Tag Archives: technology

Can one device really do everything?

Can one device really do everything?

Apparently, the end is nigh for Apple’s iPod. I find this surpring. Yes, I know that the modern smartphone is often not much smaller than a small tablet, it makes calls, plays music, and you can read books on them and take photos…


But really, does the smartphone do all of things?

Again, really? Really?!? Apps and webserving? Yes, but do enough and you’ll soon find yourself wanting more. Books? Again, yes but the pages are small. Camera? Yes the quality is getting better and better but it still limits you with what you can, and so often with not even as much functionally as the old instamatic cameras of old. And they play your music too…

But here’s the thing. The largest, high-end, smartphone takes what 64GB tops. Most are much smaller, 16GB if you’re lucky or less, and that you have to keep all your apps, browsing cache, pictures, ringtones, documents… everything! Before you get to music storage.  My iPod takes 80GB of music and its pretty much full – my entire music collection. Unless you enjoy wrestling with the unweildy beast that is iTunes (and who does?) to decide what you might want to listen too and sync your music regularly then its simply not enough space.  And if you do like syncing your music daily, well, surely you might find i easier to go back to CDs. If I’m going to store my music on any device, then I want to store all my music on said device.

Some might counter this argument with saying, well you can store it in the cloud. Yes, yes you can, but that’s only going to work if you can get to the cloud. I’ve been using buses quite alot recently, and i’ve noticed that even when they offer free wifi in places itsnot seamless and straightforward and can cannot be replied upon for speed of access. Mobile internet too is, or can be, flaky at the best of times, and costly too.

And what of batteries. It may be nice to just carry one pocket-sized device with you but if you are using it intensively then the batteries going to be exhausted faster. And then what do you have? I like to have my dedicated devices: my camera, my tablet, my iPod, my phone, and my kindle (or actually, probably, more often than not, a book.

So for me, no the end is not nigh for my iPod. In fact I might need to uprade to a bigger one!

The technology of reading: eReader, tablet, or book?

There has been talk of late that sales of the humble eInk eReader will fall this year as people move to now cheaper tablets, and also the environmental pros and cons of eReaders vs. paper books. A friend has also said that she is thinking about getting a Kindle, but that what puts her off is that she likes going to charity shops and buying random books that take her fancy, and then giving them back to the charity shop to re-sell which is quite satisfying.

I don’t see Kindles (or the like) as an either/or for real books. I will never, ever, stop buying and/or reading paper books. After spending the best part of the back end of last year reading more or less exclusively on my Kindle, I’m really enjoying reading two *real* books at the moment (a novel, and a book of essays by my favourite author). I really don’t think that the Kindle is going to change my book-buying habits.

Industry pundits seem to be predicting that even the days of the relatively newcomver of the traditional eReader are numbered. I’m really not so sure. I own a second generation Kindle which is brilliant for reading on as its really comfortable. It’s what I get The Grauniad downloaded to every day. Recently I also acquired a Kindle Fire, which is to all intents and purposes an iPad Mini but cheaper. One of my first surprises is that it is pretty comfortable to read even though it has a backlit screen, but has a battery life of only hours (about a day), rather than weeks (or even a month) of my second generation Kindle.

Thus, for me, the Kindle Fire could never replace the traditional eInk Kindle, just as it will never replace the paper book. I love them all, and use them all, each according to their purpose and my need.

On the twelfth day of advent: the curse of mobile technology?

Unless you are writing a thriller its always been the case that its usual to find some way of writing out the police, or have your protagonists in some way resolve the plot without the need for them. It can however be a challenge to maintain a level of believability as regards police absence, incompetence. In recent years the same can be said for mobile phones. As an example of which, think how different Swallows & Amazons would have been if they had had mobile phones or GPS units (notwithstanding that John, Susan, Roger and Titty would probably not have been allowed to go off alone like that these days)?

I had an interesting discussion with Rhiannon Lassister this afternoon about mobile phones in stories, and I think that I might be coming round to the idea that they are not such the threat that could be. In fact, Rhiannon demonstrates quite neatly in Ghost of a Chance how you can have both mobile phones and police in the story whilst keeping them as essentially ineffective to the protagonists resolving the plot.

Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five or …of Adventure books are other books I had previously thought would be ruined by mobile phones, but I think Rhiannon might be causing me to rethink this. After all, as she says, there are always to right them out if necessary. In Blyton’s books they spent a large amount of time down in caves where mobiles don’t work. And if you are working with magic, or you can get through to people who may not be able to help, or help in time

Indeed in my own books I both write out mobile phones and embrace the modern technology in The End of All Worlds. When I need them, scientists can access the most up to date climate theories but when Eleanor gets lost in the mountains, mobiles can be out of reception, or completely in another world when it comes to mixing with the huldufolk. And in Mr Tumnal I positively enjoy going to town with social networking and modern communication.

So maybe, mobiles are not the threat to plots that I once thought.

Trial of the iPad

I’ve always been skeptical, ever since its launch, of the iPad. That said it appears to be proving to be popular and so when the opportunity came to give one a roadtest, I decided to give it an open mind.

It is, a stylish device, extremely capable of doing what it does. But it does have limitations. In no particular order…

  • It doesn’t play Flash, so many facebook games, BBC news videos are inaccessible (I know this is just a local difficulty that will be resolved, but still…
  • The keyboard is poorly laid out. There are no cursors, or none that I could find, so you can’t easily go back and edit what you type without deleting and retyping
  • Might be me, and I’m sure there are other alternatives, but I downloaded Tweetdeck to acccess twitter. It has an annoying habit of closing after it receives new tweets but before you can read them
  • I tried accessing my webmail via two different routes, and both would allow me to see I had mail but not to actually read it. Weird?
  • Gaming is good, the touch naigation and motion censors are impressive, but annoyingly addictive. A very good way to waste lots and lots of time
  • There is no USB port or card reader for transferring photos/documents

On a course I attended earlier this month there lots of people with iPads, but they also had their iPhones and their laptops (often the ultra slim MacBook Air) and this neatly sums up the usefulness of the device. It is handy, and the advantages of the larger screen is useful but all this can be achieved with a modern iPhone (or similar) and the latter can also make and receive calls(!!), whilst, after limited investigations, your web journey will invariably demand that you need to get onto the computer.

I would conclude that the iPad is brilliant at wasting time. Looks nice; feels nice; but still not sure of it’s purpose. It’s quite a cool thing and I wouldn’t say no to one as a gift but if I was buying I think I’d choose a zoom lens any day…

Forced Isolation

So last week, we had a holiday; the original staycation. On the Saturday we cleaned the house, got the shopping in and cleaned out the animals ready to leave our normal lives and go on holiday, from home, going to visit all those places near to home that you always mean to visit but never get round to. As part of this we were going to turn off the wifi, put the television in a cupboard and just enjoy the house as if it was a proper holiday cottage with none of those things.

To do without television, it turns out, was an easy thing to do. We watched Doctor Who last week, and then that was it, we didn’t watch it again. The internet was altogether a bit different. It didn’t help that I discovered a slight fault with three of my websites that needed resolving, and whilst it was a job for the webhosts and not me, I did have to keep in the loop to ensure it was all fixed.

But it was nice – so, so nice to live at home and have it as the default positon that one would curl up in the armchair with the book instead of reaching for the laptop or the TV remote. We should do this more. One of the reasons that I found the internet hard was that I have grown to like, and feel comfortable with, updating my twitter/facebook/journal with brief (and possibly interesting/intriguing and/or fun) tidbits of what was happening. I could do this by text of course, and did, and the one updated the other, and it did mean that whilst I did visit such pariahs of time-wasting like facebook on my phone, my experience was limited to a random selection of 6 news items at a time and unless people made particular reference to me or my posts, I was refreshingly ‘out of it’.

I must do this again sometime.

To upgrade, or Not To Upgrade?

I am now eligible for a free upgrade of my mobile. I’ve been thinking about this for a while, as the battery isn’t quite what it was on my own, and it can be sometimes a bit slow to start up in the morning. So I checked what I was elligible for online and yes, I am eligible for the fancy, touch-screen, kind of iPhone-like Nokia 5800 for nout. So after work I headed into town to the local Vodafone shop. I’ve now discovered that they calculate elligibility differently in store to online and that I *could* have that phone there and then if I stumped up 90 quid. No thank you. I’ll go back online later and get it for free, even if I have to wait for delivery, which will no doubt be to my home address which will mean going to collect it from the Royal Mail sorting office (open between the terribly useful hours of 9-4.30 Mon-Fri…??!!!) to pick it up…

A whole New box

Last night, all the Humax boxes that I know of (Emma has one, her dad, my parents, my brother…), updated themselves over the airwaves, down that funny little old-fashioned aerial thingy.

And what an update? As well the addition of ‘tracked’ recording and series-link functionality, there are some lovely little improvements in navigation – including the addition of the actual Day in the programme guide. 😉

Is this post really, really, sad? But it works. Both Torchwood and Grand Designs started at two minutes past nine and the box kicked in just before the start. Okay, this post is very sad. Sorry about that!

It is a bit freaky that what is effectively the 21st century equivalent of a video recorder can upgrade itself, at night, when its on standby through radio wave frequencies. Scary…!

The future is closer…

Fingers crossed, and touching wood, my laptop has been behaving itself since the hard disk related glitches and the Dell support call of last week. Which is good, because at only 2½ years old, I really don’t want to upgrade it yet. Particularly as the future I have been waiting for looks like it might almost be here.

The news of a 4mm thick computer from Apple that fits in a wallet envelope interests me greatly. I’ve always been a PC person to date, hence the reason that when I went wireless and got myself a laptop I went with a Dell PC, but since then I seem to know so many many people who have made the switch, and they do seem to be more stable and reliable (Heck! Even my mum has made the switch!) Do I really need ultra-portability in the form of a MacBook Air?

No. Or at least not yet. One of the reasons why I want/need a laptop is so that I work on my writing from anywhere. Whilst my current laptop is a nice machine and takes up only a little room in my lounge and I can take it away with me at the weekend, it is too heavy and the battery not long-lasting enough to allow me to carry it around with me and work without access to mains power.

That said, the MacBook Air isn’t quite the solution yet (I do like my computer to have a dvd drive), but if they are producing these machines now, then by the time I am ready to upgrade… 🙂

Hard drives, incompetence, and missing one’s girlfriend

1. Got home this evening and switched on the laptop. Hard disc error: no bootable drives. I try repeatedly, on and off, on and off. Eventually leave it and sort out Bella and Arthur’s feeding for the weekend with Kathy over the road. Coming back to it it did start up again, but I decided to contact Dell. The nice man (in Bangalore?) did run me through the diagnostic hoops and had me take out and reset the hard drive and it is working now, but then it always was intermittent. Half an hour it took me, and at least I’ve placed the marker in the sand that there might be a problem. Just have to do regular backups.

2. I propose a motion of incompetence in … our band librarian. After the Christmas concert in December, Alan collected in all the music pads. We all thought that this was to take out what we’re not playing again, and put in the new music for this term. But no. We all get to rehearsal tonight to discover that he hasn’t done any of that, and we have to hand out all the music and collect in all the old music before we can start playing. Useless! Absolutely f-ing inconsiderate of the irritating old fart. /rant

3. Because of wind band tonight I haven’t spoken to Emma tonight, and I miss it dreadfully. Going to bed now, I feel like there has been something missing in my day. Please, please, please can I get my job situation sorted so that we can think about getting a new place and making it our home.


…it seems that when in my pocket, my mobile phone – a Motorola V3i – is at precisely the same height as the granit work top in the kitchen, and thus I have mashed my third front glass in as many months. It’s replaceable – via ebay – but still, its annoying. I think I shall be upgrading my phone just as soon as I get the opportunity.

The facebook phenomenon

I have been (comparatively) late in coming to the phenomenon that is facebook. But now everyone seems to be on it, and what’s more everyone seems to be on it all the time. It’s essentially got the same buzz about it, and in many ways the same uses, that Friends Reunited had about 6-7 years ago.

What I do find somewhat remarkable is that given its surge of popularity, it has not joined the list of sites blocked on workplace networks. It also leads me to consider an interesting conundrum. With so many employees using the service, and more often than not from their work PCs and in work time, one wonders how many top managers might also have been lured onto the site. And how would this news to be seen by the manager’s staff. It could be seen that they were refreshingly in touch with popular culture, but it could also be taken the wrong way. Overstressed, underpaid ‘worker-bees’ might start complaining that the divisional manager or CEO/MD should be spending more time addressing the concerns of their staff rather than spending the hours constantly updating their status with witticisms and nudging ex-classmates from East Ildleworth Grammar School in 1953.

Geeky toys (continued)

After recent laptop adventures, I have been prompted to be better at the whole ‘backups’ thing. The thing is my photography habit is literally eating disk space. I am down to my last slither of free space on the ‘puter, and my backup drive is similarly full. With this in mind I have ordered a couple of new toys, and today, on next day delivery, they have arrived.

I now have a new, second, Maxtor external hard drive, a whopping 500 GBs in size, and also a rather funky Maxtor portable drive of 160GB on which I am going to keep all my photos (instead of on the ‘puter). Of course, naturally enough, both geeky items are silver… *grins*

Computer geekery, a performance art?

The very nice man from Dell has just left are spending barely half an hour with me. He had with him a new screen and graphics card to replace, starting off with another quick go at diagnostics, he quickly moved to just a simple replace job, and there the beauty started. Flipping the laptop over he weilded the screwdriver like a surgeon, extracting screws and removing covers from places I wouldn’t have thought possible. And then, suddenly in a blink of an eye it was done, the computer was back on and cycling through various configuration settings before it was handed back to me, and I was once more able to write this here, now…

Diagnostic hoops and returning pusscats

I left my bedroom door open last night when I went to bed. At 5 o’clock in the morning, Arthur came in, but still no Bella. At 6 o’clock I got up quickly, and got ready, thinking that I would have time to have a wander out onto the road to look for her. As I was having my breakfast she came in for her breakfast. In retrospect, I think, unusual though it is, that for two days we just missed each other, and she had come back during the day yesterday, and wasn’t in fact missing.

Swapped my bicycle for the bus today, so that I could carry the ailing comp into work, and have it on hand when phoning the Dell support line. Fearing an argument with an Indian call centre, what I actually go was a very nice man in Ireland. I jumped through all his diagnostic hoops until, predictably, the screen died. After I said it wasn’t going to be possible to copy off the data from the computer anytime soon to do a factory reset, he agreed to send an engineer out tomorrow, under my (thankfully one year left to run) service contract.

So the computer is fixed, and more importantly, Bella is back. Good times! 🙂

The Eleventh Day of Advent

After reading through various forum posts around on the web about how to burn programmes recorded on my Humax Digibox to dvd and failing miserably to even understand them, I have finally come across the the definitive and easiest and simplest guide! It pleases me because all the forum pages I could find were horribly complicated, and confusing and not for the likes of my little ol’ brain. This solution is quick and simple and easy, and my brain likes it! 🙂

  1. Download humax files using Media eLinker and standard USB cable
  2. Rename .ts files to .mpg files if necessary (you will need to make sure your computer has a MPEG-2 codec)
  3. Use VideoRedo to copy edit out adverts, and convert to VOB file
  4. Use Nero 7.5 (Nero Vision) to burn DVD.
  5. Play! And Enjoy!

New toy, imminent

I ordered one of these last night to replace my, now ailing, iRiver. Two year’s faithful service, and it’s still going. That’s the problem, you can’t stop it going…!

Edit: Hanging around the dabs.com site reveals that my order is now listed as ‘completed’ and the item is again listed as in stock. Hopefully this means I will get it delivered soon…

Wherein I find myself unable to ‘Stop’

Or at least my beloved iRiver is unable to stop – unless by means of the remote control. After two years faithful service, my 20Gb container of my entire music collection is giving up the ghost. That’s a slight exageration really; it still works just as it did before with the exception of the Stop/Off button on the actual player. I can get round this by using the remote – so there’s not so much urgency, but it’s still going to be pretty annoying. Particularly in the car, when I don’t usually have the remote out (I play it through the car stereo before you have visions of me driving along with headphones on!!)

I’ve been vaguely thinking of upgrading it anyway to the latest H10 model (this one can view photos and you can record from the built in radio), but this kind of makes my decision for me.

Edit: shepline is semi-digital

Well it seems that my Digifusion box is faulty. I haven’t spoken to the helpline yet (‘cos they’re not open at weekends) but it’s definitely not behaving as it ought (my brother has a similar model so he’s been guiding me over the phone). I get a Freeview Digital reception absolutely fine of all channels, but when I record things, it fails to record/playback anything other than blackness and zero sound, and worryingly the menus show the disk as having free space of up to 187% (how can any percentage be greater than 100?!!). I’ve tried power cycling the box, and reformatting the hard disk but no joy… :\

I think I am going to phone them come Monday and arrange a collection/refund. And then once that is secured, head down to my local Comet (or similar and buy a different make and model (the same as the one my parents have got).

Gggrrrr – I really hate technology when it doesn’t work for any good reason! 🙁

Supplementary: I’ve fetched the old video recorder down from the attic for tomorrow so that I can record The Virgin Queen, Rock School, and still watch Lewis (the Inspector Morse spin-off).

shepline goes digital

My Digifusion box arrived today, and now, to complement the wireless internet access in my house, the abode is filled with a whole new set of digital channels. Just how many of them I’ll ever watch we have yet to see, but I should imagine that BBC3 and 3 will tempt me as will E4 and More4, not forgetting CBBC. Oh, and it’s a DVR hard disk recorder too, so I can record two things and watch something I’ve already recorded all at the same time … for 80 hours…

9548 Emails!!

That’s right, nine thousand, five hundred and forty-eight unread emails when I got to work this morning! Well, I say this morning, but it was nearly the end of the morning by the time I had got into work after a spectacular over-sleeping/not-setting-ye-alarm event, to which I decided that blatant honesty was definitely the best possible approach when phoning my boss. But I digress…

9,548 emails?! That can’t be right. And it wasn’t after I had spent half an hour deleting them (Outlook couldn’t cope with deleting more than about 500 at a time…). Basically it transpires that our glorious new bug tracking system (hereafter to be referred to as contbugs) can’t cope with the concept of auto-replies. This being so, when I go on holiday before Christmas I set my Out Of Office, after which point I am sent 12 (yes, twelve) contbug emails. What follows is a daily (yes, daily) tennis match between the contbug system and OOO emails, that resulted in my OOO emails updating the contbug system with that information which then sent me another email to say that someone had updated the contbug request, to which my OOO replies, the contbug system updates the system, and lets me know this, and &c &c &c…

So 12 little emails spawned 9,475 emails, and for each of those 12 contbugs about 158 pages of update information! Don’t you just love technology?!!


In case you were wondering, I only had about 50 unread messages to deal with by the time all of that was sorted… *grins*