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Friday, October 29, 2010

Review - BlackBerry Torch 9800

Yes! It had to happen eventually.  I've been using BlackBerry's latest phone for the last few weeks, and thought it was time to put pen to paper (so to speak) and reveal all.

The Torch is the first phone, in the BlackBerry range, that runs their new operating system (BlackBerry 6).  This is a major update on the rest of the range, and boasts some rather wonderful changes.

Now, I'm quite fussy about my phones.  I used to be a heavy Nokia user; having got used to their user interface. However, when I made the change to BlackBerry, I wasn't disappointed.  The way in which they integrate the email services is, without a doubt, the best of breed.  Even the fanboys at Apple would agree with that one!!

So, what else is new.

This is the second BlackBerry to host a touch-screen, and whilst the Storm was ridiculed, this is a major step forward.  The resolution is still not as great as the iPhone, but to be honest, this isn't a toy, and I don't play many games on it, so it's absolutely perfect for a phone.
One of the selling points of BlackBerry is the inclusion of a full QWERTY keyboard, and the Torch has the best of both worlds; an on-screen keyboard and, courtesy of a slider mechanism, a full hard keyboard.  Some reviews have complained that it's not as good as others in the range (the Curve and Bold as an example) but I can confirm, having been a Curve user, the keyboard is just as good and user-friendly.  Not so sure about the touch-screen keys though - a little too small!!

I'm also wary of the slider - it feels very solid, but I just wonder how long it will last.  That's an observation, not a complaint.

The touch-screen itself is beautiful.  It's so intuitive to find your way around, and it's very responsive to key presses.  It will also orientate itself as landscape, when turned, so that videos and pictures, along with web pages, can be viewed more easily.

On the subject of web pages; this is one area where there is a big change.  BlackBerry have overhauled their browser, which makes surfing much more pleasurable.  Using the pinch technique favoured on other devices, it's easy to zoom in on pictures and pages.  Web pages will also reformat when 'double-tapped' making the text easier to read.

There are a number of tabs to scroll through; "Frequent", "Favourites", "Media", "Downloads" and "All".  By moving regularly used apps into the Frequent folder, they can be quickly accessed, without hunting through the menus.

And there are plenty of menus.  This phone can be customised in just about any which way you want; from ring tones, to wallpaper, to different types of alert; it's not difficult to do, just incredible how much you can make the phone your own.

BlackBerry have included the 'social' networks, Facebook and Twitter as part of the software release.  There's a dedicated icon called "Social Feeds", where all updates can be read in one place.  Personally, I'm not that keen, but I can see how it may be to some people's liking!  If you like your news on the move, there is also an RSS reader built-in, so you can catch up on what's important to you, wherever you are.

The camera has been given an upgrade too, with 5MP now available, autofocus and a range of different modes - much better than the 3.2Mp offered on other phones. There's also a video camera on board too.

The other consideration is battery life.  With all the included goodies, surely the battery won't last long.  Now, to be honest, I've been 'playing' quite a bit, so I've had to charge up each night, however, by customising some of the settings (like reducing the timeout till the screen fades) and switching off bluetooth and wi-fi when not needed, the battery lasts just as long as the Curve.

With BlackBerry Messenger, email integration, access via 3G, 2G, Wi-Fi, a full media section (which displays album art if you have it) and all the regular features you'd expect, this is a powerful phone, which does exactly what it says on the tin.

Below is the preview video that BlackBerry released, to whet our appetites; there's no need to wait any longer!!

So, in summary; is it worth it?  Was the hype justified?  Are other reviews fair?

This phone has been compared to the iPhone in so many ways, and that, in my view, is not right.  They are two different devices, aimed at different people.  So, yes, it's worth it (even a better contract deal, so the monthly payments are less!), they hype is totally justified - it's a cracking phone.

Do you have the new Torch, or other BlackBerry - what's your favourite app?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Apprentice - Task 4

This week on The Apprentice, the teams are tasked with picking products and selling them to the trade.

First, a review of last weeks debacle

Now, here's a preview of what's instore....

I'm hooked.  Do you watch The Apprentice, just for the entertainment factor, of course!
Also, highly recommended, Lord Sugars autobiography

What You See Is What You Get: My Autobiography. It's a rivetting, eye-opening read...

Monday, October 25, 2010

AFC Bournemouth - The Cherries March On

The sweet taste of The Cherries success continued at the weekend, as they drew 1-1 against Sheffield Wednesday.  They took the lead in the first half; only losing out to a draw in the 82nd minute!

The point takes them up to second in the league, 6 points behind leaders Brighton.  This is a great position for them to be in. 

The full match report, courtesy of the BBC, can be found here.

Next week they take on sixth place Colchester, at home.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Payout Hopes Fading - Faster than an F1 Car!

This is an update on the current status of the two bets I placed, before the start of the Formula 1 season.

Bet 1 - Jenson Button to win 5 races this season

Bet 2 - McLaren to win the constructors championship.

I can safely say that the first bet is now over - since there are only 2 races left, and Jenson needs to win another three.  It would be ironic if he wins them; but then that will go towards my second bet.

McLaren are currently lying are in second place, 27 points behind Red Bull.  With 50 points available, and based on the Red Bulls not finishing this weekend, then there is a good possibility of this bet paying out!!  Although the race in South Korea was a washout, quite literally, both the McLaren drivers did the best they could - although Jenson made a slight tactical error, when changing his tyres too soon!

With the race at Interlagos, Brazil in a couple of weeks, followed by the season closer at Abu Dhabi; whatever the outcome, it's been a fascinating and exciting season, with the usual drama that we expect from Formula 1.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Media Blackout

Could you survive 24 hours without access to ANY media; no phone, no internet, no television, no newspapers and no radio.

Students at Bournemouth University took part in a worldwide experiment, called 'Unplugged' to see the effect, and how difficult it is to live today, without the use of daily media.

Earlier this week, the BBCs technology reporter Rory Cellan-Jones caught up with three of the students to find out how they were getting on!

You can find out more about the project here.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

AFC Bournemouth - Another Win

Those Cherries Boys are on a roll, with another win yesterday, against MK Dons.

Playing at home, the team are garnering further support, as their season continues in a very positive way.  Although they conceded a penalty, the final score was 3-2

This has moved them up one place, to 3rd in the league, only one point behind Peterborough, and a futher 3 points away from leaders Brighton.

Their next match is on Saturday, away to Sheffield Wednesday.

Keep up the good work guys.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Mitch Benn - Proud of the BBC

This is fabulous - tons of good reasons to pay the BBC licence fee

Personally, I think the Beeb should play this between programmes.  No, not EVERY programme, but makes a great trailer...

Book Review - The Snowman

First of all, let me start by saying; this isn't some re-write from Raymond Briggs about The Snowman.  Aled Jones is nowhere in sight.

You may have seen this on the shelves, you may have already read it; but if not, this is a gripping read.

Another series, set in the Scandinavian land of Norway; and hot on the heels of the Millenium Trilogy (which is possibly why it's been translanted), this is a police / murder / mystery / crime thriller, from the pen of Jo Nesbo.

The Snowman is actually the forth in the series.
The first one was "The Redbreast" (which I've also read), followed by "Nemesis", "The Devil's Star" and "Redeemer".

All these follow the story of Harry Hole, a detective working to solve the crimes on the streets of Oslo.  They're gritty dramas, which hold no punches.

The Snowman is about a serial killer; who kills when the first snow falls.  At the scene of a killing; he builds a snowman; sometimes a simple one, sometimes it contains the body-parts of the murdered.  It's a clever, twisted, plot that keeps you hooked to the end.
Since it's not the first of the Harry Hole novels, maybe it's not the best place to start, as the others build up the history and back-story for the characters.  However, that doesn't detract from the story, and it'll soon pull you in.

Since I've read "The Redbreast", some of it makes more sense, and I'm already looking forward to the next installment, "Nemesis"; which is primed and ready to go on my iPad. 

However, I am now in the midst of the latest Jack Reacher novel, from Lee Child.  It's called Worth Dying For; and as with all the others; it's pure fun.  I'm about half-way through, and so far it has lived up to the expectation set by all the others.

So; if you're looking for a good read; like thrillers or action/adventure, then look no further than Jo Nesbo or Lee Child.

Blog Action Day - Water

Today is Blog Action Day - a day when bloggers around the world to unite in support of one topic.

This year, the subject is all about water.

Now, you know I'm not hugely political, however, when there is a basic human right that isn't available to everyone, then this needs to be shouted about.

That vital resource that we all take for granted, and can't live, literally, without.

Blog Action Day 2010: Water from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.

Here are some facts:

  • African women walk over 40 billion hours each year carrying cisterns weighing up to 18 kilograms to gather water, which is usually still not safe to drink.
  • Every week, nearly 38,000 children under the age of 5 die from unsafe drinking water and unhygienic living conditions.
  • Many scholars attribute the conflict in Darfur at least in part to lack of access to water. A report commissioned by the UN found that in the 21st century, water scarcity will become one of the leading causes of conflict in Africa.
  • In July, to address the water crisis, the United Nations declared access to clean water and sanitation a human right over. But we are far from implementing solutions to secure basic access to safe drinking water.
  • The shiny new iPhone in your pocket requires half a liter of water to charge. That may not seem like much, but with over 80 million active iPhones in the world, that’s 40 million liters to charge those alone.
  • That cotton t-shirt you’re wearing right now took 1,514 liters of water to produce, and your jeans required an extra 6,813 liters.
  • The US, Mexico and China lead the world in bottled water consumption, with people in the US drinking an average of 200 bottles of water per person each year. Over 17 million barrels of oil are needed to manufacture those water bottles, 86 percent of which will never be recycled.

Please take action yourself and add your name to the petition; by using the box on the right, and help support the efforts of the UN to bring clean, safe water to millions.

You can find out more at

Thursday, October 14, 2010

iPad - App Review

It's been a few months since I purchased my iPad (16Gb Wi-Fi Only) and thought I'd revisit some of the apps I've downloaded.  I've already written reviews on some of them, but there are others that are worthy of a mention too.

There's no obvious place to start, and with the lack of folders on the current OS (will have to wait for OS4 in November before we get them) I have split my apps into various screens.

A screen for business apps, one for news etc, another for games.  And so on.

Firstly; the apps that I have docked at the bottom of the screen are:
Toodledo - Task management has never been so easy; and it synchronises with the web too
Informant HD - Diary and task management (integrated with Toodledo, see above)
FeeddlerPro - An RSS feeder that synchronises with Google Reader
Kindle - THE ebook reader, from Amazon
Also Safari and iPod

Screen 1 - Apart from some of the standard, pre-loaded apps, I have
BBC iPlayer (which technically isn't an app; but a link to the site)
CineXPlayer - for watching XVid movies; now you're not tied to iTunes
DocsToGo - Familiar to BlackBerry users, this app gives you word, excel and more
AccuWeather - Need to know the forecast - this is a great free app
PrintCentral - An app to print from the iPad via Wi-Fi; excellent application
ZumoCast - Listen to music or watch films hosted on your desktop PC; via Wi-Fi

Screen 2
Facebook - This is the iPhone app; which doesn't look good at all - but it works!
Twitter - The app for iPad is very well thought out
Photo fx Ultra - Ideal for photo editing / enhancing
Wikihood - What's around the area you're in - Wikipedia for the local area
IMDb - The No.1 app for movie fans
Sky+ - Full access to the Sky programme schedules, and you can set it to record too
NASA - Pictures, video, news and more about space
LinkedIn - This is the iPhone app, and looks rubbish on the iPad; but it works
Instapaper - Download webpages to read offline

Screen 3
BBC News
TripIt - Online journey planner
Flipboard - A personalised, 'Live', magazine; which displays Facebook and Twitter in an interesting format
Sky Sports - General sports news; would be better if more video provided
Eurosport - Access to more sports news

Screen 4
Bloomberg - Business news.  Plus, how are your shares performing?
Teamviewer - A great, free, app for remote-access to other PCs/Laptops.  Ideal for helping others
Other pre-loaded iPad apps, that I don't use

Screen 5
Angry Birds - Very addictive (I have the iPhone version; but there is an iPad specific one too)
NFS Shift - Racing cars through cityscapes!!
Tesla Wars - Defend your area type game
MultiPong - Shows off the touch aspect of the iPad, with excellent graphics
Real Solitaire - Solitaire - nuff said!
Conquist - Like Risk, only playing against computers as well as your friends
Slice It - Addictive or what?  Very clever, and frustrating.

So there you go; just some of the apps that reside on my iPad. 

What iPad apps do you have that might be worth considering?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

AFC Bournemouth - The Campaign Continues

Last weekend, The Cherries took on the current leaders of League One - Brighton; and held them to a one-all draw.

You can see the match report here.  It's great to see them performing so well; and they're currently riding 4th in the league.  Not bad for a team that almost went out of business; and were handicapped last season due to a transfer ban.

The next game is at home, on Saturday, against MK Dons.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Birthdays - Present Giving in the Past

Tomorrow, my middle son celebrates his 9th birthday.

No, that's not quite true.  Tomorrow, we all celebrate his 9th birthday.  The excitement and anticipation is over-powering, and it got me thinking.  Where does the time-honoured tradition of giving presents came from?

Birthday celebrations vary by culture and gender, as does the history of birthday gifts
Beginning perhaps as early as Roman times, traditions were taken from other, often pagan, celebrations and applied to celebrating an individual’s birthday. But, like other holidays, religion influenced these traditions.  
Christianity introduced the calendar of saints, which associated each day with a saint or martyr. This calendar led to the custom of individuals taking for his or her baptismal or confirmation name the name of the saint honored on his or her day of birth. Thus, even today, some Catholics celebrate the saint on his or her “name day” rather than celebrating a “birth day”.  
Some Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate birthdays because of the pagan origin of the birthday tradition.

An alternative view is that years ago in Europe, people believed that evil spirits would seek out and haunt someone on their birthday, most importantly the king. 
Therefore, on one’s birthday, people would gather to protect that person and would bring with them good wishes. 
These gatherings became our modern day birthday parties, and over time, people brought more than just good wishes to ward off evil spirits; they brought presents too.

So, there you have it.  Either Christianity, or warding off evil spirits, is, ironically, the birth of birthday present giving.

Now, where did I put the wrapping paper?

Monday, October 11, 2010

I've Seen The Light

It's THAT time of year.

The Season of the Blues is upon us once again.  Last year I wrote my story, about SAD - Seasonal Affective Disorder.

As we are now approaching the turning back of time; the early and dark nights, weak sunlight (if any at all) and cold, chilly, days; I thought I'd post it again.

For those of you who wondered why you're always blue in the winter (and not just because of the temperature), then this could be for you.

Winter Blues - originally posted November 2009

BlackBerry Messenger - Theme Song

OK, so not many applications get a theme tune, but here's a video and song called "Ping Me Baby..."

The song is a little catchy, but the video is inspired.

This is for all you BBM fans out there.....


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