Tag Archives: iphone

Shock! Horror!! QR codes become useful!

QR codes, you know the things I mean, this sort of thing:

Scan me

Scan me

The idea is that you wave you smartphone at it and it does something – usually takes you to a website. You used to need a special app for that, but these days the camera app on iPhones can do it – it pops up a notification offering to go to the site.

Despite the best efforts of marketing people, they never really seemed to catch on (there’s an old joke that the only people who regularly used them were those same marketing people). This left them as a solution in search of a problem.

Well, it seems some people have started finding problems. For instance, my local bus company sells weekly season tickets. You buy these from the driver on the bus and until recently you just had to show them as you got on. Simple. Fine for passengers, but possibly not so good for the company, who had to rely on drivers having the concentration and inclination to make sure the expiry date printed on the ticket hadn’t passed. And while they’d have an idea of how many journeys were made by people with such tickets, they had no idea how many were made by individuals. Were a small number of people making lots of journeys while most made just a few? This is the sort of thing companies like to know as it helps them decide on what prices they can get away with are appropriate.

So, enter the QR code. They’ve invested in fancy new ticket machines, which quite apart from letting you buy single or daily tickets with contactless payments, now print QR codes on multi-use tickets such as day returns or weekly ones. You pop your QR code under a scanner as you get on, and the machine beeps. They now know that a ticket bought at your stop is used mumble times in a week, which is probably very important to them. Unlike their mobile tickets thingy, this isn’t personally identifiable data, but still of value, I’m sure.

Here’s what it looks like (and yes, my phone did offer to do a search for the translation of the code):

Ticket to ride

Ticket to ride

They use a sticky thingy to hold the paper ticket, so it doesn’t fall apart. And that ticket expires today, so don’t bother trying to print it out and use it!

But there’s more. Tesco (large UK supermarket chain, for non-UK readers) now have a payment app on iOS and Android. The idea is you link it to your Clubcard account (loyalty card thingy) and add one or more payment cards – the phone camera scans the card for the number and expiry date, and you have to add some other details. You can then, if you’re so inclined, use the app when shopping. You authenticate (PIN code or thumbprint) and select which card you want to use if you’ve stored more than one. It then displays, you guessed it a QR code, which the cashier scans. The code changes every ten seconds, so it presumably includes a time code. Whether this is a good idea or not I’m not sure. Marginally more convenient than inserting a card and entering a PIN as well as presenting your Clubcard (got to give them lots of lovely data, err, get your points), about the same as tapping a card for a contactless payment, but without the relatively low transaction limit.

So there you are: QR codes actually being used. Who’d have thought it?

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….

Weight and Stuff Report – 24 May 2017

Weight: 236.4 pounds (16 stone 12.4 pounds, 107.2 kg)
Steps: 9,689

OK, let’s get the dramatic weight figure out of the way first – that’s a measurement taken just after getting home on a warm day after doing a fair bit of walking, so it’s definitely a temporary thingy. But it is the lowest weight of the year so far, which means I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.

While I was waiting for my iPhone to have its new battery fitted yesterday, I had a bit of a wander, and picked up some “places to go” leaflets. One was for the Washington[1] Wetland Centre, a place I’ve been vaguely aware of, but had never got round to visiting. Well, today I found that tuit and headed off. Getting there involves a bus to Washington Galleries, then another one to Waterview Park (that’s the No 8), and from there it’s a short walk to the centre. Admission (with the ubiquitous Gift Aid) was £10.40 – you can save a bit of money by buying tickets online in advance if you’re so inclined.

Once in, you’re free to walk around a large site with an amazing variety of birdlife – more varieties of swans than I knew existed[2], geese, ducks, flamingoes, otters. Err, hold on, otters aren’t actually birds, but they’re part of the package, so there. You get to walk though woodland, along a ludicrously scenic part of the River Wear, and wear[3] your feet out. The site cafe provided a perfectly delicious brie sandwich, and I enjoyed the experience enormously.

If you’re going, allow several hours – it’ll take that long to just walk around all the paths, depending on how long you take to watch the birdies.

Numerous photos have, of course, been taken, but for now here’s a lovely black swan:

Black Swan

Black Swan

Camera: X-T2
Aperture: ƒ/8
Shutter speed: 1/120s
Focal length: 115mm
ISO: 200
Taken: 24 May, 2017

[1] Note for any US readers: this is the original Washington, not any leftpondian version
[2] I’m not an ornithologist…
[3] Included so I can mention that Wear and wear aren’t pronounced the same

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

Weight and Stuff Report – 26 February 2017

As I suspected, yesterday’s low was a temporary wossname, and I’m back up today.

And what a fun day! My washing machine decided to break! Fortunately, I’d done one load, and I can survive without doing the rest until the service person comes on Thursday. Not a major catastrophic break, as far as I can tell – it’s just that the thingy that holds the control buttons has detached itself, making the buttons inaccessible…

Here’s another recent iPhone photo of part of New(Castle)2 and the cathedral, which has been mucked about with[1] a bit:

Black Gate and Cathedral

Black Gate and Cathedral

Camera: iPhone 6s
Aperture: ƒ/2.2
Shutter speed: 1/640s
Focal length: 4.15mm
ISO: 25
Taken: 24 February, 2017
Location: 54° 58.142′ 0″ N 1° 36.648′ 0″ W

[1] Technical photographer’s expression

 

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 – 11 January 2017

Up again today…

Had a short walk at lunchtime, mostly for the essential monthly purchase of a kilo of coffee beans from those nice Pumphreys people in the Grainger Market[1], but also to have a look at some local minor drama. In high winds overnight, part of the roof of Eldon Square shopping centre decided it would like to take up a new career at ground level, resulting in the closure of Newgate Street. I took this photo with my iPhone showing the scene at lunchtime – you can see the overhanging bit of roof that might just do some more falling, a fire brigade inspection platform that was on its way down when I arrived, and some of the chunks of roof – looks like some kind of insulation material

Errrr, oops?

Errrr, oops?

Camera: iPhone 6s
Aperture: ƒ/2.2
Shutter speed: 1/1600s
Focal length: 4.15mm
ISO: 25
Taken: 11 January, 2017
Location: 54° 58.3532′ 0″ N 1° 37.0453′ 0″ W

Weight and Stuff Report – 8 September 2016

Oddly down today.

It was a slightly different working day, as a couple of hours of it was taken up by my boss and me being taken to lunch by a supplier. This doesn’t happen often, and unlike some such things included and actually productive discussion as well as some rather nice food (the duck breast being particularly tasty).

But on a less light note, I’m afraid the time has come to say goodbye. No, no, calm down, I’m not going anywhere, but three of my friends are:

Goodbyeeeeee...

Goodbyeeeeee…

Camera: X70
Aperture: ƒ/10
Shutter speed: 1/30s
Focal length: 18.5mm
ISO: 6400
Taken: 8 September, 2016

Yes, that’s my sadly neglected X100S and X100T being prepared to be sent away to be converted into money. But wait! What’s that?!?! Surely Les can’t be selling his lovely X-T1?? Well, yes, he can.  This is of course, part of a Cunning Plan which will involve something else for my lovely Fuji lenses to connect to, but that’s still to come.

But, but, I hear you cry, how will Les cope without his trusty X-T1 for days, or (depending on deliveries) even weeks?!? Well, I think I’ll manage. It’s not like I don’t have a decent camera that fits nicely into a pocket, after all. No, not the iPhone, the dinky little X70!

Always have a backup

Always have a backup

It’s the X70 that made me decide that I didn’t need to keep the X100T, and as the X100S has just been sitting on the shelf, it made sense for that to go at the same time. And as the X-T1 has to go, its vertical battery grip is off as well.

All of this won’t quite cover the cost of the Exciting New Toy, but does make it affordable now rather than later. And I’ve adopted a ruthless approach to cameras – don’t keep the kit you don’t use, especially if someone will buy it off you!

Weight and Stuff Report – 26 August 2016

If you’re reading this on Facebook, make sure to click through, or you’ll miss an more interesting photo than the one of me, and loads of words about my day off.

Back up a bit today, ho hum, never mind, etc.

Having worked in Birmingham last weekend, I decided to make the most of the long weekend by having an extra day off, which is what I did today.

I was awake at least as early as usual[1], and once I’d aught up with things, I headed into Gateshead to do some essential tasks:

  1. Renew the travel pass that expired the day I went to Birmingham, so I won’t need to keep buying individual tickets
  2. Pick up my prescription from Boots (I take these pills, you know)
  3. Pour the contents of my penny jar[2] into the machine[3] in Tesco’s

All tasks were completed successfully. The final one was more successful than my best guess – I was hoping for around £100, but it turned out to be £131 after the machine’s commission, which came in handy for my next set of tasks

Well, having got up and out moderately early, something was missing: breakfast. So I went to Frankie & Benny’s, where for a change I had their larger “Pappa Grande” option, which comes with more bacon, and extra sausage, a big potato rosti thingy and a slice of black pudding, which was previously removed from the menu. Oh, and toast is included. It was a big breakfast, and I ate the lot, making lunch unnecessary today. And it seems it’s a good job I went when I did, as the owners of the chain are reported to be planning to close the Gateshead Frankie & Benny’s, which isn’t good at all.

After that, I went to Newcastle for more essential tasks – it was time to buy coffee beans from those nice Pumphreys people in the Grainger Market. And then I needed a haircut. Well, I’ve needed one for about a month, but never seemed to have the chance at lunchtime, and everywhere is too busy at weekends. The cheaper place I usually go to had a lot of people waiting (all seats taken), so I went in search of alternatives. The more expensive place I’ve been to in the past is now appointments only, which doesn’t work for me, so I decided to give Supercuts a try. They’ve been around forever, but for some reason I’ve never been in. They’re strictly walk in, no appointments, and I was told I’d have to wait half an hour. Well, there were seats, the ambient temperature was comfortable, and I had my iPhone with me, so I said that was fine. In the event, my wait was closer to ten minutes[5].

After a brief discussion, and a quick attack of the clippers, my hair was washed, cut, styled and generally given a good seeing to. Price was a wee bit cheaper than the more expensive place, but quite a lot more than the cheaper place, but they don’t do the washing bit there, being more of a standard barber.

So, err, here’s the hair:

That'll be me

That’ll be me

I came home briefly, picked up my X-T1 and headed out, with no definite plan in mind. I decided it was a bit late in the day to aim for Blyth to see the Tall Ships (maybe tomorrow), so I settled for a short walk along the coast from Tynemouth, and then a bus back to Newcastle, and another one home.

Here’s a view of the old pool at Tynemouth. There is talk of restoration and making use of it again, which would be good. It’s also a view of the beach. It was also a test of Snapheal, one of the MacPhun tools, which I used to remove some humans who got into the shot where I didn’t want them to be. Silly humans.

The old pool

The old pool

Camera: X-T1
Aperture: ƒ/11
Shutter speed: 1/500s
Focal length: 16mm
ISO: 250
Taken: 26 August, 2016
Location: 55° 1.3412′ 0″ N 1° 25.2878′ 0″ W

[1] Though I did go to be early, so waking up early may be related to that…
[2] I call it a penny jar, but it gets all my change from 20p coins downwards, so maybe I should rename it
[3] These things no charge 9.9% commission, which is a bit steep, but I’d rather pay than spend hours sorting, counting and bagging coins, not to mention queuing in the bank several times[4]
[4] Mine has limits on how many bags they’ll take in a single transaction, and I’d have had loads
[5] This was either luck, or clever management of expectations[6]
[6] AKA the Scotty time estimate method

Weight and Stuff Report – 18 August 2016

Unsurprisingly back up after yesterday’s record low, but that was this morning, before I did a load of manual labour in Solihull. On the other hand, it was also before a pizza and a glass or two of wine, so it probably balances out.

It’s warm, and I’m in the midlands. The aircon is on, but it hasn’t cooled me down yet.

Here’s a quick iPhone photo I took on the way back to my hotel

St Martin's Church, Bullring

St Martin’s Church, Bullring

Camera: iPhone 6s
Aperture: ƒ/2.2
Shutter speed: 1/35s
Focal length: 4.15mm
ISO: 250
Taken: 18 August, 2016
Location: 52° 28.6253′ 0″ N 1° 53.6208′ 0″ W
Update: any previous caption describing the church as Birmingham Cathedral are all in your imagination.