Tag Archives: apple

Oh ffs iTunes!

I’m a Mac user, but I know we’re still in the minority. Consequently, I hear (Windows-using) people bang on about how much they hate iTunes on a daily basis. It’s never been a problem for me on a Mac. Not that is, until now.

When trying to download a (free) bit of software from the App store this morning, after entering my password, I was asked to enter it again and then complete three security questions. Seems a bit overkill from the start – even my bank don’t need this many separate levels of security. Then I got to the questions. Oh dear. It’s my least favourite type of security questions. That’s right – it’s the ones where an American has decided what questions you can pick from. Continue reading Oh ffs iTunes!

The Wonders of Technology

Sometimes it looks good. Sometimes it sounds good.
Other times it looks gimmicky and unnecessary, but you want it anyway.
Technology is a help to those that understand it, and a hinderance to those who don’t.
So here’s some real-world examples of where I’ve found it very helpful recently.

LateRooms.com recently enabled me to book a double hotel room, at a hotel in Shropshire, which had a gym, sauna, and swimming pool, all for the princely sum of £39 for the night.
It included breakfast too, but not dinner.

Having got to the hotel, I spent a period flailing my arms around in water and not drowning, while my girlfriend swam up and down with considerable ease. Eventually we both got a bit hungry.
Where shall we eat?
At home I could look online, but I’m here now, in a hotel, with no laptop.
How to find a local restaurant in an area I’ve never visited before?

Bring on Vouchercloud.
Using the handy location search, it’s a free app that could pinpoint my position using the GPS in my iPhone, and got me a discount on local eatery Frankie and Benny’s. I’ve never eaten there before, and I’d never even heard of it, but I now know it to be a nationwide chain.
The food was alright (I would have said “good”, but the sweetcorn was soggy), although the restaurant a bit quirky, in that it plays loud old music, and every 15-20mins, the song skips to Cliff Richard’s “Congratulations”, they bring out a cake and sing Happy Birthday to someone.
Side note: I’ve seen the cake thing in TGI Fridays before, on a work colleague’s leaving do, when someone told them it was his birthday (it wasn’t).

The next morning, after enjoying our inclusive-breakfast, we leave the hotel.
The plan was to spend the day looking at a few museums, then travel back home.
However, we spent a long time out, ended up quite tired, and neither of us fancied driving home.
We hadn’t had the foresight to book a second night at the original hotel, so I pulled out my iPhone and went to Laterooms’ website.

Sadly, O2’s signal at Ironbridge is practically non-existent.
We drove for a bit until I had a signal, then attempted to use Laterooms’ website.
It just doesn’t really work on the iPhone.
Not because of the iPhone’s lack of Flash support either. The website is just too big, and too awkward to navigate.
I managed to get it almost as far as booking, and then it wouldn’t let me enter my billing address for some reason, so wouldn’t complete the transaction.

I went to the App Store to see if Laterooms had an app. They don’t 🙁
However, I found a free app called iRooms, that works pretty much the same way.
Through this, I found a hotel near the first one. In fact it was right across the street.
We were on the 5th floor, and the lift was broken, but never mind.
It was £6 more at £45 for the night, and didn’t include breakfast or dinner.
It did have a pool, but the novelty had worn off a bit, and we were both quite tired.

Never mind breakfast though – where are we going to eat tonight?
There wasn’t much else locally that we fancied on Vouchercloud. I tried looking at Google Maps, but some of the restaurants sounded terrible, and others that sounded nice seemed to have closed down when we attempted to find reviews.
Back to the App store to look for some form of location-based nearby-restaurant search.
I found the free AroundMe app.
It’s essentially just the “points of interest” section that you would find on a sat nav, but it uses Google Maps to find places and direct you there.
And thus a nearby Indian restaurant was found.

The food was great. The service mixed, and one member of staff insanely rude.
I asked for pineapple juice and was told that young trendy people don’t drink pineapple juice, and thus they don’t sell it.
Any excuse.
Just Coke or orange juice again then is it?
The typical restaurant with the usual shit-poor selection of soft drinks, then.
And considering it was a Saturday night, I can only assume the young trendy people were all eating elsewhere, as there was only 6 of us in the entire restaurant.

Afterwards, we went back to the hotel room, and put the TV on.
I was surprised to find it wasn’t a digital TV, nor did it have Freeview. How do I know what’s on later?
The free iPhone app for the http://www.tvguide.co.uk/ website solved that problem for me.
It couldn’t however, help with the fact that it being a Saturday, there was nothing on.
Never mind eh?

We checked out of the hotel the next morning.
My girlfriend hates to leave anywhere without having breakfast. We’d exhausted the tea/coffee making facilities by this point as well.
As our hotel price didn’t include it, and breakfast was an additional £16 for the two of us (on a £45 room, seems a bit expensive, surely?), AroundMe found us a nearby Sainsbury’s with a cafe, where we had cereal, tea, and pastries for less than half that.
I even got the chance to read (and mock) the Sunday tabloids. Footballers sleeping with prostitutes, eh? What’s on page2 – bears shitting in woods?

And thus concludes a weekend of useful technology, blended in nicely with some historic museums.
I interspersed my sightseeing with Twitter updates, and photos on my iPhone. In fact, I’m moderately embarrassed to say I only got my proper camera out once, I think.
Is convergence of technology finally here?

Powerpoint celebrates 25 years

This week, Powerpoint reached a quarter of a century old. I bet that the celebrations for it went down like for my recent birthday – quiet, nobody told, and with all the phones switched off, as they try to forget all about it, lest anyone realise they’ve been flogging the same product for about 20 of those years.

I’m an Apple fan. I’ll get that out of the way right now.
I own an iPhone, and I love using a Mac. They seem somehow simpler, less trouble, and yes – they’re incredibly stylish.
I don’t hate all Windows-based PCs, but being generic combinations of components can cause problems. (Although I’m biased as I worked in IT support almost exclusively for Windows machines, until last year)

Initially Powerpoint was a Mac-only product. If this had remained the case, it would have been axed by now, or substantially rewritten/redesigned.
The software is old, boring, and it’s also misused.
People feel the need to put in random animated effects (they’re all terrible), that haven’t been used in the mainstream media since probably the early 80s.
Anything that gives people cause to use Microsoft Office’s dreadfully-weakly-drawn clip-art is a bad thing, and swooshing sound effects are a mistake in any office situation.

Surely it’s not all bad?

I’ve sat through one enjoyable Powerpoint presentation in my entire life.
It was the first day of a training course, and it was enjoyable because they had used a copyrighted piece of music illegally. It’s the first and only presentation I’ve seen that has used a Fatboy Slim track in the background.
That also gives you some idea how long the presentation was – it was all finished in under 5minutes to give a basic overview of the corporation, before moving onto something else.
The rest of the course only used Powerpoint to show photographs of screenshots. Everything that wasn’t visual, wasn’t included.
Well done.

The last Powerpoint presentation I sat through, had a lot going wrong for it. Aside from the earlier mentioned bad clipart (is it some kind of legal requirement?), here’s the three main reasons it failed in my opinion:

1. The person doing the presentation wasn’t the person who created it.
For that reason, there were sections where she actually said “I’m supposed to do X now, but I think it’s silly so I’m not going to bother”.
That seems bad for a presentation, but it was made worse by the explaining of everything that we would have done, had she not decided we wouldn’t.
As it happened, I agreed with her – it was a stupid idea.
But surely the correct thing to do there is either do the activity, or don’t do it and hide/delete the slide.

2. It was ridiculously generic.
I was being shown the presentation in one office of a multi-site business.
At one point, there was a slide that explained about the Y system, which featured in some sites.
The speaker announced that this wasn’t relevant at the site we were in, but then continued to explain what it was anyway.
On the one hand, you could say they were being helpful – but on the other hand, it’s completely pointless for me to know this information. It will be of no future use to me whatsoever.

3. It wasn’t really needed.
There were maybe two things in the entire presentation that had associating photographs. During some of the health and safety section, there were photographs of what can go wrong. Not gory, but interesting.
Aside from that, every other slide was used to show bullet points that (mostly) linked to what the speaker was saying.
Some of them weren’t obvious as to what they were though, so if you only remember what you see visually, you’ll still be none the wiser.

I should add that it wasn’t entirely the speaker’s fault. The situation wasn’t helped by the fact that I hadn’t slept well, and so had a lot to drink to keep me awake.
This meant when she said “there’s only 10 slides left”, I was mentally calculating whether I could last until the end of the presentation (based on how long it had been since the last slide-count update), or whether I’d have to excuse myself to go to the toilet for the second time so far.

What other option is there?

10 years ago, when I was in college, a module required I do a presentation. Me and the rest of the students worked together, and collectively presented it to department heads and other non-teaching staff.
Part of this was done in Powerpoint, but with a lot of diagrams and things that couldn’t be easily explained verbally.
There were also written handouts (which were NOT just print outs of the entire Powerpoint presentation) given to audience members.

Not to blow my own trumpet, but far and away the thing that stood out as being different was my part.
Essentially we’d been struggling to find me a task for the project, with a lot of bases covered.
For the first two weeks I’d done very little, but a few days before we were due to make the presentation, I’d discovered and downloaded this relatively new piece of software, called Macromedia Flash (now known as Adobe Flash).
I’d learnt some of it, including motion blur animation, and worked out how to let the user move things around on screen, and so this became my section.
Where we had otherwise used photographs, I made a section that was interactive, and invited the audience to have a go with it.
Instead of showing them photographs or bullet points about the internal components, I could actually let them drag off covers, remove screws (it was an engineering course) and unwrap it themselves, albeit it in a basic manner compared to what Flash is used for (and capable of) nowadays.
Despite my fear of public speaking and performance, that was the best module of the entire course.

Powerpoint have any competition?

You can make basic presentations in Google Presentation (part of Google Docs – http://docs.google.com) for free.
Because it’s based online, you can share it with people all over the world too, if you should need to, and they can view it in any browser without installing additional software.

For something portable that doesn’t require an Internet connection, check out Apple Keynotes (http://www.apple.com/iwork/keynote).
It works very similar to Powerpoint, but it’s got considerably better transition effects, basic 3d animation, and fancy mirror reflections.
Just look at this video:


There’s different tools for different jobs, but I think if you don’t have anything visual to show (bullet points AREN’T essential), don’t use Powerpoint.
That said, photographs, pie charts, and other visual information needs to be displayed in some way, and Powerpoint is easy for that. Powerpoint can embed audio and video though, and run external software, so you don’t need to limit yourself to crappy Microsoft clip art and 1980’s transition effects, even if you stick with it.

Bakewell tart and pure apple and mango juice

I know that’s not an evening meal. I had my lunch today (sandwiches, etc), and then was surprised to pass what used to be a Somerfield store, to find it had been replaced with a Marks and Spencers. Brilliant.

Despite already having had my lunch, I stopped there anyway and bought some apple and mango juice (not from concentrate), and a bakewell tart from the bakery.
Very nice they both were too.

I wish they’d replace the rest of the Somerfield’s in the country with a Marks and Spencers. There’s two on Gloucester Road that could be got shot of straight away. In fact they could just replace the ones in Bristol. In fact I’m not that harsh. One of the ones on gloucester road. And I wish the residents would stop whining and get that big Sainsburys built too. Then I can stop shopping in that tiny Sainsbury’s MetroExpressDailyLocal..whatever it’s called.