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  • Retro Computer Museum–Help please!

    I first came across the Retro Computer Museum in 2010 when I saw the guys who run it give a presentation at the Vintage Computer Festival.


    Back then they didn’t have a permanent “home” and could only hold a few open days per year in the village hall in Coalville. Since then they have worked really hard behind the scenes and have ran events at the Snibston Discovery Museum

    Me on Playstation 1

    and BBC Radio Leicester (Spark Festival)

    Alice on Super MarioEvie on Chuckie Egg

    They also managed to find a more suitable base of operations that you can visit pretty much any weekend by making an appointment.

    Unfortunately they have become victims of their own success and have outgrown the current space available. I can sympathise on this front. My own collection consumes much more space in my home than Mrs P would like!

    They have managed to find a much bigger venue in Leicester but as is always the case with these things their costs have now gone up dramatically. So they are looking for help to help them move to the next level and provide an even better service.

    The new venue is much larger and it’s location will make it much more accessible for visiting and will enable them to offer a wider range of services moving forward.

    RCM is what I can only describe as a living museum. The computers and systems they have don’t sit locked away in cabinets. Instead they are made available for use so they can be enjoyed as much now as they were back when they were considered cutting edge technology.

    The guys there do a great job and put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into the museum and their hard work shouldn’t go unnoticed.

    If you can spare a couple of pounds it would be going to a great cause!


  • Evolve or Die! Goodbye Blockbusters, HMV and Jessops

    It’s been a bit brutal on the retail front in the UK of late.

    HMV, Blockbusters and Jessops all entered administration in January 2013. The list of big name retailers to run into problems grows at an alarming rate.

    In every report I’ve seen or heard about all of these retailers one of the main reasons that is always rolled out is,

    “Struggling against online competitors”

    Too many of the traditional big name retailers have pretty much stood still while the world changes around them.

    A really easy way to picture the problem is to explain how each of the businesses work to a child. Modern children grow up with computers everywhere (for lots of kids an actual computer seems old fashioned!) with masses of bandwidth where everything is instant, convenient and always on.

    While their business models may have been great 15-20 years ago, when framed in the context of how the world works today they don’t make much sense.

    Let’s try and explain it in the same way as I would to my six year old and see what’s wrong?


    HMV sell shiny discs that have music and films on. They keep big piles of them in big shops. if you hear a song on the radio that you like you need to travel into town so that you can search through the piles of discs to find the one you want which can take quite a long time. If you don’t know the name of the song or what it’s called you can try humming it to someone who works in the big shop. This doesn’t usually work. If they don’t have the disc you want they can sometimes get it from another shop but you’ll need to come back next week. Sometimes you might only like one song but you’ll need to buy 10 others that go with it. You won’t know if you like the other songs until you get home though.

    Where to start?

    Here’s an example of a scenario that happens in my household on a regular basis.

    If my daughter heard a song on the radio she liked she’d expect me to use the music recognition software on my phone (built-into Windows Phone or via an app such as Shazam). Once we’d found the song I’d be able to pay for just that one track or if I was subscribed to a service such as Xbox Music or Spotify I wouldn’t worry about that. Either way I’d download the track straight away. At the same time I’d be able to see other tracks from that same artist and I’d be able to listen to some of these other songs to see if I like them. It would also suggest other songs and artists I might like. The whole thing would take a couple of minutes. No trip into town. No search through stacks of plastic cases. No buying songs I’m not interested in.

    It’s easy to look back with nostalgia on trips to the music store to check out the latest songs but back then it was the only way to purchase music. If you’re coming at it completely new (in the way children do) the whole concept seems like a massive inconvenience.

    Looking at it from the perspective of the business owner doesn’t the digital method seem much better too? It doesn’t matter whether you want to sell 10 or 10,000 of the latest popular track. Storing a digital file doesn’t have the same physical storage requirements. Customers also largely serve themselves. Both of these things can help keep costs down.

    Sales of music CDs have been on a downward trend for some time. The modern alternatives are much better for the consumer.

    The keyword here is choice


    If you’d like to watch a film you can go into town to a shop where they have lots and lots of empty boxes for you to look at. If you like the look of the pictures on the boxes you can pay some money and they’ll give you a disc to take home. You then get a day or two to watch it before you have to then go back into town to the shop to return the disc. If you don’t get the film back in time you have to hand over some more money. You can also pay to keep the film forever but it’s not much cheaper than buying it from the supermarket. If you do pay to keep it you can watch it whenever you like. This normally means once or two a year for the ones you really like. They sit on the shelf near the TV until you decide to watch it again.

    So as with the previous example how does it work in my house? If the kids want to watch a film or TV series they have two options.

    The first is to use a streaming service like NetFlix. We turn on a device in the house (Xbox, Smart TV, Laptop, Tablet, phone!), browse the the list of available content and the film will start playing straight away. No trips out of the house, no late fees, if we don’t like it then we can just stop and pick something else and we don’t have lots of discs hanging around the house. The keyword here is instant.

    Alternatively, you can use a disc by post service such as LoveFilm. We pick a list of things we’d like to see. LoveFilm send it through the post .We keep it as long we like, watch it, send it back and we’ll get another one a few days later. Again no late fees, no trips out (we post the discs as part of our normal routines). The downside is it’s not quite as instant as NetFlix but LoveFilm do have a streaming service as part of their offerings. The keyword here is convenient.

    In reality we actually use both services in our household as they offer different types of content (which is rather annoying..but the costs aren’t huge)


    If you want to buy a camera you travel into town, speak to the nice person in the shop who knows all about cameras and will show you lots of different types and tell you which is the best one for you based on how much you want to spend and what you want to use the camera for.

    Sounds simple enough right?

    I know quite a few photographers and if you ask them about buying a camera the advice is usually,

    “Do your research online. Go into Jessops and see if you’re happy with how it looks and feels in your hand, check the menu system is easy enough to use……and then buy it online as you’ll get it cheaper.”


    The problem is the description above isn’t the real picture of the world. Shops like Jessops don’t have the experts they used to in the past. It’s a sad fact that the shopping experience isn’t all that great. Too many shop assistants don’t really care and are frequently rude or uninterested in their customers. I appreciate this is a bit harsh on lots of shop staff. There are lots of good people out there. It’s just not the norm anymore in my experience. I also don’t appear to be alone in that opinion. This piece on PC Pro was an interesting read highlighting a specific example. This isn’t just picking on Jessops though. This piece discusses some research by customer intelligence company Market Force Information that suggests poor service drives people out of the high street and Halfords were voted worst for customer service last year. People do want cheaper but they are willing to pay more for a good experience. Haven’t Apple proven this over years? If people are getting a poor experience then they’ll be much more picky over price so will look for the cheapest price online.

    Many stores such as Jessops do have an online presence but they are just one of many voices looking to compete on price and the brand name means very little. When they are competing against websites that have no physical presence (Amazon?) then all those bricks and mortar stores drive the price up making it very hard to compete.


    Retail is changing

    Media consumption is changing

    The old ways of doing business just seem really inconvenient and cost more in time and effort.

    These same businesses are clinging onto the old way of working and the ones that aren’t even trying to stay relevant are going the way of the DoDo


    I think pretty soon they’ll be a large shift and businesses will need to change if want to continue to exist. Customer service will need to get better. High street stores will need to become attractive in such a way that people will gain experiences that aren’t possible online.


    The small independent stores that have struggled in recent years as big businesses have hammered them on price will have the opportunity to grab a piece of the action again. Their size makes them in a good position to make changes quickly in the face of customer demand.

    As always this is all just thoughts that have randomly plopped out of my head onto the Internet via my keyboard. Winking smile


    How do you see the future of retail?

  • Book Review: Deadline by Mira Grant

    So as part of my new year post I said I wanted to get back into the reading habit. I also said that once I actually started I wasn’t expecting it to be problem to read a book a month as the old habits would return. Looks like I was right! As of the of 8th of January I’d read two books already!

    Over the Christmas break I was in a book shop and spotted Blackout, the third book in the “Newsflesh Trilogy”. This reminded me that having loved the first (Feed) I hadn’t read the second one yet. This made it an ideal candidate to get started with.

    I’ll try and make this is as spoiler free as possible…

    The story focuses primarily around Sean, one of the main characters from Feed with Sean struggling to come to terms with events from the previous story. It isn’t long however before the fallout from the first book “hits the fan” and it’s not long before the team are back in the fray, fighting for their lives and apparently someone who is out to get them!

    Each of the characters is very different in their own way which made it really easy to follow them and want them to succeed. 

    As with Feed I was absolutely engrossed and I’d finished it over the period of two days and was straight into the final book before I’d even had a chance to write this up. 

    Whereas the first book worked as a standalone story the second and third really do go together otherwise you’re really left hanging as to all the questions you want answered! But this isn’t something I’m complaining about (well it might have been if the third book hadn’t been released yet!)

    You’ve probably figured out I rather enjoyed this book. Zombie fiction isn’t normally something I’d be interested in but the story is written in such away that I don’t really see it as a Zombie story. It’s about people and a possible, believable future where bloggers are considered mainstream news sources. That’s interesting enough to get my attention!

    The third book (Blackout) was read just as quickly as this one so review for that will follow soon.

    There are also a series of short stories based in the “Newsflesh” universe which fleshes out some of the back story (pun not exactly intended!) so I’ll be checking those out soon.

    Dead tree edition is available on Amazon or there is a Kindle version if you prefer.

  • Logging Onto A Local Account With Windows

    This is one of those really small things I didn’t realise you could do that’s actually really helpful. It’s one of those things that isn’t really a secret but I’ve just never come across it.

    With a Windows XP or Windows 2003 machine that was domain joined if you needed to logon to a local account there was the very helpful dropdown that showed all available domains as well as the local computer account.


    Just choose where you want to logon to and away you go.

    Windows Server 2008 and Windows 7 are a little different. The drop down list isn’t displayed.


    if you click the “How do I logon to another domain” link you’ll get a helpful dialog box with the name of the computer listed which you can then manually type.


    Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 are largely the same.



    Having to find the computer name and then type it in is one of those minor inconveniences that waste a few seconds of your day. Winking smile

    The solution is to replace the computer name with a dot (or period if you’re from the US)



    is just the same as




    The PC name is then filled in automatically for you.

    If you’ve always known about this you’ll probably wonder what I’m rattling on about it for but as I mentioned earlier it’s the first time I’ve ever come across it. Hopefully it’ll help someone else out too.

  • 2012–NOT the end the of the world

    So 2012 is done and dusted.

    If i was trying to sum up 2012 in one word…..BUSY.

    An awful lot changed in 2012, personally and professionally.

    I haven’t quite gotten a handle on the whole thing and I’m still forming new habits and routines to make sure I can fit everything in!

    Our biggest piece of news was that earlier in the year Bryony managed to get a new job working with the NDCS (National Deaf Children’s Society). To say the role was made for her would be the understatement of the year! This had a big impact on home life as Bryony made the switch from part time hours to full time hours. Both of our routines entirely changed as we found ourselves getting up much earlier in the morning and having our evenings start much later after the children are in bed.

    As a result weekends have become even more about family time and evenings are now mostly about catching our breath!

    That isn’t the only thing that has kept us busy on the family front. Other big “moments” include having a family member leave the UK for a new life in Australia, various family members with scary health problems (everyone is ok now!) and two children who go from strength to strength every day.


    Very proud Dad here, they’ve both achieved a lot this year.

    On a professional level the biggest change for a lot of people has been Microsoft sending Small Business Server out to pasture. This was scary on one hand for a lot of IT providers but if looked in another way it provided an opportunity to differentiate yourself from others and provide a solution designed by yourself from the ground up.

    I was also fortunate enough to be named a Microsoft Partner Area Lead and AMITPRO continues to be well attended by companies in the Midlands area.

    Aside from all this serious stuff I did manage visits to EuroGamer, PlayExpo and The Retro Computer Museum. I also spoke at a Pecha Kucha evening for a second time as well following my own advice to make sure I was taking time out to recharge the batteries. I’m also happy to report my knee has been trouble-free and the tactics I’d used in 2011 to lose some weight also worked successfully again as I looked to drop a few pounds in the run up to the start of the football season. 

    Since it wouldn’t be much of an end of year post if I didn’t, so I’ve picked three things I’d like to think about changing in 2013.

    If you’re looking back on your own 2012 have a read of this post by Richard Tubb: Three Questions To Ask Yourself Before Setting Your New Years Goals

    The one question that really jumped out at me was “What do you enjoy doing that you simply don’t make time for anymore?”. We all use the “I’m too busy” or “I don’t have time” excuses frequently but if we’re being totally honest if something is really important you’ll make time for it. 

    I’m usually a bit wishy washy when it comes to setting goals but I think it’ll help with some of these things if I actually commit to something publically!


    In January 2011 I started tracking what I was reading. I was pretty pleased with the results and the actual act of tracking encouraged me to read. For reasons I can’t explain 2012 has been a disaster on this front. I’ve actually read a tiny portion of books in comparison to previous years so I’ll be looking to do something about this in 2012. I’ll start tracking again and have a target of finishing a book per month. That’s perfectly do-able based on past activity and I’m pretty sure once I get back into the habit I’ll smash this target.


    19 posts in 2012….not great at all. Blogging is still something I really enjoy doing so I’m going to put right this year. When I first started if I had an idea for a post I’d write it pretty much immediately or it would be something I’d do of an evening. As my evening routines are significantly different nowadays blogging doesn’t get a look in! I’ll commit to a post at least once a week and make it much higher priority on my to do list.

    IT Community

    If I’m being completely honest I’ve not done enough on the community front in 2012. While AMITPRO has been ticking along ok that’s all it’s been doing. As an example, the website is only updated with the next meeting details at the moment. This goes hand in hand with the Partner Area Lead role. I’ve also not being doing as much with this as I’d like. Being more active with AMITPRO will automatically sort out the Partner Area Lead concerns I’ve got. Not sure how to set goal for this one though but I’m going to sort the website out for start. This means restarting the meeting reviews that used to go up after each event and updating the site to make sure the information is up to date.

    In closing, 2012 wasn’t a bad year on the whole, even if it feels like it whizzed by. I’m very grateful for having great friends and family who have been there to share it with.

    So welcome to 2013! Let me know how your year went and what plans you have for the coming twelve months.

    Whether it’s online or in person I look forward to catching you soon