Archive for January, 2008

The Scottish Biscuits

January 30th, 2008 No comments

An elderly Scotsman lay dying in his bed.

While suffering the agonies of impending death, he suddenly smelled the aroma of his favourite biscuits wafting up the stairs. He gathered his remaining strength, and lifted himself from the bed. Leaning on the wall, he slowly made his way out of the bedroom, and with even greater effort, gripping the railing with both hands, he crawled downstairs.

With laboured breath, he leaned against the door-frame, gazing into the kitchen. Were it not for death’s agony, he would have thought himself already in heaven, for there, spread out upon waxed paper on the kitchen table were literally hundreds of his favourite biscuits, freshly baked.

Was it heaven? Or was it one final act of love from his devoted Scottish wife of sixty years, seeing to it that he left this world a happy man?

Mustering one great final effort, he threw himself towards the table, landing on his knees in crumpled posture. His aged and withered hand trembled towards a biscuit at the edge of the table, when it was suddenly smacked by his wife with a spatula…..

‘F**k off’ she said, ‘they’re for the funeral.’

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TomTom Release Home v2.2 (incl. Mac Version)

January 29th, 2008 2 comments

TomTom HomeAccording to, TomTom have released version 2.2 of Home and this release finally includes a Mac Version, just two days before the discounted map offer expires.

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Sky+ Series Link

January 22nd, 2008 No comments

Sky PlusSky+ is one of those rare killer apps that has actually been well designed, however there are a couple of weaknesses in one of its most useful features – Series Link.

Sky+ Series LinkFirstly, the EPG (and hence series link) can only ‘see’ 7 days in advance. As often happens on the BBC, a programme gets postponed for a week. A prime example is Doctor Who making way for something like the Eurovision Song Contest on a Saturday night. Series Link cannot see two weeks ahead, so the link gets broken, and unless you spot this, you start to miss episodes.

Secondly, and more importantly, the series link information is provided by the individual broadcaster, so whether you get the correct information about the next episode is entirely down whether the broadcaster can be bothered to provide the information in the first place, and if it does, is actually competent to do it correctly (or at least understand what constitutes the next episode).

What is really annoying, is when the broadcaster does provide information, but it is wrong. In some ways this is worse than no information at all because you are trusting them to get it right. Again, the BBC seems to be the villain here for two distinct types of false information:

Often a new series is repeated a couple of times a week (especially on BBC Three), so for example Episode 1 could be shown on Sunday, Monday and Thursday. If I record Episode 1 on the Sunday and set Series Link, I expect the next recording to be Episode 2 on the following Sunday, but I often find that the Monday repeat is the next to be recorded. Why the hell would I want to record the same thing again? Obviously someone at the BBC doesn’t understand what series link is for and is just setting the next time that ‘programme name’ is shown. The problem here is that if I cancel the rogue recording, it breaks the link, so I need to set up the Sunday recording again.

The other situation I have seen is when the person setting the series link information ignores my wishes and seems to think that I would like to record a related programme rather than the one I asked for. Typically this would be a ‘behind the scenes’ programme (BBC Three) or another programme in the ‘season’ of programmes (BBC Four), rather than what I had asked for, namely the next episode of the same programme.

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BT Broadband’s OTT SMTP Requirements

January 18th, 2008 No comments

BTSince the advent of spam, most ISPs have their SMTP servers set to only accept non-authenticated connections from computers on their own networks, and justifiably so. Some (mine included) offer the additional extremely useful option of making an authenticated connection (username and password) from outside their network to allow you to still use their SMTP server from anywhere in the world, without having to change settings to your host ISP’s SMTP server. In both cases, I am free to set the “From:” field to an email of my own choice, as I don’t use the email address provided by the ISP – I have my own domain name(s) for that, and want my outgoing emails to correctly show them instead.

Not so with BT Broadband. I was asked to assist a colleague who was complaining that he couldn’t send email on his BT Broadband connection. To cut a long story short, BT Broadband firstly require you to log in to the SMTP server using authentication, even if you are connected via their own network. Why?

However, that is still not enough if you don’t want to use the silly ‘’ address they supply you with. You must also register every single ‘from’ address you wish to use via BT Yahoo first.

Makes me so glad I have a decent ISP.

Further information on how to set things up correctly on BT Broadband can be found from Paul Doherty and Peter Curtis.

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TomTom Traffic has another bad day

January 14th, 2008 No comments

This morning it took me 25 minutes to get to the motorway (a 5-6 minute journey) due to queues on the A6. Was this queue shown on TomTom traffic? No. Has it ever shown on TomTom Traffic? No.

When I did get to the M61 motorway, it was predicting congestion between junctions 5 and 4, but clear after that. In reality there was no traffic between 5 and 4, but slow crawling traffic from junction 4 onwards, but not according to TomTom.

TomTom traffic information is becoming increasingly worthless.

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TomTom Discriminates Against Mac users

January 12th, 2008 3 comments

In the past, if you wanted the latest map for your TomTom, you went to TomTom’s website, paid for it and downloaded it. Now TomTom has changed it so that it is only possible to download the maps using its ‘TomTom Home’ software.

TomTom HomeNot a great problem, except that the latest maps can only be downloaded and installed using the latest version 2 software. Unfortunately, TomTom hasn’t bothered yet to release version 2 for Mac users, who are stuck with v1.5, so Mac users are excluded from using the latest maps unless they can find a Windoze PC on which to install Home and use to download the maps.

To make matters worse, the new maps are currently on offer at discounted rate until the end of January 08, so by the time TomTom get their finger out and release version 2 of Home for Mac, this date will have passed, and Mac users will have been effectively excluded from the offer.

TomTom excludes Mac users

Q: why is version 2 required to install a map, something version 1.5 was perfectly capable of doing previously?

Q: why can’t the map be downloaded directly from TomTom’s website as was the case if the past?

Q: why are TomTom being so slow to release version 2 for Mac?

I contacted TomTom, suggesting that since they’d failed to get a Mac version out in time for the offer, they should extend the offer for Mac users. The response was:

We’re doing our best to come out with an update as soon as possible so every customer could download maps and updates using their own pc or mac.
But for now unfortunately indeed there isn’t much our mac customers can do for downloading maps besides using a different windows based computer.

Which roughly translates as ‘tough’.

The correct customer focused response would have been “we appreciate the inconvenience the delay in getting the Mac version released is causing our valued Mac based customers, so we have extended the discounted map offer to those customer for a period of one month after the software is released.”

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It Pays to Shop Around (part 2)

January 9th, 2008 No comments

LampI recently got a cheap 3 spot light fitting from Aldi. (Likely to get trashed by my two young daughters, so wasn’t after anything expensive)

It came with tungsten halogen lamps I had not seen before – G9. However, at 40W each, it was too bright for the location, so I went looking for replacement lower wattage lamps.

B&Q wanted £5.98 for two 25W lamps. Unfortunately, unlike last time, Screwfix didn’t fare much better, wanting £24 for ten (plus P&P)

The winner this time was our local DIY shop, Wallpaper supplies in Horwich, who were selling 25W lamps for £1.25 each.

Update October 2008

Even better – Aldi now have a pack of three 25W lamps for £1.99.

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Apple iTunes Cut may Backfire on Customers

January 9th, 2008 No comments

AppleFollowing a Which? complaint to the EU in 2004, Apple have agreed to reduce the cost of tracks on the UK iTunes store from 79p to 74p (in line with pricing on its other European sites). (El Reg and BBC) While this is obviously welcome, one part of Apple’s press release gives rise to concern:

Apple will reconsider its continuing relationship in the UK with any record label that does not lower its wholesale prices in the UK to the pan-European level within six months.

So what happens, if after six months, these record labels refuse to lower their prices? Will Apple remove these labels from the store? If so, then isn’t that bad for the consumer? At least if they remained, the consumer still has a choice.

I still maintain that unless you are interested in single tracks, it is cheaper to buy from or CDWow.

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Bolton Recycling Weeks

January 6th, 2008 No comments

Bolton Council make recycling collections on a fortnightly basis. Addresses are assigned to a Blue or a Yellow week. You can check which week you are on at their Sort-it website, but it fails to tell you one very important piece of information: which weeks are blue and which are yellow. They do include a calendar hidden inside the free council propaganda newspaper ‘Bolton Scene’, but many people will have binned this as soon as it dropped through the door and therefore lost the calendar.

When we moved in last year, I emailed the council to ask which weeks were which and they very helpfully emailed back a well formatted excel spreadsheet showing blue days. This begs the question why this spreadsheet is not available for download on the Sort-It website.

Here, therefore, is a calendar for 2008 showing blue and yellow weeks.

Bolton Recycling Calendar for 2008 showing blue and yellow weeks

I have since found links to poor quality scanned PDFs on Bolton Council’s own blue and yellow calendars on the normal council website. Why these are missing from the Sort-It site is still a mystery.

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