* Posts by Nigel Whitfield.

846 posts • joined 12 Jun 2009

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Q: What's black and white and read all over? A: E-reader displays

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Could be a paradigm shift

One of the things I liked very much about my old Sony 505 was those physical page turn buttons - and in particular the fact that there were two sets. The round control bottom left, and the two buttons half way down the right side.

So, however I was holding it, there were buttons conveniently to hand. And, personally, I much prefer having both directions available in the one place to the way some of the Kindles have had one button on each side in the past.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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The three pigment system that e-Ink has would possibly suffice for annotation; it's presently mostly used for shelf labelling, but I suppose there's no reason you could use it for note taking.

Spectra uses 'microcups' which is the technology E-Ink got when they bought Sipix and although both black and red pigments are negatively charged, the red ones have a much larger charge. So, a small amount of power will waft the black particles to the surface, but apply a larger one and the red ones are pulled past them.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Can't wait for the review

I will certainly add the to my notes for when I'm writing it up, which will be sometime this week. Just as soon as I've got rid of my massive hangover.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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My guess would be that, while technically these things aren't that hard to make at whatever size you want - in fact some of them can be made using relatively small modifications to existing LCD production lines - it's largely a question of volume.

Most people are going to be using the screens to read novels, and it's easy to ramp up production to the point where the payback time is quite short. The big screens are always going to be a niche, and so as well as the cost of the screen itself, the tooling costs and all those other elements of bringing the product to market are going to have to be written off over a much smaller number of units.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Why colour?

Comic books as well, and perhaps titles aimed at children. Magazines, too, could benefit as well.

If the technology were fast and responsive enough, it would also mean you'd have devices that could potentially have much longer battery life, too.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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That - and the Kindle Fire HD - is essentially just a tablet, with an LCD screen, and custom firmware.

And you're right - for many people that is sufficient. You can use an app to tweak the colours from the screen at night, and if you don't read in bright daylight, they're fine. Plus the screen is responsive enough that if you do something like flashing with Cynanogen, you have reasonable performance.

Given all that, and their own various restrictions, it's hard to see how colour e-paper could break into the market and shift enough units that it would be able to be compete on price.

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Humongous headsets and virtual insanity

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: By Default

I mean that they may have it fairly easily accessible thanks to owning a smartphone and the creation of systems like vrAse and - particularly - Cardboard.

Manufacturers touted huge numbers of 3D sets, but many of those probably consumed little 3D programming; for some companies, almost all but their cheapest sets were capable of 3D, so lots of people looking for a new set got 3D whether or not they wanted it or used it. It was, to an extent, an 'extra' with your smart TV or plasma display, or big screen.

VR headsets may not be quite as ubiquitous as that, but I'm suspect some of the same people who talked up the penetration of 3D may do the same with VR, based largely on the widespread availability of phones that can be used to provide the display.

In particular, using Cardboard, you could sell VR entertainment - physical media, download voucher - in a cardboard box that gives anyone with a phone the ability to enjoy the media. The extra cost to the consumer of the VR experience could be effectively zero (or just a few quid; but make it zero, absorb the cost of the cardboard, because you'll only have to do it once, and hope they'll be back for more downloads).

But, of course, all that depends on compelling content for casual (ie non gaming, non training) users. And I'm not totally convinced this type of VR will work for that, for the reasons I gave in the article.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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You could certainly do something like that in theory, but to do it convincingly in real time might well need a lot of extra processing, if you want something that doesn't look jarringly out of place, I would imagine.

I don't think it's an insurmountable problem, by any means. Solving it will, I believe, make VR much more popular.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: AR vs. VR

I think you're probably right. AR is a whole separate thing to look at, which I plan to do another time.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Glasses?

It is possible to use them with glasses - I did at the NHM, though it wasn't brilliant, partly I guess because my current spectacles have fairly large frames.

They do recommend you use them without, and there's a focus control on the Samsung headset. However, in my case my right eye is a lot weaker than my left, so I'd not have been able to find a suitable setting.

I suppose, if these things take off, we'll have opticians selling people prescription VR headsets.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Best group VR experience?

Yep; prohibitively expensive for the home, certainly. That's why I think that, other than the sort of applications I mentioned in the article, when it comes to immersive experiences at home it's going to be something else.

For example, larger screens, or some sort of 3D projection - possibly not 360 degrees, which would be hard to fit into most homes, but say a projector could cover 180 degrees or more, and up on to the ceiling as well, coupled with a modern sound system, you would have something that would allow very immersive storytelling, without isolating the people in the room from each other.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Proprioception

I'll spare you the details, but sometimes, one may be wanting to work with accessories. You could, I suppose, arrange them all neatly beside you on the bed before you get started, but even so...

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Alistair !!

Definitely me. Perhaps you're just slightly bewildered by it being a Friday? Happens to the best of us.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Neck Fatigue?

I didn't notice any problems with the 15 minute presentation at the NHM; without having one here to weight, I'd guess you're looking at at least the weight of the phone again. And perhaps some of that is behind the suggestions on the US safety page that you take a break every 30 minutes or so.

I'll see if I can find out the weight of the unit with the glasses in. Obviously the Cardboard will probably be the lightest; the weight of the Oculus Rift seems to be "TBA but lighter than 380g" which doesn't sound too much but is about a third of a bag of sugar strapped to your heard.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Perhaps; but that may be better in AR rather than VR. Try doing certain things to yourself when you've got a blindfold or hood on, and see how much easier it is when you can see what you're doing.

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Wake up, sheeple! If you ask Siri about 9/11 it will rat you out to the police!

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: And I was told (way back in the fifties)

@ Eponymous Cowherd

The numbers of 9s you needed, of course, depended on whether you were on a main exchange or a satellite. Remember, small towns and villages were often reached from a parent exchange by dialling a short code of two or three digits.

Eg, Long Sutton, where I was at school, was reached by dialing the code for Basingstoke, followed by 81; from home in Winchester, that was 94 81, followed by the three digit number. To dial to Basingstoke from Long Sutton you dialled 9. Then you'd dial the local number or code (Long Sutton to Winchester was 9 92, if memory serves).

So in most towns with satellite exchanges, short codes were 91-98, and 99 would get you emergency services, so that from the villages, 9 99 would do the same trick.

I suppose there would be plenty of accidental calls when people who lived in the satellite areas were in the big city, and accidentally stuck the extra 9 on when using a payphone, forgetting they weren't at home any more.

0 for the STD prefix came in long after 999.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: And I was told (way back in the fifties)

@ Ivan Headache

The modification to payphones ensured calls had appropriate priority. As mentioned in the BBC link that I posted, there had been an incident where people were unable to get to the switchboard because it was busy, and so couldn't report a fire.

By creating a specific number, it ensured that really urgent calls (as opposed to just a request to make a long distance connection, for example) would get immediate attention.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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@Phil O'Sophical

The operator was on 0 until around 1959, having first been introduced in London in 1928. 100 was introduced, along with other codes in the London Directory area in April of that year.

The 999 service was introduced in London in 1937, on 30th June.

So, at the time 999 was chosen, operator was on 0, and as pointed out by others, it was relatively easy to modify the call boxes of the day to allow a 9 to be dialled without payment as well.

The dates quoted are from this page. The BBC version has the date for 999 as the 1st of July, but also confirms the 0 for operator was in place at the time.

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Virtual reality below the prehistoric waves: David Attenborough's First Life

Nigel Whitfield.
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Yes, it is a shame. As far as I know there aren't any regional offshoots of the NHM, either (unlike, say, the Tate, or the Imperial War Museum).

It would be an excellent idea, for schools if nothing else, if there were some sort of official scheme where museums around the country could be equipped with this sort of technology and a range of VR presentations, so that schools nearby could book time to see an exhibition that would otherwise be prohibitive for them.

Full-on experiences like this would be great, but I'm sure it could be useful for other things - for example, a tour round the Tower of London, or Stonehenge as well. Of course there's an initial installation cost, and the creation of the material, but it could probably save a huge amount in terms of bussing kids around the country.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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So perhaps we could have a national VR centre somewhere around there where everyone can easily go and put on the headsets, and perhaps picnic at Rutland Water afterwards

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Why no under 13?

As far as I can ascertain, it's a warning from Samsung as creators of the equipment, rather than the museum.

The US site has this health and safety info, which includes the note

"Prolonged use should be avoided, as this could negatively impact hand-eye coordination, balance, and multitasking ability."

Of course, how much of this is based solely on a desire not to be sued, rather than hard science is anyone's guess.

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Webmail password reset scam lays groundwork for serious aggro

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: So why

@ David L Webb

Don't some services, like Facebook, try to be 'helpful' these days, and share some of that information when they sync address books? You can certainly look people up by phone number, and it's trivial to generate those.

I don't imagine it would be too hard to get a matched list of email addresses and mobile numbers if you were so minded.

Remember, it doesn't necessarily have to be a specific target individual. If all you want is *any* account that you can control, you can be pretty broad in your approach. You could, perhaps, run two searches against Facebook - one with a list of mobile numbers, and one with a list of email addresses. Spread out over a bot network, you can match facebook user names with both without triggering too many alerts. Then all you have to do is cross reference the user names from the two sets of results to give you a list of potential victims.

It wouldn't surprise me at all if the same can be done with other services. And there are likely plenty of other sources of information that, as experience has shown, can be all too leaky if the right staff member has the right amount of money waved at them.

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NatWest IT cock-up sees 600,000 transactions go 'missing'

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Fool me once, shame on you etc ...

For some people, if they do want a branch where they might be able to pay in cheques or money conveniently, they may not have a great choice, especially in small towns or rural areas.

And, some on low incomes may be further constrained by which banks are willing to open accounts for them.

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Gremlins in the first six months? It's the seller's problem – EU court

Nigel Whitfield.
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It does seem odd; looking at the Directive on certain aspects of the sale of consumer goods and associated guarantees, it clearly states

"Unless proved otherwise, any lack of conformity which becomes apparent within six months of delivery of the goods shall be presumed to have existed at the time of delivery unless this presumption is incompatible with the nature of the goods or the nature of the lack of conformity."

That's Directive 1999/44/EC for those who like to look this sort of thing up; full text downloadable here.

Interestingly, some of the text in that is - as far as my recollection goes - pretty much word for word the same as the UK's SOGA. Another of those examples where British best practice has influenced the rest of Europe, I would say.

Also, given that that time limit is pretty clearly stated in the directive (and if it had been superseded, why is the Consumer Rights page at europa.eu still pointing to it?), you have to wonder why someone fought this all the way to the ECJ.

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Submitting articles

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Submitting articles

There is information tucked away in the Contact FAQs

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Taming the Thames – The place that plugged London's Great Stink

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: The cathedrals of steam

@ imanidiot

Those sound like both interesting places to see and good excuses to claim the cost of a trip to the Netherlands as a business expense!

Perhaps if I drive over for IBC this September I can take a few detours and see those as well.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Kew Bridge steam museum

@ The other JJ

I shall have to check that out. I'm also keen to visit places outside the big smoke as well, and have a few ideas for that, but more welcome here or via email.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Congrats

Thank you; most kind.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Bah!

A policeman and a drag queen? ;-)

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Embankment

It has been remarked before that while Joseph Bazalgette pumped the shit away from our homes, Peter is working in the opposite direction

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Make these travel guides a series

I'm planning to stockpile some more rolls of Velvia and seek out other weird and wonderful places to visit over the coming months.

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Wearable fitness tech: Exercising your self-motivation skills

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Talk about...

Oops. I done a typo.

Spank me!

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Some of them certainly do use that sort of language in their promo material; on the Jawbone site, for example, one of the lines is "Make fitness a habit. Wear the motivation you need on your wrist to improve your days and nights."

Even if they didn't, I suspect a lot of people might buy them with that intention - "I know I should walk more. Maybe if I get a gadget that tells me how far I've gone, that'll motivate me to keep up with the target"

I know I've certainly thought like that. Usually before concluding that, actually, I live 50 metres from a decent pub, and that's quite far enough, thank you very much.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Talk about...

Exactly; some of the sleep trackers can be used, apparently, in things like nursing homes, where they can alert the staff if a resident has woken up in in the night and tried to get out of bed. I can see that would be useful / a good way to cut down on staff and boost profits.

But I'm not entirely convinced that someone who isn't already motivated to keep fit/loose weight will magically become so, simply because they have a shiny new gadget that's going to flash numbers up on their phone, or send smug congratulatory notifications. It might work for a while, but once the novelty's worn off...

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Android M's Now on Tap cyber-secretary is like Clippy on Class A drugs

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Abandoned anyway.

I had similar issues with my 2012 N7 and went to Cynaogen Mod, via their desktop installer, which was a pretty painless process. Performs much better using that than it had ever since the official N7 KitKat update.

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Windows and OS X are malware, claims Richard Stallman

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Hmmm...

Sure, we found out about the faults in SSL (and Bash) eventually. In the case of Bash, some reckon Shellshock had been there for years.

So, as Six_Degrees says, the idea that simply because something is open source, it will necessarily be scrutinised, and have flaws spotted, is itself flawed.

It would be interesting to know why this happens. Is that "many eyes" argument always false, or have things changed - for example, if the technology was largely still in the hands of CS grads and engineers, would more of them cast an eye over every bit of code they installed?

Is it the increasing democratisation of technology - in part, of course, driven by free software - that means there are people who simply take the packages and install them, because they take it on trust that it will work, and don't have the skills themselves to do a technical review?

Or is it the case that, even if we were all programmers, many of us would still happily install all that stuff, because we have deadlines to meet, we have only so many hours in the day, and all those other pressures that mean yes, we could perhaps look through the source code and build everything from scratch but, surely, someone else has already done it?

The idea of scrutiny is a good one, on the face of it. But I'm tending to think that while noble, it's something that might work in the academic world of the 90s, where people have the skills and the time to do it. The pressures of commerce and the 21st century make that much much harder.

Commercial software has vulnerabilities disclosed too, so I'm not convinced that inherent transparency is really the issue.

Bugs are found when people look for them.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Hmmm...

"inherent transparency means flaws are more likely to be found and fixed"

Well, I guess that kind of worked out with OpenSSL, didn't it?

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The Happiness Industry, Seveneves and Confessions of a Tinderella

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Memes

A depressing number of people have photos on Tinder (and presumably also on their Facebook profiles, where the app grabs them from) of themselves posing with tigers, lions and so forth.

Given that these are not normally creatures famed for being welcoming to strangers, they're almost certainly doped so that they're docile enough to be manhandled by tourists who want a 'cool' photo.

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City of birth? Why password questions are a terrible idea

Nigel Whitfield.
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I'm off ...

To make a couple of "What's your porn/movie star name" type quizzes for Facebook, one of which will involve the city of birth, and the other father's middle name....

I've tried pointing out to people when they share these wretched things how they're giving away info that could be used to hack them. Mostly, people just tell me not to be a spoilsport.

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Messerschmitts, Sinclairs and a '50s living room: The Bubblecar Museum

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Now then, now then

If it is, they're keeping quiet about it!

The museum actually moved a few years back - I first visited when I was covering a Car PC rally held there, for Personal Computer World, around May 2008. Sometime between then and now it moved to the current location (it was, if I recall correctly, in a slightly more accessible part of Lincolnshire).

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: video for "never let me down"

Looks like the Isetta to me, or one of the similar ones mentioned by someone else. The Isetta wiki page also suggests that's what it is.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Obscure TV references 'r' Us

It was a brilliant series, wasn't it? And the song was too good an opportunity not to squeeze in, frankly.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: history

When we had a mini (an N registered clubman, in lime green - it was the 1970s; my grandmother had a rust-orange K reg) they just seemed perfectly normal (and the mini was a definite improvement in many ways on the Hillman Imp we had before).

I remember driving up the motorway in it to the Lake District, probably 1977, and various other places. But I suspect now, it would feel rather scarier as so many of the other vehicles on the road have grown in size, not least the juggernauts.

(A neighbour had an even older mini, with the wire cord to open the door, and sliding windows; there were a lot of them about in those days).

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: More photos please

Yep, I can't find the museum leaflet here right now, but I do recall that on some of them there was no reverse.

There was also one that could be bought as either a three wheel of a four wheel version. I'm intrigued as to whether you could 'upgrade' so you could treat yourself to an extra wheel when you had a bit more cash.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: More photos please

There are some more photos on my flickr.

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Right Dabbsy my old son, you can cram this job right up your BLEEEARRGH

Nigel Whitfield.
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Xmas is your friend

This is why I save my casual sex for the holiday season. If you can't remember their name the next morning, just take a crafty peek at their cards.

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Scot Nationalists' march on Westminster may be GOOD for UK IT

Nigel Whitfield.
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@LucreLout

I keep hearing how "England is weary of the noise" and other such stuff, but only from people on forums. Where are these English people who hate the Scottish so much, or just want them to go away?

I've never met any such person in real life, so I really doubt that "most of England" is happy to end the Union. That sounds to me, often, as a view that echoes around the internet in much the same way as the conviction that Ed M. would be PM was doing last week.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: @ Hadvar

@M7S

I don't find UKIP particularly palatable, but I'd rather we had a proportional system, which would very likely require rather more consensus on a lot of matters - there are quite a few areas where the stated policy of the fish people is not in line with the Cons, after all.

I also tend to the view that you may as well give people rope, and see what they do with it. So what if we have UKIP MPs? If they turn out to be the same quality as the people they send to Brussels, they will be spectacularly ineffective, and very likely a one parliament wonder. They could surprise us and turn out to be diligent constituency representatives - in which case, if people vote for them, what's the problem?

@arrbee:

I think even more than the case of the SDLP, this election has highlighted the problems in the current system, not least because there are more extra parties. But also in the way the election is fought in a tiny number of marginals.

The Labour vote share was, in fact, up by 1.4% over 2010, yet they still lost 27 seats.

The Conservative vote was up by half that, 0.7%, and they gained an extra 24.

In essence, the Labour votes were in the 'wrong' place (as were those of others), while the Tories did better and targeting the seats they needed to win.

In my local seat (Hackney North), the Labour share was up 7% at 62%; also remarkable was that the Greens went up to 14.6%, just 0.1% behind Con. But those increases for the two left of centre parties made no difference.

PR has been something that, certainly, SDLP/LD types have wanted for ages, but I think the raised profile of three extra parties this time round - SNP, Green, UKIP - has opened the eyes of many more people to the flaws in our system.

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Building the Internet of Things with Raspberry Pi et al, DIY-style

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Unconvinced that the 240V PowerTail is adequate

Thanks; good points, and I shall bear them in mind next time I cover this topic.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Nothing in the review about the Actual Internet

The review does mention that the book covers this sort of topic, and web services such as Xively. But the article is above all a review of the book, not an instruction manual itself.

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