Sunday, 20 April 2014

Finding the job for you #Spon

Hi all.

Today I'm talking about work and finding the right job, despite being far from an expert I'll share my expertise with you, even if you fall about laughing!

The perils of finding the perfect job can be a long, winding road with a plethora of stresses, heartache tied in with the euphoria from landing the perfect job you always knew was out there. I know there will be many people who read this and they're happier than ever in the job they currently have, even though they schmooze over the job boards every week just on the small chance they'll find something that will top what they're currently doing, sadly in many cases it means you could be overlooking something even more amazing that you would not even think about.

On top of this many people are confused by the ever changing world we live in and they feel a new or refreshed career is out completely of reach and I'll admit I don't have a clue what future employers would want from a nerd like me, so to help you lovely people out I asked three fantastic bloggers for some tips and these are what they sent over to us

Carolin from Mummy Alarm Let all your friends know that you're looking for a job. They can keep their eyes and ears open for you and maybe even recommend you for a job. Sometimes who you know is more important than what you know.

Ali Clifford gave the following small tips for those looking to come back into employment
The job centre are really helpful for certain roles, but could be the catalyst for other agencies.
Make sure you Google yourself. Make sure all of your Facebook/Twitter profiles have no stupid photos or any profanities as many employers do social media searches on potential new hires. This could make all the difference even if they like you one dodgy comment could blow it. 
It could be worthwhile to join local Facebook job groups, as they may have localised jobs that aren't always advertised in mainstream media. 

Helen from Kiddy Charts passed the following pearls of advice.
For the more social people out there Linkedin is a very important tool for potential future employment. Yes it's an effort to keep it up to date to ensure you look professional at all times. (H1UK Edit - From family experience it can be the opening to some amazing job prospects.)
Write up your C.V. - and tweak for each job you apply for don't send the same one out each time, so think about what you learnt in each job and how that applies to the one you are applying for. 
Also get someone else to look over your C.V. In many cases a fresh set of eyes may spot something you may have missed. (H1UK Edit - Trust me it can cause some huge headaches.) 
Keep the C.V. to a maximum of two pages - try to do a skills based C.V. rather than a list of qualifications if possible. 

With these top tips you'll hopefully have the grunt to land that ideal job in no time at all. Additonally if you'd like to share your top tips feel free to comment below and we'll add them here too. 
Also, are you in your dream job already? If so let us know how you got to that happy place. 


Disclaimer - This post was created in association with City Calling 

Friday, 11 April 2014

Fluffeh Tiem

Hi all.

Tonight I have to show you this picture, taken this (Thursday) afternoon in Wardown Park, Luton and well I was going to use it as a SilentSunday. But It's too cute to leave until Sunday!

I've been told by the girls we have to visit the ducklings again soon! 


Sunday, 6 April 2014

My feedback on the Busway

I originally wrote about the Busway a month before it was due to open as I was concerned about a few things and it seems despite the improvement to public transport the Luton and Dunstable Busway has bought along with it. Some of the items they've failed to implement or improve upon has become (in my eyes) a considerable concern for public welfare and safety.

Before anyone says I'm trashing it deliberately I assure you this is considered as feedback by myself with no intention to thrash the route. I just see things some people may not have noticed, on top of this I use the Busway many times a week using both the path and the buses. The Busway is a great asset for all the local communities it connects to. And with it's construction it bought huge improvements to existing travel links throughout Luton, Houghton Regis and Dunstable with a reduced cost of bus fares if you choose to exclusively use the Busway.

It's fair to say that the busway has not been without it's share of both minor and major teething troubles along the way, but to be fair it's less than a year old and I would rather the problems were highlighted and fixed sooner rather than later in my eyes. So without any more rambling let's get onto the feedback.
I'll Highlight problems first (Sorry it has to be done this way but these issues are small compared to the Cambridge Busway cockups) then a suggestion my daughters suggested to me recently.

Now onto the snags that were promised to be fixed in an exhaustive snag list, heck I don't know them all.
CCTV and lighting.
We got a GSM/3G Camera on a bridge, bus stops and busway entrances. But not the promised ones across the rest of the busway and the infamous Dog Kennel Walk/Down (depends on the age of the person I've been told) Yes Route6/ Dog Kennel is the route that crosses the busway via the bridge. This was tidied up but no extensive upgrades ever undertaken. Similarly to the Busway footpaths. They have no light or CCTV bar on bus stops and the entrances to two housing estates on the Portland Ride stop, old lights on dog kennel that light the crossing of the Busway Path and Dog Kennel but that's it. Oh I forgot one set of lights by the Jeans Way crossing point. but it's merely a LED light or two so the drivers see people dart across the track. (to those who complain about some of the original gates bear in mind some are there to stop accidents like this one in Cambridge but not all of them the rest to stop motorbikes.) These being missed out mean certain areas are dangerously dark and due to the covering with trees and bushes tied in with no light and steep hills each side at certain points with one footpath off the Portland ride stop (High street north to Portland ride) is a concern to locals. But it's ok for now as many people people avoid this part as they made decent access via the housing estate pathways to the bus stop tarmac and well lit. Plus walking to the stop from Park Street/Tavistock street is quicker anyway!
On the safety side of things the lack of lighting is also dangerous to cyclists as bike ninjas use the route and it's not always that easy to see them even with Kree LED light setups. Even one high powered LED clusted street light every 10 meters or so would help enough without causing drastic light pollution for animals and residents nearby.

ON CCTV here's an image that was uploaded to the Grant Palmer Limited facebook page by a bus driver highlighting why CCTV is really needed out there as in this instance without the sharp eye of the driver and his prompt action it could have caused derailment of the bus and injury to people using the service and the driver too. Also costing the company more money to repair the buses.
There are other worrying reasons why CCTV is needed across the areas promised. Central Beds Council promised things would happen to make Dog Kennel Walk safer after the assault on a pregnant lady caused uproar( I know the girl and her family). They also assured residents via Let's talk central's facebook page last year that the CCTV would be installed across the route and the busway as part of it's construction and that it's costs were tied in with sustainability grants and Busway funding, adding six more cameras on NCN Route 6 through Dunstable and Houghton Regis as well as suitable cameras to keep people using the Busway safe too, I think one GSM/WCDMA camera does not cut it in my eyes. Not at all.

Next the stone pathway/cyclepath. In places it's flattening down nicely and becoming ok to ride on (by ok I mean passable. JUST) but it's still very unstable and going out of level in places and in others gaining speed humps due to the earth movement with use and pipes being underneath it for drainage in places. Some areas I'm sure BAM staff assumed it was going to have tar laid so manhole covers are raised (from where the stone begins from Chaul end lane to hatters way towards Luton before the track turns to tarmac) and have stone around them and have been since my original post. On top of this the earth has sunk at areas where you cross from tarmac to stones or vice versa the separating kerb has shifted. Buckled wheels anyone (Central beds/Luton borough council will be paying for wheel repairs!) This problems is visible in many areas where the paths change from stone to tar.

I noticed the track has a lovely flat patch on the stone where everyone rides, it's the width of one bike and throughout the stoned parts of the cyclepath. In places where this mark is not very prominent the track is unstable. BIG TIME. Taking the girls to Luton this afternoon today felt like a puppy with a slapped arse. with the stones causing a lot of wobble. Not sensible with children in a trailer. However in some of the loose stoned areas I am worried about the hidden things annoying people leave behind.

Dog walkers. I love you good ones who clear up after your dog religiously, you rock this is not about you. Where the stone is loose is brings more hidden dangers where dog poop and glass gets mashed under the stones, meaning safety issues for people and animals there. I cycle the busway a lot with two different bikes and both have different tyres but both bikes struggle and seem to attract poo. The Poop can cause blindness in children and the glass can cut people, animals and our tyres. At least on tar it'll be easier to clean.

Bus Company Feedback

Arriva Please run more buses on a sunday morning, it's a struggle when all of your services run from around 9AM in the morning and end earlier than normal, I understand it's a sunday service BUT A MASS TRANSIT SERVICE STARTING AT 9AM? CURSES TO YOU ARRIVA. You run a skeleton service overnight from Luton Interchange/Train station to Luton airport every night. C'mon an 8am bus would not kill you would it? Bar that the service runs well. Bar making the buses cleaner inside I have no other complaints.

Centrebus. The buses are ok, but inside they look a little shabby, the Scania's are ok but are loud, sound like their oil has not been kind to them over the years and also some many of the handrails going from seats to roof are in poor condition with three different sets of paint showing through, welded botch jobs on the odd one and hard seats But you have one good advantage over Arriva, your buses smell clean as well as look clean inside whereas the Arriva buses don't seem to have the same cleaning schedule.

Grant palmer. No complaints with you so far. with exception of no Sunday services. But it can be ignored due to the route you use. :)

All drivers are polite and courteous that I've experienced so far so no complaints here about that.
Before I forget.
I assume this is part of a guide wheel from the Busway. I found it this afternoon by the Chall End Lane - skimpot approach guide rails. I assume someone' hit the metal guide too hard and part of the wheel failed. If you want it back let me know and I'll leave it at the Travel Hub

Oh and a few more things that need sorting. The site thinks it's January and runs excruciatingly slow and this is on a stable 80mb line.

The Vix LED Matrix displays are weak a slight tap and they giltch, I've seen someone showing their kids what bus to look out for by touching the display and it goes black, comes back with half of the text on one line missing.

Also the LCD Panels at Busway stops where the display is in direct sunlight highlights a huge issue. Sunspot. The monitors go black and cannot display until they cool down or get the ability to work. the AOU Panels seem to not have adequate protection from UV rays being beamed from the sun and the sun itself.  Also the Data on the VIX Lcd Panels shows incorrect news. We're not in Tyne and Wear. We're in the bbc 3 counties news area!

Gates. What good is it to have them when they are held closed with BINBAGS?

I'm not expecting miracles or to see anything highlighted fixed in the long run but it would be nice if this feedback is taken into account by the councils as a whole and the bus operators who also use the busway.

Now for my daughters idea.

There are a few bridges the busway goes under, including Dog Kennel bridge. The Dog Kennel bridge soon got named the Troll Bridge by my daughters on one of the many times we pass through to school, friends houses or just passing through to the adventure playground. The Troll was based off Dora the Explorer and I've played on this with the girls every time we pass it via bike or bus. To be educated on the Dora Grumpy Old Troll watch the video below.

Now on using the cyclepaths we've noticed the new Dog Kennel bridge has ledges below the bridge and manholes each sides of the track. The girls asked me if the Troll and his wife live in their home under the busway and the front doors are the manholes on the side, placed on both sides so they don't risk getting run over by the buses.

Now with that in mind they want to see the troll living under the bridge, be it a painting on one side or a wooden/card cutout. It would be a fantastic addition as it would add more attraction to the busway for kids. But not just Dog Kennel, how about they paint the Chall end lane underpass/bridge with artwork from local communities? It could also be pretty cool to decorate some of the fences that face the buses to give kids more to see than the hunks of metal murals, trucks, cows, horses and lots of people, bikes, dogs, occasional cats and the odd car or service vehicle!

Other users have ideas too! Ask them and help improve it!

On discussing this post on Facebook we will be adding feedback here from the General Public.
Clive Harradence What happened to the "Real Time Indicators" at the bus stop in Court Drive.? What happened to the info displays in the plinths ?

Clive has a good point here as they're not all working well, one of them by the crown was showing inaccurate data for a service that does not even run past it, but they've turned off the old RF display too so there is no decent real time info available.


Local Free Family fun challenge!

Hi all.
i want to tell you about this so you can all take advantage of free places to take the kids over the holidays!

Sustrans, teamed up with Luton Borough council's Travel Luton and Central Beds Council's Travel Choices have recently launched a fun competition to for families to become outdoor explorers, highlighting fun free places to take the kids around, the Luton, Dunstable, Houghton Regis and Leighton Buzzard. The only basis for entry is to try walking, cycling, driving or using buses including the new Luton and Dunstable Busway services to find some of these great free places. And you get to win fantastic prizes, including Frog Bikes worth £250.

To enter you simply log when you visited one of the 20 free venues listed on the sheet, and how you got there. Once you've been to as many as you can. Take the sheets to the Travel Choices Hub, 1 Ashton Square, Dunstable, LU6 3SN to be entered for a prize, remember the more places you visit the greater the prizes could be. This competition ends at the end of August so you've got plenty of time to do this one!
Feel free to print the images I've pilfered from the PDF they provided  or use the PDD - No worries :D

For more information look at the images/PDF and get out there and have some fun and good luck!

iPad makes kids shoe shopping fun

Heya all.

Me and the girls took a trip last Wednesday to one of Clarks flagship shoe store in Westfield, White City to see how they've made shoe shopping fun for children with the development of the all new and interactive iPad Foot Gauge.

The Clarks iPad Food Gauge is an amazing new development in fitting shoes combining over 170 years of shoe fitting heritage with state of the art design innovation. The new device uses a footplate to measure foot length and a special digi-tape to measure foot width. This size information is then relayed to the iPad app, presenting an instant shoe size guide that Clarks trained fitters use to find perfectly fitting shoes for each child. The device also features animated Clarks characters, Jack Nano and Daisy, who entertain children whilst guiding them through each simple step. The iPad Foot Guage and bespoke app has been designed specifically for Clarks who worked with award winning design agency Design Works Windsor Ltd.

Simon Jones, Head of Sales in the UK and ROI at Clarks comments; “We’re always striving to innovate and improve our in-store experience at Clarks. Great fitting shoes are at the heart of our business and we have developed the iPad Foot Gauge because we want to continue to enhance our consumer experience, ensuring that children have stylish shoes that fit their feet perfectly.”

The girls found the experience fun and hassle free compared to some of the more traditional measuring techniques. On top of this with children who are shy like my youngest the iPad makes a great ice breaker where they get to choose certain aspects of how the application works. This shows when I asked the girls to be fitted again while I filmed it to upload straight away. And with help from the lovely Sarah we had their shoe size and food width within no time.

I don't like bringing a lot of money with me when I travel to London. So when I discovered we were given a gift voucher to try out the shoes I waited until the following weekend, buying them in the Dunstable store (give those ladies a pay rise, they are so friendly and happy in there) thanks to the fitting advice Sarah provided previously in the video and within minutes we found the perfect shoes for both girls without our help.

I think Clarks have the shoe styles perfect with a blend of traditional and modern styles that compliment both the "tomboy" and the "geek girl" in my life and they're extremely happy they found shoes to fit their personalities and the best thing about the shoes they chose is how they've already lasted the school destruction test. The girls have a knack of destroying their school shoes within days of buying them and the Clarks shoes they chose are some of the first pairs of shoes that have stood up to the abuse a 5 and 6 year old give them.

We'll be giving the shoes we purchased a full review with video over the half term too, even if it means bringing the editing computer out of storage!

On top of this we discovered Clarks Shoes have recently launched their 2014 Spring and Summer Collection. Through hiring a team of international designers they mixed materials and colours that contrast and combine with trims and finishing touches, creating beautifully crafted styles that are designed to stand out as the season unfolds, they are perfect shoes for life’s great adventures throughout the seasons.

If you're a shoe diva, or not as the case may be. Tell me what would be your perfect shoes for the summer?

Disclosure: For attending the event we received a goodie bag that included a gift voucher to try Clarks Shoes out with. Thank you for that the girls appreciate it. 

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Time for a #BloggerCatchUp people!

I love blogging even if I'm a but on the silent type. But I've seen a few things in the past too.

It's just my way of saying Hi to every great blogger past and present. Some of you I miss and think of an awful lot, I miss how we all used to chat. It became less about the blogs and communities and what we loved and things changed. I don't know why but it seems a darker place recently. Strong communites have come and gone and some may never come back. I wish this could change even though some people don't always see eye to eye.

I may not always be the best, or the one people listen to but I know one thing. Without you all we would not know each other, even if we all don't see things on the same wavelength. But we have something in common I discovered this via a segment of video from  FairlightOffence and Prosonix showing a demo they created at the final Datastorm


(if the video does not show ar around 10:30 move to there to see the segment I'm gabbling about)

We Are All Connected, Blogger, Wordpress, Joomla, Tumblr, and many more blogging platforms. We began as we had something to say or needed to vent or channel negativity or positivity into a permanent history book ( or somewhere to say BOLLOCKS! We all came here to Sir Tim Berners-Lee creation and crafted our words in the way we deemed fit. Even if some of us struggle to put a sentence together. Yep Me again!
Like I said we came together in similar ways to those in the Demoscene do to create amazing goodness, albeit on real hardware than over cloud based storage with no personality we'll never see. Oh and not forgetting over BBS in the days before TCPIP, NETBIOS and ISDN.

Now let's explain what I mean, and I apologise if you don't agree here but these two examples have shown greatly to over the last few years.

When Kerry from Multiple Mummy was struck ill everyone rallied around and supported her familiy wherever they could. When the tragic news came through that she passed away the community lit a candle for her memory and to show her family she will be remembered forever.

Three bloggers teamed up with Sports Relief to create an event called Team Honk, again people jumped in wherever they could last year. However this year we smashed our target, involved bloggers around the UK and helped raise money again. No doubt next year we'll all do the same!

There are many more examples I could use but these two are the best I could think of right now.

But we all come together in support where we can and in some cases even if we don't agree. That's good enough for me.

Now I Propose a Twitter party. Not a sponsored thing but a random day where we all get back in touch a #BloggerCatchUp maybe? Anyone up for this?


Saturday, 29 March 2014

Vodafone Smart Mini. Cheap and shabby

Hi all.

Today I want to give you a little review of the Vodafone Smart Mini, a £50 smartphone designed by Vodafone and manufactured by Alcatel/TCT mobile. The phone is aimed at the budget market and to be fair it does the job but does have some annoying issues. 
The phone is similarly specced to the Acer, but let's leave the acer there as that was junkish too!
Specs listed below with huge thanks to GSMArena! - Love you guys!
GENERAL 2G Network GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
3G Network HSDPA 900 / 2100
Announced 2013, June
Status Available. Released 2013, June
BODY Dimensions 115 x 62.3 x 12.2 mm (4.53 x 2.45 x 0.48 in)
Weight 118 g (4.16 oz)
DISPLAY Type TFT capacitive touchscreen
Size 320 x 480 pixels, 3.5 inches (~165 ppi pixel density)
Multitouch Yes
SOUND Alert types Vibration, MP3 ringtones
Loudspeaker Yes
3.5mm jack Yes
MEMORY Card slot microSD, up to 32 GB
Internal 4 GB, 512 MB RAM
WLAN Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Wi-Fi hotspot
Bluetooth Yes, v4.0 with A2DP 

USB Yes, microUSB v2.0
CAMERA Primary 2 MP, 1600x1200 pixels
Features Geo-tagging
Video Yes, VGA@30fps
Secondary No
FEATURES OS Android OS, v4.1 (Jelly Bean)
Chipset Mediatek MT6575
CPU 1 GHz Cortex-A9
GPU PowerVR SGX531
Sensors Accelerometer
Messaging SMS(threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Mail, IM
Browser HTML
Radio FM radio

GPS Yes, with A-GPS support
Java Yes, via Java MIDP emulator
Colors Black
  - Vodafone Music
- Google Search, Maps, Gmail, Talk
- MP3/WMA/eAAC+ player
- MP4/H.263/H.264 player
- Organizer
- Document viewer
- Photo viewer/editor
- Voice memo/dial
- Predictive text input
BATTERY Li-Ion battery

Stand-by Up to 500 h (2G) / Up to 300 h (3G)
Talk time Up to 13 h (2G) / Up to 7 h (3G)

The phone is pretty chunky, but it feels good in the hand, where the Acer was rounded it felt wider whereas here it's a different feel. You can tell they've compromised on build quality for specs here but to be fair it's similar to some of the cheaper Nokia devices, cheaper plastics but can still take a tonne of abuse. Let's look into it. 

Software wise it's running Android Jellybean 4.1.1 with a plethora of Vodafone applications now these can be useful but some can be unwanted munchers of your data allowance, especially the discover widget on the homescreen. But they can all be uninstalled, Vodafone got that very right, same with the way they've not bastardised the UI by keeping it quite stock bar a few minor changes. Addtionally the only other noted change was the homepage to browser and Chrome being Vodafone Live!
A benefit of this is the limited applications on the device and the 512mb ram  means the device is not hog tied down by operator/carrier apps that can make the whole experience a washout! Another winning point is how they've included a memory manager, meaning keeping the phone running well is a breeze, similarly managing all aspects of memory from Ram to storage is all easily managed with one press of the right hand side multitasking/menu key! 
One thing I also like is the option to update via SD Card or online if Vodafone and TCT/Alcatel release a firmware. It may be useful for roms but we'll see.

The screen is lower quality to some newer devices and could be considered poor to some users, the viewing angles are mediocre with sunlight viewing being poor unless it's on highest brightness settings. Despite this It does the job and does it well enough for the price point. 

The Camera, It's a 2megapixel shooter which lets the phone down, It's slow, with lots of shutter lag. I've seen basic nokias with better capabilities and they shoot in CIF resolution! That said image quality does improve if you use something like Molome.
Also with no flash it's worthless in low light, seriously put it away! For a better budget snapper the Alcatel/Vodafone smart iii may be better due to the 5MP sensor and Autofocus.

Audio quality is poorly implemented it's either too low or distortion city. Slap Winamp pro on the phone and the audio is better thanks to the equalizer well, If the pro version is still available that is. The bundled headphones sound ok but are a tad lower than rival makes and sadly uncomfortable to wear due to sharp edges I found sanding them slightly makes them feel better to wear for prolonged times. The microphone does work but it's not the best out there, that said it's in line with budget devices possibly slightly better than some Nokia headsets!

Multi-touch is difficult, when using two fingers to type it does not like to work. But using test tools it registers  movement but not two fingers on the display in the same region/parts of the panel. However pinch to zoom works just enough to be useful! Single touches near edges are poor and the capacitive buttons are a bit hit and miss though! 

Now onto ringing tones and alerts.
Again we get the Too quiet, or again distortion city issue, I think however my devices sound system has a few unique issues with beeping. Lots of beeping SMS Messages, Wifi network sniffing and calls mostly work, but any other communication based notifications go wonky turning into a hybrid Beep/Notification. On top of this the famous 'Alcatel forget settings tm' bug will lose your ringtone setting monthly! Same with the OT Star and the 903! That bug is in my opinion an alcatel trait to make you change them monthly to trick you into paying attention! Hatstands!!!!! 

Network. It's 2g pickup is stronger than 3g in places which can be an issue especially when an old nokia E71 that's gone through much heavy abuse and antenna damage gets a stronger signal than the VF875. But i suppose that's the difference between high end and low end though really! 
Wifi is good and picks up a strong signal everywhere, putting the ipad to shame.
GPS works very well too. no complaints on that side of things
Bluetooth. Hates older devices, Tested with Plantronics, Nokia and no name technology and once paired was a pain to reconnect! May be my device is cranky though

In conclusion. Bar the devices quirks it's a good performing handset for those looking for a first mobile with wifi, 3g, gps and memory built in

I've just found out the handset is similar to the ot-4011x too so i'll try a flash of the one touch glory s2 if i'm brave! 

P.S. Screenshots will be up later :D