Flying high with drones and trying out fortune-telling…

We gaze into our crystal ball for this post whilst also peering down from above

2nd May 2016

It’s been a while since we updated the blog, the truth is that we’ve been very busy.  I mean, we’re always busy, but this time we’ve been super-busy and it’s left us with not much time to do the nice stuff, like, talking to you for example.

A great phrase I hear sometimes is ‘off-grid’, which basically means living with no electric, running water, internet, everything basically.  Except those that claim to be off-grid are most often chatting on Facebook about it, at the time.  Usually moaning about the Government whilst doing so.  Talk about biting the hand that feeds you…

Anyway, we’re not off-grid, at all.  We’ve been learning, studying, exam-taking, investing a lot, and the best part, flying.

2016 has seen the birth of SkyWeb Media – our sister operation that provides aerial filming, aerial photography, structural surveys, and 3D-modelling services.  We didn’t just start this from nothing, we’ve been flying what you guys call ‘drones’ for years, we just decided that we’d make it official and go commercial.

That of course, sounds great – make a business out of a hobby!  But the reality is that turning a hobby into a commercial enterprise takes investment, a lot of it.  And all sorts of other bells and whistles you just don’t think about at first.  So anyway, we’re there, certified by a CAA NQE and fully insured.  Since we started, through our contacts and quality of work, we’ve done work for national TV stations, Global Web Companies, and independent films already.

Will it be a success?  Who knows.  Time will tell.  It’s a growing market but also one that’s now fully saturated with wannabe pilots, so it’s going to be a tough game.

So, watch this space for more news, or of course, check out www.skyweb.media for more information.

 

Welsh Assembly Elections

Yesterday, the weather was bad – the usual bank-holiday weather in the UK – so I was tottering about my house doing all the jobs I’d not had time to do or not done because there were bigger jobs outside that were more important (like building another BBQ area, for example, or doing a bit more to the mower shed I started building in 2013).

So anyway, yes, tottering meant a heap of tech was now for sale on Ebay and Facebook,and I was starting to wane.  So what better thing to do on a bank-holiday than to try and predict the outcome of the Welsh Assembly Elections, happening this coming week?  Hell yeah, living on the edge, #livingthedream in #excitingavenue.  #Not.

So, at first using Interwebi statistical analysis, but then weighed with gut feeling, this is the crux of our prediction;

1st: Labour, with 38% of the vote, -4%.
2nd: Plaid Cymru, with 32% of the vote, +7%.
3rd: Conservatives, with 21% of the vote, +2%.
4th: Liberal Democrats, with 6% of the vote, -5%.

 

And there we’ll leave it – because we’re techie people, not pollsters.  Although, a bit like the ‘Star in a Reasonably Priced Car’ on BBC’s Top Gear, we’d curious to know how our predictions will go.  We’ll be sat on the edge of our seat, watching and waiting.

Ok, maybe not all night.  Until we get tired and go to bed ;)

 

 

 

 

 

It’s beginning to look a lot, like, Christmas…

 

Yes indeed, it is looking a bit jingly-sparkly out there

1st December 2015

The starting pistol for me with Christmas isn’t the 1st of December, it’s not the early-birds who put decorations up in November, or even the fuss around Black Friday.   It’s not even the big store adverts with sad people on the moon, lovesick penguins, or women glammed up showing each other the boxed bodywash and facial scrubs they bought whilst they get ready to party.   I can’t help feel a little cynical about the Christmas ads, in truth.

For me Christmas starts when that cold feeling creeps in – that chill that makes you wrap up *really* warm before you go out.  The question of ‘Is it cold today?’ doesn’t apply any more – yes, it’s cold out there.  Always.  Every blinking day. Right up until April.

When it’s cold like that every day, it’s time to start getting lazy with what I eat and start internet shopping.  Yep, that’s how this rockstar rolls at Christmas.

Except this season, I intend using the internet……less.  Yes, you read that right, I will be using it less.   This is all to do with the fact that whilst the internet is the saviour of modern man and the best invention in the last one hundred years in my humble opinion, it’s still got one huge flaw, which is the combination of ‘Men’ and ‘shopping’.

We generally don’t like shopping, unless it’s for cars, or gadgets.   If we want a pair of trousers we walk into a shop and walk out four minutes later having queued for three-and-a-half minutes.  That is why men’s shops are always empty – it’s all to do with efficiency, and a cavalier ‘that’ll do’ attitude.  Admittedly, it’s not always the best approach but it’s genetic.  Anything else would be disconcerting.

But the problem with the things we do like shopping for (cars and gadgets), are that generally only men can get excited by them.

The other members of the family are less impressed with a 128GB MicroSD card (“What is it?”) and a Porsche Cayman (“Where will we put the kids?”)…..so I have to buy other things for them.  And that’s where the internet goes wrong for me.  It’s taken a long time for me to fully appreciate this, but you should never buy clothes from the internet.

I did for years.   And as a result I own a pair of dazzlingly bright purple trousers that have the ability to restore vision to the visually impaired.   Upon hearing of them the Maritime Association nearly asked if I would stand in for a lighthouse once last year.   They are ridiculously purple.  I look like I’m half-dressed to go on stage for a starring role in a Panto.
I swear to this day they looked almost black on the monitor when I clicked ‘add to cart’.

I also have, in the hallway of my house, four giant luminous pink golf umbrellas, which the website described (and showed) them as being ‘Magenta’ – for £1 each I could easily handle Magenta umbrellas.   Needless to say, these umbrellas haven’t yet experienced rain since they were unwrapped.   Add to that two pairs of hiking boots that don’t fit anyone in the house because they’re seemingly made for people with webbed feet, countless tops and trousers that I know my wife is just waiting for me to forget I bought her so she can ebay/burn them, and numerous items that looked MUCH bigger in the picture – and that sums up my internet shopping experience fairly well.

So internet shopping, my advice? Stick to gadgets and cars.  For presents, use the high street.

 

Ah….who am I trying to kid…

 

On that note, here at Interwebi Towers we’ve decided to bring out our Christmas video today, to be one of the first to send seasons greetings to everyone!  Merry Christmas, and have fun internet shopping!

 

Send your Internet Shopping stories in!

Send stories of internet shopping nightmares or mistakes to hello@interwebi.com and we’ll see about having a prize draw for some goodies before Christmas!

 

Television, Telly, TV, the box…

 

What’s on the box?

18th November 2015

I remember years ago, my sister and I used to amble home from school, get changed, polish our shoes (yes really, parents weren’t slaves back then), and then sink in front of Children’s television for an hour and a half until tea.

Now I’m a parent, I’ve noticed that my kids don’t do that. They’ll come home and go to their rooms where they start chatting with some kid from Australia using Google+ that has a similar interest in whatever game/fad is around that particular month, or Facebook Messenger their cousins all over the globe.

TV has taken a big back-seat for my children as they have new avenues open to them now.  And because they involve interaction and often the games they play DO challenge their minds, I find it hard to say it’s worse than what we would have done as kids – in fact I think it’s better by a long shot.

Yes, it would be better if they were out there rock-climbing and canoeing and meeting people, but I (again) find it hard to fault them, as after all, their mother and me are about as sporty as giant Pandas.

But with this blog, I wanted to just touch briefly on ‘TV today’ for adults and how technology has affected it.  Not adult TV, that’s different ;).  I mean TV for adults.

Far from the yesteryear days of just four channels, migrating to five when Channel 5 came to life (do you remember that – how exciting was that – a new channel! A film EVERY Saturday and that uber-hot News Anchor), now to today where I can’t possibly even count the channels and ways to watch programmes available.

How has technology changed TV habits? A lot, is the fairly obvious answer. If I worked out how much TV I watch is ‘terrestrial’, or ‘traditionally’ delivered, I’d say it was about 20%. The other 80% coming from really amazing services like NetFlix and Amazon Prime.

Seriously, they have some amazing content on there. Netflix is circa £6 a month, Amazon Prime even cheaper – £59 for a year at the time of writing (normally £79). Around £11 a month in total, and yes, I have way more TV content that I can possibly watch for that amount. Coupled with Freeview, that’s everything wrapped up, thank-you very much.  And TV is SO much better than it used to be – I always have something great to watch, no waiting, no missing programmes and no setting recordings to happen.  Well, not much of the latter anwyay.

Where does that leave Sky TV? Pretty much in the bin. I don’t watch Football, and even if I did, half of it’s on BT Sport now anyway, so maybe time to sell those SKY Shares if you have any.

 

So what does the future hold?

In future, how will Terrestrial TV compete with online streaming? The trouble in answering that question is, they can’t. Not in the way they’ve traditionally been operating anyway. The only way they can keep viewers is by producing TV programmes that hook the public into an addictive cycle – using shows that are cheap to make – like the X Factor, The Voice, I’m a Celeb, The Apprentice etc.
Have you not noticed there’s nothing like that on Amazon or Netflix? Have a look, there isn’t. They can’t deliver the immediate content needed, as there is no TV schedule.  That’s where they can’t compete.  So maybe there is a future for Terrestrial TV after all.

In the meantime, I recommend that if you haven’t already, you take a look at these series:

- Mr Robot (Amazon Prime)
- Vikings (Amazon Prime)
- Halt & Catch Fire (Amazon Prime)
- Bloodline (Netflix)
- Better Call Saul (Netflix)
- Narcos (Netflix)
- Orange is the new Black (Netflix)

All of these shows have addictive qualities of their own, yet are very different from each other.  Yes, they’re all American, but the fact is that the Americans are really good at making excellent, entertaining, quality television.  Pobol y Cwm has a long way to go to catch them :)

Happy Streaming!

 

It’s AMAZON WEB SERVICES day!

 

Thursday 24th September

 

….and I can hear tube trains in my shower.

I spent a long time in London, living and working, nineteen years in fact.  Now I’m living back in the motherland of Wales, visits to London aren’t very often and are always restricted to business.

This time I’m here to meet the venerable, respected, giant of a company Amazon, to discuss their behemoth of computing, AWS (Amazon Web Services).

But I’ll get to that in a minute.  The first thing I noticed about being back down here, and this rings true for the previous visit too – everybody is ill down here.  It’s only noticeable because it’s not like this anywhere else in the UK.  Down here in London there are so many people snuffling and sneezing and coughing, it’s like a tiny plague designed for minions hit the human population.

I’d like to say my amazing Welsh immune system is able to fight off all-sorts, but when someone sneezes and you feel the breeze on your head, it does bring that depressing “Really? You know I’m probably going to catch that now don’t you?” feeling.

But anyway, I won’t be here for long, and I will douse myself in Dettol before I come back.

Other anecdotal things I have noticed since being back down here;

– Epping Forest must surely be the murder capital of the UK.  There’s always someone being killed and dumped there.

– Earls Court is not the Australian stronghold it used to be!  Most of the bar staff are actually British (this is not normal for this part of town), but Earls Court now belongs to the Middle East.  Some shops here, not even 100 yards from the tube station, don’t even bother with any English on their shop fronts, it’s all in Arabic.

– The Rugby World Cup – there are a LOT of people in London just for the world cup.  And not necessarily to go and watch the games, they’re here just to be in London whilst they’re happening.

Whilst ordering breakfast at the salubrious Subway’s this morning (yes, I’m posh, I know), a family of six people came in all wearing Wales Rugby Union shirts.  They were actually from Brazil, as it turns out, but loved the whole Welsh passion, and especially our Dragon flag (who doesn’t love our flag?).  In the pub last night, I met a Filipino, two Irish, and a Zimbabwean, all here just for the rugby.  Impressive.

– I just listened to the weather report, it’s 18 degrees Celsius today, and people are wearing coats. The weatherman called it ‘chilly’.  I felt very under-dressed as I sauntered along in my t-shirt, clutching my microwaved sausage and egg roll and machine-designed latte as I headed back to my cell*

But finally, and this is the icing on a strange cake, is that when I go into the bathroom of the hotel room – and I just love this, I have no idea why – you can hear tube trains from the drains.  You don’t even have to strain to listen.  I’m four floors up, and I’m almost wondering if my shower drain just leads onto the Circle line.  It’s the strangest thing.

 

And on that odd note, I’ll sign off.  Amazon look out, I have a lot of questions for you.

 

*Budget Hotel.

 

 

 

Volkswagen, you naughty boys.

 

22nd September 2015 – Auth WD

You’ve been all clever with software again haven’t you?

So the news breaks today, that Volkswagen have made changes to their car’s software, that manipulates the emissions test results for the MOT, and as a result in the United States alone, they are having to recall nearly half a million cars. They are also potentially liable for a fine of $24,000 per car for this ‘disregard’ of emissions regulation, which totals a potential fine of nearly $18 BILLION.

Now that’s a lot. But it won’t happen, not $18bn.

 

So, Why do cars even have software?

Every single automobile sold today has a tiny computer called an ‘ECU’ in side it (Engine Control Unit), some have more than one actually but we’ll keep it simple today.  This computer tells the vehicle when to push more fuel or more air into the combustion chamber (aka the ‘engine’), and does a whole lot more too.  In a nutshell it tells the engine what to do to be most efficient at any given time, to save fuel, and get the best performance.

What Volkswagen have done is tell that software that when the car is idling/near idle, to cut back on pretty much anything that makes pollution.  And because the car is idling/near idle when it’s having an MOT, the car does it’s job and shuts pretty much everything down that it can.  And the US Government in particular, don’t like this, because they have just woken up to what most car enthusiasts have known for years.

In reality, the idling emissions of a car are sweet mother of nothing to do with what comes out whilst it’s driving.  When driving the engine is tuned for performance and economy – that’s what sells cars – not how clean they smell when idling.

So, here’s the dichotomy – Volkswagen has brought down the emissions to make the car cleaner when stationary, but the other effect is on idle/near idle the emissions are lower, therefore the tax band is lower, therefore it’s more attractive to buyers…….you get the idea.

So which came first?  The realisation they could do this to attract more buyers?  Or their efforts to reduce emissions and pollutants?  My guess is we’ll never find out.

And now back to my original remark relating to the $18bn potential fine – that will never happen (at  least not in that arena of numbers).  This is simply because Volkswagen aren’t the only ones who have done this.  They all do it.  The most obvious example that springs to mind is a US car funnily enough, the Corvette Stingray – to reduce it’s emissions on low revs/low load, it literally shuts down HALF the engine when not being pushed.  And all manufacturers do this in some way or another.  Toyota have VVTi.  Ford have Ecoboost.  I could go on.

So, expect a long, drawn-out legal process that will last way into 2017 in my estimation, where the manufacturers club together to create the mother of all legal steams, and argue they were reducing emissions across the board, ‘as instructed’ by the governments.

I won’t try and argue who will win this, as I don’t think the Governments OR the manufacturers will.  Both have good arguments.  I’ll predict a settlement, followed in the next twenty-four months a new set of tests to measure a car’s true emissions/pollutant contribution.

And Volkswagen will continue to make the World’s most boring cars for years to come, and will find a new way to reduce emissions that fits in with the new legislation.

And when they change the test legislation, along will come a new set of tax bands – lord help us all – none of us will end up paying less car tax as a result.

 

 

 

Windows 10, Macs, and your wallet

It’s been a long time coming for some

But Windows 10 is finally here, in the flesh, defining the new cutting edge of computing.  Here at Interwebi Towers we refuse to be pulled one way or another into the Microsoft, Apple, Linux, or *any* camp, but instead like to look upon a product for it’s own merits.

Anyone with any nous knows that gone are the days of Apple dominance in the graphics area  – anyone saying “they’re better for graphics” nowadays clearly knows nothing about computing.  But on the flipside, gone were the days where Microsoft had utter dominance on the operating system market.

Until now perhaps, where we think they’ve got their train back on the right track.

Windows Xp was, and is, a powerhouse of an OS.  But an aging OS makes no money for a company, plus, it was getting very dated, so we were given Vista.  Let’s not talk about Vista though, I might get upset.

We’ll skip to Windows 7.  Windows 7 was a brilliant step in the right direction, albeit it lacked any real sense of modernisation.  Sure, it was slicker, smoother, flashier….but not really much more modern.  Still, we bought it as modern devices and printers etc needed an up to date OS.  And I write this on Windows 7 – it’s a perfect workhorse.

But…..unless you’re a farmer from the 1800’s, who wants a workhorse?

So along came Windows 8, and 8.1.  Wow, had Microsoft listened to the public!  The public wanted modern, swish, space-age….and they delivered.  But they delivered that, plus some, plus some more, and so much that that meant no-one knew how to use it.  It was like going on holiday to an Eastern block country…..you didn’t know what to do, where to go, and the worst part – how to find out what to do, or where to go – because there’s no obvious way to find out.

(There was of course a very easy way to find out, but, not many people knew where it was).

So, Windows 10 is here.  And why do we think it’s good?

It’s quicker that previous Windows versions.  It’s slicker.  It works great on old hardware. The crossover between touch devices and PC interfaces actually works. The menu system actually works.  Everything is where you would expect it. But on top of all that, it looks and feels brilliant. It’s classy, yet clean, it’s lovely to use, intuitive and a delight to navigate through.

The chiefs at Microsoft have really listened this time, not just to one directional suggestion “Make it space-age” and then bombed forward until they ran out of development time or developer skill.  This time they have looked at every angle, honed them all, got a lot of feedback from the community through preview releases, and they’ve since delivered what seems to be a marvelous product.

What’s that?  Macs? MacOS?  I hear some of you say…better than any Windows version?

This argument is so tired and incorrect that when someone says it I usually start to fall asleep and yawn at the fact that the reality is, those people just got used to Macs and know how to use them, and don’t understand Windows.   And there’s nothing wrong with that, horses for courses.  However, most people want Macs because most of the time, they look great.  The designs are really, very slick – all credit to those designers.

But that’s it.  The operating system has barely changed in fifteen years.  The whole interface is so dead and dull, you need to look really hard to see if they’ve actually been doing anything for two decades.  It’s dated, it’s impractical, the mouse and keyboard are the best examples of form over function I can ever find, heck, let’s put the USB ports at the back, at the bottom, where you can’t access them without moving the entire unit.

But still, people will buy them, because they look good.  People will buy them at twice the price of a faster, more efficient, and more capable PC, because that is the power of marketing.

Mac’s are still floundering at the stage Microsoft were with XP – they’re in the doldrums.   They’re riding the ‘good looks’ wave for all it’s worth, yet the reality is is that underneath they’re very much run of the mill, dated, and have little support from the rest of the world (“No, you can’t do that….why? Because you’re using a Mac”.  “No, you can’t print double sided, or in colour on that printer.  Why?  because you’re using a Mac” – things I hear and have to say often, unfortunately).  If that’s your bag – keep spending more money than you need to and buy another Mac.  It will look great in your lounge.  Just don’t expect anything from this century from it.

For those with nous, those with a sharp mind and a keen eye, those that like to value the money in their pocket and want something amazing – right now we’d recommend Windows 10 on an Intel i5 or above processor powered PC – you won’t go wrong, and you will enjoy a operating system with bells & whistles that meets today’s needs.