Zoooooom

Extreme close-ups are a piece of cake with Magic Touch. In 3 minutes, I knocked together this impressive zoom:

Click to zoom in.

Very handy for showing huge photos without taking up much screen space.

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Growing old

With my parents approaching their seventies, I couldn't help laughing at this…

I was recently diagnosed with AAADD – Age Activated Attention Deficit Disorder

This is how it manifests:

I decide to water my flower tubs in the front garden.
As I go to turn on the hose I look over at my car and decide it needs washing.
I go to get the car keys from the porch and then notice the post on the porch table.
I decide to go through the post before I wash the car.
I put my car keys on the table, put the junk mail in the bin under the table, and notice that the bin is full.
So, I decide to put the bills back on the table and take out the rubbish first.
But then I think: “I can run down to the post-box when I take out the rubbish, I may as well pay the bills first.”
I take my cheque book off the table, and see that there is only 1 cheque left.
My other cheque book is in the computer desk, so I go inside the house to my desk where I find the can of Coke I'd been drinking.
I'm going to look for my other cheque book, but first I need to push the Coke aside so that I don't accidentally knock it over.
The Coke is getting warm so I decide to put it in the fridge to keep it cold.
As I head toward the kitchen with the Coke, a vase of flowers on the window ledge catches my eye … they need water.
I put the Coke on the window ledge and discover my reading glasses that I've been searching for all morning.
I decide I better put them back on my computer desk, but first I'm going to water the flowers.
I put the glasses back down on the window ledge, fill a container with water and suddenly spot the TV remote. I must have left it on the kitchen table.
I realize that tonight when I go to watch TV, I'll be looking for the remote, but I won't remember that it's on the kitchen table, so I decide to put it back in the living room where it belongs, but first I'll water the flowers.
I pour some water in the flowers, but some spills on the floor.
So, I set the remote back on the table, get a towel and wipe up the spill.
Then I head down the hall trying to remember what I was planning to do.

At the end of the day:

The flower tubs aren't watered;
The car isn't washed;
The bills aren't paid;
There is a warm can of Coke sitting on the window ledge;
The flowers in the vase don't have enough water;
There is still only 1 cheque in my cheque book;
I can't find the remote;
I can't find my glasses;
I have absolutely NO idea what I did with the car keys.
Then, when I try to work out why nothing got done today, I'm really baffled because I know I was busy all damn day, and I'm really tired.

I realise this is a serious problem and I'll try to get some help for it, but first I'll check my e-mail.

If this isn't you yet, trust me … your day is coming!

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A well executed assassination of Gordon Brown

It's reassuring that the UK is still producing high calibre politicians. People like Daniel Hannen (MEP). Watch his 3 minute assassination of Gordon Browns' failed economic policies and wasteful expenditure of money we don't have…

Daniel Hannen became Britains' youngest ever MEP in 1999 and even now is only 37 years old. He has authored 7 books, most recently The Plan: Twelve months to renew Britain. If his actions can match his words, he would make a worthy Prime Minister. Read more about what he has to say on his blog.

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Flights from UK to Malaysia

Air Asia XThis October, I'm flying direct from Stansted (Essex) to Kuala Lumpur for £99 one-way inc. tax thanks to Tony Fernandes, the entrepreneurial founder of Air Asia. It's a budget airline with no-frills and it flies from Stansted (a superb airport in a bad location) but for £99, that's an all out bargain. The nearest competitors cost upwards of £250 one-way.

My mate Carl is looking for the best flight price for his trip to Malaysia this summer, so lets point him in the right direction…

The first thing to note is that you must to hunt around. For every one of my last 8 trips to Malaysia, I have booked through a different website. The prices change on an almost daily basis. Sometimes a comparison site has an exclusive offer, other times the airline itself is offering a discount for going direct to them.

I wrote before about how you can get a cheaper flight and see somewhere new with a stopover. Another option for the globetrotter is to fly into Kuala Lumpur (KUL) and out of Singapore (SIN) so that you can check out Singapore for a couple of days.

Now its over to you to start searching…

Airlines:

  • Air Asia – flights from £99 one-way if you're lucky – £180 one-way is more likely. Pay extra for food, entertainment, choose your seats. If you are tall, it is worth the small upgrade fee for a seat with extra legroom.
  • Malaysia Airlines – direct flights from London Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur starting around £650 return. It's a decent airline but overpriced because of a lack of competition. Maybe that will change now Air Asia is on the scene.
  • Emirates – direct flights from Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur starting around £650 return. Great airline but pricey.
  • Gulf Air – stopover in Bahrain. Return flights starting from about £500 though they currently have a special offer of £411 if you fly by June 14. Good airline.
  • Qatar Airlines – stopover in Doha. Return flights starting from about £540. Good airline.
  • Singapore – stopover in Singapore.  Return flights starting from about £650. Excellent airline.

Flight comparison sites:

  • LastMinute.com – scans all the major airlines.
  • Ebookers – ditto.
  • Expedia – customer service is poor but hopefully you won't need to contact them.
  • Opodo – often its the most expensive, but twice it's been the cheapest for me.
  • Kayak – great search tools and interesting charts of historical flight prices, but has never found the cheapest for me.
  • Thomas Cook – they don't just do holidays – you can book flights too.

Post a comment below to let us know how you got on.

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UK crumbling under Labour

The Labour government has today proposed the creation of a state bank so that UK businesses and citizens can go deeper into debt by borrowing directly from the state.

This is an extraordinary idea from a government experimenting with ever more wild and expensive ideas. A state bank with loose lending criteria would only prolong this recession.

It's too late, there is nothing the government can do to stop this recession. It could do things to limit the damage, but so far none of its policies or bail-outs have given confidence to the people (a cut in income tax would have) and our currency has plunged at its fastest rate in history.

If there are two essential requirements of a government, they are to foster a stable economy and avoid war. This government has failed on both counts. Brown became "Mr Boom then Bust" and Blair took us into an illegal war against our will. The UK is crumbling under Labour.

Gordon Brown did nothing to prevent a giant property bubble from inflating since Labour came to power in May 1997. Property prices tripled in the 10 years to September 2007 (Nationwide). The collapse of this bubble is the primary cause of our dire economic predicament.

What goes up must come down. But Labour won't accept that. They want to return to the days when getting a £X00,000 mortgage was as simple as signing on the dotted line. That's why they might create a state bank. But it will do more harm than good. This government wastes money on everything it does, be it IT projects, special advisers or general inefficiency let alone ID card and civilian spying projects that have no place in our civilised nation.

The solution? Laissez faire. The private sector should provide banking services, not the government. The banks lent too much money during the boom and now they are compensating for that by lending more carefully. This is a good thing: it helps existing borrowers concentrate on paying back their debts and requires new borrowers to properly justify why they deserve a loan.

This will be a severe recession. But we are British – we'll deal with it and we don't need government interference.

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Prime Minister: cut income tax, not VAT

Gordon Brown continues to make decisions that will deepen/lengthen this recession.

He is now planning on cutting VAT from 17.5% to 15%. Bad move. VAT is one of the best taxes in a Governments armoury. It is cheap to collect, it raises a massive amount of money and it discourages consumption by making prices higher.

Cutting VAT will reduce prices for most goods in the UK will by around 2.1%. Is that going to make you go out and spend more? I didn't think so. But what it will do is increase government debt by another £12.5 billion per year.

Government debt eventually has to be repaid by the taxpayer, so the Labour government is effectively lumping another slug of debt on our shoulders that we must pay back in the years to come (either through higher taxation or fewer public services).

I would prefer to see the government raise funding / reduce spending by:

  • Increase VAT to 20% (like most of the rest of Europe).
  • Slash public sector spending which has ballooned under Labour and is highly inefficient compared to the private sector.

With the extra money in the coffers, I'd like to see the government:

  • Cut income tax to increase people's take home pay and encourage people to work.
  • Cut corporation tax or give some other tax break to businesses.

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Help nurture entrepreneurs in poor countries

Erick Schonfeld at TechCrunch blogged about a great way to help eliminate poverty – by providing microloans to entrepreneurs in small countries. Helping people help themselves is a great way to give aid.

Anything from $20 to $350 can help someone start their own business in Karachi, Kabul or Kirkut. Read more here.

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Don’t listen to Crash Gordon. Save.

What caused this financial crisis? Debt. Specifically, risky loans that should never have been offered.

As soon as house prices started falling, people around the world (not just the USA) defaulted on their mortgages, triggering repossessions and causing losses for banks. The further property prices fell, the more repossessions, the greater the loss. Many banks lent so much money to risky borrowers that bank failure was inevitable. In a free market, they would be left to go bankrupt. But the phrase "too big to fail" was adopted by every Western government and now much of the banking sector in the US and Europe is being nationalised.

So what do the governments see as the solution? More debt.

Debt for the nation

Each Western nation has taken on massive debt – billions or trillions of pounds per nation. It will take decades to repay either through lower public expenditure or higher taxation or both. The total amount remains to be seen because we don't know how big the bank losses will be. As asset prices fall (particularly houses) there will be more repossessions and greater debts. Total debt is probably more than the banks owned up to and it will get worse as property prices continue to fall.

Debt for the citizens

Last weekend, the G7 drew up a five-point rescue plan. Read between the lines and it infers that they want to rewind the clock to the rosy days of easy credit. That is being confirmed by Gordon Brown's recent statements such as "the UK problem was not shortage of demand for homes at "the right prices" but a shortage of mortgages "at the right prices for people to buy". Again, "Crash Gordon" gets it wrong. He wants us to get into more debt to buy overpriced property. This is the man famous for stealth taxation and overspending. This is the man who promised "no more boom and bust" yet we've had the biggest bust for 80 years, lumping unimaginable debts on the British taxpayer.

Debt is the problem

Our society has become reliant on debt. A certain amount of debt is a good thing – prudent borrowing permits faster investment into the economy. But we've taken it to unsustainable levels and nationalisation of the banking sector won't fix the problem. It only prolongs the pain of paying back the debt.

Furthermore, the government does not need to kick start mortgage lending – there is no problem in mortgage lending. You can get a mortgage now perfectly easily if you meet the criteria. You just need a decent deposit and proof of income. This is exactly how it should be. Responsible lending. The last thing we need is to go back to the reckless lending to people with tiny deposits and low income.

Saving is the solution

It's time to rediscover the benefits of saving: it provides greater freedom, encourages better financial planning, establishes financial security, is a good family value, is morally good and it's responsible. God that sounds dull. Maybe that is the problem – saving just isn't perceived as sexy.

Easy money and buying stuff – now that's sexy. But that's what got us into this mess. To get out of it, we need to make saving sexy. How can we do that? Interest rates of 10% might do the trick. In fact, higher interest rates would have prevented this crisis. Yet they're not going up, they're coming down even further as our 'leaders' try to keep this consumer debt machine going.

As individuals, we can do as we choose. We can decline that overpriced house, that increased credit limit, that unsecured personal loan. And we should. Stick your money in a high interest savings account. Pay off your mortgage sooner than you intended. Start a business that does not require capital. Whatever you do, don't listen to Gordon.

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Cool JavaScript turned off warning

I just spotted this thoughtfully crafted "JavaScript turned off" warning message on Get Satisfaction:

JavaScript turned off warning

JavaScript turned off warning

Not only is it a good looking message that you can't miss at the top of the page, but it's also a play on the legendary TPS report scene from Office Space. Nice touch.

When a site relies heavily on JavaScript, JavaScript turned off messages are important notices to the user. Without it, they may think the site is broken.

This requirement will be included in the next release of our book, Tick My Boxes – the checklist for building successful websites

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Web developers’ checklist – book

Leon and I have just launched our book (in beta), Tick My Boxes.

The web developers' checklist

The web developers' checklist

It's a checklist for web developers, with 80 checkpoints of the key things to do when building a website.

If you build websites, you will know many of these things already. Having them in a checklist format, together with an explanation, helps you quickly tick off the things you should be doing. If you are new to building websites, the book will help you learn lots of the best practice techniques.

We released the book in beta so that we get feedback from developers which we will incorporate in the final version, to be released later in 2008.

The book is available for £9 from Lulu.

Visit the official website: www.tickmyboxes.com

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