One of my photos

I’m not a racist but…

February 28th, 2015 · Posted by Skuds in Life

…I think my mobile phone might be a little racist, even if only inadvertantly.

I was adding somebody called Gurinder to the contacts on my phone and it auto-corrected it to “Grinder”. Seriously though, why on Earth should auto-correct be enabled on fields for names?

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No wonder he’s going

February 20th, 2015 · Posted by Skuds in Politics, Technology

When Francis Maude first talked about combining all the government websites into one big one, that part of me that had worked in IT since before there even was an internet, thought it sounded a bit risky. The principle isn’t too bad: why not provide a single front end, or a portal? It could be an improvement, as long as you don’t just put the whole thing in the hands of a bunch of Silicon Roundabout chancers. But it sounds like that is exactly what they did…

I have to admit that I didn’t notice anything wrong because I only use one tiny part of the website, the bit for renewing car tax, and that bit works just fine. I guess that most people are in the same boat, and see that the only bit they use is OK, which makes it easier to accept when the Cabinet Office pops up to say it is a huge success and is saving pots of money.

Reading between the lines of the story though, it sounds like the whole set-up of the Government Digital Service is ripe for a sitcom mashup of The Thick Of It, The IT Crowd and Nathan Barley.

Let’s scrap a load of complicated computer systems that took years of development and testing, replace them with a new one, built by people who are more concerned about SEO than the back end, and think that a user requirements spec is for cissies! Who would have thought that advising people to store petrol in the cupboard under the stairs was not the silliest idea of Maude’s after all?

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February 20th, 2015 · Posted by Skuds in Life

This time yesterday I had never heard of Naarden, now it is on my list of places I really fancy visiting – and unlike most of the other places on my list (e.g. Tromso, Uruguay) it is actually affordable to get to.

If, like me yesterday, you aren’t aware of the place then I defy you to Google it and not want to go there. Even on Google Maps’ satellite view it looks brilliant.

What with me being technically gifted and all, I could easily put links to it here, or include some pictures, but I think you will enjoy discovering it for yourself.

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How the other half live

February 14th, 2015 · Posted by Skuds in Life

A was a little gobsmacked the other day, while reading this bit of property porn on the local paper’s website. It is about a house for sale for £900,000. It has four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a cellar,  a stable block converted to a games room, and 1.25 acres of land. If that wasn’t enough, it has planning permission for an extension to make the kitchen bigger and add a fifth bedroom.

To paraphrase Loyd Grossman, who would live in a house like this? Well it turns out that…

Julian believes Winnsfold would be ideal for a small family, a couple who are downsizing or anyone looking for the grandeur of an Edwardian home in a countryside setting that is only 45 minutes from London by train.

At a time when social housing tenants are being victimised for daring to have a spare box room, it turns out that the middle-class norm is to have four bedrooms for a couple. I do wonder what Julian thinks a large family would need to accommodate them?

I guess it didn’t help that I was also reading a book that described living conditions in the cities before the post-war building boom, with a dozen people sharing a single room and sharing their outside toilet with several similar households.

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Bert Crane

February 11th, 2015 · Posted by Skuds in Politics

Bert Crane in 2005

Bert Crane in 2005

I am hearing news that Bert Crane has died, which is not unexpected but nonetheless very upsetting. Yes, he was looking quite frail the last time I saw him, but then he was apparently not expected to live very long when he left the forces yet managed to go on to serve as a councillor for more than 50 years after that, so it kind of felt like he would be around for ever.

It is a very sad day for Crawley Labour party. Bert was a councillor in Crawley before Crawley even had its own council, and stayed in the job as the town grew up around him, often with his involvement because he always took a keen interest in planning matters.

The one silver lining is that now we can name something after him. Because of his long service, there have been calls for naming a road or something after him for ages, blocked by an unwritten convention of not naming roads after living people.

I do hope we can have the patience to wait for something suitably important and not just give his name to some little close in one of the new estates.

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Partial fact of the day

February 2nd, 2015 · Posted by Skuds in Life, Technology

The fax machine was invented before the telephone. For its first fifteen years of existence it was only used to transmit transfer requests between football teams.

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A new MP for Horsham

February 1st, 2015 · Posted by Skuds in Politics

Whatever happens in May, Horsham will have a new MP because Francis Maude has announced that he is standing down. It will be interesting to see who is chosen there because Horsham is the sort of place where the Tories can win easily even when their candidate is unpopular with many people because of blatant profiteering on expenses.

There may well be some local member, like Philip Circus, who fancies a go, but such a safe seat is the sort of place where Central Office like to parachute in somebody they owe massive favours to.

The big question is whether Henry Smith will try the chicken run like his predecessor did. Horsham is certainly safer than Crawley for him and he doesn’t seem to have been doing much active campaigning in Crawley this year. As the Horsham and Crawley associations used to be merged he will know a lot of the people over there, but on the other hand a lot of the members over there will know him and I get the impression he isn’t hugely popular outside Crawley.

If he did the chicken run quickly enough, it could even allow his chum Liam Marshall-Ascough to transfer from Stoke-on-Trent to Crawley.

For the time being I will just mischeivously assume that Maude tipped Henry off and he is preparing to jump ship, until such time as it is denied. At which point we will know that the lack of activity in the Crawley Tory camp is not because of that but because of lack of funds or because they are preoccupied fighting amongst themselves. Again.

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Fact of the day

January 27th, 2015 · Posted by Skuds in Politics

Did you know that if you hold a large seashell to your ear you can hear the deafening silence of UKIP complaining about the London Ambulance Service bringing 175 foreigners into the country to be paramedics, with plans to have another overseas recruitment drive in September.

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A blast from the past

January 27th, 2015 · Posted by Skuds in Life, Technology

While looking for something in the system32 directory of a Windows 7 computer the other day (I still can’t quite bring myself  to call it a folder) I came across the file pifmgr.dll

It was a bit like when you are on Facebook or Linkedin and see the name of somebody you knew or worked with twenty years ago but haven’t even thought about for absolutely ages.

Although I can’t remember the details, I can remember when PIF files were a large part of the everyday struggle to get DOS and early Windows machines to actually run anything without the memory getting stuffed. Now that file is just a source of retro icons in case you want to give your Windows 7 PC a more Windows 3.0 vibe.

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Thumbs down

January 27th, 2015 · Posted by Skuds in Politics

At tonight’s council meeting, to the surprise of nobody, the council effectively voted in favour of an extra runway at Heathrow.

The vote was 25 to 11.  Presumably the reason why that only adds up to 36 is because of the very public declaration by one councillor that he wouldn’t vote on something that wasn’t explicitly in his election address, which shows a remarkable misunderstanding of the fundamental principle of representative democracy for somebody who wants to be an MP. I don’t know whether he was actually in the meeting or up in Stoke campaigning for himself, which would be representing his constituents even less. [Read more →]

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