Back in 2013, my dad pulled out from the attic my collection of Star Wars toys. I have quite a few! Some of the plastic isn’t in great shape, but these were well-used toys. I present a gallery full of the wonder from my childhood.

We start off with Star Wars, then look at at various odds and sods.

Ol’ Darth contains a surprise..

I loved Basil Brush as a kid, and even had a puppet of my own..

Then there was the 6 million dollar man.

Then some other oddments..

And finally, more vehicles..

Why can’t all trains be this empty?

I thought I’d check out SWR’s streaming video service on Friday on my way home from work. You have to be connected to the onboard Wi-Fi and have the SWR app installed on your phone. If you’re using CloudFlare’s 1.1.1.1 app, you’ll need to disable (or at least pause it) during your streaming experience.

There’s a reasonable choice of films including Darkest Hour, but I ask myself how long are you going to be on the train in order to watch a whole film? And can you pause/pick up the film later? Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try.

Free porn too?

Meanwhile, I laughed long and hard (ooer missus) at the news that an SWR guard accidentally broadcast pornography over the tannoy system. That would certainly perk up the weariest of travellers.

Ticket to fail?

After not being about to get through to SWR’s smartcard services by phone and being asked to email them instead, I still have not received any kind of response to my query about replacing my smartcard after nearly a month. Pathetic.

I recently swapped all my Amazon Alexa devices for Google’s equivalent. I signed up for a family Spotify Premium account for one month just to get a Google Home Mini (RRP £49.99, I got it for £14.99 along with a month’s Spotify Premium).

It’s small, cute and stupid as hell – but I like it!

But I was keen on replacing Amazon’s Echo Show which was about as much good as a donkey parade on the moon. It couldn’t play YouTube videos (in fact it was practically restricted to its own Prime Video service), and I had to remember to ask Alexa to ask Hive if I wanted to perform any Hive related functions. You should NOT have to remember syntax with these devices at all. As I had it in my kitchen, I tried to use it to help me with cooking and recipes. That was a disaster. So Echo Show went away.

With the Nest Home Hub, it’s much smaller than the Echo Show. It’s extremely small and cute, in fact. With the just the power cable trailing at the back, the Home Hub is barely there. But you’ll soon notice it – especially as it can work with Google Photos to display a photo album when the Home Hub isn’t doing anything.

Getting my photos from Apple’s Photo service into Google Photos was a bit of a pain, but with the Backup & Sync app for MacOS, I disabled RAW files and other things and just let it do its stuff. And it seems to work well enough. So every time I take a photo with my iPhone XS, it’ll be uploaded to iCloud Photo Library and then downloaded to my Mac when I next use it. Google will then detect the change and upload any new photos or videos to Google Photos.

Controlling smart devices with the Home Hub is a much more pleasant experience than Alexa. I can just ask it to turn the living room lights on or off and it’ll do it. Or ask it to set a temperature and it’ll instruct my Hive thermostat to turn the heating on or off as appropriate. The only problem I stumbled across is that I had the smart plug for the Hive controller in my living room. If I instructed Home Hub to turn off Living Room, it’ll turn EVERYTHING off in the living room – including the plug – and there goes the Hive system. So I moved the smart plug out of the Living Room category and it sits by itself where I can’t accidentally turn it off.

As for other things, watching YouTube is fine. All4 is supported, so I can watch Channel 4 TV shows too. And Channel 5. It’s like having a very small TV in the kitchen. If I were to get to the Nest Hub Max, it’d make for a much better kitchen TV with its 10 inch screen, but for the moment this is fine.

Radio is fine too – just ask Home Hub to play X channel and it’ll do so. The biggest problem I have with the Home Hub is G Suite integration. I’m using the beta integration right now, but like its consumer cousin, the Home Hub is not able to inform you of all-day events.

As for other things, it either works or it doesn’t. I’ve found that the Google Assistant is not intelligent enough to figure out many things and you do need to be very specific in the commands you give it. In that sense, it is at the same level as Alexa’s comprehension. Google Assistant also misunderstands me from time to time and there have been some quite hilarious “conversations” as a result. A simple “hello” translated into “Get You” for some reason.

I’ll give you an example of trying to find information. My dad recently told me the origin of the phrase “time immemorial”. Now, we know this to be something so long past that people have forgotten. But the origin of that phrase comes from 1275 by the first Statute of Westminster, the time of memory was limited to the reign of King Richard I, beginning 6 July 1189, the date of the king’s accession.  Since that date, proof of unbroken possession or use of any right made it unnecessary to establish the original grant under certain circumstances. Wikipedia can tell me that, but Google Assistant can’t.

I think Digital Assistants have got a loooooooooong way to go before they can be considered truly useful. But I have faith in Google. Their Duplex technology looks intriguing (even if restaurants aren’t taking Google identified calls) and they’re going to be making the Google Assistant small enough to work from a mobile phone, so data is never transmitted back to Google. I only hope that the same is going to be said with these devices too – privacy is everybody’s right and processing on the device would go some way to prove Google is being consumer conscious.

On the other hand, I can see how great a device like the Nest Home Hub would be in the office. Assuming limitations are removed by the type of calendar entries it can process, the Nest Home Hub would make a very good personal desk assistant. The Nest Hub Max will feature a very cool video conference system through Google Duo – but I hope Google will also consider supporting Google Meet (for G Suite) as well.

I’ve just returned from spending a very pleasant week with my dad. While going through a few things, he came across a suitcase full of buses, planes and cars that I had as a child. I was absolutely obsessed with transport as a kid and buses were my favourite. I had a mat with painted roadways on it that I used to “drive” my buses around. Whenever dad went travelling abroad I’d always ask him if he could bring back a bus or plane – and I have quite an extensive collection of toy buses, coaches and police vehicles from Japan and Hong Kong as a result.

My grandfather Drake had built me my very own garage and parking playset (made out of wood and painted) which I’m not entirely sure where it is (probably in the loft), but that too also formed a very pleasant part of my childhood too.

The suitcase of delights..

Opening the suitcase and stumbling across all these treasures brought back so many happy memories. Many of the vehicles aren’t in too bad shape either.

A very small selection of my bus collection

Also amongst the collection were a few aircraft. My childhood holidays were mainly spent in the UK (Canvey Island for the most part), but when we went abroad, we usually flew Caledonian Airways (which is part of British Airways).

Then we come across a relic of the small screen back in the 1980’s: Buck Rogers in the 25th Century:

And finally..

My “lambo” collection

It’s genuinely pleasing to see the local high street make way for the unique restaurant that is not offering the usual fast food stodge. Where I live, the number of restaurants has been reduced to one Indian eat-in (and take-away) followed by kebab houses, chicken houses, fish and chips palaces, pizza take-away shops and multiple Chinese take-aways.

My father took me for an early birthday dinner yesterday at a Portuguese place that’s in the town where I grew up. The high street there is virtually unrecognisable now. But tucked out the way, behind one of the few remaining pubs in the area is a smartly presented restaurant that’s clearly very popular.

Grilled seabass and vegetables

It was a fantastic dinner. I started off with pork pieces and clams and potatoes, with a nice gravy to accompany it. This was followed by grilled seabass and veg. And it was absolutely delicious. My dad had clams for his starter and the same as me for the main course. This was accompanied by a light and fruity red wine which accompanied the fish well. We followed this up with coffee and a Portuguese brandy which was seriously smooth. I had a dessert (a chocolate mousse with Amaretto).

The Joys Of Commuting
(London Underground Edition)

After a great night, it’s a pity, then, that this morning I was greeted by the following scene at Notting Hill Gate in an attempt to see if I could sit down on the tube for as long as possible on the Central line before changing to the District line. Alas, Circle line problems were the cause of the delay. We were standing on the stairs to avoid having to stand with the rest of the crowd. Thankfully a District line train came 4 minutes after this and there was even a seat!

Isn’t commuting fun?