Tag: tech

Learning new things

Me at Antique Pine furnature's superb facility in Mickel Trafford.

Times are getting tough. I’ve got a month or 2, and then my present arrangement with the Building Society comes to an end. The problem is, there seems to be no real movement in the IT Market in the North. Obviously, if your looking for a really good engineer, who will work for Peanuts, give me a shout.

Recently though, I have been looking at alternatives (The London contracting market is booming). Another alternative, is moving out of the IT field altogether (at present, a minimum wage job, could save my house.) I’ve been over to the Frog, where they have been showing me how to work the bar in case a job like that comes along. The problem is, there are loads of unemployed people with years of bar work experience, so I’m not hopeful.

I decided to look at other jobs and opportunities. Strictly speaking, I’m a technologist, but at heart I’m an engineer and I love building and making things. To the rescue, my friend Glenn, runs a Pine Furniture import business. Glenn is no stranger to coming to the rescue, you may remember he recently provided Football “technical support” to a local pub (you can read about it here).

The basic idea is that I would spend 2 days with them, and I would learn a bit about restoring furniture and help out with some of the beautiful pine cupboards and things that they have there (and like a proper apprentice, I would earn my keep by helping to unload wagons, emptying bins etc).

I was introduced to a lad called Matty, who I would be working with. He showed me how to polish the waxed door of a Wardrobe. Later, I spent some time sanding down a large dresser. It took me ages.

The Wardrobe on our left, in the picture above, is something that Matty restored (with a bit of help from me). It really was a beautiful piece of furniture. Its hard to see from the picture, but up close it was stunning.

I also met one of the co-founders of Antique Pine Imports, Rob. I was a little concerned at first, as Rob seemed to frown quite a lot. Had he taken a dislike to me ?. The reality, is these guys are master craftsmen. He was watching everything, checking every detail.

On reflection, if I’m in a server room, I act much the same, I’ve just never noticed it about myself.

I was fascinated to see Rob working on a Wardrobe. It had been sold, delivered, but for some reason couldn’t fit into the customers home. Rob completely re-engineered it, so it could be separated into 2 pieces and put back together.

While working I got to listen to Radio 1. Ive never really liked Radio anyway, but Ive decided that Radio 1 isnt for me.

Okay, so after my experiences, am I going to move into Cabinet Making ?.

Unfortunately, No.

It was very physically demanding compared to the sort of stuff I normally do (some of you will laugh and criticise, but I’m just being honest).

Its also a very specialist job. It must take years and even decades to become expert at the profession and although nobody said it, I think you must need a real love and understanding of wood to succeed.

Although its roots are in traditional craftsmanship, API makes extensive use of technology and modern methods in its working practices. As Glenn put it, its 2010 and were a progressive company.

I had a really good time, and I met some ace people. I’d like to Thank Matty, Rob and Glenn for sharing their time and knowledge with me, it was much appreciated and a lot of fun. The next time I’m in the Commercial and I see an old piece of furniture, I’ll look at it in a completely new light.

Keeping Busy

The washing machine I fixed.

I’m organising my birthday for the afternoon/evening of the 8th of May. If you fancy coming, put it in your diary.

I’ve been doing all sorts of interesting things lately. As well as my daily study on networking and virtualization, I’ve branched out into other things. Amazing though it sounds, in the last few days, I have designed flyer’s for local bands, repaired a washing machine, painted a room, rebuilt a laptop, and delivered furniture. If you live nearby and there’s an odd job you want doing, then give me a shout.

Dan has Finally moved to Nantwich (I’m off to see him tomorrow) and my lodgers leave in 11 days.

While I’ve been experimenting with technology, Ive found that windows 7 is absolutely fab on net-books. I had always believed that windows XP was the weapon of choice for that kind of platform, but if you have a net-book, and want to get loads of new useful features, and see it run a lot faster (basically, all the stuff that Vista promised, and didn’t deliver on) then I would definitely recommend it. There is a brill video, about how to install it from USB here.

The Beach at Prestatyn

Adventure wise, I went over to Prestatyn the other day. It was great to walk along the beach in the sunshine. There are still loads of hills to climb in my life at the moment (much like everyone else’s I imagine) and its nice occasionally to just get away.

Next weekend is the National Outdoor Show. Loads of friends I’ve met adventuring and companies I’ve used, are going to be there. Its run over 3 days, if you get some time, pop over to the NEC and see what you can find.

A stupid sign that I saw at the cinema.

Why do they do this. I mean if it really MUST  remain locked at all times, why not just take the doors off, and build a wall there !!!???.

Congratulations to my friend Matt Bridges. After earning/obtaining/winning 3 degree’s previously, he has finally decided on his 4th, to wear the funny hat, and accept his 4th degree formally.

On a more serious note, the plight my old friend Oliver Richardson, and his wife Jess. Some of you will remember that I met him at IBM, and travelled to their wedding in Las Vegas . They moved to the US some years ago, and recently went to Mexico and adopted a little boy called Hugo.

Jess has been out there with the baby continuously for several months, in the murder capital of Mexico. It was actualy featured on US TV, you can see it here.

Badly run pub, IPhone Tv’s and Fish Finger butty’s

Glenn (not Glyn !) watching football on an Iphone.

Couple of weeks ago, Dan and I went into a particular pub on the Canal-side, here in Chester.

The cooler was broken, so we were poured flat warm beer (we weren’t advised in advance that the cooler was broken, we just got them, and we were told we had to pay for them).

Suffice to say, that we didnt drink them and left with little intention of ever going back.

Last night, I was out with a few friends, and met up with an old mate, Glenn Miller (he’s heard every joke about Jazz Musician’s missing on planes already, so leave it out).

For some reason we ended up going into the same pub, to watch United (getting in as much goal hanging experience as they can, in anticipation of their next game against City).

Halfway through the game, the TV stopped working. Everyone in the pub was shocked, but the management didn’t seem to bother. Outrageous behaviour you might say, but too the rescue, came Glenn.

He actually has a Sky subscription on his phone, and by positioning it on the bar, around 8 of us, were able to continue watching the match.

In the picture above, you can see the TV, which had been turned off, as nobody seemed to know how to operate it.

The lads, back at my house for Fish finger butty's

Contrast this, with the Mill Hotel, which we visited later.

After a couple of pints, I invited the Lads back to my house, for that staple of the drinking man, Fish Finger butty’s. But whats this, I didn’t have any bread, and all the shops had closed.

I spoke to a member of staff at the bar, explained my plight, and they went to the kitchen and brought me a whole loaf of bread.

Back at my house, the evening was complete.

Jokes aside, at a time when we are enduring the worst recession in 80 years, and many businesses are fighting for survival, which one of the 2 pubs do you think we will be going back to next week ?.

Cold weather arrives.

Ice carving in Chester city centre

Thanks to everyone who came out on the 13th of November, to celebrate the completion of my bluelist.  Between Land-rovers, waiting at airports and trying to sleep on planes, I had been travelling for 30 hours, but I still found the energy to stay out for a whole evening with my friends.

A couple of people asked me what I was going to do now its complete. Well, in the short term, I want to sort out my house, the bills, spend more time with friends/family, and stuff like that.

Once things get back to normal, I have another interesting idea, that I’m exploring at the moment. I read in the travel section of the Mail (in between articles on British values and broken society !) about someone who visited a different city for a weekend break, every month for a year.

The idea, is that if you don’t actually mind where you go, you can travel really cheaply.

I want to do that for a year, while I plan a 2nd bluelist. Places on my mind at the moment, are Cuba, Israel, Washington, San Francisco. If your reading this and you know somewhere cool to visit, then give me a shout.

Well, if the recession is biting, it certainly wasn’t showing on the streets of Chester on Saturday. They even had a chap doing ice sculptures.

A friend recently gave me a TV (he didn’t need it any more, and it was a lot better than the one that I had). I was immensely great full and I remembered a film some years ago called pay it forward.

The idea, is that you do a good deed for someone, and they pay it forward, to someone else, and so on and so on. My previous portable TV (which the “new” one replaced) was more reliable than one that belonged to another friend. Using a shopping trolley, I popped over with it the other evening.

Its Christmas after all, and even when times are hard, there is always some kindness that we can show.

Happy birthday to my old friend Lee Sawbridge (he was with me on my first adventures around the Alps and Europe 20 years ago, and more recently, dropped me at the Airport for the last of my bluelist  journeys).

I wont be able to make it on Saturday Lee, but I sent you a card, which I actually chose myself.

Severenth playing at the Frog and Nightingale.

In my local the other night, were a band called Severenth. Heavy metal isn’t really my thing, but there music was pretty catchy, and I found myself singing along to it.

It would be fair to say that the band and their fans (who completely filled the pub) weren’t exactly dressed for a job interview and that many of them, you wouldn’t have wanted to meet in the proverbial dark alley.

The thing that surprised (and frankly shocked) me, was how polite they were. People would say excuse me to get to the bar, hold the bathroom door open.

Just goes to show, that appearances can be deceiving. Several times a year, hundreds of suited “gentlemen” arrive in Chester for the races, and cause mayhem. Give me the HM crew any day.

Rumors continue, that the renowned internet sleuth Dave Mandy (aka Dizzy Dave) was somehow involved in the death of Micheal Jackson.

Speculation is based on Dave, having information about the death, before anyone else in the pub that night, despite a large portfolio of Smartphones being represented.

For the record, it was a HTC Android device that got there first, with 2nd place going to several IPhones.

The final episode of the amazing crime drama, Monk.

Its was with a mixture of elation and regret, that I watched the final episode of the crime “drama” monk.

It ended on a high note, altough it was easy to work out who the murder was (or was that because Ive watched it so often, and got onto the “wavelength” of the writers).

For several years, I used to watch it on Saturday mornings. I really will miss that show.

Other drama, is that the rather excelent Doll House, has been cancelled. It was commented that this might be because nobody watches stuff on TV any more, everybody downloads, and because it usually misses out the adverts, the producers werent making any money.

I cant really comment, as I dont know the industry that well. Downloading certainly seems to have effected global tv listings. It used to be that house would shown in the UK, 4 months after it was shown in the use. These days, House and dozens of other shows are on less than a week later.

One thing that has shocked me, is the closing down of Mininova (a popular torrent site for downloading music, tv and films, for people that dont know). My suprise, hasn been the close down of the site itself, but the demographic of people who have emailed and called me about finding an alternative site.

I don’t praise or condemn downloading, but I know about technology. The people who contacted me, were mostly, the very last people in the world I would have expected to be “torrenting”.

I recorded Dr Who and the waters of Mars, while I was away in Capetown. I didn’t think it was as good as some of the other episodes Ive watched. That is of course from a story perspective. David Tarrent was as excellent as he’s ever been, playing a kind of manic Dr, who knows his days are numbered.

One other things about the episode, was that it raised a point Ive considered hundreds of times while watching Dr Who over the last 30 years. The question always arises, who doesnt the Dr just put the people who are in danger into the Tardis and “fly” away.

I know all the stuff about one of the people he saves might give birth to a future Hitler, and all the rest, but there and then, it must have occurred to him sometime, to put the present, before the future, and just help the people who are right in front of him. That question was answered for the first time in Waters of Mars.

Two other things Im watching at the moment at Mad Men (a brill program I started watching on the Plane back from Capetown) and season 4 of the Unit. I cant believe they stopped making that series, its amazing.

Near and Far have a great Christmas. The search for adventure continues (although its mostly at home for the time being :)…


The amazing IPhone

International Travel with an IPhone.

In preparation for my trip to Capetown, I visited the O2 shop, as this time, Ive decided to take my IPhone.  I asked if they had  any recommendations (which they did) and advised me of the following:

1. Turn off data roaming. The cost of using the Internet, inter-country over the cellular network , would mean most people selling an organ, when they got home to pay the bill. Best to use the phone’s wi-fi facilities in Hotels etc, where  available to read email and check the news.

2. Only make voice calls if there’s an emergency (and in an emergency, you A: probably aren’t bothered by the immediate cost and B: they are likely to be covered by your insurance).

3. For keeping in touch with home, switch on the phone for 30 minutes each evening to send/receive texts. Texts to the phone, cost me nothing, but texts from my phone, are 4 times my normal allowance (which is 500 free texts). Since picture texts are twice that, Im not likely to be sending many picture texts.

4. Turn off voicemail before leaving the UK. Voicemail sounds like a good idea, but the moment you turn on the phone overseas, it will attempt to retrieve the messages, and this could get expensive.

5. Most important piece of advise (and it surprised me a little, to hear them say it). Keep the phone switched off, most of the time. Nobody wants to visit a famous museum, or listen to a historical talk while on holiday and have it interrupted by a ringing phone. Their emphasis was on this being a holiday, and the “business” rules of mobile phones arent as applicablele.

On any adventure trip, preparation and planning are key. Here, 5 minutes in the shop, with their very helpful staff, could easily have saved me £150 !.

Some new apps I’ve been looking at:

National Rail Enquiries in your pocket. A lot better than calling India for train times.

National Rail Enquiries.

When I first got my IPhone, I had a fairly cheap application for checking train times. After that I, moved to a more elaborate tool called iRail europe. It could manage local train times, but also do cool stuff like find trains/connections  right across Europe (it would literally find a train from Chapel-on-le-frith to Berlin HauptBahnhof).

I’ve now started using a program called National Rail. It was a bit controversial at first, as they removed permission from an independent developer, to use there timetable, and wrote their own app in direct competition. They also charged nearly a fiver for it, which I lot of people thought was expensive (to say nothing of the fact, that this kind of thing,  should really be free.)

Things have sort of calmed down now (the protest centred around everyone that bought it giving it only 1 star in the online review). £5 is the price of a burger, and this app, has far more, than just a simple online timetable viewer.

It can actually track trains in real-time, using the virtual arrivals board, and even better, you can program in your home station. Then, wherever you are, you just press a button that says “next train home” and it will use GPS to track where you are, find the nearest station, and work out the best combination of trains to get you to your home station, in the shortest possiblele time.

I really innovative solution, to the ordinary “train timetable” application.

Classics 2 Go, an entire library of the Classics in your pocket (until the battery's run out !)

Clasics 2 Go

Ive downloaded this cool app, that for a couple of pence, offers a library of the classics. At the moment, I have Sherlock Holmes, Pride and Prejudice, Alice in Wonderland and Romeo and Juliet.

Comming back to my comments above, about trains, and you just not knowing when they might breakdown, its cool to have a virtual library of “I really should read that” books in my pocket, where-ever I go.



This is presently number 1, in the list of Apple paid apps. Its designers, recon it will revolutionise the way we shop.

The basic idea, is that using the phones camera, it can read bar-codes. It then goes online, and sees how cheap it can get that item for elsewhere.

I was a bit sceptical at first. I mean, if Ive gone into town to buy a pair of Jeans, and I’m actually standing in the shop, knowing that I can buy them online, or a mile away,  for £4 less  isnt a great deal of help.

The reality though, is a trick I learned from Alvin Halls excellent book, money for life. He recommends that you go “high street” shopping, to see the goods you want to buy first hand, but take no money (to avoid mistaken spontaneous purchases) and instead take a notebook and pen, and write it down.

He reasons that if you wait 24 hours, a great many pointless purchases can be avoided. He also argues, that say you saw some jewelry or a laptop, you could schedule it in i.e. when I pay the £500 of my credit card, Ill treat myself to that.

For the kind of shopping he recommends, RedLaser is awesome.

Im presently review Jamie Olivers 20 minute meals and doing a 2nd review of Skype on the Iphone (although technically identical to Skype on the PC, in use (ie you can hold it next to your ear !) it transforms the program).

Im using a new system to prioritise my apps. First 4, 2nd 4 etc. Ill explain when its completed.



Just found out, that the next Big Brother will be the last. I don’t know when it ends, but Ill be holding a party.

Okay, first the good news. Its the last Monday bank holiday of the year, and Ive managed to get Friday off.

Unfortunately, I was feeling a bit unwell yesterday. So ill in fact, that I had to miss my friend Sarah’s wedding. I had been looking forward to it for some time, as it was, I spent the evening in bed, and I was too ill, to even watch Special Victims Unit (Ive been going back over them, I only have 6 more episodes to watch, then I will have seen every one).

Well, what else has been happening lately ?.

Well, work continues to be fun, but one thing that occurred to me the other day, is how different it is, not working in the IT department (the IT guys at my company, really are a credit to our profession). The weird thing working in Internal IT, is that having worked there a month, I would normally have personally met and talked to every person in the company, as I was fixing their computer.

It had never occurred to me before, but I have done the same type of work for nearly 20 years, and now I’m doing something different. In the end, its the technology that has always driven me, and the stuff were doing is at the cutting edge of virtualization.

Talking of meeting people, I remember the 4 difficult months being unemployed. Signing on can be difficult, for one thing, they aren’t particularly partial to giving you any money, and the other thing is that you will sit there, listening to people demanding to know when their washing machine is going to arrive.

Let me make this clear from the start. I completely agree with the British system of the welfare state and the NHS. Although it seems unfair at times, I have traveled around the world (with insurance) and seen the alternatives.

That said, there are around 60 million people in the UK. At full employment, there are 20 million working people. That would mean that on  average wage, each working person pays for them-self, and at least 2 other people.

I don’t mind any of that, I am happy to put money into the communal bucket. If I didn’t, then I wouldn’t be allowed to be surprised when there are roving gangs of child criminals, who I didn’t pay towards educating, and now don’t know any better.

Still, when times are hard, I would like to be able to put my own hand in that bucket, and this didn’t happen.  Galling, was the fact that I had to spend ages answering questions and filling in forms before they told me they wouldn’t give me any money. Ive just been paid, and the state has taken hundreds of pounds of my money, and they didn’t have to call or fill in any of my forms !.

On a positive note, one group of people who did help and show me kindness, were the Citizens Advise Bureao.  I had to speak to someone, some of the banks call center staff chased me for late payments (I had lost my job) and talked to me, as though I had broken into their house in the night and kidnapped their children !.

As I was leaving the CAB, the receptionist asked me for the pen they had provided. He commented that a lot of people forget, and they frequently run out of pens. First thing this morning, I went over there and gave them 4 boxes of pens (200) and thanked them for their help.

A new Shere Khan restaurant opened in Chester about 8 months ago. I went over there the other evening to try it out (I had been saving it for a special occasion, and payday, seemed to be that). I was shocked to find, that it changed its name. As a Manc who frequently visited Rusholme, I was a bit shocked, as that brand is known all over the world.

Had a discussion with Darius at work. I mentioned that Id like to get back into learning German (one of my colleagues on the desk can speak it very well, and it got me thinking).  I was debating the best way to learn conversational German quickly (if you have any suggestions, give me a shout).

Darius (not his real name, a Wirral republican) suggested that I watch Das Boot. I queried how saying “Dive, Dive” in German would help anyone !.

Ive always worked in technology, but someone asked me the other evening (okay, so we were in the pub) if I didn’t have to work, would I work in adventure travel or bushcraft. Ive often thought about this, and the answer: Well, for a job, I would love to work in a bookshop and give the money to charity. I love books, and being around them for 2 days a week, in between travelling, and having sex with Princess Beatrice, would be my idea of heaven.

The old Firkin.

About 10 days ago, I was wandering around Chester and ran into Phil and Lorraine. They previously ran the Firkin, in its hay-day (only Dan, Amelia and I remain of the “regular 20” that drank in there then. It was pretty smart, meeting up with them again.

I recently attended the Chester food and drink tour. Loads of cool things on there (ill be writing up the tour this weekend) but a butchers shop we visited was really good (they showed us how to make Sausages). I bought a Steak pie while I was there.

Only a couple of pence more than they cost in Tesco, but much nicer, and contributes towards local business. If you normally shop at Tesco as I do, why not pop into a butchers or grocers shop and see what they’ve got. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Well, between my Unlimited Cinema card, Love film membership and 3G Internet dongle, life gets back to normal (and since the Frog are now doing 2 Steaks for a tenner on Tuesday, I can eat it even more often than before).

If you enjoyed Battlestar Galactica (and I certainly did) you might find these articles interesting (here and here).

Finaly, I know Ive been a bit of a rubbish blogger lately. I promise to update this website at least every week, from now on (and daily tweets from my twitter account, are featured at the top of this page).

Also, with everything thats going on, Ive not been in constant touch with some of you, as I normally am. I commit to getting on the phone/email this weekend and putting that right.

Near and far, have a great weekend.


My first month in a new job.

My VM Ware server, I have 5 different servers and 2 endpoints running concurently.

Its Friday evening and I’m out Jogging (yeah right, I’m in the Pub, working on my laptop).

Well, Ive just finished my first month in my new Job. Its pretty interesting, Ive learned loads of cool new stuff about infrastructures, VM Ware and Citrix.

For example, some of you reading this (that even care !) will think that there are 3 types of entity in the client side virtualization model (there are in fact 5).

Its pretty cool, I have my own laptop, my own server and other stuff like an IP phone and an RSA key.

To resolve various technical matters, we use state of the art technology. One of them, is a program called Windbg. Apparently it stands for the nickname, Win-debug. I personally think it should be called Windbag, which is much easier to remember.

In the evening, Ive been watching a DVD by Brian Madden (a legend in the virtualization world, I read his blog every week).


Culturally, the firm is very modern and progressive, as you would expect a software house to be.

On my first day, we had an induction with the boss ( a very charismatic guy).  Amongst the various things discussed, were some management strategies that had evolved with the company, and one was  the metaphorical  “hill of hell”.  Its Ironic, that every day, I face my own personal hill of hell, as I walk from the station to the office, up an enormous hill.

The lad I walk in with, is a lot fitter than me, so I am usually exhausted when I get to the top (although I feel like I’m getting a lot fitter).

Dave Angel from the Fast Show

As well as the lad I walk into work with, Ive made some other friends. One of them, Darius (that isnt his real name) who looks a lot like Dave Angel from the Fast Show.

Darius, initially accused me of racism.  His argument centered around my lack of cultural sensitivity towards residents of a particular peninsula near Mersey side, which purports to be part of Cheshire.

His allegations, centered around the fact that I call it The Wirral.  He points out, that there is no such thing as The Manchester, or The Liverpool.

I have therefore, spent the last 3 weeks, practising saying <pause> Wirral, which has resolved the problem.

Darius (who goes rowing) and Ro (it isn’t her proper name, but it rhymes with it) teas me by making up songs containing my surname.

The towpath walk near work.

In terms of working benefits, there is a canteen. Although I take sandwiches Monday to Thursday, they always do “Pies” on Friday, and I make a point of starting the weekend early by eating one (along with chips and gravy).

The office is casual dress code as well, which I think is much more comfortable than I traditional suit.  I resist the urge to dress like a 70’s punk rocker and try to maintain some sense of occasion in my clothes and grooming.

There is a superb coffee machine, which is free. Its amazing, the sort of coffee, that you pay £3.50 after a meal, is the stuff that we drink throughout the day. I prefer a mix of Italian, and occasional Arabic brands.

I spend my lunchtimes either reading or going out walking. I have worked out a circular route, that takes in the Canal and can be completed in about 40 minutes. Its very peaceful and relaxing.

Unfortunately (for the purposes of this blog) the company functions in a competitive market place, so Im not able to discuss what we do, how we do it etc (you’ll just have to take my word, that its pretty exciting stuff).

Overall, things are pretty good. Life is getting back to normal (after 4 months of unemployment).  I have enough money to pay the bills and pursue adventure, and I have interesting work to do each day. If there is more to working life than that, Id like to see it.


Capetown with Table mountain - back on the agenda.

Everyone. As most of you know, Ive recently started a fantastic job, and had virtually no free time during my first week (I was too tired each evening, to do anything apart from make sandwiches and pack my bag for work).

To top it all, I had planned to go camping, the weekend after that, so there was no time to catch up.

I still have loads of articles to put up, about budget adventures, the camping trip, and loads of new stuff about virtualization (if that’s your bag).

I have set aside several hours on Saturday morning, to get the site up to date, and from then on, it will be updated at least twice a week.

In the meantime, I continue to “micro” blog with twitter, so stay tuned.

Will get going now, but thanks for coming back to johnsunter.com, the adventures of an ordinary person.

ps, if Claire from work is reading this, I just thought Id give you a quick mention.


Two IPhone Apps, influenced by books.

Apple Iphone, one of the most usefull pieces of technology ever created.

This week, I thought I would mention 2 apps, which I use every day.

The link, is that they are both inspired/influenced in some way by books.

In the case of Appigo Todo, it was actually designed around the principles from David Allens book Get Things done.

With Ixpenseit (featured in the apple advertisements) the link is more tenuous.  I have long been a fan of Alvin Halls books. In various ways, they talk about recording expenditure. To my knowledge, Alvin had no part in the design of this program, but if you’ve ever used it, it feels like he did !.

Appigo Software Todo

Appigo – Todo.

Todo, was specifically designed around the principles of GTD. If you really want to know how it works, you should go out and buy the book, but a rough idea is that you capture things in a dependable place, and then organise them in a way so that they can be applied and carried out appropriately.

For example, if your in your house and realise the battery’s in a torch have run down, life has the weird irony, that results in:

A, the torch battery’s will be on your mind on the way to work, while your eating your dinner, while your talking on the phone, therefor partially distracting you, and adding in its own small way to your stress factor.

B, when you are in the supermarket, passing the battery’s, it will never occur to you to purchase replacements, and the cycle will continue.

Personally, Ive always subscribed to the big list/small list idea. I have a mind map for the year, with major concepts and projects on it, and I have a small to do list, with next actions for each of this. If you don’t do it that way, you end up with a massive to do list, which has visit and Cayman Islands, next to buy some milk !.

Whatever system you choose (and you should give significant thought to which one) its still brilliant to be able to jot down an idea, just as it occurs to you. At the very least, it relieves stress, and it always amazes me, after a night out, or a long train/plane journey, just how many good ideas I’ve had.

It also synchs with a website called Toodlodo , so not only is it backed up in realtime, but you can work on your list/lists in full screen, when your at home.

How can you put a price on a good Idea.

FYI software's Ixpenseit

FYI Mobileware – IXpensit.

In his books, Alvin talks at length about high level financial strategy, but also practical points about day to day expenditure. One example, is cashpoints and magazines.

Imagine you see a magazine you like. You don’t have any cash, so you nip to the cashpoint, withdraw a tenner and buy the magazine. The 2 key points here are A, you just paid the maximum possible amount for that magazine and B, the change from the transaction is unlikely to go back into the bank, and will probably be fettered away on something.

A better strategy would be too get a subscription for the magazine, knocking at least 40% off its cost, and “saving” the £6.50 that would have bought cream cakes etc.

The best way to do this off course, is to record all of your petty cash transactions (this isn’t half as tedious as it sounds) and then look for patterns and places where money can be saved with minimal “damage” to your personal life.

This program is brilliant, as it allows you to do that, but can also plot graphs of where your money is going, what you spent the money on (its only when you evaluate it, you find out just how much you spend on say bottled water). The daily budget feature is especially useful.

It is also able to email a spreadsheet, of all the transactions which makes detailed analysis really easy.

If you’ve got an IPhone, get the apps, and record all your petty cash transactions for 3 weeks. I promise, the results will be startling (and even if they aren’t, you will know who owes you money 🙂



The most useful features of the Iphone, are its productivity and personal information management tools. Some of the ones that come with the phone, are fine (in fact there all fine really) but some of them have been superseded with more advanced and modern tools written by 3rd party developers.

I have been working with the Iphone now for 6 months, and thought I would write down my own recommendations.

1. Contact Manager. The one that comes with the phone, is fine. There are a lot more powerful ones out there, but I just dont need their elaborate features. I did try a clone of the iphone contact manager, that showed pictures in the list (forget the name) but it didn’t have texting direct from the the contact list, so I dropped it.

2. Calendar. Ive replaced the standard one, with SaiSuke it has much more advanced scheduling, and synchronizes seamlessly with Google Calendar. This is pretty important, as when I’m planning at home, it can be useful to use a full sized screen. You can also use different colour for different appointments, and whole host of other things.

3. To do list/Notebook. The Iphone is supplied with a simple notebook, designed for note taking and writing down to do lists. I use these features very heavily, so have actually replaced this with 2 independent apps.

Todo by appigo. Syncs with Toodledo (for full screen work) has a wealth of prioritisation, scheduling and categorization features. In the end, how much is recording a good idea worth to you. To me, they are priceless.

Notebooks by Alfons Schmid. Its easy to create new documents and open previously created ones. It supports landscape typing and is invaluable on long train journeys (most of this blog, was typed out in it, before being transferred to the Internet). It doesnt really “sync” as such, I just email the documents to myself when there finished.

4. Email. The standard mail client would be fine, but I’m a keen hotmail user, and I found that mBox Mail offers full synchronization of contacts and folders. It also allows me to type emails (some of which are quite long) in landscape format. It has multiple mail signatures for business and personal and allows photos to be taken and emailed from within the app.

5.SMS/Texting tool. If its after 6pm, and and work related, don’t bother with email, the person your contacting, will be in their car, on a train, in the pub etc. Send a text. The one that comes shipped with the Iphone, shows the history of the SMS “conversation”. Its the best on the market.

Its been (embarrassingly) pointed out to me, that back when I was a keen windows mobile user, I was critical of the Iphone. Thats not my memory of it at all. I still believe that certain smart phones are far more powerful (in terms of technology) than the IPhone.

The point I made (and still believe) is that that IPhone, does much more, with much less, thanks to the practical and commonsense design of its user interface.

In interesting article I was reading about the Oldest journalism school in America makes Iphone a requirement. I also saw this fantastic article about the 10 best and worst Iphone apps. The good apps are fantastic, and the bad ones are hilarious (especially the one that you can use to practice kissing !).

thestiff We are privileged here at johnsunter.com to have contributions from “The Stiff”. He knows practically everything there is to know about Iphone’s, and was heard complaining the other evening, that the phone only supports 9 pages of applications !.Modest to the last, he sites his main qualification for writing this column, as having a boring job and that his expertise has been acquired through a need for something interesting to do.Since there is a distinct lack of sense of humour amongst hr departments, regarding employees posting information on the web, his identify must remain shrouded in mystery (and as you can see from this obscured picture, he doesn’t particularly like to be photographed anyway).

A program I absolutely swear by, is simply called remote. The basic idea, is that you launch I tunes on your PC and the Iphone will show you all your play lists and songs on the the handset, when you select them, the songs play on the computer, through speakers. Doesn’t sound particularly exciting, but I like to lie on my bed and play loads of different music, and it just saves me from having to keep walking back to the computer. And its free.

A few people (including my friend Makala) are keen on using near to me. The basic idea, is that you launch the program and it gives you lists of things like taxis, restaurants, bars and police stations, which are near to where you are. I think the program is pretty good, but it has 1 small problem, that isn’t mentioned in its advertising.

It basically looks at where you are, finds the center of that town and then provides directions from there (rather than where you are actually sitting). In one example here in Chester, it listed the Frog and Nightingale, as a nice bar near the Canal, approxomately 580 metres away.

Problem is, we were actually sat in the Frog and Nightingale at the time. The Chester Cross is considered to be in the exact center of Chester, and its from here, that the program was doing its calculations.