I’ll post a much longer review, but here’s my take on the Animoji phenomenon – Andy Serkis in the ultra-low budget reboot of a reboot of Planet of the Apes (though I seem to be doing of an impression of David Attenborough for no reason whatsoever):
.. this beast was the bee’s knees of its time.
It got me through my BTEC National Diploma with flying colours (well, in this Apple IIe’s case – green) thanks to its built it assembly code/debugging environment. Three disc drives. Expandable slots. Introduced me to spreadsheets.
The Apple IIe also didn’t cost £12,428 fully maxed out – unless it did. I have no idea. It was a freebie.
Yes, it’s true. Everything is subscription based now. And shaving is no exception.
Being fed up with having to remember to buy expensive Gillette blades and gel every few months (£15 for a pack of 4) or growing a terrible beard, I was bombarded by adverts from Harry’s, a US-based shaving company that’s now selling to the UK. It’s subscription-based in which you sign up for a trial for £3.95 which includes the razor, one blade and a small bottle of shaving gel, after which you can choose to receive either a set of 8 blades or 8 blades and some gel every 2-3 months. It’s cheaper than what I’d splash out on Gillette stuff, so I decided to give it a go.
Having received the trial kit (it arrived at my neighbours as it seemingly wouldn’t fit through the letterbox – so all future deliveries are being sent to work), I’ve got to say that the presentation is pretty good.
Having used it for a couple of days, I am hugely impressed with both the gel and blade – a very smooth shave and I find it doesn’t irritate my neck as often the more commercial blades do. So I’m keeping the subscription going to see how it fares in the long term.
For my regular readers, I apologise for not updating this blog for a while as I’ve been very busy. During the past month, I’ve passed my probation in the new job I started back in August and what with just having gone through the recent Black Friday/Cyber Monday, the weeks leading up to it have been extraordinarily busy.
I’ve cancelled Virgin Media and gone back to Sky for TV, phone and broadband (well, the phone not so much – I’ll be using my EE mobile for the most part and just keep the Sky landline for incoming calls). I can tell you right now, the difference between Sky and Virgin is like night and day. Sky Q has improved considerably in the 8 months or so since I originally joined Virgin with their Tivo 6 box. The Tivo has been a massive disappointment what with TV programmes regularly suffering from messed up imagery/artefacts and I’ve not been able to delete all programs I’ve recorded either – they just end up stuck. The whole Sky Cinema SD/HD thing was just awful. So Virgin Media has been given the heave-ho permanently this time.
I’m a tiny bit disappointed that Sky has done away with their Sky Fibre Broadband Pro package which offered a static IP. As I also work from home on a semi-regular basis, having a static IP makes a big difference when configuring access control lists for various endpoints. But the max package I’m on is nevertheless not shabby in the least, and the lease times on IPv4 seems long enough – plus IPv6 has been re-enabled (took around 12 days after activation), so I’m dual stack here.
Getting back to Sky Q – there’s a new remote! Instead of giving everybody two remotes for the main Sky Q box, there is just one. It doubles as a touch-sensitive remote as well as being a regular clicky one – controllable from within the Sky Q menu settings. I really like this approach and big kudos to Sky for taking on board feedback from customers. It’s a real pleasure to use now. But the biggest thing for me is the voice control. I ask Sky Q to change the channel (and it will automatically select the HD version of that channel if available) as well as fast forwarding and rewinding X seconds or minutes. It matches up with the Apple 4K TV just nicely. If only we had a unified remote that could control both!
Sky Q now offers favourite channels – something that was sadly lacking last time. It still needs a bit of tweaking: ideally, there should be a favourites button on the remote to take you to the TV guide that compliments the (new) existing feature of allocating favourites to the remote buttons.
Sky Cinema is back in full HD, and still offers a not unreasonable number of ultra HD (4K) content. Unlike the Tivo V6 which didn’t offer anything at all. And the best part is that Sky Cinema is only £10 a month for the duration of my 18-month contract. Let’s hope we can do a deal again when it comes to renewing it!
For me, while I have had a massive speed drop from 300Mbs to 76Mbs (on average around 65Mbs), this isn’t a big problem. Rarely do I achieve speeds above 150Mbs anyway – mainly because many websites won’t go above 100Mbs anyway – take a look at a lot of hosting packages and you’ll see what I mean. But I’d rather Sky’s speeds with their brilliant Sky Q Hub than Virgin Media’s Intel-powered latency inducing SuperHub 3.
(BTW, not being paid by Sky to say these things – just a very happy customer with one exception – I have continually received “please return our equipment” SMSes and emails over the past month with threats to charge me despite the equipment being sent back with evidence of posting. I think this has finally been resolved by speaking to an operator who got me to upload a scan of the Post Office receipt to a special section of Sky’s website. So hopefully that’s that.)
Oh, and I’ve also replaced my Oppo 203 UltraHD Blu-Ray player with an Xbox One X – currently the most powerful console yet, with its 6 Teraflops of processing power. It also has an UltraHD Blu-Ray player in it, and is much, much smaller than the Oppo. I’ve been very impressed with it, but not so much with Microsoft Store who mucked up the extended warranty necessitating in two phone calls and a bunch of emails. I’m not entirely sure the issue has been fully resolved as my account has weird XML related code embedded in the page where the warranty info is. Let’s say that if I were considering a Surface Pro 2 which can cost up to £3k, I’d be very wary of buying it directly from Microsoft. If they can’t get it right with an Xbox…
So that’s it so far!
I spent the first part of Saturday returning the Sky Q equipment. The kit they send you to allow you to return it is okay, but I had to end up taping it up extensively. The design of the cardboard boxes they send you doesn’t really take into account the three remote controls you get with the kit, so it rattles a bit.
After dropping off the kit at the local post office, I popped along to Sainsbury’s to pick up some sandwiches and a few other bits and bobs. I tend to buy sandwiches at the weekend rather than buy bread because being single, I find that I don’t make enough sandwiches or eat toast during the week, and I often find that I end up wasting bread. Yes, I could potentially freeze the rest of it, but there isn’t much left over to be useful. (When I do buy bread, I buy the smallest loaves.)
When I got to Sainsbury’s the first thing I noticed was the usual scanners outside the entrance had gone. They were placed by a new system called SmartShop, with all new touchscreen scanners. They’re now inside the store. I had to register on an Android tablet having scanned by Nectar card. It’s a bit awkward being prompted for a password in the middle of a supermarket – I’d have preferred to have registered online. Since I buy the majority of my groceries from Sainsbury’s using their home delivery or buying lunch at work, I’m disappointed they didn’t email to let me know about this new system. That said, registration in-store was still quick and easy. Just make sure you take your Nectar card with you.
The first advantage of the new SmartShop is the scanners. They’re now touchscreen. I also found that the scanning accuracy was better AND faster. The second advantage is that you don’t need to use the SmartShop scanners at all – you can use your own mobile phone.
I took some time to download and set-up the SmartShop app on my iPhone 8 Plus. At the expense of having forgotten to pick up the second sandwich(!) – I was too busy concentrating on the new tech! Typical me. But as you can see, the app screen reflected exactly what the SmartShop scanner’s list of items in my basket.
The SmartShop iOS app allows you to scan stuff – and it’s even more accurate and faster than the scanner itself – to the detriment that I scanned the same item about 3 or 4 times because of just how fast the app was versus the scanner. If you do pick up the scanner, don’t try to scan things with the app – as this will cause the shopping basket to get out of sync. Pick one and stick with it. Next week I’ll be trying the app only for scanning.
Speaking of the app, you can also create a shopping list for your next trip either by adding items using the search system or by scanning them with your phone. I guess when you next go shopping, it’ll automatically tick them off as you go around scanning.
Once you’ve done with your shop, you point the scanner (or scan the QR code with your phone, if you’ve been using your phone to scan stuff) and scan your Nectar card. The system then works as it would any self-checkout. On my first SmartShop, there was a substantial queue as people were figuring out how it all works. Me? Went through the whole process like butter. Though it did take a little while for the machine to calculate and apply the discount to the meal deal.
It’s always good that bricks and motar shops are continuing to improve technology to make shopping easier (and, hopefully, quicker). SmartShop is a definite step in the right direction. I like the choice of using either a scanner or my own phone, and to build up my shopping list from scanning items I already have in my home.