Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Tablet Coaching: Lesson Plans & Tablet External Tour

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After last week’s introductory lesson, we spent today discussing the group’s Lesson Plans and giving the Group a tour of the outside of their Tablet (sockets, switches etc).

Laptop Coaching: Word Processing (Part 1)

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Today we began the first of three lessons covering the essentials of word-processing. Guess what? Part two next week!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Laptop Coaching: Keyboard and Tiles

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Following-on from last week’s initial Lesson, today, we discussed more about a typical Laptop keyboard. We also looked at the Windows 10 ‘Tiles’ layout and how to customise the look.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Tech Alert (No. 877)

Warning: This Blog contains a serious amount of techy nerdiness, and (more scarily) me attempting some DIY.

It’s not for the faint-hearted, so if you are easily shocked, please click HERE to exit!
Smile Smile

OK, so I’ve had my new whizzy Amp, sorry ‘AV Receiver’ for just about 12 months now, and recently re-cabled it all so that it took over the sound processing from the TV and the DVD player. Why?, to take advantage of recent additional sound technologies including Dolby Atmos. Easy-peasy! and so far, so normal!
But one niggling little techy-doubt remained as the we’d noticed that every so often, the BT Router had a major wobble causing the Amp AV Receiver to stutter when playing music via the ‘net or from the Home-server. Additionally, downloads to the TV were becoming a bit unreliable too. Finally, my latest techy purchase of the rather clever ChromeCast Ultra dongle was behaving very erratically and not living up to its promises.

ChromeCast Ultra

They all had one thing in common - they were all wirelessly connected to the ‘net. After a longish chat with the boffins at BT, we concluded that their new, recently delivered shiny new router - the BT Smart Hub - wasn’t quite so smart at handling the numerous incoming net connections - both wired and wireless. BT muttered something about ‘BT Routers aren’t designed to handle more than about 8 wireless connections’ - so, in layman’s terms it was simply ‘overloading’ - perhaps another reason NOT to have kids… with Phones… and Tablets… and X Boxes as well!
After a bit of reluctance on BT’s part, they agreed to send back my previous ‘outdated’ router - the previous generation BT HomeHub 5. Of course, it never arrived (thanks BT!) and after a few follow-up calls, two week later, a shiny new ‘old’ one finally turned-up.

After a major exercise in re-connecting all our wireless devices back to their old friend, things appeared to be much better. But I spoke too soon, and after about a week, wireless connections around the house started to drop-out again. On the plus-side however, at least the wired connections were now behaving.

So I concluded that it was just the wireless devices that couldn’t seem to hang on to their connection.

Then, in a moment of clarity (increasingly rare these days) I realised that a reasonably straightforward - and cheap - solution was possible! One that would reduce the number of wireless connections AND improve the stability of the whole network - Replace the unstable wireless devices’ connections with their wired equivalents.

So, specifically, I needed a wired connection for the:-

…but unfortunately, the HomeHub 5 was located nowhere near these devices (it’s never simple in this house!) and to make it even more challenging there wasn’t enough spare Ethernet sockets on the back of the Hub anyway, to feed all my devices.


Unmanaged Ethernet Switch (less than £20)

After a bit of research online, I realised that all I needed was a multi-port unmanaged Ethernet switch as well as what seemed like a healthy supply of Ethernet cabling to run around the outside of the house and some shortish cables for the devices themselves. I could have used the much simpler Powerline option, but they didn’t solve the problem.

Thanks to Mr Amazon, everything I needed was delivered more-or-less a few hours after I’d clicked on the order. That left just the following to-dos:-

  • Colour-code/label the switch ports and cables
  • Dress-rehearse all the connections
  • Drill three holes in the side of the house - one near the router, one near the TV/Sky Q Box/DVD Player and finally, one near the AV Receiver
  • Laying the cable round the perimeter of the house from the Router to the Switch and re-cable/connect the devices
  • Test everything!

9th February: Colour-code the Switch ports and Cables
Probably the easiest part of the job, once I sourced some sticky dots with enough colour variation


11th February: Dress Rehearsal
The Lounge looked like a death-trap with cables strewn all over the place. The area near the TV was especially dangerous with the TV and DVD unit out so I could get round the back to make the connections. Luckily, Ann was away, and the operation went smoothly with every device was working as it should. I cleared up the cables ready for the live event.

15th February: Drilling the Holes
I needed a very (very) wide drill bit for this, and a real ‘big-boy’ drill - neither of which I own. Step-forward Mick, our local Sparks with son and heir, Ash who completed the job in record time - cheers Guys!

16th February: Laying the Cable
Actually, this turned out to be the most hazardous part of the job - it even drew blood! Where the hole from the Router protruded outside the house, it just happened to coincide with the thickest, thorniest rose bush we own. Trying to get my hands behind it without ‘testing’ the thorns was impossible - as a result, there was literally blood on my hands!

All that was left to do was to buy some extra cable clips to tidy everything up.

17th February: Testing
In spite of my industrial injury, adding the cable clips was a simple task - now it looks a lot tidier. More importantly perhaps, I’m pleased to say that it’s all been VERY worthwhile. Sky downloads are now much more stable (and faster too!), GoogleCast is rock-solid, and there’s no more drop-outs with our streamed music.

Job done! Total cost was less than £50 (including the plasters!)

Saturday, February 17, 2018

SPECS and the City (not!)

They say you always remember your first time!

Mine was on the road between Catford and Lewisham back in the late 70s at 10.47 - a Sunday I think - and it was over in a flash. Dad was horrified, Mum was angry mortified - and I was very embarrassed having been caught in the act. And silly me, for not using any protection!

Now I know what your thinking, but at the time, getting nicked for speeding was a relatively novel event, and the protection of a camera detector was financially out-of-reach for me back then. I must have needed specs, even back then at the tender age of 22, because PC Dixon was so obvious standing at the side of the road with his speed gun!
Sad smile
I don’t mind saying that after being pulled over by the ‘boys-in-blue’ (there were no girls-in-blue in police cars during the late 70s) for doing 52 in a 30, I spent the 29.9 mph return journey home see-sawing between emotions. Emotions of fear (how to tell Mum and Dad) and surprise (that my highly customised first car - an already ageing bright red 848cc mini-van was actually capable of going that fast!).

Fast-forward (sorry, controlled acceleration-forward) 40+ years, and the more things change, the more they stay the same. After a points-free Licence since May 22, 2011, I’d always planned to keep it that way - but Fate had other plans!

I was caught doing 46 in a 40 last December not by one of these new-fangled SPECS (average) speed cameras, but a fixed one in my old stomping-ground - the city of Peterborough.

Ahh, so that’s where the Blog Title came from!

Back to the story! Luckily, I could still remain points-free courtesy of a ‘Speed Awareness Course’. I hadn’t realised that these sort of Courses were such a regular event. When I was sent the list of venues and dates, there was more-or-less two-per-day for the foreseeable future - clearly a popular alternative to three points then!

So, I arrived at the Marriott Hotel in Northampton just after 8am today, and the class was already filling up for the 8.30 kick-off! We were introduced to our Trainers-for-the-day - Stuart and David - and made to feel very welcome. On the stroke of 8.30, the class was full and the 30-or-so of us were probably all thinking the same as me: “What’s today going to be like?”
Disappointed smile
Well, I’m pleased to say (having spent quite a few years ‘up-front’ as a Trainer) that it was a thoroughly well-run and educational event. Rapport was quickly built with the group - not easy when it’s mandatory… on a Saturday morning… at 8.30! Both Stuart and David treated us like adults (not like naughty children) and quickly tapped in to our driving experience. It certainly was NOT death-by-PowerPoint, instead, we had quite a few individual and group exercises to build on our experiences and help us to improve our driving skills.

The days when these sort of events relied on shock tactics showing mangled cars and mangled people, thankfully, were a thing of the past.

We were offered plenty of ‘tips and tricks’ to help us become more aware of the surroundings when we are driving, and I guess that’s the point of all of this.

Having been behind the wheel since I was 18, I wasn’t sure I was going to learn anything - but I did! And I really do think it will help to calm that lead right foot of mine!
Thumbs up Thumbs up Thumbs up Thumbs up Thumbs up

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentines’ Day 2018

I have a good record of making this day special - normally including a home-cooked meal too! In recent years, I’ve collaborated with David and we’ve made it a joint event for our two special ladies rolling-in a romantic movie courtesy of Mr Sky.

However, this year was different - as Lent started on the 14th (Bugger!) and David and Valerie were away on a Cruise - so, we dialled-down the event and had a homemade curry on the 13th instead.

Still managed to come up with some interesting cards though…

…and of course some red roses too!

I also lapsed into a bit of poetry too!

Technology Coaching: We’re Full!

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Lucky me! My Technology Classes are now full. We have a full complement of willing Learners for my Monday Laptop Class, Tuesday Laptop Class and Tuesday Tablet Class.

If you’d like to be added to the waiting list, please drop-in to the Salvation Army in Rothwell and speak to Majors David or Julie and take away the application form.

I estimate that new Classes will begin later this year – probably August.

Lent Boy (ish) 2018

Lent List 2018
Can’t find your reading glasses? Click on the image above, for a larger version

It’s Valentine’s Day and whilst most of us are preparing for a special meal and spreading petals around the place, I’m also getting ready for another annual event…
Red heart Plate Red heart Plate Red heart 
It’s earlier this year, and so here we go again… another year… another of my 'Lent Challenges'!

For 2018, it's now 48 items that I'm trying to avoid (from Wednesday, February 14th until Thursday, March 29th). However, before I get stuck in, some of you have commented (who know a lot more about the Lent tradition than me) that the dates I’m working with ‘aren’t the complete Lent period, as Lent finishes on Holy Saturday’.

After some extensive research (err, a bit of googling!) those results suggest there does seem to be a few variations on when the period ends! However, after much consideration, I’m still sticking with the slightly-easier-for-me-and-those-closest-to-me and finishing the day before Good Friday! That same research also confirms that, I can ‘take the Sundays off during Lent’ - but where's the fun in that!? So I’m not!

I think therefore that balances things up nicely!
Smile with tongue out
Why do all this? Well, as many of you know by now, I love my food - probably too much - and I try and grow my list each year to make the fasting process a bit more challenging next time round.

When I started all this back in 2010, it was just a few of my faves - 13 items - now I'm up to 48! I guess it’s more an annual test of my will-power and a way of losing a few pounds, rather than any religious conviction (although I always think a period of denial is good for the soul). Whatever my motivation, my smug-ometer is going to be cranking up to 11!
Sarcastic smile
Thanks in advance then, to all my friends and family, who are going to be kind enough to re-work menus for me during this period! Wish them (and me) luck. By Maundy Thursday, a slightly slimmer - and smugger - me will emerge!
Smile Smile Smile

See you on the other side!

Previous Lent Events

2010 (13 items)

2011 (16 items)

2012 (19 items)

2013 (23 items)

2014 (26 items)

2015 (36 items)

2016 (42 items)

2017 (46 items)

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Tablet Coaching: Class of 2018

Auto cross-posted from my Wordpress Tech Blog:

Today, we welcomed another new Class* – Tom, Sue, Chris, Janet & Ann.

For the next 20 or so weeks, I will be helping them to get the most out of their Android Tablet.

*Not to be confused with the other new Class that started last week 🙂

Laptop Coaching: Google Maps

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Today, we looked at the power and flexibility of ‘Google Maps’, including newer features such as ‘Bus Timetables’ and ‘Location Sharing’.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Laptop Coaching: Lesson Plans

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After last week’s introductory lesson, today, we presented the group with their proposed Lesson Plans.

We also took a detailed look at a typical Windows Laptop Keyboard – including the functions of the lesser-known (but very useful) keys.

‘Alt Gr’ key anyone??? 🙂 🙂