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A quick mention for @lookeastmidland

November 2011

Considering I'm a techie, I can be a bit of a Luddite at times. When I first joined Twitter, I was convinced I wouldn't have the patience/enthusiasm/time for it, and was a bit short-sighted in seeing its value to my business.

That was then; this is now. There's a growing virtual business community here in Derbyshire, and I'm all too pleased to be a part of it. And special thanks go out to @lookeastmidland. Each day they pick a 'biz of the day' and tweet mentions to their (as I type) 1700+ followers. What a great idea! Today was my turn - very pleased indeed!

See also:-
Last Updated on Thursday, 29 November 2012 15:56
 

BlackBerry OS 6: a worthy upgrade

July 2011

A couple of weeks ago I upgraded my BlackBerry Bold 9700 to the new OS 6, and I must say, I'm impressed with the end results.

Things got off to a promising start with the upgrade itself. The BlackBerry desktop software presented v6.0 bundle 2534 as an upgrade option, and proceeded to give clear, user-friendly instructions at each step of the upgrade. The entire process took about 40 minutes.

Image of BlackBerry Bold 9700 running OS6

Photo: my Bold 9700 running OS 6. I'm very pleased.

There was just one blip. After the point of no return had been passed, the upgrade process reported a USB error saying it couldn't find the BlackBerry device. As an engineer one of my pet hates is unhelpful messages that don't suggest a course of action, but BlackBerry got this one right: the error suggested various remedies, including connecting the device direct to PC (i.e. not via a hub). This I did, and the upgrade recovered and proceeded without further complaint. Refreshing. (This issue only existed during the upgrade itself; I've since connected in my usual manner via a hub, and all is well).

With the upgrade complete, I immediately liked what I saw. The new UI is smart, snappy and well laid-out. The new notifications bar is very handy. Apps, messages and media are now easily accessed via 'trays' that slide open and closed as needed. Options are extensive, well organised and all have sensible defaults as far as I can see. And of course there's the new universal search facility: just start typing, and results from your messages, apps and media will progressively narrow with each key stroke. The new OS 6 browser is much better than its predecessor, although having multiple tabs open should be used sparingly on a device with just 256Mb memory.

I'm also pleased to say that OS 6 fixes a particularly annoying problem that seemed common on Bolds running OS 5. With lengthy SMS conversations, the Bold would occasionally get its knickers in a twist and refuse to open the thread, or allow new messages to be added to it. Sometimes the only remedy was to delete the thread and start afresh. OS 6 has no such issues.

One annoying problem not fixed though is the occasional tendancy to fall off the Wifi network, and refuse to re-associate. This seems a common problem, and as yet I don't have a clear idea of cause or remedy. On a related note I can 'fix' the problem by rebooting my router, but thereafter OS 6 seems much more reluctant to re-establish UMA connectivity than OS 5. More research and fiddling in these areas required.

A new problem introduced by OS 6 really needs fixing soon. If the device is turned 'off' with the red button, when switched on again I'm prompted to select an Orange Plus service - either to make a call (e.g. to my voicemail), or to select an SMS information service. I can of course cancel, but it does this every switch-on, and - more imortantly - it does so before the password prompt. This is a serious security flaw IMHO. This issue doesn't occur during a reboot proper.

Overall performance is good, and the new application manager is very handy for monitoring CPU and memory usage. Just search for 'app man' and you'll see it there, under options. Thus far I've had one post-upgrade incident of the Bold slowing to a crawl: it wasn't going to recover and was hammering the battery. I rebooted via ALT-SHIFT-DEL, and all was well thereafter.

See also:-
Last Updated on Monday, 26 November 2012 15:43
 

Gardening for softies

July 2011

Weeding takes a little longer when you're a softie.

I was helping with some weeding on the parental rockery over the weekend, and happened across an ants' nest. Much as it was necessary to get the job done, I'd have preferred not to have disturbed their home. As it was I moved rocks as gently as I could, and stood over them, watching, shielding their delicate eggs from the hot sun as they hurriedly busied themselves with moving their babies to safety. They are plentiful in number of course, and my gardening won't impact the overall population. But that doesn't preclude a little care for the natural world.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 July 2011 13:05
 

Blue Peter test equipment

May 2011

 

I've been having some fun making some home-made test equipment.

I need the facility to independently switch multiple low-voltage circuits between fully on, and briefly on when a push button is pressed. The software project I'm working on will respond to these signals and do appropriate things.

So an alternative home was found for some old photos, and I drilled 24 holes into the plastic case they came in. A strip of 5mm ply was glued to the back of the lid to strengthen it, which handily doubled up as something to attach the connector strips to.

Tinning 60 switch tabs and soldering on 48 bits of wire was a bit tedious if the truth be known, but I have ended up with a very handy 12-way control panel. I'm rather pleased with it, and if that were not reward enough, I now have a most pleasant glass of a 2002 La Mancha on the go.

Photos: Almost completed, and all connected up. Some wall fixings also proved useful :)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 July 2011 12:55
 

Mud, music and gobos

August 2010

Had a great time at the Reading Festival over the Bank Holiday weekend. We don't go every year, but this was about our 6th or so Reading. I've also got a few WOMADs and Big Sessions under my festival belt.

I'm clearly getting old though: the average age of most of my fellow revellers seemed young enough to be my offspring. Not that I care; I'm young-at-heart enough to have enjoyed being barefoot in all the mud. Who needs wellies?

Meanwhile, I found myself doing what I usually do at music festivals: second-guessing how the lights were divvied up between DMX universes, and marvelling at the robustness of RS485 datacomms. Sad old man...

Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 September 2010 13:45
 

Bringing back the old days

August 2010

This item on the Beeb news website caught my attention. Exposing modern ICT students to early personal computing history is laudable, but it struck me that the the descriptions of the friendly versus the unforgiving were the wrong way around.

Yes, the old fashioned BASIC interpreters may seem primitive compared to modern GUI environments. But they were easy to learn, and in an afternoon any teenager could be introduced to the fundamentals of computer programming and actually be making the machine do something of their choosing. Modern computers are so sophisticated and so complicated in comparison that not an inconsiderable amount of technical know-how is required to achieve anything interesting at all.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 September 2010 13:12
 

All clogged up

August 2010

It's a very rare thing indeed, but sometimes even I need to break out the clogs.

I attended a birthday party bash this month that required a slightly smarter turn-out than my usual scruffiness. Great do, and great to see old friends again, but blimey I disliked being stuck in shoes for an afternoon. With this occasion being only the 3rd or 4th shoe-sufference in some 18 months, the sense of disconnection was surprisingly potent.

The idea of zero shoe ownership appeals to me. With any modicum of common sense hat on this would seem impractical or unwise, but given how I felt above maybe I should just get on with it...

Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 September 2010 14:16
 

New-look Feast website and programme

August 2010

The new-look Feast website and 2010 event programme were published this month, and this year's publications were created by ML Design.

Barefoot Software continues to look after internal systems at the Feast office, and I'm looking forward to seeing everyone again at this year's Feast on 23 & 24 October.

See also:-
Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 September 2010 12:48
 

Party weekend!

May 2010

Five of the team connected with Gwledd Conwy Feast in various ways have birthdays this month, so it has become a newly established tradition for us to have a bit of a knees up around the end of May. And a great night was had too! I live miles away from them all and it's always ace to see everyone again.

Amusingly, one of my fellow party-goers gave me a bottle of Merlot from Barefoot Wine, and another gave me a keyring bottle opener in the shape of a bare footprint. Boozy barefoot boy, clearly.

Wasn't all play and no work though. OpenVPN was deployed on the Feast office network to enable key people to access office resources from home or whilst on the move. Thus far a seemingly excellent piece of software and straight forward to set up.

See also:-
Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 September 2010 12:44
 

Polling day

May 2010

Wearing a Barefoot Software hoodie regularly spares me the familiar questions I would otherwise hear, as was the case at the polling station this morning. In a spot of banter with the officials though I did ask if they amused themselves by second-guessing how folk might vote based on their appearance...

This morning's drizzle was refreshing to walk in, but the weather is uninspiring for May. Despite this, turn-out had been respectable even by mid-morning apparently. Looking like it's going to be an interesting election...

Last Updated on Friday, 07 May 2010 15:05
 
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