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Archive for August, 2011

Virgin Trains Sucks

Speeding train

I was about to give up, realising that getting justice would take far longer than it’s worth. But now it’s a matter of principle and it also provides insight into how dysfunctional things are at Virgin. It’s an opportunity to show that after nearly 5 months Virgin still suffers from bureaucracy that has the customer (me) tell and retell the story half a dozen times to half a dozen different representatives (that’s how it works in big companies). Way back in the beginning of April I was given an invalid ticket by Virgin and they still play dumb about it, even after they received many long explanations (hand-written) and paper trail that support the claim with solid evidence. After 3 visits to the counter (face to face), 3 letters sent with detailed explanations of the claim, and 3 phone calls, there is a glimmer of hope as the lady I spoke to 5 minutes ago acknowledged their mistake. What Virgin has in its hands are 2 blunders. One is the selling of an invalid ticket that cannot be used and causes great discomfort, lateness too. The other is the support team tacking nearly 5 months to finally compensate (it seems inevitable now), although it took many hours to handle a small claim that is just the fraction of the total I spent on Virgin Trains.

The moral of the story is, if you can, avoid Virgin. It’s just not worth the trouble. Your blood pressure does not need it, either.

Looking Back at 15 Years of Weight Training

Just over 15 years ago I started lifting weights. I had only just turned 14 at the time. The memories are many and it was only about 7 years ago that I started writing abut it. I can probably reference my older blog posts about health and exercise, starting with recent and older photos of times when I was in top shape and before I turned to more running (I could run long distances well) and cycling. Back in the days I competed in Mr. Fitness contests (see 2008 victory and photos also from prior years as I had won several times since 2004). I did well at strength events of all kinds. My main competitor was Mike Coogan, who won previous contests (here are some highlights and awards).

I participated in mini triathlons and won rowing competitions too, several times in fact, until recent years.

As a scientist, I strongly reject sport quacks and embrace solid, credible research instead. Although I did not pursue sports professionally as a child (I preferred it being a hobby/game), I do maintain a high degree of knowledge and skill in the area and I spent most of my life (over 15 years) doing regular exercise without ever taking a long break, even when time management seemed hard.

TechBytes Episode 58: August News and Social Networks

TechBytes

Direct download as Ogg (1:52:35, 24.4 MB) | High-quality MP3 (38.6 MB) | Low-quality MP3 (12.9 MB)

Summary: After over 2 weeks since the last show (due to work commitments) we are back to catching up with news

TODAY we release last night’s show, which was the first one for which we roughly outlined subjects we would cover. Sadly, as we neglected to test the audio prior to recording, there is a massive problem with volume differences and a leveller could not compensate for it adequately.

We first discuss HP’s departure from PCs and also WebOS, which can live on elsewhere. The Motorola/Google deal is then dealt with, followed by the song “The One” by PJ Morton. We then start a discussion about the United States Court of Appeals opening the door to invalidating more software patents. We also talk about software patents in the EU and in general, then play “Can’t Stop” by Ozomatli. The Samsung/Apple situation in Europe is then talked about, including fake/’Photoshopped’ images from Apple (Apple’s fake evidence and reversal of a ban). GIMP 2.7.3 with Photoshop-like GUI option is then talked about, shortly before we go into plug-ins, programming (e.g. Java and Python), and a lot about social networks. “Thursday” by Orchid and Hound closes the show.

We hope you will join us for future shows and consider subscribing to the show via the RSS feed. You can also visit our archives for past shows. If you have an Identi.ca account, consider subscribing to TechBytes in order to keep up to date.

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Photos From Yesterday’s Bike Trip

Mike Coogan in Manchester
Mike Coogan in Manchester
Roy Schestowitz and bike
Roy Schestowitz and the bike
Roy Schestowitz and Manchester City Stadium
Roy Schestowitz and Manchester City Stadium

FIFTY miles along the river/canal assure some exercise. Well, yesterday was a nice day with good weather for the journey. Today I got my bike fixed (a screw had been loosening), so there is likely to be another 8-hour bike ride next Monday (Bank Holiday). It’s very different from riding on the roadside. It is also a lot safer.

Anti-Linux Trolls Classified

  • The “Curious Troll” pretends to be using/experimenting with Linux, but only ever bashes it.
  • The “But[t] Troll” is similar to the above, but every apparent compliment is followed by “but… [insert FUD here].” I’s like controlled opposition in a sense.
  • The “Concerned Troll” insists that s/he is trying to help Linux, but only even smears Linux and uses this “concern” as an excuse.
  • The “Revisionist Troll” likes to pretend that s/he is informing while every once in a while injecting a quick rewrite of history. Some former Microsoft staff is like that.
  • The “Nasty Troll” just attacks people, sometimes with libel.
  • The “Pond Scum Troll” is just trying to ruin forums by acting like a nut house escapee and projecting this on the rest of the people in the forum.

BT Down for 14 Hours in Manchester Area, Company Misinforms Customers

As we have seen here before, when BT messes things up, it messes up royally [1, 2, 3]. Yesterday was another reminder of this. At 9AM, without any warning or notification, the connection went down, apparently affecting entire large areas in Manchester and perhaps Bolton. The helpline which is only ‘manned’ by a recorded message preferred to draw attention to some Yahoo! (E-mail access) problem and there was no estimated time for return of service (for those who may resort to contingencies). The less advertised number through which one can speak to an actual person later contradicted the automated messages, which preferred to pretend the connection problems were over long before these were over (the connection was said to have been resorted at 3PM). The actual person whom I eventually spoke to (based on India) was very kind, but he used the same strategy of emphasising that the phone line is fine (while knowing perfectly well that the problem is the Internet connection, not the landline). It was very hard to actually ‘squeeze out’ information and empty reassurances from the rep I spoke to. Why not be honest and forthcoming? BT was seemingly reluctant to even acknowledge that this was a large-scale failure at its end. Does reputation or the customer come first?

Eventually, 14 hours after the disruption had occurred, the connectivity was suddenly restored, no sooner than 11PM. So en entire day from morning to night was essentially without Internet and with very unreliable estimates of recovery time (if any estimates at all).

Now good, BT, not good…Many people’s job these days depend on the Internet. If you cannot provide an Internet connection for an entire day, then please at least provide reasonable status messages and estimates for restoration of service. If one expects the connection to be down for so long, a dongle or another PC (elsewhere) can be approached and used.

Review of Archos Clipper

Archos Clipper

THE FRENCH firm Archos is known for its line of Linux-based products, mostly multimedia players. A month ago I bought 2 Archos Clipper units, one for myself and one for my sister. There has been not a single issue with the player so far and it was very trivial to operate (instructions come in very many languages). Battery life is as good as promised, the USB port (which also acts as a charger through the headphones jack) works perfectly well, and headphones have suffered no damage despite being pulled a lot, and the player suffered no damage — not even scratching — despite falling a lot and facing rough conditions at the gym.

There is really not a single negative thing to say about Archos Clipper. If someone else has had similar/different experiences, please share them below.

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