There have been a number of articles about the National Health Service’s IT over the past 24 hours, most of them are about the LulzSec security breach (some of them mention how helpful LulzSec have been but most focus on the negative). But there have also been articles about the NAO report on the Ambulance Service and the Socitm report as well. The Soctim article got me to I thinking that the NHS should follow the example of nebula.nasa.gov, they are building a cloud infrastructure specifically for NASA and it’s dependencies. Then NHS departments could just bid for server time and be charged appropriately. Here is my proposal, it is probably poorly informed and politically impossible, but that has never stopped anyone writing a blog before! Read more bellow…
I know that winter comes as a surprise to so many people, one moment it is sunny and the next it’s really quite cold. Then all of a sudden strange white stuff falls from the sky: what a surprise! Who would of thought that in the UK the temperature could drop bellow zero in winter?! I am sure it didn’t used to happen like that.
An open and sarcastic letter to my council, but it might easily refer to any other from what I have seen…
Welcome to Us in Orbit.
This site is a personal blog and article site for Bob and Angeliki, it doesn’t attempt to document our lives but aims to be a vent for thoughts and information.
I (Bob) was formerly a lecturer before being tempted back to industry, but I like to offer my assistance to anyone who has an interesting question. So if you have some challenges, if you want my opinion then please contact me and I will consider publishing a response. I would also like to offer consultancy on a commercial basis if you are venturing into areas where I might be useful. Students are welcome to pose me questions related to their studies, although I don’t expect to be doing your work for you and I will be unlikely to provide references sufficient to make my words truly authoritative.
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.
We have just returned from a weeks break to Austria where we visited Salzburg and Zell Am See.
We stayed at the ‘Schwaerzler Hotel Neutor’ in Salzburg (Austria) at the beginning and end of our journey and I can say that it was a pleasant hotel, ideally located at the edge of the Old Town.
We then took the train to Zell Am See, Kaprun and rented an apartment at the north end of town (Steinergasse) directly from the owner using Owners Direct. The apartment was well placed for access in to town; rather at the budget end of the scale but very capable.
It was quite basic but sufficient for our needs. We had a bit of a panic because the key handling agent wasn’t answering the phone when we arrived and the owner booked us into the Hotel Zum Hirchen which was very nice (he didn’t make much profit out of that week!). In the end it turned out that there was just an unfortunate miss-understanding during a difficult period for the agents, we entirely understood and were happy with the actions of everyone in the end.
We walked A LOT. We walked up to the cable car and took it to the Schmittenhohe, walked over to the next peak and back. Also walked to Schuttdorf via the lake and back via the hill walk. Found a really surreal bar open half way up the hill with a very drunk postman entertaining the confused travellers. Took the Schiff boat round the lake and generally relaxed (despite all the walking).
It was verrry quiet, we were told by friends, but a few places were open but not every day. There were a surprisingly large number of young Arab families there on holiday. I assume someone had the idea of advertising to them to fill the off-season. Few things more surreal for a westerner than seeing a lady in a full burqa at the top of a 2000m Austrian mountain. Not that I mind, I would say they seemed like they were enjoying themselves but many of them looked surprisingly bored!
Eating out was incredibly good value compared to many European countries (I’m looking at you Belgium and the Nordics!) and you never went hungry with the portions. Overall it was a great trip and when my partner told her mother about it she wanted to go. So looks like another trip next year!
(Updated: 13th Oct 2009)
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!
My Brother recently wrote a post in his blog about Context Browsing and it is an interesting concept, but the biggest bane of my life is email sorting at the moment.
I use a combination of Thunderbird for personal email and Outlook for work email (because of Exchange, Journal and OWA proxy). In Thunderbird I love using the Bayes classifier to guess where emails should be placed (one click to put it where it has suggested) and this would be a useful addition to Outlook.
However, beyond this I would like to take advantage of taxonomies and hierarchies because when moving an email it can often be difficult to decide which folder is appropriate. If it is an email from the PR agency about a client of ours, or if it is an event involving a customer I would like to tag them in both categories. Then I would like to be able to drill down through a tree of those hierarchies to find emails. Even if this left all the emails in the in-box I would then be able to search the entire in-box by hierarchical taxonomy.
What do you think?
On the business social network LinkedIn the question was posed by Steve Cohn of T-Mobile:
Can TV be replaced as a form of entertainment, and with what ?
And amongst the other answers I wrote the following which I shall share here:
“To provide some background: I work for a company that makes Digital Television receivers, I previously lectured at a specialist college in broadcasting and I also worked for the BBC (among other broadcast companies).
After all this, I don’t own a TV and the result is that both my partner and I couldn’t be happier. This isn’t to say we don’t watch ‘TV’, we watch some downloaded and on demand content, however unlike most peoples experience with television we are not passive viewers. We actively seek out that which we would like to watch and if nothing appeals we don’t watch anything we do something else.
I think the visual medium has worked for so long (theatre, graphic novels, film and TV) that it will never be replaced because it is the mirror of our lives. However, with the improvement in diversity of choice and the move away from the linear viewing experience (through DTR/PVR time shifting) is creating a new generation who don’t just watch what they want but when they want.
One thing however that will sustain is the fact that for the majority of people (not really represented in the demographic reading here) they are happy with the passive experience because it means they don’t need to think. Many people do like to be told what is good, what is right and what to do. They come home, turn on the TV and just accept that which is fed to them and they are themselves complicit in accepting this.
Fortunately this is being supplanted by the non-linear experience where popularity is dynamically decided by the social network and while consumers might only limit themselves to routinely watching the top-ten selection there is still a greater degree of individual influence and choice. Plus, through the growth of linking and “digg”ing you are seeing ‘playlists’ being composed again and what is effectively the return of the ‘mix tape’ through the sharing of content selection as self-expression.“
I welcome any comments on my reply or the question in general.
Today, on the train on the way back from work I was seated next to a man who was reading his newspaper. As usual I was reading over his shoulder. The article was about Madonna and the divorce settlement of £5m that she paid to Guy. I got a bit confused thinking how come a man reads this type of article.
After completing his reading he folded the newspaper and he took out of his pocket a stack of other papers. He began reading again but this time the articles were print-outs from the internet and the titles were: “Divorce Recovery Workshop”, “How to deal with Depression and Sadness” and lastly and most horrific “How to deal with suicidal feelings”!
Suddenly, everything fell into place…. For the first time in my life I felt like talking to this person and give him my advice. I didn’t. I don’t know if I regret it or not. Sometimes, we like remain anonymous among strangers however, if I had introduced myself to that man and talked to him, I might have made him feel happier even if it was for just the duration of my journey.
Adrian Childs on the BBC’s coverage has asked what the medal table would look like if the gold was given three points, silver two points and bronze one point. So I found the data and have created a table for it here.
Feel free to maniplulate the data as you see fit.