Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Google Earth

In my last blog I quite rightly ranted about the distinctly unuser friendly nature of some computer programs. They freeze up your computer and give no indication of whether they are working or not. Then at the end you find out the bloody thing wasn’t working at all.

So I’m really delighted to sing the praise of a program. I found it purely by chance, often the best way. Serendipity can bring joy into your life. I was looking for a free download program to burn DVDs, when I came across reference to Google Earth.

Firstly Google Earth needs broadband connection - if you don’t have broadband, do not read further, because you will only feel disappointed and frustrated at not being able to access the program.

What does it do? Using satellite photographs the program constructs a global image of the Earth. The first image you see is the Earth rotating in space. Enter your home address into the search box, click and watch the Earth rotate then zoom in on your house.

The final image does depend on your location. London is so detailed that you can zoom in to see people walking on bridges across the Thames. While the image of East Wales is on par with that of London, West Wales is fuzzy - but nevertheless even relatively small geographical features can be identified.

Not only can you zoom in but you can also tilt the image to replicate the view of flying over the surface. 3D models have been constructed of some locations. Click on the 3D feature, then select to tour Manhattan Island- fly up Broadway dodge between the skyscrapers. Visit India then zoom off to New Zealand.

Added features which makes Google Earth a brilliant educational tool, are photos of locations posted by users. Links to Wikipedia to provide background information. A community has grown up around the program, with enthusiasts building 3D models of buildings and geographical features.

If you prefer travelling beyond the confines of the Earth, you can download Celestia which will enable you to tour the Universe.

Sunday, 28 January 2007

Dysfunctional Computer Programs

I have a USB Digital Video box that I plug into my laptop to view TV programmes.

The trouble is it comes with a totally incomprehensible manual. I think it was written in Chinese then translated into Korean before being translated into an obscure language which didn’t have words for relevant instructions then finally translated into English by a non-English speaking translator. In other words its crap.

So it was quite an achievement to get the dam thing to work. It does have a feature to record programmes, and allegedly a program to convert the recording into a format which will allow it to be recorded on DVD. I say allegedly because it doesn’t #*!^ work.

Some months ago I recorded a TV program I would like to keep, but as it is taking up a hefty chunk of hard drive I would like to record it on a DVD. I sought the help of Technical Experts on a message board, who advised me to download a burner program. Downloaded the program, again it came with, being generous, terse instructions. But the thing that really pisses me off with the program was it had no indication if it was working or not. I clicked on the start button, and the only thing that gave any indication that anything was happening was a flickering blue light on the laptop. Not only did the bloody program not give any indication of whether it was doing anything, but it froze up the computer so that it prevented it from doing anything but blink. Two hours later it kindly informed me it was transcoding. Two hours later it said it was Building a DVD image, what ever that might be. Two hours later, (yes I sat there for over six bloody hours), the screen showed the desktop background and nothing else. No short cut icons, zilch. What the #*!^ was happening. Ten minutes later the desktop opened, and would you believe it the DVD burning program wasn’t running. I wasted over six hours of my life on a dysfunctional #*!^ computer program.

If anybody reads this, and you know how to record a MPEG2 file onto DVD then please let me know.

Friday, 26 January 2007

Becoming brain dead

A five month old baby comes to stay, and your whole life is changed.

Five month old children have a very limited repertoire they: eat, shit, puke, cry and laugh. All very simple, but that laugh is so powerful. More affective than any argument a great orator can produce. And the smile can melt hearts.

I now appreciate why parents and grandparents become brain dead in the presence of their offspring. A child runs around being disruptive, and the mother has a look of joy on her face:

“Look at my wonderful child, isn’t he so clever and funny, never been a child like him before, absolutely perfect”, “Why are people so intolerant? My child is doing no harm, he’s just shouting, screaming and running around, that’s what children do.”

Taking my granddaughter for a walk in her pram, I caught my self thinking,

“Look at her, isn’t she perfect? Look at her smiling at you".

My whole ethos as a grumpy old fart is challenged, I find myself mutating into a doting grandparent. There is only one known antidote; I have to get myself to a supermarket to scowl at young mothers and their pesky kids.

But lets be fair, unlike al those brats, my granddaughter is so perfect, even when she puked over the carpet it was a joy to watch.

Thursday, 18 January 2007


Yesterday was the first time in my life that I was truly struck dumb.

At about 11.30 am the door bell rang, I opened the door to see a baby in her pram abandoned in front of the flat door. My mind went into a whirl trying to identify possible reasons for a baby to be left in front of the door, the only logical conclusion was it had been left outside the wrong flat, and the mother had gone to get something from a car.

But . . . . but there was something very familiar about the baby. Then I heard some giggling from around the corner by the lifts. My daughter and son-in-law poped their heads around the corner.

You might ask why I didn’t recognise my own granddaughter. My excuse/reason:

We had only seen her soon after she was born and that was four months ago when she was only one month old. Believe me there is a big difference between a one month and a five month baby. Also we had spoken to them the day before and they had said they would phone on Friday on my wife’s birthday. I should add that they do not live in the UK, so we only get to see each other once or twice a year.

So to see the three of them before me, rally struck me speechless.

Subsequently we found out, my wife and I were the only members of the family who didn’t know about the visit. The flights had been booked five weeks ago, and all the family sworn, on the penalty of retribution, to secrecy.

What a brilliant surprise and no better birthday present than a visit of your first grandchild.

Tuesday, 16 January 2007


General Practitioners (GPs) now earn on average £120,000 per year. I gather the level of pay rise they received was all a mistake. They were meant to get 2% but got double. Because they were only going to get a 2% pay rise, as compensation the Government agreed to cut their working hours. As it turned out they doubled their salary and halved the hours they work.

In the good old days GPs’ really earned their salary. Morning and evening surgery, house visits during the day and call outs during the night. As a child I dreaded visiting the Doctors surgery. In those days they didn’t have an appointment system, you had to wait your turn. Quite a complicated process in a practice with seven doctors. First you had to identify who was waiting to see the same doctor, and your position in the queue.

“Are you waiting to see Doctor Williams?”, “No”,

“Are you waiting to see Doctor Williams?”, “Yes”.

“Good, then I’m before you and after that man sitting over there”.

Going to the surgery was like being sucked into a Black-hole, you really never knew when or if you would get out again.

But as I said in those days Doctors really worked hard. A Doctor was even more than being ‘Your Doctor’ he, and it was predominantly he, was ‘the Family Doctor’. He would have been there at your birth, when you had measels, mumps and chickenpox. If you had been taken ill at 2.00am he would be there uncomplainingly to comfort you.

How things have changed. Now you are never sure which doctor you will see. Yes you can make an appointment to see a specific doctor, but you will have to wait up to a week or more. Go to the surgery,

“I’d like to make an appointment to see Dr Blake”, “He’s away for four weeks holiday”.

Phone up to speak to him, “sorry he doesn’t work on Thursdays”. If you do manage to see him, the treatment you get, well I call it treatment, is laughable.

“Well I see you had no problem climbing up the stairs to see me”.

“Can’t be anything serious”.

“If things don’t improve in three weeks, make an appointment to see me again”

“If you get pain, take an Asprin”.

“Goodmorning, send the next patient in”.

What happens to those patients who cannot climb the stairs to the doctors consulting room? Simple, the receptionist gives them a list of Funeral Directors.

Two o’clock in the morning, gasping for breath, at deaths door, you phone the doctor. An answering machine gives you a telephone number of an agency who provides out of hours cover. You phone, give your symptoms. Your given a choice:

  • Take an Asprin, and hope you survive until the morning, to go to the surgery.
  • Call an ambulance to take you to an A&E Department, there you wait 4 hours to see a doctor, who tells you to take an Asprin, and go and see your own doctor.

You could insist that the doctor makes a house call. Three hours later he turns up, gives you an Asprin and tells you to go and see your own doctor in the morning.

I suppose I should be grateful I can still climb the stairs to the consulting room.

Monday, 15 January 2007

Erroneous Population Results

At the weekend the Director of NASA’s World Population Survey Programme (WPSP), had to admit all results published since 2005 were incorrect. This was due to a computer program glitch. The survey is performed by taking satellite images of every square metre of the Earths land surface. A count of the number of people seen at a location is used to predict the number of unseen people, i.e. those not directly visible to the satellite. Unfortunately no allowance had been made in the program for anomalies.

Regrettably the survey for London was done during the visit of the Chinese State Circus; an image of a Chinese acrobat with ten colleagues standing on his shoulder distorted the population density figures (PDFs) for central London. These were further distorted by incorporating into the final statistics PDFs based on the survey of Trafalgar Square taken the day after England had won the Ashes. The Director did point out validation of the survey results was performed using 2003 results, which coincidentally coincided with the return of the English Rugby team after winning the Rugby World Cup.

The Director announced the population of London is 12.56% less than previously stated, and 8.07% less for the whole of the UK.

Commenting on NASA’s statement, a Home Office spokesperson said:

“These figures confirm our own survey results, that the influx of Polish immigrants was grossly overestimated. In fact to date Home Office records show only 23 Polish nationals have entered the country since 2005. Though there are boxes with data awaiting validation”

Dr John Read stated he had asked Home Office officials what he should know, and was told nothing.

New Labour’s Chairman, Hazel Blear, stated at a protest against closing her local hospital.

“I am very pleased that such a renowned organisation as NASA has provided unequivocally evidence of this Government’s achievements since 1997. The National Health Service is safe in this Governments hands. Further let it be a warning for those who think David Cameron is capable of making hard decisions”

A spokesperson for Friends of the Earth said:

“The decrease in the population of London confirms the existence of global warming. Fair skinned residents of London have had to move north to prevent sun burns.”

Liberty’s Director Shami Chakrabarti interviewed on BBC demanded a Public Enquiry into the missing persons. She stated this was yet further proof of the USA Extraordinary-Rendition Program.

Asked what steps would be taken to prevent a similar errors, NASA’s WPSP Director stated, surveys would not be performed on the day the English Cricket Team returned from Australia, or from the ICC Cricket World Cup, or on the day the England Rugby Team returns from the Rugby World Cup, as the results would underestimate Central London’s population.

Sunday, 14 January 2007

Dangerous Fingers

When I am looking at a web page and it asks, “Do you want to send a message?” I click on yes, and somehow a little box pops-up for me to type a message. It shows the message will be sent from my internet provider email account. But I never use that account, it attracts SPAM like cow shit attracts flies. I want to use my Googlemail account.

This morning I was looking at resetting the default setting, or whatever the correct expression is. Don’t know what I did, but next thing I know a box pops up with that bar which shows the progress of installing something. There to my horror was: Internet Explorer being uninstalled, Internet Explorer uninstalled, Outlook Express being uninstalled followed by Outlook Express uninstalled. Panic (an understatement of what I was feeling at that moment).

Clicked on Start then tried to open Set Program Access and Defaults nothing. Now I really was pannicing. It looked as if I had completely wiped from my computer Outlook Express (which wasn’t such a tragic event as I do not use it), and Internet Explorer (which I do use). Not the way to start a day. No good swearing at the computer, never does any good, invariably results in the computer sulking and going on strike for the rest of the day. The normal thing to do is switch the computer off and on again, but in this case it could result in the computer when shutting down saving the new unwanted settings.

Kept my head, went onto Jezza’s Exiles Online Message Board, Technical/Computer & Web Links. Left a message requesting help. Within minutes Ian Mac had posted the solution, and I recovered the programs. What a relief. But I never learn. I keep clicking on things I shouldn’t just to see what happens. In my case disaster. But in the case of pubescent geegs they get deep into the heart of some highly restricted and allegedly highly secure system.

Is it an age thing? Are grumpy and farting old fogies incapable of understanding the intricacies of computers?

Saturday, 13 January 2007

East of Suez

Yesterday Tony Blair gave a speech on the role of the UK’s Armed Forces in the 21st century.
Our Nation’s Future - Defence


I quote one paragraph:

The frontiers of our security no longer stop at the Channel. What happens in the Middle East affects us. What happens in Pakistan; or Indonesia; or in the attenuated struggles for territory and supremacy in Africa for example, in Sudan or Somalia. The new frontiers for our security are global. Our Armed Forces will be deployed in the lands of other nations far from home, with no immediate threat to our territory, in environments and in ways unfamiliar to them.

Great Britain ceased being a true World Power 1941 when it required USA assistance to defeat Germany.

It emerged from World War 2 still thinking and trying to act as a World Power.

It took another ten years, and the failed attempt in 1956 to regain control of the Suez Canal and to topple Nasser, for the World to know Great Britain was no longer a World Power..

It took a further ten years, and the Labour Government of 1966 to drop the pretence of being a World Power. And the policy was put in place to by 1971 withdraw troops from East of Suez.

Subsequent Governments still tried to act, if not as a World Power, but certainly as a Country with influence on the World Stage. This pretence was supported by two props: the permanent seat and veto at the UN Security Council, and being a nuclear power.

For the next twenty years, irrespective of the public posturing, Governments knew their limitations and acted accordingly. There was a series of Defence Reviews, each resulting in the downsizing of the Armed Forces.

In 1997 New Labour won the General election, within a year Tony Blair had taken the Country into the first of five Wars.

At the start of 2007 Great Britain has troops on operational deployment in: Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia & Kosovo, Northern Ireland together with various UN missions. Blair is determined Britain should remain a nuclear power. But his latest speech is an attempt to roll back the years, and once again put on “The Emperors Cloths” of a World Power. We will once again try to influence events East of Suez. And to achieve this with a poorly paid, inadequately equipped, abysmally housed armed forces.

Blair, as one last desperate attempt to salvage his image and leave some heritage, has called for a great debate on Britain’s foreign policy. The big question is not Britain’s foreign policy but Blair’s powers of judgement?

Friday, 12 January 2007

Fifteen Seconds of Sporting Fame

One of the Message Boards I post on has the thread “Sporting Claims To Fame”. Yesterday I posted the following:

Do you remember as kids, you would selected two teams to play cricket, there were always two kids left at the end: one with a physical disability, the other who couldn’t bat, bowl, run, catch or even stop a ball. The later was me. I suffered from the Sporting equivalent of dyslexia.

Well by pure chance I arranged a game of cricket with another gang of boys. There was a big debate, whether I should be included in the team. Some of the boys said yes because I had arranged the game, the others said no way. In the end I was allowed to play, not because I had arranged the game, but because the only alternative was a girl!

Our gang batted first; as usual I was bowled out first ball.

The captain knew I couldn’t catch or field, so it was pointless telling me where to field. Rather I was allowed to wander around day dreaming.

It came to the last two batsmen in with one run to get. The ball was hit hard to square leg. I still can hear the silence and incredulity as the fielders looked expecting to see the ball fly over the boundary. But there was no sign of the ball. All eyes passed back over the projected trajectory of the ball, until they saw me standing there with the ball stuck in my outstretched hand. As if in slow motion their faces changed from disappointment to elation as they realised I had caught the ball. The silence was broken by my “how’s that?“.

You would think that that would have been the start of a great cricketing career. But it wasn’t. Everybody knew it was a fluke, and I was never picked again. So I retired at the peak of my, albeit short, cricketing career.

Thursday, 11 January 2007

The Price of Leisure

The rain is lashing against the window - so I can’t go for a walk.

Nothing on TV.

Don’t feel like surfing the Net.

Might as well go back to bed.

How did people cope before the Net, TV or even radio? In reality they didn’t have much leisure time. It was more a case of surviving. Work filled most of the day. In the evenings, the men might go to a pub. Social events associated with religious institutions played a big part in women’s lives. Children were adept at entertaining themselves. There was no need to worry about how to pass their time in retirement - most didn’t live long enough to retire, (my Grandfather, my Father and two of his three brothers died before they were 65 yeas old).

How things have changed. Today, people work because of leisure. They work to put money into their pension fund. Then there’s the two foreign holidays taken each year, satellite TV, buying DVD’s, Broadband rental, attending football matches, the cinema, theatre, taking the kids out for a meal, mobile phones for themselves and the kids, the must have gadget, the must have designer cloths - all these have to be paid for. So people work so that they can be entertained in there limited periods of leisure.

One of the prices we pay is the loss of community. People are so busy, providing for their family, that they no longer have time to interact with their neighbours.

I might have related this story before -my cousin phoned, he was quite upset, he had failed to attend a neighbours funeral. He hadn’t heard that she had died. Yet less than thirty years ago, the whole street would have known within less than an hour of her death. Neighbours would have been out on the street talking, going to the house of the deceased offering help. The whole ritual surrounding death has changed. Now there are professional bearers to carry the coffin; years ago you would make your last journey to the grave on the shoulders of neighbours and friends.

I’m getting morbid, grumpy and farting. I’m going to bed.

Wednesday, 10 January 2007

Entertaining bus journey

Yesterday morning, on the way back from the supermarket, at a bus-stop and a very attractive well dressed young black woman got on. She showed her bus pass to the driver and explained that it had run out and she was on the way to renew it. Behind her, in the queue trying to get on the bus, were two rotund women, I guess they were about 70 years old. It was obvious as soon as they spoke they were of Jamaican origin.

They were soon in full flow:

“Eh Girl, see she, dam fool think she get on bus with no pass.”

“Eh, you hear she, she say she pass run out on Sunday, she dam stupid ,today Tuesday.”

“Eh, come driver me and my friend wants go home, man this shopping heavy”.

“Dam stupid girl”.

Under the barrage, the young woman made a sheepish retreat off the bus.

For the next five minutes I heard outbursts from the back of the bus.

“Eh, Girl you see her coat, these young girls spend all money on cloths, and think driver give them free ride, dam stupid”.

They only stopped talking about her when the bus got caught in a traffic jam.

“Eh Girl, me wants to get home, where all dis traffic come from?”

“Me not know”.

After nearly half an hour of stop start progress, the cause of the traffic jam came into view. Four yards before traffic lights at a very busy road junction a car stood three feet out from the pavement. So instead of two traffic lanes at the lights there was only one.

“Eh Girl, dam stupid place to park car”.

“No Girl, car must have broke down.”

Next thing an old man came doddering and farting along the pavement. He tried to open the door of the car but it was locked. Next thing he started knocking the window, to wake his wife to open the door. The grumpy old fart had parked in the middle of the road while he had gone to the Post Office. My efforts as a Grumpy Old Fart to annoy people in supermarkets shrinks into insignificance compared to his actions.

Isn’t it nice to think, that even though you are in your twilight years, you can still bring traffic in a large city to a crawl.

Tuesday, 9 January 2007

US Somali air strikes 'kill many'

The US has carried out at least two air strikes in southern Somalia against Islamist fighters, who the US believes include members of an al-Qaeda cell.


It appears if the US thinks it has justifiable reasons to bomb a country then it is justified.

Applying that logic, if I have a complaint against my neighbour playing their music too loud, I’m justified to enter their house and smash their Hi-fi.

Let us assume the top three al-Qaeda operatives in East Africa were staying in the village, does that justify the attack? Bombing a village was bound to result in killing innocent women and children, (obscenely referred to as “collateral damage” by the Americans). What is the acceptable level of collateral damage: one, two, ten children per Qaeda operative? Does the answer depend on whether they are American, European or African children?

Knowing the al-Qaeda operatives were in the village, why didn’t the Americas send in Special Forces to attack them? This would have minimised the loss of innocent lives. The answer is very simple - Black Hawk Down. The disastrous attack on Mogadishu in October 1993 and the subsequent humiliation for US troops has left a deep scar on the US psyche. No US General is going to sanction a similar mission. Attacks on Somali will be carried out at 30,000ft irrespective of the collateral damage.

Innocent men, women and children are being killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and other countries, all in the name of the war against terrorism. Politicians say, “We are carrying the war to them”. In reality it means it’s acceptable to kill 1000 foreigners if it saves 1 life in the streets of London or New York.

What am I worth?

What level of collateral damage is justifiable, to ensure I am safe to walk the streets of London?

Monday, 8 January 2007

Water - what water?

Too busy yesterday to make an entry.

My life has been taken over by ##### water, or rather the lack of it.

Since Friday night the block of flat’s I live in has had a problem with the water supply. At 8.30 yesterday morning I checked the storage tank on the roof, and it was full. Now this is a massive tank that can meet all the needs of 100 flats for several days. Relief that we will have water.

In the afternoon the Manager of the flats phoned me to say, an engineer from the water company had come to check the mains water supply pressure, and he wanted me to accompany him to talk to the engineer. This was just as I was settling down to watch the Man United v Aston Villa game on TV. The mains pressure was low. I sent the Manager to check the tank. Empty. That‘s #### impossible. Why? It turns out, during the night there is enough mains pressure to fill the tank, then during the day the mains pressure drops, and the water in the tank drains back into the mains. #*#¤#*# . I was then accosted by a member of the committee who manages the Flats, who wanted me to explain to him the what’s and the why’s. Three hours later I manage to get back to my flat.

The really annoying thing is, four months ago another Flat resident (who is by profession a Consultant Engineer) and myself had warned the Managing Committee that action was urgently required to remedy problems existing in the water supply system, but we were brushed aside as trouble makers. Now they are like a beached whale flapping about helpless and desperately needing assistance.

Wish I lived in a Tepee pitched in a field in the Towy Valley in West Wales. No problem with water supplies - it’s always raining so you only have to leave a bucket outside. Also you don’t have to pay for water you don’t get. No problems with central heating leaking, or the pump breaking down - no heating, well that’s not quite right, throw a log on the fire, “smoky in here“. No commuting every day to work - just go once a month to Carmarthen to pick-up your National Security Giro payment. It’s a great life - if only it stopped raining.

Saturday, 6 January 2007

Raining outside but the taps are dry

Went to brush my teeth before going to bed last night, no cold water in the bathroom, and the hot water was cold. Phoned the Manager of the Block of Flats where we live. He had been inundated with complaints, but had no explanation.

Got up at 5.30 am to pay a visit to the bathroom, good news, hot and cold water supplies had been re-established.

Phoned up a number of fellow flat residents, but nobody seemed to know why we had lost the water supply, and how it had been re-established. But everybody was glad the problem had passed.

Noon, no cold water in the bathroom and the hot water was cold. What the #### was happening. Went with the Manager to take a look at the roof tanks - bone dry!!

After a few phone calls the full picture was revealed. The Water Company had reduced the supply pressure, resulting in insufficient pressure for the water supply to reach the roof tanks. Why has the pressure supply been reduced? The Water Company has been fined for losing water from leaks in its supply network. There are too many leaks to repair, so to reduce the amount of water lost, it has reduced the supply pressure. Why are there so many leaks? Simply, since privatisation of the water supply companies, companies have used profits to pay dividends to their shareholders rather than maintain and replace the supply network. So my fellow residents have to suffer.

If that wasn’t bad enough; the flats had been designed to cope with reduced water supply pressure. When the supply pressure drops too low to supply the roof tanks, pumps are supposed to start up to pump water to the tanks. Up to now, there has been no requirement for the pumps to operate. Nevertheless a maintenance company has been paid to maintain the pumps and ensure they are serviceable. Now that they are required, we discover the company hasn’t done any work on them, as a result they are seized solid and unserviceable. So until new pumps are installed we will be without hot water, and cold water in the bathroom.

Meantime it’s raining, so I can’t go for a walk.

Friday, 5 January 2007

Toys for Big Boys

I hear the odd mutter coming from my wife’s direction, to the effect I’m spending too much time on the computer. But if you have a new toy, you must play with it. Since the Broadband was connected yesterday, I’ve had great fun looking up web pages that previously took, what it seemed, an age to download. Photos would emerge jerkily, line by line. Now they pop onto the screen instantly - great.

Thought I would be in trouble and my wife would pull the plug on the computer, then my son-in-law came to my rescue. Previously playing with my new toy, I had created a web page for my granddaughter and had emailed the link to her parents. After seeing the page, they decided to call us on Windows Messenger. As soon as my wife saw my granddaughter she became an instant fan of Broadband - so its big toys for girls and boys. Glad something had a happy ending.

A group that’s not feeling so happy is the English Cricket team which was not so much beaten but trounced by Australia 5 tests to 0. The first Whitewash since 1920 -21. Two years ago everybody wanted to be seen with the England team when it won back the Ashes. I wonder whether the Prime Minister will invite the players to 10 Downing Street when they return home? I think not. He’s desparately looking for one success before he resigns as Prime Minister. You never know next year we might see Tony on Celebrity Big Brother.

Thursday, 4 January 2007

Broadband Activated

At 3.00 pm with still no sign of an email from Tesco to notify me the Broadband connection had been activated, I thought it was a case of:

Here I sit broken hearted

Paid my money

but the Broadband never started.

Then the email appeared in my inbox. Good news.
But I couldn’t open it. Bad news

Quick phone call to Tesco and was informed my Dial-up service had been automatically disconnected.

Fortunately it wasn’t a case of “the instructions for opening the tin is inside the tin“.

The email didn’t contain information necessary to activating the connection.

Glad to say it all went very smoothly.

Afterwards I did phone up the Technical Support Centre to get an explanation of an icon that had appeared by the clock.

“Hu sorry I don’t know”

So it was a good job I hadn’t had to seek his assistance to install the Broadband connection.

See that > > > > > > > > > fast or what!

But what a difference between Broadband and Dial-up. I had previously attempted to upload a very short video to You Tube, but it timed out after two hours. With Broadband it was completed in minutes.

The trouble is my wife’s prediction is going to come true. She said

“If you get Broadband, you’ll never come off that machine”.

I’ll have to apply some self discipline to prove her wrong. Starting now.

Wednesday, 3 January 2007

2007 Cancelled

On New Years Eve, there was a series of small explosions in Bangkok. The BBC reporting on events said “The Governor of Bangkok has cancelled the New Year“. Did that mean there would be no 2007? Would they have to invent additional months for 2006 to take them through to 2008?

Just another example of sloppy BBC reporting. In fact the Governor had cancelled the New Years Celebration.

Though if he had cancelled the New Year it wouldn’t have had an impact on Thailand, which will be celebrating New Year 2551 Buddhist Era on 13th April.

What date is New Year? Well you pay your money and you take your choice.

1st January in countries following the Gregorian calendar.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, New Year will be celebrated on 14th January.

The Chinese New Year falls on the new moon of the first lunar month, which can occur between 21st January to 21st February.

The Bengali New Year will start 14th April.

The Coptic Orthodox church celebrates New Year on 11th September.

So if you fail to keep your New Year’s resolution, there are plenty of opportunities to make new ones.

As far as I know 4th January isn’t a New Year, but it is the day my Broadband connection is due to be activated. Keeping my fingers and everything else crossed. If there is no entry tomorrow you will know things have gone wrong.

Tuesday, 2 January 2007

Tesco Internet Security

I have been dithering for months trying to decide whether to switch from dial-up to Broadband. Every time I got to the point of committing to a contract, I’d read another negative report on the provider I had chosen. There are horror stories of people’s computers being contaminated with spy ware or technical support centres providing incorrect information. Providers failing to meet promised dates for connections. Not replacing defective modems, etc, etc. In reality people are more likely to spend time posting negative reports on the Internet, to relieve their frustration over difficulties incurred; than satisfied customers spending time reporting everything was trouble free.

I’ve had trouble free service using Tesco dial-up, so I finally decided to switch to Tesco Broadband. Within two days of placing the order I was informed the activation date would be 4th January, (the timing is controlled by BT not Tesco). I was due to receive the start-up pack containing the modem and instructions the day before activation, but in fact its come already. So I’m all set up and waiting for the 4th. I’ve been reading and re-reading the instructions. It says before I install the Broadband program, I have to switch off the installed Tesco Security program. Looked and looked but couldn’t see an obvious way of switching the Tesco Internet Security off. Emailed Tesco’s Broadband technical support team and got back ambiguous instructions. Emailed seeking clarification and received contradictory instructions.

Thought the only thing to do was to confront Tesco face to face, to get clear and precise instructions on how to switch off Tesco Internet Security. Went to the local Tesco Supermarket, and asked the girl at the checkout how to switch it off. She looked at me as if I was mad. She said she didn’t know, and called the Security Guard. Explained to him all I wanted to know was how to take a security tag off a computer. I was so relieved I finally met someone who knew what he was talking about. He explained the security tags are placed on the computers to stop them from being stolen. They can only be removed at the checkout, using a special gadget, (I’ve seen it been used to remove the plastic security tags off whisky bottles). So all I have to do is take my computer to the supermarket, and they’ll remove the Tesco Internet Security. I wonder if I’ll have to take the monitor, speakers, printer, webcam and scanner. I should have asked him. I told him he was wasting his time being a security guard, he should be working in the Technical Support Centre.

Can’t expect the wife to carry everything by herself, I’ll phone for a taxi.

Monday, 1 January 2007

Happy New Year

2007 has the potential of being a significant year in history.

It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see, during the year the UK will get a new Prime Minister. Tony Blair will probably resign between May and July. And unless a totally unforeseen event occurs Gordon Brown will take over. Although he is seen as the natural successor, he has a number of challenges that might find him wanting.

Brown will have to establish himself as the Leader of New Labour. The Blairits are not going to welcome him with open arms. And to date he has shown himself to be not a team player. His normal, nay his only tactic is bullying, and if that fails sulking. Unless he can become a leader, his tenure will be short lived.

He will also have to establish a connection with the Electorate. Opinion polls indicate the British public see Brown as a dour grumpy Scotsman. Like Ted Heath before him, he is incapable of creating a sense of warmth and understanding. He might be able to win the minds of the electorate but fail to win their hearts.

All eyes will be on the Gordon Brown / David Cameron duel. It is there for Brown to win and Cameron to loose. By that I mean David Cameron has the advantage, as long as he doesn’t do anything stupid, he will be seen to be a charismatic leader, in contrast to Brown's coldness.

The Government will have two objectives to pass laws: to extending to 90 days the period the police can detain a suspect without charging them; and the compulsory carrying of Identification Cards. To achieve the latter, will require a shift in public opinion. This will be achieved by the explotation of fear. Muslims will continue to be demonised as a group to be feared. There will be high profile anti-terrorist exercises, possibly involving the closing or disruption of airports. And they will say:

“If we have ID cards, we would be so much safer, and there wouldn’t be these disruptions”.

If by the end of the year, opinion polls show a consistent swing towards the Conservative Party, New Labour might panic and call an early election - its better to win with a much reduced majority, than wait and loose power.

2007 will be seen as the key year for the Middle East. Either as the year a start was made to establish peace between Israel and its neighbours, or tragically as the year of missed opportunities when the region fell into a deeper state of chaos and aggression. The Civil War in Iraq will get bloodier with no sense of hope. Unfortunately Bush neither has the intellect nor the leadership qualities to influence events. The challenge for him will be either to find a way of withdrawing US troops, or diverting US public attention from the US troops death toll. To divert attention, US could increase the pressure on Iran.

Unfortunately in the USA efforts will not be directed at getting Bush to take leadership, rather politicians will be positioning themselves in preparation to the 2008 Presidential Elections.

In Europe, Russia will continue to flex its “power” muscles. It will use the threat of cutting off gas supplies to blackmail other Countries either to comply with its will or to turn a blind eye to its continued abuse of human rights.

In Asia, China and India will continue, at an accelerated rate, to expand their industrial and technical might. Tension will also increase between the two countries as the competition for energy resources intensifies.

On the sporting front. There will be two World Cups competitions. In September & October the Rugby World Cup will be held in France, which will be won by New Zealand, with Australia or South Africa as the loosing finalists. The ICC Cricket World Cup will be held in the West Indies in March / April. While Australia is the undisputed Champions of the 5 day Test Match game; it is not so dominant in the one day format. Chance plays its part in influencing the results of one day matches, so predicting the ultimate winner of the Cup is not easy. One thing is certain; England will not participate in the final.

Final prediction, it will be a long hot summer.
It will rain in London on Saturday 21st July and Sunday 12th August.