Sunday, 25 July 2010

Tech Update: Android apps & 3D TV

The only annoying thing about seeing Toy Story 3 today (which if you haven't guessed from my Tweets, is IMHO totally awesome; how Pixar can make such great hits that appeal to all audience ages time and time again amazes me), was seeing the Sony 3D TV advert.

Why was it annoying? Well seeing it on a non-3D TV as a regular TV advert in all its blurry "gory", I was very easily able to totally ignore it. Now though, having seen it in its 3D digital clarity it makes me want to have a new 3D TV :-( What is genuinely staggering is the improvement in 3D capability/quality, as much as a fad that I thought 3D TV was, having seen it (albeit in the cinema) I can see this becoming de rigeur within the next 2 years.

I think the major manufacturers (Sony, Panasonic,Samsung) though have missed a trick by flooding the market with non-3D TVs prior to 3D launch, I for one cannot afford nor physically place a brand new TV having only got one about 6 months ago. Their loss, well at least for now...

...Maybe I'll spend any money I have on the dual-screen laptop coming from Toshiba...

Android Apps
There's a tonne of useful/entertaining/fun apps out there. One distinct advantage of the Android Market over the Apple App store is that you can download a paid-for Android App and trial it for 24 hours. You need to provide payment details up-front but if within 24 hours you decide the app isn't for you, you can get it refunded.

The only thing I don't like about the Android Market is that hunting for that app you really want is a total pain. From the market app, you cannot filter on free apps for example but I have noticed that there does seem to be a search syntax that could be employed (to find apps from a certain publisher for example) that I haven't investigated yet.

A way around this is using websites such as androidzoom and AndroLib that provide a search/filter facility. I believe with FroYo (Android 2.2) there will be some Market enhancements that incorporate this kind of capability directly into the handsets.

Anyways. I am, however, a *total* cheapskate when it comes to this sort of thing and have only ever downloaded free apps. Here is a list of the current ones I am using that may be of use to you, I'm assuming only Android users have made it this far :-)

First up - Barcode Scanner. Essential to access many other services such as quick access to download other apps, shopping comparison etc.

Next most essential I would say is Lookout which is pretty awesome. Virus protection, back-up (contacts, call logs & photos) plus a phone finder feature.

Although Android does well with Twitter/Facebook integration, the respective Twitter and Facebook apps do provide a bit more functionality.

Again, the native Android browser is very good but Dolphin Browser HD is much superior with tab browsing & add-ins for things like Speed-Dial, Translate and saving bookmarks to the SD card.

Call Meter NG is key if you want to check you are still within your call/data plan.

Other really useful utilities:
PrinterShare - allows you to print from your phone to registered printers. The free version will allow up to 20 prints (after which you can buy more). The $4.95 version allows free printing to WiFi printers, yet to try this out...

ZumoDrive. Cloud computing storage. Allows you to sync PC files up to 2Gb that can then be accessed through your phone, including streaming of your music.

There are a lot of File Manager apps, but EStrongs File Explorer is my favourite, especially as it makes it a doddle to access files shared on your (WiFi) LAN.

Similarly there are a number of "torch" functions but LED Desire Light is my favourite as it actually uses the camera flashlight (as opposed to just displaying a bright, blank white screen) with varying degress of brightness PLUS you can send morse code messages too! As the name suggests, it is really just for the HTC Desire.

For eCommerce, there's:
Kindle - Amazon's e-book reader
Amazon MP3 - DRM free music downloads
Shopper - scan barcodes and find how much you can save shopping elsewhere. Note, you'll get funny looks using this app, I was confronted by a store manager the other day who thought I was taking (illegal) product photos in store. When I calmly told them I was scanning the barcode to do an internet price comparison, their jaw dropped and they walked off in disbelief :D

eBay via Pkt Auctions eBay

And for the Waitrose shoppers, Ocado has an app which on top of standard Ocado functionality lets you scan barcodes too.

For travelling:
SatNav - the built in Google Navigator is simply superb and I don't think can be topped. Caution though if using abroad because of the (roaming) data usage will not be likely covered in your talk plan.

Check the traffic conditions before you set out with TrafficSync or check when your next (and nearest) train will be using Train Times UK. In the trilogy of Planes, Trains & Automobiles - for flight times, FlightStats Liteis decent enough, the paid for version I believe integrates with TripIt.

If you're London bound Tube Map lets you plan a route and probably more essentially, get the status of the lines!

More fun than travel as such is of course FourSquareand the excellent Google Sky for browsing the heavens.

Recreationally, I won't bother as to each their own here I think. If you are into eBooks though, free ones can be obtained and read via Aldiko

I've yet to find a *really* good RSS app,so if anyone knows of an (free!) ones, please add a comment.

Monday, 31 May 2010

Day +318: BP, Laws & Chores (oh - still in remission too!)

Feeling good this morning, ahead of household tasks and so have some time to make a long overdue blog update. I'm already thinking that today is Sunday though so the rest of the week will therefore be a shock, more later...

To kick-off with, a couple of things in the news that I've seen various tweets about and can hold my tongue no longer.

First BP. Indisputably one of the worse environmental disasters instigated by man. Undoubtedly BP have a responsibility and much apologising to do especially after the somewhat blasé remarks when the CEO first went public. A question though, is BP entirely culpable though?

BP were renting the Deepwater Horizon rig so does some responsibility lay with Transocean (the renters) or Hyundai Heavy Industries (who built it). E.g. do these things have a "service life" whereby they are not safe for rental after so many drilling hours, are there regular "check-ups" of the equipment before re-renting?

Who allowed drilling to happen there in the first place? Someone must have authorised it and given the highly risky nature of such an undertaking, what precautionary and insurance measures were stipulated ahead of authorisation?

I heard on the radio (I think) that this is getting so much publicity because it is happening so close to the US. Don't get me wrong, it's a disaster and I feel for the people affected as well as being saddened to the huge environmental impact but if this happened off a 3rd world country coast or mid-ocean, would it be so reported?

Maybe my questions are naive but I think there is more to this than just pointing the finger at one source and surely now more than ever, alternatives to oil dependency must be relentlessly pursued.

David Laws. Hmmm. To start off with I was rather annoyed with the twittersphere for all the anti-Telegraph sentiment for breaking this story as it struck me as somewhat hypocritical (I don't think there would have been as much furore were the individual a Tory or Labour MP).

However, having just seen the BBC News article suggesting that the Telegraph are now pursuing Laws' replacement, I do wonder what the heck that paper is up to. Yes, they are Conservative supporting but wake-up you guys - we are at a new dawn of politics, a real coalition. Please let's give it a chance, we all know (or should know) that we are in for a rough ride - let's get some genuine talent therefore at the helm to steer the best path possible and stop sniping at the government so that they can get on with what needs doing.

So back to David Laws. He was wrong. But he admitted it and did an honourable thing. IMHO though his resignation should have been refused by Cameron and Clegg. Based on his stupendous education and background, I think Laws is the sort of person we need at this time of economic crisis. As such, as painful as it probably is for him (he is a very private person AIUI and this is what lead to the whole fiasco) he (and Cameron/Clegg) should do what's best for the country and get him re-involved, maybe not as a central "mouth-piece" figure, but certainly central to getting this country back on the right economic footing.

As a regular Tory voter (no, I'm not sorry) in the spirit of coalition I find myself siding with those on Twitter who are supporting David Laws.

Okay - enough of that but one more serious thing: I'm still in remission! I got the results from my 9 month biopsy back when I went to Oxford the other day. Blood counts are generally good and the BCR-ABL level was 0%, excellent news! My anniversary biopsy is scheduled in for 12th July, so fingers crossed for that too.

Physically I'm seem to be doing well, I'm putting on the weight again (need to convert more to muscle though!), full head of hair and starting to look normal again. Problems seem to be dry skin and bloody painful feet. Makes it an issue walking big distances but I've been given the all-clear for swimming so am looking forward to not just watching my sons at the local pool but literally diving in and enjoying the fun!

Finally chores...
Tomorrow will see me become a fully fledged house-husband. Sarah re-starts full-time 9-5 June 1st (congratulations again my love!) which means that I will take over the duties of cleaning, laundry, cooking, cleaning (there's a lot of it hence the double mention!) and school-runs/looking after Jake & Luke in the evenings. Oh yeah and looking for a job at the same time!

If anyone has any tips to stop me from going nuts, it would be greatly appreciated!! Having got a stack of ironing out of the way this morning, I can safely say that it is essential to fold clothes after taking them off the line/out of the tumble dryer as it massively reduces the effort. Also, the best ironing music by far has to be "You Can't Stop The Beat" from Hairspray, a surprisingly entertaining movie with a stellar performance by John Travolta. Boy can that man dance!


Thursday, 28 January 2010

Day +198: First blog of the year...

OK - so not the 1st of January and no "Happy New Year" except for that one of course ;-) but just making it by the skin of my teeth to provide an update in the first month of the new decade...

Can't believe my last (progress) update was October '09 but as you may recall from that, things were looking good and I was starting to live a "normal" life. However, late November & early December I took a turn for the worse and was laid low with my temperature spiking all over the place and I was getting worried that I'd have to be re-admitted again. It was very stressful as clearly I didn't want to spend Christmas in hospital.

Fortunately that passed - it could have been a combination of GvHD or the re-balance of medication we were trying but Christmas was at home with the family and was fantastic although tough. I managed to prepare much of the traditional lunch for Sarah, the boys and Sarah's parents.

We had friends come round to see in the New Year which was a real boost and on New Year's day we went to Sarah's parents and spent a few nights there; that seemed to "flick a switch" in me that revived me in so many ways and things have been going great guns since.

Consequently blogging has taken a back seat but at least Twitter let's me send quick updates...

Anyhow, looking back at my last progress blog coincidentally that was the time of my first biopsy post transplant, the 3 month baseline marker. Tomorrow (Mon 1st Feb) is my 6 month biopsy. I'm apprehensive because of the procedure/sedation etc.

I should remain positive though, I saw the consultant last Wednesday - he's very happy with progress (as am I to be honest):
  • I'm finally starting to put on weight (rather than just maintaining a level)
  • Some muscle is coming back (I'm doing more stairs and slightly heavier lifting at home)
  • Still getting tired, but this is more to do with trying to get my sleep pattern back in order plus I'm doing loads more around the house now
  • Skin, Hair, Nails - all seem to be growing more normally now
  • Been to the office a few times to catch up with folks, fix a few remote access problems and discuss with HR & my manager about returning to work...
All in all then, things really do seem to be returning to normal and I feel happier being able to spend quality time with the family playing games, helping with homework and doing a lot of the domestic chores.

Blood counts etc. also mean that I'm able to eat out more often and generally "be ordinary" - it's great!

However, if I'm truthful, with such good results from the last biopsy I'm a little scared that they won't be as good this time. I'm also due to have my Hickman line taken out (after nearly a year of having it in, how scary is that??) so with that, the number of colds going around and the side effects I seemed to have from last time, I'm nervous and know that this coming week is going to be tricky, so bear with me!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Tech Update: Office 2010 beta + Wii iPlayer

Office 10 public beta

Just downloaded & installed MS Office 2010 (public) beta and using it now for this quick blog update. Big file to download (700Mb), installation required me to close Firefox (might be just my computer) but seems OK so far but still plenty to explore…

Quite a few professional reviews out there already based on the tech preview, but if you like tinkering around with this stuff, the link is above to download it.

Wii iPlayer

A while back Nintendo made the Internet Channel free (it cost 500 points previously) allowing you to surf the internet using your Wii (and therefore your TV in the lounge). This is pretty cool in itself but better was being able to access the BBC iPlayer.

However, the last Wii system update updated the Flash player and made the whole thing incompatible with the iPlayer. Anyways, yesterday the BBC made the fix available in the form of a dedicated iPlayer channel on the Wii main page.

You need to "purchase" this (it's free) from the Shopping Channel to get it. It's the same for the Internet Channel by the way in case you don't already have it (purchase it for free from the shopping channel).

Hopefully iPlayer navigation will be improved over time (for finding specific programmes by name or category for example) but it works and I've been able to catch up on some TV shows (Top Gear!). Picture quality is pretty reasonable and the fact that I don't need to hook up the laptop or anything like that is a blessed relief. Clearly the limitation is the fact that the Wii uses 802.11b/g so high quality streaming is going to be unlikely and playback is badly affected by downloads that maybe going on elsewhere on your network.

Anyways, that's enough for now. Next up I want to play around with the new Excel 2010…

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Day +111: Goodbye October, hello new life...

Well it's been a while again since I've blogged a decent update but at least I've been tweeting!

October was a mixed month in that the first 4weeks (long month) were great - being home helping out etc. but the back end was a nightmare.

Fundamentally that was the reason for "going dark" both in terms of keeping in touch but also mood and general well being. Basically I spiked a temperature and that meant I had to go back in to hospital on to the ward, I think it may have been triggered from the hip biopsy I had on the 16th October.

Frankly it was depressing after being back at home but the temperature came down quickly thanks to strong antibiotics and I was able to negotiate going home after just one night's observation so at least I was home Sunday evening.

However, the antibiotics combined with suspected mild GvHD meant lots of diarrhoea. This lasted probably a week and a half in total and as you can imagine was incredibly debilitating, humiliating, tiring and depressing to be blunt.

The depression was quite bad and really it was the patience of Sarah, kind words from my Dad plus various messages and calls from people that came in out of the blue and generally thinking about all the folks that have been routing for me that saw me through.


On the plus side, I learned though through talking to the hospital staff that:
  1. TBI causes extreme lethargy that can come back and haunt you
  2. Fatigue affects coping mechanisms you may have developed
  3. Steroids cause mood swings
Being the analytical/engineering type sort, this was actually great news for me to hear as it helped me understand my depression and the dark thoughts I was having during that period.

Hopefully this information is of use to others then to help them when they're feeling blue, even if you are generally healthy - tiredness is a problem:
  • Take time out & relax
  • Find time for yourself, re-focus and start again
  • Talk to people, be open & honest and rely on the support of friends & family you trust
  • The world will go on either without you for a day or two or with you working at a reduced pace
Anyway, back to more positive matters. Things have settled somewhat and as mentioned, about 3 weeks ago I had a hip biopsy performed (under sedation as you might imagine!!). Yesterday I received the full results from the test. Essentially there are 3 levels of test:
  1. Visual under the microscope, crude but showed things looked quite good
  2. FISH test, a genetic test that was looking for the Philadelphia +ve gene that added complications to my leukaemia. The result from that indicated that things look good
  3. Molecular test - this is the most in depth test and showed 0% leukaemia cells
Essentially it looks like the intense treatment and the prayers & positivity from you means I am now in remission!!!!

Obviously this still needs to be monitored, biopsies will be conducted every 3 months, I am still on a lot of meds etc. but this is clearly amazing news and hopefully gives comfort to others that all of the above can work if you keep the faith, follow the professionals' advice, take your meds etc. and generally try and get on with things as normally as possible (i.e. being positive).

So I just wanted to let you know, thank-you all and obviously ask you to still keep me in your thoughts(!) so that this may continue and I can start real recuperation now.

I probably won't be be blogging anything significant from here on in, as to be honest I find that doing stuff around the home, helping Sarah with copious admin, staying on top of work/personal e-mails and of course helping with the boys is starting to turn full time again and quite tiring!!

I will be tweeting the usual mundane stuff about hospital visits etc. :-) but will include general updates on status etc. as part of that. Plus geek boy that I am will likely start turning some attention to interesting (well to me anyway) technology & gadgets...

Any please stay tuned if you can, thank-you again, love and peace to you, your families and all.


Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Day +75: September, an amazing month

So main thing in case you hadn't heard - I'm home at last, discharged on the 25th Sept exactly 10 weeks from cell implantation and a total of 11 weeks hospital admission!!!

The original (we thought agreed) plan was that Friday would be a weekend only trip (coming back Saturday night) with discharge later the following week to fit in with house logistics. However the hospital I think needed the bed (fair enough) as they started urging full discharge instead.

Anyways, a lot of people bent over backwards (THANK-YOU!) and we left Friday afternoon. We hadn't told the boys, so when they came home and saw me there, they were *so* excited!!!

The rest of Friday afternoon through to Sunday was a complete blur where I think I must have been living off of adrenaline, the boys energy and my delight at being home - basically The Joy Of Life!

The flip-side unfortunately is that I most likely over did it and Monday was spent pretty much in bed sleeping. Tuesday pretty similar but since Friday I feel I have been able to help out a little at home too.

Today, Wednesday, is my first day at the clinic so I am back over at The Churchill. I also needed magnesium (3 hours!) so visited the DTU (Day Treatment Unit). It's given me a chance to get some more sleep, the hospital transport arrived at 09:30 this morning which meant it's been a very tiring day already.

It has however provided the opportunity to write this blog update at last - September has been an extraordinary month for me and of course a number of others, I owe it to capture something before the month ends.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Day +26: Hello again!

What a journey so far, I'll keep it brief - it's 2:30 in the morning and I can't sleep so hopefully this will help tire me out a little ahead of the morning of meds to come.

This is obviously my first blog update for a while, not sure if I'll be updating on a regular basis but (as you may have guessed) my strength is coming back (otherwise I wouldn't be doing this!) so we'll see.

A brief recap then of things since my last update:
Day 0 - this was the last day of TBI (total body irradiation) and the introduction of the stem cells. Everyone was telling me that the stem cell transfusion would be an anti-climax as it's just bags of blood going in. How wrong. The American cells were very thick and required real effort the French cells seemed better. However the steroids given beforehand had me climbing the walls and I reacted badly to the preservative used for the cells causing real problems over the following days.

Eventually that sorted itself out and fundamentally the rest of the time has been just recovery. For a long time (as my blood was completely devoid of white cells) I was permanently fighting off high temperatures through a cocktail of tablets and IV anti-biotics/anti-fungals. I had a naso-gastro tube for feeding which was quite uncomfortable but effective.

More recently my blood counts are starting to come up (no where near normal levels) but enough where it looks like the doctors are willing to withdraw some of the anti-biotics soon to see if I can cope without them.

Also I've been feeling stronger in myself and have started doing some exercises in bed to try and get me ready to do things like sitting out of bed and going for short walks.

I still tire relatively easily, especially after things like bed baths, so there's a long way to go still but I definitely feel I'm well on the road to recovery.

Fairly soon too it looks like I'll be disconnected from the heparin which will be great as that will provide a level of freedom.

Anyway, that's it for now - my sincere thanks and love to those who've been in touch one way or another with messages of support and best wishes, it's really appreciated knowing there's so many folks out there rooting for my recovery - thank-you!