Apps End User mobile apps spam

WhatsApp spam

WhatsApp spam endemic

whatsapp spamAaaargh just received my first WhatsApp spam message. I don’t even use WhatsApp though I do have the App on my droid. It’s getting uninstalled right now.

The spam originated from someone who created a group , added me to it, sent the spam and then removed me from the group. Must be a machine in play there.

An App must truly be labelled useless if all it does is serve you with spam.

I also still get phone call spam. I spent much of this afternoon getting my Snom M700 DECT system working. Wasn’t totally straightforward as it isn’t a Voipfone supported device but they have some great engineers and we got it sorted.

So now our home phone number points at two Snom DECT handsets (kitchen and TV room), a Yealink (conservatory/office) and on the CSIPSimple App on my mobile. I was just running through the ringtone options with the family when a son told me my mobile was ringing. This was somewhat confusing as so was the phone I had in my hand. Trouble is I was trying out a ringtone when it happened so little old me got confused initially.

I eventually did answer the Snom only to find it wasn’t a sales call from the subcontinent but a survey (from the subcontinent). The caller told me he was from a company called UK Surveys, or simlar. I asked him where in the UK he was and told him I didn’t trust him so he put the phone down on me. Oh ok.

I told the family that these calls would start getting less frequent as I would be implementing call barring where the inbound number was withheld. This raised a chorus of complaints on the basis that the call might be important. My view is if a person doesn’t have the courtesy to tell me their number they don’t deserve to be answered.

Anyway we are now a landline-less household. The home number is virtual. It is the way of the future present. I am now also WhatsApp-less. A truly uninspiring experience. At least WhatsApp spam is no longer going to be receivable on my phone.

See previous tome on WhatsApp. If you get WhatsApp spam they have a page on the subject that isn’t massively helpful.

PS I realise some of might not consider one spam message to be “endemic”. I do.

PPS I’m back. Hols are over. They were great. Now I need to get some work done and lose some weight.

Apps End User mobile apps social networking

I used Skype Out yesterday

My six monthly Skype call

I used Skype Out yesterday. I’d previously had an email from Skype telling me my Skype Out account had been frozen because I hadn’t used it recently. That’s because Skype is quite expensive compared to other VoIP services so I dropped it. Still had about £6.60 in there though and i was dischuffed to say the least to think that Skype might happily pocket this.

Unlocking the account was simple enough though and Skype told me that as long as I used it in a 6 month window the account would remain active. I find it convenient to keep that account just in case of emergencies so I rang my dear old dad in the Isle of Man. As it happens all the DECT handsets in the house needed charging so Skype was it. Not an emergency mind you but hey…

I’m now ok until sometime in December at which time I’ll do another keep alive call, maybe to me dad again.

You might ask why didn’t I just use my mobile to call dad. That’s because the rip off mobile networks categorise the Isle of Man as overseas and charge international rates. It is actually overseas but the fixed line networks treat it as an UK number.

Although I said Skype was more expensive than other voip services I still have approximately the same amount of money in the account. It’s all relative.

If anyone wants to call me my Skype address is I do have an account that is something like Trefor.Davies but I lost the password for that yonks ago and moreover can’t remember which (probably long defunct) email address I used so had to set up a new one. is good anyway.

When turned into a business I decided not to have phone numbers so my contact details are [email protected] (G+) and (Skype). In reality I also use my mobile phone number although when I recently changed mobile networks I did consider just getting a data only sim. I figure that at this stage of the game that was a step too far.

Feel free to give me a call on either of those addresses. I’m a pretty approachable guy:)

PS lots of Skype stuff on this blog – check it out here.

Apps ecommerce End User mobile apps

QR Codes only – no prices on display

Impressive display in Music shop has no prices – just QR codes.

Joe and I were heading out to Carrefour in the Pigalle, as you do, to get some basics in for le weekend. Yanow, beurre, jus d’orange and so on. On the way we came across what seemed to be the biggest music shop we had ever seen. The interesting thing about the shop, apart from it being rammed with fantastic gear which, Joe being a musician was of instant interest, was that there were no prices on display. Only QR codes!

Only problem was that without mobile data connectivity we were unable to browse the prices. I use the EE £2 a day flat rate roaming for calls and texts back home but not their rip off mobile data service. Even the guy in the EE shop thought it was a rip off.

It didn’t really matter as we were saving our cents for croissants and vin rouge but the concept of not having any prices on display was novel in this day and age. Each item had more than one QR code so I suspect some of them were prices and some were info on the product.

This again is very progressive. You don’t spend cash on expensive musical instruments and kit without first doing your research. I remember once going into Currys to buy a TV. I know very little about TVs and deliberately keep it that way. So when it made sense to buy a flat one we could stick on the wall instead of using the dinosaur that took up half the room I figured it would be useful to ask an expert.

The expert to hand was fully trained in the art of reading and just read out the three line feature set that came with the pricing label on the display. Doh. A QR code would have been very handy on that occasion although in reality, like many other gadgets today, there is very little to choose between products.

It reminds me of the time we were setting up We rang USwitch or some simlar site to talk to one of their experts. See what the pitch was. The guy was totally useless. All he could offer was the fact that Virgin had the fastest broadband.

QR Codes linked ot product information are clearly the way forward. Some shops might want to push the products that give them most margin but that isn’t the customer friendly thing to do.


Ciao amigos.

Apps Business business applications ecommerce mobile apps

Expensify – another online revelation

Expensify makes expenses simple to submit

Everytime I find a new service that I think is great and realise it’s been around a while makes me realise how behind the times I am. All my LONAP expenses now go on to Expensify. It’s like my experiences with Uber and AirBnB. Just so easy to use.

I know that most of you will have been using the service for yonks so you’ll have to bear with me. I now scan in my receipts using the Expensify Android app and they appear in my account all broken down into VAT etc. Add a category from a drop down box and submit report. Magic.

It even has the facility to email receipts. So Uber taxi trips, where you get sent the receipt as soon as the trip is over, are just forwarded to [email protected] and they appear in my account. Oo. Other than restaurants and bars why would I ever ask for a paper receipt again? Hotels can usually email you a PDF receipt.

Sometimes you do have to wonder whether technology makes life harder than easier because it is prone to go wrong. I have to say though that this isn’t my experience with the aforementioned applications.

So now I do all my accounts online using Freeagent, pay my bills automatically (actually only HMRC payments are automatic – they don’t give you a choice 🙂 ) using Lloyds online banking, file my expenses online, book my road/train/planetravel online and upload the receipts via email. I also sell event tickets using the Eventbrite cloud service and I use Google Apps for business in which all my work is done online.

Like I said, sorry if none of this is new to you. I was so excited I had to get it off my chest:) Most of my working life I’ve had to submit expense receipts with forms filled in. There have been times when I’ve had six different currencies to account for. Six different forms. Not any more  mwahahahahahahaaaaaaaaaa.

Apps End User mobile apps social networking

Working away from home & Natter

Natter Natter Natter Oy Oy Oy

The nature of the modern world is that people frequently have to travel as part of their job. In the internet plumbing game this is even more the case. I don’t think I’ve ever worked in an industry that has more conferences and meetings. In the UK alone there are 4 x 2 day LINX meetings, 3 x UKNOF meetings (that seem to extend to two days one way or another), a couple fo LONAP events, two ITSPA workshops and numerous miscellaneous other events.

Being involved with LONAP I also have other international events such as Euro-IX and RIPE meetings to attend.

The point is that wherever one goes one’s office goes with you. It wouldn’t have been so many years ago that this would not have been a simple activity. Taking this to the extreme I remember early on in my business career having to send a proposal to our New York office for onward transmission. The whole thing was faxed. I had a word processor but not email. The internet was in its infancy and applications a rarity.

I made many last minute changes to the somewhat substantial document but each change had to be made entirely within the page. I had to be able to refax a single page without having to change any of the other pages as this would have meant resending the whole document. We won the business btw 🙂

That sort of activity would have been unthinkable in our modern fast moving world. I’ve just had to fill in a new supplier form for an organisation I am doing business with. It needed a signature. I don’t do paper! I very rarely have to print anything out so this form is a bit of a nuisance.

No problemo. I scribbled my signature on a scrap of paper, took a picture, uploaded it to google drive, cropped and trimmed, inserted into the doc and downloaded as a pdf for sending. Hey presto a signed doc. Whether they accept it or not is another issue. These things are sent to try.

Today I am working from a hotel room in Liverpool – the featured image is the view from my room. Iconic. I’m not using the hotel WiFi as I have my EE MiFi which is more reliable. At least more reliable than the free WiFi. The premium service might be ok but hey…

I’m here because my dad is in hospital for an operation. Tref’s taxi service etc. As it happens both sisters had the same idea so we are having an unscheduled family get together. It’s worked out as I then didn’t have to get up at 6.30 to take dad to the hospital.

natterAnyway it’s actually just a normal working day out of my hotel room. As I was lying in bed this morning catching up on stuff on my intergalactic hand held communicator I was shoved an ad for Natter by Twitter.

Natter is “yet another social media platform”. I guess. You are only allowed three words. I signed up and had a play. My first attempt was “one two three”. Then I realised this was quite boring so I decided to see what I could get away with. I went for “supacalifragalisticexpialidocious  Pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism #Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis”.

Natter came back with messages:

Just Three Words, please! (You can also include one @username and a #hashtag) and

is too long (maximum is 75 characters)

I looked up the last two words btw but the first I already knew.

I can’t see Natter becoming the hit that is Twitter. Note the 3,544 followers cf the 34 Million of @Twitter. This means it’s guaranteed to be successful but hey… Other than signing on to make sure I get a decent username (tref) which I do for new things that I come across, I am unlikely to adopt it. I haven’t got any followers and follow noone. I also note that Natter was launched in Bath in 2011. It must have just got some cash to advertise but in four years I’d have thought it would have already come to my notice if it was going to take off.

I do quite like the idea of keeping it short. After all Snapchat has taken off with exactly this philosophy though others have also gone before and failed. There was a 7 second video service whose name totally escapes me but seems to have disappeared from view.

I suspect 3 words ain’t enough though. Now the Haiku is a different game. With the Haiku you have 17 syllables to play with and the result could be quite classy. Constraining people to writing only in Japanese poetic form might limit the audience but we aren’t in this game to pander to the masses are we? Eh?

I’ve rambled on enough. This self indulgent blogging is all very well but there is a business to run. From my hotel room.


PS I’m on Natter

Apps ecommerce End User mobile apps

Phone picks up NFC signal from wallet

NFC signal WTF?

Just noticed btw that my phone has been picking up an NFC signal from my wallet! Took me a while to figure out what was going on. The phone kept pinging an unfamiliar sound when I put it down near the wallet.

It’s a slight worry because whilst I’m sure my phone wears a white hat who knows what other devices there are around that might just be sitting there listening for NFC enabled devices. I only have an oyster card and my bank debit card with NFC enabled but the latter is very specifically the one you don’t want anyone gaining access to.

Now I’ve not researched this so don’t know what security arrangements are built in to the NFC chips but it does raise an eyebrow.

I’ve looked at NFC as a transport mechanism for a few different business opportunities, largely as a means of engaging advertisers with punters. Up until now it hasn’t flown. Originally one of the reasons was that NFC wasn’t supported by Apple. Now Apple do support NFC but it is only as a means of accessing Apple’s own payment gateway.  It’s not any use for transmitting other files.

The Apple use case includes having to have your thumb on on the home button to authenticate that it is you using the NFC for payment. Sounds like Apple getting deeper and deeper into personal info on you if you ask me. Next up will be DNA recognition!!! The fanbois will say I’m getting paranoid and that I should just accept all this “yes master stuff”. Well no thanks. We can fight this nyahahahahahahaaaaaa.

Y’all have a great day now. Would you like ketchup with that. I see your DNA suggests that you are a ketchup kind of guy.

PS if you don’t know what NFC is read about it here. Other mobile app stuff on this site here.

Business ecommerce End User mobile apps

Online life – more trust being placed in mobile devices & airbnb

In which I book a flat in Paris using airbnb

Had a really good online experience last night. The Davies’ are off to Paris for Easter to celebrate our daughter’s 21st birthday (I know I know I don’t look old enough). She will already be there so transport and accommodation for the remaining five of us ain’t cheap and takes a bit of shopping around. I booked Eurostar and then looked for accommodation for 5 people

The daughter will have a flat in Paris by then and the small army of mates she has invited over will be laying claim to that space. A hotel can get expensive. An apartment was the answer.

I ended up on for the first time. I’m not into renting a room in someone’s house whilst they are there but airbnb also do whole house rentals. I booked 2 flats. One for the week that we go over at the beginning of Feb to do some flat hunting, open a bank account and get an NI number. The second for the family for Easter weekend (bear with me).

I found a nice 3 bedroom place in Montmartre but needed clarification as to what constituted a “bedroom”. You see some places where a curtain down the middle of the room turns that room into a 2 bedroom flat and one of the beds is an airbed. I’m after quality.

I sent a question to the owner and retired upstairs. In bed an sms came in with the answer. 3 proper bedrooms with proper beds. Sorted. I was going to leave the booking until the morning but noticed a red button on my phone inviting me to confirm and pay for the reservation there and then.

Clicking on the button took me to the Play Store, downloaded the airbnb app and let me finish off the transaction. Totally seamless. A serious joy to use.

This ranks with Uber as one of my recent “discoveries” of highly useful and functional mobile applications. I also now manage my bank account from my mobile.

The point is that up until fairly recently I wouldn’t have touched financial transactions with a bargepole when using my mobile. I didn’t consider it a secure enough device. Now I’m spending thousands of pounds at the click of a button.

What’s changed. First of all the bank made a point of stressing that it would cover any losses incurred as a result of use of the phone app. That was good enough for me. That also removed the barriers for me to use the phone for other financial transactions.In fact these days I am far less reticent about storing my credit card details with online retailers than I used to be.

My phone really is becoming my global personal management device. I do everything through it. I also use 2 Chromebooks. One in the office and one at home. I used to think that the phone would one day replace a PC. All it would take would be a screen and a dock next to the keyboard – see my CES 2012 non report which mentions this.

Reality is that is what I already have. The Chromebook, which is a considerably cheaper device than my phone, is effectively that keyboard and docking device in one. That’s because nothing of real value is stored locally on either my phone or my Chromebook. It’s all in the cloud.

If push came to shove I could do without my Chromebook, as long as I had my phone. This actually sits quite nicely with my CES 2015 post earlier this week. In that post I discussed the fact that we never see revolutionary new products at such trade shows. However  mature products can eventually look revolutionary when you look back and compare them with their functionality at launch. I used the iPhone as an example.

Now I look at the whole concept of the mobile device and see that it really has become the stand out revolutionary gadget that makes a huge difference. I’m not sure that the current “wearable” revolution/fad is going to have the same legs. Unless wearable devices are just the evolution of the mobile phone form factor and we have a cheap and perhaps disposable User Interface device to replace what we now call a handset.

I can envisage walking in to a room and using a display in that room in order to see the emails/IM/video coming in on my by now tiny handset that sits in my watch or on my keyring. We already have the prototype of such displays with the TV and the Chromecast.

I  have regular hangouts with my daughter who currently lives in Toledo (she gets around). I see no reason why these hangouts shouldn’t happen on the TV, voice-controlled. We are almost there. Slap low cost displays around the house and you could do the same thing in any room. The only thing missing is the camera on top of the display. Mere detail.

This all came about from finding that airbnb was a joy to use. Life really is now all about the mobile device and the cloud1.

I’m digressing a bit but the one surprising change in the market is the reduced dominance of the mobile service providers. Telecoms services are rapidly homogenising into a single service set with fixed line broadband perhaps being the leading play. Mobile/cellular connectivity is just something you use when nowhere near a wifi connection (that’s the way it’s going even if it isn’t quite there yet.  It’s certainly true where home use is concerned).

It’s a tough old game, telecoms. For years telcos have been fighting against the race to the bottom. Who can provide he cheapest services. To counter this they have tried to introduce added value services. TV is the only successful such service that people are willing to pay for.

The telcos problem is that for a service to be a winner, such as airbnb and Uber it has to be independent of the telco. These revenue streams are denied to them.

Back to the science fiction of now almost the only thing that is really stopping me reducing my reliance on the old fashioned keyboard UI is the fact that an open office isn’t the right place to hold a conversation with your display. I also don’t want to spend my whole day talking to a computer. Furthermore voice recognition tech will really need to do something about ending sentences. On my droid I have to say “period”. Who on earth calls a full stop a period???

Mere detail…

1 yes yes ok I know life is really all about happiness and wellbeing etc with a dose of number 42 thrown in for good measure:)

Business ecommerce internet mobile apps

Old Websites

Considering Internet detritus of the slash-and-burn order, often the walking-dead creations of fly-by-night “web developers” who took the money (and lots of it) and ran.

Websites. For small businesses. Probably built by someone nice met at a local business networking event.

In Drupal? Joomla? TYPO3? For those without a care in the world, those first two aren’t places (except in web developers’ multi-conversant-code-language-script-caffeine-based frontal lobes), not even in the Hindu Kush. No, these are programming languages often used to build websites. Took that certain ‘someone nice’ years to learn that, and it would have taken many hours to build, let alone discuss wireframes etc., with you, their patient ‘How long is a piece of string?’ client.

What did you pay? £500? £1500? £6000? More !?! Wow! How was the ROI? How much is the SEO still costing you?

Hmmmm…. Guessing that if that was a few years ago, you’d currently have more chance of tracking down a yeti in a blizzard than locating the whereabouts of said web developer, who’s possibly off finding self, tracking yetis in the Himalayas etc. (or perhaps even heading up a super secret division looking into ants at Google HQ!)

Having had to track down (hey, thanks #socmed) and drag one web developer back to his Himalayan base camp, to make contact by satellite phone at an allotted time, and say ‘Just give us the bloody admin password’ so very small but critical changes could be made to a client’s site, I feel for SME owners caught in this trap. He of course wanted us to wait until his return in three months. Client wanted to call Nominet and serve a fortnight’s notice. Compromise met, password released. In that particular case, thin ‘partition walls’ existed between all the small sites he had on the server and with the main admin password I could of course see everything: clearly he’d done quite well and was now spending his earnings travelling. I hear new examples of this every week.

I suspect this is just the tip of the iceberg and that there’s a lot of these about, perhaps enough to one day push Nominet into ringing round asking if you were “mis-sold a website”, which you maybe won’t even own the domain registration of, and hence have not a clue what to do.

Nobody can claim WordPress ($free) is the be-all-and-end-all of web design (sorry Editor Kory!) or replace what a great digital agency can do for £50K, but with the availability of plugins such as WooCommerce ($free) and Information Street’s ‘Connector4 WooCommerce’ ($147) integrating the popular SMB commerce tool InfusionSoft ($pick your pain level) and thus taking the financial sting out of DIY self-build SMB websites, just what will all the newbie web developers cut their teeth on in the future?

Mobile apps for these previously desktop-only greats like WordPress (and all its plugins) and InfusionSoft enable, empower and look very shiny (“Give me that power!”), and they just kill that web developer’s rough version of your site (beautifully coded in C++, for less than a fiver an hour most probably, demo’d and discussed frequently in Nero’s).

Seriously, how long before there is nothing you cannot do on your business’s site/blog/e-commerce backend on your tablet sitting on the beach (except actually see it in direct sunlight)?

Ouch. Poor web developer.

However, it’s ‘out of the pan, and into the fire’, dear Reader. Those web developers; I have a sneaky feeling if they’re not working at $P$R$DigitalMegaBucks$$ design agency, many have gone off to design WordPress themes — and now the 2014 equivalent to the above scenario is discovering they haven’t updated that theme you bought two years ago (and they aren’t going to any time soon either, as it’s snowboarding season!). They just haven’t got the time or incentive to continue to support it, just so it will work with the newly-patched WordPress release for your newly-old website. For example, there’s the Jewelry Shop Theme by Sarah Neuber (see also this if you’re affected!) although I have no idea about Sarah Neuber’s reasons for leaving no forwarding address (it’s probably not yeti related) again you can feel the obvious pain of the SMB owners.

Moral of the story? It’s tempting to reiterate that if you want something done properly then do it yourself, but if your business is actually keeping you busy, you probably don’t have that time. However it’s 2014 and you now have no excuse not to have at least some working knowledge of what to do if that nice web developer checks out of town, and to ask that it’s built entirely upon WordPress in the first place?

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The Hump Day Five (16-July-2014)

The Hump Day Five is on Red Alert this week, getting all Google-y powerful on music in the cloud, Leftovers, and Ping Pong Mania.


Started watching a new TV show a couple of weeks back called “The Leftovers”. If you haven’t haven’t seen or heard of it, the premise is quite simple. On 14-October at a precise moment in time approximately 2% of the world’s population randomly disappears without a trace. Drivers from moving vehicles, criminals from prison cells, babies from car seats, one moment there the next moment gone. It doesn’t take much imagination to see compelling story elements in such a framework, and in fact it is easy to see how the utter chaos of such a situation could become too much of a good thing (entertainment-wise, that is). The creators, though, very smartly opt to confine the drama to a single small town somewhere in America and how “The Departure”, as it is called, has affected and continues to affect the populace three years down the line. Succulent details are offered via ancillary media — overheard radio, television news programs being watched by this-or-that character, etc., not a small amount of Internet-y stuff — and go so far as to include a list of celebrities who number among the 2%. Dark stuff riddled rich with despair, sure, and as television goes it isn’t for everyone, but if you like your diversion disturbing and in-your-face I highly recommend checking it out.


Since late June a new application for both iPhone and Android has been making its way through the zeitgeist in direct response to the once-again-heightening tensions between Israel and Palestine: Kobi Snir’s Red Alert Israel. The idea behind this new app is to alert users of incoming rockets so they can stop whatever it is they are doing and take shelter*. The alerts received (tied directly to Israel Defense Forces and Homefront Command) can be configured quite tightly — there are a great many individual areas, considering the country’s small land mass — and each alert offers allows for comments, which can include prayers and encouragement, as well as — not surprising, but enraging nonetheless — inflammatory notes full of disparagement and outright hatred. Red Alert Israel also includes streaming Israeli radio (in Hebrew) to supplement its alerts with more detailed information (I assume). All in all, it is a noble idea that falls definitively on the side of the angels (and I say this even knowing that there is no Red Alert Palestine equivalent).

So I am sensitive to the dead-serious nature of Red Alert Israel and applaud and support its above-reproach mission, but I would be fibbing BIG-time if I said the image of people running for cover from flying ordinance with their hands flailing high above their heads clutching their phones didn’t loosen a small smile. Got too many episodes of The Simpsons under my belt, I suppose. Please excuse (or feel free to flame me up but good in the Comments).

The Red Alert Israel app is free, as you would expect, though it does run shifting banner advertising, because in these times absolutely nothing should go unsponsored. I mean, think about it…is there an advertiser out there who wouldn’t want their product or service to be associated with the saving of lives? And thus a new business model is born!

*The users in Israel, that is, as it is quite evident that Red Alert Israel is being downloaded and put into use by people living elsewhere..for purposes of showing solidarity, inspiring prayer and greater empathy, to stoke flames of outrage, to feed whatever vicarious needs, perhaps to serve as the basis for gambling or drinking games, etc.


For someone who spends as much time driving keyboards and mice as I do, I really can be late to the party at times. Take cloud-hosted music (aka online music lockers, aka online music storage services). Available in various flavors for a few years now (the majors all bowed in 2011 — Apple, Amazon, Google — whereas an early achiever called AudioBox left the starting block in 2009), it was only this past weekend that I started to consider the idea of throwing some of my music up into the ether for ready access across my computers and smartphone. Naturally, I was aware of the cloud-hosted music concept, but that awareness was mostly relegated to Apple’s iTunes in the Cloud/iTunes Match service, and as I trust Apple’s software and service offerings about as much as…well, not at all, actually, I put up a willful “blind spot” to the whole idea. Of course, it also helped that my music collection far exceeded the 25,000 song limit put on the $25-per-year service by Apple, and that at the start – as is unfortunately so often the case — the service was available to U.S.-based users only.

A couple of years passed, and then along came KoryChrome. And with KoryChrome came promotions for Google services. And with the promotion in particular of Google Play Music — which I learned is now available in France and which includes the ability to load/match 20,000 songs absolutely free — came my revisiting the subject of cloud-hosted music this past weekend. 20,000 songs for uploaded/matched for free? Songs I can access from any Internet-connected computer capable of running a browser (Google Chrome need not be that browser, either), or from any Internet-connected smartphone? All without commercials or listening limitations?

Yeah, I know this party started ages ago, but as far as I am concerned there is still beer in the fridge and it’s still ice-cold.


On the subject of KoryChrome, La Famille Kessel returned to our Pays d’Auge family hovel in Blangy-le-Château this past weekend, and my keen and cool new Chromebook was thus reunited with its power source. And this time that power source made it into my computer bag for the trip back to Paris at weekend’s end. No doubt, a great many of you will now breathe easier and will stop wanting for sleep.


Got struck hard by a serious wave of irony a few hours ago when My Missus and I put The Boy on a train to summer camp. The camp he is attending is called “Ping Pong Mania” (translate from French), and it promises to be exactly that, with 90+ minutes of table tennis play and training each morning and another such session each afternoon. I blush with a certain amount of pride in saying that my kid is really quite masterful at the game, in no small measure because other than ping pong his free time these days is overwhelmingly consumed by Minecraft, Clash of Clans, SimCity 4 Deluxe Edition, youtube videos galore rooted in gameplay and game parody and what-have-you, and a bevy of other sofa-bound veg-and-play games and experiences.

My hope is the next 10 days will find The Boy matched up with other kids his age who are at or near his level. Otherwise, his hesitance to get off the couch and get out in the world (read: separate from his MacBook and iPad and Nintendo DS3) will have been justified…or so he will say and think, anyway. And this is where the irony lies as 32 years ago I remember feeling similar hesitation at heading off to summer camp, too…summer computer camp!

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Eurostars Upon Thars

Being a somewhat regular visitor to London over the past 15 years, and having spent more than a year commuting weekly from Paris to a start-up gig there way back in ‘00-’01, I have Eurostar stories to burn. Nothing I could recount, though, compares to the head-shaking cock-up I was a party to this past Friday.

I arrived at the Eurostar departure area at St. Pancras at 15h00 on the nose, ready to flash my ticket’s QR code at the gate. A gentleman in front of me had a problem getting the gate to take his QR, and he waved me ahead. At that moment the gate opened, and with it all happening so fast I rushed right through. A no-no, to be sure, and I knew it (gotta flash your code, otherwise the databases aren’t fat and happy), so I immediately turned around to hand my ticket to the guy who waved me ahead so all could be reconciled. And if that had been all that happened, it all would’ve worked out fine. No harm, no foul.

Alas, as I was handing my ticket to the guy whose entry I had assumed, a Eurostar person jumped in the middle of it all. This woman took my ticket into her hand already full of tickets, working diligently to get not only the guy I mentioned through but others with him as well. That accomplished, she handed me back what should’ve been my ticket, but which I was soon to learn was not in fact my ticket but the ticket of one of the others in the group. Soon to learn, but not quite soon enough as it turned out. Keep reading.

Sneetch Star

Security, Passport Control, a Cadbury Flake purchased, 15h31 train to Paris boarding, up the escalator, down the platform, onto Car 18 and (almost) into Seat 72…which was inhabited by another person with a valid ticket for the seat. My ticket? Valid for the same seat on the train leaving at 16h02. Oh, and the name on the ticket was not anything remotely akin to my own.

Realizing quickly what had happened, I sought out someone in Eurostar-logo-emblazoned clothing to explain my situation to, thinking there would be high-techy solution to it all. Instead I got “Well, all the trains are overbooked today, so we’ll put you on the 16h02 and just hope things work out. Maybe the person with your ticket got on the 15h31. If not, we’ll handle it then.” Thus, Eurostar’s idea of fixing the situation boiled down to this: Perhaps the person traveling with those other people realized he had been handed back your ticket for the 15h31 and instead of staying with his group on the 16h02 he instead bid them a quick “Ta ta! See you in Paris!” and ran to take the 15h31. Oh, and he opted for a different seat than the one on my ticket — although there weren’t any free seats on the train — because he was not the guy I encountered when I tried to take the seat on the 15h31. So just take the seat on the 16h02 with the ticket you are holding and hope.


So I boarded the 16h02, took Seat 72 in Car 18, and waited. Not long. Soon enough, the guy who I originally encountered at the entry gate boarded the train with his group. He saw me, immediately knew why I was there, and together we set off in search of a logo-ed person who could offer much-needed resolution. And this is where things get anti-climatic, because we quickly found a train manager who found me an empty seat in Car 17 using a handy-dandy tablet with some proprietary app connected to some up-to-date database in some datacenter somewhere nearby, and that was that. I would make it home for the weekend, I wouldn’t have to stand between cars or sit on someone’s lap to do so, and I could spend the two hours pondering why some Eurostar trains are 2014-tech-ready while others seemingly are not.

Business business applications chromebook Cloud google mobile apps obsolescence storage backup & dr

Office365 – How Low Can You Go ?

It seems to me that a tipping point has arrived for businesses large and small, many of which after having drastically cut back on their IT spend over the last few years now find themselves coasting into 2014 on the fumes and vapours of Windows XP and Office 2003/7.

Andrew Beardsmore is a new contributor to and this is his first post. He’s been obsessed by tech for two decades and has spent most of that time fixing everything from networks to netbooks. Now he’s sharing the knowledge, and the obsession.

I recently had a bit of a tweetup with @EvanKirstel regarding Microsoft’s amazing deal with Office365 (check it out at:

It seems to me that a tipping point has arrived for businesses large and small, many of which after having drastically cut back on their IT spend over the last few years now find themselves coasting into 2014 on the fumes and vapours of Windows XP and Office 2003/7.


Home users who extravagantly trotted off to Currys/PCWorld during their “hey, we’re going bust” sales and splurged on full versions of more recent MS Office software (though intending to only blow a few hundred quid on a chunky Windows 8 laptop) probably won’t have heard yet of Office365. They also may not have noticed those early ChromeBooks, or if they did they weren’t entirely convinced by the PCWorld sales folk when faced with what looked like Ubuntu. That is, Ubuntu without a hard drive…or apps.* Their new high capacity laptop hard drives, overflowing with growing photo libraries from flashy megamegapixel point-&-shoots, are already laughing at their puny free two gigabyte Dropbox accounts, and buying yet another discounted external USB hard drive ‘My Brick’ to backup and fill with all their pics and videos of school plays and homework projects, as well as every family member’s iPad/iPod/iPhone backup…well, it just seems so ‘2011’, doesn’t it?

Now these home users are included in this mini-cloud revolution also. (Not every household bought a NAS — though perhaps they should have — as they ARE expensive. Expensive, anyway, when compared to the wares peddled by Microsoft.)

In my opinion, the principles are broadly similar whether you are purchasing enterprise licensing or you are a home user “with a lot of stuff”.

  • Both need humongous space and/or backup and want a whizzy new version of Office.
  • Both want to be able to access it all whilst mobile (even if your mobile data provider hasn’t heard of your holiday home’s postcode, and thus offline editing is also needed).
  • Both want to share and collaborate.

With monthly offers that include an Office365 subscription (spanning multiple devices and user accounts) AND one terabyte of online storage now available for less than the cost of three lattes, just how cheap does it all need to be? And would you trust it if it got any cheaper ?

How does $7 a month sound? (In dollars because — Yup — stateside rollout first.) For this amount you can put Office365 on your PC and get a terabyte of storage thrown in. Make it $10 and you can install on five PCs and have as many as five user accounts (each with its own terabyte of online storage). A terabyte? That’s one thousand gigabytes for those of us with suntans and more interest in Wimbledon than “The IT Crowd” reruns.

Interestingly, Microsoft commissioned a recent survey and decided that about three quarters of us only have about thirteen gigabytes of ‘stuff’, so one thousand gigabytes should pretty much cover it. To be honest, though, this number sounds like it’s been picked more to justify their updated freemium offering of a fifteen gigabyte deal.

Many will forget about their Dropbox accounts, mothball their GoogleDrive accounts, lose the power supply plugs and mini USB cables for their ‘My Bricks’ (and never again dream of owning a NAS). They’ll take the plunge into subscriptions-based software purchasing** just for the great one terabyte ‘giveaway’ alone. Got a smartphone that you take pics on? How about letting it backup all those precious shots automatically to OneDrive (smile!).

Think about it. Never again will you need to go through a ‘fork-lift’ upgrade process between versions of Office — remember the advent of the blasted ribbon in Office 2007? — as your device will instead accept the more frequent but gradual improvements and changes in the same way your smartphone updates its apps whilst you sleep. It will backup and sync continuously, silently, all the time. If you’re a small to medium business, what this means is that the guy who takes the backup tapes home every night and puts a new one in every morning won’t have to continue to lie each time he forgets. Or you can rethink your price plan with MozyPro, or whoever. The AD-like control you get over the data it handles will sufficiently please both your sysadmin and your CIO/CISO.

Many will consider Microsoft’s new 1TB + Office365 $7 per month subscription a no-brainer. And, if you’re bulk buying for business, the deal gets even better, as according to the third link I offer below it is just $2.50 (yearly commitment). Such a huge saving is certain to ensure your continuing position with the company, that is if you can persuade your CFO. And if against all odds it turns out to be a rubbish idea and they fire you, well, they can just cancel your user subscription!

N.B. I wonder how many smaller partnerships and LLPs will be tempted to take the home licensing route on their mixed-usage mobile devices…pay the $10 five-user rate, out of guilt, and call it BYOD when it’s in the office?!

*Company-wide Chromebook deployment: Great way to to upgrade to a modern OS, get a new office productivity suite, AND equip your workforce with mobile devices for less than the price of a desktop refresh. I want to know more about the experiences of companies who have ‘gone Google’ in this manner. I like what I have seen so far with Google Appcare. However, having recently dropped their cloud offering’s pricing, I wonder how they feel about Microsoft’s new deal? To quote mine host, it’s “certainly warming up in the cloud wars”).

**Just quietly say ouch and forget it’s happening.

Chase the following links for specific details and price plans for Office365 and OneDrive:

Thanks for reading. You can find more on the subject of Office365 and similar tech at

End User google mobile apps travel

Travel times to Oxford and mobile phone car kits

lincoln to oxford by public transportAs previously mentioned am picking up kid1 from Oxford today and transplanting him to Laandan, innit.  Just checked on travel times with google maps to see when I need to set off. Intended to go to the gym before hitting the road. Unfortunately I haven’t got time to go to the gym. Google tells me the trip will take 2 hours 37 minutes to do the 132 miles and I will also want to stop for a spot of lunch, a cheeky KFC maybe (only for convenience when travelling of course).

That means I should have headed to the gym a good half an hour ago. Ah well.

In looking at google maps I wondered how long it would take to walk. That would make up for not going to the gym. 40 hours but only 121 miles. It’s a more direct route and avoids motorways obvs. Not practical as I need to be in Oxford by 2pm and the whole point of the journey is that I need the car to carry all kid1’s stuff. Taking public transport is also not an option as it would take 3 hours 42 mins and as per the walking option we wouldn’t have the car to carry his stuff in our onward direction.

For completeness I thought you’d like to know that were I to cycle it should take 12 hours 3 minutes to do the 141 miles. Don’t ask why they tell cyclists to take a longer route than the pedestrians. Maybe the latter uses pedestrian precincts for part of the trip. Would make sense as one could probably buy a sandwich and a bottle of water from a shop from the pedestrian precinct. The getting there by plane option is greyed out, presumably because google realises that Lincoln only has RAF airfields and no commercial airport.

It does somewhat come as a surprise that google hasn’t recommended any hotels for an overnight stay on both the pedestrian and cycling maps. Surely they don’t think I’d be able to walk for 40 hours without an overnight stay. It would be a miracle if I could walk that distance full stop, without getting into training for it. Same applies for the cycling – one’s bum would get particularly sore I’d imagine.

So the car is it and it is nearly time for me to hit the road. Before I go I’d like to relate a telephone conversation with Kevin Murphy of BT (he of running the Olympics project for BT fame and who now runs voice for that company). I was at the garage getting my car boot hydraulics fixed so that the boot would stay up without my having to use a broom handle to prop it up – v handy when moving a kid from Oxford to Laandan. I was on my mobile in the garage canteen room with table and chair and the darn phone got cut off three times. It as only after the third time and I was looking out of the window when I saw Dave the mechanic gesturing.  Whenever he moved the car the bloomin hands free system took over the phone audio and I lost the conversation.

I switched off bluetooth, rang Kevin back again and finished the discussion. Kevin is coming to do the Keynote speech at ITSPA’s forthcoming 10th Anniversary celebrations on July 3rd. Check it out here. If you are in the VoIP game you should be there.

That’s it. Gotta go to Oxford. Ciao.

Other fairly interesting google maps posts:

Jet tries to land in Russell Square
Google location incorrect since moving home

Apps Bad Stuff business applications Cloud End User Mobile mobile apps

RER B to CDG Terminal 2

For some time I have been thinking of writing a post while on the move, to see what that might bring to the page. Hardly original, the idea is somewhat out of my wheelhouse, if for no other reason than the fact that I truly loathe typing anything longer than a text message on a virtual keyboard. Not that I have some kind of a hoity-toity “They aren’t true keyboards” attitude (though I do, and they aren’t), but as a touch typist who has been clocked at 120 wpm (words-per-minute, for the acronym challenged) I find it wickedly frustrating to have to look at the keys to form the words that are in my head…not to mention slow down said head to capture the whatnot those words form. Still, being a staunch proponent of digital progress (mostly), for you, friend reader, I will endure. And perhaps even have a little fun, too.

I first thought to try my hand at mobile writing with the no-longer-so-recent (February) announcement that Microsoft was offering an iOS7 version of their Office 365 applications for free. As the Guv’nor of two iOS7-cursed devices (the iPhone 4 I whinge here about replacing on a somewhat regular basis, and an iPad Mini pass-me-down), this news pricked my eyes, and I quickly grabbed up the apps for both Word and Excel. I didn’t fire ’em up for use right away — AppleKory and my keyboard hadn’t left the building, so why bother? — but I was content knowing I had the apps, for…well, whenever.

One day shortly thereafter, it was whenever. I was at Cafè Lomi, just sitting there watching the wheels go ’round and ’round (I really love to watch them roll), when I thought I’d go all mobile-writer-guy on the good visitors of I pulled iPadKory from my bag, coded it, and punched the icon for Word. Nice looking app. Opens straight to a New Document page, serving up all kinds of document templates, such as Brochure, Invoice, ProposalSchool Newsletter. Colorful. Friendly. Microsofty.

I punch New Blank Document. I get a Word-looking page with a orange bar near the top that reads Read-Only. To create and edit, activate with an eligible Office 365 subscription.

2014-05-14 00.41.58

Hmm. That doesn’t sound very free. Or friendly. I do happen to have an account, though, so maybe it wants that (though I was already thinking how lost the casual first-time user without such an account would react on seeing the top-screen note). I punch Activate, which leads immediately to a Subscription dialogue. All of a sudden I am no longer having fun. In for a penny, though, right? I follow the path of dialogue windows, employing my credentials as needed, until I am finally staring at Buy a Subscription. I only need to shell out $99.99 a year to use my sweet new free Office 365 iOS7 application!


Disillusioned, discouraged, and feeling just plain ‘dissed, I slapped iPadKory shut, threw it in my bag, and left for home. “I didn’t really want to write a post on a tablet using a virtual keyboard anyway. Phooey.” And the Word app? Deleted, with prejudice (except, that is, for my reinstalling it today to check my memory for this post and to grab screenshots).

And that is where it all would have stayed — at “Phooey.” — had Google not made their own announcement of a free Google Docs app a couple of weeks back. Of course, I immediately DL’ed the app, and this time I launched it forthwith to make sure it could actually be put to some use.

Voila, enablement. And as for writing on the run and virtual keyboards? Well, I made it this far…

2014-05-14 01.39.06

Related posts:

fun stuff gadgets ipv6 mobile apps

Kitchen of things – the connected juicer #IPv6 #internetofthings

The connected kitchen, made possible by IPv6 and the internet of things is something oft discussed. Fridges that remind you when you need more milk or when the milk is about to go off is one “useful” and habitually touted suggestion that springs to mind.

I was recently chatting to my mam and dad about the coal fired range that used to be in my Welsh grandmother’s stone floored kitchen. The tone of the conversation was how technology has moved on. It came as a total surprise to hear that the range was a step on from my mam’s childhood in Ireland where all they had was an open fire with some bricks around it to prop up the saucepans. juicer

We now fill our kitchens with more gadgets than we really have room for. At our house we have a food mixer, handheld liquidiser, pasta maker, slow cooker, George Foreman Grill, orange juice squeezer (hand held lever job) orange juice squeezer (electric), garlic press, two fondues, a tandoori oven (clay pot), scales (electric and with counter weights) as well as the usual microwave, kettle toaster, dishwasher, fridge and rangemaster double width cooker.  I’m sure there must be more. Just can’t think of any and Mrs Davies ain’t around to ask. The (cheapo) bread maker was rubbish and was thrown out years ago. It’s been replaced by the fair hands of Mrs Davies who kneads an excellent loaf.

Imagine if all these gadgets were “connected”. For one thing we would need a very robust Wireless LAN. What sort of data would they provide?

The orange juicer would be able to let me know how many oranges I’d squeezed in its lifetime, average number of oranges squeezed per day, volume of orange juice provided etc etc. I could probably associate a google account with juicer username – multiple usernames of course to accommodate profiles for the whole family.

This would enable google to sell my data, anonymously of course, so that  I could benefit from great deals on  fresh oranges, spare juicer parts (these metal squeezing bits don’t last forever you know) and even juicer servicing contracts where the bloke turns up to fix your juicer just before it is about to go kaput (or whatever juicers do at the end of their life).

We would need the juicer to automatically recognise users – logging in would be a faff. This would generate a hugely lucrative new wave of internet enabled juicer sales. This isn’t the kind of thing that can be retrofitted.

And then there’s the app. Downloadable from the Play Store, App Store, Marketplace or whatever your phone or tablet uses. It’s all good stuff for an economy emerging from the worst recession since the bubonic plague.

I’ve only mentioned juicers so far. Yer juicer would be integrated with the fridge to coordinate stock level of oranges. You would have to keep the oranges in the fridge even if you don’t do that now. It’s the only way of keeping track of stock levels. Whoever heard of an internet connected fruit bowl! Doh!

And don’t forget to let your fridge know when you are off on holiday. Last thing you want is the Tesco van turning up to deliver automatically ordered oranges and you not being in. Think of the growing pile of increasingly rotting oranges on your doorstep. What a waste. What a pong!

I’ve only really mentioned the juicer but each gadget would have its own unique set of data. The GFG would tell you how much fat it had extracted from your diet, the breadmaker, should you have one could tell you how much fat you had put back in to your diet. The GFG could obviously hook up with the breadmaker to tell it to go easy on the portion size. The toaster would also connect with the breadmaker to tell it that more supplies were needed. This is all such useful stuff. Innit. Reality is that we probably would find uses for a connected kitchen but won’t know what they are until we’ve tried a few of the connected apps and gadgets. Just like some apps on our phones strike a chord1 and some don’t and are discarded contemptuously or just clog up your screen never to be used.

Me old gran would be turning in her grave. Suspect a connected griddle wouldn’t have made her Welsh Cakes come out any better. Lovely they were:)

In the meantime I’ll just have to stick to asking the butler whether cook has finished making the bread for the day. Lovely smells wafting up from the kitchen to the East Wing.

1 I have the guitar tuner app, actually

End User mobile apps

Would you trust Samsung with your health data?

Walking Mate S HealthStill in the process of moving icons around since regaining my SGS4 and clicked on the Walking Mate App – “keep track of how many steps you take each day with S Health”.

OK I’m interested I thought and clicked. The App took me through a process and got to the page shown in the screen print on the right.

They seriously need their brains examining if they think I am going to trust Samsung with that kind of data. One wonders how many active users the S Health app really has. Health certainly seems to be an application, if you can call health an application, that the vendors of wearable devices seem to have latched on to. Partly I suspect out of desperation to find some functionality they can add to their gadgets.

My SGS4 isn’t wearable, yet, unless  I strapped it to my wrist 🙂 but I do use some health apps, if you can call Runkeeper a health app.

I’m about to join a gym btw, talking about health applications. There is one near the office at the University. The plan is 30 mins in the pool first thing, 30 mins walk to work 5 days a week (when I’m in Lincoln) and then perhaps 1 hour in the gym three days a week in the afternoon before I walk 30 mins home. Assuming I’m not too knackered for the walk. In such an eventuality I will have to resort to Plan B which as yet has not been defined.

When joining a gym one does have to consider the cost. This in my case isn’t the cost of using the gym. It’s the cost of replacing all my clothes when I lose a load of weight and get trim. And all that lycra I will need! It’s gonna happen:) What price health eh?

The Samsung app was free but what price privacy, eh?

End User google mobile apps

Reduce data usage with Chrome

chrome data usage Came across this by accident but I think it is pretty cool.

I’m not particularly bothered about my data usage. I don’t come close to my limits either on my broadband connection or my SIM.

Still think it’s good that Chrome does this though.

PS this post had 6 LinkedIn shares in the space of 30 mins after going live – good eh?

Engineer fun stuff mobile apps Weekend

Warp drive & a forecast date for technology of teleporting

I was discussing my experiences of being without a phone for ten days concluding that the phone was something I’d rather have than not have despite the fact that to some extent the damn gadget takes over your life. It isn’t really a phone any more anyway. The percentage of its time spent making phone calls is tiny compared with all the other intergalactic communicating computer functions.

What is missing it seems to me is a Teleporting app. It just seems a natural evolution of the capability of the hand held computer personal computing device (it isn’t going to be hand held for very much longer). Who wouldn’t want to be able to just say “beam me up Scotty” and reappear in the pub saloon bar1.

Yes this is all dreamland stuff but it is Friday afternoon and the weekend beckons. Clearly the problem is the lack of any technology available to make this happen. It would be easy enough to put together an App, integrate it with Google Maps for setting coordinates and provide a button with the words “beam” or “beam me up” (or even one with user-programmable text – let’s push the boat out). Of course it wouldn’t work but might look good.

The App could just be waiting for the back end tech to catch up and don’t worry, this it very much will do. We would also need more maps data than just for planet Earth

The question is when. When you think about it the answer to this is really obvious. Teleporting technology will become available at around the same time as dilithium crystal powered warp drives. Stands to reason, innit. This won’t be for a while yet but it will come.

I won’t be around to see it but that doesn’t matter. It’s the same principle as planting oak trees. You don’t do it for yourself. You do it for the enjoyment of later generations. The savvy amongst you (that’s pretty much everyone who reads this blog:) ) will have spotted that I’ve omitted to put a date against this. I don’t have an Alpha date let alone Beta or General Release. That’s cos I’ve been around the block. It can be fatal to put a date down that you are doomed to miss. Better to keep it vague.

This does make it harder to put a business case around it but lets face it. Business cases are often based on sales figures plucked out of thin air anyway. Either that or an analyst report that someone has paid a lot of money for so it must be right. Right?

The vagueness of the schedule also points to budget overruns. Whoever owns the project should factor in some additional capital up front. Lots of additional capital. Probably more capital than the Gross Domestic Product of the world. Totally buggers up the ROI numbers but well worth it. After all it is a Friday and the more time we have available to spend in the pub the better which is what Teleporting will do for us.

In considering the business case we shouldn’t forget ongoing operational costs. By buying additional drinking time it is going to mean we will be spending more money on beer. This is a difficult one to cost in because everyone drinks at a different pace although there must be an ONS report somewhere with an average number of pints drunk in a given time period. The average time saved by Teleporting would also need to be calculated and this will in all probability require some extensive primary research involving visiting many Public Houses around the country globally.

Finally we would need to forecast the cost of a pint at the time the tech becomes available. Hopefully the government won’t have upped the tax on beer too much by then2.

So there you go. A take on the timeline for Teleporting. It will arrive at the same time as Warp drive…

1 Mine’s a pint of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord bitter.
2 I did say this was a dream.

Apps Business Mobile mobile apps mobile connectivity UC voip

Will OTT VoIP Apps Destroy the Telecoms Industry? welcomes VoIP Week contributor Alex Kinch, Founder and CEO of Ziron.

As soon as the Telecoms industry came to terms with the WhatsApp acquisition and what it could mean for their SMS revenues, CEO Jan Koum dropped another bombshell: the company would be launching voice services from Q2.

For many this announcement spelled the end. Surely operator executives around the world should start packing their suitcases and call it a day. After years of racing to the bottom the industry has finally hit rock. Well, not quite. In my view, it’s high-time these doomsayers started to examine the opportunities that come with the increase of OTT voice apps (mVoiP), rather than demonising the unstoppable tide of technological evolution.

The ‘telco industry camp’ and the ‘mVoiP camp’ needn’t be enemies. There is room a-plenty for them to co-exist, at least for the foreseeable future. News reports would have you believe that the only people using landlines are rural dwelling anti-tech luddites, however Ofcom has reported that in the last statistical year call volumes from both fixed and mobile phones were in excess of 100 billion minutes. Their report states that 82% of adults still use a home landline – but only 28% of adults use any form of VoIP. The report also said that there are currently 82.7 million active mobile subscribers in the UK, but a report from Analysys Mason clarifies that only 20% of them are active mVoiP users.
Ziron logo

It is essential to keep in mind that mVoIP isn’t new, as in recent years a host of mVoiP apps have launched, including Fring, Nimbuzz to Viber. We’ve had a long time to come to terms with mVoIP apps and adapt business models accordingly. The key is to think about how you can value, rather than trying to stand in the way of change. At least one popular OTT app has been conducting trials with traditional telcos, in which calls from the PSTN made to a user’s regular GSM number are intercepted and delivered to the app instead of via the SIM. This kind of forward progress must be embraced. We must ask, “How we can add value and work together to deliver an enhanced customer experience?”

Massive scope exists for smart VoIP operators that can act as a gateway between the old world of the PSTN and the new world of OTT apps. As someone that has been in Telco for more years than I dare ever admit, I remember similar hysteria taking hold ten years ago when Skype first became popular. Today, Skype is feeding and contributing to the Telco industry, driving a third of the world’s phone traffic. The fact is that Telecoms is evolving, and,to survive we are going to have to evolve with it.

VoIP Week Posts:

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TVs, lost remotes and fish tank screensavers

@tref_350Our TV remote control is lost. It is almost certainly down the side of the settee or one of the armchairs. I did look. It must have been a fairly cursory glance because that bit of plastic was not found. Didn’t jump up at me saying “here I am Tref”.

Not that it knows my name. At least it never got it from me. Might have heard it while we were watching the snooker, I suppose.

The fact is that the TV remote being lost hasn’t really affected me. I discovered the manual buttons down the right hand side of the screen. They allowed me to switch on the snooker. Fortunately the faff of switching channels was unnecessary. It was already tuned to the snooker.

Since then TV has played no part in our lives. It is there flat against the wall. Red LED indicating it is powered up but on standby.

I could I suppose find an app on the droid that serves as a TV remote. Not bothered. I quite like the idea of a screensaver showing fish in a tank. Tropical job. I’d like a fish tank although I don’t want the hassle of looking after the fish.

Friend of mine from University, Rhys, had an undergraduate project to observe the behavioural patterns of goldfish. He was supposed to feed them at the same time of day in the same part of the fish tank to see if they would congregate there in hungry anticipation.

The problem was we would shoot off somewhere for the weekend so on Friday Rhys would give them enough food to last until Monday morning. Totally messed up the experiment. The fish began to die and by the end of the spring term 39 out of 40 of them had died. Kicked the aquatic bucket. Rhys had to totally fabricate his experimental results:)

My other university “fish tank” story related to one of the lads who declined to come out with “the boys” one sunday night because he had a date. In those days Bangor was dry on a Sunday. The only source of alcohol was through a private club such as the British Legion or the Students Union or at a restaurant. We frequented the Taj Mahal, sadly now defunct.

On this occasion we hit the cinema and ended up in the Taj for a chicken biryani (meat vindaloo, onion bhaji, pilau rice, plain naan etc) and a few pints of lager.

Upon arrival we were sat next to the fish tank, always a favourite place to sit. Very relaxing when combined with Bollywood’s Greatest Hits. Just a few minutes later our pal was ushered, girl in tow, to the table the other side of the tank. I have no idea whether he had noticed us but we could definitely see him. He was out to impress big time and ordered a bottle of Blue Nun, in those days the height of sophistication. You have to believe he had the mickey taken out of him big time when we got back to the hall of residence. Blue Nun!

Hey. He had the night out with the girl and we didn’t 🙂

In those days I didn’t watch the TV. In fact Kid1 was thirteen years old before we had our first TV. We have one now, as you know, although we don’t watch it because the remote is lost. Feels just like the good old days:) There’s always iPlayer and tinterweb anyway and we didn’t have that in the good old days!

PS pic is totally arbitrary – fancied sticking it up

Business business applications mobile apps

Irrationally looking forward to meeting Pardeep or hello Pardeep goodbye Galaxy Mini

Some of you will have been following the story of me being without my phone for over a week now. I well I am irrationally excited to tell you that it is nearly here. I’m sat at home in the conservatory waiting for Pardeep.

Pardeep works for courier DPD. I know exactly where Pardeep is. I’ve been following his progress with great interest to the point where I’ve been constantly refreshing my screen to see if he is getting any nearer my house.  The screen shots at the bottom of this post tell the story.

There are a couple of very slight disappointments. The first is that there is a lag between the status shown and Pardeep’s real location. As he pulled up outside my house I wanted a screenshot of him doing so. It didn’t happen and the next time I looked, which was when he had gone, the status of the delivery had changed to “your parcel has been delivered”. Not a major issue, just a very slight disappointment:)

The second disappointment was that I wanted to take a photo of Pardeep. He was a very cheery bloke. The problem was that the device I would have normally used to take the photo was the one being delivered by Pardeep. He wouldn’t have wanted to hang around while I opened the box, took out the phone, inserted the battery, SIM, SDCard, entered my credentials and waited for all the device updates to happen.

Hey, no big deal:) The updates are happening right now. I am pleased to tell you that my wallpaper and lock screen photos are back in place although little things such as the screen lock, lock screen message (Tref’s phone) and misc other settings such as which icons go where have to be manually redone.

I can tell you that the last time I used this phone appears to have been on Shakespeare’s birthday, 23rd April, because that is the date of the most recent SMS restored by my Samsung backup account. The SMS, fwiw, is from my wife and it says “Powerpoint for beginners”. What gets backed up where is something I will have to check in making any decision to move handset vendors.

All my apps are being reinstalled. I’m not totally comfortable about all the permissions I’m having to give. Security around what an app can and can’t do is is something that the Android will need to sort out. It also seems odd that the “internet” app automatically installed on the home screen is not Chrome. It must be something Samsung has chosen. IE perhaps but there is nothing to tell me what it is. That one won’t last.

Anyway follow the progress of Pardeep as he winds his way through the sleepy streets of Lincoln towards my house, dropping parcels off on the way:

parcel status DPD1

parcel status2

DPD parcel status

DPD parcel status

DPD parcel status

DPD parcel status - delivered

Other good parcel delivery reads:

iPad tracked whilst on TNT overnight delivery

End User gadgets H/W internet media Mobile mobile apps phones

Gaining Focus

As readers of last week’s Conscious Uncoupling already know, I am making moves to unhitch myself from my iPhone 4 of the past 3 years and start anew at some point in the near future with an Android KitKat device. And as I am always looking to put the latest tech into my hands when the time comes to upgrade (or as my Apple-inebriated friends would likely put it in this case, “mistakenly change”), I have been looking quite fervently at both the HTC One and the Samsung Galaxy S5, both of which have just recenlty seen release and both of which are racking up impressively high numbers with regard to NRP (Number of Reviews Published…my statistic, my acronym, and no amount of search engine pounding will turn it up).

Two weeks ago (week of 31-March) HTC brought their blitz of HTC One M8 promotion to a crescendo that rolled over and straight through the technologically inclined and/or curious, and which resulted in a quantity of review inches more than adequate enough to ensure informed options would set in time to counter the Samsung Galaxy S5 wave that followed last week (week of 7-April). Now, of course, I cannot and will not make such an important relationship decision without first establishing a level playing field upon which I can hinge it, so I have resolved to wait a few weeks…a couple of weeks…at least a week to let all of the new information foster (fester?) within.*

So all of those reviews. Essentially, they boil down pretty straight across party lines (yes, that is a telephony joke…a groaner of a telephony joke but a telephony joke nonetheless).

HTC One M8
Pros: Gorgeous build and design (actually it is more accurate to go All-Caps on GORGEOUS, as this is the overwhelming first-notice feature cited in every one of the product reviews I have read or skimmed or found myself subjected to). The expected high level of display, speed, and functionality. GREAT speakers! “Motion Launch”, which allows the user to perform specific commands with the display off via tap, swipe, or gesture. Better than expected battery life (and a power-saving mode that can be configured to set energy amount parameters).
Cons: Lousy camera. Just awful. Won’t anyone say something nice about the camera? Or, at least, not be so enthusiastic in dinging it?

Samsung Galaxy S5
Pros: Waterproof! Yup, the Galaxy S5 is waterproof, up to 30 minutes at a depth of 1 meter. Terrific screen, camera kudos all around, noticeably great battery life (and the battery can be swapped out as needed, too), storage expandability up to 128GB, health features (a heart rate monitor as part of the on-board hardware won’t keep me from drinking a single Cola-Cola or eating a single chip) significant reduction in the amount of Samsung TouchWiz bloatware from its S4 predecessor, speed and functionality to beat the band, and light.
Cons: Perhaps TOO light, as every reviewer critisizes the S5’s “cheap” feel (at least in comparison to the heavy and shiny smartphones in the arena, all of which suffer phone reception for their metal-enwrapped goodness), the fingerprint scanner is not as smooth as Apple’s Rolls-Royce-aspiring iPhone 5S, and though the TouchWiz bloatware is less than it was on the S4 it is still a proverbial fish-in-a-barrel target for criticism.

So pushing cost/plan out of the equation, I find I am leaning hard towards the Samsung Galaxy S5. I cannot say that I have spent much time wishing I could use my phone in the sea, pool, or shower (and I haven’t found my phone doing a toilet tumble since the days of the Nokia 3310), but what I can say is that I cannot imagine spending ANY time with a smartphone that is camera-lacking. The (at the time) industry-leading camera is what put me in my iPhone 4 back in 2011 to begin with, and as criteria go that function is even more of a decision-maker for me in 2014.

Get the picture?

Yes, there are tens of other KitKat-able phones that warrant consideration along with thes two new goliaths now stomping around, however I did lead with my propensity for grabbing up the latest tech and it doesn’t come any “latest” than the new flagship products from HTC and Samsung. Of course, the fact is that “With Great Popularity Comes Not Only Great Punditry But Great Amounts of Shared Opinion and Technical Insight.” (humblest apologies to Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, both of whom are thankfully still with us as of this writing), so there is that, too.

End User fun stuff gadgets mobile apps phones wearable

Cycle Gear

A long time ago I used to cycle everywhere; then I learned how to drive……. then I learned how to drink and how to hail (and afford) a taxi….. then I moved to the countryside with idiot drivers like me that didn’t really look out properly for cyclists….. then I moved to the Surrey / London border and the quack told me to stop abusing my joints.

But now, I have an all clear and the realisation that there is some epic cycling country around here. I write this, for example, after following National Cycle Route 4 pretty much from home to Tower Bridge this morning, through Richmond Park and substantially along the river (including past Craven Cottage, home of the mighty Fulham Football Club). I am now editing it a few days later after a 25 mile blast from home to Richmond Park to say hi to the deer.

Of course, being in telecoms means such a venture cannot be undertaken without some degree of geekist equipment. So, I have my bike, a Specialized Crosstrail. Hybrid, obviously, because (1) I don’t want to be associated with the LycraLouts that ride two abreast on main roads and (2) becasue there’s no way a roadbike can handle tow paths at speed.

There’s the Moon LED lights that charge from a microUSB socket, which is incredibly useful. They have a multitude of settings, which I cannot master despite them having only one button. Oh, and they’re bright, which I suppose is the main thing. There’s also the generic Chinese reverse engineered wireless speedometer, which is essential for knowing just how fast the idiot BMW driver that missed you with a nanometre clearance was going relative to you…. and, more importantly, how far it is to the pub for pie, chips and ale.

Which pretty much just leaves some form of mapping solution. And for that, I have two essential pieces of kit. The first is my iPhone; the second is something to put it in – for which I have this handle handlebar bag. It is importantly water resistent (to be fair it only gets mildly moist even in a monsoon downpoor). It’s large enough to hold a wallet and a battery pack (essential for mobile mapping, for reasons I have previously written about) and has a clear plastic cover on top and a pouch for your iPhone (apparently other devices are allegedly available). There’s also a neat slot for a headphone cable, though I for one would rather hear the idiot in the BMW coming than listen to my playlists.

broken gear End User mobile apps storage backup & dr

Credit where credit is due – Windows 7 networking

Trefor Davies photo storage requirements ytd 2012Yesterday my SD  card blew up on the Samsung Galaxy S4. Not literally of course otherwise the nature of this post would be different. It would probably be ringed with a thick black border mourning the passing of one of the brightest prospects ever to have graced the Morning Star. Either that or it would be quite short as I might well have been typing one handed having been removed from the operating theatre via intensive care to a big ward where I would have felt quite out of place being young and full of life.

Last night I spent some time on the Netgear ReadyNAS retrieving files. Except

Apps End User mobile apps

DroidBeat Synth

Ambitions come and go, and they generally tend to go unfulfilled as a sense of reality creeps up as you mature. Of course, the dreams are still there, though you do have to alter them accordingly. I’ll no longer be a 100m world record holder, but in theory I could be the world darts champion. I’m never going to present the Radio 1 breakfast show, but I understand that community radio is a much more creative experience than being required to play Rihanna on a loop (although less popular).


Since I first knew there was a top 40 music chart I have wanted to have a Number One hit. My brilliantly named first band, The Streaky Boneheads, was formed in drama class at school, and because we had no instruments we mimed them and our visions were big. Naturally, the band split as we parted ways into employment and further education. The Number One ambition still gnaws away at me, though, and with bands having come and gone I now resort to ideas for novelty records, something that annoys most music lovers but that a a fad has the potential to grab the attention of the few thousand people needed to become a Number One recording artist in 2014.

Given a spare ten minutes I can be found sprawling over, downloading, experimenting with, and quickly uninstalling, some app or other that may or may not be the key to producing a chart topper. This habit is what led me to the Google Play Algorithm that suggested I try DroidBeat Synth. The product had good feedback so I gave it a spin.


To quote the late, great, Factory Records genius, Tony Wilson, what I got out of DroidBeat Synth was “like listening to a headache”. Droidbeat describes itself as a simple open source app, so with the right programming and patience I’m sure that someone could engineer the existing sounds into something preferable, like the scratching of nails down a blackboard. It’s not for me, though, as I’m very much the end user – a want-to-push-a-button-to-play-the-drums kind of musician.

DroidBeat Synth is significant for me, though, as its the first time in two years of regular app installation that I have seen the screen at the left.

They don’t want anything from me, and I find that very refreshing. Even so, I got rid of the app and now I’m  off to get The Streaky Boneheads back together for a comeback tour of pubs with good dartboards. Wish us luck!

Paul Tyler presents Lincoln A to Z on Siren FM


Apps End User Mobile mobile apps phones UC video voip

A Chatty Kory

Who among the teeming throng hasn’t at some point or another had the thought, “Instant Messaging sure is a marvelous thing…no idea what I’d do without it…but really, by this point shouldn’t I be able to seamlessly carry on an IM conversation via Yahoo! Messenger with a contact using Google Talk? Or AOL AIM? Skype? And vice-versa? And do I really need to subscribe to all of these services – and lest I forget to mention Windows Live Messenger, Facebook Chat, Twitter, and so many others — to ensure real-time IM reachability?”

Yes, that is one large mouthful of a thought, but it should be easy enough to chew and swallow.

Numerous times over the past 15+ years the effort has been made to establish a unified standard for Internet-based instant messaging, and all of these efforts have thus far come to naught. Entrenched proprietary protocols die hard, after all, and with such integrated services as IP telephony, video conferencing, desktop sharing, and file transfer thrown into the IM provider mix (to name but a few) the potential for absolute and utter world communication dominance is such that no one major player is ever likely to champion a true standardization. No, “the greater good” will never be enough of a reason to hasten such a sea change. Instead, it will require either (1) a scenario in which instigating such a protocol will benefit all parties, (2) an irresistible push/pull prompted by a powerful outside party (government?), or (3) good old-fashioned fish-eat-smaller-fish empire building.

A Chatty KoryNow to be fair, there is some light in the sky these days regarding inter-network IM capability. For instance, with Yahoo Messenger you can add and communicate with contacts using Windows Live™ Messenger, and you can add your AOL AIM contacts into Google Talk. Such functionalities, however, are the result of agreements reached between the networks, agreements in which a bridging of two (or more) proprietary protocols has been put in place not to open communication up but to simply extend one IM provider’s boundaries to include those within another’s.

End User mobile apps

The return of the notification – Android 4.4.2 upgrade

jacquesDarn it. A short while ago I upgraded the dog and bone to Android 4.4.2. Previously I had removed irritating notifications that kept me looking at the device to see if new messages had arrived.

Invariably they had so I was looking at stuff on the phone every hour of the day, including when I was asleep1. I removed notifications from my life and began to get a better night’s sleep.

Now the doggone notifications have returned. How crap is that? I’ve had to back in to settings and untick the tick box again. For each application now notifying me where once there was none.  Urgh. Uh?! Fnaagnn.

Btw you can see from the first screenshot that the name of my Phone is jacques (lower case j). I know you won’t tell anyone. Each new phone gets a different name for car mobile kit purposes. Hey…

You can see the screenshot with the checked notification box here.

C’mon Samsung. Not good enough. I’m assuming it’s your fault. Get your act together.

Other Android upgrade type posts:

I dreamt last night I was upgrading to Android 4.3
Comparison of Samsung firmware versus base Android

1 Bit of poetic license there – I wandered lonely through the cloud crowd

Apps End User mobile apps

Can’t uninstall Flipboard

Bit odd. I never use Flipboard but appear to have it installed on  my droid and it occasionally attracts my attention somehow. I decided to uninstall the app but it doesn’t seem to want to let me. It offers me the opportunity to stop updating or disable it but not uninstall. Doesn’t seem right. Is it a core android feature or have Flipboard done z deal with Samsung?

Screenshot below:


Business business applications mobile apps xaas

Using FreeAgent for personal expenses & discount referral code

trefor_150Following on from my post on FreeAgent yesterday I got home to find the details of the online banking for Time to get the accounts sorted out.

All of the set up costs for the business have come out of my personal account. This includes a chunky legal bill as well as ad hoc events such as champagne celebrations in the Savoy a few pints of half and half in the British Legion. Now that the bank account is accessible and money is starting to come in it is time to square things up.

At lunchtime today I fired up  FreeAgent.

End User fun stuff mobile apps

The hazards of walking to and from work #runkeeper

misted_specsTook me an hour and a half to walk to work yesterday whereas it normally takes around 30 mins.  Only kidding. Forgot to switch off Runkeeper:) The app seems to be intelligent enough to realise that I’d arrived and was just making a cup of tea, writing blog posts etc.

The other by product of walking to and from work, apart from inducing amnesia, is that it makes your glasses steam up when you get home. Last night I walked in to a warm kitchen and was blinded by the heat. See the header photo. It must be so.

I’m used to it. When I’m in the pool of a morning I usually have to ask an attendant what time it is despite there being a big clock on the wall. There is no point asking any of the other swimmers. After 8am they are all of an age and suffer from the same problem.

That’s all. See you later.

Other good reads
Working Time
Internet routing pedestrian style

End User fun stuff mobile apps

The spare plinth – where Facebook used to tread

spare  plinthTrafalgar Square has a spare plinth. So has my phone, since I ditched the Facebook app.

They let different people exhibit on the spare plinth in Trafalgar Square.

I’m proposing to do the same. Of course not as many people will see whatever is exhibited in my spare spot, perhaps.

You will note that there is no email icon on the front screen. Dont bother suggesting it. Email is relegated to the second division as a means of communication. It’s on the next screen along.

I don’t regularly use all of the apps on the front screen. Mostly Chrome, Camera, Twitter, Phone, Calendar and LinkedIn.

The others are pretty much ad hoc. I only occasionally need the alarm clock. The idea for this post came to me in bed so I drafted a post, title only, using the WordPress app. Oh and I use Runkeeper every day I am in the office.

So there you go. I wonder which app I should display on my spare plinth!?

More good reads:
Facebook intrusion continues with App upgrade
51 years old and still single? Yes and no Facebook.