Each year for the past twenty years I recall someone mention the idea of moving the UK’s time zone to CET, or changing daylight savings or some other such tinkering with the clocks. As I have come to understand time more and more this confuses me more and more. Not that I am confused by the concept of changing a clock, I’ve done that enough that it doesn’t matter to me, but my confusion is to why we need to change a unit of measure rather than changing our attitudes. One of the arguments for changing timezones or using DST is for “safety”, the idea is that if it is too dark in the mornings people going to work or school are more at risk. It is also said that energy can be saved because people wouldn’t use so much lighting if the clocks were different.
What this fundamentally ignores is the fact that time itself is not really variable, not on a scale that matters to our daily lives anyway, in each SI day there are 86,399, 86,400 or 86,401 seconds (yes there are not exactly 24 hours in a day because the earth isn’t perfect). When people talk about fiddling with the time they are really just doing it for political reasons, to assert themselves and their own importance. If it really mattered about the time at which children went to school then schools could open earlier or later, businesses can make their own decisions about when to open and operate. I currently work at a business that opens at 08:30, but I have started at 05:00, 08:00, 09:00 and 10:00 in differing jobs. Delivery drivers, bakers, presenters and many more people get up at a time that suits their work (Shift Work). I once worked with a team that didn’t even assume a 24 hour day, they worked on a short but intensive cycle over many days, living on site and then had a long period off at home.
I imagine the counterpoint to the argument is that if schools started earlier then people would be in difficulty if their employer didn’t change the hours. But already it is difficult for people who are constrained by employers who enforce archaic working practices, changing the clocks isn’t going to make better employers and if children went to school earlier then it wouldn’t be as bad for parents worrying about getting to their 8am start at work. There is supposedly evidence that indicates that some deaths on the road, especially those of commuting school children, can be attributed to poor light levels. Well, I would point out that if the children were to leave school when it was more light (irrespective of clocks) then they would be equally likely to be outside on the streets (doing whatever children do) afterwards which wouldn’t make it much more safe.
When you purchase an item of consumer electronics it isn’t actually the manufacturer who has the main legal responsibility if the product goes wrong. The oft quoted “sale of goods act” applies to the person with whom the customer has exchanged the ownership. In most cases the contract of purchase is with the retailer and thus the onus is with them to assist the customer after sale. A manufacturer has a limited responsibility in the case that the retailer cannot, or will not, honour the warranty but in most cases it is the retailers generosity and discretion that prevails when the customer is speaking directly to the manufacturer. Also remember that after six months the customer is deemed to have accepted that the goods are in working/acceptable order and if there is a problem after this period the customer must prove that the product was faulty at manufacture. Under six months the manufacturer must prove the product was not faulty at manufacture.
A manufacturer warranty is actually a form of insurance that is generally taken by the manufacturer on the products (either internally or externally guaranteed) and it is measured against the expected returns (when producing hundreds of thousands of units some must fail). A manufacturer may provide the company that purchases (the retailer) that warranty at whatever level suits their business model. In some cases a warranty is a point of negotiation because it must be built into the cost of dealing with that customer. In some circumstances a sales package may be offered to the retailer that says they cannot return any product to the manufacturer, in which case the retailer gets a better price because the cost dealing with that retailer is lower (in both logistics and support). A retailer will have a common warranty period that they can pass on but sometimes they might agree a shorter period because either the quality of the goods cannot be so easily quantified (re-manufactured product) or because they can achieve a lower retail pricing but give the customer a lower service level.
In most cases where a retailer sells the same product (not re-manufactured) as another but offers a lesser warranty this isn’t an indication that you are getting a lesser product and it isn’t that the retailer is trying to con the customer. It is just that they are offering a different service one that is consummate with their business model. This is also the case for extended warranties: they are offered where the supplier wishes to give the customer greater choice or an enhanced service. Although I will acknowledge that in some circumstances extended warranties have been pushed on customers to increase margins and also that re-manufactured stock (which often has a lesser warranty) has sometimes been sold by retailers as new stock without the customer knowing.
A little while ago I purchased a second hand Fujitsu-Siemens Scaleo EVi 2535 Home Theatre PC which ran Vista and now runs Windows 7. I recently upgraded it from the original 1.86GHz Core2Duo processor and 2GB of RAM to have now a Q6600 quad core 2.4GHz processor and 4GB of RAM (using a Zalman fan to keep it at a good temperature. I also supplemented the on-board Intel graphics with an nVidia GeForce 210 graphics card with 512MB of GDDR2 RAM (capable of also sharing 1.1GB of system RAM). Overall the only thing left to upgrade is the noisy DVD drive tobe a quiet BluRay.
I wondered if I could do better than Windows 7 and so I looked towards Linux. I installed Kubuntu 8.10 easily enough, but getting the nVidia drivers working was a pain, then when I installed LinuxMCE it took me hours to try and resolve the dependencies. After this it finally launched, but got stuck in a loop because it didn’t install correctly and you can’t un-install it.
I then re-installed 8.10, in order to use MythTV and updated the OS to 9.04 as it suggested. Then I also had to have the nVidia packages installed and that was grief because the wifi refused to authenticate for most of the time I had allocated. Then when I got the nVidia drivers installed it started freezing at random. So, I removed the hard disk and returned to Windows 7. Windows MCE isn’t perfect and I like Linux as a server but overall I can’t live with dependencies like that.
I will continue to look at Linux and welcome any suggestions but overall I can’t spend days of my life just to get something not working.
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.
Last night we watched a programme about the British men’s fashion designer Ozwald Boateng: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00gmj5m/Ozwald_Boateng_Why_Style_Matters/
This friday Angel and I were both in London at the same time of the evening and I suggested we went for dinner. As I was in Docklands I suggested Canary Wharf as the ideal location to meet and eat. Interestingly when we arrived there was a small anti-capitalism protest in progress, nothing spectacular but a couple of hundred people.
We did a little capitalist shopping and sat down at a capitalist chain restaurant to watch the anti-capitalists at work. They made interesting charges at a line of police taunting them and it was rather childish really.
What really caught my attention was a sign “Capitalism isn’t working!” being heald up by people I think assocated with a group of socialists present. We both thought it was interesting because when did pure socialism work? Well the only examples I can see of socialism are communist and quasi-communist countries such as Russia, Albania, China, Cuba, the list goes on but it lists as a litany of countries which have either complete social unrest, a great deal of poverty or suppression of human rights. Some might argue China is very successful as a socialist state but when you consider it’s reforms involve greater financial liberty tending toward capitalism and it still has a terrible human rights record, I think there isn’t much of an arguement for the alternative to Capitalism.
Personally I think that both systems are flawed, capitalism assumes unconstrained and continued growth when in fact resources are finite and growth cannot be infinate. However socialism does not permit personal growth and requires great self sacrifice, which while noble on paper is actually unworkable. Having read the combined works of Plato I have come to his realisation that no political system is ideal, however you just have to make the best you can of a libertarian state.
Maybe “Capitalism isn’t working” is correct, but “Socialism never worked” is also true.