December 20, 2014
A brilliant finish to 2014 training and business guests, and a look to 2015
Yesterday - Friday afternoon - saw the end of a long series of courses I've given over the last couple of months, and we've seeing hotel (business) guest bookings dry up from hectic to zero, as we would expect, over the Christmas period.
We wouldn't exist without our customers, and we wouldn't enjoy our jobs without happy customers, so it's thrilling to finish for the business customer break with two wonderful reviews
For a training course ... "Great, Very Flexible in Approach. Highly recommended"
For a hotel stay ... "Thank you for a lovely stay. Not only are the staff vert friendly and helpful, but the house is so clean which amazed me as you are so dog friendly as well. Huge thanks also for being so good at getting some dairy free goods."
We may have finishes business customer work for Christmas, but I've now got contract work and admin to do (catch up on!) over the next few days, together with our own Christmas prep and some "rail stuff".
The hotel remains very much open over the Christmas period - indeed we're even open on Christmas day, and nearly full on boxong day night. Booking via [here].
Training courses restart on 5th January 2015 with a private course for a West London company, and our schedule for private courses is pretty well filled right through January and February. Public courses on our web site remain available for booking. (You will see few courses in the early weeks of the new year due to this heavy private course diary)
Each year, we review prices for bookings made from 1st January. This year, once again, the base price of training courses remains unaltered. Delegate rooms at Well House Manor rise - for the first time for in quite a few - will rise by 10 pounds per night (60 to 70 pounds + VAT), as will trainer's expenses when our tutor stays away to travel on site. On the other hand, the milage rate we charge for travel to and from onsite verues is reduced by 10p per mile, sharing with our customers savings made by slighly lower fuel charges, and the ability to use more cost effective travel means such as going by train rather than driving a car as the sole passenger. The net effect is that a few course prices rise, by perhaps 20 or 30 pound for a week's coures, other will drop by tens or (occasionally) even hundreds of pounds.
The double room hotel rate of £95.00 remains unchanged, and the single room rate rises to £90.00, bearing in mind the lower incremental cost of breakfast and serviceing a hotel room for a second person, but the increasing costs of almost everything else. These hotel rates still include room, breakfast, internet access, early and late checking and checkout, car parking, (Melksham) station pickup for guests.
Seeing Christmas Coming to Melksham
Billy, Gypsy, Lisa and I went out last night to see how Melksham's preparing for Christmas
December 19, 2014
Object factories in C++, Python, PHP and Perl
Raw materials are converted into a manufactured product in a factory or by a factory procedure, and the sort of product you can make depends on both the raw material that's supplied and on the capability of the factory.
And so it is with Object Oriented Computer Programming - supply raw material to something that's known as a factory method - that's not a reserved word, by the way, just a convention, and the factory method will return you a object it has manufactured. Since no object exist at the start of the process, your factory method needs to be a class or static method (the naming convention depends on which language you're using).
During today's course, I wrote an example in C++ of a group of two (very small) classes, both inheriting from the same base class, and I provided a factory within that base class to manufacture new objects of the two different types, depening on the incoming data - strings from a file, where the string contents lead to the decision as to which object was manufactured. Complete example [here].
December 18, 2014
C++ in 2 days
I'm running a two day private crash course - C++ for C programmer(s) for one person - today and tomorrow. Today we've covered the basic principles of OO, Objects in C++, Stack c Heap (new), this, private, public and protected, polymorphism, encapsulation, vital and operator overrides. From a first very simple example [here], we built up to our sixth level [here] during the day, with my delegate doing parallel exercise using my design pattern template.
Tomorrow - #ifndef, static, vectors, references, I/O, exceptions, namespaces, templates, and putting it all together.
If you're an experienced C programmer (and a quick learner!) please ask about a similar course - we can fit it in during quieter / odd days as a 'special'. We also run regular courses Learning to Program in C and C++ and C and C++ Programming ... choose your course depending on whether or not you've got good prior programming experience
December 16, 2014
Wiltshire Police - assuming someone is guilty just on the say-so of a member of the public?
I read the following on Facebook yesterday ... posted by a PCSO with the Wiltshire force.
"If you think that a bogus caller may be at your door ... you must report it to the police immediately by calling 999. ... The more details you remember, and the earlier that you tell the police, the quicker we will be able to investigate the crime." (See [here] to see if it's still there!)
It worried me. The policeman (sorry - posted by a PCSO, so a civilian assistant) started off by suggesting rightly that you contact the police if you think there's a problem then, in my view very VERY wrongly ASSUMED that a crime has been committed by saying that they will be able to investigate the crime ... he did not say, you'll notice, "a possible crime" nor "whether a crime has taken place".
It worries me because there's an assumption that someone's guilty before it's investigated - where I thought we were supposed to be considered innocent until found otherwise, and it worries me because this police assistant seems to be taking the law into his own hands when it should be the courts that decide. I appreciate he probably helps deal with a lot of guilty people, but it's dangerous for him to assume that people are in the wrong.
I posted a follow up to ask for clarification. His first response didn't answer the question - it answered something I hadn't asked. Someone else popped up with a personal insult to me (nice woman!) suggesting that this isn't important. The PCSO hasn't answered my follow up. Me thinks that he is avoiding the question.
My question remains - if you THINK someone at your door is a bogus caller and report it to the police, how can they be certain (s this PCSO clearly is) that a crime has been committed? Or was the original post wrong in what it said. Or was the original post trying to quietly move the goalposts of what the police can do (e.g. decide guilt) in Wiltshire?
I will be very interested to see if I get a reply to this when I post it on Facebook, or if it gets deleted. Never mind - if it gets deleted, I'll ask a proper policeman I know by email.
I have had a couple of instances of heavy-handed activities by the police and other authorities which have resulted in a complete clearing of what had been suggested, and I feel they should be very careful indeed in making any assumption of guilt. I admire what most of them do. A few seem to be there because they like the power and go beyond what they should, as (I believe) in the wording of their helper's post.
December 15, 2014
Celebration pictures, year 1
Pictures from yesterday - 14th December 2014
December 14, 2014
A long day on the trains, but a rewarding one
At the end of a long day I'm on the 20:31 Swindon to Paddington train having ridden countless trains and spoke with many people today. The celebration of the first year's improved service on the TrasnWilts line with mulriple MPs, multiple Wiltshire Concillors and lots of other people crowding the buffet at Westbury, and with Connecting Wiltshire / TransWilts Vinyls applied to 153361. Two round trips to see Santa in the waiting room at Swindon. And now this trip to Cambridge.
I would like to be saying it all went to plan. But it didn't; there were some glitches due to a signal failure which delayed some trains ... including the one one that was taking children to see Santa, so we lost a quarter of the time at Swindon. And the second Santa train was also delayed in the same way. Fortunately, Santa is flexible and came with us on the first train as far as Melksham, where he had a nice cup of tea and travelled back up on the second. So everyone who wanted to got to see him, including some LUCKY children who were just normally travelling and were delighted to meet him.
The seriousness of the line was highlighted during the day by the number of ordinary passengers on the train; although that limited the numbers we could take, it also showed the real regular use of the service. The morning celebration train picked up 20 people at Melksham, and perhaps the same number at Chippenham, and I counted 158 people on the Santa train when we had only sold 122 tickets. So that's 36 non-Santa customers and an excellent load for a train in the middle of the day on Sunday.
Since I started writing this, I've arrived in London, crossed to King's Cross, and I'm now riding out to Cambridge. The 19:05 off Melksham eas 27 minutes late, the connection at Swindon missed as a result, and we dragged into London at 21:40. It then took 9 minuts to get out of the barrier, while I explained to the gateline that there's a blank plinth where there should be a TVM at Melksham, that the Train Manager didn't have a working machine with him, that the Swindon ticket office was shut and the machine wouldn't sell me a "from Melksham" ticket, and I ddn't see the train manager on the London train. Well, actually I didn't explain all those things - it seems it's the norm for things like this, but I mighty dislike being held up by the railway after I've arrived because of their failure to provide ticket purchase facilities earlier on. I'm also very use to having to spell M-E-L-K-... and be told "never heard of it". We have work to do still to make that statement even rarer. And I was somewhat mollified when I had to spell Cambridge for him too.
The train from King's Cross left spot on time, express to Cambridge. It usually does. Perhaps this is a level of service we can look forward to once electrification is completed.
December 13, 2014
A little thing can make a big difference
The "TransWilts" train from Swindon - to Melksham, Trowbridge, Westbury and with some services extended to Dilton Marsh, Warminster, Salisbury and beyond - usually leaves from the terminus platform that inset into the west end of the station. And it often leaves from the front (far end) of that platform because the local train that's used on the Cheltenham Spa service is parked at the near end for long periods between services.
I have observed on a number of occasions people waiting patiently for the doors to open on the parked train, when people have already joined the TransWilts train. And I have also observed train crew from the TransWilts service, and station staff, sweeping up potential travellers to West Wiltshire prior to the Westbury train leaving. But I know it's not happened 100% of the time, and on occasions people are standing by the wrong train when the right train (for them) leaves.
The station departure board - hitherto - haven't helped as they've simple said "platform 2". But that has changed - I was delighed to see the display screen at Swindon last night ...
... which is a small, but very useful change. And indeed at the platform, the display has been updated too:
A small change - but a significant one. Whether the change is as a result of the Community Rail input, or whether it's as as result of other inputs, I don't know. But I do know it's a sensible little change to have made that may have very big positive consequences for some people, and I do know it shows that the community and the rail industry is pulling in the same direction.
I joined that 17:36 train to Westbury, and it left with 69 people on board. People got on and off along the way, and in total 83 people made use of it for at least part of the way. That's not bad going for a train that's only been running for a year, and only has 78 seats.