PC Advisor Articles

As a regular contributor to PC Advisor I’ve built up quite a collection of work over the past few years. Here is a small selection of these articles.

Best Internet browser for Windows

The best Chromebooks available to buy (2015)

How will we use computers in the future: Voice, gesture, and even mind control

A guide to parental controls for computers and mobile devices

13 Best cloud storage services

Keep the Internet open: Why Net Neutrality is so important

Fitness Tech: How your devices can keep you fit

What is Hacktivism?

 

 

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Why is Apple out to get me?

We used to be so happy.

It all started with an escape from an abusive operating system around eight years ago. The little iBook I bought was the first computer I’d ever really loved since my ZX Spectrum many years before. The combination of the 12” screen, sleek design and hard wearing nature, married to OSX which was a dream to use, amounted to everything I needed for my literary ambitions. A few years later I moved on to a new MacBook, which never quite won the same level of affection in my heart, but served me proudly for many miles. Now I stand at the crossroads. I need a new machine, as the Windows one I had to buy – while serviceable – has me shouting at it again in frustration more often than I’d like. A Mac is the obvious choice, but at the moment the choices on offer are a little baffling.

But wait, I hear the voices of a thousand Mac blogs cry, Apple’s range is the best it’s ever been! Well, no, I think I need to disagree, and here’s why.

apple-12q2-macbook-air-13-front-lg

I don’t think I’m unusual in wanting a decent amount of bang for my buck when it comes to technology. I’m perfectly happy to accept that quality costs, and it should, but I don’t want to pay extra for something I won’t use. Futureproofing is often something of a fallacy in computing terms, as we don’t tend to hold onto our devices for nearly as long as we used to – probably due to the fact that many are now pretty much impossible to repair or upgrade ourselves. So looking for value can be a Sisyphean task.

Here’s what I want – a lightweight, small size, laptop with a good screen, solid keyboard, responsive trackpad, long battery life, and a decent but not crazy amount of power. Oh yes, and a few USB ports wouldn’t go a miss….plus an SD card reader would be cool, but not essential. There, no unicorns or time machines, just pretty standard stuff. Yet, at the moment, I can’t actually get this in Apple form.

For months leading up to the recent Spring Forward Apple event in March, there were rumours of an expected MacBook Air with retina display. This would have been the absolute sweet spot for my needs. An 11” (or even 12”) retina screen would fix the one thing that makes buying a current MacBook Air not that enticing a prospect. I love the little form factor, and its weight makes it easy to throw the device in your backpack and head off into the world without the worry of a shoulder ache a few hours later. Admittedly the small screen gets a little cramped, but I’m not planning on editing any videos on the machine, so I’m sure it would be fine – plus the retina display would make things pin-sharp, mystically creating a sense of space in that small glowing rectangle.

So here I am, money in hand, waiting for the announcement so I can once again shed the shackles of Microsoft and return to the unibody embrace of the mighty fruit. Then it announces the MacBook.

new-macbook-2015

The MacBook?

Yes, it’s light – very light. Yes it has a retina screen. The price…well, that’s a bit high, but I can see how the engineering has pushed that up. The power…wait, a Core M CPU? That’s, well, not powerful…at all…but maybe Apple has tweaked it to boost the performance? There’s a new keyboard design? Ok, but it looks very, very shallow. The Trackpad is a new design too? Oh, and there are no ports except for one USB 3.1 type C – which is also where you plug it in to charge.

What just happened?

Surely this is a new class of machine, the ultra ultra portable, and now Tim Cook will announce the Air Retina? Yes?

No.

Instead there were minor spec bumps for the Air, and the same crappy screens remain. But, but, I have the money…I just want the machine to buy….I can’t go anywhere else…why are you doing this to me?!?!

It brought back memories of the time I had saved up for a new iMac, and eagerly awaited the announcement, only to be presented with the thin new design that could only be upgraded at the point of purchase, thus adding a far slab of cash on top of the price, taking it out of my grasp. In the end I bought a Mac Mini, which has been fine, but the sting is still there.

Schiller iMac

Now it’s happening again.

Yes I could move up the chain and buy a MacBook Pro, but that’s more than I need (I’m never going to use those Thunderbolt ports), and the weight is a fair bit more than the 11” Air. All I wanted was a retina screen in the little Air…hell, a HD screen and IPS panel would have done the trick. Why can’t that be done, especially when sub £300 Chromebooks can manage it?

Yes the new design is pretty, and it comes in black, which is awesome, but I like the existing keyboard and trackpad just fine. All it needed was the screen.

Life with Apple used to be so simple. Each machine was great, and you could upgrade it yourself to save a few pounds and extend the working life. Now, well, it’s getting where I’m screaming at the Apple web-store in frustration, rather than my Windows machine. I guess I’ll just have to wait a couple of generations and then get ready to buy the matured MacBook, but of course Apple will be waiting, hands clasped firmly on that rug, ready to pull it hard once more.

Bugger.

The Apple Watch – is this the company’s mid-life crisis?

This week saw the official launch of Apple’s new Watch. It won’t be long now until you’ll be seeing people walking along the street staring at their wrists in consternation, rather than into the rectangular glow of their phones. Wearables are the future, and Apple is about to make it happen.

But I’m a little concerned about this.

apple-watch2

The keynote address from Tim Cook that released the Watch into the world felt somewhat stale and lacking in excitement. Many of the features had already been announced, and it was only the poorly judged decision to show Christie Turlington Burns parading around her shiny new digital timepiece while visiting a poverty stricken part of Africa, that was new. In fairness Ms Burns was training for a marathon that will raise money to alleviate the poverty and help young women safely deliver their babies, but the juxtaposition of a luxury device whose cost could pay for the medicines sorely lacking in the facilities was an odd one.

And in many ways that’s the problem with the Watch. It’s a confusing device.

On one hand it’s an exciting new territory for Apple, where it is not only competing with the Android Wear devices that launched last year, but also with established watch makers that have status and history which even eclipses that of this Californian upstart. Apple’s weight in the technology world and the widespread popularity of the iPhone also means that the Watch could finally usher in the age of wearables that’s been tantalisingly close for a few years now.

But conversely there was something missing from the launch, and the buzz since then in the media has been focussed around the new super-thin MacBook that was also revealed at the event. Apple’s videos were more obsessed with the metals than the actual usefulness of the product, and the heartbeat thing just looks like the kind of daft feature that Samsung usually cram into their products. Now, before I go any further, let me be clear that I like Smartwatches. I’ve used a couple in the past, and am sporting a Sony Smartwatch 3 while I type this. They are, of course, a luxury product (after all they’re merely a remote display for your phone) but the convenience offered by a simple glance at the wrist is a lot of fun, plus actually useful when you’re out and about, cooking, or otherwise dexterously challenged. Up until now though I’ve always enjoyed them as an idea, but spending up to £200 on one just felt like an ostentatious step too far. After all, that’s a fair chunk of the price of a new phone. Now the Apple Watch has entered the fray and it’s prices are, well, a bit silly.

apple-watch-selling-points

Although the base Sports models (which features the exact same technology as the more expensive versions) starts at £299, the normal dress Watch is around £500, and the Edition range starts at £8000 and goes up to a frankly ridiculous £13,500. A solid gold, multi-thousand pound watch, that will be out of date in a couple of years? Is that…cool?

I’ve used Macs for years and loved them. There are two iPads in our house at the moment and I can’t see them being replaced by any rival products in the future. I don’t use an iPhone any more, just because they’re too expensive and I prefer the direction Android is going. In short, I like Apple stuff. It’s a little disconcerting then that the Watch, which is the first new product category that has been developed and introduced under Tim Cook’s tenure, feels, well, a very middle-aged product. By that I don’t mean that it arrives heralded by minstrels and adorned with a leather codpiece. Rather that it’s the slightly tacky but thinks it’s cool kind of device that costs too much.

Apple_Watch

I’m sure it will sell bucket loads, Apple stuff always does, but is this the first chink in the company’s armour to appear in a long time? Is the self-satisfied gloating over it’s cost the sign that Cook and Co have lost touch with the general populace and now only make things for super-models who want to time their jogs? To be fair Apple stuff has always been pricey, but the Macs, iPhones, and even iPads had powerful features that made them useful in their own right. The Watch is a companion device to an iPhone that can pretty much only tell the time when separated from its pocket brain, and only while its battery remains intact.

I really don’t know how to feel about the Watch. Is it innovative or indulgent? A glimpse of the future, or the sign of a company beginning to believe its own hype?

I guess only time will tell.

What do you think about the Apple Watch? Do you want one? Let me know in the comments. 

I Saw That Years Ago Podcast: Ep 22 – Time Bandits

This week our histograviewers tumble through time and space following the adventures of the… Time Bandits

Time Bandits - The Supreme Being

If you want to contact the show, or simply have a chinwag with the chaps, then please pop by our Facebook page –

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You can even contact us on good old email by sending your missives to –

show@isawthatyearsago.com

Click here to check out the latest episode!

I Saw That Years Ago Podcast: Ep 21 – Red Dawn

The Russian army takes on a handful of teenagers…but they didn’t count on one secret weapon. Patrick Swayze.

Grab your freedom guns as we fight until the Red Dawn!

Red-Dawn_wide

If you want to contact the show, or simply have a chinwag with the chaps, then please pop by our Facebook page –

https://www.facebook.com/isawthatyearsago

or follow us on Twitter @istyashow

You can even contact us on good old email by sending your missives to – show@isawthatyearsago.com

Click here to check out the latest episode!

I Saw That Years Ago Podcast: Ep 20 – Salem’s Lot

David Soul does battle with evil…they never stood a chance.

This week we take a quiet break, in Salem’s Lot

EP 20 – Salem’s Lot

salems-lot-wallpaper-1024x768

If you want to contact the show, or simply have a chinwag with the chaps, then please pop by our Facebook page –

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or follow us on Twitter @istyashow

You can even contact us on good old email by sending your missives to –

show@isawthatyearsago.com

I Saw That Years Ago Podcast: Ep 19 – Saturn 3

Far out in space Farrah Fawcett and Kirk Douglas do battle with Harvey Keitel’s lust robot!

Journey with our histograviewers to Saturn 3.

saturn3

If you want to contact the show, or simply have a chinwag with the chaps, then please pop by our Facebook page –

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or follow us on Twitter @istyashow

You can even contact us on good old email by sending your missives to –

show@isawthatyearsago.com

Click here to check out the latest episode!

I Saw That Years Ago Podcast: Ep 18 – Clue

A comedy based on a board game about murder. What could possibly go wrong?

Let’s play…Clue.

clue-movie-poster-1985-1020374536

If you want to contact the show, or simply have a chinwag with the chaps, then please pop by our Facebook page –

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or follow us on Twitter @istyashow

You can even contact us on good old email by sending your missives to –

show@isawthatyearsago.com

Click here to check out the latest episode!

I Saw That Years Ago Podcast: Ep 17 – The Big Bus

Buckle up, and come for a ride on the first nuclear powered form of public transport. What could possibly go wrong on…The Big Bus?

Big Bus

If you want to contact the show, or simply have a chinwag with the chaps, then please pop by our Facebook page –

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or follow us on Twitter @istyashow

You can even contact us on good old email by sending your missives to –

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Click here to check out the latest episode!