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2010 Predictions? No Chance!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 0

Last year I predicted the outcome of the Formula One 2009 Championship by declaring that Jenson Button would be hot favourite to win driving for the very talented Ross Brawn at Brawn GP.

Reflecting on the 2010 season ahead though, I’m already having some difficulties in repeating the trend and picking another Champion. It could literally be anyone out there on grid – and as Brawn GP proved, even a newbie team could very well end up winning in their debut season (although, none of the new teams have employed Mr Brawn in fairness).

The most promising rookie thus far to be entering the fray, in my opinion, is Bruno Senna. Having watched him in GP2 a couple years back, I was impressed then – despite hitting a wild dog in the Turkish GP and having to retire on the spot whilst comfortably leading! I will be most interested in his F1 career when it starts in March.

But looking down the list of confirmed drivers for 2010, its going to make for an explosive season. First Jenson Button has moved to partner Lewis Hamilton for an all British battle at McLaren – and despite my dislike for McLaren, they did end the previous season with a pretty decent car, which puts them right on the pace going into next year. I expect Jenson to stamp his authority and show his superior skill – but it will be much closer than the competition with Barrichello.

Red Bull – despite narrowly missing out in 2009, will undoubtedly be on the pace again next season, they’ve managed to keep hold of Adrian Newey, who is the closest thing to Ross Brawn in the pit lane as money can buy. I have no doubts that Vettel will be keen to show more too.

Meanwhile both Williams and Renault – following big, major changes and new investment in both teams – will also be fascinating to keep watch over. In my opinion, Renault were wrong to let Flavio disappear from the scene and retire with the ease in which he was allowed to do so and the loss of Pat Symonds (another old school engineer of the Ross Brawn/Adrian Newey class), may show the most obvious signs of Renaults downturn. Williams, however will hopefully be a different story – new investment may allow them to stay in the development race over the course of the season – in recent years they’ve always tended to start well but fade as the season progresses.

Would anyone dare count out Force India after their impressive showing in the close to 2009? They seem to have unlocked the potential to their car and whilst I don’t expect them to challenge for the Championship, race wins could be on the cards if they play their strategies right and their car is as good and as understood.

Another exciting prospect is Kamui Kobayshi – another GP2 driver getting a chance in F1 after a couple of dare devil races for Toyota. With luck he’ll continue to be a feisty driver who will battle with just about everyone for any position going. Also the reaction to the BMW Sauber team being re-owned and ran by Peter Sauber will no doubt renew the loyalties of the employees for the team and perhaps they might produce something a little bit special.

And for me, as a Ferrari fan, comes the most interesting aspect of the 2010 season; the return of Michael Schumacher, the arrival of Fernando Alonso and the return of Felipe Massa.

Massa first of all will be keen to get back behind the wheel of an F1 car after his accident which sidelined him from the latter half of the 2009 season. He’s already proved his potential in 2008 and given the car should be able to deliver a championship win – and what a story it would be; the wild man of F1 after moving to the most famous of all teams developing and then winning the Championship; testament to why Ferrari have recently setup a Young Driver Development programme – Felipe the first to follow the unofficial programme.

Much has been written about Fernando Alonso’s arrival at Ferrari. Kimi Raikkonen moved aside early for his arrival by Ferrari Management, they obviously believe him to be “the real deal”. As a Ferrari fan and an admitted Kimi fan - his daring and skill obvious to all when he was really on it, but distant and lacklustre whenever the mood didn’t quite take him – was not what Ferrari needed as they looked towards the “Schumacher Replacement Driver”, even if he did win the 2007 season.

Alonso provides a very different style and temperament – though not without risk. Remember back to the 2007 paring of Alonso/Hamilton and the disruption that was caused within the team as a result – but who knows what Alonso’s contract stated; if he was lead driver or not. I’m positive that a repeat won’t happen at Ferrari – Massa is too welcoming and friendly and sure of his position in the team to be threatened and Alonso will be fully aware of his own ‘Mission Statement’ and role within the Prancing Horse to disrupt the team. But I believe Alonso is much more to Ferrari’s liking than Kimi was becoming in his 3 years with the team. Alonso’s battled with Michael Schumacher during 2005 and 2006 – where he beat Schumacher remember – were blinding and some of the closest racing of the decade. Despite the lacklustre cars over the past couple of years, anyone who’s kept an eye on Alonso’s performance will have seen the genius is still at work behind the wheel and his talent hasn’t faded, the results haven’t told the full tale, his consistency his greatest strength and that is similar to what Schumacher brought to the team.

The only question mark over either Massa or Alonso challenging for the Championship will be that of the car. Ferrari have to deliver a Championship winning car in order to win. Last season after the confusion over the new rules and double diffuser, they were on the back foot from the off and never seemed to recover at all – the loss of Ross Brawn a few years back hasn’t seemed as apparent as I first feared, the loss of Jean Todt from the pit wall calling strategy seemed to hurt more. Dominicali addressed that problem and hopefully with a fresh piece of paper and an early start on the design of the 2010 challenger will return the famous scarlet cars to the front of the pack.

And then there’s the final element to the up-coming season; Brawn/Mercedes. If you haven’t already realised from my writings, I have full admiration for Ross Brawn and his abilities in F1 – he really is one of the greats and more credit should have been given to him after the season ended to Jenson Button’s championship victory. My thoughts ahead for 2010 were that it would be difficult for the small Brawn team to maintain their dominance going into 2010 – their budget perhaps fading slightly dropping them a little bit behind, but still a solidly designed car (Ross Brawn doesn’t “lose it” from one season to the next), but falling back due to the attention being solely on bringing home the 2009 Championship.

But then it all changed – Mercedes have bought the team and then Ross went and secured the signature of one “M.Schumacher” as his driver to replace outgoing Champion Jenson Button. For what’s its worth – I think Jenson was foolish not to stick with Ross Brawn, if I were a driver after Ferrari the next team I’d want to drive for would be the one that had Ross Brawn heading its design team! The Schumacher effect cancels out any drop in performance – especially if he’s lost none of his speed after sitting on the sidelines for 3 years. No doubt Brawn will make sure the 2010 Mercedes challenger will be up to par for his old buddy and the budget is now more than accounted for by the Mercedes cheque book.

What is my prediction for 2010 then? I don’t know, I wouldn’t even like to try to predict anything..……I can only agree with one Bernard Ecclestone who says that “2010 will be explosive”, and he tends to know what he’s talking about.

Amazon: Coming To A Store Near You!

Sunday, December 6, 2009 0

Amazon have always been a smart company.  They survived the .com boom of the 1990’s and they’ve remained a dominant force online ever since, whilst also expanding beyond books, music and movies to an all star line up of electrical equipment, computer games, home ware and a lot, lot more.

 

Now it seems that Amazon are trying to get into the High Street space – article here – and who could blame them?  One of the biggest book stores, Borders, has just gone under making some prime real estate available and a reduced competition in the book market place. 

 

What’s more it brings them head to head against other already well established companies such as Game, Argos, Curry’s, PC World (potentially), and others.  In my opinion the thing that always let Borders down was Amazon.  Borders prices for book were always way above those available online, and that wasn’t lost on shoppers – who could browse to their hearts content in a Borders (or a Waterstones), store and then return home and order up your favourite books online at a fraction of the price.

 

For me, the only attraction – other than being able to actually pick up and flick through the books before ordering – was the “in-house” Starbucks that encouraged readers to grab a book, take a comfy seat and relax for a moment.  Whilst I never noticed that many people reading in our local Borders/Starbucks, its certainly something both companies could have taken advantage of by expanding the coffee area a bit more and having a “Quiet Zone” where people could read or work away from those who wanted to a chat and a catch up over a coffee.

 

Another thing that Amazon could put right that has always bugged me about Borders/Starbucks is the lack of free wifi for shoppers.  Being an online retailer, if they were able to offer free wifi connectivity to allow shoppers to check their ‘in-store’ deals against those on the web, that would be a revelation.  Even if customers had a buy a coffee in order to qualify for – lets say – an hours worth of free connectivity to the internet and somehow Starbucks split that with Amazon, that would surely draw more people into both Starbucks for a coffee, online onto Amazon’s website, whilst they are in an Amazon store – where they can both browse the shelves at the latest deals or order through the website and pickup on your way out. 

 

That combination would be mighty and so unique on today’s High Street, it just might work and it just might lead to a very different fate than that of Borders.  RIP Borders, but bring on the “Amazon Store” I say.

Internet Shopping For Christmas

Saturday, December 5, 2009 0

I was handed a rather interesting form at work today, which advertised an internet filtering solution that I’d personally never heard of – but really, it could have been an advert from just about any company in the internet filtering business (you know the one, its not quite as glamorous as “Show Business” I admit, but there is no business like that!).

Anyway, it wasn’t so much the company or the technology that caught my attention, but rather the claim the leaflet makes that made me read on. It proclaims thusly: “Staff plan two days Christmas shopping at work”. The article reads as follows:

“According to a survey conducted on behalf of ISACA, a non-profit association of 86,000 information technology (IT) professionals, employees plan to spend nearly two full working days (14.4 hours) on average shopping online from a work computer this Christmas.

One in 10 plans to spend at least 30 hours shopping online at work. Convenience (34%) is the biggest motivator, according to those polled.

Despite an economy expected to show flat or declining holiday retail sales, the second annual “Shopping on the Job: Online Holiday Shopping and Workplace Internet Safety” survey found that fully half of those surveyed plan to shop online for Christmas using a work computer.

The potential danger of shopping online is that it can open the door to viruses, spam and phishing attacks that invade the workplace and cost enterprises thousands per employee in lost productivity and potentially millions in destruction or compromise of business data.

“With the Internet now available to almost any employee in the workplace, it’s unrealistic to think that companies can or should completely stop the use of work computers for online shopping,” said Robert Stroud, international vice president of
ISACA.”


That last quote really sounded the alarm bells in my head – “it’s unrealistic to think that companies can or should completely stop the use of work computers for online shopping”, which to my mind is complete rubbish! We’ve just gone through exactly that process at my place of work – blocking all but a pre-approved white list of websites for all employees, meaning that only business related websites can be accessed.

Whilst I disagreed with the notion of closing our Internet communication platform down to our users, potentially stifling our users creativity and ability to research new methodologies, new thinking, new ideas and gain important business knowledge on their specialist subjects.

I’m all for opening up the internet and allowing people to choose how, when and the best times to access the internet to allow the living within the 21st Century and enjoy the benefits the web brings to successfully managing what is already an often already complicated home/work life balance; just as I’m fully behind the opening up the social networking sites at work for all of the same reasons. However, these things all come at a cost and reliance upon the user knowing when to surf and when to work. Staying productive and getting things done is absolutely essential for any business to make money and we all know how distracting the Internet can be at times and the need for proper filtering to be put in place for some website categories.

If there was one site I would love to open up at work, it would be Twitter – it’s the perfect internet platform for just about everything – open the 140 character messaging service and block everything else that isn’t work related. News, social networking, business related activities, everything right there in one site – centrally located. Alright, you can’t shop on the site or play any sort of meaningful games or browse endless photographs like you can on Facebook, but that’s the point. It provides just enough information to keep users informed and connected to the online world, yet doesn’t distract them forever from their day to day tasks – a quick glance every now and again doesn’t result in massive loss of productivity.

The problem – like all things – especially in a company such as the one I work in, is protecting data, credit cards, customer information, negativity, etc. For all of the upsides to opening Twitter at work, the downsides are far greater (in our office). That’s not to say it will be everywhere, but enterprise sized businesses cannot rely on “trust” and “goodwill” of disgruntled employees not to release this sensitive information into the public domain. This is why my vision of an open internet platform at work will never become a reality.

Mobile Payments Square

Wednesday, December 2, 2009 0

As soon as I talk about mobile payments, they start to happen!

Jack Dorsey, of Twitter invention fame, has just launched a new product called "Square", which allows companies to take credit card payments via their smart phone. Ok, it's not allowing the end user to make payments via their mobile phone, but its certainly a step in the right direction and its pretty cool technology.

Imagine this being used in places where telephone lines or credit cards aren't currently taken - such as the local market or in outdoor concerts held in big fields! The possibilities are endless. Check out the following video from TechCrunch for a quick interview from Jack and a very simple demo:

New Favourite Word: Jugaad

Monday, November 30, 2009 0

Ever since I was bitten by the Web 2.0 bug and the internet start-up scene, I’ve become really engrossed with 2 particular tech writers; Paul Carr and Sarah Lacy.

When I first started reading Paul Carr’s articles he was a writer for the Guardian newspaper and appeared to be ready to take on just about anyone in his quest to report the crazy surreal world of Web 2.0. It was due to these articles that made me purchase his book (“Bringing Nothing To The Party”), and read his blog - but even more of a bonus to reading these articles was my introduction to Sarah Lacy.

Sarah had just released her first book “The Rise of Web 2.0”, which I purchased and read with interest. After reading the book, I then just had to read Sarah’s own blog and some of her articles on Business Weekly.

Now both Paul and Sarah are going through the process of writing their second books – and their careers have brought them both to now be popular writers/contributors to the TechCrunch website. Paul brought his successful Guardian column “Not Suitable For Work” to the site whilst Sarah brought stories of her international travel and investigative journalism to site (which is all part of her new book on Internet start-ups based outside of the renowned Silicone Valley).

In Sarah’s most recently article, she tells us that Indian start-ups are missing Angel Funding and jugaad. As a result, “jugaad” just might be my new favourite word. It means “an innate creativity for problem solving”, which just might describe my day job perfectly.

Where's My Wallet?

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This very morning I drove my usual 30 miles to work and watched the dial that shows how much petrol I have in the tank slowly get lower and lower with each passing mile. Nothing strange there, especially on a Monday morning – a traditional time for me to fill up the car ready for the week ahead. After all, who wants to fill up on a Friday when all you really want to do is get home and start the weekend.

Thus this morning was the same as any other Monday morning, The Beatles blared from my stereo; my heaters were blowing warm air at a gentle breeze – in vast contrast to the cold, blustery, windy conditions outside of the car. Pulling off the duel carriageway, onto the forecourt of a well-known fuel supplier for the Ferrari Formula One team, I parked up alongside pump number 5 and pulled the lever to flip open the fuel hatch. As I got out of the car, my usual procedure then began, reaching to my back pocket……for…..my…..wallet – which wasn’t there!

For anyone more organised or sensible, the issue wouldn’t have been quite as big a problem – but I work 30 miles away from home, and the petrol station is only a mere 5 miles away from my place of work, leaving me no choice of being able to double back on myself and pick up my wallet. So it was sheepishly, I turned and got back in the car to continue my journey to work in the hope of getting someone to loan me a small amount of money so I can put enough petrol in to get me home and back to a petrol station to try again.

Which leads me nicely onto my question; where is the all of the technology that allows me to pay for things using my mobile phone? Where is my digital wallet? In my car this morning was my netbook computer and in my pocket was my Palm Pre smart phone – two digitally enabled items capable of being used to transfer digital currency from my bank account and into the virtual hands of those whose services I needed mostly this morning.

How come in some parts of the world, people can pay for a Big Mac using their mobile phone handset and others can’t? What is holding this technology back? My mobile phone – which I remind you were right there in my pocket – is linked directly to my bank account via my contract. Clever companies like Apple, Palm and Google have allowed you to purchase content and applications directly from their ‘App Stores’ using exactly this method, yet I can’t use my phone to pay for anything else outside of that digital content?

A few weeks ago I was reading with interest an article submitted to TechCrunch which made the bold claim that “Web 3.0” was upon us and that the third iteration of the World Wide Web as we know it would be based not around the social networking of Web 2.0, but the micro-payments for virtual and digital goods online.

That’s an interesting thought and one I hadn’t considered before – yet it seems to make sense, especially when you look at the evidence already out there. Since Facebook opened its platform for developers to host games directly on there – such as Farmville and others, these games which are made freely available have been selling virtual goods as a way to generate income. For example, 300,000 virtual tractors were sold to players who wished to progress in the game – that’s a lot of tractors!

Since Apple opened up its ‘App Store’ to allow developers the ability to take micro-payments inside of their apps, similar games have appeared on the mobile platform too. The initial game is given away for free, yet power-ups, new guns, additional levels, and other items that anyone who wants to take the game more seriously must have, are available at a cost. And that’s really quite clever and a model that may well transgress towards other software – imagine a free word processor or spreadsheet application – want to use a new font or insert a chart – a small cost would allow you purchase these add-ons and generate revenue. A pay for what you use style model.

The increased always-on connectivity to the internet and the need to find new financial models means these transactions are likely to become more and more popular; meaning that this could very well be the dawn of Web 3.0 where micro-payments are king.

Of course there’s still a lot to work out – how are these things regulated? How do you prevent fraud or credit card details from being stolen or falling into the wrong hands? Who are users going to trust with their financial details (Apple, Google, PayPal?) and will different websites require different payment methods (Google Checkout, eBay/Pay Pal, etc)?

In the online world, it seems inevitable that these things will just happen. In the real world it will undoubtedly take longer and require more agreement from all of the differing parties involved and the mobile manufacturers and telcos on how to deliver all of these different services and solutions – and lets face it, when can the telcos or manufacturers ever agreed on anything? That’s why Apple were able to slide in and break the industry for themselves when they first launched the iPhone (something that you have to give Apple credit for – no matter how much of a “fanboi” you may or may not be).

When am I likely to be able to pay for my goods using my digital wallet or mobile phone payment? Not within the next 3 years I’d say at least unfortunately. When can I likely be paying for my petrol in this way? Probably when they start allowing you to use your mobile phone on the petrol station forecourt! Do’h!

Ad Free Conversation

Tuesday, November 24, 2009 0

One of the best commentators on all things web is a guy called Paul Carr, former Guardian and Telegraph reporter, author and current TechCrunch writer. He’s an inspiration and one of the main reasons why I love to blog so much – if only I could get just a small percentage of his audience figures and actually get paid to write these things; but that’s not the point of this post (perhaps another day).

 

Mr Carr’s latest post on TechCrunch is about the inclusion of advertised tweets that are purposely included into the real-time Twitter stream and the potential of monetising the content within Twitter, much like Google do every day with their search results. Whilst I think that Twitter is almost destined to include advertising at some point or another, it seems the ways that these ads are delivered are subject to a lot of debate and careful thinking.

 

Including advertisements right there in the real-time stream are invasive and would no doubt be distracting within the conversation window/pane, because the stream is exactly that; a conversation. Sites such as Digg can get away with advertisements right there in the middle of the stream because, even though they are clearly defined, they are non-intrusive of what the user is trying to get out of the site – i.e., you only click on the links for the stories you want to read or vote up (for the uninitiated the ads on Digg are also voted up, ensuring the only popular ads that generate clicks are shown more prominently – a very clever system in my opinion).

 

Even if Twitter were to display these in-stream advertisements in a clear way, such as changing the background or text colour on paid-for tweets, they would be displayed right there in the middle of the conversation and distracting for users.

 

An idea suggested by Robert Scoble is that the advertisements appear within their own separate window outside of the real-time stream. Whilst I believe that if Twitter were to go down the advertising route this would be most ideal solution (keeping the ads out of the real-time stream at all costs), a separate column or pane much like Google dedicated to “Sponsored Links” aka advertisements.

 

The problem Twitter then faces is getting these ads noticed and generating revenues. The second problem is given the amount of Twitter clients out there that connects through the API’s, how would they be able to get these ads displayed on these clients? The only way would be to include them within the real-time stream – which as I’ve already alluded to, would disrupt the flow of the conversation.

 

This puts Twitter in a bit of a unique position. The only other similar company I can think of is Facebook but even they don’t have this particular advertisement problem because the majority of its users use the actual Facebook website and not a third party application that plugs into the site (though there are applications that exist that tap into Facebook’s real-time feed, especially as it tries to emulate Twitter’s real-time feed more and more). This means that ads can be placed on the actual website and be seen by the majority of its users, placing ads on the Twitter website means that they will only reach a percentage of the potential audience.

 

And this is exactly the problem that Twitter faces! They are dammed if they do and they dammed if they don’t. It would be foolish to think that the site can continue to operate at its current pace without some sort of revenue generating scheme behind it – and we all know that the internet works on advertisements.

 

But this is exactly the reason why I disagree with Paul Carr on this, there is no way that ad-free conversation is possible on the web, in a world where every word that is typed or spoken or monitored by some advanced, complex system generates an advertisement that is tailored uniquely to you.

 

In particular I’m reminded of Google’s Gmail service which uses complex algorithms to scan parts of your email construct to determine which advertisements are displayed in return for each users free allotment of mailbox space. Users were at first outraged that Google could possible be reading their mail and profiting from it – a violation of the content held within that private digital letter. Of course, Google were doing no such thing as reading personal, private email; but its systems were using algorithms that intelligently scanning the mail to determine which ads were displayed within the browser.

 

If Google are monetising the conversation (which they are presumably using the same algorithms for Google Wave too), then it seems unlikely that – at some point – Twitter won’t monetise their conversations too, presumably with a similar targeted advertisement campaign/system.

My advice to you is to enjoy the ad-free conversation whilst it lasts, eventually the apes will arrive with a change, and that change could quite easily make or break the Twitter service as we know it.

Brawn Clinch It

Sunday, October 18, 2009 0

Less than 12 months ago, I was predicting the end of the Honda Formula One team and the effect it would have on Jenson Button, Rubens Barrichello and Ross Brawn.  I also predicted that if the team were to survive, being lead by Ross Brawn, the team would come up with something special and be on course for a few wins.  Here’s what I wrote way back in December:

“There's no doubt that his talent for car design would have catapulted Honda to the front of the race and as Honda F1's team manager would have guided the team to certain victories. IF he can pull off the impossible and find a buyer for the team, his winning credentials will be proven once and for all.”

Three months later, the team had been rescued and both Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello were confirmed within the team – my prediction of Bruno Senna joining the fold wasn’t quite right, but he still remains and untapped talent for F1 and its very likely we will see him in F1 either next year or the year after.  In the build up to the 2009 Season, my suspicions and faith in Ross Brawn’s leaderships and engineering prowess were once again expressed:

“As speculated, the Honda F1 team have been rescued by one of the sports greats: Ross Brawn. The man is a legend in Ferrari circles, and equally well respected by just about everyone else in Formula 1. His new venture “Brawn GP” is already setting benchmark times and it would be quite a sight to see them race their way to the championship in their first year, proving all of those doubters wrong and irking those who failed to buy the team in their most desperate of times. It would be a great story and F1 is full of wonderful and quirky stories.”

Today, it seems that quirky story has further truth to it, as “Brawn GP” were handed their first “F1 Constructors Championship”.  But it goes a little bit deeper into history than first appears.

 

A few weekends ago I watched a documentary on the great Sir Jackie Stewart and one aspect of the programme focused on his relationship with great pioneer F1 Constructor Ken Tyrrell.  One shot in particular showed Sir Jackie and Ken sat on cardboard boxes within the famous Tyrrell garages, when Sir Jackie turns to Ken and says “What we did back then, winning the championship in the first year as constructors was nothing short of amazing”.  Tyrrell winning their first Constructors championship in 1971. 

 

Now, when you consider that “Brawn GP” to my knowledge being the first constructor since then to win the Championship in their first season, it really puts the victory into perspective.  Yes, they were helped by not having to start from scratch, taking over the infrastructure left behind by Honda and the raft of rule changes played directly to their advantage, but from zeros to heroes non-the-less. 

 

Now, as you know before the team became “Brawn” they were “Honda”, but before “Honda” they were in fact “British American Racing” or “BAR” for short.  For those who know their F1 history well, British American Tobacco's team was actually the purchase of the old Tyrrell F1 team back in 1998.  It seems that some of the Tyrrell magic of winning their constructors championship in their first year, has repeated again this time with Ross Brawn the privateer constructor at the helm of the team.    Its a remarkable story for a team that didn’t even exist 10 months ago.

 

Congratulations to Ross Brawn and to all those at Brawn Grand Prix.  History has been written once again.

I Don’t Know Kung Fu

Sunday, October 11, 2009 0

How do you learn something that is extremely complex without any real dummy guides being available?

 

I’m trying to figure out the quickest and best way to learning the underlying technology within SQL Server – without having to necessarily learn SQL coding (thought that’s probably something I need to learn one day).  All of the books available on the subject seem to be for developers who are already familiar with the product and therefore completely useless to the guy who wants to learn it from scratch.

 

My problem isn’t sitting down to figure it all out, my problem is finding the quickest way to figuring it all out.  These last four weeks I’ve found myself with hardly any time to conjure up this “learning time” without being interrupted or just not being in the right frame of mind to focus on a complex subject.

 

Suggestions on an e-postcard please to the usual address!

 

There’s a scene in “The Matrix” where “Kung Fu” is simply loaded into the head of Neo.  If only learning SQL were that simple for me!

 

Microsoft Done? Not By A Long Shot….

Sunday, October 4, 2009 0

Technology has always interested me and I’ve always had a “want” for the latest and greatest gadgets – and usually get them them too! Mr G often used to refer to my “gadget drawer”, where devices to go once they have reached the end of their life with me – similar to “Silicon Heaven”, where the “calculators go to die”.

You’ll also know, that I do love to read a good bit of “TechCrunch” and I was a former regular reader of “The Register” (alas no more), which means that for the past few months I’ve been reading constantly about the iPhone, the iPod, the iPad or Apple tablet depending on whatever they plan to call the thing and about things such as Android and Google Wave. What I haven’t been reading about a lot are the developments that Microsoft have been working on – and that’s mainly because they have been quietly working away whilst the spotlight has been on others.

But there are a few exciting products that Microsoft have launched, which I’ve read about and kinda skipped over – until now! That’s because these products all seem to be coming together now – my task today is to write about them a bit more and spread the same excitement that I do about these products. So, here it goes….

Microsoft Surface

I’m lead to believe that recently on “The X Factor” they’ve had an interactive computer table on the show, it generated a huge amount of tweets and speculation. I’ve not actually seen the clip, but I know that it wasn’t Microsoft’s Surface table, but something very similar.

Now, not many outside of the Tech arena may be aware of the Surface and it’s capabilities (judging by how big the X Factor table generated tweets), but this is a device I know will be out there and gain popularity quickly if people invest in them and want to revolutionise their business. Some of the ideas Microsoft have for it are living room machines to share music, photographs, social networking activities, but in the business space – interactive menus, doctors surgeries, interactive bars…the possibilities are endless.

One of the best videos I’ve seen on the product here:





In addition Microsoft have some other projection/interactive good stuff in the pipeline, such as their interactive video walls and even a Surface Globe!

Microsoft Zune HD

Something I’ve been waiting for a long time in the UK is a real contender for Apple’s iPod. The first generation Zune was Microsoft’s answer and whilst it did gain some traction in the US, it never really dented the iPod market quite the way it was expected.

Never a company to quit easily, Microsoft have really hit back with the new touch screen Zune HD. It’s a gorgeous looking device and from the reviews I’ve read is now a real contender for those who want an Apple alternative.

Whilst I’m happy with my Sony Walkman right now, I would love to see the Zune in the UK and would be seriously tempted to switch if that happened.

Microsoft Windows 7

October 22nd is fast approaching, the launch date for Microsoft Vista’s replacement; Windows 7. I’m really excited about this product (so much so I’ve actually pre-ordered not one but copies), and I think rightly so. They’ve really worked hard on it and the developments they’ve built in with touch are going to make it very attractive for those with the right hardware (I have a HP Tablet, so I’m well placed).

Windows 7 has gained almost universal approval from the industry and reading from some of the hardware vendors, it really does offer a new, fresh Operating System from which to build some really awesome products.

Its the first time I’ve purchased an Operating System that hasn’t come OEM with a computer or laptop purchase and I’m more than happy to do so after seeing just how powerful, clean and friendly it really is.

Microsoft Security Essentials

Who would have thought anti-virus software could be so exciting? I never thought I’d get so excited by such a product, but after wrestling with the Symantec Endpoint Security product in my last job for so long, it’s refreshing to use a product that just works as advertised right out of the box.

Not that it comes from a box mind, for the first time ever Microsoft are offering it as a free anti-virus solution – and it works on Windows 7 too! Based loosely on its former “Windows Live OneCare” product, which I did pay for – it’s an award winning anti-virus engine that seems to offer a rather small footprint on your machine for protection against all sorts of nasty viruses.

It’s a product that shouldn’t be underestimated in my opinion and I’m already running it on four machines as their primary protection software. I have faith in the product. Download it here once your virus protection next expires.

Microsoft Natal

I’ve not really found myself playing many games these last few years, and I admit I got caught up in the hype of the Wii (and purchased one), but it’s use has faded. During the last launch of consoles I was seriously tempted to upgrade my XBox to the XBox 360, but after being drawn in by the lure of the Wii, I decided that I couldn’t have more than one console at a time.

Earlier this year when the Natal was announced I read the reports and failed to go back and have a proper look at the videos of the device in action. Now I’ve gone back and looked, I’m vastly, vastly impressed and can’t wait to see just what Microsoft and others do with this.

I remember listening to a podcast which featured a ‘fireside’ with both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates; when BillG mentioned that in the future consoles would be able to recognise what was going on around them, the audience kinda laughed along and mocked him for describing a Wii. When Bill fired back that the Wii was not what he was talking about, “The Wii is not it! It doesn’t recognise when you pick up a tennis racket”, I thought the technology described was decades away – Bill of course knew much better and this is it.





Not only are the gaming possibilities absolutely endless, but the social interaction and communication bring consoles to the next level as the multimedia boxes that sit underneath the TV in your living room. As I say, I’m not a “gamer” per say, but I am vastly excited by this product –its a certain game changer.

And just in case you were in any doubt about just how smart this device is, check out the video below, it really is mind blowing stuff:





Whilst I’m perhaps not quite ready to go out and invest in an XBox 360 just yet, perhaps by the time the next generation of consoles are unveiled, the next XBox is going to be a serious contender for my money when paired with Natal.

As the voice over says, this is technology that is here “now”! Amazing!

Microsoft Courier

As I’ve recently just started my new job, I made a two important purchases to help me settle in, plan my work, sketch out ideas and understand what was going on, as well as be able to work effectively. Those purchases were a small A5 leather binder with notebook and a netbook computer.

The netbook was for use a portable computer as I tour around the building, its perfectly sized and extremely useful. The notebook and rather flashy fountain pen I also purchased to go with it were bought more for the sketching of ideas, taking along to meetings and taking vast amounts of notes. I admit that I do take a vast amount of notes on any number of things; details of phone calls, sketching out network diagrams, writing to-do lists (I do try to use Outlook for this too, but I like to scribble them down and keep them fresh in my mind rather than merely adding them to a list in Outlook) and a whole host of other things.

The tech chatter has been flooded with talk of Apple’s tablet device expected next year, and I have to admit I’m all for the hype (even if it is an Apple product – I want to see what it is and what it can do that makes it so special), when I saw the Microsoft Courier, I knew instantly that I just have to have one when they are released.

For all I care right now, the product could be completely useless and not work at all, but that’s not going to dull my desire to get my hands on one.

Courier is an electronic notebook that the user interacts with using touch technology and with a stylus pen directly onto dual touch screens, into “Project Journals”, using collaborative tools such as a browser, planner, to-do lists, etc all from within a single device.




The device reportedly uses Windows 7 technology (told you Windows 7 was the base for some exciting developments), and a piece of software that I picked up from the Microsoft Live Labs a while ago called “InkSteine”, which was a new way to write and capture information all through use of a stylus.

As I say, I’m always scribbling down different ideas and pieces of information onto my work notebook, non-descript pieces of paper, directly into my moleskine that lives constantly in my coat pocket. This device excites me massively as its way to keep many “books” on a single device, meaning that projects can be split up accordingly and worked on at different times, pulling in information from other resources – these books can even be shared with others directly on the internet, meaning that teams can work together on single projects and collaborate on ideas and information.

This potentially makes this a device version of Google’s Wave technology – but building it as a device with the ability and potential to plug directly into the already popular Microsoft Office Suite (and the online version that is coming soon also), Microsoft may have just created their own Wave – and that’s groundbreaking to provide a genuine alternative to Google that has far more potential to succeed.





I like that this device is typically Microsoft – focused towards a business/work organiser, for a particular purpose rather than what the Apple Tablet seems to be about – multimedia. When you think about it, it makes quite a lot of sense to push a tablet device towards a particular area; most people these days already have a laptop for typing up reports and creating presentations, perhaps a workstation computer for photo and video editing, a console for gaming, a media centre connected to their TVs for movies – a tablet designed for a specific purpose makes sense to people and targets a market rather than pushing a device that can “do all” is used for a few months and then quickly gets forgotten about because it suddenly becomes more convenient to use a better form factored device.

I can see that Courier has the potential to do all of these other things too – sure it’s probably powerful enough to stream video to, or play music, and those things will probably be available via updates or already underlying within the device. It’s probably not going to have a Twitter client (though very little is know what might or might not be available on the device), but perhaps adds-ons directly for the journal will become available that permits this based on the users needs.

Also, due to the dual screen, book-type layout, this device could also become a genuine rival to the Kindle and those other electronic readers that are so popular at the moment.

This is the device that I’m most excited about from Microsoft right now, its potentially game changing and its already firmly number 1 on my wish list, overtaking the Palm Pre mobile I’ve wanted for so long.

In Summary

As you can tell from this lengthy blog post, I’m genuinely excited about what Microsoft has to offer now and in the hopefully not too distant future. Their new products are all game changers and offer fresh ideas from Microsoft on how they go about doing business.

Mix these things in with some other stuff I’ve not even mentioned like Azure and cloud based computing, the directions of their Live services, etc.

Sure Microsoft still have a lot of work to do; they still have to bring all of these devices to market and make them attractive to users (I know I’m already sold). But this isn’t the Microsoft of old, this is a new Microsoft we’re seeing developing, one that can compete with the Apples and the Googles.

The only area where Microsoft seem to be lacking right now is their mobile phone market. But they are already working hard to close the gap here too – my next phone is already decided as a Palm device, replacing my Windows Mobile HTC Touch, but it would only take the right device from Microsoft for me to switch back to their platform as I already know its going to be difficult for me to give up my Microsoft phone and its mobile Live Messenger software.

Steve Ballmer often talks about the “three screens” strategy – the TV screen, the computer/laptop screen and the mobile phone. I’d say he’s got two out of the three perfectly lined up right now. Watch Microsoft very carefully…they aren’t a company that’s “done” just yet……

Be Free Of Apple....Choice Is Coming....

Tuesday, September 29, 2009 0

For those who don't know who DoubleTwist are check out their site here.

For those that want the background on what you are about to see, TechCrunch does a pretty good write up here.

For those who just want "Choice", watch and be amazed.....

Where In The World?

Sunday, September 27, 2009 0

I’ve recently had a need to purchase a laptop computer for work,something I could carry around the office with me and plug in where ever I’m working.  The machines we have on our desks aren’t capable of the types of things that I do day-to-day.  For example, pings and network traces as well as software testing – and these are just three of the examples from the past week.

 

The answer was pretty clear, the machine wouldn’t be my primary computer at work – it would only be used out and about – so portability and simplicity were the answers.  A netbook was the obvious choice – cheap enough to initially purchase, small enough to carry around all day, and something I can shove in my desk drawer and lock away.

 

Now, having done the research on netbooks a while ago, the Samsung N10 was the one back then – my mom bought it and she’s loved it ever since.  After a quick Bing search, my initial research from back then still stood up today – only this time the Samsung N110 seemed to be the logical choice.  Checking around all of the usual retail websites, the cost was fixed everywhere at £299.99.  However, I still wanted to take a look at the actual models available to make sure the keys/keyboard was right and the hardware seemed solid enough…so off I went to my local “PC World”, with the intention of looking briefly and then purchasing.

 

With today being a Sunday, it was also worthwhile buying from a retail store rather than online as I’d be able to install it up ready for Monday morning rather than waiting on delivery.  After checking on last time on the PC World website and noting the Sunday opening time of 11am, off I went, arriving in store exactly at 11am.

 

Heading, like a man possessed, directly to the section of the store I needed to be, I began probing and prodding the models on offer.  Briefly hovering over a Dell Mini something-or-other in a rather stunning Ferrari red, I was pounced upon by a sales rep who asked if he could help me.  The obvious answer was ‘no’, yet I decided to tell him what I was looking for – he keenly pointed out the Samsung N110 to me – as well as the price tag – £329.99.  Mentioning that the price was cheaper online I got the usual story of the web price often being different to the in-store price – can anyone explain that one to me? 

 

So, about to walk away, after being attempted to change my decision by the sales rep, I mentioned that I was about to walk away given that the price wasn’t right.  Next thing I knew, I was waiting whilst he went off to check the website and then confirm with the store manager that he could sell me the laptop for the same price as advertised online.  Something that baffled me as quite clearly on the PC World website is a big “Reserve in-store and collect” button – surely if I’d clicked that button, they would’ve had to sell me the netbook for the online price anyway?

 

Anyway, the price was confirmed and I said I’d take it.  They then tried to sell me software.  I told him that I wasn’t planning on running any of the software that came with the netbook and that I was going to run corporate software packages and I didn’t have to worry about the licensing as that was all covered, he proceeded to try to sell me Anti-Virus software – this was already turning into a nightmare and I felt myself getting more and more frustrated.  Eventually he got the message and whisked me over to the ‘sales area’.

 

It then took two of them to fiddle around with their computer whilst they adjusted the price to ring it through the till.  Meanwhile I sat in the chair looking around me, in complete boredom – a customer that was being ignored and no attempt at apologising for the delays or explain what they were trying to do. 

 

Skipping forward, I left the store at 11:35am, which meant I must have spend at least 25 minutes sat at this desk, being ignored, being a frustrated customer and not making any attempt at hiding said frustration.  Once they finally got the PC sorted and the price confirmed, the sale rep then went on to tell me that they offered a free one month technical service thing I could call and get help from……do I really look like the sort who needs IT help from PC World?  So, I said I wasn’t interested and I didn’t want it added to my purchase…..to which I was told that I couldn’t remove this from my purchase initially and I had to take out the agreement and then cancel the direct debit – where upon a DD contract for me to sign was thrust under my nose!

 

For a moment I considered not signing it – thereby not setting up the ongoing monthly cost that would be added to my purchase if I don’t cancel the service within the month, but by then my frustrations and my lack of willing to argue with someone who wasn’t listening to their customer.

 

I swear, I’ve bought cars in less time and with less hassle than it took for me to purchase a £300 netbook PC.  I’ve bought little bits and pieces from PC World before when I’ve been too desperate to bother waiting for delivery, but I’ve never bought a PC/laptop from them before – put it this way, I’ll never do it again.  They seriously need to get their sales processes polished up and look after their customers – even listening to them would be a start and offering the flexibility for them not to have to purchase or take on additional service options they don’t want or need; I’ve now got to cancel the service before they charge me – and I can assure you that since I purchased the laptop this morning to now, it is now running a completely different operating system and software that the “PC World/TechGuys” won’t be familiar with helping me with.  

 

Where in the world will I be making my next computer purchase?  I know where it won’t be!

Back To It…

Tuesday, September 8, 2009 0

This week has been “Back To Work” week.  And I have to admit it, I’ve loved it – getting up on a morning with purpose and knowing I have things to achieve and strive for.

 

However, I will also admit that after 22 months at my last job and three weeks off between jobs – I’ve found that I’ve become so out of touch with how a real IT team operates, behaves and gets things done.  Now, don’t get me wrong, its not all perfect and nor did I leave behind something really all that terrible in comparison with some IT departments who dare to call themselves IT departments. 

 

Two days in though, I can see that there is lots to be done and it’s just a matter of time right now before I can get myself back into the swing of things and tackle things in just the right way and the right order. 

 

This evening I’ve brought home a laptop belonging to the lady who sits next to me – her wireless wasn’t working – it turns out that the wireless card is broken, but its been an absolutely age since I’ve been able to do any sort of troubleshooting; and today I got my chance!  My boss today told me in no uncertain terms that my troubleshooting skills are second to none, but there is more to come….

 

……I say bring it on, lets make things happen – just give me time to remember! 

#24Days: The Last Day….

Sunday, September 6, 2009 Category : 0

Well, today is the last day of my “#24Days” holiday.

 

24 days of being off work, blogging has been rather easy – especially when some of those days I’ve only posted a couple of YouTube videos with a bit of a caption – no one said I couldn’t do that!

 

Alas it has come to an end, and just about the right time too, this last week has started to become a little bit boring, a little bit slow, dragging – especially because I knew what was coming.  Next week, I return to work and to a company I left two years ago.  This time there’s a whole new challenge and new obstacles to content with – but I can assure you of one thing; its going to be a lot of fun.

 

…..and that’s all there is, there is no more.  Of course I’m going to continue blogging here, but the “'#24Days” tag will now be dropped and the posts will become a little less frequent, but blog I will.

 

New challenges, new era…..starting tomorrow. Bring it on!

#24Days: Arthur Spooner - A Dedication....

Saturday, September 5, 2009 Category : 0

Today, because I can't actually remember what I was going to write about, I'm going to do a shout out to Arthur Spooner, the popular character and just about the best thing about comedy sitcom "King Of Queens".

The classic Jerry Stiller, father of movie icon Ben Stiller, in all his glory in the following video: Enjoy!

#24Days: Trip Or Fall….

Friday, September 4, 2009 0

The last time I was off work, my TV seemed to be actively encouraging me to have an accident, a trip or a fall anywhere and that a team of highly select lawyers were on hand to give me all the compensation I thus deserved as a result of said trip or fall.

 

This time my TV has been requesting me to hunt around my home for old mobile phones and gold that I can send in a secure envelope for them to analyse and send me a cash amount I’d be truly happy with – if not all of my belongings will be returned to me free of charge. 

 

So, having a bit of time on my hands this week, I’ve been walking around trying my very best to have a trip or a fall and having only achieved a few laughs in the street as I walked with oversized shoes or high heels, it turns out I’ve failed to trip or fall (who knew?).  My plan had to be adjusted accordingly to make myself some extra cash.

 

Today, inspired by the cash for gold themed adverts that have been repeated non-stop on my television, I’ve stopped trying to fall over and instead been on a scavenger hunt around the house today looking for gold I can cash in.

 

Here’s what I found:

  • gold plated door handles (with screws – took me all day to take them out)
  • A plastic pen with gold ink which I used last year for writing Christmas cards with
  • Half a pot of gold coloured paint
  • and not one but 2 (UK sterling) pound coins

I’m hoping to make at least £120, I reckon I’ll need at least £50 to replace the door handles – its been pretty brutal walking around the place trying to open doors without them being there – and of course £2 to replace the pound coins I’ve “borrowed” from the mantelpiece and no one notices they’ve gone missing.

 

The rest is just pure profit…….and I guess if I’m not happy with their valuation, I can always get them sent back to me. I just hope I don’t send all this gold off to the company expecting my old Nokia 3330.

#24Days: X File Or Pure Hoax....

Thursday, September 3, 2009 Category : 0

Someone call Mulder and Scully, this needs to be looked into further.....


Of course, it could just be a hoax. But if it isn't then just what else could it be? An alien or some unknown new species that hasn't been seen before? I have no idea, but the video footage is fairly convincing to me.

The full story - reported here - gets stranger, with the farmer who found it dying under unusual circumstances. The plot thickens, but the mystery remains.

#24Days: Guess....

Category : 0

I have just found this on my Flip Video from my last trip to London and I laughed so much I had to share it with you on here!

See if you can try to guess what the 'object' is that the camera follows before it appears (you'll have to be quick mind, the camera pans fast!), then prepare to be put in a state of awe followed by complete histerics.....

Yep,....that's right, it's the "London Eye", very early on a morning before it had made even a single turn that day. And rest assured the guy (ok, its Mr G), at the end of the video has since been given his medication and is well on the way to recovery......though if you do see him on the street, its probably wise not to approach him directly - extreme caution should be taken at all times.

#24Days: 7 Secrets of Social Media.....

Category : 0

Yes, I promised original content yesterday; will I deliver that original content? There's still time yet, but first of all I want to share with you this video I just found on YouTube. It's from a guy called Perry Belcher and he's basically a social media guy - and most importantly he seems to talk a lot of sense.

So much so in fact that I had to share the video I just watched from him about the 7 Secrets of Social Media. I agree with just about everything he says, apart from the fact that no one uses Twitter to sell or buy things, I for one have used Twitter to actively look for links and information to buy something - he's right that I would never buy directly from Twitter (yet!), but it is a good place to showcase your wares - just look at O2 - an account set up on there purely for interfacing with the customer and that, it turns out, is a indirect selling point that works. But I digress.

Check out the video....

#24Days: The Perculator.....

Wednesday, September 2, 2009 Category : 0

I will actually write something myself here soon, but I've just found this guy on YouTube who is rather funny - especially the f*t guy, makes me giggle - AND just what is "The Perculator"? Find out below....


Promise I'll write something original and meaningful later (ok, maybe not meaningful, but it'll be original).

#24Days: Email Us Now....

Tuesday, September 1, 2009 Category : 0

Email us now with your thoughts....


#24Days: Toffee Apples….

Monday, August 31, 2009 Category : 0

For my sins I got a call earlier today to ask if I wouldn’t mind taking a look at an Apple MacBook to see if I could fix an issue with it, as it wouldn’t boot up.  Not having the first idea about Apple software, I figured that the hardware couldn’t be all that different and I wasn’t prepared to be beaten by a bunch of 1’s and 0’s.

 

So off I went to take a look. 

 

And it was at that moment I suddenly realised why I’ve never owned a Apple computer.  I used a Mac at school – it was the machine I learned to type upon – and yes they were rather old, they were also very basic, which makes me wonder why they actually cost so damn much to begin with?

 

With a bit of indication from the owner, we managed to navigate towards the diagnosis of the machine – it turned out that the hard disk was failing.  A quick Bing search revealed that the issue is fairly common and that the machine should be taken to an “Apple Genius” for repair.  I’ll type that again – take the machine to an Apple Genius for repair!  I didn’t want to take the machine to anyone linked to Apple, its a hard disk failure, on an out of warranty machine, I just wanted the machine to work and for it to be fixed.

 

Normally on a Windows based machine, you can switch off the S.M.A.R.T. hard disk detection – not on an Apple machine. So, regardless of the fact the hard disk was actually working and would allow the re-installation of Mac OS something or other, but after that point, wouldn’t boot into the operating system at all, because the disk has been detected as a near potential failure.  Thank you Apple!

 

It was clear what had to be done – I’m not giving in to any Apple “Genius”, so the screwdrivers came out.  After unscrewing what seemed like a million screws from the base of the machine, it was then impossible to remove the base of the machine to take a look at the insides.  Reminiscing of the time I opened up my Apple iPod just after the warrant expired to replace the battery, I remembered how much they like to make it impossible to tinker with the innards of anything donning the Apple logo, despite the fact that the laptop had been bought and paid for!

 

Finally located a “L” shaped bracket, we yanked the hard disk from the machine and were able to order another.  I only hope that Apple haven’t implanted some chip into their disk that only allows an Apple approved hard disk to be used in the machine – I wouldn’t put it past them.

 

Yesterday I read an article on TechCrunch by Sarah Lacy speculating that the era of the Apple Fan Boy was over or certainly waning, over the companies closed off attitudes and power plays with the market, likening their actions to those of Microsoft at the peak of their dominance in all sectors. 

 

Personally, I’m glad consumers are finally waking up to Apple – I abandoned them after issues with my iPod, swearing never to own another Apple product again.  After my encounter today with a MacBook, I feel all the more grateful that my trusty HP laptop is mine, easy to maintain and in the event of a failure, I can take to it with a screwdriver and easily replace those parts; no closed hardware, no closed software.

 

And if you’re wondering how I managed to have a MacBook in one hand and a screwdriver in the other and I never did any damage….one word: willpower!

#24Days: A Successful Prediction.....

Sunday, August 30, 2009 Category : 0

There is only one thing I want to write about today......and its been a long time coming!


All season I've spent time in an office surrounded by McLaren fans and doubters of Scuderia Ferrari, and I've kept my head held high for the past 22 months - then as soon as I no longer have to go back to that office a Ferrari driver takes the top step of the podium at Spa, Belgium after a dramatically exciting race with the Force India driver Fisichella (?)!

For the first time this season I watched the third free practice session on the BBC's red button service, and since then, I knew that Kimi Raikkonen would have another successful weekend, but I was quite reserved to see what happened in Qualifying, before I actually made the bold prediction of a Ferrari victory this weekend as long a good amount of fuel was in the car.

Later on Saturday, my feelings of victory were increased further with the publication of the car weights - Ferrari were on a good strategy with Kimi's car number 4 - Perfect!

Waking this morning, pulling on my Ferrari Polo Shirt, I was still confident of a Ferrari victory; the past two races, Kimi has been driving brilliantly following his stint in the World Rally Championship and gained two podium positions, my faith remained. Later I then read on Autosport that Kimi was fired up for this race too and had backed himself for victory. Knowing that Kimi was up for the challenge, reaffirmed my belief that a win was on the cards today - and just before the race started, when asked who would win, without a split second of hesitation, "Kimi" came my reply.

The lights went out and the race started - Kimi running wide in the first corner - but as in previous years when other cars have done that exact same move, he sliced his way back onto the track and was carrying a good dose of speed as he passed a BMW into second and was then hot on the heels of Fisichella for the lead. A three lap Safety Car period then followed after Button and Hamilton exited the Grand Prix, Kimi on the restart was phenominal - smelling the champaign, he knew he had to make the move and make it stick. Following the Force India through Eau Rouge, he jinked out from his slip stream and boosted past, now leading the Grand Prix, all he had to do was stay there.

It turned out to be no easy feat - the Force India stuck to the scarlet Ferrari for the entire race, never more than 1.2second behind, making their pitstops at exactly the same moments - once again the well drilled Ferrari crew remaining cool and calm to turn the car around and send it back on its way. The last 12 laps, after the final pitstops, seemed to be the longest 12 laps this season, Fisi seemily faster, yet the gap remained at 0.7seconds, the two cars at the front trading fastest times at tenths, then hundredths and then even thousandths within each other - incredible, I could hardly believe what I was seeing; a Ferrari verse a Force India!

Alas, Ferrari and Kimi finished the race and their first win of the season was in the bag! ....and I am a very happy Tifosi today! Forza Ferrari!

The big question still remains though, just will Kimi be racing with Ferrari next season or not? It's confusing times in the F1 driver market right now, especially at Ferrari with Massa out right now with no confirmation on if he will be driving again, rumours of Alonso signed up to race for the Scuderia and with Kimi driving his absolute best since his championship year, the situation is getting even more complex to predict. Normally, nay traditionally, we get the announcement on Ferrari driver contracts at the Italian Grand Prix, this year I'm expecting that announcement to be delayed until the end of the season. It'll be interesting to find out just who will be driving those scarlet cars next year.

Regardless, today is not about answering those questions, but about the return of Ferrari to the front of the pack - even if only for one race (car development for this year has halted and the situation to win was hardly "normal"). Next up - the Italian Grand Prix - Forza Ferrari!!

#24Days: Geek or Nerd?....

Saturday, August 29, 2009 Category : 0

#24Days: Bing....

Category : 0

I love this advert for Bing.com, "its not just a search engine, its a decision engine"....

#24Days: The Pen Is Mightier…

Thursday, August 27, 2009 0

Today my quest I set myself was to track down the ‘perfect’ writing implement, a new pen.

 

A simple task you might think, but not so.  See, I am really looking for thee perfect pen; it should look good, feel good to hold and write superbly.  As I’m a techie, you’d think that finding a pen would be the last thing on my mind, but I do occasionally like to indulge myself in the art of handwriting something.

 

Ideally, I would love to buy a really awesome fountain pen; the very finest of hand writing implements, yet I find that a fountain pen would not be suitable for my work and my needs – no one likes to get covered in ink every time the capsule of blue or black ink runs out and needs to be replaced.  Therefore a ball point or similar is what is required.

 

The main use of the pen would be to to scribble down quick notes and the like though.  My first port of call was Staples, the office superstore – if anyone would have thee pen for me, it should be the “office superstore” right?  Wrong; I haven’t been in a Staples store for years and going in one today was a bit of a let down, the typical classic Parker pen and a small selection of ‘Cross’ pens, but nothing that stood out as the writing instrument for me.

 

So, it was off to WH Smiths, but alas their selection was even worse than that found in Staples.  Now, perhaps I’m setting my goals of a decent pen too highly and or my expectations are way beyond what is available within the stationary market right now and that is why I can’t find the implement for me.

 

Yet I feel let down and disappointed by the selection available – especially as the market to buy pens and stationary is now, as the kids get ready to go back to school.  Alas not.

 

Having exhausted the two stationers I know, the search continues and moves online.  I just hope I can find something there…. 

#24Days: Souper….

Wednesday, August 26, 2009 Category : 0

This last week I’ve gained a new ‘like’, and think I just might have spotted a gap in the market.  See, my new ‘like’ is soup, yummy, yummy, tasty soup.

 

I’ve been buying Marco Pierre White soup’s from my supermarket and I have to admit they are very much yummy and I’ve been enjoying them muchly for my lunch.

 

Walking around town today though, I noticed that there are a number of coffee houses and a number of sandwich shops which attempt to cater for pretty much any type of sandwich you could possibly ever want to dream up, but what there is not, is a place that serves a yummy, delicious soup as a lunchtime deliciously.

 

Think about it, it’s the perfect lunch.  Either buy it hot to sit in or take away, or buy it ready to microwave once you get to work – it comes in all flavours, it’s healthy, it’s simple to make and it’s a hot food alternative to a sandwich or a pasta pot. 

 

Every major restaurant (with the exceptions of the fast food chains – cos they are just weird), has a soup-of-the-day, which means that people do actually enjoy a good soup, thus it makes sense that instead of sandwich shops, soup shops should be opened up to expand the lunchtime market.

 

…forget the whole thing…you never read it hear, I’m going to do it myself and make my first million.  Go back to your business…..

#24Days: A Nokia Netbook?…..

Monday, August 24, 2009 0

Wow, this actually looks like it could be a pretty neat little Netbook from Nokia (the first from the mobile phone company).

 

It’s reportedly the first Netbook to run Microsoft Windows 7 and it has a built in 3G adapter meaning it should be connected wirelessly pretty much anywhere you can pick up a decent signal. 

 

Even more impressive is the reported 12 hour battery life and the fact that it looks like a tidy little machine.  Check out the advert below and tell me your not impressed…..

 

#24Days: A Mouse With A Cunning Plan Me'Lord....

Category : 0


Following the discovery of this little blighter (click to enlarge and "awww" at the cuteness), last week, scurrying around in our yard after pieces of bread, traps were put down in a bid to capture said cheeky mouse and move him on from his current location.

Today, I discovered however that of the two traps put down, only one now remains. Which means that one of the traps has actually gone walk about. Now as everyone knows well, “the best laid plans of mice and men, gang aft a-glay”, but it seems this little mouse has his schemes well thought out and has managed to evade the trap and make the other completely disappear! Cunning little blighter!

So, today, off we went to a popular DIY hardware store to replace said missing trap. When we arrived at the store and tracked them down amongst the many aisles, what we found was a rather large selection of different types, sizes and trap configurations for your every day cunning mouse genius. There’s even an “electronic mouse trap” (I kid thee not), that takes batteries and delivers an electric shock to the pesky rodent – an electronic mouse trap? – would have thought?

My suggestions for a new trap (pictured to the right), were quickly dismissed, even though I though they would not only capture the mouse, but provide hours of endless entertainment in the process.

We now have two new mouse traps, in their own little boxes which needs a key to open it for some reason positioned out in strategic locations in amongst the foliage. Not that we’re hoping to catch the mouse, but merely to see the mouse re-calculate and make these disappear also in some way – we like to provide a challenge after all.

Cheeky mouse!

#24Days: Apple TV, Yeah Right….

Sunday, August 23, 2009 Category : 0

I’ve just read this report (found on Digg), about one analysts prediction that Apple will be making their own TV sets by 2011 which will have the Apple.TV (media center) built directly into it, allowing you to stream movies and content directly to the Apple branded TV screen.

 

Now, an Apple branded TV set is all very well and good, but really, is this something they need to released to the world?  When I buy a TV, you can be assured that I will be owning that TV for number of years – either until it is completely outdated or it blows up or develops a fault.  What I won’t be doing, is going out and buying a new TV set just because some company releases one onto the market place – no matter how many bells and whistles it has bolted onto the back of it.

 

I have an 32” LG HD TV, and connected to it is a Acer Media Centre PC which is currently running Windows 7 RC1, which primarily runs Windows Media Centre.  It has two TV cards in it so I can watch and record simultaneously and its connect to the internet, so I can stream YouTube and the world wide web directly (very useful for things like live webcasts I have to admit). 

 

My point is that attached to my TV is a device I can upgrade at any time and that is completely open and allows me to do just about anything with it.  Just the same way if I bought and plugged in a Apple.TV media centre I would get pretty similar results.  Now, if my Media Centre stops working, I have two options, I can either replace or repair, knowing that my TV will continue to run in its “normal” mode.  If my TV breaks down, I know I won’t have to spend a fortune replacing an entire screen and media centre solution all in one go.  So, far keeping the two devices separate makes absolute sense, no?

 

Apple, by combining them together, is only doing so in a bid to conquer the living room space from the computer console manufacturers.  That’s because Apple don’t have a console that sits under the TV that can stream content and play games the way Microsoft Xbox 360 or Sony’s PlayStation 3 does, so they’ve had to re-adjust the strategy and offer an alternative device – and this is what they’ve come up with.

 

I can imagine that they’ll sell a few too the die hard Apple fanboys – but who in their right mind is going to give up on their beloved Sony Bravia in favour of some unknown rebadged TV with a media centre bolted on the back of it?

 

Also, Apple being the ‘closed’ company that they are, I wonder if the device will actually allow other devices to be plugged into it?  I mean, Apple who protect their ‘experience’ at all costs, couldn’t possibly allow you to plug in your Nintendo Wii or your Blu-Ray player into their TV could they?  It might just ruin the Apple TV viewing experience?!  Heaven forbid.  So, that’ll have to be the first rule, no third party devices being able to run without prior Apple approval.

 

Another thought that just crossed my mind – I wonder how long it would take people to jailbreak their TVs once they got sick of the Apple interface in favour of further customisation?  What if you no longer wanted to download your movies from iTunes but instead from Netflix or Amazon at a cheaper cost?  Would Apple allow you as the view to do that, I think not, considering they won’t even allow other devices to sync with their beloved iTunes application.

 

So, will I be buying an Apple TV set?  I very much doubt it – I think I’ll put my money into upgrading my Media Centre, expanding my NAS (Network Attached Storage), and streaming my media in my own open way.

#24Days: Social Media Addicts Association

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Just watched this on TechFluff.tv and laughed at the sad truth behind it, I think just about everyone knows that I don't get the "Facebook" thing (although I have been using it a little more recently), but I do absolutely adore Twitter (which is the reason why I've been using 'Faceback').

Anyways, the video you are about to watch is from the "Social Media Addicts Association", enjoy......

#24Days: Have Ferrari Signed Alonso?....

Saturday, August 22, 2009 Category : 0


Have Ferrari signed Fernando Alonso? It seems the entire F1 paddock has made their mind up that he is going to be driving for the Scuderia next season, but the Ferrari team remain tight lipped.

Of course, if Alonso has signed on the dotted line for Ferrari, then one of the two existing drivers will need to be stepped aside for next season. Felipe Massa, despite his accident still remains a favourite with the team and Michael Schumacher's continued belief in him - as well as last years Championship run to second place.

Which leaves Kimi Raikkonen. Prized away from McLaren in 2007 to replace the outgoing Schumacher, won the championship in his first season with the team in a nail biting final race, and then fizzled out through 2008 with a car that wasn't to his liking - Massa showing him up almost. This season its been a mixed bag - some sparkling moment of pure Kimi Iceman driving and then some not-so-sparkling moments. He's been driving a Fiat/Abarth Punto Sporting in a couple of Rally races this season....is he losing interest in single seaters?

With Santander (a Spanish company and Alonso's personal sponser at Renault and then later McLaren when his move was announced), signed up to sponser Ferrari next season, could this be the biggest indicator?

We shall find out at the traditional Ferrari driver announcement location of the Italian Grand Prix at Monza in a few weeks time. I await with great interest.

24Days: So That's Where My Online Time Goes....

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I've just read on TechCrunch about an MIT Project known as "The Personas Project" (click here to visit), and I just had to give it a whirl!

It's very basic, all you need to do is tap in your name and it goes and searches the web for all your different activities and attempts to create a profile about you from what it finds. Now, that's all very well if your a big internet user like myself, but even when I typed "Craig Butters" into the search engine, it created a 50/50 profile split between "sports" and "something else". 50% sports? Me? I don't think so!

The second time I used "craigbutters", after my Twitter account and this website, that brought up some much more interesting results:



As you can see though, a lot of my time is spent online, and my next biggest activity is "social", "news" and "Travel". I'm not quite sure where the "Travel" comes into it, but apparently it's pretty much up there. The rest is pretty standard stuff gleamed from my Twitter profile - interestingly though, the last category is "accident", which is presumably from my blogging of Mr Felipe Massa's Ferrari accident a few weeks ago and not some morbid facination or accident proneness I have developing!

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