Taking notes in markdown syntax

Recently, I have taken to writing a lot of notes in markdown syntax. When doing this on Andriod, I have had a lot of success with Writeily. I recently used it to take notes for three days straight and it worked brilliantly! I have naturally used markdown-type syntax for many years, so it is no trouble for me to take notes in this way. I find that when using a tablet to take notes, it’s much easier to use this type of syntax rather than try to highlight bits of text with my finger and select formatting options. That’s just too fiddly, and I end up losing concentration.

I am planning on using Pandoc to convert the resulting text file into something else. So, if I wanted to convert my markdown notes (contained in a .txt file) into a word document, I would be using a command like this:

pandoc -f markdown_github test.txt -t docx -o test.docx

...which should leave me with a nicely formatted Word file. Doing that, I should be able to take notes without needing to go back over them and re-format them later. I also find that it's easier to remain consistent this way. All the headings look the same, etc. I reckon it’s a pretty cool way to take notes, and if you’re a programmer, and used to following a particular syntax, you won’t find it hard to do.

The Hudl from Tesco

I'm becoming increasingly reliant on having some kind of tablet type computing device with me. My favourite is still the iPad mini, which works brilliantly as far as I'm concerned. It's one of those things that just works. Shame you can't actually do any programming on it though. A decent lightweight C IDE on the iPad would be nice... but I digress.

However, the iPad is not the type of thing I want to chuck in my bag and drag round Cambridge all day. If I damaged my iPad I would be very upset indeed.... they are not cheap to replace.

So I have been looking for a cheaper tablet, something where I would not be quite so upset if I dropped it or scratched it. As long as I can get online and run a couple of apps I'll be OK. But this would be slightly more expendable than an iPad.

So I've decided to try out the Hudl from Tesco. It seems to have a very decent spec for the price, and if you buy it online and use your Clubcard points you can get further discounts.

I went into a Tesco store to try one out... but the demo machine was locked down and would do little more than play some promotional videos. I wanted to fire up the browser, look around in the Google Play store and that kind of thing. Unfortunately, the demo machines don't let you. Boo...

So you need to buy one to have a proper play. I've bought one now, and will report back if there are any important developments.

Some nice autumn mornings in Cambridge

It has been a beautiful autumn - my favorite time of the year. Yes, we've had a few storms too, but we've also had some absolutely fantastic days where the sky has been clear and blue.

Recently, I've been starting early in the mornings, so when I've walked through the streets of Cambridge in the early morning sunshine I've snapped some pictures on my phone.

The picture quality isn't great (I have an iPhone 3GS which is quite old now), but hopefully you'll get an idea of the sights I have been enjoying.

Here is a view along the river Cam ... looking along the backs:

Here's Kings College, looking nice in the early morning sunshine:

And this is the Senate House, which is also near Kings:

....it's certainly no hardship to walk around these streets, even if it is before 8am. In fact, it might be the best time of day to experience it.

Honda Unhappiness

If you're considering buying a Honda used car from a main dealer or are thinking about extending your Honda warranty, you may want to read my recent experience...

I've long been a fan of Honda cars. I've owned many, and most of them have been very reliable. However, the CR-V I bought in December last year developed a serious engine fault, so bad in fact that the dealer decided that the engine could not be repaired. The dealer said the whole engine needed to be replaced.

The car was fully covered by the 'Honda Happiness' warranty, but unfortunately, the dealer wanted to do the repairs at their own expense, and not use the warranty. This left me without a car. The warranty would have given me a hire car, but since the dealer was not making a claim on the warranty I found myself off the road. I was definitely not experiencing 'Honda Happiness' when I found myself taking the bus to work, to say the least.

After this dragged on for a week, and with no end in sight, I asked the dealer to just give me my money back. So I had to go and find another car to get back on the road again. But this seemed to be the quickest way to get my transport back.

Needless to say, I complained to the 'Honda Happiness' administration people, because the warranty that came with the car proved useless to me. But they've still not helped. I've taken it as far as I can, and this is their final response:

So, Honda are saying they've done nothing wrong. Meanwhile, the dealer said they're not obliged to use the warranty. And it seems that the only person who has lost out is me, the poor old customer. I would say that this is one of the worst customer service experiences I have ever had.

Ultimately, it seems that the 'Honda Happiness' warranty only helps you at the dealers discretion. Even if your car has a very serious failure like mine, it doesn't mean you're guaranteed to get any help. And if things go wrong, even if you complain, nothing seems to change. Even a token gesture to acknowledge all the inconvenience would have been something.

So, I'm left very disappointed indeed. Until now, I have considered myself a Honda enthusiast. As you can imagine, nowadays - not so much.

Casio personal-I (H-802)

Sometimes you're rewarded for looking around in second hand shops. Today, I found this Casio personal-I calculator in mint condition!

Not bad for the princely sum of £2.00, yes two whole pounds. Since I like a bit of retro, I had to own it, although I'll probably use it. It will look great on my desk at work.

As you can see here:

...it was boxed (the box is in near perfect condition) and has the original instructions and batteries as well. I won't use the batteries, they're pretty old. The actual calculator was still in the protective plastic bag inside the box. It's in such perfect condition I don't think it has ever been switched on.

Of course, the buttons make that nice clicky noise that you only get from electronics of this era. I found more information about this model here.

Islay adventure

We recently had a fantastic holiday on Islay, in the Hebredes. We stayed in a B&B called The Old Excise House which is next door to Laphroaig distillery, and also in walking distance to the Lagavulin and Ardbeg distilleries. It was a brilliant holiday, and The Old Excise House is probably the best accommodation I have ever stayed in.

To give you an idea, here is a photo we took from our bedroom:

...and when you visit the distilleries, they make you very welcome, here is the visitors tasting room at Laphroaig which is just a short walk up the road:

It was totally worth a days driving up from Cambridge, the scenery gets better and better as you go, and when you get past Glasgow it gets really good. So we're already making plans to go back.

Halfords Car Battery Problem

If you go to your favourite search engine and search for the term "halfords battery unserviceable warranty", you’ll likely find many threads on various forums from people who have experienced the same problem as me.

A few weeks ago, my car battery, which I bought from Halfords with a 3 year guarantee stopped holding a charge. I would get in the car in the morning and it would not have enough power to start the engine. So I took it back for replacement under the guarantee. The people in the store tested it, and the test machine said the battery was 'unserviceable'.

However, according to the staff at Halfords, this means that the battery had failed for some reason which is "not covered by the guarantee". I could not understand how the battery can fail to hold a charge after normal use and not come under the guarantee. What seemed worse to me, was that they were happy to solve the problem by selling me an identical battery. That just didn't feel right to me.

But... I felt like I didn't have much choice, so under protest I paid for the new battery, even though I thought that it should have been done under the guarantee. But I decided to take this up with Halfords by sending an e-mail to their customer services department when I got home.

An e-mail discussion followed for about two weeks. At first they held their position saying that the fault with the battery was not covered by the guarantee. However, I started pointing out that under the Sale Of Goods Act it would be reasonable for me to expect the battery to last for 3 years, since the battery has "Maintenance Free Battery 3 Year Guarantee" written on the side in big letters:

In the end, whilst Halfords stuck to their guns and even suggested that something may be wrong with the electrics in my car, they decided to refund the cost of the replacement battery anyway. Personally, I don't have any reason to think there is anything wrong with the car. It's a well maintained Honda and everything seems to be fine. But Halfords did indeed send me a cheque for the full price of the battery - so fair play to them. I didn't end up out of pocket.

So if you have a similar problem, then complian to customer services and don't give up. A few e-mails to Halfords customer services may get you your money back. When writing to them, be nice, but firm... and persistent. It may come out in your favor, just for the effort of writing a few e-mails.

Farewell Honda S2000 ... it's been fun

I won't go into all the boring details, but after very nearly 5 years it has become necessary for me to get a more practical car. I'm afraid that I've recently sold my lovely Honda S2000.

It's a bit sad because this is a fantastic car. I have to admit that sometimes I've even felt it to be a bit of a responsibility to look after this car because it's so special. It's a great piece of engineering, and fun to drive as well. It deserves to be taken care of.

One of the nice things about owning an S2000 is that people come and talk to you about it. These cars have a great reputation amongst car enthusiasts. Although one time a young lady walked up to me when I was filling it up with fuel and said: "I love your car, it's so very ... erm ... ahh ... blue!" - she was obviously lost for words. That incident still makes me chuckle. But strangely she was right - the blue ones are the best :-)

I will also miss waving at any other S2000 owner I see when driving around. I can't remember any time when I've seen another S2000 and not been given a smile and a wave. It seems that S2000 owners are a friendly and happy bunch. Maybe it helps when you drive a brilliant car which is unlikely to let you down.

But I am sticking with Honda though, I reckon I've had 5 different Hondas now and they've all been really good cars. So it's on to Honda #6... I've also converted my Dad to Honda too, he has a couple of them at the moment.

A friend of mine who also drives an S2000 once said "people who have not owned an S2000 just don't understand". I can go along with that.

Best Station Announcement Ever

Moorgate Underground

My wife and I happened to be passing through Moorgate Underground station (in London) last night.  Just before we walked out of the exit we heard the best station tannoy announcement ever. I have tried to record it as accurately as possible, it went like this (imagine a total deadpan voice):

“Passengers are reminded not to excrete their body fluids at any place within this station, this is because this is … … … erm, disgusting”.

You had to be there I guess, but we laughed all the way home.

Virtual insults

It is entirely possible that I put a bit of weight on during my recent holiday. But in my defence the food was delicious...

The scary part is that even the internet seems to have noticed, I recently got this as a CAPTCHA question:

CAPTCHA: sizeable David

I reckon that when the internet starts hinting that you need to go on a diet then maybe it is time to pay attention :-)