rashbre central: August 2014

Sunday, 31 August 2014

modern archeology using plastic crates

Folkestone Digs, is the participative artwork about buried gold in Folkestone harbour. It's a slightly questionable proposition, burying tiny gold bars and then waiting for a reaction from the public.

I suppose it has chiefly recreated the full 'digging in sand' experience for the slightly faded Folkestone. At that fun level it's worked, with the combination of sunny weather, reports of early finds, and the metal detectors thrown off the trail by the added decoy of metal washers. Not forgetting the daily creation of a unique sandscape, then washed clear by the incoming tide.

More mundanely, I've been doing some digging of my own. Yes, it's skip time again at rashbre central and so far I've only half filled the current one, which is slower progress than usual.
diving for tech
As well as large quantities of discarded carpet and underlay and some broken once flat-pack furniture , I've stumbled across some old high-technology items, like the ones in the plastic box. A couple of ancient iPods, and a first generation iMac camera, which just cries out to be used somewhere. Some special cables that would also have been priced like gold-dust but now solve a superseded problem.

A side view through the plastic box suggests a kind of Roman road layering of items, and similar to Folkestone, the tide of time has somehow hidden these away until this recent discovery.
Findings along a road

Saturday, 30 August 2014

damp look hairstyles for bootleg vacuum cleaner users?

The UK press is telling us there has been a panic rush on vacuum cleaners over the last few days. Apparently because of the EU-legislation to reduce the size of the electric motors. I suppose it's a way for the retailers to dump their old stock quickly, but I'm not sure what it really has to do with cleaning efficiency?

The big fat motors have probably been a way to up-sell rather than because they make a massive difference to cleaning efficiency. Our cleaners are a corded Dyson Animal HEPA filter (rated at 1400w, I just checked) and a Dyson Animal HEPA cordless (rated at 30w, with a 20 minute battery life).

Guess which one gets used the most? Yes - the cordless one, which is lightweight and pretty efficient. It can be used like an upright or like a sort of souped up dust-buster and no tangly cord to manage.

It leaves me somewhat bemused about the difference between 30w and 1400w? I don't think the big one is 46 times as powerful as the little one. Maybe 20% more effective?

Then there's the current generation robotic cleaners. We were watching one at John's house a few days ago. Fantastic fun, cameras, infrared, remote control, HEPA filter. All in a sub 30 watt package with a 50 minute run cycle. The household quote says it's not quite as good as a deep clean with a bigger vacuum, but when it automatically runs around every night, it's still pretty good.

I know the EU wants to make a worthy point about energy efficiency, but when I checked the vacuum cleaner annual running cost for a 1400w motor (72kWh) compared with a 2000w motor (104kWh), it was a difference of £4.74.

Per annum.

I also cross checked the latest most aggressive sounding Hoover brand machines. Hurricane. Turbo Power. Dust Manager. Guess what? They are now all running on 700w motors.

I suppose when the EU-legislation adds in hairdryers, tumble dryers and other high-wattage domestic appliances, it will start to add up. As long as people people don't simply take longer when cleaning or drying hair? Perhaps a new bohemian braided damp look hairstyle will emerge from the fashion pages?

So there's something altogether strange going on in the world of domestic appliance retail. I just hope they are not taking us for suckers.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

thing with feathers that perches in the soul

Thing with feathers that perches in the soulI was at my provincial airport hotel, wondering why the wi-fi didn't work and that the room didn't have a refrigerator. I decided to give up for the evening and read a story.

It was by Anthony Doerr and about Boise, Idaho. I've never been to Boise or even to Idaho, but as he stopped his car on Fort at Fifth Street, I could imagine being there. He described an old log cabin that dates back to the very founding of the now 250,000 population city.

In Doerr's story he describes the slow, hard but mainly happy evolution of the cabin and its crowded occupants as the town and city formed and it reminded me of a similar story we'd run into by chance in Bluff, Utah.

We'd been on the road and had stopped at a desert motel on the outskirts of the small town. In the evening we'd headed further towards the middle to get something to eat at a cowboy barbecue kind of place. We'd passed a small wooden fort on the way, which I assumed was a children's adventure play area. It was too dark by the time we returned, but I wanted to take a look next morning before we headed further west.

And I was wrong about the children's play area. This was the real deal. I stumbled into what was an old fortress settlement, just off Highway 191.
DSCF7127 Bluff, Utah
Like Doerr's descriptions of the Boise, Idaho cabin these were small dwellings, showing exposed log walls although with proper glazing in some of the windows. We walked around and eventually found some women in one of the larger buildings set out like a meeting room. They were sewing a quilt.

"Care to join us?"

We chatted for a while as they suggested we also visit another modern building where more of the history was being told. We'd already worked out this was a Mormon settlement, after all, we were in Utah. The story we heard from the folk in the bigger building was of the immense journey of the wagons across the unmade terrain, from Chicago, some one and a half thousand miles further east.
DSCF7125 Bluff, Utah
The Mormons moved to be free to practice their religion, explaining their stop in Utah rather than moving further west with the gold rush. The preserved dwellings in Bluff were from some of the original settlers, much like the formally preserved but neglected log cabin in Doerr's description of Boise.

In Doerr's story he makes the point about telling the story of the log cabin and its occupants to keep it alive. I reflected that these tiny dwellings altogether smaller than my current hotel room can hold such epic stories of life and opportunity.

Oh yes, and back to the title. As Emily Dickinson wrote: Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul - and sings the tune without words - and never stops - at all.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Finding Vivian Maier

I have to wait a while to see this. It hardly showed up in cinemas and the Region 2 DVD isn't ready until November. Enigmatic.

Truly finding Vivian Maier.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

beside a field of grain

P1020841 (1).jpg
After the Newcastle jaunt we were off to Surrey for a gossip-laden lunch. Then to a garden where we watched a combine harvester clearing the adjacent field.

And so the season moves along.

Back home Sunday, give or take a Burger Bar stranded sideways blocking the motorway. Then a surfeit of water on my bike ride on Monday.

Now back to normal, with a couple of conference calls today and then Bristol early on Thursday.

Monday, 25 August 2014

deep breath and tucker?

I watched the lavish new Doctor Who, which was washed with a Victorian brown colour palette. It included a few good lines and some very Scooby-Doo plot moments and hyper melodrama.

There were times when a dibble-dibble-wisst type sound could have accompanied the entries and exits of some of the characters.

At times I thought it was trying very hard to MAKE A POINT about something, like the APPARENT AGE OF THE REGENERATED DOCTOR, or the lizard kiss. Stripped back, there was a good 'alien robots eat my flesh' kind of story, complete with a hardly used giant dinosaur to look good in the trailers and some steampunk Sweeney Todd-style family restaurant moments.

The show was more about introducing Capaldi as the new Doctor busting some shapes, establishing some new series boundaries with his assistant and showing that there will be whacky fun as the series runs on. It suffered from a post-regenerative wired Capaldi being forced to stumble around for a bit too long. I'll take a deep breath before the next episode.

Darkly, as Tucker Who might say...

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Aperture to Lightroom conversion

I finally finished the test transfer of my Aperture photo library to Lightrooom. There's many pictures that have suddenly come back to life in the process, that were buried and mis-filed in Aperture.

For Aperture I'd learned to save pictures into separate year-by-year libraries, to avoid getting performance hits.

I've put the whole collection into a single library in Lightroom, and it does open up some new ways to look for images. So far the performance on around 100,000 images/500Gb seems okay too. The catalogue backup is fast and the separate backup of the photos can be done all at once and then incrementally, using Chronosync.

Working with the new single Lightroom library, instead of the faff of remembering which year something occurred, the whole set is available at any time.

I'll look into best ways to do tagging now, alongside the keywords that I carried across from Aperture plus the useful file hierarchy tags that were added by Aperture Exporter. I may need to do some googling for keyword advice.

In case it sounds like a lot of work, it wasn't really. The main reason it took an elapsed week was because I was way for five days and only occasionally checked progress to start the next library.

I'll still add my new pictures to Aperture and wait to see what Photo can deliver, but at least I'll have a point of view on Lightroom.

Friday, 22 August 2014

time for two wheels

The latter part of August has been surprisingly hectic with a further short-term project just added to the heap.

At least the bike had an outing today, although my accumulated miles has dropped back considerably from last year.

I predict my work-related travelling over the next few months won't be as hectic, which should give me back more time on two wheels.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

what? a cat post? here?

A very long time ago I learned that the internet was made of cats.

It's a derivative of the Alchian-Allen theory where high quality apples go from Seattle to New York, because the cost of transport outweighs the cost of the goods, so you might as well send and sell the best ones.

Applied to the internet it gets reversed. Cheap bandwidth means we don't just consume more, we consume differently. A five minute fix of internet cats instead of a day at the zoo.

Why raise this? It was @mysadcat ruffling fur with the tweet (miaow?) that we are all just prisoners here of our own device.

I had to go on a long car ride just after I'd seen this - one of those things that you somehow can't 'un-see' - and inevitably Hotel California was rolling around in my head. In general, I'd play this kind of thing when I was on a highway, maybe looking for sign.

But on this occasion it was Eagles on the car stereo as I was driving around Putney on my way to the Wandsworth gyratory.

Ah well.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

remove annoying bell icon in mac

The little set of Mac icons at the top right of the screen have been progressively marching left as new functions decide they are important. One of the little irritations is a fairly pointless bell icon which appears greyed out and when clicked remains mute.

It's part of Chrome, which has taken to booting itself up when I start the computer. I've disabled the startup, but the little bell persists. I eventually found how to remove it by using a well-hidden feature of chrome called flags. Essentially, the sync'd notification flag has to be disabled. Yeah, right. Its a pull down menu buried in the midst of the flags page.

Someone else explained that in Chrome 36(!) the flag bell can be removed ny using a proper menu sequence. I've reproduced it below. Somehow this doesn't fit the 'it just works' agenda.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

backing up Lightroom images using Chronosync

The test transfer of files to Lightroom seems to be working well. I need to be sure whether Lightroom can handle a large volume of images and so far it is standing up pretty well.

So far I've transferred around 50,000 images from Aperture 3.5.1 to Lightroom 5.6 using the Aperture Exporter utility, but I've still several more years of Aperture libraries to go. The whole process is hands-off so it simply burbles away in the background.

Something that I've noticed is the different backup regime with Lightroom, which will back up its catalogue, but doesn't seem to do the same for the actual images.

I anyway feel the need to back up the entire Lightroom folder system to somewhere else, and on this occasion to place it outside of Apple's Time Machine. I'm using Chronosync for the purpose, copying from the thunderbolt RAID disk connected to the iMac, to a separate LAN-attached RAID system. This should ideally give me a complete copy of the folder structure in Lightroom, purely as a safety copy.

Apple is usually quite good at making systems management functions like backup transparent, but for what will amount to a terabyte of data, I really want to use something that will take a managed safe copy to a different device and also provide incremental backup of changes.

Chronosync seems to fit the bill and is also schedulable, so I can get it to take a look at the photo library every day and just backup the changes.

My test sync of 200 Gigabytes took around 4 hours across the LAN - which is 50 Gb per hour. As I was elsewhere for the whole time it was running, I didn't really notice, and the next backup to the same destination only took about 2 minutes, with only 1.25Gb of incremental changes.

If this works it could be a pretty good solution. I'm still using Aperture as my main image workflow at the moment, but am quite pleased at the progress with this alternative.

Friday, 15 August 2014

hotel development opportunity

hotel development opportunity?
I've been spending a few days away in hotels, but it looks like there could be new ones on the scene too, judging from this interesting example of optimism.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

rearranging the pictures

I have to decide whether to re-arrange the pictures.

Apple have said that the pretty good Aperture software that I use for storing my snapped images is to be 'stabilised', so I have to figure out the next step.

I suppose I could just wait for the new Apple Photos application to see whether that will do the trick, but I'm wary that it will take a few goes before it is really quite right. Then there's the collection of 'plug-ins' that I've accumulated to help make it quick to change the pictures or to tag them.

Most of the stuff I have at the moment is also compatible with the Adobe Lightroom, and I notice I have a copy because of my Adobe subscription. I'm tempted to try it out.

I've also just found a further utility called Aperture Exporter, which can take a whole Aperture library and convert it back into a form suitable of use with Lightroom. As I've got 10s of thousands of pictures, I'll need to mull this for a while, although I'm now running the Aperture Extractor on 2014 (around 7000 pictures) to see what happens when I test import it to Lightroom.

I'm away for a few days now, so I'll find out how well it works when I get back.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Using the Olympus Stylus 1

Stylus 1
I've struggled to find the right balance between usability and weight with cameras when on holiday. My big DSLRs are really too big to be convenient for much of the time. Aside from taking much backpack/luggage space, they can be heavy, rattly and sometimes draw too much attention.

This year I took my little Olympus Stylus 1 camera to Norway and I've been very pleased with the experience. I've already had it a while, so was fairly familiar with its use. It is the size of a point and shoot and has a fixed zoom lens, from the equivalent of 28-300mm with f2.8 aperture.

Of course, it won't create the depth of field of a 35mm camera, but it still has plenty of controls as well as the basic 'auto' mode. The camera has a high quality feel and I really like the control wheel around the lens, which can either be used for manual focus when it is smooth to operate or for other controls such as aperture, when it is clicky to turn. It is very reminiscent of the old ring on an OM-1/OM-2 type film camera and a great asset to handling. I'd quite like to see Olympus introduce it on their next generation of OM-D E cameras.
Somehow the controls are about right on this camera. Its easy enough to put into unfussy automatic mode, but has plenty of fairly analog-type adjustments right at hand. Others have said the menus are complicated, but I've found that by using the switches and dials this feels much more like a camera than many of the highly computerised and menu dependent DLSRs.

In a way, the Olympus's OM-D is my camera for comparison with the Stylus. The OM-D is really a category or two 'higher' in functionality, but actually I'm surprised how good the regular pictures are from the little Stylus. It's clear that Olympus took many of the design cues from their other more fancy modern digital cameras.

Like a proper SLR, it also has a good quality electronic viewfinder as well as a swivelling back finder. I somehow still prefer the viewfinder way of taking pictures in most circumstances, compared to holding a camera at arms length and watching the mini TV screen on the back. Exceptions to that are maybe concerts or crowds, when an adjustable back screen is quite useful.
Stylus 1
I took a picture of the Stylus next to one of my old-school 35mm film Olympus OMs too. The Stylus shape is somehow reminiscent of the OM-4, although it is quite a lot smaller. Compared with a Canon 5D DSLR, it is positively tiny, yet possible to get some pretty snaps.

er, penguins?
something dramatic
Flam waterfront
I'm about to go away again for a few days. I'll only take the Stylus and see what it can do.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Shakespeare in Love

Great to see 'Shakespeare in Love', along St Martins Lane.

This is the stage adaptation of what started as a movie from Tom Stoppard.

Lee Hall, who wrote Billy Elliott, penned this adaptation and its a cracking evening at the theatre.

They've given the stage at the Noel Coward Theatre a superb three-tier treatment recreating a kind of 'Globe meets Rose' Elizabethan look. The cast is huge, more than 20 players, many with cameo roles as well as ensemble playing and there's always lively things both in the action and cast eavesdropping from the sometimes reversed stage and from the galleries.

The rom-com plot is about how Shakespeare overcomes writer's block assisted by his new found muse Viola de Lesseps and with help from his sometimes rival Kit Marlowe. There's plenty of in-joke Shakespeare references, with many famous lines dropped into new phrases. 'Out damn Spot' springs to mind, but there are many others. A slightly pantomime reference to being delayed at Putney Bridge also got a knowing Londoner laugh (the bridge is closed for road-works at the moment, creating some interesting west London snarl-ups).

The production is lavish, with many dramatically-lit tableau scenes. Queen Elizabeth I is accompanied by an excellent Lord Chancellor and there's a suitably authentic band with lutes, mandolins and a hurdy-gurdy to accompany the action.

Both Tom Bateman as Shakespeare and Lucy Briggs-Owen as Viola play their parts well, balanced with the rest of a strong cast.

A thoroughly good night out and a great choice for the West End. It might be knowingly a bit 'Shakespeare-lite' but it has swagger and a full Romeo and Juliet style storyline interwoven with the humour.

Monday, 11 August 2014

objects may be larger than they appear

moon, just after super moon
After Pat's comment from yesterday's post, I thought I'd better post my attempt to snap the supermoon.

I didn't see the two space stations, nor the meter showers, although I'm reminded of that Billy Bragg lyric:

I saw two shooting stars last night; I wished on them, but they were only satellites. Is it wrong to wish on space hardware? I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care...

The fancy thing to do is take that sort of moon picture with a silhouette or famous building in the foreground.

Although I'd been seeing the moon from travelling around London earlier in the day, I only remembered late at night and used my little Olympus Stylus camera to handhold the snap from the front door.

Still, I wonder what happens if I add it my earlier picture of a well-known landmark?
messin' around

Sunday, 10 August 2014

very wet on a bike

Back cycling today, initially in sunshine, but then the weather suddenly nosedived into car-wash level rain, as if someone had flicked a storm switch.

I suppose the intermittent and rapidly changing dark clouds should have been a give-away, but it is already back to sunshine again now, and somehow more reminiscent of April's winds than what is supposed to be the middle of summer.

I'm not sure that tonight's special supermoon is going to be very visible, let alone the shooting star effects from the Perseids.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

daisy, daisy

A small discovery yesterday.

My most recently acquired PC running Windows 8.1 has been sluggish ever since I've had it. In fairness, I bought it in the trolley with the groceries and it's been on light duties so I've never really bothered to sort it out. Finally frustrated that it was so slow, I wondered what would happen if I deleted Norton 360, which is the firewall and anti-virus protection. It was up for renewal in any case.

Apart from the trauma of trying to remove Norton, the effect has been most encouraging. Subsequently, the machine has sped up dramatically, rebooting and loading programs much faster than before. Of course, none of the scientific tests and benchmarks show this, but I'll use Windows Defender now instead of Norton on that machine.

There were a few extra wrinkles to removing Norton. Simply uninstalling it didn't work. It tried to re-install itself the next time I rebooted, ironically in a manner similar to the way a virus works.

Next, I tried switching off the licence. That worked partially, although it still reinstalled itself and then when I tried to disable it, it relicenced itself using a spare licence from my Norton user account.

I searched to I find out about the Norton Extraction Tool, which does 'completely' remove Norton products. I used this and it seems to have worked, although a side effect of Norton's installation was to disable the Windows Defender product. I had to use another thing called the Windows Action Centre to re-enable Defender, but it does all seem to be working now.

I don't consider most of this to be 'friendly' behaviours for a system, and I seriously wonder how many people have the knowledge to work around all of these systems. Hardly a simple process.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

where have all the flowers gone?

Last time my passport was up for renewal, I scrapped having two in parallel.

I had two because it was the only way to operate with certain countries. That and the time it takes to get visas. Even with two, I can remember having my passport couriered to the airport for one trip.

Yesterday's poppies, awful world news and a current TV drama reminded me of this. I used to travel to the middle east a fair amount, which was one of the reasons for needing the duplication. Israel and some Arab country visa stamps don't mix.

When I used to travel to Tel Aviv regularly, the edginess started from the time I entered Heathrow. I'd get challenged and intensively interviewed by Israeli security staff. My baggage would inevitably be hand searched. As a suited businessman I'm not sure how I looked extra suspicious? They often used little swabs to check my belongings for traces of misdemeanours. I'd have to switch on my PC and show them something exactly specific to my visit. I'd carry a letter showing who I'd be visiting as well. It was supposed to be good security but however polite I was, it always seemed terse and threatening. Often, Ben Gurion airport for departure would create a similar return experience.

In some Arab countries the arrival time would also be stressful. I might find myself directed into a specific line for passport, but then be held back to let an entire plane of passengers from somewhere else be processed ahead of me. Or there was that place where you had to know to get the little entry sticky stamps from a special counter before proceeding to the passport line - or else go back and do it all over again.

Probably these experiences have shaped how I've got used to being able to go into a sort of trance state in many airports, whilst always moving as far 'forward' as possible.

That TV series I mentioned is the complex 'The Honourable Woman'. The lead character is played by a very Euro-English sounding Maggie Gyllenhall. Through series-link I'm only at episode 4 and noticed the scenes portraying Israel's border requiring the big gates and guns. The same episode featured a dinner-table argument about Gaza, which ended with a punch-up.

Drama reflective of the terrible conflicts in the whole zone, writ large in current news broadcasts. So much for the exchange of land for peace. At a humanitarian level it's terrible. At a political level it's an intractable endless destructive cycle.

Another example of trance, this time with most of the world quietly wringing its hands.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Blood swept lands and seas of red

I was working along the South Bank today, but close enough to the Tower of London to cross Tower Bridge to take a look at the newly opened World War I Commemoration in the moat outside the Tower.

It is an installation with around 190,000 ceramic poppies so far and many more are being added between now and November 11, to reach the total such that there is one poppy for every British and Commonwealth soldier killed in the First World War.
Its already a sea of red, and yet it's probably only about one quarter complete at this time.

Coincidentally, I'd recently found some of the family history of my namesake relative from World War I. He was already in the Army when war was declared and had reached the rank of Lance Corporal.
As part of the British Expeditionary Forces he set sail for Le Havre on 14 August (ten days after Britain's entry to the war) and his 1st Battalion made their way along the Marne to Aisne. That's where one of the earliest bitter trench warfare battles took place at Chemin des Dames. It appeared as quiet fields on this year's Tour de France.
Not so quiet when he was killed there aged 19 in the 6th week of the war.

One of the Missing, his name is on a memorial around 200km to the north of the battlefield, in Ypres, Belgium.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Norwegian Wood moment

London, Piccadilly Circus & Eros
Yes, I'm back in London.

Like in the Lennon song, the Norwegian wood around me now is mainly pine cladding. Either that or IKEA furniture from Sweden which has been sourced from Norwegian medium density fibreboard, although, nowadays even that might come from China instead of the Nordics.

Down south, it is harder to locate direct Norwegian influences. Okay, the big tree in Traf. Square at Christmas. Maybe a very occasional Statoil filling station. Up across the border in Scotland it's different, because of all the energy sector influenced companies. Oil, gas, petrol, wind and wave farms. The names of some of the companies flash up on the rolling adverts on the Norwegian ferries, but most are not household names to the average Brit.

The lovely-to-visit Norway has a very high (a.k.a. expensive) standard of living. I've previously mentioned that a medium sized beer (less than a pint) costs about £10 and the Big Mac Index shows Norway at around $8 for the burger. Actually, we were sitting in a non-fancy cafe and I noticed the price for a basic burger was around 97Kr, which is more like £9 or about US$15. The Norwegians say they don't notice the high prices, I guess that's because they earn at a commensurate rate. During our time in Norway I suppose we just got used to knowing what to expect things to cost, suspending any 'convert to sterling' mindset. And unlike trips to the USA, I didn't need to buy an extra luggage to bring back all the goodies at the end of the trip.

The high standard of living relies upon Norway's financial reserves from exploitation of natural resources, particularly North Sea oil. Norway made a decision back in the 1960s to exert sovereign rights over the North Sea and thus captured the biggest share of the now depleted North Sea oil. It gave the country a chance to make its own path and to slimly vote to not join the European Union.

It's done pretty well, prosperously moving from farming and fisheries to the energy sector and latterly moving oil production to the Norwegian and Barents Seas.

I used to work occasionally around Stavanger, which is the on-shore oil capital of Norway, a bit like Aberdeen is in Scotland. I can't help wondering, though, whether Norway's energy and EU decision and its implications were made at a much more favourable time than Scotland now thinking about trying to go it alone? As an example Norway set up what is now a massive state pension fund to tap the surplus energy wealth against future outcomes.

Although it won't be all about energy in the Scottish debate, the economics will undoubtedly form a big part of the discussion, like tonight on the telly. I can't help wondering how many organisations have at least hit the 'pause' button over Scotland, and maybe are poised on the 'Eject' until after the vote plays out?

And I know, today's post has become a bit of a ramble through the woods, but still not the long and winding road filled with questionable statistics as we watch Scotland decide its future.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

something about a car, but not exactly top gear

Today it's time to mention the French car we used whilst driving around Norway. I'm not much good at Top Gear reviews, so it won't be so much about performance and cornering, more about living with the car.

It was an almost new black car designed using "château-fort" principles, which meant it had to look aggressive and have slits instead of windows. It actually achieved that quite well, with a kind of non-visibility from much of the front area and a special bar across the rear window which blocked out other cars in the rear-view when on motorways unless they were very close.
I tried the various up and down facilities of the seat, but this didn't really help and if anything managed to block out more of the nearside vision because of the quite low and bulky front mirror assembly. At one point I managed to hide a whole ship out of view on the passenger side.
To keep up the 'repel all boarders' impression, the car also had a special button in the roof which then very slowly raised a screen in front of the driver's eye-line. This displayed a copy of the speed. I think it was supposed to be a head-up display, but with the other two speedometers immediately below it, the impression of a sightly greyed out view of part of the road didn't seem all that worthwhile.

The clever concealment of the 'lower-it-again' switch meant it took quite a while to find out how to disable it, because like many of the controls it was not quite so obvious how it worked. There may have been an operating manual in the glove box, but the control to open the glove box didn't work, so it was either locked or jammed. In château-fort terms I guess it was 'secure'.
A similar experience happened with the white noise generator, which randomly switched on during some journeys. It was a de-tuned radio but the volume control wasn't very clearly labelled and also took a while to find.

As an automatic, this car had other interesting features. Firstly, it didn't 'hold' when pulling away. A slight reverse gradient would become a drama unless the electronic parking brake was deployed. Its set of programmed sequences meant it would send impressive instructions to the dashboard about its use. Not always ideal when close parking on a gradient.
Another feature of the automatic was the special form of cruise control. Most cars I use with cruise control will allow a speed to be set and then maintain it. This car let the cruise speed drift by maybe 20kph upwards whilst flashing a warning message. A kind of 'pas' moment. J’veux pas travailler. I tried the fancy paddle override on the gearing to see if that would help the speed stay down. 'Pas. If I steadied the speed manually, the gearbox would then decide it was time to upshift again and essentially override my action.

Let's spend a moment with the sat-nav. It knew where Norway was and could give instructions in English. When I say it knew about Norway, I mean in a general sense. Oslo. Okay. Bergen? Okay. The well-travelled Peer Gynt Way? 'Chai pas. The airport at Ålesund? Make it fifth after a few other transport essentials like the Post Office.


It would just stop completely and turn itself off. Blank screen. I didn't ever find out how to switch it back on. I'd just return to the car from time to time and find it working again. A kind of temps de travail, perhaps? Oh, and the map rotated whilst driving, to always point forward. I prefer north upwards, so I can get a sense of my bearings. Could I lock north to the top? 'chpa. The option was showing, but was greyed out on the menu.

And I shouldn't forget the special key to start the car. One of those ones where you have a special button to make the car start instead of a key twist. Except once you've pressed Stop, everything stops and won't restart unless you start the engine again. On a ferry? Want to pay the conductor? Can't open the windows. Decision...start the car and alarm the man (we are at sea already) or just open the door? Next time, open the window before stopping the engine. Pay the man. Now I can't leave the car to get a coffee. The window is open.
Additionally, the key would go wrong sometimes. I'd park the car. Get out. Try to lock it. Pah. Paaaaah. It would go all sultry. I'd have to get back in. Put the key into the ignition slot. Press the start button. Press the start button again. Remove the key. Get out and try again. I guess this is part of the château-fort facilities. Make absolutely sure that the drawbridge is up.

See. I said I couldn't do a Top Gear style review. They'd focus on the 'S' button and the engine horses or wheel sizes.

I never did check whether it had a spare.