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Archive for May, 2012

Sun is out and your solar lights are shot

It’s that time of the year, the sun is coming out, it’s time to get out and sort the garden – you’re thinking those B&Q solar lights you bought will at long last, once again be springing to life.. and…. no, I GUARANTEE if you’re reading this and you have solar lights, at least one of them will be stone, cold, dead.

Crappy B&Q Solar LightsThe reason? It has nothing to do with the technology, it’s old-fashioned RUST. You see it doesn’t ever rain in China OR anywhere near a B&Q store and so the idea of water-proofing solar lights has never entered the heads of those involved. Simple, really.

Now, we’re not talking about rubbishy black plastic lights here but the later generation of stainless-steel and as we all know, stainless steel doesn’t rust. So you can add to the mix of no rain, my imagination…

BECAUSE IT SURE AS HELL LOOKS LIKE RUST TO ME.

What you’re looking at on the right is the scene UNDER the blue photovoltaic panel (solar panel) on a typical B&Q late-model solar garden light – I think we bought these in October or thereabouts. The light was dead. I took the battery out and charged it for a while and sure enough the light came on… but would NOT turn off in daylight – the reason is obvious…

The lights work by a tiny circuit who’s job is to take the voltage from the single battery up to something that will power a LED. It’s other job is to turn off the lights when the solar panel sees daylight (by which it charges the battery). With no solar panel connection, there is no charging –and no turn-off so the battery just flattens.

tmp8A92How could a new unit get into this state-  simple – eventually they ALL do because for some reason, either B&Q don’t specify or the Chinese simply don’t understand the concept of waterproofing. Either that or just as likely this is deliberate – sell them cheap, get people to replace them every year.

Were it not for this, the circuits would last a lifetime or more, the LEDS would last many years, the battery would likely be good for 5 years and the solar light would last between 2-3 years to 20 years depending on the plastic they use – some of the really cheap solar cells frost over after 2 years of even British sunshine, the glass-topped ones don’t do this.

But none of that matters if it all rusts to hell.

tmpEE54Worth resurrecting? Technically no, of course not…  as they only cost a couple of quid each – but if it’s a Sunny Sunday and you happen to have a soldering iron, silicon sealant and WD14 handy… why not! This particular model is now happily collecting light back in it’s natural habitat – which it is NOW capable of handling. A spot of WD40 on the board after soldering the wire back on – and a spot of silicon seal under the solar panel so the water can no longer get under there…

Worth taking the whole thing back to B&Q and making someone’s day – CERTAINLY but like me, by now you’ve probably lost the receipt and thrown the box in the bin. If only enough of us could muster up the energy to keep taking these things back and complaining – ultimately they’d get it and produce proper solar lights – no doubt about it – correctly made these things DO work and work well. Sadly, I think it’s simply down to most being made to a price. There’s a reason they have a circuit to ramp the voltage up – it’s cheaper than using 3 batteries!

Froot Loops

Some years ago, Maureen and I stayed at the Conrad Hilton in Chicago. This was at the height of my business travel using the Hiltons (which I rarely do now as I don’t think the general ones are up to much) – and accordingly I had a Hilton Gold “HHonors” card.. which doesn’t mean a whole lot in the UK.

LifeSaversFruity LoopsArriving at the Conrad Hilton on holiday on the basic room rate, I presented the hhonors card and we were immediately upgraded to a large room with his and hers separate bathrooms etc. – very nice. Instead of eating with the rest, the Conrad has (or had a few years ago) a separate room for hhonors guests with a great view of the waterfront. Breakfast was great – I’d never come across Kellogg’s Froot Loops before and really liked them. I never thought twice other than to make a mental note to get some when I got back to the UK.

Typically – no Froot Loops in the UK  – just boring chocolate -  that was the end of that….

Yesterday we happened to be at the THREE (3) store at the Gateshead Metro Centre where we got into conversation with a very pleasant female assistant who started talking about how much she liked American sweets  – Maureen offered  her some American gum she just happened to have and she was over the moon. In an almost empty 3 store she told us we were the first sale of the day and how quiet the Metro Centre had been.  In conversation she mentioned the new American sweet store just opened – and just around the corner. We figured we’d investigate.

Fruity LoopsAbsolutely amazing – there was a QUEUE formed outside the store  and they were only letting people in two at a time – we met Americans who were desperate for a taste of back home – and others who were British but clearly knew their American sweets. We joined the queue.

BOY is the stuff expensive – but worth it. They have a ton of American sweets, drinks and cereals – including the one I was after – Froot Loops – just had them for breakfast – brings back memories! Not something you’d want to eat every day mind you -  but just for a change – kits would LOVE the colours – sadly, by the time they get here, there might just be none left!

Apparently there are those who’ve thought of opening such a store and figured there would be no demand. WRONG. Might be something to think about in other parts of the UK and if you do open a store – would you grab a variety of Crystal Light and let me know as that’s the one thing they didn’t have (Interesting spelling for an American product don’t you think).

I did, in searching the web happen to find this if anyone’s taste buds are working….

Anyone for Pie? The Raspberry is on it’s way

I’m not normally prone to stopping up until 4am and I am about to give up for the night – but the Raspberry Pi has been 3 months in arriving thanks to various delays – and I received notice today that it’s on it’s way – which I’m assuming means it’ll turn up in the next few days, maybe even tomorrow. I can’t wait! Meanwhile for more information.. http://www.raspberrypi.org/. More when it arrives.

tmp70EF

Ice-Cream Anyone? The new white HTC ONE X

Against my better judgement (but then it’s usually that way) my wife, desperate for a new phone and frustrated by continued delays with the forthcoming Samsung S3, decided today was going to be the day she got her new phone and so off we went to the Metro Centre in Gateshead.

She headed to the Orange store where she got her original HTC Desire from – and I managed to persuade her to pop firstly into the 3 store – where I got my iPhone 4. Having been an Orange customer for many years, some time ago I’d simply had it with their utterly useless technical support and wavering definition of “unlimited data”.. I went to get my iPhone 4 and they informed me that I could have unlimited data – but that I would have to pay an extra £10 a month to share that data with my iPad. Well, you can imagine how I felt about that and to cut a long story short, I simply got out of the contract and went elsewhere.

3 offered truly unlimited, unrestricted data- and sure enough having bought my iPhone 4 with 3, I could share it with my iPad – and have done ever since, not to mention playing endless Internet radio when in the car. Marvellous. I have no complaints – batter life could be better but then that applies to virtually all top-end phones.

tmpD4FDFor the above reasons alone I did my best to convince my wife to change suppliers. She was not convinced until today, we went first to the 3 store and they were offering the new HTC One X for £29 a month with unlimited data. Back we went to the Orange store wherein we asked the assistant if they had the new Samsung – no. Ok, did they have the HTC X1 – yes – at £41 for unlimited data. This apparently is the best they can do – when asked if they still matched other people’s rates the assistant INSISTED EMPHATICALLY that they’d never done that. Sadly for him we both have long memories of having had Orange do just that on several occasions… by this point we were so disgusted with Orange I didn’t have to do any convincing – straight across the road to the 3 store and shortly thereafter out came my wife with a brand, spanking new HTC One X.

I’m not that keen on HTC having had many years of dealing with their phones supplied to staff.. and having watched buttons drop off etc.… but I have to say, they do seem to be improving. Whether this model will compare to Samsung S3 or the forthcoming iPhone 5 is another matter but the setup (Ice-Cream Sandwich) was devastatingly easy, the large screen is stunning and the phone is very light and thin. With a 1.5Ghz quad-core processor the screen is lightning fast and transferring information from the old to the new phone, I did in the store while she was filling in forms.. a trained monkey could have done the job. 

Key things to note, the HTC desire, though capable of handling a large external memory was screwed by having only 256 meg internally – and no matter what you do – you have to use a small but of that memory for every application you install – even if that application itself is stored in external memory.

The ONE X is very different – out of the box it has 1 GB of internal memory but ALSO has 32GB of permanently built-in “external” memory.  Installing the Sat-Nav software we use along with Spanish and UK maps hardly made a dent in the available storage and I’m confident the phone will handle more Apps than are likely to get installed by a long way. The S3 incidentally will have a higher monthly cost so that needs to be taken into consideration when comparing the two.

As time and experience progress I’ll update this blog. Up to now the white model is looking very nice. Would I swap for my iPhone? No, they still have a long way to go – but Ice Cream Sandwich is a very welcome improvement on the previous operating system version…  First thing to get tested once the battery is fully charged will be the 1080p HD video recording capability…  I mean – in a PHONE for heaven’s sake!!