Disjointed Reality

Random content from a Disjointed Reality

The Red Sun.

On Monday 16th October 2017, as a result of warm, dust laden winds being drawn up from the Sahara and wild fires in Iberia by the gradually fading hurricane Ophelia, the sun in certain parts of the UK appeared red, set in an eerily silver grey sky. 

 

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An unexpected break

This is an account of a cycling accident which resulted in a broken collar bone. Perhaps not of any great interest to most readers, but hopefully helpful to those who have recently suffered the same injury and are looking for information on the healing and recovery process and timescales without surgical intervention.


On September 1st. 2016 I arrived home from work, changed into my cycling kit and set off for my regular Thursday evening ride. Just over four miles into the ride, rounding a sweeping bend on a narrow, poorly surfaced lane I misjudged my speed and position and caught the sandy loose gravel at the edge of the road with my front wheel. In the second or two that followed, I tried to reduce speed and correct my line, both of which actions failed, and I was thrown over the handlebars landing heavily on my left side.

A motorist heading in the opposite direction saw my fall in his rear view mirror and reversed to see if I was okay. I knew immediately that I had broken my collar bone. I wasn't in too much pain but could feel the rough broken end of the bone pressing against the skin, forming a raised, tented area. When I tried to move my arm there was a grating feeling and a sharp sawing sensation as the rough bone cut against the tissue. Thankfully the bone hadn't penetrated the skin. Other injuries appeared superficial, consisting mainly of grazes on the usual points of contact with the ground; hand, knee, hip, elbow.

I inspected the bike and apart from some scuffs on the lever hoods it appeared to have got off relatively unscathed.

The motorist very kindly loaded my bike into his car and took me to the local pub, where I rang my wife to give her the bad news. She arrived within fifteen minutes and drove me to A&E at Arrowe Park Hospital. On the way to the hospital I inspected my kit. My jersey was shredded over the back of my shoulder, my Oakleys were covered in blood but undamaged and my helmet was smashed and compressed on the left side. I hadn't even been aware of a head impact with the ground but there was no doubt that there had been.

I was assessed quite quickly in A&E and sent for an X Ray, which confirmed that I'd broken my left clavicle. A young doctor made a poor attempt at cleaning the dirt filled wound on my knee, gave me a fabric triangular sling and a box of strong pain killers and an appointment to attend the fracture clinic ten days later. I was also handed two leaflets with basic information about shoulder and head injuries. It was also suggested that I contact my local GP practice to get the flesh wounds cleaned and dressed.

At home I found that I was unable to get out of my cycling jersey and had to cut it off. As it was damaged beyond repair anyway it didn't really matter. I struggled for about 30 minutes and eventually managed to get my base layer off without the need for scissors.

After a very uncomfortable night in a semi sitting position I walked the half mile to the local clinic and had the wounds on my knee and the back of my shoulder washed and dressed. The previous day I had been fitter than I had been in almost twenty five years, now it was all I could do to cover a mile on foot. The dressing on the knee fell off less than half way home.

The next ten days were spent doing very little. I went for a short walk every day, gradually increasing the distance covered. I managed the pain in my shoulder as necessary.

I'm self employed, so one of my first tasks was to contact about a dozen clients for whom I had outstanding work and give them the bad news. Thankfully all of them were very understanding and happy (or at least, prepared)  to wait until I was able to work again.

On September 12th. I attended the fracture clinic. The doctor I saw had a copy of the X Ray taken on the day of the accident and explained how, although the collar bone was broken, it appeared to be following a smooth arc with signs of multiple small cracks which should heal nicely. He sent me for another X Ray and when I returned to the consulting room a very different picture was on the screen. This time, perhaps taken from a different angle it showed the two broken ends of the bone crossing over each other with a small gap between them. The overlap had in fact shortened the clavicle by about 2 cm. He then talked to me about the possibility of surgery, what it entailed, and the numerous associated risks. I told him that I wanted the quickest route to full recovery and would opt for surgery. He decided to consult with his Consultant, who decided that there was no need for surgery, telling me that even with as much as 2 cm separation, the bone would form new growth and heal perfectly satisfactorily. I was rather dubious, but left, with a far better sling and another appointment four weeks later.

 X Ray 10 days after the crash. First appointment at the Fracture Clinic.

X Ray 10 days after the crash. First appointment at the Fracture Clinic.

 

The next four weeks were also spent doing very little. I walked a lot, hoping not to lose too much fitness. I became well known to the staff in all the local cafés and discovered parts of my local area that I never knew existed. The walks had to be planned to pass as many benches and gates as possible, as the discomfort in my shoulder area became intolerable and I needed to stop; resting my elbow on the arm of a bench or the top of a gate to support the weight for about ten minutes every mile or so. The sling provided little support but held the arm in a position of relatively restricted movement. I grew to hate the sling, as it had to be worn day and night.

Although the main break was the collar bone, I had also damaged my shoulder blade, which gave me constant pain, though more of a dull ache than the sharp sawing and grating of the collar bone.

By the end of September I decided to see if I could get my bike on the turbo trainer and try to see if I was able to pedal a little. The first attempt was very difficult. I couldn't support any weight at all through my left arm, and even getting in a riding position was painful and tiring. I managed two short turbo sessions that week and decided to wait until I'd seen the doctor at the fracture clinic before trying again.

On October 10th. I once again attended the fracture clinic, had another X Ray and this time saw the Consultant. The X Ray showed some new bone growth. The Consultant manipulated my arm and shoulder, which grated and creaked. He said that he was pleased with progress and that I was to return in another four weeks.

Perhaps I misheard him but I was sure he said that I was okay to start doing light exercise with the arm. I arrived home from the appointment, put my cycling kit on and got my bike out. Once astride it I found that I couldn't get on to the saddle because I had no strength or stability in my shoulder to support my weight on the handlebars. Eventually I managed it by leaning against a wall, and I rolled off down the road. Fortunately I live on a slight hill so was able to let the bike run a little whilst I got comfortable. The thought then crossed my mind that at some point I'd have to brake and put a foot down. Thankfully the roads were quiet and I managed it.

Pedalling wasn't a problem and I began to gain in confidence - that was, until riding along a main road I put my arm out to indicate I was turning right. Immediately my left arm gave way and I lost control, very nearly repeating my crash. Somehow I held the bike upright, but headed straight home. Still; five weeks and four days after the accident and I was back on the bike.

After another five days I was out again, this time feeling a little more confident I rode 16 miles in exactly an hour, meeting up with some friends at Eureka Cycle Café. This time I was able to more easily push myself up on to the saddle and even lift myself out of the saddle a little when climbing. I found that the more I did, the more I felt to be strengthening the union between the two broken ends of bone.

On November 7th. I was back at the fracture clinic, hoping to be discharged, but after another X Ray and a manual assessment of the state of the bone union I was once more sent away for another four weeks.

During this period I started to drive again and sought out information on private physiotherapy for when I was eventually discharged. I even started to do some light work, though I tired and became quite uncomfortable very quickly. It did feel as though the bone was fusing together, but with that also came a tightening in the whole shoulder area. My range of movement was very restricted, and, if anything, the discomfort increased.

I returned again to the fracture clinic on December 19th. and was discharged. I was immediately referred to a physiotherapist within the department who assessed my range of movement and flexibility. She told me that I would have a course of physiotherapy at Clatterbridge Hospital, which is only a few miles from home.

 X Ray on the day of discharge from the Fracture Clinic.

X Ray on the day of discharge from the Fracture Clinic.

My first appointment was on January 5th. I was told that I had a frozen shoulder and given a series of simple exercises to be completed three times a day. By the time I returned for my second appointment a week later my range of movement had increased by a significant amount and my pain levels diminished substantially. Another week later and progress was still being made. 

I was signed off by the physiotherapy department on February 6th. and have continued to make good progress since.

My confidence, fitness and pace on the bike is returning and I have now have no pain in the shoulder. I am noticeably (to myself) shorter in the left shoulder - probably about the 2 cm I mentioned earlier. I doubt anyone else would notice. At the point of the fracture I have a large mass of bone, but it is smooth and no longer feels as though it is sawing through my skin from the inside. I feel perfectly straight and balanced on the bike, which is great, as I had visions of always pulling to the left. I'm once again able to lift heavy weights without the fear of the union in the bone coming apart.

The whole experience was frustrating, sometimes painful, certainly uncomfortable. It was financially not ideal not to be working for almost four months. However there were some positive things to come out of it all. I got to explore my local area on foot during the pleasant autumn weather. Probably more satisfying was the fact that, working for myself, I'm used to little more that three weeks holiday each year. This gave me a much needed, if unexpected break.

Apple Event, September 2016

Like many, I had been waiting for Apple's September event with eager anticipation. Dubbed the iPhone event it is primarily a platform for the launch of new mobile hardware. Rumour and speculation leading up to the event meant that there was little ground breaking news or product.

There were large parts of the presentation that didn't interest me, but I understand the need to court big partners like Nike and Nintendo, even Niantic, but they did detract, for me, from the product launches.

I've had an iPhone 6 for two years and am seriously considering an upgrade. The last time I was at this point was when I owned an iPhone 4S and had completely skipped the 5 and 5S models. The 6 was a significant change. Larger screen, completely new physical design, a lot faster, Touch ID, Retina display etc. etc. and felt like a real upgrade.

In the iPhone 7 the changes and improvements are more subtle; ongoing refinement of what is already there. There's no doubt significant innovation and development in manufacturing processes, but the product has become mature.

Apple likes to talk about being "courageous" in it's decisions to move away from old technologies and hardware solutions. This time in the iPhone 7 it was the consignment of the 3.5mm headphone jack socket to history. It makes perfect sense as the format of the plug really is ancient technology which has changed little in form or function since the late 1870s. In reality I suspect the move was more about several other factors, namely creating extra space within the enclosure, eliminating one hole in the device in the pursuit of making it more water resistant and the ability to generate even more revenue through the licensing of Lightning connected wired earphones and headphones in addition to increased sales for Apple and Beats branded products.

The bundling of a converter dongle, which is effectively creating space on the inside of the phone and dangling it out of the Lightning port is the least Apple could do for all those who have money already invested in high end audio jack earphones, though it's an inelegant solution. It also means that you cannot listen to music through earphones whilst charging the device, although third parties are already selling even more cumbersome looking dongles to get around this.

Apple did launch a pair of Bluetooth earphones called AirPods which look pretty much like their EarPods but without the cables. Simply from a practicality point, regardless of sound quality, ease of pairing and charging, they need a lanyard or head band. One or both earpieces will be lost within days of purchase, and at £159, that's not a cost that can be easily justified.

Other improvements to the iPhone are as expected. Camera, display, speed and storage. There are also a couple of new colour finishes available, though Apple is already warning that the gloss 'Jet Black' is likely to scuff and scratch easily.

Apple Watch also got a refresh and is now waterproof, within reason. The addition of GPS is nice but I still don't think it fully meets the necessary requirements to be considered a serious sports watch. It is also thicker and heavier than the first generation Apple Watch, but doesn't come close to the size of some of the competition in the specialist sports watch sector.

I was hoping to see a refresh of some of the iPads, in particular the iPad Mini; assuming that we would see a Mini 5 to replace the twelve month old Mini 4, but this didn't happen.

What did happen was an across the board increase in storage capacities on all iOS devices, replacing the ridiculous 16GB entry point with 32GB, and then skipping 64GB in favour of 128GB, topping out with 256GB on some models.

Customers in the UK are also treated to a price increase across all Apple product, due to international exchange rate fluctuations, with most of the media adding "post Brexit" to that statement. 

As yet I'm undecided about ordering an iPhone 7. I want one, but don't need one.  At the time of posting this, there are about eight hours before the preorder process comes online (08:01 UK time).

I think I'll have to sleep on it


Update: Friday 9th. September 2016.

Thank you for your order.

Cheshire oaks?

Several years ago I did some work for an elderly lady who lived in Neston, Cheshire; (a small town on The Wirral Peninsula, in North West England). In her large garden there was a mature oak tree, no doubt several hundred years old. She told me that there were lines of oak trees across various parts of Wirral following old boundaries. Whether or not the story was true, I have no idea, but the oak in her garden was certainly one of a few that I could see, forming a line across the adjacent fields.

Last week I was walking in the Heswall area, in a part that I hadn't visited before, close to what is now the Cheshire/Merseyside boundary. Of course Merseyside is only a Metropolitan County, created in the 1970s, centred around Liverpool and absorbing parts of Lancashire and Cheshire, including the most northerly two thirds of Wirral.

Along this boundary is a line of old oak trees, very similar to the line I saw in Neston, though perhaps a little younger. 

This recent discovery has sparked my interest again, in finding out more about the Cheshire oaks.

If anyone with local history knowledge of the area has any information relating to this, I'd be very interested to hear from you.

Let down by technology.

Yesterday I cycled up to Coed Llandegla, a mountain bike trail centre and café in North Wales. It's a round trip of about 60 miles (96km) from home; mostly climbing on the way out, leaving a relatively fast return. It's not too challenging a ride, though there was a very strong headwind all the way there yesterday, followed by a snowstorm as I reached the Llandegla moors and then heavy rain and wind for the remainder of the ride.

I always log my rides on a Garmin cycle GPS/computer, and I'm currently using the Edge 1000. I've kept records of my rides since the early 1980s. In those days there wasn't much data to record. I kept diaries with distance, average speed, time, weather conditions and a brief description of the route. 

Nowadays most of that data is gathered automatically and then uploaded to (in my case) Garmin Connect and Strava. It's worked pretty flawlessly with the Edge 1000 and with the Edge 800 I had for a couple of years before. 

Yesterday, it let me down...  

On entering the café at Llandegla, the device lost contact with the satellites it uses for triangulating location. That's quite normal when entering a building. What it didn't do was reconnect with the satellites as I left for my journey home. This could possibly have been due to the heavy snow falling at the time, anyway, I didn't notice anything unusual, as the primary screen on it is set to display basic data, all of which was working as normal.

I first noticed something wasn't quite right about 15 miles later, when I reached the path alongside the River Dee, which is almost flat and not far from sea level. The Garmin display indicated that I was descending at a steady 3% and that I was already over 150 metres below sea level. It was still pouring with rain and I couldn't be bothered to find out what was wrong. About 20 minutes later, I stopped at The Eureka Café  on Wirral for a short break, and when I left there, all appeared to be normal again with the Garmin.

When I uploaded my ride to Connect and Strava there was a straight line on the map between the two cafés indicating that no mapping data had been recorded, even though my speed and average speed had been logged correctly. 

 

Garminmap.jpg

 I hate when things don't work as expected and I'm probably over reacting to this, but it really annoys me to see that straight red line on the map. I've made a note about what happened on both services, but I really do wish that I could get in to the .fit file generated by the Garmin and correct the data.

Elgato Smart Key

About eighteen months ago I saw an ad for Tile, a Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy enabled tag that allows you to keep track of anything you attach the Tile to, with your smartphone. I was very tempted to try one but felt that it was let down by having a non-replaceable battery. It had a claimed battery life of twelve months but it felt like it was intended to maintain continued sales through replacement purchase of further units. I know just under $20 is hardly a fortune, but I decided it wasn’t for me.

Since then I’ve seen a number of similar products hitting the market and, quite liking the concept, I’ve followed developments with interest.

In mid December 2013 I received a newsletter from Elgato. In it was featured their ‘Smart Key’. A Bluetooth LE enabled key fob with a replaceable CR2032 battery, that connects with dedicated app on a smartphone. I downloaded the app for iOS and played around with it in demo mode. I read a variety of mixed reviews. To be honest, most of the negative reports were from people who hadn't grasped the fact that it is not a GPS tracker, but a proximity device, limited by the active range of Bluetooth. Indeed all of the competing products are - whatever the marketing blurb may have you think.

Tile even promotes the fact that your lost item can be traced by using the ‘Tile community’ which I would imagine is a bit hit and miss, as it relies on other Tile users coming within range of your lost Tile, and reporting the approximate location to you.

I ordered the Elgato Smart Key and was initially impressed with it. The build quality is good, and it appears to be very durable. As it spends most of its time rattling around in a pocket, attached to a bunch of keys, it needs to be. The setup process is simple and the iOS app intuitive. It has the facility to be set up in a variety of modes, depending on your needs.

It soon became evident that the device is only as good as Bluetooth LE allows it to be. Connectivity isn't always great, resulting in the device unnecessarily moaning that it is lost, even when sometimes it is within inches of the phone it is paired with.

I found myself simply turning it off, rather than put up with the annoying chirping at random intervals. 

It has the facility to mark a location as safe, so you don't get notifications at home, for instance. Even this is far from reliable.

When I bought the Smart Key, I had an iPhone 4S; I've since upgraded to an iPhone 6 and activated the Smart Key again, only to find exactly the same issues with reliability and inconsistent connectivity.

I really want to like the Smart Key, but something like this really needs to work flawlessly, and it doesn't.

And so, it has hung from my key ring for almost twelve months, silent.

I've not tried any of the competing devices, though I do use other categories of Bluetooth LE connected devices, and find them to be mostly stable and reliable.

The Elgato Smart Key has a RRP of £39.95, and can be found for about £35. As is so often the case, particularly with technology products, the exchange rate between US $ and UK £ is 1:1.

I feel that it is over priced and can only assume that a significant part of the price is contributing towards the development of the smartphone app. Possibly manufacturing runs have been quite small, further adding to the inflated unit price.

The device and app are well designed -  it's just a shame that reliable connectivity lets it down.

Glenridding, Ullswater.

During a short walking holiday in The English Lake District in October 2014, I had my first real opportunity to experiment with the camera on my new iPhone 6. I had a Canon S100 compact with me, but after seeing the quality and detail of images on the screen of the iPhone 6, I put the compact away and stayed with the iPhone.

This is a panorama taken looking over the southern end of Ullswater towards Glenridding and Patterdale. It was taken hand held and I rotated the camera through approximately 120 degrees.

Please click on the image to enlarge.

This image can also be seen on my  500px  and  Flickr  galleries.

A new design

After several weeks of design, a little bit of coding, tweaking, pixel pushing, DNS juggling and cursing, Disjointed Reality has finally transitioned to a new site.

During the development period, some of you will have seen examples of both designs running in parallel on disjointedreality.com and disjointedreality.me .

Now everything has been brought together under the primary .com domain.

The old site is still live, at disjointedreality.net and will eventually be closed down.

There will inevitably be some bugs and things that don't work quite as I want them. The whole site, and indeed everything under the Disjointed Reality banner is very much a work in progress anyway, and will always be changing and hopefully improving.

As I've no doubt mentioned in other places, constructive comments, feedback and even criticism are very welcome.

I hope you enjoy the new site.

I think I'm losing the ability to write.

The lead up to Christmas is the period when most people, myself included, pick up a pen and write more than we've probably written all year.

The annual chore of Christmas cards comes close to generating the same level of enthusiasm as completing my tax return - another seasonal necessity.

Throughout the year, I may pick up a pen probably once or twice a week; to sign my name or scribble a short Post-it note to stick on the front door, instructing the postman not to bury the expected package in the garden if nobody answers the doorbell. 

December arrives and boxes of Christmas cards are bought; totally forgetting that I probably still have a dozen or so cards left over from last year, lurking in the bottom of a drawer.

The new cards sit there until the last possible moment, usually the date given by the Post Office for latest guaranteed delivery before the 25th.

Reluctantly I start to scribble the same overly long, vaguely festive message, that I soon realise will take too long if applied to the whole pile of cards - and, to be honest, some of the people due to receive these cards probably wouldn't appreciate anything longer than 'Best Wishes'. 

So, 'Best Wishes' it is.

As I write this, and the usual 'From... etc. etc' I become aware that I'm finding it difficult to form certain characters in my cursive script, particularly the letters e and s. It's a combination of a mental and physical block. The more I think about it, the more difficult it becomes. Cursive soon turns to curses. 

Like most, I learned to write in primary school, far too many years ago. We used to form letters over and over again, then link them together to eventually form a flowing script that was almost as easy as thinking the words onto the paper. Now I'm struggling through lack of regularity to write a simple phrase.

I used to like to write, but now most writing is keyboard generated, be it real or virtual.

In a previous post I wrote about buying a good quality notebook and a fountain pen to rekindle a joy in writing.

The book remains empty, and the ink in the pen has dried up.


Oh well... Best wishes, everyone.

2013. Not the best of times...

Those who know me, will appreciate what a terrible year 2013 has been. It started with the passing of somebody close, and has ended in much the same way. The months in-between started with hope and promise, but descended into anguish and despair.

It would be unfair and improper; even harmful of me to go into details of events that have occurred during this year, but suffice to say, they have been life changing.

With a year so full of negatives, at least there have been a few positives to ease the way.

Friends and family have been there throughout, though there have been the odd chattering gossip-mongers who really aren’t worth any further time.

This year has brought me closer to my younger sister - we have become friends again. After too many years of very different lives and interests, she has been an enormous support - and, has become a cyclist too. Cycling is one of my great loves and though I don’t currently do enough, and I’m not as fit as I would like to be, or should be - just getting out on the bike, whatever the weather, is immensely satisfying and calming.

Other support has come from unexpected places and from people I know, but yet I don’t know. The strange world of social media. With the Internet, you are never alone. It sounds a bit of a cliché, because it is; but it is an undeniable truth. Whatever level of contact I’ve had on Twitter, in online forums, in comments, exchanges and likes (and dislikes) on the many web based services I use to post my thoughts and ‘creative’ output, and here, on my main site, it has all been welcomed and has all helped.

A rather fragmented, disjointed social circle, but one that has seen me through 2013.

In a way, my disjointed reality.

Thank you.

Very best wishes to everybody, for a happy and successful 2014.

The great spare wheel scam.

When you buy a car, it comes with four wheels and a spare - well, not always.

Space saver wheels and tyres have been with us for many years now. In an attempt to cut weight to increase fuel efficiency, the spare wheel was an easy target. With a certain amount of grumbling, we accepted it as a compromise as fuel costs rose. After all, it still works as a spare wheel, even if it is only a 'get you home’ solution. Of course, there will always be those who drive around at normal road speeds and above, for weeks on end; taking little or no notice of the limitations of the space saver.
From the manufacturer's point of view, the space saver is also a money saver. A car equipped with a set of decent alloy wheels with high rated road tyres is then supplied with a narrow steel rim and a deep section general purpose tyre. The rim will invariably be smaller than the main wheels on the car and the tyre will be of a depth to make the rolling diameter the same as the original wheels. This enables further cost savings as one size fits many vehicles.
More recently, in further efforts to meet even stricter fuel efficiency targets, manufacturers are opting for the no spare wheel option. This solution varies across the industry, but generally comprises some sort of repair kit, intended to get you home. The kit provides a method of injecting a sealant into the damaged tyre, hopefully to seal the damage and allow you to re-inflate the tyre. Of course the scenarios under which this will work, are limited. It may be okay if you have a straight forward puncture, but it certainly won't work on cut tyre damage or damaged rims. Even with minor tyre damage, the repair techniques are often beyond the comprehension of the majority of motorists. No doubt this will be the first time many of them look into the car boot and think "where the hell is my spare wheel?".
Motor rescue services like The AA and RAC have reported huge increases in call outs for people with tyre and wheel damage. Frequently the only course of action is to return the car to home, on a trailer.
I started to write this post around the time my wife bought a new Honda. Unhappy with the goo injection kit supplied, she contacted the Honda dealer to order a spare wheel. “£285”, they said. Our response was one of disbelief. I know main dealers rely heavily on up-sell of accessories and extras, but really… £285 for a steel rim and a utility tyre?
Reluctantly, my wife agreed and placed her order. We did look at third party suppliers on sites like ebay, for compatible wheels, but felt, as it was a new car, we should have the correct wheel and tyre for the vehicle.
When the wheel arrived, we were surprised to be presented with a huge box, containing not just the wheel, but also a large high density polystyrene boot sub-floor insert, a fixing bolt and washer and a completely new carpeted boot floor. Everything, except for the fixing bolt and washer is totally unnecessary, and now sits in our loft, waiting to be passed on to future owner of the car, when we eventually sell it.
If we had known that we were going to be paying for all this stuff, we would probably have chanced a third party wheel from ebay after all.

SMS to a land line? No thanks.

I recently bought a pair of Seimens Gigaset cordless DECT phones for my home office, and I'm very pleased with them. However, a couple of nights ago, whilst going through all of the features and functions available, I made the mistake of experimenting with SMS. I've never had a text enabled home phone before, so I assumed it would be just the same as on my mobile - I was wrong.

At about 10:30 pm I sent a test text from the home phone to my mobile. It was a little slow, but after about a minute it arrived. I assumed that this was because, as it was the first SMS sent on the landline, the network provider needed to activate the service.

I then sent a reply, just to confirm everything worked both ways. This is when things started to go wrong. The phones rang and when I picked up, there was an automated voice message telling me I had received a text, then reading it to me. This, apparently is because the phone is incapable of displaying a SMS message, though I can't understand why, as it has a large, full colour touch screen.

I checked the number that the recorded message had come from, which was an 0800 number, and discovered that it was an auto responder number from BT (British Telecom). I decided that I had no desire to have notifications like that again, so, using another function on the new phone, I set a block against that number.

Half an hour later, the phones rang again. It was the same auto responder message from the same (now blocked) number.

A little research online confirmed that it is possible to block these calls by contacting BT, but BT Customer Services were unable to help in my case, because, although they provide the infrastructure and line, I pay my bills to a third party - Plusnet.

At 11:50 pm, the phone rang again. This time there was no recorded message, it simply went dead within seconds of answering. The call was from the same number though.

I delved deeper into consumer forums and discovered that by default, this 'service' is set not to call between 11pm and 8am, though this was clearly incorrect. A number was given, to call to modify the settings, but this number turned out to be inactive.

At about 12:30 am, after receiving yet another notification call, I discovered the solution.

Dial 0800 587 5252 > 5 > 2. There is then a recorded message to say that an opt out will be activated within twenty minutes.

So far, I've not had any more calls; but I certainly won't be using the phone again for SMS messages.

 

Take a note of this number. If you are in the UK, and have a SMS enabled home phone, you may just need it.

Oh... Brother!

I've written before about the ups and downs of self employment, the concerns about keeping a regular flow of work, the sense of dread when everything seems to be slowing down, then the elation when everything starts to pick up again - as it always does.

I never tire of the feeling of satisfaction in doing a job well and not only being paid for it, but also being praised and valued for my work. For far too long I was a corporate drone, taking home my monthly salary but getting little appreciation for the work I did. It always appeared to me that there was a fear of praise, because that might possibly encourage the employee to ask for more money or increased status. Now, I do a good job and people genuinely appreciate what I do.

Every now and again I'm surprised by my customer's appreciation, and last week was one of those occasions. One of them called to invite me to look at a couple of jobs, and in conversation asked me if I would like their old printer, as they were getting a replacement. I recalled having seen it when I had re-fitted their home office last year and knew that it was an all in one A3 printer, copier, scanner and for what it's worth, fax.

I said that I was interested and when, a week later I arrived at their home, I was presented with a Brother MFC-J6910DW in immaculate condition.

Brother.jpg

When I got it home and linked it to my WiFi network I was even more surprised to find just how easy it was to set up and the depth of functionality it had. There was no installation process to go through, the drivers were already in place. It uses Apple's AirPrint which is great for wireless printing from mobile devices on the network. I use Printopia to achieve this with my large format Epson Photo and GCC laser printers.

The implementation of AirPrint means that the printer is not much more than 6 months old, and when I delved into the settings and specs of the machine, I discovered that it has only printed just over 130 pages from new. The ink cartridges are still about 75% full.

It's going to be a hugely beneficial addition to my home office, even if I don't use the fax.

I've since discovered that there is an iOS app from Brother which adds further functionality to printing and scanning when using my iPhone and iPad, although the app design is poorly implemented.

My customer refused to accept anything for the printer, but I have since made an appropriate gesture of my appreciation.

It won't go through the hole.

 

On April 2nd. Royal Mail introduced a revised pricing structure, supposedly to make sending letters and parcels simpler, with fewer price bands - but, effectively almost doubling the cost of sending many items.
Unfortunately, I was caught in the middle of this price increase, as I had listed three items on eBay during the previous week, with postage priced at the previous rates.
The increase on two of the items was not huge; rising from £3.65 to £4.10, but on the third, the increase almost totally wiped out the selling price of the item.
The problem was, that although the item was very light (just over 100 grams), it was fractionally larger than the permitted size for the lower price band. The method of assessing the size, is whether or not the item will fit through a letter box. The local post office had a piece of plastic with a letter box shaped hole in it to test this.
So, I had to pay £6.75.
What really annoyed me was that the service I used was First Class Recorded, which requires a signature from the recipient, thereby requiring him or her to open the door, enabling the parcel to be passed through a hole somewhat larger than a letter box.

The general feeling is that Royal Mail is being fattened up for privatisation, however, I suspect that customers will just seek more cost effective alternatives.

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