Dear First Great Western

Thank you for taking the time to install four new shiny ticket machines at Ealing Broadway main line station last week. I had thought that you didn’t give two hoots about the plight of the unfortunate souls who like me have to queue up every morning at the single working machine in order to buy a ticket to get them to work – but although you never answered the nice letter I sent you on the topic back in August you obviously were listening after all.

Unfortunately, I missed the chaos that I imagine must have ensued whilst these works being carried out but I’m sure you will be glad that I did however witness the full-blown horror of humanity’s at best awkward interaction with touch-screen technology as I tried to get in to work this morning. No doubt you will be pleased to hear that that single long queue of people at the only working machine had gone, replaced instead by four huge queues going out the door, one from each machine. It really was fun watching the whole situation unfold in front of me as I stood in the fifth queue to buy my ticket off a real human being.

Perhaps tomorrow I’ll try out this new-fangled technology myself. I’m not sure whether being stuck behind someone struggling to deal with the intricacies of Chip and PIN will be more or less fun than having someone who can’t understand why machine that won’t accept their twenty pound note in payment for a ticket costing less than ten pounds when it states quite clearly on the front of it that it doesn’t give more than ten pounds in change in front of you, but I look forward to finding out.

Don’t worry about writing back – it’s fine.

Warm regards,


Autumn colours

(Two entries in one day? Surely not!)

Inside the Great Conservatory

A beautiful afternoon for wandering around Syon Park, and another item ticked off the list. We arrived just in time for the last guided walk around the grounds, given by Syon’s head gardener, who had an amusingly dry manner and obviously knew more about plants than I could ever hope to! Quite inspiring and well worth the couple of quid admission.

Edgy ate my X server

The Ubuntu team released Edgy Eft – otherwise known as version 6.10 – a few days ago so last night I took the plunge and upgraded my previous Dapper build that I’d been running (mostly) happily for the last few months.

The package manager took care of downloading all the updated packages and installing them while I went to the pub (although it did need a couple of pointers when it came to overwrite a couple of config files that it thought I’d modified, for some reason). It offered to restart the system for the kernel upgrade (2.6.17) to take effect, which I dutifully did.

But then things started to go wrong – the X server failed to start up, leaving me with only a command prompt. Gah! Several attempts at reconfiguring X failed, until I managed to reinstall the Xorg ATI driver which at last gave my a graphical login screen. Not bad after three beers, a G&T and a cointreau on the rocks, eh? 🙂

Now, after a brief struggle with my wireless drivers this morning I’ve just about got everything working, other than the ‘improved’ boot-up screen which fails to output anything sensible to my monitor. But the updated software bundled with the release more than makes up for that, with Firefox 2, Rhythmbox 0.9.6 and Gaim 2.0 beta 3 all crammed in there. Pretty impressive considering the final FF2 was only actually released two days before Edgy. And it’s prettier than Dapper, too.

So overall worth upgrading. But I think there might be a reason why they called it Edgy.

Nice weather for ducks

Tate Modern, looking towards the slides

Things that have been good this weekend:

  • The slides! Although slightly short-lived. Next time we’ll book.
  • Sorting through paperwork and other random stuff from the last four years of my life
  • Wandering around Greenwich in the rain, and taking shelter in a small cafe called Pistachios, which turned out to be more gay than gay-friendly 🙂
  • And miscelleneous things: Chicken jalfrezi, Sunday lunch, white wine, Cointreau over ice and the O.C.

And generally being in London.


According to today’s Guardian (complete with poster of salad greens – what’s with that?) Keane are to launch their new single – Nothing in My Way – on a USB memory stick through HMV at the end of the month.

HMV are doing a lot at the moment to improve their offerings in a world dominated by the likes of MySpace and Apple and where digital distribution of music is becoming the norm rather than the exception. In the last few months they’ve launched a new download service at – which allows users to download tracks without installing the HMV Music Player required by their older subscription site, introduced new access channels such as Txt2Buy and in-store kiosks, and in a desperate move to halt their recent decline in profits have even started slashing prices.

In short, these guys are desperate for our business, and as a result they’re increasingly looking for alternative ways to reach consumers – and most importantly that crucial 16-24 year old demographic.

But they’re not the only ones – further up the food chain, the record companies are too looking at new distribution models, and as a result you can buy many newly released tracks via CD, download or even your mobile phone. That’s great, right? Because surely with more ways to access music than ever before, more people are therefore able to enjoy that music?

Sadly the reality doesn’t always match this and often that choice isn’t there. So-called “exclusive” deals such as the Jamiroquai greatest hits album shortly to be available on a mobile phone near you a whole three weeks before you can get hold of it via CD mean that people are actually being stopped from listening to music – in this case for three weeks but in others for longer. The mobile operators signing deals with the record company licensing clips of concerts for exclusive use by their own subscribers are playing an even more dangerous game, competing with each other on who provide the most “exclusive” content.

So the net result is that people get locked out of content – “you can watch this music video, but only if you have the latest mobile phone” or “you can listen to this track, but only if you’re on Network X”. Add to this the fact that you need a credit or debit card to access most online music services, and 99 percent of music sold on those stores comes encumbered with DRM crap that will stop you listening to your collection if you ever stop paying for that service (or if your PC or iPod dies) and you’re increasingly slamming the door shut on legitimate consumers. These are people who want to listen to music and are happy to pay, but who if they can’t get at it easily will either download it illegally or worse – not bother at all.

So go ahead Mr Greedy Record Company – you go destroy your whole business through a series of misguided and short-sighted strategies that determine how you distribute the content that you so protectively guard. That’s fine. But remember that there are some people out there who actually are struggling to make a living out of selling music. People like HMV and of course the artists, who would probably rather that you didn’t destroy the whole entire industry when you eventually keel over like the big huge dinosaur that you are gasping your last dying breath.


Lunch time walk

Guards Club Bridge

October is good for taking photos. Today I spent my lunch break wandering around a tiny little wooded island in the middle of the Thames. Apparently not working in Central London has some pluses, after all :-).

Five things

Why is it that I live in one of the most vibrant and cosmopolitan cities in Europe yet fail to take full advantage of this? Why is it that with so many attractions on my doorstep I’ve so far failed to see half of the things-that-are-worth-seeing in this great metropolis of ours?

Whenever I visit a new city it’s always a struggle to fit in as many museums, parks, shops, bars and general sights as possible within the space of a few days. In the last few months in London I have mastered the art of drinking Pimms in the park and improved my general shopping skills but that still leaves a long list of things still on that to-do list. So here’s a few things that in twelve months time I intend to have ticked off.

  • Gone to London Zoo
  • Been on a boat on the Thames – not those diesel-belching monstrous tourist traps that constantly parade backwards and forwards between Westminster and Tower Bridge but a proper classy boat up the river from Kingston
  • Visted Kew Gardens and Syon Park
  • Seen an exhibition at the Tate Modern and walked across the wobbly bridge
  • Visited Grenwich for the day

That’s not a comlete list, but it’s a start.

This weekend – other than the endless hours spent sat sitting on a Pendalino of course – has been generally great. One of the things I like most about living in London is leaving it from time-to-time. Not because I can’t stand the place, but more because it does make you appreciate other places that you visit more simply because they’re different. But when I am in the city, I really should be making more of it than I am right now and this I intend to rectify.

Crossing the line

Last weekend I ran ten kilometres in fifty two minutes and six seconds. And learnt that drinking a pint of beer and nothing else isn’t a good way to stay re-hydrated throughout the rest of the day. It was the toughest run I’ve done to date – not in terms of the distance (I’d done an 8km route a few weeks ago) but the extra effort needed to do that last two kilometres was a real killer. But I did it.

Crossing the finishing line

(That’s me, second on the left, in the green. Honest.)

Thanks to everyone who sponsored me, and to the lovely people who came and sat in the pub with us afterwards on a beautiful clear October morning. If you haven’t done so already then you can still donate through my justgiving page and help me reach my target of rasing £250 for Fairbridge.

And thanks to the wonders of proprietary Microsoft/Adobe technology, you can see a video of me crossing the finishing line here and my split times here, although I suspect some of those data points are slightly made up, what with them only having had sensor mats every two kilometres. Simon has a better description of the ups and downs of running ten kilometres than I can manage as well as a photo of us in our gear before the run.

Next week I start the training again. Autumn is a great time for running if only you can get around the whole getting-dark-at-seven thing.

Running kit

Running kit

Today I did my last training run before the big day on Sunday. I’m hopeful that the last few months’ worth of exertion will stand me in good stead for my goal of 55 minutes, but we’ll see what happens on the day itself.

Time goals aside, I’m also hoping to raise a bit of money for the charity Fairbridge, who help out disadvantaged kids in inner cities. If you’d like to help me out then please visit my justgiving page. All donations gratefully recieved!

Oh, and if you know Simon then you should sponsor him too. But sponsor me first, natch 😉