Tag Archives: motorcycles

Broken motorbikes, Sky TV and Office 2013


Now that the extended holiday season has finally finished, I thought I’d update everyone on what’s been going on recently, or more accurately, what I’ve been up to.

For one thing, I haven’t been cycling a lot recently. After our family summer holiday and really poor weather when we returned, I ended up not cycling for 4 weeks. I then got back on the bike and was shocked how much fitness I’d lost. Fortunately the fitness returned relatively, although my Strava times are still low. 

On the subject of cycling, last summer I read Lance Armstrong’s autobiography and loved every page. It was a truly inspirational book especially for anyone with cancer. I am torn between trying to understand that he allegedly cheated, and respecting him for the inspirational he has given so many cancer patients.

I’ve now installed Office 2013 on my work laptop and both home PCs. I’ve only encountered one major problem which was caused during an upgrade process where I clicked on a ‘Next’ button to begin installation. I clicked a couple more times and ended up installing Office three times on the same PC! Not only would none of the Office apps run any longer, I couldn’t uninstall the thing either. After some perseverance I managed to uninstall and reinstall Office again as I described in the Office 2013 forums.

This week I’ve been asked to review a social media report, which I’ll try to do on the weekend and post here. If there’s anything else you need me to review or want my opinion, please contact me, preferably by Twitter.

I had to be home quite early a couple of weeks ago, so I rode to work on my motorbike. I left home extra early and after filling up with petrol the battery had gone and I couldn’t restart the bike. The Green Flag motorcycle breakdown truck arrived in less than an hour and kept me regularly updated by text message – I thoroughly recommend them as a breakdown service.

A couple of days later they sent me a questionnaire to complete and return to them. I can’t remember the last time I completed a paper feedback form, and I don’t understand why they didn’t use an online tool to save costs – and I’d probably have filled it in by now rather than put it on the desk in the ‘to do’ piling tray.

And finally, last but by no means least, the Howard family have finally moved to Sky. It started when I contacted BT Vision, which I’ve defended and promoted to everyone who would listen over the last few years. The tipping point though was calling them to ask for the Sky Sports channels. The increased cost put the service on a par with Sky, which I didn’t mind, but I had to pay to upgrade my BT Vision box to the latest version to accept the Sky Sports channels. I didn’t even mind this, but I was annoyed that even the latest version of BT Vision doesn’t support HD channels. So I compared Sky, Virgin and BT packages. Virgin was about £30 a month more expensive than Sky for what we all wanted. Sky was £10 more than BT Vision if I included the HD channels, which we have gone for.

The most impressive thing about moving from BT Vision to Sky has been the speed and communication. It took three days from ordering online to an engineer coming to the house and installing Sky. The phone line and broadband are due to be switched over on Monday, ten working days after I’d ordered Sky. I keep receiving text messages of the latest status, and it’s all very impressive. Sky even contacted BT to let them know I was leaving. 

I’ll let you know how the phone and broadband transition goes – I already have the router waiting to be plugged in on Monday.


2011 favourites

Last year I wrote about my 2010 favourites and it was one of my most viewed posts of the year. So I thought I’d repeat it for 2011 too – and there’s a clear theme running through these favourites!

Favourite new gadget

One of the things I’ve really got involved with in 2011 has been cycling. It started in February when I was out of breath going up a local (yet very long and steep) hill, then got to June where a group of friends rode the BHF London to Brighton. I then started riding into work (13 miles, from North West London to the City). 

Three rear wheels later, thanks to the Holloway Road, I decided to go for a new bike. My £27 eBay investment (see below) had had its day after almost 1,800 miles between May and December. 


However my favourite gadget wasn’t the new bike, it was the base layer clothing. Base layers have been around for a few years and despite some literally freezing motorcycle journeys, I hadn’t used one until cycling this winter. They are fantastic and if you get cold easily, try wearing them under your clothes. There you go, a favourite gadget that doesn’t run out of batteries!

Favourite book

Without a doubt, it was Lance Armstrong’s autobiography. It’s a very easy read that is very emotional about someone’s battle with cancer, from denial through to winning the Tour de France afterwards. Thoroughly recommended.

In second place was Alan Sugar’s autobiography which was several times longer than Armstrong’s, but just as enjoyable. 

Favourite iPhone app

I’ve started using Barclays Boris bikes to travel around the City if the meeting is only one or two tube stops from the office. So the BarclaysBikes app is really handy, showing how many bikes and spaces are at a specific location. The AR (Augmented Reality) view is genuinely useful to find the nearest bike.

A close second is the updated LinkedIn app. The previous version never seemed to work without wifi. The latest app is excellent for looking up contacts after a meeting or even in the middle of a meeting when we’re discussing a mutual ex-colleague.

For outside work, the Geocaching app is excellent. It shows the three nearest geocaches and makes a spare hour disappear quicker than you can say “Where on earth would someone have hidden it around here?”

Favourite award

Without a doubt, I was extremely proud of the team to receive to a Sitecore Site of the Year award this year for our work with Cadbury.



Commuting on two wheels


Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been cycling into work a couple of times a week. There are many reasons for cycling – fitness, the waistline and generally ‘just doing something different’.

I have never understood how other commuters can do the same journey, every single day, the same way. I’ve been lucky for the last few years because I generally go into work by motorbike. Motorcycling is a great way to commute – you spend time riding thinking about the riding, which clears your mind for an hour or so.

On average I typically spend one night a week out with colleagues or clients, and on those days I go into work by Tube. I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now, and it helps ‘break the week up’ – i.e. doesn’t let the commute becomne monotonous.

I’ll be riding the London to Brighton again this year, so I’ve been cycling with a few friends [very, very] early on Sunday mornings since the start of the year, and decided to try cycling into work a couple of weeks ago. I really enjoyed it, to the point that I now cycle in twice a week, motorcycle twice, and Tube once.

The timings and costs are interesting:

  • The Tube – around 1 hour and 15 minutes door to door. Around £8 return.
  • Motorcycle – around 45 minutes door to door. £4 (just petrol).
  • Cycling – 1 hour door to door. Hard to quantify the cost.

I’ve been trying to work out why so many people in the creative and IT sector prefer two wheels – whether motorbike or bicycle – over the Tube. Maybe it’s the emptying-thoughts-whilst-commuting that I discussed above. Maybe it’s just a retro statement. Let me know if you have any thoughts.

Weeknote #1 – losing weight and launching a new chocolate bar

Weeknotes seem to be the new compromise between micro-blogging (aka Twitter) and full on blogging. Take a look at Weeknote – it’s quite a neat site if you have something to say but don’t want to be constrained to 140 characters.

Marc Holmes and others have started adopting a nice approach to their blogs, by including a weeknote every errrrrr…. seven days, so I thought I’d try it too. So here goes for the last week:

  • Launched The Race Season on SpotsVStripes – a new campaign as part of Cadbury’s sponsorship of London 2012. A very addictive set of Flash games. And a new chocolate bar (the Race Bar – try it and let me know what you think). Here’s the TV advert:
  • Found an excellent new utility for capturing tall web pages as images.
  • On a personal note – last week was officially the first time it cost more than £20 to fill up my motorbike. I’m not complaining too much, considering a bottle of water at Euston station costs £1.50 (that’s 20p more per litre than petrol).
  • Using Timely more and more for writing loads of tweets in one session, then letting them ‘go live’ over the course of the week.
  • Finished reading Lord Sugar’s auto-biography, loving virtually every word of it. Worst of all, I didn’t have another book ready to start reading, so I’m back to the Metro each day. Another reason to use the bike more!
  • Read a couple of good articles – one which said that in the US most Internet shoppers are pretty affluent; the second is debating whether we’re in a second dotcom bubble.
  • I got my data back from a faulty hard disk.
  • Learnt what the word undecillion means during a session on IPv6. (10 to the power of 36).
  • A fair amount of cycle rides (two sessions of 20+ miles) and a 2.5 run around the block. All in the aim of completing this year’s London to Brighton quicker than last year and being a stone lighter at the same time.
  • Watched that match

It’s not the bankers’ fault


After working in the City for a little over 12 months now, I think I’ve come to realise that it’s not the greed of the investment bankers for the recession, it’s their environmental bubble called the City of London.

I came into work yesterday, battling with the Tube strike (I don’t use the motorbike when it’s less than 1 degree), only to see a Ferrari and Maserati driving past the exit to Bank Station. Apparently the bankers are unaffected by Tube strikes.

Today, like 60-odd million other Britons, I woke up to see the country under a white blanket. People on the tube were wearing Wellington boots, hiking boots and clothing suitable for Everest. I came out of Bank station – not a flake of snow had settled on the ground. The snow was like a light rain. The bankers probably didn’t even realise the snow had settled outside of The Square Mile.

My point here is that the City of London is like an ‘almost artificial’ bubble that is unaffected by extremities that the rest of the country faces. And that’s not their fault!

Photo courtesy of Jon Curnow.

The future: Sidecars, Commodores, Camping and Scalextric


On Wednesday, Commodore USA announced that they will be re-producing the Commodore C64. Essentially, Commodore USA has bought the rights to re-produce Commodore computers from the 1980s. Except the new Commodore’s have more processing power than the laptop I’m using to write this article (and my laptop is extremely powerful).

It’s interesting that as technology advances, we long for retro items. Don’t confuse this with everyone looking at ‘the old days’ with rose tinted glasses.

In a car park today I found the motorcycle and sidecar shown above. Two hours earlier my kids had been helping wash my 2009 motorcycle. It has huge amounts of technology such asride-by-wire throttle. Yet the kids were so interested in this 40 year old bike with a kick start.

Whilst the kids love to sit in front of the computer or our flatscreen TV at home – they love camping under canvas even more – to the point that when we were on holiday earlier this month we went camping (see the tepee image above). No electricity or laptop for a few days.

Not all retro things seem to go down well in our house. Our Scalextric only seems to come out a handful of times each year, which is a shame because 25 years ago I remember playing Scalextric after getting bored on my C64.


Insurance loyalty


My motorbike insurance policy is due at the end of July, so my current insurer sent a reminder in the post. It seemed quite a lot more than last year (30% increase, with no accidents or endorsements in the last 12 months), so like most other people (my first assumption today) I decided to go to a price comparison website* to have a look at how it compares to other companies.

The first thing that annoyed me from the comparison website was that my current insurer was offering a policy at pretty much the same rate as last year. That’s pretty much 30% less than they were offering me directly by post!

The second thing was that there were several other companies offering even better deals (hey, I’m getting older, the bike is slowly devaluing, and last year has been pretty innocent in the eyes of the insurers, so the policy should be cheaper).

So whilst car insurance companies are spending millions of marketing pounds annually, and launching with loyalty programmes to attempt to keep customers, all they really need to do is the following:

  1. Contact customers by email (it’s cheaper, and easier to analyse), with a simple message like “Hey, you’ve been with us for the last year. You haven’t made a claim, or told us about endorsements. If your details are still the same, we can offer you a policy at a slightly reduced cost than last year – no hassle or looking around – just reconfirm your credit card details and that’s it. In 20 seconds we’ll be sending you your new cover note.” I reckon most customers would renew on the spot.
  2. Stop trying to rip existing customers off. What is the point of offering a 30% increase on the policy, where customers can go online and see the same insurance company offering a 30% discount via a comparison site?

The interesting point would be to find out from insurance companies how many people do automatically renew without shopping around, and happily pay that 30% extra in the second year…


* I’m not affiliated to MCN in any way

Using YouTube Effectively

Well done to MotorCycleNews (MCN) on their efforts to step up the quality of their video production.

Regular subscribers to this blog will know that I am a big fan of high quality content, whether it’s written word or video. MCN’s paper coverage is a good standard, however it’s a major income source in the past has been it’s classifieds. With eBay stealing a large chunk of this, the paper’s classifieds section has become thinner smaller over the years. With the Internet, I would imagine that paper sales have been falling like other papers.

MCN have been producing their YouTube channel for sometime, but usually at an appalling, amateur standard – terrible sound and a single fixed camera.

Yesterday, they posted a video in excellent production quality, and the comments demonstrate this – the majority of them commenting on the production quality.

MCN top and tail their content with a promotion for their classifieds. It’s a first attempt at monetisation, but they should be extending this with captions and other YouTube functionality. As a regular reader, I wish them luck.