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Switch off fortnight? What? NOW? Craziness...

So which blithering idiot scheduled 'Switch off fortnight' in the UK for two weeks in the late Autumn? When it's cold enough that every device left 'on' actually contributes to heating our buildings and thus means less work for the heating system to do?

In other words, switching stuff off at this time of year has almost no 'net' effect whatsoever.....

'Switch off fortnight' needs to have happened in the SUMMER term, when dramatic overall savings could have been made.

As a physicist, I sometimes despair..... 8-)

Why I will never again buy a smartphone with a sealed battery

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It's true that I've been objective in the past - I wrote a long and detailed article here, pointing out the pros and cons of sealed vs replaceable batteries in smartphones. I was honestly trying to see both points of view, despite my own feelings on the matter.

However, enough is enough. I realise that most tech commentators, supplied with far more loan/review phones than me and never getting to the point with any device where it's 'old', have been very vocal about 'sealed batteries being the way of the future' and that I should get used to it. The argument is usually along the lines that 200 million iPhone sales prove that Apple's 'sealed' designs are right. But just because the other appealing factors of the iPhone make it desirable doesn't mean that Apple are right about batteries.

But yes, Apple started the rot. And now we have the HTC One X and One S, the Nokia X7 and E7, the Lumia 800/900/920 and even (horror) the LG-made Nexus 4 all c…

Troubleshooting Renault engine noise

Here's something that's been driving me crazy over the last week. My Renault Scenic (diesel) has developed an odd and annoying noise. It's directly related to engine speed (i.e. dies away as I move the transmission to neutral and let the revs drop.

I've videoed the problem/noise below, in the hope someone can suggest what the problem might be. You're listening for a highish pitched whistling/rubbing noise.


Renault Scenic belt system noise for troubleshooting from Steve Litchfield on Vimeo.

I thought it might be the belt itself, but the addition of a little talc didn't help. Anyone ever seen/heard this before? Possibly a dry bearing somewhere, but where do I start looking? Alternator? Water pump?

The car only had a new cam belt fitted a year or so ago, complete with new tensioners.

Many thanks if you can rack your brains for some pointers here!

[SOLVED] Turned out to be the tensioning pulleys, one of which did indeed have a dry bearing. New kit fitted and all qui…

Android phones wake up to music and podcasts with a button press after all!

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I just had a startling revelation, a discovery. And it will help anyone struggling with listening to stuff on headphones on an Android smartphone. But please be patient while I describe the scenario...

You're out for a walk listening to a podcast or music. The phone's in your pocket or in its belt case - and you're using the supplied wired stereo headset to deliver the tunes or spoken word. All is right with the world til you get interrupted. Perhaps you meet someone and stop for a chat? Or arrive at a shop and have to conduct some business or other. Either way, you press the single button on your headset and the music or podcast pauses.

Or you're in bed listening to a podcast, drifting off happily to sleep. OK, there's a fair chance you'll fall asleep and you'll miss most of the podcast, but I find I know when I'm too tired to listen on and I pause playback and remove the earbuds just before I settle down to actually sleep.



In either case, you've g…

Spring PSC pub meet!

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By popular demand, for anyone local to Berkshire, UK, I'm hosting another Phones Show Chat pub meet-up for smartphone enthusiasts on Tuesday 17th April 2012, from 7pm until whenever we call it a night. The venue is the usual The Lands End Pub, Park Lane, Charvil , Twyford, RG10 0UE. See below for a map. The Lands End is perfect for meets because there's no piped music, plenty of space, good food and drink, and plenty of parking. Oh, and it's also my local! 8-)
Use your sat nav to get to the general area. You can approach The Lands End from the East, but you have to go through the ford - not recommended if there's been a lot of rain. Usually about a foot or so deep, so 4x4's only! Approach via the arrowed directions if possible.
The idea is to swap phone tech stories, try out other people's favourite devices, down some decent beer and (maybe) do a few short pieces to camera for the show. If it turns out well, you might be a star(!)
If you want to come along, just c…

Living without fear

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This is just really cool and heartwarming. OK, perhaps I exaggerate a little, but bear with me. This is our guinea pig run, complete with prowling neighbour's cat:
We've had the guinea pigs since they were babies, which means they've only ever known friendly life forms. So when they hear us, they rush to the wire (probably wanting food, but hey...) They have ZERO experience of predators, the only other furry creatures they've EVER seen are each other.
So they see this cat and quite happily go on grazing on the grass without a care in the world. For all the guinea pigs know, the cat is just another large furry friend. They have no concept of another creature that might want to tear them limb from limb.

So we see the cat sitting there each day, occasionally trying to pounce and coming up against the wire every time, all the while its intended prey just point blank ignores it! I suspect that this isn't a reaction a cat is used to getting!
8-)
Quite something, to live tota…

Cold callers, spam, con calls - GAH

The sheer hatred I have for these people and companies knows no bounds.

Today alone:
- chap at the front door wanting to know if he could quote me for a new conservatory
- endless emails (thankfully mainly filtered by the excellent Gmail) and tweets offering me free iPhones and medication
- telephone call on my landline saying I could be entitled to thousands of pounds back on a "mortgage, credit card or debit card" (thanks for being so specific, guys) - all I had to do was press '5' and enter my personal details and account numbers

It has got to stop.

The only consolation is that I do seem to have won 15 million euros on a lottery. All I've got to do is reply to a Mr Smith in Italy.... oh wait. *#*^^*#

DEATH TO SPAMMERS! Phew.