Photo Blogging

This weekend I’ve create a Photo Blog for myself using the excellent Pixel Post tool. Most of my photographs are more snaps than art work; but they represent things going on around me and so I think they’re fair game for a blog. I’ve posted a few pictures from the past 12 months for a starter.

Unfortunately the comments section of the photo blog doesn’t work reliably if you’re using Firefox and I’m currently trying to get a fix for this issue. If you’re using one of the other browsers then I’d be delighted to read your views.

Update: The Firefox issue seems to be peculiar to my personal set-up and may be related to the Firebug add-on that I’m using. However other users of Firebug have reported no problems. Hopefully it works for you.

Blogging Events

Two blogging events coming up in the West Cork area in the near future.

Firstly SOHO Solo West Cork are running a training session on “Blogging & understanding the commercial advantage of Web2 tools” on the morning of the 1st April (no it’s not an April fools joke). The session is on at the Celtic Ross Hotel in Rosscarbery and aims to introduce the business benefits of blogging.

On a similar theme the West Cork Enterprise Board monthly meeting will also be about Blogging For Business. This talk will be given by Damien Mulley who, amongst other things, organizes the Irish Blog Awards. This event is at 19:30 on the 14th April, again in the Celtic Ross Hotel.

The First Cut…

Is not necessarily the deepest. Just finished cutting the lawn for the first time this year. This has to be a record for the first cut; but the dry spell looks like it might come to an end tonight. I wanted to get a cut in before the grass takes off and we have a jungle out there again. Not that we’ve got much grass left; for some reason a lot of weeds took hold last summer and killed the grass in parts of the lawn leaving a lot of bare patches. Ideally I’d get the whole lot torn up and re-laid; but this isn’t an ideal world!

BirdSpotter – The Birdwatchers Log Book

I’ve been a keen birder, twitcher if you will, from an early age. Whilst I don’t have much time in the field at present I’ve decided to embark on a project that I’ve had on the back burner ever since I first go into web applications about 10 years ago; a web based birders log.

So BirdSpotter.org has been born. Check out the blog on the site for announcements and information about design and features. If there’s anything you’d like to see then leave a comment over on the blog and I’ll add it to the list.

Surfer Dude

Trolled down to Garrettstown this morning to pay a visit to the surf school sale. Really looking for shore boots and maybe a buoyancy aid for the Nibser.

Arrived around 10:45 and Jon said, “There’s a lesson starting at 11:00, why not join it?”. So rather than think about it for another week and get stressed over it I accepted the place on the lesson.

Why get stressed about it? Well the idea of surfing is something very new to me; I mean I’ve spent the last 52 years carefully avoiding the water and here I am voluntarily going in the sea. I don’t know why I’ve always been afraid (petrified!) of the water (sea, swimming pool, puddle); but I have. However last month we saw the Nibser having a fantastic time at Surf2Heal (she has no fear at all) so I resolved to overcome my trepidation and get stuck in so that I can feel comfortable taking her in the water.

Did I stand up on the board? Not today; but I did get on a board in the sea; and that’s a great start.

Update… That was Sunday and now it’s Tuesday evening. Since the lesson every muscle group in my body has been queuing up to howl in protest at the exertion it’s been put through. Just goes to show how unfit I am and what a good work over surfing is!

Surf2Heal 2008

In the last week in August we were very fortunate to be offered a place on the first surf camp to be run in Ireland for Children with Autism; Surf2Heal. Our daughter, who’s eight, had only recently been diagnosed with the condition this was the first opportunity for us to meet with other parents of autistic children as well as an opportunity for Roisin to try surfing.

The camp was being run by Garrettstown Surf School near Kinsale, Co. Cork. Somehow they’d amassed an army of volunteers to help out with the weeks activities from autism professionals, speech and language exports and special needs assistants there was a body of trained and dedicated people to help support us and Rosin during the weeks activities.

I was unsure at the start of the week just how things would go. Each child was booked for an hour and a half session in the sea with two instructors. I know Roisin loves the sea; but I wasn’t sure if she’d rebel at putting a wet suit on or just how she’d manage going out into deeper water. My initial fears were soon allayed. The wet suit was no problem (I think because she was prepared for this) and each child was fitted with a buoyancy aid so she felt safe in the sea.

She had a fantastic time and by the third day was able to stand on the surf board. The smile on her face is a memory I shall carry with me for the rest of my life; it was a beautiful thing to see.

I’m not going to go into too much detail about the activities; but instead I want to thank the people involved:

  • Jon and Alayne Hynes who own the Garrettstown Surf School for making this event happen. They must have given so much time over the year to put this together as well as making their premises and staff available for the event.
  • Roisin’s instructors in the water, Triona and Keeley. Their enthusiasm and spirit never wavered the entire week despite taking 4 sessions every day and at all times they kept Roisin safe and having fun in the water.
  • All the other volunteers who helped bring the week together and make it such a safe and enjoyable week for the children and parents alike.
  • Portwest Clothing who supplied the wet suits. Each child came away at the end of the week with their own wet suit.
  • MARTINS, the Maritime Training In Safety initiative who supplied a lot of the sponsorship for the event and the National Maritime College Of Ireland through whom the funds were obtained.
  • Ernest J Cantillon & Co Solicitors who sponsored specially commissioned surf boards for the event.

Apologies to anyone or any organization that I’ve left out.

Looking forward the week has opened a whole world of possibilities for all of us and I’m determined to build on the experience for Roisin. So clear the beach, here we come……

Review: Memeo Autobackup Premium

This software seemed like a great idea – something that would automatically backup my files as and when they'd changed. Unfortunately the reality fell far, far short of the promise with software that functioned very poorly and support to match. Functionally this software looks very good. You create backup 'plans' in which you decide where you want the backup files to go and then select which areas you want to backup. This you can do by selecting from a set of quick picks, e.g. My Documents, My Pictures, My Music etc; or you can select directories from the file system or you can choose files by their Tag. Grand. Once you chosen the files to backup the Memeo goes off and makes an initial backup of everything you've selected. CPU usage during this process is very high, which is only to be expected really, so it's best to start this process at night or let it run over a weekend. After the initial copy has been made then Memeo runs in the System Tray and every time you save a file it gets backed up. You can also keep a number of copies of files, which is good for things like documents. So things were going well for me and my Memeo. I created a few plans to backup everything I have on disk, documents in one plan, pictures in another…. Away Memeo went merrily backing everything up. However after a couple of days I noticed that when I saved a file there was no longer a little pop up to say the file had been backed up. When I opened Memeo I found that all the backup plans had stopped working several days before. There's an active support forum for this product so I posted my problem and got a response from someone in Memeo support:

Delete all the backup plans in the file system and start again.

Now to me that doesn't sound like a solution, it sounds like a desperate measure. Not being offered any alternatives that's what I did. There are instructions in the forum for 'reactivating' a backup; but these didn't work as documented so I deleted all my backups and started again. However the same thing happened again a few days later. I reported the problem again and was given the same response; start again. Even after emailing the log files to Memeo support the response was; delete all the plans and start again. To cut a long story short here I've done this 'start again' process at least 5 times now. I've had Memeo customer support do a remote access session on my PC to try to find the problem. After that they downgraded my Memeo version from Premium to Standard; but the same thing happened. After that their suggestion was (you've guessed it) delete all the plans and start again. In addition to the problem with the plans that stopped working I've also had he following issues with the software:

  • With all plans suspended (paused) the software was still using between 50% and 90% of the CPU (Intel Core 2 2.13GHz). This meant I couldn't just pause the plans, I had to quit the software altogether.
  • Once I got to more that 5 plans they'd (the plans) would start disappearing off the list meaning I could no longer edit their configuration or remove the plan.
  • Plans could not be reactivated once a plan had been deleted. I was a case of starting the whole thing again from scratch.

In defense of the software I will say that I'm running it on Vista Ultimate SP1. Maybe it runs fine on XP; but given the activity in the support forum and the huge FAQ list of issues I'm not convinced of this. I've given the software one star because

  • Louder Voice won't let me give it 0 stars
  • It deserves something for being a good idea

If I ever get the software working properly I'll update this review.

Review: ETEN Glofiish X800

I bought this PDA to be my mobile business partner; phone, organizer, web & email on the go. However poor performance and poor quality has led me to replace it with a standard mobile phone after only 7 months. Purchasing this was an expensive mistake.

Review of ETEN Glofiish X800
Rated as 1/5 on Aug 17 2008 by David Hollingworth

1/5

I did a lot of research on-line before I bought this product, read lots of reviews, though most of these reviewed what was in the box. Unfortunately I failed to connect with the ETEN European Users forum. Had I done so I would have thought again about buying this device.

What really swayed me towards the X800 was the VGA screen. There’s no doubt that this is much higher resolution than similar products from HTC, Palm, Toshiba & the like available at the time. The reports that the CPU was ‘slightly under powered’ didn’t deter me. The lure of the screen pulled me in.

I also wanted a device with Windows Mobile 6 so that I could fully sync my Outlook calendar and use Microsoft Office and other productivity tools. The X800 also came with Spb Mobile Shell which is a great enhancement to the basic Today screen.

So what went wrong? Given that the phone was bought to support my business the reliability problems I experienced rendered it worse than useless.

  • The phone would frequently lock up and need rebooting at least once a day. This would often happen when a call was incoming and so this was more than just an inconvenience.
  • It would often drop incoming calls when I pressed the answer button. On one occasion someone (Unknown number) tried five times to call in quick succession, every time I pressed answer the line was dead. Another reboot required and probably lost business.
  • Call quality was poor with a lot of echo on the line and a lot of static too.
  • The camera quality is very poor for a 2 megapixel camera. OK, not essential for business; but it’s something I like to use.
  • Often the phone would go completely crazy and start playing an Arctic Monkeys MP3 track at high volume. Most embarrassing when talking to a client and also requiring a reboot to fix.
  • The voice command will switch on at random. Turning it off would only temporarily alleviate the problem as it would come back on again a short time later. Another reboot.
  • Overall the device is badly underpowered and most operations are sluggish.
  • Battery life is dreadful. The phone needs about 2 hours charging a day to last 24 hours. It’s a lot better with all the radios switched off.
  • Support from ETEN is very, very poor and really only limited to the occasional release of new firmware. My device had the latest firmware when it was delivered.

Some time after buying the X800 I was surfing the net and came across what has to be the best kept secret ETEN users have, the European users group forum. There’s some real experts on this site providing updated firmware and fixes for the problems the X800 has. I’ve installed a fix for poor screen performance that greatly enhanced the response of the touch screen. However I’ve not tried a firmware upgrade yet as this can completely wreck the phone if it goes wrong.

The Glofiish X800 does have some good features:

  • There’s no doubt that the screen is good with a nice VGA resolution.
  • Wifi performance is reasonable though Internet Explorer often hangs. This is probably a problem with IE rather than the phone.

So not many redeeming features. I’m now using a fairly basic mobile phone (review to follow) which also syncs with Outlook and gives me a lot more confidence that I’m going to be able to answer all calls and won’t need rebooting. Now I’ve an alternative I might try replacing the firmware with a version from the user group. If this fixes the issues I’ll update this review, otherwise I’ll just continue to use it for wifi access.

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Photo Blogging

Thanks to my new Sony Ericsson K770i I’ve just discovered the delights of photo blogging.

What is photo blogging? My definition is: ‘the ability to upload and publish online a series of seemingly unconnected and probably meaningless photographs’.

OK, that’s a bit cynical I know. More sensibly; as a blog is a written online journal so a photo blog is an online journal created with photographs. My new K770i has a really neat feature that allows me to publish a photo taken on the phone straight to a blog. Unfortunately it doesn’t support WordPress at present so I can’t publish direct to this blog. I’ve created a completely separate photo blog over at blogspot.

Enjoy.