I have achieved Nerdvana…


Many of us have a decent TV, perhaps as mine does, with a VGA cable attached to it. I have sometimes attached a laptop to the screen in order to lead Advent, Lent or Confirmation Courses; however, it is a bit messy with the cabling and it gets poor WiFi reception and so it has in the past been less than satisfactory.

My Churchwarden told me about this little box: a desktop version of the Asus eeePc known as the eeeBox.

I saw them in Novatech today and I have to say, I am most impressed

For under £200 you get a PC perfect for school, youth club or the lounge – connect a wireless keyboard and mouse and you have complete browsing from the sofa, although I imagine that you’d want to increase the font size on even an LCD TV as the distance from the screen to the sofa is considerably more than desk to monitor normally…

It is practically silent, has a 160Gb hard disk, Windows XP or for more quick and dirty browses, the SplashTop embedded OS (a very light Linux up and running in 10 seconds) featuring a Firefox browser supporting YouTube flv video (so must have  a decent flash bundled with it). Power on to web in 10 secs, very impressive. It uses the Intel Atom chip, so although I won’t be crunching video on it, I can browse to my hearts desire. I do all my email, and blog RSSing on Google these days, so  browser is all I need. The WiFi is more powerful than my laptop, and so reception is better and it does have gigabit Ethernet as well.

There is an SD memory card slot on the front, ideal for my camera and 4 USB ports in total, two at back and 2 in front; audio and mic in front and a speaker out back. The video output is DVI, and a VGA adapter is supplied. I could push the resolution up to 1280 x 900, but as I said, I would want a lower resolution to make the fonts bigger when I sit lounging on the sofa.

A wired keyboard and mouse are supplied. It is the complete kit. You just need that TV or big LCD monitor… It even has a mounting kit to fix to the VESA holes at the back of a monitor to completely hide it.

I can see this saving space and increasing performance at the youth club; if I restricted it to SplashTop then they would be limited in what they could hack on the OS at youth club.

£200 makes it a very good value PC, clearly not the fastest available, but if you have a budget and do most of your work on the net, then this is ideal.

Oh, and it looks cool as well…


Sometimes you take a picture which just sums someone up.

Messing around with my new 70-200mm lens on my Nikon D40. This taken at 145mm, 1/2000 Sec, f5.6. This is my favourite style of photography: candid, close portraits, black and white. This lens helps me get closer whilst being far enough away to not annoy the portrait.

NoHo? No Way! A tear shed for the Middlesex Hospital

[caption id=”attachment_522″ align=”alignleft” width=”225″ caption=”The Middlesex Hospital Chapel by Pearson”The Middlesex Hospital Chapel by Pearson[/caption

Nothing lasts for ever, and especially in London, things are reformed, reshaped and reestablished. The demolition of the Middlesex Hospital, the place where I trained to be a Registered Nurse, where I worked as a Staff Nurse on Holmes Sellors (Cardiothoracic) and the Intensive Therapy Unit (ITU), was traumatic enough this month.

When they said it was going to be knocked down, I was saddened but resigned to the fact that buildings must change. We hoped that the proposal for conversion to houses would result in the building of modern flats within the shell of the H-piece, but no.

The designers have flattened the classic early 20th Century H-Block and plan something modern and glassy. Furthermore they want to rebrand the area and call it NoHo – presumably a reference to the fact that it is North of Soho. This is a travesty, not merely because the hospital site is squarely in Fitzrovia: north of Oxford Street and between Regent Street and Tottenham Court Road and centred around the Fitzroy Tavern on Charlotte Street – a haven for cheap housing and bohemian living.

There is a SoHo and a NoHo in New York, but these are “SOuth of HOuston [Street” and “NOrth of HOuston [Street”, whereas the history of Soho in London is very different:

The area which is now Soho was grazing farmland until 1536, when it was taken by Henry VIII as a royal park for the Palace of Whitehall. The name “Soho” first appears in the 17th century. Most authorities believe that the name derives from the old “soho!” hunting call (“Soho! There goes the fox!” etc) The Duke of Monmouth used “soho” as a rallying call for his men at the Battle of Sedgemoor, half a century after the name was first used for this area of London.

In the 1660s the Crown granted Soho Fields to Henry Jermyn, 1st Earl of St Albans. He leased 19 of its 22 acres to Joseph Girle, who as soon as he had gained permission to build there, promptly passed his lease and licence to bricklayer Richard Frith in 1677, who began its development. In 1698 William III granted the Crown freehold of most of this area to William, Earl of Portland. Meanwhile the southern part of what became the parish of St Anne Soho was sold by the Crown in parcels in the 16th and 17th century, with part going to Robert Sidney, Earl of Leicester.

Despite the best intentions of landowners such as the Earls of Leicester and Portland to develop the land on the grand scale of neighbouring Bloomsbury, Marylebone and Mayfair, it never became a fashionable area for the rich, and immigrants settled in the area: the French church in Soho Square is witness to its position as a centre for French Huguenots in the 17th and 18th centuries. By the mid 1700s the aristocrats who had been living in Soho Square or Gerrard Street had moved away. Soho’s character stems partly from the ensuing neglect by rich and fashionable London, and its lack of development and redevelopment that characterizes its neighbouring areas.

By the mid 1800s all respectable families had moved away and prostitutes, music halls and small theatres had moved in. In the early 1900s successive waves of Immigrants from French Heugenouts, Jewish Refugees, Italians and now the whole European diaspora opened cheap eating-houses and it became a fashionable place to eat for intellectuals, writers and artists. From the 1930s to the early 1960s, Soho folklore states that the pubs of Soho were packed every night with drunken writers, poets and artists, many of whom never stayed sober long enough to become successful; and it was also during this period that the Soho pub landlords established themselves. [So not much has changed then!

When the Middlesex Hospital was established in 1745, it was complained that it was “too far out of London” as you had to cross the Soho Fields to get to it. My, how times have changed.

And now, they want to scrub off the name. There is a petition to get them to ditch the horrible “NoHo” thing and get them to rename it “Middlesex Hospital Square“. The Grade II* Chapel will remain, although probably more as an architectural exhibit (of which it is fine) than a vibrant place of worship – I hope All Saints Margaret Street will send clergy there regularly and Mass will be said there regularly – I’ll even come up and do one when I can! That way the chapel will have context and the placve will have some sense of history.

Please support the petition. It can be found at http://www.gopetition.com/online/22381.html

Blackberry Curve 8320 – unapologetically geeky review

I have been using my Curve 8320 for a couple of weeks now, and have been playing with it an awful lot. I am beginning to work *with* it now rather than against it, and I have to say that frankly I love it with a passion bordering on the indecent: as far as geeky toys go, this is the ultimate; as far as a tool for an always-connected tech-head goes, this is where it is at.

It is not without its annoyances, and I will detail these later, but from its first principals, it is the tool which finally begins to solve the challenge of the final mile: bringing communications into our pockets at all times whereever they may be.

Of course, there is a wide social debate that all this connectivity is a bad thing. Rather than return from holiday to over 1000 emails, I am completely on top of what is happening, and I know what I have to deal with on my return to work – in the past that dread has been almost overwhelming, but now I am on top – I have not actually DONE any work on holiday, but I feel more relaxed because of my awareness. I feel that rather than being a tool of enslavement – always tied to work – it has freed me and made my work more flexible. It might be different in other vocations, but for me, as a Church of England Priest, this works.

The keyboard is small and encourages a thumbs-only typing style. Having used a Treo in the past I find this quite acceptable and fast. Symbols are quickly accesible through an alt-key but numbers are also on the alt list, so you have to press and hold to type in digits: I feel a numlock would have been better. Symbols are limited and I haven’t yet found ë. The trackball is an excellent navigational tool.

The screen is big and bright. It is good for web browsing and although it can adapt traditional html pages, it is best with those optimised for mobiles. The browser supports Javascript but cannot  understand some of the more recent AJAX or dhtml requests. This is a pity because this is the way that pages are developing. Many key players are integrating clients directly into the Blackberry, so Facebook and Googlemail are directly integrated. Sadly no SSH client has been found yet, so I can’t yet telnet into my servers for remote maintenance.

When at home it links into the WiFi network and using UMA calls and texts as well as data are routed over the internet. Occasionally on my lowish speed broadband, this has caused the voice call to be slightly garbled or broken: particularly when the network is busy. If I had better broadband then maybe this would not be a problem.

Of the annoyances, top of the list is the system’s apparant refusal to sync or export or import contact details. Bluetoothing a contact from another phone fails, the desktop has no contact import or export facility and I had to resort to manual re-entry: moving them via the SIM was unsatisfactory as all of these are now marked as ‘work’ and I will have to at some stage edit every one of these.

The phone doesn’t apparantly have a ‘fast-silent’ feature to quickly put the phone into silent mode. This is useful to me as I often have to ‘fast-silent’ in worship when I forgot or a pastoral visit. If you know of this, then please let me know: the ‘mute’ button doesn’t seem to do this.

Other than those issues, I think that both the principles and the practice of the Blackberry Curve 8320 are brilliant: emails in the middle of nowhere, facebook status updates in the middle of a Festival field, web browsing to find cinema times in the pub and pulling up a Google Map to find the way home (accurate to the nearest phone mast, so good enough before you switch on a bluetooth GPS!). With a GPS google maps can track your progress down the road, and there is some rudimentary route planning, but Tom-Tom it ain’t. Such connectivity we could only dream of in the past, and it can only get better: the final mile has been overcome, and the Curve is in front by a long chalk.

(This review written on my Blackberry Curve 8320 on Orange UK, which was a free upgrade on a monthly tarriff – Dolphin 25 (200 mins, unlimited texts) plus a £2.50 a month Blackberry tarriff offering unlimited data. How good is that?)

My kind of drug.

and no, this time it’s not Jesus…




do you know what my kind of drug is?












It’s caffeine. Oooo I love it. Short, dark and intense. Espresso is my morning wake-up and my evening wind-down. I adore the dark mystical stuff and get through about 7 or 8 espresso a day.

No decaff for me: it is the work of the devil, but caffeine in its purest form, in a small cup with a little glass of water and a biscotti. It is the closest to ambrosia. In fact, I am convinced when we join the heavenly banquet, there will be Gaggia dispensing the liquid love.

From my full-size ebay-bargain beast in the shed to the Isomac Giarda in the Narthex and my long-term addiction to the coffee shops of the world (Cafe Vergnano my current favourite), it’s a genuine love affair. It can only be an addiction when it gets out of hand, but as long as I get fresh, tasty, fairly-traded caffeine, I’m okay.

I’d love that molecule on a T-Shirt. Maybe I can get some iron-on…