technology enthusiasts.

-Bulky size: FM radios are so small now that they're usually sold built into something else, such as a phone or an MP3 player. DAB is currently too large to allow this to happen cheaply.

-High power usage: DAB radios take up far more power than FM radios, so DAB radios aren't as portable because you either have to carry a larger battery or else you have to suffer a very short battery life.

-Superior rivals: FM radio is cheaper, more portable and has better sound quality, so that's what most people go for (something like 90% of radio sales every year are still FM tuners). Internet radio has tens of thousands of stations compared to DAB's few dozen, so that's what people looking for choice go for, and the advent of 3G phones and wi-fi means internet radio will become more and more portable. You can already listen to internet radio round the house using a wi-fi radio set for example.

-Lack of international support: Most countries are never going to use DAB, and many countries that tried it have now switched off their DAB transmitters permanently. This means DAB equipment will never work in most countries, so it'll be more expensive to manufacture as fewer people will buy it.

(this from a Digital Spy forum post)

Renewable Energy

I flicked through a book this weekend on renewable energy sources. I never realised it, but I'm surprised at how fascinated I am by it all. I've noticed a few solar panels on the rooves of houses nearby - I'm not sure whether they are for heating water (those systems cost about £2000, but are only 5% VAT - hmm, how generous(!)). I have one that recharges my car battery via the cigarette lighter (although the number of times I've had to charge it via the mains makes me wonder if there's perhaps a diode in the car's circuitry that prevents the battery being charged via that socket).
From the flick-through, I reckon waves are the thing to do, 'cos they're there even when it gets dark or isn't windy.
It's always interesting to see photographs from on-board theme park rides - especially dark rides - where the person has used a huge flash - it exposes EVERYTHING. All the wires, tubes, muck, dust, etc. I think they're great, but there aren't that many about.


It's gone from everything (FM, DAB, Sky) - weird really, because when I was at Virgin Radio, I remember it was the #1 online radio station in the world. Now on DAB it's Yorkshire Radio or summat.
They've kept, but not the other domains I thought they had at the time.

DAB Dead

Allan Lake's moving from his highly entertaining Capital Disney evening show (which I've had numerous mentions on) to present mornings on 'Core'. I'm not a morning person, so will probably never hear him again. And PrimeTime Radio disappeared a while ago, and Jazz FM has gone too -- there's not a lot on DAB now that I want to listen to. Maybe Radio 3 on occasion, but it hardly seems worth it now.
Anyone want to buy 3 DAB radios?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Google, why have you foresaken me?!

Google, in all its market controlling wisdom, has now awarded this blog a page rank of 0/10. For whatever reason, it was given 4/10 last year -- pretty respectable -- I have to admit I never knew why, but I know it likes blogs, and I update this one quite a bit. All of the pages from this blog were indexed - hundreds of them. Now, there are 8 pages in Google's index.
Look at it from this persective - the problem with Google being "THE" search engine is that if, one day, Google removes your website from its search database - no-one who uses Google will EVER find you.
That's why I'm pleased that Yahoo and MSN are around and like me.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Affluenza et al

It's a little like being in France today. The heat is intense - I'm looking forward to the rain coming (soon, hopefully!). We have some neighbours from the Congo who are always in the garden, so you hear these French voices through the evening. Very mainland Europe. Two neighbours with kids have bought trampolines each, so there's often screams and spring stretching noises running continuously.

I just called an actor friend in London I went to university with. He went to stage school afterwards, and I haven't spoken to him for maybe half a year or so. He's now working in Odd Bins the off-license. I work in Borders the book shop. He said to me, 'the wheels have come off the rock and roll wagon'. It's funny really. You have such high hopes at university, then when you leave, as I did, full time education for the first time in your life at the age of 22, there's a bit of a vacuum left. "You are free to leave". But what do I do now? For me, I had a week off and started a job with a local college as a website designer. That lasted about a year, then I decided to leave and had a weekend off before working for the local council as a website developer. I didn't really enjoy it, so after about 5 months I resigned, without a job to go to. In reality, I had my own company which by this time had become incorporated, but it wasn't making enough money to live on.

I'm reading a book at the moment called "Affluenza". "Affluenza is a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more." There's a great quote from Ellen Goodman -
"Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to the job that you need so you can pay for the clothes, car and the house that you leave empty all day in order to afford to live in it".
I do feel happy in what I do from day to day. I spend most of the afternoon answering calls and emails to do with the business. It's not that I get a huge number of calls or emails, but I do like to answer them properly. So many enquiries, usually from Americans, turn out to be damp squibs though. Every now and again there's a sudden influx of enquiries from overseas which all require shipping quotes, which can be a bit of a pest really. But overall, it's a relaxed environment. I don't employ any staff.

If it's quiet, I go for a walk with my dog, a schnauzer. He's only 6 months old but he's very happy off the lead and never runs off. On the other hand, he's never been left on his own in the house yet and gets separation anxiety. Putting him in a  cage will stop him pacing around and working himself up more, whilst making him feel secure in a smaller space.

I'll tell you what I love. Orange sorbet. But can you buy it anywhere? No!

Stay cool.

French Fox Hunt

I just watched a programme on BBC 2 about English people living in France. One man, keen on horse riding, is fitting in very well. But he wants to intruduce fox hunting into the area. With the intention that other toffs can come over so as not to themselves feel 'hunted' by its illegality in the UK.
But I can't help but wonder why he wants to start a hunt if there isn't a problem with foxes in the area?!

Television Content Certification

On Polish TV they have a permanent icon in the top corner of the screen showing what age the programme is suitable for (U, 12, 16, 18 - like film classifications).
It's a good idea. How long will it be before it's on UK screens?
Probably quite a while, because UK TV is probably more regulated than Polish satellite.

Niche TV

I just watched a 30 minute programme on the curly perm.
How do BBC Four do it!?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Huge data transfer!

I'm wondering if putting these large theme park video files distributed across several accounts on my server was such a great idea after all. One account has transfered 15Gb in 2 weeks, reaching its peak data transfer limit today at 12pm ish with 7Mb/sec transfer - currently at 70% of its limit.
I have a feeling people are emailing each other the direct links to the videos, rather than them coming from the actual web site with the proper links. So I've renamed the files to see what happens. I think it's a bit cheeky.
I take so much from the net that I feel a bit philanthropic putting something back that's actually costing me money for no gain. Who knows -- it might set the life balance back again.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Tesco Internet Phone

Errr...isn't this just Tesco's version of Skype?
So...errr.....why not just use Skype for free? Then there's a lot higher chance people already have it, and don't have to pay £14.97 to buy a Tesco version.
The problem with all technology is other parties inventing their own versions they want to become the 'standard', and all it does is cause bother with incompatability.

Monday, July 10, 2006

That's Magic

I must write a note to say how much I enjoy reading Paul Daniels' blog. I'm not sure whether it's because you know who he is, or his style of writing, or whether he simply has a more eventful life than I do.
Do you think this blog would benefit if I was less mysterious about who I am? I've always hid behind a veil of anonymity for fear that one of my opinions may rub some extremist up the wrong way and they send someone to lynch me.
On a separate topic, relating to a previous post, the data transfer limit of the domain hosting the large theme park videos is now at 57% on only the 9th day of the month. I'm going to have to do something about it to avoid it maxing out.

Travels in Europe

I'm really enjoying Full Circle with Michael Palin on UKTV History. Very natural presenting, fascinating visuals and very informative about the cultures of the world. I can't help but wonder if it would have quite the same innocence during current 'war on terror' and post-tsunami. Filmed in 1996, could the outermost reaches of the civilised world have changed much in 10 years? I'm not a traveller myself, and have never left Europe. In fact, I've been to France, Austria, Greece, Italy and Denmark. My good friend Richard Martin will want me to list Wales in here too - which I think is fair. I flew over Scotland in Concorde. It's more than some people, but I think at heart I'm quite a home bird and have so many things to keep me busy here that going away leaves me wanting to come back and get on with it.
If I lived in Rome, I'm not sure whether I'd have a Vespa or a Punto. I think it would be a Vespa - or similar scooter. You could park it anywhere, zoom around in it in the crazy way Romans do - it must be great to drive there. I don't think they bother with helmets either. Or road markings. What a great city Rome is. And Saint Lo in Normandy. I'd love to go to both of those places a lot, maybe even live in la Manche area of France, but I would feel alien with another language. Different humour, etc. - all would make me feel a bit too far away from home.

Saturday, July 08, 2006


My 'local bank' HSBC is only open for business for a few hours each lunchtime. In this time, the two cashier windows are used, and there is always a queue of at least 10 people patiently waiting.
Today it took 12 minutes of waiting to be served. Before me were people having detailed discussions about mortgages, whilst talking to the other cashier at the same time about their holiday. Then the guy from the Chinese buffet is next with a sackfull of cash and change he wants to bank. The number of people behind me increases all the time. By the time I have been served (just paying some cheques in) I notice that there are now around 20 people in the queue. No air conditioning on a hot day.
Customer satisfaction on leaving that branch must be one of the lowest in the UK, I'm telling you.

Friday, July 07, 2006

7th July

To detonate a bomb in London is a snub against humanity itself. 300 languages are spoken in London - it is the world's most diverse melting pot of cultures, ethnicities and religeons.

Ken Livingston said, "I want to say one thing specifically to the world today. This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty and the powerful. It was not aimed at Presidents or Prime Ministers. It was aimed at ordinary, working-class Londoners, black and white, Muslim and Christian, Hindu and Jew, young and old. It was an indiscriminate attempt to slaughter, irrespective of any considerations for age, for class, for religion, or whatever. That isn't an ideology, it isn't even a perverted faith - it is just an indiscriminate attempt at mass murder."

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Who snaffles the interest?

Say you have £50,000 in a savings account with ING Direct whose savings rate is 4.5%, and you move this sum into a current account with another bank, it takes 3 - 5 days to appear in this current account yet disappears immediately from your ING Direct account. During this time, in the period of 5 days, it is AWOL - you can't see it in any account, you are not earning interest on it - so who keeps the interest earned while it is in this state of limbo?
Then you look at the outrageous profits banks make, and realise that Asians in the UK who keep all their money - sometimes hundreds of thousands of pounds - in cash in their homes (and why some of them have about 7 security cameras on their houses!) may have a point.

Crazy Google Ads

By giving away £50 of advertising credit for Google AdWords with various website hosting packages, I've noticed a hilarious proliferation of ads for websites that have no commercial purpose. Recently, one site ad appeared when searching for "Ben" and required a password to log-in to see someone's personal wedding photos - that was it!
Another I clicked on just now was for a Richard Madeley site,, which consists of a forum dedicated to his Alan Partridge-esque quotes - that was it!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Assorted Whitterings

It's been a busy week.
I decided to push my rented server to the limit by uploading some large videos to a popular theme park attraction fan site that I created about a year ago which has had huge numbers of visitors and interest. The videos and mp3s varied in size from half a meg to 189Mb and now total over 720Mb. I've uploaded them onto two separate domains to spread the load (actually, I ran out of server space with one).
I'm also hosting the images from the site on one of them, as the 'free' hosting I got with the domain is wonderfully fast but only has a 1Gb per month transfer limit and it almost maxed out last week. You really notice the slow upload speed of broadband though - the videos took hours to upload each. The worst took nearly 4. And I didn't use Dreamweaver, because it times out at the end of the upload of big files and deletes the file from the server! Rubbish!
There were two reasons for the data transfer quota maxing out. One was the welcome publicity the site recently received on some notable blogs from imagineers. But the other unwelcome one was from people with blogs who display images from the site but linking the file directly - in other words, their site displays the photo, but mine serves it - essentially, data transfer theft. There's some term for it - hot linking(?) but I'm not sure. It's happened on this blog before, but I can tell pretty quickly from the visitor logs which sites they are and either rename the image file or put some offensive writing on it. I have the facility for the server to block this altogether. But I prefer to spy on the TWOCers.
Yahoo Answers worries me slightly. I saw a question on there - someone asking where the cheapest fog fluid could be purchased. Answers were given.  But none queried what machine the person was using. If you put the incorrect fluid in the machine it will clog and can cause the fog to be toxic and potentially carcenogenic. The question was 'closed' with no ability to add or alert naive readers to the possible dangers.
I had a call from someone in Egypt asking about a heavy fog machine. He was visiting the UK and wanted to collect it. He was calling on an internet phone with a 5 second delay which seemed to edit every 3rd word out. My concern was that the type of machine which uses ice to cool the fog tends to need repair quite often, in my experience, and sending it to Egypt may negate any saving should this need arise. But what a bad advert for VOIP! Saying that, mine from Draytel goes offline without notice, and stays offline giving callers an 'unobtainable' tone until you notice you haven't had any calls for several days and reset the box. Not brilliant, really.
The second batch of blackbird chicks have left the nest in our back garden today. I wondered what Digby (my dog) was interested in! Considering the garden is only about 5 metres long, it supports quite a bit of life. We have the resident mice under the shed, the blackbirds, and I've seen a peregrine falcon in there TWICE.
I had my yearly browse on Friends Reunited last night. I am aware to avoid contracting affleunza, but always worry about Alain De Botain's status anxiety whenever I go on FR. This time I found it interesting to read someone's blog and see what they're up to without them finding out about me, and also that someone has published a book about his mental illness after his drink was spiked with LSD at a post mock-GCSE party. I wasn't there, but I do remember talking a friend into dobbing in some known druggies at the school to the headmaster, which I think he did.