Thursday, May 31, 2012

Habituated Stourport traffic

You can tell what's wrong with Stourport when they shut down two lanes of Vale Road leaving only the right of way from the town open and it's the town traffic that backs up and not the traffic heading into the two closed lanes.

Despite the very large signs informing drivers that it is those two lanes that are closed, traffic was still stopping at the entrance to let them through because they themselves wanted to get into the lane that was closed.

Everyone's just got so used to stopping here as with Gilgal and Mitton Street that even when they are given the right of way they still stop.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

How the PS3 internet browser sucks

It's nice having access to the wider internet via the PS3 rather than just those applications the manufacturer thinks we should have access to ([cough] Microsoft XBox360), but boy does the PS3's browser suck if you want to do anything beyond passive viewing of static screens.

Static Caravan Tax - how it wasn't thought through

I've noted the anomaly that was our MP stating that he was opposed to the imposition of VAT on static caravans while not voting for the prevention of it in the House; I might also point out the passing of a petition by said MP but not signing the EDM regarding it.

Of course it's all moot now given the U-turn.

Except it's not a U-turn VAT is still looking to be imposed on static caravans at the reduced rate of 5%, but this is still wrong in my opinion. The way I see it it's quite simple and falls to definitions.

A caravan currently attracts full VAT as does a car and a trailer, but a static caravan isn't any of those despite the name. It can't be hooked up to a car and it's not movable in its own right. Sure it can be picked up and moved, but in theory so can pretty much anything given time and effort. Essentially a static caravan is something designed to be lived in that's fixed to one spot, we normally call these things 'property'.

Static caravans aren't caravans they're property and would you look at that property has its own tax - it's called Stamp Duty Land Tax. So why didn't the government just declare static caravans as being property and thus subject to SDLT rather than VAT?

Simple really SDLT kicks in at £125k; with the price of static caravans being less than that they'd be zero duty and the government wouldn't get any money. VAT on the other hand starts instantly and means more wonga into their coffers.

This isn't about simplifying the tax laws. It's about a new source of revenue.

Worse yet as  static caravans are about a tenth or more the cost of 'normal' residential property they're likely to be bought by those who can't afford such. So once again the Conservative government seeks to take yet more money from those who have the least while allowing those who have the most to retain more.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Do Microsoft use Outlook Contacts and Categories?

I have to ask as the contacts section of Outlook betrays some serious screwed-up behaviour. To start with there's supposedly a push away from using distribution lists and the "Select names" dialogue box in favour of categories and the actual Contact window.

Okay let's try that with something simple - a group of contacts some of which I'll categorise as "members" and the others remain uncategorised. I want to send an email to all the "members". To do this I need to change my contacts view to Categories, find the members section, click on that and then right-click and do Create|New Message to Contact just as I would a single contact.

Oh wait I can't as when you select more than one contact or a whole category Microsoft remove the Create pop-up meaning I have to go all the way to Action|Create|New Message to Contact. Of course I mean heck who's going to try to send an email to more than one contact at a time.

I now have a new mail message and all my "members" in the "To:" section Yup no option to Send them as "Bcc:" from the menu I'd need to cut and paste them in to do that.

Ah well time to send my email - oh wait I need to add in a couple of non-members who need to see this, but whom I don't want to give away their email addresses to the rest. Given I have both the Message and the Contacts window open at the same time it's trivial to find the non-members I want and drag them into the "Bcc:" section. Sure if I drag a contact into the message Microsoft will interpret that as to send the whole contact card, but dropping into a header section will mean just dropping the email address in surely.

Hah don't be silly it tries to paste the contact card in their instead.

There appears to be no way to add in any other contacts from the Contacts window to an existing message I could click the "Bcc:" button and use the "Select names" dialogue but a) I'm not supposed to b) it doesn't show the categories I'm supposed to be using and c) it won't search in the categories if they happened to have one.

It seems the only way to do this is to create a message to the "members" then create another message to the non-members you want to add, then cut/copy paste into the first message.... seriously that's the solution?

The dumb thing is that they've worked out that with multiple categories you only want to send a member of both one email. Sending an email to "members A" and "members B" where there's an overlap will only add one email in - so they got that bit right; how did they get the rest so wrong?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Another trip to Merry Hill with the Bratii

I was heading up to Merry Hill anyway so I offered to take the Bratii off their parents hands for the trip; we could have gone to Worcester instead, but a) In this weather I think others would be having the same idea and b) they visit Worcester a lot with their parents so this is still slightly different for them.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Jeremy Hunt must resign

Damn straight he should resign take a look at the photo of him here. Rule 59 of the Highway Code states that he should be wearing a cycle helmet and light coloured or fluorescent clothing. Sure it's not a law, but what sort of example is he setting to the country?

Stay in bike lane

A delightful piece from an American who after being fined for straying from a bicycle lane adheres strictly to the law from that point onwards

In the UK this couldn't happen (or at least shouldn't). Rule 62 of the Highway Code states that cyclists should
Keep within the lane when practicable.
Not that there should be that many obstructions given Rule 240 in which it is an offence to stop or park on a cycle lane or track.

But how does rule 62 get enforced? If I see a cyclist heading towards Stourport along the dual-carriageway ignoring the perfectly clear and safe cycle lane could they be stopped by the police and 'told off'?

Another Gypsy site in Stourport?

Remember the totally fair and unbiased public review and discussion that ended with Wyre Forest's entire allocation of Gypsy, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople sites being placed on Sandy Lane Industrial Estate in Stourport?

Well hey know it's not all just Stourport planning permission has been applied for to as a change of use from agricultural land to a "Gypsy Caravan Site to create maximum 15 pitches, amenity blocks and service road." oh wait silly me it's Stourport again.

This time it's behind the new Millfields estate which is kind of interesting given the justification for nixing all the non-Stourport sites as being essentially the ghettoish/racist "they all want to stay together". I mean sure it's close-ish

Access is a joke though. From Timber Lane is a normally closed bridge and from the estate it's winding through the estate and through a short tunnel. Want to transport static caravans to the site? Not to mention that, as far as I know, the estate's roads still haven't been laid properly.

That said it's next to an exiting residential area so it makes more sense than expanding into an industrial zone, but I'm still doing some head scratching here because I can't see this site in the Baker Associates Report you know the report that we paid to have done to identify viable sites in Wyre Forest. So they didn't think it worth mentioning and yet hey look it's suitable enough to go to the trouble of applying for it.

It's been said before, but um can we have our money back please

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Why not visit Tenbury Wells

Why not visit Tenbury Wells

Financed by Worcestershire County Council and Malvern Hills District Council in association with Tenbury Town Council and Tenbury's Chamber of Trade

So where's the video for Stourport, Bewdley or Kidderminster? Where's our 'Apple' scheme?

Treating the NHS as a political tool

With money being allocated by the government the NHS will always be used in an attempt to curry favour with particular demographics or punish those areas that traditionally don't vote for the current government, but has it ever been so blatant with Health Secretary Andrew Landsley's declaration that

"age is the principal determinant of health need"
The logic goes that the older your area's population is the more money that is spent. Seems fine until the evidence is examined and it turns out that the poorer your area's population the more money is spent. So why this shift?

I'm sure it's got nothing to do with the fact that the areas with the oldest populations, who would gain additional funding under this principle, all happen to reside in Conservative voting areas.

Even better channelling money away from the poorer areas leaves the NHS unable to deal and provides the 'evidence' that privatised healthcare is the answer while maintaining the Conservative voting areas who are still receiving free care.

DVD/Blu-ray Movie Storage Drawer

I've got a lot of films; as it stands they're stacked on shelves. In order to save room and make use of the depth I have it would make sense to store them in drawers. Stack them up in their plastic boxes with the spines upwards in multiple drawer stacks. I already have a set of CD drawers and checking the depth I could fit around 20 into each of those if they were wide enough, which they're not. So I just want the DVD equivalent of what I've already got - how hard can that be?

Wow - there's nothing and I really mean nothing in that range at all. I can find bins and boxes by the shovel load, but drawers not a sign. Oh okay I can find some CD/DVD drawers but they're for 'naked' discs not plastic cased ones. I can also find semi-bespoke cabinets, but I don't want a one-piece set just a single drawer that I can stack or move with other such drawers. Hell I can even find the racks to go in normal drawers, what I can't find is just some damn simple drawers with them already in.

Am I seriously expected to believe that there's no-one making cheap simple plastic stackable drawers that'll hold movie cases? If anyone finds any drop me a line in the comments.

Votes for prisoners

In a sound-bite age the current kerfuffle over the granting of voting rights to prisoners hasn't been truly expanded within certain parts the media. Checking some outlets we should all be waving a British flag and sticking two fingers up at the European Court who are trying to do away with British law all in the name of 'human rights' as if the scum in prison deserve such.

In reality the ECHR has stated that the current blanket ban is unlawful; that someone serving a 50 year sentence for murder being treated in the same manner as a fine-dodger serving six months is wrong. They're not saying we have to give all prisoners voting rights we just have to set a threshold.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How basic SVG curves work

I've had to deal with SVG graphics for a website and have been using the excellent (and free) Inkscape to work with them. However the graphical interface can be a little inexact when it comes to drawing lines, particularly curves, with alignment and symmetry being hard to control at times.

Fortunately as SVG is an XML language all the points can be manually altered provided one knows what the points mean. I didn't and looking around to find out how they worked didn't provide me with any great insight.  After experimentation it really is quite logical provided one keeps track of which co-ordinate one is changing when dealing in relative terms.

I'm going to create a curve like so in Inkscape:

Silent Hill HD Collection - PS3 review

To most who care about these things Silent Hill 2 represents a near-perfection of the art of survival horror that has been slowly eroded away in both its sequels and others aspiring to be part of that genre. So with the advent of an HD remastering of both it and Silent Hill 3 how could I resist?

The PS3 version doesn't start well demanding a gruelling 4Gb installation. Seriously it'll stream of an XBox 360 disc, but you need the extra oomph for a PS3? It's a one-off, but still. The menu screen appears pretty quickly and gives a choice between the two games. Atmospherically spot-on, for those returning to the series these menu sounds will pull you straight back in. Pick a game and it has to install the trophies for it; again a one-off though. Then a minor wait and into the game proper.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Sendit discount code timing

Yay a £5 discount to be used at has popped up in my email; oh wait it's save £1 on £10 purchases; £3 on £30, and £5 on £50. Ah and it expires at midnight on the 20th May so it was for "This weekend only". That'd be great except it was sent at 08:37 on the 20th May.

I suppose it could have been worse it could have been sent at 23:59 or much worse 00:01 on the 21st

Memory reception mode - waiting for report output

Finally got the computer fax working after some tweaks to the registry and so could retire the Canon from its temporary duties. To save both ink and paper I'd set it not to output any reports or faxes except manually. Lo and behold when I come to switch the fax part off the LCD screen alternates between "Memory reception mode" and "Waiting for report output".

Shouldn't be any faxes and pressing "Menu" and "Memory reference" confirms that. I move to "Print reports/lists" which is the obvious location. I select "Activity report" and out it pops. Back to the main screen and it's still complaining. This time I print a "Memory List" report... still complaining.

I turn it off, wait and turn it back on. Still complaining.

I head into the settings and switch from the empty rear paper feed to the Auto select which should come from the full cassette- nothing prints. Back into the settings and change the Activity report to automatically print - nothing. Into the TX settings and confirm it as printing "on error online" - bam out spits a report.

So here's the deal - if you try to send a fax and it fails the printer will try to print an error report; however if it runs out of paper it will simply warn you that there's a report waiting. Fine except adding paper doesn't print it out. Pressing the cancel button doesn't cancel it and pressing either print button doesn't print it. There's no indication of what type of report is waiting and, in this case, no manual way of printing it out from the obvious report menu section.

Some excellent testing demonstrated there.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Prioritising the news

This morning the lead news story for RT was the G8 conference, the Eurozone being likely to dominate talks with the downgrading of 16 Spanish Banks by various amounts and of Greece to CCC rating.

The BBC's and ITV's lead news story - parents to get lessons in parenting.

Pfft finance- booooring!

Tailgating amusement

Other than slowing down which really annoys them I've found something else that affects tailgaters. Coming from town over the bridge and past the leisure centre I gently drift slightly to the left or right off-centre; though not enough to cause a problem to anyone. As I approach The Rough this means I'm already lined up to avoid the massive pothole that appeared after all the rains. I know it's there and so I'm taking action to avoid it rather than a sudden swerve.

Of course the tailgater can't see it and has no time to react and thus drops straight into it.

Amazing how they then back off to the distance they should have been at in the first place.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Businesses should work harder

Lack of growth in the UK not our fault says the government - businesses should work harder. William Hague states that

“I think they should be getting on with the task of creating more of those jobs and more of those exports, rather than complaining about it."
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond stated that
"Large businesses are sitting on a pretty large pile of cash,[...] What we have got to try and do is persuade businesses to take the plunge, to just use some of their cash pile, to take a judgment about where demand is going, where the economy is going in the future, and be prepared to back their judgment with investment in British jobs and capacity in the British economy."
Yep ignore the case that such large businesses are mostly banks who are still piling money into the stock markets so that there is a lack of direct investment into businesses so they can create "more jobs" and "exports".

Ignore the case that no one is going to take the plunge because the public don't have any money. I'm not going to build a house or business unit unless I know there's a buyer lined up. I can't start churning out some new products for export unless I can get an start-up loan to fund it which requires me to show that I'm already selling the products I can't yet make and do so cheaper than foreign competitors.

It's not a case of "working a bit harder" as Eric Pickles claims; the growth needs to be there first so businesses can move into it.

Fuel costs are up meaning it's more expensive to transport goods; the pound is still strong against most other currencies making it more expensive to export; the majority of goods are 20% more expensive than they need to be; and the government says 'Not our fault'.

The government needs to prime the pump. They need to start leaning on the banks we own to divest some of our money into the community; they need to alter the current tax rates on new buildings to encourage more building; they need to alter fuel tax and take a much better look at the transport infrastructure of this country. At the very least they need to start employing the unemployed directly - after all the government is already paying them - why not pay them to do some work?

But no our current (and yes our previous) government are all for reducing state interference and letting the market decide. Well shock news for them - the market has decided and this is the result; you know the one you're all complaining about.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Monday fun with the Bratii

On the Bank Holiday I took the Bratii down into town and the fair. Minor had been showing off a ticket in which he'd almost won a prize for shooting and was thus eager to show off his skills. Down the spiral staircase, under the bridge and past a couple of stalls with low-hanging goods

"Duck" I said as I ducked under the hangings.
"Duck" I repeated at the other end.
"Duck" I said pointing to a duck in the Engine basin... well Major laughed.

Properly and Correctly

Having read the excellent speech given by Michael Gove one small stumble caught my eye

When hundreds of primary schools allow children to leave not able to read, write or add up properly we know we are indulging in a form of national self-harm so profound as to be disabling.
Pedant time. While properly and correctly may be seen as synonymous they're not. "Properly" has tones of style. To do something properly means to do so as taught or as style dictates. To do something correctly means simply without mistake.

BBC's Great British Menu - Johnnie Mountain

I haven't been watching series 7 of BBC2's "Great British Menu" despite having seen most of the previous six series - why? Well the previous six were all shown at 18:30; an ideal time for me - get home; eat while watching Eggheads (I know how uncouth to eat and watch TV at the same time) then settle back for the Great British Menu.

This series they decided to show at 19:30.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

All in the name of security

I'll start with yet another underwear bomb - expect security check-in desks to feature strip searches soon.

The second is my credit card. I have a User Name (not my real name), I have a Passcode and I have a Password which I can use to check my balance. However using my card online I now have a separate verification procedure which requires yet another Password. If I want to check how that's been used or change the details rather than logging on to my card site and checking I have to log in to a different part of my card provider's site with yet another log in name.

So two log in names with two passwords (and on passcode) for the same damn card. Add in all my other login and passwords and its no surprise that a) people use the same codes for everything and b) they only get changed post compromise.

The doubly dumb thing is that if I had a bank account with this company I'd have a random number generator to use with my card and PIN. Why not use that for the credit cards too? Use my card details for the login, add in my DOB and then the random number. Even if its being sniffed the number will change every time; the only way it can be compromised is if someone steals my card; knows my PIN and DOB and has a number generator. The only thing I need to remember then is my PIN and DOB.

Tie this into an OpenID system with some company selling generators and cards that allow you to login in to various sites (blogger, facebook etc.) using the card number and number shown and again all that needs to be remembered is a PIN.

One PIN for the card; one PIN for logging in. If you can't remember two four digit numbers than you've more problems than security.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Wyre Forest Conservatives NOCed down

From a controlling majority of 24 out of 42 the Conservatives making up the District Council have been dropped to 20. Still the majority party, but it's no longer the case that a Conservative Press Release automatically equals council policy.

Three of the wards have returned to the same party split as 2004 (Habberley & Blakebrook, Mitton, and Wribbenhall) after a few shifts in power between times.

Looking at the patterns since 2004 of those wards with more than one seat and thus have a greater chance of change I note that Lickhill remains ICHC; Offmore & Comberton Liberal; and Sutton Park Conservative.

Turnout was the lowest since 2004 and yet still only two councillors managed an overall majority:

Brian Glass, Lickhill, ICHC, 52.89%;
Douglas Godwin, Rock Conservative, 58.09%.

Which means that from our current crop of 42 councillors only 6 were elected with greater than 50% of the turnout:

Christopher Nicholls, Cookley, Labour, 55.46%, 2011;
John Hart, Wolverley, Conservative, 60.63%, 2011;
Pauline Haywood, Blakedown & Chaddesley, 66.87%, 2010;
Stephen William, Blakedown & Chaddesley, Conservative, 78.58%, 2011.

Currently the lowest 'winners' are:

Adrian Sewell, Broadwaters, Labour, 28.74%, 2011;
Nathan Desmond, Oldington & Foley Park, Conservative, 30.53%, 2012;
Graham Ballinger, Greenhill, ICHC, 32.12%, 2012;
Paul Harrison, Greenhill, Conservative, 32.85%, 2011;
Nicky Gale, Oldington & Foley Park, Conservative, 33.13%, 2010;
Nigel Knowles, Franche, Labour, 34.24%, 2012.

The electorates for 2012 have yet to be released (and given the shoddy nature of disclosure may not be) however using the turnout percentages to gain a rough idea the lowest are:

Nathan Desmond, Oldington & Foley Park, Conservative, 6.9%, 2012;
Graham Ballinger, Greenhill, ICHC, 8.2%, 2012;
Adrian Sewell, Broadwaters, Labour, 10.1%, 2011;
Mary Rayner,  Broadwaters, ICHC, 10.39%, 2012;
Nigel Knowles, Franche, Labour, 10.7%, 2012.
Marcus Hart, Sutton Park, Conservative , 11.14%; 2012

Currently 29 of the 42 councillors are representing less than 25% of their electorate.Only one councillor, Pauline Haywood, achieved over 50% (51.12%) of the electorate.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

The UK High Court messes up over Pirate Bay

For those keeping an eye out regarding such sneakiness as SOPA and PIPA etc will undoubtedly spotted the High Court ruling that UK Internet Service Providers must block access to the website Pirate Bay.

Beyond of course not actually working for anyone who really really wants to access it; it also turns out it may be completely unenforceable.

Yup, turns out the European Court of Justice has already ruled on a similar subject in which

Accordingly, the Court’s reply is that EU law precludes an injunction made against an internet service provider requiring it to install a system for filtering all electronic communications passing via its services which applies indiscriminately to all its customers, as a preventive measure, exclusively at its expense, and for an unlimited period.
Which is, in essence, what the High Court is telling UK ISPs to do and yet would you look at that Virgin Media caves in without a fight.

Hopefully one of our other ISPs will show a little back-bone and point at the EU ruling before pulling the plug thus rescinding the, possibly, invalid demand.

Getting the local politics

With an election today I thought it worth reviewing exactly how I receive my political bits and bobs. The vast majority of stuff comes via RSS feeds which I view using Google Reader. How do the main parties add up in this regard locally? In alphabetical order:

Wyre Forest Conservatives - News feed, but titles itself as "News".
Wyre Forest Green Party - Blog feed.
Independent Community and Health Concern - No feeds at all so I only see their stuff if I visit the site.
Wyre Forest Labour - Blog feed; as well as ward blog feeds though the latter aren't well advertised on the main site.
Wyre Forest Liberal Democrats -  No feeds at all again I only see their stuff if I visit the site.
Wyre Forest Liberals - Blog feed, but titles itself as "Blog"

The winner in terms of getting their story in front of my eyes electronically - Labour well in the lead with not only all the blog feeds but twitter feeds too.

Local voting

Today is voting day for Wyre Forest and I'm glad I didn't try to do it this morning as I'd have been even later than I was (thank you Severn Trent Water); my vote is my vote and I'm not going to give out details; however in an unrelated article on the Shuttle WalkerNo5 made the comment regarding the removal of Cllr Marcus Hart from the Sutton Park posse ward. Now while I personally would applaud such a sentiment; the questionfor the electorate really is "What is best for Sutton Park?".

As it stands the Conservatives currently dominate and sadly that's unlikely to change any time soon (I'm prepared to be pleasantly surprised) as such if the people of Sutton Park want to have any real influence over events that means voting Conservative. On it's own not really a good enough reason; after all by that logic we should all vote Conservative. However in the case of Sutton Park Marcus is also a member of the cabinet which means they gain even more influence. It gets better as all three Sutton Park members are on the five strong cabinet; therefore even if they had a choice of a different Conservative member standing as well as Marcus it would still be in their own interests to vote for Marcus unless they knew their new Cllr would ascend to those ranks.

Sure one could take an altruistic approach and ask what is best for the district; but that only works if everyone thinks the same way lest you be left out in the cold.

As such, as much as it pains me to say so, it's in Sutton Park's own interests to maintain the status quo and their own disproportionate power within the District Council; and that means voting for Marcus [sigh]

Bridge Street traffic

Not content with messing up Mitton while testing the new lights; this morning traffic lights had been set up just next to the pelican crossing close to Harold Davies Drive on the bridge. According to the schedule of works this is Severn Trent Water renewing a stop-tap.

I mean sure, lights need to be put up. But they put them up and activated them around the 8:15 mark and by the time I reached them around the 8:50 mark no-one was doing any work.

So a set of lights put up during the morning rush hour on the only road into and out of Stourport in order to protect a non-existent work force.

Yet another mark of privatisation because, of course, the people putting up the lights work for a completely different company to those doing the work. So the first group are just told to turn up and place things ready for the second group; who may be having difficulty in reaching the area due to the queuing being caused by the actions of the first group.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Universal's Augmented Reality edition Blu-rays

An email notification popped up of yet another sale so I took a quick gander. One thing that caught my eye was a bunch of re-released Blu-rays advertised as being "Augmented Reality Versions". Reading the blurb is came out as - download this app then point your camera at the cover. Uh-huh and?

Turns out this app from Universal ties to a map. Visit certain locations and point your phone or tablet at a landmark and characters from that movie will appear interacting. So point it at Nelson's Column and see King Kong climbing it; point it at Big Ben's tower and the Back to the Future DeLorean will fly past; point it at Buckingham Palace and see a T-Rex stomping by. Just a neat bit of fun, however did you spot the subtle connection between those locations?

Yup all these locations are in London. I can't see King Kong clambering through the Bull Ring in Birmingham. At times I just get a little fed-up of the London-centric approach that seems to be a given within the UK.