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Barry Collins

Tim Cook: this is how much TV has changed since the 70s

Monday, September 15th, 2014

The stress of last week’s big Apple announcements must be getting to Tim Cook. The man needs a holiday. That can be the only explanation for some bizarre comments he made over the weekend on a US television show, when he was asked about Apple’s TV plans.

“TV is one that we continue to have great interest in – I choose my words carefully there – TV is one of those things that, if we’re really honest, it’s stuck back in the seventies,” Cook said on the Charlie Rose show.

“Think about how much your life has changed, and all the things around you that has changed. And yet TV, when you go in your living room to watch the TV, or wherever it might be, it almost feels like you’re rewinding the clock and you’ve entered a time capsule and you’re going backwards. The interface is terrible. I mean, it’s awful!”

Just to jog the Apple boss’s memory, here are a few examples of how television has changed over the past 40 years.

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Five reasons why the Apple Watch leaves me cold

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

Apple Watch

Darien Graham-Smith and his newlywed wife may be casting admiring glances at the Apple Watch from afar, but I don’t share his enthusiasm.

We’re still at the incubation stage of the smartwatch market, but I was hoping that Apple would provide me with a definitive reason to want one of these devices strapped to my wrist. Last night’s announcement singularly failed to push my easily goaded “Buy Now” buttons. Here’s why the Apple Watch currently leaves me cold.

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BT Home Hub 5: how to get maximum speed

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

BT Home Hub 5

BT finally got round to installing fibre in my area around a month ago, since when I’ve been enjoying life in the fast lane. However, there’s a distinct problem with the way that BT sets up the router, which wasn’t mentioned in our review of the Home Hub 5 and may prevent you from getting the most out of your fibre connection. Luckily, there’s an easy fix, which I’m going to explain here.

The BT Home Hub 5 is a dual-band router, but the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands share the same SSID by default. In other words, when you go to connect your devices, you’ll see one access point labelled “BT Hub-XXXX” and your device may connect to either of the two bands. There is, to the best of my knowledge, no way of telling a dual-band device to connect to a particular band – although if you know better, please let me know in the comments, below.

This is a problem, since the 5GHz band is much slower than 2.4GHz in my experience, and that of several of my Twitter correspondents. From upstairs, my dual-band laptop can get the full 80Mbits/sec afforded by my Infinity 2 connection over 2.4GHz, but that throughput slumps to around 20Mbits/sec when connected to 5GHz – which is roughly what Jonathan Bray found in his review of the Home Hub 5.

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Windows Easy Transfer – not so “easy” in Windows 8.1

Friday, July 11th, 2014

Windows 8.1 Start

I’ve just had a run-in with the Windows Easy Transfer wizard, following which I’m tempted to fly to Redmond and run a seminar on the definition of the words “easy”, “transfer” and “wizard”.

It appears the tool that I’ve used to shunt files and settings from one PC to the next for God Knows How Long has been utterly emasculated in Windows 8.1, without any explanation from Microsoft whatsoever. So, let me attempt to shed some daylight on the situation.

We bought the father-in-law a new Windows 8.1 laptop for his 70th, and thus not wanting to spend the next six weeks in family tech-support purgatory, I told him to bring both old and new laptop round and let me transfer the files, settings and everything else.

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Your right to a private life extends to your email

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

Man at screen

This may cost me some friends and a place on Germaine Greer’s Christmas Card list, but I have some sympathy for Richard Scudamore, the Premier League chief executive who’s been castigated for sending sexist emails.

A friend of mine is a largish cheese at a well-known broadcasting company. Recently, we were arranging a curry night with some pals over email, exchanging the normal “banter” that passes between a group of friends who’ve known each other for years, when said broadcasting exec suddenly felt the need to inform us that – like Scudamore – his PA had access to his inbox.

There was nothing particularly off-colour in the email exchanges, certainly nothing comparable to the comments that have had Scudamore dusting down his CV this week, but the tone of the conversation changed immediately. Dialogue that would be utterly harmless between friends who’ve known each other since university, who know each other’s sense of humour and when someone is being ironic, was suddenly unacceptable when his PA was potentially reading the exchanges, too.

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Windows 8.1 Update: an abject surrender

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Windows 8.1 Update

Microsoft has become the Manchester United of the technology industry. After dominating for much of the 1990s and 2000s, it’s now suffering a crisis of confidence, crippled with uncertainty when it steps out on to the pitch. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the Windows 8.1 Update, or Windows Compromise Edition – Wince for short.

In an effort to appease the Windows 8 haters, Microsoft is backpedalling furiously. You don’t like the Start screen? We’ll just hide that out of the way and pretend it never existed (on laptops and desktops, at least). You want the Start button back? You can have that next time. At this rate, we’re going to have rolling hills in the desktop background, IE6 set as the default browser, and a free trial of AOL waiting on the desktop of Windows 8.2.

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The insane economics of Sky Now TV

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Sky Now TV

A few months ago, after one price rise too many and a waning interest in top-flight football, I decided to cancel my subscription to Sky Sports.

I still get the urge to watch the odd game, and so this weekend – with my once-beloved West Ham giving title-chasing Liverpool a hoof for their money – I decided to investigate Sky Now TV, the broadcaster’s internet TV service. After ten minutes, I was left scratching my head at the sheer insanity of its pricing.

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Time to outlaw crapware-laden installers

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Windows UI

Years ago, various regulators tore strips and billions of pounds from Microsoft for bundling applications with its operating system. Today, Windows software is plagued with a far more serious bundling problem that nobody seems to want to do anything about: bundling crapware.

Nowadays, it’s almost impossible to download any kind of free software without the installer trying to sneak some other piece of junk on to your system. Installers have become almost a puzzle game within themselves, in which the user tries to figure out the consequences of pressing a button.

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Why every PC buyer owes Richard Durkin a debt of gratitude

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

PC World

You’ve probably never heard of Richard Durkin, and until this morning, neither had I. I first heard his name in a report on this morning’s Today show on Radio 4, which claimed he’d been fighting a legal battle over a laptop he’d returned to PC World because it didn’t contain the promised internal modem.

Typical Today, I thought to myself. Getting its technology wonky again. Laptops haven’t come with internal modems for years. As I listened on, it turned out the reporter was absolutely right. The legal battle has been going on for 16 years. And today, Durkin finally won a victory that means a great deal to anyone buying expensive equipment, such as a PC, on credit agreements.

When Durkin bought that £1,500 laptop from PC World back in 1998, he paid just £50 up front, with the remaining balance going on one of those credit agreements the big stores foist on to customers, in this case with HFC (now owned by HSBC).

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Cut out the broadband jargon? What jargon?

Friday, March 21st, 2014

Hands on head

Consumer watchdog Which? has got on its high horse, telling broadband companies to “cut out the jargon” and “give consumers information they understand” when fixing problems with their connections.

Frankly, I don’t know what all the fuss is about. Our fearless lion of a telecoms regulator, Ofcom, cracked this problem back in 2010, when it introduced its Broadband Speeds Code of Practice, making it as plain as day what broadband companies should tell their customers when they ring up to complain about their broadband speeds.

To make it easier for the nannying, simpletons at Which? I’ve pulled out the relevant paragraphs on how ISPs should deal with speed complaints:

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