Archive for November, 2009|Monthly archive page

Suited and booted – day two

For the second time this week, and only the third time this year, I’m suited and booted.

This time it’s work related however.  It’s strange how the formality of a suit can change the tone of a meeting, or a workplace.

I remember when it was announced at a previous company that ‘smart casual’ dress would be allowed, and then came with a long list of what wasn’t acceptable ‘smart dress’.  One category of clothing not approved was ‘gardening wear’ – I have no idea to this day what this could possiblt be, apart from wellies, which was unlikely for an office environment, no matter how cold it got.

I do remember rushing out the lunchtime it was announced, to stock up on casual shirts in bright colours (this was the end of the 1990s, so please forgive me).  The next day I was proud to sit at my desk suit-less, and more daring than that, tie-less.

Then as everyone else came in still wearing their suits and ties, I wondered if there had been a massive April fool joke played on me.  No, the policy had been adopted, but my older, more conservative co-workers had decided to take their time and only dip their toe into the casual dress pool.

I’ve been through the casual dress, slobby academic stage, and now generally wear a shirt and tie, all be it with smart jeans… I’ve not resorted to shorts as some colleagues have.  But each time that I turn up in a suit some ‘wag’ always asks if I’m going for an interview… …


Family Funeral

I don’t have that many relatives, having no siblings, and my parents have very few brothers and sisters.  This isn’t usually a problem though the number of Christmas cards received always looks a little diminished compared to some families.

Yesterday however was one of those sad days, when the few remnants of my family gathered together for the funeral of my last great-aunt.  This was my Gran’s sister, Phyllis, better known as Aunty Phyl.

Despite my own wish for a humanist funeral, it was good to hear the service led by someone who did actually know my aunt, having worked with her as well as being her pastor.  Whilst I can’t agree with the rhetoric, it was delivered with passion.

Aunty Phyl worked until her mid seventies in the family business, and it certainly kept her active, though I remember that towards the end her driving was a little erratic (if I saw her car parked outside my Gran’s house, I would always make sure there was a lot of space for her to safely manoeuvre around. 

In the end however, she succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease, something which also affected my  Gran, and is still touching my life now.  The donation instead of flowers to the Alzheimer’s Society is another well-deserved cause I was happy to contribute to.

RIP Aunty Phyl – I’ll miss your mints!

Lite-On ETDU108 Portable DVD drive

I’ve been a bit gadget-strapped recently, try as I might I can’t get excited about blinds and other essential items which I’ve been splashing out on recently.

However, I have just succumbed.  I love my netbook, but not having a CD or DVD drive is a real inconvenience if you want to just take a DVD away with you, or install software which comes as a .iso file, or traditional DVD.

So after some debating, I treated myself to the Liteon ETDU108-02 8x External Slimline DVD ROM (Black), delivered in great time by Amazon even with their Super-Saver delivery (are Royal Mail trying extra-hard post strike, it certainly feels like it at the moment.  There’s a review from the register here, which seems to criticise it for not being able to write CDs and DVDs.  No it doesn’t, and I looked and on Amazon there are similarly priced portable drives which does offer this functionality, but this is a cheap and cheerful solution to a specific problem.

And does it work?  Brilliantly.  I had major reservations that it wouldn’t work with my underpowered eee-701, which has sometimes struggled to play back .mp4 files when running full screen, but DVDs run fine when using VLC.

The other reason for purchase, it’s sometimes handy to be able to burn a CD/DVD, whilst watching another when on my MacBook or Big Mac.  A DVD project can sometimes take nearly four hours to encode and burn (I’ve got one running as I type).  I can now plug in the Lite-On, and carry on watching a DVD.

The build quality seems good, with a big panic ‘stop’ button on the front.  We take it for granted nowadays that these products just work out of the box, no need to install drivers etc.

The only thing missing is a case of any sort, for a device that’s going to be used on the go this is a serious omission, and I may invest in some sort of case offering more protection than the plastic bag which it’s currently stored in.

So, a completely unnecessary gadget purpose, but something which I’m pleased with, and seems to do exactly what it should.

Twitter Witter

During my blog ‘downtime’, I’ve become a regular Twitterer.  Looking back at my postings before I paused, I could see that I was using Twitter more and more, so that’s about six months of regular postings.

One thing which is different is that I’m now using Twitter in some of my teaching, mostly as an alternative, and sometimes more reliable medium than the universities Virtual Learning Environment (Twitter being more reliable than another service probably gives you a feeling for the reliability of moodle over the last few months).

So, if you’re an ITMB student in the second or third year you can see all my tweets relevant to you depending on whether you’re in the second or third year.

A couple of students subscribe to my twitter feed, the poor poor souls who are then also subjected to my thoughts on X-factor and other life-enhancing experiences.

All of this has drawn the attention of the Open University, and I’m giving a talk to the West Midlands regional staff development evening in December, though the scope has been widened to blogs and wikis, as well as Twitter.

All good fun I guess…. and a chance for me to revive my favourite graphic about Twitter.


iPlayer on Wii



In the early hours of the morning my Wii started glowing a bright blue.  That rare event, a message from Nintendo.

The BBC  iPlayer channel is now available for free on the Nintendo Wii.  Now downloaded, it takes pride of place at the front of my channel list.  If you’ve installed a few other channels or games, you may find that it’s installed on ‘screen two’ of the Wii menu.  Clicking buttons A and B together allow you to reposition the channels, making accessing the iPlayer a three-click process (one click to turn Wii on, one click to select Wii channel, one click to select Start).

The channel itself is available for free from the Nintendo Shop online.   It’s stating the obvious of course but your Wii does need to be connected to the Internet. (That feels a little like the statement that Microsoft had to release to say that you needed a PC to be able to install Windows 95).

A very short time later, you then have is the complete BBC iPlayer service, both video and radio available to you in full screen glory.  The interface is great, and a huge improvement over the old channel via Nintendo’s internet channel (which ‘broke’ early September after an upgrade to the Opera browser).

A new home means faster broadband for me, so the stuttering and drop-outs I used to experience have disappeared.  Full screen video looks great, and is equal to my ‘standard definition’ tv picture.  Sound is a little ‘flatter’ compared to normal tv, but nothing that you wouldn’t notice.

Radio stations get a themed background for the particular station, details about the programme and a really nifty interface.  Compare this to the old ‘Real Audio’ service before radio was implemented into

What makes the Wii the ideal media player of course is that it’s virtually silent in use – certainly compared to my new Xbox 360 Arcade (see, I have been busy with the occasional gadget purchase whilst I’ve been away).

Whilst this isn’t the *only* reason to buy a Wii, I’ve been rarely so impressed by a piece of software – it’s been a long time coming, but well worth the wait.

More info on the launch here.

I’m back!

Did you miss me boys and girls?  It seems that all I needed was a few months break away from writing this blog, I’m glad to say that I’m back though.

I’ll keep the blog title the same, though I will be talking much less about work, and more about me as a (now cash strapped) gadget lover, and online web-worker.  I’ll also be spending more time talking about my studies – after a few months off I may be about to start a really exciting time in my life, education wise.

Whilst I’ve been away, I’ve been tweeting regularly, and indeed my domain name has been pointing towards the Twitter feed.  But sometimes I need to rant more than is possible in 140 characters, so if for no other reason that’s why this blog has started up again.

More anon I’m sure, but just wanted to say ‘hello world’ again.