Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Business

Saturday March 29 2014

Interesting.  I just looked at a particular classical CD on amazon.co.uk, and it told me I’d already ordered it, last October.  As it happens, I knew this.  I was just looking to see what had been happening to the price of the CD in question.  But I am impressed that they reminded me.

In general, Amazon has a clunky, even twentieth century feel to it.  Which for a clunky twentieth century guy is very reassuring.

The automatic delivery to my computer of audio files of CDs I have already ordered in plastic form is very cunning.  It all arrives on my computer automatically, and arranges itself on something called my Cloud Player.  It is now late at night, and although the speakers on my computer are nothing like as good as my real speakers on my real CD player, they are nearer and can thus be quieter.  I’m playing one of these audio files now, which is one I have ordered in plasticated form but which has not yet arrived.  This way, I can play it as soon as I pay for it, just as if I was living in the twenty first century!

And I’ve got to admit that there is something rather agreeable about not having to get out of my chair to hear music.

Sunday March 23 2014

1955: Here.

2014:

image

I think that’s my most recent selfie, taken at the beginning of this month.  I took it in Croydon Road, Beckenham, while on my way to visit friends.  Shop windows often include you in the pictures you take through them, even if you are not trying for that.

I of course have more recent pictures of others taking selfies of the more usual sort, where their own faces dominate the pictures, but with famous Big Things in the background.  So yes, let me try to dig out the latest of those.

Here we go:

image

Although, note that there are two different smartphones being used there.  That was taken from the southern end of Westminster Bridge, looking down to the riverside walkway.  They are presumably trying to include the Houses of Parliament in their backgrounds.

Friday March 07 2014

From towards the end of this by Stephen Green:

Apple is one of the biggest users of batteries on the planet. Every iPhone, every iPad, every MacBook runs on battery power. Apple devices also tend to get the best battery bang for the size, compared to the competition. This is a company which understands better than probably any other on the planet how to make devices which conserve power while still producing best-in-class performance. If Apple wants to continue to improve, they should absolutely pursue every kind of energy source Cook believes might produce future improvement for Apple’s devices and for its customers. Will there be blind alleys and dead ends? Sure.

The Apple Newton was a dead-end device, but creating that product also resulted in the super-low-power ARM chips which run damn near every decent mobile device on the planet.

Interesting.  I don’t know what an ARM chip is, but that sounds reasonable.  I’m guessing the Apple Newton was one of those ideas where a whole lot of new things all had to work at once, and only some of them, like those ARM chips, did.

I once bought an Apple keyboard, but apart from that I can’t remember buying any Apple stuff.  But, I am acutely aware of how much I have benefited from their activities, which caused everyone to do far better than they would have done otherwise.

Wednesday March 05 2014

That at any rate is the date that all the workers working on it have given me, when I asked them:

image image

Although, I suspect that the word “local” is supermarketese for “half as expensive again as you would like”.  Fair enough, their gaff their rules.  And it all helps.  Even if the only consequences are that the other local late-night stores drop their prices by a few pennies and keep their milk a bit colder, well, every little helps.

But then again, see the picture on the left where it says “Great OFFERS” three times over.  So, maybe the downward price pressure radiating from this new place will be quite substantial.

I also think it’s a very smart move to feature the opening time very prominently on the front.  No matter how often I am told which shop stays open until when, I forget, and 6am-11pm every day is nice and easy.

The shops that are being replaced by this Morrisons are (a) a Jessops camera shop, and (b) a remainder bookshop.  Both replaced by the internet, presumably.  But, if you are caught short for sugar or coffee or cheap wine at 10.30pm, the internet doesn’t do it.

Tuesday March 04 2014

Incoming from Rob Fisher, about a Bitcoin vending machine in London.  I wonder how that works.  It would probably defeat me.  There was no mention of this on Friday night, when Dominic Frisby spoke at my place about Bitcoin, or not that I heard.

Now that I am mentioning incoming from Rob Fisher, there was also earlier incoming from Rob Fisher about a Lego photographer, which sounds like someone merely photographing Lego.  But it’s a lot sillier than that.

While saving the Lego Photographer I came across a photo I had saved in the same directory of a Lego Hawking, so here is that also, on the right there.  I found this photo of Lego Hawking … somewhere on the internet.  Google Lego Hawking and you’ll get many hits.  Best to get all such nonsense blogged and forgotten, all in one go.

image image

Sometimes I blog to remember (and I intend to remember the Bitcoin vending machine), sometimes I blog to forget.  Welcome to the hotel BrianMicklethwaitDotCom.

Friday February 28 2014

Yesterday evening, just as the place was closing, I spotted (and took bad photos of) a promising sofa, hiding in among lots of other clutter in something called the Futon Centre, in Tottenham Court Road:

image

Staff were trickling out the side door, even as I was seeing this for the first time.  Can I take a closer look, just for a second?  Yes, just a quick one, they said.  But, look on the website, they said.

So I did, and this is what I found:

image

Three hundred and fifty quid.  As you can see there is a choice of colours.  If on closer inspection (tomorrow?) I find that I like it, and that it is not too deep front-to-back, I am in the mood to take the hit.  After all, a sofa is for life, not just for the next few weeks, and I think I do like it already.  Deep it may be, deeper than I would like.  But almost all of the other sofas I’ve looked at are hideous monster sofas with arms on them like the arms of a person starring in a television show called Embarrassing Arms.  I already have a monster armed sofa like this and could not bear another.  Those arms are two extra people.

The question is: Can I get it up my stairs?  Because of Health and Safety the people who deliver it won’t do that.  How the hell does that make the world any safer?

Wish me luck.  If this suits, then I will win that fifty quid, in the limited sense of not having to give it to anyone else.

Sunday February 23 2014

Yes, I’m afraid I’ve been doing rather a lot of quota posting of late.

So anyway, here’s the link.

And here is the quota photo:

image

That’s actually one of my more favourite recent photos.  It was taken just before Christmas, in Twickenham, where Patrick Crozier lives, through the window of a shop where they sell … things like that.

I like the water on the window.

Friday February 14 2014

imageOn the right is a fake-up of a new building, for another of those Mega Mega Companies that you have never heard of, until they suddenly construct themselves a new Big Thing in the middle of London.  Construction is expected to start next year.  As you can see, it will be part of what is now the Gherkin/Cheesegrater cluster.

Also a potential part of that cluster, and potentially the biggest Big Thing in it, the Helter Skelter (aka “The Pinnacle"), now looks like it will soon resume being built as well, as already noted here.

Of the Helter Skelter’s rise from the dead, Londonist says:

The optimism is driven by an improving economy and (believe it or not) a growing shortage of suitable office space in the financial centre.

It’s like 2008 never happened.

Tuesday February 11 2014

The best selfie I have ever taken - of myself I mean, not of other people doing selfies - was definitely this, taken on Feb 1st 2007.

But I also like these ...

image image

… which were taken in 2001, in Paris, using my very first digital camera, something called a Minolta Dimage EX1500, which I wrote about at the bottom of this 2006 posting here, complete with a photo of this strange contraption.  First generation digital cameras like that one were lousy in low light, so for making portraits indoors (which was what I first bought it) you needed flash.  But flash from straight in line with the direction the camera is pointing is horrible, a guarantee of red eyes and hideous shadow effects.  But this Minolta Dimage had a flash attachment that you could hold out to the side, at the other end of a wire, which changed everything.  I am surprised more cameras don’t still sport such a feature.

And the reason I mention this now, all of a sudden, is that yesterday, I took another selfie of myself, in Currys PC World, Tottenham Court Road, where I had just picked out a cheap, nasty little portable DVD player the size of a laptop, costing about half what a radio used to cost, to watch in bed and send myself to sleep, which I need to do to cure my Ashes lag.  There I was, wandering back towards the checkout, gawping at the giant flat screen TVs of the sort I can remember costing ten grand but which now cost not a lot more than one grand and some of them even less than that, and suddenly I saw myself on one of the screens.

Out comes the camera.  Snap.  Whenever I see something which startles me, I try to photo it, provided it’s still there to be photographed, as this strange sight was:

image

Unlike the above two photos, this one is not me photoing myself the wrong way round in a mirror, but photoing myself by photoing a photo of myself, which means that my photo is the right way around.

I’ve got the box with the little DVD player jammed under my left arm.  I nearly put it in my bag while I was taking the photo, but that would have been half way to shoplifting and very dodgy looking.  What with me being on camera at the time.

Monday February 03 2014

Here are an extraordinarily large number of photos of the Airbus A380, showing off at a Russian air show.

Here is one of my favourites, in the photoing-planes-from-above-and-yet-also-from-the-ground genre, that the A380 so likes to encourage, when showing off at air shows, the point being that for such a big airplane, this is a bit surprising:

image

I could be wrong, but somehow I don’t think a slogan like that – “Own the sky” - would be used in the primmer, prissier West, now so much more environmentally hesitant about jet airplanes.  Not environmentally hesitant enough to actually stop flying them and flying in them, you understand, but environmentally hesitant enough for everyone to pretend they feel bad about it.

I got a very similar shot of the A380 when it performed the same kind of dance routine at Farnborough, in the summer of 2010:

image

No mention of anyone owning the sky then, there.

Another difference you can see there - see planely, you might say - is the difference a better camera makes.  Happily my 2010 camera is not the one I use now, which is rather better.

Wednesday January 29 2014

Yes.  Following the comments on this earlier posting, mentioning the magic acronym “IPS” (totally new to me until now – what it means is colours don’t change with the viewing angle), I went to PC World and bought one of these, the excitingly named LG 23EA63, off one of PC World’s shelves.  This screen is probably not nearly as good as the one Michael J recommended, or as any of the others talked about in those comments, but it had the virtue of costing only £130.  For something like a screen, that is nearly petty cash for me, so I would not object to later getting an even better screen, chosen with greater care and deliberation, after such screens have got even better than they are now.

The thing was, I really needed an okay screen, now.  Not a brilliant screen in ten days.  An okay one straight away.  This is why God invented shops.  I considered Argos (there is one a walk away from me), but decided that I would get more (as in: some) help if I went to PC World.  So it proved.  Recent experience of the customer service in PC World Tottenham Court Road has been very good, so that’s where I went.

I noticed on my way home that further thought has been given to packaging since I last bought something of this kind.  The box I took it home in had a convenient handle to hold, and was as thin as ingenuity could make it.  Such things are not trivial.  Well, maybe they are, but they are very nice.  As usual capitalism obsesses about the details, and constantly improves them.

Getting back to how the screen works, this screen is only “okay” rather than “brilliant” when compared to truly brilliant screens costing significantly more.  For me, this one is already brilliant, a massive step up compared to the horrible screen I have been using for the last few weeks.  All my photos now look hugely better than they just did, and, I am almost certain, better than they ever did, even on my earlier Samsung screen.  This, in other words, is the best screen I’ve ever had.

And on further reflection - reflection, by the way, being something that my new screen carefully refrains from doing – I find myself thinking of another reason why I am glad to have bought what I take to be a pretty bog standard screen, rather than the slightly grander ones being talked about by my helpful commenters.  This blog depends a lot on my photographs, and I consider it a great advantage for me to be using a screen probably a lot like the sorts of screens most viewers of this blog will be using.  How my photos look on this new screen of mine is probably how the majority of my viewers will likewise see them.  A better screen might have got me rhapsodising about effects that many viewers might not themselves be getting.

Anyway, whether right about all this or deluded, and given that time may eventually tell rather differently, the way time so often does, I am now very happy.

Friday January 10 2014

My fellow ex-Transport-Bloggers Michael Jennings and Patrick Crozier (here is Patrick’s excellent latest WW1 posting at Samizdata), are fond of saying that public transport in London has got distinctly better during the last decade or so.  That is my feeling also.

Here is a typical example of a small, incremental change that has recently happened, in the form of some slightly wider railway carriages.

Compare this, on the Jubilee Line last night ...:

image

… with this, on the District Line a few hours later, after I realised I needed a picture of that also, and hung around a bit at St James’s Park at the end of my journey for the next train after the one I’d been on to show up:

image

Okay, not much of a difference.  But when I was inside one of the carriages in the first picture, I noticed how they seemed that little bit more spacious, and then I realised that this was because they were.

Next up, making more use of that little bit of space between the carriages.  Like this?  Maybe.  I particularly like the front of it.  I did not know they did concept trains, but of course they do.  Why wouldn’t they?

It probably helps, when trying to enjoy this posting, if you do not live in London.  In that event, these trains may look, to you, exotic and exiting.  Sort of like elongated underground London taxis, or elongated underground single decker versions of the London double decker bus.  Alas, if you do live in London, this will probably have been rather boring.  Rather boring as in extremely boring.  And perhaps a bit boring even if you don’t.  Ah the hell with it.  I’m impressed by small improvements like this one.  I like the way the people who contrive these kinds of things just forget about all the other problems in the world and concentrate on just this one, which is that London underground trains are not as wide as they could be.  While politicians strut about failing to solve everything, they get on and actually do solve something.

Thursday January 09 2014

Incoming from Michael J (where would this blog be without incomings from Michael J?):

image

More here.

Friday January 03 2014

Occasionally I visit my two favourite electronic toy stores, Maplin’s and PC World, both in Tottenham Court Road, much of the reason they are both favourites being that I can visit both in one easy go, by walking down Tottenham Court Road from Warren Street, which is an easy ride from my nearest tube, Pimlico.

On my latest visit to PC World, I spied a 3D printer, looking rather forlorn and ignored, under a big sign saying SALE:

image

Around its base, you can just about make out various pointless florescent yellowy-green objects – semi-fish sculptures, very untrustworthy receptacles, ugly and uncomfortable bodily adornments, replacement chess pieces, and the like.  These objects come out badly in a photo of my sort because of their flourescence, which changes them, from regular objects with shapes and shadows into feeble and rather shadowless (and hence also rather shapeless) light bulbs.

As you can probably just about make out, for the privilege of owning this absurd device, you are asked to part with £1,195, although my bet is that a near offer might well suffice.

The domestic 3D printer, as I foresaw (that’s a Samizdata piece posted a year and a half ago), has so far been a classic dog-that-hasn’t-barked.  Will it ever?  That will require a killer app - objects easily and repeated made with a domestic 3D printer for a few pennies, not easily obtainable by just buying them, … and for the life of me I cannot think of such an object.  Ornamental food is my best shot.  Something hot, or maybe cold, which makes it hard to buy, even locally.  No doubt someone will think of something, and then 3D printing will erupt into popular affection and derision the way it hasn’t at all so far.

As Samizdata commenter Shirley Knott said:

I, for one, expect to be taken by surprise.

Me too.

Domestic printers were different, even when at their most primitive, e.g done with mechanised typewriting with ribbons or with little alphabet balls – or with big ugly dots.  Bits of paper, different every time but in the same format, saying different things each time but with the same black gunk every time, well, that’s a very useful process to have on tap.  A relentless supply of flourescent semi-fish, forget it.

Nevertheless, as other Samizdata commenters make very clear, 3D printing is already a huge contributor to the regular manufacturing economy, just as computers were, long before they also went domestic.

Someone should, as stated in the piece at the other end of the link, apply (better) 3D printing to this, and I bet someone is doing this, even as I blog.

I just googled (images) 3d printing architectural modelling.  Wow.

Thursday December 26 2013

Now on display in the window of a local Oxfam shop, the one in Strutton Ground:

image

Here it is on Amazon.

(Further Amazon thoughts from me here.  The weird thing about Amazon is that it seems, still, to be a hangover from the dot com boom bust era.  It doesn’t make a profit, but still people want to own its shares.  Explanations anyone?)

But back to the latest England Ashes tour, which has become another very tough one.  Day One at Melbourne was hard going for England, not at all like their previous Day One at Melbourne.  And you can bet Clarke remembered that day when he put England in this time around.  This time over, he wanted to knock England over for something like 98, and end the day with Australia on something like 157-0.  At least England escaped that.  They didn’t do terribly badly, just not terribly well.  All the England top five got starts.  Only Pietersen got past 50.  It won’t be enough.  Australia will surely score quicker, get a lead, and win well, again.

Trott broken.  Swann gone.  They’re “playing for pride” now.  The pride, that is to say, of not being beaten 5-0, which they probably will be.

Australia aren’t especially good, and England aren’t especially bad.  But Australia are now definitely better in all departments, and with no interruptions or fluctuations caused by the weather like in England, they just keep on winning and England keep on losing, not just every match but pretty much every session.  Oh well.  Only a game.

England’s problem now is that the formerly great oldies (Cook, Pietersen, Bell, Anderson), are not yet bad enough to drop, and the newbies are not yet good enough.  But, if they don’t drop the oldies, the newbies will never get good.