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Saturday, May 22, 2010

MiniPaint - Edit Photos on your BlackBerry

It's review time again, and this time it's for a photo-editing programme on the BlackBerry.

I use the camera on my BlackBerry quite frequently, but there are often times when I want to make slight changes.  Either crop the image, lighten it, or even rotate it.

Now, there's an application that does all of that, and more.  It's from a company called BB4.

MiniPaint is accessed via the menu, as an option.  Select the photo you want to edit, and open with MiniPaint.

Here you can see a photo, for which a brightness/contrast filter is being applied.  There are a total of 11 filters to choose from, including saturation, adding gaussian blur and making sepia.

You can crop images; the only downside here is that the crop is at fixed percentages.

If you want to add text, you can also do that; as well as selecting from an impressive list of fonts and sizes.
In the screenshots here, you can see examples of the functionality I've mentioned, and if you have ever wanted to tweak your photos, then this is the tool to do it.

You can get hold of MiniPaint, and read some more reviews, right here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Where Nations Meet

Following on from my review of, I thought I'd write a short travelogue about Jerusalem.

Often referred to as the centre of all the world religions.

A place where, on a day-to-day basis, in the vibrant buzz of the markets,  Arabs and Jews mix without the tensions that the media portray.  That isn't to say they don't exist, but as a tourist wandering the historically rich streets; one can't help but put those thoughts to one side and soak up the atmosphere.

As we entered through Damascus Gate at the north of Old City, it's like taking a step through a time machine.
The colourful displays of traditional dress and food mixed with the tourist souvenirs of t-shirts and fridge magnets.

Eventually, you will come to the Western Wall (the Kotel). It's a sign of the times that you have to pass through security not unlike that at an airport; but such is life today. When you do walk into the Plaza, the effect is immediate.
To stand in a place that is so revered and so holy, the feeling cannot be imagined.

The last remaining wall of the Second Temple, with its personal messages pushed into the cracks and men (and women) praying, it's an important Jewish religious site.

Over the top of the wall you can see the top of the Golden Dome of the Rock; which is certainly a reminder that this is where the religions of the world meet.

The history, the buzz and the noise stimulate a sense of the past; and it's just wonderful to witness.

Of course, Jerusalem isn't just about religion and the past.

Outside of the Old City walls a modern city is alive and kicking, with fashionable shops and modern art.

But it's the history that will bring many back, time after time.

To barter in the suks (markets) and ponder how life must have been in biblical times is an experience to behold.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Meet Wenlock & Mandeville

The mascots for the London 2012 Olympic Games have been revealed to the world.

Designed to appeal to the young, and get them interested in the games; as well as to raise £70m towards the coffers of the organising committee.

It's a 'cute' video, which I think works quite well.

What do you think?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

No Frills Air Travel

Budget airlines are rarely out of the news, usually due to their pricing policy not being transparent enough; or the quality of service.
I recently had the pleasure of flying with to Tel Aviv; and I must admit I was pleasantly surprised.

The booking was made online, as expected, and a month before travel, I received an email advising me that "online check-in is now open".
I had the option to choose our seats, select a meal and check luggage for the hold.
All of this, had I elected to take it, would have added over £90 to the cost.
So, we bought sandwiches before we got to the airport, took the seats they allocated, but I had to take a suitcase.

At the airport, the service was quick and pleasant; even passing through security was less 'stressful' than I remember.
The quote of the day has to go to the member of staff who said:
"Ladies and gentlemen. We will soon be boarding the flight, in row order. Please have your passports and boarding cards ready.
"Thankyou; we are now boarding everyone"!!
Huh? Row order? Everyone! It was a scramble!!!

Once on board, the crew tempted us with nourishment (more money) and their duty free trolley, scratchcards and the sale of a watch that, apparently, is worn by celebrities!!

The one big downside was the seats.

Now, I wasn't expecting leather upholstery, or a seat-back TV. However, it would have been nice to be able to recline the seat, just a bit; and the thin cushion was, after 5 hours, no longer comfortable.
The expression "You get what you pay for" is never more true.

In the end, we departed on time and arrived 5 minutes early; it was a good flight, with friendly crew, above the clouds and in the sunshine.

Bearing in mind the weather in the UK; I really can't complain. Can I?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Expendables

Sly is back, and this time with a cast to die for.

The story is about a group of mercenaries, sent on a mission to a South American country, with the single objective to overturn the leadership.  However, as the mission starts, they discover that the situation is not as it seems (is it ever?) The men are trapped in a game of deception - and there's a traitor amongst them.

Sylvester Stallone was involved in the writing and he directed it; and along the way drafted in some big names: Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger!!!

Now if that's not enough to whet your appetite for big action and adventure, then really, you should get out more!

With a budget of $85m, it was filmed in Rio de Janeiro, New Orleans and Los Angeles.  The release is slated for August, so keep your eyes open.

Can't wait? - then take a look at this...

The early previews went so well that the studio are already in talks to make a sequel (or two) and Sly has cancelled Rambo V to work on it.

Personally - I can't wait....

Friday, May 14, 2010

F1 - Monaco Style

This weekend the Formula 1 'circus' moves to Monaco. The small principality nestles on the south coast of France and is home to the Grimaldi family.

Take this beautiful resort and add the high-octane excitement of Formula 1 and you are guaranteed a weekend to remember.

This year, the Formula 1 championship is wide open, with a new scoring mechanism, the drivers all vying to be the number one.  With reigning champion, Jenson Button, having settled into his new team (McLaren) very comfortably, there is everything to play for.  Last year, he won in the Mercedes powered Brawn GP.  Can he repeat his success?

What of the resort?  Nestling on the south coast of France, about 30 mins from Nice, Monaco is an independent principality; home to the Grimaldi family.  With it's sandy beaches, glorious marina and the famous Casino, all lend themselves to a picture-postcard view.

Map from
This is the circuit layout, and it's twists and turns, the race through the tunnel, tight chicanes and not forgetting the armco barriers to stop the cars falling into the sea!!  The solid barriers also lend to the excitement, since the track is so narrow, there is absolutely no margin for error.

When the drivers line up on the grid, on Sunday (in which order we are yet to know), they do so in the knowledge that it is usual for whoever is on pole position has, in most cases, been the one to take the chequered flag.

I hope that the race on Sunday proves to be exciting, but with limited overtaking opportunities, it will be the strategy of pit stops that will help determine the finishing order.

Bright sunshine (hopefully) and throngs of people milling around; with spectators on the balconies of the apartments that overlook the circuit.

Monaco is an experience to behold.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Facebook - The phenomenon continues

The world's love of Facebook doesn't seem to be letting up.

Since it started in 1994, the number of users has grown exponentially year on year.  There are many who complain; and to be honest, you either like it or loathe it.

It's a vehicle for people to air their feelings, publish thoughts (even blogs like this one!) and communicate and share photos with friends and family around the world.

Often courting controversy over the way it has 'enforced' it's privacy settings on the community; Facebook on the whole is massive success story.  Businesses (and I mean big corporations) have embraced the concept of the fan page - now you can become fans of your favourite products, and get news and updates direct.

Gaming is a big part of the site too, with Farmville currently one of the biggest games to date.  Developers are continually working to bring out new ideas, that will hook you in, and hopefully entice you to part with some cash.

You can set your status to tell people what you're up to.  I find that some are updated on a more regular frequency than is 'normal'.  Surely, that's what Twitter is for?

Another key area is that of invitations to events; groups; there's even a Marketplace, where you can buy and sell items.

Facebook has a user base of over 400 million people; how many are active I don't know, but with a market that size, they must be doing something right.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Help! I've just realised that I haven't prepared a blog for tonight.

Normally I'm quite good, with posts written and even scheduled well ahead of time.  And you thought I was sitting here night after night, pounding out missives on my laptop!!

Not quite; but tonight is a bit of a rushed affair.  What to write?

In fact, I have a few that need to be prepared; as I will be away for the next few days.  I would hate to think you'll go without your daily digest!!

So, coming up over the next few days:

  • Formula 1 - The Monaco Grand Prix
  • Facebook - the phenomenon continues
  • A summer, movie, blockbuster reviewed

Of course, this blog is for you; so if there is anything you'd like me to investigate, research and write about, then please drop me a comment and I'll see what I can do.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Money For Old Phones

We are awash with mobile phones.  We are constantly tempted by the networks, to upgrade to the latest model, making use of the the features and functions that they are working hard to provide us.

Mobile phones are getting smarter and more sophisticated.

When we take up the offers we are often left with our original phone, and for some reason, we don't seem able to throw them away!

At a car boot sale recently, whilst trying to sell some old models, it was suggested to me to try Fonebank - a service that will pay for old mobile phones, regardless of their state.  You don't even need the box or charger.

Once they have your phone, apparently, they send a cheque.  The phone is 'recycled' to be used in developing countries and the mobile phone mountain is slowly reduced to a hill.

I have just arranged to send my old phone back.  The site tells me I will get £86 for it.  Not bad for something that's been lying around gathering dust for the last year.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Browsing with Google Chrome

I make no apology for being a Google fan.  They have their detractors, but the successful usually tends to be mocked and knocked.

There are other browsers available (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera; to name but a few) but to my mind, you can't beat Google Chrome.

  • It loads quickly
  • Each page is independent of the browser as a whole - if one page crashes, it doesn't bring the whole browser down
  • The user interface is clean and simple
  • It is designed to be safe and secure, with automatic updates.  Chrome will display a message before you visit a site that is suspected of containing malware and phishing
  • Extensions are available to make the experience more tailored to your personal use.  Extensions are small programmes which add useful features.
  • The address bar acts in the same way as the Google Search box
  • Google Chrome is totally customisable.

As I write this, I have 8 tabs open, all with different websites including; Facebook, YouTube, BBC News, GMail.

It's a terrific browser, and if you are looking for a change from Microsoft, and want something that doesn't eat into your system memory, then give Google Chrome a go.

Check out the video below for more information.

Friday, May 07, 2010


If, like me, you like photography, and don't want to spend fortunes on expensive photo-editing software, then Picnik could be just what you need.

Picnik is an online photo / picture editing suite, that allows you to manipulate, enhance, crop, resize etc, pictures and photos, before saving them, either to your hard-drive, or sharing them across multiple social networking sites, such as Facebook, My Space, Bebo, Flikr and Picasa.
It was recently announced that Google had acquired Picnik for themselves, as it fits neatly into their portfolio of online applications, including photo storage (Picasaweb).

Because Picnik is browser based; i.e. it's on the web, there's no application to download.
What's more, it's really easy to use.

  1. Just upload the photo
  2. Select the action you want to take
  3. Apply the action
  4. Save the changes
  5. You're done

To quote them from the site:
A bunch of our editing tools are one-click fixes, including auto- fix, exposure, colors, and red-eye. And the others, like rotate, crop, resize, and sharpening, can be controlled with easy-to-use sliders.
Once you've done that, go to the Create tab, and there is a whole myriad of custom effects; a text tool, shapes and frames.
It does a whole lot more too - like create collages, email photos.... oh, you're just going to have a look for yourself.
And all this is FREE.  Incredible.

They do also offer a Premium (paid for) service, with more choices of effects and the like, and they allow you to upload more photos at a time; but, to be honest, the free version is ideal.  In fact, most of the pictures on this blog are put through Picnik Paces first.
You can find out more at

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Knight and Day

This summer there are some cracking films being released; not least "The A-Team", "The Expendables" and, of course, "Toy Story 3".  Then there's this one with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz.

Quote from 20th Century Fox
Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz star in the action-comedy KNIGHT AND DAY. During their glamorous and sometimes deadly adventure, nothing and no one even the now fugitive couple are what they seem. Amid shifting alliances and unexpected betrayals, they race across the globe, with their survival ultimately hinging on the battle of truth vs. trust.

The key is "action-comedy" - if you've not seen the trailer, watch this...

Quote of the trailer
"No-one follows us, or I kill myself, and then her..."

Your Country Needs You

It's a cliché, but it's never more true than on election day.  I am truly hoping that it won't be the 'Apathy' party that wins, and the turnout is one of the best.

I'm no politician, and I'm no preacher; but today is YOUR chance to have your say.

Like many, you may still be undecided; so have a look at Vote Match - a website that helps guide and determine your voting preference.

It takes around 10 minutes to complete, is totally anonymous, but at the end it will either confirm your beliefs, or will point out which parties policies you more likely agree with.

It's not perfect; indeed it doesn't take into account local issues; but if you need a guiding hand after all the talk and debates, this might just help.

Whoever you decide to vote for - please vote.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Legoland Discovery Centre - Update

Bank Holiday Monday came, and the weather, whilst dry, was rather on the cold side.  By the time we'd decided what to do, it was too late to venture too far.

So, we decided to make use of our annual LDC pass, and take in a visit to the Trafford Centre at the same time.

I should point out, that I have done a review of our last visit - you can read it here.

However, this visit is worthy of an update, because many of the 'faults' I highlighted have now been redressed, and the overall experience is much better.

For starters - there is now a separate queue for ticket and pass holders.  This makes it much easier to gain access, and means no waiting in the cold.  Big tick for that one.

Secondly, the ride.  Last time, I wrote that the queue management wasn't particularly smooth.  That's now been improved, and guests are now 'loaded' onto the ride much quicker and more efficiently.

Third - there was a huge expanse of, what I would have called 'wasted' space in the centre of the main room.  This has now been filled with what can only be described as a Lego pool.

It's quite vast, and is about 5"-6" deep with every imagineable type of Lego brick and component.  The kids just climb in and sit in this pool, surrounded by little plastic bricks.  I can't think it's too comfortable.  Adults can sit on the surround.

It was busy, but it was a constantly moving feast, and it was quite manageable.

There is just one more, little, complaint.  Although we had both films, the boys wanted to go to the 4D cinema again.  Well, it was an excuse for a sit down!!  However, since there are 2 films, it would be good if they displayed which film was being shown next - they were disappointed to see Bob The Builder again; even if they did enjoy it.

So; all in all, a postive trip.  I put together a short video of the day, with some of the elements I mentioned above.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Cadbury's Latest Creation

I've written before about how much I love chocolate.  So, I was particularly excited to see the latest advert for Cadbury's Dairy Milk.

Mmm... off to raid the cupboard.

One Persons' Rubbish...

... is another persons treasure.  Or something like that.

On Sunday there was a car boot sale; with the proceeds donated to the 401st Manchester Scouts and Cubs and the 5th Cheetham Guides and Brownies.

It was a cold day, with a brisk breeze, but it did stay dry, mercifully.

Following a rather large de-clutter on Saturday, and reclaiming space in my office; there were bags and boxes of stuff ready for throwing away.

Oh, no!!
"You can't throw that away!"
"Why not? It's been gathering dust for the last year!"
"But I'll sell it or give it to a charity shop"
"It's going to the tip - unless you do the car boot sale tomorrow!"
"OK. I'll do it...!"
So, after consolidating all the 'stuff', it was packed into the car, in readiness for the morning.

Now; when I say 'stuff', that's the polite word.  We're talking tat and rubbish of the highest order.  Not including baby-related goods, which we haven't needed for at least a year; but has been taking up valuable space.

Now it was all going.  Of course, we could have just dropped it at the charity shops; indeed, that's where the leftover 'stuff' is going.

Bright and early on Sunday morning, The Wife set up stall in the allotted space in the park. Actually, that's not quite true, because as soon as the engine stopped, strangers were opening the car doors to start ransacking the 'stuff' available.  Quite incredible, and after she fought them off, the table was set and a mornings trading began.

When I arrived with the boys, much of the tat and rubbish had been bought by treasure hunters.  Heaven only knows what they wanted with such gubbins, but who were we to argue.

It was an extremely profitable morning, and already the search is on for more 'stuff' for the next sale.

In the meantime, why don't you hunt for the 'stuff' you no longer want or need, and head down to your nearest carboot sale.

Monday, May 03, 2010


I work near Manchester Airport.

So near, in fact, that as the planes come in to land, I can almost hear the passengers putting their seats and tables into the upright position!!

Oh, that's a little dramatic, but I swear I can see them wave!!

The thought that struck me, as I had a lunchtime stroll, was; with a plane landing every 2 minutes, how on earth is there time for a plane to take-off?

The pressure on the bods in the control tower, to job to manage the inbound and outbound traffic, must be immeasurable at times.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a plane-spotter; although I do marvel at the technology and romance of air travel.

However, with over 22 million people passing through the countries busiest regional airport, it seemed like there was no way the outgoing traffic could leave.

I know this is a rhetorical post - of course the flights leave, but I just had this passing thought.

Do you know?


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