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Archive for the ‘Amsterdam’ Category

The Summer of 2015 and a new Phone

Lots going on right now…

izmir[4]After what seems like a lifetime as IT Director and National IT Chairman of the FSB, I’ve decided to give it a miss. The reasons aren’t simple and include changes in the FSB itself – it is simply not the organisation I joined. Every year for the past 14 years, I’ve re-applied for the post and have never been opposed.

I’ve had a rarely- equalled freedom to take things in the direction I’ve wanted IT to go with unqualified support from the other directors. This year, the job role and authority changed, in my view in the wrong direction and when it came to putting in the papers I just could not bring myself to doing it. At the time, I didn’t know if anyone else was going for the role as this was handled externally. I wrote in to decline and left it at that.

GibraltarI’ve only just found out that in fact someone did go for it – so perhaps it’s as well I stepped down – keeps my unopposed record intact if nothing else. Hah!

Dell Tech ThinktankThe role has been great fun and has helped me travel to Microsoft’s HQ in the USA, UK and Brussels, Google’s European and Irish offices and the Dell Thinktank in Amsterdam to name but a few. I’ve made friends with the EU ESBA team and travelled with them to Brussels, Ireland, Izmir and meetings at the top of the rock in Gibraltar where I’ve met with Gibraltar luminaries and learned so much about the place (as well as discovering what a pain the Spanish are being over there).

Would-beI’ve vice-chaired a multi-national EU team representing many nations, I’ve met Prime Ministers (and would-be Prime Ministers)  and countless ministers, been to Numbr 10 and the House of Commons many times, I’ve met stars of stage and screen, visited the various offices of Microsoft, Dell, Google and so much more – and now it is time for a break.

And so we’re planning a long summer in Spain, something we should have done a long time ago because Britain is NEVER going to have a fine summer whereas it is odds-on that when we stop over there until autumn, we’re unlikely to see more than a couple of days of heavy rain. Lovely.

BrusselsBut first, having just finished (more or less) work on Hollyberry Cottage which is now occupied through to the autumn, we’re working on Willow Cottage with a view to clearing the place out in the next few weeks (to rent as it happens) before we head off to the sun complete with cats. I am, accordingly, covered in paint.

Google - Peter McAvoyMeanwhile the change has prompted me to look at phones! My last contract phone was the excellent Samsung S4 and I had planned to move onto the S6, but recently, two things happened to the phone – firstly the chrome started to come away from the front a little and secondly, being someone who uses LOTS of apps, I found myself running out of internal memory (even though the Samsung can use external memory for Apps (I have a lot)– they still eat up a good chunk of the internal and limited memory) and having seen that Samsung are not entirely invincible I decided to have a look around, concentrating on features rather than name.

ToyahIt just so happened that a good and knowledgeable friend of mine had been trying out a Chinese phone and I asked him how the new phone was going – he replied saying that it was so good he’d bought more of them! I decided to investigate. I sold the Samsung to a friend who will love it…  and sent off my order for the new phone.

Now, in order to do this justice, you really are going to have to turn a blind eye to the name of the phone.. it’s called a Zopo (Mind you, even some of the big names sound silly – did you know that LG were originally called “Lucky Goldstar”). Yes, Zopo sounds like a cigarette lighter… but once you get past that, lets’ see why this might be a good phone or indeed, an excellent phone.

ThinktankThe model Z999 Pro Lion Heart is big, bigger than the S4 and the new HTC, but just as thin. It has two SIM sockets – rather handy for, erm, travelling to Spain! It also supports external microSD and it just so happens I have a fast 64GB microSim. It has 3GB of RAM – three times earlier phones… and finally it has 32GB of internal Flash memory – and to power all of that, an octal processor! My DESKTOP has an octal processor!!

ZopoWith an HD screen who’s pixels are so small as to be utterly invisible, rendering text as good to the eye as a quality magazine and with superb colour rendering, this phone was off to a good start but here’s the thing – it is cheap enough to buy – hence I’m on a SIM-ONLY contract with THREE (I stayed with them for two reasons – firstly you can use your minutes overseas and even some data overseas and secondly, they have a little app that allows the phone to work where there is no signal as long as you have WIFI. I also have a 3 BOX that sits in the window sill and does the same thing  – gone are the days of having to drive up the hill to use the phone.

The Z999 is powerful, great looking and cheap – it does not have infra-red which was a shame (most phone don’t but the Samsung S4 and 5 do) but there are ways around that. It does however have a VERY sensitive GPS which unlike many phones, works indoors a treat. It also has Bluetooth, NFC, an FM radio, compass and all the other sensors and features (gesture recognition etc.) you’d nowadays expect with a top phone.

It came (very unusually) with a screensaver already fitted to the glass and a spare included. The camera is a particularly sensitive 14Mpx job and contrary to various articles it does have HDR.

Battery life is not stunning but then it isn’t with any of the top-end phones so I’ve ordered a rather large solar charger to take to Spain with me. I finished the long process of installing satnav maps for Britain and Spain – and then on a trip to Manchester I took some pics to check out the claims of it being better than the Samsung camera – I would say YES. Up to now I am VERY pleased with the phone.

Dell Technology Camp – the Think Tank

Yesterday, I set off first thing in the morning to Newcastle Airport on my way to becoming (representing the Federation of Small Businesses) one of a small team of people from various parts of Europe, discussing small business IT issues in the Dell “Think Tank”, held this morning at the Westergasfabriek in Polonceaukade in Amsterdam.

Newcastle AirportI was up in the early hours to get to the airport only to find that the plane was slightly delayed but I have to say, KLM are a pretty good bunch and the crew were a very happy bunch.

By 11.30 Amsterdam time my driver was there waiting to take me to the hotel. As we were starting first thing today, they’d put me on a plane the day before and I’m guessing it was just sheer luck that I managed to get half a day out of the deal as many of the guys did not turn up till late last night. A shame, as it turns out most of them seemed a great bunch and I had so little time to get to know everyone.

Renaissance Hotel in AmsterdamThe hotel was the Renaissance which is only a 10 minute walk from the central rail station and is quite nice apart from their WIFI which at 6 Euros an hour is just simply being greedy. Fortunately as Dell had dragged me over there, they paid for the WIFI. A nice hotel in a convenient spot–and from a previous visit to Amsterdam I had a vague idea of how to find my way around – so once I’d dumped the bags, I was off, armed with camera for a lightning one-man tour of the area. I could not tell you how far I walked but by the time I was done my feet were utterly shot. Sadly there is a LOT of construction going on near the station which is no so good for photography. Thankfully mid-afternoon the weather picked up and so went further afield and I had myself a great time in search of pictures. You can find the full photo album in my Google+ album here.

I didn’t deliberately enter the red light area, it’s just behind the hotel and pretty hard to miss and so on the way to taking the usual cathedral and related pics I took more than my fair share of shop front photos which you’ll see in the album above. They really do like their marijuana.

I had lunch at a local cafe – slice of pizza and a coffee (very pleasant) and then I was off in search of Kodak moments – sadly by tea-time it was getting a tad chilly so I came back to the hotel, had an early dinner and cleared off to bed.

Pizza CafeFirst thing this morning a bunch of us met up in the hotel foyer – and Ben Chai of Lanix introduced himself – he had an advantage over me in that he’s read my blogs – we had a great chat until  Amanda Metti of Axicom arrived to take us to our venue – she did a cracking job of looking after everyone, making sure we knew where to be and when etc. so at 8:30am this morning we all headed off with her to the Westergasfabriek for our “Think Tank” discussion which was really very productive and not at all what I was expecting (from the questions I was expecting the event to be simple a commercial wheeze).

Think Tank ParticipantsAfter formal introductions we had a couple of hours talk, filmed, streamed live onto the web and with input from Twitter and other social media though to be honest I’m unaware of anything coming in from those channels as we were all so engrossed in the conversation. I met several great people and will no doubt keep in touch with a few.

We started by defining just what is a small business and the differences between the countries was not that great. We went on to discuss the relevance of technology to SMEs, how best to lever that technology etc. While we were talking a couple of ladies created the most fabulous – how can I describe it, whiteboard/graffiti/word cloud I have ever seen! For reference the company who did this are called CreativeConnection. If you look at my Google album at the whiteboard (larger image) you’ll see the range of subjects covered. Really very interesting and informative. One fellow, David Hathiramani – co-founder of “A Suit That Fits” described his business which started as the world’s first online tailoring company and now has over 30 locations worldwide and that’s largely down to use of technology.

We had lunch at the venue and then our driver took us back to Schiphol airport to go our separate ways.

Think TankAll in all quite a pleasant couple of days. Next stop Chairman’s dinner, a couple of days of meetings in London and another short trip, this time in Gibraltar as a guest of ESBA, the European Small Business Alliance – looking forward in particular to a talk on Intranets. No doubt I’ll take the camera and just hope it’s not raining.

See the Google+ album for more pics.