Category Archives: General

Charity collections at supermarket checkouts…is my idea really so hard to understand?

Here in the UK, charity collections at supermarket checkouts have become popular.

The idea is simple: one or two volunteers, usually youngsters, stand at the checkout where the bag dispenser is located. Of course, all this does is ensure that the said supermarket’s attempts to reduce our reliance on plastic bags is wasted effort, but that’s another debate to be had elsewhere.

The volunteers ask if you would like a hand packing your shopping into either store-provided bags or your own bags if you remember to take them into the store with you. You then stand around looking like a lemon whilst children pack your bag on your behalf. The theory, and you are under no obligation I guess, is that you will then throw some cash into their collection bucket which is conveniently located at the till.

For those customer who pay by cash, this is probably an easy thing as they’re likely to have been given some change once the shopping has been paid for.

However, for those of us in the cashless society, I rarely have any change on my person. Indeed, I may well be a Scotsman, however that doesn’t make me mean and tight-fisted as my Countryman’s stereotype portrays. No sir, I like to chip in to the odd charity donation…

So my solution to this problem is simple. Most stores have a crib card for items that do not scan very well. This crib card contains bar codes for the problem products. I have suggested on more than one occasion, to both the stores and the leaders of the charity volunteers that there is a mechanism put in place for “scanning an extra £1” via a bar code. The extra £1 is added to the shopping bill. At the end of the day/week/whatever, the store issues the charity with the funds collected using the said bar code.

It’s win-win, the charity capture the cashless society, the supermarket are seen to be helping the charity.

Surely it’s simple? Why then, do I get a glazed look when I explain it to people?

Technorati Tags: , ,

Peugeot 307 indicator bulb holder replacement

Changing a headlight cluster bulb in moderns cars should be an easy process. However for some cars, it’s a long and drawn out process, sometimes involving the removal of bumper/body trim in order to gain access…as my brother-in-law with the UK’s most popular car, the Ford Focus reliably informs me.

When my wife told me her 51-Plate Peugeot 307’s left-hand indicator was flashing faster than normal, I though to myself “new bulb required”. I had a spare, so I set about extracting the old bulb in order to replace it. Accessing the passenger-side front light cluster is easy: all of the bulbs are in easy to remove holders that have two contact points “making” the connection for the bulb’s power. Annoyingly, it was one of these contact points that had mysteriously (read: poor design, noted by Peugeot, but not a free-of-charge fix) worn out. If my memory serves me, this is the second time this part has been replaced in the 3 years we’ve owned the car.

Here’s the offending part:

I decided to purchase a replacement bulb holder. We had a poor customer service experience with Evans Halshaw: they insisted that the part they sold me was the correct part, it clearly wasn’t. I paid cash for the part, when I asked for a refund I was offered a cheque (the excuse being, no cash was held on site…well, duh, how do you give customers change then?) Since I’ve started ranting, Evans Halshaw could make their Parts department a little bit more approachable: a door bell in the sales area isn’t too obvious…nor was the 15 minute wait for service all that appealing. Luckily I had another larger cheque to pay in to the bank, otherwise it would hardly have been worth paying a cheque for £3.84 in…coupled with two trips to the dealer and the waiting time.

After a little bit of DIY with some solder, the existing part refused to work. So today, I popped into our local Peugeot dealer, Hardie of Dunfermline, who had replaced the part previously. Top marks to the chap (Charlie) in the Parts department, he knew exactly what the part was and how to replace it. For the sum of £3.84 he sold me what Peugeot claim is the replacement part (it doesn’t fit “out of the bag”) and told me which bits of the new bulb holder that I had to remove in order to fit it. The replacement part is numbered 6215.46.

Comparing the two parts below, we can see that the new part has a protruding edge going clockwise from the left-hand contact point (marked with an arrow). The old part doesn’t have this protruding edge.

You may enjoy some mileage with a Stanley knife, however I didn’t. I used an old soldering iron to remove the protruding edge as can be seen below. There is a an edge between the contact points marked 1 below and a similar edge marked 2. There’s also an aligning edge marked 3: you may think that this matches the aligning edge on your old part, however it doesn’t, remove it too.

Anyway, I’ve blogged this fix because I heard both dealers come out with the phrase “oh yes, common fault…” Hopefully it has helped you with your poorly designed French car indicator problems. Given the number of hits my Audi A4 – Replacing the hazard / indicator relay blog entry gets, I should be selling indicator parts!

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

Adaptive Project Management using Scrum: my article appears in a book

I’m pleased to report that my Methods & Tools article Adaptive Project Management using Scrum has found its way into a book.

I received my complimentary copy today:

I’m not sure if the book will make the popular sites like Amazon, although it does have an ISBN of 978-81-314-1649-5 (9 788131 416495) so I guess there’s a chance you might find it somewhere. More details about the book can be found here.

As far as I understand, it’s a book by the Icfai University Press, more information can be found here.

It’s pleasing to see how an article intended for reading via a browser fits into “book sized” pages, it gives me an idea of how much I need to write in order to complete a book. So when Dell or Samsung ship me a netbook to review, you know I’ll be writing a book 🙂

Technorati Tags: , , ,

051 – Viral Tarpara on Collaboration, SharePoint, Open Source (Port 25) and Community

Ninth the in the Twelve Podcasts of Christmas 2008!

Heroes Happen Here

In March 2008, Microsoft’s “2008” wave of product launches took place in Birmingham. It was a great opportunity to grab some podcasts with Microsoft Executives and many of their DPEs. In this podcast, co-hosted by Andy Westgarth, we’re chatting to Microsoft Collaboration Evangelist Viral Tarpara. Viral is open and honest, giving us an insight into what he does for Microsoft and the importance of Community within a large corporation. Watch out for Viral’s “good save” when making reference to major search engines near the end of this recording!

Photos of the event can be found here.

Podcast feed – subscribe here!

This podcast:

Viral Tarpara’s blog (also via blogs.technet)
Port 25

The Twelve Podcasts of Christmas 2008
01 – Kyle Baley on ALT.NET and Brownfield Development in .NET
02 – Aaron Parker on Microsoft Application Virtualisation
03 – Caroline Bucklow from IT4Communities: charitable software development
04 – Eileen Brown on IT Professionals, TechNet, Women In Technology & Girl Geek Dinners
05 – Stephen Lamb on security, community, Linux and Twitter
06 – Cristiano Betta on Geek Dinners
07 – David Yack and Jonathan Carter on ALT.NET, MVC and Community
08 – Andrew Fryer on SQL Server 2008 and “upgrade”
09 – Viral Tarpara on Collaboration, SharePoint, Open Source (Port 25) and Community
10 – Guy Smith Ferrier on Internationali[s|z]ation, VS2008, .net 3.5, C# language features
11 – Matt Dunstan on event management, “engagement” and life as an Application Platform Manager
12 – Stephen Lamb on his new role in marketing / PR

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Weirdest piece of comment spam I’ve seen in a while…

Last month this blog entry was quoted in the Guardian. This month, my Sky+ rant was quoted too. Obviously I’m grateful for these quotes and I’m pleased to be capturing the attention of the good folks at the Guardian.

Earlier today, I noticed an odd comment pass though my spam filter. It felt wrong. What it seemed to do was pick up the Guardian quote then pass the text through a language processor to arrive at the same text but with a few grammar and syntax changes.

I would normally delete the spam immediately, however I spotted some humour that I had to share. It’s worth skimming both versions and noting the differences yourself, however pay particular attention to what the word “dump” has been replaced with… This is a rare occurrence, I wouldn’t normally leave such a word in place for public consumption!

…we’re left with the questions “why?” and “what purpose does this serve?”

Guardian version:

>> Whatever you may be thinking, I believe that I am entitled to record these episodes for a number of reasons.

Firstly, I don’t have time to watch them live – I have a day job, a wife and a kid, time is in short supply.

Secondly, the Sky+ hard drive is woefully small at 160GB, of which we get 80GB of personal space, whoopee (yes, I will be doing something about that later).

Thirdly, I am simply recording what I would have watched anyway, I’m not recording it to keep per se.

I’m happy to buy the DVD boxed set for that. And to be honest, Star Trek is *all* that I watch via Sky; all other programmes I could get via Freeview (if we had a decent signal where I live, moot point)…

I will of course be testing the COPY feature again this month.

However in the meantime, I have some 20+ episodes of Deep Space Nine to catch up on…and I can’t dump them to DVD as I have been doing most nights for the last 8-9 months.

Yes, I do have 100+ DVDs chock full of Star Trek to catch up on! Technology this-weeks-letters-and-blog-pingbacks-in-full-2 version

>> Whatever you haw be thinking, I conceptualise that I am entitled to achievement these episodes for a difference of reasons.

Firstly, I don’t effect instance to check them springy – I effect a mark job, a spouse and a kid, instance is in brief supply.

Secondly, the Sky+ hard impart is woefully diminutive at 160GB, of which we impart 80GB of individualized space, whoopee (yes, I module be doing something most that later).

Thirdly, I am only transcription what I would effect watched anyway, I’m not transcription it to primed per se.

I’m bright to acquire the DVD capsulate ordered for that. And to be honest, Star Trek is *all* that I check via Sky; every another programmes I could impart via Freeview (if we had a comely communication where I live, moot point)

I module of code be investigating the COPY feature again this month.

However in the meantime, I effect some 20+ episodes of Deep Space Nine to someone up onand I can’t shitting them to DVD as I effect been doing most nights for the tangency 8-9 months.

Yes, I do effect 100+ DVDs block flooded of Star Trek to someone up on!

What podcasting kit do I use?

A lot of folks have asked me what “kit” I use to record my podcasts…

The NxtGenUG chaps, Dave’n’Rich, John’n’Chris, etc., are avid supporters of the Edirol products, such as R-09 and R-09HR units. The Edirol kit certainly very good, and would seem to fall into the ‘you get what you pay for’ sector.

So here is what I use: an iRiver H320 device with a 20GB hard drive. I was given this particular unit back in 2005, it has served me well both as a podcast recording device, MP3 player and FM radio. Earlier this year the battery started to fail to hold its charge, I replaced the battery at a cost of £12.

Here’s a photograph of the device:

1 – I use a Sony ECM-DS70P Microphone. This a good microphone that is capable of picking up conversation without the need for it to be directed specifically at the person who is speaking.

2 – The iRiver device itself. I use the ROCKbox firmware, it supports a variety of codecs and file formats including MP3 and FLAC. The iRiver supports dual-boot, so I can switch between ROCKbox and the default firmware. ROCKbox has the advantage of a feel-good factor whilst recording as it offers record level bars.

3 – The iRiver lapel mic, as supplied with the device. This worked well for my first 40 or podcasts, however it doesn’t have the professional look of the Sony microphone.

4 – Headphone socket, line in, line out and a connector for the optional but not supplied remote control. To the right of the “4” stamp, there is an internal microphone. I’ve used this once, by accident, I thought I was recording via the external mic, but no…one lost podcast. I had, however, remembered to press the record button!

5 – Power socket, USB 1.1 host and USB 2.0 device connections. The iRiver can connect to your digital camera and suck the photographs from the camera to the iRiver HDD.

I personally think the kit is rather good. The problem I have relates to the location at which the podcast is recorded! More often than not, it’s in a pub or another equally noisy environment. The podcasts that I have recorded in a quiet environment demonstrate this point. I’m thinking specifically about podcast number 45 with Caroline and number 12 with Jerome. Both of these were essentially recorded in a closed environment where noise was at a minimum.

Getting hold of an iRiver H320 or H340 series device is probably a matter of going to eBay. From recent excursions to the MP3 player market, I’ve noticed that the number of devices with an external microphone socket are few and far between. An external mic socket is, in my opinion, a key requirement.

I’ll certainly be looking for a like-for-like replacement when the time comes to choose something else.

Technorati Tags: , , ,