Monday, 20 April 2015

Not quite countrykids Dad's solo ride

Evening all. 

During the Easter break the kids were away with the grandparents for a few days so I took advantage of the fine weather and took ShortyBike out for a smallish ride out of town, check on mum's grave prior to tidy up and see some of the places I used to hang as a child and see how they've changed over the last few years.

Starting with NCN Route 574 Dunstable Downs, a route I proudly sponsor with Sustrans, bringing with me finally having a bike capable of riding up one of the more technical hills that usually stifle me on certain parts. And with it, bringing perfect views over Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire on a somewhat smoggy day. Over the years they've added a multi use path on top of the downs to help make it accessible for more people, but beforehand it was packed full of little mud paths with fast paced fun for two wheels, when we were kids there were three paths. Easy, hard and stupid - with stupid being a sheer drop with only a few of us trying it without harm. Sadly our hangout there was demolished (the pyramid/toblerone building) to make way for the new gateway centre, from here we head off to Kensworth, also known as Canesworde in 1086. It's one of three villages I'll fleet through on this journey and the main stopping point, on cycling in the road access is pothole central so bear this in mind and you run the risk of fast cars and tractors on the country lanes. (I'll record a ride through the lane soon) Once your past the narrow section you find yourself immersed in quaint village life, calm and soothing, with clear views over the valley and visibility far exceeding the control tower of Luton Airport on good days. 

Eventually I get to my main destination, arrive at the Methodist Church, somewhere I spent a lot of my time when younger but recently spending less time there over the last few years.

While here I note what I need to do and bookmark bits and bobs in readiness for a tidyup, then offski for more riding, choosing a route I used as a child which lead to a fantastic surprise, discovering T.C. Feeds still has a sign my mother painted proudly displayed in their entrance, this and the fact the sun was finally poking out of the smog made the day even better. Following this road takes us to more places we played when younger, while some are no longer safe I had to pop in and have a look, even with bits hanging off them precariously, reminding me we were silly to play here then and I'm just as silly now! After this we pootle down Buckwood road, a fast lane sandwiched between Kensworth, Studham and the somewhat posh hamlet of Holywell and one of the most amazing hangouts of my youth, Studham Dell. (Not the one with the little blue man story) I'll be back here later for more pictures.
Zooming onto Whipsnade, a small village with a somewhat famous Zoo, tree Cathedral and a gorgeous pub, perfect for those riding rest stops, walks around the Cathedral visiting Dell Farm with the kids or lay on the village green and watch the clouds while listening to music or visiting, just a few of the things you can do here. But for now we scooch past Dell Farm onto Whipsnade Downs, part of the NT managed sites whisk us homeward bound. But not without the beautiful views across Aylesbury Vale on Bison Hill, from here on a good day you can see far across Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire, also looking into the sky you can see the gliders soaring over, seeming to say hi.

Before I know it I'm back on the main road homeward bound, cruising at good speed over the main road before entering town. While kid free it was a jolly good blat and chill.

Check out more of my other journeys on Instagram later.

Paul :)

 Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall


Music monday

Evening all, It's Monday, meaning more musical madness from this fed up weirdo.

I'm in an utter grinch of a mood right now thanks to a few things, but the show must go on, and with no theme for today here's Stan SB Anyone Out There (Maduk Remix) (sorry I'm really not in the mood to explain why today but this put a smile on my grumpy face)

Friday, 17 April 2015

The Sony Xperia Z3 Review

Hi all,

Last week I posted my initial thoughts on the Vodafone 4G Powered Sony Xperia Z3 smartphone and whilst the phone has gone back now it's left an incredibly good impression on me. Truth be told It's raised the benchmark in terms of expectations in build quality, while many see Sony as a lesser manufacturer I say be weary of such a view, they have a lot more potential than many give them credit for.

In this full review I'll also be talking about how I put Vodafone's upgraded 4G network using the Xperia Z3

Let's start with the phone itself. With dimensions of 146 x 72 x 7.3 mm (5.75 x 2.83 x 0.29 in) and weighing 152 g it's a tall and thin device with 5.2 inch display with a resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels giving you a pixel density of approximately 424 pixels per inch. Encased in a metal and glass frame it feels amazing in the hand with a reassuring build quality, lacking from some other flagship devices. I do have one caveat about the rear glass panel, while shatter-proof and they are lovely to hold and look at. They don't grip well on certain materials which could result in your phone taking a tumble, while I'm confident it can withstand a few knocks and bumps, a case is recommend to ensure such a nice phone stays protected.

Also rejoice in the Z3's IP68 certification, meaning it's both dust proof and water resistant over 1 meter and 30 minutes, perfect for the parent with the children who think your devices require a cold refreshing drink on a warm summers day!

The user interface on the Sony Z3 is well thought out and designed to ensure you to get the most out of it. I feel they've hit the nail on the head here with a perfect user experience for both old and new Android users, with the additional treat of the device transfer tools from Sony to help you move your content from your previous device to another. Although for those less confident, Vodafone do offer assistance with transferral of data in-store thanks to the in store Red Box transfer service.

The overall user experience of the handset is enhanced by usefully placed buttons, with the lock/power, volume and dedicated 2 stage shutter key, all placed in an ergonomically sound position to reduce the chance of over stretching while taking snaps, turning the tunes up or simply checking the time.

I'll not go through specifications again as their in the first thoughts post, but I will say this now it'll run everything you want it to and so much more, while trying to push the phone it became apparent the CPU had plenty of grunt left to spare.
During the two weeks, I put the Z3's Non-removable Li-Ion 3100 mAh battery through it's paces - charging it until 7am to see how long it would last until it got to 10% under both normal and heavy load to me and colour me happy, one charge under normal use lasted me around two and a half days with heavier use coming in at just shy of two days. Although low battery is not a concern thanks to the built in Quick Charge 2.0 technology giving you a fast battery charge averaging 60% in 30 mins, making this phone perfect for heavy users, meaning more time doing things and less time attached to a charger port.

The cameras on the Sony Z3 are awesome, there's no other way to put it. The 20.7 mega-pixel Sony Exmor IMX220 camera produce crisp images with good colour reproduction and up to Ultra HD 4K video, we've uploaded a 4k video for your viewing pleasure with thanks to the smalls for showing off their tree hut. (I apologise, it's a tad loud.)

Then we come onto the front facing camera, a 2.2 mega-pixel sensor includes 1080p full HD video recording capabilities. On testing both cameras capabilities they held up fantastically, no matter the conditions we threw at the Z3 it produced a fantastic image every time. Helped by the plethora of options, while many sound more at home on DSLR cameras they've made themselves at home here ready for your adventurous side to come out to play. For those who just need point and shoot, the automatic mode will do a perfectly good job of choosing the best mode for your photographic needs.

Call quality was fantastic with no good call clarity, ringtones and vibrate work well too, loud enough to hear and feel.

Multimedia is well covered on the Xperia Z3 with Walkman, a fully featured media player, widely compatible with most music files, meaning Sony has you well covered. And you movie lovers are also well covered too, the media player is packed full of popular media codecs, with Sony's X-Reality Engine and Triluminos image enhancements, meaning your favourite movies look better than ever. Audio produced through the bundled headphones or front facing stereo speakers sound great with minimal distortion or crackle at full volume.

And for those streaming media fans, Vodafone has your back with RED 4G packages bringing exclusive entertainment bundles, including Spotify Premium, NOW TV or Sky Sports and vastly improved service thanks to the recently announced investment and upgrades to the Vodafone 4G network, resulting in a far wider cell coverage, greater call clarity and faster internet access, and with new Red 4G customers set to receive an increase in data allowances it's never been a better time to check Vodafone out.

With the upgrades in mind Vodafone tasked me to put the local network through it's paces as a power user with continuous internet use and bundled Spotify premium for entertainment, meaning the iPod was left at home. I found the 4G Lte network extremely fast in direct comparison to another 4g provider in the area, with speed tests averaging 8-31 Mbit/sec upload and an average upload of 10-25 Mbit/sec resulting in speedy downloading of apps, streaming your favourite music or sharing of images, video and social media interactions.

On using the network for my daily dose of digital goodness with an added flood of music was faultless with the network going from strength to strength with near seamless switchover from 3G and 4G networks, meaning continuous music and data on the go with no hiccups. The winning feature for Spotify premium is the ability to download a whole album for 30 days at a time means those who are data savvy can relax, knowing all is taken care of for you without a huge bill for data. Using Spotify to download an entire album, for example Savlonic - Red, took around two minutes to download, whereas larger albums, took on average five minutes.
For fair comparison I conducted similar tests using a throttled WIFI connection with a maximum throughput of 30 Mbit/sec to see if the speeds of testing downloading content through Spotify was any different and It seemed to happen at similar speeds.

The 4G network handled everything I could throw at it better than I expected with no complaints from myself or my wife when I let her try the handset, she wanted to swap it for her S4.

In conclusion the Sony Xperia Z3 is a well equipped phone ready for whatever you throw at it, with good looks, large capacity battery, water and dust proof, cracking set of cameras and super fast 4G LTE ready to go, it's one mobile powerhouse you should consider buying if your looking for a new phone.

As for Vodafone, I have to say the service they offer has vastly improved over the last few months with the recent updates to the 4G network here in my area it brings a fast, stable and reliable mobile network for all types of mobile users, from the power users like myself who need to be contactable at all times, Social media addicts pining for their next like or retweet, teens who need their Tumblr fix, right down to aunt Mabel who religiously calls the grandchildren every weekend. Vodafone have you covered, no matter your needs, big or small.

If you have any questions about the phone, network or for more information on Vodafone's new tariffs, services and 4G for all new connections, please let me know and I'll respond promptly.

Monday, 6 April 2015

The Sony Xperia Z3 Review - First thoughts


Over the last few years Vodafone UK have been investing in their network, upgrading and improving 4G services to the point they could comfortably release some fantastic value devices with RED 4G services and features, that I've talked about already on prepay!
As impressive as the upgrades have been, around a month ago it was announced by our local store that Vodafone had rolled out an improved 4G services, bringing in wider coverage, faster internet speeds and improved call clarity within the UK, let alone the local area. As a result of this I was challenged to put the network through it's paces with the Sony Xperia Z3 and their exclusive Spotify premium entertainment bundle on the RED XL tariff.

In the first few hours of use I have to say I like it a lot. It feels incredibly solid and looks beautiful, compared to the Samsung Galaxy s5 it feels nicer in the hand.
Internal wise it's also very impressive, The 2.5GHz Quad core Snapdragon 810 packed with 3GB ram and 16GB internal storage (32gb model also available) makes for an ultra powerful, fast smartphone. With additional features including IP65 water resistant construction, shatter proof glass, NFC and smart watch compatibility, topped off with the Sony Home launcher it's high quality throughout.

On first tests of local 4G Services I was impressed too, with speeds at between 13 and 27Mbit/sec it's fast enough to download a whole album and a few games in minutes, rather than waiting until you get home.

The specifications, as always with big love to team GSMArena.

NETWORK Technology : GSM / HSPA / LTE

Dimensions 146 x 72 x 7.3 mm (5.75 x 2.83 x 0.29 in)
Weight 152 g (5.36 oz)

Uses Nano-SIM

DISPLAY Type IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
Size 5.2 inches (~70.9% screen-to-body ratio)
Resolution 1080 x 1920 pixels (~424 ppi pixel density)
Multitouch Yes, up to 10 fingers
Protection Shatter proof glass - IP68 certified - dust proof and water resistant over 1 meter and 30 minutes

OS Android OS, v4.4.4 (KitKat), upgradable to v5.0 (Lollipop)

Qualcomm MSM8974AC Snapdragon 801 SOC
CPU Quad-core 2.5 GHz Krait 400
GPU Adreno 330

MicroSD Card slot Maximum capacity, 128 GB
Internal Storage 16 GB,
Ram 3 GB RAM

Primary 20.7 MP (5248 х 3936 pixels)
Features 1/2.3'' sensor size, geo-tagging, touch focus, face detection, HDR, panorama, autofocus, LED flash,

Primary Video 2160p@30fps, 1080p@60fps, 720p@120fps
Secondary Video 1080p@30fps

WLAN - Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, hotspot
Bluetooth -  v4.0, A2DP, apt-X
GPS - Yes, with A-GPS, GLONASS, Beidou
NFC - Yes
Radio - FM radio with RDS
USB - microUSB v2.0 (MHL 3 TV-out), USB Host

Sensors - Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer
Messaging - SMS (threaded view), MMS, Email, IM, Push Email
Browser - HTML5 (chrome pre-installed)
Java - via Java MIDP emulator

- Fast battery charging: 60% in 30 min (Quick Charge 2.0)
- ANT+ support
- Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
- Xvid/MP4/H.264 player
- MP3/eAAC+/WAV/Flac player
- Document viewer
- Photo viewer/editor
- Voice memo/dial
Non-removable Li-Ion 3100 mAh battery
Stand-by Up to 890 h (2G) / Up to 740 h (3G)
Talk time Up to 14 h (2G) / Up to 16 h (3G)
Music play Up to 130 h

The full review will be up on Friday, as the phone will be back with Vodafone by then. But, you have any questions, please ask and I'll respond as quick as properly.

Paul :)

Thursday, 2 April 2015

#DaddyReads Welcome To Cookooville

I've been looking for some randomly cool books to read to the girls and the hidden stash of books I'd long forgotten about came to the rescue, bringing with it, Welcome to Cuckooville by Susan Chandler and Delphine Durand. (also known as Mrs Gobbledygook)
Welcome to Cookooville is a quaint tail about Mrs Gobbledygook, one of the townspeople in Cuckooville who talks nothing but gobbledygook. The Mayor has had enough! “This has got to stop!” he demands. But has the Mayor spoken too soon?

One day, disaster strikes the town. Strange foreigners have invaded and no one can understand a word of what they are saying—no one, that is, except for Mrs. Gobbledygook! Will she be the hero of the day? Will the visitors take over the town? Is doom coming to Cookooville?
Watch our video to find out.

Both me, and the girls really enjoyed Welcome to Cookooville, it's a funky book with awesome illustrations. Tied in with the books theme and how I read the book in a childish nature we have a sure fire bedtime hit!

(credit - imwellconfused uk youtube channel )

If you've read any awesome bedtime stories let us know and we'll share our stories with you too!

Paul and the monsters!

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Daddy Fails - Party time

There comes a time we all inevitably cock up and when the crap hits the fan in many cases the children are the ones that lose out, causing upset all round. And this weekend I messed up big time.

The girls have been ultra excited about a bowling party they were invited to and to be truthful I was excited too as we've had some behavioural wobbles as of late, and I wanted to see if a change of scenery would ease some of these grumps.

Well it would have been if I'd got the flipping time of the party wrong, instead of being 1-3pm it turned out to be 10am-1pm, leaving a very embarrassed me to explain to the girls I messed up, while Vee was calm but annoyed and strangely understanding about it unlike Lissy, who got upset quite quickly, only calming down once I promised a trip to the nearby park, while it calmed things down she was somewhat upset about it. (I'm a terrible dad apparently, I can accept that.)

I won't lie I'm also happy as a plan B seemed to be unfolding in front of me and a bit of bonding with the monsters is very good for the souls and may improve the wobbles. So a damp park is go!

The first thing I'd done right all day it seems as the frowns turned to smiles within seconds, I won't bore you with the park as we all know what happens at the park when it's been raining (unless your Humf and Wallace - then it's super happy mud fun.)

The best part of plan B was a little treat for the girls, a babyccino as we've seen in our silent Sunday topped the afternoon off fantastically. Even if I messed up!

It brings me to one thing I look into quite a lot and it's the plan B's, as a carer and an idiot who needs to plan things meticulously they're very important to me, although I understand things can change in seconds with a disabled partner and children I also hate it when things do change and there is no plans for this. So for me to think up a completely random afternoon for the kids with no immediate planning to do things was a great but strange experience for me, knocking down a somewhat annoying mental barrier.

So in all an awesome day and a small personal victory, even if I messed up somewhat!

Me :)