One Down…

April 29, 2007

Well, my dissertation was completed and handed in. Just.

After the computer problems came the mental block problems, as I stared at a blank screen wondering what to write for about 5 days. A friend (thanks again Ellie!) then gave me the list of chapter headings she was using on hers though, and then it was full-steam ahead. 7,500 words, ten bottles of Lucozade and nine hours sleep in 48 hours.

Finally, my printer ran out of ink. I suspected this may happen, but I copied the file to a flash drive and got it printed an bound together.

This way of working may not be recomended and, indeed, I’m annoyed with myself for getting into the situation, but I seem to have perfected it. Of course, I won’t be getting as good a mark as I would have if I’d started when I first intended; but that isn’t as important as it once was. The unconditional offer from Sheffield has changed the game.

A-Levels supercede GCSE’s, which are rendered irrelevant by a degree. In it’s turn, a batchelor’s degree is made historical detail by a masters degree, so all I have to do is pass. Then I’m part way to Lee Broderick, BA, MSc.

This week I have to hand in the work from my placement: worth the same amount of my degree as the dissertation; then there’s one final piece of work due the following week and that’s it before my exams. Both pieces of work are vague in their respective requirements, however, and figuring that out may take as much time as doing the actual work! Wish me luck…

I Can Work!

April 22, 2007

Well, it took a week, and it was an expense I really could have done without, but I now have a new computer.

And one week left to write my dissertation.

It should be enough, but I’m still a little annoyed to be in this situation.

In other news, yesterday was a glorious day down at Polson. It was the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen there and brilliant to see the All Blacks promoted. That’s four south west teams in National 1 next season and four Cornish teams in the National Leagues after Mount’s Bay’s promotion. How many games I’ll get to see next season I don’t know and it raises many other questions about performance. I’ll just enjoy seeing Launceston play the likes of Northampton though, wherever the club finishes next season.

I’ve Had Enough

April 11, 2007

Some of you will know the travails and battles I’ve had with my computer the past year or more, well, enough is enough. Yesterday I spent 20 minutes waiting for the cursor on my screen to move. That was the final straw. I’ve run god knows how many different utitlites to try and get this machine running properly, and all to no avail. With the sun shining outside as well, it migh be nice to get a laptop so that I can do some work out in the garden as well, instead of being stuck in here without any windows…

In other news, there’s someone coming to look round the house tomorrow, so fingers crossed. It does mean I have an excuse to not do much work on the computer today, as tidy I the house.

A Weekend of Work and The Future

April 9, 2007

Well, owing to workloads I haven’t got out and done much lately, but, following the review of the N93, I thought I’d better update you on what’s happening to this ‘blog in future.

After listening to feedback, I have decided to keep this weblog going with few changes. The biggest change is regards music reviews. Some of you may know (and even remember?) that several years ago I wrote for a publication called The Ballroom Dalek. Well, that publication has been through a format change and a re-branding since then, but I’ve been asked back (and I’ve accepted). So, in future, music related news and views can be found at http://www.kidvinyl.co.uk. Personal news and any future technology reviews will, for the time being at least, continue here side-by-side.

I’ll give a full update here later in the week when I have more to say.

Nokia N93 Review, Part 2

April 8, 2007

When I started the review, I mentioned that the first thing you notice about this ‘phone is it’s size. The second thing to hit you though, is purely tactile. When mobile ‘phones were beginning to become common-place in the late nineties, Nokia were renowned for two things – their user-friendliness and their ruggedness. Over the years, the second of these two features has been neglected, but this is a return to form. It’s a delight to feel cold metal when you pick up a ‘phone instead of plastic.

So, what of it’s non-camera features?

Making calls on the N93 is easy, thanks to the large buttons (which again feel satisfyingly well made) which should make even the most sausage-fingered individuals feel comfortable. I confess at this point that I’ve never enjoyed using flip ‘phones when making a call, and this is no exception – that’s a personal thing though; I know a lot of people prefer using flip ‘phones.

When using the ‘phone as a web browser, the four-position feature comes into it’s own once more. By pushing the screen to the right of the ‘phone, instead of to the top, you’re presented with a widescreen frame – much easier on the eyes. I didn’t experience any problems with connection, which was relatively fast compared with my last ‘phone. For even quicker (and cheaper?) browsing, the ‘phone supports 3G and WLAN (wireless networks, meaning that you can connect the N93 to a network and browse the internet through your home ISP as well as access other parts of your home network, your PC or printer for example).

This widescreen position on the ‘phone is probably the one I found most useful. Not only can you browse the web comfortably through it, you can make video calls via a second camera (if you want; personally it’s not something I’ve ever seen the point of), you can open, view and edit Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint documents as well as open Adobe .pdf files via built in software and, of course, play games.

The N93 comes equipped with five cards games, a rather natty 3D version of Snake and some kind of sci-fi driving thing.

In terms of music, the ‘phone comes with both an .mp3 player and an FM radio. Play back via the supplied hands free kit is fine although, like any set of cheap headphones, audiophiles will find it wanting. I should also point out that I only heard sound in one ear, whether this was just the headset with my model or a more generic fault I couldn’t say, although I’m inclined towards the former. Via Bluetooth, there is a fair amount of hiss. That said, the EQ, with five presets, does offer improvements over earlier ‘phones without any way of adjusting the audio frequencies.

As usual, any readers who feel I’ve failed to cover anything, please get in touch.

Nokia N93 Review, Part 1

April 4, 2007

When this arrived on my desk yesterday, my initial reaction was one of amazement at its size. Closer inspection revealed that it was the same width and not a lot longer than my old Nokia 7610, just a lot heavier and deeper. All this bulk begins to make sense when considered from a different mindset, however.

Nokia’s smartphones have evolved in two directions, first there is the mini-computer, do-everything, 21st-century-urban-Victorinox approach of the N70, N80 and most recently, the N95. The second approach has seen Nokia target specific markets that exist outside the gadget-loving and PDA-using world, most noticeably with the N91, which has aggressively pursued the MP3 player market. The N93 follows this pattern, but instead of MP3 players, it’s digital cameras. So, once you start to think of this more as a camera with a ‘phone, than a ‘phone with a camera, its bulk starts to make a little more sense.

The N93 approaches dedicated camera mode via a very clever four-position system. To access the camera, you open the ‘phone like a traditional flip ‘phone, then turn the top part through ninety degrees anti-clockwise. This is actually even easier than it sounds.

In this new position, with the large (37mm x 50mm) screen facing you, your thumb hovers over four dedicated camera buttons on the side of the ‘phone, which work very well. The top (and largest) button operates focusing and takes pictures, with a push dial around the edge operating the zoom control (including 3 x optical zoom!). The next button down operates an on screen menu allowing you to alter colour tone, white balance, exposure value and shooting mode (Automatic, User pre-defined, Close-up, Landscape, Night and Night Portrait). The next button down on this side of the ‘phone switches it back to use as a ‘phone, although this is also acheived by simply moving the screen back. The bottom button operates the flash. Two further buttons on the side of the screen itself, allow you standard camera options such as scrolling through your pictures, etc.

All in all then, it’s very easy to use and has all the features you’d espect to find on a compact digital camera. The shutter speed is at least as fast as my Sony Cybershot and, at 3.2 megapixels resolution with the optical zoom (in addition to digital zoom, if you want/need it) it’s not that far off the 4 megapixels of that dedicated camera. Not a cheap camera just a couple of years ago.

On the other side of the ‘phone from the one we just talked about (the one your fingers are over when holding it in camera mode) is a slot for Micro SD cards, currently available up to 2GB in size. Enough for a lot of photos. This is ejected by tapping the power button (on the top of the ‘phone) and selecting it from the menu that appears. Perhaps not the easiest method, but it’s straight-forward enough for something that won’t be done frequently except by the most trigger-happy of photographers. Also located on this side is a socket for connecting one of two supplied cables.

The first cable connects the ‘phone to a computer, via it’s USB port, for offloading ‘photos, etc. The other connects the ‘phone to a television, for playing back videos or a slideshow from your photographs. Very clever.

All in all, the N93 functions very well as a camera, offering all the features you’d expect to find on a normal camera and in a very user-friendly manner. Of course, it does not threaten the high-end digital cameras, but for those who like to take quick snaps on a digital compact and would like to have one on them at all times without the invonvenience of carrying that around as well as a ‘phone, this may just represent the ideal choice.

More on its other functions, capabilities (and perhaps even use as a ‘phone!) shortly.

Offer’s in

April 2, 2007

Well, my plan has come to fruition and I’ve been offered a new mobile ‘phone to review.

Having never really seen the point of ‘blogs, do I continue to write things here after fulfilling my obligations and reviewing it?

Answers on a postcard….

Dem Bones

March 25, 2007

Well, that was a pretty productive week. All the bones in my assemblage have now been recorded, so I can get on to the analysis. I should have finished the practical work for my placement by Tuesday too. Everything’s beginning to fall into place nicely.

As a reward to myself for all that, I’m taking the weekend off from work and having a rather nice time. Yesterday was a glorious spring day and in the morning I went for a good walk in the woods behind the house. In the afternoon, I went down to Launceston to watch the rugby. Not a great game, but again, it was nice to be out in the sun and catch up with old friends that I bumped into down there.

Always nice to visit the mother country too. Never fails to put me in a good mood.

Almost forgot; I received an email form Sheffield on Thursday saying that they were offering me a place next year. Looks like I’ll be further away from Cornwall than ever before, for 12 months at least.

Swords

March 18, 2007

How many people have walked out of their front door and into a sword fight? I did yesterday when I went to mow my lawn. Most bizarre. I probably should point out that the participants were in full fencing gear. Which only made it more bizarre.

I got my first module marks back for this year on Friday, and I have to say I’m quite chuffed with myself. I feel vindicated; as though all I’ve been saying about the impact of my personal problems last year is now beyond dispute, if it ever was. Still, onwards to the dissertation. There’s always a danger, laid back as I am, that I’ll leave everything to the last minute and shrug my shoulders with my remaining work.