I’ve not had a lot of time to play with it since last night, so these are essentially knee-jerk reactions. Executive summary – I don’t like it, and I’ve gone back to using 0.38.2. Thankfully that wasn’t uninstalled when I installed 1.0.

The first time you run Tweetdeck 1.0, you are presented with a login screen. Not a twitter login screen, though. A Tweetdeck login screen. You need a Tweetdeck account to use Tweetdeck. Why? If you don’t have one, you have to create a Tweetdeck account before you can use Tweetdeck to access your Twitter account. And this is the official desktop Twitter client from Twitter, now? This makes no sense to me. Isn’t this just adding barriers to use?

Once you get past that hurdle, you are presented with the new style Twitter interface, matching the twitter.com interface and that of the new mobile apps. It looks quite nice, but there’s one glaring problem – no narrow columns. In the old tweetdeck I can easily fit 5 columns across my screen. In the new Tweetdeck I can fit only three. Lots of columns is the main reason I use Tweetdeck. Without that, there’s little point.

That last reason was good enough to send me back to old Tweetdeck so there may well be good things hiding in the new one that I haven’t found yet, and will not find until narrow columns come back. Somebody tell me when, or if, that happens…


Over the last month or two I’ve seen several discussions about how to decide who to follow and who not to, and to my mind they all make the process much more complicated than it needs to be. Now I realise different people use Twitter differently and want to get different things from it, and that what I do may not work for others, so feel free to ignore this, or at least add contradictory views in the comments…

Read the rest of this entry

Last week I was at a conference in Madrid. As soon as I got on the plane and I had to switch off my phone it felt like I’d stepped back in time several years. Since mobile data costs a fortune while abroad, obviously I had that turned off on my phone. It turns out that my hotel had no free WiFi, and that even the paid-for WiFi was next to useless in my room (which thankfully I discovered before paying for it). There was free WiFi in the conference venue, and that worked surprisingly well considering I was sharing it with about 10,000 other people, but still there were times when I couldn’t get a working connection. Overall, getting online was more than a little frustrating.

Read the rest of this entry

A few weeks ago I was contemplating swapping my iPhone 3G for a dumb phone. My iPhone had, over the course of several iOS 4 upgrades, become so slow that most apps didn’t work anyway. With some patience it was possible to check twitter and check-in on foursquare. Email was ok, but surfing was painful. Instead I used my iPod Touch to run apps, so all I really needed was an actual phone.

But then I got an email. An email offering an Android phone at bargain price. There are some things I don’t really like about Android, and if this was to be my only smart device I don’t think I’d have done it, but since I still have my iPod it was hard to resist. And now I have the opportunity to properly compare Android and iOS by using two devices side by side, day by day.

So now I’m the owner of an Acer Stream. It is last year’s model, with a spec similar to the iPhone 4 (1GHz single core CPU, 512MB RAM, 800×480 screen). It runs Android 2.2 (Froyo). I’ve had it now for a couple of weeks and I’m collecting a list of likes and dislikes which I’ll write up soon. For now, though, it is very interesting using both an Android phone and an iOS iPod Touch on a daily basis, using them both for all of my mobile tasks (apart from making calls, obviously). To be honest, in day to day use there isn’t really much to choose between them…

I’ve had my power monitor for a couple of months now and to be honest it hasn’t made a significant difference to my electricity usage. It has made me a little more conscious of lights being left on and mobile phone chargers being left plugged in, but I don’t believe that accounts for a huge amount of energy. Indeed I’m still averaging 7.2kWh/day during the week and 8.4kWh/day at the weekends.

Maybe now that we’re in autumn, with nights getting dark earlier and the heating running a little you might have expected my usage to have gone up a little, and so the fact that it hasn’t significantly is interesting? Hard to say when I’ve got no historical data to compare against.

One thing I do know is that my electricity consumption never drops below 85W. That’s all the devices that have to be on, or are typically left on standby. That’s not a huge amount, but it would be nice to reduce it if possible. Enter E-on again. They supplied my energy monitor for free, and now have an offer on this TV power down device – £3 instead of £18. This device simply notices when you switch the TV to standby and powers off any other devices that aren’t needed.

It has three power sockets: one for the TV, one for devices that should be left powered always (a PVR, for example) and one for devices that can be switched off with the TV. I have a multi-way adapter connected to that last socket, into which is plugged a Blu-Ray player, VCR, Wii and a WiFi/ethernet bridge (for TV and BR player). Now, when the TV is switched to standby, after a short while the TV and those other devices are powered off. The TV power down device has an infrared sensor that notices when you use the power button on your TV remote and returns power to everything. Simples…

How well does it work? Technically, it seems to do what it is supposed to, although it does sometimes take a little while to notice that the TV has gone off. Sometimes half an hour or longer. It does say in the instructions that this can happen, and it depends on the TV. I assume it is sensing the power consumption of the TV, through the TV socket, and only powering off when that drops below a certain value, and some TVs take a while to power down completely? It certainly powers back on quickly enough. The TV comes up in standby mode, so you end up have to press the power button twice. Hardly a major inconvenience.

In terms of power saving, my power consumption is about 15W lower once everything has powered off. Not a huge saving, but with the device costing just £3 it should still pay for itself in just a few months. At the list price of £18 and a payback period of over a year I’m not sure I’d have bothered, so well done to E-on for subsidising the cost of these things. Another small step towards reducing the carbon footprint of the Rumsby family.

Or is it…? (blog to come)

On the eve of the next big iPhone announcement I thought I’d think aloud about what I’m looking for in my next phone purchase, to replace my ageing iPhone 3G, and whether it will be a smart phone at all.

I bought the iPhone 3G on its release day in the UK and it has since revolutionised many things for me, not least my use of social media. Twitter and friends made little sense to me when I could only access them when sat in front of a laptop. Having access to Twitter everywhere suddenly made it make sense. I have acquired many other apps on my 3G over the years I’ve had it and they’ve all been useful and/or fun.

A year later the 3GS was released. It wasn’t a huge leap forward from my 3G, and not worth upgrading to. 12 months further on the iPhone 4 was released and I still didn’t see the new iPhone as a worthwhile upgrade from my 3G. The along came the the iPod Touch 4G. It was very nearly an iPhone 4 without the phone, and at a _hugely_ reduced price. At time of release a 32GB iPod Touch was £249 while a 32GB iPhone 4 was £599. My mind was made up. An iPod Touch and a MiFi combined to provide my smartphone needs and my iPhone 3G was reduced to being just a phone. I continued to look at new smartphones, mostly Android phones, as they were released, on the assumption that eventually I’d go back to a single device.

Now, though, I’m not so sure. My iPod Touch continues to do a great job as a smartphone. At home and at work, and many other places too, I have WiFi, and where there is no WiFi my MiFi fills in. The Touch runs all my iOS apps perfectly. There are a few iPhone features missing – the one I miss most being a decent camera. All in all, though, I’m very happy with it. I could replace my iPhone 3G with an Android phone, or with whatever new iPhone Apple announce tomorrow, but if my iPod Touch is doing a good enough job do I need to? Why don’t I just buy a, well, a phone…?

Right now, I can’t think of a good reason not to do just that. If the phone could do basic Twitter that would be great. If it could run something like JoikuSpot to replace my MiFi that would be better. I’m sure there’s something out there that will do the job, and that costs much, much less that the current crop of smartphones. Any suggestions? A Nokia “feature phone”, perhaps?

I will watch the Apple announcement tomorrow evening with some interest, but I’m currently not expecting to place an iPhone order any time soon…

, ,

A little over a week ago I installed a power monitor at home. I got it free from my power company, but it appears to be a re-badged version of the EnviR from Current Cost. As well as giving an instantaneous display of power consumption it collects the data and allows you to download it to Excel, where I’ve been having a little bit of fun with pivot tables! Here are just a few observations after having it installed for a little over a week.

Not surprisingly, we use less electricity on weekdays than weekends, since we’re out more. The difference isn’t huge, though – 7.2kWh compared to 8.4kWh. No doubt this is because of my second observation – we use more power in the evenings than during the day. TV, laptops, lights, etc. are all used more in the evenings, whether weekday or weekend.

The lowest level of power consumption I’ve seen is 84W, which I assume is the accumulated power consumption of all the things that are on permanently – router, alarm, central heating timer, etc. – and all the things that are on standby – TV, PVR, Wii, etc. 84W is higher than I expected, but others have said their figure is much higher so maybe I’m doing quite well?

Monitoring consumption isn’t the point, though. The trick now is going to be to figure out how to use this device to encourage me to use less electricity. All suggestions welcome! I’ll report back in a few months…

On Twitter and Google+ I follow and am followed by people from different communities. There are personal friends, people from my workplace, people from my field of work, and others. When I engage in conversations on Twitter those conversations tend to stay within a particular community of users because the tweets are not visible to others. Google+ is different…

Read the rest of this entry


Spending a week in a tent can be tricky when electronic gadgets are involved. In previous years, the only power-hungry gadget in the family has been my iPhone. I’ve been able to get by for a week by turning off WiFi, Bluetooth, etc. rationing my access to the internet, and using a Freeloader for an occasional top-up. A week is about the limit, though, because the iPhone consumes electrons slightly faster than a Freeloader can generate them on a typical British summer’s day! This summer the problem is a little bigger. My kids are older and they have power hungry devices of their own – between us we have my iPhone, two iPod Touches, and an Android phone, and will probably take a MiFi too. How is that going to work…?

Read the rest of this entry

A number of things, the launch of Google+ among them, have recently prompted me to think about blogging and how, why and where I blog, and more fundamentally about what a blog really is. Before I get to that, a little bit of history…

I started blogging back in 2004, with a blog hosted on the University of Warwick’s in-house Warwick Blogs system. That was really an experiment to see what blogging was all about, and specifically to see if it was a useful mechanism for enhancing communication within my team at work. Once that experiment was over, I carried on, encouraged by a community of people that were using Warwick Blogs and actively reading and commenting on each other’s blogs. My blog turned into a place where I thought out loud about whatever interested me. There was no theme, and no intended audience. I wrote the blog for me. Eventually, I discovered Twitter as an outlet for my random thoughts and I stopped blogging quite so much, and eventually stopped completely. As an attempt to kick-start my blogging I created a new blog – this one – and while I don’t blog quite so much here as I used to on the other blog, I do seem to be just about keeping it going. So far. Now, though, Google+ has arrived and I like it a lot. The ability to write long posts, unlike on Twitter, means that I could easily do all my “thinking out loud” there and not need to blog at all. Or maybe I mean I don’t need a separate blog and that Google+ could be my blog? But what is a blog…

I use Google Analytics on my blogs, and despite there being no significant content on my old blog since 2009 it still gets over 700 visits a month. People clearly are finding the content there useful. Or more likely Google Search is sending them there because it thinks they’ll find it useful. And for me, that is what makes a blog different from an update stream like Twitter or Google+ – permanence. Updates on social networking sites tend to be short lived. That is, people read them within a few hours of them being posted but after that they disappear into history and are never seen again. Even the search on Twitter doesn’t return stuff more than a few days old anymore. One of the most viewed posts on my old blog is one I posted in 2006!

This has convinced me that a blog as a permanent, searchable entity separate from Twitter/Google+/etc. is a useful thing and I’ll carry on doing it. I’m not sure that this self-hosted WordPress blog will stick around. If Google manage to nicely integrate Google+ with Blogger, for example, I could be very tempted to move there. But I will continue blogging somewhere