Entering a parallel universe….

I was recently at a conference in London and I am sure that a few people thought they had entered a parallel universe, as before at conferences I was often seen with a MacBook, an iPad and an iPhone. At this conference I was carrying a Windows Surface Pro, a Nexus 7 and an Google Nexus One phone. No Apple hardware in sight!

I have recently changed jobs, so my MacBook was given back, as was my work iPhone. I did have a home iPhone 3G, but recently ended the contract on that one, so I cancelled the contract and gave the phone to my wife, as her phone had recently died. In a similar vein, I had gone out and bought the iPad (third generation) when it came out, but after a few months I also gave it to my wife, as I was using one at work and for most home purposes my old original iPad was doing a fine job.

Going to London the main problems I had was missing the Tube Exits app, which tells you where to get on the tube so that when you arrive at your destination station you are both a) on the correct side for getting off, but also b) right next to the way out.

The other problem I had was with maps, of all the map apps I have used, my personal favourite is the original Apple Maps App, which used the data from Google. I had it on my iPhone 3G and was disappointed with the upgrade last year. I was using maps to get from Euston Square Tube Station to Senate House, and though I knew the approximate direction, I wasn’t exactly sure where it was. In the end it was more luck than judgement I found it.

At the event itself my main device was the Windows Surface Pro. The battery lasted for most of the day and I was certainly using it quite hard. I have to admit I wasn’t too impressed with the images it took, I have had much better results with the iPad.

However it was easy to tweet from the device (and when I needed to catch up with e-mail or find URLs). Even with the “touch” keyboard it isn’t really a blogging device, and elsewhere I have found it easier to use a real keyboard (as it happens an Apple one….).

As for the Nexus, well that was a backup device, but I did use it to listen to some podcasts on the train home.

No 4G Nexus 7 for the UK

Nexus 7 2013

The new Google Nexus 7 is coming to the UK on the 28th August, however we will only be seeing the wifi versions, £199.99 for the 16GB version and @239.99 for the 32GB version. There is no news on the LTE (4G) version coming to the UK.

I really like my original Nexus 7, it’s my favourite travelling device, much easier to carry about than the iPad. It’s much more portable than the iPad mini and fits into more pockets and bags than the iPad (or even the iPad mini).

I don’t think I need to upgrade my existing 7” Nexus, though I do like the idea of the “retina” screen, but I do think having a 4G Nexus would be useful for travelling, without worrying about having to tether to my phone, so would consider upgrading it, if there was a 4G version available. I do think we will see cheaper and more widespread 4G over the next year or so.

iPad mini, take two…

iPad mini, take two...

So it was only a week or so ago that I said:

I don’t think I will be getting an iPad mini

Well… I might now…

You see I popped into the Apple Store at Cabot Circus in Bristol and had a quick look at the iPad mini.

I was really impressed (and remember I do have a Google Nexus 7) the size and weight felt just right and it was very responsive. Well it should be as it is basically an iPad 2 and that was a good piece of kit.

I really did like the feel of the device and the screen wasn’t too small (which was one of my worries). I didn’t have a lot of time with it, but trying out the e-mail and web browsing felt okay. This was a device I could work with.

There was the issue of size and I don’t think it will fit in my coat pocket as the Google Nexus 7 can. Also the price… at £239 it is a lot more money than the £159 Google Nexus 7 and £70 would buy a lot of apps and content. Of course I have already made an investment in the apps and content for my current iPad, so that isn’t really too much of an issue.

Overall if price is a real issue then I would recommend the Google Nexus 7. If this is your first tablet then I would again go for the Google Nexus 7, as if it doesn’t work out, you’ve not lost too much money. However if you have already invested in iOS apps, have a lot of content on iTunes, and you are not that price sensitive, then I think the iPad mini is probably a better deal.

I am seriously thinking about selling the Google Nexus 7 and getting the iPad mini.

I don’t have an iPad mini

iPad mini

I don’t think I will be getting an iPad mini, not that I don’t like the idea behind the product, but I already have the iPad (third generation) and a Google Nexus 7, I am not quite sure where the iPad mini would fit into my life. Then again I thought the same about the iPad when it first came out (got a laptop and a desktop, why do I need a tablet?).

If I didn’t have the Nexus 7, then I might seriously consider the iPad mini. The form factor of the Nexus 7 is really nice and portable, much more than the big iPad. Unlike a phone though, the larger screen size makes stuff like web browsing work.

Early reviews of the iPad mini say that, though it is smaller than the iPad, due to the 1024×768 screen resolution it is too wide! Making it difficult to put in your pocket. I also wonder if the small screen would make it challenging to type on. I do a fair bit of typing on the screen of the larger iPad, but have found it not so easy on the Nexus 7 screen.

I am less bothered about the “lack” of a retina display. Don’t get me wrong I really love the retina screens on the iPad (third generation) and my MacBook Retina, but it isn’t always a deal breaker; I can always get my glasses out.

One of the reasons I might get an iPad mini is that I have a large investment in iOS apps and as a result it would be quite quick and easy to get it into my workflow. Another reason would be 4G, but as the current status of 4G in the UK isn’t exactly attractive, what with limited coverage and high tariffs, I am not sure that is a valid reason (at this time).

Google Play, Fun, Games and Pirates

The Pirates

One of the benefits of buying the Google Nexus Seven was getting £15 worth of credit for the Google Play store. The reason behind this was simple, from Google’s perspective, in getting you use to buying stuff from Google Play, so in future after exhausting the credit you’ll buy more.

I wanted to get a good idea of how everything worked… however here in the UK we get nowhere near the quality and quantity of stuff you can get in the US. So it was actually quite hard to find things. True apps were easy and I had already bought apps for my Nexus One phone, so the majority of these could be installed on the Nexus Seven without buying them again. One app I did install was Doubletwist which as well as allowing me to very easily copy music over to the Nexus Seven from iTunes on my Mac, can also stream video using AirPlay to my AppleTV. After installing I did test it out and I was pleased with how it worked. I used a clip that I had recorded using EyeTV and encoded for the iPhone as it happens. No it wasn’t 1080p HD, but the video quality was certainly acceptable and the wireless streaming worked well.

I did buy a book to try out the reading experience and was quite pleased. It was a similar experience to reading on the iPad, but the size of the device, been lighter than the iPad, made the reading experience easier, whilst the bigger screen made it a much nicer experience than reading on a phone. Of course, unlike Kindle books, it wasn’t possible to move around devices as you can with Kindle apps and devices.

I also wanted to try video from Google Play, alas you can’t buy films, only rent them (and no television programmes). I really can’t see Google Play replacing iTunes for me, as it doesn’t have the content that you can get on iTunes. Having decided to rent a film, I made the decision to rent Pirates from Aardman.

The Pirates

Having initially clicked “buy” on the Nexus Seven I could have started watching straight away… knowing the (poor) speed of my ADSL connection I decided not to. You could download your rental, so decided that would be more sensible than streaming. I set the Nexus Seven to download overnight and when I checked the next morning it was all fine.

With renting, you have 30 days to watch the film, and once you start watching you just have just two days to watch it. So though I was tempted to have a glimpse to see video quality I knew if I did that I would probably never to get to see the rest of the film.

When we got round to watching it, I spent a fair bit of time working out how to stream the film from the Nexus Seven, via AirPlay through the AppleTV to my TV. Hmmm though it is possible to do this with video you put on the device, alas DoubleTwist does not allow you to stream videos protected by Google Play DRM. There is no HDMI out, or any other video out for the Nexus Seven, making it nigh on impossible to view the video on a screen other than the Nexus Seven screen. In the end we watched Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs on Netflix instead straight from the AppleTV.

Not wanting to try and all crowd round the 7” screen of the Nexus Seven I tried to think of a solution. In the end it was quite easy. I went to Google Play on Chrome on my MacBook Retina which has an HDMI slot, connected it to the TV direct. Initially I wasn’t allowed to stream as I had downloaded it on the Nexus Seven… I found if I removed that downloaded file from the Nexus Seven then Google Play would stream from Chrome on the laptop.

Doing this allowed me to change the resolution to 480p. I was initially worried that my slow ADSL connection would cause buffering issues, however in the end we didn’t have single buffering problem.

Doing this allowed me to change the resolution to 480p. I was initially worried that my slow ADSL connection would cause buffering issues, however in the end we didn’t have single buffering problem.

I was impressed with the quality of the video, it looked great on my 40” TV. My only disappointment was that I was forced away from the Nexus Seven to watch it and use another device. As a personal device, the Nexus Seven is great for watching video, but if everyone in the family wants to watch the video then unlike the iPad the Nexus Seven didn’t work for us.

Amazon Basics Black Stylus

Amazon Basics Black Stylus

I’ve wanted to get a stylus for my iPad for a while now, but never really got round to buying one. I was recently buying some consumables for my printer at Amazon so doing a quick search, found this Amazon Basics Black Stylus for just £7.49 and thought, hmmm, okay, let’s add that to the basket.

I was really pleased with it and it works really well. It’s great for doing brushwork on an application like Brushes and also allows you to interact with the screen as though you were using your finger. Obviously if you rely and use multi-touch gestures then you’re not going to be able to do those with this.

One advantage of using a stylus is from an accessibility perspective, I can see this making it much easier for visually impaired people to use VoiceOver for example.

It also works really well if you have really dry hands or eczema. The capacitive screens you find on the iPad (or the Nexus 7) often don’t work well. The stylus helps with that problem.

Personally I think it might be really useful when it’s cold and I am wearing gloves! Should also work with the iPhone too.

Get the Amazon Basics Black Stylus at Amazon.

It’s quite good really…

Let’s get a few things straight, though I may have a reputation for been something of an Apple fanboy, the reality is somewhat different.

Yes I have the iPad, yes I use an iPhone, true the MacBook Air does spend a lot of time with me when I am out and about, also true that the iMac at home (and the one in the office) are well used. You might think that I am an Apple fanboy and I only buy Apple?

The truth is more complicated. I like products for what they do and how they make my life easier, better, quicker and more efficient. Over the last few years the end result has been that I have been buying more and more stuff from Apple.

When the iPhone first came out in 2007, I didn’t like it, no real apps, no decent camera and importantly for me no 3G. At that time I was using the Nokia N95 which was, though somewhat chunky, was a great phone with a decent camera. With wifi and 3G I could use it as a portable wireless hotspot. Though with the iPhone 4 that became a possibility, the reality today is that I use my Google Nexus One for tethering over the iPhone. It is more reliable, it keeps the connection live and the impact on battery life is minimal – that was the one downside of using Joikuspot on the N95 it killed the battery life.

I do like the Apple laptops, but before getting a G4 PowerBook I was sold on Sony laptops, especially the compact ones. These, with their extended batteries, lasted all day and were small and light. I think it was Windows Vista which really moved over to OS X in the end. The constant updating and permissions issues made using Windows such a drag that using OS X was always like a breath of fresh air.

Even today, having used an Airport Extreme as my main home network router, having gone back to Netgear as I have reverted back to ADSL from FTTC I have found that the routing side is less than perfect and I have had a few network issues. True not all my Apple networking stuff has worked all the time.

So going back to the blog post title, “It’s quite good really…” am I talking about a new Apple device, no it’s the Google Nexus 7. I’ve had it two days so far and I am really impressed.

Google Nexus 7

For a tablet that costs just £159 it has the responsiveness and speed that I would expect from a tablet costing two or three times as much. Google have put a lot of work into it and the new Jelly Bean Android OS to give the end user a great experience. It is that great experience which counts as I am sure that is the reason that the iPad has cornered the tablet market even though it has its limitations. I am in the process of writing a full review of my experiences so that will come later. The Nexus 7 does have some limitations and issues, but overall I am really pleased with it and liking it a lot. It’s quite good really…

Music, books, movies and tan slacks

After announcing their new 7″ Google Nexus 7 tablet at the Google I/O conference keynote, Google released a video talking about the device and the benefits it provides users. After clicking play, make sure you turn on closed captions by clicking the “cc” button.

It was pointed out to me that Google have used automatic closed captions on their video and let’s just say the transciption of speech to text was not perfect, and in some ways quite amusing.

biggest release of the interrupt resistance so far

we could enjoy under the microscope an injury for palm

smear making

music, books, movies and tan slacks

high-resolution speaking

toad just invites house members

inexperienced antiquity link that excites

looking forward to deceive my friends tell me about their next seven caplets

Thank you to Ron Mitchell for pointing this out to me.