Posts Tagged ‘technology’

We had reason to visit Horsham in West Sussex this weekend, a not too distant town, on a drop off mission and en route to somewhere else. Imagine how interested I was then that, quite by coincidence, I happened to read in the Times last Friday that Horsham is one of the happiest places to live in Britain. According to property experts. Well, what do they know?

Driving round the ring road nose to tail certainly doesn’t provide one with an immediate impression of happiness. Soulless buildings, a multitude of insurance head-offices with minimal corporate planting of unsuitable tropical greenery in dreary brick-built window boxes only serve to highlight how out of place such architecture is in a West Sussex market town. At least, that’s how the property experts market it: a Market Town. I wonder what constitutes a market town these days – a yokel in a white smock shepherding a herd of swine across a local stream with waddling geese in their wake, a loaded hay-wain in the background?  (I didn’t see any of those). Or a few barrels of cider and a cheese stall, displayed on straw to make it look rustically authentic?  Horsham would appear to favour the latter. (The fruit and veg stall we swiftly passed was selling Spanish strawberries and asparagus from Peru. But I’m getting ahead of myself here).

Eventually we arrived at a multi-story car park. Which was sporting a new ticketless parking system called Smart Park.

Oh, Horsham is nothing if not cutting edge. The technological advances pounced on by the local district council here knows no bounds.

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apologies for the poor quality – snapped quickly on my phone…

 

A camera photographs your number plate on entry and then all you have to do after a successful (or not) morning’s shopping, on your return to the car park, is remember your registration number. Because to release your car from this concrete hell hole you must tap your number into a machine, pay your dues and then, when you get to the exit barrier in your vehicle, your car will be automatically recognised and you’ll be let through. Allegedly.

 

In practise, it was utter chaos. In front of the only two machines were two snaking queues of glazed-eyed shoppers wearily waiting to key in their numbers behind other shoppers who had clearly forgotten theirs. They appeared as discombobulated as would-be apocalypse survivors, nervously jingling their change while mouthing a series of numbers and letters as if their lives depended on it.

When we eventually got back to our car we then had to wait in a jolting line of other vehicles attempting to make it through the barrier. One driver several cars ahead of us left his vehicle and remonstrated loudly with a young chap wearing a ‘happy to help’ high-viz jacket. Well, at least he was trying to promote happiness. I can’t imagine his feeling of well being will last long though, with constant verbal abuse from frustrated car drivers.

I counted four of these high-viz-happy-to-help attendants. How can that be cost effective? Surely one person, employed to replace a ticket roll and empty the machine, is a cheaper option than four people required to placate angry shoppers. Not to mention the cameras at bumper level that have been installed and connected to the state of the art machines that are causing all the angst amongst Horsham’s happy crowd.

Now, before any Horshamites take umbrage I’d like to make it clear that I have nothing against Horsham. I’m not criticising the place: it’s a perfectly nice town. It has all the shops you’d expect plus plenty of cafes and eateries. There is a bandstand around which several market stalls sell a range of produce. The buildings are a mix of old, not so old and new. I just don’t like their parking system. (Or the ring road but then to be fair, most places have one of those).  I’d still like to know what makes it a happier place to live than say, Guildford, which seems to me to be a reasonably happy place to be. Let’s just hope our Borough Council doesn’t adopt this Smart Park idea. Happiness could plummet over night.

 

 

 

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Over the last few weeks we have been having problems with our internet connection. For some reason, without warning, we’d lose connectivity. Just like that. And it was often as I sat down with a cup of tea after work to catch up on all my blog reading. As you can imagine, I was less than amused.

After re-setting our router hundreds of times as per the limited trouble-shooting options in the accompanying manual, I even unplugged all the telephony filters, blew into them knowingly, re-plugged them but even this piece of advanced technological DIY had no positive effect. Banging the table with a clenched fist didn’t work either.

Things became so bad last week that after much weighing up of the situation, I decided to take action. Now, I deliberated because taking action meant that I would have to telephone our internet provider, BT. (British Telecom) and I’ve been down that unfulfilling path before.

When a company has ‘British’ attached to its title, one is lured into a false sense of security that you’ll be dealt with by a team of dedicated, polite and efficient customer care advisors who really do sympathise with your plight. In the same way as flying BA (British Airways – the world’s favourite airline, according to their advertising), one expects a certain superior level of service but these days this is about as far from reality as me getting to grips with long division using the chunking method.

So I ‘phoned and got through to the automated numbered instruction routine. After keying my telephone number into the keypad as requested about fourteen times I was still no nearer to speaking to a human being. There has to be a quicker way to do this, surely. I was getting madder. Patience with telephone answering systems is not my virtue, especially as one of the messages informed me that I could get help by looking at their website.

 NO, I COULDN’T.

In exasperation I slammed the receiver down, tried the internet connection again – unsurprisingly, no change there. I paced the kitchen until a bright idea began to emerge. Why not telephone the BT sales team? I was betting that they would be available to chat about all their wonderful offers right away without all this ‘press one for Bill, press two for Direct Derrick’ (whoever he is) etc. I bet the good old sales team will be right on the money.

I scavenged around in the home file to find an old phone bill and yes, hallelujah, a direct line for the sales department. I was on to something here.

Without too much preamble Sales very helpfully put me straight through to the engineers (there’s a tip for the rest of you BT customers out there …) where I spoke to an actual person. A well-spoken, Queen’s-English-sort-of-a-person, who talked me through a simple procedure involving the unravelling of a wire paperclip and its insertion into my BT Home Hub (router).

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Hidden at the back of the home hub is a tiny, barely visible  hole, into which I poked said paperclip. This apparently resets something that the engineers can then use to change its frequency.

The reason we were losing connection so frequently was because so many of our neighbours were using the same wavelength at the same time. Not any more, thanks to my trusty paperclip.

Where would technology be without them?

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