Esperanto feature on The One Show

Januaro 11, 2010

The One Show did a feature about Esperanto on tonight’s edition, which included a short section with me, talking to the legendary Arthur Smith.

It was great fun filming it — I’ve always really enjoyed Arthur Smith — and the production staff were not only interested in what we were talking about, but pleasingly open to suggestions about what we should say and how we might say it. I’m really pleased with the result too.



Programero pri Esperanto ĉe BBC1

Januaro 11, 2010

Ĉi-vespere, aperis ĉe la BBC programero pri Esperanto kadre de la programo The One Show, kiu elsendiĝas tutlande en Britio ĉiutage (de lundo ĝis vendredo) per BBC1, la ĉefa televid-kanalo de la BBC. La programo kutime estas spektata de ĉirkaŭ 5 milionoj de homoj*.

Mi tre ĝuis la filmadon, kaj delonge ŝategas la komediiston Arthur Smith, kiu prezentis la programeron kaj intervjuis min. Ankaŭ la teknikistoj kaj la produktisto estis interesitaj kaj tre simpatiaj pri la afero, kaj (tre kontentige) pretis akcepti proponojn miajn pri kion ni diru kaj kiel ni vortumu aferojn, por ne misreprezenti Esperanton.


*Tiun ciferon mi prenis de la retejo de la Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board, kiu indikas The One Show atingis spektantaron de 5.07 milionoj, 4.75 milionoj, kaj 5.32 milionoj, en ĝiaj lastaj tri semajnoj de elsendoj en 2009.

Cambridge Water: competent, and lovely too

Januaro 6, 2010

Came back from holiday this week to find we’d got no water. Phoned Cambridge Water to see if they knew anything about it, and even at 11pm, they still had competent engineers on the phone, who spent 20 minutes talking me through different stuff to test and to try.

Their engineer came out the next morning, and it turned out our main inlet pipe was frozen. It managed to freeze because it’s outside the house (in the cupboard next to the front door), not inside the house like the building regulations say it’s supposed to be. Grr. Anyway, 10 minutes with a hairdryer put it to rights.

Top marks to Cambridge water though, both for late-night telephone help, and friendly, competent (and free) help in getting up and running again in the morning, even though it wasn’t actually their fault at all (well, er, apart from allowing Taylor Woodrow’s plumbing monkeys to go ahead and break building regulations in the first place — they should have and could have refused to allow connection to the water main until the plumbing was up to scratch).

Still very pleased with their customer service though.  :o)

Debenhams: robbing bastards

Januaro 6, 2010

My partner was persuaded to take a Debenham’s store card last month, in return for a discount on a purchase. The application took so long at the checkout that she twice said, “Look, people are getting impatient here — forget it, I’ll just pay,” but the assistant pressed ahead, and the card was duly issued.

The first payment was due over the Christmas period. It arrived with Debenhams 2 days late. They applied a £12 fine to the account.

They’re a bunch of robbing bastards who wouldn’t know customer service if it bit them on the bottom.

In related news, the lovely John Lewis’s have just reported record-breaking Christmas sales. I’m not one to shout “correlation implies causation” too loudly, but I do know where I’m going to do my houseware shopping in the future.

Epson “empty cartridge” scam

Januaro 6, 2010

I own an Epson Aculaser C2600 printer. It works reasonably well, although the steadily increasing price of the toner cartridges is a bit vexing. Not enough to qualify for the “scam” tag though.

The scam is that the printer announces that the toner cartridges are empty long, long, long before this actually becomes the case. And in its default state, the printer simply refuses to print another page until the cartridge is replaced.

As if that weren’t bad enough, I’ve phoned Epson technical support on two separate occasions to ask if there’s a way to override this setting, even just to finish the last few pages of a print run, and the answer on both occasions has been “no, sorry, there isn’t”.

However, when the printer downed tools mid-December claiming to be out of cyan toner, I spent a while wading through the labyrinthine menus on the printer’s tiny screen and I discovered one that says “Cartridge empty: stop OR continue”. So I changed it to ‘continue’ to see what would happen. And here’s the bit that merits the “scam” label.

I’ve since over 600 double-sided letters, each with a blue logo on front and back, and it’s still going strong. That’s 1200 blue logos from an empty blue cartridge.

How does this compare to other printers and manufacturers? Leave us a comment!

Blue. Lots of it.

Blue. Lots of it.

Multi-lingual auto-correction on the iPhone

Junio 6, 2009

I’ve had an iPhone for a few months, and while it doesn’t quite do everything that I want — no Flash, no video recording, no laptop tethering, no BlueTooth file transfer — it does do a staggering array of wonderful things that I do like really rather a lot.  🙂

One thing that had been annoying me though is that I couldn’t find how to make it allow me to type in a foreign language without constantly proposing English corrections, e.g. when I type je or ne in French, it always wanted to “correct” them to me. Worse, it then remembered the foreign words, and ceased suggesting corrections that I would have wanted when typing in English.

However, it turns out that if you use a foreign on-screen keyboard (enable one or more of them via Settings –> General –> International –> Keyboards), then the iPhone auto-corrects to the corresponding language. Switching between keyboards is a one-tap operation on the keyboard itself, and the space bar always shows you what the current keyboard is.

That certainly solves the problem if Apple provide a keyboard for your languages of choice, but what if they don’t? I regularly email/Tweet/etc. in Esperanto, which isn’t in Apple’s list. My solution, for now, is to enable a. n. other language — I’ve chosen Czech — and use that keyboard when I’m writing in Esperanto. It’s a bit painful to start with, as it tries to “correct” just about every word, but it quickly learns the most common words and starts making useful suggestions, and it stops my English and French dictionaries getting poluted with irrelevant foreign words.

So there you go. Hope that helps. Feel free to leave better solutions in comments.

Wolfram|Alpha demonstrates long established GIGO principle

Majo 21, 2009

The people at Wolfram|Alpha certainly seem to know how to kick up a hype storm, so I mosied over to see what it was all about.

To start with, I had trouble getting any response at all other than Wolfram|Alpha isn’t sure what to do with your input, but finally I got somewhere when I entered “Esperanto”.

Picture 2

So, Wolfram|Alpha gives me concrete information rather than just pointers to pages for me to sift through, and it’s beautifully presented too. Trouble is, it’s complete bollocks.

In July, I’ll be attending this year’s World Congress of Esperanto, to which 1700 people have currently signed up. At the last one I attended, in 2005, I was joined by 2300 Esperanto speakers from 62 countries (out of a total of 2000 in the world, don’t forget); this is actually reckoned to be, in round figures, about 1% of the number of fluent speakers. There will be several dozen native speakers there too; I’ll be having a few beers with two of them the week before. And this year, 150 years since the birth of a certain Ludwik Łazarz Zamenhof, the Congress is to be held in Białystok, the hometown of both Dr Zamenhof and the international language that he initiated. Białystok is not in France.

I’m sure there’s some very clever computational wizardry going on at Wolfram|Alpha, but the traditional garbage in, garbage out rule clearly still applies.

New version of “La Espero”

Januaro 7, 2009

A new CD by jazz artists Garry Dial and Terry Roche has just been released, containing jazz interpretations of numerous national anthems.

Us An' Them

I mention it in passing because they’ve chosen to include La Espero, the Esperanto anthem. (Can’t call it a national anthem, because obviously the whole point is that it isn’t of any particular nation).

You can listen to clips and buy the album at

If you don’t already know it, you can hear a more traditional version of La Espero over at

Nova versio de “La Espero”

Januaro 2, 2009

Ĵus eldoniĝis en Usono KD-o de naciaj himnoj, en nekutima ĵaz-stilo, farita de Garry Dial kaj Terry Roche. Mi notas ĝin ĉi tie ĉar la kolekto inkluzivas La Esperon.

Us An' Them

Ĉe vi povas aŭskulti eltiraĵon de la himnoj kaj aĉeti la albumon.

Pli tradicia versio troviĝas ĉe

De retour!

Januaro 2, 2009

Après une pause de deux ans, pendant que j’ai grandi mon entreprise, j’ai continué mon travail avec mySociety, et j’ai eu deux enfants, je me relance dans mon blog. Sonnez les trompettes, tuez le veau gras, etc.