Buying a new laptop only to find there's a new model around the corner can be an annoying experience. Apple, in common with most manufacturers, tend to be secretive about up-coming models and it's hard to know when to jump into the market. Recently there have been rumours about an updated MacBook, perhaps with a more rounded Air-style case. And there are persistent rumours about new iPods, including the Nano and the Touch, with many pundits expecting them to be announced next Tuesday (September 9) at the publicised Apple event. It certainly pays to keep up to date with developments and to read all these rumours because they can help you plan your next upgrade and stop you making a mistake. My favourite site for up-to-the-minute information is Mac Rumors (without the u) and it is worth keeping a regular eye on postings. You can set it up as an RSS feed to OS X Mail or even to the iPhone using an application such as NetNewsWire (iTunes Apps Store). Also, on the iPhone, you can simply click on a web site's RSS feed logo and it will be fed into Safari's address bar. You will see the feed in Safari and all you need do is bookmark the page for future viewing.
Too much broadband can damage your brain? An old surfer of my acquaintance reports that his wife read in a newspaper (probably this one in The Times) that broadband can damage the brain. She had banned constant use of the internet and my friend, a computer user for the past 25 years, was reduced to a surreptitious toggling of the modem switch every time he wanted to check his email. I was able set their minds at rest. The article clearly referred to wireless networks rather than the broadband service itself and, even then, nothing has been proved. Since they didn’t have a wireless router attached to the modem, I assured them that the USB cable is harmless. However, my iPhone disclosed two strong wireless networks in adjacent properties, so I suppose they are doomed anyway. In my home I have seven nearby networks; it seems that even the dogs have WiFi these days.
Well, not quite yet. But there is no doubt that more and more older people are overcoming their resistance to technology. Research last year by Ofcom, the British media regulator (as reported in the Daily Mail showed that over-65s accounted for nine percent of all time spent online in the UK. They spend an average of 42 hours a month on the web compared with 37.9 hours among 18 to 24-year-olds.
I believe passionately that a computer (a Mac of course) provides a window on the world for older people and can be invaluable for those less able to get out of their home or those who live alone. A research study presented three years ago to the annual convention of the American Psychological Association showed that senior citizens who become familiar with using a computer have fewer depressive symptoms than those older adults who aren't so technologically connected.
To clinch it, using a computer is good for your sex life according to the Daily Mail again. It's got to be good.
The paperless office has been the holy grail of organisation since the early eighties when personal computers first landed on the desktop. But it seems that computers only make more paper and we are as far away from the paperless office as we ever were. But things are changing.
I’ve always thought that scanning bank statements and other stuff would be the answer, but I’ve found flatbed scanners pretty useless for this. They are slow and cumbersome and only really useful for scanning bound documents such as books. Most paper we deal with comes in single-sheet form and is ideally suited to document-feed handling.
Over the past year my working life has been transformed by the Fujitsu ScanSnap scanners. For the Mac there are two models, a desktop and a portable. Both do the same job and there isn’t much to choose between them, except size and portability. They do an excellent job and the paper handling is as near perfect as you can get with any sort of sheet-feed device. Scanning multiple documents is quick and easy. And the resulting .pdf files are easy to manage.
I now routinely scan and shred all incoming mail with very few exceptions (those documents that need to be preserved in original form). Bank statements, utility bills and suchlike are scanned and shredded immediately. If I need to work on them, such as reconciling a bank statement, I do it from the .pdf file.
These scanners are a revelation and, as far as I am concerned, they’re high on my list of best gadgets. My desk files are now slim and lithe and I aim to keep them that way. Of course, committing sensitive information to .pdf files needs a security strategy so more later how I work with and protect my scanned files.
There has been considerable press comment about 3G problems encountered by iPhone users. Apparently many users report that their phones drop the 3G connection suddenly. Yet a group of boffins in Sweden last week reported that the iPhone was no worse (or no better) in 3G performance than phones from other manufacturers.
I don't know. But I do know that I am experiencing strange happenings with my own iPhone and its connection with O2 in the UK. I've noticed that even in areas of known strong reception (for instance, yesterday in a service area on the M3 motorway) I get a full set of signal bars only for the connection to disappear. It's on, off, on like switching on and off a light.
I'm not new to 3G and I've had experience over the past three years with several phones, including Windows Mobile devices. On none of them have I seen this sort of random behaviour. If you have a good signal you keep it. If you have a bad signal, well, it might get better by moving around.
I cannot believe the fault lies with O2 because similar problems are being reported around the world, in particular with AT&T in the USA. It will be interesting to know if other UK iPhone users are experiencing similar problems.
A big thumbs-down to O2 for technical problems in transferring numbers from other mobile networks. When I bought my iPhone last Saturday I arranged for my old number to be transferred from T-Mobile. I subsequently received an email advising me that the transfer would take place on August 28 and "could take up to 24 hours". Well, my old T-Mobile number ceased working, as did my new temporary O2 number, at 9 am yesterday. I've now been 30 hours without a phone service and O2 can offer no estimate of when service will be resumed. I'm told that this is a technical issue affecting all number changes and started yesterday morning. O2's technicians are reported to be giving this absolute priority. I should think so. And I hope that all O2 customers involved will get compensation. At 9 pm on August 29 my phone was reconnected, fortunately with my transferred number. Number transfer = 36 hours!
Having been out of the country until last week, I wasn't among the early birds standing outside O2 to buy an iPhone on July 11. Now I've got my mitts on one--a shiny black 16GB model--I am absolutely delighted. Fortunately, while away, I had my iPod Touch in my bag and I was able to use wifi to explore the Apps Store and try out twenty-odd useful productivity applications, including the wonderful Omni Focus. All my apps installed immediately on the new iPhone when I connected to iTunes and the whole process of buying, registering and starting to use was quick and painless. My only gripe is that the data I had stored in non-syncing applications such as Bloomberg (for stocks and shares) remained on the Touch and had to be re-entered on the iPhone.
Despite my liking for new gadgets, I resisted the original 2.5G iPhone. I felt Apple had made a big mistake in not offering a 3G (third-generation) phone in the first place. I suspect the relatively lack of 3G services in the US led Apple to believe that they could get away with 2G, even when speeded up a little by the EDGE standard. Clearly many people in Europe and elsewhere in the world were not so impressed.
But now there is no excuse for resisting the iPhone. The new model is everything the original should have been. The Apps Store on iTunes is brilliant and contains hundreds of useful applications for download. Most are cheap, less than £5, and many of the most useful items are actually free. Many applications (such as OmniFocus, the Splash wallet series, and my family history program) synchronise with desktop versions so you can keep up-to-date information on both platforms.
In my view, though, the wonder of the iPhone (as with the Touch) is the web-browsing facilty. Having struggled for years with Windows Mobile, Symbian and other phone operating systems, I find the iPhone browser absolutely wonderful. For the first time on a mobile it is possible to do some serious web browsing without jerking from frame to frame. You can even see the whole page in miniature to help with navigation. Frankly, it is so usable it's a pleasure to spend time reading the news, checking facts and simply ferreting around in the ether.
So, for the moment, full marks to Apple. It's been worth the wait.