Category Archives: Me

Virgin Media or Sky?

Recently a friend asked me if I would recommend Virgin Media.  I gave him a honest reply as I have been a customer for quite a while but I am quite proud of the final paragraph…

IMHO the Virgin TiVo box blows the pants of Sky+ but most of all…

Sky is run by Rupert Murdoch, someone so corrupt that he allowed staff to hack into the phones of missing school children and then paid them millions to keep quiet about it.

Virgin is run by Richard Branson who Kite surfs to work where he tries to make it cheaper for people to go into space and easier for people to donate money to charity.

Virgin Money Press Junket

Back in December 2011 the Virgin Group did a very obscure blog post asking for bloggers, tweeters and YouTubers. Needing a good excuse to get out the (home) office nowadays I figured an evening out would be nice.

Yes, I know this is free publicity for them but hey, if I’m going to publicise any large corporation then I can’t think of anyone better than Virgin (comments in the box below please)! Virgin Money Giving were very helpful to us when organising the Goodwood Roller Marathon.

Anyway, the evening was very nice, free soup, got to say hello to Richard Branson and treated to a 270 degree projection on three sides of a courtyard building. Unfortunately it wasn’t possible to move back far enough to get it all in frame and had to shoot in portrait which isn’t ideal but you get the idea :-p

You can see the professionally shot video (from across the street I may add) here.

Maybe still not as good as the Gadget Show projection though, that had more 3D 😉

2 years of Flickr pictures

Almost exactly 2 years ago I made a concerted effort to start taking more pictures. Not of anything in particular but instead of leaving my camera in the car I would actually carry it with me and use it!

Now Pummelvision has come along where you can make videos out of your Flickr album and I must admit it makes a nice video.  At least it does for me, every picture is a memory.

I particularly like the music they used too.  It’s the same music for all videos and seems to match them all perfectly.

“I Love My Rollerblading…”

I know, I know, it’s “Inline Skating” and not “Rollerblading” but I wasn’t going to argue (Rollerblades are to Skating what Hoovers are to Vacuums, it’s a brand name).  Anyway!…

A few months ago the local newspaper did a shout out via their twitter feed looking for people for their “I Love My” section.  Always looking for free publicity I replied back saying that I’d be happy to do something about my skates and skating in the local area.  We swapped details and I never heard any more, I figured they had dropped me for someone more exciting.

Last week, I received a phone call from the Surrey Hants Star Courier asking if I still wanted to do it, Of course I jumped at the chance.  Unfortunately I had now committed to being attacked for Children In Need and so the photo shoot was going to be me with full on face fuzz!

Click for full size

Not a bad interview at all.  I’ll never be able to get them to add everything in, I had talked about Goodwood Roller Marathon and the Winter Sessions at Sandhurst but they mentioned Cskate and the Arena so I’m happy 🙂

Shave me for Pudsey

QUICK LINK TO FUNDRAISING PAGE

Some of you know that I have been getting a bit beardy over the last few months so it’s time to tidy myself up.  But before I do that it’s time to make a mess of my head for charity first.

I thought about doing Movember again but the rules state that you have to shave on the first of the month which seemed a shame to shave it all off just to grow it again.  So, I figure I’ll charge people money to attack my hair in whatever way they want.  I have been attacked with a razor before and I usually end up looking very strange although my hair has never been this long to begin with.

As I don’t work in an office any more I thought I would take over Thames Valley Social Media Cafe at the Alto Lounge on the 18th Nov 2010 and as this is a day before Children In Need it’s only right to support Pudsey, a great cause.  If you can’t make it then I’m sure there will be lots of pictures after the event.

The rules (not set in stone)

  • A donation allows you to attack my beard.
  • The size of the donation is proportional to how long you get with the clippers.
  • If you can’t be there then someone else will do it on your behalf.
  • If over £100 is raised then the hair on my head is on offer!
  • No shaving of eyebrows (sorry).
  • I will keep the final look for the rest of the day.
  • I do have a business meeting on Monday though!
  • Feel free to bring hair colours or clips etc
  • If anyone else has any hair trimmers as I’m not sure mine will cope!

Have I missed anything?  So please sponsor me and lets raise some money for a great cause.

Update: 18 Nov 2010

It’s now done and thanks to all of you I have raised a stonking amount for Children In Need. Currently £222.61 with a couple more donations promised.  Thank you all.  I’ll leave you will a little video and some pictures from today 🙂

FreeAgent (inc. Referral Code)

If you are after the Referral Code that gives 10% off then see the bottom of this post.

I wasn’t sure about doing this blog post as many will just see it as an advert. Yes that’s what made me think of doing the post but I must admit I am completely sold on FreeAgent and should really do more articles about the tools I find in setting up my own company.

First, some history. Since incorporating Dogsbody Technology Ltd. I have been looking for an accounts package that can keep track of all my accounts, pretty simple I thought as there are plenty out there. I wasn’t after anything specific, extra points for being open, cheap and working on more than one operating system but wasn’t going to let that stop me using a package.

Spreadsheets: I started off this way and half way through this process went back to it.  I don’t exactly have a complex set of accounts but the bit that actually caused me the most trouble was duplication and the invoices.  I know it sounds silly but doing invoicing with a spreadsheet was a pain, you had the pretty version that you sent out which was linked to the invoices summary sheet showing which had been pain which was linked to the banking records.  With expenses, credit cards, PayPal etc. it quickly became spreadsheet hell.

GNUcash: This ticked a lot of boxes as it was free, open source and ran on almost any operating system.  Unfortunately it was also too… monolithic! Very powerful but every part of the program looks the same, it’s impossible to tell if you are cutting an invoice or filling out expenses.  I would actually use GNUcash for my home accounts but for me, with a new business and not knowing what I was doing, I needed some hand holding.

Sage: I’ll be honest, I didn’t try this but I did a lot of research into it as it comes very recommended.  Unfortunately nearly all the people recommending it were accountants or knew what they were doing, reading reviews from other small businesses was very different and did not read well.  I tend to tinker with my accounts, create a blank invoice one day, add some data to it the next and finalise it another day.  This isn’t really possible in Sage, well, it is but you end up duplicating and cancelling the old one each time.  With any edit you do being a cancel and resubmit I could see things getting very messy very quickly.  Sage is probably great for big business but not for me!

QuickBooks: Now, I actually paid out for this!  And I admit that cutting invoices was very nice an easy but everything else wasn’t.  I wanted to do a mileage claim for 48 miles at 40p per mile. In QuickBooks this requires me to use a calculator to work out that this is £19.20 and enter it against petrol. No, I can’t just type in “=48*0.4”, this is a step back from spreadsheets! There is also no sorting, if you want to enter a new line on an expenses sheet or invoice it could only be at the bottom which makes the accounts of sporadic updater’s like my myself very messy.  The final straw was the lack of support for Credit Card accounts.  Needless to say, I got a refund!

FreeAgent: And now the hero of our story.  I’m not sure I can do this justice without sounding sycophantic! I had actually looked at FreeAgent a couple of months earlier and dismissed it as I’m not a fan of subscription based software.  It does however do exactly what I want out of the box.  It’s a web (cloud) service so no software to install which means I can literally do my accounts anywhere (there is also an API with with some fantastic integration tools too).  The interface is very clean and when you start out every page has a little video showing you how to use that function correctly.  The two things that sold it for me are the support and the ability to automatically email invoices to customers as a PDFs as well as automatically send them chase up mails.  Support is done via email or GetSatisfaction although every question I have had so far has already been answered which has certainly saved time.

The bank account tracking is lovely too.  Instead of you having to type in every bank statement you receive they have developed an uploader so you can upload electronic statements that most banks provide.  The system then automatically tries to match up money in and out with invoices and expenses making the entire process a few clicks.  Credit Card accounts are supported as well as PayPal and any receipts can be photographed or scanned and uploaded against that bill, instantly keeping everything paperless and together.

Mileage is done properly, not only that but it’s automatically linked to the AMAP rate so you don’t even have to enter the 40p.  The only issue I have have had was entering expenses for things before my company was officially formed and that was a simple fix to change the dates.  While FreeAgent is a subscription piece of software it also has a lovely referral model.  For each person you refer you both get 10% off your bill.  That is, use a code to sign up,refer 9 people and it’s free!

So, if you want to register for a FreeAgent account which will give us both 10% off then use code 3flvybs4.

Freecross with Dave Cornthwaite

On Friday I spent a day with the Adventurer Dave Cornthwaite as he tried out a Freecross.  Dave is attempting Expedition 1000 (25 journeys by different non-motorised means, each 1000+ miles) and was trailing the Freecross as a possible future mode of transport.

The Freecross is pretty much a cross trainer on wheels.  Not that hard to master although it takes a while to coordinate the pushing of the arms and stop it from steering side to side down the road.  Once you have mastered going forwards you learn to steer by leaning and control is quite sharp as you have both front & back breaks as well as 8 gears so it has a good top speed!

Needless to say we had a lot of fun on a rainy day in London.  They aren’t going to replace the bike but definately worth giving them a try.  If you are interested in having a go then Soho Gyms have exclusivity in the UK, you can hire from them or even buy one!

Update: Tobias has now edited all of the footage shot that day into a vid for Dave…

Conference Bike

On Monday 23rd August 2010 I joined a conference bike for the Guildford to Southampton leg of it’s journey from John O’Groats to Lands End to raise money for Cancer Research UK (Details at http://www.cobiuk.com/).

I wasn’t sure about joining them as I’m not a cyclist but checking their website a few days before the event it seemed they still needed people for the Guildford to Southampton leg which was the closest to me.  While I don’t cycle, I do have good legs from skating so I was hoping this would do me well and I didn’t like the idea of them having to do that leg with only two people so I signed up.

Details were exchanged and I found myself at Guildford station at 8am on a Monday morning.  I didn’t need to worry about having enough people as it seemed we had 10 cyclists there with one more joining us on the way down.  To spread things out more one of the pedals had broken which meant we were down to 6 riders on the half a tonne machine!

The first stretch out of Guildford was great fun.  I met up with my parents on the Hogs Back and the lovely James Firth came and took some pictures as we came into Farnham where we stopped for a while to do media interviews and headed off again.  As expected the pedalling was hard work, not because of the energy required but because of the cadence that you had to pedal, your legs had to fly around and I definitely wasn’t used to sitting while exerting myself which was very strange.

As we had so many people (and my bum was already sore) we swapped over people and I put on my skates.  I did check first and everyone seemed fine with it (although I think I scared them a little by racing the bike down a hill on a dual carriageway).  It was great fun skating along beside the bike, until the rain came, and did it rain!  If I couldn’t ride the bike all the way I kinda liked the idea of at least going the entire way under my own power but on a very long hill somewhere along the A31 I had to give up and get in the van.  The road was horribly slippery and I didn’t want to over do it and not be able to ride the bike later.

There is no need to give you a blow by blow account of the journey down, it was much as you expect, lots of pedalling but the conversation was good.  We did a bucket shake in Winchester and got held up by a closed road only to be let through by a lovely old man who told the road workers we were coming to tea 🙂

In Southampton we had a lovely tour around the Cancer Research UK centre who had all stayed late and bought us pizza.  I learned a lot from the tour and realised there was a lot more to Cancer than just a horrible word beginning with C.

In all it was a brilliant day and I learned a lot, not just about Cancer but about what is involved on doing such a huge journey.  A HUGE thank you to everyone for a great day and an even bigger Well Done to the CoBiUK crew who have now completed their mammoth John O’Groats to Lands End trip.

Some pics and video I took on the day

Bath to Bristol to Bath Skate

This week myself an fellow Camberley Skater Hannah went to check out the Bath to Bristol Railway Path.  As you can probably imagine it’s a path along the the now obsolete railway line between Bath and Bristol.

There isn’t really much to say other than it’s a really good skate.  99% of the surface is excellent to skate on and there are plenty of coffee shops along the way to get drinks and snacks.  The full route is 13miles end to end but we skated all the way into Bristol for a proper lunch and ended up doing a nice round 30 miles that day.  Very tiring but well worth it and I’d highly recommend it to anyone wanting to stretch their legs.

Some pictures from the day…

… and a silly video I made along the way…

N.B. This is a backdated post as I take some of the things I have been doing elsewhere on the interwebs and add them to this site 🙂

Skaiti

This week a group of 250 skaters (including myself) headed to the Top Gear test track (Dunsfold Aerodrome) to skate for 24 hours and raise money for Haiti. It went quite well, I managed 3 marathons (80 miles) over the 24 hours which I was quite happy with 🙂

N.B. This is a backdated post as I take some of the things I have been doing elsewhere on the interwebs and add them to this site 🙂