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Tuesday 29 November 2011

UK Strikes 30th November, 2011

Back In the days... before Margaret Thatcher broke the stranglehold the unions had on the UK, the wildcat strikes, let alone the 'official' strikes gave the country a 'reputation'. The British disease, as it was called throughout Europe, reflected this seemingly suicidal attempt at destroying an economy which was already fragile. It also destroyed the majority of the goodwill that had been gained by the UK's involvement in the Second World War. There was a genuine admiration for the sacrifices made by so many, including all those who made the ultimate sacrifice. There was even a tendency to 'buy British', obviously after favouring their own nation. This lasted until the era of strikes, when Europeans became disaffected with lateness in deliveries and shoddy workmanship; this new Britain did not impress people the other side of the Channel. The collapse of the UK manufacturing industry followed. A country famed for its plethora of car manufacturers rapidly became bereft of any British-owned and UK assembled vehicles.

The UK reinvented itself as a service economy, with financial services being a substantial element. The risks inherent in relying on a service economy are for another day.

Civil servants are going on strike tomorrow in order to make everyone aware that they are not happy. This displeasure is because their extremely generous pensions will require more funding. They will, in general terms, be required to save more of their income into their pension; a concept which is somewhat familiar to the rest of the population.

In this age of transparency, I have attempted to research exactly who voted for this proposed strike. To my astonishment, the information is not exactly easy to extract. I am indebted (in a non-financial sense, that is) to the Socialist Worker for the results of individual ballots. The intention was to establish the percentage of civil servants who had actually voted to strike... shouldn't prove too difficult. In order to establish the figure, all we need is the size of the 'electorate' and the number of people who voted (either for or against).

The members balloted by individual unions include the mentions "estimated, around, nearly and over"... unbelievable. There are also a number of unions where the turnout is not disclosed, so it is impossible to know what proportion of members actually voted for a strike.

Undaunted by the lack of information provided by the unions representing civil servants... perhaps even more surprising, given that they are people one would associate with administration, I made a few assumptions. This basically revolves around the qualified votes, which have been assumed to be accurate. From a statistical point of view, the benefit is very much being given to the "yes" vote (won't bore you with the details here).

If you're sitting comfortably, here is the result: 26.12% of the people balloted voted for a strike tomorrow, or if you prefer very nearly three quarters of those entitled to vote did not vote to go on strike.

So the gun is being held to the head of the UK by 26.12% of civil servants. These people are paid by the tax payer (in whatever guise it might be). They only exist to service the nation, which we have already established is based on services; somewhat flimsy foundations. These people are worried about their pensions; a relatively long-term concept. They would be better advised to concentrate on the job in hand and hope that a pension will be worthwhile having.

The gun is indeed being held to the head but, it is suicide. Who wants to pay more taxes to fund the pensions of people who hold one to ransom? Do you?

The only thing history teaches us is that we don't learn from our mistakes.

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Creating Consistent Images/Icons

When you want to use a logo somewhere (iSignature, documents, websites, button...), there is no problem if it is a one off. You simply find the logo you are looking for and adapt it to your needs. The problem really comes when you want multiple logos but you also want them to have a similar look and feel. They will be different sizes, different file types and a lot of work for you to make it look good. The workaround is to use a process where you add them all at the same time.


This started as an idea for creating uniform buttons for Filemaker databases but, its application is actually much wider.


Start by making a list of all the logos/icons you want. Create a folder on your PC named Icons (or of course, anything else you fancy, as long as you can find it).


Now open a browser window (hopefully you already have Firefox, as this is so easy to use)*, and go click here, then, once you are on the site, click on click here to load button. Restart Firefox and you will have an in your tool bar. Now open each of the websites where you want to use their logo (from the list you created). You will notice that each tab also has a little icon for the site (known as a Favicon).


The following steps need to be repeated for each site:


Select the tab

Click on the  and select save icon

Rename the file something you can remember (the default is favicon and save it to the Icons folder you created earlier


Once you have done this your Icons folder will be filled with all the favicons of the sites where you want to use the image, with an appropriate name.


The next stage is to get these favicons into a format that you want to use. The format depends on exactly how you are using them, as does the size. As examples, a jpg file for the twitter would look like this, and a jpg file for the Facebook logo would look like this  . You can convert the favicons to JPEG, BMP, TIFF, GIF, PNG file types.


The next, and final, part to the exercise is to translate the favicons into a consistent image format that you can use throughout any given project. I suggest that you choose one logo to work on to get the look and feel as you require, and then repeat the identical operation for all the others. Doing this sausage machine factory style, one after the other, will not take long at all. The way to do this does not even involve downloading any software, and it does not cost you anything either.


Go to and carry out the following steps for each logo/image, after you have established the size and file type (use JPEG if you are in any doubt) that you need for your particular application:


Click on Browse and locate, on your computer the favicon you wish to convert.

Set the conversion options (file type and size)

Click on Download Converted File; the file name will automatically be the same as you had set for the favicon (hence the importance of using an appropriate name).


Once this is done, you have all the images you need.


Obviously, the use of the system is not to violate copyright but, to enhance the display of your site/iSignature/database/document.


*If you do not already use Firefox, you can download it for free here.

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Interest Rates and UK Servicemen

There’s something very odd about interest rates. I had great difficulty believing the content of an article in the Daily Telegraph on 11th November (very appropriate for Armistice Day). In fact the article confuses two separate situations.  It did however alert me to something quite extraordinary.


At a time when interest rates are historically very low, there seem to be some amazing variations.


Even more astounding is the attitudes of the US and UK governments towards their troops. If you’re confused as to how these two items go together, read on.


The U.S. have a bill, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) which, amongst many other things, limits the interest rate that may be charged on loans to servicemen, which were taken out before they are on active duty. The exact wording is that “interest in excess of 6% on pre-service debts is forgiven and not deferred”.  It is also illegal to affect the credit rating of the serviceman as a result of the application of this provision.


For the avoidance of doubt, the 6% is per year… the reason for the perhaps pedantic clarification will become clear in a moment. This is the situation for loans which were taken out before active duty commenced. If the UK has any similar provision, I challenge you to find it.


After deployment, the rules are different. It is illegal to charge a US Serviceman more than 36% pa interest on a loan (again enacted in the SCRA). There is no similar protection for UK service personnel. Very cursory research on the looking for  ‘Loans for Members of HM Forces’ found interest rates of 1,410%, 1,737%, even 2,222.46% (obviously, not on the first page of the site). These are not typographical errors; they are the annual percentage amounts being charged.


Back in 2006 a certain gentleman by the name of Gordon Brown signed a statutory order limiting to 2% (admittedly per month) the rate of interest that could be charged by Industrial and Provident Societies (The Credit Unions (Maximum Interest Rate on Loans) Order



If I were a UK serviceman, I would find it difficult to justify putting my life on the line for such shysters.


Is there a current, or past, UK serviceman out there who would like to add an e-petition to limit the interest rate charged on loans to UK servicemen to 36% p.a.? I would be pleased to help with the drafting.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

iSignature (Step 4) – start using it on your iPhone/iPad

If you have followed the previous suggestions, you should now have a saved document on your PC that represents the iSignature file you wish to use on your iPhone/iPad. It can already be used with your PC mail software but there is just a little more work required until you can have a decent signature for your Apple device.

Please remember that this is a workaround so, if it does not look as elegant as it should (the solution, not the signature) then, please feel free to let Apple know!

Here are two different suggestions for how to implement your iSignature.

Website based
If you have a website where you can transfer your signature then, this is a simple solution. Transfer the iSignature you have previously created from your PC to a blank webpage on your site. Then simply browse to the appropriate webpage on your site (on your iPhone/iPad) and just copy the iSignature elements and then paste it into your iPhone/iPad email as you type. Thats all it takes.

iPhone/iPad based
Start by sending an Email from your PC to yourself. Make sure that you do not collect the email on your PC but now go to your iPhone/iPad and receive the email there. You should have an email which contains just your new iSignature.
The next part is straightforward but, you might like to think back (if you are old enough) to the days when a printer (thats a person and not a machine) supplied you with headed paper with your logo, address, telephone number once you ran out you were in deep, deep trouble. Well, you would be in a similar situation so, we will prepare a stock of iSignature emails so that we do not run out at an inopportune moment.
Copy the signature on the iPhone/iPad that you have sent yourself then hit the new email icon. Paste your iSignature into the body of this new email (you do not need to enter anything in the To or Subject fields. Now press Cancel and then Save Draft. Repeat this operation as often as you want; you are just creating your stock of emails.
Now, when you want to send an email just go to your Drafts folder and touch on one of your stock and you have a beautiful email, preprepared with your iSignature to do with as you please.

Enjoy using your new signature and remember that you can have as many as you want just repeat the process.

Sunday 6 November 2011

iSignature (Step 2) - decide what to include

The next stage in the creation of your signature is to decide exactly what you want to include. Get a piece of paper and write down exactly what you want included, and where you want it placed (order and position).

Here are some ideas (and that is what they are, ideas). Feel free to use only those that are appropriate for you and add anything that is good for your individual circumstances.

Complimentary close
If you finish all your emails with yours interestingly (or whatever), you might as well include it in your iSignature.

This will either be the sig file you have already created, or you will be entering your name as text. There are various fonts (Bradley Hand ITC) being an example, which allow you to display something approaching handwriting.

A bit obvious but, choose whether or not to have your name entered in type, as part of your iSignature.

This is obviously only relevant if you are sending emails on behalf of a company. At the same time decide whether or not you want to include a logo with this section.

You could enter your email address, especially if you are sending from a different address.

Fairly obvious, and if you include this, consider entering numbers in their international dialling format, and include as many different numbers as you want, specifying whether they are mobile or fax, as well.

Your website address (es).

A physical address which you want to share with your interlocutor.

This could already have been displayed with your company name or, could be used on its own. I would highly recommend that this is hyperlinked to a website. If you wish to do this, ensure that you have the exact URL (in the style

Your Facebook homepage. You can get this by going to your Facebook page and clicking on the info button on the left and then scrolling down to Contact Information; your homepage URL is listed here.

Your Twitter username.

Your LinkedIn URL address.

Your Skype username, so that people can contact you directly on Skype.

This is a statement in the style of 'we take no responsibility if you don't like what has been written'. In all seriousness, this tends to apply more to companies and you will no doubt already have received communications including a disclaimer. If you want to use one, use these as an idea for a template.

Decide which font(s) and colour(s) you are intending to use for the various parts if your iSignature. Just a suggestion (design isnt my strongpoint) but dont have too many different fonts or colours, as this tends to look messy. No doubt someone will prove me very wrong.

Apart from the company logo, decide if you are going to use any others.

Post Script (P.S.)
This could contain anything you wish. I tend to have one that states "Click on the signature to access my blog"

Now take your time getting this little lot together… Stage 3 will be with you shortly.

Saturday 5 November 2011

iSignature (Step 1)

The introduction of iOS 5 would seem to have been (another) ideal moment for Apple to improve on the email services offered on their iPhone/iPad products. Unfortunately, the opportunity was not grasped. As so many people have been clamouring for an improvement, and Apple are undisputed leaders in usability, perhaps something is afoot.


The release of a free messaging service between iOS 5 equipped products might lead one to believe that Apple is attempting to force us all down this route. Can you really imagine a world where messaging is restricted to Apple products… I can’t.


A long-time bugbear of mine is the default ‘signature’ on Emails that is ‘sent from my iPhone/Pad’. Whilst accepting that this is perhaps good publicity for Apple, it is also irritating.


This default signature is easily changed by going to Settings/Mail/Signature and then entering any text you want. At the moment I would suggest merely deleting the free advertising. Over the next few blog messages, I will show you, step by step, how to create exactly the signature that YOU want.


Again, somewhat irritatingly, there used to be a workaround for this to enable the creation of a signature but, with the advent of iOS 5, it no longer functions.


So, here we go with the first step.


You need to decide whether or not you want to have a real hand written signature as a part of your iSignature or not. If you do not want to have a handwritten signature, you do not need to read the rest of this message… relax and come back for the next stage tomorrow.


Decide on how you want your signature to look, using a piece of paper (that stuff we used before the world became iEverything). I would suggest that, for security purposes, your signature is not the one you use to sign cheques. After all, you will in due course be broadcasting this on the Internet; you have been warned.


This signature can now either be scanned on your printer, or photographed on your phone, and then saved on your PC (name the file ‘sig’… which is the name we’ll use later).


There is also an App called Autograph which you can use to create your signature. Again, transfer this file to your PC and name it ‘sig’.

Tuesday 1 November 2011

Greece? Where's that?

The Greek issue needs to be handled differently now. Mr Papandreou needs to be told in Cannes tomorrow "accept the deal or Greece no longer exists".

Which would make his walk (no flights) back somewhat unpleasant. Also difficult with no mobile (no contact) and of course his passport would not be valid (as it would have been issued by a non-existing country).

Might concentrate the mind somewhat.