Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Should you spend $1500 on a USB cable?

"Best Buy Is Selling This USB Cable For $1,500 And You Need To Read The Reviews"

Aaaahh. The old argument. This was around when optical PCM interfaces first came out of CD players.

The fact is that cable quality and noise DO indeed affect digital signal quality, and it is not 1s and 0s being transferred along the cable. Here's why.

A cable has capacitance, and that capacitance turns a nice, neat binary 'square wave' signal...

...into something called a sawtooth waveform...

When the peak of the 'sawtooth' doesn't quite reach the level required for the receiver to register a 1 or a 0...

...the transmitted signal now has an error because the signal voltage doesn't get high or low enough for long enough for the receiver to register it as a 1 or a 0...

As the capacitor of the cable charges up, its resistance increases, which is why the square wave gets turned into a sawtooth. The longer the cable, the greater the capacitance and the lower the data rate that the cable can support. Modern data cabling of the type you'll find in offices will transmit and receive at 100 megabits per second over a distance of around 100 metres.

However, to overcome this, digital signals are modulated. If you've heard a fax machine or an old dial-up MODEM working (MODulator/DEModulator, turns digital into analogue), those tones are modulated data. But it's not that simple. That kind of modulation works up to 9600 bits per second or thereabouts. So to get higher transfer speeds, the modulation is a bit fancier than just changing frequencies for different bits of information. High speed modems change the frequency (pitch) the amplitude (volume) and the phase (angle) of the signal in order to encode multiple bits in each state change.

USB v1 runs at 12,000,000 bits per second
USB v2 runs at 480,000,000 bits per second
USB v3 runs at 3,000,000,000 bits per second

Higher speeds demand higher quality cables and shorter cable lengths. The actual transmission rates are much lower than the speeds you think you're sending data at, because as I said, multiple bits of information are sent in each state change. This allows manufacturers to develop higher apparent data speeds from cables which haven't really changed much in the last 100 years. Copper is still copper.

Poor transmission media will definitely cause errors. In the old days, this would mean that, for example, a large data transfer would fail part way through and have to be restarted from scratch. I sat on site until late into the night at a factory where a 6 hour print job would fail part way through. The cause was a single bit error, turning a hex '11' into a '16' so instead of the printer knowing to start a new line, it just carried on churning out complete crap. The cause of the bit error was noise on a piece of cable running through the factory.

Fortunately, modern transmission systems have error detection and correction mechanisms which work in two ways, firstly sending redundant data and secondly providing a feedback mechanism to retransmit errored data. These mechanisms will correct any transmission errors, however in doing so, they introduce delay. When you print a document, it doesn't really matter how long it takes the data to reach the printer, so delay is not a problem.

For real time audio, though, that delay means that the receiver has to wait to catch up with the retransmitted data, and if the receiver's buffer runs dry, the audio device will have no numbers to feed into its CODEC (CODer/DECoder, turns digital to analogue) to produce music. I'm sure you've heard a CD player that sounded like a stuck record, playing the same couple of seconds, over and over. The solution is to transmit data faster than the receiver can use it, so that the delays caused by retransmission are always absorbed by the buffer.

So a 99p cable? Definitely you will get errors and noise, and the longer the cable, the worse it gets. A $1500 cable? Yes, that is ridiculous. But if you're buying a $100000 audio component, you want to feel like you have spent a suitable amount of money on accessories, so I'm sure it looks and feels just great. If you're the kind of person who goes into Harrods and says, "I'll take it" then this is a cable meant just for you. You have no idea what you're buying, so if it's expensive it must be good. You'll never listen to it anyway.

However, in terms of the above explanation of data transmission, a $10/£10 cable would be more than sufficient.

Analogue cables are something very different. The chemical composition of the cable affects its resistance, capacitance and inductance, and these characteristics change at different signal frequencies. What leaves your source device is not what arrives, one metre later, at the amplifier. The frequency range is 'smeared' and different frequencies are amplified (louder) or attenuated (quieter). Try singing in a tiled hallway, bathroom or sports hall and notice how your voice sounds different - that's what happens along the length of the cable. However that doesn't make the sound necessarily worse, it makes it different, and so analogue cables have to be matched just like other components, to create the sound that you like.

Ultimately, the original source of music is generally analogue (voice), and the reproduction is always analogue (ears) so the analogue connections will have a much greater impact on subjective sound quality than the digital ones.

The end.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Social media sites respond to Facebook rebranding

As expected, other social media sites are responding to Facebook's dramatic rebranding as reported here earlier today.

LinkedIn will become Linky McLinkface

Twitter will become Twitty McTwitface

Pinterest will become Pinny McPinface

Tumblr will become Tumbly McTumbleface

YouTube will become Tubey McTubeface

Whatsapp will become Whatsy McAppface

Kik will become Kikky McKikintheface

Google+ will continue to be of no interest to anyone

Facebook to undergo major rebranding

In a move said by many observers to be nothing more than, "jumping on the bandwagon", Facebook is to undergo a major rebranding for the first time in its 12 year history.

"We have to move with the times", says Mark Zuckerberg. "We actually created the whole concept of social media, but we have to recognise that the world moves on, and our competitors sometimes have good ideas too, and we have to capitalise on that if we're to retain our market leading position. If I see something that I think is going to lead us into the next market evolution, of course I take advantage of it."

Industry analyst Jed Schokenau said, "Facebook isn't just a website, it's a part of people's lives. Hell, for some people, it really is their life. If they don't see a cat video or a meme about having a wonderful daughter, they lose all sense of direction in life. So this is a massive move for Facebook, this is really a seismic shift in the whole social media ecosphere, and I think we'll see other social media players following suit."

Zuckerberg denied claims that the rebranding is just an attempt to get cheap publicity, emphasising, "No, honestly, it's really really true. It is. Honestly."

We've secured a sneak preview of the new branding for you, but to see it live on the site you'll have to wait until next week.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Three Sucks

For some time now, Three mobile have been taking 4 direct debits for 3 accounts. I rang some time ago to ask why, they said the 4th was for out of contract charges such as roaming. OK. So I just called again and it turns out they have two numbers assigned to the same SIM and are therefore billing me twice every month. They never thought to mention this before.

Call 1 to customer service helped me to figure out the problem. At the point that the agent was about to give me the conflicting number, I got cut off.

Call 2 needed a bit of backtracking to get the number, and confirmed that they have two accounts in my name, same phone, different numbers. The agent escalated the call to Amit. Amit said hello, and I got cut off.

I waited 20 minutes for Amit to call me.

Call 3 and I had to start completely from scratch, all over again. I had to explain everything that was going on. The agent couldn't just transfer me to Amit. I had to explain everything again. I was getting frustrated. Finally she figured that I had to speak to Amit. Then she told me that Amit had already called me. No he hadn't. What number had Amit called me on? Oh yes, of course, the redundant number which they told me has never been used. I KNOW IT'S NEVER BEEN USED, IT'S A DUPLICATE!! SO WHY IS AMIT CALLING ME ON IT??

Now I'm waiting for Amit to call me on, amazingly, THE NUMBER THAT I CALLED THEM ON.

Meanwhile, their music on hold is interrupted by an advert... "Getting charged for 0800 numbers sucks..." No, purple muppet, getting charged twice for the same phone is what sucks.

Let's see what happens.

p.s. an hour later... no call back from Amit yet

12 hours later... no call back from Amit

Call 4. Can I speak to Amit? No you can't. You have to wait 24 hours for him to call you.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Virgin Trains are Lovely People!

Virgin Trains are great. I did something stupid last night and booked train tickets while tired and booked the return journey in the wrong direction with non-refundable tickets. Duh! So I contacted Virgin's live chat help desk.

Adolf: The tickets booked by you are E-tickets which are actually non-refundable under any circumstances. However, as a one time exception, I am offering you a full refund for your tickets. The amount of £16.00 will be processed to your account by 18-05-2015.

Peter Freeth: Oh my goodness! How amazing! I am so grateful because it was a silly mistake. I can't believe I put the stations in the wrong way round. Advice: Don't book train tickets when tired.

Adolf: Okay. But for your future reference I wish to advise you something.

Peter Freeth: Yes?

Peter Freeth: Get some sleep?

Adolf: While booking online, please check your “Shopping Basket” page and confirm the journey details. So that if there is any error in the booking, you will come to know of it immediately.

Peter Freeth: Of course. I was rushing. My fault.

Peter Freeth: You're awesome!

Adolf: You are most welcome.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Top Gear is Back! Again! It Never Left! Who Cares!

The BBC has announced 'new' presenters for Top Gear. A loudmouth git, a crash test dummy and a posh one. But they're not the old presenters, honest.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Americans! Vote for the person on the telly! You know it makes sense!

In 2008, one of these men became President of the USA, just when we needed a tough,
honest, post-apocalypse, no-nonsense leader the most... 

In 2016, one of these women could become President of the USA, just when we need a tough, strong, no-nonsense, let's restore a normal society and have nice clean streets leader the most...

So who says that Hollywood films are used to covertly influence voters and that the American public are stupid enough to vote for whoever looks like the hero on telly?

Monday, 20 October 2014

Monday, 29 September 2014

This Takes the Biscuit...

Also the name of the supermarket, Eroski, sounds like Russian porn.

As David Cameron would say, "LOL".

A Bad Day at Wedgewood

Do the people who decorate pottery have bad days? Maybe their boss was nasty to them, or they were made redundant?

Maybe that explains this interesting mug...

And just in case your delicate sensibilities were not sufficiently offended by this outrageous hardcore pottery, I have kindly highlighted the areas of interest below:

Hmm... a subliminal message, maybe? It certainly looks like no rabbit I've ever seen. Oh, wait...

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Global Hipocrisy

Well, here's a weird thing.

When the Americans don't like the way that another country's leader runs his country, they invade it, depose him, execute him and impose martial law.

When the Russians shoot down a civilian airliner, the Americans tut and say they'll give them a stern talking to.

Yes, we cam blame the Russians for arming the rebels, or for invading Ukraine in the first place.

Or, we can ask why other world leaders stand by and do nothing.

What, oh what, is the world coming to?

Monday, 14 July 2014

Who, oh Why, oh Why???

There are some odd things for sale on eBay. Here's one that I just tripped over...

Why on Earth would anyone buy just the rusty old hinges and handle???

Oh - to make their own pasting table. I get it. Well, they'll need some hardboard for it. Let's see...

So that's £6 for the old hinges, £1.90 for postage and £6.67 for a piece of hardboard. Plus you'll need some wood for the frame and legs. Let's say 4 pieces at £1.72 each. That's a grand total of... £21.45


Oh, wait, while I was on Wickes' website buying the parts to make a pasting table, I saw this...

I don't get it.

Wickes. It's got our name on it. And it's stuck on with glue that will never come off, so your DIY projects will always have a torn, tatty label with our name on.


Thursday, 10 July 2014

Duncan Bannatyne's Best Moments on Dragon's Den

To celebrate Duncan Bannatyne's decision to leave Dragon's Den, we've compiled a montage of his 'best bits'...

"I wouldn't buy it, and if I wouldn't buy it because I'm a tight-arsed, more-money-than-sense, ice-cream-van-owning thief of people's hopes and dreams then no-one else in the world would buy it either. I'm oot."

"I don't like it, and if I don't like it then no-one in the world likes it. I'm oot."

"I don't understand it, and if I don't understand it, it can't be because I'm thick, therefore it's a rubbish idea and I'm oot"

"I've sat and listened to these idiots talking a load of nonsense for the last few minutes, so let me tell you where I am. I'm oot."

"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home. I'm oot."

"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us. I'm oot."

"While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially it is an impossibility. I'm oot."

"Who the hell wants to hear actors talk? I'm oot. I'm oot."

"Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You're crazy. I'm oot."

"Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value. I'm oot."
"Louis Pasteur's theory of germs is ridiculous fiction. I'm oot."

Monday, 16 June 2014

Banksy Does Will Smith Up Against a Wall

OK, so this may not be an actual Banksy piece of urban art, but it's definitely graffiti of some kind, spotted today in Birmingham's cosmopolitan urban art district i.e. railway arches.

I thought the face looked familiar, and then it struck me. I think the ears were the giveaway.

Who'd have thought that we'd find Hollywood A list celebs sitting for urban portraiture in sunny Birmingham, which has more shopping trolleys and discarded handbags floating in canals than Venice.

Star Wars Cast Take Time Out for Shopping

Rumours are rife about the upcoming Star Wars episode 7 filming, with Harrison Ford literally tripping over his own feet and breaking his ankle in a desperate bid to Tweet photos of the new Millennium Falcon being built at Pinewood Studios.

I wonder if they vaccinated the spacecraft for the Millennium Bug?

Anyway, since the cast of the film have a bit of time on their hands, they've been catching up on some shopping, Earthling-style, by joining the posse at Storage Hunters for some leftover Earth bargains such as drug labs, illegal weapons and trombones.

See if you can spot the Ewoks in these still images taken from the show....

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

The 10 most important photographs of the last 50 years

On the BBC news website today, the 10 most important photographs from the past 50 years.

What could they be?

Surely, a young soldier in Vietnam? Maybe a peace protester facing down a tank in China? 9/11?


They include such important works as this:

Peter Fraser is one of the great colourists in photography. His pictures involve subjective, deeply felt, instinctual responses to the look of things in the world. There is the sense of a searching use of the camera and an openness to the potentially infinite pictorial possibilities of what is around him. Colour is integral to the ways in which his photography opens up new and unexpected ways of depicting aspects of the everyday and ordinary.

This is beautifully brought out in this picture of two plastic buckets, and the way it concentrates us on the subtle shifts in tones of blue between them. What might have been seen as obvious and common is transformed in this picture, made special and strange. The photograph is from a series he aptly titled Everyday Icons.

I'm obviously missing something...

Sunday, 1 June 2014

It's the Village Bike...


A man in Glasgow was in court recently, accused of trying to have sex with a bike. We don't mean a promiscuous local tartlet, we mean an actual bicycle.

"Mr Stewart was caught in the act with his bicycle by cleaners in his bedroom at the Aberley House Hostel in Ayr."

Maybe, in an attempt to explore his sexuality, he got bisexual confused with bicycle.

"Stewart had denied the offence, claiming it was caused by a misunderstanding after he had too much to drink."

Ah yes, a misunderstanding of course. Maybe one of his flatmates said that there was a ride waiting for him in his bedroom. He'll be a bit saddle sore now, I should think. He needs to break the chains of love and get a handlebar on his life. Put the brakes on a bit.

Oh, and of course, get a life.

Mind you, that's nothing compared with the American who tried to have sex with a cashpoint machine.

"Police in Murfreesboro, Tenn., say Lonnie Hutton, 49, strutted into the Boro Bar and Grill, cozied up to the ATM, pulled down his pants and underwear and then attempted to have sexual intercourse with the machine."

Another misunderstanding, obviously. When his friends said there was a hole in the wall... you get the picture.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

The Smurfs Live on BGT!!!

It would appear that the stars who entertain us while ITV's technicians are rigging votes on Britain's Got Talent wouldn't even get through to the semi-finals themselves.

Tonight's wailing weirdos were Will.I.Am and Rappa Smurf, it would appear...

Honestly, what the hell is the world coming to?

Thankfully, because the two megastars are American, they didn't notice Dec taking the piss when he wished them a happy birthday, after singing their shit single, sorry, hit single, It's My Birthday. And when I say singing, of course I mean moving their mouths approximately in time to the music. Rappa Smurf was singing just like John Redwood singing the Welsh national anthem when he was the Minister for Wales. Seriously. Look it up on YouTube.

As Papa Smurf himself would say, LOL.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Do not drink nail varnish remover

According to the experts at Superdrug, nail varnish remover is similar to drink...

Still, it's great news that the Travel Bottle is ideal for travelling. Bloody marvellous.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Serving suggestion?

McDonalds are thrilling us with their Great Tastes of America special edition burgers.

Note that's not collector's edition. You shouldn't be keeping these things under your bed.

So I was tempted by the Texas BBQ, this week's special:

Well, can you imagine how I felt when this is what emerged from the cardboard box:

And the taste?

Pretty much how it looks...

Monday, 5 May 2014

Do Not Use The Toilet

Here's a useful sign from a hotel toilet.

Presumably they want me to poo in the sink, then?

Monday, 28 April 2014

Orsett Hall in Photo Frame Horror

We recently visited posh hotel and spa Orsett Hall in Essex.

Like everything else in Essex, it was all show and no go. All vajazzle and fake tan and pink ribbon. But scratch the surface and you find surly dining room staff who set tables any old how and try and convince you that you're too late for breakfast and their clock is wrong because they can't be bothered to serve you.

We were sat in the tiny lounge area and noticed three picture frames that all had the same picture in.

I said, "They look like the photos that came with the frame!"

On closer inspection, guess what?

As they say in Essex, LOL.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Don't Play With Fire

The latest Amazon TV ad features an annoying woman who likes to poke her nose into your online activities via your Amazon Kindle Fire.

She chirpily offers the following advice:

Great... all this time I've been trying to keep my kids away from the fire...

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Don't Be Greedy

Here's an interesting story. The guy returned a laptop but was still charged for the loan, he went to court and was awarded £116,000!

Then there was an appeal, and 16 years later, the High Court awards him £8,000 instead.

But who appealed? PC World? No. The loan provider? No.

He did!

Because £116,000 wasn't enough.

Just goes to show, when you get something you shouldn't have, keep your big mouth shut.

And don't be greedy.

A man has won a 16-year dispute over a laptop which he bought from the Aberdeen branch of PC World.
Richard Durkin claimed the HFC bank ruined his credit rating after he tried to pull out of a credit agreement when he returned the £1,499 computer.
Mr Durkin, 44, took his case to court and initially won damages of £116,000 but that ruling was overturned.
The Supreme Court in London has now allowed his appeal and ruled he should receive £8,000 in damages.
Mr Durkin said the ruling was a victory for the consumer but a blow for him personally.
He had handed over £50 and signed a credit agreement with HFC in 1998, but said he was told by a sales assistant at the store in Aberdeen that the laptop could be returned if it had a problem.
He discovered the laptop did not have an inbuilt modem.
Mr Durkin was eventually paid back the £50 by PC World but HFC said he was still required to make payments under the terms of the credit agreement.
In 2008 Aberdeen Sheriff Court ruled that he was entitled to reject the laptop and cancel the sale and the credit agreement and awarded damages of £116,000.
The decision was overturned later by judges at the Court of Session in Edinburgh after Mr Durkin himself appealed against the size of the damages.
Delivering the Supreme Court conclusion, Lord Hodge ruled: "I would allow the appeal and declare that Mr Durkin was entitled to rescind and validly rescinded the credit agreement by giving notice to HFC in about February 1999.
"Damages resulting from HFC's breach of its duty of care are confined to injury to Mr Durkin's credit in the sum of £8,000.
"I would give the parties an opportunity to agree the date from which interest should run and the rate or rates of interest to be applied."
Lord Hodge said the Supreme Court did not have the power to restore the damages originally awarded to Mr Durkin.


Today's judgment is a significant victory for consumers, but rather a hollow one for Richard Durkin.
The judgment establishes that if you buy goods using a credit agreement, and then validly terminate the contract of sale by rejecting the goods, you can also validly end the credit agreement.
More significantly, it establishes that any lender who wants to blacklist a consumer's credit rating, when they are asserting that they've terminated the credit agreement, owes that consumer a duty of care to ensure that they are genuinely in default of the credit agreement.
Mr Durkin had told HFC bank that he'd ended the credit agreement.
The court found that, in the light of that, HFC were under a duty to make the appropriate enquiries to establish if he had. They did not do so.
Mr Durkin had originally been awarded £116,000 in damages, but that sum was dramatically reduced on appeal at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.
Sadly for Mr Durkin, the Supreme Court in this type of appeal is unable to reassess the damages in the case, and so he was left with just £8,000.
However, his legacy will perhaps be that banks and others extending credit to purchase goods under what are known as 'debtor, creditor, supplier' agreements will have to be exceptionally careful before informing credit agencies that the customer is in default.
If they get it wrong and are negligent, they can be sued by the customer.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

First Direct - Are They Scamming Us With Charges?

I've just sent this complaint to First Direct, part of HSBC. Is your bank finding ways to charge you?


In the past, I have applied more than once for an increase to my overdraft and it has been refused. You will see from my account history that mortgage payments often make me overdrawn but I transfer money in almost immediately to restore my account to credit. This is because I'm self employed and my partner has to transfer money from the business account, and we don't take any more out than we absolutely have to.

Since you've repeatedly charged me for going over my overdraft limit of £250, it could look like you're intentionally keeping my OD limit to £250 so that you can carry on charging me. As you see, if you increased it to £500, as it is automatically with other banks such as Smile, I wouldn't be paying any charges.

On these grounds, I think it's more than fair for you to increase my overdraft limit, and as I say, the FCA could take the view that you're holding my OD limit to £250 in order to charge me whenever I go over it.

Of course, you could argue that I should manage my mortgage payments better, but that's life, and that's what overdraft limits are for, is it not?


Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Oh! You Shouldn't Have!

Not a toy eh? Well I suppose it would be a disappointing birthday present...

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Why a Privatised Postal Service is Wonderful

Long before Christmas, a company in Russia said they were sending me something. Today it arrived. So that's about 6 weeks.

I didn't know what the package was so I was very excited, and you can imagine my disappointment when I called UPS last week and they told me that because the address on the package was illegible, it had gone back to the sorting centre. What they didn't tell me was that it had gone to the centre in Germany. They told me they'd deliver my package on Monday. I told them to deliver it on Tuesday instead. They delivered it on Monday anway. But what could it be?

A big padded envelope. 

Hmmm. The address doesn't exactly look illegible. It wouldn't be the first time that UPS have lied to cover up the fact that they can't be bothered to ask for directions to my house. Ah well, what could be inside?

Another envelope? My hopes are fading fast that it's an expensive present. But it could still be gift vouchers or a certificate or something.

OK. Let's look inside.

The music stops and it's another envelope! It's blank on the front and has my name stapled to the back.

OK, well, it must be something small but very valuable and exciting. Let's see!

Um. I'm speechless.

Oh, wait - this has come all the way from Russia, so I've finally figured out what it is. A set of Russian dolls!

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Westloife Singer Crowned King of the Jungle

That was the most boring celebrity jungle pantomime ever. They all loved each other. No fighting or practical jokes to speak of. Everyone was so pleasant. The highlights were as follows:

Amy cheated and noone really cared.

An American has-been tried to convince everyone that he was really famous.

Some people got covered in bugs.

That's it.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Moving the Nation

This coach company apparently has 16 million seat coaches available...

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Haven't We Seen Her Somewhere Before?

Celebrity Big Sibling and weird antiques expert Lauren Harries looks very familiar, especially when wearing a big fur coat and with her weird stoopy neck.

Have we seen her on Antiques Roadshow?

No... hang on, it's on the tip of my tongue.

Now I remember! She was on the Pink Panther Show!