Friday, September 30, 2016

Those awful advertising slogans - no. 11 - Money Supermarket

Down in one of the lower circles of Hell, amongst the liars and fraudsters, must surely be the eternal resting place of people who make advertisements like that currently used to promote a website called Money Supermarket. The website is nothing in any way special. It is simply one of many comparison sites, listing various things one can buy online and purporting to find the best deals. However, the name is not the issue.

The advert, which is screened so often on certain TV channels that it is inescapable, shows a group of dancers dressed as builders facing, across a deserted city street with a vaguely American feel, a group of dancers wearing suits. The groups dance around, making grotesque poses with much flaunting of bottoms. No information whatsoever1 is provided until the end when the following slogan is broadcast: "You're so Money Supermarket". I suppose that the admen (I learn from my good friends Google that the agency that employs them is called "Mother")2 think that the endless repetition of this phrase will strengthen the image of their client. Perhaps. But then you could screen an ad every adbreak with the slogan "We're crap. Honest" and it would undoubtedly raise brand awareness and win loads of awards. Does it make me want to visit the website? Yes it does, actually (and I bet you didn't see that one coming). Assuming I had the technical expertise, I'd like to visit it in order to deface it, to inject viruses into their webservers and to so damage the commercial reputation of the company that they would be unable to pay Mother who would sue them and they would all end up in court. And then I would phone up Mother and ask "Who's the Daddy now"?3

You cannot be a brand name. Even less can you be "so" a brand name. I suppose the "You" is meant to be the hapless viewer (who I picture as an unshaven man slumped in a sagging armchair, scratching a bare chest and slurping beer while belching "Blimey, I am so Money Supermarket, I really must switch my insurance supplier, oh no, hang on, I don't have any and I can't afford it anyway" - am I close?). Or is it one of the bum-wagglers in the ad? My point is that it is not me. I am not "so" anything. I resent the idea that, just because some ludicrous prancers have been filmed doing something pointless, I identify with the advert. I positively recoil from it. I am not Money Supermarket and I'm proud not to be and they are not getting any of my money.

Thanks for reading. You're so Ruislip Commuter.


1I could be wrong. I mute the sound and look away as soon as ad breaks start. One cannot help one's eyes straying back to the screen from time to time but whatever ghastly soundtrack or braying voice-over accompanies this ad is unheard in the Commuter household.
 2 Yes, really, I kid you not. The agency is called Mother.
3 Apparently still a popular phrase, though I assume it derives from the well-known 1960s TV wrestler Big Daddy.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Who's next?

Lines on the short but totally successful1 career of Sam Allardyce as England football manager

So, farewell then "Big man" Sam
Your big mouth got you in a jam
You said some things you shouldnt orter
Spilt the beans to a fake reporter
Now things aren't looking quite so nice
for ex-supremo Allardyce

1 A playing record that may never be emulated
P1, W 1, D 0, L 0, F 1 A 0

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Yahoo finally gets what it deserves

One-time internet giant Yahoo announced a couple of days ago that hackers had stolen a huge quantity of login details, including passwords and security questions. The firm, valued a few years ago over $100bn but now worth a derisory $5bn (in a deal yet to be completed by Verizon) may be worth nothing after class actions for damages shred its financial status and its reputation.

I have a Yahoo account but I couldn't care less about it. I use it merely to login easily to some other websites - Flickr, Tumblr and Freecycle - and could easily create new accounts for these if I needed to. I have never stored any personal information or files on Yahoo or the associated sites and the password on the account relates to Yahoo only. You may wonder why I have not availed myself of the free email and other services that Yahoo provides. I SAID, YOU MAY WONDER [I wonder why? Ed]. Yes, thanks Ed, I'm glad you asked. Draw up a chair and hearken to my tale.

It was in the year 19.. that my story commences. I was only a country lad helping out my father at the local abattoir when one misty night the sinister footsteps of a man with no legs were to be heard on the cobbled street outside. "Don't go and see who that is, the football's about to come on" observed my father and so I never found out who he was. But later that same year (or one very like it) I heard tell of this wondrous new invention some folk called the Interweb and upon making enquiries determined that I would create my own Interwebsite, and so I did. It was crude, I grant you, but shapely to my eye and contained real information that was nowhere else to be found, unlike the vast majority of suchlike which held naught but links to yet other Interwebsites which in turn held naught but links, and so on ad nauseum.

And now my story takes a sinister turn. For no folk knew of my Interwebsite; it was a secret because so many at that time determined how to go about their web a-browsing by using Yahoo, which at that time contained many links to other sites and was right popular on this account. Humbly I made request that my own offering might be considered worthy of inclusion. Neither reply nor listing was the outcome. I pondered and tried again with similar result and then once more. And thus, rejected in favour of others who peddled rubbish and flim-flammery, I bided my time and brooded.

T'was in the year 20.. that rumours of strange beasts called search engines reached our small village and upon investigation I found that even my modest Interwebsite was recognised and listed, moreover in a place of honour, and that many seekers after knowledge were aware of it, and that I no longer needed Yahoo; indeed from that time on did its fortunes decline until they reached the present slough from which they seem most unlikely to be destined to be rescued. And serve them jolly well right.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Windows 10 - the first big update

I'd read some worrying things about the latest major update to Windows - the so-called Anniversary edition (more prosaically known as 1607, because launched in July 2016) and wondered if it would screw up my or Mrs C's computer when our time came. It did not, though the upgrade process was its usual irritating self. I had scheduled mine for half past midnight. Imagine my surprise when I tottered into the study at 9:00 the next day to see a pathetic error message saying it couldn't manage to do the update and would I like to restart? I did, the system put up its little whirly thingy for the next hour and then told me it was all over but it still took another twenty minutes or so before I could do anything useful. So what was the point of the scheduled update?

Microsoft is unable to comprehend that some people know more about computers than others and consequently it designs everything for the lowest common denominator. I know exactly what every icon on my desktop does. I don't need, and dislike the look of, the little arrows that are overlaid on each one to denote it as a "shortcut". I had used a registry tweak to remove them in Windows 7. Windows 10 put them back. I used the registry hack again. Blow me, but after this latest update there they were again and once more I had to delve into the registry to convince the system that I really, really don't want them. I can choose my colour scheme and I can plonk icons wherever I want and make all sorts of other customisations with Windows' blessing, but am I sufficiently mature and knowledgable to know which icons are shortcuts and which are files held on the desktop? Not in the opinion of the lads at Redmond, that's for sure.

The real test of this upgrade will be when I next play the game Cities: Skylines, a fascinating diversion in the great tradition of Sim City but with an irritating habit of crashing and locking up the PC when it does because it uses up all the system memory. It staggers me that this is even possible with a modern operating system.

I was unchuffed to be told that the update has improvements for touch pads ( I use a PC; it doesnt have one) and to voice recognition ( I use a PC; it doesn't have a microphone) and something about Skype (see previous) and that it has lots of school friendly features (Duh!) and how wonderful Cortana is (whenever I type in a question it merely loads up Edge and does a search on Bing. Yeah, thanks, I can do that myself, except I use Google via Firefox). There are also improvements to security, I was informed whilst waiting for the little whirling thing to sod off during the setup process but they haven't bothered to tell me what they are so I am unable to comment. Which, seeing as that may be the single most important feature of the upgrade, is a shame.

Postscript a few days later:
The update has changed the system defaults for the web browser in favour of Edge. So I will change them back to what I had before. It is amazing that Microsoft has still not learned that people don't like being told to do and still thinks it knows better. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Summer ends.

In fact, we can be quite precise. The British summer (alright then, the summer as perceived in beautiful Ruislip) came to an end today. At 16:25. Following three days of scorching heat a torrential thunderstorm has delivered about 1.8cm of rain within  half an hour. The thermometer outside my back door, close to 30c yesterday is down to a miserable 20.

The timing of this storm, coming as Mrs C and I were on a train returning home and within two minutes of our destination, was exquisite. There was a wash on the line in the back garden that up till that point was nicely dry. We reached the entrance to Ruislip Manor station to be greeted by a wall of water, both falling from the sky and running like a stream down the hill. It was several minutes before it seemed feasible to walk the short distance home. By that time the washing was about as wet as if still on the first rinse cycle.

As I pen these words (how I love that phrase) the thunder is cracking but the downpour has eased back to a more normal pace. The last time we had rain like this, a couple of months ago, there was widespread flooding round these parts, particularly at the afore-mentioned spot outside Ruislip Manor station where the road dips sharply on both sides to pass under the railway bridge. If I can be bothered I may slip out later and see if it has happened again.

Before I go, here is the rain radar map. The purple bit, virtually as wet as it can get, is centred right over Ruislip. Innit marvellous?
Courtesy of weather

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Boris? Not in these parts for much longer.

The Boundary Commission has issued proposals to redraw the constituencies of London. Amongst these is a tidying-up of those that embrace beautiful Ruislip, sadly and grotesquely divided at present into two. The Manor Ward, in which I find myself, will head north to team up with most of the rest of Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner. Thus we will say farewell to Uxbridge and parts south, including Hayes and Heathrow. This feels more natural since all of this area was developed along the axis of the villages that grew up along the banks of the river Pinn (Pinner, Eastcote, Ruislip, Ickenham, with Northwood as the offspring) but it has an important side-effect; no more will I be represented by the back-stabbing liar that is Boris Johnson, apparently our Foreign Secretary. and the man tasked, if you can believe it, with establishing our relations with the world as we exit the EU, the nation having comprehensively ignored the advice every friend elsewhere in the world gave us and with B. Johnson very much to blame for getting us into this mess.

I hinted at his wider ambitions when he first set eyes on us in his quest to return to Parliament. He has successfully seen off, and destroyed the career, of David Cameron. Is Theresa May in his sights? 

Monday, September 12, 2016

British ingenuity - the best in the world

A beautiful day in central London and the final day of the Tour of Britain so Mrs. C and I took ourselves to Regent Street to join the throngs. Although there were huge numbers of people in the streets, there were not so many standing by the barriers where the cyclists were due to make an alarmingly narrow U-turn so we took up position there.  Here you can see the peleton hurtling up towards us and then slowing almost to a halt as they squeezed round the curving barriers before shooting off back to Trafalgar Square.


    But the stars of the show were three intrepid technical crewmen. About half an hour before the race started they realised that a manhole cover in the middle of the road was loose; indeed every time a car went over it there was a loud clank. Would this pose a threat, perhaps send fifty of the world's top cyclists into an undignified heap of twisted metal and frayed shirts? The first thing was to inspect the problem and the boffins did not take too long before trying out the cure for all such ills - a bit of gaffer tape.

They tested it and it still wasn't right so what better than a bit more?

Job done, take a break fellers as the breakaway whizz around during lap 1.

And as there were no reports of anyone falling off at this position I think we can assume the tape is still there. Bad news for any modern-day Harry Limes seeking to escape from the police - they'll have to find another exit.