Browse Month

January 2010

HTC Hero – my early thoughts

I’ve now had my HTC Hero (AKA T-Mobile G2 Touch) since yesterday, so thought I’d give an update on my initial impressions and thoughts.

There were a few initial issues but these were all related to my network provider, rather than the fault of the phone – my data connection didn’t work (T-Mobile had to resend my settings) and I couldn’t access the Android Marketplace (this is because it may contain content for over 18’s so you have to override this on the T-Mobile website).

Once all that was sorted, I was off.

My thoughts, before I got the phone, is that Android provides only the basics, expecting you to populate your phone from the Marketplace with what you want. Well, thanks to all the “additions” from HTC, this is not the case and I’ve been surprised how “well stocked” the default set-up is.

I was very impressed with the way that I supplied my Google signin details once and it automatically connected all the appropriate Google apps – including downloading all my contacts to the phone book. A nice touch.

There is no PC software with the phone, but you can download HTC syncronisation software – but this is merely to syncronise contacts, etc, with PC applications, something I don’t use. That means there’s no backup software, which will be one issue I’ll need to tackle.

Once connected via USB there is an option on the phone to “mount” the device to the PC, allowing the phone to act as an external hard drive. From here you can use Picasa to import any photos and Windows Media Player to synchronise music.

Now I continue with setting the phone up and getting it just how I’d like. The built in alarm clock is okay, but doesn’t have a “vibrate only” option (and when I’m getting up at 5:30am this is essential for me) – I may have to splash out a whole $1.99 for something more advanced!

The Apple iPad – my views

So, the Apple iPad has been announced after months – and months – of speculation.

Many people were expecting some exciting name, with it often being referred to as a “slate”. In the end it’s the underwhelmingly named iPad. You see, it sounds like iPod. How they must have chuckled at their own ingenuity.

The thing is, nobody was really talking beforehand about the software – that’s the one thing that Apple are good at and with the iPhone and Mac OS already available, it was obvious that one of them would be used. None-the-less, most thought it would be the latter as they were expecting a slim, multi-touch computing device. In the end, it’s turned out to be a big iPod.

And there’s the rub – Apple have traditionally not been so good with the hardware so, to me at least, the resultant iPad isn’t very exciting.  It literally is a big iPod. Or iPhone if you buy the 3G version. Look at the picture above of Steve Jobs with the iPad – it does look like he’s got some kind of promotional oversized iPod in his hands. To me, it looks like some kind of bad Photoshop picture.

What does the iPad offer? Well, it’s got a special screen with a wide viewing angle but it’s smaller than the screen on my Netbook. It’s not even OLED – it’s just a bog standard LED with better viewing angles. And, well, that’s about it.

Apple are intending to target gamers and, particularly, eBook readers.

The former, well, I can’t see it working. Gamers either want full scale powerful gaming or a pocketable device – this is neither. Electronic Ink based eBook readers are 100 times 1 better for reading eBooks with. Why spend £500 on an iPad instead of under £200 for a dedicated eBook reader?

Okay, I’m not Apple lover but I can appreciate a good bit of kit and I will happily say good things about the iPod and iPhone, even if I don’t want one myself. But the iPad has left me cold. I just don’t get it.

  1. okay, maybe I made that statistic up[]

I Need A Hero.. a day earlier

My plan WAS to order the Hero tomorrow for delivery on Friday at work. However, I had a nagging feeling that I should check this assumption first.

And I was right to – T-Mobile will only deliver to your home address.

A quick phone call revealed that they delivery next day before 1am if they receive the order before 16:45 1. At this point it was 16:40 and I realised my wife would be home until 1am tomorrow but not on Friday. You’ve never seen an order rushed so much before (but I did remember to use Quidco to get £35 back!)!

So, instead of there now being 2 days remaining, it’s now 1.

But, can I resist getting home tomorrow and not using it 2?

  1. their website said that it’s a 2 day delivery[]
  2. the reason for this is because, I believe, the Hero wants to connect you, via a non-secure Wi-fi connection, to register your user details as soon as you start using it. I can do that at work but not at home. Well, not without turning off encryption temporarily.[]

3 days to go…

Anybody who follows me on Twitter (or Facebook) will know that I’ve been counting down since yesterday. Today is 3 days to go.

To what?

Yes, it’s finally come around. My contract with Carphone Warehouse and O2 has been cancelled and expires in a couple of weeks – time to get a new one. And the HTC Hero it will be. Or, rather, the G2 Touch, which is T-Mobiles name for it.

T-Mobile it is simply because of the cost. Where everybody else is insisting on £35 a month for a reasonable number of minutes and text (and unlimited data) for 24 months, T-Mobile is offering it at £27.50 for 18 months. In all cases, the phone is free. With a £35 Quidco cashback, that equates to £460 over the contract period. This compares to £680 at Vodafone or Orange and £760 with 3.

On top of this, I also need to consider selling my Nokia. When doing something like this I’d recommend using the MobileValuer site which can compare the various companies that pay cashback for them. At the moment my N95 is worth £122.51. Again, factor in cashback from Quidco and the final tally is £122.51. Take that off my contract and my bill over the next 18 months is £337.49. Not bad.

Now I’m trawling through the huge number of sites that recommend Android apps to see what I’d like to install – I plan to make a lot more use of this phone than my N95, which I didn’t really get on with. It’s very confusing though, with many people recommending different apps – trying them together I suspect is going to be the best way.

Naturally, expect to see my own lists sometime soon. If you have any of your own that you’d like to recommend, then please let me know.

How to get incompatible Firefox add-ons to work

Firefox 3.6 has been released and that means, once again, that you might find some of your add-ons don’t work. Now, this isn’t Firefox just wanting to cause problems for us all, but for genuine security and stability reasons.

None-the-less, if you need to get an add-on working, then there is a (relatively) simple way to do it.

  • Download the .XPI add-on file
  • Change the file extension from .XPI to .ZIP (because that is what they really are)
  • Double click the .ZIP and you should see a file called install.rdf
  • Drag this file out of the zip, to your folder or desktop
  • Open the .RDF file with Notepad
  • Find the line that contains maxVersion and change the 3.5 to the current version of Firefox
  • Save and close the .RDF
  • Drag the edited file back into the .ZIP
  • Close the .ZIP and rename it back to .XPI
  • Double click the .XPI and it should offer to install to Firefox

Daily Fail

It’s easy to poke fun at the Daily Mail. And just as easy to get angry at it.

It’s for these reasons that I usually leave it up to many other blogs to pick over its rotting carcass and shriek hysterically at it. One such blog highlighted one of those “light” show business pieces where they were, well, insulting the ex-cast of Friends by pointing out the fact that they’d aged.

After coming across the original Daily Mail article today something in particular took my notice…

Before signing up last year to another sitcom called Cougar Town, things had become so bad careerwise that Miss Cox, who played Monica Geller, applied for a licence to work as an estate agent.

Was it that bad? Well, seconds later I had my answer courtesy of Wikipedia… she was playing a “real estate” agent in the aforementioned sitcom. Coincidence? I’m guessing not. Although no word as to whether the Mail have somehow mixed her fictional and real life characters or whether she applied for a licence so that she could “try” the job that she was acting out. Indeed it was the fact that most actors do the latter that made me look it up.

Who’d have thought that the Mail wouldn’t have taken a few seconds out from their busy schedule of bigotry to check it out for themselves?

Another satisfied customer!

After a mild rant back in December about some of the support queries I get (with regard to my WordPress plugins), I’m happy to say that I’ve had the pleasure to work with someone who has actually been helpful, responsive and, more importantly, replied to his emails 😉

A Dutch gentleman named Bas de Meijer reported a couple of problems via a comment on one of my plugin pages. One I was able to resolve quite quickly and update the relevant plugin, the other was, erm, more difficult to pin down. This was related to another plugin and turned out to be due to me using a PHP command that didn’t work in PHP 4 (which he was using). As far as I know this command is the only one of this type that I’d used and it was a simple job to modify it to something else and get the compatibility. However, to actually work out what it was I had to send Bas a number of different versions of my plugin, each with more and more debug output being added.

The result was the two plugin releases announced last night – indeed, even adding Technorati to Simple Social Bookmarks was his idea. Thanks Bas. But, then again, he seemed to enjoy the experience just as much….

Thanks again for the great job you have done. Not only by designing the plugin, but also by spending a lot of time to debug it with me. It is much easier to say ‘it should work, so you must be doing something right’ or ‘well, upgrade your system’. But you really wanted to make it work. That suites you.

It was a pleasure helping you. I know from myself that I rather would solve the problem, than to switch to something else.

So come on, those who have a problem, report it, but never respond back to me – I don’t bite!

Elvaston Castle

Elvaston Castle, just outside Derby, is a fantastic 19th century house set in 200 acres of woodlands, parkland and gardens. It’s open to the public and I’ve been going there since my eldest daughter was young.

Unfortunately, it’s under threat. Derbyshire County Council, who own it, are threatening to sell it to a private company to be made into a hotel with much of the grounds to be used as a golf course.

Naturally, as soon as I heard I signed the requisite petition.

However, speaking to a friend, who has also visited the grounds on many occasions, I was set thinking. He believes that selling it is the only way to ensure the house doesn’t crumble away and that DCC doesn’t just end up having to pay hand-over-fist. But surely that can’t be it? Surely there must be a way to save it for the public?

Well, a quick look on the internet proved there was. The Friends of Elvaston Castle are a group dedicated to saving the buildings and grounds for any such private ownership. And reading their site shows that things aren’t always what they seem. They have some grand, but sensible, plans hampered generally by DCC who, amongst other things, won’t release financial details. Yet one of the main reasons for DCC wanting to sell it is because of the costs (and, indeed, my friends main argument).

But let’s just stop there a second. Why should the fact that it costs money each year be a problem? Isn’t that what we pay our council tax for? Should everything pay for itself? Or as the Friends of Elvaston Castle put it…

This must raise the question as to why the Derbyshire County Council can no longer finance the annual maintenance costs of the Country Park when these costs should surely have been budgeted for when the authority annually sets its ratepayer’s council tax for the provision of Countryside Services?

They believe that a not-for-profit trust should take over ownership, ensuring that the house and grounds remain available to the public, yet doing what DCC hasn’t done – promote it! It gets 20% of the annual footfall that Alton Towers does, yet charges a small fee for parking and has nothing but a small cafe and gift shop on site. If DCC is losing money, it’s not trying very hard to prevent it. I guess the handsome income from selling to a private company is more appealing!

So, apologies to my friend, selling to a private company is NOT the best approach. Maybe if all other avenues have been exhausted then it could be a final route to take, but it’s quite obvious that this has not happened. But we mustn’t think that because a local council can’t support a local amenity, then this is the only solution – there are usually groups of people willing to take on such a challenge.

In the small village that I grew up, stands the last working windmill in Nottinghamshire. I don’t know how many hours of my life I’ve spent there. But today it stands desperately in need of help. For something like this, there probably isn’t a private option 1. In this case they are already run by a “Friends” group, but even they are struggling. Local fund-raising isn’t enough and a recent theft of metal from the building has left them even worse off. Consider the millions of wasted pounds every year from government and you wonder why this kind of thing is allowed to happen in the first place.

But I’ll leave the last words to The Friends…

Through our own research and enquiries, we believe that the Elvaston Castle Estate, run on sound business practices which have been proven successful by both trusts and local authorities in other areas, will not only protect vital public open space but also contribute to giving our citizens an improved society in which to live.

  1. unless somebody wants to have the sails removed and turn it into a house[]

Secure Gmail & how to get Notifier to work

For some time Gmail has offered the ability to default to using HTTPS, for more secure access. However, they have now announced that it is to be made the default.

One thing this will lead to, assuming you use it, is Gmail Notifier to stop working.

Google themselves, hidden away in a help screen 1, offer a solution to this in the way of a downloadable registry change that will force Notifier to use HTTPS too. Simply download the zip file, uncompress it and run the file named notifier_https.reg. There’s a second file in the folder too – notifier_https_undo.reg – this is for restore Gmail Notifier back to how it was.

  1. read the section in the yellow box[]

Displaying WordPress short codes

I’m in the process of writing some instructions for a new plugin – one which uses WordPress short codes. They’re the useful codes that you put in square brackets and are replaced by something else.

The problem is then documenting, because your plugin then wants to convert your text to the appropriate output.

Thankfully, my solution is quick and simple – and it involves another short code!

Open up your themes function.php file and add the following lines of code to it…

Then, simply wrap [showme] and [/showme] around any short codes that you don’t want to be interpreted but do want to be displayed.