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Dave Stevenson

Google in my Nest? Not a chance

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Nest

I very much like Nest. I like its approach, which it’s neatly boiled down to “reinvent unloved but important home products”.

I like Nest’s products: a smoke alarm that issues verbal warnings — children are more likely to wake up to a human voice than a beeping alarm, apparently — and glows softly as you pad underneath it at night. I also like its learning thermostat, which reacts to how and when you use your heating and allows you to start warming your home as you, say, make your way back from the airport.

It applies clever design and technology to forgotten appliances you use every day which is, if you think about, everything innovation in tech should be.

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Posted in: Newsdesk, Rant

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Government-funded Wi-Fi on trains: who benefits?

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

Train blur

“Industry sources” have told The Guardian they expect the 2013 budget to include money to install wireless networks in trains, allowing commuters and travellers to get online with non-cellular devices. Currently, less than half of the UK’s 25 rail franchises offer internet onboard. It’s unclear whether the government plans to fund Wi-Fi on all trains, or whether it intends to make wireless internet access free across subsidised services.

As The Guardian points out, pricing for Wi-Fi access on British trains is currently in a state of disarray. It can be free – travellers on the Heathrow Express don’t have to pay a penny, for example, and passengers on the Chilterns mainline also benefit from free web access. Very often, though, internet access is either locked down to everyone, or provided free only to passengers who have coughed up for first-class tickets.

Virgin Trains makes passengers in the cheap seats pay an outrageous £4 per hour. Elsewhere, frequent commuters can pay Greater Anglia trains £209 per year for Wi-Fi access, while East Midlands Trains makes a statement by allowing first-class users online for free, but charging those in standard seats £299 per year. Of the nine rail franchises that offer internet access, four ask for money in return.

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Posted in: Newsdesk

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Is Apple rattled by Samsung? Let’s hope so

Monday, March 18th, 2013

The new anti-Android page at the Apple website

Defensive, prickly and occasionally flat-out disingenuous, Apple’s attempt to swing undecided buyers to the iPhone is great news. For Android users, it confirms that the long wait for an alternative mobile platform that you can bring home to your parents is almost over. Apple’s anti-Android potshots are an indication that Android has finally come of age for consumers.

That’s good news for everyone. If Apple now sees Android as a real threat, it will have to find ways to stop users drifting away. In the long run, Apple on the back foot should mean nicer, better-value products. In the short term it means snippy, linkbait anti-Android marketing barely worth the HTML it’s written on – but still, Apple’s rattled. That can only be a good thing.

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Four alternatives to Google Reader

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

Google’s plans to shutter Google Reader will bite on 1 July, and anyone who hasn’t migrated their carefully-assembled collection of RSS feeds by then will have to start all over again.

The activist-minded can add their voices to a 30,000-strong petition, begging Google to keep Reader going, but the more pragmatic should accept defeat and start looking at ways to port their RSS feeds to different services.

Here are four go-to alternatives to Google Reader to consider:

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Windows 8: a touch of madness

Monday, February 18th, 2013

windows8tilted

For the last week or so I’ve been using Windows 8 and, for the most part it hasn’t been the least bit horrid.

Yes, it forced me to restart this morning just as I sat down to get some work done and, yes, the procedure to actually turn off the computer is like a putative storyline scribbled on a napkin by Franz Kafka but later rejected for being too complicated. And yes, the way PDFs, JPEGs and a few other file types insist on opening full-screen (how many PDFs are that important?) is jarring, but still, most of my work is done in a browser these days, making the operating system in the background irrelevant most of the time.

It is, as operating systems go, perfectly fine.

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Windows 8 won’t work on desktops, laptops and tablets

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

Dell Inspiron Duo

Stuart Turton, bring that maniacally-follicled, weirdly shaped head over here so I can slap you round the back of it for praising Windows 8.

I’ve just watched Microsoft’s Windows 8 reveal and it’s clear that Messrs Sinofsky, Ballmer et al have not so much jumped the shark as chucked the whole company into the aquarium.

Let’s start with the quite bad news before moving onto the really dismaying stuff. From this (admittedly early) video, the heart of Windows 8 looks much like Windows 7. Once Jensen gets over the exciting slidey touchscreen features of Windows 8, the same Start menu and Windows furniture is lurking beneath. Skip to three minutes through the video – that’s Windows 7, and it looks exactly the same as the operating system I’d be running right now if I didn’t like OS X more.

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The only foolproof internet filter

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Child safety video

I feel bad for Ed Vaizey. First he didn’t support net neutrality, then he decided he did, to the cat-calls of the geek community. Now he’s been tasked by the Conservatives to pick off some of the ripest low-hanging fruit: child safety.

Everyone likes children; everyone hates things that aren’t safe for children. Not so much low-hanging fruit, in fact, but pre-picked, washed and packaged fruit. An open goal.

Better yet, he’s taking on the internet. Give the tabloids a choice between putting a child in a room with an annoyed Rottweiler or a room with an internet-connected computer, and the child will be attempting to disengage its arms from Fido’s jaws before you can say ISDN.

It’s Safer Internet Day today, which means we get to watch ministers wring their hands over the FILTH our kids are watching online. We also get to watch this patently absurd video which, I guess, tries to get across a point about cyber-bullying through the medium of 90s Euro house music and teleporting teenagers.

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Why you (probably) shouldn’t worry about diffraction in your photos

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

PC Pro Cover 192.inddAs most right-thinking people will already know, I wrote an article in the latest issue of PC Pro explaining how to turn your photos into high-quality print-outs.

And I wrote what I considered to be an innocent line: “…for landscape shots, place your camera on a tripod, use a remote shutter release to minimise the risk of camera shake, and apply a small aperture (f/16 is ideal) to get as much of the frame in focus as possible.”

This prompted subscriber Simon Barnes to write to PC Pro’s editor, Tim Danton, to say: “he makes a canard, suggesting f/16 is good for depth of field in landscapes, when in fact, even at full frame this is already straying into diffraction, which will be worse with smaller sensors. He’s not the only one saying this of course, it’s regularly trotted out.”

Quite apart from teaching me a new word, Simon was raising an interesting point, which I’ll attempt to tackle here. I should add that the pratical effect of diffraction in photography is to limit the resolving power of the camera as a whole – in other words once diffraction sets in, your images will in theory be softer, with less detail. (more…)

Photographic evidence that 3D glasses are too dark

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

3D glasses on camera I went to see Toy Story 3 this week. It was wonderful. A joyous, pixel-perfect celebration of story-telling and animation that does Disney’s amazing history proud. It was a tour-de-force of perfectionism: every animation, line of script, colour and setting has been designed with the kind of love and care you only get when you have a team of dedicated, incredibly talented individuals working with conviction on a project that they intuitively know is going to produce something really special.

Yet, Toy Story 3 is categorically the last film I will ever pay extra money for to watch in 3D. My local Odeon was showing a 3D print of Toy Story at half-past six and the 2D version two hours later: I’ve concluded I’d have gladly waited.

Why? Aside from the 3D surcharge imposed by the cinemas and the ear-chaffing discomfort of the 3D glasses, there’s another problem: I can’t see my popcorn.

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Palm should leave Apple alone

Monday, October 5th, 2009

palmI challenge you to name something – anything – more ludicrous than the war of attrition being waged by Palm against Apple.

I realise that looks the wrong way round. Palm is the smaller company. The weedy David to Apple’s giant Goliath. But each time the chance to go to war with a company several times its size has been presented, Palm has reached for it with both hands like a 19-stone man lunging for cake.

I’m talking, in case you’re not following the smartphone market as closely as you should, about Palm’s moronic battle to keep the Pre compatible with iTunes.

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Posted in: Hardware

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