Ah dear, I didn’t have a good experience with Office365 this evening

The Pursuit of Quality is now ‘live’, albeit in ‘beta’ (that is, I’m not talking about it on my other channels as yet). This means that email is now arriving and I think I need a dedicated email bucket so I can keep things separate.

I don’t like having all my email in one box. For me, it makes it difficult to focus. I have a Google Apps account for personal and another for Mobile Industry Review.

I’ve been itching to try out Microsoft’s all new Office365 service and this evening I sat down and created an account. I went for the E3 plan — £15/month — that came with Office Professional Plus. That was quite attractive as it’s basically every single Office app. Yes please, I thought.

I’ve got Office for Mac standard version, but I thought £15/month for both the standard 25GB account and a monthly license for all the Office apps was genius.


And there is a but.

I thought I was signing up for a month-to-month term. It’s only when I completed the transaction that I noticed it was a 1-year agreement. Whoops.

Screen Shot 2011 11 22 at 20 52 29

That, I can deal with, given the fact you’re getting the Office suite included.

The next problem? I went to download the Office apps (or, get the license key to unlock Office Professional) and got a bit of a shock. It’s for PC-only. The whole deal is PC-only. The control panel instructed me to go out and buy a copy of Office for Mac!

Right. No, that’s not acceptable.

So I looked for the cancel button. Cancel, cancel, cancel. My expectations were totally blown.

And..arse, there’s no cancel button.

So I created a support ticket. I hope they’re efficient, I hope they don’t make me commit to a whole year.

And goodness me, how wrong could I have been? I just assumed..

I think it’s over to Google Apps for The Pursuit of Quality email hosting then.

Microsoft: I tried!


Thank you and hello

Just a quick note to thank the team at SourceWire/Response Source who very kindly sent out my message to lots of PR firms this morning. It’s very exciting to see the emails arrive in — there’s lots of brilliant suggestions there already so I’m getting to work. Thank you! 🙂

Hotels Technology

The Chancery Court Hotel: It’s all about the towels

Pictured above is the rather wonderful Chancery Court Hotel on High Holborn in Central London. I used to have an office on Kingsway just round the corner from the hotel. A few days after moving into the office I decided to host a meeting in the Chancery Court’s bar — I presumed it had one. I thought it would be a little bit nicer than the rather boring meeting room in the office. I wasn’t wrong. If anything, it was way, way better. Indeed, the bar had a dedicated area that — if you visited regularly — you could use for meetings: Two massive green leather Chesterfields facing each other. It was fantastic. I began to hold all my meetings there, occasionally popping through to the Lobby Lounge for lunch or breakfast.

At this point back in 2006, the Chancery Court was a Renaissance Hotel — one of the Marriott’s super-brand hotels. It was most certainly deserving of that status. Indeed, I regularly found the other hotels in the Renaissance chain wanting compared to the Chancery Court.

One of the key quality benchmarks for hotels that I established around this time was towels-in-the-public-bathrooms. It had taken me a while but I began to notice that only the best hotels I visited had real towels in their public bathrooms. Little ones rolled up, for example. Or placed in a nice pile by the sink. It made the experience so much nicer than paper or the noisy dryers. I know it sounds silly but I really did prioritise going to the Chancery Court because of this.

I’m always constantly surprised by the lack of proper towels in other supposedly super-high-quality hotels. I recognise that there’s probably an environmental factor to consider here.

I had a look through my Flickr archive and located this photo (4pm, February 26, 2006 according to the timestamp!) that I took for a personal blog post on this subject. This photo illustrates how the Chancery Court used to do it — I haven’t been into the hotel recently to verify it’s still similar though. I wonder if they’ve swapped to paper towels? I should also point out that the last time I stayed there (about 6 months ago) the hotel was about to undergo a change of management away from Marriott to — it looks like — a privately owned and managed hotel. I have to say, I’m liking the smooth new website.

Have you been to a hotel that has proper towels in the public bathrooms? Surely this is the mark of a top class institution?

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.


Plantronics Audio 648 headset: I’m pretty impressed

Often I just want the decision made for me.

I don’t want to have to think.

I’ve been having problems with headsets for quite a while. Whenever anyone’s suggested a Skype call, I’ve either declined politely or accepted with grim awareness that the rubbish headset I’ve got will screw things up. A long time ago I paid £35 (or something like that) for a plastic Gigaware headset in Dixons. I think it was one of the Dixons Taxfree shops at London Heathrow. I was desperate, I needed to be able to use Skype when I was abroad and,… boom, these were the ONLY pair in stock at the time.

They do work.

Just, not very well.

Indeed, every 30-45 minutes, they would stop working. My audio would significantly distort at this point and then I’d start getting folk interrupting me during the call telling me they can’t hear me very well.

Eventually I realised that if I removed the Gigaware USB plug, then put it in again, everything would be fine. Which moved me to a rather ludicrous “I’ll be back in just a moment” interruption every 30-odd minutes, whenever I’m on a Skype call. Ridiculous I know. Just… it’s what you do, right? I haven’t had time to go and figure out a better option.

When I’ve asked around, no one seemed to have a definitive recommendation. No one could name a particular brand of headset. So I’ve just delayed the purchase.

Until last week. I finally gave in and invested a bit of time to find a decent headset.

The answer?

Well, I just went to and clicked on their Accessories page. I then clicked into Headsets and started shopping. Frankly I just looked for the most expensive one. I was pretty enamoured with the Everyman Freetalk Wireless but then I thought, “Do I actually need wireless?”

I decided no. So I looked around for some wired USB headsets…

I’ve known the Plantronics brand for quite a while. They have a good reputation as far as I am aware so I perused Skype’s offering in detail. My reasoning was simple: Skype know about headsets for VOIP. They’ll have reviewed a few of them and, you know, weeded out the dross.

I settled on the Platronics Audio 648 model because they were available via Amazon Prime immediately. I also liked the fact that they were Skype certified — again, I don’t want to have to think. They’re the behind-the-head style which suited me fine. I really didn’t care whether it was over-the-head or behind-the-head.

Oh and yes, sorry Skype. I didn’t want to take a chance with your online fulfilment services. I ordered via Amazon and the 648s arrived right-away. (My recent policy, the subject of another post, is to always buy through Amazon Prime where possible to avoid any exceptions whatsoever).

I’m pleased to say that I used the 648s in anger (i.e. properly) to record one of the 361 Degrees podcasts at the weekend. I’m delighted to report that they’re incredibly comfortable, the audio fidelity appears fantastic. They seem particularly good with voice. I have been listening to music with them as well, but that was *not* the primary use case — it’s all about voice. Ben and Rafe (my other podcasting buddies) sounded super-clear. And I didn’t have to remove the USB plug during the call either.

One negative: Getting into the packaging was a flipping arse. I’m embarrassed to point out that I actually cut one of my fingers opening it. I don’t know why folk don’t just make super-easy packaging nowadays. I was seriously annoyed but that experience. Thanks for that, Plantronics. You’d think those chaps would know how to manufacture some easy to open packaging, eh?


Just how good is the Nokia Lumia 800? Very good indeed!

I’ve been using the Nokia Lumia 800 for just over a week, full time now. It has temporarily replaced the BlackBerry Curve I normally use for business work (I also use a Bold 9900 and an iPhone).

I most certainly miss the physical keyboard of the BlackBerry, however I have to say that the Nokia Lumia 800 does appear business-ready. I’ve been able to hit the ground running — I’ve even managed to use the “I’m going to be late” function in the Windows Phone calendar.

I like the fact that when I reach for the Lumia, I can easily feel it. This might sound silly, but I can discern the identity of the device from the feel of it. In my pocket there’s usually another phone so being able to quickly find the one I want is rather important. The Lumia does feel gorgeous in the hand.

I used the British Airways app on the Lumia to fly from London Heathrow to Dusseldorf and found the experience flawless. What’s more, I felt good using the Lumia. It may not be Nokia’s absolute tip-top super-smartphone (I suspect the 800 dollar Lumia 1000 or something will be along soon) however it most certainly looks smart. Looks are important. There’s a reason I wear a particular suit, use a particular pen, carry a particular bag. They create a specific impression. The Lumia, I’m pleased to say, adds to this impression. It doesn’t detract. To be clear, a Nokia N97 did detract.


Hunting for some decent Skype headphones

These are the Plantronics Audio 648 headphones. I found them via the Skype site — and then I ordered them (as always) via Amazon Prime. Free next day delivery? Yes please. Plus, they were a tenner cheaper via Amazon than on Skype’s own e-commerce site.