Amazon Prime Media Protection

Right. I want to watch something on my Amazon Prime account, on my TV, which is connected to my ‘puter by USB-C to HDMI, or whatever it is.
But no, with my TV plugged in at all, it won’t even let me watch on the computer monitors.
I presume all this is so that I can’t easily snaffle a digital version and put it on bitTorrent, or whatevs, or maybe just because it is the third screen, as one of my monitors is also USB-C to HDMI.
So what is a chap to do?
I know, I’ll download a snaffled digital version from bitTorrent, and then I can watch it on any of my screens.
And since I have a legal account for watching it on Amazon, they would be hard pressed to do me for anything – just for the few moments when I am downloading when someone may get a bit of upload from me.
So the only things their awkward bloody protection acheives is
a) puts this customer to trouble and pisses him off;
b) gets me to share their content, albeit for a few seconds.

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Random Streams Numbers on the Freeview Multiplexes

Specifically, Channel 4 assigns the data to different stream numbers: one programme might have the mpeg2video on Stream #0:5, and the dvb_subtitle on Stream #0:8, and the very next programme on Stream #0:1 and Stream #0:4 respectively.

OK, so most people won’t understand, and even fewer care. 🙂

I have a dongle (EyeTV, very nice) that records broadcast Freeview onto my old Mac (quite old, late 2006, but it ain’t broke, so doesn’t need fixing). And I end up with the raw broadcast mpeg file on the machine. Now I want to be able to move it elsewhere, and also compress it somewhat (MPEG-2 is not great compression).

I can simply tell EyeTV to export the video, and it will, although it takes a while to process (remember, 1.66 GHz Core Duo 🙂 ). Or I could even just move the mpeg file and use VLC to view it.

But I like to have the subtitles.

Now, perhaps surprisingly, the subtitles on broadcast TV are not text – they are images! So the only thing to do is overlay the images on the movie.

Of course, when it comes to this sort of thing, FFMPEG is your friend
-filter_complex "[0:5][0:8]overlay", I finally worked out. But you will see that I need to know which streams to overlay. And the bastards keep changing them. And I don’t have a utility that will identify them (and FFMPEG doesn’t, as far as I can tell.)

This used to be a problem for BBC & ITV too, but now I have Get iPlayer Automator, which downloads those nicely for me.

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Black people are trying to tell us something important

Black people are trying to tell us something important, and it’s actually something we should know, because it is bleeding obvious. 
They experience discrimination differently to groups who can often look more like the general population, Jews being the most obvious example.
To suggest otherwise, and assert a false equivalence of experience is either antisemitic, rascist, or possibly both.

Do black graveyards get vandalised? I don’t know, but I suspect not like Jewish ones.
Do Jews often get stopped by the Met for “Driving While Jewish”? I don’t think so.

The Jews I know can walk around town and go anywhere I go without having a different experience to me.
That is not true of black people.
And certainly not true of people from the Far East around Southampton.

And that is what I think people like Abbot (& Winfrey) are trying to tell us. From their first hours on this earth, people who look different, such as black people, have a different experience compared to the more “normal”-appearing population, in places like the UK (and USA).
And it never goes away, and can’t be avoided.

Living in the UK, it is an experience I can only begin to imagine, and the rest of us should not tell black people what they experience, especially when it seems to deny much of it, and therefore belittle it.

Oh, and by the way, many Jews and others would say that the Jews are not a race, and therefore antisemitism is not racism.
And since I think they are distinct, but related, discrimination problems, it is unhelpful to treat them as equivalent; since possible solutions and remedies for the different problems are likely to be different.

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Refugees and Migrants as Political Pawns

Back in 1974, when I was visiting Israel, we managed to get to Gaza City, and then even drove around a refugee camp nearby (and yes, it wasn’t the safest thing to do).
It was really interesting to me to see what a “refugee camp” might actually look like. I was sort of surprised to find it looked quite permanent, and had electricity, and I could see TVs in the houses. (There were was no colour TV in Israel at the time.)
The main thought, however, was “Why is this a camp, and not a town?”, since it has been there for 26 years.

I had similar thoughts about Sabra and Shatila in 1982.

In the case of the Gaza camp, I worked out that it was likely that the camp had benefited from the 1967 war. Up until that time, it had been under Egyptian control, and apparently had few facilities. More recently, Israel had found it politically useful that the conditions should be better than they had been, providing water and power.
And so the living conditions of the thousands of people had simply changed.

The underlying reason for the earlier poor facilities, and that people were not permitted to move out, I think, was that all the Arab leaderships needed to have the displaced people obviously there, and in poor conditions – if they actually allowed them to have proper lives, then the argument that they should challenge Israel would dribble away, along with a little of the anger.

There is also the issue that if they allowed the displaced people to be citizens or at least have sensible status, then it would change the political make-up of the host country, but there are other things that could be done, I think.

And with sensible status comes the opportunity to be more economically active, reducing the cost to the host country:- a win-win.

So now, what about the UK?

Why have we got 117,000 asylum applications awaiting an initial decision in the UK, comprising around 143,000 people?

Primarily because it is politically expedient for the ruling party.

And like the inhabitants of Gaza camp and Sabra and Shatila, these people are suffering in much worse conditions that they might otherwise have, to serve the political agenda.

I think the government knows that pretty much the only thing it can talk about that will benefit it is migration. So it is in its interests to have a backlog they can point at, costing large headline figures for accommodation, and needing to discuss where they might be accommodated in UK settlements.

What we should be talking about is the utter incompetence that they have presided over such a backlog of people in an awful situation.

But if there had been an efficient Home Office immigration assessment system for the last 5-10 years, dealing effectively and in a timely manner with applications, a huge part of what the government talks about what disappear. And the human and national cost would go with it, as the migrants could be economically active, reducing the huge cost to the government.

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Glastonbury Spreads Covid

Yes, I know that Glasto are trying to deal with touts/scalpers, but it is actually utterly irresponsible to encourage sick people to attend their event.

I’m about to go to a little festival (Endorse it in Dorset).
The Facebook group for the festival has quite a lot of messages from people saying they have Covid and so can’t go; they are trying to sell tickets, mostly at face value, even though it is long sold out.

It got me thinking about the Glastonbury situation, as quite a lot of my friends came back with Covid.
And yet my recent trip to the big Download festival seems to have had no such problems.

It seems to me that the difference is that you can transfer or resell tickets for most festivals, but not Glastonbury.

If you are waiting to go to an event, and test positive for Covid, you are meant to not go. That can be very disappointing, but hey, it’s just a gig or whatever, isn’t it, and you can go the next time the band is in town. Also you can give the ticket to a friend or sell it to someone to recoup the loss.

In the case of Glastonbury, however, this doesn’t work.
You are very unlikely to get a ticket next year, as you had waited several years to get this one.
Perhaps more significantly, the about £300 you paid for the ticket will simply be lost. Knowing that there is a ticket that could get you in, just sitting there, is a huge temptation to just rock up, Covid and all.
If you had been able to give it to a friend, for free even, the pain of not going would be much reduced, and the decision has been made.

It’s a bit like sick pay – if you don’t get decent sick pay, you are much more likely to go to work with Covid (or whatever), and infect your fellow workers.

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I have started to feel old

It isn’t the failing faculties and aching joints.
It’s the wankers who want to turn all the clocks back to when I was young.
Or stop them where they are, in some cases.

And I have realised that you need to be quite old to remember what it was like before we let the clocks run.
So I find myself reminiscing, like the old fart that I seem to be.

Abortion

I don’t like abortion, and am glad I have never been faced with such a decision, and never want to be.
You have to be pretty old to have any sense of the days before David Steel’s Abortion Act 1967.
But the situation is so much better now than before.

EU

You have to be even older to have experienced much travel before the UK joined the Common Market, in 1973.
Or to have bought or sold things between the UK and the mainland.
It wasn’t good, with visas and tariffs and all sorts of barriers; and we are starting to feel the pains again, and I sense it will get worse.

Homophobia

Wherever I went as a kid, there was routine denigration of homosexual people, in which I remember participating.
It must have been ghastly for the gay kids at my school.
I was 14 when the Sexual Offences Act 1967 decriminalised some aspects of gay sex, although it made little difference to the attitudes, I think.
Then there was the “gay plague” of the 1980s, with the deaths and more discrimination – that was also a good while ago, I now realise.

Sex Equality

There have been numerous laws addressing sex discrimination since the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (which tells you just how unsuccessful each has been).
I remember women being refused signing contracts such as hire purchase or mortgage agreements, unless they could get their husband, father or even random male family member or friend to sign to guarantee them.
And outrageous behaviours and attitudes that would be shocking even now, being perfectly acceptable throughout society.

Racism

Perhaps all that needs saying is that all forms of racism were endemic – and legal.

Religion

It was just assumed you believed in (a CoE) god.

Education

Failing your 11-plus and ending up in a Secondary Modern school was pretty much being placed in an underclass and a life sentence for no useful education, as far as I remember.
About 4% of kids got to go to university, which I think is too elitist.
But the poorer in that 4% did get a good chance of free university education.

Health

Seeing a GP was possible, but could take quite a while.
Getting a hospital appointment could take months (like now).
You never waited less than several hours past your appointment time at the hospital to see the specialist (not like now)

Transport

I suspect public transport was better, but can’t compare with now.

Food

There was far less variety available.
But it was hugely more expensive, as a proportion of household income.

That’s enough boring old fartism.

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Solar Together Debacle

(This is the text of an email I sent to my local councillor.)

A year or so ago, I was looking into getting solar panels installed on my roof.

Just then, the Borough of Eastleigh informed me of the Solar Together Hampshire initiative, which seemed to be a great scheme that would manage the price negotiations and contract management on my behalf.

Very much because this was recommended by Eastleigh, I decided to sign up.

After the auction, I thought I had an installation and price agreed, paid the deposit, and expected delivery and installation in a reasonable time, probably just after October, which was what was promised in the documentation.

In the end, as you may know, the supplier failed to deliver, and the agreement was terminated.

I was offered a new contract with a different company, but the price for the same installation is about 50% more, as best I recall (I can’t see the offer anymore).

My deposit has been returned.

Had Eastleigh not proposed the scheme, I would have had a solar installation almost a year ago, as did my neighbour, who did not follow the scheme, being sceptical of getting involved with Eastleigh’s proposal.

I understand that companies can fail to deliver, but I also consider that the Eastleigh side of it has been pretty bad, and failed to protect my interests, in a number of ways.

Solar Together Hampshire & Eastleigh Council didn’t keep me informed, or even seem to monitor things.

All I got was messages from the supplier saying how well things were going.

And then finally I got this.

As you may know, we have been working closely with solar installer EEC over the last six months to try and help them overcome challenges in the delivery of installations.
Since our last update to you in December they have made some progress despite Covid impacting their installation crews and limiting their installation capacity. However, progress has not been at the level we believe Solar Together registrants deserve.

We have therefore taken the decision to terminate this relationship with EEC due to their failure to deliver within the agreed time frame.

Well no, this came pretty much out of the blue.

Had I known, I could have made other arrangements in good time.

It seems like Solar Together were more interested in keeping the scheme together than making sure the clients were well-informed.

And if it is a capacity problem for EEC, why am I not given the option of waiting?

It seems like EEC simply want to get out of what is now possibly a less profitable contract, so they can sell the equipment they reserved for me at higher prices to new clients.

The Covid situation and expectations have changed little since the original auction, by the way.

I could go on, but the whole thing is very smelly to me.

I couldn’t get out of the contract without losing the deposit – although I would have done so if I had not kept being assured that the installation would indeed happen.

That’s what really pisses me off – Solar Together could have told me much earlier, and indeed terminated things 6 months earlier.

EEC seem to have paid no price or felt any penalties for their behaviour.

To begin with, why did they not have any penalties in the contract?

They are now happily trading, claiming high levels of customer satisfaction.

Have the Solar Together company or staff suffered in any way for this mess?

I suspect not.

The only people who have been caused any difficulty are the Eastleigh Borough residents.

The only mention I can find in Council documents of Solar Together is:

POLICY AND PERFORMANCE SCRUTINY PANEL Monday, 6 December 2021
CLIMATE AND ENVIRONMENT EMERGENCY UPDATE Report of the Climate Change Manager

which says

they promoted ‘Solar Together’ a group buying scheme which will lead to 138 residents installing solar photovoltaic systems in the Borough.

As if all was well and good at that time, when it must have been known that the contract was in great danger of collapse.

You aren’t even publicising it in LibDem FOCUS or the Borough News sheets.

You really should – at least other residents would get some warning to stay away from EEC, and also consequently EEC might lose some custom, which seems fair.

And also to avoid the whole Solar Together activities – which now look extremely dodgy to me.

I am shocked at the way my Borough Council has treated me.

Disappointed at the financial disadvantage it has caused.

Disappointed that EEC seem to have walked away scot-free, to bid on in more auctions etc.

And disappointed at the reduction in green technology that has resulted.

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Reporting Things Wrong

Whenever I try and report something wrong, such as a problem with a website or bad service, I find that the reporting process is more broken than the thing I am reporting.

So I end up in a black hole of reporting the reporting process as being broken…

Eventually I have to stop digging.

Often, I am just trying to be helpful to the organisation, although I think that sometimes that really gets them – they just don’t have a process for helpful people.

Here’s an example of a recent complaint (so far), to Lexus Reading:

I tweet: Your service is appalling – at least reply to my email.
They tweet: DM me with your contact details.
Me: I can’t, you block messages.

There is so much wrong with this.

Their social media people have blocked messages, and then don’t even know they have done it! And just how much “engagement” is the social media, rather than pumping out propaganda.

There attitude: Ah, so there is a problem; I’ll get the customer to spend some time helping me sort it out.

Let’s send them a message, they think:- I am reminded of the episode of the IT Crowd, when Moss says he has sorted the fire problem by emailing the Fire Brigade.

What they could have done is pick up the phone and call the branch (I have discovered that the Twitter account seems to be centrally run by head office).

Then the branch could go, “Ah, we have this Hugh Glaser guy who is having a problem – let’s find out what the problem is, and see if we can get it sorted and then report the sorting to him”

Anyway, the manager has called and he seems OK – he actually picked this all up last night and tried to find my details (which were in Ori’s name – can’t make it too easy for them 😉 ). It looks like it will be sorted.

I reported his broken social media service to him 🙂

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