Get me to the lawyer and start a revolution

Before I begin a rant that’s been building for a few weeks I came out of the house this morning to find the windscreen frozen for the first this year. I find autumn / winter more comfortable than the summer.. You know it’s going to be cold / windy / wet and so when it’s cold but crisp and still, it’s a pleasure, unlike the summer when every day tends to be a disappointment punctuated by the occasional day of sunshine which we dismiss as “well that’s summer then”.

Anyway, back to the rant. At work I frequently deal with contract negotiations with customers and suppliers. Whilst I am no lawyer, over the years I think I’ve learnt enough to be able to read a contract and pick out the key issues. It constantly amazes me how big contracts end up being to do some fairly simple things.

Recently every time I update a piece of software on my iPhone, iPad or computer I seem to be faced with a set of terms and conditions I must read. For years I’ve just clicked the box marked “whatever I don’t care” … Usually captioned “I agree”. Anyway, I decided I should take some responsibility and attempt to read what I was signing up to.

Firstly the practicalities, how am i supposed to read 54 pages of iOS terms and conditions set in 10pt font on my iPhone screen, it’s impossible, try it. There don’t appear to be any font controls or screen reader option, or an option to email me the T and Cs so I can print them. Maybe a future Guiness record could be “the fastest person to read and understand the iTunes terms and conditions”

Secondly even if by some inhuman feat I did manage to read them, I don’t have the original to hand so I can’t tell if the changes make sense are fair deviations from the original context.

Finally, I’m only human, you are presenting me with something it seems I’d need a Harvard law degree to understand.

The only conclusion I can come to is that this whole system is designed to bind me to terms and conditions I have no possibility of understanding .

I fully expect any day that two black suited FBI types will turn up at my door .. “Mr Sheen, can you come with us please”
“why”, I ask in terror ..
“you downloaded Jotter for iPad v1.3 and the terms and conditions allow us to claim your body for medical research”

On a more serious note. I fail to understand why these conditions need updating . Surely for the amount lawyers earn you can get them right in the first place, ah but then you’d be out of a job so that would be silly.

When I go into Sainsburys I am not presented with a document like the manga carta before I pick up a tin of beans stating that the manufacturer takes no responsibility for the tin of beans fitness for purpose , or that they may replace it at any time with something else without warning.. It would be like opening my beans and finding sweet corn.

So why does the technology industry think it can get away with this?, why do we let it.
There is no reason I can see why Apple should need different conditions to Sony or Microsoft.

We should fight for a standard set of consumer terms and conditions that have been created for us to protect us that we can trust. Technology suppliers should be made to sign-up to these conditions and have to adhere to them.

Probably the best example of us being locked into the media and tech companies in a way we didn’t expect is with the move to digital content I can no longer legally give my books or music to someone else.. They aren’t mine!!

I don’t know what the solution is , but when the revolution comes, count me in.


Just another day taming nature

A couple of weeks ago I got utterly fed up with my lawn mower, i might as well have been shaving the grass with my old razor. However rather than do what I usually do and throw it away  I thought I’d make an effort to be less disposable and get it sharpened. I took it into the local shop who were going to charge me £55 not far off the price of a new one. But I felt righteous I’d done my bit to save the planet and support local business.

On that note, another of my missions recently has been to use local shops I don’t like the over dominance of Tesco’s and the rest so my bit is to put money into the local economy… but come on guys, you don’t half make it difficult. From a local shop I expect a level of service I don’t get from a large chain .. because its your business and you value my custom, well at least that’s what I thought. Enquiring of the lawn mower man when I could expect to collect my expertly sharpened Qualcast 32,  I felt like I’d asked if I could sleep with is wife, not before next Friday was the grudging response (to collect the machine, not his wife by the way just in case you were confused). I had two other experiences on the same day that left me thinking its no wonder the local high street is dying and being replaced with endless coffee bars and pointless nail salons.

The Mountfield Beast


Left without a lawn mower for an indefinite period I asked my parents if I could borrow theirs. They are fortunate to have a large garden and so have invested in not one but two Mountfield mowers. Not being a particular aficionado of lawn mowers (I am sure there is a club somewhere) I wasn’t really sure what I was borrowing.

I feel like I’ve been riding a push bike and some one has just given me a Ferrari .

This genius of British engineering (well I am assuming it is) has an engine and petrol and a string you pull to start it (which works first time). and just eats grass for breakfast. If I was Jeremy Clarkson I’d be expounding the speed, grip, the feel of the throttle as you open it up and way turns my shabby patch of grass into Lords Cricket Ground.

10 minutes later the faint aroma of gasoline fumes dissipating from the garden , I feel like a true man  I’ve conquered nature with a machine. I sit back, admiring the neatly trimmed grass, sipping my coffee. If I hadn’t quit I’d be smoking a cigarette.

I genuinely hope the lawn mower shop never rings me, I’ll save £55 and I can hang onto the beast as long as possible.