Categories
End User gadgets

32GB micro sd card for £11 from Tesco

32GB micro sd card from Tesco only £11

Needed some memory expansion on the S7 Edge whilst on holiday in Peel. Mine has 32GB and only 5GB left. These vids take up a lot of space.

Moreover whilst here in the IoM I am backing up to Google Drive but not my NAS box. pics and vids stay on the phone for a month after backing up to the NAS and are then automatically deleted. So whilst here I need some Bytes.

I’m just flabbergasted really at how cheap this stuff has become. I was after a 200GB job but Tesco didn’t have one. The electrical accessories section of the Douglas store is about 3 foot wide. The sd card I bought was actually the only one in the store. Not the only type, the only one. Must have ha a run on them:) I bought it. For eleven quid it will do the job.

I now feel a lot more relaxed. It’s how you should be when on holiday. I’ll be posting pics and vids on Facebook and www.philosopherontap.com (where art collides) where you are welcome to check them out.

Now my only issue is my dad’s 50GB broadband data allowance. I’ll smash that. Will have to call Manx Telecom and upgrade to unlimited for the month. May as well wait until it hits the buffers.

Data isn’t something one has to think about these days as I have an unlimited package on my 200Meg down 12 Meg up Virgin media connection. I have broadband only at £43 a month. Who needs a landline these days?

This is one of the things that annoys me about consumer broadband providers with their fantastic offers. They always forget to mention the line rental.

It’s only Anne’s friend Julie who ever calls us on the landline these days (I still have a geo number – it’s just voip based).

That’s all for now. I’m off to take some pics.

Categories
End User fun stuff gadgets

iBeani

iBeani pirate product

Sick and tired of having a cushion on your lap to prop up the iPad or laptop but don’t want to risk radiating your gonads? Look no further. Introducing the iBeani™ – a stylish bean bag, specifically designed to hold tablets or e-readers on any surface at the perfect angle.

Tired of holding your iPad or tablet whilst lying in bed or sitting on the sofa? The iBeani is the perfect solution. Whilst other tablet stands will only work on flat surfaces, the iBeani is able to shift its shape to support and keep your device in the position you want, wherever you are. On the train, on the sofa or on a kitchen worktop, the iBeani works everywhere!

What more can I say. Oh ok then.

The iBeani is manufactured entirely hand made in the UK from carefully selected quality fabrics to ensure customers get the highest quality and durable product possible. There are 16 different variations of the iBeani with different materials and designs such as Harris Tweed tartan, faded blue cord, butterfly, techno black, denim, and many more coming soon to appeal to men, women and children of all ages.

iBeani pirateThis blurb is lifted from the press release. I’ve started getting millions of them occasionally. The gonads bit is mine. Not the gonads themselves you understand. Just the sentence, though I am a bloke obvs.

I only noticed the release because a) it’s manufactured in Nottinghamshire, just over the county border from my parish, and actually it isn’t a bad idea. I do have a cushion on my lap when using the laptop whilst sat on the settee. There ya go. A market need being fulfilled by a British company. A simple idea that just works.

pirate flagI liked the iBeani pirate version that you see in the featured image. Goes with the pirate flag we have when we go camping (also see it inset in this post). I’m going to have a week of writing posts in pirate speak in September in the run up to International Talk Like A Pirate day on the 19th of the month. Maybe we will see if we can do a promo and sell the iBeani pirate version that week. Sounds like a plan to me.

PS lets hope they don’t get pirated – we don’t want the market flooded with cheap imitations from China do we? The modern day pirates!

PPS there are over 20 designs to choose from if Piracy isn’t your game, or it’s a bit frightening.

Categories
Business business applications gadgets

I bought a printer

HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M277dw

Good news – Your order for the HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M277dw has been accepted and we will start processing it now.  We will send you an email once your order has been dispatched.

You can track to your order online at any time by signing in to your account and then in the top right hand corner of the page hover over “Your Account“ and select “My orders” from the drop down menu.

If you provided a mobile telephone number you will receive a text message* the night before your order is delivered giving you the option to:

  • Select an alternative delivery date
  • Opt for delivery to a nominated neighbour
  • Collect the parcel from your local depot

You’ll also receive a text message on the delivery day giving you a 1 hour delivery window so there’s no need for you to wait in all day*.

I bought a printer. It’s the first one I’ve bought in 3 1/2 years. When I bought the last one I took out a 3 year warranty and it died on e earlier this week. It wasn’t in fact the printer that I originally bought that died but the fourth incarnation of the original. None of em lasted a year.

The warranty is up now so I figured I’d invest in something a little better. I bought a HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M277dw. Still took a 3 year warranty though. Good value if you ask me.

In some respect this is a small admission of failure. I’ve been working as a paperless business. It isn’t totally possible to do that as legal documents often need printing. Moreover the family has specific needs. Printing boarding passes, homework etc I know boarding passes can be electronic but it isn’t always practical especially with a youngster flying to Madrid quite soon. Youngsters don’t always have phones suitable for airline apps/electronic boarding passes.

I am now strangely excited by the fact that I am about to be the owner of a HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M277dw laser printer. This printer has a NFC interface so I should be able to tap it with my droid and print off a doc/photo/something else. Good eh?

None of this is what prompted me to write this post. It’s just the fact that I am going to get a 1 hour delivery window. Simple innit? Why can’t other vendors do the same? So do I know but not all. My daughter is about to return home from her year abroad and is sending a suitcase by courier in advance (so her mum can get a load of washing done probs). Mum, or someone has to wait in all day because we don’t get a delivery window. We do get a tracker on that one but not a 1 hour window.

I’m even tempted to “collect the parcel from a local depot”. Fwiw. I’ll let you have an update on the HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M277dw printer once I get it installed. Does double sided printing you know? 🙂

Categories
End User gadgets

Pebbles, Pebbles, Pebbles everywhere.

Pebble smartwatch review – @Baskers compares 1st & 2nd gen

 

When Tref first approached me to write a guest blog post for Women in Tech week, to be honest I was kind of scratching my head a bit about what to write about.

Where to begin? What should I say? What to choose?

I’ve been reading all the other guest blog posts this week on here and just been in awe of what these women have achieved so far and what they are doing. I sort of feel like a bit of an interloper/false imposter syndrome being here. As I’m not in a tech company, I’m not a coder, developer, hacker and I don’t work in Telecoms. I’m a Civil Servant in Westminster, responsible for the Department for Transport’s Business Intelligence Systems.

So, not exactly the “sexy” part Women in Tech. But hey, we can’t all have the sexy jobs. However, as a great believer in the Public Sector, I want to make sure that whenever decisions are made that ultimately impact the people of the UK, that these are made with the best damn Management Information (MI) that I can deliver to my colleagues. Whether that be internal to Business Partners, Boards etc or externally for DfT Publications, HM Treasury, Cabinet Office and Parliament.

There are a lot of challenges around that I’m currently facing:

  • around Data Migrations from legacy ERP systems to the new Shared Services ERP offerings
  • Connectivity between various systems via SFTP, VPN, Citrix Clients, CSV Interface Flatfiles (No API’s yet)
  • how that interacts with my Business Intelligence System (SAP BPC for those of you that want to know),
  • how best to build upon the rich MI Data that I have and turn that into valuable information through Data Visualisations and Predictive Analytics.

Ultimately I want to make MI more open, transparent and accessible to my Department. That’s my Finance/MI “tech” thing. That’s what I’d like to make awesome over the next few years. But that’s not why I’m here today.

 

The Pebble Time

pebble smartwatchSo, why am I here writing on Tref’s blog today? Because I also have a weakness for all things shiny and tech, when I’m not dealing with Finance and BI Systems. Only the other week a new shiny arrived on my doorstep. The Pebble Time. Which is quite timely given Tref asking me to contribute to his blog this week. I was an original backer of the first Pebble smart watch back in 2012, when it finally arrived in 2013 (after a year of delays) I was ecstatic. It was the first proper smart watch that totally changed how I used my phone, and for the first time in years I’d started wearing a watch on my wrist again.

I’ve been wearing a smart watch for a good 2 and half years and in that time there’s been a whole lot of new smart watches come onto the market as competitors to the Pebble and ultimately the Apple Watch. But I was still excited by the arrival of the new version of the Pebble.

Why? Because even though there are other smart watches out there I liked the simplicity of the Pebble. There are a whole slew of reviews out there telling you the pros and cons comparing against other watches and all the tech specs, but I’m here to tell you about my experience.

Likes

What I like about the Pebble Time (and it’s earlier version the Pebble) was that no instructions were really needed:

Simplicity – it is simple to use with a good UI and a mature and stable OS. If I wanted complex, that’s what my Phone/Tablet/Laptop is for (disclaimer here, am a total Apple fan with iPhone 6, iPad, MacBookPro, Timecapsule).

Price – But the Apple watch simply doesn’t appeal to me (and certainly not at the price tag from near £300 upwards). As a Kickstarter backer, I got the Pebble Time for $159. Comparing that to the entry price for an Apple watch is simply a no brainer. It will retail at $200 (£180?), with pre-orders now open at GetPebble.com and due to ship July/August.

pebble smartwatchBattery Life – Apple Watch 1 day. Pebble 5-7 days. Again, no brainer. I find I tend to get around 3-5 days on my watch, but I am a fairly heavy user of the Pebble.

Volume Control – One of the things that bothered me with the 1st generation Pebble is that I couldn’t control the volume of my music directly from my watch. Which is a bit of pain in the arse if you’ve not got a volume control on your headphones and then have to fish out your phone from your pocket to sort the volume out. They’ve sorted that out with the PebbleTime OS. It works a charm.

Apps – The platform has been around for 3 years + now, and the Apps for the Pebble OS are diverse and I think it’s great that the watch will work with iOS, Android and Windows. Often when I was out cycling I’d have the Bike + App connected to my phone and was able to check out my speed and mileage at the flick of wrist instead of grappling with my phone whilst trying to not fall off of my bike.

Notifications – Oh these are fabulous and one of the main reasons why I love the Pebble. Being an App junkie (+300 on my iPhone at last count), I was being overloaded with notifications and always taking my phone out of my pocket to see what was popping up on my screen. The Pebble Time deals with this effortlessly, showing me what the Notification is and content. A quick glance to my wrist to see whether or not I need to deal with it right away or leave it to later. The phone stays in my pocket.

Dislikes

Watchstrap – I really don’t like plastic watch straps. Really, really, don’t like them. The Pebble Time comes as standard with the plastic strap, but on the upside, there’s a quick release button on each strap at the back and you can exchange the strap for a normal standard 22mm band of your choosing. I had swapped the old Pebble watch strap with a standard leather one, so will probably do the same here when I get around to it. And there’s also possibility of “smart straps” that can be used in conjunction with the Pebble Time App on the phone. I’m looking forward to seeing how that develops.

Screen lamination – I know this isn’t an Apple Watch or other higher end smartwatch. It is an ePaper screen and I accept the limitations of that, but wish that I could choose how long to keep the backlight on. For me, it dims too quickly.

Charging Cable – it’s a propriety charging cable. Pain in the arse if you lose/break it and have to wait for a replacement. I would like to see in the future more universal type of chargers for smart watches. Like most phones gadgets with micro USB ports.

Notifications – I don’t like how when they pop up that they stay there. I would like them to disappear after a set period of time that I could set and for the watch to return back to the previous screen (either music or watchface for me). Perhaps this will could be new functionality the developers can bring to the App in the next update?

Comparing 1st Gen vs 2nd Gen

As I was an original backer, and have using my Pebble since 2013 I was looking forward to seeing how the 2nd gen version of the Pebble compared the original.

Sizepebble smartwatch review – Overall the PebbleTime is smaller than the original Pebble which is a much welcome feature to me. I have small wrists and did find the Pebble just that little bit too big for m. It’s okay for blokes who tend to have larger wrists but for me it was an annoyance.

The smaller size of the Pebble Time just suits me perfectly, and is far more comfortable to wear.

Graphics & Animation – Obviously having a colour display is a BIG win. And opens up the possibilities of far more innovative watchface designs. Looking at the same watch face on both the 1st and 2nd Gen Pebble right away you can see the difference. I’ve totally fallen for the Pebble Time BIGTIME in that respect.

pebble smartwatch animationHaving an ePaper colour screen just rocks. It’s early days yet, and new watchscreens are just starting to get developed using colour and I can’t wait to see what the developers come up with here. From what I’ve seen in the Pebble App store already it’s looking very promising.

The animations on certain watchface Apps could be better, but it’s still early days. One of my favourites has to by Nyan Cat. Check out the 1st Gen vs 2nd Gen here.

 

The App –The Pebble Time App has had a bit of an overhaul compared to the original Pebble App. The new watch can hold a lot more (1st gen was limited to 8 watchfaces only). I’ve been download loads of new Apps and watchfaces and have yet to fill the watch up.pebble smartwatch review app

You can see that the screen is split between watch faces and Apps. Which makes it easier to filter through your selection and load up the correct one. Slightly more intuitive than before. And searching for new watchfaces and Apps is slightly better with the clearer category breakdown between each selection.

One thing I don’t like, and it was the same for the original Pebble App is the performance. When you do make a selection from the Pebble App store it does seem to hang on the iPhone. Now I don’t know if that is just iPhone specific or if it does the same on the Android and Windows App version.

I would like to see the performance of the App addressed when switching between the watchfaces/apps in the Pebble App store.

Weight – For me the by far the biggest feature that has made ALL the difference is weight. I’m not a fan of clunky heavy watches, and that was a bit of downside of other smartwatches.

  • Old Pebble & band = 38g
  • New Pebble & band = 45.5g
  • Apple Watch (lowest spec, and band weight) = 62g

Far lighter and less clunky that an lot of other offerings out there. Another killer feature for me.

Round up

I’m currently on a train from London up to Dundee (escaping the heatwave) and soon to run out of juice on the old laptop and disappear into relatively little connectivity so I’d better wrap up this post and get ready to disembark my train.

Owning a smart watch is a very personal thing. I’ve told you why I like my Pebble Time and why I’m sticking with it, but it’s entirely down to your likes and preferences to which would be the best smart watch for you. I like the fact that the Pebble was completely crowd funded and was way ahead of the game before the big companies finally caught up. I want to stick around for now and see how the Pebble Time develops. But ultimately, if it doesn’t offer what the consumer wants we’ll will jump ship onto other brands so I’m keeping a close eye on this and as always the Apple Watch 2nd Gen.

About the Author:

Baskers picSarah Baskerville aka Baskers is a Dundonian Civil Servant, lives and works around London. She is one of the organisers of UKGovcamp and Teacamp. Sarah is also a supporter of 300Seconds, Rewired State, Open Data and the Open Rights Group.

She also likes Doctor Who, blues music, wine and can often be found down the pub. Sarah intensely hates the colour pink.

Other posts in our women in tech week include:

Geeks do drink prosecco by Liz Fletcher
Network filter bypass solutions by Rhosyn Celyn
Network Automation by Leslie Parr
IX model defended by Valeria Rossi
Board level veteran sees progress by Lesley Hansen
Rural broadband solutions by Chris Conder
Experiences as a Siemens IT graduate by Zoe Redfern

Categories
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

Categories
Engineer gadgets webrtc

Hacking together a WebRTC Pi in the sky – keevio eye

WebRTC on a drone

Team ipcortex put together the keevio eye hack for the TADHack London mini hackathon at Idea London on 11-12th April. The idea was to develop a proof of concept for WebRTC running headless on small embedded devices and talking to our keevio video chat interface. Hardly mission critical but TADHack is a load of fun, and a good way of trying stuff out that pushes the technology envelope a bit which inevitably ends up feeding back useful ideas and techniques into our core platforms. There was also a lot riding on this after our success with RTCEmergency at TADHack last year. Matt Preskett is one of our lead developers and the guy behind the hack, and this is his write up of the experience of developing the app.

On the Tuesday evening before TADHack we hadn’t had time to think about possible hacks. We’d been busy with other events and the process of progressing our core keevio platform towards release. A few months ago we were playing with the idea of a WebRTC Raspberry Pi security camera for our bike shed, so as I walked out of the office I suggested, perhaps to my detriment, that it might be a fun idea to use our JavaScript API, running on a Raspberry Pi strapped to the bottom of a quad copter feeding live video via WebRTC…

I did a bit of research on Tuesday evening, but decided with the timescales involved and some of the parts/equipment needed that perhaps we were biting off more than we could chew. Also I wasn’t really sure how I was going to run our API on a headless Raspberry Pi 50ft in the air. Even if that could be overcome I wasn’t sure the ARM processor would be up to the task of decrypting and encrypting the streams.

Wednesday morning I had all but written off the idea. At the time I was working on load testing our UC platform, which required running our API on a headless server. I set about looking into running headless Chromium, and, by the end of Wednesday with the help of Xvfb I had our API running and automatically accepting video chat from keevio.

Thursday was a busy day we didn’t really have an opportunity to discuss the hack. Rob as perhaps a sign of desperation speculatively ordered a Pi and Pi camera.

Friday morning and we still hadn’t concluded what we’d be doing for the hack, after a quick meeting we gave Pi copter (Pi in the sky?) the go ahead. We had just over 48 hours to put all the pieces together. I started off with Raspbian; I don’t really like the extra gumpf that comes with this distribution but I didn’t have time to piece a fresh instance of Debian together. Raspbian only offers Chromium 22 in its repositories; this was when WebRTC was in its infancy. I looked at compiling the latest Chromium, but this would require either a cross compile environment or compiling on the Pi, neither of which I had time for. I looked around again for an alternative distribution and settled on Arch after checking that they offered an up to date version of Chromium for ARM. It’s a bit bleeding edge but more than sufficient for our requirements.

After getting the Pi installed the first thing was to get Chromium to recognise the camera. Chromium talks to video devices through the V4L component of linux.

I inserted the following lines to /boot/config.txt to enable the camera:

gpu_mem=128

start_file=start_x.elf

fixup_file=fixup_x.dat

Then I added the camera module to /etc/modules-load.d/raspberrypi.conf:

bcm2835-v4l2

After rebooting the Pi, udev created a /dev/video0 device, so it was looking good. The next step was to install Chromium, Xvfb and lighttpd. I setup lighttpd to listen on loopback as I was going to be hard coding the username and password into the webpage: not nice but necessary.

This is the JavaScript I wrote for the hack, due to using our API I could keep it short and sweet.


var keevioShare = (
  function(username, password) {

    function avCB(av) {

      console.log('INFO: avCB with', av);

      if ( av.get('existing') )
        return;

      av.hook(
        function() {
          if ( av.get('status') != 'acknowledged' )
            return;
          getUserMedia(
            {
            video: {mandatory: {maxWidth: 640, maxHeight: 480}},
            audio: false
            },
            function(stream) {
              av.accept(stream);
              console.log('INFO: Accepted request with', stream);
            },
            function(e) {
              console.log(e);
            }
          );
          console.log('INFO: Getting user media.');
        }
      );
    }

    function authCB(authenticated) {
      if ( authenticated ) {
        IPCortex.PBX.startPoll(
          function() {
            if ( ! IPCortex.PBX.enableFeature('av', avCB, ['chat']) )
              console.log('ERROR: av not enabled!');
            /* Set myself online */
            IPCortex.PBX.enableChat(function() { });
          },

          function(number, description) {
            console.log('ERROR: API reports ' + description + '!');
          }
        );
        console.log('INFO: Authenticated.');
      } else
        console.log('ERROR: Failed to authenticate!');
    }
    onAPILoadReady = (
      function() {
        IPCortex.PBX.Auth.login(username, password, null, authCB);
      }
    );
  }
);

Next I needed Chromium to start automatically on boot, I cheated a little bit by using cron. I’m not overly familiar with systemd so writing a startup script didn’t seem a priority with the time scale involved. I added the following to crontab:

@reboot /usr/bin/xvfb-run –wait=15 /usr/bin/chromium –use-fake-ui-for-media-stream –disable-default-apps –remote-debugging-port=9222 –user-data-dir=remote-profile http://

localhost &

Chromium required a few switches to allow it to run headless:

1) To stop Chromium asking for permission to access the camera:

–use-fake-ui-for-media-stream

 

2) To stop Chromium asking to be set as default:

–disable-default-apps

 

3) For remote debugging (it only listens on loopback):

–remote-debugging-port=9222

 

4) Place the users Chromium profile in a defined location:

–user-data-dir

At this point I started running into trouble with the camera. Every time I started up Chromium I could only get a maximum resolution of 16×16 no matter what v4l2-ctl commands I ran, which wasn’t going to be a good experience. After quite a lot of searching I found the solution and added the following to /etc/modprobe.d/bcm2835.conf:

options bcm2835-v4l2 gst_v4l2src_is_broken=1

 

We needed to serve everything over https as Rob was going to be in London and I would be back in Buckinghamshire flying the quad. That caused me another headache as you can’t load secure and insecure content in the same page. I setup lighttpd to serve pages via https using a self-signed certificate for localhost. Due to Chromium running headless I couldn’t accept the certificate security warnings; I needed access to the Xvfb instance. Installing x11vnc enabled access to the X display. I started the service using the following command on the Pi:

# x11vnc -localhost -display :99

By default xvfb-run starts on display 99. I port forwarded VNC via SSH:

# ssh [email protected](hostname) -L 5900:127.0.0.1:5900

Then I connected using vncviewer to localhost; this allowed me to import the localhost certificate into Chromium’s certificate authority to stop the security warnings.

I settled on netctl to setup the wireless network as this was quick and easy, after having a bit of a nightmare with an access point I borrowed from work I ended up using an old Sky router I had lying around.

keevio eye - the Pi in the sky
keevio eye mk II: no zip ties in sight!
keevio eye - the Pi in the sky
Special lightweight case and minimal gubbins inside due to payload limitations

Finally I put everything together. Feeding power from the balanced charging port of the LiPo battery to a 5V UBEC into the Pi’s GPIO interface. In the process, I managed to accidentally reverse the polarity into the GPIO… which felt like game over as it was now midday Saturday. Luckily something in the supply saved me and it was OK. Attaching the Pi to the quad was an engineering challenge in itself but inventive use of zip ties and self adhesive pads worked out. After a quick test run we got clean video up to 150M and still received video up to 300M.

Here’s a quick video of keevio eye in action!

Previous posts from the ipcortex WebRTC week:

Wormholes, WebRTC and the implications of algorithmical analysis

Matrix.org: Defragmenting today’s communications

WebRTC – where are the real world applications?

Welcome to ipcortex WebRTC week on trefor.net

Check out all our WebRTC posts here

Categories
Business events fun stuff gadgets

Friend of mine called Robert

Friend of mine called Robert signed up for a World Hosting Days London conference a couple of years ago. His motivation was that they were giving out free Samsung Galaxy tablets to anyone who would go around each exhibitor boot and get a card stamped.

When he signed up he put the words “I’m only here for the free tablet” in the field reserved for the company name. In the end he didn’t go but I hear that they ran out of tabs so it was probably a good thing.

Wind the clock forward and he now gets snail mail to the name and address supplied when he registered for the London gig. Except that instead of “I’m only here for the free tablet” some wily marketing data base cleanser has changed the text to “I am not allowed to get a free tablet”.  He he he.

I spoke at the conference last year on behalf of LONAP. Had quite a good chat with a few people who came to hear the talk.

That’s all folks.

Categories
End User gadgets

Of mice and, well mice

The wireless mouse conundrum

I haven’t bought a mouse for donkeys years. In fact I’m not sure I’ve ever bought a mouse. There has always been one around to use. This weekend I found it convenient to buy a mouse. I’ve been borrowing one of the kids’ and he has understandably periodically been nicking it back.

In order to purchase a mouse I went to MiceRUs otherwise known as Maplin in Lincoln. Maplin is a shop you can happily browse in for hours before buying what you originally went in for. Niche cable fittings sit comfortably next to remote controlled helicopters, disco sound gear, electric heaters and a plethora of other useful and essential gadgets and paraphernalia of modern living.

Eventually I found my way to the mice section of the shop. I wasn’t expecting there to be a mice section. I thought it would be a couple of plastic boxes on a shel next to other PC accessories. Nope. Mice had their own section. There were roughly twenty different products on shale at prices ranging from a tenner to fifty quid.

This is a problem. How on earth do you chose from such a range of devices all of which essentially do the same thing. Moreover they were all wireless mice. I’d thought that the choice would be wired versus wireless and maybe a couple of colour options. Nope. It was all wireless. Yes colour options but no wired. I didn’t really mind the absence of a wired mouse. Hey we all have to move on. My problem was how on earth do you choose.

I flagged down a passing expert member of staff who was able to offer advice. They major on staff training at Maplin. “You have to choose one that feel right in your hand” he said. Only problem is they are all contained in the rigid plastic wrapping that requires a combination of  uber sharp chisel and a pneumatic drill to open.

Staring at the display for another minute or so I ended up buying a red one. Not the cheapest one, at £15 but I figured I didn’t want to be seen as a cheapskate. Anyway I got home, dug out my set of chisels and am now the proud possessor of a new cordless mouse. It works.

The photo below is of the wireless mouse in situ next to the Chromebook. Enjoy:)

cordless mouse

Categories
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.

Categories
Engineer gadgets peering

BYOD strategy revealed at LONAP board meeting

BYOD strategy revealed at LONAP board meeting.

Lonap held its regular board meeting on Wednesday at Will Hargrave’s house. These are very long days but worthwhile. We have a lot of stuff to plough through. LONAP operates a BYOD strategy. The IXP is very leading edge especially when it comes to HR and IT.

The featured image illustrates the byod strategy at work showing Will, Andy (Davidson) and Rich (Irving) sat around the board table in front of the various notebook computers. Andy is a Microsoft guy. He has a Windows computer with a touch screen Needs to be to get the most out of Windows 8 or so I’m told. Will is an Apple fanboi. He is actually sat in front of my Chromebook but you can see his Mac on the table next to Rich. The various makes of notebook have a white letter near them to denote flavour.

Rich has a letter T next to his. That’s because his notebook is made of tree. It’s quite nifty. Comes with its own advanced carbon based stylus which has a neat way of erasing mistakes. The stylus has a soft plastic top to it which when moved back and forwards across the lines on the page left by the carbon erases the carbon marking, or most of it anyway.

Tree based notebooks aren’t perfect but nobody expects the finished goods so early on in the product lifecycle. The stylii for example still have some way to go. The sharpened front end does have a tendency to break although Rich seems to have mastered the art of applying just the right amount of pressure to avoid damaging the tip. These stylii do represent a marketing opportunity to sell accessories. The product team must have all worked at Apple at some point in the past. They seem to know their stuff.

Available for purchase are a sharpening device (v handy in the post 9/11 security conscious world of the global internet executive) together with a nifty case that can hold multiple stylii. Rich pointed out that you can get them in a huge range of different colours. They also sell storage containers known colloquially as bookcases. These are also made of carbon although like in any market there seem to be cheap imitators on sale made of something called MDF.

Being a fan of cloud technology myself I did ask Rich whether there was a virtual version of his Tree technology. He mentioned something about Carbon offset which I didn’t completely get and not wanting to look stupid in front of the others I kept shtum. There’s bound to be a cloud version available or at least coming soon.

Readers looking to implement their own byod strategy should at least take a look at Tree technology when considering notebooks. The one at the LONAP meeting certainly had a nice feel to it. They have the weight just about right and Rich says it is totally customisable. You adjust it by simply tearing out pages until you get to the weight that suits you. I should warn you that this process is irreversible so you do need to take care. If in doubt consult a qualified Tree surgeon.

That’s in regarding the LONAP byod strategy. Lots happening in the Autumn. Stay tuned for loads more useful tips’n stuff though not necessarily anything to do with LONAP’s byod strategy.

LONAP is a Global top 20 Internet Exchange. Read about them here. Also loads of LONAP content on this site – check it out here.

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

Yes, I Read Super Hero Comic Books

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

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

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

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

And then My Missus brought home the iPad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Bad Stuff End User gadgets internet media

Superfast Broadband This…

Is it too much to ask that Virgin Media provide the broadband service paid for, or at least something much closer to it than is currently the case?

Trefor.net welcomes “Broadband Week” contributor Gary Hough, Regulatory Manager for Zen Internet and ISPA Council Member. Gary has worked in the ISP industry for the past 18 years and is convinced he is growing old disgracefully, Regulatory Management Post Punk.

Superfast Broadband this and Superfast Broadband that…it’s all you hear these days as ISPs and others bang on and on about needing to have the greatest and fastest internet service that money can buy. I often criticised those ISPs, who dropped leaflets through my door trying to get me to switch to their service under some headline speed that would somehow transform my internet experience. Then one day it all got me thinking, about my own personal use of the internet and how it’s changing so fast that it’s not always easy for me to keep up (even though I work in the internet industry), let alone really know if I will get a truly transformed and faster experience if I did change providers.

There’s no doubt that by 2016 the majority of UK households will have access to a Superfast broadband service, be that Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) or even Fibre to the Premises (FTTP)…but do they really need it? I was unconvinced for quite some time, however I’m now finding it ever more frustrating that my home service provider (Virgin Media) is struggling to give me a superfast service, despite the fact it’s advertised as such and for which I’m certainly paying a lot of money per month. For example, for the princely sum of circa £125.00 + a month all in I take Virgin Media’s TV package, phone line rental, and 60Mb Broadband service. This Broadband service was sold to me as fttp, this despite the fact they use coax cable into my home (check out what Adrian Kennaird at Andrews and Arnold has to say about that on his blog), so I expect to get what I’m paying for…a Fibre to the Premises service. More often than not, though, that 60Mb service is struggling to keep up with the usage at home, especially at peak periods.

It is only my partner and I using our broadband connection, and most evenings we will typically be doing what most couples do these days (or at least I assume they do): fart around on Facebook via our respective iPhones/iPad/laptop, and perhaps listen to some music (Killing Joke, Magazine, Buzzcocks) streamed via YouTube or iTunes to a Bluetooth-connect Bose speaker or similar, etc. Or I might connect into work via VPN to do some last-minute blogging, download the latest meaty tomes from Ofcom, or whatever. Or sometimes we simply use iPlayer to catch up on a missed TV show (I say sometimes because more often than not Virgin streaming can’t cope with the strains of streaming an episode of America’s Next Top Model, and I have found myself wondering if they somehow think this is a feature they are providing, filtering and protecting us from ourselves and our obsession with mediocre TV). Anyway, my partner typically watches funny or surreal video clips posted in FB groups that she is subscribed to, or casually browses topics of interest, so nothing so intense that a 60mb connection can’t or shouldn’t be able to cope with. And yet, in my mind — and especially during peak times — our connection is just not holding up under the strain. Also, we’re only using the Virgin Media home hub (and it’s correctly set up), so I am certain it isn’t a wireless drop out or a technical hitch, though if I use wireless on the standard 2.4 GHz frequency it’s slower than switching to the 5 GHz frequency. The devices we use can handle the higher frequency (with the exception of one laptop), and as all of our devices are in the same living room we aren’t being restricted by any barriers to the connection.

So given all of that, I think it comes down to the connection being artificially manipulated by Virgin Media, due to the contention they face in my particular footprint from which I am served. Of course, as a highly valued customer — their words not mine — Virgin Media is promising me a free* upgrade to 100mb at some point in the future as part of their planned network upgrade, so we may in fact obtain 45Mb at best (given current performance and based on the current delivery track record).

Am I expecting too much, though? I don’t think so. In fact, I don’t believe it’s too much to ask that Virgin Media give me what I’m paying for, or at least something much closer to it than is currently the case.

And where’s the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) when you need them? Lacking bite and teeth from my viewpoint. In truth, I often wonder why they even exist, given some of the clearly exaggerated advertising I’ve seen from some providers as well as the lack of enforcement that occurs when such is pointed out to the ASA.

So what’s the alternative? Should I switch to another ISP? This slow connection is happening far too often as is, and it will only get worse the more services and household gadgets rely on the Internet to function.

*In this case, “free” likely means another line rental increase on the phone service to pay for it all.

Categories
Bad Stuff Business datacentre gadgets H/W mobile apps mobile connectivity travel

Eurostars Upon Thars

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

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

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

Sneetch Star

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

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

Whew!

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

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

The Hump Day Five (2-July-2014)

1

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.

2

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.

3

The trefor.net “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.

4

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…

5

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).

Categories
Bad Stuff broadband chromebook Cloud End User fun stuff gadgets google H/W piracy social networking UC

The Hump Day Five (25-June-2014)

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

1

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

Is seven the new zero?

2

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

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

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

3

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

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

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

Brubaker Cap Torrent

WTF?

4

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

5

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

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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 (dpreview.com, 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!

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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?

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Fie on Eye-Fi

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

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

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

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

Fie on Eye-Fi

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

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

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

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

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

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Everything Looks Worse in Black and White

Photographer-wise I have long aspired to ‘avid’, seeing photos in my mind’s eye everywhere I look, composition, line, contrast, patterns, snippets of structured vision that I ached to capture and share. And like so many of us these days I am reveling in the sheer liberation afforded (key word, that) by digital technology’s heist (takeover? coup? overthrow?) of the picture taking discipline.

Disc film

My first camera was a Kodak Disc 6000, which is sure to cause at least a cringe from anyone out there who remembers the disc camera wave-fad of the early 80s. I don’t remember what I paid for that camera, but as I was 17 and sacking groceries for pocket money at the time I know it couldn’t have been much. I do remember quite vividly, though, realizing that the cost of film and its development was going to shackle the intense photography enthusiasm generated by my camera purchase…even with the Eckerd Pharmacy down the street offering free double prints! In retrospect, it is probably good that I didn’t have the resources to go mad snap-snap-snapping my disc camera, considering the extremely poor quality of the film and the pasturing of the technology by Kodak before decade’s end. Bad habits avoided (mostly), the path taken not long enough to require a painful walk-back, and not too many memories relegated to a grey-and-forever-moving-to-black hole.

My second camera (I probably should state here that I am not — promise! — going to anecdote every camera I have ever owned…really, I’m not) was a Pentax SF-10, a “real” camera (35mm SLR) with a 28mm-80mm zoom lens. My answer to the 1988 iteration of that omnipresent end-of-year question “What do you want for Chanukah?”, this aspirational “finally getting photography serious” device came to me by way of a parents-grandparents-aunt/uncle coalition. The entire kit came to a little under $600, which I could never have swung myself seeing as how at the time I was working just-up-from-entry-level for Grey Advertising for $16,125 annual (not a typo). And, as with my previous camera, my ardor for my new photo friend once again took a shot to the gut when the cost realities applied their wink and slap. Still, I was moving forward, this time brandishing a camera that was immune to the whimsies of trend, a device that once I could actually afford to operate would provide literally decades of picture taking pleasure and thousands of terrific photos…a camera I could use to teach photography to my children1.

SF10

Of course, I did eventually reach a point where I could afford to keep my Pentax SF-10 on a regular film diet, though my photography ambitions were never enough to overcome the ever-active cost calculator in my head from going to work every time I pressed her shutter. Snap. $0.20. Snap. Another $0.20. Snap. $0.20…and a third of my roll is gone. I was really only able to clear this lodged-but-good budgetary impediment when traveling, accomplishing this by buying film in bulk and rationalizing the making-memories aspect of it all (a little victory that resulted in roughly 2000 photos taken throughout Europe, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Russia between 1994-19982). As for using that camera, though, to better learn photography principles, science, and technique (let alone experiment with such gleaned knowledge)? No. The CODB defeated me every time…well, that and the distinct lack of quick-if-not-instant gratification (taking multiple shots of the same subject at different aperture and shutter speed and focal length, jotting down notes on each shot at shutter press, waiting until the roll is finished, the rigamarole of processing, analyzing the prints).

Then along came digital photography. Not all in a rush, mind you, the way new end-user tech seems to appear these days, sprouting up from the Boolean muck with a built-in early-adopter audience already poised, prepared, and ready to purchase. No, more of a Rollout for the Rich. The first digital camera I saw was in the hands of friend of mine at Dell sometime in 1996, a man keen to the latest cool thing and with enough bangable bucks to chase down some of the same. I don’t recall the brand or model specifics, but I do remember the device looking enough like a compact camera, but having a distinctly non-camera color (an off-white casing, leaning towards beige). Mostly, though, what I remember was the one-inch screen on the back of the device that displayed the photos taken. I could actually see the photo that was just taken! And I could see other photos too! No film? How are the photos developed? Can you only see them on the computer If so, fat lotta good that will do you! How much did you say that thing set you back? My SLR costs less than that!

Early days. Digital photography soon became a hot topic of discussion, and before too long a few more digital cameras started to find their ways into the hands of people I knew. Prints could be had, and though they usually didn’t look like anything special, the fact that the film cost had been taken out of the snapper equation really was a mind-opener. Battery power was something of an issue, but not really so much so in comparison to film when taken at a shot-to-charge ratio. And though the memory chips at the time were infinitesimally small in comparison to what we know today, so were the photo file sizes, and thus a decent number of exposures could be rendered to a chip. And those chips could be removed from the camera at any time and taken for processing!

Being typically a third-generation adopter — let the Can’t-Waits, Fanboys, and Posers pay off the R&D costs, I always say — I opted to monitor the dawn of digital photography from the cheap seats, waiting for the tech to mature and a reasonable Cost of Entry. I continued to hold my Pentax SF-10 close, stroking its heavy, well-chiseled chassis, but using it only sparingly because — goshdarnit — film was expensive! As always, I was seeing photographs wherever I set my gaze, photos I wanted to take, to own — to STEAL — and to share with whoever could or might be bothered to try to see what I had seen and captured. A new Millenium was beckoning…would I be able to capture the Y2K chaos at just 36 exposures per roll?

DX3600

Ah, the moment. But no. As much as I’d like to be able to conclude by saying that I made the leap of faith to digital in time to capture the Eiffel Tower’s twinkling in of 2000, the truth is it would be another 11 months before I found my way to my first camera sans film, the Kodak EasyShare DX3600.

 

 

1 While I was blue-skying early on over the long, rosy, heirloom future of my Pentax SF-10, the Dycam Model 1 — generally accepted to be the first commercial digital camera — was being prepared for market.

2Roughly the same number of photos I took over the past month with Leyna, my trusty Leica D-Lux 5.

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(Part of) A Day in the Life

08h14 Woke up (to a sweet small kiss from My Missus…thanks, honey). Got out of bed.
08h19 Open Chrome tab to eztv.it. Locate torrent for and click its Magnet link.
08h19 Confirm torrent download on Transmission.
08h15 Check Notifications on iPhoneKory (within arm’s reach at bedside, of course), to get up-to-speed with what happened during sleep time. Emails, text messages, instant messages, downloads completed, Facebook notifications, Twitter notifications, whether the Cubs beat the Cards.
08h18 Drag self from bed to desk chair and lay hands on keyboard and mouse.

When I took keys in hand this morning I thought I would capture a typical day from wake up to lie down. Not only did I think I could do that, but I thought I could make it compelling reading too, something able to easily transport my legion of readers (crowd? pack? coven?) to that special place where the words flow like wine. Belly-button gazing of the highest order and noblest cause, right?

08h20 Go back to eztv.it. Locate torrent for and click its Magnet link.
08h20 Confirm torrent download on Transmission.
08h21 Leave chair.
08h22 08h22 Get dressed, put on shoes, help make bed.

No. It just cannot be done. If getting a typical day down is already boring me into submission there can be little doubt that anyone who is not me is by this point scrambling madly for their own mouse and keyboard in a desperate attempt to avoid subtle but sure brain death. Or they are reaching for a noose or sharp razor.

Multi-tasking. All of us who these days spend any significant amount of time in front of a computer or tablet speak of it. In fact, nowadays the term rolls off our tongues so easily, one has to wonder just how many of the children born today are working on first-wording it for the delight and/or horror of their parents. I can do this while I am doing that and at the same time I have this going on and that will finish at right about the time this is just getting started and by the end of the day I will have done enough work (and played enough) for three people.

Alt+Tab, Alt+Tab, Alt+Tab, Alt+Tab, Alt+Tab (OSX users, substitute ⌘ for Alt)

So later that same morning I found myself working on this post for trefor.net, checking Facebook, finishing up an article edit and pushing it back across to the client, checking Facebook, writing a bit more into my post, integrating Kat Edmonson’s “Way Down Low” into my music library, direct messaging a friend on Twitter to set plans for meeting up in London next week, using Lightroom to touch up a few photos I took last weekend in my wife’s fantastic Normandy garden, configuring my just-arrived Ricoh Theta (more on that soon enough), slicing-and-dicing my way around airbnb.com in search of a one-night stay in Chartres for a visiting friend, tweaking my post a little more, tagging myself in a Facebook photo, chasing a an alert for a Rolleiflex 2.8F that recently came up for sale on eBay, and googling (via Bing.com) reviews on a new Egyptian restaurant in the neighborhood (a boy’s gotta eat).

Anyone out there want to hear about my afternoon?

Life Day Task

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Me and My Pebble Steel

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

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

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

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

Pebble Stone 1

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

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

2014-04-05 20.58.42

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

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

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

Pebble Steel 3

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

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

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

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

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

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fun stuff gadgets ipv6 mobile apps

Kitchen of things – the connected juicer #IPv6 #internetofthings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 I have the guitar tuner app, actually

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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.

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End User events fun stuff gadgets google H/W internet mobile connectivity UC wearable

Band Camp Coincidences

Google Glass. Telephony. Synchronicity

At my age, you would think that I would be long past adolescent self-consciousness; that I wouldn’t feel awkward with the geeky way of thinking. A girl that I had a crush on back in the 2nd Grade said to me, “You talk funny. You talk like a scientist.”, referring to my vocabulary. At that age this wasn’t a compliment, nor was it really a criticism. It did not, though, bode well for any potential romantic entanglements.

On the way to the conference I find myself sitting next to two attractive, well dressed middle-age women, three abreast in the aisle seat. We start the long first leg of the flight with a little small talk. We are flying together from Dallas to Albuquerque, where they will leave the plane prior to its flying on to Seattle (my destination).

“What’s in Seattle?” they both ask.

I feel like I’m on my way to band camp. What do I say to them? I tell the truth.

“I’m going to speak at a conference on Content Management – a technology conference.”, I say.

“Oh. Technology stuff.”, from which they return to conversing among themselves for the remainder of the flight. It’s fine. I wanted time to think, anyway, to be quiet on the plane so that I could figure out what I am going to talk about at the conference. I booked the conference before deciding to leave my last corporate job. I opted to keep my commitment, though, and now I need to put my presentation in my own voice.

The plane is landing in Albuquerque. The small talk starts again, and it turns out that the two women also live in Austin. I hear them say something about two local radio hosts known as JB and Sandy. I ask a question regarding Sandy. They fill me in. It’s friendly, partly because we’re parting way in five minutes.

Nobody sits next to me on the Seattle leg of my flight, and I have time and space to think, to figure out a theme for my talk. I’m basically speaking on the lessons learned over the last year as a software team trying to buy the next generation of the solution instead of building the next generation of solution.

“Choosing a system is like a plane trip…”

“Choosing a system is like traveling through Mexico…”

Ugh.

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End User gadgets H/W wearable

Google Can Kiss My Glass

The netwaves have been humming for about a week with the news that Google would finally open up their Glass Explorer Program to the general public, albiet for one day only — today, 15-April — and only for the suckers…er, buying public who can claim to be a “US resident” (though not in a legal sense as a US-bound means of payment — credit card, PayPal account, or a friend with such willing to front the dough — and a US mailing address that can receive a package likely has what it takes to get in). Now “open up” may be something of a misnomer, as just a cursory glance at the fine print of it all reveals that Google is “opening up some spots” and that “spots are limited”, even if the email I received this past Saturday from the company served up as its Subject: Heads Up — You Can Purchase Glass on Tuesday.

The Glass Explorer bundle’s WTF! $1500 + tax* pricetag will no doubt go somewhat far in keeping out the mere curiosity seeker, but those with a little bit of pocket who still feel as though they are on the outside of Google Glass looking in no doubt felt the tingle (not to mention the heart-flutter) when the How To Get One link went live at 9:00AM EST today. I know I…didn’t.

The hype machine began cranking over Google Glass about a year ago — Believe it! — and I remember well how quickly it swept its way into every corner of the Internet…

Google ShatteredWhat is it?…this is what it is…this is what it does…I caught that Glass demo video and I won’t feel whole again until I have direct-walk-around-literally-in-my-face access to the Internet…I know someone who has it…a friend of mine let me wear theirs…that article on Google Glass knocking down the last vestiges of privacy rattled me but good…can you imagine being in a public restroom and having someone wearing Google Glass walk in?…the world will never be the same!

…Google Glass got the antennae of the common plugged-into-Internet human vibrating like few tech-y devices before (portable CD players back in the late 80s come to mind, and — of course — the first iPhone), and not surprisingly when it did start to make its way into the wild the posturing began. Social media profile pictures changed, to best illustrate the new Stars-upon-Thars status of those lucky few with an ‘in’ at Google good enough to…well, get them in, and conversations with the blessed that didn’t contain numerous and constant references to the new on-face ticky-tack became as common as a truly great television program airing in prime time on a Saturday night. Google Glass. It was all the talk, it was all the rage, it was on the “Want” list of anyone and everyone able to spell ‘WWW’…

…and then it wasn’t.

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

Gaining Focus

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

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

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


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

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


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

Get the picture?


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

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End User gadgets

IoM Ferry WiFi – the return journey

douglas harbour from the iom ferry manannanSat in the lounge on the IoM ferry Manannan. Using the free WiFi. In fact 5 out of 6 of the family are using the free WiFi and I’m using my droid and the Chromebook so that’s 6 devices. Most of us are listening to TalkSport – Liverpool v Man City. Crucial top of the table clash, must win game, the lads are up for it, etc etc etc

Just done a speedtest. 214ms ping to a Manx Telecom server in Douglas and about 150k down. Not surprising. The Davies family is probably single handedly using up all the connectivity. Looking around there aren’t that many people in the lounge and I can’t actually see anyone else using tinternet.

 boat_speedtest

A bit later… the radio is buffering and I can’t seem to upload a photo to pixlr for editing. More people are settling into their gadgets, using up my bandwidth. Don’t they realise it’s making the experience pants for the rest of us. Selfish b$%^&*)$.

Outside the gale force 5 veering 6 is blowing white tops on the waves and it is a sunny afternoon on the high seas. The game is getting exciting – two all after Liverpool went two nil up early on. “The score is deliciously poised”, to quote one of the commentators.

The one thing the advent of gadgets has brought is easier travel. Everyone is quiet. It can be the same in the car – they all just hang off the MiFi (tx EE).

The boat is beginning to rock. It’s that “veering gale force 6”. I don’t typically get seasick though Kid3 does. They have all taken pills.

Liverpool have scored again. The family are Liverpool fans although tbh I’m Lincoln City (“till I die”) I’m happy to lend my voice to support the reds.

It’s a good job WordPress works offline on the Chromebook. Everything keeps buffering. You will have to wait until we get ashore for me to edit and post with a photo. Mind you the photo is of the speedtest and the conversation has moved on since then.  Maybe I’ll stick up a panoramic view of the ship leaving harbour instead. Far more scenic1.

A Vonage ad appears on the TV on the wall in front of me.

That’s it. Game over. Liverpool 3 Man City 2. We go 7 points clear of Man City who have played 2 fewer games and 5 points clear of Chelski who have 1 game in hand.

I may have to introduce a weekend sports section on the blog to supplement the travel.

Walk on, walk on with hope in your hearts…

Read the fabulous outbound ferry WiFi rambling here.

PS Handy tip when catching IoM ferry: always pay to take a trailer with the car. They wave you on to a spot at the front of the car deck so that you are one of the first off the boat.

PPS post completed using EE4G in the River Mersey

leaving the isle of man aboard ferry manannan
1 Top panorama is Douglas harbour & bottom one is view as the ship leaves the Isle of Man

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End User fun stuff gadgets mobile apps phones wearable

Cycle Gear

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

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

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

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

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

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End User gadgets Mobile mobile connectivity phones

Conscious Uncoupling

In early 2010 I gave up Windows Mobile and my HTC TyTN II and made the leap to an iOS-saddled iPhone 3G. Making the switch was not necessary — the TyTN II still had a good amount of life in it, and I know it kept its next owner happy enough for roughly two years following — but when My Missus’s company upgraded her to an iPhone 3GS I thought I’d take the opportunity to shake myself out of my mobile comfort zone and repurpose her leftover phone.

I can see you drifting, treasured reader, so let me take a moment here to put my fingers in your nose and pull you back towards your screen. I am not going to go down the gorged-so-deep path of the iPhone-converted here. Promise. Stick a needle, man.

Continuing…I enjoyed my early experience with the iPhone, but felt then that it was more a toy than a tool, and that has not changed (yes, four years gone by and I am still wielding an iPhone, though I upgraded that original 3G to a iPhone 4 three years back because at the time it offered what was unequivocally the best phone-based camera on the market).

ChainedNow don’t get me wrong.  Toys are great — anyone reading my stuff for any sustained period of time soon learns just how much I love my toys — and so long as the Internet-connected shiny in my pocket is able to provide pics, phone, text, email, and a wee spot of web browsing it really doesn’t need to be anything more. Thus I should be fat-n-happy with iPhoneKory, right? (If you haven’t caught on yet, yes, I sometimes name inanimate objects.) I shouldn’t be consumed with thoughts of moving into an Android phone, but should be content to remain comfortable and cared, warm and satisfied within iOS’s bright, colorful walls. I shouldn’t be…but I am.

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Engineer gadgets

Pass me the 230-amp USB charging cable, please…

The BBC has an article about a mobile phone battery that will charge from empty to full in 30 seconds.

The technology behind the brand new battery is of course exciting. Lithium polymer batteries have their drawbacks and I should imagine a battery that can be charged rapidly will be of even more interest to manufacturers of electric cars and renewable generators than mobile phone manufacturers.

But since Israeli start-up StoreDot chose a mobile phone to demonstrate their technology then I have to ask where the 230-amp USB charging cable is going to come from.

The faster a phone charges, the more current it requires. And to provide more current the power source needs to be more robust (typically larger) and the connecting cables need to be larger to carry the current safely without overheating.

Since it has become standard to use a 5-volt supply to charge a mobile phone I thought I’d work out how much current would be required to charge a typical phone battery in 30 seconds.

250-amp cables
250-amp cables

The answer is a whopping 230 amps, based on a 3.7 volt 2,600 mAh battery capacity like the one inside Samsung’s Galaxy S4 mentioned in the article.

In case you’re wondering how fat 230-amp cables are, you’re talking  typical jump lead size.

In practical terms phone chargers would need to seriously increase the voltage to charge a phone that quickly, but they are unlikely to go much above 25 volts due to the increased risk of electric shock.

Even at 25 volts the current required would be over 45 amps.