Services Technology

Mr Robot on Amazon Instant Video: Love it!

I’m usually a Netflix of a BBC iPlayer person. I have long been an Amazon Prime customer but it’s only recently that I’ve started to bother with the company’s Instant Video streaming service.

I really enjoyed watching ‘The Vikings’ on Amazon’s Instant Video service but because there’s not been a download function, I’ve used the service intermittently.

That changed when I bought an Amazon Fire TV. It’s now the third ‘box’ in our house — that is, the Sky+ satellite Pay TV box is probably still primary. Although it’s a close call between that and the Apple TV. We access Netflix through the Apple TV. And then the children use the Amazon Fire TV a lot.

Now and again I’ve had a look at some of the movies.

However when I got notification from Amazon that they’d added a download option for Instant Video, I changed my tune.

All of a sudden I felt the service was significantly improved: Offline viewing is sadly still a very, very important feature despite what the mobile networks would have us all believe.

I happened to flick up the Amazon Instant Video app when I was on the train to Scotland last week. I did a bit of work for half the journey then I decided to try it out. I’d downloaded a 90 second trailer of “Mr Robot” to watch.

This is a new series just released on Amazon produced by USA Networks. It follows “Elliot”, a cyber-security engineer by day and vigilante hacker by night, who gets recruited by a mysterious underground group to destroy the firm he is paid to protect. That’s what the blurb said.

I watched the trailer and thought, “You know what, that is rather good.”

So I hit “stream” on the first episode.

I happened to be in a main station on the way up to Scotland — Darlington I think it might have been, so the train wasn’t moving. I was astonished when the first episode began to stream… in what looked like high quality.

I was further astonished to be able to watch the first episode, end-to-end, without any gaps… ON THE TRAIN! I think Amazon must have built in a heck of a lot of compression and smart algorithms combined with their AWS heritage to get the data to the Three mobile network as fast as possible.

My signal was up and down like a YoYo as you’d expect on the way up to Scotland. Yet I ended up watching almost three episodes in quick succession — all of them streamed.

I’ve obviously now downloaded the rest ready for further viewing. I would like to recommend you take a look at Mr Robot if you’re a bit of a geek.

I’ve really appreciated the virtual realism that they’ve displayed. Everything I’ve seen in the episodes is a heck of a lot more relevant and real than any of the ‘Hollywood hacker’ scenes I’ve seen before in other movies and TV shows. It’s also got some good pace about it — a bit like the energy I saw in The Social Network.

If you haven’t checked out Mr Robot, have a look. And if you are a Prime customer and haven’t tried Amazon Instant Video can I recommend downloading the app and having a play?

Clothing Services

Opening my trunk from The Chapar

Ok here we go…. My trunk from The Chapar has arrived!


And once it’s open…


The envelope stuck on the top of the box contains the notes from my stylist Hannah, the manifest and price list plus some notes on some of the products. For example there’s a bit of detail about a belt, some shirts and so on. All very useful. The sort of facts I would like to be told whilst trying things on. For example there’s some great insight on the founder of Meryn (who produce hand-made leather belts — completely new to me. This is what The Chapar is all about!)

I had a look down the price list:


I’m sure you will agree nothing is crazy. Yes the blazer/jackets are quite steep (£340/£375 is moving swiftly toward tailor rates) but that’s to be expected.

I am approaching it all with an open mind.


I did have a bit of a moment as I pulled back the orange (on-brand) tissue paper and saw all the smart clothes. And what looks like a casual tie! Is this for me?

Well. At least I’m not in a shop with folk staring.

Hannah wrote, “Please try everything,” (underlined!) in her introductory letter. I shall definitely do so.

My biggest challenge now is finding the time to actually do the trying-on.

I do like how they’ve tied bundles of clothes together with string. And I like the scarf. That’s a wicked idea as I was *just* thinking about buying one from the nearest shop given the weather’s got rather chilly. Smart thinking Hannah.

I am feeling rather excited. Let’s see how things go when I can get time to properly try everything.

Meanwhile if you’d like to try it out, head over to The Chapar and let me know how you get on.

Accessories Clothing Services

I’m trying out The Chapar’s Personal Clothing delivery service for men

Screenshot 2013-10-25 at 18.46.01

This week I was at the Great British Entrepreneurial Awards nomination shortlist reception. Held at 250 Bishopsgate in the centre of the Square Mile (and sponsored, no less, by Bizcrowd), I was there to give a little speech of welcome and to meet the gathered entrepreneurs.

I was blown away by the talent in the room. I don’t envy the judges having to make their decisions from the shortlisted companies. There were entrepreneurs from almost every industry. One pair I bumped into were Sam and Joe Middleton from personal stylist service, The Chapar. I was immediately intrigued as Sam introduced the concept: Wouldn’t it be great if someone who knew what they were talking about sent you a trunk every month containing clothes custom selected for you? Further, wouldn’t it be great if this basic service was free of charge — and that you just pay for any items you’d like to keep, sending the others back?

Yeah. I liked the sound of that.

I’ve heard of similar services in America that I’ve always wanted to try out. So I didn’t waste any time taking Sam’s card and promising to sign-up the next day.

I did sign up. But then I panicked at the online form. I panicked because I don’t really know my style. I don’t necessarily have one. Am I preppy? Or am I smart casual? That depends, you see. It almost depends what office I’m in. If I’m in the City, then I’m probably going to don a tip-top-super-hot pinstripe. If I’m working out in Angel, then I’m usually in relaxed ‘chinos-n-trainers’ look. I then hadn’t heard of half the brands they’d put up on the form to help give The Chapar’s stylists a bit of a hint.

I phoned the number on The Chapar’s website to ask for some advice. The call was answered by a delightfully sounding Chelsea. I explained that I loved the concept but didn’t feel qualified to complete the online form, nor did I feel it was appropriate for me to complete a phone style assessment with one of The Chapar’s personal stylists. This, I explained, is because I am married.

Some men like to retain their own individual sense of style and jealously guard their wardrobe. I’m not one of those people. I outsource that to my wife. This is why I married her. She knows and I’m fine with that. The last thing I want to do is go and buy something and then bring it back home and have her stare at me with the, “What were you thinking?” look. Far more efficient, I think, to have her talk to The Chapar’s personal stylist.

Chelsea — to her credit — didn’t laugh. She said that would be no problem.

My wife duly phoned up and had a chat, I think, with another of The Chapar’s team (a lady called Hannah). I haven’t had the time to ask about the experience as it’s been a busy week however I can say that my wife appeared content.

I think we’re both waiting with baited breath now.

I clicked the ‘send me a trunk’ button and a few hours later I had an email telling me that my trunk had been dispatched, along with a UPS reference. Nice.

I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with.

I am very impressed by the simplicity and ease of use. The team, too, well, the one’s I’ve been exposed to (Hannah and Chelsea) appeared highly capable. Chelsea sounded fashionable on the phone.

Now then. How will that translate to 36-year-old me?

Before I ordered the trunk, there was a helpful series of checkboxes asking if I needed anything in particular. Chinos, jackets, that sort of thing. Rather useful that. I didn’t know what to put. I didn’t want to leave the form blank so I clicked a few boxes.

I can’t wait.

Bring it on.

You can try out The Chapar for just £1 (required to verify your credit card). There are no other charges unless you’d like to purchase some of the items you’ve been sent. I would imagine it’s possible to receive a whole trunk, look through the items and return them all — free of charge. That would be pretty boring though.

The ability to try on clothes easily and without the hassle of sales assistants shoving things in your face strikes me as a key benefit. I reckon there’s a high likelihood that I’ll probably want to keep some things. The experimentation possibilities are likely to help me buy more, I’m sure. For example, it’s likely that I’d never reach for a particular jacket or item of clothing if I saw it on a shelf in a shop. But if you’ve sent it to me… I’ll at least consider it. And then you’ll have my wife sitting next to me with a glass of wine appraising it all. In a relaxed manner.

Interesting, very interesting.

I’ll let you know how I get on.

In the meantime if you’d like to give it a go, get yourself over to and let me know how you get on.

Clothing Observations Services

Moss Bros Hire: Shocked and then delighted by terrific service!

[Note, I start off negative, but that soon changes…]

There is perhaps nothing more embarrassing on a Monday morning commute than being seen carrying a Moss Bros Hire suit carrier.

I can’t stand it.

It’s so…

Well I just don’t like it.

I think it goes against my exclusive, quality viewpoint.

Perhaps I’ve witnessed too many weddings in downmarket hotels featuring chimps dressed to the nines in Moss Bros Hire attire (which, if you can ignore the contents — i.e., the chimp — does look pretty good.)

Now and again I have to resort to Moss Bros Hire because I haven’t got my arse in gear and bought a jacket for my kilt. I’ve got the whole shebang — everything — except the jacket. I can’t remember why this is the case. So whenever I have the opportunity to get stuck into the proper Highland gear, I need to hire the jacket that goes with it.

There’s a wedding coming up this weekend. Arrrrgh!

I’ve been all over the place with work. I haven’t had time to get it sorted.

I need the jacket for tomorrow.

It’s a potentially big ask.

So I walked into the Richmond branch of Moss Bros Hire at lunchtime today and asked if I could hire the ‘morning dress’ jacket for a kilt.

The chap behind the counter smiled blandly.

“That has to come from Scotland,” he tells me, delighted — I feel — that he doesn’t have to do any work. I get the impression that he’s about to deflect my invitation to take some cash from me by pulling a ‘computer-says-no’.

That’s precisely what he does.

“It takes a week to get it from Scotland… so…”

“I need it for tomorrow or at the very latest, Saturday morning,” I explain.

I’m not sure why I bothered explaining. I think it was in the vain — stupid — hope that the chap might want to actually help me out.

He flashed me another limited, bland smile, “You could try Covent Garden…”


I could.

‘What about you?’ I thought. ‘You could phone them now for me.’

I didn’t voice that. Obviously. I wanted to get out of the store as soon as possible. The can’t-be-bothered atmosphere was crushing.

“Oh, ok, thanks…” I said, walking out.


However I had to admit that my expectations were completely and totally met, if not exceeded. This is precisely what I’d expected.

Ultimately it was my fault for leaving it all so late. But you know, that’s a super opportunity to make a good amount of cash out of me.


I thought I’d see if the Bracknell store could help out.

The last time I needed to hire a jacket, my wife and I happened to be in Bracknell and happened to be walking by Moss Bros Hire. I really didn’t want to go in — I wanted to arrange a time with a tailor and get a sodding jacket made. But.. I ran out of time. So we popped into the shop there and — well, I have to say, we were served efficiently.

So I flipped out the BlackBerry, searched for “Moss Bros Bracknell” and hit the call button.

A chap called Dan answered. He was unusually bright, caring and professional. Unusual in the context of my general view of Moss Bros.

“Oh that might be a stretch,” he said, listening to my enquiry. (I’m paraphrasing but words to that effect)

“Let me make a few calls,” he said, before he took my number, “I’ll call you back in a moment.”

I walked back to the office and a minute later, Dan was back on the phone.

“Ok we can get something for you, but it’ll cost an extra £10. Is that ok?”

I practically screamed with delight.

Yes, fine.

In the intervening time I’d looked out my old hire details and quoted the contract number back to him. He looked up the details and bam… job done. I didn’t even have to bother giving him my size.

“Right that’s all sorted,” he said, “Ready for collection tomorrow.”

Get in.

I told him he’d delivered excellent service. I briefly narrated the ‘computer says no’ horror at the Richmond store and then thanked him again.

Thank you to Dan in the Bracknell store for helping me out. Excellent, excellent work.

My perspective of Moss Bros Hire has thus changed rather dramatically — for the positive. I really must update my perspective of the company’s brand. Looking around their main corporate site I see they’re offering quite a wide range of quality services — including recently launching a bespoke suit service from their flagship London store. I rather like the keen, clear pricing strategy too.

Services Technology

1&1 Internet: I can’t believe I was fake-sold email services!

I use Google Apps for all my email. I’ve been considering swapping to Microsoft’s Office365 because they’re now offering BlackBerry services and I find that particularly attractive.

However I’m pretty much sold on Google Apps. Collectively, across all my accounts, I reckon I’ve got about 20 gigabytes of email content hosted with them. I really, really like the powerful search capabilities.

So when I got a call out-of-the-blue from 1&1 (or One & One or One and One) asking if I’d like to upgrade to their mail package, I said no.

I let the chap do his pitch then I explained that I had no reason whatsoever to use their email service.

He carried on regardless.

This, I think, is becoming a bit of a trend with organisations desperate to sell stuff. Only last week my mother in law was ‘force-sold’ a mobile contract by a fly-by-night agency pretending to be Vodafone. Thankfully the team at Vodafone have reversed the damage. The salesman blatantly lied to my mother-in-law, saying he was her Vodafone account manager, then blinded her with a bit of tech speak before saying he’d send her a cheque and put her on a better price plan. Before she knew it, she’d had another line activated on her account. Bad news.

Imagine my shock to find out I’ve been a victim of this too. I thought I knew better.

The 1&1 sales chap described the amazing benefits of their MailXchange service.

I could have a free trial. No thanks. He could send me some more information if I liked, the chap said.

“Sure,” I said.

“Ok I’ll get that activated for you,” he said.

I did wonder.

The arse. Why? Well, I’ve just had an email through from 1&1 thanking me for my recent order!

“You what?”

Yup. It appears I’ve ordered MailXchange. And it’s now active on my account. Whether it’s billing me anything, I’ve no idea.

I logged into the contracts section of 1&1 to see what was going on. I couldn’t locate this new service to deactivate it.

Either way, I’m rather annoyed.

This is what it takes nowadays, I suspect: Bullshit. WHY would I want to buy another email service, especially when I’ve told you’ve I’ve already GOT Google Apps and that I’m utterly delighted with it? Do a bit of a ducking and diving and activate the service anyway and see what happens? 😉

Not good.

Perhaps I’m not going to get billed until I set up an account?

Or maybe I’ve unconsciously agreed to take out a raft of MailXchange services that I don’t quite know about?

I’ve emailed their support straight back to say “Switch this shit off” (I used nicer language) but I now fear I’m going to get stuck in service-level hell. (i.e. “No, you need to do this-n-that Sir”, “We can’t actually help”, “Have you spoken to some other department?”)

We shall see. My expectations are set.

I think it’s time to move the last of my domains away from there. I just couldn’t be bothered up until now.

Thanks very much for the hassle, the ambiguity and the mis-selling 1&1.

Not quite a quality experience.

1&1 MailXchange email

Update: I just did a search for 1&1 to locate their sodding front-page (quicker that typing www..) and found this rather helpful domain transfer instruction page from I’ve got hundreds of domains hosted with them so I think that is most definitely the way ahead. Note to self: Sort this out soon.

You know what, I wonder what 123-reg would charge to login to my 1and1 account and sort out the transfers for me so I don’t even have to think? That would be useful.