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November 30, 2009

A Groovy Move

Its been a while, but I'm back.  The blog will now be updated a little more frequently, and be a blend of work and non-work stuff.  In particular, I intend to comment (slightly humorously, I hope) on examples of good and bad quality as I encounter them.  Read on for episode 1...

So, we moved house over the summer. Why do the normal rules of politeness and reasonableness seem to go out of the window during this process? Why, for instance, did our purchasers insist that the only day they could possibly move as the middle of our week’s holiday in Wales? A moment later, they assured us, and they would spontaneously combust. We broke the holiday. Our children cried. We came back. We moved out. They moved in. Approximately 1 month later.

Add to this the news that our new house had a kitchen extension with a roof made of gingerbread, or something, which would entail us paying some cheerful but borderline incompetent builders to pop round most days for a month, drinking our tea and criticising our biscuits and our joy was complete.

The one bright spot in the perfect storm of minor irritations, purchaser skulduggery and general mean-spiritedness associated with all dealings with our fellow human beings in general, and house buying in particular, came from a rather unexpected source.

When my wife suggested we get a quote from a removal firm called ‘Groovy Movers’ I have to say I was sceptical. For some reason it conjured images of Shaggy and Scooby making mile-high sandwiches in our kitchen while we piled our own stuff in the back of the Mystery Machine. Possibly harassed by some form of fake supernatural being. Or maybe a bunch of aging hippies gyrating their way to the van to a 70’s soul/funk backing track whilst carrying various of our household nick-knacks. Actually I quite liked that idea.

The weird thing about ‘Groovy Movers’ is that they actually made the process of moving an absolute joy. Yes, you read that right, “a joy”, not tolerable or minimally irritating but an actual pleasurable experience. They brought a sense of fun to the whole (normally) sorry affair. From gently ribbing us during the (excellent) pre-packing process, to giving the kids rides on the tail-lift and performing cod feng shui on our pot-plants in the back garden, they kept us entertained the whole time - while still managing to be ruthlessly efficient in getting the job done.

For readers (yeah, like there’s more than one of you) who don’t know, I teach quality and customer service. Good examples are hard to come by, and I really wasn’t expecting to find one while moving house.  Now, if only they can get their backing track sorted out…

November 06, 2009

and so another day begins

Its been a long time coming but here at last you can feel the onset of winter. This morning on the way into work it was cold, misty and there was a just a hint of frost – fantastic! I love sharp mornings.

early morning near Shustoke, Warks

and so another day begins

November 04, 2009

Costly – I dont think so

Follow-up to Toyota Blues from 353 Rant and Rave

For information, the Toyota F1 budget was estimated to be around $300 million. This accounts for about 0.1% of their revenue, hardly a significant amount in the context of the Worlds largest automaker. As a proportion of their losses it amounts to about 6% so a bit more of a cost but now they aren’t able to suggest in any way that they have a racing pedigree, and they wont get any television advertisng – Oh how Honda must be crying in their beer this year – will we say the same about Toyota next year?

Toyota = DULL DULL DULL is that what they want to say?

FI is it Costly – I dont think so

Toyota Blues

So, the inevitable has happened and Toyota F1 have left the room.

Only this morning I was writing some lecture notes on the subject of cultural transformation and lean and added a slide with Toyota F1 as the subject.

The Toyota F1 team failed to win a single race in 139 attempts (or rather just under 278 given that there are two cars in a team) – pathetic.

Why? why with all the money they spent, having hired designers with a good track record and with half-decent drivers, did they fail so badly?

Where is their long-term commitment? They started in 2001 so that is only 8 years – small beer compared to their much promoted long-term outlook in other aspects of their business. On the same day GM have announced that they won’t sell-off the Opel and Vauxhall operations after all, Toyota follow Honda down the road of surrender (unlike them surely).

Could it be that the Toyota Way just isn’t the way to achieve success in F1? And if so, why did Toyota start down this path in the first place? Could they not see that F1 is a dynamic, innovative and individualistic enterprise. The formula is always changing, from year to year there are changes in what you can and cannot do. Could they not see that their culture is not suited to F1. Were they so naive as to not recognise this at the outset or did they think that their methods were so superior that success was inevitable?

I’m sad that Toyota have succumbed to short-term pressures. This puts into doubt much of what observers say is special about them. I hope that the team get saved because there is a base on which to build. I’m sad that Toyota haven’t been able to learn how to win in F1, I expected more of them. I wonder what is going to happen to Kobayashi who seems a worthy contender.

Having said this, a little part of me is shouting Yes Yes Yes. There is a place still for the enthusiastic amateur, the passionate entreprenuer, the techno/political genius who is prepared to do the whacky thing and make it work. The small guy who just wants to race.

Lastly though I am left with a feeling of disappointment, a feeling of Toyota Blues.

November 10, 2008

Not to blow my own party blower…

Follow-up to For It's a Jolly Good Fellow from The randomness of tomorrow, today!

I know I say this every year, but Happy Birthday The randomness of tomorrow, today!!

Gosh. Four years old today. My how the time flies... 

June 26, 2008

Google App Engine is quite easy to use

Writing about web page http://6x9media.appspot.com/

6 times 9 Media Library logo

I made a Media Library using Google App Engine, if anyone's interested. It allows you to build up a list of all your various media (DVDs, CDs, video games, etc.), categorise them by type, rate them, and keep track of any Items that you've lent to friends.

6 times 9 Media Library screenshot

June 25, 2008

Parking Fail

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/7472490.stm

How on Earth does this happen!?

Parking Fail. Photo by Ronan O'Kane

June 18, 2008

Hmmm… that's disappointing

Writing about web page http://www.apple.com/mobileme/

As I've mentioned before, I want an iPhone. Especially since they announced the new one... which is, technically, what the iPhone should have been since it was launched; 3G wasn't exactly new technology back then...

I have a Gmail account to which I have all my mail directed. The iPhone has settings to access Gmail over IMAP so changes on the iPhone are reflected in the Gmail web interface. However, new emails aren't pushed to the iPhone; you still have to tell it to "manually" (it's automatic, but as opposed to the emails being pushed...) check every 30 minutes, or whatever you choose. I also have my own domain, which Gmail is configured to use as the default from address.

The new iPhone software is going to support Microsoft Exchange, and Apple also announce their own version of Exchange for the rest of us called MobileMe. MobileMe, like Exchange, will do push email (as well as push contacts and calendar, but they would be more of a bonus than a necessity) for a price. However, what I wanted to know was would I be able to link it to Gmail (via IMAP) so that it could push my Gmail emails to the iPhone I'm planning to buy at the end of the year and also pass any changes made to those emails by the iPhone (mark as read, for instance) back to the Gmail web interface. And, of course, I'd want to use my own email address.

On Monday, I finally managed to find an appropriate "Contact Us" form on the Apple website (it's much harder than it should be) and asked Apple if these two things would be possible. I've just received the reply (well, a few hours ago, but it was picked up as spam...). So, according to the reply:

Unfortunately it won't be possible to retrieve emails from a 3rd party IMAP account with MobileMe. [...] It will also not be possible to send emails from custom addresses via MobileMe.

Apple Support, via email

So - unless anything changes in the next few months - in November I'll be saving my £59 for something else, and sticking to polling Gmail every few minutes

June 17, 2008

It's Firefox 3 Download Day

Follow-up to Get a fantastic web browser, and set a Guinness World Record from The randomness of tomorrow, today!

Writing about web page http://www.spreadfirefox.com/en-US/worldrecord/

Firefox 3 should be released about now.

For the next 24 hours, all full downloads (updates do not count) should count towards their world record attempt. So what are you waiting for?

Download Day

June 16, 2008

There's this Nigerian prince I know that needs to get some money out of the country…

If us individuals are always told not to give our bank account number and sort code to nefarious folk, lest they empty out bank accounts, why then can companies print their details on statements and invoices for us to pay them by BACS without these malicious people emptying their bank accounts too?

What's the difference between a personal and business account that means anyone with the personal account number and sort code can clear it out, but can only add money to the business account?

June 15, 2008

Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A

The Konami Code works in Google Reader...

(There's a screenshot on Flickr if you can see the video below.)

Konami Code

It would be nice if Gmail could tell me itself…

Follow-up to I have more spam than emails… from The randomness of tomorrow, today!

I don't use Thunderbird; I just use the Gmail web interface. However I'd previously installed Thunderbird just to have a look.

So, using IMAP, I have established that my (currently) 20,333 conversations contain 27,620 emails... which is still less than the spam I get.

The spam comes in at 75,926 for the past 30 days. So I currently have 2.7 spam for every real email...

June 14, 2008

I restarted about 10 times, but I got there in the end…

Follow-up to If I only had a heart… from The randomness of tomorrow, today!

My score's much better this time...

Shooting the moon!

June 13, 2008

I have more spam than emails…

Between 2:57pm on 13th October 2004 and 2:37pm on 13th June 2008 I had received 20,298 email conversations* in Gmail:

I have more spam than emails...

Between 1:00am on 14th May 2008 and 3:28pm on 13th June 2008 I had received 68,217 spam conversations* in Gmail:

That's about 1 spam every 38 seconds...

If I've done the maths correctly (I rounded to the number of days), then that's 1 email conversation* every 1 hour, 38 minutes, and 28 seconds and 1 spam conversation* every 38 seconds.

I'm sure there will be many people that get much more spam that I do, but it's still a lot of spam...

(Coincidentally, since I took the screenshot the spam has risen to 68,303)

UPDATE: Another quick calculation: taking the number of spam over the past 30 days, and extrapolating it over the past 4 years gives about 3 million spam...

UPDATE: The number of spam I get has increased somewhat this year, and I've just found documented evidence that I used to get less spam. I'd forgotten about that one...


* In case you didn't know, Gmail groups related emails into conversations. The numbers in the screenshots are the numbers of conversations; the actual number of emails will be much higher, but isn't nearly as easy to find...

June 10, 2008

Idiot, or Comedian? You decide.

Writing about web page http://www.amazon.com/review/R1PPJ35WY17216/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm

A review on Amazon.com that is either stupid or a joke. I'll let you make up your own mind, although I think the fact that he still gave it 2 stars is good evidence for "Joke"...

I found it through another Flickr photo, and decided to do a version that was cropped tighter.

Idiot, or Comedian? You decide.

June 09, 2008


Happy Birthday To Me!

*Blows a party blower*

June 07, 2008

What could be better than a padlock?

Follow-up to Get a fantastic web browser, and set a Guinness World Record from The randomness of tomorrow, today!

Writing about web page http://www.spreadfirefox.com/en-US/worldrecord/

Firefox 3 really builds on the archaic padlock; the little icon that shows the connection is encrypted. In Firefox 2, it is located at the right of the address bar and looks like this:

Firefox 2 padlock

All this tells you is that the connection is encrypted; it doesn't tell you who's at the other end. You can be sure that the data probably won't be intercepted, but you can't be sure it's going to who you think it is.

Firefox 3, however, not only supports the more recent certificates that can prove the identity, but it also presents them in a much more user-friendly manner.

Unencrypted websites look like this:

Firefox 3's unencrypted notice

A grey background to the favicon area, and a popup when you click on it that informs you my website is unencrypted.

If the website is using the older type of certificate, the ones without identity information, you see this:

Firefox 3's encrypted notice

A blue background, and a popup that tells you the connection is encypted but that Firefox doesn't know who's in control.

Finaly, the new certificates look like this:

Firefox 3's identity notice

A green background, and a popup that can tell you who's on the other end. Plus, it also put the identity in the favicon area. so isn't as obvious

A secondary advantage of this is that fake sites that try to trick you with padlock favicons shouldn't work, because they can't change the background and FF3 doesn't use padlocks.

This is much more useful than just a padlock, especially since you might think the padlock meant "safe", when all it really meant was "encrypted"; it didn't protect you against fake sites with encryption.

Opera has a similar system; is displays the ID, but since it doesn't use colours it isn't quite as obvious what level you're at. It also doesn't appear to have quite as readable an explanation as Firefox.

Apparently Firefox 3 also has a warning that uses the guy on a yellow background for invalid certificates, and the guy on a red background for reported phishing sites... but I don't know any URLs that will trigger them for a screenshot. There are more details, and screenshots of these other two, at this blog entry.

June 06, 2008

Welcome to Liberty City. Enjoy your stay.

I realise the numbers don't really work, but I think it makes the graph look better...

Liberty City career options graph

GTA IV really is a fantastic game; if you don't own it, you should really consider buying it. And if you don't have an Xbox 360 or a PS3, you should buy one just for GTA IV; I did, and I couldn't be happier.

June 04, 2008

I'm With Stupid →

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/cornwall/7435752.stm

It's embarassing to think I share a country with ignorant pricks like these...

Jolly, Green, and Giant

Writing about web page http://graphjam.com/2008/03/16/funny-graphs-hulk-vegetables/

Here's another one (this time inspired by one from GraphJam):

Jolly, Green, and Giant Venn Diagram

Here are some links if you aren't familiar with some of the entries:

June 03, 2008

Infinity Joke

I came across GraphJam recently. Some of them are quite amusing.

Here’s one I thought of:

(This isn’t to be confused with the polls; this isn’t interactive.)

June 01, 2008

Having said that…

Follow-up to That's one problem solved from The randomness of tomorrow, today!

The first time I played GTA IV online, there was only one other person there. This, I suspect, was the problem; they were solely concerned with killing me.

I played a few games yesterday afternoon, and actually managed to win two and hold my own on another. I believe this was related to the fact that there were around 4 people this time, so they were distracted with killing the others and I was able to prepare myself and get a few good shots in.

This does, unfortunately, mean that the expiration of my 1 month Gold trial is now a problem again. Damn you Microsoft, and your evil money-grabbing ways!

May 31, 2008

Get a fantastic web browser, and set a Guinness World Record

Writing about web page http://www.spreadfirefox.com/en-US/worldrecord/

Download Day 2008

If you download Firefox 3 within its first 24 hours (the release date hasn't been announced yet) then you could help set the Guinness World Record for the most software downloads in 24 hours.

Full details of the attempt can be found at the link above. It's important to note that it has to be a proper download; updates apparently won't count.

Sounds like a laugh...

World No Tobacco Day

Follow-up to Looks like the Government finally did something right… from The randomness of tomorrow, today!

Apparently today is World No Tobacco Day.

So "Yay!" to no smoking.

World No Tobacco Day

Remember, if you smoke you're a damned fool.

Coincidentally, if you're interested, richardwinskill.co.uk has other themed headers. I particularly like 21st April because I think the colours are beautiful.

April 30, 2008


Apparently the University is planning to harmonise something. I don’t know what is being harmonised but think this may be it….

...I think we are all going to be given special discounts on Jaguar motor cars and as a test of this Porters have been allocated ‘S’ class Jaguars to replace their existing vans – good luck to them but I would’ve thought that a more environmentally sensitive solution would be for senior officers to be given vans.

Spotted today on Library Rd today:

First park your car

and in the window