Day 350 – Latest image

A brighter day on this little bit of planet Earth today. Sure, we’re mopping up a bit after close on 100mm of rain yesterday, but the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the pool guys are back. It’s looking really smart. I’m very hopeful of a finish today.

I took some time out to watch a Starlink mission launch this morning. Just for the record, I’m not saying that Starlink is a Good Thing – the pollution of our night skies is worrying to me. But equally, the principle and the technology amaze me. I can’t impress upon the kids enough the incredible privilege and opportunities that they have these days, to be able to just click a button and watch history unfolding in front of them. And I love the watch the satellites going over whenever I can: it makes something so fantastical, actually real. Yes, I completely recognise that this doesn’t tie up with the pollution worry above.

And then there’s the Perseverance mission to Mars, which is sending back some unbelievable images:

236,000,000 kilometres away. 13 minutes for the data to get back to us here on Earth. And yet it could even be the view from my bedroom window. Absolutely amazing.

Right. More jobs to do. This house isn’t going to mend itself, is it? (Ha! I wish!)

Technology is great…

…when it works.

Draft night was good fun last night, but mere minutes before its conclusion, the technology decided to “roll back” the draft “up to and including round 1, pick 1”.

161 players were lost. Yes, including Mo Salah.

Fortunately, some much-appreciated manual labour by El Presidente means that we now find those 161 players reallocated to their respective fantasy teams and we go again this evening to fill the remaining 31 positions. Three of those picks are mine, and I have two surefire winners in mind. I’ll probably mess up the other one, as usual.

In tenuously related news, I paid for my pizza and beer last night with six R20 notes. That’s because technology is great when it works.
I drew R600 from the ATM on Monday, and every last Rand came out in R20 notes. We have R50s, R100s and even R200s, and you can work out many, many permutations making up 600 bucks… but oh no, I had to get thirty brown ones. Why would any machine think that was a good idea? Now my wallet is so full, it hurts when I sit on it, but I’m still not ever so rich.

Technology is great. When it works.


I solved my problem yesterday by using the System Restore tool to travel back in time to a point when I didn’t have the catchily-named

Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool for Windows 8, 8.1, 10 and Windows Server 2012, 2012 R2, 2016 x64 Edition – November 2017 (KB890830)

on my laptop.

My laptop didn’t seem to like something about that particular update, but all seems to be running smoothly now. And yes, I realise that I will have to reinstall that update at some point, but at least if things go awry again, I’ll know why it is and I can deal with it a bit more quickly than I did this time around.

All of that meant that I could finally get some photos uploaded from the weekend, and that means that you will be able to see them shortly.

Watch this space.

On strike 

The plan was to upload the photos from the weekend and write a blog post about them. One in particular.

But then the SD card reader went AWOL. To be honest, it couldn’t really have gone AWL, because it doesn’t get any leave. It’s an SD card reader. It has no rights.

Perhaps that’s why it disappeared.

Never mind, I thought. I’ve got a wifi SD card in the camera. Bit of a schlep, but still, it’s an viable alternative.

Unless the monitor on your computer has gone on strike after seeing the way you treated the SD card reader, that is.

Yeah. I know. Technology, hey?

So. Some photos tomorrow then.


UK retail innovation

…and why it might or might not work in SA.

Recent visits to the UK have left me irritated that my homeland has chosen to move on and develop – especially in the technology arena – since I’ve been away. How very dare they?
Trains, buses, pubs and restaurants all have free wifi. You can use NFC to find your way around shopping centres, or log in to your local bus stop to get a live map of where your bus is and when it’s going to arrive.
Google Now works! (well, sometimes)
And then there’s the shopping stuff.

First up, the online ordering stuff. It just makes sense. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t work here either, and I don’t quite understand why more stores don’t offer it. If Takealot can manage, why can’t other places? Maybe it’s a critical mass thing, because the shops in the UK have had to adapt or die, so they’ve all pushed their online option hard. When you order online from your supermarket, you get what you asked for, and you get it when you asked for it. If you’ve ever used our local system, you’re probably not using it any more, because those two things don’t happen and it’s a disaster.
But if you’re missing the opportunity to impulse buy, then there’s always ‘click and collect’ – the hybrid of traditional and online shopping – whereby you order on the net and then go and pick up your shopping at the local store. This saves you the delivery fee and means you don’t have to be at home to receive your goods. You can also decide if you need another 4 pack of Murphy’s when you go to collect your groceries (spoiler: you do).
All of this means that fewer people are actually in the supermarkets, and it’s so actually a much less stressful experience when you do go along.

It’s not just food and drink, either. All the major clothing stores offer the same services, so you can shop online and either get it delivered or pick it up at your local store. And if stuff doesn’t fit, you stick a big returns label (supplied) on the bag and drop it off at your local post office. Simples. It’s no fuss, because if it was fuss, people wouldn’t do it, just like you’re not doing it with PicknPay right now.

If you actually want to go to the supermarket and walk around the aisles, in some stores, you can wander round with a barcode scanner and Scan As You Shop. This means that you can pretend to have a raygun and shoot aliens (although you may be charged for items you didn’t actually get if you hit them inadvertently while pretending to be Flash Gordon).
And then there’s the option to scan your own stuff at the end of the shop. Apparently, the phrase “Unexpected item in the bagging area” has been voted one of the most irritating things in the UK, and is being phased out. And it’s not always straightforward either:

Shoppers are stealing more than £1.6 billion worth of items from supermarkets every year as frustration with self service tills leads to theft, a survey found. One in five people admit pilfering items at the checkout, but the results suggest people steal regularly once they realise they can get away with it – the majority admitting they first took goods because they couldn’t work the machines.

But for foreign visitors (especially those with kids), scanning your own shopping is actually quite fun. And if you don’t have kids, it can actually be quite quick as well.
Sadly, it would never work in SA though, as passing zebras would constantly trigger the barcode readers.

And finally, contactless payment. Like us here in SA, the UK has long had chip and PIN payment, but there, you do everything yourself. (To explain to anyone not in SA, generally, we hand our cards to the cashier and they put it in the machine for us.) (We also have attendants who fill up our cars with petrol, and fairly regularly, someone at the entrance barrier to car parks to press the button and hand us the ticket.) (Yes, I know.) But contactless payment is the one where you just wave your card over the machine and it takes the money off your account.

_20150818_094824Now, my SA card (it’s the exciting accountant coloured one on the right) has this facility too, but I’ve yet to find anywhere to use it here. Whereas in the UK, it’s everywhere and it’s all too easy to wave and spend without even thinking about it. And yes, I suppose that there are some security worries with this system, but wow, it’s so damn quick and you suddenly realise just how much impact having to enter your PIN has on making you understand that you are spending money.

This certainly isn’t a OMG – Look How Much Better The UK Is Than SA post, but the integration of technology into the retail process has definitely made it better for the consumers over there and they are way ahead of us in this area. The good news is that hopefully, the best bits of these advances will trickle down to South Africa – there’s actually no reason why these ideas wouldn’t work here – and we can all live happily in the future together.