Going Solo Leeds

After a successful Going Solo conference in Lausanne, Switzerland this month, organiser Stephanie Booth is preparing to hold a second event in Leeds, UK later this year.

Going Solo is a one-day event for “the little people” – freelancers and small business owners, and features a series of talks from experienced speakers on a whole variety of topics: finance, organisation, tax, etc. – all very relevant stuff for those of us who’ve decided to run a business.

Unfortunately I couldn’t justify the costs of travelling to Switzerland for a one-day conference, so wasn’t able to go despite there being a great line-up. However, with the announcement of a follow-up in Leeds on September 12, 2008 I’m already making arrangements. It should be an interesting and inspiring day.

With the Leeds event having the same speakers and agendas, I’m guessing that Stephanie is responding to people like myself who’ve found the cost too high, or the dates inconvenient. Maybe there should be a tour bus? 😉

HTTP Good Practise

Here’s one for the web perfectionists out there. The usual line with HTTP and web browsing is that requests are achieved through the GET verb, and data modifications are through POST.

All well and good, but how do you handle text links that trigger a data modification? For instance, a page might have a list of items in a table, with “Edit – Delete” as associated actions. Edit is simple, it might go to edit?id=…, but Delete is more tricky. Assuming that no interstital “Are you sure” page is necessary, how can you trigger a POST from that Delete link?

My current way of tackling this is to include a form at the base of the page, and use some Javascript to submit that form. For instance

<a href="javascript:deleteItem(123)">Delete</a>
<form action="" method="post" name="jsPost">
<input type="hidden" name="action" value="">
<input type="hidden" name="item" value="">
<script type="text/javascript">
function deleteItem(id) {

This works fine and while the HTTP behaviour is roughly correct (okay, so in a perfect world I’d use the DELETE verb….) the code does not work for people not using Javascript.

Any ideas for a better, but clean solution?

Vodafone’s Mobile Internet

Just got a text from Big Red:

“Good news! Your monthly data allowance is now unlimited so u can use mobile internet & email every day. Fair use applies. More at vodafone.co.uk/mobileinternet”

…and at vodafone.co.uk/mobileinternet you’ll see that’s Vodafone’s idea of unlimited is “subject to a fair use limit of 500mb per month”

500Mb is not the same as unlimited.

Reminds me of the reputed Henry Ford quote: “You can have any color as long as it’s black”.

I’m also amused by “internet & email”. Email is via the internet, so it’s a bit of a pointless confirmation. Unfortunately a lot of people equate internet to web browsing. I do hope Vodafone don’t restrict this 500Mb package to web browsing + email only. Can anybody confirm?

The Price of a Postcode

Called Wightlink today to investigate books of tickets. I’d heard that for Island residents, 5 return car ferry tickets could be had for around £200.

WIghtlink are one of two ferry companies who operate car ferries from the Isle of Wight to the rest of civilization, so if you want a car on or off The Island, it’s these guys or Red Funnel.

Me: How much is a book of 5 return tickets? I live on the Island.

Operator: That’s £213.50.

Me: Cool. How do I get them?

Operator: You’ll need to go to a terminal and show them your driving license with an Island address on it.

My driving license has a mainland address (we rent on short-term leases, so I’ve always left the address as my parents’ house since they’re not going far).

Me: I have lots of utility bills.

Operator: That’s no good. They only accept driving licenses.

Now at this point, imagine me with a bit of disappointment. I can vaguely understand why they insist on an Island registered license, since the company has a long-standing habit of charging Islanders less to go to the mainland than vice versa – debate amongst yourselves the pros and cons of this – so I ask the inevitable:

Me: Okay, how much will it be to get the same set of tickets if I have a mainland driving license?

Operator: £390

Me: *Stunned*

The price of the tickets, fuel surcharges, the oddly strict driving license address rule, everything else pales into insignificance when you realise just how vastly different Wightlink treat Islanders and mainlanders.

Taskbar disappears?

If you ever have a crash that takes out the taskbar on Windows (normally, any time explorer crashes or you have to kill the process), in theory it should reload automatically.

If this doesn’t happen get the Task Manager up (in XP it’s normally Ctrl+Alt+Del and click Task Manager). Click the File menu, then New Task (Run). Type explorer and hit OK.

In a few seconds your taskbar will be restored.

Fuel Surcharges

BBC Brent Crude price at close 22-05-08This month Wightlink -one of the main ferry companies operating between the Isle of Wight and mainland UK – introduced a fuel surcharge which “is linked to the price of oil (Brent Crude)”. Wightlink’s surcharge is based on the previos month average, which looks from here to be within the $105-115/barrel bracket for April 08. Wightlink have published a chart which shows their surcharge against month-start oil prices, which shows that the surcharge this month (if my figures are about right) is therefore £0.20 on foot passengers, £1.50 on cars, and so on.

While the local newspaper carries a set of letters from upset locals despairing at the increase in prices, I don’t think anybody has really noticed that it is a linked price, which means that come the first of every month it will be revised again. Based on current figures, my thumb-in-air guess is that we should sit in the $115-$125 bracket, which puts the surcharge at £0.25 and £2.00 for foot passengers and cars respectively.

Today; Brent Crude briefly hit a $135/barrel high and if prices continue to hover around or above the £135 mark we can expect another surcharge increase in July (in fact, Wightlink would have to republish their charts, since they don’t cover £135+!)

The simple evident fact is that we appear to be witnessing a potential £0.50 increase every month (for foot passengers alone) as long as the oil prices continue to grow at this pace. Naturally the oil prices may stagnate, or even decline – I’m certainly no expert on oil economics, but I think it’s really beginning to hit home how directly our lives are influenced by what appears to be a very unstable commodity.

Google Reader Strangeness

Google Reader always was a little odd with its unread posts count – sometimes not updating its post count until I “did” something in Reader (e.g. refresh), but more recently over the last couple of days it’s been quite a way out. Is anybody else experiencing this?

Screenshot of Google Reader

All the refreshing in the world won’t clear those 3 “new” items, but a couple of minutes later (since starting this post) it’s all back to zero again.

My Shoes Are Wet

Warning: This post contains spoilers and sarcastic undertones.

Time for another infrequent and unreliable movie review. This time, it’s the TV waterfest that is Flood, starring Robert Carlyle (Full Monty, Transpotting), David Suchet (Poirot) and Jessalyn Gilsig (Claire’s “mom” in Heroes).

The movie often reaches out at factual events and incidents to back up its fictitous story of a hurricane trimming the Scottish coast before pulling back into London and flooding everything out. New Orleans is a regular reference, and I believe some of the images were from the Boscastle flood in 2004. The filmmakers are also at pains to point out that the Thames Barrier has been raised much more frequently in recent times compared to when it was first built, so they have evidence on their side. Wikipedia even chips in with a description of how storm surges can be funnelled towards the Thames Estuary in certain circumstances.

Still, what follows is a story of how woefully ill-prepared Londoners are to a wave of destruction. Cue watery effects, dramatic escapes from incoming surges and thinly veiled tension between former partners.

What really makes this movie though is how laughably implausible certain parts of it are. As t’other half pointed out, in Flood and for that matter The Day After Tomorrow the characters, when faced with a rapidly approaching wall of water, turn and run. Can they outrun this mountainous surge of death, despite being injured and/or unfit? Of course they can.

I always enjoy picking apart the technology scenes, of course, and Flood has a good few at the ready. Deputy Prime Minister, do you want to see live progress of the flood? Good news. Somebody had the foresight to create a pretty animation of the progressing surge in real time. Want to know if the professor succeeded in pulling that switch? How about a real-time on-screen rendering of that switch as it gets turned (So, they have the technical means to detect when a switch is flipped, but can’t do it remotely….)

Then there’s the surge water itself. As the water rushes in you can clearly see on their amazing Flash-animated graphic that the water quickly passes through the eastern part of London. Canary Wharf, Woolwich and Greenwich are all wiped out in the advancing surge. Curiously though, it’s six or more film hours before we next see that screen and it’s only got to Fulham in West London, yet the speed of the surge hasn’t particularly diminished.

The movie also takes advantage of a few gratuitious coincidences. The Thames Barrier manual override can only be activated by going into a room which is prone to flooding. Once in there, for “security” reasons the room becomes locked and you can’t escape, leading to certain death. All I can say is thank goodness the professor went. Any more of his melodramatic, miserable attitude and I’m sure somebody would’ve just pushed him into the water anyway.

The characters aren’t particularly engaging, except maybe the MET Office bloke who seemed to take an extraordinary amount of blame and got a beatdown from practically every other person there. No wonder he went for a long walk off a short rooftop, really. Robert Carlyle was meh and the professor, as previously stated, was the most depressing character I think I’ve ever witnessed.

Flood was shown last week on ITV1. Somehow they managed to stretch a reasonable-length movie over two nights of (I think) two hours each. The real comedy came at the credits, where ITV clearly felt necessary to show the Environment Agency hotline and tell the viewer “If you have been affected by any of the events depicted in tonight’s film please call…..” Come to mention it, I’m not normally surrounded by several feet of floodwater. I’ll just give them a ring.

So, all in all, the movie was pretty pants – but there also lies its success. It’s funny and takes itself far too seriously. I’ve seen the film for a few quid in the DVD bin at Tesco. If you want a laugh, I’d suggest picking it up.

Path Intelligence

I’m surprised the tin foil hat wearers haven’t been all over this one, but here’s an interesting company out of Gosport, recently moved to Port Solent, Portsmouth:

Path Intelligence, a company based in Portsmouth (UK) install networks of radio detectors in shopping centres and follow the path of customers through units using the unique signatures of their individual mobile phones. Given that most people nowadays carry a phone it seems to be a pretty good way of accurately obtaining live footfall information.


The system was first used in Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth where it measured interaction between stores, store types and the movements between the centre and Spinnaker Tower.

Update: Looks like the tin foil hats are out, with articles from The Times and The Register (and undoubtedly many others) covering the chilling effects of data aggregation. Fellow blogger Chris has also written about it, and plans to switch his phone on and off.

Me? This just seems like a much more sophisticated version of the footfall counters you get at shop entrances, and the company assures us that only aggregated information is stored which cannot be linked back to CCTV images. It’s up to you whether you believe them or not, of course.