Monday, 31 October 2011

Happy Halloween!

From me :)  Well my Xbox me...

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Fighting Fruit

Last night I decided to start paying for the Spotify Premium service (more on that later).  10 euros a month does not seem too much, and I get to play the songs on my phone and a large catalogue of songs for a relatively small amount each month.

Once I paid for the account I realized that I have an old iPhone in the living room hocked up to the stereo. I used this as an iPod for a while, but seeing as it has WiFi as well I thought that I could use it for streaming and not have to try and find a way of plugging the computers into the stereo.

I very quickly regretted that decision...  I had downloaded the application to my Android phones and got it working very quickly.  I was expecting the same with the iPhone - go to the app store and download the application.  But things were not quite so smooth.

First off it wasn't connected to my network.  So I logged into my router and added it's MAC address to the filter.  OK - I am not going to count this is my complaint against the phone, I have good security on my network and it takes time to allow new devices to connect.

So MAC address entered (though it's hidden away on iOS and not that easy to find!) I tried to connect.  Several times!  The pasword screen refused to let me use a mixture of upper and lower case letters, so the password was always incorrect.

In the end I had to switch between the letter and number keypad each time I wanted to return to lower case letters.  It took some time but I finally managed to get it to work.

Go to the app store and download the free app.  Err...  No.  It refused to let me at first.  I don't know what was wrong but if I tapped the 'free' button it turned into 'Install' - so far so good - but then when I tapped it a second time it returned to 'Free'.  I had to press and hold the install button for it to actually install.

It returned me to the home screen and the app appeared to be downloading and I thought that it would be fairly quick to do.  But no...  Apple has changed their terms and conditions again and so you have to accept these new conditions.  So I scrolled down the accept button and clicked it.  And then...  You have to start the damn process again!  I was in the middle of downloading the app, why on earth did not carry on from where it had left off!

So back into store, download the app again and...  iTunes AppStore password needed.  WTF!  You just let me accept terms and conditions without me confirming me who I am, but won't let me download a *free* application without my password.

OK, enter password and the app downloads.  Doesn't run, but it does download.  I assumed that it was an incompatibility between the app and the version of iOS so I plugged it into my apple to upgrade it to the latest version.

The upgrade went very smoothly - I really don't have anything to say about that.  I plugged it in and it upgraded.  Easy.

Seeing as the upgrade was going to wipe the whole machine I decided to download Spotify from iTunes rather than on the phone again.  That was another set of problems.  I got the password wrong twice (oops ;p) and it forced me to the Apple site to reset it.  After two attempts!  Fine.  Did that and signed in.  And it complained that the computer was not authorized for the iTunes account.  It didn't offer me the chance to do it. No it made me go through a menu to do it.  Where it told me that I could only authorize another two computers after this one for my iTunes account.  I hope that I can easily remove authorizations without having the machines - I have no idea which the other two are!

So after the phone upgraded I tried to use it and... No.  You have activate your phone.  The same phone I have activated two or three times in the past!  But, fine just do it.  Oh no!  You can't, the phone doesn't have a SIM card in it! WTF!  I am not allowed to activate the phone without a SIM card!  At this point I was seriously reconsidering the reuse of the kit.  But, I dismantled my new phone and stuck the SIM card in the iPhone.  And it didn't recognize it until a hard reset.  Even then it took some time to pick it up.

Sim card in, pin code entered and activate!  'This may take several minutes.'  That was an understatement, it took a bloody age!

My Desire has been annoying me a little this week - there are things that Android phone makers really have to address to really make the phones great. I was really wondering what an iPhone 4S would be like - especially the 64GB version.  But after the crap I went though last night with the iPhone I will not be buying a new version in the future!

Apple - It Just Works.  Eventually.  When you have fought with it for hours on end.  And swore like a sailer.  And ran lots of updates.  And swore some more.

But it is pretty (well the computers, the phones not so much...)

Thursday, 27 October 2011

As requested previously...

In September Mrs Stace and I went to the UK and Ireland so go to a friends wedding, and then went for a trip to the UK to see my parents and a flying visit to Leicester to see my grandparents.  I think I have posted a basic description of the trip previously - but I don't think that I have posted pictures just yet...

These pictures are of the morning that we went to visit the Giants Causeway.  It was wet, windy but with plenty of light - and at one point we thought we were in trouble in the cliff face; but not as much as the poor American Tourist that I had to help around the a point in the cliff where the (end of) hurricane was blowing the hardest and most randomly.

The rock of the causeway itself is amazing to look at.  The black areas are dangerous, the yellow / gold are safe (when it's not in hurricane winds :p) Where they have been wet and are drying you can see the colour changing back to gold again.  Whilst it the causeway was not as large as I was expecting, it was still wonderful to visit and I'd gladly go back again (but not to the Causeway Hotel!)

Here are a few non-processed (I have to put that proviso in there...) shots:
The black and gold rock of the causeway

A couple of rock pools where the water never drains

A few of the columns of the larger of the two causeways

Just to give you an idea of how windy it was on the cliff face!  I never managed to capture the spray as I wanted, but this is the nicest that I have

On top of the causeway - playing with the camera position

And again :)

And again...

This one I have to play with a little longer, I was going for the ghostly water effect, but the light was too bright and even at the highest F number I could not open the shutter for long enough

Monday, 17 October 2011

Healthy(ish) Oven Chips

I'm English...  I love cider, salt and vinegar crisps (something Mrs Stace - and most of the other Dutch I know hate) and chips...  Whenever we go back to the UK we always have to have at least one fish and chip supper - over in Holland it's impossible to find them!

Actually, there are very few ways of cooking potatoes that I actually like...  Boiled I can do occasionally, but they are really not my thing.  The same with mash - though I am just cooking potato and spinach mash at the moment - Dutch winter recipe.  I love roast potatoes (if cooked correctly - for me that is...) and backed.  The problem with the last two is they take an age to prepare and the roast are less than healthy as well.

So when I saw a recipe for chips on TV a while a go I wondered if I could adapt it to keep the crisp and fluffy texture whilst removing the need to deep fry them - we don't have a fryer in the house and I am not planning on adding one!

So I played a bit and came up with the following:

Peel the potatoes, but keep them whole, rinse them and put them on to boil.  The time needed here will vary from cooker to cooker but on my induction (which boils water within about 1 minute) I do 10 minutes from turning the heat on to taking them off.

Put the pan under cold running water and make sure that the potatoes are completely cooled

Slice the potatoes into chips when cold - they should start to crumble slightly, but still retain their shape.  I normally cut them in to 1cm or 2cm thick chips or wedges along the length of the potatoe

When cut dry the chips off individually and put them into a bowl.  It's really important to dry them, even though it's a pain, otherwise the chips will not crisp up and stay fluffy.  After the first potato worth of chips is in the bowl add 3 table spoons of oil and mix so it covers all of the chips.

Repeat with the rest of the potatoes, only adding oil when it looks like they are not being coated - don't over oil!

Put the chips onto a baking tray, making sure that they are well separated, and place in a a pre-warmed 200C oven for 15-20 minutes.  They should be starting to crisp, but not colour at this stage.

Make sure that they are not stuck to the base of the tray - I always cook mine on a teflon sheet - and leave to cool.

Whilst the chips are cooling take a few cloves of garlic and roughly crush them, this will cause the skin to easily slip off, rather than trying to peel them still whole which is a nightmare :)  Take some red onion and roughly chop and skin as well.  Throw these randomly over the chips - use as much or little as you like to add some flavour.

Finally...  Throw the chips back into the oven for another 25 minutes - or until golden brown.  Serve whilst hot, with the onion and garlic (note - don't do this the day before a big meeting ;p)

With any luck you should have some light, crispy chips that are fluffy on the inside and have only used a few tablespoons of oil to prepare!

Sorry - no photos to show you how they turn out as I'm not that good at snapping food!  Maybe I'll try the next time I cook them!


Friday, 14 October 2011

Bye Bye Summer!

And so it seems that summer has left us for anther year...  Last week I was riding the motorbike to work in glorious sunshine, and actually I was overheating in my leathers, today I am on a train in t-shirt, polo neck jumper and with my coat (albeit my summer coat) tucked into bags handles for when I have to walk from the station to the office.

I was hoping to get some beautiful autumnal shots this year, with red, orange and bronze leaves falling from the trees as they did 12 months ago, but alas it’s not going to happen.  The trees in this year in Noord Holland have a decidedly brown manky look to them as opposed to the wonderful colours they had last year, and they just do not make as nice pictures; rather they are more depressing.  There is still some hope I suppose - there are an amount of leaves still on the trees, should they change to nice colours I’ll grab some shots and post them!

But for now it’s back to the dark mornings, wind wet and cold that we here in Holland love so much!  And maybe time to either get some heated grips fitted to the bike, or think about getting it tucked up somewhere warm and dry for the winter.

Note...  Just to prove me wrong it has of course turned out to be a really nice day here...  The sun is out, the windows are open and we are all back in T-Shirts!

Monday, 3 October 2011

I hate coming back from holidays!

I've had this page open multiple times in the last week, and every time I have closed the screen before I saved anything because nothing is coming out...

I've been stressed beyond belief over the last week, catching up on projects that have been running whilst I was on vacation, and trying to catch the fallout from other projects that exploded during my vacation.  And changes in my team that we found about about in the last couple of days that caused me stress even over my weekend.  Ug.

And of course I have been working over the news from the last session at the VU over in my head - and trying to figure out what I have to get organised before the end of the year.  Do you realise how many places your name is used?  I am up to 29 now, and I am sure that I am not there yet.  On top of this I have to figure out how I sort the different agencies in different countries, and how to make sure that the passport office fast track the passport correctly - as I will not be able to get home until they do if I come to the UK to get it!

As a result of all of that I have done  nothing over the week except for work and stress, and I guess that doesn't help the blank screen syndrome I have had when opening up the new post window.

So...  If you hear nothing from me for a week or so it's just because I can't think any more and am trying to relax!


PS Don't worry, I'm not depressed or anything else.  I just have too much on my plate at the moment :)