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Archive for March, 2015

Public Transport

Virgin limitsToday once again, the Northern Line is in the hands of private industry and we were hoping for more as Virgin took over running this Scotland to London run.

Sadly it is not looking that way. I’m sitting on the Newcastle to London 14.00pm train to Kings Cross, first class. You will notice the screenshot on the left, taken from the Virgin sign-on page which looks for all the world like a re-branded version of that of it’s predecessor.

Note that “watch video streaming” is not allowed. I guess this is partly understandable because this uses up a lot of bandwidth – but then, that IS what people do these days – maybe it is time to modernise the creaking train connectivity which does not seem to have improved since it was installed years ago.

What is less understandable is “download large files” – by which they actually mean download ANY files. Dropbox is stone, cold dead, clearly blocked in an age where more and more of us use it for temporary file storage – i.e. for taking files on the road, today’s equivalent of the old idea of carrying a memory stuck around (and often losing it – ask the government, they do it all the time). File sharing is of course often used for downloading movies and again I could see that might be an issue – it is also used for transferring legitimate files however. Clearly they don’t want people doing business on the train, just as well they’re not currently running those deceptive ads showing people sitting comfortably doing business on the train.

Were we in a fixed location it would not matter as many of us have high speed connectivity of our own in our mobile phones which unless you were unfortunate enough to buy an iPhone contract as they tend to charge extra, can easily share a mobile connection with a laptop or tablet. But we’re not – and on the Northern run, just as on the A69, signal strength is, well, all too often a joke.

Maybe this is why they keep offering endless amounts of alcohol – to dull the senses so we don’t notice the other issues. Due to changing roles within our organisation, this could well be one of my last regular trips to London – I must say, the public transport journey won’t be missed.

I’m down here tonight to celebrate a colleague’s birthday at a nice Indian near Victoria no doubt and tomorrow morning we have an intense “Vision 2020” meeting, one of those ones with a facilitator and lots of buzzing – and then it’s back on the train again home, hopefully I’ll get a good shot at my home control development this week.

“Attention crew, disabled passenger alarm operating” – he’s probably cut his wrists.

FSB Conference 2015 #FSBConf

ICCWhen I started my involvement with the FSB (Federation of Small Businesses) nationally – at the FSB’s Silver Anniversary, I recall the IT Chairman of the time rewarding my efforts for getting the Conference onto a website (well, no-one else was doing it so I figured the Northeast may as well be the first) by thanking me on stage and getting my name wrong. His name was John Harris and I later got to know John well before eventually taking on his role as IT Chairman.

Two years later I made sure we put our first (pretty small and poor quality) recorded videos onto a website and from there, every year, the (small) IT team which I’ve headed up for 14 years has put up an increasingly impressive show of technology which last year extended to near HD video recordings.

Regency HyattThis year it is all change and for the first time we’ve live-streamed the conference. The FSB Conference website has lots of info and there’s a link to an App with full delegate and speaker information.

We’ve been at the ICC in Birmingham and it all started Thursday with the exhibition and AGM and from there we had two full days of Conference on Friday and Saturday during which we had key politicians and business speakers including Ed Milliband, Nick Clegg and George Osborne. All were excellent.

The venue was marvellous and for those of us staying at the Regency Hyatt, that is a very modern hotel which is so close to the venue they are actually connected by a glass and steel enclosed bridge.

During our brief visit to Birmingham we’ve had the opportunity to checkout the various waterways, some great restaurants and bars and generally we’ve had a great time.

The ICC has a fantastic display system and throughout the event, visitors and our people have made GREAT use of Twitter throughout.


Below we see the library – very impressive looking…


and one of many, many bars around the waterfront


and last but not least – the inside of the hotel


More information with full videos at http://www.fsblive.org/ and more information at http://www.fsb.org.uk/conference2015


The FSB’s Annual Conference #fsbconf at the ICC


MillibandWe have just had more than our fair share of celebrities at our Annual Conference which this year is being held in the ICC in Birmingham. I arrived on Tuesday and the festivities began yesterday.

This morning started off with George Osborne doing a really good speech about his views on business and what he feels he is doing to help, then we had Nick Clegg and finally Ed Milliband.

This afternoon there’s Geoff Birch who I was lucky enough to spend quite some time chatting to this morning about Spanish – he’s done a far better job of grasping the language than I have. Very interesting chap.

CleggAnyway, a picture is worth 1000 words and I probably have 1000 pictures – here are just a few.

Met lots of people as this year, David Miles and I volunteered to help out and man the Media Bar and Internet Cafe so everyone heads our way at one point or another. 1000 people in here so it’s quite busy.




LED Quick Test

Quick test of the new ESP8266 code for driving the ws2812b LEDs… not far off 2 amps at 5v in at one end – GND and ESP8266 signal other end… fully tested with 300 serial LEDS – this is my next WIFI SAD LIGHT once I find something with enough power and some very thick cable. 70 LEDs here.


A pleasant birthday

Crewe HallI have to say I did not hold a lot of hope out for today – this time in CREWE, stuck in a meeting the outcome of which I may not see as I’ll not be on the same committee when they next meet– however, the hotel is actually very pleasant. We’re staying at the Crewe Hall hotel which is a fabulous old building and the atmosphere is great – which is more than can be said for the food. I’d show you some pictures of the superb oak staircases but it’s all a little dark inside and every attempt at grabbing photos with my phone failed miserably.

It was my birthday today and I was quite stunned by the number of Facebook, LinkedIn and Skype good wishes – thanks to all for making my day and thanks to everyone who kept me laughing a good part of the day.

Crewe Hall[6]Spent the day in a long meeting – and in the process even managed a tiny trade that netted me enough to buy another Raspberry Pi (I think my enthusiasm in the blogs has contributed in some small way to the fact that everyone is now out of stock) and a complete set of surrounding toys (case, fan, WIFI dongle etc).

The day ended with a small number of us, mere remnants of the once-mighty curry club,  who, faced with the notion of supporting a large business with a not very nice restaurant, or a small restaurant with decent Indian food, decided to go out and do our bit for small businesses – and very pleasant it was too. Even that was not without incident as the management narrowly avoided a fight as one guy who’d finished the meal without actually having the funds to pay for it ended up in a slanging match with the manager. Ultimately he paid half the price and cleared off. As you’d expect, the police, no doubt tied up with something serious like a parking violation, eventually turned up long after the whole affair was over – that could have been exciting as we were material witnesses however they chose not to bother us.

And so tomorrow is another day – a day of meetings– and Ebay shopping.