Category Archives: technology

KickStopper and IndieNoNo

What a fantastic idea it was – to crowdfund the development of cool new tech, new gadgets and stuff that the mainstream manufacturers thought too risky.  And what a shame that it has developed into a den of iniquity, of unfulfilled promises and downright lies from those running the campaigns.

According to their own stats Kickstarter claims over 150,000 successful campaigns raising over $4bn – that’s non too shabby.  But hold on just a cotton pickin’ minute – just because the campaign is successfully funded doesn’t mean it will ever deliver on its promise. A CNNMoney examination of the top 50 most-funded projects on Kickstarter found, way back in 2012, that 84% missed their target delivery dates -and that’s just the top 50.

How many of those 150k+ “successful” campaigns ever delivered anything?  Hmm, difficult finding any statistics – I wonder why?  Thankfully there are enough examples of campaigns that have been investigated to highlight the level of criminality that is going on – I particularly like this exposé from March 2018!

Indiegogo has raised over $1.3Bn from 800,000 campaigns.

Indiegogo is a less stringent alternative to the more successful Kickstarter and as such, its failure rate was always doomed to be high. Founded in 2008, the crowdfunding site has had its ups and downs. Guttulus, the Marketing Internet cat lists the top 17 failures and boy oh boy some of them are really big!!  I’ve got a 50% success rate with them:

Just put it on to take a call or hear music on your phone or PC. No earphones required!  I’ve backed them as the product is really innovative.  It certainly delivered what it promised – except that my head doesn’t seem top generate any bass, so the sounds comes across as tinny.  However if you copy their video of a guy pressing the cap against his car then yep, that works – some serious weight of sound!
With Kickstarter I’ve backed 5 projects – with varying success:
Wearable Input Device that lets you control anything. Gesture control, text transmission, payment, and more! Well in reality it was too flaky to actually be usable – but from memory it did turn up when expected – so that’s a positive!!
Exploding kittens by Elan Lee
This is a card game for people who are into kittens and explosions and laser beams and sometimes goats.  Truly surreal, arrived as promised and does what it says on the tin (box!) – brilliant!
Sowatch by Farasha LLC
The world’s first autonomous smartwatch that tracks cardiovascular health, blood pressure and customizes your workouts !  A mega rip off.  Still, after keeping people waiting for 3 years, I still don’t have the item.  Not really sure if it will ever arrive and not sure what it might actually deliver in terms of usefulness – as after all it’s now 3 years out of date.
Amabrush is the first toothbrush, that cleans all your teeth at once in just 10 seconds!  Allegedly!  Some people have received products and the reviews are rather mixed, so I’m not holding my breath about this one either.
A new innovation in the way you shower; luxurious experience and superior cleansing…  Well this actually arrived – approximately a year late.  And it meets some of what it claims.  It does use a lot less water..which means that the showering experience is pretty crap, it’s turned my power shower into a trickle.  So I’ve removed it….
So looking at my experience here I’d say I’ve had a success rate of 1 in 7 – Exploding Kittens.  Everything else has either not turned up or just hasn’t met the hype.  And sadly for anyone out there who is looking for backing to fund their innovative project these people have screwed it for you I’m afraid.  I know that there’s a higher rate of failure in technology start ups but judging by what I’ve seen on these 2 crowdfunding platforms there’s a higher level of fraudsters and get rich quick merchants – that’s a shame as it will make many more people than me look at what they’re investing in more carefully and at the same time tarnish the reputation of these crowdfunding platforms to the point where they no longer provide a viable route to market for some of the brightest thinkers of our time.  Sad but true!

My phone, it’s just like banging on rocks!

Tell me, dear reader, what’s your opinion on the following?

  • Have smartphones killed the art of conversation?
  • Watching television will give you square eyes
  • A room without books is like a body without a soul.

…are you sitting there, harrumphing away, muttering things along the lines of..” the kids today, pah!”  Or are you like me typing away at your keyboard thinking – these are about as accurate as Bill Gates (allegedly) saying that “640K ought to be enough [memory] for anybody” or William Orton, president of the Western Union Telegraph Company saying in 1876 “What use could this company make of an electrical toy?” when offered the patent for the telephone.

I’ve written before about my love for technology – when it works – and equally I’m not a creationist!  The world is a constantly changing place – climate (yes Donald, it is!), culture, technology, language – as they say the only constant is change!  I love that.  Everyday there’s something new to discover, something new to experience, to learn and to enjoy.  To me these 3 sentences are all about sticking your head in the sand, like and Emu, and living in the past, a rosy coloured past where everything was wonderful and live was just…better.

Bollocks, it wasn’t better – it was different.

The first sentence is one of the most popular statements you see/hear from older people about how the children of today spent their lives in a digital world, not communicating with each other.

Wrong!!  Today’s youth communicate far more and with far more people that has previously been possible.

OK, I know that not all of it is good but to say they aren’t communicating is just silly – they’re just communicating in different ways than their parents did, and their grandparents before them!

The second sentence, or fallacy, to give it a more useful name has been around for years – well since the television (for my younger readers that’s the big screen in the living room that you stream Netflix on) became popular and widely available in the 1960’s.

This paragraph, from “Clare” writing on the Smallpiece Trusts website, sums the situation perfectly.

This was one of the usual threats used by mother when I was a child. I never believed her, really, but I did sit a little further back from the screen every time she said it. Then when I became a mother, I decided that my daughter would never watch television. She’d only eat organic green food (while sitting nicely at the table, obvs), never ever lay eyes on a tablet and never see a mobile phone. Judging by the way my daughter chatters away into the remote control and the face she made when she first tasted broccoli (below), I can safely say I’m losing a few of these battles.

Once again we see the parent/child

 

The third sentence is a quote by Marcus Tullius Cicero, who lived 106 BC – 43 BC. A Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar, and writer who vainly tried to uphold republican principles in the final civil wars that destroyed the Roman Republic. His writings include books of rhetoric, orations, philosophical and political treatises, and letters. He is remembered in modern times as the greatest Roman orator and the innovator of what became known as Ciceronian rhetoric…and in his day it was spot on.

And even then he was ahead of his times.

In Europe (I say that even though our politicians and lunatic right are trying to make us leave…) we had to wait for a millenium before Gutenberg revolutionised printing so the masses could get access to the written word…which, interestingly is now the name of a web based foundation enabling free, online, access to thousands of books!  The technology simply didn’t exist, there weren’t that many libraries around and few of the population could have actually read a book anyway.

Think about this, cuneiform writing was only developed around 3,000BC and if we take things back even further the first cave painting are thought to be only 40,000 years old or so (there are a number of places where they have been found Spain, Indonesia, and Borneo).  When people first starting to use spoken language to communicate with each would have been much earlier but we, obviously, don’t have any proof of when that started!!

Suffice it so that at some point in time, way back in history (before flares were fashionable, obviously!), banging on rocks or banging rocks on something else would have been a means of communicating with other like minded individuals. To them the idea of writing might have been a real WTF moment – “how did they do that, wow, that’s really cool”, or perhaps it would have been a “don’t do that, your fingers will drop off and your wrists go all floppy” reaction.

This is really all about attitudes to new technology and the best summation of that I can think of comes from a book – yes a book that was printed and you could, like, pick it up and it had pages which you’d be told off for folding down the corner of to remember how far you’d got! – called Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore – yes children you can still buy it on Amazon, although there is a Kindle version, oh and an Audible one as well 🙂

It was all about selling new technology and it grouped people and markets into stages of technology adoption – hey even silver surfers get social media these days!  The 5 types/stages of adoption are as follows – from fastest to slowest:

  • Innovators – these are the people who think stuff up, who break new ground, adopt new ways of doing things. The love the technology pure and simple – even if it isn’t that practical yet.
  • Early Adopters – these are the people who see what the innovators have come up with a go wow I want it.  Not only that they tend to evangelise of the benefits of the change, rather than technology/process itself.
  • Early Majority – this lot need to know that it works, maybe some one they know already has it and says it’s really good. They like reviews – they’re the Tripadvisor generation.
  • Late Majority – this lot are only prepared to adopt something when it’s been around quite a while, it’s really easy to get it and the price has probably dropped significantly.
  • Laggards (also known as Luddites) – this bunch either aren’t interested in what’s new or are actually afraid of it.  A lot of the statements you read about the harm that new stuff can cause is from fear – from a lack of understanding, from ignorance.

So that’s why you get so many different attitudes to technology, and anything that’s new in fact, and phones and the way they are used is just the latest form of communication.  Much of that communication is in digital form and uses social media, and if you thought that 20 million people watching a TV programme in the UK was large, check out the user bases below – data from Statista:

Taking Facebook as an example, of that total of over 2.2 billion users more than 1 billion are using their mobile phones to communicate. and well over half of all Google search is now conducted on mobile devices.

So are young people spending too long on their phones?

No, the mobile device/phone is the portal to the world wide web, to knowledge, to entertainment – the communication channel of choice – just like those rocks were millenia ago.

..but you do have to wonder what comes next…will Virtual Reality still have a “social” means of communication or will people become more insular – we’ll just have to wait and see.

 

The folly of phone design

So, tell me, why after the development of phone design over the past 20 years that has claimed to make them so robust e.g. Gorilla Glass, ceramic backs and the like are they so bloody fragile?

My Samsung Galaxy S8+ is actually cracked in 2 places on the front and the back has several cracks running the full length.   I was quoted £250 to replace them but as it turns out to be an “International” version the company wouldn’t touch it.  I’m not even aware of how it got so damaged.  The only thing I can think of is that it came into contact with something else in my trouser pockets – possibly a key or possible a coin.  I’ll admit to having dropped it a couple of times but on both occasions it has either been fine or been protected by the case I have had to purchase to protect it since it got cracked!!

This from Tom’s Guide – Phone Drop Test results 2018:

Good news: Chances are, your phone will survive a 6-foot fall onto wood and, if it’s lucky enough to land on its edge, withstand drops onto concrete with minimal damage.

Bad news: If you don’t have a screen protector, there’s a really good chance something’s going to break.

It seems that the Motorola Moto Z2 Force was the winner – in fact, Motorola guarantees that the screen on the Moto Z2 Force won’t crack – and in Tom’s test’s – it didn’t! – but the rest suffered in varying degrees.  Sadly they aren’t planning on producing a Force version of the Moto Z3 – shame on you Lenovo!

So what else is happening in the world of screens and screen protection – improving that area is absolutely key.  Well the current leader in this area has to be Corning and their “Gorilla Glass” product which has been lauded around the globe by just about every phone manufacturer.

Visually stunning, incredibly tough Corning® Gorilla® Glass enables today’s sleekest smartphone and tablet designs, while providing exceptional damage resistance to the scratches and bumps of everyday use. Gorilla Glass is sensitive enough for today’s most sophisticated touch applications, and is available with an easy-to-clean coating.

Hmm the scratches and bumps of everyday use…I’d like to see their definition of that!  As millions of phone owners will testify Gorilla Glass is about as robust as a paper bag! Samsung did announce in July 2018 that they’d developed a bendable and unbreakable screen – I’d settle for unbreakable – the folding phone is interesting but not essential – an unbreakable screen IS essential!  and why do I say that?  Well it should be obvious – just look at the sumptuous photo shots that are being used to sell us this year’s latest phone – just check out those curves – I mean phaaw, c’mon!  Manufacturers have invested billions in designing “sexy”, “cool”, phones but sadly they also appear to have built in “built in obsolescence” as well.  I shouldn’t really be surprised.  However as the price of these phones skyrockets it is inevitable that replacement cycles will grow longer – so c’mon guys make the bloody things last better!

In some products’ life-cycle the manufacturers can make as much profit from marketing the accessories as they can from the main device itself but the ludicrously high cost of today’s phones (and no I don’t buy the precious metals argument I bit!) is such that it wouldn’t be worth the issues of product inventory management – lots of low value accessories is a real pain to manage!!  And easy to get wrong!

So please, will someone get the cost of producing Micro-LED screens down so we can start using them, thus saving power (and therefore eliminating the current issue of running out of juice) and at the same time due to their power efficiency and increased brightness can we have plastic coating applied which stops them cracking so damned easily – please?

What are Micro-LEDs I hear you ask? Well this – thanks to Anroidpit.com for the words!

Micro LEDs is a new technology still in its infancy, but it has great potential to become the next big thing on the display market. Micro LED displays work similarly to OLED panels, but are even thinner. They consist of inorganic semiconductors, specifically a gallium-nitrite combination. Like OLEDs, these are light-emitting diodes, but they are much smaller.

Backlighting is not necessary with micro-LEDs, nor is a polarization filter required. The glass layer above the panel can also be slimmed even further. The brightness per watt, which simplifies the efficiency of the displays, is even better than that of OLED panels and beats LCD by far. With the same brightness, a micro-LED display requires only half as much energy as an OLED screen, in some cases even less. The extremely small diodes also allow higher resolutions on the same surface – a 4K smartwatch would be conceivable with micro LEDs. Last but not least, micro LED screens are not as susceptible to pixel burn-in as OLED displays.

And as wireless charging is the de facto standard these days let’s just make sure that the phone back will allow inductance charging, avoid unnecessary fingerprint smearing and oh yes – stop bloody cracking!!

So c’mon Lenovo, Samsung, OnePlus etc etc – let’s see all of this in the new Z4, S10, 7T etc etc- I know it’s CES time – so go for it guys!

Technology is great – when it’s smart and when it works!

I’m not sure if it’s because there’s tech all around us and we’ve had years and years of “plug and play” but I’d really like to understand the frustration I experience shortly after I get some new tech.  I mean why does so much tech take so much effort to get it working properly?  Well from research undertaken, whilst I was having my lunch, it appears that there are a range of factors/aggregation of said factors that can make human blood boil…

  1. Why doesn’t everybody use the same damn standard?
  2. Why is it sooooo difficult to set these things up in the first place?
  3. Why does the damn device keep losing its connection?
  4. Are things getting too complicated?
  5. Am I stupid?

For starters why is this so important?  Well…According to the report, “2018 Global Smart Home Market Forecast”, worldwide consumer spending on smart home devices, systems and services will total nearly $96 billion in 2018 and grow at 10% CAGR over the forecast period (2018 to 2023) to $155 billion. Adoption of smart speakers from Amazon and Google is boosting the market. – yikes!!

Now whether this is driven by the desire for us humans to have an easy life and achieving this by automating many of the hugely labour intensive chores at home (like playing music of turning on/off lights – Hey Alexa/Siri/Cortana/OK Google et al) or if it’s some quasi-ethical, anti-fossil fuel, tree-hugging instinct to monitor your energy use that is emerging (possibly only really amongst “millenials”) it appears to be a fact – the smart home market is growing apace!!

But what proportion of the population considers themselves to be “techies”?  I dunno -but back in 2013 IDG helpfully offered the following “10 Signs You’re Probably a Techie” – check your selves out – be my guest.  I consider myself to be one, I’m an early adopter who loves the latest “shiny-shiny”; gadgets and “cool-tools” – but I still find it a challenge to integrate my latest fave piece of tech!

Standards:

When I worked in the hi-fi world (hold on to your horses but we’re talking in the last millenium – yikes I’m old!!) there was a term that was used – “super-compatability”.  This meant that your devices not only connected up, but they played together – beautifully.  Sonic perfection with the minimum of fuss (although a not insignificant level of expenditure was required to achieve this aural nirvana). However, today we have a plethora of disparate operating standards across multiple operating systems and each designed to maximise the profitability of each brand’s “eco-system”!   Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung, Xiaomi, ZigBee, Philips, the list just grows and grows. Allegedly you can get some of these to talk to each other – you note I say allegedly!!

In fact it is far more complex than just that.  The Internet of Things organisation in the UK has helpfully provided a wealth of information for those of you who are the true connected home nerds:

Powered by Digital Catapult and Future Cities Catapult, IoTUK was a programme of activities that sought to advance the UK’s global leadership in the Internet of Things (IoT) and increase the adoption of high quality IoT technologies and services throughout businesses and the public sector.

IoTUK was a national programme designed to accelerate the UK’s Internet of Things (IoT) capability, launched as part of the Government’s £32m investment in IoT.

Just check out their “IoT Standards and Protocols” – an overview of protocols involved in Internet of Things devices and applications. Help clarify with IoT layer technology stack and head-to-head comparisons. Yep, that’s what I thought too!  No wonder it’s difficult.

Difficult to set up

Remember Plug n Play?

Plug and Play (PnP) is a capability developed by Microsoft for its Windows 95 and later operating systems that gives users the ability to plug a device into a computer and have the computer recognize that the device is there. The user doesn’t have to tell the computer.

Yeah right, that sounds cool.  Sounds perfect for the non-coder early adopter such as myself!!  And maybe, just maybe, you can connect your new device to your home wifi network without too much problem – although if like me you’ve wasted money on TP-link smart plugs you’ll know that’s not a given – just check out those reviews – ouch!  Even if you’re fortunate to achieve that there’s no guarantee that, just for the hell of it, the device won’t suddenly decide it can’t be arsed to work and whatever you try it will just sullenly refuse to re-connect.  Shocking waste of money team – don’t do it.

Even Amazon – the accepted leader in the home automation world – still doesn’t make it easy on you.  Have you read my earlier post on the subject – or this one – they don’t like being criticised, do they?    I’ve got plenty of Echo devices, fire Sticks etc etc but if I wanted them to control the turning on and off of my TV/satellite box I need something else – a Harmony Hub. so I’ve got one but it was so damn difficult to get it to stay connected I switched it off.  Plus you had to say stuff like “Alexa, tell Harmony to turn on the TV”!

Here are the instructions for setting up your Harmony Hub

#update!!!  I have just discovered that as of November 10th (no idea which year!)…

 On Friday November 10th, Logitech Harmony introduced a deeper and more natural integration with your Amazon Alexa voice experience. Play, pause, stop, fast forward, adjust the volume and tune to channel numbers, all without having to say, “ask Harmony to”. Update to the “Harmony” Alexa skill to make use of these new features.

Well I’ll just have to try switching it back on and see 🙂 apparently all you have to say now is….

“Alexa, turn on sports” to power on your TV, set your stereo to surround sound, lower your window shades and even set your table lamps to your team colors.

Stable connections

I’ve already highlighted the propensity of the TP-Link “smart” plug to lose the plot but that’s not all – my broadband router, as supplied GigaClear offers the poorest of home wifi capability, although it does offer guidance on how to improve things via its website.

  1. Powerline ethernet:  I tried that and as soon as I switched it on the router just dropped ALL internet connectivity – thanks for that one!
  2. Direct ethernet connection: Er, isn’t wifi supposed to be much easier, and no messy cables around the house…
  3. Wireless access points.  They actually suggested I purchased and intalled a slave router.  I did. Trouble was every time we had a power cut (I live in a rural area…with no good BT broadband…hence using fibre from GigaClear…) the slave router was quicker faster and betteer than the GigaClear one so..all the wifi devices connected ti ti – but of course it was a slave so it didn’t have it’s own internet connection – doh!
  4. They said avoid wifi extenders – I haven’t and thank god I didn’t although I still get the odd drop out
  5. Their final option was using a different router – see 3!

So it’s clear that much of the issues are a mix of crap tech (the product) or crap service (broadband/electricity).  If you thought that broadband over fibre was stable – think again.  Here’s how Virgin Media and BT have been doing over the past 24 hours (live data so it will change) – so there’s still a way to go to provide the kind of stability that is required to cope with the flaky technology that we’re being sold!!

Too complex

At the beginning of this year (2018) Nilay Patel wrote a piece on the Verge called “Everything is too complicated” and in it he said:

Think of the tech industry as being built on an ever-increasing number of assumptions: that you know what a computer is, that saying “enter your Wi-Fi password” means something to you, that you understand what an app is, that you have the desire to manage your Bluetooth device list, that you’ll figure out what USB-C dongles you need, and on and on.

And you know what?  He isn’t the only one!

I could go on…and on, and on, and on!

Too stupid?

Am I really the reverse of Marvin the Paranoid android?  Do I have a brain the size of a pea?  I think NOT!

“Here I am, brain the size of a planet, and they tell me to take you up to the bridge. Call that job satisfaction? ‘Cos I don’t.”

Don’t get me wrong-  I’m no genius – but I’ve got an above average IQ (c.140 – whatever that means!) and I can grasp quite complex concepts like “Cognitive Dissonance“, “Bounded Rationality” and “Black Holes” and answer equally difficult questions such as “Why am I here?”, “Who is Linda Clayton?” and “What is The Infinite Improbability Drive” so I’m not a total idiot – I just have problems getting my tech to talk to each other and the outside world!

The answers are, btw, a. Because I damn well am, b. a figment of someone’s imagination and c. an example of Douglas Adams’ genius.

 

 

 

 

 

Lights at nights and prats on the pavement!

As the evenings are drawing in, earlier and earlier and the dawn rising later and later, the growth in cycling on our roads (mostly!) grows ever more dangerous.  There’s a combination of bad behaviour from both cyclists and motorists part that can lead to accidents and when this is compounded by the advances in lighting technology, the lack of practical legislation and the result of government budget cuts – well just look out that’s what I say!  Allow me to expand on this…

From a UK health perspective the growth in cycling is a bonus – especially for those older people who are trying to exercise without adding undue stresses and strains on their ageing joints.  Not everyone can afford to join a gym, or wants to have their own static bike when the draw of the open air, the the feel of lycra on your skin and the “crack” of riding en masse exists.  Good on you I say.  If the roads had been kept in better condition and not left to rot away until they offer nothing less than an assault course for the rider I’d be with you – at least in summer when it’s warm, and light!

First off bad behaviour – on both sides!

I’m a driver not a rider.  I appreciate that my 2 tonne vehicle is perfectly capable of turning a cyclist in a bloody pulp.  So I do NOT drive up their arses, jump (or even totally ignore) red traffic signals, I indicate clearly what my next move is going to be and I give them as much space as I give a horse when I’m overtaking them – safely.  So I get extremely p*ssed off when I come across a pack of lycra clad morons who are either, totally oblivious to the queue of traffic that is building up behind them as the saunter down a country lane – 2 abreast (and when there are lot of them even more abreast!!), or just being ****ing arrogant!

I drive patiently, whilst I may be seething inside my comfy cabin, I understand the argument about “safety in numbers” but still, c’mon these are roads we are talking about not the bleeding Serengeti!  Drive responsible – everyone!

Jumping red lights – According to the Institute of Advanced Motorists, 57% of cyclists admit to running red lights. A 2013 YouGov poll found that 35% of cyclists admit to ignoring red lights at least “occasionally.” If caught jumping a red light, cyclists can be issued a Fixed Penalty Notice of £30. OK these are kids – bloody stupid kids – but they’ll grow up into bloody stupid adults – if they’re lucky!

Let’s now focus on technology, specifically lighting technology.  When a car approaches with its headlights poorly adjusted there’s every chance that the driver is going to get a taste of his or her own medicine as the recipient of the dazzling elects to give the other driver the benefits of his or her own full beams!  Modern lighting is getting too bright, so when it is badly adjusted it’s actually dangerous – if you have to close your eyes, even for an instant, to avoid being dazzled (and having your night vision destroyed) you can’t see where you’re going… Now this isn’t as some writers have shown, down to my age – I’m not talking about the deterioration of my eyes – I’m talking about lights that if the individual was driving behind you would be dazzling you in your rear view mirror – i.e. too high or those lights which seem to be permanently readjusting themselves by flicking up and down or aligned incorrectly – too far to the right!

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders maintains there is no evidence that factory fitted high-power lights distract drivers and that lamp-levelling technology ensures they are safe.

Yeah, right….bollocks!

In fact there is clear guidance as to how they should be set up – this from Wiki-How :

There are mounting screws and adjustment screws above, below and to the side of the headlight. Park your vehicle 25 feet from a wall, and place a piece of tape horizontally 4 feet high across the wall in front of your vehicle. Turn on the low beams. Adjust the headlights until they shine on the tape.

Your car would fail its MOT test if your lights are poorly set up.  So you’d expect the same for those “xenon” style LED lights that bicycles are now using – wouldn’t you…and you’d be WRONG!

According to the Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations (RVLR), it’s illegal to cycle on a public road after dark without lights and reflectors and rule 60 of the Highway code says:

“At night your cycle MUST have white front and red rear lights lit. It MUST also be fitted with a red rear reflector (and amber pedal reflectors, if manufactured after 1/10/85). White front reflectors and spoke reflectors will also help you to be seen. Flashing lights are permitted but it is recommended that cyclists who are riding in areas without street lighting use a steady front lamp.”

Bike Radar offers guidance on bikes and lights –

Is there a maximum brightness for bike lights?  No there isn’t, but you don’t want to dazzle oncoming drivers, for obvious reasons!

“If your lights cause undue dazzle or discomfort to other road users, then you’re breaking the law and the police are within their rights to fine you,” says Cycling UK. In practice, though, as long as your bike has a front white and red rear light it’s rare to be stopped and fined by the police, but please be considerate to other road users.

One more word of advice — don’t mount your most powerful front light on your helmet. It completely dazzles oncoming road users, and is very inconsiderate.

So it’s mostly you MUST have lights at night and only an aside about don’t dazzle other road users…well let’s go back to that image at the top of this post.  Have another look at it – here it is again…

Have a look at the right hand hedge.  It must be at least 6 foot high.  And it’s being illuminated brightly by the light on the front of the bike…  Now take a look at the left hand hedge…it’s almost in the dark.  Now if that was me driving towards this numpty I’b be less than impressed.  In fact I’d have to say that at least 50% of the bikes I meet at night have overly bright, even dazzling lights, whereas for cars the figure is closer to 5%.

Maybe it’s about time that bikes need to have MOTs – to get their lights tested at the very least.  Maybe it’s about time the Police stopped some of these morons who give the rest of the cycling community a bad name and did something about it – but they won’t ‘coz Theresa May has cut their budgets by 25%, and officer number are way down, and they don’t even investigate burglaries anymore – so to expect them to leave the city centres late night opening establishments to pull cyclists over for jumping red lights and having dangerous headlights is never, ever going to happen – until someone changes the priorities.

I mean, for a PR stunt, you could always knock BoJo off his bike to generate aware of bike safety, or even better stop the twat from riding around by making him MOT his bike.

Also I would like to make 2 final points about cyclists – specifically those in Oxford.  Oxford is a city that pats itself on the back (repeatedly) for being extremely bike friendly.  Loads of bus/bike lanes for them to use, masses of “parking” spaces for bikes, speed humps and other road calming measures to slow the traffic down.  They’ve even gone so far as to reduce the amount of parking for cars in the centre so you have to use the park and ride schemes they have introduced.  Great, all those measures must make it a paradise for you cyclists out there…well there are 2 things that you can do to make it safer – for us drivers who now have turned into pedestrians so we can get around your city:

  1. park your cycles nicely – don’t just strew them around making it tricky to get past them..
  2. don’t ride on the ****ing pavement!

That 2nd one is actually an offence – it seems to confuse many cyclists about whether or not they are allowed to cycle on the pavement. According to Laws HA 1835 section 72 & RSA 1984, section 129, cyclists must not cycle on the pavement.

“Politicians need to take their foot off the accelerator in order to protect the planet.”

Oh really? That isn’t necessarily the case – see this scientific article!

I can vouch for the fact that if I’m travelling to work, sadly using the A34 in Oxfordshire then my mpg performance drops dramatically compared to a run where the car is able to run at a speed closer to the legal limit.  And surely improving mpg is one, I’ll admit only one, measure of helping to damage the planet less. We need to get to and from work and public transport has declined to a point that unless you live in London you’re basically ****ed!

My point being that if cars were able to travel at, or even closer to, their most optimum speed the amount of petrol/diesel consumed would drop significantly.  So, taking that point to it’s logical conclusion spending £42 billion on making cars work more efficiently by providing better roads would benefit far more people than building a railway that almost no one will benefit from – except of course the shareholders of those companies who win the contracts to build HS2.  Less fuel used, less time spent driving to and from work = more time for actual working or for the family – ok I know there’s the negative that HMRC gets less income form petrol duty!

So, instead of ruining many thousands of people’s journeys on a daily basis thanks to traffic issues which are going to cost us nigh on £62 billion by 2016… (and this is just the value that people would put on their time – not the actual cost of their “wasted” time nor the cost of the extra fuel that is being used!)

In the UK, INRIX Roadway Analytics identified and ranked 20,375 traffic hotspots in 21 cities. The ranking was determined by an ‘Impact Factor’, which multiplied the average duration of a traffic jam with its average length and the number of times it occurred in September 2016. The cost to drivers due to time wasted in traffic at these hotspots, calculated using the DfT’s ‘value of time’, amounts to £61.8 billion in the UK by 2025 if congestion levels are not reduced.

…why not focus on these – the top 10 ways that Global Citizen reckons are the way to reduce climate change…

  • Rooftop solar – Elon Musk is big into this
  • Silvopasture – apparently this is as simple as planting trees in pasture land and letting cattle roam there!
  • Solar farms – like your rooftops only on a massive scale.
  • Family planning – tricky given that a vast majority of the under-developed world is Catholic and China’s just upped the children per household to 2!!
  • Educating girls – we’re talking mainly (but not exclusively) in the under-developed world as educated girls/women have less kids – although educating stupid men not to treat women as an inferior species would be a good start!
  • Protecting or replanting tropical forests – clearly cutting down the Amazon is just bonkers.
  • Plant rich diets – this means shifting away from the western style processed food diet – clearly a good thing but pretty tricky to sell.
  • Reducing food waste – absolutely essential.  The amount of perfectly edible food that we throw away is just obscene.
  • Offshore wind turbines – surely there are enough places that we could site these – without destroying the beauty of them.
  • Refridgeration management – we’re talking air conditioning in homes and cars as well as well fridges!!  Apparently the eradication of Ozone crunching CFCs has led to a repairing of the hole but sadly the replacement HFCs which get released at end of the fridge’s life can heat the atmosphere 900 times more than CO2!

Clearly governments have a big part to play in this, so to come back to the original headline of this post, governments need to take their collective feet off the motorist and plant them firmly on accelerators – those organisations that can stimulate innovation and future business, ‘coz that’s the only way we’re going to get things like these:

  1. home battery packs to store electricity generated from our roofs,
  2. wind turbines that can be fitted to homes and offices as well as out to sea,
  3. greater investment in planting more vegetation – everywhere,
  4. ways to convince people of certain religions that their dogmas aren’t right,
  5. getting “out of date” food to people and places that need it,
  6. packaging that can be recycled,
  7. home automation systems designed to minimise power usage
  8. I’m inclined to add in “drive less/drive smart” but only if there’s an equivalent improvement in public transportation
  9. tell Trump he’s an idiot and get the US to stay in the Paris agreement
  10. and finally tell planners to sort out the road network so we drivers CAN drive more efficiently!

 

Prescience – not just improving the present!

To quote that prescient genius Douglas Adams…

The Joo Janta 200 Super-Chromatic Peril Sensitive Sunglasses have been designed to help people develop a relaxed attitude to danger. They follow the principle “what you don’t know can’t hurt you” and turn completely dark and opaque at the first sign of danger. This prevents you from seeing anything that might alarm you. This does, however, mean that you see absolutely nothing, including where you’re going.

Well reality has finally caught up – well sort of!  The IRL – or In Real Life – glasses use polarised lenses to make television displays appear black. Wow (Not really!)

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/embed/p06mmxcz/45707209

As a wearer of glasses that currently can be vari-focal and react-o-lite but still not polarising then I’m all in favour of improving face-wear.  The original Joo Janta’s were the DB’s but sadly what has followed no has not really been up to scratch…

Take Google Glass – I mean a fantastic idea but a bit of a disaster in reality – so much so that the previous url won’t show much – unless you’re into Corporate Glass and then there’s some stuff for you to digest. They didn’t create that much of a buzz when they came back in version 2…unless you’re a corporate that is…. As an augmented reality tool for business there’s seems to be a well defined niche but it’s not a breakout consumer led product yet and the question is will it ever be?  and it’s still butt-ugly!

Well at least it isn’t as hopeless as Magic Leap.  I mean just strap  google Cardboard and a mobile phone to your head – it’s the same effect and a small fraction of the cost – and you’ll still look like a complete dork!  Actually you’ll look a lot less of a cyborg if you adopt this cheaper route – just check out the main image on their website – scary or what?  No, I’m not going to put an image of it in this post – it’s tooooo scary!

What’s the problem here?

I mean, given that all you’re basically doing is strapping a head-up display (HUD) to your face – and HUDs are 10 a penny!  So why hasn’t someone added a wi-fi chip and spent a bit of time minitiarising this device so it fits on your face…?

Like I said…what’s the problem here?

One thing that might be killing this hoped for development – well a couple actually…is the ignorance of the public who are prepared to accepts a few small increments in performance for a shed-load of extra cost – Apple, I’m pointing the finger squarely at you here!  Add to that the failure rate of projects on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo and you start to see there’s a risk averse culture brewing!

That said you CAN find some out there but, consumer products?  I don’t think so… $1,800 for a developer kit for the latest Vuzix designs…ouch!  And Snap’s second generation glasses still only allow you to take photos – stunning (not!).

What we need are more Douglas Adams – not arrogant jerks like Enol Smuk – but people who can dream rather than find a nano-unit of extra performance or efficiency – revolution not evolution!!

…and when do we need it?  NOW!

What’s gone wrong with wearable tech?

I mean this is from the 19th September 2018…and the lead story is from December 2016!  And this was the 3rd in the list of responses to the Google search “the latest news in wearable tech”.  Thankfully most of the other items returned are actually alive and kickin’.

That said this is, sadly, indicative of the state that the Wearable Tech market finds itself in.  A lack of true innovation, a lot of me too products, funding issues, fraud and a major brand trying to turn heads to the dark side – you know who you are!!!

But it could have been so much better!

There’s been so much innovative thinking but so little delivery of stuff you’d actually find useful and really, really want.   The market has stalled, interest in it has fallen away and the moving finger has written and then moved on!

Here are just a few of the plethora of start-ups that promised the world, briefly burnt brightly and then bombed!

Amiigo – this was a combination of a wristband and a shoe clip.  It promised a lot but in practice wasn’t that robust.  Well they’re still alive and they’ve now morphed into Wavelet Health and whilst they offer “clinical” quality heart rate tracking it’s interesting to note that on their consumer site even they haven’t realised one key factor – “one device to control them all”!  OK  that’s a Lord of the Rings reference I know but take a look at this image from their site…

Can you spot their band on these runners? No you can’t and that’s because their band doesn’t tell you the time – in fact it doesn’t have any screen at all – you have to have a phone to view any data.

So it’s fine for the medical market where you’re looking at historical data (captured over time) but not the consumer market where it’s a need to know NOW basis.  Shame guys, I remember the data interpretation was really good!!

Actually the medical market is one area where wearables are seeing some traction.

Another of my favourites was the Kairos T-Band – here’s their indiegogo campaign.  Given that I already own a rather nice analog watch, and for a while was happy to wear the Microsoft Band 2 (terrible battery life but good functionality) this seemed an excellent way forward. But it never really took off – I mean the website is still there but you can’t buy the T-Band and the expected delivery date of Spring 2017 has been and gone.

In fact, for me, the Microsoft Band probably got closest to the ideal – but even then in addition to it’s woeful battery life it wasn’t water proof!!   Despite this and the fact that the app hasn’t been updated since 2017 the band is still visible on the Microsoft website.   There was talk of a 3rd version but sadly that never appeared and Microsoft lost interest in the sector.

..and what are we actually left with?  Well at the budget end you’ve the Chinese and Xaomi and Huawei in particular churning out extremely cheap and pretty well equipped devices – but their tiny screens still leave me hankering for the MS Band’s vibrant display or even an e-ink screen – I mean why has nobody gone down that route – with the impact of battery life it would deliver???

That’s a key issue – battery life.  My Huawei Band 2 Pro lasts for 21 days!!! The Samsung Gear Pro 2 which costs 3-4 times as much depending where you look – lasts “several” – only several?   Hmm not that impressive!!

With all this dillying and dallying the market is going to be filled by Apple’s Smartwatch – a beautiful piece of technology, but it’s made by Apple and that means you’re stuck with what they are prepared to deliver, which judging by the reviews is getting better but it’s still expensive for what it actually is….

So there’s still time and space for someone out there with the nous to deliver a tracker style band with long battery life, maybe an e-ink screen and all the health and fitness tracking functionality that you could shake a stick at.  All the pieces are there – it just needs someone to pull them together….anyone out there good at producing whizzy video’s?  Coz I’ve got the idea!

Cor, what a whopper!!

Can you spot the similarity between Apple the company and Donald Trump? Well this most recent post from Techcrunch suggests that they are both pretty good at telling porky-pies!!

I mean the Trumpster is ahead on the total number but that hasn’t deterred Tim Cook et al from playing catch-up!!

Trump is a phenomenon. An asshole too. I mean just read what the Washington Post has to say on the matter – scary or what?

But that aside as this post is about lying tech giants as opposed to assholes pretending to be statesmen let’s focus on Apple!

TechCrunch lists 7, yes 7, whoppers in Apple’s latest product launch. That’s going some.

Is that what it takes now to get punters to part with their hard earned cash? Lies? Wow, how the mighty gave fallen..yet at the same time how big have we mugs grown? £1,400 for a phone??? That’s what I’ve heard, are we mad?

Well not me personally, I’ll make sure I buy my non-Apple devices from some company in the far east that delivers the same product with a better spec for a significantly lower price!!

I know that marketing is about being economical with the truth but Apple’s having a laugh. Or are Fanboys that dumb? Possibly!

But either way people, and particularly that means you people in tech companies that pretend to be holier than thou..stop the bullshit, stop the lies and FFS stop ripping us consumers off!

Business as usual…

As you get older you keep hearing or seeing or reading stuff that makes you think – hang on I’ve seen/heard/read something like that before – whether it’s fashion (No!  Please do NOT bring back flares!), music (whether intentionally as in sampling or “unintentionally” as in My Sweet Lord and others) or books and articles about business.

funkyRight at the end of the last millenium – yep you read that right – the last millenium, before we’d ever heard of “Millenials” (although the term was first coined back in 1987 – by William Strauss and Neil Howe) there were a number of talented individuals who were thinking and writing about how business needed to change. Some of them like Kjell Nordstrom and Jonas Riddestrale wrote books about how “Business as usual was uninspired, talent doesn’t want to work there and people don’t want to shop there” (I can no longer find the original edition – this is the 4th version of the book).   Others like Gary Hamel talked about “Leading the Revolution” while Joseph Pine and  James Gilmore wrote about the “Experience Economy” – work is theatre and every business a stage.

My personal hero Rolf Jensen at the Copenhagen of future Studies wrote about “The Dream Society” – he saw that in an age where information was ubiquitous those who could turn information into simple stories were the most valuable people.  I remember the publication of the “Cluetrain Manifesto” and how “obvious” that seemed – yet few people really got it! I was lucky enough to go to a Fast Company organised talk by Guy Kawasaki’s about his Rules for Revolutionaries – clearly someone who “got it”!

There were others, too numerous to mention here, but these are the key thinkers who formed the background of my personal development around work, business and life and, more importantly, they still do today!

For the past 14 years I’ve been working in an environment which is a complete opposite to the dynamic and invigorating world my thought leaders set out as the future – but it hasn’t stopped me holding true to my beliefs and hoping that maybe, one day, things might change 🙂

Well thanks to an excellent article on inc.com by the CEO of Hootsuite – Ryan Holmes – called “Move over, Millenials” I’ve now realised that the themes, that I’ve held true for so long, are coming back into business fashion – maybe they never really went away!!

It seems that during my “dark ages” period thinkers have continued to think – which is nice – and bless him, Ryan has alerted me to the writings of one Brian Solis and anyone who can get the following into his work is ok by me…

“There’s an old quote by Leo Tolstoy that says, ‘We all talk of change, but none of us talk of changing ourselves.’

eob_coverHe’s totally correct – there’s an elite at the top of business that live by the rules of the MBA or some other similar “method” – and they need to change their ways – pronto.  The thing is – he’s saying stuff that was said 20 years ago.

His website covering “The end of business as usual” – sound similar to the funky Business gurus’ “Business as usual was uninspired…”?  Yep thought so 🙂

Hmmm and wasn’t the same phrase “The end of business of usual” prominently positioned on the front cover of the Cluetrain Manifesto?

cluetrainOh yes, so it was 🙂

He’s also using some research from Nielsen which was published back in 2010 about the emergence of “Generation C” – and it’s good stuff, and he’s been banging on about it for at least 6 years – but it isn’t actually telling us anything more than the Cluetrain Manifesto did way, way back, before the emergence of all these social media.

And do you remember what Seth Godin said about that?

If you don’t think you need this book to better understand your market, that’s your second mistake!

Seth Godin, author of Permission Marketing

I found this in a document I wrote for my current employers back in 2014…

Companies have segmented their customers into groups based on age, sex, income, and other demographics for many years, an approach which works best when you are able to develop and market discrete products and services for those segments – a “Push” approach – “tell them and they will come”.

Increasingly customers are more discriminating, they are exposed to more marketing, and more hype and more “buy me” messages.  Since the post war baby boom they have gone on a journey driven by technological, economic and social change.

Successful companies must deal with the idealism then scepticism, and cynicism that best describes modern generations.  Understanding and catering for their differing mindsets is key to engaging with them.

…and yep it wasn’t acted upon.  But hey, let’s be positive – could it be that things are about to change – will those ideas from the last millenium finally get to be understood now that we’re onto Generation “C”?

Let’s get back to Ryan Holmes article, helpfully it contains some key facts we need to know about Gen C and ways that companies can better reach and understand this key group!!

So what is Generation “C”? Well back in 2004 it was theorised that “C” meant content and it was all about their ability to create and share it.  However 14 years on and I’d agree with Solis and Holmes when they say fundamentally the “C” means “Connectivity” – how these people embrace technology to enable their “digital lifestyles”.

All the previous “Generations” are delimited by the date of birth – what range do they fall into?  Well, I love this next bit – Here’s the critical fact: Gen C isn’t an age group at all. It’s a mindset.

“What sets Gen C apart is connectivity, in its fullest sense. Members are not merely online – they’re active and engaged in online communities, from the familiar social networks to product review sites. They’re not just consuming content, they’re creating and curating it.”

woman-789146_1280

They “live” on digital media – phone, tablet, pc, Mac – to the detriment of traditional media channels such TV and Radio.  It’s their choice as to how and when they interact – and much of that is going to be on the basis of information they’ve received or gathered from their social media accounts!

So, for a business, to reach them you have to do it on their terms.  And to get the holy grail – a “word-of-mouth” recommendation on Facebook, a creative meme that goes viral on Twitter or a thumbs up from a trusted influencer – you need to work really hard and be incredibly creative AND timely – remember they love good content AND their attention span is about the size of a gnat’s!

You have been warned, don’t be the next House of Fraser, reinvention is vital, storytelling in just a few words is critical and boy you’ve gotta be fast – hesitate and you’ve missed it, just like last time 🙂

Man this is gonna be such fun!!