Latitude, attitude: Part 1

With Glastonbury taking a year off, Latitude was an easy choice this year. After last year’s rain, it was bound to be sunny in 2012, right? We bought pre-sale cheap(er) tickets in October and were well chuffed when Elbow were announced as headliners.

42/365 20120712First BeerThursday was sunny. We set up camp and waited for Latitude to open so we could get a beer.

It started raining around 11pm, and there wasn’t much on so we retired around 11:45. None too soon, because it absolutely tipped it down and earplugs, always useful when sleeping at festivals, became a necessity to deaden the sound of rain on canvas.  I woke up at 3:45 to turn over (I hate sleeping bags) and noticed that the inner door on the tent was open. I had this ridiculous idea that Wen might have opened it because she was too hot, but she said it wasn’t her. I looked outside and the side door to the tent was open too. Waking up a little, I saw something on the floor: my trousers, which had been next to me in the inner tent. The wallet in my pocket was gone.

Robbed! Professionally, too – on the first night when we had all our money for beer and food for the weekend. They didn’t take my phone or Wen’s purse, so we started testing the various credit and bank cards out-of-hours stolen card support lines. (Winner: the police lady on “101” who fished her Barclaycard out of her own bag to read us the number; Loser: Barclaycard, who asked three times for the card number from a dodgy line to an Indian call centre. I don’t know – it’s been stolen!)

Coffee and TeaI got a call on my mobile in the morning from a bloke just a few tents away (the flag was useful again) who had found my wallet. All the credit cards were still inside. But worthless. We only had enough money for one day’s food and beer.

Luckily, Tim was coming to Latitude, but not until Friday afternoon. We called him at work and asked to borrow £150. We might eat yet! And it had almost stopped raining. Time for a nice cuppa before we popped into the arena and into the Comedy Tent and the Finalists for the Chortle Student Comedy Awards, who were surprisingly good.

The rest of the day we saw LLoyd Cole, Punch Brothers, The Antlers, Mark Watson, Janelle Monáe, Lana Del Ray, Metronomy, White Lies and John Hegley.
Lloyd ColePunch BrothersThe AntlersMark Watson43/365 20120713Lana Del RayMetronomyWhite LiesJohn Hegley
And in the afternoon we met Tim who lent us enough money to eat and drink like kings.

Apple Trojan?

I have a standard, non-jailbroken iPhone 4. This morning, randomly, a message popped up asking me to enter my iMessage password. On a PC I would have been suspicious, but Apple have been doing odd things with their security lately, so I responded. Then it asked the same question about Facetime. Ditto.

A few minutes later, entirely by coincidence, I attempted to access my Apple account via iTunes, and my password was not recognised. I reset the password and checked the account – thankfully nothing purchased. Still, this is odd and surely related to the now-suspicious question on my iPhone.

I’ve had a quick Google and seen nothing about this kind of behaviour reported anywhere, but if other people get that prompt and have their password changed, maybe they’ll find this when they search. Another data point.

I don’t know how to tell Apple, and in my previous experience that’s a black hole anyway so I didn’t try very hard.

Banks. Security. Will they ever get a clue?

Against my better judgement, but somewhat inevitably given my levels of laziness and inertia, I now have two Barclaycards. They bought Egg and so bought me as well. This has kept me entertained on and off via several low-level email complaints (about their ridiculous security, the ill-planned migration of accounts which meant I had two different on-line sign-ins for a while, the misleading email warning of an impending payment when I have a Direct Debit to pay in full every time).

Lately I mentioned that their monthly payment email is useless, because it only tells me the minimum payment and suggests that I could set up a Direct Debit. I suggested that telling me the actual amount, and that it would automatically be paid, might be more useful. They replied that “Security Protocols” prevented them from putting that information in an email. I said in that case that there seemed little point in sending it.

This seems to have irritated them, as they called me on my mobile this morning at 08:54. From a BLOCKED number. A guy with an Indian accent* said he was from Barclays and could he ask me some security questions.

He seemed surprised when I said no. (I’ve already been through this with Egg, but at least they sent the phone number which matched the one on their website. Sadly, that can easily be spoofed but it’s better than nothing.) They have a “Security Protocol” which stops them putting my current bill in an email, but expects me to give away my account access to random blocked callers? I despair.

*I only mention the Indian accent because all the spam callers also have them, thus making it inherently suspicious.

Genius Exchange

I like my iPad 2, and am happy to admit that it is an expensive toy. However, I did find out this week that at least some of that expense is justified.

My previous experience of taking back a faulty product was a cheap TV from Tesco (just £80) which occasionally turned on with no sound. Annoyingly, none of those occasions was in the Tesco Tech Support department. The man there just would not accept my word that the thing was broken. Shouting ensued, Donna used her retail experience to attempt reasoned debate and eventually satisfaction was reached with an exchange made as a “goodwill gesture” on behalf of the management.

So, when my 3 month old iPad developed an odd small white patch on the display, I was a little concerned that it might need some explaining. Not so.

The greeter at the door looked at it, almost gasped with horror, and said I must take it to the Genius Bar. I would need an appointment, he said, but he could make that for me and as it was just gone 5 to 6 on a Wednesday evening that appointment would be in 3 minutes.

3 minutes later the Genius at the Genius Bar asked what the problem was and when I showed him he immediately said they would replace it right away, as long as I had backed it up recently. The only delay was finding a relevant tick box in his on-line form to describe the fault. He chose “other display”.

A quick squint down the headphone socket to prove that it hadn’t been wet, and I left the Apple Store after 13 minutes with a new iPad.

Now that, Tesco, is customer service.

Sonos

I’ve tried to avoid buying a Sonos Multi-Room Music System ever since I first read about them back in 2005 but in March I finally succumbed and I haven’t regretted it for a second.

I have our music library on a LaCie NAS, which has a Twonky DLNA server onboard, but either it isn’t very good or the devices I attached never really got on with it. Those devices included the PlayStation 3, a Philips Streamium and a Pure network radio. Even when they did work, choosing what to play was never completely satisfactory – either a single track, a single album or a “genre”.

ZonePlayer 90

On a recent visit to Alf & Anne’s we saw Alf’s latest HiFi extravagance – a whole bunch of Sonos kit. Within 5 minutes we had queued up a selection of tunes ready to play from his library on the CR100 controller. I connected my netbook to his WiFi, downloaded the Sonos Windows Controller, and could add more music through that. Wen liked it too!

Some web research and advice from Alf showed that I needed a ZP90 to connect to the AV receiver in the living room and the network (there was already an Ethernet hub behind the TV); and an S5 with a cheap (as now obsolete) CR100 controller for the kitchen/dining room (sitting in the hatch where the, frankly shoddy, Pure Digital Evoke flow then was).

ZonePlayer S5

That was Sunday. I ordered the kit on Monday from Simply Sonos and it arrived on Tuesday. Sadly, the S5 was a little too big to perch in the hatch, so when the kitchen renovation was finished we moved it to the top of the ‘fridge and I had to order another (black) S5 for the dining room. That was just three weeks later.

It works superbly. It plays all the CDs we had ripped to MP3 directly from the Samba share on the LaCie. It does this so successfully that we have removed the CD player and speakers from the living room so that all the music now comes from the ZP90 via the AV system  – which also has the record deck connected to it. (Oh yes, there’s still room for vinyl, and the line-in on the ZP90 means that LPs and 45s can be streamed around the house as well.) I’m also in the process of ripping the remaining CDs so that they can all be stored somewhere else.

We’ve listened to much more music since we got the Sonos – sometimes even in preference to randomly turning on the TV. There are thousands of internet radio stations: the alarm function plays Radio 1 in the mornings (slightly later on Fridays) and we listened to Robyn on WUSC. There is Last FM if you want to hear music similar to bands you like and for Scrobbling (you can see the last 10 tracks we played under Listen at the right). A subscription to Spotify would get you almost unlimited streaming music. I also bought my first digital-only album, although I’m not committed to that.

ZonePlayer S5

I even used the Sonos as an excuse to get an iPad 2. The Sonos controller app looks really good on the iPad, and is easier to use than the PC application.

Sonos have recently launched the Play:3, a (slightly) cheaper 3 speaker player, and I’m fairly sure it will soon replace the stereo in the bedroom which has a dodgy CD player, a single alarm and a clock which loses a minute a day.

To quote Ferris: “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”

Diegogarcity

My new favourite word, as it describes a phenomenon which happens to me all the time: the coincidence of learning something new (usually a word) and then almost immediately noticing it turning up in the book you were already reading, a radio programme you listen to every day, etc.

It was coined by Aldiboronti, a member of the Wordorigins.org discussion group:

It is a play on serendipity, as Serendip is an old name for Sri Lanka. For this concept, Aldi chose another Indian Ocean island as the namesake.

I don’t know how widely accepted it is, but I hope to promulgate it by using it as often as possible.

Willingham Life

Further embedding myself in Cameron’s BS, I am now on the editorial team of the Willingham Life website, nominally in charge of the photographic content.

I noted that a Facebook page might generate some traffic. The silence that followed seemed to indicate that I had volunteered (again), so here’s the first fruits of that labour:


(As if linking to it here will generate traffic! Ha, the ego-maniacal nature of talking to yourself in an empty, echoing box.)

Democracy Inaction 2011

As usual, the sit at homes win by a huge majority. Oddly, although still pitiful, this was the highest turnout for several years – apparently because the labour voters bothered to turn up this time.

pie chart showing 56% didn't vote

Electorate: 5264, Ballot Papers Issued: 2343, Spoiled: 18, Votes: 1306, 521, 494.

Quote from Jane Benson

Jane Benson was Douglas Adams’ wife.

There was an interview on Today this morning about the writing of sequels – Frank Cottrell Boyce is about to make a follow-up to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Arts editor Will Gompertz was speculating on what the authors might think and quoted Jane Belson after she sold the rights to HitchHikers Guide to the Galaxy.

Asked what Douglas Adams would think, she replied:

I don’t know – he isn’t here.

Nuclear Checklist

Here’s a quick checklist for Western governments concerned over the safety of their nuclear reactors after the media outcry:

  1. Are you expecting the largest earthquake in recorded history?
  2. Do you expect any 10 metre high tsunamis?
  3. Err..
  4. That’s it.

Oh yes – stop basing your policies on the ill-informed jabberings of journalists.