TapGloucester Road – Year 4

25 Jun 2014 15:25 by Rick

Well, I may have been a bit slack posting stuff to this blog recently, but I have managed to keep up my survey of shops on the Gloucester Road for a fourth year running (use the search to find previous reports).

The good news this year is that there are fewer empty shops, we are told that is a sign of an upturn but we will see. It is down from 33 last year to 24 this. There has also been a bit of movement with businesses moving around and a few that have come and gone within the 12 month period.

The gains have been in charity shops—up from 12 to 15—and restaurants up from 51 to 58. The latter possibly due to the relaxing of planning laws. The number of take-aways has, however, apparently fallen from 29 to 27. A few properties have reverted to residential but the overall mix has stayed fairly constant.

We also now have two “Head Shops” which pretend to be like their counterparts in Amsterdam but, of course, can’t sell marajuana. They and another shop will presumably try to exploit an apparent demand for electronic cigarettes, “legal highs” and paraphernalia. We will see if that is what the street wants.

It has been good to see a high profile for many of the shops in the local newspapers and magazines.

Again I have attached a PDF of the full survey and I have highlighted all the significant changes from last year.

TapNot all USB chargers are made equal

26 Apr 2014 16:35 by Rick

Well, we sort of knew that. Some devices like more power to charge faster so their dedicated chargers will give more power—the iPad is a case in point. But you would think they they would all provide up to their rated power to any device that asked for it. No.

All figures are in amps drawn. Blanks are not tested. “X” indicates it refused to play.

iPad iPhone 4 HP Slate 7 LG Phone Garmin
iPad charger 2.0 X X 0.48
iPhone charger 0.85 0.95
HP charger 0.9 0.85 1.0 0.35
Camelion charger 0.9 X
Maplin Travel charger 0.9 X

My conclusion at the moment is that the iPad charger refuses to charge most non-Apple devices (it is outside the USB specification anyway). Also that the Slate 7 is slightly fussy about which charger it uses.

You have to be careful which chargers you take on holiday if you are traveling light.

TapVirginMedia Pricing (again)

1 Aug 2013 10:02 by Rick

Following on from my post from 2009, the situation is still the same – but different. Technology has moved on and back in March I was having a number of service issues together with discovering that, once again, I was being overcharged. The issue there was that I was on 20Mb Broadband which was not a service that is offered to new customers so it was not possible to find the correct price but my argument was that it certainly should not be a higher price than the current 30Mb service. Again, like the banks, a case of legacy customers being left behind and over charged. The solution to that was to change to the current Broadband L (30Mb) offering and with that came a spanking new Modem/Router which also fixed my service problems. Subsequently, since I am now at home for most of the time, I have upgraded the phone service as well.

So, having got the first uncomplicated bill in July – I have checked it.


This shows a bundle price of £26.40 + the line rental to a total of £41.39.

Going to their web site, which is quite good once you figure out how to work it and convince it that you are not an existing customer (because that only gives you upgrades), I found the “Build your own bundle” page. Entering Broadband L, Phone XL + Caller Display gives me…


The grand total of £39.74 – an overcharge of £1.65.

Back on the phone (free), this time the girl I got was intelligent and, slowly working her through their own web site to get the page I was seeing, I convinced her and her supervisor that I was correct. They will credit the £1.65/month backdated to March. The explanation that it was a one off error not systematic is hard to challenge even if it is not plausible.

The moral—Check and Complain, but you do need to be sure of your facts.

TapiTunes Library Updater

30 Jul 2013 10:40 by Rick

I only require iTunes on Windows to manage an iPod. I am sure there are a lot of other people who do the same. I use other software to manage my music library, partly for historical reasons and partly because we like more control than iTunes offers.

For us there has always been a feature missing from iTunes—the ability to update/synchonise the library with a music collection obtained from other sources. Perhaps people who use it for their music management also miss this feature e.g. when buying tracks from Amazon, but all through its (currently) eleven versions, Apple has failed to add the capability. For that reason, I was grateful some years ago to discover a (Windows) program called iTLU—iTunes Library Updater by Borja Fernandez which did this for me; I think iTunes was at version 9 then. Version 1.22 (2008) was the last version found and it was known to work on Windows XP, I don’t know about any later versions. As well as adding new tracks it will clean out “orphaned” entries for files that no longer exist.

Then, calamity, Apple published their slightly controversial iTunes 11 version and it all stopped working. This was a major rewrite and, it seems, they had removed the API that iTLU relies on to function. Also, since then, the author’s web site http://itlu.ownz.ch/wordpress/ has vanished.

But I can now gleefully report, with iTunes 11.0.4, it all works again. It must have been an oversight that Apple have (silently) corrected. Just a pity that there isn’t a Mac version of iTLU.

TapGloucester Road – Year 3

12 Jul 2013 10:42 by Rick

For the third year I am publishing my survey of the businesses on Gloucester Road which I started in 2011. I am not sure how I am going to be able to do this in the future as I no longer travel up the full length every day.

Over the course of the year 41 of the 427 commercial properties have undergone significant changes, either by the businesses closing, opening or moving. Not such a high turnover as last year but still significant.


There has been a slight increase in the number of empty shops up from 30 to 33 over the year. The houses/apartments between 148 and 156 are now complete but a large development is underway at the old baths. The empty block by the Baptist Church continues to be a gaping hole.


The mix of types of business is virtually unchanged but some prominent spots have been revived. It is good to see the Hobgoblin back in business but sad to see Cameron Lee & the bike shop close down. Bishopston Trading will be closing partly due to its own success in improving the lifestyle of the community in India where their manufacturing was done. We have gained a new optician, a couple of fashion shops and a vets but lost Blockbuster video rental

Again I have attached a PDF of the full survey and I have highlighted all the significant changes from last year.

TapCall Blocking on an iPhone

12 Jun 2013 13:57 by Rick

There are a lot of web articles saying that you can’t block numbers on an iPhone without Jail-breaking it. There are apps around that say that they can do it but they don’t work because Apple doesn’t allow apps to access the phone part of the device. However there is a way which is not too difficult to achieve.

What you need to do is create a contacts entry called for example “Blocked”. Assign to this all the numbers that you require to block. Now assign a unique ring tone to that contact (the “Old Car Horn” is a good one) and you will know immediately when an unwanted call comes in. To go one stage further, without too much difficulty you could create a silent ring tone and use that. Then you will never know when the annoying caller rings you. If you later discover that it wasn’t a caller that you wanted to block then remove it from the contacts list.

TapBBC iPlayer won’t play downloaded program

14 May 2013 09:31 by Rick

This fix relates specifically to the Mac desktop version of BBC iPlayer running on Mountain Lion (Mac OS X 10.8). It may work for other versions but I don’t know.

I will post the actual error message next time that it occurs but it relates to when iPlayer displays the station intro but then says something to the effect of “unable to play downloaded program”—usually one that has been waiting a week or two. It then immediately deletes the item from the repository.

The fix is as follows.

  1. Quit BBC iPlayer.
  2. Recover the program(s) you have just lost from backup—preferably Time Machine as that is more likely to be up to date. The location of the programs is ~/Movies/BBC iPlayer/repository and it is the items that start “b01” that you want.
  3. Go to ~/Library/Application Support/Adobe/AIR and move the directory “ELS” to trash. If you can’t see ~/Library then see this article.
  4. Now Restart BBC iPlayer and the program should work.

One oddity is that all the expiry dates will now be well into the future but don’t believe it: they will expire just as before so watch them soon.

TapYour tipple – revised

29 Nov 2012 19:03 by Rick

Since I wrote the original article on alcohol tax and prices nearly two years ago things have moved on a bit. The big idea now is that the minimum over the counter price, after tax and everything, should be 45p per unit of alcohol. To save you reading the original article again, a unit is calculated as 1% in 1 litre of liquid. So using these figures this is the revised table.

3.5% beer—pint—Minimum over the counter price 90p
Flandres 2.6% gnats—250ml bottle—Minimum price 29p
Special Brew 9% fighting juice—500ml can ==> Minimum price £2.03p
A nice 14.5% Rioja—75cl bottle—Minimum price £4.89
Budget 30% vodka—70cl bottle—Minimum price £9.45
Bacardi 151 death wish—litre—Minimum price £33.98

I haven’t had a chance to check current supermarket prices yet, but it will make a significant difference wiping out cheap wine. I will update later.

TapVMware Fusion and Windows Safe Mode

2 Sep 2012 21:42 by Rick

To get Windows into Safe Mode for some housekeeping functions the (reasonably) well known method is to hit F8 during the boot sequence to obtain the start-up menu. When you are running Windows under VMware Fusion on a Mac then this is not as easy as it sounds. Different Macs do special things with the function keys across the top of the keyboard—it is something that is not standard across different models. Sometimes F8 does brightness and other things. On my Mac Pro with wired keyboard F8 is marked as Play/Pause and most times kicks iTunes onto life. It does this whether the keyboard control is assigned to VMware or not. The various help guilds you get by searching the internet say to un-tick the “Enable Mac OS Host Keyboard Shortcuts” in the preferences but that doesn’t seem to be enough. The only way I could get anything to work was to go to Key Mappings and assign an unused “F” key to be F8 (fortunately the keyboard has 19 of them to chose from—I used F16).

TapThe continuing story of Gloucester Road

7 Jul 2012 13:19 by Rick

As promised I have continued my survey of the businesses on Gloucester Road which I started last June.

Over the course of the year 55 of the 421 commercial properties have undergone significant changes, either by the businesses closing, opening or moving. I think this is a very high turnover, though I have nothing to compare it against.


An improvement has been a reduction in the number of empty shops down from 38 to 30 over the year. That is partly due to the demolition of the unsightly block between 148 and 156 – new apartments are being built there which is a loss of trading but will be a big improvement to the appearance. The empty block by the Baptist Church is still there but looking much tidier and other renovation work is underway so the future looks good.


The mix of types of business is largely unchanged with still over half being Retail (A1). The proportions of types of trade has remained much the same, just moving about a bit. Restaurants & Cafés are up a bit from 45 to 50 but a lot of the increase has been at the upper end of the road where they were not so concentrated already. As far as I can tell (as the applications are not as visible as for planing) the numbers and types of alcohol licences have remained the same. The numbers of branches of National chain stores is higher but that may be partly accounted for by my recognising more of them. This year I have also marked shops from local and regional chains where I have been able to identify them.

Again I have attached a PDF of the full survey and I have highlighted all the significant changes from last year.

There is now an informal local history group under the leadership of Chris Wallace who has created a web site devoted to the history of Gloucester Road. I have contributed my data and in June, when the weather was better, I completed a photographic survey of every commercial building which I still need to edit and submit.

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