The painful truth about Samsung

I should have gone with my instinct and bought an iPhone. I’ve been using Samsung smartphones since the Galaxy S2. Each and every model I’ve ever owned has failed at some point within its warranty period.

And that tells me a lot. For all variety in hardware design and increasingly bizarre software features – one thing hasn’t changed. Reliability.  Sure other hardware fails. And in fairness, I’ve had plenty of Apple devices fail over the years. But the difference is that my ios devices have failed far less than my Samsung hardware.

Each and every Samsung model I’ve owned has had a serious technical issue which required repair. And there in lies the rub. When a Samsung device fails you have to ship it off for repair,  and if you’re lucky you may get it back in a week.. But with Apple…. Completely different. In all the instances of hardware faults on my iPhones… They have swapped them out –  right in the store.

So when you hear the argument that Apple is overpriced,  think again. You’re paying for better,  much better hardware. And piece of mind.

Right,  I’m off to figure out why my brand new Samsung note 3 is draining  it’s better so fast.

Rant over.

I’m finding that Tumblr definitely has the edge over WordPress as my primary blog platform. The issue for me is not that wordpress is bad – it’s not – far from it. I love all that open source stuff. The problem for me was the cost of self-hosting my WP blog. Kind of felt I was getting little value out of paying a premium to have it hosted with GoDaddy. Besides, Tumblr is a lot more accessible to post to. Posting via Path is a great way of automatically posting out to my blog from with my closed Path network.

Talking of blogs. Just found my legacy worldpress hosted blog. Now there’s a trip down memory lane. Check it out.

What’s on my iPhone: my vital apps

Following on from my recent post attacking my iPad, I thought I would write a post on my iPhone – and how/why it is the single most important weapon in my tech arsenal.

I rely on my iPhone 3GS daily for pretty much everything. It is invaluable daily and essential when traveling. The iOS 4 update a few months ago suddenly made it even more compelling.

I thought it would be interesting to share with readers what sits on my number 1 screen and why.

1) The folders

There’s no way I can go into detail about each individual folder, but logically each folder is labeled according to function. All the folders lucky enough to sit on screen 1 are there for a reason. I’ll start with highlighting a few apps that sit in the folders which I depend on. First up ‘SlingPlayer’. My client software into the world of SlingBox. Secondly , within my productivity folder  is a scanning app known as Jot Note Scanner . Essentially, a tool that enables me to scan in any document (via the camera and the clever software) and upload to a number of cloud services. I have found this a vital workflow app and I use it daily to throw documents into my Evernote account. It pretty much handles all documents from images to receipts.

2) Apps (outside the folders)

Basically, all the apps that sit outside my folders are there for a reason. I depend on them constantly. Mail, email – obviously. Messages, SMS messages – obviously.

What’sApp is an incredible app. It enables you to SMS/picture message friends using the application. It’s also cross platform, working on Blackberry and at beta stage on Symbian. This also completely eliminated the need to send out pricey SMS messages to friends and family overseas.

Next up is Evernote . I upgraded to the premium service – so I can access my notes offline (great when traveling or without access to the web). The evernote concept is basically cloud computing. However, through its multi-platform applications it means you are never far away from your data. So for example, stuff I throw into it from my iPhone syncs up with their cloud service and is available on my other computers instantly.

3) The dock

Moving further down into the dock you will see the phone app (although these days I hardly use it). I pretty much use Twitter exclusively as my social network of choice – so the Twitter app was a no brainer. Skype is there too. I have posted a number of times concerning Skype. So no need to say anymore. However, I will add that iOS4 has really transformed my use of Skype. Essentially, I leave it on 24/7 (battery permitting). A critical app for me – given I am overseas. Not only does it eliminate the need to use the landline for calls – but I have the SkypeIn package. I still cannot believe that for around £4 per month, I get a London telephone number and can make unlimited calls to UK landlines.

4) Other contenders

Multi-tasking has also helped in quickly accessing other apps which I frequently use. One of those apps I use daily is TuneIn Radio .  I love radio, and have tested most of the radio apps in the Apps Store. However, this is the one I always return to. Not only does it have an elegant user interface – but accessing global radio stations is simple. The ability to schedule alarms and record shows also make this a killer app for me.

It also goes without saying that I still use the default iPod app. I consume all my podcasts, music and  AudioBooks via the app. However, I still maintain that Apple need to improve this key app. When traveling (without a laptop) keeping up to speed with my favourite podcasts is not easy. What Apple need to do is provide a simple way of automating podcast updates through this app. This is a big frustration for me – and I think Apple need to do something major to move us away from the tethered sync and go approach.

Also worth plugging the Kindle App too. I don’t read as much as I should. But being able to purchase Kindle books via Amazon and have them auto-sync to my iPhone and iPad is amazing. Sure, Apples’ iBook store can do something similar. But I feel much more comfortable with buying books through Amazon. It gives me more flexibility should I ever decide to ditch the iPad and get a Kindle 3 .

Last up I wanted to mention the travel folder I have. I don’t use this folder daily, but some of the apps in there are worth mentioning. First up is the Tripit app. When traveling I simply forward on travel reservations etc.. to my tripit account and they appear in this application in an elegant itinerary format. Second up, is Navigon . In my view this sat-nav app has the edge over  Tomtom. I use it when I’m back in the UK.

As much as I am frustrated with Apple these days, I have to give them full credit for the iPhone. I have been a user since the second generation, 3G and still enjoying it as much as I did when I first got it.  I have toyed with ditching the platform for a decent Android phone. But, until Android scales up the quality of its Market Place apps, I cannot see myself going anywhere else (except the iPhone 4 of course).

Running a podcast 20 shows on..

TandridgeRadio.com, the weekly podcast I set up with my friend and local journalist, Kevin Black is 20 shows old today.

Hard to believe that the show has been running now since January this year.

I can honestly say I find it some of the most satisfying and creative work I have ever done. Firstly, I have always wanted to run my own business. The fact that I am in control and running all aspects of the work is incredibly rewarding.

Secondly, I am able to be creative. For some time now I have tried (and failed) to run a podcast. What I have known and what I continue to learn is that content is always the key to making a podcast work. Without it the audience will just not show up.

The most satisfying aspect for me is the sense of creating something. I often argue with people about the nature of web 2.0 and the digital commons more broadly. With such a wealth of information out there that people draw on daily – I often ask people ”what have you done to contribute to it’. People take from the web – but do they give to it?

As I gain experience in post-production my editing is getting much quicker now. I can turn around a 30 mins show in around 2 hours. I am learning more about subtle differences in audio levels and much quicker at pulling together jingles.

The show is gaining in popularity within the Tandridge community too. We have now introduced a monthly new feature with our local MP. The show is fast becoming a voice for the local community.

But there are small challenges. Sponsorship requires more work than the team can commit to right now. We are covering our costs – but we are a ‘ for profit partnership’ and we are running the show, in part, to make a living.

There are reasons we cannot reach out for more sponsors – which we are working on to overcome.

The most satisfying part of the work is responses from listeners. It is fast becoming a talked about feature of community life. We are moving towards even greater market share with a few sponsorship deals in the next few months.

Small steps. But I am at least a step closer to my goal. Within 10 years I want to be running in this space full time. My office will be a coffee shop and my tool my laptop. I’m getting closer and enjoying every minute.

You can catch the show by visiting : Tandridge Radio

Tech trends 2009

As we head towards a new year I wanted to share my thoughts on some of the key tech trends for 2009.

1) Apple ripens

The phenomenal growth at Apple will slow down. 2009 will be ‘evolution’ rather than ‘revolution’ across all their product lines. I do not think there will be a big splash product this year. There will likely be ;

  • updates to the Mac Mini, 
  • new iPhone Nano
  • a revised iphone , up to 32GB

There is talk of a new media server from Apple.  This would logically fit into their line up. I suspect it will be more of a product evolution based on the Time Machine . Expect this annoucement in next weeks MacWorld.  

Despite  Steve Job’s resistence, I do believe they will launch some kind of netbook, combining touch technology and the Macbook. The market is growing in the netbook sector and Apple will want a piece of it. 

2) Low cost computing

UMPCs and netbook sales will continue to grow for two reasons. Firstly, as global economic difficulties continue, there will be less disposible income floating around for consumer IT.  Secondly, the growth of cloud computing will change the consumers need for power hungry top spec computers. 

3) Social Networking  matures 

In a similar vein to Apple’s evolutionary steps in 2009, I believe that social networking sites will continue to grow and mature towards the end of the year. Like any market, expect 2009 to see some of the smaller sites go under, as  the users decide what works and what does not.  

Services that aggrogate the numerous social networking sites will be the winners in 2009. For example, Friendfeed.com will have a good year. 

3) Twitter, Twitter & Twitter

Yes, I know ,Twitter is strictly speaking a social networking site. But I believe it warrants its own catergory. Despite the discussions about Twitter’s lack of a business model it will see huge growth in the market next year.  By the end of the year it will  be as widely known as Facebook.

Growth for all the social networking sites will be increasingly sustained by the mobile market. The success of the iPhone and other mobile devices will shift users of these networks away from their desktops and to their mobiles. Expect the big winners to be the smaller app developers of clients based on Twitter’s APIs. 

4) Linux in our lives

Embedded linux will continue to grow in a host of consumer electronics .  Google’s Linux based Android OS will be widely used in smartphone handsets and Palms new Linux based OS, Nova, will hit the market.

Ubuntu linux will continue to grow both in terms of new products but also installed on legacy products – giving a new lease of life to older hardware.  

Outside bets

5) As a Mac fan it pains me to say it -but I predict the retirement of Steve Jobs as CEO of Apple. I think, in a similar approach to Bill Gates, Jobs will remain part of Apple – but his day to day role will change. 

6) A good year for Microsoft. Yes I said it.  To dismiss Redmond is foolish. Microsoft tend to be at their best when they are behind the curve. And they certainly are at the moment. But they learn from their mistakes (Vista) and the successes of others (Apple and Google ). They got their fingers burnt from Vista and will put it right in Windows 7. Expect a much more elegant, lighter and cheaper OS from them this year.

Will that completes my predictions.  Happy New Year.

Rediscoving my love for Open source software

I first discovered the concept of ‘open source’ software through the operating system Linux back in 1998. I had played with ‘free software’ before on various windows boxes but never really considered ‘open source’ as a development methodology.

I spent a lot of time installing various Linux distros, from Redhat (as it was then) to more recently the stunning Ubuntu Linux. I was also involved convincing editorial colleages for our in house magazine to stick the OpenCD on to a special edition a few years ago.

I have been lucky enough to have meet RMS himself, along with other advocates in this space.

So I am someone who gets open source.

However, more recently my passion for open source has been trumped by OSX (itself an OS based on free BSD). I still play with distros of Linux from time to time, but OSX is, without doubt, my platform of choice. I think the reasons why are obvious. But if pushed, there are two fundamental reasons why I use it:

1. Robustness
2. Elegance

But that’s not the purpose of this post. It simply provides a context.

The Joys of Open Source

As you will know I recently installed the excellent WordPress on my webserver. It now drives my blog. I am also developing a Joomla based CMS website at work.

I cannot begin to praise the quality of both systems enough. It staggers me to think that thousands of developers work tirelessly to develop, improve and fix code for these, and many other applications. They ask for nothing more than for us to use the software. The quality of technical documention is outstanding and technical support is everywhere.

I do not consider myself a web developer. Yet I have not struggled to install, develop and hack these applications. It is credit to the quality of the software – not my expertise.

As I develop, in particular the Joomla site, my gratitude and thanks to all those coders grows.

For the record I take my hat off to you all. And offer a genuinely, heart felt, thank you!

A curve ball in the ‘cloud’ from Microsoft

With all the hype around cloud computing these days, particularly with the focus on Google, it came as a surprise to many today that Microsoft  announced a forthcoming cloud based OS.

Steve Balmer revealed that the new OS, labled ‘Windows Cloud’ (for now),  will be launched later this month.

“We need a new operating system designed for the cloud and we will introduce one in about four weeks, we’ll even have a name to give you by then. But let’s just call it for the purposes of today ‘Windows Cloud.”

Popular opinion these days is dismissive of Microsoft. The growth of Google and the market gains of Apple make it easy to take cheap shots at an apparent ailing giant from Redmond. Many believe they have lost their way.

But to dismiss Microsoft is reckless and naive. If they are entering the cloud computing space, I believe it is a step in the right direction. I also genuinely believe cloud computing is the future. So now Google and Microsoft have stepped up to the challenge. Mr Jobs – what next from Apple?

You can read the full story over at the Register. Full article here :

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/10/01/steve_ballmer_windows_cloud/

I for one, can’t wait to see it.

UK Launch party of the Flip Video Ultra

I was fortunate enough to attend the UK launch party of the Flip video ultra. This neat little product has been making all the tech headlines in both mainstream media and the blogosphere. In a nut shell it’s a mini digital camcorder that is compact, simple to use and something you can easily carry with you to capture video. I like to refer to it as a camcorder that will help you shot that perfect ‘YouTube moment’. 

 

The flip video has been a massive success in the States – with 13% of the market share of all digital video cameras. They have sold 1 million Flips since its launch in May 2007. 

 

Why the Hype? 

 

Put simply, this device fills a gap in the consumer digicam market, at a price point and funky form factor that is irresistible  to the YouTube, MySpace and Facebook generation. 

 

The Flip digital camcorder has been designed around three core values, that  really do shine out of this pocket sized digicam: 

  1. fun 

  2. simplicity 

  3. quality

 

It is easy to use. I simply took the flip video out of its box , put in the two AA batteries (supplied) and fired it up. It features a neat 1.5’’ transflective display so you can see what you are recording, along with reviewing what you have just shot. 

 

Once on, filming is a breeze. A simple one touch button begins recording, press it again, and you stop. Nice and simple. 

 

The device is compatible with both Windows and Mac. The name ‘flip’ actually comes from the USB connector that cunningly ‘flips out’ of the side of the unit to connect to your computer. 

 

This particular model ships with 2GB of built in memory, which offers up to 60 minutes of footage. The uncompressed VGA quality video runs at a zippy 30 frames per second. 

 

An interesting feature is the built in software. When connected to a computer the software gives you some neat editing abilities with the video you have shot. It then enables you to directly upload to YouTube and MySpace. I was told by the PR at the event that they are in discussions with Facebook to add them them to the list too. 

 

I shot a bit of footage on my new flip on the way home. I’ll post it soon to my blog. 

 

Summary 

Overall, I am extremely impressed. I believe the Flip Video will be a great success in the UK market. And at a recommended retail price of just £99 – it is guaranteed to sell. The Flip Video is available on Amazon.co.uk, PC World and all good high street retailers. 

 

My 10 second live QIK broadcast of the event is below. Note this is not shot on the Flip Video, it was shot on my Nokia E90.

Sat Nav for the masses

Now days ‘Sat Nav’  is almost as ubiquitous to the driver as the iPod is to the pedestrian . However, until recently, a decent model meant a hefty price tag. Until now that is. Introducing the all new C350BT from Binatone.

 

This new model combines a Sat Nav and bluetooth handsfree speaker phone at a price point that will undoubtedly attract the mainstream consumer market. The recommended retail price is just £99.99.

 

With a compact form factor and some state-of-the-art features this model offers specifications to match some of its more expensive rivals, such as the dominant player, TomTom.  

 

Hands free on the go

When connected wirelessly to a mobile phone, the sat nav screen turns automatically into a keypad and you can receive calls. It is also possible to dial out. 

 

We caught up with Adrian Greeen,Marketing Director, of Binatone who remarked; 

Although this is not the first system of its kind, we expect it to be the best priced on the high street. With a suggested retail price of £99.99. We want to encourage people to try the Bluetooth feature and use it as a 2 in 1 device.

 

The low down on the specs 

The model is wrapped up in a compact form factor and includes the latest Sirf Atlas III chipset – for fast satellite connection. 

 

It features Navigator 7.0 map software, which is both easy to use and offers a range features that you would only expect from a high – end device. These include; personal data management, advanced route planning and the ability to save and load pre-planned routes. 

 

As you would expect it also features both UK and Ireland maps ,(which can be updated for Europe if you wish), pre-installed safety camera locations and, for ease of address lookup, 7-digit post code search. 

 

You can also choose to view the maps in 3D or 2D when navigating. The model features an integrated rechargeable battery – to make charging simple. 

 

We hope to get a review unit to test. So watch this space for a full review soon.

 

Jason Monty 

Technology Correspondent 

There can be no doubt that Apple’s SDK release for the iPhone / iPod touch is big. No, massive. Apart from the obvious benefits to consumers (third party apps coming in June), the SDK is a game changer for developers.

There can be no doubt that Apple’s SDK release for the iPhone / iPod touch is big. No, massive. Apart from the obvious benefits to consumers (third party apps coming in June), the SDK is a game changer for developers. 

 

In my view the biggest news was not so much the SDK itself but the incentives that will attract new and old developers to it. There are two incentives which, will guarantee an array of quality  developers:

 

  1. 1.   The 70/30 Developer/Apple ratio for sales of third party apps through iTunes.

  2. 2.   The iFund provided by KPCB to invest in fund-market changing ideas for the iPhone/touch     platform.

 

With more and better developers switching to iPhone/touch development, they are, in effect, developing software within Apple’s OS X Cocoa framework. So a bunch of developers, producing excellent software within the Cocoa environment. Let the iPhone SDK ‘halo effect’ begin. 

 

It would seem that the SDK might just be the development platform that takes OS X to the next level.