4 weeks with the iPhone X

After 4 weeks of using the iPhone X, I can safely say that it is far and away the best phone I have ever used, and I have had most of the iPhones released. It is a pleasure to hold, the screen is fantastic and battery life is much better than previous phones I’ve used. Android users may scoff at this, as they’ve had large OLED screens and wireless charging for a while, but for me the mix of software and hardware is a joy to use. Continue reading “4 weeks with the iPhone X”

Travelling the Cumbria Coast Railway: Part 1

The Cumbria Coast railway line from Carlisle to Barrow-in-Furness via Whitehaven is a bit of a hidden gem. Between Workington & Whitehaven, the railway hugs the coastline (in some places the railway forms the coastal defences and has had to be repaired many times). The railway is a mix of double track and single track and has some semaphore signalling south of Workington. Continue reading “Travelling the Cumbria Coast Railway: Part 1”

A month with the iOS11 Public Beta

I am a self-professed geek (my Twitter name is @gatesheadgeek) and I wear that badge with some pride! For me, then, the recent trend for Apple to release their upcoming major software releases as a Public Beta to help test its bugs and foibles before releasing to the masses is great. I’m not one to wait for things (I was once caught by my father looking for my Christmas presents on the top shelf of his study bookcase for example) and so the Public Beta programme is aimed at people like me. After 4 weeks of use, I feel able to comment on its performance so far. Continue reading “A month with the iOS11 Public Beta”

iPad 2

The iPad 2 was released in the US on 11th March 2011 with the UK release on 25th March. While many remain unconvinced about the need for a so-called “tablet” device, it is clear that Apple have found a market (some might say created one) and that while they are unlikely to have it to themselves for much longer, they currently completely dominate the tablet market.

A lot of comment has been made that the iPad2 does not have the technical specification of a laptop (or even a notebook) but I think this misses the point that, for many users, a tablet is all they need for many of their tasks. The technology pages of newspapers and blogs are filled with IT-savvy people sneering at the iPad (partly as a continuation of the Apple vs PC/Android debate) but they fail to see that while for them an iPad (or other tablet) has no useful function, that is not the case for a large proportion of people – as evidenced by the millions that have been sold. These haven’t all been sold to Apple fans either – the iPad (as with the iPhone previously) have clearly captured the imagination of users.

Many might continue to aver that Apple are all style over substance, but this fails to explain why people have returned time and time again to Apple devices once they have bought one. That suggests that Apple must be doing something right and that it’s not just down to clever marketing. If it was marketing, repeat sales would surely be far lower.

For myself, I am sorely tempted by an iPad but am considering other options as well. I would be unlikely to buy an Android tablet of any sort (simply because of my investment in iOS Apps) but am considering whether to replace my aging laptop with another (Apple or otherwise), an iPad or a netbook. All have their advantages and disadvantages, however I am certain that I need something light.

Squeezebox Boom & Streaming Music

I have now been using my Squeezebox Boom music player for about 6 months and really love being able to access all my iTunes music library without my computer. It also doubles up as a radio as it can also stream internet radio stations.

The sound from the Squeezebox is good and its easy to find playlists (though not as easy to set them up on the music server).

Rather than set up the music library on my laptop, I invested in a home server for about £150. This also acts as a backup for music, photos and other files.

I was going to buy a similar squeezebox device for my sitting room, however withe the launch of an improved and cheaper Apple TV device which does the same (and more) for less I think that is what I will get instead.

Home Server

As part of my desire to be able to listen to the music I want when I want and where I want, I bought Logitech’s Squeezebox Boom. This uses a wifi connection to my iTunes library to stream music and play it in my kitchen or study.

Rather than keep my laptop running all the time and also to provide a reliable backup of my music (and other files), I also bought a NetGear ReadyNAS 2000 home server. This little device is the size of a hardback book and is essentially a housing for two hard drives with a network link. The network cable plugs directly into my wifi router.

I currently only have one hard drive (a 1TB disk) in the server but will buy another when funds allow. The second drive will automatically copy the first to guard against a drive failure.

All my music and my photographs are saved on this machine. At first, I tried using the drive as my sole iTunes library, however iTunes didn’t like this unless the laptop was connected by cable to the router. Even then, I sometimes had trouble when synchronising my iPhone, and this is with the fastest wifi router I could get.

As a result, I have now revised my iTunes setup so that it is on my laptop but use a free Windows add-on called SyncToy which makes sure both copies of my iTunes library are the same.

Annoyingly, there is also a need to set up a Squeezebox server using software on the ReadyNAS to allow the devices to talk to each other.

Setting up the server is probably something that should only be attempted by someone with a decent understanding of computers. It uses Linux and various proprietary programs to manage the files and access. The most laborious tasks are when software and firmware updates are available as it requires the downloading and running of various files to complete.

There are more user-friendly home-servers available for less knowledgeable/geeky users. Although pretty quiet, the ReadyNAS has a fan which is just about audible if there’s no music or TV playing. Ideally, I would relocate it to another room but that would require setting up a new telephone socket in the utility room or somewhere.

iPhone 4 and O2

After the new iPhone 4 was finally announced last week, Apple stated that the new model would be available for pre-order on 15th June in the UK. Well the 15th came and went with only Apple allowing pre-orders and running out of their stock within hours. Mobile operators have been slow in releasing information and are still not allowing pre-orders. Whether this is their choice or Apple trying to manage limited stocks is unclear, however O2 seem to have been toying with their customers more than most by releasing tariffs without handset prices – which isn’t much use. Maybe that’s the point, though it does seem to have backfired. Despite having a chance to reduce my costs from a corporate discount offer, I am seriously conisdering leaving O2 and am analysing and comparing the multitude of tariffs that are available to get the deal which is best value overall.

Despite Apple’s reputation as a company with great PR savvy, I do think they have misjudged this again – there are after all plenty of alternative handsets vying for attention now…

Lenses

I recently bought a Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens as it was recommended as a good lens to have in my kit and to help in learning more about aperture, depth of field and exposure.

Having always had a zoom lens, it was rather a change to have to actually MOVE to change the composition of a shot rather than just twist the lens.Focus is still automatic if I want it to be.

Depth of field creates particularly interesting opportunity to create unusual shots from everyday objects..having a remote control in focus and everything else blurred compared to a rather more conventional shot completely changed the impact. I am now getting a better understanding of how the camera works and look forward to experimenting more.

My next lens will hopefully be a Nikon AF-S VR 70-300 f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED which will allow me to take better transport-themed shots when out and about.