Monday, 27 October 2014

The three amigos #HalfTermFun

Well summer has been and long gone and the weather is being somewhat kind to us so far with fair temperatures, perfect cycling and scooting weather. and with that it's time for a proper introduction of the Three amigo's

Let's start with my youngest's bike.
It's an  Avigo Precious, to be fair a very lightweight starter bike for a child.
All I've done to this bike is upgrade the saddle to a Selle Royale Lollipop child saddle, LED lights for the night rides (I kid you not Lissy wants to night rides) and the darker nights drawing in we'll need them for the fairer school pedals

Next we have a Professional Blush, a repaired and recycled bike, It's the bike we'll be training Vee on and once riding independently we'll continue to turn this rusty unloved set of wheels into a fun little tool for a monster.

To complete this bike requires new brake pads, LED lights and chain cleanup or replacement and a Lollipop seat to make it comfortable for Vee

Lastly we have Gramps, an old Raleigh Outland steel bike, aged approximately 22 years old. Weighs a flipping tonne but has had an easy life, well until I got my hands on him that is.
Upgraded bars, brakes, shifters, crankset and wheel.

While these may be three bikes there may be a shimmer of hope for Naughtybike yet. We'll see soon but over the half term while we've got the weather I'll be on the bikes as much as possible with the girls. Even if we end up scooting just as many places It'll be fun and I'll hope to document some of it.

Edit: I've had the odd PM telling me the two children's bikes look like dreaded Bike Shape Objects, while this may be the case they both have a serious advantage to BSO's and that's their weight. For instance the other child bike we had weight far too much for a child to learn to ride on.
Sadly this is a common thing with cheaper bikes and there is nothing we can do unless manufacturers are willing to up prices a bit and make them with higher quality parts. That said, adult bikes have the same problem too thanks to cheaper processing plants and lower quality assistance, meaning more dangerous lumps of metal destined for landfill or the scrapvan.

While I would never tell someone what to buy  but with christmas around the corner and many companies will start selling utter junk cheap *happens every year* bikes I would urge you to take the following on board:

Don't buy customer returns or end of run products offered by companies like Stirling House (it was the damaged returned, patched and resell junk resale dept of Universal Cycles, trust me I have the scars to prove it!) Luckily Stirling and Universal and some of the once amazing bike brands were sold to Sports Direct, but looking at some of the bikes they sell it's clear they are not high quality. While there may be a few they are few and far between!

If you can go and look at the bike you're interested in purchasing. Touch and feel, the only way to tell if a bike will be too heavy, the seat offering no cushioning for growing bones and bottoms and whether things move as they should.

Ignore things like Suspension, or motorbike styles, all it does is weigh the bike down, unless it's a high specification £300+ child's mountain bike bought for a specific reason they won't need it,
similarly with twist grip gears, unless made by SRAM or Shimano they will be less than up for the abuse a child will give them and fall apart over time. (any components by Sunrace, Falcon or unbranded walk away from)

Sizing is important. Many bikes will be adaptable to a child for a few years and some for a lot longer due to the frame design, in this case it may be practical to by at one size which may fit all for a while. (I know some Ridgebacks and Islabikes have children's frames with this in mind)

If the child knows they are getting a bike, take them to be measured by an expert in a local bike shop, the more knowledgeable Halfords staff or go local with CycleLife independent retailers are a good place to start on this to get the best bike for your children.

One more thing. Don't think of it as "just a bike" for many kids they only ride a little bit but with the right bike they'll want to ride more and more, which helps keep them fit and healthy and cycling has been proven to make people happier than walking or driving (not a cycling vs driving rant) so it benefits you in many ways. If you want ways to get on your bike speak to me or anyone at Sustrans and we'll help you find places for you or your children to ride to the best of your current abilities. If you live in Central Beds and we get enough demand I'll see about organising a cycling day in Dunstable to show you what's available for all.


Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Broadband Packages: Selecting the Right Deal

Achieving the best broadband deals is all about researching the market and finding the right package to suit your needs. The internet provider service market is wide open at the moment meaning more competition for your custom.
And because the competition is greater, you stand a chance of getting a better deal. The best way to see how service providers stack up pricewise is to compare broadband and phone deals online.
Image by Irish Typepad, used under Creative Commons licence.

The first step
Hitting the internet to weigh up your phone and broadband options will be your first port of call, but don’t forget to research those high street deals. Packages today are extensive digital television channels, mobile phones and broadband can all enter the contract. The major providers should be able to meet your needs whether you’re looking for a one-off service such as internet only or a multi-services contract. Decide first what you actually require from your provider and then begin to look at different prices and companies using a comparison website.
What sort of user are you?
If you’re only interested in getting online then you should be able to find some very low-cost deals. How much you use in terms of downloading will make a difference to price and if you want high-speed broadband you may have to pay a little more. If you’re not quite sure and just wish to try out browsing and surfing the web occasionally then go for an entry-level package. This shouldn’t incur a high monthly charge and although there will be limits on how much you can download you can always upgrade at a later date.
How big is your family?
The more people in your home using the Net, the higher your download limits should be. If you have more than two people in the home whoare intending to use computers or tablets then the unlimited download option will be the best bet. Unlimited packages are also great for streaming films to your smart television and are a cost-effective choice for those who play online games. Remember that if you’re going for an unlimited package this can include free landline calls and if mobile is part of the deal you should be able to put together a good inclusive minutes call plan.
What else should you consider?
Where you live will make a difference to your choice of internet service providers and the packages on offer. If you live in town or in a city centre you’ll have the widest range of providers available, but if you live in rural areas your options may be limited. It may also be the case that you won’t be able to obtain the latest high-speed broadband if you live in a remote area. But if you don’t use the internet often and are simply browsing the web you probably won’t need the fastest connections around and prices should actually be lower for a basic broadband package.
At the moment the internet service provider market is immense and it pays to shop around. Don’t rush in - take your time and research companies to find one that can meet your needs and always calculate the entire price you’ll pay over the contract length.

Disclosure - this post is produced in collaboration with Broadband Choices, 

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Throwback Thurday - Samsung E720

Hi all, today I want to go back in time nearly 10 years to a mobile legend.

The legend being the Samsung SGH-E720, for some it was an awful experience but to many the device was a pleasure and similarly to unlock freely with a menu or two.

Without further or do let's jump into the GSMArena specifications of the device

GENERAL 2G Network GSM 900 / 1800 / 1900
Announced 2005, 1Q
Status Discontinued
BODY Dimensions 90 x 45 x 23.3 mm (3.54 x 1.77 x 0.92 in)
Weight 80 g (2.82 oz)
DISPLAY Type TFT, 256K colors
Size 176 x 220 pixels, 9 lines
  - Second external display OLED, 65K colors (96 x 96 pixels)
SOUND Alert types Vibration; Downloadable polyphonic, MP3 ringtones
Loudspeaker No
3.5mm jack No
MEMORY Card slot No
Phonebook 1000 x 12 fields, Photo call
Call records 30 dialed, 30 received, 30 missed calls
Internal 90 MB
DATA GPRS Class 10 (4+1/3+2 slots), 32 - 48 kbps
Bluetooth v1.1
CAMERA Primary 1 MP, 1152 x 864 pixels, LED flash
Video Yes
Secondary No
FEATURES Messaging SMS, EMS, MMS, Email
Browser WAP 2.0/xHTML
Radio No
Games 4 - Bobby Carrot, Airship Racing, Arch Angel, Freekick + downloadable
Java Yes, MIDP 2.0
Colors Bronze
  - MP3/AAC/MP4 player
- Predictive text input
- Organizer
- Voice memo
BATTERY Li-Ion 800 mAh battery
Stand-by Up to 200 h
Talk time Up to 5 h 30 min
  Extended battery, Li-Ion 1000 mAh
Stand-by Up to 260 h
Talk time Up to 7 h
MISC SAR EU 0.66 W/kg (head)  

The phone was a typical but updated design for the current feature-set of Samsung mobile phones at that point in 2005 with impressive specs all round at a decent price point. with it's 1 megapixel image sensor and decent UI which only a few Samsung devices had the like for like UI including fonts and UX and OLED Screen which made it unique, at a time where OLED's were merely gimmicks.

my phone still works today bar the battery is shot, the keypad is dying and the casing is falling apart but it still charges, powers up can connect to the internet and take video and photos of somewhat good quality.

I'll not bore you too much but I will say I love the phone an awful lot. but it does have issues.

Pros: overall looks, easily unlock-able, smaf ringtones (MMF files) decent camera with flash.

Cons: t9/itap can't save due to memory constraints, low sound volume from ringing out and phone speaker on voice, non standard usb port with headphone jack, non standard charger (unless you had an LG 3g phone a few years later)

In all despite it's flaws it's the first contract handset to last me longer than 3 years, similarly with the Nokia e71 so with that  in mind it's one of only 2 I would permanently consider using again long term.


Monday, 6 October 2014

long term review - Doogee DG300 pt 1

I bought a new phone recently, but with a difference. It came from china, not just manufactured there but shipped direct too, I know what your thinking already an iPone or apple rip off, well strictly speaking it's not a rip off it does get it's looks from the Samsung product range

I bought the Doogee Dg300, also known as the ALPS Voyager DG300, what matters is the hardware to me and for £54.08 including postage (tip - spend a £4 more and get it fulfilled by Amazon's warehouses in the UK if you need it quickly) you get a bit more than the budget handsets sold directly in the UK. I warn you now be prepared to tweak a setting or two to work with your carrier/network (Vodafone, Sainsburys mobile and similar) I'll cover that in the next post for you.

Let's go to the specs for now  - Sorry it's not GSMArena slick this time

Band: 2G: GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz
         3G: WCDMA 850/2100MHz
Sim Card: Dual SIM Card Dual Standby(one small and one micro SIM card)
Color: Black
Shell Material: Plastic
OS: Android 4.2.2
CPU: MTK6572, Cortex A7 dual core, 1.3GHz
GPU: Mali-400
RAM: 512MB
Display Size: 5.0 Inch
Type: IPS, capacitive touch screen
Resolution: 960 x 540 pixels  Qhd
Screen Color: 260K Colors
Card slot - MicroSD
Cameras: Interpolated resolution of both 2.0MP for the front camera, 5.0MP  for the back camera (Non interpolated resolutions are 1.2mp front and 2mp rear)
WIFI: Yes, 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth: Bluetooth 2.0
Gravity Sensor: Yes
Multi-Touch: Yes, 2 point touch
Standby Time: We'll test that
GPS: supported with A-GPS With EPO
DOOGEE DG300 Mobile Phone Accessories:
1 x 2500mAh Battery
1 x Earphone
1 x USB Cable
1 x Charger
1 x User Manual

Now for those wondering who the frick are Doogee? (translated as “Dao Ge”) I would click here and learn about the brand, and while it's very different to how the Brits express themselves it's not broken English so top marks there.

The phone itself is a nice device on the larger side of things for budget devices but for it's price feels pretty sturdy in the hand for a plastic handset and seems to take well to a drop. (yeah less than a week of ownership and drop it!) it removed the effect from the plastic but does not affect operations.

The dual sim card functionality is useful, if you wanted a work and personal device it would do well.
so far WIFI and mobile internet seems to work well with no problems once configured.

While Android jelly bean is outdated thanks to kitkat and soon coming L/Lollypop there is no official update (CFW scene may help here) I have asked Doogee about this and will add it here if they respond which I'm sure they will.

Right I'll leave it here for now as I want to go more in depth next week
If you have any questions let me know and I'll strive to find out or investigate them.


P.S. Please do not post links to e-shops selling these devices in the comments. Spam is not permitted here and will be deleted.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Schools in (err, what?) #SchoolPedal

I know, we're meant to say school's out these days but for a group of bloggers school is definitely in.

Especially when it comes to sustainable transport. A group of bloggers and parents were talking via twitter and it caught my eye due to the subject of cycling and the school run and the fact next to nobody run's it unless you're late in the afternoon and the school will be miffed again! (we've all had those weeks? *bugger* Just me then?)

The school run is comprised of getting the kids to school in a decent time, (dejavu?) and doing it in a manner that stimulates your children for the fun or busy day of learning and fun ahead and to be fair it can be pretty boring strapping the kids inside the car or sat in the child trailer in my case, especially when it's too small now. That makes me really sad but it's progress i suppose!

See, I've gone off on a tangent again - Muppet. I joined the twitter chat for a while which seemed to last for days, while on and off it's gone from a let's get the kids to school without an engine to the #SchoolWalk #SchoolPedal and #SchoolScoot a way to promote cycling and scooting to school with the children, be it you scoot, cycle or walk. no matter who's riding it's still a fantastic way to get out and about and take in the crisp and fresh autumnal air, even if the air quality locally is worse than some parts of London thanks to the A5 but anyway ;)

GrampsBike - En Route to the Keech Star walk 2014 completed
that night, the last part arrived that afternoon!
And no - 7 lights is not overkill! ¬_¬
What makes this awesome for me is how I've just become a Sustrans volunteer with the CBC Travel Choices service, with the aim to start a school based cycle scheme for parents and including children once my training is completed to a higher level and as such I want to use the #SchoolWalk #SchoolPedal and #SchoolScoot ideas to create parent controlled group rides from set destinations to school,

for instance for children at School A have a set group who come from one side of town and another who come from the other side of town so 10 parents get together and arrange for children to scoot and pedal with the chain starting with the parents farthest away and the chain increases from there with parents joining at set points closest to the most convenient route. Similarly set on the way back.

While this will need future planning and risk assessments and health and safety input to ensure child and parent protection I see it could work fantastically well as a project to get more people using their bikes and scooters. Especially with Bikeability and Scootability courses designed for both children and adults and the possibility of other community based goodness too if all goes well!

One thing I will add is to ensure you've bright and have lights, even a front silicone one on a scooter at the least for the darker days and nights coming around the corner, my friend Liska at New Mum Online has some reviews on the clothes Aldi sent her as well as info on lights and special cyclist friendly deals at Aldi from the 25th, (I'll be popping in to see what I can buy tomorrow. my old speedo was from Aldi and I took it over the mileage clock twice. working out at around 20,000 Miles on one bike and I stupidly left on my old GT bike when it became a money pit.)

On thing I worked out last night was the savings riding, scooting and walking to school can quickly rack up, while I can only comment on public transport over driving it's still a large amount.

For instance, a Luton and Dunstable Arriva day ticket costs £4.30, A weekly ticket is £17.00 Whereas a HipHop Day ticket (use on all Arriva and Centrebus services and some Grant Palmer services) is £4.60 for a day ticket and £18.50 for a weekly ticket.
For clarities sake I've not included monthly and yearly tickets yet as I want to confirm the prices and any proposed increases before working them out. They will come soon.
Now if you use the bus 6 days a week, all year it will cost a maximum of £1341.60 or £1435.20 for a hiphop day ticket.

Similarly weekly ticket costs come out to £884 and £964 throughout the year.

Potential savings of £800+ are not to be sniffed at in my opinion, and that includes maintenance of bikes or scooters.

If you want to join in with the project let us know in the comments, with blog posts I'll happily share with everyone and add to the post also. Also If you can't scoot or pedal to school we can help find bike confidence courses for all levels to complete learners to advanced riders who need to wind their necks in a bit (oh wait, that's me again)

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Upcoming review Doogee DG300 phone

Evening all

Very soon I'll be getting my hands on the Doogee DG300, it appears to be a bit of a clone of the Samsung Galaxy s4, with a lot cheaper specs.

I'm awaiting it to arrive from china any day now (Amazon, free UK shipping many assume means ships from the UK, not SHIPS FROM FECKING HONG KONG!! Especially when the trader has a valid UK Tax registration number - be more clear on that! Free Shipping from HONG KONG would be better wording.)

The image above is what it should look like. We'll see soon. But I do want to say now. I won't be trusting the charger as it's probably the cheapest part of the whole package, but will tear said charger down in the future to see how safe it is and possibly send it to Dave jones on the EEVBLOG or Mike from Mikes Electrical stuff to see if it would pass their scrutany or minimal UK or Australian standards  (here's hoping)

I'll also be doing an unbox video if I get time too, but this is going to be a daily driver until December when I can upgrade (I can do so now but want to wait for christmas deals from Vodafone!) Also my Ascend G300 is kaput thanks to EMMC issues (thanks Hynix) and out of warranty! oh well!

My thoughs coming up soon!


Silly Daddy moment - Maths

I'll admit now this is a silly moment post and also My name is Paul and I suck at mathematics and really, REALLY suck at reading emails.

I've been working with both the school and local parent support teams to help support my children get on in their education in whatever way I can possibly do. While discussing ways to help it was mentioned there was a local course to enable parents to understand the way children do Mathematics in school. I assumed it was a one or two day short session and thought no more about it. This was my fatal flaw.

I was emailed the information, forgot to look at it despite flagging it for checking over and still forgt about it, including the date of the course.

Roll on to today and I recieve a message saying the course starts at 1PM, this is no problem as the day was a bit lazier than normal, then the silly moment come around.

"Welcome to this five week course on....."  Well bugger me, that'll teach me to check my flippin emails.