January 17, 2017 Leave a comment

Last month, we came back to the UK after some time abroad.

Since we were moving back before Christmas, and there was going to be chaos for a while, I rented a car from Heathrow for a couple of weeks. Through the various discount voucher companies, I found a no-brainer of a deal: GBP160 for 9 days for a Golf Estate (we had a family of 4 with luggage), brokered by AutoEurope, with the rental from GreenMotion. The excess was not quite as stupid as it can be – GBP1500 – but it was the usual case of knowing that if you put a foot wrong at any point, the bargain would turn out to be a horrendous money pit! That’s likely how they make their profit.

Now – I ‘wised up’ to these deals a long time ago, so I had an annual policy, and then always turned down every offer of insurance. The policy seems pretty straightforward and not too onerous, and I was nervous of the catch that had to be there, but I kept it and used it.

So – when I reversed the high-spec Volvo C70 (we upgraded for GPB25) into a bollard, my heart sank! Definitely my fault, and no way to hide it. I was returning the car to GreenMotion that day, so I took refuge in my excess insurance policy, and paid out the GBP939 for the damage to the bumper and panel on my card.

A few days later, when the statement was on my credit card, I phoned carhireexcess, got put through to their insurance company OSG, and got sent a form. Completed form, drivers’ licence, documents from Green Motion, card statement, all got scanned and emailed off, and I hoped.

And… to my surprise, a few days later, without a single further question or attempt to wriggle out of it, I received a short email: “We’ll reimburse you in full”. Another few days later, I received a cheque (cheque!!?). I paid that in, and this morning, it cleared. Paid in full!

So – to my surprise and happiness, this is a positive review for what was a no-nonsense policy and process. I’ll have to wait and see whether my premiums go up elsewhere, or whether they insure me again, but for the moment, I’m pleasantly surprised, and will use them again.


Categories: Random

Certify Expenses iOS app review

January 6, 2017 Leave a comment

I used Expensify at my old company before changing job and being given Certify at my new.
Certify’s app is horrible. If you value your employees, or at least value their opinion, don’t use it.

Expensify is a native app that works offline, syncs intelligently, and offers automatic receipt transcription.

Certify just fills me with hate. It looks and feels like a web app packaged as an application. For example – it appears to offer caching receipt photos locally with a sync to the server, so that must mean it works offline, right? No. You are required to log in EVERY TIME you open the app, although it does auto-enter your password, and if you aren’t online – you can’t log on.

It does dynamically change fields based on the type of expense; good for all sorts of back end statistics, I’m sure, but bad for actually entering them.

I’m serious: the ability to simply snap a photo as you get out of the cab / step away from the counter, makes expenses truly frictionless, and removes an annoying admin burden from people who want to do their job. But that’s Expensify, or other similar products – it’s definitely not Certify.

Categories: Uncategorized

Amazon Echo can’t discover Hive Home devices

January 1, 2017 Leave a comment

I’m having a really annoying problem with Amazon Echo.

I’ve just bought some Hive Home smart devices, including Thermostat, Hub, and light bulbs, but for some reason I can’t get the Echo to discover them.

A fair amount of googling has shown that no-one else seems to have this problem. The problem appears to stem from some issue with the Hive skill itself. When I search for it in the Amazon store, it doesn’t come up, although it should definitely be there.

Stranger still, if I search for “Hive” as a skill, Amazon reports three hits, but only shows one – a bee quiz game. While the Hivehome skills must be there, they are for some reason hidden.


I phoned Amazon and they gave me a URL that takes me directly to the skill. However, when I enable it, although it shows as enabled, it is not listed under my list of available skills in the Alexa app

So – it seems the skill is there, but it’s hidden from me. It feels like a country restriction, but I have my account, and Echo, set to English (UK), and Hive is primarily a UK product.

Hive is also a ‘strange’ skill – it’s a Smarthome skill, but not in the Smarthome skill list. It’s treated as a standard skill, but it isn’t one. I’m not sure if this contributes too. I’ve tried using Discover Devices under Smarthome, which is the recommended way of discovering Hive devices, but nothing shows up. This is also if putting the Hive Hub in discover mode (turning off and on again!).

I’ve spoken to Amazon, and have also created a new account from scratch, but the problem remains. Other skills seem to work fine!

I’ve emailed Amazon, and will see if they come up with any other suggestions.

Categories: Uncategorized

January 1, 2017 Leave a comment

Categories: Uncategorized Edelweiss Chairs

December 31, 2016 Leave a comment

Again, not the best build quality.

We bought two pairs of these to go with our table, and of the four chairs, one could not be assembled as the bolt would not get purchase in the fixing. We complained, and they immediately sent out a second pair zero charge, with a really great customer service.

However, I sent heavily on one of the new chairs today, and again one of the screws popped out. Given we have them less than a week, this is pretty shocking build quality – a 33% failure rate.

Asked us to send the faulty chair back with the same courier, which was completely impractical given it would take 10 minutes to package it in the replacement box while he waited. We simply didn’t send it back, and so far they haven’t said anything.

Categories: Uncategorized Edelweiss Dining table

December 31, 2016 Leave a comment

[EDIT: I wrote this with inline photos when I was off-line, but then deleted the photos from my camera roll later. Therefore the photos were deleted before I could post this and no longer available, leaving just the text.]

I just had my first experience of, having arrived back in the UK after 6 years away, and so thought I’d share as a newcomer to the brand.

We ordered an Edelweiss Ash&White dining table, that looks strikingly stylish at a very good price of around £320 for the extending version. The middle panel has to be stored separately rather than be concealed under the table, but, for the price, can’t complain!

What I can complain about, however, is the engineering. Assembly involves bolting the legs on, and then fitting the clasps that lock the extension pieces together. You’re supplied the clasps and self-tapping screws, and there are pre-drilled marker holes.

The trouble is, those marker holes are very shallow – only half a mm. And the wood is very hard. In short, it’s impossible for the screw to actually get deep enough into the wood to self-tap and screw in. You have to drill a deeper hole first – since I didn’t have a drill, I used a very thin torx bit for my electric screwdriver.

The clasps themselves are even worse. The holes are too far apart by 2-3mm, such that the clasps can’t actually close fully. But, if you put a bit of effort into it and force them closed, they will close – by pulling and bending (actually un-bending) the metal hook of the clasp!

The hook before
Doesn’t close…
Push real hard

Now it’s closed – but look at the hook now!
The thing is – if you do this, it does work! It’s horrible, but it works, making me wonder if it was deliberate.

Still, the table is sturdy and big enough for our young family, so for the price, I guess we can’t complain too much. (don’t get me started on the chairs!)

Categories: Uncategorized

Most efficient speed for a hand coffee bean grinder

September 27, 2016 Leave a comment

Yeah, well…..

I did that thing you do a while back – buy some beans at a cafe, but not be convinced that I’ll get into single origin beans in a big way, so I bought the cheapest quality grinder I could – a Hario MSS-1B hand grinder. The idea was that if I found I was enjoying freshly ground beans (read: have time to actually bother enjoying them), then I’d buy an electric grinder.

That ‘thing you do’, is using it once, then putting it away, until, a few months later, I’m completely out of ground coffee, and find myself needing to use my beans and grinder to get a cuppa.

But one thing bothered me when I was using it: should I turn the handle at the speed that ‘feels like it’s doing the most grinding’, with the most resistance, or should I just turn it as fast as possible, even though it feels like it’s not doing as much work. I had theories about the beans not falling into the grinding stone gap as fully at max speed when compared to the highest resistance, etc.

Well, I did a quick test. I counted 40 beans into the grinder, and ran two grinds with each approach – coarse and medium. The results were pretty demonstrative:

At highest resistance:  Coarse grind:  20s.   Medium grind: 2min30s

At fastest speed (2-3x): Coarse grind: 15s.  Medium grind: 50s

So, yeah, even though ‘as fast as you can’ doesn’t feel like it’s doing as much work, evidently that’s because of the lower resistance per rotation, but the number of rotations more than makes up for it.

So, grind like the wind.

Categories: Uncategorized