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Not a Little Teapot

Story location: Home / computing /

I was discussing nursery rhymes and similar childrens songs with Emma and we were talking about how we learned slightly different versions of some songs. Neither of us could remember the full words to the song I'm a little teapot so I decided to look them up. Our tablet computer was nearby so I used that, clicking on the voice search and saying the name of the song.

I'm a little teapot
I was a little surprised by some of the suggestions and had to search the old fashioned way, by typing the words instead. When I tried the search using my phone, it correctly recognized what I was saying.

I really have no idea what the computer thought I was saying.

Finding a use for a Tablet Computer

Story location: Home / computing /

Last year, Emma bought an Advent Vega tablet computer. It uses the same 'Android' operating system as many mobile phones but of course with a much larger screen.

The only real problem with the Vega is that out of the box, it doesn't support the Android Market, which makes it a bit difficult to install applications. We installed an updated version of the software which makes the tablet much more useful. Without the Android Market, you are more or less restricted to web browsing and the built-in applications.

After playing around with it for a few weeks, the tablet ended up in the bottom of a drawer for a few months, unused and ignored. We both had new HTC phones which came with Android, so we could do all the same things on our phones, which also had the advantage of being smaller and more portable.

I recently decided that it would be a good idea to get the tablet up and running again. The main idea was so it could be used to read recipes in the kitchen, to save having to either print out from websites or try to use a laptop in the kitchen. So far I haven't actually used the tablet in the kitchen but it is getting used fairly regularly now.

I don't find it as convenient for web browsing as a full laptop because it is a bit slower and the lack of a full keyboard makes it less useful for using forums etc, but it is perfectly fine for reading ordinary web pages.

We have installed a few applications which get fairly regular use. The one I probably use the most is the Kindle app, which turns the tablet into something very similar to an actual Kindle. You can download books from the Amazon website or install them from elsewhere (such as Project Gutenberg). So far I have read a few freely available, out of copyright, books. I had never read any Charles Dickens books or any of the Sherlock Holmes novels so I decided to give them a go. I decided to start with A Christmas Carol (since it was Christmas at the time), then moved on to The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Hound of the Baskervilles. I am now reading the ebook version of God's Debris, by Scott Adams.

I find reading ebooks or PDFs on the tablet is much easier than on a laptop. The device is much lighter, and the screen is a better shape and size. I have several books queued up ready to read next, including Gulliver's Travels, which I actually downloaded when we first got the tablet but I didn't get around to reading it.

In the last few years, I haven't read as many books as I used to. In the run up to Christmas, I decided that I would spend a bit less time on-line and more time reading, and so far I have been fairly successful. I probably won't be able to keep the pace up and read a book a week but I should be able to catch up on some of the books which I have had for a while but not read yet.

GPS Hamster Radio

Story location: Home / Blog / Hamsters /

Today, we went to the Lymm hamster show.

  • Mid-morning, I went for a walk around the village. I recently got a new phone (a Nokia 5800) and installed Google Maps on it. I used the phone's built-in GPS to keep an eye on where I was during the walk. Most of the time it managed to locate my position fairly accurately.

  • In the afternoon, there was the Hamster Racing. We entered Bjorn, who is usually fairly hyperactive so we thought he would do well. He kept winning the races, most of the time he finished before the other hamster had gone halfway around the track. He came 2nd overall - he got through to the final but halfway along the track he stopped to clean himself, then turned around and ran back towards the start.

  • On the drive home we found ourselves listening to the Top 40 countdown on Radio 1. I haven't listened to the charts for years. Most of the time I listen to either Kerrang or Radio 2. These stations usually ignore the charts and play music aimed at their respective audiences*. I think it will be a while before we listen to the charts again - most of the music was awful.

* Kerrang mostly plays guitar-based rock music. On Radio 2 I listen to Terry Wogan (target audience: the insane) and Radcliffe & Macone (target audience: the more mature rock music fan).

Waiting In

Story location: Home / Blog /

I'm not used to spending time at home during the week and didn't realise how many annoying useless phone calls we receive. My car was being serviced so I was waiting for the garage to call to say it was ready to collect. Within a couple of hours I had call trying to sell me replacement doors and other home improvements, and a call from BT trying to sell me their broadband package.

I try not to be rude to phone salespeople but I wanted them off the phone as quickly as possible to keep the line clear for the garage to call. Eventually it was ready and I went to collect it.

On the drive to work I encountered a windscreen washing bloke at some traffic lights. Whenever the traffic stopped he would walk out and start cleaning a windscreen, completely uninvited. The lights turned green while he was still faffing about. I couldn't easily get to my wallet so I drove off. He must be used to that kind of thing, but if I wanted to wash my windscreen, I would use the windscreen wipers which have been standard issue on cars since at least the 1930s.

Photos of Stevenage

Story location: Home / Blog / work /

Some photos of Stevenage. They were taken on my phone, trying to hold it steady for the long-ish exposures, so the picture quality isn't very good.

Stevenage New Town
New Town is very concrete and has no redeeming features.

Stevenage Old Town
The High Street in Old Town.

Stevenage Old Town
Middle Row - a medieval alleyway running alongside the High Street.

Old Town is much better and is where all the night life is - most of the bars and restaurants seem to be around here. After the training course today, a few of us went for a curry in one of the restaurants on the High Street.

Poor Mans Video iPod

Story location: Home / computing /

About a month ago I changed my phone to the Nokia 6280. It's got a bigger screen than my old phone. Last night I was on the train home and the bloke sitting next to me was watching a tv programme on a video ipod. The screen was a similar size to my phone's so I wondered if I could use it to watch things on.

The software CD which came with the phone had the latest version of the Nokia PC Suite. The media viewer part of the suite allows you to view mpg or avi files and save them in a format suitable for the phone. I tried it and it seems to work ok. The playback on the phone didn't let me fast forward or rewind within a video file but the video quality on screen was good. If I restrict myself to 20-25 minute shows or split larger programmes into shorter segments then I should be able to watch videos on my way to and from work.

Ghost Text

Story location: Home / Blog /

I received a phantom text message this morning. It claimed to be from Emma but the message was completely blank. I replied, asking Emma about it. She said that she hadn't texted me and that the phone was in her pocket at the time!

On the subject of mobile phones, I also got a call about renewing my subscription to the Orange network. The thing is, I haven't been with Orange for a few years but I keep getting these calls.

Silent Texts

Story location: Home / computing /

Yesterday morning, whenever I received a text message it would silently sneak into the inbox without my phone (nokia 6630) playing the 'text message arriving' alert. This afternoon it wouldn't even receive any. I checked the phone settings but they looked ok. I hadn't changed any recently so I couldn't see what the problem was. I could still send messages and send and receive phone calls.

This morning I put the sim card in my old phone and 8 new text messages arrived. A lot of them were 'test' messages I sent myself yesterday but some were actual messages which I should have had.

Tonight I put the sim back the phone with the intention of backing up my data and resetting the phone. The battery had been out of the phone all day and when I switched it back on it asked me for the time, date and my timezone. I sent myself another 'test' text message and to my surprise it arrived ok. Having the battery out of the phone seemed to be all the 'resetting' it needed.

Nokia 6630 vanishing memory

Story location: Home / computing /

Our phones were reporting hardly any free memory despite the amount of used memory being a fraction of the 10Mb on the main phone itself. Deleting text messages didn't help - deleting a couple of messages actually made the free memory go down, leaving Emma's phone having no free memory at all. Copying the messages over to the memory card failed - possibly due to the lack of memory.

We used the Nokia Communicator software to back up the phone data, then reset the phone completely. This freed up all the memory but restoring the backup just got things back to where they were before. There was actually a tiny amount of free memory which allowed us to move the messages over to the memory card, deleting them from the phone memory. This did the trick, giving around 8Mb of free memory, despite the File Manager only claiming the messages took up less than 2Mb.

The free memory decreasing when we deleted texts is still a mystery but at least we now know why the phone was full. Each text message must take up more memory than is reported. The phone treats it's internal memory as a disk drive and if each message is stored as a seperate file then this will explain it. Files always take up a minimum size, often around 2-4Kb, so a message which is only a few characters long will still take up a few K.

Manic Miner on my phone

Story location: Home / Blog /

One of the problems with my new Nokia 6630 is that it came without any games pre-installed. I was looking for games to download when I realised that the phone was probably powerful enough to run a ZX Spectrum emulator. I knew that one had been written in Java so I looked to see if anyone had adapted it to run on a phone. Instead, I found ZX Boy, which is designed for phones which use the Symbian operating system.

The emulator runs surprisingly well - slightly faster than a real spectrum (which makes playing arcade games a bit more of a challenge). The main problem of course is the lack of a proper keyboard. For games with only a few controls, it is possible to redefine the phones keypad, but a text adventure or anything which requires a lot of typing would be too awkward. There is an on-screen keyboard for typing in small amounts of text, but it would be nice to be able to type by using the phone's keypad in a similar manner to texting.

I intend to browse through some of the spectrum archives on the internet to find some more games to download. At the moment, I am playing Football Manager a lot, especially on the train while travelling to and from work.