Nybbles and Bytes...

loves good coffee!

Nybbles and Bytes...

wants to know if you need this button on your keyboard...?

Nybbles and Bytes

...loves exotic places...

Nybbles and Bytes

is occasionally old school...

Nybbles and Bytes

loves smartphone debates...!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

What will the next "WOW" feature be in smartphones...?

Of late I have noticed that most of the big players in the smartphone game are releasing new phones with obvious improvements over older models, but lacking any real sanity-smashing game-changing new features.

Some may beg to differ, but I am talking about influential features like these:

  • NFC - upon launch it was a biggie, but now this is pretty much a standard;
  • Wireless charging - what no cables? How can this be? Very useful indeed;
  • Hand gestures / facial recognition type technology that are now present in a lot of high-end smartphones;
  • Fingerprint readers - building a seriously solid layer of security into devices that are often full of sensitive info;
So my question is, what's next?
Samsung are generally pretty good at the "wow" stuff, with insanely powerful beast phones powered by V8 motors, and capable of some pretty amazing things... :)

I am also bombarded daily by tech mail ranting on about iPhone 6 this and iPhone 6 that, "new" features (which are nearly all present on competitor devices), how the iPhone 6 will take down all competitors etc... beyond boring really.
In truth, what game-changing and crazy new features has the iPhone 6 got?
Well, there is Apple Pay, which is an attempt at replacing the traditional credit card in order to pay for goods. 
Others have tried (with some success), but I'm not sure how widely adopted it will be, especially after Apple's recent spectacular fail at the hands of hackers, which resulted in the leaking of hundreds celebrity photos - go iCloud, you impenetrable fortress you!
Right, so we know that Apple cannot be trusted to safeguard data. Good luck Apple Pay!

On an unconfirmed note, I have heard rumours of a feature that may find its way onto the next Nokia Lumia flagship, and this one really would be a game-changer if it turned out to be true...:
Solar charging.

We are all at the mercy of cellphone battery capacity nowadays, so if the battery dies, who cares what else your phone can do anyway?
But a device that you can just pop in the sun to revive? Now that's something that I would pay good money for.
Think it's true?

What feature do you think could be added to new smartphones to make your life simpler, or otherwise change the game completely?

Monday, September 22, 2014

The day that Evernote died...

Evernote, for me at least, is the king of all note-taking apps.

Evernote (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let's go through some essential features that set it apart from the crowd:

  • Cross platform: This is a biggie - Evernote runs on any device that you may be using, be it Apple, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry, PC, Mac... the list goes on.
    You can also access it directly from any web browser of course.
    There is serious power in compatibility.

  • Pricing: The free version offers a lot of functionality, so much so that I only found a need to upgrade from the free plan this month, for reasons that will be covered in this blog post...

  • Evernote offers features that I haven't even started to use yet - scanning through the menu on my PC, I don't even know what some of the features do, but I am guessing that once I start using them, I will find it hard to imagine life without them!

  • Convenience: Instead of trying to remember each and every thing that I did in my day, which customers I visited, time spent on-site, tasks completed etc., I make a point of updating Evernote on my Lumia 920 several times per day, and the data is automatically synced back to the cloud, and then onto each of my other devices when they in turn sync later on.
    Couldn't be any simpler really.
Cloud-based note software is therefore an amazing way in which to keep your life, your devices and indeed your mind in sync, no matter where you are or what device you happen to be using.
It is the perfect, simple, centralized solution... or is it?

For over a year now, I have been using Evernote (free), to make my life simpler by remembering important stuff for me - and it has worked sterlingly well.
Then last week, something decidedly odd and alarming happened which caught me completely off guard, and which turned an otherwise fantastic Monday into one with a distinctly blue hue.

While opening a critical note (I say "critical", since it pertained to information stored for the month that directly affected the bottom line of my business), I discovered that the entire note appeared blank.
The note title was intact, as was a preview of the first 3 lines of the note, but that was it.
No stress, I thought, still reasonably calm at this stage, as I switched over to my phone to access the note there.
Same thing on the phone. Zip, nada, nothing in the note.
Stress level successfully upgraded.

Last ditch to recover data? You guessed it - turn to the oracle of all things - Google.
Oddly, while this particular event appeared to be rather common in search results, no real explanation, solution or fix accompanied any of the articles that I was desperately trawling through.

Attempting to start rebuilding the note from memory only made things worse - the more that I could remember from the scattered bits and pieces haphazardly floating around my brain, the more I realised that the task facing me was near insurmountable - I had stored a lot of data in that note...
It would be safe to say that I was going through unusually high stress levels at that point.

In desperation I continued what now seemed a pointless effort to find any scraps of info online, that may turn the situation around.
Finally, one faint glimmer of hope caught my eye from the far recesses of the web - a feature included in the Evernote Premium (paid) which allows you to roll back to a previous version of any note.
Ah, but I was on the Free plan, so what use would this be to me?
Thankfully, quite a bit, since Evernote actually implements this feature on all new accounts, Free or Premium. 
This means that by upgrading from a free plan to a Premium plan, you can access historical data about your notes, even from the period before you became a Premium user - a massive lifesaver if you are someone like me, who was about to lose most of my remaining sanity due to data loss.

In short, I was able to upgrade to a monthly Premium plan (R 49 per month), and access a version of my lost note that had been saved that same morning, approximately 99% intact.
Stress levels normalised. Meltdown averted.
So what's the point of this post really?
Well, I am an avid cloud service advocate - whenever clients ask me about data storage needs for the future, cloud is always in there somewhere when I respond.

I think that the lesson in all this, is that while the cloud is as reliable, secure and stable as it can possibly be, shit does happen.
Just as external hard drives can be dropped or fail at random, cloud services and syncs can fall over with unpredictable results, and when dealing with your data, unpredictability is a scary thing.
Whichever way you go, be it local storage or the cloud, take precautions and put extra measures in place, within reason obviously.
Duplicate backup drives, store a local copy of your cloud data or make use of multiple cloud storage services.

Whatever you do, have something to fall back on, because when it all goes belly up, data is impossible to replace.

Monday, August 4, 2014

We review the Turtle Shell 2.0 Bluetooth Speaker, and it's one decent piece of kit...

So I was fortunate enough to get my grubby paws on a pretty funky piece of techno gadgetry recently, in the form of the Turtle Shell 2.0 Bluetooth Speaker.
Everything today is going wireless - I don't even want to start thinking of all of the wonderful things that are probably happening to our brains as a result, but the reality is that people don't really want to use cables unless they absolutely have to.

Wireless audio just makes life so much simpler.
Step into any electronics or audio store today, and you will be amazed at the choice of Bluetooth speakers available, when compared to just a few years ago.
Trouble is, there are a lot of downright cheap and nasty products on the market - great in terms of convenience and portability, but when it comes to performance and sound quality, just not up to scratch.

While one cannot really expect a small Bluetooth speaker to be capable of window smashing bass, it is still possible to achieve a respectable level of audio quality, while retaining portability and decent aesthetics.
The ability to take a beating would also be nice - after all we often want to take our music with us, don't we?

Enter the Turtle Shell 2.0, by Outdoor Tech:

I don't need to be Patrick Jane, to know that you are already hooked by the look of this thing alone.
Outdoor Tech have paid particular attention to design - the angles actually remind me of the Stealth Fighter - I wonder if it is invisible to radar? :)

So is it any good?
Well I won't venture too far into the tech specs now, as much as I usually love to pretend that I know exactly what they mean.
Instead, you can check out all the important details here, while I proceed to provide a first hand account of my experience with the Turtle Shell 2.0.

From the outset, I was not expecting anything tremendous from something so small - the Turtle Shell 2.0 comfortably sits in the palm of your hand (or hands, if your hands are particularly small :)).
It happily travels wherever you need it to, thanks to the nifty carry bag supplied with it, and you don't have to stress about accidental drops or spills - this thing is built tough (it is IP65 dust proof and water resistant - apparently that's good). :)

Bluetooth pairing is beyond basic, and you can expect up to 16 hours of audio (depending on how loud you pump the bass, that is).
If you still don't know what Blueteeth are, there is also a 3.5mm audio port on the side, where you can plug in a walkman, iPod or other audio player.
Charging is via Micro USB, which is fast becoming one of the most popular charging methods - another thumbs up there.

Moving along - once paired up with my Nokia Lumia 920, the thing that (pleasantly) surprised me most about this speaker, is how well it "threw" the sound, even at soft volumes.
That has to be down to the way that Outdoor Tech designed it - apart from the funky look, those angled surfaces serve to direct sound omnidirectionally (I just Googled that to make sure it's a real word).

Bass, mid-range and treble were all of high quality when considering the device size, and I noticed that the speaker volume maxxed out more or less just short of any distortion, without sounding "tinny", like those walkman speakers of old.

3 simple buttons on the side allow you to navigate through your tracks and control the volume, and a standard camera mount underneath allows for various mounting options.
During my time with the Turtle Shell 2.0, I also found myself setting it up wherever I went, just to have some quality sound in the background.
Soft or loud, this little gem excels.

Of course, once the party is over and it's time to get back to business, you can always use the built in microphone to conduct wireless conference calls - another nifty feature thrown in, just to sweeten the deal.
I have to say that in the congested world of Bluetooth Speakers, the Turtle Shell 2.0 totally stands out from the crowd on several fronts:

  • High quality audio
  • Seriously rugged - dust, water and shock resistant
  • Portable
  • Funky design - available in a range of funky colours
  • Feature packed
So here's what you get in the box - they even throw in some cool Outdoor Tech stickers :):

Get in touch with us by clicking here to fill out an enquiry form - get one for your next braai, or why not order a few as Christmas gifts for your clients - they will love you for it!

Monday, June 23, 2014

A lot of soccer fans can relate to the Google Doodle today I suspect... :)

I kinda got bored watching the daily Google Doodle every day since the beginning of the Soccer World Cup, but the one today probably hits home with soccer supporters everywhere:

Go take a peek and have a giggle during your coffee break...

Thursday, June 12, 2014

4 years on... the 2014 FIFA Soccer World Cup kicks off tonight!

What is it about the Soccer World Cup that gets the world so pumped up?
I mean any sports world cup event is a big deal, but there is something extra special about the Soccer World Cup that just gets people into a frenzy.

Memories of the 2010 event which was held here in South Africa are still fresh in my mind, and what an amazing event it was.
I can hardly believe that today, 4 years on, the next one is here already - Google just had to get in on the act of course :)

Don't miss live coverage of the opening ceremony on SuperSport 3 tonight @ 20:15.
It's going to be awesome - which team is your money on?

Friday, June 6, 2014

We all love Cadbury's, but that won't stop this rant...

For as long as I can remember, Cadbury's chocolate has always been one of my favourite treats.
I have never actually tested this, but I am pretty certain that I could go through a few slabs in one sitting... :)

So you can imagine how I felt when I discovered some rather sneaky changes that Cadbury's made to their slab sizes at the end of May.

Check this out:

Large slab (May 2014):

Large slab (June 2014):

Ok, so they reduced the slab size by 30 grams - that's approximately 16%.
Now the reduced slab size alone is a big enough issue - less chocolate is never a good thing!

The part that adds insult to injury here is the fact that the smaller slab pricing has remained unchanged, somewhere around the R19 - R21 mark, and I'm sure that this is even set to rise soon, given the current rate of inflation.

Hell Cadbury's, what a way to slap your customers in the face.
Of course it's pretty difficult for me to say I won't buy Cadbury's anymore, since I love their chocolate so much, but at the very least your company image has taken a serious knock in my book.

So in closing - @Cadbury's, don't forget that we now have things called "social networks", where everybody knows everybody, and where one small post or tweet can be propagated millions of times over.
I, for one, will be spreading this all over my social network pages.

As the late, great Douglas Adams once wrote:

“Nothing travels faster than the speed of light with the possible exception of bad news, which obeys its own special laws.”
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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Heartbleed - don't panic. Just follow this checklist...

There isn't much that I can add to the current hype about Heartbleed - the recently-discovered flaw in OpenSSL which puts a tons of online resources at risk.

What I did find online however, was this incredibly useful infographic, courtesy of www.ivpn.net.
It provides a brief summary of where the problem areas are, and where you should be thinking of changing your passwords:

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