Sainsbury’s SmartShop

Hi folks,

Today I’ll like to talk about a relatively new phenomenon I noticed in my neighbourhood Sainsburys. It’s called SmartShop.

What is Smart Shop? Smart Shop is a system a shopper can use an in-store handset to scan items as he/she picks them from the shelves. Then at the end of the shopping, he/she goes to a special SmartShop checkout section to load all items scanned into the checkout machine and pay. There’s even a SmartShop app available on Google Play and on the App Store which one can use according to Sainsbury’s website.

Here’s how I first became aware of it. About a month ago, I noticed a sign close to the entrance that said Smart Shop. I was a little curious about it. So, that day when checking out at the till, I asked a cashier about it. He said it was a system where one could buy items without having to come to the cashier till. I found that interesting, but I didn’t pursue the idea further. A few weeks later while walking down the shopping isle to pick up a few groceries, I heard a beep a few meters away. The peculiar thing about this beep was that it was the same beep one would normally hear from the checkout machines at the till. But this beep emanated from somewhere in the isle! So I looked at where the beep was coming from and saw that a someone had just scanned a grocery item. The person had a shopping cart and looked quite pleased with himself. It then occurred to me that shoppers could actually scan their items as they shop and that this must be the smart shop concept I had asked about earlier. So, after checking out, I went to the stand where the handsets were and started looking around for some instruction on how to use it. A friendly staff found me and helped me register.

Now to my experience of actually using SmartShop. I attempted buying groceries via SmartShop and have a few observations.


  • You can put items in your grocery bags as soon as you scan them
    No need to take groceries out of shopping cart into the line at the checkout counter
  • No need to load groceries back into your shopping bags after paying at the checkout counter
  • You can see the total cost of your groceries on the SmartShop handset as you shop. This can help you manage costs
  • No need to join queues at the checkout counter


  • If you are buying items that don’t have barcode scanners on them, e.g. loose tomatoes and onions, you need to first weigh them yourself on a scale to print out barcode tags, then place the tag on the item
  • You need to be make sure you remember to scan each item before placing it in your cart
  • You need to make sure when you scan an item, the item is registered and quantity updated correctly on the handset. There was a time I had to scan an item twice to get it to work, probably due to network failure.

Overall, SmartShop is a very good idea if you have just a few items to buy. If you have a lot of groceries to buy, you may want to go the traditional route of using the checkout counter to minimise chances of forgetting to scan items. Also, SmartShop is a good idea if the items you buy have barcodes on them already. If you buy lots of items without barcodes, be ready to weigh and print out barcodes yourself.

Web Application Testing with BrowserStack

Today while looking for a machine running IE to debug a web application I was working on, a friend of mine referred me to a platform for testing on various browsers called BrowserStack. So I gave it a shot, and boy, was I amazed!

BrowserStack allows you test web applications on various browsers on multiple operating systems. Desktop and mobile devices are supported. The website provides a free trial so users can test drive it to see if it is to their liking. Registering for an account was quick and easy.

While testing I was able to use local urls, e.g. localhost:3000, saving me time. The app worked quite swiftly as well. The only critique I have of it is that the session times out rather quickly if there isn’t any activity.

So, if you are thinking about a good solution for testing web apps on multiple browsers, give BrowserStack a try. Visit their website to get started.

A Review of New Words With Friends

There’s this really awesome educational game I came across recently while surfing popular games on Google Play. It’s called New Words With Friends. Having given the Android version of this game a thorough test, I’ll share my review. Published by the famous game studio, Zynga, New Words With Friends is an excellent and engaging educational game to play with both friends and new folks. Essentially, it’s like playing Scrabble on a phone and it works cross-platform as an Android app, iOS app and even a Facebook app. Without further ado I’ll discuss the high points.

First, the game has really cool graphics. The game has a cool trendy look easy on the eyes and sure to please. It’s got a Facebook-like theme and a good combination of warm and cool colours. There really isn’t much to fault in terms of its looks. The game icon even has a winter feel to it.

Second, New Words With Friends is very social. It’s possible to invite Facebook friends to play. You can even nudge those unresponsive friends to get them in faster. You get ranked alongside friends you’ve played with by total and average scores, ramping up that competitive spirit as you strive towards first place! New Words With Friends also has a Community Match feature that allows you to find avid players nearby just waiting to play with you or to choose who you will like to play with. There’s even a Smart Match feature that immediately finds a game for you to play. The game also has a handy chat tool to help you converse with your buddies or new found friends as you play.

Next is Statistics. Being a lover of all things mathematical and scientific I naturally enjoy a healthy dose of Statistics. New Words With Friends keeps track of your game statistics daily showing valuable metrics of how your verbal aptitude appreciates over time. Some statistics tracked include highest scoring words, longest words used, highest score in any game, average game score, score of words over time, etc.

Fourth is the Educational value. While playing this game, you have access to an in-built dictionary apparently based on the famous There is also a Word of the Day feature showing you new words each day to beef up your vocabulary.

Alright alright. So it’s obvious I really like this game. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any criticisms. First of all is the adverts. You have to watch an ad for at least a few seconds after every game move. I understand the makers of the game have to make some dough so it’s not so bad though. There’s an option in settings to buy the game.

Second, the dictionary is quite laggy. When searching for words in quick succession the dictionary doesn’t always keep up. For example you may open the dictionary feature and search for a word only to discover after a moment the meaning of a previous word show up. I feel the dictionary should be made a little more responsive. The app could cancel pending searches for example when a user submits a new query.

Third, there are some words you can play but can’t find meanings for using the dictionary. I suppose this is because that dictionary does not have the words. Perhaps Zynga could integrate other dictionaries to find meanings of words outside the default one.

By and large, New Words With Friends is a fantastic game with great social tools and educational value. I highly recommend this game to anyone with a decent smart phone looking for a game to pass time.

A Visit to Red Dog Saloon

Just earlier this evening I had the privilege of visiting an excellent  restaurant in the heart of Hoxton Square called Red Dog Saloon. I remember having a welcoming feeling as my colleagues and I approached the building with its bright lights. The interior was very cosy. Having made a reservation before arriving, we were met by a dashing young lady just by the entrance who took our details and aptly directed us to our table.

The place was packed. It was a average sized restaurant and just about every table was occupied. Voices of light chat could be heard from all directions as people talked very freely over a variety of dishes and drinks.

At the table, menus were already lying in wait alongside cutlery. So, naturally, we perused the menus as we settled down. Having looked at several menus in several restaurants in my time, I must say I was impressed with the wide variety Red Dog offered. They even had some very curiously named dishes like ‘The Punisher,’ ‘Double Trouble’ and ‘The Devastator’.  How cool is that? ‘Waiter, can I please have some Double Trouble?’

We were promptly attended by a waiter who took our orders for drinks, gave us ample time to peruse the menu and eventually took our orders for food. He was patient and polite in explaining what some of the dishes were when asked.

Our milkshakes were served in rather interesting metallic cups which looked like they had been specially kept in some freezer along with the shakes themselves. After considerable waiting, our orders eventually arrived, consisting of several plates of briskets and ribs among other things. Boy, Red Dog sure serves some delicious ribs! Needless to say, I haven’t tasted meat so good in ages. I got a helping of some mashed potatoes, again which tasted decent. These were very reminiscent of having a proper meal way back in Texas.

The only small criticism I and a colleague of mine had was that our orders weren’t delivered completely. However, the waiter rectified this and brought the remaining items after some time.

While enjoying ourselves, we took an ample number of pictures of the group as is the tradition when we go on outings. You know, something for the album.

After a very hearty meal, drinks and cool conversation we were ready to go. A waiter promptly took away our used dishes and happily offered to package some of our leftovers in case we wanted to take it away. Now, how cool is that? I, having a delicious brisket in front of me but very sated from the ribs eaten earlier, accepted the offer without hesitation.

By and large, Red Dog is an awesome restaurant to visit alone or with friends and family. The atmosphere is relaxing and the food is delicious. I can definitely see myself going there again in the near future.