There is a joke in an old Garfield cartoon strip where Jon, the owner of the challenging cat, mentions that while people say having pets makes you live longer, in fact, it actually just seems longer.

Having said that, there are a lot of people who genuinely believe that owning pets is beneficial to one’s health. People who credit their pets with aiding them in recovery from illness, helping them through difficult times and making them feel better just by being around. It would appear that there may actually be a bit of science behind the anecdotes.

Here are just a few reasons why cats and dogs may, in fact, be more than just furry companions.

Taking care of yourself

Our pets rely on us. Even cats, who can often seem aloof and incurably independent, look to their owners for food and shelter. Knowing there is a living creature that would suffer without our regular care and intervention is a huge motivation to make sure we are able to live up to their expectations, and it is fair to say that they have some pretty high expectations! Simply having them around, therefore, can help us make the best decisions about our own lifestyles. So as you deflea the dog, make sure the cat comes in when it rains and buy them both the best quality food that money can buy, on some level you will almost certainly also be making sure that you too have a certain quality of life so you can continue to provide them with the same.

Get some exercise

Perhaps this is one is more relevant to dog owners than cat owners because owning a dog means getting out and about into the great outdoors, whatever the weather, at least a few times a day. There are certain breeds of dog who require some pretty special exercise as well, and their owners often find that big chunks of their weekends can be taken up with long walks in the country. This sort of gentle, and occasionally not so gentle, cardiovascular exercise is good for the heart, lungs and muscles. Plus, getting out into the fresh air and sunshine is good for the soul. True, it is not always in the sunshine but put it this way; there are very few more compelling reasons for exercise in the freezing rain than a dog who needs a walk.

Someone to talk to

It is not all about physical health either. Pets are companions whose very presence can have a hugely positive effect on your psychological wellbeing. They may not be able to talk back but they are great listeners, and it has been shown time and again that sitting down and stroking a dog or a cat can have a beneficial impact on things like high blood pressure and depression. Given this, perhaps it is not surprising that there are charities which specialise in arranging visits by dogs and cats to old peoples’ homes and hospitals.

So there you have it. Your four-legged friend whom you love so much may be paying you back in more ways than you, or indeed they, realise.

There’s no denying it; running a small business can be extremely hard. With large corporations stealing the limelight and often being so well known that local companies can’t compete. As a result attracting customers can be difficult; however, there are ways that small firms can stand out from the crowd whilst minimising their expenses at the same time.

When it comes to capital, it’s normally true that the smaller the business, the less cash they have free to invest. In such a scenario, taking careful control of cash flow is vital, and with financial reserves being far smaller than the competition, it only takes a small knock to push a local firm under. This is why taking advantage of outsourcers can be extremely beneficial.

Instead of hiring permanent staff, a process that is costly both in the short and longer terms, expertly skilled professionals can be used on an ad-hoc basis. This provides the ideal way for businesses to get their hands on talented individuals without breaking the bank. For example, invoicing and tax returns can take up an extraordinary amount of time for small firms. Turning to a reliable umbrella company provides a way for businesses to spend time on growing their brand and consumer base instead of becoming too involved in backroom tasks. Likewise, help can be found with recruiting and customer services too, allowing a local company to focus on their core business challenges.

Though it can be difficult to survive against competitors, small businesses can actually make their reduced business size a positive strength. Larger corporations often find it hard to fast-track company changes, and tend to be less flexible than smaller firms. For the local producer, listening to customers and specifically targeting niche markets is ideal. Riverford, a company famous for their organically grown vegetable boxes, started out locally in Devon. Being a start-up, able to cater to local’s needs and being small enough to make rapid company changes meant the company could expand to become the iconic British firm it is today.

One thing that all start-up companies and small businesses should do is to create a contingency plan. The lack of resources means that the slightest problem can have a significant effect on a business. What if the main customers suddenly decide to go to a competitor? What if the office burned down? Luckily, little companies are able to react to problems quicker than global enterprises and, as long as a contingency’s in place, there’s no reason for failure to occur. However, executives must keep their wits about them and identify key problems as soon as they arise, such as, for example, a customer not paying their bills.

It can be tough for small businesses to thrive, particularly when they’re trying to make a mark against multi-million pound companies. However, firms can use their small stature to their advantage by carving out a niche for themselves and reacting quickly to consumer demand. Utilising outsourcers and expert contractors can certainly keep company expenses to a minimum. 

The online marketing world is as changeable as ever. Every year, there are a host of new user preferences and new trends in the sector.  Some of these are quickly adopted, whilst others fall away. The first adopters of influential marketing techniques end up gaining an advantage on the competition or further improving their status as leaders in their niche. This is why marketers are constantly searching for new trends and edges as the years roll by.  So… What are the trends that will dominate 2016 then?

Wearable tech will grow even further

Wearable smart devices have grown in popularity over the last few years and 2016 will see them become more mainstream than ever. The Apple Watch dominated the headlines this year but other gadgets are expected to arrive next year. With them, the line between online marketing and real marketing will become even narrower.

Increased popularity for video ads

Video ads are not new.  Facebook, Bing and YouTube have been serving them for years now. However, 2016 is poised to be the year when video ads will be seen on Google’s SERP. Users have become more accepting of video ads and as the acceptance continues to grow, video ads will gradually begin to pop up in more locations.

Explosion of mobile apps

2016 is expected to be a year where more business owners will realise the distinct benefits of having a mobile app. Google has offered app indexing for some time now but the ranking possibilities are just becoming more complex.  A site with a fully optimised mobile site is great for user experience but apps will soon replace them. Apps can do everything you’d expect from a mobile site but they are more convenient, more intuitive and more accessible. Many businesses, including e-commerce sites and new bingo sites launching in 2016 are expected to add apps to their portfolio.  Apps will not replace websites completely anytime soon but 2016 could prove vital for app adoption in business.  Should you be focusing on Android or iPhone apps, or both? This article will help you choose.

Rise of Virtual Assistant optimisation

When it comes to getting your site to be seen by thousands of new visitors, Search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising are the major ways to achieve it. However, both strategies are targeted at humans. Today, more people are using virtual assistants like Siri and Cortana to find relevant pages on the internet. 2016 will be a year where more people will be focused on making sure that their business information is easily accessible to the assistants instead of targeting humans alone.

Desktop will give way to mobile

This year Google announced that mobile traffic finally overtook desktop traffic in more than 10 countries. Google also released the algorithm update that penalised sites not properly optimised for mobile. Interestingly, Google pointed out that running a mobile site without any desktop version is perfectly acceptable. This clearly shows there will be a shift towards catering for mobile traffic even, though the desktop will remain important.

Emergence of virtual reality

There are lots of VR devices slated to be released over the next few years. Many of them are targeted at the gaming public, but others are set to be used in a wide range of environments.  One of the most well-known VR devices today is the Oculus Rift and it is expected to be released in the first quarter of 2016. The device, and other similar ones, are expected to be integrated with video channels, direct messaging and social media. This will invariably lead to a new medium of online advertising. There are arguments that virtual reality will never really take off, but the smart money says it is an idea whose time has come.

Business owners across the world are always looking for an edge. They are constantly looking for ways to work faster, smarter and beat their competitors.

Most companies look at most aspects of their business, but they frequently fail to understand the impact that the workspace provided for their workforce has on productivity and creativity. This is a shame because studies show that placing people in the right work environment has a positive impact on how they perform.

These studies suggest that choosing the right workspace for your employees can make or break your business. Read on to find out what elements are most important.

The right location

Most business owners know that they need to locate themselves in the right area to attract customers. However, few of them realise that the location of their offices has a huge impact on how easy it is to attract the best employees.

A firm that is located in an out of the way or rough area will find it very hard to attract the best people. Employees may find it hard to get to work using public transport and will not have access to good facilities once there.

Nobody wants to be stranded on a small out of town industrial estate at lunchtime. Most people like to have the option to pop to the local cafe or run a few errands and do a little shopping. Locating yourself in an area with good access to transport, shops and restaurants makes your office a much more attractive proposition to potential employees.

Good internal design

Next on the list is internal design. Providing everyone with a well-lit workspace that they can easily keep at the right temperature is essential for productivity.  Easy access to restrooms, a small kitchen, meeting rooms and other facilities is also important. You don’t want people to waste time having to go to other floors for meetings or not being able to have a drink when they need one.

Other facilities

However, it is not enough to think only about the workspace you provide for your employees. You need to ensure that the other facilities your staff need are available.

Providing communal spaces where workers from different parts of your business can cross paths and build relationships can be very beneficial. Studies show that the majority of the best business ideas come about when workers from different areas of the business talk to each other casually, perhaps over a coffee or a canteen meal. Communal areas play an important role in how successful a firm is.

Where to find good quality office space

In most cities, there is plenty of commercial space available, so that is a good place to start your search. With the help of the right agent, you can easily find what your firm needs.

In London, if you are looking for good quality office space near Fenchurch Street is a good place to start your search. This area ticks all of the boxes it is well-connected, in an up and coming part of the city and the rents are very reasonable.

A Shrewsbury based IT company is celebrating the launch of their new website this week. The stylish, sleek and modern new look for Information Solutions is now live and proving an immediate success.

With over a decade of providing high quality IT services and support across the region, it was time to revamp the existing site. The exciting new online presence, offers visitors with a detailed yet easy to navigate overview of the support and services which Information Solutions provides.

Businesses can discover what the many benefits of out-sourcing IT are; and browse information on cloud storage, security, hardware, antivirus, servers and much more, also including the popular cloud offering, Microsoft Office 365.

Speaking about the unveiling of the new website, Pete White says “We are really pleased to promote the new website for Information Solutions. The stylish site now further establishes us as one of the companies at the forefront of improving Shropshire’s business IT infrastructure. I do encourage business owners to take a look and see how we can help in such a variety of ways.”

For more information on the IT support and services available, call 01743 343411. To visit the new website, log on to

After the publication of my book last week I've had a number of questions about how I went about getting it published. I'm using a print on demand service - therefore the book is only printed when ordered and no stock is held. This is great for smaller projects such as my Travel Photography book however the print cost per copy is higher as you cannot benefit from economies of scale. There are two major players in the print on demand market, Lulu and Blurb.


Lulu offers a number of print on demand products including books, calendars, photo books and cook books. What Lulu provided over Blurb was a free ISBN number meaning that people could buy your book through shops such as Waterstones, WH Smiths and Amazon.

My problems with Lulu started when trying to upload my book. I had designed it using Apple's Pages application however Lulu did not support PDF's created this way (as far as I'm aware Lulu won't accept any PDF's created through Quartz based applications - even if the PDF is created through Adobe's Acrobat distiller, it is something to do with the way fonts are embedded into the PDF). I ended up uploading a 1.8 gig postscript file rather than a 300mb PDF to be able to print through Lulu.

When the proof arrived the print quality was poor, some parts were my fault for not adding images at a high enough resolution however ultimately it looked like it had been printed through an ink jet printer on the draft settings. Lulu do have another service just for photo book printing however this was a lot more expensive.


I was originally recommended Blurb over Lulu because of the print quality issues however the extra options (such as an ISBN number) provided by Lulu were enough to convince me to try them first. Blurb have created their own book creation software called Book Smart however there was no easy way to import between Apple's Pages and Book Smart so I ended up recreating the book using this software. This was good in many ways as it solved many of the resolution/DPI issues I had with Lulu. Book Smart also handles all of the conversion/uploading when it comes to publishing the book.

Blurb like Lulu allows you to set your own price for selling a book however they offer no free ISBN number and no way to sell your book as an eBook. Annoyingly there is no way to print from Book Smart without Blurbs 'this is a proof copy' message all over the PDF. Therefore for the eBook version I sell on ImAFish I've had to go back to my original copy created in Apple's Pages.

Prices between Lulu and Blurb are very similar, my book costs almost the same between Lulu and Blurb (though the Blurb book is a couple of cm smaller). Both allow for sales in UK Pounds, Euros and US Dollars and ship worldwide.

If you are creating a text heavy book such as a novel then Lulu's extra features such as an ISBN number are a clear winner. If you are creating a portfolio or photography book then Blurb's superior print quality is much better however if you are like me stuck in the middle between creating a photo heavy based book targeted at a wide audience then its a simple decision between quality and audience - I chose quality.

GreenBoxDay is a clever website that simply emails or txts you when you need to either put our your recycling boxes or your trash. You can set it to email/txt you upto three days before so that you don't forget to put it out.

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Exam Results

By Pete | @kingpetey | 28 Jun 2005

A break down of my exam results for anyone who understands.

In a nutshell I did well :D

215IS Professional Skills and Group Project
Coursework (Cw) 91
Module Mark (Mm) 91
Grade (Gd) Pass

217IS Database System Concepts
Coursework (Cw) 70.30
Exam (Ex) 66
Module Mark (Mm) 68.15
Grade (Gd) Pass

225CS User Interface Design
Coursework (Cw) 67
Module Mark (Mm) 67
Grade (Gd) Pass

232IS Multimedia Systems
Coursework (Cw) 73
Exam (Ex) 72
Module Mark (Mm) 72.50
Grade (Gd) Pass

241CS Computability Resit?
Coursework (Cw) 71.70
Exam (Ex) 51
Module Mark (Mm) 61.35
Grade (Gd) Pass

245CS Computer Communications
Coursework (Cw) 65
Exam (Ex) 59
Module Mark (Mm) 62
Grade (Gd) Pass

262CS Commercial Programming
Coursework (Cw) 79
Module Mark (Mm) 79
Grade (Gd) Pass

268IS Information Systems Engineering
Coursework (Cw) 55
Exam (Ex) 45
Module Mark (Mm) 48
Grade (Gd) Pass


By Pete | @kingpetey | 31 Jan 2005

January has been quite a slow month it seems, not a lot has happened and I'm just looking forward to going home in reading week (mid Feb) now. Second year of uni seems so different to the first, in a way its almost boring. I'm not sure why my motivation isn't as strong this year it just isn't.

I'm looking forward to next year, getting a house in particular should be good. Advice to anyone who thinks its a good idea to stay in halls in your second year then don't. You realise how much more work you have and how much money you don't have so you just end up by being woken up by drunk people in the early hours of the morning and watching countless hours of TV shows.

I'm looking forward to my holiday in the summer with Laura to Spain, it should be good. As for the rest of the summer its too far ahead but I do intend to go away again at least once. Can anyone say group holiday? It may be hard to organise but could be good fun, even if it was just to butlins.

On the Switchweb front things are going well, we have recently expanded some more so should be able to take many more orders!

Back from uni!

By Pete | @kingpetey | 18 Jun 2004

My last article on ImAFish covered legit music download sites in the UK. This week Apple's iTunes store launched so I decided to take a look. The program is basically a download extension to Quicktime with a couple of nice ways to order and store your music.

Tracks come more pricey than their American equivalents - they get songs for $99 (55p) while we have to pay 79p however this is better than OD2's and Napster's 99p price tag.

I thought iTunes had some nice content but was still lacking much of the stuff I was interested in. However there is a radio section which does include a link to digitally imported radio.

Hopefully I will do a follow up article in the coming weeks as its quite a popular subject.

I carried on working on the Switchweb site today and gave the shopping cart a big well needed overhaul. Hopefully I will get the rest of the site done over the next week or so and add some of the features I have planned, thats as long as I don't forget them!

I'm home from university now which is a bit of a shocker as I didn't quite realize how much stuff I have. Most still lies on my bedroom floor waiting for a home over the summer.

Just if your interested this column entry comes from my new PC in my room - yes I'm currently sitting in bed updating my column - how sad!

I keep reading how writing web-logs such as this have changed peoples lives, while I'm uncertain as to whether my "blog" is life changing for anyone else or myself it hopefully will be something to look back on in years to come!

Until next time the comfort of my bed is calling for sleep - night.