Sunday, 9 March 2014

Self Confidence

Self confidence is a funny thing, I spent many a year being very susceptible to people's opinions or peoples thoughts of me and it can really hinder your growth as a human being. I feel I'm slowly getting to the point where I can allow myself to stop giving a shit, and I think that not giving a shit can allow you to live a much happier life.

It really is quite true that the less fucks you give, the happier you'll be.

Monday, 3 March 2014

A Comparison Between Two Leading Mobile Service Providers

This last week I've been testing out a new mobile service provider to gain a little bit of perspective between the service offered and frankly, to see if there was one better than the one I'm on. I've been with Three for around six years now, with the first two years being on pay as you go making the move to contract after that.

For my shame, I will admit the main reason for me getting a contract was to get that shiny new phone that I'd been coveting since its release. Ever since my childhood I would always resent the fact that I was always left with the hand me downs of technology, being quite the technophile you can understand why this might be frustrating. Though I will also admit this could be classed as one of life's lesser problems, a first world problem if you will.

Let me explain my typical scenario. I live and work in Manchester city center, commuting every day to MediaCity in Salford via tram, and occasionally by foot. In addition I've been known to travel to London, Sheffield, Milton Keynes, and Lincoln. All of the while requiring a reliable internet connection, I tend not to be too reliant on needing to make phone calls though I do text friends quite a bit.

I've suffered some terrible frustration recently with Three during their proposed roll out of 4G, its really been quite awful. Each month since last year, I'd anticipate a press release or announcement promising the upgrade (by this point EE had been offering 4G in full swing). First the promise was the third quarter of 2013, then December, then January, then the end of February. From one perspective I can understand this, I can sympathize why you would want to stage the roll out, and only post it fully live once you've worked out all the kinks. This wasn't the case.

The 3G signal, and entire signal for that matter suffered dreadfully, in the middle of the city center, and everywhere outside I would get signal black spots, not only losing internet connectivity, but entire cellular connection for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. Before anybody mentions I'd been through the typical problem solving to ensure the issue wasn't hardware related. Now we are in March I have finally received that attractive 4G logo on my notification bar, but I'm still getting signal black spots. Prior to getting 4G I was involved in a length support process with Three investigating why the signal was so poor, and I was getting the same excuses that a mast required repairs or updates, and that it would be resolved next week. It seems all of Three's support staff are outsourced to an Indian call center, and whilst nationality doesn't bother me having a support center in a different country prevents the staff from being able to provide a useful solution. I was constantly getting fobbed off and made to feel like the issue was just being ignored. After three weeks I eventually gave up and just accepted the problem wasn't going to get any better.

So I've been trying EE using a pay as you go sim with their promise that £10 worth of investment will return £80 worth of network usage, and whilst this is technically true it simply compares using the credit to buying an add on pack to using the credit in an ad hoc pay per Mb rate.
So what does £10 get you with EE?

1 poxy gigabyte. I swear I can burn through 1Gb in a day let alone a month. This was the main sticking point for Three, that they had promised to offer unlimited 4G data with no increase to contracts, which in all fairness, they had stuck to albeit with altered time schedules and network reliability. With EE, the only similar contract would be 10Gb at £40 a month, quite pricey for what it is.

So to give the test some fair chance I decided to cut back a bit on my usage, limiting media and application downloads to WiFi only meaning I use only around 200 Mb a day. Though to be fair, the signal is notably good by comparison, there would still be the occasion area in the building where I would lose 4G and revert to cellular only, but this could usually be fixed by walking 10ft.

I've not yet had to use EE support, I have however become familiar with the mobile app which whilst could do with a bit of a better UI design is pretty damned functional compared to Three's. In addition the online account management allows for much more control, though there are a few bugs I'd found in the site (and fixed using Chrome's development tools so that I could resume functional use).

So in conclusion, for affordability and unlimited bandwidth, Three's 4G package hits the mark on paper, but what's the point of having all that access if you can't get a signal?

EE provide what seems to be a pretty reliable service infrastructure, but damn will you have to pay through the nose to use it.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Extroversion and Alcohol

For a long while I believed myself to be somewhat extroverted, however I find myself slowing down as of late, not in the sense that I'm getting dimwitted or tired all the time. But I'm not longer fuelled by a constant stream of energy, but more of a sense of stability and relaxation.

It's quite probably a cause of getting that little bit older that I'm starting to enjoy routine, spending time on my own doing creative things like writing, brainstorming, running, tinkering and generally just thinking, I also find tidying quite therapeutic.

It's combined with a slow decline in my alcohol consumption, that's not to say I used to be a raging alcoholic, but I would quite occasionally enjoy a pint with friends after work. The problem with alcohol is not so much the health implications as these can be quite easily handled with moderation, but it just seems to consume so much time, in the time spent in the pub nothing productive was obtained except maybe a bit of chill time.

Balance, balance is the key, I can still keep up with my friends, but maybe without alcohol being the chief focus, and I can still keep time to myself allowing me to recharge my batteries. Last year I spent all of October without drinking, and that didn't mean that I didn't go out with friends, though I do confess to being mighty tempted whilst only drinking soft drinks. The main thing I found from a month off the booze, was more time and more money, I was better rested and had a clearer head.

So I'm not saying I should spend all my time on my own and without anything to drink, but I think I'm increasingly coming to appreciate the balance between sobriety, to having a tipple, and being extroverted spending time at the centre of attention to spending some quality alone time reading a book.

Monday, 3 February 2014

How I learned to live a life without Facebook

About three weeks ago I made the semi-final transition to life without Facebook and deactivated my account. It was something I had been gearing myself towards for many months prior, with me now dedicating my interesting and quirky updates singularly to Twitter and Google+.

Ok maybe not so much interesting or quirky, but something right?
Let me give you a bit of background towards my distaste towards Facebook. The network doesn't reward content creation or promote any type of intellectualism, it simply markets its users as assets.

There's a reason why I still use Twitter and Google+ instead of Facebook, and its because these platforms promote the spread of new and interesting content, and people. I've met and spoke to a wide variety of interesting people that I would have normally never got the chance to meet or would not know. I have contacts spread across the globe who share thought provoking content and make it a pleasure to speak to them. But I don't have any friends on Facebook that I haven't already met in person.

User Data (Lust).
Not to mention the incessant nagging, requesting for more and more information about what books I have read? What films I have seen? What music am I currently listening to? Where am I eating? Where do I work? I mean really, that's just far too intrusive for my liking, but what shocks me more is that people voluntarily hand over this information, and more! Countless times my phone had silently synced with my Facebook contacts only to fill my phone book with hundreds of phone numbers people had made publicly accessible, am I the only one that sees something horribly wrong with that?

Business Model (Greed).
Let's compare this with the likes of YouTube, content creators create original content that makes people want to watch and enjoy it, this is then coupled with revenue from advertisements relevant to the user and content, this revenue is then shared with the content creator. With Facebook, you are used as another disposable resource, you are pummelled with adverts which make Facebook money, and content creators have to pay additional money to get increased impressions! They are conning both the user and the creators.

Content (Gluttony).
Now Facebook might not be entirely to blame here, but its certainly a victim of its own success. The manner in which Facebook decides what content you see is based upon what content you have liked or interacted with in the past. Which generally means most of the content the average Facebook user will 'like', are photos of cats, babies, weddings and boozy nights out. Which then means that's pretty much the only content your going to ever see, ever, again. This repeats an endless cycle where new and interesting content gets shunned out of the way with people only ever seeing what they think they like, caused content stagnation and pretty much dull and uninteresting lives.

Boredom (Sloth).
Myself included here but how many times have you gone to check your Facebook timeline simply because you have been bored? Doing so promotes boredom, and instead of maybe going outside and finding something to do, you just refresh that page, its insane!

Only the Highlights (Pride/Envy).
The large majority of posts I see on Facebook, are people posting to the highlights of their life, with desperate attempts to make all their friends think they are living the life of Riley, in a somewhat pathetic cycle of insecurity. Sorry to put this one across a bit harshly but you have to accept that its true in some cases.

Trolls, the internet makes for an open forum for people to speak their mind, and Facebook is a clear example of such, its brings out the worst in people. Again this may not be the fault of Facebook but its certainly a reason not to visit.

Anyway, my first hurdle that I hadn't anticipated was the links to my development requirements, turns out you absolutely require a Facebook account to be able to develop Facebook applications, which includes social sign in buttons, and any page management. Frustrating to say the least!

Regretfully I had had to create a separate account, one separate of all my friends, contacts and anything with just the bare amount of information to sign up to manage these profiles, which makes the social allure of Facebook fairly neutralised.

Three weeks on and I'm not missing it one bit, with one or two comments from friends asking why I don't post any more, to which I implore to follow me with the same.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014


Priorities are important, hell I'd even go as far to say they are essential, but it often comes hard to effectively prioritise your daily task when you like quite a lot of other creative people often come across creative ideas.

I find it quite difficult to get everything I want done, often at the expense of my own leisure time I will spend hour after hour pursuing these ideas only to get hit by another one. It's almost getting to the point where I'm relieved by hitting a stumbling block that makes further progress impractical because it means I can focus on another idea.

This type of thinking is unhealthy I know, I shouldn't penalise myself for not having all of the time in the world, but instead focus on only the true important tasks and break them down into smaller tasks allowing myself to feel a sense of accomplishment after having tackled them.

In much of the same way that the pareto principle states that 80% of the effect results from only around 20% of the effort, I should prioritise sub tasks relating effort to potential result and focus on the first.

You can read up on using the pareto principle in task prioritising over at LifeHacker.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Data Recovery

Recently I had the unfortunate incident of not only one hard drive failure, but two! And what a colossal fuck up it was too. I'll give you a bit of background on the set-up, I run my primary operating system from a 40 GB solid state drive SATA (I could have gotten a bigger one but I like to keep operating drives minimal) with my media, project archives and backups on separate disk drives. Since most of my really important data is backed up on my Google Drive I measure a certain level of redundancy with my system.

The problem being is that since I frequently swap my primary operating system between different versions of linux, some occasionally have an encrypted boot loader, which I accidentally (and somewhat foolishly) installed to boot from the wrong drive and once the encryption key had been lost, it left the boot sector of my media disk unreadable.

I was able to recover most of the files on my projects disk to a newly purchased capacity disk, however losing all file structure leaving me with around 200,000 files to organise, which might I add is difficult enough to merely list the file contents, let alone organise. I'm still currently in the process of using regular expressions to filter the contents into folders.

The second part of this equation is my media drive, a drive which has already failed its SMART during boot up but had left me with a bit of a catch 22 situation. The drive formatting had become corrupted, but was still NTFS, attempting to mount fails, attempting an fdisk fails, NTFSfix fails, forcing a read only mount fails, I'm out of tricks right? The only clue left for resolve left here is the error message returned from mounting advising me to open Windows and perform a chkdsk, the only problem with this is that Windows won't even boot with this disk let alone even attempt to fix it.

What's left?
Enter testdisk.

I'd manage to find this wonderful little application named testdisk which I had managed to list the file contents of the corrupt disk and extract them successfully. Problem solved! Now just to sort through the remaining hundred thousand files...

You can find and download testdisk here.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Android Debug Bridge over WiFi

A helpful tip I've recently learnt about which is particularly handy if you lack USB cables or have an excess of Android devices is the ability to use Android Debug Bridge over TCP/IP or more importantly over WiFi.

To prime your device for ADB over TCP/IP simply with it connected by USB enter the following command into your terminal (I'm not 100% certain if the devices is required to be plugged in already, its just what I did).
adb tcpip 5555
Which should restart adb on port 5555, after this simply connect your device by entering the following command replacing ipaddress with the ip address of your device which can be found from the advanced WiFi settings page.
adb connect ipaddress
Awesomeness, couple this with some static ip addresses a few host records and bash file on startup and you've got a pre-primed Android development set-up!

You're welcome.