An open letter to National Car Parks

Dear National Car Parks,

As it seems the existence of your call centre is to goad people into a state of rage and you insist that everything has to be put in writing, I shall put my complaint to you in writing via my blog, before sending it to you in writing.

I am a season ticket holder for the station car park at Harold Wood.  My car is parked there on a daily basis.  On return to my vehicle on February 28th, I was surprised to find I had been ticketed.  Here’s the ticket:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note the contravention: “Parked on double yellow lines”.  This was a surprise to me because there were and are no double yellow lines present.  For the non-drivers reading this, and confused NCP parking attendants, double yellow lines tend to look like this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is quite clear, right?  Two parallel yellow lines at specific distances from the side of the road with a crossing bar at each end.  Now, here’s a picture of where I was parked:

See the bay to the left of the red car? That’s where my car was, wholly within the confines of the white border.  You might want to check out the full size version of the photo but, looking at the example double yellow lines above, can you see where the double yellow lines I was ticketed for parking on are? I’ll sit here quietly while you check.

Done? Good.  You didn’t spot the double yellow lines, did you? Correct, that’s because there aren’t any to spot. I can read your mind.  “Ahhh, Martin, you silly boy.  You’ve parked on a restricted area, there are yellow hatchings. Tsk.”

That’s almost true, there are indeed yellow hatchings but that’s irrelevant.  Why so?  Just this:  When NCP took over the car park many years ago, they repainted all of the bays with fresh white markings.  Here’s a closeup of part of that bay:

Note that the white line is painted over the yellow one.  Had NCP not intended for people to use this as a parking bay, why on earth would they specifically paint bay markings there?  The answer is, they wouldn’t.  Those markings used to denoted an area where you weren’t supposed to park because it’s where a fast food place used to have its bins.  Rather than scraping the old lines up, they just painted new ones over the top.

Add to this the fact that I have been parked in that exact same spot dozens of times over the past couple of years, and this is the first time my car has been ticketed, I think what we’re dealing with here is an overzealous or brainless parking attendant.I currently can’t even talk to you about this over the phone because even after 4 days, the ticket hasn’t appeared on your system. I now have to waste some of my life sorting this out.

No love whatsoever, merely tired rage,

Martin A. Brooks

Game review: Assassin’s Creed 2

Following my original review of the first Assassin’s Creed game, I was dearly looking forward to reviewing the new episode in the series. Alas Ubisoft have taken the skull-smackingly stupid decision of making a single-player game need access to the Internet to work.

Don’t buy this game, you will be funding idiocy if you do.

What next, Ubisoft, will you be making me not buy the upcoming Splinter Cell, too?

If Apple made computer racks….

  • It’d be called the iRack.
  • It’d be machined from a solid block of aluminium.
  • Units would be ‘i’, not ‘u’. One ‘i’ will equal 1.1686634u. The mounting holes will be suspiciously Apple shaped.
  • The UPS would be built in and would use a non-industry standard connector. You can’t change the battery yourself.
  • There would be no exposed screws, bolts or hinges. There would be a glowing Apple logo on the front.
  • Only equipment bought from the Apple Store can be installed.
  • Got a problem with your iRack? Simply take it down to your nearest Apple shop after booking a Genius appointment.
  • The built in accelerometers will automatically invalidate your warranty if your rack gets tilted.

HOWTO: Building a mail server with Exim, Dovecot and Squirrelmail

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, I find Twitter a bit easier to keep updating. In the fine tradition of itch-scratching, I recently rebuilt my own personal mail server based on a virtual private server from Bitfolk using Exim, Dovecot and Squirrelmail. You can find the HOWTO here, I hope you find it useful.

Game review: Velvet Assassin

This game should have been the one that made me forget about the likes of the early Splinter Cells and Thief III. This game was born in the era of the expectation of hideously overpowered graphics cards, tons of memory, multiple cores and physics processing units.

Graphically, it is quite good. And what is used to distract you from merely “quite good” graphics is piss-poor linear game play, poor controls, sterile environments and, in fairness, excellent voice acting.

This game has everything wrong with it that you would expect when a moderately successful console games is crammed onto the PC platform by people who’ve never played any of the sneak’em’up greats. Such developers should be forced to complete Metal Gear Solid, all of the Splinter Cells and all of the Thief series before getting their hands on what should have been the best stealth FPS

ever to grace a personal computer. “Execute over 50 different brutal maneuvers to deliver a quick and silent death to enemy soldiers” the marketing says. What that says to me is I have 50 different brutal maneuvers at my fingertips, choice mine to dispatch an enemy. Bollocks. What in practice happens is you sneak up behind your unsuspecting target and click the left mouse button. That’s it.

At this point it can go two ways. 1) You take out the enemy and have time to drag to corpse into the shadows. Jolly good. However what happens depressingly frequently is option 2. Our heroine turns into Miss Stabby and goes to town. Definitely killing the target kraut but taking so long about it that you get caught by the next chap walking along. Repeat.

Then you get moments of sheer comedy:

Kraut #1) Deary me, look at this puddle with the electric cable running through it!
Kraut #2) Mein Fuhrer! Someone could electrocute themselves!
Kraut #1) Ja! Let us hope no-one throws that big switch over there while we are walking through it.
Kraut #2) Nein! That would be awful!

Krauts 1 & 2 proceed to splash about in the water.

Don’t buy this game, I did, and it’s rubbish.

Scan

I’ve historically not been the world’s biggest proponent of Scan International, a PC systems and components company based Oop Norf.

Earlier this month, the 2 yearly tech refresh for my games rig came round and technology has moved on as it is wont to do. I thought I’d revisit the fun of building my own games rig and starting pricing up the components I wanted. The shopping list ended up as:

  • CM Cosmos S case
  • Enermax revolution 1250W PSU
  • Asus rampage extreme II mobo
  • Core i7 940 processor
  • Noctua NH-U12P cpu cooler
  • 6G Corsair dominator memory kit

Including delivery charges, it turned out that Scan were the cheapest supplier, and were the only one that claimed to have everything in stock. With some trepidation, I placed the order, paid extra for saturday delivery, sat back and waited.

All the stuff arrived, exactly when it was supposed to.

Piecing it all together was simple enough, but I hit a pretty fundamental problem in that the machine would not even post if more than one memory stick was installed. With more trepidation, I called Scan support.

They quickly hashed the problem down to either an out of date BIOS, or a faulty mobo. A BIOS update later confirmed the “faulty mobo” theory. I paid for a new mobo and shipping, these arrived next day.

I await the fun of getting the faulty mobo through Scan’s returns department, but, so far, I’d have to give them a 9/10 for performance.