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The Great Outdoors

Yesterday was a bit of a landmark day. I've been harness-training Chicken for a little while now and for the first time we went outside, as you can see from the little video below.


As you can imagine, harness-training a bird isn't an easy thing to do because they're not going to just let you slip the harness on like a dog would wear a collar and lead. The first few times she took big chunks out of my fingers, but she's got better every time and this morning I got her kitted-up in just a couple of minutes.

The intention is that when the lockdown is over, I'll take her out with me every so often. Like you walk your dog, I'll go out for a walk with my bird. Like so many other bird owners, I want her to have an enriched life beyond the cage. Whilst she flies around my house and is my velco-like sidekick whilst I potter around, I think she'd love to experience the outdoors, especially during the warmer summer months.

If you've got a parrot and want to go down this route, take a look at the Aviator Harness. They're slightly more pricey than regular harnesses you find in pet shops, but they're extremely well-made and more comfortable for the bird to wear as there's no metal bits remotely close to them. They include a tutorial DVD and you can also get lead-extenders so that you can free-flight train them.

As we get more adventurous and go a bit further afield, I'll post a few more videos of our travels.
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iPhone SE (2020)

Is this phone some wafer-thin, all-screen vision of the future? No. But it's very good at what it does….

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Huawei B535

So here we are, all working from home. Before the lockdown I used to work one or two days a week from home, but having now gone to the point where I'm barely stepping out of the door (apart from taking my daily government sanctioned hour of exercise), I thought that perhaps my 4G router could do with being a little more "robust".

I have to say that the MiFi I've had for the last year has performed really well. I stream Netflix, Amazon Prime, do the odd bit of online gaming and RDP to servers over my work's VPN, but having an improved router would definitely give me more flexibility and reliability. I've not been able to use my Pi-based cloud storage since moving house and using anything over ethernet has been out of the question. It's time the MiFi became a backup device.

Enter the Huawei B535. It's quite a nifty little 4G router, which looks more like the usual sort of thing you hook up to a phone line.

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No phone-line required: Bear shown for size-comparison purposes.

When it comes to getting things set up, it's as easy as the MiFi was. You just pop your SIM card in and switch on. The SSID name and password is on the back of the router (which I've obviously blurred out here). On your first connection, you're prompted for a few things to finalise the setup, but you can make things as complicated or as simple as you like. My network is hidden, is not the default, I've setup dynamic DNS and am routing HTTPS traffic to my Pi so my cloud storage is back in action. Virtually anything you can do with a normal router, you can do with this one. The only extra lights you'll see on the front of this router versus a "normal" one is the network signal strength indicator. It's a pretty solid device.

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Of course, that's not all. It's got four ethernet ports at the back and connectors for antennae should you want to boost the reliability and speed of your connection. Antennae can be either internal for a little boost, or you can get larger antennae that you can fix to the side of your house if you want a big boost.

For the moment, however, I'm happy. Apart from being able to use 3G and 4G, the router will also lock on to a 4G+ signal if it can get one - and this means I've been able to get some quite good speeds at times, as you'll see below.


Speeds vary depending on the weather, who else is using the mast, time of day and a butterfly flapping its wings in China, but my download speeds very between ADSL and Fibre broadband on a fixed line. My upload speeds always seem to surpass that. The ping is the only area that I'd say could do with some improvement, staying very similar to how it was before, but I've not noticed any issues whatsoever on the odd game or two of Fortnite, so perhaps that's less of a problem these days. The connection has hopped between regular 4G and 4G+, only once or twice dropping down to 3G, but even then I've still managed 6MB as a download speed. I really can't complain.

The most pleasing aspect of this, however, is that I now have unlimited data usage (well, it's 1000GB, but even I couldn't max that out) and it's just £17 a month. Most fixed-line broadband is more expensive than this. A quick look on uSwitch right now shows PlusNet as the ones coming closest on price at £17.99, but given how they've gone downhill in recent years, no thanks.

As I'm writing this I'm streaming music and downloading a game in the background - and nothing is stuttering. The router can handle up to 64 devices at once. Should I ever move house again, I'll just pick up the router and shift it without having to think about changing telephone lines. At worst, I might have to consider using an external antenna, but that's not the end of the world.

Should 5G ever come to my area then I can really see this becoming more mainstream as it becomes faster than a fibre connection. In the meantime, though, all I can say is that I'm extremely happy with the upgrade and would definitely recommend it. With the lockdown looking like it's going to carry on for at least another month or so, a good internet connection helps you connect with people, even if you can't go out and meet them. A worthwhile investment.
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A Reminder

This is a picture of my son and I, taken during the summer of last year. It feels a universe away now.

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As the Easter bank-holiday finishes and the UK death toll for this pandemic passes 10,000 I have to remind myself that this awfulness will come to an end one day. Without wanting to use The Queen's Vera Lyn reference, I'm holding on to a future time where we'll be able to do this again, to be like we were in this photo. It's been a month since I last gave my son a hug, but self-isolation is what the UK population needs to do at the moment. It's hard, but how I'm feeling right now is minor in comparison to the people who've already lost someone. It's the sacrifice that we've all got to go through to ensure that things will be OK again in the future.

I'm no Conservative and I'm definitely no fan of Boris Johnson, but please do what the blond buffoon says and stay at home. Thank you.
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Ten Reasons Why

Firstly, take a look at this:


…and now you've had a chuckle, read on. Here's ten reasons why you shouldn't own a parrot. Read More...
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