Tag Archives: apple

Phone Upgrade Time (Not)

Well, it’s almost that time of the odd-numbered year when a sequence of events occurs:

  1. Apple announce shiny new iPhone models
  2. Les gets a new phone the day they’re released

Well, half of that is happening. Apple will indeed be announcing new iPhones next Tuesday (details the subject of the usual rumours, speculation and silliness), but I won’t be buying one.

It’s not that I’ve gone off the idea of having new toys so much as looking at ways of saving some money. The way mobile phones are generally sold in the UK is on a two year contract. You pay a small part of the hardware cost up front (ranging from nothing at all to £100 or more), then pay a monthly fee which covers the tariff you’ve chosen and another part of the cost of the phone. Now this is quite convenient, as you avoid paying loads of money in one go, but over the term of the contract, it can end up being very expensive indeed.

A couple of years ago, I got my latest upgrade from Three – iPhone 6S on an “all you can eat” data, minutes and texts plan, which included a 12GB tethering allowance. This had changed a few times since my previous contract, where there had been no limit on tethering, then went to a deal-breaking 2GB limit, being increased a few times to something more useful. All very nice, but the monthly cost was a little over £62, which seemed like a good idea at the time, but less so now.

So when I got the notification that I was due for an upgrade, and at the end of the minimum term of the contract, I had a bit of a think. And decided to switch to a SIM-only contract. Looking at the current deals, I found that Three had a 30GB package which allows the whole amount to be used as a hotspot should I be so inclined (I’ve never used that much in a month, so the “all you can eat”, or even the 100GB level seemed quite unnecessary). And all of this for £18 a month on a one-year contract – you can also get it on a monthly contract, but that costs more.

I decided to pop into the Three shop in Eldon Square rather than calling customer services, which turned out to be a good plan. I had to wait a few minutes for someone to be available, but then it was all no trouble at all. There was absolutely no attempt to sell me anything I didn’t want, whether a handset or a bigger package, and it was all sorted out quickly and easily.

So, the £44 I’m no longer spending would come to £1,056 over the two years I’d normally expect to keep a phone, which is quite a lot, really.

My cunning plan is to buy a suitable handset when I’ve done some financial rearrangements. No rush, though – I’m still happy with the 6S….

Fancy a nice cup of tea? Maybe not…

I was offered a cup of this “Turkish Apple Instant Tea” the other day:

Danger!!

Danger!!

Well, I tried it and found it was ever so slightly sweet. Well, so sweet that I couldn’t drink more than a few sips.

There’s a reason for that. Checking the ingredients shows sugar as the largest ingredient. And the nutrition information shows something around 94g of sugar per 100g.

So, when they say “instant tea”, they actually mean “sugar with a hint of tea extract”. You’d be better off buying some sugar and waving a tea bag over it….

Weight and Stuff Report – 23 May 2017

Weight: 240.2 pounds (17 stone 2.2 pounds, 109 kg)
Steps: 5,560

Hmmm, up again today. No major activity other than a visit to the Apple Store to get a free battery replacement in my iPhone (it was one of a batch with a potential ooops I’m going to shut down issue.

Here’s another one from Warkworth Castle: the Keep:

Warkworth Keep

Warkworth Keep

Camera: X-T2
Aperture: ƒ/8
Shutter speed: 1/180s
Focal length: 28.3mm
ISO: 200
Taken: 22 May, 2017
Location: 55° 20.7151′ 0″ N 1° 36.7225′ 0″ W

Apple AirPods

OK, the Amazon link on the left[1] is included for comedy reasons only. At the moment, these are in short supply, leading to naughty people on the Amazon Marketplace trying to charge nearly twice the actual price of the product.

But hey, I managed to buy mine in the Newcastle Apple Store a couple of weeks ago (they had three in stock at the time), so I’d suggest you try your nearest Apple Store, or just wait a while if you’re interested.

And I can already hear you asking why I got these. Surely those nice Bose wireless headphones are more than up to the job? Well, yes they are, and they’re still working nicely, thanks for asking, but sometimes it would be nice to have something a wee bit, you know, smaller, something easier to take off and put away, something that isn’t going to mess up your hair or get caught up if I raise my coat’s hood.

And so, when Apple announced these, I was intrigued. I waited until I’d seen some reports from people who’d actually used them before buying, as I’ve had poor experiences with in-ear phones before.

Anyway, to summarise what you probably already know:

These are wireless earbuds with an added twist of Apple cleverness. Rather than the usual pair of buds connected by a cable[2], these are two genuinely separate items. They come with a case that has a Lightning port for charging, and the case in turn charges the AirPods. There’s a single LED inside the case that does two things: with the AirPods in their sockets, it indicates their charge level – green for fully charged. Remove the buds and it’ll show the charge level of the case. A Lightning cable is included in the box, but no plug charger, presumably on the grounds that anyone who buys these probably doesn’t need another one.

Now getting Bluetooth devices to work with phones and computers is often a frustrating experience, he said politely. Well, it’s often an exercise in staring at your devices and pointing while shouting

It’s right next to you, what do you mean you can’t find it?

Devices arbitrarily lose all recollection of things they’ve been paired with and sometimes need to be removed, reconnected, wrapped in clingfilm, fed to a goat, extracted from its poop and recharged before they’ll work. I may be exaggerating a bit there, but not by much. So what have Apple done about that?

To pair with your iPhone, you hold the case next to it and open the lid. So long as you’ve updated to a suitably modern version of iOS, that’s it. AirPods are now able to play sound from your iPhone. And that would be quite clever enough, but there’s more. If your Mac is using the same iCloud account as your iPhone, it’s auto-bloody-matically able to use the AirPods as well. Just have them close enough and you’ll be able to select them as a device from the volume control in the menu bar.

There are no physical controls on the AirPods – no volume control, no play/pause/answer calls, but a tap will activate Siri, who will do things if you ask nicely. Personally, this isn’t an issue for me – the only control I ever used on the Bose headphones was the on/off switch, which isn’t needed here, as in a bout of extreme joined up thinking, the music stops as soon as you take one of the buds out of an ear, and it restarts when you replace it, making them ideal for any interaction with humans that you might find yourself obliged to engage in. If you have an Apple Watch, you’ll probably be used to controlling your music from your wrist, anyway, so you won’t miss the inline controller of Apple’s wired earbuds.

A common problem with earbuds (certainly for me) is that they’re often uncomfortable to wear (even the ones with numerous alternative rubber of foam tips), or have an annoying tendency to drop out. How do the AirPods cope?

Surprisingly well, as it happens. I’ve been wearing them on my journeys to and from work for the last couple of weeks, and I’m happy to say that they haven’t annoyed my ears at all. And, apart from on the first day I wore them, when I suspect I just hadn’t put them in quite right, they’ve stayed firmly in place, even when it’s been a bit windy and I’ve been walking around. I’ve heard reports from people who indulge in a strange activity called “running”[3] that even this doesn’t dislodge them, though as always, your ears may differ, insert disclaimer, etc.

But the main requirement is, of course, the sound. Well, overall, they’re not as loud as my Bose phones, but they’re as loud as I need my music to be consistent with still being able to hear traffic. The sound quality is clear and good enough for moving around – a test at home suggests that it’s actually very good when there’s no background noise to distract.

So, overall, I rather like them. There is the concern that these little things might be a bit easy to lose, of course. Apple will replace a single AirPod for less than half the price of a new set, or so I understand – though I’d suggest not losing any until the stock situation settles down.

Hmm, that’s my longest post for ages. Who’d have thought I’d manage over 900 words on a pair of earbuds?

[1] Assuming your ad blocker isn’t hiding it
[2] I had a pair like that, they just wouldn’t stay in my ears
[3] I wouldn’t know…

Weight and Stuff Report – 14 January 2017

Down again today, woo, hoo. Only a load more to go…

If you’re reading this on the actual site rather than looking at the preview on Facebook, you’ll see I’m quoting two different step counts. One comes from the Withings app (the larger one) and the other from Apple’s own Health app, which likes to chat to my Apple Watch. I’ve no idea which is more accurate…

I persuaded myself that I really should go out for a bit today, even though it was a wee bit chilly. After the usual bout of dithering, I went to Tynemouth for a quick look around, where I spotted this arriving:

Arrival

Arrival

Camera: X-T2
Aperture: ƒ/7.1
Shutter speed: 1/1400s
Focal length: 55mm
ISO: 200
Taken: 14 January, 2017

Shame I hadn’t arrived a bit earlier, to get a better view, really. But I did get another shot after it had moved up the Tyne a bit:

Boat

Boat

Camera: X-T2
Aperture: ƒ/5
Shutter speed: 1/1400s
Focal length: 140mm
ISO: 200
Taken: 14 January, 2017

 

TiV-Noooooooooooooo

I’ve had my Virgin Media TiVo box for longer than I realised – over four and a half years, which is quite a long time for a thing with a hard disk that does a lot of large writes. Lately, I’d noticed occasional problems which made me wonder if the disk was beginning to suffer – it would randomly pause on playback, or there would be brief burst of odd digital blockiness. But as these were intermittent and infrequent, I just mentally filed them as something to think about later.

Then on Tuesday night, there was an overnight power cut. The TiVo has survived plenty of these in the past without any problem, but this must have been just enough to send it over the  edge. As it happened, I didn’t switch it on at all on Wednesday (wine club after work), but when I got home on Thursday, I noticed something odd. The TiVo doesn’t have much of a display – just a couple of rows of LEDs, which indicate things like “having a signal”, “being switched on” and “recording”. I’d never seen anything other than red or green lights, so I was a little surprised to see a blue one. I didn’t even know it had any…

So I switched it on and was greeted by this:

It's dead, Jim

It’s dead, Jim

Oh. I left it to reboot itself. Again. And again. At this point, I decided I wanted to watch some things, and used the built-in on demand services on my TV. Which worked nicely.

I left the TiVo to talk to itself overnight, and as it was doing the same thing on Friday morning, I did a bit of research and found that this display means pretty much what I suspected: the hard disk is an ex-hard disk. This means I’ve lost my recordings (not a major problem, as the only unwatched stuff can mostly be found in iPlayer and other such things) and my recording set up (numerous things set to record whenever they appear). Recreating that for current shows will be easy, and I’ll have to keep an eye on the listings for the rest.

Reading on the forums suggested that Virgin often just send out a replacement box rather than sending out a technician. I’d have been fine with that, but it would probably have left me TiVoless for a few days. So, I called the customer support number, where the automated wossnames took me though various steps before passing me to a human (their automated thingy is now actually pretty good, and can do useful things like checking your kit remotely). The human asked me to do the traditional business of turning the power off and on again, which made no difference, as I expected. He then said that the best thing would be to send someone out, which suited me fine. The first available time would be Saturday (that’s today, the day after placing the call) between 8am and 12 noon, and would that be OK? Well, that was ideal.

And the Virgin Media man arrived nice and early, only it seems he wasn’t given a proper report of the fault, so he had to go away again to pick up a replacement TiVo. He found one of his colleagues in the area rather than going back to base.

He then removed the old TiVo, hooked up the new one (the box looks identical other than having a Samsung[1] badge on it rather than a Cisco one), and did the setting up bit (basically, allocating the new box to my account, and letting it update itself. Everything worked the first time, and he was gone by just after 9:30.

I’ve set all current programmes to record, and I’ll just have to watch the TV listings for the rest. And I spent a few hours today watching the things I’d recorded on the old box using iPlayer and other services. The TiVo is good for that, as if you find a programme in the guide, or search for it, it helpfully offers a link to episodes available on catch up.

So, job done, problem solved, satisfied customer.

[1] This means that my AV setup – TV, soundbar, Blu-Ray player and TiVo are all Samsung. The only exception is the Apple TV. Oh, and the clever remote control thingy…

Weight and Stuff Report – 7 November 2015

An insignificant rise today…

As the end of my week off has arrived, I was hoping to get out somewhere today, but as it was a wee bit damp this morning[1], I wasn’t too sure about what I’d manage to do. But just after 9:30 the decision was made for me by the arrival of an email and about a second later, a phone call. Both were from the Apple Store telling me that my iMac was ready for collection, having had its new 3TB disk fitted.

I decided to go to the MetroCentre first and actually did some shopping this time[2] before going to Newcastle where the rain had actually taken a break, so I was able to collect my iMac and get the bus home (if it had been raining, I’d have called a taxi). Got it home and connected it up, and ran into a slight issue – being a fresh install of OS X, it didn’t know about my new keyboard and trackpad, so I had to drag out the old USB keyboard and mouse. Once that was working, it asked me if I wanted to restore from a Time Machine backup (which I did), so I told it which disk to use. It then had a good look, and worked out how much work it had to do (it didn’t quite scream “how much?!?”), then let me click the continue button.

As watching that kind of thing is a bit boring, I popped out again for some more shopping (my coffee supply was getting low), and then came back home. The iMac is still restoring with one of those ever-changing time estimates. It will be nice to get back to a full-sized screen…

Today’s photo is another one from my South Shields walk. I spotted this bird[3] struggling with what I guessed at the time was an eel[4]. It kept disappearing under the water. I’m not entirely sure who won…

Lunch

Lunch

Camera: X-T1
Aperture: ƒ/10
Shutter speed: 1/500s
Focal length: 135mm
ISO: 5000
Taken: 5 November, 2015
Location: 55° 0.0906′ 0″ N 1° 26.4199′ 0″ W

[1] Note: possible use of understatement
[2] Makes a change…
[3] Ornithological updates welcome
[4] And a close version of the photo suggests that it is just that

Weight and Stuff Report – 2 November 2015

Down again as the wild oscillations go on.

Today’s fun and games started with taking my iMac into the Apple Store. This wasn’t just so it could visit its relations, it was to leave it behind for some surgery. There wasn’t anything actually wrong with it, but it’s one of a batch whose hard disk might fail at some premature point, so Apple offered a free replacement service. And so I made arrangements to drop it in today. It’ll be in for a few days, so I’ll be working on the MacBook Air…

After that, I had a look around town, popped over to the Metrocentre, where I decided not to bother going to the cinema, but did have some lunch before coming home.

This is a detail of Micklegate Bar in York:

Renovated in 1728...

Renovated in 1728…

Camera: X-T1
Aperture: ƒ/7.1
Shutter speed: 1/500s
Focal length: 122.6mm
ISO: 640
Taken: 24 October, 2015
Location: 53° 57.3749′ 0″ N 1° 5.4051′ 0″ W

Weight and Stuff Report – 1 November 2015

Back up a significant amount today, in the usual random way. I’ve been having a mostly relaxed day in. The most I’ve done is disconnecting my iMac and packing it into its box ready for taking to the Apple Store tomorrow. It’s not unwell, but Apple are doing a pre-emptive free replacement of the hard drive as it’s one of a batch that might fail prematurely. Nice. Of course, moving it exposed all the dust badgers[1] lurking behind it, so I had to give the desk and all the other bits and bobs a good wipe down, and rearranged things a bit ready for the iMac’s return.

Here’s a view of Tynemouth Castle:

The Gate

The Gate

Camera: X-T1
Aperture: ƒ/10
Shutter speed: 1/500s
Focal length: 18.5mm
ISO: 1600
Taken: 31 October, 2015
Location: 55° 1.0683′ 0″ N 1° 25.2162′ 0″ W

[1] These are like the more common dust bunnies, only larger and with nastier teeth

Bose SoundLink On Ear Bluetooth Headphones

Headphones. I must have had dozens of the things over the years. Big ones, small ones, wired ones, wireless ones, comfortable ones, uncomfortable ones, well-made ones and completely rubbish ones. But for reasons that don’t really make a lot of sense, I keep trying to get the elusive Perfect Pair.

Ten years ago, I got my first Bluetooth phones, which turned out to be carefully designed to crack in such a way as to stop them working. I’ve had quite nice in-ear ones, but I’ve been finding those increasingly uncomfortable to use – no matter what kind of material is used, the bits that go in my ears either don’t fit very well or are irritating. So, after trying all manner of things, I’ve reverted to on-ear phones. That’s the moderately large kind rather than the enormous over ear kind that cover your whole ear. I tried a Sennheiser wireless set, but found they had two problems: one was that even at maximum extension, they weren’t a good fit for my admittedly large head, and the other was a distinct lack of volume – OK when pottering around at home, but not so good when out and about. And it’s not that I listen to music at extreme levels – I like it loud enough to hear clearly, but not so loud as to drown out my surroundings completely. I then got a much better pair of Sennhesier (see, no hard feelings about the wireless ones) on-ear phones, which were pretty good, if a bit bulky.

But then I got this watch thing, which I still haven’t posted about. And that lets me control the music playing on the iPhone (and yeah, I’ve got one of those to talk about, too), so the previous need for controls on a cable, and indeed a cable at all, seemed to have gone away. So I started looking at wireless phones again. I saw these in a shop, and tried them out. Ooooh. Comfortable. And Oooooh, loud enough.

So after Much Dithering[1] and muttering[2] I bought them from Amazon.

So, what do we get for the slightly expensive price?[3] Well, you get a well-built pair of headphones which expand enough to fit my head comfortably. There’s a nice bit of padding on the headband and the earcups (removable and replaceable covers). The ear bits fold nicely inwards for storage, making them a lot more travel-friendly, as does the supplied soft zip-equipped case (nicely designed for an exact fit, with a nice little piece to separate the ear cups. There’s a cable you can use to connect to your devices in the event that the battery dies or the device doesn’t have Bluetooth and a standard mini-USB cable for charging (no mains plug, which seems sensible enough, as it wouldn’t fir in the pouch and most people have computers or chargers already.

They arrived with more than enough charge  to get me home, which was nice. Pairing is simply a matter of sliding the on-off switch all the way up. The phones can remember multiple devices and some variety of jiggery-pokery[4] lets you switch between them. There are the usual volume and control buttons for managing music and phone calls, but I find it easier to use the phone or watch to do that.

The sound quality, as you might expect from Bose, is excellent[5], and capable of being much louder than I want or need it to.

Now the other thing about wireless headphones that’s often a cause of weeping, wailing and quite likely gnashing of teeth, is battery life. In most cases it’s basically useless. These, perhaps partly because they’re on the larger size, are different. For a start, when you switch them on, a little voice in your ear announces the current battery level as a percentage before reminding you what device they’re paired with. During the first week, they kept insisting the level was 100%. I assumed they were lying, as battery powered devices often do. But four weeks later, without a recharge, and with around an hour’s use on each working day, the level is down to 40%. So it’ll probably be another couple of weeks before I need to connect that USB lead. To be honest, I’d have been happy enough with a week’s use on a single charge, so a month or more is really very good.

So, count this as a medium-term report. No annoyances so far, and lots to like. The only negative point is the slightly unfriendly price…

[1] A village in Suffolk, I think
[2] Much of which was about whether I wanted the black (discrete but boring) or white (vivid by matching my phone) ones
[3] Bose appear to have an Apple-like degree of control over prices – I looked around a fair bit, and didn’t find any variation in retail prices…
[4] I’d have to RTFM
[5] For my music and my ears, anyway.