Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Scary playtime

Another yoink from Facebook but ... words !

Here we go :
" Had an interesting experience tonight.

I'm an airline pilot, and like many airline pilots I live in a different city than I'm based in. This means that more or less once a week I commute across the country in the back of an airplane. When you spend 30+ hours a month in the coach section of an airplane you either go insane or come up with ways of entertaining yourself. For the last couple of weeks KSP has been my source of entertainment...until tonight. Tonight I decided to try making a space plane. As you can probably guess, my first few attempts didn't go well. Neither did the next few. Or the ones after those. In fact, the whole exercise was pretty much a dismal failure. Fireballs, mid flight structural failures, and events that could be described as "high velocity unintentional landings" claimed the lives of hundreds of brave kerbals.

Midway home the woman in the seat next to me broke the social communication barrier:

: Excuse me young man, are you a pilot?
: Yes mam, I am.
: Oh dear...

I had failed to realize that for over an hour the passengers around me watched as a pilot, in full uniform, crashed what looks to the untrained eye like a flight simulator, hundreds and hundreds of times. I think I'll stick to civ V when I'm commuting. "

The KSP he's referring to is the Kerbal Space Programme, which I think I've mentioned before ...

It's an insanely deep rocketry simulator, which is growing beyond the initial steps of just bunging together a few engines, fuel tanks, coffin for the Kerbals (aka command module) and straps and struts and seeing what would happen when you hit the blue touch paper. It's turned more into a sandbox now, with players doing things like setting up bases on the Mun or having space stations around the planet.

But there's always that potential for massive disaster and huge fireballs. And that's why we like games :-). What adds something here is that the disaster and fireballs happen in a totally fair way, there's always an understandable reason for why it happened and you can learn valid rocketry design tips from it. Everything in the game is based on sound astronomic physics, behind a fairly friendly interface.

Sounds like fun :-) Gotta admit, it's another game where I've thought it's shinier to watch others play than play myself but when I saw that story appear in the Facebook feed, made me chuckle :-)

Friday, January 25, 2013

Old game temptation

Had a peek at the latest Good Old Games weekend sale earlier ...

It's quite tempting this weekend for old games I remember being hooked on, for old games I missed out on the first time and not so old games I avoided when they were new.

What have they got and why am I tempted ?

First up - a link

Empire Earth - this is a hybrid of real time strategy (which tends to be quite limited in scope actually) and grand empire strategy. Kinda like mashing together Age of Empires and Civilisation. This one hails from an age where game developers tended to try things out with mashing genres together, trouble is the developers didn't tend to do that great a job of it. The game was either broken, or too ambitious.

I'm very tempted by this one, I was hooked on quite a few versions of Civilisation and this one gives a bit more scope. But I'll only go for the first Empire Earth as it looks like the sequels actually took features away from the original.

Talking about taking stuff away ...

Lords of the Realm 2 is another one I sunk a lot of time into. It's another hybrid of real time strategy and empire strategy. It's pretty simple to play but hides its depth well. I really enjoyed this one, it's just a shame the AI opponents couldn't play to win. They tended to waste their people in making peasant armies, which your archers would cut down like wheat. All you needed to do was build castles with a moat, fill it with archers and the AI couldn't beat you from there. On the other hand, you'd be able to build armies of armoured swordsmen and macemen to break into the castles.

I missed the first Lords of the Realm and avoided the third. The second is definitely an all time classic, just a shame the AI wasn't good enough. The third got avoided because they took away the strengths of the second and didn't leave much of a game behind (bit like Moo3 after Moo2)

Lords of the Realm spawned a sister game too called Lords of Magic. Whereas Lords of the Realm was based in Medieval times with archers, crossbowmen, castles, sieges, swordsmen and knights, Lords of Magic was a magic fantasy setting. I was very curious about this one when it first came out. I don't think I got it because it took far too long to go budget.

(Bit like a lot of Blizzard games - they stay expensive for far too long and therefore I refuse to buy them)

Evil Genius - played the demo, didn't get the game. It's one where you are the Evil Genius, plotting world domination from the hidden mountain lair. This seemed like one where the developers got over ambitious and ran out of time and skill to program in all they wanted. Curious about this one though, it's less of a loss on a $4 game than the original price of £30.

What's next ?

Ground Control 1 and 2. I played the original when Gamespy gave it away for free but didn't get too far in it. It was a ground breaker for real time strategy in its day because instead of having you build up a complicated base from bare bones units, the units you started a battle with were the only units you'd have. I have a mate who was addicted to Ground Control 2 for a very long time and that only comes with strong games with lots of depth.

There's a few more in the offer but I wouldn't look at them seriously : Judge Dredd : Dredd vs Death, Pinball Gold and Sniper Elite Berlin 1945.

I might well spend a bit of cash on the offer this weekend - on either or both of Empire Earth and Lords of Magic. I still need to get value out of similar recent acquisitions like Heroes of Might & Magic 3.

Oh and there's another limited Steam sale starting today too - my wallet is doomed ! Which reminds me ... it's time to pay off the credit card ... uhoh ! :-)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

How you doin' ?

That's that polite question that you always hear. Facebook has taken it on too, with lots of people giving literal answers to the "How's it going ?" that it puts in the status update entry box.

I say "polite" question because people always expect an answer along the lines of "I'm doing great, thanks, how are you ?". I've been breaking the mould on that lately by giving a standard answer of delaying slightly (to consider the answer!) and saying "improving".

I don't think people have been entirely prepared for that answer. It's a little too honest :-).

Or perhaps their mind is working through "He's improving, I didn't realise there was anything wrong, what did I miss ?" I like that "what did I miss ?" thought as it suggests that I've been able to hide this skin problem since it exploded late last summer.

I am genuinely improving too, although painfully (literally!) slowly and not really helped by me too. The damage is steadily declining, where I don't do the self inflicted wounds thing. Because things are taking a long time to heal, if I disrupt that healing by giving into temptation and scratching the damaged bits it sets back the healing more than you might think. Work can be a bit awkward because moving around more means the healing can be disrupted by what I'm wearing. And I've not said what the most awkward thing is yet ;-)

No need to go back to the doctor's place though just yet. Just more self discipline to erase a life long tendency to attack the bits of me that aren't right yet.

It is genuinely improving though (I can wear a helmet again!) and I think I've identified a few things that were making my skin go wrong :

Work. I might be allergic to work. LOL :-) Nah. It's the buildings, they have a very dry atmosphere which I think is a very minor contributor to what's gone wrong. It's something to live with, I'm not about to insist on any special conditions for it although working from home may be something I have to talk to management about.
White bread - not so sure about this one now, although I've not had the unpleasantness of being unable to breathe since I ditched the white bread.
Stress - always causes problems. But the reasons for that stress are not something I'm going to put here. Although what Ms Warpath suggested earlier today rings very true.

Orange juice/citrus. This is huge. If you're continually getting mouth ulcers without the explanation of "I bit my mouth" then that's a major signal that you're eating/drinking something you shouldn't. What I didn't realise is that a citrus allergy might extend to lemon muffins too :-).

You know what that means ? I will be forced to consume only chocolate muffins.

(I promise to eat other stuff as well which might be vaguely healthy - says he knowing that after I finish this post, the first thing I'll do is fetch an apple from the kitchen)

The last thing I know that's causing me problems is water ... Yep. It appears to be a little boy problem. And you know what little boys hate ? Bathing ! Looks like having a shower is causing two problems - the towel is damaging the skin and the water is leaching out the bits I need for healing. But I know how to get around that (it involves being gentle and using lots of moisturiser).

I know - awkward. But - by understanding why it's bad in one way, you can make an adjustment, do things differently and deal with the inconvenience.

Lesson - there's a way around every problem. You just need to believe that there is an answer there, even if it's not obvious.

Sometimes you need to ask for help, sometimes you need to find a strength from within. Sometimes you need Rubber Mallet assistance to get inspiration. Hopefully not too often though because concussion is a Bad Thing.

I'm hopeful that I'll make the cricket season, although I'm definitely not ready yet. Too much damage and too much time needed for repairs. What is helping is knowing there's good friends out there who are genuinely concerned when they find out when I'm not healthy. I've been lucky to have been involved in an awesome project for longer than I should have. That's one reason why it's been tough to let go, although I know that in the new one there is potential for me to have the autonomy I never had (and could have done with to get things done!) in the old project.

Ok Ok ! That's enough self indulgence for tonight, where's those apples :-)

PS One thing about the people on the project is that if proves true the old saying about when genuine friends meet up for the first time in a while, they'll pick up from old conversations. And that's proved true about 2 very lovely ladies from the old project who I had the chance to have conversations with over the past week after meeting them at random :-)

Friday, January 18, 2013


Snow's hit today.

It's actually worse than I can remember for a while, there's more come down than there has been for years and I think it's actually worse than the period a few years ago when barely anyone got into work.

Here's the BBC take on it ... (link)

Lots of cancellations - schools, buses, trains and the airports. For me, Plan A was to come in on the bus today because I didn't know how the car would handle the uncertain grip. I'd have been ok with walking the 3.6 miles home but not to do that both ways (We're expected to walk up to 3 miles). One problem - buses are cancelled. I can understand that too because the roads were somewhat treacherous this morning.

(It's not that bad, I've experienced worse)

After a little bit of um and arr, I headed in anyway in the car. I'd not driven the hybrid on ice before ... It behaves a bit differently to a conventional car :

It is driven by motor and/or engine, so it doesn't need a clutch
Therefore there's no matching of engine speed to road speed which is one source of wheelspin on ice
But, the motor is very powerful when it's at low speeds.

In my car, the motor and engine are all brought together in the one axle, without the driver needing to worry about matching them up. But, there's a very active traction control system looking after it all. The traction control is where the concern comes, as reports say that it can totally stop the car from moving if you attempt to start on ice.

Ok, what did that actually mean for the drive in today ?

Car actually handled it quite well. The traction control was only obvious with flashing its light twice and one of those saw the car slipping sideways. I'll allow traction control interference there :-). The automatic gearbox helps out a lot as you can start off more gently and more controlled than trying to match engine speed to low road speed with a clutch.

The traction control behaves differently with the motor. When it fired a second time, I could hear lots of ticking from the front. With an engine, traction control works through either applying the brakes on the slipping wheel or by making the engine give less power. I think I was getting that power limiting happening as well today, although the car wasn't letting. Could have been my boots :-)

Roads actually weren't too bad and they'd cleared up by lunchtime too. What happens is that the grit that's laid down will clear little pockets which then refreeze but the road won't clear until cars drive over it. This morning, the roads were a mix of ice and slush, with them clearing to wet tarmac in the afternoon.

What was surprising was the amount of respect the drivers were showing the conditions. At 35 on a 40mph limit, I was one of the faster cars on the road. I suspect the idiots had stayed at home.

I wasn't really surprised that I was one of the few who made it in. And I made the trip partly cos I wanted to experience the conditions. Yep, I'm one of those people who when given a "do not travel, it isn't safe", I'll think about heading out anyway just to see what it's like. And seeing as I didn't know how that car would handle the ice ? ;-)

Oh - I've also picked up a laptop and a few documents as well in case I get stuck at home on Monday. If the snow does continue and the buses don't run on Monday, I will not be taken the car. I'm banned from the car park except for on Fridays ...

So yeah - conditions = quite poor. We've only had about 3 inches of snow but it's enough to shut down a lot of the infrastructure and to keep many people at home.

PS Next time I take the car out when covered in snow, I'll clear the parking sensors ;-)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Retail trouble

News over here is all about another retail giant getting into trouble ...

Couldn't really let that bit of news pass as HMV is probably the shop I spend most time in up at the Mall. What can I say, I find browsing in there to be quite relaxing.

Yes. I'm strange.

Why would that be I wonder ? I touched on one possible reason earlier. Bargains. There's a Waterstones bookshop up at the Mall too but despite reading the occasional book, I don't tend to spend much time in there. Why ? Books cost too much these days (I can remember books costing £2-£3 new in shops - I'm old) and the stock isn't that great.

That's a big reason why the high street shops are struggling now. It costs money to hold stock and takes lots of space to put that stock on the shelves. So when I go looking for that Edie Brickell album I don't have yet or the Rachel Sermanni album I'm very curious about, I don't find it in the shop.

Prices tend to be cheaper online too and you avoid being inflicted with customer disservice too. Just one problem with actual media coming from online places, you tend to have to deal with the post office. That's why I don't order much online, because getting to the post office (especially with the car park ban) is a bit of a pain.

I'm not a big fan of HMV though. There used to be 2 record/movie shops at the Mall, with a Virgin (later Zavvi) store there too. They kept each other honest with the pricing and the offers. I'd tend to browse HMV and then buy downstairs in Virgin where the same item would usually be cheaper. Zavvi was another casualty of Woolworths collapsing. After Zavvi disappeared, there was noone to keep HMV honest. Prices went up.

I have been buying more stuff as download, however while I'm happy to do that with games and music I don't do that with movies. Movies take a lot of storage space and it's far more difficult to pipe movies to the good AV kit than it is to just pop a dvd in the Xbox, a blu-ray in the player and just watch stuff. Computers can do it but not as easily or as high quality as it should be.

So I still browse the record shops. Or I do at the moment.

There's some hope, as there's still a couple of independents in town. One is ok, although they pass off ex-rental blu-rays as new (thought that was illegal ?). The other are a bunch of crooks.

With the car park ban, I can see myself going into the city centre more than the Mall. There's more shops there and I already have the go anywhere bus ticket.

I'll be a little sad to see HMV go, although that's coloured by two things :

1 - I kinda wished they'd gone earlier instead of Virgin/Zavvi. I always preferred the other shop.
2 - Multimedia shopping going from high street to online seems inevitable.

I like having that browse ! I don't often buy much in there but I seem to do more movie/music shopping on impulse than it being a calculated online buy.

And Amazon cheat on their taxes so I try and avoid them for that.

PS I have a second copy of Resident Evil Afterlife on bluray after the last trip. I know I know ! The Resident Evil films are a bit naff. But I enjoy watching them (spot the Milla Jovovich fan) and I thought it was the newer one. Anyone (local!) want it ?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Scattered thoughts ...

Was kinda hoping for snow :-) But alas, it has avoided Bristol again.

To be honest, snow this time around will be "interesting" ... Why's that ? No car allowed at work (except Friday's) and my car is allegedly not keen on ice/snow.

It's a particularly awesome car :-) Definitely the best I've had in all respects. However, one criticism I and others have is that the traction and stability control is very aggressive in cutting power when the wheels start to slip. And when you have a powerful electric motor driving the front wheels, that can mean that the car just doesn't move. (Allegedly)

So I'll be at the mercy of the buses if the bad weather does come. From one point of view, that's not bad. You're free to abandon a bus at any time if it gets stuck in traffic or bad conditions. Means a walk but hey, I'm not that badly damaged. (I do have leg issues but they actually like some work to free them up).

Where's the snow ? I keep an eye on - the UK snowmap. It collects data from a twitter channel and collates it into a map. Just one problem, I see a bunch of isolated heavy snow reports on that map right now and I have a feeling that they're not true. Yep, you get scumbags dragging down that good thing as well as most of the other good things we still cling on to.

Other stuff - I've been scattered again lately. Seems like this skin thing likes to recover a bit and then get worse again. Not sure what's triggered it off again this time, although it could be jaffa cake related. Hope not, cos jaffa cakes are a Reason To Live. Looks like I have to avoid them for a while though.

Yep. Got sore again, although I'm hoping that copious amounts of moisturizer helps out there.

With the cricket, my ears have improved to the point I can wear a helmet again. (No helmet, no batting, no cricket). But my skin is in such bad shape that it's getting damaged very easily and it's not repairing at all quickly. The moisturizer does seem to be helping though.

What am I up to at the moment ?

Been back at work for 8 days now, settling into more responsibility. Similar role as before but more responsibility. It may not be for too long but I'll get as much out of it as I can.

Still catching up on all the telly recorded over the Xmas break. I did record some, even if most of it was repeats of films and documentaries. At the moment it's a few episodes of Soviet Storm, which tells the story of WW2 on the Russian Front. Rating ? It's worth watching for a bunch of reasons :

It's interesting (to a military scholar)
It's paced pretty well, keeps that interest level going
It's detailed (15 episodes !)
It appears balanced, although you always want to see multiple sources of "truth" to check balance

And there's that old saying "If you ignore the lessons of the past then you are doomed to repeat the mistakes". It goes something like that. I've seen/read a fair bit of WW2 history for the battles we were involved with but not much for Russian, except knowing that it was as brutal as war can get.

There's a few more things recorded aside from Soviet Storm. I thought XXX2 was possibly better than XXX1, although I won't rush to buy either. Full Metal Jousting was a curiosity but I don't think I'd bother with a season 2 if it gets made.

I've also been gaming again :-) That's a mixed thing. I can get hooked into certain games, looking for a win. For a game like Moo2, that doesn't mean any old win. It means a high scoring win. So if it's "just a win" but I'm beaten to certain score things, I'd abandon and start again. At the moment, it's Borderlands 2 which I'm enjoying immensely. True, I'm playing as a Mechromancer which is somewhat overpowered. However, it's a sizable improvement on the original in a lot of ways.

Pacing - the original was a lot like the older style Massive Multiplayer Online game, especially with the grind. The new game seems to be much more focused on telling its story.
Mechanics - I dunno, these seem just "better". But I'd struggle to define "better". Maybe I need to play through the original.

And I have a bunch of others that appeared in the sales to check out :-). Borderlands 2 first, after a couple more Soviet Storm episodes.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Born at the right time ?

I've been watching the Stargazing show tonight (after getting back in from a work run down south ...)

It makes you think, watching shows about science fact and astronomical exploration. There's a lot out there just begging to be looked at. Trouble is, that's all we can do right now for what's outside our Solar System. We can send probes to our local neighbourhood but for everything further out from that, we're dependent upon what we can see.

And ... because that light takes a finite and deterministic time to arrive, we're seeing the objects out there as they used to be. The Andromeda galaxy at 2.5 million light years away will be different now to what it was when the light started its travel toward us. The Stargazing programme tells us that the star Betelgeuse is expected to go supernova "tomorrow" in astronomical terms.

(tomorrow translates to sometime in the next million years)

Betelgeuse is about 640 light years away, which means it could have gone Boom already, we just haven't seen it yet.

One curious idea is that if we ever invent Faster Than Light travel, we could Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun (spot the Pink Floyd reference) and effectively watch that Boom happen as we travel towards the star. Or, you find a star that's recently gone supernova and travel away from it to catch the older light.

I.e. - if you can travel faster than light,
Going towards - winds the clock forward
Going away - winds the clock back

That's beside the point though. You watch stuff like the astronomical programmes and it's like seeing all these marvels that you can look at but never, ever touch. We don't have the technology yet (almost certainly not in the next 100 years either) to get to other stars. Interplanetary travel sure, interstellar is a whole new ball game.

I read books like Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars, or Ben Bova's Mars or countless other space scifi books and I think - I'd fit right in there. My brain coupled with engineering skills and technical instinct would fit right in with a permanent colonisation or just research colony expedition. And I'd have the interest to be along for the ride.

I play the games now but given the choice between gaming and reading all the nitty gritty technical bits to do with a spaceship ? Hold me back before I burn my eyes out on the manuals. But we're not there yet, which makes me think like I've been born a generation or two too early.

What are the choices though ? Let's have a look :

Present is easiest. I've lived through the dawn of the Technological Age and got in there really early. The tech we have available has exploded in terms of advancement over the last 100 years. We had no manned flight 150 years ago, yet this world would not work without it now. That technology fits and drives my natural aptitude.

Past is curious. I'd have been drawn to crafting and would have ended up as a blacksmith or leatherworker. Something that lets me work with tools. I don't think I'd have lasted long though. Leaving aside the issue of my eyes (I need strong glasses to correct astygmatism), I think I'd have been tagged as one of those smart people who are too dangerous to leave alive. And my natural naive state wouldn't have seen the axe falling.

So yeah - either burned at the stake for being a heretic or eliminated for being too smart. I don't think much to what my prospects may have been in Medieval times.

The future is where you start looking into that crystal ball. There's two possibilities as I see it :

Bad future - we don't escape this planet and therefore come to an unavoidable certainty of exhausting the resources available. That's a very dark future which will begin with wars over resources (we've seen that already with Iraq) with those wars descending into a stalemate. One of very few good Tom Clancy books is Red Storm Rising, which has an unwinnable East vs West war initiated by Russia needing to secure new fossil fuel reserves.

If we can't spread past the Earth, then I can't see the future being anything but dark. Getting out to our local solar system will buy us time, there's huge amounts of resources out there waiting to be tapped. It's just to difficult to get to them at the moment.

Good future - interplanetary and interstellar travel become a routine reality. This planet is too crowded already. The UK is definitely overcrowded. Interplanetary and interstellar travel will provide an escape valve to give a bit of breathing space. Trouble is, it wouldn't be an even distribution of people leaving, it would be the best and brightest. Which leaves behind the dregs to inhabit the Earth. Heinlein used that as a minor theme in his Lazarus Long books, where the situation on Earth got worse and worse as more people left.

So that good future could actually be a dystopia. Looks good on the surface, would be good for a few but for the many it would be a nightmare.

There's a lot of good books out there about near future Earth societies and they ask a lot of questions about the nature of humanity. What are we prepared to do to ourselves. How we behave as a group and how we like to be treated as individuals. Many of those books have small groups of powerful people behaving very poorly and large groups of individuals breaking their society through the sense of entitlement that we see coming into today's society.

I'll leave it there. I'm hopeful of that Good Future coming about, I just feel a little sad that I've been born a generation or two too early to experience it. The present has lots of technological toys but that's what they are, just toys.

PS Living now does have its compensations, I have the pleasure to know and work with some wonderful people. Today's work trip had the unexpected pleasure to involve the Pretty Contractor Lady. The meeting was discussing a bit of kit we're having fitted, with the meeting discussing what will be needed to fully satisfy what we're aiming for. Pretty Contractor Lady's part was to establish what she'd need to present in terms of accepting that it's done right. I'll get something thoroughly done when the time comes :-)
PS2 Wild Thing (someone from a few years ago!) made an appearance too the other day and said I hadn't changed a bit. Wasn't quite sure what to make of that :-)

Monday, January 07, 2013

Tori made me do it

Just finished watching Mad Max 2 (Xmas film repeats and it seemed like a good idea at the time I set it to record) before turning on iTunes ahead of getting down to some gaming ...

And then "I Can't See New York" by Tori Amos starts up.

And I start singing along (you have to with that song).

And I'm thinking 03.45am No Sleep isn't actually the best song in my library is it ? Truth.

Anyway - gaming session is going to be put one side for a while. I feel a music post coming on :-) What are the best songs in that there iTunes library of mine ? (One rule here - one track only by each artist)

I've already linked up a couple of songs. What else is lurking in that library that transcends beauty ? Here goes :

Martha's Harbour by All About Eve. This was perhaps the very first pop group that I fell for in a big way. And their songs are still great songs today. Apple Tree Man is possibly the better track but it's tougher to find on Youtube. Something I find highly amusing there is that I was always getting told to Turn That Music Down when I played this album as a kid, yet it's now my dad's favourite album.

Wait - before you start thinking it's all softness and light, there's beauty in metal too. Here's Evanescence showing us how with My Immortal.

It's not just metal though. Beauty can be lurking at the heart of even unsuspecting dance music tracks. Days Go By (Dirty Vegas) is far better in acoustic. Raise Your Weapon by deadmau5 caught my ears too.

2012 saw a lot of loved and respected people leave us, I've not said much about them here but they should be remembered : Prayer For The Dying, one of the best Seal tracks. All those legends will be missed.

Not going to link it but one of the albums that's recently joined the collection is the Princess Bride soundtrack. Great film, backed up by an excellent Mark Knopfler soundtrack and the legendary line : "My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die."

Another couple of groups I followed avidly were Voice of the Beehive and the Bangles. May I sometime be someone's Man In The Moon looking for that Return Post.

Question - where's all the great new music ? Most of the beauty seems to be getting hidden under XFactor wannabeism, which squeezes out the Hannah Peels and Lisa Hannigans coming through singing Songs For The Sea and for Little Birds. There's only been 3 albums so far between those two, which is far too few.

One of my early internet pseudonyms, adopted when the spammers started to show, was Alisha's Addict. I was besotted with the music of Alisha's Attic for a long time (still am) and would struggle to pick their most beautiful, they're all special. Here's one I don't think I've linked before : Air We Breathe.

Think my laptop's starting to struggle now with all this Youtube playing (at the same time as the Baldur's Gate II soundtrack is streaming from iTunes!) so let's close off with one final track before it burns up : Snow Patrol Set Fire To The Third Bar.

PS Wot no Kate Bush or Bat For Lashes ? Think I feel another one of these coming when this laptop cools down :-)

Friday, January 04, 2013

Inflating Sales ...

... deflating sales ...

December and January are the big sales times over in the UK. It's when most of the shops will try and tempt us into parting with our cash by giving good offers.

Apart from Steam and Good Old Games sales, I've been fairly restrained this time around. Sales aren't so much about offerring what we want to buy for less, it's about clearing the unwanted stock to make room for the new stuff. With software like games and music, the stock issue is fairly irrelevant. When you buy something off Steam or GOG, a copy is made of what's held on the server. There's no box to keep on the shelf, the only cost is bandwidth. But they'll do the big offers just to attract sales.

And because they don't have the need to clear out the old stock, Steam and GOG will give offers on what the customers want to buy but aren't willing to fork out the full price for.

I've been very restrained so far with sales on actual goods. It seems like what I want to get isn't what the retailers want to buy. I've not detected any worthwhile discounts for PC steering wheels or powerline networking gear, so those have stayed unsold. I'm not convinced they're worth the money for a non-essential. Apple did have a sale but it was a rather insulting 5% only reduction at the US Thanksgiving holiday and it didn't include their iPhone.

Part of sales is detecting "what will the market bear ?" If the market doesn't think they're getting value, they avoid the product. I have all of Garbage's albums except their latest, I refuse to spend >£10 on what's now a old album. However, part of that value is perceived in the brand name which is why Apple in particular can charge the prices that they do. They don't need to offer big discounts because people will buy their stuff anyway.

Or will they ?

Inside this month, I'll switch my Android mobile to an iPhone. Note that there will have been discounts on the competition ... because if all smartphones cost nothing, all the people interested in them would get the iPhone because the software is better. (Software prejudice excepted of course!) However, I'm still not convinced on the Value part of it. I'd still be getting my iPhone via my current network (3) and the prices would be :

iPhone 4s - 16GB only : £29 upfront plus £32 per month
iPhone 5 - 16GB : £99 upfront plus £34 per month
iPhone 5 - 32GB : £199 upfront plus £34 per month
iPhone 5 - 64GB : £269 upfront plus £34 per month

I'd love the 64GB iPhone because it's the one that would hold my entire iTunes library (42GB across 7808 songs). But I baulk at that pricetag. £269 is a lot for a phone, at least in my opinion. So I'm faced with a choice of either spending more cash than I'd like to (I can afford it, I just don't see the value) or downselecting tunes from the library like I do with my iPod Nano.

In this case, the market (me!) ain't bearing the cost of the most expensive version. And there's another cost that I'm not prepared to bear any more ...

Canteen at work has put all of its prices up. Which seems counterproductive as people will start bringing in stuff from the outside more. I definitely will be. What's gone up ?

Milk - 60p for 1 pint, up from 50p.
Sandwiches - now £2.40+30p for lettuce when it used to be £2.10+30p.
Pepsi - up by 5p to £1.15
Chocolate - up by 5p across the board.
Teacake - up by a whopping 30p to 80p

It's the teacake inflation that's really got me upset. My response to the inflation will be to look at alternatives to the canteen. I'd usually get my lunch on a Friday from the canteen and take it home - not any more. The car park situation means I can go past a shop on the way to the bus, so I can save cash there by buying the milk at that shop instead of the canteen.

What's it actually mean though ? £2.40 per day times 5 = £12 a week I'd spend on sandwiches (plus chocolate + drink). Now it'll be £2.70 per day times 4 = £10.80 a week.

They might be getting a little more profit per sandwich but they'll be getting less cash overall. If customers get upset they'll move on.

PS I didn't get my iPhone last night when I visited the 3 shop at the Mall ... Phoneshop Girl didn't seem too interested in persuading me into buying one ... I suspect that's because I walked in at almost 8, which I think is close to their hometime. But it does mean I'll check out the stores in the centre of Bristol before going back to the one in the Mall.
PS2 I will buy stuff if smiled at by Pretty Ladies ... but only if I intended to buy it anyway ! (That's what happened with the Npower Girl - honest)