One Man and his Hyperloop

Elon Musk

Elon Musk is a man with a plan. (Which he will tell you later….)

OK. You’ve got billions in the bank, a head for phenomenally-successful disruptive engineering, a great business record and a clean sheet of paper. How would you revolutionise transportation? Elon Musk is that man and, tonight, he tweeted that all will be revealed by 12th August. His idea? The Hyperloop.

 

WTF is a Hyperloop?

That’s kind of the point of Musk’s tweet. It’s top secret. But also kind of a big deal… Elon is not very good at keeping secrets but he always manages to shut up just in time to not reveal everything. He let slip about Hyperloop at the D11 conference, calling it “a cross between a Concorde and a railgun and an air hockey table”. “If they had a threeway and had a baby,” he said, before understandably trailing off…

Musk says Hyperloop would reduce travel time from San Francisco to LA down to 30 minutes. The general consensus has been that high-speed mass transit like this would involve tubes containing small pressurised “pods”, the tubes would have all the air sucked out of them so they’re almost like a vacuum, and then the pods would be fired through them, with little air resistance, at high speed. Probably powered by magnets, like the maglev (magnetic levitation) trains in Europe and Japan.

But Musk suggests that this hypothesis is only 50% right.  Read more

A Quick Rant about Capri Sun

I have it on good authority that one KGB interrogation technique is to ask people to open one of these shiny packets of interminable frustration.

I couldn’t help noticing how close Capri Sun is to trending on Twitter and I had to say something: Capri Suns are a sadistic experiment to see how much shit consumers will put up with. Fact.

 

YOU HAD ONE JOB!

Things that are wrong with Capri Sun:

  • It’s a non-rigid liquid container. Doesn’t that strike you as stupid? I can’t even put the thing down, I have to hold it all the time because it keeps falling over and that problem only gets worse the more I drink because it loses its vaguely flat base and the weight to hold it down. And don’t even think about trying to drink one on a windy day!
  • World’s thinnest, easily-inhalable straws that don’t even have a bend in them to make them less inhalable!
  • A hole in the side which isn’t even above the level of the liquid inside so you inevitably get a dribble on your hands when you “pierce foil with straw”?
  • Really – pierce foil with straw? You haven’t heard of sports caps? Come on guys.
  • World’s thinnest straw that doesn’t even go all the way to the bottom of the stupid, unstable, non-rigid liquid container so you inevitably have to scrunch the thing up to get the last few dregs out
  • 40p a carton, are you insane?

 

How do you solve a problem like Capri Sun?

Oh. It looks like, somewhere, they already have.  Read more

Why I’m Leaving Orange

The future’s not bright. The future’s appalling customer service, possible insurance fraud and accidental double-charging without any kind of apology or acknowledgement of their incompetence. Bitter? And then some.

I’ve been with them since my very first phone in 1998, a Bosch 509e. Yep, Bosch used to make phones! In 2005 I spent three months working for them at their North Tyneside call centre while I was in between jobs. But now, after a spate of serious customer service failures, here’s why I’m leaving Orange.

 

Insurance Flawed

When I joined Orange as an employee I learned about their insurance plan on phones. It was very comprehensive. I got to know about the loopholes and ins and outs and, you know what? It was a really good deal. The value the customer got for £5/month was incredible, especially as, in 2005, smartphones were emerging and the actual price paid for handsets was shooting up. The cost to replace some phones was upwards of £400.

So, I added it to my personal contract.

Over the next few years I got my use out of the insurance plan as various phones broke or got damaged. I certainly got my £60 per year back!

Fast forward to August 2012. Just a couple of days before flying off to Greece for a summer holiday my phone stopped reading the SIM card. I called Orange and expected to be immediately told that I’d get a replacement the following morning. Job done, right? Nope. I was told that the insurance had been removed from my account.  Read more

Learn to Code (An Intermission): Code.org

The founders of Facebook, Microsoft, Dropbox, Twitter and many more top tech companies have provided their voices and recognisable fizzogs to this latest video from Code.org. Code.org promotes the principle that nobody is born with the ability to code, or play basketball, or drive a racing car: it is a learned skill. The biggest hurdle is that first step overcoming the apprehension of the unknown. That’s something that all of these people have done. From humble beginnings and all that jazz…

 

Burton Menswear’s Blatant, Cheeky, Misleading and False Advertising

I was recently shocked and appalled by an instance of blatant, cheeky and hopefully illegal false advertising at Burton Menswear. I walked in their shop and, from a distance, I saw this below. What does that say to you? I know what it says to me!

 

Jeans £10!!

 

I thought it said “Jeans £10”. Which indicates to my luddite brain that I could exchange ten of Her Majesty’s finest bronze Pog slammers for a pair of Jeans.

I had been into Burton just the week before and these jeans were £36, so I was thrilled that I was going to be able to get a whopping £26 discount!

Surely there must be a catch? I looked closer:

Read more

American Airlines’ New Livery

Thoughts?

Today, after months of speculation and guesswork, the world finally got to see American Airlines’ new livery. Doing away with the bare-metal, full-length stripes and the “AA” with an eagle in the middle, the new paint scheme will work on the new all-composite aircraft coming out of Boeing and Airbus, which simply don’t allow for that “bare metal” look. (They’re not metal for a start!) The new livery is getting a mixed reaction, some love the new, modern style, while others think it is sacrilege to play around with such an iconic brand. The last time American got a new look was back in 1968, so this is an historic day in aviation. Its timing is telling of just how the company wants to leave its old image behind as it claws its way out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The new Logo

Also joining the new livery is a new logo for the brand:

 

Retaining the eagle, although in a very stylised form, the logo is a lot more contemporary than its predecessor. However, its abstract design could make it less impactful. Some commenters are saying it looks too much like other logos, such as the one Air France recently adopted:

Read more

Christmas Computer Hell 2012

It could have been so good…

This was going to be a blog about how to build a modern personal computer. In the end it turns out how NOT to build a modern personal computer, complete with hair-pulling frustrations, angry Tweets, companies being awful then being amazingly good, expensive mistakes and a plethora of helpful friends offering excellent advice.

 

Mid-December, 2012

My main PC, the one that occupies about 50% of my attention at home (the other half goes towards my beautiful, intelligent, incredibly tolerant wife) fails one night. Completely refuses to Power-On Self-Test (POST) – that’s the bit at the after you press the power button with the black background and the white text that looks a bit technical and hardcore. Being in the middle of a highly important personal project I respond in an calm, composed manner. Unfortunately, the calm, composed response has resulted in massive structural failure of the front panel of the computer, including, critically, the power button.

So I order a new Coolermaster K280 from eBuyer to replace the inexplicably inoperative case… Ahem. I’ve been using eBuyer for years, in fact, since I was about 16. It pains me to think of the sheer amounts of cash I’ve exchanged for their many wares in the last decade and a bit… So I know their delivery dates are usually spot on, but as it was Christmas (and I planned to be pretty drunk busy most of that festive week anyhow) I chose my new case to be delivered on Thursday 27th December, giving them a little leeway.

In the meantime, I get hold of a laptop and install Ubuntu Linux on it, just to keep me online and tweeting like a firehose.

As for the case, well blow me down if the thing didn’t turn up at midday on Christmas Eve! Read more

Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 Should be Winning!

Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer, is coming under a lot of fire for the direction the company is going in. And only some of it is justified…

Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 (along with Windows Server 2012) represent Microsoft’s bet on the next four years of personal and business computing. Windows 8 is getting a lot of negative press, from everywhere, while Windows Phone 8 is slated to be the final nail in Nokia’s coffin. But is this really indicative of the products that are coming out of Redmond?

Furthermore, Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer, is suffering through a massive amount of stick about his helmsmanship at the enormous tech company. I am somebody who (like many others) have hated Microsoft for many years, for their monopolistic behaviour and their disdain for simple things like User Experience but the Microsoft of 2012 looks incredibly different to the Microsoft of even two or three years ago. They have changed, dramatically. For an organisation of their size, they seem to have completely overcome the Innovator’s Dilemma, and I, for one, am positive about what that means for all of us.

The Market

Let’s start with a holistic view of the personal and business technology space right now to see if Microsoft are aiming at the right targets.

The world has transitioned from pre-packaged, shrink-wrapped software in boxes. The days of waiting for a CD to spin up and start installing are gone, the movement largely started by Valve Software’s “Steam” game-store-cum-download-manager, which launched in September 2003 and was estimated to have had 70% of the digital distribution market for games by the end of 2009. App Stores are springing up all over the place, allowing for digital downloading of software and games for all type of platforms. Sometimes they’re called Marketplaces or Stores, in the case of Google, simply “Play”. It is the expectation of consumers today that they can get their digital wares on-demand and fast. Today, the expectation from consumers is much more immediate. Everybody expects the world, and wants it right now. It’s not an easy place to do business, and with Twitter and Facebook, bad news travels very quickly. No wonder there is so much turmoil in the industry…  Read more

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