Friday, May 15, 2020

What are your lockdown "essentials", and what has lockdown taught you...?


It's a brave new world that we're living in... like something out of a 90's sci-fi movie!
Now that the Covid-19 lockdown and quarantine are the temporary "new normal", we have been forced to adjust and change the way in which we live and work daily.

As someone who has been self-employed for 15 years, I'm quite used to working from home, but it's a bit different when you can't go out to see clients and colleagues at all.
It's also very strange to be out at the shops and be unable to see who you are shopping next to, because their face is covered by a mask - you can't even see if someone is smiling or scowling... how very odd!

As I'm sure is the case for everyone, I have found certain daily "essentials" to be very useful in getting through this unique time.
Here are some of mine - feel free to chirp in the comments :)


My Bose Soundlink Colour:

Bose Soundlink Colour


Ah yes my old faithful - who can do without a bluetooth speaker nowadays?
It also doesn't hurt that Bose are all about really good sound - despite the small physical dimensions of the Soundlink Colour, it produces excellent sound quality to satisfy my need for beats through the day... and night if I choose to work late :)

...which brings me to my next essential...


Spotify:

Whether I'm in my car, working from home or just doing something around the house, I always have a soundtrack playing in the background :)
Once upon a time I used to keep all my music on an external hard drive, until one day when I discovered the genius of Spotify.
Until then it didn't make sense to me to pay a subscription fee for music, but when you think of the pros - almost any track that you can think of, available 24/7, across all genres, and not having to worry about ever dropping a hard drive and losing all your data - suddenly R59 per month is really a small price to pay.

Add Spotify Connect which allows you to control your music from multiple devices, and it's a no-brainer :)
If you are a music lover and aren't already part of the Spotify universe, best you head on over to www.spotify.com, sign up for free and take it for a test drive.


Coffee:

I'm a coffee snob. It's that simple - I really enjoy a decent cup of coffee, and can you blame me?
So one of the things which has really helped keep things "normal" during a decidedly abnormal time, is my Breville Barista Express.

Breville Barista Express


I was fortunate enough to become the owner of this incredible machine last year, and I have spent the last few months practicing and perfecting how to use it, resulting in these, which really do taste as good as they look :)

Cappuccino :)


Of course the "perfect cuppa" is the result of a combination of which beans you use, which milk you use and a hundred other factors, plus of course personal preference, but it certainly helps not having to rely on coffee shops for a really nice cup of coffee :)
Oh and it saves a ton of cash...!


A garden:

We simply don't realise the value of having a garden until we've been cooped up inside for a prolonged length of time.
To be able to simply walk barefoot on grass and breathe in the (relatively fresher) air, devoid of the normal amounts of pollution... it does something for the soul.




      




Of course the economic downside is a real mess, but I think it's incredible how this period of forced isolation has forced us to try and get by with less.
Less stuff, less noise, less hustle, less bustle, less human interaction.
All in the name of staying safe.

Hopefully we are all able to come out on the other side of this thing a little bit more sensible, and changed for the better.



Thursday, April 9, 2020

How everyday technology makes life easier - Spotify, Admyt, Banking apps, Tap to Pay, Google Maps and more...


Technology moves insanely quickly nowadays.
I work in the IT field daily, and I often find myself having to play catch up as new tech trends emerge.
Older people that I meet often have a huge resistance to this change, and they often struggle to understand some of the ways in which technology can make their lives easier.

Let's touch on a few of these (some of these may be slightly less relevant under current lockdown conditions...:):

Spotify:

For me, Spotify is a huge part of my daily tech ritual. Sure there are other music streaming services out there (Google Music, Apple Music), however Spotify is just the one that I happen to prefer.
For someone who knows nothing about streaming music services, Spotify must sound like madness.
To have full access to over 35 million tracks on demand (available offline when I want), is truly awesome if you are a music lover like me.

Prior to my Spotify adoption of course, I used to be set on the idea that I had to have full physical control and possession of all my music - all of my .mp3 files neatly stored on hard drives.
The downside to this is how delicate hard drives are - one drop, and your data is toast.
Going even further back, it was CD's of course - all neatly stacked in the TV cabinet gathering dust in their cases, all the while accumulating surface scratches every time they were handled.
Jumping back to the days of cassette tapes and vinyl - well things were very different indeed back then.
You can of course still order vinyls nowadays - there is certainly something to be said for the sound quality that a decent vinyl can produce when played on audiophile-class equipment, but that's a topic for another post :)

Long story short - if you want pretty much any song, from any genre, available to listen to 24/7, on your phone, PC, Mac or tablet, then check out Spotify or one of their competitors.
Personally I like Spotify because you can control your music via multiple devices simultaneously, but that's just my choice :)



Admyt:

Admyt seeks to solve a very simple problem when visiting shopping malls - parking tickets.

Now we all know the process:- arrive, take your ticket, boom opens, and you're in.
Then when you leave:- rifle through your pockets to find the ticket, check if you actually have change to pay for parking with, hope like hell that the machine isn't out of change, pay for parking, take ticket, present ticket at exit, boom opens and you're done.
It's tedious at best.

Enter Admyt.
Admyt is a free app that you can get from Google or Apple's stores.
It allows you to load your vehicle and a credit card onto the app. Once loaded, all you have to do is pull up to a boom at one of the Admyt-enabled shopping centres (check locations here), and the boom magically opens.
You then receive an SMS to inform you that your Admyt session has started, while the app keeps track of how long your session has been going for.
When your shopping spree is done, hop in your car, drive to the boom and watch it magically open again.
Any parking fees due are then automatically deducted from your credit card.

Any questions?



Banking apps:

I remember the days when we still had to go into something called a "branch", if we wanted to do anything relating to banking :)
We had to fill out "deposit slips" and make payments with strange things called "cheque books"...
Nowadays it (almost) all happens on our mobile devices.
Payments, Transfers, Balance enquiries - almost anything can now be done on our phone apps in real time.
Sometimes I even perform transactions on the fly during my shopping - how much more convenient can life be?

I wonder if any millennials who read this will even know what a cheque book is...? ;)


Tap to Pay:

Here's one that often unnerves even the most tech-savvy of old school folk.

The idea that one can pay for goods by simply tapping your card onto a machine is so deeply unsettling for some people - I saw a lady in Woolies last month getting herself into quite a state, just because the lady at the till tapped her card to pay.
She insisted that she had "disabled" it with her bank, and therefore the lady who tapped it must be taken to task!
Truth is, if the card has the tap to pay symbol on it, then it is tap to pay enabled.
For a little peace of mind, most banks will allow tap to pay transactions to go through without a PIN code, up to around R500. Above that, and the machine will request a PIN code.


Google Maps:

This one truly is a cornerstone of daily survival, to me at least.
Google Maps, and GPS in general is something that we now take for granted to a huge degree.
When I was growing up, the name Map Studio was commonplace if you were venturing anywhere unknown.
Map Studio published (and probably still do) area maps of the large metropolitan areas, and this is how we found our way around back then.
If something changed, you then had to go out and purchase the latest edition of the area that you were interested in.

Today it is beyond simple.
Open Google Maps on your phone, type the address where you want to go, and your best route is automatically calculated, along with traffic info to ensure the quickest possible route.

How did we ever cope before such simplicity?


Evernote and Google Keep:

Trying to keep track of lists, to-do's, tasks and random factoids through the day can be a really challenging task.
We cannot truly multi-task (as much as we think we can), but we try to all the same - personally I find myself getting quite stressed out when several things are thrown at me simultaneously.
That's where a cloud-based note taking app steps in to help.

I've been using Evernote for years now - it allows me to take notes and sync them between my devices seamlessly, so that they are always up to date.
More recently though, I started trying out Google Keep - a lightweight app that does pretty much the same thing as Evernote. The key word here is "lightweight".
Evernote can get a bit cumbersome, and the web version is pretty slow to load.
Google Keep on the other hand is quick to load, and very quick to sync between devices - there is hardly any lag.
Update notes on one device, and the changes propagate to other devices almost instantly (assuming all devices are online of course).

Regardless which one you choose to make use of, a cloud-based note app should form a part of your daily tech tools, in order to better manage the multitude of things that will invariably be thrown your way.


So what is your tech-weapon of choice that helps get you through the day?

I'll follow this up with another post soon that deals specifically with lockdown related to the Covid-19 Pandemic, and the tools that we can use to adjust to this life-changing event.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Looking for a free website email form processor? Try Formspree...


Web design is not my thing, mostly because the code messes with my brain too much, and my eye for good looking design is weak at best.
I therefore usually rely on clean, pre-built templates with some attributes that I can tweak or amend according to my needs.
That's all fine and good - I can end up with a reasonable looking responsive site, that renders well on desktop and mobile.

In the past though, I have had issues with my email contact forms and the processing that happens behind the scenes, once the Submit button get clicked.

Sometimes nothing happens.
Sometimes a cryptic error pops up.
Sometimes a success message pops up, but the mail submission is never delivered.
None of these are good things.

Thankfully, I recently discovered Formspree, which you can check out at https://formspree.io/


formspree

In a nutshell, all you do is point the action attribute of your form to their URL, and your form submissions will get delivered to your email address.
reCaptcha is automatically enabled as well, to stop all those nasty spam messages from flooding your precious Inbox real estate.
Their free plan requires no registration, and allows unlimited forms with a limit of 50 monthly submissions.
There are also paid plans, which you can view here.

Give it a shot - Formspree is a simple website mail form solution which is quick to implement and works really well.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Things I learnt in 2018...




With 2019 now officially underway, I thought this would be a good time to jot down some of the lessons that I have taken from the past year.

A lot of the time, these lessons came in the form of daunting challenges, and only in hindsight did I realise what I actually gained from the experience.


Here are a few 2018 pearls that stuck out for me - some trivial, and some a little less so :)



Social media is not reality.


Social media can become a perceived reality, whereas it really serves as the perfect platform for escapism.

Anybody can post the following to social media, and a lot of us have done it:

  • Idyllic scenes of sun-baked beaches;
  • Selfies taken amidst utopian surroundings;
  • Ramblings of whatever sort, be it anger, joy, sadness, humour, or any one of a million other emotions that humans are capable of;

All of this is fine and good and what social media is meant for, but the fact is that we can never know the real truth behind anything that we see on social media platforms.
There is often no context, no background, no back story and no means of comparison.

What you see, is not necessarily what you get.


Viewing a perceived reality on social media also opens up a platform where we compare our own lives with the apparent lives of others that we see on social media.

Don't fall into this trap - the quality of your life does not depend on what others post on social media, be it positive or negative.





Be careful what you put out there.


A lot of people fail to realise the potential implications of posting the wrong thing on social media and chat platforms.

There seems to be a false sense of security that accompanies digital communication. People say things that they would never ordinarily say to someone in real life, as if they are somehow anonymous, protected or untouchable online.

The truth is very different. Once you hit the submit button, your post is out there for the world to see, forward, copy, like, retweet, or snap a screenshot of.


This is especially true for platforms like Whatsapp, where there are really no filters or moderating factors.

Just think of recent newsworthy incidents where content from supposed "private" Whatsapp groups, was forwarded to contacts outside of the group...

It only takes one person to hit forward, and the proverbial cat is most definitely out of the bag...

Think before you post.





Do not believe everything that you read, or everything that you are told.


I am not sure if fake news has always been a thing, but I sure as hell cannot recall anything even close to it when I was growing up.

It's as if the internet has suddenly become this fantasy land where anybody can become an instant journalist, as long as they purvey a story (true or false, doesn't matter) which is juicy enough to be lapped up by gullible souls the world over.


There are people online who make it their sole purpose to get up every morning and just create pure drivel.

The question is why? Perhaps a sad attempt by the drivel-creator to garner some attention in an otherwise desolate existence?

Who knows - the fact is that people lap it up, and they spread it faster than the The Black Death.


Some fake news is annoying, but otherwise harmless. Move along, nothing to see here.

It’s the other kind of fake news that really ticks me off.

The kind which has the potential to cause serious damage.

The kind which stirs up turmoil in political circles, and attempts to sow discord among peace-loving folk who want nothing more than to co-exist in harmony.


We see it in fake news articles on Facebook, or circulated on Whatsapp groups, where a clear political or personal agenda is being pushed by a specific group.

What the fake news authors seek here, is a knee-jerk reaction from gullible victims who prefer to immediately vent and rage in reply, rather than spend 2 minutes, fact-checking the BS that they just ingested.

Instead of applying some quick logic and quickly snuffing the flame, the fake news BS bomb is then rapidly forwarded, copied and pasted to every contact in existence.





IKAG is becoming a place where people request the impossible, for free.


Ahhhh IKAG.

I remember when I was first invited to join this wonderful group.

What a great concept!

Now if you don’t know what IKAG is, it stands for “I know a guy”, and it exists as a group on Facebook where you can post requests for service or product referrals, from other members in the community.

It’s great because it’s word of mouth, so the referrals are largely based on personal experience.


Of late though, I have found that a lot of IKAG posts read something like this:


“Hi IKAG,


I need someone who can do / supply (insert item) URGENTLY!!!

Must be excellent. No Chancers. URGENT DEADLINE. Low budget. Cheapest bidder will get the job. BUT MUST BE BEST QUALITY AND ABLE TO DELIVER BEFORE TOTALLY UNREALISTIC DEADLINE!!!

TO POFADDER!!!”


Ok ok so that’s a slight exaggeration… :)


My point is that IKAG needs to check itself, before it devolves from a truly useful online service, into something where cheapskates seem to think that they can make unrealistic demands on suppliers who are desperate for business.

Sure, specify a deadline or outline a budget, but don’t be silly about it.

Expect to pay a fair price, and expect a realistic turnaround time.

If it happens sooner or cheaper, bonus.





There is always shit to be done.


Pretty self-explanatory this one.

In my experience, no matter how hard you push, no matter how many tasks you tick off your to-do list today, no matter how many clients you see in a day, no matter what it is that you are busy with… there will always be more stuff to do.

If there isn’t, then it’s really just a case of priorities I guess – there will still be stuff, but it just isn’t as important as the stuff you just did :)


This one always hits me just as I am about to go on leave.

I usually have a list of priority tasks that need to get actioned, and I get through them all, as far as is practically possible.

Then, just as I think that I am on top of it all for once, and that I have completed all my to-do’s before I make my escape, another one / two / three… jump onto my list.

What usually ends up happening is that the extra tasks that try and jump the queue and barge onto my list, usually have to wait until I return because I simply have no capacity to complete them.


…and you know what?

They get done when I return, the world keeps on turning and business goes on as usual.

I think the trick is really in prioritising, and accepting that you will never truly have an empty to-do list.





Do not rely on weather reports…


I have come to believe that meteorologists are entitled to a seriously generous margin for error :)

For example, if the weather prediction for tomorrow is 26 with a 60% chance of rain in the afternoon, but in reality it turns out to be 32 with not a single drop of rain, well then I guess it’s just the weather and nobody can really predict the weather now can they?


But wait a second – our weather predictions are based on synoptic charts and scientific data which by now, surely in the year 2019, should have a fairly high degree of accuracy?

I can safely say that a large proportion of the weather predictions that I looked at in 2018 were either 100% incorrect, or when consulting multiple different weather services, greatly conflicted in their predictions.

There are paying jobs attached to this, remember – people earning salaries to produce data that we depend on, in order to plan our lives around the weather.


Perhaps there should be T’s and C’s in tiny print at the bottom of every weather report which state…:


“The views and opinions expressed in this weather report are not meant to be interpreted literally or used for any practical purpose at all. They are merely a guide and prediction of a potential future weather condition which may or may not occur in your area. If we are entirely wrong in our predictions, we take absolutely no responsibility at all, since nobody can really predict the weather anyway...”



:) 



Do not respond emotionally.


This one has actually served me rather well in the real world.

There will come a time when for whatever reason, someone will jump down your throat about something.

It may be work-related. It may be a family thing.

Whichever it is, your response to the situation is critical.


Our immediate response to any attack is defence.

We may feel emotions of rebuttal, and automatically find ourselves in a defensive stance, where any immediate response would almost certainly be an emotional one.


The trick here is to wait. Simply wait. Feelings of anger and defiance make this difficult, but give it a chance.

It may be 5 minutes, or for you it may be 10 minutes, 15 minutes – whatever works for you personally.

Give yourself the time to allow the emotion to wear off, after the initial incident.

Try it out next time you find yourself in a tough spot like this – after a period of just waiting, without responding, you may find that your logical mind has started to take control again.

Once logic kicks back in, and with emotion out of the picture, your response will most definitely be a thousand times better than if you had responded in pure emotion.


Of course, if you are just taking a constant beating like a punching bag, well that’s not ok.

You have bigger problems to sort out then :)




Here's to a 2019 full of only the very best things that life has to offer!





Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Take your leave, and just disconnect from all of the things.


I work with a lot of people who are stressed out a fair deal of the time.
Working in Jozi will do that to you - the pace in this city is fast, and we all want to try keep ahead of the game and stay on top of things.
As much as we try however, the truth is that this very often isn't possible or realistic.
We run the rat race marathon day in and day out, chasing deadlines as the month end debit orders come crashing in relentlessly, wave after wave.

It is very easy then to get lost in this cycle.
Days blend into weeks.
Weeks blend into months... and here we are, with just 2 months left in 2018.
It's amazing then to see how many people just haven't bothered to take their leave this year, or sometimes even for several years.
The work-home-work cycle becomes so hypnotic and repetitive, and many people find themselves stuck, and seemingly unable to make a change.

This just further exacerbates the problem, as an expectation gets created of how that person values their leave (or doesn't).
I have also found that the longer one waits to take leave due to them, the harder it becomes to actually take the leave, and make a clear break from the working world, even if just for a few days.
This break though is actually super important, even if it is just time spent at home, away from the daily grind.
Have you ever been working on something intense - a project perhaps, or a complex job, and after a while it starts becoming more and more difficult to focus?
The same thing happens with work in general - the longer you go without leave, the more cloudy things become.
You may think that you're doing just fine, but from the outside things may look a little different.

So next time you take a few days off, make it meaningful.
Bite the bullet, and take a week or 2 if you can. See how your perspective has shifted when you return to the workplace.
You may well find that things which looked a certain way before leave, now look quite different with a fresh pair of eyes.
Sometimes problems that you were having difficulty resolving, find their solutions in this way.
Daunting mountains are sometimes reduced to molehills.

A key component here though, is to disconnect as far as possible.
This is especially challenging today, in the connected world that we live in.
Cellphones, laptops, tablets and social media follow us pretty much everywhere. For the millennial generation, this is often a non-negotiable.
The importance of taking a selfie somewhere and uploading it to every possible social media platform, has become more important than the experience of just getting away from everything and just "being".
We seem to have forgotten the power in simply existing, without having to inform thousands of random people of our every move.
Don't get me wrong - it's a nice thought and a nice ideal. Let's all be social and connected.
I get it.
Just be cognizant of when to disconnect, tune out, and have conversations with real human beings, face to face.

Take your leave, and just disconnect from all of the things.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Help! My Bose Soundlink Colour won't switch on... what to do???


In the world of Bluetooth speakers, you really do get what you pay for.

I've sampled a few models in my time, and the sub-R1000 units, while they may be loud, are usually very tinny with a lack of low down bass response.
I've been fortunate enough to own a Bose Soundlink Colour for a few years now, and this speaker has delivered solid performance the whole time.


While it may not be the loudest bluetooth speaker that I have heard, it can sit in a corner and push out very decent sound at a moderate volume, without any distortion.

At higher volumes, the bass does drop off somewhat, but I've been very impressed with this little gadget overall.

I was therefore understandably alarmed when the unit refused to switch on yesterday, leaving me stranded in a world without music.
The situation was dire.
I started to envision an expensive visit to Bose South Africa, followed by an unreasonably large EFT from my bank account to theirs...

Thankfully, today we have a resource called the internet, which pretty much makes us all professionals in all fields. Instantly.
It's also a great place to spread dodgy news and make up wonderful factoids.

In this case however, it helped me to get to the bottom of my conundrum, and what follows is the recovery process for a Bose Soundlink Colour that refuses to switch on (assuming that it is charged):


  1. We want to get the speaker into something called "Shipping mode"
  2. To achieve this, first plug the speaker into your wall charger
  3. Hold down the Play / Pause button for 15 seconds
  4. After 15 seconds, while keeping the Play / Pause button pressed, unplug the charging cable from the speaker
  5. Release the Play / Pause button
  6. Plug the charging cable back into the speaker
  7. Press the power button, and the speaker should power on

This process worked perfectly for me, and saved me a repair visit to a Bose store.

My Bose powers on.
Long live the Bose.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Curb your enthusiasm... for WiFi.


Everything is WiFi nowadays.
There is hardly a dead spot anywhere, and we are constantly being bombarded by the wonderful convenience that is wireless internet.

From an end-user point of view, this is pure bliss.
To have internet everywhere in your home and office, to be able to walk around and be connected at all times - what's not to love?
Unfortunately, like a lot of things, WiFi solutions really should come with T's and C's, because there are some things that WiFi simply cannot do, no matter how much you wish it could.

Back in the days when internet speeds rarely exceeded 4Mbps (I remember how amazing a 4Mbps ADSL connection used to seem...), local connections (cabled and WiFi) always exceeded internet speeds.
This meant that your internet connection was always the bottleneck - every other part of the network was quicker.
Then internet got quicker. ADSL suddenly found itself running at 10Mbps, LTE took off, and fibre has now started to infiltrate offices and homes at the speed of light, literally. Well almost...

So now that internet connections are becoming faster and more stable, we have a situation where the internet speed is not always the bottleneck anymore.
To illustrate this, take the following example:


  • A local WIFI network runs at a theoretical maximum speed of 300Mbps:
    • First off, the "300Mbps" figure here is misleading - what the router manufacturers don't tell you is that this is shared bandwidth - i.e. you need to divide 300Mbps by the number of connected devices, to get your actual theoretical max. speed per device.
    • Secondly, shared bandwidth is not necessarily distributed evenly, in part because there are just so many factors that come into play around WiFi speeds.
      These include (but are not limited to):

      - Distance from the Access Point
      - Specs of the WiFi adapter that you are using to connect with
      - Environmental factors (a Netgear specialist even informed me that microwave ovens, office plants and water play a role in degrading WiFi signal)
      - Surrounding WiFi networks (channel interference)

      The list goes on and on.
      Some routers do offer more advanced features (QOS, Dual Band etc.) to try and workaround the above issues, but you'll be paying extra for that of course.
    • Thirdly, what you gain in range / stability, you will lose in speed.

      This applies in several scenarios:
      - I have found that using 40Mhz channel width on a 2.4Ghz network has resulted in higher speeds overall, but due to a wider channel, there is a higher likelihood of overlap with neighbouring WiFi networks, and potentially less stability.
      - In my experience, device connection speeds were lower when using 20Mhz channel width, however this setting is regarded as more robust - good for use in a highly congested 2.4Ghz environment.

      It is also important to consider range vs. speed, when installing a WiFi booster.
      WiFi boosters offer a simple, off the shelf, minimal config means of boosting your existing WiFi network signal and eliminating deadspots.
      In theory, a wonderful proposition.
      In practice, not quite so simple, especially if you are trying to cover a large area...

      Here's the thing - every boost results in a 50% speed decrease. 50%!!!
      This means that if you are boosting a 300Mbps WiFi network, your boosted signal will only have a theoretical maximum speed of 150Mbps - that's quite a drop off!
      Now connect 10 devices to that boosted network, and all of a sudden you're wondering where the hell your 100Mbps fibre internet speed just disappeared to... in this case, the boosted WiFi just won't be able to keep up with the 100Mbps internet speeds.

So next time you find yourself wondering why your internet is slow, don't forget to eliminate WiFi as the possible culprit as well.
If you're installing a new WiFi network, also be sure to properly survey where the WiFi is going to be installed, and give some thought to these points:

- Are there a lot of concrete walls nearby which will degrade the WiFi signal?
- Is the neighbourhood already flooded with other 2.4Ghz WiFi networks?
- Does the signal cover the entire premises or will you need to consider a booster of some sort?
- How many devices are likely to connect to the WiFi? Consider smartphones and tablets as well, not just PC's.

May your WiFi experiences be filled only with high speeds and low latency :)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Lumia is dead. Where to from here?


I tend to be a rather loyal consumer when it comes to brands.
I've always liked Nokia, and I have stuck it out with Cell C ever since I left MTN over 10 years ago, but there comes a point at which it just becomes illogical to flog a very nearly dead horse.

I am of course referring to the steady decline in popularity and market share of Microsoft's Lumia range (formerly Nokia), and how the decidedly lacking app ecosystem of Windows Phone has contributed to this factor.


When I received my first Lumia, the 920, I was unfazed by the critics and naysayers, all of whom were very quick to point out the lack of apps available on the Windows Phone platform.
At that point, apps weren't quite as big a deal as they are now, at least not to me.
I could do everything that I needed to, and for the most part I had all the apps that I required, with a decent piece of hardware to run it all on.
Also back then, Windows Phone was still gaining some traction, and developers were starting to work on more and more apps for the platform as a result.
Not so anymore it seems - all you see these days are Android and Apple logos all over the place.

This becomes especially troublesome when you work in the technology field daily - all the more reason to have all of the latest and greatest apps and tools at your fingertips.
Lately it just seems that the apps that I need the most, simply don't exist on the Windows Phone platform - very disappointing since the Lumia hardware has always been up for the challenge.

I then had an opportunity recently to play with the spaceship that is the Samsung Galaxy S7 - my mind was shredded when I started to grasp the sheer extent of the number and variety of apps that are available for Android.
This is of course common knowledge to Android users I would imagine, but for a Lumia user experiencing it for the first time, it's quite overwhelming.
The S7 also just does everything right - "it just works", as Apple once mistakenly claimed about every single one of their Macs... except this time, the S7 does just work, and damn well too.

Given my history with phones then, I would say that my next step would logically be to Android - possibly the Samsung S7, or whatever flagship is around when my upgrade is due early next year.
If you're an Apple user reading this, I can only begin to imagine what must be going through your head right now:

 - "...what about the exploding Samsung battery???";
 -"iPhones are the best!";
 -"the new iPhone 7 has the best hardware in the world!" (probably all made by Samsung anyway ;))
 -"iPhones are the best!";

Truth is, you either like a platform or you don't.
Of late, I've just warmed up to Android, and I like how Samsung releases smartphones that get people talking - not just about how they look or because they're "cool", but about the incredible technology and functionality that they pack into each new device that they release.

So let's have it - Samsung lovers, Apple lovers, Android lovers and haters, Nokia loyalists, Windows Phone lovers, Blackberry purists, bring it on.
What should I go for?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Is your default printer changing randomly in Windows 10? Here's how to fix it...


Windows 10, by and large, has been a decent addition to the Microsoft OS family.
Apart from isolated glitches and snags which I have encountered, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoy the experience, and it makes things a lot easier when Microsoft release patches and updates that actually fix bugs (Apple could learn a lot here...).

Recently though, Microsoft released an update which has likely caused a bit of confusion.
In cases where a machine has multiple printers installed, Windows now changes default printers whenever it feels the need, or so it seems anyway...

In truth, Windows isn't playing silly buggers with you, but is in fact just sending print jobs to the last used printer, as opposed to the "default" printer.
While this may make sense in some scenarios, there is thankfully a setting to manage this:

Click on the Start Menu (bottom left of the screen), then click on Settings:


On the next screen, click on Devices:


Now scroll down through the printer settings, and find "Let Windows manage my default printer".
Switch this off:


Lastly, double check your printers in the Control Panel, to ensure that the correct default printer is now selected, and you should be good to go.

Happy printing!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Is Cell C LTE any good? Maybe this will help you decide...


I had a rather joyous moment last week when after a very, very long wait, a small "L" suddenly appeared at the top of my Lumia 930 screen, in place of the usual boring "H+"...

Cell C
Cell C (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
For those of you who may not know, that means "LTE" - in short, a much faster mobile internet connection which Vodacom, MTN and 8ta have been offering for a while now.

Cell C is traditionally always the late guy to the party, but I have to say that this wait was indeed worthwhile.
From the moment that I noticed that LTE became active on my phone last week, I have been taking speed tests at random intervals and all around JHB on my daily travels.
From Glenhazel to Edenvale, Bedfordview to Rosebank, Illovo to Orchards - check out the results below to get a summary of the Cell C LTE experience so far...

Downloads peaked at an impressive max. speed of 54.51Mbps, and Uploads peaked at 15.26Mbps, depending on signal strength.
Overall not a bad show I have to say, but certainly a quick way to eat through mobile data!




















Sunday, September 27, 2015

Avast for Business goes free...


Following on from my previous post about Cryptowall, Avast recently launched a free business version of their proven antivirus software.

Avast!
Avast! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


While the personal version of Avast Antivirus has always been free, the huge difference here is twofold:

  • The free business version runs on PC desktop and server platforms (Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10, SBS, Server), as well as Apple Macs (that old saying "Macs don't get viruses" no longer applies, folks);

  • The solution is cloud-based.
    This is a big plus, since it can then be managed, monitored and administered from virtually anywhere.
Traditional business antivirus solutions, which are designed to protect servers as well as workstations, can set you back a fair deal.
Startups and smaller businesses however, may not have the capital to put down on commercial antivirus solutions, and this is where Avast comes in.

I am currently testing the free business solution to get a feel for it, and interestingly, there are no limitations in terms of installs or licences, so you can install it on as many devices as you need to:


The cloud-based control panel is also well laid out, and provides a tidy overview of your protected devices, as well as a real-time threat status.
I have to say that it all looks rather appealing, especially since it costs the same as a breath of fresh air...
The only real "gotcha" is that you can upgrade to a premium paid version.
This obviously offers a more formidable arsenal of antivirus wizardry, however I expect that most users will find the free version more than adequate.

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