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Lifeproof

It surprises me that more phones haven’t been waterproofed. A few years ago, Jason Bradbury featured a Samsung Galaxy S2 being submerged in water without any adverse effects after being coated with a nano-coating by P2i. Nowadays, a few phones will claim to be splashproof, but currently only Sony make fully waterproof phones. Despite the obvious appeal of a naturally submersible phone, I really don’t want a Sony product again.

There have been a few cases on the market to protect your phone. When the Lifeproof case was on special offer, I seized the opportunity. Lifeproof has a great reputation. I’ve seen their products for iPhones in the past but this was not only a Lifeproof case for an Android device, but for the same one I use. At least for now.

When you first pick up the box you immediately feel as though Lifeproof have given thought to their product. The box is tactile, a door on the front opens to let you view the product through the transparency. What impressed me was the magnets (top and bottom) which snap the door shut.

Lifeproof cover and test unitLifeproof internal sealThe rear of the box boasts the case will protect your phone with a rating of IP68. It can be fully submerged up to 6½ feet. Unfortunately, I can’t say I hold much confidence in this claim.

Lifeproof base, showing waterLifeproof include a phone’s “test unit”, a blue plastic mock up matching the dimensions of the phone it’s designed to protect. The manual suggests testing the case using the test unit for 30 minutes, weighted down to fully submerge it in water. I
tested it for 15 minutes using their test unit and found the product leaking water.

Lifeproof base, wet lockThe case was dried off, checked for anything that could be preventing the Lifeproof case from working properly. I could see nothing that would cause the leak.
The second test lasted only 5 minutes. Unfortunately the case was unable to resist the water using the provided test unit.

Another check for any dust, dirt, cracks in the rubber, anything at all proved fruitless. I checked and double
checked the test unit. Even under a jeweller’s magnifying glass nothing showed that could account for the leaks. To say it came as a disappointment was an understatement.

The final test was done under full observation in the hope the source may be found. No such luck. There was no obvious point where air could be seen escaping. After ten minutes it was clear that nothing would give away the weak point. With some surprise I learned the third test was successful.

I’m aware the only consistent factors in these tests have been the same case, the same test unit and the same person. Being truly objective, I cannot rule out me missing something between tests, however small. To the best of my knowledge, in each test nothing had changed. The test unit was settled in place. The case was snapped shut with the same force as before. Even the order of it closing matched the previous tests.

Pros: The Lifeproof case is sturdy. It feels like a quality product. The rubber on its back makes gripping it very easy. Despite only having contact with surfaces with its four rubber feet it doesn’t easily slide (tested at various angles). The speaker and microphone aren’t obstructed due to a waterproof membrane, music can be heard as before and nobody called knew the phone was in a case. Rubber covers over the buttons stand out proud from the base making finding them easy, but prevent the phone activating without your knowledge.

Cons: Some charging cables no longer work due to the smaller aperture at the base (see yellow plug on the case). None of the OTG cable fits. Only a third of the tests with the test unit passed being submerged in water.

Outcome: The Lifeproof case tested with the Samsung I9305 feels like a quality product. Even the box has had serious thought put in to it. The case will block dust, dirt, sand etc. (involuntary test) with ease.  [You’ll understand me not testing the waterproofing with the phone.]  Using the official cables and not cheap ones from eBay, the phone performs exactly as it always has.  Bumps and drops on to hard floor tiles are taken in its stride.

I’d recommend Lifeproof cases to anyone who asks. Cheap cases may save your phone from knocks and drops, but they can’t offer anything like the protection of a Lifeproof case.

Why you should use DPD

More often than not one person loves a company while the next will have nothing to do with them.  It’s a level of customer service that can vary massively depending on who your interaction is with.  It’s the same with every company providing a service of some kind.  Or so I thought.

Most of the time we don’t give much thought to how or why something works.  We overlook good service because we expect it as standard.  It’s only really when a company lets us down that we sit up and take notice.  Every now and then we give a conscious thought to the good service we’ve received.

It started a while ago, I can’t recall when exactly, but I’d expected a few items that day.  One arrived with the postman.  I’d queried if there was anything else for us.  When Parcelforce delivered the second, again querying why there weren’t more.  His response, and I’m paraphrasing here, was “Don’t ask me mate, that’s all they’ve given me”, as he kept walking not only towards the gate but past it, not closing it on his way.  The missing item was apparently lost somewhere in the postal system.  I had to wait in case it turned up late.  It didn’t and its replacement arrived by second class post, at the cost of the seller. It made me wonder how much money is lost by having to send replacement items because the customer hadn’t received the first.

A short while later I got an email from DPD.  They’d notified me that an Amazon delivery was with them and they’d be delivering it the following day.  I could track it on the day of delivery.  Having used delivery trackers in the past, my apathy knew no limits and I thought no more of it.
Delivery day, and I’d received an email saying the item would be delivered within a one hour window of hh:mm.  Not at some point that day, if the weather’s nice and we can be bothered; not that morning or that afternoon, but a one hour window.  That stood out.

I’ve now had a few things delivered by DPD.  Without exception, they’ve always stood out above other couriers.

  • The drivers are courteous, polite and friendly.  Even passing you in the street.
  • Their web site lets you track your parcel, properly.  I don’t mean you refresh the page to see “in transit” showing, I mean you get to track the van it’s in on the map.
  • You can even see which member of staff is delivering your parcel, where in the queue you are and approximately how long it will be before your package is delivered.
  • Their twitter staff can see your account and advise you, in a very timely manner.

They’re just professional.

Today I had cause to contact them.  I was expecting an SD card.  The trouble is, in the past Amazon have sent something the size of an apple in a box that could comfortably fit this computer, all cables, and the monitor in.  Because of Amazon’s inconsistency with packaging, not knowing what size packaging they’d used this time, I got in touch with DPD via Twitter.  I asked if the delivery driver could wait a little longer for me to get to the door – I normally need a wheelchair but I get away with crutches to get to the door.  It wasn’t a problem, DPD got in touch with the driver.  Problem solved.
Thankfully Amazon had used an envelope, not a box far larger than its contents, so the driver didn’t need to wait for me to get to the door.  He posted it through the letterbox.  [Additional kudos to the driver for using common sense here]

What really stood out for me is that by the time I’d retrieved the envelope, there was a photo of our house (taken near the gate) and another of the envelope being posted through the letterbox, both on the tracker page of DPD’s web site.

This folks, is why it pays to use DPD.
Most companies say they’ll deliver it within 24 hours.  Some say within 6 hours.  DPD say within 1, and even let you change that if it’s inconvenient.
Some staff walk away from you while talking to you.  DPD’s drivers said hello when passing in the street.
Some companies have policies to make customers wait on the off-chance an item is delivered later.  DPD haven’t lost or misplaced anything of mine.
Some companies tracking system says ‘In Transit’.  DPD’s let you see where the van is on the map, where you are in a queue and roughly how long you have to wait before their driver pulls up.
Some staff push cards through your letterbox saying they couldn’t catch you without even ****ing knocking!  DPD got in touch with the driver while he was making deliveries.
Most companies say they’ve delivered your item.  DPD took photos!

From the customer’s point of view, nobody else even comes close.

@EE – how not to do it

I’ve been with Orange since January 1996.  When you’ve been with a company that long you expect a certain amount of hiccups.  Nobody’s perfect, and where there’s humans, there’s human error.  Unfortunately, since 1996 Orange has changed hands a few times and each time the level of customer service has deteriorated.  None more so than when EE took over.

May 2013 was a frustrating time.  I’d been forced on to a 24 month contract because Orange no longer recognised their own contracts.  I started the month on Everyday 50, a 12 month contract charging 50p per day for 50 minutes of talk time.  Add to that £5 a month for 500MB of 3G data and it covered everything I needed.

The trouble came when I tried to upgrade.  Orange had become EE and with it brought new software.  Unfortunately, the programmers didn’t think to incorporate all active tariffs, (presumably only the ones available to buy at the time).  As a result, EE refused to let me upgrade and keep the talk plan.  They grossly miscalculated ‘a customer’s value’ because I was on a daily tariff, not monthly.  This was stupidity worthy of Vodafone.

It was only when I asked for a PAC (necessary to port my number elsewhere) that EE sat up and took notice.  I was offered a 24 month contract with extra talk time and data thrown in.  I took down the details and went away to consider my options.

When I called back, I’d expected notes on my account outlining the offer.  After several calls I’d found:

  • Some people couldn’t find the notes, or the person I’d spoken to (including a team manager at North Tyneside call centre who suggested if I didn’t take her basic package I should go).
  • Others could find the person, but not the notes.
  • Some found the person and the notes, but couldn’t find the gratuitous extra minutes/data.
  • Some found the person, the notes and the extra minutes and data, but couldn’t activate them.
  • One person found the person, the notes, extra minutes and data but could only activate part of it.

Ultimately, the person who offered me the package got back to me and activated it.  He really was very helpful, and checked everything over before submitting.

I have fallen victim to too many of Orange’s little mistakes over the years.  I was adamant it wasn’t to be the case this time.  I asked if there were any additional charges, hidden charges or anything else.  There would be none.  The line rental was all I’d pay unless I used more minutes or data than in the bundles.
But, thats just not true.

The trouble is, EE (a company I now lovingly refer to as Exceptional Extortionists) failed to mention that I’d be charged for delivery receipts on texts, for calls to freephone numbers (ironically, they’re not free or even included in your monthly minutes) and worst of all, a fine of £3.58 every month for not giving EE control of my bank account via Direct Debit!
None of the above were mentioned.  I even received the wrong phone.

When this was queried, an apology was made, a refund for the Direct Debit payment was applied to the account and I was told she would make sure I wouldn’t get any more, but only for the duration of the contract.  Once the contract is up, the fine will apply.  It turns out the fine has applied ever since.

When I called, I discovered the question of whether EE see you as a valued customer or the means of making money, was answered.  It turns out you can pay EE to jump their queue!  Your call isn’t important to them; your money is!
Although I was repeatedly told “the credit to the account wouldn’t be coming from his pocket”, he didn’t actually credit the account.  He promised the bar on the account would be lifted within 20 minutes, and hurriedly explained it was the end of his shift and had to go! 35 minutes later he called back to explain the buck was to be passed back to the woman who had credited the account and who’d promised I wouldn’t get charged for the remainder of the contract.  The phone call I was promised at 14:00 the following day didn’t happen.  When the buck was passed I’d expected a call back the following day, not to have to wait days for their member of staff to wander back in.

While the bar was into its fifth day I called EE – I’d waited long enough for them to call me.  [I hadn’t told EE but this phone is part of a ‘panic button’ system due to a disability so having it barred has the potential to impact on us a fair bit.]  After having to repeat everything only four times I managed to speak to someone who took on board my complaint.  He apologised, credited the account for what I was incorrectly charged and is sending a letter of apology.  I’m £12-odd in credit.  I suppose that’s what happens when you keep rounding up your bills to the nearest whole pound.

I thought that would be everything sorted, but the bar was still in force.  I called EE on the sixth day to query why it hadn’t been removed overnight.  No reason could be found.  I chalked this one down to either an interruption before it could be done, a technical failure or it was simply overlooked.  What really annoyed me is after explaining everything I’d gone through, the excessively cheery woman told me to “be careful not to go past my (allotted) minutes in future” [something I’ve never once done with this contract] and to “be sure to promote EE to all my friends” and to “tell everyone how good they are”.

So, I’m going to do exactly that.

EE are good at:

  • Making promises they can’t keep
  • Repeatedly letting customers down
  • Giving incorrect information
  • Not advising customers when promises can’t be kept
  • Poorly composing a brief for software developers (active tariffs)
  • Badly training their staff
  • Valuing everything above their customers
  • Ignoring what a customer tells them
  • Self promoting

and they excel at being unable to make calls to customers, and keeping those customers up to date with relevant information.

Why is it communications companies are unable to communicate?

Pebble throwing

I won’t go in to the details twice, but I had one requirement in a smartwatch – it had to interact with Tasker.

It turns out that Pebble themselves have decided on our behalf to stop supporting certain apps.  My needs in a smartwatch are few but supporting Tasker is essential and Google apps are next on the list.

Pebble drop Tasker

 

Pebble want to control what information you’re allowed to see on your watch, and they want to control it all through their app.  Had I wanted such strict control I’d have bought an iPhone!  My phone is Android.  Android is open source.  Not restricted.  The app doesn’t even have a tick/untick box, warning “Tasker / Google Now may result in repeated notifications”.

The thing is, Tasker brings functionality to the watch that Pebble themselves haven’t been able to do.  With its plugins and 3rd party apps integrating with Tasker it means you can do so much more than the already comprehensive app is capable of.  As Pebble want to restrict which apps they’ll allow you to use they’re putting nails in their own coffin.  If they’re not careful these sorts of decisions will do to their watch what Blackberry and Nokia did to their phones.

A year ago, Pebble were already facing criticism for blatant favouring of the iPhone over Android.  Even at the bottom of the box showed where Pebble’s alliance lay:

Pebble Box (under) highlighted

Pebble have faced criticism for not using colour screens or implementing touch screen functionality, especially in their Pebble Steel.  By denying access to certain apps and restricting functionality, even their supporters in the Android community will start to jump ship.

What annoys me is that there weren’t any “This app will no longer be supported as of 31/12/14” notifications.  Not even “This app is no longer supported”.  If a company behind smartwatches can’t send a notification to their own product then perhaps they should consider removing the prefix ‘smart’.

However, all may not be lost.  Recently Pebble announced their app can interact with Android Wear.  The Android Wear app doesn’t even need to be connected to the app or signed in to any account.  The only requirement is that it be installed.  Time will no doubt tell whether this restores what Pebble saw fit to block.  With a little good fortune I won’t be Pebble throwing any time soon.

What a difference two days make

Two days can make such a difference.  You can fly abroad, pass your driving test, or simply master that recipe that’s been frustrating you for the last six months.

Having previously been a Virgin customer I’m aware of the speeds available on fiber-optic broadband.  We’ve used it at my soon-to-be in-laws.  The shock of its capability has long since worn off.

Four years ago I moved out of a Virgin area and instantly noticed the difference.  Email seemed to be sent and received by carrier pigeon, photos suddenly seemed as though they needed to be developed and I could get faster internet on my mobile than I could at my door.  The change from Virgin’s 20Mb to Sky’s 0.8Mb was laughable, or it would be had it not been so painful.  The thing is Sky had promised me 3Mb, they just couldn’t deliver.  So five weeks after being connected, I was free.  Even penalty free.  O2 carried the torch, delivering on the promises they’d made.  Sky bought out O2’s home broadband service, and our speeds slowed again.

No more!

Two days ago I did a broadband speed test.  I did another today.  [If you’d like to test your broadband speed, click here]

Sky vs BTIt’s costing £8 per month more but you can see the difference for yourself.  [It’s worth noting that this is the first speed test since the line was connected.  The line has not been calibrated yet so the speed may increase over the next three weeks]

 

2015-02-06 13.25.55aBT did everything without even needing a coffee and a Jammy Dodger.  I received a text from them saying the line was connected [11:42], and another a short while later [12:02] saying the fiber-op was up and running.  What made the whole lot that little bit sweeter was the text I received from Sky [13:03] over an hour after BT’s last text saying they’re sorry to see me go and they’ll write to me with the details of any charges.  They didn’t even bother to proof read it. (don?t)

Good riddance!

Finally quit

After three weeks the Tasks and Profiles in Tasker (an automation app for smartphones) have been removed.  All links between the PC’s, TV, tablets, watch and phones relating to having a smoke are deleted.  No longer can I soak in the tub, press a button on my watch and ask my other (better) half if she wants to join me for a smoke.  No longer can texts or AutoRemote messages be sent.  No longer can I automatically log my location at the Cuban Cigar Club with FourSquare.  Those who know me will testify to how rarely this happens.

I didn’t really want to quit smoking.  I loved it.  It was only really the finances that dictated the necessity to give them up.  The thing is, if you’re going to do something then make the effort.  Doing something half-hearted based on the fact that you didn’t want to do it in the first place is something that belongs in your childhood.  You certainly should have outgrown it by the time you enter your thirties (much less my age).

So, the final act of acceptance has been made.  I’ve deleted something from Tasker.

If you’ve missed the previous entries on smoking/quitting then you should know I hold vapes and Doctor Mike Evans responsible for my success.

Smoking Days 3 & 4

It’s been an odd couple of days. The support from others who either like the idea of me quitting smoking, and/or have been through this themselves has surprised me. It seems that everyone is behind this endeavour.

I’ve found myself more agitated. Things don’t annoy me per se, but they’re bugging me. Thankfully they’re not building up to the point where I’m exploding, but I’m more on edge. My partner and son are brilliant. They’re even more understanding and compassionate.

The surprising thing is that I can’t say I’m scraping the walls or turning the house upside down for a smoke. I’ve not had those particular cravings. We’ll have to see what the next few days bring. Hopefully it won’t be too long before my system stabilises.  In the mean time, the video from @DocMikeEvans can be found [here]

Smoking Day 2

There are two things that have really helped me quit smoking, vapes and a tweet.

I have a few vapes ranging from pipe mods to passthrough batteries and an Innokin MVP 2.0.  Most tanks are Aspire ET-S’s. I actively use half a dozen flavours which has been greatly beneficial.

The tweet, by @paintoolkit2 was commending @docmikeevans’s efforts in helping people understand the mechanics of quitting.
@docmikeevans made me think about writing the routine immediately, so rather than stay inside when others nipped out for a smoke, I joined them for a vape.

I’m vaping in the car on the way home.  I’m vaping far more than I smoked, but I anticipated as much.

So far, so good. After all, all I’ve done is change the way I get the nicotine and occupy my hands. It’s just a cleaner way than cigars, that’s all.

Update: I’ve found myself getting a little antsy. Little things have bugged me. Things that ordinarily wouldn’t in our day to day lives. I’m putting it down to having to pack, travel, get stuck in traffic jams, unpack etc. Something that isn’t part of our day to day lives.
Tomorrow should give us a better indication of irritability levels.

Smoking Day 1

It’s an odd feeling, not having been out in the freezing cold after lunch. It’s a novelty, nothing more. I can’t say I’ve had much of a craving, but I’m not naïve enough to think I’m not going to get them.

For now, all is calm. I’ve been vaping the same as I did last week, nothing’s changed there. No doubt this will change in due course.

Update:
I went to bed with a feeling that I’d forgotten something, the kind you get when you know you were going to do something, but can’t quite recall what.
I knew exactly what it was, I’d not had a smoke, but there was no desire to rip the head off the next person who spoke.

2014

2014 has been an odd year.

  • Google made contact lenses with Google Glass tech.
  • Samsung and Cisco agreed to share patents (or at least not sue over them).
  • We learned a quarter of Americans think the Sun orbits the Earth.
  • The world’s first Braille mobile phone became available.
  • One of my Billy Connolly audio tapes got snapped, shredded and spat out.
  • Iain Duncan Smith was called to account for using misleading ‘statistics’ to justify his actions.
  • We visited Cragside, and I had the chance to tick “ride in Lord Armstrong’s lift” off my bucket list.
  • Vegan friendly cheese was grown in a lab.
  • Gaza disgusted the world with its unrelenting attack on Palestine.
  • The 3Doodler (3D printing pen) went on sale.
  • Vapes are exempt from the indoor smoking ban.
  • Workfare schemes were deemed illegal.
  • George Takei got slammed for his bullying of the disabled.
  • Skellow and Greggs made the headlines following their publicity on Google.
  • The iPhone 6 followed LG and Samsung’s curved screen approach.
  • Scotland’s referendum voted to remain part of the UK.
  • Apple’s proved their patents are more secure than your data when their iCloud got hacked.
  • Australia proved solar power could replace fossil fuels.
  • @CassetteBoy’s David Cameron video went viral just as David Cameron was criticised for holding a £25,000 champagne party immediately before announcing benefit cuts.
  • Sainsbury’s launched the best Christmas advert I’ve ever seen, while Famous Grouse went mainstream.
  • Ghostbusters reached 30.
  • Three years to the day after we met, we got engaged.
  • And after nearly 20 years, I’m giving up smoking.

Let’s hope that 2015 will be just as interesting. Hopefully in a good way. Personally, I can’t wait to get my hoverboard.

Happy New Year!