Category Archives: Telecommunications

A New Year Idea

In which The Author suggests a resolution to his readers

Things might have seemed fairly quiet on the Anthony Nolan Trust front since I first got behind the Shake4Mike Campaign back in the summer. However, I’m pleased to report that it’s far from the case.
To refresh your memories, Mike Brandon is a young man from Bristol who was diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia. His doctors were trying to find a suitable tissue match for Mike, so that they could begin stem cell therapy. Mike’s fiancée Kate is related to my mother’s next-door neighbour, so I was roped in to help spread the word. The media at home and abroad got behind the appeal, to get as many new names as possible onto the stem cell register in the UK. A couple of months later I shared the good news I’d been given: a suitable donor had been found.
I’m pleased to report that Mike’s been responding well to treatment. It’s a terrific endorsement for the Anthony Nolan Trust, who sent out huge numbers of testing kits to potential donors as as a result of the Shake4Mike appeal. It’s also a testament to the power of social media to do worthwhile things, in the face of constant criticism from the technophobes.
I’m going to try and keep the momentum going if at all possible. I follow the Anthony Nolan page on Facebook, and every few weeks they bring us success stories like Mike’s, interviews with patients and donors, and news of people who, like Mike, stand to benefit from this cutting-edge treatment. So, here’s my suggestion for a New Year’s Resolution or two: I’d ask you to do the same, and ‘share’ the news updates as they come through.
Furthermore, if you fall within the eligibility criteria, please put yourself on the stem cell and/or bone marrow donor register. You can get more information via the Anthony Nolan Trust website. If you know any friends or family members who would be to eligible to join the register, please tell them about it as well. The testing process is completely painless, involving just a saliva sample. The doctors do the rest.
If you’re in university, why not organise a fund-raising event at which potential donors can pick up sampling kits? If you don’t want to go that far, just having a collection box on display can pay surprising dividends. We’ve had a box on the bar in my local pub since the summer; so far, it’s been emptied three times and a total of over £70 has raised by our regulars. It’s a quiet pub in the backstreets of Aberdare – just imagine what you could achieve in a Students’ Union with hundreds of people passing through every week!


The Anthony Nolan Trust is the one charity which I do support, because I’ve seen for myself just how important their work is. While you’re making your New Year’s Resolutions, could I ask you to make them your Good Cause to support throughout 2015 and beyond? It only takes a few minutes, and you could be the one person who can help save a complete stranger’s life. Isn’t that the best Xmas present which you could possibly give someone?


In which The Author longs for a USB cable

I’ve finally been upgraded.
No, don’t worry – the Cybermen didn’t ambush me on the way to town this morning. It was much more prosaic and a lot less painful, I can assure you.
A couple of weeks ago I was having a quiet pint with John K. and his wife Liz, and the conversation turned to the subject of mobile phones. John’s quite a bit older than me, a Twentieth Century Boy and happy to stay that way. Liz has reluctantly come to terms with technology, as she acts as his secretary when he’s away on business.
They were both quite amused by my Nokia Thickphone, which is an extremely basic model: no camera, no wallpapers, no downloadable ringtones, no mp3 player, no Internet access, and no apps. (Nevertheless, it’s capable of surviving a night in a field, as I told you in Grassroots Research. I wonder how many iPhone 5s could manage the same feat. Swings and roundabouts.)
Liz mentioned that they had a slightly more advanced Nokia gathering dust in a drawer at home, and offered it to me. They were pretty sure it wasn’t locked to a specific network, so it seemed as though it would work with my existing SIM card. It would be worth a try, whatever happened. On Thursday night, Liz came to the quiz night and presented me with a virtually new Nokia 300.
After charging it yesterday, I swapped out the SIM card from my old phone and switched it on. I was pleased to see that it prompted me for my PIN, and then powered up to reveal a pleasing colourful icon menu with all my contacts intact. It’s slimmer than my old phone, but wider and taller, with a nice big touchscreen and a chunky keypad. It’s going to take me a little while to get used to a touchscreen – and I’ve yet to try using it while wearing gloves – but at least it looks as though it actually belongs in the Twenty-First Century. Perhaps 2005, if not a little later.
And it’s got Bluetooth.
My limited experiences of using Bluetooth have not been auspicious, to say the least. The first time I tried connecting via this ‘wireless technology standard for exchanging data over short distances’ (Wikipedia) was when Carys and I had breakfast together at the University of Glamorgan, back in 2009. She had her mobile phone; I had my Netbook, which dual-booted Windows XP and Ubuntu Linux. We struggled for about half an hour to get the two devices to recognise each other before giving it up as a bad job.
The second time was in the Cambrian in Aberdare, when Simon M. asked me if I could send him my ringtone. Once again, we fucked around for ages before finally achieving a connection. Needless to say, it dropped halfway through transmission, and we had to start again from scratch.
The third time was when I tried to get Martin H.’s photos to transfer from his phone to his laptop. This was even more problematic, as the latter didn’t have Bluetooth as a standard feature. We tried using a USB Bluetooth adapter, which plugged okay but didn’t want to play at all. In the event, I think we pulled out his memory card and transferred them using my universal card reader and the USB port.
The fourth time was this morning. I was at home, potching with my new toy, and it occurred to me to try and set up a distinctive wallpaper in case it decided to go walkabout one evening. I knew exactly what picture I wanted to use, as well:


I’ve disabled Bluetooth at startup in my Netbook, because it simply draws current for no reason. I went into the Applications menu, called up the Bluetooth module, and switched it on. Then I changed the Visibility setting to ‘on’ and turned my attention to the phone. I found the Bluetooth menu and activated it, then went back to the Netbook and carried out a search for Bluetooth devices. It only took a few seconds to pick up the Nokia 300, and asked me if I wanted to ‘pair’ the two devices. A few moments later, a six-digit code was displayed on each screen, and I had to confirm that they matched. The Bluetooth menu on my Netbook showed a paired Nokia 300; the Bluetooth menu on my phone showed a device called ubuntu-0. The job was on its way to being a good ‘un.
Or so I thought.
When it came to actually connecting the two devices, the system broke down entirely. The Netbook and phone were less than a metre apart, so I couldn’t understand why they couldn’t see each other. I tried a few times, placing the phone in different areas of the room, but without success. At one point, the Netbook asked me if I wanted to send a file to the paired device. I decided to try it anyway, selected the picture I wanted to transmit, and a few moments later an error message popped up on the screen.
I’m in Aberdare Library at the moment. I came down to see if the problem lay with my house itself – it’s a solid Victorian construction hemmed in on all sides by its neighbours. (I know that in theory that shouldn’t affect the transmission of internal radio signals, but I like to keep an open mind on such phenomena.) After half an hour of further potching, I’ve finally been able to send the picture across about half a metre. I guess that counts as a ‘short distance’ for a radio signal, but it was a result nonetheless. Even Marconi had to start somewhere.