Archive for December, 2008

iPlay at Station Park, Horwich

December 24th, 2008 No comments

iPlay frame at HorwichAn iPlay frame has been installed at Old Station Park, Horwich, although it is not yet complete (see pic right).

The system runs a game where players must push, pull and spin parts of the frame in order to score points.
iPlay instructionsYou can even add your score to a national league table by logging on to the iPlay website. This looks like a great idea and there would appear to be more already installed around the country.

The whole thing is powered by solar energy, but the main concern I have is that of vandalism. The manufacturers claim on their website that the unit is ‘vandal resistant’ (note not vandal proof). There do not appear to be any CCTV cameras covering this area and given the proximity of park benches which have already been torched, I wonder what consideration the council has given to protecting their investment.

Update: 1st Feb 2009

Well it’s now over a month later and the iPlay doesn’t look any different – still surrounded by fencing.


Update: 28th Feb 2009

As well as installing more equipment (a large bowl swing, a short zip-wire and a see-saw/roundabout) the i-play has finally been switched on.

Unfortunately, it is already broken; the ‘spin’ control is just about audible sounding like water has got into the unit and the ‘press’ control is completely silent, making it impossible to play the game.

Not a good start really.

Quicken for Mac – if only

December 23rd, 2008 No comments

Over on TidBits, Glenn Fleishmann is complaining about Quicken for Mac not working with the latest bank interfaces. At least the US has a version of Quicken for the Mac.

Intuit never managed to release a version of Quicken for Mac in the UK before Intuit pulled Quicken out of the UK completely.

Thanks for the advice (not)

December 19th, 2008 No comments

Dear All,

My thanks to all those who have sent me emails this past year…

I must send my thanks to whoever sent me the one about rat manure in the glue on envelopes because I now have to use a wet towel with every envelope that needs sealing.

I now scrub the top of every can I open for the same reason.

I no longer have any savings because I gave it to a sick girl (Penny Brown) who is about to die in hospital for the 1,387,258th time.

In fact all my money is gone but that will change once I receive the £15,000 that Bill Gates/Microsoft and AOL are sending me for participating in their special e-mail program …..

Or, I’ll receive it from the senior bank clerk in Nigeria who wants to split £7 million with me for pretending to be a long lost relative of a customer who died intestate.

I no longer worry about my soul because I have 363,214 angels looking out for me, and St. Theresa’s novena has granted my every wish.

I no longer use cancer-causing deodorants even though I smell like a water buffalo on a hot day.

Thanks to you, I have learned that my prayers only get answered if I forward an e-mail to seven of my friends and make a wish within five minutes.

Because of your concern I no longer drink Coca-Cola because it can remove toilet stains.

I no longer buy petrol without taking a man along to watch the car so a serial killer won’t crawl in my back seat when I’m filling up.

And I don’t go to shopping malls because someone will drug me with a perfume sample and rob me.

I no longer answer the phone because someone will ask me to dial a number and I will get a phone bill with calls to Jamaica, Uganda, Singapore and Uzbekistan.

Thanks to you, I can’t use anyone’s toilet but mine because a big brown African spider is lurking under the seat to cause me instant death when it bites my bum.

And thanks to your great advice, I can’t even pick up the £5.00 I found dropped in the car park because it probably was placed there by a sex molester waiting underneath my car to grab my leg.

If you don’t send this e-mail to at least 144,000 people in the next 70 minutes, a large dove with diarrhoea will land on your head at 5.30pm this afternoon and the fleas from 12 camels will infest your back, causing you to grow a hairy hump.

I know this will occur because it actually happened to a friend of my next door neighbour’s ex-mother-in-law’s second husband’s cousin’s beautician.

Never underestimate the power of Engineers

December 18th, 2008 No comments

Eleven people were dangling below a helicopter on a rope. There were ten sales people and one engineer.

Since the rope was not strong enough to hold them all, they decided that one of them had to let go to save all the others. They couldn’t decide who should be the volunteer.

Finally, the engineer said that he would let go of the rope, since engineers are used to doing everything for the company. They forsake their family, don’t claim their expenses, and do a lot of overtime without getting anything in return.

When he finished his moving speech, all of the sales people began to clap.

Moral: Never underestimate the powers of an engineer.

Power Cuts and Reduced Voltage

December 6th, 2008 No comments

If you live in Horwich or Blackrod, no doubt you know that we had a power cut on Thursday at 6:25. Although the power came back on half an hour later (with another outage five minutes later and one more at 14:251), one of my neighbours called round in the evening to ask if we were having trouble with our boiler as his (and another neighbour’s) was not lighting. The low pressure sodium (SOX) street lights were also struggling to strike up. I checked the voltage and found it was only 190V.

Although most people will refer to UK mains voltage as 240V, the voltage that your local supply company must supply has a tolerance band. This used to be 240V +/- 6% (226-254V2) but following European harmonisation in 1995, this changed to 230V +10% -6% (216-253V2) until 2008 when it became 230V +/- 10% (207-253V). This meant that nothing really changed as the voltage you were supplied before more than likely fell within the new range. Continental Europe changed too as their nominal voltage moved up from 220V to 230V. In reality, these changes had little effect on supply companies but it meant that manufacturers had to ensure that domestic appliances would work within the revised tolerances.

Most appliances will work quite happily above 200V but not when it drops below 200V, as was clearly indicated by the problems with boilers and street lights, so if you were wondering why some of your appliances were behaving oddly or not working at all, this is the most likely problem. Apart from the lights being dimmer, other appliances which appear to have been affected:

  • Microwave. The microwave didn’t sound quite right (it normally makes a ‘thump’ when it kicks in). This was confirmed by the fact that it took longer to heat milk than normal. Since the effective wattage was reduced, the microwave times for a given wattage will have been short;
  • BT Vision. A neighbour complained that his BT Vision box was acting strangely and refusing to record programmes;
  • Compact Fluorescents. In this age of energy conservation, it is interesting to note that fluorescent lamps are more sensitive to reduced voltage. Whereas a conventional lamp will simply get dimmer as the voltage drops, we had a couple of CFLs that simply refused to work at all when the voltage was low.

Late on Friday afternoon, our boiler also failed to light up, showing a fault lamp. The voltage at this time had dropped to 183V (over 20% below nominal).

The fault was apparently on the HV network, so United Utilities will no doubt have back-fed affected properties via another circuit, however I would not have expected such a large variation in voltage over short periods and such low voltages on the LV network as a result. It would appear that United Utilities found it necessary to bring in large portable generators to supply customers while the fault was isolated and repaired. This would explain the large variation in voltages and the reduced voltages experienced as the load increases and the generator struggles to maintain voltage.

As of Saturday afternoon, we have returned to a healthy and stable 242V.

United Utilities have recently been spending a lot of time (and money) upgrading the local HV network in Horwich, however although the cabling has been laid, the final connections are not yet complete. Hopefully these upgrades will mean any future faults can be handled without the need for generators.

1 – My ISP sends a text when my broadband line goes offline
2 – rounded figures, actually 225.6-254.4V and 216.2-253V

12 Month Countdown to Winter Hill Switchover begins

December 2nd, 2008 No comments

Winter Hill MastOne year from today, Winter Hill will cease to transmit analogue television signals. The two dates to remember are 4th November and 2nd December 2009.

On the first date, BBC TWO will cease analogue transmission which will free up space for more digital channels, while on the second date all analogue transmissions will cease and more digital channels will become available.

More details here.

Blackrod Station Timetable Changes Anger Commuters

December 2nd, 2008 No comments

Blackrod StationCommuters at Blackrod Station are having the proverbial excrement dropped on them from a great height: From 14th December, Northern Rail are switching Manchester bound trains which currently stop at Deansgate, Manchester Oxford Road and Manchester Piccadilly to Manchester Victoria.

Not surprisingly, this causes problems for those reliant on the service to get to work, according to comments on Phil Morgan’s Blackrod Station website, with increased journey times, inconvenient changes that were not previously required and in some cases, additional childcare costs because the commuter can no longer get to work on time after dropping her daughter at school.

Many also question the apparent discrimination against Blackrod when more trains stop at Lostock. Why is Blackrod treated in this way? Being so close to the GM border, is it a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’? Could this be the start of the rot? How long before the number of trains are run down as low as Clifton?

Ironically, these are the one set of commuters (city centre workers) who would actually benefit from the TIF proposals, yet GMPTE see fit to allow Northern Rail to ride roughshod over them in this manner.

It also highlights the fact that when you become dependent on public transport, you put yourself totally at the mercy of the transport operator who won’t hesitate to put their interests over the paying passenger.

This is the so-called ‘world class’ system we are being promised by Richard Leese – No thanks.