iOS 5 on the original iPad … (vs Windows) @FraserSpeirs

Fraser Speirs
iOS 5 on the original iPad which will, at that point, be 18 months old. This is why you choose iOS over Android for your school.

Surely this is why we use Windows which seems to have out lasted anything else on the market (we still have XP machines that are many years old and still useful/updated – I can’t see any iOS or Apple device lasting that long).

I’d love to see tablets take off in the classroom but how do we justify paying Apple premium prices when schools all over my LA are laying staff off? As the saying goes “You never got fired for buying Windows!) 🙂

Need a new laptop? You could do worse than a Lenovo.

I recently had problems with my laptop (read about it here) and I decided to treat myself to a new one.  After much researching I decided on a Lenovo Edge 15 because I’ve always wanted a ThinkPad (even if this is an economy version). Specs:

  • Widescreen 1366×768 screen (With ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5145 dedicated graphics)
  • Core i5 processor 450M ( Dual-Core )
  • 4Gb RAM, 500Gb hard drive
  • Windows 7 Professional
  • Wireless b/g/n and integrated 3G broadband

 

 

 

My thoughts: The screen has a matt finish as opposed to the glossy finish on consumer laptops.  I haven’t got a preference – my work-issued Dell laptop has the same finish and it is much easier to read under bright lighting.  The laptop feels very fast and responsive, and I’ve not come across any software that seemed to significantly slow it down.  The laptop comes with a suite of software from Lenovo for making recovery disks, backups, managing the wireless, battery and even a selection of on-screen indicators for volume, caps-lock etc.  The laptop plays games with very little fan activity and the laptop never seems to get hotter than lukewarm.  I’ve yet to use the integrated 3G but the Lenovo software pre-installed sits on the taskbar and manages all aspects of networking, disabling unused devices to save power. The keyboard is responsive, and looks good too.  For track-pad haters there is the ThinkPad pointer in the middle of the keyboard which can be used to control mouse functions if you prefer (though mastering this method will take some practice).  Layout of the ports is a little awkward with power and USB ports on the right hand, where they get in the way for right handed users using the laptop with a mouse. I’m impressed with the build quality and the materials used to make this laptop – it feels like a much more expensive laptop and a snip for £660 (£560 after Lenovo cashback!).  I’d recommend this laptop to anyone who is in the market for an all-purpose machine (and the 3G makes it good for use on the road too, subject to battery life).

Nokia N900 proof that a good phone is more than just hardware

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I was lucky enough to be given the chance to trial a Nokia phone for two weeks by womworld.  I chose the N900 because it supposedly represented where Nokia thought the future of mobile phones should be.  Of course since it was released we’ve seen the rapid evolution of iOS and Android, and even Nokia have even tweaked Symbian so the N900 isn’t quite the cutting edge mobile it was intended to be.What did I think of it?I have to say I was extremely disappointed.  In fact so disappointed that I didn’t use it for the two weeks of the trial – I soon went back to my Nokia 5800 which felt much more usable.  So where did Nokia go wrong?The build of the phone is very good (although a tad chunky) and feels well built and made of good quality materials.  The keyboard is small and fiddly but you soon get used to it (I’m sure Blackberry users find this too!).  The interface is fast and responsive, and similar in functionality to Symbian so most features are easy to find.Browsing – web browsing is a pleasure on the N900, whilst no-where as slick as using Safari with multi-touch on the iPhone, web pages are displayed well and navigation is easy (aided by being able to type on the keyboard).  The only criticism of the browser is that text fields aren’t highlighted when you type in them – and you can sometimes lose your place on a page.Messaging – this was where I started to fall out with the N900.  I live in Gmail and all my contacts, emails and calendar are in a single account.  My 5800 is able to sync contacts, calendars and my email if required using the Exchange protocol.  The N900 should have been capable of this but struggled to pull in my contacts, and then they didn’t show up until after a reboot.  I wasn’t able to get exchange sync working (and I wouldn’t even consider using POP3/IMAP on a high end phone in this price bracket!).Apps – although the Ovi store does have Angry Birds for the N900, there is precious little else in the App store (with the exception of the excellent Firefox mobile browser).  Whilst the Ovi store is generally full of low quality free apps and the odd useful but very overpriced app, there was virtual tumbleweed blowing through the N900 store – and this doesn’t seem set to change.Camera – the camera took good quality pictures – on the 50% of occasions they came out in focus.  It may have been because my test photos ended up being close up photos, but my cheapo 5800 has no problem with these shots (and the Share-online support is much better in the 5800 too).Interface – whilst Nokia has tried to embrace widgets, all you can add to the homescreen(s) are contacts, web-links and other static content -I couldn’t find anything worth adding or any dynamic content like Android offers.That’s not to say the N900 is a bad phone – but we’ve come to expect more from a modern high-end smart phone.  We expect a good selection of apps, a good camera, reliable push email and good text entry (or am I alone in seeking these features in a phone?).  The N900 would suit someone who uses their mobile as a phone, and perhaps just uses the camera, Facebook and texting.I’m sorry Nokia but you are going to have to do much better than this if you are going to hold your market share against the threat of Android and iOS!Photos taken with N900:

How to archive a hashtag conversation on Twitter such as #ukedchat

I use a piece of alpha release software called the Archivist.  It will only archive public tweets so if anyone in your twitter stream protects their tweets, these will be missing from the archive.Download and install the software, and fire it up.

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In the search box type in your query (e.g. #ukedchat) and hit get tweets.  This will pull in a list of tweets (in the same way that Twitter Search does).  Leave the software running if you want to gather tweets over a period of time.  It will work in the background saving the tweets to disk.

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When you want to save a record of the tweets, click [Export to Excel].  This will save a tab delimited file which you can import into Excel.Fire up Excel.  Click open and search for your file (you may have to search for all file types so the exported file shows up).

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When the import wizard comes up, tell excel the file is delimited.  then on the next screen tell excel that the delimiter is a tab and hit finish.

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You now have a record in Excel of all the tweets you wanted.  You can sort these by the twitter id (column 1) if you mix them up for any reason.  Simples!

Backing up your social media

I’m active across several social media sites and was interested in backing up my content.  Although I was primarily interested in the photographs (especially the ones sent from a phone or work where I might not have access to the originals) I was also interested to see just what I could back up.It’s worth mentioning that I use Carbonite backup so anything that I backup to my hard disk will later be copied onto their backup servers – so I always have an offsite backup.  If you want to sign up to Carbonite fill in the contact me form and I’ll refer you – you get an extra free month of service.Whilst the methods listed below are not the only ones available, I chose them because they were the cheapest/best for me.FacebookI chose to use SocialSafe which is an Adobe Air program that you run on your own PC.  It cost me £1.99 (or $2.99 if you are in the US) and backs up your friends, profile, photos and wall.  You also use the software to navigate your backups (the actual files of which are hidden from the user).  The interface is slick and many of the windows are transparent (you actually see my NASA wallpaper through them on the screenshots).  You can choose to navigate your whole backup or just the changes since you backed up last time.

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Remember Facebook downsize your photographs so the ones you download from the site won’t be of the same quality as the ones you uploaded.TwitterTwitter is text based (and 140 characters per tweet at that) so backups won’t take up much space.  I chose to use a free account on Backupify which gives you 2Gb of storage and lets you backup one account.  Because it uses Amazon S3 storage their prices are a little steep for paid accounts (10Gb for $40!) but given the ease of use and extensive feature set, some users may opt to pay for a premium account and use it for other services too.Connecting to Twitter was quick and easy, and my PDF archive had two years worth of Tweets in! (which I downloaded and kept a local copy of).

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FlickrDownloading my images from Flickr (all 1517 of them) was a simple process which I left running overnight.  I used a free piece of software called Downloadr which I linked to my Flickr account so it could access my private albums.  Backing up my entire photostream was simple, although there are fewer options for incremental backups.  Downloaded images are thrown together in a single folder, and some of the Flickr metadata associated with each photo is lost including geodata (on the test sample I checked some included geodata but the coordinates were wrong).  The comments and tags are preserved but hidden in the metadata of the jpg files you download.

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PicasaWebPerhaps the easiest of all – Google provides the tools (most likely the software you used to upload them) in the form of Google Picasa.  You can also use this for incremental backup (for example if you are sending pictures from your mobile) because Picasa doesn’t download photos already on your PC.

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There you have it – social media backup in minutes!  Leave me a comment if you give it a try

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Where???s the best place to share your photographs online???Picasaweb, Flickr, Facebook or somewhere else?

I’m not a photography expert nor do I have an expensive fancy camera.  I do snap a lot of photographs which I like to look through myself, and share with friends & family.  I’ve been a Flickr user for a few years now, and I recently upgraded my Google storage so my friends could upload photos to my account.  I’ve also got photographs on Facebook, Panoramio (landscapes only), Nokia’s Ovi site and have used Photobucket in the past.

I don’t upload my photographs for backup purposes as I have Carbonite at the moment.  All I want is the best place to share my photographs with my contacts – but which is best?

 

  Flickr Picasaweb Facebook
Free service available? 200 pictures (you can upload more but only see the last 200) 1Gb of uploads for free Unlimited
Picture quality Will store full quality photos Will store full quality pictures Stores a low quality copy of your photo
Cost of paid service $25 $5 for 20 Gb
(shared with Gmail)
Privacy Can set photos to public, friends, family or Flickr contacts (linked to Yahoo IDs)

Can hide photos from search engines too

Can set to public or private (can share a secret URL to give access to unlisted photos) Can make photos public or share with friends or friends of friends.
Software support for uploading Many services and software products support Flickr
e.g. Flickr uploadr
Picasa software from Google (also supports face tagging and simple editing) Lots of software (e.g. Picasa, Live Gallery) support Facebook photos
Social aspect Can upload thumbnail automatically into Facebook

Easy to send to a blog or to twitter.

Facebook can pull in photos from Picasaweb but can be unreliable.
Easy to send to twitter
Photos shown to all your friends immediately.  Can tag Facebook friends.
Geotagging
(storing the coordinates where a photo was taken)
Supports geotagged photos (can also geotag photos) Supports geotagged photos (can also geotag photos) Can add a location to album description
Face tagging Can tag photos manually (only for Flickr users) Will automatically recognise photos and ask you to match them to your contacts Can tag photos manually (for Facebook users)
Downloading photos Can allow anyone/contacts to download a full copy of your photos (or download your own photos using special software) Can download whole albums you have access to using the Picasa software Why would you want to download low quality images from Facebook?
(no mechanism exists to do this easily)
Community Flickr is a social network in itself.  Lots of people comment on photos however I personally don’t make much use of the community (Groups is a useful feature where you can add photos to interest groups) There isn’t really much of a community linked to Picasaweb. The community that can interact with your photos are your Facebook friends.  They can comment on your photos and tag themselves on your photos.
Flexibility Can arrange photos in various groups, albums and visitors can view your photostream Photos have to be uploaded in albums Photos arranged into albums
Organisational tools Can bulk edit, tag, change privacy, geotag. Bulk actions are not easy Can change tags, move photos between albums
Check who has been looking at your photos Good analytics – easy to tell which photos have been viewed and where viewers came from Integrates with Google Analytics to see who has viewed your photos – not for beginners No idea who has seen your photos

I created this table to help me decide which service to use for sharing my personal photos.  Being a Gmail user I like the integration with Picasaweb which could become even more important when ‘Google Me’ launches.  I also like the Picasa software and the face tagging (the Picasa/Picasaweb integration is excellent and Picasa makes a good job of sending photos to Facebook as well).  However I prefer the clean interface of Flickr and the online interface – so which to use?

How do you share photos with friends and family? Which service do you prefer and why?

Come on Google – tidy up your Gmail interface

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I’ve been a user of Gmail (as part of Google Apps) for about 3 years now, preferring to use the web interface over an offline email reader.  I’ve seen plenty of innovation over that time, and I’ve seen Google invest a serious amount of time and effort into tempting enterprise users onto the Gmail platform.I’ve maintained an ordinary Gmail account for the same amount of time, using it mainly to access other Google services like YouTube, Analytics and Webmaster tools.  Last week I had cause to upgrade my storage so I could upload lots of photos.   I had considered moving back to ‘standard’ Gmail to use the extra storage space I had paid for – Google will not be allowing users of the standard edition of Google Apps to buy more space, although most of the other features of a Google account will be available to Google Apps users when the full-account programme (for which I am a trusted tester) is rolled out later this year.Whilst a rather minor problem, I soon became irritated by the presence of the ‘Invite a friend’ box and the constant invitations to invite my friends to Gmail after sending each of them an email.  It is also extremely annoying to still have to suffer adverts next to my email after paying them for extra space.  After sending several emails a day these annoy me more and more until I return to my Google Apps account with its cleaner more professional interface.For once Google could take a leaf out of the new-improved Microsoft.  Microsoft lets paying customers suppress adverts (which I know you could also do with an add blocking browser extension).  Microsoft is also removing the signature line advertising that the email has been sent from hotmail.  They seem to appreciate that most people want a professional interface/experience and have taken steps to implement this.I’m surprised that Google has left these in given the wealth of minor interface improvements made since Gmail came out of beta.  Google – follow Microsoft’s lead.  Remove adverts for paying customers, and remove the ‘invite a friend’ features that detract from the Gmail experience.

Nokia 5800???multiple copies of photos upload to Flickr

I have been getting fed up of this problem – sometimes more than five copies have been uploaded by the Share Online software.  To fix this, earlier this week I wiped my 5800 and the memory card, and re-installed the minimum of software.  What happened when I came to upload my first photo from my newly set-up phone? You’ve guessed it – 15 copies of each photo on Flickr before I stopped the upload.

Fortunately I was able find a solution to the problem.  Visit http://furtiv.mobi from your handset and install the Flickr settings.  The Furtiv uploader appears not to suffer from the multiple upload problems of the pre-installed Nokia Share-online software.

The lack of support or development from Nokia is pushing me steadily towards an alternative smartphone.  Am I the only one to suffer from this problem?

Repurposing an old router to act as a wireless bridge

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One of my powerline adaptors failed recently and I thought I would have to buy another.  Fortunately I was able to use an old router running dd-wrt linux to act as a wireless bridge.  (A wireless bridge joins standard network sockets to the wireless network so that you can use wired networking devices anywhere you can receive a wireless signal e.g. to connect an Xbox 360).

You need a router that is capable of running dd-wrt, (you can check your router on their website) mine is a Buffalo WHR-HP-G54 .  You will need to install dd-wrt on your website – this is as simple as updating the router firmware

Next you need to connect your router to your pc with a cable and follow the instructions on the dd-wrt wiki.

When this is complete you have four network sockets that can be positioned anywhere that you receive a wireless signal.  I have two wired IP cameras connected to mine – and I saved the cost of buying new hardware!

Streaming my music library over the internet to work

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At home I have a Buffalo Linkstation NAS (network attached storage) box which has a backup of my iTunes library on it.  It shares this music library locally using its built in media server (mt.daap) and it always shows up in iTunes on my laptops, and on my O2 Joggler.I wondered if it would be possible to access this resource from anywhere on the internet (as the networked drive is always powered on).  The answer was yes, and this is how you do it over an encrypted ssh tunnel (it was quite simple once I had the right software).  It does rely on you having a device running openssh (you can add this to older versions of the Linkstation, or on a separate machine).  I haven’t exposed my network storage box directly to the internet because anyone could stream my music for free.

  • Make sure you know the ip address of the Buffalo linkstation on the local network (e.g. 192.168.1.3) and that streaming works fine from iTunes on your local network.
  • You need a copy of Putty (I won’t explain how to configure ssh and putty to work together).  There are some pointers on my blog post here.  Set up putty to forward port 3689 to your NAS box as shown below:

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  • Download the daap plugin for Songbird (you will have to edit the install.rdf file to stop it saying that it can’t be run with the current version.  Simply rename the installation package to a zip file, open the file and edit max version to 1.5, then save and rename the plugin package back to an xpi file)
  • Start up Putty and then Songbird.  From the File menu on Songbird add a new daap source at 127.0.0.1
  • After downloading a list of songs available, your library should be ready for streaming over the internet

Please feel free to comment/contact me if you have any questions. Tutorials for setting up SSH to connect to your own network are available all over the internet – please don’t contact me about SSH if you haven’t read a tutorial first!