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Alternative Technology and Renewable Energy can be great fun and very rewarding, especially if done at home. On this blog I share my ideas and tips for mainly simple and inexpensive alternative technology projects.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

CollectPlus discount courier also terrible service!

 I sent a parcel with CollectPlus, but after 5 weeks the buyer informed me of non-delivery. My claim for compensation was refused as it was outside their 28 day compensation window. I must therefore refund my customer and lose my courier fee.

You certainly get what you pay for with discount Courier services!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Parcel2go and Hermes problem. Cheap for a reason!

I sent a small TV monitor to a buyer, using Parcel2go with the Hermes service, that you drop off to the nearest shop. It is a very cheap service, but there is a good reason for that.

My buyer contacted me to say that the item was smashed beyond repair and a different item also delivered at the same time by the same Hermes driver was also badly damaged. The damage could well have been deliberate, as the item was very well packed. I contacted Parcel2go using their online chat service, but they said there was nothing they could do, as the item was on their list of items excluded from compensation claims.

I contacted their claims department to complain and at least get back my courier fee, but they flatly refused, pointing to their terms and conditions. They obviously don't bother about their "duty of care" either!

Fortunately the item was relatively low value and my very understanding buyer agreed to a partial refund.

I strongly advise anyone thinking of using Parcel2go to carefully inspect their list of excluded items, as it includes a lot of things commonly sold on eBay, thus enabling them to walk away from any claim for damage. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Nexus One vs iPhone 4 Comparison

I am a big fan of smartphones and currently own both of the above phones, to see for myself the advantages and disadvantages of them. I first bought the Nexus One and was always pretty happy with it, after owning a Samsung Galaxy Android, which was hopeless, as Samsung gave up supporting it withing 3 months of launch. This made me nervous of Android, but I trusted Google to support the Nexus properly and for the most part, was not disappointed. After about 9 months of using the Nexus, I finally succumbed to temptation and bought an iPhone 4 to see what all the fuss was about? My intention was to sell whichever phone I decided I didn't like.

The big advantage of the iPhone is that operation is really straightforward and intuitive. It just works and gets on with the job. The Nexus is much more of a geek's phone and often needs a bit of tweaking to get the settings just right. For instance, the iPhone does not allow you to change sound notifications for things like email, whereas the Nexus allows a different notification for each email account.

Another Nexus win is the ability to set different profiles for times of the day, so that you can reduce the ringing volume while at work, but leave email notifications to alert you. The iPhone only has a manual all or nothing silence switch.

The Nexus, with the Froyo update, now has Flash animation, allowing display of the many websites using Flash. The iPhone doesn't support Flash at all, but the BBC iPlayer website is displayed OK.

My Nexus sometimes freezes up with an incoming call, preventing the call from being answered! The iPhone does not suffer from this and simply works reliably as a phone should. I am hopeful that the new Gingerbread update from Google should address this intermittent shortcoming.

Both phones allowed me to play my music library, via Bluetooth, through my Toyota Auris sound system. A bit fiddly to set up, but worth the effort. Both phones support Spotify Mobile and this too can be played into the car's audio. Unfortunately the track titles are not displayed
on the car's video screen, but that may come if Toyota update the software/hardware in the car.

Text messaging and MMS is just great on either phone. An Android app called Handcent enables an iPhone like speech bubble display on the Nexus. For a service provider, I use giffgaff, which is an O2 based MVNO that is way cheaper than anyone else and free data as well! Both handsets require the settings for this network operator to be entered manually.

Call quality is excellent on either phone, with adequate volume over earpiece or speaker. The iPhone has the edge on speaker quality though and this is more apparent on music. The iPhone suffers from the signal strength issues, when held tightly in the left hand, but to be fair, the Nexus has similar issues, which don't seem to get the bad press that the iPhone suffers from. My own investigations found that most mobile phones suffer from impaired signal if held in a certain way. This is pretty well unavoidable with the built in antennas on modern phones.

The Nexus has many Widgets which allow continuously updated information to be presented on the home screen. I find the news and weather widget on my Nexus to be really useful. The iPhone can display news and weather, but you have to open an app to see it.

Battery life is a serious issue in both phones. If you use email, Facebook and Twitter on your phone, this does use up the battery much faster than on standby. I have just got used to this and carry a charge cable with me, if I am going to be away from home for more than a day. The workaround is to disable the power hungry apps if you are going to be away from power sources. Until battery technology improves further, or we accept much larger phones, we are stuck with this problem.

The screen display on the iPhone is definitely better than the Nexus, having better resolution, but the Nexus screen is slightly bigger. I prefer the feel of the Nexus. It is a smoother design than the iPhone, which looks a little boxy to me. The Nexus is more comfortable in the hand and the pocket. Operating speed is very fast on either phone. They both make a Nokia seem archaic!

The iPhone has a front facing camera which is great when using the video calling facility. A shame that it only works through wifi though. Camera performance is better on the iPhone, as it manages to focus on close ups with no problem. The Nexus is poor at this unless you can flood the subject with plenty of extra light.

Data storage on the Nexus is more user friendly, as you can fit a MicroSD card of the size you prefer. The iPhone is limited to the size of the internal memory that you specified when you bought it. The Nexus supports drag and drop file transfer, while the iPhone requires the rather clunky iTunes to be installed on your home PC. Many of the limitations of the iPhone can be overcome by jailbreaking it, but this has warranty issues and is not supported by Apple. The Nexus is much more configurable by the user, as the Android operating system is open source and allows much tinkering.

The GPS implementation on the iPhone seems much faster than the Nexus. A position fix takes no time at all. whereas the Nexus takes its time sometimes. The Nexus only uses the GPS as required. The iPhone appears to use it all the time you have an app open that requires it.

The iPhone has the Apple standard connector on the bottom and this must be used every time the phone is charged. The Nexus has a similar connector, but also a unique docking system that uses gold plated pins, so the connector doesn't get hammered too much. Both phones have aftermarket cables available, but the iPhone has more choice with all the cheap Chinese copies!

In conclusion, I think that either phone will suit the busy requirements of today's smartphone user very well, but if you like to tinker with the settings of a phone, with the freedom, flexibility and customisation that can give, then choose the Nexus One. If you just want to switch on and go, then it must be the iPhone, if you're prepared to bear the, not inconsiderable, cost.....

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Friday, September 10, 2010

My problems with a Trial of RingCentral UK (formerly BT RingCentral)

I signed up for a trial of RingCentral UK, which is a full feature virtual switchboard, controlled by a web interface. The spec seemed good and the price was right so I gave it a go.

When I called my new 0845 number with my mobile, it showed as "Withheld" on my office Caller Display. If I used the same mobile to call my office direct, Caller Display was fine. Also I could not get Call Whisper to tell me which extension had been selected by the caller. This was essential so that I could tell which website the caller was enquiring about.

I phoned their first level support (in the Philippines) and had real difficulty getting then to understand my problems. They even thought "Withheld" was a company name! After checking my settings, they told me that Call Whisper could not announce which extension had been called. I told them I was unhappy and they transferred me to second level support in the US. After a long wait and much more explaining and misunderstandings, I said I had had enough and wished to cancel my service.

After another long wait, I was connected to cancellations. They asked me for my RingCentral phone number and after three tries insisted there was no record of my account. I wouldn't have been worried except that they take your credit card details when you sign up for the trial! Then I reminded them that it was a UK phone number and it all clicked into place and my cancellation was accepted.

I can see why BT dropped their marketing of Ring Central and it is such a shame that the service didn't live up to my expectations and the support was such hard work. The 0845 number was great though....Roll on Google Voice in the UK!

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Stag do at our house

 Watch "A Stag Beetle visits us" on YouTube 

Location : Hermitage Meadow, Clare, Suffolk CO10 8,


Friday, November 07, 2008

Generate Your Own Electricity at Home

People often ask me where to get the equipment required to generate their own power. Over the years I have found the some of the best suppliers of renewable energy bits and pieces and this sometimes takes a lot of searching.

I have started a small website listing prices and details of renewable energy equipment and hope this will steer people in the right direction, so that they know what they want and how much it will cost. I have already done most of the searching for you and you should be able to find what you need. There is information on solar panels, water turbines and wind generators. I hope you may be inspired to produce some of your own power!

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

New Large Solar PV System on my House

After years of experimenting with small solar PV systems on my house, I finally decided to invest in a seriously big system. My new system is almost 4kWp and has cost a lot of money, but I consider it is worth it for us and more importantly - the planet!
It should provide all our green electricity for the foreseeable future and the house roof looks great. We had it professionally installed by EvoEnergy and nothing was too much trouble for them.

My new solar system description is detailed here.

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