Sunday, December 23, 2007

Never again

If you wondered why this blog had gone quiet, it's because our family moved house. And, like everyone else who's not a habitual house mover, we underestimated the task. How two adults and one child can accumulate 120 cartons of 'stuff', in addition to furniture, bikes and the rest, is beyond me. We thought we had our belongings fairly well pruned down, but it seems not!

Anyway, we moved on Wednesday and are about 60% through the unpacking process. There goes Christmas!

Tip no. 1: Don't move house. Ever.
Tip no. 2: If you absolutely have to, throw out your junk before you move. And then go through your stuff again and give away all the charity shop items before, etc.
Repeat and rinse! You won't regret it come moving day...

Friday, December 14, 2007

Pleo, Pleo, Pleo!


OK, so £250 (or $350 in the USA) is a huge amount to spend on a toy, but Pleo is halfway from toy to pet. And a pet that won't moult, poo or cost a fortune down the vets. Or eat you out of house and home.

Pleo is a robotic dinsoaur and I present my Pleo review here. Summary, cute, moderately cuddly and not that great a walker. 8-)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Seeing atoms

Ever wanted to actually 'see' atoms? Well, now you can, thanks to the world's first "Transmission Electron Aberration-corrected Microscope". Below, you're looking at Germanium atoms. Wow. Just wow.


YouTube ads? Whatever next?

Apparently, YouTube video ads are now linked in through Google AdSense. I'm really not sure if I can get my head round what will be served up, so consider this an experiment. Here we go....

Hmm... no videos found? Maybe it's still early days. I think the idea of video ads is OK, but I'm a little sceptical about how much page space the player is going to take up - web pages should be about their primary content, not the ads!

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Sequel Strikes Back!

What have Star Wars, the Apple iPhone and Brain Training for the Nintendo DS got in common?

They all buck the rule that sequels suck. Star Wars 2 (or 5 if you're counting George Lucas style) - "The Empire Strikes Back" was arguably the best of the Star Wars movies, while the Apple iPhone v2 has yet to be formally announced but you can bet your last cotton-pickin' dollar that it's going to be vastly better featured than the original.

And now we have More Brain Training on the Nintendo DS and it's not just better than the original, it's light years better. To have gone from average to outstanding in one version jump is very impressive. Maybe they should have called it 'Much Much More Brain Training'?


Midwinter sunshine

Now this is what I like to see - it's midwinter in the UK and, after weeks of rain and wind, we get this as the week's forecast:



Who cares about the cold, it's THE SUN, BABY!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

THIS is why I like Google

So many reasons why Google are so great. Superb web searching and general time saving. Great online tools that save you having to worry about local apps. Free spam-free email with unlimited storage, the list goes on and on.

But THIS is why Google are so great. Using their might to help save the earth. http://blogs.business2.com/greenwombat/2007/11/googles-green-p.html

Investing 100s of millions of dollars, etc. I know they're not the only green company out here, but this sure is one more reason why I love Google!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Rhydian a star and X Factor a foregone conclusion - again

Maybe it's the fact that there's simply no competition, but TV's X Factor is again a one horse race, and it's been obvious since show 2 of the 10 live finals. Opera-trained Rhydian has been quite stunning, with stage craft, a perfect voice and (seemingly) a humble (yet confident) personality. Add it all up and you get something like this:



Quite mesmerising, considering that this was his second performance on a live TV stage ever.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Value Added Tax?

Who does the UK government think it's kidding with the name VAT? Yes, I know it's been around for years, but the name VAT stands for 'Value Added Tax'. Err... adding value on things I buy by making them more expensive? Sounds like a lot worse value to me...

At least the Americans and many other countries have the honesty to call it what it is: a sales tax.

Now, why on earth did I think of this criticism of the UK government when there's the whole juicy missing 25 million personal Id records saga? Can't think.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Jaw droppingly cool - Earth rise, Earth set

This is just so incredibly cool/awesome. The Japanese have stuck a satellite in orbit around the moon, and have released video showing Earth rise and Earth set. The mission arrived at the Moon on 18 October, when it was inserted into orbit at an altitude of roughly 100km.

You can watch the Earth rise here, and set here. And yes, the little blue dot in the centre of the screen is OUR ENTIRE PLANET!

Very humbling in every respect, physical and spiritual....

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Review: The PURE Move portable DAB radio


Now a really decent portable DAB radio has been something my wife and I have been after for ages. The existing hardware was either too big and heavy or had too small a battery life - but the PURE Move hits the sweet spot in many ways.

DAB radios are essentially portable computers and thus are real battery drainers. But PURE have solved the issue by including an internal rechargeable battery, phone style, so no more buying packs of AAA cells and no more lugging around huge mains DAB units. And life on a single charge is excellent, many hours, so this is the best of both worlds.


Build quality on the move is great, with a brushed aluminium faceplate and a rubberised back, with a fold out plastic stand to keep the unit at the right playing angle. There are no surprises in the main controls, which look tacky and plasticky but which work very well.

DAB reception's very good as well, better than on some mains radios and our biggest complaint by far was the audio quality over the built in loudspeaker. OK fro talk stations, switching to a music station reveals the cheap speaker, with no bass and plenty of middle and treble.

Still, a great DAB radio for anyone wanting talk and news stations!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Allow longer for sleep and avoid cancer?

I'm fascinated by the process of cell replication gone wrong, that is cancer. And I'm convinced that the human body should be able to work better than it does in avoiding malignant growths of rogue cells. And one of my theories has to do with sleep, when I figure that much of the body's repair and reproductive work goes on.

So I was fascinated to read this article from 2003, including the following paras:

"The first involves a hormone called melatonin, which the brain churns out during sleep. Melatonin belongs to a class of compounds called anti-oxidants that mop up damaging free-radical compounds. With a disrupted circadian rhythm, the body produces less melatonin and the cell's DNA may be more prone to cancer-causing mutations.

The second link lies with a hormone called cortisol, which normally reaches peak levels at dawn then declines throughout the day. Cortisol is one of many hormones that help regulate immune system activity, including the activity of a group of immune cells called natural-killer cells that help the body battle cancer. "

So, don't short change your body by burning the candle at both ends. Allow enough time for sleep and make sure it's quality sleep. You'll do yourself a big favour!

My TV show chugs along!

Wow. I can't believe I'm up to programme 47 of my Smartphones Show. Viewings per month peaked during the summer at around 90,000, which I'm over the moon about.

And, since I'm curious as to how well it'll embed in a blog post here:

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Matrix: Just how DID they do that?

Prompted to go back and revisit the Matrix trilogy of films on DVD, I'm still in awe of the special effects in the final movie, Revolutions. Yes, the story could have done with a little pruning in places, but the sheer scale of the battle scenes is ENORMOUS. With hundreds of sentinels, a giant drill and thousands of humans (both real and CGI) all on screen at once and all mixed in with explosions and dirt and grit and dust and all looking incredibly real, I just can't conceive of how they managed to create it, even with the fastest computers in the world and the best programmers. Amazing. Ditto for some of the machine city scenes near the end of the film. If you've never watched the Matrix trilogy then where have you been? Go rent or buy it now!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Vista is growing on me...

I'm not totally, totally sold on Microsoft's vista yet, but I have to say that, despite the eye candy and despite the wierd way in which some things happen (disappearing 'recently-used' app shortcuts, anyone?), some of its technology does make things easier. The file indexing got turned back on and, after its initial hammering of my disk, seems to have settled down and made things faster and better. The way I can plug in almost any device and the drivers get installed invisibly and automatically is wonderful. And innovations like ReadyBoost, using a USB flash drive as a fast 'disk cache' help on my laptop to keep the main RAM running smoothly.

The biggest surprise was that all my applications from my XP era have installed and worked well, with only a very few minor problems.

It's still early days, but the tipping point is upon me and I suspect it'll be Vista most of the way home from here.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Gah! Why do they keep changing the clocks?

Twice a year, most countries in the world change all their clocks and confuse everybody. Why???? There are arguments about wanting to let people play cricket and tennis further into the summer evenings, but surely there are as many people with young families, cursing the lighter evenings because their little ones don't think it's night time and don't want to go to sleep?

So, we have this ridiculous situation where people turn up an hour early or an hour late for everything for up to a day, plus we have to change most of the clocks on most of our appliances, risk upsetting computer software and generally endure chaos. In the name of what, exactly? Sheer madness.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Vista = The Matrix?

Watching The Matrix Reloaded yesterday in the same week as I acquired a Windows Vista laptop was slightly surreal. After 4 days battle against 'helper' services and programs whose main purpose was to swallow processor cycles and RAM and generally get in the way, it was amusing to hear the 'Oracle' talking about programs that are written to do this and that and generally not be noticed. I'm sure Microsoft intended most Vista services to not be noticed, but in the real world on less than cutting edge hardware the constant hard disk access and processor/RAM hit is very noticeable.

And now I've ended up with a Vista laptop that's configured like XP and runs only 20% or slow slower. Why didn't I get a XP-running laptop in the first place? Because you can't buy these for love nor money.... Sigh.

On the bright side, Vista's device discovery and driver installation has been great. No printer driver CDs or trying to find CDs for every other accessory acquired in the last few years - everything was recognised immediately and silently installed. Pretty cool and how computers are supposed to work....

Friday, October 19, 2007

The way music SHOULD be bought in 2007

Like thousands of others, I've just paid a few pounds to download the new Radiohead album directly from the band at their In Rainbows site. Essentially they leave it up to you, the listener/fan to set the price for the music. Some people will opt to pay £2, some £5, some £10 perhaps. But the point is that it ALL goes to the band themselves. No record label, no PR agencies, no shops with pile carpets, no poster campaigns to fund, just music direct to the fans and with almost no overheads.

Isn't that the way bands SHOULD distribute their music in this Internet age?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

iPhone hacks - why do the hackers bother?

Re: the latest iPhone hack. It's a serious question. I know you're going to say "Because they can, and to show that they're really cool and clever".

But Apple can update all iPhones remotely and there's certainly no shortage of functionality that they err... haven't got round to implementing yet. So with every update they're going to close the loopholes and exploits used by the current generation of hacks. And so the cycle will continue.

In the meantime, all the hackers have got to show for their efforts are a few bricked iPhones and lots of geek kudos and glory - maybe that's enough for them?

If you're a regular iPhone user, of course, just stay well away. Why risk bricking your iPhone for the chance to play with a few marginal third party applications for a few weeks until Apple closes the loop again?

Monday, October 08, 2007

Amplify that iPhone! Or just buy an N95...

Exemplary sound quality over its speakers is not an Apple iPhone trait, alas. But it seems that you can now build your own iPhone amplifier in 10 seconds and just for a few pence!

Or just buy a Nokia N95 of course, and have really loud stereo speakers. Oh, and games, extra apps, 5mp camera, DVD video recording, TV out, etc.

Don't strikes usually hurt the strikers more in the long run?

OK, so I'm probably hopelessly naive, but taking an overview of strikes (thinking of the Royal Mail here), isn't it usually counter productive in the long run? OK, a one day strike is a useful tool to get management's attention over something, but going on strike for, say, 2 weeks, can only have the effect of hugely harming the company's business, making it less profitable and less trustworthy to customers, making it more likely that management will have to cut jobs and restrict pay raises?

No company has infinite resources, so strikes do seem to be to be 'cutting off your nose to spite your face'. And an anachronism in 2007. What do you think?

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Pogue reviews the One Laptop Per Child

Such a cool device, optimised for countries with blinding sunlight, plenty of dust and infrequent power. Here's David Pogue's review - he's as impressed as I am. If you're in the USA this November, get one for yourself and the company gives another one to a poor child in the Third World.

Friday, September 28, 2007

DRM? Exactly

Interesting to see ex-Microsofter Johansson ditching a DRM-heavy Microsoft app in favour of a non-Windows DRM-free solution for playing back multimedia. Especially interesting since I'd been struggling to get anywhere with Microsoft Office 2007's stupid approach to first 'activation' of its own trial version and then unfriendly handling of legacy Office 2003 files. After my teacher wife and I had torn our hair out in frustration, I simply installed the free OpenOffice 2.3 and peace was restored, with files being opened and saved properly - and we also knew where to find most of the functions rather than playing the new Office 2007 guessing game.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Crazy, crazy music purchasing

And so yet another music service is to close (Virgin Digital), with customers being locked out of re-downloading music they've already paid for. Why do consumers put up with this? Just say no to DRM. Buy CDs and then keep them on your shelf, ripping them in iTunes or Media Player when you want to any portable device and carry on doing so for free until the end of time....

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Shorts

Well, that just about sums up the summer we've had (or rather haven't) in the UK. Looking down at my shorts next to the bed, I realised that I'd only worn them twice in the whole season. Surely, surely, this has to be the coolest and wettest summer since records began?
Steve Litchfield
(sent from a mobile device)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Online office - now we're cooking!

Great to see Google release the third component of their free online Office Suite - try it here. In my test, it opened a large test Powerpoint presentation perfectly:





With Google also giving away StarOffice, and with OpenOffice itself, all free, who on earth wants to pay Microsoft hundreds of dollars/pounds any longer for their bloated Office suite?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Telling it like it is

Russ Beattie is a man I've always liked for telling it like it is. In other words, telling the absolute truth and not minding if it offends some mega-corporation. In this case, saying what an absolute crock the Microsoft Zune is. Yes, it's competent, but it doesn't sparkle, it doesn't attract, it doesn't glow, unlike the stellar and constantly evolving opposition from Apple (and now the likes of Nokia). Just scrap the Zune, Microsoft, and admit you were wrong again.

While you're on his blog, here's a great tip about reading web pages with silly colour schemes (you know, pink on dark pink, etc)...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Hooray! IBM bolsters free OpenOffice

Heartening news to hear that the one OpenOffice-dismmissing IBM has signed up to help develop OpenOffice. I've always been a fan of OO and have hated the way Microsoft make it so expensive for ordinary folk to do basic word processing and spreadsheets and with horrendous activation schemes. And now OO looks set to go from strength to strength.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Create an account? You must be joking!

I've lost count of the number of commercial sites I've visited, upon which I want to purchase something simple, something small - and, when I get to fill in my credit card details, they also want me to create an account on their system, complete with user name, password, full address (again) and so on. Look, I just want to buy something, OK, I won't be coming back, don't take it personally, it's just that you've only got the one thing I want. So WHY DO I HAVE TO CREATE AN ACCOUNT? And have to remember (/write-down and keep safe) one MORE username and password. Usually, I just turn back at this point and go to another site, if possible, which doesn't have the same system.

What sparked this off? I wanted to use a particular piece of royalty-free ambient music in my video podcast, so I clicked through the relevant site to the 'Ask us for a quote' section. All I wanted was a price, like "$10" or "$100". Instead I was presented with a five step 'Create an account' dialog. Guess which royalty free music site won't be seeing my money......

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Animated effects

Thr first, the absolute first thing I do when receiving a new Windows PC is to pop into Control panel and turn all the blasted effects, animations and curved-cornered windows off. The end result is something quite a bit faster, as the processor hasn't got to keep recalculating all the visual eye candy. But Windows XP has got nothing on its successor Vista, or even the new OS inside the Apple iMac. DOES EVERY SINGLE ACTION HAVE TO BE ACCOMPANIED BY RIPPLES, SWOOSHES AND TV-LIKE FADES? I think not. Is it just me? Can't information on a computer screen just appear and not have to be faed in or faded out? Maybe I really am getting old. This is computing for toddlers.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Family Days Out - good value?

After another year's annual holiday, in which we experienced on successive days how good and how bad attractions can be, I thought I'd start to put together mini-reviews of many of the family attractions in the UK. If you've been on a day out somewhere with your family and can add to the site, please get in touch.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Time to get out and get rocking!

I don't often crawl out from under my rock and stick my head up to be shot at, but if you fancy coming along to say hello or to enjoy what'll hopefully be a good night of original music, note that Shed Music (couple of our videos here), in which I'm 'guitar and vocals', is playing the 3Bs in Reading on October 17th, we're starting to play at 9pm. Go on, come along, buy some beer and make the landlord a happy man....

Friday, August 17, 2007

Remakes? Why do they bother?

I've seen about 20 remakes of famous movies in the last 10 years. And 19 of them have been utter rubbish compared to the original. "The Thomas Crown Affair" was the only improvement, in case you were wondering. And now comes in news that "Enter the Dragon" is being remade. Err.... guys, Bruce Lee WAS the film. And he's dead. You won't get even 10% of the film's attraction without him. What a waste of money. I was going to say 'talent' as well, but noone with any will want to get involved in the first place, so.....

Sunday, August 12, 2007

An eternity of Saturdays?

That's what the school holidays sometimes seem like. Yes, I love spending time with my daughter, but trying to think up new ideas to fill up six and half weeks of non-stop leisure time with her, without spending too much money and without letting her watch TV all the time, is always a bit stressful!

We cope, of course, but do sometimes regret not living near any relatives or playmate cousins who could help out time and interest-wise. Hey ho, here's to September!

Monday, August 06, 2007

And you thought it was a long time til Christmas

Quite staggering. Astronomers have spotted four galaxies 'merging'. It all sounds exciting, but it's the scale of the 'event' that blows my mind. Here we are trying to survive out three score years and ten on this planet and the scientists come along and tell us about the galaxy merger. The thing is that the merger was happening five BILLION YEARS ago. It's just that the light from the event is only just now starting to reach us. And all that's on top of the fact that each galaxy itself contains billions of stars (like the Sun) and that there are billions of galaxies all around us. I think I need a lie down....

A biblical quote springs to mind: "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have established [I am constrained to ask]; What is man, that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you visit [care for] him?” (Psalm 8:v3-4).

Holiday season - a Legoland reminder!

Hey, there seems to have been a rush on my Legoland web site - August really is peak season over there. Trouble is that it's so busy that if you approach Legoland wrongly then you can come a real cropper with prices, queues and food. Legoland can be a great day out if you budget properly, look out for magazine 2-for-1 offers and know how to minimise queuing. Which, after 11 trips on an annual pass with my family in a one year period(!), is why I created my Legoland Survival Guide - Tips mini web site. Worth a look if you're planning to visit!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Litter and the younger generation

Here I go, sounding like an old grumpy guy again, but.... As my daughter and I strolled through the park, we passed a group of 30 or so late teenagers, idling away their time in the sun. OK, so apart from not doing anything productive, they've got as much right to relax as the next person. Fair enough. An hour later, we passed the same spot, to see a sea of litter. Sweet wrappers, drinks cans, bun bags, the lot. Just left on the grass with no thought whatsoever to how they were leaving the environment. Quite staggering. And there were 3 litter bins within 20 metres of the spot that could have been used. It's so tempting to just not worry about the Earth we're leaving to the next generation - heck, they don't seem to care about it - let them reap what they sow. **MAD**

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Weather forecasting - what use is this?

So it's my daughter's birthday party and we've been eyeing up the weather forecast for days. Finally, we get to the big day and this is the symbol we see. What use is this? Is it going to be sunny? Heavy showers, overcast? I get that the weather is going to be changeable, but given that this is the specific BBC web forecast for a ten mile wide spot for only six hours into the future, you'd have thought that the weather men would have been able to put up something more useful than this... It's actually 100 times more useful to simply go out into the garden, look upwards, watch the clouds, etc.

Friday, July 13, 2007

New data tariffs? I'm seriously impressed.

No, I really am. As you know, many of the European network operators slashed their prices for data on the 1st June, some in more ways than others, but I hadn't really had a chance to test them in real life. Now, I'm on Vodafone pay-as-you-talk, famed for its previously exorbitant data rates of £7.30/MB - yes, you read that right. So I basically only ever grabbed tiny email messages and restricted myself to the mobile Web.

But, come a few spare minutes, I thought I'd experiment and put the new tariff (£1 cap per day, £2/MB, up to 15MB) to the test. Hammering the Web and some downloads, I slammed 10MB through my Nokia N95 in about 20 minutes. Checking my credit afterwards, it had indeed gone down by only £1. I'm impressed.

Let's take stock for a moment. That's £1 for 15MB, effectively, on a single day, or around 7 pence per Megabyte, compared to £7.30/MB, a hundredfold decrease in charges. In fact, impressed is something of an understatement.

Finally, finally, the networks have got the hang of helping the mobile Internet and smartphones really take off. Well done to Vodafone in particular. I've been a customer of yours for over 10 years now and you just made me loyal for the forseeable future.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Blending an iPhone!

See here: Quite staggering a)how powerful their blenders are b)how wasteful the whole thing is c)how much fun it was to watch. I'm not letting this guy borrow any of MY phones though....

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Vampire estate agents

Ok, so our house is now on the market with two estate agents. Pretty good coverage, given that they're both quite big and online. So what on earth did two other estate agents think they were going to get when they phoned up saying "I notice your house is on the market, can we help you sell it?" I said "No, thanks" but I thought "You greedy *******s, you're just after commission even though you know this will just overcomplicate the current arrangement and end up with me paying a high rate of commission!" And, as a result, I've decided never to use these last two estate agents ever again.... They just disqualified themselves as being trustworthy.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Love it, love it, floor mapping!

What a great idea! This blog post shows a dedicated hall in Switzerland, upon whose floor they've printed the entire country in satellite image form. Brilliant for kids and adults alike. Quite expensive way to use real estate, but still.......

Monday, July 02, 2007

Building houses on flood plains

Why, why, why? Much as I feel sorry for the people caught up in the last fortnight's heavy rain and flooding in the UK, why do builders keep building houses in areas prone to flooding? I've a personal contact in one of the worst hit areas and apparently their house has been flooded out 3 times in the last 5 years. Why was the house built there in the first place? Recently, when I was looking into buying a new house, there was one I liked but according to the Environment Agency's web site it was within the flood plain of the local river. I enquired about this with the estate agent, only to receive the reply "Oh, I wouldn't worry, it's not flooded that I know of in the last five years(!) and anyway, you can get insurance for it" Err.... I don't want insurance to cover the hassle and expense, I'd rather not get flooded and all my stuff damaged in the first place.....

If builders MUST build in a marginal area, at least build the houses up above ground level. Another friend of mine has a house that's raised up 6 feet above ground level. Sure it floods every few years, but the water's never yet entered her house 8-)

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Global warming and RAIN

This has to be the wettest June on record, I've never known so much water to fall from the sky in the middle of the UK summer. Global warming? Has to be - after all, if all that ice is melting, water levels presumably rise, but also more evaporates, due to the higher temperatures. And all that moisture in the atmosphere has got to come down at some point. Mostly over the UK, it seems..... 8-(

Friday, June 29, 2007

Mustn't, mustn't knock the iPhone..

I really mustn't - because it really is a very cool piece of design, however you slice it up. But that huge touchscreen - maybe all prospective buyers should have a play with the free iSmudginator before parting with their money - fun and thought provoking at the same time!!!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The One Minute Apple iPhone review


Hey, it's iPhone week after all. Smartphones Show 36 will feature my patented(!) one-minute Apple iPhone review - just the stuff you need to know - really.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The ever popular Nintendo DS

Ah, the humble portable games console that just doesn't want to die. Admittedly the original Nintendo DS was over-large, clunky and with a poor screen, but the DS platform has been kept going in style by the utterly fabulous DS Lite for the last year or two. Even in the face of the Wii and XBox 360 and PS3 in the living room, the sheer private playing experience that is the DS keeps on winning out. Think about it - you're a kid or a teenager - with the DS Lite you can curl up and play in your bedroom, no TV or other kit needed. And, thankfully, at long last the standard and number of game titles appears to be rising. Brothers In Arms, for example, quite staggering on the DS, see my review, though there are just as many really terrible titles, so look at the scores before buying anything! The DS Lite is highly recommended for you and your kids, and no I don't have any shares in Nintendo!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Hasta la Vista, OS...

Like many others, my Windows XP box is starting to show signs of wear and tear and the reality of needing a new PC at some point in the next few months is starting to hit home. Yet I'm really not convinced by Windows Vista. And yes, I've read all the reviews and articles. To my mind, Vista is yet another example of Windows getting more and more bloated and of eye candy getting in the way of just 'getting the job done' (TM). There's no way in hell I'm upgrading any of our XP devices to Vista and I'm fighting to find a well-priced replacement device that doesn't come with Vista pre-loaded... I just know that all sorts of accessories and utilities simply won't work under the new OS, however many 'compatibility' layers Windows Vista now has. Or... I could buy a Mac. Now THERE'S a thought. Watch this space.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Moving House!

With a little luck, I'll be moving house in the next few weeks.... I'd always assumed that what people said about estate agents must have been exageration, but I've been rather dismayed by some of the attitudes and (lack of) actions I experienced recently. Anyway, I've started jotting down my own thoughts on the whole process of moving house and dishing out tips and wisdom for others.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Meetings, meetings

Every time I try and contact a lot of people on my contacts list, I keep hearing 'They're in a meeting' 8-( Ah yes, meetings, I remember those. When I worked in Aerospace, I remember that these seemed to be the main point of each working day, a way of getting through each day without actually having to do any work, just lots of talking. Since going self employed 14 years ago, I haven't had to attend more than three or four actual 'meetings' and as a result I'm soooo much more productive, per day, than I used to be. And now meetings are stopping me getting through to people I want to talk to.... grr..... I HATE MEETINGS!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Putting the Apple iPhone into perspective

No, not an anti-iPhone rant, but a few links to put the new 'connect, wide-screened, iPod' into perspective. Tomi got me thinking, with his predictions piece on how the iPhone's release will signify a welcome change in attitudes of mainstream media towards smartphones. He's absolutely right, though both he and I are also taking every opportunity to point out to anyone that will listen that many of us having been doing almost everything the iPhone can do for several years now on much cheaper hardware. The Nokia N95, for example, knocks the iPhone's specification into a cocked hat and is available now and much cheaper. And it's arguably just as easy to use.

Talking of hardware though, what device do I really rate, which one do I recommend people save up for? It's a controversial choice, but I'd argue an awful lot of people should start saving pennies for the Nokia E90 Communicator. One device to do everything except make the tea? Oh, hang on, there's a third party app that does that too....

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Sort of, you know, like

I can't stand it! I know I've ranted before about teenagers swearing, but this is almost as bad.... Listen to the average 8 to 16 year old talk these days and somehow extra words have crept into their grammar. And there are rules. Every sentence has to have three 'You know's in it, every noun has to have the word 'like' in front of it and every verb or adjective has to have 'sort of' prefixed. I'm guessing that once the kids grow up and have to earn a living, they'll discover a world of mature adults who don't waste every other word. Sigh. I know, I know, I'm getting old. Maybe I'll emigrate to a country with a less easily mangled language? Is there one?

VMIGO - a virtual best friend

Sorry to sound like a toy shop pedlar again, but a brief plug for a new toy my daughter's bought - the VMIGO virtual puppy - coming with a docking station, it plugs into the TV and lets her interact with the puppy on the colour screen. Only problem is that we can't now watch TV much of the time. Solution: get her a separate portable telly, down from the loft!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Keyring gadgets

OK, so I'm gadget mad. I started a site three years ago talking about gadgets that fit on your keyring, you know, torches and tools, etc. I revisited the HTML today and found that half the links were broken... grrr... I've put the Keyring Tools page back up again now but the pages look a bit emaciated, watch this space for more gadget reviews.... once I've actually bought some more! ooh, ooh, raid the gadget fund all over again... 8-)

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Blogging from the pub using the Nokia E90

Testing the waters - is the E90 compatible with Blogger's code?

For more on the E90 see www.allaboutsymbian.com

Monday, April 30, 2007

No Carnival of the Mobilists here!

Just a pointer to folks coming in from the Carnival of the Mobilists - this is my personal blog. The May 2007 Carnival will be over at 3-Lib, my smartphone/palmtop site. Only one click away, don't worry!

The Trials and Tribulations of Moving House - Getting Nowehere Fast

It struck me that trying to move house is unlike anything else in this life. For most tasks, you start, you put lots of effort in and then you gradually reach a goal. At any point you can say the job is xx% done. But when trying to move house, you put your house on the market, you tidy it up and get 20 viewers round over a month, you get an offer, you eventually find a new house that you like and put an offer in, which is accepted. Sounds good so far? But then the person buying your house can't sell their house and the house you want is snapped up by someone with no 'chain' behind them and in one fell swoop you're back to square one, effectively. Dozens (or even hundreds) of man hours and if things don't then come together pretty quickly then you might as well have just not bothered in the first place and it'll be time to try again next year. Sigh.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Greetings cards

Time for another rant. Now, I can understand the point of greetings cards - originally, at least. Those nearest and dearest who were far away, all could be cheered up with a birthday, Christmas or Get well card etc, posted from afar. But what on earth is the point in spending a fortune on glossy cards to all the people who live with you or that you see each day/week? These people can surely be greeted far better in person... And add in Mother's Day, Father's Day and a dozen more 'specialist' occasions and you have an industry perpetuating itself by feeding on people's fears of being seen to be rude for NOT sending a card on occasion X etc. If you want to greet someone on a special day, go give them a hug and spend some time with them - they'll appreciate it far more than a glittery piece of cardboard...

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Why I hate Adobe

Maybe it's Adobe's Mac background. Maybe it's because they equip all their programmers and testers with state of the art, lightning fast gear so that they never notice speed problems. Maybe it's that they haven't got a clue. Either way, I just hate all the Adobe software I come across. From Acrobat Reader which takes forever to load up all the modules that you're unlikely ever to use, before you can actually read the 2 paragraph PDF press release you've been sent, to Premiere Elements, the most appallingly incapable and inefficient video editor I've EVER come across, it's just hate, hate, all the way. Just say no.

Aha! The secret of darts - treble 16!!

Ah. See http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/03/21/better_darts/ - I've been saying this for years. For average players, it's much better to aim at treble 16 rather than the traditional treble 20. If you hit the treble, there's still 48 on offer and if you miss by an inch or so, you'll still get 7 or 8 or treble 7 or 8. or even, if you're miles out, a lucky treble 11 or treble 19 or even a bull. Far better than streams of 1s and 5s! Plus there's the added benefit that the casual player will get a tired arm quickly and it's easier to have a physically lower, rather than higher, target to aim at. Anyway, it's nice to have someone else agree with me after two decades....

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Shock report: Long queues shouldn't exist

Like most people, I hate queues. Of people, of cars, just generally waiting in line. Now, I recognise that some degree of queueing is inevitable. Waiting for food deliveries in some poorer parts of the world springs to mind. And in a shop you can't have 100 assistants standing around needlessly all day just so that no customer has to wait more than a second to be served. On the roads, you can't have 10 lane motorways everywhere so that noone ever gets caught in a traffic jam.
But ultimately, long queues are signs of inefficiency. On the roads, long jams are easily noticed and usually rectified in the end with slightly bigger roads, one way systems, flyovers, and so on. But to go back to my retail example, regular, long, frustrating queues are simply poor planning by the shop owner. To have to wait for 20 minutes just to pay them some of your hard earned money makes no sense whatsoever. That'll be one customer who thinks of your store and decides to go somewhere else to avoid the queues. Simply reassign extra staff to the tills whenever the queue length gets above a certain low limit and all will be happy again. Then, once the rush has died down, some of those staff can go back to managing the store, stock-taking etc. Isn't this sort of thing common sense? Sigh.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

What's so great about iTunes?

I admit it, I'm only a part time iTunes user. I only really keep it on my PC to keep track of a few podcasts (including my own Smartphones Show video podcast), but I'm appalled by iTunes' interface. I've lost count of the number of times that I click on something (or try to right click on something) and find that nothing happens - I then try clicking somewhere else, and eventually discover that I needed to double-click, no, not there, over there, on that particular spot, in order to make something happen. And how do I make playback of that video larger? Try everything in sight.... No buttons or icons or menu functions.... eventually work out that I can drag the playback window away from the left column..... I get by with iTunes, but it's a hate-hate relationship and I really must get round to finding a replacement...

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Fastest Over Ever

Why do so many fast bowlers (I'm talking cricket here, you can switch off if you're not into it!) use such wierd and inefficient bowling actions? Yes, I know many of them are entertaining, but they're wasting energy. Look at Michael Holding, from the 70s and 80s, poetry in motion and superbly efficient, reputed to have bowled the fastest over ever. I don't bowl much these days myself, but I do try and bear in mind Michael's classical action when I do. Other bowling greats with efficient actions, by the way: Dennis Lillee and John Snow.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Height barriers

One of my real passions is motorcaravanning. You know, 'camper vans', motorhomes, etc. Great fun and a great way of living (I lived in a motorcaravan for 3 years!) but it's all but ruined in many parts of the UK because of all the height barriers on public car parks, especially at seaside locations. Look, I know you don't want travellers (or me, for that matter) parking overnight there, so why not have one of those swing barriers, which get opened in the morning and closed again at night? OK, so you've got to pay someone to do this each day but it's only a small job and you do get the trade of all the motorcaravanners using your facilities and shops. Down with height barriers!

London 2012 Olympics

I hate to be the guy in the corner moaning, but when we (the UK) won the bid to host the 2012 games, I had reservations on the sheer cost of it all, all for just a bit of kudos and glory. And now the costs have spiralled to THREE times the original amount. These games are going to hurt the country financially - if this amount of money is truly available then surely it would have been far better spent on hospitals, schools and old age pensioners (to name but three worthy recipients)? I like sport as a casual watcher, but 9 billion is a silly amount of money just to be able to say 'we hosted the Olympics'. Bah.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Strike one for the PC?

Now, don't get me wrong, this is only one small area of an entire platform war, but in my professional interests I get to check loads of blogs and web sites. Most are fine, with properly styled text and images and all's hunky dory. But every now and then I come across a site (almost always by a Mac user) which astounds me. Take The Creative Life blog - here's a typical entry - love the content and ideas, but because it's all handled by iWeb on the Apple Mac, all the text in entries are implemented as images! Appallingly inefficient and appallingly implemented. And this sort of monstrosity only exists because of some terrible tech decisions made by Apple. So what if it's 10% easier to make a web page - when thousands of people then dread visiting it? Secretly, part of each of us probably longs to try out a Mac and see what its fans are talking about. But with the applications producing output like this - well, it's very off-putting.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Heelys - Dangerous?

The media seems to be full of stories of Heelys (proun. Heelies) being dangerous, a friend told of hearing a doctor giving the stat that nine children had died when trying to wear them. I essentially provide a wealth of tips on Heelys safety on my Heelys site, but specifically addressing the concern that they're dangerous:
  • Roller skates, skateboards and ice skates are just as dangerous - and ALL should be ridden with appropriate protection for head and knees/elbows.
  • As the wearer gets more confident, there's slightly less need for the above, but it still depends on whetherthe wearer is a demure little girl (like mine!) gently gliding along or some trick-addicted boy!
  • The older the wearer is, the more damage you'll do if you fall over, of course. Kids under 18 seem to be pretty resilient, I wouldn't worry too much

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Those cute Pixel Chix

After a long string of electronic 'wants' from my daughter, most of which got refused, I finally gave in when confronted by the Pixel Chix. This series of plug-together electronic Sim-type toys are pretty well designed and the gameplay is open enough to keep R amused for a good while. And, unlike a Tamagotchi, the blessed thing doesn't keep beeping or dying, a MAJOR boon. Anyway, in true Steve style, I did a little web site devoted to Pixel Chix - hopefully Rachel can help me create new content for it... And talking of web sites, my teacher wife has been using my Heelys site to demo to her class as a resource - they're making a leaflet about Heelys as a project - how cool is that?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Travel arrangements

.... and people wonder why I HATE travel... I was talking to a business professional today, who'd just returned from a 10 day business trip. It turns out that his company arrange everything right down to the last taxi reservation - all he's got to do is bring his passport and credit card and everything else is sorted. Contrast that to travel DIY (self-employed) style, where every last bit of research, every last train ticket, every last plane detail, every currency transaction has all got to be done myself. And worried about myself. The two situations are worlds apart - no wonder I stick to working from home as much as possible!!