Six weeks with the Nexus 6

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Having spent over a year with a Nexus 5 I was itching for a new phone, something bigger (as the five inches of the Nexus 5 didn’t feel over-large) and had considered an iPhone 6+, a Samsung Note and a Nexus 6.  A month of dithering was cut short by the announcement that Google had dropped the price of the Nexus 6 to just over £300 so I bit the bullet and ordered.  This turned out to be a good move as the Nexus 6 has since returned to £479 on the Google store.

The first thing that struck me as I held it and tried to power it up was the sheer size of the beast.  It was remarkable difficult to hold in one hand and using it one handed seemed virtually impossible.  I’ve always been a user of phone cases to help with grip (and the protection makes a good backup to my accidental damage insurance) and I ordered a couple from Amazon.

Fortunately a case solved the slippery case problem and the phone felt safe and secure in my hand although it is now larger and slightly harder to slip into my pocket (I’m far too old for skinny jeans which would not accommodate the frame of the Nexus 6).

The screen in gorgeous and I soon got used to the size and quality of the display.  An extra row and column of icons on the homescreen have yet to be filled but the space is welcome when reading text in emails or social media.

Battery life is much improved over the Nexus 5 and I find I rarely have to charge the phone, even with bluetooth media playing and moderate use.  My Nexus 5 was usually dead by 3pm so having a USB charger in my office became a necessity.

Software on the phone is virtually the same as both are Google Nexus phones with stock Android and none of the nasty skins that plague the phones from other manufacturers.

Notifications are an area where the Nexus has lost some functionality with the removal of the Notification LED below the screen.  Together with the Lightflow app I could pick up my phone and know what notifications had come through without having to wake the phone (for example red light for GMail, green light for work emails).  This functionality has gone from the Nexus 6 but instead the screen does periodically wake and give a black & white display showing the lockscreen notifications.  Not quite as good but useful anyway.

Six weeks on and one handed use is still not easy but with practice and the excellent Google keyboard it is possible to send simple texts and status messages.  I don’t have the largest of hands but users with smaller hands will struggle with one-handed use.

Camera is excellent but the app is slow to load and slower still to focus.  I’m still hoping that software updates will improve this but unless you need to quickly capture a fleeting moment it is possible to live with this delay.  An example of the camera quality is shown below

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Another feature I find myself using is the always listening “OK Google” detection, although it took a couple of factory resets to get in working initially.  It isn’t a must-have feature or deal-breaker but again it’s useful to have there when you need it.

Six weeks in I love my Nexus 6 although I came very close to returning it initially as the size took some getting used to.  Of course now using the phone is second nature and I wouldn’t go back to my Nexus 5 (which feels like a toy phone in comparison)

Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or want to share your experience of using the Nexus.

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Need a new laptop? You could do worse than a Lenovo.

I recently had problems with my laptop (read about it here) and I decided to treat myself to a new one. After much researching I decided on a Lenovo Edge 15 because I???ve always wanted a ThinkPad (even if this is an economy version). Specs: Wides…

I recently had problems with my laptop (read about it here) and I decided to treat myself to a new one.  After much researching I decided on a Lenovo Edge 15 because I’ve always wanted a ThinkPad (even if this is an economy version). Specs:

  • Widescreen 1366×768 screen (With ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5145 dedicated graphics)
  • Core i5 processor 450M ( Dual-Core )
  • 4Gb RAM, 500Gb hard drive
  • Windows 7 Professional
  • Wireless b/g/n and integrated 3G broadband

 

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My thoughts: The screen has a matt finish as opposed to the glossy finish on consumer laptops.  I haven’t got a preference – my work-issued Dell laptop has the same finish and it is much easier to read under bright lighting.  The laptop feels very fast and responsive, and I’ve not come across any software that seemed to significantly slow it down.  The laptop comes with a suite of software from Lenovo for making recovery disks, backups, managing the wireless, battery and even a selection of on-screen indicators for volume, caps-lock etc.  The laptop plays games with very little fan activity and the laptop never seems to get hotter than lukewarm.  I’ve yet to use the integrated 3G but the Lenovo software pre-installed sits on the taskbar and manages all aspects of networking, disabling unused devices to save power. The keyboard is responsive, and looks good too.  For track-pad haters there is the ThinkPad pointer in the middle of the keyboard which can be used to control mouse functions if you prefer (though mastering this method will take some practice).  Layout of the ports is a little awkward with power and USB ports on the right hand, where they get in the way for right handed users using the laptop with a mouse. I’m impressed with the build quality and the materials used to make this laptop – it feels like a much more expensive laptop and a snip for £660 (£560 after Lenovo cashback!).  I’d recommend this laptop to anyone who is in the market for an all-purpose machine (and the 3G makes it good for use on the road too, subject to battery life).

Nokia N900 proof that a good phone is more than just hardware

I was lucky enough to be given the chance to trial a Nokia phone for two weeks by womworld. I chose the N900 because it supposedly represented where Nokia thought the future of mobile phones should be. Of course since it was released we???ve seen th…

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I was lucky enough to be given the chance to trial a Nokia phone for two weeks by womworld.  I chose the N900 because it supposedly represented where Nokia thought the future of mobile phones should be.  Of course since it was released we’ve seen the rapid evolution of iOS and Android, and even Nokia have even tweaked Symbian so the N900 isn’t quite the cutting edge mobile it was intended to be.What did I think of it?I have to say I was extremely disappointed.  In fact so disappointed that I didn’t use it for the two weeks of the trial – I soon went back to my Nokia 5800 which felt much more usable.  So where did Nokia go wrong?The build of the phone is very good (although a tad chunky) and feels well built and made of good quality materials.  The keyboard is small and fiddly but you soon get used to it (I’m sure Blackberry users find this too!).  The interface is fast and responsive, and similar in functionality to Symbian so most features are easy to find.Browsing – web browsing is a pleasure on the N900, whilst no-where as slick as using Safari with multi-touch on the iPhone, web pages are displayed well and navigation is easy (aided by being able to type on the keyboard).  The only criticism of the browser is that text fields aren’t highlighted when you type in them – and you can sometimes lose your place on a page.Messaging – this was where I started to fall out with the N900.  I live in Gmail and all my contacts, emails and calendar are in a single account.  My 5800 is able to sync contacts, calendars and my email if required using the Exchange protocol.  The N900 should have been capable of this but struggled to pull in my contacts, and then they didn’t show up until after a reboot.  I wasn’t able to get exchange sync working (and I wouldn’t even consider using POP3/IMAP on a high end phone in this price bracket!).Apps – although the Ovi store does have Angry Birds for the N900, there is precious little else in the App store (with the exception of the excellent Firefox mobile browser).  Whilst the Ovi store is generally full of low quality free apps and the odd useful but very overpriced app, there was virtual tumbleweed blowing through the N900 store – and this doesn’t seem set to change.Camera – the camera took good quality pictures – on the 50% of occasions they came out in focus.  It may have been because my test photos ended up being close up photos, but my cheapo 5800 has no problem with these shots (and the Share-online support is much better in the 5800 too).Interface – whilst Nokia has tried to embrace widgets, all you can add to the homescreen(s) are contacts, web-links and other static content -I couldn’t find anything worth adding or any dynamic content like Android offers.That’s not to say the N900 is a bad phone – but we’ve come to expect more from a modern high-end smart phone.  We expect a good selection of apps, a good camera, reliable push email and good text entry (or am I alone in seeking these features in a phone?).  The N900 would suit someone who uses their mobile as a phone, and perhaps just uses the camera, Facebook and texting.I’m sorry Nokia but you are going to have to do much better than this if you are going to hold your market share against the threat of Android and iOS!Photos taken with N900:

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Free symbolised worksheets withdrawn following copyright dispute #facepalm

I have had to delete a selection of worksheets from my site. The worksheets in question all featured a small number of symbols to which the copyright was owned by Widgit. Unfortunately due to their restrictive and inflexible licensing policies, I …

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I have had to delete a selection of worksheets from my site.  The worksheets in question all featured a small number of symbols to which the copyright was owned by Widgit.  Unfortunately due to their restrictive and inflexible licensing policies, I have been unable to reach an agreement with them over use of their symbols.  I apologise if you were looking for these resources.  It is my intention to replace them with Widgit-free versions at some point in the future.The backgroundWe have used a selection of software packages from Widgit software for many years.  The staple favourite amongst my colleagues is writing with symbols 2000 (WWS2K).  This product allows you to enter text with symbols above, and also to create grids of text with symbols.  The software was never very user friendly and was replaced by Symwriter and Communicate in Print.  When WWS2K was discontinued, our school was persuaded (some might say conned) to upgrade to Symwriter which was meant to offer similar functionality.  We also purchased a smaller number of copies of Communicate in Print to compare the products.It seemed we now needed two products to do what we had been able to do with one product before.  That isn’t progress – that’s software company greed!  Neither product was particularly intuitive to use and so symbol use at our special school dropped to lower levels as a result.As I’ve mentioned on my blog before I share my resources to help other teachers.  I also hope that some of them may serve as examples of good practice.  It’s easy to forget that software companies exist only to make money – as I found out in my dealings with Widgit software.The reasonI contacted Widgit software after reading copyright information from their site.  Not finding their site easy to navigate I’d searched Google for their copyright terms.  I then emailed Widgit to request permission to share 17 worksheets, most less than a page in size and containing a small amount of text (and thus symbols).  I was amazed to find that the copyright information on their site was out of date and amended immediately following my email.  (In fact it was changed again later in the week – that’s twice in 8 days).Emails went back and forth between myself and Widgit regarding my request to share (for no cost or profit) these 17 science worksheets.  In fact Widgit obviously liked the material because they said the following:“You do have some good worksheets here and we would be interested in working with you to make these available in Communicate: In Print as downloads on our website. We would use your ideas and do the work. We do work with a variety of people that make resources for our site who currently receive a royalty for their ideas. Would you be interested in this arrangement?”I offered Widgit the change to distribute my worksheets royalty free (I’m not interested in making money from my resources) if they would allow me to distribute the 17 worksheets I had already submitted for approval.  I tried to explain to Widgit that my worksheets served as free advertising but they seemed more interested in getting me to pay.   (You’ll see that my resources site pulls in a steady stream of downloaders – that’s free advertising!).

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I can’t blame Widgit.  Their software is clunky, unwieldy and difficult to use (say my colleagues) and the only unique selling point they have is the collection of symbols.   They maintain their stranglehold on the copyright of these symbols in order to stay in business.  It’s a pity that their licensing terms are so draconian and inflexible – but businesses who sell to education are in it for totally different reasons to the teachers who use them!(And for your information the symbol at the top of the page is facepalm – it seemed appropriate to describe Widgit’s attitude!)Update: Just to add these views are my personal opinion, formed after speaking informally to colleagues where I work.  As with all my blog posts they do not represent the opinions of my employer.

Graze.com, a review. Technology and the Internet meets snacking.

I heard about Graze.com from a friend and had to try it out. The idea of the product is that Graze sends you healthy and nutritious snacks that towards your 5 a day. Their website allows you to customise the product in countless ways, both in term…

I heard about Graze.com from a friend and had to try it out.  The idea of the product is that Graze sends you healthy and nutritious snacks that towards your 5 a day.  Their website allows you to customise the product in countless ways, both in terms of what you receive and when you receive it.When you sign up for Graze.com you are given the choice of pre-created boxes or the option to build your own (the most popular choice).  As part of your box you receive a portion of fresh fruit, and two smaller portions of snacks.  You can opt to swap the mid-sized box for olives (instead of dried fruit etc) but this substitution costs extra.Graze works without commitment.  You can order regular boxes (with the options to skip/push back the next box) or order one-off boxes to any address.  Boxes are shipped by first class post and are designed to fit through the average letterbox.  I’ve received two boxes to date, the first taking two days to arrive and the second arriving the next day.You also get to customise the snacks you receive.  As well as adding olives to your order, you can rate the foods you like and don’t like so that you only ever receive foods that you will eat.  You can also mark foods try (the default setting) so that you get sent them to try out, a good way to see what new things taste like.  I binned all the dried mixes that have chilli in – so I can be confident that I will not receive them.After a box is shipped you get an email telling you it is on the way, and what it contains.  You then have the option to rate the items you receive once you have tried them, customising your boxes further to meet your tastes.  You can also see nutritional advice and information about the company on what is a slick and well designed website, which is quick and responsive to use.The box includes a napkin and bamboo forks.  These allow you to eat your fruit (and olives) anywhere with no mess.  The box can be recycled and the plastic packaging claims to be recyclable although without identifying the exact type of plastic it is impossible to say for sure.I’ve taken a selection of photographs showing the unboxing of a Graze.com delivery, so you can see for yourself what they contain. Final verdict.I’m impressed with the website; the system is extremely user-friendly and offers a good experience for the consumer.  I was less impressed by deliveries that take two days to arrive, but that reflects the state of our first-class post system and not Graze.com.  It does mean that you can never count on a box to arrive on a particular day, for example I would not arrange for a box to be delivered to work on a Friday just in case it was held up in the post.The main obstacle to the success of Graze.com is the price.  If they ever get this down they could be on to a winner.  A standard box costs £2.99 and one including olives costs £3.49.My first box included around 120g grapes (with irritating tiny stalks that were a pain to remove due to the way they had been trimmed), a punnet of olives and a small punnet of chocolate coated peanuts.  I estimated the total cost of the snacks at under £1.50 had I bought them in the supermarket.  Of course you are paying a premium for the preparation and convenience in the same way that you do for pots of fruit salad in Tesco etc.My second box (shown in the photographs) consisted of approx 130g fresh pineapple (with a clever sleeve to help keep it moist in the pack), a punnet of olives and small punnet of honey coated peanuts.  Again I’d estimate the cost in a supermarket at under £1.50.Will I be using Graze.com on a regular basis?  Probably.  I love the website and some of the dried fruits/seeds they offer.  The key to making it special is to select mixes of fruits and seeds that you probably wouldn’t get so easily in the supermarket.  The choice of fruit (which you have to include in a box) is limited at the moment, although I would hope that Graze offer more choice as they become established (or perhaps the choice to add 2 extra medium punnets to replace the large punnet of fresh fruit).

Don’t take my word for it – get a free Graze.com box for yourself.  To get a free box (and your second half price) either follow one of the links in this article or quote code GMF7GV7

Nokia 5800 ??? take 2! And a review of the Nokia Music store

The Nokia 5800 Recently I was the proud owner of a Nokia 5800 XpressMusic phone. After my last Nokia was barred (from all networks) I managed to get my money back with some assistance from Paypal. I was back at the point where I could go either wa…

The Nokia 5800Recently I was the proud owner of a Nokia 5800 XpressMusic phone.

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After my last Nokia was barred (from all networks) I managed to get my money back with some assistance from Paypal.  I was back at the point where I could go either way – an iPhone or another Nokia 5800.It took a week of deliberations and I was close to buying an iPhone, although I eventually decided to replace my Nokia 5800.  I decided to gamble on Ebay again – I have had lots of other phones off there without problems.  I bought a new unlocked Nokia 5800 but this time with the Comes with Music package.  The phone cost a mere £10 more than the phone I returned so it was a bargain.I made a list of the reasons I went for another Nokia:

  • I like the remote control – very handy when I’m dog walking
  • Works with a range of Windows software
  • About a third of the price of the iphone
  • I don’t really use Apps on the phone apart from the odd email check or GPS location check.
  • I had a stock of screen protectors and case for the Nokia
  • I was worried about breaking the glass screen on the iPhone (and iPhone insurance is quite expensive, and there is an excess on my contents insurance)
  • The Nokia is unlocked to all networks – handy for if my network won’t renew the retention deal I have
  • free music downloads for the year
  • an alphanumeric keypad (onscreen) for entering text, quicker than onscreen QWERTY

Of course the phone doesn’t interface with my car audio, so I have to resort to the aux input.  However the draw of unlimited free music was enough to swing it – more on the music store below.Nokia Comes with MusicNokia supply their own software – Nokia Music for use with their handsets.  It is still in its infancy and the functionality falls way short of iTunes.  It also struggled with my collection of mp3’s (causing me much frustration) until I mended the ID3 tags using MediaMonkey.  I could have chosen to use a third party application (or even Windows Media Player) but I went for integration with the music store.  I had to spend an hour or two reorganising my collection and sorting out my album art since it didn’t find all the art that I had in iTunes.Signing up for Nokia Music is straightforward and involves creating an account and then entering a PIN code to activate your subscription.  This also locks your PC and your phone to your account.  There has to be a catch to free music (at Nokia’s prices) and the DRM is it.  Any music you buy is restricted to playback on your PC and phone – no CD burning or transfer to another player.Buying music is simple – simply click the download button (either for individual tracks or a whole album).  The software then downloads the music and saves it (with embedded album art).  You can request the software automatically copies purchased music (and/or playlists) to the phone when you connect, meaning that you always have your music with you.

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Copying music from your library to the the phone is a simple right click away.  Building playlists is similar to the process in iTunes, simple and intuitive.  Ripping CDs is similarly easy, with artist and album art sourced over the internet.

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The software is far from perfect, and the hopefully it will also become more responsive as later versions are released.  Many of the features of iTunes can be replicated including shuffle play, which involves dropping lots of music into the play queue and then hitting the random button.  It is also possible to burn CD’s from your music collection, DRM permitting.I’ve found lots of holes in Nokia’s music collection, however there is still a large range of tracks available from a range of genres.  The music I’ve downloaded is a selection of old and new materials, and a mix of single tracks and whole albums.  I expected to feast on free music, but there with only a fixed amount of listening time I’ve downloaded 120 tracks in my first 6 days.Removing the DRMIt is possible to legally remove the DRM (according to the websites of various software products).  I tried Tunebite which is able to search your hard disc for DRM’d music and then create an unrestricted version of the tracks (complete with album art).  This means that at least I will be able to port my collection to whatever phone I buy next!Final thoughtsI hope to see more people consume music like this in the future.  The record companies have got to look again at pricing for digital music.  Why should a download of an album cost the same as buying a CD which has manufacturing, shipping and energy costs?  When the record companies see past their greed and look to what consumers actually want, we may tempt more people away from file sharing and in to legal music downloads.  If this happens then this brave experiment by Nokia seems doomed to fail.Update: New firmware v 40.0.005

Should we routinely expect bad service from cheap tech suppliers like EBuyer?

I placed an order with Ebuyer. I???ve used them before because they are cheap and service has never been a problem. I decided to use them for an urgent order ??? I only had a one day window for delivery but they had never let me down before. I paid th…

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I placed an order with Ebuyer.  I’ve used them before because they are cheap and service has never been a problem.  I decided to use them for an urgent order – I only had a one day window for delivery but they had never let me down before.  I paid their premium for next day delivery, and all the items on the list showed as allocated so I assumed the order was on track.

 

I waited in the next day, and started to become concerned by lunchtime that my order hadn’t arrived.  I checked the order status page and it told me that my items had been allocated, to be delivered by today (the delivery date).

 

I contacted E-buyer and it turns out that one of the items was out of stock despite being shown as allocated.  I had not received an email or message anywhere that would let me know that E-buyer had failed to meet the delivery schedule (agreed when the order was placed).  Had I not have contacted them myself I would have been totally unaware that my order was not proceeding as it should.

 

I have posted below the response I received from E-buyer.  It shows a distinct lack of accountability or responsibility for the order problems and only a passing apology for messing me about and causing me to waste a day waiting in for their delivery.

 

I can only advise others to proceed very carefully if they place an order with E-Buyer that they need urgently.  Clearly E-buyer have issues with their system that need to be fixed (like notifying would be buyers that their items are out of stock).  Caveat emptor!

 

Final word from Ebuyer

Thank you for your response.
We have developed a suite of Order Management Tools that are unique and provide you with the ability to manage your order right up to the day before delivery.
Our intent was to provide you with as much information up front to avoid confusion on how your order would be fulfilled and within what timeframe.
We wanted to make sure that the tools worked in an intuitive and
informative way to online buyers so that you knew exactly where you were every step of the way.
Upon selecting an order from the Orders screen you will be in the ‘View Order’ section. This screen will give you the overview of the order, detailing billing and shipping addresses, the order line status and price and your overall order status.
The ‘Order Progress’ tab shows you a graphical image of your order progress making it simple to understand where each part of the order is every step of the way. If a block is green then your order has passed that status successfully, if it is red then your order will need some attention from you. Each block will offer information on each status with text to explain exactly what status your order has reached.
I apologise however for any inconvenience or annoyance caused and can confirm that the order is cancelled.

 

Have you had a similar experience with an online company?  Should we accept poor service as the price we pay for cheap goods?   Personally I think it is possible to have both but very few companies seem to be there yet!