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Hair Dressers in East London

by JP on Mar.04, 2013, under General

I just wanted to give a shout-out to my friend and long-time hair stylist Nadia, who has recently celebrated the second birthday of her salon Foster London.

Situated in Shoreditch, on Bethnel Green Road, Nadia and her team offer the best haircut in East London IMHO – hell – even the whole of London.   With a quirky lovable interior featuring pastel walls and a gigantic keyhole, attentive friendly staff who ensure I’m always stocked up wtih tea and cheesecake, and a couple of dogs who like to sleep on your lap, it’s a great place to spend an hour having a chat and get spruced up.

Picture of Foster London Salon

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Etiquette Question for the Social Media Experts

by JP on Mar.03, 2013, under General

Here’s something to ponder on:

In today’s world, where we have multiple ways to contact an individual – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Path, through their email, through voice and SMS via their mobile (cell, for our US friends) number, and even face-to-face and traditional snail mail… What is the correct etiquette for wishing an individual a Happy Birthday?

Do you choose one single communication channel, and stick to that one alone?
Do you choose multiple channels?
If it’s only two, should it really be all the online channels you’re connected to that individual through, or at that point are you bombarding them?
Should it be the same message, sent through each online channel?

Throw in a voice call or seeing them in person, and then is wishing them greetings online really necessary at all?

I’ve wished a friend Birthday greetings today, and have done it via a Path moment and a message physically written in a card.

It feels like I’ve missed something out.

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Sporting Prints

by JP on Nov.28, 2012, under General

My old high-school teacher, Brian Halton, is quite the talented artist, producing stunning work of Yorkshire landscapes and of various sports, such as horse racing prints and football prints, and many other types of sport prints.  He also takes on commissions.

He used to produce a lot of art work memorabilia for Huddersfield Town Football Club, but his real passion lies in horse racing, and he spends a lot of time travelling the country to racing meets to both watch the races, and gather material for new pieces of artwork.
If you have a moment, you should check out his website – Beaconsfield Gallery.

Sample picture of Frankel in the 2012 Juddmonte at York by Brian Halton

Picture of Frankel in the 2012 Juddmonte at York

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How many tweets will it take to complete The Works of Shakespeare?

by JP on Mar.12, 2012, under Development

This weekend, the VoucherCodes.co.uk Dev Team put their heads together for a 2-day hackathon and we decided upon a project involving Twitter, and a certain well respected English poet and playwrite, Mr William Shakespeare.
After many discussions, designs, beers, pizza, and of course, code, we launched:

TweetSpeareProject.com

At it’s core, it’s about the Complete Works being reproduced by Twitter users posting their thoughts / rants / comments / etc. on the topics of the day, and those combined tweets recreate William’s words. Sort of like Inifinite Monkey Theorem, (not that I’m not calling Twitter users Monkeys).

I have to say I’m extremely proud of the team and what we’ve produced in such a short space of time. Looking at it in operation, it’s a fascinating reading though Macbeth and seeing a phrase recreated by a tweet on the subject of #ThingsNotToDoAfterABreakup or #ghettotranslations.

Take a look, and see what you think…

TweetSpeare Logo

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Tricks that Online Retailers Play….

by JP on Aug.15, 2011, under General

We’ve just published a new infographic over at VoucherCodes.co.uk.

Read the full post over at VoucherCodes Most Wanted, or just look at the visuals below:

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iPad as a second Windows PC Monitor

by JP on Jul.14, 2010, under Development, Gadgets & Home Electronics

So one use I’ve wanted from my iPad since I bought it has been to use it as an extra screen for my PC Laptop.

My setup at work is pretty decent already – a large 24″ monitor and my Vaio Z11 laptop, but being a major Internet user + coder, no matter how much screen real estate you’ve got, you always want more.

I’ve been a big fan (and long time user – since 2005 in fact) of MaxiVista - a utility which allows you to use the screens of several networked PCs and combine them into one huuuuge desktop. It’s worked fantastically well for pure desktop-based applications, but has sort of got lost a little these days since the introduction of multiple graphics cards support multiple monitors per card..

Well, yesterday, MaxiVista for iPad was approved by Apple and released into the App Store. What does it do? Converts your iPad into an extra monitor. How? Well, keeping it to the basics, you install a display driver on your PC, reboot, download the app onto your iPad, and then hook the two up to the same network. There’s a taskbar app which runs on the PC which auto-detects the iPad instance, and then gives you your extra monitor.

Performance isn’t amazing, at least not in my office where I’ve been using it extensively for the last couple of days, and so screen refreshes can be a little slow, but I’ve yet to play with the settings to find the best performance. What settings are available? You can alter the packet size, graphics tile szle, compression method and jpg compression level – thats right, jpg. It works similar to VNC – breaks up the screen into tiles, compresses the individual tiles and then sends them over the network to the iPad, where its decompressed and put into the correct tile position.

The other downside is that it running on an iPad – you’d half expect to be able to interact with the contents of the screen through the power of touch. Not yet, although MaxiVista have stated on their FAQ that they are planning to add remote control capabilities in the future.

So what do I run on my extra display? I’ve found it really useful to put my IM windows on there whilst working away, to use it as a display for my servers’ status report graphs, and I’ve found Spotify on the iPad display really looks great in full screen mode (as can be seen below).

Spotify on iPad PC display

What does this great utility cost? £5.99 – direct from the App Store.

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My Virgin AMEX Card

by JP on Dec.12, 2009, under General

So I’m a Virgin Black AMEX Card holder. I use it for most of my day-to-day transactions, and these days its accepted in more and more places. That said, historically, many retailers have shunned accepting American Express cards because of the high (5%) transaction fee the card network levies on transactions. My view, as a man on the street, is that this is now changing, or maybe its just my buying habits have changed?

The beauty of my Virgin AMEX card is that as I spend I earn air miles for every pound spent. Being a Virgin card, these miles are redeemable only on Virgin Atlantic flights. But it just so happens that I love to travel AND I’m a big Virgin Atlantic fan, and choose to fly with them over other carriers (so long as they’re flying to where I want to get to, naturally). The Virgin AMEX White Card delivers 1 mile per pound spent, whilst the Virgin AMEX Black Card gives you 2 miles per pound spent. Virgin also have deals with a number of hotel chains and other organisations whereby you are credited with more miles per pound if you use your card to pay.

Downsides of the card is that you’re charged the interest on the full amount you’ve spent IF you fail to pay off the whole balance in a month, and the £115 annual fee on the AMEX Black. Good incentive to pay off the balance!

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Queen Geekery

by JP on Nov.24, 2009, under Found in the wild

The person behind this is either a talented artist, or has WAY too much time on their hands

All good entertainment though :)

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Virtualization on Sony VAIO Z11 Laptops – now Enabled!

by JP on Oct.22, 2009, under Gadgets & Home Electronics, Mods & Upgrades

I’ve had a Sony Vaio Z11 V/N for about 16 months, having upgraded from a Vaio TZ which was my daily workhorse for over a year beforehand. They’re fairly sturdy, well made, with great technology inside, and everything. just. works.

However, one bugbear of mine, which I’ve had ever since buying the Z11, is the lack of support in the BIOS for the virtualization which the Intel Core Duo processor installed in my Vaio offers. I’m not the only one! A quick search will find lots of posts going back since the day of launch complaining about this feature lack. Its also angered some users enough to try and hack the BIOS (of which they did a good job on, but its rather technical and not for the masses).

Today, whilst I was looking for drivers for my newly-upgraded Windows 7 OS, I was on the Vaio site, and stumbled across this BIOS upgrade page, proclaiming that as of the 14th October 2009, a BIOS upgrade was available that allowed you to switch on VT Support. Wohooo!

Why is this important? Well, I’m a developer (working primarily on the LAMP platform), and a tinkerer, and I run various other OS’s in a Virtualised Environment through VMWare. Virtualization support allows me to run the virtualised OS at full performance. In addition, Windows 7 now provides backward compatibility with XP programs through a virtualized XP environment, but requires VT support in order to do so.

There’s also the fact that now I have my hardware doing exactly what its supposed to – not being feature locked any longer by a poor Sony implementation.

However, that said, Kudos to Sony for finally getting this feature live – the question is – why did it take so long?

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Whats in your Virus/Spyware Detection & HDD toolkit?

by JP on Jun.22, 2009, under General

Every so often, I get a call from a family member or friend, with them wanting to drop their PC off with me as it’s started misbehaving / running slow / just plain doesn’t work. Recently, these have included a PC infected with over a 100 trojans and viri, and a 1 year old Sony Vaio with a hard disc with a number of bad sectors.

Having spent the last weekend working on a couple of machines, I thought it’d be useful to list my PC Toolkit, and I invite others to do the same! Now I realise these sort of posts are what were doing the rounds years earlier, but its still a valid topic today given the increased number of devices attached to the Internet, and the number of computer viruses totalling somewhere north of 1 Million.

Virus Scanning Utilities

My current resident favourite virus scanner is AVG (it should be noted, withOUT the LinkScanner utility).

I also back this up on potentailly infected systems with an on-line scanner, such as the Windows Live OneCare Virus Scanner, which works through the browser and various plugins / ActiveX controls.

Spyware Hunting Utilities

I regularly use that old chestnut (I say old, but its regularly updated) Spybot – Search & Destroy. It has a comprehensive database of potential spyware, and has hooks into the browser to try and protect against malware. It also can exclude cookies from your favourite ad serving and tracking platforms.

There’s also HijackThis which is useful to see whats buried in certain key parts of the hard drive and registry, and allows the user to disable or remove certain programs that may load with Windows or the browser.

System Tools

I’ve recently come to rely on the System Rescue CD, which contains a CD-Bootable verison of Linux with lots of useful tools for checking hard drives, working with HDD partitioning, copying – and even rescuing – data from damaged partitions. It provides utilities to handle secure deletion of data should you want to dispose of an old hard drive. I recently used this set of tools to copy a working Vista installation on a partition which contained damaged sectors to an external hard drive (connected via USB) which would soon replace the internal drive.

NTFSCLONE, NTFSINFO & NTFSTRUNCATE to the rescue!

I used to be a big fan of PartitionMagic, but a) it’s commercial software which requires a license, and b) I’ve had a few instances of it crashing mid-operation and destroying my data (thank you back-ups!). Granted, free software can do the same, but I’ve yet to have an issue with any of the utils on the System Rescue CD.

Process & Network Safety

When checking out a potentially infected PC, whats the best way to do it?
Well, I initially run HiJackThis from a known-clean USB key to get a handle on whats on the machine, and clean what I can.
I then uninstall any virus checking software on the machine, install a fresh copy of AVG (again, from a clean USB), ensure the latest virus definition updates are on it, and then do a full system scan.
Once this has completed, then I connect it to the Internet and run a second virus scan, this time using a different tool (e.g. MS OneCare).

How I also connect the PC via a separate network to the rest of my machines / smartphones etc. I have a Draytek 2820 Router which provides my ADSL connection. This has the ability to create up to 4 separate WiFi networks, each of which can be isolated from each other, and even individual machines on the same WiFi connection.
I also use the firewall abilities of the Draytek to ensure common trouble ports are blocked, e.g. TCP Port 25, Port 443 etc, to stop rouge activity potentially taking place whilst the PC is active on the Internet. Not ideal, I know. I’d rather have all ports except port 80 blocked, but I don’t see how the Draytek can allow this to happen (without setting up heaps of rules).

Anyway, thats the basic methodology. Thus far, its enabled me to clean out all detected trojans and viruses, even if it takes a few reboots and scans in order to do so.

So, does anyone have any suggestions / better tools or techniques for recovering a damanged or infected system?

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