This is something I really must keep an eye out for!
I’ve had something in my Amazon wishlist for a while now. When I originally added it, it’s cost was about £90. In the 2-3 months since, it’s price has consistently dropped as we approach the middle of the month, to a low of less than £50, and approaching the end of the month it’s increased again, (currently to a price of ~ £80). None of this appears to be driven by stock quantities, it appears to be consistently “in stock”, and I’ve not seen it running low with “only X remaining” as yet.
I rather suspect that this is Amazon being a bit crafty, and reducing prices during the middle of the month, between paydays perhaps! but putting them up again towards the end of the month to coincide with people’s spending habits. If it’s not deliberate, then it’s an almighty coincidence!
I guess if it’s still cheaper than originally listed, there IS a saving to be made, but it’s not as good as the saving at the mid point of the month. I’m definitely going to keep watching and check it out again, just to confirm my theory.
I really REALLY need to get better at regularly adding some content to this site! Not that it really matters, as there aren’t very many regular visitors anyway, but it’s a habit I need to get in to.
It’s been a while since my last rant, and today I have a rant of a slightly different kind to air.
I am getting heartily sick of the Media’s persistent and pervasive sensationalism of just about any news story. It doesn’t seem to matter what it is, they seem to latch on to a story, screen an endless succession of talking heads each with their own thoughts and opinions on the news item, they come up with some over-hyped nickname for the event, and promptly seem to forget that there is ANYTHING else going on elsewhere in the world for several days as they tell us the same thing over and over, seeking out any new trifles of information and communicating this to us as the latest scandalous episode in the epic saga.
Think of “The Credit Crunch”, the “Triple Dip Recession”, the Pretorius shooting, the list goes on!
When are they going to realise that all we need is the news? Sure, the fact that Blockbuster, Comet, Dreams, Jessops, 2e2, etc etc are the latest to go in to Administration is news, but all it needs is a 2-3 minute piece to camera perhaps with a short supporting video clip to tell us about it, we really don’t need the next 15-20 minutes of analysis, and “what does this mean”, particularly when it’s telling us what we already know!
I am firmly convinced that the Media is broadly at fault with prolonging the current economic climate. Since every day they tell us how bad things are, remind us of how we don’t have any money, and the economy is faltering, this reinforces any conservative behaviour we may have and we automatically cut back on our spending to economise, which in turn prolongs the downturn, and gives the media another days’ headlines telling us more of the same.
Printed media are as much at fault as TV and Radio news, although personally I am finding that Radio news is more useful and interesting these days, as about 5 minutes at the start of each hour is more than adequate to tell me what’s going on, and seems to be far more to the point and relevant, particularly to events that have happened since the last bulletin.
I suppose filling our TV screens with hour after hour of news saves the Media companies from having to plan and schedule more new and innovative programme content, (this is another of my frustrations, more on this another day!).
Being myself a product of the British Educational System, and having followed a fairly conventional path in to my current career, I have long felt a substantial frustration with the direction of our current higher educational system.
I am of course talking primarily about the prevalence of “Hairdressing”, “Media Studies”, “Photography”, and “Tying your Shoelaces” courses which seem to be so popular with the modern youth. Coupled with this has been a somewhat backwards attitude towards Computing and IT qualifications, or “ICT”. Thinking back to when I graduated some 15 plus years ago now, some of the available courses were somewhat out-of-touch with the marketplace, teaching obsolete programming languages (COBOL) and disciplines such as JSP which the real world had left behind. For the first two years after graduation, I sept unlearning, or more specifically relearning what I actually needed to have a real career in Computing and IT, but to be fair, despite teaching obsolete topics, the courses had equipped me with the basic approach and knowledge I needed to apply to any language or discipline that I required. Indeed it would be foolish to assume that I would be programming in COBOL or PASCAL for the remainder of my programming days, knowing how the market was going to evolve in unknown directions.
The Technology sector is the industry in which I work, so I have a huge vested interest in caring about the direction it takes. For me it is the future, it is replacing many of the White collar types of work our Parents could or would have done in their lifetimes, and it has the potential to become the new wealth creating sector of the economy, since it’s evident we just cannot compete in Manufacturing, and have exhausted most of our Raw Materials already. In my estimation this makes it so vitally important for our economy, even for those that have no interest in working within that sector.
For me then, the Educational System has let the Technology sector down badly for the last ten years or more. Many people don’t seem to have much of a clue about the difference between Computing and IT, or “Information Technology” to give it it’s full title. For me, IT is about using the modern tools available to do a job. It’s not specifically about that £500 PC or £1000 laptop sitting in front of you, but it’s you being able to use that piece of equipment to help you complete a task of some sort; in the same way Screwdrivers, Paintbrushes, Spanners, and Shorthand might have been to support other professions.
If we are honest, in recent years this has translated in to needing to be able to use a Mouse and Keyboard, to navigate Windows, MS Office, and yes, even to know how to use popular Office suites such as MS Office, or perhaps using a Tablet or Smartphone. It is absolutely vital that this particular facet remains current and aligned to market trends. The downside of this in the last 5 years or so has meant knowing the Microsoft Product suite, Excel, Powerpoint, Access, and Word specifically. Of course in order to do all of that, you don’t need to understand much about how a computer works, or why it does what it does; No knowledge is needed of Binary, of Electronics, although a high level knowledge of Computer components would probably be useful. All of these skills will be handy for just about any student of any discipline these days. In much the same way as English and Maths are part of a standard curriculum, so I believe Information Technology should also be included as standard, and probably in the first 2-3 years of Secondary Education (I believe they call it Years 7-9 these days!). I know “Graduates” of a Higher level Computer Programming course that think programming is using Visual Basic for Applications within Access or Excel, when in my estimation this is “just” a tool (and admittedly a fairly sophisticated skill to possess) to do a job which ought to be a product of the Information Techology arena.
Contrast this with a Computing course, or more correctly titled a course in Computer Architecture or Computer Programming, which clearly would require a much lower level of detail around how computers work, and why they do what they do; Perhaps a missing element in Networking could be folded in to the Architecture section? In any case, out of this fundamental knowledge of Computer Architecture grows a necessary understanding of Operating System concepts, which in turn grows in to API’s and programming languages that may or may not be platform specific.
I have recruited and interviewed staff several times during my career to date, and each time I’ve found it necessary to explore just what content the Computing courses a candidate has on his CV actually contained, and from that establish whether the basic level of required knowledge is there. In the Networks space, it’s quite astounding to see how few people in IT actually have a grasp of how the Internet works, and how applications could be exploited over the Network if not written properly.
So, enough moaning, Why are we on the brink of something wonderful?
Two reasons…. Firstly a Slice of Pi.
The Raspberry Piis a fantastic concept which has been long missing in the marketplace. It is a simple, and cheap (not just cost effective) solution for providing Computing Power and technology. It literally costs about $30 to produce, and the Raspberry Pi Foundation does not aim to turn a profit, so this is loosely the price to you as an end user. In exchange you don’t get a finished product nicely cased with lots of glossy instruction manuals; Instead you get a completed PCB slightly larger than a credit card, but probably smaller than the smartphone in your pocket, with a Media Card Reader slot, a couple of USB ports and a Network interface, and an HDMI Out so you can plug it in to a modern TV to use, and not much else! No PSU, no Keyboard/Mouse, and no Operating System is provided; instead you have to use another PC to write the Open Source OS on to a Media Card, and then plugging a USB keyboard & mouse in and away you go!
Currently most of the available OS’es are Linux based, but I expect this will change over time. The Pi uses an ARM processor based on a Broadcom System-on-a-Chip, and has a limiting 256Mb of RAM, but again this costs $30 (or ~ £30 for us Brits).
What an amazing Catalyst for learning the Pi could be! Providing cheap, accessible, programmable computers everywhere! It’s aimed at the Educational sector, and it fits in so well with my vision of a Computing course it’s astounding. It could be used to learn Web programming! Several of the currently available OS distros can support a LAMP (Linux, Apache, Mysql, & PHP) stack, and of course it facilitates a clear understanding of the system architecture and indeed it’s limitations play to this as well, having to write code that performs well and within the capabilities of the Smart Card based Storage and 256Mb of RAM.
Other options are of course there too, with C and Pascal compilers, Basic compilers/interpreters, and so many possibilities it’s incredible. The Pi doesn’t lack for processing power either, it’s capable of outputting an HD picture to a TV and decoding video at 720P resolution on your HDTV, or even playing Quake.
So, if you are a parent with a curious youngster, I strongly suggest you think about investing in one! It’s not going to replace your family PC, at least not yet, but what better way for both you and your children to learn together about Computers? And it doesn’t stop there either; Schools adopting the Pi in to the curriculum could develop Craft Design Technology (or whatever they call it these days!) sessions around making cases for the Pi, and so much more!
The second reason dovetails neatly in to the Slice of Pi. If Pi helps shape the Computing aspect of Technology Educational needs, then the Governments’ brave decision to effectively scrap the current ICT curriculum in January this year, and to invite dialogue with the Technology Industry on developing a replacement has kindly facilitated the other missing part of my vision.
The so called “Microsoft GCSE” has the potential to deliver Students with real skills in modern technology solutions out to the workforce in a few years time. If at 16 or 18 a student had the ability to write applications for a modern Windows PC using Visual Studio, or to interface with and control a SmartPhone, or even produce Apps for that SmartPhone, then the system has done it’s job, and will be producing worthy candidates once more.
I know that other vendor entities including Cisco have been engaged in discussion over the future curriculum too, (see here), perversely the Government has even been criticised for perhaps listening too closely to the vendors, but at the end of the day it’s Vendors like Cisco, Microsoft, and the Raspberry Pi Foundation that are going to be leading the market in all sorts of directions over the next 5-10 years, so why should we not pay close heed to their needs?
If all of this happens as I sincerely hope it will, UK.plc has the potential in years to come to retake the worldwide lead in the Technology market, and to turn out some of the most supremely and more importantly usefully qualified students which will go on to lead our economy who knows where! This is something which we’ve been fighting to do for years now in the face of strong competition from Asia and the Pacific.
This is all my own opinion and perspective, and of course it’s possible I’ve got it all wrong, and my Vision is naught but ideas in my head. I sincerely hope not, but all the same it makes me feel like we’re on the brink of a whole new journey now, so let’s make the most of it together, and see where it takes us!
(I am currently in a waiting list to get my own Raspberry Pi).
Ok, so my old trusty Acer laptop finally gave up the ghost, with some very odd distortion on the screen meaning everything was either psychedelic green or pink! It’d done me a good turn, and it surprised me when I sat to think about how long I’d had it, and the “designed for Windows XP” sticker proudly on the front really should have given me a slap in the face. Still, having survived at least one HDD and RAM upgrade, and two OS upgrades, to Vista and then to Win7, it really didn’t owe me anything.
I thought long and hard about what to go for; Did I want a really powerful desktop replacement style laptop, with a Core i7 and all the whistles and bells, or a fast & light Ultrabook?
In the end I opted for the Asus N55S, which is a really beautiful piece of kit. I can’t seem to find one that matches my spec exactly on line.
Specs are: Intel Core i5 2430M v2.4Ghz CPU, 6Gb RAM, 6x Blu-ray Reader/Writer, 500Gb HDD, Nvidia Geforce 635M GT Graphics with 2Gb dedicated VRAM, USB 3.0 Ports, & Built in Bang & Olufsen ICEPower Sound System (with separate Subwoofer).
Overall this is one very sweet laptop. It’s powerful enough to act as a desktop replacement for when I’m out and about. It’s not an ultrabook by any means, being fairly large and weighty, but that doesn’t bother me too much.
Here’s the intro Video so you can see for yourself!
It’s very nearly Movember, the month formerly known as November, now dedicated to growing moustaches and raising awareness and funds for men’s health; specifically prostate and testicular cancer.
This year I’ll be donating my top lip to the cause for 30 days in an effort to help change the face of men’s health. My Mo will spark conversations, and no doubt generate some laughs; all in the name of raising vital awareness and funds for cancer’s affecting men.
Why am I so passionate about men’s health?
1 in 9 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime
This year 37,000 new cases of the disease will be diagnosed
1 in 2 men will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime
26% of men are less likely to go the doctor compared to women
I’m asking you to support my Movember campaign by making a donation by either:
If you want to go old school you can write a cheque payable to “Movember”, reference my name and Registration Number 1620310 and send it to: Movember Europe, PO Box 68600, London, EC1P 1EF
If you’d like to find out more about the type of work you’d be helping to fund by supporting Movember, take a look at the Programmes We Fund section on the Movember website: http://uk.movember.com/about
Thank you in advance for supporting my efforts to change the face of men’s health.
As you’ll know Cancer has hit my family very hard over the years, with both of my dearly departed Grandfathers having battled with Prostate Cancer. My Gran has fought Bowel Cancer, my Mum has recently had Breast Cancer, My Uncle is currently being treated for Prostate Cancer and Dad has an ongoing fight with Skin Cancer, so this is a cause very close to my heart.
Any donation you feel able to make would be very much appreciated!
This time next week I expect to be milling around in Gatwick Airport, eagerly awaiting a flight to Luxor in Egypt for the start of what promises to be a fantastic Holiday!
As you can imagine, I can’t wait! I’ve booked three weeks of Leave for this, meaning very little holiday during the year to date, so it’s been a long time coming!
The Itinerary is as follows:
Day 1 Wednesday.
Flights in to Luxor airport and transfer to cruise boat. Dinner is served onboard. An Overnight stay on the boat in Luxor.
Day 2 Thursday
Breakfast on the boat. Visit the to Karnak and Luxor Temples. Lunch and Dinner are served onboard. Overnight on the boat in Luxor.
Day 3 Friday
Breakfast on the boat. Visit to the West Bank of the Nile, including Valley of theKings, Hatshepsut’s Temple in the Valley of the Queens and Memnon of Colossi.
Lunch and Dinner will be served onboard. Sail to Edfu. Overnight in Edfu.
Day 4 Saturday
Breakfast onboard. Visit to the site of the Edfu Temple. Afternoon sail to Kom Ombo and visit the Temple of Sobek and Haroeris. Sail to Aswan. Lunch and then dinner
will be served onboard. Overnight onboard in Aswan.
Day 5 Sunday
Breakfast onboard. Morning visit to the Aswan High Dam, Philae Temple and the Unfinished Obelisk. A Panoramic sailing on a felucca seeing the magnificent Aga Khan’s Mausoleum. Transfer to Aswan Airport for flight to Cairo.
Transfer from Cairo Airport to hotel. Dinner in your hotel.
Day 6 Monday
Breakfast at the hotel. Visit the Pyramid’s, the Sphinx and the Desert Necropolis of Saqqara. Return to your hotel for dinner.
Day 7 Tuesday
Breakfast at the hotel. Morning visit to the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities with highlights such as Tutankhamun’s burial treasures. Visit to the Citadel, Mohammed Ali Alabaser Mosque and the Bazaar. Dinner will be served at your hotel. Overnight in your hotel.
Day 8 Wednesday
Breakfast at your hotel. Transfer to Cairo Airport. Flight to Hurghada. Transfer to Spa Resort on Red Sea Coast in Hurghada.
Day 9 – 14
Relax and enjoy!
So as you can see it’s a fairly full on first week visiting lots of Tourist sites, hopefully lots of Photo opportunities! Followed by a second week of just relaxing and chilling out in a Spa resort before heading home!
As I write this, I have only four days left at work before my Leave starts, and it seems people are starting to wake up to the fact that I’m not going to be around for the next three weeks. Seems like getting through this week is going to be hard work! But it’ll be worth it! As long as Thomas Cook don’t mess us about any more!!