Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Freeview Retuning

For those with Freeview it would have been difficult to avoid those annoying boxes that seem to appear every time you change channels telling you about the re-tuning that needs to be done today. It got mentioned on both GMTV and Breakfast this morning along with some explanation; but for those still left puzzling here's the reason.

To start with a little bit of technical information is required. All the channels are split into groups called Muxes (singular: Mux, short for multiplexer) these are internally labelled as 1, 2, A, B, C, and D and are in order of strength.

BBC gets Mux 1 to itself, this is to ensure that anyone able to get Freeview can at least get the BBC services which they are, after all, paying for. ITV and Channel 4 divvy up Mux 2, and every other channel gets spread throughout the lower Muxes.

For those paying attention you might have noted the absence of channel Five. Now those of a certain age might well remember the problems when this channel was introduced. Essentially back in the day when the most common connection between a VCR and the TV was the aerial lead, you had to tune in the TV to the frequency the VCR was sending down the aerial. Guess what frequency they used to broadcast this new channel? Not quite but damn close to that used by the majority of VCR equipment. Add to that the fact that as a lower strength frequency meant that a lot of the country couldn't get channel Five you 'd think that when it came to the new shebang that is digital someone would take note of history.

Nope, Five was shoved into Mux A which parts of the country still couldn't get.

So this great re-tuning is to shunt Five from its dismal hole up into the numbered Muxes with the big boys. At the same time they're clearing out Mux B ready for the HD broadcasts that pretty much no-one in the country has the equipment to receive and can't buy yet (but HD caught a lot of people on the hop and it's good forethought so no real negatives from me)

The price to pay is that to make room some of the numbered Mux channels such as ITV3 will be moved down to a letter Mux, which some can't get. So some parts of the country will gain a couple and lose a couple of channels.

However all the major channels won't move, so BBC1 etc. won't suddenly go blank on you.

Now for their stated reason as not to interrupt peak viewing they're performing this switch at noon today. Fair enough except for all those trying to record something that occurs between then and when they get home from work that might be on one of those channels doing the Mux Shuffle. This is not helped by the small fact that no official documentation has been released to state which channels are moving or to where. So if you're recording something on one of the minor channels (or Five) at these times cross your fingers in the hopes of recording it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

PSP Go! Suggestions for Sony

A few colliding thoughts reminded me of an overheard conversation in a store between two ladies. The attention-grabbing phrase was PSPGo! the new handheld console from Sony that is released this Thursday they were browsing the game aisles looking for something to buy him.

This proved to be a problem as the PSPGo! is a media-less format; it doesn't take cartridges, or discs for its games. Instead you buy them from the online store and download them to play. Now this is great if you've got a credit card, but if you're too young you're kind of stuck unless you run to Mommy or Daddy all the time.

Well there is a way around that in that they can buy PSN Cards, buy a £20 or £50 voucher enter the code in the store and get £20 or £50. Problem one is that so far they only come in these denominations, problem two is that little Johnny now has a £50 in store to buy whatever he wants including Blood Bath 3: The Goring unless you've managed to set the parental guides or are watching him constantly.

So I offer Sony these two suggestions

1. A Top-Up card similar to those used by Pay-As-You go phones, tied to a user account simply top-up with any amount and the amount is credited to the store account. Nice and simple to use and even the young can use it without Mom or Dad around. (Basically the addict gambit, spend money in small amounts and you're likely to spend more than you would plonking down one large lump sum).

2. Sell the downloadable games in stores. Yes sounds mad, but this would simply be an extension of the existing PSN Cards but tied to a specific game. Buy the 'game' enter the code at the store and you get to download it. Allows Mom and Dad to keep an eye on both purse-strings and monitor which games are being played.

So suggestion one allows for Birthday/Holiday gift money to be spent in store without having to wait for a set amount, and suggestion two allows those who feel the giving of money or gift vouchers to be a cop-out to buy a full game there and then.

Suggestion two also adds in the bonus that packaging and storage would be minimised (though not to the zero of digital download) while also allowing for the impulse buys that occur when in a physical store.

Basically it means more money for Sony, which I think they'd be interested in.

Laptop resolution

The laptop that kept losing keyboard and trackpad capabilities has been tested and a diagnosis made - it was the battery. So yays to me for stating it was a hardware fault after much software faffing.

So to find a new battery. Acer don't even list that model anymore on their "Find your battery" page which is a missed trick as it's more likely for an older model to need one than a newer one. A telephone call got a price of £81.65 inc VAT and delivery with a 30 days delivery window.

Partmaster (Currys, PC World) offer a genuine one for £88 not necessarily counting delivery and a couple of generics one at £70 and one at £75; both apparently identical. Another phone call creates confusion in that they both appear to be the same and both work with this model. I can't tell that because usefully the "Suitable for" section on the list runs out of space and doesn't appear on the main item page. As an added bonus I can't even tell them the items I'm looking at as Partmaster doesn't provide part numbers for either.

You almost get the impression that they don't want to sell anything.

My continuing saga

Getting from Holt Fleet to Ombersley wasn't that bad this morning, sure there was a queue but at least it was moving. Of course the time I made up for at that point had already been wiped out getting from the Lenchford.

After the joy yesterday I'd left earlier and found myself joining the queue for Holt Heath further back than I had compared to yesterday; in this instance though a truly unforeseeable occurrence - someone had broken down on the hill. So the queue tailing back from Holt Heath down the hill now had to get past a broken down car while watching for traffic hurtling down towards them at 50mph. 20 minutes to get through not helped that when I finally got to first place at the junction I just missed getting out before a moped. Now I guess he'd been trundling along that stretch at 30mph because he'd built up a convoy behind him; took an extra two minutes to get out from there.

On the plus side I must have missed the clearing away of the accident on the 4025 as there was just a flashing police car and a seriously dented vehicle up on the verge in the opposite lane.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Ps3 Trophy auto-update?

After some spirited detective work on Batman over the weekend I synced up my trophies up to 372. Now previously in order for this to be reflected on my Portable ID I'd have to manually update; so imagine my surprise when I find it sitting at the 372 count.

Looks like Sony have pulled their finger out and set it to update on sync... the official link still doesn't take you anywhere useful though.

[Update 2/10: Hmm not quite perhaps. It auto-updates when I sign into my account via the Playstation site, so at least I don't have to manually click the tab and button, but doesn't seem to update otherwise]

Extension of Gilgal works?

I've been informed that the dates on the signs warning of the works in Stourport have changed with the end date moving from Sunday 25th October to Thursday 29th October. At first I thought that this might be accurate if you took into consideration Phase Three of the works, except those supposedly continue through to Sunday 22nd November.

So either the Phase 3 works are going to be shorter than planned or the Phase 2 works have just got themselves a four-day extension.

I will attempt confirmation of the sign changes unless anyone beats me to it.

Stourport Ghost Town

Yet another story in the print version I can't find online is entitled "'No need' for signs across the county" in which Cllr. Brian Glass discussed the numerous signs scattered about warning off the works in Stourport, that they

overstated the threat of congestion
Now I'm one who called for extra signs at the diversion routes to warn people who normally use them why they're getting so much extra traffic; I agree the wording is too vague. The signs state that the through route to Stourport is closed - this is perfectly correct however the implicit meaning is that Stourport is closed off which is untrue the through route to the A449 is closed nothing else. Now I see a couple of signs now sport extra blocks of text in that Stourport is still open and trading, but not all. The signs need to be made even more specific so long as you don't want to get to the A449 or that area Stourport is fine.

Oh and just as a cake and eat it moment -
"The biggest problem is that people are saying 'Don't go into Stourport it's choc-a-bloc'. There is a lot of traffic at rush hour but at other times there is no problem getting in and out"
Um yes that's because everyone's saying "Don't go into Stourport it's choc-a-bloc", if they weren't it probably would be choc-a-block especially if we take Cllr Glass' advice to
"find your own route around"
Fine for locals; I would also like to point out again in my particular case that although I can get into town with ease, in fact more ease than normal, I can't get back out again and indeed this will be the case for everyone driving from the Millfields Estate, Wilden etc. i.e. anyone who is 'attempting' to use Stourport as the through route to the A449 is scuppered.

Drug Ship destroyed

A report from the BBC this morning about HMS Iron Duke destroying a drug smuggling ship off the coast of South America acting on a tip off from US Coastguard. Five and a half tons of drugs were removed as well as the crew.

Hmm let me ask some questions that the BBC failed to do.

1) Where was the HMS Iron Duke? Was it in international waters or territorial waters?
2) What was the US Coastguard doing off the coast of South America?

So if they were in territorial waters were they there with the permission of that country and did they have permission from that country to act in this manner? Are drugs even illegal in that country?

If they were in international waters, by whose law were those drugs illegal? By what right did anyone have to seize both them and the crew?

The BBC reported that the ship was destroyed before it entered normal shipping lanes and caused problems. However the only reason it would do so was because the crew had been removed and no-one left to man it, nor drop anchor.

With both cargo and crew supposedly legally detained where are they being sent to for trial?

What is seems on causal inspection is that the US Coastguard illegally boarded a vessel, illegally seized its cargo, kidnapped its crew and then had the HMS Iron Duke illegally destroy the ship. Now if anyone else had done that they'd be called pirates. Anyway it be fun if the owner of the vessel sues for compensation.

[Update: The Sun (and so far only The Sun) states that this happened in the Caribbean so may well have been under our jurisdiction; not helped though by the BBC story illustrating the story with a view of South America highlighting Brazil and Argentina

The story is also a little confused with either the US Coastguard alerting the HMS Iron Duke or the Duke running interference for the US Coastguard]

Double queue

Well the roadworks outside Astley Gardens have gone so no more traffic lights yay!  Came through quite neatly until I got to The Lenchford and joined a queue again. 10 minutes to get from there to Holt Heath. Then through quite quickly to join the slow traffic to Holt Fleet then another queue to get to Ombersley and once again I join it at the base of the hill. Another 10 minutes to get to Ombersley so it seems the re-opening of the Droitwich Road is adding traffic.

Gonna have to add some extra time to my journey.

Oh and talking to someone who comes in from Kidderminster the roads into Kidderminster are chock, so no reason to switch routes.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A week of liquid experiments

Not being as easily accessible around lunchtime I'd taken to bringing in a drink to eat with a brought-in lunch. Not wanting to faff with a flask of coffee or messing with bringing and remembering in milk when I'm the only one here who drinks it I'd picked up five kinda randomly chosen assorted bottles of soft-drink one for each day.

In order these would be Irn-Bru; Sprite; Tango Orange; Vimto; and Ribena Strawberry or to put it another way drinks (or labels) I haven't drunk for probably 5+ years. Pretty much how I remembered them, though I did enjoy Irn-Bru and the Strawberry Ribena was very nice. What did shock me was the RDA guidelines on the labelling. Okay I hold these to the high regard they deserve, but it was the mild duplicity of them that shocked.

The main two categories were Calories and sugar the others being trace or 0 . Values for four of them were much of a muchness with Calories from 107 (Irn-Bru) to 113 (Ribena) and Sugar from 26.3g to 27.3g (as before) with only Tango Orange having much less at 48 and 11g.

Okay as figures pretty meaningless until I add in the RDA percentages and that becomes roughly 5% and 30% for the four and 2% and 12% for Tango. So that's a third of my supposed sugar content in one drink! Well no look closer and you'll spot the text next to the figures that this is for a "250ml Serving" the volume of each bottle being... 500ml. So that's 60% of my RDA in one bottle - ouch.

So how do you define a serving? Does the bottle come with a half-way point to inform you that you have just poured one serving? Nope! Do they intimate that you shouldn't drink all this in one day? Four out of five just tell me to Serve Cool or Store Cool with only Ribena stating "Once you've opened me pop me in the fridge and drink me within 4 days".

Now if you're drinking this on the move, which is how the portable bottle design seems to suggest, who's going to drink half then store the rest away?

Anyway I'm going to have a rest this week-end and go cold-turkey from sugar :-P And that's got nothing to do with the fact I'll be glued to my much missed PS3.

Veronica Mars 24th September

As mentioned previously my Humax failed to record the 3 o'clock episode of Veronica Mars for reasons unknown. Well not to worry good old 4OD will allow me to catch-up in the way they keep advertising.


Not only is there no Veronica Mars, but the link on the E4 site's programme section tries to take you to "http:///". There is no dedicated page to, no way of finding out about it. All excellent work here people.

PS3 Fallout 3 additional content

So yes reunited with my PS3 I glanced over the Store and almost squealed Broken Steel is now available for Fallout 3 for £7.99 and ups the level cap from 20 to 30. Now I have my wonking great hard-drive and have gone from 5Gb free to 219Gb free I think it can safely reside on my hard-drive without worries.

So much to catch up on ;-)

Day 22

I finally got my PS3 back yesterday, should have been Wednesday but... no I'll start at the beginning.

It went away on the 3rd, not hearing anything from Sony despite giving them my home number, mobile and email I called on the 10th to check it had arrived safely and was told that if I had given it to the courier and had the paperwork then everything was fine and that they had a 21 day return policy.

So this Tuesday being day 19 and still having heard nothing I call again. Details are taken and I'm put on hold... yes they have it, back on hold... it'll be sent out for tomorrow.

This Wednesday, day 20, a frantic call comes in apparently no-one had informed Head Office that they were supposed to be dispatching my console and were hurriedly trying to find it. Wednesday comes and goes and no console.

Given the traffic situation around here and said frantic call I give them that and wait Thursday and yay it turns up. The serial number is checked before being signed for and matches so good news there.

I have the console and an envelope which contains a bent piece of metal which is a disc caddy, four silver screws, and two blue screws. I check the console hard drive and find that it's missing the blue screw. Kudos to Sony they've actually taken on board both the problem and my desired action and left the screw that caused me problems out so I can replace the drive.

I boot up the console to check it's fine and it automatically displays in HD - yay.

My new 320Gb drive goes into the spare caddy and screws in neatly. I power off the PS3, slide the caddy out, and slot in the new one. I leave the blue screw for the moment, replace the hatch and boot up.

The hard drive formats in no time at all, and the OS is still the latest I upgraded to and my sign in user details are still there. So I guess they're kept in an internal non-volatile memory - very nice. I plug in my back-up drive and start the restore 1 hour and 41 minutes starting at 6pm. I eat dinner, watch the Simpsons, find I can't watch the latest episode of Veronica Mars as it hasn't recorded and watch something else. 7:45 and it's finished and everything's back except my trophies.

Oh wait no not quite on the reboot it didn't recognise that it was supposed to be outputting an HDMI single so another reset was in order which found and set everything automatically.

I log in and sync and it trundles through that. I go back to my show. 8pm and it's finally done. I slip in Arkham Asylum and the TV does it's dance and informs me it's now set to 720p...? I check the box and the game is supposed to run at 1080p. I back out the game and check the video settings.

My TV accepts 576i, 720i, 720p, 1080i, 1080p. I untick all but the first and last and try again. The TV flickers and shows up 576i I hold my breath and it switches up to 1080p.

[Update - a quick search reveals that 720p is the native, but you can force the upscale by doing what I did however smoothness and other things takes a hit. I think I'll set it back and see if I notice a difference]

I dally with Batman gain a new trophy and then end. I check this new addition to my trophy collection and find I have 2% for this game; I started with ~37%. Uh-oh. I re-synced and they all reappeared, but I hope I'm not going to have to do that every time and it's just a one-off for each game, or just that one.

[Update - 28/9: It seems the game needs only be played once and then re-synced for the trophies to 'stick'. However some of the games required updates and it appears those didn't require the re-sync after play. I'm guessing it's a case of the game thinking 'I'm new so I'll reset the trophies' unless an update comes in which appears to counter this assessment

On the plus side I hadn't played Force Unleashed online for a while and an update came in giving me trophies - yay! Then a notice came up telling me that to have them awarded I'd need to delete any save games I had - boo!]

My final act is to attach the blue screw which turns most neatly.

So altogether this seems to display a lack of communication between the Sony support centre and the Sony Head Office. They failed to pick up my console when they should have (the 2nd) and failed to deliver when they said they would (23rd) in both instances because they didn't know they had to. On the plus side they sent me a second caddy which I didn't ask for and made life much easier and did so for free as well as handling all the carriage charges despite being almost two years old and one year out of warranty.

I'll give them a thumbs up for that at least.

Removal of works

Well the roadworks on the railway bridge were gone last night so that route's as clear as it ever is; and they've finally removed all the cones off the 449 at Ombersley so that's back to two lanes as well.

Clear run this morning, though I was amused by both the van in front and the car behind. The van pulled out in front of me at Pearl Lane just at the roadworks and we all hit the red light together which of course was now blocked from my view. A car turned up behind me and the lights switched. The van surges off through this 30mph zone and I hit 30 and stay there, the car behind keeping a moderate distance. The van is disappearing off to the horizon and the car behind is now up my bumper.

We progress like this until we hit the first National Speed Limit Applies sign and I speed up to around 40/45 in deference to the road, the vehicle behind keeps pace and I catch up to the white van who is not being held-up by anyone in front. Back to a 30 and white van gains ground on me and her behind is back up my bumper. Approaching the Lenchford and I let the engine out and approach 60. I end up slowing down as I catch up the white van as we approach the Holt Heath junction and I check behind me to find that the vehicle that's been chasing me all this way hasn't even got up the bank yet it's just appearing as I pull out of the junction.

In other words both of these vehicles wanted to do 40ish regardless of limit or conditions. Damn I hate those types of drivers.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Increase in Self-Storage buildings

An interesting entry from GMTV this morning about the rise in self-storage units - in this example essentially a building with single rooms with their own padlocks.

We were shown how one woman used it as a closet for clothes, another used it for dance practice including bringing students in, and how some were using it to run small businesses from.

Other than an interesting money making solution (being landlords of large properties) what caught my eye was something that non-landlords/employees might not be aware of and that's business rates.

Unlike domestic rates which use bands where your property is valued and simply sits within its band, businesses are valued by the square metre as well as what that area is used for. Again so what? Well Storage gets one of the lowest valuations.

Imagine a 100m² area. Used for storage the VOA might assess at £5/m² thus a total value of £500. As an office it might attract £30/m² and a value of £3,000. Given a council tax rate of say 40p/£1 the former would attract rates of £200/year and the latter £1,200/year for exactly the same space.So have these offices working out of 'storage' space informed their local councils of the change in use and thus any alterations in their value? Council officials knocking on their doors perhaps.

Roadworks evil masterplan Take 2

Third reason to avoid Shrawley this morning. So build up of traffic, narrow and twisty; and on a morning like this all the mist coming off the fields - so much fun.

The roadworks just before Longmore Hill are from our bestest buddies Severn Trent (according to the sign), but being carried out by Enterprise rather than Balfour Beatty; go figure?

Minor queue over Holt Fleet, major queue to get into Ombersley. Also I didn't notice yesterday, but the Road Closed signs on the 4025 have been taken down.

As per Steve in the comments and from the Shuttle the roadworks in Kidderminster were a gas leak so yeah I too will give them that one.

Don reminds us that the Droitwich Road is still closed from Ombersley (though hopefully that should be re-opening soon) and his own fun getting past the gas-leak.

Okay so it was an emergency repair, but that's not a flashing light siren emergency; contractors had to be found, equipment hired, barriers put up. Did not one person think "Hey perhaps we should warn all this traffic we're sending down this way that we're doing this" As Don says "I could easily have gone from Shrawley either up to Bewdley or over Holt Bridge" but no-one knew until too late.

I'd also heard talk about works going on at the Birmingham Road but had no confirmation until the Shuttle popped in with Kidderminster motorists face more misery as a stretch of the road is reduced from a 70mph to a 10mph zone. So more slow-down in Kidderminster at a time when more traffic is being directed into it - excellent.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Roadworks evil masterplan

"Hey why dont we...?" Was the phrase I used as part of my entry this morning on my journey to Shrawley as the sort of addle-brained thought that the utility companies might have voiced when they decided to dig up part of my route I'm using to avoid Gilgal.

So hot of the wires what have I just been told - someone's dug a f***ing hole on the Stourport Road just past the railway bridge and set up three-way lights. Now this isn't like me and a "Well if you do try and avoid things go by going that way"; this is the f***ing diversion route.

Just to repeat that - someone has dug up the road and set up traffic lights on a route that another set of roadworks is diverting traffic to.

Frickin' unbelievable.

[Update - Seems the masterplan is widespread as this letter in the Shuttle attests to  roadworks in the middle of Bewdley too. So from Stourport you can't get to Kidderminster along the correct diversion route now without hitting works and it appears you couldn't get through Bewdley either. All it needs is some council official in a top hat and twirling a moustache]

Shuttle comment problems

Seems like the Shuttle is having problems with it's commenting system. Firstly I'm not getting notifications on the comment threads and secondly a main page letter claims 11 comments and only has 4. Sure hope someone's spotted this.

A tempting travel prospect

From the Shuttle about crossing the Severn now if I had a coracle and didn't sink when immersed in water...

The Shrawley way

Once again I'm reminded of why I dislike this route. In a standard Utility moment of "Hey why don't we...?" Enterprise have a lane closure with traffic lights close to Astley Gardens which is the only route (bar Dark Lane) to get to Shrawley.

Okay as mentioned on Monday the queue held me up at Holt Fleet; on Tuesday it pushed back to Holt Heath and today it was back to The Lenchford which meant trundling up that hill at 5mph. At least the traffic was moving so that was a blessing.

The junction at Holt Heath doesn't help as there are two junctions next to each other both left turns from the point of view of the main road. So if you're coming out the first junction and see a car indicating to turn left on the main road coming at you chances are they're not turning into your junction and you cannot therefore pull out. The rule is regardless of what any vehicle indicates it is doing you don't pull out. It's always been like this, but when you get extra traffic heading along it just pains.

Anyway as usual past the queue everything zoomed along. Down to the Holt Fleet bridge over the blind summit and round the right-hand bend as I meet a Land Rover type on the wrong side overtaking a bicycle. That's overtaking on a road with no overtaking lines, on a corner, on the approach to a narrow bridge, with a blind summit. But hey they're in a hurry so what else are they going to do.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Road closure?

The Road Closed sign is still up on Worcester Road at Countryside Nurseries and another further down near Discovery Road. Passing through to Mitton Street last night the entire left side from Gilgal was closed off all the way over the bridge. Now seeing as you can't get out of Baldwin Road at the moment and that they're actually working close to the garage so you can't turn left out of there towards the island; why is the entire lane blocked off? Even more puzzling is the big arrow at the end of the road closure at the island exit directing you to the lane you're supposed to be in.

Are the workers under the impression that this is a one-way system and that they have to stop traffic heading from the island in the right-hand lane? It makes no sense.

Anyway they've set up 10mph signs on this stretch despite the STW rep telling me they couldn't do this on Gilgal because nobody would obey them; they also had a couple of hoses halfway across the road spewing out water into the area next to their pumping station (?) into the drain just before the bridge. As locals will know and long-term readers may remember this is the area that turns into a massive puddle every time it rains as the drain fails to cope. Now imagine the situation with two hoses aimed at it and recall that this is next to a pedestrian footpath - slosh.

Now me being a silly sausage might have a) not left the hoses ending in the middle of the lane allowing water to run across the road and b) used longer hoses running along the works and the blocked lane and off the bridge into the river. No fear of drenching anyone as the river is non-navigable at this point and has no footway. But what do I know?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Renewing PS3 insurance

Just called up to renew my Gamecare insurance that would take care of my PS3 should I drop it, or pour liquid down it a year's cover for £25 I can live with. Anyway they told me to call back after it had come back from Sony in case it got replaced as the guarantee wouldn't cover a replaced console - lovely.

Anyway my main point was the covering company's name Allianz; the recording pronounced it, the guy I spoke to pronounced it the same way. Now me I read that name and tend towards Alliance with a fricative at the end; has good connotations as an alliance is a merging of efforts, it speaks of co-operation. The way it should be pronounced is apparently Alley-anz which puts me in mind of alley-oop which isn't the connotation I want.

Oh and as you may have parsed no I don't have my PS3 back yet, 21 days this coming Thursday.

Weavers Wharf and the vanishing cycle bars

I didn't get down to Weavers Wharf this weekend to get any clear shots of the greenhouse shoved onto the side of Slingfield Mill in the name of Debenhams; however Jim and his lovely wife cycled in and as is their custom headed there to chain their bikes up to the bars provided. That's the spot on the right where um the bikes are parked.

Don't get used to the view

They bollards and bars have been removed; moreover where they were have apparently been filled in so it doesn't seem to be a temporary 'while the greenhouse was being built' measure. As a result everyone was using the railings that at least are still there and then further around, and then the protective cages around the trees at the car-park such as the one shown bottom right here which weren't designed for that.

Don't get used to the view

So is this as per the wishes of Debenhams? Do they not want a cycle park outside their shiny new atrium? Has it been moved, or simply abandoned? I'll take a look next weekend and grab some photos as well as visit the new Debenhams.

A round about trip

Setting off quarter-an-hour earlier than normal repeating the mantra to turn left rather than my usual right; habit being what it is.

Straight through to Shrawley with only one slowish car, not slow enough to complain about though, straight through Holt Heath and then bam join the queue to get over the Holt Fleet bridge. We all trundle slowly through Fleet (hah) until I reach the Wharf at which point whoosh we're all off again; so probably a tractor. Straight through to Ombersley and left onto the A449 which has a lane closed off all along that section for um no idea no works no crew no vehicles - clever timing.

Turn at the Mitre Oak head up that way and have a mild heart attack as I pass a red Road Closed sign set in my direction; it's either talking about another road or it's a relic from another time because it was fine.

So my normal 2.5mile 15min trip became a 11.5mile trip taking 30min - Stourport crowded with traffic? Nah! If it wasn't for the fact that this route can have its problems, that it's narrow and twisty and not something to be enjoyed in the dark I might take this route in normally of a morning.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Vale Road works

Managed to get up to the works for a look-see. Yep full closure was necessary for the work they've done. A trench on the approach into Gilgal from the lights and a splayed trench across both through lanes on Vale Road. Looks like they were closing up this morning so should be back to 'normal' tomorrow.

Anyway I've filled up with petrol yesterday and plan on giving myself extra time to get through the Holts. So long as they don't shut-down Mitton Street as they apparently did on Friday at least getting back of an evening may not be too bad with both the reduced traffic heading down Hartlebury Road and Gilgal. I'm guessing we'll still get people stopping as they approach Mitton Street to check for oncoming traffic though.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Vale Road Closure

As mentioned Vale Road is now closed off and it is indeed both to and from Kidderminster. Usefully there are two signs up on the Minster Road incoming that inform that the through route to Stourport is closed; useful as they provide no information about what you're supposed to do about it.

Unfortunately they can't shut-down the incoming left-hand lane at the lights because people still want to turn left to the church so expect some sudden lane changes as the cones opposite hove into view. Diversions into Stourport head down the Worcester road Street then back down Lickhill Road; of course those in the know turn left before that into Lombard Street and cut off that entire lengthy corner. As such, and as mentioned, expect lengthy queues in Lickhill Road and some queuing in Lombard Street.

The lights themselves have been switched off in favour of a three-way set; so that's from Worcester Street across and left, Church across and right, then Minster Road left and right. Seem to work, just be careful on a couple of the turns as you go over the protected cabling.

Oh and the electronic sign on the Worcester Road heading to Brinton park is out - excellent.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A letter from Sony

Sitting inside the door a white envelope with Sony stamped on it. Oh dear, oh dear, have they managed to bollox up my PS3? I opened it with trepidation - confirmation of my guarantee for my new TV... oh yeah I've bought a new Sony television haven't I - heh. Not bad I sent in on Monday 14th and the reply was dated the 16th.

The all new Watchdog and PS3

Caught the new version of Watchdog last night with a returned Anne Robinson... oh dear gods what have they done to it? A live studio audience, why? A new flashy introduction that makes me expect some sort of children's game show hosted by Ant and Dec.

Well at least the actual reports themselves are unchanged although rather than dragging in the CEOs of the companies involved they seem to be pulling in the those who have been 'wronged' and celebrities to vent about how they've been 'wronged'.

Coincidentally they featured a report on the Yellow Light of Death with regards to the Playstation 3. The number the independent fixers have seen "A couple of hundred" number of PS3 consoles sold in the UK as of
this month - 2.5 million. Oh yeah this is obviously a systemic fault. They fix a few including one who wants to retrieve "precious photos of his graduation" which are "such important to me". Yeah that'll be called backing-up if they really are so important to you.

Okay Sony have messed-up a little here by charging £128 for a new refurbished model rather than attempt to fix the existing one (if that is indeed the case) especially when the Watchdog free fixers seem to have fixed 11 out of 11 consoles in exactly the same way (4 however have broken again).

However Sony offer a 1 year guarantee no different to most electrical appliances and 'I've just had a letter asking if I want to renew the extra insurance I took out at purchase with Game another year for £25 which includes free repair or replacement.

So to be blunt if you've got things on there that are that important back-it up and if you don't want to risk £128 on getting a refurb take out insurance odds seem to be around 200 out of 2.5million or .008% even if we assume it only affects the first models and also assume that there were only .5m sold it's still a failure rate of 0.04%. Going by this report into console failure rates the PS3 stands at 10% which isn't good, but the report only looked at consoles that it covered and weighted for usage the PS3 came in at 0.57% per 24 hours of use check the report directly.

So is it a failure on Sony's part or are people just running it hour after hour in a dusty ventilation-free area? Oddly Watchdog doesn't address that bit.

Diana axed from Royal History

The Daily Express voices its outrage over the new biography of the Queen Mother stating that it was was "condemned as a whitewash" by critics for failing to reference Her Holiness Princess of Hearts Diana on every page. Instead readers were condemned to read boring information about the second biggest crisis to hit the monarchy since Charles I and about the Queen Mother herself rather than titillating gossip about current royal family members.

Purchasers were left in confusion after picking up this 'very heavy newspaper' and finding no gossip, scandal or long-distance photographs of royals up to no good.

John from London told us 'I saw something about Royal on the front and assumed it was a Daily Express special edition featuring a 'what would Diana look like now had she not been murdered' photo. Turns out it's about someone I've never heard off going on about some bird called Simpson and a bloke called Edward Viii who sounds a bit foreign to me with a surname like that, glad he left they should all bleedin' leave shouldn't they'.

Julie from London also stated 'I picked it up for all the juicy gossip and find it was all 50 years out of date how can I impress my friends with my inside knowledge with that?'

Jules from London was also disappointed 'This biography could have been so much better if they cut out the bits about the Queen Mother's life and just filled it with speculation about what she thought about Our Diana's murder, Harry's Nazi uniform, and whether [...] really did get [...] to put his [...] in his mouth'.

The style of writing

As mentioned previously my handwriting has never been neat as such I try to compensate by avoiding cursive letters (joined up) as it purposefully slows me down. So here's a simple example of my F and numerals

As you can see I have two styles for my letter F- a flowing one I use when writing it at the start of a word and a straighter version when written alone (or at the start of a sequence of numerals) when written as part of a word I use the flowing version with a tighter loop. Oh and although not shown I will bar my zeros if part of a combined sequence of letters and numerals to distinguish it from the letter O.

Unlike Dan I end-bar my 1 but like him use both an open 4 and a barred 7. To an extent this is interesting as both he and I do tend to print most things and the default fonts tend to be closed and unbarred; then again print is precise and handwriting varies so it seems we've both come to the same conclusion about the best way to avoid confusion.

Again interesting that the default print of the numeral 0 is unbarred when used with the letter O- when compared side-by-side it's obvious, O0O00O00, but mixed ABC1ODEFG023FT requires some small pause to distinguish and this in turn can alter for various 'default' fonts 

Arial - 0O
Courier - 0O
Georgia - 0O
Helevetica - 0O
Times - 0O
Trebuchet - 0O
Verdana - 0O

Sprinkle those in some text such as serial numbers and fun can ensue.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

On teaching

With the Bratii over the weekend and just for fun*  I showed Major the algebraic proof of the Pythagorean Theorem because I think it's the easiest one to grasp; he knew the theorem, but hadn't been taught the proof.

Now baring the notion of complimentary angles all you need to know is how to calculate the area of a square and a triangle and to be able to multiply two two-term equations i.e. (a+b)²; for those who've forgotten it expands thus (a+b)(a+b) = a*a + a*b + b*a + b*b in other words multiply the first term by the terms in the other bracket then repeat with the next resulting in a²+b²+2ab (a*b and b*a being the same thing).

Day 14 of withdrawal

This is indeed day 14 of my Playstation 3-less existence. A call last week to Sony gave me a 'within 21 days' so I should have it back by next Thursday.

The largest consequence I've found is that browsing the normal sites I do in terms of gaming leaves me thinking "Oo I'll just have a quick go on Batman", getting the HDTV left me with "I'll see what Fallout3 and Bioshock look like now" before remembering I haven't got it. Extending the metaphor beyond good taste it's as if I reach out to pick something up before remembering my arm was amputated (it hasn't been by the way); it's just a hole, a gap in my life I can't quite grasp is (isn't) there.

The odd thing is that I'm not a compulsive gamer, I'm not on it every night as soon as I get home to when I sleep, chomping down dinner as I navigate the wasteland; if I get an average of an hour a day that's it and that includes weekends. Yet the PS3 wormed it's way into my default state of being  - a quick 5-minute blast of Burnout Paradise, heck even popping onto the internet was quicker than waiting for my computer to boot up particularly for such trivial things as settling a bet.

It's just slowly become something I can quickly turn to as a tool be it to blow off steam or to educate and inform. I miss it [sob] :-P

Vale Road closure reminder

Just a reminder that as of 18:30 tomorrow work will start at the top of Vale Road until 7:00 Monday. Interpreting the notice in the pretty leaflet this is closing off the top of Vale Road/bottom of Minster Road. That means not being able to get to the traffic lights via the first two lanes of Vale Road*, turning left out of Worcester Street, turning right from the Church, or going straight from Kidderminster. Access to Gilgal from Vale Road will be available over the weekend at which point the 5 week block goes into place.

As a result expect heavier traffic and delays along both Lombard Street and Lickhill Road as it attempts to exit to High Street.

*or possibly not it doesn't explicitly state that the straight run from Vale Road will be closed off though the diagram for Phase 1 does cover all three lanes whereas the Worcester Road  Phase 2 purposefully shows only one lane closed.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Clean-up the bridge

Front-page of the Shuttle web-site is town councillor Jamie Shaw discussing the graffiti on Stourport Bridge. As we know it was a £1.5m refurbishment programme that appears to have been left to rot. I've already mentioned the dip exiting Stourport, which thankfully at least seems to be stable, but the graffiti 'artists' are out in force.

Now far be it from me to encourage yet more surveillance, but this does seem an ideal example of where it should be applied - the main arch not being visible from the main town footpath a CCTV camera positioned on the nearby vendor building or erected in the corner of the skate-park would cover it. Fit a cowling such that it cannot be determined which way it is pointing and you're covering a large area that at the moment is only covered at extreme range by a camera on the Tandoori which also has a bad angle on the arch.

The other thing to note is that the touch-up required is a County decision, not a Town decision, not a District decision. Now call me on this if I'm wrong, but if a  private resident fails to clean something up, the council will do it then bill them; so Town Council if the County don't get back to you have the work done then send on the bill.

Another interesting point is the working group set-up to deal with graffiti a clever idea that makes a named person responsible for a street in the town so you know exactly who to deal with; has this been published anywhere or is it an internal 'this person deals with this so I'll put your through'? Is the person responsible expected to examine his patch at regular intervals? Hey no negative criticisms here I think it's a good idea I'm just curious as to the mechanics of the situation; for instance Mr Shaw represents Areley Kings so is it fair that he is responsible for a town street when he is already responsible for streets on the other side of the bridge, or should it be the responsibility of only those councillors who represent that area? Assuming it is councillors who are the named people.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Gilgal notices

Seems someone's paying some sort of attention. A flashing sign on the approach to Stourport from the bus station island warning about the Gilgal works. Nothing I've seen or been told about on the Worcester Road though where all the diverted traffic will be heading.

Sony BDP-S363 review

As part of the television deal I got a half-price Blu-ray player the BDP-S363. First off it doesn't come with any cables so an extra purchase may be necessary.

Hook-up to my shiny new television was easy, installation was also so easy I can barely even recall it - basically what connection, can you see the test page? So onto the critiques.

Sony 32W5500 32W5710 review

Yes I've finally picked up an HD television and a Blu-ray player when the Kidderminster branch matched the Merry Hill's offer.

The 32" LCD is  obviously bigger, but also a lot lighter than my previous CRT and neatly fits into the slot I which to place it I won't get bogged down in technicalities size-wise pick up a poster and spec-wise visit Sony's website.

I've got the 32W5710 which is identical to the 5500 except for a silver rather than black trim at the base; only noticeable if you're looking for it or had the two models displayed side-by-side; I made that choice because it seems only Sony Centres offer the 5710.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Gilgal knock-on effects

Pointed out by Jim this morning is the news that the in a spark of pure intelligence by our lords and masters the Droitwich Road from Ombersley is being shut-down for five days starting at the same time as the Gilgal shut-down.

I'll spell this out. Those who use Gilgal to get to the Worcester Road to get to Ombersley to continue to Droitwich would normally switch through to Shawley to Ombersley to Droitwich;  now they can't. So they'll be heading with all the rest of the diverted traffic into Kidderminster to get onto the Worcester Road to connect to the Droitwich Road along with all the other traffic that would normally carry on down the Worcester Road to Ombersley and turn there.

Freshly Squeezed

With the demise of Big Brother Channel 4's music show Freshly Squeezed is back - yay! At last I have something to stave off the morning doze that isn't either targeted at the young or causes depression i.e. children's programmes and the news, whichever way around you wish to assign them.

Mixing music videos, and interviews with irreverent presenter links it's a bit like a pre-watershed Have I Got Music for You with the presenters famously not really caring about daintily slagging off those whose videos they show.

No change in the presenters Rick Edwards is still about, as is Nick Grimshaw. Miquita Oliver shifted over to T4 a while ago which was a shame as she provided a nice foil. Alexa Chung also whisked over to T4, again she wasn't bad, but produced a desire in me to cook a big meal for her - eat, eat. At the moment we have Jameela Jamil who's doing a fine job while looking good too.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Damn you iTunes

This is way too addictive. Add to the list Epic by Faith No More; the It's My Life cover by No Doubt; Paint it Black and Sympathy for the Devil by the Stones; four classics from Guns N' Roses, Ride a White Horse by Goldfrapp; Rabbit Heart by Florence and the Machine; and LSF and Fire from Kasabian.

Must stop going "Oo I wonder if they've got...?" I've spent over £20, though I suppose it's all stuff I want and it is one-off purchases.

iTunes purchases

As mentioned I've been having a splurge on DRMless music from the iTunes store so far the tally is

Sunrise by Norah Jones; and Face to Face by Siouxsie and the Banshees. Because I like the harmonies.

Where's Your Head At by Basement Jaxx; and I Believe in a Thing Called Love by The Darkness. They just works for me sometimes.

Don't Fear the Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult. Because!

Smooth Criminal by Alien Ant Farm. A cover I prefer over the Michael Jackson original.

Gay Bar; and Danger! High Voltage by Electric Six. Because they make me laugh.

Carol of the Bells by Arthur Fiedler. A slightly more allegro version that I prefer.

Toss-up between the Berliner and London versions of O Fortuna... or Prague? Prague is a little slow with slightly more defined vocal; London seems to emphasise instrumental over vocal... Berliner has better balance for me. Now which of the two ;-) Ah the Sir Rattle 2:32 Da Capo version.

Hey this is fun! Now what the hell what that piece of splash music I heard on the TV the other day...

iTunes convert

Although I like music I've never been a big buyer of it. One of the problems is the standard complaint that I'm either paying an arm and a leg for every single by one band I like, or I'm paying for an entire album half of which I won't like.

Digital downloads seem made for me, except despite they came with a high price - DRM. Now I'm not going to get into a pro and con slinging match over DRM, but for what I want to do - convert music to MP3 so to play in the car it sucked.

Apple recognised this and were slowly changing all their offerings to become DRMless. Now I find that dream has been realised and I can use a single organising programme with built-in wide-ranging store to buy individual songs - yay!

So hassles? Well I pulled my existing music and went to pick up the Album covers for the minority Apple seemed to know about and found I couldn't as I didn't have an account. So I went to create one and it required payment details. Okay if you use the store you need to pay - duh; but I'm thinking of people, kids in particular, who might just want to use iTunes to organise and convert existing tracks. Tying registration to payment cuts them out completely of this simple visual option.

My only other minor niggle is that iTunes knows I'm in the UK, and even asked UK specific questions so why is my default language English (United States)?

Actually one other niggle on the Store - you can't resize the columns so you see something like "Carmina Burina (C..." by "Tbilisi Symphony Or..." from "The Most Essential..." however if you hover over each entry it'll expand in a pop-up... sometimes, because sometimes it doesn't. Hovering through a list it went pop, pop, no-pop, pop despite each title over-spilling. Can't seem to locate a pattern as to why it works only occasionally.

Anyway I'm been having fun with downloading tracks I'll list them in my next entry.

Firefox 3.5

Updated my Firefox 3.0 and on the page that comes up afterwards spotted the blurb about using the latest and greatest version. Wasn't I already? A click through showed my that wasn't true version 3.5.3 was out.

One update later and I find only two add-ins don't work CSS Viewer and Duplicate Tab it did warn me before hand. CSS Viewer has an alpha for 3.5 I'll leave for the moment and a search shows that I can duplicate tabs by Ctrl+Dragging.

However so far there are two big annoyances both of which seem to annoyed quite a few people. First up is the permanent New Tab button. Oh you can disable it by editing the Chrome file how user-friendly; dammit allow it to be removed via Customise.

Second is the disappearance of the Close Tab X on a single tab. Previously with a single tab open you could 'close' it for it to be replaced by a blank page; now you can't. Seems silly, but sometimes you just want to leave up a blank page rather than the last thing you looked at and opening a new blank page then closing the previous page is comparatively lengthy. As before there is a Chrome workaround, but the quickest method is to visit about:config and alter the
browser.tabs.closeWindowWithLastTab to False. Now you can middle-click it away and a blank will be created in its place.

Still stupid, you don't change functionality unless you're replacing it with something better and for those of us used to closing the last tab this is very annoying.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

DVD watching

Had some spare time for once in the evenings lately so I've once again been slogging through stuff I haven't seen yet.

Final season of Battlestar Galactica i.e. 4.2: interesting twist on the ending, but still left way too many questions unanswered. Almost, but not quite, dull.

Doomsday: Not bad, nice home-grown product (shot in South Africa). Action-heavy, dialogue-light and a little wooden in places; but overall not bad.

Transporter 3: A tired series and hopefully the last one to be made. Once again Jason Statham manages to get into a fight that means removing his shirt; once again JS breaks his own rules; once again JS drives really well; blah, blah.

Planet Terror: A recommendation from the Artist. Schlok horror, but I was a little distracted by how many family members the director tried to cram in; oh and it should be an rule of film making that Quentin Tarantino should never be allowed in front of the camera. Fun, but not brilliant.

Then caught up on some recorded shows, a couple of Dispatches and Louis Theroux's as well as Veronica Mars now moved to 10:50 and 15:something. Glad my box still found them.

Currently as a special treat to myself I'm once again going through Sapphire and Steel, still as excellent as ever though I've mentally blocked a couple of the spottier performances from the accompanying cast.

I would comment on current TV broadcasting, but other than Victoria Mars, Reaper, and Mock the Week there really has been nothing worth watching, anyone would think we were running out the end of a scheduling season.

First day of school

I stepped out the house this morning to a flurry of activity, my neighbour's twins were getting ready for their first day of school and, as is custom, she was trying to obtain a record of this momentous event via a photograph.

Twin1 was happily standing by the door waiting, but Twin2 was too full of energy and running around the damp grass of their front lawn getting his trousers wet. Daughter1 tried to help, but had to give up to get away and Daughter2 just waltzed straight past to wait in the car.

She finally got them to stand together, but Twin2 didn't want to smile or look-up. I got roped in, as I seem to do with kids, in an effort to make him look-up and smile which I easily succeeded in doing. At which point the battery in the camera conked out.

I offered to fetch my camera, but running late and exasperated my offer was declined in favour of a shot when they return and the battery recharged.

Just made me reminisce to my first day of school way back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, I don't have a clear recollection mostly because I was only there for a couple of days before the dinner-ladies went on strike for a week or two. All that fuss and preparation for such little reward.

Gilgal sign change

As mentioned the approach to Gilgal has become dominated by a large electronic sign Telling us that Gilgal will be closed between the 18th September and 25th October - 9 Days to go... 8 days to go... 10 days to go... eh?

Yep I hadn't noticed but someone obviously did that although the roadworks start on the 18th the Gilgal closure isn't until the 21st.

Ah good to see the precision and attention to detail that will be brought to bare on the roadworks ;-)

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

More roadworks?

Coming through this morning and I note a couple of wagons and a line of cones on the corner of Mitton Street and Vale Road with yellow-jackets moving around. It is, of course, not listed on the weekly roadworks report or the forward planning list. So it might be an emergency.

Oh and on that note is anyone else wondering where the water pooling at the Gilgal/Mitton Street lane connection outside The Steps is coming from?

Fixing a laptop

I get a cry for help yesterday from a friend who's having trouble with his laptop; it won't shut-down properly, is acting sluggish, the trackpad isn't working, it's showing odd messages at boot-up, etc. His brother who is a minor computer bod tells him it's irrepairable and he should just buy a new laptop, this one being two/three years old now. Anyway I take a look at it.

First up it's an Acer running Windows XP with two partitions both formatted to FAT32, so that takes care of the 'error' message on start-up; it's not shut-down properly so needs to run checks.

During BIOS and briefly during the OS boot everything's fine, then the trackpad fails. Amusingly a USB mouse plugged in works fine, I go to check out the device drivers and find the keyboard's failed too. Hmm a short perhaps? No it's consistently working during the boot-up it's only when Windows XP starts that everything fails.

I try to remember where msconfig resides and run it. Seems the Kaspersky AV service isn't starting properly. I attempt to disable it and am told that despite being an administrator I can't. I try and uninstall it and it freezes up.

Back to msconfig and I run the minimum boot-up profile. Everything works. I start the windows installer service and remove Kaspersky and re-boot with the normal profile. Everything works.

He's been running Kaspersky for a couple of years with no problems yet suddenly it decides to fail on him. Ah well I install AVG for him.

While I'm there, he says, can I take a look at Word for him he keeps getting ~name files being created. I explain what they are and he's mollified, but I take a look at it anyway. Ah it's the wonderful Word 2007. Despite being all set for the UK it is of course using the US spellcheck etc. Okay easy enough just change the default template so that it starts up with a UK etc. set-up.

So where's the default template? Can't seem to find it to load, can't save a template over it. Where the hell do you find the settings that will even tell me where it is? Yeah it's off the top-left logo under "Word options" and then dig around in there to find that in Word 2007 templates have the .dotx extension; except for the default template which is .dotm, thanks for that. Saved.

I wonder how many UK Word07 users out there are using US settings without realising it?

Finally he likes having bookmarks for Firefox showing on the Bookmarks toolbar; except they aren't. Brother can't solve it either so I take a look. Turns out he's got an add-on that hides them, I disable it and it still doesn't work. I delete it, and it still doesn't work. I try to drag a bookmark to it, and ping they all reappear and stay showing.

Well that was a fun time ;-) Next up is switching from FAT32 to NTFS if he wants to.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Gilgal and Councillors

An update to my entry regarding the remarks made by councillors regarding the works. Areley Kings Labour have added an entry entitled Stourport Road Closures and essential works. Other than a preface about monitoring progress it admits to being simply an amended version of the booklet already sent out.

Given remarks from STW at my face-to-face that all relevant groups were invited to comment I'm can't say I'm surprised by the lack of outrage. It would be nice, though, for someone from one of the parties to address the main concerns we have rather than keep stum or regurgitate the official line.

Gilgal signs

They're seriously pushing the boat out here. Just in case you couldn't decipher the big block of slightly askew text warning everyone about the road closure they've put up an electronic sign that flashes up the same information, but adds "9 Days to go". Whoo-hoo only 9 days to go, party-time! Oh wait that's a bad countdown.

Missed mentioning this yesterday, but part of the work that will be going on includes "Baldwin Road [...] electric works" it doesn't specifically state digging anything up, but it's a good bet it will. So what happened yesterday? Someone decided this was a good time to repaint the road markings in Baldwin Road.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Watch out at Sony Centres

Yes still looking at televisions and pretty much decided on the Sony 32W5500. Took a gander at the Kidderminster Sony Centre Branch and found it listed at £749 (the W5710 model to be exact)
"You do realise that Amazon are doing it at £549?" I stated (£574 at the moment)
"Ah but you don't get the 5-year guarantee" came the reply.
"And you get the £50 trade-in from your old TV"

So a trip to Merry Hill and I pass their Sony Centre and poke my head in just to see if they've got the TV being displayed in a more favourable light -£699.

"The Kiddy branch has it at £749?"
"It's a franchise we can set our own deals, so with this one you can also get a Blu-ray player for half-price. Buy the 37" (£899) and you'll get one for free"

So I write this as a service, don't just look at your local Sony Centre check around and no you can't compare them online.

Just for fun John Lewis is offering the same model at £699 with a 5-year guarantee and unlike the Sony Centres don't expect you to cart your TV to them - they'll pick up the old one at the same time they deliver the new one. The only question is how tempting is a half-price Blu-ray player over the inconvenience of lugging my old TV up to Merry Hell?

Gilgal Face-to-face

Managed to visit the mobile unit that's been situated in town to reassure us and got some specific questions answered as well as putting forward my viewpoint.

Although billed as a Severn Trent Water customer unit it was a Balfour Beatty van with four BB reps and one STW rep well to be precise four people wearing BB jumpers one of whom looked like he belonged guarding a nightclub door (were they expecting trouble?).

I mentioned Sandy Lane - ah that was done piecemeal with small trenches; "uh-huh so why is there a great long strip down it?" Well it's different because...

We're digging on both sides of the road at the same time. "You'd better be" I replied. "Otherwise it'll be pitchfork and torches time"

"Why can't one lane be kept open?" Because we'd never get finished.

"But 10 weeks of delay over 5 weeks of closure would be more appreciated". Health and Safety.

Someone else asked "Why can't some of the one-way roads be switched?" Health and Safety plus more roadworks to remove the "islands" those would be splitters not islands.

"What about emergency vehicles?" Emergency services have a dedicated number to call, there will be someone on site 24 hours to clear barriers and lay down temporary platforms over trenches.

"What's the point of all the signs warning of delays? The delays aren't likely to be at those points but at the points you're diverting all the traffic too. Residents of Kidderminster or those passing through may have no idea about what's going on until they wake-up and find a queue of traffic outside their house" Good point we'll look into putting signs up on the diversion route to alert them.

It was mentioned by myself and several others about BB having to come out again after all the work had been finished and dig it all up again to fix problems. I cited experience with Mitton Street and the OGL Island as well as the debacle with water meters. Someone else mentioned BB coming out to one point 8 times to dig it back up and how after several times he personally inspected the holes they were about to fill in and found several with leaks "I said 'You've just about to fill those in and they're still leaking' and the response was 'Oh I'll have a look at them'". In this case though it'll be different. As this is a high-profile job it won't be finished until it's inspected and signed off. "You'll forgive me if I don't believe you" I replied. "We've had too many examples of work being 'finished' before being dug up again. It's a matter of trust and from experience we don't trust you"

Talking to the STW rep I said "You don't care. If you do a poor job there's nothing we can do to punish you. If the Co-op caused us problems we can stop shopping there; 'Oh I'll stop using Severn Trent' who else can we use?" The response was that BB would lose money that OFWAT existed etc.

Oh almost forgot on terms of trust I mentioned the dumb move in originally planning this during the carnival, their response? "We liaised with the councils and the carnival people they said it would be okay. We pointed out what was happening and they said it wouldn't affect their route."
"So they changed their minds?"

Can I get a response from the carnival committee on that?

Anyway the final point is that we're going to have to like it and lump it. But by the gods if they aren't working on both sides, if they slack off, they'll be hell to pay.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Taking a break

Having some downtime at the moment and catching up on things that need doing. Had to go into Stourport early Sunday morning and yep of course someone blocking the left-hand lane of High Street just past the bus-stop next to, would you have thunk it, the cash machine. Oh yeah and of course the entire left-hand row of car-parking bays were completely and obviously clear, but that would have meant walking almost four car lengths to get to the machine!

Had to go into Kidderminster to switch a busted screwdriver set at Maplin. They don't open until 11am. The Range was open but the tills weren't until 10:30 hah - Sunday trading laws how such an anachronism survives is beyond me... oh okay I know they're a balance between the big and little stores, but it's still tiresome.

Anyway coming back through Stourport I almost missed the red light on the crossing in Bridge Street due to the van parked on the zig-zags on the other side of the road (angles mean the opposite lights are easier to see than those on my side). Guy sitting at the wheel smoking without a care in the world. Felt like winding down the window and telling him off, but refrained.

Batman turned up today, which is perfectly logical as today is when Sony are picking up my PS3 and it's all backed up and ready. I also can't do anything online with it as, hah, there's a system update and if I picked it up I'd just have to do another back-up which takes about an hour and a half.

Anyway no sign of Sony so I'll give them a bell and find out why I've spent all bloody day in waiting for them.