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Showing posts from 2014

The Apple Watch is a design monstrosity, an interface from hell

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Noises heard from below ground in Palo Alto...
Now, I'll get pilloried for this, no doubt, by Apple fan boys - and note that I own lots of Apple kit (Macs, iPads, iPhones), so I'm no hater - but it has to be said, the Apple Watch is a terrible, terrible design that will go down in history as a huge flop.

I'm not talking about the physical appearance - though that's rather thick and clunky if we're honest (though no more than other current smartwatches). I'm talking about the interface and operation.

This is 2014 and we want elegance, we want consistency. The Pebble smartwatches are quaint in just having buttons, but OK. Last-gen, a little limited, but great battery life (thanks to the screen tech). The Android Wear smartwatches are purely touch driven and relatively elegant as a result, though current hardware is still first generation, obviously.

Apple, of course, will get it right, we thought - show us how simple, how elegant a smartwatch interface could be. …

The budget phone contract 'scam'

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Now, let me emphasise the quotes above - what I'm describing (ok, ranting about) here isn't illegal, it's simply.... misleading. And I'm not singling out any one phone network here, I'm simply using Three UK as an example - all the others do the same.

Look, I get the idea of contracts, especially at the upper end of the price spectrum - you get a nice, cheap, subsidised handset, you get more minutes, texts and Megabytes than you need, and all is rosy. You're paying £30 or more a month, but you're happy and, essentially, sorted.

However, down at the budget end, there's little or no subsidy in terms of hardware, yet there's massive possibility for swinging overage charges. Let me explain.

I'm looking at a Three UK run down of plans. They offer one at £6.90 a month. Which sounds great. 500MB of data, 200 minutes and 5000 texts. Perfect for a teenager, perhaps?

Maybe. Except that you can bet he or she will occasionally go over, with 'that' l…

Anatomy of an eBay scam... dodged!

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After a number of years on eBay, you learn the danger signs, the whiff of something not quite right. I won't quote actual eBay usernames here because I'm only 99% sure and not 100%, but I thought the procedure was still well worth writing up.

The task for me: to buy an item, in this case an iPhone 5, a high value item, we looked at it, at £190 or so with a day to go, with local collection (which was OK for us, it was only 20 mins away) and put in a max bid of £290 - the idea being that eBay would auto-increase this if needed, as other people bid on the item.

In hindsight, we rather overvalued the item and should have pitched in lower, as will become apparent.

The task for the seller: the sell us the iPhone for as much money as possible while dodging both PayPal AND eBay fees. And he almost managed it.

Here's the scam:
He specified cash only on collection. Uh-oh. I queried this. It was to avoid PayPal's 3.4% fee, he said. Hmm.... OK, let's press on though....With onl…

An enforced Easter break and general thoughts on Phones Show scheduling

Dear Phones Show and PSC viewers and listeners....(!)

Just a small status update regarding the shows.

PSC records on a Sunday evening and thus clashes with Easter Sunday - I think Ted and I did a show last year anyway, but this year I'll be knee-deep in family, so we're going to miss a week. I'm sure you'll have your own family time and won't miss us too much?

The main Phones Show has been hit a little by several general factors, worth noting:

a continued decline in the number of people financially supporting the show, meaning that I've had to take on extra writing work to make ends meet. the critically poor health of one of my parents, a factor which may well play a bigger role as the year goes on. This factor in particular has to take absolute priority, as I'm sure you can sympathise?a huge number of other online video shows, often with far bigger financial resources and offering higher production values. When I started The Phones Show (as 'The Smartph…

Pop-out batteries save the day from human error!

I've ranted before about the potential perils of sealed batteries on phones, something of a worrying trend in mobile design. Yes, I know designs can be simpler and more streamlined, but it really hurts the long term flexibility of the device.

Not least because there's precious little way back from human error. In this case, me. My error.

I charge my smartphone, like most people, with a microUSB mains charger beside my bed. Each night I plug the phone in and settle in for a good sleep, confident that my phone will wake me up at 7am in the morning, fully charged and with my morning alarm sounds.

At some point yesterday, I needed to plug something else in and so the phone's power adapter got unplugged. You can probably guess the rest, but...

As I drifted off to sleep I noticed that the usual Android 4.3 DayDream clock face (usually on during charging) wasn't showing. Yes, it was my clock during the night, but hey, I was tired and couldn't care too much. Zzzzzzz.....

B…

Automator - just one MORE reason why I use an Apple Mac....

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Mac vs PC debates have raged through the ages, of course. And I can't hope to summarise the pros and cons of each in a simple blog post here. But I did want to shout about something that delighted me in recent months about my Mac and that's discovering how to use the Automator utility.

Here's the use case. I had a bunch of photos and screenshots, all of which I wanted resized to 600 pixels wide, for inclusion in a Wordpress blog post elsewhere. Painstakingly, I opened each in Seashore (v0.1.9, the older one, is the best to use, IMHO) and resampled down, then saved. There must be a better way, I thought.

I started browsing through the Mac App Store and did find a few batch resizers, but they all cost money and seemed too complicated. I wonder.... I remembered seeing Automator a few times in my app list on the Mac, so I gave it a whirl:

Start AutomatorClick on 'Application'Click on 'Photos'Drag the 'Scale images' action to the application pane (you'…

The Rolls Royce of smartphone belt cases: PDair

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In a mad world where I change my smartphone almost weekly, as part of the review process, one thing has remained constant: the case I carry said smartphone in. You see, and I realise I run a huge risk of being declared uncool here, I'm a passionate believer in belt cases. As slimline and unobtrusive as possible, of course, but a belt case nonetheless.

Cynics will point to the fact that I'm already married and thus don't need to attract the opposite sex in quite the same way as younger folk might need to, and I accept that there's a certain 'geek' impression created by a belt case - but then aren't geeks supposed to be cool now too? Aren't we geeks supposed to inherit the earth, etc.?

The advantage of a belt case are:
you don't have to keep standing up and taking a phone out of your trouser pocket - the case is accessible in any positionyou can't easily leave your phone behind somewhere - less lost phonesthere's greater protection than if a ph…

Mini-review: JPEGmini (for PC and Mac)

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Sometimes a product just works like magic. This is just one such....

The problem is this, you see - JPGs. Photos, screenshots, scans, just about anything graphic uses the JPG compressed image format these days. As a journalist I use a lot of JPGs and there's always this terrific push-pull going on between quality and byte size.

Not many people realise that a JPG can be any size. it's essentially a lossy approximation of your original image (e.g. from a camera or screenshot or scan), but intelligently degraded such that you don't notice any difference.

Take a 5MP photo from your phone. Uncompressed, you'd be looking at 20MB or so, but the device probably spits it out at 2MB or so, applying a particular JPG 'quality' (usually about 85% or so) - your eyes can't tell the difference most of the time, but look down at the pixel level and you'll see artefacts.

So the photo could be represented by a 5MB JPG with almost perfect 'quality' and almost no ar…