Crossing the meme streams

Stellar piece of work from Greg Moodie, mixing the Clarkson fracas into the SLab canon.

Frame from Greg Moodie cartoon about Top Gear and Jeremy Clarkson

A horrific alternate universe

To RT, or not to RT, that is the question – A Retweet Guide

You’re a new Twitter user. The whole thing is very confusing. You see a tweet you like. Should you retweet it?

Print off this handy flowchart and stick it next to your computer or glue it on to the back of your phone so you can always find out in an instant!To RT or not to RT

Dress

People are asking about a dress. Someone took this photo of a dress and posted it to Tumblr.

The Dress

A dress (blue)

Apparently many people are convinced it is white and gold.

A great debate ensued, many Buzzfeed articles were borne of it.

It is not white and gold, it is blue and black.

Blue dress on website

The Dress for sale (also blue)

Ends.

The 9p Miracle

How much was your last toothbrush?

79p
£1.49?
£4, but on a BOGOF?
£39.99, but half price at Boots so only £19.99?

It’s very easy to spend upwards of £2 on what is literally just a bit of plastic, and much more if you believe the hype. I’ve tried many over the years. Gum massagers, flexible necks, cross-cut bristles, all that shit.

I was suckered into the electrics for a while but realised they didn’t clean my teeth any better. Also, buying the specific heads was a PITA and locked you in to the pricey OEM parts, razor blade style.

My lovely wife does the non-technical procurement in this household though so I got used to whatever she bought, which tended to mean whatever is on offer at Tesco at the time. All branded stuff – Oral-B or Colgate – though, none of the cheap crap. Teeth are, like, important, yeah?

As dentists recommend I much prefer a soft brush, but it seems that all the common ones are “medium” with soft very thin on the ground. Some of the branded stuff stretches the definition of medium though, with extra long ‘penetrator’ bristles and the like.

I began to look more closely at the price of them when the kids got to an age where they were needing proper brushes. “How much?!” was pretty much my initial response, “Fuck that!” being the second.

I needed a new plan. A Brushtrategy for the 21st Century.

I was working in Aylesbury at the time when I was due for a new brush. I walked past a branch of Morrisons (ack!) each day on the way to work so I popped in there. No deals on, but I spied a pack of two plain white and distinctly ‘70s-looking brushes in a pack labelled ‘Medium-Soft’ so thought I’d take a punt.

The price? 18p

Yes, 9p a brush. Bargain.

Finding out that they brushed much better than the previous Colgate job I was chuffed to bits. At that price you could use a new one every week and still be quids in!

Tooshbrushes

Some 9p miracles, yesterday


I’ve since switched to the Tesco equivalents as they come in different colours so me and the kids* can keep ours separate (important when you see how, erm…careless then can be with them). They are labelled ‘Medium’ but just as soft as the Morrisons’ ones.

Still only 18p a twin pack though. I suspect some cartel-like activity to fix the price of poverty-spec brushes…

9p

Can’t get over it.

What a rush.

Do yourself a favour and try these bad boys. Spend the money saved on beer or smack or handbags or whatever. Martin Lewis? Take a hike, buddy!

*The missus remains a stooge for Big Dental though, the snob in her insisting that a £2 toothbrush much be at least 20x better than a 9p one so she refuses to switch. I laugh at her pathetic profligacy.

3DO Need For Speed – Official World Records*

In the haul of ‘stuff I thought I’d lost in a hard drive crash but recently found again‘ was a folder of screenshots (literally, ancient Fuji digital camera pointed at my old rear projection telly) of the original Need For Speed on the 3DO. They were taken in about 1999 after I got my first flat and dug out the 3DO after a few years of Playstation-induced exile. I still have it, wonder if it still works?

Anyway, it was such a great racing game, real heart-in-mouth stuff. Of course the Ferrari 512TR bossed pretty much everything in the game, with the Diablo only really outgunning it in terms of top speed on the very open first stage of the City route. All the other cars were pretty much curios.

I’m pretty sure at least some of these records are about as fast as you could go on these courses. It seems the Internet is lacking a hall of fame for this game, I therefore humbly submit…

3DO NFS city1

3DO NFS city_total

3DO NFS coastal1

3DO NFS coastal2

3DO NFS coastal3

3DO NFS coastal

3DO NFS coastal_total

As the fella in the FMV clips said, I was one serious driving machine.

*may not be 100% official

Unexpected item in bagging area

Next time you are in Tesco, at the self-service tills, listen out for the phrase “Clubcard accepted” from the lady trapped inside the POS terminal.

Tesco self-service checkout

A Tesco self-service checkout, yesterday

Listen for it again. Shouldn’t take long, she says it a lot.

It certainly sounds like “Clubcard accepted”, doesn’t it?

Or at least it would do if she wasn’t actually saying “Clubcard excepted”.

Now listen again. Carefully.

Clubcard excepted

Did the money-crazed fools at Tesco think we wouldn’t notice? What exactly is their game?

Are they just trolling us?

Is it part of a NWO plot to keep us feeling uncomfortable?

Or is it a glitch in the Matrix?

Smart shoppers may want to keep their wits about when in Tesco stores. Who knows what other unsettling devices they have up their sleeves?

Multibuys that work out more expensive than buying individual items may have been just the start…

Oil Musings

So, US are trying to suppress oil prices to pressurise Putin. Everyone knows that.

But at the same time, Saudi Arabia are happy with a depressed oil price as they have enormous currency reserves and a low price can only strangle/defer US shale output, so they seem to be happy to pump as much as they can. There is probably an element of US/Saudi collusion in this as the US couldn’t manipulate the market on its own, but at the same time a lot of US shale and conventional companies are sure to be hurting with the price this low.

Saudi Arabia won’t want to slacken off its production and watch players like Iran move in and fill the gap though. And other OPEC members like Venezuela want to pump more, but really need a higher price as they don’t have the luxury of foreign reserves like the Gulf states nor the political goals of the Americans. There doesn’t currently seem to be the will within OPEC to make a co-ordinated approach to reduce supply and shore up the price, and with the boom in Russian and US production they don’t have the ability to control the market that they once did.

Where the US views its short-term target price is unknown, but I see a lot of figures suggesting $80-85 is necessary to keep its unconventional production in the black.

Who knows what under-the-table deals the US Govt. is keeping US producers sweet with while this all plays out; promises, guarantees or plain old subsidy dressed up as economic incentive. I’m willing to bet there have been many conversations about this on Capitol Hill though, with countless ‘off the record’ assurances. With the WTI price sinking under the symbolic $50 though there must surely be limits to the level the US Govt. is willing to underwrite or risk domestic production and, by extension, revenue.

What the US needs is for a way to stifle Gulf exports to allow its producers maximum control over the market without explicitly swatting down the Saudis or rattling OPEC via political tactics. What a surprise it would be, for example, if a security crisis started to unfold in the Gulf region that threatened exports just enough to restore the oil price somewhat but prevented Gulf states from influencing the price.

A tanker or two being hijacked/set ablaze in Hormuz should do it. Or perhaps an ISIS-themed skirmish in the Gulf itself. Just enough justification for the Fifth Fleet to steam in and monitor/chaperone traffic under the pretense of security, while of course severely hampering movements. The Venezuelans, Libyans and Nigerians would be jumping for joy, but I’m willing to bet that’s a price many in Washington would accept.

But of course the US would never get involved in something so underhand.

Would it?

Email unsubscribe workflows

Here are what many email unsubscribe workflows look like:

  • Click ‘unsubscribe’ link in footer of email, be taken to page pleading with you to stay. You have to enter your email address then be taken to a page where you have to confirm, yet again, that you wish to unsubscribe.
  • Click ‘unsubscribe’ link in footer of email, be taken to login page. You have to log in with username or email address (it’s often not clear which they expect) or, worse, some arcane account number you have to dredge up from a previous email, and enter your password (which inevitably needs reset) before you can confirm you wish to unsubscribe.
  • Click ‘unsubscribe’ link in footer of email, be taken to a page with a number of radio buttons and checkboxes for different kinds of newsletters and alerts you never remember being an option when you created the account. Spend 20 seconds reading them them realise that the actual ‘unsubscribe from all communications’ link is actually on another page. Click through to that, click ‘yes I’m sure’ to unsubscribe.

Some workflows incorporate elements from all of the above. Government Gateway sites, I’m looking at you…

What an email unsubscribe workflow should be:

  • Click ‘unsubscribe’ link in footer of email, be taken to page confirming your opt-out will be actioned. Button to cancel if you clicked ‘unsubscribe’ by mistake.

One click, motherfuckers. It’s not hard.

We Didn’t Start The Fire

Move aside, Tim Rice.

Simon Cowell, Dr Fox, Reddit, Meme, Gogglebox
One Direction, Nigel Farage, #susanalbumparty
Abu Hamza, Katie Hopkins, Ricky Gervais, Chucklevision
North Korea, South Korea, Emeli Sandé

Jägerbombs, Paxman, MailOnline, Cameron
BoJo, McIntyre, and the NHS on fire
Boko Haram, TOWIE, England’s got the same Queen
Margaret Thatcher, Ian Paisley, Michael Jackson goodbye

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Jimmy Savile, Max Clifford, Glitter and big Cyril Smith
Michael Winner, Peter Andre, Northern Rock
Chemtrails, Donald Trump, 9/11, 4Chan
Cat bin lady, Botham shows his cock
iPhone, Steve Jobs, Man U’s got a losing team
Amy Winehouse, Kim Jong-un, Al-Megraghi, Disneyland
Mumsnet, Dapper Laughs, Brian Harvey, Chavez
Princess Di, Fifty Shades, Trouble in the Suez

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Brian Cox, Loose Women, Justin Bieber, Leveson
ATOS, G4S, Pistorius got five
Lebanon, Charlie Sheen, Hillsborough Enquiry
Bin Laden, Jony Ive, Fuck-all bees in the hive

#penisbeaker, Burka, Sepp Blatter, Ebola
Rainbow Loom, Serco, AV is a no-go
U2, BNP, BBC and ITV
Richard Dawkins, SEO, Kony in the Congo

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Mandela, Concorde, ISIS claim a lot of land
Gaza, Merkel, Say hello Higgs boson
Cumberbatch mania, Celeb Paedophilia
Ronnie Biggs, Tony Benn, Facebook worth billions

Jan Moir, Pope Francis, British Politician sex
David Kelly blown away, what else do I have to say?

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Masterchef, Littlejohn, Berlusconi back again
Mooncup, Woolworths, Gamergate, The Rock
UKIP, Osborne, Palestine, No-one on the Air Line®
Twitter ban in Iran, Who’s not in Afghanistan?
Downton Abbey, HS2, Referendum, Doctor Who
Foreign debts, Quentin Letts, AIDS, Crack, Little Mix
Asylum seekers on the shore, Right-wing press dictate the law
Disney making more Star Wars, I can’t take it anymore

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
But when we are gone
It will still burn on and on and on and on
And on and on and on and on…

With obvious apologies to Billy Joel and all music fans everywhere.

The Pitfalls of Kickstarter

I admit it. I’m a sucker for crowdfunding.

Pebble. 3D printers. Meades. Bluetooth speakers. Mucho-cheapo Arduino Leonardo. Someone who just wanted a fancy new PC.

I’ve funded ‘em all. Over 20 projects now, but as usual the first one holds a special place in the heart; the ‘PID-Controlled Espresso Machine‘ which didn’t even have a proper name when I first backed it via Kickstarter in late 2011.

A ZPM Nocturn as seen on Kickstarter

A Nocturn, yesterday

What is it? Well, it’s an espresso machine with a CPU-controlled pressure/temperature feedback control which promises world-class coffee at a hitherto impossible price. I was taken by its timely arrival at the confluence of cheap Arduino-type control and an obsessive open-source enthusiasm.

It was subsequently christened the ZPM Nocturn and I was and remain super excited about it as a product, not least because I’m still waiting so see so much as a bolt, filter or button of it.

Yes, in a somewhat inevitable turn of events, this has turned out to be one of Kickstarter’s less successful projects.

For its time, the $369,569 it raised, over 18x the funding goal, meant this was one of the bigger early “success” stories on Kickstarter. In fact, it was so successful that the makers had to reassess their plan of casting the heating block themselves (Yes, really. How quaint!) and move to an altogether more commercial-scale approach to manufacturing.

Strange thing is, if they had stuck to their original plan after maybe only attracting 2-3x the funding goal, I might be looking at one in my kitchen right now. As it is, the updates were frenetic as the Kickstarter moved towards its end and new features and options were being proposed on an almost daily basis as the kitty swelled. The purchase of an industrial laser was mentioned. A frickin’ laser…

It’s fair to say the whole thing had gone right to their heads.

So, here we are nearly three years since the funding period started. Why write now? Well, although I’m a ridiculous optimist about most things, over the last few months I’ve grudgingly accepted that I may now never see my new coffee machine. It’s sad to say, but the complete lack of communication for about a year shows that the people behind ZPM have no real idea what they are doing (lasers, remember?) and have:

a) run out of funding,
b) designed a product that doesn’t work,
c) designed a product that can’t possibly be sold for anywhere near the Kickstarter price, or
d) some combination of the above.

I’ve seen project that have been run like clockwork with almost hourly comms despite a huge level of additional funding (see the Arduino project linked to at the top of this article for a prime example), but in the last year or so the ZPM project has basically stalled into a “We’re waiting on UL certification” and “The Kickstarter page or our forums(!) is not the place to discuss production plans and hold-ups, please send us an email(!!) and we’ll respond to you directly”.

Now, to me that just screams bullshit. The internet being the internet means we can see them hawking for funding elsewhere (pretty much confirming reason a, above) and the secretive and hyper-defensive tone of their communications suggests real problems with delivery, going far beyond the bureaucratic hoops that UL may or not be presenting.

For the benefit of the wider public and any backers who can’t be bothered emailing them, this is what they said to me:

Hi Gordon,

I wanted to reply to your recent comment in more detail.

We fully understand the frustrations around updates and communication. Our preference has always been to be as detailed as we can when discussing the production process with backers – that’s part of what’s interesting for everyone. This has caused us problems in the past, and partnered companies have mentioned updates and backer comments as cause for concern/complication. For example, UL has mentioned discussion of open sourcing the code, and interest from backers, as cause to initiate extra rounds of review to ensure that appropriate failsafes are in place for this type of machine.

This doesn’t reflect an absence of internal updates and progress reports. In several cases our attempts to be detailed in our communication with backers has been at odds with the goal of actually getting machines out. At this point, we have to prioritize working with the companies who are helping us get this project done. We know this is a departure from everyone’s immediate preference, but we hope you’ll understand.

Currently the gating item is still UL, but we haven’t encountered any show-stopping issues – just a continuation of the review process. We’re using the extra time to improve code stability, confirm back-up suppliers, and make preparations for product support so that we’re able to provide long-term services once the machines to start shipping out.

Happy to answer any other questions you have! Thanks very much for your support and patience!

Janet

I may be daft, but to me that just says sweet fuck all about anything. I’ve written enough bullshit justifications in my time to know one when I see one.

The thing is, you should never underestimate the goodwill and patience of folk like me, folk that tend to do shit like Kickstarter, because it doesn’t take much to keep us happy. Just some honesty and detail about what you’re doing with our money is enough to sate us for a stupidly long time.

Don’t get me wrong, I really, really want them to pull this rabbit out of the hat and prove me wrong, but I’m pretty much resigned to losing my cash on it now.

I should say that I don’t believe there was ever an intent to have things work out this way. In the early days it really seemed like they were just getting to grips with things and, while a little bit ragged, were doing their best. However, as time went on it became more and more obvious that they were either out of their depth and/or had been shafted along the way themselves and were (are?) desperately trying to salvage the project.

So, chalk one up to experience. It’s only a couple of hundred bucks after all and at least I got a blog post out of it, right? Also, it’s not as if I haven’t done well out of almost every other project, from doubling my money on the (disappointing) Pebble by flogging it to some other mug a discerning tech-head within hours of receiving one of the first units in the UK, to some lovely personalised books (thanks, Phil Kay).

"I still want fucking paying"

“I still want fucking paying”

I still use crowdfunding sites – I’m waiting for my Modern Toss coffee table opus and M3D printer (who wants a 3D-printed boaby?) to arrive in the next few weeks and months – and remain under no illusion that there is a risk attached to such things, but while my ZPM interest remains unrequited let’s just say I’m not the evangelist I perhaps once was.

Mocking comments accepted :)