Common sense analysis of this, that and the other

Archive for the ‘Infrastructure’ Category

Corbyn is right

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V busy, but being we’re about to have another election and the whole future of the country is at stake, (and consider this as part of my own planetary manifesto), society should be structures as follows:

Core infrastructure, such as the following, managed by the state, with private companies contracted by tender to provide any tactile products, such as rolling stock and such. (Similar to how the military operates.)

  • Railways
  • Motorways
  • Internet
  • National Health Service

Non essentials, managed by the private sector with the state there to protect consumers against poor business practice. IE…

  • Cars
  • Mobile phones
  • Flat screen TVs
  • Music streaming services
  • Etc

People argue that the trains used to be far worse when state owned. Totally untrue. The carriages had private compartments and comfortable seats. The staff were well dressed and polite. Only downside was trains polluted a lot more then because they were often reliant on dirty fuels.

We need a consistent brand for the railways – nationwide, fair pricing, well treated staff and modern technology. Today, each train is different, some with WiFi, some with decent fold down trays behind the seats, some with dirty toilets, some with well positioned power sockets, some journeys of the same distance cost more than others and so on. This inconsistency of design and pricing means that passengers are forced to choose based on their location, IE, it’s luck of the draw whether you get a good service.

If the government brings in top designers and visionaries to design a rail network of the future, it can then give the private sector the work to realise the design. The upside will be a less exhausted and frustrated commuter that in turn will be good for the economy.

Infrastructure cannot be for profit, it has to be there as a foundation with which to BUILD a successful ethical economy.

The same with the mobile phone business. We are still no there yet. Whole areas lacking coverage making it annoying for the locals and equally so for business people travelling who need to gain access to the cloud away from the office, cafes, pubs and so on.

Fight back club: Vote for consistency and fairness

Written by Oflife

May 11, 2017 at 1:30 pm

Phone driving

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I have driven thousands of times past the area where three children and their mother were tragically killed recently by a truck driver who was fiddling with his phone. Don’t deny it, we ALL do it, or did do it before texting and driving became illegal way too long after the development of mobile phones back in the 1980s.

There have been calls for a total ban on using phones in the car. This is an understandable reaction to what was not the only such tragedy – there have been thousands of accidents around the world caused by that momentary movement of ones eyes away from the road ahead when changing radio station, trying to finish a text message or get that navigation map back on the screen before missing the next exit. Or in the case of this driver, he was using Spotify.

I remember one of the first things my father taught me during driving lessons, and this is also a core of the highway code, and that is the breaking / stopping distance in proportion to speed. It is incredible how quickly a vehicle traverses a specific distance, even at 30 mph. If someone suddenly stops in front of you (or walks in front of your car), and your eyes are off the road for even a second or two, the next second, you either hit them or are skidding, foot instinctively on the breaks, adrenalin pumping.

We need to be able to talk when driving, it is a great way to get things done and pass the time, in fact, it keeps one awake and focused. Music does the same. And of course, we need to use navigation maps and such to get from A to B without getting lost and take suggested diversions if there is a traffic jam up ahead.

Safety wise, technology can solve this. All modern smart phones have built in voice control, in fact, just the other day, I sent my first WhatsApp message entirely using my voice whilst driving, and it worked reliably too, not a single ‘typo’.

Drive safely club: The government needs to produce some common sense guidelines, as follows:

  1. Buy a bluetooth headset or use a bluetooth speakerphone.
  2. Configure your navigation maps before setting off, whilst parked or use voice control. “OK Google, Navigate to XYZ.”
  3. Configure your music playlist before setting, whilst parked or use voice control.
  4. Limit physical phone use to ONE button press only, such as answering a call if you cannot use voice answering.
  5. Phone and/or app makers need to enlarge the important controls on their apps. For example, the icons that control spoken driving directions on Google/Android maps are too small to tap reliably. They need to be finger size.
  6. A standard layout tactile (not a touch screen) bluetooth control pod should be fitted to all cars that activates key features of in car technology, including those listed below. Blaupunkt used to make a pod that operated their car stereos. It was positioned to the right or left of the steering wheel so your hand fell onto it naturally without effecting safety. Controls mounted directly onto a steering wheel are dangerous, because they move with the wheel, so reaching them is fiddly and a distraction.
    1. Answer call
    2. Navigate to… (Trigger voice recognition)
    3. Call… (Trigger voice recognition)
    4. Up list/Increase volume/Next track
    5. Down list/Decrease volume/Previous track
    6. Shuffle music

    If those 6 controls could be mounted onto a joystick like gadget, it would be possible to safely operate a phone or in car entertainment system with one hand, with the same safety level and convenience of a gear stick.



Written by Oflife

November 3, 2016 at 7:58 pm

Chocolate on the table

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This week there was some good news during a period when most news has been bad, from horrific terrorist attacks to acceptance that the 6th Extinction is no longer theory, but underway. No surprise there, and yes there is a connection between the two.

The good news is that an application to frack was unexpectedly rejected by a council despite said council being almost ‘threatened’ to vote in favor. (And the frackers have not given up yet!) We are all in agreement that an alternative to oil and coal is vital if we are to reduce pollution and extract our soldiers from nations that provide us oil but where there are cultural differences.

However, taking a harmful short-termism path is typical of an industry that would rather consume the whole bar of chocolate than avoid greed and temptation by putting it back in the cupboard. Effectively, the carbon fuel industry would rather suck the Earth dry at any cost than invest their billions in a whole new ecosystem of technologies and subsequent business opportunities – including building huge solar farms in Australia, a Western nation that will not require a military presence.

When visiting the US, where there is a lot more space, anywhere there is a carbon fuel extraction or processing plant is polluted, noisy and unpleasant to live around. A while back I remember driving past a plant not far from San Francisco and feeling immensely sorry for the poor people (mainly Mexicans) living near the refinery. Their standard of living and health is horrible. Environmental prejudice comes to mind.

Having lived in and travelled to many of the UK’s village communities, it is an almost idyllic existence. Quiet, clean and almost crime free. Never mind the ground water pollution and risk of small quakes, having large tanker trucks and associated paraphernalia passing through our communities is just not worth it.

As some communities around Oxford have done, way better to invest in solar farms and Tesla household battery packs and get our villages off the grid altogether bit by bit. The reduction in consumer demand for electricity sourced from carbon and nuclear power stations will free up energy resources for heavy industry that will continue to require carbon and nuclear energy until solar and other clean low accident risk sources can generate enough kilowatts.

As this blog has stated before, a Manhattan Project / Apollo Space Program level investment in clean sustainable non nuclear energy is the way forward, not harmful controversial short term solutions that are little more than shoving the problem under the carpet for another day.

Fight frack club: Done! (I know, I have used that pun before.)

Written by Oflife

June 30, 2015 at 11:56 am

Idealog: Off grid sustainable energy

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Normally Vision Aforethought is primarily focused on issues outside the scope of my work, but after deliberation with my crew (intellectual property professionals included who often say “Alex, just get out there!”) and some thinking, the time has come to use social media to announce our ideas as soon as we can, in particular if it is unlikely we will patent the concept for whatever reason.

This blog also attempts to actually deal with matters it discusses, whether it be forwarding design proposals to our transport authorities or suggesting ways in which you, dear reader, can fight back against the march towards dystopia.

In this case, the subject is a frequent subject of VA, (clean) sustainable energy, and in particular, less reliance on the grid. For a while now, behind the scenes, my employers mathematics intern and I have been discussing my several year old idea of using solar (and other local clean energy sources, such as small wind turbines) to charge large capacity batteries (preferably next generation capacitive types as evangelised by Elon Musk) that would be located in your own home or premises to provide an alternative/backup to the grid – or one could consider the grid being the backup! The batteries would be constantly trickle charged and used to power an increasing number of devices and appliances as the power to price ratio improved. Meaning, currently, whilst we can charge and power low energy devices such as mobile phones using solar energy or solar charged batteries, such devices uses a tiny proportion of the energy of even the most basic home appliance. Consider just ONE low energy LED light bulb, possibly the lowest energy consuming ‘fixed’ item in your home or business. That draws about 5 watts. A regular mid power light bulb, 40 watts, a laptop or modern (low energy!) TV or monitor, 30 to 60 watts. And if we take things further, a kettle or toaster, anything from 1000 to 3000 watts! And then there are heaters and white goods, with the fridge that silent yet ‘deadly’ invention that has been quietly eating away at your electricity supply for a lifetime! (Think about it, the fridge is the ONLY device or appliance in your home that is ALWAYS on.)

We have along way to go before it will be practical to use batteries to totally extract oneself from the grid, but as with anything like this, baby steps are what count. In one of our family homes I have switched the whole house to LED lighting and one porch light is 100% solar powered, using a built in lithium battery trickle charged during the day. It is quite interesting to consider that if civilisation does collapse, that one light will remain in action until it’s components wear out! (The switch to LED lighting has recuced the energy bill by 40%).

My employer is researching how to bring about a practical realisation of the off grid powered premises, and as I type this, I am claiming this to be my idea, although the execution will be what counts, so if someone else does it first, so be it, the world will benefit!

Note that Toshiba have developed a compact nuclear reactor for use ‘in the home’. However, one does not need to dwell on the safety issues.

More B.S.

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No, this one is not about the councils, but a subject to be covered in my large WW4/2+2=5 page that deals with the untruths that make up Western society. A less serious but just as annoying matter related to Unsubscribing from email newsletters and other communications, whether or not you requested them in the first place. On countless occasions I have ‘Unsubscribed’ from mailings, with any one or more of the following responses:

  1. Sorry to see you go
  2. Unsubscribe requested
  3. We will remove you from our mailing list within 10 days
  4. Can you let us know why you are unsubscribing?

Often, more spam (that is what it is once it has been Unsubscribed) continues to arrive. One tries again,sometimes to no avail. In some cases of course, in particular with spam that always was spam, simply by replying to Unsubscribe you are acknowledging you are a real person and inviting more – hence it is best to ignore those and try to get Gmail or other mail client to filter them out, but newsletters are often let through.

The B.S. component of this relate to item 3, above. As an engineer, I can warrant that unless something is done by hand, a database is updated in a matter of milliseconds. I just cannot believe how so many entities today exist with one goal only, to screw the consumer or stress them out!

Here’s to my forthcoming ‘Liberty’ post that will knock the overcomplexity of contemporary Western society, from spending a good portion of your lifetime on hold (at YOUR expense!) to call centres, to the difficulty of finding a no fee parking spot in your local town centre so you can relax, shop, network or socialise for as long as you want without the council or state timing and charging you for the privilege whilst at the same time taxing us left, right and liberal.

Update – 7 Feb 2013: On the subject of B.S., looks like there’s more of it in the food industry, although in this case, it’s H.S. not B.S.!

Written by Oflife

February 5, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Posted in Infrastructure, Privacy

Tagged with

No No No!!!

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What makes me mad is that I’m forced to waste time posting here each time something that will reduce the quality of life for people happens – like this: The current UK government is proposing to create a teared road system, with the following consequences:

  1. Massive breach of privacy as cameras will monitor WHO drives WHERE. (Think about that one.)
  2. Those less well off will be unable to travel as quickly – compassionate Conservatism? My left foot!
  3. Easy to forget and then have to spend weeks defending yourself in court or proving you were NOT the driver.
  4. How will foreigners, tourists and other visitors deal with this and be monitored?
  5. Cost of implementation and follow up may well outweigh the benefits. (Not as serious an issue as 1 to 4.)

Fight back club: Protest against this with as much gusto as you can, and if they beging to implement it, well, I cannot write here what I believe people should do (en masse) to have the whole system dismantled.

The reason all this is happening is because our nation has weak leadership and a subservient population dumbed down by the broadcast media. Therefore dystopian policies funded by the large corporations who will profit from all this are drip fed into our way of life with no concern for the stress, indignity and inconvenience caused. Liberty?  I don’t think so.

Written by Oflife

October 29, 2012 at 12:39 am

UK Rail Network

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In view of this, a few comments, related to the (admittedly amateurishly presented) suggestions made here (by me) on my employer’s website. This really is all about the essential characteristics required to ensure a better quality of life for us all:

  1. Sound state backed infrastructure
  2. Thoughtful design

The private sector should never run national infrastructure, in particular the rail networks, else there is inconsistency and flaws that are for all to see. Whilst in some subjects I believe conservative values to be valuable, with national infrastructure, socially imaginative state based ideals and concepts work well, as long as the system is biased towards quality and reliability over profit – in other words, like some military projects. Work is farmed out for tender and the best selected.

Having travelled a considerably by train in recent years (a horrific experience for countless reasons), here is my take on selecting suitable railstock:

First Great Western train

Ageing but superb for the average commuter and productivity worker

Although an ageing model with manually opened doors, the best train is the one shown above, for the following reasons:

  • Comfortable seats.
  • The pull down seat trays hold small laptops and tablets superbly.
  • The power socket is centrally located below the seats in front of you so easy to reach by either passenger.
  • Very quiet ride. (So much so, it is sometimes difficult to sell if your train is moving out of the station, or the one on the other side of the platform!)

The Virgin Pendolino trains, whilst aesthetically superior, lack the well designed seat trays, the power sockets are in the wrong position, and the internal sliding doors feature buttons that are attached to the actual doors, so you cannot operate the button when the door is moving or in the open position! (You can see this on the photo here.) This latter issue is something you witness every journey as passengers struggle to open the doors whilst carrying luggage, the doors sliding shut on their arms or baggage.

In summary

  • State backed
  • Fair rewards based pay to motivate staff
  • Same trains across all networks for consistency and reduced cost
  • Well designed seat trays and power sockets
  • Pay as you go ticketing system

Fight back club: Contact your local MP or community rail representative with your ideas – they DO listen!

A few years ago, we shared the aforementioned page with several key management at National Rail and First Great Western. Some of our suggestions where adopted within the same year, so don’t doubt your ability to bring about change if you put pressure on the powers that be.

Written by Oflife

October 3, 2012 at 9:31 pm


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As I type this (despite being on multiple work deadlines), much of the world is in a fairly precarious position. There is no need for any expansion on that subject.

Well run businesses and households often have failsafe systems in place to protect against possible or unforeseen events. For example, a company whose existence and customers rely upon digital information (most today) ensure their data is backed up across physical hard drives and cloud services. In the event of a disaster at one end, the other can be relied upon to recover any lost information. Failure of all systems will only occur due to co-incidence or human error.

An example of data backup working was on 9/11. Whilst the loss of life was the key issue, the objective of the attackers (as they stated) was to damage the economy. It did no such thing. The data used by the financial institutions in the twin towers was safely backed up. Their physical presence did not reflect the location of the data their tenants relied upon.

Some families keep an inventory of their possessions and install smoke alarms. This ensures that whilst there can be no substitute for the loss life or personal effects, the odds of survival are increased and obtaining the correct amount of insurance compensation is made easier. Life can go on.

However, when it comes to the stability of society as a whole, currently, no widespread failsafe exists, meaning that if our source of income, warmth or sustenance is cut off, things can spiral of our control very quickly. I have always believed our complete reliance on the ‘middleman’ to be our Achilles heal because it not only allows us to be exploited by the less well intentioned but even well meaning arrangements put the lives of many in the hands of entities whose fate is uncertain.

Artists / graphic designers: I wanted to insert a picture of a toggle switch here – one position showing a power station, the other, the sun. Alas, unable to create it from scratch and cannot locate any top down view photos of a toggle switch to Photoshop. Anyone creative out there want to knock one up? Free Bottle Of on me!

Therefore, individual families and organisations need a built in system offering backup not reliant on the state or ‘grid’ based infrastructure.

  1. Local sustainable energy generators need to be installed on as many homes and businesses as possible. These should charge batteries that can be relied upon when the energy generators are not functioning or external grid based power is unavailable. The only way to make this viable is for a compact and efficient mass produced sustainable energy generation and storage system to be developed. This can be activated to keep core systems operational, such as computers and heating or air conditioning. (The latter until naturally ventilated buildings are commonplace.)
  2. More importantly, there needs to a backup food source. Here in Oxford, such a system is already well established in the form of the increasingly popular alotments. No, not a replacement for efficient ‘mass produced’ produce designed to feed the 7 billion of us, but a backup. Just as the mass produced produce system is a backup in case ones alotment is washed out by an overly wet period of weather.

Without wide-scale adoption of these two core components of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, society will become too vulnerable (if it is not already) leading to scapegoating, civil unrest and even war.

Fight back club: a) Apply for that allotment. b) Entrepreneurs (including this one) need to bring mass produceable sustainable energy sources to the home and small businesses as quickly as possible. I have my own ideas on this and have been testing one on a small scale for a while now. Every little helps!

Update (Monday 21 May 2012):  Look what Mr. Clegg has to say on the matter.

Update 2 (29 March 2013): Cannot believe no one spotted the typo in bullet point 2 above, I spelled ‘feed’ as ‘feel’ by mistake. Well, I didn’t spot it either, but I am often in a hurry as explained in the about page of this blog. Sorry!

Written by Oflife

May 14, 2012 at 10:26 am

Posted in Energy, Infrastructure, Society, The Grid

Tagged with ,

Vive La…. …What?

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Uh oh. The winner of the French elections, whilst correct to lambast the overly unethical financial institutions promised something else that is quite worrying. He will ‘invest’ millions to employ more in the public sector. You know what that means don’t you? More unskilled, aggressive self hating jobsworths who as per those here in the UK, will make life hell for those who want to live a more pro-active life. And we all know how unpleasant jobsworths from mainland Europe can be when hate and fiscal incentives are mixed together.

What would make a LOT more sense would be for one of the key pros of socialism to be adopted, namely, investment in the national infrastructure – to benefit the economy, create jobs and therefore hope and taxes that in turn can be used to pay for any ideological ventures such as renewable energy to replace ageing leaking nuclear reactors. (Yes, they leak.) France already has superb trains, but as per the UK and most other Western nations, it suffers from spotty broadband connections due to the failure of the private sector to get their act together thanks to a combination of greed (XXXXX% markup on text message fees etc) and total lack of vision. Hence, where I type this from, the Vodafone Edge connection on our mobile devices is SLOWER than dialup of 20 years ago and so totally unusable. And this is ripe across the UK, except in areas where you DON’T need a signal because you can use WiFi. Rediculous.

On several occasions, including here, this blog stated that it was vital for the West’s economy that consistent speedy wireless and fixed line broadband was made available across all areas of a nation, from city centres to the wildest countryside. A far better investment of state resources than repressive self destructive socialism which unless done right, doesn’t work. No pun intended!

Fight back club: No idea. How do you force a government to do something like this if they are too thick to get it? We do really need a nice Earthy mix of creative capitalism and socialism. Pick-n-mix?

BTW, the Germans have proven that enlightened apprenticeship based capitalism works. No austerity or riots there, and Audi & BMW are doing very well thank you.

Police St Giles Oxford May 8 2012

Bonjour Bonjour Mr. Motorist. Days after I write this post, I witness 8 or 9 Oxford police pulling over motorists, including a taxi full of passengers. I asked the most senior looking officer what was going on. He stated it was a speed awareness program to alert drivers to the 20mph speed limit throughout the city, but only those doing over 30mph were being fined. Either way, just around the corner in Jericho, drug dealers and others are ruining the area, whilst crime is rampant across the city, from laptop thefts from private homes to almost continuous bike theft just about everywhere. Anyone on Planet Earth can visit St. Giles and it is not an area where people drive too fast due to the nature of the road. The income earned by fining hard working responsible people is a great way to keep state employees in their jobs. Oh, the irony of it all! And you freedom loving citizen are paying for it and having your driving record ruined in the process (£60 + 3 points) – a punishment that does not reflect the crime. Incidentally, when I try to drive 20mph in my car in 3rd gear, the car almost stalls or jerks. If I shift down into 2nd, the engine revs so using up a lot of fuel in the process. Fine for passing a school, but not everywhere within a city! It is all so petty, wasteful and dishonest. This is for profit law and order, and it is only going to get worse. I urge those of you who do not comprehend what I am getting at should spend some time away from the UK for some enlightenment. Note that the economies of less repressive nations are doing better. People cannot earn a living and pay taxes if they are constantly dealing with and paying for matters like this.
(The problem is not the police who are following orders, it is the council.) 

Written by Oflife

May 7, 2012 at 3:11 pm

It’s a long shot, but…

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…rather than invest billions in what will be an exciting and technologically advanced rail network – throttled by actually getting to the rail stations en route, how about dispensing with the need to dig up the countryside (again) and invest in a national personal STOL airborne transport infrastructure?

You know you want one – and the price is not bad for bleeding edge technology

Fight back club: Encourage the construction of mini airfields around the country – and in the case of the ICON (above), lakes could also suffice as water runways, further reducing the need to dig anything up. Nature knows and does best, so let’s follow the birds! It is the inevitable future.

This post is of course somewhat cheeky and idealistic, but I have always believed that come the day of ultra quiet (aircraft) engines and the intelligent virtual highway (something I was thinking about in the 1980s and that NASA have done a lot of work on), it will be much safer to travel in personal aircraft. In the event of an accident the number of victims in a train or commercial aircraft is of course much higher than that of a smaller craft.

Written by Oflife

March 12, 2010 at 12:36 pm

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