Saturday, February 11, 2017

Snowdrift at Bleath Gill (1955)

This is a great little film from 1955 where railway workers rescue a goods train stuck in a snow drift at Bleath Gill.

It takes a lot of workers, a big snow plough, some burning rags and a lot of elbow grease. 

The railway was the Statinmore railway and the engine was 78018, the railway closed in 1962 but the engine survived into preservation via a trip to the infamous Woodham Brothers scrapyard.Read more at Bleath Gill: Whatever Happened to the Heroes?

What would happen today? The railway would be closed or the train left there until spring....

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Always be ready for the perfect moment

I was on a walk through the grounds at work, I turned a corner and stopped in my tracks. The perfect moment presented itself reminding me to always be ready, as you never know what might happen next or what might be round the corner.

Expect the unexpected and find joy in the perfect moment.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Technology disruption - How to kill the Iphone?

The stagnant pool of smart phone development

Let's face it the whole smart phone development in both software and hardware has reached a plateau where not much is happening. I bought my phone 2 years ago and it still runs the latest version of android and does everything I need it to. There is at least for me no need to upgrade.

If I were to upgrade I would be looking at a faster processor, more memory, more storage, better camera and not a lot else. Will it radically change my life beyond all recognition? Almost certainly not.

The smart phone industry is ripe for the next technology disruption. Which is where Apple usually comes in, but unfortunately all they did this time round was remove the headphone jack.

From Apple's point of view it is a solid business move, the phone becomes more desirable and if you want headphones you can buy yourself further into the Apple eco- sphere. First headphones, tomorrow the world.

So to be the next big bang you have to kill the iphone, you will need to blow it out the water, you need to be the Ipod equivalent sounding the death knell for the Walkman.

The killer blow

Apple were onto something when they binned the headphone jack but they didn't go far enough. So find yourself a large development team, a virtually unlimited budget, a nuclear bunker and plan to take over the world by working out how to get rid of one or all of these parts of a phone.

1. The battery

As space hoggers go the battery is a big item, generally taking up a 1/4 to 1/2 the space and even then the battery only lasts a day before screaming for sweet nectar of energy.

a) Reduce it to a tenth its current size - Ok you now have a battery one tenth the size but it only lasts for two hours.

Problem solving time -
- Find the biggest energy drain item and redesign it
- Kinetic charging - can you harvest energy from the human body?
- solar panel case - every watt counts
- energy from wifi signals?
- redesign the battery - new technology like micro fuel cells.

Are we back at one day, if not how do we get there? back to the drawing board.

b) Set a target - the battery (full size) has to last a week. Think of that a phone that went a week between charges.

This would be an Apollo 13 design meeting, every single component would have be looked at. Find the most energy efficient chip and screen. Strip the phone down to bare essentials, keep pushing that energy consumption down.  Find the most energy dense battery and push it to its limits. Redesign the software. Be relentless in your pursuit of the micro-watt and your goal.

2. Cables 

Get rid of them all - every last one. Wireless charging is already here, everything else can be done with blue tooth or Wifi. Think of the sleek phone without any external connectors, great for waterproofing too.

3.  The Screen

Get rid of it - what about a mini projector that is strapped onto your wrist which can project  onto any surface including your other screen. The phone the size of a watch, a simple shiny black circle with just one LED light.

Every command every needed can be voice or gesture controlled, anything you need to see can be projected. Re-imagine the phone and be the envy of all your friends.

4. Go dumb

Lets create a phone, it can phone people and text but that's it, all from a key ring on your keys. OK you cant do anything else but on the upside it costs £1. Leave the smart phone at home and get on with living your life.

So there are a few ideas and if you threw enough money at it maybe you could be the Iphone slayer.

My money, for the next disruption, is on the battery, make a world class battery and every phone manufacture on the plant would have to buy your battery. If they didn't they would go out of business in a matter of weeks. If you had a choice between a phone that went a week between charges and one that didn't which one would you buy?

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Who holds politicians to account? It is is time an independent regulator did.

Following the 2015 election campaign and the more recent EU referendum campaign it is clear that across the entire political spectrum we as ordinary members of the public can no longer trust, at face value, whatever a politician or prospective candidate says.

Time and again we have been lied to, misled and generally had slogans pushed down our throats as some kind of quasi fact.

One of the reasons for this is that there is no arbiter on what constitutes an acceptable statement or fact. The EU Referendum particularly has seen a number of media outlets or social organisations (some semi- political themselves) appoint themselves as fact checkers in order to cut through the constant political / media spin. However, what none of these organisations can do is promote best practice or impose sanctions if and where necessary. This is the kind of action that in most other areas of our lives would be taken by an industry regulator.

There is in fact no regulator of political campaigns in the UK. Only very limited regulations takes place by the electoral commission in terms of spending and Ofcom in terms of TV or radio advertising. 
The Advertising Standards Agency states on their website:
Complaints about political advertising should be made directly to the party responsible for that advertising.”
Is that fair? If a complaint is made about a police service you can make it to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. “Independent” is the key word, if we do not trust the police to investigate themselves why should we trust the politicians and political parties.

The Electoral Commission states that:
In general, political campaign material in the UK is not regulated, and it is a matter for voters to decide on the basis of such material whether they consider it accurate or not.”
We are being asked to vote on key decisions that will affect everyone's future yet the lack of regulation means a political statement can be made and it does not have to be true or remotely based in fact as long as you can shout the loudest over those that oppose you. How is that working for us so far? Well it has lead to the slanging matches we have seen in both campaigns and when we the voters feel we have been misled it creates further alienation and a detachment from the democratic process.

We have all begun to question what the modern democratic process is all about and how politicians can possibly be trusted.

I believe that a wide ranging public enquiry similar to the Leveson enquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press needs to be set up to answer the following questions:

1) Is there sufficient independent regulation in place to ensure that political campaigns are in general fought on facts and that individuals taking part do so in line with the 7 Nolan principles. Are sanctions required where standards fall below such requirements for either individuals or parties or other political organisations?

2) Should the Advertising Standards Agency (or similar body) be given the authority to regulate all political advertising in the same way they currently regulate product advertising / claims?

3) Should an independent regulator (or similar) have a public duty to promote best practice or quality standards for political campaign material or political campaigns?

4) Should the media (in all forms) be required to include some element of political balance in news articles? (Editorial content would be excluded from political bias)

5) Should the media have a duty to ensure that all arguments are presented to voters as opposed to just those approved by the editorial team?

This list is only indicative of some of the topics that could be considered. I fully accept that if someone is appointed to lead an inquiry then their first difficult job would be to consider the scope and range of the inquiry.

It is imperative that similar to the Leveson inquiry any inquiry should consider views from any individual or group that wishes to comment. An inquiry would be centred around what the public wants our democratic process to look like not what politicians want.

Now is the time to change how politics works, they work for us or at least they should. The public is entitled to make an informed decision with all the facts laid before us.

If you agree with everything I have said then you need to sign the position so we can raise the issues in parliament:

Thank you for joining the fight back to really take back control.


From the advertising standards agency:

Political advertising

All complaints of political bias in TV or radio advertising should be made to Ofcom
For reasons of freedom of speech, we do not have remit over non-broadcast ads where the purpose of the ad is to persuade voters in a local, national or international electoral referendum. Complaints about political advertising should be made directly to the party responsible for that advertising.

From the electoral commission:

In general, political campaign material in the UK is not regulated, and it is a matter for voters to decide on the basis of such material whether they consider it accurate or not. This includes the design of the material. There is one exception to this, which is making or publishing a false statement of fact in relation to a candidate’s personal character or conduct (not their political views or conduct), unless there are reasonable grounds to believe the statement is true. The Commission does not regulate this rule however, and any allegations should be made to the police.

Nolan principles:

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Big National Lottery Experiment

Maybe this has been done before but not by me.

The big experiment is that I am going to buy one lucky dip Euromillions ticket each week for a year. So that is 52 tickets costing a total of £104.

Will I win more than I spend? Will I win big? Is it a good investment strategy. Who knows?

As an experiment statistically it is a bit limited as I am only playing one line per week. The odds of winning any prize are 1 in 13 on the main draw.  So taking the lowest average win which is £2.70 I should earn £10.80 and spend £104 making a grand loss of  £93.20.

Of course I could win a lot less or I could win a lot more. It will interesting finding out.

I will post updates whenever the mood takes me or when I have a win to talk about.

So far after week 1 I have spent £2 and received £0 makes an early loss of £2.

Things can only get better!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Get 50% off Amazon movies ( They don't want you to know)

Amazon have recently started hiding the cheapest options for renting and streaming new movies. Take "The Martian" which is advertised as £3.45 to £9.99. When you click on the link to go to the buy page you can either rent HD at £4.45 or buy at £9.99.

Amazon are hoping that everyone will click on the £4.45 button but unless you are on a HD laptop or a large HD TV you can get away with SD. If you are on a slow connection or a tablet then SD is the better choice.

But how do you find the £3.45 option. Click on the "More purchase options" to reveal the hidden cheaper option.

Et Voila!

Want to save another pound. If you are a amazon prime user you can select "no rush delivery" when you order something. Each time you do this amazon will give you a £1 promotion code to use on amazon video. The discounts are applied automatically but to check your balance you can click on "Redeem a gift card or promotion code".

Use both tricks to get your 50% off.

If you want to maximise your vouchers you can even split up your orders into single item orders and get a £1 voucher for each item.

Why pay more?

Sunday, February 28, 2016

My thoughts on the upcoming EU referendum

For me there is a simple argument which can be easily understood by everyone. Larger groups of countries in this global economy are stronger than individual countries. Or alternatively to quote Aristotle "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts."

This is simply common sense and those in favour of brexit are simply deluding themselves that Britain will somehow be better off standing on the outside looking in. These are probably the same people that believe we still have a British Empire.

I would agree that Europe is not perfect but let us change it from within not leave in a hissy fit. We are stronger working together and we must work together for a better outcome for all. We must look outward beyond our island than inward and hope for the English channel to protect us.

Some 'pause for thought' comments from the first few days of campaigning:

"But in my view - for reasons of security, protection against crime and terrorism, trade with Europe, and access to markets around the world - it is in the national interest to remain a member of the European Union. " - Theresa May.

Although the brexit campaigners are arguing exactly the same about leaving.  Again if you use a modicum of common sense team work would triumph over going it alone. After all terrorist groups are generally global operating in a number of countries so surely it makes sense to work together.

Evening Standard - Anthony Hilton article

"I once asked Rupert Murdoch why he was so opposed to the European Union. “That’s easy,” he replied. “When I go into Downing Street they do what I say; when I go to Brussels they take no notice.”"

If that doesn't convince you to vote to stay in the EU then nothing will...