Friday, July 31, 2009

The butler - tiny venue, loads of character!

Well, here I am at the butler in Reading - a pub saved by the locals, I'm told - where they've decided to take a backroom which still has BSH calendars on the walls, about the size of a normal living room, and put live music on, including us. Mad! I just moved about 10 chairs off what looks like an old railway cart to put my bass amp somewhere!

It's 4 acoustic acts and then us and the venue feels really nice, actually - small enough to feel like a gig in your living room. This could be a great "underground" venue.

The pic is of the first acoustic act: they're pretty good, like the waterboys actually, nice sounds with guitar, bass and mandolin/banjo. case Hardened, they're called.

On my front - I bought a powerball for exercising and warming up and it ROCKS! i can seriously recommend these if you're a musician: I did about 5 minutes 20 mins before our soundcheck, and when I started playing it was like I'd been playing for hours-totally warmed up!

If you're a muso, get one now. Low impact, high strength, and no loss of dexterity. Sweet!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Apple admits iPhone supply issues

Apple admits iPhone supply issues

Well, that vindicates my final capitulation to Cupertino... truth is, all the other manufacturers, who've had years to create something as compelling as the iPhone, have frankly pissed away the time creating overly complex bits of kit. It's the classic PC vs Mac scenario, only in your pocket this time. I've had enough of pisspoor UIs and knowing the internals - time to get stupid! :)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

118 800 – the exploitative company that leaves really nice comments on your blog posts

Anyone who reads my rants will remember my posting a few days back where I was pointing out that their company are a bunch of shysters making money out of your private number. OK, they don’t give your number to people, no, they SMS you the contact details of the person who made the enquiry!!! Apart from being an utterly pathetic sop to privacy, this business idea has several flaws:

  • While most people hate cold calling, they also don’t like receiving spam texts either, and will make themselves X-directory as soon as they receive anything from 118800 (don’t forget, kids, 118800’s website is permanently down right now and their x-directory service is offline so keep trying until they’re back up – don’t lose interest, that’s what they want you to do)
  • You know what your friends’ mobile numbers are, or you ask them for their number to put on your phone – the whole concept of a mobile phone directory enquiries is utterly last millennium, and only really applied to landlines anyway. Who is going to ring 118 800 to catch up with someone they haven’t seen for years???
  • They don’t have up to date lists. All the major UK mobile operators told them to p!ss off in no uncertain terms. 118800s response? They threatened to enact some legislation which apparently gives directory enquiries companies legal rights to lists of subscribers. Well done to the UK mobile companies for standing up to them and telling them that they didn’t think their subscribers would want their numbers given to 118800. They are right. In the end, 118800 was forced to buy lists from market research companies. So they’re starting with bad data, which will dwindle as millions ask to be made x-directory.
  • As millions apply to be made x-directory, the service will become less and less useful and not worth the money. So nobody will be calling them anyway.

These are further points garnered from some excellent thoughts from friends and colleagues.

However - my original post seems to have been picked up by an employee of 118800! How nice! You’d think they’d be more concerned with trying to get their pathetic website up and running so we can all apply to be made x-directory, wouldn’t you? But no! This comment appeared on my last 118800 rant…

Hello, Joe from here.
Our service on 118 800 and was being tested in June. There are now developments we want to make to improve the service for our customers. But due to the high levels of enquiries we are getting, we are simply not able to complete the technical work required whilst the service is live. We are sorry for inconvenience and will be up and running again as soon as possible.
Just to reassure you that we’ll never actually give out anyone’s personal details. When you search on, we’ll send an SMS message to the person you’re looking for, giving them your contacts details and it is then up to you if you wish to call them back or not.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us on

I do love the stipulation that high levels of enquiries are keeping them offline. “We are sorry for the inconvenience!” – if you’d read my post, Joe-Bot, you’d have noticed I think you should be offline permanently.

And my only concern at this time is with the poor bastards who have backed this company with capital. You won’t be seeing any return dudes, this one was a turkey from the start. Who thought this could work???

Monday, July 13, 2009

118 800 - the company making money out of your mobile number

No doubt you've heard of this company - they pitch themselves as directory enquiries for mobile phones. Although they don't give people's mobile numbers out, what they represent is an agglomeration of available information (trawled and bought) on people's mobile numbers, which they are then leveraging for profit.

What I didn't realise is that this miserable commercial proposition is based here in Reading. I'm not that surprised though, this is, after all, the home of a bridge design company who bribed governments and violated the oil-for-food scheme in Iraq when Saddam was still in power.

118 800 has to be eradicated. I suspect the public in the UK are doing a good job already: the company is very keen to be seen to be compliant with data protection so they have handily provided ways to declare yourself x-directory (like you should have to!!!) - either through their website or by texting a capital "E" to 118800 (you should receive a reply).

The problem is, their website has now been down for the best part of a week as thousands (hopefully millions) of angry mobile users deregister themselves.

I'd like to form a campaign to make this information as available as possible, and for every last active mobile number they have to declare itself x-directory: hopefully we can put these bastards out of business. How dare they buy our mobile numbers and then give them out to people we don't want bothering us - no matter what they claim, this "service" is not required. Your mobile is a very personal form of communication - you know who your friends are, their numbers are IN YOUR PHONE ALREADY - so why would anyone need this pile of crap from a bunch of sharks based in Reading, craphole of the universe?

Get yourself deregistered as soon as you can: keep an eye on the site. If it comes back up, I'll post a message.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Another post? Man eating robots!!!

Lots of non-musical posts. Sorry about that. I'm getting distracted by funny stuff at the moment.

Speaking of which, the Register is a geek site I visit a lot.

the way this is written cracked me up!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The M25: I don't use it. Thank god.

Roadworks threaten M25 traffic jams for three years

I have a trafficmaster oracle system in my car, which talks to you, telling you the major issues ahead and on adjoining motorways. Sometimes it's a judgement call ( 5 mins, 10 mins, could be nothing... ) but since the M25 started to get widened (and the cones went out months ago now, they have only just started work on the road itself) as I approach J7 every evening (6-7pm) it barks in a female Stephen Hawking style that clockwise from J15 (the M4 interchange) the M25 has "stationary traffic for 17 miles. Severe delay. AVOID."

Wow. That, for three years? Who the hell would continue to live in this insanity? When they widened the stretch between the M40 and M3 I noted that what this did was create a pressure vessel between 2 pinch points. Hey presto, it has now got so awful trying to get north and south from the M4/M25 junction they're going to try to take 3 years to improve just the northbound side to the A1!!!

Time to get that horse I think.

Sorry about the rash of headlines.

There's just too much comedy about.

Governments 'must prevent suicides during recession'

I think one of those strong catch-nets under the No 10 staircase would be a start. Oh no, hang on, just leave that one off.

Governments must try HARDER not to COMPLETELY BALLS-UP EVERYTHING THEY TOUCH would be a slightly better rebuke, I suspect. Their lack of long-term planning and foresight, combined with a suicidal fawning worship of city suits, got us here.

My only hope is that those who decide to take their own lives do so in front of a cabinet member, preferably Mr tripartite regulation himself, Gordon Brown.


I believe I can fly!

... straight to B&Q to get some anaglypta to go over this lot - talk about giving everybody nightmares...

Get your Michael Jackson tribute wallpaper says the tearaway Sun. Solvit with Solvite? Eek.

Talk about non-geek. They mean COMPUTER DESKTOP wallpaper.

Today's best King of Pop (tm) headline

This in from the Times Online - Michael Jackson's family may await return of brain before burial.

So they have one between them? What are they, mormons?

Monday, July 06, 2009

Reshaping society - "commuting" is pointless

I just got a small online survey to complete regarding commuting. Here in the Glorious (i.e. shitty) Thames Valley, everybody uses cars, and hates each other. I got a bit philosophical (surprise surprise) at the last page of the survey - you know, the "any more points to add" bit where you can type some free text in - here's what I wrote.

It's not about how you get here (meaning work), it's where you live and how that relates to your mode of transport. The last 20 years have lauded mobility (e.g. politicians references to our wonderfully mobile workforce) and the ability to live somewhere other than where you work. Net result, clusters of glass and steel boxes where people work, away from their homes. Clusters of steel boxes out of town where they shop.
The only solution is to either make workplaces smaller and locate them in pleasing buildings near where people live, or to tell people to move close to where they work.
Undoing 20 years of social trending regarding car-centric behaviour patterns will take more than "why don't you use the train" type surveys.
It will require the demolishion of our current workplaces and shopping centres and a return to smaller ways of life.

I really do believe this stuff. I think anyone who wants to drop out of the rat race but keep some technological job, would do well to move to Devon or the West Country, where there seems to be a high-tech cottage industry if what I hear is right. Live near where you work: in a beautiful location: work in a nice building (you hope) near where you live.

And drop out of this tragic excuse for an existence in the Thames Valley.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Short breaks, long days, and giving in to the Jesus Phone

It's been a few days since I last posted - I'm making this one from my desk job in a 5-minute "eye break" as I've been flat out today with several different things as usual. I've realised my work-life balance may not be as good as it could be, but mainly because I'm pushing myself a bit too hard during the day. I'm not really doing enough musically in the evenings and I've had a lot of cold type stuff recently (I suspect allergies too, I'm a scottish coastal boy, not this inland english NO2 laden humid hell!) so I've been remiss on the practise side, which I have just started really ramping up again.

The "Jesus Phone"? It's a term often applied to the iPhone, an item recently upgraded to the "3Gs" model which finally sees the iPhone having capabilities which catch up to the 3-year-old P990i I'm still using. In version 3.1 of the iPhone operating system they finally get voice dialling, something I suspect Apple have put in pronto because the new Android handsets don't have it.

This raises an interesting observation for me. I was in mobile phones for many years, and I used a long succession of SonyEricssons, from an old brick 768 (my first phone!) all the way through
to my current P990i. I liked the SEs because their feature set was larger than Nokias, and the user interface seemed slightly more intuitive to me (probably because it built on earlier SEs) and more comprehensive.

I've kept a weather eye on mobiles recently looking for smartphones which I thought I'd be interested in buying: the P990 firmware does crash quite regularly, and it's a little slow. Plus, the browser really doesn't handle sites very well.

Everything I saw left me feeling a bit "meh". A bit "so what?". A bit "Well, that doesn't do much beyond my P990", and the iPhone was a total turn off because 1) it's locked to O2 here in the UK, and you can't buy it anywhere else, and O2s network sucks, and 2) it was a "dumb" smartphone - no cut and paste, feeble camera, etc etc.

In addition, Nokia's utterly dismal smartphones (bad physical design, a version of Symbian which is falling apart at the seams and has an AWFUL UI) - their recent N97 is a case in point, it's already being criticised as a missed opportunity - just turned me right off. SE have pretty much stopped making UIQ smartphones (the P1i being the last), although some WXXX badged walkman phones are still running Symbian / UIQ.

Anyway, SE are about to release some new sparkly things, but the OS is... symbian, which is now entirely owned by Nokia (albeit under some form of "open" guise) - so I'm right off Symbian.

Android ain't looking bad, but no voice control for dialling! I've had that on phones now for 4 years! So no dice there.

Net result? I've been looking again at the iPhone, which I've had a certain amount of respect for, with Apple pulling their usual act of releasing something unique, well-formed and compelling into a market full of the above-mentioned miserable hacked, patched, ancient or not-quite-complete mobile OSs. Until very recently OSX on the iPhone fell into this category (no cut and paste? Dinosaur!!!) but with v3.1 they finally surpass my P990i. Bravo!

Now, I'm thinking I want an iPhone. But I'm on vodafone and I want to stay that way (they have a good network - it's all Ericsson - whereas O2 have got mixed-manufacturer infastructure and a rather poor comparative coverage. But I don't want to jailbreak an iPhone, I can't be bothered knowing internals anymore: I want something that "just works" (to borrow from Jobs).

Up pops Pete Stewardson at work and reminds me that in Italy phones HAVE to be sold UNLOCKED. I'm popping over there later this year - so I'll buy a PAYG from TIM and have a totally unlocked, feature enabled iPhone! Woohoo!

Addendum: I'll also not have the first hardware iteration - I hope - the iPhone 3Gs has been getting some rather dodgy press for overheating (although this could be gimps who left it in the sun while using it as a GPS device) and poor battery life. Here's hoping it's all good by the time I buy one!