Common sense analysis of this, that and the other

Archive for January 2010

A quick break from work to report…

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…yet more evidence that we are no longer heading towards a repressive stress inducing time wasting privacy invading dystopia, we have arrived. But being we’re British, it will continue to get worse. This will lead to a continued collapse of the private economy (as occurs in ALL repressive nations) because people fear doing anything at all that is creative, different or industrious. It will be safest just to stay at home glued to the TV or Internet.

Meanwhile, last week, my bike was vandalised (for the 3rd time) and it was all recorded (yup, really) on that wonderful crime reducing life enhancing CCTV. Let’s see if the police put as much effort into catching the guy who for no good reason destroyed my transport, cost me money, wasted my time and caused much disruption to several people. Me thinks nothing will happen. If a policeman had been on the beat looking for criminals as they are supposed to do, the crime is less likely to have happened. But then, the crim is unlikely to be a ready source of £60 for the government. That’s dystopian justice for you.

Fight back club: The election approaches. Tick the correct box.


Written by Oflife

January 29, 2010 at 11:39 am

Apple iPad initial comments

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Being my employer has toyed with the idea of creating a ‘tablet’ like device since before the Mac was even developed, I shall simply critique the iPad, rather than say what I think it should be like. All said, I did provide my own drawing of what I hoped Apple would create in an August 2009 posting.


  • It is, as we all expected, sexy as sexy can be.
  • From the demo video, the software is smooth as silk
  • The battery life is 3 hours more than most expected (being MacBooks now offer 7 hours)
  • Bezel size is not a flaw – although initially it seemed hideous. If you pickup a regular book, you’ll notice that you sometimes need the margin around the text to hold or flip a page. With the iPad, due to it’s slim form factor, the bezel will deter your fingers from blocking the screen. Now that is Apple thinking ahead and putting form OVER function. Nice!
  • Once it is equipped with LTE wireless (3G just not fast enough, sorry!), iPad will be a fantastic cloud computing device. RIP: CrunchPad / JooJoo.
  • The games will be awesome – based on those already on the iPod Touch/iPhone
  • Folding case is clever
  • The price is reasonable – and let’s hope it’s £350 in the UK, not £500. UPDATE: According to the Daily Telegraph, it is £309 – now that is a steal! (Of course, you’ll quickly spend more on the content.)


  • Total lack of innovation! A massive let down really.
  • A mechanical dock. Why no MagSafe?
  • Why not a second dock for docking in landscape orientation to watch movies?
  • No (mini Display Port) video out, so I could have put our MacBook up for sale and used iPad as only computer by hooking it up to a large screen monitor at my desk? (But of course, Apple don’t want to knoble sales of other products. Grrr.)
  • No multitasking, so moving content around will require the cloud (as per the iPhone/iPod Touch). Long term, that IS the future of computing, but not until our devices are ALWAYS connected to teh interwebs via 4G/LTE. Capiche? (Incidentally, lack of multi-tasking on the iPhone is only a pain when listening to Internet radio. The 3rd party Internet radio apps cannot run in the background, unlike Apple’s own iPod function.)
  • Why such a low DPI screen? iPhone is 160, our eyes like 200-300 DPI for reading fine text. So, eBooks may strain the eyes for extended reading – in particular on a light emitting display. (Those with ADD will be just fine – one para at a time. Gently does it!)
  • Lack of SD card slot and/or USB port is a massive let down for photographers for a device with such a nice screen.
  • No camera on either side. It would have been such a great device for parents and grandparents to use to video conference with their kids.
  • Missing 3G (or even 4G) by default. This was a super opportunity for Apple to be the first to introduce LTE – perfect for a media device.
  • Why do iPhone apps/games have to be scaled up through pixel doubling? They should scale using VECTOR graphics and that should have been considered from day one!
  • No stylus operation (yet to be confirmed) limits the ability for artists to use it in the creation of media


  • I shall call you… iPod Touch HD! (Mr. Bigglesworth, come to daddy.)
  • iPad validates my comment about a year ago that Apple should (yes really!) phase out OS X and make a massive leap into the inevitable future by scaling UP the excellent iPhone OS. Why? Because it makes doing things intuitive, efficient and fun.
  • Apple have done what they do best – using a sensual piece of technology to lock you into a world that makes the creation, importing and sharing of information difficult and expensive. The Sony Ericsson K800i phone of 5 years ago had more open file transfer capabilities – like most such phones. One could Bluetooth photos from the camera direct to a MacBook or other BlueTooth equipped computer. Same with all other content – and in both directions!
  • The original iPhone was significantly more useful and innovative than the iPad.
  • As I worried would be the case, iPad is a media consumption device designed to profit Apple and their partners. I think this very sad. A more open architecture would benefit more people and inspire USER creativity – what Apple were initially all about.
  • No matter my opinion, the iPad will probably sell well and I confess that having one sitting on the desk as a dedicated web & media browsing/playback device is very appealing. However, the fact I can put my iPhone in my pocket – and do all the iPad can do on it – is a major plus for the iPhone value proposition.
  • iPad is like Apple TV and iPhone 2G, an experiment – of which the latter succeeded. Apple will make it better – and by 2011, we’ll have a wrinkle free 27″ version. iLovely jubbly.

Written by Oflife

January 27, 2010 at 11:08 pm

Posted in Apple, Review, Technology

Tagged with , , ,

It’s encouraging when credible people say it like it is

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Here you go. Note his comment about a specific trashy TV show that exists purely to humiliate people rather than promote talent.

Fight back club: Resist mediocrity.

Written by Oflife

January 22, 2010 at 11:23 pm

Here we go again

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Thoughts on this?

Fight back club: Simple, get rid of the government who currently occupy parliament. They are not nice people, period. They have no values. They have no ethics. They have no common sense. They have no imagination. They have no direction. And they have no hope.

Written by Oflife

January 20, 2010 at 7:57 pm

Understanding America

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Sorry to be boring and move away from technology and dystopian alerts, but the political upset in the US of the last 12 hours should remind people that America is about the individual, not the state.

A lot of people, in particular minorities, assumed that because a President who was left leaning and not white was elected, their lives would improve all of a sudden – or at the very least – within a year or so.

But why should that happen exactly, beyond for inspirational* reasons? America is the most politically correct hate free society on Earth, where opportunity comes to those who take it thanks to a society based on karma. It may be perceived as full of red necks and dimwhits, but you rarely hear people in the US putting each other down or insulting a race, religion or nation based on the physical or other characteristics of the individual. (Celeb gossip rags and humorous jibes at the French aside. 😉 )

There is no other nation that makes it so easy to do your own thing and be rewarded for it if you are willing to put in the time and effort. Who is President should have nothing to do with your chances if the law provides a level playing field and there are tax incentives.

Made (possible) in America
© 2009 Space X

The significance of Obama’s victory had little to do with his political ideals, it was the fact that a minority became President proved that the American system works. If you maintain dignity, ignore detractors and dubious hangers on, work hard and stick to your principles, then you have a greater chance of providing for yourself and the nation. (The latter through invention/effort, taxes and community work.)

To quote…

“The harder you work, the luckier you get.”
– Gary Player

And to poo poo the most over used worthless word ever…

‘Hope’ is like putting air in a fuel tank. You can say it and you can breath it, but it won’t get you anywhere!”
– Me

Fight back club: What are you waiting for?

*Obama has handled his campaign and Presidency with dignity and should be commended for it. He is an excellent role model, and like our Queen, inspiration is enough for those with a plan. For those without the means, a small business loan or uncle should suffice. (What you mean you don’t have a small uncle?!)

Written by Oflife

January 20, 2010 at 1:16 pm

Posted in Politics

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A reminder of our dystopian reality

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This article in The Independent is essential reading for anyone concerned at the collapse of freedom, common sense and trust in this country. The irony is that the aforementioned newspaper (that is not what it once was) is responsible in part for the very issues it is hereby highlighting.

Fight back club: Ideas on a postcard to the comment field below. 😉

I have a strict rule of not publishing a view unless feeling it to be valid, after all, with electronic media, word spreads fast and it is difficult to retract an error once it moves beyond the confines of ones own place in cyberspace. The subject of this posting is more serious than any other covered within this blog simply because we are on a slippery slope towards a permanent living boring stressful meaningless hell that few will have the strength or means to escape. In the past, the British persona has oft waited until the last moment to wake up, smell the coffee and deter the shackles of evil. The problem today is we are unarmed and monitored 24/7 by people with an unjustified chip on their shoulder. Very very dangerous, surely?

Written by Oflife

January 17, 2010 at 6:24 pm

iPhone 3GS Review

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It seems cheap posting this after the prior entry, but if one leads to the other, that will do no harm.

Yesterday I received an 32GB iPhone 3GS from Vodafone on upgrade. (In black, dahling.) As most of you well know, I am a fan of well designed gadgets and do in fact design them too for my employer – and have been sketching wireless device concepts since the 1970s. Therefore I am fairly critical and know what I want – which means, I am probably in tune with your deepest desires too! Machines should work for us, not against us. To date, such an idealistic status quo has yet to emerge.

I won’t cover matters discussed in other reviews (such as the brilliant apps, timeless industrial design or lack of multi-tasking.) Thoughts in random order:

Bare in mind I have been a full time iPod Touch user for a year or so. Possibly Apple’s best ever product for so many reasons – something they have only recently realised, but may never exploit to the max. The lack of a microphone and camera in the iPod Touch is annoying but of course designed to make people migrate to the iPhone – and it worked! Clever Stevie!


  • The whole iPhone interface is gorgeous. (Not original, but gorgeous. Yes, I’ll blow a trumpet here. Hit my employers website and see the interface designs I created for our products between 1985 and 1988. Very much like iTunes and the iPhone of today, but realised 15-20 years earlier.)
  • iPhone is very light for its size.
  • Swipe to (universal) search is a prime example of simple done right. However, see SOUR for one flaw.
  • The speed and responsiveness is excellent, not that the previous 2 & 3G models were that bad either.
  • Screen is superb inside and outside – unlike AMOLED displays that you may be reading about re the Nexus 1 and some Samsung phones. Those are hard to read in daylight. Not much good when you’re trying to use Google maps to find somewhere outdoors!
  • The user interface for making calls or sending text messages is a pleasure to experience and actually makes either a great deal of fun! (See how other handset manufacturers try to emulate Apple – in a half baked manner.)
  • Excellent loud alarms! (Select the ‘Alarm’ sound from the options for that ultra effective 6:30am wake up!)


Hopefully most of the software or firmware related issues will be fixed in the forthcoming ‘tablet edition’ version 3.X/4.0 upgrade rumoured to be announced at the end of January.

  • Bad bad bad. Poor signal reception. I knew this before obtaining the iPhone, but it is a good reason why Apple should have partnered up with an industry veteran to source their wireless technology. The iPhone while a delight to use is not a good ‘phone’. It may sound outrageous, but if Apple had caught Motorola before the latter became interested in Android, they would have got their hands on the best wireless technology in the world. Period. (And some nice set top box tech to make a practical saleable Apple TV. Too late.)
  • Text messaging is fun thanks to the communication bubbles, but with some annoying flaws:
    • No message delivery confirmation. Not knowing if a message has been received is a nuisance, and for me, stressful as it makes life and project management unreliable. Ages old Nokia and Sony Ericsson phones offer this.
    • Whilst typing a text message, if you wish to abort, there is no [Cancel] option! Your half completed message is left there and you have to erase it. These little things make a big difference.
    • These flaws are why I have do and always will believe the best way to communicate in non real time in writing is by email. It is no co-incidence that RIM are still doing very well. They get messaging, as do Nokia with the excellent E7X series.
  • The otherwise excellent universal search does NOT search through Notes attached to a contact – a major flaw because the most common user of search is to look up people and other entities by association when you cannot remember their other details.
  • iPhone screen resolution is showing it’s age. While ok for gaming, video and music – scrolling around and/or zooming in and out in Safari is a nuisance after using devices like the Nokia N900 or Motorola DROID. (All said, the latter are a lot more recent and we all know that the next generation iPhone will play tomato catchup – and more.)
  • Lack of mechanical camera shutter release makes self portraits and street photography somewhat – touch and – hopefully – go?
  • Like the iPod and those supplied with some other 3rd party audio players and phones, the trademark white Apple headphones are useless, requiring constant re-positioning. = Extra money for the accessories makers? Further, the microphone is not omnidirectional – people cannot hear you if the cable is not hanging just right.
  • These comments are appropriate to all Apple’s touch screen iDevices:
    • Lack of consistency across the interface. One can swipe to delete emails, but not individual components of a text message, calendar entries or call log entries.
    • The calendar is not smart, like those from Nokia etc. On Nokia phones such as the small but versatile 5530, you can hold your finger over a calendar date to perform a selection of actions. This speeds things up considerably.
    • The orientation sensor lacks intelligence and control. When lying down and trying to surf the web or do something else where the sensor kicks in, iPhone screen will rotate to landscape when you want it in portrait (or the reverse.) There needs to be a way to disable the sensor, even temporarily.
    • Inability to quickly navigate to an app, except by using Search. (A minor quibble really.)


iPhone has been, is – and until a major upgrade – always will be an entertainment and media phone. It is not a smart phone. Smart means that (default) apps and information seamlessly pass between, sync and integrate to make your life easier. Once Apple do what Palm have done so well with the WebOS powered Pre and Google are doing with the Nexus 1, we’ll be talking, but for now, iPhone is an amazing experience, but not a tool for hassle free productivity.

Other than the signal quality (something that may not be fixable), I love the iPhone. It is something I feel one could use to ‘survive’ without any other non edible/drinkable items anywhere, as long as a solar charging station was always on hand. For starters, you can never get bored thanks to all the games and other apps.

One more thing, if it wasn’t for the screen, I would have got a Nexus 1. And if it was available here, a Motorola DROID. But that would have unplugged me from all the apps and tunes I have acquired.  The iPhone is more mature and so liable to be more stable at what it does best, so suited to a mission critical lifestyle. Will try an Android device in a few months. The killer for me with the Nexus 1 is the camera that appears to take great photos from the early reviews. Less gadgets the better. Hope you are all aware of where Google are headed with the Nexus concept? It is radical and will be upend the whole industry if they can pull it off. Or should I say, if Google are the ones who manage to pull ‘it’ off… 😉

Fight back club: Ensure Apple are made aware of what they need to do to retain your loyalty. Post on forums, write a review, let your air time provider and/or supplier know.

Newsflash – This just out!
(© 2010 The Daily Telegraph and nothing at all to do with iPhone!)

Written by Oflife

January 16, 2010 at 4:08 pm

Posted in Apple, Review, Technology

Tagged with , , ,

Earthquakes don’t kill people

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Buildings do.

Each time a major quake hits a population centre in a developing nation, whether it be Iran, Pakistan, China or other, the death toll is horrific. As is the way people die. Crushed and trapped beneath tons of concrete and masonry only to die slowly, in agony, and often alone. Meanwhile, out in the open, people and animals survive. As do those in (shanti) huts or tents.

So why do the authorities even consider slabs of concrete in the construction of buildings in well known earthquake zones?

At this time thousands of people are probably still alive, trapped, but with no hope of timely rescue. The corruption and lack of management of these countries makes their governments complicit in what is at the very least manslaughter.

Murder by concrete?
(© 2010 LA Times)

Fight back club: Architects and the authorities should collaborate on designing buildings to be constructed from tough readily available but flexible sustainable materials. How about wood – coated in non toxic flame retardant?

UPDATE: President Obama just announced in conjunction with Presidents Bush and Clinton. Good stuff, but what is going to happen long term? Study the concept of the ‘Prime Directive’ in Star Trek to comprehend just how complicated things get when an ‘advanced’ civilisation tries to interfere in the destiny of what is perceived to be a less advanced civilisation. What is one to do? Is empathy what triggers colonialism, or did colonialism lead to the Western designed concrete buildings that may well have killed over 50,000 people? Do we just let countries sort their problems out until they reach our standard of living or ‘interfere’? Etc.

Written by Oflife

January 16, 2010 at 3:39 pm

H.G. Wells, another frighteningly visionary author

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Why are people complaining about the weather? The scenery is beautiful, the air is crisp, clean and good for you – and it’s great for fun winter sports. And why are people avoiding their responsibilities to go to school, turn up at work or carry out their civic duties? (I have just walked for one hour on pack ice, and it’s perfectly safe. We have evolved to walk on snow and ice, we are animals goddammit!)

I tell you why, because as covered in this blog left right and centre, with the introduction of appalling trash TV and celebrity culture over the last decade or so, a whole generation of people (approx 1/3 of the nation) has been ruined – and they don’t even know it. Few give a damn and are always victims. Just yesterday on a BBC radio station, a headmistress (whose appalling use of English was a reflection of her own lack of intelligence / education – the irony!) was defending the right for schools to close. One of her arguments? Parents had threatened to sue if their children got wet in any snowball fights. Huh? So we have useless parents who are worried about their child getting wet and cold in an activity that is healthy, fun and character building and a head mistress who is scared of parents? Who is the authority figure here? Why is the socialist government intentionally breading a whole nation of Eloi? (Those who get what is going on will not need me to explain why this is being allowed to happen and where it is all headed.)

Snowball fight back club: It may sound mad, but we need to be invaded by a nation whose values and common sense has not yet been fully eroded. Norway? Australia?! Name your last bastion of hope! And of course, grab a shovel, clear the pavements and tell the personal injury lawyers where to go.

Perfectly safe in the hands of an intelligent species
(Oxford 7 Jan 2010)

Written by Oflife

January 7, 2010 at 12:56 pm

The journey is the reward

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OK, so the country is at a standstill, but what a great time to stop and smell the roses!
(Or start a citywide snowball fight to spice things up a little…)


All photos © 2010 Alex B (Flickr alias ‘Taikitso’)

Written by Oflife

January 5, 2010 at 11:31 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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Alex’s snow driving tips

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As Britain grinds to a stand still (oh dear), it is time to put asside the teases and provide some sincere driving tips based on my time heading up to Lake Tahoe for some R&R on the slopes.

To be fair, I owned a series of 4 wheel drive vehicles that did make things a lot easier. And of course, in Tahoe we would be forced by law to fit snow chains in the worst conditions. However, the following will help in average conditions. The key is not to let your wheels spin or lose control of your vehicle – and ensure momentum remains your friend!

  1. If possible, keep your car in a garage so you don’t have to spend all morning de-frosting it.
  2. Before starting out, let the engine idle for about 5 minutes to give it time to warm up. (Not only does this reduce engine strain, but the interior heating will be ready too.)
  3. When starting out on a frozen surface, engage second gear – not first – and let up on the clutch slowly. This helps prevent the wheels spinning. Gradually accelerate. If the wheels spin, the surface will become so smooth the wheels will spin even more and you won’t get anywhere. In deep snow, the car may begin to sink and become immobile.
  4. This final tip really is important if you don’t wish your vehicle to take you in directions you would rather avoid, such as a ditch, oncoming traffic or heaven forbid, the village duck pond. (Quack quack crunch glugg glugg.) Avoid letting the momentum take hold. When approaching a downwards hill, reduce your speed in advance. Do not use your breaks while driving down a hill, in particular on a bend. Although you can use the gears to slow down, the slightest loss of traction and you will lose control and the car will glide into the nearest no claims bonus spoiler.

Taken while riding my snowboard in Tahoe
(I later attached the camcorder to my leg and shot some action video)

Fond memories of friends from California (2000)
(You ski or board and then enjoy a BBQ half way up the mountain – heaven!)

Written by Oflife

January 5, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

Avatar 3D

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(No spoilers really.) The other reviews have said it all, but a few comments and one makeup flaw:

Visuals really were exceptionally eye popping and the Navi were lovely – an obvious homage to American Indians, ancestors of whom I got to be friends and work with whilst in California. However, as other reviews have hinted, scripts now need to match the visuals of such movies. 2012 was possibly the most embarrassingly poorly scripted film ever made, despite outstanding visual effects and a similar somewhat liberal message to Avatar. On the other hand, Lord Of The Rings, The Empire Strikes Back, The Fugitive and others prove that you can blend great writing and believable characters with realistic visuals.

The 3D was not necessary at all. As with UP (perfection!), wearing the glasses is a nuisance and after the initial fun of seeing a few plants and guns tickling your nose, there is no real long term benefit. Movie makers: The brain cannot be fooled forever!

Now onto the politics. It is obvious to anyone following this blog that the author is a fan of sustainable energy and an unfan of Corporate Evil. However, Avatar was so simplistic in it’s portrayal of Earth, Inc, with few lengthy debates or historical backdrops, that it may in fact do harm to the very causes it tries to promote. If movie directors wish to bring about change in the real world, they have to do it with credibility. And this brings me onto my penultimate point – typed on an iPod Touch during one of several traumatic anger inducing scenes:

Fight back club: “Avatar: Wow! But will you transfer the strong emotions felt during specific scenes by gradually weening yourself off carbon fuels long after you have unplugged from the deceptively comfortable Matrix of the cinema?”

Did you cry? So invest in solar energy the second you leave the cinema and (help) save this reality!

Makeup flaw: And this was obvious. There was a scene where Jake Sully is being spoken to by the general. Sully is seated on a table I believe and it is the first scene where he is depicted with a full head of hair. He is clearly wearing a wig! You can see the glue join area below the hair and his forehead. This was repeated twice. Later, he had grown back his real hair after what must have been a gap in the shooting schedule. This exposes what must be a dilemma for directors of movies based on a mix of CGI and live action where time can be compressed. I found this single flaw broke with the realism of the movie and was similar to an equally obvious continuity error in The Untouchables where Sean Connery’s tie (or shirt?) changes in the same scene.

Update: here is an interesting ‘Avatar behind the scenes’ video. (Contains spoilers.)

Written by Oflife

January 2, 2010 at 6:26 pm

iDéjà Vu?

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No: iGuide, iSlate, iTablet, iPad, iBook, iBook Touch, MacPad, Mac Touch, Newton
Yes: Navigator

Just a thought! 😉

Written by Oflife

January 1, 2010 at 11:15 pm

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