Date archives "December 2009"

Would You Just Sit Down!

Part of being a grumpy young man is the ability to find something to annoy you in every conceivable situation. The situation that has been getting on my nerves recently is people’s Neanderthal like behaviour the moment they step on to an aircraft.

It first really came to my attention when I took low cost airlines around India (which, if you were to compare them to the no-frills crap we have in England is like a 5 star luxury travel experience). India is quite renowned as a nation of people who don’t follow the rules. This is quite understandable because if you tried to follow the rules, you’d never get anything done. However, it becomes particularly apparent on a low cost airline.

So yes, I thought it was specific to India, people’s behaviour on planes, but after taking some crap no-frills airlines while back in England, I’ve been forced to reconsider this opinion.

Mobile Phones

This is my biggest annoyance. Everyone knows that they ask you to turn your phone off when you are on the plane, yet people insist on walking on to the plane on the phone, sending text messages, shooting off emails on their blackberry etc.

On the flight back to Chennai the guy next to me was sending messages all through the announcement about turning off your phone, it was done in English, Hindi and Tamil so he had no excuse other than being a knuckleheaded buffoon.

I understand that 99% of the time, use of your mobile phone has no bearing on the performance of the plane, but I have read stories whereby the pilot has been unable to communicate with the tower because of the buzzing interference of a mobile phone. Maybe I’ll get my pilot friend to comment further on this matter.

Anyway, the point is, I’m sure if everyone used their phone, there could well be some problems, you are not special, particularly if you are sitting in cattle class with me, so don’t be an ejit and use your phone.

But it gets worse, the moment the plane touches down, people nowadays seem to be so addicted to their mobiles to which one can probably draw comparisons with smokers and the urge to have a cigarette, because the plane is still on the runway and they pull out their mobile to check for messages! No one loves you anyway, so save it till you get in to the terminal. Oh and if you do get a message, don’t kid yourself, it’s only the local network welcoming you to the country.

Seat Recliners

Oh, this annoys me nearly as much as mobile phones do. The people who make use of the seat recliners are the sort who have no consideration and nothing but contempt for another human being. You can pick out the self-centered bastards of the world by those that choose to use the recliner, thus inconveniencing the person behind you who suddenly has an LCD TV shoved in to their face and even less room to move around in.

But what gets me more is that on every single bloody flight, the attendants ask you to put your seat in the upright position. So what’s the first thing these inconsiderate morons do when they board the plane? Recline their seat, I mean, what in God’s green Earth are they thinking? Anyone who’s been on a flight knows the seat has to be upright for take off, why tell everyone you’re an ignorant waste of space right from the start?

Again, I’ve been on a plane which is still on the ground and a cabin crew have asked someone to put their seat forward and not a few minutes later, they recline it again. What makes them think they are more special than someone else, other than winning the most inconsiderate award.

In my somewhat lopsided view, when I looked around the plane virtually everyone had their seats fully reclined, those that didn’t were mostly westerners. When I challenged some Indian friends on this, they replied that they recline their seat because they can, it hadn’t even occurred to them that it could possibly inconvenience the person behind them – something (not considering others) which I think is pervasive throughout Indian society simply because the sheer number of people forces you to do so.

So next time you are on a flight, don’t be an arsehole, leave your seat upright. If you want to sleep, stop being a cheapskate and upgrade to a class that lets you stretch out fully, don’t inflict your pig headedness on others just because you are too tight to pay for a better seat.

Seatbelts

Does personal safety mean anything to anyone? Then why do the cabin crew have to come around and ask you to put your seatbelt on before take off?!

There must be some kind of psychological problem with some people, they have no fear of death but an irrational fear of being restrained or something because they don’t like wearing that seatbelt!

It’s like, as soon as the plane touches down, you hear the click of people removing their seatbelt and almost letting out a sigh of relief, as if they can finally breathe now the restraining belt can be removed.

And if that’s not enough, on flights in India, people are actually standing up before the plane has left the runway – leaving the poor cabin crew to beg and plead with people to sit back down!

Safety Notice

Yes, I know that by now we all know where the doors are located on a plane and that the life jacket is located under the seat and in the event of an emergency we’ll all scream, panic and possibly do something involuntary but even so, keep quiet during the safety instructions!

This was a huge problem on the European flights, the safety notice began and people carried on talking, raising their voices to be heard over the PA system! Eventually the cabin crew had to ask everyone to be silent and started all over again. I’ve noticed on the internal Indian flights the passengers do give the cabin crew their full attention, although I feel this may have more to do with the fact that they are slim and very pretty rather than male, like in England!

I mean come on, would it actually kill you to be quiet for a few minutes while the cabin crew give some instructions which may save your life?

Toilets!

Bloody hell this annoys me. Why does it take some people 10 minutes to go to the toilet on a plane?! Especially when they can see a queue of people outside.

I think airlines should start charging for use of the toilet, your first 2 minutes is free, after that it is a Β£1 / $1 per minute. No one should be taking more than 5 minutes anyway! Not unless they are in the process of joining a certain exclusive club.

If you have an aisle seat, don’t complain when people get up!

In the day and age where you get to select your seat before you board, or in the case of the low-but-hidden-charges cost airlines a free for all once you get on the plane, if you choose an aisle seat, don’t complain when someone gets up to go to the toilet or has to wake you to get out!

On the way back to India, I saw one middle aged totally ignorant gentleman refuse to move to allow a lady (who was about 80) get out – the knucklehead of a man made her climb over and had the audacity to look put out by this!

The guy wasn’t the smallest and there was another bulky guy sitting next to him who also tried to get out, the comedy of seeing two fat guys trying to squeeze past each other, one stubbornly refusing to get up and the other trying to get through, it just made him look utterly ridiculous, I almost felt like saying to him, “what the hell, move you fool!”

So I don’t know what it is about air travel that makes people lose all sense of etiquette and consideration for others, maybe the irrational fear of flying overrides all other emotions and actions of people and turns them in to little balls of selfishness with not a thought for their fellow passenger.

What annoys you about air travel?!

The Attraction of the Netbook

About a year ago I followed all the other geeks and nerds in this world and bought myself a netbook. I’d seen the hype and exposure they got over on Engadget throughout 2008 and made up my mind that I wanted one πŸ™‚

Incase you are still not sure what a netbook is, it’s like a mini laptop, reduced keyboard size, very low technical specifications and very, very cheap for what it is. As you might infer from the name, a netbook is designed specifically for browsing the Internet and not too much else.

NetBook Vs Laptop

The black machine in the picture below is my work Laptop, a 15.3″ screen and since the company gave me an unlimited budget, I set it up like a gaming rig which makes it insanely quick (even two years later) but unfortunately it’s bloody heavy and not convenient to cart around. The cute white thing is my netbook, grossly underpowered but I probably use it more than my laptop.

dell xps 1530 vs asus eeepc 901

eeepc vs dell

my work and play laptops

In the photo below you can see some deformation in the top left of the underside of my netbook. I’m not entirely sure what happened but I assume the battery was charging and resting on something circular, which somehow melted it – although I don’t even know how that’s possible….

A deformed eeepc

The reason I wanted one was because they looked really cool and my work laptop is the size and weight of a fridge so it’s not convenient for lugging about except to the office and back.

The thing with netbooks is that they are pretty much all the same in terms of technical spec. They all have the same processor and same amount of memory. The reason for this is that they nearly all run Windows XP and Microsoft, being desperate to get rid of the thing (although not quite as desperate as getting rid of Vista), imposed technical limits on the type of machine XP could be installed on.

For that reason, even now, with Windows 7 out, netbooks are still run on Atom processors with 1 GB of RAM and an Intel Integrated Graphics Accelerator (which is a fancy name for something that doesn’t do too much).

The chief selling point of netbooks are that they are small, light, extremely portable and have a very long battery life – and what traveling businessman or self confessed nerd could say “no” to such a thing!

Back in December 2008, I bought the Asus EeePC 901 (the Eee stands for education because these things were originally designed for kids in poor countries to use) for Β£250. It had all the usual specs with a 9″ screen and a fantastic 7 hour battery life – that’s about 85% of the time it takes me to get to India!

After a year of using this netbook, I have to say it’s probably my best purchase ever. I knew that it was going to be useful, but bloody hell, I didn’t think it would become like an extension of me.

Even now, after a year, there isn’t one single thing that I would change about it and I use it virtually everyday for several hours. Whether it’s sitting in bed (and writing this blog post), crashed infront of the TV, on an airplane or train, not only does it still have the ability to turn heads, but it’s so damn convenient.

Sidenote: I was coming back from India in October and I had this netbook out, watching movies on it and no fewer than 3 people stopped and asked me about it – it’s that good πŸ˜€

The small form factor might put a few people off given that the keys are about 2/3rds the size of a normal keyboard, but unless you have ham fists and podgy fingers you’ll be touchtyping away within hours of using it. To me, the smaller keyboard makes no difference whatso ever – but I have been informed that I have girls hands, a fact that I strenuously deny and put down to unbridled jealousy πŸ˜€

I’ve used my netbook to write reports, articles, blog posts, budget reports and keep track of my finances, literally, when it comes to light admin and “office” related tasks, there’s nothing it cant handle.

Watching movies on it is awesome aswell, the Asus EeePC range produces an incredible sound from such a tiny box, I remember a friend conceding that the speakers were louder than their full sized Dell laptop!

However, there are things you can’t do on a netbook that you can on a full sized laptop, chief amongst them are multi-tasking. You definitely can’t have dozens of different applications open and expect to be able to work efficiently. At the most, you will be able to have 2 or 3 different applications open, for example I have Opera (the best browser) and StarOffice (awesome free alternative to MS Office and doesn’t require half the amount of power to run) open right now, but if I opened another app, then I’d start to see some lag.

Naturally, you can’t do photo editing (I can crop photos, like the ones above using GIMP) or play the latest games on it either, although I installed DOS-BOX and got loads of late 90’s / early 2000’s games to run decently enough.

If you are literally going to:

  • Browse the Internet
  • Chat on Skype / Use IM
  • Write documents
  • Do things in a spreadsheet
  • Watch movies (non-HD)
  • Listen / Manage your music
  • Manage your photos

Then you seriously wouldn’t go wrong with a Netbook. I can’t imagine how I would cope without it now as it goes with me everywhere! Not only that, but laptop batteries generally get weaker over time, but amazingly, my Asus EeePC 901 has kept going well and I still get 6 1/2 to 7 hours battery life out of it. With WiFi turned on and Internet browsing that does reduce to around 3 to 3 1/2 hours though.

I’ve got an SSD drive which is way more power efficient and quicker than a standard hard drive – XP boot up time is just seconds. The down side is that you have a smaller storage capacity (about 15% compared to a HDD) but the upside is a faster and longer lasting machine.

Even if you need to do more taxing things, then obviously a more powerful laptop is required, but you can’t rule out a netbook, simply because it is so portable.

I love it when I’m on a plane or train and people get out ridiculously large laptops (like my work one) that weigh a tonne, and simply use it to watch a film or write a Word document. I get out this tiny little thing (the netbook!), which can be shoved in the top of your rucksack and proceed to do everything that people with laptops are doing – and I can’t help but stifle a smirk when their battery gives up after a couple of hours and I still have another 4 hours left!

I can get a train to the airport, and use my netbook, sit in the departure lounge, using the netbook, get on the plane and use the netbook and there will still be a couple of hours of battery left at the end of the journey!

Beware of Cheap Laptops

Some people I know have said they don’t see the point of buying a small netbook for Β£300 when you can get a full sized ‘proper’ laptop from just Β£399 now.

This is something that catches most tech illiterates out, the cheap computers are going to be not much better than a netbook. For a start, they run Windows 7 now, which is very resource intensive, and the cheap laptops provide you with just enough power to run Windows 7 and very little else.

Cheap Β£399 laptops is why Windows gets a bad name for being slow, clunky and unstable – the hardware it runs on is barely enough to support it…but I feel that is a rant for another day πŸ˜€

Don’t buy a cheap laptop, especially not from a supermarket!

Future of Netbooks

I got the Asus EeePC 901 from my current favourite online retailer, eBuyer. I’ve generally found them to be cheaper than elsewhere, especially the ripoff merchants also known as supermarkets. It has a 9″ screen which has a resolution up to 1024×768 which I’ve found to be perfect for everything and have never wished that it could have a bigger one (steady!).

Unfortunately, it seems that that the trend is leaning towards larger screens and I’m not sure if you can even get a 9″ one anymore. The smallest that Asus do are now 10″, I’m not too sure how much that affects the size of the netbook though as I haven’t seen one, but if I find a 9″ one to be perfect, I’m sure 10″ is going to be fine.

With the onset of Windows 7 which has a version specifically built for low powered computers, the technical restraints have largely been removed, meaning that netbooks can become more powerful, while retaining their portability and convenience. However, a more powerful system is likely to come at the expense of a reduced battery life, and how can you smirk at people when your netbook only lasts for one hour more than their laptops?!

The next logical evolution in netbooks is to take their portability to the next level and bring in 3G cards where you can pop in a sim and access the Internet just like you do on your phone, and with the introduction of the new Nokia Booklet (I think it will be next on my list of things to buy – once they’ve upped the power and specs of course!), this will just be around the corner.

I’m sure they could make netbooks a whole lot more powerful than they currently are, but to be honest, there is absolutely no need, it already does everything 90% of computer users will require anyway.

Netbook Buying Tips

If you are going to buy a netbook, here’s some things to consider:

  • Virtually all netbooks have the same hardware meaning there is very little difference in terms of performance
  • The cheaper netbooks have smaller batteries, so one of the deciding factors should be the battery life – do your research!
  • If you go for a setup that’s different to the Atom N270 / 1GB RAM / WinXP be aware that the battery life will be significantly reduced
  • I’m more than pleased with my 9″ netbook, if you go for anything larger, you may lose some of that portability
  • Storage space or performance and long life. If you need storage, get one with a traditional hard drive. If you want performance and long life, choose an SSD. I put backup everything on an external hard drive anyway.
  • Shop online rather than offline, it’s always cheaper πŸ˜€

Well, I hope you found that informative and helps you decide whether a netbook might be for you. Thanks to Tom and William for inspiring me to write this thoroughly nerdy post!

New Camera Photos

This is just a bit of a boring post to show some pictures taken with my new Sony camera. It was Γƒβ€šΓ‚Β£142 and I bought it from eBuyer (although they seem to have put the price up since I bought it). The camera is the Sony DSC-W270 and it has a 5x optical zoom, 3200 ISO and an optical anti-blur, which is extremely important for my shaky hands.

1. The Kitchen πŸ™‚

My parents kitchen

2. The kitchen while trying out the anti-blur!

kitchen with anti-blur

3. Zoom!

Kitchen Zoom

4. Outside my parents house

outside parents house

5. Standing from the same position as above but zoomed in as far as it can go – see how sharp it is, despite my stupid shaky hands!

more zoom

6. Inside my parents house without the flash on, testing the light sensitivity!

Light sensitivity of the sony camera

7. Inside the house with the flash

Internal photo with the flash

8. Another internal shot without the flash

Internal shot without the flash

9. Picture from the same position as above but with the flash

photo with a flash

10. If you want the best seat in the house…move the cat!

move the cat

11. Flowers in my parents back garden

purple flowers

12. Close up of one of the purple flowers from the picture above. Using my awesome photographic skills I seem to have managed to get the camera to focus on the leaves rather than the flower. Erm, blame the autofocus!

close up purple flowers

13. Another flower from the garden, once again, managed to focus on the flower to the left rather than the one I was taking a picture of…d’oh!

another purple flower

14. Yay! A pretty flower. Taken in the interests of testing my camera! Honest!

pretty flower

15. Close up of the apple tree in the garden

apple tree close up

16. Random shot of a cup of drinking straws. Random.

drinking straws

17. A close up of my Dad’s, err, “organized” toolbox!

toolbox parts

18. A very forlorn cat trying to work out how to use a door

forlorn cat

19. A bowl of fruit taken using the flash

bowl of fruit

20. Same picture as above but taken without the flash and on the “natural” setting mode

another bowl of fruit

Well, hope you weren’t too bored by this post. And if you were thinking about buying the Sony DSC-W270 camera, hopefully you can see what it’s capable of. One thing I noticed was that the battery seems to run down pretty quick.