Thursday, 9 December 2010

Police data test 1

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Happy Christmas from the Web Team

Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!

The new rules of Marketing and PR

I have been reading this book by David Meerman Scott a lot recently.  It explains how marketing and public relations used to be quite separate concepts but have blurred into a new set of rules which combine marketing and PR together in a new online world of communication.

Marketing - old rules

  • Marketing simply means advertising (and branding)
  • Advertising needed to appeal to the masses
  • Advertising relied on interrupting people to get them to pay attention to a message
  • Advertising was one-way: company to consumer.
  • Advertising was exclusively about selling products
  • Advertising was based on campaigns that has a limited life
  • Creativity was deemed the most important component of advertising
  • It was more important for the ad agency to win advertising awards than for the client to win new customers
  • Advertising and PR were separate disciplines run by different people with separate goals, strategies and measurement criteria

Public Relations - old rules

  • The only way to get ink and airtime was through the media
  • Companies communicated to journalists via press releases
  • Nobody saw the actual press release except a handful of reporters and editors
  • Companies had to have significant news before they were allowed to write a press release
  • Jargon was okay because the journalists all understood it
  • You weren't supposed to send a release unless it included quotes from third parties, such as customers, analysts and experts
  • The only way buyers would learn about the press release's content was if the media wrote a story about it
  • The only way to measure the effectiveness of press releases was through 'clip books' which noted each time the media deigned to pick up a company's release
  • PR and marketing were separate disciplines run by different people with separate goals, strategies and measurement techniques.

The new rules of marketing and PR

  • Marketing is more than just advertising
  • PR is for more than just a mainstream media audience
  • You are what you publish
  • People want authenticity, not spin
  • People want participation, not propaganda
  • Instead of causing one-way interruption, marketing is about delivering content at just the precise moment your audience needs it
  • Marketers must shift their thinking from mainstream marketing to the masses to a strategy of reaching vast numbers of underserved audiences via the web
  • PR is not about your boss seeing your company on TV. Its about your buyers seeing your company on the web
  • Marketing is not about your agency winning awards. Its about your organisation winning business
  • The Internet has made public relations public again, after years of almost exclusive focus on media
  • Companies must drive people into the purchasing process with great online content
  • Blogs, online video, e-books, news releases and other forms of online content let organisations communicate directly with buyers in a form they appreciate
  • On the web, the lines between marketing and PR have blurred

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Tweather - an idea

I mentioned in my previous entry an idea for how standard data could be published via twitter enabling tweets on a common theme to be combined from multiple sources, databased and republished.

Maybe the best potential use for this idea is to produce a live or near-live weather site based on people's tweets from all over the UK about what the weather is doing NOW.

Using a standard set of data in a specific order, people could publish what the weather is like where they are.  If all the data is gathered and brought together using a mapping service, a weather map could be produced that changes dynamically with the tweets.  Not so much a 'weather forecast' but a 'Tweather forecast'.

This has the potential to give accurate, minute-by-minute data on moving weather fronts and could be a useful source of information.  A belt of rain moving across an area would be tracked and mapped and it may even be possible to predict where that rain will fall next - a true tweather forecast!

Tweets could be vastly simplified using applications that simply require the user to tap a weather icon on their screen - the time, date and location would be automatically added.

~23:58 ~05/11/10 ~Essex ~Chelmsford ~Light Rain

Friday, 5 November 2010

A quick note about police helicopter tweets

QH99 Essex Police Helicopter
I noticed this evening that there are now four UK Police Air Support Unit consortiums on Twitter.  I am certain that there will be more soon, maybe all of them before too long.!/list/beaker9/police-air-support

For the most part, these channels exist to tweet regular updates on flights undertaken and I thought how great it would be for all these to conform to a common schema.  It would allow these and any future ASU twitter channels to be combined from their respective RSS feeds into a UK composite.  Here are the four examples of typical fight reports:

5 Nov 20:25 - Search for 2 people who had run from the scene of a burglary in Lymm. Open areas were confirmed to be clear.

S1465 22:45hrs 03/11/10 - Durrington - missing person search. Areas checked with no trace, enquiries to continue.

Heli activity Leics - 

01:00 01/11/10 Search area near Manor Way, Cardiff, for male wanted in relation to a robbery.

EMASUhelicopters doesn't seem to routinely tweet individual flight operations and when it does, it links to a website.  The other three do and they follow virtually the same pattern with only subtle differences which I think could easily be standarised.

We have the date, time, location and operation details as 4 distinct aspects.  I would suggest as potential standard format to follow could be:

1. Time: 22:45
2. Date: 03/11/10
3. Location1: Cheshire (represents the force area)
4. Location2: Lymm (more localised within that force area; suggest the main town or village)
5. Details1: Search (operation type from a standard list of agreed types)
6. Details2: Rest of the details of the flight
7. Link: optional - could be website, twitpics etc.

So a typical post could be:

~22:45 ~03/11/10 ~Cheshire ~Lymm ~Search Missing person. Areas checked with no trace, enquiries to continue.

By carefully formatting the tweets, they could be interpreted via the RSS feed and re-combined with other similar feeds.

This concept could be an interesting development of Twitter in its own right.  The publication of 'Twitter Schemas' that people can use for specific types of posts could allow a more sophisticated opportunity to combine data together, moving things on from the rather basic hashtag method. Maybe a hashtag at the end to denote the 'schema type' could be used? #ASU

As usual - all views welcomed! :¬)

Added - November 5th 2010
Just remembered a fifth police ASU channel which is no longer operating. @suspol_heli

Friday, 22 October 2010

Pubs near the canals

The Bridge
Southam Road
CV47 8NQ
01926 812466

The Kings Head
Southam Road
CV47 8NG
01926 812202

The Old Olive Bush
CV23 8AT
01788 891134

The Wheatsheaf Inn
10 The Green
NN11 7HW
01788 890748

The Admiral Nelson
Dark Lane
NN11 7HJ
01788 890075

The New Inn
Long Buckby
01327 844 747

The Red Lion Inn
52 Main Road
01788 822342

Husbands Bosworth
The Bell Inn
2 Kilworth Road
LE17 6JZ
01858 880246

The Bell
Main Street
Market Harborough
LE16 7RU
0116 279 2476

Shoulder of Mutton
60 Main Street
LE16 7RB
01858 545 964

Sugar Loaf (JD Wetherspoons)
18 High Street
LE16 7NJ
01858 469231

Saturday, 2 October 2010

NPWMG 1st Unconference

Updated with another hotel.  Hope to have confirmation of a few more people tomorrow.  Adding to Ning group on Monday - spread the word.

OK this is likely to change and develop but here are a few notes to kick off the debate and get some firm arrangements for this 'do'.

Location: Nottingham - Robin Hood Beer Festival
Dates: Friday October 15th, 2010 - Sunday October 17th, 2010
Invited: National Police Web Managers and partners pus anyone else who wants to join in!
Purpose: It's a beer festival + friendship + chat + (we may get some work done too).
David W (Friday through to Sunday morning)
Sasha (Friday through to Sunday morning)
David N (Friday night only)
John (tbc)
Rachel (tbc)
Gregg (tbc)
Stuart (can't make it)
Vanisha (can't make it)
Anyone else???

Travelodge Nottingham Central Hotel
New City House
Maid Marian Way
Tel: 0871 984 6280*
Fax: 01159 414610

Nottingham City (Goldsmith St)
Goldsmith Street, Nottingham,
T: 0871 527 8846* 
F: 0871 527 8847

Nottingham Arena (London Rd)

Island Site, London Road,
Nottingham, Nottinghamshire NG1 5LT
T: 0871 527 8848* 
F: 0871 527 8849

Rutland Square Hotel
St James' Street
Phone: +44 115 9411114

£85 for 2 nights incl. breakfast

More to follow . . Chip in with comments.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

embedding tests

Met Office

This Weather Widget is provided by the Met Office

This Weather Widget is provided by the Met Office


Highways Agency East of England widget

YouTube custom player



Listen on!


Saturday, 25 September 2010

Ron's inspiration

I attended a meeting yesterday which was very useful but the most inspiring bit was a story told during the lunch break about a man who made a positive difference in spite of the politics and the corporate machine rather than because of it. Other elements of the meeting demonstrated to me just how difficult it is to move an essentially sensible, money-saving solution forward without having to get involved in pampering senior people in lofty positions.  I hope that it is possible for ordinary public sector people to be inspired by this story to sidestep the politics and deliver solutions that improve services.

The story is all about software development so its pretty geeky but bear with it because it tells an important story.  It makes me think about all those good people who work in the public sector who will loose their jobs in the budget cuts.  All those people who are involved in positive projects that would have made a difference if only they were allowed to continue. All those people who really care about trying to make things better despite the politics and corporate egos which constantly conspire to get in their way.

Read  Watch (from about 8:00)

This also represents some of the essence which is David Cameron's 'Big Society' but there is a problem.  I totally agree that people have to get involved in doing things in their own time to make their society better.  I help run a Boys Brigade company in my spare time but I do acknowledge there is a lot more I could be doing.

However, we can't afford to sack over 1 million public sector workers and expect them all to be so positively engaged in their previous work that they all continue to come to work for free and finish the projects they were previously working on (like Ron).  What is more likely is that whereas before they were earning money, paying taxes, spending money in shops and generally supporting the economy, they will now be on state benefit, feeling depressed, leaning on health and policing services and being a burden on the state.  It is ironic that while this takes place, the 'state' in the form of the public services will have become much smaller and less effectual in coping.  Sounds a bit like a implosion which, once ignited may continue to spiral downwards and not stop until  - well who knows where it may stop?

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

@Lovefilm a bit more

Hey - LoveFilm replied to my tweets and want to email me!  I have already had two separate replies from the faulty disc report and feedback I gave on their website.  They offered 1 month free rentals (worth £3.99) and a free film credit.

All this is very nice but it won't be any good if all these extra discs turn out to be faulty!  All I really want is for a decent run of clean, playable discs to restore my faith in LoveFilm.  I do appreciate I am on the cheapest rental tariff available but it is nothing if the discs don't play.

However - fair play to LoveFilm for responding so positively to my messages.  Lets hope the discs that turn up next time play!

Monday, 20 September 2010

GPS parcel tracking

I'm currently up waiting for a package to be delivered. It was supposed to be delivered last Wednesday but was cancelled, then again last Friday but was cancelled and now I'm hoping it's third time lucky.

The tracking facilities offered by courier companies these days seems quite impressive on the surface but I've yet to see one in action that really makes full use of the technology available.  Generally, I get a nice message at the beginning to say the package has been handed over to the courier company.  Then I get some updates saying it has reached various 'hubs' on it's journey.  Finally, the package arrives (hopefully between the two times quoted by the person who called me on the phone).  At the crucial stages, GPS is useless to me.

To me, GPS parcel tracking is all about sequential precise locations on a map at a precise timestamp enabling a route to be traced and a predicted future location estimated.  Why then can't the exact live location of the package be available on a map from the moment it is loaded from the supplier to the moment it comes off the lorry when delivered?  During this period, the package is always in a building or a vehicle which can be geo-located.

The same principles could be employed for service trades like plumbers, service engineers, district nurses, vets - in fact any service that requires someone to wait in for the service person to arrive.  There are bound to be security issues but perhaps some control software could be in place which only allows time-limited access to the geo-locations during the delivery process.

Right now, my package still hasn't arrived and I have no idea where it is.  Maybe it will come in the next few minutes and maybe it won't come at all.

Friday, 17 September 2010

All the 'love' has gone - nearly

I would like to share my latest rant to the not-so-lovely @LoveFilm

Our relationship is not going well and is definitely on the rocks.  Unless they can manage to send me 2 or 3 films on the trot that actually play back all the way through, I think we'll be heading for a nasty divorce after which time I will be thinking about starting a new relationship with Blockbusters or some other attractive film rental service.  I'll be fair though and see what happens next.  I'm always ready to work at any relationship . . .

"I am staggered to again receive a totally unplayable Blu-ray disc from Lovefilm.  This time, the playback was so bad that it stuck throughout from the opening title sequence until I gave up an hour into the film.  5 out of the last 7 films you have sent have been unplayable and even the replacement film for 'Sunshine' was unplayable - that is 6 films in total.

This string of faulty discs had caused me to doubt the quality of my player - the highly rated Panasonic DMR BS750.  I have visited the specialist Panasonic retailer in Chelmsford who played some of your discs in several of their machines and found the same issues that I found.  I bought a £10 head cleaner from them in the hope that it would help.  I also borrowed a collection of 16 Blu-ray discs from a friend of mine.  I have spent many hours playing these films back and all 16 played back faultlessly.  Ironically, they are all ex-rental copies from Blockbusters.
This week I have revisited the most recent films sent by Lovefilm - Master & Commander and Capricorn One.  My hopes were raised as Capricorn One played back fine but Master and Commander has been the worst of the lot.  Errors from the beginning and throughout.
I have become a watcher of films where I no longer follow the story, appreciate the acting or the special effects.  All I now seem to do is wait for skips and jumps in the picture and send back error reports to you.
A few emails back, I was promised a cleaning cloth to clean the discs I receive from Lovefilm but it didn't ever arrive and possibly was never sent.  If I can play 16 ex rental Blockbuster films back-to-back without a single issue, I no longer feel it should be necessary to clean all the discs I receive from Lovefilm - they should be sent in an appropriate condition for playback.
This adventure has led me to considering how you could improve your process for error detection.  Have you considered building machines capable of detecting playback errors and reporting those errors at the end of the playback session?  I think you should put every effort into avoiding sending faulty discs.  If I were to be able to detect a faulty disc before I dedicate 2 hours to sit down and watch it, it would be a simple issue of ticking the fault tick-box and putting it back in the post.  What I really get annoyed about is having to spend 2 hours watching the film, only to find a fault an hour into the film.  This spoils the film and wastes the evening I set aside for watching it.  Furthermore, it deadens the appetite somewhat for wanting to sit down and re-watch the film again, especially (in the case of 'Sunshine'), it proves to be faulty again on the second viewing.
With the 6 films I have been unable to play plus the 16 'test' films I have watched, I now estimate that I have wasted about 35 hours of my time and several months worth of rentals in trying to get this sorted out.  I feel unable to properly enjoy discs that Lovefilm send until I get 80%-90% success rate on playback rather than the 10%-20% of late. I am not yet ready to give up on Lovefilm but I would like you to consider some form of compensation and an effort to try and send me some films that will play back without skipping or jumping.
I would appreciate your views of my recent experience with your films and some form of compensation as you feel is suitable in the circumstances I have described."

More on LoveFilm 

Monday, 6 September 2010

BBC iPlayer for Panasonic V10

I have been waiting to get the update for my Panasonic V10 television since I bought the TV back in January.  Panasonic have been unusually slow to release it with scant information available and frequent delays.

Thanks to the power of RSS, I came across an update from which mentioned the update on the homepage.  I followed the instructions and after a switch off/switch on, it was working from the red button service.

It all seems to work well and I'm currently watching the beginning on 'Curse of the Were Rabbit' featuring Wallace and Gromit. Quality is very good and the picture is smooth with decent lip-sync. (I checked the lip-sync on another programme - not very easy with Wallace)!

The update had to be triggered from the VieraCast menu rather than the main Panasonic update menu which I tried without success last night.  Interestingly, I saw that the updated VieraCast software now includes Twitter.  I logged in and saw the usual stuff but I don't think I'll be battling with the remote to do updates.  It is done via the 1-9 keypad 'text message' style but the response time on the Panasonic menus is so slow that updates would be tortuously slow.  It may be useful to scan through updates though.  Most of the VieraCast options really require a keyboard entry - maybe Panasonic will bring out a wireless TV keyboard sometime soon?

Looks like I'll have to permanently wire in the ethernet cable to the TV now.  Well done Panasonic and BBC!

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Weather forecasting social media style

I have an idea about hyper-local, live weather forecasting just based on people stating, in real time, what the weather is now, where they are.  With enough input a very accurate and localised weather forecast could be created.

It would just plot the weather as it is now, onto a map which can be played back up to the current point in time.  Bands of localised 'now-weather' would be animated on the map indicating where the rain has been and the direction it is travelling up to 'now'. Software could then take over and continue the animation into the future based on previous direction of travel and wind speed and direction data.  On the other hand, people may just prefer seeing the weather coming their way and predicting its path towards them (and its E.T.A.) themselves.  Releasing an API for the data would enable others to develop the idea into other areas much the way Twitter allows its API to be used to enrich the Twitterverse.

All the various existing social networks could be used to contribute to this service.  People could use specific tags on Twitter: #rain #rainstop #sun #wind etc. A service could search and plot these tags along with the geocode location data to contribute.  Specific apps could be written just for weather reporting with pics of the weather types to just tap to describe the current weather. I think letting other people know if its just started raining (or just stopped) could become as addictive as telling people what they've just eaten for lunch (Twitter) or where they have just stopped to do the shopping (FourSquare).  At least this will contribute to a very useful service which everyone could use.  Just think how excited people will get when it starts snowing!

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Warehouse Deals by Amazon NOT

Copy of an email sent today to

note the words: by Amazon (with logo)
I am writing to suggest that you investigate the legitimacy of a third-party seller on

I have always assumed that the Amazon Warehouse Deals section of the is a part of Amazon itself because  they trade off the Amazon name, use Amazon logo, paperwork, packaging and use the same returns address as Amazon.

I tried to order a new TV today but when I tried to go to checkout, it said they couldn't deliver to my registered home address.  There was no plausible explanation for this as far as I could tell and there was no useful help available on the site so I called Amazon to try and get it sorted out.

Doesn't look like a 3rd party does it!
The first shock was that I was told that Amazon Warehouse Deals is a third-party seller and isn't part of  Putting that aside for a second, I continued with the enquiry regarding the delivery address.  We did some tests including adding a 'regular' Amazon product through to order which proved my registered address was working (this order was subsequently canceled). I also tried adding another Amazon Warehouse Deals item (A Panasonic TZ7 camera) which also went through to order without a problem.  I also tried a similar Panasonic 42" Plasma TV to see if it was anything to do with the size or weight of the delivery but that went through to checkout as well.

Amazon said they would raise an internal inquiry to work out what the problem was because all Warehouse Deal items are shipped from the Amazon warehouse and therefore are automatically valid to be dispatched to any UK address.  This also revealed that the 'Third Party' seller is shipping items stored at the Amazon main warehouse!

I asked for Amazon Warehouse Deals' phone number and email address but neither of these were available to the calltaker.  I found this incredible considering all third party seller must surely have to register with Amazon - at least their basic detail like phone, emails and trading address.

I was told to wait 24 hours and try again, after which time, Amazon would have resolved the matter.  I was annoyed because that could mean someone else making an order on the TV.

So, my original issue is - how can Amazon allow a third party seller to act as though they are Amazon themselves by using their logo, paperwork, packaging, returns address and dispatch from the same warehouse as Amazon?  I think it is reasonable to assume that Amazon Warehouse Deals is a returns arm of Amazon which processes returned goods and makes then available at a discounted price - just like it says on the Amazon website:

'Warehouse Deals by Amazon' but it is a third party seller? Deception rather than honest sales practice.

Update - 4:47pm

Amazon sent me an email - To Mr Jones . . .  My feedback  rant reply below.
Email to Mr. Jones.  I am Mr. White! Otherwise, the call was dealt with as well as can be expected BUT

1. I think it is a deception that Warehouse Deals 'by Amazon' complete with the Amazon logo, paperwork, packaging and returns address can be a third party seller. I and many other 1000's of people will think Warehouse Deals is a part of Amazon and therefore feel confident in buying from them.  I don't like buying from third party sellers on Amazon and always stick to Amazon only.

2. I find it incredible that Amazon have no basic contact details for 'Warehouse Deals by Amazon'- even an email address or phone number. I even found out as part of the phone conversation that they dispatch all their items direct from Amazon's 'actual' warehouse.  This is hardly third party is it!

Also I would like to comment on the feedback form which insists on an order number before it will submit.  This is fine if you have an order number but no good if the original issue is because you couldn't order what you wanted!!!!!

Suggest you make this field optional so I don't have to bung in an old order number just to get it to send.

Updated 6:24pm

I just found this on the Warehouse Deals by Amazon web page:

About Seller
Warehouse Deals is a trading name of Amazon EU Sarl, and is part of the Group. We offer open box, customer returned and warehouse damaged merchandise at reduced prices with the benefits of fulfillment and customer service.

Please note that, due to the nature of Warehouse Deals' items, we cannot replace your item, nor can you return items for defects which were disclosed in the description of the item in Warehouse Deals' Marketplace listing.

Warehouse Deals will deliver only to UK mainland addresses.

Update 7:16pm

I have just emailed Warehouse Deals by Amazon to inform them about my inquiry with Amazon:

I wanted to inform you that I have raised the following issue with Amazon regarding a problem I am having trying to buy an item from Warehouse Deals from Amazon.

I cannot complete purchase because the system will not accept my UK delivery address.  The item is a Panasonic 42" Plasma G10 TV priced most recently at £407.89.

I have also questioned why Amazon refer to you as a third party seller despite the fact that you use Amazon's logo, paperwork, packaging, returns address and dispatch from the same warehouse as Amazon?  You describe yourselves as follows: "Warehouse Deals is a trading name of Amazon EU Sarl, and is part of the Group". How can you be a third party seller and also part of the Group?

Finally, is there a way you can reserve this TV while this issue with the delivery address is sorted out.  Amazon has asked that I don't try again until September 1st, 2010.  I am concerned that this item may be sold to someone else by then.

Many thanks
David White

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Aubioboo embedded

Just trying an embedded version of the latest Essex Police Audioboo:


Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Facebook Alien

I have spent the last month or so researching social media sites and I have set up many without an issue.  All except one.

Flickr, Blogger, WordPress, YouTube, Twitter, AudioBoo and many others are all fairly straightforward.  They are intuitive to set up and easy to understand but Facebook leaves me stone cold.

I have tried several times now to engage with Facebook but it is confusing, unintuitive and throws me at every turn. I now have three books which I hope with help me understand the basics.  The worrying thing is that those who regularly seem to use Facebook seem blissfully unaware of how it actually works.  They just seems to ignore all the buttons, links and tabs and just use the bit they are familiar with.  I all sounds a bit like the way people generally use Word and Excel.  Just get it to print a page of text or add up a column of numbers and ignore 98% of the functionality.

I would be happy to treat Facebook like this but with concerns about privacy and data protection, you cannot afford to ignorant of the many buttons, settings, links and tabs on offer.  It is a design and interface nightmare - surely it is time for someone to design something much better, without all those awful adverts and which can incorporate powerful features but still retain an elegant and simple design and interface.

Facebook then is a bit like SMS texts. Awkward and badly designed but both destined to become massively popular despite the flaws.  Once a monster is rolling, it is difficult to stop however scary it is!

BluRay - the saga continues

Having now borrowed 16 ex rental Blockbuster BluRay discs, I am now going through them, trying to see how many of them throw a fit in my BluRay player.

So far, We have played 2 discs and they both played 100% perfectly.  This compares to a series of 5 rentals from LoveFilm which have all been faulty.  If I get through all these Blockbuster discs without an issue I will leave LoveFilm and try somewhere else but I have a long way to go yet.  We'll see what happens.

While I talking about faulty goods, I had to send back my 'Pebble' mobile device charger this morning because the button wouldn't work after just one use.  Amazon were fantastic and it was sent back with a pre-paid label this morning with a new replacement upgraded to first class delivery in the post back to me.  What fantastic service is that!

Brilliant HTC

Here is the answer to an enquiry I made to HTC yesterday regarding a charging issue when using GoogleMaps Navigation.  I have to say a first class service.

David This is likely to be the 3rd party charger not allowing the device enough current to charge and make use of the application at the same time. The Navigation software uses more current as it uses more processor power to run. I would recommend replacing the in car charger with the Official HTC charger to see if this resolves the issue. Please also test the charge of the mains charger to see how long the device will hold charge for under normal operation to see if the battery is behaving ok. Here is a little HTC Tip too, Dial in the phones dialer as you were to make a call when connected or disconnected to the charge source *#*#4636#*#* to obtain the secret menu were you can see battery status and information. Please let me know if you are able to resolve this issue?
Good HTC tip in there - dial  *#*#4636#*#* to see lots of secret technical stuff!

Photo from the website - I hope they don't mind me using it!

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

GoogleMaps Navigation

This is a copy of an enquiry about the GoogleMaps Directions/SatNav application which I submitted to the website today.

When I have used the HTC Desire as a SatNav using the Google Maps Navigation, I have had a power issue, details of which are described below.

The phone starts at full charge and is then plugged into the car cigar lighter socket and it starts charging (amber flashing light).  I then set Google Maps to navigate and started my journey.  At the end of the journey, I expected the phone to be fully charged but it showed less than half charge.

The following day I plugged the phone in for the return journey and it was at half charge.  At the end of this journey, the phone had lost so much battery charge that it immediately switched off.

I expected that all functions of the phone should be able to operate whilst on charge whether by mains or via car socket.  I can only deduce that the power consumed when GoogleMaps Navigate is on (i.e. screen, GPS and voice commands) is more than can be supplied by the charger.

My expectation was that even after a long journey using the SatNav functions of the HTC Desire, the phone should charged up fully at the end, ready to be used at the destination.

Can you comment on these issues and suggest a solution?  I am particularly keen to know if this phone has been tested on a typical car journey for power consumption and if the consumption exceeds the input charge.  I do not have an 'official' HTC car adaptor but I would be very happy to buy one if I can be convinced that the input charge would overcome this issue.

Perhaps there could be an update to the app which can be applied which causes it to consume less power and allows the phone to charge up?

I abandoned GoogleMaps navigation for the next journey and just left the phone to charge normally during the journey.  The car adapter fully charged the phone during the 3 hour journey from flat which at least proves the car adapter works.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Savoury stuffed marrow

Something for Natalie to do with her spare courgettes . . .

1 marrow (or large courgettes)
2oz butter
2oz plain flour
¼ pint milk
4oz cheddar cheese grated
1tblsp freshly chopped tarragon or thyme
2tblsp chopped parsley
Salt and ground black pepper
8oz cooked chicken diced
1oz white breadcrumbs


  1. Peel marrow, cut in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds.
  2. Bring large pan water to the boil, add marrow and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Drain and arrange cavity side up in lightly oiled, ovenproof dish.
  3. Preheat oven gas 5, 190C.
  4. Melt butter in saucepan, stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Gradually stir in the milk, bring to the boil and simmer until thick and smooth.
  5. Remove from the heat and stir in most of the cheese, most of the herbs and the chicken. Season to taste and spoon into the marrow cavities.
  6. Mix breadcrumbs and remaining herbs. Season and sprinkle over the marrow filling. Bake for 25 minutes until golden. For extra crunch, place under a hot grill for 1 minute before serving.

Serves 4

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Tescos v Police Stations

This prompted some twitter conversation this evening so I thought I'd blog a bit about it.

For a start, I didn't believe there were more Tescos open 24 hours, seven days per week than police stations in Essex so I did a bit of research of my own.  I even plotted the results in a Google Map:

View Tescos v Police: 24 hours servcies in Essex in a larger map

Red - 24/7 Police Stations
Blue - 'nearly' 24/7 Tescos
Purple - 24/7 Tesco (Brentwood)

The results were quite interesting. There are 15 '24 hour' Tescos in Essex but only one of these are genuinely open 24/7.  All the others are open 24/7 for 5 days of the week, normally Tuesday - Saturday with regular hours on Sundays and Mondays.

In contrast there are 11 police stations open 24/7 out of a total of 49 station which are open to the public.
I think Richard Edwards, the Telegraph Crime Correspondent may need to dig a bit deeper into the Tescos stats and check those '24/7' claims again.  If there is only 1 genuine 24/7 Tescos in Essex, it is likely that there are more like 50 - 75 nationwide, not 394 as reported.  Unfortunately, the storefinder on the Tescos website offers many options to filter stores but there is no 24/7 filter!

This leads on to another debate.  Can you really compare a public service paid for by the tax payer and a commercial business driven by profit?

How many people need to go shopping (and how often) compared to those needing to visit a police station?  We visit Sainsburys 3 or 4 times a week and spend several hours in there in total.  I don't think I have ever needed to visit a police station except for my job (and that doesn't count).  If every family in the UK had a need to spend several hours per week in a police station, there would be many more and they would probably be as big as your average Tescos or Sainsburys.

I have had a need to use an airport more often in the last 25 years than I have had need of a police station.  However, I think it is OK that there is only 1 airport in Essex and only three international airports in the region. I'm not demanding that there should be 15 airports in Essex so why should there need to be 15 24/7 police stations?

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

LoveFilm - HateFilm

I Hate LoveFilm.  No I don't really but we're not currently on friendly terms.

Not only have all the last 3 Blu-ray discs been faulty to the point of unwatchable, we now have an ordinary DVD which doesn't work either.  This one is the 1932 version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde.  Tested in two different DVD players, it jumps and skips at exactly the same point and you have to skip to the next chapter to clear the fault. We also have the last Indiana Jones film at home on Blu-ray and I am almost dreading watching it for fear of wasting another 2 hours.

LoveFilm have been in touch via email and Twitter to stress that their rental discs are exactly the same as the retail ones and that they get regularly checked and cleaned.  They also ensure they give me back the credits for the damaged films but I still feel annoyed about wasting 2 hours to find out.

AudioBoo - more clips

AudioBoo official button
AudioBoo is a good tool to distribute audio clips and seems to work in a similar way to Twitter and YouTube.  I'm not sure if it will catch on as a mainstream social media outlet alongside the giants of Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube etc but it seems to be unique in the market place.  I have added some more clips and will now upload any new audio added the the Essex Police website.

The only problem is that out of 4 browsers, I still cannot upload a clip from work.  Being on IE6 doesn't help but Firefox, Safari and Opera all couldn't cope. Chrome is a no-no apparently because it has to be installed per user and it generally is too modern and forward thinking.  Firefox almost made it but failed at the last minute.  It decided Flash player wasn't up to it and threw some kind of error.

Would be interested to see if anyone else is considering using it.  It does offer comments which you cannot pre-moderate but it is supposed to send an email if anyone comments or if anyone follows you - similar to Twitter.  So far nobody is following and nobody has commented so I can't test to see if the emails are actually sent or not!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

AudioBoo success

I have added 5 audio clips to this evening.  This is in effect a trial for a suitable outlet for our audio clips alongside YouTube for our video clips.

Listen on!

You can even embed it into a web page!  You only have control over the width and height.  It needs to be fairly wide otherwise the title text bunches up a bit.  Not bad though.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Twitter stats

Police forces on Twitter - August 2010
This is a graph to show the forces who are using Twitter.  The force with the most tweets on the left and the forces currently not using twitter on the right.  Everyone else in the middle! Interesting to note is the range of tweets (red) compared with the followers (blue).  Also, it seems not many forces feel it is important to follow those people who are following them.

This map shows the forces (blue) who are currently using Twitter with those not yet involved in yellow.

It would be interesting to know if any of the 10 forces not yet on Twitter are planning their introduction or have already decided against it.

If I have this wrong, of if any forces join Twitter in the coming months, please comment and let me know.  In six months time, it will be interesting to see if there is a difference in the coverage on this map.

I'll aim to do a similar blog entry for forces on Facebook, Flickr and YouTube.

And finally, has anyone discovered AudioBoo yet?

This site is a perfect complement to the social media sites.  Audio can be uploaded in a similar way to Twitter and there are close links to Twitter, Facebook and podcasts with iTunes.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

ukpolcamp, crowdsourcing and npwmg

I went onto Wikipedia to find out more about crowdsourcing after it was mentioned on Twitter.
"Crowdsourcing is the act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, to a large group of people or community (a crowd), through an open call."
I like this idea a lot.  It appeals as a compromise between continuing development in isolation within an organisation where innovation can become stilted and soured (see institutional memory), and the outright waste of money by passing everything into the commercial environment where money has to be more important than anything else.

I would like to explore the dynamics of mixing the desires of the various police web managers to work collaboratively; the wider scoping of a barcamp and the ultimate public collaboration of crowdsourcing.  Maybe a group like the web managers would be better engaged in providing organisational support and momentum in creating the appropriate environment for effective police barcamps and crowdsourcing (and then taking part) than trying to work together initially on their own.

This leads to to considering how an open environment which includes the public can work in developing resources to improve police IT and web systems.  Public automatically includes criminals and those others who would love to disrupt developments.  This aspect can be taken positively or negatively and I would hope that the potential benefits would outweigh the overly protective attitude police forces traditionally have to all things new (see institutional memory again!).

What would the environment look like?

I see two separate areas to consider.

1. The places where people discuss ideas, present concepts and agree policy both in meetings, barcamps, blogs, websites, Twitter etc.

2. The point where code and graphics are created, databased and where web projects are incubated.

The first is just words and ideas and something anyone can already freely get involved in anyway but my concern is when the words start turning into prototype sites and real development.  How can access to developing code and sites be both open and accessible and also controlled and kept safe from rogue code and scripts?  I think this is the key area the web managers could assist in - the gatekeepers of the code, controlling the interface between the experiments and proposals from the wider collaborative communities and the secure, safe environment where the development is tweeked, tested and perfected prior to first release.

This is an area where Google or Mozilla can surely assist us?  They manage the fine line between mass collaboration which includes the public and the end products.

Got to stop now - ITV4 is showing the Touring Car Championships from Snetterton in Norfolk where the two boys have been taken for the day by Peter our next-door neighbour. I need to be fairly clued up with the races, drivers and general terminology for when they come back later on. 

Jason Plato has won the first race - who's he then?

More Blu-ray

Watched Casino Royale last night.  It was the 2006 version, not the original!

The good thing was that it played back without a glitch from beginning to end unlike the two LoveFilm rental discs.  I am now convinced that the problem is with the way rental discs differ from retail discs so I have sent back the LoveFilm discs again.

The Casino Royale disc threw up another issue though.  It features a BD Live feature which accesses stuff from the Internet.  I connected the Internet but the disc told me that there was insufficient disc space to download the content.  This bit I do not understand.  For a start, what if my Blu-ray player were just a player and not a recorder?  There would be no storage or disc space at all so how would there be any space for the download it wants to perform?  My Blu-ray machine is a recorder and there is over 18 hours of free space left which is surely enough to download several full length feature films.  I need to find out exactly what it wants to download and why it thinks there isn't enough space - maybe it wants an empty SD card in the slot - or a USB stick?

I'll just have to read the instructions if all else fails.

Read instructions, inserted SD card - it worked but it is rubbish.  Took ages to download content and the content was just trailers which took even longer to download. Not impressed.

Looking on Amazon now for some bargain basement Blu-ray retail discs.

Update - best value offerings on Amazon:

Matrix Trilogy in a boxed set for £16.99 making each individual film about £5.70 each! I've only got one of the three on DVD so this seems a good buy.

Harry Potter films 1 - 6 for £32.99

Wallace and Gromit - Complete Collection - £9.93

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Blu Ray play?

How do you solve a problem like this.  Here's my Blu Ray story so far.

Received a rental copy of 'Sunshine' from and settled down to watch it on Wednesday evening. About an hour in and the picture started to freeze, jitter and generally play up. It got to the stage where it was impossible to watch any more so we stopped it, ticked the 'damaged' box and sent it back.  Lovfilm to their credit, sent another copy straight away, along with the next film called 'Into the Blue'.

Wanted to be sure the first problem was a 'one-off' so stuck in 'Sunshine' and played it through.  It had playback problems just like the previous copy so I switched to the other one and the same problem happened with that too.

At this point I thought it must be the Panasonic Blu Ray recorder at fault.  I sat up for hours trying the same two discs over and over, looking up fault reports on the Internet and trying ordinary DVD discs.  Eventually I managed to get the machine to update it's firmware from 1.2 to 1.3 and then went to bed.

This morning I checked the two discs again - still the same faults.  I took them to a friendly PS3 and tried them in that - they worked fine so I concluded that it must be the machine and started proceedings to try and sent it back to Amazon where it came from.

I then tried Thompsons of Great Baddow and they were very helpful.  They suggested I turned it off at the mains and then reset, and also to try a lens cleaner in the machine.  Sam had done some serious dusting all around the TV in the week and we thought that may be what the problem is.  I went straight to Thompsons to buy the lens cleaner and I took the rental discs along to try on their players - just to see.

They hooked up another Panasonic Blu Ray player and we tried the 'Into the Blue' disc.  To my dismay, the same problems happened, in the same places only worse than at home.  We then tried it in a Sony player and the same thing happened although not quite so pronounced. I had to get home but was now totally confused - is it the discs or the player or both?

We went to collect some 'pre-recorded' Blu Ray discs and I am now spending the afternoon playing them to see if this is an issue about rental discs and the way they are created.  I'm 30 minutes into the BBC epic 'Planet Earth' at the moment - no glitches at all so far.  I have 'Bleak House' and 'Casino Royale' still to go through after the other 4 discs in 'Planet Earth'.

The only conclusion so far is that the PS3 is a fantastic Blu Ray player which starts very quickly, whizzes through chapter points and plays the discs faultlessly, even these rental copies.  Mr Thompson suggested that PS3s may well have additional error correction in them to cope with the rougher treatment they are expected to get being a games machine and not a standard home player destined to sit in a rack and stay put.

I have a suspicion that rental discs are cloned for the rental market and maybe more prone to errors and dropout than the proper retail versions.  My next step is to try and find someone who can lend me a copy of either 'Sunshine' or 'Into the Blue' so I can directly compare and see what happens.  I'm thinking of asking on Freecycle to see if anyone is willing to lend me the discs for a few days and let me take them back again.  Otherwise, I may have to buy them!

Into the Blue - £8.73
Sunshine - £9.97

Still got to try resetting to factory settings and cleaning the lens but based on the experiences in Thomsons, I don't hold out much hope that this will make a difference.

Update: 4.30pm
After a few hours of 'Planet Earth' the first three programmes have played without a hitch and the menus are very quick to navigate too.  However, I have noticed that there is some digital interference on some of the shots.  Typically on fast tracking shots from a helicopter which is following a subject like the wolf hunting or the birds flying.  It isn't much but there is a very small amount of digital 'wobble' just after the animal being tracked.  /next question then - is this on the disc (probably not) or is it the limitation of the player, the HDMI lead or the TV? Maybe its even more complicated and its an incompatibility issues but both the TV and the player are Panasonic manufacturered  in the same production year. I think I'll be taking a trip back to Thompsons for a more details look at these discs on other equipment.