Archive for the 'ephemera' Category

The joys of double glazing: Amber and Anglian review

Finally, a boring post about something other than web minutiae!

Eighteen months ago, we moved into a large Victorian house that needed lots of work. Twitter chums have responded to my requests for recommendations for builders, roofers, tree surgeons, decorators, plumbers, electricians and plasterers enthusiastically. But when I innocently tweeted “Can anyone recommend a decent double-glazing company that aren’t pressure-salesmen, cowboys or criminals” I got no replies at all. Not any. Twice. That’s telling in itself. So I decided get a couple of quotes and compare them.

Firstly, I called Amber Windows, told them what I wanted and told them that I had an hour maximum for them to measure (two doors – how long should it take?), and emphasised that I didn’t want to waste time with faux-discounts; give me your best price and go away.

Needless to say, Cliff, the Amber Windows salesman, told me of a “special discount” to reduce the £5600 cost (ha!) to £2500. Then came the usual palaver of “calling his manager” to ask if there was an extra special deal. Lo and behold! there was. Mild pressure was applied; a curt “that’s the lowest price, if you sign up today. Take it or leave it”. I told them I’d leave it as I hate people pressuring me and insulting my intelligence. Other the next two weeks I received several phone calls, from different people, offering me wildly different prices until I told them to stop calling me.

I told Jim, the Anglian Windows salesman, not to waste my time and simply to give me his best price. He was direct, but was clearly anxious to sign me up there and then with the implication that there was a further discount. (I said no, as I wanted to discuss the various different designs with my wife at our leisure). He also didn’t seem to know about his products; the Anglian brochures boasted of a certain British Standards that their windows meet; my insurance requires a different Standard and he couldn’t tell me if Anglian’s windows meet More>Than’s minimum security standard.

His price was good, so I invited him back to take a deposit, provided that he could answer the British Standards question. He didn’t come prepared with an answer, and was visibly annoyed at my asking the question. I signed the contract and gave him a cheque on condition that her find out (this was written into the contract) and I emailed him several times subsequently but he never satisfactorily answered my question. Eventually I gave up and the surveyor gave me the answer on headed notepaper as Jim had promised (but failed) to do.

Jim also promised me that my burglar alarm contacts would fit on the new doors, and that I would have a trickle vent to prevent condensation forming. This was written into the contract. When they were eventually installed today, the trickle vent was missing on a door, and the burglar alarm contacts wouldn’t fit. I can only assume that the factory misread the words “trickle vents to be fitted above doors” as “trickle vents to be fitted above only one door”, and Jim’s error regarding my burglar alarm was nothing to do with his eagerness to get a sale.

After signing the contract and paying a 20% deposit in August, I waited and waited and eventually chased up Anglian myself for a survey date and a fitting date. The fitting date was postponed by Anglian at the last minute, three times. The first two times because of bad weather, the third time because of lack of fitters. When I complained on Twitter, they mysteriously found a fitter who came today. They’ve done a nice job, but have yet to return today to finish the job (to put trim around the back door, put in a spyhole and a knocker and install a trickle vent. The burglar alarm contacts I’ll have to sort out by myself). I was hoping to visit the doctors on Monday morning, but now I’ll have to wait a week.

I have another window that needs double-glazing, but simply don’t feel like going through this rigmarole again.

If there is an Apple-style “just works” double glazing firm that doesn’t entirely ignore customer satisfaction in its haste for profit, I hope it will clean up the market.

New Spam Call: Charlotte

I got a call last night over dinner from “Charlotte” at “PC support”. As usual, I like to record them keep them talking for as long as possible, to waste their time and in the hope that they’ll blacklist me. I got Charlotte so grumpy that she hung up on me after 5 minutes.

Listen to Spam Call: Charlotte gets grumpy

There are more spam calls, and Reverend Bruce’s replies to spam emails, over at my Spam Letters.

Live Coverage – WooFone Developers Conference 2012

I had tickets and meant to go to the Apple developer conference yesterday, but took the wrong train and ended up at the Acme wooFone Worldwide Developers Conference instead. As I was already here, I decided to stay and, for posterity, here are my tweets.

10:00 am: Music stops. Audience members begin moistening. Some consumer electronics are about to be shown!

10:02 am: Not-Steve looks sharp as hell, bluejeans and black button up shirt, sou-wester and novelty Hello Kitty aqualungs. Crikey, he’s good looking. I mean, phew. Oh wow! I’m sure he just looked at me!! Hi, Not-Steve!! I love you, Not-Steve!!!!

10:07 am: “Our goal has always been to do great work, and in doing so, make shitloads of money.”

10:15 am: Holy Crap! Acme vacuum cleaners: instruction manuals in 4 new languages, including Aramaic!

10:20 am: Ask-the-Acme AnswerTastic™ any question about root vegetables or Nicaraguan pogostick champions! 24/ FUCKING 7 !!!!!!!!

10:25 am: Ask-the-Acme AnswerTastic™ has 2 different voices – John Inman from Are You Being Served, or comedy Latvian! Awesome!

10:26 am: Lady next to me has full rectal prolapse due to excitement.

10:29 am: Also, Acme Nut-o-lump ScanFabulous™! Rest testicles on screen and it instantly detects any change in density, shape or volume!!!!

10:31 am: Acme Laydee-Bump ScanFabulous™ Companion model for ladies nestles between breasts and performs similar function.

10:38 am: All devices to be 10% smaller due to government of Somewhere Poor agreeing to reduce legal of age of the children mining raw materials. Crowd goes Wild!

10:42 am: Wow! The Acme Upload-a-Foto™ feature brings NATIVE #HTML5 UPLOAD STUFF OFF PHONE TO THE FUCKING CLOUD !!!!!!!!!!! A Miracle!!! Now, you can TAKE A PHOTO on your device AND UPLOAD IT TO A WEBSITE. Competitors must be trembling now!!!!!!!!

10:44 am: entire front row hyperventilate and are stretchered out.

11:00 am: Acme Hipsta-Helpa™ brings turn-by-turn navigation to guide hipsters to the nearest wanky bar for microbrewery beer and obscure music!

11:07 am: Man in front of me with elaborate facial hair and a skateboard spontaneously human combusts. It’s what he would have wanted.

11:10 am: Acme wooFone now with HDMI !!!!!! HDM – FUCKING – I !!!!!!! Which stands for “Handover Da Money, Idiot”. Cloud-based! always-on! Social! HDMI!!!!!

11:12 am: The exclamation mark key on my keyboard falls off.

11:15 am: Ushers issue umbrellas (with “I love Not-Steve” slogan) as there is a tsunami of body fluids squirting from the press gallery.

11:18 am: Two minutes hate start. Android phones ceremonially burned.

11:20 am Keynote ends. Without a doubt, the most important day in human history. He has gone, but His legacy is with us. Not a dry seat in the house.

Luckily for me, Macrumours live-blogged the Apple conference, which was, of course, completely different from the one I attended.

Where’s my bloody Xmas card?

Regular readers will be familiar with my unique blend of misanthropy and parsimony, and will no doubt blame that for the fact that no festive card from me has dropped through their letterbox, especially if you’ve sent me one (thank you for that).

But they’d be wrong. It just seems to me a little wasteful to transport bits of paper to faraway towns or distant countries (half of our family is overseas) just to send you pre-printed religiously-based greetings which then go in a landfill.

So I don’t send cards. Instead, I donate what I’d usually spend on paper and postage to a charidee where it does good instead of polluting the place.

So, your Xmas card this year is a small part of a donation to Medecins Sans Frontieres which is “an international, independent, medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, healthcare exclusion and natural or man-made disasters.”

If you really want a card, feel free to print out my limited edition Xmas mankini card (NSFW) and put it on your mantlepiece.

I hope that’s OK with you. And, even if it isn’t (you miserable sod), I hope you and those you care about enjoy your holidays and have a happy, healthy and peaceful 2012.

Full Frontal 2011 notes

Full Frontal is organised by my co-author, Remy Sharp and his wife Julie (who both juggled recent parenthood with conference running – respect!). I’ve been unable to attend in previous years due to being out of the country but was looking forward to this one, even though I was a little worried that the JavaScript content would be well over my head.

I needn’t have been too scared. The first talk was on CoffeeScript which seemed to me quite intriguing as it (seems to) encourage you to continue thinking of JS as JS (rather than turning it into Java or some such horror) but smooths away some of the syntactical gotchas that get on my moobs. (See Mike Davis’ write-up.) However, I’m a great believer in not cheating until you know the rules properly, so I’ll be delaying CoffeeScript until I’m more confident in my JS.

The second talk was Phil Hawksworth “Excessive Enhancement – Are we taking proper care of the Web?”, which wittily harangued developers to ensure there is proper semantics underneath the JS shizzle and CSS bling – a subject dear to my heart recently. (And he even quoted me, which is nice!)

I skipped talk #3 “Respectable code-editing in the browser” for some synergy-leveraging as I thought it would be too advanced for me. Only afterwards did I realise that the talk was by Marijn Haverbeke, the author of Eloquent JavaScript that I was greatly enjoying on the train coming down on the recommendation of Noo Yoik JS lovegod Mike Taylor.

The talk on Cloud9 IDE by Rik Arends was a bit of a product pitch, but interesting. I wonder if it works across all browsers?

“Scalable JavaScript Application Architecture” by Nicholas Zakas was the tech highlight for me. He discussed a method of structuring an application so that everything was controlled by a main control app with messages passed into it and back out, with everything else being a black box to everything else. This means the programmer must spend a lot of time at the start of the project, designing the sandbox, controller and APIs. This may not be revelatory to most JS coders (or it may be, I don’t know) but it reminded me of learning Jackson Structured Programming in the late 80s when a systems analyst at AT&T. I’d like to see Zakas do a follow-up talk on how to design the sandbox and controller.

Glenn Jones’ “Beyond the Page” talk discussed – and demoed – techniques and emerging standards/ idioms to make Web sites less separated from other apps. We saw Drag and Drop, Web Intents etc. Some evil hackery, too!

Brendan Dawes always scrubs up nice and today was no exception. Although he’s a quivering Flash-lovin’ aesthete (albeit with a Northern accent), he had the techy crowd warming to him and then in stitches with a stream-of-consciousness talk about creativity, new interfaces and expensive pencils.

Last on was Marcin Wichary from Google, who talked of Google Doodles. Who knews that they user-test them? It was a fascinating talk and the good news is that he’ll be blogging about them in the future.

FullFrontal was a super day. The after party had lavish quantities of free grog. The venue was quirky and fun, with free coffee all day. Each talk was handpicked – in fact, everything about the event was curated by Remy and Julie. I’ll be going next year (although not staying in the Travelodge, Preston Road, which was a dump, and nothing to do with the event).

Reading list

Here are some links I’ve tweeted recently, for those without time, inclination or access to read them on Twitter. And why would you, when I’ve categorised them here for you?

Web Development

  • That clever Doug Schepers of the W3C has a cunning plan to make html5 <canvas> more accessible:

    a simple graphics API that will allow either 2D Canvas (immediate-mode) or SVG (retained-mode) images with the same set of methods and parameters, with the only difference being which “mode” the author selects to have as the instantiated form. If the author draws a circle to the canvas context, it would simply be drawn to the screen with no structure; if the author draws that same circle to the SVG context, it creates a element with the appropriate attribute values and style and inserts it into the DOM

    This would allow authors to learn only one API for 2D graphics for the Open Web Platform. With this ease of learning and use, the author could decide on a case-by-case basis, even within the same application, which mode works best.

  • WebRTC is real-time communication in the browser (think: video-conferencing). Google open-sourced their code. “we expect to see WebRTC support in Firefox, Opera, and Chrome soon!”
  • Make-super-CSS3-Gradients-o-matic! Super tool for making gradients with all the lovely vendor prefixes
  • Some links on writing HTML5 games
  • Dr Oli Boblet has done research in how blockquotes are attributed in the print world
  • Trygve Lie has some cool Orientation API demos: Using a mobile phone as a remte conrtrol for a video on a desktop, and a remote / receiver demo that captures the orientation events from a device and transfers these over a WebSocket to the receiver to create a rotating image in the receiver. The image in the receiver will rotate depending upon how the remote is rotated.
  • PDF.js: rendering PDF with JavaScript

What’s the opposite of “to develop”? That’s right – “to inhibit” or “to retard”. So after the “Web Development” section, stuff that inhibits the Open Web:

Web Retardation

Opera

Misc

Startup Britain!

We live in economically uncertain times. The Keynsian nonsense of the State ensuring crade-to-the-grave social care for its citizens, providing and maintaining an infrastructure so the country can function, and other socialist claptrap is discredited.

The way to economic prosperity is for entrepreneurs – like you! – to start up businesses, make a fortune and trickle down all over everyone else.

Fortunately, for the self-starter – like you! -who can’t be arsed to get up and do some research, there is a new website startupbritain.org to help you on your path. Like the cartoon God in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, David Cameron’s disembodied head gazes down at you from his celestial home, squinting inspiration at you. And as if that were not energising enough, there’s a picture of Richard Branson doing his best double-thumbs-up orgasm face.

This fabulous resource is

Designed to celebrate, inspire and accelerate enterprise in the UK, it has the full backing of the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and HM Government. This is a response from the private sector to the Government’s call for an ‘enterprise-led’ recovery. We believe that many of the important functions and services necessary to foster and champion new enterprise can be open-sourced, instead of provided by government directly.

Hopefully you are by now inspired and accelerated?

There are, sadly, defeatists who cling to the old politics of envy and deface such rallying cries:

trickle-down economics? Head in the bloody clouds

Kettle them all. They’ll be moaning about the Royal Wedding next.

Conference jargon-busting

After three conferences back-to-back, here’s my start of a conference jargon-busting dictionary. Please add your own.

“Enterprise solution” = ludicrously over-priced bloatware
“turnkey” = turkey
“ecosystem” (as in “Apple ecosystem”) = vendor lock-in
“keynote speech” – content-free flatulence from a bigwig
“inspirational speech” = content-free flatulence with nice pictures taken from Flickr creative commons, and attributed in tiny, tiny type
“party” = purgatory
“panel” (as in “SxSW panel”) = the only way to pleasure your best friends under a desk in public without breaking the law
“Awesome!” = yawn
“paradigm” = punch me