Monthly Archives: December 2010

2010 Round-up

Well, it’s the end of the year, so I’ll have to do another one of these thingies, what with them being a tradition or something


Yes, well. Another year of negative weight loss. I started at 228.0 pounds (16 stone 4 pounds, 103.4 kg), and I’ve just weighed myself specially for this post[1] and found that I now weigh 233.2 pounds (16 stone 9.2 pounds, 105.8 kg), which is a rise of 5.2 pounds (2.4kg). Err, ooops. That’s just a wee bit less than I was when I started trying to lose weight seven years ago, so that’s not an ideal situation. I really need to find some motivation from somewhere.


Just a wee bit down on last year. I was doing quite well until I lapsed into blog fatigue in November

2003: 2 posts
2004: 515 posts
2005: 576 posts
2006: 620 posts
2007: 747 posts
2008: 833 posts
2009: 718 posts
2010: 717 posts

You can see the monthly totals on the Archives page, if you’re interested in such details.

And finally…

Happy New Year to anyone and everyone who reads this stuff.

[1] First time since mid-November. I decided to take a break.

Three MiFi – Take Two

Back in the summer, I mentioned that I’d been moderately impressed with my Three MiFi thingy. Since then, we got some for business use in the office, and they’ve been pretty useful.

I mentioned at the time that shortly after I bought the MiFi, a newer, shinier and altogether niftier model had come out. I wasn’t too bothered because I bought it when I needed it, and it did the job just fine.

But before my entertaining Wales trip, I decided that I needed a new toy, and rather than just buying a top-up for the MiFi, I bought a new one, which came with a whole 3GB of data, which would be active for three months.

And here it is

Best thing since unsliced really nice bread

Best thing since unsliced really nice bread

Best thing since unsliced really nice bread

While the original MiFi worked quite nicely, it did have some “version one” tendencies. First, there’s getting a connection, which involves pressing three buttons in sequence, possibly more than once, until a particular light comes on. Then there was the Windows-only console, which made changing the wireless security settings a non-trivial operation for Mac and Linux users.

The new one, by contrast, approaches perfection. Press the single power on button, and it starts up. The friendly OLED display tells you what’s going on, with a normal signal strength indicator, a 3 or H which tells you if you’re on a moderately quick or quite nicely quick connection, a little indicator showing how many devices are connected to your wireless hotspot, and a proper battery strength meter. It also displays how much data you’ve shoved through it in the current session, which is useful if you’re worried about using all your allowance.

Then there’s the console. Totally web-based, works with all browsers. No software to install at all, which is really nice. The console lets you read any text messages Three might have sent you, repeats the handy information that’s on the device’s display, and provides a useful link to the Three website where you can check how much of your data allowance you have left, top up and generally check your account.

I decided to give it a proper work out, and rather than borrowing my brother’s wireless, I used the MiFi for a week, and I have to say it worked perfectly. It was quite happy to recharge itself from the supplied USB cable (even when the MacBook was in sleep mode, nice). A mains adaptor is provided, but I haven’t needed to use it. The documentation suggests that if you run it off the mains, the wireless range increases from a useful 10 metres to a quite impressive 30 metres, but I haven’t had cause to check that. In a week, I managed to use about 1GB, which included downloading a couple of books to my Kindle. For the kind of use I had – email, web browsing, RSS feed reading, some video clips on BBC News and YouTube – the performance was more than adequate. Big downloads would be a bit slow when compared to my Virgin service, but overall I’d say it was as good as a lot of ADSL connections, though this will vary depending on where you are, of course.

As an addded benefit, it has a MicroSD slot. I’m not sure what I’d use that for, but it’s quite cool that you can apparently browse the card from the MiFi’s web console thingy page.

The original MiFi was very good, and I was happy to recommend it to anyone who’d listen. This version does the same job, but makes it easier to use, and it’s in cool black with a cool OLED display, which is obviously better.

This is a totally recommended product. Coverage may vary, but I find I can get a strong data signal from Three at home, at work, at my brother’s home, and at Cardiff and Newcastle airports. My O2 iPhone struggles to get a data connection that’s any use in most of those places. My work O2 BlackBerry has the same issue, so it’s not the iPhone, it’s just me being awkward about where I work and live. Or something like that.

So when my iPhone contract expires in the summer (by which time the next model should be out), I’ll more than likely be talking to Three. They’ve got a rather nice deal which offers unlimited[1] data for roughly what I’m paying O2 now. And unlike O2, it seems that this includes tethering the phone – basically making it do the same job as the MiFi at no extra cost. So I may retire the MiFi then, depending on this and that.

Anyway, the MiFi is available on pay as you go for occasional users, and on contract for serious mobile data users. Depending on your needs, it could even replace a fixed broadband service…

Details from Three.

Oh, and when I found myself abandoned at Cardiff Airport, it was really useful to be able to get on the internet and sort out my travel arrangements.

[1] And it seems they don’t mean the usual by “unlimited”, which usually translates to “subject to our fair use policy of no more than 750MB per month”, which makes you wonder why they don’t just say “up to 750MB per month” in the first place. No, they’re actually saying “we mean unlimited”, presumably working on the basis that 95% of customers won’t use more that 500MB most months….

Transport fun and games

You might recall me mentioning that I had to make a slight change to my Christmas travel arrangements this year. Now this all seemed to be OK, if a little more expensive than last time, but sometimes things don’t always go to plan…

You might recall that much of the UK was covered in snow last week, and I was half expecting my trip to Wales to be disrupted or even made impossible by the weather. As it turned out, Newcastle Airport was able to keep its runway clear, and with a slight[1] delay and a detour to Birmingham[2], the plane was able to get to Cardiff just a couple of hours late.

What I hadn’t realised was that what with the plane being so small, there were no overhead lockers, so the cabin crew removed my carry-on bag from me – normally this would be put in the hold and handed over on landing, but as the plane was mostly empty, they just let it sit by itself on a spare row. I’d deliberately taken a small bag, so this was a bit annoying. I took my laptop and reading matter out of the bag before handing it over, of course. But I’d have been less happy if I’d had my bigger carry-on bag with the Canon 5D Mark II and a couple of lenses, so I was developing some reservations about this service which is not quite as suitable for my needs as the one FlyBe used to run.

But having survived the snow, which kindly melted while I was away, I wasn’t expecting any difficulties with the return journey. But I’d reckoned without The Fog.

Yes, a wee bit of mist[3] on Wednesday proved to be a problem. I got to the airport in plenty of time, checked in and got through security with no difficulty at all. The only hint that there might be an issue was that the status of the Newcastle flight was “Next Info 16:00”, which is a bit late for a 16:15 flight with a boarding time of 15:45 printed on the boarding pass thingy.

Then at 15:45, there was an announcement that Eastern Airways apologised for the delay, and that there would be a further announcement at 16:00. Fine, I thought, it’ll be a bit late, nasty weather, can’t be helped.

But 16:00 came and went with no announcement. Then, just before the flight was due to take off, it was announced that it had been cancelled. Apparently it wasn’t cleared to land at Cardiff Airport because of the fog[4] so it hadn’t actually left Newcastle, and it was now presumably too late for it to set off at all.

Well, I could have lived with that. What annoyed me was the complete lack of assistance given to passengers[5]. We were told to collect our bags and contact the airline. Naturally, the airline has no presence at Cardiff Airport, and no information was available about what they were proposing to do about the situation.

Well, I fired up my internet connection[6] and my laptop, so I could find the phone number I needed. Called them, and quite remarkably got an answer immediately. I was offered a refund or a transfer to the next day’s flight. Well, given the forecast suggested that more fog was likely, I decided against gambling on maybe getting on a plane on Thursday, and asked for a refund. If the flight had been earlier in the day, I might have made a different decision, but I didn’t want to risk finding I couldn’t get home again on the day before New Year’s Eve.

I also gave the phone number to another passenger who didn’t quite know what to do either, what with the complete lack of customer service on site. Have I mentioned that bit?

While my brother was on his way back to the airport to pick me up, I bit the metaphorical bullet and booked a train ticket. Now my last experience of taking the train from Cardiff to Newcastle was not a pleasant one, so I wasn’t looking forward to this at all. Not one little bit.

Anyway, after an unexpected extra evening with my brother, which involved a rather good pizza from his local takeaway and some wine, it was off on a train into Cardiff where I collected my ticket form the magic machine and waited on the platform for the first of two trains. The good news was that this train originated in Cardiff, so I knew I’d have a reasonable chance of getting an unreserved seat. As it happened, the train was a nicely spacious one (nicer, if smaller than the ones Cross Country use at this end of the country), and there were plenty of seats. Not only that, but it left on time and arrived at Birmingham New Street on time.

The helpful booking system had told me that I wanted the 13:03 train to Newcastle, but a little research showed that this one had started in Penzance or Plymouth or somewhere in the far South West, and was heading to Aberdeen. From previous experience, I know that trains on that route get full. Very full. Standing room only full. But the next Newcastle train was at 13:30, and originated in Birmingham (so the free seats thing should work again) and ended in Newcastle (so it would be less full of long distance travellers). And it was available to board long before it was due to leave, which it actually did on time. The 13:03 turned up late, so I was quite happy with my choice of train. I was even happier to find that there was no shortage of seats, and happier still to find that it went via Doncaster rather than Leeds. From lots of previous experience, I know that trains between Leeds and York get mind-bogglingly full, and while I had a seat, it’s a little unpleasant being on a train with every inch of space full of standing people. It gets a bit hot and sweaty, you know…

Anyway, the journey from Birmingham to Newcastle was fine. Plenty of space for most of the way, and only a few minutes late to arrive, and that was because we had to slow down to avoid bumping into the earlier train that was still running late.

And from there, it was straight out of the station and just a couple of minutes to wait for the bus home.

So, after all that (longest post for a while), I think I’ll be changing my travel plans for my next Wales trip. Unless FlyBe or somebody with bigger planes takes over the Cardiff route, I think I’ll be getting the train, so long as I can pick the right times to travel, that is.

Oh, and one more thing…

Yesterday’s flight from Cardiff to Newcastle took off without any apparent problems. But hey, I got home earlier than if I’d been on the plane, so never mind.

This has been a therapeutic venting post. As you might have gathered if you read this far.

[1] About an hour after the scheduled departure, which I’m told counts as pretty much on time for airlines
[2] Two flights were combined – not surprising as a grand total of nine passengers boarded at Newcastle
[3] Possibly a slight understatement
[4] I mention without comment that several other planes were able to come and go. Other airlines, bigger planes which presumably have better foglamps or something
[5] Other than showing us the way out without having to fight with the security people
[6] Three MiFi – such a nice thing

December 2010 Round-up

Yes, it’s that time of the month, so it’s time for the usual round-up post. Well, sort of usual, as it may have some bits missing, or at least briefer than usual.


Well, as there wasn’t a start of month measurement, and I haven’t weighed myself at all, I’ll skip this bit.


Yes, done quite a lot of that. I might even have had the occasional glass of wine.


This has been somewhat lacking of late. But I did walk to Tesco’s today.


Yes, I’ve been in a major low-posting phase lately. Total for this month will be 28, which is not a lot, but actually twice as many as I managed last December, when I was also in low-posting mode, only more so.


I think a month’s worth of too much snow and bloody cold weather put me right off doing anything much, so there’s not a lot of that.

Snow Chaos: Not just the UK

Over the last month or so, the UK has suffered a fair degree of weather-related disruption. Trains and planes cancelled, roads blocked, weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth, and of course the usual chorus of “other countries cope, why can’t we?”.

Well, it does seem that other countries, even some where persistent cold weather and loads of snow are considered the usual sort of thing, can have problems too. For instance, here’s a report on problems at a Moscow airport:

BBC News – Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport protest over ice chaos.

And here’s a nice article looking at the broader issue:

Is the UK uniquely bad at coping with snow?

So it’s not just us…

An aside

Just testing the WordPress 3.1 Aside format. This should be a small post that doesn’t have the normal title stuff and thingies. And no wossnames either.

WordPress 3.1: Admin bar goodness

One of the nifty new features in WordPress 3.1 is the Admin Bar, which looks like this:

Admin Bar

Admin Bar

There have been plugins that do something similar in the past, and something quite similar has been a feature of the hosted service for a while, but it’s nice to see it as a core feature of the downloadable version.

That menu bar (which can be extended by plugins, in the usual pluggable WordPress way) appears on the public facing part of your site when you’re logged in. It gives quick access to commonly used functions such as viewing your Dashboard and adding a new post or page. It also has a very handy link to give you a short url for the currently displayed post or page, which uses the WordPress-run service.

This is the kind of thing that makes WordPress easier to use, and is definitely a Good Thing.

Taking my life[1] in my hands…

Losing it[1][2] is now running on WordPress 3.1 RC1. I haven’t noticed any oddness so far, but take this post as an apology for any weirdness[3] that may appear over the next week or howevermany it takes for a final release of 3.1 to appear.

Let me know via the Contact Form if you spot any breakage, strangeness[4] or inexplicable phenomena[5].

[1] Well, my webshite, anyway
[2] That’s not a footnote reference, it’s the name of the site
[3] Well, other than the normal content-related weirdness, that is. I make no apology for that.
[4] Other than the aforementioned kind
[5] I don’t need to say that again, do I?

WordPress 3.1 is coming soon

While most of us were digesting our turkey and finishing off the wine[1], the busy WordPress Elves were adding the final touches to the next version of everyone’s favourite[2] blogging software. Yes, WordPress 3.1 has moved from Beta[3] to Release Candidate[4] status.

Release candidate details here:

WordPress 3.1 Release Candidate

Hints about new features were in the beta announcement here:

WordPress 3.1 Beta 1

Download, test, see if you can break it. I’ll be playing on my test site.

[1] Other food and drink options are available. Local variations may apply. Vegetarian selection available on request.
[2] Other options are available, but not that many people care any more
[3] Otherwise known as “use at your own risk, not on your live site unless you’re really, really, really confident about your backups, may drink all your booze and kick the cat”
[4] Otherwise known as “we think this is OK, but it does need some more people to test it in realistic conditions before we inflict it on everyone”