Our greatest peacetime leader

Posted by Chris Green on Wednesday April 17 @ 8:30 am

Today we pay our last respects to Baroness Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and one of the most important leaders our country has ever had.

As someone who was born in the late 70s and thus grew up in the 80s – I witnessed first-hand the state the country was in due to financial mismanagement by previous administrations and runaway abuse of power by militant unions. I also witnessed the recovery – fuelled by supporting private enterprise, breaking militant unions that were led by people hell-bent on furthering their own ridiculous political aims at the expense of representing workers effectively, and implementing a policy of divesting loss-making state-owned businesses to the private sector where they could sink or swim. It worked, and today businesses like BT, BP, British Gas, National Grid, Pickfords, BAA Airports and more are now thriving, tax-paying organisations where they were once loss-making state industries that were a drain on the Treasury.

My family started the 80s with very little. We ended the decade in a far better place thanks to a better economy, more jobs, better education and a culture of innovation and enterprise. The power stayed on, teachers stopped striking and it no longer tool six months to get a phone installed. That happened because of Margaret Thatcher’s government and the policies it successfully implemented.

When Argentine forces invaded the Falklands, Margaret Thatcher took the decision to send our troops in, insistent that all parts of the United Kingdom warrant defending. The successful defence and reclaiming of the Falklands was perhaps Margaret Thatcher’s finest hour. It certainly was one of the finest of our brave servicemen, many of whom sadly lost their lives successfully defending the citizens of Falklands from foreign occupation.

Everyone is entitled to their own views. For me, Margaret Thatcher represents everything that is good about our nation. She took a country that was floundering and on the brink of economic and social collapse, and implemented her ideology to rebuilt it into a strong enterprising nation where opportunity was available to all if they were prepared to work for it.

We have lost a great Briton today – and we all should mourn that loss, while remembering the great accomplishments made during her time in office.

In peacetime, Margaret Thatcher truly was our greatest leader.

It’s a #BlogEATBlog World….four people, hotdog toppings and a Sunday in Brick Lane

Posted by Chris Green on Tuesday March 13 @ 9:53 pm

This past Sunday I was fortunate enough to take part in the third heat of #BlogEATBlog, a good natured cooking contest involving some of the web’s leading food bloggers and tweeters, and the superb hot dogs of Big Apple Hot Dogs.

The task was straightforward – make my own gourmet topping for a gourmet hot dog. Trust me, it’s not as easy as it looks.

After multiple test runs and a frantic Saturday producing litres of the final mixture, I had produced my ultimate hot dog topping – a creation I’ve called Damson Relish:

Recipe (made in small batches)

  • 2kg Home Made Gherkins – diced
  • 800g Red Onions – Coarse Chopped
  • 20 Red Chillis – finely chopped
  • 20 Green Chillis – finely chopped
  • 200ml – 10yr Old Single Malt Scotch – we used Ardbeg
  • 1litre Damson Mixture
  • Rosemary – to taste
  • Cumin – to taste
  • Paprika – to taste
  • Cajun Spices – to taste
  • Salt – to taste
  • 40 Rashers of Smoked Streaky Bacon

After two weeks of pickling in a secret mixture of vinegar, spices and seeds in the cupboard where we keep the snow shovel, vacuum cleaner and the electricity meter, drain the gherkins and dice into nice big chunks, then fry off the excess moisture and put to once side.

Coarsely chop the onions and then marinate in the Scotch. Hold back some of the scotch for use later.

Finely chop the chillis, mix with the marinated onions and lightly fry off the excess moisture.

Recombine the gherkins on a low heat, add salt and spices to taste and stir in.

Then add the Damson mixture and simmer on a low heat.

Add in the rest of the Scotch once the mixture starts to thicken. Then allow the mixture to simmer and thcken some more until sticky.

Rest and cool.

You then end up with something like this:

Thanks to Sue Aron at The Art of Puddings for the help on the Damson mixture front.

On the morning of the contest, I crispy fried the bacon and blitzed it into small pieces for sprinkling on top of the mixture.

So, having created the mixture and loaded it into Tupperware boxes, I headed to Brick Lane’s Vibe Bar where I met up with Abiye Cole from Big Apple Hot Dogs (@bigapplehotdogs) and the three other competitors.

In addition to me, three other contenders took part in this heat (the third of four heats), each bringing an excellent, homemade and exciting twist to topping a hot dog.

First up was Paul Lomax (@paullomax) with his Canadian-inspired Poutine Hot Dog. A mixture of homemade cheese curds, gravy and crunchy topping went into this one. By far the most unusual, and very tasty too. Great combination of textures and favours.

Next was Rose (@_RosieT) with her classic Chilli Cheese Dog, with a mixture of yellow and red cheese, this not only tasted nice, but had a classic American look.

Finally we have Sam (@steampie) with his Bourbon Bacon Marmalade with Crispy Leeks. Delicious topping, and the Crispy Leeks were fantastic. We were adding them to everything at one point, and they make a great bar snack on their own.

Here are all four toppings on Abiye’s amazing fresh hot dogs.

My hot dog is liberally topped with the Damson Relish, then topped off with sprinkled crispy bacon to add a nice smoky, salty bacon crunch. Frying off the gherkins ensures they retain their crunch, even after the cooking and combining with the sauce mixture. The chillies add a small amount of heat, but mostly contribute flavour and colour, while the ‘drunken onions’ that were combined with a generous potion of peaty, smoky Scotch proved to be a real winner with the customers, as well as adding a unique flavour to the overall relish.

Overall I was really pleased with how the relish turned out. The feedback from the many Big Apple Hot Dogs customers that opted to have my topping on all or part of their hot dog was really positive, as has been the feedback on Twitter.

The winner of my heat has yet to be announced, but whoever it is, along with the winners of the previous two heats and this coming Sunday’s fourth heat, they will go through to a grand final to become overall champion and have their name added to Abiye’s cart. It’s not about the prize, it’s about the build :)

If you came along and tried the toppings, do please vote on Twitter using the hashtag #BlogEATBlog.

Thanks to everyone who participated and to all the people who made the journey to Brick Lane to try the hot dogs. We had a great time and I hope you did too!

Steve Jobs: One Man, One Incredible Vision

Posted by Chris Green on Thursday October 6 @ 10:14 am

stevejobs

People come and go throughout our lives and throughout history. Yet, while we are here we all change the world by our actions, hopefully for the better. Be it building a loving family and helping to bring new life into the world, building a stable business that creates work and better lives for others, creating new technologies, new ideas and new approaches that change and improve the way we did things before, or simply changing the world by making the people around you smile. The things we do define us and define the world we live in and leave behind. While we all make a contribution, the impact that some make on the lives of all of us can be simply staggering.

Steve Jobs was one of those people. As co-founder of Apple Computer (now Apple Inc) he helped bring about a new era in computing, shaping the way we would use personal computers for decades to follow, while showing that computers could be a thing of beauty on the outside, as well as incredible inside. He also played a key role in transforming computing from geek hobby into an aspirational mainstream activity.

Even after he was ousted from Apple, his wonder and excitement about technology refused to wilt, leading him to found NeXT and invest in Pixar Animation Studios, creating not only the technology that would later become the foundation of MacOS X and help save Apple, but also the animation technology (and of course bringing together talented people) that delivered some of the most popular family movies in modern history, bringing joy to millions and raising the bar for what can be achieved with computer generated imagery and animation.

His return to Apple unquestionably helped save the company, which was on the brink despite the efforts of previous CEO Gil Amelio to steady a sinking ship. On his return, Jobs not only brought fresh ideas and new approaches with him, he helped inspire a demoralised workforce, and encouraged them to do more and do better with the limited resources left at the company.

The subsequent products that Apple produced, while not necessarily technologically advanced, achieved an important goal – they changed the way we lived, worked, communicated and had fun – all for the better. The iMac, which helped kill off the anonymous beige box design ethos of personal computers, or the MacBook, that helped trigger a massive shift towards portable computing among both consumers and business users. Then there was the iPod. Not that advanced, and among the last products to market, it was the one that learned from the mistakes of its predecessors. Combining good looks, massive storage, and ease of use. When combined with a revamped iTunes app and one-click purchasing of music, it revolutionised the way we chose, purchased and listened to music and audio content.

The iPhone has had a profound effect on the mobile phone industry, While still accounting for a small percentage of the overall market, it is still a very lucrative product and has not only become a must-have item, it has inspired the rest of the industry to raise its game and advance product development far beyond where it would be today without such robust and creative competition from Apple.

As for the iPad, it is another example of a product and market sector (tablet computers) that Apple has achieved huge success with where others have failed, doing so by creating something that did not fall foul of the mistakes made by those before it. I would be absolutely lost without my iPad 2 – it goes with me almost everywhere.

These are just a few of the creations that Apple produced during Steve’s second period at the company, and all were produced with Steve taking a major hands-on role in their design, usability testing and even the packaging. Steve believed that every Apple product should feel special every time you use it, including when you unbox it for the first time. It is an approach that always appealed to my child-like wonder of technology and something that is neglected by so many other companies.

Steve Jobs has always been at the top of the list of people that have inspired me to do more, do better and to be passionate and excited about technology and what it can do for the greater good. His passing is deeply sad, but at the same time we should try not to dwell on the fact he is no longer with us, but be happy that for 56 years he was here and during that time he had a profound and positive effect on the way millions of us live and enjoy our daily lives.

As I write this, I am sitting at a desk surrounded by Apple technology. From my MacBook laptop to my iPad 2, to my iPhone and my iPod, Apple is a major part of my life thanks to Steve Jobs and his vision, determination and passion for technology. Most of us will have at least one piece of Apple technology in active use, or have done so in the past. That alone speaks volumes for the lasting legacy created by Steve’s work.

Steve Jobs showed the world (and me) how to “Think Different” and with it, he changed the world, for the better.

Thank You, Steve.

BBC Interview: Will Japan’s problems damage Apple’s supply chain?

Posted by Chris Green on Thursday April 21 @ 11:16 am
Chris Green - BBC News Interview - April 20 2011

Yesterday morning I was on BBC News previewing Apple’s results and talking about how the disruption in the global component supply chain is likely to impact Apple’s plans for new devices (iPhone 5) and its ability to meet demand for current products (iPad 2 etc).

The interview is now up on the BBC News web site and can be viewed here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-13143021

In case you are not aware, Apple last night reported its best Q2 ever, generating $5.99 billion in profit. However, combined iPad and iPad 2 sales undershot expectations at 4.7 million units, against analyst expectations of 6-6.2 million. iPod sales continue to decline, down 17 per cent as falling sales of the basic iPod Classic and iPod Shuffle devices diluted growth in sales of the newer and feature-rich touchscreen  iPod Nano and iPod Touch units.

Previewing Apple’s results at the BBC

Posted by Chris Green on Wednesday April 20 @ 3:58 am

It is extremely early in the morning, and I am off to BBC TV Centre to preview Apple’s Q2 results which are due out at 10pm BST tonight (5pm Eastern).

I’ll be on BBC News Channel at 5.30am BST this morning on World Business Report talking about what we can expect from Apple’s numbers.

Overseas viewers can watch the show live on BBC World at 6.30am CEST and 12.30am Eastern in the US.

Lots of interesting things to discuss including the implications of the Japan earthquake and tsunami on Apple’s component supply, whether iPod sales will decline further and the initial success of the iPad 2.

Off to the BBC…

Posted by Chris Green on Friday April 15 @ 6:01 am

I will be on BBC Radio 5 Live today at around 7.45am BST talking about Google’s financial results and the challenges facing co-founder Larry Page as he takes the helm as chief executive.

The iPad 2 – the good, the bad and the backlight leakage

Posted by Chris Green on Thursday April 14 @ 12:20 pm

<b>Apple's iPad 2 offers many improvements over the original, including front and rear cameras, as well as a magnetic screen cover and magent-controlled sleep mode, similar to that found on RIM's BlackBerry devices.</b>

Some of you will know that on launch weekend I decided to splurge and buy an Apple iPad 2. Yes, I did indeed say buy – rather than get hold of a review unit.

There are several reasons for this. Firstly, I’ve had advance access to the iPad 2 in the form of units from the initial launch in the US, so have been able to review test the unit already. Secondly, off the back of that review testing, it quickly became clear that this was a piece of equipment I both wanted and needed to add to my computing kit.

I considered buying the original iPad on several occasions after its launch, but each time (including one time when I arrived in an Apple Store with money to spend on one), I decided against it. Usually, it came down to the fact that the original had no camera at all, let alone a front-facing camera for video conferencing – a ‘killer application’ for a device like the iPad.

Fortunately, with the iPad 2 Apple rectified this and added both a high resolution rear camera and a low-resolution front camera, bringing the iPad 2 into line with the iPhone and 4th generation iPod Touch.

But why buy one so early? Well, I have always been an early adopter (despite the early birthing pains that have to be endured when you buy anything from the first production run), but mostly, it comes down to the camera and integrated microphone. For me, the ability to use the iPad 2 for Skype calls and video conferencing is a massive help. Even though Skype has not released an iPad-native client, the iPhone/iPod Touch client makes full use of the iPad 2’s camera and mic, enabling both voice and video comms without the need for extra equipment or a headset. The results have been very good and I’m now regularly using it for Skype calls with colleagues in the US and with work clients.

I also opted for the 3G version of the iPad 2, which I have paired with a mobile broadband subscription from Three. Unlike other networks, Three provides a generous data cap, the network has been reliable and they don’t care what you use your allocation for, so VoIP calls, video streaming etc are all acceptable. Of course, when you use up your monthly 15Gb bandwidth allocation, you then start paying. Fortunately, I haven’t maxed it – yet!

Facetime is also very impressive, but there has been limited opportunity to use it, as even most of my iPhone 4-owning friends show little interest in Facetime as a communications option, preferring voice calls or SMS instead. It’s a pity as the audio and video quality that can be achieved with Facetime and a decent Wifi connection is remarkable given the basic front facing camera on the iPad 2, iPhone 4 and 4th generation iPod touch.

Beyond this, the device fits my needs and my lifestyle. There’s plenty of processing power under the bonnet, and it handles tasks such as email and web browsing very well (if you can live without Flash support). The lack of text messaging support on the 3G-enabled units (it was the same with the original iPad) is a big oversight, and hopefully Apple will rethink this and address in a forthcoming firmware update, but otherwise it excels as a communications tool (the official Twitter app for the iPad is a particular success).

However, for all the positive aspects of the device, there are some negatives.

For starters, I find the portrait/landscape automatic switching to be far too sensitive. Often it will switch orientation after the slightest angled movement, and then won’t switch back as easily. Automatic orientation switching is a good thing, but it needs to be less sensitive or at least be user adjustable.

Then there’s the backlight bleed. This is a defect that affects many, but not all, early iPad 2 units. I’ve already had mine replaced once (a week after the UK launch) and I’m going back to the Apple Store this weekend with a view to having the replacement replaced as well, as it’s worse than the original.

Backlight leaks around the edge of the screen creating a glowing flare effect around the edges. This is only visible on black backgrounds, so is unlikely to have any impact on everyday use, but is very noticeable when watching YouTube, BBC iPlayer or any other form of video that is not full-screen. My unit is afflicted by this all along the bottom edge and at both the left and right top corners. Tech news site Engadget has an excellent article and video illustrating the backlight leakage problem.

My view is that the bleed is a result of some sloppy assembly, no doubt prompted by the need to rush production and build up a stock of units for the initial launch phases. Unlike the original iPad, the iPad 2 display and glass front are glued in place, rather than clipped. I think that the backlight is leaking through the glue seal, either where the glue is thin or where there are gaps in the glue application. This is merely an assumption, but it would explain it. If correct, it is also something that can easily be fixed on the production line without requiring a major change to the design or assembly process.

Despite this small quality control glitch, the iPad 2 is still a must-have. Even if it does turn out to be a stopgap release (still not convinced it’s going to be replaced this year as some are claiming), it still represents a major step forward from the original iPad, and will still be a viable device for several years to come.

Radio and TV appearances: Windows Phone 7 launch

Posted by Chris Green on Sunday October 10 @ 12:34 pm
Windows Phone 7 press conference invite

Windows Phone 7 press conference invite

Tomorrow (Monday) marks the official launch of Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 platform.

Windows Phone 7 is the latest iteration of Microsoft’s operating system for smartphones and PDAs. The new version marks a major departure from the traditional Windows Phone/Windows Mobile user interface, with a move to a larger finger-friendly interface that has been influenced significantly by Microsoft’s Zune MP3 player platform.

Microsoft needed to undertake a major overhaul of Windows Phone in the face of overwhelming device and software competition from Apple, RIM and Google. Only Nokia appears to be struggling worse than Microsoft to gain a footing in the smartphone market.

I’m doing a number of media appearances tomorrow to talk about the new phone platform and where it fits into a crowded and competitive smartphone market. You can see and hear me on the following stations and shows:

Monday October 11th 2010 – all times are BST
5.30am – Wake Up To Money (BBC Radio 5 Live)
6.15am – Today (BBC Radio 4)
6.50am – BBC Breakfast (BBC 1 TV)
7.30am – World Business Report (BBC World TV) – Not officially available in the UK, international viewers only

If you can, do take a look.

Speaking at Digital Surrey tonight

Posted by Chris Green on Thursday July 22 @ 8:38 am

I will be speaking tonight at the Digital Surrey group, talking about ‘The financial and ongoing value of web content’.

Digital Surrey is a networking group that grew out of the Farnham Tweetup. Since April 2010 the group has been meeting at Surrey University in Guildford and we’ve had a number of fantastic speakers covering everything from the Digital Economy Act to Social Media in the Enterprise. Now I’m stepping up to talk about how and why individuals and businesses need to do more to understand the cost and value of the content they place online.

I’ll post my slides and any other useful material here after the event. Stay tuned.

In memory of Guy Kewney

Posted by Chris Green on Thursday April 8 @ 10:28 am

Guy Kewney, one of the finest journalists I have ever had the honour of working with, passed away in the early hours of this morning after a long and brave battle with cancer.

Like so many people, I grew up reading Guy’s articles in magazines like Personal Computing World, Computing and PC Magazine. His work always oozed enthusiasm for good technology, delight at the good decisions of those charged with running the technology companies of the day, along with frustration at bad technology that could and should be better and annoyance at the silly decisions that held back progress. Through it all, Guy had a passion for technology, and for sharing insight, advice and guidance with the rest of us.

Tucked away inside that wise mind was an excited five-year old that wanted to escape and play with as much shiny stuff as possible and then share everything about it with the world (and usually break it – we never figured out how he managed to turn so much stuff into doorstops, but he always found a way). One of Guy’s greatest skills was being able to channel that sense of boyish wonder into clear, concise and informative articles that could appeal to everyone, without losing that sense of excitement and passion.

Over the last 20 years I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Guy in a number of guises. We worked together for many years at VNU – his desk used to be a few feet away from mine – and we would regularly share ideas, information, event invites and even review kit. Before that, Guy was one of the journalists who went out of his way to help me when I was a young and naive freelancer, trying to make some progress in the world of technology journalism.

Guy was one of the first people to offer me a helping hand, looking out for me at events, pointing me in the right direction and making sure I met the right people.

For many years Guy wrote for the publications and sections I’ve edited, such as Data Business, IT PRO, and the technology sections of Computing. As a commissioning editor, working with Guy was always fun, not because copy was late or anything (it never was), rather having conversations with him to flesh out a commission were as much fun as reading the finished article. He would always find a way to make a planned article even better, and his enthusiasm and passion never waned.

Press trips play an integral role in how we work and Guy and I went on more press trips together than either of us could remember. Nonetheless, there are several that will forever stand out.

At CeBIT, he would always keep an eye out for me and would make sure I didn’t get lost in the chaos. There were many trips with Microsoft, including the ‘fishing hats’ trip to Copenhagen for Microsoft’s IT Forum when the anecdotes and stories were flying to-and-fro for the entire trip. Not to mention trips that took us all over America and Europe in search of new technologies and new insights into computing. These were magical times, and sharing them with Guy made them all the more special.

Guy and I were on our last press trip together in Faro, Portugal at the end of 2008. It was a networking industry conference and we were able to enjoy the last of the summer sunshine before winter set in. I will always remember our last day, swapping notes and thoughts as we filed our last pieces of copy before settling down to a much needed beer and a chat as we relaxed before the flight home.

The encouragement and concern he showed for me in my early days remained twenty years later, when it was announced that I was leaving IT PRO. Guy was the first person to call me, not to ask about copy deadlines or his outstanding invoices, he just wanted to make sure I was OK.

It is one of many memories of Guy I will treasure forever.

Guy was a kind, caring and selfless person, and these qualities alone make him irreplaceable.

We miss you Guy. Thank you for everything.

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