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Faster, better, downloads

Downloading large files directly from Firefox is okay, but only that. For Firefox will open a connection to the file, and download it piece by piece. Sometimes, and this doesn't happen regularly, but when it does it's a right pain, the transfer may just 'finish'. No explanation, no "oops", no nothing. It will look like everything went fine, except your 660Mb AVI will look suspiciously like a 200Mb file...

This is where "Free Download Manager" comes in. It integrates into the browser so it can manage downloads instead. While Firefox is capable of resuming a download, FDM seems to be better in making sure that the entire thing arrived, and patiently waiting for all the bits.
Now here's the winning thing. Firefox downloads from beginning to end, right? Well, it can average on one connection to make around about 64kbit. It varies wildly depending on time of day, server, etc. So I'm saying 64kbit is about what it feels like it averages.
FDM, on the other hand, splits the file into chunks and starts a separate download for each chunk. This might sound wasteful, but it actually turns out to be a lot more effective for the end user. Large downloads come in so much faster, as the bitrate approaches 130kbit, which is about the fastest my connection will run. If you set it to "heavy" (aggressive) mode, with the option to step back a level on detecting browser activity, it will be the best trade off between download speed and user 'confort'.

Anyway, a very useful tool to have for those purposes alone, and that's only some of the stuff Free Download Manager is capable of doing.


My second best vide grenier...

My best vide grenier to date is probably the one where I handed over €20 and walked away with 100 DVD-Rs, plus a router for a fiver, plus Gameboys...

So today we went to a little local vide grenier in support of a nursing home. Quite a big complex, it was a place I was almost employed until it became evident that I was "from across the border". That border where the skies are grey, the tap water is full of nitrates, and dragons roam freely...

Anyway, I saw a bloke advertising DVDs for €0.50. At first I ignored it, thinking it would be the usual not-quite-knock-off DVDs you can get in the supermarkets for a couple of euros - the ones with the audio only in French, mostly weird B-movies (I've seen a fair bit of Zone Horror's playlist pass by), too frequently only in 4:3 aspect (though it tries to hide this by calling it "1.33").
But then something caught my eye. A box. Several in fact. For cheap DVDs simply don't come in boxes.

I dropped a tenner in a heartbeat.

You might find some of my choices 'odd', but remember - it's 50 cents apiece. I will pay 50¢ for a triple-disc set of Robocop!
I got "Contre-Jour" as it looks like a film mom might enjoy. Mom wanted "Adam's Apples" as the cover looked like a film she might enjoy - though the back says it's about a neonazi and a sheep-healing pastor, so go figure!


Greed knows no bounds

[following entry of 2008/10/03, among others]

In a move to try to reduce risky behaviour by the banking system, our own Sarkozy is intending to talk G20 leaders into supporting the "Tobin Tax", which according to BBC News would be a levy "applied to every financial transaction".
As it turns out, this is actually more correctly a tax on cross-currency transactions, but one that could well affect us, plus every other ex-pat and anybody holidaying overseas. Will it be a lot? You can bet the personal withdrawal taxes will be disproportianate to what the banks themselves would pay.

I think, as it is transpiring that WE are indeed going to be expected to pick up the tab for this financial madness, I think it is high time that we the wallet-holding voters, get a say in matters. No more agressive policies gradually watered down to inneffective indecision.
Here, instead, is how it should be:

  • No pay bonuses. Period. The end.
    Even after all the $#!+ that's gone down, some banks still seem happy to take taxpayer cash and hand wodges of it to people who have "done well". Sorry, if you do your job well you get considered for promotion. If you suck at your job, you get replaced. That's how it is for millions of employees. That's how it should be for the banking sector.
  • If a bank is failing, director payoffs and pay packages are automatically annulled pending re-evaluation.
  • If a bank fails, its director and all of the senior administration lose their jobs. If the same people ran a normal company into the ground, the effects would be the same. Any taxpayer cash should come with the proviso that management is replaced. No if/but/maybe. Bail out = thrown out.
  • There are three choices - bail the bank (at which point it moves into PUBLIC ownership), sell the bank to private investors (where it is bailed, but NOT with taxpayer cash), or fail the bank (it goes down).
    The decision of what to do should be taken firstly on the grounds of "what effect to the country/economy if we let it fail", and secondly "what effect the those with accounts there"? Every effort should be made not to safeguard the cash of creditors and companies owned money, but rather those whose accounts are now in limbo. Any transaction taken (bail or sell) should contain a requirement to safeguard the money in accounts held at that bank.
It is high time the banking industry was given the idea that Joe Sixpack is not going to paper over the cracks and toss money at the greedy few. A year on from the near-collapse of the American financial system, the world is letting out a big sigh of relief that stimulous packages helped avert the predicted Great Depression II. However it seems that everything is getting "back to business", perhaps a little too "back to it". Thus far banking reform has been minimal, leaders have failed to do much of anything, and Obama's calls for Wall St. reform have been met largely with opposition. So the men in suits have, generally, failed. Oh, "reform is underway" they will tel you. Like 100mbit connectivity to everybody is "underway", and public access wifi points are "underway" or an overhaul of the electric distribution system is "underway". It's been a year. We don't want "underway", we want "done".
In the US, the bail-out was to the tune of $10,000 per person. In the UK, in function of the difference in GDP, it rises to $50,000 per person (about £31,000). On average, this is how much everybody has lost - through lowering property prices, loss of job, loss of security, etc. Some people are having to overwork in their final years in order to provide for themselves any sort of useful pension, given the huge slump in pension funds following last year's debacle.

I think these people would all agree with me. Time if the goverments and the banks fail to implement radical reform, the people who eventually carry the can start to kick up a stink.

It's no longer to be about making them money, it's about safeguarding ours.

[see also, and check the links on the right too]


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