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Archive for the ‘Gibraltar’ 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.

A Busy Week

Leaving the UKWhat a busy week. It all started last Sunday when I was supposed to board a Newcastle plan to Brussels. I’m vice-chairman of an EU group handling the ICT area of a project called ESCO. Suffice it to say we meet regularly over there regularly.

4am on Sunday morning an email turned up from BA to say my flight had been cancelled. This was a Newcastle-Heathrow-Brussels two-parter.

With that first flight scrapped, we had to cancel the lot and come up with a quick miracle – which appeared in the form of a new trip to Edinburgh – a direct flight to The flight to BrusselsBrussels (I often end up in Edinburgh because Newcastle Airport, in terms of flights and cost is basically rubbish especially near holiday times). No problem (other than the 6 weeks it will take to get a refund out of BA and Expedia).

Off I went to Brussels. I won’t go into the details of meetings here because to the outside world they are no that interesting but let me say this was not a holiday lest the pictures suggest otherwise. Not much point in taking pictures of a meeting room, either… on the other hand if you have a camera…

A bar in BrusselsI have to say, the weather in Brussels was crap… better than here in Wark but cold. There’s a photo somewhere of me sitting outside having a Leffe beer at a pub in downtown Brussels – nice heater on the wall but I still ended up with gloves on at one point. I really do like the Grote Markt in Brussels however, it’s a nice little area with great bars, friendly people, lots to see and importantly, Leffe on draft.

Parts of the city however, especially in Brusselspoor weather make me think of deepest Russia.  Our meeting involved travelling through such parts but the good side of that is I’m now a little more comfortable taking the tube and bus over there.

THe meeting itself took place in I guess what would be the outskirts, certainly looked that way from the view out of our window. I was there for 2 nights, the first was a Billy-no-mates night, the second with colleagues from Italy and Spain – quite nice – we went to a Greek restaurant – well, cafe.

Edinburgh airportAbout the only other exciting part of that trip was the return  – we blew the quick arrangements we’d made on Sunday – thanks to February having the same days as March and too short notice to do the job with care!! We’d ended up booking my return flight for the right time and day, but a month from now. I found out only hours before the flight was due.

Gibraltar airportNo sooner was I back in the UK and tackling the usual email mountain than I was off to Manchester overnight to de-stress – then an early flight to Heathrow and then on to Gibraltar. Another meeting, this time the bit I was interested in was a potential trading portal for the FSB – there was a presentation and the designers were there etc.

This time I struck gold with the weather. A little shabby when I got there, but by Saturday, Gibraltar weather was nothing short of magnificent. See the rock there in the photo (weather not so hot on the way in) – well, the meeting room is at the very top. Lovely. At the end of this blog are a boatload of photos which say more than 1000 words as it were.

Peter Scargill with ESBA membersThe afternoon I arrived as it happens there was a meeting to discuss the issues that traders had/have with the Spanish government – if you’ve not read about this – and bearing in mind these guys are Brits – it’s a worthwhile read – the Spanish people are very, very nice – but their government…. not so – indeed,  when reading about what they get up to, the term childish comes to mind – even the neighbouring town of La Linea is suffering through this agro – and that’s Spanish! Anyway after an informative conversation we ended up at the “Rock Hotel” for dinner, or rather, the Spanish FSB (GFSB) took us there – what a place – if you’re ever there, take a drive up – the views are amazing – not quite as amazing as the views at the TOP of the rock but amazing non-the-less and a nice hotel from what I saw.

On Friday the meeting I’d gone for took place and by Saturday, people were heading off in different directions to go home and I learned all about how to get there by train and bus – avoiding the up to 8 hour delays by simply walking over the border. Some day I may put that to use.

Anyway I took pictures at every opportunity. Enjoy and don’t forget you can usually click on these images for larger versions or (on a PC) hover for info.

Gibraltar Macaque

Gibraltar MacaqueGibraltar - the Rock

Main Street Gibraltar

Panorama from the Rock