The crappy deal BT are offering to keep broadband customers

I got a phone call from BT earlier today asking me if would I like a £2 a month reduction in my broadband package, and as part of the deal I would also get a free BT wireless hub if I didn’t already have one and 5GB of secure storage on the BT Digital Vault. That sounds super right? So why did I say no to it?

The reason is pretty simple, I’d have sign up on a 12 month contract. Errr… so…

  • I’d save a whooping 24 quid a year.
  • I wouldn’t get a wireless router because I already have one.
  • The 5GB of space is utterly useless to me since I already have 10GB on my .Mac account and 750GB (yes 750) on this very website.
  • Oh and get locked in for another year.

Not much of an incentive is it?! How about knocking a tenner a month off my bill then I’d think about it. Why do companies like BT use cold calling tactics like this? I detest companies that do it. It might have worked in this case if the deal wasn’t so crappy, but as it is, it disgruntles existing customers like me and puts me off using their services again.

I have been pondering about changing to Sky Broadband for ages since we already have Sky and its broadband package is a damn sight cheaper and the service seems the same. Now might be a good time to switch!

Mac on the cheap: The Hackintosh

Lisa1This is typical Lifehacker, they point our something incredibly useful after I’ve already gone with the expensive option! The idea is pretty simple, since Mac OS X now runs on Intel gubbins, you buy your own PC hardware, cobble it all together and then install Leopard on it. And call it the Hackintosh. Top idea you’d think? Well no, not really. The article is full of crater sized holes.

It’s based around the premise of spending less than $800 but that’s just on hardware and it’s a cheat at that. The author uses coupons to bring the price down since the parts are actually over $800 ($842.90 at the time of posting). 

Plus you need a patched version of Leopard, because by default it only installs on Apple hardware, which is fair enough. The article describes two methods of acquiring said patched Leopard, one is to go download a copy via Bittorrent or the alternative is to manually patch your copy of Leopard… but there is no mention of having a copy already. It’s just kind of assumed. It’s another $129 if you don’t have it or free if you pirate it.

Shuttle N00bAnd it’s at that point I think it’s a lot of work for not much gain. Why would you build a Hackintosh if you’ve already got a Mac with Leopard on? Why would you want to go through the pain of building your own box? (I don’t want to have to do that again!) Why would I want to bother with either spending hours downloading a hacked copy of Leopard or laboriously making one myself? Do I want a fugly PC looking box again? 

The answer is no, I don’t. The reason I switched to Mac was to make things easier. To use software that designed to work with it’s hardware from the beginning. In cost terms, yes, it is cheaper to go down the Hackintosh route, it’s less than a $1000 where as my iMac comes in at $1,799. (I’m using dollars as the comparison since that’s what Lifehacker uses.)

But as they say, time is money, and now I would rather pay extra for a proper Mac and then waste my time more wisely on other things :).

These two comments sum it all up for me:

BY CDC AT 11/13/07 01:22 PM

I think people miss the point with getting a Mac. The idea behind the Mac is that it is an experience not only with software, but with hardware as well. Having both the software and hardware talk to each other and get along makes that user experience. Once you take Mac OS X out of the hardware, even though it is still a great piece of software, you lose the whole experience. And Apple Hardware isn’t that much more expensive than PC’s if you compare apple’s to apple’s (pun intended)

The emphasis on this next comment is exactly what I think:

BY BRIAN LITTLE AT 11/13/07 01:41 PM


I don’t want to discount the creativity of this project, which is impressive. I was a system builder for many years, so I know how much fun this can be. This is why it probably says a great deal about me that I just don’t see any point in doing this kind of thing. Really.

When I was 18 years younger and single, with more or less unlimited free time and a lot of discretionary income, I might have done this and enjoyed it. But I have a kid and a mortgage, and have better things to do with my time. I have come, lately, to see the value of my time versus the value of my things.

Which is to say that the time you spent hacking together a machine that will be a maintenance nightmare is time I get to spend with my daughter. Money you saved in the short term is money that I spent up front to get a machine that works right, right out of the box.

All things being equal, I think I came out ahead. But that probably means I’m not part of the audience you’re writing to, doesn’t it. :)

Nice piece of work, even if I do agree with your critics that you aren’t being up front about the complete costs

So all said and done, I’d much rather have my shiny iMac any day.

There’s some fun benchmarks on how well the Hackintosh runs, which, amusingly, is better than actual Macs do.

iPhoto 08 was a tad flaky

Edit 2007–11–17: Looks like the rotate crash bug has been fixed in 7.1.1 (some details on the Apple site and Ars Technica). Go run Software Update to fix it!


IPhoto_IconI’ve been tinkering with iPhoto 08, getting the hang of how it works, and publishing some photos up to my .Mac space (work in progress!), which, on the whole, works amazingly well. The syncing of local photos to the web automagically is ace.

Anyhoo, iPhoto does seem to fall over with frightening frequency when I want to rotate lots of photos. What I’ve been doing is going through my various events and fixing those photos that have been taken with the camera held vertically instead of horizontal. And it does seem that iPhoto gets bored with such a mundane task and decides to spice things up by locking up.

At first I thought it was because I was rapidly firing through them, so I tried it at normal speed, then at a slow canter and finally a grandma slipper shuffle and it still got it’s knickers in a twist.

The end result is, if I’m lucky, the last two images I was working on haven’t been changed. If I’m unlucky, well the last one has, and it’s usually that the thumbnail is updated to it’s new rotation, but the actual image isn’t. Feck and biscuits. On a couple of occasions I’ve been able to select the photo in question and do a Revert to Original (you have to be careful with that though), but I’ve had a few where that doesn’t work.

However, there is a way to fix it, which involves starting up iPhoto and pressing the Option and Command keys together whilst it loads (more details on the Apple site). It then prompts with the following:


I tried Rebuild the photos’ small thumbnails. No joy. So I tried Rebuild all of the photos’ thumbnails (this may take a while) and that did work, however, like it says, it ain’t quick and in my case took half an hour to run (my iPhoto library is 11GB which I wouldn’t exactly say is huge).

So, doh, not all is fantastic in the land of Macs (but it’s a rare snag!). I can kind of tell when it’s going to crash and I find having to steer a piece of software kind of quaint.

Scratch card pulled because we suck at maths

Well, not me in particular, just a sizable chunk of the unwashed masses in this country. This from the Manchester Evening News (emphasis mine):

A LOTTERY scratchcard has been withdrawn from sale by Camelot – because players couldn’t understand it.

The Cool Cash game – launched on Monday – was taken out of shops yesterday after some players failed to grasp whether or not they had won.

To qualify for a prize, users had to scratch away a window to reveal a temperature lower than the figure displayed on each card. As the game had a winter theme, the temperature was usually below freezing.

But the concept of comparing negative numbers proved too difficult for some Camelot received dozens of complaints on the first day from players who could not understand how, for example, -5 is higher than -6.

Tina Farrell, from Levenshulme, called Camelot after failing to win with several cards.

The 23-year-old, who said she had left school without a maths GCSE, said: “On one of my cards it said I had to find temperatures lower than -8. The numbers I uncovered were -6 and -7 so I thought I had won, and so did the woman in the shop. But when she scanned the card the machine said I hadn’t.

“I phoned Camelot and they fobbed me off with some story that -6 is higher – not lower – than -8 but I’m not having it.

“I think Camelot are giving people the wrong impression – the card doesn’t say to look for a colder or warmer temperature, it says to look for a higher or lower number. Six is a lower number than 8. Imagine how many people have been misled.”  

Someone at work mentioned this earlier in week (on The Register) and then it popped up in this weeks b3ta newsletter. First thoughts were surely it’s a joke, but no…

I wonder if they have the same problem with their overdraft? They see -£250.43 as having that much to spend instead of owing?

What in the world, or more accurately, is this country coming to? It’s no wonder one of my best mates decided to sell up and emigrate to Australia earlier in the week!

D.O.A. – One Inspiron 640m

Inspn_640mAh dear, less than a year old and kaput. It’s rather a long winded story, but here I go anyway!

Originally I got an Inspiron 640m for meself but it turned out to be so much faster than the Inspiron 9100 I had at work that I started to use it for work. So work kept it. Which was good, because another Inspiron 9100 we had broke and my old one was nicked for parts.

Then a couple months of later it was decided by the powers that be that us developer types should have fully Vista capable laptops, and who I am to disagree with an order like that?

So a Dell Precision M65* was my replacement (and a Dell Precision M90* for the over dev monkey since he wanted more powaaaah!). And off the Inspiron 640m went into the unwashed masses of the rest of the company.

And all was well until a couple of weeks ago I get a call saying the trusty old Inspiron 640m wouldn’t power on. Odd I thought, and it was shipped back to our office. And indeed it wouldn’t. Just a green flash of a battery light and off it went. Great…

Dell_precision_m65_notebookSo I took it apart and found a sticky goo underneath the keyboard and on the chassis. I looked further and it seemed to be on edges of the compartments on the bottom of the laptop and throughout the machine. I asked if something had been spilt on it and the reply back was a negative.

A bit of investigate led me to one of the motherboard supports (i.e. part of the plastic outer casing) which looked to have melted. I managed to peek at the mobo and noticed it had scorch marks. The support was on the left hand side of the machine, next to the fan mounting which is just above the CPU. 

So it looks like it had burnt itself out. Cause of? Unknown. But very strange.

Anyway, the little bugger was scavenged for memory (since I’d upgrade it to 2GB) and put to one side, waiting for some spare time to ring Dell support up (not a fun job). Still, it’s a bit of a sad end to what was a very good machine.

Well maybe not for World of Warcraft, regardless of what other peeps say…

* Ignore the exact specs of the reviews on the Precisions. Our beasties both have Intel Core 2 Duo T7600’s running at 2.4Ghz with 4GB RAM and NVidia Quadro’s!

Europe’s most dangerous road? The A682

And what road do I drive to work on? Oh yes… the A682. Feck and biscuits. Thanks to the BBC for pointing that.

The 15-mile stretch of the A682 has had almost 100 deaths or serious injuries in the last decade.

It’s not like I have much choice either, as you can see from this map: 


Home is the green marker, whilst work is the red one. I can go to work by either two routes (both take the same time even though one is 5 miles longer), one is via the A56 (the right hand one) and the other is via the A682 (left hand one). Thing is, I had a little incident on the A56 one day and so I’m reluctant to go that way.

But I have to agree the A682 is an awful road to drive on. Just the other week a van driver from the Home Delivery Network tried to take out myself, an oncoming car and a quarry truck by overtaking on a blind bend.

I was following said quarry truck at a distance when I noticed a white van on a bit of an overtaking spree behind me. He dispatched the row of cars with apparent ease and quickly caught me up. He then began to drive in the central of the road, looking for a spot to overtake. Unfortunately he picked a spot where there was traffic coming in the opposite direction, but he didn’t see that because he was too busy trying to give me a rectal examination with his van.

Choas was narrowly adverted, as I broke and tried to pull off road (kinda hard on a country road with stone walls either side) and the car coming in the opposite direction slammed full on, went off onto the grass verge, whilst Mr. Home Delivery Network carried on his merry way. He probably mowed down a few children in Gisburn for good measure.

I did complain to Home Delivery Network but was sent a cut and paste reply (I know because I searched for how to complain and found this, which I used as the email addresses to complain to, and I got the same reply as listed there (well, with the depot bit changed to Blackburn)).

Anyway, what they should do is what they do in parts of North Yorkshire (the wife is from Whitby so I know the roads up that way fairly well). The roads there are a of bit of bikers haven and as such have suffered from lots of accidents, and what they do is put up great big signs that say what the accident rate was a couple of years ago and what it was last year and if there has been any improvement. In most cases, they show a reduction just due to the sign being there.

I mentioned this at work and apparently it was planned for the A682, but they decided not too since they thought it would attract more idiots to it. Sigh…

Are you ready to go out?

As part of my first year of marital education I have learnt there are questions that when asked to either a husband or wife may elicit the same answer, but the meaning of which is anything but similar.

“Are you ready to go out?” is a good example of this. When I answer “Yes” I really do mean it, and this is further implied by the fact that I’ll be stood outside the house, front door key in hand, car unlocked, raring to go.

When Kate replies “Yes” what she actually means is “No, give me another 10 minutes to decide what shoes to wear, find my handbag, get my coat, perhaps an umbrella, etc”. And this is a potentially dangerous situation because you will be asked “What shoes should I wear? Where we going?” It doesn’t matter what answer you give here, you will be ignored, so, my stock answer now is “Trainers, we’re going rock climbing”.

This then leaves you with 10 minutes to burn. There isn’t really anything useful you can do in this time. You can perhaps further perfect your arse crease in the sofa, or flick through a magazine, but really, you’re just waiting. If you go out and sit in the car and wait, you’ll be in a world of pain. Same goes for the turning the TV back on. Just. Don’t. Do. It! I find that loitering round the house checking the back door is locked about 20 times is fairly effective method of hurrying Kate up.

Still, in the scheme of things “Are you ready to go out?” is a rather tame question. There are some that can really put in your trouble, such as “Do I look fat in this?”

Here there is no right answer. If you say no, you will be ignored because the correct answer is yes because if it wasn’t, the question wouldn’t have been asked in the first place. But for the love of God, don’t answer yes; this will incur a long list of penalties one of which will be a lack of certain privileges ;).

In this case I find it’s best to ignore saying anything sensible and instead go for “I’m going for dump” and then sit on the toilet making farting noises whilst complaining that something in yesterday’s tea gave me an upset stomach. This usually stops any further queries and allows me to slope off and play a bit of Xbox, World of Warcraft or PSP.

So, as you can see, I’m learning, but there is still a long way to go!

Eurovision Hilarity

Ukr_verkaserduchkaAnother evening of utter chessiness and block voting last Saturday threw up a bizarre result. Serbia? Nothing like last years winner, Lordi. The Serbian song was awful… well actually, they were all awful. This year was a particularly bad crop. But Serbia’s effort was hardly worthy of winning. I was plugging for the Ukraine with their joyful ditty, so at least they came second.

England’s entrant only just missed out on zero points thanks to Ireland and Malta but it was a gazillion times better than last years (which isn’t saying much). I was actually surprised it did so badly given it’s credentials seemed to fit in with what should make a popular Eurovision song. But because of the poor showing they got a hiding from the Sunday papers, which made for some entertaining reading.

Uk_scoochThing is, the political voting is really spoiling it. Switching to telephone voting was such a bad idea and they should go back to old style jury. But I doubt that’ll change, with 100 million people across Europe tuning in to watch, they’ll be coining it in from the phone votes! Image if just 1% of the audience voted, 1 million votes is a whole lot of cash. Ah well.

You’re probably wondering why I watch it since all I do is slag it off? Because I like cheesy shit and I enjoy shouting at the TV. That and Sir Terry’s sarcastic commentary.

Yummy! Fast food…

Spotted this via BoingBoing the other week where someone has gone to the trouble of comparing the publicity photos of fast food with what you actually get.

Kfcbowl2 Kfcbowl1

I was also amused by this related quote on BoingBoing:

I worked (briefly) in the photography studio of one of the biggest ad agencies in NYC. They paid a professional “food stylist” around $2000 a day to make the food look like that. Every golden sesame seed or drop of crystalline dew was hand placed. That mayonnaise isn’t mayo, it’s hair gel and that chicken looks so good because apparently everything looks yummier when it’s been sprayed with lacquer. A lot of that “food” isn’t food at all and the stuff that is food has been treated with more chemicals and “tricks of the trade” than most super models.

Mayo that’s hair gel? Chicken covered in lacquer? Hmmm nice! Although for some fast food, that’ll probably taste better!

The thing this initially reminded me of was a scene from Falling Down (wiki) with Michael Douglas where he goes to Whammyburger and tries to order something off the breakfast menu. When that fails, since it was a couple of minutes after breakfast serving time, he orders a burger and then goes ballistic when what he gets is a sloppy mess that looks nothing like advertised.

Not that this should come as a surprise to anyone who eats fast food. The local Burger King microwaves all their burgers so it’s no wonder they’re always soggy…