Monday, 31 August 2009

Ferrari fans berate Badoer for ‘shameful’ lack of pace

From F1 31/08/09:

Ferrari stand-in Luca Badoer claims that it would be 'absurd' for the Italian team to replace him less than a fortnight before his home Grand Prix. The reserve driver, Ferrari's longest-standing pilot, currently remains set to continue replacing the injured Felipe Massa although media pressure is increasing to change the line-up.

With Kimi Raikkonen having won the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday, Badoer finished last of the runners and over a minute and a half behind his team-mate. "I can say that, after two races, I have much more of a grip on this mountain of things to learn," Badoer told the waiting media after the race at Spa.

"Monza, Mugello and Fiorano are the tracks where I have driven for most in my life," he continued. "It would be absurd and I would be very disappointed (to not drive) because I am convinced that, at Monza, I have the feeling needed.

"Going to a track that I could drive with my eyes closed, I am sure that I could get a good result. If I had to set myself a deadline, maybe I would do it for after Monza - I would be the first to say 'Lads, it's not working out'."

I’ll say it now, Luca: “It’s just not working out”.

In the meantime, this amusing banner that appeared at Spa at the weekend, pretty much says it all.

The difficult truth

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Economic Downturn Responsible for Fewer Child Injuries on Roads

Road Traffic Personal Injury Compensation

From PR Urgent 18/08/09:

[A] leading firm of personal injury compensation claims solicitors, say that recent research shows the number of children and young people injured in road traffic accidents in the morning rush hour has reduced considerably. Between January and June 2008 there were 344 road accidents involving children, but for the same period in 2009 this number dropped to 228. Some commentators suggest the recession may be linked to the reduction in this type of accident, occurring at the time of the morning "school run".

"Fuel prices and the other overhead costs involved in running a car have become a great burden on many families during the current economic downturn. Many parents are now walking their children to school rather than travelling in the family car. Fewer car journeys have resulted in a reduction in accidents, and which is a good thing."
The statistics from the Department of Transport also reveal that the number of children who are either killed or suffer serious personal injury in this type of accident has decreased by 9% in 2009 when comparing the figures for the same period in 2008.

"Traffic is at its busiest first thing in the morning and this may well be the most dangerous time for anyone to be driving, particularly for those taking children to school, as they are often distracted by the demands of the children or are having to rush because they are running late."

Every road user laments the infamous ‘school run’ twice a day which brings otherwise manageable roads to total gridlock. While I hadn’t initially considered the connection between the economic downturn and the number of injuries suffered on the nation’s roads, on reflection, I suppose it is logical. It also presumably means that when the economic slump is over, the numbers may well rise again.

On a related note, I also remember reading a couple of years ago now that personal injuries on Britain’s roads increased sharply when British Summer Time ends and the clocks are put back. Whether it is the fact drivers used to driving home in the light suddenly had to cope with darkness or whether drivers generally have more accidents in the dark per se, I don’t know. I do, however, remember reading that such was the increase in injuries around this time, it was cited as a possible justification for abandoning the rather strange practice of setting clocks back and forwards twice a year across the world.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Open Source Law Student – Part 2

open source law student This is the second part of my free and open source law student project that I’ve conducted over the past year.  It picks up pretty much where part 1 left off, which you can read here.

Calendaring: Mozilla Sunbird and Google Calendar, Windows Live Mail with built in calendar. I tried switching entirely to Sunbird (and syncing it with Google Calendar) which I eventually got working satisfactorily. Sunbird is fine, but I still find the user interface used by Outlook 2007 to be far superior.  I truly wish that was not the case, however, as Outlook is a bloated jack of all trades, and insists on bizarrely storing everything in just one .pst file which is a disaster waiting to happen.  I readily accept that Outlook’s days are most definitely numbered.

Encryption – Around 12 months ago, I moved away from Steganos Safe on my Windows machines for the open source solution, TrueCrypt, which is far superior in my opinion. There are Mac and Linux versions available too, though I find it annoying that it doesn’t offer the ability to increase the size of an encrypted safe you have already created – a feature which Steganos Safe boasts. Although I tried the full partition encryption feature on a laptop, I mainly use encryption simply as a safe or vault for confidential data.

Although I eventually came to the conclusion that I cannot make an open source based solution work for me, it was more down to my esoteric computer needs rather than the software not being up to the job. To students making the switch from Windows to a distro of Linux, I would say the following:

Be prepared for the odd problem: I quite like Ubuntu and immediately felt at home within it. Getting one of my printers to work proved more difficult than I imagined but it’s perfectly doable – particularly with a little help from Google. There are plenty of very helpful Linux discussion boards and forums out there. Parts of the UI felt a little clunky, yet there were others which felt more streamlined and user-friendly than Windows. One thing that did bug me greatly in the early days was getting used to the ‘OK’ and ‘Cancel’ buttons being the opposite way round in Linux dialog boxes compared to Windows. It’s always the little things in life!

Ink-saving software not compatible: I like to run ink-saving software on my Windows machines which minimises the amount of ink used when printing: on XP I used Inksaver 2.0 while with Vista (and Windows 7) I’m running EcoPrint 2 Ink and Toner Saver. Both are excellent and have saved me a huge amount of money over the years. Of course, I’m not able to get either working with Linux even using a compatibility layer such as Wine (not that either EcoPrint or Inksaver is open source or free, either) but I’m not prepared to go without ink-saving software for long. On my LL.M I’ve had to do way too much printing for that to be an option.

While I’m on the subject of printing, I’ve long harboured a hatred for typical printer manufacturers and the way they have turned printer consumables into such a grossly lucrative aftermarket. While I’ve suffered with various HP, Epson and Lexmark models over the years (and a Citizen dot matrix if we’re being picky) Canon hardware is by far and away the best in my experience – both in terms of price and performance.

I currently have two printers set up: a regular Canon inkjet and a Canon multi-function machine, which is reserved mainly for scanning and copying. My regular inkjet, an aging Canon IP1500, was as cheap as chips to buy back in 2005 and even cheaper to run. I get unbranded cartridges from specialist online ink outlets which work out at just over £1 per cartridge. While their longevity might be slightly less than with official cartridges, it still represents a huge saving and a regular compatible cartridge lasted several weeks on my LL.M – or several months during regular use.  With my ink-saving software, too, I enjoy super-cheap printing – just as it should be.

While some users might be less than eager to shell out on ink saving software, it is very inexpensive and very quickly pays for itself – particularly if you ramp the saving percentage up.  As a general rule, I keep mine on 60% ink-saving - both on Inksaver and EcoPrint.

Abobe Products and Games

Another sticking point in my free and open source law student experiment has been the loss of Adobe products. I’m a heavy user of Adobe’s products – particularly Photoshop and Dreamweaver, and while I could use Gimp as an advanced image editor, for instance, I just don’t feel as comfortable using it and miss Adobe’s products. I even tried Nvu as a replacement for Dreamweaver, and while it might have cut it ten years ago, it certainly doesn’t today.  I also have some legacy PC games which I enjoy from time to time and while I guess I could try running them through Wine, it’s just too much hassle when I can run them natively in Windows. For me, the combined effect of these issues is just too great a hurdle to overcome and keep me firmly tied to Windows, at least for now.

Final thoughts

The average law student would be perfectly able to get along with just free software without sacrificing his or her grades and convenience. For the most part, a student running Linux and just free and open source solutions within that environment would be absolutely fine for the purposes of workload, file compatibility and so forth. Providing you don’t mind getting your hands a little dirty occasionally – such as installing a printer – it’s an entirely viable option. That said, if you have certain PC software that you can’t be without and don’t fancy your chances (or want the hassle of) running it in a compatibility layer, Linux might not be for you.  A more viable prospect, to my mind at least, would be to make use of the wealth of free proprietary and open source software available out there but run it within Windows.  As I found out, jumping lock, stock and barrel into the open source world is not quite as easy at it might seem.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

NHS Compensation Costs Reach All Time High

Medical Negligence

From the Guardian 19/08/09:

The NHS spent more than £800m settling legal claims last year as complaints of medical negligence against the service rose sharply.

The surge in payouts is revealed in the NHS Litigation Authority's annual accounts which show that maternity services attract the highest legal costs. Clinical errors in delivering babies can result in lifelong damage and payments accordingly reflect the intensive medical care often needed for decades to come.

The liabilities show no sign of easing off. After five years of relatively consistent levels of claims for compensation due to errors by NHS staff, numbers leap last year by 11%. "We have not been able to identify any single factor that might have precipitated the rise," the authority commented in its report.

Most cases are settled out of court. Of the 8,885 clinical and non-clinical claims made in 2008/09, fewer than 4% are expected to end in a court hearing. There were almost 6,000 claims received last year under the clinical negligence scheme for NHS trusts.

Where wholly meritorious cases are brought in response to genuine instances of medical negligence, the argument can at least be made that doing so may indirectly improve the efficiency and quality of health care offered to all. But given the tendency for the majority (read 96%) of cases to be settled out of court - because it tends to be a safer bet for the respondent compared with risking losing the case if it proceeds to trial - there are bound to be a good number of borderline or possibly even undeserving claimants receiving compensation because, from a PR perspective, the NHS simply want to make such allegations go away.

Friday, 14 August 2009

August Dissertation Update + The Office


In the last two weeks my dissertation has really taken shape, with the result that I’m around 3,500 words over the limit with still the conclusion and another small section to write.  That said, I don’t think I’ll find it too difficult to edit out the majority of the surplus; there’s a lot of garbage in there!  I’ve about a month until it’s due in, so feel I am more or less on track and will be very pleased to see the back of it. 

I’ve really stepped up the pace recently: last week, particularly, I was more productive throughout Thursday, Friday and Saturday than I had been for the previous few weeks combined. All was going well; my focus was singular and (relatively) razor sharp (ish). And that was the point that I stumbled across the American version of ‘The Office’.

To cut a long story short, I’m now in the middle of series 4 (and bearing in mind that both series 2 and 3 are over twenty episodes long, I’ve chalked up some serious watching time in the last few days). I literally can’t get enough of it.  I remember catching a couple of episodes of the first series in late 2005 when it was aired on the BBC, having been a long time fan of the British version. My thoughts at the time were positive but can’t say I was captivated by it. Having just watched series 1-4, however, I have to admit that for me, the US version far exceeds the British one and stands quite possibly at the top of my list of favourite comedies of all time.

I can’t believe that I’ve missed seeing such a fantastic show for so long. 

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Schumacher’s F1 return not to happen after all

schumacher back on track From 11/08/09:

After much media hype Michael Schumacher has announced that he will not be returning to the sport to replace the injured Felipe Massa in Valencia as hoped due to his ongoing neck injury.

"Yesterday evening, I had to inform Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo and Team Principal Stefano Domenicali that unfortunately I'm not able to step in for Felipe,” Schumacher stated on his personal website. “I really tried everything to make that temporary comeback possible, however, much to my regret it didn't work out.

“Unfortunately we did not manage to get a grip on the pain in the neck which occurred after the private F1-day in Mugello, even if medically or therapeutically we tried everything possible.”

Naturally, I haven’t taken the news particularly well and feel deprived that I won’t be witnessing Michael’s racing brilliance back on track after all. His motorcycle crash in February was certainly nasty and if his neck simply isn’t up to it, that’s the end of the matter.

I guess Schumi’s return was just too good to be true after all!