Weak French Connection

Having recently gone on holiday I wasn’t that surprised to find, as I did the previous year, poor 4G speeds whilst on the campsite in France.

Over the last few months we thought we wouldn’t be going on holiday at all because of Covid-19 and the lockdown. We had thought about going away in the UK, we looked at York but it was proving expensive and things we wanted to do weren’t open. At the end of July we checked a few sites and found that we could book a Eurocamp holiday relatively cheaply, especially compared to the UK holidays we had been looking at. We did wonder about the impact of Covid-19, but the story in France appeared to be less risky than in the UK! So we booked the holiday and five days we were driving down to Folkestone to catch the Eurotunnel.

As we entered France, thank you EU roaming legislation as my Three account easily connected to a French network. I recovered the obligatory SMS from Three which stated that I could use my allowances in France as though I was in the UK. I have an unlmited calls, text and data plan, however I was limited to a 20GB limit on data. We were only in France for six days so I thought that should be okay.

We were staying at the La Croix Du Vieux Pont campsite and though the phone said I had a good 4G signal, alas the speeds were nothing to text home about.

In the morning the connection wasn’t too bad, but by early evening the connection was not just poor, but intermittent as well. I did an (unscientific) speed test and you can see I was struggling to get more than 3Mbps download speeds on 4G.

I am guessing partly that the issue was, we were in a somewhat rural location. When we visited Paris, though I didn’t use my phone much, I think the connection was much better (which was to be expected).

The campsite, in theory, had wifi, but this wasn’t very good either by our caravan. In the first half of the week we could connect to the wifi for free, but this was “fixed” by the second half, where we would have to pay. So we became dependent on the 4G connection.

This was critical towards the end of the holiday as we had to fill in an online UK government form before we got back to the UK. We did manage this, but using the connection for anything apart from e-mail or basic web browsing was out of the question.

It was interesting to see that we could get 4G in the Eurotunnel, I had assumed that this wouldn’t be possible, but it worked, partly because we had already switched and connected to the French mobile phone network, so we remained on that as we went through the tunnel.

Well it might have worked…

Having written about my iPhone 6S Plus connecting to 4G problems.

So the issue I have is I have been at home on the Wi-Fi, I leave the house and then wherever I am I check the phone as find that it says.

Could not activate mobile data network Turn on mobile data or use Wi-Fi to access data.

The only solution was to go into airplane mode and then turn that off. At which point all works fine. Even if you turn off mobile data and turn it back on again, that doesn’t work. It’s airplane mode or nothing!

I said that I was going to upgrade my iPhone to the latest iOS, 13.5.1 which I did and went fine.

Since then has it worked?

Well I have been out a couple of times and I think it’s being fine, but watch this space!

My 4G still keeps getting lost….

Back in January I blogged about issues I was having with my iPhone 6S Plus and the Three network.

The problem is still happening, it’s just that I notice it less as the lock down restrictions meant I was driving a lot less (so didn’t use the phone for music and podcasts, which I use to do for long journeys). Even when walking and cycling as part of our government sanctioned exercise I wasn’t using my phone.

So the issue I have is I have been at home on the Wi-Fi, I leave the house and then wherever I am I check the phone as find that it says.

Could not activate mobile data network Turn on mobile data or use Wi-Fi to access data.

This is even with 4G being in the top of the phone. Clicking OK results in no change. You are still not connected to the internet. As you can see in this screenshot the phone does show 4G at the top.

What’s interesting, was that I thought it might be a handset issue, but family (also with Three) are having similar issues with their iPhone 6S and a newer iPhone XS.

At the moment, the solution is to go to airplane mode and then turn that off. At which point all works fine. Even if you turn off mobile data and turn it back on again, that doesn’t work. It’s airplane mode or nothing!

I am going to update the iOS on my phone, which I haven’t wanted to do, as newer iOS upgrades often result in different problems on older phones. I think it might be an phone operating system issue rather than the network. Having said that, Three are working on the network this week, so I will probably wait until next week, just in case. If I still have the issue, it’s upgrade time!

Alexa in my car…


Only the other day I was thinking how useful it would be to have Alexa in the car…

I use an Alexa device at home for timers, news, music, questions, and podcasts.

When driving, well before I start driving, I set up my phone via Bluetooth and then listen to music or podcasts through the car speakers. However if I want to skip a track or listen to another podcast, I either don’t skip, or I have to stop the car, park and then adjust the app to whatever I want to listen to.

It’s nice at home to say “Alexa, skip” or similar when listening to stuff.

Siri can do some stuff, but I find she isn’t as good as Alexa for some things. She’s great for sending texts for example via voice, but not quite as good as doing the music stuff, well I don’t subscribe to Apple Music is part of the issue, however I do have Amazon Prime.

So I was wondering if I could get Alexa for my car, but I generally think this whilst I am driving, so couldn’t search the web to find out.

However this week I saw Echo Auto on the Amazon website (well Alexa must have been listening).

What it does is it connects to the Alexa app on the phone and then plays through the car speakers.

Something else that looks useful is Waze integration, and I found this link on how to do that.

This looks like just what I was wanting…

However as we are still in lockdown and I haven’t actually filled my car with petrol since the middle of March. I am not driving long distances these days, which is when it would come in handy. Additionally, I am not doing too many short drives either.

I think it’s something I will add to my wish list and buy at a later date, once I start doing longer drives, which looks like it might be a few months away now, or even next year.

How are we using gas overnight with our new smart meter?

kettles on the boil
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

When we moved recently to a new tariff for our electricity and gas we had to have a smart meter installed. I was happy with the old system, but cheaper energy meant we had to go smart!

It has been interesting to see how much energy we are using and how that compares day to day.

Having moved the smart meter remote display to the kitchen, I started to notice that we seemed to be using a fair amount of gas and electricity overnight! This made no sense, as we didn’t have the heating on, no hot water was running and the only electrical device running was the fridge!

Observing over the week, I started to think, did we have a gas leak? Was something wrong with our smart meter? Was the smart meter display dodgy?

I thought I better contact our energy supplier. However first I decided to search the web to see if other people were having the same issue.

Well as it happens, they were.

Was something dodgy going on?


What the “usage” was showing was the fixed daily  standing charge for the gas and electricity, which is added to the “bill” before any actual usage is added.

So it looks like first thing in the morning you have spent a lot on gas and electricity, whereas the reality its you haven’t, you’ve merely paid a charge to enable you to use gas and electricity.

Well that makes sense…

Though I wish something had been said about this when the whole thing was set up earlier this year.

I can now go and worry about something else now!

Unexplained blurry photographs

So there I was on a cycle ride down to Brean, just to note that I am following government advice during this national emergency and cycle ride was for my government sanctioned exercise, when I decided to take some photographs.

As part of my photo of the day I decided to take a photograph of The Great Bird Screen of Brean. I took a few so that I could choose one later to post to Instagram and my personal blog.

I used an iPhone 8 to take the photographs and have not had issues with it before.

I managed this shot fine, which is the one I eventually used.

This wasn’t the one I thought I would be used, as when I got home I found that some of my later images were blurred.

No clear indication why they were blurry, it wasn’t as though I was moving the camera or the such like.

When I took a photograph later that day, it was fine!

So I have no explanation of why these photographs were blurry and earlier ones weren’t and nor were later ones.

No more old Twitter

Back in August 2019 I wrote a blog post about how to use Chrome or Firefox extensions to use the “old” Twitter web interface instead of the new Twitter interface.

So you don’t like the new Twitter?

Well you can revert back to the old one in a couple of ways.

If you are running Chrome or Firefox then there is an extension you can install which forces your browser to use the old Twitter interface.

Alas, as of the 1st June, changes at Twitter has meant these extensions no longer work and you are now forced to use the new Twitter! When you attempt to use them you get this error message.

I am now looking for a Twitter client for my Mac which looks like the old Twitter…

I want the old Twitter back....

Harry Potter Teams and Zoom Backgrounds

The first time I went to the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour was in 2015, just after they had added the Hogwarts Express and Kings Cross set to the tour. At the end of November 2019 we made a return visit, mainly to see how different it was dressed for Christmas and with snow.

I took a fair few photographs and have posted them to my other blog.

Some of my photographs I thought might make excellent Teams and Zoom backgrounds.

Right click the images to download the images for your personal use only.

Hogwarts Castle

The Great Hall

Diagon Alley

Gryffindor Dorm

Gringotts Bank

The Burrow

Dumbledore’s Office

The Potions Classroom

Yule Ball Ice Sculpture

The Leaky Cauldron

Hogwarts Express

4 Privet Drive

No more Pogo

I am quite sad that my Polaroid Pogo printer has finally died and no longer works, despite some best efforts to fix it.

Polaroid Pogo

I bought my Pogo printer back in 2009. This was a battery powered zero ink (Zink) printer which did 2” x 3” prints (which were also stickers). You generally sent the images to the printer by Bluetooth, but you could connect an USB stick or camera to the printer as well.

I had bought one after getting feedback from friends on the Twitter.

It cost me £50, though within a few months it had fallen in price to just £17.

I did use it for a while, but there were some core reasons why it never really clicked for me, partly the size of the prints, just 2” x 3” which was too small for most things. Couldn’t really see a practical use for such small prints, even if they were stickers. The other main reason was that the quality of the prints was quite poor in comparison to the HP photo printer I had at the time. So like many other devices after the novelty had rubbed off and the curiosity value had waned, it went into the cupboard.

When I started a new role in 2015, I dusted off the Pogo and started to use it much more.

Dusting off the Pogo

…after making notes in a my new work notebook (trying out visual note taking for project planning) that I realised I actually wanted to include a diagram in my notes. I could have attempted to draw the diagram, but I am not that good at drawing clear diagrams. Also in this case I wanted the actual diagram, not a drawn representation of the diagram. I then remembered the Pogo printer and I wondered…

I had to connect it to the power adapter and remember that the easiest way to do this was to send it the image file over Bluetooth. I was actually quite surprised and impressed that it worked.

The battery had completely lost its charge, and wouldn’t hold a charge, so I had to use it tethered to a power supply, it would have been useful to take with me on trips and events.

Polaroid Pogo printer

Over the last few years I found it a really useful. However because of the Bluetooth restrictions imposed by Apple, I couldn’t print to it from an iOS device such as the iPhone or the iPad. With the current version of the Pogo (and other similar Zink printers) most now have an iOS app that allows you to print images from your iPhone.

I did have a few streaking issues following a paper jam.

Streaking on the Pogo

Pogo print

However following a quick Google search I did manage to clean the printhead and fix the streaking.

Having not used it for a while and needing to print I gave it a go and alas it didn’t work at all. It wouldn’t feed the paper through, so I think it has finally died. 

I have decided at some point to get a replacement as I did like using it and did find it a useful accompanying tool for visual note taking.