Phone Phun & Games

oranges

oranges (Photo credit: WGyuri)

Today a tale of my phone upgrade to help out anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation.  Last Saturday I collected my new phone – a shiny, newly released Sony Xperia Tipo, took it home, rang up Orange to arrange to have my number transferred from my old sim to the new one then waited the normal two to twenty-four hours for the Sim Update to arrive.

Nothing.

I Restarted the phone and waited.

Nothing.

I called Orange customer care, the third person I’d spoken to so far over two calls finally tried calling my number and came back and said “it’s just going to answerphone.”  “I know” I replied.  “I haven’t had the sim update.”  She said she’d send the update text again.

Nothing.

So I called again tonight.  The chap I spoke to asked me straight away where I’d bought the phone from, I told him I’d bought it from the Orange Website and he immediately told me what the problem was, confirmed my order number and details, rectified it, apologised for the situation and within a minute I had a working phone.

The problem?  Phones ordered via the web direct from Orange are blacklisted until you call to activate or transfer them, the first person I spoke to on saturday should have noticed this and unblocked my phone.

So if you’re having trouble activating a phone bought directly from your network (this may also be true with other UK networks) ask if it’s been de-blacklisted properly.

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Aerial Archeology

Argentinan Satellite SAC-A is deployed from Sp...

Argentinan Satellite SAC-A is deployed from Space Shuttle STS-88 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ever since the military first looked at an early aircraft and thought “I wonder if we can use that to see what they’re up to” technology has steadily improved aerial surveillance.  From film cameras in high-altitude Spitfires to top-secret satellites that, of course, aren’t looking at anything and don’t even exist, honestly, that mini-space shuttle was just for research.

Recently though aerial and satellite photography have become accessible to anyone with internet access and as well as giving people the opportunity to see their house from above, or just lazily spending an afternoon following old defunct railway lines this massive resource is being used to locate topographical features that aren’t immediately obvious from the ground.

Archeologists have known for some time that buried structures can leave traces on the surface such as lines in grass or subtle dips in the ground but now both professional and amateur researchers are finding intriguing structures across the world.

One such discovery was recently made by Angela Micol, a satellite archaeology researcher from North Carolina who has found two sites in Egypt that appear to feature previously undiscovered pyramids.

So the satellites and planes may be occasionally photographing us now but they can help us to find our past.

See photos and article at Gizmodo UK.

Bag Fiend: Walking with Cameras

For the last few years I have been perplexed by how to easily combine two of my favourite activities – hiking and landscape photography – without expensive bags that I can’t justify buying or having to take my daysack off regularly.

Most photo-rucksacks only have room inside for the cameras, some that have a top compartment for stuff will barely contain a lightweight raincoat and a packet of crisps, and even top of the range bags with larger top compartments still have to be taken off your back to get at your camera.

I admit to being a Lowepro fan and their new Photo Hatchback AW range bags are good looking and practical, with the ability to swing the whole bag round to the front and access your gear from an opening in what is the back of the bag while it hangs in front of you.  They’re a bit out of my price range however as I wouldn’t get the use out of them to justify it.

So I wondered what I could achieve using what I have right now.  Last year I attached a couple of holster cases to my large rucksack’s waist belt but this was a bit unwieldy, with two bags in front of me as well as the fact that I kept knocking one of them off the belt so had to occasionally chase an escaping 40-150 zoom lens down a mountainside in it’s case.

This year I’ve downsized to a smaller Karrimor daysack and when I noticed that it was higher up my back I had an idea.  Inspired by the Lowepro bags mentioned above and a webbing belt I use on my jeans I thought what if I had another belt round my waist to hold the holster case, I could then slide it out of the way when I wasn’t using the camera. I bought a webbing belt with a clasp and found that my Toploader Zoom AW could be slid right round the back to sit below my daysack and pulled back round when I wanted my camera.  Perfect.

Ever Decreasing Circles

English: Tree Stump, near to Langbank, Renfrew...

English: Tree Stump, near to Langbank, Renfrewshire, Great Britain. Looking past the tree stump and silage pit over the River Clyde to the west side of Dumbarton. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most people have at one point said “I’m going round in circles” but many experiments have shown that a blindfolded person, when told to walk in a straight line, will end up walking in a curve to one side.  On the edition of QI tonight Jack Dee suggested this may be some kind of self-preservation response but nobody really knows why it is.

On the same programme the example of the experiment described involved a man who set off across a field blindfolded and spiralled right in smaller circles until he fell over a tree stump.  This proves one of two things however – humans can detect minute changes in the Earth’s magnetic or gravitational fields caused by things like tree stumps and are drawn towards them, or the universe has a sense of humour.

Why WordArt Must Die

It’s no good, I can’t take it any more, I can’t bear the sight of one more rainbow coloured 3D abomination sprawled across the top of an advert or email like the vomit of some hideous creature.  I can’t hold back the need to scream when someone says, full of pride “oh, you design adverts, have a look at my business card, what do you think of that?  I did it myself in Word, look it has 3D text!”

Please, for the love of all that is good and pure in graphic design, please Microsoft remove this feature, beloved of those who want to do their own ads or business cards on the cheap (or don’t know anyone who’ll knock up something on the side), from your otherwise excellent products.

It goes like this, someone buys a computer for their business, gets Office, plays around with it and sees this WordArt thing and, being inexperienced in design, goes overboard with the “special effects” and slap on some clip art for good measure.  They may think it looks bold and distinctive but tends to look cheap.  Good design should look good and be functional, there are guidelines that help publications stand out, look professional and be readable or informative.  Not using too many fonts is one, not using WordArt is another.

Yes it’s perhaps fun to use for a local fete or notice board item advertising your next company bowling night but on anything intended to make a business look professional it just looks unprofessional, customers can infer that little effort and expense was put into it.  In many ways WordArt is like many tools – a well-intentioned piece of software misued horribly.

Keep the wizards – they can guide people to a nice piece of artwork, hell even I’m using a template for this blog myself because I’m an old-fashioned paper layout designer and haven’t got to grips with coding websites – but ditch the WordArt – take it out back of the Campus, where you took old Clippy, and put it out of its misery.  Please.

Longfellow Has Been Unwell

Example of dark circles

Example of dark circles (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What happens when you combine frequently disturbed sleep, daily exercise involving cycling – usually against the wind, two weeks of work where you have been unusually busy so that you’ve barely sat down never mind had a proper half-hour lunch break all the while dealing with multiple tasks at once where you can’t quite get one done before the next walks through the door expecting to be dealt with immediately?

What you get is fatigue, and if you’re me a blog that looks abandoned.

Normally I balance things nicely, get enough rest but even then I still often find it difficult to sit down and write a blog post; I know what I want to say but just can’t get into the right frame of mind.  The last two weeks have been an exploration of the effects of fatigue and what I consider was probably mild compared to what some people have to deal with was eye-opening.

Each day I went to work (and these two weeks I volunteered to work Saturdays to cover a holiday) so woke up early, cycled in, stood up all day, went home full of good intentions and…

…collapsed onto the sofa with a microwave dinner and the TV remote.  During this time I felt too tired to do anything and could summon up no enthusiasm for anything either.  Nothing mattered – not even tidying up my apartment; I felt that nothing ever would; I didn’t want to talk to anyone; the slightest things going badly annoyed me; I certainly couldn’t put together an article on the joys and perils of 21st century life.  As such I was irritable frustrated and I didn’t feel like I was even in the real world.

The contrast was striking with the week off I enjoyed at home three weeks ago where I got lost of sleep (though still woke up at the same time) got lots of projects done and even managed to squeeze out a couple of posts for this site.

Today I’ve felt much better following a couple of quiet days at work, and some good nights sleep.  The things that fatigue us are cumulative if you don’t have a chance to properly slow down and recuperate.

It’s often difficult or even impossible to get sufficient breaks at work and sleep at night but I’ve found that it’s really important to aspire to getting both.