Richard Bloomfield's Blog

Technology, Cycling and Singing in Dublin

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Your 10 tips for how to write the best blog post

  1. Everyone loves a list. Don’t bother writing in paragraphs – nobody will read it! On the modern interweb people crave bite-sized chunks.
  2. Pick a number – any number. Tell people how many things will be in your list, so that their expectations are set. Some classic examples include: 3 steps to heaven, 50 ways to leave your lover, 12 days of Christmas
  3. Make it personal. People are more likely to click on links that begin with the word “You” or “Your”, as they will think it’s about them.
  4. Make it a question. People want content to address a specific question they need to solve, so always include one of the following words in your title: how, when, where, who, what, why
  5. Positive Adjectives. People don’t want to read a good list – they want to read a great list! Use overly-positive adjectives to heighten the importance of what you’re saying.
  6. Stick to the point. Don’t deviate off-topic in the middle of the list and start talking about something else.
  7. Always back up your laptop. See point 6.
  8. Try not to run out of content. It can be tempting to pad out the latter items in the list with waffle, if you’ve run out of things to say.
  9. Save the best for last. You want to end your list with your strongest point, so that it ends on a high.
  10. Recap and recycle. If you run out of things to say, repeat some of your former points, such as creating a numbered list, beginning with you or yours, with a question and a positive adjective.
  11. Never write too many steps!

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Two months with a OnePlus One

There’s been a lot of hype surrounding the release of the OnePlus One mobile phone since it was announced just over a year ago.

Even today the Chinese manufacturer still maintains a certain air of mystery and supposed exclusivity by maintaining an invite-only means of ordering. They also run promotions every now and again to enable people without an invite to order, such as the one-hour sale they had at the end of October – and that’s how I got mine.

The OnePlus One is not sold in high street or online shops – it’s only available to order from the manufacturer’s website. It’s also not on sale in Ireland, but you can easily use Parcel Motel to bypass delivery restrictions.

I wasn’t 100% convinced I’d like this phone before I ordered it.  I was worried that the handset would be too big, because it has a 5.5 inch screen – a significant step up in size from my old 5 inch Google Nexus 5. But in actual usage it feels very comfortable in my hand. I can just-about operate it with one hand, but the far edges of the screen are a bit of a stretch. I’d also say that it occasionally digs into me when I’m sat down with it in my jeans pocket.

The screen and camera are both better quality than my previous phone, and everything just seems to run a bit quicker.  But by far the biggest improvement over other smartphones I’ve had is the battery life.  I fiddle with my phone pretty-much all day, and I found that after a year’s usage of my Nexus 5 that the battery was running down by late afternoon.  Not so with the OnePlus One, which has a huge battery capacity.  I’ve never come close to running out of battery, even when I’m out of the house for 12-14 hours.

One other difference the OnePlus One has over its rivals is the operating system.  It run something called CyanogenMod, which is a variant of Android. However, there’s no steep learning curve when switching from other Android phones – it’s just like Android, but with a bunch of extra options and features available.

The price is also a bargain in comparison to other mobiles.  My 64GB model cost £269 (about €360 at today’s exchange rate), but the 16GB version cost just £229 (€305).  That’s compared against €699 for the cheapest iPhone 6 from the Apple store, or about €650 for a Samsung Galaxy S5.

All in all, I’m very happy with the phone, and would recommend getting one if you are able.

4G/LTE Restrictions in Ireland

One thing to note with the OnePlus One is that it only supports a limited number of 4G (LTE) frequencies. It supports bands 1, 3, 4, 7, 17, 38 and 40.  Currently in Ireland, Vodafone uses band 20, Meteor uses bands 3 and 20, and 3 use band 3.

So you should be fine to connect using 4G with Meteor or 3, but if you’re with Vodafone you’ll have to make do with 3G.  Having said that, I’m with Vodafone, and I get download speeds of 15 or 16 Mbps on the 3G HSPDA, so I can totally live without 4G.

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Help couriers and delivery drivers find your location with PinLogic

PinLogic are an Irish company based in Co Mayo that are trying to help couriers and delivery drivers locate their customers easily and efficiently.

pinlogic-205638-h900The service makes use of the GPS location tracking available in smartphones to pinpoint exactly where a customer is located, so that delivery drivers don’t waste time and fuel driving around trying to find an address.

The delivery driver uses a smartphone app to send an SMS to the customer.  The customer then clicks on a URL in the SMS, which opens a web page. The web page then uses the GPS in the phone to find the location, and sends it to the delivery driver.  The exact location is then plotted on a map in the driver’s app.

It’s quite a simple idea, but an effective one – and it could be especially useful for rural deliveries, or where a driver isn’t familiar with an area.  And with Ireland’s supposed new postcode system not showing any signs of appearing soon, this is a great solution.

However, I would like to see the service expanded to include more customer information. At present the service is focused on providing an accurate location to a delivery driver.  But as anyone who’s ever waited in at home for a delivery knows well, it would also be great if the customer could track where the delivery driver is located.

Hailo seem to do this two-way information quite well.  The taxi driver gets an accurate pickup location when the cab is booked, and the passenger can also track the approaching taxi and keep an eye out for it.

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Why I won’t by buying the Nexus 6

I’ve been a fan of the Google Nexus phones for a couple of years, and have written in the past about getting my hands on a Nexus 4 and a Nexus 5 before they were available in Ireland. And like of lot of other fans, I was quite excited to learn what was coming next.

The major attraction of the Nexus mobiles is that you were able to get a top-performing phone at a discount price, but with the new Nexus 6 announced yesterday, you’re still getting a top-performing phone but it’s now got a premium price tag attached. And, let’s face it, the screen is way too big!

With the Nexus 6, they have deviated from a winning formula, and potentially upset a lot of fans.  The whole point of getting a Nexus 4 or Nexus 5 was that you could ditch those expensive mobile contracts, buy a reasonably-priced smartphone SIM-free for about €350, and save a fortune over the life of a phone.  The Nexus 6 price is more likely to be cost €650 SIM-free in Ireland – almost double.

It’s interesting that Google still intends to keep selling the Nexus 5, which is still a strongly performing phone, even if it is a year old now. It understands that a lot of people are not interested in the ‘phablet’ sized Nexus 6, and so have kept the Nexus 5 available for sale.

But here’s the thing… I’m an early adopter of technology, and I like to feel that I have the ‘latest and greatest’ technology, and have got used to replacing my mobile every year. But at the moment, I have no upgrade path. I have no motivation to put my hand in my pocket and hand over some money.

So for now, it seems I’ll be keeping hold of my Nexus 5 – which will probably come as bad news to my wife, who had plans to take it off me once I upgraded.

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Irish Budget 2015

It’s budget day here in Ireland, and the official news of any changes to taxation or public spending will start to come in from about 2.30pm onwards. And so it’s a perfect opportunity to try out the Live Blogging plugin:


 

14.34

Increased spending:

  • Capital Expenditure increased by €3.5 billion next year
  • Social Housing investment of €2.2 billion over 3 years

Also selling off Bord Gais for about €400 million.

14.29

So, the Universal Social Charge (USC) rates are changing:

  • 2% rate is being reduced to 1.5%
  • 4% rate is being reduced to 3.5%
  • New 8% rate for people on incomes over €70,000
  • New 11% rate for people on incomes over €100,000

Sadly I don’t earn enough to pay either the 8% or 11% rates!

14.20

€10 for a packet of fags!

14.19

Reduction to the Universal Social Charge as well!  Hurrah!  And increases in the Income Tax threshold (though not by much), and a 1% drop in the upper rate of Income Tax from 41% to 40%.

With all these giveaways, I’m probably now about €2 a month better off!

14.17

We’re also getting tax relief on Water Charges, which is, in effect, a tax.  Tax relief on a tax?  That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but if it means paying less money to the government then I’ll take it.  So basically, I won’t have to pay income tax on the Water Charges – so that will, for those who pay upper rate tax, cost about 40% less than expected.

14.12

Oh look, we’re finally getting rid of the Pension Levy.  The 0.6% tax on your supposed tax-free pension pot. Hopefully now, when I retire, my pension will be worth more than I paid into it!

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