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Archive for the ‘Gripes’ Category

Royal Mail – Britain’s Last Great Joke

You would think that under the threat of the Internet, the Post Office would be trying to make itself more attractive but now – along comes the news that in April, anyone sick of waiting for the postman to turn up – which can in some cases be as late as 3pm, is going to be CHARGED for picking up the mail themselves, referred to by those in the know as “Mail Collect”.

How can it cost MORE to go pick up the mail yourself as against sitting around the house all day waiting for the mail?

They have absolutely and completely lost the PLOT!!! Meanwhile the price of stamps is going up – the first class stamp is to go up an inflation-busting 5p to 46p – and the second class to 36 pence.

Isn’t it a shame we can’t send parcels by the Internet – then we could tell the post office to go SHOVE IT UP THEIR BACKSIDES!

Dearer food, dearer petrol, dearer post, lower house values… higher VAT…  for how long I wonder will patient brits continue to take this. The last government and the banks caused the current situation – not the ordinary guy in the street, not the small businesses… how long before we say ENOUGH is ENOUGH?

Are we MEN or MICE… sadly, I feel, the latter.

A Grim Winter’s Morning

The view from the dining room at the Number OneGenerally speaking I tend to be enthusiastic about life… not today… it’s cold and miserable outside… I started the day getting up half an hour late, breakfast at the Number One in Blackpool – which I have to say is very nice.. he does a mean bacon sandwich… and off to FSB headquarters.. only to find that our servers are still down. Yesterday the data centre had a power outage which took out our email and web… most of the stuff was quickly restored but the website remains stubbornly dead despite engineers being out there from first thing this morning.

I’d not quite grasped just how dependant many of the jobs I do are on that stuff working and so I’m reduced to watching emails trickle in and hoping one of them is a note to say the site is back up and running. What’s frustrating is that I don’t even know who to get annoyed with until we get to the bottom of this.

Meanwhile I’ve all but given up trying to get some public sector support to help market a new venture we’re doing.. local government officials appear to be more concerned about scraping in as much money as they can from the private sector to “promote the Northeast” than actually help businesses. Mind you they’ve never been that keen. Seems to have escaped their attention that successful private industry is what actually makes the public sector possible.. but I digress… I’ve an important meeting tomorrow with my small committee – made even smaller by one of them giving up the organisation and the other being rushed off to hospital…   it seems this week is just doomed…

The Price of Promotion – public sector strikes again

I’ve spent the early hours this morning looking for help in promoting a small business in the Northeast. Of course I don’t REALLY expect help from the public sector – I’ve been around long enough to know they are self-serving (I’ve dealt with One-Northeast since they first promised us the earth, screwed it up, changed personnel around and started all over again)… but I had not really realised just how bad things have become.

To explain: regular viewers will know that Maureen and I have a new holiday cottage accommodation in Bellingham called Hollyberry Cottage. I’ve done the website of course and we’re starting to get business – but it would be nice to fill up the calendar for the coming months so we have a definite income from the cottage – always a good way to run a business.

To start the ball rolling I started to Google “tourism help in the northeast”. I came across the “Northumberland – an Independent Spirit” site and went from there. No matter where I turned they were after money. Indeed due to recent cuts no doubt, the whole thrust of the site seems to be about how to get YOU as a small business to pay THEM to promote Northumberland, though I may just be an old cynic.

Rip off fees for accreditation for self-catering accommodationI noticed the one FREE thing you could get was an entry in their website – that’s a good start I thought – but they ONLY take “accredited businesses” – so off I went in search of how to get accreditation. Guess what – it’s ANOTHER attempt to get money out of you.

In order to get accreditation so you can get the free listing, you can fill in some tick boxes to find out how much it will cost. So along I went, ticked the absolute minimum necessary and… I’m thinking …. NO !!!!!

Is this where nearly 40 years of paying taxes and getting absolutely ZILCH back gets me? Is this how Northumberland County Council helps start-up businesses?  I’ve written to the various contacts on the site and elsewhere to ask the question. No doubt a later blog will provide answers if and when I get responses.

I started off utterly cynical of the public sector – I remain utterly cynical.

Almost 2m British children have no home internet access

Yes, that IS the headline figure that’s being bandied around right now.. but I’m having a lot of trouble with the way this is being handled. “The department of Education has so far not commented” – why the hell SHOULD THEY comment?

A computer costs money – it’s not an essential like FOOD or clothing. I wonder how many of the 2 million parents and kids who have no computer, ACTUALLY chose to spend their money on an X-BOX or a WII or some useless plastic Chinese JUNK?  Are the people who’re badgering the Department of Education actually suggesting that WE (i.e. the taxpayers) should sort this out? Because if so I think we should be polling those parents and kids to see if they’re prepared to forego the other entertainment before ONCE AGAIN the taxpayer coughs up.

Almost every child in the western WORLD can gain access to a computer, be it at the local library or at a friends (unless the 2 million all live in the same town!) or at a million other places. If they and their parents choose to spend their money elsewhere, should we be worried? It seems more and more these days that everyone is responsible for kids except the parents!

The Demise of Democracy?

The protests in London were a sure sign that our version of democracy has failed.  Our Royal Family were attacked in their own car for heaven’s sake. Now, I’m no follower of the royals, indeed generally I’ve no interest in them at all, I’m not even sure what place they have in the 21st century but they are there and they are our royal family – the people responsible for smashing the window should be put away in prison for a long, long time.

I used to think the Chinese were terrible – such an incident over there and indeed in many countries would result in a number of people being tear-gassed or worse – and I used to think “thank heavens that doesn’t happen here in civilised Britain”.

Well, clearly we’re not civilised any more – yesterdays riots proved that – we’re a bunch of badly behaved morons and should be treated as such when we act that way. I personally think the education hikes are terrible – but then I think the recession is terrible – hey, DEAL WITH IT. We’re in financial straights and I see ABSOLUTELY NO REASON why students or anyone else should be sheltered from it. I’ve spent my life working and paying taxes and had ABSOLUTELY ZILCH out of the government or the people of Britain – I owe others NOTHING and yet I’m asked for more and more taxes, if they can’t get it in pay, they get it every time you spend money. Anyone who has managed to bring themselves up from the bottom gets RIPPED no matter which way they turn – and it’s about time things changed.  But getting pissed and ripping up London is not going to help the tax-payers, is it?

British TaxPayer’s Money – Again

Today I received Northumberland County Council’s third attempt to give me a Register of Electors form. Apparently they tried a couple of times when I was on holiday.

Anyway, unable to see where the online version was, I duly filled in the form… only to discover something quite annoying on the back. The form is available in a variety of languages – you would THINK the languages of the European Union that we’ve signed up with – so French, German, Spanish etc.. but no. With one exception.  Languages available are: Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, French, Gujarati, Polish, Punjabi and Urdu.

Don’t get me started…

The Future’s GRIM – the Future’s Orange

It looks like the morons at Orange are at it again… regular readers will know of the struggles I’ve had with them over the years…

The last time we were in the Orange store, they offered us inexpensive home broadband as we “upgraded” Maureen’s mobile phone. That would be around 3 weeks ago. We duly signed the papers, took the new phone and went about our business.

A couple of days later, I tried the broadband (not REALLY expecting it to work quite so soon but keen to at least get it set up). It immediately struck me that I’d need a username and password for the modem – so I rang up Orange. They confirmed the order but we were not yet on the system so they could not give us the information.

At that point both Maureen and I had to leave the country and head for the USA. We spent 2 weeks over there during which time her sparkly new Android phone from Orange simply would not connect. Orange were useless during this time as they had NO idea why it would not work and could only offer that I swap SIMS with my iPhone, purely to determine if the SIM was at fault.. or the PHONE was at fault. It was the phone.  On the last day in the states, at the airport, her phone started to work all by itself!

Today I rang Orange to get the username and password and ended up talking to some mindless idiot from a call centre in India. “I’m sorry but I can’t be helping you today as you are not the holder of the contract” – he said, despite being reminded that this was on MY mobile phone bill and I signed the contract at the Orange store.  I left it until Maureen returned.

I just had a very upset wife on the phone. Firstly the broadband won’t be on for another 3 weeks because they screwed something up and didn’t bother to get in touch… and another mindless call centre idiot after very long and convoluted conversation, told her that the “phone was not designed for International use”.  I should point out that this is the internationally used HTC Desire on Android, designed somewhere in deepest Asia and sold all over the world.

Bunch of complete idiots. As soon as I find the time to get to the Orange store, one of their employees is going to have a very hard day…

A Day

Roof Damage in GaleraI gave this entry such a bad title because that’s about all I can say about today… Maureen’s dad has taken ill and so she had to cut short our holiday in Spain to go and visit him. We had guests with us so I stopped over in Spain with them – we had a nice time visiting Granada but not quite the same when you know you’re father in law is in trouble and your wife is over there worried stiff!! We’ve quite a bit of damp and roof damage to sort after a particularly bad winter over there – meanwhile back in England things are not much better, our cat Rosie is still missing (probably for good now) and the weather is AWFUL. After a week of clear skies at 30-40 degrees in Galera, it’s damp and wet in Wark – it’s amazing what a difference the weather makes. What on EARTH made our ancestors stay here when there are so many sunny countries in this world is beyond me.. anyway, I’m here and taking the opportunity to update my blogs and get everything ready for various business trips. I’ve discovered free books on the iPAD – countless thousands of them in various forms and the iPAD is the ideal tool for reading this stuff, though I’ve decided I need to hunt Ebay for a case that will prop up the device when reading it. About the only really good thing about the day was watching the pen-ultimate episode of 24 on the Sky recorder – and what a CRACKING episode that was.

Solar Lighting in SpainThe photo on the right shows some solar lighting I picked up from B&Q and fitted in Spain – the picture doesn’t really do them justice, a set of what look almost like normal light bulbs but which are colour-changing solar with a separate solar cell. Here they’d be ok, but in Spain they get enough sun to keep them going all night long. Great for sitting having a quiet drink under the Pergola at night.  Back to the present, there is nothing nice I can say about today except that now I’m back after a week’s absence, our youngest cat is treating me as his best friend.  There’s no food in the house and I’ve lots of work to do in this house and on the rental property in between endless meetings coming up – too much to do, too little time.  Marvelous.

TV Tax

Today, I bought my TV Tax.  Maureen’s been stuck in America for a while now as you can imagine thanks to the volcano and the post has been piling up so this morning I decided to go through and sort out anything urgent.

In the middle of it all were two extremely nasty letters from the Television Licensing Authorities or TITS for short, looking more like something I’d imagine coming from a bailiff…. “Enforcement officers have now been authorized to visit..” blah blah from a certain Michelle Tunstall of the TV Licensing Authorities.

You know what REALLY annoys me the most about this – there are countless channels out there, all supporting themselves with advertising or in the case of Sky with advertising PLUS a monthly fee (which I pay as Sky’s channels in general are infinitely better than the BBCs IMHO) the TV licence is nothing more than a TAX to support an archaic, TINY SEGMENT of the TV scenario – i.e. the all-pervasive BBC.

To ensure the continuation of jobs for the luvvies, they have positioned themselves so that it is impossible to buy ANY TV system WITHOUT being able to watch the BBC and hence be eligible to pay the licence. So if you rip up your aerials and ONLY have a Sky receiver, it is IMPOSSIBLE for you to permanently REMOVE access to the BBC so that you could legitimately claim to being UNABLE to receive BBC.  WORSE, because of the I PLAYER, if you have a computer with Internet access they can ALSO claim you can watch it that way. What other system other than something the CCCP or Chinese government might have come up with, could possibly be so all-pervasive as that.

If you think the iPlayer is good – I suggest you get someone to set up a VPN to the USA so you can see their equivalents… top quality USA sci-fi can be had in exactly the same way and THEY don’t pay a TV licence!!

The result of this is that the BBC is not SERVICE but a MONOPOLY and the TV license is not a license but a TAX. We are FORCED to pay £145.00 a year whether we want it or not – OR become a hermit with no radio, no television, no computer, no console…in short, no incoming communication at all.  Are the British public REALLY happy with this? 

Every now and then I try to imagine what it would be like to be stuck in a hospital ward or old folks home with only BBC and ITV to chose from. It fills me with HORROR. You have a choice of sport – in which I have ZERO interest, or soaps about boring people making boring conversations in pubs or working man’s clubs… or you can watch doctor who, in which a succession of testosterone-challenged men wandering around in cardboard cut-outs proving just how BAD acting can be and as for the co-stars – can’t they at least get hold of someone who doesn’t look like they’ve recently been run over by a BUS? We could not produce science fiction in this country if our LIVES depended on it and yet the BBC continues to pay, year in your out for this absolute RUBBISH. The only time they got it right was way back in the 60s when they took on Star-trek and they could not even manage that for very long.

£145 quid DOWN THE TOILET – just another tax, nothing more – it would have been better used contributing to my SKY bill. I hope this upcoming generation has the balls to get rid of this antiquated and unfair mechanism to extract more money from us – let the BBC stand along with the rest on it’s own two feet – they’ve had their share of public support – enough is enough. We should pay for what we want to watch – nothing more.

Digital Economy Act

I’m sorry – you may think – he just did a blog on this  – well, the more I learn about this act, the worse it gets… so please read on. And what’s even worse, most people I talk to have NO idea this new act exists.

The Digital Economy Act, or the “big boys browbeating government into supporting them and to hell with everyone else” act… is a novel piece of new legislation which states that an ISP (or Internet Service Provider) is someone who provides an electronic communication service that is provided to a subscriber and consists entirely or mainly of the provision of access to the internet and includes the allocation of an IP address or addresses to the subscriber to enable that access.

Let me translate that into English for you. The act therefore affects ANYONE offering free or paid WIFI to anyone else.

That includes but is by NO means limited to:

Parents

FON users

SMEs (ie almost ALL businesses statistically)

The above might include your local shopping area, cafe, hotel, B&B, airport, TRAIN you name it. Everything from the private individual upwards who installs a WIFI router for whatever purpose, from keeping the kids happy to providing a service for customers.

The above people with marked exceptions are no more likely to understand what an IP address is, than I could be expected to know how to operate on a brain tumour.

But it gets worse…. said potential criminals are supposed to notify subscribers (like a FON user would know who his “subscribers” are!) of allegations made by copyright owners that their accounts have been used for unlawful file sharing… and must maintain lists… WHOAH just hold on there, lists?? What, of complete strangers?

This misguided piece of legislation appears to have come into place, being signed by a tiny number of MPs while everyone else had other things to worry about (ie elections) and seems to me to have gone something like this. Big business pressures government to secure protection for the music and related industries to try to stop people ripping off their products.

At this point a little history lesson might be in order… In 56 now and back in the dark ages when I was a teenager, we used to go to record shops and buy records.  I can’t remember the date but Philips brought out something called the musicassette or simply cassette player. It became known as the musicassette because they did a competition asking people what this new mini tape player should be called – and people like me filled in the competition. I still remember receiving the first Philips player and a TON of cassettes as a prize. I’ve no idea if I was the only one – probably not. Any way, I digress.

 

One of the first things that was asked was.. what on earth would you use a cassette player for.  The response was – well, you’d want to record your friends and family singing, or maybe record a meeting or something.

Bollocks- there is a reason the 90 minute tape was the most popular, offering 45 minutes per side. It’s because they knew FINE WELL you’d record one album on one side and another album on the other side.  Is it also I wonder a coincidence that DYMO labels just happened to fit 2 on the end sleeve of the cassette cover.

Anyway, we all know the history – every single person I went to school with had one of these and we all copied each other’s albums and put them on tape – so we could listen to them in the car.

So then the music industry brought out the CD… and NERO brought out the burning software so presumably you could record your friends singing.

Then Sony (who produce records I may add) brought out the Walkman. It must have been obvious at the time that this would produce a very simple way for everyone to record from their CDs to their PC and copy the material to the Walkman… indeed not only was it obvious it was BLINDINGLY successful and so before long we had the file sharers on the web making millions of tracks available to share with others and millions of people started downloading music.

So now it seems the record companies and their friends have decided this is not good enough and somehow got together with the government who then passed a law that makes just about everyone a bona-fide criminal.

Let me be clear, I don’t download lots of music, indeed I mainly listen to Internet radio which once mastered means you’d never listen to the BBC again – but my lack of inclination to download is not because it’s against the law, it’s because I’m now dead old at 56 and most, but not all of the material out there sounds like poo to me apart from Alicia Keys who’s wonderful.

Mobile phones that handle WIFI are now coming out in numbers…. the Microsoft Smartphones, the iPhone, Blackberry and others.. and because the mobile operators are lying gits, offering unlimited access but then in the small print changing their minds – and because 3G in many parts of the UK is entirely PANTS, WIFI is UTTERLY important to this new generation of information seekers. We like to get our news in cafes and the pub, we do more and more and more things via the internet – and when tablets take off we’ll be doing that EVEN MORE…

And what do we find, an act that is guaranteed if anyone ever gets around to TELLING THE PEOPLE, to turn folk OFF from offering free or inexpensive WIFI…

It is therefore VITAL that individuals and companies GET OFF THEIR BOTTOMS and COMPLAIN about this bill and get it CHANGED. Write to OFCOM and explain why this is completely unmanageable – why it will DAMAGE our country and RESTRICT access to WIFI for completely the WRONG REASONS.

As if Nick Clegg needed any more bolstering after his world-class battering of the other two leaders on TV, he was recently asked THIS question

 

"Will you reconsider the Digital Economy Bill considering the manner it was pushed through, without proper scrutiny, the lack of MPs in attendance at the Bill’s hearing and also taking into account that some ministers have demonstrated considerable lack of technical knowledge on the consequences of the proposed legislation?"

His answer..

"We did our best to prevent the Digital Economy Bill being rushed through at the last moment. It badly needed more debate and amendment, and we are extremely worried that it will now lead to completely innocent people having their internet connections cut off. It was far too heavily weighted in favour of the big corporations and those who are worried about too much information becoming available. It badly needs to be repealed, and the issues revisited."

Ok, so get onto your liberal candidate and find out what HE OR SHE is doing about this.. in fact, get onto your MP and ask why he or she (as is likely) did not even bother to VOTE on this issue – I’ll save you guessing – they probably didn’t have a CLUE what it was about – but don’t let that stop you asking!

The Lib Dems later apparently qualified the comment saying that they supported most of the bill – so clearly THEY have some friends in big business also.

I don’t know if you’ve thought of this – but regarding the many thousands of people the government now classes as ISPs – part of the deal is that they all LOG what we’re doing. So just as in the McCarthy era or the peak of the CCCP, the government will have succeeded in turning thousands of ordinary people into SPIES – but this time not for the government, but for BIG BUSINESS….. yes, that means that you ISP will know you are READING THIS be it your REAL ISP, your cafe owner, or your friend who’s letting you use their WIFI!