Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

July 22, 2016
by Neil Turner

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.

July 16, 2016
by Neil Turner

Links from Pinboard for July 16, 2016

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

Digest powered by RSS Digest

July 7, 2016
by Neil Turner

A piece of post-Brexit holiday fiction

Set in the near future, this piece assumes that the United Kingdom goes ahead with a full withdrawal from the European Union, with no reciprocal trade agreements or freedom of movement. It’s a ‘worst case scenario’ and it’s unlikely that everything here will become true, but it will hopefully make you think.

So, it’s time for your annual holiday to Spain! Well, you had to miss last year — the cost of the flights and accommodation had rocketed and so you needed longer to save up.

You book your travel insurance — again, paying more than last time, now that your EHIC card is no longer worth the plastic it’s made of. You head out to pick up your foreign currency, and grimace at the exchange rate. Gone are the days where every £1 would buy you €1.40 — now, you come away with fewer Euros than Pounds.

Your passport returns from the Schengen visa office just in time — another expense that you had to save up for. You read the enclosed leaflet, including the dire warnings about what could happen if you overstay on your visa.

Still, it’s time to get packed, and set off the airport. Last time, you were able to fly direct from your local airport, but the budget airline that operated that route withdrew it after bi-lateral restrictions on air service agreements were re-introduced. So, it’s a long drive to London Heathrow, and you’re almost late because you nearly forgot your International Driving Permit which you’d never needed before.

You’re through the airport and on the plane without too much difficulty, and it’s not long before you land in Malaga. You alight from the plane, and head to Arrivals. Inside, you’re funnelled into the ‘Non-EU/EEA Nationals’ lane for the first time. You join a huge queue of fellow Brits, as well as some who have travelled from America and the Middle East.

Finally, you reach the desk. The Spanish immigration officer takes your passport, looks at you, and adds a date stamp for your visa. You collect your belongings, and get on a coach, bound for your hotel on the Costa del Sol.

The next day, you go out for a stroll. It feels different, somehow, from how you remember if from years gone by. Back then, as well as Spanish voices, you’d hear plenty of people speaking English. But not now; when Britain left the EU, Spain deported huge numbers of British immigrants who had settled. You pass several British bars and cafés — most of them closed.

Despite all this, you have an enjoyable week’s holiday, although you weren’t able to post any gloating photos on Instagram whilst you were there as the roaming charges were huge. But it’s time to head back to the airport.

You arrive, but your flight is cancelled. And the next flight isn’t until tomorrow. The budget airline your flew with isn’t very helpful, and offers you the bare minimum that it is required to. It gets to 10pm, and you notice that those flying to Frankfurt whose flight was also cancelled are all off to a hotel for a night, whilst you try to get comfy on the cold, hard floor of the departures area.

The following day, you’re able to get on a plane, and set off back to Heathrow. Leaving the plane, you head to to the British Nationals queue, and onwards to customs. Whilst away, you picked up nine bottles of Spanish wine, but this puts you over the 4 litre limit that was re-imposed following Brexit. You begrudgingly cough up an extra six pounds to a stern-looking customs official, and carry on. You collect your bags, and get in the car, ready for the long drive back home.

A week later, you hear that the airline turned down your request for compensation for the disruption. You decide that pursuing it in court would be pointless, and accept the miserable end to an expensive holiday. Maybe you’ll go back, but not for a couple of years, as you’ll need to save up again.

This piece was partly inspired by this Telegraph piece on what Brexit will mean for travellers. We can’t be sure whether all, some, or indeed any of this will come to pass, but clearly, Britain’s vote to leave the EU will have some profound effects on freedom of movement and the cost of holidays.

This was also cross-posted to Medium.

July 2, 2016
by Neil Turner

Links from Pinboard for July 2, 2016

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

Digest powered by RSS Digest

June 29, 2016
by Neil Turner

Updated CV

Screenshot of my updated CV

I’ve updated my CV. It’s available to view as a web page, and also as a downloadable PDF.

Whilst I’m not specifically looking for new jobs, I’ve been required to update my CV due to some restructuring at work. This restructuring will require me to apply for jobs in the new structure, as my existing role will cease to exist shortly, and I’d been asked to submit an updated CV as part of the application process.

I wrote my original CV whilst still a student, and it had been updated gradually over time to add skills and new information. Consequently, it focussed more on my educational, rather than professional background, and was full of things I did at university up to a decade ago. Whilst I’m proud of what I did at university, clearly I should be more able to talk about what I do now. And this was a document that had evolved over a 12-13 year period. So I scrapped the whole thing, and started again.

I went for a different look – before, it was rather cramped, and used Arial which, though readable, is rather boring. I switched this out for Gill Sans – still a very readable font, but it’s just a little bit different. My professional experience is put first and foremost, above my education history, and I also focussed on key achievements in my previous role. Before, I just talked about what I did, and not where I had gone above and beyond. I think it looks more impressive now.

Outdated information, such as serving on student union councils and committees, are gone, and instead I’ve listed completed training courses. As I’m mostly interested in administration-based roles, I feel this is relevant, but would probably replace it for a more creative or IT-focussed role. I’ve also separated my technical skills from my clerical skills – renamed ‘professional skills’.

Although it’s my CV and I’ve rewritten it from scratch, it is also a ‘document by committee’. I shared a Dropbox link to it amongst my friends on Facebook, and several of my friends offered some constructive suggestions for improvements. One of my friends is a university careers advisor and her tips were a real help. And my employer organised a CV and interviews workshop for staff affected by the restructuring, and this incorporates some of the ideas that I picked up.

I’m sure it’s not a perfect CV and, with more work, I could probably improve it further. The good news is that, of the four posts that I have put myself forward for, I’ve managed to get interviews for two so far and should hear about the other two shortly. If you need to work on your CV, I hope that my experience has been useful for you.

June 27, 2016
by Neil Turner

Lizzie’s half birthday

Lizzie at birth and six months

Lizzie turns six months old today. No, I can’t quite believe it either.

Whilst it’s not all been plain sailing, on the whole I’ve really enjoyed becoming a parent. It’s been great to see her develop and learn new skills, and turn from a small floppy newborn into a more interactive little nipper. She’s recently learn to sit up, and I reckon she’ll be able to crawl within weeks. And we’re able to feed her solid food now (well, purées).

I can’t wait to see what will happen over the next six months.

June 25, 2016
by Neil Turner

Links from Pinboard for June 25, 2016

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

Digest powered by RSS Digest

June 24, 2016
by Neil Turner
1 Comment


Tower Bridge

I’m writing this on the morning that a majority of British voters chose to leave the EU. Having stated my position as ‘remain’ and voted that way (as did Christine), I’m devastated to say the least, and terrified of what happens next.

It’s worth bearing in mind that I’m writing this having been awake since 3am, five days into a six day working week.

I’m feeling similar thoughts to 2011, when we as a country rejected a change to our voting system. I backed the change to AV, but a majority preferred to stick with the existing first-past-the-post system. But at least that was maintaining a ‘status quo’ – with the EU referendum, I fear the choices were ‘the same’ and ‘worse’, and not ‘the same’ and ‘better’.

And it’s bringing back memories of 2015, when the Conservatives unexpectedly won a majority in the General Election, and 2004, when George W Bush was re-elected as President of the USA.

What will take place over the coming days, weeks and months remains to be seen. The referendum result is not legally binding, and so the government and/or Parliament could choose to ignore it. I think one of the two following scenarios will play out.

Scenario 1: We leave the EU

The key thing to watch out for is invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. This is like giving notice on your job – it tells the rest of the EU nations that we will leave, and gives us two years to sort things out. At the end of that two year period, we will cease to be an EU member state, unless we can get every other EU member state to agree to stop the process, or grant us an extension.

I don’t expect Article 50 to be invoked straightaway, because two years isn’t very long to unpick all of the legislation linked to Europe and implement new trade deals with every other country in the world. I’ve heard that those leading the leave campaign want to wait until 2018, with the aim of completing the Article 50 process by 2020, when the next general election is due to take place.

Whilst I think we will lose out by leaving the EU, I expect any changes to be slow – although the biggest ever fall in the value of the pound may imply that things are about to get very hairy very quickly (and probably wipe out any savings from leaving the EU). In any case, I expect many of those who voted to leave will be disappointed that leaving the EU won’t bring about the massive changes that they expect. A major claim by Vote Leave was that the £350 million that we spend each week on EU membership (which is actually much less thanks to a rebate) could be spent on the NHS, but within hours of the result Nigel Farage has said that’s unlikely.

My big worry is therefore that ‘leave’ voters will feel massively let down and disenfranchised by the whole thing – leaving the EU won’t have been the panacea promised, and their trust in the political system will disappear.

A majority of Scottish and Northern Irish voters chose to remain, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a second referendum on Scottish independence in the coming years. I was neutral on the previous referendum, but I’d be very understanding if Scotland voted to go independent to re-join the EU as a new member state. As for Northern Ireland, I fear that the years of calm since the Troubles subsided could be over, especially as the Republic of Ireland remains an EU member state.

Scenario 2: The referendum result is ignored

Because the referendum isn’t legally binding, the government and/or Parliament may choose to ignore it, and not invoke Article 50. Whether this happens now, or in a couple of years when people realise what a mess we’ve got ourselves into, remains to be seen. I would naturally prefer this to happen, seeing as how 16 million British voters wanted to remain in the EU, but it is also not without caveats.

Those who voted leave will, understandably, be annoyed, and will feel massively let down and disenfranchised by the whole thing. I know, I’m repeating myself, but I genuinely think a lot of good, honest people, were convinced to vote leave on the basis of lies and false promises. But what makes this worse than the scenario above, is that these voters will struggle to find any political parties to turn to. After all, out of the 7 major British parties – Conservatives, Labour, Scottish National Party, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, Green Party and UK Independence Party – only the latter officially supported leaving with minorities of the largest two. Of course, that assumes that this won’t result in parties splitting apart – and neither Labour or the Conservatives are particularly united at the moment.

The big issue is that no-one knows what’ll happen

What scares me most about the whole thing is all of the uncertainty. Staying in the EU would have, for the most part, been business as usual. But by voting to leave, we’ve opened a massive Pandora’s Box, and who knows what we’ll find.

I really hope that my worst fears are not realised. If they are, then at least I’ll be able to tell my daughter that I voted for what I thought was the right thing. And I apologise now if, in the coming months and years, I keep saying ‘I told you so’.

June 22, 2016
by Neil Turner

I’m voting remain

I'm voting remain

Tomorrow, the electorate of the United Kingdom goes to the polls for a referendum, where we’ll be asked whether we want to vote to remain a European Union member state, or leave.

I’m voting ‘Remain’, and this has always been my intention. I think we have far too much to lose by leaving, and precious little to gain. But I’m also voting for various friends and colleagues of mine, who are EU nationals living here in the UK, and who would face a potentially uncertain future if we leave.

I could spend hours going through exactly why I’m voting the way I am and why a vote to leave would be potentially catastrophic, but ultimately it comes down to ensuring that people who matter to me have a future in this country.

If you’re undecided about how you’ll vote, I’d suggest sticking with the status quo, and choosing Remain. If we leave the EU, then we may never be able to return. If we stay and things get worse, then another referendum could be called. The EU is not perfect, but I hope that by staying, we can influence it, rather than grumbling from the sidelines.

The polls are open from 7am until 10pm tomorrow – make sure you use your vote.

June 18, 2016
by Neil Turner

Links from Pinboard for June 18, 2016

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

Digest powered by RSS Digest