After all of the noise surrounding Apple’s special relationship with Intel when it first launched the Macbook Air the IT press have been strangely quiet about it ending[1].

Intel’s 6th generation ‘Skylake‘ Core CPUs have been out for a few weeks now, and it seems like the only machines you can buy them in come from Microsoft and Dell.

This is a big deal for me, as it means that it’s possible once again to get travel size/weight laptops with 16GB RAM and decent size SSDs, so I can finally replace my almost 3 year old Lenovo X230. If I had to buy a laptop today I’d be torn between Dell’s XPS13 and the Microsoft Surface Book (and MS would probably get my money as they offer 1TB SSD for the Surface Book and Microsoft Surface Pro 4, even if it is a ridiculously pricey upgrade versus the cost of mSATA drives).

If the roll out of the new chips follows the usual pattern of other OEMs getting parts 3-4 months later this means that we can expect to see new Macbooks, Macbook Airs, Macbook Pros, ThinkPads etc. some time in the new year (perhaps with announcements at CES and shipping a little while later).

There’s some speculation that Apple looked at x86 chips for the iPad Pro, and the decision to go with ARM might have soured the Intel relationship, so it’s easy to see why the ‘WinTel’ relationship might grow stronger with Microsoft – especially now that they’re making such great devices (having escaped from Intel’s ‘Ultrabook‘ branding monoculture). It’s less clear how Dell got one over Lenovo and HP (and Acer, Asus, Toshiba and Sony etc.).

So the good news is that it’s finally possible to buy a decent laptop again. The bad news is that any chance of a 16GB Macbook is deferred, and I’ll also have to wait for something with a trackpoint (which I’ve always prefered over trackpads).


[1] It seems that the tech investor community have noticed.

Rising from the ashes of GigaOm the tribal gathering of cloud elders that is Structure has returned, and got off to a strong start with Battery Venture’s Adrian Cockcroft presenting on the State of the Cloud and Container Ecosystems. Cockcroft paid particular attention to the impact of containers, which wasn’t even a major discussion topic at the last Structure conference in 2013. The event’s opening also had a significant contribution from Intel, with particular focus on healthcare applications for cloud.

continue reading the full story at InfoQ

I had many issues with the kitchen I bought from Wren living. One of the most troublesome ones came from wooden worktops, and in hindsight I should never have bought my worktop from Wren.


Wren don’t supply a full range of sizes. So they tried to cover a 2605x945mm island with two pieces of 2400x900mm worktop (actually the original order had one piece of 2400x900mm and another of 3000x610mm, but that would still have meant multiple joins).

I ended up getting my worktop from Worktop Express, who supply 3000x960mm (amongst other sizes) and do next day delivery.


Wren charged (and later refunded) me £997.98 for the two pieces of worktop that didn’t fit.

Worktop Express charged me £350 (plus £25 delivery) for the one piece that did fit.

Don’t ignore the extras

Wren added a £50 ‘worktop care kit’ to my kitchen order, which included oil, cleaner and joiners. Some of the stuff I just didn’t need, and the rest could have been sourced much more cheaply elsewhere.

I had many issues with the kitchen I bought from Wren living. Some of the most troublesome ones came from appliances, and in hindsight I should never have bought my appliances from Wren.

Everything at once

Buying my kitchen and appliances at the same time from the same supplier seemed like a good idea. I’d have one company to deal with, and everything would come at once. If only that were true.

Two of the appliances came three weeks late, and an appliance that was damaged on delivery took nine weeks to be replaced.

Cost is just one consideration

When I shopped around for the appliances I’d bought with my kitchen at Wren I found that I could get them cheaper, though the difference wasn’t generally too bad – tens of pounds not hundreds.

Delivery is the key

The appliances I ordered were generally available online with next day delivery from a range of UK sellers.

Wren don’t do next day delivery. Wren use Swiftcare to do their delivery (when things aren’t coming in their own vans). Swiftcare run a 10 working day service. Within that 10 days you’ll get a call 48hrs before a planned delivery to see if you’ll be home to take it, if not then back to square one. On the day of delivery you’ll get a call about an hour before the (huge) lorry comes.

So Wren saving a few quid on shipping costs means that you can be left waiting weeks for appliances.

Availability is important too

I’ll repeat the point – the appliances I ordered were generally available online with next day delivery from a range of UK sellers. So it was annoying to be left waiting for weeks for Wren to get stock and Swiftcare to come along.

The substitutes

Wren didn’t leave me without. When they couldn’t deliver they sent me CDA brand substitute appliances. In some cases (like the hob) it wasn’t worth the bother to fit another thing, but in others (like the microwave) it was genuinely useful to have the substitute.

When I got substitutes I was told that I could keep them afterwards ‘for the inconvenience’. How it makes business sense to give away hobs, extractors and microwaves when the items the customer wants are available elsewhere for next day delivery remains a mystery to me.

Many things went wrong with the kitchen I bought from Wren Living:

If you’re here because you’re thinking of buying a kitchen from Wren then may I suggest that you first try out their customer support and see if you like it. Dial 0345 127 7008 the choose option 2 then option 3 then option 1. You may want a speaker phone or hands free set whilst you wait to get through. In my experience a typical wait is around 20 minutes.

Issue 1 – late delivery

My kitchen came a week late after our designer made an unauthorised change to the delivery date.

When I placed my order I was unclear about when my builders would be ready to install, so I took a guess and went for the week of 27 Jul. As things progressed the builders asked for it a week earlier, and I called Wren on 23 Jun to see if I could get it moved forward. Sadly they were already booked solid for the week of 20 Jul, so I had to stick with the original date, but I was assured that I should be able to get the kitchen early that week. When I paid my balance on 29 Jun delivery was still on track for w/c 27 Jul.

It was a nasty shock when I got a call from Gemma on 28 Jul saying that delivery was scheduled for the following week, but in the end that’s when the kitchen actually arrived. Apparently my designer Rebecca had pushed the date back (initially to w/c 17 Aug, but then to w/c 3 Aug). Rebecca later said that she’d got a message from my builders asking for the change, but that wasn’t true.

Issue 2 – missing appliances

When my kitchen finally did arrive (a week late) it came without the hob or extractor that I’d ordered.

I got a call the evening before delivery saying that the hob and extractor weren’t available, and that we’d get substitute appliances instead. This caused some consternation, as the granite would need to be cut to fit the hob, but what if it might never come. I was eventually told that the hob would definitely be delivered, but it would take up to 5 weeks, and the extractor would be up to 3 weeks.

The appliances came on 24 Aug – almost 3 weeks after the kitchen.

see Buying Kitchen Appliances from Wren Living for more

Issue 3 – long lead time for replacement unit

New units need to be made from scratch and delivered in Wren’s vans.

The design had failed to take into account the thickness of a wall, meaning that we needed a 600mm unit where a 300mm unit had been specified. The new unit was ordered (and paid for) on 4 Aug and delivered on 20 Aug. The unit we didn’t want was collected on 22 Sep, and refunded on 28 Sep.

Issue 4 – deformed butler sink

Even items Wren doesn’t make itself need to be delivered in their vans.

The granite fitter unpacked the butler sink we’d ordered so that he could put it in place for accurate measurements. He noticed straight away that it didn’t look right:



The issue was noticed on 5 Aug, but the replacement didn’t come until 20 Aug. Wren didn’t collect the deformed sink (which they insisted on taking back) until 22 Sep.

Issue 5 – damaged wall unit

Another item that needed to be manufactured and delivered according to Wren’s schedule.

One of the wall units was damaged during shipping, puncturing the box and the back of the unit.


The issue was reported on 6 Aug, and the replacement came on 20 Aug. Wren didn’t initially make it clear that there was no need to return the broken unit, and that I could just get rid of it.

Issue 6 – wrong sized worktop

Wren specified two 2400x900mm pieces of wooden worktop for the island 2605x945mm, but they were both too short and too narrow to be fitted in any way that didn’t involve multiple joins..

It was six weeks before the incorrect worktops were taken away, and a further week before I was refunded.

see Buying Wooden Kitchen Worktops from Wren Living for more

Issue 7 – granite not fitted on time

Wren subcontracted the granite fitting to Original Marble and Granite (OMG). I was told that the granite would come on 14 Aug, which fitted into the lead time of 5-8 working days after measuring. It was fitted on 18 Aug.

Issue 8 – microwave damaged during delivery

Appliances that were available may suddenly become hard to get.

The microwave was one of the last things to be installed, so this problem wasn’t spotted until 21 Aug. It then took over 9 weeks to get the replacement.


see Buying Kitchen Appliances from Wren Living for more

Issue 9 – broken retaining clip on drawer

This was the only issue that Wren dealt with expeditiously. I emailed customer support on 8 Sep with these photos of a broken drawer clip, and on 12 Sep some new ones came in the post:


I bought a new kitchen from Wren Living this April for delivery in late July. It’s the most expensive thing I’ve ever bought that wasn’t an entire house.

Many things went wrong.

I shouldn’t have bought my appliances from Wren.

I shouldn’t have bought my wooden worktop from Wren.

I’m writing this because I felt badly treated by Wren. I’d made a large and important purchase, and once they had my money they didn’t seem at all interested in keeping me happy.

The only person that ever apologised to me was Kelly Longman in Southampton (covering for the absent manager from the Guildford branch where I bought) – thanks Kelly for showing some compassion and humanity.

My experience with customer services was miserable. They never replied to emails, and calling generally involved waiting 20 minutes for somebody to answer the phone followed by a ‘computer says no’ type conversation. I logged 4 hours and 20 minutes calling customer support, most of it spent on hold.

If you’re here because you’re thinking of buying a kitchen from Wren then may I suggest that you first try out their customer support and see if you like it. Dial 0345 127 7008 the choose option 2 then option 3 then option 1. You may want a speaker phone or hands free set whilst you wait to get through.

Wren’s Managing Director Armando Sanchez at one time published his mobile number, but that number is now taken care of the same customer services team. I guess the level of customer unhappiness was too much for him.

From conversations with friends it seems that maybe there’s no such thing as a good kitchen company, but hopefully my bad experiences with Wren can help you choose better where you buy (parts of) your kitchen from.

I’ve been noticing that lots of the services I use online have been getting worse. My friends have been complaining too. I think I know why.

A/B testing is a great way for product managers to make decisions based on data (rather than their own gut feel). But what happens when A/B testing meets the classic technology adoption curve?

Rogers’ Bell Curve (Wikipedia)

As the Innovators and Early Adopters get started with something A/B testing works with them. It helps to explore the solution space, and smooth the rough edges off.

Just add moron

As the Early/Late Majority, or worse still the Laggards get on board the A/B testing starts tuning things to their preferences, which might generally be towards a simpler user experience where only the most used features are presented. Other features – the features that the Innovators and Early Adopters liked (we know this from earlier A/B testing) start to disappear, or get hidden away behind special ‘nerd knob’ selectors.

It doesn’t have to be like this

Pretty much every services lets me customise things to my preferences – stuff like text size, background colours/pictures etc. There’s absolutely no reason why users shouldn’t be able to override A/B testing when they find it taking their personal user experience in the wrong direction. Better still I expect that if A/B testing was done into adoption clades it would cause some very nice split evolution into different ecological niches. This might blow the brains of simplistic (simpleton) product managers who want to keep everything uniform, but people aren’t uniform – deal with it. The secret to good user experience is know your customer (KYC[1]) – wasn’t that the whole point of A/B testing in the first place. The point here is that some customers are different from others – get to know them and those differences and you can serve them better.

Here’s a great counter example of KYC from Barclays via Conor Ogle:

We have the technology

I was at the Andreessen Horowitz London tech summit last week and one of their portfolio companies gave a demo of customisation that they do for online retail. It was carving up customer groups by their various profiles six ways from Sunday for various online (A/B) tests, so clearly we’re at a place where this is a commodity for presenting product, so why isn’t it a commodity for presenting features.


A/B testing can be a great tool, but if its used too bluntly then it can actively destroy a well tuned user experience of early adopters as less demanding users follow them. Product managers need to get smarter about segmentation.


[1] Yes, I know KYC has a specific regulatory meaning in banking etc., but any services organisation should be trying to know their customers better, and striving to delivery a delightful user experienced based on that knowledge.

ContainerX will launch their ‘Container Platform for Enterprise IT’ at DockerCon Europe next week in Barcelona. Described as ‘vSphere for Containers’ the platform aims to give developers a self service capability using the Docker command line, whilst providing operations teams with capabilities that they’re familiar with from managing virtual machines.

continue reading the full story at InfoQ


Twistlock have announced the general availability of their Container Security Suite, along with a partnership with Google Cloud Platform that integrates Twistlock into Google Container Engine (GKE). The suite consists of a console to define policy, a registry scanner and a ‘Defender’that runs as a privileged container on each host. The suite connects to Twistlock’s cloud based ‘Intelligence Service’ to get real time vulnerability and threat intelligence.

continue reading the full story at InfoQ

TV Cable Tidy



If you’re putting a TV on a modern open stand then the ancillaries and cables can make a real mess and spoil the overall look. I put a board onto the VESA mount on the back of my TV to hold everything, which then let me arrange the cables into one tidy trunk running along the centre line of the TV stand.



I recently upgraded the AV system in my living room. My Toshiba LCD TV and Panasonic Blu-Ray come DVR stayed, along with the awesome Mission FS2-AV NSX flat panel speakers[1], but the old (pre HDMI) AV Amp and CD jukebox are out of the picture. The CD jukebox had pushed me to buying an enormous oak AV unit, which seemed fine with a 29″ CRT TV on top. With a new slimline Marantz NR1504 AV Amp I’ve been able to get everything I need onto a sleek Centurian Opod Stand.

The new stand would take the TV, AV Amp and BluRay/DVR perfectly. The problem was where to put everything else:

  • Power distribution (for a total of 6 things)
  • Network switch
  • Raspberry Pi (running OpenELEC of course)
  • Aerial amplifier

My new setup was going to look awful with that lot (and all of the associated wires) hanging around.

VESA to the rescue

Pretty much all LCD TVs (and monitors[2]) have a VESA mount on the back. This is intended for wall mounting, but in this case my idea was to mount all of the untidiness onto the TV. I bought a piece of plywood, some M6 threaded bar and M6 nuts on eBay to create a board that would hold the power strip, switch, Raspberry Pi and aerial amp:



I placed the threaded bars into the VESA mount, using a couple of nuts as spacers (and to prevent them going in too far) then drilled the plywood board to fit over. The board was then secured with some more nuts, and I left the threaded bar protruding to be used to wrap things around later. The various bits and bobs were secured with a mixture of screw mounts, sticky velco strips and cable ties running through the board. Once the full horror of cabling was added I then used cable wrap and more cable ties to keep everything in a single umbilical running along the centre line of the TV stand.


The net effect is that the only cabling that can be seen from the front is one thick tidy bundle, which is pretty much invisible behind the post of the TV stand. The clean lines of the stand and overall modern aesthetics are preserved.


This isn’t what the VESA mount was designed for, but I think it’s a great way of keeping everything tidy for a TV that isn’t wall mounted.


[1] I’ve been so happy with the FS2-AV system that I bought another one for my new media/games room. Sadly both of them were old enough for the foam around the (sub) woofer to have perished. Worse still Mission no longer have spares stock of the original Audax AP170MN2 drivers units. Luckily I was able to find some AP170M0 woofers on eBay, which fitted perfectly, so I’m back to crisp bass with clicks and pops.
[2] I was once told that the original VESA mount was contrived by my (sadly departed) old fried Peter Golden and some of his colleagues at Barclays. He was doing the first trade floor fit out to use LCD screens rather than CRT monitors, and didn’t want to end up becoming beholden to a single supplier over mounting, so they cooked up a simple arrangement of using a 100mm square and M4 screws and persuaded VESA to make it a standard.


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