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Archive for the ‘Spain’ Category

A Grand Summer

Not been doing a lot of updating of this blog because of course, we’re over in Spain for the summer.  BBQ season is over as far as the countryside is  concerned – we had our last country BBQ  at the end of May in the area you see below – just outside of Huescar (Andalusia). It is now starting to get very dry and such events could trigger forest fires – hence no more forest BBQs – of course that’s only the countryside.

BBQ Area

Here in Galera we’re getting temperatures up towards 30c with very few clouds and Maureen and I have been working on all sorts of things at home including a new upstairs ceiling after we discovered a worrying crack appearing in the bedroom ceiling.  This of course was most likely to do with one or more of the may earthquakes we get – now to keep that in perspective I have neither felt nor heard an earthquake in the years we’ve been coming up here but it doesn’t take much movement to cause damage over time and we think this is what has happened.

Never mind, all fixed now, we’re working on the hot tub (heater issues) and putting new doors on our own BBQ. Anyway, it is all documented on the Spanish blog above.  For those looking for my technical blog it is here.

Generally, still unhappy about the direction the UK is taking with Brexit but by now there’s nothing that can be done about that other than moan. As for the recent terrorist attacks – I have the same view I’ve always had – as long as we continue to allow the breeding grounds to exist, the problem will not go away. I think we should be looking at this less as terrorism and more the result of brainwashing-induced mental illness. How do you tackle someone who has no regard for their own life? I wish I had a solution.

Simba the cat is once again in trouble – he’s developed an obsessive need to nibble at himself – we can’t let him out as there are too many dogs in the area but that is about to change and I’m hoping that getting out and about will help him relax – right now he’s covered in a purple dye that is supposed to help – that may be the case but he looks awfully silly in purple.

Making new friends along the way, lots coming up in the coming month or so – check out the bedrock site for more info.

Best meal of the day

I’ve never been one for breakfasts but a popular start to the day here is a very simple large slice of toast or tostada. The word has several meanings but at least in this part of Spain, ask for a tosdada and you’re likely to be asked if you want butter and marmalade – OR tomato – and I have to say the latter makes a VERY nice alternative (as in mashed tomato).

And so that is our new thing when the will takes us – getting up in the morning and walking down the hill for cafe-con-leche and tostada.  The problem is getting back up the hill but we’re working on that.

Breakfast in Galera

Weather is cooling off in Galera now, having said that it was roasting this afternoon but it won’t be long before one has to actually has to consider warmer clothing late in the evening.  Of course, when that happens, there is always the coast. No doubt about it – this is a considerably better life and lifestyle than anything I’ve come across in the UK.

The Spanish Weekend

Usually when I’m away on business I have very little time to myself. Lucky then that this particular job over on the east coast of Spain happens to straddle the weekend. Well, not THAT much luck I guess as I agreed to come over here knowing fine well I’d get a weekend to myself.  Yesterday I went off to the coast as it was a sunny day and got some great photos you’ll find over at the Bedrock site.

Today the sky was clear first thing and so the day is likely to be even better.

Sunrise

And so – once I get some breakfast down me I’m off on another adventure. No shortage of new things to do here as I’ve never been to this part of Spain before and up to now just checked out three coastal towns – which are very pretty. Time to get the map out and see what I can find today. Check our the Bedrock site for more.

Maureen has been stopping with our friends Aidan and Helen – sadly the price of flights to get here just for the weekend started creeping up last week and just kept on going. Still, an adventure on your own is better than no adventure at all.

sPAIN

A Taste of the Sun

Pretty bleak back in Blighty and has been since Maureen and I came back in November, however this week I’m in Spain, south of Barcelona doing some interesting contract work.

Spain

Make no mistake, it gets cold at night down at the coast here near L’Ametlla De Mar– but the sun makes up for a lot and there is nothing remotely like frost.  From the villa the sea is clearly visible.

Somewhere south of Barcelona

I’ve been here since the weekend working on a hi-tech project, this part of which is due to end next Friday when I return to the cold. No mobile phones here (at least, not for THREE users) but the WIFI is ok and now that I’m using LocalPhone that’s almost as good as having a signal.

Maureen is hoping to visit this weekend but the flight prices just keep going up – but checking regularly. Certainly plenty to see here in the local villages – up to now I’ve only been at night so I’m short of pics. Perhaps at the weekend I’ll get time to go enjoy the sun and the view.

Up sharp this morning, no-one around, well, no people around – not a sound indeed. Very pleasant.

Kitty

A Summer to remember

As our time in Spain draws to a close – we have only a short time left before returning for a while to miserable, sopping wet Britain – something I don’t at ALL do voluntarily, it is worth noting that in our time here this year, which started in July, I could easily count on both hands how many times we’ve seen rain.

Temperatures here in Andalusia are maybe hitting 22c in the afternoon with a few exceptions but a somewhat chilly 8c at night. we’ve had the heating on for 2 days this year up to now.  Down at the coast from where we’ve just returned from a short break with friends, we had one sunny day this weekend, equivalent to a typical British “better” summer’s day – and one cloudy day though in both cases the temperature rarely dipped below 18c and peaked I think around 24c.

Cartagena

Things I won’t miss include lazy good for nothing couriers and absence of B&Q but that’s about it. Oh and dogs – endless, pointless barking. I won’t miss that. Things I will miss are friends, cheap beer, even cheaper fuel, sunshine, swimming pools, great food and friendly Spanish people. Still, only a short time before we can start a 6 month Spanish trip in earnest. This one was cut short by the most amazing combination of bad luck and ropy workmanship last year, next time we’ll be better prepared. Maybe when we come back our new adopted external cat family will still be here.

Cartagena[6]

Thankfully my cyber community I’ll be taking with me – at the time of writing, I’ve around 1000 visitors a day to the tech blog (http://tech.scargill.net) and I think approaching 800 followers on Twitter. Hopefully over the winter I can give them some useful write-ups.

The Summer of 2015

Spain - Embalse Del NegratinWe’re currently spending our summer in Spain, having made some major changes to our lives. I’m no longer the National IT Chairman for the FSB – a role I held for 14 years without opposition. I decided in June that I’d spent enough time with the organisation and it was time to move on.

Maureen[4]Maureen is no longer teaching and we made the somewhat bold decision to clear off to Spain for the summer. Our old home in Wark is on long-term rent and Hollyberry Cottage is fully booked until our return in the winter. In the meantime the ESCO work I was doing for the EU had drawn to a close (at least for now – I’m sure it won’t be long before I see Brussels again).

Hence instead of making excuses for the British summer that never comes, we’ve been here in Andalusia (Andalucia if you’re from mid-Spain) now since July and despite some of the disturbing weather forecasts you might have seen for parts of Spain, we’ve had I think 2 days of rain and maybe 5 or 6 days of gloomy clouds all summer – the rest has been glorious – yesterday for example was 30c and sunny (general photos in this album). The last rainfall did a power of good for the lakes which are a bit on the low side this year, but wonderfully warm for it.

MIT BostonI spent a short amount of time in Boston this summer, invited by a Chinese group to help out at MIT and met some great people there. Mind you, the airlines lost my bags in the process but that’s another matter.

If you want to get into the whole Spanish thing – I maintain the Spanish Bedrock website where I detail our travels in the hope it is of interest to others… and there is also Facebook etc., the social media links are in here somewhere. Meanwhile on the technical front, the additional time this long break has given us has been great, I’ve been able to devote more time to various projects and learning on my tech website, something that just doesn’t work when you are flitting back and forth from one meeting to another.

Accordingly I’ve been learning all about Linux thanks to the Raspberry Pi 2 which has kind of forced me to make the effort – so my new home control project – detailed at http://tech.scargill.net has given me ample opportunity to start broadening my Linux skills – still very much a work in progress.

Spain

I guess most importantly we’re having fun and relaxing, something I’ve not done for a long time. We miss our friends in the UK but then that’s what the technology is all about – Skype, Facebook and other toys have changed the way people communicate, generally for the better though I am looking forward to face to face meetings with our pals on our return in November.

Spanish entertainmentThis morning, we’re off to Huescar for coffee and some bits and pieces then I have a day of wiring up to do, I’ve been re-designing the lighting here outside our cave and am trying to make the wiring as neat as possible. For now most of my updates are on the Bedrock site.

Boston

Galera Celebrations

All in all not a bad week – several days in Boston, Google have finally put Bedrock on the map and now I’m back in Spain and we’re currently enjoying Galera night celebrations. Another night of activity in the town – I managed to stop up until midnight when the fireworks went off – and very nice, too. Tomorrow we’re off to the market. Better updates on the Bedrock blog.

Galera Fireworks

All Change

selfie scargillsThe last time I wrote in here we lived in Wark, in Northumberland where we’d been for, what, 15 years? And then – all change. Today we’re in Andalusia as we have been for the last couple of weeks – and we plan to stay here at least until the end of October. Wark is long-term rent and we have a nice couple in there, Bellingham is fully booked from now until November and we’ll take that over a for a while in the winter to do some maintenance while waiting for Spain to warm up again!

We brought the car and the cats this time – they’re kind of settling in but it will take time. It’s amazing to think that we’ve had our place in Spain for 8 years now – so I guess it was the logical conclusion to start making proper trips – the car journey from Portsmouth really wasn’t that bad.

LizardOver here in Spain it has rarely dropped below 35c in the afternoons for the past few weeks – all I can say is thank heavens for (cold) hot-tubs and pools. Maureen is working on improvements around the house and I’ve been struggling with everything from dodgy delivery companies to issues with the blog which I’m glad to say are all now resolved and I have a brand new fast “VPS” on which to run my various blogs including this one.

This coming week I’m off to Boston, USA for a few days. I’ve been invited to be involved in the FABFEST there by a company called Espressif – they make one of the very high-tech chips I talk about a lot in my tech blog.  It will be nice to be surrounded in a conference with enthusiastic younger people and to see what the latest ideas are – and of course to return a little knowledge to the community. I’ll blog about this on Facebook and elsewhere no doubt once I get settled in Boston with an Internet connection!

Derelict building in Andalusia

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.

Another trip to Bedrock

GaleraIf you’re looking in here for updates, head off to the Bedrock site for the moment as we’re enjoying a spot of sunshine. 8am here in Galera and the sun is out already – promises to be a great day for a spot of swimming.

Meanwhile I’ve been setting up something new on my gear at home – a piece of freeware called OwnCloud… you might not have heard of it but you’ve almost certainly heard of Dropbox – well, this is almost the same but instead of filling up an account, the data is stored at home, in my case on a permanently on “raid” storage system (that means there are two identical disks mirroring each other to ensure that my all important data is never lost). So OwnCloud sits on my PC, phone and tablet and for example (just like Dropbox) takes an automatic copy of any photos I take on the phone and stores them away for almost immediate access on the various systems I’m using – all without manual intervention. If you’re reading this and you are technically inclined you might want to check that product out.