Thursday, December 16, 2021

Kudos for Amazon and Criticism for Microsoft


I'm mightily impressed by Amazon UK and equally disappointed with Microsoft UK. I have a Microsoft Surface Pro which I bought back in April 2017. It's suffering from a common problem with these devices - a swollen battery which pushes out and bends the screen. When I bought it, it cost me more than £1,500.

Microsoft say affected devices should not be used. However the Surface Pro 4 is now considered obsolete and Microsoft won't do anything about it. Their customer support said, "Microsoft considers Surface pro 4 as a discontinued product. Meaning it can no longer receive support, updates or warranty claims except for the one which are under warranty currently. This policy had been set in motion on the 2nd of September. I am aware that it is a known issue and i tried to argue that, but to no results."

I wrote to them saying:
"UK Consumer Rights Act 2015 which applies, goods must be of 'Satisfactory quality.' One aspect of a product being of satisfactory quality is durability, in other words how long it lasts. Durability takes into account many different factors like product type, brand reputation, price point and how it is advertised. A premium and expensive tablet that's been well looked after and is no longer safely usable after four years can be considered to not be durable, and therefore not of satisfactory quality. Of course you could argue that this was not a premium product and could not be expected to last four years. I suspect you won’t want to admit that to the world. However.
The law states I must take this up with the retailer – Amazon UK. This does not let Microsoft off the hook since Amazon will have a case under the same act against Microsoft.
I trust you have resolved this issue for the Surface Pro 8 which I had considered purchasing."

So the ball moved into Amazon UK's court. I sent them copies of my correspondence with Microsoft and got an immediate reply that they would arrange for the device to be collected and would issue a full refund on its receipt. No argument.

Great customer service Amazon. Just as soon as I get that refund I'll be ordering a new Surface Pro 8 from you. Especially since I know you are MUCH better at dealing with customers than Microsoft is. Does one of these have to catch fire or explode before Microsoft issues a recall? And that 2nd September cut-off date? Poor show Microsoft.

As to the Surface Pro devices - they are simply brilliant - provided they are not fitted with a battery attempting to do a Samsung Galaxy Note 7 impersonation.

Saturday, December 04, 2021

Can we expect politicians to tell the truth?

 I find it concerning that the hashtag #BorisTheLiar is trending on Twitter. There is no doubt that Johnson and other politicians do tell lies, spread misinformation and tell partial truths which give the wrong impression. In the UK there are various media sources which have set up 'Reality Check' pages to tell the full truth.

Do we have the right to expect the truth from politicians? Do we want that right or are we prepared to tolerate lies?

The UK Parliament expects all politicians to tell the truth and follow 'The Nolan Principles.' Government ministers are in addition expected to follow the 'Ministerial Code' which states that “holders of public office should be truthful” and that: “It is of paramount importance that ministers give accurate and truthful information to parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity. Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister.”

It's a lot harder to discipline an PM who lies than to discipline an MP who calls out the liar. MP Dawn Butler found this out when she challenged Boris Johnson in Parliament, called him a liar and was told to leave the Commons.

Even using the Ministerial Code the decision to ask for resignations resides with the Prime Minister and he's unlikely to demand his own resignation.

Should we accept this? I think not. Parliament should act on this. Here's my suggestion:

When any elected representative can be proved to have lied to or misinformed Parliament or to the public in a party broadcast then they should be penalised by losing 2% of the votes cast for them in the next election. These lost votes should be shared equally amongst other candidates who can garner at least 500 votes. Should an MP be resigning at the end of their term or die in office then these votes should be deducted from their party successor. If an MP is found to have misinformed Parliament or the public accidentally then the votes lost should be 1% provided they make a public apology within seven days.

The effect of this policy would be to ensure MPs are careful to tell the truth and will factcheck their statements carefully.

Here's an example of how it would affect our current PM:

In the last election Boris Johnson got 25,351 votes. Each lie or misinformation he made would cost him 507 votes in the next election. If he told 14 lies he would lose enough votes to lose his seat in Parliament at the next election.

So who is going to do the fact checking to keep our politicians accurate? I suggest the media existing fact checkers would be the answer. Naturally political candidates and parties should have a right to challenge the fact checkers.

And #BorisTheLiar - by my count you would already be out of a job at the next election.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

How to fix government (2)

On Quora the following question was asked:
Updated 2021.
Now I've  already had one go at re-organizing government (See How to fix the mess the government is in) but recognize that it will never happen because politicians would have to put it into practice and would be unlikely to vote themselves out of office. So here's my second attempt at designing a sensible form of government.
Most of the issues in politics are caused by a two party system and can be attributed to a ‘first past the post’ election system. It inevitably produces results where the majority are dissatisfied. Take as an example the 2016 UK referendum on the UK leaving the European Community - BREXIT. According to the poll result 52% voted to leave and 48% voted to stay. That seems to imply that there was a narrow majority in favour of leaving. In practice a significant number of voters didn’t vote at all. The reality is that 37% of the electorate voted for BREXIT and 67% either voted to stay or didn’t care about the result. 37% is hardly a majority.
The same is true of General elections. In the 2017 election 42.4% of voters elected a Conservative Member of Parliament (nearest US equivalent would be ‘Republican’) but 68.7% of the electorate bothered to vote. That means that the Conservatives who eventually formed a government did so with just 29.1% support from the electorate. Both sides feel 'the other lot' don't deserve to be there and spend all their time arguing and trying to score points off each other.
The results didn't change dramatically in the 2019 election. 43.6% voted for the Conservatives led by Boris Johnson and 32.2% voted for the Labour party. Only 66.8% of the electorate voted though so the Conservatives won with the support of 29.1% of the electorate.
In the US the political system is complicated by an apparently inexplicable ‘Electorial College’ system which might once have had meaning but now means a voter in one area has more impact than a voter in a different area. In the last Presidential election:
Clinton received 65,844,610 votes, or 48.2% of the total vote.
Trump received 62,979,636 votes, or 46.1% of the total vote.
58% voted so in practice Trump now represents 28% of US voters.
Added to the controversy are claims of voters not being able to be able to vote due to lack of proof of eligibility.
Again in 2020 there was little change except a far greater percentage of the electorate voted this time. There was a 66.7% turnout and the vote share was 51.3% for Biden and 48.7% for Trump. Taking non-voters into account Biden represents 34.2% of the US electorate.
Who actually chooses the candidates? Certainly not the people. Corporate sponsors choose candidates for Congress and Senate in the US. In the UK anyone may stand for an election if they meet the citizenship or residence requirements but a fee of £500 is demanded to discourage those who stand little chance of election. Without the means to fund a campaign any candidate stands little chance. In the US religion plays a big part too with the odds stacked heavily against declared atheists. It has been said that to be elected in the US you must be either stupid or a liar. (i.e. not stupid enough to say you are an atheist).
So how can we improve things? Here’s my suggestions:
  • Use a proportionate representation election system. That’s where you rate the candidates in the order of your choice.
  • Offer a ‘Non of the Above’ choice on the ballots. That way the eventual winner would get a clear indication of how much he/she truly represents the electorate.
  • Follow the UK system for standing for office. That means:
    • You must be a citizen or citizen of a dependency who does not require leave to enter or remain in the country, or has indefinite leave to remain in the country
    • Must not be members of the police forces
    • Must not be members of the armed forces
    • Must not be Civil servants, judges or others who sit and can vote in an unelected house of representatives
    • Must not be subject to a bankruptcy restrictions order or a debt relief restrictions order
  • In addition candidates must pay a registration fee equivalent to 2% of their last available tax year income with a limitation that that income must be published within the last five years.
  • Any citizen or person who has had indefinite leave to remain in the country for the last two years may vote.
  • If you don't vote then a half vote should be awarded to the current incumbent or if that person isn't standing the person chosen by a nominated successor. If you don't like that - then vote.
  • Voting should be done electronically, securely and via Internet or at a public library with Internet access. A voter card should be mailed to electors prior to elections OR a valid photo ID may be used to enter the voting system.
  • Elected representatives must first have a duty to represent their electorate before any duty to a political party. Any elector has the right to gather support to make the views of the electorate known to their representative.
  • No lobby may offer any incentive to any candidate or representative. Doing so should be punishable by law as bribery and penalties should be severe. Lobbies may offer a contribution to a central fund for the benefit of the poor in a representatives area but that fund must not be controlled by the representative or his/her family.
  • If a representative is found to have lied to or misled the population or governing body then at the next election they or their nominated successor should have 2% of their votes in the next election shared amongst other candidates. This measure should encourage honesty and fact checking in representatives. (Had this been in force in the current Parliament, Boris Johnson, the UK Prime Minister, would have lost his constituency majority after making 14 misleading statements in Parliament.)
  • No religion may be involved in government in any way either as candidates or as influences in elections. However religion may gather support to make their views known to representatives.
  • Representatives should have a primary duty to represent the interests of their constituents rather than the wishes of a party.
  • In representative bodies the rule should be that no law with less than 75% support in that body should be passed. If a law cannot gather that level of support it is a bad law.
  • Representatives should not argue against any proposal unless they can offer an improved proposal.
  • Indirect taxation should be weighted to 'wants' rather than 'needs'. The poor shouldn't be forced to pay extra for the things they have to buy - housing, food, utilities, basic clothing.
  • Any laws which affect the available income of the electorate should be applied on a percentage basis of elector’s income but should not be applied to those deemed in poverty. This means a 5% tax would not apply to those in poverty. A $5 reduction of income to someone with $100 is disastrous and has a much greater effect to the poor than a $5,000 cut in income to someone with $100,000

  • Government may act immediately in defence of the nation BUT any decision to take aggressive action outside the nation's borders must require a referendum of the people.

Friday, November 05, 2021

I wear this mask...

COVID-19 has caused a lot of controversy and upset. The latest being that in many areas people are being required to wear masks when out in public. Some people see that as an infringement on their rights. Here's what we know - updated November 2021

Good, bad and terrible news.

Protecting Others

Take a look at this picture:
Now I have to admit it's not a real picture. It's cobbled together from different images to illustrate a point. Look closely and you'll see tiny droplets of spittle from the shouting man. We probably all know that these droplets are produced when we sneeze or cough. We probably all know that 'coughs and sneezes spread diseases' too. BUT it's not just those who cough and sneeze that produce these infective droplets. We all produce them when we shout, sing, talk, breath heavily (think joggers) or even breath normally. This means if you are asymptomatic - are infected but show no signs of it - you can spread the disease without knowing it and this disease can kill people! Are you OK with killing others?

Stay away from crowds, especially those where people are shouting and singing. Joining a protest against mask wearing is the height of stupidity.

This is where wearing a mask helps. It traps any of these infected droplets and stops others from catching it from you. If you are near others then wearing a mask, even a cloth over your mouth, can prevent the infection spreading.
Image from Reuters
Wearing a mask over your nose and mouth WILL help stop you infecting others with Covid-19, colds and flu but you probably don't need to wear one if you can keep 2 metres away from them outside.

Do masks protect YOU?

A simple cloth mask is unlikely to offer much protection to the user.
A mask with an exhalation vent may give the user some slight protection but won't help others.
A medical N95 mask, the right size and properly fitted may offer some slight protection (up to 5%) to the user and others.

ANY mask is better than no mask.

Some people might tell you that the virus is tiny compared to the gaps between the mask fibres. The virus can easily pass through these gaps. It's a bit like trying to keep mosquitoes out using chicken wire. That's true. However a better analogy is that chicken wire will keep mosquitoes riding on the backs of chickens IN! The virus is carried in water droplets and these are much bigger than the mask fibre gaps causing them to be trapped. There's also an electrostatic charge between mask fibre and droplet, causing the droplets to be drawn to the fibres. 

On a cold calm day you'll become aware of the droplets we breath out. You see a mist from your breath. It rapidly evaporates though and you won't see it spread beyond that two metre distance. Once the droplets evaporate any virus carried in them is no longer able to infect you. It needs that moisture to remain infective.

Buy at least five N95 (or KN95) masks. If you can, avoid those made in Asia since they are probably made to fit Asian faces which tend to be flatter. Your mask should have a metal strip at the top which you can shape to your nose. The best ones have three layers and the outer layer will be water resistant. Some have a soft plastic strip inside at the top which acts to help seal the gap around your nose. The straps should not be too tight or they will distort the metal strip over your nose and allow exhaled air to leak. They will also irritate your ears. If your mask steams up your glasses then it's not properly fitted.
Dust masks will help protect others but not those masks which have an exhalation vent.
You can make your own masks which will certainly help prevent spreading the virus and might help you, if made properly. Spray the outer layer with a water repellent solution but not the inner layers.

How do you wear a mask properly?

  • Wash your hands before putting it on or use hand sanitizer.
  • Metal strip at the top. 
  • Place the mask over your nose and mouth then loop the straps over your ears.
  • Using both hands at the same time mould the metal strip over the bridge of your nose. The straps should not stretch this strip out of shape. If they do, consider extending them somehow.
  • Add glasses or safety glasses over the top of the mask. If the glasses fog up then consider using an anti-fog spray from an optometrist or washing the glasses in soapy water then allowing them to air dry. Rubbing shaving cream into the surface of the glasses until you can no longer see it can help but I'm not sure how this will affect any coating on the glasses.
  • Use the mask when you are out and in contact with other people. Remove it when you are alone, in your car or at home.
  • If you are outside and able to stay at least two metres from other people then there is no point in wearing a mask.
  • If you find breathing difficult when mask wearing - slow down. The first signs of difficulty are finding yourself breathing through your mouth.

Can I re-use a mask?

The virus is inactivated if it is allowed to dry out. Detergents will destroy the virus. YES you can re-use a mask.
  • If your mask is home made then wash it after each use and by all means re-use it. You probably can't wash bought surgical masks.
  • When you have used a bought mask, let it dry for at least three days before re-using it. You can re-use masks described as 'single use' provided you are not someone like a doctor or nurse in constant contact with patients. Drying masks in sunlight works but glass windows filter out the sun's UV rays which kill the virus.
  • Drying a mask using silica gel drying packets with mask and drying agent in a sealed plastic bag works well.
Yes! But you have to act wrongly:
  • Don't use the same mask again and again without washing it or drying it. Doing so will encourage the growth of mould and you don't want to breath that in. 
  • Loose in a pocket is not the best place to keep a mask for use. You should store masks in a sealed plastic bag with a small silica gel drying pack.
  • Don't wear a mask for too long. If it gets damp, replace it. Certainly replace it after two hours.
  • Don't rush around while wearing a mask.
You don't need to worry about these two myths:
  • Wearing a mask and oxygen starvation.
  • Wearing a mask and carbon dioxide poisoning
Remember that chicken wire argument? The size of oxygen and carbon dioxide molecules are REALLY tiny compared with the mask fibre gaps. They are microscopic compared with the virus particle size and they are not carried in water droplets. Both can easily pass through a mask. If you don't feel you can get enough air - slow down.

What other steps can I take to protect myself?

  1.  Wash you hands often. If you can't do that use an alcohol based hand sanitizer 65% to 70% alcohol works best. 100% alcohol (meths) and alcoholic spirits such as vodka don't work.
  2. Wear glasses or some eye protection. Your eyes are protected by very thin membranes which are vulnerable to viral infection. Ever notice a cold can make your eyes sore?
  3. DON'T touch your face while out. Easy to say but not easy to do. We normally constantly touch our faces to make ourselves feel secure psychologists say. Most times we are not aware of this. Wearing gloves and glasses can help break the habit, so can wearing make-up. If you simply MUST scratch that itch use a knuckle rather than a fingertip.
  4. Wear gloves. They act as a barrier between you and things other people have touched. That includes door handles, shopping cart handles, buttons, magazines, books, money. After wearing gloves remove them without touching the palm side of the glove and either wash them or leave them in a sunny place to dry out. I personally wear Dex-fit gloves which are plastic coated on the palm side only. They can be sanitized and will work with touch screens usually. They are available in multiple sizes from Amazon in the UK and US
  5. If you have long hair fasten it up and consider wearing a hat. 
  6. When you return from shopping wipe over metal and plastic coated products with a disinfecting wipe. Paper and card objects will probably be OK by the time you get them home. Then wash your hands.
  7. After shopping, if you are really paranoid, take a shower and wash your hair and clothes.

What symptoms can I get if I am infected with COVID-19?

According to New Scientist it's not just a matter of a cough, fever and difficulty breathing. 
  • You may have no symptoms at all yet still be able to infect others.
  • You probably (but not always) will get a persistent dry cough.
  • You probably will develop a fever.
  • You may be sneezing.
  • You may lose your sense of taste and smell.
  • You may suffer from exhaustion, numbness or diarrhoea
  • Some people have excessive weight loss (but it's not a good way to diet)
  • Some people complain of brain fog.
  • Muscle pain seems fairly common
  • In many cases people develop rashes
  • In a few people there are hallucinations. It appears that this virus can cross into your brain.
  • It can cause lung failure but also heart attacks, strokes, kidney damage and other conditions involving blood clots.
  • Whilst most people can shrug off many symptoms in about two weeks there are uncomfortable symptoms which can last many months. We term this 'long covid.'

And finally the good and bad and terrible news

The good news is that unlike the other corona viruses, colds and flu, the vaccination against covid-19 seems effective at preventing death from it. You may still catch it and may still spread it by not wearing a mask. You can be re-infected. It's early days to tell that for certain though.

More good news is that the research done on preventing SARS, MERS and Covid-19 may eventually lead to a vaccination against all the corona viruses - that includes the common cold!

The bad news is that although it first appeared that the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions were worst affected there are now many cases of young, healthy people who have either died or been left with failing hearts, lungs, kidneys or other organs. Unlike flu this virus seems quite happy to spread during the summer months.

The terrible news is something that science has known for a while. All viruses cause harm. The cells of your body they kill will usually be replaced. Some cells survive with damaged DNA and as you accumulate more of them these cause you to age. This means that even 'mild' diseases such as the common cold are killers! They simply take many years to kill you through an uncomfortable way called aging. Have you noticed how the symptoms of 'long covid' are very similar to the symptoms those 'getting old' experience?

If everyone wears a mask, that will help prevent the spread of Covid-19, colds and flu.

 Where did all  this come from?
Back in 2007 my wife and I were doing research for a novel 'Immortality Gene'. We explored science journals for how different viruses spread and what their long term effects were. We explored how a virus could be used for gene therapy. In the process we learnt what could be done to protect ourselves from colds and flu. I started shopping at quiet times during the night. I wore gloves and glasses. I used hand sanitizer. We didn't catch colds or flu. With COVID-19 we put our experience to use again. This time we could wear masks since it became socially acceptable to do so.
We hope you find this information of use and if you want to repay us, download a FREE copy of our book Immortality Gene. It's the first book of a series. It's long and it has been a #1 top technothriller at Amazon.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

What a mess we are in. Got any ideas to fix it?

 What a mess!

In the last few weeks we in the UK have found:
  • The UK's poorest will lose £20 per week Universal Credit .
  • The government has welshed on the promise made to pensioners to keep the Triple Lock.
  • We have a severe shortage of transport workers
  • Health workers feel angry that their hard work has been rewarded by claps only.
  • Brexit hasn't saved us £350 million a week - it's costing us £800 million a week. Latest estimates are it is costing every household £870 a year See The real ‘Brexit dividend’
  • Despite months of warning the withdrawal from Afghanistan was chaotic.
The poorest in the UK seemed destined to pay for the government's failures. The amount of money they lose seems trivial to those in government who have £82,000 salaries (£1,500 a week) but if your income after benefits is £304 a week it's not so trivial. See Poverty rate among working households in UK is highest ever
So what should we do to fix things? Anyone have any sensible ideas? The government seems to need all the suggestions it can get (but will they take any notice?)
May be an image of bus and text that says "#TakeCc -£800m a week Let's take back control"

1 comment

My ideas:

  1. Introduce a 70% tax on the profits of all industries making armaments. It would generate huge revenue and morally no one should profit from weapons of death. Use the proceeds to reduce poverty.
  2. Admit it - Brexit was a mistake. Rejoin.
  3. Where politicians have been found to mislead, deliberately lie, or break promises made in elections, and this can be proved then reduce their tally of votes in the next election by 2% for each occurrence. This should operate on both an individual and party level. Hopefully this will encourage politicians to fact check, be more honest and stop them making ridiculous claims.

Got any more suggestions?

Sunday, June 27, 2021

How to tell the truth - but not all of it.


Throughout the world governments tell us stories but seldom do they tell us the full story and the information they give us might not have the same meaning.

The cartoon here may be an extreme example but whenever governments make a statement it's important to check that they are telling you the full story. Here's an example from the UK government sent to me in an email begging for funding.

This missive from our government is a classic example. 'Missive' in this case being what the government missed out.
•They said they'd achieved, "Getting Brexit done and taking back control of our nation’s destiny" They left out the part about BREXIT now costing the UK £800 million per week, rather more than the £350 million they claimed the EU cost us claimed on that famous Brexit bus.
•They said they'd achieved, "Delivering the biggest cash boost in history for the NHS." They left out the information that the NHS is now eight years into the longest financial squeeze in its history. That cash boost will still leave the NHS behind.
•They said they would be, "Increasing school funding to give every child a world class education." Will this replace the cuts since 2015, let alone provide a world-class education for every child?
•They said they will be, "Launching a new plan for immigration to control our borders." Before Brexit we could move freely throughout the EU. Now we can't. Before Brexit we had full control of immigration from outside the EU - that hasn't changed. Immigration is important to the UK. Without immigration the UK population would drop and there would be skills shortages. The government seems intent on making things worse. Compassion and common sense at our borders? Not a chance.
•They said they would be, "Giving our police the powers and resources needed to keep your streets safe." Our streets are ALREADY safe. There is less violent crime now than there was 20 years ago*. The regulations they suggest will curtail civil liberties.
* According to a recent New Scientist article the decrease in violent crime is probably due to the removal of lead from petrol (gas). It's a worldwide change and is set to decrease further as those affected age and the lead works its way from our environment.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Plastic pollution - a possible solution.

Isn't it time that some bright spark produced a solution to the plastic pollution problem we face? Almost all of the plastic we produce eventually ends up as landfill or makes it's way to the sea to eventually produce microplastics.

Relatively little plastic is recycled. A whopping 91% of what is collected isn't. Some is burnt. Some can't be burnt without producing toxic gasses. Most goes into landfills.

Plastic is everywhere. It wraps our food, it forms the seal inside glass jar lids, some cans have a plastic lining. Our clothes lose plastic fibres when we wash them and when we dry them.

The water we drink has microplastics in it. The fish and other food we eat has microplastics embedded too. We don't know how this will affect us.

So what's the answer? What can WE do? I suggest there's a need for a plastic concentration device. Something which will get hot enough to melt plastic without creating fumes. Possibly something like an electric kettle?

Once molten, the plastic can be poured into a mould to solidify or possibly allowed to solidify in the device and the solid block removed later - that would be safer. Don't worry if the plastics used are mixed because the blocks produced can be reprocessed further and ground thermosetting plastics added. We then use this as a substitute for the asphalt used on roads. There are firms already doing this for example. The resultant road surfaces are:

  • Up to 60% stronger and last up to 10 x longer
  • cheaper
  • We get rid of a LOT of plastic and produce less carbon dioxide emissions at the same time
  • Plastic roads can have a hollow space to allow for pipes, wiring etc. That reduced roadworks which dig up the surface.
  • Plastic roads can be heated which could prevent them from freezing and also evaporate surface water
  • Plastic roads can be manufactured in interlocking sections which are easily assembled or disassembled

The process isn't perfect though. Some plastic particles may still make their way to the sea but the problem should be greatly reduced.

Experiments have found that the plastic road should still contain some asphalt to add to its strength.