March of the Droids 2014

It is that time of year again: the days are getting longer and warmer, the fridges have faster turnover of Hooch and/or Cider and some of us have started rocking our solar power banks. Yes ladies and gentlemen, it is almost time for March of the Droids.
March of the Droids is an event organised by Android Enthusiasts throughout the UK and has the backing of several websites and companies. This year one of the sponsors is my employer Skyscanner, and I will be giving a talk on Mobile Application Testing at Skyscanner.
March of the Droids 2014 takes place on May 10th (12:00) in Bournemouth, Dorset (England). The plan for the event looks great with Paul O'Brien (MoDaCo), Jon Love (Clove), Tom Mleko (HyperBees) and myself giving talks. As well as the talks, there will be the usual real life socialising, libations, food, shenanigans and tomfoolery.

At time of writing, there are still some tickets available so if you would like to attend the reasonably priced event (£12.50) you can buy tickets here.

I look forward to catching up with everyone there, delivering my talk (and prizes too) and having a great time. Who knows, we may even end up trying to give away some smartphone cases...

Feel free to pop a comment in the section below if you have any questions.

More details on March of the Droids 2014 can be found here:

If you are looking for flights, car hire or a hotel for the event check out

Ovivo Mobile shuts down

Ovivo Mobile, the UK MVNO has just shut down. The Ovivo website is giving the announcement and their customers the option to get their PAC code.
The operator's unique offering was the £0 a month sim card (250 minutes, 250 texts and 500mb data) funded by mobile advertising.

Here is the announcement from the Ovivo website:

Dear OVIVO Customers,
We are very sad to announce that for reasons beyond our control, OVIVO Mobile is closing down on the evening of Wednesday 19th March 2014.
We'd like to thank each and every one of you for your support and friendship over the last two years.
To keep your OVIVO number, just fill out this form, and we’ll send you your PAC code.

PAC code request form

To request a PAC code please complete the form below. There is no need to request a PAC code if you do not wish to keep your number. We will arrange for your PAC code to arrive as quickly as possible but there is a high demand for this service.

I'm quite annoyed. Just last week I purchased a SIM card from Ovivo for £20. The SIM card was delivered today and can't be activated.
Not happening. Not happy.
If you too are an annoyed Ovivo customer, feel free to vent your anger and frustration in the comment section below.

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.

XBOX Live, I Don't Live There! Fail! [Rant]

I live in many contradictions. The biggest contadiction is probably being an open source software enthusisast and user while also being an Microsoft XBOX Live gamer and user. While I detest Microsoft Windows in its various incarnations on PCs, I love my XBOX 360 and gaming on it. As things stand at the moment, I'm luke warm in relation to Windows Phone 7 but more about that in another post.
I love my XBOX but...

Today I am writing this blog post because I'm annoyed at Microsoft for not letting me change my XBOX Live Gamertag (the account used to purchase content and play games online) from the original country setting (Italy - accidentally set in 2008) to my actual country setting (UK).
Until recently I hadn't been to bothered by the Italian XBOX Live account. My girlfriend was quite annoyed by this, because when movies/trailers/game demos were downloaded they were either dubbed into Italian or had Italian subtitles. Now I want to take advantage of XBOX Live and my XBOX to use all the newer cooler services available (in the UK) such as, the on demand TV and video services. Because my XBOX Live gamertag is set as Italian, I can't access these services. Now I'm annoyed.

I have a XBOX Live gamertag with almost 8000 points on it, 100 unused MS Points in the account and would like to carry on using my Todoleo gamertag without losing it. I definitely don't want to be paying for two concurrent XBOX Live subscriptions, I already hate myself inside for paying for one.
There is no way I can change the country setting to my XBOX Live gamertag, I have tried in many ways. This morning I called the XBOX Live customer service number listed on the website and got through to a customer service representative who very politely told me I couldn't change Todoleo from an Italian account to a UK one, and that the best solution would be to create a UK account. I then asked to take things further to make a complaint about this and was told it was not possible. I was however asked for my email address and told I would be sent a link to a form for feedback on the matter. About an hour after the call I still have not received the link.
It is absurd that in this day and age I can't change the account settings from one country to another. Why is this? Why can't Microsoft recognise the fact that people move around, change the country they live in? All that is happening is that people who do move and are inconvenienced are getting angry and probably less loyal to the services and products. I definitely am!
Anger and hatred are flowing through me at the moment, I feel the dark side of the Force coursing through my veins... I'm going to go and play some Star Wars The Force Unleashed to get over this. Offline.
As usual, feel free to leave comments and/or questions. Let me know if I should ditch my XBOX and opt for a Sony PS3 instead (or is that just as bad?)

New BBC Homepage Is Live! [BBC]

Yesterday evening I went through one of the things I do most often on my laptop/netbook/tablet/desktop/smartphone: I visited the BBC website to browse the news/sport/iPlayer content of the day. In this particular instance I was on my laptop (which is happily running Linux Mint 12). Low and behold the BBC Homepage has switched to the new interface!
The New BBC Homepage (First Page)

I like the new BBC Homepage on . The top bar remains static, with links to the main sections of the website (News, Sport, Weather, iPlayer, TV, Radio, More...). The bar beneath the top one is static as well, but contains an analogue clock, the date and weather snapshot (you can personalise this feed for wherever you are by simply entering your postcode). Below the two static bars at the top, content from the website is displayed as tiles with snapshot previews and easy to read symbols of the type of content contained within the tile. This user interface is in many ways similar to the Windows Phone 7 Metro UI (tiles). I like it!
The lower section of the New BBC Homepage
If you scroll down on the webpage you are presented with sections (tiles) specifically for the iPlayer, popular content on the website and a fuller selection of sections of the website. The website is designed as a 3x2 panel canvas so you can click on one of the large arrows at the right or left of the page to scroll through the content. The 3x2 panels are on a loop so once you click right from the 3rd panel you go back to the first one. The lower panels of the homepage are all populated by the same content as the first bottom one.
The New BBC Homepage (Second Page)

The lower section of the New BBC Homepage (it's the same throughout)

The New BBC Homepage (Third Page)
As I have said in the past, I really like what the BBC have done with their website homepage. The new design is clean, sleek and magazine like. I love using the new website on my Archos 80 G9, the new design is particularly well suited for touch interface devices. Using the service and browsing the content easier and more intuitive. Well done to everyone involved in the redesign. I'm happy to see my TV License money being spent on improving the BBC services I receive.

As usual, feel free to leave comments and/or questions below or on the Google Plus link. Let me know how you get on with the new BBC Homepage.

Google Voice UK Is Here!

I've just made my first Google Voice call from my web browser and called my parents in Italy. Call quality was good, there seemed to be no latency.

In GMail, in the Chat section down the left hand side of the screen, a "Call Phone" option appeared today.

When clicked, the option gave me a chat pop up with a different interface from the usual one.
I used my trial credit ($0.10) and tried a couple of test calls from here in the UK to Germany and Italy. Both times call quality was good and there was no latency.

I also topped up my account with £10 pounds credit through Google Checkout. Easy Peasy.

I'm happy Google Voice has finally arrived in the UK. This will shake up the VOIP market more than the Tesco Internet Phone service did a few years ago... How long before I'll be able to use full Google Voice on my Android phone like my friends in the USA do?

ComScore's snapshot of UK Smartphone Users [May 2011]

Interesting data from Comscore regarding smartphone use in the UK.

"In May 2011, 42 percent of UK mobile consumers used a smartphone compared to only 27 percent a year ago."

Yes, charts and bar graphs make it easier to visualise. Who ate all the pie charts...?

Not only is it interesting to see that more people in the UK are using smartphones, but I think that the growth rate of the platforms is interesting: year on year Nokia's Symbian is down 10%, Apple's iOS is up 46% and Google's Android is up a staggering 634%. If those year on year growth rates are applied to the three months since that survey was completed (in May 2011) it is safe to say that Apple's iOS platform has been toppled as the market leader by Google's Android platform by now (End of July 2011).

RIM, maker of Blackberry smartphones and software, recently announced that it was cutting 2000 jobs in autumn 2011. Analysts are disappointed with the company's growth. The Comscore data indicates that in the UK things aren't that bad with a 59% year on year growth.

Well, I am smiling at the fact that the Android platform is doing so well. As most readers of this blog will already know, I'm and Android fanboy. (Consider this a sort of disclaimer)

Here's a link to the Comscore source.

As usual, feel free to leave comments and/or questions. If you feel like it please Google +1 the post too.

Tesco Kindle Covers

For a few months now the UK retailer Tesco has been selling the Amazon Kindle in its larger stores. As well as the Kindle, in both the WiFi and WiFi+3G variants, Tesco have also been selling cases and accessories for Amazon's e-book reader.

Yesterday I spotted two new reasonably priced accessories in my local Tesco Extra store. Amusingly they are both Tesco own-brand products.
Tesco Neoprene Sleeve and Tesco Finest Leather Folio Case for Kindle.
First up is the Tesco Neoprene Sleeve for Kindle. Currently priced at £4.97, this sleeve is a basic neoprene sleeve. As with most Tesco own-brand products good value for money and not too expensive.
Tesco Neoprene Sleeve for Kindle.
A step up in the market is the Tesco Finest Leather Folio Case for Kindle. Currently priced at £7.97, this folio case has been blessed with the Tesco Finest branding. Tesco Finest is Tesco's premium/luxury own-brand, which still has an affordable pricing. This case is made of soft leather and does have a good feel when held.
Tesco Finest Leather Folio Case for Kindle.
The fact that Tesco is selling own-brand Kindle accessories is interesting to me for many reasons. Firstly it shows us how deeply Tesco is moving into being a serious non-food retailer in consumer electronics. As well as selling the Amazon Kindle, Tesco also sells the Sony e-readers and on Tesco Direct (the online service) the Bookeen e-book readers. Tesco obviously sees potential in the e-book reader market.
Secondly, the fact that Tesco has started selling own-brand accessories means there have been enough Kindles sold to make it worth while offering cases and pouches. This is also an indicator of the fact that the Amazon Kindle is a very, very successful device and platform.

I myself now have an Amazon Kindle and will be releasing a series of blog posts about the Kindle device and services and how to make the most of them.

A quick disclaimer: I do work for Tesco, but am in no way remunerated or rewarded by Tesco for writing content on my personal website about the company or its products. I would also like to point out I was not given a Kindle as a freebie, I bought mine. Disclaimer over and done with, we can avoid any Leo Laporte vs Mike Arrington moments in the comments section.

As usual, feel free to leave comments and/or questions below, and if you want to go ahead and Google +1 this post.

"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... Exclusive Interview With Bill Gates [Updated]

Bill Gates is currently the non-executive part-time Chairman of Microsoft, the American software company he co-founded with Paul Allen. He is consistently ranked amongst the world's wealthiest people, and has also pursued a number of philanthropic endeavours, donating large amounts of money to various charitable organizations and scientific research programs through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, established in 2000.
To celebrate the move of the Todoleo Tech Blog to Bill has agreed to an exclusive interview in which we'll touch on subjects related to the technology and consumer electronics industry.

On Windows
Microsoft Windows is globally the most used operating system on personal computers. Since 1985, in its first incarnation as an add-on for MS-DOS, Microsoft has come to dominate the world's PC market. Microsoft now has versions of Windows that run on PCs, servers and smartphones.

Naturally the first subject I touched on was Windows, which Bill is still really enthusiastic about.

"When Microsoft first started out with Windows the market was totally different, computers were not connected through the internet and software was distributed  in boxes on tapes or disks. I remember playing Leisure Suit Larry and thinking man, look what we've achieved and what I could do if I left the office one night."

"Making computers easier and safer to use through the years, and kickstarting the PC revolution was great. Now Windows is the best way to run iTunes and sync an iPod. You can even install Chrome and Google things. The internet has really changed things. On Chrome I can even go into incognito mode and buy my wife a gift. By the way, Windows 7 was my idea."


I'm personally an XBOX 360 owner and spend far too much time playing games on it. Microsoft has a great product and the media capabilities are useful in the living room, even for non gamers. So I asked Bill what this living room computer is to him.

"The XBOX is a wonderful educational tool. I would recommend it for the character formation of every individual on the planet. There is so much you can learn. If you are getting ready to move to a big city, just play GTA IV for a while and you'll gain all the social skills you'll need. One of the best ways to do your history homework is on the XBOX: play Red Dead Redeption, Assassin's Creed or Command & Conquer Red Alert and you'll know what history was all about."

"At Microsoft we still have a lot of work to do on the XBOX though. I've been buying some games like Gran Turismo and Little Big Planet and still can't get them to work."

"When my wife is not at home I can even use the XBOX as  a media centre and play back some specialist movies I downloaded using Chrome in incognito mode. Man, that is so awesome!"

On The UK
Bill Gates was Gates was made an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in 2005. He is often in the UK, as he is today, so I asked him what his favourite thing is over here.

"To tell the truth, I really come here for the Tesco Finest Heather Honey & Stem Ginger Yogurt. It's really tasty and it has lots of bits of Honeycomb in it. Mmmm, honeycomb...!"

On Mobile
Bill's mention of Honeycomb brought us nicely onto the subject of mobile:

"The future of communication and computers is Mobile. I recently got this amazing phone called a Nexus One. It has a really good touchscreen, I can check my email, Google stuff and even download podcasts on the go. I really like the Outlaws Podcast where they have a segment about Microsoft called Microwatch. The German guy and the Liverpudlian are so informative and entertaining!"
"Anyway, I had better get going. I have to submit a bug in Launchpad on an OS project my friend in London called Mark is working on. It's something to do with DirectX not working properly."

Thanks to Bill for taking time to help launch You can carry on following the Todoleo Tech Blog at its new address:


Yes, this was an April's Fools thing. I see Bill's search engine, Bing took it well though.

Thanks for all the feedback on this!

Feel free to leave comments/questions!