How would you like your shiny new iPhone to last days before needing a recharge?

iPhones

I am guessing you would like that idea very much! Well, two developments may mean that our wish might come true sooner than we realise. At the University of Texas scientists have discovered a way to not only double the power of lithium-ion batteries but also reduce their size and the costs of manufacturing them.

Now if that wasn’t enough, there is even more good news as far as power consumption by devices such as our iPhones and iPads is concerned. By refining the software that runs on our devices, scientists are able to reduce the power consumption, holding out the promise that even though smartphones are getting smarter, their power requirements would reduce.

It’s all to do with AI (Artificial Intelligence) and search-based software engineering that helps find redundant code. This could offer up to 70% reduction in cpu power requirements, which together with advances in lithium-ion battery technology from University of Texas and elsewhere could mean that in the next 3-5 years we would only need to charge our devices maybe once a or twice a week. Together with the possibility of cheaper, lighter and smaller batteries this could make our digital lives a whole lot easier. It could also impact other areas such electric vehicles having greater range due to decreased weight and longer lasting batteries, or in making medical devices such as portable defibrillators or fridges smaller, lighter and longer lasting too. That would be a huge step forward when dealing with disasters or medical emergencies in areas where there is reduced or non-existent power available.

Check out these two articles on TechXplore website:

Never mind the iPhone X, battery life could soon take a great leap forward

Engineers develop new material for better lithium-ion batteries

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What is happening at Apple?

Apple's new iPhone 4S

As I die-hard fan of Apple I often find myself wondering about what Apple is up to, don’t you? Take the latest iPhones for instance. The iPhone X is their most expensive ever and it’s sooo expensive to repair. That shiny new OLED screen, for example, will cost you $279 to get fixed! The screen on their shiny new iPhone 8 Plus screen costs the same to repair as the one on the iPhone 7 Plus at $179. It doesn’t stop there either. Other repairs will cost you $549 which is breathtaking!

If you are not a US citizen then the current rate of exchange gives Apple the excuse to charge us Brits for example £286 to repair the iPhone X screen. The current rate of exchange means $279 + £212.52, which means us Brits are paying an extra £73.48! There is no way Apple can justify this. Its a similar situation with it’s other charges. This is particular galling in light of the billions of unpaid tax that Apple gets away with by using offshore banks to ‘launder its money’. Yes, you heard right, I said ‘launder its money’. Now normally the term ‘money laundering’ (which I didn’t use – take note any Apple lawyers reading this) is used to refer to criminals cleaning their ill-gotten gains through the use of complicit banks or supposedly legitimate businesses.

So, let’s be clear here folks, I am not accusing Apple of ‘money laundering’. I am saying however that its business practices as far as paying it’s fair shares of taxes in countries where it operates is as bad as those of criminals who do commit money-laundering. I say that because when a company doesn’t pay it’s fair share of taxes and instead uses all sorts of financials shenanigans to avoid doing so, it is not that dissimilar to my mind to the way a criminal organisations carries out it’s financial dealings.

It pains me to say that I have lost faith in Apple (and Amazon & Google as well) and no longer see them as some sort of benevolent organisation dedicated to bringing tech into the world that makes life better and does so without harming the environment or the communities it impacts. Unfortunately, all of us as consumers face a dilemma when it comes to the likes of Apple. Amazon and Google. We have become dependent on the tech they provide us with or use to provide their services to us. It’s difficult to see how we can extricate ourselves from this without significantly changing our lifestyles.

During Steve Job’s reign at Apple there was a feeling that the company was different from all the rest (Dell, IBM, HP and Compaq etc), that it’s ethos was altogether different. Now Apple is worth $752bn and has sales of $217.48bn a year. According to the IMF, it is, in fact, larger than the annual gross domestic products of every country on earth, bar 19 of them (based on GDP in US dollars, according to International Monetary Fund data for 2014). The truth is, companies like Apple, Amazon and Google are so big and so powerful that we can no longer think of them as benevolent companies who only seek to do good. Remember Google’s motto: “Don’t be evil“? Well, I am not sure anymore that any of these companies don’t do evil, in the sense that if you are not manifestly ‘doing good’ then you must be, even if only by omission, doing the opposite to some extent. Do you recall the quote: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” It was Edmund Burke who said that. He was an Irish statesman born in Dublin, as well as an author, orator, political theorist, and philosopher who, after moving to London, served as a member of parliament for many years in the House of Commons with the Whig Party. [Wikipedia].

So, coming back to my original question:”what is happening at Apple?”, I don’t really know but they say that you can know a tree by it’s fruit and for me, I can only see bad apples are starting to make up more of the crop from their particular tree. It’s not just about money (well it is, mostly) but also about how materialism, consumerism, capitalis – whatever ‘ism’ you choose -are impacting our lives, fuelling our desires for more expensive tech. Examples would be the scheme where you can get a new iPhone every year. This is consuming so many resources and I would doubt that all the energy and resources spent on fuelling this are recovered through recycling. So, whatever the degree to which the iPhones over 1 year old are recycled there will still be a net cost to the environment. At the rate Apple is growing this must be unsustainable and frankly someone needs to hold Apple to account. I know that I won’t be jumping on that particular bandwagon. I am keeping my iPhone 6 Plus for at least another year and then I will make sure it gets recycled. Who knows, I may continue to use long after Apple brings out the iPhone XI or whatever they will name it.

Oh, in case you are wondering, I am writing this on my Mid 2014 MacBook Pro. I also have a Mac Pro made in 2009, which I regularly use. It has a graphics card that is almost as old. Believe it or not, I even have a G3 in the shed that last time I dusted it off still worked and ran OS 8!

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iPhone 6 Plus User Review

iPhones

For a few years now I have been using the iPhone 4S as my smartphone. After my business contract with Orange came to an end I managed to negotiate a cut in my monthly bill by more than half for a better package. Instead of £35 pcm (plus VAT) I managed to get unlimited everything for just £15 pcm (plus VAT) for a 12 months contract. This was because I was keeping my old phone (2 years old by then) and had threatened to move networks for a better deal.

This was a pretty good deal but when the opportunity came round to switch I started looking around for a better deal. Truth is, I really wanted a new iPhone and the question was, ‘which one?’ Did I get an iPhone 5 or did I get the new iPhone 6, and if so, did I go for the Plus or not? Decisions, decisions, decisions! After checking all the various websites for the best deals around, inputting all the info into a spreadsheet (a must in my book) and checking was it better to buy the phone outright or get another deal where I paid something up front (but not the full price) but paid more per month. After several days of shopping around, talking to EE (Orange and T-Mobile are now part of EE – Everything Everywhere), I worked out I would be better off buying the phone outright and getting a 12 month SIM-only deal.

So, off I went to the Apple Store online and tried to order my new iPhone 6 Plus. However, there was a 3-4 weeks delay for delivery. I even rang them up and asked was that really the case but they assured me it was – no explanation given – so that was it. Do I order now and put up with the delay, or do I find somewhere to buy it in person. I decided to call into my local EE store and ask. Turns out I could get it that day (as long it was the 64GB Gold version) but it was £10 cheaper than on the Apple Store! However, I had to buy it with a SIM and £10 of credit! Even if I got a 12-month contract with unlimited texts and messages, along with 2GB Data (so-called double-data even) I still had to buy the other SIM with the £10 credit – crazy or what!

So, in the end I bought it with the 12-month SIM-only deal (and have kept the £10 SIM for an emergency) and walked out the same day with my shiny new iPhone 6 Plus. I still had to arrange to carry across my existing number (too much hassle to notify everyone of a different number), as well as order a nice protective case and screen protector (from ZAGG) – more of that in another post. However, I was happy and couldn’t wait to get home and set up my new brick of an iPhone.

How am I finding it? Well, its certainly big – very big! But, you know what, I like the fact that it is big. I am a middle aged bloke who has fat fingers (from playing guitar and arthritis!) and in comparison the iPhone 4S screen is tiny. This always gave me problems especially when trying to type notes on the darn thing. Now its so much easier with all the room on the larger screen – many fewer mishits it has to be said. Also, the new model is really light and I love the longer battery life – very noticeable in my personal experience. I also love the extra storage and I think, personally, the price is not too expensive considering I am getting 64GB compared to the 16GB of my old iPhone 4S, as well as a 4G capable smartphone

Well, in the couple of weeks or so I have had it I am very happy with my iPhone 6 Plus. It may be too big for most folk but I am not interested in my iPhone as a fashion accessory so size isn’t so much an issue as it might be for some folks.  In fact, I was thinking of getting an iPad Mini and an iPhone 5S but in the end I am happy with just the iPhone 6 Plus – I can do most things on it that I would have done on an iPad and this way I only carry around 1 device instead of 2.

I will post about my experience of using it long-term at a future date but I can’t honestly see me regretting my decision. Before then I will post about my experience of buying a case for the phone and a screen protector.

New Mac Pro (the old one!)


Mac Pro unboxing photos, batch 1 #technopr0n

In case you are confused, I have recently purchased a Mac Pro, but its not the new one (its not out yet so how cool would that be!). No, its a Mac Pro 4.1 (aka the early 2009 Quad Core 2.66 GHz one). It came with just 3GB of RAM, 640GB HD and the rather old NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 graphics card. I managed to get a great deal on it from Albion Computers. Once it arrived I wasted little time in installing an old PC graphics card – the Radeon 4870. I had to first order 2 power cables on eBay (came the very next day – great job there 7systems!) before I could install it. Once it was installed and the external monitor was connected I fired it up and waited anxiously to see if it worked…. and it did! No need to install drivers or flash the card before-hand (it being a PC card and therefore not a specific Apple model).

As the RAM is a measly 3GB I decided to upgrade the RAM and after some research and online price comparisons I discovered it was cheaper to buy 16GB from the US than here in the UK. I also managed to get a deal on the latest version of Parallels and still save money, even after I pay the VAT once it arrives in UK at Customs. How mad is that! My only mistake was not to carefully check shipping times as I choose to ship via the USPS. I later discovered that this means my RAM etc may take up to 45 days to arrive! That’s the worst-case scenario according to the MacSales representative I had an online chat with to query why my order had yet to arrive. So far its been 10 days and counting. I’ll let you know when it arrives.

So, until it arrives I have been keeping myself busy trying out a few old PC hard drives in the 3 free drive bays. Two of them worked ok and I have formatted them as NTFS in readiness for installing Windows once my copy of Parallels arrives. I have also been busy plugging in old Mac ext drives to access my back catalogue of files created on earlier models of Macs (5 at least!). I am very happy to be back on a Mac (having donated my last MacBook Pro to my daughter for her college studies) and very glad (to say the least) not to have to work constantly on the HP laptop I use in my day job. All that time wasted with security updates, scans and trouble-shooting Windows issues.  I know I said I am installing Parallels (as soon as it arrives that is) but I will be g;ad to be using Windows on a Mac to be honest – it makes more sense than using a Windows laptop – believe me I know form experience!

Once I have the RAM installed and Windows (courtesy of Parallels) installed I will get to grips with Creative Cloud on the Mac. Having run it for a year on a PC laptop I am looking forward to getting back to the Mac way of doing things, I can tell you. I am also looking forward to Phase 2 of my grand plan – to install an SSD RAID to run Maverick from!

CES 2013 – the implications for Apple


Samsung Introduces World’s First Curved OLED T...

Samsung Introduces World’s First Curved OLED TV at CES 2013 (Photo credit: samsungtomorrow)

 

CES 2013 has generated a lot of press, as always and as usual Apple has not been there, at least officially. However, there have been rumours that Apple has its spies at the giant technology show and if they didn’t, quite frankly they’d be incompetent!

 

My bet is that there are several things that caught the eyes of their spies and here are my top three:

 

1. Curved TV  – both Samsung and LG showed off what each of them claimed was a world’s first, a TV with a curved screen. However, there was  mixed reception of this idea as, if you think about it for a moment, there is only one sweet spot to be sitting when you are watching anything on a curved screen. Everyone else will have a less than ideal viewpoint. So, why will Apple be interested in this development, you might well ask? Well, it’s a perfect example of what to avoid, namely trying to be too clever by half. Someone (well an awful lot of folk really) must have thought it was worth investing an awful lot of money in research and development to get these prototypes to CES. Trouble is a bit of basic science would have shown that it was a bad idea. So Apple needs to remember that when they get around to (if ever) releasing their own Smart TV, they are better off sticking to what they know best (great design, solid build and fantastic GUI) rather than come up with something that is so far out there that its just a bad idea and will never catch on.

 

2. Panasonic 56” OLED TVnow here is a TV that has a future! Panasonic make great TVs and their OLED TV is a real beauty by all accounts (sadly I can’t afford to actually go to Las Vegas for a holiday even, never mind a jolly to CES). If Apple do indeed intend on releasing a Smart TV then my money is on it being an OLED version and maybe, just maybe, they will get Panasonic to build the screens for them. Certainly, if they want my advice they will avoid altogether LG’s and Samsung’s crazy curved screen idea and go with Panansonic on this one.

 

3. Sony Xperia Z – Now Apple make great smartphones and I am sure the next iteration (iPhone 5S or iPhone 6) will be an object of desire and full of great features and of fantastic build quality. However, they need to be constantly looking over their shoulders at the opposition and rather than Samsung, my advice is keep a close eye on Sony. The Xperia Z is a great-looking smartphone and by all accounts it  has a great chance of helping Sony to compete with Samsung and therefore with Apple. It is water resistant and can survive submerged for up to half an hour. Its also dustproof and also has a screen that’s beautiful and a 13 megapixel fast-capture camera.

 

You may be wondering why I didn’t highlight 4K TVs – well I believe that as there doesn’t exist the programming yet to provide material to watch on these gorgeous screens that it will be another 2 or 3 years before these become mainstream. Think of 3D and how that has basically flopped and you will begin to see that it takes more than great technology to make a success of this sort of stuff.

 

So, event though Apple didn’t exhibit I am guessing that some of the stuff that was revealed at CES 2013 will inform what we see coming from Apple in the next 12 – 18 months.

 

 

iPad 3 leaves Apple’s rivals behind


iPad 3 revealed

Apple has finally revealed the iPad 3 and its no surprise to see that it comes with double the resolution of the iPad 2 and has 4G network capability available if Wi-Fi isn’t enough for your needs. Here in the UK we are still stuck with 3G and will remain so for more than a year.

In addition to these two features, the new iPad comes with a much improved 5MP iSight camera, making HD movies at 1080p a reality. The camera features  a backside illumination sensor, offering improved image quality. You can tap the screen to focus and tap to set exposure, just like on the iPhone and there is built-in face detection that automatically balances focus and exposure across up to 10 faces. The iPad 3 also has built-in automatic video stabilisation, so your shots should all come out sharply focused. Interestingly, the camera has  an ƒ/2.4 aperture and a five-element lens, and a hybrid infrared filter, something usually only seen in expensive cameras. This should help ensure improved colour reproduction in your images and video.

The new Retina display on the new iPad has a 2048×1536 resolution, which Apple claims gives 44%t greater colour saturation and an astounding 3.1 million pixels in total, higher than that found in an HDTV. Apple claims that the pixels are so close together that under normal viewing they are not discernible to the human eye. All told, the new iPad has 4x the number of pixels the iPad 2 has. Apple says this required a technological breakthrough to make it possible.

The new A5X chip at the heart of the iPad 3 comes with its quad-core graphics that promise smooth graphics for video and games. Image-editing too in iPhoto and iMovie should also benefit. Apple claims that all this extra processing power hasn’t impacted on battery life, with the iPad touting a 10-hour battery life, just like the iPad 2.

Prices for the new iPad are:

  • 16GB Wi-Fi model £399
  • 32GB Wi-Fi model £479
  • 64GB Wi-FI model £559
  • 16GB Wi-Fi & 4G model £499
  • 32GB Wi-Fi & 4G model £579
  • 64GB Wi-Fi and 4G model £659

You will, of course, still need a data plan from a mobile provider such as Orange, O2, Three and Vodafone. These cost from £2 for 200MB a day to £25 for 10GB a month.

Finally, its hard to see how Apple’s rivals can catch up as to be honest, their Tablet offerings up to now have been pathetic compared to even the original iPad, never the iPad 2. Now, with the iPad 3 Apple has opened up an even greater technological gap over its rivals. Its not just the pure technology thouugh but the whole package. Apple just ‘does it right’. Everyone else doesn’t act like they ‘get it’ frankly.

Apple looking at fuel cells for future devices


Fuel CellsApple has registered patents that indicate it is looking at powering future devices by fuel cells. Fuel cells are devices which convert chemical energy from a fuel into electricity through a chemical reaction with oxygen or another oxidising agent. They offer the potential of longer battery life, greener energy and less weight. It was the Welsh Physicist William Grove who first developed the earliest and somewhat crude  fuel cells in 1839. However, it took until the days of the US Space Programme for them to become a practical reality when NASA used them to generate power for it’s space probes, satellites and capsules.

Although they offer great potential for the future, currently the technology is still at an early stage. Although its approaching a billion dollar industry, as yet, no company has made a profit from the manufacture and sale of them. Most analysts accept that it will be another 3 – 5 years before they become commercially viable and economic for end-users, such as Apple, so don’t be expecting your iPad to be powered by them anytime soon.

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