Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Public Radio

It is now nearing the deadline. I like listening to classical music on the radio, but soon after 2:10pm CBC Radio Two starts broadcasting something else. That's when I turn the radio off. It is my misfortune that I belong to an undesirable radio demographic: I am white male over 60 with post graduate education. I would understand the logic of this if the CBC were a commercial station, but it isn't. Apparently there are not enough people in Canada who like listening to classical music to broadcast it all day every day.

I find it hard to believe. For one thing Seattle - our nearest neighbour - has a classical station. It used to be commercial, it is now listener supported. Public Radio is available all across the US. In Colorado, where I was recently on vacation, I could listen to classical music on the car radio in most places - despite the mountainous terrain. Actually CPR runs two channels, one actual music (as opposed to mere noise)  and the other talk/news/current events. The United States of course has no such thing as a state broadcaster, nor any tax based funding.

As I am sure you will be aware I spent the first 40 years of my life in England and when I first became aware of radio the BBC was about the only option. It was possible to pick up Radio Luxemburg - which was commercial, but broadcast in English - and stations like Hilversum, which broadcast in Dutch and wasn't. The BBC used to get its funding from mandatory radio licences. Now it is only tv in Britain which needs a license. BBC funding has long been an issue - but Auntie has got much better at finding new sources of revenue. One of the best being selling "quality tv" programs to PBS. Like Masterpiece.

When I got to Canada I fully expected the CBC to be BBC like - only bilingual. Boy was I disillusioned quickly. But there was then at least all day classical music, not just on CBC Radio 2 but also stations like CJRT. And yes I know I can get music over the internet but my laptop has really tinny speakers and I have this really good hifi system - with way to connect to the web. NOr have I ever owned an iPod, dock or anything similar.

There has long been a general assault on public services of all kinds. Health, education, transit,  you name it it has had its funding cut, service reduced and all sorts of fees and charges introduced. The private sector and profit making is now seen as more important than any other consideration. We truly know the price of everything and the value of nothing. PBS tv programming now has commercials - not within the program (yet) but in between them. And of course regular fund raising drives. The CBC has not sunk that low yet, but tv advertising is just as intrusive as on any other commercial station. While the radio is free of adverts and fundraising appeals, the quality of programming is steadily being replaced. What is good gets shunted aside in favour of what is popular.

You have probably never heard of Lord Reith. "Broadcasting as a way of educating the masses" really does not sound very attractive - but then we seem to distrust education as a concept. In a way that we do not distrust commercials. Enough people believe them that companies keep on making them and making profits. There even seemed to be some regret the Joel Matlin lost his job. Even though home alarm systems in reality do nothing to make you safer - but do a great deal to destroy communities and their sense of peace and quiet. Essentially a protection racket. Usurious money lenders advertise widely - yet their practices are actually contrary to the Criminal Code of Canada.

To be fair, only the CBC seems to take seriously the task of defending the public interest. They do investigative journalism seriously - even when commercial interests are at stake. Marketplace for instance. But they also give a bully pulpit to people like Kevin O'Leary, Don Cherry or Rex Murphy. There does, it seems to me, need to be more of a sense of balance. I have never understood why the Conservative Party thinks that the CBC is a nest of commies. If only it were, it would offset the rest of the broadcast spectrum!

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Product endorsement: Reactine

I bought these products with my own money. No-one gave them to me and no-one is paying me to write this.

I have seasonal allergies. This year I started allergy season with Reactine and have been coping well. Until that first pack was used and I had to replace it. I went to a supermarket and bought their own brand of antihistamine. It simply did not work. Neither of these medications requires a prescription in Canada.

Today I took a Reactine tablet and within twenty minutes I was symptom free again. It says on the box "can start to work in 20 minutes and lasts 24 hours" - and that is certainly my experience. YMMV

Reactine is 10mg Cetirizine Hydrochloride. The store brand allergy remedy I bought was 10mg Loratidine - and that is what I have been buying in the past. I bought it simply because generic medication is often the same as brand name and usually cheaper. For instance Aspirin is Bayer's brand name but their product is always more expensive than the identical generic acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) . I do not know if any store sells generic cetirizine.

In the past I have out up with the less than satisfactory performance of loratidine. After all it was - it seemed - better than nothing and I thought was probably as good as it gets. Not so.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Review: MobileLite Wireless

When Kingston sent me their press release for this new gadget, I requested a review unit. One of the frustrations I have with tablets, as opposed to laptops or netbooks, is their lack of ports. My partner's iPad and my Nexus 7 rely on wi-fi for very nearly everything except the USB port which can be used for both charging and connectivity. That's fine if what you want is in the cloud and you have access to an open wifi connection, but that is not always the case.

For instance, at my old house, we cut off the cable some time ago as we were not there to use it. But talking about getting rid of furniture with a neighbour I learned he was interested in antiques. My partner has some - and we have pictures. But I wasn't carrying my camera at the time. And even if I could have used my tablet, those particular pictures weren't on the web anywhere. And anyway, the tiny screen on a camera is not really adequate for deciding if you want an antique desk. In the end I printed some postcard sized pictures - and he lost interest in the mean time.


This neat device is about 5"x 2" and less than half an inch deep (OK if you insist - 124.8mm x 59.9mm x 16.65mm) and very light (98g) It comes with a short USB cable and also has a slot for SD cards - as well as adapters. They also suggest that it will be useful as a backup for a cell phone battery. But I suspect that means if you are travelling you need to be very organized to have all the right connectors with you. Just out of curiosity I plugged it into the tablet when that needed charging and it did provide about half a charge for that. It is also very straightforward to use. It comes with the usual get started sheet, but perhaps more useful are the range of YouTube how to videos



I no longer have small children to take on road trips in the back of a minivan so that's one suggested application I won't be needing. But there are occasions - and I am sure you have them too when you are using a tablet - when you are not near an open wifi connection to the 'net, but you wish you had a portable wireless network between your devices. I got the apps for both the iPad and Google Nexus from their respective sources (App Store, Google Play) and installation was a breeze. 

The device is now available in Canada, and I have been planning a trip where I intend to leave behind my MacBook Pro - just because it is so heavy. The idea is that I will use the MobileLite to transfer pictures from my camera's SDHC card to the web. I have been testing that and can report that so far I have been successful uploading pictures to flickr that way. But only when using the iPad. There is an issue with the Google Nexus 7 - which runs Android. And it is not confined using this wifi device (which, by the way does remain connected to the internet and your mobile devices making life easier than I expected). So far I can see pictures on the Nexus but I can't actually do anything with them. The tablet does not load them into its own gallery, which means they cannot be uploaded elsewhere. On the iPad there is a menu which includes both "camera roll" and some social media sites (but not flickr). So using the camera roll in the iPad means I can upload - using the web browser. I haven't managed that yet with the Nexus - but I have asked Kingston to look into that.

The response I got was that there are many varieties of Android out there and they cannot guarantee that the software they provide will work the same way on every device. When my Nexus 7 recently upgraded its operating system I had hoped that might make a difference. It didn't.  

UPDATE  May 28, 2014

I left my MacBook Pro behind on my recent trip to Venice, expecting to be able to use the MobileLite to upload pictures from my camera's SDHC card as reported above using the iPad. The software for both the iPad and Android apps has recently been updated. I can see the pictures from the card on my Nexus tablet. I still cannot do anything with them, like upload to flickr. With the upgraded iPad app I cannot even do that. It simply does not see the card. Useless.