admin

/Steven

About Steven

This author has not yet filled in any details.
So far Steven has created 712 blog entries.

Radio

In this article I am going to talk a bit about my long relationship with radio and why it is much more important to me than any other medium.

The first time I had an interest in radio was during my stay at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore, United Kingdom.  It was a long-stay hospital so one of the challenges was to amuse the patients going through long-term and often traumatic health experiences.  There was a lot of fun things to do there thanks to the awesome staff but I remember distinctly the hospitals radio station Radio Brockley. Quite a few of us on the ward would tune into it and enjoy it through the day.  The station has been going on for quite some time and is award winning too.

Hospital Radio back in the 70’s, I am sure its the same now, was a great opportunity for those who wanted to get into the industry to gain experience, whether than be at the microphone, part of the engineering team or other administrative duties.  Another route to gain radio experience these days is through community radio stations.

From that time I got into other aspects of radio including owning a CB Radio talking to lorry drivers who would be passing on the M25.  Certainly back then CB was so much more popular and being near the motorway certainly helped.

Then I got into DX, which is listening to shortwave radio stations from around the world. Back then there was no such thing as internet streaming and stations invested more into shortwave.  The first radio I have was a Grundig Satelit 3400, oh and I absolutely adored it.  I was constantly being entertained by all sorts of broadcasts from around the world which was far more interesting than any local stations.

Grundig Satellit 3400

For a few years I was involved with the British DX Club.  I put together the publication and did some other duties.  Of course, it was a social club and great to meet new people.  Many of those who were involved in the club back then are still there today.  It is absolutely worth joining if DX’ing is your thing and people there are extremely knowledgeable.

One of the first jobs in my career was working for the Central Office of Information.  This was a quango of the British Government but acted as the PR agency for many departments.  I was in the Radio department which produced public service messages in it studio’s in Hercules Road, South East London almost opposite Lambeth North Tube Station. It was great to learn about the radio commercial production process, scheduling, royalties, paying celebrities and so on.  Then to hear those messages on radio was cool and rewarding from the perspective of doing some public good, its not as though the adverts were selling something people didn’t want.

So as the years go by radio hasn’t changed much despite warnings that the tv could kill it.  In fact, that is further from the truth.  I have seen even more interest in radio as the years have gone by now that they can be streamed online.  There is no such thing as local radio any more as you can pick up so many stations through services like TuneIn.  We also have satellite radio streamed into cars and can be heard online too giving the consumer more choice in many types of music or conversations.  DAB is very popular in the UK with almost 50% of radio consumers listening through that method.  There are wifi internet devices that are designed for picking up radio stations only, although I believe the technology isn’t that great as yet.

Happy listening!

By | 2017-12-05T17:06:01+00:00 November 16th, 2017|Radio|0 Comments

Fongo Review

Fongo is a fairly new company that provides free calling, using voice over internet (VoIP), to a good percentage of Canadian numbers.  Here I will review my experiences with the service. Note, this product only works in Canada.

This is what the service provides:

  • Free calls to many numbers across Canada
  • Purchase credits for cheap international calling (I believe calling UK is around 2 cents per minute)
  • Unlimited Canada Texting (add on cost)
  • Unlimited Global Texting (add on cost)
  • Pay to remove ads (which are not that intrusive but might be is you use the app a lot)

FongoIt is easy to create an account online at their website Fongo.com.  Then install the app, login, and start using the service.  When installing the app you can use your existing contacts on your device to make calls.  In addition to regular phone numbers you may also call 1-800 numbers for free.

Quality of Calls

I’ve had a range of different experiences with calls.  Many calls are very clear just like using a regular home phone.  However, some calls can be quite troublesome with a lot of static and similar to speaking on a walkie talkie, for example, people cannot talk over each other.  I’ve never had any calls drop but have had times when I can hear other people’s conversations in the background.

Connectivity

You really do need the best quality internet connection you can find to use this service, such as 5G.  Any other type of connection is problematic.  I’ve had issues when making calls on my cell phone when I am away from my home wifi.

Voicemail

There is a voicemail service you can set up by recording your own message or using one of the companies standard greetings.  I am not sure how voicemail actually works but I did receive two which I couldn’t review within the app but was forwarded to me by email.  The forwarding via email was pretty cool which suits the way I work.  Calls to the voicemail have poor quality of audio, a lot of static but at no cost it was more than do-able.

Spam

I’ve had two spam calls from the same number which could have been someone just dialling the incorrect number.  So far lack of spam is fantastic for me, having lived in the US it was my daily nightmare to receive so many.

User Interface

I think there could be some improvements to the look and feel of the app. It feels kind of clumsy, like a 1970s design, so I hope they will improve that one day…although it doesn’t really take away from the enjoyment of using the service.

Summary

I would recommend Fongo, it’s absolutely worth a go especially the cost (virtually nothing, depending on what your needs are) you can definitely save a lot of cash.

By | 2017-12-05T17:06:01+00:00 October 31st, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

L’Oréal Shave Gel Review

The shave product I have used most of my life is Noxzema but unfortunately its become less available as we have moved countries. However, not stuck with one product encourages me to test others.

Introduction

I do like the L’Oréal line of men’s products which are more available in Canada then the US, they appear to suit my skin type. When I was in Shoppers Drug Mart I came across this product: L’Oréal Men Expert Shave Gel, so here is a review.

Review

L'Oreal ShavingEvidently, according to the branding of the product, by buying this I am now part of a “shaving revolution”.  Well, I don’t know about that, it’s worth ignoring these over-marketed wording and just get into using it, this is what I found:

  • When applying to the face it does have the “ice effect” as stated in the marketing.  At least for a while it does have a cooling effect on the skin.
  • The aroma of the product is pleasant and not too overwhelming.
  • I expected this product, like others, to foam up but it stays on the skin as is. So I was kind of concerned about this at first, maybe I was doing something wrong that there was no foam.
  • The main advantage of a non-foaming product to me is I can see more clearly what areas to avoid on my skin. My face is like a relief map of the Himalayas, so its nice to know that I can see what areas I need to avoid without breaking my skin and bleeding to death.
  • The disadvantage is similar to the advantage. When I use foam I can clearly see what areas I have shaved whereas with this product I can’t. When you get more “senior” and cannot remember what you have done in the last minute with the shave gel you easily forget what places you have already shaved.
  • I am not sure how much I need to apply but I take my best guess.  I probably put too much on.  I probably miss certain areas, or apply too much in others, because the gel is virtually invisible.
  • Not sure if it gives me a better shave than any other products, probably about the same really.
  • My shaver does tend to glide over my skin pretty well with this product applied, but not much different to anything else.
  • The aroma of the product stays with me for quite a few hours, it is pleasant. It might bother some people though.
  • Even though the container is small I suspect it will last a long time since I don’t need to put a huge amount on my face. I would say it is good value for money and cheaper than some other products on the market.

Summary

I probably wouldn’t buy this again, I prefer the same companies Hydra Sensitive product more.

This product scores 7/10 for me.

I would recommend people try it, it could be good for you.

By | 2017-12-05T17:06:01+00:00 October 24th, 2017|Canada, Reviews|0 Comments

Denver to Vancouver

We knew we had to move away from the US and don’t regret it now seeing the country deteriorate. Healthcare was the main reason seeing what Mr Trump is doing I expect access to services would have seriously been affected, not that I could afford anything under the ACA either.

So off we jolly well went back to wonderful Vancouver, Canada – however, this move was more stressful than others on a number of fronts.

Driving from Denver into Canada was amazing, going through areas I have never seen before.  We took our time but it was worth it.  The first piece of bad luck came when my iPhone decided to do a kamikaze impersonation out of the car window off a cliff.  It was clear there would be no recovery so I deleted the data from it remotely, luckily I am completely anal about backing up.  So I was without a phone for a while until the insurance paid for a new one.

Upon crossing the border we had to “export” our car. At this point the US immigration officer decided that he would shout, talk down to me and basically lie about legislation that I was totally up to date with. I didn’t say that my husband had previously worked for US immigration or I had got advice from one of the top immigration lawyers in the US before departing. So, I just stood there, let him think he was putting me down, and of course remained enthusiastically cooperating all the way. He wanted me to give up my US permanent residency card which I was extremely happy to do.  Eventually they warmed to me and I made them laugh making them feel good they had got rid of another immigrant out of their country. Maybe they were super stressed out given the political environment they have to work in but did notice there was no picture of Trump in their facility, unusual for a US government office – so they couldn’t have been all that bad. We arrived in Canada and the staff there were amazing.

Our first week in Canada we stayed near Crescent Beach, near White Rock, oh that was totally wonderful and relaxing; the perfect place to detox from the US. We quickly found a rental in Coquitlam which was a little stressful but considered ourself really lucky to find an affordable and convenient place in a very rough market.  We stayed in Coquitlam for about 3 months while we looked for a place to buy.  We certainly saw some “interesting” places that were really not fit to live in and expensive at the same time.  We did find a lovely apartment in an estate that is extremely difficult to get in, but we did have to view and put in an offer the same day.  The process was slightly difficult as the sellers agent was totally out with the fairies, so basically some of the work was done directly with the seller who was lovely.

The most stressful experience was when the moving company in Denver “dropped” one of the four containers destroying many of the items we owned, in particular our furniture. They tried to hide the fact they did it and blame the drivers company. They also stole some items from us. We are dealing with the Canadian company to go through the insurance process but I will be naming the Denver company soon as I don’t want others to experience the same criminal behaviour. Reading through feedback on the company and connecting with others this has been happening for many years and has to stop.

So we are in mid-October coming to the end of our settling in process and looking forward to easier times.

By | 2017-12-05T17:06:01+00:00 October 14th, 2017|Canada, Denver, Uncategorized, USA, Vancouver|0 Comments

Action Comics 987

Due to personal circumstances I haven’t been keeping up with my comic book reading for a while but given what I heard about Superman issue 987 I fast forwarded to check this issue out.  It was released on 13 September 2017.

More about the comic book here on the DC Comics website.

== SPOILER ALERT ==

The Story

Along comes the mysterious Oz, who was introduced into the DC universe 3 years ago, who goes on the assumption that no one appreciates Superman and what he has achieved for the Earth so he is out to prove that fact. Chaos starts to rein across the planet with a multitude of events that even Superman cannot cope with, too many at any given time. Superman becomes exasperated with people and Oz has one simple answer, see preview graphic below, this just sums up what I feel about the US right now, couldn’t have put it better. The cliffhanger of the story is draw dropping, which for obvious reasons I won’t go into here.

Superman

About the Writer

Dan Jurgens is a writer and artist who has mainly worked with DC for many years, with exception to a few with other suppliers.  He made his comic book debut with Sun Devils in 1984. Since then he has had a steady stream of work, some of them prominent in nature.

Even though I was lot with the story line a little as I hadn’t read previous issues much the writing in 987 was very good indeed.  Obviously done with someone with many years of experience.

Review

The comic has been slightly controversial in the way that it is a little political in nature. Some people want politics out of comics but I believe the whole point of art is to be controversial and communication going on these topics. One of the issues it tackles is immigration, a hot bed issue given what the US Trump administration is doing at the moment with DACA, the right wing media is not impressed with how white supremacists are being portrayed. Too bad I say.

Apart from the politics the story is one of the best I have seen in a Superman comic for many years. I am sure it will create a huge impact if not for the politics but for the revelation of who Oz is. Action Comics 987 has already sold out, if you do happen to see one pick one up!

Score: 10/10

By | 2017-12-05T17:06:01+00:00 September 17th, 2017|Comics|0 Comments

Shirtless Bear Fighter

Shirtless Bear FighterWARNING: this article might contain spoilers, go on at your own risk.

Once again I am well behind reviewing comics but after reading this if you are tempted to purchase it I’m sure you can do so online if not at you marvellous local comic store.

The comic is by Image Comics and rated M for mature, I can see why it got that rating. The main character is actually naked but the artist has pixelated his private parts, which is hilarious.

Synopsis

Large bears are terrorising the city and the only one who can help is Shirtless Bear Fighter. One problem, Shitless is in the middle of the woods wanting to be left alone and not wanting to help society. What can the authorities do to tempt him to help, especially when he’s not interested in money? Who has control of the Bears that is terrorising the city? If Shirtless is persuaded to help can he really defeat the Bears?

It is also Image Comics 25th Anniversary and the cover is stamped with that logo.

Artwork

Michael Spicer provides the art for this comic as the penciller, inker and colorist. He does a very decent job and the characters have a kind of comical slants to them, humans and animals are all created very well.

Michael’s work goes back a long way, his first work I can find was in 1977 for 2000AD. You can view his portfolio on SpicerColor.

Storyline

Jody Leheup and Sebastian Girner wrote the story and did an awesome job. Very unique story line with humour and drama all packaged nicely. They covered a lot of ground in this 1st issue and it all flowed quite nicely.

Jody also has a well established career as far back as 1977 for 2000AD as well, you can follow him on Twitter.

Sebastian is a comic editor and writer again with an impressive career including Southern Bastards, Deadpool, Black Panther, Punisher MAX and many many more. He has a portfolio website and twitter account.

Summary

Comic is an absolute hoot, very amusing overall and I would absolutely buy the rest of the series. I wonder if there is a non-pixelated version of this comic? So if the comic is up your street go track it down.  I believe the digital version of the 1st issue is $2 cheaper than the print copy, note there have been three other editions of the comic (2nd printing, Cover B and Cover C).

By | 2017-12-05T17:06:01+00:00 August 28th, 2017|Comics|0 Comments

Review of Web Hosts

I have used several web hosts in the my time, for myself or with clients, so thought I would review my latest experiences with them.  Note, that I have only used shared hosting with these companies, I expect clients who are on sexier platforms will receive better experiences.

1and1.co.uk

This is the first web host I ever had and I am still with them. The only issue I have with this company is at the shared host level they appear to do their own thing, not going with a cPanel or Plesk type environment.  You have to kind of figure our their setup to get online, this might suit many people.  I had three sub-accounts with them and jumping from one to another was a big issue, never seemed to work properly.

On the plus side the customer support appears to be the best I have experienced.  I rarely had to contact the company for any issues.  If I remember correctly I only called them twice in many many years and mostly with minor billing issues.

Hostgator

The biggest issue I had with this company was downtime.  I get the odd outage now and again but a couple of years ago they had massive problems.  I also had a big argument with them regarding renewal of a domain for which their payment system didn’t correctly take, there was a continuous barrage of rude messages from them until one day a manager saw the light and resolved everything, with an apology.

Generally though they have been perfectly ok. I am happy with the plan although it their basic business shared hosting are mainly for hobbyists not for small companies.

Bluehost

I have one client on Bluehost and generally had poor experiences with them.  Every time I have called support, and waiting for 45 minutes for them to pick up, I get an agent who appears to be half asleep or offensively rude.  They are on a cPanel setup and if you know what you are a fairly advanced techie you might be ok but this company is certainly down the bottom of the list.  Note that both Hostgator and Bluehost have the same parent which has a particularly bad reputation.

GoDaddy

Response times in picking up calls are much quicker than any of the other hosts mentioned here.  Often we have spoken to an agent within 2 minutes.  Customer support can be hit and miss generally down to the person who you end up getting – most have been fine, now and again you get a miserable old wotsit in which case you have to call back again to get a kinder person.  The main problem with this host has been WordPress reliability, many sites being extremely slow and un-responsive, this seems to have improved a little during the 2nd quarter of 2017.

Enom

Ok, I will hit the plus points first.  Infrastructure is good.  That’s it.

This is probably the worst hosting company I have had the dis-pleasure to work with, almost as bad as US healthcare. Takes 2 months to reply to a ticket, waiting on the phone for ages to speak to an agent, rude agents, never get a clear answer, un-trained agents, get wrong answers so serious it has broken our websites, over-pricing on certain items (although hosting is reasonable), and no live chat support.  Even the company has recognized they have bad support but frankly I have seen them do little to improve it.  They need to turn themselves around, and blooming fast.  Quite frankly I wish I never head or done any business with this company, the are so much in dire straits.

Summary

So the two companies here to totally avoid is Enom and Bluehost from the experiences I have had.  Most of the others are ok but its been kind of hit and miss.  I haven’t put links to any of their websites in this post as I don’t want to give them free promotion, I wouldn’t really recommend any of them as I think potential buyers just need to do their own research which I encourage.

By | 2017-12-05T17:06:01+00:00 August 22nd, 2017|Customer Service, Technology|0 Comments

Fake News

Fake TrumpOne of the most boring repetitive phrases to come out of Donald Trump’s mouth is his fixation on “Fake News”. So, I am going to look at this from the perspective of having worked in a Press Office before.

Why does Donald Trump keep on and on about “Fake News”? I have seen all kinds of reasons and agree with some of them:

  • He acts like a dictator
  • He is a bully
  • He does it to cause drama
  • He does it so the media will talk about him, good or bad
  • He has always called media fake for 20+ years
  • He thinks he is perfect and doesn’t want publicity to say otherwise
  • He is completely psychopathic that he has even been his own spokesperson under a fake name

If he wants to rant on and on about this as a private citizen, well, he is welcome to do so and I am more than happy to turn it off.  In a government setting its a whole different story.

I believe Trump should have his complete focus on his job and not be side-tracked by making his so-called Presidency a reality TV Show where long suffering US residents and citizens are characters. His “Presidency” is at the expense of others and the people must ensure their bucks are spent wisely, even down to making obscure and vulgar statements over Twitter, constantly.  Does he not think the American public are intelligent enough to make up their own mind about the authenticity of press articles?

So, the role of a Press Office is to manage that relationship between the government and the media.  In my time I have seen the media release stories before the embargo date/time, not accurately tell a story, sensationalize a story, give out the wrong information, and much more.  Press absolutely should have freedom of access to information through on-the-record and un-attributable (off-the-record) briefings but if that trust is broken then its expected that some kind of punishment is due.  Don’t forget complaining is a two way street, the media should be able to complain about a Press Office too.

Press Offices can enact different kinds of punishment, for example, take them out of the media pool, not invite them to off-the-record briefings for a while, ban certain journalists if they go completely over the top.  However there should be channels to do this through in a structured way.

Donald Trump becoming involved in this process means:

  • Going it alone means no joined up or coordinated approach in managing the media
  • He often says off-the-way remarks that are not consistent with the overall government message making the Republicans seem dis-organised and not on the same page
  • He doesn’t trust the staff he hires to do the job properly, not sure why he hired them in the first place
  • The signs of a bad manager not effectively delegating to staff

If Trump was really serious about the media being fake then he would create a press complaints commission to deal with those issues.  This commission would be for the people, not the “President”. As I said its a waste of the people’s time for him to be dealing with this rubbish.

So, basically Mr Trump, shut up. You are the one who is fake.

By | 2017-12-05T17:06:02+00:00 August 22nd, 2017|USA|0 Comments

Broken Links

Companies and organisations do not pay enough attention to broken links on their site and that completely befuddles me. I will do a broken link check on random sites now and again to see if they really pay attention to these important issues, once site I visited today had hundreds of issues, I would find that personally frightening prospect to deal with.

What is a Broken Link?

Simply it is a hyperlink within your website that will no longer go to the place where you want it to go, it can be an internal or external page.  If a company is managing their website properly there should be a limited amount of these happening but unfortunately they do happen.  External links might break more often as you don’t have any control over another resource.

A broken link causes an Error 404, a list of all the http status codes can be found in many places across the web such as this one. It is very important that you set up a templated page for all your Error 404’s to be redirected to, this is usually called 404.html or can be set up differently in content management systems.  An Error 404 page will generally include useful information to easily direct to the content they are trying to find, however, you should never rely on this and must check your broken links regularly. Search online for inspiration, 404 pages can be an art form all of its own.

Broken Links Can Be Harmful, Why?

If you go to a website and a link is not working, redirects you to a 404 page, it is the most annoying thing if you are looking for information quickly.  For example:

  1. Link doesn’t work, redirected to 404 page.
  2. Try to figure out from the 404 page how to search for content you are looking for.
  3. Search for the content and then have to sift through the results to find the correct information.

By this point a user will be fed up and go elsewhere.  In other words your site will loose visitors/clients/customers and that could equate to LOST INCOME – yes, hopefully you are now scared enough to do some broken link checking.

It can harm search engine optimisation.  When Google tries to index your site it will be stopped in its track and won’t be able to go any further, meaning your site is only partially searchable by those going to search engines.

How to Deal with Broken Links?

Personally I will run a broken link checker across the site at least once a week but this depends on the size of your site.  If your content changes frequently, several times a day then you need to be a judge how often is right for your company.

So you have found broken links and now what do you do to them.  On the basic level:

  1. Has the page that the link goes to come down, if so why, maybe it needs to be reinstated.
  2. A devolved editor may have updated the content without considering the impact to other pages. It could be the case you need to find out who the subject matter expert is and check/approve new wording/linkage.
  3. Fix the broken link and of course TEST TEST TEST.  Never launch to a live site unless you have ensured the updated page/link works.

Some broken links can be very easy to deal with but others might require some research and communication with colleagues.

External broken links can be a little bit more complex.  Many a time I have linked to someone else’s profile on an organisations website, well, people leave and move on to pastures new, so a broken link occurs. That organisation will not tell you of the page coming down, you find out via a broken links report.  So, again, depending on the content on your site you may have to do some research, update the page via the content owner/subject matter expert, test and make live. You may wish to create a workflow for approving modified content in your organisation as certain people need to sign off and manage pages specific to their needs.

One option for fixing a broken link is to place a redirect, and there are different types that you may use. Go to moz.com for some practical guidance on using these.

Broken Link Tools

There are a number of tools to perform broken links testing page by page or across an entire site.  Many tools will also check for broken images.  The following are two to consider but I recommend doing your own research for software that meets your needs.

I personally use Integrity, its a one time charge, the software isn’t fancy looking but it is fantastic for my needs – I need practical not pretty.

Good luck with your Broken Links checking!

By | 2017-12-05T17:06:02+00:00 August 8th, 2017|Technology|0 Comments

New Domain and Spam

I recently bought a new domain from my provider and experienced something I never have before…a ton of spam.

It was interesting that within minutes of purchasing the new domain I started to receive messages, such as:

  • I can design your website
  • I can create the graphics
  • I am the only person who can drive up SEO
  • Your domain is expiring and must renew now
  • I have a business venture you must give me thousands of dollars for
  • Learn how to win over the women the Donald Trump style (yes, really)

I have quite a lot of domains and never had any experience like this. I only have one domain that is locked out from people seeing my details and I bought that within the last year.  I hear that many users of the Avada WordPress theme also get a lot of hacking attempts and spam as well.  I have heard of several issues in the past week where those who have installed a new WordPress program were hacked within 30 minutes.

Well, it got me to review the security on my website and put in more safeguards. One of the tools which I have never heard of, because I must have been on another planet, is Wordfence.  Initial installation and scans appear to have worked well so just have to see how that goes.  On some other sites I have create for clients, who have many people registering and logging in for forums and blog responses, I have put in a separate program.

The only issue I have with these programs is the speed to which WordPress runs and the amount of memory it utilises.  WordPress gets very upset if you install too many plugins plus bells and whistles.  It’s worth checking how much memory these plugins take up and review if this will be go over any limitation your hosting company has set.  If you are using WordPress for a blog or for a hobby I suspect you are going to be ok but more sophisticated websites will need to be planned out from a server perspective.

So, hopefully, after installing all this security my site will still be online tomorrow!!

By | 2017-12-05T17:06:02+00:00 July 31st, 2017|Technology|0 Comments