Saturday, 21 April 2012

A passport to print money

I'm not into kicking dogs when they're down, but when it comes to the UK's immigration service I can't help myself.

Ten years slipped by fast and I ventured online to find out about getting a new passport. All I was doing was renewing an existing one. None of my details had changed, not even a new address.

And what does it cost? A whopping £77.50 that's what.

To make matters worse, the Passport Service encourage punters to use the Post Office 'check and send' service for another £8.50 and on top of that is the cost of getting two passport pictures. I could have attempting doing it on the cheap, but just went into my local Snappy Snaps and paid another £9.50. So actually it costs just shy of £100!

£100 for a single document?

It simply beggars belief that a service could be this inefficient. If Google had the contract, I daresay they'd be able to do it for £10 - maybe £20 tops.

It fills me with dread that successive governments can be this wildly inefficient and somehow think it's normal.

If one was to venture abroad for a single two-week holiday each year, the cost of the passport alone isn't far off £1 per day out of the country. I daresay the flights will be cheaper than that soon.

Back in 1992 it cost £18 to get a ten year passport - which doesn't seem entirely unreasonable. How times change in the alternate universe inhabited by the government.

With admirable understatement, Wikipedia tells us "while consumer prices in the UK have increased by 24% from early 1998 to 2009, the price of a passport renewal increased by 269%"

Now, don't get me wrong - I do have not problem at all with the folk employed by the passport service. I spoke to one of them on the phone. He was helpful and acted impeccably. My issue is entirely with the management and those behind the contract. People are hard up and the best you can do is make them pay £96 for a bit of paper.


Monday, 20 February 2012

The death of spontaneity

There is an an evil afoot in modern society and that evil is the suppression of spontaneity.

Spontaneity adds to quality of life and the reduction of it reduces quality of modern life.

There are several causes. In London, for example, it may take 45 minutes to get to a friends' house - so it doesn't make much sense to embark on a 1.5h round trip on the off-chance your friend is in and up for beer or coffee or whatever.

However, the pricing models of transport companies activity suppresses spontaneous behaviour. Cheap deals on trains and planes invariably requires tickets to be booked weeks - even months - in advance. Fat chance of spontaneous off-the-cuff meetings and trips.

Flat-fees for off-peak travel would enable people who don't plan their lives weeks in advance to have a good deal more fun.

Stop the killjoys - start spontaneity!

Friday, 20 January 2012

Making zeebox rock

Anthony Rose's zeebox has much potential - especially when used in conjunction with the "pause" button on PVRs - but it also reveals a paucity of metadata associated with broadcast TV programmes.

It would be great to see broadcasters add such data as a) locations associated with scenes and b) clothes worn by actors. This would no doubt be music to Anthony's ears - as monetizing these data-streams would be a synch.