Dave's Blog

This blog is mainly about the things I know and love... technology and gadgets. There's a bit of customer service stuff in here too, both good and bad. There's also some environmental and political comment, and some very personal stuff too. These articles should be regarded as solely the opinion or experiences of the author. If anyone feels that they have been unfairly represented by these articles, please contact me. Any comments are solely the views of the commenters, and unpleasant comments will be removed.

Dismal Goverment

The current government is proving to be a complete economic and environmental failure. The global economic problems are out of their control, but an economic strategy that relies on exports to a world that can't afford to buy anything doesn't seem to be a great idea to me.

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trueCall improved

I've owned a trueCall call screening system for a couple of years now. This is a brilliantly-conceived device, acting as a "virtual receptionist" to intercept and screen incoming phone calls. It was featured on Dragons' Den, and won funding from Peter Jones, the telecomms entrepeneur.

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Deliberately Dysfunctional?

With my Orange Pay Monthly "Panther" contract, I can easily log on to the online system and add "extras" to the package, such as an additional 500MB of data or a bundle of cheap photo messages. The link on the website takes you to the "manage your extras" page, where you can add extra stuff.

This is all very straightforward, but what if you want to remove an extra? You would think that "manage" implies that you can add and remove. Oh no it doesn't; you can only add. If you want to remove an extra (i.e. unsubscribe) you have to contact Orange, it seems. You can do this through the online chat system, which is not so bad and only takes a couple of minutes.

Now you can call me cynical, but I reckon the online system is deliberately dysfunctional, to deter you from unsubscribing.

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Goodbye Windows 7 (ish)

Yesterday morning I finally lost patience with Windows 7, and its failure to talk to my Canon printer. It seems that every time I wanted to print something, the network printer became mysteriously undetectable. Before you ask, it's not just my computer. Various other Windows 7 computers I own suffer from the same problem. The solution is to reboot, or to restart the print spooler service. Alternatively, you can lose your temper in a fit of pique and install Linux.

Of course, it wasn't quite that spontaneous. I'd already checked that Linux Mint 13 (or Ubuntu 12.04) supports a Canon MP640.

The only critical piece of software for me is Artisteer, and for that I've had to install Windows 7 in a VirtualBox virtual machine. I've also installed Visual Studio 2010 Express and Adobe Photoshop Elements on this virtual machine. I can use the GIMP, but it's like eating Marmite or taking a cold shower - it's not very pleasant and what's the point! There really is no alternative (I don't think) to Visual Studio for the odd bit of Windows development I do at home (that can't be done in Java).

So it's not quite goodbye Windows 7, because for a start I use it at work, and there are several other Windows 7 computers at home. However, on a day to day basis I will now be using Linux on my home computer, and I'm not going back. Certainly, Windows 8 is not going to tempt me!

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Nothing Nowhere

The Olympics are upon us, so I thought I'd have a go at exploiting some of the 20+ video feeds that the BBC are pushing out.

On my PC, the live, mostly high-definition footage is very watchable, albeit with the odd frame rate issue. On my "Everything Anywhere" (Orange) mobile, getting a video feed to appear at all requires patience (almost infinite). During about an hour of trying, I did manage to watch the cycling road race for about 5 minutes. Given my 500MB data allowance, this is probably a good thing, but it does show how poor our mobile data networks are (or at least how poor they are where I live).

It would be interesting to know whether the problem lies with the capacity of mobile cell, or the capacity of the Orange network. I suspect it is actually the latter. Either way, the concept of replacing the home phone and broadband and switching to a mobile solution is one which is  totally unviable at present. I suspect that even when 4G comes along, the same problems will be present.

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