The Budget

Been sat getting on with some work with the Budget on in the background.

Is it me or are the numerous silly little on-screen graphics getting out of hand? It’s like they discovered a few years ago they could have David Dimbleby walk around some virtual swingometer on voting day, and every year since the graphics have just become more & more obscure and (dare I use that clichéed phrase) dumbed-down.

Today’s presentation included a strange Lego model of Gordon Brown walking around on the desk doing nothing in particular, followed by a bunch of 3D Lego models of ambulances and other symbolic gestures to show where the money was going.

What do these things actually achieve? What’s wrong with a caption ‘Health & NHS: 10% increase’ and a description by the presenter about the implications.

Instead we get ‘ooh look it’s a Lego Gordon Brown’ and a bunch of dribble about how smart their graphics are.

I didn’t get the chance to switch over to other channels’ coverage, but given ITV’s news coverage normally seems to feature a presenter in a faux blue room with huge graphics swirling around I’ve hardly got much hope of a better alternative.

Vodafone’s Data Usage Charges

“Vodafone announces today that customers in Europe will be able to surf the internet, check e-mail and access their business network when roaming abroad for a flat rate fee of only €12 for every day of use…”

This is interesting. I use my phone to connect via 3G quite often – sometimes internationally – and am fed up with being charged something like £2.35/Mb for internet connectivity (never mind upwards of £10/Mb when abroad) when other companies (like T-Mobile) charge significantly less for fixed data packages. Orange, 3 and others have similar packages as far as I know.

The difference in price can be astronomical, and I’ve long considered transferring elsewhere because of it. When I happened to mention this to a Vodafone rep a little while ago they assured me that a new rate was in the works – at the time they suggested £7.50/Month for a gigabyte of data (amazing!) starting 1 March.

This has, of course passed and after another couple of calls they started mentioning some more complicated system whereby the first meg would be two quid, and each successive meg would be one pound, with various limits imposed – or something like that. All sorts of options and strings attached. By the end of the discussion both the rep and I ended up confused by the entire thing.

So it looks like the £7.50/Month deal is not nearby (in case you’re wondering the deals have been discussed elsewhere)- Vodafone have delayed any rollout it seems. The comments in that link also suggest the much more conservative limit of 100Mb a month for that cost – not as good but still great, and a huge improvement.

The International deal is interesting but worries me: my phone has this annoying “issue” whereby pressing the OK button more times than is necessary (it also has the slowest and most-unresponsive interface known to man) will launch Vodafone’s little Internet portal. Cancelling the action faces similar unresponsiveness, so it’s normally already starting to download by the time I get it to stop.

So I’m wondering – does that mean the moment this thing loads I get charged full whack for the first megabyte? That also turns out to be a rather large charge if you want to do something small and insignificant, such as check the train times (50Kb,if that).

Fingers crossed for more news on the Vodafone internet data strategy – the international offering is an okay start and definitely welcome, but I’d love to see something truly competitive in the domestic market.

My Commute

I’ve been remarkably quiet lately, but with good reason. The
commuting to London has certainly taken a good chunk out of my day (roughly six
hours a day on the commute – fun!).

Still, I’m getting plenty of sleep on the train and a
surprising amount of  coding done on the

In the absense of anything more exciting in my life right
now I’m finding it tough to find things to write about, but one piece that’s
been brewing in my head for quite ome time now is a little list of notes and
tips from the commute.

So, here goes, Sven’s top tips for travelling on the train
and tube…

1. The best seats on the train from Portsmouth Harbour to
Waterloo are in the second coach from the rear. Normally, the morning train
will stop at a few of the smaller stations, like Farncombe and Liss. These have
shorter platforms. People getting on looking for seats might head towards the
back, but will almost always go right to the back of the train at which point
they don’t bother returning even if the second from the rear was quieter. I
reckon there’s also a bit of psychology at play where people tend towards the
extremities of platforms.

2. When getting on the Waterloo and City line at Bank, get
on at either the front or back to favour a quick departure at Waterloo – the
only two exits at Waterloo are at either extremity.

3. If you get off at Havant and want to cross the
footbridge, go to the rear end of the tenth coach of a 12 coach train. The
doors open right next to the footbridge. It’s best to start walking just after
you leave Petersfield if you’re at the front. The forward end of the ninth coach
is best in 10 coach trains.

4. Portsmouth-bound trains from Waterloo are generally every
fifteen minutes in the evening. The ones on the hour and half past are normally
a lot faster.

5. To avoid the various newspaper people at the front of
Liverpool Street and to make a shortcut towards Folgate Street (northerly I
think?) take the side exit. It’s a tiny little path just to the right of Upper
Crust, follow the road along and you’ll come out just off Bishopsgate.

6. Weekly travelcards are phenomenally cheaper than
their 5/7 day equivalent day tickets. A ticket from Havant to Waterloo plus all
zones is about the same as two day returns plus Zone 1 – I never initially
realised quite how good the discount was (or quite how much of a ripoff the day
returns are).