Failure? It’s usually the leader

Do you expect me to come out there and tell all of you

It makes sense really – how is a team or organisation meant to function without a good leader? No matter how hard you try, how many open evening and days you have, if you’re not a good leader, it won’t do anything to benefit you. Until recently, I was an air cadet. Unlike a lot of other cadets, I didn’t leave because I was approaching the age to leave – simply I left because of the management of the squadron.

Imagine being blamed for something nobody had been told of, or nobody told you that it had been revoked. “Do you expect me to come out there and tell all of you”, isn’t really the excuse you’d be looking for is it?

Similarly, you’d think if you raised a concern, it’d actually be dealt with – obviously not. The RAF VR(T) system has had a great advantage for the organisation for a long time, but there are always those commissioned “officers” who are up their own backside. 1265 (Horncastle) Squadron found this by their new-(ish) 9-month-old commanding officer, and I’m sure Trent wing will cause a stir when they check how many active cadets are actually attending. I could still login to Ultilearn four months after leaving – I wonder why.

Data provided by the Air Cadet Organisation HQ at RAF College Cranwell, June 2017

It costs to report a crime?

Ofcom (Office of Communications), the United Kingdom’s communications regulator recently published a handy “3-digit numbers” guide, detailing six three-digit phone numbers which are used for major services in the UK.

One of the odd facts I found, was written in the small-print at the bottom of the graphic.

Calls to 999, 111, 112 and 105 are free to call from all networks. Calls to 101 cost 15p

So, calls to the UK-wide emergency number, EU-wide emergency number, non-emergency medical number, and national power-cut service number are free to call, but calling 101 to report a non-emergency crime or to seek advice will cost 15p a minute to complete? Surely that’s an intensive to not report crime, and to not seek basic advice.

According to the College of Policing website, people should call 101 for the following reasons:

  • Report a crime not currently in progress – for example a stolen car, burglary, or damaged property.

  • Give information to the police about crime in your area.

  • Speak to the police about a general enquiry.

  • Contact a specific police officer or member of staff.

The 101 number simply directs you to your local police force’s non-emergency number, which I found weird, because they’re local numbers listed on the same page as the advice given above. Officers who ask you to call them back quite often will direct you to the 101 non-emergency number, with an extension – a costly way to contact the police.

According to the UK Government page for call charges, it can be cheaper to call 084 and 087 numbers than to contact your local police force – weird for a country which wants to crack down on crime.

“Offset XX” – The VATSIM Map

So I wanted to get into JavaScript, or at least build my knowledge of it. I decided to make a VATSIM Map as a simple project to try and develop these skills – the Google Maps JS api is very helpful with drawing on maps, making it perfect for this project.

Originally, I started the project trying to manipulate the display to copy the general design of FlightRadar24, a real-life implementation of the software. This was the first time I’d properly used and understood (to an extend) CSS, and it’s functionality. Usually, for a project like this, I’d use Bootstrap to do this – it allows for an easy-to-modify, responsive page design. Instead, I made the page using the absolute tag, and some fun with the left, right, top, bottom, width and height tags.

I added a sidebar to the left, which was originally going to replicate the FR24 layout, but instead I opted to display the aircraft information in an infobox – something that the Google Maps API natively includes support for. At first, I parsed the VATSIM data page for the details of the network, and also cached it and ensured that the file only updated when the cache had expired – after two minutes. This gave me a list of the aircraft, ATC and pre-filed flightplans, which I then placed in an JSON-based API. I complemented the data, with pages for each of them, with simple jQuery drawing a table with the data inside it.

I drew the aircraft markers onto the map, which thankfully had a SVG-formatted drawing function, allowing me to draw the aircraft on the screen as lines, as opposed to tiny PNG files, as FR24 does. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any online copies of FIR maps, as VAT-SPY or other similar software use. In place of it, I wrote a script to convert the points found in VATSPY data updates, to JSON, so my script could query that.

Unfortunately, there are FIRs in VATSIM, where different sectors are designated by appending both the appropriate code and a hyphen (-) at the FIR name, and even worse, some sectors utilize non-standard codes, such as LON (as opposed to EGTT),  NY (as opposed to KZNY) and more. I had to write a script in the FIR-points finder, to automatically accept these differences. Furthermore, I also found that some sectors, such as KZNY/NY, utilize the hyphen separator, and occasionally breaks the drawing layout. That being said, given I never created the FIR points file, I can’t complain – it was only borrowed for testing purposes.

I was going to implement, into the left hand sidebar, a VATSIM voice-server client, where browser clients could listen to a frequency live. VATSIM use the Roger-Wilco voice protocol still, but with their recent announcement on changing the voice-codec, I’ll hold on that.

Native SIP calling on Android, as many phone numbers as you want!

It’s becoming a trend in the phone business to start producing dual-sim phones. Due to the fantastic quality of the iOS software, these dual-sim phone types only exist on Android and other platforms. However, if you’re not looking to upgrade to a phone that supports this, why not use the built-in SIP support, that Android comes with? (As of Android Gingerbread – 2.3)

SIP is a popular protocol used by VoIP (Voice over IP), providing telephonic communications throughout businesses and even third-world countries. For most non-residential calls you make (ie McDonalds, Tesco, your ISP), you’re probably being routed via a VoIP server, where SIP supports (or is being depended on) communication.

To setup SIP calling, it’s simple. Simply navigate to the “Phone” (or “Call”) section of your settings dialog, and select “Phone Account Settings”. From there you can setup SIP accounts, and even if you want to receive calls over the account.

It’s usually a cheaper method of adding a new phone number, and is a lot easier! If you wanted temporary phone numbers, many phone numbers, or just wanted a number to safely give out, this is the best option for you.

 


 

I compared a SIP provider, Yay.com, which I previously used for SIP Trunking (taking all traffic to your own server, thus making it cheaper). They charge £2.79 + 20% VAT per month, for a SIP account, which will enable you to choose from a range of different phone numbers, and area codes. This would mean, for an extra £33.48 a year, you could operate another phone line from your regular mobile phone – cheaper than an upgrade!

 

Similarly, if you didn’t rely on your home phone line for internet or other services, you could cancel it and route a local (or non-geographic) number to your phone – although they don’t have my area code already, they are able to transfer numbers, or otherwise I could use one of the three very similar numbers which have the same 5-digit prefix as my home number!

“United Airlines were not to blame”

United Airlines, although did not remove the passenger themselves, are still to blame partially for the result of what happened.
 
United Airlines, just like many other large-scale airlines, overbook their aircraft. This means, if they have 100 seats, they will sell, let’s say 120. They hope and have statistics to show that these 20 overbooked seats will be `no-shows` – the passengers will not arrive for the flight.
 
United Airlines, for this flight, were off with their prediction. The flight was full. The airline requested that these four people left the aircraft, in exchange for $800, a night in a hotel, and a flight the next day.
 
Usually, the boarding agent will refuse boarding to the last passengers who arrive, when the aircraft has had more passengers arrive than it can carry. In this situation, passengers were instead asked after they had boarded, meaning that it was potentially it was a last-minute decision.
 
The four new passengers, who were to take their seats were airline air-hosts, deadheading to their next flight. Deadheading being flying for free on your own company flights, to get to work.
 
Dr David Dao refused this offer, as he claimed he had to be in work the next day. As a doctor in a hospital, there is potential he had life-saving/important tasks the next day, which he simply couldn’t miss.
 
United Airlines, as opposed to accepting this and selecting another random customer, forced Dr Dao to leave the aircraft. When he continued to refuse, airport police were requested to step in, which is what gave the outcome to the video that has now been widely spread around.

Power gives you friends, right?

It’s quite often that those with power, either being at the top of the hierarchy or just vaguely high within it, get into a power-rush. It doesn’t really matter what the power is over, but it’ll always happen. Either you get challenge 25d when you’re latently late 20s, or your hot-headed teacher decides to keep you all in over your break because someone stepped slightly out of line, it’s always going to happen.

Many people associate power with the police forces, which in a way, is good and true. However, you don’t often hear of the good police-officers on the internet, within the news stories and gossip – you only hear the bad ones. You only head the ones who went a little psycho, who went on what most people would call, a power rush.

Where there is great power there is great responsibility, where there is less power there is less responsibility, and where there is no power there can, I think, be no responsibility.

Winston Churchill, A speech within the House of Commons, 1906

For those having the power rush, they feel in control. It’s blatantly obvious that they’re not new to power – it’s quite usual for those new to power to barely use it. It’s often that those who have a power rush forget their responsibility, and how there are usually people above to reprimand them. If there isn’t someone above to reprimand (or the person goes a rouge, and cannot be controlled by the superiors), then in the eyes of their subordinates, the organization becomes a dictatorship.

When power becomes a dictatorship, it can go two ways. Either the dictator realises what they’ve become, and attempts to exploit their close subordinates and those who they feel would be useful to the cause. On the other hand, the dictator doesn’t realise and accidentally exploits their close friends, who will usually be close in terms of the hierarchy.

You see these dictators on their pedestals, surrounded by the bayonets of their soldiers and the truncheons of their police … yet in their hearts there is unspoken fear. They are afraid of words and thoughts: words spoken abroad, thoughts stirring at home — all the more powerful because forbidden — terrify them. A little mouse of thought appears in the room, and even the mightiest potentates are thrown into panic.

Winston Churchill, “The lights are going out” – A speech broadcast to the United States from London, 1938.