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office 365 unlimited storage

Microsoft announce office 365 unlimited storage

I’m not a big fan of Microsoft but in fairness to the company they are working hard on making their cloud products competitive. The latest  is their announcement of  free office 365 unlimited storage. Course it isn’t free. It costs. £5.99 a month for a single user or £7.99 a month for a household of up to 5 persons. This sounds like a very good deal to me considering a single copy of Microsoft Office can cost over a hundred quid (or it was when I last bought one).

Apart from being an aggressive move in a market that they absolutely have to succeed at, and which indications suggest they are not doing badly, the great thing for me is what this is likely to do for the competition. A Google account is free for personal users and it gives you most of the functionality of Microsoft Office, although I accept that the equivalent Google features may not be as mature and functional.

With Google though you only get 15GB free storage. I worked out earlier this year that the free Google account with a Terabyte of storage is around £70 a year. Whilst a Terabyte isn’t unlimited it’s not far off at the moment, to all intents and purposes.

Maybe £70 is the base market price for this kind of cloud service. Most people won’t need a Terabyte, or an unlimited amount of storage, at the moment. I use around 400MB on my NAS box and that is mostly photos. If I had unlimited storage I might start to push the boundaries on what I choose to store.

I’ve no idea what that is at the moment. It might, for example, mean I get a CCTV app that keeps all the video footage 1 ever recorded by the camera/s. A bit of a waste but why not. It’s free.  Add to that the fact that unlimited usage broadband packages have become the norm and hey presto, all barriers removed.

In one sense Microsoft might be making a rod for their own backs here but I think it is great. It can only be of benefit to us all.  Where does this all go? What happens when everyone’s product looks the same and costs the same? I suspect that we will start to see differentiated cloud services, speed of access, mining tools maybe. But that is all in the future. For the moment it’s well done Microsoft. Competition is good.

They still have a lot of work to do on their mobile strategy though…

1 use of the word footage seems somewhat anachronistic

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iPhone 6 release date – trial web marketing

iPhone 6 release date – blog post used for metrics trial

The iPhone 6 release date is no no interest whatsoever to me other than the fact that the event itself is as usual stirring up lots of interest in the online media. The reason for this is simple. Web based businesses usually make their money in three main ways:

  • online advertising based on page impressions and click throughs
  • affiliate marketing revenues – commissions on sales made as a result of click throughs
  • by selling goods and services

The key to making money is to get high numbers of relevant visitors to your site. A site selling cameras, for example, isn’t going to benefit from someone searching for cars. Google tries to help the searcher by constantly refining its search algorithms.

A subject such as the iPhone 6 release date is going to attract a lot of interest from a fairly wide demographic and represents a good opportunity to convert site visitors to revenues from one or more of the above listed mechanisms. All the “mainstream” media are going to want to use such an event to attract visitors and this they very much do. We get a constant dribble of non-news, rumours, “leaked images” and speculation about specifications. All this despite historical evidence that suggests each launch produces a product that is not very different to its predecessor. Apple et al have great marketing teams.

It is easy to see why the media participates in the hype. The featured image is a screenshot of the Keyword Planner tool supplied by Google to help advertisers with their Adwords campaigns. You can see that there are an awful lot of people (and this is specifically in the UK) searching for iPhone related information1. Almost 785,000 785,ooo searches a month. That’s a lot of visits to compete for. It’s no wonder the media is weighing itself dumbing down with “relevant” clickbait even if the clicked to information is scant.

Our plans for the business include organising events but we also in the process of producing specialist brand sites geared at making money from affiliate marketing. There is a lot of money to be made in commissions from the sales of broadband connections, mobile phone signups etc and the space is already fairly crowded. Participants in this market, essentially that of online deal comparison, can easily make seven figure revenues from a single brand if they are at the top of the Google rankings and have a website well optimised to converting visitors to cash.

At we are getting into the process of website Search Engine Optimisation. It’s fairly standard stuff. You have to include relevant keywords both in your metadata and in your content and have a properly structured site with urls also containing keywords. Links, both inbound and outbound from relevant authoritative sites are also important. These are all things you can work on. We have been writing content for over 6 years with 2,328 posts to show for it. For most of this time scant regard was given to SEO.  The process of going through a large number of posts and optimising them for particular keywords is somewhat lengthy but is ongoing ans will hopefully be worthwhile. At some stage soon we are also going to optimise the URL structure and this is something we will need to take great care over. The last thing we want to do is to break a ton of existing inbound links.

In tandem with this we look at the behaviour of visitors when they arrive at the site. In an ideal world you want to keep your visitors for as long as possible and have them click on as many pages as possible. Each new click is s potential source of advertising revenue. Google, with its Analytics tool, provides some help in doing this but doesn’t provide a complete picture of the visitor behaviour.

We have just signed up with Crazy Egg which should give us a graphical representation of the behaviour of visitors to the site. Who clicks where and when. By tracking this information we should be able to improve the site so that more people click on more links. In one sense doing this for is just a learning curve for the real work which will be on subsidiary brands such as (coming soon) which will be our first foray into the affiliate marketing game.

This post, which is using what must be a highly popular search term in iPhone 6 release date (60,500 searches though low competition for the term, presumably because there is currently no money to be made out of the iPhone 6 because it isn’t yet available) is really an engine to monitor the behaviour of readers of the post.

If you are specifically looking for the iPhone 6 release date the word has it it is 9th September. I’m not publishing any images though I did get a sneak preview of the Samsung Galaxy S5 logo before it came out – check it out here.

Surprisingly the iPhone 4s is one of the most used search terms in the UK with 201,000 searches a month.

End User google mobile connectivity phones

Mobile Phone in Spain – Holiday Tech

Mobile phone in Spain is very useful whilst on holiday – this post was written mostly in the shade by the pool.

Some of you will have noted on my Facebook timeline that I have been on holiday for most of August. At the moment I’m in Cala D’Or in Mallorca. Sat in the shade on the hotel terrace looking down on a moored yacht. Abba in the background:) The use of my mobile phone in Spain proved indispensable.

When we got here the first thing I did was to establish the comms position. Hotel WiFi was cheap at only 10 Euros per device for the 12 days of our stay. However I didn’t want to encourage to the kids to spend all their time on their laptops so I opted for the 1 free hour a day per person.

Next thing I did was source a Spanish sim. Mobistar 1GB for 20 Euros. I needed it to work the sat nav. We had a private transfer from the airport when we landed and had a hire car delivered to the hotel the following day. I needed the Sat Nav to make sure I could find my way back to the hotel the following day after picking up the heir who was arriving a day afer us.

translate_spainAs it turned out the Mobistar sim came in handy for other purposes. Kid3’s specs broke and the nearest optician was in the next town. I found the optician using google and then maps to get there. I took a pic of the street sign in case I couldn’t find my way back to the car.

I also did this in the huge underground car park in the centre of Palma. At least I took a pic of the parking bay number so that I couldn’t forget where I parked – easily done when you are using a hire car. Interesting to see car parks with red and green lights above each bay to indicate whether there was space.

The optician couldn’t fix the specs so we hunted down a supermarket using google maps to buy some superglue. We then used google translate to find out the spanish word for glue and showed it to an assistant.

We used TripAdvisor to determine where to eat each evening. By and large this was highly successful. We mostly ended up with great family run restaurants. Cala D’Or is very touristy and there were a lot of places I’d say were transplanted from Benidorm (though I haven’t been to Benidorm) and geared at the Fosters drinker. TV screens all over the place.

Restaurante Selani was #2 on TripAdvisor behind an Ice Cream kiosk at #1. The food was good enough to engender a very positive response from Kid4, the gastronome of the family. TripAdvisor did however make us 20 minutes late for the table as it took us to a spot only 60 metres away but across the marina. The 60 metres took 20 minutes to walk!

Every pub and restaurant in Cala D’Or, everywhere we went in Mallorca in fact, had free wifi. Whilst I had my 1GB sim the benefit of the wifi was the automatic backing up of my holiday snaps to Google+ which only happens in WiFi range. Upload was consistently slow though.

holiday mobile data usageWith three days of our holiday left I had 120MB left of the 1Gig.  MIght just last. Ran out with two days to go. Usage has been pretty linear and has consisted of mostly twitter, facebook, reading the papers and keeping up with email. We also streamed the Halifax v Lincoln City game (3-2 unfortunately) using iPlayer. After the first couple of days we didn’t need to use the sat nav other than to find the occasional restaurant.

Whilst I had some of my bundle left I preferred to use mobile data that any free wifi that might have been on offer. It was clearly based on ADSL with generally poor upload and download. I also noted that the Facebook mobile experience was not very good. It often timed out saying there was no network connection whilst I could access other sites such as the BBC with no trouble.

We left Mallorca with a healthy tan and some great memories. It was noticeable though that our home FTTC based Wifi was so much better. Everyone heaved a sigh of relief when they got their gadgets out at home.

It might be argued that we shouldn’t have needed any connectivity whilst on holiday. However you can see from my experiences above that having a mobile phone in Spain was very useful.  This technology is becoming part and parcel of our everyday lives and why shouldn’t you have it. My experience of being without a phone whilst it was being fixed also brought me to the same conclusion. Why shouldn’t we use the tech. It is useful.

That’s it for now. Summer is over, holidays are over (for now) and it’s time to get back to work. There is a fairly packed programme on the blog in the run up to Christmas. Check out the schedule here.

Hasta la vista baby.


End User fun stuff google phones

OK Google – we interrupt this holiday…

OK Google ad on TV made me try it out and it worked brilliantly

An ad for OK Google came on the TV. It was all about where to find the nearest cake shop. I immediately tried it. It worked perfectly. Just liked it did on the telly.

It was astonishingly accurate. I’ve since tried it for other things. The weather forecast for example. I said “OK Google , what’s the weather forecast tomorrow?” it not only came up with the forecast for my postcode but a voice spoke it.ok google weather

Voice recognition technology has seriously come of age. I remember years ago buying a Dragon voice rec software package. I used to be the Press Officer for Lincoln Rugby Club. I had a theory that I could dictate details of matches onto my Sony voice recorder and then use the voice rec software to turn it into text.

It never worked. In those days the software had to be trained, PCs weren’t powerful enough and in any case there was too much wind noise for it to have a chance.

Given a suitable mobile data connection I think it would work now with me dictating straight into the phone.

Getting back to the weather forecast one has to be glad that it is looking good for the first day of my holiday:) Plenty of time for it to go wrong yet but I’m sure that OK Google will keep me posted.

OK Google isn’t perfect. I just asked it “what should I wear tomorrow?” It came up with clothing advice sites. That’s not what I wanted. I wanted it to to tell me which combination of shorts and tshirt I should get out of the drawer. It’ll get there.

After that it will need to pre-empt my needs by ordering my clothes for me from the shop. Life will be full of surprises.

Ok Google. Time for bed. No answer required. Just letting you know.

bitcoin Business

George Osborne Bitcoin speech – BBC writing the news before it happens

BBC website carrying article on future George Osborne Bitcoin speech

Our next door office neighbour Dan from Bitcoin company Coinative pointed out a BBC article to me this morning that covered a George Osborne Bitcoin speech. The thing is the George Osborne Bitcoin speech hasn’t happened yet and whilst the BBC talks about it in a knowledgeable manner it is all futures.

You really have to ask yourself why the Beeb has bothered. Usually news websites are dead keen to be the first to get news out about an event because the first to print gets the highest spot in the Google search rankings. The BBC however has such huge global presence that surely it doesn’t need to do this.

The government approach to Bitcoin is going to be an interesting one to follow because in reality the virtual currency runs contrary to how a government wants to work. They need to know what you are up to financially so that they can tax you. The whole point of Bitcoin is that you can remain anonymous. How therefore would a government be able to grab your cash. Moreover it would have to grab a bit of Bitcoin (if you get my drift). The one thing a public purse needs with its finances is stability and Bitcoin is nowhere near stable.

Notwithstanding that, George Osborne is right to be taking a look at Bitcoin. Bitcoin does represent innovation and the possibility of introducing new ways of working for businesses. We are a long way from a government endorsement of Bitcoin but this is a step in the right direction.

Getting back to the BBC, the whole article basically just says that George Osborne is going to announce that they are going to look at Bitcoin. This afternoon. Seems to me that the Beeb could have waited until this afternoon and announced it after the speech! What have they gained?  Oo they rank #1 on Google for “George Osborne Bitcoin“.

Engineer google

Lost in translation – Google Translate Ukrainian, Chrome and The Huffington Post [email protected]

Google translate Ukrainian offer is v odd reports reader @tonyhatfield

Today, using my Nexus 7 running KitKat and the latest version of Google Chrome, I clicked on a link to the Huffington Post. A page appeared asking me if I wanted to translate from Ukrainian. Here’s a screenshot. V odd considering the page is clearly in English. Not sure if the Huffington Post has an Ukrainian edition!

google translate ukrainian

Then I tried accessing the page using my Vaio Win7 again using the latest version of Chrome browser. This time no translation request.

no google translate ukrainian

As a tiebreaker up to my Dell desktop again running Win7 and latest Google browser.Again the Google translate Ukrainian offer appeared. This time with no reference to ‘Ukrainian’.

Seems very odd!

Can anyone enlighten us on why this may be happening. My first thought when hearing about the Ukrainian translation bit was that maybe his ISP was using a block of IP addresses originally allocated to a provider in the Ukraine. Sounds like some Ukrainian mobster has latched on to the black market for IPv4 I thought.

I recall a few years ago seeing the Swedish version of the Google search page when travelling on the Eastcoast train to London. This was because the train’s satellite link connected to a ground station in Sweden. Not seen that since so whatever that glitch was clearly temporary and is now fixed.

However when hearing that it only happened on 2 out of 3 devices that seemed to rule that scenario out. The mix of Operating Systems also seems to rule out an OS related issue.

Anyone out there got any thoughts on why this might have happened? Something to do with the Huffington Posts page maybe?  Answers on a postcard, comment (pref) or tweet. I’m sure there will be a few people interested in finding out what was happening.

Google translate has other useful uses – check out this post about bypassing Virgin Media web filters to access Pirate Bay.

Update Sunday 27th July: Just surfing Majorca related subjects on my droid and found myself at an olive oil related website (fwiw – off there on hols in August). To my delight I was offered a translation from Ukrainian. I thought this screenshot would serve as a worthy update to this post.

Ciao bella…

Ukrainian google translate

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The Hump Day Five (23-July-2014)

The Hump Day Five this week goes to the pictures, gets the picture, migrates the pictures, wants a phone that takes the pictures, and offers a picture of Paris on Summer holiday.


A few days ago a filmmaker friend of mine asked if I would be interested in screening a rough cut of a documentary he has been working on for some time. I was somewhat flattered that he would ask, of course, and I have quite a strong propensity for documentaries, so I instantaneously responded with “Yes, please.”

Not long after I received the details of screening the documentary, and it was at that point that it all started to tweak my interest beyond the subject matter of the film itself, for two reasons. One, the film was presented to me as a video stream via Vimeo (password access, naturally). And two, my friend specifically requested that I promise to watch the film straight through with no breaks and without distraction.

So this is where we are today. Able to grant immediate access to video works in progress via the Internet, and as a result of that delivery method needing to beseech the viewer to take special care to not multi-task when viewing said film via the Internet. Not that I don’t get the reasoning, because I absolutely do, though it does have me thinking that in the not-too-distant future there will be technology deployed to tighten such tasks up. Insistent Streaming? You can watch vwxyz, but you have to do so in Full Screen mode and without screen deviation lest you have to start over from the beginning.

The screening request came across five days ago and I have yet to watch my friend’s film. Really, it is pretty sad that I am finding the idea of being-connected-yet-essentially-disconnected from AppleKory for 90 minutes straight to be daunting!


I’ve been hush-hush for a while now regarding my search for my next smartphone, waiting patiently for the one I had mostly settled on — the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom — to become available in France. I did manage to put my hands on a GKZ while I was in London for’s Pissup in a Brewery last month, and this helped to both move me closer to pulling the trigger and towards establishing a sharper perspective on my decision.

In short, I realized that as much as I would love to have a Galaxy K Zoom as my next smartphone friend, I will only do so if my carrier (Bouygues) can offer it to me at a subsidized price. They do this with a good many other Samsung smartphones, including the flagship S5 (which costs €599 unlocked, without subsidy, but only €221 paid out over 24 months with a correlating commitment), so I came to expect I could put myself into a Galaxy K Zoom for under €200 (versus €499 unlocked, without subsidy).

No dice. Or, at least, no dice yet. Despite my best efforts to make such a deal happen, and the encouragement of a Bouygues drone who told me he could do so but in truth could not (seems that he was willing to say just about anything to me over the phone to get me to walk in the shop), I remain wanting. And with the Summer holidays descending quickly in France, it seems I will remain saddled with my iPhone 4 at least until the start of September. And with the iPhone 6 announcement likely to take place that month…?


A few months back I made one of those big decisions. You know, the kind that changes everything, after which nothing will ever be the same and from which there is no going back. A paradigm shift of immense magnitude.

Thick, running irony, like motor oil straight from the can.

I decided to change photo management software, from Apple’s not-bad-for-a-toy iPhoto to Adobe’s truly terrific Lightroom 5.

For a good long time iPhoto worked for me. There were some significant bumps along the way, to be sure, such as dealing with the product’s generosity when it came to gobbling up AppleKory hard drive space with it’s need to maintain two copies of any photo that was modified in any way (including simple rotation). For the most part, though, iPhoto and I got along fine, even as my photography skills outgrew the software’s cutesy function set.

I suppose I knew that at some point I would need to move from iPhoto into something more robust, however in dabbling with other photography management packages over the years — window-shopping, as it were — I became fully aware of how difficult and tedious an endeavor it would be, fully switching over. Man, that is one deep and dark path to walk down, and if it wasn’t absolutely necessary…well, I could make iPhoto continue to work for me. That is, until I couldn’t.

For reasons unknown, at right about the same time I was beginning to explore shooting in RAW (though this had nothing to do with the issue), iPhoto stopped accepting modifications made to picture files. The changes I made — upping the contrast or vibrancy of a photo, for example, or cropping an image — would stick, but only until I exited iPhoto. Thus, when I would start the application again, any modifications I had made during the previous session were gone.

Naturally, I google-binged my problem, and I discovered that I was not alone. A great number of my fellow iPhoto users had been dealing with the same problem, and as far as I was able to tell in my digging none of them had come up with a solution short of abandoning iPhoto for one of its competitors..

The writing, as they so (too?) often say, was on the wall. iPhoto, it has been nice. Enter Lightroom 5.

It has taken patience and time to do it to do it to do it to do it to do it right, child…er, move everything over, and I have hit my share of lulls, but a marvelous documentary I saw last Friday about the recently-discovered photographer Vivian Maier kicked me back into it, and finally I am finished. And nothing will ever be the same.


It has now been three weeks since I took AppleKory into the Apple Store at Opera to have one of their supposed Genius folk render opinion and possible solutions for a fan and heating problems. For reasons unknown, the poor girl’s CPU was running regularly at about 90 degrees Celsius and her fan was blowing at the maximum 6204 rpm. A friend who is also my OSX Guru has long told me that I run too many apps and processes simultaneously (foreground and background), and he was convinced that was the problem, but even when I turned just about everything off the CPU heat spiked and the fan in response ran loud enough to her in the next room (quite strange for a MacBook Pro).

The Genius who attended me ran some diagnostics and found no problem. He then, though, suggested that it could be a problem with the thermal paste in conjunction with the heat sink, and that such a repair would only cost €29…and a three separation. Wanting to have a happy and healthy AppleKory, I swallowed hard and handed her over. I then went home and told my Guru that he was wrong (Wrong! Wrong!), and that the problem was not running AppleKory too hard, but that it had to do with a hardware issue.


Two days later the Apple technician called. He told me in broken-but-not-bad English that the thermal paste was fine, and that as far as he could tell there was no problem with my system. “Perhaps you are asking it to do too much at the same time?”, he said. “Anyway, it is ready for you to pick up anytime.”


I retrieved AppleKory soon after, and — go figure — since then she has been purring like a kitten (so to speak…that is, without the noise). I have changed nothing with regard to the software I run or the intensity of such (over 20 Google Chrome tabs open as I type), and yet it is a rare occurrence when her temperature exceeds 80 degrees Celsius or her fan exceeds 5000 rpm (and most of the time both of those numbers are significantly lower…at this moment, 72 and 2588 rpm).

Like the child whose symptoms disappear upon realizing a visit to the doctor is in the offing? Or the sick cat who seems to get better when a visit to the vet is imminent? That Apple technician must be one scary dude, indeed!


Approaching the end of July, it is evident that the France Summer holiday has begun to take hold. Signs are appearing in the windows of shops and restaurants announcing date ranges of closure, the foot traffic on the street is significantly lighter, there are fewer people in the Metro (and fewer trains running, as well), there is a lot less ambient and incidental noise leaking into Chez Kessel. You would think, though, that with fewer people in town taxing Internet pipe capacity that my broadband service would be much improved, wouldn’t you?

Business business applications

Microsoft message to renegade professionals – Stephen Elop #uncompromise

Stephen Elop – CEO of Microsoft message to employees.

Stephen Elop’s message to Microsoft employees feels like an address to an army that knows not all of them will come through the coming battle.

The organisation is huge. In the Microsoft message Elop mentions Salo, Oulu and Tampere, Finland. Beijing, San Diego,  Hanoi, Dongguan. Manaus, Reynosa and Komaron, Hungary. It’s a massive job ensuring that the whole organisation operates efficiently. One of the contradictions of modern business life is that it would appear that you need to have scale to compete but with that scale it gets increasingly difficult to get anything done.

I was pushed an advert for Microsoft Surface recently – Twitter or Facebook maybe, not sure where I first saw the link.  There was no reference to Microsoft in the ad. Clearly they are trying to develop an identity for Surface but it suggests to me a lack of confidence in the parent brand. Surface is here being pitched at the office worker, the renegade professionals as Microsoft seems to want to call them. Leaves you thinking that Microsoft is concentrating on the business market, at least for the Surface.

The Enterprise is going to be the last stronghold of the Microsoft OS. Its Alamo maybe. Although I have recently bought a Windows laptop this was only to run one specific application. I have 4 kids. Two have moved away from Microsoft (Macbook Air and Chromebook). Of the other two one needs their PC for gaming and the other for video processing. Neither can afford a Mac which would probably be their first choice and if the games move entirely online as they inevitably will that barrier to using a Chromebook will be removed. I have no doubt that cloud based video processing will also become mainstream. Might already be able to do it for all I know.

Microsoft is trying very hard to stay in the game. It recently announced an increase in the bundled online storage to Office 365 customers from 20GB to 1TB. Office 365 costs anything between £60 and £380 a year per person, depending on what you go for (£220 if you take out Access and Publisher). I was going to say it is heading in the right direction but they have 8 different bundles – 12 if you count MAC. Not exactly simple messaging.

Compare this with Google Apps for Business which is £33 a year per user or £6.60 a month if you go for Vault. Couldn’t quite make out  what Vault offers and was not really interested enough to drill into the detail. Security stuff. The basic Google consumer account is free and includes all the apps (doc, sheets etc). These accounts give you 30GB of Drive storage. There isn’t a free Microsoft account other than the straight Outlook email service which comes without Office applications (natch).

A Google  1TB storage plan is about £6 a month – $10 – couldn’t find a GBP pricelist. The base Google price is roughly £70 a year for the free gmail account with 1TB storage. So now there isn’t much difference in pricing between Microsoft and Google (aside from the fact that you get apps with the latter and these apps are part of Microsoft’s core business so they can’t give them away for free) which is great because here competition is driving down costs.

There will inevitable be a market for Microsoft’s cloud services because they have such a huge installed base with their existing Windows OS’. I think it is going to be very hard going for them though. You only have to look at the action around the #uncompromise hashtag used in the Surface ads. There isn’t much. What does that tell you?

More as it happens… (ish)

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?

Apps chromebook Cloud ecommerce End User gaming google H/W internet Mobile mobile apps mobile connectivity Net phones social networking

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!

Apps End User fun stuff gadgets google H/W internet piracy

Yes, I Read Super Hero Comic Books

There are far worse things you can carry from childhood to adulthood than super hero comic books (and fewer that look better on your tablet screen).

For me, super hero comic books are just one of those things. I loved them as a child in single digits, continued to look in on them occasionally (and sometimes more often than that) through my teens, and plugged in harder than ever when Frank Miller and Alan Moore took them to the edge of serious dark pop art in my early 20s. I suppose I lost the thread somewhat as my 30s approached, though I am not sure if that was me or the simple fact that both Marvel and DC jettisoned creative storytelling during the 1990s in favor of marketing tricks designed to make every issue a collectible (not to forget to mention doubling the price of single issues…and then doubling it again). Regardless, moving to Paris — a land where reading comic books is less a geek tattoo and more proof of an enlightened mind — hooked me back in kinda-sorta, a side effect of my haunting the English language comic shops in and around the Rue Dante lying in wait for the latest can’t-miss graphic novels by the likes of Art Spiegelman, Chris Ware, and Daniel Clowes, among many others. And I am sure that is where I would be today — hooked back in kinda-sorta — were it not for the darn things all going digital.

I don’t recall the first time I read a comic book on a computer, though it certainly predates my 2008 Mac re-entry. I do remember, though, how awkward it felt, viewing each scanned page one at a time before moving on to the next page using the → key or the Space bar. I also remember how annoying it was to have to hit the ← key repeatedly to go back to check some plot detail I skimmed past (annoyance that was multiplied by having to then hit the → key repeatedly to return to where I had left off). It all felt so trivial at the start, so “Take it or leave it.” And I left it. For a while, anyway, I left it.

Mostly, I left it. OK, every now and again, usually nipping at the heels of 3AM, I would download some issue in the Batman or Daredevil scheme of things and indulge (won’t say how or from where or whether it was a legal happenstance or not, no way). Just to stay up on the story, you know? Keeping up with the characters, these old friends of mine from childhood/teenagehood/young adulthood..whichever ‘hood I am inhabiting as I barrel towards 50.

And then My Missus brought home the iPad.

Like so many of us, I was tuned into the whispers and rumors of the iPad that were flying thick and furious during the back half of ‘09 and up through its introduction by Steve Jobs in late January of 2010. By the time of that announcement, though, I had driven an iPhone around the town a little bit without falling under its spell, and at first blush the iPad looked like nothing more than an iPhone on growth hormone. Interesting? Sure. Curious? You bet, because it was the birth of a new gadget category (and, naturally, because it was a new Apple product). Necessary? Uh…no. Not for anyone who had access to a computer and/or smartphone, anyway.

Not long after the iPad announcement I was able to put my hands and fingers on one of the first to make it to France. I can slide the apps pages back and forth. Smooth. I can touch an icon and open an app. Expected. It plays music and movies. Hmm. OK. Here you go, and thanks for letting me play with your new iPad. Enjoy. Oh…uh…can you make phone calls with it?

So getting back on track…a first-generation iPad made its way past over the Chez Kessel moat towards the end of ‘10, courtesy of My Missus, who as a publisher had been tasked with starting down the path of developing textbooks for the darn thing. Again, I held an iPad in my hands, and again I swiped the screen from side to side, touched app icons to watch the apps open, and clocked that it could be used to input music and video content. Then just as I was about to hand it back I had the thought, “I can read .pdf files on it, and book files in Amazon’s .mobi format…maybe…YES!”

Digital comic books, most often traded in .cbr (Comic Book Reader) and .cbz (Comic Book Zip), had proved to be a somewhat strange experience on a computer screen, but the iPad looked like it just might be a worthy delivery vehicle for suchness. And when a short google-bing turned up info on Cloudreaders, a free program able to read files in these two file formats (.pdf, too), I was on my way back to regular sustained web-slinging, shield-wielding, power-ringing, bataranging, billy-clubbing, hammer-throwing, repulsor-raying…OK, I’m OK. Can stop that now.

Now I had the means and the method, but what about the content? Well, as I stated earlier WITHOUT ADMITTING TO ANY INAPPROPRIATE ACTION OR BEHAVIOR, at some point I became aware of ways in which a person with an interest in doing so could easily obtain digital super hero comic books and at no cost. Speaking further about that person and their interest, it is a fact that pulp science fiction and comic books were among the very first pieces of “analogue” reading materials to be fan-digitized, to the point now where it is seriously difficult to think of content that cannot be had, ripe and ready for e-reading (and quickly, at that). Just to illustrate, do-do-that-goo(gle)goo(gle)-that-you-do-so-well on the following terms: “Complete Marvel Chronology” and look for links to Internet file-sharing destinations that I AM NOT TELLING YOU TO CLICK-THROUGH TO.

To close, I will share here that I really was (am!) one of those cliched kids whose now-priceless super hero comic book collection fell victim to tragic circumstances. In my case, “tragic” means a parental ultimatum issued: I could sell my comics at our “We’re Moving” yard sale or I could give them away, but there was no way they were being placed on the truck that would complete our summer 1976 family transfer from Chicago to Dallas. I unloaded hundreds of valuable pulpy friends* for $0.07 to $0.10 each on that August day, imagining not for a moment that I might be reunited with them someday down some dusty ol’ digital road (feel free to replace “digital road” with “information superhighway” if you must, because I just cannot bring myself to do so).

*Valuable to me, that is. Despite all of the ballyhoo I offer, my comic book collection wasn’t priceless…most of the issues were in tattered well-read condition, in fact, and fewer than five pre-dated 1970. I did, though, have issues 121, 122, and 129 of “The Amazing Spider-Man”, and you most assuredly did not.

Apps Engineer

Deleted plugins

Deleted plugins amassed over 6 years of blogging

Just deleted 33 plugins. These deleted plugins were amassed over 6 years of blogging. I didn’t need any of them. The new site still contains too many plugins but they were expedient in getting us up and running with the new design.

Over the next few months we will be changing how works under the bonnet. This will be done in tandem with a few other projects that will hit the aether between now and Christmas (aargh only 163 shopping days until Christmas & I haven’t even booked a summer holiday yet!). Most plugins will go. Chief Developer Rob writes his own code instead. In the meantime there are a few niggles we will have to smooth over and a few features we will want slipping in. More on all this anon.

I just wanted to share with you the list of deleted plugins. I just deleted 33 of them. Took a metaphoric scythe to the software, pushed the red button and it was gone. The button wasn’t really red but it should have been.

Many of the deleted plugins came with various themes I’ve used over the years. None of the ones in the list were active and just cluttered up the site. It was especially annoying that I had to occasionally update them even though they weren’t being used. “Hello Dolly” came with the original installation of WordPress and I’ve never used it. Just kept it for old times’ sake. I’m a bit of a softie really. Also Hello Dolly is one of my fave jazz numbers.

As I sign off from this post I’d like to take the opportunity to thank all the plugin developers listed below for their support over the years. If we ever get to meet up there is a beer in it for you:)

That’s all folks.

Hasta la vista baby!

Deleted Plugins

You are about to remove the following plugins:

  • All-in-One Event Calendar by by Network Inc. (will also delete its data)
  • Comment Rating by Bob King
  • Easy Twitter Links by Josh Jones
  • Hello Dolly by Matt Mullenweg
  • IPv4 Exhaustion Counter by Geert Hauwaerts
  • Light Social by Alden Torres
  • OmniGallery by ColorLabs & Company
  • PHPlist by Jesse Heap
  • Polldaddy Polls & Ratings by Automattic, Inc.
  • Register Plus by Skullbit
  • Share Buttons by AddToAny by AddToAny
  • Simple 301 Redirects by Scott Nellé
  • Simple Twitter Connect – Base by Otto (will also delete its data)
  • STC – Comments by Otto (will also delete its data)
  • STC – Follow Button Widget by Otto (will also delete its data)
  • STC – Followers Widget by Otto (will also delete its data)
  • STC – Linkify by Otto (will also delete its data)
  • STC – Login by Otto (will also delete its data)
  • STC – Publish by Otto (will also delete its data)
  • STC – Tweet Button by Otto (will also delete its data)
  • STC – TweetMeme Button by Otto (will also delete its data)
  • STC – Twitter Dashboard by John Bloch – Avendi Media, Inc. (will also delete its data)
  • Social Sharing Toolkit by linksalpha
  • TwitterComments by <a href=””>Kyle Peterson</a>
  • W3 Total Cache by Frederick Townes
  • Widget Twitter VJCK by V.J.Catkick
  • WordPress Importer by wordpressdotorg
  • WordTwit Twitter Plugin by BraveNewCode
  • WP Photo Album Plus by J.N. Breetvelt a.k.a OpaJaap
  • WP Super Cache by Donncha O Caoimh (will also delete its data)
  • WPtouch Mobile Plugin by BraveNewCode Inc.

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bitcoin Business

Bitcoin ETF listing getting closer

Bitcoin ETFinvestors Winklevoss Twins set to list on New York’s NASDAQ exchange writes Dan Howitt.

Bitcoin is currently inaccessible for most investment banks as there is a lack of regulation when trading in it. This means currently Bitcoin is classified as a high risk asset. However when Bitcoin is wrapped in an Exchange Traded Fund, like gold is today, the regulation concern goes away completely. Check out this vid on Bloomberg.

If this Bitcoin ETF goes through, I would be expecting an 3x upswing in price per Bitcoin, trading at $643 at the time of writing. Many investment banks have been sitting on the on the fence. The ETF will open the flood gates.

This month is also launching their wallet service – where you can buy Bitcoins with a credit and debit card. Again, the likelihood is a massive price increase. Circle are essentially going for mass market adoption and have around $20 million in VC funding.

The Winklevoss brothers who are rumoured to own around 1 percent of all Bitcoins have said they are forecasting the price to reach $40k.

note from TD: is a Bitcoin investor and bought in at £292 (approx $500). If the price hits $40k we will throw a party.

1 Exchange Traded Fund – an investment fund traded on the stock exchange.

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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.

Apps Business google travel

Uber London Integrated with Google Maps

Uber is now very cleverly integrated with Google Maps and appears in the list of options of directions for public transport – Uber London

On a visit to Telehouse  in London Docklands I checked out the optimum directions to get there using Google Maps. To my surprise Uber came up as an option. This is very impressive.

It made me think of Uber London as the taxiing equivalent to Tesco: a large organisation with the clout to develop tools that help it sell and make money. Uber is the Tesco, black cabs are the small retail outlets being affected by the new out of town superstore.

What’s more Uber appeared on the list uber-discreetly. I didn’t feel it was being shoved in my face. Indeed I was surprised and delighted to see it there. Google must in anycase have rules about that sort of thing. Can’t have a third party muscling in too robustlyon its act.

Presumably one has to have the Uber App installed which I do. Selecting the Uber option in “directions” takes you to the app. You will recall that I only recently installed Uber whilst in London for the Pissup In A Brewery which helped me out in getting a car from South Bermondsey to Kings Cross Station.

On this latest trip I needed to get from Crawford Street in W1 to Mitre Passage in Greenwich S10. As it happens on this occasion it is just as easy, and certainly a lot cheaper, to get the Jubilee line on the Underground. It involves only a short walk either side although summer on the tube ain’t great.

The Uber option didn’t appear when I used Maps on my Chromebook. This is something that Google might want to consider in their roadmap – the convergence of Android and Chromebook ecosystems.

Uber London – you know it makes sense, or Uber all I’d say Uber London was a winner:)

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The Hump Day Five (2-July-2014)


Friday afternoon found me riding the Eurostar rails, on KoryChrome (new Samsung Chromebook 2*), pounding out on a “First Impressions” piece…on KoryChrome. Using Writebox, one of those sometimes-useful writing applications that are intended to take the distraction out of the process, I was about 700 words into it when for reasons unknown I decided to go exploring. A sparse environment — which, of course, is the point — there were only six (6) icons to check out in the upper right-hand corner (which conveniently hide when you aren’t hovering your cursor over the spot), and as I was enjoying my new application and curious about it I thought I’d see what I could do with it.

Faux Leather Stitching!

I won’t get into the nitty-gritty about what the Writebox icons are for (syncing, settings, preview…the usual), except suffice it to say for the one that has me typing here now, a + symbol in the farmost left position on the very short toolbar. That particular icon opens a new Writebox file that effectively dumped my nearly-finished “Hello (again) KoryChrome” post into the ether of lost-forever 1s and 0s.

Infuriation and frustrating, yes, and the prospect of starting the post from scratch makes me shudder (still haven’t gotten around to that, but keep reading)…but from the I-can-rationalize-anything perspective, I am truly glad that as I make my approach on 50 I am still able to touch the hot part of the stove.

*Handed off to me by good ol’ globehopping Tref at our Pissup in a Brewery event this past Thursday at Fourpure Brewery in Bermondsey…if you missed it you are the lesser for having done so, but there will certainly be others so watch this space.


As long as I have the date here pinned to my short trip to London last week, I will burn a line or two on my latest experience with airbnb. Finding a reasonably-priced non-lethal-seeming accommodation for said trip that was within the Underground’s boundaries proved to be quite the challenge (only later did I realize this was due in no small part to Wimbledon being among the other usual goings-on in London), but eventually I did manage to wrangle a roof and bed in the tiny Bermondsey flat of a young couple (complete with an adorable 3-month-old kitten named Binxy). This being my third airbnb experience I was hoping it would be the charm, and I am glad to report that it was just that. If you consider yourself something of a brave traveler and have not yet taken a chance on airbnb or one of the other Internet home-invite services that are shaking up the hospitality industry, well this is me adding to the white noise urging you to do so.


The “Broadband Week” is coming up fast and I am furiously editing away on received submissions. That said, if you have an idea for a Contributor post that aligns with our theme there is still a sliver of time remaining to pitch it and get it in for publication next week. So if you want to see your name up on our marquee, please feel free to contact me directly at [email protected]. I will be glad to help you bring your epiphany to the page.


Last week in London I finally got my hands on a Samsung Galaxy K Zoom, the little-bit-country-little-bit-rock-and-roll smartphone I have been kvelling over quite a bit here since its announcement two months ago, and I was far from disappointed. With new gadgets I wait for that special tingle (usually it comes from putting fingers on the device, but there are no hard-and-fast rules about that), and once I feel that it is just a matter of determining whether its strength is enough to kick me into “Want”. Consider me kicked well and good. Just need to find a way to get my provider to subsidize the pocket beast…


My lead-in KoryChrome tidbit illustrated for the umpteenthsomething time that I could do with a few more smarts, and I expect that my Hump Day Five wrap-up for the week is sure to remove any lingering doubt.

Hot off the Eurostar back to Paris on Friday I found myself in a rented Škoda barreling towards our tiny family hovel in Pays d’Auge’s Blangy-le-Château. Over the 8 years La Famille Kessel has so often made the jaunt that certain routines have formed, including for me the ritual of connecting AppleKory up — power source, monitor converter, USB peripherals, etc — and at visit’s end, disconnecting it all. Sounds simple and is simple, though early on I did once make the gross error of leaving my MacBook Pro power adapter behind. This resulted in a frantic run to the Apple Store Carrousel du Louvre upon arriving back in Paris that Sunday evening to buy a new one. As with all things Apple, the new power adapter wasn’t cheap, but the impossible alternative was to go a few weeks with a single battery charge. And in the end, the €69 I pushed across for it has turned out to be quite a good investment, both for peace-of-mind (it lives in my computer bag, making it possible to always leave the original at home) and from a value standpoint (darn thing has put in 7+ years of service and counting).

So. Routine. Routine is good. And as so often happens when a routine undergoes any kind of change, things go pear-shaped. Last night, just as France was putting the spank to Nigeria to reach the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil quarter finals, the new KoryChrome’s battery slid down to 2% and I realized I had left her charger back in Blangy. Not too long after she became just a sleek good-looking techy brick, and will remain so until the Friday following the next (or until I can suss out a replacement, of course…for a new product that is not yet for sale on the right side of the Atlantic).

bitcoin Business google

Bitcoin exchange UK – First Bitcoin exchange to get a UK Bank Account

Further steps towards the endorsement of Bitcoin as a currency by both USA and UK governments with the opening of a Bitcoin exchange in UK and the Bitcoin Auction in the USA.

Bitcoin exchange UK – City of London based Bitcoin exchange now has a bank account in the Isle of Man. RBS – UK government owned & connected to the faster payments network (RBS is probably in need of every source of income it can get).

This coincides with yesterday’s US Marshals Service (USMS) auction of 29,000 bitcoins confiscated from Silk Road last year. A number of parties have stated that they took part in the auction but bids as high as $650 were insufficient. The Bitcoin price at the time was around $610. This morning the bitcoin market price is up to around $650 with rumours on Twitter that it could go as high as $900 (don’t buy based on what I’m saying here 🙂 )

The real news is the effective endorsement of Bitcoin as a currency by both the US and UK governments. A Bitcoin exchange in the UK it is of particular interest as hitherto you have had to buy and sell Bitcoins offshore.

The fact that the IOM based offshoot of RBS is involved does point to a tentative first toe dip in the Bitcoin water by UK Gov. Further endorsement comes from the fact that Bitcoin is actively monitored by Google’s Finance ages – see featured pic/screenshot. Today’s GBP is £386 which is up 32% from when I bought my Bitcoin.

Bitcoin is becoming accepted by more and more businesses. I note that today US online electronics outlet Newegg is now taking the currency. I might even consider taking payments for ads on in Bitcoin. Watch this space for further news on this.

You might have heard it first on

Bank account details (not all but I have them):

Account Name:  Capital Account
Bank Name: Royal Bank of Scotland
Account Number: ********
Sort Code: 16-58-80
IBAN: ****************
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

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The Hump Day Five (25-June-2014)

On Wednesday’s Editor-in-Chief serves up The Hump Day Five, a weekly collection of short (and not so short) glimpses of the life in progress.


Bolting to meet My Missus for a Pay-For-Weekend-Well-Spent swim (the value of which we will immediately negate with a hearty follow-up Mexican lunch), and just realized that my mobile phone charge is at 9%. And being that this is my still-hanging-on iPhone 4 that ‘9’ might as we’ll be a ‘2’ as over the three-something years iPhoneKory has occupied my key right-pocket space I have seen it go from 7% to black so many times…

Is seven the new zero?


Despite promising myself I wouldn’t do so, I hung until 02h00 on Sunday/Monday watching the USA-Portugal World Cup match on ESPN via SlingBox, all the way to its bittersweet 95th minute. And in spite of a poor connection and a wildly unbalanced announcer team (Ian Darke = terrific, Taylor Twellman = dead awful), and although France has been my one-and-only International association football team since I moved to Paris in 1999*, I could not help but get caught up in it all. This was helped along in no small measure by social media, as both my Facebook and Twitter feeds were crackling with excitement and the wonderful over-the-top enthusiasm borne of sports spectatorship. Every breakaway, clearance, crossover, save (Tim Howards’s remarkable double-save!), and goal, by the USA or Portugal, had my feeds flying fast. But with that insane last play, with less than 25 ticks left in Injury Time…silence.

Yes, silence. The stunned heartbreak of that gorgeous equalizer — its sheer beauty cannot be denied — led to what may very well be the loudest imaginable Internet silence I’ve ever (not) heard. I have no doubt that goal was replaying on constant loop through the minds of a great many Americans on Monday, I am just as certain it was doing so in a soundproof vacuum.

*No true lover of the “Beautiful Game” will ever forget France’s unbelievablyf*ckingamazing come-from-behind last-gasp victory against Italy in the Euro2000 final, a game…no, an experience that galvanized this transplanted American’s association football fandom.


Readers going back three months — my long-term dyed-in-the-wool fans — will remember my enthusiasm for the latest Marvel Studios film, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, and perhaps even the near-pathological (pathetic) need I had to see the film after having to wait 10 days following its release to find my way to the cinema. (And no matter if you aren’t one of those readers, because my preface sentence sets the table for where I am heading, regardless.)

With all of the build-up, all of the hype, the fact that I so thoroughly enjoyed “Captain America: First Avenger” (I expected to hate that first film as the character is an all-time favorite of mine — since I started reading super hero comic books at the age of eight — and just figured there was no way Hollywood could get it right), the scads of terrific reviews I was so careful to scan-without-spoiling, you would think that disappointment was inevitable. Not only was this not the case, though, but the film so deeply captured my imagination that I soon after found myself pondering a newed look in on the comic book itself, figuring the source material for such a great flick might be worth my time.

In days of yore (and up until actually not all that long ago), it was a lot more difficult to find and read back issues of comic books than it is today. In fact, without admitting to anything here or anywhere, I will say that despite my predilection for riding near the cusp of the Internet for lo on 20+ years now, I still find myself utterly floored by the ready digital availability of comic books new and old (and extremely old). A minimal amount of surfing revealed that “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” was based on Ed Brubaker’s run on the “Captain America” title from 2004-2012, and a single google-bing turned up the following torrent:

Brubaker Cap Torrent



In less than a year I will turn 50, a number on the age scale that I know is supposed to mean…something. A greater sense of dignity? Less prone to silly excitements? Better perspective on what was and is and will be? Conversations turning ever more towards health issues? Yadda yadda yadda. To all of that, I have to call “Bunk!”, because (1) in my mind’s eye I am not balding, overly thick in the middle, saddled with mild hearing loss, or in need of glasses to read, (2) I feel no less a thirst for life than I did 10 years ago…or 20, and (3) I still get all kinds of giddy in the lead up to putting my mitts on new techy toys…such as the new KoryChrome (Samsung Chromebook 2), which I look forward to running my fingers over for the first time at some point tomorrow!


Today is the first day of summer vacation for The Boy, and he is marking it in style, sitting on the couch in front of the TV while simultaneously playing both “Minecraft” and “SimCity 4” with friends on his MacBook, and also looking in on “Clash of Clans” via the family iPad. Now if only he could get his toes engaged in some kind of input manipulation My Missus and I would have one reasonably efficient and well-entertained child! The drums, perhaps?

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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

Business ecommerce Weekend

It’s the weekend yay and I have lots of junk mail

It’s the weekend yay and I have lots of junk mail to catch up with. Normally this only takes 2 seconds. Virgin Media keep soliciting business and miscellaneous crappy insurance offers.

One letter sticks. It’s about the fact that I didn’t appear to have paid my mortgage for two months. Sigh. My mortgage goes out by standing order, automatically, I never have to look at it. Does anyone?

I call C&G bracing myself for a protracted time on the phone. Miraculously I get through to someone straight away. It turns out the bank cancelled the DD. Sigh. I only recently had an issue with them where they took too much out. Sigh.

The letter I received from C&G mentioned that if I continued with my arrears I’d be stung with a fairly hefty fee. Sigh. I paid the outstanding balance over the phone but in parting the guy at the other end mentioned that it wasn’t totally out of the question that I might get charged additional interest for the unpaid monies. Sigh.

This of course was out of the question and likely to lead to me having to waste an hour of someone’s time in visiting the bank to sort it out. He wasn’t able to say for sure and neither was he able to say how I would know it had happened. Would it appear as an extra payment or just added to the outstanding balance? Sigh. He did mention that with the interest rates at all time low it wasn’t likely to be much money. Even if it is only one pence it is too much and would engender aggravation for both me and the bank.

It all come down to outdated systems. Outdated systems mean lots of manual processing and especially manual processing of errors. I bet a bank could get rid of 30% of its staff, and therefore costs by improving its systems. Probably too big a task leaving us the punters to pick up the bill in terms of greying hair, loss of hair and increased waistlines caused by comfort eating to alleviate the stress of it all.

To alleviate some of this stress I’ve just gone through the pile of junk mail and where there was a freepost envelope stuck the junk into this to return to the sender. Barclaycard specifically. Unfortunately there wasn’t a freepost envelop in the Virgin Media mailer and they are the worst culprits. They must spend a fortune on Direct Mail. I thought people weren’t allowed to send junk DM. My name must be on a list somewhere. Sigh.

Other truly inspirational posts with titles that include the word “bank”

Nice picture of crocii near the Embankment
Lloyds bank – 2 out of 7 servers down
My first Banksy

And if you’re wondering about the picture of the flower. Something to raise a smile:) One has to you know.

ecommerce End User

Apple store y

Made a purchase from the Apple Store in Florida Mall in Orlando. It was the first time I had made such a purchase. I’m not a big Apple fan. I was greeted at the door and handed on to a “personal shopper” (my term not theirs) who stuck with me to offer advice on the purchase. I didn’t really need advice. I just used their wifi to check up on my Facebook messages to make sure I was getting the right spec before I pushed the green button.

To my surprise there wasn’t a till area. The guy had a handheld device and processed my credit card there and then. Oo okay. Novel. I asked him if he could email me a receipt and, oo, their system already had my email address. Not sure I like that. I thought I’d deleted my card details from the Apple Apps Store or whatever it’s called. Apple had the number registered against my Apple ID.

Didn’t feel comfortable in that shop. I felt it was full of like minded people but they were not like me. I realise that lots of people do like Apple stuff so we all have to accept that people are different.

One thing I did notice on my retail spree in Orlando was the credit card processing systems. In NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre they just swiped my card. Anything below $100 apparently didn’t need a signature. Most retail outlets and bars had a gadget you used to sign but anyone could have done that. If it was a stolen card nobody was checking the signature against the one on the card which in any event was unlikely to match. those electronic pads don’t make for a good signature. Presumably all they are any use for is for when you dispute a transaction you can point to the fact that the stored signature looks nothing like your own.

Made me appreciate our own chip and pin system. Spent far too much but hey… you can’t take it with you and at least I got a couple of Tommy Bahama shirts.

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Watching the Football

Yesterday a friend of mine in the UK asked me if I was “going to watch the football”, stating his own excitement over the soon-upon-us 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil (the official label of the event, if the website is any indicator), and then asking “Have you converted a little? Soccer to you, I guess.”


I actually converted 20 years ago as a direct result of the excitement surrounding the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Of course, the football punditry out there will immediately assume that this American finally clued in that year due to the tournament being held in the U.S. for the first (and so far only) time, however that assumption would not only be disingenuous but wrong too. No, my sports imagination was finally captured by International football in 1994 not because I was swept up in host country hoopla, but because I was living/working/traveling Europe that year and found myself instead swept up in the remarkable national enthusiasm and spontaneous celebrations I encountered in England, Scotland, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany as the tournament played out. Walking around Namur, Belgium, for instance, on a Tuesday night in early July, seeking out a priced-right-for-a-backpacker dinner, I was left aghast and delighted by the string of cars going by with horns a-blarin’, people hanging out the windows hooting and hollering and waving the Italian flag. The people of one country so unabashedly showing their colors, whooping it up on the streets of another country…what is this International sporting thing, anyway? And then five days later, being fortuitous enough to be in Germany to witness first-hand the crashing out of the Germany team1…I was hooked!

1994. The world turned its eyes and ears to the most commercial country in the world to watch “The Beautiful Game” on television and radio, and only on television and radio. And not a single URL in sight.

When my pal asked me whether I was going to tune into the 2014 FIFA World Cup my knee-jerk first thought was “Will it be available via the Internet?” to which my second thought instantly responded “Are you kidding? Of course.” Sure, I know the games will be broadcast on television, and I am relatively sure the one we have in the main room still works (The Boy watches it from time to time…I think), but it wasn’t until long after I answered my friend’s oh-so-rhetorical question that I even paid a thought to the idea of actually using the device to watch a match.

Football TV

Naturally, the picture the Chez Kessel television delivers is plenty sharp (as so many are these days, we are Triple Play kitted), and something prompted me long ago to wire the sound to come through our stereo speakers (think it was the 2006 FIFA World Cup that prompted that…friggin’ Marco Materazzi, sister-and-mother-insulting classless b*stard), so it isn’t a poor viewing option that had me defaulting to the Internet as my top-of-mind football entertainment resource. It’s just…well…you see…c’mon, you know…it is so much easier to simultaneously Web-out with ⌘+Tab (Alt+Tab for the Windows-fettered readers out there, and whatever-equivalent for UNIX deities and whichever others) than it is via some lap-bound or hand-bound device supplementary to the television.

Addiction. Always lurking, eminently humanizing, and available in oh-so-many forms.

1994. When to the layman “Internet” meant email and bulletin boards and nothing more. The World Wide Web was just starting to poke its head up, and “streaming” was a word relegated to tape data backups.

Without admitting to anything (and there will be no Q&A), I will cagily say here that a long time has passed since I last watched a television program at the time of broadcast (other, that is, than hypnotized channel-surfing-and-staring borne of jetlag). This is not to say that I am accomplishing the impossible, foregoing television entertainment in what is unquestionably a golden age for the medium (too many programs to list, but suffice it to say that I can speak “The Wire”, “The Sopranos”, “Breaking Bad”, “Mad Men”, and this Millenium’s “Battlestar Galactica” reboot with anyone…buncha great UK-produced programs, too!). I do, though, manage to forego the starchy advertising that comes with all of the good TV meat on offer, and without littering my shelves and floorspace with DVD sets gathering dust.

Yes, packaged up nice-and-digital and stripped of its impurities, television for me has come to mean the Internet. And I find it a richer and far more satisfying experience for that, too.     ==>Twenty-three minutes into the sixth episode of Season Two of “The Americans” a reference is made to an earlier plot point that I skied past. Pause. ⌘+Tab to Google Chrome. Type “The Americans episodes ” into the Address/Search field. A quick click and read. ⌘+Tab back to VLC. Un-Pause. Good to go.<==     Of course, certain television events practically demand in-progress viewing — cannot-turn-away news events and, yes, some sporting events (though "condensed" recordings can now be acquired after the fact, such as three-plus hour American Football games boiled down to 58 minutes!) — but these have not kept that really big monitor in our flat's central room from looking more and more novel with each passing season. 1994. Televisions were definitively three-dimensional, whereas the scripted programming they delivered to the quivering and drooling masses was two-dimensional at its very best. Which inevitably brings me back to "watching the football". I imagine that as was the case the last time around, La Famille Kessel will ease slowly into 2014 FIFA World Cup action, eventually ramping up interest as the meaning of the games increases (and if France makes a move, as in '06, getting downright rabid about it all). And as that happens our somewhat dusty black Samsung-emblazoned flat-panel Living Room window into the Global Village (clichés flowing thick and furious here at the end) will no doubt once again find its purpose.   1Is there anyone who isn’t German that likes to see Germany win at anything? 🙂

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Wherefore Art Thou, KoryChrome?

Knowing that Tref was heading over to the U.S. for this week’s Genband Perspectives 14, I asked the fearless namesake of the cracking website you hold in your hands if he would be up to muling a spiffy new Samsung Chromebook 2 back over the pond for my pickup at’s Pissup in a Brewery (which you really don’t want to miss) later this month. Unsurprisingly, he responded with a hearty “Sure, M8.” and I was off to the races…well, off to find a shipper who could deliver the device shipping-free and tax-free to Tref at his Orlando hotel prior to his return flight, that is.

Naturally, my first surf-to destination was, however although they had my desired Chromebook in stock I would have to pay extra for both shipping and sales tax (6%). Sales tax? Amazon? Said to be on the cusp for years, I guess some law somewhere was passed and it finally took hold.

Next I tried, which promised free shipping…and no sales tax. Oh, except in states in which the company has a physical business presence, such as Florida. Needed to go all the way to the final click to learn that (and confirmed it with a Samsung Phone Drone, too).

Finally, after a few more hits-and-misses my search ended at New York’s famous B&H, which not only promised free shipping to the Sunshine State but a tax-free transaction as well. The only problem was that I would have to wait a little over 30 hours to actually place the order due to my having stumbled onto the B&H site during the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, because although you can peruse B&H’s website during Jewish holy days — the Sabbath each week, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, the two-day periods that bookend Sukkoth and Passover…and Shavuot — you cannot actually place an order while any of these days are in progress. To their credit, B&H clearly indicates such restrictions on their site when pertinent, even going so far as to offer a very useful countdown clock on the site that indicates when they will once again be open for business. Free shipping, no sales tax, a one-week window for it all to happen in…I could wait 30 hours.

Faux Leather Stitching!

The reviews are rolling in on the Chromebook 2, and while they aren’t universally great — it’s certainly no “Jesus Phone” — they reflect my expectations for the my soon-to-be-new friend and then some. Sleek, light, stylish (that faux black leather case and stitching!), the Chromebook 2 also has a lot more under its keyboard than its predecessor (which was NOT saddled with the moniker “Chromebook 1”), being markedly faster and offering a somewhat better screen and trackpad. All good stuff. Good enough, in fact, to pull me back into the Chromebooked less than four short months after having eBayed the original KoryChrome back in February. References to “The Godfather, Part III” unnecessary.

30 hours later. 09h00 Eastern Standard Time (15h00 in Paris’s GMT+1), and following a quick touch-base with a B&H Phone Drone (who assures me the package will arrive on the promised date of 12-June, which is one day to spare…might even show up on the 11th) I pull the B&H trigger on Chromebook 2. And less than 30 minutes later I learn that my delivery window is short by a day due to my having boneheaded the nitty-gritty detail of Tref’s #orlandoroadtrip. Yes, our man’s adventure runs from 6-June to 13-June, but he is actually set to clear U.S. on 12-June…the day B&H Phone Drone near-guaranteed the new KoryChrome would make its grand entrance in Orlando.

Did I really do that? Me, the guy who in the past 15 years has overnight-flighted the Atlantic no less than 120 times? Well, no matter. Chromebook 2 hadn’t shipped by this point — B&H was happy to take the order on the Friday, but due to the Sabbath it woudn’t actually ship until Sunday — and I was relatively sure I could cancel it if need be. So I pinged Tref, just to let him know my swirling thoughts on it all. He clued me into his late-ish departure time on 12-June, and with that I made my leap of faith (into the abyss?), opting to let the order fly. After all, even if the package misses Tref in Orlando, how hard could it be to arrange for its return via the hotel, United Parcel Service, and B&H? (He writes with a touch of both sarcasm and extreme naiveté.)

And that is where things stand on this fine late spring Wednesday. B&H confirmed my order on Sunday via an efficient email, and I know that the package left Maspeth, NY on Monday evening. Where between Maspeth and Orlando it is now, though, is nothing more than a WAG, though ever-faithful readers are welcome — encouraged, even! — to join me in attempting to track the new KoryChrome’s voyage to Orlando. Crossed fingers, good thoughts, focused karmic energy, muttered chanting, speaking in tongues…whatever any of you have to give that can help ensure the new KoryChrome’s safe passage into Tref’s hands, I’ll take it!

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The #orlandoroadtrip Day 6 #GBP14 conference proper begins

genband sponsored car aat the #GBP14 conferenceDay6 of the #orlandoroadtrip began with a conversation in the lift.  I was stood there in my Hawaiian shirt with a Genband Perspectives 14 badge hung around my neck when a girl started talking to me: “We don’t have your name in the UK”. She had read my badge. I dunno. I told her I was from Lincoln!

Breakfast was a bacon bagel sandwich with HP sauce (brought my own) , glass of milk and tangerine juice.

The #GBP14 conference proper has begun. I’m going to share some highlights which will in the main be sound bites and general impressions – there isn’t time to do full blown blog posts on every subject.

Genband Perspectives 14 was opened by Genband CEO David Walsh. Impressive guy. His talk made me think of one I attended where Marc Benioff, CEO of used the word “awesome” about fifty times in every sentence, interspersed with “amazing”. The only common features of the two talks were the fact that they were both American and both leaders in their field.

Walsh was a very believable individual. I switched off when listening to Benioff – it was a pure sales pitch. I paid attention to the Genband CEO. My own experience of working with Genband has really been limited to their SIP Applications Server combined with a smidgeon of Session Border Controller. Walsh showed there was a lot more to the company.

His talk was generally an observation that the market was both moving and growing very quickly and that technology companies needed to make investment bets up to seven years before the market is ready for their products. What he has done at Genband is to assemble a set of capabilities through the acquisition of business who have already made these significant investments.

To understand the way the world is changing it is useful to look at some businesses in similar markets. Spotify is now worth more than Warner Music, Uber is worth more than Avis and Hertz combined and Instagram worth more than Kodak.

You can arguably take company valuations with a pinch of salt. In the high technology game people seem willing to pay stupid money for the promise of future returns. Notwithstanding this the comparisons with old and new are valid.

As a startup businessman I try to only use modern technology. For example doesn’t have a phone number. We rely on OTT services such as Skype and Google Hangouts, only use online banking and use SAAS products such as Freeagent.

We got a nice quadruple play case study from David Walsh as to life in the cloud based world. Kids these days arrange parties using Tinder. You tick on people’s images you might like to invite along and if they approve of your image you are both hooked up.

The quad play goes like this:

Use tinder to find a date
Use uber to get a taxi to the date
Use opentable to grab some dinner with the date
Use airbnb to get a room…

Apparently this is an evolution of the triple play presented at last year’s Perspectives13 conference. One wonders what a five play might look like in 2015.

More later. Ciao amigos…

Complete set of really fantastic posts on the #orlandoroadtrip  to date:

Day 5 – golf
Day 4 – Kennedy Space Centre
Day 3 – Hawaiian Shirts, alligators and beer
Day 2 – BA2037
Day 1 – Ronnie Scotts & The Haywood Sisters

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Fie on Eye-Fi

Transferring photos directly from your digital camera to a hard drive via wifi. A sweet idea, to be sure, and a functionality that now seems to be built into pretty much every new digital camera model coming off the producton lines. This was not the case just a short time ago, though, and this is the raison d’etre for Eye-Fi.

For those of you not already in-the-know, Eye-Fi is a company that produces SD and SDHC memory cards that supply digital cameras with secure wifi capability in addition to the usual photo file storage. They also produce software that works in conjunction with their product line, helping their customers to facilitate the use of their Eye-Fi cards (read: essentially owning the process of wirelessly transferring their customers photos and video from camera to computer). Eye-Fi memory cards work with just about any digital camera that makes use of a SD or SDHC memory card. They come in a variety of different storage capacities, are powered via the camera itself, and — supposedly — work up to a range of 90+ feet outdoors and 45+ feet indoors (yeah, that made me go “Huh?” too). Setup is quite easy, though due to configuration necessities it is a bit more complex than just pop-in-and-go. Of course, with so many different cameras in Eye-Fi’s purview it simply is not possible to offer a single file transfer performance standard, however to the company’s credit they do offer copious information and support on their website that is granulated down to the camera maker model level. And the associated Eye-Fi software extends the basic functionality of an Eye-Fi card, allowing for fine-tuned file organization, real-time file transfer, and file geotagging.

So all in all, Eye-Fi offers one handy-dandy, extremely cool, and very useful piece of digital photography tech…none of which is going to keep me from slagging it from one end of this page to the other.

Regular readers (and understand, please, that by ‘regular’ I am not implying normalcy) know that I have something of a propensity to slightly anthropomorphize objects to which I assign high value. My computer, my bicycle, my moped, certain knives…all tactile things that I have given names to, might in rare moments utter a conversational word to, and which I have kitted out with high-quality accessories. Naturally this extends to my go-to digital camera, my beautiful and beloved Leyna the Leica D-Lux 5, which over the years I have adorned with an EVF (Electronic Viewfinder), a lens adaptor tube, various filters, extra batteries, and a handcrafted leather half-case. And because I adore the lovely Leyna both outside and in, last summer I bought her an Eye-Fi Pro X2 16GB card.

Fie on Eye-Fi

Finally! Wireless file transfer…the one essential feature Leyna did not have! I can take a picture here…and it will render over there! No longer would I need to remove Leyna’s SD card to experience the fruit of her labor. Now I could just navigate to the date-stamped directory created by the Eye-Fi software or open iPhoto and there my photos would be, ready for editing, viewing, sharing. Internet-age technology at its absolute zenith!

Heh. No. Eye-Fi started breaking its promises from the get-go, without even a brief “Honeymoon” period. Dingy slow file transference, an inability to circumvent Leyna’s power savings settings when doing its work, a need to be in a direct line of sight with the network router (thus partially explaining the “outside” versus “inside” transfer distance “Huh?” listed in the specifications…numbers that were wildly exaggerated, too, I must add), dropped connections…it all made for a lot of expectations swallowing on my part, while also forcing me to change workflows and camera settings just to get some semablance of usable functionality from my new handy-dandy, extremely cool…yeah, whatever.

I persisted with Eye-Fi in spite of the distinct lack of satisfaction I was getting from the device and technology, believing that I could adapt to the workarounds I had to put in place to get it working in my digital photo scheme of things. Perhaps a future firmware update would smooth out the kinks between Leyna and Eye-Fi, I thought (hoped), or maybe the two devices would spontaneously comee to work better together over time (OK, I didn’t really believe that, but I’d spent $99 on the darn card and really really REALLY wanted it to work as expected…as promised). And a firmware update did come along, as did a software update, and I boosted the wifi in both the flat and at our Normandy maison secondaire…but still, the relationship didn’t markedly improve. A few months in, frustrated yet again with Eye-Fi’s slow and spotty performance I found myself (gasp!) taking it out of Leyna and putting it into AppleKory’s card reader to more quickly grab the files therein. Purpose defeated, and now I was the owner of an extremely expensive 16GB SD card.

And that is the way it was with me, Leyna, and Eye-Fi tech until just recently when I became just a little more serious in my photography, making the leap to shoot in RAW and migrating from Apple’s game-but-wanting iPhoto to Adobe’s magnificent Lightroom 5. Now, a passionless relationship mired in apathy has gone downright cold. When asked to transfer jpeg files via card reader the Eye-Fi card and software proved up to the task, performing as well as any other SD card. With much larger RAW files, though? This past Sunday evening upon returning from a 4-day weekend I removed the Eye-Fi card from Leyna and set it up in the card reader for file transfer. It had been a few weeks since I had last offloaded the card and in the interim I had snapped about 2000 photos (the result of a conspiracy involving a glorious spring in France, three stateside visitors, a two-day London excursion, a day at Futuroscope, and a three-day weekend spent in and around La Rochelle). 14+ hours. That is how long it took Eye-Fi to empty 12GB onto my hard drive. 14+ hours, a speed of just under 2.1 mbps, and this via card reader…I shudder to imagine how long it would’ve taken via wifi!

I know a lot of people are quite satisfied with their Eye-Fi cards and have been for some time — did my due diligence, I did — and that one man’s bad experience does not a product assessment make. That said, with all of the problems and disappointments I have endured, and following the utter debacle of my last file transfer, I will soon be turning my own Eye-Fi card loose on the ravages of eBay, and let the buyer beware!

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MAC Code for Banks

Are MAC codes for banks long overdue?

Was discussing banks with Bloor on Facebook. He paid his credit card off early but the bank still took the payment as Direct Debit meaning he had paid it twice. Apologies forthcame and situation was rectified but then the DD wasn’t taken at all the following month so he got stung with a penalty charge. Again it was sorted but when things like this happen they can take days out of your life. It’s a bit like calling an insurance company or HMRC but takes even longer.

I had a situation recently where I paid a mortgage off but the bank still took the DD for it. Sigh… It did get sorted but the person at the bank, who was most helpful said that DDs are entered into the system 10 days or so in advance of the money being taken (as I recall – if not 10 days it was a simlar timeframe). Most banks will be the same. Their systems are antiquated.

I’m not sure it matters which bank you are with and changing banks is a pain in the arse anyway. We concluded that what was needed was a MAC Code system for banks. One that provided all the information needed to transfer not only your account but all the Direct Debits as well.

If nothing else this would prompt banks to be more competitive. If it was easy for people to move then they’d soon get their collective act together.

Banana cheescake…

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Me and My Pebble Steel

Steve Hodges is the Managing Director of Astro Communications, Ltd.

So I am a fully ‘out’ closet techie. Really. Having starting in comms when ADSL was a pipe dream and you could get 9.6Mbs on your Nokia phone, I suppose I joined the technology industry just after those that created it and ahead of those lucky enough to feel as though they have always had email/internet/mobile phones. In the last 20 years some interesting and useful products have come and gone — Rabbit Phones! BT Home Highway! Even the old Palm TRIO! — and about a trillion products have turned up look like technology used simply for the sake of technology.

I have an HTC One Mini for work (which I love), an iPhone 5 for personal use, a standard Lenovo Twist laptop for day-to-day, and an iPad for out-and-about. I also carry a MiFi device “just in case”, all of which keep me connected, productive, and agile.

Yesterday I took delivered of my Pebble Steel watch. Second only to Google Glass (when it turns up), I felt when I read the reviews that the Pebble Steel watch could possibly be the most exciting advancement in technology since the smartphone. A member of my management team wears a Sony SmartWatch, which is just too…‘Speak and Spell’-looking for my liking. I am sure the uber-cool can get away with it, that is if is your style guide, but for me — dressed in a suit and tie most days, normally rocking an Omega Seamaster Professional (yes, like James Bond), driveing a Volvo 4×4, life complete with chocolate Labrador — it simply wasn’t for me.

Pebble Stone 1

The Pebble Steel arrived in a beautifully crafted box, complete with leather strap, metal bracelet, and magnetic charger. Its face is just big enough to display a few lines of text (monochromatic text, which is a shame), but is not so big that it looks as though you accidentally left your diving watch on following the weekend. It has three chunky, easy-to-use but unobtrusive buttons on one side, and one on the other. In my view, the Pebble Steel has the looks of an elegant timepiece.

Out of the box, the Pebble Steel just needs to be paired with your phone via an app, and you are on your way. Box to brilliant in under three minutes. The notion of how it delivers its information is a little more complex, though, as it requires the installation of a number of apps (the watch can only take a maximum of eight at any given time, however they are quite easy to interchange), of which there are plenty to choose from on Google Play.

2014-04-05 20.58.42

The documentation that accompanies the Pebble Steel watch states that the battery will last about five days, and that the device is waterproof to a practical level. Also, the Bluetooth connection is robust, and thus far I have had no trouble maintaining my information feed upon leaving my phone on my desk and wandering around the house or office.

At the start, I loaded a calendar app, a notifier app, a weather app and a navigation app. I do want to clarify that these apps don’t have much in the way of functionality in themselves, that they take the capability from my phone which pushes notifications over Bluetooth to the Pebble Steel which then passes information back. When a notification arrives on your wrist, you can set it to subtly vibrate and let you know there is something to look at. No more reaching for the mobile every few minutes!

Aesthetically and technologically the Pebble Steel watch is exactly what I had hoped for and more. In fact, I truly believe it exceeds delivery against all my “I need one of those because….” justifications. Just last night while in the house I was receiving tweets/SMSs and email previews on my wrist. Calendar invites were turning up, too, and without as much as a glance at my desk I knew what I needed to know and could ignore the beeps and vibrations from my phone regarding the things I didn’t. And this morning I was able to leave my phone in my bag and wander through my calendar appointments, preparing myself for the day ahead without once popping open the laptop or picking up my phone.

Pebble Steel 3

Out and about, while walking to the train station, I was able to see notifications of new emails and also see when an incoming phone call was coming in, all without fumbling around in my jacket for my mobile. I rejected the call from my Pebble Steel, but had I had a headset on I could have simply answered the call and used the call control from my wrist. I went to the ticket machine at the train station and scrolled through my calendar until I found my reservation number in my diary entry for the day, with the ticket collection number and seat reservation at hand. It even gave me turn by turn instruction on my walking route by paring with google maps on my HTC via the Nav app. Of course, I could have done this all with my mobile, but now I can leave that in my bag or jacket and get instant notification of anything I need on my Pebble Steel. Oh, and it also tells the time!

Functionally the watch has already justified its cost (£151 ($279), plus the £35 import duty). I will have to change some of my day-to-day set up, improve my email filtering, and set up my “Do not disturb” notifications to ensure that I am not woken up in the middle of the night by a barrage of overnight spam, but this is a tiny price to pay for having such a useful piece of technology at hand.

Other aspects of the Pebble Steel that I have yet to investigate properly include the music and phone dialer app — I can control the music and the voice functions of my phone from my wrist while driving in the car — and the extended from-your-wrist camera operation functionality (personally, I doubt its practical benefits, but I am sure it will appeal to and find use with many).

As for criticisms, I guess it is all a matter of perspective. Would it be nice if the Pebble Steel had a touch screen? Maybe. Would it be better if it came with a colour, high resolution face? Possibly. Would it be better if it had a mic and speaker so I could talk to my wrist? Not better for me, but I am sure it would be better for someone out there. Would I prefer to be able to delete, forward and/or reply to my messages? I think so, but there might be an app for that as well.

Considering what I was hoping for — the ability to leave my phone in my bag, jacket or office and get real time notifications of emails, SMSs, tweets, phone calls and other useful information — the Pebble Steel is simply perfect, and it looks the part too. I am delighted with the new high tech addition to my PAN set up. It get five out of five for looks, five out five for build quality, five out of five for ease of use, and six out of five for practical application!

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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

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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