The Blog


11 Mar 2009

Oh noes! I've been named in an email from Westminster Council's legal department to the No To Bike Parking Fees campaign. Here's a snippet.

Secondly you have published on the website a post (from "jbond") concerning defaced signage, and
the fact that a number of parking bays have had signs defaced with a black spray can. The posting
comments that your campaign cannot condone destruction or damage to Westminster council
property and deplores this potentially criminal behaviour. However it also suggests that the individual
responsible ought to consider ways of obliterating the sign more effectively.
Deliberately damaging
property is indeed criminal behaviour and the person responsible risks serious consequences.


My highlight. So apparently talking about the widespread damage to the signs detailing how to pay the tax and asking how this affects you if you happen to park in a bay with defaced signs is now enough to get you mentioned in dispatches. Although jokingly talking about how to obliterate the signs more effectively (with smiley) probably didn't help.

This then got turned into "Calling for the vandalising and removal of motorcycle parking signs that provide vital information for 
motorcyclists wishing to park in Westminster." in the press release.

The side effect of this and other issues is a fairly bizarre press release from Westminster followed by a detailed rebuttal from the campaign.

As somebody pointed out. "First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win." -- Mahatma Gandhi

More disturbing is that the campaign felt that the escalation of this legal back and forth left them with no option than to close down the forum.

So make sure you make it to the demo on Mar 31st.

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22 Feb 2009

DEMO: Saturday, 28th February 2009, 10am Meet Golden Square.

The next demonstration ride will start from Golden Square (off Regent Street), meet 10am leave 10:30am for ride to Ace Cafe for 11:30am stop for lunch leave Ace at 12:30pm then on to Alexandra Palace for Motorcycle Show arrive 1:15pm, to garner yet more support for our upcoming MEGA demo (31st March 2009, 5pm Trafalgar Square, details to be published soon), the idea here is to cause major disruption to Central London, Oxford St, Regent St etc…

http://www.notobikeparkingfees.com/events/

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13 Jan 2009

We had an outage for about an hour this afternoon. This was caused by a small software problem on a critical server.

Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience caused. [from: JB Ecademy]

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22 Dec 2008


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01 Dec 2008

Here's a shell of a PHP program for accessing the Skype API.

http://voidstar.com/skypephp/


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30 Nov 2008


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11 Nov 2008

Inspired by http://pleasefixtheiphone.com

I'm mad as hell and and I want this fixed now.

- We only need 3 USB plugs/sockets. Large, Small and Tiny. Medium is redundant. And we don't really need Tiny

- Every battery powered device should have an onboard charger so it can be charged from USB via one of the standard USB plugs/sockets. There should not be any need for a separate camera battery charger any more. Just as there is no need for a separate iPod charger unless you need a combined travel plug, USB supply in which case you can buy a generic one. And there should not be any need for yet another 5V charger with yet another socket/plug size/shape for my next phone.

- We do not need any more Headphone/Mic socket designs. 3.5mm and 2.5mm are enough. Actually 3.5mm is enough. And the same socket should be able to cope with plain stereo headphones or stereo headphones with mic, or just mic, or just lineout.

- We do not need any more memory card sizes. SD, XD and XD-mini are enough

- We do not need any more phone/music player/camera battery shapes and sizes. And Apple, please use a standard replaceable battery rather than a soldered in custom battery. I'll accept the 1mm extra thickness.

- We do not need any more inkjet cartridge designs just because the manufacturer wants to differentiate their product.

- We do not need another video out socket design

- We do not need any more docking socket designs on music players and phones. Isn't a single USB actually enough? What does your device need to do that can't be done over USB?

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Oh joy. Somebody's done a big spam run using one of my email addresses as the from address. 600 "Undelivered Mail Returned to Sender" and counting.

Do we actually need "Undelivered Mail Returned to Sender" any more than "your email appeared to contain a virus"


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10 Nov 2008

I don't like iTunes 4 Windows. OK?! Not only is it a bloated heap of crap. Not only does it keep demanding to be upgraded. Not only does it want to upgrade/install Safari and Quicktime. Not only does the upgrade invariably require a restart. But it's got a new behaviour.

Go to a web page by accident about an iPhone application and you can find iTunes being kicked in to life without you doing anything. Go to close it down and it gives you warnings about how its syncing your iPod. But I specifically told it NOT to sync my ipod, what's happening? Will I lose all my music? WiIl it crash Winamp which is also running and also has control of the iPod? Luckily none of these things but it's still unnecessarily scary.

So what's going on here? Web pages that auto-launch desktop applications should be treated as potential trojan/virus pages and avoided like the plague, shouldn't they? Doesn't it strike anyone as strange that whole sections of the Apple world can't be accessed by a simple web browser? Why can't I browse the iPhone App store from the web?

BTW. See Sharepod. If you have an iPod/iPhone, and you don't live in an exclusively Apple world, you absolutely need this Application. It's a Windows iPod sync/copy utility that is zero install and can run from the iPod's disk area. It lets you copy tracks to and from the ipod to any PC without having to register iTunes. There is an open source equivalent called Floola that will do the same thing with Windows, Mac and Linux but for the moment Sharepod works a bit better.

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20 Oct 2008

You'll need a passport to buy a mobile phone in the UK - Boing Boing. Original article in The Times

Somebody really hasn't thought this through. Will Bruce Schneier please step up and put them right.

There are 40m phones unregistered PAYG phones out there already in the UK. I look forward to all the Telcos disabling these until the owner registers. I also look forward to Tescos requiring photo ID when purchasing a new one or buying minutes at the checkout counter. And to the Telcos building the systems to capture, store and pass to the gummint, the registration. At the end of all that there will be 5M unaccounted for and another 5m where the owner faked the details and/or passed their SIM to someone else and/or their phone and SIM were stolen by some pikey scum in Camden Market.

So we have 30m law abiding citizens who are not a problem anyway and 10m false positives. Oh, yes. That will really help the War on T'rah!

I try and picture a time somewhere in the future where privacy is seen as a basic human right and the racheted-up command and control, surveillance machine has been dismantled. But short of a complete breakdown in Western society I can't see it. I also can't picture any civil political process whereby the population can force it to be dismantled. Which leaves you with some choices. Just go along with it. Play the invisible ninja game and actively subvert it. Just quietly screw it up whenever you get the chance. Wear a hoody 24/7.

It used to be that whatever happened in California was 5 years ahead of what happened on the East Coast and the UK. I guess I should be proud that the UK is leading the way and what happens here will happen in California in 5 years.

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15 Oct 2008

A series of arguments against the Westminster Parking charges for motorcycles

1) The existing payment scheme is discriminatory against some Motorcycle users who don't have a credit card or easy access to a phone, cellphone or internet.

There are people who choose not to own a mobile phone and/or don't have a credit or debit card. Equally, there are people who object to giving address and credit card information to the council, particularly given the recent track record for losing personal information. So how do they pay? In addition it may be unlawful for them to require methods of payment that may not be an option for everyone who wants to use their facility. It appears that prepaid scratch cards may be available. It may also be possible to pay at Westminster car parks. But the story from Westminster keeps changing. The consultation document states "As part of the tender specification, all tenderers have been asked to provide and are being evaluated against robust strategies on how to address the social exclusion issue. " but this has not been done.

2) Motorcycles produce less pollution and congestion than cars

The use of motorcycles is one of the only ways to reduce congestion and pollution in Central London and this is why it is highly supported by the Mayor and Government. The introduction of motorcycle parking charges discourages the use of bikes in Central London, which goes against the Mayor and Government policy to reduce congestion and pollution.

3) Lack of security devices when that's the main justification for the money raised by the scheme.

Westminster trialled security devices prior to the introduction of the scheme that were obviously never going to work unless every biker carried round several metres of chain. They've since given up on this and are trialling an alternative in a small number of bays in residential areas in Westbourne grove. However, Westminster cannot tell us where this new trial is happening and nobody has seen it. So if they're not spending the money on rolling out security, what's the justification for the payment scheme?

4) Payment with no guarantee of being able to find a space.

The scheme encourages you to pay in the morning before leaving for a daily pass. Or for a long term payment such as weekly, monthly or yearly. But there's no guarantee of being able to find a space. This must be a first in that they've created a product that you have pay for regardless of whether that product can be delivered. It's really more like an insurance scheme. Buying the product protects you from the danger of getting a fine, providing you park legally. In fact its even more like a Protection racket. Pay us or we'll ticket and ultimately remove your bike.

5) The scheme is a trial. However there is no information on the signs about how to comment.

The initial notices advising of the comming trial provided information on how to provide comments about the trial. When the full signs went up these were removed. So while the council says there will be a consultation period they have not advertised exactly how the general public can make their views known.

6) What are the actual running costs and what is profit spent on?

The meeting that approved the scheme ear-marked approx £985K for the scheme. Their website now says this. What is the cost breakdown for introducing the new bays? As of 18th August 2008, Westminster has spent £242,234. £16,352 has been spent on the Traffic Management Orders, £6,714 in the car parks and £219,168 has been spent on street. What are the overall projections on income that the council believes it will receive from the new scheme? It is anticipated to generate £675K gross and £261K net once operating costs are taken out. The traffic management orders under which this scheme run say that profit must be spent on traffic and not simply added to the coffers. So. How do Westminster intend to spend the remaining £700K? How do they intend to spend the £261k per year profit?

7) Misleading information about available space.

The usage of parking bays varies widely across the borough. It appears that usage of bays has dropped as people choose not to ride their motorcycle into Westminster. Any occupancy survey during the trial is now likely to be held during the winter when motorcycle use drops anyway. So it's highly likely that the survey will show that there are now sufficient spaces. This is hugely deceptive. Areas such as St James Square were overloaded before and still are. There are also question marks about how Westminster measure available space since they and we probably don't agree on how many bikes can be forced into X metres of bay.

8) Fines are disproportionate

The typical cost of parking a car is £1 to £4 per hour. The fine for parking a car illegally is £40/£80. The typical cost of parking a motorcycle is £0.50 per day to £1.50 per day. And yet the fines are the same £40/£80. This exposes that the real revenue from the scheme is not from the parking charge but from the increased fines.

9) Residents permits are unworkable

It is possible to obtain a residents permit for a motorcycle which allows unlimited parking in residents car bays (not solo motorcycle bays) within a single zone. However although you can register a car and a motorcycle, you can only park one of them in a residents bay at a time. There have been promises of a reduced yearly charge for a normal parking permit for residents but this has not materialised.

10) Saturday parking charges

The report on the scheme said "The parking charge will be required for controlled hours only (08:30 - 18:30 Monday to Friday)." And yet when the scheme was introduced it was 08:30 - 18:30 Monday to Saturday. This affects business in Westminster since it discourages coming into Westminster on a shopping day rather than a work day. It should be pointed out that this scheme is a disincentive to travel into Westminster for whatever reason for motorcyclists. This will then have a knock on effect on business and work in the area.

11) The council has failed to follow its own decision on a robust communications policy

There are several references to a recognition that this scheme is contentious and will require a "robust communcations policy" to explain the scheme to motorcyclists. This has manifestly failed. There is much anecdotal evidence of people receiving multiple tickets because they simply didn't know about the scheme.

12) The spread of motorcycle parking charge schemes to other boroughs and cities.

If Westminster's scheme goes ahead, then it is very likely that other boroughs will follow suit. Since there is no overall strategy or control over London in this area this will lead to each council developing its own scheme and methods of payment. This then will make attempting to pay a complete nightmare for the genral public. Particularly if you have to stop in multiple boroughs during the day.

See Also two documents from the council.
http://forum.notobikeparkingfees.com/discussions/?PostBackAction=Download&AttachmentID=46

http://forum.notobikeparkingfees.com/discussions/?PostBackAction=Download&AttachmentID=45


Westminster Parking

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The next demo against Westminster parking charges is Friday Oct 24, 1pm. Meet Park Lane car park. Let's bring London to a halt...

Westminster Parking

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01 Oct 2008

The campaign against Westminster Parking charges gathers pace. Now with banners

Westminster Parking

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29 Sep 2008

So we had the demo against Westminster Parking charges for Motorcycles. And a fun day was had by all. Maybe 200 bikes turned up and we brought Oxford St and Regent st to a halt for 20 minutes or so.

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20 Sep 2008

Hanover Square W1, 10:30am Sunday 28th September Details here http://forum.notobikeparkingfees.com

Motorcyclists in London face some challenges; staying out of the congestion charge; being allowed to ride in bus lanes, lack of parking space; lack of secure parking. But now Westminster council have added a new one by introducing a trial scheme to charge for M/C parking. The justification is increased parking space and security devices. They have added some spaces but the security devices are only being tested in a couple of residents only bays. The charging scheme involves a broken system of pre-registering, dealing with call centres and mobile phone texting. Make no mistake about it, this is a revenue generation scheme with a stated and planned pay back in under 2 years. And the big part of the revenue is not from the £1.50 per day charge but the £60/120 fines. And you can be sure that if it's allowed to succeed, the price will go up and it will be adopted by other councils in London.

So please come and support the demo. If nothing else it's an excuse to stand around talking about bikes! And then go and write to the council and if you can, hand deliver the letter and get a signature for it.

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19 Aug 2008

Just started reading the Revenge of Gaia by James Lovelock.

OMG. What do we tell the children? "Sorry"?

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Just received some Skype Spam.

Julian

Start now!

Timing is critical in being able to make a significant amount of money on the momentum of a new company. This new Social Network is starting Pre-Launch now and will be able to earn you an unlimited income as it grows without any recruiting on your part!

http://www.mypetsense.com/?7785


Gosh. It's timewarp time.
1) Involves Pets
2) MLM
3) Make Money fast!

Then I get a headhunter call. A startup gets some angel money which is turned into a sale, the founder leaves, the VC decides to fire everyone, completely rebuild the team and completely rebuild the website. Err, yeah, that'll work.

Bursting bubble in 5, 4, 3, 2,

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I can understand somebody following the teachings of Christ. I can understand somebody being a pantheist (Universe is God is the universe). What I have trouble understanding is people who believe the literal truth of the Old Testament and the related books. These books seem to me to be at best teaching stories and parables and at worst rather bad explanations of the universe born of ignorance, mixed in with a bit of inaccurate mythical history. On that basis, I don't see any contradictions between Religion and Science and it does seem as if at least the mainstream Protestant and Catholic churches are finally reaching the same position. They still seem to be a bit hung up on miracles but they're getting there.

Where I have a real problem is with fundamentalists of any religion using faith to deny science and poisoning the minds of children to spread that viewpoint. If you're prepared to throw out the scientific method when it comes to the creation myth, then it seems to me you really ought to throw out all the other results of the scientific method. So no antibiotics, SUVs, air-conditioning or HDTV for you then.

This is basically the message that Richard Dawkins is pushing. What's unfortunate is that he comes over as an intellectual prig. He just can't resist sneering at people he considers stupid.

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05 Aug 2008

The Olympics are coming up. The culture show did a great program last night about China. China is going to be all over the news media in the next month. So it's time to take a look at China's role in the next 20 years. So here's a few random thoughts.

China is moving at an incredible pace. They seem to be compressing what happened in the West during 1890-1990 into 1990-2010 So with the benefit of hindsight and this year's technology, they're running at at least 5 times the pace we did. 50% of the world's cement and 50% of the world's construction cranes are in China now. It feels to me like China is in a race to get to a post-industrial economy before they burn out, raw resources become too expensive or they stifle themselves with pollution. Can Gaia sustain this level of growth from 1/6th of the world's population? Can they get from a Feudal model of a few rich and a vast army of poor to a predominantly middle class culture without destroying us all in the process? What does a nation of 1Billion middle class even look like.

I can't think of a single Chinese global brand with the possible exception of The Bank of China. How long before the first Honda or Sony or Toyota appears out of China?

One of the most telling comments on the Culture Show last night was that China felt like the USA. There was the same confidence and arrogance, the same nationalism, the same inward view and the same lack of understanding of why the rest of the world should criticise them.

There's a Starbucks on every corner of every major city in the world. Every one is exactly the same. It's created by a Roman military style, command and control, organisation structure. There's a chinese takeway on every corner of every major city in the world. They're all different but all have the same style. They were created by a hive mind of individuals all acting independently but to a common model. Is this a metaphor for the difference between right wing authoritarians and left wing libertarians? Is there something to be learned there about a fundamental difference of approach between the USA and China?

China has 5000 years of culture to draw on. They also have 2000 years of Western culture to draw on. While the show last night did show a few instances of uniquely Chinese design, the majority looked very derivative. Do we really need a Warhol-esque Mao cartoon in the style of the famous Che poster? Or a Happy-Tree Friends Panda with fangs and dripping blood? Or a Chinese Punk/New-rave/Trance boy band? How long before a major global cultural movement emerges out of China? Because at the moment it seems to be all magpie like remixing, not creating.

in reply:-

Whereas I do find it an eloquent piece, I fail to understand who is the audience of this rather Racist writing. When you note down your observations and fears, may I dare ask who do you represent Mr. Julian?? I don't think we represent any KKK here on the Ecademy. In today's Global Village we do not need segregationist. Rather we should try to assimilate. We must celebrate Modern China instead of trying to cast doubts on their designs or abilities . Taiwan is part of China and the whole world including US, acknowledges this fact but China has never invaded to reoccupy it. They have not been expansionist in their designs or actions. What's the phobia about??

In today's global world there is nothing original anymore. Do you see what is the major segment of Creative IT people working in Silicon Valley?? Do you find all "Original Americans" there? And how would you define Original American then? Why would they reinvent the wheel to create originals whereas what they do seems to be working and they are beating the whole world but at the same time whole world seems to be benefitting from their production economies translated in affordable life-style!

Forgive me for my rather curt response but I felt my responsibility to point out that Ecademy does not represent only one type of people and there must be Chinese members too...
Abdul (Dubai inspires me)
Mangrove Real Estate


Abdul. I'm a Brit not an American. As a Brit I reserve the right to take the piss out of everyone equally including ourselves! wink If there's phobia or racism there, it's unconscious and I apologise unreservedly.

I do think global brands, global cultural movements, global views and global involvement will come out of China. I just don't think its happened yet. Given the pace of change there, I think its going to happen sooner rather than later. In some ways the criticism is the same as we had of Japan in the 50s and 60s; that they can't innovate, only copy. We now know just how wrong that was although at the time there was an element of truth in it.

In today's global world there is nothing original anymore. How very post-modernist of you. smile There's a properly deep History of Art discussion to be had right there. Yes, of course, no art exists in a vacuum and it is always a product of its environment and so to some extent derivative. But we also recognise novelty and judge some art to be derivative and others to be ground breaking and genuinely new. And I would agree with you that way too much of what passes for art now is extremely derivative. I've also no doubt that a BBC documentary on culture in China is inevitably going to find itself interviewing an art world that mirrors its counterpart in the west. The really interesting stuff is probably happening out at the edges and right now it's probably off radar.

In today's global world there is nothing original anymore. How very post-modernist of you. :) There's a properly deep History of Art discussion to be had right there. Yes, of course, no art exists in a vacuum and it is always a product of its environment and so to some extent derivative. But we also recognise novelty and judge some art to be derivative and others to be ground breaking and genuinely new. And I would agree with you that way too much of what passes for art now is extremely derivative. I've also no doubt that a BBC documentary on culture in China is inevitably going to find itself interviewing an art world that mirrors its counterpart in the west. The really interesting stuff is probably happening out at the edges and right now it's probably off radar.

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03 Aug 2008

Been thinking a lot recently about the tension in the world today between Right Wing Authoritarianism and Anarcho-Syndicalism or Libertarian Communalism. This partly comes from a view of politics as being (at least) two dimensional. There's the traditional Communal vs Individual or Left-Right split but there's also an Authoritarian vs Libertarian split. The top right Right Wing Authoritarian position is the one that has driven the USA's exceptional performance in the last 100 years or so. But RWAs are extremely dangerous in the long run because they have no self-limiting ethics. They believe in the power of the individual but also in the right of the powerful individual to control what everyone else does for their own benefit. It's very hard to see self interest in the interests of society as a whole from that position.

Another way of looking at this is the Roman military, Command and Control, pyramid structure which has been with us in the West for 2500 years and the hive mind anarchic structures that have been around in the East for 5000 years. A classic example of that is to compare the Starbucks organisation with the lack of organisation of the "Chinese Takeaway" as a concept.

I think the other major driver in social politics is Mammalian Tribes. Man is a tribal animal and tribes are typically driven by the 5-10% who fight for the right to be alpha male and hence control the overall direction of the tribe.

What's interesting is the growth in the last 30 years of structures that are inherently anarchic but have sufficient power behind them to completely change the way the world works. Many of these such as the core protocols of the internet or the open source movement were built via an Anarcho-Syndicalist (P2P) model. But even in these at the micro level you can see mammalian politics at work as it seems to be a requirement to have a benevolent dictatorship at the core. So really they are right wing libertarian in control structure even though a lot of the work is done in a left wing libertarian way.

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