Friday, 29 May 2009

Fit to bust! Rigby & Peller bras review

Bras are consumer technology. Seriously. Every woman or girl should have well-designed and properly-engineered scaffolding for her breasts. Hence this review. (UPDATED: pics added as requested. Above pics are "Before" on the left, "After" on the right. More (front view) pics are at the end of this post. But that's yer lot, I'm not redoing it with the hotpants, the old Lara Croftesque pic will have to do you - that was "Before" on the bra front, of course.)

We’ve all heard that many women don’t wear the right sized brassiere, so I finally took the plunge and went for a fitting at Rigby & Peller (yep, the very ones who are corsetieres to HM Queen Elizabeth II). I can now see why they hold a Royal Warrant of Appointment.

Like many other females, I’d never felt entirely comfortable with my bras. I’d worked out my bust size simply by measuring myself in the way that retailers’ sites or catalogues tell you to.

But my bras always felt too loose, or too tight; bits bulged out where they shouldn’t, and didn’t where (I assume) they should.

Having people who know what they’re doing advising you on the right fit for your form can make all the difference in the world.

If you’re prone to thinking “Too much information”, look away now. But just to give an idea of how badly wrong women can get their bra size, I always thought I was a 36B. In fact, I’m a 32E. It seems overestimating overall measurement and underestimating cup size isn't uncommon.

The selection of bras which the fitter offered me to try on were superb and fitted perfectly, with excellent support (one was a bit loose in one place on trying it on; she pointed that out immediately – I’d scarcely noticed - and put it right back). And no more weird bulges!

She also took account of my requirements and preferences as to fabric / material and colour, and lingerie for everyday as well as occasional use.

It’s startling how far off I was in the estimation of my own measurements, but I’m certainly not the only one – I could hear a chorus of women in other booths nearby going “Noooooo!” “Really?” “Whaaat?!!”, presumably on being told their true correct bra size.

Ideally you should have your fitting checked every 6 to 8 months as how well a brassiere fits may change with weight fluctuations, age etc.

The fitting is free but it’s best to make an appointment, though appointments are only available between Mondays to Fridays (otherwise, you can take a ticket and queue).

These bras aren’t cheap, the cheapest was about £50. Even so, you’re getting high quality corsetry which should last you ages.

You have to hand wash them (and they’re air dry only, not machine-washable), but surely it’s not too much hassle to wash them more than 6 times a year? (and please, please do!) (Thanks – or maybe eeew – to Ant for tweeting that link.)

They also sell knickers / panties to go with their bras, if you prefer to buy your underwear in matching sets.

Even men are welcomed and given helpful advice; one man was buying a gift for his girlfriend when I went – their online advice centre includes a section on advice for men too. If you’re male you wouldn’t feel out of place accompanying your female partner there. (There's comfortable seating in the waiting area.)

I only wish I’d gone to Rigby & Peller years earlier. I now feel more perky of puppies, braced of bosom, curvaceous of cleavage, udderly uplifted and, most importantly, comfy and properly supported – at long last!

(UPDATED: below are more pics, "Before" on the left, "After" on the right. I've tried to get them all the same size as much as poss, I hate "Before" and "After" pics that have the "After" hugely enlarged etc.)

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Google Calendar: how to display more hours without scrolling

When viewing Google Calendar in a web browser on a computer, it's annoying that it doesn't let you set how many hours to show starting from what time (e.g. I'd like it to show 9 am to 9 pm as standard).

I love Google Calendar (especially now I have a G1 Android mobile phone so I can sync with it from the cellphone, i.e. check and update my schedule anywhere) but I hate that you have to scroll the calendar to get to see more than about 5 hours at a time.

And you can't scroll with the keyboard until you click in the scrollbar with the mouse first, which rather defeats the object of wanting to be able to use just the keyboard (very frustrating if you're a keyboard shortcuts fan like me). No amount of pressing the Tab key will get me anywhere that lets me scroll with the keyboard cursor or page down etc keys.

So, here's a tip, a simple "Gordian knot" kind of solution: just view the browser in full screen by hitting F11 (works in both Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers). This shows you about 10 hours' worth of events / appointments for each day, on my computer at least - not exactly 12 hours, but much better than 5. Press the F11 key again to restore the original browser view / window size. Here's the improved view:

I hope Google will fix things so individual users can set the number of hours they want to view by default (and the starting hour) - it's been a feature desired by many for ages. And I also hope that after you've chosen to view one calendar only ("Display only this calendar"), you can with one click select to view all of them (at the moment you have to tediously click on the name of each calendar that you want to get it back, which many have complained about also - though there's a workaround, see the 2nd post there).

If Google can sort those issues out, with their recently-launched Tasks functionality in Calendar Google will bid fair to rival or outdo Outlook on the diary / personal information management (PIM) front - especially if they can also get their Tasks to integrate fully with Lightning tasks in the free Mozilla Thunderbird.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Carnival of the Mobilists #175

The latest Carnival of the Mobilists #175 is now up at MOBIFY - check it out for a selection of the best blog posts on things mobile over the last week. (For those not familiar with the concept of a blog carnival, see my previous post on blog carnivals).

Igor from MOBIFY has kindly included my detailed howto on syncing contacts and transferring contacts between mobile phones / cellphones / Gmail using Zyb - thanks Igor!

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Mobile price comparison services: BillMonitor, MobileMeg

A short post to mention BillMonitor which was the first mobile price comparison service to be accredited by UK comms regulator Ofcom earlier this week. It compares vodafone, orange, T-Mobile, O2 and 3.

I hope more price comparison calculators / tables get approved, which can only be good news for consumers.

Ofcom's approval process involves as they say a "rigorous independent audit", so you should be able to trust accredited services to help you choose or switch to price plans / tariffs that save you money - particularly important in these credit crunch times!

You may also be interested in Ofcom's FAQ for consumers on accreditation of price comparison services generally. The vast majority of cost comparison services etc aren't accredited.

Separately, while not Ofcom-accredited, another service called MobileMeg is back.

This focuses specifically on just comparing mobile data price plans (i.e. charges and costs when you're using the internet on your mobile phone, including WAP, mobile internet, mobile email, chat etc).

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Mobile developers - Vodafone Mobile Clicks contest UK / Netherlands

If you're a mobile phone developer or know one, the Vodafone Mobile Clicks contest deadline for entries has been extended for UK mobile developers to this Friday 22 May 2009 - see the press release for more info.

The prize: €150,000 to produce a new mobile site or service. You can enter if you're over 18, resident in the UK or Netherlands and are in a start-up or are planning to form a start-up with your idea (which must be mobile-related, obviously).

The final will be held in Amsterdam in September and will feature three finalists from each country. The first three winners will be awarded a total sum of €150,000.

Last years’ Mobile Clicks’ winners included Nulaz, a location-based social networking service merging Google Maps and Facebook to allow people to see where their friends are, share locations and view local information, Tipspot a new online city guide service, and Map the Gap, an idea-sharing application for mobile phones.

The contest is run by Vodafone UK, Vodafone NL, Mobile Monday London, and Mobile Monday Netherlands.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Zyb: export / copy mobile phone contacts to Gmail / other phone - howto & review

This post is part review, part howto guide, on:
  • how to copy or import your mobile phone contact numbers into Google’s Gmail contacts, if you have a Gmail / Google Mail account, and

  • whether you have Gmail or not, how to easily backup or transfer your contacts between different phones, e.g. if you’re moving networks (as your old SIM card will die when your current phone number is transferred across, wiping out any contacts stored on the SIM).

I recently got a G1 Android phone, and finally decided to export contacts from old mobile phone phonebook to Gmail contacts so that I could access them on the G1, which syncs with Gmail contacts.

But the method outlined below works even if you don’t have a G1 and just want to have your cellphone contacts available on Gmail – as long as you have access to a mobile phone which Zyb supports.

What's Zyb? Zyb (acquired by mobile network operator Vodafone in 2008) is a free online contact & calendaring backup system, which works by synchronising with your mobile phone – as long as they support your make and model of phone. Sadly, they don’t support the G1 yet, so I found a workaround.

Zyb also includes calendar syncing, even SMS in the case of certain models of phone, but I cover only contacts here.

How to use Zyb (contacts only)

  1. Sign up for a free Zyb account. They will of course have to be given your mobile phone number.

  2. Sync your old mobile (as long as it’s supported by Zyb) with Zyb online – they’ll send you an SMS text message when you add your phone; open the text and save the settings, then find the Sync application on your phone and choose the Zyb profile to sync it (I won’t go into these aspects further, Zyb’s support is pretty good, ask them for help if you need it).

  3. If your new mobile phone is supported by Zyb it’s easy to get your old contacts into it - Zyb can synchronise with more than one phone, so just add the new phone to Zyb (even if it’s on a different number) and you can sync it with Zyb so that the contacts from your old phone which you previously synced with Zyb can be transferred to your new phone. You can of course also edit the contacts online etc more easily than on a phone.

  4. While you’re in Zyb, this is not a syncing point but you might want to tick https on Zyb’s Settings page for better security, and Save:

  5. If your new phone is not supported by Zyb, like my G1, or you want to copy your phone contact details across into your Gmail Contacts, then it’s a little bit more complicated – see below.

How to import or copy Zyb contacts into Gmail contacts

This involves a few steps. Be careful to do them all, exactly in the order I say below, or else you may end up with weird contact details in Gmail, or duplicates or empty contacts – don’t say I didn’t warn you!

  1. Login to Zyb and check your contacts. Some editing is needed here – other methods may work which don’t require this (if you know one please let me know!), but this is what I found I had to do to get it all to work properly. (You could also take the opportunity to use Zyb to Merge Duplicates (link on the right of the Zyb People screen), if you haven't already.)

  2. For a contact, if any phone number happens to be recorded in a “Voice” field or box, then it won’t transfer across at all, unfortunately:

  3. You will have to Edit the contact and copy and paste the number from the Voice field into a Mobile field, and Save it (yes, even if it’s really a land line telephone number – sorry but that’s the way it is):

  4. Do that for all your contacts on Zyb. Luckily I only had a few like that; those didn’t transfer across properly the first time but left blanks for the phone numbers, which is how I knew what to do instead.

  5. Now, while still logged in to Zyb, go to their feeds page:

  6. In the Contacts line, click on the VCard link, outlined in red above.

  7. This will prompt you to download a vcard.vcf file (in VCard format, obviously). Save it to your computer.

  8. Now go to this excellent free online vcard to CSV converter site (there are other vcard to CSV converters but they don’t work so well):

  9. Browse to select the vcard file you downloaded from Zyb. Under Format, make sure you pick “Gmail (CSV)” before you hit the “convert” button.

  10. It will offer to save the converted file. Save it – vcard.csv – on your computer somewhere you can find.

  11. Now login to Gmail, and click the Contacts link in the list on the left:

  12. Then click the Import link on the right (outlined in red above), and choose the vcard.csv file you saved earlier (see below), then OK.

  13. Now your phone contacts will be added to your Gmail contacts (and, if you have a G1, accessible via your G1 contacts once you sync them up).

This is of course a copy rather than sync of contacts information into Gmail.

Some thoughts on Zyb

Zyb also offers 1-way import of Gmail contacts into Zyb. If you want to do it the other way round it’s a bit more long winded, as I outlined above, because there’s no full export of contacts from Zyb into CSV format – just VCF (and also JSON and FOAF). Those familiar with other formats can of course play round with the feeds made available by Zyb on their feeds page.

My main wishlist issue with Zyb is that I’d like to be able to turn off the sync or set its direction – what if I want to have some numbers on the phone but not on Zyb, or vice versa? If I delete a contact from Zyb, it tries to delete it from my phone too. I want to be able to set the direction of sync. Indeed, I’d like to be able to keep a master contact list on Zyb and decide exactly which items are copied onto which phone. This seems to be a deliberate design feature, but personally I’d prefer it if it were otherwise. I guess I'd like to have a selective copying than syncing option.

I also feel a bit uncomfortable that if I delete some contacts from Zyb, they seem to stay there forever anyway, according to that link (which is a little out of date – actually, you click on the Phonebook dropdown on the People page in order to find your deleted contacts). I’d like to be able to permanently delete certain contacts, call it catharsis, rather than restore them! I know that if I entrust my contact details to them in the first place that shouldn’t bother me, but it does…

On the whole though Zyb provide a very useful service, as long as your phone is supported, and I'd been meaning to review them for a while.

Hope this post is of help to you if you're trying to transfer your mobile phone contacts from phone to phone.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Convert videos to audio files / other video formats online, free

To convert your movie or audio etc files, a free online media file converter may be the easiest way as it works whether you have a Mac or Linux or indeed Windows - including if you just want to extract the audio sound file from a video on YouTube or another online video service - though if you don't have broadband then obviously it may be a bit slow.

(I've posted before on how to extract MP3 or other sound from video files but that involved only Windows-centric software, and the process can be a bit involved.)

Here are two free online media file conversion services I've tried and suggested to other people who've tried them too, so I know they work.

With both of them, you can enter a YouTube or other video service link to convert the video direct into MP3 or other file formats over the internet; or alternatively you can upload a file from your own computer for conversion and download the converted video, audio or other file.

Media Converter

Media Converter say they support audio formats like mp3, ogg, wav, wma (only decoding supported), and video file formats like 3g2, 3gp, avi, flv, m4v, mkv, mov, mp4, mpg, mpeg, psp (only encoding supported), rm, and wmv, though I've only tried the flv to MP3 conversion myself. (They also say they convert Office document files i.e. text / wordprocessing and presentation documents, spreadsheets etc: doc to odt or pdf, xls to ods or pdf, ppt to odp or pdf, odt to doc or pdf, ods to xls or pdf, odp to ppt or pdf).

It's free only for file sizes up to 100MB, and you pay for the premium service for bigger files.


Media Convert are more mobile orientated e.g. their "Send File to Mobile" tab enables upload of a file for download on a cellphone, and they have a dedicated mobile host for video or music files.

Supports a wider range of audio files (I won't list them all, see their list of supported file formats, but they include ringtones and .amr and 3gp files as used on mobile phones) and office file conversions (including html, Open Office files, Star Writer etc) - and also compressed or archived file formats like zip, rar, lzh, tar.

Will convert image files i.e. pictures, photos of different formats including gif, jpeg, png, with the ability to resize and compress them, and produce a screenshot of a webpage in your chosen file format (yes you could use your Print Screen key; but it just saves time with converting the resulting file). It even converts pdf to Flash swf.

It will also create a free webpage (with ads, not surprisingly) with a streaming version of the converted file, which you can link to - though I've found it a bit variable as to how well that works. If you want to download the converted file, do that before you try the webpage option, or else it'll vanish and you'll have to convert it all over again.

Up to 150MB size of files converted. Ad-funded. (600MB for their mobile video or music files.)

Personally, I generally prefer the latter as it provides more options (see pic above) in terms of both file conversions (e.g. it will convert PDF source files whereas the former only converts certain formats to PDFs) and ways of presenting the converted files. But as mentioned the webpage streaming option seems not always to work. They're free, so try them both and see which suits you better.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Fun interactive "Speak dog" animation

Thanks to Claire for this fab fun "Speak Dog" webpage.

Sweet, funny, witty, and very clever marketing indeed by pet site Petcentric.

On that "Speak Dog" page, just click "Learn to Speak Dog" then click on the line and type one of the following to see what the doggie does!

And try anything else you like, the dog seem to have an impressive vocabulary:
  • in love
  • hungry
  • itchy
  • angry
  • naughty
  • amazing
  • excited
  • frightened
  • funny
  • happy
  • sad
  • available
  • bored
  • sleepy
  • sexy
  • smart
  • adorable
  • playful
  • famous (wait for it!)
Endless fun!

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Creative Commons (CC) "non-commercial" - your views?

If you want to give your views to Creative Commons, you have till 5 May to fill in their questionnaire asking users of creative works about their use of creative content and what they think "noncommercial" means. They say it should take 15-25 minutes to complete, I'd allow for longer.

Their previous survey, aimed at creators rather than users, was meant to ask the same of creators (with focus groups, even) - but the slides reporting on its results seem to have more information about the creators than about their use and views on "non-commercial" licences.

These surveys are all part of a CC study to "explore differences between commercial and noncommercial uses of content... how the definitions of “commercial use” and “noncommercial use” are understood among various communities and in connection with a wide variety of content."

For those not familiar with Creative Commons, the Creative Commons licences are an innovative way of dealing with copyright in creative works in the digital age, enabling artists to share their works and allow others to build on them (e.g. sampling / mixing).

If you want to let others use your work, you can apply a Creative Commons licence to it.

Several flavours of CC licences allow "noncommercial" use only, e.g. require that the work is free for private use only, but anyone who wants to make commercial use of the work must get permission from the creator (which, normally, the author/composer/creator would be prepared to give provided they get paid a fee or cut of the gross or net profits earned by the person who wants to use it commercially - the details of course would be up for negotiation).

However, one big problem is that there's been (and still is) a lot of uncertainty about what exactly is meant by "commercial use" vs "nonc0mmercial use".

For instance, if you sell a magazine that reproduces my blog post in full and my blog has a noncommercial licence (which it does), I think it would clearly be a breach of my CC licence if you didn't get my permission first, and I could sue you for it.

Similarly, if you set up a blog or site that solely consists of blog posts from other people's blogs, and you run ads on your site, I'd say that was clearly for a commercial purpose, and you should get their permission - particularly if you included their posts in full. I've had a few blogs taken down that did that with my posts.

I'm less sure what the position would be if you only included short extracts from other people's posts or websites or other writings, though I still tend to think it would be "commercial" if your site has ads.

(If you just copy a small extract maybe it's not even an issue needing my permission under the licence, because it could be "fair use" or "fair dealing", which is where even though it is strictly a breach of my copyright, the law gives you a let out if it was a particular kind of use e.g. criticism or review, depending on the details of the law of the country you're talking about. But that's a different, though related, minefield.)

What if you have a blog with your own original content reflecting your own original thoughts and original writings, and you quote a bit from one of my posts for the purpose of commenting on my post, but you had ads on your blog? Personally I wouldn't mind you doing that (yes, even if it's a negative comment) - but whether that would be "commercial" use by you, I'm just not sure - you're running ads, so it's probably safest to ask for permission first, just in case. A lot may depend on how much you quote, e.g. if you quote the whole post just for AdSense fodder and that's the real purpose behind it, I wouldn't be happy. It's a grey area, and very unsatisfactory.

There were even Draft Guidelines on noncommercial use posted by CC for discussion purposes only, looking at some of the uncertainties. Sadly, they've been taken down pending the outcome of this study (pity, I thought they were helpful and surely a big disclaimer on them would have been enough), but draft example noncommercial use cases are still up, and those interested can find a version of the original draft guidelines on the Internet Archive plus a great flowchart illustrating the original draft guidelines.

Personally, I think that while the CC people do a great job overall, these surveys could have been run in a much better way (perhaps this was down to Netpop who were hired to run the survey). Call it a personal bugbear about surveys or questionnaires that don't have specific deadline dates and times (and timezone) clearly emblazoned on the front of them from the start, but I think that, generally, putting up surveys without any deadlines will not draw in responses from busy people so the results are going to be skewed - indeed, not spelling out deadlines at the start could even be viewed as disrespectful to the people whose time you are asking to give up in order to help you out for free by completing the survey. Asking for survey responses in the run up to the Christmas holiday period (for the first part of the survey last year) won't have helped either. There were comments too (e.g. this one) on the inordinate length of the first survey, which again would have tended to make respondents self-selecting.

All the same, that doesn't detract from the importance of the survey - so do try to answer it if you have time, it should help the CC folks pin down the issues and hopefully produce clearer guidelines or draft licences that spell out more clearly and practically the "noncommercial use" vs "commercial use" divide.

(Aside: Linking to other people's original posts or webpages without quoting anything from them shouldn't get you into trouble on the copyright front, although it could be risky if you link to a post that itself breaches someone else's copyright, or defames someone else - it's all a bit tricky.)