MacBook Pro cannot see WiFi router – change wifi channel

Apple MacBook Pros stacked to show size comparison.  Neat, aren't they?
Apple MacBook Pros stacked to show size comparison. Neat, aren’t they?

I have more kit than you can shake a stick at – MacPro, iPad, iPod Touch, a couple of Sony tablets, an HP laptop, iMac – all of which have no problem connecting to my Wifi network (Zyxel router).  Add to that list any visitors’ equipment and you have a wide portfolio of machines that function seamlessly with the network.

So why on earth wouldn’t my early-2011 MacBook Pro always see the network?  It had no problem seeing the fifteen other networks in my building and the restaurant in the basement, and sometimes it would see my router, but 95% of the time it just wouldn’t appear in the network list.

I had hoped that upgrading the OS from Lion through Mountain Lion and Mavericks to Yosemite would sort it out, but sadly not.  System diagnostics showed everything hunky dory.

Searching t’internet produced the usual troubleshooting guides such as that at http://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202068 but they were all generic and didn’t address the specific issue with the MacBook Pro.  Why the problem with that specific machine and no other?

Solution

The answer was, it turned out, simple.  Log on to the router as administrator and change the wifi channel.  This is often recommended for slow or dropping connections – it avoids interference between routers using the same channel.  It solved my problem, anyway.  The MacBook Pro sees the router 100% of the time (so far) and I face no problem with any of my other kit.

It doesn’t explain why that particular machine had a problem, mind.

Christmas delivery problems start early – again

The world descends further into a delusional madness of acquisition and consumption that once came at Christmas but now is promoted by such artifices as ‘Black Friday‘ and ‘Cyber Monday’.

Yodel, the UK’s second largest home delivery company (only Royal Mail is bigger) has told its customers’ customers that their deliveries are going to be late.  In an interesting piece of sophistry their web site tells us, reassuringly, that, contrary to reports, deliveries are not suspended.  It’s only collections from the supplier that are suspended.  Of course, if the product isn’t collected the delivery cannot be made, but I’m sure someone falls for that.

Of course this reflects a real challenge that delivery networks regularly face.  The networks are designed with finite capacity and flexibility comes from throwing additional resource at the problem.  But sizing the network is the challenge. and it has been around at least since commuter rail operations were designed.  Size for the peak and you’ll have lots of spare capacity sitting around doing nothing for extended periods of time; size for the average and when the peak comes you can’t handle it.

That is the reason that automation (of which there is surprisingly little in the logistics business and which has a poor reputation) works best in steady and predictable businesses.

The problem is exacerbated by social changes and retail developments.  We now want it all and we want it now.  Retailers like Amazon promise very high service levels but do little to educate consumers’ expectations.  And the blame, of course (and consequent bad press), is always laid at the feet of the logistics operator, not the retailer whose procurement people have driven the sourcing.

Royal Mail gets a great deal of stick, much of it deserved, but it does deserve credit for the service it provides – a universal service – at this time of year.

Solved! The mysterious case of page 36 of the November 2014 Lufthansa magazine

WARNING – unsuitable for those of a nervous disposition

In an earlier post I drew attention to the peculiar censorship of page 36 of Lufthansa’s November in-flight magazine.  After literally minutes of detailed research I am now able to reveal – exclusively – the origin of the fuss.

Most of the copies I encountered after boarding a flight had the corner of the page cut off and removed, but on a couple of occasions paper had been stuck over the offending image.  Say what you will about the Germans, but they sure know how to source sticky glue.  Nonetheless, twenty minutes with a sharp knife and patience enabled me to reveal the picture that caused all the fuss.

Come hither cakes, apparently
Come hither cakes, apparently

Despite my best efforts I was still unable to overcome Lufthansa’s special glue fully, but I think there is enough detail there to see the origin of the issue.

What is most disappointing is that someone somewhere decided that this picture was so shocking and offensive that it merited such drastic action.  Sense of humour failure, sadly.

LG 34UM95 monitor USB hub draws too much power; use Thunderbolt

Simple, robust and bloody fast:  Apple Thunderbolt cable
Simple, robust and bloody fast: Apple Thunderbolt cable

When I started using my LG 34UM95 monitor it was effectively a secondary display, my principal one being an Apple Thunderbolt 27”.  I have been sufficiently pleased with the LG to promote it to a primary role to make use of all that glorious screen real estate.  I used the supplied HDMI cable to connect monitor and computer.

The LG provides three USB ports (one 3.0, two 2.0) and I not unreasonably wanted to connect my keyboard (why Apple doesn’t offer a wireless keyboard with numeric keypad is beyond me) and Apple DVD drive using the LG’s ports.  That’s when the problem started.

I connected one of the Mac Pro’s USB ports to the LG’s USB up port, but my keyboard just would not work through the LG and after a short while I observed a dialogue advising me that a USB device was drawing too much power.

The answer was simple, though.  I dived off to my friendly Apple supplier and got a Thunderbolt cable.  I connected up and bingo, USB ports all working, monitor and Thunderbolt connection recognised and automatically configured.

Mind you, I thought thirty-five quid for a 2 m cable was a bit steep, but Thunderbolt cables are not exactly ubiquitous.  Imagine my surprise when I saw on the Apple Store an optical Thunderbolt cable at the bargain price of just a quid short of a grand.

A grand's worth of optic fibre:  Corning Thunderbolt cable
A grand’s worth of optic fibre: Corning Thunderbolt cable

That’s right, £999.  It is 60 m of the finest optical connection, to be fair, but I would love to know how many of those get sold each week.

The mysterious case of page 36 of Lufthansa Magazin November 2014

The November 2014 edition of Lufthansa Magazin
The November 2014 edition of Lufthansa Magazin

If you fly with Lufthansa during November take a look at pages 35 and 36 of the in-flight magazine.  As you browse through there’s an interesting article on Jeju island, where South Korean lovers go for romance and fun.  Curiously, though, the top left hand corner of page 36 is likely to have been removed, not by an interested passenger but by Lufthansa themselves.  Look at the online pdf or App version and you’ll see that an image has been edited out:

Lufthansa Magazin November 2014 page 36;  see that missing image?
Lufthansa Magazin November 2014 page 36; see that missing image?

Now why should Lufthansa go to such trouble?  The answer lies in the caption that has been left: ‘Come hither cakes at Love Land’.  On one flight my copy of the magazine had the picture not removed but covered with a very sticky (and difficult to remove) piece of paper.  I gingerly peeled back the censor’s attempt to protect my enquiring mind.  I now know that a ‘come hither cake’ (of which I had not previously heard) is.

The offending image is of a number of items (cakes, presumably) in the very lifelike shape of exceptionally healthy gentlemen’s wedding tackle!

Advertising logistics services on television – when it might work

TNT tries to advertise itself out of trouble, tastefully
TNT tries to advertise itself out of trouble, tastefully

One does not see logistics advertising outside the trade press very often.  Logistics is mainly a business-to-business industry and a television audience is dominated by consumers, and it’s that audience for which one pays; that can’t be cost-effective, although perhaps specialist channels such as Bloomberg might make sense.

But I suppose in the express/parcels business it makes more sense because there is a much greater consumer component.

I thought of this after I saw what I think is a good advert for TNT.  The amusing part is at 0:26 when the TNT people run past a yellow lorry, stuck in traffic and with a less-than-svelte driver swigging his coffee and stunned at TNT’s performance.

Now who can this guy represent?
Now who can this guy represent?

Now who can that lorry represent?  The yellow is a little too pale, I suspect.  Hilarious.

I tried (but failed) to find an advert I saw in the US about ten years ago, which showed a van (Fedex or UPS, I can’t recall which) racing down a road only to be cut off at a level crossing by a long DHL cargo train.  But I did come across a different one.  The tag line?  There’s a new face in domestic shipping – DHL.  Well there was…

UPS of course had a campaign a few years ago (2011?) that actually mentioned the L-word.  That’s a little too twee for me.  I like the ones that have a pop at the opposition.  Much more interesting.

But all this advertising must be dwarfed by DHL’s sponsorship budget.  The mass of yellow-and-red at Formula 1 races is astonishing.

Is it possible that DHL sponsors Manchester United in some way?
Is it possible that DHL sponsors Manchester United in some way?

I am no marketing expert and I am sure DHL gets huge benefit, especially in Asia, from its sponsorship of Manchester United.  Moreover any publicity is good publicity, I understand, and I am sure that the saturated presence of the logo at matches outweighs any negative emotions that stir in supporters of other clubs, for many of whom ‘anyone but Man U’ is a veritable mantra.

The CEVA Story – Part One – Origins and Establishment

CEVA Logistics logoCeva is undoubtedly one of the world’s leading logistics businesses but its history is one of the more unusual and, perhaps, controversial.  It is the largest private equity-owned 3PL and in 2013 it had to pull its planned IPO.  Its story also illustrates some of the strategic challenges European mail businesses face on deregulation and privatisation, and the mistakes that followed.  In this first article we look at the origins of the business.  Subsequent pieces will discuss its performance and the consequences of the failed IPO.

Background

Towards the end of the last century, as free market capitalism took firm hold in the developed world, a couple of themes started to have significant impact on the logistics industry.  The ideological idea was the Thatcherite belief of the evil of public ownership of businesses.  The economic trend was globalisation, which fundamentally changed the supply chain flows that logistics companies were looking to satisfy.

This isn’t the time or place to discuss public ownership but the trend to privatisation had long-term effects on the logistics industry.  In the 1980s the major national postal services were parts of large, state-owned organisations, the scope of which encompassed physical distribution, telecommunications and sometimes even banking services.  As a prelude to privatisation these were broken up.  For example:

  • In the UK the telecommunications arm was split off from the Post Office (previously the GPO, or General Post Office) as British Telecommunications in 1981.
  • Deutsche Bundespost was broken up into Deutsche Post, Deutsche Telekom and Deutsche Postbank in 1995 (Deutsche Bundespost had earlier been restructured on similar divisional line is 1989).
  • In the Netherlands Koninklijke PTT Nederland (where PTT stands for Posterijen, Telegrafie en Telefonie) ultimately became the telecommunications company KPN after TPG was demerged in 1998. TPG eventually became PostNL in 2011.

It is with this last example, the Dutch postal service, that our interest lies, because if it hadn’t been for this environment, Ceva probably wouldn’t exist.

Response of the mail businesses to privatisation and globalisation

In the UK the Post Office and Royal Mail were considered such national treasures that they were retained in public ownership (alternative view: they were basket cases of inefficiency, poor management and union-encouraged poor practices) and while the banking business (Girobank) was sold in 1990, the Post Office remains entirely in state hands.  Royal Mail was part-privatised in 2014.

By contrast our two other examples embraced the challenges of the fast-changing world and sought to develop the scope and size of their core mail businesses to encompass parcels distribution and broader logistics activities.  That’s a strategy that is likely to take deep pockets, as Deutsche Post has shown.

The Dutch Post Office buys a business

I like to support my many assertions with evidence where I can, but my access to archives and time to research are limited.  I can’t find financial statements for TPG prior to 2005, but I did find the following undated quote on encyclopaedia.com:

TNT Post Group’s mission is to achieve a recognized world leadership position in its three business areas—mail, express, and logistics—based on a strong market position in Europe.
“TNT Post Group N.V.” International Directory of Company Histories. 1999. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Oct. 2014 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

(TPG changed its name to TNT in 2005, so it clearly predates that, but TPG’s actions in 2005 make that obvious (see below)).

That mission statement is clearly consistent with the acquisition by KPN of TNT for AUS$ 2 bn (at the time about € 1.3 bn) in 1996.  The Dutch Post Office had decided to build a logistics business.

TNTLogo

TNT had been founded in Australia in 1946. It was listed on the Sydney Stock Exchange in 1961.  In the 1980s its focus was on growth in Europe. Although it did have logistics activities it was known principally as a parcels business.

After its 1996 acquisition by KPN a number of further businesses were bought and its air and road networks were expanded. In 1998 the mail, express and logistics business was demerged as TNT Post Group (’TPG’), becoming TNT NV in 2005.

A change of tack

Having a professed strategy of building ‘a … world leadership position in … mail, express and logistics’ (my emphasis) in December 2005 TPG announced a volte face and that it was looking to dispose of its logistics business.  The explanation given was that TPG was ‘successful at designing, implementing and running delivery network businesses. This is our core competency, lies at the heart of our business going forward, and offers us a sustainable competitive advantage and very compelling growth opportunities’ and the company would ‘focus on networks’.  It is possible, though, that this self-perception was influenced by the recognition of the enormous cost of trying to build world leadership in three markets.  Even Deutsche Post, with all its financial might, failed to break into the US express market, despite pouring billions of Euros down the proverbial t.

The logistics business at that point had revenues of € 3.4 bn.  TPG would retain the freight management business (turnover about € 800 mn) and certain logistics activities such as spare parts logistics, where there was clear synergy with the express business.

To complete the story of the Dutch Post Office’s dalliance with business other than mail, in May 2011 the TNT Express business was demerged and the mail business was rebranded PostNL.  PostNL retained 29.9% of TNT’s equity.  TNT has had an unhappy time as an independent company and was of course the subject of a 2012 bid from UPS which was stopped by the EU.

The birth of Ceva

TNT’s logistics business was sold in August 2006 for € 1.5 bn to Apollo Management LP, a private equity fund.  In December of that year the business was rebranded as CEVA Logistics.

EGL logo

In August 2007 Apollo bought EGL, a US-based freight forwarder which had been founded in 1984 and was listed on NASDAQ, and combined it with the TNT logistics business in CEVA.

Next: how the new company looked, and how it performed.

LG 34UM95 34″ 21:9 Ultrawide monitor user review

LG’s 34UM95 34″ monitor is perhaps the first affordable ultra-wide screen monitor that provides sufficient display space to be a realistic single display alternative for users that until now have had to use two screens.  This non-technical review and comparison with Apple’s Thunderbolt display is based on six weeks’ general use with a Mac Pro.

When I finally took delivery of my new Mac Pro in June 2014 I naturally wanted to exploit its capabilities to the full.  When it came to monitors that pointed me towards a 4K monitor, but even my capacious wallet hesitated at the three grand (£3,000 for those unfamiliar with the vernacular) a Sharp 4K monitor would set me back.

So an Apple Thunderbolt display it was, and a wait for the monitor market to develop.  I was pretty happy with the Apple display.  The quality is superb, resolution is 2,560 x 1,440 and it’s a delight to use.

When the LG 34UM95 34″ 21:9 Ultrawide monitor was announced I was intrigued.  It promised the same vertical resolution but an additional 34% of horizontal real estate, giving 3,440 x 1,440 resolution (hence the 21:9 ratio).  So when it became available here in Europe I ordered one, sight unseen.

LG 34UM95 v Apple Thunderbolt display screen size comparison - in reality the LG feels even bigger
LG 34UM95 v Apple Thunderbolt display screen size comparison – in reality the LG feels even bigger

Setting it up

A piece of cake.  It took fifteen minutes.  The instructions stress not squeezing the screen and taking care when attaching the stand.  The monitor ships with an HDMI cable so I used that to connect it to the Mac Pro (a Displayport cable was also supplied).  I would prefer Thunderbolt and when I get round to buying such a cable I will probably change.  The power supply is a moderately large external lump.  I fired up the Mac Pro and away we went.  Plug-and-play, just like Apple kit.

Settings are controlled by an inconspicuous joystick underneath the middle of the screen.  It’s simple to use.

For such a large item and box the monitor is remarkably light.  Because of its width the box could do with a handle on the top, rather than the two handles in the end faces, but I got the monitor back home by public transport with no problem or inconvenience.

Appearance

LG 34UM95 Ultrawide monitor showing Excel spreadsheet - big enough for the dullest of bean counters
LG 34UM95 Ultrawide monitor showing Excel spreadsheet – big enough for the dullest of bean counters

Its size makes the monitor an impressive piece of equipment, but next to the Apple display (or a 27” iMac) it lacks a certain quality.  The bezel is about half the width of the Thunderbolt display (the latter is now quite an old design, appearing first in 2011), which is nice.  The stand is fine and helps to give the impression that the screen floats in mid-air, but it is plastic compared with the Apple display’s metal stand.  The front is edged with a thin silver surround, but it is chrome-effect plastic, not metal.  Mind you, since it costs about the same as the Apple yet is much bigger, these are small compromises, provided performance is good.

Performance

I’m not using the display for print-quality image manipulation and others give detailed technical analysis of colour calibration and the like.  I use it for monster spreadsheets and to have multiple windows open without overlapping.  The highest praise I can give is that the quality matches that of the Apple monitor.  I am unable to distinguish between them and I run them side-by-side.

The split screen software does what you would expect; it splits the display into multiple screens (up to four).  Having installed it I don’t find any compelling need to use it with just my Mac Pro.  You can even connect two different sources (a Mac and a Blu-ray player, for example) which is cool.

The screen’s height (the vertical visible display dimension) matches that of the Apple monitor.  Using both together, next to each other, is an excellent experience.  The mouse cursor moves effortlessly between the two screens.

Connectivity

The monitor has more inputs and outputs than you can shake a stick at:  two HDMI, one Displayport, two Thunderbolt, one USB up, three USB in, Headphones out.

From left
More connectivity than you can shake a stick at; power cable on the left, HDMI to its right
Extract from LG 34UM95 manual showing ports
Extract from LG 34UM95 manual showing ports

Conclusion

The LG 34UM95 is a first-class monitor with a display of a quality similar to that of Apple’s Thunderbolt display, yet provides 34% more screen space at identical resolution at a similar price.  For users that need or are contemplating a two-monitor solution it’s a compelling answer.  It makes Apple’s display look even more overpriced than before.

Magnetic Charging Dock DK39 For Xperia™ Z2 Tablet review

I have mentioned elsewhere what I perceive to be the fragility of the port covers on the excellent Sony Experia Z2 tablet.  Consequently I was keen to get hold of the Sony charging dock that utilises the specialised dock connector; that doesn’t require any delicate covers to be opened.

Sony Xperia Z2 tablet on DK39 Magnetic Charging Dock
Sony Xperia Z2 tablet on DK39 Magnetic Charging Dock

So when the dock (Magnetic Charging Dock DK39) became available (it wasn’t available at the tablet’s launch) I was straight in.  Getting hold of it in Europe was a pain (I was living in a country not served by the Sony online shop and they wouldn’t ship from the UK) but eventually I got one sent over from London.

It is shown at the time of writing at £39.99 in the Sony online shop.  To say I was underwhelmed is an understatement.  The dock is neat and the magnetic alignment works well but for the thick end of £40 I expected a pretty substantial piece of kit.  It didn’t even come with a cable, let alone a power supply.  Yes, I know, read the specifications.

Forty quid's worth of plastic from Sony
Forty quid’s worth of plastic from Sony

The dock works very well, but forty quid for two pieces of plastic and a little socketry that needs my micro-USB cable and charger is having a laugh.

Verdict:  Neat and functional, but at this price a rip-off.

More women in logistics

As I spent literally seconds trawling the internet following my earlier article on the under-representation of women at senior level in the industry, I found a UK-based organisation addressing exactly this issue.

Somewhat unimaginatively but very effectively they are called Women in Logistics UK.

Further meriting mention is the Women in Logistics and Transport initiative of the International side of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport.  Take a gander here.

I have tried but failed to find similar bodies in France and Germany, but that could well be because my knowledge of French and German is atrocious.  If you are able to share contacts, please email me.  My name is Joe and my address is that, followed by the usual symbol for at, then the domain name of this site.  Sorry to be so convoluted about the address, but the amount of spam flying around is hard to believe.