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  • Farmageddon 2014

    Posted on April 7th, 2014 Andy Parkes 2 comments

    Around this time last year I did my first obstacle race. I’ve done a couple of different events since then and two weeks after the Warwick Half Marathon I was back in Melton Mowbray for my second crack at Farmageddon.

    Not wanting to make things easy for myself this year they were offering a 20k course so we duly signed up.

    Pre-Race

    Just to make it a bit a clearer as I’ve glossed over that.

    That’s the same distance as the Warwick Half Marathon but off-road terrain and with a variety of obstacles to overcome.

    I can safely say this was an incredibly difficult thing to do!

    Having said that the difference a year makes is noticeable. This is my fourth obstacle course and my fifth event overall including Warwick and while I’m not saying it was a walk in the park I was barely able to get round last year which was half the distance.

    The extra distance is made up of an extra lap. Once you got within touching distance of the finishing line you carried straight on!

    As with last year there was a good atmosphere and lots of friendly banter before, during and after the race and with a newly added 5km option the turn out was much larger. Over 500 people I believe in comparison to around 280 last time around.

    140405173300_H

    The course was largely the same as last time but with some minor tweaks which really helped with getting a correct pace as well as providing various talking points on the way round such as;

    “Remember when you dropped that log on your head?” 

    “It was around this point I would have eaten my right arm”

    “That cold water that’s coming up soon will do wonders for my cramp again”

    140405174850_H

    So overall I enjoyed this just as much as last year and the extra lap pushed me really hard. The previous year the 10k took us 1 hour and 32 minutes so having set a realistic goal of three hours to actually finish in 2 hours 46 minutes was brilliant – especially when we got delayed quite near to the start (I’ll come back to that). Overall standing was 18th out of the 27 20k runners so pretty happy with that too. It also meant that even with the two laps we were faster than last year.

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    Since this was my second year it did give me the opportunity to compare both events.

    In terms of improvements…

    Bottle Neck

    One issue with obstacle courses is getting the placement correct so that as the field starts to spread out people hit the obstacles at different times. When this doesn’t work out it can mean waiting in a queue while people in front navigate the obstacle. If you have a few people that struggle to get past it then makes the problem even worse. On an event called X-Runner we did last year this actually meant out second lap was considerably faster than our first lap as we got held up considerably on a single obstacle near the start.

    One of the first obstacles was a cargo net to climb up and over. Because it was so near to the start everyone basically hit it at the same time causing a large queue. Not great.

    Either more of them were needed or it needed placing at a different section of the course.

    Lack of consideration

    At the bottle neck a few people decided they didn’t want to wait in the queue and came charging over regardless. This was while people were still on the obstacle. The marshals were only letting people on two at a time (for perfectly good safety reasons) yet these guys thought it would be ok to throw a few more bodies on. One poor girl who was just going over the top somehow managed to stay calm and avoid getting pushed off. Their excuse as they clambered past was "We’ve already had a 15 minute delay". No-one in the queue wanted to wait so their inability to understand we had waves and chip times made the blood boil. 

    Ghost Town

    The 20k field was considerably smaller than the 10k and 5k (understandably so) but we went out at the same time as the 10k entrants and the two waves after that weren’t too far behind us. This meant when we finally finished there was hardly anyone about. The big crowds to cheer you on to the finishing line and the loud music that was played throughout were nowhere to be seen. It meant that once we’d collected our finishing packs there wasn’t much point in hanging around. We stayed quite a while last year cheering on other competitors and soaking up the atmosphere. Even the burger van was packing up!

    I’d probably have started the 20k wave about half an hour earlier than the 10k wave so we finished around the middle or end of the 10k field.

    20k

    Maybe it’s just me but in my eyes doing the 20k was a big deal and I thought this was reflected in the smaller numbers who wanted to give it a go. But since there was practically no-one about when we finished and we got exactly the same finishing pack as the people that did 5k and 10k it felt like a bit of anti-climax as we crossed the finish line, collected our stuff and left. Maybe it’s just my ego that needed massaging after all that hard work but in comparison to my memories on how it felt at the end last year this year felt very low key.

    I’m not complaining about all of it though! Some things I did like included

    New T-Shirts

    I do like collecting the t-shirts we get after completing events and the blue one provided this year looked even better than the one we got last year – which I was more than happy with too!

    Beer

    This was new.

    At the end of the race as well as the standard post-race swag we were given a can of lager (or cider). While it wasn’t straight from a fridge or a fancy continental brew at the end of the 20k it was one of the greatest tasting beers I’ve ever had.

    Marshalls

    They were great, especially some of the younger kids who were helping out. It was especially nice to still see them patiently waiting for us on our second lap when everyone else had finished and gone home!  

    Bananas

    Sometimes it’s the small things that count. As you reached the end of the first lap it was a left turn to the end for the 10k runners and straight on for the 20k runners. Just before turning into the first bend was a small, unmanned table with some bottles of water, some plastic cups and bunches of bananas. Taking a minute to refuel and rehydrate as well as contemplate going round a second time was just what was needed.

    The Course

    Having now completed a few events I can easily say this is one of the most physically demanding I’ve personally done (over 10k and then 20k). There were several comments on the Farmageddon Facebook page that said there should be more obstacles and less running. I couldn’t disagree more with them. Each event I’ve done so far has it’s own unique challenge. Part of this particular event are some of the long runs. While at the time having completed the hill climbs and then having to face a 3km run felt horrible it’s part of the signature of that particular course. Please don’t tweak that too much.

     

    The good largely outweighed the bad I’m pretty confident of shaving some minutes off that time so I’m already looking forward to 2015!

    Thanks to the organisers for putting on such as great event again.

  • Network Scanners and Windows 7 Shares

    Posted on March 28th, 2014 Andy Parkes No comments

    I was visiting a clients remote office earlier this week doing some PC replacements. They have a multi-function printer that has “scan to folder” functionality and it previously worked quite happily on the Windows XP machines they were replacing.

    The end user presses a button and the scanned document ends up in a folder on the computer.

    After having setup the share, the NTFS permissions and the corresponding details for the path, username and password on the printer it refused to work. I needed to make a change on the PC to get it working.

    Open the Network and Sharing Centre by clicking the Start button and typing “Network and Sharing” (or just enough to get the result you want!)

    image

    From here in the top left corner click “Change advanced sharing settings”

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    Scroll down the page and in the “File sharing connections” section select “Enable file sharing for devices that use 40- or 56-bit encryption”

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    Be aware that this is lowering the security of your system. You’ll need to decide if you’re happy about that!

    The specific device I was working with was a Ricoh Aficio MP 171. It’s possible a newer device would have been happy with the default Windows 7 settings.

  • Achievement Unlocked: Warwick Half Marathon 2014

    Posted on March 24th, 2014 Andy Parkes 2 comments

    Oh my poor legs….

    Last year I wrote about how I’d taken part in a 10km obstacle race called Farmageddon.

    I did a couple more of similar runs during 2013 and had some great fun along the way.

    One of my friends who also ran with me decided he was going to do the London Marathon this year. He was planning on doing the Warwick Half Marathon as a warm up event as it’s a couple of weeks before and asked if I fancied doing it too.

    Since I was in the pub at the time with a drink in my hand I said “Of course!” without actually considering what was involved. The furthest I’d ever run before was around seven and a half miles on one of the mud runs. The obstacles on these courses break the run up so you don’t actually run continuously for that whole distance. This was going to be new territory!

    So before I knew it race day was upon me and I was lining up alongside a couple of thousand other people on a chilly March morning with 13 miles ahead of me.

    I’m in this photo…honest

     Lining Up

    Image credit: Michelle Fallows

    Running into the Warwickshire countryside was fantastic. Having such great scenery on show was a great distraction from the hillier than expected route!

    The one thing that was certainly different from the mud runs I’d previously been involved in was the atmosphere. Those events are all fun and games and people are laughing and joking and shouting along the way. This was a much more focussed affair and on the harder parts of the course it was weird seeing so many people running in total silence as everyone was concentrating on pushing through to the next downhill section.

    Also what contributed to this were the crowds dropping away. There were plenty of people on the sidelines cheering and shouting encouragement as we came out of Warwick but the numbers died down the further we got into the countryside. As we came back into the town the numbers swelled again and it helped us get over those last few miles and the big push to the finish line.

    Finishing

    My final time was 1 hour 56 minutes. I’d set a goal of finishing under two hours and I’m really pleased I managed to do that.

    The other reason for being so pleased was I was so un-prepared it was ridiculous.

    I’d picked up a muscle injury in the run up to Christmas which combined with a general lack of motivation during the cold, dark nights meant that other than playing football I’d done no specific training until about two weeks before the event.

    In those two weeks I managed a few three mile runs followed by a five mile run a couple of days before the race.

    This meant on race day the furthest I’d ever run in one go was five miles. It’s quite a jump to thirteen miles!

    I felt pretty good during the race though and it’s an experience I’m glad I’ve had. I learnt an awful lot!

    My thighs however disagree. Especially when trying to do simple things like standing!

    Having a group of people to run with definitely helped and we were all smiles afterwardsPost RaceImage credit: Michelle Fallows 

    As well as the general smug feeling of achievement a big reason for doing this is to raise some money for charity.

    If you’re feeling generous there are a couple of charities to choose from.

    The event was run by the British Heart Foundation and I was raising money for them.

    My sponsorship page is here

    Second from the left in the photo above is Jonathan Rhodes.

    He’s running the London Marathon for Bliss – a premature babies charity.

    His sponsorship page is here

    On the right hand side in green is Steven Fallows

    He’s doing 12 challenges in 12 months for Macmillan Cancer Support

    His sponsorship page is here

    Steven is also blogging about his challenges! 

    So after all the pain and suffering am I done?

    Nope..

    In two weeks time I’ll be doing the same distance again – with mud and obstacles at Farmageddon 2014 for “fun”.

    Why keep life simple?

    Smile

  • The Case Of The Missing Windows 7 Boot Logo

    Posted on January 24th, 2014 Andy Parkes No comments

    Had a bit of weird problem this week I wanted to write down somewhere in case it happens again!

    A call came in from a client to say the laptop wouldn’t boot. On starting the laptop the usual Windows 7 boot animation was missing.

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    The screen was black apart from a series of coloured lines in the top left hand corner.

    Turns out there is an option that controls that!

    On the boot tab from MSCONFIG is a “No GUI Boot” option.

    image

    There is plenty of debate on the Internet as to what this actually does and doesn’t do – I’m not going to get into that here – the end result was that clearing this made the boot animation return.

    At this point I couldn’t actually toggle that option since the system wasn’t booting. I had to use a Windows 7 install disk and boot into the recovery tools and run the command

    bcdedit /set quietboot on

    The next time the system rebooted the logo reappeared. It then became apparent the disk checker needed to run – the laptop had been actually booting after all, but the disk checker wasn’t visible. If it had been left for long enough it would have eventually arrived at the logon screen. After letting the disk check complete (it took about 20 mins) the system eventually booted and I was able to logon ok.

    So that was it that right?

    Not quite…

    Upon next reboot the logo had disappeared again.

    After logging in again I checked the “No GUI Boot” option and it was indeed cleared. Odd? What happened to the logo?

    After a bit of experimentation we found out that making any change to the boot entry, via BCDEDIT and other similar tools caused the logo to reappear. After logging in and restarting it disappeared again!

    Since the problem resurfaced after logging back on we had to assume something was making a change. Using the very useful Autoruns tool we disabled just about every non-Microsoft/Windows program and service that runs when the system boots.

    After doing this (and resetting the boot entry) the logo appeared and stayed there after a series of reboots. Progress!

    Then it was just a matter of isolating which program or service was causing the issue. This took a while!

    Eventually we found the culprit

    HP Day Starter

    The HP Day Starter service is supposed to read the contents of your Outlook calendar and display your upcoming appointments during the boot process. Since the Windows 7 boot animation would normally be there it would need to get rid of that for it to do it’s thing.

    The end user had never used Day Starter and wasn’t interested in using it so we disabled the program and disabled it as on option in the BIOS for good measure so as to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

    HP do have full details for configuring the program.

    It’s an interesting idea but I’m not sure how useful it would be in practise? Is anyone else using Day Starter?

  • Reading List For 2013

    Posted on January 17th, 2014 Andy Parkes No comments

    This will be last post about stuff from last year…honest…maybe.

    It’s safe to say i was very happy with trying to hit my target of trying to read at least one book a month for 2013.

    According to GoodReads I’ve read 44 “things” in 2013.

    I’ve recommended quite a few of these to various friends and family so thought I’d do some mini-reviews of the books I’ve particularly enjoyed. I’ve read quite a few series so will group them together where appropriate.

    In no particular order;

    Ex-Heroes Series by Peter Cline (comprising Ex-Heroes, Ex-Patriot and Ex-Communication)

    Love superhero stories? Love Zombie stories? If so this is most defiantly your sort of thing!

    Set in the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse in a world where people with super powers is normal this book follows a group of survivors (normal and supers) as they try to carve out an existence where they don’t get eaten! As the series progresses zombies aren’t the only things they need to be wary of. This series really had me hooked. I finished the three that are available in a very short space of time. Book four (Ex-Purgatory) has just been released and I’m looking forward to getting my teeth into it. No pun intended.

    Wool Series by Hugh Howey (comprising Wool, Shift and Dust)

    It’s very tough to put into words how much I loved this series and to how many people I’ve recommended it to. The story is set in the near feature where a major world catastrophe has forced survivors to live underground in a huge silo. Enough time has passed for it to become the new normal and talk of the outside world is forgotten (more like forbidden). The main character is unwittingly thrust into the spotlight and before long it turns out not all is as it would appear.

    The second book goes to cover how they all ended up in the silo and the final book wraps the whole thing together. I’m trying to keep this brief as I’d hate to spoil it!

    World War Z by Max Brooks

    Genius. Very different to any other zombie fiction book you’ve read. Written in the style of a series of interviews with the people involved it explores how the zombie apocalypse came about and how the world dealt with it. Also nothing like the film that shares it’s name. I enjoyed the film but I’ve very glad I read the book first.

     

     

    Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories About People Who Know How They Will Die (by Ryan North and various!)

    Imagine if there was a machine that could predict the manner of your death? Would it change how you lived your life? This collection of stories explores just that. A fascinating concept and each author put’s their own unique spin on it that makes it a real page turner.

     

     

    Spin series by Robert Charles Wilson (comprising Spin, Axis and Vortex)

    Another enjoyable series but it was the first book that I enjoyed the most. One night the stars disappear. After some investigation it turns out a “shield” has been placed around the earth. Further investigation shows that time on Earth has been considerably slowed. Every second on Earth is years in outer space. As well as all the question about why and how this has happened it also throws up interesting concepts into space exploration. A probe to Mars would in theory take a few minutes to arrive. The the events of the first book are continued in the other books but I can’t say anything about them without totally ruining the first!

     

    Doctor Who: Shada Gareth Roberts (and Douglas Adams!)

    I originally got into Doctor Who not through the TV series but through the books. As a youngster I read just about every Doctor Who book that was in our local library! Considering that I read so little Doctor Who nowadays it’s something that will certainly change after this one caught my attention. Douglas Adams of Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy fame wrote several scripts for Doctor Who. Something I didn’t know until I found this book. On reflection though it makes perfect sense! This particular script was never filmed so Gareth Roberts has adapted it as a standalone novel. The Douglas Adams style really does come through and it was a really enjoyable read.

     

    Story Time by Linell Jeppsen

    A book about the end of the world, literally and what happens to the people in it. It’s written in a similar vein to World War Z coming from the angle of a journalist going back and covering the events after they have happened. It does get a bit weird half way through but it sort of has to really if Earth is…broken.

     

    End of the News Flesh Series and the first book in the Parasite series

    (Comprising DeadLine, Blackout, Countdown, How Green This Land How Blue This Sea,San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats, Apocalypse Scenario #683: The Box and Parasite)

    Basically everything Mira Grant has written! I’ve written posts about the first Newsflesh book in the past and how I happened to stumble across it. I’m glad I did!

    I love the characters and the world she’s created and I was gutted once I’d finished the main books in the series. It then turned out she’d written various short stories that happen in the same universe. Including a prequel that explains how the whole thing started.

    Mira then moved onto a new series called Parasite. While I didn’t quite connect with the characters in the same way as with Newsflesh I did enjoy it and I’m just disappointed I’ve got to wait so long for book two!

    If you want to see the rest of the list for 2013 it’s on GoodReads here.

  • Geekmas 2013

    Posted on January 14th, 2014 Andy Parkes No comments

    My family are always pretty good at getting me great gifts (an Amazon wish list is great “inspiration”) and this year I was pretty pleased!

    Star Wars – Book of Sith: Secrets from the Dark Side

    A very fancy case reveals a book that I can only describe as a kind of Sith Bible.

    Here’s the description from Amazon

    The Sith have existed in the galaxy for centuries, lurking, waiting for their chance to seize control. As various Sith Lords emerged and rose to power, they recorded their thoughts, exploits, and plots for Sith control of the galaxy. When they fell, their knowledge vanished with them forever. Or so it seemed. . . .
    Over the years, these writings were passed among numerous Sith and Jedi, who added their comments to the pages. In his quest for domination, Darth Sidious tracked down what remained of five pivotal Sith texts written by his most powerful predecessors. Then, drawing on the knowledge within the compiled pages, he wrote a sixth text—his own manifesto. Together, these documents, along with several collected objects associated with them, shed light on the philosophy, achievements, and failures of the Sith Order. For years, this collection remained hidden, existing as legend only. But now all who are tempted may unlock the Book of Sith and delve into the dark side. . . .

    Raspberry Pi

    image

    This credit card sized computer is a really interesting bit of kit. I wanted one when they were first released but when the initial rush caused the stock to vanish I’ll confess I didn’t get around to going back for one. I spent a couple of hours with my niece and nephew when I first got it out of the box putting a little cartoon together in Scratch. I’ve got a couple of ideas for projects I’d like to tackle with it!

    Star Trek: Enterprise – The Full Journey

     

    Like any self respecting geek I love a bit of Trek! Enterprise is the one series though that I’ve not seen anywhere near enough of. Thankfully this box set means I can put that right!

    F1 Race Stars (XBox 360)

    I saw this at EuroGamer Expo a couple of years ago and liked the look of it. It plays a little like Mario Kart and is good fun as long as you’re not expecting it to be the next Forza!

    Did you get anything shiny?

  • 2013, Done and Dusted

    Posted on January 6th, 2014 Andy Parkes No comments

    Happy New Year!

    Summing up the previous year has been a tradition here for quite a while. It’s always a useful thing as it helps me mentally review what was good, what was bad, any successes, achievements or failures and help let me know where I want to go in the next twelve months.

    There have been some really interesting things going on that I’d normally cover in detail. Evie started school, Alice sang in the school talent show, I inexplicably started hurling myself around obstacle courses and all the usual geeky outings such as Play Expo, the Harry Potter Tour and The Doctor Who Experience.

    The problem this year is that my family were hit with a really tragic piece of news in the middle of December.

    Each time I’ve sat down to try and write something about 2013 it’s the single event that has dominated my thoughts even though it happened right at the end of the year.

    So this year I’m going to keep it short and urge you to make sure 2014 is a year of happy memories.

    For me the end to 2013 was a tough reminder that you have absolutely no idea what is around the corner so make the most of the time you spend with the friends and family you love. 

    Primarily for me this means my girls who currently seem to visibly grow on a daily basis! 

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    and of course my lovely wife!

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    Hello 2014.

  • Lumie Bodyclock Starter 30

    Posted on December 10th, 2013 Andy Parkes 2 comments

    Lumie Box

    I’ve had my Lumie wake up light for a couple of weeks now and since I’d tried to do as much research as I could before getting this I thought I’d share my experience in case it’s of use to anyone else.

     

     

     

     

     

    First up what is it?

    Quite simply it’s an alarm clock with a light built-in. Half an hour before the alarm goes off the light very gradually comes on getting brighter and brighter. It’s intended to simulate a sunrise. You can also have an audible alarm for the prescribed time. I’ve got this option turned on as the light itself isn’t enough for me. Thankfully the noise it makes isn’t quite as jarring as with my “regular” alarm clock.

    Inside the box you get the alarm itself, a bulb and the instructions.

    lumie contents

    Initial setup is easy enough. Take the top off, screw the bulb in, put the top back on and plug it in.

    Lumie bulb

    Using the clock is straight forward.

    The + and – buttons are used to increase and decrease the brightness. Pressing the middle button activates the alarm program. If you’ve got the light on at the time it starts a 30 minute countdown and slowly lowers the brightness simulating a sunset.  

    When the light is turned on there are some slits in the back of the light cover to help simulate rays of sunshine. I’ve got mine tucked into a corner so the effect isn’t quite as dramatic as it could be if it was against a big empty wall.

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    Changing the options is reasonably straight forward. You hold the middle button until the display flashes and you can then press the button again to cycle through. The + and – buttons change each option.

    It did take me a little while to realise you can’t change the setting while the alarm program is on!

    Easy enough on the whole though.

    This is the entry level model. The more expensive models give you more options such as the ability to control the amount of time it takes to brighten instead of the default thirty minutes. I’m happy enough with the model I’ve got though.

    That’s the practical stuff out of the way. If that’s all you were interested in thanks for reading Winking smile.

    You might be wondering why I felt the need to get this?

    The first and most obvious reason is sleep.

    Sleep is something I’ve struggled with for years. Getting to sleep, staying asleep and waking up in the morning are all very difficult for me and have been for as long as I can remember. I’ve tried various things down the years but it’s just something I’ve learnt to deal with. (which isn’t without it’s benefit, sleepless nights with two kids were just normal to me!)

    However, this year I actually realised that on the whole I’d sleep pretty well during the summer.

    This brings me onto the second reason, winter.

    I really dislike the winter in the UK. The cold, wet and dark make me miserable and it was only this year I joined the dots to realise that my problems with sleep seem to be much worse once summer finishes.

    This lead me to look into Seasonal Affective Disorder (sometimes called the Winter Blues)

    Looking down the list of symptoms highlighted a lot of things that do seem to affect me that I’d not really considered as part of something bigger.

    Now…I’m not normally one for self diagnosis after reading something on the Internet but I figured that getting the clock wouldn’t do any harm just to see what happens. At the very worse it would mean I wouldn’t have to turn the light on in the morning!

    A few weeks in I have a couple of things to report.

    It hasn’t made all that much difference to how easy it is to get up. It’s just not bright enough to wake me up on it’s own. I’ve had to use the audible alarm too.

    However there have been two noticeable differences.

    Firstly, I am actually sleeping better. I’ll know a little bit more as the months go by but I’m waking less in the night and significantly I’m actually remembering dreams. This is hard to describe unless your really sleep deprived and have experienced it! Dreams are something that I’m not usually aware of. I’m not saying I never have them but I very rarely wake up knowing I’ve had a dream.

    Last night I dreamt I’d won a million pounds on a scratch card….

    The most important difference is how my mornings go.

    Until I started using the clock I’d wake up with what I can only describe as low energy levels. It sets up an awful start for the day and comes with various problems around mood, and motivation. It’s not something I can easily describe but it’s more than just tiredness.

    Now I have a new found alertness when starting out. It doesn’t mean I’m suddenly not tired but the huge feeling of lethargy just doesn’t seem to be there anymore.

    I’m pleasantly surprised as I’ll be honest I was a little sceptical about the whole SAD thing and wasn’t sure if a light would make any difference. 

    I’m going to give it until the new year and take a look at a proper light therapy lamp. Sunrise simulators are not specifically used to treat SAD. They can help with some of the sleep related symptoms but actual treatment is with a specific type of light. I’ll likely talk to my doctor too.(you know, because of that whole self diagnosis thing!)

    I got my lamp from Amazon but they are available from lots of different places.

    Further reading:

    The Seasonal Affective Disorder Association (SADA)

    sad.org.uk (has a list of various approved manufacturers)

  • Podcast List for 2013

    Posted on December 5th, 2013 Andy Parkes 4 comments

    It’s fair to say I came pretty late to podcasts. Between my music collection and the radio I was pretty generally entertained in any scenario where I had the opportunity to listen to something.

    However after having a variety of podcasts recommended to me (and Radio 1 deciding they don’t want me as part of their audience) podcasts are now my primary in car entertainment.

    Having your own personally curated radio station is perfect for whiling away the miles on any journey!

    Since my first foray into podcast listening was through recommendation so in no particular order here’s what I’ve got on my phone at the moment.

    Welcome To Night Vale – This won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but if you “get” it then it’s very entertaining. It’s the community radio station for the fictional town of Night Vale where the weird, wonderful and terrifying are mundane and routine.

    Freakonomics Radio – A companion to the book that “explores the hidden side of everything”. This is one of my favourites as it puts a different spin on a variety of topics. A great example is the show they did around car parking. Sounds dull but was one of the most interesting things I’d heard in ages! 

    This American Life – This is a recent addition but one I’m hooked on. First-person stories and short fiction pieces that are touching, funny, and surprising. One of the first couple of episodes I listened to had me welling up in the car!

    The Bugle – satirical news podcast. That’s enough to describe it! Has me in stiches every week as John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman slaughter the weeks events.

    The Jeff Rubin Jeff Rubin Show – very geek culture orientated (just how I like it!) but in depth interviews with a ton of interesting people from the world of geek. 

    Wired.co.uk Podcast – Complementary podcast to the Wired UK magazine and it’s accompanying website. Takes a look at the weekly events in the world of science, technology and business. 

    RadioLab – very similar to This American Life. They take a concept and dig up interviews and stories around that theme. Some very powerful stories make for compelling listening.

    Stuff You Should Know – Very cool. With titles like “How werewolves work” and “How Guide Dogs Work” this is pretty self explanatory.

    Richard Herring Leicester Square Theatre Podcast – or as all the cool kids are calling it RHLSTP! Richard Herring chats with the biggest names in comedy and entertainment in only the way Richard Herring can! Serious and ridiculous in equal measure. his is podcast where Stephen Fry revealed he’d once tried to take his own life.

    Friday Night Comedy From Radio 4 – Alternating between The News Quiz and The Now Show.Comical look at the weeks events. I listened to these shows before I started listening to podcasts. Now I don’t miss any!”"

    Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project – Adam Savage from MythBusters fame! Primarily about the “maker community” but frequently talks about movies, comics and similar subjects. Adam tells really interesting stories so I enjoy it even if it’s not a topic I’m specifically interested in.

    Radio 4 Comedy of Week – A weekly comedy program from Radio 4 with a variety of different shows and comedians.

    CIAOPS Need to Know Podcast – Small Business Community stalwart, SharePoint and Office 365 expert Robert Crane regularly interviews a variety of people from around the world who are involved in SMB IT. Always informative!

    I’ve also got some other new podcasts that are queued up for to listen to or I’ve only just added – I’ll likely update this list once I’ve listened to them properly.

    The Indoor Kids

    Smart People Podcast

    Sophos Security

    Writing Excuses

    Rooster Teeth

    Bill Burr’s Monday Mornings Podcast

    Good Job, Brain!

    We’re Alive

    Security Now

    Wired Storyboard (RSS)

    Writers Bloc

    Richard Tubb also has a “Recommended Podcasts for IT Business Owners” list which is well worth a look.

    Is there anything you’re listening to I’m missing out on?

  • So Long Windows Phone, Hello Android

    Posted on November 1st, 2013 Andy Parkes 1 comment

    Earlier in the month I wrote about my thoughts on the decision I’d be making for replacing my phone.

    You probably figured it out already from the title though…

    I’ve ended my long running association with Windows Phone and gone with the Samsung Galaxy S4.

    image

    As mentioned in the last post this was a tough choice. I genuinely do really like the direction Microsoft have taken Windows Phone, especially after the frustration that was Windows Mobile 6.5.

    Unfortunately, as with the Surface RT I mentioned recently the current state of the app store is hard to deal with. Too many apps either never arrive, are poorer versions of their iOS and Android equivalents or are just too late to the party. The Instagram app is due imminently for example when everyone else has had it for a long time.

    Instragram is a good example to use actually. Mrs P has been an iPhone user for some time and there are a ton of photos of my own children I’d never seen because they are day to day shots she takes and shares on Instagram. I miss plenty of things on Vine too as it’s meant to be used pretty much entirely through the app.

    I know those are two specific examples but on the gaming front WordsWithFriends and DrawSomething had come and gone as crazes go before the Windows Phone versions were available.

    I’ve only been using it for a week or so but I’ve already come across a couple apps that just aren’t available on Windows Phone that I’m becoming attached to. Live Scores Addicts is a particular favourite. And the Richard Tubb recommended DoggCatcher has fulfilled my podcasting needs and is used daily.

    So the phone itself.

    I was tempted to wait for the Nexus 5 but I ran out of time waiting for the official announcements as there were other people at work waiting on a phone upgrade.

    The Nexus 5 was annoyingly announced as I was writing this. It looks very nice indeed!

    As phones go it’s pretty big but it’s not so big that it doesn’t comfortably fit in the pocket and it sits nicely in the hand. The screen is really crisp and video and pictures look very sharp. I’ve not taken too many pictures but the results have been good enough for what I need it for. I’m still pretty taken back with how thin and light it is. The volume when using headphones is much better than on my last device and while it isn’t a huge thing I’ve noticed the difference when driving as some podcasts have entirely different volume levels to others and there were one or two I used to struggle to hear. From a performance perspective I’ve no complaints at all. It’s snappy and everything opens pretty much instantly. Although comparing the Galaxy S4 to my previous Omnia 7 on the hardware front isn’t strictly fair. The Omnia 7 was never meant to compete at that end of the market. (I think?). Battery life has been pretty good even while I’ve been hammering it while getting used to it.

    It also has some features I’ve not quite got to yet, such as eye tracking, multi window and air gesture which will be interesting to take a look at.

    The 4G speeds are obviously nice too…even if they are a little erratic depending on where I am. That’ll get better over time as the network matures (We’re with EE)

    Screenshot_2013-10-30-22-33-09

    Three of these were in our office in Coventry. One while I was visiting a client in Birmingham

    Android.

    This is my first real regular use of Android.

    I’m going to write a separate post about my experiences but initially it’s been pretty positive. If I had to choose one positive and one negative from my first impressions I’d go for the notification centre as the biggest win for me so far. It’s something that was severely lacking in Windows Phone and already I’m not sure what I’d do without it.

    On the flip side I miss the social integration Windows Phone has. Specifically the people hub and the me tile (is that two things?). It’s possible I’ll find apps that fill that gap for me in time though.

    I’ve also quickly discovered a whole world of customisation is available to me and I imagine it won’t be too long before I’m picking out one of the many available ROMs!

    Alongside the Nexus 5 announcement was the Android 4.4 KitKat release. Hopefully I won’t have to wait too long before it’s available for my phone.