2014 has been a good year for my side projects, I've not started anything new but have spent time to refine my existing ones.
The Love Shrewsbury site has been the most time consuming side project over the past twelve months however its also been the most rewarding. The site has reached over 100,000 people and has been expanded to include local offers. I have developments in the new year for an expanded what's on section and possibly a directory. The April Fool's post was particularly successful with 10,000 hits over 2 days.
Switchweb continues to provide the infrastructure for many of my other activities though new hosting sales have been slow in 2014. I'm hoping to rectify this in the coming months, pushing the relaunched site with a series of press releases.
We ran our second (R)Evolution conference in September, the full day web event was another big success and I'm looking forward to planning events for 2015.
ImAFish continues to attract sponsored posts and advertising and has been a consistent money maker in 2014.
I've done a lot less landscape photography in the past year, though I got some nice photos in Scotland. It turns out I have a very photogenic son and if you ask any of my Instagram or Facebook followers you will know I take a look of photos of him!
Thanks to everyone who has helped and supported my side projects in the past year, I'm looking forward to 2015.
I started writing this as a blog post however as it continued in length it started to sound more like an article so here goes.... For doing IT support at work we had to learn Windows Vista and while we haven't had much interest yet it is inevitable that something will go wrong for us to fix. The majority of other reviews I've read online have not been particularly positive with many people commenting on the DRM restrictions and lack of anything ground breaking.
I wanted to see for myself and of course share it with the wonderful ImAFish fans. To save reinstalling I opted to use Virtual PC 2007, it made sense as it meant I could do XP and Vista support from one computer though it made it hard to see the performance differences. My rig is an Athlon 64 3000+ with 2GB Memory, I gave Virtual PC 1gig of memory and used Vista Business Upgrade. Installation seemed to take forever and wasn't helped by the fact I had to install XP first then install Vista. Three hours later and a couple of restarts I had a Vista desktop. At this point Vista was painfully slow to do anything , I managed to slowly install the Virtual PC additions and reboot the system. This vastly improved things however I tweaked the performance settings a bit more to give maximum performance. At this point i'm sure your all gagging for a screen shot so here we go Windows Vista... (click to enlarge)
As you can see from removing all of the high performance settings you get what looks like Windows 2000! This unfortunately made me lose the "wow" factor so I enabled "Use visual styles on windows and buttons" from the performance options.
This made Vista look like....
You probably recognise this from many of the other Vista screen shots. It's hard not to like the new theme, even without Aero its a lot more polished, smart and has an almost calming effect on what you do. Also in the screen shot is the new start menu, finally they have discarded those annoying nested menus that required pin-point mouse accuracy to follow. Start menu items now simply display below the folder title, more like files in Explorer view. Once you start doing anything you will notice lots of confirmation windows popping up, these tend to be incredibly annoying, I got 3 pop-up boxes just when trying to install Flash Player in IE7.
Fortunately these can be turned off in Control Panel > User Accounts > Turn User Account Control on or off. It will ask you to reboot but its well worth it. You will also need to turn off alerts in the Windows Security Centre to stop Vista from constantly reminding you that account control is disabled.
I tried a couple of common applications, Firefox and SmartFTP both worked fine and didn't look too misplaced within Vista, in fact IE7 looks more out of place with its annoying interface. The majority of Vista can be customised like XP and as you can see from my first screen shot its not hard to pull away the glossy interface though as I said before it is nice.
Most of your favourite tools will be in the same place such as msconfig and the command prompt though incidentally these are now run from the start search box. This can also be used for launching applications, if I was to type in 'Internet' it would launch Internet Explorer, or if I type in 'ass' it launched Remote Assistance. Search has been deeply improved, instead of it taking three minutes to search your hard drive its takes three seconds. Microsoft have redesigned control panel again but give you the option to go back to the classic view.
The majority of items within control panel are unchanged, though there are a few new additions such as the option to upgrade your copy of Vista online. The networking section has the most changes and is now branded under the Network and Sharing Center (even though I set my language to English they still cant spell centre right). At first this is a little confusing however it ends up being a nice way of organising various connections. The system tray now only shows one network icon for all your connections making it easier to forget if you keep a VPN connected by accident. The network map is also a nice tool as it shows other Vista computers and how they are connected. Useful stats such as IP address and computer name are also displayed.
Here you can see many more of the tools common in XP have not changed greatly for Vista. I could fill another four pages with Vista comments but its not really worth it, on the surface Vista is not hugely different. It's stable, has working applications and looks nice. If I brought a new PC having Vista would not put me off however I wouldn't upgrade my current desktop. Vista might be a lot different deep down but on the surface its not and for the price of
With the large online streaming audience set to get even bigger in 2017, Netflix is doing more than enough to position itself as the most preferred online streaming service for Videos on Demand. They have gone as far as funding the production of A-list TV shows that made headlines all over the world in 2016, like the very popular Narcos. This year doesn’t seem like it’s going to be any different, since they already have a number of TV shows lined up for release. The only catch is that you’d need to change your Netflix region to the US. Once you do that, here’s what you could expect:
- Release Date: February 3rd, 2017
- Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Thomas Crawford, Drew Barrymore
- Plot: This year we will see Drew Barrymore come to daytime TV in this drama filled story about a happy couple living in Santa Clarita, California whose lives come tumbling down after the death of Sheila.
- Release Date: May 5th, 2017
- Plot: Also making a comeback this year is the interconnected group of 8, dubbed the “sensates”, whose main objective would be to use their shared knowledge, language and skills to prevent the violent death of Angelica.
- Release Date: January 20th, 2017
- Cast: Landon Liboiron, Jason Momoa, Zoe Boyle
- Plot: The producers from the Discovery channel came together to order a scripted series about the struggle that existed in the late 18th century over the control and exploit of pelts.
- Release Date: March 17th, 2017
- Cast: Jessica Stroup, Jessica Henwick, Finn Jones
- Plot: Another addition to the Marvel series to watch out for in 2017 is Iron Fist, with the main character as Danny Rand. Rand comes back to his family’s home in New York to reclaim his family company, but the evils he encounters along the way force him to choose between continuing with his family’s legacy, and his duties as Iron Fist.
Release Date: January 24th, 2017
Plot: This new physically demanding, and energy draining competition will put all the other obstacle course challenge shows you’ve watched to shame. The show will adopt an international theme with competitors being scouted from the US, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Mexico and Brazil. These athletes will compete for national pride as they’re put through the toughest of courses, known in each episode as “The Beast”, with each contestant yearning to be crowned the Ultimate Beastmaster after they battle it out on the final episode.
Expect all that and a lot more this year from Netflix. We’ll update the list once the release dates get announced, but here’s what you could also expect to come out soon:
-F is for Family
-Fuller House (Season 3)
Keep in mind that these release dates are all based on viewers on the American Netflix region. Whether these shows will also be released at the same time in UK, Canada, Australia, or other countries is yet to be seen
Although the festive season might feel like a long way off, if you want to get away with your family over Christmas, you need to plan. These types of holidays are always popular, especially for those who might not enjoy the idyllic festive backdrop of snow-covered mountains or rolling hills. It’s easy to see why, as being in the heart of somewhere that encapsulates a wintery, festive wonderland will certainly help to get you into the Christmas spirit and will be a fun experience all the family can enjoy. If this sounds like something you’d love to do with your nearest and dearest this year, here are a few tips to help you start planning for it:
Work Out Your Budget and Start Saving
The first thing you need to do is decide how much you can afford to spend on a winter holiday like this. Getting away over the Christmas season can be expensive because it is such a popular time for people to go on holiday, so be prepared for this. When you have figured out how much you can and are willing to spend on your winter wonderland escape, you should start putting money away for it as soon as possible. If you have a separate savings account that you use for things like family holidays, that’s great. If you don’t, you might want to consider opening one for this purpose, as it will help you to keep track of your money much easier.
Pick Your Destination
There are so many great destinations to choose from for this kind of holiday, but some of the best ones are in Europe. The Alps go through France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Liechtenstein, Germany, Monaco and Slovenia – any of these destinations would make excellent festive escapes, most of which provide the quintessential settings for this time of year. For a more cost-effective European destination, however, you might want to consider Bulgaria. This is a fantastic destination for skiing holidays but sometimes gets overlooked, which it certainly shouldn’t. Take a look at these ski chalets in Bansko to get an example of why this is such a brilliant winter holiday destination, and perhaps make this the number one destination on your list.
Find Deals on Flights
While flights are likely to be most costly during this time of year, that doesn’t mean you can’t still find great deals. It’s always worth looking at different deals for holiday flights, and there are various websites dedicated to this to make it easy for you. You might need to be flexible when it comes to times, as the cheapest flights tend to be late at night or in the early hours of the morning. This might not be ideal for families with young children, but take the time to scope out a few different options to get the best-priced flights that are suitable to your family’s needs.
Consider Weight Limitations on Baggage
When booking your flights, you should also factor in the weight limitations on the baggage with that particular airline. Even if your family is going away for just a few days, if you’re going to be away over Christmas, you’ll need to think about how much the gifts are going to add to your luggage. It might be worth paying the extra for your hold luggage rather than just taking carry-on baggage to accommodate these extra items, as well as any souvenirs that you might want to bring home with you as well. Always weigh your suitcases and other luggage before you leave to make sure you haven’t gone over the limit; otherwise, you might face additional charges.
While staying in a gorgeous chalet is all part of the charm, you’ll still need to find ways to keep everyone entertained during your stay. If you are going to a ski resort, then having some fun on the slopes is a must – but consider what other activities are available in the local area, too. Whether it’s visiting a traditional Christmas market, hiking along a trail, or something festive that is happening at the resort or the local town, it might be worth booking ahead so you don’t miss out.
Plan Ahead for Meals
Finally, if you are going away over Christmas, shops and restaurants are likely to be closed on the day itself. Some resorts offer catered chalets so your meals will be prepared for you, but if you are choosing a self-catering option, remember to get enough food in from the local shops before Christmas Eve. If you want to book a meal out at a restaurant, book well in advance to make sure you get a table, as locals and tourists alike will probably plan to go out with their families and friends in the run-up to the festivities too.
If you think your family would enjoy a fun winter wonderland escape this year, use the tips above to help you plan the perfect trip.