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  • Hello Kindle Voyage

    Way back at the beginning of 2011 I agonised over the decision to purchase a Kindle

    I eventually did, loved it and have used it pretty much daily ever since.

    I picked up my second Kindle after my first was stolen and the post I wrote at the time looked at the different models available and went down pretty well.

    Moving onto present day and I was very lucky to receive a Kindle Voyage for my recent birthday.

    My previous device was three and half years old and while it was a little weathered from the constant use, including a couple of dead pixels from an unfortunate “dropping” incident, it was still perfectly usable. However, given how long I had it, and how much I use it, an upgrade was very welcome. It was the birthday gift for me!

    The current range is made up of (in order of price)



    Kindle Paperwhite


    Kindle Voyage

    Kindle-Voyage s

    Kindle Oasis


    The bottom two in the range are perfectly fine devices. The PaperWhite is Amazon’s best selling model and after seeing some of those features that weren’t on my old Kindle it’s not hard to see why.

    The Voyage is a refinement of the Paperwhite with the Oasis the newest model, turning everything up to 11 (as well as the price!)

    So what features make this better than my previous Kindle?

    Screen resolution

    I thought the screen on my old Kindle was decent enough but i was shocked by how much better the newer screen actually is.

    The entry model Kindle is 167ppi whereas all the other models are 300ppi. It makes for a much sharper reading experience and it shows this off really well in the library and the Kindle Store where cover art is is displayed instead of just the titles as it did on my old Kindle.


    The PaperWhite introduced a subtle light for the screen to help with reading in reduced light.

    I didn’t think I’d be too bothered about this. I read with my bedside lamp on and thought that would be the only time I’d really need to make use of it.

    I think I’d underestimated how many different levels of light I read in and it’s made everything much easier to read. What I like is that the light shines on the page, not into your eyes as your phone or tablet lights up. The page sort of “glows” and it looks more like the paper is whiter than it would normally be (the name PaperWhite isn’t a coincidence…)

    The Voyage is the only model that also has an adaptive light which changes depending on the current conditions. Seems useful at the moment! You can turn it off if you want to set a level.

    Page turns

    When I was making the decision last time around I said I wasn’t sure about touching the screen for turning pages and I was happier with the physical buttons on the side of the device.

    While I do miss those buttons a little the touchscreen is perfectly fine, even though I do occasionally swipe the wrong way by mistake or sometimes don’t touch the screen hard enough and I need a second attempt. This will be fine once I’ve gotten used to it though (I had a similar thing with the smaller buttons on the last Kindle)

    The Voyage also has PagePress. A little area on the of device that you just give a gentle squeeze for a page turn. You get a nice bit of haptic feedback along with it.

    It’s a nice addition. One I’m not massively using at the moment but it’s something extra the Voyage has none of the other models do.


    This is something I have been yearning for.

    I’ve been a member of GoodReads for years. It’s Facebook for book readers and I love seeing what other people are reading as well as finding lots of interesting new books to read as well as interacting with authors who are on there.

    So when Amazon announced the purchase of GoodReads I couldn’t wait until it made it’s away to Kindle. Unfortunately my generation of Kindle didn’t get the software update for it.

    It’s standard across the whole range now and it’s working out great for me.

    Unless you’re a GoodReads user it’s not a massive feature but previously I was juggling lists of books across Amazon and GoodReads and switching between Kindle and my phone/computer for posting progress updates, reviews and adding books.

    I’m much happier now!

    Touch Screen

    Also standard across the range now. The five way controller on my old model was fine for selecting books but anything more than that was a chore. Searching for books on the Kindle and in the store or connecting to WiFi were the biggest examples of this. I missed the keyboard from my first Kindle loads when I moved to the second device but the touchscreen makes everything easier.


    The Voyage is a physically sleeker device than the PaperWhite. The actual features between the PaperWhite, Voyage and Oasis are pretty much identical so it’s the case and it’s other physical attributes that are the biggest difference between them

    The Voyage is thinner than the standard model and the PaperWhite with only the Oasis beating it on that front.

    It’s lighter than the PaperWhite and marginally heavier than the standard model with the Oasis trumping all of them.

    The Voyage has a magnesium body in comparison to the plastic of the PaperWhite to which it owes the slimmer body.

    If you stick it in a case though some of this will be negated so the PaperWhite may work just fine (I have similar thing with phones. We spend a fortune on a shiny sleek pretty device only to stick it in a massive cover so it doesn’t get damaged)

    The Oasis is a different beast altogether on this front and looks physically different for an apparently better hand holding experience. It also comes with a leather case that doubles up as an extra battery – not that the others do to bad on the charging front. (weeks at a time!)

    There are a ton of other features that are common across the range (X-Ray, time to end of chapter, wikipedia integration, etc) but this post is long enough!

    So in very quick summary

    If you’re on a budget go for the standard model.

    The Paperwhite is the going to be perfect for just about most people

    The Voyage is for those heavy users who don’t mind investing a little more for that refined look and feel (or getting it as a gift!)

    The Oasis….hard to say. It’s a big jump in price but if you’re a Kindle fan and want the “premium” experience then it’s certainly that

    All in all I was very happy when I received it and I’m looking forward to spending many hours with it.

  • A Darth Vader Lightsaber And A Charity Auction

    This dear reader is a Master Replica of Darth Vader’s Lightsaber, complete with certificate of authenticity, signed by none other than Gareth Edwards. Director of Godzilla and an upcoming Star Wars film!



    It’s just one of many items available at a charity auction that’s taking place this Friday (14th November) at Ambleside Sports Club in Nuneaton.

    The event is being ran by two very good friends of mine who are both running in the London Marathon next year for their chosen charity Bliss They are a UK charity working to provide the best possible care and support for all premature and sick babies and their families.


    So…where am I going with this?

    The Lightsaber isn’t the only the thing up for grabs on the night

    There will be two auctions on the night.

    A silent auction and a “loud, shouty” auction as well as a raffle with a ton of interesting prizes. One of which is an iPad Air Gold!

    If you’re interested in any of this, there are a couple of things you can do.

    1) Pay £10 for a ticket and come along! Kids are free, and I’ll even buy you a beer.

    2) Buy some raffle tickets. They are £3 each or 4 for £10. Top prize is an iPad Air Gold

    3) Place a bid in one the auctions

    4) Donate some money…here!

    5) Share this post with someone

    If any of the first three options appeal drop me an email or tweet me to sort that out(@AndyParkes)

    If you’re happy to just donate then click this link  <— This one Smile

    Full list of the auction and raffle items are below!

    Regular (shouty) Auction Items

    Gareth Edwards signed Lightsaber  
    John Barnes signed shirt Barnes
    Justin Rose Signed flag from the Scottish Open (which he won), Signed Ball and a Signed US Open Photo. Rose
    Disney/Phineas and Ferb poster signed by the creators of the show! Ferb
    David Beckham signed picture becks
    Lunch at Gordon Ramsey @ Savoy  
    Champagne experience at The Shard  


    Silent Auction Items

    Santa Pod Raceway tickets for 6 santa
    Signed Man United pennant  
    Signed Baggies pennant  
    Chelsea Stadium Tour  
    Spurs Stadium Tour  
    Leicester Stadium Tour Leicester
    Liverpool Legends Tour  
    Segway Experience seg
    Signed Ken Loach DVD  
    Christmas jumper  
    Signed Philip Schofield pic  
    Signed Little Britain DVD LittleBritain
    Bid on "Macca for a day"  

    Raffle Prizes

    iPAD AIR GOLD ipad
    Christmas Hamper
    Johns hair cut & blow dry + products
    Cawthorns Canvas Prints
    Meal at The Black Horse vouchers
    Coventry tickets to ANY game
    Conkers ticket for four
    £25 voucher for The Chase
    Bottle of Champagne
    Digital photo frame
    Abbey Physio voucher
    Bottles of perfume
    Hair products
    Mobile Disco voucher from Robbie Clark
    Doctor Who Ministry of Funny Walks Poster





    Silent Auction

    Raffle Prizes

  • Useful Productivity Website: Trello

    I’m really enjoying at the moment.

    The story behind the site is that the people at FogCreek built a tool so the people in their teams can see at a glance what everyone is working on. They then decided it would be a good idea to make it available to everyone else!


    The basic idea is the system is made up of three things.

    Boards – a collection of lists – a board can be an abstraction of a specific project. A project folder if you were doing this without a computer.

    Lists – a collection of cards – imagine a stage in a process (e.g To-Do, In Progress, Complete) -  Think of it as a piece of paper if you were doing this without a computer.

    Cards – an activity of work – a specific something that needs to be done – an entry on your piece of paper if you were doing this without a computer. What’s really good about cards is they start as just a title but if you drill down you can add as many or as little details as needed (comments, work complete, embed pictures and videos)

    Sounds simple enough? Hope that makes sense!

    You create a series of lists – add some cards and then you can shift those cards between lists as work gets done.

    So here’s a simple example of how I’ve been using it.

    I’ve got a board called WORK

    On this board I’ve got three lists.

    To Do   -   Doing   – Done


    I add things I need to do into the “To-Do” list. If i need to add extra details I can but generally the title is enough.

    imageInitial card creation.


    imageCard in more detail. You can add pictures, video, text. Assign team members or categorise with colour labels.





    As I start to work on a specific item I drag it into the “Doing” list. I update the list if needed if it’s a work in process and I’m not completing it straight away. Obviously once the task is complete it’s dragged into the “Done” list.



    Dragging to the Doing list.





    Nice and simple. It’s just me using these but I can see it getting really powerful when a group of people get involved. Especially when assigning a task to someone is as simple as dragging their avatar onto the card.

    So how’s this different to other collaboration applications?

    Everything is so easy. Data entry consists of typing and pressing enter. You can fire off a series of new entries really quickly. There is no constant clicking ok / save every time you do anything. You can enter a little or as much detail as you feel like. Very importantly – it just works.

    Finally you can use it on just about any device you like. I’ve been using it on my TouchPad in the office instead of keeping lots of paper lists hanging around my desk. Also because it’s web based if I think of something I need to do it only takes a second to get onto the site and add something new. It’s then available everywhere I’ve got a web browser.

    Sign up is really easy too. You can either create an account on the site or sign in with an existing Google account.

    The Trello homepage gives some really good usage examples.


    It’s honestly worth spending ten minutes taking a look – it’s free!

  • Manchester User Group–Thursday 19th

    Just a quick reminder! I’m speaking at the Manchester SBSC group tomorrow night (19th).

    I’ll be going through the “SharePoint as a Help Desk” presentation I did at AMITPRO a few months ago

    The meeting is at 18:30 at QA’s training facilities on the 3rd Floor, Westminster House, Minshull Street, off Portland Street, Manchester M1 3HU

    I’ll be staying overnight so if anyone wants to put the world to rights afterwards (or just talk geek!) let me know!

  • Spring Cleaning – Feedback wanted

    Was thinking of having a revamp of the blog

    I’ve been using the current template for quite a while now and while i think it’s very geeky cool it’s quite heavy, not to everyone’s taste and isn’t 100% user friendly

    If you consume this site via RSS feeds you probably buy ativan cheap have no idea what I’m talking about!

    If you do read the blog could you give me some feedback about the theme please?

    Should I leave it as it is or try something fresh?

    If I make changes what would you like to see?

    Thanks in advance!

  • InfoPath – Errr! What?

    I got an email earlier this week from Richard Tubb asking a couple of questions about InfoPath.

    This is also the same Mr Tubb who has been “nagging” me to post more about InfoPath and SharePoint. I do take his point as I’ve posted very little on the topic since I spoke about it at AMITPRO last year (can’t believe it’s been nearly 12 months since that!)


    I’ll talk about InfoPath in the Office 2007 world at the moment. Even though the latest version is upon us the current version will be hanging around for a while. Also the skills are transferrable and I’ll need material for future posts right? 🙂

    What is InfoPath?

    In a nutshell it’s all about electronic forms.

    If you’ve ever created a form in Microsoft Access it’s along similar lines. What’s cool about InfoPath though is that it isn’t tied into a specific database system. It can talk to SQL Server, Access databases, SharePoint (which is is it’s main strength) and more. You can even make use of InfoPath forms within Outlook to gather information via e-mail!

    I also think that when stacked up against a form in a Word document InfoPath wins a lot!

    InfoPath allows you to do form validation to ensure data is entered correctly.

    It’s biggest strength is it’s capability to “unlock” data which a Word document just can’t do. (Unless you want to do a lot of VBA coding)

    This means an simple example is in order.

    Lets say you had a Word document that your staff used to enter their weekly hours worked.

    It might look like this.



    As you can see there is a lot of important information here.



    At the top we have data that lets us know who the time sheet belongs to, and when it’s for.



    Moving down we have the actual data itself.

    The hours worked.





    Finally we have a brief summary of data so you can see at a glance what’s going on.



    So what’s wrong with this?

    Data Validation

    You would have to trust whoever fills out the form to put a date in right place and numbers in the hours worked fields. What if someone enters 25 hours for single day? What if “Sales” isn’t even the correct name of the department?

    Now you can sort of do this in Word 2007. But it’s not exactly simple. In fact, good luck finding how to insert a form field – The developer tab is hidden by default (I’ll explain how to display them in another post). Then you have to contend with “legacy form controls” and the new Office 2007 form controls. Not fun at all!


    Once again you’d need to trust whoever is filling out the form to get their maths right. As with data validation you can get Word to do calculations on tables but it’s not exactly simple or intuitive!

    Trapped Data

    This is the biggie!

    I’ve only showed you one form. Let’s imagine you’re Mr Anderson’s line manager. Your boss walks up to your desk at 9am Monday morning and tells you that your department is spending a fortune in overtime. He wants to know exactly how many hours your department logged in overtime for the last three months overall and on a per-person basis…..and he wants it for the management meeting at 11am!

    So lets say that each person would have 4 timesheets per month. That’s 12 per person.

    If your department had 5 people in it that’s 60 Word documents you need to open, read through, check the maths and note the important figures to bring into your total summary.

    That’s going to take some time!

    How does InfoPath help?

    Here’s the same form designed in InfoPath


    At first glance you’ll notice it’s essentially the same form as before


    But if you look in the first block of data

    You can see a calendar control button. This means I can choose a date with the mouse as well as typing one in.

    It won’t let me put anything other than a date in the field.

    You’ll also notice all the fields in the first section have a red star next to them.

    This because I’ve made them mandatory fields. It’s a little visual notification to remind the user to put some data in.

    You also get InfoPath to pop up a little message if no data is entered!


    The fields that contain the hours worked data also have some validation rules.




    This screenshot shows I’ve tried to enter some text in a numeric field


    We get the nice red dotted border AND a tooltip to let me know what’s wrong.

    What’s really cool about this is that I didn’t even need to set this up. Just by specifying that the field was numeric InfoPath setup the basic validation for me.

    Each control has LOTS of options around data validation to make sure we get exactly the correct data in.

    You may also have noticed that the department field is a drop down list.



    This means that we can ensure that only valid departments are entered. You’ll see why this can be quite important later on.






    Also, the data is actually pulled in from a SharePoint list.



    This means that these lookup lists can easily be managed without having to edit the InfoPath form. We can also set security on the SharePoint list to ensure only specific people can make changes to the department details.

    InfoPath also has rules and events we can work with. We could actually set this up so all the staff names appeared in another drop down and that once a department has been chosen only the staff in that department are shown (or vice versa. You choose your name and your department is automatically filled out)


    This totally solves the Data Validation problem I mentioned above.

    So what about calculation?




    Same form as above with the same data entered

    However this time the summary data is updated automatically.

    I’ve set the summary fields to do a simple bit of addition and then made them read-only so they just work on there own without any user input needed!




    Data Validation and Calculation all dealt with quickly and easily.



    I could understand if you were still a little sceptical at this point though. As i said lots of similar functionality is already available all across the Office suite. That brings me onto the final point I made above.

    Trapped Data

    The real magic happens when this is published to a SharePoint site.

    When I published the form I specified that I wanted the summary fields to be pushed through to the SharePoint form library.



    This is called “property promotion”.

    Here is the time sheet Tom Anderson just filled out on the SharePoint site.


    I can now see how many hours Mr Anderson worked that week without even opening the file!

    Multiply this across the whole team and you can see at a glance what everyone was up to!

    Let’s throw a bit of SharePoint magic in.

    I’ve grouped by Department and then by Week Commencing Date.


    Can you see why it was important to get the department entry consistent?

    We can now get a real overview of the hours entered by each person.

    And one finishing touch.

    I’ve asked SharePoint to sum the totals fields.


    This can look a little confusing your grouping as it gives you overall totals as well as a total at each group level. You’d be better setting up a filtered view to do this.

    Something like this.


    I’ve removed a level of grouping and filtered to only show the Sales team.

    You can now see really easily over the last two weeks the Sales team have posted 18 hours of overtime.

    Just to show off….you could then dump this out to Excel for further analysis.


    I created that chart with about five clicks of the mouse. Getting that report together for the boss would be nice and simple.

    Finally one other cool thing about using SharePoint and InfoPath for a solution like this.

    The files themselves are stored in XML format


    This means if yoy needed integration with another system (your accounts package for example) this makes the whole thing a lot easier.

    I’ll stop there….this was supposed to be a quick introduction.

    If you’ve made it to the bottom of this post thanks for the reading!

    This was just one example of how you can use InfoPath in a real world scenario.

    There is lots more you can do, especially when you put it together with SharePoint.

    For example, imagine having an expenses form tied into a workflow so that management approval is required when a certain monetary threshold is met?

    Hopefully this all makes sense and you can see why I’m such a fan of InfoPath!

    Please comment if you want me to post more about InfoPath and I’ll be happy to do so 🙂


    *I’ve just noticed all the dates are in US format….I didn’t change the regional settings on my newly created test site…..i’m not re-doing the screen shots though! *

  • iPhone advert dropped

    Just spotted this article on the BBC news site.

    The advert in question was about the new 3g version of the iPhone where the advert said it was "really fast"

    I previously mentioned how this irritated me as 3G isn’t the fastest mobile speed available which the advert may lead you to believe so i’m quite pleased the advert has been dropped

    Apparently only 17 people officially complained (I wasn’t one of them!)

    Apple’s response was that the speed claims were "relative not absolute" and they were comparing the speed of the 2G iPhone and the 3G iPhone

    The current iPod adverts annoy me as well to be honest

    They show how easy it is to download and install a program from the Apple store with the demo on screen just being a few clicks

    Right at the end of the advert there is a some text at the bottom of the screen which declares

    "Some steps removed and sequence shortened"

    Isn’t that cheating a bit?

  • We interrupt this program to bring you the following…

    Just plugging a couple of things

    First up, SMB Nation Europe

    I’m not the first person to have mentioned this but I was asked if I’d post about it to here it is!

    The full details can be found on Harry’s Blog here but in summary,

    Harry Brelsford, author of many fine SMB books (including SMB Consulting Pest Practices, which I blogged about here, and highly recommend) and Jeff Middleton, Swing Migration extraordinaire (again I’ve blogged about this, and also highly recommend it!)  will be in London to talk about opportunities around SBS 2008 and how best to do the migration!

    Date is December 5th and as Richard mentioned since this is a Friday there will more than likely be lots of “socialising” afterwards 🙂

    Second thing is Vijay’s post on the SBSC PAL’s site he recently posted about

    Vijay is going to be looking after UK regional site and he has a lot of good ideas on the sort of content he’s hoping to publish.

    Since it’s a community site all contributions are welcome so if you have any ideas or even just want to let him know what a good job he’s doing (lots of people don’t get anywhere near enough credit sometimes!) get over to his blog

    The UK PAL’s site is here

    Finally, if you haven’t already head just a reminder that this months AMITPRO meeting is on WEDNESDAY 12th NOVEMBER and will they will be hosting the SBS 2008 Launch Tour

    If your not going…why not?

    That is all!

  • Calendars and Content Types in SharePoint 2007

    Two SharePoint posts in one day!

    I only recently “got” content types in SharePoint. I’m not exactly sure why I had such a mental block about it but the penny finally dropped and I got quite excited about the possibilities (I’m such a geek)

    So what I wanted to do was create some content types to use in calendars

    In the previous version of SharePoint I had a company calendar that I used to track everything from meetings, to on-site support visits, to holidays and sick days

    Once single form to try and figure all that out. Very ugly and difficult to use

    For example, if your going to a client site, the customer name, a contact and a ticket reference are all pretty useful pieces of information. But if I’m just taking a couple of days off those fields become very pointless

    Enter the content type!

    I had the bright idea to create a content type for each of these “event types”

    I pretty quickly ran into a problem. When creating a content type it has to be based on a parent type and the EVENT content type was no where to be seen.

    So I had a poke through the help files and it mentioned that you could hide content types by adding them to the _HIDDEN group. That seemed oddly familiar so I went to an existing calendar, ensured content types were enabled and found the EVENT content type specified for the list

    By drilling down onto the content type I was able to get the parent content type (also called event) and where it showed the group as _HIDDEN

    After that it’s a two second job to put it in your own group

    But that got me thinking

    “It must be hidden for a reason”

    After some quick searches I came up with two other posts

    This one basically details the same steps I’ve outlined here

    Working with SharePoint events lists

    and this one talks about doing by getting in behind the scenes and changing the content type by hand in the ctypeswss.xml file

    Calendar Content Types in SharePoint 2007 – Blog

    Neither of them really go into any detail about if this will cause any problems or if it’s even a supported configuration

    My only thinking is to do with how the calendar interacts with Outlook? and if you start making changes it could break it? Though I’m probably completely guessing on that to be honest

    But I’ve done it and I now have this and everything seems ok so i’m happy for now!

    Though I may need to change the title for the sick day content type 🙂











  • Source code available

    I’m not exactly sure how important this annoucement is as i don’t class myself as a developer but over on Coding4Fun there is news on Microsoft releasing the source code for the upcoming release of the .Net  framework 3.5 and Visual Studio 2008

    The idea is that you’ll be able to debug directly within the development environment by pointing Visual Studio to a “source server”

    Scott Guthrie has a good post that shows how this will work

    This buy ativan online australia caught my eye as i always associated Microsoft and source code with the impression of CDs delivered by amoured car followed by tons of paper work where you sign your life away and promise to keep it in an maximum security facility

    Ok that’s a bit of an exaggeration but you get the idea.

    I’m suprised that Microsoft hasn’t made more of a fuss about this but it’s good news for developers!