Amazon Prime (UK)

Amazon PrimeOn the face of it, Amazon Prime is a great purchase – providing free, next- or same- day delivery on some Amazon store items for £8.99 a month (actually £6.53 a month if you opt for the £79 annual membership). Throw in video, music, books and limitless photo storage – to name but a few benefits – and it becomes a no-brainer if you are a regular shopper. However, you do need to do a little homework to check it offers enough if you are subscribing to improve your viewing choices.

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Panorama : The Big Bank Fix – LIBOR and the Bank of England (2017)

Fascinating – if flawed – stuff from the BBC Panorama team. The Big Bank Fix is an investigation by Andrew Verity which asks “if the right people” were prosecuted for the “biggest financial fix of all time”. The programme discusses LIBOR – the inter-bank interest rate set in London for loans between banks which is a key lever controlling the flow of capital between financial institutions. This rate is set by reporting between the banks of the average loan rate they are charging or being charged. It is important as this forms the basis for the cost of money. Ultimately, LIBOR influences what interest rates consumers pay for loans. Read the rest of this story »

Brexit – Could Britain out-Europe the EU ?

EU2Brexit, bloody Brexit. No prizes for predicting what continues to dominate the news and  will continue to be the stuff of current affairs and pub discussions for the next few years. Today sees the return to the House of Commons of the Brexit bill, a vote for which will see the government empowered to trigger Article 50 and start negotiations.

Much is being made in the Sunday press of the lack of a fallback plan – hopefully this is just yet another own-goal which is driven by newspapers with their eyes on their own bottom line. There is no Brexit alternative.

 

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Run : Hide : Tell

Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley appeared on BBC Breakfast today to push the message onrun-hide-tell public vigilance and assistance in the war on terror. In the wake of city attacks by – more frequently – radicalised loners seeking individual victims and notoriety in knife attacks – Rowley is in charge of Special Operations at the Met and makes frequent media appearances seeking community support. As he says, the British culture works against reporting anything suspicious – don’t want to disturb, make a fuss, stand out, waste police time and so on. He emphasised that the current 500+ ongoing investigations frequently rely on public input – to spot at-risk people before they are radicalised, to report on any public situation that instinctively is out of the ordinary without fear of falling foul of the law themselves. Read the rest of this story »

Logan (2017)

Director James Mangold brings another Wolverine offshoot of Bryan Singer’s X-Men franchise. Hugh Jackman reprises his signature role in a Marvel picture that is very different in tone and story from any before. Set 10 years hence with the world’s dwindling population of mutants in a parlous state – ageing Professor X now under the clawed care of Logan. Mutton-chops have given way to a full-on Brian-Blessed-beard for Logan, whilst Xavier has his grey hair growing back and senility settling in. Read the rest of this story »

Allied (2016)

Allied is a Robert Zemeckis film starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard as resistance operatives who meet undercover in French Morocco in the middle of the Second World War. Oh, and they fall in love. Written by Steven Knight (other writing credits include Eastern Promises and Peaky Blinders), the story is derived more from espionage folklore than real life. Supported by the increasingly popular Jared Harris (recent memorable turns in The Crown and Mad Men) and Simon McBurney, reprising his perennial role as the creepy bureaucrat (check out his Magisterium-minion in The Golden Compass). Read the rest of this story »

My Scientology Movie (2016)

Louis Theroux (Photo credit: Wikipedia) - My Scientology Movie (2016)

Louis Theroux (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recently had dinner with a couple who are amongst my oldest friends and, amidst a delightful meal in good company, was shocked to be confronted with the opinion (actually phrased as a question) that Scientology might “offer something positive”. Having followed this cult for many years, I was disturbed.

A week later,  iTunes is flogging the latest Louis Theroux documentary in which the man-with-an-eye for the most bizarre in human behaviour takes a look at the ‘Church’ of Scientology. Being a huge fan of their comedy (!), I coughed up the tenner and downloaded what Theroux regards as “the Holy Grail of Stories”, and iTunes touts as being “as outlandish as it is revealing”.

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Whither Formula 1 ?

"So, who won the race ?" "Who cares ! - We made $350m" (picture courtesy of Sky Sport)

“Who won ?” “Who cares ! – We made $350m”
(picture courtesy of Sky Sport)

Normally I keep away from the Monday media following a Formula 1 Grand Prix. The fact that coverage must now be paid-for means I rarely catch a race live – so I avoid hearing the results from a Sunday race so that I can at least enjoy the Channel Four highlights.

Today I was actually interested in hearing the result. There has been the usual – but slightly muted – reaction on my social feeds but no-one has actually mentioned the result. Apparently the wonderful Max Verstappen did well and the race was stopped due to the rain. But who won ? Did the unlikable but talented Hamilton keep the deserving Rosberg away from winning the Championship at Interlagos ? Dunno.

So how come ? Perhaps the silence means a bad result for the spoilt Brit, yet it seems unlikely the local media would steer clear, regardless. Not even a word on BBC Breakfast. This waves a big yellow flag that the ‘sport’ I loved is disappearing up its own arsehole. (OK so it’s really just a ‘business’ with prizes but it was once entertaining). Formula One has been drifting out of the national consciousness for some years now. I do not buy the argument that it was the danger and crashes that people wanted to see – the majority seek a race: skill, daring, speed and even the odd tangle. However, the sport is becoming increasingly inaccessible to real fans. Even the most ardent race-goer cannot afford decent tickets to the circuits and look to telly coverage to fill the void.

Races are largely provided for the benefit of corporate jollies – booze and canapies for the absolutely fabulous. Charming pitlane pavilions, well separated from the fenced-in proles; staff to bring all sorts of tempting fare; useful networking with like-minded, wealthy notables;  the occasional talentless click-bait with which to rub one’s shoulders. And all the while, decent double-glazing to keep out that irritating noise and smell that would otherwise blight a damn, fine spread in agreeable company.

This is Formula One. Who won ? I am not sure anyone cares anymore.

WiFi Channel-checking using iOS

Bahasa Indonesia: Fasilitas WIFI Pusdiklat Dep...

Apple have long since withdrawn any app which provides WiFi analysis – presumably making the Store less tolerant of tools which promote hacking of access points in any form. There is no longer any software to check channel usage and power levels for open SSIDs. Yet, the mobility of iPads and iPhones make them great tools for checking coverage and finding black-spots.  Tools do exist for scanning available access points – obviously already in basic iOS Settings – and inventorying devices connected to a network subnet; but nothing to check which 2.4GHz channels are in use (or at least, not without ‘jail-breaking’ the iOS device).

 

The case in point – Sky Hub

Sky provide broadband services in the UK, supplying their own combined DSL and Fibre modem with a limited (802.11n) wifi access point, the Sky Hub. The forums are awash with complaints about the lack of range of these devices and Sky themselves use this as an opportunity to market a WiFi extender – acknowledging the poor power of the Hub whilst exploiting it commercially. That said, my customer had reception in one room only – such a tiny range suggested a different issue. It seemed likely that there was a channel clash with numerous neighbouring BT and generic home access points.  But how to check ? Between us, we only had i-devices which need apps. A quick search yielded no apps which would provide the WiFi details needed. Turns out that the Apple Airport Utility will help – even if you are not using an Airport-based WiFi system.

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eBay Global Shipping Programme – What a shambles !

Ah, how those money grabbers clever chaps at eBay come up with new schemes ! Yes – welcome to the eBay Global Shipping Programme. This is a new wheeze from those magnificent marketeers at eBay designed to help themselves to  more money, whilst they lay off all those pesky extra minions no longer needed. The programme enables sellers to sell anywhere around the globe and eBay will carry the load – for a fee, natch ! Wonderful – no more shipping blues or confusion. Fully tracked. Just get the seller to send the goodies into the eBay GSP depot. They will combine packages, adjust the costs and track it all the way to a satisfied buyer. Job’s a good ‘un.

Except, its not. Here is my tale of woe.

In I plunge, buying two sets of LiPo batteries for a thrifty £4. Yes, 4 of Her Madge’s Quids. Oh, and as I am buying something else from the same seller, I can use the cart mechanism to combine purchases and save money. Swell !

Oops – there “has been a problem” with my purchase and I can no longer use the cart. OK. I’ll process them separately and the seller can combine postage to give me a discount. Simples !

Er, not so. The charming seller advises me that, as shipping via eBay using the GSP,  we will have to wait for the final quote from eBay on shipping to advise of, and provide, any reduction in cost. I start to sweat a little as the postage via GSP is £18 – eighteen quid – for a £4 item. In fact, my total postage is £45.80 for items costing £46.21. Yup indeedy; a truly coffer-filling shipping overhead of 99%. You gotta love them apples, eh, eBay ?

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Heartbleed Strikes Again : Moniker.com

After requesting users update their online identities recently, Moniker has issued a statement providing more details of the hack that prompted it.

In the past several weeks, we have seen suspicious activity on our platform which included login attempts to various accounts from unknown sources. We have reason to believe credentials to the accounts in questions may have been obtained through exploitation of the Heartbleed Bug published earlier this year. In addition to suspicious activity, there have been brute force attacks against Moniker accounts resulting in unauthorized domain name transfers. Our staff is working diligently to identify instances of unauthorized transfers and to revert them as soon as possible. To date, we have recovered any domain that was transferred without authorization.

Brave indeed except the message carries a hint that Moniker is actually trying to establish if there are customers affected who may not have otherwise checked. Chances are, you would have noticed if your domains had been transferred without your knowledge from Moniker but, if you are a customer, keep an eye on your account. What is interesting is that, even as an owner of a single domain at Moniker, it transpires in their correspondence that BabbleTalk’s account actually has three separate identities – two more than we knew about or are necessary – all of which were presumably exposed in the Heartbleed attack of last month. Not encouraging.

We encourage you to notify us immediately if you feel your account has been compromised or if you believe you are missing domains; however, we are confident all such cases have been identified.

The Great NZ Dairy Ripoff – Fonterra Fess Up

A Corporate W-Anchor ? Fonterra CEO Theo Spierings

Theo Spierings, CEO, Fonterra

The market to grow and New Zealanders to consume more milk, that’s our aim. So we price what the market can bear, we follow inflation and we don’t follow highly volatile commodity markets” says Theo Spierings, Fonterra CEO, speaking on TVNZ OneNews today.

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The Inbetweeners 2 (2014)

The Inbetweeners Movie

Expecting a klunge-tastic follow-on to the 2011 triumph, but feeling our age, we filed into a cinema populated exclusively by the Inbetweeners 2 target audience of a bunch of pubescent boys to grab a viewing. The lads hook-up to track down Jay (James Buckley) who is down-under (in so many ways) and livin’ it large – the usual Jay bullshit of course. King-dweeb Will (Simon Bird), granny-frigging Neil (Blake Harrison) and numpty Simon (Joe Thomas) – all looking about 5 minutes over 17 – are so fed up with their post-6th form continuation of being the founding members of the not-in-crowd that they head off to track down DJ Big Knob (er, Jay) in Sydney. Cue the usual tasteless adolescent humour that we have come to love from the Channel 4 spin-off.

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Google and the European Court of the Absurd

English: The three biggest web search engines

English: The three biggest web search engines (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The recent ruling by the European Court which requires Google to remove links to (technically, to de-index) content related to privacy claims is more than baffling, it is bloody stupid. The ruling requires the search megalith to unpick paths to material which is out of date and refers to individuals who have sought legal redress.

The Court of Just Bloody Stupid

This is not a defence of Google. The monopoly search provider has enormous market power, and a close eye should be kept on how it wields it. However, the tax-averse internet giant is an indexer of the web, not a builder of its content (in this case, at least). The ECJ ruling typifies the ignorance of technology that pervades politics and lawmaking.

 

The Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) upheld the complaint of a Spanish man who objected to the fact that Google searches on his name threw up links to a 1998 newspaper article about the repossession of his home.

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Scientology Targets Schools

Hello Scientology

Hello Scientology (Photo credit: StephenMcleod – International Man of Mystery)

Possibly not news to many but that most ‘celebrated’ collection of cultist crazies, the Church of Scientology, is targetting children. This global parasite is a perpetual engine which promotes its  bonkers ‘religion’ in a quest to swell its own coffers. And it is calling schools to gain access to the curriculum.

Dianetic Dogma

Scientology is a business model based on the numbers game and founded on L. Ron Hubbard’s apparent twin aims of self-deification and wealth. Articles, opinion and information abound on the internet and it is easy to get the inside track on this huge organisation. John Sweeney’s much publicised documentaries and book are well worth a look. An interesting summary of Hubbard’s life and personality intertwined with a description of Scientology practices can be found on xenu.net.

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Longitude Prize 2014 – A New Search

Horizon, 2001

Horizon, 2001 (Photo credit: archiveatthebbc)

Until Dava Sobel’s 1996 book, and Charles Sturridge’s wonderful dramatisation, the process of solving one of the most intractable scientific problems of the 18th century was a story unknown. Building a Better Clock was not the stuff of Boys’ Own Adventures, yet the details of how country carpenter-cum-engineering genius John Harrison produced a highly accurate marine timepiece is a worthy read. The closest Harrison had come to popular attention was in the classic Only Fools and Horses episode “Time On Our Hands” which sees Peckham’s finest discover a Harrison timepiece in their lockup. Sturridge’s 2000 production, starring Michael Gambon and Jeremy Irons, cleverly wove Harrison’s story with a narrative from post-wartime Britain whereby ex-naval officer Rupert Gould re-discovered and re-built the original working clocks as part of his writing of the history of Harrison’s masterpieces and kind-of winning the Longitude Prize.

This prize was offered by Act of Parliament in 1714 with the promise of up to £20,000 to whoever could solve the problem of determining a ship’s longitude whilst at sea. In these TomTom times, it can be a tad hard to imagine the sheer scale of the problem facing sailors, particularly during the advance of Britain as a significant naval power almost a century before Trafalgar was won. Yet the Act of Queen Anne promised a prize sufficiently grand to tempt a long line of nutters, fraudsters, astronomers and innovators all eager to snaffle the prize. Harrison eventually received the bulk of the fund, albeit after a lifetime of difficult dealings with the committee responsible for awarding the money.

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PCPro Pop Ads Madness kills iPad viewing

iPad snapshot of PCPro The inclusion of a overlay pop ad banner when viewed on the iPad is not going to do much for readership of the PCPro website. Seems desperate give that their screen real estate already includes in-line advertising, and strangely does not appear when browsing the same pages from the desktop. The iPad banner wiggles and moves as the viewer tries to scan the article. Any resizing and it disappears – phew – but then jiggles into view a few seconds later. Nauseating, distracting and counter-productive. This is not the same as the recent revamp of news emails from TechRepublic – which have had, I suspect, a similar impact on click-thru’s by highlighting the journos more than their articles – but is another example of poorly thought out content presentation.

Take a leaf out of Wired UKs site – a well laid-out summary of key articles which draw the eye nicely, and avoid clutter without devaluing on-page adverts. Sites like PCPro and TechRepublic should lead the way in presentation – otherwise good review and news sites that could start losing readership when they flaunt the basics in web design.

Need to sort this, chaps, else readership will suffer.

Air Traffic Control Humour

Cute AircraftFor a little light relief, some actual exchanges between pilots and control towers, nabbed from joke emails currently doing the rounds.

Oldies but goodies :

Tower: “Delta 351, you have traffic at 10 o’clock, 6 miles!”
Delta 351: “Give us another hint! We have digital watches!”

Tower: “TWA 2341, for noise abatement turn right 45 Degrees.”
TWA 2341: “Center, we are at 35,000 feet. How much noise can we make up here?”
Tower: “Sir, have you ever heard the noise a 747 makes when it hits a 727?”

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American Hustle (2013)

http://blog.solopress.com/posters-printing/what-movie-posters-should-say-oscars-2014/

American Hustle is receiving a fair bit of positive publicity and punditry. David O. Russell co-writes and directs a top-notch cast in this 70’s flashback piece which feels a bit like The Sting meets Saturday Night Fever. The opening scene has a wonderfully made-up Christian Bale, playing serial hustler Irving Rosenfeld, getting dressed and attending carefully to his comb-over. The chubby Irving has a gravitas that not only cons his marks but draws the attraction of Sydney Prosser – aka Lady Edith Greensley (a decidedly saucy Amy Adams). Together they become the Bonnie-and-Clyde of the hustling world, depriving desperate loan-seekers of their limited cash. Their success quickly draws the attention of the FBI in the guise of complete muppet, Richie DeMaso (Bradley Cooper) who blackmails them into helping him catch bigger baddies. Phew. So we are off in what bodes to be quite a giggle – very 70s and very over the top in terms of hair, make-up and clothes – bringing in Rosenfeld’s missus (Jennifer Lawrence, doing a ridiculously over-hyped turn of Wings’ Live and Let Die).

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British Democracy By The Numbers

Gerald figured the best way to challenge accus...

Gerald figured the best way to challenge accusations about fiddling his second home expenses allowance was to brazen it out (Photo credit: bobfranklin)

A smart but unverified article doing the rounds on Facebook, which would be highly amusing were it not sounding a strong note of authenticity:

Can you imagine working for a company that only has a little more than 635 employees and has the following employee statistics:

  • 29 have been arrested for spousal abuse
  • 7 have been arrested for fraud
  • 9 have been accused of writing bad cheques
  • 17 have directly or indirectly bankrupted 2 businesses
  • 3 have served time for assault
  • 71 cannot get a credit card due to poor credit rating
  • 14 have been arrested on drug-related charges
  • 8 have been arrested for shoplifting
  • 21 are currently defendants in various lawsuits
  • 84 have been arrested for drunk-driving in the past 12 months

and collectively, in the same 12 months, have cost the British taxpayer more than £92 million in expenses.

The name of this august body of civic paragons: The House of Commons

Makes yer proud !

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