Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Gadget Freak

Another beautiful day here, we're getting some lovely weather at the moment, though it is still nippy in the mornings, and I heard some parts of the country had a frost yesterday.

We seized the opportunity Sunday to head over to Exbury Gardens. Where the rhododendrons are starting to bloom. An excellent time, even Alice enjoying herself, plus we spent almost 4 hours walking around, so good exercise to boot.

I've become gadget man lately, in the last week buying myself a new smartphone (a Toshiba G910) which, functionally speaking, is basically the next generation of the phone I already had. But this thing is a fair bit smaller and lighter, and does actually resemble a phone.

The biggest disappointment so far was that when I was porting all my old programs across, I couldn't get TomTom to run. The program installed ok, but when I ran it up, what I saw on the screen was unintelligible. A shame - one of the attractions of this phone was the built-in GPS chip and it looks like it will be going to waste.

On the subject of navigation, I had been thinking for a while about getting a Sat Nav system, but the one I had my eye on was an "off the beaten track" device which combined a standard, in-car, A to B system, with a walking/hiking  device. So, I took the fact that I couldn't get TomTom onto my phone as a sign, and late Saturday afternoon went to Argos to get myself a Road Angel 7000 unit. This is basically a Windows CE device which runs two programs on it, the first a route planning program, the second my old friend Memory Map (which displays Ordnance Survey maps). My first impressions are positive, although the route planning application is nowhere near as slick as TomTom. Changing really basic things like miles/km, plus turning off the annoying click you get every time you tap the screen, seems not to be possible. But I had fun walking through Exbury and being able to see where we were on the OS map! The unit is also ruggedised somewhat (e.g. it is rainproof), but the big downside is the price - just yesterday I bought what I think will be my only accessory, a bracket which allows the unit to go onto the handlebar of my bike. For £20! For a piece of plastic! It's almost a license to print money. And then there's the maps....

Of course I can't complain too much. At the end of the day I had the choice to buy it or not to buy it, and I chose the former, so more fool me. Putting the cost to one side, though, it'll be great to have a single device that'll be good for use in the car, on the bike and of course just out walking.

Anyway, I have written far too much about these damned gadgets. Just time to congratulate Paul and Theresa, two really old friends from my Oxford days, who have been together for around 18 years and who have finally decided to get married. We went and spent the day with them last weekend - having not seen them for at least three or four years - and it was brilliant to catch up. One of the first times I met Theresa must have been around 1990, when she had a very shy eight-year-old girl in tow. That girl, June, is now in her mid-twenties and has a child of her own. How time flies...

Sunday, 18 May 2008


Thats how much I just paid to put petrol in my car. Incredible, the government really have got away with blue murder on this. And Brown the other day was trying to play on his perception as competent with the economy. Pull the other one!

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Jibber Jabber

I must record the fact that I was up at 5:30am this morning, and (very admirably, I think) spent half an hour on the Wii Fit before getting ready. Despite the fact that the family have used the thing far more than I (at least that's my excuse) I now hold the house records in the ski jump and the slalom! Not to mention being miles better than the others at the tennis game on Wii Sports.

But of course, unless you have one yourself I am just talking gibberish! Lovely day again today.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008


Yesterday was a Bank Holiday, and I was busy doing the traditional Bank Holiday activity of cleaning out the garage. All of a sudden there was this enormous roar overhead. Now, we get our fair share of light aircraft down our way - we must be the last stop on Salisbury Flying School's circuit, plus we frequently get buzzed by low-flying helicopters, courtesy of the MoD. But this just sounded like raw power, and very low. As I emerged out of the garage, I was greeted by the sight of an old Spitfire just disappearing from view. I shouted to neighbour's boy Jack, who had volunteered to help me in the garage (his definition of the word "help" being unique in the English-speaking world) - this was, after all, a piece of history. Obligingly, the pilot turned the plane around and made another pass, right over us. Wonderful. By this time I had my wits about me and dashed inside for my camera, and sure enough managed to get a couple of shots as the plane came back over again.

Excellent experience. I once worked with a very switched-on guy who in a former life had been an RAF pilot. He trained in the fifties and told me he trained on Spitfires, but even so, that would make this plane at least fifty years old, possibly more than sixty. Such a beautiful piece of machinery.

So I wonder what that was all about? There were no air shows, to my knowledge, and in any case that's not really the kind of thing that happens down our way. I couldn't help thinking that it is the anniversary of VE day this week, I wonder if there is a connection?

Fortunately, not all of yesterday was spent plane-spotting - that would have made me very dull indeed. In addition, we had a decent pub lunch over at the Parish Lantern in Whiteparish, with Jack and his parents. Its a good pub especially when dry, because there is an outdoor play area which the kids love, enabling the grown-ups to have a little peace.

And, I should announce, we are now the proud owners of a Wii. A little late, perhaps, but just in time to enjoy the thrills of the new Wii Fit before the fad dies down. All that can be said so far is that (a) we're all very overweight! And (b) if we can keep up use of this thing it won't be long before the pounds start dropping off.

Went on a bike ride on Sunday, the first of any distance on the new bike. Everything fine, and did a 12km circuit in about 3/4 hour. We set off as a threesome, but Alice and Acqueline dropped out after just a couple of kilometres. But I'll keep at them. This time, we just did a circuit beginning and ending at home, but there are plenty of dedicated cycle paths up in the forest that would be fun to try.

Oh, and we visited the Cuckoo Fair in Downton on Saturday, mainly at Alice's behest. I went there, saw thousands of people walking past stalls of absolutely no interest, and made a mental note not to bother next year. But I think I said that last year too...

Beautiful weather today, by the way. The first really summery day I've noticed this year.