Category Archives: Equipment

Needles and pins

Winning Phone 8

After 24 long (but happy) months with my Nokia N8 the time finally arrived for me to upgrade my contract. Nerd that I am, I had to get straight down to the store for my new handset as soon as my eligibility rolled around. I love Nokia hardware, though their software can be hit and miss. As such, the Lumia 820 leapt out at me – all that lovely Finnish designed goodness but with none of the archaic Symbian nonsense. Plus as I’m currently running a Windows 8 laptop, it means I can stay within the same ecosystem as this is a Windows Phone 8 handset.

What I like – Rather than use the ‘Transfer My Data’ app I just logged into the phone with my Microsoft account. As if by magic, all my contacts, documents and profile data beamed down from SkyDrive. Perfect! This was as easy as the manual said it would be. Seeing my Xbox Live avatar run onscreen within the games section was a nice touch. The sound quality for calls is as good as my N8 and though technically the camera is inferior, to my untrained eye it’s comparable (though I haven’t tested it in low light yet. 95% of the apps I use are in the Windows Phone store and the rest are either non-essential or on their way.

Things I don’t like – No native 3G video calls! This is a pain, not everyone uses Skype though I understand why Microsoft wants us to. The body of the phone is so smooth that it is almost frictionless in your hand. Looks great but needs a gel cover so that you don’t fire it across the room when you pull it out of your pocket quickly. For some reason when I receive a SMS it disconnects my Bluetooth headset. This could be my phone and my particular headset not getting along, but they’re both Nokia products…

Overall, this is definitely the right phone for me. The Windows 8 and SkyDrive integration alone would be enough to tempt me. Only time will tell if it continues to be as flexible and reliable as my trusty N8.

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Posted by on April 5, 2013 in Equipment, Gaming, Technology


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Unlucky ’13

I’ve been using the MS Office 2013 Home Preview for a few months now and I’ve really found this to be a big step up from the last version of MS Office I spent much time with (2003). In terms of functionality and user interface, I’m a convert – I’ve just about got used to the ribbon as well, which is good because it’s everywhere now.

I’ve dabbled with Libre Office and Open Office over the years, which both do the job but so often I found myself having to reformat documents if they needed to be used in MS Office at all. Libre Office still gets the nod for my Raspberry Pi though and my Ubuntu on a stick too.

I’ve attempted to make the move to the full blown subscription version of MS Office 2013 but unfortunately this coincided with my laptop locking up on me (and refusing to let me in). After exploring all other options I’ll resort to a system restore. The process is pretty pain free in Windows 8 and my data is backed up on the cloud. I’ll have a couple of desktop apps to reinstall (Steam, iTunes) but a system failure isn’t the same disaster it used to be.

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Posted by on January 30, 2013 in Equipment, Technology


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More Pi Please

This weekend I bought a new computer, my second Raspberry Pi – a cigarette packet sized, Linux powered PC that costs about £25. I pre-ordered my original 256MB Raspberry long before the release date so now that the 512MB, made in the UK version is available I wanted to upgrade. The extra RAM and better build quality may only be small improvements, and for a large desktop Windows machine wouldn’t make a difference. However, the Pi makes great use of limited resources so doubling up the RAM (at no extra cost) is significant.

I ordered my Pi through the ModMyPi online store, which is a great place for Raspberry related accessories. They also make first rate cases for the Pi, which still ships as a ‘naked’ board so needs a separate case to be purchased to keep the dust off. Compared to their first batch, the new ModMyPi cases have also had a tweek. To match the new model boards there are now anchor points and screws (provided) to allow you to firmly attach the Raspberry to the lower half of the case.

I’m running the latest version of Raspbian for desktop use, which has a little more spring in its step with the extra memory. Now the Raspberry has its own app store there should be plenty of new software being made available to try out. The Pi Store may not be iTunes but it will make it easier for small scale developers to show off their wares. I also tried out RaspBMC with the new board and navigating menus is much quicker now. I’m having less system crashes as well, but that might be down to the latest nightly build rather than the extra RAM. All in all, I’m very happy with the refined version of the Pi and would recommend it even more than ever to anyone who wants to dabble in the world of Linux.


Posted by on January 7, 2013 in Equipment, Gaming, Inspiration, Technology


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Windows 8

This weekend I took the plunge and upgraded my laptop from Windows 7 to Windows 8. Horror stories in the tech news reported that the OS was a halfway house, satisfying neither touch screen users or mouse/keyboard wielders. Undeterred, I pressed on, looking forward to the promised improvement in performance and battery life – without the hassle of a hardware upgrade.

Backing up my system and files onto an external hard drive took up most of the afternoon, then I went online to purchase my update. £25 is affordable and the installation assistant checked out my laptop to confirm that I had an adequate spec. machine. It then listed all the software that was compatible with 8 (74 of 90) and those that needed a downloadable update first (all but 7 applications would work under Windows 8).

The download took an hour and a half, the following installation took about the same. After logging in with a Hotmail account my start screen sprang to life, showing brightly coloured tiles for my mail, news, weather reports and such like. I like the new layout, very familiar to Windows phone users but popping back to the Windows 7 style desktop is a little jarring. It’ll take a while to get ‘under the bonnet’ and understand the new features, but so far the transition from Windows 7 to Windows 8 has been pain-free.

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Posted by on October 29, 2012 in Equipment, Technology



Misty Morning


Waking up this morning in Dundee, I was surprised to see thick ‘James Herbert’ style fog rolling in from the sea. Normally I wouldn’t leave the house before breakfast, but since I’m on holiday the normal rules don’t apply so I went for a walk to check out the mist and to build up and appetite. The Sock Mistress had decided to try out the hotel’s gym facilities so I took my Nike+ pedometer with me to track my exercise. Unfortunately my iPod battery ran flat, so that didn’t work so well. I had my camera with me to take some snaps but the battery on that ran flat to. I really should remember to charge my electronic devices before setting out… Luckily my trusty Nokia N8 was with me so I managed to get a few pics before the fog cleared.

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Posted by on September 23, 2012 in Equipment, Food, Holidays, Outdoors, Sport, Technology


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Eyes Wide Shut

I’m as guilty as the next person for texting whilst walking, though never so much that I walk into moving traffic. Plenty of times I’ve been walking down the street and I’ve almost been bumped into by someone talking into their mobile phone who was completely oblivious to their surroundings. Lately though, I’ve seen people taking this habit of being lost in their gadgets to new lengths. The first time I saw someone walking and reading their Kindle as the same time I could not believe my eyes. I’ve never been so engrossed in a book that I’ve had to walk down the street with it held out in front of me, blocking my view of where I’m going. I understand the urge to multi-task and the desire to do more in the same time. If you step out in front of a bus then you’ll never find out what happens at the end of that 50 Shades eBook you downloaded.

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Posted by on September 20, 2012 in Books, Equipment, Outdoors, Technology


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Low Tech FTW


After years of enjoying the versatility of having a smartphone with me 24/7 I have taken the plunge and reverted to using a (so called) dumbphone again. There are several reasons for choosing the Nokia 101 as my new side arm. Firstly, the huge battery life of 25 days stand by time. We carry phones to make calls and that can’t happen if your battery is drained by a big power hungry touch screen. Secondly, all those apps just create more opportunities for distractions and give you more inboxes to manage. Simplification of your communication channels is the first step to improving how well you communicate. Finally, the 101 is a dual SIM phone, which allows me to conveniently switch between carriers on the fly. Three good reasons to dumb down in a high tech world.

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Posted by on September 17, 2012 in Equipment, Inspiration, Shopping, Technology


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