Category Archives : Hardware


Braun 7 Series Electric Shaver

Most boys start doing it when they are teenagers. Most men do it every day, with a select few choosing to do it every other. Women also do it, but do it less frequently and talk about it less. I am of course talking about shaving. Being a working man, going to work clean shaven is now more important than going to uni clean-shaven, and as such required some new tech!


The Importance Of Your Computer

Several months ago one of my family members purchased a brand new MacBook Air for the purposes of going to university. This morning I received sad news that said laptop had been lost. Thankfully the laptop was insured so at least the physical value of the laptop should not be an issue. Lesson One: Make Sure Your Laptop Is Insured For Both Accidental Damage And Loss! However what happens with the data which is on it? The truth is that there is no excuse for not having mission critical data (such as university work, important account files etc etc) backed up as it is changed. This is possible through services such as Dropbox and SugarSync, which are free and monitor folders and files and automatically upload changes to the cloud. Lesson Two: Sign Up To Dropbox And/Or SugarSync! Passwords, need to be safe and secure. In other words unique and ideally containing random letters as well as characters which are not alpha-numeric. This isn’t a daunting process as 1Password has it covered. 1Password is covered in detail in my ‘Useful Software & Services For The 21st Century Student‘ post. It is more expensive than the average app, however its an investment that will keep your banking details, and other secure login sites safe. Lesson Three: Make Sure You Don’t Use The Same Password, Or Simple Passwords For Anything! All of this advice is to protect you from losing your laptop or computer as a result of carelessness of theft. But it should also be followed generally as the hard drives which your data is stored will not last forever. I have suffered two hard drive failures around 7 years ago where my data was not backed up, and it was horrendous. Memories gone, important documents lost, hours taken to rebuild what I could. As anyone who has suffered a hard drive failure or computer loss will tell you, although the physical computer can be replaced, the memories contained on it usually cannot.


Technology In Canada & USA

As many of you reading this blog will know, last month I went on a holiday with my family that involved travelling thousands of miles to Canada and America where we spent just over three weeks seeing sights that were breathtaking, and doing things which were once in a lifetime opportunities. My full, day by day account can be viewed on my travel blog (click here), however I wanted to do a post on what the technology was like whilst away; what problems I encountered, and I how I went about solving them. A few weeks before we left I had set up the above website and a dedicated Flickr set for which I could upload photos and blog posts to either from my iPhone, iPad or MacBook Air. It was my plan to get data for my iPhone allowing for uploading and tweeting on the go, and then use wifi when available for my iPad and MacBook Air. My twitter feed, flickr set and tumblr blog were integrated onto my family section of my website and dedicated holiday site for work colleagues and family to view. When I arrived at London Heathrow I did one blog post and switched off international roaming for data. I did this before boarding the plane as I have heard horror stories of people going abroad and returning home to find a £300+ bill from their network for data usage. As soon as we landed in Toronto I switched on my phone to see which local mobile phone networks were available, Rogers was the only one I could find so they would get my business. The hotel we stayed in had wifi, but only in the lobby, so I headed off to the local Rogers shop to purchase some Pay As You Go Data. This was my first ‘taste’ of the Canadian people and the people who assisted me in Rogers were fantastic. They knew exactly what I wanted and needed for my iPhone 4. I had the option of buying a PAYG SIM card, choosing the amount to credit my account, then activating data for either $2 for 20MB day pass, or $7 for 125MB week pass. As this was my only source of data to which I tended to upload photos I chose the 125MB week pass, and found myself buying two of these for my weeks stay. Data for the week cost me under $20 (£20.30) for the week; however this allowed me to carry on as normal, and in my opinion worth every penny. Moving over to the USA was more of a challenge. As we crossed the boarder I used my Rogers SIM until the data ran out. As I was technically Roaming the data only lasted a few days (if that), however the hotels that we stayed in during our trip from Canada to New York City had free Wifi in the rooms, this wasn’t too much of an issue. There are three main options for networks in USA; AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile. The first network reseller we found was an AT&T rep. He was very helpful and honest. He said that for some reason he said that the iPhone 4 simply wouldn’t work with Pay As You Go data, and blamed Apple for this. I trusted that it wouldn’t work, however didn’t believe his reason behind it. After all AT&T were exclusivity parterres with Apple for the first view iPhone launches – so kind of think that AT&T were living up to their reputation which I had heard. Kudos tho to the AT&T rep, he didn’t try and rip us off, he was honest, however I do feel for americans who want PAYG data on AT&T on an iPhone 4. The second network provider we found (in the same mall) was Verizon, however as they operate on CDMA and not GSM, the frequency which virtually all phones operate on these days, it would mean me purchasing a new phone – which to me wasn’t an option. So I needed to find a T-Mobile store. It would turn out that T-Mobile isn’t as popular in the rural areas of New York state, so I had to wait until we arrived in New York City. I did a google search on where a store would be in relation to our hotel, and to my delight one was on the same block, a few minutes walk from the hotel. As soon as I had dropped my bags I walked to T-Mobile. I asked the question, could I get data on Pay As You Go, the rep said yes, however their was a catch (which I kind of guessed there would be); the iPhone 4 would only allow data at edge speeds on PAYG, not 3g or 4g. Slow data was better than no data, so I opted for their ‘Unlimited’ plan, of unlimited data, and unlimited local texts/phone calls for $50 (£30). This was just slightly more than my O2 contract at home, so was quite happy with that. Reception unlike Rogers, was a little patchy in some areas, however I was still able to browse a Web site, send emails, and tweet without too much stress of waiting for the page to load. After our stay in New York City, we got a plane to Naples where would stay for a week in a villa. The villa itself had broadband, but no wireless, meaning that we couldn’t connect our iPads or iPhones to it. The broadband came in the form of a cable modem. I had my MacBook Air with me so there were two options, I could either buy the Ethernet to USB adaptor and then broadcast the signal using my AirPort built into the Air, or get a router. The first option meant me having to leave my MacBook Air on all day and plugged into the wall, something I wasn’t too keen on, so getting a router was the only real option. A ‘normal’ router would have to be configured using Ethernet initially, so we would have had to […]


OSX Lion & New Macbook Air

This week has been a very busy week for Apple, first we saw (yet another) set of record breaking financial results, a day later new hardware and software were flying out of Cupertino at an astonishing rate. First I will look at Lion the new operating system, and then I will have a look at the new Macbook Air that I have in my possession and setting it up. A few weeks prior to any hint of a release date for Lion my local supermarket had a 25% discount on iTunes gift cards, so I stocked up, knowing full well that not only would I be buying a new operating system, but most likely some new applications to go along with it. The morning of the second rumoured release date arrived, and when I awoke the Apple Online store was down – which is always a good sign. Having duel displays meant that with a little help from a Safari Extension – Auto Refresh, I could have the Apple website open on one display, and continue my day, knowing full well that I would be one of the first to see it go live. Between 12:30 and 13:00 GMT (I think) the Apple Store came back up online, and I instantly added a Macbook Air to my basked and purchased it with a Paul Smith Case, and extended AppleCare (more on that later), so that it would be delivered the following day. After my order was accepted, I then proceeded to download Lion from the Mac App Store.   Lion Once I had clicked on the purchase button the little Lion logo jumped into my dock. The file was just under 4gb, and took a few hours to download. When I originally started downloading I was getting speeds of over 1MB/s, however as word spread round the world, this gradually reduced to just over 300KB/s. Installation took a further 30 minutes, and was a straight forward, non complex affair. When Lion booted it looked clean, fresh and was very responsive. There was one thing that I was disappointed in, and that was no “Welcome Video” with the funky music that we have been used to with a new mac or new install. My desktop iMac is a 27inch Quad Core 2.91Ghz i7 with 8GB of RAM and 1TB HDD, however it was getting sluggish, applications that used to open in once bounce of the dock icon, now were taking upwards of 5. Lion replaced all of this, applications opened in one or two, and things generally happened a lot more smoothly – just as expected with a new OS from Apple. Documents had been backed up (twice) before hand and came across smoothly, Applications had been updated to their latest stable release and were all working fine. Two things which I didn’t like about Lion, the first is of huge debate; the natural/un-natural scrolling. What does work ‘naturally’ on a tablet or phone, just seems backwards to me when using a mouse. Some have chosen to fight it out and get used to it, I have chosen to change it. If you wish to change it click here for instructions. The second thing was the lack of Front Row. This wasn’t a feature that I used an awful lot in Snow Leopard, however I knew that when I did want it, knowing that it wasn’t there would annoy me intensely. From what I understand, Front Row is still built into Lion, its just not compiled as an application. Thankfully Ralph Perdomo has written an application that finds the files and combines them in to Front Row, so that you can either launch it from your Applications, or do so by using your Apple remote. Click here for link to instructions on how to add Front Row back in Lion.   MacBook Air For those of you who either know me, or who follow my blog/tweets will know as of September I will be going to law school to take my first steps in becoming a barrister. A road that will be filled with lots of reading, revision, note taking and most likely a combination of all them. Being a student of the 21st century, all my notes, slides, essays will (and have been) taken on the computer using a variety of software and hardware, and whilst the iPad is perfect for throwing in my bag and taking notes on, multi-tasking still isn’t as smooth as I would like. Coupled with the fact that Christmas and Easter holidays are not normally spent in Manchester and spent in Leeds means that I have to pack up and cart back a serious amount of hardware, which as a one off isn’t an issue, but for a long weekend it simply isn’t practical. I see the next steps I take to be ones which I will constantly have a book in my hand, or notes open essay writing. Something that can be done on an iPad once every so often, but not on a regular basis. Therefore the MacBook Air was the only choice really, I decided to go for the 13inch with 128GB SSD. The 13inch was chosen as I’m one of those people who needs the most amount of screen real-estate as possible (hence 27inch iMac and 20inch Cinema display), and against the 256GB model as not only was it an added cost; but as this would be a work machine, and text files done take up that much space, 128GB was adequate. It arrived today, and even though I have played with its predecessor in the Apple Stores, when you hold it in your hands, it really is a feat of engineering genius to get something so powerful so light, and wafer thin. Lion came pre-installed, and I copied across the handful of applications that I needed for university, including Evernote and Pearnote for note taking. Email was stored on IMAP servers so no import was needed, calendar and contacts are looked after by […]


Mobee Magic Charger For Apple’s Magic Mouse

It has been quite some time now since I have actually done a review on a physical product, which is down to two main factors; firstly I have been revising for my exams or at work so haven’t had the time, secondly as a student, my gadget budget has dwindled away. Many people own Apple’s Magic Mouse, and the owners of these may be either PC users, or like myself Apple fan boys who simply have to have the new Apple kit to match their existing setup. I fall into the latter. So much so that I purchased the Magic Mouse as soon as one became available in my local Apple Store in Manchester. I instantly fell in love; its slim, its smooth and its responsive. The only downside is that it eats through batteries at an astonishing rate, and I mean astonishing. Being an economical student, I have plenty of rechargeable batteries which I use for my Apple Wireless Keyboard, Flashgun and other general gadgets. Normally replacing rechargeable batteries is not a chore, you take them out, and put new ones in after you have used the device in question. I dont have a problem with doing this for my flashgun, or other gadgets as I only use them once in a blue moon. However I found myself changing the batteries in my Magic Mouse at least once a week – if not more often. If anyone knows why the Magic Mouse uses so much juice please do let me know as it is a mystery to me, but I do know im not the only one with this issue. There were several options available to me. Firstly, Apple sell some lovely batteries which they claim to last longer than standard rechargeable ones in their Magic Mouse, even if these claims are true, I would still end up playing the ‘see how long you can last’ game when the low battery warning comes on screen. The second option would be to get a wired mouse. Well this wasnt really an option as I cant stand tugging at the mouse to get the cable through, and whilst the Mighty Mouse (which is still being sold) was fantastic, the roller ball did get clogged up quite quickly, a problem that doesn’t exist with the Magic Mouse (as there is no ball). What I wanted was to keep my mouse, have the batteries charged up each night or every couple of days, so that I never have to worry about them running flat. The student budget wouldnt quite stretch to a butler or servant to do this for me, so instead I had to look for another solution. A couple of months ago a review popped up on my RSS reader for the Mobee Magic Charger – it looked like a fantastic piece of kit, and would solve every one of my needs, however I hadnt had the guts to order it. In short the kit comes in two pieces, the first is a battery pack that replaces the batteries and battery cover in the magic mouse. The second bit is a charging bed; when the charging pack (that is now attached to the mouse) is placed on the bed, it charges through induction technology (the same used to charge electric toothbrushes). This means that you dont need to take batteries out or put them in, all you need to do is put the mouse on its bed before you go to sleep. Amazon (link to product page on Amazon) were selling the kit for £42.19 which on the outlook is quite expensive for batteries and convenience, however it was a price I was willing to pay. So I ordered mine on Sunday night; it arrive today (Tuesday – well done Amazon and Royal Mail). Sitting with technology in an unopen box at work is a method of torture that is used in some countries, however I can only give in to it. So I opened the very Apple’esk packaging to reveal the charging base and the battery pack. With no magic mouse at work I plugged in the base to my work PC using the supplied USB cable, placed the battery pack on it, to see the red light turn to a green flashing one to indicate charging. Within a couple of hours the flashing green light had stopped flashing to indicate that the pack was fully charged. Upon getting home I removed the cover from my Magic Mouse, took out the batteries and snapped the Mobee battery pack into place. It worked first time, battery level was indicating 100%. Yes this is the first day that I have been in possession of my Mobee Charger, and it probably is subject to a honeymoon period, however the idea of putting my mouse to bed when I go to bed, and not worrying about charging the batteries is one that I dont think I will ever tire from. This is one of the products that you don’t think about having, you only notice not having it. The very fact that I will never have to replace the batteries again in my mouse only occurs to me when thinking about it, I will now grow to think that my magic mouse batteries will always be full, as standard. To sum up, the Mobee Magic Charger for Apple’s Magic Mouse, its well packaged, does what it says on the box, looks fantastic (so much so that it looks like it was designed by Apple), and removes the chore of having to replace batteries. Mobee also do an induction charger for the Wireless Keyboard (link to product), however as the batteries only need replacing once every month or so, I cant really justify the £52.99 price tag just yet.


Mobile Broadband, Since When Did Data Become So Expensive?

For over a year now I have owned a MiFi from 3. At first I intended for it to be used on a daily basis, as a way of keeping connected on the move, however when the required task couldn’t be completed on my iPhone, WiFi has been readily available at either University or at home allowing me to use my iPad without forking out for an additional data plan. The times when I have needed to use my iPad when out have been few and far between, meaning that the most economical way has been to purchase a daily allowance from O2 giving me 200mb of data for a nominal fee of £2. With the areas I visited most covered by free WiFi I have enabled data on my iPad a handful of times since it was purchased, and only used my MiFi time times of emergency internet outages. As described in my original blog post, I am one of those people who have fallen in love with the internet. In fact so much so that the idea of being disconnected from the world is a thought that really does fill me with dread. Everything is done online, with ordering a birthday card for your grandmother, to finding a local rate number to avoid paying premium call charges; very few people today rarely give an always connected broadband a second thought, until it goes down. Therefore I have always made sure that no matter where I am based for an evening, I have at least two of my three internet enabled devices; iPhone, iPad and MiFi. Broadband, just like any utility can suffer outages, which has been the case in my student house today. I am moving out on Friday so whilst it would be nice to have it fixed im not going to lose too much sleep over it. The reason being is that I could still remain connected either via my iPhone, iPad or dust off my MiFi. I started weighing up my options. My iPhone whilst it does have 3G connectivity already paid for under my current contract, using twitter browsing the internet and replying to emails on such a small screen for a few days would be quite a challenge; especially as I am used to using a 27-inch iMac with duel display. The iPad was discounted at this point for similar reasons, with the addition of it meaning me have to fork out additional cash to purchase data. The only option was my MiFi. This is where the fun began, connecting my iMac to the MiFi was easy. My iMac found the WiFi signal and all I had to do was select the MiFi rather than my Airport Extreme base-station and I was cooking with gas. The reason for purchasing my MiFi from 3, was that last year credit didn’t expire, and the data you had purchased remained until used, the perfect deal for someone who would use the MiFi once in a blue moon. I purchased 1GB of data a year ago, and had approximately 50mb remaining when I switched on this morning. An hour later my connection went dead, as to be expected really, so a quick phone call to 3 technical support to activate an additional £10 worth of credit (already stored on my account) gave way to a mixed bag of emotions. First was relief that I had got through to someone who was happy to help and easy to understand (he wasnt based in a UK call centre, but still two out of three isnt too bad), second was anger. I was now told that whilst the cost of data hadnt gone up, any data not used within 30 days would expire! Personally I think this is a very cleaver ploy by the network providers, they offer you data packages which work out rather cheap on a £/mb basis, knowing full well that the average user will use around half of their allowance in the time frame given, in affect doubling their profit. For example 3 offer 1024mb of data for £10.49, costing 35p a day, not a lot by anyones standards. However if you only use half of your data for that month, it wont be brought forward, if you use half of your allowance it costs 70p a day, and if you only use a quarter of it you are set back £1.40 per day, not as cheap as it first looks. Is there any reason why my data should expire after a given time? I don’t think there is, it is not perishable and as I am charged based on usage the networks cant claim that by one person using 2gb is affecting the experience of others, as its a service that is being specifically paid for by one party, and not the other. Surely if I pay for data, I should be allowed to use that data, and not subject to time restraints and be pressured into using it prematurely. We in the UK live in a 1st class technological country, the cost of gadgets are getting lower, however the costs to run them are increasing. In the case of mobile technology, mobile phone contracts may not have increased in price significantly, however for the same price the service you receive will have decreased. Looking at mobile broadband, it was once ‘unlimited’ data for all, however things then changed with data being capped; now not only data being capped, but given a timeframe of which it is to be used or it will be forfeited. Once again the technology of a 1st world country is being priced at 3rd world prices.