Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Digital Radio is dead

June 25, 2013

Where do we listen to the radio? There are quite a few answers to this, we each have our own, but for me it is in the car. That is the only time for me. There are other sources of entertainment when I am not driving – but in the car there is no choice but to just listen. Radio is essential in the car.

The UK has a long history of government stifling radio with rigid government control proscribing what the BBC can broadcast to us and that for the most part only the BBC can broadcast to us. In answer to the question ‘Why can’t we have more choice?’ there was always the answer of a lack of available frequencies.

There have been a few little improvements over the years giving the odd local non-BBC station some limited local coverage on FM or the already obsolete AM, but there was never an even playing field. The BBC got a 12KW transmitter when the local competition got just 600W. Eventually we got a national non-BBC FM station playing the music we all wanted to hear, classical. The government really did their market research thoroughly when deciding that one at a time when 3% of the radio audience wanted to listen to classical. Marconi would be turning in his grave if he knew what was happening in the country that invented radio.

With the advent of DAB and a new commercial environment for radio, there was a golden opportunity to put things right. Loads of bandwidth was allocated internationally in Band III and L Band, every radio station had a chance. Our national network listening experience, pretty much the only thing suitable for listening to in the car if you are going further than popping to the shops, could be extended from government proscribed pop music, government proscribed MOR, government proscribed news, government proscribed classical and commercial classical. There was a chance that we could listen to something interesting in a country with a rich music culture.

It did happen for a short while. Driving around London there were around fifty radio stations available on DAB on the national and regional multiplexes, less so away from the capital, but still we had choice of rock music on the radio at last. That alone was worth buying a new radio for the car, even if it was a little expensive. I really loved my Woodstock 52. It still looks really good and mostly still works, although it is showing its age a bit. The CD drive won’t work, it is fussy about which SD cards I put in it and the volume control is a bit dicky, but it still sounds as good as the day I bought it – apart from one thing, most of the radio stations have gone, and most of those that are left are broadcasting at such low bandwidth that no one wants to listen any more. A mono MPEG1-layer-2 stream at 64kb/s or if you are lucky 80kb/s is not hi-fi by any stretch of the imagination.

What is one to do. As someone who loves radio, likes the variety and the commentary from good D.J.s that care about the music this is a very sad time. Planet Rock is so distorted now it is too hard on the ears to bear, The Storm has gone, The Arrow has gone, the regional multiplexes that carry Real XS are closing down in the next few weeks. It is a very sad time for radio.

Could it be revived? Of course. The government like having little surveys every now and then that tell us that everyone who tries listening to their normal FM bland crap on DAB thinks it sounds much better, so digital must be successful, but that hides the real story of OffCom fiddling while rome burns. All is not rosy, action is needed.

Commercial interests who do not care for the output of their radio stations will never set a quality threshold. That is the job of the regulator. In the beginning when the radio operators accepted that they were going to burn a bit of money at a time when only the wealthy could afford the radios the sound quality was good, with 128Kb/s being the minimum and some operators using higher bandwidth as much as 192Kb/s. Now alas competition and the regulator caving in to requests by the operators to use the available bandwidth for other non-radio activities has seen that eroded to joke levels of bandwidth.

Unfortunately we have a culture of left wing governments squeezing anything that they can regulate of tax until it is dead, and then squeezing some more. Government is forgetting that it is supposed to be working in the public interest and that broadcasting is a public service. Government should not be allowing, and especially should not be actively encouraging valuable broadcast spectrum to be used for other things just because it can be taxed, using the excuse that other countries are doing it, completely missing the point that their governments are corrupt and that they have no need for the spectrum themselves.

What should be happening now? Number one is to set a minimum standard of sound quality. We have had stereo for around half a century, it should be a given. 192Kb/s minimum (or the equivelent for non- MPEG1-layer-2 streams) should also be a minimum.

Number 2 is to provide a second national multiplex for the BBC. They already spend a vast amount of money making programmes in hi-fi stereo, so it will be only a small expense to broadcast them in reasonable quality so we, the public who have paid for them can actually get to listen to them. The BBC is a public service BROADCASTER, we should not be expected to download everything. Allowing the BBC to broadcast properly will at least set a standard. Unfortunately the BBC does not set the same standard in radio that it does in television, but it might put up a fight if it is allowed to compete as a quality broadcaster.

Number 3 is to stop the focus on local radio. Local broadcasters are never going to have sufficient revenue to provide top quality radio, even when there was just a single local station in each area outside big cities they did not make enough money to do a good job, so how are three or four going to compete on each of the local multiplexes, they are not. We need a good infrastructure for national broadcast, not the single monopoly multiplex we have at the moment that can charge an extortionate amount for a 64Kb/s mono broadcast because it is take it or leave it.

Number 4 it is time for satellite DAB on L Band. Unfortunately the government has cocked it all up here by delaying use of L Band such that few radios sold today can receive it, but it will be cheaper to broadcast from a single satellite transponder than from a national chain of transmitters on the ground.

Radio can be saved, and I am hopeful, but I suspect I might have to invest in an MP3 player soon and find a way to gather together some music that I like, and perhaps mutter to myself in between tracks – just like a D.J. Perhaps it is time to write to my MP again…

The price of a free PC

March 30, 2011

How much does a free PC cost? The answer would appear obvious at first glance, but it may not be quite so clear cut.

As someone who has had pretty good access to supplies of redundant computing equipment over the years I have often been able improve and upgrade with minimal cost and still have a working system.

I started with an 8088 based system in the ’80s which I was given as a tool to do my work at the time, and gradually upgraded it with new system boards, peripherals and drives until eventually I had a nice 100MHz 80486 with a 120MB hard disk and 32MB of RAM running Windows NT with dial up web access and Netscape Navigator 4.

Times change and things move on. I persevered  with the little system still in its XT case but eventually around the turn of the millennium most websites stopped supporting Netscape and I had to bite the bullet and buy a new PC that would run Internet Explorer. It was a time when PC use was expanding and no one was throwing out anything that was capable of running NT. The big issue was memory – you just could not get enough in them.

I bit the bullet. Of course I did not go and buy an off the shelf PC from a shop. I bought the bits I needed from various sources, and even bought a smart new case big enough to fit the optical drive, LS120 drive, floppy disk drive (NT still needed a real floppy as well to load the drivers!) and a pair of 30GB hard disks and a system board with integrated RAID. I had been around long enough to know that PC component failures were in the following order 1. CRT monitor, 2. PSU, 3. Hard Disk. I wanted my PC to keep running.

Old habits die hard and I could not miss an opportunity to obtain a second hand 900MHz AMD Athlon processor and a discarded AGP graphics card to keep the costs down. With 256MB of RAM this PC was going to last forever. I had spent a grand, bear in mind this was back in the days when a grand was a lot of money, and it made me realise what I had achieved over the years by recycling all those unwanted parts.

The new PC ran Windows 2000 and with the enhancement of another 500MB of RAM and a pair of 200GB hard disks lasted for a decade with minimal investment. As Internet Explorer had caused the demise of the old PC, the new cause of failure was Facebook. People were not able to play the games because it was not fast enough to run the flash based applications. The OS was a little out of date and no longer supported with security updates and I could not get a realistic amount of memory in it.

I soldiered on, but my tales of woe did not fall on stony ground.

Second hand black PC“I’ve got something better than that you can have.” There was some rummaging, and out popped a PC in a black tower case. The colour was interesting because all my previous PCs had been beige. That is the way it was!

So I left with my free PC under my arm. OK so it was not quite state of the art, but it met the spec for Windows 7, and the Semperon processor was around three times faster than the old Athlon – what could go wrong.

I knew that the 1GB of RAM would not be quite adequate, so a splashed out fifty quid on 2GB of DDR to fill it up. OK, so £50 for a new PC was not too bad a price to pay. It would not be totally awsome, but it would be a lot better.

The memory arrived, I put it in, now to install the OS. After a fair bit of faffing around it transpired that the DVD drive was not in tip-top condition and would only read CDs. OK I will have to buy a new drive, no big deal.

I can’t install Windows 7 from the DVD but can install Vista, so at least I get an OS installed. Buy a nice new Blue Ray writer (silly not to really) for £85, and the SATA controller card for £30 because you cannot get an IDE Blue Ray drive.

OK so not too bad. My free PC has only cost me £165 so far, and running Vista is perhaps not that bad – apart from it crashing a few times each day.

“We want the old PC back. It’s no good. Why did you waste all that money on it.”

“It was free…”

At this point things are not looking good. Well, I have got the new optical drive, lets try upgrading to Windows 7. Perhaps that will be more stable than Vista.

It wasn’t of course. Lots of fiddling to remove everything that was not essential to the running of the PC (sound card, AGP graphics card). Flash up the firmware, play with conservative BIOS settings. Still no good. Removing the graphics card reduced crashing to once per day, but it was still crashing. Still referred to as Satan.

By now the donor of the ‘free’ PC was no doubt feeling a little guilty. “Well, I have got this core 2 Duo processor and 2GB memory…”

Will it work I think to myself.  I did not want to be in Ground-hog day. I was sort of there already. Accepting the new parts would result in more expenditure. I would have to buy a new system board.

I had no choice. I had to succeed. I am an IT professional. People pay me a lot of money to make things work. I can do it. I will succeed.

System board and new PCI-e graphics card arrive for a mere £75. Running total is now £235.

“They had new PCs on special offer for about that. We could have had a proper one…”

I did not dare mention the Blue ray writer that the ‘proper one’ would not have had.

I build the new PC, and success. PC runs like a dream. All of the ills and trauma are forgotten and everyone is happy. Happy Aquarium runs like a dream and everyone can now feed their virtual fish without tearing their hair out.

What became of the original free PC? Well you might ask. I put the bits in another case, installed Fedora on it and used it as my Linux test PC. Crashing once a day would not be an issue, and I was getting two PCs now for the price of one. One interesting observation of course – it does not crash running Linux!

Glossary (in order of appearance!)

8088 – Microprocessor made by Intel and used in the first IBM PCs. It is a 16-bit processor similar to the 8086 but with an 8-bit external bus to keep the cost down and to keep the PC simple.

IBM – International Business Machines, the company that made the PC very popular worldwide.

PC – Personal Computer. A small computer with just enough processing power for and intended to be used by one person and not shared by many as most computers were at one time.

MHz – MegaHertz, the number of millions of things that a processor can do in a second.

80486 – 32-bit processor made by Intel and based on (and backwards compatible with) its earlier 8086 processor with an integrated numerical co-processor to speed up arithmetic operations and the ability to work with much more memory.

MB – Megabyte, 1048576 bytes (a little over a million, hence mega). A byte is enough storage to typically hold one character or a number from 0 to 255.

Windows – A popular operating system family produced by Microsoft.

Operating System – The software that runs on a PC when you first switch it on which allows you to run your applications.

NT – The first version of Windows that did not sit on top of another operating system and was stand alone. Very much based on OS/2 that Microsoft had produced for IBM. The NT stood for New Technology since it was very different underneath to the previous versions of Windows although it looked the same and was very similar to use.

OS/2 – A completely new operating system intended to replace DOS on personal computers which did not gain much popularity outside of business which made good use of the improvements that had been made to PCs since IBM introduced the first ones.

DOS – Disk Operating System, the original operating system produced by Microsoft for the IBM PC.

RAM – Random Access Memory, the memory which holds data and programs only while the computer is turned on.

Netscape Navigator – The first popular web browser that has become eclipsed by Internet Explorer.

XT  – The first version of the IBM PC to come with a hard disk. It had a distinctive case style that was much copied by other manufacturers.

LS120 – A floppy disk drive that works with disks that hold 120MB of data rather than the usual 1.44MB.

System board – The main circuit board within a PC that contains the processor and has connectors to plug in other devices.

RAID – Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks. A method of using a group of hard disks to store data in such a way that failure of one disk will not result in any loss of data.

CRT Monitor – Monitor with a cathode ray tube and curved screen like televisions used to have.

PSU – Power Supply Unit, the part of a computer that takes mains voltage and converts it to the lower voltages required inside the computer.

AMD Athlon – Microprocessor made by AMD to be broadly compatible with Intel processors but a little faster and cheaper.

AGP Graphics card – Newer type of monitor adapter which plugs into a special AGP slot in the system board and is much faster than the previous type that just plugs into and ordinary slot.

Facebook – A popular social networking website.

Semperon – An AMD processor more advanced than the Athlon.

DDR –  Double Data Rate memory, a type of RAM.

DVD – Digital Video Disk, optical disk originally intended for video but used widely to store data.

Blue Ray – Optical disk with more storage than DVD.

IDE – Integrated Drive Electronics, an interface type used for hard disks and optical drives to connect them to the system board.

SATA – A newer and faster interface than IDE to connect drives to the system board.

Firmware – Software that is held within the hardware to control it, nowadays it tends to be held within flash erasable memory chips which can be updated by a process called flashing when any software errors need to be corrected.

Fedora – A version of Linux produced by Red Hat, who’s logo is a red fedora hat.

LINUX – An operating system originally produced by Linus Torvalds which is maintained by the open source community.

Open source – Software which is produced where the source code is published freely for anyone to use.

Suzie x

Power failure

July 13, 2010

Nowadays we are very reliant on electricity. I don’t feel the need for vast quantities of it, but just a small reliable supply would be nice.

Eleven thousand volt elecricity pole with transformer

Electricity pole

Unfortunately the reliable is not available, we get no choice of how the electricity is supplied, and the monopoly network supplier is not under any pressure to make the supply reliable.

This morning was a good example. Power went off at around 06:00. Not a big deal you might think, everyone is still asleep then. Well I was asleep until neighbour (A)’s alarm sounded.

Alarm bell box fitted on a wall

Alarm

They have an alarm which sounds when the power fails, which is handy for some I guess. It is nice to know that the battery is working fine and can keep the alarm sounding for an hour or so.

It was not long of course before the power was restored for a short while. This is quickly identified to all in the street because neighbour (B)’s alarm which does not have a battery sounds when power is restored. I am sure that this is a jolly hand feature too. It was not long of course before the power failed again and you guessed it, we were back to the slightly different wail of neighbour (A) again until the battery went flat.

The blackbirds seem to find all this very amusing, because they took the opportunity to adjust their dawn chorus to include both alarms.

Blackbird

Blackbird

It must be really handy for neighbour (A) to know that should the battery go flat the alarm can still be heard for another hour or so until the blackbirds clear off to find some breakfast.

So, apart from being woken up at the crack of dawn with no access to normal methods of entertainment (telly, radio etc.) and no communication methods (telephone, internet) life takes on a rather surreal turn.

I start off by reading the rest of the Radio Times – there is not much on this coming week that anyone needs to worry about. This is followed by reading ‘The Garden’ – not too much to do in the garden in July fortunately, but good news that the worlds smallest water lilly has now been successfully propagated. Fancy having to simulate an African hot spring to make it flower!

Now that is really everything exhausted. Looks like the rain has stopped now, so Mrs. Suzie agreed that we should go out for a walk. That gets rid of a couple of  hours and can be ticked off the exercise budget. I love walking but it is so time consuming for the small return. Swimming can be done a lot quicker!

Out in the road we meet Team EDF in their pick-up trucks.EDF logo

“It is the trees, they are touching the wires and the rain has made the trees wet and shorted out the power”.

So no rain for a couple of months has made the trees nice and insulated, and allowed them to grow through the wires. In a normal world there would be some pressure on EDF to do preventative maintenance with a chain saw and perhaps get them to realise that if they replaced their aerial knitting with something neat and tidy underground we would not have the spectacle of flaming telegraph poles (which is what happened last time it snowed after a dry spell, creosote makes them burn really well when they get going!), dead birds (they sit on a lower wire and bang their heads on an upper one at a different potential) and general unreliability.

So we went for a walk. it is nice to see the flora on the beach. You would think that nothing grows there, but there is sea holly, sea kale, horned poppys,

Horned poppy on the beach

Horned poppy

and three different coloured Valerian as well as some hollyhocks that have escaped from a nearby garden. All nice things we should be able to have in the garden but have not got. Not only do they not need soil – they grow in just sand, but they don’t need any watering either and we live in the driest place in the UK.

Walk over with but still no electricity. A cup of tea is now seriously overdue, so time to move in to the caravan. It is quite a novelty to be boiling the water in a gas kettle, lighting the gas fridge, and then listening to analogue radio while we drink our tea.

Eventually the power is restored and life returns to normal. E-mail, telephone, television and an electric kettle. Strange to just slip seamlessly back into normal life. The postman has been, and my subscription copy of Model Rail is now on the mat, what wonderful timing.

Suzie x

Going digital

June 29, 2010

I have always looked forward to having extra choice on the telly, Channel 4 test cardChannel4 was a welcome breath of fresh air when it came, and the launch of satellite telly a few years later was really good too, and I recall hearing at the time Rupert Murdoch telling us how he would like to make all his programmes available free to air but the film companies would not let him.

Alas government regulation failed and competition was removed from the skies giving Sky the monopoly on satellite, with the inevitable subscription and overcharging that made it not worth the effort to put up a dish and just get Sky News.

Then around the turn of the millenium, another disaster – the telly broke. A quick trip to the shops and there were all these shiny newPhillips CRT televisiondigital tellys. £850 did not appear to be too bad for a very nice telly with built in digital tuner ready for digital switchover when it comes. Lots of warnings from the salesman. “It’s no good you getting a digital telly there is no signal in your area, it won’t work.”

It really is no good whatsoever telling me that. I am a ‘can do’ person. Not enough signal? There are ways round that. It is not like we had any analogue signal anyway, that got turned off in our area with the closure of the 405 line service in 1985!

Televés DAT75 television aerial against the sky

Televés DAT75 aerial

So get the telly home and not a jot of digital signal, and the analogue was pretty dire too. Not completely unexpected given the inadequate looking aerials on the chimney. A quick bit of internet research gives some indication of where the best digital signal is coming from, and how incredibly weak it is, but I can do.

The biggest aerial I can find with an integrated amplifier gives me 30dB gain, just enough to pull a bit of signal out of a transmitter 48 miles away.

There I am, all up and running and ready for digital switchover – or am I?

When I bought the digital telly there was no time scale put on when we would have proper digital coverage, and no indication that standards would be changing before we would go digital, but why should I worry about that. It is a brand new telly and aerial – it will last for ages.

It was not long before a power cut resulted in the digital tuner not working on the telly,  and taking it back to the shop for repair they of course tell me there is nothing wrong with it. Can’t try it in the shop because they don’t have a suitable aerial! Subsequently find out that the tuner fails if you turn the telly off for a short period (like in a power cut) and the only answer is to leave it turned off for a week or so. Not very satisfactory. Eventually I give up trying to get Comet to honour the guarantee – they think that all they have to do is to take my telly away for a fortnight and tell me there is nothing wrong with it, even when I have demonstrated the fault to their engineer. By now the BBC have updated their interactive service so that it crashes if you press the red button and Phillips are not interested in updating the software to make it work with the BBC, so time to buy a new digital set top box and at least have my telly back.

Sagem ITD602

Sagem ITD602 Freeview receiver

Needless to say this did not function for long before a change known as ‘Split NIT’ rendered it pretty useless, again with no software update available to fix it otherwise good hardware is now junk. And bare in mind that digital switchover is still a few years away.

So another purchase is required to be able to watch the telly. This time a nice Panasonic PVR.

Panasonic DMR EX78 PVR

Panasonic DMR EX78 PVR

Nothing cheap about a Panasonic you might think – apart from the Japanese having virtually no idea about aspect ratio coding and that broadcasters might feel the need to change aspect ratio occasionally to match the programme material!  If you copy a widescreen programme to DVD it encodes it as a 4:3 programme which makes it display incorrectly. If you record a 4:3 programme it takes the aspect ratio of the first bit and encodes the whole programme that way, i.e. the widescreen of the announcer introducing the programme! When 4:3 programmes are shown as widescreen (with black bars at the side) with a protected 4:3 section in the middle, the Panasonic instead of protecting the middle squishes the picture up to be tall and thin. When the weather is on and the protected bit of the picture changes as they show the weather maps the jumping about of the picture has to be seen to be believed. Has the art of testing anything before it goes into production just died a complete death?

So is that the end of the tale? Not quite. You would think that an aerial ought to last long enough, after all some people are still using Jaybeams that were installed in the ’60s for the launch of BBC2. No after nine years of sterling service the integrated amplifier has failed on the aerial.

Televés integrated amplifier showing water damage

Televés integrated amplifier showing water damage

As always it is the highest aerial at the top of the pole that needs attention, requiring the dismantling of the entire array to get to it. Not an expensive part, and it just clips on, but if the Spanish manufacturer had realised that it rains occasionally in more northern parts of Europe and fitted some rubber seals it would probably have lasted a lot longer. in future I will dismantle these and apply a little grease to seal it before fitting.

There is still time to go before switchover, I am sure that something else will go wrong yet – there is still plenty of time.

Suzie x

French Impressionist Photography

April 26, 2010
A barn and irrigation viewed through heat haze

Summer is here I think

April winds and May showers bring forth June flowers. I think that proverb used to be a bit different, but the first rain of April fell on Sunday 25th.

I was trying to take a picture of the recently constructed off-shore wind farm that is now visible from the end of the garden, but the heat haze spoiled the view a bit. I took this picture on Saturday showing the parched ground, the irrigation that is now required, and the heat haze has made a nice effect of the picture.

Suzie x

What’s so good about democracy

April 15, 2010

Ballot paper

The hustings are under way, we have had three manifestos that say nothing, and now we have the indignity of the party leaders grinning at us for an hour and a half as they say nothing.

gordon brown with Tony Blair

With that we have had people being encouraged to vote. What is the point when the average (and below average) person has little idea what they are voting for.

David Cameron

David Cameron

Vast areas of Britain are disenfranchised because none of the parties likely to win have any interest in them. Why should any party have a policy on rural areas when all parties know that a Conservative candidate will be returned because there is no effective right wing opposition (and no left wing support). Why should any party care about the people of Norfolk. What does it matter that infrastructure is so bad that no industry will go there, What does it matter that transport choice for most is private car or walk – they can walk if their cars are taxed off the road. For the few with access to public transport what does it matter that capacity is so limited that punitive train fares have to be applied to limit the numbers travelling, and the money taken not to improve capacity but to subsidise a government supporting constituency elsewhere.

Norwich to London train

We have even seen the spectacle of the government blatantly shunning the South-west by specifically taxing cider out of spite because it is not drunk in quantity anywhere that Labour is likely to win a seat, except perhaps by a few inner city children in bus shelters who are too young to vote.

Small terraced house in hampstead

What is the point of taxing a house move for someone who lives in Hampstead at £50 000.00 just because they own their own house? This is just spite. How can it be possible to justify taxing someone five years average net income just because they don’t live in a rented house and want to move! It is spiteful and vindictive behaviour, not in the least bit civilised.

Interior of the house of lords with lords sitting

The way democracy has worked in the UK is because it has been checked by the lords. A party may have got to power by having the widest grin, but to change the law they would have to get assent from the lords. The big benefit the lords bring is that they are not democratically accountable, they do not have to enter a grinning competition and be popular, they – like you and me – can take a look at what is before them and apply common sense. It is the lords that represent the ordinary person, not the commons. The commons is made up of people who are there just because they are popular. They should be there because they have popular policies, but the media has ensured that celebrity is important and not policy. There is no need to tell the truth to get into the commons, the voters do not know when a candidate is telling the truth. The lords  was (not any more) made up of those that are hereditary lords (people with as much interest as you or I to see the country safe and prosper), those that are there because of their job (retired judges, bishops, prime ministers) who’s experience can be valuable in making judgement, and those that have been appointed because of their outstanding achievements.

If you have given the choice offered to you some thought, on polling day go into the booth and make your choice. If you have not been offered a reasonable choice, and the deposit system means there are fewer candidates than there should be, don’t be bullied into voting. Nothing says more about what you think of the political system, or upsets the grinners more, than voters staying at home.

Suzie x

My Wollemi Pine is Intersex

April 13, 2010
Wollemi Pine

Wollemi Pine with its first cones

My Wollemi Pine is quite exciting as it is a very new discovery, thought extinct until discovered just over a decade ago. Since it has not been cultivated for very long there are not many large specimens about and very little is known about its habit in cultivation, so it is a learning experience for all of us who have one.

From the first winter when it produced cute little wax balls to protect the ends of its branches (sorry I don’t have a picture and can’t find one on the web – doh!) to now when it has produced its first cones has been a non stop voyage of discovery. Even trying to find out why it makes different coloured needles each year has been a challenge, I think it is hungry and needs a lot of fertiliser to keep it green.

It is known that like its closest relative the Monkey Puzzle tree, some are male, some are female, and others like mine are both.

Male cone

Male cone on Wollemi Pine

Female cone

Female cone on Wollemi Pine

Now I just need to find out if it is self fertile and I can get some seeds. I have no idea where the nearest one is, it will just have to get along with my Monkey Puzzle!

Small Monkey Puzzle tree

Monkey Puzzle tree (small!)

Another relative is the Norfolk island pine, but it is far too cold to grow one of those north of the Scilly Isles and my greenhouse is not big enough

Not the only geek in the village

March 4, 2010

Seeing this thread at UK Angels brought back some nostalgic memories. From the olden days of the 1970s when owning a computer was a dream through to having a Commodore Pet at school which I got to borrow for the summer holidays (only posh schools had a Research Machines – not mine), then to owning a Spectrum until I got my hands on an XT clone with the wonder of a hard disk.

Then there were the others. The broken Dragon32 that I never managed to fix, The Newbrain AD with it’s integrated 16 character union jack vacuum flourescent display and two RS232 ports which could be run on batteries which is still around somewhere.

The coming of the PC really made the early computers redundant as a tool since interoperability is key. There is no fun in reinventing the wheel for a niche machine when the PC can already do it.

Bring on the embedded system. Lots of fun in developing systems that can enhance the functionality of otherwise simple objects at minimal cost because they only contain a couple of chips – not the big computer of old.

First it was the Intel 8051 series. Lovely little processors but not quite little enough for every application.

Now we have PICs so that I can put a computer in pretty much anything – and even the awesome SX processors for those little applications that need an embedded RISC processor running at 150 MIPS! Processing power that would not dare be dreamed of a few years ago.

Parallax SX28 processor

Suzie x

King Canutes of Carbonia

December 8, 2009

The new religion of ‘Man made climate change’ has really taken hold now, with even the supposedly impartial BBC decrying any non-believers as bonkers.

We have hordes of disciples repeating the mantras ‘Do something futile to save the planet’ as if doing anything can make a difference. It is strange how the left can pick up on the statistics of a twenty five year old political drive by Margaret Thatcher which used statistics to show how bad coal was to shut the miners up. And we all know that there are lies, damn lies and statistics.

The media today is so shallow that they will report what anyone who claims to be a scientist says as fact without checking, will treat a political lobbying group as a scientific institution and will spread unsubstantiated scaremongering willy nilly because it is sensational.

If you think that carbon Dioxide is some kind of poison – think again. look back through history. When there was vastly more Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere did the world end? No. What happened? The plants ate it all up and turned it into coal. The earth is a huge equilibrium. The plants that we have today have evolved to be able to survive on very low levels of Carbon Dioxide. The poor things are being starved!

Are there pollutants going into the atmosphere?  Yes. Carbon Monoxide, Sulphur Dioxide and particulates are pretty nasty things that we should worry about – but does anyone really care about these? It would appear not.

It seems that the whole world has been brainwashed.  Hardly a day goes by without some Nazi rampaging through the house turning off my telly and unplugging my phone charger. This is usually followed by the same paranoid and guilt ridden storm-trooper  leaving the outside light on for a couple of hours following a visit to the garden to inhale some drugs.

Perhaps we should do the sums. Leaving the outside light on for a couple of hours once a fortnight, about 25KWh per year. Leaving the phone charger on and telly on standby (say a Watt each, probably significantly less) 17KWh for the pair for a year.

Now let us have a look at where all that energy goes. The outside light energy is lost – but the telly and phone charger are indoors and the energy goes to heating the house – fully recycled. The room thermostat will reduce the heating to compensate.

Now let us see where the energy comes from? The outside light only uses energy at peak time so the energy will typically come from fossil fuel sources such as gas or coal – but the telly and phone charger will be using the same amount of energy all the time so will be sourced by the base load, typically nuclear.

Don’t take what the media tells you as gospel, do your own sums, draw your own conclusions. Look at the evidence for yourself.

As I write this the leader of our Scottish Occupational Government is espousing his beliefs to the rest of the world, telling the people of Bangladesh that it is all OK, he will be spending vast amounts of money on something and oppressing the proletariat in to the bargain. The saddest thing is the futility of it all. Gordon Brown stands as King Canute against the inevitable rising tide, that is not man made and cannot be stopped by man. The people of Bangladesh need to plan for the future, dig canals and use the spoil to build islands. They need to develop salt tolerant varieties of rice. It is no good relying on Gordon Brown to bail them out, he might not be in charge much longer anyway. Unlike God – the Prime minister has to make himself popular.

Suzie x

Roadnames

July 2, 2008

Not sure what the issue was, but perhaps Skem being a new town with a lot of roads to name they were running out of ideas of what to commemorate with a roadname.

This one is inspired by a garage clearout:-

This one commemorates the guy who made the first powered geriatric acent.