Monthly Archives: April 2013

Gratuitous cockatiel photography..

This is Lloydie being all comfy and snoozy and wondering why I keep pointing my phone at her. Made with Giffer on my iPhone which is a pretty nifty little app for making animated gifs.

And here’s a non-animated picture of her doing an impression of Bruce Forsyth, just because it made me chuckle.
20130429-222241.jpgAnd that’s it – just gratuitous cockatiel photography! I did warn you in the title..

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Categories: blog, iPhone / iPad / Mac | Leave a comment

Life’s a (Pebble) beach..

After more than a week of Pebble ownership it’s definitely as awesome as I hoped it would be pending the inclusion of further apps and watch-faces.  Having already covered the basics of that initial moment of acquiring the watch and first use (I should note that the Pebble support team did respond to my premature pleas of anguish via email and had found the blog post to ascertain that I was in fact okay and happy with my Pebble).

On battery life – mine’s been happily running non-stop since I charged it overnight from Sunday to Monday.  So that’s almost a full week of use, I did have a strange screen issue where the display had become scrambled in the middle of the week.  I wondered if that might be a flat battery, but it wasn’t as I shut down and switched on the watch and it’s been normal ever since.  So that’s pretty impressive stuff in my book!

Having your phone constantly connected via Bluetooth inevitable rinses the battery more than it would if you didn’t (well, duh!).  Generally I have my phone plugged in in the car as part of my music/navigation set up anyway, and will often have it plugged in at work or at home.  If you’re going to be out and about for extended periods without the opportunity to charge then you are going to struggle (as, in fairness, you would without the Pebble connection for many Smartphones).

It’s easy enough just to pop Bluetooth off on your phone for a spell, your Pebble will retain the time quite happily – obviously you will miss out on notifications or music control but you will have a functioning timepiece which is of course the primary function.  With festival season upon us too it’s good to know it will comfortable go a long weekend on a single charge, indeed, if you disabled Bluetooth on the watch too in the settings I’m assuming you’d extend the battery life a bit on the watch too.

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91 Dub watch face – retro-tastic.

I’ve definitely preferred the text-based watch faces and the Wordsquare one I chose for my previous post wins, I also rather like this one – called ’91 Dub’ it has a deliciously retro vibe that reminds me of the first watches I regularly encountered at school.  The drawback of the word-based faces is the lack of accuracy as it rounds time to five minutes (fine for day to day, less so if you’re timing a pizza cooking in the oven!).  That’s where switchability of watch faces is rather useful.

On notifications, texts and iMessages worked right away for me, subsequently tweaking my notification settings on my iPhone seems to have also enabled email notifications on my Pebble too.  In both cases the sender, subject (for emails) and body text is displayed on the screen and is scrollable.  It’s understandably truncated for larger messages.  I’m not sure how I managed to activate email notifications, but my primary account has banners enabled on my phone which seems to translate through to the watch.

Other notifying apps like Facebook or Twitter don’t pass through to the watch (which is probably a good thing considering frequency!).  In future firmware updates it would be nice to be able to choose which notifications to receive on the watch itself, with a list of those available selectable through the settings menu.  It’s a nice-to-have really though rather than a deal breaker – but at the moment it seems you have an all-or-nothing option (the VIP option in iPhones is good here – you could disable notifications for all emails except those you deem important).

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Missed call!

Considering the primary function of a mobile phone is, well, a phone I receive a tragically small number of calls.  In an age where text-based communication seems to be preferred (I prefer it too, admittedly) – the only calls I’ve had have mostly been from blocked numbers, the one I received from a contact in my address book displayed the number initially then resolved the name of the contact from my phone, as well as the type of number I’d classified in my contacts, and remains as a flag if you miss the call.

Once firmware tweaks kick in (a battery life status option somewhere would be useful – although I’m now comfortable that I could have a weekly charge cycle) and additional apps and watch-faces start to filter through and the Smartphone app evolves to cope with this extra functionality then the watch could continue to throw in a few new surprises, but as it stands it’s a robust bit of kit both in terms of hardware and software and well worth the money and wait for it.

My colleague Ade picked his up last week too so I will be comparing notes with him when he’s back in the office next week, but he’s certainly not sent me loads of messages asking for support so I’m going to assume he’s been having a similarly happy time with his Pebble!

Categories: blog, iPhone / iPad / Mac | 4 Comments

Erica Nockalls – Imminent Room

I meant to write something about this album ages ago, as I acquired it before the official release and have listened to it loads – I could pretend that I was awaiting the opportunity to see how Erica’s music translated to live performance (which I’ve now done!), but if I’m honest I’m just a terminal procrastinator and I either never quite got around to it escaped my mind.  So now I’m going to get around to it!

Erica Nockalls is probably best known as the fiddle player with The Wonder Stuff and as part of a duo with Miles Hunt – both projects that I’d heartily recommend checking out if you haven’t already, but a solo project is quite an intriguing proposition.  When I pre-ordered Imminent Room I had no idea what to expect in terms of style of music, so I can’t exactly say I was surprised when I first listened, but I kinda was because well, it’s not really something that is easy to categorise.

That fits quite nicely with her comments in the record artwork really, this is a response to not really finding any music that quite fits the bill.  I’m not a fan of pigeon-holing anyway, but it’s something that seems quite irresistible when describing music or other things – but even if you manage to do that with one of the tracks on this album, you’ll find others that you’d classify differently – yet the whole composition hangs together wonderfully without jarring.

Despite trying not to, I’ve found myself going track-for-track as I reflect on this, so I’m going to be a bit waffly – although I think it’s worth it you might just want to go and get the album and see what you think!

The intro to Manikin gives few clues to what’s to come, it could be the start of a dreamy Cranberries song – but once it accelerates itself it warps into an almost jarring tirade of energy.  Neon Crucifix plays a similar trick with a jaunty intro leading into an intense-but-slow-paced sound-scape and then more high energy almost punk with the angry cry of  ‘Thank God we don’t believe in God’ screaming out from the dirty guitar noise, it’s one to be careful not to accidentally sing along to whilst at work with your headphones on!

If you think you have the measure of what’s to come though you’re brought down to a brooding and dystopian image when Serpentine City begins, a slow-paced start as before but this one remains haunting and slow with Erica’s voice deservedly taking centre stage.  Straight after we’re back up to a faster pace, Cut Them Out is catchy from the off with the violins taking a leading role amidst the dirty guitar dirge – it’s no surprise that it’s found itself a single, it’s brilliant catchy whilst retaining the edge and quirkiness prevalent across the album.

The next track is my favourite – I Am Me, This Is Now sounds a bit like a long-lost track from Garbage’s first album (this is very much a compliment!), although there’s a prominent fiddle solo in there too which I can’t imagine Manson, Vigg et al featuring that in their early material. The brooding menacing music is countered with layered vocals and sampling that just works for me on every level along with the dirgey repetitive chorus, I just love it – I was properly chuffed when it featured in the live performance at Rock City.

Day One, One Day is another highlight for me – starting with violins it kicks into a varied-pace and multi-layered refrain that anyone who has ever attempted a ‘Day One’ exercise in giving up something could probably relate to (or witnessed someone else doing one and not doing a very good job of it!!).  Lover Fifty-One brings us back to a relaxed pace again with vocals the central feature until some percussion and intensity builds a little short of half way through the track

One More Forest is higher paced and fun, at least for me being a Forest supporter always raises a wry smile with the line “Get lost in the forest, there’s no fear here” – quite the opposite of what we generally experience when watching the football team (not that I think the Reds were Erica’s inspiration for the song!!).  This moves us onto It’s A Killer, Darling which has a gentle beginning that builds into something really rather intense and lovely as it reaches the half-way point and beyond.

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Erica and her band are awesome live, too.

The title track Imminent Room is a beautiful piece of music from the off – gentle violins and whispers kick into expansive layered vocals ending in something that sounds like a modern re-imagining the soundtrack to an Elf scene in a Tolkien film.  I realise that sounds batshit crazy, but that’s what it evokes in my mind, so there!  Finally we finish with Goodbye Spider, a touching and gentle lament to bring the album to a quiet close.  A collection of varied sounds that somehow manage to make sense together – it’s really very good indeed.

Upon hearing it I was intrigued to see how what is a pretty complex and very produced album could be rendered live, and along with her awesome band Erica delivered on that too – with just drums, guitar, bass and her covering vocals, violin and second guitar they produced a brilliantly engaging performance.  I’d definitely pay to see them not just as a support act, and in being sandwiched by Ferocious Dog and The Wonder Stuff they both followed and were followed by tough acts!

So click on this link and buy it – it’s a tenner very well spent indeed!

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Pebble-dash..

IMG_5336[1]After almost a year since I first backed the Kickstarter campaign, I finally have my Pebble watch on my wrist.  It’s been a long wait, and it’s worth it, just about!

It was the middle of March when I got the long-awaited “Confirm your address, please” email, at the end of March came the shipping notification – although being on a slow boat from Singapore gave a lead time of two weeks – despite getting a tracking code that the receiving Royal Mail system understood, it would only give me information upon delivery – which is, well, kinda useless!

Of course, I checked it anyway and discovered a delivery attempt had indeed been made – it was small enough to fit through the letter box, but it required a signature and – annoyingly – a customs payment plus associated Royal Mail fleecery totalling a smidge over £25.  So it was off to the collection office armed with cash to retrieve my prize.

I resisted the urge to open it immediately, instead I took it to work and did so at my desk.  The box is neat, but minimalistic – there’s a URL to visit, a watch and a charge cable – nothing else, no instructions or anything else.  Emblazoned on the back panel is ‘Kickstarter Edition’ along with the serial number to indicate it was one of the original batch thanks to the Kickstarter campaign.

I had assumed it would come with some charge in it as seems to be normal for devices these days, but it wouldn’t power on (achieved by pressing any button for 2 seconds).  A quick google search didn’t find any other users reporting similar issues, so naturally tried pressing the buttons for longer to no avail.

A little worried, plugged it into the USB port on my PC at work and opted to let it get some juice.  Still no response to the buttons, oh no – I’ve got a duff!  A little panicked I fired off a support email via the Pebble website and sent them a Tweet to ask for advice – their overwhelmed status is confirmed because as I type I’ve had no response to either of them!

Sure enough, around half an hour later – still connected to the charger – the watch had indeed powered up and was asking to be paired with something!  The process to connect to my iPhone 5 was absolutely fine, I enabled notifications in the iPhone’s bluetooth profile for the Pebble, and duly fired open the Pebble app to connect and copy some watch faces over, to be immediately asked to update the Pebble’s firmware to the latest version which went without a hitch.

The watch has three faces by default – an analog face, a simplistic digital one and ‘fuzzy time’ which gives you the time in ‘language’ rather than numbers, for example – if it’s 9:53am it will say “Five to ten” – quite nifty.  My favourite watch face is ‘Wordsquare’ which operates on a similar principle to fuzzy time, but does it by highlighting the words to give you the easy-read version of the time.  Not one for people who crave precision.

As well as telling the time in a myriad of funky ways, the watch also picks up your phone’s music that is currently playing, it will display id3 tag info in its’ music app and enable you play/pause or skip backward or forward through whatever playlist/album you have playing.  Fairly rudimentary, but clever nonetheless – potentially useful for times when your phone might be stowed in a bag and you want to skip a track or stop your music playing or as a remote control when using a docking speaker system.

Perhaps the most exciting feature is the coupling with your phone’s principal functions – ie, phone calls and text messaging.  If a call is received it is displayed on the watch with the caller id and the option to either answer or hang up, whereas text messages are displayed along with sender’s name on the watch itself.  Alerts are signalled via a fairly robust vibration from the watch unit, it doesn’t make any sounds.

Currently the only other function is an alarm which also is restricted to vibrations (unless you opt to download the game ‘Snake’ from the Pebble app on your phone! The novelty of this wore off quite quickly for me though, despite loving the game on my old Nokia phones!)  In the future there should be further applications which you can deploy via the Smartphone app you use to connect to the watch, so it could be pretty exciting.

As for the watch itself, the build quality looks solid and well constructed – it is, by definition, plasticky and the buttons a bit clunky but it works nicely and I’m pleased with the finish.  The strap is sturdy, comfortable and has a nice rubberised finish which is better than I was expecting.

Whilst charging I didn’t find a means of determining how full the battery is, which seems a bit daft.  I’ve not had it long enough to accurately judge battery life – only having one charging lead could be a challenge, they are bespoke designs held to the watch by magnets to enable the water resistant nature of the Pebble to remain intact – a nifty design but of course unique and as such if you wanted one for work, home, car etc then you’ll need to buy them from Pebble.

All in all, worth the wait – clearly Pebble was a victim of its’ own success and the way the manufacturing, shipping and communications has been conducted is symptomatic of a small company taking on a gigantic task and – frankly – struggling a bit.  But it’s resulted in a product to be proud of, which I’m sure will probably be amongst the pioneers in a slew of ‘smart’ wearable technology which is quite exciting for a geek like me.

Recommended if you’re not in a hurry to get your hands on one – those Kickstarter backers who opted for anything other than a black watch are still waiting for theirs to arrive, so heaven only knows how long it will take them to fulfill their pre-orders they’re now taking over on their website.

Categories: blog, iPhone / iPad / Mac | 2 Comments

Rocky-eyed..

If 2012 was supposed to be the end of the world then 2013 has felt a bit post-apocalyptic so far – the year started with bastard cold(tm), descended quickly (literally!) with drop-foot, and on my birthday no less picked up the PVL-positive Staph infection affectionately known as Susan.  No sooner is the end of Susan in sight, we’ve had cockatiel-based woes which are hopefully also on the way to resolution.

In the midst of all that too we had the death of Margaret Thatcher.  She’s proven as divisive in death as she was in life – personally, and perhaps characteristically, I tend to sit in some middle-ground.  It’s difficult to countenance celebrating a frail old woman dying, although I abhor everything she stood for – channelling that kind of energy would be better directed at the incumbent government still peddling the same twisted ideals in real time.

I wouldn’t mourn her, and sure, it’s childishly amusing that ‘Ding Dong the Witch is Dead’ might well top the charts when they’re counted on Sunday – but I can’t help but think the myriad of 79ps people parted with to achieve this could’ve been better spent on areas of society stripped of funding in recent cuts.  Okay, so tens of thousands of pounds wouldn’t solve all those issues, but could’ve done some good somewhere I’m sure.

Certainly I don’t agree Baroness Thatcher should have a state funeral, I don’t think any Prime Minister should really – at a time when vital services are being compromised it seems ridiculous to spunk millions on an occasion that a significant chunk of the population doesn’t support – but then, we are all in this together ain’t we, Dave?  The only thing it’s likely to achieve is a rallying cry for all sides of the argument that will probably end in rioting.

I suppose the police and army laying into their own populace might be fitting funeral, on reflection.

The saddest thing of the whole episode is that the event has successfully overshadowed the ham-fisted handling of the country by those in power at the moment, which I imagine they’re not too sorry about – and is probably why they’re fuelling the debate with a state-funded Tory roadshow that I can only see ending in regrettable conflict as people seem more easily drawn into petty squabbling than sensible debate.

Never mind, enough Iron Lady ramblings.  Today I’ve got the all clear to rejoin society (I think there is such thing as a society 😉 ) by the NHS so can return to work next week, and more importantly enjoy Ferocious Dog snagging a support slot to play before Erica Nockalls and then The Wonder Stuff on Saturday on the main stage at Rock City, which is tremendously exciting.

Before all that I get to go Zorbing with Rich!  Exciting stuff!

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Quarantine..

Mr Flibble (along with Lloyd, Frankie and Phoebe) is immune from Susan-based infections..

Fresh from moaning about my foot, it’s my arm that’s my latest tale of woe – 2013 is turning out to be the year where I get a rude welcome to middle-age.  My latest ailment has turned out to be PVL-positive Staphylococcus Aureus, sounds grand, doesn’t it?  Stick it in Google and you get some terrifying potential consequences although touch-wood mine was arrested at the skin-infection stage.

I’m now forbade from work not because I’m still infected but I might still be a carrier of the bacteria which is being encouraged to departing through some special shower gel and stuff to shove up my nose for the next five days.  The original infection which started with a boil (that I mistook for an insect bite initially) and ended with me having an arm like Popeye has been rendered dead through antibiotics, leaving now just a fleshy crater on my forearm.

There’s been plenty of amusing banter surrounding ‘Susan’ as I named the boil (see what I did there?) – but I suppose it’s a useful reminder that when things occur that are making you uncomfortable it’s wise to get checked out by medical professionals.  If I’d followed well-meaning advice from friends on social networking then it could’ve ended up a lot more serious – notwithstanding the residual risk of spreading the infection.

Poor Cat of course gets dragged into it through her proximity to me – and thankfully the birds have their own version of Staph infections that aren’t transferrable to humans, just as ours aren’t to them – so aside from a bit of residual tiredness I’m okay, funnily enough when you point out to your work that you’re away through fear of infection there’s little argument! (In fairness, my colleagues are very caring and understanding about sickness in general).

The likely cause of all this?  A carrier or the bacteria in the mosh pit at the Ferocious Dog gig in the Rescue Rooms.  This is not an issue of cleanliness or dirtiness, somebody could be carrying such things completely unawares – those that succumbed as well as me I think are being treated similarly so hopefully nothing serious will have happened as a result aside from some discomfort and inconvenience.

Cat and I are now awaiting confirmation for details of the charming process of decolonisation that we need to go through before being fit for public consumption again.  It should all be precautionary, but it does rather make you feel like a plague-bearer.  If folk could refrain from painting a cross on the door though, it’d be appreciated!

Any such actions will prompt me to upload pictures of Susan to accompany this post!

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