Starting an online business – A case study

So how difficult is it to set up an online business? What steps need to be taken and how can it be made successful? What can be done to make it all easier and what mistakes can be made (and hopefully how can we avoid them)?

But first of all why would you (or I) want to do this? Well it could be for any number of reasons really but for me it’s primarily an experiment… I am actually just curious.

I should say at this point that this series of posts is not a “how-to” guide in starting an online shop/business it’s more of a “docu-soap” into my attempt at doing so. I don’t have all the answer and I’m certainly not (at least not yet) an expert in this area. But what I do hope to provide is an account of how I went about it, what decisions I made and why and ultimately how successful or unsuccessful I was.

Hopefully the outcome will be helpful to some and what’s more at least slightly entertaining. OK, thinking hat on… here we go!

Photo in Schmap Guide

Wowzers… I’m pleased to say that a photo I took whilst in Brighton of the “giant doughnut” (locally know as The Seasick Doughnut) down on the sea front has been chosen to represent the landmark in Schmap’s online guide to Brigthon.

The Brighton Doughnut
The Brighton Doughnut

The sculpture was a gift from the Mayor of Naples, officially called The Big Green Bagel. In this particluar photo you can just make out Badja’s face in the centre.

Schmap is an online resource of worldwide guides.

New iGoogle Rant

This is not going to be a long and exhaustive review of the update to iGoogle but more of a quick “these things annoy me lots” rant… apologies.

The new iGoogle
The new iGoogle

The update supports a few added features along with the option to have a full canvas view of a single gadget but these are not the simple changes which bug me. These are:

  1. I generally have a few gadgets minimised to allow me more gadgets on the one page. For example I generally have my gMail gadget minimised and only open it when I know I have a new mail and quickly wan to see who it’s from. The problem now is that there is no longer an “expand”/”maxmize” button on each gadget heading… I now have to click into the menu of that gadget and click again to alter the display (minimized or not).
  2. The old “tab bar” has now been moved to a sidebar on the left hand side… this takes up a great deal more of my screen real-estate and to be honest really is a waste. I would have thought that keeping the tabs across the top is a much better use of space especially when the whole idea (or at least I thought it was) of iGoogle is to have as much useful stuff in one place.
  3. Along with each feed title you use to be able to view more info (the excerpt or summary if you will) by clicking on the button associated with that particular item. This has now been removed and by default all of these summaries are visible. This is once again not allowing me to have the quick “snap-shot” of the web that I used to.

So that’s it… rant over. And of course I do expect to be eating my own words once I realise that the benefits of the new iGoogle far out-weigh by petty complaints.

Got to be in it to win it

Whoop whoop… just a quick post to mention that my recent mail to the .net magazine was selected as their mail of the month. The email I’d send was only very brief and was simple about the difficulty I’ve had reading some of their recent articles due to the lack of contrast between the colours of some of the text and backgrounds.

.net Magazine
.net Magazine

Apparently I’ve won a free domain and hosting with Heart Internet. I presume this is for a year and I’ve no idea what the quality of their hosting is like but hey… free stuff is cool right?

Nushka Pt 3: Steering Column and Wheel

So on further inspection of the damage caused by the low-life scum that smashed her window and tried to hot wire her (yup perhaps I should put the to-do list up in the window to deter would-be thieves) it appears that not only had they buckled the steering wheel but also bent the steering column. I can only presume they were trying to break the steering lock. I managed to get a like-for-like replacement wheel off in eBay and Chilli supplied me with a spare column. All was looking good.

Removing the old wheel and column was a relative breeze to be honest. A bit of brute force here and there saw them both removed without too much fuss. Upon opening the Haynes book of lies it seems that Nushka was not fitted with some of the parts described there… I couldn’t find the “U-clamps” that needed to be used and I still have no idea as to why I had to remove a rubber plug from the passenger footwell… it seemed to play no further part in the instructions! In the end I just reversed the removal instructions and everything seems to be OK.

Actually I do need to replace a pinch nut which I appear to have threaded which fixes the column at the base and also need to check the placement of the column which I’ll do once I have her front raised off the ground.

So, next up I need to find a way to remove the locking wheel nuts (for which I don’t have the key) and then get to work on the brakes, ball joints and checking the steering.

Will update soon I hope.

Review: Sennheiser CX 500s

I’d had a pair of Sennheiser CX 300s for a couple of years and thought they were great. Sadly they’ve started to succumb to my abuse and mal-handling and one of the earpieces started to fall apart. It was time, I said to myself, to buy a new pair… and perhaps upgarde whilst I was at it.

I had been more than happy with the CX 300s… the sound quality was excellent in my opinion and their sound cancelling was ace. Travelling on buses, trains and airplanes was made easier as I could pop the headphones in and instantly be in my own quiet world where only the dulcit sounds of Elbow could reach me. Seeing how happy and I’d been I decided to stick with Sennheiser and go for the obvious upgrade choice of the Sennheiser CX500s. I found a pair for only £18.95 on the web (might”ve been ebay but I can’t remember now) and snapped them up… and as usual with new toy purchases I was excited already.

Sennheiser CX500s
Sennheiser CX500s

Once they arrived I immediately got them out and noticed that unlike the CX300s the wires from the split point to the earpiece were of uniform length. This for me was a slight dissapointment as I generally have the right earpiece wire go around the back of my neck. This is done so that if the earpieces are not in my ear then they don’t hang right down but simply dangle from my neck. Not a major issue though and I was sure I could overcome this niggle.

Next up came a real test run on the bus I get to work… having read reviews on amazon I would have thought that the noise cancelling was excellent… sadly in my experience this was not to be. I tried all of the buds that were supplied and couldn’t find a single pair which cut out the school kids’ ramblings… so another failing.

To be honest I probably could have lived with these headphones since the sound quality was (as expected) very good in my opinion… but one last issue was to come to the surface. The CX500s came with a volume control built in and this was something I thought would come in very handy. Unfortunately I tend to wear my headphones so that the wire is concealled under my jacket/shirt. This tended to me the volume was accidentally altered by the rubbing of the material… and this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I now use my girlfriends old CX300s and my 500s have been relegated to the “box of things that might one day come in handy”.

Nushka Part 2: The new quarterlight

As previously written in part 1 of this series on the work I’m undertaking on my ’91 Mini Cooper I have a large list of works to complete and number 1 on the list was to replace the rear driver’s side quarterlight which was smashed by some knobs trying to steal her.

I actually ended up buying a pair off ebay for ~£35 inc P&P. They were the green tint variety and apart from some minor rust on the hinges they were in good nick. The actual replacement was a breeze and for now (at least) she is keeping out the great British summer again.

I realise this wasn’t the most detailed post but all the work counts right?

Anyhoo, next up to get Chilli round to give her the once over.

Nushka the Mini: Some Background

A few years ago I purchased a 1991 Rover Mini Cooper; a beautiful bright red young lady named Nushka.

Nushka The Mini
Nushka The Mini

After a year or so of happy carefree* driving she started to have issues with a loss of power. I took her to a Mister Clutch branch in Hemel Hempsted and she was diagnosed with a broken clutch… an expensive fault. Of course I wanted her fixed so I asked the garage to go ahead with the repairs. After an absolute headache with them (I shan’t go into details here as it makes me angry) I now have her back… but now she’s diagnosed with a “borked oil pump” and possible gearing parts in the engine!

Due to a prior lack of space, equipment, knowledge and skills (let’s just breeze over the laziness) I’ve only just got around to looking into getting her fixed up and back onto the open road. This delay however has added complexity to her resurrection plans since parts of her have not enjoyed sitting still for so long. Oh I suppose this is a good point to bring up the incident where she was broken into by some low life scum.

Anyhoo moving on… thanks to my love of driving minis I’m now going to attempt to fix all the bits myself. I’ll of course get some professionals to replace the engine and I’m sure I’ll have a helping hand from my good friends and budding mini enthusiasts Chilli and Marcus and of course the lovely Badja.

The decision to undertake these works came about as at present we have no real need to have a car on the road and also that I hope to keep driving minis my entire life. Thus this work will be as much of a training exercise as anything else.

So onto the list of jobs… this is only an overview and I’m sure some more will be added once Chilli has given her the once over;

  • Engine replacement (inc oil pump)
  • Replace steering wheel (busted by the thugs)
  • Possible steering column replacement (also busted by the thugs)
  • Some electrical works (windscreen wipers don’t work, other circuits playing up)
  • Ball joint replacement
  • Front and rear brakes (straight parts replacement for the time being)
  • Rear quarter light replacement (thugs again)
  • Fix exhaust (at the moment she sounds like a tank… or at least she did last time she was started)
  • Some added/replacement bling (Petrol cap, eyelids, bumpers, etc)
  • Steering stick housing (not sure what this is actually called… due to thugs again)
  • Handbrake service.
  • New wheels and tyres
  • Fit carpet and sound proofing
  • Some ICE… you know for when I’m in Watford or the engine is off
  • Rust (there’s quite a bit which is visible… and probably a lot more which isn’t)

I think I should make it clear at this point that I’m not mechanically minded, though I have replaced a fan-belt previously and re-wired one of the front indicators…. oh and also fitted a new dashboard with the help of Chilli. As you can appreciate this may all take some time and I’m sure the list will grow.

Anyways, first things first I need to replace the rear quarter light to make her watertight(ish).

* of course there were issues with leaking windscreens, corroded fuse boxes and the like but that’s all part of owning a mini.


Ok, so Todget is able to check balances, allowance information as well as paying bills and topping up by debit or credit card but I thought that the title would be too overwhelming. Oh I forgot that it provides jokes too 🙂

Todget is simply a front end to all those confusing SMS commands that you can use on your mobile phone to manage your phone account. It as mentioned above supports the following services (only currently available on T-Mobile UK):

  • Check you balance (this is for pay as you go as well as for contract customers including flext
  • get allowance info (such as Roaming minutes, number of MMS)
  • Pay you bill by credit/debit card for contract customers
  • Top up your account (for prepay customers)
  • Get a nifty joke… and maybe help you pull

OK, here’s my ‘get out of jail free card’… at the time of writing all the above (except the Joke service) are free.

Since it’s a nifty little java application for your mobile it is supported by the majority of cell phones.

I heard there’s rumours that support for other networks would be supported… let’s hope so.