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!