Things that mean you can’t sleep……

Posted by Chris Green on Friday December 14 @ 3:21 am

Sleep

Nothing sinister, just having one of those weeks where I am very unsettled.

Part of it is to do with last weekend’s office move. I’m in new surroundings – OK, it’s just another two floors up in the same office building I’ve been in since I joined Dennis, but it is still a bit weird (since I’ve been there we’ve steadily worked our way up above sea level – we started on the ground, then the third, we are now on the fifth. Next move will probably be to the water tower on the roof 🙂

Ultimately its a good thing that we’ve moved – it will be better for productivity, we have more space, we are now working in the same space as our colleagues on the other Dennis technology magazines (a really good thing), and its about a thousand times quieter and a more professional working environment for my team.

There’s also a lot going on within the team itself – lots of change (for the better), new faces, new job roles and new ideas for the coming year. All really positive things, all things I’ve wanted to happen, but as you might expect these are things that introduce an element of uncertainty and thus anguish into the mix.

And that’s why, for the fourth night in a row, its past 2am and I’m wide awake, buzzing with energy and ideas, with no sign of being able to sleep. Even my trusty Melatonin isn’t able to knock me out (and I’ve smuggled enough of it back from the US to open my own branch of GNC).

As I write this, I’m re-watching the Top Gear Polar Special as there’s nothing else on. Yes, over 300 channels and there is nothing worthy of watching.

My next blog post here is going to be about the 3 Skypephone. I’ve been playing with one of these for the last couple of weeks, and now feel ready to convey my thoughts and pass judgement on it. Basically it’s brilliant, and is without doubt the unexpected gadget hit of this Christmas. While I love my iPhone, if you can’t justify £270 for the handset and £35-£55 a month to the bandits at O2 for something loosely resembling service, then £49 and a minimum of a tenner a month in top-up gets you one of the nicest phones I have used since I got my beloved RAZR V3. If you get it on a contract, ANY contract with 3, then the handset is free (contracts start at £12 a month). The Skype deal is simple. Whether you are a pay-as-you-pimp or contract user, you get effectively unmetered Skype-to-Skype voice calling and IM messaging (it’s 4,000 minutes and 10,000 IM messages a month, which even I would struggle to max-out in a month and still hold down a job).

The coverage area and quality of 3’s service has improved a lot since I last went near them (just under a year after launch, when I bought a phone and then sent it back as I was so dismayed by the quality of the phone service and the customer service). Sadly, 3’s front line telephone customer service is still very poor (though I’ve experienced worse – it’s called T-Mobile), but the actual mobile service has definitely moved up a notch. So much so I bought (note, bought with my own money, not blagged) a USB 3G modem and service contract from 3, and I can’t speak highly enough of it – I even get a HSDPA connection for the entire overground part of my tube journey to and from work. The same quality of signal and calling service applies to the Skypephone. I’ve had only two brief instances when it couldn’t get a 3G signal, and had to step down to a 2G roaming signal. The rest of the time – fast, reliable, all-you-can-eat Skype goodness.

I’ll post pictures and something similar to a balanced review in my next posting, but for now, keep £49 on standby, or if you go to Carphone Shed, you can buy two for £85 – a bargain!

Phones are a bit of a thing for me at the moment. I’ve been doing a fair amount of radio and TV talking about emerging technologies for 2008 and Christmas gadget gift advice, and all of it has been dominated by talk of phones. I’m in desperate need of a new phone as I do need to carry two phones (one being the mobile number that’s on my business cards, the other being the number that only family and a few close friends have – thus ensuring they can always get hold of me even when I don’t want to be disturbed by calls on the work mobile). I currently have the iPhone, I adore the iPhone and I’m not entirely sure what’s going to happen if and when the time comes that Apple asks for it back (the phrase “from my cold dead hands” has been banded around a few times of late).

So either way, one phone is going to have to be an iPhone, or maybe Le iPhone. The iPhone is a must, having integrated into my everyday life more quickly than even my first BlackBerry. The other phone is still in play. I did have a Motorola Q9H for a while, which was a great bit of kit, but it broke (it was a pre-release sample to be fair). Trying to buy a replacement is not easy, hardly anyone sells it and those that do want the national debt of Zimbabwe for one.

I am also very drawn to the Samsung SGH-i320. It’s not a new phone, but it is cheap, and has a surprisingly nice QWERTY keypad. It’s Windows Mobile-based, which is not good, but Motorola managed to build a Windows Mobile phone that isn’t shit, so hopefully Samsung has managed to do the same. The Skypephone is definitely being bought no matter what, just cos its soooo cool and nice to use.

I’ve also added a new plug-in to this blog. I’ve enabled the Twit This plug-in, to make it easier for other Twitter users and me to tweet about posts on this blog.

Also, I’m finally beginning to warm to Windows Vista, it’s only taken a year! I have one live machine at home running Vista (the rest of our Windows machines are running XP and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future), a laptop from a well-known games console-making electronics giant that was allegedly built for Vista and shipped with it pre installed. Unfortunately it took a ridiculous amount of work and time to actually get it to work reliably and to interact properly with all the built-in hardware in the laptop. Most end users would have smashed it to pieces in frustration months ago. Hopefully the release shortly of Service Pack 1 will address many of the well-documented shortcomings of this OS.

Better still, buy a Mac, along with a copy of Leopard and save yourself nine months of pain.

I’m playing a lot with video, with a view to turning my hand from audio podcasting to video podcast production. It is a lot of fun, and I’ve found a good use for my otherwise obsolete but excellent quality Samsung/Medion Hi-8 camcorder, adding nothing more than a £6 USB video capture dongle I bought on eBay. I’m particularly taken by Ustream.tv and Seesmic.

Finally, I’m watching a lot of video podcasts, thanks to the recent gift of a 8GB iPod Nano (which is a lot smaller and lighter to carry than my 60GB video iPod). Chris Green hereby gives the seal of approval to the following video podcasts:

Ultimately – I need a rest – a proper rest – and maybe a few good bottles of wine, some good home cooking, a working Macbook again and some quality time with my friends and my DVD collection.

Oh, and a trip to Vegas would also go down well – need to sort something out there, I’m missing Vegas almost as much as I miss San Francisco.

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