Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

Amazon Prime-arily For TV

July 29, 2016

Amazon-prime-discount_thumb800A couple of years ago my wife and I took the plunge by joining Amazon Prime, my wife for the unlimited Prime next day delivery and myself for the Amazon Prime Video.

After being a subscriber to Sky Movies via Virgin Media we had become bored with the high cost with only a couple of new movies being added each week after month’s exhausting the existing library.  Upon joining Prime there were a couple of films we hadn’t seen but it quickly became an obsolete subscription in our house and we cancelled it at the end of the year due to the lack of films.

Amazon comes in at approximately £79 p/a which is no small cost, we do certainly got our money’s worth from the next day deliveries which made things very convenient, however with the poor movie selection we just couldn’t justify the cost for a few quick deliveries.  Perhaps if the cost could have been spread across the year it would be more appealing, however with it being an annual cost it just wasn’t viable.

In the last couple of years however Amazon along with Netflix have started to produce their own TV series, which with a recent advertising campaign peaked my interest.

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My wife and I recently agreed to renew our subscription and with some Twitter followers recommendations I started to download some of the more popular series.  These series are a dream for a person who commutes to London daily, watching multiple episodes of a series across a week helps to pass the tedious travel time.  With various series available within the subscription you are hard pressed not to find something you would enjoy.  I myself have so far enjoyed “The Man in the High Castle”, “Bosch”, “Mr. Robot” and I have just started to watch “Preacher”.  Each of these series I found to be better than the programs you find on your normal TV stations and “almost” made me look forward to my next journey to see the progression of the stories I had been watching.

However, despite this new-found love of Amazon Prime there are still a few issues anyone should be aware of before forking out the substantial subscription.

Offline viewing is only available on mobile devices, such as a tablet or mobile phones.  Streaming is allowed on laptops, PCs and even gaming consoles but you cannot download the programmes to your laptop to watch on a train/plane journey.  This feature was available at some point but despite many posts complaining of this service removal, it is still not possible to download onto a Laptop for offline viewing using the normal methods.  This seems a strange decision by Amazon but I can only assume this is perhapsdue to the ability to record the programs on a laptop. mr-robot

There are however ways to get around this and I have been enjoying viewing these series on my laptop on my daily commute without the need to break the law by illegally downloading and breaching any DRM implemented by Amazon.  I simply have an android emulator called “Bluestack” (http://www.bluestacks.com/) .  By using this emulator, which whilst not perfect (slight sound buzzing), is a good enough platform I can now enjoy the many series on my daily commute.  Why Amazon cannot make this easier for customers is beyond me.

So if you are looking for some great TV series to watch I can highly recommend Amazon Prime as an alternative to buying expensive box sets, etc.

Gaming, Facebook and Twitter – Going Cold Turkey! (1 Week Offline) – Day 5

June 29, 2013

Day 5

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Well it has been a pretty uneventful week off of the Xbox.  No irritation, no getting moody, which was a surprise.  There have been moments of slight boredom but I have always quickly found something to occupy my time.

Despite having to correct a couple of my friends and family that despite some apps and this blog auto posting to Facebook, I haven’t actually been on Facebook.

Initially the hardest part from this week off was surprisingly not posting to Facebook and Twitter, there were times I would normally reach for my mobile to post, such as when bored on my commute to work but I quickly realised that by logging out of both apps it made it much easier to realise what I was doing and quickly shut it back down again.

Now my time off of Xbox had not been hard at all, there have of course been times where I have thought I would fancy a quick game of Call of Duty but I have quickly found something else to do instead.  I have managed to finish the book I had only just started a month ago which I really enjoyed and I have also started the fourth book in a series I have been reading over the past year which I am really enjoying.

So this week, so far has not been too hard at all, today being Saturday and tomorrow will be the real test as I am not working but I am not worried.  I have found that what originally prompted me to start this week off has actually improved.  I was finding that even when not playing I was thinking about playing or posting videos to YouTube of my gameplay.  This over the course of the week has diminished, it hasn’t gone completely (I am not expecting miracles) but it has stopped distracting me from more important things in my life.

So I have two and a half days to go, it has been a revealing week and I am pleased I took the decision to do this as I have benefitted from it, also through pure luck my self-imposed ban does end the day before the new Call of Duty map packs are released and the new free game is released on Xbox Live but both of these are pure coincidence (to back this up I have yet to play the last free game they released).

I think I will do one more post on this topic when the ban is lifted unless of course anything major happens over this weekend, but I seriously doubt there will be anything to report.

Thanks for reading and please follow if you have enjoyed any of my posts!

Leaving MobileMe – A Great Alternative

May 25, 2011

I have been a member of Mobile me for 2 years now and have utilised all of it’s features, from websites to mail.  I joined originally as I loved the ability to sync data between my Macbook and my iPhone.  This all works very well.

However, this year I took the major decision to sell my Macbook (see previous Blog for explanation Link ).  It was after selling my Macbook that I looked at syncing all the data from my iPhone to my new Windows-based PC.  I realised the majority of sync tasks can be done via iTunes but I still wanted the cloud functionality that I had used with my Macbook.  MobileMe worked fine syncing with MSOutlook using the Apple application for doing this.  My only issues were that this syncing program started at every boot unless you disabled it, but then you would need to enable it again to sync.  I also became disheartened by the cost each year of MobileMe at £60 .

I scoured the internet searching for viable alternatives finding many free alternatives.  The problem however was that no service provided the complete package of Mail, Calendar, Contacts, Webspace, Bookmarks and Find my iPhone.  Therefore I felt syncing via multiple services would probably kill my iPhone battery.

It was then I came across GoogleApps.  This service, at it’s basic level is free for personal users giving you syncing ability for Calendars, Contacts, Mail and Websites.  However there was no ability to sync this to Outlook.  However the next package up at just £3.3o per month included this functionality.  I could not believe that I pretty much had everything mobile me had at nearly half the cost (£39.60).

There are of course varying degrees of replication and a couple of functions not included in GoogleApps but overall it was worth it for the cost saving and the ability to pay monthly instead of yearly.  I have listed below the functions I use and their differences to MobileMe.

Prerequisite
GoogleApps does require that you own your own domain name which of course incurs a yearly fee, for me this was not an additional cost as I already own a domain, however if you do not already you can easily register for one using Google and costs approximately £11.  Also you will need to install GoogleSync if you wish to sync with MSOutlook.  The positive for this is that it only opens when you open Outlook thus does not use resource when not in use as MM does.

Mail
Mail is very good with GoogleApps (GA), even with the free package you get up to 10 email address accounts.  With the business package you get unlimited accounts each with 25GB of space.  You could get friends to join with you so you can spread the costs between you for email.
Mail is IMAP the same as MM so anything you do on your iPhone is replicated on the GA servers.

Positives: You can have numerous email accounts e.g. for each of your family or friends. You can manage Spam from your iPhone by moving it to the Spam folder which Gmail then uses to identify junk email.  The read message count is alaso pushed to your iPhone unlike MobileMe which required you to open Mail to refresh the unread count.

Negatives: GA has a strange function whereby if you delete on your iPhone it is basically archived.  Without going into too much detail it basically means the email does not have a label such as Inbox or one of your personal folders.  Nothing is deleted unless you go to the All Mail folder and individually delete it.  If you delete in Outlook it goes into the BIN folder as you would expect and will auto delete in 30 Days.  The only problem I have with the iPhone in effect archiving is that you cannot easily identify Archived mail in Gmail to  batch delete the mails.  This can however be done from Outlook which is clever enough to identify the archived mail.

Calendar/Contacts
Not much different to MM except I did not have the UK GMT issue for all day events as I did with MM.

Positives: Again you can set up multiple calendars for different users.  Also contacts birthdays are placed into a separate calendar list which syncs with Outlook without issue.

Webspace
Very similar to MM, only positive is that you can actually create a website from within GA.

iDisk/GoogleDocs
I am very fond of GAs equivalent to iDisk as it just feel more flexible.

Positives: Docs can be saved to be viewable from a web browser, you can decide on exactly who can view what by setting individual share settings.  You can install a MS plugin to either automatically or manually share documents directly from programs such as Excel, Word, etc.

Bookmark Sync
This function is not available via GA, there are other services out there that can provide this but I do not feel it is worth paying for this so I simply use the iTunes sync for Bookmarks.

Find My iPhone
This service is not available with GA but I never really used this so it was not an issue for me.

Overall I could not be happier with GoogleApps and to add their customer support is very quick to respond to any queries you have with your service so all round this “in my opinion” is a far better service.

Living With Diabetes, It Could Be Worse.

September 7, 2008

I have been a diabetic for most of my life, first diagnosed at the age of 5.  It was thanks to watchdog that the diagnosis was quick.  My mother had noticed that as a young 5 year old I was often very thirsty, and would spend half the night getting up to go to the toilet after having drunk so much fluid before going to bed.  It wasn’t until she saw a report on watchdog that my mother became increasingly concerned.  She took me to the local GP who immediately said to take me down to A&E.  I was later diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes (insulin dependent).

As a man coming into my early thirties I do not think anything of my daily routine of injecting at least twice a day and numerous blood tests however, even my close friends do not fully understand the things I go through living with diabetes.  So this is what this blog post is about, to give people a bit more of an insight in to what my day consists of and how diabetes affects my day to day life.

Now let me first say, this is not a woe is me blog.  I feel living with diabetes is not a big thing, I have had it for 25 years now and it just seems the norm to me but it isn’t normal so I wanted to explain the things I deal with throughout my life.

As a young boy I can’t really remember much about being scared of having my injections but I have been told stories of how I used to hide in the play room at the hospital when my parents were learning how to administer my medication.

The first thing I really remember as an issue with my diabetes was my poor mother trying to make diabetic recipes to give me the chance to have say a mouse for dessert without my sugar levels going through the roof.  One such time my mother had tried recipe after recipe to find something nice for me to eat.  I think my mother was at her wits end and as a young child I refused to eat the dessert, my mother, obviously under much pressure made me eat the dessert.  Many tears later my mother tried the dessert and the realisation that her son was not just a whiny kid but the fact the dessert was awful came over her.

We laugh about it now but this seemed to affect my Mum, it must be hard to see a young loved one not able to have everything normal kids have but my Mum always tried her best with me.

The next life affecting issue with diabetes was that as a young child I was very reluctant to learn how to do my injections myself.  This first became an issue in junior school when the year was to go on a trip away for a week.  Unfortunately as I still had not learnt to do my injection I had to stay at school with the kids who couldn’t afford the trip.  Still to this day it never really bothered me that I missed out on this trip but it was a missed opportunity caused by my illness.

As a young child I used to hate doing my injections in public, it was in an era where drug abuse and aids were at the forefront of the media and I felt that people would judge me, thinking I was taking drugs.  Looking back I can see that this was a silly thing to think and now have no issue doing my injections in public, even if people do think I am taking drugs, that is their problem and my friends know I would never do that so they are the ones that really matter.

As I grew up, managing my daily blood sugar levels became part of my daily life.  It was when I hit the age of 18 that the next hurdle came in my diabetes management.  This was the age I started drinking (yes a late starter I know) and alcohol is one of the few things that lower your blood sugar levels.  Any kind of carbohydrate will increase ones blood sugar levels whereas only exercise, insulin or alcohol will lower them.

So where my friends would go out and get hammered without a care in the world I would need to take extra precautions.  Initially doctors used to say you should not drink at all as apart from lowering your sugar levels, the behavior of a diabetic having a hypo is often similar to the behavior of someone who is just drunk, hence causing confusion when a diabetic is drunk.

Anyway in these modern times doctors advise diabetics they can drink but must not drink excessively.  Whilst not strictly following this rule I do take precautions by drinking sugary drinks between my alcoholic ones to keep my sugar levels up.  It was one Christmas holiday day as a new drinker that for some mad reason I threw all the precautionary rules out the window and just drank without any sugary drinks.

The last I remember of this night was leaving the bar, the next thing I was aware of was waking up in the hospital with my Mum and Dad in front of me in tears.  Being the Christmas holidays I felt ashamed, that I had not looked after myself and had brought my Mum and Dad away from their own Christmas party to find their son in an absolute state.  To top this off I was informed of the events that had preceded me waking up in the hospital.  This included being carried by four friends to a mates house where I redecorated his parents lounge in vomit!

Once the doctors were happy that my sugar levels had stabilised they allowed me to return home, unfortunately they had not advised my parents that the injection they had given me would make me feel more sick than just being hung-over.  I spent the next day throwing up, this being an issue for a diabetic who needs to keep his sugar levels up to stop themselves falling back into another hypo.  My mother tried to give me the usual recommended lucozade but I just could not keep it down, after a few hours of this she grew increasingly concerned and called a helpline who advised to water the lucozade down which resolved this issue of me keeping it down.

As they say you should learn by your mistakes and I have never had an event quite as bad as this, caused by alcohol.  I must admit I have had low sugar levels caused by alcohol but never to this scale.

There was a period during my teenage years where my hypos had become more frequent, I had recently had a medication change where I had been put onto a synthetic version of human insulin whereas I had previously been taking a porcine and bovine mix.  During this period I completely lost my low blood sugar level warning signals therefore I was unable to stop myself having hypos before they happened.  It was thanks to my mother who whilst reading her diabetic magazine came across an article describing other diabetics who have experienced the same loss of warning now that they were on the synthetic human insulin.  We immediately went to see my diabetic specialist and demanded to be taken off this human insulin (which we believe was more the drugs company trying to cut costs by moving all diabetics onto the same insulin).  I was immediately placed back onto a porcine/bovine mix and my sugar level control was restored.

The actual hypos I find very hard to describe when asked by people, the physical actions I make when having one vary from hypo to hypo and I will highlight some of the more funny episodes later in this blog but the actual feeling of a hypo is usually very much the same.  When I get a warning about my sugar levels dropping the documented description of a diabetic hypo suggests the feeling of butterflies in the stomach.  I think this is quite accurate but not quite a full description, I feel that I also get the feeling of great hunger but even this does not fully describe the feeling but it is as close to it as I can get.

The majority of the time I will get a feeling that my sugar levels are dropping and therefore will eat something, on rare occasions I will not get a warning and this is when I have episodes such as the one described above or later on in this blog.  In more recent times I have had a hypo first thing in the morning, I have woken up and sometimes my wife has had to give me sugar or biscuits to bring my sugar levels up.  I can often have no idea of what has happened or even the fact I have had a hypo.  Sometimes there is an issue of me refusing to have the sugar or food but my wife persists in getting me to take it.

A recent hypo involved me waking up and in a semi-concious state I had a shave but not a shower and made myself some breakfast, it wasn’t until the breakfast had got into my system that I realised what had happened but I was still unsure if I had, had a shower or not.

As an adult I have no issue telling people I have diabetes but I do find it uncomfortable to tell a group of strangers on the off chance I have a hypo in front of them.  The reason for this reluctance to tell is not because of shame or anything but the fact that I do not feel it is a major issue and would rather people just didn’t know. I fell foul of this in the early days of dating my now wife.  To be honest I still could not give anyone any advice on when is an appropriate time to tell a new girlfriend/boyfriend of your diabetes as even if you just mention it, to go into details of how they should deal with you if you have a hypo is not going to be the most attractive feature to them and I can see would scare some people off.

I was lucky and when I had a hypo in the early days of dating my wife I had fortunately informed her of my diabetes but had not explained how to deal with a hypo.  It was for this reason that she called an ambulance.  Once they had brought me round I did feel very embarrassed but it was the best thing my now wife could have done as she would not have known how to treat me.

Over the 25 or so years I have had diabetes I have had various hypos which after the event are very funny and in my opinion why dwell on them when they are funny.  Some of these episode include one as young child where I had watched the Rocky film with Mr. T. in and for some reason thought that if my parents let my feet touch the floor then Mr. T would get me, yes hilarious after the event but at the time I remember being in fear for my life.  

Another hypo at university I was in front of my bedroom sink and kept trying to lean on the sink but every time missing and whacking my head.  This happened number of times before a friend realised what was happening and gave me some sugary drink.

Perhaps my funniest episode was whilst working at the Co-op supermarket, I had just finished my shift and was downstairs getting changed, for some reason I was laying on the floor, after I went up on to the shop floor to leave, according to a friend I had gone around blowing raspberries at customers!

The thing that I find amazing is that when I am alone I always eventually find myself obtaining a sugary drink or some food, it is like my body has a natural survival mode where it knows that I need to raise my sugar levels.  I have learnt by mistakes and I do try to look after myself now and as I have stated at the start of this, I have had diabetes for so long now that it just feels like normal to me.  Whilst I do need to watch what I eat more than others and I also need to know where I will end up at the end of the night so I can have access to my injection stuff and I also need to renew my driving license every 3 years it does not have an impact on my life in a dehabilitating way.

Platform Rage, The London Workers Disease

April 22, 2008

Everyone who works in London probably experiences what I like to call “Platform Rage”.  Everyday many of us like to choose the same spot on the platform so that we can be first through the train doors in an effort to get the valuable seats.

Each day an element of judgement plus luck is needed as the train will never stop at exactly the same spot.

However, every day each passenger chooses their spot and awaits to see who is the lucky person to be nearest the door.  However there are some people who in my mind aggrevate me so much that I today found myself having a go at a complete stranger.

These people are the people who don’t rely on luck or if they see someone in the prime position will, in their minds subtly, but in my mind obvious and sneaky, shuffle along the platform and quite rudely try and position themselves in front of you.

To try and avoid this daily battle I have found myself standing closer and closer to the edge of the platform, over the safe distance yellow line the rail company kindly place on the platform to stop you being sucked in by fast passing trains.  However it seems that a rather large and thus not subtle lady has taken it upon herself to shuffle as close as possible to the edge of the platform where I am standing and then just as the doors open she pushes me out of the way and climbs on board.

This made me so angry today I shouted at her “don’t mind me”.  It is not really the fact she did it, it is more the fact that she spends the ten minutes of time while we wait for the train slowly shuffling in front of me.  Does she think I am blind?  Does she think I don’t notice?  Either way tomorrow will be just the same old repetition but I am going to up my game, I will stand on the edge of the platform, I will be standing in the prime position (subject to the tube running on time) and I will use my old rugby tactics to block the fat oaf of a woman and let her realise that in Britain we queue, we do not jump and we especially don’t invade another persons personal space!  Maybe if she didn’t sit down each day she may lose some of her weight!

Head Hunters Misfiring

April 10, 2008

I do not know how common place this is for people not working in the city but I find that I am regularly contacted by self proclaimed “head-hunters”.  My issue with these people is that they have a one in ten hit rate for finding people that are even marginally suited for he role they are looking to fill.

I find that the following scenarios are too common to be just relative to my own situation.  More often than not these head hunters will telephone you at work and proclaim they have a job ideal for your current skill-set before they even know what these skills are.  As  far as I can deduce, the hunters look purely at your job title and then try and link it, however loosely to the job they are currently trying to fill. 

I can understand that they may find themselves trying to fill a role that they do not have obvious candidates for but my question is why that when you make it obvious the role they have is of no interest to you that they then continue to try and make it sound more interesting than it actually is.  I have often found that saying am not interested leads to them quite rudely continuing their line of questioning when the call should finish there and then allowing them to continue to their next victim, sorry prospective candidate instead of wasting both your and their time.

On rare occasions I find that I am interested in the role but I find that getting any further information on the role is near impossible. With job descriptions they send airing of desperation and marketing to draw you in when quite clearly it is not as great and rosy as it all sounds.

First of all, at the end of the day the main factor that will draw you from your current role is salary and benefits.  In my mind a role should be pre-evaluated as to what it’s salary should be along with the benefits offered.  Instead the salary is rarely mentioned and the benefits are often bounded in with the salary to make it sound far better than it actually is, leaving the candidate either without a clue or a long job evaluating whether the financial situation is in fact any better than their current situation.  I understand employers want the best candidates at the lowest cost but the salary range should be stated quite clearly from the start ad not be based upon you current situation which leaves me feeling that the salary is nothing to do with the role advertised but more on how much it will take to get me away from my current employer.

This leads me on to my next point, we all realise that this ‘head-hunter’ will be paid a commission on recruiting you into the role, therefore the more often they can get people to move the more money they make.  Hence I feel that these leeches from an employers perspective are both an ally and enemy.  These people will help an employer obtain a new employee, but at the same time they will possibly be the person to take that employee away from you at a later date with the lure of a higher salary elsewhere.  Also this causes a situation where you can tell that an agency will put you forward for pretty much any job they feel their is the smallest possibility of you getting, just to spread their odds of getting a commission from a role that they are probably competing to recruit on with another agency.  I have found myself in interviews for jobs that I obviously have no skill-set for but the agency has taken the stance that I am in the right industry so that will do as a prerequisite for me to apply.

Also these agencies pretend they are fully aware of individual companies recruiting processes and give you what I have since found out is a generic interview aptitude test leaving me fully prepared for a test which is nothing like the actual questions or tests I am put through on the day of the interview.

Head-hunters, do your jobs, tell the candidates exactly what the job entails and give the employers the candidates they really want!

One of Those Days, Look On The Brightside

April 8, 2008

You often know when it is going to be one of those days, you don’t know what it is, you just have a feeling.  Mine often starts with a night of light seep where one thing or another keeps you up so that when you wake in the morning you feel like crap.

You drag yourself into work and on the day when you’d like to get in just in time the trains are running fine and you get in extra early, whereas on days when you want to be in early the trains are up the shoot leaving you fuming for the day ahead.

Fortunately work wasn’t too bad, lots to do to keep me busy so the time went pretty quickly, unfortunately despite a work load piled high I am asked to go to a meeting which whilst I can see the idea is is well intentioned is of no use to me and a waste of my working day.  However in these times you have to make the effort and not reject opportunities that come your way in case you are overlooked when something useful comes up at a later date (although in my case I often feel I am always overlooked for the good stuff and only called upon when no other bugger will go). 

This meeting was alright but I couldn’t help my mind wandering thinking about the work I had back at my desk that I could have been doing at the time.  Anyway this meeting went on past my usual working day but that is not a major issue as the majority of the time my work finishes on the dot which in these modern times is an unusual thing.

So I started my journey home, upon arrival at my main line station a train had just pulled in but I cold not see where it was going and didn’t want to take the risk, plus I thought it would only be another ten minutes until the next train.

This is when I find myself running from one platform to another wondering why each time the train to my destination is not there.  I even ask a member of staff which platform my next train will leave from only to find yet again I have missed it.  Three missed trains later I notice the time on my mobile, which doesn’t match my watch, it turns out my watch has been running ten minutes slow and hence why I keep missing my train

So now with my watch corrected I now proceed to what I think is the correct platform for my next train.  Whilst waiting I even have the time to check the time of my next train on my phone.  The time grows closer and suddenly a different train is announced one minute before mine, ‘Jesus Christ’ I mutter and proceed to run as hard and fast as I can to the other platform.  As I run up the stairs for what feels like the tenth time I gladly see the destination I want on the front of the train just arriving.

I am absolutely exhausted and fed up but the gods must be smiling on me as there is even a seat on the train.  I collapse into it and start to watch the rest of my Tv program from this morning ad then type out this blog entry.  However, five minutes pass and the train has not moved, what the hell is going on now?  The driver then announces that there is a problem with one of the doors and would passengers mind ‘kicking the door’ to make them close!  Another five minutes pass and at last the train starts to move.

After the day I’ve had I could scream and be in a bad mood but looking at it more positively I am now sitting on the train and I will shortly be home.  So if you think you’re having a bad day just remember there are always people in a lot more stress than yourself and that you should just take a deep breath and let your troubles go.  I find this very hard to do and can often be seen losing my rag over the simplest of things, but today has just got to the point where I don’t care and I am just looking forward to getting home to my fiancee.