Thursday, May 31, 2007

Bridge Street plans and Basin Link

So I knocked out an email on Tuesday to the Planning Authority regarding the Bridge Street refurbishment, and no I've not seen any form of acknowledgement from their server. Without republishing it in its entirety or repeating myself too much I'll just go over some key points.

The 'crossing' point next to the bridge. Let's look at where people using it are coming from or going to - from the car-park, either directly or indirectly (from the amusements); from the Crown; from Engine Lane; from further up town; from the bridge; from the Riverside, either via the stairs or Coopers Lane; from the Bridge.

So for starters anyone coming from or heading up the town should be using the pedestrian crossing that's, well, further up the town. Anyone from the car-park close to the river should be using the archway unless they're specifically crossing the bridge (only while the spiral staircase is out or they've got wheels) or heading for the Bridge; otherwise they should be using the crossing. So I tally that to the uninformed, the lazy, and possibly the drunk crossing here; hey let's help them shall we?

The point in this case is not that people cross here, it's why they cross here. Short answer is that the crossing under the bridge is next to the river, which is at a distance from the play area and the top of the car-park/pub; and that if you want to use the pedestrian crossing you need to walk away from where you want to be heading then have to walk back along the other side, totally counter-intuitive.

We need another crossing under the bridge closer to the town it really is that simple. I use these arches myself although I either have to limbo or old retainer myself under them to do so. Back them off slope it down on all sides and do the same on the other side. I'm not talking about a full on five-person width affair like the current walkway, but enough that people will use it over playing dodge the traffic.

Next up the information point next to what is now going to be a restaurant, makes sense as it's the largest area of pavement on Bridge Street so far! Except of course we got this development in the works. This will be placed directly next to the current pedestrian crossing, which perhaps might encourage people to walk up to and use this crossing rather then the pseudo-crossing.

Okay so what's "Piazza-style" or "Piazza-type"? Dictionary gives me

an arcade or covered walk or gallery, as around a public square or in front of a building.
So it's either a piazza or it's not, how do you have a type or style of this nature? I mean I can have a velvet-type material in that it feels and looks like velvet, but isn't; I can have a Georgian-style building as one that emulates the Georgian manner of architecture, but wasn't built in Georgian times. I could even expand it to mean something that's like something else, but has a few non 'like' touches, but how do you do that for something so vague as the British use of piazza?

I laughed at "bring some good quality food and drink establishments" yeah that'll make you popular with the caffs and take-away shops on Bridge Street for the snide implication, I'm sure he meant - bring some more good quality food and drink establishments.

Okay meandering along my point was that the entire Bridge Street refurbishment plan makes no mention nor takes into account the Basin link, which is liable to have a massive affect on the pedestrian patterns around this area. I'm not saying rip it up and start again, but it certainly needs a rethink.

If your car acted like a computer

Strictly speaking 'If your car acting like a certain operating system'. No idea where all this came from, it just appeared in my head while taking a shower. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

Switching on your wipers will turn on your headlights, switching off your wipers will not turn off your headlights; this is a safety feature and can only be disabled by rewiring your engine.

Every seat comes with full car controls by default.

In order to switch CDs in your player you need to turn the engine on and off.

Changing stations on the radio causes the seat to tilt forward, the manufacturers are aware of this problem which has now been fixed on the latest model.

Your car comes with a high-tech security system, 90% of which has to be disabled if you actually want to drive it.

Your car only comes fitted with an accelerometer; if for some reason you wish to calculate speed or fuel levels use the wing-mounted windmill or dip-stick respectively.

Despite being a right-hand drive you will still have to alter 20 settings from the default "USA" before driving.

Upon replacing the tyres, any light-fitting, or switching fuel providers; your car will auto-drive to the nearest car dealership where you will have to provide proof that you own this vehicle.

Error 1205 appears on your dashboard panel. "Your car has attempted an illegal operation using a vacant system" The operators manual provides the detail "The engine in your car assumes a non-vacant system, attempting to use the car with a vacant system will produce this error" Looking it up on the internet you find on a forum "You've run out of fuel"

Every 20,000 miles your car will start to slow down and make horrible metallic noises. An engineer will tinker with it and it'll run for a another 2,000 miles before grinding to a halt. The garage will suggest a new engine or a new car.

Your new car will look sleeker, be more comfortable to drive, have a much more powerful engine, and many extra features; but will still have a top speed and acceleration to match your old car. Oh and it'll get 10 mpg less.

Your new car now has a button-activated dashboard speedometer calibrated in rods per minute.

You no longer have to turn the engine off and on to switch CDs, but none of your old CDs will work in the new player.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Skate-park - always the way

So the weather being decent and me actually having some spare time I took a wander down to the skate-park to take some pictures; at least that was the plan. I picked up my camera, switched it on to check on storage etc. zoomed in zoomed out, got focus lock; an lo the low-battery indicator did appear and it switched off (that's the only hassle I have with this camera). Not to worry I popped the batteries, plugged them into the recharger and slotted in a new set. Repeated my test with no problems and headed out.

Reaching the bridge I looked out at a sharp transition between calm water and choppy water, hmm looks nice; raised the camera and 'bink' off it went - low battery. Much cursing, the newsagent was shut and I couldn't think where else I could pick up some more (somebody just said the petrol station in Vale Road, yeah didn't think of them). Sod it, I'll take a look anyway.

Fencing is still up; bowl plus spine ramp plus steps, London Gap, and quarter-pipe are all in place, but unfinished and bare. I'd heard that they'd had problems with the measurements, but Nathan over at the WFA says not and that it's all down to the weather.

Let's see now work started around the 16th April, the concrete bases were down by at least the 22nd and then apparently nothing up to the 3rd May. By the 12th we'd got an extra two concrete squares laid. On the 14th I spot the big crane and that seemed to stay until the 17th.

So working backwards and assuming a 14 day curing period. The pieces finish being placed on the 17th May (when the crane leaves), that means the last two concrete bases must have been laid on the 3rd May (I'll be nice and assume they got placed just I took the photos). If these squares weren't placed until the main slabs were cured then they'd have been finished on the 19th April. So the time-line does add up except why the need for the extra 14 days, why weren't the two extra squares a part of the original 19th April laying? I'd also like to note that at no time did I see these slabs being covered so I'm curious as to what curing technique they used.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Time gentleman please

Had a card through the door confirming an appointment today.

I confirm that I will be calling on: Tuesday between 9am -9pm
Well that narrows it down. Of course I have the time myself; oh no wait I don't as this card is addressed to someone who used to work at a company that ceased trading about two years ago. So how are they 'confirming' this? I called them up and they deleted the details from their database; I'm almost curious to hang-around and see if anyone does show up this evening.

I then get another letter stating that one of the "meter(s)" in one of our buildings is approaching the "end of its certified life", which I find to be both an amusing and ominous statement. So they're coming to replace it during their normal working hours, as opposed to ours. So that's Mon-Fri 8.00 AM to 5.00 PM sometime in the next few weeks; damn even the 9am-9pm gave me an actual date.

I'm waiting for a delivery from Amazon, nothing of a 'I need it now' basis so I went for the free postage option. Ordered on the 23rd and tracking it I see that it was despatched on the 25th and arrived in Droitwich on the 28th. Delivery estimate 4th June.. so it's now less then 10 miles away from me and it might take a week to get here. Wow hasn't the world progressed since we gave up the horse and carriage. Okay sarcastic remarks aside they often arrive well before the estimate, of course that means you've got no idea of when it's actually going to turn up.

On a final note I assume the kids are on holiday; said assumption being based on the fact it only took ten minutes to get to work and that included picking up and dropping off someone not on my regular route.

Debt, and where are you going?

So according to reports 10% of us live below the poverty line (that ever changing standard) and are paying of huge debts. To illustrate this one of the morning shows gave us the plight of one women with two children (IIRC) who earns £1,200 a month, but is paying back £600 in loans. She's only been able to go to Greece on a cheap £200 holiday and if she needs new clothes she has to sell some of the toys that her kids no longer need.

What sort of country is this where a person can't afford to fly first-class to whatever destination that they choose. What sort of country is this where, instead of simply throwing them out, a person has to sell unwanted possessions as if they were... gag... trade!

Not to worry though mention is made that credit card and other loan companies should offer free or cheap loans to these people.

Okay let's stop there. Why the hell should people who managed to get themselves into trouble be bailed out? Where do people think the money is going to come from to do this, yep that's right from the people who actually do pay their bills. I mean what's the likelihood of the companies cutting back on their profits?

Did anyone force them to take a loan, did anyone force a credit card into their hand and say "Now you must use this" sure an argument can be made that these firms are very persuasive at getting us to spend money we don't have, but you don't have to listen to them. You don't need the latest 56" plasma television, the hi-fi system, the £120 pair of trainers for Junior to grow out of in a year; nobody needs this stuff. Buy hey that's how our economy functions, you buy something, it becomes obsolete, you buy essentially the same item again, and again. If you haven't got the money you take out a loan, if you don't then you're impoverished; you don't fit into society and you should be jeered at or ostracised.

So more attempts to stop terrorism. Reforms are being proposed to extend the Terrorism Act so that police can stop and question anyone they like anywhere they like about terrorism (provided, of course, they have reasonable suspicion to do so - hah). Fail to co-operate and face a £5,000 fine.

"Excuse me sir may I ask where you're going?"
"Oh I'm just off to plant a bomb in that train station over there"

Newsflash - terrorists lie. So seeing as the only people who are likely to give a true answer to this question are the everyday innocent people in this country, what's the point of all this?

Ah see remember those three guys who were suspected of wanting to kill UK soldiers (note that's "suspected of wanting to kill" rather then actually having killed) disappeared. These tough new reforms would have stopped that from happening; no doubt the police would have been able to ask where they were going and picked them up later from that location...

Friday, May 25, 2007

Damn and blast

For starters I'm sick and tired of it, how any species that manages to cross its air and food intake passages got beyond evolutionary puberty is beyond me. Having hot coffee go down the wrong way and provoke coughing is not a good reaction when a hot coffee mug is still in your hand. I just about managed to put it down before the major hacking, but caught my fingers on the handle in the rush. Spluttering and coffee stains. I think all Creationists and Intelligent Designers should be forced to wear a badge saying "Don't save me from choking".

Speaking loosely of fingers, Livescience posts a report on mathematical and linguistic skills based on finger length note it's done on children so may not apply to adults. Simply put if your index finger is longer then your ring finger you have better literacy skills, or maths skills for the reverse. Doesn't say from what points they measure from, but measuring down the middle from the tip to the palm crease I get 77mm and 78mm for index and ring fingers respectively, which tilts me towards maths.

Jim H's friends-only Livejournal has him rant about the service or should that be lack-of-service in fast-food restaurants; running out of ingredients; getting the order wrong and basically not giving a damn. As we tend to follow America in all things that's something to look forward to here if we don't already match that level of ineptitude.

Rubbish still makes the news I've already commented on this to some extent. The big non-news is that the councils now want to charge us by weight/amount. This'll lead to fly-tipping cry the nay-sayers, no it'll lead to padlocks as people dump their waste in their neighbours bins and get them to pay for it. In other words the plan's unworkable. Ah we've still got to reduce the size of our landfill sites.

Okay how about going after the producers of all this rubbish. I picked up an external USB hard drive as a portable back-up store, (just to send Invisible into apoplexy I got it from PC World as their price wasn't that much different from online prices). The drive itself is about as big as one hand, the box I had to carry with two. Totally unnecessary even citing necessary padding as the drive itself had its own padding and was supposedly shock resistant. The only reason for the size I could see was that the manual was larger height and length-wise then the drive; I kid you not.

The biggest change is to aim at businesses, oddly they pay council tax often at greater amounts then domestic owners for the same equivalent valued property and yet receive less services. How about offering them a free fortnightly pick-up recycling service? Oh sure some companies already recycle, but they're the ones paying for it to be done so why should they bother?

This has other benefits too, while I find it unlikely that someone will take recyclable rubbish home from work to put in their bin, people taking rubbish from home to put in the office's much larger bin seems a likely possibility. Also rather then have to take a special trip out to the recycling banks, just take it with you to where you have to go anyway. If the company itself is not paying by weight/amount for it to be done the company could even encourage this.

But no harass the domestic user; they don't have access to legal teams to fight regulations they don't like. Of course they have other means to fight... expect large numbers of bin-bags to appear outside of council offices. Bet those'll get collected pretty sharpish.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Freedom from information

So the saga of the Freedom of Information Act continues with the attempt to add specifics that don't exempt MPs expenses, but still allow them to hide correspondence with public authorities.

So why do we need a FoI Act at all? Well it allows us to ask for information that hasn't been made public and probably won't be. Fair enough except then you have to ask well why hasn't it been published? Why should we have to make applications to see MPs expenses or discover how many 'wild' animals are owned by Londoners. The Guardian argues that these requests have a political motivation, so what does that mean? If all this information was published freely it would still be used politically, so should we head back to the good old days when you couldn't find out anything unless it had been approved for release? Brown envelopes under the door; that's only good for the newspapers who'd get said missives.

So what if everything got released, unless stamped Top Secret; well other then cynicism telling me that a lot more documents would achieve that label, you'd need to employ staff to go through and censor any personal information. So now define personal information. If Minister A writes to Minister B asking that their good friend Person C is a fine upstanding chap who happens to be looking to obtain UK citizenship; what information should be removed? What about Person A writing to Minister B about the state of rubbish collection in their area?

The simple answer would be to remove all personal information and use the FoI to have the censorship removed. A qualified panel (of judges perhaps) would determine if it breaches personal privacy, if it's in the national interest etc. and allows or disallows the appeal. No more gathering of information as it's already out there so no complaints on that score, if the public departments were efficient any created document would automatically allow <censor> tags that would automatically blank any information once the publish button is hit.

From the government's point of view they could be seen to be presenting an open government while at the same time drowning everyone in information that'd take them an age to sort through. Win win.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Original and unaltered, and adverts

So apparently the Radio Times is having another make-over and to keep me as a loyal reader they've sent through some money-off vouchers, which arrived Monday. Unlike the last time they did this the first voucher is for the current issue that was on-sale yesterday. It's a standard voucher with the standard boilerplate "original and unaltered" vouchers are the only ones redeemable.

So what? Well on the back of the voucher is a couple of questions you can answer plus an area to fill out your email address. But if I fill them out the voucher is no longer the same as when I received it - it's been altered. Okay we know they mean you can't photocopy or scan it in and churn out a hundred off them, you can't scribble out the "50p" and write in "£1.00", but technically speaking if I write on the back it could be refused. Ah you might say they ask you to fill it out, no they don't nowhere in the bumpf or on the voucher does it say - please fill this out. So I haven't

So adverts again. A major shampoo chain is patting itself on the back for winning some award. "It wasn't a designer or salon brand" no it was them. Good for them except "Thousands of consumers can't be wrong" Uh okay; if we assume that the majority is always right then Christianity is the best religion (2.1 billion), China is the best country (1.3 billion), and that Microsoft Windows is the best operating system (90-95% market share). That the supermarkets that take the lion's share of the High Street pound are the best shops, and that fast food restaurants provide the best food. Quality, quantity; not always the same thing.

The other advert getting on my goat is the Crispy Salad one "Fresh from the fields of Florette" Wow so they own the fields? According to their website

Florette works closely with its agricultural partners...
So that sounds like a no then. The questions and answers provide more information for the inquiring mind.
Is the packaging gas-flushed?
You might be relieved to know that only certain salad leaves are gas-flushed, uh-huh what the heck is gas-flushed? Oddly enough not a question shown on this page, but now it's been brought to my attention I want to know. At least you don't have to wash them as they come fully prepared; so how do Florette wash them? Hey look that isn't on the Q&A list either or on the 'from field to supermarket' pictorial guide. Also note the supermarket assumption, if they're so fresh and tasty why aren't they sold in greengrocer's?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Onward ever onward

First off a thanks to Invisible for lumbering me with Catatonia's "Road Rage" a tune I haven't been able to shake off. At the moment it's competing with Bjork's "Earth Intruders" as I'm not a fan of her work or stylings it's beyond my reasoning as to why that's currently lodged there.

I thought I'd ditched the cold, but obviously some traces remain as I woke up suddenly last night with a stifled scream; well opening one's eyes to a corpse standing over your bed, hand extended to help you up, might do that to a guy. I calmed down after that when I saw the women with the impossibly white trousers browsing the flesh forest, obviously in the bad light I'd mistaken her for the corpse. That was until the shadows started flittering in the canopy. Ah the flittering shadows are back, those I recognise. I vaguely recall another couple of awakenings, but for no reason I can remember.

After unsuccessful attempts to get hold of the Stourport plans I now discover they're the same as the ones posted on the town site here That's four PDFs running to 108 pages. Other then a couple of minor alterations it's identical to the old pridefull document. Okay initiative shown in splitting it up and putting it prominently on the official site, but I'd hoped for more. Ah well I'll go through it all again to refresh my memory.

The iron kerbing I mentioned previously is permanent as per the submitted designs. It also shows a scale drawing of the bridge so I might have a go at modelling it. Unfortunately dropping it from A1 to A4 leaves me with a large error margin when measuring, and for some reason displaying/printing at 100% also fails to match scale to known measurements. Ah well I'll figure something out.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The best laid plans

Well I had plenty of plans for the weekend, but the universe loves to toy with me. I'd fancied spending some time at Redstone Marsh, yet another wooded area of Stourport that people tend to forget exists. In the end I had just enough time to nip out and get some supplies in. I didn't even get chance to see the skate-park, I'll try to get down there tonight.

Applause and congratulations to the bridge crew for switching the lane closure around with minimal disruption. I did see a few cars heading out of town pulling over to overtake the lights then autopiloting back to the left-hand lane before realising it was now closed off. Good job they've got some high iron kerbstones up on the right-hand side. Just like the tank-busters on the little Stour bridge (which I was sure I had an uploaded photo of), just in metal rather then concrete. Now I know there was supposed to be an iron kerbing, but is this it? I can't wait for a wheelchair or double pushchair to start at either end and meet each other halfway. I'll also note that any cyclists on the path won't be able to get off onto the road; in some sense a good thing, in others not so good.

Odd documents tend to pass over my desk, and sometimes I even read them. An old one flitted past from late-2005 about parked cars on High Street and moves to decriminalise car-parking regulations and appoint 16 new traffic wardens. Uh-huh whatever happened to that? What triggered the memory - well our friends at the Black Star had a delivery this morning blocking off the left-hand side of the Vale Road/High Street/Lickhill Road junction. Double yellow lines and a loading restriction if I'm correct. To add insult to injury the first lane of Vale Road was also blocked, by a bus at the stop (fair enough) and a Shredded Paper pick-up van parked behind it. Ah well not as if it's the morning rush-hour; ah. Okay at least it's not the morning rush-hour with on-going roadworks causing traffic to build up; um?

I almost decapitated a pushchair in Bridge Street as a bloke pushed it out ahead of him behind a parked car. I'll assume there was a child in it. Just to point out the sheer inanity of this here's a description of the street layout - pedestrian crossing; shortened no parking zig-zags; gap of yellow lines to allow two cars to park, in which two cars were parked; idiot with pushchair.

Again it's like the people crossing opposite the Black Star. Hmm crossing point just to my left that allows me to cross both lanes one at a time with a full view of the oncoming traffic; crossing point just to my right that also allows me to cross both lanes one at a time again with a full view of oncoming traffic. Nah I'll try and cross both lanes at the same time right here where I can't see what's coming around the corner; that makes so much more sense.

Doing the same across the three lanes of Vale Road is vaguely understandable, it's quite long with crossing points at each end and a pedestrian point comes out halfway along it next to the only free car-park in town all of which is opposite the main town shopping area. Gee I wonder what people are going to do George.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Stourport Bridge stays open

Yep that's right it's been confirmed that the bridge will be staying open this weekend and won't be closing as planned.

Sorry I didn't even now that is was supposed to be closing. The first I've heard was this morning from someone who themselves only just found out and wanted confirmation. Talking to the postman, he recalls a list of dates in a leaflet that was published in October, and that he believes it was in last week's paper; though he hadn't seen it. Odd that I can't find a mention of it in our local paper from its internet archive, just the story linked above. Odd that, although I travel over the bridge a minimum of four times a day, I've seen no signs telling me it'd be closed. Is it just me, but wouldn't the best way to inform people using the bridge about closures would be to put signs up on the bridge?

Ah well at least we can rely on the official refurbishment page to keep us informed or the official town site as an up-to-date source on all things town related. <cough>

I've just let everyone around know not to worry, and so far in every case that's meant telling them what they should have been worrying about to start with.


Well the skate-park crane disappeared yesterday, which I forgot to mention. They've also widened the access for the single lane over the bridge, which means you don't have to risk heading over the holes. The lights this morning were back into 'clear the town' mode; well at least until I got into town and had to park to drop off a passenger. At which point the High Street just flowed with traffic and I couldn't get back out.

Still a bit bunged up, but headachey, a touch photo-sensitive, and feeling in need of sleep. Running the old self-diagnostic comes back with a cause of bunged up nose (duh), mild oxygen deprivation (so I've been having a walk and filling my lungs) due to said bunged up nose, and a weather change in progress; thank-you nature. Anyway that means the weather is shifting one way or another, so as I'm heading out for the weekend I'm betting on heavy rain.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Dopey evening

So I've been battling a cold since Monday the origin of which I'll blame on my father who I officially dub Sir Sneezalot.

"Hi dad"
Atchooo "Sorry got a cold"
steps back from germ laden air and wipes self down "Really?"

Ah I exaggerate he's not that bad and he only sneezes like that when he's caught off-guard, which seems to be about 90% of the time I'm around.

So anyway sore throat, leads to less sore throat and stuffy nose leads, last night, to bunged-up and coughing. As is my wont I went to pour myself some apple juice. I got a glass, opened the fridge, got the container and started to pour very carefully (because the spouts on these things are useless and it gulps and drops into the glass with a giant splash which spills out and I'm heading way off-thread here)

Brain fizzles 'That's not right'
stop pouring 'It's white'
'Apple juice isn't white'
hold up hand with milk carton in it
'Ah that makes sense'

It's silly stuff we've probably all done when we're distracted, except I wasn't distracted. I'd just zoned out. 'I'll think I'll stay in tonight'

So come 7pm and I'm dropping off to sleep. Not a good idea, television will distract me. Freeview with 30+ channels and bugger all worth watching; wonderful.

I could watch a DVD or something I've recorded. Hmm well if it's new I'd have to pay attention and last time I tried that in this state everyone's voices started getting deeper and slower and I'd suddenly realise I didn't know what had happened in the last ten minutes. Something old and I wouldn't have to pay any attention and I'd drop off.

How about a book? Yeah well then I'd have to concentrate on deciphering those squiggly things.

A game, hah I'd be dead inside of ten seconds with my current reflexes and a slower paced one won't help in staying awake.

DVD wins, but then my brain chimes in 'You're thirsty', "Coffee?", 'Sounds good... Coffee's in the kitchen', "Uh-huh" 'You're not in the kitchen', "Uh-huh", 'I think you're going to have to move', "Yeah"...'Soooo?' "Yeah I'm working on it"

Coffee returning some basic functionality so now it was time to pick something to watch, something I'd seen before, but with enough action or similar to keep everything ticking over without stressing the system into having to cogitate. Narrowed it down to The Matrix, MiB, or Bill & Ted? Hmm a decision to make - eeney meeny mineey mo. So I went with Shrek. Yeah I know; see I can't even present myself with multiple options without plumping for the one not on the list.

Well it did the job, kept me awake. Decent enough laughs tied with good music prodded my brain to life enough that I could knock off a few chapters of Woken Furies before rendering myself unconscious.

The mild fever must have broke in the night I woke up to watch the water dripping horizontally off the shelves. No not got a clue what that was about.

Anyway I'm still a tad dopey, still a bit bunged up and coughy; but a hell of a lot better then I was and I'm all tooled up with Lockets; though it might just be me but they don't half make me burp.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Bang goes that idea

So elsewhere I'd commented on turning the old Job Centre into a Police Station. Well the rumour mill is alive with talk that it's going to be a restaurant instead with flats above it. A rumour partly confirmed by the big board set high on the wall advertising 1 and 2 bedroom flats and totally confirmed by the planning permission application. Curious that the applicants are listed as the owners, did Wyre Forest rent the property from them or sell it after they moved out? Also nice to note that Rhys-Davies Properties Ltd is, according to their website

a niche developer of distinctive luxury homes
So looks like we'll be getting some good affordable housing then. Then again the Press section of the site hasn't had any additions since 2005 and the Commercial Development section is still being updated so maybe their focus has changed.

The supporting documentation has a cracker of a quote
inner town dwellings gain popularity with younger persons who want to be less reliant on personal transport
Around here? So tie that with the "luxury homes" and they're aiming at young, rich people; who don't want to own a car, who wouldn't mind living above a restaurant, within spitting distance of four/five pubs, and who if they want to travel any sort of distance need to rely on the vagaries of the bus and out-of-town railway. Yeah I can't go into town without bumping into those type of people.

The next bit of supporting documentation is a masterpiece of 'things not said'. Read carefully
The Secondary Shopping Area, in which the application site is located, contains a range of smaller shops, including florists, hairdressers, gift shops, clothing boutiques, [...] solicitors, dentists and doctors.
Anyone agree that's a good overall statement of Bridge Street? Oops missed the amusement arcades, the cafes, the chippies and the other take-away places. Well why would you mention businesses like that for? What were they wanting to build here.. oh that's right a restaurant.

Well at least you can park easily. Well okay not any of the roads, but there's a no restriction car-park in New Street after 6.30pm and that'll hold oo what 6 cars? Still there's Raven Street and the Severn Meadow car-parks with again no restriction after 6.30pm that's not too bad. Sure they're next to the meadows, but there's CCTV so if your car does get smashed in they get the cops around in at least an hour or so, if they spotted it.

2.5 referring to the flats apparently they're within range of employment opportunities. Yep check who they're aiming at and there are plenty of solictors, doctors etc. or of course you could work in the new restaurant.

Oh apparently New Street is wide enough to cope with delivery vans. Oops my mistake New Street is "sufficiently wide for deliveries to be safely made outside the premises" it'll just restrict it to one lane, but hey it'll be "safe".

Okay it might sound like I'm against all this, I'm not. Other then the Indian and the cafe/take-aways we don't have a real sit-down restaurant. I'm just concerned that we're going to be building yet more house/flats that won't be bought by locals. That the owners will want to park their cars in New Street and worse yet after the pubs empty and the windows get smashed for the umpteenth time it'll all get vacated and boarded-up again.

Off-thread apparently they've put in half the bowl on the skate-park and other structures are dotted around. Could it be finished by the week-end? If so then it will only have taken them 5 weeks, sorry Dan how long did you say it took to build a McDonalds? ;-)

Oh and a nod to Wyre Forest Planning for not OCRing the documents making them uncopyable and unindexable. I understand why, it's just bloody annoying.

You are a criminal redux

Tav's commented on the Disney claim that pirated movies are poorer quality blah blah, which of course is nonsense if they've been taken from a master source. That presupposes that the DVD has already been released, for movies still been broadcast in cinemas the only option is the camcorder one, or stealing the film and having access to a high speed digital film scanner.

But what about digital cinemas? If the cinema has the movie in a digital format surely that means it's easier to copy? Well there's a ton of security restrictions in place some of which I believe could have been handled better.

So let's take a look at the digital revolution. How does it all work? Well the cinema gets the film in pretty much the same way, it's encrypted and requires a unique KDM (Key Delivery Message) to broadcast one KDM per server. To prevent copying the broadcast system adds in an invisible watermark detailing time date and location to the film. Sit in the cinema with a camcorder and film the movie and the distributor will know exactly when and where you did it. The broadcast won't happen if the watermark software is tampered with or any of the other security system. The broadcast also won't happen if it's outside the time restriction of the KDM.

So sounds reasonable. How would I have done it? Well first off we don't need the KDM at all. The broadcaster contacts the distributor and requests a movie for his servers. The servers public keys are kept by the distributor and they 'burn' and label the movies for each server with that encryption. Now only that server can play that movie.

What about time limits etc.? Well for starters why have a time limit at all? Well we need a start date, can't have movies being shown before their release. So the servers are hooked up to via the internet to the distributors server. The broadcaster sets the film to play and the server sends a short and simple encrypted request to the distributor "Broadcaster X wants to show Movie Y. Allow?" A no (or no answer) comes back, it doesn't show. For that level of interaction you wouldn't even need DSL speeds. Better yet the distributor now knows how many times that movie is being shown. Why good, well instead of a flat fee the distributor can now charge per screening. This could encourage cinemas to pick up obscure niche titles for screening. You get them sent, play them once, and return the cassette for something new without having to drop a bundle on getting it in the first place.

If we get a decent fibre system in place this could all happen without the need for any physical media at all. The distributors simply sit on a big server holding their catalogue and the system takes and processes all requests automatically.

Ah but what about hackers. Well the movies will be encrypted and there's nothing stopping the distributors from adding in their own watermark to the movie. Even if the hackers get hold of the private key of a broadcaster and decrypt the movie the watermark will still be there. the pirate hits the streets, the watermark is read, and that server has its keys altered. The hackers have to start from scratch.

Of course all this security assumes that we want to get rid of pirate versions of movies. Well of course we do, the studios are forever telling us that the high costs are solely to make up for the pirates cut in their take. Except look closer. Would we have simultaneous world-wide releases of movies and DVDs if it weren't for the pirates. Would studios bother to try and make each region-coded release as identical as possible if it weren't for the pirates. Does anyone believe that if this security system eliminated pirates altogether all the prices would suddenly fall?

No I don't think so. Ironically it's the pirates that are forcing the studios and the distributors to do this. Forcing them to innovate, to treat the world as a single entity rather then as discreet region bands. While the system is still tilted in favour of the studios we need the pirates.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

You are a criminal

Prompted by Dan's comment I think the topic of movie piracy deserves a closer examination.

We've all seen them and in my opinion they're getting more prevalent. You buy a new movie, pop it into the player, settle back to enjoy and instead you get a blast of music and a trailer telling you that you wouldn't steal a car and equating that with movie theft; or more specifically copyright theft.

Depending on what you're playing them with sometimes they're fast-forwardable, sometimes they're skippable, sometimes they're not. Then after being placed firmly in the potential criminal bracket you're given another screen (generally never skippable) telling you what you can't do and threatening you with the penalties if you do.

It's annoying and insulting, I've bought these movies; to paraphrase Dan 'Do you think pirates would copy over the anti-pirate trailers?' So the people who are most likely to see these are the people who've bought a legitimate copy.

Some take it too far, I've had discs ask me to enter which country I'm from and presenting me with an alphabetical list. Three pages later you get to United Kingdom and all it's doing is making sure you get the correct copyright trailer. As a result I now apparently live in Azerbaijan, who ironically don't seem to get one.

The next stupidity is to do with the penalties text themselves. All the studios seem to have their own boilerplate and none match up. "You can't play this on an oil-rig", okay; "You can't broadcast this to the public", okay; "You're prohibited from renting this disc out", okay; "You're prohibited from lending this disc", excuse me? It's my damn disc I've paid for it who the hell are you to say that I can't lend it to a friend. Ah, say the studios, but every time you lend it someone that's a potential sale lost. Or perhaps it could be a sale gained because they like what they've seen and want a copy for themselves. Anyway by that measure everything should have the same notice.

"I'm sorry I can't lend you a pencil, that would represent a lost sale to the pencil company and I'd have to pay them compensation" Put it like and that and the absurdity is made obvious. Perhaps I should 'sell' it to my friend, a transfer of ownership, then he can 'sell' it back to me. It's plainly ridiculous.

So what's it all about anyway? Pirates - oo ar me maties. But why do pirated copies exist anyway? Well let's start with the obvious - the studios spend mega-bucks on promotion to want us to see a movie, except you can't because it hasn't been released in your country yet. Welcome to the global network, you can't just promote the latest blockbuster in America and not expect leakage across the rest of the globe.

Step two it gets released on DVD, but here we go again often not at the same time. Say hello to the global marketplace. Oo they don't like that, better slap something on the DVD that'll stop it playing outside its designated area. If a government tried that it'd be jumped on by the WTO faster then you can say trade restriction. But hey it's all covered by the great god copyright.

It gets worse, having released different region versions at different times, they add different content to each; with normally the R1 USA releases getting the cream of the crop. That being the version you're not supposed to be able to watch.

Then we get to cost, I've already mentioned picking up the latest releases in Sainsbury's for sometimes half the cost of them elsewhere. You might say that they're not making any profit blah blah; and yet isn't it amazing how these latest releases slowly slip down in price as time passes. Is everyone they making a loss on all of them?

Tied to cost is the practise of releasing two versions at the same time, the plain old vanilla disc and the suped-up special edition, which sometimes goes for twice the price. I saw "Hogfather" in two such versions plain vanilla and limited edition with an RRP difference of £5. So what's the difference? The packaging! Yep that's it, the contents are identical. Oh, but of course you get those two-discers that do differ from their one-disc counterpart. Except when you look closer you find that the only difference is the extras, extras that probably could have fitted onto the same disc as the film.

So you've all been hyped up to see the movie but you can't. When it finally does arrive you're expected to pay £5 for the privilege of sitting in an uncomfortable seat surrounded by rustlers, coughers, and the terminally stupid. All to watch a movie on a big screen where they've turned the bass to max to hide the mumbled dialogue and the picture's slightly out of focus. Forgo that fun and instead you can pay over the odds for a disc that doesn't match up to the R1 version, that'll get discounted to half the price in a couple of months time; and accuses you of being a potential criminal if you try to do anything with it other then watch it alone in a sealed room on studio approved equipment.

Gee I've no idea why these pirated versions can still exist and do business.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Speaking too soon, and fun with hardware.

We have crane, right next to the bridge, right next to the skate-park site. Could it be? Could they be lifting into place the pre-fab blocks, or is something to do with the bridge repair? No I'll be optimistic and say it's the skate-park.

Got stuck getting to the bridge, so when I finally got it in sight I roughly timed the lights. Stopped me at 13:59, sporadic traffic headed towards me, let us through at 14:02. I got through and we were all stopped at the pedestrian crossing that had just changed, as a result I still had the other lights in view. I got to the top of Bridge Street and glanced back, the town-side lights had switched to green; the time? 14:02.

Here's a story from Jim (Hi Jim) which I'll whittle down to the essentials. Jim had a nice new car, which came with a nice new CD-player. The nice CD-player was MP3 compatible. So seeing as you can fit more tracks onto one CD in that format, and to save the hassle of switching CDs around in the car, tracks were ripped and tracks were burnt. The disc played on the home stereo, the disc played on the DVD-player, but it would not play in the car. So Jim called the garage who told him it might the speed he's burning them at, Jim checked with me and I told him that was bollocks.

Brain-racking time. Jim had copied the files over as data (correct) using some software that came with his computer. Digging up the manual it turns out that you if you go to the audio options you can burn an "MP3 CD" this adds an .m3u file (a playlist). Maybe the car-player demanded this playlist file? Maybe when they talked about speed they were on about sample rate? Other then a faulty player these were the only two viables I could think of.

Nope. The car goes back to the showroom, the CD is put into the car and fails to work. The CD is put into another car's player and is just fine. "Ah you'll have to check at the service centre" One drive later and this simple test is repeated with the same results with an added twist. Another CD burned by the service centre, one that works in another car, also fails to play. Hey faulty player.

Okay the car manufacturer want the serial number of the player, yeah that's right nobody records it when it goes in and guess what... it's not visible from the exterior. It's a box, the whole thing has to be pulled out the player the air-con controls everything just to get at the player, slap it on a photocopier and take the number. At which point the whole lot has to be all put back together again.

Now call me naive, but when you're added electronic packages to, well anything, that come from different manufacturer wouldn't it be an idea to record the details about them before you plug them all in?

Also makes me wonder about their test procedures.

Gold paint, CCTV, skate-park, and a few other things including cigarettes

Ah Saturday; I woke to sunshine, got out of bed to cloud, and dressed to the sound of rain.

Spotting a gap I popped down to Stourport. A pavement is now able to be used on the bridge meaning I could get a close-up view of the new paint-job. It is gold, just not a very shiny gold which means from a distance it just looks beige. It does look good close-up though.

Wandering through I was surprised at how busy the town was seeing as it was both wet and a cup match was scheduled for the afternoon. I took note of three CCTV cameras up in the town; one on the side of Beards/Eurotronics pointing down High Street, one at the other end on the High Street, Lickhill Road triangle also appearing to point down High Street. Finally the one at the Lion Hill end of York Street pointing down, well, York Street.

So unless the Beards one can rotate Bridge Street is not yet covered, and therefore neither is the skate-park.

With that possibility in mind I stood next to the skate site and looked up to Bridge Street, with a 4x/4x zoom and a 7.1MPixel camera I can make out the CCTV camera; so in theory it could be covering that area...just.

Speaking of the skate-park they've really cracked the whip. You might recall last time we had three small slabs, one large one, and a ditch. Well they've added two smaller concrete squares as off-shoots to the large one. Why this wasn't done as part of the larger square... well a regular framework is much easier to build and then you only need three balks for any offshoots. Of course it means that these aren't bonded to the larger piece and any subsidence means that they'll be the first to crack off. But hey who cares; anyway if they keep up this fast-paced high-octane rate I'm sure it'll be ready by the middle of June.

Photos to be uploaded to the standard place when I get around to it.

After concluding my trip I headed back for some lunch then headed out to Kidderminster, due to the time and assuming it'd be a ghost town I headed down the main drag and got stopped at the roadwork lights next to... before the railway bridge next to the pub that kept changing it's name every other month; anyway these lights were definitely needed as they'd dug a trench across one lane, of course they'd then filled it back up again so um... The cynical part of me, which along with the paranoid part makes up most of me, says that the work crew finished on Friday night and the traffic light crew don't start until Monday morning.

Getting in was fine, but the queue I passed trying to get out was terrible; I resolved to remember to leave via a different route.

The open car-park was quietish, except for my swearing at the ticket dispenser which didn't like any of the 10p coins I had. One hour for 60p means I normally drop in three 20p's, but I had a build-up of 50's and 10's. Five attempted coins later I poinked out the 50p and rummaged for 20's instead.

In the interests of giving people heart-attacks a speaker has been set high up next to the ticket machine dispensing sage advice every so often. I'll paraphrase - 'Police warning. Please remember to remove any sat-nav devices and valuables from your car' or, and call me stupid, you could have a police officer or traffic warden patrolling around the car-park... nah, I am being stupid.

The town was surprisingly busy mostly kids, by which I mean young teens. Spotted a CCTV camera on the corner of TopShop, prodded memories suggest it's been there a while, but <shrugs>

Remembering the queue I headed back by the sacred Wilden Road (because it's so holey) at the end of which was a roadwork sign. Really bloody useful as it neglected to inform me which way the works were; they were in the direction I was going in and, as Don has already commented, set-up by an idiot. The lights weren't up fortunately, but I could see how it would have been. Yep there are three lanes, yep the middle lane can easily take the place of the closed one, yep let's set-up some traffic lights.

Sunday was a wash-out so I stayed in and watched the second season of "Dead Like Me" on DVD. They've still got the chaptering gapped poorly and each disc now starts with the standard 'We think you're a criminal' intro, which was nicely skippable unlike the 'We still think you're a criminal' text page that seems to stay up so long I could've translated it into hieroglyphs and carved them onto the wall. The series itself was fun, but lacked a finish. Saying that I do hope they make and release a third.

Traffic was not good this morning, rain bringing out more vehicles oh and we had a minor shunt on the Dunley Road. Nicely it was just before the Areley Common junction, which combined with the fact that the car behind the crash was too close and couldn't pull around it, meant that all the traffic in Areley Common could actually get out. I know I bemoan the people who leave enough room to fit a double-decker bus between themselves and the stationary car in front of them, but you should at least leave enough room so you get get past them if necessary.

A bit about cigarettes. Some bods popped up early on the BBC in an attempt to get/prevent a complete smoking ban in cars. They might cause accidents as they're a distraction to driving; like mobiles. The anti-bod pointed out that laws were already in place regarding driving without due care and attention, to which pro-bod agreed and then used the mobile amendments as a argument for specific bans. How long have I been saying this? How many times have I said that the mobile laws will get used as precedent? How many times have I pointed out the insanity of banning mobiles specifically, but hey it's fine for anyone to stick a tube of something in their mouth and set fire to it? Ack I'm expecting politics to follow common-sense rules, silly me.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Town updates

Well the bridge lights seemed to be in 'Clear the town' mode, as a result a 60+ queue on one side and a whopping 6 car queue on the other. Stuck in the queue to town I marvelled at the long swathes of nothing that passed me going the other way.

The crew on the bridge seemed to blessing the road, using a scoop to throw some fine particulate onto the surface; good job it's not as windy as it has been. I'm still curious as the ironwork paint scheme, I've already mentioned that I assumed the beige was an undercoat for the gold, but it's been like that for some time now. I do hope it really is gold i.e. a shiny metallic colour, but why wasn't it 'finished' while under cover?

32 page - 8 sheet wraparound on yesterday's Shuttle all full of excitement at tomorrow's Wembley match for the Kidderminster Harriers; of almost zero interest to me the only ponderables being - firstly how can you fill 32 newspaper sized pages regarding one match; and secondly this should make the towns and surrounding areas very quiet come 2pm. 24,000 people was the number I heard bandied about, which to put in perspective is greater then the population of this town or about a quarter of the entire district. Assuming those figures and that a fair majority will be either staying in or heading to a sports bar to watch it on Sky Sports1... very quiet indeed.

Just to prove that you can get some stuff done in one day the new bus shelter in High Street seems to be up. At first glance it looks a little incongruous might just be me being used to the old concrete slab affair. I'll grab some pictures this weekend. Hopefully it won't end up a fiasco like one on Hermitage Way where they fitted it and had to come back twice because it wasn't level or leaked or something, big joke being everyone still wants this bloody stop moved from the inside curve of the bend so they build a new shelter - priceless.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Almost done now....maybe, and am I just mean?

So the hacked-out lane on the bridge has now been made up to the level of the other lane, can't be long now before they surface it and then at last we'll be back to only one lane. Ah well at least in theory it's a quick strip and replace job as apparently a lot of the work has been done under the road. The only thing I'll say though is that this shiny new road surface will get a pounding once they switch over; I've photographed some of the damage caused in the other lane and frankly it was scary how quickly it deteriorated once the traffic flow increased.

I noticed the smell of paint the other day and some vans parked down by the river (amusement park side) "Skate-park work?" I thought, then I recognised one van from being parked in the bridge construction site so I guess not.

So it was difficult to watch the news this morning. "It's been almost a week since the disappearance of Madeleine, at least three days more reporting then we'd have done had she been a 12-year old boy and not a blonde Caucasian 3-year old girl" oh no wait they didn't say that "The town is trying to cope" yeah got to find places for the journalists, reporters, technicians, the streets are jammed with transmission vans and the local mobile cell is overloaded, no they missed that out too. Apparently the Portuguese press are getting antsy and asking annoying questions like "why was she left alone?" oh and "why can't the police concentrate on local crimes" - nice people remind me not to visit. In an amazing show of forward planning the police already laid a pull-out with the amazing statement that it must have been done by an English person as the crime was carried out so well! I expect the local papers were full of commendation from the criminal fraternity saying they could have committed this just as well.

"People are tuning in to find out what's happened" -um not much since you asked me half-an-hour ago, actually not much since you asked me yesterday.

Okay the media focus may be having an effect on the local police force, how long did it take just to get what she was wearing made public, but no don't make out you're there for the girl, for the parents, for truth justice or the English way of life; you're there for the viewing figures; which perhaps says too much about the people watching.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Design a logo

The Wyfopedia project continues apace with the obvious additions being the district and parish results being uploaded. I believe Tav is still looking for a graphic to replace the current text label and as I know that some POVers with excellent art skills occasionally frequent this blog I put the call out. Sorry no monetary recompense do it for the love and the kudos ;-) The current image is 135x55px, but the fillable area is 155 square POVer's have my email address from p.o.t. anyone else can post a link in the comments here.

Minor town update, and pre-fab homes.

Ah traffic lights on Hartlebury Road, joy of joys. Of course this means that the traffic backs down to the island, which holds up traffic in Gilgal (which hardly needs the added help) and... well you should know the litany by now Vale Road to High Street to Bridge Street to Dunley Road to... I was lucky in that I got some fore-warning and left early; still only just got in on time too. No doubt there are people still trapped in the queue wondering what the hold-up is. Perhaps a weekly timetable of such events could be put up on the WFDC site or <gasp> the official Stourport town site

I notice that the CCTV camera post at the bottom of York Street (Lion Hill end) appears to be fully in place (finally) with a sticking out arm to hold the camera, it's difficult to see when you're driving so I'll head up and get some shots sometime soon. Looking at the bulk of it though makes me wonder where they're going to put one in Bridge Street, as I've already mentioned it doesn't make it on to the refurbishment plans and I've not seen any work started. For it to be overseeing the skate-park leaves a limited range; unless it's not a Bridge Street camera, but a Riverside one. I suppose I could delve back into the DC minutes and see if anything gets mentioned, but I won't hold my breath.

After the past couple of windy days the workman have re-wrapped the bridge ironwork in what appears to be dark binbags, presumably to protect the paintwork from the continuing construction on the roadway. I wonder why it couldn't have been left until last?

[Addendum] - The covers are off, a smell of paint is in the air, and of course it's raining. I also note the replacement bus shelter on High Street is going up, something I believe should have been done last week [Nope my mistake it was reported last week to start this week]. Of course the fitters have parked their truck in the bus-stop so the buses are having to park in the road, not good when there's a car parked opposite. Ah well the traffic wardens'll get them... oh I crack myself up at times.

The BBC were talking about the new Ikea pre-fab homes. Apparently they only take four days to build, a fact that had one wag call in to say in that case it'll take four months when they're assembled here. How cynical can you get :-P

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Stourport Farmers and Community Market?

Being held every Tuesday from 9-4 means we've got one today. Lo Raven Street was closed off this morning and I saw one stall up and running as I drove past. According to my sources last week there was four, prior to that - one. Now I drove past again at 1pm and the road is no longer cordoned off and a large lorry had parked at one end with a couple of cars down the other. Oh dear what's going on?

Now I'd love to shop, or even look, at this market except well I'm at work when it's on; just like so many other people. Now of course if I worked in town I could pop over and pick some stuff up, except then I'd have to find somewhere to put it once I got back to work. I could go in on the way home...ah it closes at 4pm. Hands-up the number of people who normally work until after 4pm. Yeah thought I wouldn't be the only one with my hand in the air.

But that's us working-class stiffs, it's aimed at young mothers (okay fathers too) who stay at home and look after their young; yes those young people who can't cook and think vegetables grow shrink-wrapped... hmm perhaps not.

Thank gods for the elderly retired, they know how to cook and have time on their hands to potter about markets, of course they've been buying their greens from Grinnal's for donkey's years and we've three, four, five (?) small butchers in town to chose from. So I'm sure they'd welcome a market that sells the same things to um well okay maybe not.

Okay I'm being a little sarcastic and stereotyping (a little), I really think a market's a good idea provided a) it sells things that we can't pick up in the other small local stores that we've been patronising for years and b) it's held at a time to maximise pedestrian traffic; hell a Monday would have been better at least it would have coincided with the Bank Holidays.

Maybe I'm jumping the gun, maybe it's fall-out from the Monday holiday and next week the street will be packed with all sorts of stalls; I hope so I really do.

Why am I having to do this?

So a pleasant long-weekend in which I tried to do as little as possible gets interrupted by a call familiar to all who work in tech support "The internet's not working" yep that's right the vast system of interconnected computers, routers etc. had crashed... or perhaps not. No it was of course the 'I'm typing in a web address and it can't find it' problem.

So I went through the usual check-list, is it just that one site - no, is it connected - yes, can it get the server address and talk to it - yes and no. Oo what's the connection like - lousy. So probably a temporary routing jam or BT are fiddling with your main junction box, try it again later. (Lo and behold the next day everything was fine)

Later in the weekend I get another call 'The digital box is behaving oddly' It wasn't displaying any on-screen graphics. Now I know an Over-The-Air update had just gone out so had it updated correctly? The menu wouldn't even display. Oh joy! Try a full power off/on. Oo a message I'll have to paraphrase -

'Your system had been updated and a new tree added to the guide. Please leave your box in standby over night to check for availability to avoid seeing this message every power up. To check for availability now press the OK button or to continue watching the television press quit'

With an ominous timer at the bottom of the screen. Apparently this came up before to a result of - "What do I do, what do I do?", "Quick press OK quick quick before the timer stops" Doing so made the box turn off and "The box is off quick turn it back on again"

Yep they'd interrupted the cycle; pressing OK, watching it turn itself off and doing nothing was the correct course of action to take. The box then turned itself back on and all was well.

So why the title of this piece, well I'll start with the internet bit first. "I went through the usual check-list" I said, so why am I doing this? What happens when your browser fails to connect - you get a screen up telling you to hit refresh, check the spelling of the address, click here to check your internet settings, or finally contact your network administrator.

First two no problem for your normal home-user; click here to check your internet settings? Okay now what am I looking at? <shrugs>. Contact my network administrator, who's that? The ISP at 60p/minute?

Let's look at what I did, first off I checked another site address - why can't the browser do this? What's stopping Microsoft's Internet Explorer attempting to reach, a site that should be always up. Can't get a name resolution for that - then it's unlikely to matter if you've spelled the address correctly or not you'll get the same result. Put up a suggestion that they check the connection. If that's okay check the trace; getting some time-outs along both routes, looks like congestion or some problems at the ISP, or with your phone line. Put up a suggestion to this effect and perhaps that you try again later. Finally if all that checks out suggest that the site might not be working.

Onto the digital box, the timer was stupid and is bound to produce panic. Updated "tree" what the hell is a tree and why is it in my TV guide, how in the hell is the average home user expected to understand that? Press OK to check availability or quit to continue watching - first problem no 'quit' button; second problem at the bottom of the screen, which shows what you can do, is the default icon for OK next to the word ': Quit'. Yep press OK to quit. Finally at what point does it tell you that not only will the box go into standby, but most importantly you shouldn't switch it off or on. It can be inferred from the message that it'll go into standby, but try picking up on that while staring at a count-down timer.

Both of these calls were unnecessary had the software been doing a decent job or been worded correctly. With more and more technology infiltrating ours lives sloppiness like this just should not be tolerated.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Voting, skate-park, and some other bits.

Well I was tempted to do a small piece for our American friends on 'Hey look this is how you count ballots' I'm glad I didn't.

The electronic counting machines brought into Warwickshire failed as they were "too sensitive". So why machines anyway instead of people? Well they're modern, quicker, less error-prone? Seems like they were trying to fix a problem that wasn't there, we've been hand-counting ballots for, well, bloody ages. Sure with complicated votes it might take <gasp> a whole day or even two to get the results, but are we really in that much of a hurry to discover the new make-up of the local council/district council/Parliament? I think the only ones who who do are the candidates themselves.

Then we get Scotland and the SNP who are so big on 'independence'. Fine give it to them; remove Scottish MPs from Parliament, give them their own mandate to create laws etc. oh and stop subsidising them and put the money back into England (and Wales). With the news of perhaps 100,000 spoiled votes being cast in Scotland, due to the complications of holding two elections at the same time (a factor that didn't seem to affect the English or Welsh) I believe they thoroughly deserve to enjoy the collapse of the country that their independence would cause.

The only upside is in the recounts which occurred with little fuss and in some cases have still managed to produce results before some areas 'primary' counts.

So after voting I managed to take a wander down to the skate-park just to see if it'll be ready for the Bank Holiday Weekend that starts tomorrow, and I must say I'm impressed by the level of work that's been done since last time I took pictures on the 22nd April.

Time to play 'Spot the difference' or 'What work has been done'

Skate-park works overviewIMG_2935IMG_2937

That's the 22nd April for the first one and the 3rd May for the other two. Can you spot the differences?

Yep that's right the coke bottle in the big pile of dirt bottom left has gone from half-empty to empty, the bag has blown onto the first small concrete square, and we've acquired a new fence panel on the ground.

If that's not enough there's more. Here's a clue


Can't get it? Here's a big clue


Yep they've put up warning signs, oh they've also closed the fence (next to the downed panel) hey didn't I point both of those failures out on the WFA looks like I did; well what a coincidence.

Now as Fran has stated that the work will be complete by Half-Term (that's the 28th) and as I doubt/hope they won't try and do any work over this Holiday Weekend that leaves them with... 3 weeks to get everything done. Now if they'd started just after the last Bank Holiday Weekend on 9th April they'd have had um... 4 weeks before this upcoming one. Anyone care to comment?

[Update - Oops apparently Half-term is the next week, so they've an extra week to work, but could mean that it'll still be a construction site come the Spring Bank holiday on the 28th - joy.]

I've also taken some pictures of the bridge paint job, plus some other pretty pictures they'll be uploaded to my Flickr account during the day as and when I get around to it.

[Update - which was a lot sooner then I expected, they're all up now.]

Thursday, May 03, 2007

How much floor space, Stourport Bridge looking good, and a few bits and bobs

I'm still wading through the additional data from both the West Mercia Annual Report and Appendix B of the Sustainability Appraisal Scoping Report. The list of major stores in Appendix B (p67/(63 internally)) caught my eye. As is my wont I copied them over to a spreadsheet, oh no wait the document is protected, I ended up OCR'ing it instead to ensure accuracy; thanks WFDC.

The data's from 2005 so not completely fossilised, though it does show Waitrose as an occupant. What's most interesting is that it shows Gross Floorspace and Net Floorspace for all the properties listed. Now according to the Tesco planning application the site in Kidderminster is only 5,400 square metres. According to this report it's 7,590 ah but they must be talking net space which again according to this report equals 4,934 square metres, but is the closer figure and assuming internal restructuring is entirely plausible.

So playing with the data in various ways something interesting shows up, ignoring the obsolete and lone 'Town Centre' location of Waitrose, the properties in the 'Supermarket' category split between Out-of Centre (Sainsbury's, Co-Op, and Somerfield) and Edge of Centre (Aldi, Safeway, Tesco). Interesting because it's equal numbers, but more interesting when you check the percentage of net floorspace compared to gross floorspace.

Edge of Centre

Aldi - 780/1200 = 65%
Safeway - 2354/3621 =65%
Tesco - 4634/7590 = 65%

Out of Centre

Sainsbury's - 6116/7645 = 80%
Co-op - 2094/2618 = 80%
Somerfield - 1122/1403 = 80%

In the interests of accuracy there is some variance between them when you get to the first decimal place. Now let's look at the proposed Tesco in Stouport which would probably be classified as Edge of Centre

Proposed Tesco - 2403/5015 = 48%

That's a big difference and again asks the question - what is this store really aiming at.

For those interested the average of the percentages of used floorspace over all properties was 73%, median 80% and in the interests of fairness assuming Tesco's own figure of 5,400 their Kidderminster percentage rises to 71%.

They took all the protective sheeting from around the bridge ironwork some time ago revealing the new blue and beige colour scheme, I'm joking the beige is presumably the undercoat for the gold. It looks good, nice and um shiny, a good deep blue. Kind of ironic that after revealing it to the public they've now covered it back up in 'dustsheets' while they still working on the road.

I meant to get down to the Riverside to check out the continuing work on the skate-park or lack of work as the case may be. I may have noted the WFA comments, but the kicker is Fran's comment on 27th April with reference to the 16th

Have I missed something? This is NOT a Bank Holiday Weekend! The work is programmed now, or so I was told when I asked, to make sure it is ready for Half-term.
Quite correct there was no Bank Holiday then however Half-Term is at the end of this month and hey look there's one next Monday. I note no answer to my own "So is it going to be ready for the 5th?" yet.

Anyway I'd better confirm it's not all finished and so as I'll be walking up to vote in completely the wrong direction, I might as well get in some exercise and pop along tonight ;-)

Didn't report this, but the potholes on the Areley Common/Dunley Road junction were finally patched last Friday afternoon, meaning people can now turn right from the right hand side of the junction instead of swinging around to the left; yay! Sadly the ones in Dunley Road, particularly the nasty corner cut. have yet to be done and duh the bridge and Bridge Street still have there own unique form of speed-bumps in place.

Latest news - in an effort to keep small traders in Stourport the Co-op apparently have offered help in relocating the traders from the Indoor Market to other sites they own. With some scorn
being received for the offer. Nice that the council is trying to help and have offered a better range of properties including perhaps the old Severn Bar in Lombard Street not exactly a million miles from their current site. Um how about the original site of the market in Bridge Street, you know the one that's an eyesore in the town having been boarded up for, gods what is it now, 20 years? Sadly I don't think that the boarded-up Job Centre, also in Bridge Street, is large enough.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Tav's Police follow-through

A question about PACT meetings reminded Tav about a question he asked about finances and resources used back in 2005. He got a response, well part of a response - a pointer to the information on their website. Being the odd person I am I decided to go through the entire thing.

Page 1, Introduction from the Chair of the Police Authority -

It's good to know that West Mercia Constabulary have been "independently assessed as one of the best performing police forces in the country" so what top 5, top 10, and who did the assessing?

"10% reduction in total crimes recorded" and a "5% increase in the sanction detection rate"
I had to go to Northumbria for a definition
Sanction detection rate - crimes detected by means of a charge, caution or taken into consideration (TIC)
Confusion. If a crime is reported then recorded and a charge made, does that appear as one item or two. Do reported crimes count at all or does sanction detection rate only apply to crimes picked up by the police directly? If SDR is applied to all recorded cases then that means crime is down and resolution is up - good. If it doesn't that they're picking more people up on their own, but reported crime is down, which could be bad depending on why it's not being reported.
West Mercia is the highest performing force, in its family of most similar forces, for sanction detection rates of the above types of crimes.
That's nice how many are in this family? (Looking elsewhere the answer is 8)
This represents an investment of £2.9 million in extra staff at no additional cost to council taxpayers.
Wow get me one of those money trees. No direct additional cost to council taxpayers would have been better, the money has to come from somewhere after all.

Page 2, What we have achieved -

Oo some stats from the PPAF Victims of Crime Survey, no link to the PDF about the contents of the survey so I've done that for you. This is the 2007/2008 version. Do I sound surprised when I mention that it's well written and quite precise? Again here's the link they don't provide which is a more raw version. WARNING this link has frozen both Opera and Firefox, opening directly from Word requests a password, when asked click cancel and load a read-only copy.

Both the DOC and the PDF provide some insights into how these things are undertaken.

Wow 90.1% of respondents were satisfied with their first contact with the police and 71.5% were completely satisfied... hold on that's 161.6%. Have they counted the "completely"'s in with the 'plain' satisfied? Sort of, looking at the PDF you're asked if you're satisfied or dissatisfied with the service and then asked a follow-up question. So that's 71.5% of the 90.1% or 64.4% of the total with presumably the other 25.7% split between "very" and "fairly". So to be more precise and assuming the 2007/08 guidelines were in place.

Satisfaction of victims of domestic burglary, violent crime, vehicle crime and road traffic collisions with respect to:
Very or fairly satisfied
Completely satisfied
A. making contact with the police;
B. action taken by the police;
C. being kept informed of progress;
D. their treatment by staff; and
E. the overall service provided.

Still good results, but a little more um honest. The 38.2% dissatisfied for C. now stands out quite plainly. Except looking at the DOC where they're split into groups we get something that looks different. Take A. making contact with the police for the five types we get 82.9%, 76.1%, 59.1%, 85.3%, and 74.8%. Assuming those are the 'satisifed' averaging those we get 72.1%, which is a far cry from the 90.1% listed in the report. The results are close to the percentage of "satisfied" respondents who were "completey satisfied" though. Looking at the PDF guidelines they're changing how this will be reported in future, ironically a little closer to how I've done it.
Being located between the West Midlands conurbations and Wales, West Mercia’s roads are very popular with motorcyclists.
Okay, no need to explain further.

Page 3, Financial Report 2005/06 -
one police staff to 1.5 police officers.
Or two police staff of every three police officers as you can't have half an officer (well at least I hope not)
The resources available for the year amounted to £172.8 million. This was a 4.2% increase on the previous year and required a 4.0% increase in the Council Tax.
Tcch can't they get that from the same money tree they got the £2.9m from?

Okay £172.8m budget with costs of £188.0m and an income of £21.7m leaves £28.5m in reserves... oops sorry that's £6.5m presumably £22m was already there. Hold on £172.8m is 4.2% up on last year, so last years budget was around £165.8m or about £7m difference. So the budget was increased by roughly the same amount being stashed away in the reserves. Hmm now that's a coincidence.

Page 4, Independent Custody Visits -

Nope all clear 575 of 730 of the offered (79%) accepted.

Page 5, Ethnic Monitoring Data -

Oo we get several links to extra data at last - yeek 43 pages, 13 pages and a 404 not found.

Okay those'll take some time to go through, lot's of tables I'll need to look at this separately at some later date.

Page 6, Performance 2005/06 -

Ah the conglomeration of all the badly presented data, plus some extra bits and bobs.

First off "Satisfied" and "Completely Satisfied" get new overall headers of "Our Target" and "Our Result" respectively. Huh? So you were after a target of 90.1% satisfied and you got 71.5% completely satisfied instead. That tells us what exactly? Nothing it's nonsense. A satisfied target of say 87.9% (the national average) with a result of 90.1% is good and makes sense. This table doesn't.

Oo "E"
Proportion of police recruits from minority ethnic groups compared to the proportion of people from minority ethnic groups in the economically active population.
National Average - 5.0% Recruits with 8.0% population, West Mercia - 1.8% with um don't know how many.

The percentage of police officer time spent on frontline duties.
National average - 62.3%, West Mercia - 65.94%. Wow who knew half an officer could do so much especially when number of hours sick is 81.9 compared to 70.9 for officers and 79.8 to 72.6 for staff. They're sicker and still get out more - well done.

Next table and a bit more coherent, well sort of.
Domestic burglaries per 1,000 households. (Our original target for 2004/05 as published in our 2000/01 plan was 10.7)**
So why the change? Check the "**" reference, well you could if there was one.

Apparently we are also missing national averages for several types of crime. Odd I'm surprised domestic burglary is lacking stats, perhaps they're still being compiled and will be added in later.

And a final laugh (cos it's either that or cry)
Number of people killed or seriously injured in road traffic collisions.
Our target - 800, result - 692; you're obviously not aiming well enough.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Post, pig tarts, clueless about technology, and PS3 1.70 Backwards Compatibility

I got stuck in a queue on Vale Road/Gilgal and arrived one minute past nine to work, driving in I passed the Post Office van, gave a wave and then thought "He's early. Ah no doubt a special delivery they've done that before" Then it hit me - we were expected a special delivery. Yep a card through the door timed at 8.57 telling us that we weren't in for a signature and we'd have to pick it up from the Post Office tomorrow. Okay first point I passed him, I know him, he knows me so why didn't he stop? Second point we have two other offices around us that open at 8.30 and people were moving about around them. We've had parcels, packages and all sorts of miscellanea signed or unsigned left with them for years.

So the one time we actually want the contents of this letter, they don't leave it with the 'neighbours' and we can't even attempt to get it until tomorrow.

As it's made the TV you may have read about the story concerning the renaming of pig tarts. To summarise a baker has to rename her Pig Tarts, Robin Tarts, and Frog Tarts as they contain neither pig, robin, nor frog respectively. As per usual the media are going into hysterics at this jobworthiness and making jokes about Rock Cakes, Shepherds' Pie, and Cottage Pie. So let's get the facts shall we. Trading Standards are not stopping her from calling them whatever she likes provided she notes their true name or ingredients next to them. So Pig Tarts would be 'Pig Tarts - tarts filled with strawberry jam topped with a novelty icing pig' Wow how nasty of them to make her tell you what's in them <sigh>

Oh and it's Shepherds' Pie as it's a pie eaten by Shepherds. Cottage Pie, Rock Cakes, Fairy Cakes Toad in the Hole, and Bubble and Squeak are all fair game though.

Being one of the technorati you tend to forget at times just how clueless some people can be about technology, this was highlighted by a question on GMTV this morning from one of the presenters regarding digital TV

"Will I still be able to watch films on my VHS?"
Um yes the switch in transmissions won't change the connection between your TV and video, a bit like asking if it'll alter your game console set-up. The reporter they were talking to answered correctly then mentioned you'd need a digital set-top box for each video recorder as they only have an analogue tuner. Correct, but feel free to mention that you can buy new ones with a digital tuner, that you can buy hard-drive recorders that have such tuners, oh and feel free to definitely mention that without said multiple tuners you'll only be able to watch and record the same program.

The roll-out is interesting too, start at the top of the country spread down into Wales then slowly push South East towards London. Now forgive me, but when things like this normally happen it generally starts in London then slowly migrates elsewhere. So why the difference, are we beta testing the system, getting the kinks out so that all those important Londoners won't loose their broadcasting, or is the more benign fact that there's a greater population in these areas and it'll take them a while to get off their asses and get a new tuner and they don't want to fielding all these questions?

So a new update for the PlayStation 3 came out pushing v1.6 into v1.7. It comes with some minor changes one not mentioned being that it's altered the PlayStation 2 backward compatibility list. Having failed to grab the 1.6 list I lucked out in finding one at techstatic
I then imported the 1.7 list and ran a comparison.

v1.6 had a total of 1,782 games, v1.7 upgrades 234 of those and adds a new set of 259 making a grand total of 1,940 playable games. No I've not got my sums wrong, what I didn't mention was the 101 games that have been removed from the list. Oh and that 103 have been downgraded.

Yep that's right update your system and you could find that the game you've been playing without a hitch no longer works. Way to go Sony.