Sunday, June 14, 2009

The chimp in a Day-Glo jacket.

Transport, or the lack thereof seems to have dominated this week; I am not going to get sucked into a debate into the rights and wrongs of the recent tube strike, other than to say I was one of the millions of commuters adversely affected by the industrial action. I was unable to travel up to my companies' Watford data centre, as I could not get across town from London Bridge to Euston to pick up the connecting overland train to sunny Watford ™.

Instead I spent several pleasant days in Canary Wharf, using the quick and reliable Docklands Light Railway, which I picked up from Greenwich station. The one main differentiator between the conventional tube system and the DLR is quite fundamental; The DLR is entirely automated, and the trains are controlled by computer. The thought does occur as to why the transport authorities do not consider automating the main tube system. Most accidents are down to human error, and let's face it, the job is not difficult – after all, the driver is that in name only – he does not even have to steer, just press “Start” and “Stop” every so often, and then open the doors. A trained chimp of average intelligence in a Day-Glo jacket could do it, and would cost substantially less in bananas and other fruit than the outrageous wages and working conditions the current tube staff demand.

In case you were wondering what exactly the photo above is, well I am not completely sure what function the big cylindrical hopper actually has, but it is located in the RMC Road Stone yard just around the corner from my house. It must make a good navigational reference point to river traffic though.

I saw something rather surreal on the bus earlier today; a young girl with a large brown rabbit on a lead, which she was cradling in her arms. I suppose taking a pet rodent for a walk should not be considered that unusual – a work colleague used to give his own rabbit lifts around his home village in the basket on the front of his push bike. It does make a change from the customary dog – which in the case of Erith and its' environs almost invariably means a Staffordshire Bull Terrier in pseudo bondage gear, a Pit Bull, or a Rottweiler. I make no secret of not being very keen on dogs in general, and the aforementioned breeds in particular. Many, if not all of the owners keep the things as a kind of organic weapon to defend themselves whilst they conduct their nefarious activities. I just find dogs in general unhygienic and unpredictable.

Something creeping up on people in virtually every industrialised country, which will cause terrible problems in the near future, is a technology that few outside of the amateur radio community have currently heard of, but which is going to have far reaching consequences. This technology is called BPL – Broadband over Power Line. In essence, the national grid will be used as computer data networking infrastructure. This sounds like a great idea – to use a long established network, and then piggy – back a broadband service on top of it. What the proponents of this system do not say is that in order to enable this, great swathes of the short-wave radio spectrum will be effectively wiped out, as those shortwave frequencies will be used as the carrier for the broad band data, turning every electricity pylon into a shortwave radio jammer. Ship to shore communications, military radio nets, emergency communications in disaster zones, amateur radio and international short wave broadcasting will all be adversely affected. The British authority responsible for broadcasting and the radio spectrum is OFCOM. Unlike their predecessor the RIS (Radio Investigation Service - which was part of the DTI) they are a commercial organisation, not a government department, and primarily concerned with maximising the profits generated by the radio spectrum. Broadband provision is considered to have priority over any form of shortwave radio communication and OFCOM tacitly admit that the radio spectrum from 1.8 – 30 MHz will take an utter hammering. Shortwave broadcasting stations like WBCQ in Maine, USA – close friends with our own local weekend broadcasters WNKR will no doubt suffer in consequence. I feel that this contentious issue will only hit the mainstream press when a ship's mayday message is not received by the coast guard and RNLI due to someone downloading YouTube clips over a BPL connection. It is going to happen.

The video clip this week is of an old TV advert from the mid 1980's; it is one of my all time favourite commercials, and it certainly makes you think. Please feel free to leave comments and feedback below as ever.


  1. Maybe the elected baffoon of a mayor could employ some of his more intelligent cronies to undertake the task of 'driving' the tube although I suspect that he would only employ those of lesser intelligence than he to make himself look good (recent events bear this argument out)so chimps would be out. As indeed would anything above the evolutionary scale of salt water urchins.

    Also, I would like to add that the video does indeed work.