Where did I last synchronize my Psion?

Hard case from Proporta for the Psion PDA.

Over the last couple of months, whenever I have taken out my Psion Series 5mx in public there has always been someone who oohs and ahhs over it and asks if this will be the next big thing. They’re often quite surprised when I say that it was manufactured over seven years ago in 1999.

I use my Psion every day. For me it has everything I need: Agenda, Tasks and Contacts which I can synchronize with Microsoft Outlook; a word processor, a database, the ability to send and receive e-mails, and a host of other useful extras: MP3 player, UK map, street maps, dictionary, encyclopedia and a cut-down version of the Internet Movie Database (I kid you not) … and it has a decent and usable keyboard, unlike some modern PDAs. (I’m a believer in using the right tool for the job.)

There was only one thing, however, that was annoying me about my Psion: I could never remember which PC I’d last synchronized it with. Was it my home PC or my work PC?

That was until I came up with this simple, but elegant solution. I protect my trusty Psion in a Grey Pod Hardcase from Proporta, which was designed and injection moulded from crash-helmet grade ABS plastic, which has a wee pocket on the inside of the lid which I presume is to store business cards, or SD cards, or the like.

Open Psion case showing a card that says WORK.

I use this little pocket to store two things: a small stash of business cards and another card on which I’ve written “Work” at one end and “Home” at the other. So now, whenever I synchronize the Psion with a PC I turn the card round to indicate where it was last synchronized.

Simple, huh!

Update on broadband connection problems

BT Voyager 2500V modem router upside down

The good news is that BT technical support telephoned me when they said they would. The bad news is that I missed Ross Noble Live on Radio 4 as a result of the call. Oh yeah, and I still have a broadband connection problem.

Here’s what happened. I received the call from someone from BT support, I didn’t catch her name, she sounded Indian, was very well spoken, polite and courteous. After the initial introductions she got down to business.

Customer Support #1: Are you still experiencing the same problem of an intermittent broadband connection?

Gareth: Yes.

Customer Support #1: I have an e-mail here from you to say that you followed all our instructions and you are still experiencing the same problem.

Gareth: Yes.

At which point I’m thinking, well if you know that already why did you ask me?

Customer Support #1: Now, can you tell me, does the power light stay on when you have this problem?

Gareth: I don’t know.

Customer Support #1: Can you please take a look and tell me.

Gareth: Well, not really because the problem is intermittent. Sometimes it drops the connection every two minutes, other times it’s up for 3 hours before it happens, and it is on just now so I can’t tell you.

Then she went through each of the points on their original e-mail once more just to make sure that I wasn’t a complete numpty who couldn’t read English or be bothered to actually try anything that they’d suggested.

Customer Support #1: So did you try it with a different microfilter? … blah blah blah … changed cables … blah blah blah … offered a sacrifice to Mercury the god of communication … tried the test socket on the master phone socket?

Gareth: Yes.

Customer Support #1: So your router is now currently plugged into the test socket, is it?

Gareth: No. Oh, sorry I didn’t realise that it had to be plugged into the test socket.

Customer Support #1: That’s ok Mr Sanders (sic). If you could please plug it into the test socket now. I’ll hold while you do this.

And that’s where the real fun began.

The master socket, as its name suggests, is where the phone line coming into the house terminates. Any other phone sockets that we have scattered around the house (there are another four!) are slaves to this master socket. Unscrewing the face plate of the master socket reveals what’s called a test socket, and as soon as you remove the face plate the slave sockets are disconnected — this is presumably so that the master socket can be tested without any interference from the satellite sockets. It’s quite a clever design really.

Our master socket is in the hallway, so assured that my nice Indian customer service lady would hold while I moved camp to the hallway, Jane gathered up the Voyager 2500V, power and DSL cables, while I set to work spilling the entire contents of the shredder beneath Jane’s desk on the way to unplugging the microfilter.

Seconds later we were in the hallway. I plugged in the cables, Jane plugged in the power cable and switched it on. As it began the boot-up sequence I picked up the wireless phone.

Gareth: Hello? … hello?

Nothing!

Gareth: Hello? … hello?!! Are you still there?

Still nothing.

And then I realised that I’d unplugged the base unit from the microfilter, so the phone cable was sitting on the study floor and not actually connected to the phone line at all.

D’oh!

A few seconds later I was on my hands and knees once again beneath Jane’s desk plugging in the second microfilter and the phone’s base station.

Still still-nothing!

I phoned our phone with Jane’s mobile. It rang. Only it didn’t ring, if you understand me. It was ringing in the earpiece of Jane’s phone, but the actual telephone on the desk in front of me wasn’t ringing.

My second epiphany of the evening. Remember that thing I said about when you remove the master socket’s face plate it disconnects the satellite phones? Yeah! …

When the customer service lady rang back I was sitting comfortably in the middle of the hallway with an old school, wired phone plugged into the microfilter that was hanging out of the test socket.

Customer Support #1: Hello Mr Sanders (sic) well, it would appear that you’ve carried out our instructions but are still experiencing the same problem.

Gareth: Yes.

Yes! YES! I’d noticed that too. Which was why once I’d tried what they’d suggested I’d e-mailed them back to tell them that. Clearly this was the kind of bad news that they needed to hear for themselves.

Customer Support #1: I’m going to pass you on to our Faults Deptartment, if you could please hold.

Gareth: Sure.

I held.

I’m remarkably patient sometimes.

I continued to hold.

Blimey the cat’s litter tray doesn’t half smell just now.

Customer Support #1: Hello Mr Sanders (sic)?

Gareth: Hello.

Customer Support #1: Thank you for holding. I’ve managed to speak with someone from our Fault Department …

Gareth: Great! (Thinks: what with that being what you set out to do.)

Customer Support #1: I’m going to pass you on to him now.

Gareth: Er… okay. Erm … Thank you?

Customer Support #2: Hello Mr Sanders (sic)…

And do you know what? I had to go through the same thing all over again, at the end of which I was told that he’d have to pass the matter on to the telephone exchange who could test the line and call me back within 24-48 hours.

Twenty five minutes to answer the same questions that I’d been e-mailed and had replied to, passed on to two people in two different departments only to be told that neither of them could help me. I’d have to be passed on to the Wizard of Oz himself who lives in another department. But at least I’d managed to pass the test and be granted an audience with him and his magic line-testing equipment.

The trial continues.

I spy a Russian network camera

Two men in a government office somewhere in Russia.

An IP camera (or ‘network camera’) is, as the name suggests, a camera attached to a network. Who would have thought it?!

One of the advantages of a network camera is that its image can be viewed from a PC from anywhere on the network; one of the disadvantages of a network camera is that its image can be viewed from a PC from anywhere on the network, particularly if that network happens to be the worldwide international electric interweb.

It’s quite simple to search for certain IP camera feeds on Google: search for view/index.shtml

Someone has also created an open IP Camera Google Map.

But my favourite camera so far has been one that shows what looks like a local Russian government office within the city of Nizhny Novgorod. At the moment it looks like they’re about to have an early morning meeting:

Early morning meeting in a Russian local government office

I tell you, it’s more interesting than Big Brother! This is real people in a completely different country (unless you’re reading this on a PC in Russia) going about their every day job. Isn’t the internet an amazing thing!

Hands up if for a moment you secretly imagined that you were a member of CTU viewing something that Edgar or Chlöe had uploaded to your PDA. (It’s a 24 thing!)

Broadband connection troubles

BT Voyager 2500V modem and router

It’s never straight forward, is it?! Less than a week after I thought my PC had bit the dust, my broadband connection is now less stable than a rickety old shack that houses horses.

Every … so often (somewhere between 1 minute and 3.5 hours, so far) the DSL connection will drop on my BT Voyager 2500V modem/router and then take 30 seconds or so re-establishing the connection. It’s really quite frustrating, especially while downloading files or transferring files across our home network.

Since I manually rebooted the box last night at 20:45 the broadband line status log reports that it has dropped and re-established the connection no fewer than 21 times!

I contacted British Telecom about this on Sunday at 16:40 and heard back from them at 17:54 with a long and detailed e-mail offering a number of suggestions:

  1. Switch off and unplug everything, wait 10 seconds, plug it all in again and switch on. (Ahhh, the old favourite tech support solution: switch it off and switch it back on again!)
  2. Move the modem/router away from any equipment with potential Electromagnetic Interference (EMI).
  3. Check the micro-filter and firewall settings.
  4. Plug the modem/router into the test socket on the BT master phone socket in the house.

Sadly, none of this fixed the problem. I tried it with both my PC and laptop: same problems experienced on both, which made me think that it’s an issue with the phone line and/or the modem. It’s the connection between the ISP and modem that is dropping not the connection between the modem and the PC.

Initially I thought that the router was rebooting itself, but now I’m thinking that it is simply that the modem is simply dropping the DSL connection and then picking it up again. But why?!

BT e-mailed me this morning to inform me that they will be phoning me this evening to talk this issue through. Hopefully we can get to the bottom of it and re-establish our once perfect connection.