Social networking

The wonder of fibre…

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I have been a long term user of the Virgin fibre network in Nottingham (originally NTL), for both my TV and internet. It is fair to say that until recently their service has been brilliant, with downtime counted in hours over many years.

Sadly over the last few weeks there have been some issues – the majority national ones caused by DNS server issues – something that could happen to any provider but extremely annoying! Add to this the recent underground fire that completely took out much of South Notts as far as Virgin was concerned for days and you get the picture – I was ready to call the retention department at Virgin to vent my frustrations.

speed

So the other day I rang, was offered some deals to stay by the ‘normal’ call centre, but was then passed to retention and got a monthly reduction and a speed increase to 152mb for my broadband.

Now you read about fast connections and how quickly things download at this connection speed – but when you actually experience 152mbps it is really impressive! And my connection currently is slightly faster than that as you can see above! Very large downloads (GB’s) take a few minutes rather than half an hour or more. I am impressed and as long as the recent DNS issues are a thing of the past I will continue to praise Virgin Broadband.

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Social Media – the importance of a good data connection…

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There are certain things in life that we take for granted – the sun rising in the morning and setting at night, England disappointing us at football – you get the idea. And as the world changes our expectations change also, who would have imagined 10 years ago that we would all expect to be able to access mobile data where ever we are to interact with social media (and collect email etc).

The smart phone has become an essential part of so many people’s lives now and we expect it to work all of the time 100% effectively. Apple, Samsung and Microsoft have done their best to facilitate this with their hardware and software – all of which still never ceases to amaze me with what it can do. However there is a weak link in all this…… and that is the networks.

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You can have the best bit of hardware in the world, but if you can’t get mobile data it is about as much use as a brick! My experience at the Test Match at Trent Bridge this week was a classic example. I was intending to twitter via the @InnesEngland twitter account from the match, and I did, but not to the degree I wanted to due to a lack of 3G signal from our carrier Vodafone. I know it wasn’t just me because my colleagues were having similar issues with data as well.

This is not a new phenomenon brought about by the increased use of mobile data, I have found Vodafone wanting on their coverage for many years. They have made some minor improvements, I actually got 3G in my home town of Malmesbury recently for the first time ever. But generally they lag well behind the other networks EE and in particular.

There was a time when the enterprise user was the most important user to a networks data provision, that may still be the case but for different reasons as Social Media usage explodes into that market. Perhaps it is time for the various networks to share their masts and provide the sort of service the rest of Europe already experiences.

My new toy…….. Pebble Steel.

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20140209-132924.jpgI blogged just before Christmas about the Pebble watch, I was in two minds about getting one to try. Basically it is a ‘smart watch’ that acts as an extension to a smart phone (such as an iPhone). It shows received emails, messages, calls,  it can use apps to give bus or flight times, show the weather, act as a gps, show my diary etc – you get the idea.

In the end I held off because I wasn’t keen on the plastic design which would have been rather large on my ‘small’ wrists. However, just after Christmas Pebble announced that they were releasing the Pebble Steel – a much more upmarket design made from steel (no surprise there) – it was more expensive but was also smaller and would arrive with the long-awaited software upgrade to version 2, which would bring further benefits and improvements to its abilities. That was enough for me, I ordered one on-line during the announcement (a Birthday present from my wife). Delivery wouldn’t until mid Feb but I was happy to wait….

Well, I must have been one of the earliest people to order one as it was dispatched on the day of release from the factory in China and arrived on the 31st of January (take note Royal Mail). The software update with the new app store arrived a week later and I have now been using the watch for a week and am rather impressed. I know some people ‘don’t get it’ and think it is just a novelty, but it has already proved its worth – let me explain;

If I am inspecting property as part of my work I tend to have my hands pretty full; clipboard, camera, tape measure as a minimum, my iPhone is consequently in my pocket. Any emails or calls received previously required me to stop, put things down and pull out my phone to see if it needed dealing with. Now I can see who is calling and decide to answer or drop the call from my wrist. I can also see if that email or text is important or can wait in the same way. This sounds a small thing but it can make a huge difference to my time spent on site.

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An example of different screens…

This last weekend in London I kept my phone in a pocket to keep it away from any ‘undesirables’ – if I was on a noisy street that in the past would cause me to miss calls or messages as they came in. Not anymore – a vibration on my wrist and I can ‘filter’ them without having to pull out my phone and draw attention to it.

And the last and perhaps coolest thing is an app I have for the Pebble called Pebbgps, it allows me to get directions from the gps on my iPhone direct to my wrist, so walking across London from A – B was so easy (and it worked really well). Again no iPhone out for someone to snatch.

So all in all a very good piece of kit – it will be interesting to see what Apple come up with in their upcoming iWatch – it will need to be very good to better the Pebble.

Another Nottingham deal….

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bus scan 1I am always on the look out for a deal (like most people in this economic climate) so when Nottingham City Transport (NCT) started to offer a term based travel card for under 18’s that offers slightly better value than the 3 month card I took it up for my sons card. He uses his card for his journeys into NCN each day.

Towards the end of last term we got a flyer through the post from NCT indicating that they were doing a ‘spring term bus bargain’. It would be available in person or online from the 28th December 2013. Taking the offer up early gives a week or more of ‘free’ travel over the normal card – consequently it makes sense to do it.

However – the website address on the mailed out flyer doesn’t exist, it takes you to the page shown below. Also if you try to find the deal via the main website – you guessed  – it doesn’t exist!

NCT

So we will keep trying over the next few days, but assuming the site doesn’t come live for a few days the majority of the ‘bargain’ is lost.

Call me cynical, but to me this looks like the Council offering something in the hope that it gets people to pay early for the basic 3 months card – which is more profitable for them. Obviously this is only a theory…….

Never underestimate the power of the web….

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I have a client who makes coffins – this sounds rather morbid and unexciting, but as well as ‘normal’ coffins they make bespoke coffins as well. This side of the business trades as ‘Crazy Coffins‘ – and what they produce are quite amazing.

It is as you can imagine quite a niche business, but once people hear of it they tell others about it, so growth is somewhat organic. However they do have a Facebook page and put up photos and information about their special coffins. The number of likes on the page were at around 700 a few weeks ago, and then they had some ‘internet luck’….

1499443_581626865250995_1094805643_nA lady who lived in Aylesbury wanted a casket for her ashes in the form of the Star Ship Enterprise from Star Trek (she was a Trekkie). The details and photos were duly added to the Facebook page once completed on the 8th December, and then some internet growth occurred…

Within a day the likes on the Facebook page had doubled, mainly due to a US undertaker who liked the page, his like was then seen by George Takei (Mr Sulu from Star Trek) who has 5 Million followers on Facebook (he is also on Twitter @GeorgeTakei) – the photo then gained 40,000 likes.

Crazy Coffins Facebook page currently has 1855 likes – proof (if needed) that social media still works for marketing!

Scary, or just our changing World?

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I saw a report last week that said that ‘half of teenagers have never sent a letter’ – this set me thinking about the way we relate to each other nowadays.

The 'new' letter box
The ‘new’ letter box

The stats on letter writing really were quite salutary – apparently half of 12 to 17 year olds have never sent a personal letter to family or friends, and many claim they wouldn’t know how to! This is obviously good news for those who have taken up shares in our recently privatised Royal Mail…..

Two in five girls and three in five boys admitted to never having used the traditional post in their lives, with the majority not seeing why they should when they can send an email instead. Even adults have changed with one in three unable to recall when they sent a personal letter last.

So email is the new letter – 93% of teenagers and 55% of adults confirming this was their preferred choice for ‘written’ contact now with family and friend. But perhaps even more damming is the reason given by almost a quarter of the respondents – cost and time taken to deliver the letter.

We live in a much more ‘instant’ society now, the smartphone has become almost essential to be an active part of society – 2013 will without doubt be seen as the year we all went mobile.

Pebble – should I?

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I love tech and how it can help smooth the experience of running your life, the iPhone (or any smartphone) is an amazing piece of kit that can help you keep on top of things. I have run my life for years via one piece of kit – initially a Psion, then a Pocket PC and now an iPhone. There is an issue however that is becoming more off an issue as more and more people and businesses become ‘tech savvy’. And that is information overload – something that allows you to screen the information coming through your smartphone would be great (and prevent constant checking of the phone).

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I think I may have found the answer – but do I adopt now or do I wait for Apples take on this technology? I am of course talking about ‘smart watches’ – Apple are believed to have the iWatch in the wings (release is currently ‘expected’ in fall 2014). But there is a current option – the Pebble – it isn’t as flashy as Samsung’s Galaxy Gear, but it also doesn’t cost an arm and a leg!

UhV7vAFThe Pebble only has a black and white screen, but it does offer up to 7 days battery life and will link with an iPhone (running iOS7) and show all notifications of emails, texts, Facebook, twitter – you get the idea. It is this which interests me – the ability to screen out the many notifications with only a flick of the wrist.

Yes, it does perhaps currently lack the depth of abilities to make it a real ‘killer’ item, but it is constantly being updated via its software and has huge potential. In many ways it is a classic case of ‘more is less’ and almost has the feel of ‘Apple’ to it.

I am tempted – if Santa is reading this I would like a black one please…