Google launches Office Killer: Premier Apps Suite

It started just over a year ago when Goog launched G-mail for your domain. This allowed individuals and organisations to host a domain with multiple users on Google’s G-mail platform. No longer were you limited to a or domain, as now you could bring your own and still get the full power of Google’s industry leading search and spam fighting tools. Indeed, I have been happily using this service since then on my own domain.

Then over the course of the next year, Google began to add extra features such as Calendar, Talk and Page Creator (and of course docs and spreadsheets), but all the time it remained a free service, mainly used by early adopters.

However, as of today, the gloves are off. Google have launched Premier Apps, which brings them fully into the enterprise market with added features such as 99.9% uptime for e-mail, 24/7 technical support, 10GB storage per user, an API to integrate with existing IT systems, and all for just $50 (£26) a year.

I would have to say I agree with John Battelle, when he referred to the news as a potential office killer; I think this is the beginning of the end Microsoft’s Office suite as we know it.

One of his readers pointed out that there is currently no stampede of users to Google Apps once you step outside the tech world, but I feel that’s mainly because many businesses aren’t yet aware of the alternatives. I have friends and family who run non-tech businesses, and they have been keen adopters of Google Apps once I demonstrated to them what it can do.

Google Apps kills Office in many areas; such as backups (to gain the level of redundancy and reliability of Google’s storage infrastructure you would have to spend a fortune), collaboration, and spam filtering on their e-mail servers, to name just a few. These are all real problems that businesses now face, and I think Google is leading the way with it’s solutions. It’s only a matter of time before the customer’s follow.

Neighbouring uk postcodes

I just found a useful file on Dan Huby’s website where he has compiled a list of all the neighbouring postal regions in the UK. This is useful if you want to build a postcode based search script, as you can match the actual searched for postcode as well as adjoining postcodes.

For example, from this file, the neighbouring postcodes of GU are:


Ofcom to launch 03 numbers

As part of its national telephone numbering plan, Ofcom will be introducing 03 numbers later this year as an alternative to chargeable 08 numbers such as 0870. These numbers will cost exactly the same as geographic 01 and 02 numbers, and therefore be allowed as part of any inclusive minute allowances or call discount schemes in exactly the same way as their geographic cousins.

Initially, some of the 03 number range will be reserved for holders of certain 08 numbers. This will allow businesses to change their 08 number to its 03 equivalent if they deem it necessary.

0845 -> 0345
0844 -> 0344
0870 -> 0370
0871 -> 0371

Installing Ubuntu on a Toshiba Satellite P15-S420 Laptop

I installed Ubuntu on my Toshiba laptop tonight. Unfortunately the DVD drive had broken, so I had to use PXE to network install from another server in my house. That went fairly smoothly, but once Ubuntu was installed the integrated Atheros wireless network card wasn’t working. To fix it I had to install some linux restricted kernel modules via:

sudo apt-get install linux-restricted-modules-2.6.17-11-generic

Except, replace 2.6.17-11-generic with the output of uname -r

Once that was installed it all started to work quite nicely.

Broadband, Phone & TV Deals February 2007

I always like to make sure that my friends and family are getting the best deals for the communications services they use in their home, and so often they will ask me to go through the options available to them. Since I do this quite regularly, I thought it would be worthwhile publishing it on my blog.

Broadband and Phone
The purpose of this comparison is to compare the cheapest broadband + phone options from a variety of providers. In some cases I have picked components from different providers that work together well, such as broadband only from a cable operator + a free sip phone number from a VOIP provider. NB: Not all packages will be available to all UK residents, you will need to check with each service provider for their coverage.

Provider(s) Speed Package Name(s) Price
Virgin Media + Sip Gate 2mbps Virgin M Broadband + Sipgate Phone £14.99
Andrews & Arnold <= 8mbps Max 1 (ADSL Max + Wholesale BT phone line) £29.98
TalkTalk <= 8mbps Talk3 + Free Broadband £19.99

Broadband + Basic TV + Phone (Triple Play)
In this example, my definition of Basic TV is digital TV that includes Sky One and Discovery Channel (both of which aren’t available on Free-to-air TV)

Provider(s) Speed Package Name(s) Price
Virgin Media + Sip Gate 2mbps VM: 2 for £20 M Broadband + LV + Sipgate Phone £20
Sky + BT 2mbps Sky: See Speak Surf 2 mixes + BT Line Rental £26

NTL becomes Virgin Media

On the 4th of July 2006, Virgin Mobile lost its independence as NTL completed a £962 million take over of the the mobile operator, and with that single stroke the combined company became the UK’s first quadruple play company offering television, phone, broadband and mobile services.

On the 8th of February 2007, NTL and Virgin Mobile complete a rebranding exercise which sees themselves emerge as Virgin Media.

Verdict so far

After looking around the newly launched Virgin Media site, my first impressions aren’t great; The entire site seems to be written in small print. There is a bewildering array of package options, with confusing add-ons and special offers. The package names are pretty naff “M, L, XL, Very Impressive, Very Impressive complete”. The prices are confusing (Q: how much does it cost to add sky movies and sports? A: £37, £31, £23.50 depending on the size of your TV package).

Value for money

Looking at the prices, if you wanted to go for the full triple play package of Sky with Movies and Sports + Phone + Broadband, then comparing Virgin to Sky:

Virgin Media – Full TV + Phone + Broadband = £61 per month*
Sky – Full TV + Phone + Broadband = £59.50
* based on 3 for £30 plus movies and sports package @ £31

So sky wins on this comparison. What I would really like to see is them doing something a little innovative. How about a mobile / sip hybrid product like BT’s Fusion phone, or even some IPTV.

No excuse for bad spelling

One of my favourite features of Firefox 2 is that it has a built-in spell checker. This kicks in whenever you type into a text area, by simply underlining any incorrectly spelt words. It can’t yet correct bad grammar or bad content but it’s definitely a step in the right direction 🙂

So if, like me, you prefer to write in British English rather than American English, then you can install additional dictionaries with a few easy steps:

1) Right click somewhere in the textarea field above.
2) Select Languages > Add Dictionaries.
3) This will take you to the Firefox dictionaries list.
4) Select your local language file and click on it.
5) Wait a few seconds, then click on the Install link.
6) Once it has completed installing, restart firefox.
7) Right click in a textarea and select your newly installed language from the Languages sub-menu.

Add value to your house through a loft conversion

A good friend of mine is an expert in the art of loft conversions, and so after a little encouragement he has decided to put his knowledge up on the web for all to read. I promised him a shameless plug for his new blog, so here it is! A loft conversion can add a considerable amount of value to your property if done correctly, and in general, could give up to a 50% return on the cost of its installation. So if you want to learn about things such party wall agreements, building regulations, rear dormers and what on earth a hip to gable is, then loftblog is the place to go.

Happy birthday fon, and thanks for the free routers

Fon was one year old on Monday 5th of February, and now to celebrate they are giving away 10,000 free fonera routers. Once these have all gone, that will bring the total number of fon users around the world to over 80,000. An impressive feat for such a youngster.

So if you haven’t already, go get your free fon router!