Daily Archives: March 30, 2007

Sheffield, with US support

I spent the last couple of days working in the Sheffield area. Well – when I punched the town name into the IBM travel reservation system, the nearest hotels I could find were in Sheffield, so I plumped for a Holiday Inn up there.

I’m not familiar with Sheffield, I’ve only ever passed through before, and I had a lot of work to do on Wednesday night so I can’t say that I saw much of the city. I didn’t know my way, but that wasn’t an issue because I had the TomTom with me.

Except… well… I picked Navigate to Point Of Interest, and chose the relevant Holiday Inn from the list. Once I was within 3 minutes of the place, I started to keep an eye out. I sailed past the sharp left that led up a ramp to the Royal Victoria Holiday Inn, following the satnav directions, and turned left further along the road onto a busy road which led me away from the premises. Then I tried putting the postcode and address of the hotel in, and that confused things further. The problem is that the hotel itself is about 40 feet above the main road, and to reach it you need to drive up a ramp that crosses another road via a bridge… basically the satnav was not set up to deal with this at all, and it took me 20 minutes to navigate back around to the entrance.

Things didn’t go any better at check-in, where I wasn’t greeted particularly warmly. The receptionist pointed me to the lift and said I was on the second floor. Up I went. Stepping out of the lift, I looked for directions to my room (260). There was a sign pointing one way[1] for rooms 221-258, and another pointing another direction for rooms 261-270. Spot the omission.

Wandered around and eventually found my room. Quite nice. Very modern, nice bathroom. I switched on the light by the desk… nothing happened. Then I found that the bulb was missing. I swapped a bulb from the light by the bed… nothing happened. Fine. I turned on the floor lamp by the desk… nothing happened. Ah, that had been unplugged. I could see why: two sockets by the desk, one of which was taken by the power for the broadband hub. I left the the lamp unplugged, and powered my laptop instead.

Next, I connected the laptop to the network cable on the desk… no connection. Hmm. I rebooted, and still wasn’t given an IP address. Disabled my firewall, rebooted the router, tried various things. Nothing. I called reception, and they put me through to the support department, in the US.

– welcome to Guesttek support, can I first please take the telephone number of the hotel where you are staying?
– errr… yes… just let me find it…
– it should be printed on the phone, sir
– you’d think so, wouldn’t you? it isn’t!
(pause whilst I scrabbled through the papers by the phone, which was positioned by the bed – found it)
– OK, the number is +44… hello? hello?
(they had cut me off)

Excellent.

At this point I decided to use my 3G card instead.

Room service arrived. The lady asked if everything was alright with my stay.
I explained that I didn’t have a network connection, and I hadn’t been able to find the room.

5 minutes later, whilst I was eating, the telephone rang – “Mr Piper, would you like me to put you through to the helpline?”. Well, were they going to cut me off again? I also pointed out that the phone was by the bed, on the other side of the room from the desk. The receptionist expressed surprise – wasn’t there a phone on the desk? No, definitely not. Look, I said, I’ve got work to do and dinner to eat – leave it.

I then had a frustrating evening fighting with an iffy 3G/GPRS connection. Not great.

In the morning, there was a telephone charge on my bill. I can only assume that they were trying to charge me for calling their support line. I don’t make a habit of filling out hotel comment forms, but in this case, I left a short essay detailing the inadequate lighting, network and directions to my room… haven’t heard from the hotel yet.

I had just as frustrating a time trying to get out of Sheffield with computer-aided support as I had trying to find my way in, but at least I made it to the office on time.

[1] I don’t actually remember the precise numbers – but there was a gap where 260 should have been.

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Scrapbooks, now Scrapblogs

A few weeks ago I had a play with Tumblr. My “scrapbook” is still there, and getting automatically generated by my adding links to del.icio.us or finding new Plazes… but I haven’t done a great deal more with it.

Today I was reading Tara Hunt’s excellent HorsePigCow marketing uncommon blog and learned about Scrapblog, a new startup with yet more interactive web candy for us to play with. Except… this time, it’s really about building scrapbooks. It’s a very rich Flash-based application (possibly soon to run on Apollo) which allows you to build galleries and screenshows in a scrapbook style. You can upload photos directly or pull them from Flickr, Yahoo, Photobucket or Webshots; you can add “stickers” (logos and patterns), change backgrounds, add frames and text. Once you’ve done all that, you can publish your Flash-based Scrapblog on their site, or share the static images on Flickr, where you could create a photoset and run a slideshow in a similar way.

Scrapblog

I liked it – very easy to use, with an “iLife” feel to it, and of course it just runs out of the browser. I don’t generally build these kind of slideshows, but this was fun to play with. You can take a look at the results.

Once you’ve uploaded the scrapblog, the site offers tagging, profiles, comments, and feeds – everything that we’d expect these days.

I’m not keen on the name, simply because I’m wary of all of the attempts to brand things as blogs when they are not. Other than that, a very cool site to play around with.

Scrapblog hasn’t formally launched yet, but if you read to the end of Tara’s post, you’ll discover a way in to try out the preview version.

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