Archive for February, 2007

Inspirational quotes

My favourite quote used by a company is "Just do it" from Nike.

I just discovered a similar one-liner that deserves to be shared:

The person who says it can't be done shouldn't interrupt the person who is doing it.

I found the quote on the Google Sketchup website. They attribute it to the wall of the Mountain Rose Cafe (Winter Park, Colorado). Wherever it originated from, it's spot on.

Mountain Rose Cafe
Do you have an inspirational quote? Add it below in the comments.

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The easiest way to email large photos

If you use Thunderbird, save yourself a lot of time and effort when you want to send digital photos via email. With this method below, there is no need to manually make each image smaller – the computer does it all for you.

The problem

You want to email one or more large photos taken on your digital camera to your friends. In total, the size of the images is probably between 2MB and 20MB. That's too much for an email – as a rough guide, I avoid sending emails over 4MB in size and preferably under 2MB.

The solution

You do not need to edit each photo in Photoshop/ACDSee/Picasa or any other image editing program. All you need to do is locate the images on your hard disk using Windows Explorer. Then select the images you wish to send (you can use Ctrl and/or Shift to select multiple images).

Once the files are highlighted in blue, right-click one of them. Choose "Send To" then choose "Mail Recipient". (Click the images below to see larger versions).

Choose the photos you wish to email

Then click "Show more options…" and choose the size of the images you wish to send – about 800px by 600px is usually fine – and click OK.

Choose the new size for the images

Hey presto, your images have been resized and are already attached to a new email!

Your photos in a new email

In this example, the total file size of 4 photos was reduced from 11.8MB to just 387KB. Your recipients will be much happier 🙂

Notes

  1. This does not alter the size of your original photos. (Smaller file are created temporarily and your original photos are left as they are).
  2. I use Thunderbird (and highly recommend it). I do not know if this technique works with other email programs such as Outlook or Outlook Express.

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Road pricing – don’t sign the petition yet

Before you sign the road pricing petition that has swept the UK, read what you are signing and do some research into whether you really support it. The petition reads as follows:

The idea of tracking every vehicle at all times is sinister and wrong. Road pricing is already here with the high level of taxation on fuel. The more you travel – the more tax you pay.

It will be an unfair tax on those who live apart from families and poorer people who will not be able to afford the high monthly costs.

Please Mr Blair – forget about road pricing and concentrate on improving our roads to reduce congestion.

Let's disect these statements…

The idea of tracking every vehicle at all times is sinister and wrong.

The big brother concern is quite right. However, it is up to the UK as a nation (providing the government listens to public opinion) as to how the vehicle usage data is used. I don't like the idea of being tracked everywhere I go, but if I know that the data can only be accessed and used for specific and agreed purposes that I can trust in that, then I don't mind. Obviously we don't want an Orwellian future, but we can avoid that with the proper use of technology. The "idea" of tracking every vehicle at all times is not sinister and wrong – it is how that data may be used that could be sinister and wrong.

Road pricing is already here with the high level of taxation on fuel. The more you travel – the more tax you pay.

Current motoring taxation is collected through road tax (your tax disc) and fuel duty (the tax on petrol/diesel). The current system cannot be used to affect our behaviour in regards to reducing congestion. It has no way of creating a financial incentive/disincentive for driving at a certain time of the day. Is that a really such a big issue? We would all like to reduce congestion, but if avoiding traffic jams was that important to us, wouldn't we change our behaviour voluntarily and choose to go to work before or after the rush-hour? Also, taxation on fuel is cheap for the government to collect which helps keep the (astronominal) public sector costs down. Plus it is true that the more you travel the more fuel you consume, therefore the more tax you pay. So, it would seem that taxation on fuel is effective plus there is a financial incentive to drive a higher MPG vehicle (therefore, reducing your environmental imapct). Perhaps there is a case for scrapping tax discs and increasing duty on fuel (to make up the difference).

It will be an unfair tax on those who live apart from families and poorer people who will not be able to afford the high monthly costs.

This claim is nonsense for two reasons. Firstly, the person can choose when to travel to minimise the price of their journey. Most journeys to visit family will be at weekends when traffic is lighter and travelling at this time will cost less or may even be free. This new system could in fact work out cheaper for low income people if they use it wisely. Secondly, if the government is seeking to raise the same amount of motoring revenue as is currently raised, the overall taxation burden across the UK will not rise. In practice, it may rise because, characteristcally, the government will spend more than it plans to, the system will have technical problems and the cost of raising the tax may be higher than the combined cost of current fuel tax and fuel duty. But as far as I have understood (and a clearer breakdown from the government on its exact plans would be appreciated), the government does not intend to use this new pricing structure to increase the total tax burden – on average we will still pay the same amount each. Pay-as-you-go road pricing is a fair model because you pay for what you use. You pay for how much you travel just as you pay income tax depending on how much you earn and VAT depending on how much buy.

Please Mr Blair – forget about road pricing and concentrate on improving our roads to reduce congestion.

We should welcome all ideas and for improving our transport system and should critically analyse every one of them for pro's and con's. The governments' idea of road pricing via satellite tracking is no exception. It should not be dismissed in a whim as this petition does. It should be debated openly with the involvement of the public, planners, scientists, economists and politicians.

Read the research

Other thoughts

Many questions arise from the governments' dramatic road pricing proposal. Here are some of my thoughts. Please add your thoughts below.

  • If under the proposed new system we remove tax fuel, how will we tax farm machinery, lawnmowers and garden machinery, recreational vehicles and how will we deal with the Irish and French who will want to buy tax-free fuel in the UK?
  • How easy would it be to tamper with the black box and avoid paying the fee?
  • If vehicles were tracked, the data could be used to solve more crimes, solve them faster and solve them cheaper.

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Cheaper flights with a stopover + get to see somewhere new

If you are flying to Kuala Lumpur from London Heathrow, you have a range of carriers and schedules to choose from including:

  • Malaysia Airlines – direct to KL. Flying time: 13 hours Price: £550 inc. tax.
  • Sri Lankan – via Colombo. Flying time: 15 hours plus delay between flights. Price: £490 inc. tax.
  • Qatar Airways – via Doha (Qatar). Flying time: 15 hours plus delay between flights. Price: £420 inc. tax.

The prices vary depending on time of year and how long in advance you book but Sri Lankan and Qatar tend to be the cheaper options because of the inconvenience of a stopover.

However, I have discovered is that it can be a pleasure to have a break in the flight. On my most recent trip, I had a 16 hour stop in Doha. Typically, an airline will put you up in a hotel if you are transiting for this length of time which gives you the chance of getting out and looking around town.

I left LHR at 2135hrs on Friday 12th January and arrived in Doha at 0800hrs the following day. I went to the transfer desk and they gave me a free breakfast coupon. I then switched on my laptop and used the free airport wifi while I waited for my transport to arrive. I was taken to an upmarket hotel where I had a room for the day. It included lunch and dinner, both of which were very good.

You could use the stopover to sleep in the hotel, but I wandered around Doha. It's not somewhere you would deliberately choose to visit but the opportunity to spend a day there is worth taking. It probably resembles Dubai 10 years ago – a desert town where oil money is funding increasingly impressive skyscrapers plus and giant water desalination plants. There is next to nothing in the way of entertainment (unless your hobby is visiting mosques) and you may find the lack of women in public eerie but the 'city' feels safe and it is worth witnessing the creation of a modern city where only Bedouins would have roamed just a few decades ago. If you do go wandering around town, you should cover your legs and arms out of respect.

Another stopover option is to fly via Colombo (Sri Lanka) and make sure your connecting flight keeps you on the ground for more than 12 hours so that you can escape from the airport. Unlike Doha, Sri Lanka is well worth a long visit so you may choose to spend a few days or weeks there on route to KL. If you do choose to stay for a while then expect to fork out an extra £100 for the airfare (odd because it does not cost them any extra and they should be encouraging tourism in Sra Lanka).

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