Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

August 20, 2016
by Neil Turner
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Links from Pinboard for August 20, 2016

Here are the articles or web sites that I’ve found this week and linked to on my Pinboard Bookmarks:

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August 17, 2016
by Neil Turner
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Hiatus

It probably won’t surprise you to see that I’m on something of a hiatus from blogging. I started a new job a couple of weeks ago, and have been very busy getting to grips with it at peak time.

Lizzie is doing great and I’ll probably write another post about how she’s developing. Let’s just say we have a lot of child-proofing to do.

Hopefully, normal service will be resumed next month. See you then.

August 6, 2016
by Neil Turner
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Links from Pinboard for August 6, 2016

Here are the articles or web sites that I’ve found this week and linked to on my Pinboard Bookmarks:

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August 3, 2016
by Neil Turner
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Car insurance renewal preparation

Cheese on Toast van, which presumably has car insurance.

I’m about six weeks away from my car insurance policy expiring. Presently, I’m with Diamond (part of Admiral Insurance), and haven’t yet had their renewal quote. But I’m already shopping around to see if I can get it cheaper elsewhere.

I wrote a blog post last year detailing what I’d done to slim my quote down. This ultimately saved me around £200 on this year’s cover. And for three months I had a small ‘black box’ device in my car which monitored my driving. The good news is that I drove sufficiently well to get a ‘safe driving discount’ on my renewal, when it comes.

I’ve not claimed this year, so I should have one year’s no claims bonus. And I’m not a brand new driver any more. Hopefully, the combination of these factors will mean that I can simply renew my car insurance with Diamond to get the best deal, but I’m keeping my options open.

I did a quick price comparison on Confused.com, to see what other insurers could offer. Admiral Insurance itself came top at under £550, which is around £150 cheaper than Diamond was last year. There were a few others under £600, although the quotes will expire before my renewal date. Still, it’s good to get an idea of what’s out there.

I also got a car insurance quote from LV=, after receiving an email from my trade union with an ‘exclusive discount’. Their quote was almost £2000, which, for a car that is worth less than £4000, is ridiculous. Especially when another firm can offer similar cover for around a quarter of the price.

Whilst it’s a pain to have to research new car insurance policies each year, you usually have to be a new customer to get the best deal. Insurance companies presumably make most of their money from those who auto-renew every year, and don’t shop around. It is time consuming getting new quotes, but it can be worth it.

July 30, 2016
by Neil Turner
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Links from Pinboard for July 30, 2016

Here are the articles or web sites that I’ve found this week and linked to on my Pinboard Bookmarks:

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July 28, 2016
by Neil Turner
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Hollingworth Lake

Hollingworth Lake

I’m a bit behind with uploading photos to Flickr, and so it’s taken me until now to write about a day out to Hollingworth Lake. Christine, Lizzie and I went right at the beginning of May, on a scorchingly-hot Sunday afternoon.

Despite its name, Hollingworth Lake is actually a reservoir, and is completely man-made. Built at the end of the 18th century, it served as the main water source for the Rochdale Canal – the canal that runs from Manchester, across the Pennines to our home town of Sowerby Bridge. By the 1860s it had developed into an inland tourist resort, and nowadays, it’s part of a country park. It still has the feeling of an inland seaside resort, as it retains some its hotels, pubs and amusement arcades. There’s also a sailing club based there.

Christine had been a few times before but this was my first time. I’d passed it a few times; the bridge in the background of the photo carries the M62, and I’ve had driving lessons nearby. Most people drive to get there and there are several car parks by the lake. On busy days, it may take you quite a while to find a parking space. If you don’t want to drive, Smithy Bridge is the nearest railway station (with signs saying ‘Alight here for Hollingworth Lake’) and is a short walk away. There are regular buses from Rochdale.

There’s a footpath all the way around the lake. It’s around four kilometres (2 ½ miles in old money) and makes for a nice gentle stroll. There are a couple of cafés at various points, and on hot days the ice cream vans make an appearance. It’s a nice, varied walk, with a section of the park set aside as a nature reserve.

You can view a few more photos in my Hollingworth Lake album on Flickr.

July 27, 2016
by Neil Turner
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Seven months

Photo of Lizzie at 7 months old

Lizzie is now seven months old. This doesn’t sound especially significant, but it marks the point when Christine goes back to work full-time, at the end of her maternity leave.

We’re putting Lizzie in the care of a childminder during the daytimes. Whilst it would be nice for us to have spent more time with her on leave, the cost of childcare is less than the money we’d lose by not being in work. Plus, it gives her the opportunity to interact with other children – something she won’t get to do at home for at least a couple of years, assuming we decide to have any more kids.

Unfortunately, we’re only able to use the childminder four days a week, for the time being. This means that, until September, we have to look after her ourselves on Wednesdays. So, we’re taking it in turns – and today is my turn.

Whilst I have previously looked after on my own a couple of times, this has never been for more than a couple of hours – so a full day will prove interesting. Although I am chickening out to some extent, by meeting my mum in Leeds for lunch.

Lizzie isn’t quite crawling yet, but is able to manoeuvre herself backwards and in circles if given the chance. We’ve got a safety gate installed at the top of the stairs, and will be working on child-proofing the house before she gets more mobile. And her first tooth has made an appearance this week.

So far, I’m still enjoying this parenting lark.

July 26, 2016
by Neil Turner
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A day out in Liverpool

Liverpool

A couple of weeks ago, Christine and I ended up with a Friday off work and no plans. So, on a whim, we decided to go to Liverpool.

In the past, we would have caught the train. It takes a couple of hours from Sowerby Bridge, with a change in Manchester. But we decided to drive this time, which proved to be quicker and (probably) cheaper. We decided to stay the night, and we could bring all of Lizzie’s paraphernalia in the car as well. We managed to get a room in the Holiday Inn Express in the Albert Dock, which was great. It’s located in one of the old warehouses, above what used to be the studio for This Morning on ITV. The rooms still have the brick barrel-vaulting and ironwork intact, bringing some character to an otherwise bog-standard budget hotel.

We last came to Liverpool in 2010. Back then, we spent a couple of days in the city, before catching the ferry to the Isle of Man. This was before the Museum of Liverpool had opened, so now that it is open and established, we popped in. The gallery about the Liverpool Overhead Railway most interested me, as you can imagine, but the rest of the museum was worth looking around too. It’s also home to several of the Superlambananas that were created for Liverpool’s European Capital of Culture event in 2008. There’s plenty about the history of the city, although some of the exhibits about Liverpool’s suburbs will be more of interest to locals than those visiting.

Liverpool

Liverpool is one of my favourite places to visit. The area around the Albert Dock is fantastic, as is the Liverpool One shopping centre – it’s a great example of a retail development that blends into the city, rather than dominating it. I’m sure we’ll be back again in a few years time, when Lizzie is old enough to enjoy it for herself.

July 22, 2016
by Neil Turner
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Pokémon Go

Screenshot of Pokemon GoIt probably won’t surprise you that I’ve spent quite a bit of the last week playing Pokémon Go. I downloaded it within hours of its official UK release; the screenshot shows how far I’ve got, and overall, I’m level 11. This is mostly through capturing Pokémon on the way to and from work, and on my lunch break.

Christine has been playing it a little longer. She has an Android phone, and so she was able to sideload the APK file from a third-party web site prior to its official release on the Google Play Store. She’s therefore slightly ahead of me, and has had the benefit of being on maternity leave to have more time to catch Pokémon.

I’m enjoying it, although it is further exacerbating my iPhone’s battery issues. As I write this, Pokémon Go has used 51% of my battery over the past 24 hours. Even before last week, I was struggling to get through a full day on one charge. To be fair, I use multiple Bluetooth devices with my phone, and use it on a train journey with frequent tunnels. So my iPhone’s battery was already getting a strong workout even before I started playing. But, notice how my phone was already down to 61% before 9am in the screenshot.

I haven’t added any Pokémon to gyms yet, and have only played a couple of battles. I’m waiting until I’ve collected more, and had the chance to upgrade or evolve them. Many of the nearby gyms have Pokémon with combat power over 1000 already, and my best is under 800.

It’s been fascinating to see how much of a phenomenon Pokémon Go has become. It’s already outperforming many other social apps, including Twitter and Tinder, in terms of how long people use it. And the news has been full of stories, both good and bad, about the game and its players. I never played Ingress, its spiritual predecessor, but I had friends who did. It seems that Niantic, its developer, has found the perfect balance between Ingress’ gameplay, and the popularity of the Pokémon franchise.

I don’t know how long I’ll keep playing. At the moment I’m still discovering new Pokémon and enjoying levelling them up – even if I’m sick of always finding Drowzees everywhere. Maybe the game will become less fun or stale after a while, but at the moment I like it.