The homeless banker

Currently I have absolutely nowhere to live. I am on a graduate scheme at one of the UKs leading banking and financial services institutions and earn a fairly decent graduate salary with pretty good company benefits.

It is then, with shame, I must admit I am currently couch surfing in Wimbledon with an old school friend due to my tenancy in Maida Vale coming to an abrupt end. 

I still have two weeks working the London office and then will make my way to Wales to stay with my Mum for a bit having packed 95% of my possessions into my girlfriends Citroën C3 last weekend. 

I’m told I’m not to stay there. I’m then going to live with my brother for two weeks and see what I think of some spare rooms.  If that fails I may look into staying back in Usk, where I was partially raised and I suppose attempted to grow up. If I decide to stay at my dads place, the affectionately called “Bin Ladens Cave”. Alas it’s probably a month off before I sign a document anywhere but that also means I’m possibly going to have a month where I don’t moan about the prospect of council tax.  Student life was too easy.

On Fitness…

3 years ago, I was against any form of fitness that involved traditional methods. You know, things like running or heaven forbid playing in a team sport. I found gyms awkward and cliquey, I would quite enjoy swimming, but by that I mean I enjoyed messing about in a pool, preferably near sun loungers and slides.

Fast forward a year and I’d joined London Central YMCA. I was going to trampoline twice a week and on the other three weekdays doing an absolutely awful full body workout using various machines that I used to convince myself I was keeping fit. At this point, whilst the trampoline was good and a nice little look back at the days of Gymnastics, I was going to the gym and thinking by going to the gym I was keeping fit. I wasn’t, I was simply spending a lot of time in the gym. All in all a positive step forward, because I started to actually enjoy going to the gym even if sometimes I thought doing 5km on a cross trainer was a good workout.

Let us now fast forward another year. Now I’ve left Furnival Mansions and no longer live near Tottenham Court Road but in Maida Vale. I sign up to Bannatynes Maida Vale spurred on by my flatmate who had been training on and off for a few years. Bannatynes Maida Vale, ain’t in Maida. Sorry but it’s Kilburn. It’s also a dreadful gym. I feel like I can point that out now. We spent around 6 months there, I may have had to leave London with work due to being on a flexible location contract so after 6 months of on and off going to the gym at 6am and lifting weights without really understanding what I was doing. I don’t think I made any progress in particular but it was good to be doing something rather than nothing. I should also point out, that I was drinking regularly, probably 4 times a week and not really considering my diet whatsoever, but I am one of those people who doesn’t get fat quickly. I was still rake thin at this point. All in all, a good step, less fun because the Gymnastics was gone but we had a pretty good routine, the gym sucked though and it was stupidly expensive, something like £60 a month.

Then, Training House Gym. This gym taught me something before I even did my first session. Google Reviews can suck. There were some pretty crushing reviews knocking about with Training House Gym. Stuff like, “old equipment”, “smells bad”, “cliquey”. I can honestly say I never had a problem and it was an awesome and supportive gym from day 1. It is however, different. It’s essentially a huge room with weights. The treadmills don’t have TVs, the cycling machines are hardly used and there is a lot of those cross fit types knocking about. It took me a while, but I got a routine together, I started compound lifts, deadlifts, squats and bench. Running a split of 4 days a week as a rule. I finally started making some progress with weights, going from struggling to bench 40kg at the start of 2015 to comfortably lifting sets of 70kg later in the year. I went from never deadlifting before to deadlifting 100kg and have been doing squats at 80kg. Training was actually going really well at this gym and the PTs would swing by and offer advice and stop me from injuring myself. I also had Aussie Dom, the chap from the cupboard, motivating me as lifting was the only fitness he liked other than surfing. Cliché.

Then only recently I decided to get a fit bit charge. With the heart rate monitor. So I can call it a Charge HR. Smashing. Anyway I soon realised after six months of weight lifting and eating loads of anything for “gains”, despite being stronger, on a cardio level I was not  fit. So the current thing is running and weight lifting. Aiming to increase both strength and cardio health whilst aiming towards a super sprint triathlon in the next year. Now to get swimming and buy a road bike. My fixie won’t do. 

The Lego Video Games Are Outstanding

I bought an Xbox One not long ago on a bit of a whim. Having hardly picked up my Wii U gamepad in a while and knowing full well that between work, the Chartered Banker and funding London’s various PubCos I would probably not spend much time playing it.

Then I happened to remember that I had an Australian guy living, quite literally in my cupboard who absolutely loved games, which is curious because he’s also a surfer dude and the sun comes out in Australia every now and then. He and I actually managed to get into Fifa, a game I’ve detested my entire life and especially throughout university when the chaps would prefer to play Fifa than go out.

Alas the Aussie moved out, Fifa went back on the shelf and the Xbox became a BBC iPlayer machine. An expensive one at that. Then I decided to flick through the store on Monday night as all good TV has finished (Cheers HBO) and see if there were any deals on.

There it was Lego Marvel Super Heroes. £10.34 I think it was, a weird price but near enough 3 pints in your local Sam Smiths and probably going to last a lot longer. I downloaded it and had in the back of my mind a game that was going to be similar to the previous Lego instalments I’ve played on iPhone and I think Nintendo DS. I was blown away. The console game is much more polished and much bigger.

There are fantastic scenes, decent puzzles and all in all it’s a pretty funny game. I haven’t really played a game I’ve enjoyed this much in a while. Not since I got the latest Mario game for Wii U. When Mr Fantastic turns himself into a screwdriver I was properly laughing out loud, on a Monday, in my flat, on my own. A sad sight but slightly better than sat there miserable!

Yes the Lego universe, has, to some extent began to take over the world. What I’m shocked at is how good these games actually are. I was prepared to write it off as a child’s game. Bringing another gigantic universe into the mix with the Marvel stuff was sure to be a bit too keen for this style of game but they’ve interlinked origin stories and familiar stories incredibly well and in a funny and entertaining way.

All the above said, would I spend full retail price on a Lego game. No absolutely not. But that may be, because I’m now one of those guys who looks at my phone and says is Software really worth much more than £0.79 to me? I can gain hours of entertainment from Angry Birds and it’s free. £10 is about the right price point for a game of this type and despite being incredible, I’m sad to say that I couldn’t walk into GAME and purchase the disk version for full price.

Current Windows 10 Issues.

I’ve taken the plunge and upgraded to Window 10 last night. It took a long old time to install on my old ThinkPad X1 (The original,not the carbon).

There is on crucial element missing from my experience at the moment: The Windows Store. It just won’t work. I’ve also not been able to use the search function on the start menu, there is no sign of Cortana or the Edge browser and having tried many solutions to similar problems that people had on Windows 8.1. I’ve achieved nothing.

 

I currently receive the message “This app can’t open” – “There’s a problem with Store. Contact your system administrator about repairing or reinstalling it.”  The issue here being is that I am that person and despite exhaustively searching the internet I’ve been unable to find the solution thus far. Other applications seem to run fine, the calculator runs fine. None of the apps like Store show up in my application either. All very strange. If I find a solution I will update this post.

 

Dekstop

Update:

I’ve actually managed to fix this. After trying to no avail to reinstall all the native applications manually using this command in an elevated powershell (administrative privileges):

Get-AppXPackage -AllUsers | Foreach {Add-AppxPackage -DisableDevelopmentMode -Register “$($_.InstallLocation)\AppXManifest.xml”}
The next best thing was to download the USB memory stick creation tool for Windows installation and do a repair install. I kept all my apps and folders but this fixed the native apps, gave me access to Cortana for the first time since I blew up my Windows Phone and now I seem to have a fully functioning copy of Windows 10.
I followed this guide to get my 8GB Usb Pen up and running. I’m posting this on Edge Browser right now and it’s absolutely blazing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

So it’s been a while….

In all honesty, I don’t know if this blog has ever had a following. I don’t get many comments, I don’t track the views on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis and I don’t worry about what who I reach out to. I do look back on some of my earlier posts and think to myself how awful my style of writing has been but that’s part of getting older I think.

In my absence, I’ve now left university. I achieved a first class degree in Computer Science studying between Kingston University London and San Francisco State. As you can imagine I was fairly happy with my grade.

 

This brings me on to why I haven’t really been blogging as much. I have joined the Graduate Leadership Programme at Lloyds Banking Group in September of 2014 and am now in the full swing of a professional lifestyle. I’ve left Fitzrovia and now live in West London and am thoroughly enjoying myself. Actually, thinking about it, come Tuesday I will know if I will remain in London for another 6 months or whether I’ll be packing my bags and moving somewhere else in the country. As is the nature of a rotational graduate scheme. If I may correct myself again, I will definitely be packing my bags because my landlord wants her flat back. For shame.

I will be looking to pick up blogging again in the coming weeks. I’ve been reading quite a bit lately and wouldn’t mind writing up some things about the books I’m reading. I’m also looking to do some projects outside of work that I’d like to write about. Believe it or not I’ve actually started regularly looking after my body as well!

Microsofts Surface Pro 3

I’m fairly interested in the new 12″ Microsoft Surface Pro that Redmond seems to be boasting as the answer to both the MacBook Air and the iPad. Coming in at £639 and going all the way up to £1,649 the hybrid laptablet/tablet-top is pretty steep and there is clearly a reason why it is named pro. Not many consumers are going to be smashing out almost £2,000 on a Core i7 512gb beast. Microsoft is claiming up to 9 hours for video playback on these devices which is pretty impressive given the internals. I’m intrigued to see how games perform on such a device. In fact, the tech specs overall are amazing. It’s about the size of a MacBook Air and will definitely blow it out of the water.

The interesting thing is that Microsoft can obviously make an incredible device. The specs, the size, the engineering that has gone into this machine look very good. Even the pen has had a fair amount of thought go into it but can Microsoft market such a device. I honestly never understood how appalling Microsofts marketing skills are. They have some bloody good products yet always seem to focus on something that doesn’t make people reconsider why they use what they currently do. If Microsoft showed me an advert that proved Windows 8 managed windows better than my MacBook Pro then I would be more inclined to jump ship. I’d like to try out Windows 8 for a long time but so far I’ve just not had a reason. Windows 7 runs perfectly well on my ThinkPad. My iPad does all those pesky little things like Flipboard, FaceTime and other time wasting antics. I’m not sure I’ve felt the need to have one device to rule them all yet, and I certainly don’t want to be reading Kindle books on a 12″ with an i7 processor.

I’d thoroughly recommend checking out the Surface website here for it is pretty beautiful and shows off the Surface Pro 3 quite well. Will this turn Microsofts attempt to get it’s Windows Hardware products into our hands, well that we will have to see. I look forward to the sales figures in a years time.

Twitch $1 Billion Acquisition Shows Gaming Is Still Serious Money

I have to admit, I’ve felt pretty removed from the gaming industry for a number of years, my Internet connection in London is pretty intermittent so I don’t get online much, my MacBook and ThinkPad are now considered old and no computer games that come out run on them and the only consoles I have with me are a Wii U and a 3DS. Yeah, those two Nintendo consoles that have about 3 highly rated games each.

I’ve yet to buy a PS4 or Xbox One although I’m sure I’ll get round to it. I’m going to be moving around the UK every 6 Months for the next 2 years so I couldn’t tell you when.

What I can tell you that if YouTube is to incorporate Twitch, the streaming video game service that allows gamers to show themselves playing various games to multiple viewers, we are going to be shown that the future of gaming is serious money. It already is serious money, although I think many people don’t appreciate how much money. YouTube channels like Machinima are vast and make a large amount of money. If Google is valuing Twitch at $1 billion they aren’t doing so lightly. Young gamers are engaging with video like never before, media companies such as IGN and VOX are no longer the only people who screen record for reviews and there are countless gaming critics making money online.

This week, the candy crush saga owner, Riccardo Zacconi, made the Times rich list this week along with some of the leads on Grand Theft Auto. Games that almost everybody has heard about however not everyone necessarily plays.

Video games have historically been for geeks and nerds and not necessarily the wider audience, the aforementioned Nintendo actually changed all that with the Wii and DS consoles that their successors have so miserably failed to replicate in terms of success. Xbox One’s and PS4s are becoming the centre of the average family living room and thus encouraging more purchases of content for the living room across the family, not just the gamers of the families.

Indie developers are continuing to hope they get a smash hit with a game on the iOS and Android platforms investing countless hours in code, design and promotion. Meanwhile a game named Goat Simulator is making a developer a ton of money.

Facebook bought Oculus, a virtual reality headset maker that hopes to succeed where others have failed in bringing virtual reality to the masses. Another joker has even suggested making psuedo free-range chickens by bringing VR to the pecking kind of creature.

The gaming industry is one to watch. It’s huge, it has a more passionate fan group than I have ever witnessed in my life, seriously, people will get into arguments on the internet about whether their console is the better one to play the same game on. It’s not just for kids anymore, gaming is serious and it’s here to stay and there is a vast amount of money to be made in it. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, EA, Ubisoft and many others seek to capitalise on that and will continue to as long as they can.

Tesla To Land In The UK

When I was strolling through the streets of San Francisco or heading up towards the valley last year, it was clear there was champion of cars among the bay area inhabitants. The home-grown American Electric Car, the brainchild of Elon Musk, real life Tony Stark.

The car is finally making it’s way to the United Kingdom, with the right hand drive model being launched in Britain before any other right hand market.

This is the car to scare off all non-electric cars. Tesla has insanely good after sales care, they can raise the height of your car remotely if it’s near enough to a familiar wifi connection. It’s one manufacturer that really seems to understand software. Of course we have the german manufacturers increasingly relying on code to ensure efficiency for their cars however they are old dogs in a new world and Tesla has built this electric car up around technology and software.

The other thing that is coming with Tesla’s cars to the United Kingdom is the Supercharger network. Something we will begin to see at service stations across the main motorways that allow you to add 130 miles to your range in 20 minutes. Or in Moto or Welcome Break terms, a trip to the loo and an overpriced Coffee/Mineral Water from Costa.

This is the first electric car that looks like it might be something people might consider as an alternative to a 3-series or Audi A4. It’s a good looking car which is spacious, insanely quick (0-60 is less than 5s) and by all means less trips to the fuel pumps (note: 0).  There is an expanding market for electric cars in the United Kingdom however it’s still not growing at an exponential rate that a green-tech enthusiast would hope. The sods law of, until we have lots of electric cars there is no point installing loads of charging points. Hopefully with the delivery of Teslas to brits people will start to see that electric cars don’t have to be disgracefully ugly or for eco-freaks. The Tesla is a good option as a mid range commuter car, very few journeys in the UK are over 300 miles so if you have the money, why not take one for a test drive and join the electric car revolution.


Apple To Purchase Beats by Dre.

Ugh. I don’t even know where to begin on this one. It does actually make quite a lot of sense except, Apple makes some very beautifully engineered products, Beats by Dre have only one pair of headphones that are remotely well made and you pay probably at a higher markup than you do on an iPhone 5S. I speak of course about the pro edition which actually feel quite nice.

I’ve alway hated the Dre beats though. I don’t like the sound, I don’t like the connotations and I don’t understand how they took off so bloody quickly. It’s genius business. Every single music video since 2008 has contained a pair, as we have seen music videos become more and more about product placement and brand bragging (Grey Goose anyone?). I’m not even sure if I speak as hypocrite being the owner of a pair of Bose QuietComfort 15s. That said I bought them because they are the best noise-cancelling headphones on the market and that’s what I was looking for.

The important question here is what is in it for Apple. I suspect that Dre Beats are some of the most sold products through the EPOS systems at Apple stores. They can see the sales on these, the markup is astronomical, I heard from a friend of a Monster engineer that typically they won’t talk about a product unless the markup can be guaranteed to over 800%. Makes perfect sense I guess. We have also seen Apple delve into this market before, remember their absolutely ghastly iPod dock that looked like a less hollow baby bath?

The streaming service that Beats offers is also part of the deal we are supposed to assume. I guess it’s buying customers to an extent but it’s almost definitely going to be more expensive than Facebook paid for Whatsapp per customer and realistically, it’s nowhere near as good as Spotify.

I sit here among countless tech enthusiasts scratching my head. How long have these negotiations been going on for? What would Steve Jobs think? Why didn’t Apple use their large supply of talent to create a legitimate competitor in house rather than spend a huge amount on a company favoured by hip hop contemporaries. I’m just interested to see how this develops.

Apple CarPlay Is A Good Move

I’ve pretty much left the Apple eco-system. I don’t host anything of mine with Apple, I have a Windows Phone, I use Spotify not iTunes and I can’t remember the last time I bought an App from their app store on my iPad. I do use the iPad for flipboard but less and less these days. I also use my MacBook Pros less and less.

The case for the iPhone has been reduced in recent times. It’s fascinating that people see things such as the Galaxy S3/4/5 as genuine competitors to the iPhone when only a few years ago people thought the iPhone was the only phone to have.

That’s where CarPlay comes in. Apple have announced it’s in-dash car play system that will play nice with a handful of car manufacturers such as Mercedes. I somehow don’t think that I’ll be able to get my Windows Phone to play as nice with my next cars interface.

It gives people an incentive to choose the Apple device over others. It’s perfectly in keeping with everything Apple does. It locks you in. It makes it easy to do so. You’ve got Siri which is infinitely better than any in car voice recognition, it gives your car an ongoing connection to the internet and it should be all very seamless.

Your music, your phone, your messages all in one place, Maps could be awful as we all know Apple maps is. But there is also room to have an App ecosystem in your car, something not many manufacturers currently offer because it’s a pain.

I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if you see Mercedes and others bundling iPhones with their cars or selling them at the dealership. This is a great incentive to get people in the car market to pair with their phones. All the manufacturers have to do is give up the screen real estate.

Going forward it will be interesting to see whether the legacy systems of the cars will play an important part or if they will just be used in the background to monitor parts of the car. Automation may also change the state of Apple CarPlay because it might be hard to run two full systems side by side, even with the screen just being a slave to the iPhone.