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Archive for the ‘iPad’ Category

Watching your Favourite Movies on Holiday

tmpBCCFSince the release of NetFlix in the UK (for American readers – we know – we’re miles behind on this) I’ve been avidly catching up on movies I’ve missed and old TV shows. How? Well, Netflix is a streaming video service which not only has movies like LoveFilm but also has many hundreds of TV series – yes, not just shows but entire series..

Given half-decent bandwidth you can watch stuff in pretty high quality on your iPad, iPhone or Apple TV – even Android has "an App for that".

The first hurdle however comes when you try watch your favourite American shows on NetFlix – guess what – we don’t have them. Some of the best stuff is unavailable to a UK audience and worse, when you go on holiday, let’s say, for the sake of argument, SPAIN…

tmpAF97

The same of course applies to the BBC iPlayer. Now, I understand copyright… we can’t have the Spanish watching stuff for which they don’t have an agreement. BUT.. HEY BUDDY – I PAID FOR THIS ALREADY.   I paid my TV licence which means BBC content is as much mine as any other Brits… and I’m paying £6 for NetFlix – so why CAN’T I watch my shows?

Finally, ever been overseas and gotten yourself annoyed at foreign adverts on your browser, or perhaps Google comes up in the wrong version… same issue… read on.

Answer part ONE: There are solutions for these issues and more. All of these country checks rely on your IP address to figure out where you are in the world.. and if they spot that you are not where you should be – you get messages like the one above…. so what you need is something that gives you an IP address of the country you’re supposed to be in – so in the case of the iPlayer, the UK and ideally for NetFlix – the USA.

If you don’t know what an IP address is, it’s a number you’re given when you connect to the Internet. PCs don’t use names for addresses, they use numbers, the net naming system is just for our benefit.

VPNs (virtual Private Networks) can be used for the purpose of pretending you are somewhere else  and, in fact, any broadband router worth a light (so that excludes BT routers) will have VPN capability built in – so in theory on holiday you could route back into your own home in the UK… but there’s a catch. Your home broadband would no doubt pull in the movies at high speed – but it’s SENDING (upload) capability is probably RUBBISH… typical UK upload speeds are less than 1 meg – not good enough.

tmpEE3ESo what you need is a package of high-speed VPNs in various countries – without breaking the bank. HIDEMYASS does this – and so now, sitting here in Spain I have access to VPNs all over the place, England, France, USA etc. All I have to do is connect my iPad to the Internet, run up the VPN for say America – and Bobs your uncle – I look like I’m in the USA so NetFlix puts up the right information.

And that’s wonderful, PC, iPad, Apple TV and…. erm, no.  Over here the broadband speed is not that fast, it’s 1 MByte or so in each direction, being a WIMAX setup with an aerial on my window and a very LARGE aerial in the village below.  Add to that the slight drop in using the VPN and the quality is awful.

Answer part TWO: While it is customary to knock old fashioned PCs and even more old-fashioned FLASH, the fact is that while newer formats such as that found on the iPad and Apple TV offer GREAT quality, they are not so clever on limited bandwidth.. The humble Windows 7 PC when running Netflix and the iPlayer uses FLASH and it’s actually quite reasonable on rubbish bandwidth.

Plugged into a large LCD TV we’re sitting here enjoying the best of American and British TV and movies without a Spanish advert in sight… the only thing that’s missing is a handy remote control. Ok you’re not going to get the latest Sky series but they’ll end up Netflix eventually – just a matter of time.

Fist thing I’m doing when I get back is looking for a half-decent second hand laptop to be the new media centre – with these new tools (and CatchupTV) it’s finally possible to manage without a satellite or aerial – not before time… and as broadband speeds increase, it can only get better.

Planning a trip abroad? Like your TV – now you know how to get what you want, where you want it.

Apple TV2 Jailbroken

tmpC8D1Some time ago, I took my (then) Apple iPhone 3GS and jail-broke it. Why? Because I could and because I was sick of Orange trying to charge £10 a month for letting me share the 3G connection with my laptop.

That’s all history now, Orange have been kicked into touch in favour of the vastly superior THREE company and I now share unlimited 3G with my various devices.. When I moved up to the iPhone 4 I really could not see the point of jailbreaking the phone – but the Apple TV2 is different.  One of the biggest uses for Apple TV is to watch movies and guess what – you’re stuck with iTunes on your PC and Apple format movies.

Neither of the above is a problem for me – but converting movies to Apple format is not something your average person has much time for (couple of hours per video)… and so I took the plunge and had the thing jailbroken using the latest Sn0wbreeze (yup, that is spelled correctly).

The process is easy enough and takes a matter of half an hour including setup but the results are spectacular. Now I can watch movies and listen to music in a variety of formats. Not only that but I also have access to a NetGear ReadyNas Duo, an inexpensive and rather neat network backup device which just happens to be able to stream to the Apple TV – which means no more need to leave a computer on to access movies, pictures and music on the Apple TV. Between the low cost of Apple TV2 (sub-£100) and the Duo ~(sub-£100 excluding disks) – and the nature of the Duo which means with 2 disks you have redundancy (both store identical content – so if one disk goes down you continue on as normal) I now have a reliable solution for handling media at home without using a PC and without lengthy media conversion to suit Apple. It just so happens that software is available for both iPad and iPhone to handle this scenario also.

So is it worth jailbreaking the Apple TV2?  Most definitely – but if it turns your box into a stone – you are of course on your own – follow the Sn0wbreeze instructions carefully.

The Future’s Bright, the Future’s THREE

As regular readers will know I’ve been struggling with Orange incompetence for years now, if it’s not been poor customer service, it’s been lack of signal (there is no Orange signal in my village, hasn’t been for the last decade and now I understand they have no plans to do anything about this – despite claiming they put applications in on more than one occasion for masts – I just don’t buy this).

Anyway having discovered that someone has already successfully won a legal case to get out of their contract because of lack of signal, I convinced Orange to let me go without a penalty.

Armed with that freedom I headed off to the THREE store. Why THREE? Well, I already use (and recommend) their MIFI units and perhaps contrary to what you might think, they have quite an impressive coverage in the UK, at least everywhere I’ve tried up to now. They are also FAR more realistic with data, offering up to 15GIG a month data on their MIFI units. Better, on their iPhone deals, the offer a flat-rate package at £35 a month that gives “all-you-can-eat” data.

Now, we’ve all heard that from the other operators who until recently claimed “unlimited” broadband then when you read the fine print it’s a con – they have “fair use” policies which means the claim of unlimited is really a downright lie.

So I checked – according to THREE, “all you can eat” means unlimited data with no fair use policy.  Further, unlike Orange who charge an extra TEN POUNDS a month to share phone data with a laptop, sharing with the laptop is INCLUDED in the deal.

For reasons well beyond me the fellow at the THREE store thought this did not include iPads which would not work – but I remember standing outside the store thinking “But if you share over WIFI how on earth would it distinguish an iPad from a laptop?” and sure enough I was right, the iPhone will take in 3G, spit out WIFI and share it with any device that works on WIFI AND yes it will handle VPNs for those who need to log into work.

So, armed with my new phone and new company I headed off from Hexham for a trip to Blackpool, Internet radio (the American BIG CHEESE radio station) running on the phone…  and in a trip taking over 2 hours, I lost no more than a couple of minutes of radio time. Bye Bye BBC!

Jailbreak iPhone 3GS (later model) with IOS 4.3.2

For many years I used Microsoft’s Smartphones and 18 months ago I took the plunge and moved to iPhone, which apart from the odd yearning for Android I’ve never really regretted. The one thing that REALLY gets me annoyed when I think about it is the inability to share my connection from my Orange iPhone – with my laptop – or more importantly, the iPad. With the MS phone it was simply a matter of paying $20 for something called WMWIFIROUTER, a piece of software which shared the connection over WIFI with my laptop.  Turn it on and bingo – the laptop gets a WIFI connection from the phone’s 3G connection. 

I really can’t handle Orange’s restrictive practices on this, helped by Apple who provide the facility to share WIFI then block it so that Orange can charge a staggering EXTRA £10 for the facility to work – and remember I’m paying something like £30 a month to start with for the privilege of limited (something like 3 gig) data on the iPhone.  Come end of contract I’ll be looking to THREE, who offer their MIFI units with “all you can eat” data, WAY more minute and WAY more texts than Orange for only marginally more outlay. Hopefully by the time my contract is out that difference in cost will disappear (the above with THREE is £35 a month – I don’t know if they include tethering).

In the meantime – the iPhone 3GS is now 18 month old, I have a few months left before considering when to upgrade and what to upgrade to.. and so I thought I’d take a look at jailbreaking the phone – which simply means removing Apple’s ultimate control over it.

iPhone with CydiaRedsn0w ( http://blog.iphone-dev.org/ ) will jailbreak all but the iPad2 and so I downloaded the program to my Windows 7 PC after much reading on the subject. Well, of course it didn’t work – turns out you need to use the program in XP SP3 compatible mode – but hey, it’s free – who’s complaining! A simply right-click option on the shortcut did the job.

Minutes later, one jailbroken iPhone – it really is that simple – note the new brown icon in the photo on the right – except – that Cydia, the repository for jailbroken apps – is currently having issues with Amazon who provide their storage…  basically for now it’s bust – Amazon have been unable to provide them with working connectivity for around 3 days now – absolutely amazing.  So I figured I’d have to wait patiently, not something I do well, for them to get their act together so I could go and grab the relevant software to make my phone, once more into a handy source of signal for the iPad and laptop when on the road, however it turns out that you can grab free programs while the service is down – you just can’t get the paid versions.  I’ve grabbed PDANET and within seconds had it sending a password-protected WIFI signal to my iPad. No problem at all. Until the site is up I’m restricted to http: sites and not secure ones but no doubt that’ll be resolved within the next day or so.

Of course, I have a MIFI unit which provides WIFI access – but that’s on THREE – and there are believe it or not times when Orange’s signal is the stronger.. so now I have the best of both worlds. More on this when Cydia is NOT bust.

Video for Skype and iPhone

I never thought I’d see the day, but Skype have video running on the iPhone and iPad. Not much fun for Android or Windows Phone users but for Apples fans – a great day…

Head on over to Scargill’s iPad site for more info.

http://ipad.scargill.net/2010/12/30/skype-video-on-iphone-and-ipadat-last/

iPad Killers?

We keep hearing about Android tablets  – what do we see in the shops or on the web that’s actually for SALE? A solitary Galaxy Tab which is selling well but is a bit on the small side and hardly “thin” – and that’s about it – other tablets are either still in the works, still using older versions of Android – or recalled. Meanwhile the iPad has it’s new operating system upgrade, new Apps updates and now there is Apple TV -  which means that thanks to the REMOTE app, you can now use your iPad or even iPhone to control your TV, browse your music selection, make playlists and more.

I can’t think of a better gimmick for parties right now than to appear armed with wireless iPad and offer to let guests make their own music selections.  It all works and the Apple TV product is cheap.

Chances of getting compatible software on an Android device in the near future? I don’t think so.. all we need now is for SKYPE and APPLE to get their act together and put Skype video on the iPhone 4.

 

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Peter Scargill

One of Those Days

I thought yesterday was bad enough… the twin car batteries I use for handling mains drop-outs here in Wark had been acting up for some time and I’d been getting unexplained drop-outs where our broadband router would just drop out for no reason – but it wasn’t until yesterday I put it all together – the batteries were dry as a BONE. I’ve refilled them but I’m thinking it may be too late for them. But today has been FAR more interesting.

It certainly has been one of those days. The Merc collapsed last night – front legs gave up altogether. Maureen woke me up to announce that it was sitting on the front driveway with the front wheels buried in the wheel arches. Merc in their usual “make a mountain out of a molehill” manner managed to come up with a bill of around a grand to fix this. Can you imagine… you could buy a brand new motor scooter in Carrefour for that amount of money.

tmp6C97Fortunately they’ve come up with a loaner – I say fortunate as I have 3 days of meetings ahead of me and I desperately need a car. I’m sitting here late at night writing because I was just enjoying a superb episode of FRINGE on Sky (if you’ve not watched this excellent sci-fi, you are missing out) and I noted some upgrades for the iPad (not, sadly the eagerly awaited 4.2 operating system upgrade which is now looking like Friday depending on who’s rumour-mill you read) but an upgrade for a long-forgotten program called SharePlus.  If you’re familiar with office systems, I’ll just say that this seamlessly handles SharePoint – no matter what kind of authentication you use. I’ll leave it at that as this is not really a technical blog.

So an expensive start but at least an interesting end. And now I think a book. I’m trying to see if the iPad will really work for reading books so I have one of the few Arthur C Clarke books I’ve not yet read ready and waiting. Now here’s the trick… had I bought a Kindle – I’d have been stuffed because Maureen is already asleep and turning the light on is not an option. Stanza on the iPad on the other hand is backlit and a simple slide of the finger turns the brilliance up and down – a soft glow is all I need to read with (practiced as a kid, my mother always wanted my light turned off so I must’ve read thousands of DC comics by streetlight).

I’ve been getting to grips with Apple TV having bought one of their miraculous new black units this week. Essentially you plug the black box into your TV and Bob’s your uncle – streaming videos for rent, streaming video, sound and pictures from any of your PCs which have iTunes on them and from this weekend, fingers crosses, streaming directly from your iPod/iPhone/iPad to the TV… I can’t wait. May as well relax how, I have 3 very busy days ahead – and at the weekend it’s upgrade time for the gadgets. Add the Apps called StreamToMe into the mix which lets me watch my PC-based movies etc. on the iPhone or iPad… and I’m just about all set… been trying to get a setup like this for years with the PC and never quite made it. Marvellous.

(Update – car’s all sorted…. can’t use Apple TV until Apple get their finger out with the iOS 4.2 updates.

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Do YOU need an iPAD?

A lot hot air is circulating about the iPad, often by folks who have never laid eyes on the machine never mind made extensive hand-on use of them. I’ve seen reviews talking about reliability, about it being unsuitable for business… the list goes on – and mostly from those lacking any experience of the product.

Why listen to me? well firstly you need to know I would not touch a MAC with a bargepole so don’t peg me as an anti-Microsoft type. When the iPAD was released in the USA I had one shipped across almost immediately, despite lack of iTunes support in the UK. It looked ideal for reading agendas and other company paperwork, being the first supposedly long-life battery, thin almost A4 pad on the market… and I wasn’t prepared to take the word of others… I wanted to see for myself if this was going to be useful to see if there was a future for reducing or eliminating paperwork.  So, here it is, based on daily use of the iPad since its launch in the USA (and by that I mean used almost every day since then, sometimes all day), here is some information which may be of use to those of you thinking of using the iPad in a business environment.

Firstly the issue of WIFI. The only issue I am aware of is that the iPad occasionally forgets the login password and does not seem to track the best signal if you move from signal area to signal area within a building. It is a minor issue, does not really cause me any problems and the assurance is that this will be fixed. I can see no reason to doubt this as it’s little sister the iPhone does not suffer the same issue. 

Secondly business use – you hear “It’s all games” – no it isn’t – though some of the games are excellent – no doubt about it but with 200,000 apps you’d expect a lot of games.  I have asked our head office who normally send me reams and reams of paper to simply stop – and all my papers now go onto the company extranet  (Sharepoint).  I receive automatic email notification of the availability of documents and as long as I’m within range of a WIFI signal I can download using the likes of the GoodReader program (a bargain at 59p) and store the docs locally on the iPad. The largest document I’ve had the pleasure of using was 95 megabytes comprising over 400 pages of scanned documents – just about the worse combination…. No problem. I also use another package which cost peanuts to let me scribble on PDFs and open multiple documents at once.

Thirdly multitasking – after extensive use I have to say I do not miss the ability to do umpteen jobs at once – the ONE thing I’d like is to run SKYPE constantly in the background – and that of course will come in the autumn update. Most programs start up where they left off so they may as well be multitasking – but without the overhead.

“They say” iPad is not compatible with Microsoft… rubbish – I regularly open the latest DOCX files from Office 2007 as well as spread-sheets and other documents. At least one program can SAVE in these formats.

Specifically for use in meetings, the (realistically achieved) 10 hour battery life (including watching video) makes it possible to do an all-day meeting without a cable in sight. Those who lug around heavy bags full of laptops, power supplies and endless paperwork look on with envy. Armed with properly bookmarked PDF files I can view and search through large documents more quickly than with paper.

What about FLASH – well, I’d MUCH prefer if the iPad could handle flash, but not at any price and Flash does tend to be jerky on mobiles… considering that YouTube, Blip and others now offer iPad compatibility and even the BBC iPlayer is now iPad compatible, it hopefully won’t be long before that issue goes out of the window. You can watch a good number of the freeview channels including BBC News 24, for free on the iPad given a free program to do so, not to mention most radio stations.

When in Spain, as they say… I have a (small) place in Spain and last week I was other there. The iPad can’t handle dongles but I have a 3G dongle and I simply put the Sim into a phone which has WIFI and using a cheap program made the phone look like a WIFI access point – others may prefer to get the 3G version of the iPad itself  – as I already have a phone I didn’t fancy 2 subscriptions and annoying Apple won’t let you tether an iPhone to an iPad.   Skype and GotoMeeting work well – saving a fortune in calls when overseas as long as there is WIFI available. Emails using Microsoft Exchange, Google mail and others work absolutely fine as indeed do Exchange calendars and contacts. For streaming podcasts, I generally keep them on my PC and use STREAMTOME to listen to them on the iPAD (saves filling it up with audio and video).

Do I have any issues with the product? Of course I do – why on EARTH didn’t Apple put a forward-facing camera in for Skype etc. But them the iPhone 4 has that… Also being able to read memory sticks would have been nice but why not go the whole hog and put in Windows? Erm, no! The fact is that Apple have a great niche product on their hands which is, if you believe the hype selling very well thank you. Almost everyone I know who I’ve shown it to in business and otherwise wants one – I should have been a salesman but I’m NOT.

Of course, if something else comes along that’s better and cheaper I‘m a ruthless consumer with no brand loyalty… but from what I’ve seen, hands on reviews of what would appear to be alternatives have fallen apart due to poor video or other issues. For now, Apple are onto a winner – their shares don’t look too bad either (I don’t have any of those either).

iPAD is Here

You’ll be aware of the UK launch of the Apple iPAD TODAY, no doubt if you saw the news last night you’ll have heard that the unit is available from today and that they’ve sold a million in the states.

Poor old Beeb, that’s ancient news and a quick look on the web will add at least 50% to that figure! Also they won’t have enough units to keep up with demand so expect delays! If you’re planning a trip to the Apple store I’d ring first! There are 6 models broken into two sets, the first set of 16gig, 32 gig and 64 gig have WIFI and motion sensing only, the second similar set add 3g and GPS into the mix – and of course the cost rises accordingly. Prices will start at £429 (including VAT) for the perfectly capable 16Gig WIFI model.

Meanwhile the iTunes store is up and running, I have had the American version of the iPad since it’s launch over there and everything’s working a treat. If you want to keep up with the latest apps I suggest you take a look at AppShopper, a nicely laid out website that’s easy to use. It has both iPhone and iPad apps and you can select both or just iPad apps.

Apple’s PAGES Word Processor is now available (as of a few days ago) and you’ll be needing that if you want to do any word-processing on the unit.

If you’re thinking of taking the plunge, remember, this isn’t a laptop, it won’t run Microsoft software! It runs only what you can get in the iTunes App store – but as they have countless thousands of Apps in there, some free, some a few pounds, you should find just about anything you need.

Some pros and cons for those of you looking at this miraculous unit for the first time:

The iPad+ Apps CAN:

  • View pictures, videos and play tunes
  • Read Word, Excel, PDF and many more document formats.
  • Read and write Emails.
  • Play games (but only the countless games in the App Store).
  • Talk to Bluetooth headsets and keyboards out-of-the-box.
  • View YouTube video
  • View the BBC iPlayer (new and VERY good quality !!)
  • Handle TV (tvcatchup) and radio (tunein radio)
  • Run Skype
  • Provide weather reports (the weather channel)
  • Search maps (google maps)
  • Control your Sky+ box (Sky+)
  • Share 3g/WIFI with many phones (Joikuspot on phone)
  • Record audio
  • Handle social networks (many Apps)
  • Run for up to 10 hours without mains power
  • Emulate iPod

The iPad CAN’T:

  • Let you access all it’s memory like a disk. Memory is split up into application spaces and of course the place you store your videos, pictures and music. I’ve found no way to “see” this as a single disk drive.
  • Run Microsoft software. It is not a laptop.
  • Handle USB disks and cameras directly.
  • Run FLASH video (though YouTube and iPhone are supported – see CAN).
  • Run WiFi super-reliably (sure it runs WIFI but it breaks occasionally – soon to be fixed)
  • Share WIFI with your iPhone (deliberate and stupid move)
  • Take pictures or video (no camera)

I hope this information helps you make a decision. Am I happy I bought an iPad?  Most definitely YES. Would I pay the extra for the 3G version? No. Am I happy with 32Gig? Can’t even start to fill it up so the base model will do for many people. Music and video lovers with massive collections may opt for the larger models.

Peter Scargill

To order these units online I BELIEVE you go here http://store.apple.com/uk

p.s. If you want to know more about using the iPad, for example with a 3G dongle – see my other articles….

Comparing Android and the iPhone/iPad operating system

Using the iPad with a separate 3G source like an iPhone, MS Smartphone or dongle SIM