Nov 21

The best headphones.

Regular readers of this site will, I am sure, already know that I am big fan of wireless headphones.

That is not to say that I am in love with all wireless headphones and that they are all created equally.

My first foray into this world of wireless music were a set of Plantronics Back to Beat earbuds. Ghastly things that were tethered together by a contraption that lopped around the back of my neck like a rubberised shoelace that somehow always managed to move left or right and bunch up on either my left or right shoulder. The pairing them to my iPhone was done via holding down a bewildering combination of buttons for just the right amount of time and if you got them wrong you were just as likely to put them into demo mode as you were turning them off. Considering all they had to do was play music through two pea sized apertures the battery life was pathetic and they sat in my ears as comfortably as a pair of Georgian armchairs might.

My next attempt were Bose QuietComfort QC and I will simply not hear a bad word said about them. They are noise cancelling, the are immensely comfortable and the battery lasts longer than some American Sitcoms. They also have a microphone so I can make and accept phone calls while wearing them. However, and this is only true while I am in public, I look ridiculous while I am wearing them because the over-the-ear design means I look like a Cyberman from Dr Who. Something I am reminded of every time I see my silhouette, catch my reflection in the mirror or are asked by a BBC crewman why I am not on set.

Since getting my Apple Watch I have been trying to minimise what comes exercising with me and so I have been looking at the Apple AirPods since their release in 2016. So in October 2017 I took the plunge and bought a pair.

My first thought was rather than look like a Cyberman I might look like someone who has something white dribbling out of his ears. However I can report as these earphones don’t modify your silhouette I am only reminded of them when I see myself in a mirror. Plus, since there have been scores of braver souls than me wearing these in public for most of the year, no one seems to care what I look like.

In a word these little headphones are sensational.

For starters the concept of the organic case  – which by the way is very sensuous in the hand (perhaps I have been in this game a bit too long)- and the charging of same and the headphones within, is beautifully simple.

This smart case also acts as possibly the best way to pair any headphones to your iPhone or iPad. Simply by opening the case in the vicinity of an as yet unknown iPhone will prompt them be paired. Magical.

Once paired, you simply pop them out and sit them in your ears (and without a cord pulling on them they sit in the average ear securely). Within a second they sense they are in an ear and activate with a satisfying “brummm” sound. If only put in one ear it will adjust volume and play in mono but then pop the second one in and it will adjust, sync up and move into stereo… without any effort from you. If, at any stage you take one out, the music will pause until you put it back in your ear.

Then start playing music or a podcast and your are immersed in a beautifully balanced stereo sound.

To activate Siri you simply double tap on one of the earbuds and with her (or him depending on your preference) listening you can make a phone call, ask a question, tell her to increase or decrease volume or pause play back. And speaking of making a phone call… you would be forgiven for thinking that the quality and volume of your voice would be severely compromised by the microphone only extending inches from your ears. In fact the quality for the listener is superb and Siri tends to be super accurate and responsive when using these… a sure sign that she can hear you loud and clear.

It is hard not to recommend the Bose but at nearly half the price and with the added benefit of not making you look like you have just stepped off the set of Dr. Who I think the AirPods are a sensational bargain and a fantastic companion to your iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch.

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Oct 17

A serious and very real threat to your WIFI network


It has been reported that a vulnerability in every wifi network has been discovered and can be easily exploited and used to devastating affect. This is regardless of how secure your password is, in fact the hacker doesn’t even need to know what your password is, to snoop and steal information and take control.

To illustrate just how dangerous this is Apple  – who are normally rather relaxed about news like this – have already come out and stated that the latest versions of iOS (11), macOS (High Sierra) and tvOS (11) are already patched against this issue. I can only assume that firmware updates for their Airport modems will be coming soon and we will be keeping an eye on this and posting on our website and Facebook page accordingly.

So what does this all mean?

Well the guy who found and reported this issue has stated that all devices need to be patched and the first most important step is upgrading your iPhone, iPad and/or Mac to the latest OS. And this might cause some issues with your older software but whatever they are it is worth it because this is a serious and widespread breach with all kinds of consequences.

In the case of your Mac this might mean a ram upgrade or if it is a late 2009 or older – a new mac which in turn will mean data transfer.

In the case of your iPhone/iPad if it is older than an iPhone 5s you are out of luck but anything else needs to be upgraded to iOS 11 asap.

If you think you need help with any of this please drop us a line. But in any event please don’t ignore this threat because unlike most other exploits this is targeting something as widespread as your water supply without needing to care, if I can continue with the analogy, what kind of taps you have in the bathroom.

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Oct 05

SOS feature in your iPhone

There is a very good chance that you have never actually opened the Health App on your iPhone and that is OK because detailing every KG lost or gained or graphing every bowel movement for the amusement of your doctor is not for everyone.

However, it does have one feature that is rather important and is vital for what comes next so I encourage you to grab your iPhone and read on.

1. Open your iPhone and tap on the Health app.

2. Tap on Medical ID in the bottom left hand corner and then Edit in the top right hand corner.

3. Ensure that the Show When Locked feature is set to ON and scroll further down the screen.

4. In the spaces provided fill in all the important details, the kind of details you might include in a Medical ID bracelet – the one you’ve always thought might be a good idea but have never gotten around to buying.

5. Tap on Done when finished.

This information can now be viewed by anyone – regardless if your iPhone is locked at the time or not – if they press the power button 5 times in rapid succession.

Now of course it’s worth pointing out that if you don’t want medical professionals (or anyone else) to see this info then please do the following:

  1. Open the Health app on your iPhone.
  2. Tap on Medical ID in the bottom left hand corner and then Edit
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the screen and tap on Delete Medical ID

The SOS feature has another very useful function and that is the Emergency SOS feature.

The same rapid pressing of the power button and then sliding the Emergency button to the right will allow the phone to quickly contact the emergency services via 000 and via a text message with your current location in times of need or distress.

It is worth setting up and making your family aware even if it is a feature that is -hopefully – never used.

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Oct 05

Using the magnifying glass hidden in your iPhone

I cannot tell if Microsoft are sadists or not but they seem to enjoy making life difficult.  Not only do they insist on adhering to charging for their Windows 10 operating system (or as I like to call it, 335 reasons to switch to a Mac) but they insist on using a serial key that is practically impossible to see without the use of the Hubble telescope. But, as we mere mortals don’t have access to the Hubble telescope, the magnifying function on your iPhone will have to do.

If you are running iOS11… and if not, you should be…

  1. Tap on Settings
  2. Tap on Control Centre
  3. Tap Customise Controls
  4. Scroll down until you find Magnifier
  5. Tap on the + button
  6. Tap on the Home button

From now on, you can access it quickly by swiping up from the bottom of the iPhone and thus revealing the Control Centre. Tap on the magnifying icon to fire it up.

So, now that we have access, how does it work?

When the magnifying feature is activated,  the camera is in high focus and it be increased even further with the slider under the main viewing screen.

The lock icon will freeze the auto focus which can be a bit annoying in low light because the camera will be constantly trying to focus on your subject and the net result is always frustration. Speaking of low light, the lightning bolt icon will turn on the torch if what you  are trying to magnify is in bad light.

Finally there is the Filters icon which will give you access to the contrast and colour filters that can give you a better result depending on what you are looking at. There is also an inverting icon that will give you a negative image and this can be very useful if the thing you are trying to see is faded.

It’s typical of Apple to bury little gems like this but I for one, when battling with Microsoft, am glad it is there on hand.

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Oct 05

Apple watch series 3 – first month


Regular readers of my website or FaceBook page will no doubt recall the unparalleled hell I experienced at the hands of Telstra when attempting to set up my Apple Watch S3 to a mobile network.

I get that this is a new product and I understand that challenges are to be expected but there is very little justification for the misinformation, the disinterest and the general lack of imagination when trying to get help from Australia’s largest telco. The staggering lack of knowledge that was displayed by all facets of Telstra and their support staff often reminded me of the kind of precision displayed when a monkey flings its own dung at a wall.

But there were flowers amongst the weeds in the form of Joseph and his team at Telstra Woden. Not only did he have the knowledge to find an answer to a problem that had left Telstra Tuggeranong performing like the aforementioned monkey, but he followed up and took ownership of some of the issues that followed. He genuinely made me feel he was in my corner and when dealing with a monster like Telstra this is priceless.

However, now that it is all said and done with 15 phone calls, three trips to a Telstra store and countless hours online later, I finally have my Apple Watch S3 on a mobile network and I can, at last, tell you all about it.

Set up

If you buy a series 3 – and if you have an older Apple Watch I would highly recommend you do – the first thing you’ll notice is that it is, in every practical way, identical to all previous models. In fact, if you have already bought a new wristband from Apple or elsewhere, these identical dimensions will allow you to attach it your new watch without any hassle at all. Thats right – as soon as I unpacked my brand new $600 watch I slapped on my $50 band!

Your new watch will connect to your iPhone in much the same way as the old one. One significant difference is the option to connect to a mobile network. If you have already been through the process of binding your Apple Watch to your mobile phone account – and this can be done at anytime before or after the watch has arrived on your doorstep (and I highly recommend you do so) then the final step is revealed to you during the set up process and its very straight forward. If you haven’t spoken with your provider yet – or don’t want to use the mobile function – then this can be skipped.

The rest of the processes of introducing it to your phone, setting up Apple Pay ect couldn’t be easier unless every watch came with a freeze dried Apple Tech that – once correctly hydrated – set it up for you.

Once it is on your wrist, and ready to make and receive phone calls, the first thing you’ll notice is the speed of the watch. When you tap on an app the response is immediate and this instantly makes this device feel like a proper extension of your phone – even before you’ve ventured phoneless into the world. 

If this is your first watch, please head over to my previous article on the original watch. For those that have already owned and used a watch, as well as those that are now re-joining us after reading my previous article, here is what is new.

What’s new

Now, admittedly while some of these features are courtesy of watchOS 4 and are available to all watches, there is a good chance you won’t have accessed them before so it makes sense to mention them here.

Torch. (Well, its called a flash-light but I refuse to stoop to an Americanism)

Looking at your watch face,  you swipe up from the bottom of the screen and this reveals the Control Centre, similar to the one found on your iPhone.

Tap on the torch icon and the whole screen lights up and will get brighter when you face it away from your body. Slide to the left and you get a flashing light and slide again and you get a red light, presumably for emergencies. 

While in the Control Centre you can tap on the Theatre icon and this will prevent your phone from waking up when you move your wrist as this can be a distraction  (not to mention a battery drain) when in a darkened cinema or theatre. You will also notice what looks like a tear-drop icon and this is used to eject water from the microphone after swimming.

It also comes with new watch faces that include Buzz and Woody (cute but useless really) and some much improved health and workout apps that I’ll get to a little later.

So now lets imagine that you have paired your watch with your mobile phone plan and you’ve taken a stroll out of the house, leaving your watch to charge on the kitchen bench.

Making a phone call can be done in several ways, holding down the crown and asking Siri to call such and such, using the phone app to list your contacts or revealing a small keypad to type out the number manually. The microphone is exceptional allowing you to talk with your hand down by your side but the speaker is still too small or weak to be heard effectively at the same distance.This forces you to walk around Dick Tracy style or use wireless headphones. But hey, it is a watch and you are using it to call someone and I for one think that’s awesome and this is especially true (and I mentioned this here a few weeks ago) that being able to do this when on a walk or run as well as receive texts is of particular importance. 

Sending a text, like the phone call, can be done in a few different ways. Holding down the crown and telling Siri to do it is one way.

(I have found the best way is to say – for example –  “send a text to Stephen, don’t worry the rash won’t last forever.”)

The other way is to use the Messages app and use the microphone to dictate your message or the Scribble function to eek out our tiny missive one letter at a time. (this works surprisingly well actually)

The new mobile function will also allow you to use Siri when its just you, the watch and the great out doors to ask a question or settle an argument. Not only that but she will now talk back to you. 

The new watch, like the series 2 before it, is waterproof allowing you to swim with it as well as walk and run with it. This function also unlocks a few new workout functions for swimming in a pool or in the open water. And speaking of exercise, the new health monitor watches your heart with a little more accuracy than in the past. It will now tell you what your recovery rate is – which is a very useful indicator of health, and will alert you if your heart rate increases while you are not exercising… possibly alerting you to an impending heart attack.

So, in short is it worth it? Well if you have a Series 2 and you don’t care about the mobile phone function I would say no. But if you currently have a series 1 then it is a must, even if you don’t care about making phone calls on the worlds most convenient mobile phone.

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