CHOOSING THE RIGHT HEADPHONES

Depending on your needs, there are a range of different types of headphones with a range of prices.  This post covers the different types available and provides a few tips on what to look for when buying.  
 
Like most consumer goods, you normally get what you pay for and headphones can start at the low cost basic level or go up right up to expensive high spec level.
 
Headphone Type
Headphones generally come in four different types - In-ear, on-ear, over-ear and noise cancelling/noise reduction.  Usually with a connecting cable to the device but wireless headphones are now becoming more and more popular.  
 
Earbuds (in-ear) headphones/earphones are discreet and lightweight and portable and ideal for mobile phone use as well as listening to music.  Different styles housed directly in the ear normally with rubber buds. Some people don't like the sensation of having the ear-bud tip sitting in the ear canal but again it's about preference.  Depending on build quality, another annoyance can be that they fall out.
 
I bought a pair of Soundmagic in-ear buds with a microphone and volume control.  These were about £34 (Amazon) and suit me down to the ground for day to day use.  I use them constantly for phone use at work as they easily plug into most mobile phones.  Or if I'm on the train, they can easily plug into my tablet or laptop for watching video or simply listening to music.
Earbuds (on-ear) headphones are probably the most popular and again discreet and good for portability or use in the gym.  When selecting earbuds for activity such as running or the gym it's important to choose a brand that are comfortable, will stay secured and not fall out when you're jumping around on a treadmill or some other random activity or exercise.
 
Over-ear headphones are generally larger in size and can be bulky in appearance although more comfortable.  Good for noise reduction and sound quality compared to earbuds.
 
Noise cancelling headphones tend to be higher spec, especially if you want to completely block out background noise and get a high standard of audio quality.  The technology reduces unwanted ambient sound using active noise control (a second sound cancels out the first) using built in microphones.  They come fairly lightweight so wearing them on the move, commuting or at the gym is just as easy as using using them sitting at home and on the DJ decks.  Also ideal for long haul flights or noisy environments.  The brand and  noise cancelling quality will dictate the price and again it's really about what you want or need.  
Wireless headphones connect to your device using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.  As we well know, wireless is usually better than having a cable to contend with giving freedom of movement.  Certain mobile phone manufacturers have dropped the 3.5 MM earphone jack which is a bold move forcing the use of wireless technology.  Namely Apple who tend to lead the way with new tech and their newly marketed Apple AirPods.  Google have also removed the earphone jack from the Pixel 2 series of phones.
 
Price
Like most technology, the price range will vary.  Headphones are no exception and the scale can be anything from £10 to £500.  
 
Brands
Below is a summary of the more popular headphone brands currently on the market.  There are plenty of others and since headphones are a personal preference thing, it's still important to read those online reviews.
 
 
For more detail, technology website, Tech Radar posted a really good review of each headphone type and the best selections of 2017.   
 
See the link here.
  
 
They also reviewed some of the best headphone brands for 2017.
 
 
Enjoy this post?  Let me know what you think.  What's your headphone preference?
 
Feel free to leave a comment or email me direct through the Contact page.
 
Plus, if you like the posts and want to see more, don't forget to like/share/tweet/comment on Digital Speak through social media.  
 
Bye for a bit.
 
 
Sources:
 
www.independent.co.uk
 
 
Pictures
 
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TOP FIVE – Maps & Navigation apps

Using an online map, satnav (Satellite Navigation) or navigation app is pretty much the norm these days instead of pulling out a copy of the A-Z.
 
Whether we’re in the car, using public transport or on foot, we rely quite heavily now on this technology even more so. 
 
 Having an app installed on your smartphone showing GPS (Global Positioning System) location and street mapping to your exact location is now a common feature.
 
Features such as turn by turn navigation can be a massive help in day to day travel or in an emergency. 
*Turn by turn navigation is a feature where the user enters a post code, destination address or landmark and receives a calculation of directions, distance and estimated arrival time on a smartphone or tablet.
 
I've deliberately left out satnav technology in this post and concentrated on mapping and navigation apps used anywhere on mobile devices i.e smartphones and tablets.
 
 So here's a top five summary of some of the best mapping and navigation apps currently available for Android and iOS.  

GOOGLE MAPS

The daddy of all mapping applications (at the moment).  This is probably the most popular application to use either from a web browser or from your smartphone with lots of additional info and features such as recommendations and more accurate directions.
 
  • Platform: Android, desktop, iOS
  • First released in 2004
  • Satellite and aerial view
  • Traffic, transit, biking and terrain information
  • 3D
  • GPS
  • Street view
  • Current location markers
  • Off line navigation
  • Turn by turn navigation
  • Google Maps API feature (allows for Google Maps to be integrated into websites)
  • Recent updates include selected planets and Moons (the Moon, Mars, Venus and Mercury).  Proof that with today's technology, you can now look at Uranus with your phone!

GPS NAVIGATION & MAPS SYGIC

This popular app, powered by TomTom and can be used off line when there's little or no Wi-Fi or phone signal.  Since it uses GPS, it doesn't need an internet or 4G connection.
 
  • Platform: Android
  • High quality TomTom maps
  • Turn by turn navigation
  • Parking suggestions
  • High Definition maps
  • Covers most countries across the globe
  • Premium version includes live traffic updates, speed limit warnings and additional navigation voices

HERE WEGO (formerly HERE MAPS)

Originally developed for Nokia Windows phones.  User friendly and free.
 
  • Platform: Android, iOS, desktop
  • Released: 2014
  • Cover 118 countries
  • Turn by turn navigation
  • Real time traffic updates
  • Off line maps

APPLE MAPS

Apple's own web mapping service.  Marketed as the would-be replacement for Google Maps for iOS but ran into some initial criticism when it experienced software bugs which now seem to have been sorted out.
 
  • Platform: iOS, macOS, watchOS
  • Released : 2012
  • Spoken directions
  • Interactive 3D views
  • Flyover feature (a view of densely populated urban areas)
  • Proactive suggestions
  • Covers 49 countries
  • Turn by turn navigation

CO-PILOT GPS

A high performance GPS navigation app geared up for mobile devices but mainly for navigation in cars and lorries.
 
  • Platform: Android, Windows, iOS
  • GPS
  • 3D
  • Street view
  • Current location markers
  • Off line navigation
  • Integration with Google search engine
  • Customisable menus
  • Turn by turn navigation

GPS installed on a smartphone is a cheaper and just as effective way of navigating around to buying a full satnav kit.  Being able to find out where you are and where you are going is a vital feature and something we wonder how we coped without before having it. 

There are plenty more out there too with varying levels of quality but hopefully this top five provides a bit of guidance.  Technology aside, we shouldn't be fully dependent on such apps especially when abroad since Wi-Fi, phone signal or even low battery can let us down. 

So maybe that battered old A-Z kept in the glove compartment isn't such a bad a idea after all, just in case.

Was this post useful?
 
I'm always keen to get feedback on the posts in order to improve them.
 
Let me know by leaving a comment or email me through the Contact page.
 
 
 
Sources:
 
www.thedroidreview.com
 
www.techradar.com
 
www.wikipedia.com
 
www.getapp.com
 
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WHATSAPP all the fuss about?

It's all about Instant Messaging!

Instant messaging seems to have become even more popular than text messaging.  You would be hard pressed not to have heard of WHATSAPP, even if you don’t use it.

So, what is WHATSAPP? 

It’s basically a cross platform free instant messaging service (app) for smartphones that has grown massively in popularity since 2014.  Usable on both iPhones and Android smartphones.

Primarily for sending direct instant messages, video calls, picture and video messaging.  There are many other hidden features which I’ll cover in a moment.  WhatsApp is an effective and better alternative to text messages which can cost money unless they’re wrapped up in mobile phone contract bundles (which aren’t free). 

The instant messages within WhatsApp are encrypted for protection against hackers and eavesdroppers and more recently they announced a move into a Business Platform which means companies can now use the app for customer service and internal communications.

First developed in California in 2009, WhatsApp inc was bought out by Facebook in 2014 for a tidy $19.3 Billon (£14.7 Billion). 

Today, WhatsApp has 1 Billion users worldwide, sending 55 Billon messages, 4.5 Billion photos and 1 Billion videos every day.  I guess that’s a lot of d**k pics!

Mark Zuckerberg (of Facebook founder fame) made an interesting point in a speech following Facebooks acquisition of WhatsApp in 2014.  In an article for TechCrunch he said there should be a group of free of charge ‘gateway internet services’ such as social media, weather, search engines and messaging services.  Users who are already paying for data services and smartphone contracts aren’t going to want to pay for additional stuff.  Too right!

Anyway, you’ll be shocked to find out there’s more to WhatsApp than just instant messaging.  Or if you’re not shocked, at least mildly intrigued. 

Below is a list of some of WhatsApp’s other hidden and useful features:

Free voice calls over Wi-Fi: Useful if you’re abroad and have a Wi-Fi connection to avoid expensive roaming charges.  It’s cost effective even if you’re not connected to Wi-Fi if your phone contract provides unlimited data.

How? Tap the phone icon in the contacts profile or go to Calls.

Video calls: Similar to the likes of Skype, this feature allows you to make real-time video calls.

How? Tap the video camera icon within the contacts profile.

Voice messaging:  Voicemails are also dying breed in the digital age.  WhatsApp lets you leave an audio message without having to wait for the contact’s phone to ring.

How? Press and hold the microphone icon in the chat window.  Cancel by swiping left.

Share content that will self-destruct in 24 hours:  If you want to destroy the evidence or cover your tracks, you can send messages that delete themselves once they’ve been read.  Very useful if you’re an international spy.

How? Select the Status tab in the main window and select My status.  Select the relevant photo or video and add captions or text.  The envelope icon shares with everyone in your contacts list.  Long pressing and tapping the trash icon will delete it before the 24-hour deadline is up.

Send files to your friends: Send any type of file as an alternative to sending attachments in emails.

How? Tap the paperclip icon and find the document or file you want to send.

Share your location with contacts:  This feature allows you to share where you are on a map with friends.  Useful if you’re lost or friends can’t find you in the pub.

How? Tap the paperclip icon and select Location.  It will ask you to Approve permissions then Send your current location.  The recipient opens Google Maps and can get directions to find you.

Share multiple contacts: By selecting the paperclip icon within the chat, you can select a contact or multiple contacts.

How? Tap the paperclip icon in the chat thread then select one or more contacts to send to.  Tap the right arrow which lets you select which details you want to send.

Reference old messages in a chat thread: Within a group chat or a thread with a single contact, if you happen to have fallen behind in the conversation then you can bring back a certain message in the thread then add your witty comment.

How? Long press the original message then tap the left arrow in the toolbar.  The original message appears in a pop-up window and you can compose your message underneath it and send both.

Edit and share photos with your contacts:  Without having to install photo editing software, you edit photos or screenshots before sending them.

How? Tap the paperclip icon and select Gallery.  Select the photo then the crop icon and edit from there.  You can also add filters, text and stickers.

Back up chat threads and attachments: Using online storage you can back up a thread of messages or files you received or sent.

How?  You need an online storage account associated to your phone such as Google Drive, OneDrive or iDrive to do this.  In the WhatsApp main menu go to Settings, Chats and Calls and then Back up

Amend Privacy options:  Within WhatsApp’s account settings you can change who is able to see your personal information. Including your status, last time online and profile picture.  You can also prevent other people from seeing if you’ve read their messages.

How?  Go to Settings then Account and Privacy then untick ‘Read receipts’.  Enabling this feature means you won’t be able to see when other people have read your messages also.

Add Security to WhatsApp:  This feature lets you add another layer of security to your account by requesting a six-digit PIN upon login.

How?  Go to Settings, Account and Two-step verification.  Tap Enable and enter a PIN.  By tapping Next, you can add an email address to which it will send you a link if you forget your PIN.

Silence those noisy group chat notifications: If you’re part of a group chat that constantly notifies you of each message, there is a way of muting them.  This can be done on groups or individual contacts for set periods. 

How? Within the chat thread, tap the three-dot button on the right and Mute notifications.  You can of course also unmute them.

Personalise notifications for Group chats:  Instead of muting them, you can add your favourite notification tunes to groups, so you know which set of friends or enemies are having a conversation.

How?  In the group chat thread go to Group info and Custom notifications.  Choose the tone or alert or vibration etc.

Change the wallpaper in your messages:  Stand out from the crowd and be different.

How?  Go to the Menu in the chat thread and select Wallpaper Library.  Or choose a photo from your Gallery.

Change the font size: This can be done on both Android phones and iPhones.

How:  For Android, open the WhatsApp main menu and go to Chats and Font.  For iPhone, go into the phone’s settings and select Display and Brightness.  Then go to Text Size, Settings, General and Accessibility to change the font.

Block someone you no longer want to chat with:  This feature let’s you block annoying or abusive contacts.  Same applies to Spam messages.

How?  In the chat thread’s menu button, select More and Block.  This also blocks phone and video calls from that contact.

Archive old chat threads: Similar to an email inbox, WhatsApp can also become cluttered up with loads of message threads.  You can archive them out of the way without deleting them.

How? Long press the chat thread and tap the down arrow symbol.  The archived chat will reappear in the main view when you receive the next message from the same group or contact.  You retrieve them by just swiping to ‘Archived chats’.

Summary:

Using WhatsApp on your smartphone for free instead of paying for text messages is a no brainer. 

It’s user friendly and cross platform (usable on iPhones or Android phones).  The mobile operators will have to think hard about how they sell mobile phone packages in the future.  The days of 10p per text are long gone and we’d rather have a free go-to service like this any day.  With 1 Billion users to date, this free app is on the increase.  

 

 

Sources:

 

www.wikipedia.org

https://www.whatsapp.com/

https://techcrunch.com/

https://www.tizenexperts.com

 

 

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Let me know what you think about WhatsApp.  Share your views and experiences by posting a comment or simply email me.

 

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Even More Useful Apps…and they’re free too!

Since there are so many apps available (an app for everything as they say) this is probably going to be a regular feature on Digital Speak.

Therefore, enjoy this selection of some of the new apps out there for use on Android, iOS and Windows phones and tablets.

GUIDES BY LONELY PLANET

Travel

Platform: Android, iOS

What does it do? Travel guide instead of using the big thick Lonely Planet guide book (which is still very good by the way). 

 This app allows you to access up to date travel guides and pictures of major cities around the world.  Useful if you’re holidaying, backpacking, on business or city-breaking.  Viewing them offline is also a good feature if you’re away from that all-important internet connection.  The app currently only covers 100 cities at the moment but they are updating it regularly.

The ‘Need to know’ section is the best feature which has local info, public transport and an audio phrasebook with basic phases in the local lingo.

 

HOME SOLUTIONS

DIY

 Platform: Android, iOS

 What does it do? Helps to find and book local and approved tradesmen.

 John Lewis have come up with this service to enable you find and book local plumbers, builders, decorators, electricians and gas fitters etc.  There are other websites already offering this service so this is really John Lewis’ way of entering this market.  The app is still in its early stages and has only been rolled out in certain areas of the UK so far. 

KOMOOT

Maps and Navigation

 Platform: Android, IOS

 What does it do? Creates offline walking and cycling routes and itineraries

 If you’re into hiking and cycling this app helps create and build routes or a custom made itinerary which can be used offline (again when there’s no internet).  Includes detailed route directions and some fancy stuff like altitude, topography maps, points of interest and useful local information.  This sort of app is again nothing new but worth having a look if you're looking to use one of these for the first time or simply looking for an alternative.

 

 

GOOGLE EARTH FOR iOS

Platform: IOS (surprisingly)

What does it do? Updated 3D pictures, images and virtual reconstructions of every location on earth...almost.

This interactive app has been around for years and was probably the first of its kind.  Originally, the paid-for PC premium version was around £300.  Now the whole thing is FREE.  It’s been updated and there are no in-app purchases (additional paid for features) or subscription fees.  The app has been updated to be in step with the web version so it works on iPhones and iPads just as well.  The Voyager feature is a multimedia tour of famous cities as well as Land Art and Futuristic Architecture (whatever that is).

 

 

OFFICE LENS

Document Scanners.

Platform: Android, IOS

What does it do?  For scanning multiple documents at once.

This is a free Microsoft app which allows you to convert letters, receipts etc into official PDF formatted documents, photos, MS Word documents or MS PowerPoint presentations.  The OCR (optical character recognition) feature lets you search for text in the saved scan.  The scanned documents are then automatically backed up. 

 KASPERSKY SECURE CONNECTION

Privacy

Platform: Android

What does it do? It’s a free VPN (Virtual Private Network) that provides private browsing and messaging on phones and tablets.

This app redirects your data through a virtual server to prevent websites or ISP’s tracking you.  Good for stopping hackers from intercepting data or detecting your location (if you are that paranoid of course).  In return for this, the app requests access to your contacts and calls which seems a bit unnecessary.  When installing VPNs, care needs to be taken to avoid hidden charges popping up later.  There is also a default 'paywall' (restricts access to content via a paid subscription).  Again, not a major issue but all part of the privilege of private browsing and worth reading up on if going down this route.

 FOLIOSCOPE

Animation

Platform: IOS

What does it do? Turns drawing into animated GIF cartoons.

For drawings, doodling and artwork this app has some powerful tools which include colour editing, erasers and various brush sizes.  Easy to use with your finger or stylus.

MY DEVICE

System Tools

Platform: Android

What does it do?  Displays the specification info on your phone or tablet without having to dig into ‘Settings’ or run scans.

It quickly displays everything about the device such as serial number, screen resolution, storage and system specification.  It won’t offer to free up storage space or do anything to improve performance as the data is purely for information only.

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HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT LAPTOP

Finding the right laptop that suits your needs does require a bit of thought before stumping up the cash.

The size, memory, weight, processor speed and so on are all important factors and different things suit different people.  As I’ve said before on this blog, doing the ground work and reading the online reviews is something you should do if you are about to invest in a laptop or any other electronic device for that matter.

 Laptops have become more popular and affordable than in previous years and you can buy one starting around £200 or at the other end of the scale you can buy them for over £2000.

Whatever your budget, finding the right one can be a bit of a mine field.  Eventhough I advise it, not everyone wants to trawl through review websites at the risk ending up back where they started. 

 I found the Currys PC World website quite good as they breakdown not only the different types and spec of laptops but also ask what you actually want/need in order to find the right make and model.  There are other sites that offer filters to help you make your decision.  Paired with reading some of the reviews, this is a good way of choosing the right one.

 

On the Currys PC World website on the left side of the website under ‘Laptops’ you can filter on ‘Best For’ and select one of the following categories:

Social networking

Everyday use

Big projects

Eye-catching design

Gaming

 

Knowing which category your usage falls into is key to this.  If you like to browse the internet, scroll through Facebook or Twitter etc then lightweight or Social networking laptops might be the right choice.  Chromebooks tend to be designed purely for browsing.

Everyday use is geared toward regular internet browsing, social media, email, using software applications such as Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint and some multi-media such as watching video or music streaming. 

 Big project type laptops are at the higher end of the spectrum and tend to be for graphic design, photography and animation.

Eye catching design is exactly that – if you just want something that looks flashy.

Alternatively, if you are into gaming then perhaps a laptop with a powerful graphics card and memory is the way to go.

Make/Brand

Once you've established the type or category of laptop you want, from there you can filter on make or brand.  The big hitters are HP, ACER, DELL, LENOVO, ASUS and of course APPLE.  There are many others after that but brand is usually based on preference and price usually goes hand in hand with quality.  For many years, I have used ACER laptops with no complaints.

Platform or Type

Laptops have evolved especially since tablets and high spec mobile phones have really taken off.

There are generally the following Platforms available:

Windows laptops (comes with the Windows 10 Operating System installed)

2-in-1 laptops (a laptop and a tablet combined)

MacBook/Pro/Air (Apple)

Chromebooks

Specification

A bit of a minefield and can be confusing.  Here’s a summary of some of the stuff you’ll see in a spec (specification) list.  As I always say, if in real doubt consult an expert.

CPU (Central Processing unit)

This is heart and brain or any PC or laptop.  The size and power will determine the machine’s performance and price.  The higher the gigahertz (GHz), the faster the machine will run.  The technology moves on all the time and industry standards range from dual core, quad core, hexa core, octa core and so no.  I don’t get too bogged down with all this if I’m honest.

Intel Core i3/i5/i7  - these are the mainstream brand of processor and go up in price as they move up in series from i3 to i7. i5 is popular and can be likened to a reliable 2.0 litre diesel car. i7  is currently the fast sports car of the family.  

AMD A, FX, E series – Geared toward lower cost or budget laptops.  Still very good and more than suitable for everyday usage.

Memory

RAM (Read only Memory) measured in gigabytes, is sometimes confused with storage space (see below).  Memory is really about how much data the machine can store in its short-term memory and how quickly is can start up and load applications.  4GB to 8GB is the range.

Storage Space

Measured in gigabytes (GB) and terabytes (TB), this is how much ‘stuff’ the laptop can hold (documents, photos, video, music etc).   Generally, the bigger it is the better but in a world where we now store a lot of our files in cloud based services, storage isn’t the big deal it used to be.  That said, it depends on your needs.  SSD (solid state drives) are now becoming popular which are more expensive but load quickly.

Size

How portable you need the laptop to be will determine the size you want.  The size of a laptop is measured by its screen size.

11 to 12 inch  - good for carrying around, in and out of bags.  Nice and light

13 to 14 inch – good for carrying around in a decent laptop bag

15 inch – a bit bulky for carrying and weight will be a factor.  My old Acer Aspire was 15” and I always found it slightly too big when on my lap.  Fine if it’s stays on a desk

Screen Resolution

This is based on the number of pixels horizontal and vertical on the screen.  The bigger the screen, the bigger the resolution.  A pixel is basically a ‘dot’ of illumination within a display screen.  For multi-media and watching video, then a decent HD quality screen is advisable.

Operating System

The Operating system (OS) manages the software and hardware on the laptop making sure everything can access the CPU, memory and storage.  Windows is the popular choice but there are other options being Apple’s MAC OS and Linux.  Since Microsoft dominate the market, Windows is the primary pre-installed OS available on the high street.  Again it's down the preference and familiarity. 

Don’t forget there are loads of websites out there giving advice on ‘how to choose a laptop’ so don’t just take my word for it if you want to go more in-depth. 

Going into a high street store and test driving one then going home to buy the same model cheaper online is not a criminal offence!

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Was it...

a) Really useful and the best piece of writing you've ever read?

b) A load of rubbish and what a waste of time?

c) A combination of (a) and (b)?

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(sales pitch over)

 

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Fantastic Free Wi-Fi and Where To Find it

Free Wi-Fi is all over the place these days.  It makes sense to log onto a Wi-Fi hotspot instead of using your mobile data allowance for internet browsing or messaging.  Some Wi-Fi hotspots aren’t that easy to get onto once you are there.  Here are a few tips on accessing free Wi-fi in public areas quickly and safely.

 

FREE Wi-FI APPS

Installing an app on your phone is a good way of locating and accessing free wi-fi hot spots.  The Andriod and IOS app WI-FI MAP is a good one and shows the closest hot spots to your location and the associated passwords to store for quick access to save logging in manually.

 

Speed Test  - provides useful data and displays the location of the nearest hot spot with details of download and upload speeds.  This is good since some hot spots don’t offer very good or reliable internet speeds

 

WI-FI MAPPER – this is another good free app for finding Wi-fi hot spots near to your location.  This is also available on Android and IOS and cover around 500 million Wi-Fi networks around the world plus 2 million recommended free hotspots with details of what the venue is and how reliable the internet speed is

 

PUBLIC TRANSPORT FREE WI-FI

Some rail operators offer free Wi-Fi in First Class only but there are some that offer it with standard tickets. 

If you book a ticket directly with Virgin Trains East Coast, you can get free Wi-fi with the ticket.  Great Anglia also offer free Wi-fi to passenger using their Intercity services between Norwich, Ipswich and London (great if you live or travel that way, useless if you don’t). 

South West Trains also provide free internet access and Gatwick Express, Grand Central, Hull Trains and Chiltern Railways and most ScotRail trains do also.

National Express coaches are also rolling out free Wi-Fi limited to 30 minute sessions including acces to entertainment using their VUER app service.

 

INTERNET PROVIDER FREE WI-FI

BT offer unlimited free Wi-fi to their BT broadband customers at over 5 million hot spots through BT WIFI (formerly called BT OpenZone). 

BT HomeHub can also also double up as a hot spot to give stable connection.  Their app BT WI-FI is also available on Andriod or IOS devices and saves having to enter username and password details every time you access it by connecting automatically when in range.

Sky Broadband (which I use) provides its customers with a similar service through the SKY WI-FI app for Andriod and IOS. Although the last time I tried it, it looked very nice but didn’t actuall work!

Virgin Media Wi-Fi also connects it’s customers to lots of UK public hot spots in various venues (cafes, bars, restaurants, airports etc).

If you don’t have a contract with any of these providers, you can still access over 15,000 hot spots through O2 Wi-FI. O2 customers have access to around 4500 of them automatically.  If you are not an O2 customer then you can still register with tem to use free Wi-Fi in places such as McDonalds, House of Fraser, Costa and Pizza Hut which is better than using your data allowance up.

 

USE YOUR MOBILE PHONE AS A WI-FI HOTSPOT

Tethering is another useful way of accessing the internet through your phone if you can’t find a free Wi-Fi hot spot.  Not all devices support Tethering so it’s a case of checking your phone’s settings under Wireless and Networks and looking for ‘Portable Wi-FI hotspot’ or ‘Internet Sharing’.  Warning – check your mobile phone tariff as this method can run up additional charges as it piggy-backs on your mobile phone network.  Therefore, you need to still be within mobile signal range.  Tethering also drains the phone’s battery quite quickly.

If you are accessing the internet on a laptop (Tethered) then you will use more data than if you were loading the same webpages on a mobile phone or tablet.

To track how much data you are using  - there is a useful app called GLASSWIRE for tis purpose.

 

PUBLIC WI-FI SAFETY

When you access the internet via Wi-fi in public areas, security and privacy risks become more of an issue.  It’s worth checking the terms and conditions of the hotspot provider to see what personal information your device is expected to share when using their service.

It's also advisable to try and use websites that support secure ‘https’ connections in favour of the standard ‘http’.  You can tell the browser session is secure when yo see the small padlock in the address bar.  This prevents potential hackers from intercepting yor data.

If you want to be really secure online then going to the next level is installing a VPN which encrypts your internet traffic. 

A recommended free VPN to use is CYBERGHOST which is available on Windows, Android and IOS.

 

Another tip when using a laptop in a public place to access Windows is to turn off ‘file sharing’.

Go to Control Panel

Click ‘Network and Sharing Centre’

and ‘Change Advanced Sharing Settings’

 

Finally, for any online banking or payment type tasks over the internet in public, it is best to use your mobile phone data allowance instead of public hot spots.

 

Did you find this post useful?

Do you have any tips or methods for finding free Wi-Fi access?

 

If so, let me know by leaving a reply below.

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Popular Website Tweaks & Fixes

Turn-off Amazon suggestion emails

I used to be a fan of Amazon until the relationship hit a few bumps in the road.  After almost being duped into signing up to Amazon Prime without actually asking to was the last straw.  One of my biggest ‘other’ gripes with Amazon was their email pushes which are based on searches or past purchases.  Some find them useful but I find them a pain.

Unsubscribing from the emails is straightforward so here’s how:

  • Open your Amazon Account page
  • Scroll to the bottom right-hand corner and select ‘View or Edit your browsing history’
  • Click the drop-down menu titled ‘Manage History’
  • Select ‘Remove all items’
  • Click the switch to turn off Browsing History
  • Select ‘Your Recommendations’ from the ‘Your Account’ drop down menu
  • Click the button ‘Improve your Recommendations
  • On this page tick ‘Don’t use for recommendations’ box against each past purchase

Repeat the process for ‘Videos you’ve watched’ (if applicable), ‘Items you’ve marked “I own it”, ‘Items you’ve rated’, ‘Items you’ve marked “Not Interested” by clicking the options in the side bar

 You should now no longer receive purchase suggestion emails from Amazon.  Be aware you will have to repeat the process for future purchases

Receive GMAIL notifications when you receive emails

GMAIL for some reason has no default option to let you know you’ve received an email.  Here’s how to get a pop-up notification.

  •  Open GMAIL Settings page
  • Go to the General tab
  •  Scroll down to Desktop Notifications.  This is set to ‘Mail notifications off’
  • Select ‘Important mail notifications on’ or ‘New mail notifications on’
  • Scroll down and click ‘Save Changes’

Block Facebook FAKE friend requests

Every now and then you may see a friend request on Facebook from someone you have never heard of or have no association with or mutual friends. There is a very good chance these are fake requests generated through online content marketing companies to lead you to products they are selling.

These can be filtered out by changing your settings.

  •  In Facebook, open Settings
  • Click Privacy
  • Net to the ‘Who can Contact Me?’ heading there is an option ‘Who can send you friend requests’
  • If this is set to ‘Everyone’, click Edit
  • Select ‘Friends of Friends’

 Note – by clicking this option, anyone you meet who doesn’t share a mutual friend with you will not be able to add you to their Facebook network.  Although they will still be able to direct message you.

Remove YOUTUBE's Auto play feature

If you watch a lot of YOUTUBE content but don’t like the constant stream of videos from the Auto Play feature, you can turn this off.

  •  In YOUTUBE, open Options menu
  • Tick the box to ‘Stop Auto play’

This then lets you enable auto play if you want to when playing videos without a web browser extension.

Or

When playing videos in YOUTUBE, in the top-right hand corner above ‘Up next’, there is a switch labelled Auto play.

This can be turned ON/OFF

Remove eBay suggestion emails

Similar to Amazon, eBay like to send us suggestion emails based on past purchases and searches.  Here is how to remove them/turn them off.

  •  On the eBay webpage, click ‘See All’ next to Your Recently Viewed Items
  • Select ‘Clear All’ and ‘Confirm’
  • Choose ‘Searches you follow’ from the sidebar
  • Click ‘Unfollow’ below searches you no longer want to see on the eBay homepage

If you also follow sellers:

  • Click ‘Sellers you follow’
  • Repeat the steps above

 To view everything, you follow on eBay:

(your-username being your eBay login)

  • This allows you to unfollow previous interests on one page
  • You’ll continue to see recommendations on the homepage but they will no longer be suggestions based on your previous searches or purchases

 

Do you have any similar fixes or website tweaks to share on Digital speak?

If so let me know by leaving a reply below.

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CLOUD BACKUP SERVICES

Cloud backup is becoming more and more popular at the moment taking away the need to save your files to either an external hard drive device or online storage services such as Microsoft OneDrive or Google Drive (both of which I happen to use).  The backups can happen automatically in the background and if you have large archives of files then cloud backups are worth looking at. 

Here's a quick rundown of the some of the best currently out there.

CRASHPLAN

  • Price £49.00 per year
  • Unlimited storage
  • 5 GB data uploaded in about 2 hours
  • Able to backup from external drives or network shares
  • Scheduled backups hourly, monthly,
  • Can select specific files or folders to backup and specific times

ACRONIS TRUE IMAGE 2017

  • Price £29.99 per year
  • 50 GB Limit
  • 5 GB data uploaded in about 2.5 hours
  • Able to backup from external drives or network shares
  • Online storage and cloud backup options
  • Good value for money if you don’t have huge amounts of data to backup

CARBONITE

  • Price £49.00 per year
  • Unlimited storage
  • 5 GB data uploaded in about 1.5 hours
  • Online storage and cloud backup options
  • Continuous/running all the time backup features
  • Windows Explorer integration

BACKBLAZE

  • Price £40.00 per year
  • Unlimited storage
  • 5 GB data uploaded in about 4.5 hours

LIVEDRIVE

  • Price £60.00 per year paid monthly
  • Unlimited storage
  • 5 GB data uploaded in about 2.5 hours

Do you use Cloud backup services or had good/bad experiences?

Let me know by leaving comments below.

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Useful Apps….and they’re free, free, free!

There are loads of free apps available for mobile phones and tablets on the Android and iOS (Apple) platforms. 

Some are great and we wonder how we got by without them in the past and some are so lame we wonder why we bothered installing them in the first place.  I tend to make sure I’ve at least read the reviews before installing which is a rule to live by these days.

Below is a shortlist of some highly rated apps according to Web User magazine.  There are plenty more so I will no doubt be posting more on this topic in future.

METEOR

Platform: Android

What does it do?  Wi-Fi speed and performance checker 

This useful app tests your internet connection over Wi-Fi to get the best out of resource intensive apps such as Facebook, Netflix or WhatsApp.  Useful for checking which apps perform best on mobile devices around different parts of the home.

CHROME FOR ANDROID

Platform: Android

What does it do?  It's a web browser app

For mobile devices such as phones or tablets, Google have updated their Chrome app for Android to allow download of web pages quicker and easier.  Useful for downloading WebPages offline to read later.

NATS Airspace Explorer

Platform: iOS (iPad only)

What does it do?  For geeky stats on aeroplanes.

If you’re interested in Air Traffic Control then knock yourself out with this app from National Air Traffic Services. It allows you to view stats and information on planes in flight in real time.   Uses radar information to track aircraft (not military) in UK airspace. 2D and 3D modes give a pictorial view of the planes as they move through the air.  As it happens, I used to be a plane spotter – fact.

TUBI TV

Platform: Android, iOS

What does it do?  TV & movie streaming

A free movie and TV show streaming service.  Not in the same league as the likes of Netflix or Amazon Prime and not somewhere to go for the latest blockbusters or new TV shows but still a good range of content.  If you like streaming older movies or TV shows then it’s worth a look.

EXPENSE IQ

Platform: Android

What does it do?  Manages finance, income and expenses

This app used to be called Easy Money and was updated in its version 2.0.  Handy for managing personal income, spending, bills, savings etc.  The initial set up means entering your income and expense information manually in preset categories or create your own.  It then arranges the information into nice graphs and tables with an overview to track things such as overspending.  It doesn’t link to your actual bank account (which is probably a good thing for security purposes) so it’s a case maintaining the records manually to show an accurate view of your finances. 

AVAST PHOTO SPACE

Platform: iOS 8

What does it do?  Photo library manager

Designed specifically for iPhone or iPad this app manages and automatically backups up your photo library securely online.  Displaying only a thumbnail version of the photo on the device then allows you to download a high resolution version whenever you need to.

Also comes with its own camera app which automatically transfers the photos to your chosen online storage service such as iCloud, Dropbox or Google Drive.

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Windows 10 – Love it or hate it? Here’s a few handy tips

Install Windows updates when it suits you (sir)

Windows 10 is designed so that you have to accept software updates to the operating system when you are told to.  There is the option available to change the install time and delay for up to six days later. 

Follow these steps:

Open the Start menu

Goto Settings, then Updates and Recovery

Choose Notify to schedule restart

Open Windows File Explorer to 'This PC'

You may have noticed that Windows 10’s File Explorer (the tree of folders on the left where all files, network drives and directories are stored on the machine) by default now opens to a view of your recently used files and folders.  It’s supposed to be for quick access but I find it a bit annoying.

So if you’re a creature of habit like me, you can change it back to the more familiar view setting by following these steps:

Click on the View ribbon at the top of File Explorer

Click on Options

Change the drop down menu from Quick Access to This PC

Bypass the Windows 10 login screen

You can skip straight to the Desktop screen when starting up your PC/laptop instead of going through the process of logging in.  This only really applies if you are the only person using it with no other user accounts set up.

Follow these steps:

In the Start Menu type ‘Run’ which brings up the Command prompt box

Press Enter

Type netplwiz in the Command prompt box

Click OK

Highlight your account shown in the list

Untick ‘Users must enter a username and password to use this computer’

Click Apply and enter your password twice to confirm

Restart your PC/laptop to make sure it has worked

It should then go straight to the Desktop screen upon Start up

*If you want to restore the original settings just repeat the process and add the tick back into ‘Users must enter a username and password to use this computer’

Turn off unwanted features

This is useful if you need to remove stuff you don’t need in Windows 10 to free up storage space and resources on your PC/laptop. 

Follow these steps:

Click Start and type ‘Programs and features’

 Select ‘Turn Windows features on or off'

Make sure you know what it is you are uninstalling and what it does before continuing!  If in doubt don't uninstall it.

Recommended things to remove are:

Internet Explorer 11  - Windows 10 comes with a default web browser called Edge so there isn’t really a need for both.  Chrome and Firefox are also widely used web browsers these days also

Legacy Components: DirectPlay – Only keep this if you like to play installed games on your PC/laptop that are over 10 years old

Media Features – The old Windows Media player which is pretty much buried in Windows 10.  A better option is VLC Media Player

Print and Document Services – Entries such as ‘Windows Fax and Scan’ are no longer much use and can be removed

Windows Process Activation Service – Used by developers only

Work Folder Client – Used in businesses and start ups.  Not much use in home computing

Remote Differential Compression API Support – Rarely used and can be removed

Windows Powershell 2.0 – This is an old version of Powershell and the latest version 5.0 should already be installed in Windows 10

XPS Services and XPS Viewer – Alternative to PDF and rarely used

 

 

Source:

Web User magazine

www.pcworld.com

 

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