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Saturday
Apr142012

1st Real Ale of Man Beer Festival

The Isle of Man branch of CAMRA held their first Beer Festival over Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The Thursday session was for CAMRA and trade members only, so I'd planned to go on Friday afternoon withe the two friends I normally drink with on Fridays. While initially sounding keen, I got the feeling that they were likely to pull out when the time came, so I set off earlier than usual on a Friday to call in on the beer festival on my way to meet them at our usual pub.

I called in at the Masonic Hall, where the beer festival was being held, and paid my £3  entrance fee (refundable if you joined CAMRA, which I did), the £2 glass deposit, and bought £10 worth of beer vouchers. The vouchers had squares marked in various small denominations from 10p to 50p and the volunteer dispensing the beer would mark off the squares as you used the voucher. At the end of the session you could either keep the voucher for the next session, get a refund on the unused credit of drop it in a bucket for charity, in this case the TT Marshalls Association.

Green beer at Isle of Man CAMRA beer festivalPhoto: Green beer at the beer festival (Click to enlarge)

You could buy beer by the pint, half or third, and the special beer festival glasses were marked off for those levels. I normally buy beer by the pint, but with 60 beers on offer it made more sense to try these by the half or third so I set to with my vouchers and tried a good selection on that first session.

When the session finished at 15:30 I set off to the Prospect pub to meet my mates. As I suspected, they cried off going to the evening session of the beer festival. I understand it was packed with a one hour queue to get in at times, so perhaps I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much as the quieter afternoon session.

I went back the following afternoon for another session of trying the different beers. Quite a few of the beers had run out, but there were still plenty left to go at. I tried a third of a pint of the 10% brews, but I didn't really enjoy the taste. They completely ran out of festival beer early in the evening.

It was a very good effort for a first time festival and hopefully it can only go from strength to strength in future years.

Tuesday
Mar202012

iPad 3 v iPad 1

We received our two iPad 3's yesterday (for the sake of clarity I'll call in an iPad 3 and not just an iPad) and I resisted the temptation to open them at work, where they were delivered to, and instead waited until the evening where I could open them at home with my wife.

After syncing our iPad 1's to iTunes we then excitedly plugged our iPad 3's in and waited for everything to be copied back over. Once everything had been copied over I picked mine up to start using it. While the screen was undoubtedly better, it didn't really seem that much better. Perhaps I need to have some HD content on it to really appreciate it. My photos looked a bit better but didn't really wow me and I suspect I'll need to re export them at the iPad 3's native resolution to be able to appreciate the difference.

What I did find very disappointing though was the curved edge of the iPad 3. While iPad 2 owners will be used to this, coming from the flat edged iPad 1 I found it very awkward to plug the connector in, to swap out the SIM card and to easily adjust the volume control. The more I try to use it the more I come to hate this aspect of the design and can't understand how Apple came up with such an awkward curved edge on which to place these controls and sockets.

I currently feel very underwhelmed by the iPad 3 and when I went to bed it was my trusty old flat edged iPad 1 that I took with me to catch up on my favourite news feeds and Zite articles.

Sunday
Mar112012

Zeppelin Air and Airplay

We bought a Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air last year from Apple as it was £200 cheaper than Amazon. Despite spending hours, if not days, trying to get it working on our Netgear wireless network I had no success at all. In the end I used it with an old Apple iPod sitting on its dock, which worked, but wasn't as flexible as using AirPlay from my iPhone.

With the purchase and setting up of our new Apple Airport Extreme base station and using Apple Airport Express to extend the range I tried again to set up the B&W Zeppelin Air and it connected to our wireless network first time.

I've absolutely no idea why the Zeppelin wouldn't work on our Netgear router's wireless network but would work fine on the Apple Airport wireless network, with the same wireless network name (SSID) and password, but I was happy that it was now working.

Another problem now reared its head - airplaying anything from my iPhone 4S worked fine for a few seconds, or maybe a minute if I was lucky, and then it stopped. Searching online for the problem showed a huge thread about the issue on the Apple support forums and the issue seemed particular to just the iPhone 4S. Streaming from other devices or computers worked fine so for a while I used my iPhone 4S as a remote for iTunes on my Mac Pro to stream the music or podcast to the Zeppelin. As a workaround it worked fine but it wasn't ideal.

In the end the iOS 5.1 update cured the problem and at last it now works exactly as it was meant to.

Zeppelin Air and Airplay
We bought a Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air last year from Apple as it was £200 cheaper than Amazon. Despite spending hours, if not days, trying to get it working on our Netgear wireless network I had no success at all. In the end I used it with an old Apple iPod sitting on its dock, which worked, but wasn't as flexible as using AirPlay from my iPhone.

With the purchase and setting up of our new Apple Airport Extreme base station and using Apple Airport Express to extend the range I tried again to set up the B&W Zeppelin Air and it connected to our wireless network first time.

I've absolutely no idea why the Zeppelin wouldn't work on our Netgear router's wireless network but would work fine on the Apple Airport wireless network, with the same wireless network name (SSID) and password, but I was happy that it was now working.

Another problem now reared its head - airplaying anything from my iPhone 4S worked fine for a few seconds, or maybe a minute if I was lucky, and then it stopped. Searching online for the problem showed a huge thread about the issue on th Apple support forums and the issue seemed particular to just the iPhone 4S. Streaming from other devices or computers worked fine so for a while I used my iPhone 4S as a remote for iTunes on my Mac Pro to stream the music or podcast to the Zeppelin. As a workaround it worked fine but it wasn't ideal.

In the end the iOS 5.1 update cured the problem and at last it now works exactly as it was meant to. 
Thursday
Mar082012

The new iPad

I spent an hour or so watching the various live blogs of Apple's iPad presentation and as original iPad owners we had decided to upgrade to the latest model. Well, that was the plan anyway, but it was thwarted by the UK apple store being closed all evening as presumably it couldn't handle the traffic placed on its servers.

After spending a fruitless (groan) evening waiting for the store to open I went to bed with my iPad; the plan being that if I woke up in the night I'd check if the store was open and the nip downstairs and order a couple on from my desktop.

Sure enough I woke at 03:00 this morning an checked my Ipad - the UK Apple seemed to be working fine so I sprang out of bed and went downstairs to quickly order two black 64GB wifi and 4G iPads.

A few minuted later they were in my basket and checked out. I decided to leave the issue of covers / cases until the morning.

Later this morning at work I ordered a couple of the plastic smart covers, intending to get a proper sleeve or case once they were being made, and also popped the new model of the Apple TV into my basket on the way to the checkout.

Friday
Mar022012

Apple AirPort Extreme and Express

I'd read an article on Terry White's Tech Blog at http://terrywhite.com/techblog/travel-tip-wired-internet-wireless/ about sharing wired internet around a hotel room using an Apple Airport Express. This struck a chord with me as several times we'd found ourselves in a hotel room with free wired internet but no wi-fi option. During our stay in Skipton we found ourselves in the same situation; free wired internet in the room, which was not use to us with our iPhones, iPads and Macbook Airs (no ethernet port). If we stood in the window we could leach the weak wi-fi signal from the hotel's bar area, which wasn't very convenient.

I'd never really understood the relationship between the Airport Extreme and Airport Express, and how they worked together, but it suddenly now dawned on me how they worked together. There was no Apple store near Skipton, but I did manage to find a solitary Airport Express in a Curry's shop in Leeds and snapped it up. Unfortunately I couldn't set it up in our hotel room as I need to connect to it by ethernet cable and I didn't have a suitable port on my Air.

Once home I plugged it in and had it working in under a minute.

I then ordered an Apple Airport Extreme base station and added that to our network, turning off the wireless in the Netgear router so there was no clash. The Airport Express was configured to extend the wireless network and for the first time we had a half decent wireless signal in our kitchen.

A further Airport Express was added in the kitchen and we now had a rock solid wireless network all around our house. I'll probably add a further Airport Express in the lounge to enable our Freesat box to be plugged in to it and give us BBC iPlayer on the television.