Monthly Archives: April 2012

Drought

Earlier this week I met a huge articulated lorry on a country lane.  It was carrying a big load of hay: something one might easily see on a tractor on that road, but not a big lorry.  I was on the bike, but had to pull in at a passing place to meet it.

It’s a bit of a puzzle.  What was a load of hay doing there in April, and why was it on a lorry whose natural environment should surely be the motorway?  My best guess is that here it’s surplus to requirements after a much milder winter than in the past two years, but that someone in the drought-hit east or southeast of England needs to supplement their animal feed.

Last weekend our powers-that-be extended the official drought area to include us (southwest England) and the Midlands.  That’s interesting, because water levels in our reservoirs, though rather low for April, are almost identical to where they were this time last year.  With this week’s rain (heavy showers – classic April weather) they’ll creep up above where they were a year ago.  So why have they declared us a drought area?  Do they have plans to transport our water eastwards?

For the record, we have had three months of very dry weather from about the second week of January to a few days ago, including a couple of exceptionally warm and sunny weeks at the end of March.  But following a very wet end to last year there was lots of ground water to feed the reservoirs and (coupled with seasonally low demand) stop them depleting.

WordPress isn’t allowing me to embed SouthWest Water’s relevant graph (and infuriatingly offers no clue why: I even checked for any metadata suggesting copyright might be an issue, but there is none).  So here’s a link to our reservoir levels.  Note that if you read this post after the end of 2012 the graph will no longer show what I’m talking about.

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Whatspot?

I guess once wifi hotspots became a strategy for big telcos, it was only a matter of time before they reached us here.  And so this week it has come to pass: two new unprotected wifi access points labelled BTFON and BTOpenzone-H.  They provide a decent signal level too, second only to my own router from where I type.

So I connected to one, then the other, and took a look.  They appear to be offering the same service: evidently like buses they’re social and cluster together!  Indeed I suspect they may be no more than different aliases for the same physical router.  Unsurprisingly they’re a BT service.  Equally unsurprisingly there’s a catch: all they actually connect to is a sandbox.  A website promoting a BT service, and inviting me to pay for access to …. what exactly?

In principle this could be an interesting offering.  Indeed, if sufficiently reliable, such a service together with VOIP phone SIP exchange might even replace the landline and ADSL connection altogether.  But its value depends entirely on whether it provides full internet access.  If it’s one of those mickey-mouse services that blocks everything but web (and maybe mail) ports even after I’ve gone to the trouble of paying and logging in via the sandbox I can access, then no thank you!

Now, guess what information I can’t find anywhere on the sandbox site, after following every remotely promising link like “technical information” and “FAQs” (erm, yeah, right, everyone is frequently asking questions whose answer is immediately obvious to anyone who can formulate the question in the first place).  Yep, that’s right, they’re not going to tell me whether they supply any bloomin’ service beyond a bit of point-and-drool.

April fools or spooks?

Isn’t it both bad taste and bad judgement for government to play April fools jokes?  Or for media to devise such jokes that purport to be serious reports of government?  Yet the BBC is reporting what must surely be an April Fools story about plans for Orwellian surveillence.

I used to think The Liar’s hostility to freedom of thought and speech was a historic anomaly: surely the parties of the smaller state / big society and the traditional champions of civil liberties would halt the advance of fascism.  But it seems not: first we have book burning on the coalition’s watch and nothing happens, then in a chilling rejection of free speech, someone gets locked up for being an arse on twitter (in sharp contrast to those who don’t get locked up for actual violent attacks).

As a software developer I have spent many years working on the dream of liberating us all from shackles of geography.  If the spirit of Blair still rules us and has extinguished that of Voltaire, maybe it’s time I shifted my attention in another direction.