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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Review - BBM: Social Just Got Integrated

Here's a quote from BlackBerry:
"Did you know that seventy percent of BlackBerry® Messenger (BBM™) users use BBM every day to communicate with friends, family and colleagues?"
Well, now, social just got more integrated, as the next version of BlackBerry Messenger has been released.

For those who don't know, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) is the instant messenger application for communicating between BlackBerry handsets.  I say 'communicating' because it is more than chat.  It's possible to send files, photos, voice recordings and video and it doesn't cost anymore than the data plan you already have.

I've written about it before, and even with the introduction of other cross-platform services, such as WhatsApp, it is a major selling point for BlackBerry.  Even Apple have tried to emulate it, with iMessenger.

So, what's new? What have RIM (the makers of BlackBerry) come up with now?

BBM6... A bright, shiny new, version that integrates with other applications.

For example, you could be playing a game online, and use BBM to invite others and chat about the game.

Or, using Foursquare (the location-based, notification, service) I can let my BBM contacts know where I am, even if they don't use it.  What's more, if they then click on the link within my status update, they can download the app for themselves.

Sports fan?  Using ScoreMobile (a great free app that tracks major sporting events; including the English Premier League) you can chat with friends about the game, in the application.  Clever eh?

It's a whole new way to interact, and share information, the apps you love to use and get more involved.

If you have a BlackBerry, then head over to App World and download the latest version of BBM.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Midweek Musical Interlude 3

Something completely different; from Ghost - The Musical.  If you saw the show in Manchester, or since it's move to London, then you'll remember this.

Not quite the upbeat music I've offered previously, but it's such a lovely song; and the complete soundtrack was released at the weekend. If you've seen the show, you'll know what I mean.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Batman Live

When Batman Meets Robin; that's the premise of this amazing acrobatic, magical show featuring all the 'baddies'; The Riddler, The Penguin, Two Face, The Joker, Haley Quinn and Poison Ivy.

The show opens as Bruce Wayne walks home from the cinema with his parents, who are mugged and eventually are shot. We've seen this in countless other stories.

The setting then moves to the circus, where we meet the Flying Graysons, gracefully swinging on the trapeze; until they too, are murdered; leaving Dick Grayson an orphan.

It's not a new story, but it's a new way of telling it, with a set and stunts and THAT car all live and in action.

The backdrop of the stage is a large screen, which uses DC Comic style graphics to portray the setting; and it achieves the objective astonishingly well.

The Batcave doesn't disappoint, and there was a cheer as the Batmobile made its entrance.  And what an amazing machine it looked too.

They say the production cost around £7.5m - and it's all on the stage or in the effects.  There are even a couple of illusions, that really do make you go "how did they do that?"

It was a shame that the arena wasn't full; indeed 6 blocks were draped over and out of action; which made the audience look much smaller; indeed the seats we booked were changed; and I think we came out better for it.

You can see the view we had in the photo.  This is the opening stage setting - it really did wow!

From Manchester, the show now moves around the country. Full details can be found here.

If you get the chance; it's well worth going to see.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Google+ v Facebook - The Experiment Continues

Last Friday,I took the unilateral decision to quit facebook. For a week.
It was quite irrational, and there was quite a reaction; but, the question is, have I regretted it?

Like many others, I have started to use Google+, a new social  interaction platform.  It's clean, crisp, and there is a  multitude of potential.  There is, however, a however...

Inviting people to join is a big task - most are entrenched in their ways; and there are times I have missed out on seeing what people are up to.  Thanks to an extension in Google+, I can now view status updates within Google+ so I don't need to miss out anymore.

But; and here it is; I haven't missed the inane games (and being asked for help to achieve levels) and ridiculous adverts.  My news feed (the Stream) contains mostly of stuff I want to see; and I can filter it, to see the people (Circles) I'm interested in.

This isn't meant to be a promotion for Google+; now I've been using it for over a week, it's more of an informed article about what it offers.

With Google+ anyone (and I mean anyone) can join another conversation and not feel bad for chipping in.  It's open and friendly.  You can join in conversations with people you don't have an association with - usually, by the end of it; you're in each others circles.

I like the fact I can post a one-line comment (similar to Twitter) or post a whole paragraph (as much as I want!)

There has been much discussion about Google+ over the last week; as more people have joined in.

So, here are my 10 reasons why you should try Google+ :

  1. It's open and friendly
  2. Easy to control your Circle of friends
  3. Private messaging available - to just one person, or a select few
  4. Control which Circle your friends are in - they can be in more than one
  5. Easily filter what you want to see; either everything, or just one Circle; it's up to you
  6. Photo uploads to web albums
  7. You have control over what people see
  8. "Meet" a wide range of people
  9. Hangouts - Real-time video calls with up to 10 other people
  10. Sparks - A way to find articles on the web that interest you, and you can freely share them amongst your Circles

Circles seems to be the biggest, single advantage of Google+ over facebook.  This is how Google promote them.  You can find out more at

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Customer Is King

Many, many, years ago, when I was just a young boy, I used to spend time with my dad in his shop.  He used to sell hi-fi components, car audio systems, accessories and more.  It was a wonderful shop; located just outside the centre of Bournemouth.

As a boy, I used to love the new equipment that was for sale.  Long before the days of digital technology; not an iPod in sight.  This was the day of the first Walkman (does anyone remember the Sony Stowaway?) and portable music.
The days of turntables and cassette players.
The shop was a haven for electronic enthusiasts who bought their resistors, transistors, bulbs, fuses, cable and connectors; not in packets, but individually.  I remember the rows and rows of little drawers behind the counter, each housing many variants of components.

My dad would build a rapport with his customers, the like of which I've never seen or heard of anywhere else.  He would treat them with respect, laugh and joke with them; many times juggling two or more customers at the same time; at the end, everyone would be chatting, resulting, more times than not, in the all important sale.  The customer really was king.

I also remember, halfway up the stairs, pinned to the wall was a poster.  Similar to the one here; it has always had a lasting impression.

Years later, I still remember it, and it's a mantra that holds true today.

The shop may no longer be; indeed, many shops have fallen by the wayside; but so too has customer service.  Now, it's warehouse style stores, with indifferent members of staff; who really don't care whether you buy, or not.

Move your buying experience online, and it's a whole new ballgame.  We like the ease, accessibility, and often cheaper prices than would be seen on the high street.  Unfortunately, that comes at a cost; because now we don't look into peoples eyes; we look at a web-page.  Often designed to tempt us, but nevertheless, a static screen, with information, pictures and more to get us to spend with them.

Most of the time it all works well.
Occassionally, it doesn't go so well.

What then?

I have recently had cause for concern, when, after a free trial, I bought and downloaded some software for my phone.  It was more a utility; in that it sat silently in the background, running backups, and more.
When I changed my phone, I checked that it would still work, and their website assured me it was compatible.

Except it's not.  It won't run, there are errors and all in all; it's a total shambles. 
OK, I thought.  A quick note to their support team, to find out what can be done.

I got their standard response.
Another note was sent; with a bit more information.
I have now sent an email everyday for 3 days, with absolutely no response. Zero. Nada. Nothing.

What do I do? I'm at a loss.  I know that BlackBerry won't be bothered, simply because it's not their software.
I do know one thing.  I won't be buying anything else from that software company again.

And - if I don't hear something soon, I'll happily broadcast their name here, on Facebook and Twitter.

Customer service obviously means very little to them. 

I am obviously not a king!

Have you ever suffered bad customer service with an online store?  Was it resolved to your satisfaction?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Midweek Musical Interlude 2

This week, for the Midweek Musical Interlude; it's another Michael - this time Michael Jackson; or at least, his music.

The video is courtesy of the Filipino, Philippines "Dancing Inmates" from Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC), a maximum security prison.  They were treated to a visit by Jacksons choreographer, Travis Payne, and were taught some moves from "This Is It".

Very impressive.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Review - Harry Potter and the Film in 3D

Last weekend saw the final chapter of the Harry Potter story released in the cinemas.

Actually, due to the length of the book; it was released in 2 parts; the first last November, and now Part 2.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows closes the book on seven years of following "The Boy Who Lived" through his trials and tribulations at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry.

I'm not going to re-tell the story; that's covered in copious other places.

I do want to tell you what I thought of the film.

I'm not a proponent of 3D. In fact, I've written about that before. I believe it's a gimmick; another way for film studios and cinema chains to take our hard-earned cash.  Let's face it, since the majority of us don't have 3D television; only a 2D version of the film will be available to buy on DVD / Blu-Ray.

So - what's the point.

OK - a little unfair maybe; and to be honest, the film was amazing. Fantastic.  It totally captured the essence of the book.  The special effects were incredible and seemed so natural; not surprising I suppose, given the nature of the film.

So, to the 3D - I must admit that it wasn't intrusive.  It also felt natural to watch; as there were no gimmicky "look at this in 3D" moments.

If you haven't yet seen it; then what are you waiting for? 2D or 3D; this is a wonderful end to a beautiful series.

Monday, July 18, 2011

One From The Archive - What Did We Do Before.....The Internet

We take the internet for granted.  In the grand scheme of things, it's relatively young, but over the course of the last few years, the world has changed beyond recognition.

I'm not going to go into the history of this life changing 'system', but there can be no denying the positive impact that the internet is having.

Technology is moving at  a crazy pace, and it seems that everyone has a presence somewhere on the web.  Whether through business or social networking.  I wouldn't be in my current job if I hadn't used the internet.

Keeping in touch with friends and family around the world is also another example of how the internet has changed the way we live.
Email has replaced traditional letters, video calling and conferencing means we can see as well as hear.

Unfortunately, the abundance of information that is freely available, also means that for the few, the internet is a place where destruction and depravity takes place.

We are constantly being warned of the dangers of the internet; especially for the young ones.  However, I believe that the internet is a danger to everyone who does not assume a careful approach.  You wouldn't leave private information lying around in public; so don't do the same here.

If you don't want people to know things; then, for goodness sake, don't broadcast them on a publicly accessible forum.

Passwords are imperative to our safety and security.  Don't write them down.  Or, if you can't remember them, use a secure site like  Here, you only need to remember one password, and all the others are kept securely.

There are many places where advise can be got for free; about how to keep safe and secure, including governement sites.

Banking and phising emails are another way that criminals try to get their hands on your hard earned money.  If an offer seems too good to be true - it probably is.  As for banking; NEVER respond to an email from your bank; unless you are 100% certain it came from them.  Some web browsers will now warn you that the site may not be what you think it is.

So - The Internet is wonderful for keeping in touch with distant family and friends.  It's great to bag a bargain and essential for communication.  It's also a haven for those more unscrupulous types.

Take care.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Hello Google+ - - - Goodbye Facebook!!

Recently heralded with great excitement and enthusiasm, this new social networking site from the famous search giant is in it's infancy; with an incredible 10,000,000 (yes, that's 10 million) users.

Amazing, since it hasn't even been officially released to the masses!!

I was itching for an invite to 'have a look' and a Twitter friend kindly obliged.

It's taken some getting used to.
What am I saying - it's taking some getting used to; but it dawned on me the other morning that I didn't go straight to facebook, to see what's happening.  My first port of call was Google+.

One of the big benefits are in what Google has called "Circles".  The ability to create what are, essentially, lists of different people, so it's possible to target updates, comments and discussions, to relevant parties.
It's clear, crisp and fresh.

For example, I have Circles for my Family, Real Life Friends, my Twitter Friends and Work colleagues.  You could have Circles of many different categories, and you can have people across multiple Circles.  It's so easy to drag and drop names around.  I'm still 'playing' with getting the right people in the right place...

Conversations are at the heart of Google+, but one huge benefit is the control you have over who sees what.  Now that you have Circles, you can have a one-to-one chat with someone, include more people in a discussion; or throw it open to the world.

Oh - and if you have an Android handset, by all accounts, the Google+ app is excellent.  I can't vouch for it.  However the mobile version of the site, on iPhone and iPad, will leave users wanting; as with BlackBerry (although my PlayBook does manage very well with the full, desktop version).

Instant messaging is available with integration to Google Chat; and with Google Hangouts, you can also video chat with up to 10 other people at at time - great for families, friends, and even businesses for video conferencing.

Finally - the ability to add photos to your online album, and share them with certain people.
Like I mentioned earlier, on Google+ you can share what you want, with who you want; so if you only want certain people to see your photos of a night out - you have the control.

Whether publicly, a group of people, or just one person.  The choice is yours.

After the video, you can read about my new 'experiment'.

The Experiment

So; from today, and for a trial period (although, who knows, it could become permanent) I will be leaving the facebook world behind me!

I say this with a few caveats:

  • My Blog and I will still be published on Facebook- so you can still get your dose of my thoughts etc; but if you haven't 'Liked' my page, this could be the last post you read.
  • My Foursquare updates will continue - mainly because they are automated. And I know you like to know if I get my morning coffee!
  • I will react and respond to messages - I won't ignore you.
  • I won't be updating my status, and I won't be commenting (or liking) any statuses.
  • I won't be chatting either - If you want to chat; come on over to Google+ (or BBM or text me!)

No-one in the house thinks I can do this!

I can and I will...

At the moment, you can join Google+ by invitation.  Over the next few days you  may start to receive messages that I've added you to a Circle.  Don't be shy.  It costs nothing to look, and you may be pleasantly surprised.

I'm also still on Twitter, so you can follow me there @doonytime

So - Goodbye facebook; or should that be à bientôt.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Review - Dropbox: Share and Share Alike

Review time once more, and if, like me, you move files around between your devices and computers, you'll know what a pain it is.

Find a USB or memory stick, plug it into the computer, transfer the files to it, unplug it and plug back into the other PC, drag the files off and continue.  What a faff!!

The antidote for this - an application called Dropbox.  Launched just over 2 years ago, Dropbox removes the need to dig around and find a memory card.

The premise is simple.  Drop the file you want to transfer onto a folder on your PC or laptop, and retrieve it on another device, within seconds.

The application is free to download, on as many devices as you like.  For example, setup Dropbox on your laptop, PC or iPad.

Dropbox is also available on iPhone, Android and BlackBerry mobile phones.

So, I can create a file on my laptop (or download photos from my camera).  I can then move them into the Dropbox folder, and, hey presto, I can now access these files on any of the other devices.

When working on the files, such as word documents or spreadsheets, when you save them, they will automatically sync, keeping a single document up to date in multiple places.  A log of all the changes is also available; so if necessary, you can revert to an earlier version.

There are a huge number of benefits, not least the fact that the documents are stored in "the cloud", which means they are protected; and with 2Gb of storage available when you sign up, that's quite a lot of space.  If you need to, you can buy additional space.

Another big benefit is the ability to share folders or files.  Businesses can share files easily with their staff in the field, photos can be shared with family and friends.

You don't even need to worry if you need to access your documents on a public PC, such as in an internet cafe or the local library.  Those folk at Dropbox have created a simple website where, once logged in, you can access the files there.

It's an ingenious method of transferring and sharing files; which also removes the need to email files to yourself, colleagues or family, and whilst the memory card / USB stick isn't about to become obsolete, it does mean you don't need to carry one with you all the time.

In summary, file-sharing / storage is not the most exciting of subjects, but nevertheless, Dropbox is totally free to download and use; including the initial 2Gb of storage; which for most people is more than enough.

Sharing has never been so easy.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Midweek Musical Interlude

Music - I love music; so to help you through the week; I thought I'd treat you to a little something different.  If there's a music video you'd like to see, then let me know in the comments, and I'll see what I can do...

This week - Michael Bublé

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Formula 1 Update

Well, it seems that Sebastian Vettel is not invincible, and I'll bet there were strong words for the pit crew, who effectively ended his chances of winning the British Grand Prix.

Mind you, I bet Jenson wasn't too impressed either, as one of the McLaren boys forgot to tighten the wheel-nut, forcing him to retire.  That was a shame, because he was doing OK, and in the mix.

As for Lewis Hamilton, he drove a blinding good race, even if he did have to preserve his fuel supply.  The team told him to slow down; but he kept the pressure on, and had a final, grand, battle with Massa, right down to the chequered flag.

Mark Webber, who qualified on pole, failed to take advantage, and after a solid race, even catching team mate Vettel, was told to hold position in second, and not try to overtake.  He finished third, but I bet he's feeling aggrieved at not being allowed to challenge for second.

All in all, it was an interesting weekend at Silverstone; the new pit straight, the Wing and, even though I wasn't there, the atmosphere, makes it a special place to go racing.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Coming Up...

Just wanted to let you know that there's plenty planned for this week, right here, on My Blog and I; including the start of a new weekly series and a new music slot...

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Formula One - Update

It's been a while since I posted about Formula One; and what a season it's been up to now.

Sebastian Vettel is running away with the drivers championship; he just appears to be unbeatable; even to the extent that Lewis Hamilton threw in the towel (and then retracted that comment, and said he would always be fighting the championship!)

There has been little controversy; except where Hamilton has been concerned; with ex-driver Niki Lauder complaining about his driving; and that if something wasn't done; he (Hamilton) would end up killing someone.

Jenson Button (McLaren) drove the race of his life in Canada; coming from the back, to win (after Vettel, uncharacteristically, made a mistake).  It was a drive of sheer genius.

Ferrari have been working hard; and Alonso and Massa have both been driving well; with the Spaniard being the marginal better, overall, driver.  It's just a shame they can't convert to big points.

The last race, in Valencia, now holds the record as the race with most finishes - all 24 cars that started the race, managed to finish under the chequered flag. That, in itself, is an achievement.

The F1 circus comes home this weekend; as all attention is turned to Silverstone.  It's a circuit I've been to a few times; and the atmosphere is just incredible.  I hope the rain stays away, and all the teams have a great weekend.

The current championship points and statistics are available from here

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Attack of the Midges

Last weekend we planned to go camping. The car was packed up, and as soon as the boys were home from school and changed, we set off.

The chosen destination was in a village called Keld, right at the north end of the Yorkshire Dales; in Richmondshire.

The journey, for the most part, was uneventful, along the M6 motorway , to junction 38.  Then things became a little more interesting.  We turned off, onto a single-lane track, and for the next 7 miles, the journey was akin to a fairground roller-coaster, with roadkill for show.

Of course, not knowing where we were going on heightened the atmosphere in the car, as we had no idea how long it would go on for!

Needless to say, we arrived at the campsite and selected our spot.  This was carefully selected so as not to be too far from the conveniences (well, you don't want to traipse too far in the night!)
However, there was one drawback, which we only discovered as we were putting the tent up - midges!!

Thousands of the blighters, swarming all around us.  At first I ignored them, but I could feel them in my hair and around my ears.  Although it was warm, I resorted to wearing a long-sleeved hoody. With the hood up.

Too late. Bites appeared on my left hand (bizzarely, my right hand was unscathed!)  It wasn't until later when I realised the extent of the attack!  I did consider posting a photo of the bites; but I didn't want to ruin your appetite!!

We lit campfires, in an effort to keep them at bay.  No use.  The evening was becoming ever more unbearable.  Shame really, the site wasn't bad at all.

The following morning, it looked as though I'd taken a  red pen and stabbed dots up my arms, around my neck and behind my ears.  They weren't ichy, just very unsightly.

It got me to thinking; where in the grand scheme of things, do midges fit in? What is their point?

We had a walk in the morning, but our minds were made up.  We didn't want to remain company with the midges, and decided to pack up a day early.  It hasn't put us off camping; in fact we're already looking at where to go next.  Wherever it is, I will be armed with midge spray.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Review - BlackBerry PlayBook Apps


I know I haven't had it for long, but too often the so-called pundits have complained about the lack of apps available for the new BlackBerry tablet.

So, to try to redress the balance, here are my views on a handful of the apps available:

I've mentioned Dropbox in a previous blog, and this is an app to access Dropbox files, on the PlayBook.  It's a neat app, which allows you to download, upload, move, delete and more, your files from a central storage location.  You can access Dropbox files from almost anywhere (unfortunately, it's blocked at my work!)

I discovered this the other day, and it's a great app for adding filters to photos.  There are 25 to choose from, anything from gothic, to the 60s, Polaroid, faded; you name it, there's a filter to add that je ne sais quois to your pictures.

If you use Google Reader to follow those news items you want, then this is a great addition for the PlayBook.  I love getting my news on the go; and have a news reader on my phone.  This is the equivalent and it works beautifully.  What's more, because of the flash capability, I can open the video reports too!

Couldn't resist including a game on here.  The PlayBook comes pre-loaded with Need For Speed and Tetris; but this game is a tricky little teaser.  You are presented with a number of obstacles and a box at the bottom of the screen.  You also have a bottle of ink; with which you have to draw lines to direct the balls that fall, into the box.  It's not as easy as it sounds; and each level reduces the amount of ink available.  It's extremely addictive.

That's only a small selection; and as time goes on, I may well bore you with more reviews!

Friday, July 01, 2011

Thespian Tendencies

It might have escaped your notice that I was recently in a show!  It was an amateur production; songs from the shows, sketches; that sort of thing.

I say it was amateur; only in that we did it for the love of it.  However, the professionalism shown by everyone involved, in conjunction with the theatre where we put it on; made it a highly polished show.

It was the first time I had ever been involved in anything quite like it; being the shy, retiring, type that I am!!

So, I went to the first meeting; attended the auditions, and rehearsals.  There was certainly some commitment needed, and towards the opening night, tiredness creeped in with the later nights.  The people were wonderful; and I was accepted into the group straight away - I met some extraordinary people.

BUT - it was amazing. I had an fantastic time and learned a lot.

I learned that I can step up and do these things.  It gave me a new level of confidence.
There was another reason for doing this; I wanted to show my children that it is possible to do it - with a little (alright, a lot) of effort, you can be part of something great. I wanted them to see that performing is nothing to be afraid of.

When the curtain opened, the butterflies were fluttering around; however, after the start, I just enjoyed myself.  I hope that enjoyment came across.  The audience seemed to soak up the acts; the solos, the big chorus numbers and the sketches.

The show ran for three nights; and it was a shame when it ended.  However, the reviews and feedback were fantastic.

I'm looking forward to hearing about their next production; who knows, maybe I'll get involved in that too.  Apparently I look quite good in eye-liner!!!

Co-incidentally, this week my son has been in his school play - I'm off to see it on Monday night.  By all accounts, it's a great play, and all the children have worked very hard too.  He has worked hard rehearsing his lines at home and I can't wait to see it. I know he'll make me proud.

Have you ever taken part in a show, large or small?  What was your motivation for doing it?  Would you do it again?


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