Posted by: seasideviews | 04/02/2011

Dinosaur PCs or why you should buy Dell

I’ve just had a frustrating month or so with a new PC from a company who I’ll call “Dinosaur PCs” as their service was veeeery sloooooow, even though their machines are fast.  The machine was well built but boy did it take a while to arrive.  Quad core, with a graphics processor so just right for working on my photos.  It worked well; panoramas which used to have to be left running overnight took 20mins or so.  MS Publisher worked pretty well too.

Sparks

Finally after a month of loading all the software and getting it set up just the way I like it, the PC went up in smoke … or more accurately a shower of sparks.  This was disconcerting to say the least as I was under my desk switching the power back on as it happened.

Here’s my complaint letter:

Without Prejudice

Dear Sir,

Order ID #####

To summarise the sorry tale of this PC:

  • It was ordered on 10th November 2010 and you quoted a 1-2 week delivery.
  • It was finally delivered 29th November
  • On arrival it would not start
  • Your engineer talked me through some tests to no avail
  • I had a final try the following day and the PC started
  • BUT there was a fault with the USBs on the front panel causing the machine to crash and then reboot.
  • The USB fault was finally pinned down and replicable on 14th December
  • A replacement was promised – twice before Christmas
  • … and twice this January
  • The replacement front panel finally delivered on Monday January 10th
  • Unfortunately the PC power supply had spectacularly failed on Sunday January 9th
    o   I had left it running
    o   On return it seemed to have shut down
    o   I tried starting it – nothing
    o   I replaced the fuse in the power lead
    o   On switching on the power at the wall a large number of sparks were ejected from the rear (My face was only 18” away)

I have spoken to your engineer who offered a refund subject to inspection.  I had no idea at the time that you were proposing to charge for the collection:

“This email is being sent to you as you have requested a refund due to the unit being unwanted. Unless stated otherwise you will be refunded less £40. This is for collection and original delivery costs.”

Under the circumstances I request a full refund and I trust you will agree this is due, particularly in the light of the email of 3rd December from Jonny ********** (see below).

Yours etc.

Well the shysters did finally cough up a full refund – otherwise I’d be naming them – but not in the five days they promised but in about ten.

Why Dell?

I hear people say their PCs are “bendy bits of plastic” and not well built like HP.  Here’s why:

It’s back to Dell, to be specific back to their Outlet Store.  I’ve bought a notebook which gave some trouble, and a desktop which has behaved perfectly.  Their after sales service has been exemplary with engineers calling as requested, replacing parts when needed (the notebook must have cost them a fortune, I’m surprised I’m not black listed).  On one occasion when I’d lost all the drivers a charming man from Mumbai spent six hours talking me though how to download all the drivers and rebuild the PC.

So I’ve bought a heavily discounted Intel i7 based system from the Dell Outlet store which is due next Friday … let’s hope it’s reliable and I’m not blogging again to tell you another tale of woe.

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Posted by: seasideviews | 30/04/2010

Facebook fail the Twitter test

Facebook have failed the Twitter test.  They may well be the fastest growing/most successful/most used/out Googling Google web site but they really don’t ‘get it’ as far as I’m concerned.

I read that I can now post a ‘Like’ button on my web site – great idea!  I can even put in a Twitterfall-like list of recent comments by visitors – even better idea!  … and there are several other flavours of plugins – greatest idea yet!

But unlike Twitter, where I cut and paste some code to produce an animated display, unlike PayPal who manage to transfer money using a simple cut and paste, unlike Google Maps where I simply cut and paste to insert a map, Facebook requires me to do loads of techie stuff with Javascript (see below I’ve greyed it out to prove my point but I’m not daft enough to expect anyone to read it).

The JavaScript SDK enables you to access all of the features of the Graph API via JavaScript, and it provides a rich set of client-side functionality for authentication and sharing. For example usage, check out Facebook for Web Sites and the Authentication guide.

The most efficient way to load the SDK in your site is to load it asynchronously so it does not block loading other elements of your page:

<div id="fb-root"></div>
<script>
  window.fbAsyncInit = function() {
    FB.init({appId: 'your app id', status: true, cookie: true,
             xfbml: true});
  };
  (function() {
    var e = document.createElement('script'); e.async = true;
    e.src = document.location.protocol +
      '//connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js';
    document.getElementById('fb-root').appendChild(e);
  }());
</script>

The SDK is open source and is available on GitHub.

and while I’m having a whinge, wouldn’t it be great if Twitter fixed the problem with stopping a script when navigating away from a page?  Firefox manages not to loose its composure so I suppose it isn’t all bad, but Internet Explorer is still the most popular browser.

There is no such thing as a free lunch … at least not when I’m paying

OK OK OK, I hear you say: I’m not paying for these Web 2.0 gizmo things, sorry plugins.  Wrong, in truth we’re all paying as not even Twitter will be short of a £ $ € or two once they start selling substantial amounts of advertising based on their web traffic … and I’m helping them with their traffic.

So facebook, please get your act together and write something for us luddites.

Rant over, if you have been, thanks for reading.

P.S. “Github”?  They can’t be serious!

Posted by: seasideviews | 22/04/2010

Cartographical Site Maps and the death of the User Manual

Using Google Maps

I think “cartographical” is probably a bit of an exaggeration if you compare Google Maps to the Ordnance Survey’s range.  But I thought SeaSideViews.co.uk needed a site map, and as most of the pages are panoramas and views, a site map in the literal sense was just what was needed.  The drawing tools are a little primitive as well – they remind me of Harvard Graphics (remember that?) but I got everything done in the end.

Creating an embedded map is reasonably simple but not as easy as it should be: embedding photos in the descriptions seems to require uploading an image to Picasa (watch the spelling!) as storing the image on my own web site was too tricky for me.  Then once you have uploaded the images they sometimes don’t display properly.  The “folks” at Google will no doubt point out I’m not using it properly … but the point is that it could be easier: why can’t I upload a photo direct to the map and it then posts the picture into Picasa.  Madness, and in the age when RTFM* is long gone.

What I really want

If anyone reading this knows when the Ordnance Survey will catch up, I’d be delighted because the Google Map design just doesn’t tell you as much, for all its other virtues.  What I really want is 1:2500 Explorer range with a licence to use it on my web site and it doesn’t seem to be available as part of OS OpenData … one day perhaps, meanwhile the US takes the initiative where the UK used to lead.

OS Landranger v Google

* for those who wonder what this means send me an email and I’ll reply privately.

Well almost … if you visit http://www.openplaques.org/places/gb/areas/aldeburgh you’ll see what I take to be a growing collection of the plaques on buildings in Aldeburgh.  I’ve noticed some of them, but had missed the one about Benjamin Britten – I’d always thought he lived in the Red House, but the map says otherwise.

As you’d expect, I’ll be putting up some links shortly.  If openplaques will allow I’ll put up some thumbnails on the panorama.

Update

They’ve kindly said I can use their images, so I’ll get them up when I have time.  Many thanks to Jez Nicholson.

Posted by: seasideviews | 06/04/2010

Easter Holidays

The weeks either side of Easter are the most popular for holidays – even more popular than August.   Why?  If we assume the typical British holiday maker has five weeks holiday:

  • 1 week: Christmas/New Year
  • 2 weeks: July/August
  • this still leaves two weeks with a high likelihood of using one of the Easter weeks.

So, as our North American cousins say “do the math”:

  • Christmas/New Year – mass catering and spending this time with mother-in-law stretches the definition of holiday = 10% chance of it being a holiday.
  • July/August – two weeks out of six = 33% probability (in simple terms leaving aside the longer holidays enjoyed by the privately educated and the “we need the last week to get the kids ready for school”)
  • Easter – one or perhaps two weeks off = 50% probability.

A note for North Amerca

Most, if not all, of Europe has a long weekend over Easter … I realise your situation is different, few of you enjoy five weeks holidays either.

The point

No one has come back to me about the aerial views of the Suffolk Coast, and the artist/photographer with a lovely panoramic collage of the Aldeburgh shore has sunk without trace.  So seasideviews.co.uk will have to do without these extras for the time being.  Sorry!

Posted by: seasideviews | 23/03/2010

Of blogs and minotaurs

I thought writing a blog would be a little like writing a diary – you know “it’s January the first and this is the first day in my brand new diary”.  Well it’s not like that at all; it’s worse … far worse:

I’ve got this blog linked to Twitter OK, but the link to facebook is going to the wrong page and it seems the good people at WordPress have hidden this option away deep, deep in their system.  So off I go again, trailing a  ball of string or more accurately a trail of breadcrumbs (joke only understandable by web developers and sad HTML programmers, no idea where this came from, I must be getting sucked into this web thing) to see if I can find where I left that minotaur.

Wish me luck!

Posted by: seasideviews | 23/03/2010

A Seasgull’s eye view of Aldeburgh

Aldeburgh

I’m now trying to get a photo taken from the top of the old lookout station on the Aldeburgh beach.  I’ve found a photo and the photographer seems willing, but he sent me a copy of the wrong picture … so fingers crossed and we’ll soon have a seagull’s eye view of the Aldeburgh beach.

I’m also working on getting some really great aerial photos of the coast hosted, but need to get sign off first.  In the meantime there are links on the home page.

Thorpeness and The Meare

I’ve just finished updating the Thorpeness part of http://www.seasideviews.co.uk I thought it’d be better to include the view along the shore as well as a panorama of the Meare.

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