Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

I published an article in a magazine a few years back detailing how we in the UK once had the best train service, now our service is laughable to say the least.

I am one of the unfortunate crowd who have no other alternative but to travel by train into London to work. I am normally asked several questions with regards to Southeastern’s train service. Here are a few:

1) Can’t you take the coach?
2) Do you travel using High Speed?
3) Why don’t you work locally?

My answers:

1) I’ve done the coach, they take too long to get anywhere and stop running at particular times. I need to have access to transport until the late evening if work kicks off.

2) There are two main train links into London, the Cannon St line and London Victoria. The High Speed is only good for those who live in the likes of Ashford because it is fast. It costs over £1000 a year more than my train, it doesn’t stop anywhere near the two main train links so one would need to take the tube, bus or walk adding more time to the journey.

3) I will when I want to take tens of thousands off of my current pay.

Commuters are angrier than they have ever been and this is all due to the amount they pay for a ticket, and the amount of delays they have to endure. We wouldn’t complain if this was every so often as it is understandable that the weather plays a large part in any form of transport, but I enter at least 2 delay repay forms per month.

A delay repay on Southeastern is valid when your train is more than 30 minutes late. There are many occasions when my train is between 20-29 minutes late, I can’t claim for these occasions but that is still my time wasted. Sometimes I have to work in the evenings, if I can’t get back that means I’m up early the next morning to compensate.

I am actually moving house soon, so I am hoping to deal with them less. If I get my way, I won’t be dealing with them at all. My alternative solution is to finance a small car and hire a parking space.

A lot of people think that we complain over nothing, but when your time and money is being wasted it makes a difference to your life. You get to the point where you cannot plan anything, you eat later, and if you have children and never get to see them, my sympathies to you!

If you want further proof, look at my Tweet posts (@kjfoxhall) I now record every time there is a delay.

The most recent issues have taken place over Christmas and New Year, their website continuously showed inaccurate times and there were delays even over the holidays with no plausible reasoning. To top things off, this below-average service increased their prices yesterday and ran a weekend service which meant I didn’t get home from work until 8.40pm.

Have I missed something? Is 2 January 2015 now a public holiday?

Another interesting read on Twitter was when it was announced that the franchise had been renewed. Please see the following:

11 September 2014 @07:32

@Se_Railway: We are pleased to be awarded the contract to continue running train services in the South East. Details here:

Some of the responses the post received:

@stu*****: .@Se_Railway you have GOT to be kidding me?????

@Less******: @Se_Railway sh*t. That’s not good news for us.

You should see it when there are delays. I’m surprised Twitter hasn’t crashed.

Travelling with Southeastern has become the worse part of my day, and while I fear that their reign of terror will not end any time soon (thank you for that Minister of Transport Claire Perry), why should hard working commuters continuously have to rearrange their lives due to public transport?

466018 at Strood

Thanks to the likes of the Petition Sight, You Sign, Change.org and a few others, we have seen an increase of petitions taken out by just about anyone in a short space of time, leading to the question are these encouraging unsubstantiated ‘witch-hunts’?

This question was raised in one of the Cats Protection League forums on Facebook when a petition was released asking that Sara Giffs Giffards from Swansea, Wales be prosecuted for putting her cat in a pet carrier and placing it in a bath filled with water after it ate her pizza.

She then posted it on Facebook along with a picture.

PLEASE READ THE REST OF THIS BEFORE YOU REACT.

In the alongside post she expresses her annoyance at her cat for eating a whole pizza she had ordered which cost her £15. Therefore to punish the cat, she puts it in the carrier and places it in the bath. Included within the post are several C words which will not be displayed here, along with ‘have a bath to go with your pizza u fat s***”.

In the photo you cannot actually see the cat in the carrier, which technically means there is no actual evidence against Ms. Giffard, and for all we know there was no cat in the carrier, but as one can imagine this has gone viral.

In the space of a few days this post and screenshot of said post has been shared on a wider level. Ms. Giffard has been scrutinized by animal lovers through private messages, friend requests and general followers – she has even been paid a visit by the RSPCA and police because of the outcry.

To say she is more than annoyed now I suppose would be an understatement.

There have been further comments that suggest this was a joke in poor taste, however this has not given this young lady leniency.

Whether this was a joke or not, and as Ms. Giffard mentions in her following Facebook posts, the cat was submerged at knee height, therefore there was little risk.

I think this would be the opportune moment to revisit a similar situation back in 2010, where Mary Bale was fined £250 for picking up cat Lola by the scruff of the neck and placing her in a wheelie bin outside of the cat owners’ house.

Bale received hate mail and even death threats for what she deemed at the time as being ‘a joke’ but sorely regretted it later.

What we need to realise is that we are under the spotlight more than ever before. With social, professional and many other sites, we document everything. I have even been condemned for having an opinion on Facebook, and it seems unless you quantify your reasons behind your opinions, then you will be persecuted, however I have found that even if you do provide substance to your opinions and/or actions most will still not read them. As a society run by technology we fail to look beyond the text that we scan, not read, and see the other point of view.

While I do not condone what Ms. Giffard did whether it is real or a joke, she has been targeted and while the RSPCA and police were not concerned following this visit to her house, we need to perhaps look at things from every angle before we react.

Understandably this may result in neglect for the urgent situations but a young woman has been boycotted here, for basically being really careless with her posts.

If you agree that Ms. Giffard should be prosecuted then you can sign the petition below:

http://www.yousignanimals.org/Prosecute-Sara-Giffs-Giffard-for-trying-to-drown-her-cat-that-ate-her-pizza-t-671

Below is the photo that is on the petition site. While Ms. Giffard has now closed off her Facebook page, see what you think when you look at this.

YuqCjsh2cs

A few weeks ago the Daily Mail online posted an article about how hackers spy through your webcams, nanny cams and your computers. This article of course made its way on to Facebook where people thought it was shocking. However if you think about it, it isn’t really that surprising.

We in this consumer driven technological society, have to have the latest gadgets which have to connect to the internet so we can share stories using dozens of apps frequently throughout the day. Our lives have never been so documented, its a hacker’s dream, so why are people surprised when others can hack into their live feeds, newsfeeds and any other feed, sometimes effortlessly.

We openly and with consent post pictures of animals, children and locations online all of the time thinking that they are within the comfort and bounds of password protected walls, when really they are not.

So many unfortunately make the mistake of not checking their settings, using the same password for everything, and then are up in arms when they find a picture of a loved one on some other site which they did not give permission to.

Being a technology professional, I have seen and heard the horror stories, but for this very reason, I do not post anything online that is personal, hence why I very rarely post pictures on Facebook or Twitter unless I don’t care if they are ‘ripped off’ for want of a better phrase. If I had children their pictures and videos would certainly not be online, if they want to do that when they are older fine, but I am not risking any personal pictures being taken for ‘personal use’ by someone else.

When I shared the above as a more minimised response to the Daily Mail link on Facebook, I was told “Big Brother is always watching us”. Well, aside from CCTV in public places, ‘Big Brother’ will only watch you, if YOU let it.

Remember, if you post anything online, whether it be through a website, webcam and so on, no matter how secure you think it is, there is always someone out there who is able to decrypt, hack and infiltrate.

Cyber Security at MoD MOD 45156131

“Had a great, and very cultural evening with the wonderful Arani at the Barbican. I would tell you what the show was about but a drone stole my program…. And it was wearing feathers!”

This was my Facebook post following a performance I saw on Friday 12th September. My friend Arani and I embarked on a bit of culture after completing our working week in the city. Well I say “completing” for some of us Friday’s can mean taking a break and then going back to work either that evening or Saturday morning.

Arani had sent me an email the week before asking me if I wanted to go and see a show. Arani has an eye for gigs so I knew that I could always trust her judgement, however I was not expecting this type of show.

It had been years since I last walked through the doors of the Barbican in London. Thirteen years prior I worked in a building opposite it at my very first job.  The venue itself had not changed; it was still as confusing to find anything as it was several years before.

When on our way to the theatre on the ground floor, we passed an interest exhibit which consisted of clear rubbed tubes hanging like elephant trunks, connected to a flat base from the ceiling. The trunks were moving by themselves.

Being a former artist I know that a captivating piece can spark the imagination of most, but in completely different ways. You see what you want to see. I looked at the tubes like they were elephant trunks and what good toys they would be for the prospective ferrets my husband and I are planning on getting. As they moved they then reminded me of some of the scenes from War of the Worlds (Tom Cruise version), when the tripods were scoping people out of the water. Arani saw this too.

We made our way to the bar to get a few ciders, and then entered the theatre to take our seats. We were near the front and in the centre so we had a great view, the attendants pointing people to their seats were insistent that we switch our mobiles phones off and that there was no photography of any kind. I cheekily turned to Arani and said:

“What type of show have you brought us to?”

She just laughed.

As I sat in my seat waiting for the show to begin, I noticed that the audience was covered in thick black netting. Literally there were nets in front and over us, with further netting covering the higher tiers of the audience and the actual stage.

“Seriously Arani, what type of show have you brought us too?” I repeated.

“They need the netting there just in case…. For the drones!” She said interpreting my look.

“It’s like we are in an episode of Doctor Who. The attendants are here to lead us into a holding area while we wait for the stage to open and cybermen to appear to convert us.”

Flickr - law keven - Resistance is futile...

“Turn your imagination off.”

“But you think about it, it would be the perfect way to do it. They have lured us into a netted area and told us to turn our phones off…. Not that mine has any signal in here anyway…. See that’s confirmed it, what type of show have you brought us too?”

“Turn your mind off! What did you think you were coming to?”

“I don’t know, I didn’t open the link you sent me.”

The show began by the stage opening up at the centre, with the horizontal wooden doors exiting upwards and downwards, but alas there were no cybermen standing behind, just a band. To be more precise it was John Cale and Liam Young’s LOOP>>60Hz: Transmissions from The Drone Orchestra.

John Cale 2010 Urban SimpleLife Festical

The performance was described by Cale himself as a ‘Drone: a bleak tapestry of unholy noises, searing into the listeners ears and – with any luck – transporting them to a place they’ll not want to leave for long while’. If you had never seen a performance by this team before, it wouldn’t take you long to realise that these individuals were multi-skilled instrument players, where several of them began with a guitar, for example, and then moved on to something else.

Accompanied by their laptops, the powerful and moving composures featured inaudible vocals which contributed to the darkness of the pieces more. I have seen over the years a lot of musicians try this style in their music but be unsuccessful each time. That was not the case here. The band, digital effects and instruments worked in harmony together and complimented each track.

But wait, there is more.

The drones, when the first soared into the air above our heads (this was a rather large one with florescent tubing coating its exterior), I did comment to Arani:

“You see, now they are stealing our secret thoughts with the distraction of music,”

To which she replied;

“Switch off your imagination”.

Unfortunately as the music continued and a variation of different drones took flight, it just made my imagination go into overdrive. However this is a good thing, for only true artists can inspire the creativity of others.

For just over two and a half hours we sat through what could only be described as musical genius. It may not have been for everyone but no one could deny that the compilation of digital music, and drones was an act of bravery – especially as they were hovering over the audience and let’s face it the UK is renowned for its health and safety. In fact, Cale actually commented when leaving the stage “Thank you – and no casualties”.

So what was the reason for the drones?

The conclusion is based on musical frequencies and how the technology has been structured into the performance to enhance the melodies. Not only that but they look quite cool too, particular the one with feathers, and from a practical point of view (though this may have been accidental), the fans elevating the machines provided an amazing cooling method for the audience below, which I was really happy about.

Described on the Barbican’s event listing as ‘unusual tunings and unorthodox audio delivery. Liam Young’s collection of drones escape their associations with surveillance and the military, becoming instead choreographed, disembodied instruments which take flight in the auditorium to create a profoundly immersive live music performance’.

Overall, this was a fantastic performance, and one I would happily see again. Good job chaps!

It’s always fun reading a post where an advocate for technology finds negativity about it, but I genuinely do believe that it is a main cause of society’s anger and lack of consideration nowadays.

Let’s leave out the fact that we have a government who want the UK to be the most technologically advanced in Europe – well let’s put it this way I would feel safer with a bunch of chimps running the country, but everyone, and I do mean everyone, walks around with some form of mobile device strapped to them like it is some wanted growth.

I am guilty of that too but, not to the point where I sacrifice my manners and awareness just so I don’t miss the latest post on Facebook and end up bumping into people walking down the street.

The corporate business bods paved the way for this so I don’t know why I’m complaining as I am partially at fault here if we want to the picky. The Blackberry for office workers meant we could get outside of the office and not minimise productivity, we actually went back to having lives, or as close to one as possible.

Now everyone is doing it, we are connected all of the time to the web, and Facebook and Twitter allows us to make our voices heard to the masses. This is to the extent where I see couples on a train sitting opposite one another, and they are programmed into their mobile phones rather than actually having a conversation. Make the best of it, they are probably having a conversation on Facebook.

The art of conversation is also becoming a dying…Art.

Modern day electronics provides us with a good escape from life, economic crisis anyone, what economic crisis? But I do genuinely believe that concentration levels are at an all-time low, after all why would you want to do boring work when Burty your friend is updating Facebook with mediocre drivel. But it is not all like that, I have some friends who post hilarious things on Facebook which is great at lifting your spirits first thing in the morning.

I do have a good way at quantifying this theory though, observe:

I have swim for over 30 years and each year the awareness in the pool gets worse. Albeit we are now at that time of year where we have to deal with January swimmers. Even though they will be gone soon I am seeing a complete decline in lane discipline, barging into each other etc…

Another example, my car was virtually stationary and some idiot destroyed my wing mirror when driving past. My car is built like a tank! Now this one could have been down to bad driving on their part but still the lack of awareness is shocking.

But alas things can always change. Maybe the Google goggles might help us all see more clearly while still being tapped into our mobile devices.

Google Glass detail

I am a fan of Blackberry, well I was until their most recent models. I throw everything I have at mine and whereas before previous models could take it, now with the new devices trying to take down iPhone and every other competitor, I think they left out a few bits. My current mobile device is somewhat “overwhelmed”.

But that isn’t really what this is about….

Blackberry were one of the first commercially to take the scene for businesses to go mobile. Creeping out of the shadows of HTC PDAs and Palm-Pilot, the original, which symbolised that of a flattened Blackberry took the business world by storm. People could leave offices, go to the pub, go home and see the family even, I remember it was like some amazing revelation in the legal world.

On top of that, from a business perspective productivity was increased, and at the same time you had happy workers because they could go home and have a drink etc.

But, then there was the inevitable extreme! As with many things in the world we had to go overboard.

Productivity turned into obsession, businesses took on more work, theorists and marketers enhanced the benefits of the new digital age, the mobile device crossed over into the consumer world as well and the possibilities were endless….

From that extent, most have adopted the “Cyber man” way of life, and we have caged ourselves in our very own mobile device prison.

Emailing, texting, social networking, business networking, multi tasking, where will it all end. We are hungry for information, we want to know what the other is doing, and with that we have positively turned ourselves into zombies. We are now an extension of the mobile device not the other way around, it is a novelty on the train not to see someone with an iPad, smartphone, Blackberry eReader, iPod or MP3 player or headphones into the smartphone or even all of the above.

A book made of paper what is that?….. Ok I suppose we cannot neglect the free commuter newspapers they are often read.

But what about the breakdown in human interaction? I have seen couples sit opposite each other on the train on their phones, they may have even been on the same page of Facebook.

But whether for business or for pleasure we have turned ourselves, and in some instances trapped ourselves, in the world of technology. The art of conversation is gone, its only there when we have to force it, an increase in spectacle wear, and devices that are so advanced soon we won’t have to think for ourselves.

Its great cutting corners and utilising technology, it saves lives, it gives us joy it helps us out, but unlike the Lawnmower man I very much doubt our end goal is to make all of the telephones in the world ring…..

On that note, how long can you go without picking up your phone?

There is of course the serious element here, those that are trapped by their mobile devices for work. You feel tagged and lashed to say the least.

I think we can agree to disagree and at the same time acknowledge that a happy medium in all things is necessary, and like several other novelty items, technology can also be addictive.

Electronic Cigarettes – A True Saviour for Smoke Addicts – Lotus Magma.