Monday, January 31, 2011

Slow puncture

I noted the other day a rumbling noise from my car; as a first precaution I checked my tyre pressure and found my offside rear fairly low. I pumped it up and left it. The next day someone mentioned that same tyre was now flat. Again I pumped it up and contacted the garage I use.

Free tyre puncture repair - excellent. Can't be done until Monday - not excellent.

Anyway I tried not to drive and kept it pumped up I was losing about 2psi an hour so liveable.

Took it in this morning - an hour later and it turns out the puncture is in the sidewall so it can't be repaired. They can get a tyre in by this afternoon.

Not naming names, but this is a dealer in the same make of car as mine and they don't have any tyres?

"Would I be wanting to take the car away now?" I was asked
"Well I've little choice, how much is it going to cost"
"About £80 parts and labour"
[cough] My father mentioned at the weekend it cost him less than that for two tyres and I know that my type of tyre costs around £20-30. I let them order it and try someone who'll come to me and replace it - for much less. I call the garage back up and cancel my order.

So as a plug to them that's Herbie's Mobile Tyres based in Bromsgrove on 07949 262526 - they'll come to you and fix/repair them at a price that's likely to be lower than a garage.

[Update - all done took about 15 minutes and I ended up with a tyre with a slightly better speed rating (not that my car would reach either)]

Friday, January 28, 2011

Homosexual discrimination

The tabloids are still making hay out of the B&B case as well as pushing the conspiracy of the 'gay agenda'. I've not discussed this as I needed to martial my arguments beyond simply saying "They're wrong".

Let me start with the premise that I have started a service available to the general public. I wish to maintain an air of distinction for my establishment and thus ban the wearing of T-Shirts and other apparel I find offensive. Please bear with me for seeming crass, but is this not discrimination? Why would I be allowed to discriminate in this case, but not say in ethnicity - why no sign saying "No Asians"?

Consider my removal of someone on the grounds of wearing a T-shirt; they can leave and return in a smart suit and gain admittance; someone who was banned for being rowdy could modify their behaviour and regain entry. However someone who is Asian could not leave and come back not-Asian at least not without some drastic surgery.

In other words a T-shirt is not a fundamental aspect of a person. I think it's this point that emphasises the tabloid position - being homosexual is something that you can change; which in turn stems from their belief that being such is a learned (nuture) response rather than a innate (nature) characteristic.

With such a premise their fuss over why a B&B can't discriminate in this way or the talk of how a homosexual education is turning our children gay becomes clear. This is an alterable learned attribute which they dislike and therefore wish to see removed. Why they consider it wrong is a whole other discussion, but the stance that derives from it is simple:

It is wrong to discriminate against someone for a reason beyond their control.
It is okay to discriminate against someone for a reason in their control.

If I'm right the bedrock on which they sit can be toppled by demonstrating that homosexuality is nature over nurture. Except it won't because they know the truth and hundreds, thousands even of respected studies that contradict their position haven't budged them.

Nevertheless we can try and chip away at this hard core of belief to let some truth using this chain of logic.

The Russian airport bomber

What can I say

Bombing the terminal you can hit all the people who would have been on the plane, plus those who would be on other planes, plus ground staff you wouldn't normally touch; and as terminals comprise only a small number (compared to planes) the risks of you being in a bombed terminal are that much greater.

That was back in 2007. 35 dead and over a hundred injured; one could argue that it's not as bad as an explosion in an aircraft where death may not be caused by the initial explosion, but by the crash itself. However it does put into context all the added restrictions that exist for boarding passengers.

So are security restrictions going to be put in place before you even enter a terminal? As I said that just pushes the problem one step back to outside the terminal. Essentially there's a risk anywhere a large number people of gather and that includes the mass formed by queuing up to get through the security restrictions.

Unfortunately, as I've discussed many a time, as a species we can't just accept the random; we therefore insist that a) something should have been done to stop this and b) that something now needs to be done to prevent further occurrences. The result is the crack-down knee-jerk from governments especially those who already tend towards totalitarian systems.

'Removal of liberties? But this is what you demanded from us' - the sheep demanding to be herded into a more secure shed and branded for their own safety. It's only when they realise they can't get out of the shed; that the branding just makes it easier for the farmer to pick out the tastiest of them do they start to complain; by which time it's too late.

Do I have the answers? No I don't all I ask is that rather than taking instant action of the 'Look we're doing something' type somebody stops to think about it first.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Save our forests

Naked political pandering I'm afraid.

The cost of maintaining our forests is £15m per year.

The cost of subsidising the food and drink in the Parliament estates for 08-09 is £6.1m

Which do you think the government is trying to cut?

Fuel Duty

Can't seem to post a comment over at the WFA so before I lose it here's my response -

NeilHar -
Do you know, on the telly last night, Phillip Hammond said, "That the cost of petrol IS a problem".

Erm, no it isn't. The cost of the duty on petrol is The problem, and then VAT is added to the duty too. Get a grip Government. When no one can afford the petrol your economy will crash. Again.

FlipC -
Doubly stupid when you consider that it's Value-Added Tax, that is a tax on the value added by that stage and is supposed to avoid double-taxation. This means that VAT should be added prior to the duty

The interesting thing is that if you look at the Hydrocarbon Oil Duties Act 1979 you get

"produced in the United Kingdom and delivered for home use from a refinery or from other premises used for the production of hydrocarbon oil or from any bonded storage for hydrocarbon oil, not being hydrocarbon oil chargeable with duty..."

The key there is "home use". Strictly speaking no duty exists until it goes from the station into my car - that's it being "delivered". So I see no legal restriction as to why duty cannot be charged after VAT is applied.

To space it out -

The fuel company offers petrol at a price inc VAT
I accept
They deliver it to me and charge the duty.

Seems wholly consistent with how the law is worded.

We don't need no stinkin by-pass

I timed a drive the other night from the 30mph sign on Worcester Road to the island - a distance of 0.4 miles. I used the music tracks to do it accurately.

Somebody to Love (Salt Shaker Remix) by the Boogie Pimps - 2:58
Kung Fu Fighting (Featuring Carl Douglas & Daz Sampson) by Bus Stop - 3:30
Ain't No Rest for the Wicked by Cage the Elephant  - 0:30 in

so 5 minutes and 58 seconds to travel 0.4 miles call it 6 minutes for ease and to allow for track gaps makes an average of 4 mph. I consider that to be a good time - it's normally much worse and I do that every week night.

Why the delay? Well consider there's also a queue entering the island from a direction that has priority over mine. This means my queue can only get out when there's either nothing coming from that direction (unlikely), some traffic has priority over the other queue and isn't doing a full circle (occasional), they're turning left and indicating that they are doing so (occasional or someone let's you out (the most likely of the four).

Now add to this that both queues are trying to enter the same exit which leads to the notorious GIlgal/Mitton Street merger that everyone from the island-side treats as a priority to the other lane and it becomes a case of combining one of the four outcomes above with actually having a space to drive into.

Many a time I've had a gap in the island but been unable to move because he queue from the merger reaches the island. By the time that queue leaves a gap the island traffic starts moving again.

I'm not moaning for the sake of moaning - this entire section is the main bottleneck in the rush-hour traffic in Stourport. In the morning the island causes a feedback delay up Gilgal and through the town. In the evening queues up Worcester Road and Hartlebury Road.

Our illustrious leaders response - wait for someone else to build a by-pass.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Daybreak hypocrisy

I caught some of the ITV morning show Daybreak today. They were discussing the football sexism row; this is roughly how the discussion went:

... making comments to [Name1] *cue video of [Name1]* after the comments made about [Name2] *cue photos of [Name2] I feel sorry for both women who have been dragged into this story by the newspapers. I mean take [Name1] *cue video* and the story in this newspaper with photos *show newspaper with photo* and of course [Name 2] *cue photos* who has withdrawn from another match...

Yes I too feel sorry for these women being dragged into this story; though in my case at least I'm not naming them and showing the same video and photos of each of them at the same time as feeling sorry for all the attention they're being given.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Wyre Forest Political leanings

In response to a comment from Cynical Sid at the Shuttle I asked how he determined that the majority of Wyre Forest were Conservative. Using my own data I see that from the turnout for the currently elected councillors they managed their majority with less than 25% of the vote - hardly a majority.

As an example of how statistics can bend things this isn't the full picture. What of those who voted Conservative but whose candidate didn't win. To attain a true picture I need to sum all their votes and compute it as a percentage of the turnout. So to an accuracy of one decimal place the results for our current batch of councillors.

Conservative: 38.8%
Health Concern: 26.0%
Labour: 16.7%
Liberal: 8.7%
Liberal Democrat: 7.6%
Independent: 1.1%
Green: 1.0%
UKIP: 1.0%

So still not a majority. Is this a fair reading? Consider that the Conservatives fielded a candidate in every ward yet the other parties did not. Out of curiosity if we take it as a percentage of total of only those wards that fielded that particular party the results are.

Conservative: 38.8%
Health Concern: 27.3%
Labour: 17.2%
Liberal: 30.9%
Liberal Democrat: 26.7%

Independent: 24.5%
Green: 4.5%
UKIP: 4.4%

In both cases including that of our Conservative MP (36.9%) of those who bothered to vote the majority of Wyre Forest did not want the Conservatives to hold power. Yet they hold both our Parliamentary seat and the majority in council with officially 54.8% of the seats.

As such some of the councils decision that seem to be have been made my fiat need continuous airing.  So yes Sid except to say "Oh no ....not the Vale Rd car park again." many more times.

[Addendum - if the votes cast by the District were converted proportionally to seats on the council (actual seats held as of election party in brackets):

Conservative: 16 (24)
Health Concern: 11 (7)
Labour: 7 (4)
Liberal: 4 (5)
Liberal Democrat 3 (2)
Independent: 1 (0)

Sony Vaio sleep mode

As an experiment I left my Vaio in sleep mode overnight. What this means is that it still uses power to keep the RAM active - but how much does it use? I had no worries about it running out as I knew that should it do so it would switch to hibernation mode and move the contents of the RAM to the non-volatile hard drive.

However I have noticed a drain in power when it's been technically switched off; so how would it fair?

Roughly 15 hours of sleep and the battery drained by 15%. With it set to switch at 5% battery life I should have 95 hours of sleep or about 4 days. This means I can leave it in sleep mode both overnight and at the weekend provided I do nothing with it.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sly Cooper Trilogy

vI picked up the PS3 HD remakes of the PS2 originals of the Sly Cooper trilogy. I say pick up, but mean had delivered as I have not seen this in any physical store. It seems these remakes can be a bit of mixed bag. The God of War double was fun, The Prince of Persia failed to deliver. With Sly Cooper so far so good.

Straight HD remakes as far as I can tell including some of the odd visual bugs and game stoppers that were present in the originals. I've played through 1 and am in the middle of 2 and have noticed only one non-HD bit - pre-rendered cutscenes in 2 when you circle in to your headquarters to receive the next mission set. It lasts about 4 seconds so no big deal; certainly nothing like the heavy use of non upscaled movies in PoP.

Perhaps it's just age showing, but I've also noticed some minor delay in control response. Might be the Bluetooth pad along with my new LCD TV and for the most part it's unnoticeable; but Ms Ruby's rhythm game had me grinding my teeth in frustration when I knew I had hit the button at the right time yet received a hit. The Tango in 2 seemed to have a better margin of error and I aced that.

So any good? Yes, with a couple of small reservations - 1 felt very short; and has anyone completed all the Master Thief speed trials? I think if that was a trophyable challenge they'd be a lynch mob at the doors of Sucker Punch.

Gameplay-wise it does show its age. In 1 skills have to be rotated through using L2 and R2; so you tend to stick to just the one. In 2 three skills can be mapped to L1, L2, and R2 via a menu screen; so again the option to choose on the fly is missing. For a non-multiplayer game that has no consequence on pausing a multi-wheel would have been nice.

Otherwise just as I remember it - excellent.

Second person singular

The article that provoked the minor argument regarded the different American accents and the use of slang and contractions on messaging sites that displayed this. The offending section follows:

But both stem from the same problem: the lack of a distinct form for the second person plural in English: "yinz" is a contraction of "you ones", while "y'all" is short for "you all".
We do have a second person plural in English it's "you". What is lacking is a second person singular; or to be precise we are now lacking such. The second person singular equivalent of "you" is "thee".

Grammatically to those of history saying "You are a reader of this entry" is as wrong as saying "I am a readers of this entry".

The singular form became conflated with the informal/intimate use and then dropped from the radar of our language in almost all circumstances. Ironic that such contractions are being created to account for a deficiency that need not exist.


A minor argument with my father which I detail to demonstrate my foibles rather than his. The subject I'll deal with in my next entry and is immaterial to this.

It started just before Sunday lunch I read aloud something from the newspaper and pointed out their mistake and why it was a mistake.

My father pointed out I was wrong in a sentence that started "Originally..." then got the order of the facts wrong. He paused. I told him he was wrong and was about to relate the reality when he interrupted me stating he hadn't finished.

He then repeated his exact first sentence again and stopped. I pointed again he was wrong and once more started to point out why. He again accused me of interrupting him.

He then once again repeated his first sentence and stopped. This time I managed to hold my tongue as he repeated the remark I had made on my initial reading of the newspaper article. He then stopped and looked at me. I took this as my cue and began - "Originally..." then related the original point then moved onto his point which came second and then remixed his end.

His response - "Oh hey look it's [name] on TV"

Anyway why couldn't I stop myself the second time around from 'interrupting' because unless his next sentence was going to be 'Except of course what I've just said is wrong' I saw no purpose in him continuing. To me it's as if the correct turn was on the right and he started to turn left with him complaining that I'm trying to stop him. It's my foible and I do it with others, I just find it hard to not interrupt when presented with an initial wrong premise.

In answer to a fun comment

I do like comments like this, so much better than 'cheap X at' As my policy is to respond to comments that pose interesting points I do so here. My comments in square brackets []

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Star Wars 1 the Phantom Menace - detailed review

I watched the Phantom Menace again the other night; it's not one I've watched often. On occasion I pop in the DVD and get as far as the opening scrawl before coming to my senses and putting something else on; this time I persevered.

I now realise what I've been saving myself from each time I hit the eject button; this film is even worse than I remember. Those who respond to the negative criticism this film garnered often state that it wasn't shot for adults raised on the 'original' series, it was shot for those approaching it for the first time - the kids. They're wrong.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Joanna Yates and the uneaten pizza

This isn't about the murder of this young girl, unlike the media I have no intention of intruding on grief. What this is about is, as always, the media.

This morning on both BBC and ITV one of the main stories was the news that Joanna Yates didn't eat the pizza she'd been seen buying just before her disappearance.

On the face of what was said this was highly important. If you buy a pizza from a takeaway you're going to eat it quickly or at the least take it home to nuke it so it can be eaten you just don't leave it. As such this would certainly narrow down the time in which... oh the reconstruction shows us it's an uncooked pizza bought from a supermarket.

As such the information presented to us by a 'must churn out news' means little. Is it that the pizza wasn't found at her home in the fridge or freezer; was it that the pizza box was found sans pizza and therefore someone else ate it; are we supposed to be on the look out for a cast-off pizza in the street? We don't know because we haven't been told; simply "she didn't eat it" and the purpose of this information being given to the public is?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Prospero Burns - book review

I haven't bothered reviewing The Horus Heresy series from the W40k universe as if you're into that you're going to read them no matter what is said. For the latest I'll make an exception.

For those not in the know the Warhammer 40,000 (W40k) series is set in the 41st millennia and deals with the struggles of a humanity dispersed amongst the galaxy and the attempt by the near-dead Emperor of Mankind to unify them all in the face of aliens and daemons However the 'current' events all start 10,000 years before when the Emperor's favourite son Horus turns against his father and initiates a civil war. The Horus Heresy deals with those times.

HMV Kidderminster closure

As predicted by poetesslaureate the HMV in Kidderminster is now closed. I can't say I'm surprised, it was one of these 'experimental' stores to test the market and with the losses posted it was almost bound to go. Yet at the same time what were they thinking when they opened?

No advertisements in the local paper, hidden behind a stall on market day, beneath an overhang with barely lit windows (making it appear still closed down) and no sandwich boards in the open pedestrianised street to notify anyone of its presence.

Then when I purposefully pop by this Saturday to visit I find it's closed, yet I've been reliably informed it was open on Friday - who shuts down on the busiest day?

Compter lock-up

Another lock-up this morning. Ctrl+Alt-Del gave me an uanble to Login so no ability to close down errant programmes. Boot to safe mode and disabled Skype, reboot and again all is well. Most weird as it's been running last week at start with no problems.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Tesco roundup

Just to try and keep track of all the planning

06/5079/INV 12/12/06 - 36 Documents (5 drawings, 27 supporting documents)
07/1105/EIA 31/10/07 - 71 Documents (24 drawings, 40 supporting documents)
08/1053/EIA 01/12/08 - 56 Documents (19 drawings, 33 supporting documents)

And now two more

10/0229/RESE 30/09/10. This states it follows from 08/1053 and comprises the Decision notice, 3 drawings and 1 supporting document. This deals with the landscaping of the area.

However we also have 10/0590/RESE 26/11/10 which states it follows from 07/1105 and contains 22 documents (16 drawings, 2 supporting documents). This deals with the "Layout, Scale, Appearance and Landscaping".

So are they following the 07 plans or the 08 plans?

Anyway taking the meatier of the two 0590 and looking at my notes from the previous examination I did I see they're still with Saunders who have some new graphics software - oo pastel fills. Other than that some minor changes in walling and in the roofline - still slanty, but with an in-filled roof. The entrance is unchanged from 08 other than the sketch now making it a zebra crossing and explicitly existing. All in all just a smarter tidied up version of the 08 plan, which as this is supposed to follow on from the 07 version makes one wonder what's going on?

What is temperature?

According to the thermometer it's hotter than it was yesterday, but it feels colder; um why? To answer this requires some delving into what temperature is and that can be answered at the same time as how it is transferred.

In high-school physics the three main types of heat transfer are listed as conduction, convection, and radiation and like so much physics learned at that time it's not quite right. There are only two - conduction and radiation; what is referred to as convection is in fact fluidic conduction which combines heat transfer and heat distribution a distinction I'll deal with later.

McAfee problems

I owe Skype an apology; it wasn't them it was definitely McAfee that was causing the computer to go down an infinite loop. This time I managed to Ctrl-Alt-Del to get to task manager then to services then turn them off and finally log on and off again. With no problem.

I only turned them back on again as the settings were still in force and without them running no other computer could see me on the network. This time I turned the settings off then the services and all seems well.

When everything becomes more settled I think it'll get removed from the system all together.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The taking of DNA 123

A snippet in the Independent regarding the Bristol murder; allegedly a Labour MP from the area has called for every man in Bristol to have a DNA sample taken.

How will this be organised - don't know
What will be done with the results after testing - don't know

This is just the sort of knee-jerk reaction we don't want from politicians. Hey why stop at Bristol; why not every man in the UK; why just men; why just UK citizens, get every visitor to have a swab taken too? I mean we can trust the government, the police, and military intelligence not to misuse this information can't we?

All this stored in a database means catching these criminals; I mean it's not as if DNA traces can be picked up anywhere - hardly as if we shed hair in public places onto seats etc. that may be transferred accidentally. It's not as if with this 'evidence' available the police would focus to all exclusion on that and rather than focus on who committed a crime instead on how the person they 'know' did it managed to do it.

It's hardly as if some future government in collusion with business would sell this information to any who declared they had need of it or send it to our allies abroad.

No I can foresee no problems at all with taking this tack.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Neal Stephenson

Apropos of nothing. To those on the outside science-fiction books appear much of a muchness, but to the connoisseurs there are two main branches hard SF and soft SF. To differentiate a soft SF may have a group of people flitting about among the stars having adventures; a hard SF may have exactly the same thing but they utilise exotic matter wormholes that generate oscillating loops of space time etc. Soft SF simply uses a setting; hard SF tries to explain it.

From that you may concur that Neal Stephenson writes SF; not really but it's the only way I can really get across that what he does write is Hard Fiction, almost a fictionalised accounting of a textbook. As a result the contents of his books may be described as dense.

Now I have no problem with dense books, but in this case the density he exudes is exasperated by multiple characters in multiple settings jumbled together; sometimes with explanation sometimes without. As yet I've mentioned no specific books because this generality holds true for all the ones I've read by him.

Cryptonomicon is perhaps his most famous amongst a certain set and takes place in World War 2 and the modern day with characters in the previous era appearing as themselves or through their descendants in the latter era. The main thread of the story is information; in the World War the making and breaking of codes and ciphers. In the modern day the attempt to keep information secret and secure. It's only through re-reading that I've come to appreciate this book it's certainly not one you can just partake of in one sitting.

Cryptonomicon leads to a sort of prequel trilogy Quicksilver, The Confusion and The System of the World which uses many of the ancestors in the previous book and is set post English Civil war. Although codes and ciphers do feature the main topic in this instance is economics and the shift between the old gold coin standard to the current IOU-esque system. Again one that needs re-reading, but in this instance the spread of the trilogy allows more room to breathe and to me this is more accessible than Cryptonomicon.

The Diamond Age seems to deal with nature/nurture yet I may be wrong as this is one I simply had difficulty getting my head around.

Snow Crash is a one-off and deals with computer systems, linguistics, and anarchic states and is my favourite of them all. As such if you feel the urge to delve into some more meatier books this is the one I'd start with and would be the one I lend to Bratus Major once he hits 16.

Split Second Velocity PS3 Review

I did end up buying Split/Second on Saturday and already have 13 trophies to my name. Is it as good as the demo... hmmm. It's certainly bigger; which is a stupid thing to say of course it is, but that's the best way to describe it - there's more to it.

The Book of Revelations

Caught the end of a quiz show on ITV where the questions was "What book comes before Revelations in the Bible?". The next day I re-watched "Sherlock Holmes" where Lord Blackwood quoted from the "Book of Revelations". As the former is supposedly a factual show and the latter features two supposedly intelligent characters the responses should have been-

1) None; and
2) What are you talking about?

Because there is no "Revelations" in the Bible, there is no "Book of Revelations" it's the "Revelation of St John the Divine" that is revelation singular in a book singular. So it could be John's Book or John's Revelation, but it cannot be either Revelations or Revelation's.

Why does this seem so entrenched in the media both fictional and factual?

One might wonder why I as an avowed atheist care? Because if you're going to quote nonsense at least make it accurate nonsense. If I end up in a theological debate I will instantly tune out anything you say if you start quoting 'revelations' at me as you've demonstrated you have either not read the Bible or have little understanding of it beyond parroting others. As a result I simply won't waste any further time on you.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Sainsbury's email the verdict

Catch up here and here for the story so far. And the verdict is [drumroll]

I passed the email you forwarded to us on to our website team, who were able to confirm that the links and the domains are genuine.
As a result I'm sending another back with "I hope you also mentioned to the website team that this should be mentioned somewhere on your website; a small bit on your "contact us" page would possibly be the best position"

Fruit ah-hah. Innocent smoothies advert

Innocent smoothies - so is it that soundtrack; is it the cheesy special effects complete with sticks and wires; the hammy acting, or is it having the Brian 'we're not worthy' Blessed providing the outro?

Whatever it is I can't not watch this without a big grin on my face.

Applause, applause, applause.

A slow slushy start

I watched the snow/slush/rain start to fall and then I watched the traffic build up outside my house. The sports car brumming didn't let me out nor the car following it, however the one after that kindly did (thank-you). We then sat and watched cars at my exit junction leaving a gap of multiple car lengths such that by the time they left enough room for this queue to get out another had appeared to join their queue.

Very slow turning the corner and a nasty crunching sound - love the black ice. two cars had already stopped at this point to examine their cars due to said crunching noise.

Heading into town and pretty much a dead crawl with spurts of traffic coming the other way. Yep it's the pedestrian lights in Bridge Street. The confluence happens like this - the lights go red and stop traffic both ways; the lights go green and the traffic starts moving. However if there's a queue over the bridge it's a slow propagation rate. What this means is that by the time the queue gap-movement reaches the junction so has the traffic coming out of town. So even if you could get out into the right-turn you can't because of the cross-traffic that has just appeared. It's just one of those things that's almost impossible to predict and just happens when it happens.

Needless to say a slow start.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Buying a wristwatch

This may seem like one of those tales that starts but I just want a ... which then goes on to find fault with all those items offered because they're not mother-of-pearl with encrusted diamonds, hand-crafted by Tibetan monks. However I, at least, think my demands aren't out of this world.

As the title suggests I'm looking for a new watch my initial thoughts on this were as follows:

1) Analogue, not digital
2) Displays the date
3) Leather strap...
4) brown

Sainsbury's email latest

How quickly was the response from Sainsbury's? Two hours! The result - indeterminate. "I have checked with colleagues, and we do believe that the links are genuine" however they ask I forward one on to them which I have done. Let's see how quickly they get back on that.

Stourport icy photos

Well my PS3 recognises the USB card reader I plugged into it so I could easily browse and then upload what I consider to be the better photos of my excursions into icy Stourport. Please excuse the bare titles, a little difficult to type using a stick :-)

Here's the link to the first photo The Rough and the last A frosty start so start where you like and head in the relevant direction through them if you wish to.

On a technical note I switched between using the pre-set Snow setting and the Program setting with a custom white-balance; the result of the latter is a little more yellow/gold as the blue cast was removed. Then again the sun was low as can be seen in at least one photo so the result was closer to what I saw.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Sainsbury's emails and the case of the wrong domain.

As has probably been mentioned I shop at Sainsbury's (as well as Co-op, Morrisons & local non-supermarket stores I hasten to mention) and I have a Nectar card which is handy as it works with Amazon and various other online stores as well as in some 'real world' stores too.

As part of this devil's pact I often get emails from Nectar and Sainsbury's and normally I pay a huge amount of attention to them (is zero a huge amount?); however for once I took a look at the latest picture-heavy html email that was flushed my way and hovered over the "If you cannot see this email, please click here" link and where does it want to go to?[and a whole shed load of alphanumerics]

Hovering over every link and it wanted to take me to the same domain except "To ensure that your Sainsbury's emails get to your inbox, please add to your address list or safe list." okay that's a whole other domain.

Was this a one-off? I checked the archive way back to Jan 09 and would you look at that it's emv2 and emv1 for every single one.

Now what's the first thing every computer user is taught (or at least should be) about clicking on links in emails that purport to be from someone official - Check that the actual address you're going to looks legitimate. That email from your bank telling you they're about to close your account unless you reset your password wants to take you to bankname.imacrook.lawless I don't care even if the text looks right don't click on it if the address doesn't match your expectations.

So is this legit or what? Short answer I don't know. The domains don't seem to be connected to Sainsbury's in any obvious manner and the only tiny bit of information that isn't about "Europay, MasterCard and VISA" led me to the only Sainsbury's hosted page and that was a forum where anyone could post; hardly conclusive.

Now from content I'm pretty sure they come from Sainsbury's, but just to set the cat among the pigeons I've just used their contact form laying out the link problem, the lack of information on their site and my conclusions are that these are fake and thus worthy of investigation.

If they come back with a 'Oh yes that's us' they'll feel the rough end of my tongue; if not I have to say well played to the scammers for such a well-worked email.

Response 1 and Final Verdict

Taking photographs - the law

Reading the Independent over the holiday and they published some of the suggestions made by the public regarding the open government initiative or things the government could/should do. Although some were sound, some simply highlighted that we the public aren't fit to make such decisions as we do not have all the information available to us.

One suggestion rammed home the concept that if you repeat a lie long and often enough it will be taken as truth. The comment was that something should be done to allow people to take photographs of children particularly if you are a family member. Now I'm guessing this has to do with the spate of 'would you believe it' stories emanating from such worthies as the Daily Mail as to people being approached for taking photos of their own children or being stopped from taking photos at school plays etc. So once again in the interests of setting the record straight here is the current situation as to the taking of photographs.

Computer problems

Okay now publishing this from the laptop, minimal hard drive activity. All seems well. I turned off McAfee, AVG and the Sony Vaio multimedia crud. Touch laminate all seems stable. Bluetooth mouse doesn't seem to be working, but it does take a while to wake-up, might need recharging. Okay mouse now awake, system still stable. I'll leave it at this for the moment and try Skype in a bit to see how that responds.

Skype problems?

Just had to restart my laptop twice this morning, constant hard drive activity after Skype logged in. The second time around it had lost my password and showed me the welcome screen after I logged in then froze up, so this time around I just quit the programme. So far so good. So not sure if it's anything to do with the problems they've had over Christmas or something gone wrong with my installation.

Okay not Skype because it's just happened again. fiuve minutes in and Isee constant hard drive activity and only the mouse can move with no interaction.

Damn it

[update 2]
Hard drive light stopped, now flashing occasionally, still no response. I'm just going to wait it out and see what happens.

[update 3]
Safe mode with networking works fine. I've used msconfig to turn off the AV etc. so let's see what happens. I'll just let it start and do nothing with it for a while to let it settle. Still some major hard drive activity going on, but google cpu meter still repsonding and desktop icons still responding on hover. Okay HD activity nomina to zero. Still waiting a bit.

[update 4]

Well it took long enough but Skype finally logged in. so far so good.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The purpose of PE?

Time with Family Bratii and, as seems to be inevitable when children of a certain age are present, talk turned to school. Other than the odd "You don't know how good you've got it" directed at Major the dominating topic in this round was Physical Education.

Prince of Persia Trilogy - a caution

Finally found some time to play the Prince of Persia Trilogy, the HD update of the PS2 versions and wow is it buggy. I've yet to play a game of the first game, Sands of Time, without something glitching and that's not to mention the elephant in the room (which I will get to)

So in game sequence order:

The game locked up the console between the Prince of Persia opening and the menu.
At the first sand tank collection I couldn't run down the open and empty corridor. It turns out it hadn't drawn in the rubble supposedly blocking my path.
In the Mess Hall fighting on the staircase my player model disappeared.  I could still attack and take damage and the camera still followed me, I just couldn't see anything.
At the same point and time, stepping off the stairs corrupted the model. Ooh gangly arms and legs.
Just after that my companion, Farah, refused to climb down the wall and join me at the bridge. However when I continued she seemed happy to state that she'd "wait here" despite not being in the same room.

After that it's just the usual fun with the camera moving just as you're about to jump, which is not good when the controls are view centric; the inability to load a game without quitting; the non HD opening sequence and pre-rendered movies; and the elephant.

What's the elephant - the sound. The audio has been butchered so badly I actually deleted the installation and tried again just in case it was that; it wasn't. It's the same problem from Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen on the PS2. The audio is generated from the position of the camera, move the camera and the sound alters; happen to have it close to the seething save spot and it drowns out everything else, but that's not all.

The voice volume alters even if you are close to the characters as a result half the dialogue is inaudible; better yet the dialogue you do hear has been given a reverb effect or an echo that makes them sound as if they're in a cathedral even when they're standing on an outdoor balcony.

To make things even better certain sound effects seem to be set at a permanent maximum - the enemy footsteps, the scarabs clattering and the birds clicking can be heard as soon as you enter a room with them in and overpower every other sound. Amusingly altering the music and effects volume has no affect on these.

Oh and there are no subtitles for the first game so you don't even get that.

Shoddy Ubisoft, so shoddy.

On an historical note though it's clear to see where Assassin's Creed came from while playing these.

Split Second Velocity PS3 Demo

Knowing I had the PS3-less racing aficionado known here to readers as The Artist over at Christmas I loaded up some racing demos onto my PS3 to keep him amused. One of these happened to be Split/Second Velocity (SSV).

Now I've mentioned before my dislike of this genre and any inclusion thereof 'polluting' the FPS etc. and my surprised enjoyment of Burnout Paradise which just let you have fun - SSV is Burnout on Crack. How much fun is it? Well well the Bratii came over I loaded it up for them and we took turns going around the same track. 

iTunes Error correction?

DaBoss has lost a good part of his music catalogue on iTunes, just like I seem to constantly do. In this case though no Tn.tmp files were created but a file labelled iTunes Library (Damaged) was there.

So what may have caused this? He's bought his kids iPods and was synching two of them up to his computer, these two not having ones of their own, and they kept disconnecting them mid-sync.

So as I've told him the music is still there, the books are still on the shelf you've just lost the catalogue. Now iTunes is a little thick in that there's no option to import a folder and skip the duplicates and the "Display Duplicates" option under File doesn't differentiate by type. That means all the AAC music that's been converted to MP3 to put on a USB stick for the car shows up as duplicates as well as all the actual duplicates I've just updated.

What a fun time going through them all.

Teaching the young

Many visitors over the holiday period hence the zero posting. Anyway, had The Artist and family over and Devil Child spotted my packets of Pringles which I'd stocked up on with a BOGOF.

"I want a crisp!" she declared
"Well you can't have one" I replied
"Why not?"
"Because they're mine"
"They're not yours they're everyone's"


The VAT rise

How much is the VAT rise?

Well it's rising from 17.5% to 20% so 2.5% (20-17.5)
Well it's rising from 17.5% to 20% so 14.2% ((20/17.5)*100-100)
Well the price of of a net £100 product is rising from £117.50 to £120 so 2.1% ((120/117.5)*100-100)

the fun of statistics.

Oh and as an aside we've received nothing (not one jot) from HMRC to remind us of the increase. Last time we had letters and stickers; this time nothing.

[ Update - my two non-obvious percentages were queried by someone last night so I'll rephrase and expand them here.

If I sell 57 products that are £10 net with VAT at 17.5% the amount I would need to pay to the government would be £1.75*57 = £99.75 call it an even £100 to make life easier. Selling the same number of products with VAT at 20% the amount I need to hand over would be £2*57 or £114 exactly.

To get to £114 from £100 I need to add £14; that is I need to add £14 for every £100 I originally handed over which is what 14% means. So the amount the government is receiving in tax has increased by 14% assuming that the same amount of products at the same net price are sold.

So this time with a £100 net product I sell it to you at £117.50 and I should now be selling it to you at £120.00 an increase of £2.50 per hundred or 2.5%. So where does my figure of 2.1% come from? Well that only works if you start from the net price.

If I just see the price of a product at £117.50 and I add the 2.5% to it that's 2.5% of £117.50 which is £2.94 making a total of £120.44 or 44p more expensive than it should be. So that's 2.5% added to the net price, but 2.1% to the price we actually see. So if you picked up something at £100 and today it's £102.50 'because of the VAT increase' you're getting charged roughly 40p more than you should.]

Poor news sequencing

Watching the BBC main news and they're covering the Australian floods, finishing off with the "covering an area the size of France and Germany combined". The next story - burst pipes in N. Ireland have left many households without water.