Archive for the ‘Gadgets’ Category

A New Generation

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

I promised you a better picture of my generator when one was available…here y’go then…

Generator running

Sense of Direction

Monday, January 9th, 2012

According to this news story, our hard-pressed gubmint is to hold a summit to stamp out the vile curse of drivers being led astray by their in-car satnavs.

Now as many of you will know, I’ve been using GPS since before TomTom style devices were invented, and then TomTom since its first inception – when it was only available as software for a laptop or PDA, and the current standalone units were just a twinkle in a developer’s wallet. So I think I can claim to have the benefit of considerable experience when I offer the following technique which, if used by all drivers, would mean that satnav was never again blamed for lorries getting wedged under clearly signposted low bridges, or cars driving down rivers instead of roads. It’s a simple to use two-step system:

1) Your car, van or lorry is fitted with a big window, just in front of the steering wheel. Look through it.

In a perfect world, I could stop there and call this a one-step system. Ah well…

2) Your head is conveniently fitted with a device called a brain. Use it.

OK, accuse me of sarcasm if you like, but it isn’t difficult: if the bridge in front of you is signposted as two inches lower than your lorry, your satnav can’t change the fact that you ain’t going to get through. A satnav is just a tool, and isn’t to blame for driver stupidity, any more than my hammer is to blame if I hit my thumb.

There we are, call-me-Dave. Maybe you can cancel your satnav summit now and focus on fixing the economy. Although to judge from some of the words of wisdom emerging from politicians of all parties recently, lost motorists aren’t the only ones lacking direction.


Monday, August 29th, 2011

So many promises for future bloggage in my last submission – what first? Let’s lead with the tale of the car breakdown…

It rained on the last day of New Wine. Quite a lot, which meant that packing up was done in several stages, as I did a bit, then ran for cover, then did a bit more, and so on. The process was further slowed by me having to look for my keys all the time, which I’d invariably put down somewhere not under cover, then had to rescue from a puddle next time it stopped raining.

Eventually the packing was complete and I headed for home – or at least the storage site where the caravan lives. I was running so late by now that I decided not to stop at the Little Chef where I’d planned to have lunch, and later foreswore the bacon-butty-wagon-in-a-layby which had been my reserve position. I just put my head down and headed for home.

One consequence of which was that by the time I reached Mungo’s Caravan Storage Site, I had an even more urgent need than food. I stopped car and caravan outside the wooden hut provided for such situations, did what I needed to do, and returned to the car.

Which didn’t start.

Analysis of the flashing light on the dashboard suggested that the immobiliser wasn’t recognising the transponder in the key. I wonder if all that leaving the keys out in the rain had fried the RFID tag in the key? I rang Purple Fred (whom I love very much).

“Any chance you could come here with my spare car keys?”

PF arrived and the spare key started the car, so my diagnosis seems to have been correct. As this left me with only one key that would start the car, I headed at my earliest opportunity to Mungo’s Jeep Emporium.

“Hello”, quoth I, “I’d like a new spare key for my Jeep please”

The guys eyes lit up, and I soon found out why: One key…cut to suit the car…with the door-unlocking blipper set to the right code…and the RFID tag set for the immobiliser…ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY ZARKING QUID!

It’s still cheaper than getting stranded somewhere without a working key, though. And in future, on long trips the spare key goes with me. And the keys get kept somewhere dry.


Thursday, March 10th, 2011

T’other day, in my review of the Kindle e-book reader, I commented

It also seems to be a fairly cheap and easy process for self-publishers to publish their own work for the Kindle, and while that’s likely to lead to vast amounts of dross floating around, there’s also going to be some good stuff that wouldn’t otherwise see the light of day.

No sooner had I written it than I discovered that one such self-published book is Killing Elizabeth, by a brilliant – if yet little known – author whose name most of my readers will recognise. So of course I splashed out eighty-six pees and bought it.


Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

After a great deal of um-ing and ah-ing, I’ve taken the plunge and bought a Kindle.

I’d been thinking of getting an e-book reader for some time, and the choice came down to the Kindle or the Sony equivalent: they’re probably as good as each other, but the Kindle had more positive reviews so I went for that.

After the first couple of weeks use, I’m pretty impressed. It not only displays books (in Amazon’s proprietary e-book format), but also PDFs, Word documents, various image file formats and several others. I’ve loaded it with all the work- related documents that I need to have will me when I do my ”grand tours” of our regional offices, so if nothing else it’ll save me considerable backache. I’ve also loaded a lot of stuff that I don’t normally carry around with me because it’s too heavy, but which I know will come in useful.

So what’s the reading experience? Pretty good. The display has been optimised to be as much like ink-on-paper as possible, and they’ve achieved it pretty well. It’s much lighter than a normal paperback and of course you can carry a load of books around you in one go – the reckon the storage is enough for 3500 paperback-sized books so you’ll struggle to ever fill it. Books can be categorised into “collections” (think folders on your computer) and you can have as many collections as you like. What you can’t have is subfolders, but that’s about the only criticism I’ve got.

The books are…well, books, although there’s a huge selection of free books available- basically everything that’s been piublished and is now old enough to be out of copyright is available as a free download, so it’s going to be a few years before I’ve got nothing to read, even if I never buy anything. It also seems to be a fairly cheap and easy process for self-publishers to publish their own work for the Kindle, and while that’s likely to lead to vast amounts of dross floating around, there’s also going to be some good stuff that wouldn’t otherwise see the light of day.

So – worthwhile purchase? Yes. I suspect I’ll still buy books sometimes – I wouldn’t want to read a Kindle by the poolside on holiday, and anything with a lot of picture content is going to be better on paper, at least until Kindles have colour screens (the black and white picture resolution is at least as good as a medium quality paperback). But for everyday reading – tea breaks, in bed and on the train or bus – it’s excellent.

Radio vs Theatre

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

Blimey – nearly a month since I last blogged! I’ve been having outrageous amounts of fun (and working very hard), which has left little time for blogging, but I thought I’d better give you a quick update to avoid a SimonG-esque four week gap between blogs.

My lovely Purple Fred – whom I really do love very much – asked me to put together a compilation of music for the interval of the play she’s directing. So I produced something, and the outcome perfectly illustrates the difference between radio people and theatre people.

The interval is going to be 20 minutes long. The music compilation I produced is nineteen minutes fifty-nine seconds.

PF was concerned about the music fitting the mood of the play. I was worried about the missing second.

Follow Me

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Those of you who’ve been following Gottleblog for a while will remember the Gruntmobile tracker, a page within the site where you can see where I am, or at least where my car is, and where it’s been over the last three days.

The service stopped working for a while after I replaced Grunty with Evie B, but a couple of weeks ago I finally motivated myself to get it working again, so I installed the kit and it seems to be working. You can check out my latest doings by following the “my bits and bobs” link over on the right, and then choosing either “Gruntmobile Trace” or “Gruntmobile Tracker”. Unlike the previous incarnation the transmitter won’t be on all the time – a chap needs some privacy and this is mainly about proving the technology – but at least it’s working again :-)


Sunday, June 13th, 2010

Me an’ Purple Fred an’ Mini Fred had a barbecue this afternoon – and apart from me completely failing to set anything other than charcoal alight (see here) it was pretty much as you might expect a barbecue to be. But it DID remind me of something that I failed to blog about when it happened, back in February…

In connection with one of PF’s drama things, we had a smoke machine to play with. It was a big industrial smoke machine possibly designed for Wembley Stadium, but we were confident that with judicious use of the settings we could get it right. Time at the technical rehearsal was going to be tight and we had to arrive at the theatre already knowing how it worked, so we set up a little smoke machine practice at PF’s house.

We set the machine up in the conservatory with the nozzle pointing down the garden (we’re not THAT daft), and PF and MF stood outside in the cold to observe effects: Because of the length of the mains cable, I had to stay inside in the warm with the controls.

We had, of course, failed to take into account the wind direction: While PF was shouting “There’s not much smoke, turn it UP! Turn it UP!”, I was in the dining room with the kitchen and hall smoke alarms going off, and unable to find my way across the room to turn it off.

And that’s what today’s barbecue reminded me of. The burgers were nice, though.

Catching up

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

So – I had a fabby Easter weekend with Purple Fred and Mini-Fred: we went away to Dorset – one of my favourite counties – where we went to the Royal Signals museum, won a bingo competition, hunted (and found) dragon eggs, cuddled guinea pigs and stroked goats, and discovered a new favourite tea room. Oh, and found a geocache, of course.

And then yesterday was the birthday of Mini-Fred, with much food to be consumed – including, of course, birthday cake. I’m going to have to find a new name for Mini-Fred soon – it won’t feel right to call him that once he’s taller than me!

Major Gadget

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

I was right! Unfortunately I can’t yet tell you what I was right about, but I was right about something. Details when the press embargo is lifted.

In other news…I bought a gadget. In fact no I didn’t…I bought a GADGET!!!!!!! To be exact, one of these.

Undoubtedly some of you will be wondering why I’ve bought a wireless video baby monitor…and no, it isn’t for the obvious reason. I had the towbar fitted to the car last week, and I’ve been thinking about a reversing camera – not for reversing, but for those occasions when I have to hook the caravan up without assistance, when being able to watch the towbar and caravan hitch from the driving seat makes life so much easier. But a reversing camera – coming in at a minimum of £150 fitted – is an expensive option for the handful of times a year I’d use it.

Then, in the “Readers’ Top Tips” section of a caravan magazine, somebody was saying how he’d bought a video baby monitor to solve a different problem – that of being able to see behind the caravan when reversing. Suitably inspired, I had a quick Google and placed an order.

So I now have my multi-purpose gadget: I can use it as described for hitching up, then take it round the back of the caravan and test the lights, while sitting in the driving seat. And then I can hang it looking out of the caravan back window while towing…

And I’m sure I can find some non-caravanning uses for it as well!

Christmas Presence

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

No, that isn’t a mis-spelling – it’s meant to be a pun.

Not a very good one, as today’s offering is indeed about Chrimbo pressies. Now I know Christmas isn’t (mainly) about pressies, or grub, or booze…I’m a Christian, of course I know that…but it has to be said I did especially well for pressies this year. Among the highlights were…

From M’lovely Purple Fred (whom I love very much), A murder mystery dinner party kit – all you need to put on your own murder mystery dinner party, apart from food, a venue, and six friends! Luckily we can resource those added items between us, so an evening of fun in the near future seems assured!

(PF and I nearly bought each other the same DVD – luckily the Michael McIntyre one was out of stock where I shopped, so we’ve got a Michael and a Rhod Gilbert between us, instead of two Michaels!).

From My Luvvly Mum, a totally lush dressing gown – it’s so thick and velevety and lush I feel like Noel Coward in the original Italian Job. Or in anything else he was in, really.

From the fabby Rockin’ Rob and his lovely Sally-J, a pillow with a built-in speaker. Designed so you can listen to music late at night without stressing your partner, I’ve combined it with an old cordless headphone set (to avoid trailing cables) for in-bed TV viewing without keeping awake the person whose bed is on t’other side of the wall!

…and loads of other stuff, like a good range of books and a book token, a head massager for those stressful times, more chocolate and alcohol than is really good for me, and a quantity of dosh that has already translated into a new walking pole (to replace the one I lost in the Lake District) and a new flight case for my gadgets :-) .

Oh, and PF booked our holiday today. Looks good…shame it’s six months away really!


Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

So, I told you yesterday that I’d bought a new camera.

I’ve been thinking about it for a while. My Nikon is starting to show signs of wear, and makes some horrible grinding noises whenever the lens moves. Plus of course, the 5 megapixel resolution that was pretty good when I bought it, looks like pretty stone-age technology now!

My requirements were:

  1. Within budget…well, duh!
  2. Runs on AA batteries – I know not every photographer agrees with this one, but in the last year alone I’ve had three cases of battery-induced stress, which wouldn’t have happened if I could’ve gone into a shop and said “Please sell me some batteries”
  3. Compact size – again I know that this tends to be a bit of a trade-off with quality, but if I’ve learned anything at all about photography it’s that a camera you’ve got with you gets better pictures than a camera you’ve left at home.
  4. Preferably use SD cards for storage, as I’ve got loads of those already – if not, at least something that’ll plug straight into my computer without an adaptor

Within these broad basics, initially the Fuji Finepix S1500 seemed to offer a decent specification for the budget, but some of the online reviews were disappointing. Comments from those reviews eventually lead me to the Canon SX120 IS.

I’ve only taken a few indoor shots so far – I’m not exposing it to the world until the belt pouch and screen protector I’ve ordered have arrived. In the meantime, these at least give an idea of the zoom range…

Full wide angle

Full zoom

And here’s a full-size crop of a zoomed picture, showing resolution: It comes from the rabbit’s ear just left of centre.


Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Being a Health and Safety professional involves a wide range of skills that you might not at first think.

Today, for example, I spent a significant amount of time fitting a spare footrest on a wheelchair. Which raises two interesting questions:

  1. How can it take a professional person with letters after his name forty five minutes to attach a piece with two moving parts, to another piece?
  2. How did a wheelchair – which rarely gets used anyway, and has never been outside the building – lose a footrest?

In more normal work, I’ve also been up and down twelve flights of stairs – twice – doing my monthly inspection of the fire exits, and sworn quite a lot at Microsh**e software, finishing the latest revision of the Health and Safety manual.

I also bought a camera, but I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.


Friday, October 23rd, 2009

Well, thanks to those of my readers who’ve sent birthday wishes – and sepcial thanks to the texters, who haven’t had a response yet :-( . The change over of phones is dragging on, so those of you using the old number come through to a tatty old phone which doesn’t display names: As I’m rubbish at remembering names and numbers, I’m having to guess – but I think those texts are from Jenny (easy from the context), Sarah T (easy from the syntax), Rob and Sarah (easy from the use of the term “Duuuuuuude”), and Jan and Andy (easy from the fcat that they signed it “Jan and Andy”).

It being my birthday, I went to Krispy Kreme at lunchtime to get duffnuts for my colleagues: I picked up two boxes of twelve KK doughnuts and went up to the counter to pay.

“Are these to take away or are you eating them in the store sir?”

OK PF…now I really know I need to lose weight.

You’ve Got My Number

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

I decided to keep my old mobile number – the hassle of telling everyone I know my new number was a lot less than the hassle of porting the existing number across, so that’s the option I went for. Mind you – it looks like that could take a while so I’ll be stuck with a temporary number for the time being. If you’re a regular contact, look out for a text message with my new number, although I’m having a bit of trouble getting numbers off my old SIM card. I had a text from Jenny this afternoon (I’m using my old SIM in my Mum’s phone) and haven’t been able to reply to it!

And now I’ve got an eighty-nine page instruction book to read…and a suitcase to pack for next week…and I haven’t even unloaded the car from last weekend yet! Where does the time go?


Monday, October 19th, 2009

Well, I’ve ordered my new mobile phone.

I looked at iPhones – but to be honest, all the things an iPhone can do, I don’t really need a phone to do. OK, it would be fun to have a phone that’s got all those apps, but not enough to make it worth the extra cost. I also considered a Blackberry – the technology is old enough to be pretty de-bugged and some of the features could be useful, but then I remembered that people use them on the train as a badge of honour – “Look how important I am, I can’t afford to be out of e-mail contact for even a moment”. I’m not that important and don’t want to be.

So I settled on a Nokia 6303. It has the same features as the Sony Ericsson it’s replacing, it has the lowest proportion of negative user reviews, and it was free. And I should have it tomorrow.

Change of Plan

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

Tonight’s entry could be subtitled So much for that idea.

In last week’s piece about mobile phones, I commented “To cut to the chase, it looks like the best phone for what I want, within a price bracket Im prepared to pay, is the three-year-old one Ive already got.” That was before the events of this weekend.

One of PF’s cats likes to drink out of glasses of water – and she seems to have a particular liking for the one I leave on the bedside table overnight. Since I’m not partial to taking my morning tablets with a glass half-full of cat slobber, I normally cover it with PF’s alarm clock, which is heavy enough to not get knocked off the top of the glass, and exactly the right size to fit. Unfortunately this morning we had to be up at stupid o’clock to go to a boot sale and the alarm clock was needed, so I cast around for something else.

My mobile phone was handy, and just the right size to go over the top of the glass. And the water in the glass was just the right size to totally submerge the phone, when it fell in! I fished it out straight away, and took the battery out, but even now the display isn’t working properly and a couple of the buttons don’t work – specifically the make call/answer call button, the end call button, and the number six.

I’ll be researching new phones again tomorrow. In the meantime my SIM card – which does still work – is in my Mum’s new phone and she’s using the old spare one. So now it’s me that’s got the phone that’s “ideal for the elderly”

More Money

Friday, October 16th, 2009

Having failed to pay the council some money online yesterday, I also had to pay Purple Fred some wonga. The reason for this is a blog entry on its own, but we’ll say for now that she’d paid my gym membership and I had to pay her back.

That at least would be fairly easy: I’ve been doing e-banking for some time; I’d paid her some money online recently, and the bank website has a “pay someone I’ve paid before” option – all I had to do was log in, select that option, click on “Purple Fred” and give her the money.

Except her name didn’t appear in the drop-down list. The payment I made recently was on the statement, so I know it went through, but without any useful details that would enable me to make the payment, like an account number. The only thing for it was to go back to the beginning and choose the “pay someone new” option.

“You have been logged out for suspicious operation”

Charming. Luckily – unlike the council payment – I got it sorted in the end. But why can’t online payments – or anything else for that matter – be easy?

Ring Ring

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

I’ve taken a brave plunge into the big scary world of mobile phones.

My Mum needed a new phone, which was what prompted this courageous step by me: she really wanted a simple one that just did phone calls and texts, with none of the posh bells and whistles like cameras and MP3 players. I found her one with nice big buttons and an easy-to-read display, although she’s a bit dischuffed that it’s advertised as being ideal for the elderly – she’s only in her seventies for goodness sake!

While I was sorting out the mobile communication technology, I had a look at getting one for me. I’ve had my current one for nearly three years so I must be due an upgrade. I want mainly phone and texting, with an occasional look at the internet and taking the odd photo – but it’s never going to be my main camera or internet tool, so doesn’t have to be hugely good at these things.

I spotted one that I thought would do the job – but then read some user reviews and decided against it. To cut to the chase, it looks like the best phone for what I want, within a price bracket I’m prepared to pay, is the three-year-old one I’ve already got. I will be changing provider – I can get some excellent cheap call deals if me, Purple Fred and my Mum are all on the same network – so I’ll just get my phone unlocked and put a new SIM in.

I haven’t decided whether to keep the old number: I’ve had it a long time and it would be a bit of a pain to have to tell everyone I know a new number. But a lot of people have that number who I’d prefer not to – I still get calls from dodgy salesmen I last had contact with in my previous job – so it might be worth the effort.

Home, Home on the Range

Monday, October 5th, 2009

My luvvly new car, the sainted Evie, has a number of features that I’m not really accustomed to. One of those is a clutch and gear lever, but we’ll draw a veil over that for now, and concentrate on the range meter.

If you’ve never seen one of these, it’s part of the dashboard, and combines the amount of fuel in the tank, with the average consumption, to give the distance you’ll be able to drive before refilling. It’s quite useful – I’d never have left Hertfordshire yesterday without filling up, were it not for the friendly “226 miles fuel remaining” notification.

It can be a bit confusing though – it works from the current average fuel consumption, which of course is better at some times than others. Which has the effect that you start your journey, having done some “round the town” driving, with 226 miles left, and after 20 miles on the motorway you’ve still got 226 miles left.

I love technology!


Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

Well all being well, this’ll be my last bloggage before heading off to New Wine (if you’re a new reader and don’t know what that is, have a look at the blogs from this time in the last couple of years to find out what it’s all about!).

I’ll have internet connectivity with me, so there’ll be at least occasional bloggage while I’m away – I may even have time to keep my online Scrabble games going.

I’ve loaded the caravan and the car, bought food supplies, and packed clothes, gadgets and even the telly (the caravan already has a kitchen sink).

I wonder what I’ve forgotten?