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?

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

DSCN1645.JPG

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.]

DSCN1671.JPG

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.

DSCN1666.JPG

Friday, October 10, 2008

There is a time to chill

Sent from my Nokia N95 phone.