Jan 22

In this series of posts, I’m considering and planning my future computing needs. If you’re a Windows user, you may find some of my thoughts relevant to your own situation, or perhaps not.

So far I’ve decided to stick with Windows 7 as my main desktop operating system rather than move to Windows 8. Windows 7 will continue to be supported until 2020 so at this stage there’s still plenty of time to decide and time for new players to enter the scene.

I never really felt the need to upgrade to Windows 8 as I just don’t need a touchscreen interface on my desktop PC. Besides, I’m very happy with Windows 7. Interestingly, I read just recently that HP is starting a marketing push offering Windows 7 rather than Windows 8 on new PCs. In addition, I was interested to read an article by Paul Thurrott at the end of December where he comprehensively laid out Windows problems for 2014 and beyond. What caught my eye in Thurrott’s piece was this statement:

We know that the firm (Microsoft) in embracing a “devices and services” strategy is doing so agnostically, and we’ve already seen many high-profile Microsoft apps and services show up on competing devices this past year. I’d be surprised if 2014 passed without major, full-featured versions of Office on both iOS and Android.

MS Office on Android would be a game changer for me. I need to be able to edit Word documents with tracked changes, etc and without compatibility issues, and Word on my Nexus 10 tablet would be a really nice option when I’m away from my desktop and even as a backup work option. Android is based on the Linux kernel and a relative newcomer on the block, but it really must be considered as another contender in my future computing needs. Who knows where Android will be in 2020. At CES recently, HP and Lenovo announced Android powered desktop PCs and laptops.

Aside from that, I really believe that Linux (probably Mint) could be my best option on the desktop, once I check out running MS Office in Wine on Linux. Mint has made great strides forward and is a great alternative for those wishing to move away from Windows.

What are your thoughts on your future computing platform at home and at work? Will you move to Linux at some point or are you content to stick with Windows? Are you tied to Windows at work or because you need to run proprietary software? Drop a comment below.

Here are links to the earlier posts in this series:

Approaching the Fork: Part 3. LibreOffice or OpenOffice instead of MS Word?

Approaching the Fork: Part 2. Upgrade to Windows 8 or Stay with Windows 7?

Approaching the Fork: Part 1. Windows or Linux?

Sep 19

Red Cross First Aid app

I was loading up my new Nexus 4 smartphone with apps last week and trying to figure what I would definitely need when out and about. Quite separately, I was also wondering whether I would know how to treat a stroke victim if I ever came across this in my family, friends or just out on the street. It occurred to me that a First Aid app would be really useful on a smartphone.

I did an evening class in First Aid, let me see, over 30 years ago now. Needless to say, I’ve forgotten just about everything I’ve learned. I do have a few First Aid books, but what use are they if you come across a casualty on the street. With a smartphone app, it’s always there with you.

So I had a look at first aid apps on Google Play Store and chose First Aid by British Red Cross. It has five stars and a 4.8 rating from 1416 reviews.

Red Cross First Aid menu

One thing I liked was that it worked offline. Pretty much essential as you don’t want to be hunting for a signal in that sort of situation. I looked up stroke and learned everything I need to know for a First Aid situation: Think F.A.S.T. Face: is there weakness on one side of their face? Arms: can they raise both arms?  Speech, is their speech easily understood?  Time,  time to call for help.

So hunt down a First Aid smartphone app and get it on your smartphone. I hope you don’t need to use it, but if you do it’s there ready for you.

Which First Aid smartphone app do you use? Have you ever had to use it in an emergency? Drop a comment below.

Feb 6

Nexus 10

I received a Google Nexus 10 tablet from my family for Christmas. I had mentioned once in passing that I would fancy a tablet and they managed to work out exactly the one I’d chose just from that. Not just that but they had to order it from US and ship it to a friend’s house to keep me in the dark. It was completely unexpected and I was really taken aback by this amazing gift.

Anyway, I’ve had it for just over a month now. I’ve since added the G-HUB PropUp Case and a  5 metre micro HMDI (Type D) to HDMI (Type A) cable so I can plug the tablet into my TV when I want to watch on a bigger screen. I’ve added a bunch of free apps which I thought I’d share with you. Bear in mind that I live in the UK so some of the apps are region specific and may only work here. Everything I’ve tried so far is for content consumption (on the couch) rather than content creation.

Flipboard: Hours of fun here just browsing through news, current affairs, sport, tech, science, Facebook, or Google Reader. Justin Pot wrote about Flipboard recently on MakeUseOf and he has some great suggestions for bringing content into Flipboard. One of my favourite apps so far.

BBC apps: So far, I’ve installed BBC News for the latest news and sport, BBC Player to listen to BBC radio and podcasts and BBC Media Player for watching BBC TV. These are all UK only I think.

TuneIn Radio: Bookmark and listen to your favourite radio stations from around the world.

TV Catchup: This was a great find. I can now stream free to air UK TV directly to the Nexus 10. If you have Adblock Plus ad blocker installed, make sure you disable it first, otherwise TV Catchup won’t load. The app only works in UK.

Google Reader: I’ve tried a few Google Reader apps and this is the best so far as I can scroll through all my feeds in list view.

Reddit is Fun: A great Reddit client. If you haven’t tried Reddit yet, have a look at my Reddit post.

Pocket: Save stuff to read later. Syncs with your other devices including your PC, and you can read offline when you’re out and about.

Volume Control: With The Propup Case, I find it’s difficult to get at the physical volume control buttons and invariably the screen flips over as you try to put your finger on the button. So I wanted a touch volume slider on the screen instead. Volume Control works quite well and is fairly unobtrusive. You can position it where you want on the screen. I have it right at the top just right of centre.

Google Sky Map: If you’re interested in the night sky and identifying what’s where, this is a great free app. You can search for stars and planets too and the app will show you where to look for them.

Kindle for Android: I don’t have a Kindle, and I don’t need one now. But I already had the Kindle for PC app on my desktop PC to view free Kindle books. So I downloaded the Kindle app to read books on my Nexus 10. Well worth trying out and great for reading a few pages here and there when you have a moment or when you’re out and about.

Clean Master: I use this free utility to clean out the cache, old files, stop running tasks,  etc. It can also be used to backup and uninstall apps.

These are the best Android apps I’ve discovered so far. I’ve bookmarked many Android apps in the past while browsing so I’ll have to go back through those and try some out. I’ll probably post again with another great selection later in the year. In the meantime, let us know about your favourite Android apps for tablets.

Oct 30

Many of us now have a personal Gmail address. If you’re lucky, you’ll already have and treasure your firstname.surname@gmail.com and you may like to limit its exposure to prevent too much spam, and junk in your email inbox. Admittedly, Gmail has very good filters to cut this out, but let’s face it, you may possibly have this email address for another 40 or 50 years if you’re in your 20’s and if email still continues to be a serious form of communication in the future. So it’s perhaps worth being a little careful with just who gets that address. In addition, there are increasing concerns about the safety of personal information on Android devices.

Here’s what worried me. Within minutes of getting an Android phone, your personal Gmail address is soon firmly entrenched in it as you log into your Gmail account and download apps from Google Play. You’re probably even searching for apps on your desktop and sending them straight to your phone through your Gmail account. Do the app developers get access to your Gmail address or does Google keep that secret from them?

Well, my first encounter with Gmail address leakage was with Shazam, an app to try to identify music. Soon after installing this app, I received a welcome Gmail from them which worried me. I read the permissions for Shazam but this said nothing about access to my Gmail address. However, after I asked the question on Reddit, someone put me right and pointed out that I had probably rushed through setup and hadn’t read the install screens correctly. So I uninstalled Shazam then reinstalled it taking more care this time. This is what I missed first time round:

Shazam sign up

Should have pressed Skip first time round, not Next.

Okay, but the next reply to my question on Reddit was from an app developer:

When someone purchases one of my apps, I can see an email address in Google checkout, together with an email marketing flag (which presumably they set when entering payment details the first time). Nb I never send emails using this info.

So to protect my personal Gmail address, I guess the best approach might be to get a new Gmail address just for Android app installations. And read the setup screens carefully.

Any thoughts on all this?

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