Archive for March, 2007


March 28th, 2007

If you have been reading my blog over time you will know that I am a fan of the BarCamp format. I have attended both the London BarCamps and intend to attend at Brighton. I may also attend at Sheffield, but the lack of a stopover makes the journey some what less appealing.

The good news for everyone around the North East of England is that we are planning a two day BarCamp in or around Newcastle upon Tyne. We have a web page up and running here and I will be blogging more information when it comes in.

We already have sponsorship in hand and are looking at options for the venue. The hard part is finding a venue that will allow several dozen people to sleep on the floor. All suggestions welcome.

Unlimited Yahoo mail, but sadly not for me

March 28th, 2007

First some good news… Yahoo are removing the storage limits on there mail service More information can be found here.

Now the bad news… Many years ago I was a happy RocketMail user. When Yahoo purchased the service you were forced to merge your RocketMail account with your Yahoo account. I was okay with this at the time and kept my RocketMail address. Sadly my RocketMail email address expired when I did not log in to if for a while, and because it is a RocketMail address it can not be reactivated. What is worse is that I can not recover or get another address without getting a whole new account.

Creating a new account is not a sensible solution for me because I use my Yahoo login for many things including Yahoo Groups, Flickr and Upcoming. The hassle and cost of finding a new username and moving across is just not worth it.

Sadly there is no other solution available. Yahoo have never returned a support query regarding the issue. I did ask a couple of Yahoo employees what the crack was and although they knew of the issue they did not know of a solution. My guess is that this is an outdated policy put in place to help the Yahoo brand, but it had adversely affected many people and damaged the Yahoo brand, so why it is still in place I don’t know.

I must say that it has only been recently while conversing with various Yahoo UK employees that have I started to forgive the company, but it is still not fully trust the brand as a direct result of the whole thing.

Paste as unformatted text

March 25th, 2007

When listening to Tech Talk Radio on a podcast I herd about Pure Text by Steve Miller. This is a neat little app that sits in the icon tray and when you press <windows> and <v> (or another customisable combination) it pastes the text in the clipboard without formatting.

This is a solution to a problem that has needed a fix for years. In the past I have had to search the menus for “Paste Special…” or paste in to notepad and copy again. Now if I can persuade a few others to use it I will not have to continually remove the varying formatting in shared documents, or fix web pages blatantly copied form a Word document.

This is not the first usefully application of Steve’s that I have enjoyed using. As a developer Dependency Walker is a great help in diagnosing Windows compatibility problems. He also has many other useful applications on his web site.

Did I miss the fuel tax hike?

March 22nd, 2007

…and the answer is no, I did not miss it because it did not happen. Sorry, yes, it’s another general rant coming on.

The tax on fuel has in fact been frozen until October where it will go up 2p per litre that is not far off inflation. So why did the petrol prices go up just after the budget? Probably the same reason why they went up last time (when the tax did not change at all), that reason being marketing and spin.

People seem to believe that if a price rise is announced in the budget that it will automatically come in to force at 6pm. This means that if a petrol station put the prices up then people presume it is because of the budget and not because the petrol companies have raised the price. Well that is my explanation.

Don’t get me wrong, the petrol companies are entitled to raise the price if they want to, and hiding the rise by using the budget is perfectly legal, but as consumers let’s not be taken in by the smoke and mirrors.

Zooomr is free and unlimited

March 19th, 2007

The photo sharing site Zooomr has lifted all it’s limits, including transfer and storage limits, forever. This means that you can upload all you photos to the site and share them (or not) for free.

This site was a flickr equivalent, but with geotagging long before Yahoo (the current owner of flickr) integrated it.

The service (still in beta) has been going through a tough few days trying to get it’s third generation site up and running. This work is still ongoing and the old version 2 site is currently live. I hoped that when version 3 of zooomr is launched it will have over taken flickr again and that the race will continue to give us all a better product, regardless of the service we use.

Personally I will still be using flickr for my “arty farty” pictures and geek community photo sharing, and Picasaweb for small collections of stuff, but I have decided to upload all my digital images to zooomr and share a selection of them. It was my intention to take out a pro subscription with flickr and upload everything, but if zooomr is free and will have more features I am willing to give it a try first. Let’s just hope the business modal holds up and we have a great service for years to come.

The “www” RewriteCond

March 18th, 2007

I have just tweaked my web site configuration (hosted by SteelPixel) so it does not redirect “” to “” but still prefixes the www to all other pages.

The reason why I have done this is because of OpenID. I use the root of my web site as an open ID as it is quick to type in and I have full control, but until now when I type in my OpenID login annoyingly becomes

The following needed adding to the “.htaccess” file in the route of my web site for it to work. The second and third lines are those that I have just added, and you need them both for reasons that I can not currently fathom.

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !^/$
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !^/index.php$
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^ [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$$1 [L,R]

Naturally all this is fairly pointless in the global scheme of things, but I feel better now. I have also added a search facility for all my sites using Google Co-op that is slightly more usful.

Power to the Patient, but not Patient Power

March 17th, 2007

In year 2000 the Government made a commitment in the NHS Plan to provide a personal bedside television, radio and telephone services in major English hospitals by the end of 2004. This “Patient Power Programme” was to be funded by the private sector and paid for by users.

On the face of it this may not sound a bad thing. The hospitals would same money by not needing to maintain the old audio headset systems. No more having to wheel patients to phones or phones to patients, or pass on massages. Also the patient does not have to share a TV with the ward and has access to many more TV and radio stations, as well as there own phone.

Sadly though, in my opinion, things are not as rosy as they at first seem. My big issues is that for the patient normally looses out. To use the service you have to pay, and it is not cheep. Making calls is normally reasonable when compared with most payphones, but to call in to the patient is extortionate, costing more than most international calls.

What is worse the other options have been taken away. The TV sets that were available in the wards, often paid for by donations, are gone. The portable phones have gone and payphones have have decreased in some hospitals. The real killer is that all the hospitals that allowed a patient to bring in there own portable TVs and radios have had to ban them as part of the agreement with the patient power supplier.

I will also add that I believe the patient power solutions business plans are floored. Most patients are elderly or in for a short period of time. This means that the customer base who are more likely to purchase there product is small. This has, in part, been proved correct as the number of suppliers are declining, and pulling out of hospitals leaving them with nothing.

There are more problems on the horizon as well. Although I do not have access to the accounts of patient power companies I would imagine that most of the profit come form the incoming telephone calls. Recently a report has been published stating that mobile phones are safe to use in hospitals (warning: horrendous simplification) and hospitals are being pushed to lift mobile bans. More information here and here.

Personally the last thing I want is to share a ward with people waffling on the phone all the day, but that can already happen with the patient power system, and with some common sense rules irritation can be minimised.

It appears that many now share my opinion as the share price of the patient power companies has been falling, but after the mobile report a sudden raise happened. On the face of it this may not make sense, but it was actually the result of a “Pump and Dump” conducted on the Internet. This is when positive things are published and leaked to make people want to purchase shares, other lemmings see the rise and buy as well, the person instigating the pump and dump then sellers there shares at the inflated price, and then people wake up with empty pockets. There is an article on Times Online about the insolent.

The following was the email that was sent to people on the Internet, including myself through me media related email addresses. It is not worth reading, I only publish it here so search engines can pick up on it. Remember that Patient line knew nothing about this, just one of the shareholders who wanted to sell up.


Patientline’s mission is to be the UK market leader in the provision of bedside systems in acute hospitals, offering communication, entertainment, information and healthcare services for patients, clinicians, administrators and other users.

Products and services

The Patientline systems include a terminal at each bed. These provide telephone, television and radio and in most hospitals, internet, gaming and email services. The systems can also provide additional hospital based services such as electronic patient records and food ordering functionality.

A large audience, nationwide coverage and a wide range of advertising options makes Patientline the ideal choice for advertisers.With a TV and telephone at bedsides in over 155 NHS hospitals Patientline can offer advertisers the chance to communicate directly to the patient using the television whilst also providing a strong call to action via the telephone.

+ Over 75,000 bedside TVs and telephones
+ Potential annual audience of 8 million
* Nationwide coverage (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland)
+ Over 155 NHS hospitals offer Patientline services

The company offers the really necessary service.Any man or women, who will ever get in a hospital will be happy to use the services of the company.The company found an absolutely new direction of business. No doubts that it will come to success in the nearest time.

Company price for 14 March 07 is 1.85p per share.
Call your broker today if you are interested.
At the london stock exchange company stock symbol is PTL.L
Buy it now and get benefits tomorrow.

So what do I think they should be doing. Well my opinion is that they should be giving away free TV to get people using the systems and at least have a passing chance of getting passing trade. Personally I believe that public service TV (BBC & CH4) should be free, but even if it was only BBC2 and News24 there is at least something to watch and get people use to using the hardware. Free radio is just not enough.

The high call charges to call in to a bed is also foolish. Reducing the cost will loose a huge income form families who need to call granny every week, but will increase the use of the system by people, including the number of grannies called every day. This is more relevant now where the companies will need to compete with mobile phones.

The registration process of the systems is also a really big problem. You can not get most systems to do anything without calling up and giving personal information. This is stupid! Most hospitals have people going round helping with this, but it is a real turn off for people. Just have the free services and incoming calls (on systems that have one number per bed) active at all times, and any request minimal information that is needed when information is needed.

Finally I strongly recommend thinking about the customer more and service then. Failure to do this was personified in a discussion that I have with someone from one of the patient power companies. I pointed out that most people in a ward had pushed the screens away because they did not work [without the hassle of registration] and that people who were there for a while had brought in there own TVs. The response was that they should not have personal TVs and they should be removed. I did not respond by saying YOU ARE A SELFISH AND SHORT SIGHTED *** WHO WOULD RATHER MAKE MONEY OUT OF THE ILL BY CREATING A MONOPOLY RATHER THAN SUPPLY A GOOD AND COMPETITIVE PRODUCT, but I felt like it.

To close I strongly recommend not investing in patient power services, I certainly will not until the business models change to something that will form a sustainable business. Sorry for the rant, it has been coming for a while.

Update: Courtesy of the BBC I have uploaded a report about Patientline broadcast on Look North in 2006.

Another Update: Patientline have now decided to dramatically raise the cost of calls in and out of Hospitals. More information is on the BBC News web site.

Goodbye Egg Card

March 12th, 2007

Today is a momentous day, today is the day that I will officially be retiring my egg card. I have blogged about the reasons before, but in summery the card was being suspended twice a month because my expected spending pattern had changed, and there is no way to change the expected spending pattern other than continue to use it, have it rejected in the supermarket, and then call them up for an unspecified period of time.

I gave them a few months an every opportunity for Egg to address the issue, but after 7 cancellations they were unable to do so.

The one this that really peed me off was on one occasion I was waiting for a call back and it did not come. When I chased up this the notes on the computer said that the supervisor did not bother calling as there was nothing they could do.

My new card, that I found through Martin Lewis’s web site, is working well and today the first payment went automatically from my bank account without insolent. So my advice is if you have have problems with you credit card company just switch.

Please include your email address

March 12th, 2007

If you are sending a CV to a IT related company for any position please remember to include an email address. You will find out quicker if a position is available that you are being be considered for, and you are less likely to be considered if you don’t. I have just rejected another speculative CV and will not be writing to them by post, while I would quite happily sent an email.

Also, while I am on the subject, at least check the company web site before sending a speculative CV, or a requested CV for that matter. I am always happy to receive them, but if you are applying for the position of a VDU operator then save a stamp.

This advice is relevant for all tech employers as far as I am concerned, but if you are considering sending a CV to me check out this page first, especially if you are an agency.

The unicycling is going well

March 12th, 2007

I was out this weekend and took an hour out to practice my unicycling. This was after 30 minutes practice after not unicycling for over 15 years.