Disclaimer: I am not buying one of these but the topic came up in discussion with the eldest child.

The latest iPhones are out and the numbers for me to switch to a contract continue to be a no brainer. Buying the phone outright upfront is the only sensible thing saving anywhere from £233 to £1,079 over the typical 24-month contracts. Interesting to note that O2 has shot into the lead as most expensive. Virgin is the cheapest. Interesting to note that there are no “unlimited” data deals any more.

Contract Phone Cost Monthly Cost Months 2-yr TOTAL Extra Cost Data Minutes Texts
3 PAYG £799 £15.00 24 £1,159 £0 Unlimited 200 Unlimited
Virgin £0 £58.00 24 £1,392 £233 40GB 5000 Unlimited
3 £79 £70.00 24 £1,759 £600 100GB Unlimited Unlimited
EE £10 £73.00 24 £1,762 £603 100GB Unlimited Unlimited
Vodafone £30 £76.00 24 £1,854 £695 60GB Unlimited Unlimited
O2 £30 £92.00 24 £2,238 £1,079 50GB Unlimited Unlimited

My Three.co.uk PAYG £15 I have had for many years back to when the iPhone 5 came out. Your PAYG mileage may vary. I do not make that many calls so 200 minutes for me is fine. YMMV.

So, as every, do your research, choose wisely, don’t just get another contract unless you really have no other option.

It’s taken me 5-hours of effort over the last day or two to get my webcam correctly reporting a picture for my weather station.

Problem:  The Wunderground FTP process has stopped working with no sign of a resolution. I needed to provide a single image that could be referenced by Wunderground rather than FTP to their site. The trouble was that my webcam uses incremental filenames based on date-timestamp. I also needed to use the latest and get rid of any other uploads.

Solution: Use the PHP code that runs my weather page and forwards the weather station page to Wunderground to, in addition, find the latest image file and after 5-minutes rename it to the static name image file and delete all the other potentially uploaded webcam files.

It took a lot of trial and error to get to the code below. All the while reading the online PHP reference and other PHP examples to get to what I needed. It’s not necessarily petty code but it does work.

<?php
// list the ARG*.jpg files in the webcam directory. Save to an array
$ARCfiles = glob('../webcam/ARC*.jpg');
// reverse sort the array to get the most recent file by timestamped name
rsort ($ARCfiles);
// grab the first (most recent file)
$fileselected = $ARCfiles[0];
// setup the logging file and write the selected file to the logging file
// $latestfile = '../webcam/latestwebcamfile.txt';
// file_put_contents($latestfile, $fileselected);
// check that the webcam image is 5-minutes old. If so overwrite it with the latest and delete all other ARC*.jpg files.
if(file_exists('../webcam/webcamimage.jpg')&&time()- filectime('../webcam/webcamimage.jpg')>300){   
   rename($fileselected , '../webcam/webcamimage.jpg');   
   // list then delete every file beginning with ARC*   
   $files = glob('../webcam/ARC*.jpg');  
   foreach($files as $file){ 
      if(is_file($file)){ 
         unlink($file); 
      }   
   }
}
?>

I used to work, it was my first job after leaving school, for the Met Office as an Outstation Observer. This meant that I had to look out at the world every hour and record what was going on. Temperature, Rainfall, Wind speed & direction, Atmospheric Pressure, Cloud etc. This has resulted in a life-long interest in the weather.

I have had for some time my own personal weather station recording all of these things. In March 2016 I upgraded and bought a more capable weather station that uploads to Weather Underground (wunderground.com).  My station is identified as IBASINGS39. You can click on that link, or the one in the left hand menu, to see the current data.

Recently I saw an update for my weather station console including a new server interface that presents the data in a different way. This came from Weather34.com courtesy of Brian Underdown. Whilst seemingly quite simple to deploy the process of tweaking my weather console to correctly update to my own website took two days of tweaking and experimenting with support from Brian (Thank you).

The result of these labors can be see here or click the My Weather link on the left.

One of my most recent activities has been to help a customer understand where they should be headed from an IT strategy focus. To do this we are using a tool I created which, when used in conjunction with face-to-face interviews, create a clear indication for the customer of where they stand, where they want to be, what priority should be assigned to making this increase in maturity and how long it should take to get there.

I use a standard maturity model based along these pretty much standard levels:

Maturity Model Levels

Maturity Model Levels

 

This is then used to assess the current state across a number of service levels. You ask different people across a number of areas both directly and indirectly involved in either IT or the Business Units and summarise the results whilst spotting any results that are wide of the general thinking. It looks a lot like this

Services Gap Analysis

Services Gap Analysis

You can also summarise it in a spider chart.

Services Gap Analysis Spider Graph

Services Gap Analysis Spider Graph

The fun is then about presenting this back and helping the customer take action on the various areas of growth needed.

I’ve had my iPhone 5 for two years and I could now upgrade. However, being me, I research which is the cheapest phone plan for the next two-years.

For the first time since I’ve had an iPhone (my first was a 3Gs), the contract option, across all vendors (EE, O2, Three & Vodafone), is too expensive. I am currently on Three and I’ve downgraded my iPhone 5 contract to a PAYG to minimise costs while I decided.

On the “Pre-Order” day all vendors were very slow to get their offers on their websites. All wanting to “wait and see” what the competition was doing to offer the best deal.

The result? None of the contracts offers me a better deal than PAYG.

The Comparison

On average per-month I use 2GB of  data, I don’t make that many calls (minutes a month not hours), and I have a low text use (below 500 texts). Most contracts are therefore excessive for my needs.

Here is a table of the nearest deals that minimise the cost for my chosen iPhone: iPhone 6 Plus 64GB in Silver.

iPhone 6 Comparison
The top row indicates the best PAYG for me, which is the one I’ve just changed my iPhone 5 to, and I will be simply moving my current SIM into the new iPhone 6 Plus.

So it is a clear choice to pay Apple for the iPhone up-front and stick with my PAYG.

So that’s what I’ve done. The only fly in the ointment is that I waited to see these figures before ordering and now there will be a 3- to 4- week delivery wait. I can be patient I’m sure.

Today I had one of those prime examples of why I use Apple products over Microsoft for most of my needs.

I use Office 2013 within a Windows7 virtual machine. The Office 2013 showed there were updates. During the process of updating it failed. The Microsoft website listed resolution steps were to try an online repair of the product. Oh dear.

This online repair also failed and in doing so removed all usable aspects of office. Subsequent attempts to repair Office 2013 failed with error messages like 255-13 and 255-16 which basically equates to “Oh well, never mind, try this repair process again…”. The very process that has just failed.

It was at this point that I gave up and shut down the VM and dived into Time Machine on the MacBook to go to yesterdays backup of the VM and restore it. Some 40 minutes later the VM was back in a pristine state with Office 2013 fully working and no data lost. Hooray!

I will be studiously avoiding updates to Office 2013 for some time. “What’s not broken does not need fixing”

Last week I bought myself one of these magnificent machines.

gallery1_2256_2x

I have been debating and waiting to get one of these for some time. Last week I finally did the deed and handed over a large sum to Apple for a 13″ Retina MacBook Pro with 8GB of RAM and 512GB of SSD storage. [Full spec here.]

One of the things that is making the big difference is the speed of I/O thanks to the SSD. That and the closing of the lid sends it to immediate sleep and it wakes just as quickly. I have never experienced such speed or certainty from any Windows PC/Laptop I have owned.

I have the full Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 on it (bought on an Employee Purchase for £10 when I worked in Wipro) and I also run VMware Fusion 6 which enables me to run Windows 7 (with the full Microsoft Office 2013 from another Employee Purchase scheme) when I need to do those oh-so-vital things when the only thing that supports that particular business application is a Windows environment.  Needless to say I can do 98% of things that I need to do just fine on Mac OS X.

In speaking of VMware Fusion I must also talk about the fact that I tried Parallels. There was not, to my mind, a great deal of difference between the capabilities that I require on a day-to-day basis and as I was a Fusion 4 owner I could upgrade to VMware Fusion 6 for a lot less than buying a new Parallels Desktop 9 for Mac.

In short the MacBook is superb and I can only suggest that anyone else should not debate for as long as I did and just get one.  If you are in doubt then consider that you have a 14-day grace period to try the Mac and if not satisfied, and provided you have not broken it, you can return it to Apple for a full refund!

Words to be truly frightened of. Words that confirm the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mentality that leads to stagnation, over-extending the capability, and to fighting the fire of what results from your IT under-investment.

Cloud Computing (Cloud Services, Cloud IaaS, <add your chosen Cloud phrase here>) is not a panacea for all and every IT woe. Cloud, when properly implemented and implemented for the right reasons, brings measurable reward and return on investment and leads to a better way to do things.

Adopting Cloud requires that you re-visit the way you currently do things, even if they work perfectly well right now, considering both service and process aspects, and to look at the potential benefits a soundly investigated Cloud service can bring you.

If the “we’ve always done it this way” brigade were allowed to rule in the majority then we would have no Cars [“No man can survive moving faster than 20 miles per hour!”], Air travel [“If man were meant to fly he would have wings!”], Space travel [“What’s wrong with our planet anyway!”], Health Care [“The black death only killed off 60% of the population!”], Computing [“No one will ever need more than 64K of RAM!”] etc., and we’d probably still be sitting around a bundle of burning sticks wondering if the mammoth leg might taste better and be more digestible if it were roasted.

In un-related news it’s been a very nice sunny day.

 

I bought my original iPhone5 when it was first launched. It’s in pretty good condition considering its age. What was not so good was the battery. It would drain quickly and would jump from 30 or 40% to dying and demanding a recharge.

I took it to my local apple store and they ran some battery diagnostics. The output looked something like this.

iPhoneState

Basically this shows that its on its last legs holding about a quarter of its original charge and with only a quarter of its expected charge cycles left.

So I bit the bullet and paid a Genius to put in a new battery for me and they did this in about a half-hour.

So I should now have another two years of life with my phone.

Until iPhone6 comes out then one of the kids will have it to play with….

…at least for hosting this website.

As a small user of hosting, with a very low and stable resource requirement, the flexibility of service you get from AWS, which you pay for, was just too expensive compared to a traditional type of hosting environment.

So, I’ve opted for some standard linux hosting on uk.GoDaddy.com and saved 80% of my annual costs. A significant drop.

What do we learn from this? A cloud service has its benefits but at the end it has to be cost effective for what you use it for. In my case the sums did not add up. I am still using AWS as a backup for my Dropbox content (belts and braces you might say) but that costs me about $0.09 per month so I think I can afford that.