November News


Visiting the UK

Friends and family were visited from 22th Oct — 6th Nov. The last UK visit was in 2006 before the global crunch, but the bankers seem to be building monuments to themselves much in the same style as the cathedrals of old. Same idea to project power, but the object of worship is now firmly money.

The $1,9 billion fine for HSBC (December), the $300 million for Standard Chartered, Barclay's LIBOR $450 million fine and other fines are all too common in the London financial district, while we mere mortals are interrogated just to transfer a couple of hundred dollars for presents.

Anyway, the most upsetting discovery was that McLaren Vale red wine which costs $20 including 10% GST (£13) in McLaren Vale is almost 40% less (£7,99 which includes 20% VAT) in a small boutique wine shop in Petersfield south of London. That is a real crime! Talk about a freight anomaly or the Wine Equalisation Tax! Pity there are no US regulators looking after wine markups (technically dumping when domestic prices are higher than the exported item).

For the record, I found food cheaper in the UK than Oz; transport prices in Glasgow much lower than London. However, transport of any means is punishing if you go into inner London. Bypassing Waterloo and the train to Heathrow from Petersfield for a combination of a train to Woking and then a bus to Heathrow saves almost £20. UK housing prices can only be described as harsh for places that really look like they are about to collapse, or must have looked wonderful a few centuries earlier.


Shard building in London

The Shard is a 95 floor building with 72 habitable floors, including residential, offices, restaurants, a hotel and observatory. According to the Shard Wikipedia site, the contract cost was £435 million — roughly what Barclays forked out for their LIBOR rigging fine.

The London Eye

The London Eye and skyline along the Thames.

PWC Offices in More London

PWC office — 7 More London — one of the many accounting firms unable to reign in the devious bankers, or to claim sustainable initiatives when not running a steel mill or power plant.

Banker square in London

Citi, Barclays, HSBC, all in good company along the Thames — view from the Emirates Air Line. Banks always seem to have the tallest buildings in any city.

Digital Signage and Sustainability

On a more serious note, part of the trip was to examine trends in LED lighting and to visit the Crystal building, which opened in September at the Royal Victoria Docks waterfront. They kindly allow personal photography, however, these photos cannot be reposted, so for more info, visit the building or the Crystal website

Crystal building in London

The Crystal — a sustainability exhibition and office by Siemens. A truly worthwhile place to visit if you are serious about sustainability, or just curious about LED lighting and digital signage.


Euston Station in London

Euston Station in London seemed packed any time of the day or weekend. Do not expect to find any place to dispose of litter, as the information trolls claim that the “War on Terror” means that there are no rubbish bins, but having sat there for almost an hour waiting for the train to Glasgow, I suspect that they have done away with the cleaner positions under the new austerity measures. The more modern stations have moved to video screens for their signage, but the nice thing about these is that the marketing moguls cannot inundate you with adverts.


Digital signage with video wall

Video wall at the Royal Docks terminal for the Emirates Air Line .

Digital signage

Static displays at a Petersfield optician. The backlight power is supplied by the wires holding the frames.


Weather, sundials and a medieval clock

The late October/ early November weather wasn't too bad, but the sundials were not working. The elders devised timepieces over the centuries to solve the sundial problem for UK weather and evenings.

Medieval clock in Salisbury Cathedral. Made in or before 1386, and probably the oldest working clock in existence — and like all clocks of that date had no face but struck the hour on a bell.


Salisbury Cathedral Medieval Clock pulleys

View of the ropes and pulleys connecting the weights.

The ceiling is a fair height. It would take a few more centuries to put all that into a pocket watch or a wristwatch. For those who were spared all the mechanical precision work, there are “clock calendar functions” in most present microcontrollers that require a few nanoamps and a 32kHz crystal, but they don't look half as impressive.

Salisbury Cathedral Medieval Clock gears

Intricate gears — not sure what the southern hemisphere were up to during the fourteenth century, but sundials might have been good enough considering they have a touch more sunshine.

Salisbury Cathedral Medieval Clock front view

The gears and metal work certainly impress — especially for someone trying to master mechanical CAD and MIG welding for digital signage prototypes.

The rope would have to be better than shoe laces that ship with cheap shoes, or else the weights would have claimed a few scalps.

Salisbury Cathedral Medieval Clock oscillator

Part of the calibration for the oscillating weights. The size would limit the corporate retirement watch culture, but it would be interesting to know the staff compliment who cared for and fed this beast. Any bets on being good for 20kgs without bending their knees?


Petersfield Physic Garden sundial

Sundial in Petersfield's Physic Garden on (another) cloudy day. This was taken in the afternoon without a shadow. Note that there is no rust!

Chichester Cathedral sundial

Sundial on Chichester Cathedral under a cloudy sky.

There is no shadow; the black is part of the mechanism.

Chichester Cathedral sundial

A sundial on Chichester Cathedral at a slope. I am unsure if it was original or some creative work during restoration. One of the new gargoyles even has glasses!


Tales from the woods


Trees along the Thames at Kew

The trees along the Thames at Kew. The English countryside is a real pleasure to walk along, but the traffic in London takes some getting used to. Along this walk, there is a plane overhead almost every minute of the day!

Snow around the Lake District

On the way back from Glasgow, there was some snow on the mountains in the Lake District. Unfortunately, the 200 pixel wide photo does not show up the white against the cloudy backdrop. Taking a photo without getting a rail pylon in the frame is not that easy at the speeds of the inter-city trains.

Last month we had a photo of a treehouse near Mt Barker in the Adelaide Hills. Here is a fairly professional one on the outskirts of Petersfield (a couple of stations south of London).

Treehouse in Petersfield
Glasgow near Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Glasgow near the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Glasgow has improved since my last visit in 1986. Joe and Sarah were such wonderful hosts — thanks again.

Battersea Park 200 acres in London

Battersea Park — 200 acres in London.


Breaking News


MIPS finally finds a buyer

MIPS as a company is over, as announced on the 5th November, 2012.

Imagination has improved its offer to $80 million for the business operation and several patents, after CEVA made a counter offer. In the original EE Times post (Nov 7), an ARM led consortium would pay $350 million for 498 patents, while Imagination offered $60 million for the business operation and 82 patents.

The MIPS story is a tragic tale of opportunistic pricing — they lost important customers like Nintendo, Sony, the SGI CPU socket, messed around Lexra with the unaligned instruction patents, missed the boat with the ACE/ARC consortium due to excessive license fees, and so on....

We spent several years developing hardware and software for various MIPS platforms. See our MIPS work from 1992 to 2005.

Their 64-bit and multicore high speed technology was shipping well before ARM crossed the 1GHz barrier. ARM only recently (2012) announced a 64-bit architecture, and in spite of a small core, it has yet to ship. The journalists at EE Times are falling over ARM predicting the demise of the 64-bit x86 architecture in the data centres, but with nothing on the horizon and multi-core 64-bit MIPS devices not making any data centre inroads, we will have to see how ARM manages to take on Intel.