Its been a long time coming, and now its only around the corner, in a few weeks time, the Apple Watch will be available to those who were lucky enough to get on the round of pre-orders.
Almost everyone has a portable music player, but did you know you can listen to things other than music on it? Well you can!
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.
Having spent four years at university (and going into my fifth year in September), I have have been at the cutting edge of technology for the 21st century student. I rocked up for my first university lecture with my trusty black Macbook, and over the years the piece of technology that joined me has changed, moving through the MacBook Pro range, iPad and now the MacBook Air, which is my note taking device of choice. However the student of today has to do much more than simply take notes in lectures, they have to write essays, draw diagrams and plan their time. Over the years I have tried most of the software out there, and in order to help the student of 2012 on their way (which yes includes my baby brother who this year flies the nest), I have complied this list of student friendly software. Due to the fact that I am a mac fan, the majority are exclusively for the mack platform, however if you head over to http://alternativeto.net you are bound to find something that suits your need. SugarSync – Problem Solved: Backup/Data Sync – Price: From £0 Just like its direct competitor DropBox, SugarSync is one of those programs where you simply set it and forget it. Unlike DropBox you need not move your files from their original location, you select which folders you want to upload to the cloud, and whenever they change, the changes are synced to the cloud. It is unlikely that your tutor will accept the same excuse for an essay being late that was accepted in high school, so a backup solution is vital. Once SugarSync is set up you don’t need to worry about anything. If your computer ever gets lost/stolen or broken you have a backup of all your vital documents that can be downloaded in a matter of moments. Since documents are stored in the cloud, the web interface allows you to work on your documents from any computer (provided it has an Internet connection and the file type is compatible with the local machine). Gone are the days where you need to worry about carrying a USB drive with you, and keeping it updated with the latest copy of your work, simply logon to SugarSync, download your work, do what you need to do, re-upload it and it will be back waiting for you on your machine when you get home. SugarSync has mobile apps of every variety out there, so your documents are available on the go, perfect if you have your revision notes on there and a moment to spend whist waiting for a bus. The free version of SugarSync gives you a 5GB data allowance, which is more than ample for text documents, the odd photograph and diagram. However if you are studying an art, design or media based subject where file sizes are significantly larger more storage is available at very reasonable prices. Evernote – Problem Solved: Mobile Note Taking/Documents On The Go – Price: From £0 There will be some documents that you will wish to archive yet keep to hand. Documents such as your timetable, copies of your tenancy agreement, statements/receipts of important items, Evernote is perfect for this. As well as being able to write notes in the application itself, you are able to drop in files, that are not only synchronised across your mobile devices but are available online. However that is not all. Evernote has released browser plugins (or extensions) that allow you to clip articles directly to your Evernote notebooks. Data such as the site where the article was taken from and the date it was accessed are automatically stored alongside any pictures that the article contains, making referencing at a later date easy. For me I use Evernote as my ‘important document store’. Amongst my notebook collection I have notebooks for university (and then tag each note be it with a subject or event), personal and interesting articles. Since whatever you put in Evernote is backed up in the cloud (and replicated on any other device you have), I also drop in essays and reports. After all it can’t hurt to have another copy of these important documents saved can it? The free version of Evernote gives you 60mb worth of uploads each month, which for standard text and text based files is more than enough, and I for one have never required more. However if you want features such as being able to upload up to 1GB of data each month and offline notebooks this will set you back £35 a year. OmniFocus – Problem Solved: Task/Todo Management – Price £27.99 When at university, there are going to be hundreds of things that need to be done. Some such as the steps required to complete some tutorial work only occur once, others such as remembering to put the bin out occur on a weekly basis. OmniFocus looks after all these tasks and puts them into groups depending on what is required to do them, which are called Contexts. For example, you can set up a context called ‘Library’ (and an alert can even be set up on the iPhone app to alert you through location services when you are at the library) to remind you to renew a book, check out another book and get your photocopying done all in one go. Similar tasks such as getting all your emails done in one go etc etc can save time as you are focused on one process rather than flitting between several different things. Tasks are sorted into projects and can be sequential in order or concurrent. A sequential project would be for instance writing an essay, the proof reading can’t be done until you have written the first draft, and the first draft can’t be written until you have done your research. As such the proof reading and first draft tasks won’t show up until the first task of research has […]
Its going to be a very quick blog post today, mainly because today, unlike the weather has been brilliant. As you may have guessed from the title of this post its down to two things; my laptop and an innocent piece of fruit, the dreaded orange. Lets deal with each of the respective items in the turn which they turned an innocent Tuesday into one from hell. When I opened the blinds this morning I was greeted by glorious sun, therefore I decided that rather than uni at a fast pace, I would leave a little earlier than normal, thereby enjoying a leisurely stroll with some music provided courtesy of my iPhone. All was well, I arrived safe and sound in the lecture theatre, only to reach into my bag and realise that my Macbook Air was not there. I can’t go a day at university without my laptop. It has my notes, materials and acts as a dictaphone for the lectures. I had never forgotten it before, so instantly wanted someone to blame; however after coming to the conclusion it was my fault I also decided that I had to go back and retrieve it. With only 15 minutes before the lecture started, and contrary to my previous belief that there is never a taxi around when you want one, there was. Ten minutes later and £7.50 lighter I had my laptop in hand just in time for the lectures. The second item to ruin my day was the orange. Small, round and orange in colour, this innocent fruit can bring joy to those on a break or who simply need a burst of vitamin C. My reason for consumption was the first. As is customary I purchased said orange from the green grocer on Oxford Road. As supplier of all of my fruit and veg requirements, I am familiar with the quality and price which give explanation to my returning custom. Sitting down I began to peel, it came off in tiny tiny pieces, squirting orange juice all over me, my desk, and surrounding papers. I kid you not, it took me over 10 minutes to peel the thing. The only thing that kept me going was knowing how refreshing the taste would be as it entered my mouth. The first segment entered my mouth…it was bitter…it had pips in. I swear, I would have thrown it across the room if the juice wouldn’t have dripped down my arm, however it would have done, making me even more sticky than I already was. So dear reader, two every day items, the laptop and the orange, I for one will never look at them in the same light again.
Well its been several months since mobile me was re-branded/relaunched as iCloud, and I thought I would give a little critique as to my current thoughts of Apple’s cloud/syncing solution. Firstly I do honestly believe that MobileMe/iCloud was a vital tool for anyone who owned either more than one mac, or an iPhone/iPad, as it allowed syncing of ‘mission critical’ information such as contacts, calendars and bookmarks across all platforms. For mission critical information MobileMe/iCloud didn’t throw up many problems for me, an event or contact created on one device was already waiting for me on my others when I came to it; however when Apple announced iCloud in 2011, its killer feature was going to be document syncing. Apple had yet to shake away the public perception of iDisk, one that was unreliable, and susceptible to poor data transfer speeds. They were so keen to insure they hit the ground running that they released the developer preview of iCloud several months prior to its general release to insure that developers had ample time to code their apps to insure that they moved away from the customary use of Dropbox sync to iCloud, however there have currently been very few apps released that take advantage of iCloud. The big names that still use DropBox include: 1Password and Text Expander as well as others, I wonder why they haven’t embraced iCloud syncing by Apple? On iOS documents in iWork sync across other devices, however this chain of convenience is broken by the very un-Apple like approach of not implementing document support in the mac versions of iWork. Syncing is possible however users must instead use the web interface, which to be honest is far too much effort. Apple have always got ‘mission critical’ information syncing spot on, and under the old model of MobileMe would have been something I would have paid for, however my 5GB of complementary online storage is currently un-utilised, whereas I am paying for extra storage from SugarSync. I do hope that Apple release iWork ’12 soon that has iCloud properly integrated, thereby encouraging developers to embrace this new technology and use it in conjunction with SugarSync/Dropbox.
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 […]
Like many others, my first Apple product was an iPod, the first style nano; having got the Apple bug, I then upgraded my iPods and eventually purchased my first MacBook. Several years ago, my black Macbook with 2.2GHz and maxed out at 2GB of RAM was one of the best purchases that I had ever made. Apple apps ran a dream, and my little computer always did what I asked of it. However as time went by, and the Apps that I used became more demanding, my little MacBook was running out of steam; Aperture was sluggish and running EyeTV, writing an essay and having a web site open wasnt nearly as responsive as I would have liked. Sadly I couldn’t upgrade my RAM (as this would be the first step), so I upgraded to a MacBook Pro 15-inch 2.8GHz Core 2 Duo maxed out at 4GB of RAM. Now this was a perfect machine, Aperture ran like a dream and it served me well for over two years, however upon purchasing an iPad I realised something. I hadnt unplugged my laptop for a couple of months. I had always owned a laptop, for the simple reason that when I went to school/university or went away for the weekend (and needed a computer), a laptop was the only solution. Laptops are great, they are portable and can handle most day to day tasks, however these tasks were now being fulfilled by the iPad, so was there any need to keep a laptop? Even tho I am a student, I have am very demanding of my technology. My computer needs to be able to record programs off EyeTV, edit photos on Aperture, play music in iTunes as well as have several other programs open at the same time. This worked beautifully with my MacBook Pro; to a point. However over time I had to quit one application after another just so that I could complete one task in Aperture, a task that I had to complete without music playing. It was time to upgrade. As mentioned previously, I had always had a laptop as I needed portability, however my portable needs were covered by the iPad, so I decided to take the plunge and look at buying a desktop. I have always wanted a MacPro, and being the tech lover that I am, I wanted the 12-Core 2.93GHz version. However being a student I couldn’t afford £5,000+ investment, and even if I had the funds, my family would have had me sectioned under the mental health act for spending that amount on a computer. So that left me with the Mac Mini or iMac. My brother has a Mac Mini and he loves it; it is fast, responsive and does everything that he asks from it, however his demands and my demands are slightly different. Looking forward the current Mac Mini can be maxed out at 8GB of RAM. Considering my previous Mac had 4GB of RAM, it made little sense to me to purchase a Mac that I would max out in RAM right from the off; I wanted room for expansion. The iMac was the only choice left. We have two iMacs in our house; my sister owns one of the original white iMacs, and my mother one of the newer 24-inch aluminum iMacs. They both love theirs, however compared to the MacPro I had lusted over it seemed a poor relation. By comparing the iMacs to the basic MacPro I could receive a newer processor, and a 27-inch screen for a much lower price. So another day dawned, where I was verging on a mid-life crisis, I wanted a new mac I just didnt want to admit it to myself. Upon confessing that I wanted to buy one, my housemates confiscated my wallet for my own safety and would only return it upon verbal confirmation from a woman who speaks sense (my mother) that it was acceptable. I rang up my mother who instantly knew why I had rung, and confirmed to my house mate Harry that buying an iMac was a much better idea than spending £5,000 on a MacPro. Which one to choose? Well there was only really ever one choice, the biggest and the best. I rang up the Manchester Arndale store and reserved an 27-inch iMac with the upgraded i7 processor. Having paid for the Mac, and AppleCare we suddenly realized how heavy it was. The plan of getting the bus home went out the window and instead got a taxi back. Transfer of data was a dream. I plugged in my time machine backup, selected it from the introductory setup screens, came back an hour later to find my old Mac setup on my new Mac. Data, applications and settings were all as I left them, it was a walk in the park. Since I have purchased my iMac, I have upgraded the 4GB of RAM to 8GB with memory from Crucial, and attached my 20-inch Apple Cinema display to it, giving me a massive 47-inches of screen real-estate. Performance is AMAZING, applications open with not even 2 bounces on the dock, photos render in Aperture within the blink of an eye, and I never get the spinning pizza wheel of death. My total cost was £1,635.92 for the iMac and the AppleCare, it may not be the MacPro I have dreamed of but I am still very happy with my purchase and will be for some time.
It would appear by my lack of blogging recently that the iPhone 4 had eaten me as I haven’t blogged since 27th June 2010, and my appearances on Twitter have been sporadic to say the least. Now I can only but apologize for this, life has been very hectic to say the least, so I am hoping to condense the last 4-5 months down into one blog post, with areas of significance receiving their own dedicated post within the next few days/weeks. Since the last time we spoke was during the summer holidays, and me working, I shall briefly fill you in. As per previous years my role within the company I worked for wasn’t fixed, with this years role being an ‘efficiency consultant’. I experienced life in several departments, and at the end of the summer period presented a report to the management where efficiency (and hence costs) could be improved upon. Sadly I do feel that this year was the last year that I will be working for said company – however more about that later. 1st September 2010 saw the announcement of the new AppleTV. For those of you who have read my blog and twitter feed, will know that I am one of the biggest Apple fan boys going. So it would come as to no surprise to learn that I pre-ordered one for my home in Salford. First thoughts are that it is an amazing piece of kit, one that has changed my TV and media consumption habits for the better. I will be writing a separate blog post on the AppleTV at a later date to cover unboxing, methods of managing/updating my iTunes content and more in-depth thoughts on Apples latest gadget. September also saw the moving into my new house in Salford with 5 of my closest university friends. Since my first two years of university were spent in private, catered halls, having to ‘fend for myself’ was a little daunting at first. However I think I have got it all covered. Ok, I dont do student life like a typical student, I do have food delivered rather than shop, I do have a glass of wine when I have a bath, and I dont eat pot noodle on toast. Once again, you shall be updated properly in due course. University life kicked off with a bang, with International Welcome and Freshers Weeks. I was hired as a student host by the University, which involved taking groups of tours round campus as well as on trips round the north of England. My love of photography was re-kindled as the photographs that I took were not only featured in the student newspaper, but were purchased by the University itself to be used for future advertising. You can see photos taken on my new Flickr feed: (http://www.flickr.com/photos/jisaacs/collections/72157625219835662/) The University also commissioned a report on me, that was published on the student channel, you can see that below: October was not only the month I turned 21 but also me going down to Oxford for a BMAF Seminar. Each head of a business school at universities are asked to join the Business Management Accountancy Finance team, and each year they hold conferences do summarize what they are doing right, and what can be improved upon. I was selected as one of 20 student representatives to go down and express my views on certain issues. The trip involved 1st class train travel, and seeing some of the most beautiful architecture I had seen. Since the first trip I, with a fellow student have been invited back down to Oxford in the new year, to take up a seat on the BMAF board. Finally, Wednesday 10th November 2010, incorrectly described by Sky News as “A National State of Emergency”, was the student demo down in London. I attended as photographer for the student newspaper, and as a student (who is a Tory party member) can honestly say that from where I stood the protest occurred peacefully. Yes I am a Conservative party member, but that doesn’t mean that I need to agree with every policy, and even tho there was violence at Millbank tower, both the police and NUS agree that it was not started by students rather anarchists who were simply ‘along for the ride’. The student demo was attended by 20,000 more protesters than organizers thought, so police were unprepared, however that was no excuse for fire extinguishers to be thrown from buildings to officers below. Overall I feel that the majority of students protested peacefully and made their views know to both Conservative and Liberal Democrat MP’s that student cuts are not something that they are willing to accept. So that is the past several months summed up into one blog post. I am back in Leeds for the weekend, as I am seeing Top Gear being filmed down in Birmingham on Sunday, so will update you all accordingly. Apart from that, I hope that my appearances on Twitter will increase and thank you for both reading my blog, and continuing to follow my movements. Jonathan
Only those living in a plastic bubble over the past few weeks will have failed to notice the hype and excitement around the release of Apples new iPhone, the iPhone 4; and more importantly the fact that I got my hands on one on release day (24th June). As previously mentioned I awoke on pre-order day and pre-ordered the 32gb model sim free direct from Apple, and being the tech enthusiast I am that day took the release day off from work so that I would be able to great the UPS delivery man with a warm welcome, and of course play with my new phone un-interrupted. Arrival Process To say that the arrival process was a little nerve-racking is the understatement of the year. My mother also pre-ordered the same model, at the same time, to be delivered at the same address; so when she logged on to UPS the night before to see a change of status, whilst mine remained as ‘billing information received’ I started to get a little worried. However I went to bed knowing full well that these things don’t normally get updated as often as we would well like. I awoke far too early on launch day for my own good, jumped onto the internet and checked my status, no change. A quick phone call to UPS confirmed my worry, they didn’t know if had been collected from Apple, or if was on the delivery van. A shiver went down my spine, ive taken the day off work to play with my new phone and what for? UPS suggested I rung Apple, who all credit to them were very helpful indeed. I spoke to two Apple reps on two separate occasions, Justin and Michael who comforted and reassured me. They confirmed that it was highly unlikely for my iPhone to not be delivered and the cause of its location not being logged was simply a case of the box not being picked up by scanners. This reasoning sounded logical, so I made myself a cup of tea and took up a spot surveying the driveway to insure that I wouldn’t miss Mr UPS. At 12:07 a UPS van shot round the corner and parked outside my house, the driver emerged a few minutes later carrying one box in hand. I remained calm, and thought that it was possible (but highly unlikely) that mine would be on a separate van. Mr UPS scanned my mother’s iPhone with his delivery unit which duely beeped at him ferociously, as if to say “you have another one to deliver here”. Mr UPS then uttered six words that will stay with me forever. “I’ve got another one for you”. I was a happy bunny once more. Hardware Having calmly taken the boxes inside, opened mine, restored from backup (so that all apps and settings were transferred from my 3GS), it was time to investigate and take a look at the new hardware. The first thing one notices about the iPhone 4 is that it is incredibly well-built, feels solid in the hands, and has a decent weight about it. Personally I would rather have a phone with a bit of poundage as you feel as if you are getting something for your money and slightly less worried should the odd bump occur. Switching the unit on reveals the new retina display. There is no way of portraying how clear this display is either in picture form or graphical from, you have to see it to believe it. The only way I can describe it is an HD display on steroids. Text looks sharper than any print material I have read, movies emerge you into the action, and photographs look more lifelike than the people in them. I really hope that Apple not only use this display on future mobile platforms such as the iPad; but release a monitor which has such a dense pixel content. The second hardware improvement is of course the 5MP, 720p camera, which is a huge improvement from the 3MP contained on the 3GS. The improvement of camera hardware on the iPhone was the decision maker for me to upgrade my phone, and if the pictures/HD video are anything to go by I have made the right call. Pictures and video are crisp, and whilst are in no league to that of my professional SLR, they are more than adequate for the quick snap of that magical moment. Software Steve Jobs first demoed FaceTime at WWDC, and I was instantly sceptical of its use. I had in the past a Nokia N95 and a contract with free video minutes. Yes I used them at first, but the quality was blotchy, slow and unreliable; all adjectives that are not in Jobs’s dictionary. FaceTime is perfect, it connects quickly and the quality is fantastic, I have spoken to people in Manchester and London using FaceTime and it is exactly like speaking to them face to face. The critics will say that this is because it’s over wifi, however with HSDPA and HSUPA allowing lightning fast data transfer, I see no reason why a 3G call would be any different when supported by carriers. Will FaceTime take off where previous attempts of video calls have failed? My first thoughts are if anyone can make it work Apple is the company that will. They have got a winning combination of ease of use and good user experience. The fact that it only works on wifi at the moment is not an issue to me, as I would never video call whilst walking down the street regardless of whether it was free or not, and places such as work/home where I would want to video call family and friends are covered in wifi. Personally I believe that Apple may do to video calling, what they did to the iPod, success where other companies have simply failed. iOS 4 was released three days before the launch of the iPhone 4, however […]