Saturday, February 27, 2010

Going pear shaped:Preston 3-0 City

I've been too busy this evening to write a post as we've had visitors over. Now I'm too knackered and had a too few many drinks to do this justice.

Read the BBC report and weep.

City doing their usual post Christmas belly flop. Lucky to get a play off place at this rate

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Google contacts update

I thought it was too good to be true, and so it proved. Although enabling Google Contact sync from my Macbook Pro (see post below) appeared to have synced all my contacts across to Google, when I fired up my MBP tonight, I got a message saying that Google wanted to make 40 odd amendments to the contacts in my Mac's Address book.

It wanted for example to replace a perfectly valid record such as:
Title: "Mr & Mrs" with "Mr"
First Name: "M" with "& Mrs"
and so on....

So I've turned off the syncing for the moment, until I can work out what to do for the best. All my records in the Mac Address book are accurate and up to date, and I can't risk Google's sync process buggering these up. At least of got 270 plus contact records in Google that look OK from the way they synced across originally.

You would have thought in this day and age, something as obvious as contact management would have evolved a fairly standard sync protocol. I appreciate some of the more esoteric fields found in certain address books might cause problems, but it can't be beyond the wit of man (or coders) to at least be able to come up with a standard for title/first name/ last name syncing?

Obviously it is.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Contacts in the cloud

I've used the sync to Google function in my Mac to sync my contacts to Google Contacts over the air. Everything seems to have come across although the way Google works I've ended up with a few duplicates. I'll sort those out soon.

I now have (I think), what I really wanted which is my contacts in three (or is it 4) places. They're on my Mac in the Address Book, my Phone in the Contacts app, on Mobile Me in the cloud, and now on Google in the cloud. That might sound a bit like overkill, but as someone who's got a bit of OCD about keeping things in sync, it suits me.

I'm trying hard to start using Google for a lot more. I'm migrating to it slowly as my main email address way from my long time ISP pop email, but it wasn't that effective without all my contacts available. Should be fine now.

I've migrated two of the three websites I've built and maintain (Chepstow Male Voice Choir and Dinas Powys Cricket Club) to Google Sites, and I'm in the process of switching the third (Hendre Eynon Caravan and Camping) as well.

I haven't really used Google Docs much, but as I keep all my important and most frequently accessed docs in the cloud too on Dropbox, it makes sense to start using Google Docs more as well.

And of course, Google own the Blogger platform that this blog is based on. I also use and love Picasa for photo management and organisation, and Flickr for online photo storage, and my default search engine of course is, Ask Jeeves. No it's Google. I was joking.

Add all that up, and I've almost become a Google junkie without even thinking about it.

There's no doubt that Google has matured well enough for me to stat making the move more consciously. Given that all of the above is free as well (bar the Flickr premium account), I'm amazed more people don't make the move. I've got over my concerns about cloud data storage. I haven't done anything specific to dispel those concerns, rather just accepted that provided I'm sensible, it shouldn't be any more risky than using any other storage mechanism.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Grim: City 0-2 Barnsley

I don't know what to say. I really don't. I know City are struggling to find 11 fit players to put out on the park, but the ones that are there just aren't showing the quality (or rather any quality).

Our defence is a shambles, there's no midfield to speak of, Chopra couldn't score if you put the ball on the goal line in front of him with no defenders or keeper, and our one fit keeper can't kick a ball to save his life.

Barnsley are a mediocre side and came to Cardiff on the back of three straight losses. In the first 5 minutes City were all over them like a rash, and Chopra scoped the ball about 10 yards over the bar from 4 yards out. That should have told us it wasn't going to be our day.

We were then undone by two through balls that split our defence - well perhaps split is too generous - they (our alleged central defenders) never even looked as if they were on the same park, and Bogdanovich, that well known Maltese striker showed Chopra how it should be done with two clinical finishes three minutes apart. Twelve minutes in and we're two down. Their confidence went sky high, we looked more jittery than a team who's looked very jittery for several weeks, and so that was that.

In mitigation, the ref who was about 3ft 2" high got in the way of two great passes from our boys that night have opened something up, we played marginally better in the second half, and ha a five minutes spell where the pressure on the Bransley goal was intense. But we missed a header from a yard, hit the bar and generally didn't score. Not the way to win a football match.

Even Dave Jones summary has moved on from the "we've got injuries all over the park and we're all in need of a rest" to a more pragmatic "We've not really played well". Yeah, Dave, we didn't. It was crap. Again.

But, miraculously we're still fifth.

What makes it even worse is Swansea are now fourth, and even if we win our game in hand we'll still be a point behind them.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

PC Pro - smartphone labs

As regular readers will know, I'm a fan of PC Pro magazine/website. I find their "labs" comparisons informative and generally accurate, and as I've said on many occasions, have made many purchases based on their recommendations and have never been disappointed.

The current issue of the mag (April 10), has a round up of smartphones which makes for some very interesting reading. On some of the sites I visit, and PDA247 is the one that springs most to mind, the iPhone is generally seen as a decent "consumer" device but not really in the same league as Blackberries for real "power" users (whoever and whatever they are).

However, PC Pro gives the iPhone 3GS top spot and a place on its venerated "A List", citing slightly less than brilliant battery life and the tie in to iTunes as the only blots on it' copybook, whilst the Blackberry Bold aside, other BB's lose out due to high price allied to lack of features like HSDPA, washed out camera images, and no digital compass (C'mon - how crucial is having a digital compass for God's sake?)

That doesn't mean it doesn't rate any other smartphones. In fact of the 24 phones tested, and 15 that were worthy of a full review, four got a recommended award and one a best value.

If you're feeling snubbed by the iPhone's top spot, take heart if you have one of those that got a "Recommended". They were
  • HTC Hero
  • Nokia N97 mini
  • Blackberry Bold 9700
  • T-Mobile Pulse
The phone that walked away with the best value award was the HTC Tattoo.

Now as ever, everyone will have their own opinions, and I'm equally aware that a discussion about which is the best (or worst) smartphone can generate a heated debate. This at least is how PC Pro sees it. Other will see it differently. Don't blame me.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Network congestion and the iPhone

I love my iPhone.

It suits me down to the ground. It's "smart" enough that I can do all the things I want to do that aren't "phone" things - Twitter, electronic password wallets, contact/address lists, emails, to-do lists, camera for quick snaps, notes, sat-nav, internet browsing, games, utilities....the list goes on and on.

However, some people argue that in itself, it's not a very good phone. Call quality could be better etc when compared to Nokia's or Blackberries so it's said, though I rarely have cause for complaint.

One area I do have some issues with though is trying to use the thing when there's any degree of congestion on the network.

This is most apparent at what is probably an extreme end of the scale - when I'm at a football match. When I'm in the Cardiff City Stadium with anything between 14,000 and 24,000 other people, there's very little point in me trying to tweet, text, check emails or use the phone, because it just ain't gonna work - or it'll take forever refreshing Twitter for example to get anywhere.

Although it can be argued that at least immediately before the match, at half time and just post match there are thousands of other people in close proximity using their phones, so therefore it's not surprising I have problems, what's strange about this is, that it doesn't seem to affect anyone else!

I can see hundreds of other people with their phones to their ear, or texting away whilst I struggle, even though my signal meter is showing wall to wall O2 and 3G signal strength. My son sitting next to me has no problems with his SE candybar phone, though admittedly he doesn't use data. But even texting/voice for me can be an issue.

I'm beginning to think it's down to me and my "karma" - or lack of it. It's difficult to know if this is an iPhone thing, or a smartphone (data - as opposed to voice) thing. Most of the phones I see at football are standard feature phones, so it might be.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

It's a miracle: City 1-1 West Brom

A miracle that is that we're still in 5th place.

This was a dire football match between the divisions two top scorers, who managed a grand total of 5 shots on target between them in 97 minutes of football.

City, ravaged by injury and struggling to find 11 fit players went ahead on 8 minutes through a Peter Whittingham penalty after Jay Bothroyd was hauled down inside the 6 yard box. How the Baggies No. 3 stayed on the pitch is beyond belief - how can a man in the 6 yard box not be in a clear goal scoring opportunity? He didn't even get booked.

After the goal, City retreated deeper and deeper and their passing and tackling became worse and worse. When they did get the ball they either kicked it away or gave it away far too easily. West Brom scored in the 3rd minute of added time in the first half. At that point I'd have bitten your hand off for a draw. Peter Whittingham had also worryingly gone off injured.

The second half was better - just, but both sides created little, and I can't think of any one City player who was worthy of a man of the match performance. Kennedy in particualr was awful (again) at left back, but he was only the worst of an average bunch tonight.

City did spark towards the end in a 5 minute spell when Chris Burke missed an open goal, but to be fair a draw was probably all each side was worth.

On this form, I can't see either side being good enough for promotion, let alone putting up a fight in the Premiership. Keep an eye on Derby who seem to be hitting their straps at the right time.

Next up for Cty, Barnsley on Saturday at home. City players all need a rest, but they aren't going to get it, so they'll have to make the best of what they have. At this moment, I'd accept sneaking into 6th spot come the end of the season.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

FA Cup Dream over: Chelsea 4-1 City

So the FA Cup dream is over for another year. Thoughts of a giant killing vanished inside 3 minutes as Drogba beat the offside trap to slot past the helpless Marshall.

The day had started well, though early with a 6:30am wake up, and by 7:30am we were on the M4 heading for the Smoke along with 5,800 other Cardiff City Supporters. We parked at Hounslow and caught the tube in, a fairly painless experience and by 10:45 were in the ground for the ungodly early 12pm kickoff.

The City away support as usual was magnificent, singing their hearts out, though most of the songs were perhaps a bit on the "fruity" side, and predictably many of them aimed at Chelsea's absent captain John Terry. Frank Lampard also got some "Jack" stick courtesy of a short spell he had out our mates down the M4 many years ago .

Many of the City faithful were surprised though relieved to see Jay Bothroyd in the starting 11, and perhaps even more surprised to see Rae's name there too, thinking Jones would want to save him for Tuesday's big clash with the Baggies. However, Jones thinking was probably he needed to risk the fitness of Rae to support young Wildig and provide some experience to what would otherwise have been a very inexperienced central midfield.

Chelsea I think showed a great deal of respect for City with the side they put out, including Carvalho, Jo Cole, Lampard, Ballack, Mikel and Drogba, and bringing on Kalou and Malouda as subs. That's a pretty impressive line up - over £105m worth of talent. How City could do with some of that!

Drogba's early strike aside, the rest of the first half was pretty even, and the Bluebirds faithful erupted on 34 minutes when Chopra glanced home a pinpoint Burke cross. I'd have taken 1-1 at half time any day, and during the break, there was talk of holding on for a draw and bringing the Blues back to CCS.

Inevitably, it wasn't to be. In the second half Chelsea brought on Kalou for Cole, and stepped up the pace. City held out for 6 minutes before Ballack tipped home after a great move, and then Chelsea heaped further misery on City with goals from Sturridge (69) and a fantastic Malouda header (86).

so it wasn't to be, but City did themselves proud I thought. You could see the difference in class. Chelsea had more composure on the ball, their anticipation was better, and they were at least half a yard quicker. City tended to panic in defence, and kick the ball away conceding possession rather than holding on to the ball. That's not to say they were poor. They are an injury ravaged side, and they gave it their all today, but sadly it wasn't enough to beat a side on top of their game, and on top of the Premiership.

It's back to league business on Tuesday with a home match against second placed West Brom. Another big match for City. They must now forget today, and focus on a promotion push. It's going to be hard.

C'Mon City!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

City get more time

Cardiff City were at the High Court in London today facing a winding up order over an unpaid tax bill, along with Portsmouth & Southend. Who said football's in crisis?

Anyway, the long and the short of it i that City have been given a further 28 days to "resolve the issue" after having allegedly paid £1m towards a £2.7m debt.

That's not quite the position that Chairman Peter "The Riddler" Ridsdale outlined on 8th January when he said "We have every confidence that all monies owing to HMRC will have been repaid by the end of January."

So where's the other £1.7m Pete?


Blindingly good customer service

As regular readers of this blog will know, I've got a thing about customer service.

Recently I needed some spare parts for some vertical blinds - we've got them all over the house - in fact most houses on this estate gave - must have been a job lot when the estate was built. My googling took me to e-bay (inevitably) and specifically an e-bay shop called Blind Spares.

I ordered the parts I needed that arrived very quickly and as required (you never know with e-bay). I then found I needed to order some additional but different parts - digressing, our kitten, who's now 8 months old had basically eaten/destroyed all the beaded strings that keep the things together as well as the anchors on the weights that they clip to!

So I confidently ordered the extra parts, and the package again arrived quickly, but the wrong parts. Handily, there was a business card in the package, so I rang, where a very polite lady called Fran said she'd check my order and post out the new parts if indeed it was their error not mine in ordering - turned out it was as they'd had a glitch in their order page - I'd ordered the correct bits but they came up wrong on their report.

I was very surprised when the very next day my (correct) parts arrived - with an apology note from said Fran.

Although you might expect good customer service, sadly I find it's not generally universal. Blind Spares are quick efficient, and having spoke to a real person, I also find them polite and helpful.

If you need replacement blind parts, I'd recommend them wholeheartedly

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Easy does it: City 2-0 Peterborough

City historically struggle against teams at the bottom of the division. When we played Posh who were second bottom at the time earlier this season we were 4-0 up at half time, and ended up drawing 4-4. Three days earlier we had lost against bottom side Plymouth.

Tonight though, City didn't struggle. In fact, to be truthful it was a stroll in the park. You can see why Peterborough are bottom. They were awful. City played the game at training ground pace for much of the match and had time and space to dominate throughout. The fact we only scored two was I think down to complacency, and perhaps one eye on Saturday's big event at Stamford Bridge.

Maybe I'm being too harsh, but I thought City should have won this by a hatful. Burke's opening goal on the half hour was a masterpiece. Whittingham crossed deep from the left, Bothroyd nodded back, Burke chested and volleyed from three yards. One nil.

Whittingham, who's having a great season took the free kick which was prodded home by Gerrard (yes we've got one too - his cousin) on 78 minutes, and that as they say was that.

Our only real concerns are both starting midfielders, Darcy Blake and the returning Steve McPhail failed to finish the game due to injury. With Rae and Ledly already sidelined, we haven't got a lot left, with the hugely inexperienced Solomon Taiwo and Aaron Wildig finishing the game. Against this opposition that's not a proble. Against Chelsea on Saturday it could be a different story.


Sunday, February 07, 2010

Euro 2012: Split loyalties

My loyalties are going to be truly tested following the draw for the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign as Wales are drawn in the same group as England.

I'm English by birth, and have always supported England's football team as a matter of course. However, I've spent 30 of my 50 years living in Wales, and am married to a Welsh girl. My kids are both Welsh, and I always support Wales when they're playing football, rugby (including when they play England) or any other sport come to that. The two Wales v England ties in this group will sorely test me I feel.

For the record, the other teams in the group are Switzerland, Bulgaria and Montenegro. Certainly none of these teams are pushovers. I think England will win the group though (in fact I'd expect them to), and do you know what? I'm going to have a punt and tip Wales for runner up spot.

Friday, February 05, 2010

A right beating: Toon 5-1 City

It's a bloody long way to Newcastle, and a darn sight further back when you have been thrashed 5-1.

This game was all over inside 6 minutes, by which time the Toon were 2-0 up, and then 3-0 in 15 mins.

No way back for City then, and though I was only keeping up on the live text, it seems to me we were soundly beaten. Men against boys. Perhaps it was the thoughts of Chelsea in the cup next week, but we've got Peterborough before that, so I hope Jonesy is giving them a right wake up call.

A night best forgotten - apart that is to remember how it feels to be on the wrong end of a drubbing.

Ford: update to the update

You have to give praise where it's due. After slagging off the local Ford dealer a week or so ago they did get back to me (after I followed up again), and they said call in, ask for "Ray" and he'll go out in the car with you.

So this morning I pooped into the garage on the way to work. Ray was there and we duly went for a 20 minute run in the car, where he acknowledged there was a problem with the steering/alignment, but wasn't sure whate.

When we got back he asked if I could hang on for 30mins whilst he stuck it on a ramp to rule out anything obvious. Then he said, whilst it's on there we might as well do the full alignment check. 25 mins later he showed me a printout that showed the rear wheel(s) were 8mm out of alignment and they'd fixed that.

That's a pretty significant mis-alignment apparently. He didn't have time to re-road test but was pretty confident it would have solved the problem. Then he and the desk girl had a chat about why the alignment would have changed so significantly less than 8 weeks after I'd had it doen previously, given there'd been no bump.

The long and short of it was they said, let us know if there's any further problem. If there is, you'll have to bring it in, get it checked and pay whatever to put it right, but for now, hope it's OK, on your way.

Well, it feels like a different car now. Steering wheel is aligned, and it doesn't turn left hand corners on it's own.

They could have charged me. But they didn't. Finally, some good customer service. Thanks Fordthorne Cardiff, and thanks, Ray.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Review? I don't think so...

I like PC pro magazine. Sometimes it's a bit too petrol headed for me a mere end user, but I've been a long time reader and for much of that time a subscriber (in fact my sub has run out and I must renew). The columnists generally are level headed and offer balanced opinions, even if some of the content is way over my level of understanding as a mere mortal and "end user".

Their "Labs" reviews are trustworthy and I think I've said before that I've made many hardware purchases on the back of their reviews and "A-List" and have literally never been disappointed.

Inevitably, amongst all that glowing praise there has to be a "but". The latest is this "review"/road test between the Tom Tom's top of the range 940T unit, and Tom Tom running on an iPhone.

Jon Honeyball is the writer. Now Mr Honeyball is a fount of all things technical and shiny, and his writing often leaves me wishing I could work for him. He's one of a limited number of people i the world who can get seriously excited by a service pack, and he's got the ear of many a Microsoft executive. His knowledge is almost second to none - who knows, it may be first to none, and when he's not writing articles where I can only understand only every fortieth word, I really find his writing interesting.

This article though is bizarre. It's billed as Tom Tom 940T vs iPhone Tom Tom: a real road test.

For a start the article is only 433 words long. Short by anyone's standards. And, as far as I can see, the only real "testing" between the two, where the statements:

"Comparing the maps and routing of the two units was fascinating. The 940T was head and shoulders better than the iPhone, simply by virtue of the live traffic updates"
and "quitting the app on the iPhone to do anything else was a pain in the posterior".

The latter statement is odd because he doesn't say the 940T is a PITA because it can only do one job. Balanced? Not very.

The rest of the article is mostly Mr Honeyball saying how he had trouble getting the iPhone into it's mount, then out of it's mount, only to find the mount had "broken" the iPhone because it was designed for an iPod Touch not an iPhone. D'uh?

He concludes that "I'd take the 940T every time". Well who wouldn't if all you wanted was a top of the range sat nav unit - that's assuming you could afford the £300 plus retail price (you can get it cheaper if you shop around), and Mr Honeyball's never short of a bob or two - he's frequently telling readers how he's bought (an expensive) bit of kit, from several terabytes of memory to a top of the range digital SLR on a whim.

Don't get me wrong, I'm really not having a pop at Jon Honeyball. I genuinely respect his work for PC Pro, but this isn't an article that road tests the 940T v the iPhone Tom Tom app, its an article that slags off the iPhone because he fitted in the wrong mount and doesn't do live updates.

By the way, I use CoPilot live on my iPhone :-)

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Mobile broadband

Just a quick post as I'm in a Manchester hotel and off out in a mo for some food and "networking" with fellow colleagues (i.e. going for a drink)

I'm hooked up to my O2 mobile broadband on a rock steady HSDPA signal (as you might expect in the centre of out second biggest City (sorry Birmingham).

Tried using it on the coach on the way up - signal was a bit flaky at times, varying between all available options - no signal, GPRS, Edge, 3G and HSDPA. Anyway, the bottom line is it works, and when I'm away from home and need a more oomph and screen real estate than the iPhone can give, £2 for 24 hrs or 500mb connection seems OK.

Happy Days

Monday, February 01, 2010

O2 mobile broadband. The good and the bad

My O2 mobile broadband dongle arrived today, less than 48 hours after I ordered it. Top service O2!

Followed the instructions. Plugged it in, Mac recognised the device, opened the folder to the "mobileconnect" package. Double clicked it to install, and got a flurry of terminal window with the message "The application quit unexpectedly". Bugger.

Tried again. And again. And again....there's a pattern here.

Quick Google suggested there are problems with this particular unit, but that it was solvable. Sorted in the end. Instead of double clicking package, did a right click, "view package contents" and then ran from the ensuing package icon.

After that, up and running in no time.

Bit poor though that it doesn't work as instructed out of the box.

I'm off to Manchester tomorow for a conference, so will look forward to testing it out.