Blog Archives

IOS 7 is designed to cause car crashes

Apple_iOS_7_Logo

Splitting podcasts away from music means more manual interaction needed

I appreciate that it’s an incendiary headline but it’s there to express quite how strongly I feel about this.

I’ve had various grumbles about IOS 7 but none of them have been major; until now. Most have been learning issues on my part: changed functionality, upgraded apps and the like. This change, however, is different.

Background

I listen to a lot of podcasts, and I listen to them in the car mainly. To reduce the amount of interaction required by me during a journey, I created an iTunes smart playlist containing all unplayed podcasts in date order. That way, I can simply call up the playlist in Music before I set off and ignore it because there are several hours of podcasts waiting to be listened to. Not any more.

What’s happened?

The first warning sign was when I sync’d my iPhone after the O/S upgrade. I got a warning to say that the Podcast app was not installed and I would therefore not be able to play my podcasts. Huh?

A bit of delving revealed that Apple has completely split podcasts from music and the Music app will not now play podcasts. Don’t ask me why they’ve done this but I doubt it was done for our benefit.

OK, I installed the Podcast app. Unfortunately, this has no playlist capability: you have to play individual podcasts. If there is more than one episode in a podcast, then they get played successively, but the player stops at the end.

And this is where accidents will get caused.

We are attached to our smart devices and we do pay attention when they alert us. Even when we are driving. If the phone has been happily playing podcasts for maybe 60-70 minutes and then stops, I will be motivated to get it playing more. This will require several manual interactions with the phone, including unlocking it, and this is a safety issue.

I know I should exercise self-control and pull over (not on a motorway), or wait until it’s convenient to stop. Hopefully, I will; but how many won’t?

I’m serious: this is a retrograde step that will cause accidents

Workaround

OK, there is a workaround, but it’s a hassle. To revert to the previous behaviour you can go into the podcast episodes in iTunes:

  • change their media type to music rather than podcast; and
  • set their genre to podcast

You can then amend the smart playlist to select all music with genre podcast and playcount = 0.

It works, but it is a hassle because you have the make the changes every time iTunes downloads new podcasts. Oh, and of course it won’t work if you sync over the air. That’s not a problem for me because I won’t do that anyway due to the way it would eat up my data allowance.

Is Gay Marriage the Conservative Party’s Clause Four?

Saturday’s Times had a front page article about tensions within the Conservative Party: between the top and the grass roots. Apparently, a senior Tory considers some of the activists to be “mad, swivel-eyed loons”.

Loon bird

My response is “What do you expect when political parties are so un-representative of the population at large?”

The percentage of the population that pays to be members of the main political parties is very low. Of these, the percentage that is active is also small. Thus, the percentage of the population that is politically active is extremely small.

If you think about the reasons why only such a small percentage of people become politically active, it becomes clear that it is because they have an agenda of some sort. They’re not doing it solely to support the political process in general, they are doing it to push their own world view.

In the case of the Conservative party activists, that agenda tends to be a right wing little England (not Britain) agenda. It hankers after a (non existent) golden age of empire, where the middle classes were in charge and the workers knew their place. It’s views are almost entirely negative: anti-Europe, anti Immigration, anti gay.

The Party knows that this view is not representative of the population at large, which has much larger items on its agenda: how am I going to pay my mortgage, what do I live on when I get old, where are my children going to live when they want homes of their own. These are the real issues: the rest is just intellectual masturbation. And this is where the trouble lies.

Regardless of the objectives of the activists, party HQ has only one real objective: to be (re) elected. Unfortunately, for the parties, because of the poor level of participation in party politics, none of the parties can be elected solely on the votes of their paid up members. To be elected, all parties know that they need the support of the middle ground.

Labour understood this when John Smith became leader. Blair implemented the resulting policies and moved Labour into the centre ground after defeating Militant Tendency. The Tories did much the same when Cameron took over as leader.

In both cases, the actions of the top infuriate the grass roots. Unfortunately for the Conservative party, they are more beholden to their grass roots. A lot is spoken of Labour’s dependence on the unions for their funding, but at least they are dealing with a group of leaders who understand the needs of real politik. The same cannot be said for the Tory party and their “swivel-eyed loons”.

Perhaps Gay Marriage is the Tory party’s equivalent to Labour’s Clause Four moment.

Bring on the nanny state

We live in a nanny state: get over it

I was listening to the radio yesterday lunchtime (7th November) and there was a debate going on about a recent piece of guidance from the government. Apparently, the advice on alcohol consumption has changed: we are now being advised to avoid alcohol for three days a week, rather than two.

Inevitably, one of the contributors raised the notion that we are creeping towards a so-called “Nanny state”. She went on to decry the advice as being an intrusion into the civil liberties of the individual.

Lets get this straight. We do live in a nanny state: if by that you mean that the government reserves the right to advise its population on how to live a better life. Moreover, by your individual actions, you have signed up to it.

As soon as anybody accepts treatment from the NHS, they tacitly accept a contract that gives the state some rights over their life. The NHS is paid for by the tax payer, and as a tax payer I want the NHS to be giving good value for money, in the wider sense. Part of that is to encourage lifestyle changes that improve health and reduce NHS costs.

It is an indisputable fact (I contend) that there is a linkage between excessive smoking and alcohol consumption on the one hand, and poor health outcomes on the other. In turn, poor health results in increased treatment by the NHS. Thus there is a direct correlation between excessive drinking and smoking, and NHS expenditure. Therefore, the NHS has a duty to advise the population on how it can reduce its use of an expensive service option.

I have no problem if somebody chooses to smoke or drink themselves to death or into poor health. However, I do have a problem if they then expect the tax payer to pay the bill for their poor lifestyle choices.

You want to smoke/drink excessively? Fine, just don’t expect the NHS to fix you later.

Why is everybody so surprised by what Jimmy Saville did?

Like most people I have been following the saga of child abuse in the BBC with some interest. I can’t say I was ever a Saville fan, he was too much of a gobshite for that, but I never suspected abuse on this scale. Or did I? Or rather did we?

I’m firmly of the view that we need to look at this matter through the perspective of the mores of the day, and not use 20:20 hindsight.

I was a teenager during the sixties and it was well known, and reported widely, that pop stars and others indulged themselves with groupies and young female fans. I know for a fact that there was a bunch of girls at my own school who actively tried to involve themselves with pop stars so that they could be bedded and have something to brag about.

So there’s every reason to suspect that Saville et al were involved in sexual activities with under aged girls. That doesn’t surprise me at all. If anything, what surprises me is that anybody is surprised.

For me, the worrying aspects was his focus on girls whose complaints, if they did complain, would be ignored. That was calculating.

A personal view of the Olympics and Paralympics

After all the hype and hullaballoo about London2012, how do I feel after it’s conclusion?

Put simply, partly elated and partly deflated 🙂

On the positive side:

  • we had an amazing two days at the Paralympics last week;
  • the wheelchair rugby was truly awesome;
  • the Olympics opening and closing ceremonies were amazing;
  • the Paralympics opening ceremony was great (not sure about the closing ceremony, we switched off after 20 mins because we were being driven to distraction by Channel 4’s inability to balance the audio levels);
  • everybody in the Olympic Park and at the various stations we used on the Underground, Overground and DLR were friendly and helpful;
  • The BBC and Channel 4 coverage was brilliant (you have to feel sorry for US viewers who were stuck with NBC);
  • and of course the results speak for themselves.

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p>All in all it was a great 5(?) weeks.

On the negative side: I’m battling with a sense of anti-climax and withdrawal symptoms. Admittedly, this was diminished by Lewis Hamilton winning the Italian GP and Andy Murray winning the US Open.

Perhaps I should supplement my sport watching with a bit of on-line gaming!

So, what will you take away from the games?

Could Fax be ready for a comeback?

This is slightly tongue in cheek, but what if the proposed hike in postal rates here in the UK were to encourage a move back to Fax for some classes of traffic?

Sometimes, you really do want a paper copy of a document to be sent. Possibly it must have a signature, or you are returning a form.

Assuming you had a paper document, you’ll have to pay £0.60 for the stamp and £0.03 for the envelope. Let’s ignore labour.

If you faxed the document, you’d pay maybe £0.05 for the telephone call?

What do you think?

Maybe it’s the hormones and not the beef itself

As an avid meat eater, I was very interested in today’s news about the increased risk of death from eating red meat. I’m not criticising the data but I wonder if they took into account other factors when reaching their conclusions. 

The study was conducted in the US; where all beef animals are regularly fed with growth hormones. I took a quick look at the study report and could see no account having been taken of the prevalence of growth hormones.

One only has to look at the backsides of many American women to see the effects feeding growth hormones to beef cattle has!

Is Posterous being purchased by Twitter a good thing for its subscribers?

As seen on the main page of Posterous and elesewhere, Posterous has just been aquired by Twitter. As a user of Posterous, I’m not sure this is such a good thing.

I can see it’s good the the developers and owners of Posterous and I congratulate them. Posterous is a great product.

Where I am concerned is in what will happen to Posterous now.

One of the main reasons I chose Posterous as my personal blogging platform was its integration with other social networking platforms: particularly Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube. It can do all these things and yet stay independent of them. It can also treat them all equally.

Now that Posterous is a Twitter owned service, will it continue to be so even handed?

As an example, there is a small issue with its integration with Facebook. Sometimes, new Posterous posts to Facebook inherit Facebook comments from previous posts. Will this be fixed with the same vigour now that Facebook is a competitor?

I’ll continue to use Posterous for now, but I’ll keep a close eye on where its roadmap starts to take it.

“Science is organised scepticism”

I just this said by John Lawton on Jim Al-Khalili’s programme “The Life Scientific” on BBC Radio Four.

It’s a great quote.

Keep Calm and Carry On

This is a response to an item on my friend Bill Buchan’s blog on the above.

A lady appeared on “The Antiques Road Show” a few weeks ago with a stack of originals of the famous World War II poster entitled “Keep Calm and Carry On”. They’d been issued to a relative who was the postmistress in a small village but she never got the instruction to put them up. Apparently, it was only to be put up in the event of an invasion.

As the invasion never occurred, most got destroyed, but somehow hers just got left in a back room.

It raised an interesting debating point about supply and demand. A YouTube video linked to by Bill gave the story of how a bookshop found an original and started to sell copies. I don’t know how much they sold for, but it was probably fairly cheap.

An original however, given its (now) iconic status and scarcity, is worth far more. This lady had about 20 originals (as I recall), so: does she sell them one at a time over a period of many years to get a high individual price, or does she sell them all as a collection?