Why did I buy a BMW?!

For some reason I  bought a Z3 a few months ago. After having borrowed a diesel 1 series some years previously and not really liking that I decided to compound the error by buying a BMW.

 

It is a petrol. A 2.8 petrol so straight line speed is pretty good. It has a lovely interior as it is a special edition model. Proper height adjustable seats that you can change while you sit in it. Seats are even heated.  I love heated seats. I wouldn’t buy a car without them now. In the winter it’s great to switch them on and warm up in a few minutes. In summer the leather is still a bit sweaty bum crack but all leather seats are. Unless they’re the lexus ventilated seats but you have to buy a lexus to get those…I’m not a pensioner so I haven’t.

 

BMW are supposed to make driver’s cars. I’m not sure what they mean by that. I mean it should be nice to drive.  The biggest failing is steering. Every tiny bump or wiggle on the road means you have the steering wheel pulled out of your grasp. Every road imperfection is shouted in your face and the back end of the car has an epileptic fit over every ripple. It wanders all over the place. Even after replacing a good proportion of the suspension and updating bushes etc it is still abysmal. I’m not the kind of driver this car is aimed at. I want a car that is pleasant to drive and not one long argument with it wanting to end up in a field and me wanting it to stay on the road. On smooth roads it’s fantastic.  Unfortunately there are no smooth roads. My other car has hard suspension. I feel ripples and bumps but it just drives over them and doesn’t try and kill me. It doesn’t get upset. It doesn’t go off course. The Z3 is a drama queen.

 

The main problem now is to find a suitable replacement and having to deal with used car dealers all over again.

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Still living with a tado thermostat

The Tado has been installed for several months now. One thing I have noticed is a reduction in heating costs and a general improvement in the house temperature. The over night lows in Winter reduced with the Tado noticeably.  Life is much more comfortable.

 

The main failing with the Tado is the presence detection. It’s rubbish and doesn’t work. One of the main reasons to buy Tado was to be able to turn down the heating while out but still make sure the house was warm on return. It fails miserably to do this. The chosen away temperature is still far too low even after numerous updates. It can now have a fixed away temperature but that won’t start heating the house until you step into the hallway. Utterly useless!

 

I also found it thought the phone was out all the time and going in and out several times an hour so frequently the heating would either turn off or fail to turn on because of this. The whole location algorithm Tado uses seems to fail continually. It should be very sensible to work it out. If the phone can see the home wifi then you are IN. No arguments. No need to turn off the heating. If you can’t see the home wifi then wait 5 minutes and try again and make sure you wait long enough to get an answer. Then consider someone may be out and may not be far away yet.

 

When out the set back temperature was too low. When returning the Tado pretty much made little effort to start heating before a return so it would turn the heating on about 10 minutes before which wasn’t much good for a temperature that took 90 minutes to heat from. With the new app because of the issues with location you can over ride it so it keeps the heating on regardless. Which rather defeats half the purpose of the Tado.

 

As a thermostat it is brilliant. As a location aware smart thermostat it is useless. It does not work as described at all. The location aware part of Tado has been turned off in this household and unless Tado themselves make a proper effort to sort out this advertised functionality it will remain off.

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Living with a Tado smart thermostat.

The Tado is a replacement for a wired in standard thermostat. It’s just a fancy switch with an internet enabled doodad that can decide when the heating should turn on and when it should turn off. I had been trying all sorts of clever heating strategies but quickly became bored of turning it off and on again a short while later. I had not had a thermostat at all up until this point. Tado themselves don’t seem to be able to grasp you could install the Tado from scratch without a thermostat already wired in. They only provide instructions for migration and insist you have to have some extra control box. If you have a combi boiler this is nonsense as you don’t have programmed hot water and you can easily wire in the Tado as a new thermostat. If you already have a programmer then you just set that to On as the Tado completely controls the boiler and has its own scheduler built in. You choose waking and bed times, what temperature you want for both and the Tado does the rest. Away temperature (if you have the presence detection via a smartphone turned on) is set automatically.

 

The most frustrating thing about the Tado was the lack of sensible installation instructions in the box. An empty box, however nicely turned out, is rather annoying. With a simple diagram which is standard with most thermostats it would have been so much simpler!  After a bit of messing around and experimentation it was finally installed and working. There is a delay between setting a setting and the Tado reacting which can throw an installer as they’re used to wired or RF thermostats which react immediately.

 

For a while it experiments a bit but it seemed to get the hang of the house fairly quickly. It was warm when I got up on the very first morning it was left to its own devices. While you’re in it comes on and off periodically during the day. If there is sunshine then it tends to stay off for longer. There is some over shoot and fall back but that is to be expected.

 

If you are used to using just TRVs to set the temperature and leaving the heating on or off you will probably need to adjust them either up or down compared to how warm you want the room compared to where the Tado is and how fast or slowly it heats and cools compared to where the Tado is. I have mine in the hall as the lounge has a gas fire as well so that would have stopped the heating going on at all when using the gas fire. The hall radiator is on full. The Tado is out of direct sunlight and direct draughts. With the old system the radiators were generally on when the heating was on and didn’t cool down that much. With the Tado because it heats periodically you generally want the TRV turned higher in the rooms you use as otherwise you can find the radiators have gone a bit cold and it feels just a bit too cool even if you have the temperature set to one you’d imagine to be comfortable. There are 3 levels of control. I started on the mid setting which chooses a balance between savings and comfort.  My main complaint with it is that the set back Away temperature is too low and you have no choice over it. Tado say this will be coming in a new version of the App. I hope so. It is also supposed to start heating before you return but it doesn’t. It turns it back on as you return, which even in balance mode isn’t great. This is even with background app updating on and mobile data on and location services etc all on. It just doesn’t trigger at the right point. It knows when you went out and when you came back, it just doesn’t turn the heating on at the right time or set a temperature that would be quick to heat from. It also seems to work better generally during the day with a slightly lower target temperature and the comfort setting rather than a higher one and the balanced setting.

 

If you have the comfort mode switched on, as I discovered later after another trip out,  it does at least start heating a little sooner ie when you start returning rather than when you walk through the door. With the mid setting it doesn’t at all.  The set back temperature issue remains. The only way around it at the moment is to set the home temperature to something much higher when you’re out, then it chooses a sensible away temperature. Altering the sleep temperature doesn’t seem to influence it as I upped that first (it had chosen that initially). It still makes no sense why it would choose a temperature it takes hours to return from when you are less than an hour away.

 

So far it has been a pretty good buy. It remains to seen how reliable it is long term and whether remaining usability gremlins will disappear.

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WordPress migration… aarrghghh

Well I don’t want to do that again in a hurry. Migrating hosts with wordpress is a complete pain in the backside, particularly if you have BPS Security Pro to throw in the mix.

 

After searching for something that would take the pain out of it I used the duplicator plugin. I expected to do a default install on the new server, install duplicator and then upload the original installer and zip file to it. Nope. It doesn’t work like that. You start with a clean space and have to set up the new database etc manually via the web host or it moans you have tables in it already. First hurdle was needing zip within php on the old host. It was a nightmare to find it buried in the easyapache build configuration and there was no way round the issue in duplicator. A show stopper if you don’t have the option to change php settings or need to do it in a rush before the web host can sort it out.

 

Next hurdle was the installer not actually seeming to do anything. It sat there for an age and claimed there was a problem but gave no indication at all of what the problem is. This is no help. There is nothing worse than not having proper error messages. I ended up getting the host to do the first migration. It all was fine until I turned ARQ Cron back on in BPS Security Pro. I thought I had moved everything and updated the backups/database correctly but apparently not. It then proceeded to destroy the installation and move lots of critical files and there was no way of knowing what it moved as it had moved the database connection information as well! Such a total pain. After wrestling it with an hour I gave up and deleted the whole lot and started again….

 

Second time through I tried with a clean database altogether and no previous WP installation. Same stupid error. I then went back and ran it again with the ‘manual package extraction’ option set. For some reason it then decided it was going to work so I had a partially working wordpress. You have to click through the post install things, it gives errors so it isn’t very good. Eventually it does seem to have worked ok. I set it to not activate any plugins as I thought it would be more sensible to switch them back on one by one. It’s not given any obvious errors so I’m assuming it is ok…. for now…

 

It’s weird being back on shared hosting. Ironically it seems no slower than the vps it was on before so it makes me wonder why I bothered running my server when someone else’s would do the job just as well…

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Humax HDR2000T first impressions.

After a string of unreliable Youview boxes I decided to give Humax one last go with their HDR2000T. This is mainly because they are one of the few manufacturers that allow record two and watch a third and this box supports MHeg-IC. The older and more venerable Fox-T2 was off the list due to that particular short coming.

My first impression was ‘oh crap I hope it isn’t as bad as the Youview’. In some respects it is. It needs a much stronger signal to even function at all and tune a single channel. My old pvr could work with a relatively poor signal and tune most of the channels and work most of the time. The Youview needed more. The HDR2000T needs more than that. Straight out of the wall plate – no signal. Booster on minimum and anything less than max – no signal or only a few channels tuned. The Youview would tune a few channels with just the normal aerial and no booster. This signal level was probably 50 something dBuv. The HDR2000T needs well over 60 to even attempt any kind of tuning to any successful degree. Freeview is supposed to work with a minimum of 45dBuv so the Humax box needs massively more signal than it should. It also seems to report lower signal strength percentages than other freeview devices on the same connection and consistently fails to tune channels that other freeview devices can with the same connection.

 

After some degree of fighting with it and messing around with the aerial I have all of the channels most of the time. It generally records and plays back without issue. It has a few blind spots and quirks. If you are recording two and it is in standby it won’t come out of it. If you are recording two and try and watch one recording in chase play then it locks up so you can’t do anything until the recordings have finished. If you are watching a BBC programme then this is fine as you can watch to the end without needing to skip. If you’re not then you’re stuck sitting through endless pointless adverts. It’s another silly bug that should have been picked up in testing. The Youview was similar in this respect as it would also lock up if you watched one in chase play while another recorded.

 

The media section where recordings are kept is poorly laid out and could be improved massively. The sort function isn’t much use and it seems to be stuck in alphabetic. I want latest recording first in the list as I’d imagine the majority of people would want. Also many programmes recorded, in the first week I had it, had a lightening symbol which meant it had decided the recording had failed. The Youview will do this but you can’t watch it. The HDR2000T does it but generally it just meant there was some break up. Interestingly the old pvr didn’t show this break up at all. It was all generally at the same time of evening. The Youview suffered a mild version but the HDR2000T often had noticeable loss of picture. Had I not tried to play the ‘failed’ recording the box would have been returned in disgust for a full refund. By this point of having had 3 Youviews to have a 4th Humax box fail to work adequately was irritating in the extreme. The HDR2000T also has a massive panic attack if you are watching on demand or a recording and 3 recordings are all starting and finishing together, it wants you to try and set a reminder which I’d assume could cancel one of the recordings.  It’s a fuss over nothing. I expect it to cope with overlap so that starts are slightly chopped if needed. The recording that has been slightly chopped also has a big warning on it so again you’d think some major disaster had occurred.

 

Like many other Humax boxes it struggles with Bluestone 42. I have no idea why this programme causes such problems but the Youview took 4 attempts to get the Christmas special (meanwhile even the phenomenally dreadful Icecrypt recorded it in HD without any fuss). The new series starting recently has also failed several times. The 3rd week of it was the first time it managed to record it properly. It is literally the only programme I tend to record from BBC3 so I have no idea whether it’s just something weird with that channel or it’s just that programme.

 

With the HDR2000T  you can watch on demand and record at the same time without having the recording fail a lot. This was a complete pain in the Youview as it would fail to record for no reason. So you’d watch it on iPlayer so something else would fail because you were watching on demand because it didn’t record because you were watching on demand…

 

The HDR2000T is streets ahead of the Youview in many respects. The one feature it is missing which is now a gaping maw in my existence is the mobile record. Youview had an app so you could set the box to record from anywhere. This was brilliant and I miss it a lot. I didn’t think I’d ever use it but it is so useful when you spot something worth recording when you’re elsewhere and you can just send it straight to the box. Why this is missing from the HDR2000T is a mystery.

 

The instances of failed recordings seem to have reduced since I put in a 4g/Tetra filter at the aerial end. I’ve not seen the transient interference that was noticeable. The HDR2000T  has also been plugged into a Belkin av power strip which also has filtering in. I’ve also re-made a few of the aerial plugs so that they should be more solid.  Now the HDR2000T has a manual tune I can at least get BBC4HD as it is on a different transmitter to the main channels. My local transmitter isn’t doing BBC4HD yet. The Youview had no manual tune or even channel read out so you couldn’t tell what it had tuned into at all or fix any obvious problems.

 

The MHeg-IC services are less successful. I’ve been waiting for Motors TV to come to Freeview for ages. It’s in the 200 numbered channels. Sometimes it loads and sometimes it doesn’t. There is no reason for it. You go to the channel. It sits there. You give up. You then return later and it may load straight away. You can’t record from it either so it’s not really much use unless you happen to be there when what you want to see happens to be on.

 

The HDR2000T is a lot better than the Youview. This is even with the first software release as it is dated September 2013. The Youview is still bug ridden with basic errors even after more than 18 months of development. It will be interesting to see whether Humax make the effort to fix the obvious software problems with the HDR2000T or whether they just ignore them.

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Blocking email senders by domain via cpanel/whm

You’d think this would be easy. In Plesk it is. It’s a doddle to blacklist any email domain you choose, server wide. With cpanel/whm it’s a complete pain in the neck.

 

If you are a normal user of cpanel you have account filters you can use. If you are the root user then this feature isn’t available. There is a block by ip in the whm exim configuration but for some reason there is no block by domain.

 

If you actually want to do this and use a file of domains you want to block rather than writing lots of bits of perl to block every single domain individually then there is one solution. It involves getting into the whm advanced exim configuration editor and that seems the only way you can do it at all.

 

I found the following link: http://forum.ahosting.net/f15/how-manually-block-reject-emails-domain-exim-662.html

 

I couldn’t get any other method to work.  Most would either generate errors in exim, the configuration build or worse still they wouldn’t generate any and then all email wouldn’t work! It doesn’t help that the exim configuration is very complicated and very easy to get hideously wrong.

In the add additional configuration setting box you put in the domainlist exim_blacklist  This basically tells exim you have a list of domains and it is called exim_blacklist.  Then at the other side of the = you put the location of the file ie /etc/exim_blacklist

In this file you list your domains, one per line. I’m currently experimenting with wildcards and whether that helps as domain.com naturally blocks all users from that domain but if you want an entire TLD blocked it seems .TLD doesn’t match in the same way.

 

Then in the routers section you add:

reject_domains:

driver = redirect
# RBL Blacklist incoming hosts
domains = +exim_blacklist
allow_fail
data = :fail: Connection rejected: SPAM source $domain is manually blacklisted

 

Easy peasy!!

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Getting rid of wordpress pests

Unfortunately blog owners know what a nuisance spammers are. Whether it is incessant pointless comments or continued attempts to break into the admin account. Both seem to be rife at the moment.

 

The spamming comments can be dealt with quite simply – akismet is an anti spam tool and traps the vast majority of fake comments. All comments are already set to be moderated so there is barely a thing to do. No more deluge of knuckle draggers.

 

The admin account attackers are harder to deal with without causing a nuisance for yourself. I installed a security plugin which logged and locked the admin account. This turned out to be a complete pain as these stupid individuals were getting the account locked on a daily basis. If you forget to check the blog often enough then your own login session times out and you’re locked out of your own blog. Infuriating. I also then started to add each new IP address that these twerps were using into the web firewall so they couldn’t keep attacking. This lead to spending rather a lot of time messing around with the firewall. Continually blocking IP addresses or reducing access to specific IP addresses would create further problems.  Rather than turn it off I thought I’d find another way.

 

BPS Security Pro has a feature which adds in a captcha to the login form. You set the captcha to something you know and they’re locked out. You can set a vague reminder that you know and it means you don’t forget what it is but they don’t have a clue. This has stopped all the admin account attacks in their tracks as the captcha is checked first. These pointless miscreants are binned off before they even get anywhere near the wordpress password checking system at all.

 

Peace returned once more.

 

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Youview or younotview?

I’d been looking forward to chucking away my dreadful Icecrypt PVR for ages so I picked up a Youview box just before Christmas. It sounded like a good choice. Humax hardware with a new software platform that integrated on demand and freeview content seamlessly so you can record and play programmes from the future or the past. Sort of.

 

Unfortunately the reality and the dream didn’t match. The first box I had found the channels then I left it in standby so it didn’t bother to record anything that evening. When switching it on it suddenly claimed ‘no signal’ and refused to tune any channels.  Although it actually immediately started recording two programmes that were scheduled as I had switched it on. With no signal but those bits recorded ok until it froze… After spending ages running in and out of the loft and checking all connections I gave up with it. I switched it off and left it until the next day. Then miraculously it found some channels and worked for another evening. Then the same again the next day. No signal. Which of course is complete nonsense as the other pvr sitting right next to it on the same aerial was happily reporting a decent signal.

 

So it went back to Humax and was exchanged for another one.

 

Second box was slightly better. That arrived and tuned in channels and they remained tuned. Unfortunately on about the second day I started it up to find it was claiming the hard drive was full! Yeah right. After 2 days use. So I switched it off and started it up again. Still full. It wasn’t full as there were only about 6 programmes on it. It was previously claiming 90% + free so it was a bug. I tried to humour it and delete something. So it hung instead and ignored the remote and wouldn’t switch off from the power button on the front. Had to use the mains switch at the rear, again. Yet another problem. This box had been used for less than 48 hours. I discovered the maintenance menu resets (  I know them off by heart now) and reset it. Then it wasn’t full. It was mostly free. Then it wouldn’t boot from standby and hung, repeatedly for the next few days.

 

So it went back to Humax and was exchanged for another one.

 

I’m now on my third box. This one has been in use for 48 hours so I wonder whether it will stay the course? I’ve had a whole two evenings of normal behaviour. It recorded programmes while sat on standby. I started it up, it carried on recording so I watched a few things it was recording and iplayer content and it was happy and probably went to sleep some time during the night. No sign of previous issues at all… apart from the usual YMV-104 error obviously.

 

What is most annoying about the Youview is that when it works perfectly it is actually quite good. It’s quite a novelty to have smooth playback, no skipping and no audio loss and to be able to use chase play and record actual HD. My old box managed none of these things but it did start up quickly. The Youview takes forever. Even in low eco mode. The high eco mode seems more problematic and the remote record feature can’t be used in high eco either. If it fails to record something you have set it is intelligent enough to a) say it failed to record it and b) go off and find it again and record it again. The second box did take about 4 goes at recording Bluestone 42 Christmas special for some reason. The old pvr didn’t even tell you it failed so you had to check the size or length to find out whether it had. If it did fail it never made any effort to go and find another one of the failed recording at all. Clash resolution on the youview isn’t as good though. The old pvr would make a much better stab at sorting it out. The youview seems to shrug and demand you cancel something else instead.

 

The issues I experienced seem to be quite common. There have been many people on the Youview forums noticing the same problems with the boxes hanging on boot or ignoring the remote control or refusing to respond to the unit power button. The one on the front is still software controlled and even ignores the soft reset (hold for 8 seconds). Bit of a programming error there. Having a box get in such a knot you need to kill the mains power really isn’t good.

 

The ymv-104 error is the most annoying. It occurs all the time. It is related to the youview programming being poor at maintaining a connection to the youview servers. It means often pressing the info button to find programme information isn’t possible. It will sit there spinning. This is one of those school boy errors which they refuse to fix as it is mainly one ISP’s customer base which is affected. There isn’t even a retry option on the error to refresh the connection. Again very poor implementation. The fact that it is a major ISP that is in competition with BT hasn’t escaped my notice. It’s clearly a tactical issue as both Talk Talk and BT are both in stiff competition with Virgin Media. Seems a dumb decision to me but I can only imagine that is why Youview won’t fix it.

 

There have also been a few issues with hdmi and the boxes suddenly deciding they don’t do HD content and give you spurious security errors. This is another area that Youview must fix. I don’t have any of this nonsense using an iPad with air play via an Appletv. If that can cope with disparate streaming content then Youview can sort out their issues with provided on demand players. There’s no excuse.

 

If Youview don’t sort out problems and continue to release poor software, the recent December update seems to have led to a lot of problems, they will be dead in the water within 18 months.  Only 30,000 boxes have been sold retail. The rest (500,000) have been via BT & Talk Talk, generally provided free. Even if a greater market share is possible, will their Youview servers be able to cope? This is also a concern as they seem a central point of failure and the box relies a lot on this internet connectivity. After using it for a while I’m not altogether sure the fail over is any good. Programme information should come from Freeview if the Youview servers are unavailable. There is no reason why it shouldn’t. Hitting the info button should always give you current programme information. Even my crappy icecrypt could manage that. It couldn’t manage a lot of things, like recording HD or keeping channels tuned for more than a few weeks (software bug, sigh)  but it could do that.

 

I’m hoping this Youview box does carry on working as there is nothing more irritating than a pvr which can work ok but chooses not to.

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Is USB 3.0 worth the effort?

After my old USB 2.0 hub died a death I decided I’d try out one of these new fangled and super fast USB 3.0 hubs. The mac has USB 3.0 ports so it seemed like a good future proof option. USB 3.0 is backward compatible with previous versions so it would be ok to use with older items and give newer ones the chance to be as fast as they could.

 

I bought a tecknet hub. It had the chipset most of the others using made by Via. It also came with a 2 year manufacturer warranty.  It worked sporadically. So I returned it assuming it was a one off duffer. I got another. Different model but another USB 3.0. That worked once and then not again. That went back. It seemed odd that both hubs didn’t work.

 

After some further reading I discovered many of the USB 3.0 hubs aren’t currently mac compatible even with the latest version of Mountain Lion (which is supposed to have sorted out the issues) and to top it all USB 3.0 also causes interference which makes wireless mouse and keyboards unreliable. Which makes me wonder. What is the point of USB 3.0 if it causes interference and the standards are so poorly implemented they don’t work anyway? Why are newer standards released which interfere with currently and more widely used hardware? It shouldn’t be acceptable. USB 3.0 wants kicking to the kerb. The B version of the Via chipset is supposed to address the issues but that has only been released a few months ago. There is also a firmware update available to earlier versions that addresses the mac incompatibility. Apple say their usb ports conform to usb 3.0. If they genuinely do and the hubs strictly conform to usb 3.0 then they should play nice already shouldn’t they?

 

To further complicate matters the USB 3.0 chipsets at the moment have 4 ports only so any of the larger hubs have to do some complicated daisy chaining to extend the available ports. Again this seems to cause problems on some hardware. There is nothing worse than having a USB device plugged in and working one minute then find it has evaporated the next due to some hardware issue.

 

In the end I gave up and went back to USB 2.0.  So far that seems to just work but whether it works as well as USB on the old PPC iMacs is another matter. USB reliability doesn’t seem to have been as good with the Intel iMacs.  I’m hoping having an up to date USB 2.0 hub will iron out any remaining gremlins.

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Waze vs Tom Tom

I’ve used Waze for several months but never really managed to get on with it that well. It has two fundamental issues: instructions are mumbled incoherently and instructions are missing lane information. Both of these issues aren’t apparent with even an ancient tom tom. My tom tom I can hear perfectly well even with the roof down. Waze with the phone speaker is completely incoherent and unusable. The tom tom also has much easier to understand lane instructions. When driving in a strange city it is very helpful to know which lane you need to be in as you can’t always tell from the map where you are supposed to be and you may not be able to see lane markings when traffic is heavy as they’re stopped on them. Motorways often merge and diverge and Waze frequently says absolutely nothing. Tom Tom often says ‘keep right’ when you are passing an exit that you don’t need. Waze says nothing. It is this difference in style that can be disconcerting. Waze assumes you just keep going straight on and follow whatever road you are on already and tells you if you need to deviate from that. This assumes a level of short term memory which I don’t always possess while driving in strange places. Tomtom seems to know I have the memory of a goldfish so reminds me to stay on the current road more often.

 

There is a solution to the inaudible instructions and that is to use a bluetooth headset which supports the advanced bluetooth functions. This means you can connect it to your smartphone and hear what Serena is mumbling at all! I’ve had an ancient and cheap bluetooth headset for ages but it makes my ear itch and is not brilliantly clear. It also has the most annoying positioning for the call button as it means you invariably dial out the last number you called whenever you take it in or out, unless you’ve remembered to turn bluetooth off your phone first.

 

I had a quick look around and decided on a Plantronics M55.  It was on offer at amazon for just over £20 which was nearly three times what I paid for the el cheapo onyx bluetooth device I had before. It arrived a few days ago and after having an almighty battle with some of the most awkward packaging I’ve ever encountered, I finally got to try it out. It comes with an in car charger, a charging cable, a paper (!) set of instructions which weigh a ton and an ear hook to go with the ear piece. The ear piece features some slightly squidgy clear plastic and a loop you lose to balance the weight of the headset within your ear. This actually works very well. I didn’t find it uncomfortable while using it with waze for an hour plus trip. I actually forgot it was there at all which is a compliment to Plantronics. Strangely I did find it more uncomfortable later while using it for a phone conversation but maybe I had earhole fatigue by then.

 

The over the ear hook is a total waste of time and all that manages to do is to make the ear piece stick out at a peculiar angle. The ear piece seems to be quite secure even when jumping up and down gently and walking about. I wouldn’t recommend trampolining or head banging as it will fall out.

 

The M55 supports extended blue tooth features so you can hear all the burbled instructions and also interact with Siri (press and hold call button) Siri access is a great advantage as I have always found it odd you had to pick up your phone and press a button to talk to Siri. It’s voice control. If I can pick up my phone I may as well google whatever it is myself. Waze also has some basic voice control features but unless you have already programmed home and work as destinations you probably won’t make use of them. You can also report things using the voice instructions but I haven’t attempted that yet.

 

Serena is still a bit of a mumbler it has to be said but with a headset it is far easier to understand what she is saying. Call quality also seems to be pretty decent and the other person didn’t say  ‘you sound weird’ which is what normally happened when using the Onyx.

 

For a free app waze is fantastic. I always have my Tom Tom in the car though as Waze/mobile data isn’t as reliable as it needs to be to allow navigation in some places. Quite often I’ll use one on the way there and the other on the return journey as waze will have misdirected or confused me on the outward journey.  At some point I’m hoping waze is good enough to use both ways.

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iOS7 – a mixed bag

I have recently updated to iOS7 like many of us Apple lemmings. I have mixed feelings about it. I first installed it upon an ipad mini and my first thought was where is the undo button. On the non retina mini display iOS7 text rendering is diabolical. It is blurry and out of focus and unpleasant to use. Hootsuite seems to be particularly appalling. I have no idea how or why Apple chose this font but it just doesn’t work. In older apps which use the older fonts then I have no problem. With the new fonts I’m literally unable to use the device unless it is held at you suddenly need glasses distance. Turning the increase contrast on or off makes no difference. Somehow text is just plain weird.  On the iphone, which is retina, it is absolutely fine! Even in minuscule text sizes it is perfectly readable and non eyeball popping.

 

Even after turning down the screen brightness back to absolute minimum the white background is too bright. I fortunately found a photo in my photostream which is all but black. This also had the added benefit of making the new icons look less fisher price than before. I even experimented with invert colours for a while just to give my eyes a rest. They were literally swivelling in their sockets like a one armed bandit.

 

The new style of Mail isn’t very nice either. The whole concept of text based buttons makes the interface look like a web page from 1996. Folder icons look antiquated.

 

The worst mistake of all is the removal of the lines in the Notes app. Now all text would need to be double spaced to make it even readable! Such a stupid mistake as even the icon has the lines suggesting they have remained. I’d like to skewer the designer for his efforts at removing skeuomorphism. Sometimes it is essential as the real world object is just the best way to do it.

 

The rest of iOS7 is fine really. The passcode option is useful but is missing a location aware option so that you could have a different setting for home wifi network. I’m sure most people would like to have their phone more locked down when out and about compared to when they are at home. I immediately turned off all the doodads that were active from the lock screen. Anything active from the lock screen is likely to lead to issues. You don’t enhance phone security then add methods to bypass it. It makes no sense. I have no idea about how great these parallax icons and animated wall paper features are. I’m not 5. I switched them off.

 

The search from any screen is great if you ever use search. It isn’t so great if you never use it and find you get that instead of notifications if you happen to be slightly haphazard about where you swipe for them.

 

The close app method is a lot better and less fiddly. The cloud based saving of important login data etc is brilliant. It’s what I’ve wanted in an age and had to use third party apps for in round about ways. Battery life is the same as before. I have turned off a lot of the background app updating as it just isn’t that necessary most of the time.

 

Another little niggle is the mobile data toggle isn’t one that is included in control centre. There is a toggle for wifi, airplane mode, DND etc but not for mobile data. This is such an irritation. I generally turn off mobile data when I’m not using it as it reduces battery drain significantly to do so.

 

Camera UI is much improved. With HDR option being on and off toggle at top of screen instead of buried in a menu. The square format and other formats options are available straight from the composition screen.

There’s a lot that is better but some real annoyances have taken the shine off it somewhat, especially for a grumbling curmudgeon like myself. In time I’ll probably get used to it and then complain ios8 was nowhere near as good as 7…

 

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A few firsts thanks to the GOMW…

First first was a blast down the Toll Road. Being of a cheese paring nature I wouldn’t choose a toll road over a normal road. As I had already left late I decided sitting in traffic in Birmingham would have been foolhardy so I treated myself to a go on the Toll. It’s quite a nice road. No riff raff as they’re all on the M6… like I usually would be.

 

I have no idea who designed the exit system for the Toll but it is a demented free for all. The entry system isn’t much better to the toll booths either. Last minute manic lane swapping was normal as many people realised they were in the card only lane when they wanted the cash lane. Payment by card was easy although the strength of the card machine nearly took my arm off. It snatched my card very enthusiastically and returned it less so.

 

Second first was actually being at Rockingham. It was the first time I had been there. Having not had the sense to bring a map or check in advance where to go it took a short while to find where everyone was. Eventually I found everyone and had the bracelets, briefing and fizzy pop.

 

I had a couple of passenger rides. Both in Mitsubishi Evos. One a very low mileage Evo 6 owned by Mitsubishi and the FQ400. The latter was thumbing its nose at the laws of physics. I think the phrase ‘sticks like poo to a blanket’ is pretty much how you could describe the car. It doesn’t squeak nor rattle either which for us Integrale owners is quite a novelty. I’m still surprised the door handle wasn’t ripped off as I was struggling to hold on for most of the way round. I couldn’t feel the car slide apart from across the painted kerbs where there was a slight wriggle.  That was it. A tiny wriggle and the notion it just wasn’t going to be unstuck unless you were really determined. It’s a shame Nissan didn’t bring the current GT-R as it would have been great to have a comparison between the two. The GT-R is faster in a straight line but I want to know whether it also ignores physics to such a degree.

IMG_0392

I’m already looking forward to next year’s event as it is a great excuse to find a fun track day car.

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