Saturday, 22 June 2013

Theme Park Frustration

Now if you've followed my blog for some time, are friends with me on Facebook or are privileged to know me in person you will know I'm a complete thrill seeker...

I love rollercoasters FACT!!!

Now last year we took a year out from getting Merlin Passes, we'd been avid Merlin Pass holders for 3 maybe 4 consecutive years (I forget as I'm getting older, that & my frazzled epileptic brain there's no hope for an elephants memory in all areas)...

So needless to say when the opportunity arose to renew our passes this year thanks to my thrifty saving up of Tesco clubcard vouchers & Nectar points, we had enough to get the whole family of fives passes!

We went to Legoland on June 8th & had a fantastic time with the children, the weather was perfect - this year it was even better, thanks to being non-smokers we didn't have to head over to the only smoking area ironically at The Fire Academy - more fun ride time & we watched the 'Pirates of Skeleton Bay' from a good vantage point.

Of course we still ran out of time to get everything covered in a day, but with Merlin Passes that's no big issue - Windsor is not so far away & we can go as and when we please within reason.

Sadly for the unforeseeable future there will be no more theme parks until we get family transport now... You see our beloved trusty family car has died a horrible death on June 11th.

Arghhhh, to have but a teaser taster of a theme park day is torture to me... I've been tracking progress of Alton Towers new epic World First fantastic ride 'The Smiler' for months & months - now I can't see getting there, let alone try out the new ride.

Looks awesome right??? I so, so, so want to go on it... Forget the epilepsy, I'm riding it - I've not officially had any indication of photosensitive epilepsy in previous tests (even though since my medication started this year I've had quite a few unexplained incidents which could possibly indicate I'm getting an epileptic problem in that area of my brain too) but NO, epilepsy does NOT own me & I shall ride The Smiler!

I'm just increasingly frustrated having not done Alton Towers since 2011 & it's by far my favorite theme park (of all I've tried, aside Disneyland Paris) - I want to go!!!

So if & when we are mobile again that's where I'm heading for sure... Who's up for coming with me???

posted from Bloggeroid

Thursday, 13 June 2013

All the Fun of the Circus!

What a treat!

Tonight for the first time EVER in my life I went to the circus!

I've wanted to go for years & years, but never got the opportunity or money to do so.

By luck, I'd been alerted by The Hub as OYAP Trust had a limited number of Free tickets for Young Carers & their families - first come first serve basis.

I'd received a text yesterday lunchtime & thought what the heck, let's try & by luck I was one of the lucky ones.

My friend Sam's father-in-law had also posted on Facebook, but I'd already reserved our tickets... I was so pleased today when I found out how much this would've cost us as a family of five!

It would've cost us £84, so I am so, so thankful to OYAP Trust... Albeit I think I want to join the circus now, what a wonderful way of life - these people had a wonderful time performing together & wow they were so talented.

A donkey, a goose, chickens, horses, a magician, jugglers, acrobats, a rope walker, puppeteers it was absolutely brilliant!

I was mesmerized by a lot of the acts, my favourites were the jugglers & their fire batons the juggled & balanced. I also thought the rope walker was spectacular & as for the ladies costumes, I'd love a pair of the purple velvet shorts!!!

Of course my phone was out (on silent), photos were taken & I've made a few collages of some of the snaps for you all.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed the show & if you do by chance get the opportunity do visit Giffords Circus, it is well worth the money a 90 minute show suitable for all ages... Under 3's go free & sit on your lap! Adults £21, Children £14

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Unsatisfied with S4

It has been a long while since I blogged (well it feels like it to me & I started this on Sunday, yet it is now The early hours of Wednesday), but life's been as hectic as normal here & still is... I shall try n blog more this week with a brief round-up of all the family life going ons, but for now this is all about my recent phone upgrade.

For the past 17+ months I've had an HTC Sensation XL which I've loved 99.5% of the time (only .5% of the time it's had minor glitches from user error, ie/ I take far too many photos & was filling it up so that it ran slow - Ooops)

Now on my 18 month contact I was able to upgrade with O2 at 17 months, I'd been toying for over a month between the Sony Xperia Z & Samsung Galaxy S4 -I'd opted for the S4 for purely cosmetic reasons... You see I'm a girlie girl & the S4 looked slightly more girlie in White Frost (even though the Z is exclusively in Purple for O2) the S4's more curvaceous you see.

So on ordering this new Samsung S4 (on Fri 31st May) I was happy with my bartering technique online (I'd bagged a great deal) unlimited text, unlimited calls & 2gb of data on a refresh 2 year contract all for £37 a month (cheaper than my then current contract, with loads more data & unlimited calls as opposed to 600 mins & 500mb data) brilliant I thought...

I was overly excited when the package arrived by courier on Monday 3rd June I instantly took some photos to collage & Instagram as I do... But instantly found out I needed to a) do a sim swap & b) I wouldn't use it till I had a screen protector & silicone case to protect it. This phone is not cheap it's a top of the range 'Smart'phone at RRP £450+

So I didn't actually start using the phone till Tuesday afternoon when I finally decided to take the plunge & swap my sim to the new micro sim (I'd picked up screen protectors & a silicone purple cover from Poundland).

Now the first major glitch I disliked was the linking of contacts, I ended up with well over 1000 as it pulled contacts from Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Windows Live & created new contacts even if they were of the same name! Some friends ended up in my new phone 4 or 5 times!!! I then tried to Bluetooth over from my old phone, but could only send 10 at a time... This was tedious but meant I could have who I wanted.

The next thing I hated about contacts, apart from not merging links into one contact, it didn't put profile pictures on so everybody was this awful tacky head - yuk! So unless I saw the person to take a picture of them they were all this head with a different coloured  background!

Now it doesn't come with Facebook as a standard factory installed app, not necessarily a bad thing but I like to access my page & as I don't often get chance to turn my laptop on these days it's a must for me, great I'm used to the android app & once installed seemed just as it was on HTC - Fab! I then downloaded some other frequently used apps by me: Instagram, Twitter, PhotoGrid, Blogger, WordPress, Subway Surfers, Bejeweled Blitz, Candy Crush, Amazon Kindle Reader to name a few favs.

Twitter worked perfectly fine, as did the Amazon Kindle Reader. Bejeweled Blitz seemed good - I've not installed on my HTC but I will now it's available, keeps crashing on the iPod!!! Now I didn't try Blogger, I did try WordPress - blogged today you can check it out here: Photographic Opportunities

Onto my next gripe...

Typing on the S4 - arghhhhhhh!!! Qwerty keyboard fine, but what's not fine is only having a . available on the main keyboard & not a , this is awful in my opinion, as I a) txt a lot, b) use FB for statuses/messages/comments & c) I blog using my phone so a comma is essential if you ask me! I pride myself on good English, in fact I think my grammar is pretty darn good... This cannot be so without the humble comma though. It actually takes 7 steps to get from main keyboard to enter a comma & get back to the main keyboard on the S4 - that's ludicrous, seriously!!!!!

I'll slip in a small good point here... It did have two pages of special characters including the infamous middle dot - which my HTC does not have (much to my disapproval), but that wasn't a big enough reason to keep a phone I was not entirely satisfied with!


So next I try out the trace typing, I've been a HUGE fan of this since finding it on the HTC... It sure can make writing mighty quick with this feature & rarely on my trusty HTC does it make many errors (in fact most of this blog has been written by trace typing) but my word the Samsung made some big errors, maybe I was too quick for it? After all I've used this system for nearly a year & a half on the HTC & it can keep up with me!!!

I figure I'll have to give voice recognition typing a go (I've never needed it on here, although the feature is available) but I figure maybe just maybe that feature will work for me... Wrong!!! More errors than you can shake a stick at, but at least if nothing else the combination of using all 3 typing styles on the S4 it made for an amusing little blog earlier?!

Now there is a text related feature that I did like about the S4, although it was rather limited, you could actually change the font you viewed the text on your phone in. So instead of plain Ariel you could have a funky lil font instead, I do believe you could download others but whether that would affect the phones performance or not I don't know... I didn't download extras as I found a font named Choco Coco (or something like that) which was very me indeed!

Now as you may or may not know, I'm a keen amature photographer... I have 2 cameras a pocket & a semi-pro but it's the main other reason I have a 'Smart'phone - for the camera. Now my HTC is 8mp which produced very good photos, the Samsung boasted a clever 13mp camera! Now yes this was true of non-moving photos they were great, but slight movement not so great... out of focus, blurred not good. It did have some gimmicky features (I didn't try them all) but I did try the dual screen photo where it takes your reaction to the picture you're taking - not a bad feature, except it framed you in a stamp frame & as far as I'm aware you couldn't change that :(

The next gripe about photos is the Instagram app, now I use this on my iPod, I use it on my HTC... No problems on either, both perfectly working fine & dandy. On first go all is well on the S4, but although I tested the filters I hadn't tried the sharpen feature... On second go I decided to use this & boy what a surprise! If you wanted Android green added around your photo in patches too - Great - NOT!!!

You will notice that this blog will have an array of collages of photos taken with my HTC not the S4 but of the S4 & lots of my gripes (some of the good points too)... Yes, you will see just how snap happy I can be!

Now a good point about the S4 is the sound quality, absolutely magnificent. Crystal clear, beautiful, faultless, it also had some lovely ringtones, txt alerts & alarms (of course there were some rough dodgy ones too) but the sound I could not fault at all - Well Done Samsung!

The screen was clear & precise (unless displaying a blurred out of focus photo) which was nice, but it didn't feel nice to touch - I've got a screen protector on my HTC & it feels lovely trace typing or regular typing, but the Samsung just didn't feel as smooth... Maybe I'm just weird?!

Widgets: Arghhhhhh! Now the Samsung S4 came with a multitude of widget gizmos, so I rearranged the 5 pages down to 3 & put the widgets most useful to me on instead of the factory defaults. Blurgh... The calculator & calender were much more inferior than those on my HTC, also the weather widget didn't amalgamate the clock & alarm feature (as my HTC does) so another alarm/clock widget had to be added on a separate page.

Now I found some widgets that I thought would be absolutely brilliant for me, they all run under the S Health app... There was a Active widget, Food widget & Walk widget (forgive me I forget the exact names now) so I try to install these - Big Mistake! The widgets either loaded correct but the app wouldn't run properly & kept crashing or if you uninstalled the widgets the app would still crash even after a phone restart (hadn't even run the app, but it came up with errors still) or if you reinstalled widgets they wouldn't load correctly & only part install... Very poor if it's a pre-loaded widget you cannot delete from the phone.

My next gripe is the apps.... Now the preinstalled ones cover approx 3-4 pages, I downloaded some favourites & deleted those I could that a) I didn't like, b) I didn't need & c) I'd never use - thinking the Samsung would be smart as a 'Smart'phone should be, it would rejig the apps to take up as little room/pages as possible... Nope, it kept them spread out with gaps! So I think ok I can move these like my iPod let's me - wrong again, they stay put & don't move unless you just delete them, FanFreakingTastic!!!

Now as previously mentioned I'm a big snap happy armature photographer & take what could be considered as plenty of photos... I sometimes think I don't actually take enough, but that's just me! Anyhow, Samsung decide that this new S4 'Smart'phone with it's amazing 13mp all singing, all dancing camera should have a preinstalled app called: Story Book - you can create albums of lots of photos from specific events to them print as an actual memory album. Great if you can choose to do this or not, but I don't want to be told or have albums suggested every 5 minutes cause I take plenty of photos! Sheesh, let me decide please?

Now active apps, tell me how is it an app can start over & over & over again by itself when a) you've never opened it & b) you keep ending the app?! I don't get that at all... But the S4 decided Galaxy Play Music should be constantly running, draining the battery power with it's processors etc. Sort it out!

I did like that the S4 had a Micro SD Card slot, so I could put my old Micro SD Card in from my HTC predecessor the Sony Aino & managed to get photos of some cakes done a few years ago back to Instagram... Happy Days. However, I didn't like the fact that the photo gallery now had created god knows how many albums from the camera, the card, Facebook, Dropbox, anything that actually had a picture included I now had an album for - talk about using up all the memory before you've even started using the phone.

I liked one particular feature which meant you could swap between tasks easily or close all tasks quickly... You held the home key & a task manager or running windows pane opened where you could close all or instantly jump to the task you wanted - that was mighty useful.

To read email there was a nifty eye sensor which was tricky to control with your eyes, but you could tilt the phone so you could move the page up or down - that was pretty cool.

I really didn't like the fact the volume keys were on the left side not the right side, the power button was now on the right instead of on the top... These things were all niggling me but the final thing that tipped me over the edge to send it back was the non-working Air motion feature! Apparently to take a screen shot you just glide your hand sideways over the screen & voila... Nope, it didn't work at all :(

I use the screen shot function a lot so this was a disaster & somewhat extremely frustrating.

So with a sad heart the phone I'd set my mind on had failed me in an epic way & I set fourth to back-up the small amount of photos I'd done in just 4.5 days (all 122 of them) then I did a factory reset after deleting all contacts, downloaded apps etc. I finally powered it down to package up & send back to O2.

It wasn't the phone for me, but it could be perfect for someone else... I hope you've not fallen asleep with this rather in depth review blog, but I had to get it all out, in sure I've missed something?!

Marks out of 10??? I give it a score of 4.5, a few nice features, looks pretty, but not perfectly functioning for my needs - poor show.

Oh if you have an S4 & love it great, if you know me & want the purple silicone cover just txt me & I've a spare screen protector you can have too - free for the taking!!!

Here's the photos, I'll try to prettify this up & rearrange the pics when next on the laptop... Whenever that will be!