About Me

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Cornwall, United Kingdom
A married Cornishman who still doesn't know what he wants to be when he grows up. I currently work for a charity and am trying to expand my horizons. [See bottom of page for Blog Archive and Links.]

What am I doing?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Blogging from the Touch HD & Stowaway BT Keyboard

I usually work through lunch to allow me to insert breathing spaces throughout the day. Sometimes I will go and look out the window, or pop down to chat with the people who make come by making/selling sandwiches; I went out today and found, yet again, that the day was really too nice to be spending it indoors at a desk. Today I decided to put some of the time aside to jot down a few lines for the blog. Nothing momentus, just a capturing of what's going through my head. My friend Alan has blogged int he past about how ideas come and ideas go, not least the ones that make for blog posts; these come at awkward times, such as when he's on the tube and unable to post. For me the problem is seeing great photographic shots but unable to capture them as I am in a stream of fast moving traffic.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Blogging from the Touch HD

This is a test blog post using my Stowaway Universal Bluetooth Keyboard. The 2710p is versatile but what I need sometimes is an altogether more portable and less power hungry option. When out for a stroll I would like to be able to stop and write up mmy thoughts. With this setup I can easily charge the phone back up, from the Expasys portable power supply I have, to give me a greater amount of useage; the 2710p will last a long time with the extended battery and, theoretically, I could charge from the car power outlet, but not in my pocket as I walk. I carry the tablet whenever I am out and have it with me, I don't leave it in the car for instance, I am used to the 3 or so pounds in a backpack or bag; still, it's nice to go light sometimes and still have the option to type more than a Twitter post. I find the Full Querty keyboard very easy to use and am impressed with how it distinguishes taps from my less than boysh finger tips. I have also loaded the Cailligrapher programme to be abe to wrte anywhere on the screen, from constant tapping on my Dell Axim I saw how it wore away on my screen protector. I have found it to work well though I use it most in character recogniser mode at the moment till I can get into the swing of writing in a slightly tidier hand. Another programme, or programmes rather, I have been experimenting with are SPB Mobile Shell and Pocket Plus. I have found I can run both and have a set of 5 small tabs and 4 larger ones on which I can hold all the shortcuts I need. One thing to note, there is a bug at the moment that prevents me choosing additional programmes on the phone screen; this means I have to run a small free programme to display my phone on the computer and then run down the list of available items that I can add to the tabs. I enjoyed using TouchFlow 3D for a day or two but it didn't give me enough control over it's display. - I found out I could edit the Weather Database and cities more relevant to me but the tabs were, on the whole, fairly rigid. The SPB software coupled with Pocket Informant and Flexmail 4 has given me a huge advantage in how I can quickly access and interact with information. I am finding the phone a joy to use, though the neat onscreen slider to answer a call took a little getting used to. Other software I am using includes CeBit for Twitter, a quick and easy option with reasonable displays of posts and extras like TwitPic insertion. My RSS reader is the inbuilt one. I seem to have corrupted eReader on the phone but also have Mobipocket installed so am OK for reading material. Windows Media Player works wella nd allows me to catch up on BBC programmes I have downloaded. I would like to thank Pocket Watch Software for their GBlogger software. I am using the free public version at the moment and will be buying my own copy of their Pro version next week after payday; I am very grateful that they have taken the free route as an offering for users, it has given me the chance of a proper trial of everything except picture inclusion, only available in the paid for Pro version of GBlogger. That's it for the moment. We turned in early and while Cathy caught up with the BBC 1 spy show Spooks on the 2710p, I thought it a good time to give the phone and keyboard option a try. - Posted using Pocket Watch Software Mobile GBlogger.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Versatility of the human voice - Flying Pickets

I do love the versatility of the human voice and a cappella singing demonstrates that

 

Yes, another Desert Island disc.

Monday, December 08, 2008

This is how an angel's voice would sound in the icy regions of Norway

I first encountered Sissel on a Christmas album singing with the likes of Placido Domingo and was immediately captivated.  I hope you will be too.

The song Pie Jesu has been perhaps over performed  given the large number of people who have produced versions but I think that it does justice to her voice.

Another singer who is on my Desert Island disc list.

If I was to marry someone for a particular attribute it would be Eddi Reader for her voice

Eddi Reader is a woman who can make my hair stand on end (no easy feat if you've studied my Twitter profile picture), can reduce me to tears and have me laughing all within a few notes.  Her concerts are amazing, a study in how the human voice affect people on so many levels.

This song is from 1994, Eddi has much brilliant stuff that comes after this but it is a particular favourite of mine.  If you're not sure about the video production remember that it was 1994 and it is tweaked for YouTube and close your eyes and listen to the music.

 

A contender for my Desert Island disc to rescue if the all others were to be washed away.

Forever Autumn by Justin Hayward

Jeff Wayne's War of The Worlds has been a favourite album since I first heard it.

In particular is this song that summed up my teenage angst years.  I had them but most of it was in my head and I didn't go through any sort of rebellious period.  (Hindsight is a wonderful thing and I can see now how many times "Doing what I thought was expected of me" or "avoiding potential embarrassment" stayed my hand and caused me to miss out on what I know would have been wonderful times - even for a little while).

 

This is the third of my Desert Island discs.

Fur Elise has a hold over me and I am transported to when it was played for me once

It was just a front room and was played almost casually, but the image of the person playing and the time spent are some of the most vivid I have of anything.

This video is presented as a tribute to that memory. (I do not know the person playing, it's just that the piece is nicely played and the jeans remind me of that time).  Thank you for playing it on YouTube Tinaw19.

This is one of my Desert Island Tunes.

I cannot get over how much I am affected by Pachelbel's Canon in D

Here is a great version from YouTube

This is one of my Desert Island discs.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

This is a test post from my HTC Touch HD

I am trying out Mobile GBlogger to post and see it does. Here's to it being excellent. This is the free version. The Pro version lets me insert Pictures. - Posted using Pocket Watch Software Mobile GBlogger.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Touch of Heaven Definitely (a geeky stroll through the phones of my past and today)

HTC Touch HD Retail Box I took the plunge on my birthday,  18 months after I received my Nokia N95, the most versatile of all my gadgets and one that I carried more places than this Tablet (and it goes virtually everywhere. 

In what I call doing a Miller I ordered a phone just coming onto the market.

Not just any phone at that, no sir-ee, it had to be the HTC Touch HD.

In the UK the phone is exclusively available via the Orange network until 2009, except...

Expansys UK have a great scheme whereby they will sell a SIM free i.e. an unlocked phone and sell a coresponding mobile contract.  By using this route I have been able to obtain the phone on a T-mobile contract and pay no more for the phone than I would have to when (I feel sure) T-Mobile added the phone to it's line-up next year. 

The purchase from Expansys UK was fairly straightforward, I say fairly straightforward for no reason on their part, just that the theft of my wallet complicated things unnecessarily. Having ordered I received a series of clear emails talking me through the various checks that the network makes and clarifying what the order tracker would display until my order was despatched.

Being an impatient sort of geek, I kept checking the tracker on the Expansys UK site on a daily basis.  Initially I was horrified to find that my expected 5 days to delivery suddenly shot up to 18 days but 3 or so days after this it suddenly said shipped!  I clicked on the very clear link to their chosen transport firm, in this case ANC/Fed-Ex UK, and saw step by step what was happening.  The very next day the phone arrived in the village and I collected it from my parents after work.

I have owned in the last few years, a Sony Ericsson P800 followed by the P910i and latterly by the Nokia N95.  Each of these phones has been a revelation and joy to use.  With each one improvements in technology was very noticeable and I found that they enabled me to work in a more mobile and eficient manner.  I did miss handwriting recognition when I first moved from SE to Nokia but a Dell Axim x51v filled the gap.  Handwriting recognition became an extremely quick way to enter data and I I eventually got up to dictation speed using the P910i in meetings.  The Dell was ideal, but for one thing, it didn't have a camera. 

The P800 and P910i were a great opportunity to bring me back to photography, something I had enjoyed in the past.  Being able to take photos and quickly and easily add them to my computer or email them was a clear boon for work.  I could make up directions to offices using photos of the locations, copy items of interest and email them to interested parties, photograph problem areas such as building damage or equipment issues and email them to support staff.

Moving to the N95 was a big leapt in photographic terms, one that compensated for my giving up the touch screen.  With high capacity mini-SD cards available I could snap away at the full 5 megapixels and not have to worry, trimming down the size when necessary but having the ability to choose.  Quicker wifi and features such as AGPS meant that I could start using the N95 in place of solutions such as the Axim and TomTom. 

Constant use and the rough and tumble of every day use meant that gradually gremlins started to creep in, the odd SIM not found or unexpected reset suggested a need to invest in a newer phone.  I saw the iPhone come and it didn't move me, the N96 was good but not good enough.  I thought it would be into Spring next year before I would find a phone that appealed to me; one that offered the best of both worlds from my phone past, a touch screen, faster wifi, gps, WM 6 to integrate with my other Windows devices,  at least a 5MP camera, lighter weight than the fairly hefty smartphones I had been using, a large screen area.  I saw a friend's Samsung Omnia recently and thought it a smart phone but wanted more screen space or a higher resolution.

Something caught my eye when googling the Omnia, someone mentioned or compared it to the HTC Touch HD.  I naturally did a search on the Touch HD and fell for the phone, (not sure how else to put it - geeks will understand, Apple Fanboys will comprehend).  It seemed to have everything, 5mP camera, the highest resolution touchscreen, agps, b & g wifi, Windows Mobile 6 (no, I don't think it as bad as some make out), light and with a decent battery.

It has arrived and I hope to take some shots of it and with it and do a follow up post but, for now I wanted to cover the background that brought me to this point.  18112008044

Inside HTC Touch HD retail box

The phone came in the very robust and, I think, stylish box (see photos adjacent to this paragraph),   inside the sleeve that is shown at the start of this post.  The phone lay on top of a inner box that held cables, battery and 8GB micro-SD card.  In the bottom of the main box lay the manuals on CD and a trial version of OneNote 2007.

 

The phone is as gorgeous as i hoped and I will post examples in another post.  As a taster I can say that the things that impress me most at this point are:

  • the way the stylus is grabbed by the phone when only a few millimetres are left to push in (sad though this confession of impression might be); this is a great feature as it ensures the stylus is fully seated and not liable to dropping out when put away in a rush. 
  • The excellent display of the weather, though Microsoft please add cities to the choices, the nearest forecast I can currently get is 75 miles away! 
  • The speed of the wifi, my network doesn't slow much now all devices can access at 54g minimum.
  • The ability to use my fingers to type and that the keyboard can tell even though the keys seem (to my novice eye) too small. 
  • The phone battery came partially charged so that, within 3 hours, I was up and running. 

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Musings amidst man-flu

I began speculating on the chances of catching a cold when ouside work waiting for a lift the other night.  The mind is a powerful beast and by the next evening I was feeling lousy.  Things only got worse and I felt sorry for myself come Friday morning - "Surely no one has known a cold as bad as this" and other quotes to make my wife roll her eyes.  Sorry for myself until I bumped in to a friend from my childhood.

She was in the village because her father, a friend of mine, passed away this week.  Talking to her and seeing a gentle strength in adversity brought me a sense of perspective.  I told myself, in that internal dialogue one has with oneself [please don't write and say that this only happens to me] I had a cold, if that was the limit of my worries on that day, I was actually very fortunate and should appreciate it.

I also heard a melancholy episode that happened to a friend on holiday and this made me realise how really special our time away was.  We visited with friends, made new ones and had such a good time.

Another event that might have had me feeling sorry for myself, but for the above lesson, was the sudden delay in my HTC Touch HD Expansys order.  I spoke to a representative when ordering last week, who said that once I had got as far as passing the mobile carrier checks, I was guaranteed to get one of the first batch of Touch HDs they had in.  I paid by bank transfer to ensure there would be no hiccups but my delivery date went from 3 to 6 days.  I

am not a pushy individual but decided that, having paid, it would be reasonable to email and ask why the longer delivery estimate.  Bad timing I guess but 24 hours after my email I find my delivery date was now 18 days away - had I upset someone at the Expansys end, gotten my name on a watch list? Not according to customer service when I rang on Friday afternoon.  Apparently the extending of the delivery date wasn't because they had sold all the stock, despite the guarantee I had been given (yes, I know, a verbal contract is worth the paper it's written on), it seems there was a technical problem with the delivery of Touch HDs and they had to be sent back. I have Googled but can't see any mention anywhere of a problem with the first Touch HDs, commercially sensitive I suppose.  The late delivery of a phone isn't a world shattering event but noteworthy in my world all the same.                   

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Luxuriating in mindmapping goodness - MindManager 8

MindManager8Logo

If I thought it was a jump from MindManager X5 to 6 and that the develop from 6 to 7 was brilliant I had a big surprise coming with version 8.

What marks out great software?

When it not only enables the ordinary to be done more easily but makes the extraordinary seem simple.

It boosts your effectiveness in ways you hadn't previously considered.

Just a couple examples, as the fresh new Mindjet website with it's customer input and examples will illustrate better than I can.

Just a Couple of Advantages of Mindmanager

They say a horse is a camel designed by a committee. Trying to agree and tie up dates for parts of a particularly large or tight deadlined piece of work can be a nightmare when faced with a room of project workers in my job. With the Roll-Up completion feature I can get a few crucial dates/timescales prior to the meeting and it will fill in and update the Parent topics automatically, presenting people with a proposed timescale based on component parts will be so much more straightforward. (Don't let on to my Manager but it will also help me to prioritise and get a bunch of related tasks completed more efficiently.

WhatsNewinMM8

One of my all time favourite programmes is Ken Hinckley's InkSeine (his blog gives a good idea) partly because it is digital ink based but also because I can do everything from within the programme, by that I mean make notes, search on the notes, view and open the results. MindManager 8 brings this awesome ability into my other favourite programme. Whatever I want to mindmap about and I mindmap everything from shopping lists to article ideas, blog posts and holiday packing, I can do so and develop my ideas without leaving the programme, the time saving from leaping between a complicated map can be immense. For businesses this can extend to their databases, in addition to planning this makes presentations much more dynamic being able to grab such live data.

As I say, you will find many more examples on the website and it's active community is always able to help with questions of how to do something new or discuss ideas. I haven't even covered MindManager Web for the cloud based workers out there!

If you don't believe me why not take up the 30 day trial? But be careful, once you have used something this powerful and this simple you will be loathe to put up with anything less.

MindManager 8 will spoil you for other mapping programmes, so why not spoil yourself and visit the Mindjet site today.

I would like to thank Mindjet for the opportunity to try out version 8 and be part of an exciting programme.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Count your blessings

Granny Ferris used to sing this song to me when I was a small child sitting on her knee. (I used to pester her, calling out "Tell me a story" and she would launch into the first line of a hymn "Tell me the old, old story" but that's a tale for another day).

No sooner had I begun to get into the doldrums (to use a nautical expression) than I began to look for the positives.

I have a new wallet, I had a great birthday with Cathy last week and at work a cake and card from a friends (thanks for choosing what was a really excellent cake K).  Also I have something that I saved up till me birthday as a present to myself, though it was actually a prize from a competition.

I have written in the past about how, on a sunny day with a warm breeze,  I can close my eyes and be transported back to Greece.  Now I have another way to that is just as evocative as what I refer to as a Greek Day. 

I am the proud reader and owner of a copy of Harlot's Sauce: A Memoir of Food, Family, Love, Loss and Greece 

This book is a non-fiction narrative of time that the author Patricia Volonakis Davis spent living in Greece after being married to a Greek in the USA; this fact is important as it gives Patricia the ability to see life from both sides, the the incomer and the insider in Greek family life.  (The title is from an Italian sauce and not an indication of a book of dubious content). 

I am still only partway in to the book, as I save it for those periods when I can read uninterrupted and savour the excellent writing.  In the book there are all the emotions I associate with Greek life and the situations run from pathos to bathos. 

There are parts when I have said, yes that's how I thought Greek families would behave and others which I never would have guessed.

I have to declare something of an interest here, as I got to know Patricia a little on a blogging site before entering the competition; that said, I know a whole bunch of people who make or do stuff but I only promote things that I find special and this book is one of them. 

Christmas is coming and if you love Greece as much as I  do, I feel certain that you will enjoy the book. 

I will repost this tomorrow when I have had time to transfer a cover photo but I want to get the text online now, while it's fresh.

[In addition to the book, Patricia is the person behind Harlot's Sauce Radio too.]

Not my best day

1055569383_7254689907 I was going to write a couple of posts yesterday.

One was a thank you piece about a wonderful book called Harlot's Sauce, that I won in a competition. Events today mean that I will shelve that till I am in a happier mood.

The title I was going to use was Bastard's Cheek, (but I didn't want the association attached to this picture - which is just to illustrate my sadness), and would have been is a play on the book title I was going to write about. It refers to the so-and-so who pinched my wallet today at a local Tesco store.

Picture thanks to bbaunach

I had been generous in the past and espoused the theory that, if my wallet was stolen, I would look at it philosophically and say "Well, maybe the needed it more than me".

Now that it has happened to me I am singing a different tune. Tuesday was my birthday and I was carrying my birthday cheques and cash for paying in to my account when I could get to my bank. Probably the worst of it is that it will now mess up getting my new phone this week as there is no card to process the payment with for around 7 days. [Yes, if that's all I have to worry about life's not too hard but it has happened to me and that makes it personal, my blog-my rant].

We are fortunate, I need money for Mum's card and Cathy will lend it to me, all the same I would like to have taken it around to her now but that will have to wait until we have been to town.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

An indulgence day

Back from holiday and managing to avoid succumbing to the cold at present.  Not managing to adjust for the clock change that comes from returning from Cyprus.  This morning we woke before 6am and couldn't get back to sleep.  Rather than just lie there, we made tea and watched an episode of Mock the Week.  This is how the indulgence day began.

 

Joost is a boon for anyone wanting to enjoy an indulgence day starting at home.  It has a range of channels that one can watch, my favourite is Sci-Fi Fix which has been running through the Babylon5 canon a handful of shows every few months.  Not having digital nor the £80 available for the full DVD set I am so grateful.  As I type this I am watching the episode Mind Wars and thoroughly enjoying it.

image

My phone contract is now past it's contract period and I can source a new one without penalty.  There is one phone that has caught my attention, the HTC Touch HD - a 3.8", WVGA touch screen phone that runs Windows Mobile 6.1. 

The only downside I can see at the moment is that it is exclusively available from Orange.  I moved from Orange to T-Mobile because of their hugely superior data bundle, I am somewhat reluctant to move back.  It was not easy to locate but I have found that Orange has a £7.50 monthly bundle with a cap of 25MB per day; a massive leap forward from the £15 for 25MB, or some such, that once existed but still not quite what I have now.  More research needed I think, the phone isn't due till the second week of November I believe anyway.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The place to go for advice on neat notebooks


This is a very quick post, to recommend a site I watch regularly to get the inside info in the search for the perfect black notebook/moleshine alternatives.

Go and have a look at Moleskine alternatives.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The attractive side of television and a twinge of Cornish patriotism

Quite appropriate I guess. I have been away for a long holiday in Cyprus and am just back and feeling nostalgic for the UK in Autumn.

One of the things I was keen to do now I am back was catchup up on a few essential television programmes that I had missed while away. First was the series Stephen Fry is fronting about the states of America, named naturally enough Stephen Fry in America.

What I hadn't realised but, much to my delight, I could see more than the last programme. For some reason I had it in my head that I could only watch the last 7 days; whereas the reality is that I can watch more than this - a month's worth at a guess. Just as I went to click on the link to see the first show New World my cursor passed over another show that mentioned Cornwall.

imageThe show was Railway Walks presented by the very attractive Julia Bradbury, seen in the picture on the left. (I just had a peek at her bio and see that her beauty comes in part from Greek origins, very understandable). To give balance to this piece, I want to point out Julia's professional approach as demonstrated through a bunch of programmes across several channels, see her website www.juliabradbury.com for the list.

The episode that my cursor ran across was the broadcast from 16 October on BBC4; this invlolved Julia walking from Portreath on the Atlantic Coast of Cornwall to Devoran, that sits on an estuary which runs to Falmouth on the southerly side of this wonderful home country. I felt a quickening of my pulse at the prospect of a programme about God's wonderful country. I put this feeling down to a surge of patriotism brought on by my sojourn on foreign shores. I am a patriotic sort of chap and love this country of Cornwall, (even if I can't see how it could be economically independant - no dwelling on politics here), but my reaction to a programme would not normally be so pronounced.

I have just watched the show and can thoroughly recommend it to any who gets the chance to see any episodes, I do hope the BBC has the foresight to broadcast this internationally. I certainly learned new things about my country.

This show follows her previous excellent series, Wainwright's Walks, where Julia followed in the footsteps of Alfred Wainwright reclusive chronicler of walking in the Lake District here in the UK.

Appraising the Toshiba P300 - reposted to display photos

This posting is so overdue if it was a sick patient more than one reader would have been asking if it had shuffled off the mortal coil.

My apologies to jack of TalkToshiba for the inordinate delay. (It has increased my already substantial respect for people like James and Kevin of jkontherun and Matt, a blogger in his own right, who podcasts with them on Mobiles on the Run. With my new job and the rush to the end of the old one I haven't breathed never mind blogged).

Whenever I have been asked what laptop someone should buy I have always responded by asking the enquirer to write down on apiece of paper all the things they want to be able to do. I then look at the list and compare it to the laptop I use. I end up either recommending the one I have or, if their IT useage is a lighter one than mine, something of a similar size. You see, I love the 10" (25cm) or 12" (30cm) screen size notebooks.

Ask me about buying a 15" monitor on a laptop and I could be seen drawing in my breath. Make it a 17" screen and I would also start shaking my head; suggest that I might be wrong and I could get to tutting mode (I know I hate it when people do that too).

Time has passed since my initial excitement at trying something new on this blog. As you are reading this I would like to thank you for your patience.

Out of the blue I had the opportunity to try out a laptop that was new to me. For me this is a blogging dream. I get my hands on some new kit without the worry, nay fear, of having to explain to my long suffering wife why I needed another piece of technology.

So a little over 3 weeks ago, I took receipt of a Toshiba P300 laptop computer. For those of you who have not encountered this beast you can click on it's name in this sentence and be taken to the Toshiba website for a view. I have decided to make this an opinion piece rather than an in depth technical review, since the majority of my readers are currently non-geeks (I mean that in a nice way folks - honest). The technical specs are listed on the Toshiba site and elsewhere if you care to Google.

The first thing I noticed, if it was a dog it would have leapt up and bit me, was the proportions of the thing. 17" (42.5cm) of laptop monitor clip_image001and the rest to support it really is big; especially seem against this HP 2710p in the photo on the right. Working for NCH, my previous employer, I often worked on desktop machines that had 15" screens but this form factor made the Toshiba's real estate look even bigger than it's 17".

Compensating for the size was the weight of the laptop. I didn't have scales to hand but I could carefully pick it up using just one hand and it was lighter than I expected. The chasis was rigid and gave me confidence in it's ability to stand up to knocks. Not that it should have too many. This is definitely a machine in my eyes that is built to be a desktop replacement. It would be a rare occasion indeed where someone intended to lug a 17" laptop around all day as their portable solution (queue the hoards of blog comments saying otherwise).

clip_image002On the cosmetic side the glossy appearance to the surfaces (see photo left), including keys appealed to me. It felt like the sort of machine that Darth Vader might choose to use. I only ever had clean hands when I handled the P300, out of respect for it being my first trial machine. (I wonder, do reviewers not out to test to destruction try out equipment with everyday dirty hands?) The glossiness seemed to help me select keys when typing but was no help when trying to type in dark conditions (well, we can't all be touch typists like my friends James and Kevin over at www.jkontherun.com). Another pointer to it being a desktop machine, other than the size, is a lack of built in illumination as I have on this HP 2710p and my x60s Thinkpad.

Firing up the P300 I was impressed with the speed that it booted into Windows Vista. It was faster than either of my normal machines laptops or my current desktop Lenovos in my new job. There wasn't a huge amount of software on the computer so it was lacking in those attractive little add ons that seem to fill machines i own for more than a couple of years. (Every so often I go on a purge and remove a bunch of memory sapping, start-up programmes that I think are well worth loading but then hardly, if ever, use - mental note to self, about time I had another purge I think).

I had the choice of setting up a bunch of software on the machine itself but decided to make use of programmes that could be run from a memory stick. Partly my decision was because I had some teething problems getting the Toshiba recognised by my wireless network; not a fault of the P300 hundred in my opinion rather a vaguery of my setup. For reasons of much delayed interior decoration it wasn't practical to work while wired to the router in the other room. I also reasoned that working from the usb memory stick would tax the system and help me see how quickly it would run. I am not familiar with the various benchmarks used by technical reviewers and wasn't prepared to go down that route blind. The Toshiba continued to run with speedily despite a number of programmes running at the same time as a DVD. clip_image003

I used the VLC video programme to watch a number of DVDs, in particular the Lord of the Rings trilogy, my thinking being that it would tax the processor and graphics more than a less effects orientated film. The picture quality was excellent, the colours rich and the glossy screen enhanced blacks in much the same way as my brother Nigel's Sony Vaio laptop does.

In addition to films I listened to podcasts and found that the sound was very clear and sufficiently loud that I never found a reason to have the volume at more than halfway. The Harmon Kardon speakers are prominent in the corners at the top of the keyboard but I think the sound quality is compensation enough and if you want people to see small and discreet, you're not going to be lugging a 17" beast about with you.

I often watch programmes from the BBC and Channel 4 in here in the UK on my computer when it suits me and so could easily see me doing this with a P300 at my desk (once I get the pesky decorating sorted - I have long come to the realisation that I hate Do-It-Yourself and DIY hates me). Don't get me wrong, I love sitting in a comfy chair catching up on all sorts of things with this hp2710p on the arm of the sofa but there are times when 1) a bigger screen would help and 2) a more formal setting is required; I am sure that I am the only one that finds it hard to get any writing done when I am too comfortable.

The controls are neatly laid out at the top of the keyboard and enable multimedia control, always a handy feature and helpful when watching in the dark as it saves trying to look for keyboard combinations or bringing up onscreen ones.

All in all I have to save that I enjoyed using the P300.  For me it's particular strength is as a desktop replacement, offering a certain amount of portability (say,  when away for the holidays) and providing a very enjoyable media experience.  While I have my options covered at present, it would definitely feature in my shortlist of choices for when I need to replace my ageing desktop computer.  clip_image004

Thanks Jack for the opportunity to see life from the sunny side of the street.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Cyprus the journey out

It’s been a funny holiday. Coming out I was holding my breathe for fear of something cropping up that prevented us going. (I was more laid back last year but this one saw me heading out only 5 weeks into a new job).

A number of things ell in our favour this year, including an enlightened manager who rang me to reassure that of course I could take the holiday I had saved for in the preceeding year. For a few years the best price for flights that we could find was with the now defunct XL airlines. Monarch actually proved to be the cheapest this year and, with flights that enabled our friends to collect and return us to the airport with minimal disruption, became our airline of choice. First of the favours, we did not pay by credit card and our travel insurance did not cover for airline failure, (tip: Googling will show you a company that, since the start of October, will insure travellers now for £ 5 each way), we would have lost money if booked with XL.

We had a brainwave that made the start of our holiday the best sort, we stayed with best friends in Surrey the night before the flight out. We don’t see anywhere near enough of them and so it was a delight to be able to turn up and go hang out for the night and have breakfast together, (admittedly with only one of them as I baulk at rousing myself at 5am,particularly when not hitting the sack at the other end till the wee small hours). The staying was due to their generosity and we were further feted by having the delicious evening meal cooked from scratch, thank you very much, (you know who you are).

On reaching the airport we had a simple process to follow, dump bags at the express checkin; online checking in suits me as I am wired and have a gorgeous knew printer – photos etc when I get home but the extra motivation to do so was to prevent queuing at the airport, just my luck then that there happened to be 3 ordinary checkins empty and available at the same time as our dropping our bags. The next step we had planned was to go from checkin and get signed up for the retinal scan that means a very quick throughput at passport control when returning to the UK. Last year we were flying at the wrong time to get scanned, this year we started to get a little tense and skipped this to go straight through security and go and eat.

The Flying Horse (as I recall) is a Wetherspoons pub and is on the upper floor of the South Terminal departures area, accessible once one has passed through security. For once Cathy was patted down as well as me at the gates; I get chosen because I normally wear walking boots when travelling and the metal lace holders get picked up by the detectors. Once through security we headed for the Wetherspoons to get what I felt would be the best value refreshments and, as ours was a scheduled flight, we felt flavour on the ground beat bland in the air. The pub was spacious and had plenty of room. I particularly enjoyed the bookcases that formed the walls 2/3 of the way in to the pub and which, I later discovered, screened an area that had a large television showing the news and a live departures screen.


While waiting for our meal I picked out a book that radiated serendipity, being about a special place we had once visited, it was an old account of the Scottish island of Iona.

The books were shelf fillers, bought mainly by the box load for the purpose of filling shelves with books that looked old. I perused as many titles as were in reach and would have made an effort to read if we had more time, but this one I photographed (see left) as its title had resonance for me. I also got to thinking about all the people who might have previously owned the books in the shelves, I was assuming many owners given the wide range of genres, fiction and non-fiction, on display. I may not have been the best of company while doing this but Cathy did her best to tolerate it, knowing that I was in my element and the pull that books have always exerted on me.

Quite a surprise and a delight for the waiting bibliophile.

The trip to the gate went well and we go a seat in the departure lounge. The only slight minus was that we found that the seats we had chosen previously online were far enough down the plane that 2 other groups were asked to board ahead of us. That apart we got settled and enjoyed the trip out. The flight was a little over 4 hours and passed relatively quickly. Cathy watched some of the on board programmes and read a little. I tried to watch some BBC programmes on the iPlayer that I had downloaded but only managed an episode of the BBC Click show before I felt tired and couldn’t concentrate.

We arrived and were pleasantly surprised to see that the buses and steps for the plane were waiting nearby when the plane came to a halt, in fact we were through check-in and outside with our bags within 25 minutes of touch down. Our friends we actually just coming across the car park as we came out, we were that fast. Being in the tourism business they are well experienced in the timings for arrivals and said that it was easily the fastest they had known for landing to stepping outside.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Appraising the Toshiba P300

This posting is so overdue if it was a sick patient more than one reader would have been asking if it had shuffled off the mortal coil.

My apologies to jack of TalkToshiba for the inordinate delay. (It has increased my already substantial respect for people like James and Kevin of jkontherun and Matt, a blogger in his own right, who podcasts with them on Mobiles on the Run. With my new job and the rush to the end of the old one I haven't breathed never mind blogged).

Whenever I have been asked what laptop someone should buy I have always responded by asking the enquirer to write down on apiece of paper all the things they want to be able to do. I then look at the list and compare it to the laptop I use. I end up either recommending the one I have or, if their IT useage is a lighter one than mine, something of a similar size. You see, I love the 10" (25cm) or 12" (30cm) screen size notebooks.

Ask me about buying a 15" monitor on a laptop and I could be seen drawing in my breath. Make it a 17" screen and I would also start shaking my head; suggest that I might be wrong and I could get to tutting mode (I know I hate it when people do that too).

Time has passed since my initial excitement at trying something new on this blog. As you are reading this I would like to thank you for your patience.

Out of the blue I had the opportunity to try out a laptop that was new to me. For me this is a blogging dream. I get my hands on some new kit without the worry, nay fear, of having to explain to my long suffering wife why I needed another piece of technology.

So a little over 3 weeks ago, I took receipt of a Toshiba P300 laptop computer. For those of you who have not encountered this beast you can click on it's name in this sentence and be taken to the Toshiba website for a view. I have decided to make this an opinion piece rather than an in depth technical review, since the majority of my readers are currently non-geeks (I mean that in a nice way folks - honest). The technical specs are listed on the Toshiba site and elsewhere if you care to Google.

 The first thing I noticed, if it was a dog it would have leapt up and bit me, was the proportions of the thing. 17" (42.5cm) of laptop monitor Toshiba P300 and 2710p side by sideand the rest to support it really is big; especially seem against this HP 2710p in the photo on the right. Working for NCH, my previous employer, I often worked on desktop machines that had 15" screens but this form factor made the Toshiba's real estate look even bigger than it's 17".

Compensating for the size was the weight of the laptop. I didn't have scales to hand but I could carefully pick it up using just one hand and it was lighter than I expected. The chasis was rigid and gave me confidence in it's ability to stand up to knocks. Not that it should have too many. This is definitely a machine in my eyes that is built to be a desktop replacement. It would be a rare occasion indeed where someone intended to lug a 17" laptop around all day as their portable solution (queue the hoards of blog comments saying otherwise).

Toshiba P300 view of corner speakerOn the cosmetic side the glossy appearance to the surfaces (see photo left), including keys appealed to me. It felt like the sort of machine that Darth Vader might choose to use. I only ever had clean hands when I handled the P300, out of respect for it being my first trial machine. (I wonder, do reviewers not out to test to destruction try out equipment with everyday dirty hands?) The glossiness seemed to help me select keys when typing but was no help when trying to type in dark conditions (well, we can't all be touch typists like my friends James and Kevin over at www.jkontherun.com). Another pointer to it being a desktop machine, other than the size, is a lack of built in illumination as I have on this HP 2710p and my x60s Thinkpad.

Firing up the P300 I was impressed with the speed that it booted into Windows Vista. It was faster than either of my normal machines laptops or my current desktop Lenovos in my new job. There wasn't a huge amount of software on the computer so it was lacking in those attractive little add ons that seem to fill machines i own for more than a couple of years. (Every so often I go on a purge and remove a bunch of memory sapping, start-up programmes that I think are well worth loading but then hardly, if ever, use - mental note to self, about time I had another purge I think).

I had the choice of setting up a bunch of software on the machine itself but decided to make use of programmes that could be run from a memory stick. Partly my decision was because I had some teething problems getting the Toshiba recognised by my wireless network; not a fault of the P300 hundred in my opinion rather a vaguery of my setup. For reasons of much delayed interior decoration it wasn't practical to work while wired to the router in the other room. I also reasoned that working from the usb memory stick would tax the system and help me see how quickly it would run. I am not familiar with the various benchmarks used by technical reviewers and wasn't prepared to go down that route blind. The Toshiba continued to run with speedily despite a number of programmes running at the same time as a DVD.

I used the VLC video programme to watch a number of DVDs, in particular the Lord of the Rings trilogy, my thinking being that it would tax the processor and graphics more than a less effects orientated film. The picture quality was excellent, the colours rich and the glossy screen enhanced blacks in much the same way as my brother Nigel's Sony Vaio laptop does.Toshiba P300 view of opening desktop

In addition to films I listened to podcasts and found that the sound was very clear and sufficiently loud that I never found a reason to have the volume at more than halfway. The Harmon Kardon speakers are prominent in the corners at the top of the keyboard but I think the sound quality is compensation enough and if you want people to see small and discreet, you're not going to be lugging a 17" beast about with you.

I often watch programmes from the BBC and Channel 4 in here in the UK on my computer when it suits me and so could easily see me doing this with a P300 at my desk (once I get the pesky decorating sorted - I have long come to the realisation that I hate Do-It-Yourself and DIY hates me). Don't get me wrong, I love sitting in a comfy chair catching up on all sorts of things with this hp2710p on the arm of the sofa but there are times when 1) a bigger screen would help and 2) a more formal setting is required; I am sure that I am the only one that finds it hard to get any writing done when I am too comfortable.

The controls are neatly laid out at the top of the keyboard and enable multimedia control, always a handy feature and helpful when watching in the dark as it saves trying to look for keyboard combinations or bringing up onscreen ones.

All in all I have to save that I enjoyed using the P300.  For me it's particular strength is as a desktop replacement, offering a certain amount of portability (say,  when away for the holidays) and providing a very enjoyable media experience.  While I have my options covered at present, it would definitely feature in my shortlist of choices for when I need to replace my ageing desktop computer.  Toshiba P300 openin desktop and keyboard

Thanks Jack for the opportunity to see life from the sunny side of the street.

 

 

Friday, October 24, 2008

A very quick hello from laid back Cyprus

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I had all these great plans for blogging from Cyprus when we got out, until
the Avrio factor kicked in; combine that with very patchy internet

Access and not wanting to carry the tablet around for fear of damaging it
(we travel by bus) and there have been no posts.

[Not even the one about how the Toshiba P300 impressed me, it did by the
way, it sold me as an excellent desktop replacement.]

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The photos here are by Cathy on her Nikon Coolpix P2, it has wifi to
transfer photos to computer, a handy feature.

More posts when we get back.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

There is a time to chill

Sent from my Nokia N95 phone.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Plans for something of a lifestyle change


Above is a picture of the gorgeous Cytronex Trek. (Thanks to Mark Searles of Cytronex for spotting my error in the original post.)

Hmm, maybe it's the Olympics, maybe it's following Kevin Tofel's occasional blogging/ twittering on cycling, I would like to think it's also a concern for the environment, that has prompted me to consider a new method of getting to work. The week after next I am to start worth for a different charity from the one I currently work for.


There will still be a base in Penzance where I am currently based, but 1.5 miles further out of town. There is just one bus in the mornings and practically none in the evening that would help to get me home by even 8pm. I have been catching the bus and walking for 15 minutes to get to work currently. If I were to continue this in my new job I would have to walk for 30t minutes. Not a problem in itself but in bad weather a bit of a chore which includes several hills.


The lifestyle change is my decision to take to two wheels. I have blogged about my trip on my mate Taff's Triumph Bonneville and it was something I enjoyed enough to consider buying a 125cc motorbike. On reflection I decided that I would be safer travelling at 15mph rather than 50mph. Also I have been putting quite a bit of weight on (hard to believe on this gazelle like frame I know). Cycling occurred to me as an ideal alternative alternative. By cycling I could get exercise at a more manageable 15 miles per hour.


There are downsides to this cunning plan. Cornwall hasn't been the land of sunshine it has been in previous years and we don't get all the luscious greenery that covers this beautiful land without paying the price. Rain and wind are a common combination in West Cornwall and the route to Penzance from home is exposed to the coast. I will have days when I really won't want to saddle up but doing things you don't really want is character building, so I'm told.


Whenever I feel like exercise I normally lie down until the feeling goes away. So, on the surface, this does look like a plan setup to fail.


On the positive side, I have carried out exercise in order to get to work for a few years now. In St. Austell it was up to 30 minutes from train to office, as part of a car, train and walking route; in Penzance a bus then 15 minute walk - it is becoming clear 15 minutes is not sufficient to keep on top of things.


Now for the cunning part of the cunning plan. Having examined all of the options I had two routes that I could go. One was folding bikes, that I could carry on the bus and use at the far end; the other was a standard bike. The folding bike in itself would be enough to reach work but not a huge amount of help if I missed the bus, I couldn't see myself making the hills out of the village. While researching the folding option, I came across AtoB magazine ( http://www.atob.org.uk/ ) and this alerted me to the latest developments in pedal assisted bikes. Pedal assisted is a term for electric bikes and these have come quite a long way it seems, far enough to have a number of distinct advantages ( http://www.atob.org.uk/electricbikeadvantages.htm ).


I have ruled out an electric folding bike, now that I have had a chance to see what full bikes can do. There are a number that are reported to have the power and range to take me, with me peddling too, to Penzance without raising a sweat (that has yet to be proven).


I won't bore you with all the bikes I have tried, save to say that there is a budget involved here, so sporty bikes with names like Pedelec are outside of my scope. The limit on price is set by the government and I am pleased, as I might not have spent an age looking before I found the bike for me.


What I now need to do, is get to Winchester to visit Cytronex at their shop. I hope to do this when passing there on holiday in early October. (For anyone interested in having a trial of this bike, Cytronex do have a booking facility on their website to be able to try one out in Winchester - I shall be doing so nearer the time.)



Sunday, August 17, 2008

All this rain and chilly weather gives thoughts of warmer climes

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I have lived in Cornwall all of my life (so far) and I do love the place.  I love it's beautiful countryside, the coast, the moors, valleys and villages; it's history, especially the people and it's seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness.

What I don't love so much is it's out of season weather.  We are in August already and to date the taste of summer has had a distinctly autumnal flavour.  While I am not a sun worshipper, I have far too many moles for that (plus none of my devices have outdoor screens), I do like everything to be in it's season.  Being able to travel to work under blue skies is one of those pleasures I do enjoy, walking along in shirt sleeves when so much of the year requires fleeces and/or wet weather gear is beginning to grate.

 

 

What I need, what I have been thinking more and more about, are the times we have spent in Corfu and Cyprus.  DSCN1270

In both locations it has firstly been about the people; what enabled us to make the most of our time was the good weather.   Yes, we were on holiday but even after working our friends could come home knowing that they had time to enjoy the rest of the day outdoors.  The photos here are of Cyprus, as our Corfu ones are on a different computer, but they illustrate my point. 

Admittedly we have been to Corfu a number of times in September, when the weather is known to turn decidedly wet but it's expected.   Spring and summer bring the weather for pleasure.

 

Cyprus I am ready to admit can be extremely hard for people not used to intense heat but, again, it is to be expected.  Hot and dry or cold and wet, hmm.

We will be visiting our friends, Sarah and Jim, in Cyprus again this year and it is this thought that is keeping me going in these water filled days.  If only I could taker some of it with me to relieve the pressures of that sun soaked island.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

More of London and a quick whizz to Southsea

DSCN1397 DSCN1395Here are a couple of photos featuring Cathy, Chris and Taff and then me, Chris and Taff (to show I did go too). 

The above shots were when walking along the Southbank in London.

We had such a wonderful day and I have said it before but it bears saying again, whenever we have a really great time it is invariably due to the company we are keeping at the time. 

 

 

 

 

DSCN1389 This is the recreation of Shakespeare's Globe theatre and somewhere I do want to visit to both see behind the scenes and to see a performance.  Maybe next time; the trouble is with London there is so much to see.

I have been to London a dozen or more times in the last couple of years and have never found enough time for everything that catches my eye.  I think the secret in part is to mix the free with the paying, especially as the costs of staples such as heat, food and shelter rise ahead of salaries (for those of us fortunate enough to be in paid employment).

 

 

 

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Left is a shot of Chris and I waiting for (don't tell anyone) donuts.  Right is how we felt about our imminent dietary sinning.

Well, you can't travel for an hour from Surrey to Southsea to the seaside fair and not pig out.

It was an excellent trip, thanks in the main to the company, my mate Taff's insistence on doing all the driving and in part to the fact that he has the most gorgeous luxury car.

Malaysia Week at Potters Field in London

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While wandering around London on Saturday 2 August 2008 we came across a celebration of all sorts of things Malaysian.  Above is a recreation of a Malaysian wedding and the main figures above are the bride and groom.

It was located adjacent to City Hall and Tower Bridge, see photo top left after this.  At the end of the day they had a fashion show with amazing examples of batik - painted silk as I understand it.  The evening actually crowned the day.

 

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

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