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Archive for the ‘software’ Category

IOS 4.3 is Here– Speed up your iPad

Somewhat earlier than expected, Apple’s latest IOS release is up and running – simply head off to iTunes to grab the software and update your i-device.

Upgrading the iPhone 3GS was simple – a matter of a few minutes download and off we go. Despite some issues with a cheap Chinese cable I bought, the upgrade went quite smoothly – all sorts of drivers being loaded and resets being done completely automatically in the background… I just went off for coffee and let it get on with it.

The software upgrade allows you (at last) to play videos and imagery on Apple TV directly from the iPhone. The setup is amazing – once upgraded, all your videos, pics and tunes on your iTunes computer are immediately available on your iPad or iPhone etc… and typically Apple – it just WORKS…

The browser has been speeded up thanks to the new “Nitro Javascript Engine” and it’s claimed that this alone doubles browser speeds –though that of course will all depends on whether your target website is making heavy use of Javascript – many do. The hated change to the mute button now allows users to select whether they want to use that button for muting or rotation control…  and apparently iPhone 4 can now serve up WIFI to other devices-  though no mention of  the 3GS – BUT this DOES APPEAR TO WORK over Bluetooth and USB on the iPhone 3GS which is interesting. No idea why you can’t do this over WIFI on the 3GS as that facility was built in from day one but Orange wanted to charge extra for it!

Similarly iPad – the upgrade just works…  video quality from videos on your PC iTunes setup is amazing.  So – for free, faster iPhones and iPads – can’t be bad!


Peter Scargill

p.s. I don’t recommend this but I didn’t go through any lengthy backup procedures and all worked well regardless. Upgrading the phone and iPad each took all of 15 minutes from start to finish with virtually no interaction required. So why are you waiting.. go get IOS 4.3 now!

iPhone 4.0 OS – First Look

iPhone 4.0 OS foldersAfter waiting what seems like years but was probably just weeks for the update for the iPhone to version 4 then after waiting half an hour to grab iTunes on my laptop (not normally used to sync the iPhone so there’s a tip for you – NO you don’t have to use the PC you original setup your phone on) I proceeded to the upgrade button and upgraded my iPhone 3GS to iPhone version 4.0 OS software – another 20 minutes and no problems whatsoever.

That done the first thing I noticed was that my chosen background now appears on all screens – that’s nice!  The second thing that’s immediately obvious is the fact you can now drop one icon onto another and make instant FOLDERS which is nice. Each folder can now hold 12 icons and with a bit of planning you can how hold 12 times as many apps on the phone as before or opt for less pages of icons. That’s a plus though you’re not going to get all your games in one folder – you CAN thankfully make identically named folders if you like!! None of this takes any brainpower or manuals.

iPhone OS 4.0 multitaskingThe iPhone now also handled multi-tasking – of a sort.  By double-clicking on the HOME button you can now see active tasks and switch between them.

The big plus is the ability to play a game or whatever.. and STILL keep SKYPE running in the background – depending on whether or not you’re a SKYPE user that makes a big difference… BUT NOTE: Skype does NOT yet run in the background – despite showing demos and saying that NOW you can run Skype in the background they have not actually YET released the new version. I’m awaiting this with baited breath as I use Skype for all calls and also keep my phone in my pocket all the time so this will be a game changer for me.

Another plus is the unified inbox – now if you have multiple accounts as I do (Exchange and Google mail) you have the option to read the inboxes separately or as one – nice idea – why don’t MS so that in Office 2010?

Other than that it’s largely business as usual though sitting here I’m having immense difficulty getting the newly updated iPhone to download the updated TomTom and it’s telling me to update that particular package via iTunes – granted TomTom is HUGE.

At least on the surface of it, updating is worth the effort but beware if you’re reading this on the publication date, the Apple site is running like a DOG!

For more blogs see www.scargill.net and http://scargill.wordpress.com/

The UK Launch of the iPad

Here it is – latest update on the iPad, launched today in the UK

Digital Economy Act

The Digital Economy Act, or the “big boys browbeating government into supporting them and to hell with everyone else” act… is a novel piece of new legislation which states that an ISP (or Internet Service Provider) is someone who provides an electronic communication service that is provided to a subscriber and consists entirely or mainly of the provision of access to the internet and includes the allocation of an IP address or addresses to the subscriber to enable that access.

Let me translate that into English for you. The act therefore affects ANYONE offering free or paid WIFI to anyone else.

That includes but is by NO means limited to:


FON users

SMEs (ie almost ALL businesses statistically)

The above might include your local shopping area, cafe, hotel, B&B, airport, TRAIN you name it. Everything from the private individual upwards who installs a WIFI router for whatever purpose, from keeping the kids happy to providing a service for customers.

The above people with marked exceptions are no more likely to understand what an IP address is, than I could be expected to know how to operate on a brain tumour.

But it gets worse…. said potential criminals are supposed to notify subscribers (like a FON user would know who his “subscribers” are!) of allegations made by copyright owners that their accounts have been used for unlawful file sharing… and must maintain lists… WHOAH just hold on there, lists?? What, of complete strangers?

This misguided piece of legislation appears to have come into place, being signed by a tiny number of MPs while everyone else had other things to worry about (ie elections) and seems to me to have gone something like this. Big business pressures government to secure protection for the music and related industries to try to stop people ripping off their products.

At this point a little history lesson might be in order… In 56 now and back in the dark ages when I was a teenager, we used to go to record shops and buy records.  I can’t remember the date but Philips brought out something called the musicassette or simply cassette player. It became known as the musicassette because they did a competition asking people what this new mini tape player should be called – and people like me filled in the competition. I still remember receiving the first Philips player and a TON of cassettes as a prize. I’ve no idea if I was the only one – probably not. Any way, I digress.


One of the first things that was asked was.. what on earth would you use a cassette player for.  The response was – well, you’d want to record your friends and family singing, or maybe record a meeting or something.

Bollocks- there is a reason the 90 minute tape was the most popular, offering 45 minutes per side. It’s because they knew FINE WELL you’d record one album on one side and another album on the other side.  Is it also I wonder a coincidence that DYMO labels just happened to fit 2 on the end sleeve of the cassette cover.

Anyway, we all know the history – every single person I went to school with had one of these and we all copied each other’s albums and put them on tape – so we could listen to them in the car.

So then the music industry brought out the CD… and NERO brought out the burning software so presumably you could record your friends singing.

Then Sony (who produce records I may add) brought out the Walkman. It must have been obvious at the time that this would produce a very simple way for everyone to record from their CDs to their PC and copy the material to the Walkman… indeed not only was it obvious it was BLINDINGLY successful and so before long we had the file sharers on the web making millions of tracks available to share with others and millions of people started downloading music.

So now it seems the record companies and their friends have decided this is not good enough and somehow got together with the government who then passed a law that makes just about everyone a bona-fide criminal.

Let me be clear, I don’t download lots of music, indeed I mainly listen to Internet radio which once mastered means you’d never listen to the BBC again – but my lack of inclination to download is not because it’s against the law, it’s because I’m now dead old at 56 and most, but not all of the material out there sounds like poo to me apart from Alicia Keys who’s wonderful.

Mobile phones that handle WIFI are now coming out in numbers…. the Microsoft Smartphones, the iPhone, Blackberry and others.. and because the mobile operators are lying gits, offering unlimited access but then in the small print changing their minds – and because 3G in many parts of the UK is entirely PANTS, WIFI is UTTERLY important to this new generation of information seekers. We like to get our news in cafes and the pub, we do more and more and more things via the internet – and when tablets take off we’ll be doing that EVEN MORE…

And what do we find, an act that is guaranteed if anyone ever gets around to TELLING THE PEOPLE, to turn folk OFF from offering free or inexpensive WIFI…

It is therefore VITAL that individuals and companies GET OFF THEIR BOTTOMS and COMPLAIN about this bill and get it CHANGED. Write to OFCOM and explain why this is completely unmanageable – why it will DAMAGE our country and RESTRICT access to WIFI for completely the WRONG REASONS.

As if Nick Clegg needed any more bolstering after his world-class battering of the other two leaders on TV, he was recently asked THIS question


"Will you reconsider the Digital Economy Bill considering the manner it was pushed through, without proper scrutiny, the lack of MPs in attendance at the Bill’s hearing and also taking into account that some ministers have demonstrated considerable lack of technical knowledge on the consequences of the proposed legislation?"

His answer..

"We did our best to prevent the Digital Economy Bill being rushed through at the last moment. It badly needed more debate and amendment, and we are extremely worried that it will now lead to completely innocent people having their internet connections cut off. It was far too heavily weighted in favour of the big corporations and those who are worried about too much information becoming available. It badly needs to be repealed, and the issues revisited."

Ok, so get onto your liberal candidate and find out what HE OR SHE is doing about this.. in fact, get onto your MP and ask why he or she (as is likely) did not even bother to VOTE on this issue – I’ll save you guessing – they probably didn’t have a CLUE what it was about – but don’t let that stop you asking!

The Lib Dems later apparently qualified the comment saying that they supported most of the bill – so clearly THEY have some friends in big business also.

I don’t know if you’ve thought of this – but regarding the many thousands of people the government now classes as ISPs – part of the deal is that they all LOG what we’re doing. So just as in the McCarthy era or the peak of the CCCP, the government will have succeeded in turning thousands of ordinary people into SPIES – but this time not for the government, but for BIG BUSINESS….. yes, that means that you ISP will know you are READING THIS be it your REAL ISP, your cafe owner, or your friend who’s letting you use their WIFI!

The Digital Economy Bill

The bill is an attempt by the government to crack down on internet copyright infringement, not a bad idea in itself, but as usual with this government, it is the implementation that’s totally messed up. By attempting to place the burden on the provider, the bill, which went through the house of Lords this week and looks set to fly unless someone DOES something,  is likely to affect, Internet Cafe, Hotels, service providers, trains and the PUBLIC.

Anyone offering WIFI access – how about the COUNTLESS FON USERS !!???!!

The bill could also affect any small business that allows for home working… the list goes on and on and on…  apart from anything else, why on EARTH should any hotel, faced with the possibility of having to police the use of their WIFI – which is WAY beyond the technical or managerial skills of your average hotel, why should they BOTHER to continue to offer free WIFI.

We’re still living in the DARK ages in the UK and this bill is about to make it a LOT WORSE. What about the free WIFI on TRAINS??!!??

If ever there was an example of the government trying to turn us all into willing participants in a POLICE STATE you are now looking at it!!!  

You may find these links useful…





and to gripe to your MP


The Apple-v-Microsoft Debate – Mobile Phones

Nokia 9000In 1996 I purchased the first Nokia “Smartphone” – the Nokia 9000, a great big brick of a phone with a horrible black and white display – but at the time this was rocket science. Once I got over the shock of realising that my home in Newcastle was in a dip and there was no chance of an Orange signal, I began an ongoing relationship with smart phones that continues to this day.

Orange SPVAround 2002, Orange released details of it’s first Microsoft-based Smartphone, the SPV and I started encouraging others to use this – disaster – the main button dropped off after a while and the operating system and applications needed regular rebooting. This then was the start of a long climb to find the perfect phone. I’ve been using Microsoft mobile phones from the earliest models onwards, every day, 365 days a year. I never keep a phone for more than a year and at times I’ve had two. I’ve also used Nokias and for a brief moment Blackberry… and I’ve written simple programs for them. I use Microsoft Exchange (which for me is an essential part of my working life) and I make heavy use of shared calendars at work. I’ve had several of them in bits experimenting with aerials and I’m not afraid to try upgrading – XDA developers group being one of my favourite haunts.

So I think I know a little about mobile phones.

The original Pocket PC phone offerings from the likes of HTC and their predecessors didn’t work – it’s as simple as that. Between operating system crashes and poor quality mechanics, they were a disaster. I committed myself to supplying these to our organisation and regretted every minute of it initially…  but I stuck with it, after all, Microsoft were improving their operating systems after disasters like Windows ME… and XP was coming along just nicely – it was logical to expect the phone software would improve.

New HTCAnd indeed it did. Today we have a combination of reliable hardware and powerful software in the likes of the HTC Touch II, a horrendously expensive but beautiful phone which is solid in construction and reliable. Of course NO-ONE has yet cracked the short battery life problem – essentially if you have a bright, pretty colour display you’re going to get a day or two max out of your battery no matter who’s phone it is. The new HTCs have it all, glamour, reliability and solid applications.  So why have I just bought an i-Phone?

Firstly I should clarify – I’m a Windows man – I think Windows 7 is wonderful, especially the new 64-bit version… but I’m beginning to wonder if Microsoft should have stuck to desktops as they clearly don’t have the time to devote to the phone market. They were out long before the iPhone and have massive marketing budgets combined with some of the best developers – and yet the i-Phone has a higher market share and most importantly, has WAY more APPS.

Microsoft have of course jumped on the bandwagon with their APP store – well there’s no way to soften this.. rubbish by comparison – maybe a few hundred applications few of which are exciting and some of which are very expensive. Meanwhile back at iTunes, the app store has untold THOUSANDS of apps, many free, many a few pence, few more than a couple of quid. Visiting the app store brings on a Christmas-like feeling and an urge to download anything that moves… which I’m doing.

But what about the phone? The iPhone itself is nothing remarkable – it’s how it is used that is remarkable. The phone has the now mandatory Bluetooth, WIFI and GPS hardware and like the HTCs it also has position-sensing hardware – unlike most of the others in addition it also has a compass.  It is the COMBINATION of these used with very clever “apps” that sets the iPhone apart from the others – that and very smooth operation that just seems “natural”. Battery life is unremarkable but then the phone is THIN and that counts for a lot.

Ever noticed that graphics in Windows-based applications are rarely “smooth” – they tend to jump around – and that applies as much in the mobile world as elsewhere. Well, that simply does not happen on the iPhone – not only to the apps seem “smooth” but the multi-touch facility is not just a bolt-on – it is used very effectively in many apps – it just “feels right”.  From opening the box to installing apps I never once felt a need to read ANY instructions – and I think that about sums up my feelings about the phone up to now. A shame the same can’t be said about the PC-based iTunes program – at least the Windows 64-bit edition – which crashes on occasion and it IS essential.

At this point it’s probably easiest to tell you about specific applications. The very first thing I did on opening the box was to setup my Google and Exchange accounts – and I have to say that went very smoothly. If you want ALL the features of your Outlook setup – such as NOTES – you still need to sync via USB – as Exchange does not sync notes – but then that’s common to the other phones. So the mail, calendar and notes work as you’d expect – but I have to say they seem faster and more intuitive than I’m used to – I could see how someone might manage with nothing more than the iPhone, leaving the laptop back home.

You may wonder why my iPhone apps on the home page are not all standard. Well, for one thing, I could care two hoots about STOCKS but standard apps don’t at first glance seem amenable to deleting. Add to that the fact that  this meant that contacts was on the second page – stocks had to go! Once I got used to moving things around, the rest followed automatically.

Here’s a small selection of my current screens, mostly APPS which I’ve purchased (some free). What’s the best? Well, for me, FILEMAGNET is the best so far, an easy way to load WORD docs and PDFs from my PC to the iPhone – and read them. Only issue so far is that the 2-finger scaling doesn’t seem to work on WORD docs. The most expensive item is LOGMEIN – which is just superb- usable access to remote PCs on the one – the most fun item is probably the SKY controller which lets me set up recordings on our SKY HD box – from the phone – no matter where I am – marvellous.

 imageimage imageimage


So… don’t all these APPS take up a LOT OF SPACE?? I made the decision to go for the smaller of the two iPhones, the 16gig model as I’m not fanatical about movies and music, happy to keep just a working selection available at any one time. Here’s the current status of memory:

memory usage in the iPhone

As you can see I’ve not made a dent. Tom-tom takes a big chunk of that green area but that doesn’t even take up a couple of Gigabytes so I’m well placed for future expansion – just as well with a 2-year contract in place.

One item that’s made a BIG difference is the MILO charging cradle, this thin sleeve fits snugly over the iPhone and more than doubles the battery life! Indeed I don’t know how iPhone users manage without it.

Liberkey – Useful Open Source


I recently discovered something called Liberkey. This comprises a menu system and a bunch of open source programs all wrapped together and well suited to use on a memory stick. Apparently the program itself isn’t open source – but that’s another matter. It has been compared to PortableApps – but for me the actual applications included are WAY better.

Ok so what’s special about that? These are programs that are generally available separately and nothing new… so why bother. Well, these “portable” versions of the programs all sit inside a nice popup menu system – and importantly the package looks after updates for you, so that the first thing that happens when you run the program, is that a load of updates occur automatically. Not only that but you can go to the website and simply double-click on links to add new programs to the list. We’re talking here of some pretty good open source and free sofware – like the GIMP for example which I’ve been using for a while now in preference to the expensive and somewhat overblown “PhotoShop”.

But there are also programs in here that certainly I’d never heard of. RadioSure for example plays streaming radio stations and has a massive list built in – so what I hear you say, Shoutcast does the same thing with Winamp – yes but this also has a large RECORD button on it which records straight off the radio to MP3 complete with titles – rather handy for parties.. and on the subject of music playback there is another free MP3 player in the pack called AIMP – and already I prefer it to Winamp – it’s fast, small, nice looking with analog meters… and does a very nice track-to-track fade straight out of the box. Once the Liberkey package is running and you’ve elected to hand it file associations, a quick right-click on any of your files will securely encrypyt it using DCU. As for passwords, the excellent KeePass is included also.

But I’m in danger of giving the impression that this is a manager for a small number of decent programs – it isn’t – the “ultimate” version of this is MASSIVE and of course you can put the whole lot on a memory stick and cart it from PC to PC. I strongly urge you to give Liberkey a second glance!

The death of Kodachrome

So now we’re supposed to get all emotional about the final demise of one the stalwarts of the analogue age – Kodachrome film. Wasn’t it wonderful, what about those subtle colours, the unique “flavour”…

For HEAVEN’S SAKE. I remember the same crap at the end of the valve era – that unique sound, how harsh transistors are (and there’s a simple reason for that, valves used to introduce even harmonic distortion into the sound giving it a warm but TOTALLY unrealistic sound whereas the early transistor amplifiers, driven by the need to keep costs down combined with a lot of ignorance on the behalf of designers LIKE AMSTRAD – our own Alan Michael Sugar – and his counterpart Clive Sinclair –  introduced some pretty awful distortion of their own…… but where are we now… only fools and horses still pretend that valves are better… mOSFETS were the turning point for those who like to bandy around technical terms – I recall I had several of the first Mosfets available – and managed to blow them all up…. but that’s another story.

And this brings us to photography – I remember when the first digitals came out – the same old crap, attacking a new technology in order to try to preserve the old – I could have told you over a decade ago (and did tell many people) that film was dead – the only excuse for using film now MIGHT still be for low-light exposure as most cheap digital cameras are rubbish in low-light levels – but give it a little longer and they’ll not only beat film, they will beat our eyes – indeed think about Hubble – some of the most beautiful images in the universe – are digital! You could stare at the night sky for a million years and never see what Hubble brings us.

I remember sending off images to BOOTS only to get the most BLAND rubbish prints back – the only way I could guarantee to get decent images was to order transparencies….  and let’s not forget that BOOTS in particular used to SHOP people who took photos they did not approve of – remember THAT? Kids in the bath etc!!!

In the hands of an idiot, it doesn’t matter whether the camera is film, digital or make-believe – the results will be the same – but if you’ve invested just a little time in learning how to use your camera and one of the MANY free tools out there – GIMP being one example – you can produce images that rival ANYTHING produced in the past – and in many cases go WAY beyond anything we could have done in the age of FILM. I believe that AVATAR was shot digitally! It’s certainly displayed digitally. What more could you want?


Digital What?

According to the “Digital Britain” report, around 11% of homes cannot currently achieve speeds of 2Mpbs – and so the proposal is to fix faulty wiring and use satellite to fill in.

Well, the faulty wiring bit I can go along with – but satellite – I’ve had various forms of satellite and no amount of technical progress is going to fix the fact that the satellites are thousands of miles up in the sky and the latency makes for example Skype conversations virtually useless. Also one of the original satellite companies recently contacted me and I checked on their pricing – they are STILL taking us to the cleaners – so all that will happen now is that tax-payers will give them their money as against the privileged few who can afford them – this is NOT the solution – there are a boatload of alternatives – WIMAX where a large aerial, say at the top of a hill supplies a wide area…. is one solution, high altitude balloon is another (same idea as satellite without the thousands of miles) – but the real solution is to force BT to do their job properly!

Ofcom will now be able to force service providers to notify households who are downloading and sharing content illegally – HURRAY they’ve finally done what they’ve been wanting to do for years – control the INTERNET – this is big-brother CHINA-STYLE!! What next, selective control of material to make sure our nation sensibilities are not offended?  Social workers calling at your door because you’ve been reading too much right-wing material?

As for 3G networks – which really are pathetic in the UK, the proposition will “provide certainty for investment and an incentive towards greater roll-out” – what? sorry? Last time I contacted Orange to see why we didn’t have coverage in our village they insisted they would LOVE to provide coverage but every time they’d tried to find somewhere to site a masts the “mothers against masts” brigade had stopped them. Until we breed ignorance out of people we’re never going to roll out proper 3G or proper solar and wind power systems for that matter in the UK, instead we’ll just continue to piddle about.  We need a government that is brave enough to take a lead on this an ensure we have universal 3G coverage and policies which ensure the prices are practical – only THEN will we have a truly “digital Britain”.