Uni Life: Moving in to Halls of Residence

uni life
life in the box

Around a week ago I left my life in Usk behind to move into a small box with a pathetic excuse for a bathroom in the hope that three years education in Kingston University London will lead to a well paid job and eventually a super yacht and a house where the bathroom has enough space to park a tank.
A big sacrafice in a way but working in the pub all my life and living with my family wasn’t going to get me anywhere near what I actually want to achieve in life so it was sort of necessary. Here I am a week in with absolutely nothing to do so I’m going to write about what it was like moving in…

Moving in was a joke. I had to fit my entire life into a small sports saloon with about enough space to fit 3 boxes and a suitcase. I couldn’t park on site because my Halls don’t have their own car park because it’s right in the city centre and that would cost a fortune. I was showed around and given the key to my box and told a few of the basics of living and the rules and regulations and what not and then it was down to me and my Dad to actually move all my stuff in. This was an incredibly tedious task of walking back and forth to the carpark, going up and down lifts and generally just carrying my rather large amount of living essentials… such as 2 laptops and a desktop computer and a 26″ TV. Who could be without that? I mean I have got to live in the box for a year and my cackbook pro is full and I can’t play video games on an ultraportable really so they’ve all got a reason to be here.

Anyway after the whole moving in thing where you put your clothes in drawers and connect your electrical items to the power sockets, I solemly sat looking at the box thinking wow, it’s actually going to be my place of living for the next year. It’s not much, and it’s not home. That said, I have a pretty big kitchen with living area and everything works. The box has just about enough room to stand up and play dizzy clocks too but if you spin to far to either the left or the right you’d probably end up eating wall or desk. It’s alright though, there isn’t really much need for masses of space as long as there is space to store stuff without it getting in your way and I’ve got that. I actually quite like the box, it’s just not very cosy. It’s sort of like living in Ikeas idea of a nice room. Horrible coloured wood everywhere and a plastic bathroom that slots in and requires next to no screws for installation. There’s also a bed with a matress that’s fine and it doesn’t feel like the sort of thing you get in a hostel like I imagined it would be. All considered, I’m very grateful too have my own space and I’m very lucky in terms of location and even just having the halls of residence.

the view from the box
The view from the box is of the Thames

The location is among the biggest changes obviously. I now live in (more or less) South London and they actually have a load of double decker busses that are red and turn up on time and run more than once a month. There’s also a 30mph speed limit everywhere that nobody really cares about. Another thing about living here is you better get used to sirens. I don’t know whether people just like getting hurt up here but I probably here an ambulance every 10 minutes but I guess it’s going to be expected when there’s more people. There are many upsides to moving out of a small town to the biggest town though. I live near everything. It’s like living on the high street. I’m inbetween two department stores and a shopping centre. There are two Greggs(!) within walking distance and I don’t have to drive 8 miles to get a six pack of Mcnuggets. It’s amazing, I love how convenient it is and how you can actually go to big name shops just by walking. I mean the biggest brand in my home town is a spar and you wouldn’t exactly go there to by a shirt for a night out would you.

Moving into halls also wasn’t anywhere near as lonely as I expected. This is due to the fantastic pieces of technology that surround us today such as webcams and mobile phones. I can ring all my friends from home and even see their faces on skype. It’s amazing how much easier things like FaceBook and Skype have made the move up here. I’ve never been bored, always had someone to speak too (even before I made pals) and never really worried about being on my own. If you’re moving into halls or will be in the next year and are worried about it, just don’t. It’s awesome. Even if you’re not in a flat with people you usually hang round with just chill and be open minded. You might make friends with someone who’s completely different to you and learn loads about other people’s lives. I certainly have and it’s awesome. Leaving your own social circle is difficult but creating a new one is almost a euphoric feeling. Knowing that you can talk to someone you’ve never met and have little in common with is awesome and makes you feel like you could fit in with anyone. Sort of like a master key or universal puzzle piece.

So far though, so good. I’ll be writing more about my life in uni here under the Uni Life tag so if you’re going next year or if your a life perv and randomly stalk me you should check back here once in a while to see what it’s like 😀

Alton Towers and rides.

Swing ride in Alton Towers

If I was writing this post ten years ago it would be about how I had a nice day out in Alton Towers Theme Park and had a nice stay in the Hotel courtsey of IBM. I would mention how I enjoyed the non-thrill rides and how nice the place was. Obviously with many spelling mistakes and small words as I would of only been eight at the time. Yes, I had a massive fear of rides and rollercoasters for ages. In fact, I’d been to Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Drayton manor and all the major parks in Florida with a fear of rides. Almost pathetic and an absolute waste of money in every respect. Crossing the atlantic to go on about 5 rides and wait around whilst my family queued for some of the best rides in the world.

It did all change though. The second time I made it to Florida I completely overcame my fears as a family friend dragged me on the Rock N Rollercoaster. Ever since I’ve been absolutely fine with all thrill rides and take the “what can go wrong” mentality with every single ride. Nothing I look at scares me, didges me out or makes me feel sick.

In the past few months I’ve gone to Alton Towers twice, with different crowds each time. Once for my brothers birthday and again yesterday just for the sake of going and then we went out in Birmingham in the evening. I love Alton Towers, it really is an epic park and when the Sky Ride is actually turned on the day isn’t half as tiring with all that nonesense walking. The flagship rides are obviously Air, Nemisis, Oblivion, Rita, Thirteen and Sonic Spinball. All of them are good fun, the queues weren’t too bad yesterday either because all the students have gone back to school and the weather was pretty dire. As for the rides, I absolutely love Air and Nemisis, they are both awesome and fun every time I get on them. Oblivion is good fun because that drop feels nothing like any drop I’ve experienced before and at the top you genuinely can’t see the track or where your going. Rita is not too bad, it’s crazy acceleration speed is aesome ut I can’t help but feel after you’ve been launched it’s just some windy track that isn’t that exhilarating. Thirteen was a massive let down the first time I went on it and unfortunately the second ride didn’t change it. It’s been overhyped and the marketing made it out to be some sort of ultimate thrill ride where as it’s not that great at all. It feels cheap and like they ran out of money when they built it, the surprise is pretty surprising but it’s not really that scary and the rest of the ride is just underwhelming. Sonic Spinball is absolutely awesome, it’s something different, I’ve never been on anything like it before and it properly throws you about and is genuinely just a good crack. One of the rides that I love going on with people that don’t work it out quickly, is hex. A ride where the room spins around you and your strapped in by a flimsy lap bar and it feels like your doing front flips but the “belongings” you bought on the ride with you don’t fall or even move from by your feet. It’s hilarious watching how confused people get.

We also managed to get in for £20.80 instead of the full £41.60 by popping into the petrol station shop on the way up and buying some rocky bars (which are hanging) for about £1.50 and they had 2 for 1 vouchers on so that worked out pretty well. We also bought an Alton Towers refillable soda bottle that allowed us to get unlimited drinks all day for £6 and between for of us you can’t really go wrong with £1.50 for as much fizz as you want. That said being students we were drinking far too much to get the value for money and spending a lot of the day in the bathrooms.

It was a pretty good day all in all, except for this guy dressed as a pirate ripped it into me because I was wearing shorts and took the mick out of my legs and I continued to get called “octopus legs” by my pals for the rest of the day. I will probably go again but I’m thinking it’s gonna have to be Thorpe Park next as they’ve got some cool rides that I’ve never been on before!

Full Screen Browsing is so much better.

Maybe cloud computing is just coming closer and closer that I can do nearly everything I need to do just in a browser. Not so long ago I unified all my email adresses to through Gmail instead of wasting space on my various devices and downloading them to multiple machines by using software like Mail.app on the mac and outlook on the PC, there’s no point. I might as well have them all go to something that does the exact same thing but I need to be online (which I’d need to be to check my emails anyways).

Firefox 6 is my current browser of choice on my Windows 7 laptop and it has the option to pin tabs as apps which is awesome because I stick my Gmail and my Facebook and Twitter as apps and then browse the internet normally with other tabs. Recently though I’ve been using websites that need a bit more screen estate and without having to plug into an extra monitor or buy a(nother) laptop with a bigger screen I can just press F11 and be presented with nothing but the page in question. No nonesense menu’s that don’t need, no start menu or dock at the bottom of screen. No, just what I want to concentrate on.

I never really got into the habbit of full screen browsing because I would always be switching in and out of various programs on my computer with iTunes and other things. On my Mac I could hardly do anything in full screen (something Apple have changed in Lion) and I hardly ever did any full screen browsing. I don’t even think I bothered to work out how, in fact, it actually did my head in that if I pressed the maximise button the dock didn’t dissapear because it becomes unneccessary and yes I know you can set the dock to auto-hide but that’s not appropriate as some apps you need it there and some you don’t. I’m not having this problem with my new PC, I can do most things in the browser and when I do want to swap out to another app (tends to be spotify or tweetdeck), I simply windows+tab and get a full view of all the screens I’ve got open and then can quickly switch back. Sort of like what pressing that button that displays all windows on the mac does but it seems smoother.

I also think that full screen browsing is one of the reasons tablets appeal to so many people, the lack of annoying menu’s and simplicity of just having the website you want to pay attention to you in front of you feels just right and the browsers on most tablets emphasize this. With my PC however it works just as well, especially with this new version of FireFox I’ve been using. The tabs are on top which for some reason works better and I don’t know why because I have to move my mouse further to click it (which sounds pathetic I know but there is logic behind it) but it does work better and when I’m not switching between them it simply dissapears and gives me even more screen to use. It’s brilliant. I can even avoid using all of them just by using the keyboard shortcuts to move between tabs and go back and forth pages. In fact, the keyboard is what makes all of this so smooth, which makes me think again, I don’t need an iPad and I’m not going to by a tablet.

I can’t quite figure out why it’s taken me so long to pick up on this, is all it took was a tap of the F11 button. Maybe it’s because recently most websites re-adjust to the size of the window rather than stay the same size. I don’t need to scroll side to side as much which is great! Is all I need now is for Spotify to launch a browser version and TweetDeck to accept me on to the HTML5 webapp Beta and I’ll be good to live in the browser and use only that software for “day to day” use of the computer.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 to replace my Macbook Pro

Not so long ago I posted about how I was well and truely locked into Apple’s ecosystem and would not buy many computing products outside of that paticular brand. This has changed…

After much thought about buying a new laptop to take away with me to University, I’ve decided not to spend the money on a Macbook as it would just be too much hassle. When I went up for the open day and spoke to the staff members in the faculty they did say that it’s primarily windows they use for their work and it is a system I’m extremely familiar with and have worked with for ages. I’ve already got my MacBook Pro with Windows XP installed on it through bootcamp and I hardly ever boot into it because it’s an inconvenience.

So I came to the decision that I was going to buy another laptop to co-exist in the world with my Desktop and Macbook Pro although the latter will get used less. Here I am today writing on a brand new Lenovo ThinkPad X1. A lightweight, thin, Thinkpad. Most people who haven’t used a ThinkPad assume they are just for business and aren’t the most aesthetically pleasing computers but having owned one in the past and family members having them (a relative once worked in IBM) I decided it was a ThinkPad I wanted to buy. They are massively renowned for their reliability and I’ve never had a problem with them.

The X1 in particular had some features that really appealed to me as a clumsy fool such as being made with reinforced magnesium roll cages that protect the actual computer when dropped. The X1 also has a spill proof keyboard, something that sounds fantastic to me after I spilt a piping hot cup of tea onto a £1000 MacBook Pro just weeks after buying it. It’s also got a pretty decent processor for an ultraportable (Core I5 running at 2.5ghz), 4GB of DDR3 RAM (My Macbook Pro has 2GB DDR2), a fast 320gb harddrive, HD webcam, A little nub mouse(!) as well as trackpad. The battery life I’m yet to come in contact with as it’s on the first charge right now. It also has a fingerprint reader for security, which usually you’d think is a gimmick and a pain to use but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the Lenovo software and handling of the reader.

I was expecting the computer to come with just a base install of Windows 7 Professional because of the ThinkPad’s business origins and the fact most companies would probably like to tailor the software to their own specs however the Lenovo was loaded with what most people would meet and greet by the name of bloatware/crapware. It’s actually not all the bad though, the machine is running fast and none of the bloatware is forced on you, you click it and it gives you the option to install it or not. I’ve already removed the office 2010 trial and installed my professional plus on it so I don’t get any half-baked features. It also offered me if I wanted Norton internet security which made me die inside a bit but it wasn’t already installed just a little icon trying to encourage you.

So far, the laptop is going very well. I’ve installed my default suite of applications that are necessary for it to be used by a proper human being (skype, spotify, office… etc) and I’m going to be using it pretty hard for the next three or so years (about as long as a laptop lasts for me) and I hope it does last because it cost just over a grand. I’ll probably review the laptop in the coming weeks along with some other things I’ve bought recently and haven’t had time to blog about.