Last Train to Orpington

The things you have to like. Revisited….

by on Mar.17, 2011, under Uncategorized

Some time ago I put together a list of the “things you have to like”.  Those bits of everyday life that everyone has to like – especially if you don’t.  I have recently added a few new entries to the list.

  • Abba
  • Grease
  • Star Wars
  • Princess Diana
  • Indian Food
  • X-Factor
  • ** New Entry ** Rugby
  • Computer-Generated movies (a tie with X-Factor)
  • Elvis
  • Rap music
  • Soaps on TV
  • Manchester United (debatable)
  • Ricky Gervais (a tie with Manchester United)
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iPad – First impressions

by on Dec.16, 2010, under Uncategorized

I have have an iPad on loan at the moment. Ok, so I know everyone has one already, but I don’t, so I thought I would have a look and write up the results.

So. Here we go.

Firstly The build quality is excellent. It feels well made and strong. There is an audio jack connector for headphones, and a microphone for apps that need it. The speaker is on the bottom of the device where the “Home” button is. The audio quality is surprisingly good and better than my Windows netbook. There is a volume control on the top left-hand side.

There is a standard 3.5mm audio jack, but the only other external connector is the proprietary Apple connector which is identical to the one used with the iPod.

With a resolution of 1024×768, it compares OK to netbooks. In direct sunlight, you get a good amount of reflection, but overall the display is clear and very sharp.

As far as using it is concerned, there is no learning curve at all. It’s the same look and feel as a iPod touch or iPhone. the iPad is arguably one of the best touch interfaces out there, and most people will get used to it in no time at all.

Time to point out a few shortcomings:

  • There is no mouse support and this isn’t expected to be added any time soon.  The question is do you miss the mouse?   I didn’t.
  • There are no USB connectors.  As I said above, the only way of connecting it to other equipment is via the Apple connector.
  • You are limited to the Safari web browser.  I didn’t find this a problem for most of the sites I visited, though there are limitations with some web 2.0 functionality, and with sites that are optimised for Internet Explorer or Chrome.  In particular the Facebook ‘Chat’ utility doesn’t seem to work under Safari. This is fine on Chrome and IE. It isn’t clear if this is a limitation of the iPad or of Safari itself.
  • Flash isn’t supported.  This is  perhaps a bigger annoyance, since it means many video-based applications won’t work.
  • You can buy an add-on keyboard dock.  This also allows you to connect your iPad to an external display.

The other thing that takes a little getting used to is that not all web sites work in quite the same way.  For example, Google Maps – at http://www.google.co.uk/maps doesn’t include Street View.  To use Streetview you have to go to the in-built ‘Maps’ app on the iPad itself.  This gives the same results as Streetview as you would normally use it, but takes a little getting used to.  This is mostly due to the lack of a mouse.

Battery life seems very good.

I couldn’t get Bluetooth to work and it wouldn’t detect either my desktop PC or my Phone.

So what about non-internet related shenanegans?  What if you want to write a letter or create a Spreadsheet?   What if you want to get files on and off of the thing?

Well, if you want to create documents, there is as the commercials say, an App for that.  These seem to be mostly chargeable.  For example, £5 will get you ‘Office2 HD’, which allows you to create view and edit Word documents (.doc and .docx) and Excel spreadsheets on your iPad.  The documents integrate with Google documents. It isn’t immediately obvious how you would transfer files and documents between your iPad and another computer, unless you exchange everything via email.  Nor can I a way of enabling the iPad for disk use like you can with an iPod.

According to an article here, you can do this through iTunes. In essence, if you have an App on your iPad that allows sharing of documents, it will show up on the ‘Apps’ tab in iTunes itself when you connect the iPad to your computer. You can then drag and drop documents to and from the iPad. As the iPad I have is on loan I haven’t bothered buying any Apps that would allow you to do this so I can’t tell how reliable and usable they are.

All In all, very good.  The model I have doesn’t have 3G, so I don’t know how that fares, but as a device to use round the house or in wireless enabled areas, it’s easy and quick to connect.  The biggest drawbacks are lack of USB/Disk use and lack of Flash.

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In search of… refreshment…

by on Dec.03, 2010, under Uncategorized

As I posted on my Facebook Page, being snowed in for the last few days has significant drawbacks.

It got to 3PM, and I was desperate for a drink. So, I decided to brave the elements in search of liquid refreshment.

I left the house, carrying all the necessary survival equipment for extreme conditions:- My iPod, and some fun-size Mars bars.

Here are a few pictures from the journey.

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Last train to Orpington – Quite literally….

by on Dec.03, 2010, under Uncategorized

With the snow the way it is it didn’t long before the trains packed up. But at least I didn’t get stuck on a train like the incident reported here.

It just goes to show that to bring the UK to it’s knees you don’t need weapons, you just need weather… of any type really…

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The things you have to like

by on Oct.10, 2010, under Uncategorized

…even if you don’t..

We all know there are certain things in life everyone has to like. And if you don’t, you are written off as some kind of dangerous subversive. You are not embracing popular culture. People start making assumptions about you: You probably don’t even like the X-Factor? Big Brother. Britain’s got (no) talent. Next you’ll be telling me you still buy CDs or read a book occasionally. My god…

Here then, and to illustrate the point, is a top 10 “Things you have to like”. Subject to change as I see fit, naturally.

Don’t you dare step out of line and admit to not liking these. Especially if you don’t….

  • Abba
  • Grease
  • Star Wars
  • Princess Diana
  • Indian Food
  • X-Factor
  • Computer-Generated movies (a tie with X-Factor)
  • Elvis
  • Rap music
  • Soaps on TV
  • Manchester United (debatable)
  • Ricky Gervais (a tie with Manchester United)

I dare you to disagree….

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More on the secret tunnels under London

by on Sep.09, 2010, under Uncategorized

I stumbled across this piece of Video about the Holborn/Kingsway tunnels…. Interesting.

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Secret tunnels under London

by on Sep.05, 2010, under Uncategorized

For many years I have been facinated by rumours of ‘secret tunnels under London’. There are many different stories and even some books written about the subject. It turns out that there is actually alot of truth in these stories, and that secret tunnels unquestionably exist; But how many of them do we know about and are they still used? Are there more to discover than we know?

Unsurprisingly, it it clear that many of the secret tunnels under London were built as war-time shelters and bunkers. One particular underground complex is under Holborn tube station and was dug in 1940 as London was blitzed by German bombers. The tunnels were designed as an air-raid shelter for up to 8,000 people, and as a possible last-ditch base for the government in the event of an invasion. They were never used as a shelter; instead, towards the end of the war they were apparently taken over by MI6 as a research facility (perhaps better known as Q branch in the James Bond novels). Later it became an emergency telephone exchange and communications centre and was in use until very recently.

The Holborn facility is generally known as ‘Kingsway’. One of the entrances was (and is) on 31-33 Holborn. It is an anonymous glass doorway behind which there is (apparently) a lift. When I first visited this site years ago (in the early 1990s I think) There seemed to be a security checkpoint behind the doorway with a security guard in it. Nowadays it seems unmanned.

Entrance to Holborn/Kingsway complex at 31-33 Holborn

Entrance to Holborn/Kingsway complex at 31-33 Holborn

The whole complex is now deemed surplus to requirements and is up for sale. Some people have even managed to visit it. The excellent site Subterranea Britannica has a detailed section describing the facilities with many photographs.

What else is there?

Well, there are definately tunnels under Whitehall, and rumours of other tunnels around leicester Square and Covent Garden.  Several London tube stations – mostly on the Northern Line – also have bunkers beneath them, which were built as war time shelters.  Many of these facilities have now been sold. There are also rumours of tunnels connecting Buckingham Palace to the deep tube network, allowing quick exit for the royals in the event of an emergency.

The Whitehall tunnels are possibly the most interesting, and unlike the Buckingham Palace rumour (which seems a bit far-fetched to me), definately do exist. Part of the network is now the ‘Cabinet War Rooms’ museum but there is much much more that is obviously not accessible. One section of the network is known as ‘Q Whitehall’, and another section apparently connects to tunnels going south of the river Thames and terminating at Waterloo. I have had this confirmed by a number of people, most recently by a BT engineer I happened to get talking to quite by chance in a bar – bizarrely close to the above entrance to the Holborn tunnels.   There is an article here that gives bit of the background, and a more lengthy article here.

The question is what else? More to follow…

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The London Electronic Dance festival – September 2010

by on Sep.05, 2010, under Uncategorized

Some Images from the recent London Electronic Dance festival at Victoria Park London.

Apart from an impromptu storm at one point this was mostly very good – some unlistenable crap of course.  One word of advice at these things though is don’t buy the ’round your neck festival guide’ dangly thingys… because a) they are a bit of a rip off and b) you constantly get asked for information by people (who are mostly out of their heads) or you are assumed to be an official.   I got asked if I was ‘celebrity’ by one group..

The pictures below are of Goldfrapp, Aphex Twin and Leftfield.

One band not featured below is the dire Die Antwoord or perhaps they just aren’t very good live…? Who knows… and possibly, we don’t care.


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Welcome….

by on Sep.05, 2010, under Notices

Welcome to Last train to Orpington a Blog about stuff.  We will be focusing on the offbeat and weird side of life in London…. Conspiracies, Music, history, entertainment, bars and much more.

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