Coast to Coast End User phones

samsung Galaxy S7 Edge rain test

Testing the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge waterproofness

The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge is officially far more waterproof than the Oneplus 2. It’s handily chucking it down in Lincoln so I went outside in the rain to test the S7 Edge.

Most of the video is pointing at me and to the sky – just so the screen could get  as much exposure as possible to the wet. I am happy to tell you that the phone is still working fine and the video has already been automatically backed up to Google Drive.

In fairness to the Oneplus 2 the video I took shortly before the screen died on me also backed up immediately over 4G but it wasn’t much use for anything else. Almost as if the phone’s sole purpose in life was to take that one short video, back it up, and die.

I did manage to wipe the phone remotely and do a factory reset and now I have the bumpf off the bank’s insurance people to sent it away for repair. It will be a handy backup phone although only for when the sun is shining or when I am indoors.

Not being remotely waterproof is not much use in a phone in the UK. I imagine it was designed for Californians.

I am thinking of testing my GoPro underwater. Not sure where I’d use it submerged but it sounds like something useful. The beauty of the GoPro is that I can test it without risking damaging the camera because the waterproofness is provided by the case. The camera itself isn’t waterproof. I would just have to test the empty case.

Btw I keep finding apps that I had on the old phone but haven’t installed on the new. Instagram was it yesterday. Not thats I really use Instagram much. I am becoming a creature of habit.

Fetured image btw is the Day 2 route – Ennerdale Bridge to Seatoller. Elevation map below with OS map of the difficult bit.


Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 13.09.23

charitable End User events phones

Galaxy S7 Edge update – charging in the car whilst using GPS

Galaxy S7 Edge battery better than Oneplus2 for in car charging

Thought it might interest you to know that my new Galaxy S7 Edge battery is much better than the Oneplus 2 for keeping its charge when on the go in the car.

I use Waze when driving along often even when the route is familiar to me. This is because Waze is very good at alerting you to problems up ahead. When I used my “old” Oneplus 2 one of the features I noticed was that the battery would never fully charge when driving along. In fact it seemed to settle at roughly the half charge mark. The phone would have been using GPS and cellular data.

I thought this was a bit odd but didn’t really pay much attention to it. However having used the Galaxy S7 Edge for a couple of long journeys now the difference is really noticeable. The S7 actually fully charges whilst doing the same job as the Oneplus 2.

The kids have also been bringing me reports on waterproof tests having been conducted on others’ S7s. I don’t propose to test mine. I’d rather not tempt fate. I will be using it when hill walking in Derbyshire next weekend so it will get a full stress test in advance of doing the Coast to Coast which is less than three weeks away now (yippee or gulp – one of those two reactions).

Remember the phone needs to run Runkeeper and be fully available for photography although I will have the GoPro as a backup. It will also be running the OS Maps application – I am now a paid up subscriber and will not only have the routes planned out in advance for all 12 days but will also be able to check with GPS for deviations from the route.

I will be taking additional external batteries with me – there is no way the phone will last otherwise with all the photos and vids I expect to take and hopefully upload whilst en route.

Readers wanting to know more about about my walk can check out the coast to coast event page, the Facebook page or the JustGiving Page.

Featured image is of the first day’s route – St Bees to Ennerdale Bridge.


End User Mobile phones

New toy – juice power pad

Juice power pad for Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

Bought a new toy yesterday. It’s a juice power pad. I was in the EE shop for a second day in a row having previously been in to buy the new phone – Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge which so far is a hit btw.

The reason for the second visit was kids phones. I say kids. The two in question are 18 and 16 but even their older siblings will always be kids to us. The two aforementioned offspring (feels as if I am in a game of just a minute here – no repetitions although probably lots of deviations) had previously been with Tesco Mobile. They were on a bundle that included 750MB of mobile data for a tenner and a safety allowance of £2.50 that got them a bit more data.

EE were offering 16GB of data for £16.49 and unlimited calls and texts. The latter is a bit of a red herring. Hardly anyone uses calls and texts these days and the 300 minutes on the previous Tesco plan was never reached. The data however was always used up.

We gave Tesco the opportunity to match EE but their best offer was 4GB for fifteen quid, or simlar. As an MVNO Tesco are ever going to be able to match the mobile operators. Their offerings are geared to unsophisticated shoppers calling at their stores.

The downside of all this is having to queue up in the EE store in Lincoln. There is always a massive queue in store. We got there in the end after 40 minutes. My parking slot was only an hour so had to skip picking up train tickets from the station.

Chatting to the sales advisor I mentioned that the data bundle was the be all and end all nowadays. He said that EE had got aggressive because BT had put together some focus groups and the result was that, yes, people only cared about data.

So now three of us have EE accounts (my bundle is 20GB for £20) and my wife Anne is starting to make noises. Whilst in the shop I bought the Juice Power Pad. It’s very handy although doesn’t charge as quickly as the USB charger and began to make annoying beeps when it got over 80%. Will see how I get on with it.

One last word re the mobile phone contracts. What they don’t tell you if you don’t ask is that the proves double after 12 months so I will have to watch it in order to renegotiate in a year’s time. These consumer service providers are all shysters. Their marketing people should be shot.

Coast to Coast End User phones

Galaxy S7 Edge First Impressions

Galaxy S7 Edge waterproof phone

I need a waterproof phone for the Coast to Coast sponsored walk. The new Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge is a bit of a result. It feels great in the hand and the camera would appear to be top notch. I did um and ah a bit before buying it as it comes with a hefty price tag – £630 from EE including a PAYG starter SIM which I don’t need but that was the deal.

My previous two phones have been the Oneplus1 and Oneplus2. As value for money they have been great and both are still usable. Once I’ve had the Oneplus2 screen repaired that is – it’s biggest weakness appears to be it’s poor resistance to a bit of rain.

The Oneplus2 was also not the most reliable phone – kept locking up when using Runkeeper I needed it for taking photos. This is whilst I’ve been out on my Coast to Coast training walks. I’m hoping that in the Galaxy S7 Edge I have a phone that will do the job for me on the actual coast to Coast walk.

The Oneplus 2 is billed as a flagship killer. It isn’t. It is almost there but misses a few finesses. One has to remember it is less than half the price of the S7 Edge. Not being waterproof was a killer for me. Once repaired I’m going to use it as a backup and a second phone when travelling – the two SIM trays was very useful. I’d use my EE SIM for calls and texts and a local in country SIM for data. Roaming data charges are total ripoffs.

I suspect the battery capacity of the Edge is only just going to be ok. It is now 10am and the battery is at 65% charge. I charged it up yesterday evening and it lost maybe 10% just sat there overnight. This, I assume is down to the lock screen data which I guess I could disable. I’ll leave it as is for now. It isn’t a problem at the moment.

The fingerprint recognition works really well on the Samsung. It feels as if it is an improvement on the Oneplus.

I did look at the iPhone but tbh that was too big a jump for me. I am now the possessor of a high end Macbook Pro. Most of my pals in the networking industry use such a device. I now consider that I have the right laptop and phone. The chromebook can stay as a backup and will also probably be the laptop i take with me on the Coast to Coast – I don’t want to risk the Macbook Pro being nicked in transit between B&Bs. It does mean my video editing capabilities will be constrained for coast to coast blogging purposes but I can stick to one take videos which is what I do now.

One of the things that has amused me is the presence of Microsoft Office apps on the Edge. I abandoned Microsoft years ago now and won’t go back. The icons have been moved to a safe place. Ditto the Samsung Apps.

Don’t forget that in May I am doing the Wainwright Cast to Coast Sponsored walk in aid of Cancer research UK. This is in memory of my Mam Eileen who died one ear ago to the day of the start day of y Coast to Coast walk. She was an active fundraiser and Chairman of the Marown and District Branch of the IoM Anti Cancer Association. I am being accompanied on the walk by my son Tom and two friends Mark and Luke Agius. If you want to support the cause the please go to the JustGiving page. 

PS re the waterproof phone bit – I’m not going to test it – don’t want to push my luck 🙂

End User phones

In which I take a look at my new Oneplus 2 one week in

Oneplus 2 review – is the upgrade worth going for?

I took delivery of my new Oneplus 2 last Wednesday. Initial thoughts:

Screen already chipped – wtf??
I like the fingerprint recognition – works really well
Took a while to figure out how to close down the camera app
V cool button for selecting priority callers only
Much better phone directory lookup than Oneplus 1
I’ve kept the sms and hangouts functions in separate apps this time because merging the two in the Oneplus 1 didn’t work very well
the rough back on the phone is great

I didn’t need a new phone but the Oneplus 1 was starting to give me some grief in a few areas. It would quite often take minutes to look up people/phone numbers. The phone would sometimes not find a person I knew I had in my address book. It was hit and miss. Wasn’t like that when I first got it. I also made the mistake of merging the sms function with the hangouts app. This caused so much hassle in figuring which account to use when sending a text message. It may also have been the source of the problem of directory look up. I don’t know.

Because the Oneplus 2 didn’t break the bank at £270 or so I bit the bullet. First issue was it uses a nano sim which the Oneplus 1 doesn’t. I could have cut the sim down but figured it wasn’t worth the effort and went into the EE shop in Lincoln and got a new one. New sim worked straight away fair play. In the meantime I used the Oneplus 2 without a SIM.

Before originally deciding to sign up with EE I had considered running without a mobile number and getting a data only sim. Decided that this approach was a little too ahead of its time.

Screen defect on Oneplus 2

Now before diving into the improvements that the Oneplus 2 has brought it is worth saying that the screen has already got a defect in it. It’s very small and I can’t see if it is a chip but boy is it irritating. The problem is I suspect that the RMA procedure takes ages with Oneplus and I think I’m going to have to live with it. It doesn’t get in the way of the overall experience. I’m pretty sure it didn’t happen as a result of being dropped or bashed in any way. The Oneplus 1 went a year without mishap.

For an update on the screen issue please see this post.

Fingerprint recognition on Oneplus 2

The fingerprint mechanism on the Oneplus 2 is great. Works every time. I have both index fingers and my right thumb stored. It’s real progress. I still have the PIN number as a backup. It took me a while to realise that this function was worthwhile but now I use it every time and even find myself shutting down the screen just so that I can reactivate it with my thumbprint!

Oneplus 2 Camera

One of the most important features of a phone for me is the camera. I take a lot of pictures. Other reviews tell me the camera is an evolutionary improvement over the Oneplus 1. I guess it is though I can’t really tell the difference that much. One thing worth noting is that if you use the “photo” mode for hte camera it takes a while to take the picture. You have to hold the camera still whilst it take the photo. If you choose “Manual” more it still seems to do things automatically but doesn’t have the same problem.

A few observations. It took me a while (a few days) to figure out how to exit the camera app. There is no obvious x button and the android softkeys that allow you to go to the home page, go back or show open apps disappears from the screen when you are using the camera. Turns out you just swipe up from the bottom and these buttons reappear. This might be something adjustable in the settings but now I know what to do I can live with it.

I also discovered a “feature” whilst writing this post. If you have the phone locked in portrait mode and then take a landscape oriented video the video turns out at right angles to the way it should when viewed. I found this out after having posted four videos to Facebook. What’s more Facebook didn’t appear to have any mechanism for rotating the vids and none of the cloud based video editing services seemed to want to work. At least with the four videos of mine. Fortunately YouTube was reliable and I was able to rotate all four for inclusion on this blog. Check em out here.

Priority notification setting button

Dunno if that’s the right description for the button but on the left side of the phone is a small slider that has three settings. The first lets all calls and notifications through, the second just priority ones and the third none at all. In other words it blocks all communications. It’s a good way for quickly putting the phone in silent mode. Took me a while to get used to this but I then figured out that I could label specific people as priority callers by highlighting a star in their directory profile.

In principle this could be quite useful. I’ve set all the family as priority callers. This is a risk as my dear wife Anne has a track record of ringing during important meetings to discuss “tonights tea”. We shall see.

Much better phone directory lookup than Oneplus 1

You’ve already read my whinge about the directory lookup speeds in the Oneplus 1. Well this seems to be fixed in the Oneplus 2. It could just be that the firmware load is fresh and hasn’t had a chance to get bogged down yet but all I can say is that so far it’s a huge improvement.

I’ve also kept the sms and hangout apps separate in the two. Actually this has shown me that I don’t really use hangouts all that much and it was a mistake to have merged the two in the first place. I use Facebook messaging far more.

It remains to be seen which messenger app will win out considering that the UK government seems hell bent on making it difficult for such apps to be used in the UK. I think a general uprising would ensue if this happened or people would move to “illegal” platforms.

Rough back on phone

I’ve seen a Oneplus 2 review where the reviewer didn’t like the rough back to the phone. It took me a while to get used to it but in balance I think this is a winner. It stops the phone from sliding off surfaces. For example I can have it on my tummy whilst leaning back on the settee writing (as I am doing now) and the phone won’t slip off. I’m sure it’s going to save a few smashed screens.


So having looked at the Oneplus 2  review I can say it’s definitely better than its predecessor. I’m still a bit peeved about the screen defect and I may yet RMA it but we shall see.

Feature pic taken from Oneplus website – I can’t take pics of the phone with itself 🙂

Apps End User phones

12.1-YOG4PAS2QL has just destroyed my battery life

The new reduced 12.1-YOG4PAS2QL battery life

As I was fiddling about on my laptop last night in front of The Apprentice, earphones in listening to music and concentrating intensely on my laptop screen to avoid all contact with aforementioned TV programme which I detest intensely, an offer of a firmware update for my Oneplus One came in. 12.1-YOG4PAS2QL.

I didn’t have masses of battery left so plugged it into the wall in the kitchen and returned to my state of ignoring the TV. You might ask why I even bothered sitting in front of the TV when we have a perfectly good living room to retreat to. However Mrs Davies likes the programme so it’s a way of us being together whilst doing different things. Sweet huh? 🙂

This morning I woke up to a fully charged phone with a few bug fixes and security updates. I scoured tinterweb to see if my issue with answering the phone was fixed (see yesterday’s post on Oneplus one freezing on answer). Most online resources just seemed to repeat PR blurb and what I could find suggested not.

One of the notional fixes was an improvement to the power consumption and thus battery life of the Oneplus One. Now I have to tell you my Oneplus One battery life has been great. Not any more it ain’t.

By 9.20 this morning I had about 3 hours left. Wot! People don’t have time to deal with this kind of crap. I am being driven ever closer to a different phone. Changing the settings to power saver just added an hour and dimmed the screen to the point where I’d need to shine a torch on it.

On top of all this I spent some time this morning uninstalling apps I never use – free paris wifi, KLM, stuff like that. I came across something called Truecaller. I didn’t know I had Truecaller. It has zillions of downloads. I don’t appear to be using it but it seems very suspicious if you ask me. It helps prevent incoming spam calls by screening the call against a global database. The problem is it obtains the global database from the directories of all its users.

Now this isn’t necessarily any different to Google knowing everyone’s email addresses but it feel a little uncomfortable. Maybe I’m worrying over nothing and I don’t appear to be using it anyway. Maybe it’s spyware!! It seems to have permission to access practically everything on the phone!!!

Anyway enough of this rant. 12.1-YOG4PAS2QL battery life turns out to be v disappointing. The clock of patience is ticking away on the Oneplus One.

End User phones

How do I decide which is the best mobile phone?

Best mobile phone? Unless you got religion it ain’t easy.

I’ve been thinking about getting a new phone. My Oneplus One is not really that old, maybe a yearish and it is still in good nick. Problem is that it keeps freezing when I try answering inbound calls. I end up having to call people back, once they’ve finished leaving a voicemail.

I’ve had a few problems during my time with the OnePlus One. For a while over the summer the phone occasionally became completely unresponsive, constantly appearing to enter digits in the phone unlock screen. This went away, presumably during a firmware upgrade. I’m sure there will be a fix for my current problem. Problem is I don’t want the hassle of researching the solution and then implementing any available patch.

This has made me start thinking of maybe getting a different phone. I’ve even been thinking the unthinkable and  considering an iPhone. For those of you who know me you will know that would be a serious change in policy. A step over to the dark side. Funnily enough a number of engineering types I know who have iPhones have always considered themselves to be in the light and that it was who was groping around in the murky underworld.

Yesterday I popped out to our local corner shop (Tesco) where they have a large toy (electrical gadgets) department.I had a go at holding a number of different models – Apple, Samsung and others. Disappointingly the iPhone was by far the most comfortable in my hand. The Galaxy S6 felt it had a strange metal edge to it and the curved job seemed to be a non-starter.

On the basis of that cursory test the iPhone had it. It was interesting to see that you can actually buy a Nokia phone now that costs £15 including £10 worth of PAYG credit on the sim. That’s a fiver for a phone! Fine if you just want a spare to make calls and send texts.

Anyway getting back to my desk I did a search for “best mobile phone 2015”. Techradar came up near the top and their fairly recent review compounded my difficulty. The iPhone 6S, the highest ranking Apple device, only ranked 4th according to Techradar. Now one might consider the Techradar reviewers might be Android biassed but an at a glance look at the specs (courtesy Techradar) shows that the Samsung comes out ahead in a number of the parameters:

1. Samsung Galaxy S6

OS: Android 5 | Screen size: 5.1-inch | Resolution: 1440 x 2560 | RAM: 3GB |Storage:32GB/64GB/128GB | Battery: 2550mAh | Rear camera: 16MP | Front camera: 5MP

4. iPhone 6S

OS: iOS 9 | Screen size: 4.7-inch | Resolution: 1334 x 750 | RAM: 2GB |Storage:16GB/64GB/128GB | Battery: 1,715mAh | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 5MP

The different in battery capability is fairly marked as is the RAM and camera spec. Apple fanbois may counter by claiming better functioning and integration of software. They may be right but this doesn’t help me in my buying decision.

In the meantime I’m going to stick with my Oneplus One and see what comes along. The one lesson here is that (brand zombies/the religious apart) this type of purchasing decision needs to be taken at leisure.

Ciao amigos.

Engineer gadgets phones

Supermarket scanner screen surprise

Supermarket scanner thrills and spills

The beauty of modern mobile intergalactic communication devices is that they have cameras. This means that when a photographic opportunity comes along (that doesn’t require lightning reflexes) a device can be whipped out and the moment captured. Such an opportunity presented itself at Waitrose over the Bank Holiday weekend. Entering the high class superstore I swiped my pre-registered credit card at the bank of scanners and waited for one to flash.

Sometimes when I have a kid in tow we play the “guess which scanner it’s going to be” game. This time I was alone but running my eyes over the array of handheld devices in front of me I found that one of them had an error message on the screen. Thrilling1.

Quick as a shopper spotting the last bargain chicken in the reduced items shelf I drew the camera from its pocket shaped holster and speedily took a number of photographs. I had to be quick because I didn’t want to find myself explaining to a growing queue of shoppers waiting to pick up a scanner. I got lucky. No queue formed. I got the pic, picked up the flashing scanner and moved on.

Now, in the comfort of my front room, flicking through the gallery on my phone I’ve found the photos and am prompted to write this post. I Googled “QuickCheckHHTApplication.exe”, the on scanner screen message, but very disappointedly found nothing. Not a surprise really considering the secure nature of the transactions the device is required to process. With hindsight I should have had a play with the scanner and selected “details” as suggested on the screen.

The screen shot isn’t quite as bad (or embarrassing) as the Windows XP screen that sometimes comes up when ATMs need rebooting but it is interesting in its own right. In an ideal world I’d now write a nice little technical appraisal of the functionality of a supermarket scanner but I know noottthinnngg. Could look it up I s’pose but then again I did Google QuickCheckHHTApplication.exe and got nowhere which is more than enough prep for this post. As much as it deserves anyway.

If anyone has a photo of any public device that requires a reboot by all means share. Also if you know anything about supermarket scanners feel free to suggest a guest post. It will be given top priority/stop press2 etc.

ATM posts here and here. ATM images on Google here (I searched on your behalf). Supermarket scanner images here.

1I know I know. Little things eh?
2 won’t be long before the term stop press will be consigned to the history

End User phones

A week with Oneplus One CyanogenMod in the UK

After I got my Samsung Galaxy S4 back from the menders, again, the screen was fixed but the microphone seems to have been totally jiggered. At least broken enough to not be able to rely on it for phone calls. A little research and the Oneplus One CyanogenMod jumped out of the web page at me.

I was thinking Google Nexus 5 but that handset had been around a while and we were waiting for the Nexus 6 to be launched. The Oneplus One CyanogenMod had great reviews, better than the Nexus 5 due to being newer, and I could get a 64GB version for £270! Nobrainer I thought.

Oneplus One had different ideas. You can’t buy a Oneplus On CyanogenMod UK without being sent an invite by someone who already has one. Doh! I decided not to. What a terrific marketing ploy!

A week later and I gave up on my SGS4. I found that I did actually need to talk to people every now and again. Even if I used VoIP over WiFi I still needed the microphone to work. Twitter found me someone with a Oneplus One invite and I ordered.

I paid for express delivery  but this still took a few days. It came from the good ole US of A. When it did arrive the packaging was great – fair play. Setup time was short though I did find that not all the apps I had previously installed on my Galaxy S4 automatically ported to the Oneplus One. With hindsight this was a good thing as I probably had too many apps I didn’t use on the old phone.

The biggest complaint about the Samsung is the bloatware. You don’t get this with the Oneplus One CyanogenMod. Whizzing through the gallery is v quick. There are a few things I think are greats and others not so.

Great is the fact that I can turn on the camera from the lock screen by just swiping the icon. You can also do this from standby mode by drawing a circle on the screen. The camera comes on. Yay. V handy for taking snaps of something you need to be able to respond quickly to and far better than having to enter a pin number.

You can also turn the torch on and off by drawing a V on the phone in standby mode. A sideways V or arrow switches on the music player. This can be a bad thing as I have occasionally found the torch on in my pocket and likewise the music.

The fact that the lock screen has options also sometimes makes it difficulet to enter a pin number – you only have to catch the edge of the screen with your palm and it thinks you are after the camera instead.

Another negative is that fact that the Oneplus One doesn’t support O2 4G bands in the UK.  Seeing as I can’t get 4G in my home town Lincoln this seems to be a relatively small price to pay. It would work if I was on EE.

Doesn’t really matter though. This phone cost £270, it has the spec of a high end job and feels great in the hand. I do sometimes find I have it the wrong way round but hey. It doesn’t matter. Power consumption seems good – not a particularly scientific test but at least a whole day in my experience so far.

The Nexus 6 has now been announced. I may also buy one of those and use the Oneplus One as a backup. Having had to be without a handset (I don’t call the Samsung Galaxy Mini a handset!) for periods of up to ten days whilst getting my own fixed it is clear that I can’t function without one. This isn’t an admission of weakness. It’s life Jim.

Stay tuned…

Business Mobile mobile connectivity phones security voip


Those who build or sell VoIP systems need to begin coping with BYOD, because soon enough it will inevitably be on your system’s spec sheet. welcomes VoIP Week contributor Paul Hayes, ProVu Communications Ltd.’s Product Development Director

Whether you’re a developer of IP PBX or a provider of hosted VoIP telephony services, you need to be doing something about mobile BYOD. BYOD (aka Bring Your Own Device) is the concept of company employees using their own hardware in addition to, or instead of, the hardware provided by and owned by the company itself. I use the term mobile because increasingly people want to use mobile phones and not desk phones. It may be a slightly foreign concept to a lot of readers, but there is a whole generation of future business people just around the corner who will have grown up with a mobile phone in their hand at all times.

It’s a simple idea on the surface, you have an iPhone because you like it and find it easy to use, right?

It might seem like this is all about greedy employers wanting their staff to buy their own kit, but not so. It stands to reason that allowing staff to use devices that they know, trust, and perhaps even enjoy should result in good productivity.

Enough has already been written on the advantages of BYOD, so what I want to talk about instead is how you as someone who builds or sells VoIP systems copes with BYOD, because if it’s not on your system’s spec sheet in the near future you’re going to seem rather old fashioned.

In my eyes there are two main issues the VoIP platform must overcome: maintaining professionalism and management of the devices.

First is the issue of maintaining professionalism. In the early days of VoIP there was a sense of triumph whenever pressing that tick button on your shiny new VoIP phone resulted in a working call with good audio quality. Thankfully, things have moved on, but the last thing you want is for your BYOD solution to represent a step back. It has to work reliably and it has to sound good, too, just like your VoIP desk phone does. At the same time, businesses need to look professional and maintain their own presence. For instance, most businesses don’t want the outbound phone calls they place to be seen as coming from different mobile numbers.

The second issue is device management. How do you know what people are using their mobiles for? How do you control which application they are using? How do you even change a setting on the device when it’s not owned by the business? How do you do all that without crippling the device?

The key to resolving these two issues is centralised management. We’ve been doing this with desktop VoIP phones for over ten years now, the same techniques must now be applied to mobile devices as well.

A company in Sweden called Opticaller Software has an interesting take on it all, offering a solution that involves an application for mobile devices (the usual suspects: iPhone, Android, Blackberry) and a server part that (for now) runs alongside an Asterisk IP PBX. That’s fairly interesting, of course, but what really makes it relevant here is that they also have a hosted management engine, a system that allows you to push the app out to mobile devices and that manages all settings related to the operation of the app. This is absolutely essential, and it seems to make the Opticaller solution fairly unique for the moment. Thus, no matter where the mobile devices are, provided they have just a tiny bit of a data connection, it is possible to control mobile telecommunications much like you can with desktop phones. All phone calls go through the VoIP PBX where they are recorded and accounted for and, crucially, you can control the outbound caller identification used for each call.

The mobile application itself does something that is both clever and yet simple. It uses the mobile voice network for the actual phone call. Maybe one day Wifi will be good enough to be used for mobile voice whilst out and about, but today that simply is not the case.

I used the Opticaller system myself on a recent business trip to Prague and found it very handy for calling people in the office using nothing more than their internal extension numbers. Also, it was very handy in reducing costs as I only suffered roaming charges for inbound calls and not outbound one. Please don’t make the mistake of thinking this is all about saving money, though, as the real problem being solved is how to integrate mobile BYOD into a VoIP phone system.

End User H/W phones voip voip hardware Weekend

VoIP Hardware: Giving a British Icon a 21st Century Makeover

Repurposing a 20th Century British classic for the new millennium. is pleased to welcome “VoIP Week” contributor Mark Williams, Director of Sales at Obihai Technology.

The GPO746 is loved by many – it’s hard to ignore the classic look and high quality construction of the original — but with most of us now using VoIP it is often left to sit there as an ornament and gather dust.  But we can give it a 21st century upgrade!

The GPO poses a few challenges for VoIP hardware enthusiasts. First, it requires a ring capacitor to drive the bells when it rings. Also, the GPO is a rotary dialer, which most modern ATAs don’t support. But where there is a will there is a way, and here I will offer detail on two approaches that can be taken to ready this classic for the world of IP.

The Easy Approach

The easiest way to get your classic phone to work with VoIP is to plug all the adapters inline, external to the phone. To convert the rotary dial clicks into DTMF you can use a Dialgizmo, a device that sits inline between the ATA and the phone. It works well, though it will occasionally detect the hook flash as a “1” and send the DTMF so you need to be careful when taking the handset off hook.

Along with the Dialgizmo you’ll need to find a ring capacitor. You can either purchase an inline ring capacitor from an online store, or you can repurpose a master socket if you have one lying around.

Finally you’ll need an ATA.

mw1-GPO746 plugged into a re-used master socket
The GPO746 plugged into a re-used master socket, which in turn in plugged into the Dialgizmo, which is plugged into an Obihai OBi202 ATA.

Using this simple conversion approach you can get your classic phone working over VoIP.  But you want a more elegant solution, I hear you say?

The Advanced Approach

You say you don’t fancy having a string of adapters connected to your classic phone? Well, if you are handy with a soldering iron, the Rotatone offers another method, an integrated solution, installed inside your GPO746.  And if you’re not handy with a soldering iron, don’t worry – they also have a service where you can send in your classic phone to have the Rotatone and a ring capacitor installed (after making a ham-fisted attempt at soldering — It’s been many years — I chose the send-in option).

The Rotatone is the black box on the left.  It is wired between the rotary dialer and the control board of the GPO746.
The Rotatone is the black box on the left. It is wired between the rotary dialer and the control board of the GPO746.

The Rotatone has the advantage of not suffering from hook switch triggering DTMF tones, and having the ring capacitor installed in the device also removes another item from the daisy chain between the phone and the ATA.

So how about we go a step further an install the ATA within our classic phone as well!

The OBi200 (and OBi300) ATA both fit perfectly between the hook switch of the GPO746.  If we remove the line cable from our phone we can wire this plug internally straight into the back of the ATA and route the power for the OBi via the line cable’s port.  Rather than drill into the case to create a hole for an Ethernet cable we can instead plug an OBiWiFi adapter into the back of the ATA to allow it to operate wirelessly.

Everything installed inside the GPO746.
Everything installed inside the GPO746.

We now have our WiFi-enabled GPO746 IP Phone, repurposed and ready for the 21st century.  And you can even take it a step further by installing an OBiBT USB adapter into the USB port.  To do this you’ll need to use a USB hub to allow plugging the OBiWiFi and OBiBT adaptors into the one port. If you can find a place to squeeze that in you will have a GPO746 that’s not only wireless but that can also pair with your mobile phone via Bluetooth.

So what are you waiting for?  Winter is just around the corner, and there are few better excuses for spending an afternoon converting your phone in a small room filled with solder fumes.  Best of luck!

Conversion Complete 1     Conversion Complete 2

Engineer phones

A week with the iPhone 6 Plus

After a week with the iPhone 6 Plus Dan Lane endorses the bigger screen after using it instead of his laptop on a day out in London.

After a week with the iPhone 6 Plus Tref asked me to write up my experience with the behemoth, but I’m not going to do that. There are hundreds of reviews out there which tell you it’s too big, it’s too bendy or it’s just right. No, I’m simply going to tell you about Tuesday.

After receiving the device on Friday I’d spent the weekend fumbling with it thinking I’d made a mistake buying this comically oversized phone but then came Tuesday.  This was the day the iPhone 6 Plus really shone and I realised I hadn’t made an expensive mistake.

I was due to install some equipment in Telehouse so I threw my kit bag into the boot of my car and made the 2 hour drive from Winchester to Docklands using the TomTom app on the iPhone 6 Plus as my satnav (having purchased a new iOttie windscreen mount because my previous one was too small!). Even though the TomTom app has yet to be updated to take advantage of the larger screen it looked fantastic in the zoomed mode and I much preferred it to my previous iPhone 5s.

When I arrived at Telehouse I lugged my kit bag containing my Macbook Pro and iPad to the rack, I pulled the information I needed to locate and get access to the rack from Evernote and started to install the kit. As well as the equipment I was installing there were various tasks that were documented in Basecamp which loaded nicely on my phone.

I used the camera to upload photos of the cabling changes I’d made to Basecamp for future reference and the photo was so clear and detailed that you could read the circuit number from the cable’s tag. I also used the Slack app to communicate back with the various members of the team who had logged the work. I probably spent about three hours at the rack and my phone was on for most of the time, the battery read 97% when I left having been fully charged by the drive over.

Next, since I was in London I had a customer meeting scheduled. I drove over and met the customer (keeping the phone in my pocket and using my car’s built in satnav this time) and through the meeting I took notes using Evernote on my 6 Plus. Ordinarily I’d use my Macbook or my iPad and at one point I did feel like I needed to place my phone down face-up showing the Evernote screen so he didn’t think I was busily texting someone.

After the meeting I had an hour or so to kill before meeting my girlfriend for dinner so I found a coffee shop and got down to some e-mails and support tickets, again I just did them on the 6 plus using the Gmail and Zendesk apps. This is where it occurred to me that I hadn’t opened my laptop all day not because I made a conscious effort to only use my iPhone but because the iPhone was all I needed – I probably pulled it out of my pocket to check Facebook and noticed there was a ticket that needed my attention and got carried away with some emails.

If I had been on my old 5s I’d have seen that ticket and reached for my laptop but with the bigger form factor and bigger keyboard it was no hassle to tap out reply after reply while my laptop remained unopened in my bag. I was in the coffee shop for just over an hour and a half and I didn’t put my phone down once – by the time I left my battery was still over 65%.

While I was in the coffee shop I needed to do some field testing for our new mobile service – this involved an iPhone 5s I use as test device. I was immediately surprised at how minuscule and cramped the 5s felt after only 4 days using the bigger device and this really cemented my appreciation of the larger screen and form factor.

The phone pretty much stayed untouched while I had dinner with the girl and then served as satnav and MP3 player (via Spotify) for the 1.5 hour journey home – as an experiment I didn’t plug it in and the phone was down to 14% when I arrived home which considering it’d been using GPS, bluetooth, streaming data and had the display on for the whole journey was pretty good in my book.

Could I have done everything I did on the iPhone 5s or the regular sized iPhone 6? Yes, of course! but when I had that device I never did. For me the bigger screen turns it from a phone that happens to do smart things into a small tablet that happens to also be a phone and this encourages more use in that fashion. It’ll never replace the laptop in the datacentre visit as I’d need to pull that out for ethernet or serial access but for the tasks I did on that day it was more than adequate and performed admirably.

Of course your tastes and requirements vary but if you’re undecided between which size to go for and you think you’d prefer a small tablet that happens to be an oversized phone then you’re going to love the iPhone 6 Plus.

Business events gadgets H/W Mobile phones wearable

A Virtual Tech Gadgets Smorgasbord!

September brings word of new gadgets — smartphones, tablets, cameras, wearables, whatever else — and it all looks so tasty!

Ah, September. Summer holidays fading into memory, work ramping back up, children getting settled into new school routines, a hint of a nip in the air (at least once the sun goes down) as autumn begins baby-stepping into place, and the usual blast of new gadgetry hyper…er, news…no, had it right the first time.

Thick and furious, it seems that this week new smartphone goodness was announced by every player in the space (save for Apple, which has its circled-on-every-calendar iPhone event set for next Tuesday). Most if not all of this activity is in conjunction with IFA Berlin 2014 — Europe’s largest consumer electronics event — though it seems that none of the interested parties could be bothered to wait for the start of the actual event (today, that would be). Among the smartphony gadgets soon to show up on shop shelves are:

  • Samsung: Galaxy Note 4, Galaxy Note Edge
  • Sony: Xperia Z3, Zperia Z3 Compact
  • Microsoft/Nokia: Lumia 830, Lumia 930, and Lumia 730

And those are just the smartphone devices put up for media scrutiny fawning prior to the IFA Berlin 2014’s official opening. Over the next five days similar smartphone announcements are due from HTC, LG, Acer, Lenovo, Huawei, Asus….pretty much everyone except Big Daddy Apple.

As if all of that is not enough, a kit-n-kaboodle of tabletish shiny things are also set for intro (or have already been intro’d), along with some wearable whatnot, and all kinds of digital fun that lies outside of phones and tabs.

It doesn’t take much in the way of deductive reasoning to understand why we as consumers get tech-dumped on during September every year. The mechanisms of hype need a bit of oiling up in preparation for the holidays, interest has to spread from those who are too-in-tune to those who listen to and/or depend on those who are too-in-tune, and the marks…no, no, no…the buying customers need time to get their heads around the cost of the new delights (and time to save coin to buy them).

Only 100 shopping days until Christmas*!

*And 7-8 fewer until Chanukah…but I couldn’t find a website for tracking that.

Business google phones

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 phones

iPhone 6 photo leak points to rounded edges – oh!

leaked iPhone 6 photo points to rounded edges – analysis

Am on the Isle of Man ferry and have a bit of time to kill.  Now that I’ve managed to book tickets for Wales v AllBlacks. This was an achievement that involved an hour’s wait in a queue, most of which was whilst I was also waiting to get on the boat that was 2 hours late leaving Liverpool. Ah well. Being last on and in the Premium Lounge all the papers have already been taken. It doesn’t matter. I have tinternet and most of the other occupants of the lounge look as if they were born pre WW2 and will need the papers to fall asleep to. Having tinternet I’ve landed on the telegraph website and found a headline about a leaked iPhone 6 photo.

The most startling thing about this is that the telegraph considers this to be a front page news. It’s quite sad really. Why should anyone give a toss what the new iPhone 6 photos look like. I think we must surely have reached saturation in the smartphone marketing stakes. There isn’t enough difference between models to make it interesting any more.

It’s a bit like an advert for a car. It just isn’t possible to make a car look interesting or exciting. You will always have dyed in the wool fans who get hyped up bout a particular model but hey. Get  life…

In the last 10 years I have only had two cars. One was my N reg Peugeot 406 diesel (250k miles on the clock) and the other is my current job, the Jeep Commander. It came as total bemusement to me to find that a neighbour of ours, who was in a company car scheme, spent weeks studying his options before deciding on a Mondeo. Apparently Mondeos were cool – totally dispels the Mondeo man as boring Mr Average myth.

Someone somewhere has probably been able to retire on the success of the Mondeo advert, I’d imagine. Maybe.

Apple have clearly got the marketing clout to keep their fanbois excited about different iterations of their telephone. At the mo. I’d like to ask you, yes you, does anyone really care. If you do care I suggest you look around for something that will make your life more fulfilling. Like doing a 5,000 piece jigsaw or counting the number of sheets on a toilet roll to make sure that they aren’t short changing you.

You get to see it all on It wasn’t so long ago we released exclusive images of the new Samsung Galaxy S5 logo. If you want to see the leaked iPhone photo check it out here.

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.

Apps broadband End User fun stuff H/W internet Mobile Net phones

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?

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!

chromebook End User gadgets google H/W internet Mobile phones Weekend

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).

End User fun stuff gadgets H/W internet Mobile mobile connectivity Net phones wearable

Flying Away on a Wing and a Prayer

I’ve been daydreaming about technology. Again.

Oftentimes you will see me, fingers unmoving on my keyboard, my mind skimming the clouds (not “the cloud”), blissfully imagining features that I want/need/must have in my next computer.

**Cue dreamy fantasy, Fender Rhodes-ish, 1970s-era TV comedy music. Cue LOUD thunder crack.**

…a monster SSD (I recently carved a Samsung M9T 2TB HHD from a sealed-and-not-meant-to-be-opened Backup Plus external hard drive to install in AppleKory, so you know that when I write “monster” I am not messing around…s’gotta be BIG), a good degree of voice command capability, a separate GPU, a battery that can reliably deliver 10+ hours of juice regardless of use intensity, integrated cellular Internet connectivity, and — naturally — MacBook-level build quality across the board…

**Fade out goofy cue-in music underlay.**

Gadget This Gadget ThatIntegrated cellular connectivity. Something of a Holy Grail among a great many of us who drive MacBooks, this functionality has been on my “Features and Functions for AppleKory Upgrade” list (yes, I really do keep such a thing…don’t you?) for so long that I am not entirely sure I can reclaim the pixels. That said, my blue-sky tech whimsy is relegated not only to computers but also to smartphones, those marvelous wonders of technology that by their very nature connect to the Internet via cellular. Regular readers know, of course, that I am deeply ensconced (stuck?) in the the search for my next smartphone, which at this point still looks to be the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom. I have yet to actually put my hands on the GKZ, however, and as my near-decision to be among the Zoomed has me feeling as shaky as it does giddy, I am guessing there is a moment of reckoning waiting for me once the darn thing actually becomes available in France. Early reviews are all over the place, though they all seem to reflect less the smartphone’s build quality and feature set and more the usage values of the reviewers themselves. In aggregate, though, those reviews fall mostly in line with expectation, describing the not-so-little bugger as a “niche product”…a niche that, when described, sounds an awful lot like one into which I enjoy lanyard pass access. Still, it seems that every week there is yet another new player on the field that deserves consideration — just yesterday Amazon’s Jeff Bezos splashily announced his company’s entry to the Smartphone Wars, the Amazon Fire Phone, which has not one and not two but SIX cameras on-board — and until such time as I can try on the Galaxy K Zoom for size (and weight) my musings on the device will be blue-sky whimsy indeed.

**Cue dreamy fantasy, Fender Rhodes-ish, 1970s-era TV comedy music. Cue LOUD thunder crack.**

…ready to perform as smartphone and compact camera, and serving well as both while requiring the precious pocket space of of just one…sharp and responsive camera function, especially in low-light situations requiring tight optical zoom…well-designed apps serving essential and not-so-essential needs…easy and thoughtful interaction and synchronization with AppleKory…elevation of my walkabout effectiveness from the sludgy puddle into which my iPhone 4 currently has it imprisoned…ah, bliss…

**Fade out goofy music.**

Pie in the sky, baby!

So have you gotten the impression that for me it is all about the Internet? Nay, I say! Let’s have a little talk about tweedle beetles…er, cameras (and set aside the fact that many of them these days have some kind of Internet capability, because nobody buys a camera primarily for that). Up front, let me say that nearly four years in I continue to be utterly besotted with my Leica D-Lux 5 (the lovely Leyna). Despite this, however, nary a full day passes without me dropping into some camera review site or another (, I’m talkin’ ’bout you) and gorging myself on the latest this-and-that in the world of photo-taking apparatus goodness. My next camera…my next camera…

**Cue silly dream fantasy whatnot music for last time. LOUD thunder crack, too.**

…weather-resistant…compact size, but with interchangeable lenses…built-in wifi file transfer capability…insanely-high resolution EVF and rearview monitor…somewhat retro…finger-tingling build quality…

**Fade out. End the darn post already.**

Yes, yes, me likes me cameras.

Me also…I also (Bizarro voice only works in teeny tiny doses) thirst to soar with new-gadget-happy, like all qualifying tech geeks who have over the years read an embarrassing number of comic books and tuned into far too much sci-fi television. I am sorry to say, though, that the wearable-whatever getting most of the ink these days just isn’t getting me up to escape velocity. I haven’t worn a watch on my wrist since 1992, a streak that I cannot imagine coming to an end any time soon, iWatch or whichever Dick Tracy contraption notwithstanding (including this watch). And as for Google Glass, I have never been able to get my head around the idea of wearing glasses for reasons other than dire necessity (2-D cinema-going guy that I am), and more than halfway to my own personal Finish Line I have yet to encounter a pair of sunglasses that looked like anything other than a waste of money. iBelt? Amazon Fire Shoes? A power ring or magic lasso? No no no no no. I don’t daydream about wearing my gadget tech these days…I want it IMPLANTED!

Related posts:

Business gadgets Legal Mobile phones

Fruity Simulation

Watching the World Cup matches over the weekend I was struck not for the first time by the lightning-quick tendency on the part of the players to flop to the turf at the slightest contact with a member of the opposing team.

“That guy’s elbow touched my arm. I am gravely injured and in need of a Free Kick!”
    “His foot tapped my foot, which means I was tripped! Owww! Bring the stretcher out! Rev up the ambulance! Alert the hospital that we may soon be on our way! Yellow Card that serial tripper!”
    “I fell to the ground when so-and-so ran by me in front of his goal, which means he violently knocked me down, and therefore I deserve a Goal Kick!”

Nothing unexpected, of course, as even the most casual fan of the so-called “Beautiful Game” has come to expect an abundance of ugly on-the-pitch acting antics. I didn’t expect, though, to flash so easily to the parallel of Apple’s hair-trigger propensity to sue any competitor that wandered into their path (usually Samsung), claiming an assault on their design and utility, “original” though it may be.

No Diving

“Rectangular mobile phones with rounded corners…that was our idea! We deserve billions of dollars because your phones are also rectangular with rounded corners, and you should not be allowed to continue making phones with that form factor!”
    “A main button…that was our idea! We should get billions of dollars because your phones also have a main button, and your phones should be prohibited from having a main button!”
    “Little square pictures that users can touch to open apps (which is our word for “applications”)…that was our idea! You should pay us billions in damages for having little square pictures that users can touch on your unlawfully integrated touch screens to open applications on their unlawfully shaped phones!”

Extract tongue out of cheek.

Of course, one good turf dive deserves another, and the non-Apple entity in all of this (usually Samsung) has proven fast to counter-sue. All of which just leads to more suing and counter-suing, and so on and so forth…hey, just like the players do in association football (Americans out there are invited to read that as ‘soccer’)!

By this point players of association football — henceforth, I will just write ‘football’ and assume my American readership is sharp enough not to lose the plot — have not just accepted flopping as a reality of the game, but no doubt consider it to be a skill worthy of serious practice (rehearsal?), one that they may be called upon to perform without hesitation at any time or may even be asked to condition themselves to do in certain circumstances. And this goes not just for those playing footy/footie at the highest levels, but through the ranks, all the way down to the kiddie leagues. Really, I mean, does it get any cuter than those five-year-olds rolling to the ground holding their shins and screaming for a Red Card?

Five-year-old behavior. Yup. That rings just about right. Players participating in 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil and the C-Level officers at Apple and Samsung alike…

Fair play? If it ever was it certainly isn’t today, when instead it is gamesmanship that is so often revered and celebrated. It matters not nearly as much how the gooooooooooal was achieved as the fact that it was achieved. Your opponent has gathered up a lethal storm of momentum? Flop to blunt the tide. Need a breather, to regroup? Dive, grab knee, and scream for justice. Innovating not and iterating plenty and wanting to avoid notice of such? Cry out to a referee…er, judge to stop the other guy (usually Samsung) before he can catch up to and stop you.

Now you might be thinking, “OK, Kory. Clever. Bit naïve, though. Football is all about the sport! Competition! The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat! ! Business is just about money!

And I am the one being naïve?

Related posts:

Apps gadgets H/W Mobile mobile connectivity phones social networking wearable

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!

Related posts:

Business phones UC voip voip hardware

Invest Wisely to Get the Best from VoIP welcomes VoIP Week contributor Dan Winfield, Co-Founder and CEO of Voxhub and 2014 ITSPA Council member.

Starting in, I want to say that this is only my second blog piece on (the first being The Smoking Rooms of Net Neutrality, published yesterday), so please excuse me if I state the bleeding obvious. Yes, I know this site’s readership is a refined audience, one with Gig connections, fibre thing, flashing lights and fancy equipment — the whole package — however I am aiming today at normal businesses that might stumble over here via Google.

I’ll try to explain.

VoIP is the most sensitive service that graces computer networks. It needs love and care to ensure that it performs as a telephone service should, for every call, over and over, 24 hrs a day. And to push it around, it craves low latency, as well as highly available constant bandwidth connectivity with reliable networking equipment. Ironically, for many VoIP is about saving money, yet the less you spend the less likely the chances are that it is getting the environment it needs. All of which is why you need to invest wisely to get the best from VoIP.

As a council member for ITSPA I can safely say that the vast majority of member service providers have invested well in their data centres and equipment. If you are a business that uses one of these providers and you are having quality problems, then 90% of the time (or more) it is your lack of investment that is to blame.

At Voxhub we often receive calls from people saying that they have poor quality VoIP from another provider and want to hear about what we can do better. Many years ago my first thought would have been that their problem had to do with their provider and I would have sympathised with them. Today, though, I go further and try to work out precisely why they are experiencing poor service. After all, there might be some underlying reason for the problems that we wouldn’t want them to bring over, should they opt to switch to our service. It never takes very long to realise that 90% of the time (or more) the cause of the problem is a lack of investment on their side, the most likely candidates being poor cabling, cheap routers, and single Internet connections that are shared between computers and phones.

Sadly, a lot of businesses don’t invest in their Internet connections for any type of on-line service from which they plan to draw benefit, so any advice I give from this point forward applies to investing correctly to benefit from any VoIP, cloud, or on-line service used by your business. Of course, I cannot say precisely how much should be spent, and I think that for the smallest business investing doesn’t have to mean spending very much at all. I would suggest, though, that when you invest you think about the following to help put things in perspective:

1. Don’t cut corners. Consider your goals and be careful not to erode them by being too cutthroat or going too cheap.
Service Provider: “We have a proven 4 minute abs program for rippling muscles, guaranteed.”
You: “Can you do it quicker? I have seen that available on-line for 3.
2. Put your VoIP outlay in context by comparing it to what you spend on other business expenses.
I know of a company that spent hundreds of thousands on fine wood floors for their new office and still took convincing to spend any money on good network equipment. If you have no problem buying an iPhone as a business expense then you have should have no problem spending half that on a router that is used by your whole company every day of the week.
3. Imagine you are investing in an invisible team member.
Everyone agrees that ‘Investing in People’ is essential for good business. As such, it can really put things into perspective to consider any Internet/VoIP investment you make as an invisible team member, a “person” who is relied upon by everyone in your business for all of your essential services, telephone, mail, administration, banking, security, and even employee happiness (if you let them watch cat videos and essential World Cup events). If you don’t make the right hiring choice you will end up getting poor attendance, under achievement…in essence, a “person” that lets down your whole team.
4. VoIP may not work on a network just because the BBC website loads quickly.
I am sorry to say it, but at some point the finer details become important. Working out what you need to invest versus what you have already invested requires some evaluation expertise. At Voxhub we take on this responsibility for our customers, providing advice, verified equipment, and testing tools for networks that tell us our customers what kind of performance they are actually getting.

Somewhere along the line you will need expertise and advice, whether the quantifying comes from your own team, your IT company, or your VoIP provider. Once you find the right source of help, trust them and let them deliver for you…then be sure to hold onto them and don’t let them go!

VoIP Week Posts:

Business internet phones voip voip hardware

The Conception and Birth of a New IP Handset welcomes John Bennett, Managing Director snom UK Ltd

There are five mainstream manufacturers of IP handsets active in the world today, and for the business client, service provider or reseller seeking to select a handset supplier it can be difficult to evaluate the differences amongst them. Price is an obvious criteria but that reveals little about the expected handset life, quality of voice and the durability or usability of the handset, all of which contributes to the user satisfaction and the lifetime cost of the handset. Two reliable options for evaluation are (1) references from existing users, and (2) a good look at the manufacturing process.

A reliable quality manufacturer will operate an in-house research and development team. Interoperability and the ability to work with a very broad range of PBX and hosted service providers on the market are absolutely key in the specification of IP handsets.


The design, development and manufacturing guidelines for IP handsets are quality, security, interoperability, a practical and aesthetically pleasing design, and inclusion of features that meet the needs of modern communications. Products must be stable, functional, efficient, durable, and must provide a quality in which customers can have confidence.

Defining the Designer Baby

The starting point for any new handset development is with the customer, customer feedback is key to understanding what is working, what is not, and what is needed, what is liked or disliked. It is particularly important to understand the end user experience both for handset use and from a deployment and manageability point of view. A good way to develop such understanding is to process and analyse any returns or repairs working in close collaboration with development and production teams. This has an immediate benefit for the customer as minor modifications can be quickly integrated into production. It is perhaps even more important in that a constant and systematic analysis of complaints and faults allows companies to produce reports and identify trends and issues, thus allowing for continuous product quality improvement and the development of new devices that meet customers’ requirements and deliver high levels of reliably in the long-term.

It is also important to track the changing technology trends to ensure that handsets meet tomorrow’s needs as well as today’s, and to take into account the need to easily adopt new technologies into the business. In today’s business world, key capabilities are remote provisioning, support for virtual private networks (VPN), CTI solutions and integration with Microsoft Lync.

Once the specification is agreed to the next stage is the prototype build followed by market testing. Manufacturers should maintain a close relationship with key end customers that allows for market testing of new handsets, to establish they are not only fit for purpose but that they provide customers with a solution that will excite and motivate them to continue to buy their product.

The standards of the tests to which a manufacturer will submit their products are another key indicator of handset quality. Manufacturers should have very strict criteria, and before approving a handset to move to full production the phone must successfully pass various drop tests and tests on the electrical interface. One characteristic that is of particularly importance is maintaining highest standards of audio quality, not just at first production but on-going as the handset will likely be exposed to heavy use for five years or more. Products should be regularly subjected to audio tests and careful measurements taken to determine and resolve audio deterioration.

Product Birth is only the Beginning

Once the prototype has been approved the manufacturing process goes ahead full steam. Material selection and build quality has an effect on both the audio quality and the durability of a telephone handset. Developers should continuously monitor the production process, and handsets should be spot tested to ensure that quality standards are met. During the production not only should the operational performance of the handset be monitored and tested, but also the entire response frequency of each phone. The smallest difference in build quality can adversely affect the phone quality, and this can involve anything from build impacting on the audio quality to introduction of a specialist coating that prevents the discoloration of handset keys and ensures the handset durability.

Regular analysis and systematic review of problems or complaints can ensure that product quality is maintained and improved to effectively meet user needs.

So what should you look for when evaluating IP hone handsets? I recommend you consider the need for in-house testing and fault evaluation and feedback, a process of continual improvement rather than a throw-and-replace approach, and a controlled and monitored manufacturing process, all of which will ensure a high quality and durable solution.

VoIP Week Posts:

Business phones UC voip voip hardware

Ten Years of VoIP – Happy Birthday! welcomes VoIP Week guest contributor Colin Duffy, CEO of Voipfone and ITSPA Council member

ITSPA and Voipfone are both 10 years old this year so perhaps it’s a good time to look back at how the industry has developed.

Back in 2004, VoIP was just becoming sexy; Skype had made a big impact on international telephony revenues and was in the public eye — particularly amongst students and those with family overseas. Perhaps more importantly for the industry in general, though, was the acceptance of two technologies: SIP (Session Initiation Protocol, which has become the international standard for VoIP telephony) and Asterisk (the brilliant open source PBX software that allowed anybody to build a telephone switchboard either for their own office use or as a Hosted Service Provider). The combination of these two technologies has efficiently killed the old TDM-based PBX and is well on the way to killing ISDN circuits.

Of course, VoIP couldn’t have been as successful as it has become if it wasn’t for the growth in broadband provision to home and office. In the early days, ITSPA was concerned that the entire industry would be strangled if the Internet Service Providers blocked VoIP, and net neutrality was a much-discussed issue. As it turned out it, ISPs have not stood in the way of VoIP and the two industries have learned to live together fairly peaceably, give or take a few issues surrounding the routers of end-users. Now, the main net neutrality issues correlate to the mobile networks, some of which are grimly determined to keep VoIP off their networks, despite advertising the Internet as a main selling point. (The Internet minus some of the services that the Internet provides is not, in my view, the Internet, it’s Internet Light.)

We also dealt with VoIP regulation worries. Ofcom seemed determined to treat VoIP as something requiring separate legislation, in a ‘there be dragons’ sort of way, whereas ITSPA took the view that this was not necessary. ITSPA lost that argument, however, and — in one of the strangest of many strange meeting I’ve had with Ofcom — we managed to convince it that VoIP Service Providers needed to provide 999 services. Burning grannies were a big thing at the time…

End User gadgets H/W Mobile phones

Zee — Double Oh — Em!

Regular readers — at last count there were five of you out there — are no doubt on pins and needles waiting for me to once again pick up the narrative of the search for my next phone, and today is the day I scratch the associated itch. Not that I have made a decision and followed through on it yet, mind you. No, in fact a new contender entered the mix this week, one that could very well draw out the process into early summer (though hopefully not beyond)…the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom!

S4 ZoomIn my previous posts on this subject that has all of you talking, I rhapsodize on the camera being the all-important feature for me in selecting a smartphone, and just from that standpoint the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom is an obvious entrant. The fact of that matter, though, is that I was underwhelmed and even disappointed by Samsung’s previous It’s-a-Camera-No-It’s-A-Phone (last year’s Galaxy S4 Zoom) and never figured it’s second incarnation would do anything to change my mind. Clunky, boxy, heavy, ugly, and weird (not in a good way), the Galaxy S4 Zoom is a regular Frankenstein device, one that looks like it was cobbled together from leftover state-of-the-art gadget components and made to look synergistic through the careful application of molded white plastic and polished chrome. Of course, it isn’t all about form factor (or in simpler terms, its “looks”), but the device’s technical specs and the photos that flowed from it onto the Internet were far from money enough to make the repugnant attractive.

At best, as phones go the Galaxy S4 Zoom made a marginal camera; and as cameras go, a marginal phone.

Thus, as intriguing as I continue to find the idea of a smartphone-camera hybrid — and as inexplicably pleased as I was to find a ‘K’ in its name — I approached the announcement this past Tuesday of the the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom with strong reservation. Sure, considering technology’s incessant march I figured that the concept’s second iteration would be more pocketworthy than the first (not much effort required). Also, there was little doubt that the GKZ’s extensible lens would supplant the one unfortunate hardware “Huh?” feature of it’s Galaxy S5 older brother, that being the heart rate sensor on the back just under the camera lens. Still, even the most nimble companies typically play Generation Leap-Frog in responding to critical/customer feedback (the secondary reason, I am sure, that Apple changes their iPhone numbering only after running an interim ‘S’ generation*), so though I thought “better” was highly likely I had no expectations that the Galaxy K Zoom would begin to approach “good” prior to Gen-3.

Surprise, surprise.

Until I have had an opportunity to actually see and touch the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom, of course, the value of my take on this fingers-tingling-BIG-time gadget is akin to that of the pixels on your computer monitor. That said, the device presents as the first true realization of a smartphone-camera hybrid. It it contoured like a cell phone (and only a cell phone…no mistaking this hot number for a badly-designed compact camera…or a cheap 1970s walkie-talkie), yet has a true glass lens that delivers 10x optical zoom. And unlike its predecessor, which required that the zoom lens be extended manually, the GKZ extends automatically a la a compact camera (and wicked fast, too). Also, this very-cool-and-seeming-even-cooler-the-more-I-read-about-it smartphone offers a 4.8 inch HD display, comprised of a Super AMOLED panel protected with Corning Gorilla Glass. And the primary camera has a 20.7-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor, too!

K ZoomSo the Galaxy K Zoom has form and it has function. Though to make a usable value assessment — and perhaps a purchase decision — I still need some idea of the carrier-subsidized price, and at this point the number of rutabagas that will be required in exchange for the new shiny has yet to be revealed. Oh, and then there is whether the GKZ will even be available in France (as of this writing it is only set to launch in Asia). Hence, while the picture presented is quite fine, it is not quite yet in full focus. Still, this new character in the Quest for Kory’s Next Smartphone adventure — drama? thriller? comedy? — has considerably shaken up the narrative and perhaps necessitated a rewrite of the ending (gotta punch those metaphors until they cannot punch back, I always say).

* The primary reason Apple runs an interim ‘S’ iPhone generation? Come on. So they can pluck maximum cash from the pockets of the legions of lemmings who are unable to bear life without the very latest iteration of the device in their possession, of course.

Related posts:

broken gear End User phones

Day 8 without the SGS4 – all callers are anonymous and Spitfire-less posts

sgs5 logoThere is light at the end of the dark tunnel of phonelessness. Emails have been received:

(from the insurance people) Good news, Your mobile phone has been repaired and is on its way back to you by our courier DPD.
Kind Regards,The Repair Team.

(from the courier) Your Lifestyle Services Group order is due to be delivered on Tuesday 6th May by DPD. Please ensure that someone is available to sign for your delivery. Lifestyle Services Group

(from the insurance people) Good Evening,Your handset has been repaired and will be despatched within three working days by courier and will need to be signed for.Kind Regards,The Mobile Phone Insurance Claims Team

This is indeed good news although the third email also mentioned that I “should receive a text or email from DPD confirming your one hour delivery window”. The text didn’t provide me with that window and I have a meeting in town that morning so I could miss them. Will have to look into that one.

In my Day 5 without a phone post I mentioned that screen size and response time were the two main factors going against the Galaxy Mini. A few more days and I now realise that the fact that I don’t have my address book in the phone is a real nuisance. I don’t know who is calling or anyone’s number when I want to call them. Now I could stick my Google credentials in and get all that but it will confuse the phone as it already has Kid4’s info in and I don’t want to mess it about. To all intents and purposes I’m treating it as a good old fashioned mobile phone (a GOFMP – the POT of the mobile world).

Perhaps more significantly is the lack of a camera. Yesterday I spent the day at the Lincoln RFC grand opening with former club captain and TV sports anchorman John Inverdale cutting the tape. There were loads of photo opportunities. Blokes  struggling to play rugby again having hung up their boots years ago for example. It was a hot day!

We also had the best Spitfire flypast it has ever been my privilege to see. We get these a fair bit in Lincolnshire as the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight is based here. I often find mysef running out of the hause to look up to the sky when a Spit or the Lanc flies past. Yesterday we knew exactly when the plane was due and it duly arrived to order. It flew in low as if on an attack run. Did this three times then after the last waggled its wings and off it went. The Spitfire was low enough to very easily read the wing markings and would have been a perffect photo or video opportunity for sharing with (avid) readers of the weekend section.

Alas this was not to be as I will not get my SGS4 back until Tuesday. As you know.

It has to be said I miss my phone. I realise that there was once a time when we walked the earth without such appendages. People will say it didn’t seem to harm us but consider this. Average life expectancy has gradually increased during my own lifetime. This will be down to a combination of many factors and some of these factors will involve the mobile phone.

I’m not talking about a device I can use to make phone calls on the go. I’m taking about the all singing all dancing computer I use to track my walk times to work, send highly relevant and often amusing tweets and Instant Messages to friends around the globe, monitor the movement of shipping across the maritime world, post interesting blog articles from wherever I am, read the papers, send and receive emails, mark emails as spam (:)), translate menus into a recognisable language, check my finances, help me find a destination when I’m on my way somewhere for the first time, find train times, book train tickets, plan holidays, serve as a timer for the perfect poached egg, find bbq recipes, watch TV, get involved in video hangouts, research business opportunities and contacts, take photos and make videos. I’d better stop. The list is endless. I do it all from my mobile phone. Making phone calls is a very minor part of its functionality.

I have missed my phone.  The one thing I haven’t missed is checking the damn thing every other minute to see if there has been an update! Nevertheless I am very much looking forward to getting it back which will, I’m told, be sometime on Tuesday. Hooray


Seriously mixed up of Lincoln

Follow the broken SGS4 screen saga and other related posts:

Day 5 without the broken SGS4 – big screen/little screen/responsive screen
Day 3 without a phone
First night without a phone
Mobile phone insurance claims
This iPhone is dead

broken gear End User phones

Day 5 without the SGS4 – big screen/little screen/responsive screen

sgs4Almost sounds as if I’m someone talking about being in rehab when I say it’s day 5 without the phone. I still find myself picking up the temporary replacement, the Galaxy Mini, as if I’m about to use it to access twitter and my other regular internet haunts. I don’t use it for anything other than voice and sms.

Kid4, whose phone the Mini is, has now adopted Kid3’s old but cracked GalaxyS3. Kid3 in turn is using my Nokia Lumia 920 which he seems happy with (must get it from his mum – I never got on with Windows Phone). Kid4 walks around clutching the S3 in a way that he never did with the Galaxy Mini.

I asked him what was better about the S3 compared with the Mini and the answer was “bigger screen and more responsive”. I think that, in a nutshell, is also my perception. Although for me the S3 is old tech it is still better than a small fistful of a phone because it is more usable. Handset manufacturers have been pushing the boundaries of screen size because clearly the punters prefer bigger.

The limitation is the size of people’s hands and their thumbspan, if such a term exists (if it doesn’t it does now). The responsiveness of the phone is a combination of the design, processor and software, and its speed of access to the outside world, ie the internet. Using the SGS4 over 4G as opposed to 3G is generally a much better experience.

I am informed, via email channels, that my S4 is now in the hands of the repairers and expect it to be dispatched within three working days. That must mean I get it next Wednesday which will be good timing because I’m off to London on Thursday and won’t want to carry any baggage aka Chromebook – lightweight baggage though that may be.

S4_thumbI have generally tended to have three sorts of problems with my phones: something wrong with the USBport/charging mechanism, broken screen and recently a software issue that destroys the micro SD card. One assumes that the latter will get fixed with revisions of software. The USB issue would go away if I used contactless charging. I don’t know where that tech is at. Does anyone use it?

The broken screen could be solved by using cheap disposable screens that don’t necessarily have to be part of the actual phone itself. I assume Bluetooth has the bandwidth to manage the interaction between screen and processor. I’ve discussed this before and the more I think about it the more obvious it is.

Why do we need to bother taking the phone out of our pocket or bag? It would be much safer there. Less likely to get left on the table at the cafe and less likely to get smashed or dropped into a bucket of water.

The one scenario where this probably doesn’t work is when I’m using the phone as a camera. In this case I’ll need a bit screen on the handset. There has to be a way to make it work. I use the camera a lot.

Come next Wednesday I doubt Kid4 will want his Galaxy Mini back. It looks destined for a drawer. I will hopefully have a perfectly serviceable S4 back from the menders and move forward with a nagging doubt that what I really want is a native Android phone without Samsung software clutter but with a detachable disposable screen and a great camera with at least 10x optical zoom, though 20x would be better.

There ya go…

End User phones

The global nature of business today – Samsung Galaxy K launch in Singapore

Just Googled “Samsung Galaxy K launch”. The first two results were websites in India – NDTV and Times of India. This surely highlights the global nature of the world in which we live in. Admittedly the launch was in Singapore but what difference should that make?

The accompanying adverts were for UK based products and services. What is amazing is that we can run a business as a global business talking about macro level subjects of interest that transcend boundaries.

The Guardian majors on this. Most Guardian Technology posts cover subjects that are a good read irrespective of where your computer is. The problem now begins when you want to try an compete in this global market. The Times of India will have far lower overheads than the London based Guardian for example. OK it can’t have lower overheads than but then again they probably have more people writing for them.

Taking a peek at the Guardian I note that they don’t even appear to be carrying the story, certainly not at the time of writing this post. Is this a sign of maturity? The need to maintain exclusivity by keeping out of saturated blanket news items which after all the launch of the new Galaxy K is.

Most online publications will have no chance of getting to the top of Google rankings for a subject such as a Samsung phone launch. Most moneys, certainly in the affiliate marketing game, are to be made by the top ranking site in any given space. This in itself does pose a problem for the likes of Samsung. If it isn’t worth covering a story because every man and his wordpress account will be saying the same thing how do they get their message out?

For the likes of Samsung this is simple – they just chuck cash1 at it. For Fred in his albeit hi tech shed it’s a lot harder. It makes getting noticed really difficult but I guess this makes success stories even more deserving. Your product/service/idea must be good to have hit the headlines.

The answer has to be to focus on a niche. The trouble is that there are so many niches, so much going on it is difficult to keep that focus. In the meantime I am half looking out for a new phone, at least whilst my battered and broken Samsung Galaxy S4 is at the menders. If Samsung want a review of the new K they know where to find me:)

Other great related posts:

Day 3 without a phone
First night without a phone
Mobile phone insurance claims
This iPhone is dead

samsung galaxy k launch on google

ndtv gadgets

times of india on galaxy k

1 Email me for bank details if you work for Samsung