Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Much Better Spirit of Christmas!

Central Line Tube Santa giving away Quality Street sweetsComing home on the Central Line today around 2.00 pm and this nice bloke was giving away Quality Street sweets on the tube. No catch, no charge, just a gesture of good will at Christmas.

I had a sweet and took his photo. Sir I salute you! Merry Christmas!

English- as she is Bespoken!

This at least made me chuckle, also in Canary Wharf. (Hey I work there!). The sentence in capitals on the white banner. “Allegra will be signing books bespokely”! She looks quite cute but I bet she is bespoken for…

Spirit of Christmas – Canary Wharf

This photo- taken of a Christmas tree* in the Canary wharf says everything you need to know about the UK in the 21st century. Bah Humbug!

*Every Christmas tree and hanging decorations in Canary Wharf has one of these. Nice eh, the bastardisation of a bauble with a CCTV message!

Mispellings in TV Adverts

With a product name like Cillit Bang, (Silly Name!) I suppose it was to be expected but I saw an Ad today on Sky One (about 14:10 pm GMT+1) with a big bad spelling mistake. I wasn’t even paying much attention but as it flashed past something must have registered so I rewound and paused it.. et voila.

The top photo was the full screen advert (as seen on a Sky+ Box) and the bottom is an expanded version of the bottom right part of the screen. “Stainless Steal!”. Er chaps, you mean “Stainless Steel”?

Argos screw up a purchase reservation!

Yesterday my wife reserved three items on their website, to be collected within 48 hours from one of their stores in East London. She received an email confirming that the three items were reserved and would be held until the end of tomorrow.

Today we traipsed down to pick them up. 3.00 o’clock at Argos on a holiday Sunday- almost an entire outer circle of hell to itself. It took 5 minutes sat in the car park just to get a parking spot.

Anyway they screwed up. So much for three items reserved. They only had two. The other was ‘Out of Stock’ according to their staff. So here we have a no doubt expensive stock/booking system which gets it wrong.

Presumably at some point the branches stock figures were matched against reservations and the system should have realised that a reserved item would be out of stock? So why no notification, apology or anything?

I tried their phone line support. Getting through to a human was an achievement, however she might as well have not been there. Full marks to her for passing me to another number where the staff had long finished for the day. But a waste of my time (on an 0870 number- gee thanks Argos).

So I have used their online email system to send an email that should glow white hot with ire (polite, no bad language but firm). Watch this space… I wonder if anyone in Argos land ever checks the web for good/bad customer feedback?

Hard Disk Woes

Over the years I must have bought maybe 15 hard disks of increasing capacity. Most have been very reliable (I did drop one in 1999 which slowly deteriorated over a 6 month period with increasing numbers of bad sectors). But two I have bought recently have acquired bad sectors in a short period of time.

One is an external 160 GB 2.5″ disk. I bought this from Freecom whose disk enclosures are excellent- internally it was a Samsung disk. The first problem was my own stupidity. I left the cable plugged in to the enclosure USB socket (it was a micro USB) while it was moved and it snapped the socket off the interface motherboard. It was very tiny- 5 pins so couldn’t be soldered back on.

I found an Irish firm Nexxons selling cheap 2.5″ enclosures on Ebay and transplanted the disk from the elegant Freecom case (invalidating the Freecom warranty of course) into one of those. Freecom would have replaced the entire thing but I would have lost some recently unbacked up data. Their technical support are excellent but they told me they send the damaged stuff off to Germny so you have no chance of recovering data.

Three months later. I plug the disk in one day and Windows decides to ignore the disk! I always format them NTFS. Anyway, the NTFS structure had got corrupted and doing a chkdsk /f tidied things up. A useful tip– you know when you try to do check a disk for errors from Windows properties tools with the Automatically fix file system errors box ticked and it won’t do it cos the disk is busy (and offers to do it on your next boot). Drop to dos, (start, run enter cmd and press enter). Then type in chkdsk e: /f (if e: is your drive). This will close processes down if it can and do it immediately.

So I did that and d’oh 4K bad sectors. But it worked so i backed stuff up, bought a 500Gb brick (Lacie) from Dabs and copied stuff onto that. A week later, same problem with the 160GB. Now it was 8K bad sectors. In fact it was worse because I used a spare PC and left it trying to access my disk which took it 30 mins. I checked out Samsung- 36 month warranty on hard disks, and mine was oh 6 months old. All UK Samsung disk returns are done by who have a pretty good returns website. One week after sending the faulty disk off, a brand new one came back. Kudos to Rexo for excellent service (and likewise to Freecom).

But the saga isn’t over yet. Somehow I’d managed to buy the biometric 500GB drive not just an ordinary disk. It has a pretty good fingerprint reader, though it is very fussy about positioning fingers. It usually takes three or four attempts before it works but it is reliable enough to trust. I don’t need this level of security though.

So the other day I was copying some files onto the replacement 160GB from the 500GB when… bad block! Chkdsk didn’t find any bad sectors but the file was still uncopyable and the folder it was in could not be deleted. I got everything else off and did a full 4 hour format. 4K bad sectors. This on a disk that I’d bought just ten days earlier and had definitely not dropped…Dabs have a very good returns system so it’s now waiting to be collected. I suspect Dabs might have trouble testing the drive as they don’t have my fingers!

4Kb out of 500 GB is minuscule but hard disks are generally so reliable that it indicates some kind of fault which will only get worse. Once you get a dodgy sector, seriously think about replacing the disk or you risk losing it and everything on it.

20 MPH Zone Madness – Congestion Charge Tactics?

Waltham Forest Council have been bribed by Transport For London to induce vehicular atherosclerosis in the transport system in East London and they are now targetting my area. My suspicions are that by sealing off side streets, adding 20 MPH zones and putting speedbumps everywhere they force traffic onto the main roads and congest them. All this is done in the name of stopping speeding and making the place safer. It’s a regular speedtrack.

On my road we get the odd loony who does 60 or 70 at 2.00 am in the morning – this where the road is barely wide enough for two cars to pass without exchanging fluids. One bloke lost control and clipped 4 cars before crunching to a halt. That was about 4 years ago. The main speeding that happens round here is on the main road at 5.00 am in the morning. I see cars doing 50-60 MPH. It won’t stop that happening.

Then of course TFL will claim (this is my belief- no proof) that because traffic is slow on the main road the area (East London) needs a Congestion Charge – you can see this was decided a few years ago.

So what good do speedbumps do? None except force cars to slow down. They are however very bad for the environment with increased noise and air pollution and vibration shock. See for yourself. Barnet reduced accidents in the year after it removed their speedbumps.

The fact is that speedbumps appear to cost lives- up to 500 in London. I quote this from Paul Smith, a retired engineer who campaigns to improve road safety on his website SafeSpeed. It’s a Word Doc.

“In London in 1981, 274 pedestrians died in road accidents. By 2002 the annual toll had dropped to 107. This covers the main period of hump introduction in the London area. Even if we assume that the entire benefit of 167 lives was due to road humps (and clearly there are other factors) the 500 lives lost annually in ambulances claimed by the London Ambulance Service is three times greater. “

So speedbumps do not save lives- they cost them by slowing down emergency services by approximately 10 seconds per bump. Those seconds make all the difference.

So from now on, as far as I am concerned TFL are to be called “Congest for London”.

After several months with Pivotlog as my blogging software, I defected to WordPress. My hands were a bit tied because the people who provide the shared server were complaining that it was running excessively high CPU figures- around 52%. So three hours with WordPress then I found the import from Pivotlog addin and it was a very smooth transition.

Pivotlog was possibly always going to be a potential time bomb because it used flat files whereas WordPress uses MySQL.