LOW-FI WI-FI?: What could be blocking your internet signal

VIJAY SHAH via TecNovedosos

Having unfettered and uninterrupted access to wireless internet, is for those of use in the developed world, now as essential as having a continuous supply of electricity, gas and other utilities. We increasingly spend much of our lives online, and the things we need to do, such as shopping and filling in government forms are moving online too. So when your wireless signal becomes weak or choppy, the frustration is palpable.

If you happen to have a rubbish signal, with constant disconnections or super-slow download speeds, it could be your provider, but it could be due to your surroundings. Presented below are some of the things in your home or office that might be interfering with the quality of your Wi-Fi. This article is based off a feature published in the Spanish-language site TecNovedosos.

 

Objects that cause the Wi-Fi to drop or fizzle out are often referred to as ‘interference sources’ or ‘wireless barriers’ in the industry. So what are these barriers and how can you solve the low fidelity of your wireless ‘fidelity’ and get back to happy surfing.

Firstly the cause might be a mirror or a metal surface in the locality. Metal has a high interference capacity, according to the technical support guys at top tech firm Apple. Indeed having flat metallic objects in the same room is by far the most drastic means of limiting the strength of your signal. So it’s time to give the full-length mirror the boot. Just don’t break it, unless you are keen on seven years of bad Wi-Fi luck.

Another leading cause of interference is bulletproof or toughened glass. Its thickness and reflective properties act as a means of soaking up and reflecting the radio waves that propel Wi-Fi. Unless you work for a top-secret agency or military complex, bulletproof glass is probably not going to be an issue for you, but for the average user, things like glass tables, desks, or fancy glass ornaments can cause major interference with the Wi-Fi signal, and you should either remove or replace these sort of objects to lessen the interference capabilities they have.

Web connections can also be affected by the presence of other appliances, especially fridges, washing machines and radiators. Their piping, which often contains liquids like water, can act as ‘sponges’ that drown the signals. The impact of white goods is considerably less than glass or metal, but this is something worth considering if you are browsing through IKEA’s latest sales on the laptop while in the kitchen, and the product pictures take forever to load.

While you’re in the kitchen looking for Wi-Fi signal thieves, you can also add your microwave oven, gas/electric oven and even baby monitors and drones to the suspects list. These devices emit electromagnetic waves that can impede the radio waves used by wireless internet. Both types of signal operate at a frequency of around 2.4 Hz, so can cancel each other out. Other suspects include webcams, cordless phones and the telly. Healthy technological competition this ain’t.

You should keep your router as far away from other electrical devices and shiny surfaces as much as possible. Most of the people I know keep their routers in the hallways or passages of their homes.

As the festive season approaches, you will be pleased to know that Christmas lights can also be a problem for the signal. As with microwaves, lights generate their own electromagnetic fields which can play havoc with Wi-Fi connectivity, so don’t go online while decorating the Christmas tree!.

The popular expression goes ‘the walls have ears’, well in the case of bad signal troubleshooting, if you live in a house that has stone, cement or brick walls, then it may be time for you to move out if you want a better signal, which given that most homes are made of these materials might make house-hunting a bit tricky. The thicknesses of modern construction materials can act as a barrier to getting the perfect level of connectivity. The best way to mitigate this is to keep your router on the same floor as where you go online, so if you do most of your internet activities upstairs, the router needs to be upstairs too. If you find your signal is still weak or negligible, try moving and experimenting with different positions and locations for the router. A good recommendation is to place the router in a high location above other objects in the room or passage it is situated in.

SOURCES:

Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984

La Publicación 🇪🇸, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/LaPublicacion

“Estos son los objetos que más suelen bloquear tu señal de wifi” – TecNovedosos/Grupo Editorial Grandes Medios (15 September 2018) https://www.tecnovedosos.com/objetos-bloquean-senal-de-wifi/

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Wifi, Hotspot, Public, Travel” – mohamed mohamed mahmoud hassan, PublicDomainPictures.net/Bobek Ltd. License: CC0 Public Domain https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/view-image.php?image=261335&picture=wifi-hotspot-public-travel

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IMAGE CREDITS:
Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984
Emma Miller, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/AfinaRec
Secretaries & PAs are awesome!, Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/averysecretaries
Afina Recruitment, Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Afina-Recruitment/147021728789752

WORKSPACE BLOG HOP: Inside the HEM newsroom

The Half-Eaten Mind and myself are proud to announce that we have been invited to participate in the Workspace Blog Hop. The hop is a blogging initiative where the blogger is given an opportunity to share something about themself and the place where their pictures, poems, news stories or novels come to life. I would like to thank Sally Cronin of the blog “Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life” for tagging me in the WBH and giving you an exclusive sneak peek into my blog’s newsroom, where we bring you cutting-edge news and amazing features every weekend.

I thought I’d start first with a bit of background information on the kind of place I live at. I’m from London, England, U.K. and for the moment I live in a houseshare in Plaistow, in the east of London. I live with the landlord, plus three other guys, who hail from India, Japan and Portsmouth here in England. My house sits right next to a junction just behind Plaistow Police Station, so needless to say the traffic around here can be rather noisy. Where I live isn’t a prosperous area, but it’s alright. I have two Iceland supermarkets and a Tesco store within easy walking distance, plus there’s a few good local attractions including a leisure centre, library and Plashet Park a few bus stops away. I have been living here since the end of February 2013. I did not begin the blog here though. That happened at my previous houseshare in Morley Road, Stratford, just across the border from here in Plaistow. My property manager/housemate, who was not a pleasant fellow in the slightest, evicted me from that residence with only two weeks’ notice. Ostensibly he blamed me for wasting electricity just because once I had forgotten to turn off the kitchen light, but now I suspect he just wanted to move someone else in who he could charge higher rent too.

My current room does not win much praise from me. I took the room only as an emergency measure. It’s essentially a box room, small, cluttered and a tad claustrophobic, but I call it home. I was originally looking to eventually move into a one-bedroom flat, but London is a notoriously expensive city and even small flats and studio places are ridiculously pricey. My current landlord has recently raised the rent by an eye-watering amount so it looks like I’ll be bumming around on Gumtree and Zoopla looking for a bigger, but cheaper, room. While my newsroom may not be buzzing with reporters and sweaty-collared editors, poring over banks of PC screens and TVs blaring out the latest breaking news via CNBC or Russia Today, it has the advantage of being portable and therefore easy to set up anywhere with a power supply and a plug socket. Hotdesking par excellence!.

My workspace is also my bedroom, with the usual wardrobe (closet) and chest-of-drawers. I have a single window that affords great views of the neighbours’ backyards and I often see foxes and squirrels milling around the place after dark. The wildlife here are almost as exciting as the shouting drunks that are always stumbling home around here.

This delightfully framed portrait is where the Half-Eaten Mind magic happens. The desk is small but manageable. All my stories and articles are penned on the spot using the laptop you can see. My trusty Toshiba Satellite C660 has been my portal to the internet and loyal office assistant for the past four years now, ever since I had to haul its ass home from the Argos store in Victoria, central London, where I used to work. I actually picked up this babe during my lunchtime. My Tosh is still working fine, albeit a bit more slowly, but still working a dream.

The cool snazzy mouse with the blue lights and red laser was purchased separately from eBay, and although it is futuristic, it’s had its day and I may soon need a replacement. There’s no room on the desk for any fancy stuff like potted plants and picture frames, but I managed to squeeze in a fan, which keeps me cool during summer or when the landlord has cranked on the heating on too high during the colder nights.

The desk, apart from being my workplace and escape zone, also functions as a place to stash my journalism portfolio from when I was at university, my stamps and banknote collections and some important paperwork. There is a recess at the back of the desk where I stash, and hopefully not forget about, any important letters or forms I have to deal with. Right now there is a letter from the borough council concerning postal vote registration which I need to get an envelope and stamp, as they never bothered to enclose a pre-paid one with the form.

I use the Chrome browser when working on the blog or doing internet research and activities, whether pertaining to the blog or not. The Chrome is fast and responsive in my opinion. With the news articles I publish, I use a variety of sources, in particular from news articles posted on my Facebook news feed or from tweets from media organisations I follow on Twitter. I also sometimes make use of press releases from the journalism.co.uk website, an information resource for journalists and PR professionals, who send me an email packed with them every Monday or so. I also get submissions for articles (mainly features) from friends and external contributors. Regardless of the source, it is this laptop where every weekend, I get comfy on my upholstered blue revolving chair and transform into HEM editor and roving reporter, literally from the comfort of my own armchair. I usually start writing around 11:00-12:00 in the morning, after a shower and breakfast, so I feel sufficiently fresh and energised to begin typing. A news story can take as little as thirty minutes to polish off, but some longer articles and features can take as much as two hours from start to finish. It depends. After I publish each blogpost, I visit the HEM Facebook fan page to share the article on my own Facebook, plus with any friends or family who I feel are interested or who originally suggested the story idea. I also do the same on Twitter. I then share on Twitter all of the articles and sources I used in the crafting of the piece, followed by the related articles that I add at the bottom of each published piece. These ‘related articles’ are automatically suggested by a plugin I use, named Zemanta. Zemanta’s really useful in that it ‘reads’ what you are typing and then makes suggestions for these articles, plus images, as you type up.

This device is also very important in my blogging. While it may look like a reject from Beyonce’s jewellery box, it is in fact a Sandisk Cruzer Facet USB drive (memory stick) with around 15 gigabytes of memory. Sandisk is one of the most regarded producers of USB drives and memory cards in the world, and I wanted a quality piece of equipment to hold the images from my blog. This stick is essential, as nearly all of the images I use to spice up each blogpost is then stored on here as a virtual gallery and archive. I do this as it means if an image vanishes from an article becuase the website it is attached to goes down or the relevant link dies, I have a backup copy on this drive ready and waiting to replace it. For extra peace of mind, I also save the images onto a cloud, my Google Drive. Better safe than sorry, don’t you think. I made this picture using a blurred edge photo border in Lunapic, which gives it the appearance of being set behind a fancy glass frame. Admittedly I did goof up on the hashtag on the bottom of the image. It should read #WorkspaceBlogHop, not #WorkplaceBlogHop, but it is astonishingly similar sounding how ‘workplace’ and ‘workspace’ are. In the background of the image above you can also see my bed, complete with psychedelic pillow!. The rest of my room is a bit messy and is overdue a spring clean. That and its size means I decided not to take pictures, but I’d thought instead I’d give you a Google Street View image of the junction I live near.

(c) Google Maps
(c) Google Maps

It’s exactly the view I see whenever I step out to go places or have a cigarette break. The red corrugated iron sheet ‘shed’ is in fact a Gospel Printing Mission that produces religious materials for a local church. The area I live in is highly multicultural and there’s a lot of people from west Africa particularly here, many of which are church-going Christians. The police station, which has a massive car park, is the small, castle-like building with the blue turret towards the centre of the screenshot. This is mostly a residential area and I see a lot of families with young children heading this way to go to the nursery further down Cumberland Road.

And also…here’s another screenshot, this time of my Google Drive, where we stash the pictorial stuff. Our little secret!!

(c) Google Drive
(c) Google Drive

A rabbit feels more comfortable to hop about if there are other rabbits to hop around with. Taking this lesson from our bunny friends, I would like to invite the following people to come join me in the Workspace Blog Hop and share with us their blogging workspaces. Attendance isn’t compulsory but it is a great way to give your friends and blog followers a glimpse into your blogging zone.

My six Hoppers are:

Alex Smithson

Ron Scubadiver

Ileana

Swetank Raj

Inese MJ

Gene’O Gordon

Sally’s article and her very fascinating blog hop can be found here: My Workspace blog Hop -Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

IMAGE CREDITS:
piZap http://pizap.com/
Lunapic http://www171.lunapic.com/editor/
“Blank aluminium nameplate, 15mm x 50mm” – Label Source http://www.labelsource.co.uk/labels/blank-aluminium-nameplate–15mm-x-50mm/bmnp1a
Google Maps https://www.google.co.uk/maps
Google Drive https://drive.google.com/drive/

FLEXIOFFICES: The UK’s most hated office personalities

Wander past the reception into any office in the United Kingdom or indeed anywhere else you fancy, and just as Sir David Attenborough might steathily and subtly observe different species of wildlife on the African savannah, you will soon notice from being hidden surreptitiously behind that large pot plant that just like animals, there are different species of office worker; the busybody, with an ‘in’ tray as high as Mount Everest; the chatterboxes, constantly talking on the phone or to anyone within earshot (and lack of an escape route) and the quiet ones; who wish their wage packet was as golden as their silence. Others cling to the boss’ every word, eager for that golden hello and promotion. While others drone on and on about this and that. From accounts to sales and marketing, every office and department is bound to have a motley crew of different personality types, some more beneficial than others, especially when it comes to those all-important office preserves, teamwork, training new starters and the handling of big projects.

Flexioffices, an expert agency which prides itself on offering serviced office spaces to companies across the UK, has recently commissioned a fun, tongue-in-cheek nationwide survey of over 1,500 people to find out which kind of personality people most hate being stuck with when it is their turn at the water cooler. If you are curious as to what kind of office worker is most likely to induce lethal cubicle rage in their long-suffering colleagues, then the results are now in.

English: An office worker with a dual-monitor ...
English: An office worker with a dual-monitor display and a Cisco 7971 Color Touchscreen IP phone. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Number 1 – ‘The Office Know-it-all

Around 35% of the surveyed people named the Office Know-it-all as their most hated personality, making it indeed the most hated type of office worker in the United Kingdom. This is the kind of person who (thinks) they know everything about everything. They might be useful if you have trouble getting the scanner/photocopier/printer thingamabob to work, but they also are blatant brown-nosers and have to jump into every conversation going with their not exactly needed or wanted opinions. Their fellow office workers soon rapidly tire of their useless encyclopaedic knowledge and their inflated sense of self-superiority. The ‘Know-it-all’ particularly irks people nearing retirement age and workers from Wales. If you are one of these people, it is advised to either shut up or jump out.

Number 2 – ‘The Office Slacker’

This is the man or woman whom you can say without a doubt spends their evenings sprawled in their underclothes among tonnes of pizza boxes and polystyrene containers that still smell of last month’s ‘kebab-athon’. They barely seem to have the will to even lift said pizza into their mouth at times. While what people do at home generally does not follow them to the workplace, the Office Slacker is laziness personified, 24/7, day in, day out, come rain or shine. The Slacker is that annoying type that sits back and lets everyone else, well, pick up the slack. They generally make little headway in team projects and are content to do minimal work, while still taking the credit. According to the survey it seems no-one likes a lazy colleague, most notably Londoners, who rank ‘The Office Slacker’ as the personality type they dislike working with the most. With 32% of the votes, here’s a message for work-shy individuals across the nation – it’s either time to change your attitude, or cross London off your ‘ideal places to work’ list.

Number 3 – ‘The Office Suck-up’

This is the worker who is practically the manager’s second shadow. A brown-noser of sheer excellence, they are the manager’s dream yes-man or yes-woman. No matter how diabolical the manager’s pipedream, they always agree with every little detail. The ‘Office Suck-Up’ is not the most trustworthy of colleagues. Do one thing wrong, no matter how insignificant and the Suck-Up will memorise every little detail of all your little transgressions and regurgitate it straight into the crop of the Big Boss. This is the grown-up, corporate version of the playground tittle-tattle. The walls have ears. The Flexioffices survey results suggest ‘The Office Suck-up’ received 17% of the overall votes, with the good people of the North East and Scotland particularly unimpressed with colleagues who try to worm their way to the top.

Number 4 – ‘The Office Tight-arse’

Anal retentiveness is a sport that should be entered into the Olympics. Why? Because if it did, the ‘Office Tight-arse’ would win every gold medal going for Team GB. This is the sort of person who turns into the Incredible Hulk the moment you help yourself to one measly paper clip from their desk’s bits-and-bobs. They scrupulously note down the quantity of every pack of Belvita or box of Earl Grey teabags they buy in their lunch break. Do not under any circumstance even think to ask for a spare croissant, you will feel the Fury! Nevertheless, in these belt-tightening times of austerity, it seems people have some sympathy for the ‘Office Tight-arse’, as this was the most hated office personality of a paltry 8% of surveyed participants. So maybe being a little bit of a Scrooge is not so bad. Either way, if you happen to be a corporate butt-clencher, it’s probably best to steer clear of people in the West Midlands, who expect their colleagues to display the utmost generosity and goodwill at all times. Sharing is caring.

Number 5 – ‘The Office Joker’

This is the cheeky chap/chapette that has a chuckle about anything. They love hiding your favourite mug when you run off to the bathroom. They offer you a panini for a snack, only you find it has been laced with extra hot tabasco sauce. Always grinning like the Cheshire Cat of old folklore, they fill the air with their colleagues laughter, but sometimes they can seriously reduce the seriousness of a nine-to-five and there comes a point where you really need to file that sales report for the first quarter of 2014, and you cannot concentrate because the office Michael McIntyre has made you giggle yourself into a painful cramp all around your sides. Offices can be dreary and stressful places though, and people do appreciate a laugh every now and then, which is why the Flexioffices survey found that only 7% of people find the Office Joker a joke too far. Being the office joker can help to raise morale in the team, however we all know that one person who can take their Chuckle Brothers re-enactment a tad too far. If you’re looking for an audience for your pranks and jokes, then 35-44 year old men in London are not a good place to start!

(c) B. Dimmick/Flickr/Compfight

Flexioffices are also offering a quiz that office workers can answer to see which type of personality they are. We have reproduced it here, so now Brainiacs can find out whether they are an office legend or a pain in the orifice.

 

Now it’s your turn – take our quick scenario quiz below and find out what type of office personality you are!

1. For you, the office water cooler is an opportunity to

A) Switch the hot and cold taps around and watch the chaos unfold

B) Tell everyone else in the office who’ll listen that they shouldn’t drink from it due to the dangers of bacteria in the water caused by gradual decomposition of the plastic container

C) Keep the boss hydrated to boost your chances of a promotion

D) Drink 10 glasses at a time. All those toilet breaks shave minutes off the working week

E) Decant the water into your own containers and take it home

 

2. A new bar opens near the office and a work night out has been arranged, do you?

A) Tell a couple of your colleagues that they have to wear a tuxedo to the night out and they must have missed the memo

B) Attend to humour others, but you’ve already been twice yourself and read all the reviews. You know it’s terrible and can’t believe your colleagues would want to go there

C) Get to the bar before everyone else and buy the boss a drink. A little alcoholic lubrication goes a long way to earning that promotion

D) Use it as an opportunity to leave work early under the pretense of ‘saving everyone a stool at the bar’

E) Peek through the window outside the bar until you see the first round has been bought… then make your entrance

 

3. A new photocopier-printer has just been bought and installed in your office. Which of the following are you most likely to do?

A) Photocopy your backside

B) Comment that from your extensive research you know it isn’t the most robust model on the market and it’s only a matter of time before it breaks down

C) Tell the boss you’d be happy to monitor and report back on anyone using the photocopier-printer inappropriately. That promotion must be close now

D) Constantly open up the photocopier-printer to check on cartridge and paper levels. It’ll be home time before you know it!

E) Print your personal files and paperwork out at every opportunity

 

4. A young student is in the office on a week’s work experience, do you?

A) Tell them you’re all out of checkered paint and to go to the hardware shop and ask for a long weight

B) Walk up to them and say “You think youth is on your side, but experience counts for everything in this business. You’ve a lot to learn”

C) Tell the boss you’re happy to spend the whole week closely mentoring the work experience employee, even if it means doing your own work when you get home. You’re that dedicated! Anything to help that promotion along

D) Take the whole week off sick to get out of the training you were meant to prepare for them

E) Offer to take them out for lunch… then tell them you forgot your wallet and make them pay for it

 

5. You’re asked to go out and buy some doughnuts for an important meeting. What do you do?

A) Buy some plain doughnuts then fill them with mayonnaise. “‘Custard’ doughnut anyone?”

B) Write a 15 page email on the negative health effects of eating fatty foods, including links to medical reports and statistics on doughnut related deaths

C) First, buy everyone a plain sugar doughnut. Next, drive 37 miles to Krispy Kreme to get the most expensive, glorious looking doughnut known to man. Then it’s back to the office to present it to your boss on a silver platter. If this doesn’t get you promoted, what will?

D) Walk the two miles to the shops instead of driving there. After all, it’s a nice day outside and it would be rude not to take your time. That’s shaved a few hours off the working day nicely

E) Refuse. Even though you’ll be given the money back in a few days, there is no way on earth you’re missing out on the 0.001% interest you will earn from keeping your cash in the bank

 

So, which office personality are you? Find out below:

I answered A to the majority of questions:

You’re ‘The Office Joker’. Always quick to make light of any situation and never miss the opportunity to play a practical joke on your colleagues. You’re the centre of attention at office parties and people look to you to cheer them up. On the other hand, you can be a nightmare in meeting scenarios where you have been known to struggle to contain your energy.

I answered B to the majority of questions:

You’re ‘The Office Know-it-all’. Never short of an opinion or two, you’ve got all the answers and probably even know the question before it has been asked. Keeping up to date with the latest piece of technology or industry news is no problem for you, as you more than likely had something to do with creating it (in your head at least).

I answered C to the majority of questions:

You’re ‘The Office Suck-up’. Always keen to let everyone know you’re working on a Saturday, or fetch your boss a drink, you may not be the most popular figure in the office but your sucking up tactics might just help you to go all the way to the top.

I answered D to the majority of questions:

You’re ‘The Office Slacker’. Working 9-5 is no way to make a living, not in your eyes anyway. You’ll stretch out any opportunity to be away from your desk – from prolonged visits to the water cooler, through to volunteering to go and buy the milk for the tea round. Oh and you’re good at delegating tasks to other people too – very good at it in fact.

I answered E to the majority of questions:

You’re ‘The Office Tight-arse’. Stealing paperclips, taking toilet paper from work to use at home and even refusing to contribute to the company’s charitable cause, you’re the embodiment of the phrase ‘short arms, deep pockets’.

 

We recommend taking your results with a pinch of salt, as we are aware that no one truly falls into any one category and a healthy mix of behaviours is what makes the world go around.

Once you have your results, feel free to share them for fun with your friends and colleagues on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook, or tweet us directly @Flexioffices using #FlexiPersonality.

SOURCES:
“The most disliked office personality in the UK (UK wide survey results)” – Flexioffices via journalism.co.uk [press release] (19 August 2014) http://www.journalism.co.uk/press-releases/the-most-disliked-office-personality-in-the-uk-uk-wide-survey-results-/s66/a557713/
“What office personality are you? The quiz” – Flexioffices – Blog http://www.flexioffices.co.uk/what-office-personality-are-you-the-quiz
IMAGE CREDITS:
“File:Office Worker with Two Monitors.JPG” – MrChrome, Wikimedia Commons (11 December 2008) http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Office_Worker_with_Two_Monitors.JPG
Bill Dimmick, Flickr via Compfight http://compfight.com/search/office-worker/1-3-1-1

 

GOODBYE BRESSENDEN PLACE: Informa relocates to new offices

Our old office at Bressenden Place, London (c) V. Shah/HEM Blog

By Vijay Shah

As some of you may know, I currently work as a database researcher/integrity assistant for a conference company named Informa. In this job I work with and maintain our customers’ records on the in-house data system. From when I started in June 2007 up until last week, IIR Conferences Ltd, the Informa subsidiary which I personally am employed by, maintained an office situated at 29 Bressenden Place in Victoria, central London. It is well-known as a prime location, roughly equidistant between Victoria Underground Station and the tourist-and-camera honeypot that is the Queen of England’s residence – Buckingham Palace. It was a great location to work in as well. If you wanted a quick lunch, you had several options. Sandwich-lovers and salad-munchers could head around the corner to the Sainsbury’s Local supermarket in Allington Street, with its varied range of sandwiches, drinks, snacks, healthy-eating options, very much the stuff that you would expect a high street supermarket to have on its shelves. Cafe Moca, an Italian sandwich cafe, at the corner of Warwick Row had sumptuous chicken escalope and peri-peri poultry handmade baguettes and ciabattas. They were pricey but delectable. For Chinese, there was Noodle Noodle, with its customary fresh hot ramen and chicken in black bean sauce. There was two shopping centres in the vicinity of my office, an Argos and five pubs within easy walking distance, not to mention a theatre that had Billy Elliott on constant loop….

But alas, while Victoria was ‘Location, Location, Location’ and a socialising and eating heaven for local desk jockeys, all good stories must have an end…we are moving to a new office!.

For the past three years, the streets around Bressenden Place have been transformed into a massive building site, coinciding with the extension of the nearby Tube station. The current station terminus is a departure point for many millions of tourists visiting every year. The crowds at rush-hour become so thick that it gets ridiculous. Ridiculous to the point that overcrowding often partially shuts down Victoria station as burly LU transport guards and a loud beeping alarm keep annoyed commuters in almost-perpetual agony as they queue past the bus stop, around the block and all the way into the middle of next week.  The builders in their dusty day-glo orange jackets soon made their mark, as their firm Keltray tore down a couple of nearby buildings with diggers and other earthmoving equipment. London Underground’s £509 million upgrade to increase the capacity of the Tube station was fully underway. By 2015, there will an enlarged Victoria Tube with a new ticket hall, lifts and escalators to cope with the never-ending stream of sightseers, not to mention London City’s growing population. By 2016 it is estimated that our city’s Tube network will carry up to 3.4 million passengers daily.

The numerous conversations, keyboard tinkling and mouse clicks in our office soon had to compete with a whole new set of noises. Construction staff shouting at each other, the rumbling of trucks and diggers, and weird thudding sounds. We even had tremors. Not quite Californian style ‘The Big One’ tremors, but if you kept your feet firmly on the floor at your desk and slouched a little, you could feel the shakes run up your spine in an unsettling manner. If you ever saw the scene in the first Jurassic Park movie where the Tyrannosaurus escapes from its enclosure, and you hear its feet stomping on the road while the glass of water in the kids’ jeep starts to ripple, you will get a good idea. Whenever I and my friend/colleague went out to the Sainsbury’s to get lunch, we always had to dodge an army of builders in garish flourescent jackets while negotiating our path through the rabbit’s warren of mesh fencing and Health & Safety notices, while a) not choking to death on the dust, and b) not slipping on the mud and cracking our heads open on the now-chewed up pavement.

It was maybe a year past that us guys at Informa, as well as the other firms sharing our office block at Number 29 were told that soon we would be hunting for a new place to plug in our PC monitors. An email from human resources announced that by September this year we would be either relocating either to Euston or Tottenham Court Road, as 29 Bressenden Place would also taste the wrecking ball as part of Victoria’s regeneration. By March , we knew for certainty that we were definitely going Tottenham Court way. And last week was our final week at good old Bressenden as we readied ourselves to up sticks to the swanky brand-new digs at Maple House, 149 Tottenham Court Road.

THE MEMORIES

Ever since I started as a fresh-faced, somewhat penniless database researcher in the dying days of summer 2007, Bressenden Place eventually grew on me. It was a love-hate relationship though. The offices were very much a typical slice of corporate Britain with their pea-green and blue carpetting, strip lights, and kitchens stocked with the latest in microwave and hot-water technology.  The kitchens were great because you had four fridges (three for workers’ lunches, one for milk) so you rarely had worry about your home-cooked pasta  or ciabatta going off. You could go there to engage in some water cooler talk with your mates and there was always (usually) fresh milk, tea and two kinds of coffee, all wonderfully free of charge. It was hardly necessary to have the skills of Indiana Jones to find your way around the office – getting from A to B – it was just a case of walking down the corridor.

At the same time, this was an old office block. By the time it is demolished, Bressenden Place will have completed a full half-century. One of the biggest gripes we had with the building was that everything kept breaking down. The lifts (elevators) were particularly annoying in this respect. It was a real crap start to the working week, when on Monday you would saunter past the lone security guard, flash your identity card and glide towards the lift only to find the doors prised wide open with a sign positioned in front….”The lifts are currently out of order and an engineer has been called. We apologise for any inconvenience”. Some inconvenience it was. I worked on the sixth floor and seven or so flights of stairs at 8:30 in the morning is not my idea of fun. Kitchen appliances also had the nerve of  developing electrical complaints too. I have lost count of the number of times the fridge, water cooler or the hot water dispenser would give up in protest at being constantly tugged at or opened by people needing a quick coffee fix. Numerous times our kitchen even had leaks. I will never forget the surprise of a month ago when first thing in the morning, I walked into the kitchen to find not only was there a preposterous quantity of water splashed on the floor (the new hot water machine has broken down and dribbled), but that someone, in an attempt to soak up the carnage, had left a pile of kitchen roll sheets all over the spillage. I commented later on my Facebook that it looked as if though several Andrex puppies had instigated a break of dawn foam party in there.

In the Sixties, global warming was not front page news and London was a chilly place. Not surprisingly, our office had no air-conditioning. So, when summer arrived, parts of Floor 6 became a sweaty sauna with Dell screens, forcing everyone to turn on their desk fans to the ‘hurricane’ setting as we tried to stave off the dreaded armpit stains. It was unbelievably stuffy and humid in there, and was off-putting to work in. The offices at Maple House conversely have a modern layout/decor, built-in air-con, floor to ceiling windows, four lifts, 24-hour security and showers. There is even a garden to imbibe some fresh air or to escape the boss’  ire after flunking yet another deadline.

Bressenden Place – eastern half – in the 1960’s and now (c) rollthedice/Flickriver

Good or bad, Bressenden Place was my place of work and I have spent the largest chunk of my working life there. There were too many great memories…lunches at Nandos and Zizzi’s, after-work drinks at the Willow Walk, cricket practice at Green Park, tourists asking for directions, even being evacuated as the fire brigade tackled a toaster fire in a hotel kitchen in the same block as our offices.

THE LAST DAY

Our last day at the old workplace began as per usual. We had been given stickers issued by a third-party removal company on which had to be written our names and a 3-digit number. This very special set of numerals corresponded to our locations in the new building’s floor layout. The removal company ordained that everything that was not nailed to the floor had to be tagged with these stickers. I was spotting these labels on everything from the fire extinguishers in the corridors to colleagues’ computer mice. Next to every set of desks was a huge stack of crates, one for each employee. I must have felt like some sort of office-bound Godzilla walking past rows of container skyscrapers. Our management was very kind to give us half the day off, so that the IT people could start unwinding the network and begin boxing up all the monitors, wires and such. Soon the database research and integrity departments were in a frenzy of packing, clearing out desks and filling the heavy grey-and-red crates that will greet us at Maple House. Most of us just had the pens and paperwork we needed for the job, so our packing did not take more than 1/2 an hour at most. By 12 noon we were done, the PCs were switched off and we hung around reminiscing about the good old days, sharing memories and wondering about who was sitting next to who. A few of my friends expected me to break down into floods of tears, but I am made of sterner stuff. Nevertheless, after more than five years based out of here, it was slightly sad, maybe poignant. It felt somewhat humbling that everything around me would soon be crushed underfoot, petty insignificant rubble beneath the tracks of a Caterpillar. It is difficult to let an old friend go, even if its corridors stank of fish or burnt oatmeal half the time. Even if its men’s toilets often seized up. Even if the windows looked ready to fall out at short notice.

Our new office - the monolithic Maple House (c) Dron & Wright Property Consultants
Our new office – the monolithic Maple House (c) Dron & Wright Property Consultants

For a celebratory lunch, most of the department headed to Nandos at the Carpenter’s Road shopping mall, where Afro-Portuguese peri-peri dishes were devoured in abundance. I made a departure from my usual chicken burger special and went a little upmarket with a chicken breast pitta with salad and cheese, accompanied by a side order of chips and a bottomless Coke. Damn tasty. I worked off the spare calories in Green Park doing ten minutes of batting with members of  our departmental cricket team before heading home to a long lazy August bank holiday weekend.

THE STORY BEHIND BRESSENDEN PLACE

The office block we were based in is located in the City of Westminster in London’s heart. At a height of ten or so stories, the L-shaped building was not only home to my employers IIR Conferences, but also other members of the Informa family, such as PTI, Informa Life Sciences, Adam Smith Conferences and TOC Europe – companies which specialised in conferences and seminars offering knowledge in fields as diverse as pharmaceuticals, shipping and finance with several thousand clients on their books. The complex was also occupied by several companies allied with the NHS, a consultancy firm, Hyder, and partially by the neighbouring Thistle Westminster Hotel.

The building is currently owned and rented out by Land Securities, a commercial property landowner which has assets of more than 29 million square metres in built estate, including offices, shops and housing. The office block of 29 Bressenden Place was built on what was once the bed of the Tyburn River many centuries ago. A brewery, now replaced by the Stag public house was a neighbour of the former tenements that occupied Number 29’s current location. During the period from 1959-1964, the Stag Brewery was pulled down as the post-war building effort of the Sixties went into full momentum. The main building, Lakeview Court, as well as the Thistle hotel were designed by architects Chapman Taylor Partners towards the close of the 1960’s.

It is most likely that the buildings of Bressenden including our office block will come down by next year, and once they are gone, will be replaced by a new mixed-use development, comprising residential, retail and hotel elements, according to an archaeological impact assessment by Westminster city council.

GALLERY

Below is a selection of photos I took of inside & outside our offices – including the lunch at Nandos and when I passed Buckingham Palace.

ADDITIONAL SOURCES: Transport for London, Land Securities Group, City of Westminster Council, Museum of London Archaeological Service (full PDF archaeological impact assessment viewable here ), 149 Tottenham Court Road official website.

PITMAN TRAINING: Vital Skills for Stratford Jobseekers

East London’s job hunters now have a new ally in the search for better career prospects. The Pitman Training Centre in Stratford is currently offering a two-day workshop for local jobseekers who are concerned that they are being held back by a lack of skills in jobsearching and employability.

Pitman Training are a nationwide training organisation offering courses in office-based careers. They specialise in secretarial skills, keyboard skills, accounts, information technology and provide specialised courses dealing with Microsoft packages. Pitman operate through convenient training locations and allow you to study at your own pace to gain certification. Not surprisingly, they have gained a foothold in east London, where much of the population are economically disadvantaged and both need and desire new skills to help them improve their situations.

(c) Pitman Training
The Berkeley Business Centre in Stratford, where Pitman’s workshops will be held (c) Free Office Finder

This special workshop will be held at the Berkeley Business Centre (not far from Stratford’s popular shopping district) and is designed with jobseekers in mind. If you live in the east London area especially, and are having trouble getting employers to notice your CV, or want to improve your current earnings, or even to acquire some helpful advice…then you could give the workshop a try.

Topics covered will include:

  • Selling yourself as an ideal candidate to prospective employers.
  • Writing the CV that gets noticed.
  • Finding jobs on the net i.e. online recruitment firms.
  • Interview techniques.
  • Self-development and adopting a ‘can-do’ attitude.
  • Using networking skills.
  • Utilising real-life and online social networks for career changes and advancement.
  • Making yourself more visible to recruiters.

Over the two days, you will receive guidance from experts in the field to tackle the increasingly tough job vacancy market. Although exact details of what will happen over the workshop’s duration are not available to the Half-Eaten Mind, it can be safely assumed that there will be presentations, group exercises and classroom teaching especially designed to help students hook that elusive vacancy.

When the UK job market is being pummelled by both the credit crunch and the Eurozone crisis, and as employers place more emphasis on IT and ‘soft’ skills, companies like Pitman Training will prove a valuable lifeline for those who are looking to get back into work or want to broaden their horizons.

To book a place at Pitman’s workshop in Stratford, you can call them direct on 0203 130 0778. Alternatively drop in for a quick chat at Pitman Training Centre Stratford, 2nd floor, Berkeley Business Centre, 44 Broadway, Stratford, London E15 1XH.

For more information – visit http://www.pitman-training.com/locations/pitman-training-stratford

SAMSUNG SUR40: The future of the office?

Tables and technology…they are not your usual bedfellows. While technology is forever updating, reinventing itself with every coffee-and-biscuits brainstorm at Sony-Ericsson or Google, Inc., a table is something that has not changed in centuries. Putting it at its simplest, it is a flat surface with four horizontal legs. Nothing whizz-kiddy about that. Until relatively recently, the nearest a table got to being computerised was if someone came along and plonked a PC monitor and some wires on top. Maybe even a tablet!.

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Our technologically-driven and media-hungry society means that even the humble table is now being propelled screaming into the 21st century. As people desire a more technology-centric existence where the internet, documents, pictures etc are always on hand and easily accessible, the fake pine dinner table may soon find itself relegated to a dusty shed or the local charity shop.Interactive coffee tables have already been making special appearances at numerous fairs and expos, setting tech and gadget-watchers’ tongues collectively wagging.

Korean electronics giant Samsung is already leading the way with its range of televisions, PC screens, and is now heavily dominating the smartphone market with its Galaxy and Note offerings. The super-boffins in Seoul did not just stop there. They took a ordinary boardroom table, applied some high-tech knowhow, added a 40-inch PC with touchscreen and gave birth to the SUR40. A chief executive’s dream machine.

According to Shortlist magazine, the SUR40 is a forward, but relatively simple concept. The widescreen PC that serves as the tabletop is 4 inches thick, supported by what HEM presumes to be toughened aluminium or stainless steel legs that look like they were hastily borrowed from a Argos television stand. The touchscreen is made from patented ‘Gorilla Glass’ from Corning – the same fingerprint-proof tough material Samsung used for the Galaxy SII and SIII. In fact the screen is sufficiently strong to support a whole round of office teas.

The software inside the ‘table’ is very much au courant. PixelSense gives the LCD screen the ability to detect with infrared signals any object placed on or near the table, enabling a user to hold a video or Powerpoint presentation, flip it around and zoom in, using just a couple of fingers. The SUR40 can even read text placed face-down on the surface, making it ideal for saving and distributing documents to the whole team at your company’s weekly sales analysis.

(c) SlashGear

The SUR40 means no more costly and clunky projectors and laptops being carried from one room to another. It would have a positive impact on the environment too, as offices no longer have to prepare paper handouts for distribution to colleagues at meetings. As companies become increasingly keen on their green credentials and aim to save trees, the SUR-40 may be a high-demand item to help support corporate social responsibility objectives.

It could also be a feature of university seminars and may revolutionise teaching in schools . The cost however is a bit prohibitive. On online retailers like jigsaw.com SUR40s are selling for £9354.00 a piece, which includes the easy-to-attach legs, so you might want to hold to your desktop just a little longer. It requires some dexterity too, with Shortlist describing it as “akin to conducting an orchestra”. Its simple no-frills design and usability however could soon see it making an appearance at an AGM near you…and hopefully not at a branch of Barnardo’s.

See the Samsung SUR40 doing its stuff:

samsungs-next-gen-microsoft-interactive-surface-first-look-1cwfo2hXP6T2k