Category Archives: Rants

More Rotten Apples.

So this week Apple announce yet more massive profits to add to their already huge cash pile. Last quarter they sold 34,000 iPhones an hour, every hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Well done, it’s obviously a great product that people want. They charge a premium price, make a nice margin, in excess of 30% so we are told. So imagine how much I wanted to share the love with the great people at Apple when today I need to purchase a few sample Apple Authentication Chips for a project, a project where a product will be made that works with Apple devices. The chips are a quite reasonable $1 each, but when you go to the check out -[  bear in mind there is one single Apple approved supplier for these thing in the whole world – and you have to jump through hoops to be able to purchase from them ] – you suddenly get hit with a $50 SERVICE CHARGE – for what??? Then the final icing on the cake is when you select the delivery option – for 20 “chips” each only a couple of mm square – you get hit with a carriage charge of $70 – so $20 for some sample chips weighing a couple of grams and a grand total of $120 (one hundred and twenty dollars US) for postage and packing!  That really takes the biscuit – especially as their evil twin Amazon will only yet your average punter charge £2.80 for carriage on any books you try to sell on Amazon – even if it costs more because its a big, heavy book!

People have a go at Microsoft saying they are evil but at least Microsoft now have the decency to give all Windows 7, 8 & 8.1 users the chance to upgrade (if that’s the right term!) to Windows 10 when it is released. Also don’t forget that Bill and Melinda Gates are actually giving away the $Billions that Bill made from Microsoft doing some real good in the world.

It’s about time our wonderful E.U. and the U.S. got together and started taking Apple down a peg or two from their pedestal instead of creating endless red tape for little companies.

The Royal Institution Christmas Lectures – 2014 – Sparks Will Fly.

I have been a fan of The Royal Institution Christmas Lectures for many years. Admittedly I have not watched so many in recent years but I always thought fondly of them. This year I made a concerted effort to watch them – after the event, and after Christmas via the mystical magic of t’interweb and BBC” eye” player. The titles and write ups seemed quite exciting and up my street, making stuff by using “technology” we have around the house. The presenter, Prof Danielle George is Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning in the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, and a Professor in the Microwave and Communications Systems research group at the University of Manchester. She was bright, enthusiastic and engaging and I accept the target audience was a lot younger than me – though I am sometimes told I am just a big kid – so she needed to engage their imagination but pretty much from the off important facts and principles were glossed over, things were dumbed down, my expectations were raised way too high. We jumped from using an incandescent lamp to LED lamps for reasons of energy efficiency, no mention was made of the thermal lag of the filament making for blurry images. Then we got onto matrix displays, there was quite a good piece of demonstration equipment but it was not well explained, words like multiplex and matrix (I think) were sadly missing as was a very important phenomenon – persistence of vision – which allows us to get away with all sorts of tricks with visual displays. Things got worse when we had 40 Raspberry Pi’s apparently triggered in perfect synchronisation “by the internet”. No mention of latency and timing.  We were led to believe that wireless was better than cabling in a large building, we had a demonstration of a mechanical SERVO not a simple motor switching a light on and off, then magically someone pops off down B&Q and buys their entire stock of multicolour, wireless enabled LED lamps. Plug them in, throw in a ready made wireless controller from a stadium illumination and a game controller which had nothing to do with a load of Jellies! and the jobs a good one!

The second lecture was no better, in fact it was worse as in my opinion it had the biggest bit of misinformation of the three. What they showed in the studio was not a Hologram, it was a 2D image projected onto a curtain of water droplets, quite effective but NOT a hologram. There was a whole section on Haptics (not clearly explained) and then the final implementation didn’t use them – they could have done.

The third lecture bought in a load of ready made bits and robots to form an orchestra. All very interesting but little was explained about many of the things used, there were a few nice demonstrations but the fundamental science was glossed over.

I know it is difficult to get many of the concepts over in a one hour program but I often got the feeling that Prof.  George was out of her depth, there were so many things I could pick holes in (Sorry Prof. but it’s true). I also felt there were hidden agendas throughout – energy efficiency (LED lamps), high speed wireless internet There was also an over reliance on the Smartphone with little in the way of explaination of the basic principles.

The one good thing was the over arching message to the audience to go home and play, to make and do stuff. My only worry is that many will become quickly disillusioned when much of what they imagine they can do – like “code” a game (how I hate that term – almost as much as hack), and they suddenly find out its not a case of a couple of lines of program but many hundreds.

Raspberry Pi, Arduino and their ilk are fantastic and have fired many youngsters imaginations. Hopefully in 10 years time we will start to see the fruits of this emerging into main stream employment, I hope so as we are so short of engineers of all flavours right now. I think the program should have concentrated on this and showed right from the start of unpacking the kit what could be achieved from getting “Hello World” on a screen and blinking an LED to uploading a web page to the internet. Telling them how it all links together – its information no one thinks they need to know – but in the long run they do!

Rotten Apple

Make no mistake, Apple make lovely products, they look good, feel good and generally work well. Superbly thought out and developed user interfaces etc. etc. BUT ………….

Ethical ? Not in my opinion.

Fair? Not in my opinion.

Ruthless? Yes, in my opinion.

Controlling? Yes, to the extreme, in my opinion.

Unreasonable? Again yes, in my opinion.

Why? You may ask. Well I have spent (wasted) a large chunk of my day at work crawling through the fog of Apple’s MFi program trying to find a datasheet or even just simple connection details for their MFi Authentication chip. Sorry but can’t go into too many details as the boys from Apple will come round and beat me up, it says so in para 31415926.2 of the MFi licence agreement, the one way contract where Apple get all of our stuff but we still can’t get diddly squat from them. ( that was all of course a light hearted joke!).

Eventually I found an email contact, no search facility on the MFi Portal, and emailed them with my request. Got an auto response saying they will try to get back to me in 3 working days – ah well at least I have an excuse for 3 of the days late the project will be.

Forgot to say that whilst searching for the info I wanted I wasted another 30 minutes following Apples advice and signed up for the Developers section, yet more terms and conditions!, where apparently I would find more information. Well there is b$#@er all there to do with hardware, its all software development.

Rant over!

Royal Instition Christmas Lectures next…………

Selfish Twichers!

We live opposite Dungeness Bird Reserve and as such get lots, and I mean lots, of bird watchers or twitchers as they are known driving down the lane to see the birds. No problem except the vast majority of them don’t have their eyes on the road as they are too busy gazing across the fields looking for the latest arrival. They will happily drive along at 10 miles an hour along the full length of the lane oblivious to oncomming cars or the traffic being held up behind. When they see anything of interest they just stop, right in the middle of the road. A quick sound of the horn – as allowed in the highway code – to alert them of your presence behind and they suddenly re-enter the real world and move over to the side of the road.

For the last couple of weeks there have been a pair of new birds sighted at various places along the side of the lane – they must be new arrivals judging by the number of people stopping and looking with their outside telescopes. Well today they made it down to the field to the side of our house and this afternoon cars started congregating along the front of our property with people gazing across our land to see these birds. We had seen them and thought that they could be a couple of turkeys escaped from the poultry farm nearby! Any one typically unthinking and selfish twitcher just abandoned his car half way across the end of our driveway – nothing stopping him driving another 6 feet further forwards and leaving the drive clear but no that would be too easy. Being a cantankerous old git I decided to approach him as he returned to his car and point out where he had left his car. As expected he couldn’t see the problem!!

Anyway here are some pics of said birds – if you know what they are then please let me know:


Apologies for the quality but it was getting a bit dark and the sea mist was coming in.


Internet Forums

What is it with some people? They join a forum and put up a few posts – then something happens and they loose all common sense. A typical example is a classic car forum. They make a few posts then on the advice of some other “experienced” members they order some parts. Sometimes a part takes a nano second or two longer to arrive than they would like, or arrives damaged. What do they do?? Do they contact the supplier and give them chance to sort it? NO, they go straight onto the forum, berate the supplier, organise a posse to go round and give them a good kicking. After a period (could be hours or days) some sensible person will suggest they contact the supplier to resolve the issue. This they do and guess what! the supplier apologises and sorts the problem. No need to have sent the boys round or anything!

It’s hard enough to survive in business these days without customers making life more difficult. If I had my way everyone would have to take a common sense test before being allowed any where near t’interweb.

Of course I’m perfect 🙂

And now I’ve started on the subject why do the same people always feel the need for a group hug when their pride and joy passes an M.O.T.?  Any car should be roadworthy before it goes anywhere near a public highway, classic cars are supposed to be cherished and cared for if you believe the DVLA stats. So any classic should just sail through an M.O.T. without any drama. Incidentally, many of these people who have cars that “scrape” through with a few advisories or worse actually fail, (to lots of support and commiseration from fellow forum members and lots of offers to reform the recently dismembered posse to go round and beat up the b£$^£^%d M.O.T. tester) are the same ones that want the absurd pre 1960’s cars M.O.T. exemption extending to their own cars.

For the record, in my opinion EVERY motor vehicle should be M.O.T’d before it is allowed on public roads, no matter how old or how well looked after. In fact in many ways the older a car the more important it is. There are so many literally clueless classic car owners today, it’s frightening – I met several this summer!