Thursday, September 21, 2006

Humour on our Trains

I was very amused to hear the aggrieved and candid announcement that the 30 minute delay to our Virgin train this evening was "...due to poor regulation". They can scarecely conceal their frustration with National Rail.

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Friday, September 15, 2006

There's a New Pub in Town Pard'ner...

...The Gunmaker's in Marylebone. Actually, it's a pub under new management and with a bit of a polish up, but that wouldn't have sounded very gunslinging.

Last night was the official opening night with John at the helm and what a great turn out. The drinks were flowing and dodgy Den (pianist at The Savoy and Connaught by day) was bashing out the tunes, scarcely needing to look at his hands, and including a remarkable rendition of the Mike Oldfield classic, Tubular Bells. There were nibbles being passed around the splendid wood panelled parlour and my drinking buddy, Tom, and I had a thoroughly good time. Incidentally, Tom's mission is to find this blog armed with just his knowledge of me, so keep an eye on how long it takes a comment to appear.

Good luck to the Gunmaker's.

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Chekhov at the Chapel

My friend Becca and her colleagues who formed the Cilgwyn Theatre Company have finally (c'mon Bex, pull your finger out why don't you) got their first show off the ground and onto the stage of the Union Chapel in Islington. As everyone who knows me will atest, I'm not the thespian type (I was even choking on my own modest name drop in the first sentence of this post), but people whose opinion counts, such as The Guardian, reckon it would be worth turning out for.

Personally, I trust Bex and, if that weren't enough, I'll be there for the canap├ęs supplied by her culinary gifted brother, the Kitster, at the Gala performance on 19th September. I believe it's a case of bring your own Doritos from that point in.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

London to Paris in 2hr15mins

It would seem that the Channel Tunnel Rail Link programme is one of the UK's best kept secrets. A week or two ago I caught a train from London to Nottingham. I was literally gobsmacked by the contruction happening at St.Pancras, so when the opportunity arose to listen to a talk by the Implementation Director, David Bennett, at the Institute of Engineering and Technology, I leapt at the chance.

In the event, I was lucky enough to grab a few drinks with David afterwards which was a bonus. It is sort of deliberate that the programme is not entertaining the public gaze- which can be very distracting for these mega-programmes. It's not easy to hide a £7bn spend. I'm comfortable that my blog hasn't exactly given Mr.Murdoch many sleepless nights so this hardly qualifies as publicity, but WOW, WHAT A PROGRAMME. David was keen to point out that this is all tried and tested technology, BUT in my view the resultant effect is a fundamental change. When 'Section 2' (the bit through, and under, east London) opens in 2007 you could be in Brussels in 1hr51 and Paris in 2hr15mins. This is the scheduled time- suggesting it could be even quicker with a perfect schedule and green signals. Looking at the achievement another way, imagine cruising through the motorways of Kent at 70mph to have a train pass you doing ANOTHER 100mph on top.

How can airports hope to compete with those times- especially when you factor in the punctuality statistics and the effect of check-in times? I love airports, but I'm no air martyr.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Yoghurt Wars

Life is good. How do I know this? I know this because a flippant comment by yours truly about which is the best yoghurt was put the test by one of my colleagues and he disagrees. Life isn't about careers, size of house or what car you drive. It's a tapestry of those things that make you laugh.

OK, soppy post over. Down to business, this is yoghurt war. Which do you prefer? Onken Wholegrain Biopots or Rachel's Organic Wholemilk?

The answer "Ski" doesn't work. Do not pass Go, return to the 90's. Vegans may participate with the permission of an omnivore.

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Why are Americans great salespeople?

I've just come off a several hour long, 4 way, web demo from a potential US partner, our HQ and a couple of our employees from home. The sales team made me feel really bad. Why? I must have spent days worth of accumulated hours pitching to potential US customers in previous lives and they must have been bored stiff by my unimaginative banter. At the time I thought I was well prepared, but these folks have taken the art of sales to a whole new level of preparation.

These folks are a nation of salespeople. In the UK, we might be a nation of shopkeepers, but we need to break out from behind the counter and do something different. These guys had a team of 6 or 7 role players running through a well practiced (sorry, practised) script with very natural, but no doubt highly calculated, humour.

It was an absolute pleasure.

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Google News Archive- we need to find more time to play with this stuff

I think Google must believe that I have either too much spare time or that my career endeavours are not worthy. Why? Well, they keep introducing these new services whose only purpose must be to distract us from reality and suck us into endless wild goose chases after meaningless factoids. From Google, to Google Earth to Google Desktop... and now Google News Archive Search. What is Google News Archive Search?

Someone has been busy scanning archives of newspapers and running them past Optical Character Recognition (OCR) before the usual Google formula of indexing for search. This means that I can search on my home town, Ilkley, and pull up an article from the Saturday 18th April 1891 edition of the Fitchburg Daily Sentinel and see that the nearby Bolton Abbey was a place that "few Americans have seen because of its remoteness"; contemporary reports about the arrival and life of Rev Dr Robert Collyer, the famous Unitarian minister and close friend of Andrew Carnegie; and in the Liverpool Courier of 26th Jan 1897 about the death of two boys, Waterhouse and Berridge, on a stretch of the river that I used to play in. Over a hundred years ago! Some of the OCR is dodgy, but if you have patience to interpret the text, it's fascinating.

This must be a rich source for historians and I look forward to seeing if it can make a contribution to my genealogy endeavours. The pay-per-view and subscription results are a pain for a tight-wad like me though.

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BT Movio kept under wraps or were we just not on the ball?

This morning it was announced that BT is to launch its 'Movio' television-to-your-mobile service through Virgin Mobile in the UK on October 1st. Owners of the new 'Lobster' phone (about time we named our consumer electronics after animals) will be able to watch BBC1, ITV1 and Channel 4 on their phone. They won't even have to pay for this to be streamed over 3G as it will cleverly use a modification to the Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) standard which permits it to use IP and stream video over the airwaves. Users will also get 50 audio radio stations as a by-product.

What I find interesting though is how BT cleverly kept this convergence of technologies under wraps to seemingly steal a march on the competition. I, for one, am a technologist who didn't see this coming as soon as it has. As recently as July (just 55 days ago) BT were reporting their satisfaction at the revision to the DAB standards and the ability for them to mix and match with 3G, WLAN and DVB-H. I simply did not put the pieces together and realise the impact of what they were saying. There was no suggestion of the service going live within several months (a heart beat in consumer electronics development).

Was this intentional or had the marketing people just not got to grips with the concept?

I must admit to being a little confused as to whether the TV data comes through a digital radio receiver or through the GSM/3G reciever (there are mixed reports out there), but I'm happy to play the consumer and celebrate the results.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Confused in Leeds

1 City SquareThis might sound extremely trivial unless you can relate to a similar situation, but I've just visited Leeds for the first time on business and it was odd. Why? Well, I must have been to Leeds several thousand times having been brought up for 18 years just round the corner. However, today I commuted there from London and saw the city in a whole new light, stepping out of the station with thousands of city centre workers and making my way, not to the shopping centres to the NE of the station, but to the Central Business District* across City Square... in a suit. It was an immensely strange feeling something like jet lag or time travel (I guess).

Of all the buildings to be visiting, it was the landmark "1 City Square" too. I guess I've just been holding off for an invite to the smartest building in town.

*GCSE Geography raises its latent head.

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Monday, September 04, 2006

Save Energy by moving to Low Voltage Living

Recent time on holiday has been a time to ponder things which usually tumble off the bottom of the to-do list. The first is that of why we need 120 or 240V mains electricity supplies- or specifically whether it is cost effective to transform the voltage down at each of many points of use.

I know that it took us a while to settle to the 120 or 240AC voltage standard, but as I sit here looking across the ClickOffice, I can see several dozen power outlets connected to desktops, laptops, mobile phone chargers, printers, lamps, scanners etc. Without exception, they all need less than a tenth of the sort of power the UK ring main is designed to deliver. Sure, things like electric ovens and washing machines need more- but we have nothing like that in the office. Therefore you have umpteen inefficient transformers producing heat as a by-product of their operation.

I know that changing the power configuration to the wall would be a mammoth commitment, but surely as a developed world we are, or should be, heading in the direction of challenging some deep seated assumptions. Surely it could be worth it on new developments where lifetime costs can be factored in?

What about other options? All our VoIP phones use power over ethernet (POE) with CAT5e cabling. Could more appliances piggyback that? How about daisy chaining desktop power usage off USBs? More than half our lighting is of the 12V halogen variety. Could we use that exclusively?

Lying on the beach on holiday, I just felt this was a little discussed arena in this time of deep concern for energy consumption.

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