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Archive for December, 2012

A Happy New Year to All

Today we spent the day at our holiday cottage – having reserved it for a few days – we often travel abroad but this year we thought it would be nice to stay local. Not ones for organised partying we were at the Cheviot in Bellingham a few weeks ago and made a booking for dinner for tonight on the understanding that normal meals would be running (I have a "christmas food" gene missing)!

Their food is great but I’m not one for Christmas food (or Christmas pricing) so this sounded like a bargain!

This afternoon we had lunch in a train carriage at the Bellingham heritage centre (very civilised) and then after a short break headed off to the Cheviot. When we got there tonight the whole thing almost fell to bits – apparently the chef had changed his mind and they were offering only a special menu – the usual Christmas stuff…  we were in the process of checking the local takeaway when one of the (very helpful) guys behind the bar came over to assure us that normal food would indeed be available.  AT LAST a pub that puts customers first! Well done.

We had a very nice meal and I have to say the house wine is absolutely lovely. Approaching midnight, Maureen has given up  and I’m watching Keith Lemon (who despite at first glance being a little crude is actually quite funny). Despite being only a few miles away from home – it really feels like a mini-holiday break.

Cheviot Hotel in Bellingham

A Happy New Year to everyone – lets hope 2013 takes us a little nearer to the 21st century of yore – and not the unhappy one we’ve seen up to now.  Remember "Blade Runner" and the "off-world colonies" – it was on TV last night – at the start, the opening text says something like "in the early part of the 21st century" – well – we’re there!!!

Mind you – they didn’t have tablets or smartphones in the movie…

Amazing Anamorphic Illusion

Watch this – amazing

Watch this–but then watch again and this time check out the first zoom in on the sellotape – he’s cheating – that WAS a real roll of blue tape – note the brick behind it.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 Tablet Cheap

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1How to get the bargain of the year (UK only) – but don’t mess about as it’s almost over. The Samsung tablet is not one of the most advanced in the world – the Nexus 7 for example out-performs it and the Apple iPad blows it away – however what makes this tablet so special is not the bright, clean, fast screen – or the almost up to date Jelly Bean software, it’s not the all-day battery and not even the stereo speakers (which neither the iPad nor the Nexus have or if they do you can’t tell).

No, it’s the £145 price tag for a quality 10.1” tablet that does it!

Now where do I get that from – everyone knows if you go to Tesco, PC-World or Currys it’d £238 and also it’s the same price on the web. It’s also well known that it’s retail price is considerably more than that.

This then would appear to be the ultimate in bargains!

claim formSimple enough… CarPhone Warehouse if you can find any in the stores, are selling this for a true £195 – no catches other than that they’ve run out in the online stores – you have to check individual stores (but you can do that online).

Buy the tablet and then wait no less than 15 days and no more than 30 (I’d be making it 15) and go to samsungback2college.com and fill in the form – you MUST have your receipt and you MUST not leave it too late. 30 days later – you get £50 cash-back.

So other than the specs, what’s the machine like? Well, I would NOT have paid £300 for it, I’m thinking about £250 would have been the maximum and even then I might’ve held out and bought the Nexus 10 and paid the extra. But at £195 it’s a BARGAIN. At £145 – don’t even think about it! But hurry, they’ll be just about gone now – the white ones were gone when I got there.

Educating Parents

Ok, I’ll grant you it’s a little unseasonable – but then as we’ve had this Christmas stuff shoved down our throats for the last couple of months – mainly thanks to commerce, I found this particularly funny.

Educating parents about Jesus

Upgrading old broken Christmas decorations

It was one of those crappy white plastic window decorations with a dozen or so filament lamps that you could hardly make out what it was…(and which used to pack in frequently)   and so, after getting the Christmas lights out of the loft and doing the usual sift through for duffers, this one ended up sitting by the bin (we don’t have any spares of old fashioned Xmas lights) until this morning until I decided to try to give it a facelift.

Led conversion of an old filament lamp decoration

Thankfully the old light fittings were simply pressed into place and game off with a tug, leaving a more or less flat base on which to work.  cut the red, green and blue LED strip into the minimum lengths (3 LEDs) and simply stuck them on as best I could – then wired up – merely keeping all the + together – and all the – together. I used the thinnest wire I could find and in some cases merely used bare copper wire to join them – simple enough and remember all of this is running at 12v. I found a spare 12v 1amp plug-in-the-wall supply – soldered the lead via a loop to make sure there’s no stress on the joint and….

Actually you could just start with a white plastic board and mark out any Xmassy shape without too many tight corners..

LED version of an old Christmas favourite

The photo does not do this any justice (and I’ve since filled that right corner) – this thing is bright as hell – you’d be able to see it streets away in a straight line – and yet takes less juice than the comparatively boring original.  LED strip is cheap from Ebay (5 metres self-adhesive of any colour is maybe £8 or so – unless you get ripped) and so the total cost of this would be just a few pounds. Better than throwing it in the bin!

New pics of grandkids

See grandkids page. New pics.

The Changing World of the Web

I’ve been doing some research for the FSB and I thought I’d put down some information I’ve picked up – all of this is bang up to date.

Amazing as it seems, up to a third of the world has Internet access. That might not sound a lot but think of the people who will never have access – those parts of the world for example where they’ve gotten themselves into a situation where they are utterly controlled or they don’t even have electricity. If for the sake of discussion we discount those people – it’s fair to say that the majority of people who are going to get access in the near future, already have it.   Even at home in the UK there are those (primarily age-related) who simply don’t see the point and are not interested.

As for who’s using what.. PC sales seem to have levelled off whereas tablet sales are going through the roof right now – no doubt this Christmas will have an affect on that – apparently 47% of American kids want an iPad (I’d imagine a very small percentage will actually GET one). So the big drivers right now are smartphones and tablets and as we know, iPad and Google Nexus are the two big names here right now.

Right now, more broadband is consumed by mobile devices than fixed devices and the theory is that by 2015 (only a couple of year) that’ll be more like 4:1 in favour of mobile!

There are currently 6 bullion mobile phone users, 1 billion of those being users of smartphones but in current SALES, Smartphones are sailing ahead of the older feature phones which are starting to die off. As you’d imagine the whole thing is definitely age-related with the highest users of Smartphone being by younger people with more cash to spend. But of course once hooked as they get older there will be no way they’re going back… China, incidentally has 25% of smartphone sales and that puts them at around twice the size of the US market.

The Internet used to be full of free content – which made it hard to run a business from it but of course that has all changed – iTunes, Netflix (and similar), buying and selling on Ebay all play a major part today in the massive and every-increasing commercialisation of the Internet. Digital advertising has gone from just about zero in 1995 to around 20 billion pounds today.

For American companies at least – and limiting to those in the media and tech areas, around 40% of their income is now digital – i.e. online. For advertising, TV still keeps the lead (42%) – but online advertising is coming closely behind and advertising in print is starting to go very much downhill (9%). Newspaper advertising in particular has dropped through the floor (I don’t know about you but I haven’t bought a newspaper in years).

On the subject of digital photography, we all know that Kodak are stuffed – who would have thought… but today, phone cameras are now giving traditional cameras a run for their money not because they are as good but because they are far more convenient.

As a life-long amateur photographer, I gave up on film as far back as 1997 and only a couple of years ago I gave up on large bulky cameras as being just too much like hard work for hot holidays… the convenience of the phone camera and the ability to send to Facebook etc. straight from the phone was the main driver. Throughout it all however I’ve sorely missed the quality and control that comes with a DSLR. Then out of the blue the traditional cameras are fighting back – I’ve just bought the new Samsung Android camera – a full-blown Android unit with a decent lense – the first of it’s kind. I predict that a variation on this will become the norm (pending people coming out of their comfort zones) and that non-updatable, proprietary camera interfaces will hopefully soon die out. For now I’m ahead of the pack and enjoying every minute – I just wish someone would invent decent batteries!

One wonders what it would be like to to transport 10 years into the future. The changes are likely to be far more dramatic than the changes we’ve seen in the previous 10 years – but making predictions is probably a fool’s game.

Know-Nothing?

In the second week of November 2012 I took my new Asus Transformer T300 tablet (bought in September) to PC World in Gateshead for repair. It would not charge, that’s all. I had an idea the lead might be duff – but amazingly, the “KnowHow” department at PC World did not have Asus any leads they could test. Accordingly my tablet had to go back to Asus, up to 10 days to fix I was told…

After waiting patiently for nearly 2 weeks to get my tablet back and hearing nothing from them,  I grabbed the piece of paper that PC-World Gateshead gave me – and rang the number therein – 0844 56 10000

That was the first of 3 failed attempts on day one to get somewhere.

Thursday November 22, 4:40pm

Attempt 1: The automated machine asked me to enter a reference number and my telephone. I entered the reference and telephones directly off the sheet that PC-World Gateshead gave me– to be told by the machine that the reference was not understood. I repeated the operation and the machine gave up – transferring me to an operator after some delightful music. By then I was already frustrated.

The Know-How operator tried to contact PC World and could not get through – he gave me the number for Asus to ring them instead – the number was incorrect.

Attempt 2: Repeating all of the above – I tried again – this time I got the right number from the agent and verified it was correct.

It turned out that the Asus number is no longer in service – 0870 1207 340.

Attempt 3: By the time I went through the above for the third time – Asus would have been closed anyway… but I tried -  number still invalid. The KnowHow people finally contacted PC World who would come back to me on Friday 23rd.  This of course assumes one has nothing to do but sit next to the phone – their number is always withheld so you’ve no way to know if it was them, should you stray off for coffee.

Friday November 23, 3:10pm

The fellow at KnowHow insisted that the issue with the Asus telephone number would have been temporary – as they had that number on their books – I asked him to confirm the number and I read it back. He said that was right. In fact I’d given him the WRONG number 0870 1208 340 from my notes – that one gave a continuous tone. He could not explain why the store had not rang me back. He rang PC-world and could once again not get through. He said that as KnowHow had logged that they’d contacted the store, they could do no more…  I should try contacting Asus even though he confirmed the reference number on the piece of paper is useless.

I did my best to explain to the fellow that the pushbutton options to capture info were not simply working. He started about this being some internal number – I stopped him and tried to explain that this is of NO relevance to the end user who just needs it to work – I’d followed the instructions only to have my time completely wasted. He did not seem to understand this and I don’t think he took any notes.

After our call, I tried again to ring Asus and sure enough – nothing had changed – the number was not in service.

4pm – After writing this first blog I got a call from PC-World – the gentleman there confirmed that he was going to have a word with the KnowHow area manager – then dropped a bombshell. The unit was still with Asus – who did not receive it until 5 days after I went to the store to drop it off. Further – they’re claiming the Power supply was not working and that this would be CHARGEABLE (PC world confirmed the power supply was ok when I took it in – and I know it was as I’d been using it to charge my other Asus tablet).  I made it clear then that there is no way earth I’m accepting a charge to fix a relatively new product – the gentleman at PC-World who was indeed as helpful as he could be – would ring me back shortly after speaking to Asus. I also asked him if he could find out why it took so long for Asus to receive the product.

4:43pm – I received a totally automated call  – how likely out of 0 to 10 would I be to recommend KnowHow – 0. How knowledgeable did I think the “colleague” was – 1. Did I feel the operator cared about my issue – 0.

5.30pm…. The fellow from PC-World rang back – Asus apparently said they could not give any more information out other than the information on the email which PC-World have confirmed they had  NOT received.. but he DID confirm why it took so long for them to receive the Tablet. Ready for this? The repair centre is in the Czech Republic. Are we REALLY so devoid of talent today that something has to go half way around the world to get a power supply fixed (well, replaced – who fixes power supplies??) As they do not work at the weekend apparently – I would not hear anything more until at least Monday.

15 days and counting with no tablet, then. I should have simply demanded a refund.

Thursday November 29, 9:30am… Still no word from PC-World and the shop number is not available, so I once again I rang KnowHow, going through the same automated time-wasting as before, finally getting through to an attendant who rang PC-World while leaving me with piano music and “I’m sorry, all our agents are busy at the moment”. Of course as before he could not get through to the store (too busy listening to complaints from customers I’d imagine) and “they will ring you back in the next hour – it’ll be the store manager”.

10:30am… KnowHow rang back – it was the automated survey asking how likely I was to recommend KnowHow. I selected zero again for not a chance.

12:20am – No call back so I rang KnowHow back. They rang PC World again (the agent confirmed that PC World do not give contact numbers out for the stores).  I listened to piano music and “our agents know you are waiting”. After 5 minutes the lady came back “sorry to keep you waiting – I’m onto the store – they are looking into it for you” -  more piano music. Wishing I’d not drunk all that coffee now. “The unit is with Asus and they’re looking into a power supply issue. Darren is investigating it at PC world personally and will come back to you this afternoon”  – I pressed for a time – they could not give a time apparently – just sometime in the afternoon. Again the assumption I’ve nothing better to do as it would be a withheld number.

On advice from a site suggesting a customer complaints email – I wrote to PC world… guess where the auto reply came from – yes, KNOWHOW. 

1pm Darren from PC World came back to me directly. He was trying hard, to be fair, but not getting anywhere. Asus are sending confusing messages. Darren reminded me that this is a manufacturers’ warranty –I reminded him I bought this from PC-World, not Asus and PC-World should not be trying to palm this responsibility off.

I noted that all of this could have been avoided had the shop had a spare lead. He told me that it would be impossible to have spare leads for all of their products and then broke the bombshell…this was a product no longer available.  I bought the sodding thing in September, not on special offer or going out of fashion offer, but just as a normal purchase… I’ve had a few weeks out of it – and it’s no longer for sale!!???!!!

Darren would come back to me as soon as he hears something from Asus. It this point I was starting to wonder how much of customer’s valuable time is wasted on these calls.

Friday November 30, 7.00am

When a fellow blogger gave me the email address of one of the directors… I wrote and sent a copy of the blog – I’d also done this in an email to Knowhow. I’m not sure which of these had the effect but…

The Light at the end of the tunnel…

11.30am – Quick as I am to criticise – I am also to praise. Having written to a director, I then received a call this morning – which might have been because of who I wrote to or might have been the local guys, either way it was clearly as a result of this blog.  The gentleman specifically asked me to raise my general gripes first  – to explain what, apart from the obvious lack of tablet, was annoying me – I explained it was the inability of staff to see the customer side – and the annoyances with their machinery and the reference number resulting in frustration and lost time. He tooks note and seemed genuinely concerned. We then discussed the issue of the tablet and of course my personal data.

He didn’t mess about – but simply and helpfully offered me a complete refund plus a nominal sum for my wasted calls – and a guarantee that the data on the existing machine will be wiped. Sure enough, within an hour, an email arrived with a reference number to use at any Currys or PC World store.

As I’d been planning on getting the new Samsung Galaxy Android camera for Christmas – and had time to reflect that a better choice of tablet might be the yet-to-become-available Nexus 10, I sailed off down to Currys and bought the camera – coming back with the camera (which is unbelievably wonderful), a smile and the balance in the form of a token. All’s well that ends well, it’s just a shame one often has to go to such extremes to get action.