Predictive Text

Posted by on Mar 2, 2016 in words | 0 comments

For several months I’ve been using the SwiftKey keyboard on my phone, and all the while it has been collecting data on the type of text that I enter. It uses all of that data to (among other things, I’m sure!) predict the word that I’m most likely to type next. At this point, it’s nearly at the stage where SwiftKey knows what I’m going to say before I know myself.

That being the case, I think it’s only fair that I left SwiftKey write the rest of this post itself…

Have a look at the moment it’s still going strong and durable plastic bags of my email to you yesterday. I have been having some issues with this list for this reason. The only thing that is not rated yet to receive the best price on conveyancing in my opinion is the most important part of the family.

Aston Martin car hire in London for your time to get the kids to be honest with you and your team. The 7 minutes apart from a range of services for people who want the special chat system and I am not sure what to expect from a wide variety of extras such as the kind of patent pending for your help.

Have a great weekend in my drawer and a half day to be in the UK for your time. Are they going to be SO kind as to the hotel where we’ll be having a text conversation with you on roaming rates for the girl or her parents and teachers.

I keep forgetting that the company has also worked with him on Facebook and Twitter and Facebook and Twitter and Facebook and Twitter at the end result of this month. This will help to increase my own personal information about this property.

I hope that’s all clear.

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OT: Presentation Tips

Posted by on Sep 28, 2015 in words | 0 comments

Today, after I’d done an IT induction talk at work, a new student asked me how long I’ve been lecturing because he would really like to get better at public speaking. I told him that I’m not a lecturer, but I often talk at technology user groups and conferences, so talking to the 150 people in the room today was now about as natural as talking to him afterwards. I said that it just gets easier with experience, but on the way back to my office I realised that I’d done him a disservice, because there are other key attributes that make a good public speaker, and there are people with lots of experience who aren’t that good at it (as he’s likely to find out the hard way from some long-time lecturers*).

Back at my desk, I sent him an email with the advice below, in the hope that it’s more immediately useful that simply “gain experience”. Some of them are things that I’ve worked out for myself; others are likely from other sites that I’ve read about presentation skills. I’m sorry that I don’t have any attribution for those – my intent was not to copy anyone else’s work, but simply to put together a list of things that work for me**, and may be helpful to you…

While the age-old tip of “imagine your audience naked” might be fun with some audiences, it isn’t going to really make you a good public speaker. Hopefully these should help:

  • Keep in mind that aside from a few sadistic freaks, your audience isn’t waiting for you to fail. They are on your side and want you to do well because they want to get something good (useful information, entertainment, or both) out of your presentation.
  • Know your material. If you use slides or notes, make sure they’re just bullet points for you to talk around. Don’t be reading long streams of text off the screen or a bit of paper.
  • The hardest presentations to give are the ones where you fear that you aren’t telling anyone anything they don’t already know. Find a way to make the content fresh for them by including anecdotes from personal experience (or other people’s experience, but then you run the risk of them already having heard it again, so try to find obscure ones – something that makes the point but comes from another field, perhaps).
  • If you do 2 and 3 right, you can go into it with the confidence that even if you’re talking to subject experts, they at least haven’t heard your take on the presentation before.
  • Repetition helps, so rehearse. I was able to deliver my bit today so easily because it’s basically the same one that I’ve given half a dozen times before, almost word for word (that was my first one of the year, so all I did was glance through the deck this morning and remind myself of the key points). The rehearsing thing goes towards gaining experience – ask a friend to watch you rehearse and give feedback, or video it and then critique yourself.
  • Try to use light and shade, even if the subject is very dry. I usually try to inject a bit of humour into a presentation, but if the content/audience doesn’t suit that, on the flip side, a good cautionary tale works well (eg. “Obscure Company X didn’t put enough effort into their SOX 404 audit compliance, and it ended up costing them TWO BILLION DOLLARS!”).
  • Appropriately timed pauses help you make your point, but also help you work out what you’re going to say next and avoid “er”/”um”s. I came across a woman who had clearly had some coaching where she’s learned to replace a filler sound like “er” with the filler word “obviously”. It was terrible. Once you’d realised that she, obviously, said obviously a couple of times a sentence, it, obviously, became impossible to hear the point she was trying to make. It was even worse in her case because the things she was talking about were far from obvious! Pausing is best, but “er” is still better than “obviously”.
  • Remember that even if you’re really well prepared and even if you’ve had a successful dress-rehearsal in the same room, with the same equipment (which you should do if possible), things can still go wrong. If you’re demonstrating anything live, there’s a good chance that it will manage to fail at the worst moment in a new and unexpected way. If a demonstration is critical to your presentation, record it before hand to use as a backup – that way, at least you can do a live demo with the confidence that you have a “get out of jail free” card if it goes all goes to crap.
  • There are a million different tips that you can find online in terms of building a good slide deck. The most important thing, in my opinion, is to avoid too much text on a slide, and try to use supporting imagery where you can.
  • Watch other good presenters and shamelessly copy the things you admire in their delivery. is a fantastic resource for this.


* For all I know, this student might experience only excellent lecturers – I’m just guessing that some won’t be as great.

** I don’t necessarily consider myself to be a great public speaker, but I try my best.

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The Wishlist: 2015 game releases

Posted by on Jun 22, 2015 in words | 0 comments

The Wishlist is home to our tech desires. It may be improvements to existing things, or something that doesn’t exist yet, but we really, really want.

Each year the gaming industry reveals forthcoming releases at the E3 Expo, so I use those announcements to make a shopping list (and a budget!). Before getting on to my 2015 list, let’s take a look back at my 2014 list and other recent purchases…

Many years will see me make a list after E3 and then not stick with it. This year, I have actually picked up everything that I said I would, and I’ve been very happy with my choices. The Golf Club Game has had less play time than I expected, given my history of playing Tiger Woods and Links over the years, but it has still been enjoyable and a worthwhile purchase, especially since it’s priced significantly lower than most console titles. Some of my Tiger Woods playing friends find it significantly harder to play, but that’s because they were used to affecting the flight of the ball after they’d hit it, which is clearly unrealistic – I like simulations, so I’m all for it. FIFA15 is a game that I haven’t played half as much as my son; in fact I probably haven’t played it without him. I probably wouldn’t have picked this one up as soon, since I already had FIFA14 via EA Access, but I managed to find a download code at a price that made it not worth waiting for it to release on EA Access (which it now has) – I doubt that I’ll be picking up FIFA16 until it’s in the Vault. Disney Infinity 2.0 Marvel Superheroes has been a lot of co-op fun in our house. We haven’t used the creative aspect of it, but we have played a lot through the included Avengers story, and we’ve added the Spiderman playset. Overall, if you include my son’s pocket money purchases and gifts from family members, there’s been a lot of money spent on Disney Infinity characters and the like, but I don’t feel like it’s been a waste. Halo: The Master Chief Collection has let me relive the fun I had playing co-op Halo with friends, and let me relive it with my son. It’s been an incredible bonding experience playing through the 4 games and we’ve now got the Halo 3: ODST levels as DLC to play through before Halo 5: Guardians comes out. NBA 2K15 had some significant problems with the online components when it launched. Didn’t bother me as we were happily playing local multiplayer. This series is still the gold standard for sports games, both in terms of gameplay and presentation IMHO.

Aside from what I had on my 2014 wishlist, the last year or so has been a good one for me in gaming terms. I’ve already made my feelings clear on Elite: Dangerous, which I’m now enjoying on Xbox One in addition to PC. There are two other games that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed on both those platforms; neither are mainstream, both have provided a welcome change of pace with respect to the play style, and they both came with a cracking soundtrack: I heartily recommend Valliant Hearts: The Great War and Life Is Strange. In addition, I’ve played a lot of Lego Marvel Superheroes and more recently Lego Jurassic World with my son and we’ve had enormous fun with both.

Without further ado, these are the games that I’m most excited to buy so far for the rest of 2015:

Rare Replay – It’s 30 games from Rare’s back catalogue for £20($30) and it includes Grabbed by the Ghoulies – I’m in!

Super Hot – I played the prototype of this game a while back and found it really addictive. Since then the art style has changed up a little bit, for the better it would appear. It has a unique look and a really cool mechanic where time only advances when you move. It’s easier to understand when you see it in action, so go and check it out.

Star Wars: Battlefront – First up, the obvious thing is that this looks incredible. When the first trailer was released for this game you could be excused for confusing it with a movie. That said, trailers can be misleading, so it was refreshing to see some gameplay footage from E3. I have seen some people saying that they’re disappointed that this plays like the old DICE Battlefield/front games, and perhaps that’s not what is needed in 2015. Stuff their opinion – that’s exactly what I want it to be!

Disney Infinity 3.0 – As I said earlier, Disney Infinity 2.0 has had a lot of play in my house. We’ve really enjoyed the Marvel characters in that game. The only place to go beyond that for me would be Star Wars. I’m just pleased that Disney keep buying up all the things that I care about, cos it makes life easier. I said to my wife (when discussing another trip to Walt Disney World) that as long as we set aside enough money to pay the bills, the mouse can have the rest! 😉

Shenmue 3 – During E3, it was announced that Shenmue 3 would have a Kickstarter campaign to fund it. I’ve been one of the many who have been hoping for this game for years, so I backed it straight away. At the time of writing, it is approaching double the $2m goal, so it’s definitely happening and I’ve already bought a copy. Happy days.

Rise of the Tomb Raider – Rarely have I been so blown away by the visuals on a gameplay video as I was watching Lara Croft climbing up an icy mountain. The last Tomb Raider was great, and I expect nothing less from this one.

NBA 2K16 – I love basketball, and my son loves basketball, so 2K Sports are going to get my money for their NBA game every year. This year they have NY Knicks superfan Spike Lee involved in the production, so I’m expecting a more story-based career mode, which will be good as long as you don’t have to play for the Knicks!

Tom Clancy’s The Division – I know technically this isn’t out until 2016, but we are expecting a beta on Xbox One this year and I’ll be all over that because although I have been very excited about this game, I’m not sure that it fits in with how I game these days, so I’m not sure if I’ll be buying it. I’m also a bit disappointed that they’ve cancelled the 2nd screen experience, which would have let someone with a tablet join the game controlling a drone. That sounded like a great mechanic, but apparently threw the game out of balance. It still looks cracking though!

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Seige – This Tom Clancy game is definitely out this year, and I wasn’t fully on board until E3, when they announced two things: 1) Terrorist hunt mode is back, and 2) You get Rainbow Six Vegas, and Vegas 2 bundled in with this. Those were great games and the chance to revisit them is very appealing.

Halo 5: Guardians – I’m now so invested in this series that I’m not missing the next chapter.

A little further out, I’m looking forward to seeing how two newly announced games turn out: Cuphead, a tough side-scrolling platformer with 1930s cartoon style graphics – what’s not to love? Unravel is another platform game, which looks utterly charming – I hope it’s as good as it looks.

I’m going to give an honourable mention to Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, which I’m playing in beta at the moment. It’s a really nice remake and I like it a lot, but as I’ve alluded to, the way I spend my gaming time has changed over at least the last console generation, so I’m not sure it’s a purchase yet. I do know that I’ll have a lot of friends playing it.

[Update] I’ve just realised that Lego Marvel’s Avengers is due out this year. After the many, many hours that my son and I put into Lego Marvel Super Heroes, this is a no-brainer!

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Is MS new browser Spartan a good idea? – Part 2 A new browser from a new MS

Posted by on Jan 18, 2015 in words | 0 comments

So in case you haven’t gathered from Part 1, I don’t as a rule use IE – only on my 8” win8.1 tablet.

I moved way from IE to Firefox years and years ago and that was simply because of the support for extension to let me do clever things – such as tab manipulation, mouse gestures for browsing, support for auto-highlighting search terms on my pages.

Firefox let me do these things – to me it was a power user browser. Since I started using Firefox Chrome came on the scene but I never really embraced it, the main customisation I use in Firefox was about how it handled search & Chrome being a Google product did search the Google approved way.

Having been a Windows Phone user from launch I was happy enough with Mobile IE and have been pleased with the improvements bought to the experience coming in with WP8. Using it on mobile and my Win8.1 tablet is actually not bad but it wasn’t enough to persuade me to go back to IE on the desktop and the lack of any extension support for these platforms is still a thorn in my side. Particularly lack of support for things like LastPass – logging into all those sites manually is a total PITA.

In the meantime my personal IT habits shifted to embrace the emergence of “cloudization” and I started benefiting from having my files and setting sync between PC’s without me having to remember to do anything I was coming a cropper. I was living in two different digital worlds from a browsing point of view. On my desktops I would be using Firefox with its “Sync” platform to keep my Surface and Desktop extensions the same. I had IE Mobile and IE Metro in use on my phone and companion device which could share open tabs and browsing history and then just to top it all off I had LastPass with its own application level data sync for my website passwords.
So where does this leave us with the rumours of a new Microsoft made browser? Well the Microsoft of now is singing to a different tune than the one that first created IE. The Microsoft of now is fully behind “experiences”, understands the mobile world and is getting the hang of rapid/agile development process.

If this Microsoft can deliver me a new browser that:

  • Supports touch as well / if not better than Modern IE 10
  • Is fast and nimble
  • Has an extension platform that will engage and encourage developers to produce useful add-ons
  • Syncs my extensions and browser configuration across devices
  • Syncs my current browsing sessions across devices
  • Gives ME a Firefox equivalent experience on my desktop
  • Is as standards compliant as Firefox or recent IE browsers
    • Don’t laugh, IE 9-11 is much better behaved than it used to be

and most importantly of all:

  • Provides the same experience across all of my devices
    • I assume this would be powered by OneDrive in the same way Win8 Sync is

Then count me in and sign me up!

By devices here I’m talking about the following platforms: Windows, Xbox, Phone – The trinity of sreens

But lets not forget that this “new” MS I don’t see why this list shouldn’t also include: OSX and Android in the same way that Office or Skype does. (I’m leaving iOS out due to the platform restrictions around the use of browsers here)

Now doesn’t that sound like a browser you would want to use?

A way forward?

The tricky bit is how MS bring this to market – an area where they have typically struggled. MS are not good at explaining their strategies or stories to end-users leading to confusion and ultimately frustration. There is also another huge fly in the ointment with Microsoft’s traditional customers – business.


With my IT Pro hat on I can see that MS has some big issues to overcome in the enterprise with this new approach but if the rumours are true then they seem to be taking a sensible. The rumours to-date suggest that IE will contain two “dll” based engines. One the legacy engine that IE uses right now, and the other the newer Spartan engine. When compatibility mode is called the Trident engine is given the task, otherwise Spartan takes over. This still leaves the UI issues up in the air – large companies get very twitchy when UI is changed as it suddenly requires re-training of users and means heaps of training documentation is now invalid.

Will this cause a headache for IT departments in the short/medium term – probably but it’s likely going to be no worse than the migration planning that went into scouring the enterprise of all Windows XP remnants (oh wait).

Will MS get Spartan right first time out the gate? – History tells us no

Will MS disappoint me by not delivering the browsing experience that I’ve got in my imagination? – Probably 🙁 but hey, I have very high expectations

Will MS figure it out in Spartan V2? – More likely!

Will I use Spartan?– stands a chance!

Am I excited by internet browsers? – Unfortunately but hey that’s what being an IT Pro is about right?!

This news about Spartan, is to me me, ultimately another extension of the new MS “Write once run everywhere” philosophy and as an end-user that’s something I’m very keen to embrace.

Would love to know your thoughts, either below or catch me on twitter if anyone got this far 🙂

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Is MS new browser Spartan a good idea? – Part 1 IE History

Posted by on Jan 14, 2015 in words | 0 comments

Recently on a Yammer board that @jonoble and I are members of, the question was posed about what people made of the news that Microsoft is rumoured to be developing their first new browser in, well, nearly forever.

The question was about whether people thought this was a good idea or not for Microsoft? I ended up producing a long winded reply and thought that I might as well formalise my thoughts a bit further and post it here for posterity’s sake (not because I’m under the delusion that anyone will find it interesting beyond me in 5 years’ time!).

So in a nutshell is Microsoft‘s new browser a good idea? Yes, yes it is. IE was forged back in the early days of the internet, by a Microsoft that was stuck in its ways and had a very desktop-centric view of the world. The world, and Microsoft, have now moved on and it is about time IE did the same.

IE a (s)potted history:

The early days

Internet Explorer was Microsoft answer when it became apparent that this “internet thing” was going to really catch on. I always think of IE as being included with Windows but actually IE 1.0 only shipped with Windows 95 Plus! Expansion pack.

Back in these early days between versions 1-4 IE was actually pretty innovative in its own way. Microsoft added support for things like CSS and VRML, it has a plugin model (Active-X) that would allow third party companies to extend its capabilities i.e with flash and there were some nifty side effects from its OS level integration – Active Desktop anyone?


I can very clearly remember talking about the release of IE4 (September 1997) at school when I was doing a GCSE in IT, does anyone else remember the wee Java 3D clock that they had produced as a demo that you could place on your desktop and move around independently like it was its own program! That months PC-Pro couldn’t come soon enough so that I could get my mitts on the install media to upgrade my poor old TechnICL Pentium 133 workhorse!

Sadly, as with most things in IT I was starting to learn that reality could be a cruel disappointment. There is always a gap between how I perceive a feature should work vs how it has been actually been programmed. Active Desktop didn’t evolve into anything useful and was too much of a resource hog back when RAM & CPU were precious precious commodities. It was also horribly unreliable, replacing your wallpaper all too often with that white browser page containing a link down in the bottom right hand corner that would attempt to refresh the desktop page… Anyway enough memory lane.


So what went wrong for MS and IE? Well these early IE versions were certainly not without their flaws. It was far from easy on system resources, it wasn’t designed with security in mind and as Microsoft had tried to push the capabilities of the browser it had implemented a whole stack of their own non-standards compliant HTML markup.

With the launch of IE6 and Windows XP back in 2001 Microsoft held a huge monopoly over the browser market through its decisions to bundle IE with its own OS. A decision which had huge repercussions for Microsoft and something that would land it in hot water both in the USA and with the EU. This huge market share was bad for consumers in two ways. Firstly it presented a huge surface area for nasty people to target and secondly it seemed that Microsoft almost “gave up” at this point on any innovation in IE. On the security front IE was being targeted on two sides at once, by websites themselves with malicious code that could install and launch Active-X components in your browser and by other crap-ware on your computer that would load IE full of toolbars to the point where you had no browsing space actually left!

Image of IE with loads of toolbars & no browser space

IE7 with loads of toolbars

As for innovation it would now be five years between releases, with IE 7 appearing in late 2006. Just think about that for a moment. Five years with no major versions or updates to a bit of software. That is something pretty much unheard of now for popular software.

At about the time of IE7 Microsoft were starting to be left behind by Firefox and Opera. Any power user worth their salt had moved on to platforms that supported tabbed browsing and a truly flexible extension model allowing deep customisation of the platform, not just plugins or toolbars. These browsers were also generally much faster although not necessarily less resource intensive (Firefox 3.5 I’m looking at you).


With IE 8 Microsoft made a big effort to comply with web standards but unfortunately the damage was done. While browsers like Firefox and Opera behaved in a mostly predictable way when rendering complex sites, IE was all over the place. IE 9 continued this trend of improvement but they were to some extent having to lie in the bed that they had made for themselves. While they fought to modernise and transform the browser into something that was much more standards compliant they were left having to support a huge tangle of legacy rubbish required by organisations who had deployed Line Of Business software reliant on a browser or the desktop (again IE hooks in deep).

Out in the wider world PDA’s were morphing into smartphones and Microsoft had created a lite version of IE for their pocket platforms which did an okay job but again was left for dead by the completion from the likes of Opera mobile.

With Windows 8 Microsoft had a new challenge on their hands. They had effectively split their operating system in half with the traditional desktop environment and the “Modern” full screen touch friendly portion designed for a new class of device. IE 10 therefore had two modes to it, one which ran on the desktop like previous versions and the other that was a full screen touch-optomised experience.

As someone who in the last year had moved from using a Nexus 7 Android based companion device to having a Windows 8.1 8” tablet I had also started to re-visit Metro IE having given up on Firefox when they canned their pre-beta Metro version. Do you know what? IE 10 Modern is actually a pretty good browser. It has the best touch support, with things like gestures for navigation that I’ve come across but it still has its flaws.

This is why the idea of Microsoft starting a clean browser slate seems to be an awesome concept… to be continued in Part 2!

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An unsupported app may be worse than no app at all

Posted by on Jan 11, 2015 in words | 0 comments

One of the main complaints of platforms that aren’t iOS or Android is the lack of apps. At least that’s the lazy “con” to put in your review of an operating system or device. In fairness, most platforms have most of the things that most people want. However, even if lots of your family and friends might be “most people”, there’s a good chance that you aren’t, and there’s a particular service that you use, and you can’t don’t want to live without the app that supports it.

Unfortunately, the arrival of your must-have app on a platform isn’t the end of the story. There are far too many cases of companies who offer nothing more than lip-service to a given platform. The good news for users of iOS and Android is that you’re less likely to fall foul of this, although there are some apps that are only/better supported on one or the other of those platforms, for whatever reason. For people who are thinking about changing platforms, it’s no use just checking if there’s versions of the apps really want on that platform; you also need to know if they’re any good and ideally if they’re being supported beyond an initial release window.

This brings me on to the sad case of Audible for Windows Phone.

As the number one supplier of audiobooks, Audible’s content is great. Sadly, their app for Windows Phone lets them down badly. My memory isn’t the best, but I think I can just about recall a wonderful period of time when it used to work fine. I use my phone to play audiobooks, podcasts or music on my daily commute, but at some point something changed and using the Audible app has been like torture ever since. It’s been terrible on two most recent Windows Phones (the HTC 8X and the Lumia 930). It may not have been Audible’s fault that it broke (there’s every chance that Microsoft pushed an OS update that changed something, but I do blame them for a lack of pro-active support of their app – plenty of people have reported it broken and they haven’t done anything about it since their last update on 26th November 2013.

For me the problem is starting playback. When it actually starts it’s fine, unless I have to pause for more than a few seconds, then the problems start again. Usually, when I launch the app to play a book, it takes several minutes to start playback. I have sometimes pressed play, taken a shower and got dried and half dressed before it starts to play. Sometimes I’ll see the screen turn off after 5 minutes without it starting – when that happens I’ll force-close the app and launch it again. Sometimes that helps, sometimes I get a short sound like the narrator is clearing their throat, then nothing. It’s abysmal.

My partner in crime at TheTekTonic pinged Audible about this on Twitter and they claim that they’re going to have an update for the app soon. I understand from checking up on this from time to time, that they haven’t had any expertise in-house to update the app, so I presume they have either recruited someone or paid a 3rd party.

I’m hoping that their update will make the app usable again, but here’s their problem – if it doesn’t, I’m out of patience. They’re going to lose me as a customer. If they didn’t have an app on Windows Phone and I choose that platform, that’s on me. As it stands, I expect to be able to use their service on my platform because they provided an app for that, but the app doesn’t work properly, so that’s on them. So this isn’t about my poor choice; it’s about a company that doesn’t appear to value my custom. It’s eroded my faith in them as a service provider that I have been giving money to on a monthly basis for years. If their new app is great, I’ll be well on the way to forgiving them (because I know that making software work on such a wise variety of devices is not trivial), but if not…

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