Samsung Galaxy S3 classic


If you’ve never heard of The Insiders then go there now! The Insiders is a word-of-mouth advertising network that gives you an opportunity to review products, write about them and optionally keep them or send them back… win win win! When I saw that they where doing a campaign with Samsung for their new watch the Gear S3 classic & frontier I was super hyped and ready to throw my money at them 🙂

Take My Money GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Then sat and waited… and waited.. and waited for what seemed like an eternity for my watch to arrive! One thing that irked me a bit was the fact that I had no choice of the model I got (which happened to be the classic) especially as I had wanted the Frontier model (Maybe I missed something), however apart from slight looks there is little difference between them. The box, as with most premium products, looks and feels great and is not what I expected (Is a round box is it still a box?)

I won’t bore you with yet another “unboxing” video as they are all the same, what I thought I would do instead is write my thoughts down after actually using it day to day for several weeks.

My initial out of the box pick up moment was “Wow, it’s a lot lighter than I’d expected”, and that it wasn’t as big as I had expected either from looking at other reviews around the interweb. My current daily wear is a Casio Edifice watch, which is a big heavy watch, but much loved 🙂

As you can see in terms of the physical watchface, yes it’s big but no bigger than most other large faced watches (in fact smaller than a lot of the silly large sizes). I don’t have big wrists, but this doesn’t look out of place on me, like my Edifice as well. Even the depth of the S3 is no worse than my Edifice.

So whilst a lot of reviews may say how enormous this watch is, don’t let that put you off as I don’t think it any larger than most normal “man” size watches. I’m not a fan of the leather strap, probably because I’ve spent so many years with the metal strap, due the fact that the leather always ears out at the same place etc. Moving back to a leather watch strap was strange for a while, especially as it’s a really chunky strap (Oh and for the records there is a smaller strap in the box, but I left the standard one on; but in hindsight swapping may of been better).

For the first few days I got used to using my new watch, I pretty much ran it as stock, occasionally changing the watch face for a bit of fun after synchronising it with my Samsung Galaxy S7 edge phone. It popped up my notifications, and could see and answer calls on it (although quite why you would want to make a call through it when it needs to be paired and close to your phone, I’m not sure?!) all good no complaints 🙂

Now I’m a runner, don’t get me wrong I don’t go mad, just to keep me fit and have been using the Nike running app for a while (3,500km+ and almost 600 runs) so was keen to leave my big phone behind and track with this lovely light watch instead….. however this became my first stumbling block 🙁 for whatever reason the newer versions of the Nike App on Android do not support the watch? I read several people stating to downgrade the app to an older version and it works, but that is not really a solution. In fact I couldn’t find a better solution so ended up running with both my phone and watch. Whilst the workout data was similar, it’s still irritating that they don’t work together so never used it to track any other run after that. Having said that it does pick up when I go for a walk, and even when I’m on the rowing machine etc. It’s quite clever in that respect and all gets logged into the Samsung health app, but a bit of a let down for a Nike fan like me 🙁

The watch itself has had around 3-4 days battery life out of it, which isn’t too bad, but still I find it too often to charge. Talking of charging it is wireless which is nice and it has it’s own doc to hold it and charge it (which doesn’t take too long). I was hoping that the wireless charger I have for my phone would work (as they are both Samsung devices) and that I could lay my watch on it, but sadly it seems to have to fit and work in the cradle.

I’m a big fan of contact less payments as well and have been using them on my phone since Natwest supported them, so I was keen to explore the possibility of paying via my watch, not even having to move my phone! WOOT…. however only Samsung pay works at present, and this is only available in the US (since 2015!), from yet more research it’s due in the UK on the 18th of April so hopefully not all bad news, but personally I’m all setup with Android payso setting up to use Samsing pay as well is a bit of a faff, come on Samsung stop trying to force everyone onto your eco-system!

I’ve really enjoyed my time (no pun intended) with the Samsung Gear S3, there are bits of it I really like, and at the opposite end things that irritate me (e.g. being woken at 4.30 by the watch vibrating telling me it’s loss wifi!)

What’s the verdict? 7/10 from me – lovely bit of kit, but not enough functionality for me, so I’ll be returning it 🙁



So thought I’d write a short post of that I’ve been playing with for the last 6 months or so. WOW!!! I’ve been trying to move away from the world of jQuery for some time, don’t get me wrong, jQuery is a great product, but it’s not really any good for writing modern web aps etc. But I do feel that people include the whole jQuery library and a plethora of plugins to do things that are actually really easy in modern day JS (Don’t get me wrong I’m no expert, I’d say medium level!).

So onto angular, I did play with this, watched some lessons and followed various webcasts/training videos, but it never clicked for me as really good. I liked the theory but just didn’t feel natural to me. As a regular watcher of Laracasts, I watched a couple of videos around “The vast world of Vue” and started to play. I had already started to build an interface for a side project I was working on, so started to try and convert it to VueJS and learn a bit more… I was hooked! everything worked as I wanted it to, and seemed so logical. This was pre version 1 and there have been a few breaking changes that I’ve had to deal with (as always using a beta product) but now it’s stable, building interfaces with components now seems second nature (At least when you’re repeating them a lot).

So if you haven’t yet had a play, I do suggest taking 10 minutes to look at and find out the beauty of this framework… Yes I know I’ve not tried out all the other frameworks available, but this one works for me, each to their own I always say 🙂

Here is a screenshot of the current interface, still work in progress 🙂


Christmas lights


Bit behind with posting updates, sorry! My love of leds continues, and whilst my house will never have Christmas light shows as can be seen on tv, I do like to try and make it a bit interesting… So this year I’ve added a led outline to house using RGB leds that currently just fade between the different colours (rainbow style). There are lots of ways of doing this, but I went the pipe route…


Leds mounted on piping

As you can see I simply bought a lot of tubing (18m required to go around the house, but you can get 40m on screwfix for £16.98 at time of writing). There is no easy way to attach the pipe to the wall, so we (myself and my son Joshua) ended up creating our own clips out the of the pipe!

Finished look

Finished look

Quite pleased with the result, certainly unique n the area…

Samsung SmartThings #ThinkSmartThings


I’ve recently been given the opportunity to play with Samsungs SmartThings starter kit package (rrp £199), so thought it would be nice to just put up some of my thoughts on here 🙂 I have to say I really wasn’t sure what to expect, so did little research before it turned up so that I could experience it as a novice (Although I’m quite tech savvy). The package arrived and was a lot heavier than I expected, and on opening it I was suitably impressed with the packaging and general presentation of it.

Photo 14-10-2015, 10 48 50

As you can see from the photo it contains:

  • The “Hub” itself (the brains of the package), this connects to your network via a cable and has battery backup facility (I’ve not put the batteries in yet)
  • Smart power socket: This can be controlled from the app or via the hub using “apps” to control it
  • Door sensor : Allows you to know when something is open or closed
  • Presence sensor: This can be used to say when something is in hub range, as a standard your phone is this device, so you might add this to a childs bag or something
  • Motion sensor: Detects when there is motion in the area of the sensor.

This is a quick overview of the pack, but they do more than that, for example the Power socket can also report the Watts that is being draw, and the sensors also detect temperature (But I’ve not worked out how to get the app to show in celsius yet!)

Samsung have been quit clever here though, rather than only supporting and working with there own devices, the main hub supports a range of different communication protocols. This means that you are not limited to only Samsung devices and you can link up to a number of other devices as well, e.g. Sonos speakers, Yale locks, and Aeon Labs switches/dimmers.

I have to say that after getting it all running, my first question was… what do I do with it?! Well it just so happens that our over died and we are contemplating a new kitchen (getting there), one of the quotes asked us about led lighting etc. to which I said I would sort myself as I love leds! After he went I thought about leds at floor level, and how cool it would be if they would turn on and off automatically… right on cue Samsung smart things!

So I found some leds I had lying around and basically plugged them into the Smart wall socket, and got the motion detector setup on the floor to detect motion… easy, but now what. Well this is where the app comes into play. On the main app itself you can download and install a SmartApp to perform certain actions at certain times, or when things happen. After poking around for a bit I found out how to add and install one of these (Could do with some work here the interface is clever but not 100% intuitive) and managed to link the two devices together IFTTT (If This Then That) type protocol.

Very neat but does need more to connect to make it more fun 🙂


Windows local development with ExpressionEngine


I’ve always been a Windows developer and been working for many years with WAMP/EasyPHP etc. but for some reason I’ve found that ExpressionEngine (EE) always runs a lot slower locally for me than on a real server (Mostly unix). Never really bothered me till today when page loads where taking 3-4seconds and driving me nuts!!! After playing with LOTS of settings, the one that made my local sites run like the clappers again was in the my.ini for MySQL! Add innodb_buffer_pool_size=512M to the [mysqld] section and for me the difference was chalk and cheese 🙂 comments?

This might apply to other Windows development where MySQL is slow, but note this will only effect you if you’re using InnoDB tables!

(PS also use as the hostname, not localhost, but this is well documented, saves about 1second a page load)

Been a while


So many things going on in my life, I’ve fallen in love (VueJS), and my Javascript knowledge is getting better and better. Bought a new domain for a new idea well not new, what is 🙂 but having a lot of fun learning to build it! Who knows watch this space…

I played around with a couple of Javascript libraries Angular, React etc. but they all seem to over complicate the basics. On (Well worth the money) VueJS was mentioned and after 5 mins that was it… I’ve started to build a complete html wysiwyg designer now and things just work as expected! The downside is that it’s still not production and 1alpha breaks a lot of code I’ve already written so rewriting and relearning (Some good, some not so good IMO).

I also decided it was time to move on from my job and find a new adventure… so currently looking if anyone is interested 🙂

My PixelGrid 2 has made little progress 🙁 bought a new power brick for it, but still needs a case and work.

My love of leds an update of things I’ve been doing :)


Ok not posted in a while, busy busy busy!!! Few updates for the site 🙂

DIY Led bike lights (MooLights)

These have been brilliant!!! With 2 minor issues, the first set of leds I bought on ebay where pretty cheap, and as such a few of the leds died, wasn’t terrible but having decided that the project was good I decided to find some better ones and replace them.

bike-lightAs can be seen, these are not flashing for the picture, and I wouldn’t use these as an only source of light, however as an “Awareness” light (Great for miserable mornings as well) they seem to work very well, and general reaction has been very positive from other bike commuters through to young kids who think they look “Sick”.

The second issue I had was with the battery… I made the silly mistake of charging with a 12v charger forgetting that the battery had no cut out in it (In the charger that came with it) and manage to destroy the battery! So New LEds and New battery, but without them now I feel naked and very unprotected 🙁

I never ride at night without standard lights on the bike, these are for me just get seen by driver lights 🙂

Pixel grid

Well that project was fun but an 8 x 8 grid was just not enough. I did enjoy playing with Node JS on the Raspberry PI and even wrote a small DMX interpreter to run with Glediator 🙂 worked really well, but too small to be effective. So next job is to make Pixel Grid 2 this is a new grid based on 15×15 (New leds and left over of last leds).


As you can see the new board is smaller than the first, so a much higher pixel density. Instead of soldering each one with a cable they have been left in standard format, the downside is that the second lot of leds I bought are slightly different to the first lot. Brightness, RGB byte order! and fractionally different spacing of the leds. Most of these can be resolved without that much work, but it draws a lot more power so I need a better power supply before I can do more with this. Also thinking about the best way to create the grid itself, may explore using balsa wood for this!

Aquarium lights

My aquarium has been running for a number of years, but for the last few of months I’ve always had issues with the connectors on one of the tubes (2 x 36″) and I can’t find any spares, and no mater what I did I couldn’t get a reliable connection on that bulb. I’m not a fan of 240v and water, never have been so decided it was time to play with some leds. Official Led lighting for aquariums is quite expensive, but I’m sure there is a lot more science behind it etc. however I just needed good light as the single bulb I had wasn’t enough. Looking at what I could get on ebay I went for 5m of cool white 5630leds and 6amp psu to power them. I had an old piece of white PVC that was just about the right length and did a quick experiment.


Pretty simple setup, and just had them lying on the two bits of glass that brace my tank (as you can see above).

tank-lightPretty bright when on, and when facing down


Not bad – could be better and I think I might experiment with some other leds to add on, but I want to monitor the plants to see how they react to the new lighting. Total cost so far on this setup £15.99 🙂 what would be really nice would be to add a controller in to bring the light up in brightness and down slowly, and possibly add additional colours to create phases (maybe blue for night etc.)… all down to time!

I think that bout wraps up my leds update 🙂

Raspberry Pi – Pixel grid


A few weeks ago I saw on eBay an Ikea Daft Punk coffee table (Google search it) which blew me away as awesome, probably the geek in me! These are listed on eBay from £3000+ a bit out of my price range, but I wanted to take the idea and do something more with it. After a bit of research, it seems I’m not alone!

Having done some research, I decided on the Raspberry Pi (Bought 10 days before the new one was released, grrrr!) and 5m of WS2801 RGB leds (in a strip, probably wrong choice in hindsight however lets move on!). I also bought some foam board, and 4 core flat wires, and so far have my grid fully working.

Next job is to build the frame, and find the best front cover to diffuse the light so it looks better. Once that’s done I can look at starting to program it up with my own stuff 🙂

RGB Led grid, powered by Raspberry Pi

RGB Led grid, powered by Raspberry Pi

Bike led stip lights


Well 5 months on and my lights are doing pretty good, most people who I’ve seen or talked too seem to like them.  Issues I’ve had… well to be honest not many, got one cable which may need a tweak (dry joint possibly), a couple of the leds on the white leds have died (red rear leds are fine).

Overall I’ve been really pleased with them… in fact I even almost feel naked cycling without them now! So if you want to know more details let me know, and I promise to try and get some better videos – BTW visibility seems greatly improved form the side as well, which I also think is very important 🙂

MooLights – Led lights for my bike


As a daily commuting cyclist, it pains me to see a huge number of other cyclists that have no lights, helmets or anything to get them seen. When I first started I did wear a helmet and had a basic set of lights from my local halfords…. I was not very visible! I now have some proper bike lights, and wear a bright jacket when I cycle, however I wanted more for this winter, especially when the weather is miserable. For that reason project MooLights was born!

The idea behind MooLights was to use led strip lights on my bike, and flash them to improve my visibility to other road users. They are not designed to light the road, however the front ones are pretty bright. Hopefully the following video and photos will make things clear. Happy to start a page to chat on if required!

Facebook gallery photos