söndag 3 oktober 2010

Ex London buses being shipped to Ceylon in the 1950s

After the war London Transport ordered a new fleet of buses, mostly with AEC engines but some with Leyland also. The latter being non-standard, even though there were more than 1600 of them, they were quickly disposed of. They were apparently not popular with the drivers but one would have thought that a programme of modifications would have sorted out the problems.

What a waste though, when there was a surplus and then the trolleybuses were to be replaced which was another waste and a mistake as well. And for that matter the previous tram replacement programme was also a great mistake but that happened all over Britain.

Why the British tramway operators never bought new standard fleets from the continental manufacturers is an interesting question, the answer to which would probably not reflect well on those responsible for this failure in policy.

The view I do not like

Containers on ship's deck, originally uploaded by seadipper.

It is a beautiful view - early morning on the North Sea. But it is not a view I can enjoy. Every moment it is taking me further away from the place that has become my home, to where I do not want to go to. Only one more time, I hope just for a short stay and after that it will just be for a brief annual visit to catch up with friends.

lördag 2 oktober 2010

What is this camera about?

Leica has just brought out this special titanium version of the Leica M9 digital camera. Launching the limited-edition model, Leica states, "The exclusive special edition Leica M9 "Titanium" is the result of a collaboration with Walter de'Silva, the prominent automobile designer. Responsible for groundbreaking design concepts for the latest models from the Volkswagen Group, the chief designer and his Audi Design Team have re-interpreted the design of the LEICA M9 just as he envisaged it. The outcome is a unique camera with a new interpretation of the characteristic features of Leica rangefinder cameras, which lends precision engineering, unique style and solid titanium to extraordinary formal design."

At a price that is intentionally outrageous, this is obviously aimed at the super-rich extravagant consumer and not intended to be a professional's workhorse in the way that the M2 was, in the early 1960s. The latter is still regarded by many as the best-ever Leica. I have one and enjoy using it, but it is getting too fragile to carry around all the time. I have also got used to the built-in metering of the current MP, launched about ten years ago, which is in most respects identical to the M2. Leica film cameras continue to be made in small numbers but the main production is now devoted to the digital cameras, including the successor M9.

With its 1950s styling, the latter is in some ways a bit of an anachronism. However, it has an overwhelming advantage over all other full frame digital cameras - its small size and simple viewfinding and focussing system, which show not only what is in the picture but what is outside the frame as well. This makes it particularly easy to use and has brought Leica a full order book.

Because of Leica's iconic status, the brand has tended to be taken up by the super-rich, although in fact the prices are within the same range as other full-frame digital cameras used by professionals and serious amateurs. The firm can hardly be criticised for exploiting this niche market, even though the cameras themselves end up in display cabinets or are rarely taken out of their presentation boxes. Who, one wonders, would want to buy a gold-plated camera covered with red crocodile leather and would they ever use such a thing?

As it happens, the Titan development programme led to some unintended technical developments, including the abolition of the frame illumination window and its replacement by LED illumination. It would be surprising if this feature does not soon turn up in the standard M9. I would be surprised also if a titanium bodied M9 similar to this special edition will not soon be on offer as a new professional workhorse, preferably without that peculiar strap.

Boffins, nerds and aspies

., originally uploaded by Reportdigital.co.uk.

In the 1940s men in white coats who worked in laboratories were called "Boffins". They were very much sought after. They were as important as the generals in helping to win the war. After the war, they were still sought after as it was recognised that they were essential to industry and to provide the things that we all use, that rely on sophisticated technology to keep them working.

Later on, people realised that there were easier ways of making money, by moving it around at watching it grow. Nothing was actually produced in this process and industry was spurned. After that, the value of boffins were not recognised so much and the pejorative term "Nerd" was applied.

But now matters are even worse, as these boys (it is usually boys and men) are now considered to be mentally deficient or even ill, and get diagnosed as having Asperger's Syndrome.

If you want your computer fixed or you have a problem with your web site, no-one will do the job better than someone with this "syndrome". They might not be able to make witty light conversation but these people should be regarded as gold dust.

fredag 1 oktober 2010

Labour set for a come-back?

With a new leader elected, some people are suggesting that Labour could make a come-back sooner rather than later, as the government's policies start to unravel.

At the moment, Labour has no credibility but to judge from the way the £ is tumbling, outside the UK there is a lack of confidence in Britain, regardless of who is in charge. The exchange rate went up after the election, reflecting expectations that have not and probably cannot be fulfilled.

We are all in this together is true in the sense that the boat is going down. People will start to notice as prices in the shops start to soar.

Fisherman's Friends will not save the country
Anyone who thinks it is helping imports is deluding themselves. The only British products in the shops in this part of the world are a few sweeties - Fisherman's Friends are curiously popular but they are not going to save the country.

From a bigger perspective on could say that it is the result of the country's moral failure over many decades. Extreme selfishness prevails and is noticeable in the behaviour of people in public places, politicians get elected for saying what the public wants to hear, the politicians themselves are cowardly and vain, the get-rich-quick culture has dominated, there is a widespread belief that moving money around is the way to create wealth, nobody really cares about people forced to sleep in shop doorways, unborn children are literally disposable.

It is not a pretty sight and it is the road to ruin. If Labour reflected on this, reconstructed itself, and took a leadership role, the party might just get itself back when the present lot find themselves presiding over the ruination that Britain seems to be heading for.

Socialism has shown itself in practice to have no effective solution to economic problems that are of very long standing. Socialist and Keynesian economics both rest on shaky foundations.

This is unfortunate because the present coalition have no interest in anything other than (a) survival in power and (b) maintaining ancient and entrenched privileges.

Whatever happens it is not going to get any better until the party that claims not to represent privilege engages with the underlying problem that afflicts the UK. The question that then arises is whether the privileged ones, and those that wrongly imagine themselves to be privileged, have sufficient vision and patriotism to see beyond their immediate self interest and accept the need for change.

Gissa vart spårvagnar går?

Göteborgs spårvagnar rullar i tjänst utan linjeskyltar. Problemet uppståd i början av förre sommar. Förklaringen är att skyltar använder ett...