Chris Croft's Personal Blog

April 27, 2010

HTC Hero vs. iPhone

Filed under: Gadgets — chriscroft @ 7:51 pm

As an owner of a Hero, with lots of friends with iPhones who keep telling me how great they are, I think I’m reasonably qualified to tell you about what I have found is my first 3 months of Herownership.

What’s better about the HTC Hero:

  • it can connect to a bluetooth keyboard in principle, (the iPhone can’t)  though it didn’t work with the one I bought and sent back, it’s really hard to find one and allegedly hard to get them to talk, and in fact you don’t need one because the typing is so good anyway.  This was my main reason for getting the Hero, and I now find that it’s not such a big deal after all.
  • the typing on screen has the edge over the iPhone because when you press the wrong keys (I do this all the time with my fat fingers, especially in portrait mode) it not only corrects to the nearest word (like the iPhone) but offers you a load of choices so you can just hit the one you want.  the iPhone only homes in on the one it thinks you want.  And I’m not sure abou the iPhone but my Hero seems to be learning my common mistakes so it always selects as the preferred choice the one that I hit last time – but still offers me all the others as well.  If you just press psace or enter then it puts in the preferred one (shown as green).  This is a big plus as I use it for typing texts and emails more than all the other apps put together.  I’ll miss this if I change from my Hero.
  • it keeps its place when you exit and app and then come back to that app later – not sure if the iPhone does this
  • it keeps all the info with one contact, so if you select Fred you can phone him, text time, email him, see his facebook status, tweets etc.  The iPhone does this too, but not as well.
  • the google jobs to do app gTasks is great – it syncs with google desktop, and I use it all the time.  I haven’t seen an iPhone app that does that, and syncing with outlook is too hard for me.
  • maybe battery life – if I cane my Hero I can jsut use it up in a day.  I hear the iPhone is less good.  Not a big deal since you can recharge them from USB or mains or car or power-monkey, but still a factor.
  • Camera is noticeably better than the iPhone, though it is uncertain whether the iPhone apps can make the pictures better just by clever software when the pixels just aren’t there.  I doubt it!
  • Cost – my Hero is only £25/month, with the handset being free, and 18m contract, while the iPhone was £40/month, £200 for the phone, and 2 years contract.  Big difference.

The iPhone wins on

  • Games from the apps store.  The Hero has plenty, but they don’t look as nice and there aren’t as many.  All the other apps are the same – travel, weather, etc
  • Google maps rotate so they are the same way as you are facing.  This is a big plus.  The Hero has a compass and rotates in street view (and in the app for viewing the names of the stars) but not on Google Maps , which is a bit rubbish.
  • My Hero does crash occasionally (and takes 2 whole minutes to reboot) and sometiems won’t sent emails until I restart it.  It says my settings are wrong, but they’re not, I jsut have to reboot it.
  • I think my Hero is slower than the iPhone, even though it’s the latest one (I got it in January 2010)
  • I can’t type a pound sign on my Hero.  Annoying!
  • Music played through the speakers of the iPhone is louder and better quality.  The Hero is pretty good, but the iPhone is amazing.  This is quite a big thing for me as I spend lots of time in hotel rooms and I like some music on.

Overall I think I’ll get an iPhone next time…..

Comments….?

The problem with tendering

Filed under: Random stuff - uncategorisable — chriscroft @ 7:32 pm

More and more we are asked to tender for work,  in the interest of fairness and professionalism.

The problem is that tendering doesn’t get the best result, it just wastes a lot of money.

The great long documents that we get sent ask for everything (environmental policy, equalities policy, turnover, profit, references etc) except “Is the training any good?” because of course that’s too hard to measure on a form.

So I would suggest that the following are the real results of a tendering process:

  1. Good people get filtered out because some irrelevant box isn’t ticked
  2. The best suppliers, who are busy, often don’t bother to tender
  3. The tendering process costs the purchaser lots of money to do
  4. The suppliers add a cost on for tendering, so the purchasers pay a second time
  5. If you get one in ten then you have to add ten times the cost of tendering, to each tender – so the purchasers pay a lot! (if you want to save money in the public sector, start by looking at the size of the purchasing departments!)
  6. You end up getting the slickest presenters, not the best people
  7. And then you don’t negotiate with them, you just take their price – mad!!

If you are the incumbent provider, with an excellent track record, it’s harder for you to win the repeat tender than it is for the new people, because the purchaser is vulnerable to accusations of being in your pocket if they pick you, so it’s safer for them to pick someone new.  Also they look good – “making changes”.

Some of my customers are putting requests to tender on websites and, in the interetes of fairness, they arne’t even allowed to tell me that the RTT is on a website somewhere on the net.  So even though they know me and want me they aren’t going to get me.  How mad is that?

Suggested alternative – meet people, talk to them, pick the best one, and negotiate with them over price.  Common sense!

Don’t get me wrong though, although I think this process is stupid and wasteful I’m not bitter about it.  I am discovering how to play the game and getting quite good at it, so I’m probably getting more work that I should.  But still, the world is going a bit mad…

April 19, 2010

Three way gun fight

Filed under: News and Politics — chriscroft @ 5:25 pm

There’s a great maths puzzle about the three way gun fight, where one of the gun-slingers, lets’ call him Posh Gammon Robot never misses, and the second one, let’s call him Grumpy Maths Bear, is 75% accurate, while the third one, let’s call him Smarmy Egg, is only 10% accurate, in fact pretty much rubbish.  Who will win?  Surely PGR??

But no, because Posh Robot will shoot Grumpy Bear, and take his chances with SmEgg, while Bear’s best chance is to try to take out the deadly Robot.  So Egg just has to stand there and let Robot and Bear shoot each other.

But of course if they don’t shoot each other because they have decided to convince the onlookers that they are nice people, and if Egg crows too much about still being alive, there is a risk that Gammon and Grumpy will both turn on Egg and then he’s a goner.

Remind you of anything?

April 16, 2010

Why I love Martin Amis

Filed under: Books and Culture — chriscroft @ 10:10 am

Here are a few of my favourite Amis quotes:

Now in the dawn, through the window and through the rain, the streets of London looked like the insides of an old plug.

Sitting on the twin bed, he looked out of the window and saw the lightest swirl of thinning cloud, way out there, like a wiped table in the last few seconds before it dries…

… Paradoxically he no longer wanted to give up smoking: what he wanted to do was take up smoking.  Not so much to fill the little gaps between cigarettes with cigarettes (there wouldn’t be time anyway) or to smoke two cigarettes at once.  It was more that he felt the desire to smoke a cigarette even when he was smoking a cigarette.  The need was and wasn’t being met.

The history of astronomy is the history of increasing humiliation.  First the geocentric universe, then the heliocentric universe.  Then the eccentric universe, the one we’re living in.  Every century we get smaller.  the principle of terrestrial mediocrity.

Never trust a poet who can drive.  If he can drive, distrust the poems.

On the table, untouched, there stood a basket of sauce-glued nachos, and a heavily cooling tortilla, as inert as an organ on a medical tray.

Before, girls looked at him and showed interest or no interest.  Then, for a while, they looked past him.  Now they looked through him.  Because he no longer snagged on their DNA.

it must have been like trying to get a raw oyster into a parking meter

his upper lip exaggeratedly cupid’s bow, the shape of a gull coming right at you

“Bung it in the MW” Darko decided.  MW equalled microwave.  That was good.  The word had fewer syllables than its abbreviation.  Especially self-defeating, because the microwave was a device intended to cheat time.

he would not mind being old if no one was young

Gina sat knitting on the window seat, her legs crossed sharply in answer to the angles of the needles

Walk down the street with him and you wouldn’t be seeing any of the things he saw. He saw earners and turners and leavers and levers, he saw locks and catches, what was unguarded and what protruded, what was detachable, what was transferrable.  In any shop his eyes glittered with compound calculation.  He had animal thermovision in the city, the night sight of the wild boy.  When he came to London with his bag of tools the shop windows were stills in duty-free brochures, and the cars bulged and shimmied like women, the clios, the starlets, the princesses of the street.

The train crept in round the back, sorry it was so late, hoping it could still be of use.  Monolithically overweight, like a prehistoric snake, the train moved towards him with its yellow eyes satedly averted.

On the plane his seat was non-aisle, non-window, non-smoking, non-wide and non-comfortable.  Gwyn pulled a lever that caused him to surge up from the supine to the sedentary.

With the human face the worst possible representation will always be the truest.  This was the best mirror and it was the worst mirror.

The hotel room was infested with bouquets and bowls of fruit, presumably real but impressively fake-looking

You could see lights, and the reflections of lights, carlights, murkily glistening -the filthy jewellery of Kennedy Expressway.  They heaved on, flanked and tailed by mustang, bronco, pinto, colt, by bluebird and thunderbird, panda and cobra, by jaguar, by cougar: the filthy menagerie of Kennedy Expressway.

he didn’t look that hot or that cool…

…  the damp dogs had to wait outside in the wet, but the damp dogs were what the video shop smelled of.

The pub had stayed where it was – ten years behind. The same donkey-jacketed Irishmen drank the same black beer.  The same black dog was still dying in the cardboard box beneath the pie-warmer.  Richard found his usual seat….

The Adonis, the old super-pub with its sticky chandeliers and sodden carpet, its contrapuntal rock videos and  the thick bank of dole-quaffing fruit-machines…

In the zoo there were many kinds of animals for the people to look at.  But there were only two kinds of people for the animals to look at.  Children.  And divorcees.

Various car alarms belonged to various types, various genres – the nagging, the hysterical, the scandalised.  There was even a post-modern car alarm, which trilled out a fruity compendium of all other car alarms.  This was the car alarm that all the birds of London would eventually know how to do.

above it all, the poised hypodermic of the Empire State

Haikus – traditional, modern, and executive

Filed under: Books and Culture, Happiness, Random stuff - uncategorisable — chriscroft @ 9:51 am

to get things started – here are some that I have found and liked, both traditional and modern:

old bird bath
now full of ivy
the bird song missed

ward silent except
for a sigh – night sister sees
dawn at the window
(reminds me of the jethro tull song nursie)

walking on the moor
one sees heather
the other sky

still in its frame
that smile
her last

no bloodstains left on
medieval castle wall — smear
of tourist’s choc-ice

in the tree the apple.
within the apple the pip.
within the pip the tree.

coolness –
the sound of the bell
leaving the bell

no sky
no earth – but still
snowflakes fall

first autumn morning:
the mirror I stare into
shows my father’s face.

I kill an ant
and realize my three children
have been watching.

on new year’s day
I long to meet my parents
as they were before my birth.

the crow has flown away:
swaying in the evening sun,
a leafless tree.

the summer river:
although there is a bridge, my horse
goes through the water.

the winds that blow –
ask them, which leaf on the tree
will be next to go.

spring rain
your body
in me

scared stiff
paying for condoms
with a rubber check

zipped up
in her jeans
his genes

nailed on the door
men
out of order

in the photo album
my mother’s face
before I knew her

and some of my efforts:

late night
computer
just finish it

The cold streets of Hull
Why did I decide to walk?
Rain increasing fast

Rain filters through hair
Can’t run with curry inside
Plod back to hotel

Dog walk in the dark
Feels like autumn in the spring
Crocus by torchlight

time sand
beach youth
trickle hand

cones and spray
which lane?
headset disconnect

coach or train
will they get there
can they manage

see it
taste it
regret it

Step across the room
You’re still exotic to me
After time apart

sent in by readers:

A Summer’s day
Steaming cow pats
Stones abound
Shrieks of children

Haiku’s are hard to
Write. The syllables always
Make you run out of…

Her small breasts
Were like the upturned bellies
Of breathing fallen sparrows

It’s never easy
writing poems on the spur
of any moment

The silent bandstand
now cold and still. Summer time
bands long forgotten.

harvesting moon
the death of a friend
a lost jigsaw piece

Haiku are easy,
But sometimes they don’t make sense,
Refrigerator

The creamy-cloud foam
in my coffee and my bath
is my secret bliss.

There are more poems
around than you think: walk slow,
speak soft and don’t blink.

being paperless
is OK I suppose but
not in the bathroom

From WizzardPrang: “You might like these Windoze haikus:”

Yesterday it worked
Today it is not working
Windows is like that

or…

Your file was so big
It might be very useful
But now it is gone

or…

Windows XP crashed
I am the Blue Screen of Death
No one hears your screams

or…

A crash reduces
Your expensive computer
To a simple stone

Some more of mine:

Risking wet shoes
Reflected sun
Winter beach

The tunnel looks endless
But close up
It sparkles

Girl photo
I’m viewing
At 75%

written in yet another B&B:

Empty room
Ornaments
Not mine

The boss cares
His people think
He’s scary

Beautiful winter beach
But what
Can you do with it?

and after a rather depressing training course:

A day of talk
The people
Still the same

———————

Autumn sax
Wind blown notes
Like falling leaves

———————-

Lost at sea
…Holding on to blue rock
The storm blows

————————

Mouth and fingertips
She presses all my buttons
Sally’s saxophone

————————

Like a lighthouse at dawn
Each pulse signals
I am still here

————————

Raiding your fruit bowl
Early morning octopus
Grabs a tangerine

————————

Suit jacket, no gloves
Quickly scraping frozen glass
White tartan windscreen

A Haiku Poem
Has seventeen syllables
In five seven five

Predictive text list
Huddersfield and Hummingbird
Neighbours in my world

Christmas tree sadness
Star of the show, then bonfire
Much the same as me…

Interrupted throne
Business call in the next room
Walk like a penguin

This one about London….

Early morning walk
Joggers turning to builders
Then men in grey suits

I feel that when I’m in Manchester people think I’m different and stare at me. So here are a couple of examples of my paranoia:

Leaving the hotel room empty
Builders stare at me
As I look for breakfast

and

Don’t YOU stare at ME
Mancheseter petrol pumper
Wearing pyjamas

and about my journey to get here in my unstoppable black Audi:

Human and machine
Eating road and other cars
Surge into darkness

and about my recent toothache

Pacing at midnight
Glass teeth burn in hot jam jaw
Torch search for more pills

and

Never stops playing
reggae record in my head
Tropical Toothache

After years of playing in bands I’ve got a bit of tinnitus, which manifests itself in various ways, including a low rumble which I can only hear when things are very quiet, like in the night – but it’s always there, which is a slightly claustrophobic feeling since I can’t ever escape from it. The other thing you need to know is that the ferry from Poole to the Channel Islands is called The Condor – it’s amazingly powerful and you can hear the deep throb of its engines echoing off the old Harry Rocks when it comes into port. So:

Tinnitus Condor
Connected in the silence
Wherever she sails

———————————————-

Gloomy autumnal Haikus

Ripe with gloomy fruit

Dark blanket falls on my flame

Autumn’s on its way

.

Soon the fruit will drop

Leaving bare branches

Untroubled by wasps

.

Spring and summer gone

Older, wiser, and more tired

The sunset, the autumn,

.

Picking and eating

Enjoy the present harvest

Knowing it will end.

.

Deny the future

If you can imagine it

You won’t want to know

.

Smell of Autumn Sweater

Log fire dogs, leaf kicking, and…

The sun will return

Songs I hate

Filed under: Lists, Music — chriscroft @ 9:32 am

Here are some songs that I really hate!

  • Chain Reaction by Diana Ross,
  • Uptown Girl by Billy Joel (too high energy)
  • He Ain’t Heavy
  • Unchained Melody (too low energy).
  • Then there’s Lifted by the Lighthouse Family – too many key changes.

from Jim:

Recently listening to Stevie Wonders best of (some fab stuff on there).
Let me nominate

  • “Ebony & Ivory”

Don’t get me wrong – the sentiment is great, but the music is pants.

Stevie & Sir Paul should have been able to produce something better than that

(on the theme of racial harmony, I prefer Michael Jackson’s Black or White, or maybe hot Chocolate’s Emma…)

  • Recently heard “More than words” by Extreme on the radio

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Best-Extreme-Ac … 627&sr=1-5

reminded me – how I hate that song!

the only good thing was to think “excellent – must put that on my blog!”

Then there’s Beautiful South:  most of their stuff is annoying – they just don’t get Rock do they?

  • I think Song for Whoever is the most irritating

but perfect 10 is also quite bad – trying to be funny and cool and failing at both
and Rotterdam is also pretty annoying (give me Kirsty McColl any day)

I will admit that 36D is good though – almost as good as the least good song by Prefab Sprout…

  • Eternal Flame by the Bangles. What a dirge!

the very pedestrian and annoying

  • “Ain’t that just the way” by Lutricia McNeal

…down down down

also Move Closer by Phyllis Nelson goes on too long!

 

  • How about everything by Cliff Richard – except for Devil Woman
  • and everything by Michael Buble except “Home”

And then there’s Bon Jovi – aargh: Even before you start on the poodle permed making-up-for-being-short over pretty pretend hard rock image their music is rubbish :

  • How I loathe “Living on a prayer” with its overdone wah-wah on the guitar, it’s stodgy rock chug (if you want heavy-that’s-not-stodgy try Led Zep’s Achilles Last Stand, or anything by Free or Neil Young)

… and those lyrics – you can’t refer to a Juke Box as a ‘Record Machine’!

ooooh!
Mr Angry of Poole

Curry Restaurants

Filed under: Random stuff - uncategorisable — chriscroft @ 9:22 am



I’ve been thinking about the fact that I’ve eaten a lot of curry over the years, and people always have strong feelings about which one is the best in the area. So, for a bit of a debate (and also justice – may the good ones live long and prosper!) here’s what I think (scarily this is all from my head, no notes taken anywhere)

Apologies that most are in Poole where I live – feel free to add yours to this list
They are in approximate order from best to worst. Sorry, Wimborne Tandoori!

GREAT

Wimbledon – The Curry Royal. The best curry I’ve ever had. Amazing Brinjal Bhajee. Good service too.
http://www.curryroyal.co.uk/

Poole centre: Tandoori nights: top food, good service http://www.pooleview.co.uk/Eatout/tandoorinights.htm

Chutneys, Shaftesbury, Dorset SP7 8EJ great food and service and stylish modern ambience

Westbourne : Taj Mahal: excellent food, mediocre service (fast, but they don’t smile).

Harrow – The Curry Mahal. Recently sold, so I really hope the new owners keep the chef and the service, both of which are excellent.

The Bengal Brasserie, London SE13. Not in a very promising street, this place had OK service and brilliant food.

Cambridge: the Maharajah on Castle Street – great decor, good service, good curry. Many people recommend the Cafe Naz and the Saffron, but I haven’t tried these yet. So many curries, so little time!

Ringwood: The Indigo: a bit hot for my taste, but stylish ambience, unusual menu, great if you order something mild.

GOOD

Himachol, Ashley Road Poole- food and service OK

Westbourne Tandoori – food and service OK

Bath – The Eastern Eye . It’s in an amazing building, but in fact it’s too big for a good dining experience, the service is OK, and the food only OK. When I’m in Bath I prefer to visit YumYum Thai.

OK

Wimborne: red fort: OK food, strange service, nice decor
Penn Hill Rajasthan: Used to be a favourite but became very expensive with over sweet food. Went again recently and it not bad, the Zafrani is still great, but the rest was nothing special.

POOR
Westbourne: Indis: poor food but GREAT customer service
The Tatnam Tandoori. The name says it all really.
Parkstone: Gate of India. Service OK but food boring. Seemed like curry cooked by an English person (sorry!). Recommended on the net, but it was by someone who ordered a Passanda, so I rest my case.

Sammy’s – food not as good as it was, service and clientele odd

Blandford Forum – Simla Tandoori – Poor food, service OK

Taj Mahal 2 – Poole High Street, owned by the same family as the excellent Westbourne Taj Mahal, but different menu and different chef. Sorry guys, but not at all the same!

AVOID

Wimborne Tandoori – poor service and poor food. Multiple Toilet Visits (MTV) for 24 hours after.

April 8, 2010

Marmite vs. Beige!

Filed under: Assertiveness, News and Politics, Random stuff - uncategorisable — chriscroft @ 1:41 pm

Rather than dumbing down, I think the world is being dumbed down by the Beige People.

Some questions:

  1. Is it better to have something (say a training course, or TV comedy, or piece of public art) that is excellent and brilliant and which 19/20 people love and one person hates, or is it better to have a safe one that nobody objects so because it’s got nothing you could have an emotion about?
    In a world where only the complaints get counted, you’d go for option 2 wouldn’t you?
    But what a shame!
    It’s a victory for the Beige People, and a victory for the one over the 19.  Can that be right?
  2. If 9/10 people are not offended, but one person is, then is something offensive?  I think probably yes, we have to look after all minorities and all varieties of view.  But what if it’s one in a thousand?  At one point do we say “We’re having a bit of marmite, and not everyone will like it, but at least let us have our fun, in fact have the tolerance to let us Marmite Eaters  do things our way, and if you don’t like it well don’t watch, or ignore us for a bit, but don’t stop us and force us to paint our world beige.
  3. Surely the definition of offensive can’t be “If someone somewhere finds it offensive” – because you’ll always find someone who doesn’t like something.  There has to be a test of reasonableness in all this, surely?
  4. If nobody is offended, but somebody thinks that others might possibly potentially be offended, does that count as offensive?
  5. In a world where children are starving, AIDS is rampant, pollution and water shortages threaten our environment, people are chopping down the amazon and murdering elephants and tigers and whales, racism and homophobia are commonplace, etc, how can it be that bad to use a word like shit instead of poo?  It’s only a name, for a natural thing, what’s all the fuss about?  Don’t start me on brain-storming or blackboards or chairman!  Come on beige people, get it in proportion!  Put your energies into being offended about something important!
  6. If someone can’t hear the word shit without being offended, how do they get through just one day in this world?  (…and what if they step in some?)

End of rant!

(if you liked it, forward the link to a friend!)

Career Advice

Filed under: Careers, Happiness, Random stuff - uncategorisable — Tags: , , , — chriscroft @ 11:46 am

I often get asked about careers, but it’s really not my specialist subject. Mine’s been mad! Just because it’s worked out well for me in the end doesn’t mean I had a plan, or that I know what other people should do. Though I have thought about it a lot, and I do think it’s really important to think about and get right, and yet it somehow goes below the radar of most schools and most people. Scientific approaches to choice of first job and then for career planning seem pretty scarce.
So here are my thoughts, which I hope may help someone somewhere:

  1. If you’re not happy, change something, anything, just don’t keep plodding along through life unhappy
  2. You only get one life, and you’re working for 5 days a week, so you MUST enjoy your work, otherwise the price is too high even if it’s well paid
  3. When thinking of making a change, check within your existing organisation first – they may be more flexible than you realise, and if you don’t ask you don’t get
  4. We spend up to our earnings, so a bit of a pay cut in order to do your ideal job may well be fine.  Don’t assume you can’t live on less money.
  5. Happiness is ore important than money, and doing a job you love may well lead to better pay in the end anyway.  Put happiness first.  (People say that’s not realistic, but I halved my pay when I went from management to training, and a) I did live on it and b) it has worked out better financially in the long run, so I’m not just talking about theories here
  6. Look for the three way sweet spot – something you enjoy, and are good at, and can get decently paid for
  7. Take a test, even if you have to pay.  Although it’s harder to go from person to job (what’s the best job for this person) than it is from job to person (can this person do this job) it can still be done, but needs a skilled person rather than a computer to tell you which jobs you’d be good for and which ones you should avoid.  Certainly they can tell you if your suggested jobs would suit you, and if they care good they can say “Being the type of person you are, you would be good at…”  I reckon £300 for your future working life is cheap at the price.
  8. Sign up with some good employment agencies and see what they have that would suit you.
  9. Self employment is not for everyone.  though I would just add that it’s not as insecure as people think – you are spread over many customers rather than being at the potential whim of one boss or the financial dependence of one company.  But to be self employed successfully6 you need to be able to do and sell – many people are good at one or the other but not both.
  10. If you have a plan for making money as a living, try it part time –  evenings, weekends – and then you can find out whether it’s a goes financially and also whether you’d enjoy doing it full time.  sometimes things that are great as hobbies are not such fun as a full time job.

Good luck!

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