On your marks……Get set……Get into debt…..

Well it’s sneaking up once again, and the shops have their annual exercise in getting rid of over priced tat.

I am of course talking about Christmas, now I know it’s not yet even November but the fact remains that the retail industry is gearing up for it’s annual exercise in removing money that people haven’t got from their pockets in return for stuff they give to others who actually don’t want to receive it in the first place.

Now the one advantage of being an atheist is that generally this madness passes me by, mums annual present will be sorted by the wife. She will have asked mum weeks ago what she wants. But come christmas day she will still find it a surprise simply because she will have forgotten she had ever mentioned it. Which of course begs the question as to why Sue asks her in the first place, but that’s female logic for you.

When I was a mere youngster presents seemed much simpler, and we were happy whatever we got. There were no computers, at least none that would fit in the average house, nor were there mobile phones and computer games. Remembering back there was no peer pressure that I can recall where we had to have the same as or better than our friends got. These days children want the latest, the perceived best and of course the most expensive. They seem to have lost the appreciation that money does not grow on trees. Many families are suffering from the current economic problems and simply don’t have the money to spend on what their precious little snow flakes are demanding.

But children don’t appreciate that, they just want to out do present wise what their friends are getting. The sad fact is that their friends parents are probably as short of money as their own parents are. Its a vicious circle, and of course a slow slide to poverty. Without doubt it’s a tough time for many families and it’s also a time when people will go into debt they can’t afford to stop their offsprings thinking they don’t love them. It’s a shame that many children seem to think their parents love is directly related to how much money they spend on them.

When I worked in retail we had a period where by law you had to pay a 10% deposit for anything you bought on credit, actually remembering back some luxury items required something like a 33% deposit up front. The theory behind this was of course if you couldn’t afford the deposit then neither could you afford the monthly payments that followed. Agreements were for a fixed period of 6-12-18-24 or in some cases 36 months. But in all cases you knew exactly what the monthly payments were  and for how long together with knowing exactly at the end how much you would be paying. Bad debts weren’t that common as credit checks were quite extensive and you had to show you had the ability to pay.

Now the company I worked for had publicly said many times that if the need for a deposit was removed then bad debt would shoot through the roof. The were proved right because that’s exactly what happened when the legal requirement for a deposit was dropped.

These days you will not have a fixed term agreement you will pay by using a credit card, typically at a very high overall interest rate. I have seen people get a credit card with say a £2500 credit limit. They then assume they have that amount in their pocket to spend, where more accurately they have the ability to accumulate that amount of debit, but because they can spend it they look on it as cash and it is of course far from that.

So spend wisely this christmas, it’s still no fun to be paying off the debts you accumulate this christmas when the next one comes around. Remember if you have cash in your pocket or bank account you have it to spend, if it’s in neither of those places then it’s not money your spending but it’s debt your accumulating.


City of no hope and no glory

For the first time in it must be two years I ventured into the city centre.

I came out depressed to be honest.

There were people just sitting about on the floor leaning back against shop fronts, there was litter blowing around. An old chap begging whilst playing an old accordion. To misquote a comedians well known phrase he played the right notes but in the wrong order.

People were just wandering about with no aim. It could best be described as moving unemployment.

The faces showed no hope and no expectations.

We walked through the major shopping centre. Now when I first moved here to Peterborough 28 years ago it was a lovely centre, well kept, all the shop units full and  busy even mid week with shoppers.

What a change now, it’s full of display tat, and stalls scattered about that make it look like more of an indoor market than a shopping centre. It’s lost it’s sparkle. People were sitting on the cold marble seats looking depressed downtrodden and bored.

There are boarded up shop units, with information painted on them giving details about the centre, in I think the vain hope you will not notice they are empty. There was a Sky TV stand with a couple of men on plying the benefits of satellite TV, to be honest they looked as though they would be more at home selling dodgy second hand cars on a bit of waste land.

The bus station where we caught the bus out was no better, yet more people sitting about not even waiting for buses, rubbish on the floor and a couple of security guards who looked more dodgy than the people they were keeping an eye on.

Peterborough city centre has changed, the council have just spent money on covering much of it with free WI-FI. Looking at the place I can think of many other ways the money could have been better spent.

As I said at the start it was a depressing experience.

It’s getting later earlier.

Well as we trundle through Autumn it is as I always say getting later earlier. Or in simple terms the nights are drawing in.

There is a nip in the air in the mornings and shops will soon have their Christmas stock on display and greatly inflated prices so they can sell the tat that remains unsold in the January sales at what appears to be a low price but in reality is about what the tat is really worth.

I must admit I like the dark nights, where I live looks better in the dark, hot sunny days merely remind us that the rubbish bins that sit outside most houses are only emptied once every two weeks.

The one nice thing about autumn are the days where the sun shines, the autumn colours are really nice for photography, they lend themselves nicely to creative images.

No doubt when the clocks go back an hour at the end of October, there will be the normal comments on children in danger going to school in the dark. Actually adults are more in danger if only from the little darlings taking their bikes to school and riding on the paths without lights or reflective jackets. But it would not be Britain if we did not have something to moan about.

Plus of course we will soon have Christmas shopping to look forward to, that time of year when we buy people we don’t like stuff they don’t want and try to buy them something better than they bought us last year as if to say “Up Yours!! I can afford it. Then we have the thrill of sending Christmas cards to people who we never normally think about for the rest of the year. We wish them Merry Christmas & Happy New Year, when in reality we could not give a stuff as to what kind of Christmas and New Year they have.

Just think of the upcoming excitement over autumn and for that matter winter. No wonder any animal with sense will try and sleep through it all!

All as expected…..

Well the Apple Support Communities are full of tales of woe with the updates, this was to be expected. But reading through some posts on the community and elsewhere the prime problem seems to be lack of patience.

It was a foregone conclusion it would be slow, the world and their wife are no doubt trying to upgrade.

One poster wanted to backtrack to the previous version because they did not like the icons, strewth!! There have been enough pictures online and in magazines showing what the icons would be like, it’s not as though people upgrading are diving into the dark.

Now I will admit, despite saying I would wait, I haven’t. I have upgraded both the iPad and the iPhone 5. I must say I am pleased with both, the downloads were slow but painless as was the auto install. My one concern is if battery life will be affected, I will have a good play tomorrow and see what the battery life is like compared to running the previous IOS.

Still looking on the bright side it gives me something to play with for the next day or so as I take a stroll up the learning curve.


On your marks…… Get set…… Hang on until later…….

Today sees the release of IOS7 for the iPad, iPhone and iPod devices.

Now with all the hype thats been going on at times reaching frenzied levels, it’s almost like a second coming of somebody important.

Now call me old fashioned, or even call me a boring old fart, but I honestly can’t see why the trend these days is to have a big presentation to launch something. I mean contrary to what some of these companies would have us believe these are not life changing events.

But you watch there will be millions of people all over the globe, crouched over their device awaiting the update to become available, and as soon as it is they will want to update. Then the servers will do an electronic version of saying “Blimey!!!!” and then struggle to keep up with the demand. Twitter and Facebook will be full of tales of woe of slow downloads, problems both real and imagined. Apple will be vilified for the problems and the anti Apple geeks will be dancing for joy round their Windows and Android devices, wailing and chanting praise to the unknown God of the Internet.

In the UK it’s expected that the updates will be available from about 6pm onwards, that’s 10am Pacific time, and after the Apple bods have had their first Caffeine fix of the day and put the electronic world to rights round the water coolers and urinals.

My advice for what it’s worth is to hang on a day or so until the mad rush has died down and any problems with the process have been found and hopefully sorted.

Come tomorrow the electronic press will be full of tales of problems, possible broken machines and the possible news that because of perceived problems Apple is on it’s way down the crapper, this perceived event has been reported more times than a curry has made a trip down the said crapper in a diarrhoea clinic. This of course won’t happen and come a week or so’s time most people will have upgraded and be wondering what the fuss was all about.

So settle back and wait for the electronic scrum to start…. Get the booze and the popcorn in and visit your favourite computer news site. It could be a long morning, afternoon or night depending on where in the world you are.


It’s that time of year

First thing this morning we had lovely sunshine, also a cool breeze though just to remind us autumn is on the way.

Now at just after 1.30pm we have steady rain, it’s gone cold and I am debating wether or not to put the heating on.

It’s that time of year when your not sure if you should take a coat or not, and judging by a few people who walked past the house on their way to work first thing if the rain keeps on then they will be slightly damp on the way home.

A person I know says that here in England we don’t have weather we have samples, and judging by today she is spot on.

Now one of the advantages of working from home is that we don’t have to commute to work in the cold and the rain, I can just sit here in the office and watch the weather go by me.

When I used to commute irrespective of the distance bad weather used to put a dampener on the whole day, and when I worked in an enclosed shopping centre I could go into the centre in the morning glad to be out of the cold and the rain, then after wrapping up to come home I could walk out of the centre and into bright sunshine. It was all very confusing.

So I will continue to sit here in the office and watch it all flow past……..

It’s a hard life working from home.

Just two words…..

There are two words which in my humble opinion are amongst the most important in any language and they are “Thank You.”

However, they seem to be falling out of use more and more, even basic manners seem to be flying out of the window, I mean is it just too hard to utter those two words to somebody?

I always thank people where appropriate, to me it’s just basic good manners. But time and time again I deal with people or see people dealing with others where they just don’t say thank you.

Before anybody lays the blame at the feet of any specific generation I must point out that this inability encompasses all ages, neither the old nor the young escape inclusion in this lack of manners scenario. Oh no some older people have the ability to be rude without really trying down to a fine art.

So the next time you’re out and about you just see how many times people fail to say thank you.

Shhhhhh Can you keep a secret?

In the technology world and beyond the big story of the moment is government snooping of electronic communications and email in particular.

I have always been of the opinion that emails are the equivalent of picture postcards in the mail, in that they can be easily read by anybody with a mind to do so.

To circumvent this some people and especially businesses encrypt their electronic communications. Whether or not this makes them 100% secure from being read by third parties is of course a matter for debate.

This also points to the fact that the communications have been encrypted because they perhaps contain sensitive information either of a personal or business nature. The sad fact is that it’s human nature that if something is unreadable people will want to break the encryption and read the contents of the message.

In recent years governments seem to want to get this down to a fine art and read what people are sending, as it’s a fair bet that an encrypted email will for example contain something more than birthday greetings to Aunt Maude on her 80th birthday.

Personally I believe that my private communications should be exactly that, Private!!  Or as private as the postcard scenario above will allow. Not because of their contents but simply because generally what I wish to say to other people is purely the business of myself and the person I am communicating with, simple as that.

In a democratic society the people elect the government to basically run the country and keep it’s population safe from harm. I think it’s fair to say that most if not all governments abuse this privilege, and make no mistake it is a privilege.

These days Governments justify actions which are often at best dodgy and underhand and at worst illegal under the current laws by using terrorism and the fight against it as a reason for their actions. Sadly the more they do it successfully then the more they will want to do it again and again, using protection of the population as a reason when the simple truth is it an excuse. There is nothing like a good national panic to hide dodgy activities.

They often get away with this because of simple apathy by most of the population. This apathy is shown by the fact that around 50% or less of those eligible to do so bother to vote at national elections.

Unless they are terminally thick, criminals terrorists or what ever you like to call them are not going to nip into the local supermarket and buy a couple of mobile phones to communicate. There are other means, and I don’t mean email either.

If a national government said that every member of the population had to carry a tracker and report details of when and how they spoke to people there would be open revolt. The sad fact is we already do, it’s called a mobile phone. You only have to walk down any street to see people of all ages using them, and by doing so they are leaving a trail of where they are at any time, who they are communicating with and for how long.

We have phones we can ask questions verbally to and they will give an answer, what people often don’t realise is that these questions are being stored. There is now at time of writing this a phone on the horizon that will constantly listen to what you say and if it detects a question it will answer it. Now that’s scary, if people were told they must carry a device that would listen to every thing they said, there would be riots, but when this phone is available people will buy it because it’s the latest model and has new features on it. We are walking into a 100% surveillance society and the sad fact is that we are buying the equipment ourselves.

Many local supermarkets and shopping centres provide so called free Wi-Fi for customers and visitors, just remember there is as they say no such thing as a free lunch. They don’t do it from the goodness of their hearts, they do it to obtain information so they can make more money out of the customers.

Let’s take supermarkets as an example, when you first connect to their system you enter details such as your loyalty card number, this ties you personally to the phone and of course the location at any specific time. I wonder how many people realise that on most tablets and phones then next time you visit that or any of their other branches you will automatically connect to their Wi-Fi.

They will have more than one access point to cover a store, this will enable them to perhaps see which isles you visit and for how long, tie that up with your purchase record for that visit, because of course you handed your loyalty card over at the till for your points, you know that card whose number you entered to access the free Wi-Fi some months ago. They can see what isles you visited and purchased nothing so perhaps send you offer coupons for stuff in those isles. If the supermarket gave everybody a card to fill out saying what parts of the store you visited and for how long the vast majority would refuse, but give a person Wi-Fi and they will hand the information over without a thought.

Just remember next time you send an email or connect to a “FREE” Wi-Fi point that somebody somewhere is watching.

In most countries freedom is something that has been fought for over the centuries, in this electronic age we seem to be happy to give it away, and the worrying thing is that most people are just not bothered, or don’t realise.

Just remember that you may be giving away information without knowing it and not everybody can be trusted with that information.


ET Phone Home

One electronic device these days seems to affect our lives more than anything else and that’s the mobile phone, or more specifically the smartphone.

Everybody seems to have them.

At the moment my mother is in hospital and this means that each evening Sue and I have the pleasure of two buses each way to go and visit her.

This means that we are subject to the phone users where quite often the phone seems smarter than the user.

Take tonight for instance, on the way back from Peterborough city centre we had a young lad sitting behind us who was constantly on his phone to one person, and judging from his conversation he did not need a call to his girlfriend he needed one to the Samaritans help line. Even I almost felt sorry for him and I don’t normally do sympathy.

Then we had a chap who must have been retiring age whose phone went off just as he sat on the bus, it blared out a pop tune loudly for about 30 seconds until he could find it in his pocket. His subsequent call was louder than his ring tone, and to top it off he had the kind of voice that makes you want to strangle him. You know the type of voice where he says something and laughs at the end of the sentence even though what he said was not remotely funny.

But prize for most irritating of the night goes to a young girl who had a baby in a buggy with her, you could see her on her phone as we approached the bus stop, when the bus came to a halt she slid it between her boobs and then got on the bus. After showing her bus ticket she sorted the buggy out, took the phone from between her boobs, looked at it then wiped the screen on her top, once this was done she just carried on chatting to the person who had been on the other end of the phone all the time. Now the question is did the person hear her heart beat whilst the phone was between her boobs or did the phone go deaf and possibly overheat. We will never know. But please feel free to post your thoughts on what happened to the poor phone.

People like those above make me embarrassed to have an iPhone, much less use it in public. I always feel like sliding down behind the seat if my phone goes off on public transport, so much so that I normally put it on vibrate.

So don’t be shy what annoys or irritates you about phones on public transport or in public places, come on don’t be shy……

Birds are not the only things that fly.

I have been sitting here this morning staring at the computer screen in one of my mediating moods. I am as I have said before not a morning person, I don’t function until after lunch, and some have said I don’t function well even then.

I sat there lost in thought, perhaps I was lost because it was unfamiliar territory, who knows?

Anyway this morning I was thinking about how time flies by and how nobody seems to have time these days during their working day to just stand still and take a breath.

Certainly this year is going quickly, I mean it’s August already, looking back over the past seven months I see how little I have actually achieved, it’s like I have zoomed through the months on autopilot. Either that or I am getting forgetful in my old age, I forgotten which of the two it is.

One of the penalties of working from home is that people knock my door on a regular basis, normally trying to sell me something. One thing that irritates me more than anything is when I get to the door, open it and the person who knocked is already 3 doors down, knocking and spending a couple of seconds at a neighbours door before going onto the next. What the hell are they on? Do they really think that people can answer the door in 3 seconds. At my age as I keep telling myself I am built for comfort not speed. You catch their eye and they look away not wanting to admit that they distirbed me by knocking, it’s rare they come back to speak. The ones that do normally regret it after I have finished saying my piece. Most of them don’t look old enough to be out on their own, certainly not after dark. I have been known to ask them when really irritated if they have escaped from their day centre. I presume from the speed they rush round the cul-de-sac at that they are on commission with a poor basic, what a way to make a living!

Now I am not sure if this time flying by faster lark is down to old age or the fact I have time to sit and think about the subject after doing more important things like contemplating the dust on the monitor. Mind you my mother who is in her mid-eighties bless her is already talking about Christmas and has been doing so since June, this being the case can I assume that this time flying by will get quicker?

The other day I posted a comment on a blog, and the owner reposted it on Facebook saying it was profound. This has puzzled me as generally I don’t do profound, long winded and simple is more my line.
What I posted is this:- It’s amazing what belief can do. It can stop wars, it can start wars. It can divide communities, it can unite communities. It can incite hate, it can conquer hate. It can cloud judgement, it can clear judgement. Tricky stuff this belief.

I don’t know if I find this profound or not, it’s just what came into my head whilst reading the original blog post. As I said I don’t normally do profound, I am not a deep thinker, it’s just not me. I don’t take something and disect it into thousands of little bits to find meaning. To be honest I can’t see the point.

Oh well I think I will go back to my meditating and staring at the monitor, I will only start to worry if I do some mystic chanting in time to the flashing cursor. Oh the strain of the last day of the working week….