Update on standing desk and weight management

So my standing desk (varidesk) that goes up and down, appears to be stuck in the up position. Not through any fault of the desk, just that I have not felt the need to put it into the down position apart from 3 times since I installed it.

One bit of advice I'd give anyone considering a standing desk is this. Either get one of those thick soft rubber mats you see in commercial environments where people are standing up all day on a concrete floor. Or, my preferred option is get a pair of Crocs. I know they are not trendy any more, but they are ½ the price of a mat and travel around the house with you. I have a pair that are lined like slippers and they are great. The can even go in the washing machine if they start to smell.

Weight Management update.

As you will have read in my last update I'm trying to lose weight to get to a reasonable weight before a surgical procedure in mid April. Things have slowed down a bit but I'm a fraction off being 2½ stone lighter. (35lbs or 16kgs) I'm still enjoying the Cambridge Weight Plan and it's varied diet of meal replacements, so that's half the battle won for me. Here is the updated graph, as we all like a fun picture every now and again. 

The benefits of...

Everyone has health issues. No one person has ever gone through life without seeing a doctor and I'm not about to claim to be an exception to this rule. Anyone who has known me for any longer than about 15 minutes will know that I've had a couple of 'episodes' with Atrial Fibrillation (AF) on and off since 2000.

This has led me to visit cardiologists back in November 2015 at my local Frimley Park Hospital. My new cardiologist and I discussed the situation and agreed that we should now do something about these AF episodes and he has booked me in for a 'catheter ablation'. That's in April, so before then I have a whole bunch of weight to lose.

To lose the weight I've been following the Cambridge Weight Plan with my amazing consultant Marissa (Who happens to be my wife). Following this plan is easy for me and I find the variety of options satisfy me. "The proof is in the pudding!" Right? Well the Key Lime Pie shake and the Rice Pudding are amazing tasty and filling.

Weight loss from 4-Jan-15 - 15-Feb-16 = 28lbs

Weight loss from 4-Jan-15 - 15-Feb-16 = 28lbs

As you can see, I'm on track to get to my goal weight just on time. I've not been that weight since I was teaching judo 5 times a week and working out really hard. This is going to be a challenge but I'm looking forward to it.

I've also found research on the Atrial Fibrillation websites and the British Heart Foundation website about the benefits of standing. So I am now the proud owner of a VariDesk that allows me to sit or stand. I will post more about how I'm getting on with that when I've had more than a couple of days with it.

Since 4-Jan-16 I've also not had any alcohol and I've been cycling. I'm hoping that this lifestyle change has more benefits than just weight loss and that my cardiologist tells me that when we meet in April.

Performing CPR on my Asus Nexus 7

I've started to dig out and play with some older devices that have been laying around and got to my Android tablet and remembered why I'd not bothered charging it up in ages. When I bought the Asus Nexus 7 it was really quick and worked great, but when I upgraded it to Android 5.1.1 it slowed down to a point where I gave up trying to use it.

When I charged it up yesterday I got so hacked off with it running slow that I went off to Google for the answer. And would you believe it. There it was right in front of me.

You have to restart the device into recovery mode
Then you select to wipe the cache partition
Restart the device and it all works great

So it turns out that when you upgrade Android it leaves a bunch of old files in the cache partition and doesn't clean them out.

I followed this post, but your mileage may vary.

Time to dust off this blog and get back to it

It's been a while since I blogged about anything. Not really had much to say, but the world keeps turning and I've come around to the fact that, even though no-one is listening, I find it cathartic to write some of this stuff down.

Wow, it's almost a year to the day since my last blog post. Ha! That's amazing. Well I'm never going to be up for a Pulitzer Prize at this rate.

It's been 360(ish) days since my last blog post and a lot has happened in that time. My mother has passed away, I've been to America a bunch of times, done some speaking at various events, watched my kids grow up some more, got news of an impending medical procedure (more on that some other time) and decided to take this last Christmas off and go on holiday.

The biggest thing that has happened in the recent past is my annual pilgrimage to IBM's Connect conference. I've been attending since 2006, not as long as some, but I'm still thrilled to be there. I remember my first one in 2006 as if it were yesterday. The excitement of attending this legendary conference that I'd only ever heard about with reverence in the halls of Lotus Park in Staines, UK. When I worked for Lotus, no one ever got to go. So when I joined a team that sent people to help run it, boy was I caught up in that. Scroll forward 10 years and I'm there with Teamstudio celebrating 20 years of being in the Lotus/IBM Domino and Notes business.

This year was a very different year as the venue had changed from the Disney Swan and Disney Dolphin (Swolphin) hotels to the Hilton Orlando over near the Orange County Convention Center. As I arrived at the hotel to drop off my boss, Nigel Cheshire, for a meeting, I met a few people that were hard core died in the wall Lotusphere buffs and we were all commenting on how we would miss the Dolphin's rotunda fountain and the lobby bar. We'd miss the walk in the sunshine between the two hotels and Disney's Boardwalk with is familiar fair of bars and restaurants. Don't get me wrong, I was right there with them.

But by the end of Wednesday people had changed their tune totally. Me too.

The Hilton's facilities were more than a match for us Yellow Bubblers. The bars were great and the service I got was outstanding. They coped admirably with the hoards of wifi hungry nerds and I believe that the network was not augmented this year by IBM as in previous years. Yes a bunch of pop-up access points showed up, but they just joined you to an open SSID that was the hotels connection anyway.

The show floor this year was a massive improvement on last years. The massive hall packed with hundreds of vendors for this market is gone, and it was starting to get sad to see the amount of space appearing around everything in the Show Floor. Last year's effort of cramming everyone into a small hall and packing it with everyone from the Yellow Bubble was quite frankly stupid and, at times, dangerous. Over crowded with people, carpets that came up with the foot fall to cause trip hazards, you get the idea. This year was as different as chalk and cheese. There was room to move, but it wasn't cavernous. You could get around the exhibitors and still have had a good walk. It was a great place for coffee and soda breaks and the vendors certainly got some great networking with visitors.

As I said my "fair wells" on Wednesday afternoon I felt that this 'family gathering' had proved to everyone that it doesn't matter which hotel you sit in, so long as you are with family, we can be anywhere.

So long Swolphin, gone but not forgotten. Hello Hilton Orlando, the venue for the next few years.

Why does any of this matter to me? Well mainly because this is how I pay the mortgage/bills, put food in the kids and keep the lights on. Teamstudio work in this space and I work for Teamstudio. I love my job and relish the challenge it brings me.
"Yeah, OK. So what?" I hear you saying. Well to me this conference and the 'community' or 'family' that it highlights and supports every year are massively important to my continued longevity. I'm not being mercenary about why I get connected to this gang of amazing people from all over the globe. I'm truly blessed to be part of this amazing community that have accepted me. I feel part of the family and that's why it's an honour to be around my colleagues, peers, customers and IBM Champions. It's one of the reasons I also help to run the UK user group each September and try to be part of the other user groups around the world. Not for some altruistic need to pay the bills, but that I truly believe that this family needs it's 'gatherings' to keep it running.

The innovation coming from IBM has been slow in past years and, in all honesty, it's not delivered at all on the promises. But this year, the torch at the end of the tunnel appears to have new batteries, we can see some glimmer of light. There's hope on the horizon and I for one, really want to get there before this fresh set of cells run out.

Here's to 2016, the work and projects, the new products and the users groups.

See you at Engage 2016 folks.

Disposable world

Today I called Plantronics about my .Audio 995 headset that I use every day. It's lasted me well but the ear pads are starting to flake and I've been ending up with the black fragments all over my head. I was dismayed to find out that they don't sell replacements for the pads or the head bar pad. So I've ripped off all the 'coating' that is starting to flake away, but when the battery dies (they don't sell them as spares either) the headset is trash.

For a headset that cost nearly £100 that's really wasteful and I'm seriously unimpressed with Plantronics attitude towards it too.

Yes I will have to buy a new headset at this point and I'll switch to one of your competitors. I've already seen great reviews about the Sennheiser version of the same thing.

My criteria are simple. Must be PC & Mac compatible, Wireless & Stereo. Bonus points for open bluetooth and easy charging solution.

I'll let you know how I get on with it when I finally purchase it.

David vs Goliath (part 2)

It would seem that Anna in Virgin Atlantic customer services had managed to come through on behalf of the customer and not the airline.

Here is the email I just received.

Dear Mr Clark

Thank you for calling and speaking with me yesterday.

Once again, I'm sorry for the disruption to your flight.  As you’re aware, the aircraft that was due to fly in from the UK and operate your flight was delayed overnight in Manchester because of heavy snow.  We had no choice but to delay your flight overnight in reaction to this.  I do hope you will accept my sincere apologies for any inconvenience this disruption has caused you.

With regards to your query for compensation, all affected passengers booked in our Economy cabin can receive 12500 miles as an apology for the flight delay.  As such, I’ve arranged for your account to be updated with this number of miles today.

In addition, any food, accommodation or telephone costs incurred can be reimbursed also.  If you have any such costs that you would like to claim, please forward me copies of your receipts.

I know that this experience has created a poor impression, Mr Clark.  However, I hope this hasn’t discouraged you from travelling with us again, and future flights are trouble free and enjoyable in every respect.

With kindest regards

Anna Axxxxxxxx
Customer Relations

So I think that Virgin Atlantic may be on the way to redeeming themselves on this one. I've been a loyal customer for years and really don't like British Airways and their stuck up attitude.

I'll just need to submit my expenses and see if they really will pay them.

I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, thanks to Anna at VA for looking into my case and resolving it so swiftly.

David vs Goliath

Time to take on the big boys again.

Last week I mentioned that I was delayed just over 24 hours on a flight from MCO (Orlando) to LGW (London Gatwick) with Virgin Atlantic (VS016).

The flight was supposed to be on Thursday 29-Jan-15 and it was already delayed when I checked my baggage in at the Downtown Disney location. So I knew something was going on fairly early in the day. Then I get an SMS later in the day to tell me that the flight was cancelled. So being with good friends I stayed over with them and then headed to the airport with them the following morning to spend the day working and waiting for the ticket desks to open.

When I got to the ticket desks I was told that it was a 'weather delay' that caused the flight from Manchester (UK) to MCO to be cancelled the day before and therefore there would be no compensation.

The following day there were two flights to LGW and the Manchester flight go cancelled. If this pattern continues then there will be a complete mess in the schedules and no one will get any compensation due to the first cancelled flight being caused by bad weather at Manchester.

My dispute with Virgin Atlantic is that there was not a weather related delay on my flight route. MCO - LGW was not affected by any adverse weather on Thu 29/Fri 30-Jan-15 as the British Airways flight left MCO on time and landed on time at LGW on Friday morning.

Lack of available aircraft at MCO is not a weather delay on my flight and I think that VA are just trying to avoid compensating it's customers.

I've called VA this morning and raised a customer service case, so I'll let you know what happens.

Introverted retrospective

I find myself sat in a restaurant that I have sat I many times before. It's not the same this time though, because the people I am normally here with are missing. Already home or didn't attend the event this year. I'm also missing the banter and astonishment of reading the reviews of the presentations we have given or watched.
Every year is different but seeing as the best kept non-secret was the end of the IBM contract at the Swan & Dolphin hotels I was surprised when lots of IBMers tried to hide behind denials of this well know fact. So as to whether I'll ever sit in the Outback Steakhouse at MCO again, I don't know. Will the conference formally known as Lotusphere be rolled into one of the other big three IBM events, who knows. It seems that even IBM don't have a clear idea yet either.
I'm also sat here a day late, thanks to Virgin Atlantic cancelling a flight to LGW last night. That's not so bad as I got to spend a great evening with Tanya & Devin Olsen and talked about many things including the LS where we lost a great friend to a motorcycle accident and the power of prayer. I've needed that time with Devin for a long time and didn't know it until we had that conversation. So thank you 'brother' for saving me from my own mind.
It's also been fun seeing the conference from yet another prospective. I've done it as an IBMer, Contractor for GSX, Independent freelancer & now a full time employee for the amazing Teamstudio.
It's an amazing leadership team that keeps innovating, changing and morphing the company into the success it is. I'm privileged to be a small part of that team and it's amazing to see ideas come through a become reality and go on to drive more success. I can't wait to see what happens next here, I'm excited and eager to be a part of it. This job is an amalgamation of all of my previous roles and it feels great to pull all my skills together and bring them to bear in a company like Teamstudio.

Humbled again - IBM Champion 2015

I've been humbled again by my peers in the IBM Collaboration Solutions space by being nominated to be an IBM Champion for ICS, class of 2015. This will be my 3rd year as an IBM Champion and it's no less of an honour than it was the first time. Thank you to anyone who nominated me. I have no way of finding out who you are, but I'm touched that you think what I do matters to the community.

To be an IBM Champion you have to be seen, read and/or heard evangelising for the IBM ICS brand and be an active part of the community that surrounds that brand. This can be anything from suggesting IBM solutions to customers or even customers themselves making sure the right product gets used or is continued to be used.

The class has grown to 96 this year and I'm thrilled to be counted as one of them and to be rubbing shoulders with the superstars of the technical community I work in. Does that make me a superstar? Far from it. I'm still just me, being a bit uppity when people dismiss the old Lotus products as 'legacy' and don't even consider the value they could add to the problem they are trying to solve. Still me running the ICON UK in 2015 where a bunch of folks will gather to hear about what you can do with the IBM ICS products. Still me answering questions in the Linux forum, when they don't go way over my head. And still me thinking that R.A.D. is still alive and well but sad that some companies are taken in by lies, lies and more lies from competitors.

So for me, it's business as usual, but I can't wait to meet as many Champions as possible in Orlando in January. Bring on the Class of '15 photo shoot.

OSX Yosemite upgrade + iTunes 12.0.1 = unhappy child :o(

In the last couple of weeks I have upgraded my MacBook Pro to the latest version of OSX Yosemite (v10.10). This has come with a few little niggles and a couple of things I'm not sure I like, but the biggest problem is that iTunes failed to start up. This was becoming an issue as my daughter had just purchased a new album on the iTunes store and wanted it uploaded to her iPod. Her increasing impatience and my frustration at not having everything working on my MacBook forced me into action and digging a little further into the problem.

Looking in the console (Launch Pad, Other, Console) showed the following error line.

com.apple.xpc.launchd[1]: (com.apple.iTunes.150552[10123]) Service exited with abnormal code: 1

When, eventually, I managed to ask Apple about it, having contacted them for something else, they said I should re-install iTunes. Again. (sigh)

So this time I followed this procedure and it's finally working. Your mileage may vary, but this has worked for me.

  1. Open the Activity Monitor (LaunchPad, Other, Activity Monitor)
  2. Force Quit the iTunes Helper app (I had multiply ones running, so quit them all)
  3. Install the iTunes .pkg from the Apple website.
  4. Force Quit the iTunes Helper again after install
  5. Shut Down the MacBook
  6. Start again (watch for the progress bar, that’s the fix for permissions working)
  7. Start iTunes
  8. Breathe a sigh of releif! ;o)

I hope that my daughter will be happy when she gets home from school and her new album is available on her iPod. ;o)

Can you help?

Today I received an email from a good friend of mine who works for a children's charity. I've been involved with this charity since 2006 when I started fundraising to complete the EnduroIndia 2007 challenge.

If you or anyone you know can help, then please let me know and I'll put you in contact.

Hi Tim

The charity has an urgent need for some IT hardware after a spate of our computers coming to the end of their lives and I wondered if you could advise.

We are looking for computers or laptops to be gifted to us – these don’t have to be brand new so I would like you to put your feelers out to your contacts for help.

Here is our minimum specification for PC:
Processor: i3 (or AMD equivalent)
Processor speed: 3Ghz
RAM: 4GB
Hard Drive: 120Gb (minimum)
Network card: yes
USB 2: yes (with USB3 would be great)
VGA: yes

We have our own operating system licences, so not essential that the PC comes with this, but great if does.

This is our minimum spec so anything more powerful would be a bonus.

If this is something you think you can help with, or even advise on the best places to try that would be fantastic.

Many thanks


Support when you need it

I was recently asked about being able to make a 'pretty' and 'modern' web interface for mission critical Domino application. It had to be perform fast, be adaptive to the device running it and work really well on the C-level execs iPads and other gadgets.

You are probably thinking, "That's a no-brainer, it's easy, just use XPages and the mobile controls and blah, blah, blah". Am I right? I thought so, because that's what I was thinking until the customer finishes their requirements list.

You know what's coming next. Right? "And all of this has to work on Domino 6.5 and don't even consider asking us to upgrade because that's too big a job and we can't do that."

As I stifle my laughter and try and compose myself into some semblance of professionalism I find myself wondering what we actually CAN do to help this situation. I start to do some research and find my good friend Stephan Wissel has already talked about how to do the Domino upgrades in the best possible way. So I'm not going to do that, but take a look at the table on the left hand side of that page. The one that shows the number of days since IBM stopped supporting that version of Domino. I checked out the links and one of them takes you to the page where IBM show you all the dates for the releases and when they stopped supporting them. It turns out that this company are running their mission critical enterprise on software that was released almost 11 years ago and has not been supported by the supplier for over 4 years now. I wonder if the board of directors in this company know about that.

All that aside, IBM Domino is a great server and very tolerant of different versions, so we can install a single Domino 9.x server into the environment to surface a pretty and modern interface for their applications.

So there is a way around this with customer's predicament, but in my opinion there is no excuse for not investing in 'mission critical' parts of your business. You would not want to secure your computers with a virus checker that has not been updated in the last 4 years. Would you?

ShellShock linux/unix/bsd/osx bug

This last week has seen one of the biggest security flaws in the linux/unix based operating systems come to light. Pretty much EVERY vendor has been scrabbling around trying to path their particular version of 'bash'.

There are lots of guides on lots of websites about how to get the latest patches, so I'm not going to do that here. But suffice to say that all my systems are now patched.

Bill Malchisky Jr. has good guide if you still need one.

For me just one question remains. "Why did it take Apple so long to release a patch for something that was fixable 4 days ago?"

I guess we'll never know as Apple state on their own support site that they never discuss security issues in public.

Challenge completed (take 2)

This time it was not cycling 100 miles for charity, but organising a conference in the heart of London for a group of very capable and knowledgeable IT folks.

Taking into consideration that I was taking over rather than inventing, it was easier than it could have been. I already had an established format to copy and tweak to my preference and a list of previous speakers/sponsors to approach. But it was still a challenge and there was lots to do making it work.

Here's a small abstract from my list of topics covered:

  • venue
  • food
  • drink
  • session abstracts
  • sponsor levels
  • sponsors
  • banners
  • bags
  • badges
  • name stickers
  • speaker gifts
  • speaker/sponsor dinner
  • keynote speaker
  • registration process
  • website
  • volunteer staff
  • bag filling
  • room set up
  • storage
  • transportation
  • speed sponsoring
  • tear down

Each one of these has a process behind it and that process has lots of inputs, variables dependencies and methods (that sounds dangerously close to being organised to me).

I'm still finalising this years close out with evaluations and collecting speaker slides, but so far the feedback has be mainly positive. There have been a few 'suggestions' for changes to next year, but I'm pleased to say that I'm not surprised by any of them, in fact I agree with all of them.

I could not have done any of this without the support of lots of people and I thank you all. That includes, all the team that volunteered their time, IBM for letting us use the venue and catering for free, the speakers for writing the presentations and turning up to deliver them, the sponsors for believing in the event and paying on time and all the attendees that showed up to see what all the fuss was about.

"So there will be a next year?" I can hear you thinking it as you read this. Well I hope so, I have every intention of running another one.

I'm NOT speaking at ICON UK 2014

Well, actually, that's a lie. I will be speaking at ICON UK 2014 next week, but only for about 15 minutes. This is only because I'll be the one panicking that everything is going to happen and that it's all going all right. I took on the role of organising and leading ICON UK when the wonderful Warren & Kitty Elsmore stepped down.

But as I'm the organiser I'm not going to be running a session in the packed one day schedule. My brain just simply can't cope with writing a presentation along with all the other things going on in my head at the moment.

Organising all the different bits that come together on the day to make the conference what it is has been quite an experience so far, and there is lots still left to do with 9 days left to go.

It's all coming together nicely at the moment and I'm really looking forward to starting my 5 minute presentation with nothing having gone wrong next Friday.

Here's hoping.

Challenge completed

I have done some crazy things in my time on this planet, but taking part in the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 on Sunday was nothing more than breathtaking.

The weather was described as 'biblical' in places as we braved the tail end of hurricane Bertha. I cannot begin to wonder what the real hurricane would have been like.

Anyway I finished the shortened ride of 86 miles in 4:55:16 which bodes really well for next year. I think I really can do it in under 6 hours, which was my goal all along.

Just to make sure I did do it, I downloaded the proof from the official website

Things I can't travel without. (Part 4)

My last post in the series during my visit to Teamstudio in Beverley, MA USA.

So my last post is more advice than anything else, but it also contains my most luxurious item.

bose.jpg

#7 - Bose Quiet Comfort 15 Headphones. "These are the bomb." One of my recent colleagues described them as. On board a flight they are so amazing at cutting out the ambient noise I often find that when I'm listening to music I hear things that I have not heard before even though I have listened to it many times before. They are expensive, make no doubt about it, but they are essential for me on long-haul flights.

 
2014-06-10 05.25.03.jpg

#8 - One more day. I have not been caught out that many times, but I always pack a spare t-shirt and underwear in case I have to stay an extra night somewhere. Also don't forget any medication you might need. I also have a small printed list of my medication, dose and it's purpose with me in case I can't explain it. I know this one is simple and most of us will not forget this one if you have to take medication at all. Always take a few more than you need.

 

#9 - Your sense of humour. I left mine at home early one morning on the way to Dublin and the folks at Heathrow security (TSA) had also left theirs at home too that day. Travel should be fun and I wholly recommend that you try and enjoy the experience as much as possible. I know it's dull, boring, teadious and outright painful sometimes to have to deal with people who don't give hoot about you and your particular needs. But if you can face them with a smile, and not be as annoyed with life as they are, you will come out on top.



Competition

And now for the competition. To win one of London Developer Co-Op's original conference survival tins all you have to do is leave me a comment on this post. Tell me which of my travel essentials you think would be the most useful when you travel next. And which is your must have item that you can't travel without. Simple. Mark Myers will determine who has won Next Friday and we'll send you your prize as soon as we can.

Things I can't travel without. (Part 3)

Today's gadgets and gizmos that I am travelling with to see Teamstudio are things that I probably use most in the USA, mostly because I rent a car nearly every time I am this side of the Atlantic.

2014-06-10 05.19.40.jpg

#7 - Newtrent battery. This was recommended to me by Mark Myers who also takes a lot of time and care about what he packs to travel. I've done a few trips with Mark and we both share a love of simple, cheap and useful tools. This battery has two USB ports on it, one rated at 1A and the other rated at 2A. I'm going to tell you that this charges my iPhone 5s faster that the wall charger, but you won't believe me until you try it for yourself. It's amazing! It's also very good at storing it's charge too I can leave it in my bag for weeks knowing that it will still have juice in it when I need it. Compare that to my Nexus 7 from Asus that can't hold a charge more than one day and it's clearly got something going on in there that's very clever technology. It will do about 4 - 6 iPhone charges before it needs charging itself, so it pack quite a punch on marks out of 10 for being genuinely useful. I also travel everywhere with this in my bag not just the USA. But here is why I must have it in the USA......

Transient

#8 - CoPilot GPS. This is an iOS or Android application that does StaNav and there are a couple of features that make this very useful whilst not expensive. My advice is to download the free one from the app store for your device and then download your one free map set. You can choose from UK+ Ireland, US + Canada, Balkans, BeNeLux, Russia, Central Eastern Europe, DACH (Germany, Austria, Switzerland), France, Greece, Iberia, Italy, Nordics, Poland, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine, Southern Africa (South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia and Botswana), Australia + New Zealand, Brasil, Middle East/GCC (Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE). The biggest joy of this SatNav is that you DON'T need a data connection to use it. The map is already there. So if you are roaming in a country where the data costs are huge, and for me that's anywhere outside the UK, then this could be a real life saver. I mentioned it to friends at dinner last night and even though they have US data plans, they still get charged a lot for mobile data so it of benefit to them too. Add to that mobile data coverage in remote locations can be lacking and you will still know where you are going without have to download the next piece of the map. There are in app upgrades to other maps and better functions, but they do deals from time to time so watch out for their 'sale items'. The reason this almost requires the Newtrent battery pack is that any GPS software is crazy power hungry and will run your phone or tablet flat in an hour. I never use this without a power supply if I can help it, and there is my reason for these two items being on the same day.

Transient

#9 - Windscreen Phone holder. This one is really a very obvious gadget to add to the other two, but It is very useful to be able to see your phone if it's showing you a GPS map of where you are going. I have something similar to the one pictured, but it doesn't really matter which one you chose, just find one that has a really strong window sucker and a very tight joint between the sucker and device cradle. When you are in a vehicle moving along the road it's quite easy for your phone to be bouncing around and vibrating enough that you can't see the screen clearly. Get one with a solid joint or one that locks in place. I have a one with some form of bendable arm and it's like a spring when you put a device on the cradle end of it. I find myself jamming the bar as close to the dashboard as possible to stop the movement. This also helps to keep it out of the line of sight of the road ahead.


Don't forget our competition to win one of the London Developer Co-Op conference survival tins on Friday.


CoPilot is
Available For:

Android
iPhone
iPad
Windows Phone 8

Things I can't travel without. (Part 2)

Following on from yesterdays post about my trip to Boston to see my new employer Teamstudio, I'll continue to share with you the gadgets and gizmos I like to travel with to make my life easier.

qtips.jpg

#4 - Q-Tips or Cotton buds. Let's just agree that hotel showers are a mixed bag and sometimes you get a pathetic dribble from the shower head or the temperature fluctuations are so bad that it's positivity dangerous to take a shower for fear of getting scalded. Other times you may have struck gold and found a shower head that is clean of limescale and delivers and good strong shower at a temperature that is constant. Whatever you get Q-Tips/Cotton Buds are not just for cleaning out the shower water from your ears, and I'm not advocating that you insert anything into your ear canal. However I have used Q-Tips for that but also for other things on my travels too. Cleaning the recessed phone lens on my iPad or Android phone so that I can do a video call with someone. Or even cleaning up something that's got in between the keys on my trusty MacBook Pro. Their uses are truly endless and I recommend you travel with some. I keep mine in a bankers bag as they seem to fit perfectly.

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#5 - Personal Wifi access point. Most hotels around the world now provide wifi, the one I’m in right now does just that and it's performing great, but there can be loads of contention on heavily used hotel wifi and if not set up right or they have used very cheap equipment then your experience is going to be very frustrating. Bring on the TP-Link TL-WR702N Wireless N Nano Router. This may be one of the smallest devices you ever buy that is worth it weight in gold many times over. But right now it's less than £5.00 at Amazon UK. I have used this to plug into hotels where they still have a network cable data connection next to the phone and it's been priceless. Here's why this works so well. No one else is using the cabled connections any more so there is no contention. I'm probably the only one connecting direct to the switch and I'm getting 100Mb to my wifi router. That means it's fast. Add to the fact this powerful little beast is smaller than a credit card (pictured with an AA battery) and it supports AP, Router, Bridge, Client and Repeater modes. In short you could buy a bunch of these and use them around your house to make your wifi coverage better.

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#6 - iOS restore key. There have been a couple of times when I've been rendered dead in the water by my laptop failing. Luckily these days you can create a USB key version of the install files for your chosen OS. Google will help you find out how. If your hard disk ever fails, run along to Best Buy or anywhere that sells hard disks, slap a new one in your laptop and you can be connected back to the Internet to get all your stuff back in about an hour or two. Much better that than having a 5 day trip wasted by a dead hard drive or anything else that fails or corrupts. My choice for this task is my trusty SanDisk Cruzer Edge 8GB. Why 8GB? Because it's about the size of a DVD, but now days I would probably do the 16GB version, as they are cheap enough. Don't be tempted to buy one and try and put anything else onto it, just keep this one for the OS only. When you need it, you don't want it not to work because you've managed to break the file system on it.
Note to Self : update the OS on your key, it's out of date. ;o)


Don't forget our competition to win one of the London Developer Co-Op conference survival tins on Friday.


Things I can't travel without. (Part 1)

I'm lying in a generic USA hotel room, two double beds, refrigerator, air conditioner, bathroom, etc, etc. You get the picture, I'm on a business trip to see my new employer Teamstudio. But, it's 05:30 in the morning and I've just woken up from a blissful and calm nights sleep even though there is a noisy refrigerator humming, buzzing and gurgling away, the intermittent very load air conditioner unit and this sort of traffic going past the window constantly.

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Why this calm and blissful state I find myself in, even though I know the jet-lag is going to be hellish later? How have I just slept through all of that?

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#1 - Simple solutions to simple problems. Earplugs. I don't travel without them. You can pick them up from most pharmacies and some airlines provide them on overnight flights. If you ever try them and they are uncomfortable or feel too big, then get a sampler pack and try some different sizes. (links at the bottom)

Then my mind gets to wandering and wondering and I’m thinking about all the other stuff I can't or won't travel without these days. I've done a bunch of business travel in the last 20 years, but never more than I’ve don in the last 10 months. Regular weekly trips to Dublin on a contract, at least 3 trips to the USA and 1 to the Netherlands and I realise that I have built up a small arsenal of essentials. This gives me great inner peace, knowing that I have the things I need when I need them.

So here are most of the things I won't travel without, why and how to find them.

#2 - Tins from London Developer Co-op give-aways. I had no idea what these are called or how to buy one as I was given both of mine by LDC. These are used by RAF pilots or may even be ration tins, I don't really know. What I do know is that they are made of aircraft grade aluminium and shut tight. I have two but here's what I manage to stuff into one of them.

There is a link at the bottom to Amazon where you can buy one.

At the end of the week and this post series, there will be a competition to win one of the original London Developer Co-op tins that you can then use for all your essential stuff.

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I want to go through some of the things in the tin with you later in the week, but for now here's the last thing I want to share today.

#3 - This is not only good for travel but very useful at home. I'm going to have to invest in another one of these for my home office I think. These nifty plugs have four USB power outlets on them and they are all 2amps, so can power 4 phones or tablets at the same time. If you are anything like me you have more than one device that needs charging overnight so having to carry just one plug instead of 4 or more is a great saving on space and weight when travelling. It also saves on having to bring loads of adapter plugs for the country you are going to. Don't worry that it's only UK, it works in other countries to and you may be able to find one specific to your country.


Don't forget our competition to win one of the London Developer Co-Op conference survival tins on Friday.