Scotland independence: too little too late from Westminster?

I like it when politics is interesting and there aren’t many stories more interesting than the vote for Scottish independence happening next week.

This has become a lot more interesting in the past week for two reasons. Firstly, the opinion polls are getting closer and it looks like more people were favouring independence (“Yes”) over staying in the Union (“No”). Also, there were reports released by several major banks advising investors to expect more volatility and lower economic growth in Britain should independence go ahead.

Now the leading of the major political parties in the UK are taking the prospect of a break-up more seriously and going around and trying to raise support in Scotland from the “No” vote.

To me it seems like they are trying to do too little at this late stage. Months ago, the British government was promoting scare stories about the potential effects of independence. Yet the stories were so absurd and provided little in the way of facts.

The politicians were trying to treat people as if they were stupid in wanting independence. I believe that the converse was actually true: the politicians had no understanding of why Scots might want independence from the United Kingdom.

If you talk to many Scots, they have a dislike and distrust of the Westminster government. Scotland and its people are different from those south of the border. The politicians are much more left leaning. The actions are much less colonial. They feel they have been betrayed over the past few decades, especially by the Thatcher government.

Trying to convince voters with scare stories was never the right move when voters expected lies from the government. This has all the signs of an abusive relationship.

Living in New Zealand, I have no real opinion on whether Scotland should be in or out of the Union but if the PR campaign has been so badly handled by Westminster, maybe Scotland are better off being out. All the scary economic issues will never be as bad in reality as expected.

Note: I should probably link to some articles to back up my claim of “scare stories”. I’m reading a few articles now. I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader to find their own articles.

My take on Apple’s Sept 2014 announcements

A few weeks ago I set up a separate blog at macaroni.io where I could write posts about technology. This is something that interests me and I have been enjoying doing that.

This week I’ve been busy writing up my thoughts about Apple iPhone 6 release and thought I’d share one of the articles here. It is included in full below with some links to a few other posts. I have no idea if my writing is any good but I expect that if I do enough of it and get some decent feedback it is going to improve.

The article

After setting up this blog a couple of months ago, the posts today are probably where my clear Apple bias will show through.

Apple had their September keynote event today where they announced the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, Apple Pay and Apple Watch. It’s probably the most solid announcement they have had for for years.

I’ve written an article about each of the announcements:

Everything announced today was known to some degree through rumour sites so nothing was a huge surprise, but it’s always much more coherent when Apple presents it rather than weeks of disjointed rumours.

Overall, I think the winner here was Apple Pay. It’s a new product category, well defined and hopefully easy to use. This could be a slow burner that turns into something amazing over the next few years.

The iPhone looks great. It’s a great leap from the previous iteration but there is nothing revolutionary here. If you think back a year or two, would you really have picked that the iPhone 6 would be as amazing as what has been announced today? I certainly wouldn’t. But still just evolutionary.

The Apple Watch also looks pretty good but I just can’t see a compelling reason to buy one at the moment. It provides a few useful features but nothing that I can’t do by just taking the phone out of my pocket. Also, a watch is something that I’m going to buy that might last me more than just 12 months. This looks like a first generation product where next year’s iWatch is going to be  significantly better and then it might be time to buy in.

Interestingly big phones, payment with NFC and smart-watches have all been done before by Google or other Android hardware companies. Apple often isn’t the first company to develop a certain technology—but they will refine what out there already and enhance it.

These are my initial thoughts. I’m not likely to see an iPhone or Apple Watch in the flesh for a while and since I’m not in the US I’m unlikely to try out Apple Pay anytime soon either. Let’s see how these products go upon release.

The world is changing and as has been the custom in recent years, Apple is refining what currently exists and taking it to the next level. But are they leading in the right direction?

New Zealand election has gone cray-cray

Elections are often a bit of a jolly for those involved and a bit of a bore for everyone else. Lots of politicians and their frenzied supporters trying to get the rest of the country excited about tax policies and housing. But at the end of the day, most people decide their voting on one of two methods:

  • “I’ve always voted for the Nuts Party. That Lemon Party is full of crazies that want to take away my money.”
  • “The leader of the Grime party has got his eyes too wonky. Couldn’t possibly vote for him!”

That has all changed this year in New Zealand with new controversy coming out every day and derailing the election campaign. I’m a bit tired of highly managed PR campaigns and seeing the carefully managed political PR go off course has been great fun.

It all started with the release of the book Dirty Politics on August 17. Nicky Hager has published high-profile political books in the past but nothing as damaging as this one. The book is allegedly based on emails from a right-wing blogger and alleges that allegedly the government was involved in leaking information to the Whale Oil blogger in order to advance their agenda.

The leaked emails have resulted in the government claiming that it is a “left-wing smear campaign” based on “stolen emails”. This amuses me as the use of “smear-campaign” implied that it is all smear with no substance, yet if they are actually “stolen emails” then there is definitely some substance there. 

Emails and other documents have been leaked via the Twitter account @whaledump (which has been suspended this morning, and replaced with @whaledump2). These emails are the source data for the book so don’t really provide independent verification of the alleged events. Interesting reading nonetheless.

The most serious outcome from the leaks is the resignation of the Justice Minister Judith Collins. An email materialised in the Prime Minister’s Office alleging that Collins was involved in attempts to discredit the head of the Serious Fraud Office, Adam Feeley, in relation to an investigation into financial crime. Following on from attacks by the WhaleOil blogger, the case was dropped and Feeley resigned although it’s difficult to directly relate the resignation with the attacks.

The release of the book is in addition to the side-show around Kim Dotcom and the new Internet Mana party that he has been helping to fund. I like what he is doing there and it could be very interesting for its effect on New Zealand politics.

It’s amazing to think that the book was released three weeks ago and there is now just over two weeks until the election. I’ve probably been more interested in this election than I have been for years. I’ve been paying more information to policy and watching televised debates. And had a great time following the Dirty Politics updates and something new and earth-shattering is being exposed every day.

I have been disappointed with the head-in-the-sand attitude shown by many to the allegations. The main retort from the government is that “everyone is doing it”. This appears to be proclaimed without any evidence and I’m pretty sure that what the government means by “doing it” is “talking to bloggers”. This is pure misdirection. Everyone is not having Official Information Act requests expedited. Everyone is not having information leaked to them with the express purpose of smearing opponents. Everyone is not accessing other parties’ computer systems and threatening to release information about donations. Everyone else is not “doing it”.

The response from the ruling National Party has not really been satisfactory. They have misrepresented the contents of the book, they have denied that they are involved, they have denied that anything is true and yet they have branded the person who hacked the emails to be “the criminal”.

One benefit of the MMP electoral system in New Zealand is that there are more minor parties to vote for than under the FPP system we had before 1996. This has helped on the left with the rise of the Green Party, there are two credible left wing parties. On the right this hasn’t really happened, with the ACT party losing credibility as they are tough on crime but many of their MPs have attracted criminal charges. The remaining right-wing parties—NZ First, United Future and the Conservatives—are currently all vanity vehicles for their leaders. There are no credible right-wing alternatives to National.

 

We probably take politics for granted with it usually consisting of a bunch of self-important people talking to each other. But we can also get involved. We can vote on election day, we can join a political party, we can get in touch with our MP.

We can also be disillusioned with politics but as opposed to the other actions that I have mentioned, that will achieve very little. Get out there and vote and help the political system along. 

 

Video review of Hyperlapse from Instagram

I started blogging about technology a few weeks ago and created a site for that (macaroni.io). It has been pretty slow going and more work than I expected. Maybe I should do what everyone else does with their blogs and just give it up 😉

Instagram released their new app Hyperlapse yesterday and it brought together technology and photography. Both things that I’m interested in.

I decided to create a video review.

The sad events in Ferguson, Missouri

I grew up in New Zealand and have spent a bit of time living in England. In both of those countries, the police on the streets are usually unarmed. From that perspective, what has happened in Ferguson, Missouri is difficult to comprehend.

In case you have missed the story, a local teenager of the small town was walking down the middle of a quiet street. A passing police officer stopped and spoke to the young man. At the end of this interaction, the young man had been shot and killed by the police officer.

As frequently happened with these sorts of events, the young man is black and the police officer is white. It is being portrayed as a racial issue. The recollection of events as told by the police officer differs markedly from the story told by a friend of the slain youth.

Whether the events that occurred were a result of racial bias is currently being debated and will likely end in a pointless inquiry or an equally pointless show-trial where the officer is acquitted.

As I see it, there are two different things happening here. Firstly, a young man was killed by a police officer. This happens tragically often in the United States.

Thanks to the second amendment, both police and criminals are heavily armed. As a result, deaths of police, criminals and innocent bystanders all happen way too often. Any interaction with police can end in tragic consequences.

Secondly, when it is a white officer and black victim, the first assumption is that the killing was racially motivated. It may be too soon to answer that but since the local community are rioting because of this, it looks like trust in the police was already low. In a community where 67% of the population is black and 94% of the police force is white there is likely to be tension.

It’s sad to see that the response by the local authorities is more heavy-handed policing.

What amazes me is that these events keep on happening. They had been happening long before the Rodney King beating in 1991, they are still happening now and they will probably keep happening for years to come.

Nothing appears to have changed.

I’ve gone blog crazy this week

This week, I have started two new Tumblr blogs, one proper blog and one Twitter account. Three of those are related for a blogging project that I’m trying to get off the ground and another is going to be recipes that I’ve been cooking.

The recipes are at whatmikecooks.tumblr.com. There’s not a lot there yet but we’ll see what happens. I’ve been working from home for a while now and have been cooking quite a bit lately. It’s a good opportunity to store away some of the recipes I use, although maybe Pinterest would be a better place for that.

I’m not so sure about the other blogging project. It’s an attempt to publish some technology news that I’m interested in although I’m not really sure how to build an audience for that. It is probably a useful skill to have but not one that I’ve currently got. I’m still working on it and will probably release more details here in the next few weeks.

With the iPhone app and the new technology blog, the aim is to make at least a worthwhile amount of money from one of the projects by the end of the year. That would be $1000 or more. I’m currently tracking at $0 so need to pick it up a little. I’ve got one more app in the works as well so I’m hopeful to reach that goal.

What is a GPS Logger?

This might seem like a silly question for me to ask but what is a GPS Logger? Any ideas? 

I’ve got an iPhone app called “Simple GPS Logger“, that displays location (longitude, latitude, altitude) and allows you to save locations. It will also show the distance from those saved locations.

The only reason it was called Simple GPS Logger is because AppStore names need to be unique and “Simple GPS” was already taken. Weirdly, my app is actually”logger” with a lowercase L and logger with a capital L was already taken, but I didn’t realise that until I was searching later.

I’m looking at adding some new features and am wondering what a “GPS Logger” should actually do. The obvious thing I am looking is something like Runkeeper that would create a trail, provide details of that trail during and after recording it (avg speed, total distance, etc), and probably allow that trail to be exported as a GPX or similar. 

Any comments or suggestions? 

This app is currently pretty basic and was my first real attempt at iPhone development. It has been about as successful as I might have expected considering it has had no marketing, with downloads in the hundreds in the past couple of months since I released it.

I’m happy doing some extra work on it to add some new features but don’t want to spend too much time since I’m giving it away for free and therefore it isn’t making me any money. I’m looking at adding a tip jar similar to what David Smith has done with Pedometer++ to try and a bring a little bit of money in but I don’t think I want to add advertising to the app and if I charge any money, I think that downloads will go to zero pretty quickly.

 

Coffee-making with Aeropress

About 18 months ago I was given an Aeropress coffee maker for a Christmas present. It’s a nice simple device that basically forces coffee through a paper filter. Since then, the coffee plunger/cafetière/french press has stayed in the cupboard and all coffee has been made with the Aeropress.

By way of endorsement, it’s made by Aerobie, the company that makes frisbee-type products. Well-known for plastic stuff. Not so well-known for coffee. But it is an easy way to make a coffee.

Anyway, I had an idea a couple of days ago to make a video of my coffee-making routine. I’m pretty happy with the result. It’s only the second video I’ve made and too a fair bit of editing. I’m reasonably happy with the result although do bang things around quite a bit while making the coffee.

It’s only a short video and a lot happens so have a look. It’s a minute of your life that you’ll never get back:

It was an interesting experience creating this. I used three cameras to create the video: my two Olympus digital SLR’s and my iPhone camera. The only thing I really missed would’ve been an extra tripod, although some of the hand-held iPhone footage was pretty awful: it’s hard it do something with one hand while trying to hold a phone/camera steady.