Vote Pirate Party in Manchester

The Pirate Party in Manchester are doing a lot of campaigning at the moment for the by-election. They've got a credible candidate, and could actually take office, if elected.

All I can say is, if you think that the 'main' parties are either all the same, or maybe that they're a waste of space, then check out the Pirate Party. You may not agree with everything they stand for, but you can be sure they're actually going to try to do good things for you. I'm looking forward to a PP candidate in my area.

Samsung Galaxy SII Wifi Problems

My Samsung Galaxy S2's wifi has packed up. It won't turn on (the wifi icon is half green/grey, and never goes green). It's not a network problem, as it does it anywhere (and besides, it's not getting as far as switching on, so it doesn't know what networks there are).

I've done a lot of searching for answers - the best I found was to try this:
- Switch off, take the battery out for a few minutes, restart
- Upgrade to latest software (which unfortuntely means ensuring the shockingly poor quality of Samsung software which you'll have to install on a PC)
- Backup your phone (if Kies will let you) and do a factory reset
- Phone Samsung support and get them to fix it

I've got as far as the last step. They're going to send me a pre-paid envelope that I have to send my phone back in. It takes 7-10 days, and hopefully I should receive a working phone afterwards.

I should point out that this took three calls to Samsung to arrange. In all three, the agents were actually very friendly and helpful, except that I got two different answers, so kept going until I got a consensus. Hopefully the envelope to/fro thing will work out. Seemingly other Internet citizens have had a reasonable experience of it, so hopefully my phone will be back to full working order soon (meanwhile my Three data plan will take a beating, as will my very old Motorola K1 while the Galaxy is on it's road trip).

Rapa Nui

Mrs Cat and I just got back from holiday in South America. We've been to Rio de Janeiro, Iguassu Falls, Mendoza, Santiago, Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Buenos Aires and São Paulo. It's been awesome, and I'd thoroughly recommend it to anyone.

Ahu TongarikiAhu TongarikiOf all of those places, for me, the most moving was Rapa Nui. It's a tiny island with a long and turbulent history. The original Polynesian decendent inhabitants were master stone workers and built incredible monuments to their ancestors (which they ended up destroying later on). For me, the weirdest and most humbling place on the island is Rano Raraku - the quarry where the moai were made. Here there are dozens of still-standing moai, mostly partially buried. Apart from the onset of grass (and a tourist trail), it feels a lot like it's just a day off and that the workers will be back tomorrow to carry on carving.

Honestly, as the cliché goes, pictures don't do it justice. It's a hard place to get to, and expensive when you get there, but if you ever get a chance, it's a place well worth a visit.

Weird Converter

I weigh 45 chickens, but I need to lose at least 2227 sheets of paper to get to a far healthier 1.6 Jennifer Anistons.

Don't get me started on the length measurements ;-)

Weird Converter (via El-Reg).

Me + Nikon P7100 + ML-L3 + EyeFi

Chippy ChappyChippy ChappyI've been playing around with my camera, for which I just bought a remote control and EyeFi SD card. First of all, the camera... I'm not much of a photographer - I like the idea of it (and have lots of accomplished photographers in my family), and I like technology, and I understand what F-stops do, but I'm terrible at actually taking pictures. As a result, I was advised to get a compact camera, and not a DSLR because although lots of DSLRs have got full-auto modes, they can be too fiddly to take snaps with. Some compact cameras have manual modes, but do a lot to help you take ordinary pictures. All this made sense to me, so I bought a Nikon Coolpix P7100. I really like it - the few out-and-about snaps I've taken are easy to do, and come out much better than I'd manage with our snap-happy camera (or indeed with the various phones I've owned). If you're after a decent camera and don't want hassle, this seems like a good one (and not too expensive these days either).

I've been pushing my knowledge, my camera and my dining room table a bit though. I bought a "lighting tent", which came with a couple of cheapo lights and a very crappy tripod. It took a bit of getting used to, but I was getting quite good results with my Nokia N900 phone. I'd definitely reached the limits of that, so bought the Nikon and have been learning ever since.

Doing close-up work really needs a tripod, and if you need a tripod, you need a remote control (shutter cable, for the old-skool). I bought a "shoot" branded one for my Nikon, which cost about two quid, and does what you need - it makes the camera take a picture without actually having to touch the camera.

The EyeFi SD card was a bit of rampant consumerism on my part - although it actually makes life a hell of a lot easier. It's basically a normal SD memory card, except it's got wifi built into it(!). You just snap away, your camera saves things to the SD card which in turn magically sends them to your computer. That means you can take a picture and then examine it on the computer - all without touching the camera. Very handy indeed.

I'm quite pleased with the results of all this (the picture above is straight off the camera - no photoshopping or colour adjustment at all), although it takes me ages to get anything done. Practice needed, I think ;-)

Dump the Big Six

My electricity supplier sent me a link to this video:

I can't recommend getting away from the "nation's leading" and "most trusted" suppliers enough. Who you pick is up to you, although I have to say these guys are good.

Most EU States Sign Away Rights by signing ACTA

Most EU states (including the UK) have signed the ACTA trade agreement. This matters because ACTA is even more broad, and even more invasive than the PIPA and SOPA legislation that got Americans in such a tizzy (did you see the Wikipedia blackout (which lots of other big sites also did), or the protest links on Google and others?). There are lots of write-ups about the EU signing up to ACTA, so I won't rewrite them all here. Instead, I'll point you at: Now's a good time to write to your MEPs (Write to Them makes this incredibly easy!) and ask them what their position is on ACTA, and how they will vote when it comes before the EU Parliament for ratification in the summer. If they tell you they're in support of it, then write to them again telling them how sorry you are to hear that, and how you're going to make it a deliberate point not to vote for them or their party in the next EU elections. Even the slimiest politician doesn't like to do things that will definitely lose them votes. If this gets ratified, then it's up to the individual states to pass local laws to uphold the treaty. That'll be a good time to write to your MP, although you could do that now, just to keep them on their toes.

Harrods versus Fortnum and Mason

Harrods or Fortnum and Mason?

I should point out I'm not much of a shopper - I'll tend to go to shop to buy something specific, rather than "just pop by to browse". That said I'd prefer to go shopping at Fortnum and Mason (Piccadilly) rather than Harrods (Knightsbridge). Both are high-brow places, both sell stuff you don't need, and both have ranges of their own unique products (both also have an ice cream parlour nowadays too).

Visiting F&M is an experience - the hat and tails wearing doorman will open the door with a friendly welcome for you as you approach. On entering, the shop is grand - it has high ceilings, is decadently appointed and has sumptuous products everywhere. The whole thing is a spectacle, a celebration of shopping and choice with all of the wares cherished and special (even if they're actually quite ordinary). If like me you have little shopping stamina, they have a cute bar down the beautiful spiral staircase where you can get a glass of wine and a nibble or two. If that's not what you want, then there's the ice cream parlour or various restaurants. The shop isn't usually over-crowded, and is generally frequented by considerate shoppers who conduct themselves with a little decorum.

Contrast this with Harrods. The doormen are so over-worked they'll probably just be lurking about the entrances whilst an inconsiderate, tired, irate and rude fellow shopper lets go of the swing door in your face. You'll enter the fairly run-of-the-mill shop and observe the over-priced ordinary products, with the odd interspersed Harrods own-brand facsimile of the products you know and love (although to be fair, Harrods do have some lovely products too - you just have to search for them). The ceilings are low, the spaces cramped and busy. There's almost no spectacle, except maybe the Egyptian escalator or a few other choice areas. There are also some places to sit down and take a moment to regroup. These are fancy versions of canteens, with bustling service a constant rotation of customers. All in all, it's basically an expensive supermarket. If it wasn't called Harrods, you probably wouldn't go near it.

So all in all, I have to say, F&M is by far the better option for me. It's on my list of "tourist stuff for visitors", and since it's a place Mrs Cat shops from time to time, it's had a bit of my custom too. In the Internet age, one wonders what the future holds for physical stores, but I'd guess the likes of F&M will do just fine. They offer something you can't get anywhere else, and you certainly can't get online. I'd imagine we'd all like the idea of having an experience you can't get anywhere else, and buy unique products you can't (easily) get online - even if they're more expensive than the equivalent chain-store products we're more used to. Time will tell...

The NAO Robot

This robot looks pretty amazing - sort of like a small version of Honda's Asimo. I'm amazed they've managed to pack as much into this little dude as they appear to have. This is the sort of 'toy' no grown up kid should be without ;-)

This week...

Stuff that's happened this week:

A cow-orker of mine said "Senior Vice President? That's the sort of guy that's got his office, and spends his day looking at his cigars". Seemed like a nice summation to me ;-)

British Gas didn't do what they said they would.

H&M made a better mannequin, raising questions of what's human and what's not and how we can't tell the difference.

I've reminded myself how great Negrill in Brixton is.

I'm finding myself watching One Man and His Dog. I appear to have aged considerably (possibly due to receiving a pair of slippers from Mrs Cat).

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