Whats the Keyboard Shortcut to lock my MacBook Pro Retina?

So Apple claim that Mac OSX is "the worlds most advanced operating system" but after using it for a couple of weeks, i would have to disagree. Simple things that I've taken for granted on Windows operating system for many years, just dont seem to exist on OSX/Apple.

Take for example the ability to lock your workstation. In most workplaces, IT security policy states that you must not leave you workstation unattended and unlocked for fear of unauthorised access. In Windows Microsoft have kindly provided the convenient shortcut "Windows+L" to lock your workstation. Press these two keys, (with one hand!), and you can walk away from your machine safe in the knowledge that one of your joker work colleagues wont be able to send your resignation to your boss from your unlocked workstation!!

Apple on the other hand, seem to have forgotten this basic security need. apparently on older Mac Books, if you press the the rather awkward combination of Shift + control + Eject (requires TWO hands!) you can lock your workstation, but the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display that i bought recently doesn't have an Eject button as it doesn't have an Optical drive!!

So how do i lock my workstation??? Do i really need to install an application to allow me to lock my workstation from the keyboard???

iPhone 5 versus Samsung Galaxy S3

Its no secret that I've never been a fan of the Apple iPhones. When they first came out, i could never understand why people were getting so excited about a phone with a non-replaceable battery, and low resolution cameras when every other phone on the market was able to make video, and had a removable battery!

Moving on a few years, and still the iPhone craze continues. Aesthetically the iPhone has come a long way, and even i would now admit that they do look nice, but I still don't feel that even the new iPhones 5 is really that "cutting edge" when compared to its rivals.

So here is a link to a nice comparison that i found. See what you think!!

iPhone 5 Compared With Competitors

Time For a New Garage

My old sectional concrete garage is looking a bit tired, and the asbestos concrete roof is crumbling and falling apart. In fact i've never once put a car in there in fear that the door might fall off and smash the car to bits. Whats the point in a garage i dont dare put my car in???  it has to go!

The concrete base is in good condition, so i've been looking into getting a blockwork garage built on the existing base, with flat, felt covered roof.
I've had a few quotes from local builders, but so far all seem to be astronomically high for what is essentially four single skin block walls and a plywood roof!

Having looked at the quotes, the problem seems to be the labor costs, so now i'm looking at concrete prefabricated concrete garages...

I've ordered a Macbook Pro 13' with Retina Display..

For quite a while i've been looking for a replacement for my trusty old Asus M50 laptop. It has been, (and still is) a very capable machine, plenty of power, and with the very simple SSD upgrade its very speedy. However its getting a little long in the tooth, starting to overheat a bit, the battery no longer lasts longer than a few minutes - its just getting too old :(

A few days ago i was in PC world looking for a new laptop. All the Windows machines were a bit tacky - too much plastic, low resolution, washed out looking screens, and the "Ultra Books" all just seemed to be bad copies of Apple machines, so i though i'd take a look to see what Apple were selling.

They new 15 inch Macbook Pro with Retina screen is a great looking machine, but its just a bit too big - i wanted something a bit smaller to carry about with me so i started looking at the 13 inch Macbook Air. In fact i very nearly bought one, but it seems Apple have the retailers in a strangle hold, they are really not allowed to budge on price, and I was only able to negotiate a £30 discount... (booooo!)

With hindsight it was good that i didnt buy a Macbook Air. It has the same resolution as my current M50 and with only a 128GB SSD i wouldn't really have gained anything besides smaller size and longer battery life. Also i kind of see the Macbook Air as a kind of "Netbook", not a serious work machine... (maybe im wrong??)

Then yesterday Apple announced the release of the 13 inch Macbook Pro with Retina Display. The retina display has double the resolution of my current machine, and i was able to spec it out with a 256GB SSD and a new 2.9Ghz  i7 Intel processor. So without even seeing one, i took the plunge and ordered one!

My reasoning being that i liked the size of the MB-Air, and the new MacBook Pro 13 inch would be a very similar size, but with the MB-Pro i would get a faster processor, more SSD storage, and the "Pro"  physiologically makes me think its going to be better at its job!! (yes im crazy)

I've never really been a fan of Apple. I dont have an iPhone, i hate iTunes, and their hardware always seemed overpriced. But in comparrison to all the other Windows laptops on the market at the moment, and having played with the new 15 inch MacBooks, i realised that they really are a work of art. Kind of like the "German cars" of the computer industry - well put together, good looking, and Retina screen is truly amazing.

Anyway, its ordered now and the Apple website says it's been shipped, and should be on my doorstep on the 1st November... fingers crossed its as good as everyone says, and a worthy replacement for my Asus M50...

New Car - Audi A6 Avant S-Line Quattro

I'm collecting my new car today. I needed something practical. The requirements list was as follows:
1. Must be an estate car to fit the dogs in
2. Must have 4x4 to cope with snowy conditions
3. Must NOT be slow (3l+ engine needed)
4. Leather interior (nobody has cloth!)
5. Built in Sat-Nav

So this is what i ended up with - its a Audi A6 Avant 3.0L Quattro S-Line Le-Mans.
Its fully loaded with all the toys like driver and passenger memory seats, rearview reversing camera etc etc... 

Bet of all I managed to buy it for about £4k less than its market value, thanks to an impatient dealership who just wanted to get it off their forecourt. 

It has been part-exchanged for a brand new car, and the dealership wasnt an Audi dealer so they just wanted it gone. I saw it, test drove it, made a silly offer and they accepted!

Once ive had it for a while, i'll write a review, but so far, very pleased!!

Crazy old Motorbike in France!!

I'm staying in Antibes for a few days, and spotted this awesome old motorbike!!
For those of you know dont know about Antibes, its a pretty crazy place. Its an old French seaside town on the South Coast of France situated between Cannes and Nice. There are loads of traditional old buildings, and normal French shops with real life French people going about their daily lives, but what makes it crazy is that there is also a huge marina stuffed full of multi-million pound super-yachts owned by people with more money than most small countries! There is a real contrast between the locals the the super rich yacht owners,  so seeing an old motorbike like this really got me thinking about who rides it!!

Is someone really riding this as a daily commuter machine?? or is it a bit of fun for some super rich oil tycoon?? The lock securing it to the cycle rack looked in pretty good condition, so its not been there for long, which makes me think this really is someone's daily ride!!

What do you think?? any idea what make/model bike this is? how much power does the single cylinder engine perched above the front-wheel produce?? can he do front wheel burnouts??

"FGN Payment Limit" - HSBC £6 charge

HSBC FGN Payment Limit - £6 charge
HSBC FGN Payment Limit???
I was reviewing my HSBC Business banking statement over the weekend, when I noticed a £6 charge for "FGN Payment Limit". Not having a clue what this charge was, or what "FGN" stood for, I immediately phoned the bank to get some answers.
Once I managed to navigate the awful automated telephone banking system (press 1 for this, press 2 for that etc etc) I finally managed to reach a human operator.

The operator informed me that the FGN Payment Limit Charge was a newly introduced monthly fee of £6 to allow me to transfer up to £10k per transaction from my UK HSBC business bank account to international bank accounts via the internet – a service that until now had been included with internet banking for free!!

FGN Payment Limit - HSBC

When I explained that I didn’t make international transfers, so didn’t need a £10k limit in place, and therefore didn’t want to pay the £6 fee, I was informed that if I didn’t pay the fee, I would not be able to transfer any money at all via the internet to international banks.

So, its either pay HSBC £6 per month for the ability to transfer money electronically to international banks, or don’t pay the £6 fee and have to resort to telephone banking to transfer money internationally. It’s a kind of “Internet Banking Tax”. If you wish to use the internet for moving money, you must pay HSBC a fee.

When I opened my HSBC business bank account, the promise of “Free banking for 18months” wasn’t entirely correct. What they seem to have neglected to mention was that during my 18 month free banking period, elements of the service that were free would quietly get charged for…

And I’m not alone! Having spoken to business contacts and fellow HSBC business account holders, they too have been charged £6 for "FGN Payment Limit", and they also don’t remember ever being notified that this previously free service would suddenly become a premium chargeable service. Can we really all be wrong? Can anyone else rememebr receiving a letter or email explaining that we would soon be charged for this servic??

I tried doing a search on the HSBC website for “FGN Payment Limit” – the result was zero results found (see screenshot)

Even though HSBC were “kind enough” to reverse the charge (and very quick to offer to do so, suggesting I wasn’t the first customer to complain) , I’ve now lost the ability to transfer money internationally. In my view, this is very poor service. For a bank that sells its self as “The worlds local bank”, to charge UK customers a fee for the privilege of using internet banking to transfer money out of the country is very bad.

But what really annoys me is the sneaky underhanded way they have implemented this charge. How many companies wont notice this fee? Its just like someone at HSBC as said, “Lets stick a six quid charge on everyone’s account for something that was previously free, hopefully the wont notice, but and if anyone complains, we’ll just refund them”.

And after all this, I still have no idea what “FGN Payment Limit" actually means…

HSBC – you have lost a lot of credibility with this little stunt…

New Tyres for the GSXR - Battlax 023R

The tyres on my new bike were looking a bit squared off, and the tread was very low, so i ordered some new tyres.

After reading some review i decided to give the Bridgeston Battlax 023R's a try. These are supposed to be Sports Touring tyres with a harder compound rubber in the center for high mileage and softer more sticky compund rubber on the shoulders for going round corners quickly.

Now they've been delivered, the next step is finding someone to fit them for me!! - thats a job for the weekend :)

Best Bacon Roll in London

Every morning on my walk from Cannon Street station to the office i have to resist the fantastic smell of cooked bacon that wafts from the butchers shop on Wattling street. 

The aroma of freshly cooked bacon is so enticing that sometimes i just cant resist and find myself drawn into the shop to hand over £2.50 for what i believe to be the best bacon roll in London.

The secret seems to be that before the four slices of bacon are expertly inserted into a freshly baked warm baguette, they are first cooked in the juices of other meats, to give the bacon a really meaty, juicy, slightly spicy flavour that is totally out of this world!

I defy any non-vegetarian to be able to walk past this place first thing in the morning and not be tempted to buy one!!

Exploding Aubergine Leaves Alien Remains.

Ok, so the weird looking "inside out alien thing" in the photo below is not the mangled remains of a crashed extra-terrestrial UFO pilot, its origins are from much closer to home.

 Believe it or not this is what an aubergine looks like after its been baked in the oven for slightly too long and explodes.

Not really too sure what went wrong, but  I guess it was in the oven a bit too long, and we should have probably put a couple of holes in it to release the steam, but we didn't, so when it came out the oven it exploded with a loud "POP" scattering its tentacle like innards all over the chopping board.
The noise was so loud i heard it from a another room, and actually thought the oven had exploded as it sounded  just like an electrical explosion..

But look at it! its hideous, it really does look like some kind of exploded squid or alien creature.... but mixed with some garlic and blended down, it still tasted great :)

My New Summer Toy - GSX-R 600 K7

So, after many year out of the saddle I decided to get back into motorcycling.

My first ever motorbike was a very old Yamaha DT50 (with twin rear shocks!) which my Grandad bought for me as a present when i was 10 years old. We spent many happy hours stripping it down and putting it back together, and i've loved bikes ever since.

GSX-R600 K7 in Blue and WhiteI passed my bike test when i was 17 years old (many years ago!) but because of living in London, its always been difficult to own a bike. Without secure parking, bikes are too easy a target for thieves and vandals, so apart from a short stint with a Gilera Runner SP180 (that people kept trying to steal!) i've not ridden on the roads for about 6 years.

Now that ive moved out into 'the sticks' (Sevenoaks Kent), and i have a secure double garage, i decided i no longer had any reason not to get a bike, so i started looking and found this very clean, '57 plate Suzuki GSX-R600 K7.  The GSX-R (or GIXXER) was always one of my dream bikes as a lad, so the possibility of owning one was pretty exciting.

The bike was being sold by a dealer down in Southampton, so i popped in to take a look. I liked what i saw, but i didn't show too much interest. When i got home i found the same bike for sale on eBay with an "Offers" button, so i clicked the button, put in a cheeky offer (£250 less than the asking price) fully expecting the offer to be rejected. The next morning i woke to see an email saying my offer had been accepted - I was soon to be the proud owner of GIXXER!

So i HPI checked the bike, transferred the cash and arranged for it to be delivered to my mum's house in the New Forest saving myself an expensive delivery charge from Southampton to Sevenoaks.

The plan was that i would go visit my mum, check the bike over, take it for a short ride around local roads to get back into "Biking Mode", then ride the bike the 110miles home. Of course this meant that my first ride on a bike for over 6 years would be a 110mile ride on motorways on a powerful sports bike, that i'd never ridden before - Needless to say, many people thought i was crazy!!

The day of the ride came, and i was so excited - not at all nervous (i don't really do nerves). I got on the bike, fired it up, and immediately got back into "Biker Mode". Having learnt to ride as a kid, the controls were all very instinctive, and I had no problems remembering how to ride. In fact it was just like being a teenager again on my Aprilia AF1-125 that i had when i was 17.

After a local ride round my old neighbourhood, and stopping off to show a few old mates my new toy, i set off for the epic first ride home...
130miles later  -yes i took a few detours ;) i got home. I had a sore bum, but apart from that it was a very enjoyable ride.....  Feels good to be "A Biker" again....

M&S Airflex Shoes - FAIL

I wondered why i was getting wet feet. I figured maybe i had a small hole in my shoe or something but no -the whole sole had split open like a gaping mouth and was gulping up puddle water with every step!!

M&S Airflex Shoes - Split sole
M&S Airflex Shoes - Split Sole

"Not just any split sole, this is an M&S split sole". So, should a six month old pair of Air Flex shoes break like this?? probably not...

Well i was going to return them for a refund, but decided i would try to melt them back together!... 20minutes later, a burnt down candle, and stench of molten rubber in the air, i though i had managed to mend them...  Wrong - the repair lasted about 5 steps before opening up again. Time for  new shoes. (probably another pair of Airflex as they are very comfy)

The quest for a new laptop continues

So im still looking for a replacement for my Asus M50, but there seems to be nothing on the market. Im looking for 15inch hi resolution screen (better than current resolution),i7 cpu, SSD drive, lightweight, preferably with numeric keypad... There just doesn't seem to be anything out there!!!

If i ignore the numeric pad, the i7 15inch Mac Book Pro with upgraded screen and SSD option looks to tick most of my boxes, but its astronomically expensive!! With all the bits bolted on, Id be splashing out almost 3k!!

Am i being a tight wad? Is £3k a reasonable price for a laptop these days? Its over double the price of my trusty Asus M50, doesn't have the movable camera or fingerprint reader. And there i was thinking technology was supposed to get cheaper!! 

Samsung Galaxy S2 - Ice Cream Sandwich

Yesterday, my UK Simfree Samsung Glaxy S2 phone (on vodafone) started flashing a message saying "Software update available". Knowing that it was likely to be the Android Ice Cream Sandwich update,   I waited patiently all day until i could get home onto my home Wifi network before allowing it to upgrade. However when i got home and connected to the mothership,  it then said "no upgrades available"... hmmm

After a quick search i found i had to plug the phone into my laptop and let Samsung Kies do the upgrade...But first I found i needed to upgrade my version of Samsung Kies.
80mb download later (only 29Mb for Apple!??) and what seemed like ages for the installation to complete, and i was ready...
First hing i did was back up my phone. This took about 10mins as i seem to have quite a few photos and music files on there. Next the upgrade started.  A fairly painless process that completed whilst i was eating my dinner.

After dinner i was then ready to use my newly upgraded SGS2. First impressions were that the Pattern Unlock looks very strange, and the clock on the lock screen looked odd. Not the nice big round buttons i was used to - just little circles. not a big problem  i can live with that, and am now getting to like the new look.

Once the phone was unlocked i noticed all my shortcuts had been wiped and replaced with a bunch of default widgets and shortcuts which i promptly deleted. Where had all my carefully placed shortcuts gone??

After a few minutes messing about looking for new features, and discovering the cool new developer options and other new stuff, i started to realise the phone was not as responsive to touch as it had been prior the the upgrade. in fact touch sensitivity was appalling! I activated the developer option that "shows  touches" and when navigating around the phone, i could clearly see that i was lightly touching the screen as a circle would appear, yet the phone seemed to ignore my actions unless i touched for an extended amount of time. Very frustrating.

So what used to take just a light tap of the screen, now takes a more deliberate press-and-hold type action.
In reality this probably only adds about 10ms to the act of tapping, but  none the less, its noticeable, and its very frustrating...
Overall, not a total disaster, but also not really the enjoyable experience I was expecting from the much hyped, much anticipated Android ICS upgrade for Galaxy S2!

My advice to other SGS2 users?  don't bother with the upgrade - stick to what you have now until its been patched to cure the touchscreen sensitivity problems

Replacement for my trusty old Asus M50 Laptop

After many years of faultless service, the time has come to replace my trusty Asus M50 laptop.
Its been a great machine, solid, reliable and after the SSD upgrade it's more than sufficient for knocking out code or surfing the web.
However, its getting a little noisy, the fan is going most of the time, the battery only lasts a few minutes, and the palm rests are uncomfortably hot. I've tried sucking the dust out with a hoover, but to no avail - i guess its just starting to feel its age.
So the big question is, what will i replace it with? Ultrabooks are cool, but not big enough. Asus dont seem to have a direct replacement that offers all the same features (movable web cam, fingerprint scanner etc etc) so im open to suggestions.
Has anyone else out there found a good replacement for an Asus M50 laptop? if so, please let me know what you decided on, and how its worked out for you.