brew

Woodfordes Micro Brewery Home Brew Starter Pack

Maybe it’s an age thing but I suddenly woke up one morning with a strong urge to tick brewing my own beer off my bucket list. I’m not sure if this was partly inspired by Hank Schrader brewing his “Schraderbrau” in the TV show Breaking Bad but I know what I wanted to do but not sure what I needed to get started.

After turning to Google for help, I ended up feeling even more baffled as I read about a world full of pressure barrels, CO2 bulbs, syphon tubes, sediment traps and fermentation buckets but I quickly realised that it doesn’t have to be as complicated as it sounds, so thought I would buy one of the starter packs and document how I get on.

There are a number of starter packs out there, but most of the beer kits that have caught my eye are to make 40 pints, so I needed to ensure that I paid a little more and get a fermentation vessel that holds at least 23 litres. (This is essentially just a bucket for the initial brewing process)

Another problem I had been arguing with myself about was the age old choice of bottles vs keg, the idea of individually transferring beer into 40 different bottles seemed a little cumbersome for someone like me, not to mention the potential grief from my other half of introducing a giant bucket and 40 bottles into our humble home but equally you can’t get a keg in the fridge for an ice cold beer.

As we are heading into the winter, I thought my ideal introduction in to home brew would be the highly rated Woodforde’s Wherry so I naturally opted for their ultimate Micro Brewery start-up kit that would contain everything I need to make 40 pints.

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Future beer kits cost around £20, so after the first batch, you are looking at only 50 pence a pint which makes my new hobby sound even more appealing, but right now the plan is to simply have 40 pints ready to drink in only 3-4weeks. (more…)

Smartphones: Does Size Matter?

I am old old enough to remember a time without the ubiquitous mobile phone and laughing at 80’s yuppies who thought they were Gordon Gekko strutting around with a huge phone that resembled something you would expect the military to use in an old war movie.

By the time they reached the masses, it wasn’t long before the palm sized mobile phones such as the Motorola’s RAZR had taken hold of our lives and anything bigger than a Nokia 3210 was officially labelled a brick.

Back in more innocent times, everyone wanted the smallest phone possible and the biggest social faux pax would be to bring out a bulky mobile phone in public which is somewhat ironic considering that 8 years later the world is about to get very excited about smart phones with larger screens than ever before.

Apple fanboys have remained loyal to their favourite brand but have been guilty of looking at other phones with a certain amount of hidden envy at the much larger screens which is just of the reasons we are expecting Apple to reveal their latest phone will come with a whopping 4.7 and 5.5-inch screen.

As phones get bigger, we should see longer lasting batteries which is a problem that has plagued Apple for a few years now, so much so that Samsung recently posted a cheeky video calling Apple users ‘Wall Huggers’ for their constant search power to charge their device.

Again there is a certain amount of irony that you could take an old Nokia phone to a music festival and enjoy 3 days of texts and calls without worrying about charging where as smart phone users are busy at the queue and charge tents, but it’s important to remember that our favourite devices have been so much more than a phone for over 5 years now.

September 2014 will be the moment that the mobile landscape dramatically changes forever and the word Phablet is no longer scoffed at and ridiculed as the iPhone 6, Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and a predicted new selection from Motorola that will be fighting their way onto everybody’s Christmas list to satisfy our thirst for bigger screens. (more…)

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The Quantified Self: Can Technology Really Measure Your Life?

Over the next few weeks, we will be bombarded with news about the latest smart watches with the Moto 360 and highly anticipated iWatch about to be unleashed on our world that is quickly filled with wearable tech.

I have already talked about the Internet of Things (IoT) but the introduction of more smart watches will also see an increase in the use of more buzzwords such as the ‘quantified self’ which may leave you scratching your heads feeling a little confused and not wanting to speak up through fear of sounding like a technophobe, but equally becoming increasingly curious on what everyone is talking about it.

The Quantified Self (QS) in simple terms is using technology to track measure and analyse data from your daily life. We are already seeing an increase of this activity through apps that manage how many calories we intake, exercises we perform and even how many hours sleep we get each night using wearable sensors.

QS Is also known as self-tracking, auto-analytics, body hacking and life logging as more and more realise they are victims of their self-imposed bad habits or routines and can use their own daily data to motivate themselves to hit the road to self-improvement.

99 Percent of the thoughts, actions and emotions you have everyday are the same as the ones you had yesterday – Eben Page

The range of apps now at our disposal sometimes drifts in the realms of what we would have called sci-fi a few years ago as sites such as 23 and me can now provide a full DNA report that could reveal your ancestry or what diseases you could be predisposed of which is a fantastic concept, but the movie buff inside me is paranoid about the questions surrounding genetic discrimination that were raised in the 1997 film Gattaca. (more…)

twitter

Twitter Changes Causing Backlash

Twitter has upset many of its users recently by confirming that Tweets from people that you do not follow will begin to appear on your personal timeline causing somewhat of a backlash online due to the changes to the ‘favourite’ button on the popular social network.

The move has baffled many users who are already turning away from sites like Facebook due to the lack of control on their own timeline that has quickly become irrelevant after being bombarded with one too many adverts, but many felt that Twitter offered an alternative edgier experience.

Twitter was built on a reputation of being a network where you can customise your timeline so the only material you see is relevant, but it seems that the powers that be are eager to introduce change and ensure the platform continues to grow and evolve.

The confirmation was reported by the Guardian newspaper and Twitter posted What’s a Twitter Timeline? Reading between the lines, the most revealing section advised:

Additionally, when we identify a Tweet, an account to follow, or other content that’s popular or relevant, we may add it to your timeline. This means you will sometimes see Tweets from accounts you don’t follow. We select each Tweet using a variety of signals, including how popular it is and how people in your network are interacting with it. Our goal is to make your home timeline even more relevant and interesting.

Users resistance to change has long plagued social media sites such as Facebook and the all familiar backlash has turned into a joke over the years due to the the same people who complained about the previous improvements can often be seen 12 months later, campaigning to keep the same same changes they originally hated, but this Twitter story is different as it appears they do not understand how people use their own service.

The Twitter favourite button for example has many different uses, many users will use the button as a sort of bookmark tool so they can save something of interest to refer back to whilst also use it to acknowledge a comment at the end of a conversation. (more…)

click

You Won’t Believe Clickbait Article

Welcome to the world of clickbait, where a misleading headline over promises and under-delivers. Hopefully you will accept my sincere apologies for using the same kind of headline that many websites use without remorse.

During the last few years, sites such as BuzzFeed, Cracked, Upworthy and even the Huffington Post have enjoyed fantastic success by using this content marketing strategy that is both effective and infuriating at the same time. I am of course referring to what a growing number of people affectionately call click-bait.

This much maligned strategy will concentrate on the headline rather than the article content itself to draw you in and convince you to click on that link to read more. This general philosophy goes against everything you have learned by concentrating on sensationalising, exaggerating over-promising on the content of an article via a tiny headline so you can increase your traffic stats to boost advertising revenues.

Personally, I find incredibly short-sighted that sites can enjoy quick success by constantly under delivering and disappointing their readers, but what do I know, I have used the same technique in my own article, so I’m unable to take the moral high ground this time.

Although the most successful websites online at the moment are using clickbait, how long until we all say enough is enough of this fad?

I must confess that I feel utterly ashamed of myself when I see that familiar controversial headline claiming to contain ground breaking news, only to be left crestfallen in the corner of a dark room repeating “why do I fall for this every time?” (more…)

The Importance of Managing Online Reviews

Traditionally hotels have bombarded customers with information about their accommodation or brand, but the harsh reality is their customers are no longer listening to these messages; they now have a spam box full of messages that are almost identical with their constant self-promotion which turns into a white noise of sorts that people have now learned to ignore.

Rather than being informed from the brand themselves, customers now want to hear a genuine opinion from another customer with a trusted and authentic voice in this digital age of online customer reviews.

The customer now has the power over the brand, which is forcing businesses to step up their game and work with their customers but there are growing reports of some websites/retailers trying to prevent those pesky negative online reviews from ever appearing online.

Although I have witnessed first-hand how some websites actually refuse to authorise poor reviews, nothing could compare to the catastrophic attempt by the Union Street Guest House in New York who allegedly advised its customers that a wedding party would be fined $500 if any guest left a negative review of the establishment. However this would dropped upon deletion of the negative review.

The New York Post and Business Insider both reported the story and quoted the following from the guest house.

Please know that despite the fact that wedding couples love Hudson and our inn, your friends and families may not. … If you have booked the inn for a wedding or other type of event … and given us a deposit of any kind … there will be a $500 fine that will be deducted from your deposit for every negative review … placed on any internet site by anyone in your party.

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up

Up In The Air Speech – What’s In Your Backpack?

Over the last few months, I have been gathering some of the best monologues from the big silver screen, which unfortunately seems to be a rarity now that films are littered with MTV style rapidly-cut shots, fast-paced action, jump-cuts, fast-edits, numerous camera angles.

However, Up in the Air starring George Clooney as Ryan Bingham travelling around America firing people whilst living out of a suitcase, only to find his beloved lifestyle threatened by the presence of a new hire and a potential love interest thankfully bucked this particular trend.

The film also featured a fantastic monologue which contained enough snappy sound-bites such “Moving Is Living” and “The Slower We Move, the Faster We Die” which is perfect fodder for your motivational posters on Pinterest

We all carry around unnecessary ‘baggage’ with us which makes each day harder than it needs to be and holds us back from really doing what we want which is what makes the “What’s In Your Backpack” so relevant to each and every one of us.

Here is What’s In Your Backpack? Speech:

How much does your life weigh? Imagine for a second that you’re carrying a backpack. I want you to feel the straps on your shoulders. Feel ‘em? Now I want you to pack it with all the stuff that you have in your life. You start with the little things. The things on shelves and in drawers, the knick-knacks, the collectibles. Feel the weight as that adds up. Then you start adding larger stuff, clothes, table-top appliances, lamps, linens, your TV.

The backpack should be getting pretty heavy now. And you go bigger. Your couch, bed, your kitchen table. Stuff it all in there. Your car, get it in there. Your home, whether it’s a studio apartment or a two bedroom house. I want you to stuff it all into that backpack. Now try to walk. It’s kind of hard, isn’t it? This is what we do to ourselves on a daily basis. We weigh ourselves down until we can’t even move. And make no mistake, moving is living. (more…)

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4 Ways To Remain Employable After The Rise Of The Robots

Once upon a time, life was much simpler and as soon as you were armed with an education, you were unleashed into the world and free to choose from a profession of your choice, you could stay in the same role for 30 years and then take a nice early retirement package, or so the fairy-tale goes.

However life now is very different and even if you have just reached your 40 birthday, the reality is that you will probably have to work at least another 30 years without the security blanket of a “Job for life” but in many ways this will make you a much more rounded individual with a toolbox full of unique skillsets that will ensure you tackle any situation.

Unemployment is never a nice topic to discuss but job seekers could be facing their toughest challenge yet in the near future with the predicted rise of the robots.

Before you scoff and shout at the screen that this is nothing but a bunch of sci-fi nonsense, take a look at the Oxford Martin School study that suggests nearly half of US jobs could be at risk of computerisation in the future.

However to be honest, we have all seen this coming as the not so glamourous and time consuming tasks are already becoming automated in our own work places and we probably all know someone that has been affected by these changes.

A quick look at hotel called Yotel in New York not only has a self-check-in kiosk’s but also features world’s first hotel robotic luggage handler.

Whatever your views on the controversial subject, we can all agree that if your reality is spending the next 50 years in the workplace, you need to invest in yourself and ensure you adapt and change to the world around you, so let’s take a look how you can help yourself prepare for the future dominated by robots and automation.

1. Embrace Technology

The cold hard truth is the grumpy technophobe has a rocky road ahead of them, unless they change their ways and embrace the technology that surrounds us all, make no mistake life will become increasingly more difficult.

Although we don’t all like to admit it, we are ruled by technology as we become increasingly reliant on our internet connection, even your humble kitchen appliances such as washing machines, refrigerators and even vacuum cleaners are now coming with Wi-Fi options, whilst your infant child knows their way around an iPad perfectly so it’s time to raise your game. (more…)

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The Digital Subscription vs. Ownership Debate

The big success story sweeping the digital landscape is the infamous Netflix business model, which has unwittingly created a long line of copycats who are desperate to imitate their rapid ascent to success in the modern world.

Recently the videogame publisher EA announced plans to offer their own subscription service called ‘EA Access’ in a collaborative effort with Microsoft and the Xbox One console. With many games retailing at $70 each, the allure of having access to a vault full of EA games for $29.99 a year sounds like a very tempting offer on the surface, but could also prompt other publishers such as Ubisoft to follow suit.

However the announcement was received by mixed reactions as many people are coming to the realisation that the average person on the street, no longer owns anything at all in the digital world that continues to move forward, whilst physical media is dying at an accelerated speed.

Shelves that used to contain video cassettes of movies, were replaced with DVD’s, followed by Blu-Ray discs before finally being replaced by all you can eat subscription services such as Netflix or Amazon Prime.

The music industry has also changed dramatically, and despite hard-core music fans keeping vinyl alive, the reality is more and more people are turning away from purchasing or even downloading illegal music in favour of services such as Spotify where you can think of an artist or song at any moment depending on your mood at the time and listen within a few seconds.

Books are safe though right? Step forward the Kindle Unlimited that not only removes the physical book from our lives but Amazon’s latest Netflix style venture intends to remove ownership of a book too and lets you have access to an entire library at your disposal for $9.99 a month. (more…)

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Social Wi-Fi Customers Stay Longer and Spend More

The battleground of the ubiquitous free Wi-Fi is heading for an interesting transitional period, in one corner we have the customer who expects a constant internet connection wherever they are, they really don’t care how difficult or expensive this is to deliver and why should they?

However in the other corner there are the businesses that have to invest heavily to ensure their customers have a positive experience.

There needs to be a compromise in which both parties can be happy with the outcome and early indications seem to suggest that the up and coming trend of ‘Social Wi-Fi’ might just have a very bright future.

The concept behind social Wi-Fi is that business will invest heavily into providing an internet connection for their customers and in return they must sign-in via their chosen social network website such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, or by completing a form. In doing so they are able to capture details of their customers and promote your business to their online friends.

This opens up many possibilities for store owners and here in the UK, Purple Wi-Fi are leading the way with their that purple portal that gives their users access to its presence analytics, this allows businesses to understand who is visiting and using their hotspot, how long they are online, as well as their age, gender and any other relevant information that they offer in their social networking profile. (more…)