Thursday, 14 April 2011

Alternative Vote

(Please excuse me for being political)

What is it?

Want it even simpler than that?

Why vote for it?

This could be the most important opportunity to vote of your entire life, but because there is little political canvassing behind it however there is currently little awareness of the issues involved.

I genuinely believe AV is a good thing and will increase the fairness of voting in the UK. This referendum is likely to make more difference than any other vote you will ever make!

Spread the word on AV at a grass roots level and vote YES to AV on the 5th of May.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Listening to ...


Ben Folds - Gracie
Kingpins (The) - L'Aventurier
La Roux - Bulletproof
Madcon - Beggin'
Pete and the Pirates - Mr Understanding
White Lies - Farewell to the Fairground

Monday, 31 May 2010

The joy of Linux

Everybody wants something for free. But as we all know, there is no such thing as a free lunch? Is there? Well the open-source software community may well provide you with a feast of resources to feed your digital appetite. And at the core of any electronic device, whether it is a mobile phone or a laptop, is an operating system. Software which organises all the other software.

After having dabbled with Puppy and Xandros Linux I could see the appeal. But Puppy was too rough round the edges for a single OS and Xandros was fine except for some blue-tooth issues. However, upon adding up some costs for a new build PC, a genuine copy of Windows 7 was a large outlay and once again the draw of Linux came about. I had played with Mac's on many occasions, and whilst I am aware that some people swear by them, I could never get along with them. So I played around with Ubuntu (by far the most popular Linux distribution) version 9.04 and then 9.10 and loved them. It was crisp and clean and a radical departure from the rigid Windows world. So I made the radical decision to run Ubuntu as my sole OS on my new Desktop with only open source software to support it. After doing this for over six months now I have come to the following conclusion. Why would anyone pay for software? There is an amazing amount of open-source software out there including a truly usable non-windows/mac OS in Ubuntu.

Here is a list of my favourite open source software so far...

QCAD - In many ways better than AutoCAD - I just wish it was compatible with ALL of the new file formats rather than just some of them. The community edition is free, but you need to think around the installation a bit if you are a long-time windows user.
Quantum GIS - I haven't found anything I can't do compared with ArcGIS. Georeference, create interpolated rasters, use ESRI vectors, etc. Top bit of free software and a good (legal) way to save yourself something like £3000.00
Open Office - Take a bit of getting used to after years of Microsoft Office, especially with spreadsheets - but again, all of the functionality is there.
KolourPaint - Like Microsoft paint, with a few handy additions.
Klavaro - I'm learing to touch-type (only two degrees later).
Audacity - Fully fledged audio editor for anyone up to very-keen amateur.
Kdenlive and Kino - Video editing. They both have their faults, but i've been able to produce some pretty decent videos.

Stuff I was surprised that would work...

Skype - A Lunux specfic version is available
Google Earth - Again, a linux version exists.
Spotify - Runs well under WINE.

My computer spec

Pentium 4 2.8Ghz Dual-core 2MB cache
500GB Hard disk
Ubuntu 9.10 64-bit (Purchased from

What I'm listening to

Ben Folds (Feat. Regina Spektor) - You don't know me
Gnarles Barkley - Smiley Faces
Johnny Cash - Hurt
Nena - 99 Luftballons. (German Version)
Plastiscines - Barcelona
White Lies - Farewell to the fairground

Monday, 24 May 2010



Belle and Sebastian - There's too much love
Fleetwood Mac - The Chain
Gramophonedzie - Why Don't You?
Stornoway - Zorbing

Friday, 5 February 2010

"Top 5 Records"

Well, quite a lot has happened since I last posted something on this blog. I have finished university (again), got a career, and cycled from Lands End to John O'Groats. ... But frankly, I can't be bothered to write anything about those things.

So, like John Cusack, i'm onto top 5's. Today top five cars.

This basically consist of the 5 cars that would adorn my garage were I able to afford it. Before you start to expect 5 super-mega-hyper-cars, i'm an eco-hippie/petrol-head hybrid so its a bit of an odd lot.

1. Citroen Berlingo.

OK, this is cheating as I actually already own one of these.

When my family first brought a Berlingo Multispace I was at uni. When I passed my driving test back in 2004 my family had a white Citroen Xsara 1.6i that actually shifted a bit. I know this because my parents mercifully (but foolishly) put me on the car insurance and I spent the long evenings after a hard day dossing in sixth-form knocking the thing for six. I'm amazed it survived. I went to university in September 2004 only to return a few months later to find that the medium-small family hatchback I was so fond of had become a bloated invalid carriage. I hated it. For a start, compared to the previous car it handled like a boat and accelerated like a paraplegic in quick-sand. For an 18-year-old this was catastrophic.

It took some time, but eventually I found the joy that can be had with a windowed-van. For a start you can carry just about anything in it. This is handy if you're a cycling enthusiast or a university student with your mother intent upon you carrying at least 14 kitchen-sinks at all times. Its a cathedral of a car! Secondly, you can fit loads of your friends into it - i've done 8. Thirdly, because its designed to be both builder and child-proof it is ultra reliable and you can fix it with a hammer. Finally, its big enough to sleep in comfortably should you rock up somewhere late or if its too muddy and cold to pitch a tent.

So for these reasons and so many more the Citroen Berlingo makes the list.

2. Caterham 7

A slightly more interesting choice. This car was built from the ground up to handle well and even though the desing has been round for about half a century it is still considered one of the best drivers cars ever. It weighs about as much as a bulemic squrril yet is mid engined, and rear-wheel drive. Even though the base models have the same power as a family hatchback, the configuration was prefect. I also like the simplicity. From working in a bike shop I have come to learn from bitter experience that complex things usually create more problems than they are worth. This has all you need. A seat for you and one for a friend, four wheels, a throttle, a piece of fabric in case it rains, and a space for your picnic basket.

But the most appealing thing about this car is that it comes as a CKD kit. This isn't like a normal kit where you get a chassis and not much else - it is a flat-pack car with all the bits included and a friendly Caterham rep on the phone should you have any issues. Not only this but you can buy a basic one for about £10,000 - which is nothing for one of the best performing sports cars on the market today.

I'm definately having one some day.

3. Toyota Aygo / Peugeot 107 / Citroen C1

Don't be fooled - they are all the same car! The point of this one is what do you really need from a car? Lets face it - motoring is an expensive business. Once you've paied for the car (not to mention watched it depreciate daily) you've got to put fuel into it which at >£1 a liter isn't cheap. Then there's tax, insurance, servicing, tyres, MOT's, and washing the thing. And what for? So you can take hours out of your life sitting in traffic jams? Looking for a paring space? Worrying about running people over? Complaining about the state of the roads, other motorists, the government and just about everything else besides? What do you really want from a car? Electric windows? PlayStation 3's? Senually vibrating seats? Since when did cars become brothells? ... No! 99% of the time all you want is to take you and a small amount of luggage, with maybe one passenger, to anywhere else in the UK with minimum fuss and cost.

What if there were a car that could help with these things? Well there is, and its this plucky little Czech creation!

4. Audi S5 Coupé

OK, its fine to have a cheap-as-chips car every day. But what about the times when you don't want people to know that you're a cheap-skate. Something you can turn up at Downing Street in and not feel out of place*. Basically a car to suit your Armani suit and Rolex watch. A uniform. But hey - if you can choose your uniform then you don't pick one thats made of hessian sacking. I saw one of these in a car park a week or two in white and it instantly became my new favorite car aesthetically (replacing the new VW Scirocco). But its not just the looks. I've always liked Audi's. To me four-wheel-drive makes a lot of sense for cars that weigh more than say 1500kg and with their "quattro" system Audi led the way back on the 1980's rally circuit. That combined with some decent engines makes the the formula for the S5 a good-one!

5. Bowler Nemesis

Before explaining this choice I would like to make one thing perfectly clear. I do not like Land Rovers. Unlike most of the cars in this I have actually driven a couple of these and didn't like them. The Defender is the worst. For a start the seat isn't adjustable and are designed for midgets with rickets (which explains the unnecessary step). The build quality is an unwanted hangover from the British Leyland ere (a point proven by my uncle's Range Rover) and the hand break is by your feet to make room for an unnecessary middle seat. What is more is that the TD5 engine they put in most of them these days has no power and the transmission just causes you to rev the tits off the thing on the road. The reason I'm going on about this is that Land Rover is a sort of cult symbol for many of my friends. But not me. I like the idea. Bullet-proof simplicity, and ruthless practicality - but I just don't think that it works in the real world.

However, I do like the Bowler Nemesis. No, I haven't driven one of these, but the principle is to take a Land Rover and make it better. That isn't hard from the way I see it, but with a good few thousand pounds to spend they will have made something pretty special. Providing it all works then the Nemesis will be a pretty decent bit of kit.

* - Just for the record. This is not a way of thinking that I subscribe to. Substance will always be more important than style. But as a product of middle-class England, I can't always help myself.


Love Grenades - Young Lovers (Sam Sparro Remix)
Miss Li - Bourgeois Shangri-La
Owl City - Fireflies (Reminds me of the Postal Service)
Royksopp - Happy Up Here

Friday, 18 September 2009

A Triumph

Last night, a group of us went to sandies to pretend we were dirt-jumpers. We messed around for too long and only got maybe 45 minutes of riding in before we were forced to abandon the mission due to bad light at about 19:30 (BST). Mind you, in that time Scully forced Matt and I into doing a new and scary (but in no way technical) step-up gap jump. However, for me the highlight of the evening was not the destination, but the journey*. Perhaps I should be more precise and say the vessel in which we conducted that journey, for it was a forty-year-old classic Triumph Herald saloon.

I am not a classic car enthusiast. I am a pretty typical man, and consequently that means I am certain to like at least four things: girls, beer, meat and anything with an engine. I just don't really see the point in classic cars. They are slow, inefficient, unreliable, awkward, and potentially dangerous. All of these points and more were proved last night by Stuart's Triumph. Surely the entire point of engineering is to make things faster, more frugal, reliable, convenient, and safe? If you can have these things then why look back without a hint of anger?

I can certainly think of more practical student cars, especially for a chap that spends his weekends throwing himself down Wales' most treacherous waterways. To strap a kayak to the roof involved some friction-mounting roof bars that look about as old as I am, and a long series of progressively more structurally unstable straps. Concerningly, the same method of attachment went for my bike!

In fact, there was any number of safety issues with the car. Inertia-reel seatbelts were not available in the front, and in the back there were no seatbelts at all. In fact there was not much of anything in the back, including leg room. Jim had to lie across the bench-seat like some desperate porn star. I became aware that safety features in the rear consisted of two pillows and a quilt. The front quarter lights were zip-tied shut (apparently as a theft-prevention measure), and perhaps most concerningly there was a potent and quite overwhelming smell of petrol when the vehicle was in motion meaning that both windows had to be constantly open. Not that this mattered as the cabin heater had to be run on full all the time to prevent the engine overheating.

The engine has as much power as Chad and the roof was as waterproof as the titanic. Yet, I didn't really care. I didn't care that there were places where you could see the prop-shaft spinning like a 10000 rpm death-trap. I wasn't bothered by the break-back seats or the fact that at over 40mph the entire car shook uncontrollably. I didn't even care about these things when I considered if I was lucky to have survived the journey. I loved that car. I loved the way that you could drive through town in the world’s most unsuitable cruiser with the windows wide open to avoid monoxide poisoning and the stereo belting out a pitiful half-decibel from an awkwardly tuned radio. And as you cruised through the countryside with a hand on your bike precariously leaning off the roof and gazed across the mammoth bonnet and formerly ostentatious headlamps you could not help but feel happy. A simple happiness. A happiness at the wonder of novelty.

*If the journey isn't as good as the destination, then you're doing something wrong.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Lunch Time

... I like going to university here.

What i'm listening to...

The Libertines - Don't Look Back into the Sun
Quantic - Time is the Enemy
Stereophonics - Local Boy in the Photograph
The View - Wasted Little DJ's