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The F1 British Grand Prix at Silverstone


I have visited a few Formula 1 Grand Prix, but this was my first British GP and lasted five days.  What a spectacle of cars. What an audible experience. One hundred and forty thousand vocal fans pushing-on their driver at this old military airfield. This is the first selection from Thursday’s F2 practice sessions.

Silverstone Circuit
Field (before tents)
Flags flying with Campers

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Communications 107 years ago – atoms not electrons

We found an old postcard sent from a friend to an ancestor at 9:30am on 22nd April 1910 – 107 years ago today. It depicts a football match between Scotland and England played twenty days earlier at Hampden Park, Glasgow. The score was 2-0 to Scotland, yes we used to play and win football matches against the ‘auld enemy’! The attendance was 106,206 which raised £4,427 in gate money, but this is not what’s cool.

The sender was informing the addressee that they would pay them a visit the next day. Imagine back in the toddler stage of 20th century Britain when Internet or mobiles did not exist and the telephone was new fangled and rare. The only form of communication possible was handwritten postcard, taken to the nearest Post Office, payed with a half penny stamp then dropped into the clutches of the state’s postal service to deliver on time.

One hundred and seven years later I doubt that same postcard would reach its destination in time with the same confidence. However we can communicate over telephone, mobile phone, email, text message. Heck you can summon the muscles of Apple et al to hold a live two-way video call wherever you are right now…cool!

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Cherished item 001

I know the photo omits the spit and polish of a Vogue magazine cover shot, thats because this is a work-a-day tool that had ‘some work done’. Its a Dualit Combi 2+1 toaster which I bought in 1997 for a very very princely sum. I’m embarrased at the amount I spent on a toaster. I could have bought ten, yes ten fertile acres of the panet Mars which we now know can produce enough potatos to feed a working martian biologist.

What makes this special is the quality of toast and critically, it is repairable. I grew-up in the 70’s when petrol was scarce and TV’s were rented on account of their high price. Back then we repaired electrical items when they broke which happened more often than today. I hear people say “They don’t make them like they used to” which is the same trope as “the sun always shone on my childhood summer holidays.” Its not that design or manufacturing standards were woeful in the 70s, but plastics, product testing and high reliability know-how was. Bakelite (an early plastic) was used everywhere and became brittle then failed. You were crossing fingers every morning for a 70s British car to start although the reasons for it failing include poor design, manufacturability, management, training, materials…

Back to the toaster, my beloved chrome toasting box. It toasts bread every single day from two to twenty slices a day (if the house is full) – perfectly. I’m talking Rolls Royce toast ready in a jiffy. It has manual levers to lower and raise the bread/toast, a rotary mechanical timer that ticks like a roadrunner time bomb, a clam basket for making toasties, a toasting light and crumb tray. Its a bugger to clean and keep clean so has accumulated years of perma-grime.

Recently one of its four heating elements failed which meant the backup £6 Asda was deployed until old faithful was repaired. This is why I like this toaster. The maker, Dualit sells spares online or over the phone. So after a short call and three days the postie delivered the new element. Dismantling the toaster is not tab A into slot B easy and requires some tools however it is repairable in 30m.

This is why its cherished. Our expensive workhorse performing one simple duty perfectly every day of the year, ready for its next 20 year stretch. Repairing it is a pleasure and rewarding. Pity we have gone through six kettles in the same period. Embarrassingly expensive to buy, cheap-as-chips as it stretches into toaster teens.


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Hold still, until my iphone reboots

Ever the photographer I’m keen to capture family events big and small, I ask my youngest child to stop hugging his mum goodbye and stand in front of his departing ski bus. A few friends join the line-up as other parents whip out their smartphones and get their shot. I can’t.

I  ask the kids to wait a second as I fumble with my iPhone 5S. I get taunted “Come on dad, hurry-up”, but I can’t.

“My phone is re-booting”

Not since having an HTC Tyan Window Mobile 6.5 phone reboot mid-call have I ever tasted such a halting bitter technology fail. And there is more.

On Sunday I was listening to music on my iPhone, it was a half-hour into Penthouse and Pavement (Heaven 17) when the music and screen died. Jabbing the on/off and home buttons did nothing, then the white bitten apple appeared. Another reboot.

The cause is the hidden system Springboard or application launcher within iOS7 which is failing and what you see is the blank screen for 20-30 seconds as springboard reboots or worse a longer device reboot. My fail rate is 2-3 reboots per week on iPhone and 1-2 on an old iPad 3 and has worn me down from anger to tolerant friction. In December while going through photographs springboard bailed. Blank screen. Anger. Immediate 2m walk from Starbucks to Genius Bar across the street. I knew this was just flaky iOS7 software, the genius did too, but he was so irritating using that Genius-speak. The sort of language that cannot acknowledge:

  1. Our product or service has a fault.
  2. The fault is out with specification.
  3. Our bad, sorry.

After testing he declared “this is normal”

“Aye right” was my reply.

Since iOS 7 launched many have suffered and the fix is coming in 7.1 (currently in beta testing). Despite my iPhone wanting and getting the China only (!) iOS 7.0.5 patch, problems continue. What is unacceptable is the length of time Apple has left Customers with such a severe and highly visible bug.

What made me write this was opening up iMovie (latest desktop version) to create a short portrait of someone only to discover it can no-longer split media clips (10m+ video clips) since the last update.  Back to Adobe Creative Cloud.

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Comrade iTunes, this is Spotify

iTunes likeness

iTunes likenessThe first iPod, iPhone or iPad is a joy. Plugging-in to iTunes to upload your own music ripped from CD or add a credit card to buy music, apps and even movies. Doing so crowns the iTunes account as le grande fromage, the great dictator, one iTunes to rule them all. It works well – for one person.

Your second iDevice means you sync with the current iTunes dictator or you rebel and create a second iTunes account on another computer. But beware comrade.

Buying content like music, apps, movies, audiobooks etc. in iTunes binds the purchase to the iTunes account. You can’t sync across different iTunes libraries.

In my family this means we have one iTunes politburo opened in 2003 which contains:

  • Key photography albums & slideshows
  • My vinyl and CD collection
  • iTunes music including Amazon purchases
  • Movies and TV shows
  • Audiobooks, Podcasts, PDFs and iBooks ((An iBook bought on iPhone, stored in iTunes but not viewable from iTunes on the desktop!))

I decided to sync all devices with one iTunes library because it meant greater sharing of purchased media on many devices ((One iTunes with apps is very useful where the children can share games etc)) and simplified backup . iTunes has command and control of our family of iPhones, iPods, Airport express and Apple TV.

The issue is every device owner has to use the same computer (mine) when updating playlists and apps. So I make the changes because I don’t want young children running amok in a 1-click purchase environment.

PS3 &  Apple TV remotesSo please comrade iTunes, let me buy music and let my family sync it onto their device from a different computer in our house? Also:

  1. Simplify transfer of camera media between devices and iTunes. Nothing is intuitive here.
  2. Cut the iTunes USB umbilical cord for synchronising, at least for music.
  3. Fix the rental source problems with Apple TV and iTunes.
  4. Allow transfer of photographs and movies captured on a device to computer wirelessly.
  5. Shake the dandruff out of iTunes, its begining to feel like a Sony remote control.


Spotify subscription music


Jet White's Spotify website
This blog post is in part-response to discussions I’ve had with Jer White. He is a technical writer based in Edinburgh by day and creator of the worlds biggest Blog on Spotify. Which is the worlds largest paid music subscription service. It has been growing new features and benefits so I consulted Jer on how Soptify may work in a family setting. See his blog post here of my dilemmas.

I took the free 7-day trial of Spotify Premium, playing-down my reservations of subscription music. It is working on all computers and iDevices and works very.  While writing this I heard it was Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday. Fired-up Spotify and bang! now listening to a live Dylan recording from 1961. Not only did I want Spotify to stand in front of comrade iTunes tanks, I wanted freedom from managing the families devices. Does it ?  …almost.

spotify freedom logoWith a daughter off to France for a week she turned excitement to 11. The prospect of bathing in Spotify’s 14m+ tracks and cherry-picking music for her iPod nano was teenage heaven. Sadly for her iPod devices will only sync owned and not subscription music. Spotify joy for her elder brother however.  Using the Spotify app on his iPod Touch he sideloaded (or cached) a playlist to his device over WiFi for listening on his paper round. I repeat: music streaming and syncing over-the-air.

I Spotified my iPhone. Watching a WiFi sync of music brought a smile. My son and I used different macs too :mrgreen: Take Glasnost and Peristroika comrade iTunes.

Spotify unlimited gives desktop access for £5/month. Spotify Premium provides desktop and mobile access for £10/month. ((includes over the air stream or sync of music)) Spotify does not break the iron curtain fully, some wrinkles in an Apple world:

  • Spotify app paused playback when iPhone was docked in my TomTom car cradle and the screensaver kicked in. Road-tested an update today and this appears fixed.
  • Cannot send music to an Apple TV (Rev 1) from either an iPhone or Spotify on the desktop which is unfortunate. Sometimes its good to rock-out to the same tune coming from various audio devices around the house. Soptify app on iPhone worked with a few drop-outs to AirPort Express.
  • Spotify desktop app has no option to stream music to your AirPlay devices eg. AirPort, Apple TV.
  • Only one device or computer streaming music at a time .
  • Built-in discovery features appear good, but run out of steam fast e.g. the What’s New slider, repeats albums and has a myopic view of its 14m tracks.

iTunes or Spotify

The Spotify trial changed my view about music subscription. Its keenly priced, has a good range of tracks and integrates well into an Apple world. Consider a movie rental at £3-5 per 3 hours experience, or buy a DVD for £10 and watch it three times. Now consider 30 days of unlimited music choice out of 14m tracks for £5-10 ! For a music lover its very good value and restores joy and serendipity to music discovery. Be sure to checkout Jer White’s blog to discover tips, tools and updates to the Spotify library on The Pansentient League.

Spotify has set the bar for subscription music and over-the-air iDevice syncing. Can Apple democratise iTunes, cut the USB sync cable and offer music rental over the ethercloud ?

Any experiences positive or negative in integrating Spotify into your world ? Please add your comments below.