Monday, 20 January 2014

Show me the money

As branch and rural libraries are spluttering and coughing, struggling to stay alive, we campaigners rail against the evil Tories (they're all Tories) and shake our fists at the sky in futility. The professional bodies have failed on a epic scale to get the politicians to listen and understand the importance of libraries. To be fair, the politicians are just ignoring the professionals and now Vaizey has a out because of the no confidence vote he doesn't have to even pretend anymore. The biggest problem we as campaigners have is there is no real opposition, Labour, Liberal Democrats or Tories. Whatever the impotient, incompetent cocktail of the three we get in Westminster in 2015, libraries still won't be on the agenda. Protesting parliament won't help, 10,000 turned out against Blairs illegal war in Iraq and it didn't make any difference, the rich even had a go and foxhunting is still on the books. We aren't going to get Vaizey to do his job whatever we do and lacking a super rich sponsor to take the DCMS on in legal challenge we have to fight this at the grass roots level.

We have to be like Christians trying to stop persecution by Romans, not by fighting but by converting councillors into library fans. Obviously, there are some councillors out there who are ideological morons, happy to accept without question any old crap in the Torygraph, Sun, Mirror or Guardian as they have fixed, narrow views. But there are lots of councillors out there who within the constraints of their local parties we can reach out to and try and get them onside. By far the best way to do this in the current climate is by getting them to understand how libraries actually save money. There isn't a great deal of evidence in the UK to support this but its blindingly obvious to anyone that uses a library who has improved their career because of the library, the pensioner who is kept out of the care system because of their frequent trips to the library, the young kid getting bashed and bullied at home and school who finds wisdom and solace in books and rather than going off the rails and getting into trouble with the police, makes something of his life because of books. We all know libraries enrich, inspire and improve anyone who steps into them but linking the sets of data together showing this in a quantitative way isn't easy. What we have to do it act like the parties do, create simple key messages and keep repeating them to councillors and everyone we meet until we're blue in the face:

This is how the parties do it, facts and evidence doesn't come into it. A simple message and we keep banging on about it. People can be naturally lazy and want easy, simple answers and ideas. I know there are lots of different opinions amongst campaigners who don't want to push the economic argument but if we're to convince Tories (they're all Tories now by the way) then it has to be a about economics, the qualitative stuff isn't on a spreadsheet fiance system so it doesn't matter. We also have to try and convince the LGA, ACE and others of this fact and try and get them to actually do some proper research rather than the endless utter crap that has been churned out on our behalf and with our money down the years. 

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Chromecast UK

I couldn't wait, using the HDMI cable or the xbox that sounds like ten hair dryers was getting old so I bought a import from amazon for £34. It arrived pretty quickly even using the free delivery. Not going to do a unboxing or any other type of weird techo fetish stuff. Just some observations from using it for a few days.

Only netflix, youtube, google video currently offer native support from within chrome or through apps and they all run in full HD and the video and sound is pretty amazing considering the hardware. Casting from tablet or phone is better because it runs in the notifications tray and it becomes your remote and you can let the screen lock/go to sleep. In chrome on the pc once you cast, the computer has to keep running and the tab open otherwise netflix/youtube stop casting.

You can stream your own videos by opening them in Chrome (Ctrl + O) but it won't play avi videos it starts downloading them from the source folder to its own download folder for some reason, mp4 seems to work ok though, use "any video converter" or something similar to convert them. But to be honest, it isn't that great streaming video from a chrome tab, the cpu usage is high, the video chopping and your processor fan will be annoyingly loud unless you pc is nippy and quiet. If your TV has a usb slot it probably will play the avi's if you stick them on your usb stick anyway, mine is a cheap tv and it does.

Sites with flash video seems to work better, you can start the video, full screen it and then Alt + Tab to get to the browser again and do other stuff, this also works with iplayer and is ok. Obviously native support and apps would be better as you have to leave the tab open and computer running.

The other thing I noticed is you can use the spotify web player, but if you cast the tab at its highest bitrate its choppy. I casted the tab as 480 and the sound improved dramatically and was smooth as butter.

You can cast your entire screen but it chops a bit off if your screen dimensions don't match. Its probably ok for power point stuff though, I cannot see it for anything else at the minute. I tried casting a full screen with a ps2 game running under emulation. It was horrendously slow, mostly because my laptop is slow running the ps2 emulator anyway but I think there is so much potential, imagine casting a snes emulator from your nexus 7 so you can have a blast of Mario Kart (providing you legally own the game obv) or even if games were written to run natively, Order and Chaos online is a basic MMO that has a browser version, there are lots of other games written these days that run under flash they would work well with some tweaking. I think cloud gaming, albeit with simple games is a real possiblity. Once google get their backsides into gear and get people writing stuff I'm sure it will have lots of great things on it that we cannot even think of yet, currently only naughts and crosses exists as a game on google play.

I suspect the UK release is being held up because the BBC are being slow getting their app ready, their android app has always been pants (they went all in with flash the morons) and google want some extra third party stuff to launch with other that Netflix. For £34 quid, even if it only did the things it does now it would be a absolute bargain, I cannot wait to see what people get on there in the future.