Category: shopping

Sim card searching, (or roaming in the gloaming).

Unexpectedly, my mobile phone service provider has written to me, telling me, I have a short time to find a new deal or they would just move me. By moving me there would increase you costs form £9 to £14. This notification came as a shock. I was not expecting it. My current deal is £9 per month for unlimited phone calls, unlimited texts and 4Gb of mobile data. I like the unlimited feature of that deal and as it was a special offer price with a major network, I was pleased with the price. My current deal doesn’t allow tethering of my iPad to my phone, and on the rare occasions I cannot use Wi-Fi, I thought tethering would be nice to have.

So armed with the price point, the details of the deal I already had and the idea of adding a tethering allowance, I set out to look for a new deal. I asked on Facebook and Twitter for recommendations for new deals. In the course of looking at what was recommended, a couple of things become important.

1- The importance of Wi-Fi calling. 

Wi-Fi calling is the ability of your phone to receive calls over Wi-Fi when the Service strength is non existent. I currently live in a house dating back to 1820’s. the construction method seems to be walls can be very thick in order to provide insulation. The walls are 2-3ft thick. The service level within the house is terrible. As such the ability for the phone to make and receive calls using the Wi-Fi in the property is key towards the phone being useable.

A wide variety of mobile phone service providers do not include this with their Sim only offerings.

2- The importance of being international.

I was thinking will it work the last three places I have been, and the next three places I am likely to go internationally. The last three places I have visited were Australia, Turkey and Cyprus. The next likely destinations are the US, Finland and Ethiopia. (I didn’t think I travelled that often!)

Cyprus and Finland are in the EU, and as such UK phone service providers have to provide a roaming service that covers the EU, under the rules of EU. Ethiopia is a nightmare given its mobile phone infrastructure so it is unreasonable to expect anything there. Australia, the US and Turkey though are interesting.  The mobile service provider Three have an arrangement within the US and Australia to ensure the deal you have in the UK, is the same deal you use in the US and Australia. (Three’s roaming destinations are specified here). Some other companies offer a similar usage deal but charge an additional fee, (a previous network cost me £5 per day in order to use my UK allowances while visiting the US). Turkey is not a member of the EU, so prices vary markedly. I mostly used my phone on the hotel Wi-Fi, (hello Wi-Fi Calling), but deals on Turkey mobile phone service are not easily obtainable and usually it is a default international call rate.

It is quite amazing how many of the mobile phone service providers do not offer anything once you leave the EU with their Sim only offerings.

3- Tethering is included mostly

Mostly tethering is included widely, who knew?
Technology, am I right?

So what will I do now?

Look for a Sim only deal as before but now the criteria is clearer we can look again in depth.

  • Unlimited calls
  • unlimited texts
  • 4gb of mobile data
  • Wi-Fi calling allowed
  • International agreement with US and Austrailia at least
  • Tethering allowed.

If I find all that and more within my price point I will have got a good deal.

Doubting my voice

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One the literal side effects of the stroke is that I speak with a different voice. I know what I am trying to say, I almost hear myself in my brain say it, but I go to speak it out loud and the voice I say it in is not one I automatically recognise. I prepare by thinking what I am going to say in my normal voice, I have conversations in my brain which are normal, but when I open my mouth it isn’t the voice I imagine.

This has several effects like I cannot phone in a foreign food takeaway as I sound as if I am not taking the take away staff seriously. Do I doubt myself? Yes. I often try to put something over as best I can put it verbally. But afterwards I find doubt creeping in. I do not know if the children do not understand what I am saying or whether they are being children and listening “creatively”, (was it the stroke or my children just being that age?)

I was in a situation today where I had cause to phone an ambulance. I dialled 999 without thinking. The operator put me through, I gave the details as clearly as I could. The wind was pretty bad, I took shelter behind a parked minibus and the signal dropped. It came back and I continued to talk to the dispatcher. Soon the call was over and the ambulance was on its way. I waited at the bottom of an adjoining street in order to guide the ambulance the right way, also as not to crowd the person on the ground. As I stood there I doubted myself.

Had I made myself clear? Yes, they had said an ambulance was on the way.
Had I remembered the address of the street properly? Yes, I think so. I checked the address on my phone and I had addressed it properly.
Had they taken me seriously? I didn’t know.

I was suddenly very conscious of not being able to speak in my own voice. I thought back over the conversations where people had heard me, then my mind turned to the conversations where people hadn’t heard me, the times when I had said something and not got the responses I expected or perhaps, any responses at all. I thought of times where I was quiet. Was this being quiet a sign that I was comfortable, conscious of how when I am nervous I fill silences, or was this quiet because I didn’t know what to say or how to say it because I was scared of using my current voice and looking like a fool.

Perhaps this was summed up by two men as I waited for the ambulance. One man asked what had happened. I told him that a man was on the ground and they were looking after him. He said “What?’ meaning can you repeat it again please? I did and he said “Right” and walked off. Later a man walked passed me and said “Hello”, I said “Hello” back and he made a comment about the weather before continuing on. They’re understanding was deeper than my ability to communicate.

The speech therapist has said there is nothing medically wrong with my talking, I can make all the sounds necessary, that meeting and having conversation will help bring back my own voice. When I am not thinking about the voice or what I am going to say the old voice can come back for a few minutes. Perhaps I am too nervous around what I have to say and how I will say it. The last few years of my doctorate have been about developing my voice. It looked at how I use my voice to say something distinctive and interesting. The critique I bring is dependant on me, the stuff which makes me whoever I am. I didn’t particularly like my old voice, it was to middle-y, but it was mine. And something in my brain hears it and connects with it. I wonder what I have said distinctively in my old voice. I wonder what I can say in this current voice which is new and distinctive. I didn’t take much notice of my old voice, but now when I think of saying something I doubt myself, I think again. I need to risk to find my old voice again. I doubted myself at the best of times, but now I need to chat. I was proud I had called 999 and had a discussion conveying important information while my current voice is different. All this doubt was internal and I need to try using my voice again. Hopefully next weeks activities will take another step towards having my old voice back.

A story for the #courgettecrisis. “What They Sell In The Shops These Days” by Daniil Kharms

This is not a picture of the shops yesterday. #Fakenews

Yesterday I was involved in a discussion about the lack of courgettes in the shops, #courgettecrisis. I was urged to shop locally and eat seasonally; i was encouraged to note the advice from a mitchelin starred celebrity chef.

Well.
I dont live in a globalised, commodified, consumerist society to shop local and seasonally, I want everything cheap and available now. As for taking vegetable selection advice from a chef who is backed by the big potato lobby…

Anyway, this put me in mind of one of Daniil Kharms stories from “Incidences”.

(22) What They Sell in the Shops These Days

Koratygin came to see Tikakeyev but didn’t find him in.
At that time Tikakeyev was at the shop buying sugar, meat and cucumbers.
Koratygin hung about by Tikakeyev’s door and was just thinking of scribbling a note when he suddenly looked up to see Tikakeyev himself coming, carrying in his arms an oilskin bag.
Koratygin spotted Tikakeyev and shouted: — I’ve been waiting for you a whole hour!
— That’s not true — said Tikakeyev — I’ve only been out of the house twenty-five minutes.
— Well, I don’t know about that — said Koratygin — except that I’ve already been here a whole hour.
— Don’t tell lies — said Tikakeyev — you should be ashamed to lie.
— My dear fellow! — said Koratygin — Be so good as to be a little more particular with your expressions.
— I consider … — began Tikakeyev, but Koratygin interrupted him:
— If you consider . . . — he said, but at this point Tikakeyev interrupted Koratygin and said:
— A fine one you are!
These words put Koratygin into such a frenzy that he pressed a finger against one of his nostrils and through his other nostril blew snot at Tikakeyev.
Then Tikakeyev pulled the biggest cucumber out of his bag and hit Koratygin across the head with it.
Koratygin clutched at his head with his hands, fell down and died.
That’s the size of the cucumbers sold in the shops these days!

Thinking about mobile phones – a small test of android.

ios-vs-androidMy phone is dying, I have used iPhones since the iPhone 3gs, I loved the 4s and I still use the 5s, (yes my phone is 3 years old). I had wanted to wait to see if the iPhone7 was the stunning leap forward is design and shape and deliciousness for mobile phone design. Perhaps it would be slither of glass resplendent with all the advanced tech for futuristic pop culture. Alas we got an iPhone6s-s, a refinement and incremental change on the 6s which was a refinement and incremental change on the 6. Given this I wonder about changing off apple for a year. My wife is very happy on android and her phones are good quality, shiny and attractive. So borrowed one to see how it compares.

Apple or Android.
It should be noted Apple aren’t really that innovative. (OK, the invention of the mouse was pretty revolutionary if they did invent it!), but since then they are not noted for inventions. The iPad was inspired by Steve Jobs watching people use a stylus on Microsoft tablets at a social event; Apples iPhone was definitely not the first smart phone; the watch and TV were both late arrivals to the smart watch and TV box market respectively. What Apple does have is control of the devices manufacture, software and cloud backend. This means that Apple can ensure that all software works on all forms of its hardware, also that all apps will run to a certain standard on all devices. For Android, Google controls the software and the cloud backend, but manufacture of the devices is in the main not controlled by them. This can be advantageous for google, allowing them to concentrate on their strengths, but it can also lead to a second layer of software engineering by companies such as Samsung, who include wrapper software to go between the Android software and the Samsung device. The effect of this is that android updates may need adjusted by the Hardware company for your particular phone before you can update.

Why not consider microsoft?
Microsoft devices are good generally, with Apple and Google both taking inspiration (while being legally different) by Microsoft design. For this test I do not have a Microsoft device to test so I cannot include it.

The test subjects,
Samsung galaxy IV running android 5.0.1
iPhone 5s running iOS 9.3.5
the reason for picking these older phones are
1- that iPhone is what I currently use.
2- that Samsung is what I have available to test and they are both about 3 years old.
3- all the hardware and software should work at the best it has ever been, right? (after three years testing, development and refinement.)

Initial impressions
The Samsung is big. much bigger that the 4.7inch iPhone, it is also lighter, much lighter, the iPhone feels like it has some heft to it. The iPhone feels better out of the case, while the Samsung feels plastic-y out of the case. When in the case they both feel like cases. The Samsung has a bright screen, due to a water incident a year or so ago the iPhone screen is permanently darkened.

Test task one – perform a factory reset.
iPhone – plug it in to computer, iTunes launches. On the iTunes page for your iPhone, you have the option to restore iPhone, click the button and a couple of confirmation boxes and it resets the phone.
Google doesn’t have the same software interface for the phone, so reseting the phone was trickier. I looked under settings in the phone menu with no success. A google search revealed the reset is achieved by booting into the equivalent of safe mode on your phone,
(Turn off phone. Press select button, volume up and power button at the same time and hold until after the Samsung logo appears, then let go of the power button while holding the other two.)
The problem with this is the screen is massive but the text on the screen in this new menu is tiny. I struggled to read what the options were. In this mode you use the volume up/down buttons to navigate and the power button to confirm. As a user experience, it is hostile and it clearly places the android phone as a computer in your pocket.  After performing this reset I then had to update the Android software on the phone. While iTunes handles this as one process with the factory reset if you wish, the android has a separate download and then update time. I took a good 30min to download and install all the updates on the phone.

task two – add apps to the phone
Both iOS and Android start you with a number of default apps on the phone with varying degrees of usefulness. iOS has considerably less of these default apps than Android. Both software platforms have shops where you can buy or download new apps. You do this by making an account, storing credit card details and a password, and then downloading apps. Both have search facilities and google play store search is better than the apple store search.

On the google play store I downloaded some of the key apps I use on iOS currently:
Lastpass – password vault
Runkeeper – exercise tracking
Spotify – music streaming
Podcast addict – podcast downloading and management
Hootsuite – twitter client
Dropbox – document cloud storage
Dropbox paper – note taking app (in beta, so trialing to see if it will take the place of Evernote long term.)
Evernote – notetaking app

On iOS the apps all run, but last pass does not offer to fill in the passwords within other apps login screens. You have to cut and paste which isn’t a very joined up experience. On Android the experience was generally good, with the exception of the Dropbox app, which stopped working and crashed on opening over a 24hr period, until I ran a software update. Secondly Spotify refuses to accept my password of let me log in (seven days now). I struggle to remember when a big high profile app that I use regularly behaved like this iOS over the last 6-7 years for me.

task three – add music to the phone
The iPhone plugs into your computer directly. As I have iTunes installed, it launches asking what you want to do with the phone, using tick boxes you select which music you wish to load and click the sync button, loading music is through the iTunes user interface. This requires a wire, a computer and your phone. With the advent of streaming services (including the purchase of the beats streaming service a year or two ago, Apple has introduced Apple Music, a subscription service where for a £9.99 monthly fee you can stream all the music you could want over the internet, including every piece of music in your iTunes library..
Googles preferred method of putting music on your phone is to upload all your music to their Google music service in the cloud. Then stream the songs from the cloud as you want or need them. This is great if you live with a reliable fast internet connection. (I don’t so this option is less great for me). The free layer of Google Play Music gives you streaming and 50000 song uploads, but song downloads for offline playback are only available as part of the £9.99 monthly membership.
screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-15-54-44

So how do you get the music onto the android phone using a cable rather than the cloud. Google guides you to download a programme called “Android File Transfer”. On opening this I was slightly shocked at how paired back it was. I dislike iTunes, but its graphical user interface is a graphical user interface. The AFT programme is a barebones file transfer manager. It felt like a computer thing which required a repertoire of computer knowledge to use. (I didn’t find a How to guide, and the lack of a empty music folder into which to insert files was disconcerting.) Having used file transfer programmes before I had an idea what i was doing and managed to get the stuff on the phone. But is was not intuitive to navigate a hierarchy of files to find where the files are and then create new folders within the phone or SD Card to place these files in. (and how do you handle playlists?)

Task four – general life.
in general life the battery lasts about the same for both of phones, the back button on the android phone is kinda handy and the screen is big and shiny. The iPhone does well and survives most things I put it through. In comparison the android feels slightly slower and less responsive than the iPhone. The only major black mark against the android was its refusal to connect with the Bluetooth in the car. this is unfortunate as I use this Bluetooth connection to listen to music and podcasts when I drive. The phone reception is significantly better on the iPhone. Phone call sound is clear and the microphone seems to be of comparable quality.

Conclusion.
I could live with android and be mostly happy. I am sure the Bluetooth issue and the Spotify issue would resolve themselves over time. These problems are problems I have never had with iOS.  The difference between Google as a cloud services company and Apple as a hardware company comes through in this small test, Google want everything in the cloud, (although, I object to the idea of upload all your music to the cloud and we will charge you to download it to your phone as I have already bought it once), as Google have a clear advantage in search and cloud services. Searching the Google Play Store gets you the right result. Uploading your documents to google drive is smooth, with a nice 15gb to fill, and the reports of google photos are very good.

I am reasonably clears I am not buying a new phone for its cloud services. This is perhaps because I am too aware of Apple, as a company’s failings in this area. I don’t trust the cloud of one company for too much, I tend not to use googles cloud services, I don’t use the Facebook app or any of its associated suite of apps as I am wary of using too much from one company especially when that companies main income sources is analysing my data to provide me with tailored advertising. I use different companies for specific cloud based services like, Lastpass for a password vault, Backblaze for hard drive back ups, Evernote for notes, Dropbox for files and sharing.Perhaps it is also a result of living in a borderline rural life where the idea of cloud computing is laughable when it rains.

So to buy the samsung s7 edge would cost an extra £475. the iPhone 7, an extra £600. At the moment the iPhone has clear advantages for me but £125 is a significant figure.

I don’t understand wheels #needhelp #brokenwheels #bicycle

belleville-rendez-vous

Background

I have been cycling recently. It was hard to fit in during the school holidays but I have been back to it over the previous few days, setting my fastest time ever for the Lanark route, (fastest measured in minutes per km). It has been good to get out and I have been concerted in my plan to ride every weekday. I want to cycle as I enjoy it not particularly on the hills, but hey i over took another cyclist while going uphill for the first time on Monday. Also socially several people I know cycle as a past time. My neighbour David can do one of the 22km routes I do around 14 minutes faster than I can flat-out out, my friend Rich is also around that time frame from the times I see on social media. If I want to ride with these guys then I need to speed up and train more. (also the benefits of losing weight are not lost on me…)

The problem

This morning I dressed, got the children ready for school and went to do some basic maintenance on my bicycle chain (cleaning with the new chain cleaner I got last night), to my horror three of the spokes in the rear wheel had snapped, must have happened on the ride yesterday. I am not risking riding in the rain with a compromised back tyre.

The help

The wheels are the standard wheels on the bike when i bought it 3 years ago.
The bike is the standard bike I bought off the shelf 3 years ago.
I was thinking of upgrading some components from solid to decent.

So what wheels should I buy?
not a large budget but enough to cover new wheels and a set of winter road tyres (around £200 hopefully).
Why are some wheel sets different sizes? – what is the advantage? (currently both of mine are the same size)
What is a decent winter road tyre for Scotland?

That’s Me, the guy with a pure heart and gunpowder in his moustache.

xtenson-alwyn-jacket-funktionsparka-navy-blau-6a0.jpg.pagespeed.ic.skS6DOBdw0Last winter I bought a winter jacket out of TK Maxx. The joy of shopping at TK Maxx is you never know exactly what you’re going to find. It was a nice jacket from a company I had never heard of … Tenson.

The other day I conducted a quick web search and hit upon their website. Tenson are a Norwegian brand who sponsor the Norwegian ski team. Nice. In the about us section I found this gem of a quote envisioning the type of man the company founder, Paul, hoped would wear the jacket.

Paul described his intended ’Nature Man’ like this: ”Tenson-Man – skis, hunts and fishes, wanders in the forest with his pipe in his mouth. Smells good, little kid, a little tuna fish, a little gunpowder. Can’t live without his jacket. Sleeps in it if he can. One of those half-tall things with a thousand pockets to keep stuff in. That’s what Tenson-Man likes, the guy with a pure heart and gunpowder in his moustache. The kind of guy every girl wants to roll meatballs and fold the bedclothes for.”

Currently I am considering using this as the personal statement on my CV as it so perfectly nails the type of person and lifestyle I currently abide in. If the next time you see myself Adorned in this jacket and do not automatically want to roll meatballs or fold bedclothes, I will consider it a failing on your behalf.

Consumption – Death on the Instalment plan.

Will Self is a great writer, and his attitude, accent and physicality make him a compelling personality. This i have gathered through watching the TV stuff I have seen him on. Quite often i find the way he phrases things as quite precise and generally hilarious.

maybe its the delivery,
maybe its the writing,

either way this 10 minute essay is class and should be heard.

the text is a good read but is divided up with images and links to other similar articles which breaks the flow.

anyway worth having a look at

Solas Festival 2014 – Creative Commons.

20140205-234408.jpg

The small and beautiful arts festival, which inclusive enough to allow me to help put it together has launched it’s new programme together with its now annual fund raising auction.

So what you waiting for visit us at Solas Festival website to get tickets now! Our first deadline closes soon.

(I have the joy of having suggested creative commons for this years festival theme. If its not a good year i am in trouble!)

My phone is dead.

So my phone died. You can read all about how it gave its life to support me running to get fitter. check the gory details of its noble end / beginning of life as a paper weight here. #runninginglasses – week 4 run 2 – death of a phone.

So tomorrow i have to go to the fruit shop and try and get a new one. The genius bar have a policy of exchanging iPhones which cannot be repaired, sometimes at their digression for free, other times for around 80-100 poinds. (although I did hear somewhere that the power to do this had been taken from the genii). The routine is pretty simple, tell the person what happened and ask if there is a way the genius can solve the sleek, black paperweight problem for me.

On a wider note, I am pleased to see how i have handled not having a phone. I have been quite happy not to have it. I have been ok without another smart device in my life. I am aware i don’t phone many people or text people, but i am pretty sure people can reach me wherever I am if it is urgent. I know that it is the weekend and the difference between being with my family and travelling together, and tomorrow when we all go our separate ways and I am on the train, being out all day. Tomorrow might be a very different thing. I am carrying a phone, but not the main number for emergencies.

So what am i carrying? Well my options are the iphone 4, 20140202-231838.jpgthe motorola v80 20140202-231850.jpgthe nokia e65 20140202-231857.jpgthe samsung galaxy sIII20140202-231904.jpg

Not sure yet, but it is a nice choice to have to make!

Tax dodgers yes, but on the plus side ruthless efficiency does have its benefits.

20131122-113216.jpg

Amazon. They make lots of profits in the uk but don’t pay UK tax. That’s bad.

(Although I think if you are associated/employed by an organisation which takes advantage of the gift aid scheme you can’t really criticise as gift aid is also taking advantage of the tax laws for financial benefit..)

But they are very good on delivery times and price.
I recently lost the wee ear bit on my head phones. Buying online in the uk was around £30. Buying from the company direct was are £35 plus p&p.
Buying from amazon.com (the US site), the price was $17.50, inc p&p, plus due to the price of item no tax or import duty. Was told it would take around 14-21 days for delivery. The actual delivery time was 4days from the US.

Tax dodgers yes, but ruthlessly efficent.

Categories: shopping webstuff