BBC hits the post on dropping Met Office to save money

August 23rd, 2015

Met Office LogoThere are times when the executives at the BBC have rightly canned projects and initiatives in order to make the licence fee go further and have been supported by the majority of television licencees as the best way forward for the BBC in terms of the public interest. Abandoning the Met office for their weather broadcasts is not one of those glory moments in the modern BBC. The met office is the de facto weather forecasting organisation in the UK and, despite some blunders such as the great storm of 1987, they have been pretty accurate, and with investment in supercomputers and scientific research are becoming even more so as time goes by.

Whilst as a licence fee payer I want good value, I don’t want cost savings by opting for overseas or smaller weather organisations providing the forecast data. It is reassuringly expensive for sure that the Met office aren’t the lowest bid and neither should we want them to be. We need investment in research of our climate and finding better ways of predicting severe weather in order to save lives and property. This needs money and I will be surprised if the government don’t put pressure on the BBC to change their mind on putting the weather contract out to tender to the lowest bidder. They may even propose subsidising this unique and thus far, successful partnership.

There is a petition on to try and convince the BBC to see sense and stay with the Met office for the weather.

No Milk today the cows have run away!

August 10th, 2015

Farmers Moo cowThe (justified) protests by the British dairy farmers is one of those strange ones where the answer to the problem is obvious, but because we don’t want to seem xenophobic or protectionist we won’t make the stand. The reason, beyond the cited over production, Milk is purchased so cheap is because if the farmers/processors demanded a higher price, the farmers in mainland Europe, with lower costs (mainly labour I guess) could then come in and take their business.

However, the British public seem like they are prepared to pay more for their milk, so why not classify British Milk from imported Milk – then no one else can compete with the British Milk. A bit like British Copper Tube and Imported Copper Tube or British Strawberries and Strawberries of other origin.

For the most part, we in the UK have a high standard of living, partly because of our minimum wage policy which continues to rise. So, production in this country is going to be more expensive but with our controls and standards, not to mention the environmental advantages – buying British is a good thing to do.

Think what could happen if too many farmers go bust – the land could be developed on if no one can make a living farming it and then we have lost that agricultural advantage forever – long after the food crisis following a growing population really starts to bite.

This article from the BBC explains what the farmers propose to resolve the issue. Which is fine but I think the retailers should be able to sell Milk or whatever they want as a loss leader but as long as they don’t force the price paid for the product down aggressively.

Supermarkets, manufacturers, government, processors, farmers and consumers all need to work together to get the price right to keep this industry viable and, like home grown vs. imported energy, make the British public much less dependable on the volatility of supply from overseas.

Scottish independence referendum threat is frustrating and worrying

August 9th, 2015

Map of the UKI love the UK just as it is. Wouldn’t want it any other way but the SNP are really annoying me. Every time they feel that Scotland isn’t getting more (yes more, not the same) as any other part of the UK, there are mutterings from their members that there truly could be another independence referendum in our lifetime. So much for the decision of a generation – they want to make it a yearly occasion it would seem until they have battered their countrymen into submission.

The fact of the matter is this. In Scotland there’s free personal and nursing care, no university fees and free prescriptions – none of that available to the rest of the UK and all supposedly coming out of one pot. So seems like things are weighted in Scotland’s favour already.

Then there’s the England-centric of Westminster by the Scottish Nationalists. True, there probably more discussion on this part of the UK but then there’s 84% of the UK population in England, only 8% in Scotland. Why not encourage more people and businesses to come to Scotland if a bigger piece of the pie is what they want, not demonise their UK countrymen?

It shouldn’t be that when times are tough or we have issues to work through as a nation that one group of people effectively say “not our problem, you deal with that and we will break away”. Imagine if this kind of short sighted attitude would have been in place during the second world war? We are stronger together. Is life perfect? No. But we can improve things for all citizens of the UK through democracy and legislation – not calling a referendum to go it alone.

I will say this for the SNP, they don’t support or even mention gaining ground for their cause using techniques Sinn Fein and the IRA did in Northern Ireland years ago.

I have a fear that the people of Scotland and the people in the rest of the UK will be so tired of another referendum, that the vote will be for independence should there be another ballot – not because the SNP have changed the minds of the Scots but just to shut them up. Better together? You betcha, but the energy and support for that campaign will only go so far.

Why do so many people vote SNP but don’t want independence? Because the other political parties are not such a big voice for Scotland and have trouble with getting across their message. The SNP has done wonders for Scotland but it should not keep pushing to break away from the UK or at least using that as leverage to get a better deal for it’s constituents. Oh and if we do have to go through another referendum, I hope there’s less emphasis on North Sea Oil. Its a finite resource, so you can’t make huge constitutional decisions based on a resource that may run dry in 50 years time.

This isn’t an anti-Scotland dig – I love Scotland, been a few times and found the country and the people wonderful. Also love one of their finest exports – Whisky. No, my issue is very much toward the divisive rhetoric spouted by Nicola Sturgeon and her party. If I am to close this post by shoehorning the fact the SNP only received 4.7% of the vote in the 2015 general election and have 56 Parliament seats whilst UKIP received 12.6% and have one MP, its madness how our electoral system works against proportionally represented democracy.

Windows 10 Upgrade

July 31st, 2015

Microsoft Windows 10Well I took the plunge and upgraded my Win 7 Professional install on my Fujitsu home PC. The installation went smoothly and on bringing up the new OS, I have to say I am suitably impressed. It is a little more radical but not enough to be awkward to use. The speed was impressive – not slow or unresponsive whatsoever. I opted for the Microsoft account login – which allows you to login with a pin tied to the PC instead of the traditional password.

The borderless windows were clean and I was even happy with the Edge browser. It seems quicker than IE. More standards compliant? I don’t know but I intend to stick with Chrome anyway as it has all my bookmarks and I use hangouts, not to mention there’s nothing wrong with Chrome as a result of running on Windows 10 so may as well stick with that.

I haven’t used the built in mail application yet – but Windows Live Mail works fine and there was no loss of settings so I just carried on. So far, none of my existing applications installed on the machine (Gimp, mIRC, Office 2013 and so forth) have crashed or behaved unexpectedly.

Microsoft have learnt from previous howlers (thinking Vista and 8.0) and from what I have read the tech press and public in the main are appreciating the new OS. Me too, heck, I would even consider a Win Phone / Tablet on the back of this experience. Time to upgrade the laptop I think…

A Swarm in a Teacup

July 31st, 2015
Port of Calais

Port of Calais

David Cameron was criticised by Asylum groups and the opposition over migrant ‘swarm’ language – Is it me or are these people nuts? If you have a large group of people moving quickly at say a football game, a music event or a big sale event, it’s often referred to as a swarm. By all accounts he is demonising the migrants at Calais by comparing them to insects. Insects are a vital part of life on this planet, so I don’t know why as humans we feel we have to be superior to all other creatures. If David Cameron passed a open borders law, the critics would complain about that too “we don’t mean just let everyone in” Oh no? What do you mean then? We must have compassion but not in my back yard? Damned if you do, damned if you don’t!

HP Thin Client T510 update woes

June 25th, 2015

HP T510 ThinPro 5.2Having recently purchased a couple of HP T510 thin client boxes, I was most bemused to find that running the full image update to version 5.2 bricked the unit. It tries to boot but Kernel Panics shortly into the boot sequence. To fix, I needed to go to the HP website, download the image and boot from a USB stick and do the install that way (could have done it via CD or PXE also). The disk creation software was a little flaky and it took 3 USB memory sticks before I found one that allowed the bootable drive to be created and to work.

The sad thing is its June 2015 but I found a thread here on the HP website that describes this problem back in December 2014. I wonder why they haven’t fixed this problem yet? Its not as if I went looking to upgrade, its the first section on the wizard that launches for first time use. The upgrade is worth it, things do look and feel nicer in version 5 of ThinPro OS, but why it takes going around the over the web upgrade – it does put me off HP somewhat. The hardware itself however seems robust enough for a commercial/industrial application.

Another shack change

May 15th, 2015

Mike M0SAZ Shack This month, I have gone back to a “big box” HF radio. My radio in the shack now is a Yaesu FT-950 with AC0C 2KHz Roofing Filter, Yaesu MTU 80/40, DVS-6 and N8BX weighted VFO knob fitted. Fully loaded, lots of performance!

I have purchased the Yaesu FT-7900 dual band (2m/70cm) FM Transceiver. I have programmed all the local repeaters and simplex channels in. Works well.Mike M0SAZ Antennas

Antennas now are the Diamond X50N for VHF/UHF, HyEndFed 5 band HF antenna and recently I added the 7 band version of the Cobwebb folded dipole. Works on 20m thru 4m (6 elements for 20-6m, but the 7th band if 4m that it happens to be resonant on).

Mail Merge is the Omelette of IT Proficiency

April 24th, 2015

Microsoft Word MailmergeWhen I watched Gordon Ramsay put some poor chef through their paces on his Kitchen Nightmares television show, he would get them to cook up a simple Omelette. His reason? An Omelette is a simple dish, but without the basics in place, a would-be culinary master is consigned to the humiliation and potty mouthed outbursts of G Ramsay Esquire himself.

When doing a small Mail Merge today, I explained to some of my colleagues I consider the lost art of Mail Merge an ideal demonstration of IT literacy. Why? Well it contains all the elements of using the essentials in many productivity/office suites.

Address data is normally extracted from tabular form, which, in itself is often created and manipulated in a Spreadsheet. From there, a merge is prepared in a Word Processor, which, using the aforementioned data, the two become a rudimentary database data/client setup. The completed merge is done in the Word Processor and is combined with a document already written or written after the merge is prepared.

Word Processor, Database, Spreadsheet.

I remember doing Mail Merge back in the Word 6 and Excel 5 days, running on Windows 3.1, ultimately running on MS-DOS 6.22. The sad fact is, that, in terms of everyday functionality, the current Word and Excel offerings don’t differ that much from these older versions.

So, a merge requires basic Spreadsheet, Database and Word Processing skills and is therefore a good indicator of if someone can feel their way around a computer for more than a quick game of Medal of Honor or a discussion about the latest Star Wars trailer on Facebook.

EU Meddling in Corporate Success

April 15th, 2015

companies eu antitrustI find the EU’s constant meddling seems like another way the non democratic government can line its own pockets using fines. No more can they get net contributors such as the UK to cough up more money in this failed experiment, they resort to fines and sanctions and, well can’t leave anything alone.

I realised this when they had a view on the motor wattage on a vacuum cleaner and then put in legislation to stop the sale of anything too powerful (in their eyes).

After investigating (at our expense) the likes of Microsoft and fining them mega bucks for supposedly taking advantage of being a monopoly and now they are playing the same game with Google, it really makes my blood boil how they can do this. Just because a company Like Google, Apple or Microsoft have done well, it doesn’t and shouldn’t require power crazed politicians getting involved in largely consumer products we chose to buy or not buy.

Consider you are Mr Google, its your company and you have a search engine, maps software, shopping comparison site and so forth. Why the hell can’t you put your products on the top of every search result above your competitors? If, as a customer I am annoyed by your bias, I can go to another search company, hell, I can even start my own if I don’t like what’s on offer. The market decides if I am giving the customer a crappy deal, not the EU, not any government. You, MEPs go into public service and don’t like it that big corporation owners have 5 houses, helicopters, a fleet of sports cars? Tough. Don’t play the who’s got the biggest d**k with your fleeting moment of power. If you want the luxury and wealth, go out and create and stop hiding behind hard working people’s cash to fund your vindictive stance on big companies.

Seems like the season for wealth bashing. The sad fact is, Google can’t do wrong for doing right here. Their search results, based on PageRank take out the human element of “here’s a pot of money to get to the top of the organic results (SERP)”. Instead Google’s algorithms look at links to sites and other metrics to see whats the most popular, and therefore relevant pages. So, if everyone loves using Google Maps and, searching for maps brings Google’s offering up first, that’s because it is what people are looking for!! Shopping? OK that is a bit more “in your face” but, back to the 1st point, you don’t like it, go create your own search engine or use someone else’s offering.

The market decides and monopolies like Microsoft to some extent and Google specifically, haven’t become so because of lots of mergers and aquisitions (which could have been blocked anyway), but because their offering is what people wanted so it became a monopoly by the virtue of its popularity. Lesson for anyone wanting to do well in Europe and in other states also investigating Google on similar grounds – do well, but don’t be the best, or you will be shot down because of it.

Amiga 1200 upgrade

March 26th, 2015

Blizzard 1220/4 for Commodore Amiga 1200Until recently I had a Marpet 1207 RAM card installed on my A1200. It worked well, but I encountered a Blizzard 1220/4 on eBay at a good price. I received it, and replaced the CR2020 battery, I installed a 40MHz 68882 FPU and 40MHz crystal with I soldered directly to the board for best chance of reliability. I also soldered the jumper that switch the FPU speed to 14/28/OSC speed/or off.

Blizzard 1220/4 Sysinfo BenchmarksThe Blizzard 1220/4, whilst not the fastest accelerator in the world, is a very compatible one and it gives one’s Amiga a modest yet noticeable boost. The MC68EC020 25MHz CPU running at 28MHz (double standard clock speed), gives a great Amiga experience.


Commodore / Escom Amiga 1200 / A1200

Completed Amiga 1200 in my shack