Favourite blogs for Cubicle 23

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April 12, 2018

Using Bootstrap

Writing about web page https://johndale.info

Learning how to use Bootstrap cards to make a responsive website – https://johndale.info. Fun!


May 11, 2016

Le Port–Museé, Douarnenez, Finistère, Brittany

Writing about web page http://www.port-musee.org

Douarnenez is a small town on the coast in the bottom corner of the bay that stretches out towards the Crozon in the north and Cap Sizun and Pointe de Raz to the west. Finistère does of course mean "the end of the land" - but for many Bretons now and in the past, with their love of the sea, it really means "the start of the ocean". Douarnenez is, these days, as much about beaches, cafés and coastal wildlife as it is about real oceanic adventures. But its two ports are still busy with leisure and historic craft, as well as a few working boats. You can even buy Douarnenez sardines in Waitrose.

Sardines

But in addition the town has put some effort into maintaining its link with the sea. There is an annual tall ship festival. And you can learn to sail or kayak. But most of all there is a really wonderful museum full of maritime character and the smell of ancient salty timbers.

For the last few years Le Port-Museé has been one of my favourite places to visit with my children. It has been magical for them and for us adults too. We keep going back. And there is plenty of reason to do so. The museum fills cavernous old warehouses and a long stretch of the river (the old port Rhu). There are permanent exhibitions, with a wide selection of old boats and associated clothes and equipment, all displayed with great thought and arranged for visual and learning impact. The musuem also hosts large "temporary" exhibitions (although they do seem to stay for a couple of years). We have seen The Box (about the container shipping business) - which might sound dull, but is in fact brilliantly done with amazing exhibits including a giant lego model of a container port. We have also visited the Sinbad exhibition, about the maritime traditions of Arabia, which is still running. It is wonderful. They even sailed a dhow called Nizwa all the way from Oman - we have seen it sailing out across the bay, which is quite surprising when in close up you see just how roughly made it is.

There are many ships into which you can explore, with all decks open - lots of them on moored on the river, but also (and this is the most popular with the children) a fishing boat in the warehouse on which they can play at being at sea.

There is a lot more to the place than I have so far described. To really get across how great it is, here are some photos from our visits over two years.

Steering hard to starboard...

Port Museum

Full steam ahead for the Mighty Atom!

In the engine room

The Nizwa dhow, all the way from Oman and now sailing across the Bay of Douarnenez.

Nizwa

Ghostly sailor's clothes...

Ghostly clothes

Fishermans clothes

A life-size diorama of an old Breton port...

A Breton port scene

Fish people!

Fish people

The huge lego model of a container port...

The lego port

One of the many Arabian artefacts in the Sinbad exhibition. There is also a recreation of a Omani house, including spices, and a giant Arab astrological map.

Omani door

And there is a great restaurant next door.

Cafe next door



February 20, 2013

Blogbuilder 3.26 and 3.27

Over the past month we have released 2 new versions of Blogbuilder, with a number of improvements and long-standing bug fixes:

  • You can now choose a fixed width version of any of the existing blog designs, and also easily move the sidebar to the right side of the page, by selecting from the options on the Appearance admin page.
  • We've added the ability to add social sharing buttons to each of your entries, using the "Show 'Like' buttons" option. This will add Facebook Like, Tweet, and Google +1 buttons to the entry.
  • We've adjusted the layout of each blog on small-screen mobile devices for easier reading.
  • And we've fixed issues including:
    • Adding tags to entries on the 'Admin entries' page.
    • Links disappearing in IE8 on the Create entry drop-down.
    • Listing entries by tags with Chinese characters, and untagged entries.
    • Apostrophes in image descriptions causing problems with inserting images.
    • Departments being listed in the wrong faculty in the directory.
    • Blockquotes not being inserted correctly.

February 14, 2013

iPad advice February 2013

In response to a request for advice on iPads, here's the current state of my iPad use: Personally, I'm still using the cheaper iPad 2, which seems entirely adequate. My eyes aren't good enough to notice the higher quality screen on the iPad 3. In addition, I carry an Apple Bluetooth keyboard (just the standard one that works with any Apple computer), and a Wacom Bamboo stylus (this is superb). I have a TekNet case (much better than the Apple case). As for apps, you can buy them with university funds by purchasing iTunes vouchers. After trying lots out, I'm now using: QuickOffice Pro - Word, Excel and Powerpoint editing with integration for Dropbox, Google Docs/Drive and other cloud services. UPad - for handwriting notes and sketching ideas - this is the one I use the most. Kindle - I now only read books on my iPad using the Amazon service. iAnnotate - reading and annotating PDFs, mostly journal articles. Mindjet - a free tool for mindmapping, works with Dropbox and Google Drive, and integrates with the desktop version (we have a site license for the desktop on Windows and Mac). Evernote - note books backed up into the cloud, If you have any other requirements, please do tell me - I've tried hundreds of apps for various purposes. For example Skype works well.

December 18, 2012

Evaluating the distribution of learning technology capability

This is a recording of a presentation given by Robert O'Toole as part of the Window on Teaching series in the Teaching Grid (31/10/2012). A developing methodology is outlined for investigating and describing the distribution of learning technology capability (for using learning technologies and for developing use).

Download

September 03, 2012

Mindmanager for academic work and project management – by Robert O'Toole

Mindmanager is a sophisticated but easy to use tool for enhancing knowledge creation and management activities. Use it for rapidly capturing information and ideas, organising them, testing out ways of structuring and presenting the information, and to turn information into plans for action and for managing the resulting projects. Mindmanager now comes with a cloud-based collaboration service called Mindjet Connect, so that these knowledge and project management processes can easily be undertaken asynchronously by a distributed team.

This video gives a brief overview of how I use Mindmanager in my work as an Academic Technologist and in my research as a PhD student.



Download

Warwick members can get a copy of Mindmanager, free of charge, from http://go.warwick.ac.uk/getmindmanager

Mindjet have created a series of video tutorials illustrating how to use Mindmanager: http://www.mindjet.com/mindmanager-learn-how

About the Author

Robert O'Toole is a Senior Academic Technologist with IT Services at the University of Warwick and a PhD student researching innovation and design in higher education.


July 15, 2012

Using digital publications in research – part one – by Robert O'Toole

I now almost exclusively use digital publications in my research, in the form of PDF files from journals and Kindle books from Amazon. This short video illustrates how I do this and the benefits it provides. My workflow is iPad based, although I do also sometimes use similar software on my desktop and laptop computers. It's all possible using other platforms. I will create a second video shortly, illustrating how I combine the Mendeley reference management system, Dropbox file storage and the iAnnotate PDF app.

This video is best viewed full screen.


About the Author

Robert O'Toole is a Senior Academic Technologist with IT Services at the University of Warwick and a PhD student researching innovation and design in higher education.


Researchers of Tomorrow – a response to the British Library report – by Robert O'Toole

The British Library and JISC have just published their report on Researchers of Tomorrow, the research behaviour of generation Y doctoral students. The report presents findings from:

the UK’s largest study to date on the research behaviour of Generation Y doctoral students (born between 1982 and 1994). JISC and the British Library jointly commissioned the three year study in 2009, which involved 17,000 doctoral students from 70 universities at various stages in the project.

Five key issues are headlined:

  • increasing reliance on secondary sources;
  • constraints on progress caused by information access problems;
  • confusion over open access and copyright;
  • researchers not using technology to its full potential;
  • insufficient training for the digital information environment.

One of the interesting recommendations is that institutions explore peer-support approaches, in which the researchers share expertise with each other.

Warwick has a strong and lively community of "early career academics" (as we like to call them), often to be found working and supporting each other in the Wolfson Resarch Exchange (in the Library). Looking at the findings in the report, and considering what happens in the Research Exchange, we might conclude that our community is atypically confident with technology and interdisciplinarity, and ahead of the game in adopting the kind of peer support approach that is recommended. The Wolfson facilty contributes to this, along with an appropriate and well designed programme of activities from our support services (Careers and Skills, Learning and Development Centre). But there's something else important that might be missed by a focus on "Generation Y" - the broad spread of skills and experience that comes with a more mixed community (with many older students).

I took a copy of the report into the Research Exchange to see if we really are better than the norm. Dr. Charlotte Mathieson (an ECA in the English Department) was kind enough to allow me to record her initial responses to some of the issues raised. Here is a video based on that interview, with some extracts from the report. Click on the image below to play the video.


About the Author

Robert O'Toole is a Senior Academic Technologist with IT Services at the University of Warwick and a PhD student researching innovation and design in higher education.


November 25, 2011

Where's the learning technology and philosophy articles?

For my learning technology and philosophy research, see http://www.inspireslearning.com


June 30, 2011

The natural beauties of Hungary

1,500 miles down the track going East, surrounded by cuckoos, bitterns, little bitterns, purple herons, golden orioles...an avian conspiracy against the possibility of sleep. We had ridden for two days across Europe, 8 countries on big fat BMW motorcycles, vaguely assuming that the wildlife of Romania would be our eventual target. Without anticipating Hungary.

Trapped by the astounding beauty of the big flat flood plains of the Danube, and stretching westward. First we camped at the great Lake Balaton, then on to the little known Lake Szelid, like a piece of the Okavango, a stranded and slowly salinating Danube ox-bow, with swarms of frogs and birds that I've only ever imagined I would hear or see in Africa. And then, heading towards the Romanian border and Timisoara, we stopped for lunch just a little to the west of Szeged - a small spa town called Mórahalom - the kind of place that immediately impresses with its calmness and welcome. After half an hour, Martin was seriously analysing the estate agent's wares. With the help of the English speaking young ladies at the Library and the Toursist Information centre (Hungarian ladies are beautiful, even when not riding bicycles, although it is rare to see them not riding bicycles, that seeming to be the national habit, in shorts and with very nice legs), we were directed to a small nature reserve along a sandy track (think Paris-Dakar rally). It was, I believe, called Madarász, however the Hungarian language may as well be Martian to us, and most people there seem to speak nothing else. Anyhow, it is one of the world's greatest natural experiences...whiskered terns, black terns, marsh and hen harriers, peregrines, otters, bitterns of both variety, and a raucous colony of purple herons.

Some photos fail to do justice to Hungary's wonder...

Hungary 1\

Crossing on the Lake Balaton ferry...

Balaton from the ferry

Fishermen's punts at Lake Szelid...

Fishermen

Evening on Lake Szelid...

Evening at Szelid

A single representative of the million tiny frogs that we found hopping around the foot path along Lake Szelid. Food for bitterns. A sign of a healthy eco-system.

A million frogs

A statue in the lovely little park in the spa town of Moralohom, Hungary. Notice the nice lady wrapped in a towel. It attracts visitors from all over the world to its waters, and possibly also its population of nice ladies on bicycles.

Moralohom

At the nature reserve, strange sheep with spiral horns, pigs with curly afro style coats...

Farm

Hungarian pony...

Hungarian pony

The reserve contains a series of long artificial lakes, full of life for nature lovers and fishermen...

Lakes

And flowers...

Hungary 2

Hungary 3

Hungary 4

Hungary 5

Hungary 6

Hungary 7

Hungary 8


June 14, 2011

Blogbuilder 3.25

We've just released a new version of Warwick Blogs (the last one was nearly 2 years ago!) with a number of improvements and bug fixes:

  • We've improved the RSS and Atom feeds from your blogs, and also added JSON support (add ?json=json to the URL, and you can add callback and assign parameters to do JSONP). For example: http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/news/?json=json
  • We've significantly improved our support for newer web browsers (IE9, Chrome, Firefox 4) and you should find fewer problems using these browsers with Warwick Blogs
  • We've added OAuth support to Warwick Blogs with the following details:
  • Request token: https://websignon.warwick.ac.uk/oauth/requestToken?scope=urn%3Ablogs.warwick.ac.uk%3Ablogbuilder%3Aservice
  • Authorisation: https://websignon.warwick.ac.uk/oauth/authorise
  • Access token: https://websignon.warwick.ac.uk/oauth/accessToken
  • You'll need a consumer key and secret to use OAuth to Warwick Blogs in your own application, you can contact the IT Services Helpdesk (helpdesk@warwick.ac.uk) to request this
  • We've modified the Atom API to allow setting of arbitrary permissions by adding the special elements <blogbuilder:read-permission> and <blogbuilder:comment-permission> - these can be set to webgroups, names of groups on the blog in question, or to the special strings Anyone, Staff, Students or Alumni.
  • We've increased the text limit for the biography and contact details sections of the profile page significantly (32,000 characters)
  • We've added more "Back to Blog Manager" and "Back to my blog" links to the Admin section to make it easier to navigate
  • We've fixed issues with uploading files with spaces in and inserting media into the editor

As always, if you have any problems you can comment below or email the IT Services helpdesk at helpdesk@warwick.ac.uk


May 14, 2011

Moving to a new home…

Writing about web page http://www.rumsby.org.uk/blog

I got out of the blogging habit a little while ago, and despite several attempts I never quite managed to get things going again here. As a final attempt to get back into it I’ve set up a new Wordpress blog over here. Maybe having my own will be enough inspiration to keep going? There’s only one way to find out!

Anyway, the current plan is that there will be no more new content here. Please go and browse the new blog instead. A small amount of the content from here has been migrated over, when new articles reference old ones, but this blog will stay here as an archive for the foreseeable future.


April 25, 2011

BMW R100GS Paris–Dakar refurbishment and redesign – latest progress

Some recent updates by top expert Andrew Sexton. Including:

  • Oil sump extension;
  • New oil cooler;
  • Oil cooler relocation;
  • Oil cooler thermostat.

The parts were bought from http://www.boxxerparts.de

Andrew has also professionally rewired the electrics, making a neat job out of the Acewell speedo and a replacement rear led light. It all now seems to work perfectly. Finally, he found that it had been suffering from low oil pressure, due to a missing o-ring in the oil filter assembly (a common mistake made by a non-specialist technician). The big-end bearings had signs of damage, so were replaced. Andrew also re-seated the exhaust valves. Less smoke and more MPG have resulted.

I've added an MRA Vario screen from Motorworks, adjustable to give perfectly non-turbulent air flow. There's also a Garmin Zumo sat nav to go with the Midland BT 02 bluetooth intercom.

I've ditched the metal panniers (Ted Simon's advice). They've been replaced by a pair of Ortlieb waterproof panniers (a single pannier can carry all of my camping gear), a Hein Gericke tail bad, and a small cool bag.

Some photos:

Bike 1

Bike 2

Bike 3


April 12, 2011

Alexander playing cosmic basketball

Lawrence thought it would be amusing, so he made this image....

Basketball


March 27, 2011

Alexander Prospero O'Toole

Alexander

Magical baby.


February 16, 2011

RSS feeds from Twitter

Follow-up to Evernote as a Twitter archive from Steve's blog

I was just about to write a blog about feeding Twitter into Evernote via the Twitter RSS feeds and an RSS-to-email service when I discovered I had written about it years ago. What I missed out of the blog, though, was the URLs for the RSS feeds. So here they are.

The URL of the feed for your own tweets is listed on your profile page, but not, apparently, in new twitter. If you’ve switched to the new twitter design, switch back and look at the bottom of the right-hand column. It will look like this: “http://twitter.com/statuses/twitterid/digits.rss”.

The feed of your favorites looks like this: “http://twitter.com/favorites/twitterid.rss”. As far as I know, this doesn’t appear on a twitter page anywhere. You just have to know.

I also feed my mentions into Evernote. There’s no simple RSS feed for this. I use a twitter search, like this: “http://search.twitter.com/search.atom?q=%40steverumsby”. That “%40” is an ”@”.

Set these up as three separate separate feeds in Feed My Inbox, all sending to your evernote email address – you can get that from your account summary page on evernote.com.


February 08, 2011

Eye–Fi day 2 – I'm confused

Follow-up to Playing with an Eye–Fi card from Steve's blog

Yesterday, I thought I understood the Eye-Fi architecture. The Eye-Fi card connects to your PC if it can, and transfers images to the Eye-Fi Center software running there, and from there images go the various online sharing services you’ve configured. If it can’t connect to your PC, the images stay on the camera until it can. And if you want to operate without a laptop, Eye-Fi have a hotspot service you can buy (£25/year) that allows that.

At least, that’s what I thought yesterday. A little experimentation last night and this morning has disproved all that, though. I configured my Eye-Fi to connect to my MiFi, and discovered that with my PC off images still end up in Picasa and in Eye-Fi’s own online storage system, and are eventually delivered to the PC when it is turned on. But that’s what I thought the hotspot service was.

The more expensive cards come with a year’s hotspot service bundled. Mine isn’t one of those. Perhaps it has it by mistake? If any other Eye-Fi users have any idea what’s going on, do please let me know! In the meantime, I’ll continue enjoying functionality I didn’t realise was there…


February 07, 2011

Playing with an Eye–Fi card

Writing about web page http://www.eye.fi

I was a keen photographer many years ago, but when kids came along I didn’t have time to keep up with it as a serious hobby. Consequently my recent photography kit has been from the, er, consumer end of the spectrum. Recently, though, my eldest has developed an apparently quite serious interest in photography and we have, between us, invested in a digital SLR – a Sony Alpha A500.

Alongside this, I’ve been researching lots of peripheral kit (any excuse to play with gadgets:-) and one thing that caught my eye was the Eye-Fi card. This is an SD memory card with WiFi built-in, which essentially adds WiFi capabilities to almost any digital camera. After a little bit of research and conversations with a few people that have one, I’ve finally taken the plunge and bought one. There’s a range of cards that provide different capabilities. I bought the most basic one – the 4GB Connect X2.

In essence this connects to a WiFi network (infra-structure mode, not ad-hoc), and as you take photos it transfers them to a PC (Windows & MacOS supported) automatically. Once there, you can configure various photo sharing services and have the images automatically uploaded to Picasa, flickr, Facebook and others, as well as keeping the local copy on the computer. Obviously, this all depends on having a WiFi network available. What if there isn’t one?

Well, if there really isn’t one then the Eye-Fi card just keeps the photos locally – it is a 4GB SD card, remember – and will upload them when it does find a network. If you have your laptop with you, but with no WiFi, there are two options. A more expensive version of the card, the Pro X2 supports ad-hoc WiFi connections. Option 2 is to turn your laptop into a hotspot. If you are running Windows 7, then Connectify does exactly that. The Eye-Fi card will connect to the laptop’s connectify hotspot and transfer the images. If the laptop has a live internet connection the images will then be forwarded on. If not, they’ll be held on the laptop until it does, and forwarded on then. This all works just as you’d expect. Connectify has another advantage. The Eye-Fi card in unable to connect to WiFi networks that have a web-based sign-in page, like most commercial hotspots do. But if you can connect from a laptop, and then re-broadcast that via connectify, you can still use the Eye-Fi in your nearest coffee shop!

There are a couple of other advantages of the more expensive cards. My basic card will only transfer JPEG images – it won’t transfer RAW files. The Pro version of the card transfers RAW files. Also, the Pro version of the card comes with a “Hotspot” service that allows it to transfer images without a laptop. You’ll remember I said above that images go from the card to a PC and then onwards to other services. Without a laptop that doesn’t work. With the “hotspot” service on the Pro card, images will go directly from the card to Eye-Fi’s own servers “in the cloud” and from there to your configured online services. If this is important to you, it is a service that can be added to the basic cards too, for £25/year.

For £40, my basic card looks like it is going to be a useful way of getting photos off the camera and onto various of my online services quickly, easily and automatically. WiFi enabled cameras have a lot of potential, and the fact that they can fit the WiFi hardware inside an SD card along with the memory, is pretty impressive. I do wish the Pro card wasn’t twice the price of my Connect version, though. The ability to transfer RAW files would be nice, but I’m not (yet) prepared to pay the extra for that. I have my dSLR configured to shoot RAW+JPEG so the jpegs transfer automatically and I still get the RAW files to process later…


October 12, 2010

For articles about learning, research and technology…

Please see my research blog Inspires Learning.


September 23, 2010

Thoughts on Facebook Places, and LBS in general

Facebook places went live in the UK at the end of last week. After a few check-ins “just because” I started thinking about whether or not I would actually use it. I use Foursquare a lot, checking into almost every place I go (with a few exceptions, like my house). But in general I keep that information in foursquare where it belongs. I do not post all my checkins to Twitter too. If I would tweet about the location anyway then I will cross-post, but that’s the exception rather than the rule. I assume my Twitter followers don’t want to know everytime I check-in to my place of work, or to the local DIY store.

And that’s my problem with Facebook Places. If I checked in everywhere I went I’d be spamming by Facebook friends with loads of checkins they aren’t interested in. If I would post something to Facebook anyway about the location, then I will probably checkin to the Place. Mostly, though, I think I’ll be ignoring Places.

If you have a desperate need to know my every move, go find me on Foursquare. That’s where that information is staying…

And that brings me to another reason for not using Facebook Places. I might not want all my Facebook friends to know where I am. I have just about 100 Facebook friends, 600+ Twitter followers but just less than 30 friends on Foursquare. I’m more selective about who gets to see that information, and keeping it separate allows me to be. Facebook Places doesn’t let me be selective, and that’s not a good thing.

So, although I do use LBS a fair bit, in the form of Foursquare, I don’t think I’ll be using Facebook Places. At least not in their current form.

What do you think?


The "replacement for my iPhone 3G" deliberations continue…

I’ve had my iPhone 3G since day 1. Back in July this year when the iPhone 4 came out I was looking forward to getting something a little better, but ended up being disappointed by how little better the iPhone 4 was compared to its asking price. That started me on a process of looking at alternatives, mostly various Android phones. As I looked, I kept comparing them to my iPhone 3G and coming to the same conclusion. None of them was enough better to justify the cost. Time for some serious thought – what is it my iPhone 3G doesn’t do that means it needs replacing?

I’ve eventually come to the conclusion that there are just two things. First, the iPhone 3G is too slow. Maybe it has always been this slow and I’m just noticing when it is compared to newer devices, or maybe OS upgrades over its 2+ year lifespan have slowed it down? Certainly iOD 4.0 and 4.0.1 had performance issues, but 4.1 is much better. Either way, waiting for apps to open is getting quite frustrating. Waiting for web pages to load is equally frustrating, and that’s down to CPU not network. Some apps just don’t work at all, which I imagine is down to lack of RAM.

The second thing is the lack of storage. I bought the 8GB version, not the 16GB one. 8GB seemed plenty at the time, but now I find myself having to cut back more and more on the music on the device in order to make room for apps and their data.

And that’s it. Everything else about the device, from the lowly 2MP fixed-focus, no-flash camera to the display is fine for me as it is. Yes, better would be, well, better, but I don’t need better. While the various possible replacement phones I have looked at, or would like to look at – HTC Desire, HTC Desire HD, Samsung Galaxy S, Nokia N8 – are all good devices, they are all expensive ways of addressing the problems I actually have.

This is all leading me slowly but surely to the conclusion that what I need is an iPod Touch, combined a MiFi. I liked the Mifi so much when I had one on loan that I might just get one anyway for use with laptops while travelling. That would reduce my iPhone to, well, a phone most of the time, with a few apps still on it for those times I don’t want to carry the touch too. And for things the Touch doesn’t do, like GPS.

A decision is getting close, I think…


August 24, 2010

A gadget that "just works" – the MiFi

Writing about web page http://www.three.co.uk/Mobile_Broadband/MiFi

3 MiFiI’ve just been on holiday – a week in Centerparcs. The village has WiFi in all the central areas, and some of the more expensive lodges have it, but not our lodge. Co-incidentally I was offered the option of trialling a MiFi by Three Mobile Buzz. Now normally I wouldn’t be bothered at the lack of WiFi. I have an iPhone which has all the connectivity I need, and the other members of the family aren’t so addicted to being online as I am. Except that a few of them have recently discovered Farmville and didn’t want to leave their farms unattended for a week. Anyway, when you are holiday with kids, you have to spend the evenings in and having internet access gives you another entertainment option.

The MiFi is basically a WiFi hotspot with a mobile data connection. Turn it on and it connects, via the Three mobile network in this case, to the internet and advertises the connection via WiFi. It allows up to 5 simultaneous WiFi connections so you can share your connectivity with friends. The hotspot is fully configurable for encryption and passwords, but the defaults are reasonable and mean that you can be up and running with it very quickly.

Anyway, I got the MiFi a few days before we set off. The first thing I did, obviously, was try it out at home. I seem to have a decent Three signal at home, the MiFi connected via HSDPA (aka “3.5 G”) and my usual broadband speed checker rated it at 4Mbps. Since my home ADSL line only runs at 5-6Mbps, that’s pretty good. Obviously this is signal strength dependent, though. I also tried out the battery life before we went. From fully charged to completely empty took 6 hours with light usage. Use it heavily and it lasts nearer 5 hours.

So, with everyone eagerly anticipating access to Facebook and Farmville through the week, we arrived at Centerparcs and discovered that my iPhone, on O2, just about managed a voice connection, at least some of the time, but couldn’t manage a data connection at all. Other phones on Orange where just as bad. As I turned on the MiFi in our lodge I was preparing people for the worst, but it turns out that Three’s signal was pretty good. The MiFi got a decent 3G signal in most of the lodge and could manage 3.5G in one corner. Throughput varied between 1Mbps and 3Mbps. Sighs of relief all around…!

And it worked flawlessly all week. Everyone was happy – the Farmvillers and the iPhoners with no native data connection. One nice feature of the current MiFi, compared to the previous version, is that it does work while being charged. There were a couple of days when I had it running all day, permanently powered, and it didn’t skip a beat. A gadget that just works. Perfect…

A quick note about costs. You can get the MiFi on a rolling monthly contract, £15/month for 5GB/month with the device costing £40, or £17/month for 18 months again with 5GB/month and the device for free. You can also get it on PAYG for £50, with 1GB of data costing £10. The MiFi is also available on Vodafone.

Overall, I love the MiFi device. It just works. Simple. And, depending on mobile signal strength, it provides a decent throughput. Certainly enough, potentially anyway, to use as your only broadband connection. The only problem with that would be cost. If you use lots of data it could get expensive, although there’s a 15GB for £22/month package with should do for most people. That said, my “unlimited” ADSL costs me just £7.50/month, and I have pushed over 70GB through that in the last couple of months with no complaints form the ISP.

Summary – If you need broadband on the move, the MiFi is hard to fault. Just get one…


August 05, 2010

It has been a bit quiet around here of late…

For various reasons, I seem to have been somewhat neglecting this blog recently. Much of what I would have previously posted now goes to Twitter and Tumblr these days, which doesn’t leave me with much to post here. I must try harder…

The good news is that I have some new gadgets whizzing towards me, for trial purposes as usual. And this time they aren’t Nokia gadgets! Having been slightly underwhelmed by the iPhone 4 I’ve been taking some time to look at alternatives, and in particular at Android devices. I’ll shortly be getting my hands on an HTC Hero. I’m more interested in the HTC Desire as my iPhone replacement, but the Hero will give me a pretty good idea of what living with Android would be like. And that’s not all! I’m also going to get to play with a MiFi for a while.

I haven’t given up on Nokia, though, and I’m hoping to get my hands on an N8 soon. I’m looking forward to that – the specification looks really good. As ever with Nokias, the devil is in the software.

I’ve also been off the bike for a while thanks to a car driver that was following the old French rules of the road at a roundabout. I’m hoping to get back on two wheels sometime soon (and now that I’ve said it in public, I suppose I’m going to have to). Maybe there’ll be some cycle-related blogging coming soon, too?

So, if there’s anybody left still reading this blog then prepare for some new content, and once again my apologies for neglecting you for so long.


July 11, 2010

Road testing my rebuilt R100GS PD

Follow-up to BMW R100GS definitely almost finished soon soon from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

On Friday evening, I got my GS Paris-Dakar back from Nu-Age Kenilworth Motorcycles (thanks to Nick, Bill and all their helpers for lots of hard work). The police-specification electrics are all working well. Only two glitches: the speedo connection from the gearbox to the Acewell digital speedo has stopped working; on my first run, after half-an-hour, the clutch started to scream - I took it back, and Bill adjusted the setting. It's now fine. No, in fact, it's absolutely magnificent - just as an Airhead Gëlande Strasse should be. A bit quicker and more responsive to the throttle than before the rebuild. And without the fairing and screen, it's much smoother, with less air turbulence. And much more fun. Naked bikes feel faster, and more "involved". I did an hour's worth of riding today, getting it up to 70mph on the A46, and testing it out thoroughly on the b-roads. I'll try to use it every day this week, and at some point take onto a green lane to see if being 20KG lighter improves it's handling on dirt.

The rebuild is complete. For a while. I'll have another look at the electrics, to tidy them up and get the speedo working. And then perhaps a bigger front disk will be the next development.

Here's a full tally of the work that i've had done:

Frame, sub-frame and various components powder coated;
Nuts and bolts replaced with a stainless kit;
Downpipes and silencer replaced with a Keihan stainless set;
Fork seals replaced;
Push-rod seals replaced, and stainless steel tubes added;
Tank, mudguards and side panels repainted (fairing removed);
Headlight replaced with twin lights;
Instruments replaced with an Acewell digital system;
Timing chain replaced;
Carbs refurbished;
Pistons and heads de-coked;
1 exhaust valve replaced;
Alternator, diode board, regulator, hall sensor all replaced with improved versions;
Serviced;
Cleaned and polished.

The starter motor was replaced recently with one of the "improved" Valeo starters.

So now, I hope, it will do another 85,000 miles until the next major rebuild.

Complete


July 08, 2010

BMW R100GS definitely almost finished soon soon

Follow-up to BMW R100GS refurbishment almost finished from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

It has an MOT, and some nice new Acerbis handguards (don't pay rip-off Touratech prices for them, go to an off-road shop and they are 1/3 the price). Nu-Age Kenilworth Motorcycles couldn't get the timing exactly right, so I guessed that the mechanical retard/advance mechanism in the bean can is jammed, a common fault. They have ordered a fully electronic replacement from Motorworks. The alternator is looking worn and not charging properly, so i'll be getting a new 450w police-spec generator as well, along with a police-spec regulator to match. It will be ready soon soon. Unless I decide that I might as well replace the remaining original parts too. Anyone know where I can get a new set of forks? Ohlins, WP, Marzochi USD? Even the Marzochi insert kit would be an improvement. No one seems to sell them anymore.

GS with acerbis hand guards

GS from the front