Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Apple peelings for 29 Feb 2012

On this special day when the real date and the celestial dates are reconciled a couple of Apple peelings come to mind.

Apple stock price goes well over $520 and hits another peek. I have made a bit of £$ on Apple stock over the years, and probably should have held for longer. With the iPad3 poised for launch now is bound to be a volatile period. I have always thought that playing the stock market is like betting on horses except that you can choose when the race starts and finishes.

Was in the local Apple store just now to get the other half's Mac Book Air repaired under warranty. The trackpad has lost it's click and the touch to click mode is rather tiresome. The MBA is only a few months old but was repaired soon enough by the Apple Genius behind the bar. Am considering getting the extended warranty for my MBPro as that is an expensive beast to repair. My experience with Apple hardware over the years IISi -> Q650 -> G3 -> G5 has been good but when push comes to shove electronics are just electronics and do burn out unexpectedly.

Whist waiting at the Genius bar a lady came in requesting service on a iPhone that was dead. The tech checked the records and noted that the iPhone has been reported stolen. Service was declined. This is a good thing. Before yours gets stolen or lost read this article. After your phone gets stolen or lost please report for deactivation via an app or phone carrier. The more the ThievingUnderClass (tm) learns that shiny tech is only valuable to those that own it the better for all of us.

Still feeling the love for TimeMachine backup service. Moving whole environment between hard drive and SSD was a breeze. Time machine even rescued my extensive book mark list after I toasted it using Plist editor. Welcome back ~/library/Safari/Bookmarks.plist.

And finally a couple of wonky screenshots both genuine and not pShopped at all. One a customisation of application fail and the other generated by empty the trash on a remote server.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Enjoying The Interesting Thoughts of Edward Monkton

Every once in a while an original thinker appears that has a new view on life. When that thinker makes a success of his thoughts the world is a richer place. Once such thinker goes by the name of Edward Monkton and has been amusing and entertaining the world for a few years now. An original creation of Giles Andreae, Edward Monkton now appears on greating cards, china, gadgets and other sundry merchandise. The sometimes surreal ,often sublime, phrases and sayings make me larf.



Sunday, 12 February 2012

Lots of bits to do this weekend to fix up the digital lifestyle

This weekend was a getting things done weekend. After some time abroad ( see below ) a list of stuff has accumulated. Most of the tasks were in the category of maintaining the families digital life style. Here is the list and notes for those struggling with gadgets and gizmos.


Products Involved



Create a Ringtone for a iPhone

Windows 7, Iphone 4s.

Some phones can play .MP3 files as a ringstone directly so making a ringtone can achieved just by moving the your favourite tune to the phone and selecting the file inside the device. iPhones like to have their ringtone provided to them by iTunes. To transform a track into a ringtone proceed according to the instruction on the link to the right.

Buy some euros

Lloyds banking website

This was an easy one. Login to the website and order the Euros using the travel money menu entry. Lloyds will send by special delivery or you can collect from a local branch.

Move Photos from iPhone to PC

Windows 7, Iphone 4s

This task was rightly easy, just connect the iPhone to the PC and quit iTunes. When offered the "open device as "open as folder and files". The pictures can be found just down one folder from the top of the device as seen in the folders menu.

Get a new phone for other half.

HTC ChaCha

There is just so much choice in the non-iphone market. The specifications were long standby time ( over 10 days), keep the PAYG contract, transfer existing number and accumulated credit, touchscreen, qwerty keyboard. Working all these angles resulted in staying with Orange and laying out a few quid for the HTC ChaCha.

Look for a new house

Google maps and street view

House hunting is a mix of excitement of anticipation and the drudgery of estate agent websites. Figuring out the must haves and the mustn't haves alongside the limitation of budget and location. Location is everything and Google maps, earth and street view really adds a whole new dimension to the property assessment process. A bit of Googling helps assess an area before doing that vital drive-by. Not found the next place yet. For us we are looking for, walking distance to shop, garden big enough for a couple of dogs (and a pond), cul-de-sac. Also need enough space for work at home study, guest room, kitchen with an island in middle.

And on the list for next week find a better .html editor :-)

Saturday, 11 February 2012

This is the good stuff Sodastream + Belvoir cordials

Belvoir cordials are the good stuff that stand head and shoulders above the high fructose corn syrup packed sh*t that passes for fizzy drinks these days. A simple fruit cordial added to cold and fizzy water throughly refreshes after exercise or on a hot day.

The Blackcurrent and Ginger cordials are my own favourites and are often sold out in Asda where racks and racks of sugary "Squashes" remain.

If you live in a soft water area the Sodastream is a great home device for making fizzy water from regular tap water. Available since the 70's and having passed thru a few reinventions this CO2 powered device saves the environment in two ways.
  1. Reusable 1 litre bottles, add the cordial to the drink not the bottle,
  2. Transportation costs. Water is dense, 1Kg per litre moving highland spring water from Scotland is expensive and ungreen and results in water costing 90p a litre
Often seen as a nostalgic memory from the last century the Sodastream and Belvoir cordials now provide a great modern alternative to the mass produced unhealthy rubbish that passes for fizzy drinks these days.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

The 7 Habits of highly effective Technical support

  • Be proactive - Know the product, and the environment in which it lives.
  • First things first - Build a website / ticket system, set of processes, service tools, support readiness materials.
  • Begin with the end in mind - Focus on Customer satisfaction with an effective feedback and survey mechanism.
  • Seek first to understand and then be understood - Diagnose before attempting to repair.
  • Think Win Win - Having worked hard to solve problems, recycle solutions with well written tech notes.
  • Synergize - Embrace customer feedback, work with engineering/ sales / marketing to improve the product. Find your most demanding customer and learn what they know.
  • Sharpen the saw - Learn more, teach more, research more, experiment in the field.

If you haven't read the Covey book I would highly recommend it as a transformational text for personal development. To be just a bit controversial here the 7 Habits book is a more practical manual of living and interacting with people than any of the major religious texts.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Malty goodness

It's all Franklyn fault that I enjoy the occasional dram of scotch especially a fine Scotch malt whisky. After a spicy, fine curry late one evening we sampled a few from his collection.

Beginners general guide to scotch and malt Whisky in particular is available here.
Descriptions of scotch production areas are here.
The area and distillery having a dominant impact on the flavour and nature of the final drink.

My own personal favorites being the peaty Islay produced Ardbeg and Laphroaig. Of the others, of which there are many , I enjoy the occasional highland Dalwhinnie.

There are long traditions, history and quite a few myths about Scotch and fine whisky. Exploring a few to find what you like and how you like to savour the flavours is one of lifes delights. Mines a Laphroaig Quater cask with a single (no more) ice cube, allowed to melt, then savoured at leisure.



PS: Times not to enjoy malty goodness .. Breakfast, just before school sports day, when motor racing, rock climbing, when being captain of a cruse ship or at a job interview.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

The computer history museum, San Francisco

On the Sunday before my flight home from SF last week I embraced my inner geek and went to The Computer History Museum just off 101 in Mountain view. I thought would just be a dusty ware house full of broken down electronics but it turned out to be a bright modern facility with a wonderful collection of exhibits. Tracking the history of computers from mechanical through valve electronics to integrated circuits and beyond this collection shows the rapidly evolution computing has gone through in the last 150 years. As expected most of the exhibits are from the last 30-50 years being the time when innovation and evolution has driven computers from frames of code braking valves to slivers of hot silicon.

On the mechanical side the most impressive exhibit is the Babbage difference engine No2. Designed in 1850s by English eccentric and inventor Charles Babbage but only built in 2005 on commission at the London Science museum this mechanical calculating engine, is an impressive 5 Tons and measures aprox 3 meters wide by 2 meters tall. The mechanical intricacy was designed to remove the production errors discovered in the printed books of tables used for calculations. Programable by use of cam wheels and initial settings the machine used alternating columns of number wheels to generate logarithmic tables. If the innovation of automatic calculation was not enough the machine includes a printer to remove the transcription errors normally found in the results to page process.

On the electronic side of computing, I had one of those "You know your getting old moments" when in the supercomputer area I saw the Cray-2 on display. I saw one of these machine from the late 80s in service when I visited the Royal Aeronautical Establishment in Farnborough. The Cray-2 introduced the twin innovations of total liquid immersion cooling and a huge memory. Used for the first effective computational fluid dynamics these systems helped evolve aeronautical wing and hull designs. I had the privilege of working on high performance Cray machine during the 90's but few of those machines had the charisma of the early Cray-1 & Cray-2 on display here.

Further on round the exhibits the smaller machines dominate with personal computer, games consoles, mobile computing and internet related items.

Overall a great place to spend a few hours immersed in the stream of innovations that comprises the history of computers. When planning a visit be sure to check that you will be able to see a demo of the Babbage difference engine for a truly inspirational sight.