Friday, 8 April 2016

Adobe Slate for storytelling

I've recently discovered Adobe Slate, their new blogging/web platform. I guess its their attempt to answer to the dominance of WordPress in the blogging world. 

After having a read over a couple of Slate posts I'm really impressed by the way it looks and feels. The pages feel light and fast. Colours and images can change as you scroll down the page with sections of the layout opening up to reveal an image underneath as you scroll by.

I haven't had time to play with it yet but first stumbled on it by reading Grappling with life, The Scottish wrestler Bette Noire's blog about preparing to return to wrestle in Japan. I was really impressed with the feel of the posts and how the page responded as I scrolled down. I liked the way the background images appeared as I read through.

Another one worth a quick look is Spirit Chasing which tracks the writer as they follow the Vulcan XH558 on its last flights across the UK. A different subject to the first but a similar feel, with maps and large photo's appearing as you scroll through the post.

Slate feels as thought it would be fairly straightforward to use and get a simple but polished result without having to spend too much time on it, although not having tried it yet I can't be sure. It certainly gives the posts I've looked at quite a slick and professional feel. The Adobe page has links to lot more examples and there is an iPad app too. They pitch it as the ultimate story telling tool and it certainly seems to be one of the main contenders to the traditional Blogger or WordPress routes.

Let me know if you have used Slate already, or if you have seen any great posts running on it.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Google Cardboard - Quick first impressions

A quick review of my first five minutes with Google Cardboard.

I decided to buy a Google cardboard kit off eBay recently as a novelty extra for our daughters birthday. She enjoys roller coaster videos and I thought she might like watching them on this either in one of the Virtual reality apps, or the YouTube 360 video's.

Google cardboard, if you haven't heard of it is a viewer which lets you slot your phone into it and then access a VR world of specially designed apps and videos. It uses side by side video to create a notion of 3D and your phones gyroscopic sensors to track your head motion. 

You can experience a similar version if this by visiting YouTube's 360 Video channel on your smartphone and them moving your handset around to see the full video view, or on your PC by panning with your mouse. 

On first impressions after spending five minutes putting it together I'm really impressed. Ok the cardboard nature of the viewer makes it a bit basic however I'm sure that if its getting used regularly we will move up from the £3.50 basic one to one of the more comfortable and sturdy looking plastic ones that are about £15.00 

Our daughter watched the demo video and was really impressed. It was great as a bystander watching her looking around and seeing her reacting to what was being shown on screen. I've had a quick play with the menu's and the Google Earth viewer for a minute or two and thought it was great. I have downloaded a couple of VR games from the Playstore but haven't had a chance to try them yet.

I will be posting a more detailed review once i have had some time to fully play with the functions however even on first impressions i would urge anyone to spend a few pounds and buy a cardboard kit from eBay and try it themselves. You won't be disappointed.

Has anyone already been using Google Cardboard, if so what are you thoughts? Are there any killers apps or videos to try out with it?

Friday, 5 February 2016

Broadband for Business and home workers

The recent BT Broadband outage which affected tens of thousands of home and business users this week brings internet access back to the forefront.

If you are a Business or someone who's job is internet based it is is essential that you have some fail-over in your internet connectivity.

As more and more job roles or project outcomes rely on information being issued online, whether by email, submissions to a portal, or electronic ordering and tracking, it is often imperative that this is done by a certain deadline.

Whilst some situations will allow for flexibility in this and people will understand if you have 'internet issues' others such as payroll or tax related functions, or issuing of contract specific project information may not be so flexible.

Both in my business life and on a general basis I would recommend that if your work relies on the ability to send or recive information online, to a deadline, you must have a backup connection.

In the UK that would usually be a combination of a BT Broadband Service and one from another supplier. Take care to ensure that your secondary supplier is not simply a re-branded BT service otherwise it's not really a backup. A combination of something like BT and Virgin would be a good option, especially if you can have both services on Fibre connections for the speed benefits that brings. 

Most modern business routers will be able to support dual connections. They can automatically switch traffic in the even of one connection failing, and manage the bandwidth between the connections to ensure the best service. 

Having two connections means if there is a broadband outage on one service you should still be able to work, send emails and get that document issue in by its deadline.  

Depending on budget you can either have two high spec connections or keep the backup service on a basic package. The main thing is to have one, the small additional cost to keep operational during an outage will quickly pay for itself. 

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Review - Sonos Play system

Hardware Review - Sonos music system 

We had been looking at various solutions for listening to music at home for a while now and after much deliberation, discussion and scouring the internet we decided to go for a Sonos system.
We wanted something which would let us stream our music between rooms and listen to internet radio. The most basic option would have been a wireless/Bluetooth speaker to play content from our phones or iPad. Sonos gives a bit more functionality and seemed like the best all round choice.

The speakers themselves come in a range of options from the entry level Sonos Play:1, through the Play:3, Play:5, soundbar and a Subwoofer. The speakers connect to your wireless network and can be added at any point. The speakers are controlled by an app on your phone or tablet and can be named when setting up to allow for easier management of your music zones. This gives you various options and this is what separates Sonos from a simple wireless or Bluetooth speaker.

From the main interface you can play music from various sources. It can be music stored on your device or across the network from a PC or NAS. You can also listen to internet radio stations via TuneIn radio. You can play music from various streaming music services too such as Spotify, Deezer or You have options for playlists, favourites, preset stations or shows and navigation between these is very straightforward.

The app allows you to play different music across each speaker or they can be grouped to play the same thing in different parts of the house. It's fairly easy to switch between rooms and sources or control individual volumes even when grouped.

Speakers can also be paired within a group to split the sound and give a more traditional stereo effect.
Over the last couple of years the Sonos range has expanded, the most recent edition being the Play:1.

The Play:1 is the recently released entry level speaker for the range. Priced to go against other wireless or Bluetooth speakers such as the Bose sound dock. This is a good idea as it would get users into the Sonos ecosystem where they may then add bigger components at a later date.

The most popular component is the Play:3, it uses three digital amplifiers and three speakers to give a full spread of sound. We have two of these and they are great, they easily fill the room with sound and its a good mix of bass, middle and treble to give a good spread to the sound.

The Play:5 is the biggest of the three main speakers. It has six speakers and amplifiers to give the fullest reproduction of the sound. Sonos have recently announced a new Play:5 with some touch sensitive controls and trueplay tuning which adjusts the sound to the shape of your room.

If you are in the market for some wireless audio or music streaming devices then in sure Sonos would be one of the options on your short-list. Check them out and let me know what you think. 

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Up Periscope!

One of the newest Social Media Apps is Periscope which launched back in March. 

The Android and iOS app allows users to broadcast a live video stream from their mobile devices. I've been using it for a couple of weeks now and have been impressed by how some brands are using it to get the most out of the app and its style of broadcasting.

The main difference between this and something like YouTube is that viewers can interact with the live broadcast by sending messages to the broadcaster, and by giving love in the form of hearts which scroll up the screen. This allows viewers to comment, question and almost direct the broadcaster whilst they are filming.

Periscope Hearts Graphic

Videos can also be watched at a later point, this is a bit more similar to YouTube or a SnapChat video in that you simply watch the video play through. Again however you can see the interaction between the broadcaster and the viewers who were commenting at the time of recording. It is associated with twitter so links into your follower lists. 

Periscope is starting to increase its user base and popularity. Some brands are now making sense of the style of content and how best to fit it in with their marketing. Periscope seems to be used to supplement their existing YouTube or snapchat video channels.

Car competition website Best of the Best have recently started using periscope to showcase some of their prize cars and a winner presentation. This works well for them as viewer can interact asking to see certain aspects of the cars or hear them rev the engine for example. 

Glasgow based wrestling company Insane Championship Wrestling have started using Periscope to show behind the scenes footage of their podcast and interview recordings.

Fitness and personal improvement entrepreneur Chalene Johnson has embraced Periscope in a big way. She is broadcasting some of her workouts on there along with interviews and some motivational speaking. Chalene has been hosting some Q+A sessions based around building a business and brand on periscope and highlighting other broadcasters to watch.

If you haven't tried Periscope yet it is certainly worth a look. You may find some of the users you follow on twitter are already active on Periscope, and perhaps find some new users to follow. Let me know your thoughts on it and if you have tried broadcasting on there or any other sites. 

Friday, 29 May 2015

Mini review - citizenM

We were staying in Glasgow recently and decided to book into the citizenM hotel on Renfrew Street. Whilst a hotel review might seem like a bit of a curveball for this blog the combination of cutting edge design and technology make it well worth a mention.

Having studied both Architecture and Spatial/Interior design I have always had a keen interest in hotel and bar design. Much like residential architecture its an area that can range from bog standard, ten a penny bland, to buildings and spaces that have a powerful impact. Hotels especially can become fantasy getaways, opulent and extravagant escapes into a world of classical refinement or modern whimsy.

A great example of this wide variety was the recent Sky 1 series Richard E. Grant's Hotel secrets. Well worth a watch to see the history, highlights and a peek behind the scenes of some famous and infamous hotels from around the world.

Interesting interiors 

Anyway, back to the citizenM. On entering the hotel the check-in is upstairs on the same floor as the bar and lounge areas. There's a member of staff on hand to help guide you through the process of creating your keycard and paying for the room, and to explain the facilities.

This first floor consists of a few lounge like areas each with their own styling and furniture. There is free wi-fi in and a separate computer area for internet access with netbooks which can be used in the lounge too.

Taking the elevator up to the accommodation levels brings you out into stark white hallways embellished with more design features. Shadow gap detailing around the doors and framing clearly identifies the spaces. Funky carpets which seem to be a Google earth style photo of a cityscape add to the drama. Each floor has its own style with quotes as artwork on the wall. Moving through this space brings you to the room itself.

CitizenM Room Glasgow

You could say it's a European take on a capsule hotel. Much larger than the oriental equivalent but a similar concept. The room is the width of the massive bed which dominates one end. Beyond this is a combo of blinds within the glazing, controlled by both wall switches and the multifunction remote, but more on this later. 

Shine a light on design

The room is fitted with a variety of feature and task lights which can be controlled independently for various effects. 

CitizenM Shower Glasgow

Flanking the door you have a vanity area with sink on one side and a frosted pod containing the shower and toilet. The shower space is also illuminated by the colour changing mood lights and can be set to be a feature of the room. 

Multi-function Remote
The TV, blinds, heating and the lights can all be controlled by the multifunctional remote control docked beside the bed and separate wall switches.

Since our visit the multifunction remote has been replaced by a tablet that let you control all aspects of the room.

Whilst the atmosphere and experience is down to more than just the gadgets they certainly add to the overall impression. The design of the rooms, the public spaces and choice of furniture set it apart from the standard chain hotel. The technology adds an extra layer on top of all this and compliments the modern styling. 

If you haven't stayed here yet its certainly worth considering as an option. The emphasis on design and the integration of Tech certainly raise it above the run of the mill hotels. The citizenM certainly seems to be the location of choice for a lot of our friends when having a night out in Glasgow. We would definitely have this on the short list for our next city stay-over.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Paying it forward. My favourite blogs

One of the things I wanted to do this year was given a mention to some of the blogs I've enjoyed over the last year or two. The ones that keep me entertained, informed or help motivate me to write or keep learning. They all publish high quality blog posts which I enjoy reading and give me something to strive for. As part of my positive mindset for this year I wanted to pay it forward and say thanks. It's a varied mix of writers and subject matter but hopefully you will enjoy them.

My social media success of last year was reconnecting with one of my friends from College and University. We hadn't seen each other for over 15 years but caught up last year on Facebook. Paul has always been a talented and creative guy. We met on a design course and I remember him drawing and making music then. 

Paul Feeney has his blog at  Sound and Fury: and can be found on twitter @UncleFeeney Paul is a writer with a keen interest in horror. His blog is mainly a mix of book and film reviews. 

Paul had his first short story The weight of the ocean published on Amazon last year. I think he has a few more works coming out this year and I look forward to seeing his career development. Check him out folks.

My second entry is a wrestling blog Snapmare Necks by Martin Smith @SmithyCFC1 on Twitter. For those that don't know Glasgow is at the centre of a resurgence in the UK professional wrestling scene. Insane Championship Wrestling is leading this boom, being featured on TV and in the press and holding sell out shows both here in Glasgow including the famous Barrowlands, and Edinburgh and now even touring across the UK. 

Written in an everyman style Martin manages to perfectly capture the humour, energy and emotions of these shows perfectly. His description of a thousand people exploding with excitement at the surprise appearance of Prince Fergal Devitt before he went to become Finn Balor in the WWE is a perfect example. As well as humour and action Martin's writing can be highly personal as he has written about his battle with depression and how wrestling has helped with this. Again I look forward to reading more of his work this year. 

My last blog is someone I first discovered on Twitter who shares similar interests to myself. We both work in technology, have an interest in food and love pistachio ice cream. Michelle Muirhead's Ananyah Blog is a great starting point to discover great restaurants in and around Glasgow. She also posts about food and beauty events and can be found on twitter  @ananyah Michelle recently posted a piece on her favourite Glasgow restaurants and that's certainly a good introduction to her blog. 

Lastly is a curve ball, this one isn't so much a blog but a YouTube channel. Nick Drossos is a Canadian Fitness and Self Defence instructor. He has a YouTube Channel which had hours of video's covering all aspects of self defence. He recently appeared on Canadian Breakfast TV giving self defence tips and ran a couple of social experiments on Knife Defence and Women's self defence, both of which are well worth watching if you watch noting else. His system is practical and down to earth without fancy and complex moves. Some of the video's do include swearing but he strives to make them realistic as possible rather than the more robotic and cynical traditional martial art/self defence videos. Look him up and make sure to check out those experiment playlists as they do contain great advice. 

So there you have it folks. A few of my favourite bits and pieces, have a look at all the ones mentioned, even if its not your usual cup of tea im sure you will find them enjoyable. Hopefully some of them will be added to your reading lists, they are the staple items on mine. 

To the writers I have mentioned, thanks for your blogs and the work you put into them. I'm still starting out on my blogging journey but I know how hard it can be for me, and cant imagine what it must be like for some of you who have such a high output. 

Let me know your thoughts on this post and the blogs mentioned. What blogs are on your essential reading list? What are your blogging tips?