Tuesday, 28 September 2010

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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!