One of my photos

The Internet of Things

May 14th, 2016 · Posted by Skuds in Technology

My Blu Ray player packed up recently. Ironically, the real annoyance about this was not that I couldn’t play discs – I also have a DVD player so it was only the few Blue Ray discs I could not play – it was that I could not watch Amazon Prime content on my TV because the Virgin box does not have the Amazon app on it. The Blue Ray player was a smart player so it was connected to the Internet and I used it to watch Amazon stuff.

Yesterday I got round to buying a replacement, which is slightly better because it will also play SACD discs (so my old DVD player is now only needed for DVD-A discs and I think I only have one of those. Maybe two) and connect wirelessly (although I have an ethernet port next to the TV so I don’t need that).

I suppose I should have expected it, but as soon as I plugged the new box in I could not test its disc-playing ability immediately. First I had to deal with the message telling me that a software update is available and I needed to update the software. I think this happens as soon as you get a new phone, tablet, computer or smart TV.

The tech pundits have been telling us for years to look forward to the Internet of Things (IoT) where our fridges place an order with the supermarket if we are running short of milk and so on. The reality is that when we buy a new kettle we will have to wait for a firmware upgrade to download before we can make a cup of tea and when we pick up our car from the long-stay car park after a holiday we will not be able to drive off until two weeks’ worth of security patches and updates have been downloaded and installed.

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Segue Segue Sputnik!

May 9th, 2016 · Posted by Skuds in Music

Ever since the BBC started repeating old TOTPs on a 35-year delay I have been watching and wallowing in the nostalgia. I think they started with 1976 or maybe 1975 and are now up to 1981. Obviously it is all downhill after the mighty 1979 but there are still some gems in there.

The funny thing is how different it all looks from a distance. For example, at the time I had not realise just how dominated the 70s were by rock & roll revivalism, not how that spilled into the 80s. The other thing is how some things are completely new to me.

I am pretty sure I watched TOTP every week in the 70s and 80s and also followed the chart show on the radio and everything and yet every now and then there is a song high in the charts by an act that doesn’t ring even the tiniest bell, so either I wasn’t really paying attention or my subconscious blocked it out. [Read more →]

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Painting the town red

May 9th, 2016 · Posted by Skuds in Politics

The recent election campaign was one I think I will remember for a long time.

With Crawley council having a Labour majority of just one seat it was always going to be a fight to keep control. Of the thirteen seats involved, eight were seats we were defending. Two of them were wards where there were council elections last year that we lost and another two or three were seats that have been Tory fairly recently, so everybody agreed that Labour holding on was about as likely as Leicester City winning the league. [Read more →]

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February 24th, 2016 · Posted by Skuds in Life

Tonight I watched the latest Bond film on DVD. I had prepared for it by watching the previous Daniel Craig Bond films last week. It is undeniably spectacular, with lots of  things you would expect from a Bond film – car chases, boat chases, epic stunts, arch-villian set on world domination, secreat HQ for the arch-villain, etc. etc. but it still doesn’t entirely feel like a proper Bond film.

I think the reason is all to do with the way the franchise has gone since the re-boot. Previously the films were all self-contained. There were recurring characters, though they were often played by totally different actors, and recurring motifs, but no continuity of story. You could watch the first twenty Bond films in any order really, but from Casino Royale onwards the fims have been part of a longer story arc. You need to have watched Casino Royale to properly get Quantum of Solace, and so on.

Spectre tie them all together, when Blofeld admits to his involvement in events from the other films and this seems to be the way things are expected to be now. It is the same with Doctor Who where there are story arcs across a whole series. In a way it is quite ironic because we are always told how short our attention spans are these days and yet such franchises now rely on you remembering the events from earlier episodes.

I find it less satisfying because the climax of the film does not feel as climactic whe you know it is just the set-up for the next sequel. That is what spoiled Quantum of Solace for me: it felt like the whole purpose of the story was to get from Casino Royale to Skyfall rather than having its own story to tell – in other words it was the Star Trek III of the Bond franchise.

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plug in baby

February 23rd, 2016 · Posted by Skuds in Life, Technology

We are having an electric car event at work on Thursday. I am actually on holiday, but I might pop in anyway to have a look. There is a lot of this going on at the moment. The Town Hall has Nissan coming in to show their Leaf off, as is the business next to my own work.

The difference with our event is that it is not just one manufacturer coming in to try and flog their own stuff. We have Nissan, BMW and Tesla coming in as well as some electric racing car, and although I am sure they will try to push their own stuff there is supposed to be discussions about general principles like the provision of charging points.

For me it is really just an academic interest because I walk to work. For what it is worth I think that electric cars are impractical for most people because of the lack of infrastructure for charging, which is especially important if, like me, you only have unallocated on-street parking and thus no way to charge at home.

The tipping point will only come when we reach a point of over-provision of charging places. I know the Town Hall now has provision to charge four cars which is good, until it has five or more employees who regularly drive electric cars.

I will still try to turn up on Thursday though, just for the chance to have a good look at the Teslas, which is a bit sad really as their main UK site is less than a mile away and I could go there at any time.

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Ethical investment

December 16th, 2015 · Posted by Skuds in Politics

It is all likely to kick off a bit in tomorrow’s council meeting because the Tories seem to be unhappy about the council’s proposed ethical investment policy.

The proposal is that, when we invest in corporate bonds (which we don’t very often. Most investment is with banks or lending to other councils) we don’t invest in companies that are involved in tobacco, pornography, gambling, payday loans or armaments. [Read more →]

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An Android Awakes

November 3rd, 2015 · Posted by Skuds in Life

An Android Awakes front cover

An Android Awakes front cover

An Andoid Awakes by Mike French and Karl Brown

This is a soon-to-be-published book (Nov 13th) which I had an advance reader copy of from the publishers.

Reading this book, the word that kept coming to mind was ‘kaleidoscope’, by which I mean those tube-like things we had as kids in the 60s where the arrangement of mirrors kept making completely new patterns out of the same elements. [Read more →]

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You, Me and the Apocalypse

October 2nd, 2015 · Posted by Skuds in Life

Despite its reputation for being all about Premier League footie and celebrity vehicles that sound like Alan Partridge came up with the idea, Sky have been knocking out some decent comedies over the last few years. Spy, Trollied, A Touch of Cloth, Moone Boy, Yonderland and Trying again were all series I enjoyed and other shows I didn’t watch (Stella, The Cafe, Mount PLeasant) have all had good reviews.

The latest comedy from Sky is You, Me and the Apocalypse. Terrible title, but very watchable on the evidence of the first episode.

The cast includes Rob Lowe and two actors familiar from other Sky comedies, Joel Fry (Trollied) and Matthew Baynton (Spy, Yonderland). I always enjoy Baynton, and not just because he is an Essex boy from Southend. He had a great supporting part in Spy, and not only starred in, but helped create The Wrong Mans and Yonderland. A very talented young man.

So I was a bit perplexed to see the show listed in several places as ‘starring Pauline Quirk’. Yes she is in it, but I can’t really see why anybody thinks that listing somebody who used to be not very good in a not very good sitcom ages ago would be more of a draw than somebody who was in Horrible Histories and played Ritchie Blackmore in a film, or the notorious Rob Lowe.

Anyway, the show is about the 34 days leading up to an asteroid striking the Earth, so I think that black comedy probably describes it well enough.

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I, Robert

September 30th, 2015 · Posted by Skuds in Life

The hardback of I, Robert

The hardback of I, Robert

It is very rare that I buy actual paper books these days. Basically I just do not have the space for any more books. Instead I download e-books which is not the same experience but is much more convenient. The few ‘proper’ books I get are mostly proof copies from publishers or presents. If I am going to buy the paper version of a book it will normally be because there is something special about it like large illustrations that just are not the same on a Kindle.

In this case, the book is not actually available as an e-book as far as I know, but even if it was I think it is worth having in all its hardback glory. [Read more →]

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The Transporter

September 20th, 2015 · Posted by Skuds in Life

I am getting a bit confused by how Channel 5 is treating the TV series of The Transporter. It is a TV show based on the films of the same name, Luc Besson is involved in the production, and it is a fairly high-budget show, about $40m for the first 12 episodes – high enough for location shooting in several different countries and for helicopters to feature sometimes. Also there are lots of expensive cars in it, though I suspect Audi may contribute quite a lot because the whole thing looks like an extended Audi advert sometimes.

The show is about three years old but has never been on UK TV before. What I don’t understand is why Channel 5 show it at 3 or 4 in the morning. That is the sort of timeslot for repeating a show, not for its only transmission. Of course, if you are recording on Tivo and watching at your convenience it makes no difference what time it is actually broadcast, but it just seems strange.

I’m not going to claim that Transporter is high art, but it is probably the only thing on Channel 5 I would want to watch. It is typical Luc Besson – very stylish and full of car chases and punch ups, but with fewer explosions and gunfights than his films have. The Frank Martin part is played by Chris Vance who plays it like he is in an extended audition for the part of James Bond. The only familiar face is Inspector Tarconi and introduction of his assistant, Carla, and mechanic, Dieter, either give it a bit of background detail or give it a slight soap opera feeling. For what it is, it is not bad.

On top of the transmission time, it is broadcast without any adverts in it. I’m pretty sure last week had no breaks at all, and this week it had breaks but only for trailers for other shows. There were no actual adverts. Channel 5 is a commercial channel that makes its money from advertising. Presumably this glossy series cost them something to buy the rights for it so what do they get out of broadcasting it in the small hours with no adverts?

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