Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Google Music - Two Spare Invites

I've started a new job as a web designer, working away from home which is great.  And naturally, in order to stimulate the creative juices necessary to creat fabulous websites I've been using Google Music, and it has proved to be exactly right.  

The user interface is nice and simple, so I can just find some music, stick it on and get on with work.  No more hoping Last.FM comes up with the right playlist, or jumping around YouTube videos. 

One little annoyance though is that in the top left corner, I've now got a little mail graphic, and the statement Invite A Friend: Two Invites Remaining.

So, if anyone wants one, drop me a message and I will gladly invite the first two people who contact me to take part in the fun.  

Monday, 11 July 2011

Warpaint – Warpaint (The Video)

Ever since seeing some promo pics for the shoot of Warpaint in NME months ago, I’ve been counting the settings of the sun until it was released.  Finally, about two weeks ago rumours surfaced that it would be premiered on July 7th, and lo and behold, there it was!

For those who’ve not yet discovered this majestic band, Warpaint are an all girl quartet from Los Angeles, peddling a highly original psychedelic dream pop/shoe gaze sound.  Formed in 2004, they consist of Emily Kokal (Guitar, Vocals), Jenny Lee Lindberg (Bass) and Theresa Wayman (Guitar, Vocals).  They’ve followed the tried and tested Spinal Tap method of a reasonably stable guitar/bass line-up with a multitude of different (and quite surprising) drummers.   First up was actress Shannon Sossamon, sister of bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg.  She departed to focus on acting, and was replaced by Josh Klinghoffer, who subsequently left to become the Red Hot Chilli Peppers new guitarist.  A few drummers kept the throne warm, but eventually along came a young Australian called Stella Mozgawa, who fit the mould perfectly.  Three weeks after she joined the band, they recorded their debut album The Fool, which was released in October 2010.

L - R: Jenny Lee Lindberg, Stella Mozgawa, Theresa Wayman, Emily Kokal

Track two on the album was a tune called Warpaint, and that is the focus of today’s writings.  Warpaint starts off with a mechanical grinding, from which emerges a hypnotic guitar line, quickly reinforced by the bass.  From there, it takes off into an upbeat melange of fuzzy guitars, funky bass and unbelievable drumming.  The snare patterns Stella beats out caused me a minor breakdown when I first heard them, and her drumming style is stunningly fresh.

Stella on skins
The video accompanying it is equally interesting.  From a visual perspective, it is a lovely mix of the plain of the real world, and the psychedelic lushness into which their music transports the listener.  The point at which the song progresses past the intro to really start moving (at around the one minute mark) is synchronised to the point at which the first underwater excursion begins.  The general premise of the video is probably something to do with looking beneath the surface.  It features the four musicians doing something mundane – Theresa is crying by a waterfall, Stella is a traffic warden, Jenny is a Hasidic Jew (complete with moustache) wandering the beach and Emily is exploring a forest.

Jenny demonstrates the mundanities of life
 Over the course of their trips, they variously come into contact with water, which serves as a portal to a transformation, and an underwater meeting point.  The whole thing has a very Alice feel to it, including a four way submarine tea party.  
Mad Musicians Tea Party
One point that I’m sure they really wanted to hammer home is the difference between the mundane world and the Warpaint world.  Above ground, they are all dressed in darkly coloured, mundane street clothes but once submerged, they are all clothed in flowing, colourful dresses and surrounded by flora.  The colours underwater are particularly notable; the contrasts they obtain are exquisite, and they make for a video that is visually stunning.  The saturated greens and blues are the main colour focus, and it works brilliantly. 
Exquisite Colours
The only downside (and an inevitable one) is the fact that in order to stand any chance of garnering airplay, the song has had to be cut from a lengthy six minutes to a more palatable four.  This means that in a song that to me is not far from perfect, thirty three percent has been cut, but this is sadly unavoidable.  Additionally, they cut some particularly good parts of the song, which saddens me.


Ultimately though, it’s an imaginative video that showcases the mellow, otherworldly side of the band and emphasises their ethereal nature perfectly.  A perfect video to escape to.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Google Music Beta - You're Invited!

So I woke up the other morning to a very nice surprise.  I'd been invited to participate in the Google Music Beta program.  I've been excited about Google Music Beta since the rumours started, so naturally I leapt to the 'Get Started' button.
The whole process of signing up is painless.  All I had to do was agree to the Ts & Cs, download Googles Music Manager software, and I was away.

The Music Manager software was equally painless - after entering my account details, and notifying it as to my choice of music playing software (iTunes) it scanned my library, detected all my music and began the upload process.  Thrilled, I gave it a few days before I'd be listening to my entire library, everywhere I went with no care in the world.  And three days later, I'm still waiting to be thrilled.

As you can see, I have a fairly staggering amount of music in my library.  This is a significant cut from the ~19,000 songs I had once upon a time, but it is still not an insignificant amount of music.  So, I guess it's somewhat my fault, but after three days of near constant uploading 3,287 songs have been uploaded.  This amounts to about 20% of my collection. My upload rate is about 200kbytes/s peak, which means that over three days I have had the potential to upload 51gb of music.

Instead, it has managed a measly 3,287 songs, which I work out to be roughly 21.4gb.  Additionally, it can be no coincedence that my computer has slowed down massively ever since I started the upload process.  The real worry is that I'm moving away from this house soon, to a house that has a pathetic 50kb/s upload (last I checked) so if my music isn't uploaded before Sunday, then I could be waiting an extraordinarily long time. 

One idea that occurred to me whilst thinking about how they could make the upload process a bit more painless is prioritising.  It's fairly easy to tell what most iTunes users favourite music is, using the play count metric.  It think it would be a fairly easy algorithm for Google to incorporate so that it initially prioritises music by its popularity.  That way, I could already be listening to my Warpaint and Sister Crayon, not passing the time with music I don't even remember adding to my library. 

Of course, this is merely a growing pain.  I undoubtedly have an overly large library, and once this has finished I will forget the whole uploading saga in a few weeks, and the sync process should be painless when I'm only adding an album.  Also, aside from this upload debacle, there's a lot I like about the whole software.

First: Once I'd found an APK for the Music android software (the work of a minute), it turned out to work very nicely indeed.  The only issue was, I had to enable 'Auto-Sync' which is no big deal.  The ability to access my entire library will be a godsend when I'm at home.  I plug my phone into my hi-fi, and use that to listen to music, so to be able to access 90gb of music as opposed to the usual 8gb will be heavenly.

Second: It is wonderful to know that my music is now (will soon be) backed up.  Hard Disks are notoriously volatile and there's a lot of music that's taken some time to track down.  Knowing it's stored on Google's nice servers, probably backed up is great peace of mind for me.  And additionally, Google are giving me 91gb of space free!  I get the impression that they are looking at charging for this service down the road, but right now I am paying with nothing except feedback.
Just as a reference, Dropbox would charge me $20 a month for 100gb of space. 

Third: I am now be able to access my music from anywhere!  No need to pray that someone has uploaded that rare Foals B-side when I want to show a friend away from home.  Just load up the browser, go to Google and hit play.  Or when I'm on holiday, or doing some office work, I now have full access to my library. 

The web interface is very nice and clean, sound quality seems to be identical to iTunes and there is very little lag.  There's no gap between the songs, and you can navigate around the site while songs play.  The only criticism is that the customisation options are non-existant.  There's no ability to EQ, no ability to alter the crossfade, and no nice little luxuries like visualiser.  All this may be forthcoming, but right now it's missing, although it doesn't really ruin the experience too much. 

Overall, I'm extremely happy with the Google Music Beta experience.  It has a lot of the features that I was hoping for, seems to make no bones about the source of your music (a worry for the iTunes cloud) and currently sits at my favourite price.  Now, I just need to wait for my music to finish uploading!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

F1 On The Move

On Sunday night I was faced with a distressing turn of events.  I had work (at Silverstone, of all places) until 6, and had to catch a train at 8.19, leaving me the perfect timeslot in which to watch the Canadian Grand Prix.  Along with Spa-Francorchamps, it’s the best track on the calendar and always a thriller.  

Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve, a man made island.

Arriving home I found that the race had been red-flagged due to the deluge, and there was no way it would be restarted soon.  On any other day, I would have just missed the train but unfortunately I had a potentially life defining meeting the next day, so that wasn’t an option.  And so, with a heavy heart I boarded my 8.19 train, and received a text at 8.40 telling me the race was due to restart at 8.50.  At this point, I considered my options for following the race on the go.  I was armed with my Android phone, and laptop.

My first idea was to tether my phone to my laptop, and just watch the BBC stream.  But on a moving train, the connection would have been terrible and the streams weigh in at around 750Kb/s, 5 megabytes a minute or nearly 900megabytes for the duration of my journey.  Data is pricey, so that was a no go.  I couldn’t watch it on my phone, as the ZTE Blade’s ARMv6 processor isn’t supported by Adobe Flash. 

At this point, I decided to settle for reading the BBC commentary for updates instead.  I’ve used it during work, and whilst it’s not great, it does the job when it’s not really getting my full attention.  But after a while, it proved inadequate.  For a blow by blow account, it was contained nowhere near enough detail to paint me any sort of picture as to what was going on.  With no mental picture of the action, and updates coming in once a lap, for selected drivers I needed something a bit more.

The F1 Live Timing app was at this point booted, to see what I could get out of it.  I often use it to follow qualifying, but since it doesn’t suffer from the lag of the FOM stream, I normally have to leave it during the race.  But with few other options, I gave it a go.

 Live Timing is pure data coming straight from the track.  You occasionally get glimpses of it on the stream, with the ticker along the bottom changing between gap, lap times and other bits of data.  But using the app, you can get instant access to enormous amounts of data. 
At will, you can access; lap times, sector times, gap from the leader, gap from the next man, number of pit stops, as well as data on the track itself such as temperature, wind direction, humidity and weather.  It also had a complete lap chart for each driver so you can see how they’ve done.   It even has a commentary section, which describes what’s happening on the track, and frankly does a better job than the BBC.

The point at which I joined Live Timing was when Schumi was running in second, and looked to be catching Vettel nicely.  He’d just passed Kobayashi, and Button was lingering nowhere.  Soon the PIT sign started appearing for the drivers, and presumed they must all be pitting for dry tyres.   With Jenson lying in about 11th at this point, he started to light up the timing screens.  

One of the most useful features is that the software automatically draws attention to people going fastest, by showing their sectors and/or times as purple.  So when you hear Brundle referring to a “purple” time, he is saying what he’s seeing.  It was at this point that a lot of purple dots started appearing for Button, indicating that he was starting to motor.  By checking the gap at the start of a lap, and their relative sector times, it was possible to work out when an overtake took place during a lap.  My delight was hard to hide, and watching Button carve through the field bought out all sorts of over excitement.  He made it up to second and watching the times sector by sector, it was plain to see that he was in with a chance of catching Vettel.  Here’s a little snapshot into how the last lap played out for me, and how I worked out Button and overtaken.

At the start of lap 70, Button had managed to make it into the DRS zone, with a gap to Vettel of 0.8s.  Sector 1 showed Button about 0.2s faster, so still evidently behind. Sector 2 showed Button doing a ~ 24s, while Vettel showed ~28s.  With a difference of 4s, it was either a glitch on the timings or a glitch by Vettel.  Luckily, a text came in at this point.  “Button 1”.  This led to the sight of me pumping the air around Basingstoke station, an act which seemed to draw a few confused gazes. 

Ultimately, I’d say that the live timing serves as a great muse for painting a mental image of what was happening in the race.  The main problem was that I was only focussing on certain drivers (Button, Kobayashi and Schumi in particular) meaning I missed out on other things that were interesting with hindsight – the Toro Rossos sneaking into the top ten, and some other non driver related things.  Having Brundle and Coulthard to point these things out live is definitely worthwhile. 
Fortunately, my HD version is just finishing downloading, so I shall soon be able to settle down and watch that. 

A fine commentary pairing

I’m also still in shock that Button managed to win, after so many incidents.  Whilst Buttons race pace was undoubtedly fantastic (and very much what I like seeing) Red Bull and Vettel made a mistake each that allowed him to win.  Vettel was obviously controlling the gap, and the pit wall should have noticed that a Mclaren was charging through the field, and given Vettel more of a gap.  The fact that he managed to find about 2s a lap extra after Jenson got into second tells you all you need to know about that. 
The second of course was Vettel running wide at turn 6, a most uncharacteristic error.  He’s had pressure for the lead in the last three GP’s, and has only finally made a mistake.  It’s also interesting to note that Jenson is emerging as Vettels new title adversary.  With a potential Monaco victory snatched by a red flag, and now victory in Canada, he’s moved into second place and looks to have had the measure of Vettel at two wildly different circuits. 
The future also looks interesting.  Mclaren are showing that they are pursuing aggressive strategies, which seem to be generally paying off and of greater interest is the EBD (Exhaust Blown Diffuser) row brewing.  It looks likely that it will be banned for Silverstone, and from this armchair, it seems that Red Bull will lose the most performance, especially their qualifying margin.

DRS wide open

BBC have been doing wonderful qualifying comparisons recently, and one that I would be interested to see is a Red Bull (preferably Vettel) against either a Mclaren or Ferrari (whichever is closest that weekend).  They should show the whole lap using a rear wing view camera, in order to see how much earlier the Red Bull can hit the DRS coming out of the corners.  I’m guessing that it would be significantly earlier, and the reason for that would be that their EBD keeps them well planted through the corners, so they can afford to start turning drag into speed much earlier than the others.  A lot of people seem to think that DRS is the key to their qualifying advantage, in combination with the EBD.  Without it, they will go a whole lot slower.  Of course, the other teams will lose some performance as well, but I would guess that Red Bulls will be a greater percentage of lap time than Mclaren, Ferrari and Mercedes.   With Mclaren and Ferrari being in pretty much the same ball park, and Mercedes just about there, the EBD ban could mean that we have four teams on pretty much the same performance level.

Of course, it could be that the EBD is only a minimal part of Red Bulls package, blown wildly out of proportion and Mclaren et al will only fall further behind.  Time will tell, but it looks promising.  

 Oh, also, I've been following it for a while but I got to see the finished Silverstone Wing this weekend.  And it looks awesome. 

Monday, 30 May 2011

Post Monaco Thoughts

Well, a weekend that looked full of potential for Mclaren has failed to materialise at every junction.  The Grand Prix was a deeply exciting one, and I don't think I've ever maintained such a high average heart rate whilst watching a Grand Prix.  But unfortunately, as a Mclaren fan absolutely no luck at all seemed to go their way, leaving me feeling utterly deflated on Sunday evening.  So, here's a list of just where things went wrong, generally at no fault of the drivers.  
I do want to say that this article may seem excessively negative, but I thoroughly enjoyed the race, thought Monaco looked absolutely stunning, and I feel this will be talked about for years to come.  Just not by Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button or anyone else in the Mclaren team. 

Boats, Babes and F1.  The dream come true. 


It had been looking excellent up until Q3.  Alonso may have been fastest in all the practices, but it was quite obvious that he was absolutely ragging it.  In comparison, Button and Hamilton were looking similarly fast, but without needing to drive quite so close to the precipice.  Things were waiting to be turned up a notch, and indeed, come Q1 and Q2 Hamilton aced both sessions.  Q3 was where it all started to go wrong.

To begin with, the signs were looking promising.  On his first lap, Button had managed a 1:13.997, half a second off Vettels 1:13.556, but Jenson normally is.  Hamilton came out for his first flying lap, with the aim of winding himself up for a three lap run.  His first lap started just as Ferrari released Massa from the pits.  No doubt this was pure chance, but it greatly hampered Hamilton in the climb up Beau Rivage.  

Then, Sergio Perez was unfortunately caught out by the bumps, and took on a barrier sideways.  That this happened within 2:26 of the end of the session caused alarm bells to ring.  Memories of Malaysia flooded in, when Petrovs failure minutes before the end of Q2 forced about ten cars to try and make a run within two or so minutes, with several high profile names failing to make the cut.  

Thankfully, the medics were able to extract Perez from his car, and he escaped with minor injuries.  So, the barrier was repaired, and the session was resumed.  

No doubt with Malaysia in mind, Mclaren sent Lewis out to sit at the head of the pitlane.  This was undoubtedly a smart idea, however he was sent out too early, and so he was forced to sit there cooking, as his engine temperatures rose and tyre temperatures dropped.  He was waiting for about two minutes before getting out, by which time his tyres must have cooled off immensely.  Setting off for his outlap, all was well but as soon as he finished his first sector, he was already 9/10ths of the pace.  By the end of the second sector, he'd dropped another 4/10ths, despite cutting a chicane just after Piscine and his lap time was a disappointing 1:15.280, only good enough for seventh.  But worse was to follow, as the stewards (fairly) decreed that his lap time was invalid, and deleted it.  This left him with no lap time, and he was forced to start from 10th (net 9th, of course).  
Button was in second, which was fantastic, but there's little doubt over who the man to take the fight to Sebastien Vettel is.  So, with a heavy heart, I bided my time until race day.


Another beautiful day in the tax haven of Monaco, and 23 of the fastest machines in the world lined up on the grid.  With DRS, KERS and Pirelli tyres surely even Monaco could be a feast of thrills and spills.  
The start was reasonable, with Button getting away nicely and Hamilton getting in front of Schumacher, who had a poor start.    Schumacher, though rammed Hamilton and detaching bits of his rear wing, and then got overtaken by him at the hairpin.  Hamilton hounded Schumacher, and subsequently took the place back with a beautiful dive up the inside of Ste. Devote.

Schumi is too agressive into Ste. Devote

Vettel pulled a reasonable distance over Button, but it was then maintained at around four seconds.  Then, on lap 14 Jenson dived into the pits and strapped on a second set of super softs.  With fresh tyres, and clear air he pumped in a brilliant outlap.  By the time Vettel had pitted, he emerged behind Button.  Worse, his team had made a mistake and given him the softs, rather than the super softs, and so Button was able to tear away at about a second a lap. 
At this point, things were looking beautiful for Button.    With a comfortable lead everything was looking good for a Mclaren victory.  But then, around lap 30 Timo Glock pulled over with damaged suspension.  This was a point of contention, but I believe that Mclaren viewed this as a likely Safety Car, and hence pitted Jenson.  Of course, a safety car didn't come out but Hamilton conspired to bring one out anyway.

Hamilton at this point had pitted and had managed to get behind Massa.  He caught him at around one second a lap, but then got stuck behind.  After trying a few dummies, he tried to send one up the inside, mirroring Schumi's move on him earlier.  Unfortunately, at the same time, Massa was trying to send one up the inside of Webber and the hairpin is not a place for double overtakes.  Massa and Hamilton collided, but both managed to carry on.  Then, Massa got a poor drive into the tunnel, and Hamilton managed to overtake him.  Massa moved onto the marbles, lost control of his car and slapped into the barriers.  This was all two laps after Button had pitted, and in my opinion this once again played into his hands.  Alonso pitted, putting on a set of super softs. Hamilton earned a drive through penalty for his maneouver. 

Once again, Button was up behind Vettel, again on a set of super softs against Vettel on his softs.  However, this second set of softs ultimately proved to be Buttons undoing.  Unable to get past Vettel, and with Vettel told to force Jenson to waste his tyres, Jenson ducked into the pits and got the mandatory soft tyres on.  

At this point, Button had made three stops to Vettels one and Alonso's two.  And with the different strategies all meeting in the middle, the race was truly on.  Alonso caught up to the back of Vettel and started attacking him, whilst Button caught up to the pair of them, although he chose to sit at a respectful distance, whilst they wore each others tyres out.  With Pirelli tyres that tend to fall off a cliff, and Vettels tyres having to run an unprecedented sixty laps if he chose to one stop, Button was looking in a reasonable position.  

Three cars, from three different teams battle it out for the lead

It was at this point that the leading three caught up to the battling midfield, and started lapping them.  Sutil was in fourth, with Kobayashi in fifth and Petrox sixth hunting him down.  Not far behind Webber, Maldonado and Hamilton were all following each other as well.  Kobayashi slipped past Sutil on the entry to Mirabeau, with his front wing making contact with Sutils right rear.  With Webber attacking Sutil, and Maldonado passing Petrov in close proximity, there was little concentration for what was going on around them.  The train of events that led to a safety car began with Sutil running wide, and slapping his right rear tyre into the armco.  Sufficiently punished, it duly punctured causing him to veer wildly.  With Hamilton having got past Petrov, he then attempted to slow down to avoid the wild Sutil.  This took Alguersuari by surprise, who mounted the rear of Hamilton's car, and slid into the Armco.  This equally shocked Petrov, who followed suit.  With two wrecked cars on the track, a safety car was summoned.  

Sutil, Kobayashi, Webber and Hamilton in close formation

Now, things started to look more unsteady for our Mclaren heroes.  With a safety car, Alonso and Vettel would be able to rest their tyres for a bit, giving them less laps on which to fight it out.  And for Hamilton, Alguersuari's detour to his derriere had caused him fatal rear wing damage.  Although he looked as though he was going to stay out, a radio message went out from Mclaren on lap 72 telling him to box.  

Simultaneously, as the extent of Petrovs accident was realised, a red flag was given.  After everyone had worked out exactly what this entailed, they parked up on the grid and the teams slowly started to realise that they were able to work on their cars, including a change of tyres.  This played straight into the hands of Vettel and Alonso, as the teams discovered that under red flag conditions, they were constricted only by time as to what they could change. Everyone discarded their degraded tyres and put on a young set of soft tyres, and with three cars now on the same strategy, with only six laps left, it was at this point inevitable that the lead at the top wouldn't change. 

However, as Buttons hopes faded Hamiltons were given a new lease of life by the same rules.  Images showed his pit crew working flat out to detach his old rear wing, and install a new one that would enable him to complete the race. In the nick of time, Mclaren engineers completed the swap, and the race restarted.  

For the front three it was a standard lights to flag procession, with the order unaltered.  Behind them, further action unfolded.  Hamilton was clearly faster than Maldonado, and took the opportunity to tear up the inside of Ste. Devote.  However, there wasn't space for two cars, and one of them had to give.  Maldonado went spinning into the barrier, and Hamilton flew on his way for a sixth place finish.  But unsurprisingly, cars three and twelve were to be investigated after the race.  All the cars took the chequered flag, and with Mclarens finishing third and sixth, it was neither and unmitigated disaster nor the brilliant success it could have been.  With Mclaren showing race pace that exceeded the Red Bull, had Saturday gone according to plan then it could so easily have been a 1-2 finish. 

Post Race

As I sat there contemplating a return to revision, I noticed Lee McKenzie interviewing Hamilton.  It was evident from his facial expression that he wasn't feeling particuarly happy, and he took the opportunity to unload his feelings to Lee McKenzie.  I've taken this opportunity to repeat and analyse some of his juicier statements.

"Out of six races, I've been to the stewards five times, it's an absolute frickin' joke".

These have been his trips to the stewards, reasons and results, as far as I can work out/recall. 

Australia; Possibly had to see stewards regarding broken undertray. No punishment.

Malaysia; Put in front of the stewards for weaving in front of Alonso.  Penalised twenty seconds, and dropped from seventh to eighth.  Harsh, but not entirely unreasonable.

Spain; Failing to slow under a yellow flag. The flag was on a corner, and Hamilton had just got onto fresh tyres, so he was not really able to lose much speed through the corner, and hence why his lap time was so quick.

Monaco x 2;
1. Cutting a chicane on his Q3 qualifying lap.  Time deleted, and dropped to tenth as a result.
2. Causing an avoidable incident.  20 second penalty, no resulting position change. 

I can't think of the any others right now, although I have a memory of him blocking someone in qualifying somewhere.  But that could be made up.  He's undoubtedly had some bad treatment from the stewards in the past, but this season nothing overly unreasonable.  He does lose marks for use of the word fricking, as well. 

"These drivers are absolutely frickin' ridiculous, it's stupid". [Having described the Massa and Maldonado incident]

I hate to say it, but Hamilton ALWAYS has a somewhat warped view of events.  Apparently, Massa turned in a car length earlier than he normally would, but he had Webber on the outside so of course he would. He was behind Maldonado, so Maldonado had the right to the racing line. Hamilton jumped the curbs, and was lucky not to lose control of his car.  At best, this was a 50/50 incident, and I have a hard time seeing it as Maldonados fault.  

 At this point Lee gave him a perfectly worded question;  "Why do you feel you're so magnetic to the stewards?".  And the most fantastic response was elicited.  

"Maybe it's cos i'm black. [laughs].  That's what Ali G says".

At this point, Lee paused as she realised exactly what response she'd just elicited.  The fact that Hamilton even jokes about it demonstrates that it's something on his mind.  There is the possibility in his mind that the stewards are picking on him, because he's black.  

I find this interesting, because after the Chinese GP (where Hamilton won), a friend of mine's mother (who is also black) observed that the British press never got as excited for Hamilton winning as they do for Button, suggesting that there is latent racism towards him.  As someone who only ever reads the specialist motorsport press, this is something I've never noticed, but maybe there's a grain of truth to that.  Certainly, in 2007 and 2008 Hamilton recieved a certain amount of abuse related to his ethnicity from a certain quarter of Spanish fans, but I refuse to believe that he could see the stewards in this number.  He subsequently went to the stewards to explain that it was an unfunny joke, but it's certainly going to hang in the air for a while. 
"You get done for trying to make a move".

Now here's something I agree with.  When Vettel took out Button at Spa last year, he was given a totally undeserved penalty.   We need drivers to be able to attack other drivers without the threat of punishment if it goes slightly wrong.  A crash and loss of position is punishment in itself.  If a driver pulls an obviously dangerous move, then fair enough, but I don't think a driver losing control in a marginal situation should be punished.  Whether Hamilton's incidents today were marginal is another question. 

Overall, I thought it was one of the best interviews I'd seen in a long time.  It's rare to see a driver really open up and tell it as he sees it, and for this Lewis (and Lee) should be applauded.  

So overall, despite my awareness of what an exciting weekend this has been, I'm left with a sour taste.  Button could have won had luck not favoured Vettel, and Hamilton had one of his most embarressing weekends ever.  Still, onwards to Canada, the scene of Mclaren's last 1-2, and a race that has only ever seen Hamilton starting from one position.  Pole. 

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Should Old People Drive?

I was just doing the bi-annual phone memory card spring clean, when I discovered this photo that I took in the legendarily sketchy Banbury.  Yes, the place contains the well known Banbury Cross but it has also been nicknamed BanBurberry, a thoroughly deserved title (and good advice).  

Banbury is a place full of bizarre people, and here is a perfect example of one.  I think the focus is obvious.  Has this chap accidentally got into his mobility scooter rather than his Kia?  Or if his chosen  mode of transport is intentional, can that vehicle really be road legal?  Can it be safe?  Surely at the very least, it's so slow as to greatly irritate anyone behind him, leading to severe road rage.  It's also probably awesomely fun, there's no need for air conditioning, and the guy probably doesn't give a shit so power to him. 

0 - 60 in a lifetime

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Music In The Cloud - Finally!

Having just bought myself a new laptop, I've been trying to work out a nice wireless way of transferring all my music onto it.  I've tried using Itunes Home Sharing, but it's been hopelessly slow (even over wireless) so I gave up on that.  I've been on the verge of just putting my library onto an external Hard Drive but this seems like a hopelessly old fashioned method of moving music around.  

I've been happily embracing the cloud this year, using Dropbox to share my documents around my devices and Firefox sync to keep my bookmarks unified internationally.

When it comes to music, I can happily wait for a decent solution to come along, and with the Cloud Wars hotting up, I knew it would only be a matter of time.

So imagine my joy on waking up to discover out that that not only was it another scorching Mediterranean day on the other side of my curtains, but also that Google were planning on launching a cloud system.  Anxiously, I waited through the day to discover whether or not Music Beta would tick all my boxes.  And come five o'clock, I discovered that it did!   All but one, very big, very important feature.  And one other possible problem too.

So, I'm going to list the features of Google Music Beta that really sticks out as features I need and/or appreciate;

  1. Storage; Google Music Beta offers storage of a phenomonal 20,000 songs.  My library has peaked at around 19,000 songs, and is currently sitting at around 14,000, so this should be more than enough space for me.  This kicks Amazons 1,000 song arse. 
  2. Price; Currently retailing at my favourite price of no pounds, no pennies and nothing else.  Except presumably information about what I listen to, which I already give out anyway to anyone who cares.
  3. Synchronisation; The music is stored in the cloud, but changes made on all your devices are stored and repeated everywhere else.  This was one of the things that put me off using Itunes Home Sharing as a permanent solution.  Imagine, everytime I add an album to my desktop computer, I would have to manually add it to my phone, and laptop as well.  This way, everything is synced and if I change something on one device, everything else will keep up.  Make a playlist, change a tag, add a song.  All there on all my devices.  I know it's gonna take a bit of time to upload 14,000 songs, but once it's done, maintenance syncing should take no time at all. 
  4. Device Compatibility; Vitally, Google have maintained their hubris and offered compatibility with Itunes.  Which means that I can easily upload my Itunes library to the cloud, and keep it synced with my Android phone!  Wahey! Additionally, I can also play my library through a web based browser.  When I'm using a computer I can't install onto, but need to work on, I can still listen to my music on it, improving my productivity by untold amounts! 
  5. Offline Streaming; I don't have a data plan on my phone, so happily I can just choose the songs I want from my library, and quickly download them to my phone for when I'm on the move, whenever I'm in a wi-fi zone.  Alternatively, I can access my whole library from my phone whenever I'm at a friend's house, in the library, or anywhere else. 
I know, doesn't it sound fantastic!  All the capacity of an Ipod classic on my humble ZTE Blade. But there's only one problem.  It's not available in the UK!!!! What's going on there???  Is this some kind of revenge for the US not having Spotify?  
My second possible problem is that I've heard rumours that it might require flash on Android devices, which would be a massive shame, since my ARMv6 equipped ZTE Blade doesn't support flash. 

So, as long as they release a flash free APK for my phone, and let people in the UK sign up, I think I'll be in my musical Nirvana, my Stairway to Heaven, feeling Hysteric, etc.