Wednesday, 10 December 2008

It's in the can

Well the recording of Noel's Christmas Presents has taken place. It all seemed to go very well, even though it took over an hour longer to record than scheduled due to retakes. It was a great experience and I enjoyed every minute, but I'm not sure I'm interested in working in the TV industry. Not that I ever had any intentions of doing so, but nothing about the week has made me feel inclined to pursue it as a career path. I'd never say never, but I think theatre is where my heart is for now at least.

The show is already a fading memory, the very next day I was straight on to the next job. It's now time for Pantomime, this year I have the delights of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. We're currently in technical rehearsals and opening night is Friday evening. So lots to cram in to get the show fit for the paying public.

Still got the transmission of the show to look forward to though. If you are interested in seeing my beautiful theatre in all its glory here are all the confirmed transmission dates for the show. First broadcast is on the 21st December on Sky One at 6pm, it is then repeated as follows:

Mon 22/12 11.00 Sky1

Mon 22/12 20.00 Sky2

Wed 24/12 18.00 Sky1

Thurs 25/12 10.00 Sky1

Thurs 25/12 16.00 Sky1

Thurs 25/12 21.00 Sky2

Fri 26/12 15.00 Sky1

Sat 27/12 20.00 Sky1

Sun 28/12 09.00 Sky2

Mon 29/12 08.30 Sky Real Lives

Mon 29/12 09.30 Sky Real Lives +1

Mon 29/12 11.00 Sky1

Mon 29/12 20.30 Sky Real Lives

Mon 29/12 21.30 Sky Real Lives +1

They certainly like to get their money's worth out of a show like this! There are no excuses for missing it, unless you don't have Sky I guess.

For now, "hi ho, hi ho, it's off to bed I go"..... more rehearsals tomorrow!

Friday, 5 December 2008

Noel's Christmas Presents

So the lighting and sound is in, the set is up and the cameras are ready to roll! This whole week has been utterly crazy, a complete whirlwind. So much activity, so many people.... what do they all do? I have no idea!

Apart from a days rehearsal tomorrow we are pretty much ready to go. It's a really alien concept this TV malarkey though. So much time, money and effort goes into one performance, then it all gets ripped down and thrown away. Nothing like a week of shows or even a tour, just a one hit wonder. Of course the whole thing gets captured on film but it's not the same as a live show.

Haven't had a chance to take any photos until today but here is the finished set. It's looking pretty festive! I'll let you decide how it measures up to the model I posted earlier in the week.

Here's another photo from another angle, this time with one of the many cameras in shot.

So we've just got a day of rehearsal tomorrow with Mr Noel Edmunds and then record the programme in the evening. At which point someone will shout "That's a wrap", and the really hard work begins of dismantling it all into the early hours of Sunday morning!

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Sky One filming

So this week will see my theatre become a TV studio to record a programme for Sky One with Noel Edmunds. The show is "Noel's Christmas Presents" and will be broadcast on Christmas day. More details will be available nearer the time but for now Sky have this on their website:

It will be an interesting week for me, I've never done any TV or film work before. Having to get used to a whole new dictionary of terms is bound to cause some confusion. Quite how two industries so closely linked can have such totally different names for things is slightly odd. But since theatre is far older, I maintain our names are the correct ones!

The content of the show is all pretty secretive given that the nature of the programme revolves around surprises, so I can't really tell you anything more about it at this stage.

We've already done a fair amount of preparation work to make the venue more TV friendly. Mainly involving the removal of seats to make space for cameras. It will be interesting to see how the set turns out. For those who don't know, a scale model is produced before it goes off to the set builders for full size construction. I took a photo of the model for reference which you can see below:

The red box with the teddy on it will be a large video screen for VT with the two sofas centre stage for Noel and his guests and the whole thing is encompassed by a star cloth. How accurate the finished set will be remains to be seen!

It all kicks off properly on Wednesday when we put all the lighting up, Thursday will be set build day and Friday is Sound and Cameras get in. Then we spend all day Saturday in rehearsals followed by the filming on Saturday evening in front of a "live studio theatre audience".

I'll update the blog as and when I have time with photos and more details, but for now "STANDBY STUDIO"!

Thursday, 16 October 2008

iGoogle ruined

Anyone who uses iGoogle will probably have seen the new version today. If you haven't, do yourself a favour and never look, it will break your heart to see how badly Google screwed up one of the best "personalised homepages" on the web.

That nicely organised layout you had sorted and were perfectly happy with will be destroyed. They have introduced a left sidebar for the tabs, why I have no idea, and it is a disaster!

I don't even use the tabs, I just want a single page where it shows my Gmail, Facebook status, Calendar, Google Reader and BBC news headlines. Now I have it all squished over to the side and a big empty space on the left for the non-existent tabs. What was wrong with them at the top? They weren't in anyone's way up there!

They've updated some of the gadgets now, for example, the BBC News shows a summary as well as the headline. But I don't want the summary, it takes up too much space. Before there was an option to expand the headline if you wanted to see the summary. Not now though, and you can't change it either!

Google Reader is supposed to work from within iGoogle, but the scrolling doesn't seem to be very happy when doing that. It should be using an iFrame so the tabs and main header stay at the top, but it doesn't. Not nice!

Then there is the Gmail gadget, before if I clicked on my Inbox I'd be taken to Gmail. Not now though, instead I'm taken to the iGoogle version of Gmail, it's so bad!

They've also taken away the option to minimise a gadget. Well, you can still do it but you have to use the drop down menu instead of the convenient button on the gadgets bar.

GAH! I'm really quite disappointed in this, there is no way to go back to the old version so iGoogle is no good to me now. Damn it! I'm actually quite upset about the whole thing, which is most unlike me...

Why do people have to tinker and fix things that are never broken? It's going to be the Xbox 360 next and the new dashboard update, MS have managed to destroy that too, seems like everyone is at it!

This has suddenly made me realise one of the big problems with this kind of modern web development. In the "good ol' days" a program was updated and you could read reviews, then decide if the new features were worth getting. If they were you installed the update, if not you just kept the version you were using. Or, if you didn't like a new version, you could un-install it and go back to the old way.

I hate this "forced upgrade" path that is happening more and more, I want to have control of my PC, I don't want my computer usage dictated to me. But now, I have to either just put up with it, or stop using it altogether, but that's not so easy when you've become so accustomed to a certain way of doing things.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Google reader broken

What have they done to the Google reader? It's my favourite RSS reader and since this morning it doesn't work. When I try to access the reader I am greeted with this screen:

google reader

I don't know what's gone wrong, but that certainly isn't right. I can't read any of my feeds now and that is proving rather inconvenient! I hope this issue is fixed soon!

Sunday, 14 September 2008

ITV Catch Up player broken

I rarely come across something so broken that it can't even perform its most basic function. However, in the ITV web based catch up service I've found a contender!

Everyone is at it now, the BBC have the iPlayer, Channel 4 have 4oD and Sky have the Sky Player. I've used them all, the BBC iPlayer is by far the best, though 4oD comes a close second with its huge archive. However, ITV seem to have lost the plot and missed the whole point of a catch up service.... that you should be able to actually watch it!

For a start the ITV Player is web based streaming only, so you can't download content to watch later. It also uses a horrible media player built into the site that has broken controls.

I missed qualifying for the Italian F1 GP today and as it had a lot of incident I really wanted to see it. So I took a trip to to watch it before the race tomorrow, what I experienced I never want to repeat.

For a start the video quality is atrocious, compare it to other offerings and it is massively compressed. Viewed at the default postage stamp size on the website it looks almost passable, but go to full screen and you can't make anything out the pixels are so large! When I think how lovely and almost broadcast standard the iPlayer pictures are I don't know what they were thinking.

This wouldn't be quite so bad if it meant it worked well, but the streaming is terrible. I have a fabulous ADSL connection and am lucky enough to sync at almost the full 16mbps and get great download speeds. So I expected to be able to watch the programme uninterrupted, just like I do on the iPlayer or 4oD. Not so I'm afraid, I was able to watch about 20 seconds of video before it started to buffer, which made me wait a good minute. When it resumed I was given a further 30 seconds if I was lucky before having to wait a similar amount of time for the next tiny segment.

I thought I'd pause the stream and let it download the video in the background for a while, so off I went to make some tea and do a couple of other bits. When I came back and restarted the stream, I got 20 seconds of video before the next buffer session.... it seems the player won't download a large buffer at all!

As I really wanted to see the qualifying session I persevered with this for a while, until roughly half way through part one. At which point for no reason, the player jumped to the ad break and then into part two! Strangely the adverts worked perfectly, no buffering what so ever..... As soon as I was back into the F1 programme the buffer cycle started all over again, until a couple of minutes in when it decided it had had enough of part two and skipped to another ad break..... then another ad break..... and another ad break.... and another..... and another..... It was basically skipping every part of the actual programme and just showing me the adverts!

So, I reloaded the page and decided to try again. Only trying to skip part one, which I'd already seen, but this just set off another ad break loop! The "rewind" button doesn't do anything so I had to reload the page again, and the same thing happened on my third attempt.

I though maybe there was an issue with that feed, so I tried another programme, same thing happened with the buffer cycle ending in the ad loop. I thought maybe it was the browser so I tried IE, same result. I though it might be my computer so tried the laptop, still no joy.

So I haven't seen the GP qualifying, I've wasted a good hour of my evening trying and I'm pissed off! Browsing the ITV forums reveals that there are hundreds of people with the same issues and they go back months. Still they exist, still there are no signs of a fix and still ITV continue to push this "service". It's appalling, if it doesn't work, stop wasting everyone's time and remove it until it does! Don't release buggy, broken webware just to pretend you are competing with other stations, do it properly or not at all!

I know I'm not the only one, but can any of you get it to work? Has ANYONE managed to watch something without any problems?

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Google Chrome - First impressions

So it's here and I've been using it for about an hour now. First impressions are very good, it has a very simple, minimalist UI and I like it!

I don't have anything solid to back up my claims, but sites certainly appear to load faster in Chrome than they do in Firefox. In fact a quick test with reveals that Firefox loaded the page in 8.84 seconds while Chrome did it in 7.3 seconds. Nothing scientific in that, but it gives you an indication.

It also uses less memory, with Firefox and Chrome both having one tab open with identical pages fully loaded reveals Firefox using 125,684k and Chrome only 29,636k. Now a lot of that could probably be accounted for by the various Firefox plug-ins I've got. But that's still pretty impressive stuff!

One thing I am impressed with is the drag and drop. I can take a tab and pull it off the browser to make it a new window. What was particularly cool was discovering that you can drag tabs from Firefox straight into Chrome!

I've not experienced any rendering issues so far either, all the site I've tried work really well. The incognito mode is an interesting idea, you can open a new window in this mode and all your browsing will be kept secret, no bookmarks or cookies will be left behind. They say this is to let you shop for surprise presents, but I think we all know what they really intend it for :-)

Not so sure I get the new Omnibar which combines features of the address bar, and Google toolbar in one. I really loved the Firefox 3 address bar, but so far I'm just not getting the same great experience with it. That might change in time though.

In summary, this is going to be a strong competitor to the big three (IE, Firefox, Safari). Not sure I'm ready to give up Firefox with all its plug-ins just yet but I could see a time when that may happen!

Google announce new browser

So, the inevitable has finally occurred. Google have officially announced their own web browser designed to compete directly with Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari etc..

I hate to say it, but it does actually sound rather promising and I'm looking forward to seeing and hearing more. It's called Chrome and you can read all about it in this (of all things) comic strip! One of the big advantages it has is that just like Firefox it's open source.

So the dominance of Google continues, what with Gmail, its GoogleDocs suite, the Android mobile phone OS, now this web browser. They really are starting to dominate not just the desktop, but our lives as well.

How will MS react to this, they've been having a tough time the last few years. It seems they are no longer at the cutting edge. Perhaps this is the beginning of the end for the huge corporation, it had to happen at some point.

EDIT: Just heard that the beta is going to be available TODAY! First screenshots are already appearing. Check this out:

Certainly going to be keeping a close eye on this, will be installing and testing this as soon as possible.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

What's wrong with the iPhone

So you probably know by now that I've got an iPhone 3G. My last blog post bemoaning the convoluted methods required to transfer contacts and calendar entries kind of gave that away. So instead of waxing lyrical about how great the iPhone is, I'm going to be a bit more critical and list all the things that are wrong with the iPhone! If you are considering a purchase, think about these things carefully, you may miss them more than you think when they are gone.

No MMS support: I mean really, come on! How long has MMS been around now? Yet Apple have decided to not support this. Crazy.

No SMS folders: Yup, there are no folders on the iPhone for your messages. No sent messages, no drafts etc... Very frustrating. Want to save a message to send later? No can do!

No video recording: It seems that Apple have deemed it unnecessary for the iPhone to support video recording. The 2 mega pixel camera seems to have attracted a lot of press. To be honest I can live with that, the images are pretty good to be fair. But you can't use the iPhone to record video, even low end budget camera phones support this. The iPhone is supposed to be top of the range yet it lacks this feature.

Can't change battery: Yet again, and as seems to be standard on Apple devices, you can't access the battery. This isn't a big issue yet, though it does limit how far you can travel without a re-charge.

No Flash support: The iPhone has a great web browser. Using the internet on the iPhone is a pleasure, not some torturous experience you force yourself to endure like on some other phones. But they missed out a Flash player, this can be so very frustrating when you follow a link to be greeted by a Flash site that just won't work.

No Javascript: Similar to the Flash criticism above. You can become suddenly unstuck when browsing a website when it uses JavaScript. You'd be surprised just how many sites do and won't work on the iPhone as a result.

No cut & paste: This is quite a common complaint, and it is a fully justified one. I've never had cut & paste on a mobile before to be fair, but the iPhone with all its other great features is just crying out for it.

No Flash: No, I'm not repeating myself. The iPhone has no flash, camera flash that is. Forget about taking pictures in a dark environment you won't see anything.

Poor 3G: Okay, not an iPhone problem exactly, but as it's only available on one network I think it qualifies. 3G reception is atrocious, O2 have a really poor 3G network. I've just joined O2 from three, three's 3G network is amazing, they have fantastic coverage. The same cannot be said for O2, and they don't seem to be in a huge rush to roll out improvements either. I live in an area with no 3G coverage from 02, yet three gave me a full strength signal here. Even venturing into a large town only gives me 2-3 bars of 3G signal on the iPhone.

Crippled performance: Even when you do have 3G, the quality is limited. YouTube doesn't perform any better than it did with Edge due to limitations set in the firmware. You aren't allowed to use the iTunes store unless you are connected to a wireless network and the AppStore is limited when using 3G.

Poor Synchronisation: As my previous blog entry explains, sync'ing your iPhone to a Windows PC is a painful experience if you are trying to port contacts and calendar entries but don't use MS Outlook. Work arounds exist, but they shouldn't have to, it should be easy to synchronise with more than just one program.

Bugs I found a bug tonight as well, if you use the stopwatch and hit the lap button then it puts the lap time in the list below but then resets the timer. This behaviour Is wrong, the total time should be cumulative and should not reset at the end of a lap. There are other bugs I've heard about but this is one I came across on my own. Not the end of the world but it makes you wonder how a feature bug like this has made it through testing. I have to add up all the lap times to get a total.

As a whole package the iPhone is fabulous, there are many great things about it. But for Apple to have completely brushed over numerous basic and fundamental mobile phone functions is inexcusable. The first iPhone was always going to be touch and go and mistakes could be forgiven with it being their first foray into the mobile market. But they've had time to listen to consumers now, find out the weak points and fix them. Yet many still remain and Apple seem intent on continuing to ignore them.

Having said all that, I still love it. And I'm not even someone who likes Apple products, I've never had an iPod and never owned a MAC. Something about the iPhone is just special.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

iPhone 3G - Google Calendar and Contacts sync

How would one go about syncing calendar and contacts from a Nokia N73 to a new iPhone 3G?

Sounds like it should be a simple task right? ... Wrong! The contacts bit was fairly easy, you just nee to use the Windows address book. Don't worry if you don't use Outlook Express normally, you only have to do it the once and it's all done. Copy your phones contacts to the Windows address book using the PC Suite, then use iTunes to sync your address book to the iPhone. Simple!

However, Calendar entries are a lot more problematic. iTunes will only work with Microsoft Outlook on Windows, if you don't have it then iTunes will tell you "No supported calendar application can be found". Not very helpful really, especially when you find out Apple only supports an expensive Microsoft application that you probably have no need for. I certainly wasn't going to buy it just for this, so I set about trying to find an alternative method that didn't involve me entering hundreds of appointments manually!

While I was searching for potential solutions I suddenly remembered reading something about synchronising my Nokia calendar with Google. So I thought, if I can get my calendar onto Google, I'd then only have to get it back off Google onto my iPhone. I'd solved it, or so I thought....

Actually getting my calender onto Google wasn't that hard, I found a web service that will do it for you with the built in sync software on the phone. GooSync was the the place to do this, simply register for an account. They send you the configuration in an SMS message which you save to your phone. Then you allow the service to access your Google calendar, a few seconds later all your events should have magically been transferred for you.

We are now half way there, unfortunately GooSync doesn't have any support for the iPhone, so I still had to figure out that bit. In fact it turned out to be the hardest part! You see Apple really do like to make things awkward sometimes. A lot of the things they do are brilliant, but every now and then they like to throw a spanner in the works and shoot themselves in the foot. There is just no easy away to sync Google Calendar with the iPhone. Hours of searching turned up no perfect solution, it just didn't seem to exist. Just as I was about to give up my prayers were answered and along came NuevaSync!

I managed to use NuevaSync to get Google Calendar to sync with the iPhone. Not only does it send all the events to your iPhone it also offers 2-way synchronisation, so changes you make on the iPhone are sent to the Google Calendar and vice-versa. Many of the other horrible solutions won't allow 2-way communication so this is a big bonus for NuevaSync. That and the fact it's free as well!

You should bear in mind that it's only in beta, so use it with caution. I've only had a quick play with it, but everything seems to be working flawlessly. It uses Microsoft Exchange so you don't have to jailbreak or install any third party applications, just enter your NeuvaSync account details into you iPhone and it works!

It's also compatible with contacts too, so you can sync your Google contacts using the same account information. If I'd known this before I'd have used it to sync my contacts as well instead of doing it through Outlook Express. If anyone tries this let me know how it goes.

Quite frankly this is an amazing service that I would be perfectly happy to pay for, so for it to be offered free is brilliant. It will be interesting to see how long it stays free once it's out of beta and demand goes through the roof :)

For now though, if you have an iPhone 3G, and you've got a Google Calendar, this is by far the best solution out there!


1. Create a GooSync account.

2. Enable GooSync to access your Google Calender.

3. Save the SMS from GooSync to your phone.

4. Allow the synchronisation to occur auto-magically.

5. Check your Calender entries are saved in Google calender.

6. Set up a NeuvaSync account.

7. Enable NeuvaSync to access your Google Calender.

8. Enter your NeuvaSync details in your iPhone. WARNING: At this point you will lose any Calendar entries in you iPhone, they will all be replaced with your Google Calendar.

9. Wait for the Calender entries to be transferred across to you iPhone.

10. Create or edit Calender entries on your iPhone or in Google and watch as they are sync'ed on the fly.

Sit back, relax and marvel at modern technology. ENJOY!

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Star of stage and screen

I'm going to be on TV, well actually, probably only the back of my head.... but we all have to start somewhere! Also, it's only the local news, so unless you are in East Sussex you'll miss out. Anyway, those that get a chance can tune into Meridian Tonight at 6pm on Friday to see me at work.

You see we had a film crew come in yesterday to make a feature about the theatre and the show that is currently running. There are several bits that had me in shot, though how many will make the final edit is anyone's guess. They did ask me for an interview being the stage manager, however I politely declined their offer. You see, I work behind the scenes for a reason, I'm happy not being seen!

If anyone does see me though, leave a comment and let me know... but I'm not holding my breath. I'll be the only person wearing black, probably with a set of cans stuck on my head.... much like my profile picture come to think of it!

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Nearly killed by the Police

I was very nearly run over by the police last night! Walking back to my car after work I witnessed a police pursuit end in a crash which finished less than 2 meters from where I was stood.

Frankly I was shit scared as the police car hit the vehicle it was pursuing and then came careering out of control towards me. The car being chased came up to a junction controlled by traffic lights which another car was waiting at. He mounted the curb to try and go around the stationary vehicle, almost knocking over three pedestrians on the pavement in the process. Then instead of going left he decided to turn right, just as the police car had gone around the stationary vehicle the other way. This resulted in the police hitting the car in the driver side door, at which point they both skidded across the junction heading straight for me.

The driver of the car escaped from his vehicle quite quickly and started to run away hotly pursued by the two police officers. I just waited where I was for a couple of minutes until about ten more police cars all descended on me.

I gave them my details and I'm just waiting for a phone call to get me down to the station to make a statement.

Sunday, 13 July 2008


It's quiet round here ain't it! I thought this might happen when I got my monitor back so I could play on my consoles again. I spend what spare time I have playing on them and not enough time on things like this.

Anyway, I've not been playing games exclusively, I've been pretty busy with work but I've also been working on a new project. It's not really finished yet, a lot still needs doing, but if you want a sneak peak then I'll tell you about it.

I'm developing a new web site, I haven't done anything like this is a long time. I figured I'd give it a go and see how it turns out. I decided to use a Content Management System or CMS for short to take a lot of the leg work out of it. I've never used one before, all my previous sites have been hand coded from scratch. I went with Drupal because a couple of people I know have used it and recommended it and a web site I use over at also uses it. It seems to do a pretty good job so thought I'd investigate.

I've got the bare bones of the site together now, I just need to get working on customising it. But where to start? I don't know anything about Drupal, I need to do some investigation. If anyone has any recommendations on where to look for this send them to me please!

So now I've told you a bit about it, I bet you're all gagging to to see it right? Hmmm, well okay, maybe not. But if you do want a look you can find it over at

I'll try and post again soon and maybe talk about some games next time.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Silence is golden!

The last few weeks I've noticed my PC has been making a lot more noise than usual. The fans seemed to run up to 100% and stay there constantly after just a couple of minutes from switching it on. I had initially thought that the monitoring software that regulates fan speeds had gone a bit screwy so I kind of ignored it telling myself I'd sort it out later.

Well last night I decided that "later" was now, so I fired up the software to be greeted by angry alarms blaring through my speakers at 1am! Not the best thing to wake the household with, but oh well, it was too late to worry about that.

Apparently my CPU temperature was hovering just over the 90 degree mark, and my case temperature was 70 degrees! Ouch, that CPU is nicely roasting away and probably has been for a few weeks. I decided I had to do something about it, but that 1am was not the time to strip the PC apart. So this morning out came the compressed air and tool kit.

OH MY GOD! I've never seen so much dust in my life...... The case was stuffed full of the stuff. No wonder I had air flow issues, all the fans were totally clogged up. A good blast of air outside and a well aimed hoover sorted that issue out. Then I figured while I was at it, it couldn't do any harm to replace the thermal paste on the CPU. So off came the heatsink/fan and the old stuff was carefully removed from the copper heatsink, and the top of the CPU. A fresh application of some Arctic Silver 5 paste and a quick re-assembly later it was all done.

Time for the moment of truth, everything worked straight away (phew!) and this time the fans didn't ramp up! After loading the monitoring software again, the good news is the CPU is now at a more comfortable 61 degrees, and the case a refreshing 38 degrees! Now I can sit in peaceful silence once again.

So, if you're PC is noisier than you'd like, it might be time to give it some TLC and sort out air flow inside your case. It can make a HUGE difference!

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Monitor heaven!

So after all the worry about never getting my monitor sorted out. I received an unexpected phone call from the Staples store manager today. He told me my replacement monitor had arrived and I could pick it up whenever was convenient. So straight after work I headed down to the shop to be greeted by a brand new 24" wide-screen Gateway FPD2485W-EU.

I am very impressed with this monitor, not only is it HUGE (it's replaced a 21" screen) it has loads of connections. DVI, VGA, 2 x Component, S-Video and 4 x USB ports. It's astonishingly bright, has a pretty big 1920 x 1200 resolution and not a dead pixel in sight.

If I had to have one complaint, it would be it's simply too big. I have it paired with a 19" 4:3 monitor, and it's kind of dwarfed it now. Plus because it's so new the image quality is so good it really shows up my older monitor for how poor it really is.

I must go now, my eyes are bleeding from all the light emanating from the screen. It's burning my retinas!

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Monitor hell!

The saga continues, another call from Staples today, apparently the replacement monitor isn't on its way as promised. I should point out that this isn't a Staples problem, they have been fantastic. The problem now is that Gateway have been taken over by Acer and Gateway will no longer talk to Staples about the issue. They accept they have my old monitor and that it can't be repaired, but won't talk about any sort of resolution. In fact talking to the Staples store manager Gateway (or the company that used to be Gateway) have been very rude to him.

As if this all wasn't bad enough, things are further complicated because I bought the monitor from Staples on-line. Now apparently the bricks and mortar store is a separate company to the on-line retail arm. What this means is that technically the store manager shouldn't have taken my monitor in the first place, however, he did because he's a nice guy and wanted to help. So the whole thing is a bit of a mess!

The store manager has vowed to do everything he can to sort this out for me and is taking a complaint up with his head office. He is hoping that his management might carry more weight and get some answers for me.

I'm pretty confident this guy will follow it through and sort it all out, but I'm not sure where I stand legally now. The whole thing is a bit complicated!

Thursday, 12 June 2008

PayPal - hypocrites!

I've had a couple of friendly games of Poker recently with some people I know from a newsgroup. It's just a bit of fun roughly once a month and the losers all pay the winner £5. We've been using PayPal up to now but a couple of us (myself included) have had our accounts frozen because apparently gambling breaches their acceptable use policy.

On the surface this seems fair enough, if perhaps a little harsh. However, if they have a principle that the service cannot be used for gambling then I'm happy to abide by it. This was the e-mail they sent me:
"After a recent review of your account, it has been determined that you are currently in violation of PayPal's Acceptable Use Policy. Under the Acceptable Use Policy, PayPal may not be used to send or receive payments for activities that involve gambling and/or gaming activities, including but not limited to casino games, sports betting, horse or greyhound racing, lottery tickets, certain games of skill, and other ventures that facilitate gambling."
Of course it's not as simple as that, because PayPal are in fact perfectly happy to allow you to use their service for gambling as I found out upon investigation:
"You can now use PayPal with Betfair – the world’s largest betting exchange."
So, either they do allow the service for gambling or they don't, which is it? It would seem it's both! You see they are quite happy to let their principles slide when they can make a profit from it. They take a cut from all transactions made through PayPal to BetFair and that's fine. But if you just want to organise the occasional friendly game of Poker then you are an evil gambler who must be banished from PayPal forever!

Like I said in the title, PayPal are hypocritical *&%$*!

An iBlog

I think I might change this blog from a standard blog, to a new fangled iBlog! What's the difference you ask, well there actually isn't one. It just seems to be the fashionable and trendy thing to chuck an 'i' in front of everything these days.

What does this 'i' actually mean anyway? What's so great about an 'i' that makes it so special? Google has iGoogle, the BBC has the iPlayer, BT have announced a new product called the iPlate which is supposed to increase your broadband speeds. There are countless other examples and it's getting to be beyond a joke!

Apple created the 'i' brand and I believe the first product to sport the name was the imac. It was a great product that pretty much sparked the turn around in the companies fortunes. Then of course came the hugely popular ipod. I can understand that a company like Apple would want to use the 'i' branding to its full potential. I don't have any issue with that at all, it's all the other companies who are jumping on the band wagon and trying to exploit the popularity that bugs me.

Why couldn't the marketing gurus over at BT and Google have come up with an original title for their products? What exactly are they being paid for if they just look for a successful brand and imitate them? Perhaps that's exactly what they are being paid for! Either way, how do I get a job doing this, I have some great marketing ideas ready to go. How about the iBurger, the iPen or the iSoap! All these ideas are bound to sell in their millions, I am a marketing god!

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Still no monitor

It's been ages since my computer monitor was sent off for repair. I've had to slum it with just one screen for weeks, it's amazing how much easier everything becomes when you have a dual screen set-up. I've really missed all the extra space I've become accustomed to for web browsing, usenet and more all at the same time.

Anyway, Staples phoned me up to say they can't repair it, booooo! However, they are going to give a a shiny new one instead, yaaay! Just got to wait for them to call me back some time this week when it's arrived so I can collect it. It can't come soon enough as far as I'm concerned, then I can get back to the important business of playing video games again!

James likes to

A friend of mine just did this on her blog and I thought I'd give it a go myself. Basically you type "(your name) likes to" into Google, including the speech marks. Then you copy and paste the results, here are mine:

- James likes to, write down the first 10 search results. Hmmm, someone's obviously been here before me. I guess it's right though because I'm doing exactly that now.

- James likes to relax by swimming, walking the coastal footpath with Jane or catching up with the TV programmes he's recorded. Well, I don't know anyone called Jane and I don't do much swimming. I am always playing catch up with the TV though.

- James likes to capture stories as they happen. Errrm, not sure I've ever captured a story before but if someone wants to tell me what sort of net is needed I'll give it a go.

- James likes to get high on. Get high on what? I need to know!

- James likes to go for long walks with Laurie on the beach, likes to buy her flowers. I sense a bit of a theme here, apparently people called James like the sea, but again I don't know any Laurie's.

- James likes to watch fat porn. Apparently so, who am I to argue with that. (I don't by the way, but perhaps I should give it a go)

- James likes to keep it hot. Oh yeah!

- James likes to pull Susan's pony tail. Again I don't know any Susan's either.

- James likes to play football as much as possible and DJ in clubs and radio in his spare time. A very definite no on all counts there!

- James likes to go out at the weekend (not on "school nights" any more as the next morning is too hard!). Well I tend to work weekends so technically I guess that means I'm out, but I haven't been been to school in years.

What does Google think you like to do?

Repairing disc scratches

As a result of having to move all the old rubbish for the new central heating, I discovered a box of audio CDs I've not seen for years. I decided to rip them all to my PC so I can actually listen to them occasionally! However, some of them would seem to have divorced their protective cases and had a bit of a party in the box. This meant they were badly scratched rendering them unreadable. That made me quite sad because although I hadn't listened to them in a long time, I'd spent quite a bit of money on them and I had some good CDs amongst the casualties!

As it happens, I was browsing through Maplins today when I found a little disc repairer from Procare, imaginatively titled "Compact Disc Surface Scratch Repairer". It cost £24.99 and as my damaged CDs would have cost considerably more to replace I decided it was worth a shot. Here it is repairing one of the naughty little discs:

It's mains powered and is a two stage process, first it rubs down the disc with two rough pads. Then you swap them for two buffing pads and add some magic fluid that buffs it up and gives it a protective coat. You can see two of the pads here:

I must say, I've been very impressed so far! I've fixed three CDs that refused to be recognised before and a couple of others that constantly skipped. One of them had a deep gouge in it and although it hasn't got rid of that, it did fix it enough for me to copy the CD to my computer!

I even dared to try it on a video game, I've got a copy of Wii Play that always crashed when selecting 2 players. I was never really sure why it did that, there were no obvious marks on the disc. But a quick run through the machine and it worked flawlessly, amazing!

The whole process takes about 4 minutes and the pads are supposed to be good for 50 repairs, replacements can be obtained but I don't know how much they are. I'll be fixing more CDs tomorrow, I haven't had any fail yet so it looks like I may get all my discs back! YAY.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Does a lot of work for charity mate!

Okay, it's rant time, sorry! As most of you know, and should know if you've read the short profile to the right of this post. I'm a stage manager, I work in theatre and over the course of a year we do a lot of charity shows and fund-raising events. I don't mind them too much, sometimes they can be badly organised due to their lack of experience but then that's why we are there. We are the professionals tasked with making sure their event runs smoothly.

Just recently certain organisers seem to have got the wrong idea though. Comments have been made that it's a charity event and we should be volunteering our time to make their expenses lower. Now I'm sorry, but that is really not acceptable. Everyone who works in the theatre does so for a living, it's our job. We try our best to keep staffing levels to a minimum but certain people are needed to run a show. If we gave up our wages for every charity or fund-raising event staged in our theatres then our income would be significantly lower.

That's not to say we are all heartless though, when the tsunami hit Asia we had a huge event with lots of big names. It was a lot of work and we all put in a lot of hours. Everyone was paid for their time, but as far as I know, everyone involved donated all the money they earned to the charity.

I also do a few things each year outside of work as well. For example, tomorrow I have given up my day off and volunteered to do a fund raiser for St. Wilfrids hospice which is a local charity. I'm even going to miss the Grand Prix!

So, if you ever organise a charity event, please don't expect the people working on it to do so for free. We have to make a living the same as the rest of you and if your charity show is in the theatre it means another professional show isn't. We still need to pay our bills regardless of how much we like the cause you may be raising cash for. We all do our bit in our own way, but at the end of the day it's our job.

Monday, 2 June 2008


We are having new central heating installed at the moment, they started the process today. Arriving at 8:15am, just the time when the whole house is in a state of chaos anyway!

I'm starting to question if it's really worth it. Sure the old system doesn't work properly and it's pretty damn cold almost everywhere in the winter. But seriously, the work involved is just nightmarish! Every room has to be cleared so the floorboards can be taken up, new pipes laid and the old removed. It's bad enough when you have to do it to decorate one room, but the workmen need access to all the rooms in one go. Where are you supposed to put everything?

It involves dismantling beds because the rooms are too small to move them about. Dismantling the fitted units because they need to get under them, to do that they need to be emptied which means finding somewhere to put all the clothes and junk. You can't put them in the airing cupboard because the new boiler is going in there so you have to empty that too! Taking up all the carpets, it's just crazy.

On top of this we figured while we are in this state of upheaval, we might as well get the bathroom refurbished. So a new bathroom suite for there and re-tiling to take place. It just adds to the chaos and mess though.

Seriously, if you ever have to do something like this, book yourself into a hotel for the week. Trying to live your life amongst all the bedlam isn't much fun..... and it's only day one!

Picking a mobile

I've just had to go through the traumatic experience of picking out a suitable replacement mobile phone for my mother. Her old one, which was mine originally needed replacing because the screen kept getting corrupted. I think the phone got a bit wet while she was out in a rain storm and it never fully recovered. It has good days and bad days though so it's all a bit odd.

The thing is, my parents seem to assume that I'm an expert in all things gadget and whenever they have any problems I'm always their first port of call. Now in most cases they are perfectly right to ask me, but on mobile phones I don't really have a clue!

I upgrade my phone every 12-18 months on a contract and usually just opt for the latest Nokia at the time. My old phone, the one my mother has now is an N70, at the moment I'm on the N73 and I will probably go to the N96 when it's released in a couple of months. So other than that I have no idea what's what in the world of mobile phone technology.

I did a bit of browsing on the O2 website to see what was out there but really they all seem pretty similar to me these days. The problem I have is that I tend to end up looking for phones that I would like, but of course this usually isn't suitable for her. I eventually settled on the Samsung U600 as the phone of choice, it seemed like a good balance between simplicity and features.

Before committing to a purchase I looked for a review and found that it isn't the greatest phone. Lots of complaints about the poor keypad and the camera not being too hot. One of the reviews recommended the G600 instead, so I went back to O2 and looked it up. It was available but quite a bit more expensive and she doesn't really need a 5 mega-pixel camera or a music player with 40MB storage. So, I decided the U600 was the best bet and handed over my recommendation so she could call up customer services and place the order. Of course the queue to actually speak to a human was endless and we waited on hold for ages, during this time I happened to mention the other phone. Immediately she wanted to know all about it and decided that she wasn't going to have second best, even if she would never use half the features it offered.

So decision made all that remained was to place the order, except that now she was given another choice. Black or Pink? What a dilemma! I had to do a quick Google image search to see the difference while she discussed the pros and cons of the different colours with the operator. Finally Black was decided on and now I await the arrival and inevitable call for help when nothing on the phone works because it's not the same as the Nokia. Except I won't have a clue either because I've never owned anything other than Nokia myself!

So did I make a good choice? Is the G600 a decent phone? Will I rue this day for years until it finally dies? I guess I'll find out soon enough.

Friday, 30 May 2008


So things didn't go so well for Vizage last night. I spoke to Sam today to see how they were doing and they are both fairly upbeat although very disappointed to be buzzed off. Especially with the way in which it happened.

I have always felt that by the time they get to the live finals the buzzers should be removed. It's fine to have them for the auditions, but at this stage every act remaining should be allowed to complete their spot. If the judges don't feel they are good enough then they should never have been put through to the finals.

In my opinion Sam and Vicki handled themselves very well in front of the judges, they acted in a highly professional manner. A complete contrast to the reaction from the Dean's of magic the night before.

It was always a huge gamble to go against the judges advice, but lots of people, myself included had told them to stay with the act they've been working with professionally. Did we all give bad advice? I don't think so, they are Vizage, a vocal illusion act. It's what separates them from other acts on the circuit. To drop the singing aspect would be to go against what Vizage is and that would be just as bad for them in the long run.

In my opinion the show put far too much emphasis on the singing. Sure Vicki isn't as good as some of the singers on the show, but that isn't the point. The main focus of the act is the quick change, it's something that was almost completely ignored during the build up. The viewers were led to believe that if Vicki dared to go against the judges it would be a complete disaster. They were at a huge disadvantage before they even began. But the response from the audience both during the act and when they were stopped was indicative that it was being enjoyed and people wanted to see it to the end.

Staying true to their act is what they wanted to do and they are both still convinced they did the right thing. As Sam stated, the judges are entitled to their opinion, that doesn't make them right. What is frustrating is when underhand tactics are employed, such as Simon hitting Amanda's buzzer. That really shouldn't be allowed and Amanda was clearly very annoyed with that.

So what's next for Vizage? Well I think it's safe to say they haven't committed professional suicide. They have already received several offers of work, a couple of them sound very exciting. They may not be appearing on the Royal Variety Performance, but they won't be short of work. They are a professional act that have been working for years and they will continue to do so. This show has raised their profile and I can't see anything but good coming from it in the long run.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Best game ad ever!

This is possibly the best trailer / advert for a video game I think I've ever seen. It's so bad it's good! I'll let you watch to make up your own mind:

Hopefully they didn't mean for this to be a serious advert because if they did they were way off the mark. But for a tongue in cheek light hearted way to advertise this game they've struck gold.

I wasn't really interested in this game before now and to be honest I'm still not that keen. But full marks for effort!

In other news, Vizage are appearing in the live semi final of Britain's Got Talent tonight (Thursday 29th) at 8:30pm. Please give them your vote!

Monday, 26 May 2008

Birthday weekend

So it's official, I've now entered my fourth decade of life. I've managed to successfully navigate 30 years without too much turbulence along the way. The question is, what do I do now? You see, I think I may be having a slightly early mid-life crisis... well, perhaps crisis is a bit too strong, but I've been having thoughts recently about what I'm doing with my life.

It's not that I'm unhappy in any way, that couldn't be further from the truth. However, everything is just a bit too comfortable at the moment and I could do with giving myself a kick up the arse. I'm just drifting along a bit right now, anyway, I don't want to go any deeper into this just now. I'll take a few days to think things through and see what I come up with. Perhaps I just need a new hobby, or perhaps just a holiday, I've not had one of those for about five years!

I decided that as it was a significant birthday and as it fell on a bank holiday weekend. I should declare the whole weekend as my birthday instead of just restricting myself to one day. It worked rather well and would highly recommend it to others. Friday night was curry night with friends, that was great and I didn't get home to bed until 5am. The Saturday was dedicated to doing family things and I went out for a meal with them to celebrate. The Sunday which was my actual birthday I had to work all day, but that was fine, it turned out to be quite an easy day and we finished early. So that just left today, which I was working.... again! This time though my colleagues had bought me a lovely birthday cake and again we were able to finish early.

I'm now sitting at home wondering how to round off my birthday weekend, and I can't think of any way to do it. I'm pretty tired now though so I'm thinking perhaps a hot drink, curl up in front of the telly and watch something like the new series of Battlestar Galactica that I haven't had time to start yet. After all, I'm getting old now I have to start taking things easy!

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Britain's Got Talent

I've just heard that two good friends of mine have made it through to the live finals of "Britain's Got Talent". The friends in question are Sam and Vicki, aka Vizage, the quick change illusion act. It's common in my business to make friends with loads of people who you'll never see again once the show is over. However, in Sam and Vicki I've found that not to be the case, they are great people and true professionals in their field.

I've known Sam and Vicki for a many years now and have worked with them extensively on shows in the past. I am really pleased they've made it through because I was a bit concerned they may not progress past the preliminary stage after their audition didn't go as well as could be expected.

If you saw the audition then you'll know what I mean and if you didn't then you can see it on YouTube:

I know that the pair of them have practised long and hard honing this act until it is perfect. Unfortunately on the day of the audition Vicki's nerves got the better of her voice, but hopefully she'll be on top of her game for the next round. I'll certainly be giving them my full support and vote, watch out for them next week! Good luck guys.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

So I got a blog

Well it took me a while, but I finally succumbed to the blogging phenomenon. I've already made my first post which was a rant about car insurance, so this is just a quick follow up. I'm not really sure why I've started a blog or who I expect to read it, if anyone. Perhaps it has something to do with me turning 30 at the weekend, I dunno. But anyway, here it is, let's see if I can keep it active.

I'll probably use this blog to talk about anything interesting that happens to me, so it probably won't get updated very often! I'll also use it to talk about games, post my impressions and my progress. I already read a few gaming diaries and while this won't be quite as detailed as some of those (deKay and TheRev I'm looking at you) I'll try and keep it relatively up to date with what I'm playing.

So, to kick things off what am I playing now.... well, nothing! You see my lovely 21" wide screen monitor that I use for my 360 has been sent away to hospital. It needs a new back light and with only a few days of the 12 month guarantee remaining I decided I needed to act. So until that returns in a week or so I won't be able to get my CoD4 fix, or make any more progress on GTA4.

Fortunately I can still use the Wii on my other TV, but I'm not really playing anything on that at the moment. Perhaps I should, I've got plenty of games I've not completed including the rather fantastic Super Mario Galaxy. I also have Zelda which I've barely touched and Metroid too. I really should take this opportunity to give these games a good outing, but I just don't seem to have any enthusiasm for the Wii at the moment.

I guess that's about all I have to talk about for the time being. Actually another thought just crossed my mind. Perhaps I created this blog because I don't have my 360 to play, when my monitor returns this might all be forgotten. Time will tell....

My job sucks

For car insurance!

Just been searching for quotes on-line and used to find the best price. My renewal was £307 but Confused said that the AA would cover me for £156! "Woop" I thought so went there to check the details and buy the policy.

However, it appears got a bit confused about my occupation. I told them I was a stage manager in theatre, but for some reason the AA thought I was a production manager in manufacturing. Once I had corrected these details, my quote from the AA went up to £270! Ouch.... Still cheaper than my renewal price, but how much am I being penalised for my job!

So I'm still trawling the sites to see if I can get a better price but I'm getting a bit sick of entering my details over and over again now.