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Archive for the ‘Federation of Small Businesses’ Category

Another busy week of travel

BrusselsThis week starts with a trip to Belgium via London – I can’t believe I have to sit around in Heathrow for a couple of hours – sitting here making sure my laptop is up to date so I can do something useful with the time. First stop this week will be Brussels  We have some work to complete rapidly for the EU ESCO project with the international team I’ve been working with now for, well, approaching a couple of years I guess and I’m hoping to meet up with an old pal while I’m over there for a few drinks at the King of Spain in Grand Place (that’s if the remnants of flu will allow it) on Monday night.

2 days of intense meetings in Brussels then I’m back to London – Victoria area for 2 days of FSB meetings – and that just about wraps the week up once you take travel into account. I’ve spent much of the weekend buried in paperwork but this evening we had a very pleasant wine tasting evening in Bellingham, Northumberland.

And that’s about it – I’ve been working on my technical blog which is topping 3,000 page views a day… who would have thought it. The outcome is a vast hike in knowledge thanks to being able to bounce ideas of so many people so next weekend I plan to start constructing some new kit to take to Spain with us in February to bring our home over there into the 21st century.

LondonBoth of us have been really bad this week with the flu but Maureen is now starting to come around, I think I have another couple of days to go, can’t stop sneezing right now. Nothing else is new.

Packing

java wineI don’t remember such a frantic week. From Wark I went off to Blackpool, then to Birmingham and then to Manchester, in the process taking something like 120 photos of staff, solving technical issues, chairing a talk on social media, seeing the results of a pretty awful accident and enjoying (sometimes not enjoying) the best weather in living memory in the UK.

BellinghamBellingham was wonderful over last weekend and Maureen and I spent some time there working on the cottage. It’s fully occupied now so that’s our work done for now.

Throughout my travels this week, seeing the car thermometer top out at 30c or more has been the norm – amazing and we’re not even talking the bottom end of the country. 

It’s not going to last of course, it never does and Hexham is due for rain most of next week albeit with temperatures in the lower 20s hitting 25c in the rain on Wednesday… can’t imagine that being much fun.Weather in Hexham

The week began in Blackpool with a meeting about hard disks – all pretty boring but essential stuff Accident on the M6and a reminder that disks don’t last forever. The day ended with David Miles and I enjoying sitting outside of JAVA restaurant in Lytham enjoying the weather and a glass or who of wine followed the next morning by a fellow giving us a talk on social media and SEO – very enlightening – and confirming the idea that it is no longer ok to think of the web and social media as distinct..

The Midland Hotel, ManchesterThat afternoon I headed off down the M6 only to be greeted by a large amount of smoke and a several mile tailback. Turns out someone’s car had either exploded or something like it judging by the state of the front of the car.

That evening after much driving back and forth, I ended up in the Midlands Hotel in Manchester – a fabulous and very large hotel apparently favoured by politicians. After enjoying The Manchester Centrea quiet night out in the Chinese quarter of Manchester, I spent much of Friday in a meeting at the “Manchester Central” venue where the FSB will next year have it’s annual conference.

Got home last night to check out the new circuit boards for my holiday project only to find that one of the chips is not something I have handy and not that easily available – not at short notice anyway and it doesn’t get any shorter than this being Saturday and we’re leaving on Monday.

The Manchester Centre

So nice weather for the week, a pretty mixed bag otherwise.

For now, if you want to keep up with our hols – head on over to www.bedrock.es

Peter Scargill elected as FSB National IT Chairman

Another year goes by, they seem to get shorter every time. We’re sitting in the FSB’s annual elections and I’ve just been re-elected as National IT Committee Chairman (unopposed) for another year. This allows me to continue the many IT projects I’m working on and also to continue my work in Communications within the organisation. This, along with my new EU role in the ESCO project should keep me busy for another year.

A very pleasant day

I travelled down to London yesterday for the Internet show in Earl’s court. Long overdue for catching up with the latest due to being bogged down with work most of the time, I took a member of my committee along with me to go see what’s new and hopefully bring home some new ideas.

Peter Scargill travelling to Aldgate EastWe started the trip last night at Brick Lane in London  -the weather there right now is fabulous – I took the tube from Victoria to Aldgate East and walked the rest of the way with thanks to Google maps on the phone. I met up with the guys at a pub called the Princess Alice where we had a couple of beers before heading off to Brick Lane and the myriad of Indian restaurants therein.

We usually end up at the same place and so it was that we got our free beer, free starters and 20% off – it takes no bartering at all to get this. Cracking night with a fellow techie.

This morning we were up sharpish and off down from our hotel in Victoria – the Double Tree in Bridge Place,  to head off on the tube to the event.

Peter Scargill at Internet World in Earls Court 2Internet World was not as big as I’d hoped – some day I must go to one of those shows in Europe – we managed to get through it in the morning rather than the whole day but in the process, met some good contacts, I certainly gained some great ideas and generally got up to speed with what’s out there. As well as business-oriented stands the people from “The Internet of Things” were there with some fabulous Internet-connected toys.

That left only one thing to do – get back to the office in Victoria… grab some kit and head off home. As we were sitting in Earls Court having a bite to eat for lunch – and being as it was a lovely day, having no idea of distances I suggested a walk to the Thames – and that became the start of a nearly 4 mile walk along the Thames and back up to Victoria – for which I am now Peter Scargill and David Miles visit Internet Worldsuffering.

On the way back I had to walk through the Centre for Life in Newcastle and there was a big sign up advertising Maker Faire this weekend which is all about robots, 3d printing machines and other interesting stuff so I’m sure we’ll end up there at the weekend… but first there’s the slight matter of the Iron Man 3 movie!

 

Peter Scargill visiting the Centre for Life in Newcastle

La Weekend

An early start this morning – had to drop Maureen off at the airport as she’s off to see her mum for a couple of weeks, leaving me to look after two lots of cats! Just watch the Russians getting to the Space station in 6 hours – fantastic.

BrusselsI just received this “In view of the relevance of your professional profile and expertise to ESCO’s work, the ESCO Secretariat appointed you as a member of the Reference Group "ICT service activities". This appointment decision has been endorsed by the ESCO Board.” which means sometime in April I’m off to Brussels for a couple of days. I do hope the weather is nicer there than it is here not that I’ll see much of it buried away in meetings but at least I’ll have a night or two to enjoy there – beer’s nice and I know the centre fairly well now.

Meanwhile the satellite broadband continues to work well, I should say the delays are a little annoying at times but considering our NEXT house starts with 2 meg broadband until some magical upgrade in the future, will make satellite just about essential. This’ll be good as I’ve never tried aligning a dish before and now I’ll have two of them to do!!

Leicester marketSo many things to do, so little time, but THIS weekend – I plan to do as little as possible. Didn’t really get a break last week as I was working at the FSB’s conference in Leicester and when I got home on Sunday I had to sort out some last minute Leicestervideos stuff that we didn’t have time to complete at the venue.  The new Chairmain’s first interview video which I did with him the morning after his election is at the FSB website for those who are interested – along with the Toyah Wilcox video and a ton of other stuff..

Got my new laptop so I’ve no doubt I’ll spend most of the weekend populating it and trying to get rid of the new STUPID and almost universally hated Windows 8 gesture controls which result in applications swapping in front of your eyes seemingly randomly.

If I’d not already installed a ton of stuff I’d rip the lot out and go back to Windows 7 but I guess one has to move on… the time will come when Windows 7 is now longer supported so may as well be ahead of the pack.

But for now – some TV and a bite to eat…  have a nice weekend, all.

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.

A Day in London

After a trip to the House of Commons on Monday night (the FSB’s "Summer Reception" wherein we met with politicians from both sides of the house for informal conversation on issues close to small businesses" and meetings first thing Tuesday I found myself with a few hours to spare before today’s director’s meeting. A bunch of us are staying at the Hilton Double-Trees in Victoria right now, formerly known as the Hesperia, formerly known as the Holiday Inn – just behind Victoria station (the constant changes confuse the hell out of taxi drivers).

Ye Olde Cheshire CheeseRather than contemplate the bad weather from the hotel room, one of my colleagues and I decided to make a day of it in London. He had a visit to the National Theatre planned so we headed off to the Thames area.

First stop the science museum which I have to say was something of a damp squib – we probably missed something but all I could see for kids were a bunch of theatrical sets with embedded touch screens and for adults a mock-up of the first lunar lander, some old cars and planes and not a lot else. If I’d paid to come specifically to London for that I’d be mightily disappointed. Next stop Fleet Street – wherein we visited Ye Olde "Cheshire Cheese" pub which did a cracking fish and chips, well worth a visit.

The Prop ShopAfter taking in the Thames view including the new Shard building, we made a fleeting visit to the Tate Gallery (no comment) and then ended up at the "Prop Shop" – a makeshift bar outside the National Theatre (created out of theatre props) where very helpful staff entertained us as I made a 3d video of the place on my new Fujifilm 3D camera.

Peter Scargill at the Prop ShopFinal stop the theatre itself, we had a personal tour of the place as we checked it out as a possible venue for events before returning to our hotel briefly to recover, next stop Brick Lane for a curry with Nigel Duncan and David Miles. I have to say, great fun, the moment you arrive, there is intense competition for your business and it didn’t take Nigel long to negotiate 20% discount, free poppadums and drinks all around (and when the bill came, sure enough we got the discount etc. – extremely reasonable pricing). If you’re in London and you love Indian, definitely give Brick Lane a go and be prepared to haggle (I should point out that on a previous trip as the owners were haggling prices we took a female colleague with us and as soon as she interjected she was told impolitely that the owner was "talking to the men" – needless to say he didn’t get any business out of us and if I could remember the name of the restaurant I’d help ensure he never got ANY business full stop – but that was some time ago).

All in all a great way to fill a few hours – today I’ve a long meeting and a short presentation to do before heading back home to Northumberland for a couple of days hard graft, catching up on the many jobs that need a decent office Internet connection for. Between holiday and meetings I’ve build up an impressive backlog so I’ll be hiding away for many hours tomorrow to catch up.

Another year as National IT Chairman

tmp4EE2I now start another year as the National IT Chairman of the FSB (Federation of Small Businesses). We had our elections recently and though I was not opposed there is always the option to vote “none of the above” and I’m pleased to say that only a tiny percentage chose that option in my case.  Great to know I have such good support and thanks to all concerned.

I’m expecting lots of questions this week from around the FSB as the new “cookie directive” comes into play – indeed I’ve just written a blog on the subject at BDAILY. Definitely worth a read if you have a website – once again regulation getting in the way of, as against enhancing business.

After a WEEK of meetings including the elections at our “National Council” I managed at the weekend to get a few hours developing new gadgets. I spent time at my pal’s place checking our the latest 3D printer and we had some great conversations leading to another idea for my Ethernet Thermostat… movement detection to take the stat to a whole new place – being able to automatically shut down to a lower temperature band in the absence of people – and vice-versa. This will only add to my already useful remote Ethernet Thermostat which has now been on test without issue for 3 weeks or more. I’ve ordered both infra-red and ultrasonic sensors so I can do a side-by-side comparison. Right now I’m learning all about re-using old computers with Ubuntu.

Pete Scargill