EdiAUG - Honor -Skyscanner Events

What a week! As well as with my day job, this week I was busy helping facilitate the Edinburgh Android User Group - Honor - Skyscanner events.
The events were hosted by Skyscanner in their Edinburgh and Glasgow offices (one on Tuesday and one on Wednesday) and featured a short introductory talk from Skyscanner and a talk from Wilkin Lee of Honor about Honor and Huawei.
Not only were the talks interesting (even if I do say so myself), but Wilkin used a familiar competition format and gave away a Honor Holly at each of the events.

I had a great time and have delayed new device purchases until the Honor 6+ is out at the beginning of May. The camera, especially in low light conditions, blew me away and the device overall is lovely.

Interested in engaging with me and EdiAUG for an Android/mobile related event? Ping me on Google Plus.

Thanks to Skyscanner for support and hosting, and thanks to Wilkin and James of Honor for travelling to Scotland for the events.

Android 4.4 KitKat

Today Google officially announced the name of the next version of Android: KitKat.
I found about about from Sundar Pichai's post on Google Plus, and am pleasantly surprised to find out that this is the name given to Android 4.4.

There had previously been rumors and speculation about the next version of Android being called Key Lime Pie, in line with the tasty alphabetical naming of the OS. KitKat is a Nestle brand name, and it transpires that there is a commercial tie-up for the naming. There will be a promotion where you will be able to win Nexus devices and Google Play Store credit when buying promotional packs of KitKat in the USA.

I'll be in the US later this month and will no doubt be scoffing KitKat bars to win a Nexus device.

If you are in Edinburgh this Thursday evening (September 5th 2013) feel free to pop over to the Edinburgh Android User Group Meetup at Skyscanner HQ.

Source: Android.com

EdiAUG Is Back!

I am pleased to officially announce that the Edinburgh Android User Group is back and has organised a meetup for next week. Head over to the official EdiAUG Blog for more info about the event being held at Skyscanner HQ.
As usual, feel free to leave a comment below or contact me on Google Plus if you would like more info on the event.

Updated "About", My New Job

I've updated my "About" page for this blog. Just to make it clear, I'm now a full time employee at Skyscanner.net, the search engine that allows you to search for flights, car hire and hotels via price and location.
Skyscanner.net mug!
I would also use this post to thank everyone at Skyscanner for making me feel welcome and patiently answering all the questions I've had as a newbie. A special thanks goes out to Cristina, Monika, Grzegorz and Ian who have really helped me get up to speed with the rest of the team and who have looked after me since I joined.

As usual feel free to leave comments and/or questions below, in the snazzy new Google Plus commenting system.

I've reached Level 4 on Ingress!

For those of you who didn't know, I've been playing Ingress for a few weeks now. Ingress is an augmented reality massively multiplayer online game for Android smartphones. Today I reached level 4!
I have chosen to side with the Enlightened faction (green) in the game and have been a bit demoralised in the past month to see the Resistance faction gain more and  more of a Mind Unit advantage over the Enlightened. Today I was doing my bit to bolster the Enlightened presence in Edinburgh, Scotland and managed to take a few portals.
Deep in Resistance territory...
To celebrate and to warm up, I'm now sitting in the Waterstones Cafe on Princes Street sipping a white hot chocolate and writing this post. While I type I'm getting GMail notifications on my Chromebook to let me know that my entities are being taken down by GelatinousBlob, I'll need to head out back into the field soon.
If you are in Edinburgh and part of the Enlightened faction feel free to message me in the faction chat and we can see if we can strategize a tactic for turning Edinburgh green.

EE's UK 4G tariffs leak: :-0

I've been toying with the idea of switching my personal mobile phone contract to EE, the first UK 4G provider, since I discovered that Edinburgh will be covered from launch. This morning while reading The Verge I saw the table of the leaked tariffs and ended up making an impression of OMG cat.
I was making an impression of this cat.
The tariffs seem to be extortionate  but then if you think about it as well as limited amount of data you do get unlimited calls and unlimited texts. Here's the table of the tariffs, as compiled by the clever Ben Kersey from The Verge.
EE's 24 month tariffs at launch, courtesy of The Verge.
Well, that was an inertial dampener on my rush to be a 4G early adopter... I think I'll wait until there is more competition on the 4G market before switching, especially because for less than half the entry level tariff on EE I can get All You can Eat Data from Three UK.

As usual, feel free to leave comments and/or questions below. If you are of Orange or Magenta persuasion, feel free to troll in the comments section below, I'll just ignore you.

Flying Over The Alps With My TZ20

Today I flew from Milan (MXP) to Edinburgh (EDI). I was lucky enough to get a window seat (no, not a Windows seat, because I use Linux...), so I took a few pictures with my Panasonic TZ20 in "Aerial Photo" mode. Here are the results.
 More after the break!

Gullane Golf Course where I took these shots 
Cramond Island, which I visited with Picc0110 in the summer

As usual, feel free to leave comments and/or questions below.

Three Web Cube - Easy WiFi

After a week of regular use, today I'm reviewing the Three Web Cube. 
The Three Web Cube is a wireless internet access point for the home. Rather than connecting to the internet through a normal phone line, the Three Web Cube connects to the internet through Three UK's mobile broadband network. This means no line rental or lengthy contracts with traditional broadband providers. If you need to move you can easily take the web cube with you: all you need to do is unplug the device from the power socket, take it with you and plug it in at your destination.
You can connect up to five devices to the Three Web Cube at once. This is now quite a likely scenario, since most people have more than one device that connects to the internet through WiFi (smartphones, tablets, laptops, netbooks etc...). I successfully had five devices connected at once. For all basic application and web browsing needs there was more than enough bandwidth to cater for all devices. 
Shiny blue light: it must be good!
As I already mentioned, the Three Web Cube connects to the internet through Three UK's mobile broadband network. At time of writing, the Web Cube is on trial in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Leeds. I'm lucky enough to live in an area of Edinburgh where there is very good coverage from Three UK, that's one of the main reasons I use Three's network for my smartphone too. Setting up the Web Cube and getting online was a piece of cake: I just had to follow the simple instructions that came in the box.
The Nokia Lumia 710 connected to the Three Web Cube (@fatoldgingercat assisted with the testing and review)
The Web Cube I was sent came with a Three UK mobile broadband SIM card. Once that was popped into the Web Cube, I plugged the device into the mains and it lit up with a cool blue light. Deep inside me I always think that if it has a cool blue light it must be doing something very clever. All my devices could see  the Web Cube as a wireless access point. After connecting to it, I was prompted to enter the network access key, which is printed both on a sticker at the bottom of the Web Cube and on the instruction booklet. All my devices connected to the Web Cube without hiccups, apart from my Nokia Lumia 710. It turned out that the Windows Phone 7 autocapitalisation was interfering with my WiFi key entry...
Not bad during rush hour: that's faster than many people's home broadband
At peak times of the day (rush hour in the morning and rush hour in the evening) the internet connection was slightly slower than during the rest of the day. That's probably due to the fact that I live near a main road in a densely populated area of Edinburgh and that's when most of the mobile web is used. Even so, at peak times I was getting consistently good connection speeds of between 3 Mbps and 5 Mbps for downloads and between 1 Mbps and 3 Mbps for upload. Three say that potentially the device should be able to handle up to 21 Mbps download and 5 Mbps in optimal network conditions. 

Once connected to the Web Cube, all my devices operated as usual. To get into the Web Cube's administrator control panel, all I had to do was type "http://3.home" into my web browser address bar.
The Three Web Cube's web interface control panel
From the administrator control panel you can check the status of the Web Cube, read and send text messages (it's technically a mobile broadband device...), find out how many devices are connected and manage advanced settings. I decided to mess with the neighbours a bit and renamed the web cube to "NewsInternationalSurveillance" for a while...
An easy way to mess with the neighbours...
The Three Web Cube is a capable device, essentially a MiFi for the home. For many people it could quite easily replace a basic home broadband connection, considering how competitive Three's mobile broadband packages can be. It could also be handy for people who travel a lot, or just don't want to commit to a lengthy fixed line broadband connection. While not being as fast a connection as my Virgin Media fibre optic broadband one, the Web Cube performed very well and didn't really leave me wanting for anything more. So as a conclusion to this review, I'll give the Three Web Cube a big thumbs up!

A quick disclaimer: I was not remunerated by Three UK for this review, and the Three Web Cube I reviewed was on loan and will be sent back. All opinions expressed on this blog post are my own, are subjective and the speed test run is probably flawed and should not be taken as an objective result. OK, Leo Laporte vs Mike Arrington situation averted...

You can find out more about the Three Web Cube and if the service is available in your area here.

As usual, feel free to leave comments and/or questions below.

Don's Golf Drive at 50 fps [Photo]

Here's a slideshow of 50 photos I took with my Panasonic TZ20 in "Burst Mode".

I took the pictures in High Dynamic Mode (Artistic Setting) and in Burst Mode (50 fps).

The album was uploaded from my Ubuntu Linux laptop to Picasa Web Albums using Shotwell Photo Manager. The slideshow for this blog post was created using the Picasa Web Albums "Share As Slideshow" option.
As usual, feel free to leave comments and/or questions below. Please also Google +1 the article too.

"Like" for Murrayburn On Facebook Please!

Here's a clever marketing scheme that actually gives out something useful to a community: Ronseal UK's Project Playground. On Facebook, Ronseal UK is running a competition for schools. Whichever school playground in their photos gets more Facebook "Likes" wins a £30000 playground makeover.

Here's the official speil from Ronseal UK:
"We have teamed up with the market leader in play equipment manufacturing, Timberline, to give one lucky primary school or nursery in the UK the ultimate playground makeover. If you don’t currently have an outdoor play area or think your play equipment is in need of attention, we want to hear from you. With hundreds of schools suffering as a result of Government spending cuts your current playground may be affected. Whether it is tired and outdated or there simply isn’t enough to keep everyone occupied at playtime, whatever the problem Ronseal, in partnership with Timberline, is here to help."

This is, in my view, a very opportunistic, clever and low cost marketing scheme. Parents, children and entire communities have been very involved in getting it to go viral on both Facebook and the rest of the web. 

Usually I discourage people from using Facebook's "Like" button, for various reasons. In this case I encourage you to do so because I am personally supporting one of my local schools: Murrayburn Primary School, Edinburgh.
If you are a Facebook user and would like to help Murrayburn Primary School, please go to the Ronseal UK Facebook page and "Like" it. Once you've done that, please also "Like" the picture of how Murrayburn Primary School's playground currently looks. (It's the third image in the album) This counts as a vote.

Please place your vote for Murrayburn Primary School as soon as you can, the voting closes on July 15th 2011 at midnight in the UK. Thanks in advance!

As usual, feel free to post comments/questions and Google +1 this article...

Picc0110's Photo Posts - Edinburgh Ferris Wheel

Picc0110 is a twenty-something year old recent University graduate who is doing very little with life at the moment. [His words, not mine...]

To fill some time he recently decided to invest in a Canon DSLR camera (Digital Single Lense Reflex) - and is having lots of fun with it.

Here's his first post on Todoleo Tech Blog about a fantastic picture he took in December 2010.

Edinburgh Ferris Wheel by Picc0110. All Rights Reserved
I took this photograph in December 2010 at the Edinburgh Christmas Fair. I am going to explain some of the simple techniques I used to receive the desired effects.

This is the equipment I used:
  • My camera is my pride and joy - it's an entry level Canon DSLR - EOS 450D
  • The lens I was using is a Canon 17-85mm USM lens - this lens is a middle of the road lens, I am convinced a more basic lens would've received the same desired effects.
  • I made use of a small compact Velbon tripod (CX-mini) I own which is easy to carry about when travelling lightly.
  • No SLR user should be without filters. My camera always has a 'HOYA HD Protector' which doesn't add any effect - it just protect my lens from scratches. For the shots I took above I also used a cheap ND filter - it cost a couple of UK pounds on eBay.

I shall begin by explaining the function of the ND8 filter - this filter is a dark tinted filter which makes the camera sensor see everything appear darker than it actually is to the human eye - similar to how we perceive things when we wear really dark tinted sunglasses. The benefit of having this effect on the camera is that we can keep the shutter of the camera open a lot longer without over-exposing the image - again think of yourself with those sunglasses - you can stare at a bright light longer without getting a headache.

The camera was set on “full manual mode”. This allows me to set my both my aperture and shutter speed. My aparture was turned down to f20.0 to create quite a long depth to the image - I needed the Ferris wheel to be in focus just as much as the foreground in front of it. My shutter speed is the other important part- it was set on 30 seconds - which is the longest it can be set on my camera without using a remote control. 30 second shutter speed simply implies that the lens is capturing the image for 30 seconds from the point I press the shutter release on the camera - this is how you create the light-trail in an image - as the ferris wheel, traffic and pedestrians are moving the camera sensor is recording their movement.

If it wasn't for the tripod allowing my camera to rest steadily there would have been a lot of blurriness. Imagine keeping the camera steady with your bare hands in Scottish weather in December for 30 seconds - simply impossible!

The ND filter allowed me to keep the shutter speed open for longer without blinding the camera with light, by doing so it allowed me to capture the ferris wheel’s rotation. If the shutter speed had been 10 seconds, for example, the ferris wheel would not have rotated as far and in turn would not have created the effect.
Edinburgh Ferris Wheel by Picc0110. All Rights Reserved
I hope the above information has been useful and educational, please do leave constructive comments, let us know what you think - and follow me on Flickr and Twitter.