Tag Archives: windows

BlackBerry Z10

I’ve never taken BlackBerry that seriously.

It’s main feature has been based around (secure) messaging, and the amount of messaging I do (secure or otherwise) is quite minimal. For me my mobile phones are primarily used as portable computing type gadgets, with an emphasis placed on internet-related stuff. (If my phone rings I totally freak out – using it for calls is its least used function.)

However it’s been this ‘internet-related’ bit that that got me looking at them. I wanted a fast 4G connection device suitable for lap-top and tablet tethering, but already having a really nice smartphone I didn’t want to spend large sums of money replacing that when the only gain would be 4G, so I was looking for a budget-end device to compliment this high-end phone.

This is where the BlackBerry Z10 came in. The cheapest 4G devices I could see were a couple of Nokia phones, but they had rather poor screens and would only tether as a Wi-Fi hotspot. I wanted this feature but I also wanted to be able to tether via a USB connection and these would not do that.

The next cheapest I could see was in the Carphonewarehouse chain which was selling the BlackBerry Z10 (unlocked) at a very competitive price. I did my research, read various reviews (which generally rated the phone quite highly, but at its original price rather over-priced) and then went ahead and got one.

From the moment I switched it on I was impressed. A really nice screen (1280 x 768 at 356 ppi, compared to the latest iPhone 5s at 1136 x 640 and 326 ppi) and gives crisp text and great colours. An operating system that I found quicker to learn and more intuitive that either iOS, Android or WP8, and with its ability to run most Android apps as well as native BlackBerry ones, no lack of app functionality. The browser is probably the best phone browser I’ve come across in a mobile phone, opening up difficult web pages faster and more completely than any other. Scrolling across screens is smooth and fast, apps open up quickly, the microSD card slot lets you add additional memory; it’s just a really nice device to use!

If I was going to ask for one improvement, then that would be battery life. It does give me a full day’s use but it would have been nice to be able to squeeze two days out of it. Naturally it will do my Wi-Fi and USB tethering. (It should tether through Bluetooth too, though I’ve never bothered with that.)

This has just been such an unexpectedly pleasant experience its got me re-thinking quite what I expect from a mobile phone or tablet type device. I suspected that Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 system will become over the next year or so far more popular, and where a few weeks ago I really could not have cared as to BlackBerry’s future, now I hope they do manage to get their problems sorted and give Microsoft a good run for their money at the alternative to the iOS / Android duopoly.

Some YouTube Z10 thoughts.

Google+ and Windows Phone 8 surprise

Google forcing Google+ onto YouTubers has had an unexpected result for me.

I do use (and now rely on doing things through) the cloud. Whether e-mail, word processing, spreadsheet work or general video or photo storage, it’s all done remotely and for some time now I’ve been happy enough using Google. However the way they’ve handled this forcing of YouTube commenters to use Google+ has irritated me in the extreme. The result of this was to go and look around at alternative cloud sources including Microsoft’s SkyDrive. Up till now I had rather ignored it but was pleasantly surprised to see how they had integrated Office functionality into it. This in turn got me thinking about mobile cloud access.

For years I’ve had two phones on me. One working through an on-going contract, the other (an elderly iPhone 3GS) working off a PAYG SIM (and on a different network). This means that if my contract network is out of service or the phone battery flat I still have internet / cloud access through the PAYG device. (It also provides me with an alternative mobile number for when I don’t want to give out my personal one.)

Having found this SkyDrive was unexpectedly good I thought I’d give a try with Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 as a back-up mobile system (my current main phone is a Samsung Galaxy Note 2, so therefore Android). So went out and got a Nokia Lumia 520 as a PAYG upgrade which was the cheapest Windows Phone 8 that I could find.

I was absolutely amazed by it. Despite being a low specification / bottom of the range model the screen was nice and clear, apps and programs opened quickly and ran smoothly, there was no hesitation in scrolling, and from an initial charge it gave me three days use (and even then was still at 25% battery level). I really had not expected such a positive experience both from the phone itself and from the operating system. Where the icons and tiles on a desk-top Windows 8 machine annoy me (and I always switch across to the standard old style desktop) here they suit the environment really well.

The Windows Phone App store is nothing like as well populated as its Android or Apple counterpart, however almost everything I want is there. As for anything that I’m not happy with I can always access it from its web page anyway, so that’s not a great problem. The one irritation with the phone is that the screen does seem like a magnet for finger prints and smudges. I must see if I can get a screen protector for it which may improve this, but it’s not really a big issue, after all this is as smart phones go about the cheapest one on the market. I can quite see why I’ve seen reports that in parts of the world it is the best-selling smartphone!

So from being almost a Google fan-boy – Chrome, Gmail, Google documents / Drive, relying on Google Calendar,  Android user –  from their poorly executed action of forcing Google+ upon its YouTube users (me) I’ve ‘discovered’ a whole new alternative cloud structure which I’m slowly moving across to.

Thank’s Google.

My YouTube thoughts on this and the Nokia 520

Mac or Windows – its upgrade time.

It’s almost decision time, but will it be Mac or will it be windows?

My original move to using a Mac was relatively indirect. I, like many people, had started my video editing with Windows MovieMaker. However soon upgraded to a basic budget priced editing package which did me for nearly a year. I could see it had a potential greater than what I was using it for, but there was very little support and virtually no tutorials around for it.

So time for something new. I hunted around on the web to find sites with good general video editing tutorials. Came across the IzzyVideo site where there was some excellent Final Cut Pro 7 and Final Cut Express examples. FCP 7 was both a bit of an overkill for my uses plus too expensive, however the education price of Express was within my budget. Next, what did Express run on; OS X. This coincided with a need for replacement hardware anyway, but as I couldn’t afford a new Mac I ended up with a second-hand MacBook. So began my Apple adventure. I’ve ended up with a 3GS iPhone, iPad, MacBook Air, and with an external monitor and keyboard attached, the MacBook used as a desktop machine.

However the MacBook is now seriously showing its age. One reason for using it as a desktop machine is that its battery is screwed. It has trouble running some programs and others won’t install because of its outdated graphics, its processor is constantly being hammered to death (cooling fan often freaking out!) and it’s got it’s fill of RAM but needs more.

Add to that my 3GS, as good as it is, is also showing its age. It’s battery still gives OK life however there are cracks creeping up its back cover, the On/Off button is missing, many new iOS features and more and more Apps coming out will not run on it… You get the idea.

So it’s decision time. Stay with Apple or move on? Apple does make some excellent products, but they are very overpriced (even after education discount). Are they worth the price premium?

The thing is Apple appears to be losing its innovative edge; at one time it was the undisputed leader in design an innovation, but now seems to be playing catch-up.
Going back a few years, the first iPod revolutionised the portable music scene (and helped to pull the company back from a very poor financial situation), the first iPhone showed what a difference a good interface can make, the iPad opened up the world of the tablet. The MacBook Air showed how to make a really nice portable laptop, iMacs had their own unique design.

However so many recent product releases have just been incremental rather than trend-setting. Android now more than competes with its smoothness of system operation. Many other screens give a better viewing experience that a Retina display. In numbers, Google’s Play store competes with Apple’s App store and is catching up in quality and range of Apps, Google’s Now voice search more than competes with Siri. A year or so ago Apple would never have released something like its Maps App in such a poor state of dysfunction.

My phone contract renewal time coincided with the Apple autumn announcement season, so I had been waiting with the proverbial bated breath to see what was coming up, and as a result I’m now the proud owner of a Samsung Galaxy Note 2.

There were two ‘final things’ that made me not stay iPhone. First, I had hoped the iPhone 5 would have been something exciting and new, not just a slightly stretched screen and updated processor. Second, iCloud. Over the last year I’ve moved from just being an internet user to that of using the cloud for more and more for my data storage and services, and iCloud just does not do it for me. Google was born in the cloud and inherently seems to do this sort of thing so much better than Apple.

This leaves me thinking about what may happen early next year when I look towards a computer upgrade.

The new iMacs look very tempting, but at a price. However I find myself using Adobe’s CS6 photo products more and more, so for video moving across to CS6 or even Avid’s Media Composer (both Adobe and Avid are cross-platform and both have competitive education prices) would give me the option to stay Mac, but not the absolute need which staying with FCP X would require.

For less than an iMac I can get a similarly specified non-Apple machine, either Adobe or Avid software, and have money to spare for extras like external back-ups. So, as much as I like Macs it’s far from certain that I’ll stay Mac for my computing.

(One final thing, I’ve been surprised at how quickly Macs age. I have a 10 year old Windows laptop which is still in regular productive use. Ten years ago means G3 powered iBooks. I wonder how many of them are still as useful?)

Windows 8, RT and Tablets

What’s going to happen when Microsoft brings out both Windows 8 and the Surface tablet (running Windows RT) together.

I can see quite a few problems with people assuming that their nice new Surface will be able to run their existing Windows programs. After all, it came out at the same time as Windows 8, it has the look of 8, the feel of 8, and it’s even called Windows (be it Windows RT). So why can’t it run my programs!

This version of the Surface is powered by an ARM processor, targeting the battery / low power consumption devices of the portable market. It makes it no different to that of the iPad; the iPad runs apps downloaded from the App Store while the Apple desktops and laptops run OSX and the programs related to that. This Surface runs applications downloaded from Microsoft’s own marketplace while Windows 8 runs programs for desktop computers.

However Microsoft seems very lax in highlighting the differences between the ARM powered Surface tablet and Windows 8 for the Intel powered machines. I’ve read a few reports and surveys indicating the Microsoft support staff don’t seem to know the differences either.

I guess there is the added complication that in a few month’s time there should be the Surface Pro model which will be Intel powered and run full Windows 8.

I’ve never known people to be confused over the differences between the iPhone / iPad and the MacBooks and iMacs, Apple have kept them quite distinct (even if they are starting to give a common look and feel to their operating systems), but the way Microsoft has handled the release of their new systems has not been well thought out.

Coming in confusing their potential customers with almost identical but operationally very different systems as a way of trying to break into an established tablet market is not really the best way to do things.

But then this is Microsoft, not known for doing things the easy way!

Windows 8 future potential

 Windows 8, how’s it going to go.

Very shortly Windows 8 / Windows Phone 8 will be out; what’s going to happen?
I assume on the computer side of things, as new machines arrive with Windows 8 pre-installed the operating system will naturally spread through the user world. Microsoft has already ended its mainstream support for both XP and Vista, and XP’s extended support will end in the not too distant future, so corporations still hanging on to XP are going to have to upgrade soon.
Microsoft has already announced that its service pack support for 7 will end next year, so again, more reasons for looking towards 8.

What about the phones and tablets, will it break into the Android / Apple duopoly.
One thing that could give it an advantage is that it’s relatively free from the legal arguments going on between the Android and Apple communities. This could make it very tempting for the business world that does *not* like getting involved in other people’s legal wrangles. At the moment they don’t have much choice, Blackberry seems in terminal decline which really just leaves them looking towards the two arguing ‘big boys’.

So if Microsoft can come along and provide a user system with some quality phones and tablets (devices announced by Nokia, HTC and Samsung seem to be getting some good press) that will seamlessly integrate in with their desktop machines and without these Apple / Android uncertainties, then I could see business being quite tempted. Combine this business use with those individuals who want to give it a try and this should provide a more than big enough user base to get developers interested.

So I would not be too surprised if in a couple of years time it had sorted itself out to be something like 40% Android, 40% Apple and 20% Windows 8, and (unless they can do something quite amazing really quickly) RIM / Blackberry seriously struggling.

One thing to remember; before the iPhone came along, in places like the USA those earlier Windows Mobile based phones had about 40% of the market, so if they’ve done it before then there’s a fair chance they can do it again.

Final Cut Pro X

 Final Cut Pro X

It’s now around six months since I got my copy of Final Cut Pro X.

A bit of history. My first video editing experience started off with Windows Movie Maker, but I soon wanted something that could do a bit more, and could also do HD. I mucked around with the 14 day trial versions of various programs and eventually settled on getting CorelDraw’s VideoStudio Pro X2. Cheap ‘n’ cheerful and did a competent job.

It didn’t take long to settle down to some basic YouTube video editing, and I could see that this, for the money, was quite a powerful editor. However it’s one thing to be a powerful editor, it’s another for the user to know how to use these powerful features, and perhaps its one biggest weakness was lack of availability of really good on-line tutorials.

I must have had it about a year (6 months of getting to know it, then 6 months of getting frustrated with it!) when I decided it was time to move on, with the priority on not just finding a good video editor, but an editor with good tutorials!

It was then by chance I came across Izzy Hyman and his www.izzyvideo.com web site. Here was a place with some really well presented tutorial videos on 1) making videos in general; 2) using Final Cut Pro 7; 3) using Final Cut Express. This was exactly what I wanted. The cost of Final Cut Pro 7 was way out of my budget, but Final Cut Express, at student price, was affordable. This also meant a shift from Windows to Mac (which was something I’d been thinking about anyway), and through the help of a friend I got hold of a 2nd hand MacBook Pro. This MacBook was a couple of years old and not exactly ‘high spec.’ but ran Express quite nicely.

It was about 7 or 8 months after this that Final Cut Pro X came out – and met with a very errrr…. ‘mixed’ reception! The pre-release press comments had been quite favourable, however when it came out they gave it a serious slagging. A lot of this was because they had thought that all the new features in FCP X would be in addition to / on top of all the existing Final Cut features, but on release they discovered that quite a few features considered important by the film making community were now missing. However for my use these missing features were not important and Apple had priced it very competitively. Izzy Hyman very quickly got onto his site some really good Pro X tutorials, so upgrading for me was an obvious thing to do.

The install went without a problem and it appeared to run smoothly, however the window that displayed the actual video stream only displayed it in what looked like 16 colours (the editing & other windows were still in full colour). After a bit of investigation it turns out that my MacBook had a compatible graphics card, but Pro X wanted 256 meg of RAM minimum where my machine only has 128 meg. Though a pain, this was not the end of the world, I was surprised though that the Apple app store / iTunes had allowed me to install it on a below spec. machine.

After using Pro X for a while I also realised another reason why some of the ‘professional types’ didn’t like it – it was too easy to use! Here was a powerful bit of software that had, with it’s new drag ‘n’ drop interface, taken out a huge amount of the mystique of video procuction, and at a cheap price too. It really has speeded up my routine of processing a video. Selecting which bits from different clips and adding titles and effects has not just become easier, but so much quicker.

I have since upgraded to a MacBook Air which runs it very nicely, this now means I can get most of my editing done on the train journey back from things like YouTube gatherings, which is nice.

So if anyone is thinking of a move from their basic editing software to something a bit more powerful, check it out. I certainly have no regrets, even though I had to change operating systems too.

Kindness of maintenance.

A bit of kindness of maintenance on your computer really is a good thing.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve done three Windows 7, 32 bit, and one Windows 7, 64 bit, installs. Two of the machines with the 32 bit installs were about 4 or 5 years old – not the newest kids on the block, but all went pleasantly well.

I can’t get round the fact that over the years I have found Windows a decently stable operating system. Windows NT had its roots in IBM’s OS/2, a rock stable system, with each version of Windows since then being that bit more stable than the one before. People complain about Vista (and so do I), but that was (for me) more towards its overall speed and interaction with the user, not stability factors. My Vista-powered lap-top never once crashed or locked up on me. As well as knowing others with Mac lap-tops, I also have one and have found them no better (or worse) than my Windows machines. (Once upon a time I was a very keen advocate of Linux, but that has become such a fractured community it has lost any appeal to me.)

However I do make an effort to look after my machines. A bit of basic maintenance is carried out when I’m in the mood for it. A cull of all those crap programs that get installed happens, and a general emptying of TEMP directories and tidying up of files. Occasional back-ups and running of defrag. Updates are applied, both to the operating system and to programs.
So if I wanted something that is relatively simple to use and is just going to work in the format that you get it and you don’t want to use it for much more than that, then I’d probably be happy with a Mac. But what I’m after is a versatile, flexible system that can be used in a variety of different situations, and work almost any bit of hardware I can throw at it.

As much as I do like Macs, they just don’t do that for me. I’m quite happy to put in a little effort to my systems, they are complex bits of machinery, and like anything of this type, benefit from a bit of routine care. Maybe it’s a case of so many people in our throw-away society aren’t willing to make the effort. I guess it’s partly a matter of attitude.

Not just computers, but we all work better with a bit of love and attention. So why not give a bit of love and attention to someone yourself. A simple message through Skype or MSN, perhaps a comment to a video or picture. Do that bit of occasional ‘social maintenance’. To the receiver it could make all the difference between stumbling along not working very well, or finding their way in life.

A little bit of kindness can go a long way.

Windows 7 & Vista.

Last year I bought a new lap-top. An H-P, 2 gig of RAM, dual-core processor… nothing special, though a reasonably well specified machine. However it did come with Vista as its operating system.
What a disappointment.
Even though I did various tweaks and adjustments to the system, it was just so nasty to use. O.K., it worked, it was stable, it recognised my other USB hardware devices etc, but it was sluggish and unresponsive and generally not very nice. Not helped by the machine being relatively heavy and having a poor battery run-time. It became a rather expensive door-stop! Much preferred using a baby netbook which I had access to.
However after a while I thought I’d try putting XP onto it. The install went without any problems, however getting all the required drivers gave me grief and became a pain I could not be bothered with, so I re-installed Vista from the manufacturer’s disks. Doing this install did actually improve the Vista performance which surprised me, but just raised it to a slightly different level of crapness! It was used mainly because I’d spent the money so *I will use it* rather than for its performance or functionality.
Then recently I noticed on a Microsoft bulletin that Window 7 (Beta) was available for download, so I thought I’d give that a try. Downloaded it, burnt to DVD, then installed straight over the top of the existing Vista.
Wow. What a transformation. No problems on the install, picked up all the lap-top drivers from Vista, ran smoothly, reliably, and so much faster – even faster than a well looked after XP machine I use. The only things that didn’t work properly was a webcam program I sometimes use for its built-in camera, and I lost the functionality of using the keyboard short-cuts for changing the screen brightness. Well, if that’s all I can complain about for a beta release of an operating system, I’m impressed.
However the beta is time-locked to expire in a few months time, so when I heard that Windows 7 Release Candidate 1 (RC1) was available from Microsoft I quickly got hold of a copy. Thought I’d do a virgin install so went ahead and trashed the hard-drive and installed. No problems, though it gave me limited graphics, wanting the proper lap-top graphics drivers. Downloaded the latest drivers from H-P, but when I tried to install them it failed; they would only install onto Vista. So rather than muck around I just started again by first re-installing the manufacturers Vista (with all the drivers), then RC1 on top. This install failed as RC1 wanted to see Vista + Service Pack 1. Didn’t take long to download and install the service pack, and RC1 then went effortlessly on top.
Again, very impressed. Everything works quickly and smoothly. The two things that did not work before now happily run.
Using Windows 7 on this lap-top has transformed it from being a waste of space (and money!) to being my preferred machine, even to the extent of using in rather than my XP desk-top. (Even the battery life is noticeably longer as I found out when I’d forgotten to plug it in.) I’m sure as time goes by I’ll find bugs and problems, but then that goes for any bit of software.
The Linux community may have been able to sit back and snigger (and yes, I do occasionally play with Linux – though I much prefer FreeBSD), and they may have gained quite a few converts through the Vista embarrassment, but if the final version of Windows 7 turns out to be as good as what I’ve seen so far…. well, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.