All posts by Simon

Considerations on leaving BT

It was in the news the other day that streaming media has now overtaken traditional pay TV watching in the UK. I can’t say I was looking to ditch my BT TV subscription until they put the prices up (again) that is.

I’ve managed to switch to Vodafone broadband for £22 a month which along with canceling BTTV left me with £18 a month to spend on streaming services per month whilst avoiding the price rise! BT did very nearly match the £22 a month fibre unlimited price from Vodafone but I’d had enough of dealing with them by that stage. They were also not able or willing to negotiate or renew  my current TV deal which meant it was going to go up by £2 a month.

So then having had a look around at what’s available I found out what can you get for £18 a month in terms of streaming TV at the moment. It turns out it’s quite a lot. In reality all I really wanted was Discovery and National geo family of channels, is that too much to ask ?


  • If you know someone with a Netflix account the first thing to do is see if they will let you share their login. Netflix allows 4 simultaneous streams on the top  UHD enabled account. They even allow you to set up multiple profiles so different users can keep track of their own watch list etc. I think it’s really meant to be with in a single household but it works.
  • Now TV have released a new ‘Streaming stick’ this is a simple HDMI dongle that plugs into a spare HDMI input and connects via WiFi. Up until last week they were on sale for £15 along with 2 months of subscription to the entertainment package. The cost of the hardware is effectively free, you even get a Sky store voucher worth £5.49. The HD stick is 1080p ready and Now TV is supposedly going to become full HD later this year. As well as 4 months included with the two sticks I bough  I managed to end up with 4 months at half price because I tried to cancel my renewal when a free trial turned out to be chargeable. Now TV has Discovery and National Geo. wild.
  • Amazon prime is quite good and you can get Discovery channel on that now. as part of an add on channel (not live though) Since I don’t really need prime I went for prime video which saves £2 a month ( £5.99) Well I say that, I’m currently on a 3 month free  trial of Discovery any way, which is not bad I guess. You can’t get National Geographic at all on Prime however

The real fun now starts as you try to figure out the optimal devices on which to watch all these services on. Firstly you can of course what all of them ( even BT’s offering) on your computer or mobile device. You may run into problems with getting HD on external monitors on Mac.

The YouView box already has the Now TV  app but it doesn’t even support the full 720p resolution.YouView dies have Netflix though and BT say Prime video is coming later this year ( not sure if that stands true if you are jumping ship ). I have a Chromecast which works OK with Netflix and Now TV although not with prime (unless you cast the whole desktop),  I prefer the Now TV sticks since you get a nice and simple remote control and ‘6ft interface’ The Now TV stick also has access to Sky News HD ( which is also available on youtube BTW)

The Now TV sticks are supposedly getting a Netflix app this  year as well as the 1080p streaming upgrade( the stick itself already streams 1080p from YouTube)

It seems that my old PS3 is the fallback for all services at the moment, it is finally getting some good use. I supports Now TV, Netflix and Prime although you have to use the game controller ( first world problem I guess ). The Amazon with Alexa stick costs more than double what the Now TV stick did and only supports prime so I can’t really justify that.

There are plenty of things not to like about BTTV besides the price hikes by the way I won’t go into that here ! Suffice it to say they can stick their £5 a month charge to use Chromecast from their app LOL !

One final consideration, Vodafone use the original 40/10 openreach fibre product whereas BT provided a slightly faster ( on my line anyway) 55mbps but I can’t see that really being an issue. To stream UHD you need 25mbps but then I don’t even have a UHD TV (yet 😉 ) Vodafone does away with landline call packages and dodgy cloud storage that does not work properly on a Mac, not to mention BT WiFi which is more trouble than it’s worth now you can get 1p MB PAYG data… Vodafone also offers minimum speed guarantee and will actually refund money to you if they don’t meet it!


Glitch in The Matrix ?

  • code skills

Whilst at the job centre today I read a thing.


Programmers get so many job offers, a site made a special spam filter to help them cope

Now having worked in IT for 20 years or so and having gotten 6 months+ experience in PHP web development, I am really angry. What is it with the job market that people over the age of 40 are seemingly automatically excluded from Hi Tech jobs ? ‘Bah the internet did not exists when you got you qualifications…’

I used to be into Unix support however when this went the way of Linux I found my self being pushed into more of a customer support role. It was very well paying so perhaps I was right to stay there so long, however ultimately my systems support credentials must have taken a knock.

I must admit I think I’ve had enough of talking to people on the phone to last a working life so I decided that Web / Tech should be my way forward. There are still not really that many certifications for ‘web developers’ as yet. Kind of like when I left Sun Microsystems after working in IT support for 20 years, and discovered that the industry had invented a ‘must have’ qualification to replace industry experience ( they called it ITIL)

I mean once upon a time you could stand on a night club door and intimidate drunken teenagers with out a piece of paper. Indeed I remember a time when you could leave school and realistically expect to get a decent career by plumping for a trainee/ apprenticeship scheme at a local company. Currently no one believes they will progress beyond Barista with out £50k debt and a university degree.

Web sites now seem to be two a penny however who knows what companies are out there looking to employ these skills. I have spent quite  a bit of time learning all this stuff however it seems that there are no big bucks to be made working for all the tech start ups in the Bournemouth area. They seem to be thriving off the back of graduates coming out of university locally and not to mention the constant until now supply of cheap EU workers.

The Future ? I bet there will be a market for WordPress plugins and well supported themes. Apps are still a money spinner as well. My problem is getting knuckled down to doing this stuff when I have always done tech stuff in the past, expecting to be paid !


  • piece of England

It does my head in, however when I look at what’s going on in out great country, sometimes I think ‘ wow, I own a bit of this country’ Does this company really do all this great stuff really just around the corner from me ? I mean, what is it to OWN a bit of Blighty 🙂



Triangular Brevity

There is a principle  in journalism, where by you get the main story in right at the top. This is so that the editor can cut out the bottom bit if more space is needed and the reader still gets the story.

Unfortunately that’s it !


If you are still reading then I think McTrump should invent his own version of Twitter 😉


My rambling answer to DigitalSpy !

online coding courses for beginners?

Hey all, i want to start learning to code from home, and im just wondering if anyone knows of any websites with courses for beginners (paid or free)

thanks in advance:)

I’ve learned various coding from books and online tutorials. They can be expensive but if you don’t mind being hunting around a bit then the world is your oyster. (, tuts plus, etc etc ) There are several very good free YouTube channels, well quite a lot actually.

Many languages use ‘C like’ syntax so if you start with say PHP you will understand the main concepts.

w3schools is quite a fun way to pick up coding and covers HTML/CSS as well, which are worth knowing about of course.

I’d say Javascript is the in thing at the moment, traditionally used in Web browsers it’s now becoming more common on servers too.
You can learn the basics of PHP pretty quickly but to get the best money you’ll need to know one of the trendy MVC frameworks like Laravel or something.

Same thing with Javascript, there are many ancillary tools and utilities now that employers use ( MVC frameworks, IDE’s, SCM tools etc etc )

Basically employers seem to regard vague claims of what you know about with a lot of scepticism, you will need to be able to point to example working projects ( apps on the app store, working web sites, knowledgeable blog posts, a few projects on your GitHub account, stackoverflow answers etc)

Like someone else has said, the Microsoft .NET skills are worth big money on the jobs market but their mobile platform is pants. I believe there is a tool that lets .NET developers write Android/iOS apps although I’d be a bit sceptical about that.

Also consider courses/ books on Java for Android and Swift for iOS and the associated development platforms (you probably need to understand quite a bit of Objective C too for iOS)

Finally, definitely have a look at WordPress if you are interested in Web development, it’s good to understand what is achievable with out ever writing a line of code, you’d be surprised. It’s also a great way to get coding experience if you become interested in writing custom themes or plugins.


Virgin Media is in the room

Not sure how geeky my readers are however I’ve been out snapping the progress of the Virgin Media installation in my area:



OMG next thing flying cars ?

This is fibre ducting I believe ? A hell of a lot of it too, so we may well be getting FTTP ?


Free Cloud Photos

I’ve uploaded all of my nearly 40,000 photos to Google for free ! If you check ‘High Quality’ then Google Photos will automatically re-compress each photo before it uploads it. I had assumed that this would be unacceptable from a quality perspective, however it appears I was wrong.

If you find the setting in the app. to ‘ Add Google photos as a folder on Drive’ then your Mac will duly attempt to download all the photos to you Google Drive synch folder! It was here that I realised that they are taking up almost as much space as the originals. So it would seem that  I now have an extra 70Gb of cloud space for free !

I can now see all my photos on my TV and iPad or the Web. The only downer is that there is no apparent way to simply make it show all photos at random. Possibly it would use too much bandwidth ?

In other news I’ve found a worthwhile book on Laravel to keep my brain ticking over. Laravel is a PHP application framework, based on the MVC design pattern, similar to the in house system I worked with at Visor Media. The book is well written ( not many IT books are)  It’s a more stuctured and efficient way to learn than sitting through  video tutorials.

If any one is still reading this, then I’m also glad to say I’ve got my iMac re-assembled with only a few screws left over 🙂 I’ve re-placed the heatsink goo on the GPU and installed an SSD in place of the DVD. The plan is  to create a fusion drive like I did on my MacBook Pro. It has an unreliable graphics card but hopefully with the fast boot up it will be useable as is until I can get in fixed.




My 2017 goals

I start to think a little more about long term goals in life at this time of year. So besides the obvious ‘loose weight, get in shape one’ here goes!

  • Get my Honda Blackbird back on the road
  • Do more practical coding/ portfolio work
  • Learn more about trendy frame works, ( Laravel, Angular etc etc)
  • Get up to the Lake District for a hiking holiday
  • Seriously sort out my garden and house DIY back log!
  • get my iMac fixed and upgraded to fusion Drive

Well I think that’ll do it for now 🙂


Fun Emoji Icons

Whilst trying to sort out a decades worth of bookmark clutter, how exciting…

I found a great site that lets you copy and paste Emoji characters.

Emojis  are unicode characters which seem to be well supported these days.

You can add them pretty much any where you type including in the favourites bar on Safari.


Check it out : Emojipedia


Hire ME!

Just to point out that if any companies are looking for a self taught web engineer then get in touch.

I have good knowledge of Unix and Linux as well and can coach junior members of staff. I would love to get involved with mobile app development given the chance. ( I have read up on Android and iOS )

I would ideally like to work from home so am open to any offers or requests for freelance work subject to agreement. I’m also potentially available to assist with charitable organisations or other good causes on a voluntary bases, please drop me a line.

Skype me on srp-10 or Email. or send message from the web site.


DIY MacBook Pro ‘Fusion Drive’

I know this is all over the web if you look for it, however I’ve been so impressed with my new SSD based fusion drive that I thought I’d blog about it. Fusion is a software based logical disk that automatically puts often used files on the SSD and uses a 4Gb write cache on the SSD as well I think.

I bought a 120GB SSD a year or so ago and added it to my slightly ageing 2011 Macbook pro in place of the DVD drive. I had some issues with lock ups though despite trying a second different drive, so chickened out and put the DVD drive back in.

Since having my main logic board replaced last week(for free by Apple store in West Quay!) and finding a better SSD caddy on eBay ( £5.49 delivered next day !!) I’ve put the SSD back and it’s been working fine. This caddy has the correct mounting lugs to replace the DVD drive and hence no sticky tape need 😉

£5.49 delivered, the best value ever Mac upgrade ?

I created a fusion drive using the 120Gb HDD that I put in when I took the computer to be serviced. I was not expecting it to improve things so much, but basically you do not realise just how much a slow hard drive affects performance. It must be all the little writes that can’t be cached in memory since I have 16GB of RAM which you can see fills up with file cache on boot.

My 1TB drive is always over 90% full and is pretty slow any way, boot ups take literally 20 minutes. But with the fusion drive web pages load instantly and boot up is amazingly fast. I don’t think the old HD was even spinning all the time I was testing .

Here is the guide, it’s the second hit on Google 🙂 You basically have to boot from some recovery media ( I created a bootable USB thumb drive again see google) and run some terminal commands. Then you restore from a backup since it wipes ALL your data in the process.

I’m creating a second backup of my 1TB drive which looks set to  take 3 days or so. The WDMcloud NAS thing I have   is pretty cool, but not that fast despite using Gigabit ethernet.

So pretty excited about getting a turbo charged 1TB laptop! Incidentally, I’ve read that some new Mac’s come with a measly 24GB of SSD, which I guess just shows how effective the fusion drive technology is.

It’s not all great though, have been told that my iMac will probably need a new GPU at some point for at least £150 , you win some you loose some!

Boot Demo, for those who like that sort of thing…