Category Archives: comment

Why I won't buy an iPad yet

Thought I’d ponder this a little while, give the product and the chatter a little chance to sink in. The iPad looks gorgeous. Pretty much a few weeks after I’d bought my iPhone, I knew I wanted the same thing, but somewhat bigger. I’m not a genius on this front, I know many people felt exactly the same. And now it exists, it looks right, and as one would expect from Apple, there are a few little twists that make it better than I imagined. Getting properly into the ebook reader market is one, an Amazon that works like the iPhone store is perfect. Price is another, if as it seems it comes in around the £400 mark, that’s a lot cheaper than I’d have guessed.

So why not buy one? Well, for me, the iPad is going to be a device I’d use sat in front of the TV. I’ve got an iMac for doing my own work, and for serious surfing. I’ve got a proper laptop for work. For the sofa surfing, I’ve got my trusty Acer Aspire One netbook. Now, the netbook isn’t the iPad, isn’t as lovely. But it does fulfill the same task very adequately, and I just don’t think I can justify it to myself on the basis of loveliness. If it breaks, and can’t be fixed, then I’ll happily buy it as a replacement, but there isn’t any other reason to get it yet. It doesn’t doing anything else over and above a netbook to me, so I’ll happily wait. By the time I need an iPad, it may be in a second generation. It may be cheaper. Most importantly of all, I’ll have the need for it.

Home Fabbers a step closer

A recent tweet from Bruce Stirling pointed me in the direction of the kit for a new home fabber unit, the Cupcake CNC machine.

Makerbot Industries – Cupcake CNC from MakerBot Industries on Vimeo.

Fabbers (Fabrication Units) are essentially 3D printers, which can cut or form an object out of materials, normally plastic. In the case of the Cupcake CNC, it extrudes thin molten plastic precisely to form the object. There have been industrial versions for many years, but the idea of the home fabber is something I think I first heard mentioned about nine or ten years ago, quite possibly by Bruce Stirling.

This idea has interested me for some time. It’s the prospect of manufacturing in your own home, being able to download new designs for objects, make new ones yourself. Possibly being able to recycle plastics into new objects, making cups or plates when you need them, rather than having to buy them. It really is a device I can foresee being in most homes eventually. And devices like these are the transitional ones, just like the computer kits that Bill Gates and Clive Sinclair amongst many others sold in the 70s that quickly became the first commercial home computers, these are the first steps towards that idea becoming reality. I can’t wait!


It’s a little odd and great all at the same time that I can refer back to myself eight years in the past.

9 changes I wish to see promised by the next government of the UK

1) BBC4 to become BBC1. It should be on 24 hours a day, and just be more of the same. All the daytime stuff and indeed the night-time stuff is pointless, it just drags us down. I blame The One Show for the current economic climate, banking and big business was doing fine before it, then all of a sudden when the leaders of our economy came home and settled in for a nice quiet evening in front of the telly, they were being bombarded with a death ray of the banal, that shook their very faith and confidence in life. It isn’t a co-incidence that the last real recession followed the rise and fall of Nationwide.

So it should go, replaced with fine documentaries on motorways and synth-pop. The Thick of It can go back on there where it belongs. Any shortfalls can be filled up with James Burke documentaries and random episodes of Now Get Out of That.

2) Three brand-new sports to be invented in time for the London Olympics. We should do alright in terms of medals this time round. Is alright good enough though? I want to see an absolutely cracking medal haul, and I feel the way forwards on this is new sports. We’ve got a wonderful track record in creating sports, but we then let other countries have a go, and we really suffer as a result. So I propose we create these new sports, then keep it really quiet until the day before.

3) The blind fury of Daily Mail readers to be harnessed as a sustainable energy source.

4) A new cheese named after an imaginary county. Close friends will know of my passion for Lymeswold, a long-lost unsuccessful rival to the classic French soft cheeses that died on its arse in part due to its slightly burnt taste. I’ll give a lot more leeway than most people to a blue cheese, even one with a few design flaws. So I suggest we try again, same sort of cheese, less burning, and call it Northambria.

5) Repurposing of the Royal Mail. Sadly I can see few ways forwards for the Royal Mail in its present state. We’re simply going to stop sending cards and letters altogether over the next decade or so. However I love stamps, and the idea of this causes me a little sadness. I can remember the excitement when they showed a new commemorative stamp issue on Blue Peter (it was the 80s, I lived in Darlington, you took excitement where you could get it). So instead we need a Royal E Mail, lovely little banners designed by the artists of Britain, that can be pasted into the header of your emails for a month or so.

6) A commitment to improving computing and monetary literacy. My notes got a bit damaged in the rain the other day, so all I can make out of this concept, having previously considered it carefully in some depth, is the sentence “therefore unemployment benefit could be topped up with Zynga dollars for use in Mafia Wars on Facebook”

7) Becoming far closer to Europe. We’ve simply got better as a nation the more we have embraced our European friends, traveled there more frequently, learned about proper cooking from them, nicked their nice drinks. If we hadn’t joined the EEC, Masterchef would consist of people heating up Lean Cuisine microwave meals and drinking Blue Nun. So let’s move to the same timezone, replace all our pubs with bars and cafes, get even better at cycling, and follow all their practices with meats. I’m prepared to be flexible on this one, I will accept a few more local branches of Aldi and Lidl instead.

8 ) True proportional representation. Everyone gets a percentage of a single vote based on their mass.

9) The end of the 6 episodes per series sitcom model. This is just an outdated practice, and has held us back as a country of comedy. Everything should be at least 13 episodes long. Except My Family.

Regal to reopen?

A quick follow-up to my previous post What’s going on at the Regal?. The Oxford Times is reporting that it is due to reopen this week, as it has heard from a couple of sources that events have been confirmed as going ahead now.

I’m going to check for myself later in the week to see if this the case, and report back. I hope so, it really would be a shame to lose such a fine venue in Oxford so soon after its launch. These do look like positive signs, although an official comment from the owners on their site or to the Oxford Times would probably be a good idea.

Regal to reopen next week (From The Oxford Times)

CCTV on the Cowley Road

And so we are now “protected” on the Cowley Road. I’m not keen personally. I don’t think they protect us that much. However if we’re going to have them, the feed for the cameras should be online for all to see. We should know what can be seen, and we should be able to benefit from them. We could see how busy the road is, see if there is a queue for the O2 Academy, see if our favourite randomly open pub is actually open. I think it’s a matter of open-sourcing our lives, if others get to see them, we should get to share that too.

Cowley Road CCTV to go live today (From The Oxford Times)

Whatever "it" is, whatever "it" isn't will hurt Evan Bourne

I happen to believe that Evan Bourne is one of the top new prospects on WWE Raw at the moment. I love a good high-flyer, and he is about as spectacular as you are going to get in the WWE at the moment. He’s had a good mini-feud with Kane to get him known to the fans, and once he is over his injury, what he needs is a nice set of matches with a mid-card wrestler with some similar skills to build on that. What he didn’t need was the attack on him this week by Mike Knox.

Knox is one of those classic Vince signings, a huge man that has the right look, but without anything else to make him appeal to fans in any way. He’ll get a push for a while, not attract much interest, then fade away for a year or so until Vince remembers that he is paying him, and will be released to little protest. He simply does not have “it”.

So Bourne finds himself moving from a feud with a big man where he is the clear underdog, to a feud with a big man where he is the clear underdog. Except this time it is with someone really lacking the appeal of Kane. This will only serve to damage his development in the long run.

How do we stop the Starbucksification of the Cowley Road?

The Cowley Road in Oxford is starting to change shape at the moment. Not in terms of it being dug up and rerouted, as seems to happen every few months, but instead the start of its Starbucksification. There is always a churn of shops on such roads, but it does seem to be the start of something more significant. Several shops have closed recently, some of them citing excessive rent rises. Three of the longer term shops that have gone are Coopers newsagent, The Bead Shop, and Panda Records.

We’ve seen the arrival of a large Subway (with another only a few minutes away in St.Clements), and Costa Coffee is due to open an outlet soon as well.It’s starting to look like more of the larger chains are on their way too. I can’t see it being more than a year before we get our first Starbucks, and then the virus of the chain will really kick in. Not to mention the replacement of The Venue/Zodiac with the Carling Oxford Academy.

By co-incidence, I was listening to an interview with William Gibson today, on the podcast. He was asked which he thought was the most futuristic  city in the world, and he felt it was Berlin. One of his reason for this was that the retail space was a lot cheaper than in other cities, and it meant that smaller, innovative and interesting shops were able to set up there and trade successfully. He wondered aloud how this could be achieved in older cities such as New York or London, and one of his suggestions was that on new developments, there should be sets of retail spaces with very small floorspaces. The idea behind this being that chains wouldn’t be attracted to the smaller shops, and they would thus appeal to the smaller retailer.

Interestingly, this is the same solution presently employed to preserve the nature of the Laines in Brighton. Apparently they have a conservation order on the area, which prevents new retail spaces over a certain size, or knocking through into another shop. From my own experience, you do get an interesting mix of shops there.

So perhaps this is what is needed to help Oxford’s Cowley Road maintain some of its sense of character. It would be a shame for it to turn from what it is into yet another high street.

Magdalen Bridge Roadwork Blues

Magdalen Bridge, at the base of the High Street in Oxford, is one of the main routes into the centre of the city. Cut that off, and you create massive problems for public transport. So why is it being dug up for the second time in a year? Fun? Insanity? Sadistic pleasure?

Also, why are cars being allowed to drive towards it, when it is so congested? Ban them whilst the works are going on, let them go via other routes instead. We should have a proper congestion charge in Oxford anyway, but this would help ease the situation.

I think I’m going to research some more, and see if I can find out just what is going on.