Thursday Jan 07, 2010

Google dictionary

I wonder when Google will implement their own dictionaries?

I love the fact that I can do a Google search on timezones and currencies and get an answer in the search results, rather than having to click on a site that the search throws up.

I'm finding myself having to write a few emails in French these days and need to check words online, since my enormous Collins French dictionary is sitting on my father's bookshelf back in London and would be rather impractical to keep in my laptop bag. There are lots of online dictionaries I can use, but for the odd word or phrase, I'd love to see the answer pop up from a simple search.

Thursday Jul 09, 2009


The main product I sell is a device called a Sun Ray.

Fairly simple to spell and to write.

Despite that, it's amazing how many permutations of 'Sun Ray' that I see, with native English Speakers often being the worse offenders.

SUN Ray, Sun RAY, SunRay, SUNray, SUNRAY, sun Ray, Sunray, sunray, etc, etc.

The ones with superfluous capital letters always annoy me the most, for some reason.

Monday May 18, 2009

So what's the point of social networking?

The usual comments you hear about Facebook and the like is 'what's the point of connecting via the internet with friends you see every day in the office or socially?'.

A fair point - if you see someone every day, you probably don't need an internet relationship with them.

I like Facebook or Twitter or blogging for three particular reasons -

- They keep me in touch with people I like but never get to see that often, if ever.

- They keep me in touch with people I often see, but usually don't as I travel for work all the time.

- They keep me in touch with people I like and used to see all the time, but now won't any more, for one reason or another.

With the recent redundancies at Sun or with people moving on to other jobs, the latter reason has become more poignant.

Monday Feb 16, 2009

BlackBerry Bold Camera

I've been pretty pleased with the camera on my BlackBerry Bold. It's managed to take a few simple snaps that capture a moment well.

Here's the view from a colleague's garden in Paarl, near Cape Town.

Table Mountain, as seen down the road from the excellent Blue Peter pub.

Tuesday Oct 28, 2008

I am so connected

I left a voicemail for a colleague today, but wasn't sure if he'd get it - it might have been his office voicemail, rather than his mobile phone voicemail. SMS wasn't going through either.

So, I sent him an email via my mobile phone and a Twitter Tweet as well.

He got all three messages at the same time.

You cannot escape me, because I am totally connected. Providing my phone battery doesn't die out, I will force you to meet me in Vienna and enjoy a schnitzel, wherever you are.

Tuesday Oct 07, 2008

Washing machine 1, Mobile Phone 0

The results of a scientific study were published in Dubai today.

The study, which aimed to find out whether a Sony k610i mobile phone can survive spinning around in a washing machine for fifteen minutes, yielded clear results.

After being left in the pocket of a pair of swimming trunks and duly placed in an Electrolux 2000 Washer Dryer, a washing cycle was begun. Fifteen minutes into the cycle, the phone's owner realised what was happening the experiment ceased.

On retrieval, it was discovered that the phone no longer functioned correctly. This continued to be case after leaving it to dry for several hours.

The SIM card, however, continued to work when placed in an antique phone used by the laboratory for just these kinds of situations.

The phone's owner will wash his own swimming trunks in future.

A side effect of this experiment is the release of budget for a replacement phone, expected to be a BlackBerry Bold, due to be released locally during Gitex, an IT exhibition held in Dubai during late October.

Monday Sep 29, 2008

If it ain't broke

After working without any problems for many months now, my Apple router decided to stop working properly with my Windows XP laptop, refusing to let it onto the internet.

After making sure I was running the latest firmware on the both the Airport Extreme and Airport Express and reconfiguring things from scratch, things seemed to work again. The only thing that had changed, prior to that, was an upgrade to iTunes 8. Hmmm.

Now, however, music streamed from iTunes to the AirPort Express is cutting out occasionally. This used to happen when I first bought the AirPort Express - what fixed it was locking the Acer's wifi settings to 802.11b. Doing this now, however, means that the AirPort Extreme then stops working again with the Acer - no internet access and no AirTunes.

My MacBook continues to work perfectly.

So, I now have the joyous task of isolating the cause of the AirTunes problem.

First step - lock the Acer to 802.11g.

Future steps, should the first step fail - try different firmware, test with wired connection from AirPort Express to AirPort Extreme, test a new network card in the Acer.

It was all working fine before and I don't want to spend time fiddling!

Tuesday Jul 22, 2008

Twitter twitter

I've been on Twitter for the past couple of months, after ThinGuy encouraged me to sign up.

Twitter's one of those things that's impossible to explain to people who aren't already Twittering. It just sounds rubbish. But it's fun. Basically, you have 150 letters or so to post whatever you want to.. Call it mini-blogging, if you will.

Me - You post a few words about what you're feeling, what you're doing, whatever. Friends subscribe to your 'tweets' and keep up to date with what you're up to.

Mrs Saul - Sounds strange. What do you write about?

Mr - Well, work things or whatever I'm up to or about to do. 'Just about to head off to the pool', for example.

Mrs Saul - Who on earth wants to hear about that? Who do you listen to and who listens to you?

Me - Well, I subscribe to a few work people's 'feeds' and they subscribe to mine.

Mrs Saul - Why do they care what you're up to?

Me = Well, I don't think they do particularly. It's just fun to keep in touch, so to speak.

Mrs Saul - Have you met these people?

Me - Well, I've met some of them once or twice and got on well with them. Others I've never met. I've 'known' them all for a few years via email.

Mrs Saul - Hmmmm.

Thus far, I love it. The fact I know that people I don't really know are off to church every Sunday, going to the gym or munching on a cookie is a bit odd, considering I have no idea what my best friends back home are doing for months on end. That said, when we do finally all meet, we'll probably feel like old friends. Let's see how long this particular Web 2.0 thing lasts...

Thursday May 15, 2008

FoxClocks rocks

I love this addon for Firefox - FoxClocks is very handy.

Email addresses are auto-completed, spelling checked, phone numbers programmed in under people's names and now timezones calculated. Soon I won't have to think for myself at all.

Sunday Jan 20, 2008

iTunes irritations

iTunes is really beginning to irritate me.

Not surprisingly, video takes up a lot of space. To solve this, I've moved my iTunes folder onto a central NAS - a nice little Linksys NSLU2 with two 500GB drives attached to it.

Every so often iTunes resets the default folder from the music folder on my networked Y drive to being on my PC's C drive. This means that after I've encoded a few video files and copied them over to the 'proper' music folder on the NAS, when adding them to iTunes, iTunes promptly wastes hours copying them all back to my C drive.

When resetting iTunes to point back to my Y drive, iTunes then takes about twenty minutes 'updating' the library.

I think I need to untick the option to consolidate my library to stop this happening or mattering. The consolidate library option's quite helpful though, as it does keep everything in on place automatically. What's annoying though is that you have to have everything in one place. I'd like to have my music on one drive and video on another to improve performance and to make space more manageable.

Thursday Dec 27, 2007

Digital home takes shape

I'm slowly moving forward with defining how our new 'digital home' will look like. After owning the same small hifi for 8 years or so, along with a small TV and only one computer purchase (an Acer laptop a few years ago), I think I deserve an upgrade!

The TV's been identified - a nice 40", 2 Mega pixel Sony LCD. Surround sound will be from a Bose 3-2-1 or Sony DAV-x10 - Bose sound quality is better but it's more expensive, Sony looks good and only one controller is needed to operate both surround sound and the TV. Mrs Saul wants a solution with the minimum number of speakers...

Mrs Saul will have a new laptop to use. The current Acer will trudge along for a year or so more as a general laptop/iTunes controller, streaming to an Airport Express plugged into the sound system. I may upgrade the Acer with an N enabled wifi card.

Central shared and backup storage was supposed to be provided by 'AirDisk', a usb drive attached to my new Apple Extreme router. This really isn't working as it should do. Assuming Apple don't release a firmware upgrade that improves things in the immediate future, I'll use a Linksys NSLU2 to store all our content centrally, wired to the . The disk attached to the Apple router can continue as a general back up disk. Surprisingly, despite trawling the electronics shops of London today, I couldn't find an NSLU2. If I can't get one in Dubai either, I'll order it from Amazon.

A decent way of playing music and downloaded or ripped content (legal content of course) directly on the TV or straight to the sound system is proving difficult. Current media-centres from the likes of D-Link and Netgear get good reviews from the press, but bad reviews from users. They also lack Blu-ray or HD-DVD, Gb ethernet and N wifi. Sony have a nice new media-centre PC out, but it seems like expensive overkill and doesn't have a Blu-ray drive. I think a new, HDMI enabled and Blu-ray equipped laptop may be a good compromise in a few months' time, unless other vendors get their act together and bring out something that works and has up to date networking.

I'm also not sure of the best way of getting music to the bedroom. I see there are several wifi enabled players on the market, but I need something that will read from a shared drive, rather than going through a PC. It should also be able to integrate with playlists created in iTunes.

I'm surprised that no one vendor has quite managed to pull all of this together yet.

Friday Dec 21, 2007

Wii Boxing fitness miracles

I'm not quite at this chap's level, but recent regular Wii Boxing boughts are really helping me out on the waistline front.

General weight has gone down a bit, but the most amazing things is how trousers that I was previously worried were shrinking around the waist now appear to be expanding. Suit trousers in particular are now hanging off me - the trousers I got married in two and a half years ago are looser round the waist now than they were then, even if the scales show me as being a bit heavier. Unfortunately the jacket's got a bit tighter round the underarms. Still, beat that, all you married travelling types!

I've now bought some weights to put around my wrists while playing. My scores are going down as I'm less nimble, but it makes for an even more thorough workout, that's also great fun. Smashing people's faces in in your own living room, with no danger of getting hurt yourself and getting exercise at the same time is an unbeatable combination.

I can't wait for the new Wii Fitness board to hit Dubai...

On another Wii note, I keep reading about massive shortages in the UK - Dubai is filled with NTSC and PAL Wiis, so if you need one simply drop me a mail, promise to pay twice the list price and I'll bring you one over when I come back for Christmas.

Fellow blogger ThinGuy is miles ahead of me on the general fitness stakes, but is being much stricter. I have no intention ever of getting up to go to the gym at 0430 every morning, but salute his efforts and results.

Monday Dec 10, 2007

AirPort Extreme disappointment

I bought an Apple Airport Extreme for the new apartment and so far I'm not particularly impressed.

I bought it for three main reasons -

1. It looks good. Mrs Saul must like the way things look, or they must be hidden in hard to access parts of the living room.

2. You can attach usb disks and use it as a file server.

3. I already have an Apple Airport Express and wanted things to match and work well together when streaming music from iTunes to the stereo over the network, so having two products from the same company would make sense.

Setup was relatively easy. I always use Windows these days, so it wasn't a problem that the client is Windows and Mac only. I'd have been irritated to have had to use Windows a couple of years ago when Linux or Solaris were still my main desktop\*.

Disk access seems painfully slow. Following Thin Guy's experiences, I changed the channel I was on after using NetStumbler to see what the networks around me were using. As someone named 'Wolverine' was on the same channel as me, I changed to an unused channel - disk access seems to have improved, but only a little. Frankly it's unusable for anything but iTunes streaming or copying the odd file here and there. The idea was to use it to stream video around, but I can't see that working acceptably.

Using Bittorrent kept causing the router's wireless to stop working. Hunting around via Google I found that people had had the same experience and that switching off 'DHT' (whatever that is) would solve the issue. It seems to have.

Accessing the Sun VPN through my laptop is almost unusable. I have a second ethernet port enabled in the spare room - when using that, access works fine. This could be because I'm downloading a couple of large files on the other connection via the AirPort Extreme, but in theory both of my ports are sharing the same 2Mb link and the wireless network shouldn't be overloaded.

I need to do some testing to see where the bottlenecks lie, particularly with disk access, where slower, older wirleess cards may be the culprit.

That said, things 'just worked' with my old Dlink router, without any fiddling, installing client software, checking on forums and having things stop working randomly. Having one machine use the Sun VPN whilst another downloaded something wasn't an issue. Maybe I'm placing blame unfairly, but I'd have expected Apple to have done a much better job.

Next week I'll have some time to do some testing and may invest in some 'n' wireless cards for my work and home laptop to see if that improves things. If not, I'll have a look at some other NAS devices I can use to do file sharing better - Linksys seem to have a popular one out that might be 'coming in Dubai'.

I think I must be getting old - I used to enjoy putting all this stuff together, but these days I just want it all to work properly, out of the box and get everything from one vendor. I'm tired of fiddling around.

\* I do still use Solaris for work stuff, but as my customers use a Windows desktop and as we have to use a Windows desktop at home, I just end up using Windows for 'consumer' stuff.

Wednesday Nov 07, 2007

The Wii Sports revolution

I'm really enjoying the Nintendo Wii I got for my birthday, regularly working up a sweat with some nice 20 to 30 minute boxing sessions.

This is exactly what I need - easy exercise that's also fun.

People who say 'why don't you just go to the gym/play tennis on a real court/do some press-ups are missing the point. I want exercise to take up as little time as possible and to be easy and fun to do. Tricking me into exercising by making it into a game and mixing in some electronics is the perfect way to do this.

I can't wait to see what Nintendo bring out in the future. Anything that has me enjoying myself leaping around the living room and getting some exercise in to boot is worth every penny.

My next step is to get some weights to put around my wrists to make my workout a wii bit more strenuous.

Monday Oct 08, 2007

Sony design engineers need to wear shirts occasionally

I have two Sony products with earphones - one a set of noice cancelling headphones and the other a Bluetooth handsfree kit.

The headphones have the left ear piece attached to the main cable, with the right earpiece on a longer cord eminating from the left ear piece cable. The right ear piece cable is designed to be strung around the back of the neck. The handsfree has string that's placed over the head like a necklace, with the ear pieces hanging off the sides, ready to be inserted earwards when a call comes through.

Each of them works nicely if I'm wearing a t-shirt, but both are a pain if I'm wearing something with a collar. The left cable tends to get caught on the collar, which means grating sounds coming through on the headphones or catching the earpiece on the handsfree kit when I try to put it in my ear. Even if it gets in, the mic is usally buried under the collar anyway and noone can hear what I'm saying.

My Apple iPod headphones use a normal headphone 'y' design, with the cables neatly sitting between my collar, never getting caught or causing any issues.

I can just imagine the groovy t-shirt wearing Sony design engineers getting excited at how they'd come up with something cooler and apparently more innovative than Apple for a change, without ever testing whether their design was actually practical for anyone who doesn't work at a design consultancy and can't wear groovy t-shirts to work.




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