Monday, 27 October 2008

Control is an Illusion

I've worked in larger and larger organisations and one of the key things I have noticed is that the bigger they get the less actual control the people at the top actually have. Increasingly they have to rely on influencing rather than true control. It seems to me that the economy is just the same. The Government don't actually have any "control" over the economy and they can only influence. Of course, influence relies on respect and they have precious little of that.

The stock market is much of the same. The value of any stock is related more to perception and crystal ball gazing rather than the value or performance of the company. The housing market shows very similar tendencies. I know the "value" of any property is only what someone is actually prepared to pay for it but that is influenced by so many intangible factors as well as real world issues like the availability of mortgages.

So given that golden Gordon seems to have lost his touch will the Tories be any better? I doubt it. People have no respect for politicians, mainly because they don't take any responsibility for their actions. On top of that they mostly seem interested in what they can get from their position rather than thinking of what they can do for the electorate. Unfortunately people don't seem to think there is anything they can do about it. I suppose the main problem may well be that we don't really live in a proper democracy. We do get to vote but only infrequently, the people we vote for are totally out of touch with the voters and there isn't much to choose between any of the main parties. So what to do? After all no Government is going to change the system which got it into power - it would be like turkeys voting for Christmas. But after the performance of "President" Blair it does rather seem like the system is broken.

I think we need a root and branch reworking of our parliamentary system to make it more democratic; however, the starting point needs to be ensuring that anyone we vote for in the future takes responsibility for what they do and tells us honestly what they are doing with my tax money!

Thursday, 16 October 2008

MobileMe: Not for me...

I decided to take up the MobileMe free trial to see if it was something I'd be happy paying £70 per year for. Initially I was impressed with how it looked and how well it integrated with iLife and the Mac and iPod generally; however, after about six weeks I've decided not to take up the subscription after all.

The main things that made up my mind were:

(1) Mail - slow and unreliable. I just found that my other mail services had less downtime and were quicker to respond/update. I also had problems when it told me it couldn't send a message and to try later but actually had sent it - so I ended up sending it twice.

(2) Back to My Mac - won't work with my HomeHub. Ok the initial problem isn't MobileMe - it's the crappy uPnP implementation on the HomeHub; however, the Apple info to allow you to get BtmM working without uPnP isn't exactly easy to find. In the end, after much experimenting with manually opening ports etc., I just gave up.

(3) I can get it all elsewhere for free.

So whilst I liked the way it looked and it was well integrated MobileMe simply didn't perform well enough for me to justify the subscription. I can get other, in most cases as good (or better), equivalent web services for nothing. They may not be integrated but that's something I can live with.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Did I miss out on getting my super powers?

I sometimes wonder whether I missed the queue for superhuman powers that most people seem to think are now the norm.

Cycling to work today it was clear that a large number of people think that the orange flashing lights at the corners of their cars are only for special occasions now that everyone is equipped with telepathy or prescience.

Other cyclists seem secure in shedding their reflective and high visibility clothing and the lights from their bikes now that infra vision is available to most of the general populace.

On the train people seem annoyed that I don't have heightened perception of the fact someone needs to get past me when they don't say excuse me or the ability to simply levitate out of their way instantly.

Can someone let me know where the super power late comers queue is? Or maybe how to get people to look at things from someone else's perspective than their own?

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Asus Eee PC 901

After quite a bit of thought and a lot of reading on the net I decided that I "needed" a netbook. I did leave buying a little while to ensure it wasn't just an impulse buy and OK it's no really a necessity but I just kept noticing occasions when one would have been useful.

Any netbook is a combination of compromises. You simply can't have portability without sacrificing other elements like screen size, keyboard size, storage and the like. It's just a matter of deciding which elements are the most important to you. In my case it was portability and battery life which were top of the list. I decided that I could live with a small screen and small keyboard in order to get a machine I could actually use on my train home (with the tiny seat back table) and carry around the house. In the end I settled on the Asus Eee PC 901. Had I been a touch typist (I'm a reasonably fast "hunt and peck") I would probably have plumped for an Acer Aspire One or one of the 10 inch machines. The keyboard can't be too bad as I'm typing this post on it!

I thought the 7 inch machines would be very irritating having to scroll side to side on many web pages so the 9 inch seemed a better option. Whilst the 10 inch machine has a larger screen (obviously!) the resolution is apparently the same as the 9 inch.

My regular train journey is 1.5 hours in each direction and so I didn't want to have to charge the machine up between journeys as I'd have to carry the power brick with me (although the Eee PC brick is pretty small and light). Most of the contenders seemed to have pretty short battery life without resorting to optional larger batteries (it does defeat the otherwise attractive lower price of the Acer Aspire One for example) and the six cell battery coming with the 901 avoids this problem.

I decided I didn't need a Windows machine and the additional storage on the Linux model (20Gb) was attractive so that's the one I decided on.

It will take a little while for me to properly assess the machine but I've been pleasantly surprised so far with only a couple of small issues.