Friday, 26 May 2017

The internet of video

Call me old if you will, but I remember a time when the Internet did not even exist - when I was making protocols for file transfer over 300bps modems (for my B.Sc.) at around the same time as IP packets were being dreamt up. I had used computers for many years by them.

I have seen it change over time, and change in many ways.

At the start it was a bit like ham radio - sending packets to each other was what we did - using protocols like TCP on top of that, and I was lucky enough to find Demon for my first home Internet connection with a fixed IP and no filtering. I commend Demon as pioneers of their day.

Times have changed, and the invention of the world wide web, and http, was a major thing. I remember actually going on a course for UI design that mentioned hyperlinking, and a course on web page design (all manually created HTML).

The usage of the Internet really has come a long way and we are now in the video phase of that usage. At each stage the Internet has had its high users. It was text initially, and then images, audio files, and now video.

One of the things I have always said is that there probably are some limits on what consumer Internet will need to provide, and those limits stem from the bandwidth of the person - of the human being. How much data can we, as a person, absorb?

Obviously there are always exceptions, cases where data is transferred for processing by computer systems and not a person, but by far the highest usage of the Internet as a consumer service right now is the video streaming, and that is there to ultimately be fed to the eyes and ears of one or more people.

We have many senses, and even then we have to consider the "resolution" of those senses. The fact we have 4k video now, even at levels perhaps beyond the resolution of our eyes (because we can move our eyes around the screen) is quite amazing. We may go to higher resolutions even, and more 3D and so on. Vision is perhaps the highest bandwidth sense we have, with sound, and smell and touch all taking a back seat.

With consumer Internet connections starting to approach the level where each person in a household is able to receive the video streaming, and the content, at least as much as they as a person can absorb in real time for 24 hours a day - we may start to finally reach limits of consumer Internet connectivity.

Of course there is the uplink side, and that has yet to fully catch up. Internet has been asymmetrical for some time, but even now FTTC offers 20Mb/s uplink if you can get it. We have to consider people creating content, and that content being video. Ratios of content production to content consumption will always be skewed to the consumption so maybe what we have makes sense now.

Personally I am thinking I need to move more to video content - my blog moving to a vlog (or whatever it is called). I have a youtube channel (do subscribe). I will try to learn more about video and multiple cameras, and sound, and so on, and maybe get good at it...

Maybe that will be the new me - the video content generator?

It reminds me a lot of this comic (see image on the right). Well worth reading.

Oh Apple, thou art trying to vex me

With all the messing with my apple login to try and sort the apple-TV issue (no idea if fixed, not tried for two weeks), I ended up logging out and logging in on my Mac several times.

The first annoyance is that this left my Mac contacts book with about 7 copies of every contact. Very silly.

So, today, I deleted 6 out of 7 of each contact instance and tidied it up a lot.

What do you think happened?

Well, now I have one copy of each contact on my Mac and zero copies of them on my phone. Almost every contact has vanished from my phone.

Why Apple? Why?

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Stupidity tax?

This is largely a rant as I am the one that sorts the unreconcilable banking stuff on our system - mostly passing it on to the accounts department. But ultimately I am the only one with access to the actual bank - the company is small enough that it makes sense to work that way. So when things appear on the daily statement that cannot be automatically processed, I have to decide what to do.

Some days, rarely, there is nothing to check, but most days there is something, and it is almost always customers being a tad annoying.

We mostly collect payment by Direct Debit, which "just works" - however we allow payment by bank transfer at no extra cost (though some packages are DD only). Basically, some people do not trust Direct Debit, and I know why. We don't trust it - or to be more accurate we don't trust all of our suppliers to actually do Direct Debit in accordance with the rules. It is a sad state of affairs as the rules are actually very clear and simple, and allow claw-back if not followed. When we do Direct Debit we make damn sure we are following the rules. However, if someone wants to pay us by bank transfer they can. I really do understand. We have many people doing that correctly and on time.

The only stipulation we have is that they complete the correct beneficiary reference on the payment. Well, of course, they also have to do the right sort code and account number, but the reference is for our benefit. It is to allow us to assign the payment correctly.

I had one today and it wound me up - hence the post. The customer pays quarterly and uses normal 2 day BACS transfers, and normally pays on time.

They never send the right reference, in fact they send "0". We do not get sender sort code and account from our bank, so we have to make some guess and generally I have to make the assignment of their payment manually. We charge £5 for doing so - it is manual work we should not have to do.

So is it unfair that we insist on the correct reference on the payment?

I really do not think so - at the end of the day that is why the reference exists, and there are so many organisations you have to pay that also insist on the correct reference: Gas, Electric, Water, Telephone, Rates, VAT, PAYE, and many more. Companies have to have a way to send payments with the right beneficiary reference else they have some serious problems paying the most basic things like VAT and Rates. We are no different.

The one today was extra special. It was a company that usually pays on time but never uses the right reference. As such we charge £5, but to make it easy we include that as a line item in the next bill and not a separate invoice. If we made it a separate invoice you have an infinite loop of paying that without the correct reference and again being invoiced. We saw that happen once when we made it a separate invoice - very sad - we did not have the heart to keep it going and so changed the system.

But occasionally this organisation also pays late and so gets a late payment invoice (typically £40) and then a separate invoice when they pay, for the interest. In this case it was for 3p. This is all according to statute for late payment of commercial debts. If you don't like it, pay on time, duh!

What was especially sad is they sent a BACS payment for the 3p. BACS works for 1p to £10million. They did not send £40.03 to cover both invoices, but just 3p, leaving the £40 overdue. They will end up with a £5 charge on the next invoice for paying 3p without a reference - a £5 charge for my time and the accounts team's time handling the payment with not reference (bargain). They probably pay bank charges to send the 3p that is a lot more than 3p!

It is sad that large company bureaucracy can end up like this - just paying - not even complaining - paying for their own failings time and time again.

I think the £5 charge is fair. I dislike having to faff around every day (even when on the North Sea) to do bank reconciliation, and then paying accounts staff as well. It costs money and is avoidable - just use the right reference. It is even the same every time (the A...A account number) but we are flexible and can handle the I...A invoice number if preferred. This is not a way for us to make extra money at the expense of companies that are inept, honest.

Even so, this is verging on a stupidity tax, and so it is scary...

Tesco multibuy

A bit of a rant on bad user interface!

Please excuse VVS :-)

P.S. it is worth pointing out the other gripe which I have not videoed...

At the check-out, you scan the check-out barcode. From a user interface point of view I think that at that point it should transfer control to the check-out in all cases. It knows you are at the check-out, and which one. You should be done with the handset then.

There are two issues.

1. It asks a question on the handset at that point - regarding items that did not scan. Why? Why not ask that on the check-out as the first question. This annoying split of a question on handset then next question on check-out is not helpful.

2. If you are picked for a random check, you are told on the handset. The check-out transfer does not happen. At this point there is NO ALERT to staff of an issue - the status Red/Amber/Green on check-out is not set to alert staff. Nothing tells staff you are stuck and you have to find someone or wait indefinitely for someone. If the transfer was to checkout at that point, and then it says "random check" that would allow the check-out status to alert staff. The re-scan could use the handset or the check-out reader, does not really matter.

I just feel that this is not thought out well at all.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Norwegian Jade, Day 9

Day 9 is disembarkation.

Contrary to the fiasco of boarding, disembarkation is much smoother. We had breakfast in the room, and then (tracking my wife driving to come and get us) we then told the bulter (Putu) we were ready to leave. He had the lift on a key (as he says, otherwise, it is 15 minute wait!), and he helped with luggage escorting us past the queue to leave. We were then escorted by the concierge (Omar) out to the gangplank where we jumped the whole queue. We then moved quite quickly through the port and out to pick up area as my wife pulled up - perfect timing and no need for short stay car park!

I did do a bit more video of the suite, and have made a video tour...

P.S. The fluid tripod head is on order now :-)

Norwegian Jade, Day 8

The last day, a sea day.

We did not do a lot, but we did get a bridge tour, which is reserved for very few people in the top suites if you are very lucky. We met the 2nd officer, who was not Commander Data. She did however tell us how they steer the ship, and so on. Very interesting.

The captain's young daughter was also given an Ignis.

I did a lot of video editing, and we did try to get a video to you tube - sadly ship's internet was not only slow but also a tad flaky so we scrapped that idea on the basis that a hard drive in a car from the port this morning was higher bandwidth.

This is the time-lapse I did of us leaving Geiranger. 8300 separate stills done at around 1 second intervals thanks to a small shell script on my laptop and wifi to camera. Done with mirror lock up to avoid wear on the mechanism.

Final cut pro did a nice job of compiling in to a video. All I lack at this point is a nice background sound track.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Norwegian Jade, Day 7: Bergen

Bergen is a much larger city, second largest in Norway and once capital.

Yeh, I sound like a tour guide, which is all down to spending a while on one of the sight seeing busses around the town centre. Then we took the train to the top of one hill, some nice views.

We did play cards in the suite quite a lot. We do seem to finally be getting the hang of ship life. Nice dinner in the Italian restaurant (which captain was also in).