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Thursday, August 24, 2017

When I Grow Up I Want To Be a YouTuber... What?

My youngest son has recently decided he wants to do what every 11 year old wants to do - be a 'YouTuber'.

Is that a accepted noun these days?

YouTube, for those of you not versed in the world of online entertainment, is the Google owned video sharing website where anyone can have their place in the video world.  Like a blog; only visual.  With moving images and sound.  Known as a vlog (video log!)

The world of YouTube contains hours and hours (and hours) of material, some of which is quite interesting and useful, and others which is purely inane.  Unsurprisingly, it's the inane that catches the imagination of the masses, and consequently makes 'stars' of the performers and presenters!!

Since it is completely free to use (with the potential to earn money from advertising) it is easy to get involved.
I have my own 'channel' which I haven't contributed to for years.  Indeed, most of my videos are set to 'private' so that only I can see them.  It makes for a great storage library of home movies!

My son also has his own YouTube channel, called Mini Tube (Click to go straight to his channel).  He has some great ideas; and, if I'm honest, I enjoy helping him put them together, film them, edit them, publish and promote them.

Now, don't get me wrong; it's light years away from being a revenue earner - he needs to build his subscriber base, and get the views up.
Surprise, surprise; there are videos, on YouTube (where else) about how to do this!

There are plenty of children with their own channels; and I am more than aware of the concern around online safety.  It's something that I discuss with all my children on a frequent basis.  I don't want to make them paranoid about it; but they need to understand the issues around being online.

All of them have grown up in a digital world; they have been exposed to it since a very early age, so it would be useless to stop Jamie from taking part.  So long as he knows the limits and understands the issues.

So, our journey has just started, and we are learning how to make the best videos and increase views.
He would be so excited to know that you have seen his videos, and even subscribed to his channel.  Each one gets a little better, from a content perspective.

You can watch his latest video below.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Diabetes - My Story

This story starts many years ago; but came to a head in the summer of 2016.

Although I felt absolutely fine in myself, I had one major complaint.  
I was constantly needing a wee! Whilst this had been going on for some time, it took a visit to Bournemouth for me to finally take action.

It wasn’t possible to complete the journey down the motorway without me needing to stop for a ‘comfort break’ at least twice.  Then, at the beach, I’d be back and forth from the loo every couple of hours!  Not to mention ‘disappearing’ when at the house.

I arranged to visit the doctor, had a chat, and he took some blood, for testing.

One of the tests was for the level of hbA1c in my blood.
This is the technical term for glycated haemoglobin; in other words, how much sugar is attached to the blood cells.
In normal people the figure is 42mmol/l (millimols per litre) or below.

The reading for my hbA1c was 102!  
There you have it.  
The answer to my problems.
I have Type 2 Diabetes.

Within a week I visited the nurse, and she spent a long time explaining all the symptoms and side-effects of diabetes, the do’s and don’ts, along with what we would be doing to reduce the effects and, more importantly, reduce that large reading.

There are many symptoms of diabetes.
For me, it started with the constant urinating… let’s qualify what I mean by constant.  I was going to the loo every 2 hours!  On average, 10 times every day!  However, there were two other major effects; that of lethargy and extreme thirst.  
I was frequently tired, had difficulty staying awake at work (not good) and driving long distances was a trial; not least because I’d need the loo.  

The nurse prescribed Metformin, a diabetes drug, which I’ve been taking twice a day.  I was advised to exercise, and lose a little weight.  I should add that I wasn’t massively overweight; in fact, when she first saw me, her initial reaction was “you don’t look like someone who has diabetes”!  
Ain’t that just typical! 
Along with all the advice, I was given a glucose monitoring kit, to check my levels on a regular basis.
The one thing I would say about checking glucose is that whilst it gives a good indication, the results are transitional.  It is just at that moment in time.
Sometimes, I’ve had really good readings, and other times, I can’t work out why they’re high!

For those that don’t have experience of diabetes, or know anyone living with it, describing it is not something that can be done quickly; but I’m going to try and sum it up.

We have blood cells racing round our bodies, providing energy and nutrients as needed.  When we eat, the sugar gets absorbed into the blood stream, and gives us the energy we need.  
Well, in a normal person, yes.

With me, the sugar couldn’t get absorbed into the blood cells.  It was knocking on the door, but the cells wouldn’t let it in!  The consequence of this is not only could I not get the energy that I needed, but the sugar levels were building up with nowhere to go.
OK; they did have somewhere to go - out.  In my wee!  And because I was going so often, I would feel thirsty, so I would be drinking more, which as you can now see became a vicious circle - I needed to wee again!

Once I started taking Metformin, the blood cells ‘unlocked', allowing the sugar to enter, therefore increasing my energy levels and reducing my need to wee.  What’s more, this change happened virtually overnight.  It was amazing.

As you may have gathered, apart from the medication, managing diet is one of the key aspects to controlling type 2 diabetes.  
Sugar is the ‘enemy’.  By that I refer to glucose; added sugar.  Food made with sugar.  
Sucrose, the natural sugar found in fruit and veg is not bad, but must be controlled.

The other ‘baddie’ is carbohydrates.  These turn to sugar in the body, so reducing carb intake is very important.  Vegetables that grow underground are not as good as those over-ground.  Bananas and pineapple are very high in sugar, but berries are much lower.  
It’s been a complete re-education and I’ve been very careful to watch what I’ve been eating, allowing myself an occasional treat.

I bought a cross-trainer, which I've been using daily for the last 3 months, and not only has it raised fitness levels, and I’ve lost a little weight, but this has helped to reduce my latest reading to an encouraging 53.  F
Another benefit is that the cross-trainer isn’t just for me, so fitness levels at home are increasing all round!

How long have I been suffering with this?
I think it’s been about 7 years!!  
I say ‘think’ because quite honestly I don’t know!  I thought it was all normal!  It crept up on me; but the more I look back on my symptoms, the more I realise that’s what it must have been, all along.

Having read information about diabetes, it can take up to 10 years before it’s diagnosed.  Diabetes is not specifically hereditary; so you can't use that as a guide.  Certainly, in my case, none of my family has ever had it.  So I can't 'blame' them!

I consider myself lucky.
Knowing what was causing my symptoms was a major factor in feeling better about myself.
Thankfully, being type 2 means I’m not dependant on insulin.  With a controlled diet to keep my sugar intake to a minimum, and daily exercise, I can honestly say that my life has changed for the better.

Just imagine:
  • I can sit through a film at the cinema without needing to nip out.  
  • I can drive without worrying about needing the loo.  
  • I can make it through the day without fighting to stay awake; especially after meals 
  • I’m eating healthier.
  • I’m feeling fitter.
It's not just about the diabetes.
There are some other major factors to consider.  There is an increased risk of heart attacks, kidney failure and loss of sight.  Not to mention the threat of amputation, due to damaged nerve endings!
It can be quite scary stuff.

Diabetes is a silent killer.

Over 4 million people in the UK are known to have diabetes*.
It is thought there are another 549,000 adults with undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes*

Are you at risk?  If in doubt, get a blood test.  At the very least, my advice is watch your weight and your diet.

There is masses of information on the internet; and are two of the sites I often refer to for information.

Do you suffer from diabetes?  How are you managing?  What do you do to control the impacts?

*Source: from January 2015

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Review - Assassin's Creed: The Movie

So, this afternoon I went to see Assassin's Creed. I must confess that I've never played the game, and knew little about the story; but this wasn't a bar to enjoying the film.
It's a well thought through plot, which can be a little confusing at times; however, this is more than made up for by the action - the death toll is incredibly high, and whilst it's rated 12A, I wouldn't recommend this to young ones - it's far too intense.
Michael Fassbender gives a great performance as the reluctant Assassin, along with Marion Coutillard as the scientist who persuades him to go back to the 15th century. Jeremy Irons is the 'baddie' after the prize for his own ends.
At times a little drawn out; some parts dragged on a little too long, and the overall running time could have been reduced by 10 minutes.
However, the action and the stunt work are fantastic to watch; and the sequence with parkour (free running) are brilliantly portrayed. You know they'll escape, but you constantly wonder how?
My main criticism is about the sound. The music (if you can call it music) was extremely loud - or maybe I'm just getting too old!!
It's no Oscar winner; and as I mentioned, some of the plot is a bit disorientating.
If you are a fan of the game, then I doubt you'll be disappointed; by all accounts it closely resembles the main storyline of the franchise. If you haven't played the game, but want to see some good old fashioned action set pieces, then give it a shot.

Friday, June 17, 2016

My Move To Apple from Android

I recently took the plunge and decided to jump into the world of Apple!

This is my story...

I have been quite strong in my feelings towards Apple products and services in the past.  I always felt that it was a total lock into their ecosystem, and once in there would be no going back.

I prefer the openness of Google, which is why I've been an Android user for the last couple of years.  Before that, I was quite immersed in the world of BlackBerry.

However, one day, a few of weeks ago I made a decision.  I decided to buy myself a MacBook Pro.

Yes, I know it was a dramatic decision; but I needed to get a personal laptop for work, and as much as I wanted to use my Chromebook (which I still love, by the way), it just wasn't up to the task at hand.

I knew I didn't want to buy a Windows laptop; I've been burned many times before with the endless updates and sluggish performance; not to mention virus checking!

That left me with one viable option. Apple.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I have never been anything less than complimentary about their design.  Beautiful machines.
I was only concerned with their walled garden approach to the environment.

However, it was pointed out to me that most of what I do is “in the cloud”, so really, what's the issue?  I could continue to work the way I want, without being restrained by a closed ecosystem.

So it was, one Saturday afternoon when I went to our local Apple store and bought a MacBook Pro. Why the Pro?  Why not the Air; or even the MacBook?
Simple - I needed an HDMI port.  That was it.  The new MacBook as no external ports; and the Air doesn’t have the HDMI.

MacBook Pro - First Impressions

I found the learning curve from Windows OS to be quite steep.  To begin with, the keyboard layout is different, and there are many other nuances.  You could argue that the Chromebook keyboard is also different; but the controls are the same as a Windows version.

My muscle memory is learning to adapt to the changes and I no longer use CTRL+C etc to copy and paste. I also like the on screen view of the various keyboard views, which has helped to find certain characters.

Regardless of the layout; the keyboard is one of the best I've used - just the right amount of travel, and with the back-lit keys in a dim room, there are no arguments from me.

Overall, the build quality is phenomenal.  The aluminium casing just reeks of quality and the retina screen is clear and bright.

Trackpad gestures are also very useful, and the multiple desktops allows for a more organised working environment.

Swipe in from the right and notifications are presented.

All in all, a very pleasing and polished experience.

Transition from Windows complete, I then thought about moving from Android!

Going All In

I knew I was setting myself up for ridicule. As I mentioned earlier, I have been quite vociferous in my feelings about the Apple “world” and changing now would only serve others the chance to make fun of me.  I have even said, in the past, that I’d never have an iPhone!!

Well.  Never say “never”!

Here's the thing. I'm big enough, and ugly enough, to admit I may be wrong.

Two weeks after buying the MacBook, I went back to the store and bought an iPhone 6s!!

I should add that I was quite very nervous about it. I like the way that Android gives freedom and flexibility to set the phone up how I like.  Using widgets on the home screen and quick actions to get things done, not to mention a first class notification centre.  How would I cope with being told how to use my phone?

To prepare myself, I replicated an iOS screen on my HTC one m8.  I removed all widgets, moved apps out of folders (well, most of them) and cancelled all shortcuts. I then continued to use my phone.
Surprisingly, I didn't miss the widgets and found I could navigate quite easily.

Still, nerves nipping away at me, I headed for the store. I questioned the sales guy, told him my concerns and he blew them away.
Totally. I mean, I know he's in sales, but that was incredible.

10 minutes later, phone in my hand, I was heading home to get it set up.

iPhone - First Impressions

Two weeks on and what's the verdict?

Well - set up was a breeze; at least the phone part.  The installed apps automatically updated, Siri switched on and I was busy downloading the apps I need to use my phone efficiently.

The major sticking point was in setting up email.  This was not as intuitive as I had hoped.

Sure, setting up my Gmail account was simple, as was my work Exchange account. The issue came when setting up a POP3 account for the Cub group I run. That was, and still is, troublesome.  I never get notifications about my emails, they just appear as read… So if I don't check regularly then I miss them.  Not really acceptable.  However, until a change happens; and I’m not hopeful of one in the near future, this seems to be an age-old problem, I'm learning to live with it.

From an app perspective, it's no surprise that 99% the apps I've used before are available and in that respect there's no change.

Battery life.  Much has been written about the iPhone being wall huggers. That it's not possible to go very long without charging.  I have to say I don't find that to be the case.  I'm not a light user, I also don't play games, but I have found to be able to go a day without plugging into the mains.


Am I pleased to have jumped onto the iOS bandwagon?

I was more than interested to hear the announcements at WWDC16. It seems there's some good stuff coming.

As for now. It's still early days and it may be a little while longer before I'm totally comfortable, but each day that passes brings me closer to a resounding “Yes”.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Review - Sony SRS X11 Personal Audio System

I recently purchased a Sony SRS X11 bluetooth speaker system.  In fact, I got two of them, since they came as a pair.  That's not a normal retail package, so I took advantage when I saw it; especially as the cost was only half again for the second unit.

There are many bluetooth speakers on the market, all of varying cost and quality.  I chose these because I have a good history with Sony product, and whilst they may not be the cheapest, you can usually be sure of a quality purchase.

OK - let's have a closer look.  As you'll see from the pictures, it's tiny.  But don't let that put you off.  This pumps out 10w of music.

This cube is 61mm in each direction, and weighs just 215g.  The battery will last up to 12 hours on a full charge.  The build is solid, with a rubbery texture on the top and the back, with a plastic underneath.  The grills covering the speakers look and feel like metal.  Overall, this feels like a quality product.

On the reverse you will find a stereo mini-jack input (if you use this, then you don't need to pair using bluetooth) and there is a micro USB terminal for charging.

The top of the unit contains the controls; the power button.  Press and hold to set the unit into pairing mode.

The volume buttons are on the right.  There is also a button to initiate hands-free calling, using the built-in microphone.  Music will automatically cut out when a call is in progress.

It's simple to set up - just power up (the first time will automatically set the unit to pairing mode), search for the connection on your device.  Just select it, and the pairing will be complete.

You may have spotted the Near Field Communication (NFC) icon on the top.  Tap this with your NFC enabled device and it will automatically switch your bluetooth connection on.

Now, when you play anything on your device, the audio will output from the speaker.  Magic.

One great feature is the ability to daisy-chain two of the units together.  There are two modes available.  Either create stereo sound, or double up, and put each device in a different room.  Now, so long as they are both within the bluetooth range, you can play the same music across a wider area.  Ideal for a party!

Also included is a lanyard that is useful for hanging the speaker; maybe on a branch, tent pole, or just on a door handle.

So - how do they sound?  It isn't hi-fi.  It's not tinny; there is bass, and the volume can be turned up fairly loud (although, of course, distortion will appear at the top!)  If you're looking for pure quality, then you'll need to spend more than this!  However, for general listening; playing Spotify playlists, it's ideal.


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