Thursday, 18 September 2014

Dial A Smile with Bravery Boxes.

Now playing - Humphrey Bogart by Mankeli/Noisy bunch 2012
evening all.

Not all of you would have heard of Bravery Boxes, I admit until a few months back I hadn't either. But thanks to some amazing ladies organised a bravery box or two for Blog On MOSI I discovered how special and important the boxes can be.
This month they want our help. It's Childhood Cancer Awareness Month* and to coincide with this special month the Bravery Boxes team set up #DialASmile, a clever and fun fundraiser
without getting wet icy or like me use recycled ice from a fish counter! I smell FRESH! ;)

  ensuring a child who's scared of a treatment or painful procedure will have their spirits lifted by a small treat. I hear the whoopee cushions and nail varnish are highly desired and appreciated. While it's a pocket money treat it's usually enough to bring cheer to those little people who need it the most.

For those who don't know, Bravery Boxes is a small charity that helps children with cancer get through some of the toughest and most painful times. By giving a child with cancer a treat from the 'Bravery Box' when they have to have an unpleasant procedure such as having a cannula or feeding tube put in, in the hope to turn their tears in to smiles.
It was started by a mum whose son was diagnosed with a rare life-threatening brain tumour.  She could see how distressed he became when he had to have injections, blood tests and a myriad of other scary things, so she started to come prepared for these ordeals.
After any kind of unhappy experience she would give her son a little gift or prize for being brave.  The idea spread and she started raising money to fill a box so all the children on the ward could benefit.  They proudly provide boxes for the paediatric oncology units at Addenbrooke's in Cambridge, and Alder Hey in Liverpool.
It really does work!! Staff and parents tell the Bravery Box volunteers all the time what a superb idea it is and how much difference it makes to the children.

Now while I hope they'll consider bringing the bravery boxes to the Luton and Dunstable Hospital I want to help them so they can possibly help more brave children in the future. This is where I need your help,

The parent blogging community have rallied together to help Dial those smiles and raise money to help bring more Bravery Boxes into hospitals and raise more smile for those who need them the most.

To do this we ask if you could do like the rather dashing (Phwoar) Steve Backshall from CBBC's Deadly 60 has done and share a smile with the world, asking people to donate £2 and share the smiles around the world.

To donate by Mobile phone text: GRIN02 £2 to 70070
or visit the Bravery Box website 

For those who can't afford to donate I do appreciate you taking time to read this and I truely understand how many of us out there have very little income and understand to many even £2-3 is a lot of money when you've only got a small amount to live on. All I ask from you lovely people is to share the post on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube or even blog about it or Tumblr it if you can

Add my photos tomorrow, if you want to add a selfie please do and I'll link to it!

Paul :D

Friday, 12 September 2014

The ultimate 80's night thanks to The O2!

Eh up!

Over the last few weeks we've been trying to plan a night out for a group of parents at the school. A way for us all to get to know each other better and have some fun without the kids, while it sounds like bliss it's not been easy to get this far with most of us unable to decide on when would be best for us all, trust me. That can be a problem when there's a large group to organise

80's flasher - Photo Credit - Derek Key
Creative commons license (CC BY 2.0)
Where we live has some fantastic transport links to the rest of the country, so we've decided to take the party out to the city that never sleeps, London. With it's vast array of restaurants, seedy back streets in Soho, some amazing places to party and the blessing (or regret depending on how you see it) that is the night buses for the inevitable chance of missing the last tube back to your homeward bound station. To me, it's one of the most vibrant and weird cities in the world with more to offer than most towns throughout the UK.

We've got everything planned out so far, we've booked an entire floor of a fancy restaurant and getting from place to place is all sorted. However we are missing one thing. where would we go after the restaurant? We'll need somewhere to party that night, after all. It's useless to spoil yourself in town without making it a fantastic night to remember. Me and my friend K have been racking our brains on this as we couldn't work out that best to do, When the radio station we were listening to decicded to blast 80's classics out one after another. In a true light bulb moment we decided to turn it from a school parents party to an 80's night, just without the spandex, Frankie Says relax T-Shirts and Shell suits. While funky and retro I'd prefer not to be spontaneously combustible from merely walking down the road thanks.

Now we did have one other problem to sort here, how we could make the evening a proper 80s bash? We went online and searched suitable venues and called many of them to find the were last years events. To be fair, the odds on finding a bar or club with an 80's theme near our restaurant without travelling miles out became a struggle until I heard a whisper from a friend about a special guest who was coming to The O2 around the same time we were in the City.  That was it, with much squeeing and swooning from both ladies and gents we're getting our hands on some Culture Club Tickets this week to see them at The O2. I really wanted to tweet the fabulous Boy George and ask him if we could all sneak in with him, but I'm sure he's recently unfollowed me on twitter - Sad but true, Come back lovely!!And the cherry on the top is Alison Moyet supporting too! It'll be fantastic, two amazing groups to tick off my bucket list.

If you were to join us on this amazing night out what would you wear and how loud would you be?
Paul!

Disclosure:
This post is published in collaboration with The O2

Monday, 1 September 2014

What would you say to your 15 year old self about money?

Morning all
Today I'm going to talk to my 15 year old self, it's needed to be fair as I was stupid back then, while I'm happy how my life's panned out so far I'll admit that openly but looking back at when I landed my first job I should have done so many things differently.


Meet me. A fresh faced (hahah) 15 year old at school in 1998-9, back in the days when prepaid phones were in their infancy and made today's megaphones look tiny in comparison, life was pretty easy and the worst we had to worry about was getting back and forth from school and getting accepted to college if our grades were ok. But over the course of that fateful year I was given a valuable life lesson by my old man, "if you want something, go out an earn it!" Looking back now it was a subtle kick up the behind, despite the fact I'd already landed myself a weekend job.

The work was good if you ignore the odd child that liked to puke you really could call it being paid to play. All the team were fantastic, even the somewhat misunderstood owner. 7 days later the fateful day came I had been longing for, my first wage slip with cash nestled inside it. Happiness was soon to become the accounts department lady's visit on a Friday and here's where I stop the story to talk to 15 year old me as it's here where things get stupid, seriously stupid!

PAUL, STOP RIGHT THERE!

Money is good, cool, and awesome to spend but darker times are coming. and within a few weeks of being 16 you'll be spending £40-60 a week on credit for your two phones, wasting money on anything you can and not keeping any money back for essentials like travel, clothes, course books or emergencies, trust me there are quite a few to come. Forget the rainy day saving think saving for survival here.

Please leave college early and get walking around the town and sign up for a decent savings account, research what would be beneficial for you and understand the differences of spending and saving money and what the benefits with your new account can give you while saving for that rainy day come zombie apocalypse.
I say this to you now as things will get worse and shortly after your 19'th birthday you'll be made homeless and you'll need every penny you can get your hands on. But I promise your future landlords are lovely, but for the love of spaghetti cat tidy your room the weekend you go away with the eastern region millennium volunteers, you filthy pig!

I'll leave my message to me with emphasis on doing better with money with a spoiler and some advice for 15 year old me. Life gets tough but becomes awesome - the three kids in my top bar are yours!
And the advice is - Don't go in the hay-barn with a certain lady - you'll get a new nickname from your friends otherwise!
All the best! - Me.

If you could go back to your 15 year old self what would you say to you? Let us know in the comments.
Paul

Discloslure - this post was created by me in collaboration with Santander

Friday, 29 August 2014

Daddy moments : Pride - Riding

'Ning all.

Music I wrote this post to came from the C64 Demo Of The Year 2013

Over the last few weeks I've been beavering away at three little bike projects.



Gramps bike a 22 year old Raleigh Outland which I'm rebuilding for ride leader purposes with Sustrans. While the bike is solid some of the components are to be replaced and upgraded over the next few weeks for safeties sake which I'm planning on doing some youtube videos on, well here's hoping anyway.

Bumblebee, Vee's first bike and now Lissy's bike, while it's heavy and poorly painted it does the job well.
we'll be coming back to this one soon.

Purple Nurple, This is a second junker bike I've been tidying up. Given to me the day it was destined to be scrapped, while it needs some TLC and suffered from being built badly by it's previous owners then being subsequently left at my daughters school unloved. Since then it's been sanded down, primer painted where needed and made to look presentable where required. I plan for this to be Vee's bike in the near future - stabilisers are on the way tomorrow!

The reason I'm doing this is due to the fact I want the girls riding to school, leading a happier healthier life and gaining life skills they'll never get from being slapped in front of a TV or computer system. I get not all parents are interested in riding but we're all different, so there!

Both girls need a a fair bit more coaching to get them riding without stabilisers, especially where they can make a bike feel heavier and remove the natural balance you get when riding unaided but recently Lissy had really got into riding and is incredibly close to riding unaided. Throw her on a balance bike and she can do it, but the momentum of the controls, pedalling and balancing is just a little too much for her right now.

But she's been asking to ride more on Bumblebee to the point last weekend she asked could he come to the shops with me, It was a dreary day, wet with a dashing of rain for good measure and did I mention it was raining? Yes it was bad, but she still wanted to come out so I ask her, assuming she wanted the trailer.

"You'll have to ride as it's too wet for the trailer, Midge?" 
*Putting her raincoat on*"YEAH Dad! Let's go for a ride!"

And off we went to the shops, a good mile each way in a father daughter bunch grabbing potatoes and milk, in the wet, damp rain, and a good mile back too. She wasn't the fastest (but her bike is pretty heavy - I may have another bike to resolve this with soon though) but she never complained once, and throughout I was reminded that it's the "Best day ever!" Hearing these three words and seeing her smile the whole journey both ways was an awesome feeling, a proper proud dad moment!

I just hope little things like this can help her come out of her shell, bring us closer and being more fun for all of us in the future. And while her sister prefers a scooter right now it won't be long before I hope she jumps onto something with somewhat better brakes.

Oh life you utter flippant flupstock

I've been very quiet as of late and it's not down to ignorance, well I hope not anyway but I feel I owe many of you an explanation and I'll try as best I can but first an apology.

I've not been very useful as there has been a few serious things to sort out in the background taking priority over my little corner of the internet (no, I'm not hiding the bodies still Jacko) but over the next few weeks things are beginning to relax somewhat here and will be trying hard to blog more as I get chance to, with more chances coming while on the go soon also.

Life here's somewhat changed a bit. Certain things that are my life shifted and have sapped my ability to get things done, including the search for more information on my family, which is tricky as many are no longer alive, too busy or in a similar position to me. Also things have been changing about at home, which means a lot less of Gus on the blog and the possible reintroducing of old features I created with Vee. They are getting to the age they can tell me what they want, and so far I'm seeing the potential of both girls in such different directions. But one things for sure this confused, strange daddy blogger (yeah some of you hate the phrase) I'll be coming back, just give the fat man some time!


Now I have three things to clear up too,

How the blog may change over the future and additions within the changes and an apology.

It's best to man up and do the apology first. I must apologise to The Pokemon Company to make while I'm here as well. As I'm sure they've been waiting for a post from me, which will be coming extremely late. While I won't explain it in full detail here we can blame in part Froakie escaping from a box, hiding Mario inside said box and causing a huge search for him *video will be edited up soon* But I promise you now the post is coming, it's here in draft to complete but it's coming.

Now the shape of the blog and it's future.

I'm not promising anything, we've got a weird niche corner here. Some parenting, geekyness and bikes with the odd rant and other misc bits. However the bike posts will change and evolve over time as I need to change things, especially as I'm currently training with Sustrans to be a Ride leader for a community project or three I have in planning which I will be blogging about as well as an old bike I'm rebuilding that got me through the training. Gramps will be unveiled once I've finished him!

As with parenting things there is a lot missing here, some things could not be talked about purely due to family stuff, life's got in the way a darned lot here and now it's sorting itself out nicely, not perfect but things are smoothing out. There's not much more I could ask for here really. Give it time!

One more thing to the people I've supported with Miscarriage advice and support. I apologise If I missed anyone, I've had a lot of things going on and not always have an internet enabled device with me, in actual fact right now I don't have a smartphone as the Jess is borrowing it. It'll be changing soon - including a dedicated support area and help line if funds say so. But I am still here, just say it's urgent and I apologise If I did miss anyone.

Right that's out the way! I'm off to write some more posts I've got to get done this weekend!
Paul!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

The Vodafone Smart 4 Turbo review Pt2

This post forms part of a three post review Hands on | Part 1 | Part 2

Evening,

As promised in Part one this is part two of the Vodafone Smart 4 Turbo review. This part will talk about the hardware, how it performs to similarly priced devices and the phones strengths and any physical weaknesses that we may find.

Now it's here I remind you this is a budget handset with only a few recently released equals, three of those being the EE/Huawei Kestral/P6 and the Motorola Moto E and Moto G LTE. with budget 4g devices being in high demand these days it's good to see a fair few available from multiple manufacturers.

Many budget phones are a pure plastic affair, with many being a bit poor on the build quality side of things, but here the build quality looks and feels great compared to other similar priced devices. The phone has a more premium feel thanks to a metal casing, but that's not where the goodness ends. The NFC enabled back cover has some clever tricks under it's sleeve, housed under the rear casing are two little retaining clips which hold both the memory and SIM cards safely in place, to prevent these coming out or becoming damaged if the phone flexes too much, which in this case won't happen as much thanks to the metal side housing.

The metal side casing houses the headphone jack, Micro USB port at the top, and on the sides a volume rocker and a lock/power button, while it looks good here the USB Port annoys me as it's not angled to protect the port and prevent the user from putting the charger in the wrong way. But we all use common sense here, right?

The Smart 4 Turbo's 4.5inch lcd display boasts a low, but acceptable resolution of 480 x 854 pixels with a 218 pixel per inch density, it boasts good colours, with very acceptable readability in sunlight.

The touch panel is a standard panel with no apparent tempering or oleophobic (anti fingerprint) coating. Sadly the handset went through an ultimate strength test, the device suffered a fall onto the pavement as a result of me falling flat on the ground on a wonky pavement, causing the panel to crack, it fell from my hand at around 30 centimetres away from the ground, I feel here Vodafone and Yulong should have have used a composite plastic/fibre glass panel as used on many lower end LG's and Alcatel devices to toughen up the glass, or bundle a screen protector into the box to help prevent panel damage.

The Smart 4 Turbo has a storage of 4 gigabytes and while perfectly usable in day to day situation it's not a huge amount and means many people will require a MicroSD card as well. It'll make a worthwhile improvement in the long run especially at the low price of removable storage these days!. The Smart 4 Turbo's 1Gb of RAM is perfectly paired with the Qualcomm MSM8926 Snapdragon 400 quad-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A7 CPU making multitasking a breeze, more intensive applications seem to run without any problems or complaints. Add in the Adreno 305 Graphics processor and it a silky smooth, butter like user experience and a perfect entry level kick into perfectly acceptable fast paced gaming on Android.

Battery life is VERY Impressive, and I genuinely wish more expensive devices held up this well, I was testing it this weekend just gone in predominately 4G areas, Chessington, Surbiton and Kingston Upon Thames. The 1880 mAH battery lasted over a day with calls, 4g YouTube for the kids, app downloads and syncing photos to my computer at the hotel via dropbox It was taken off charge at 6:40AM and put back on charge at 11:40 with 9% left in the battery, leaving me confident it would keep going well into the following day. This was a huge win for the device in my eyes as it holds up as well as higher end devices. The charger is a a 1000mA device, which does what it says on the tin!

Now I did do a lot of speed tests for comparative purposes and also to make sure I was not seeing any erroneous results.
4G seems to be very dependant on the area still as the Upload speeds were vastly better than Download speeds with the odd exception in Kingston Upon Thames as shown on my left. However as with all speed tests you do need to take them with a pinch of salt as they are not the most accurate, especially when many connections could be throttled by the servers or websites you're visiting or the content you wish to stream.


Now the camera is a 5MP sensor with Autofocus, While it's not the latest and greatest it does work fairly well as seen by this sample image taken in low light. I only have one complaint here and that's the how the camera's interface lags at times for next to no reasons, but images are more than acceptable.

The camera can also record in HD 720p, SD 480p and 640*480 resolutions,
Below are some test clips, filmed on the Luton and Dunstable Busway as pre-emptive test due to the items in the fore and background and the flattish nature of the track, despite my wobbly camera work. In my opinions it's good for small videos and quick YouTube videos, but in the right light and conditions it'll do a good job for vlogs.

480P video test clip


HD720p Video Test Clip


NFC works well, it had a few wobbles on advertisements on the trains but 9 times out of 10 were great. I didn't test the pay by tap options as I would prefer to rack charges to a review unit, but I've been told it would work with contactless payment, including the tube's oyster system. file sharing via NFC and Bluetooth also work great too. I also tested it with a friends NFC embedded Nokia BH-121. It paired perfectly worked well.
On top of this Bluetooth worked great, audio and voice quality were great and file transfers worked well. I tested it with both my Nokia BH-214 and Plantronics discovery 957 and also my friends BH-121 as mentioned above. No complaints from me.

Ringtones and vibrate functions were clear, loud and vibrate was strong, this alone is enough for many end users.

Now for the Benchmarks. I'm not sure how good these are compared to some phones but I assume they are better than many. Programs used were Quadrant Standard, AnTuTu Benchmark and Vellamo.


Starting with Vellamo beta,
It seems to think the phone is at the lower end of the spectrum which is expected from a beta benchmarking tool still in testing with multi core SOC's, due to the beta it's lower than many devices but it holds up well.

In this instance we're beating the MotoG in many cases and some considerably older but more expensive phones are beating us, while I feel it's not the best test I'd rather show you truthfully!


















Next We go to Quantum Standard, It's again at the lower end of the spectrum but still better than could be expected for similar devices. Beating the HTC One X is a darned good achievement for a budget phone. I like that a lot, Well done Yulong and Vodafone!

Our AnTuTu Benchmark tests shows very confident results and holds up well to quite a few more expensive, midrange devices.


The benchmarks are very good from how I understand these tests.
My conclusion is the Vodafone Smart 4 Turbo is a well thought out 4G phone, with a good design, feel and a perfect user interface, at a price point that to me is still a huge bargain, It's performance may not be as fast as the latest and greatest devices but considering it's stellar battery life, 4g functionality and build quality I would easily recommend this as a daily driver phone for a wide variety of people. While the touch panel broke on me in a fall I'm certain it's not going to happen to everyone. If you would like to try a demo handset pop into your local Vodafone store, I know the new Dunstable store has some for you to try out, and many stores are getting them over the next week or two.

My final question....

Is this worth your money?

I would have to say depending on your needs yes, yes, YES! It's a decently thought out phone, good connectivity, and not an all plastic design. At £26.50 a month or £135 prepaid it's well worth a punt in my opinion.

Paul

Sunday, 10 August 2014

The Vodafone Smart 4 Turbo Review Pt1



This post forms part of a three post review Hands on | Part 1 | Part 2

Over the last two weeks I've been putting one of the newest handsets from Vodafone, the Smart 4 Turbo through it's paces.

As there will be a lot to cover this review will be a two part affair, part one focusing on the phone, it's software and ease of use from day to day use and the main question on my mind, is it worth the £135 price tag.
With part two will focus on the hardware including the battery, screen, optics, 4g vs 3g speed tests, device strengths and weakness and benchmarks

The phone itself is very similar in size to the Samsung galaxy s2, but feels a a lot better in the hand, while it's the usual plastic back we're getting used to with Vodafone devices in the past but with a hugely premium feel for the market it's aimed at. The device have very good flexibility while in the pocket and does not seem to creak when tested, on top of this the rear of the case also holds the SD and Sim cards safely in position to help prevent removal by flex as they are not lockable. It feels great in the hand with a sturdy feel and well suited to both the larger and daintiest of hands, much to the joy of my children who've loved playing games on it.

Software wise the Smart 4 and the smart 4 turbo are both rocking the latest version of Android, similarly to the Moto G lte, Similarly they've left it as a stock setup, while it does have Vodafone services installed on the device they are non intrusive and easily disabled in settings and/or removed from the main home screens, while I know these are not to everyone's tastes and I'm not overly keen on them but in this instance they are finally utilising new tools inside these to help find wifi hotspots and tell you batter life and storage space in handy indicators.

Additionally, the phone comes with no demos on the device, something of a refreshing thing to see, especially as these trials are usually 30 second limited things with little value to many so with this, and in many cases non-installable without rooting and voiding your warranty in the process so it's great to see. Thanks Vodafone for a double barrelled win.

I've used the phone as a parent and blogger rather than a geek here on this side of the review to provide a real world view of the device so it's had the usual application I use day in day out installed being YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Molome, with Google Calendar, G+ and Yahoo Email for good measure. There were some glitches I will mention soon, just in case it's an isolated issue with the firmware.

For you music lover you get Google Play Music bundled in and while I prefer Winamp Pro for it's graphic equalizer and extra audio tools bundled in it seemed to match audio quality with Google Play Music here. Audio playback was good with little distortion and good overall sounds. But I seriously would consider not using the the built in headphones, they look awful and identical with the ones bundled with many cheaper (£10) phones I've used in the past. I can't say how good the online side of Play Music is as it requires purchase and I felt it was not relevant to the review in itself at this point.

Day to day usage of the phone was fantastic with decent voice quality, a decent quality camera, fast processors and memory for multitasking and games. add the phones internet and radio capabilities (2, 2.5, 3, 3.5, 3.75 and 4G) and you have an impressive device I will probably be purchasing in September and happily use it as a daily driver phone as long as Vodafone tweak one or two things on the device in the near future you'll have a perfect starter 4g phone rivalling the MotoG.

There are two issues I run into with the phone but not major enough to discourage purchase, one of them has since stopped so I'm assuming it was an issue with Google's side of things more than the devices software.

Instagram would take an image and store it on the phone itself but it uploads a black image with the filter you added. Reinstalling or updating did not fix this. I've reported it so I hope it'll be fixed soon. But until fixed it those snap happy Instagrammers may feel left out. Here I tell them to try Molome!
The more concerning glitch/setting was from the Google Play Store. By default I always set auto updates via wifi only so not to gobble data from my plan and also reduced the risk of app corruption while out and about but in the first few days the Google Play store ignored this setting and tried updating anywhere it could. This is concerning as many contracts are given capped data allowances which could be gobbled with no warning. It's not good to receive a scary data bill.

As with all things glitch related I've contacted Vodafone, Instagram and attempted to reach out to Google about this so they can resolve this in the future.

For the phone's price of £135 prepaid or £26.50 on a fixed term contract it's an absolute bargain. A high quality device with some solid specs for the budget market. A solid phone you know could cope with what the day has in store for you. Now while my reviews are hopefully good enough for many to make the decision to buy or not to buy I would always say go into a store and play with a demo unit. Thankfully my local store, which happens to be the spanking new Dunstable store has demonstrator models so you can try it and see why I like it so much!