TFL Barclays Cycle Hire website is utter pants!

I have been trying to register online for TFL’s Barclays Cycle Hire – become a member, but have so far been unsuccessful because the site is just CRAP.  It doesn’t tell you which fields are mandatory until the very end, nor does it explain which fields are the problem after the validation has taken place.  All one gets is a ridiculous message that gives no clues to the actual problem:

Please check the following and try again.
Sorry, we are having a problem with your request. Please try again, or call 0845 026 3630 for help

To become a Member of Barclays Cycle Hire, you need to:

  • Be at least 18 years of age (check – I am older than 18).
  • Buy cycle access (24-hour, seven-day or annual) – (check I want 24-hour access).
  • Have a UK postal address which matches your billing address (check – I live in the UK and have a physical home and billing address).
  • Agree to the terms & conditions of Barclays Cycle Hire which include fees for late, non-returned and damaged cycles (check – I ticked the two boxes).

Strangely nowhere on the form does it prompt you for your date of birth, so how the hell can age be validated, nor does it ask which cycle access I want? I suspect if I got past the initial bullsh*t form it would ask me for my credit / debit card details, where my age would be validated.

So after six tries I am giving up. TFL have lost out. There is no way I am wasting my hard earned money on a 0845 number because on principal I should be able to sign up without any hassle via the website. I sign up to hundreds of online services a year and have very little hassle and most good web sites will at least tell you which fields have not been filled in correctly or show you the mandatory fields of entry.

Bowen’s mega Sygic Mobile Maps 10 review.

We took a drive up to Sunderland to spend Xmas with my brother Peter onboard his ship the CS Sovereign. He is currently waiting for an undersea cable project which is taking place in early January 2011.

We left from the O2 at North Greenwich Station (London) on Friday afternoon at 3pm and got to Sunderland just after 8pm. There was hardly any traffic on the roads and the roads were clear of ice and snow.  I had bought the Sygic Mobile Maps 10 earlier that morning for my Nokia N900 from the OVI store because they were offering the UK & Ireland Maps for FREE.

The software itself was only €19 discounted by €10 as part of a Christmas special (bargain). I have tested mobile maps 9 in the past as part of a trial, therefore had a lot of confidence that it would work brilliantly and I was not disappointed.

Note: The review below is quite long and therefore broken up into 4 pages.

The entire interface of Sygic mobile maps 10 is finger friendly, clear and easy to use. Setting up a route was a pleasure because all possible options have been covered by the intuitive software.

The first time one loads up mobile maps it opens the map at your last known location. The N900 is very quick at locking onto a satellite and the software quickly established our location.  Tapping on the map opens up a menu. There are 8 menu items but the first menu icon has a button called Navigate to… and is the main option when setting up a route.

Pressing Navigate to… take one to a menu with a number of options to choose from: Address or Postal Code, Contacts, Favourites, Home, History, Points on Map, Hotel, Restaurant, Point of Interest, Current GPS Position or Enter GPS Position. (so much choice it’s fantastic).

I used the Address or Postal Code option, which gave two choices (Address or Postal Code).  I knew the location and street name, but not the postal code, so started to type in the first few letters “Sund” and because it only had UK & Ireland maps loaded, the names were already indexed and it quickly found all the possible town and city names starting with ‘Sund’ and listed Sunderland at the very top. We were heading for Sunderland near Newcastle not near Cumbria.

Selecting the first option takes one to a Street screen and typing in a few characters of the street name brought up a similar list quickly.

Of course there could be multiple locations in a particular street, and again it lists the possibilities. I knew my brother was on a ship so seeing “Port of Sunderland” as an option was a clear indication of which option to choose.

The destination is displayed below along with the street and city name and then one is given a choice to:

  • See the location on a map (the map is able to be zoomed in or out).
  • See available parking in the area and it lists all the parking garages and spaces and gives directions and distance away. (One also has the choice to type in names).
  • Save the location as a favourite (very useful especially if you plan to call it up again later).
  • ROUTE ME! is the main option, which then shows you:
    • a map of the route,
    • the distance to travel from your starting point,
    • your ETA (estimated time of arrival),
    • time left for journey,
    • the type of method it used to determine all of above (fastest).

>>> Continue reading by clicking on page 2 link below:

Skype is down, Google Talk is working!

And there I thought my Skype at work was poked because of my new Windows 7 installation!

It turns out Skype has had a major failure and it’s affecting millions of people around the world. I do hope they can get it back up and running as soon as possible. At least they are keeping their twitter fans up to date. (nice).

Mmm, the link above http://bit.ly/edtjxB takes one to a connection time out page. A clear sign of real problems. Good luck guys.

LensHero is a great site dedicated to digital camera lenses.

Buying a DSLR camera can be a scary experience when one considers there are over a twenty camera & lens manufacturers with hundreds of different models, and hundreds of different camera lenses of all shapes and sizes. LensHero makes choosing your lens easy.

TWO steps are all that are needed.

The site asks you to enter your digital camera manufacturer, and as one types, a list of models appears in a drop down. Pick the digital camera and then use the slider to determine your budget. (The slider goes all the way up to £17990, a dream budget for most).

Pick the type of lens you want by selecting the style of photography you are interested in. (macro, close-up, wide angle, telephoto, fisheye, tilt-shift, portrait, sports & action, landscape, travel and wildlife or all types).

Or select the zoom tab and use the slider bar at the bottom to select the zoom range you are interested in. The two thumbnails change as the sliders are moved showing you exactly how your photograph zoom will look. (Nice).

Or click on the suggest tab, and tell LensHero what lenses you have already and then hit the GO button and it will suggest a lens for you.

Here is what LensHero suggested for me, which was spot on and one of the lenses I am interested in.

On the same page I can see the lens, the price, compatibility and even a location and price where I can get the lens (brilliant).

There is a link to a more detailed page, which contains a user review, the pros and cons, a compatibility list with other cameras, the specifications of the lens and an area for discussion. The entire information one would need, all in one place.

Finally, if you don’t want to use the easy 2 step approach, they also have a list by manufacturer, type, lens mount and by camera.

This is a great website. If you are looking for a DSLR, why not try out their sister site called snapsort. A similar idea for digital cameras.

Licorize is more delicious than pearltrees.

I just read that Del.icio.us is going to be shutdown by Yahoo. For me it’s been one of the best online bookmarking service for years, so it will be a sad day when the service is terminated by evil Yahoo. I’ve already started searching for it’s replacement and have found a few good sites already and have imported my delicious bookmarks into them for a trial out! Top of my list so far is:

  • Licorize:
    • because it allowed me to import my delicious bookmarks.
    • it is connected with the following awesome services (all of which I am already using):
      • Evernote
      • Twitter
      • Dropbox
      • LinkedIn
      • RSS
      • ReaditLater
      • Apture
      • Skype
    • There is the ability to share with everyone, a group of people or an individual,
    • it allows others to collaborate on ideas and projects and all of this can be done in real time.
    • have added integration with many browsers so you can share a website URL by simply clicking a button.
    • have added integration for Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera and even via the iPhone, iPad or iPod (not that I have any of the last three iDevices).
    • They have there own blog, which appears to be updated regularly with news, new fixes, ideas etc. Check it out http://blog.licorize.com/
  • Pearltrees:
    • also allowed me to import my delicious bookmarks.
    • Pearltrees is the social way to discover, organize and share the stuff you like on the Web. Use Pearltrees to keep at hand the stuff you find everyday on the Web, to discover new stuff in your areas of interest and to drive people through your web.
    • A pearl holds anything you find interesting on the Web. Click it to open it, drag and drop it to move it… or put your pearl into the trash to delete it. Every pearl has a detail window, which gives information about its content, comments and picks.
    • A pearltree is a curation of web pages. It works like a folder for pearls. You can open it, close it, browse it, move it into an other pearltree or send it anywhere to share some of your interests.

    I’ll admit the subject of my post does not do Pearltrees justice. I signed up and didn’t quite get the concept at first, BUT having spent a good few hours of my Saturday building up my pearls & pearltrees, I must admit it’s a really cool concept and linking to other related websites is so easy and visually pleasing. I’ve embedded my pearltrees into this post, but if you are interested in seeing the bigger picture, why not visit me at pearltrees.com

Hey mate, you’ve dropped your phone!

Picture the scene. Bowen, dressed as a surgeon (fancy dress),  running through a dimly lit tunnel underneath Clapham Junction to catch a train on platform 10. In his drunken state he doesn’t realize that there are at best 4 trains all heading towards London and that there is no need to run for any train.  With people stepping aside to get out of his way, someone shouts “Hey mate, you’ve dropped your phone!“.

Two things happened immediately. I instantly forgot about the train and secondly I thought “Oh my god it’s not my phone!“, and turned and ran back to where the Nokia N8 had landed. It was lying in a small frozen puddle in the gutter against the wall. My worst fears entered my head. With my heart pounding I picked up the Nokia N8 and started to examine it.

  • No broken screen – check!
  • No cracked screen – check!
  • No scratches on the screen – check!
  • No scratches on the front cover – check!
  • No scratches on the back cover – check!
  • No scratches on the sides – check!
  • No broken Xenon flash – check!
  • No broken Carl Zeiss lense – check!
  • It was still in screen saver mode showing the time, so I pressed the menu button and unlocked the phone. The menu appeared in all it’s glory – check!
  • I loaded up the Music app and played a song, and beautiful music rang out of the speakers – check!
  • I turned the volume up and down and the sound increased & decreased – check!
  • I pressed the shutter button and the camera came to life – check!
  • I pressed the shutter button half way down and the green auto focus square appeared on the screen – check!
  • I pressed a little further and off went the flash and a beautiful photo was taken of the subway wall – check!
  • I loaded up a few apps and they all started working perfectly – check!
  • I turned the N8 off by the power button and waited a whole minute before turning it back on. It came on and asked me for my pin number – check!
  • I synced up via Bluetooth to my Nokia BH-905 headphones. Connection was successful – check!
  • I played some more music – check!

With phone in hand I walked slowly to my platform and waited patiently for the train, heart still beating, but thankful that I was carrying a Nokia N8.

True story – I was pondering whether to write this last post on the Nokia N8, considering WOMWORLD/Nokia wouldn’t be too charmed with me if I returned a broken £600 Smartphone, but then I thought what a fantastic advert for the Nokia N8? It is made of super strong materials and is tough as nails – FACT!

One last thing to consider, the Nokia N8 I was carrying was not enclosed in a protective pouch such as the ones most Apple iPhone users have surrounding their phones and the ground in the Clapham Junction tunnel where I was running was made of concrete.

Related Posts:

Related Links:

Touch typing can be frustrating on the Nokia N8!

I have spent the past five days with the Nokia N8 and so far the video and camera capabilities have really stood out and I have been using them non-stop.  If you want the full scoop on the video / camera then please check out the link above.

Bear in mind my smartphone of choice is the Nokia N900 and I must admit these five days are the first time that I have not used the N900 since getting it in February. Quite a record for me. There is one major difference between the N900 and the N8 and that is the lack of a physical keyboard on the N8.

I was wondering how I would cope without a keyboard so decided to start the trial with a text message holding the phone horizontally. The qwerty keyboard appeared almost instantly and I was immediately frustrated with the keyboard because my thumbs kept picking out the wrong letters forcing me to tap the backspace key to correct the mis-spelling. There is a dictionary which offers a little relief as it displays some of the possible words it has guessed from the letters you have tapped in on the screen, which I guess is for quick touch access, but typing quickly as one would on a physical keyboard seems impossible.

Three buttons seem to be too close to each other and that is the period, the backspace and the enter key.  I found myself pressing the period key and hitting enter by mistake, then having to backspace to correct the problem. The left and right arrow keys are way up to the right of the keyboard and are awkwardly placed. One is also forced to look at the screen constantly while you type. Not exactly touch typing in the real sense of the word. Even though the screen keyboard is bigger than the N900’s physical keyboard I find I can type a lot quicker and without looking at the keyboard on the N900.

The qwerty keyboard screen is shared with the browser, texting and emailing applications so the problem is carried over in all applications.

I tried out Opera Mini web browser to see what the keyboard looked like and it was actually smaller and more compact and impractical even with small fingers. In vertical mode one would need a stylus and that wouldn’t be quick.

So the keyboard was my first big concern since on a daily basis I am in twitter sending tweets, facebook, I am texting and emailing my friends, I browse the internet a lot and often type in new URLS or do Google searches and I like to blog from my phone using the WordPress application or similar applications.

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Say hello to swype, a very clever application that takes away the need to type on a touch screen. Instead as the name suggests one swipes across the the keyboard over the letters that make up the word you are thinking of. At first it seems unreal that you can just swipe left, right, up and down in one continuous sweep and up pops the word. I tried large and small words and it was very accurate. swype can be used in conjunction with tapping the keys on the screen. When you lift your finger and start a new word a space is automatically inserted saving time.

Two things are very noticeable. You tend to only use one finger opposed to two thumbs for typing and you need to know how to spell (ha ha ha – a real problem if you have grown up txtng yr m8s using abrv) AAMOF (As a matter of fact) it will be 2M2H (too much too handle), well not quite!

I tried to mis-spell words but to be honest it picked up most of the words and showed them on the screen spelt correctly so it does a wonderful job and takes the frustration out of the touch keyboard. There is an option in the settings screen that allows one to set the ‘speed vs. accuracy’ and it works really well.

If I didn’t know about swype I would definitely give the keyboard experience a 3/10 but with swype a 6/10, although nothing beats a physical keyboard.

Related Posts:

Related Links:

Lookatbowen’s Nokia N8 Flickr Set