Anyone who is claiming that the Royal family isn't a draw for tourists has clearly not spent enough time out of the UK nor actually spoken to many tourists. Perhaps the 2.9 million people who, in 2008, visited the sites managed by HRP were just there for the architecture alone? I spend more time with international people than with British because of my work (unrelated to tourism or royalty) and I can testify that the royals are significant figures internationally.

My brother just wrote an interesting post about hybrid cars saying how the current measures for economy we see aren't really effective.

He has a good point, but also what worries me about hybrid vehicles is the environmental impact of them over their life-cycle. Most hybrid vehicles have batteries, these batteries are often made with toxic chemicals and heavy metals. How long do the batteries last? What happens with them when they are expired? I know my laptop battery, after two years of heavy use, is now at half its' capabilities so how long will the very expensive batteries in a hybrid vehicle last?

Apparently if the KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) used in F1 was applied to London Underground they would use 50% less electricity, but like in hybrid cars where would this charge get stored? Certainly not with conventional batteries because they can't absorb charge quickly enough and have trouble with the discharge power for fast acceleration; that said Altairnano and Hitachi both claim dramatic improvements in this area. Super capacitors suffer leakage so this wouldn't be very efficient for a standing vehicle. One of the most effective stores of energy is actually mechanical storage because conversion losses can be reduced substantially and this would be the best solution for London Underground. Fit a large spinning mass under the train and store the energy recovered in breaking deceleration directly on the mass, then couple the mass to the drive train during acceleration to give it that extra boost.

However, we can't all carry round a huge mass in our cars because it will have a worse affect on the efficiency of a car compared to the constant stop-start of the Underground train.

Some new technology is needed and I don't know where it will come from but, like mechanical storage, I think we will be surprised and it will come from the past!

Yesterday I was looking at the O2 Joggler device and thinking how, despite the environmental concerns, I wouldn't mind a UMPC as a digital sign in the lounge giving information such as weather, travel status, internet connection status and domestic energy consumption. However the Joggler is locked from customisation and the Hack the Joggler website seems to be offline at the moment.

But I was stumbling around the net as I usually do and I found that DealExtreme (those fab people in China who sell cheap stuff to the world) are selling a little but potentially powerful UMPC called the Smart Q5, this little devil runs ARM Ubuntu, has a 667MHz Samsung S3C6410 SoC chip, 1GB of flash and a modest 128MB of RAM. Now the 128MB of RAM is a little on the short side but it is workable and the fact that the chip has some video acceleration could be an advantage. The big hesitation for me with this product was the fact that it only has a 4.3in display and that isn't very big compared to my HTC Touch HD mobile phone. This brings me to find the Smart Q7 which has the same specification but with a larger 7in screen.

Overall they are fun little devices and not without their flaws, but they have potential to make a big impact, especially if they had a little extra RAM. With this in mind I have purchased one for 'testing' purposes and will report back my findings.

This is the kind of posting that will likely make me no friends in government security, but I'm tired of all of that.

Traveling

I've been reading far too often lately about the liberties being taken away from us in the UK for the sake of our protection from terrorism. As a regular traveler I have never minded airport security until recently. I flew out of New York a few months after "9/11" and felt quite satisfied that security was sufficient. However, since then the authorities have stacked on more and more restrictions on travel based on badly founded risk assessments. Examples of these are:

1) That all persons carrying liquids could be a threat to safety

2) Our shoes are a potential hiding place for objects/substances that could threaten safety

So, lets take a look at those threats:

1) There was a reported threat that it might be possible to make a binary explosive by mixing two or more chemicals in the bathroom of an airliner. This is the stuff of Hollywood legend and has very little practical application.

2) Richard Reed, a disturbed English/Jamaican man from Bromley who found religion after being in prison. He failed to ignite a small quantity of explosives hidden in his shoes. So that is one failed attempt to blow up a plane with a badly conceived and executed plan.

So overall, I now have to have my liquids scanned (what use is it to put the bottles through an x-ray machine?) and I have to take off my shoes to prove I am not hiding any explosives in them. Apparently for some people it makes them feel more secure to know that action is being taken, but do they really realise how ineffective this action really is? How much of a waste of resources it really is? If I wanted a knife on-board an aircraft I could make one out of readily available materials (drinks cans), or I could just fly first class and order the steak!

Photography

Apparently it has now become a crime to take photographs in a public place and even where it isn't a crime it is now decided that if you are taking photographs of public places that you must be a terrorist planning something. When did it happen that actions that many could consider common actions became so suspect. Not all of us just take photographs when we are tourists, some of us like to take pictures when we are out and about of interesting but everyday subjects. It also is becoming a crime to refuse to give your identity when asked by a Police Officer and this I also disagree with.

I am not an opponent of the Police, I think many of them do a sterling job but I felt I had to write an email to the Kent Police Authority just as an appeal to their better nature and it is in the Read More section below and as always I welcome comment.