CES 2014

CES 2014 finished recently, and although I’m a few weeks late, I thought I’d write about the stuff I found interesting.

Corsair Graphite 760T

Computer cases have had windows in side panels for years. However, something I’ve been wanting to see for a while is a case with a glass side panel. No matter how big that window is, if it is surrounded by metal, it just ruins the aesthetic. Luckily, Corsair seem to agree with me on this, so they made the Graphite 760T.

Of all the manufacturers to make a computer case with an acrylic side panel, I’m glad it was Corsair. Their cases have a clean aesthetic, while prioritising function over design. The side panel on the 760T is on a hinge and can easily be lifted off when it is open. There are tool-free mounts for optical drives, hard drives and SSDs.

ADATA 2TB SSDs

Talking about SSDs, ADATA have announced a 2TB SSD in a 2.5″ form factor. 2.5″ 2TB SSDs have been manufactured before, but none of them have been commercially available. However, the ADATA drive will be available to buy later this year. As always, it will cost a fortune at first, but competitors will release their 2TB SSDs and that will bring the prices down in just over a year.

SSDs are the future of computer storage. They are much faster than hard drives, and they are less prone to failure due to shock. Today, they cost about 10 times as much as regular hard drives, but prices are continuing to go down and it won’t be long before all computers have SSDs out the box.

Intel Edison

Intel announced a computer the size of an SD card. It has an Intel Quark CPU with “Pentium grade” performance. This raises a question – Why are computers still the size of a house?

The Intel Edison is intended to be a development board for experimentation with the Internet of Things. However, I think it has an other purpose. The Intel Quark CPU in there is currently a dual-core processor and will only run at 400MHz, but if they can overclock it, I think it could be used in smartphones, tablets and even some Ultrabooks.

Dell 4K Monitors

In the next few years, many people will be replacing their HD TVs and monitors with 4K screens. Unfortunately, anything with 4K resolution seems to cost the oil reserves of Saudi Arabia. The price of 4K screens will go down over time, but Dell, being a company who make their business keeping things cheap, have released 4K monitors at prices starting at $699.

Dell had to cut some corners to make such a cheap 4K monitor. Their 4K monitor uses cheaper display technology with lower quality colour and narrower viewing angles. Frame rate is also limited to 30Hz at its native resolution. However, it is still the cheapest 4K display, and it will push other manufacturers to bring their prices down.

Project Christine

I think we can agree that Project Christine was the best product at CES this year. It is basically a new kind of modular PC, including a large chunk in the middle which you could call the motherboard, and liquid cooled modules, including CPUs, SSDs, RAM and graphics cards, that will plug into PCIe-based connectors on the motherboard.

Project Christine will be good for people who want to build a computer, but aren’t comfortable with handling circuit boards or simply don’t know where all the cables go inside the computer. Project Christine is still in its prototype stages, but it’s a great idea and I hope it happens.

Posted on Friday 14th February 2014 - Leave a comment

Alternative Android Twitter Clients

TwitterTwitter recently released a new update to their official Android app, and if I’m being honest, I don’t like it. It is awful. It is ugly, and navigating around it is an absolute nightmare. They tried to shove too many buttons in the action bar, and they replaced the “interactions” and “profile” tabs with “discover” and “activity”, sections that I never use.

I decided to stick with this redesign while it was in its beta stages because I thought they were just experimenting with different layouts, but when they released that layout in an official update, I had to switch to a third party Twitter client to stop my head from exploding. I could go on about why this design is bad, but I think 2 paragraphs is enough.

TweedleTweedle – free with adverts

This is the first app I tried when Twitter released their redesigned app.

Tweedle sticks to the Holo design guidelines really closely, which is great if you’re like me and treat those guidelines as a religion. This app presents each tweet in its own card, a lot like Google Now, and it has Gmail’s swipe to refresh animation.

Tweedle also comes with a bit of customisation. You can change the background and accent colours of the app and change the tabs you see on the main screen. On top of that, Tweedle is super smooth.

Although I like Tweedle, there are a few small problems I have with it. First of all, it has one of the ugliest icons I’ve ever seen. This may seem like a small problem, but I don’t want to see an ugly icon every time I look at my home screen.

When I reload the timeline or post a new tweet in Tweedle, it shows a notification on top of the action bar, not allowing me to search for tweets or compose a new tweet until after a few seconds, when the notification disappears. This isn’t a real problem, but it could be easily solved by replacing that notification with a toast notification near the bottom of the screen.

The third problem with Tweedle is a problem I see with most Android apps. The main actions of the app are at the top of the screen, and you’ll see why this is a problem if you have a phone with a 5″ screen. I would like to see more apps with navigation right at the top of the screen and main actions at the bottom.

CarbonCarbon – free

Carbon is basically the opposite of Tweedle. Although it follows the basic Holo design guidelines, it takes a bold departure from the Holo look and feel. I like it.

In place of tabs for navigation, Carbon presents 3 dots at the top of the screen, similar to home screen dots on the Nexus 5, for the 3 main pages in the app; Timeline, Mentions and Direct Messages.

Carbon displays a lot of 3D animations for different swipe gestures. For instance, when you swipe down to refresh a feed, the whole screen tilts backwards. Carbon probably isn’t the app for people who like minimalistic designs.

If I could change one thing in Carbon, I would move the “new tweet” button and profile picture to the bottom left corner. I would also like to see a better icon, although the icon it has at the moment looks way better than the icon for Tweedle.

PlumePlume – free with adverts

Plume is probably one of the more full featured Twitter clients available for Android, and it is the only Twitter client in this blog post that includes Facebook integration. I can put up with the official Facebook app for Android, but if you can’t, this feature might be enough to convince you to switch.

Plume is also one of the more customisable Twitter clients available for Android. You can change what tabs you see on the main screen, colour code individual tweets in your timeline and add a striped background to the “mentions” screen.

Although I really like the look and feel of Plume, I’m not a big fan of its functionality. The tabs at the top are duplicated in the navigation drawer, and there is a timeline refresh button that could easily be replaced by a search button. Finally, Plume just doesn’t feel as smooth as the other Twitter clients.

I would happily use any of the third party Twitter clients in this blog post over Twitter’s official Android app at the moment. They all have great looking user interfaces, and they mostly have logical layouts. Then again, beating the official Twitter app isn’t exactly difficult at the moment.

Tweedle is great for people who like apps that follow the Holo design guidelines. Carbon is good for users looking for something a bit different, and this is the app I use at the moment. Plume is a great looking app, although I think you have to be a long time user to appreciate it at this point. What Twitter client do you use?

Posted on Saturday 4th January 2014 - 1 comment

Smartphones With Big Screens

HTC OneIn recent years, smartphones have been getting bigger and bigger. In 2010, most flagship smartphones had screens between 3.7″ and 4″, and 4.3″ was considered huge. Today, most smartphones have screens reaching towards 5″, and many smartphones are exceeding that screen size. Now, 4.3″ is considered small.

Many people like smartphones with bigger screens, and I can see why. My Nexus 4 has a 4.7″ screen, and it is excellent for typing on. With the high resolution, it is also great for watching videos. Still, every time someone makes a bigger smartphone, I ask myself, how far are we going with this?

One-handed use isn’t too bad with my Nexus 4 when I’m scrolling through lists, but it could be better. When I’m holding my phone normally, reaching the home button or the notification bar is a bit of a stretch, and I have to move my phone a little bit to reach the top left corner or the back button.

I think Apple have the right idea with screen sizes. The iPhone 5S  has a 4″ display, and Apple only increased this from 3.5″ to give the iPhone a 16:9 aspect ratio. The keyboard is still great to type on, and if you really need a bigger screen to watch movies on, you can get an iPad, or you can just turn on the TV.

Posted on Monday 4th November 2013 - Leave a comment

My First Computer

My First Computer Today

I got my first computer on my 11th birthday, and I still have it today. It is a Dell Dimension 5150C with a 2.8GHz Intel Pentium D and 1GB of DDR2 RAM. It originally had a 160GB hard drive and ran Windows XP, although it has since been upgraded to 500GB and now runs Ubuntu. Back in 2006, I thought it was the best computer ever built.

I had just arrived home from school and my friends were hanging out in my bedroom. It was a 90 minute bus journey home back then, so if my friends were coming to my house, they’d probably get there before me. Anyway, I went up to my bedroom and saw a computer on my desk. This was such a surprise that I had to go downstairs to confirm with my mum if the computer was actually mine.

I was not allowed to turn my computer on straight away, because all my friends were here. They would all want a go too, and one of them would break it. I enjoyed this birthday party. It was one of the best I’d had. I got a pet hamster from my brother, and I had a home made SpongeBob SquarePants birthday cake (my favourite cartoon back then). Still, part of me wanted everyone to piss off so I could try out my new computer.

When everyone left, I turned my computer on to try it out. I had played with computers at my school, so I already knew a few things. I could maximise and minimise windows. I quickly figured out how to change the desktop wallpaper. The two problems I had with the computer at the time were the lack of Microsoft Office and it crashing when I tried to play a DVD.

A few days after I got my computer, my mum got a internet connection installed. I didn’t realise this at the time, but having a computer is basically useless if you don’t have Internet access. Sure, I could play Pinball, and I figured out the trick to getting DVDs to work, but I didn’t have access to YouTube or the wealth of SpongeBob content available online.

After a few months of having this computer, it started having problems. Every time I opened the Internet browser, it would crash. I was using Internet Explorer 6 at the time, because I didn’t know about Mozilla Firefox. From then on, I accessed the Internet by opening Windows Explorer and typing an Internet URL in the address bar. I don’t know why, but that worked.

After lessthan two years of having my computer, it had more problems. The anti-virus software that came preinstalled on the computer somehow disabled internet connectivity. It was asking for some password, and the password reset question was “What was the make of your first car?” I didn’t know how to fix the problem back then, so I had to live without internet access until we had the money for a new computer.

A few months after I got a new laptop, one of the people I subscribe to on YouTube posted a video about how to fix different computer problems that can cause a blue screen of death. One of the tricks he mentioned included a way to disable all the third party startup applications. I tried that trick on my old Dell and it worked.

As I said, I still have this computer today. It is currently being used as a server for some of my movies and TV shows. With only 1GB of RAM and the outdated CPU, I don’t think it could easily be used as someone’s primary computer. However, when I want to watch South Park on my Mac without being tethered to an external hard drive, the old Dell is a great machine for fulfilling its purpose.

Posted on Saturday 14th September 2013 - Leave a comment

WWDC 2013

ios osx

A few weeks ago, Apple hosted their annual Worldwide Developer Conference, where they announced the next major releases of iOS and OS X. They also announced some pretty good updates to iCloud, as well as some new Mac hardware. This blog post is probably a bit late, but I’m going to go over what I think about Apple’s announcements.

iOS 7

iOS 7 gives the iPhone 4 and newer devices an entirely new look and feel, including a completely redesigned set of system apps. iOS 7 also adds a few new features, including a gallery that automatically arranges your pictures into “moments”, and a quick settings panel that can be accessed with a swipe up from below the screen.

jollaA lot of people say iOS 7 was mostly influenced by Android. However, I think iOS 7 was influenced by nearly all competing mobile operating systems in some way. The new tab view in mobile Safari came straight from Android. The quick settings panel is also arguably influenced by Android, although I think that came from Samsung’s TouchWiz software and from SBSettings.

The translucent look and feel of the iOS 7 user interface reminds me of Jolla Sailfish, an operating system that will come on future Nokia smartphones. The new multitasking view came straight from Windows Phone. The swipe gestures could be linked to Android or Windows Phone, although in my opinion, the functions they perform are Apple’s idea.

As well as some good points, iOS 7 has its share of flaws. To begin with, the system app icons could be improved. Sure, they had to be changed, but I don’t think Apple put much thought into them. Most of the icons have been oversimplified, and the gradients they use are way too sharp. Still, some people like the new icons, and Apple have said the icons aren’t final, so hopefully they’ll look good by the final release.

iOS 7 comes with a redesigned keyboard to fit in with the translucent look and feel of the OS. However, apart from the design, the keyboard is the same as it has always been. There is no decent auto correction, and there is no option to type by sliding your thumb over the letters you want, a feature that has become increasingly available in Android over the last year.

iOS 7 will stop iPhone users from switching to Android for another year or so. However, I don’t think it will get people switching from their current smartphones. Android still allows for more customisation than iOS, and even Windows Phone has dynamic app shortcuts on the home screen, which many iPhone users have been wanting for quite a while.

The main problem I personally have with iOS 7 is the hardware support. Apple decided to stop supporting the 4th generation iPod Touch, even though it was the newest iPod Touch available less than a year ago. I don’t have a 4th generation iPod Touch, but I do have a first generation iPad, and I wasn’t happy when Apple decided not to update that to iOS 6, yet updating the iPhone 3Gs.

OS X Mavericks

notification

OS X Mavericks comes with a few new features that I like. The new version of Safari comes with a redesigned new tab page and some speed improvements. The new version of Finder now supports tabbed browsing. Apple have also added integrated functions to system notifications, such as quickly replying to messages, or marking a new email as ‘read’.

OS X Mavericks mostly includes little improvements, such as the ability to tag files and a few software tweaks to improve the speed and battery life of their computers. As for improved support for multiple displays, I think that should have been an early software update for OS X Lion, but at least they fixed that problem at last.

These days, updates to OS X are quite cheap. OS X Mountain Lion was £13.99 from the App Store, and the year before that, OS X Lion was £20.99. I’m not expecting OS X Mavericks to cost any more than around £15, and I think that is quite good compared to the price of £50 for a Windows 8 upgrade. Assuming my 2009 MacBook Pro is still supported, I will probably buy OS X Mavericks on the day Apple release it.

iCloud

Apple announced web versions of the iWork applications that will be available in iCloud later this year. The iWork web-apps will be able to edit iWork and Microsoft Office documents. iWork for iCloud doesn’t have all the functionality found in the native Mac software, but it will certainly have all the features required to make final changes to a Pages document or Keynote presentation.

New Hardware

Apple didn’t announce any new iOS hardware at WWDC this year. They announced a new MacBook Air with Intel’s new 4th generation Haswell architecture for improved speed and battery life, as well as a new Mac Pro, with a cylindrical design and improved cooling. They also announced a new AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule.

The new MacBook Airs have greatly improved battery life, with the 11-inch model getting 9 hours and the 13-inch model getting 12 hours. The base model MacBook Airs also got storage upgrades. However, I would have liked to see Retina displays in the new MacBooks. I think the screens in the MacBook Airs need to be at least 1080p to fit in with other ultraportable computers available.

proThe new Mac Pro is nothing like its predecessor. It is about ⅛ the size of the previous model, and it is built completely differently to how any other computer is built. Apple made their new Mac Pro smaller by replacing the cooling for each individual component with what they are calling a unified thermal core, which is basically a large heat sink in the middle of the computer for air flow to all the hardware.

The new Mac Pro also comes with PCIe flash storage, which is about twice as fast as an SSD connected through SATA, and about 10 times as fast as a 7200-rpm hard drive. Finally, the Mac Pro includes 6 Thunderbolt 2 ports, providing 20Gbit/s transfer speeds for those who need it, and 4 USB 3 ports, providing 5Gbit/s transfer speeds on a cheaper, more widely adopted standard.

Although the new Mac Pro seems like an amazing machine, it gives up one very important feature from the previous generation Mac Pro. The old Mac Pro allowed upgrades to the RAM, hard drives and disc drives. There were even PCIe expansion slots, giving users the option to upgrade their graphics cards. As far as I can tell, in the new Mac Pro, you can upgrade the RAM and that’s about it.

Apple’s new AirPort hardware is redesigned, and it is now taller with a smaller footprint. More importantly, the new AirPort hardware comes with 802.11ac  wireless technology, which is noticeably faster than the 802.11n standard used on most wireless devices today. I like the look of the new AirPort Extreme, but I still think the AirPort Time Capsule is basically an overpriced wireless extern

Posted on Monday 8th July 2013 - Leave a comment

Broken Education

My school recently visited a university to learn about the student life. We were told about how student loans would work, as well as how we would apply. We were then taken on a tour around the campus, and we were taken to a show flat in the halls of residence.

When I was at the university, they mentioned that a lot of the good universities won’t give a student a place if they don’t have good A-Level grades. This got me thinking. I don’t think I’m an idiot, but I don’t think I did too well on my AS exams. I probably did alright overall, but at the same time, I’m not expecting anything higher than a B and two C’s when I get my results.

When I chose the AS courses I wanted to take, I didn’t have time to put much thought into my choices. I ended up choosing math mechanics, physics, and music. I didn’t know what would be taught in the different classes, and as it turns out, I didn’t make the best choices.

In London, I spent several years in special education, and then I went to an international school, where students were taught International Baccalaureate courses. I found the IB too demanding, as I was expected to learn a foreign language. I ended up leaving London and taking A-Level courses. Because of my educational background, I never had the chance to get any GCSEs, and that caused a bit of confusion.

I find it very hard to learn a subject if it is boring, and if it is taught at a fast pace. I also have a lot of trouble understanding something I am told if it is abstract, or if it doesn’t have any real life examples I can appreciate. To some extent, if something can’t excite a child, it can’t excite me. A lot of my AS classes have those problems, and they are probably the main cause of my low grades.

University costs a lot of money. The courses cost £9,000/year, and that’s not including textbooks and supplies for the course you take. When someone goes to university, they have to get a loan from the government, and after their course, they have to pay off that loan over the next 30 years.

I think the system for student applications needs to improve. A personal statement can’t be any longer than 4,000 characters, and I read somewhere that UCAS doesn’t even read all the applications they receive. It seems like most universities are looking for great students, but they can’t really be bothered to read anything more than approximately how well you did on a few tests.

Student ambassadors told us that attending university was meant to be a fun and overall positive experience. This reminds me of when I was at the international school. My class were introduced to Theory of Knowledge, a subject that all IB Diploma students are required to take. The teacher said TOK was a fun subject, where the class would have interesting debates. Two weeks later, they had us writing essays.

School teaches every child in the country the same subjects for free, and after 12 years, you can choose a few subjects you want to carry on with. Don’t get me wrong – The way the world is run, everyone needs to be educated. However, at the international school, I had to sit through over a year of history and geography lessons. I want to have a career in software development, and for that, I don’t think I absolutely have to know all the political details of World Wars I and II.

I understand that not every school in the country can have teachers for every subject of interest, when only one or two students might want to take some of those subjects. To solve that problem, I think each school in an area should focus on a key interest, and let most of the other subjects be optional. I think it can be done, and I know it would make school a lot more enjoyable.

Anyway, I haven’t yet decided whether I’ll be going to university. I don’t like the way things are done, but without a degree, I’m going to have a hard time getting the job I want. Steve Jobs never graduated from university, and he lived a successful life, but he was different. He was a little bit crazy. I think his rebellious nature was the main cause of his success.

Perhaps I’ll pursue my interest in music in the future, and do anything computer related as a hobby. If I wrote a great piece of software, I would want to release it for free anyway. Perhaps I’ll work on improving the education system. I could think of some good ideas. Then again, I’ll probably have to get a university degree for that.

Posted on Saturday 15th June 2013 - 3 comments

Marriage Equality

Same Sex Marriage

 

Image by Mike Licht; NotionsCapital.com

I am surprised to be writing a blog post about the issue of same sex marriage. I’m surprised this debate even exists, especially today. This blog post probably won’t change anything. Even if my website was as famous as YouTube or Facebook, I don’t think anyone against same sex marriage would take this blog post seriously. However, if nothing else, I will be able to share my thoughts.

I don’t understand the homosexual mind. Although I don’t care about what others do behind closed doors, I can see why so many religions are against it. However, some people simply prefer a different way of doing things. Nobody has to like homosexuality or even have homosexual friends. Homosexuality doesn’t affect anyone in a negative way, and people against it need to do nothing but ignore it.

One argument against homosexuality is that it isn’t natural. However, hundreds of animals have been known to engage in homosexual activity. The only thing stopping people from engaging in homosexual activity is the discrimination against it. Besides, I don’t think it is correct to judge the morality of something based on whether it is natural.

Another argument against homosexuality is that every child deserves a mother and a father. Like the last argument, this one is also invalid. Many children are raised by single parents, or by an orphanage. This has nothing to do with homosexual marriage. Besides, if I was an orphan during early childhood, I think I would be quite happy with two fathers.

I’m sure there are plenty more arguments against homosexuality and same-sex marriage. However, the truth is that if same-sex marriage is legalised, nothing bad will happen. Nothing at all. If I am wrong, let me know in the comments.

Posted on Wednesday 17th April 2013 - Leave a comment

LG Optimus GT540 Challenge

LG Optimus GT540As you may know, my first Android phone was an LG Optimus GT540. Less than 6 months after I got that phone, I bought an HTC Desire S, which I used for around 18 months. Last December, I bought a Google Nexus 4, and it is an excellent phone. However, for quite a while I’ve been wanting to go back to the LG GT540 for a few weeks, just to give it a try.

My Nexus 4 was dropped recently, and the glass on the front was cracked, making the touchscreen unresponsive. I was shocked to see that the screen had cracked, as the phone was in an ArmourDillo Hybrid Protective Case. If you are going to buy this case, buy a screen protector as well. Anyway, my mum’s boyfriend is currently using the HTC Desire S, and I had an excuse to give the LG GT540 another try.

The LG Optimus GT540 is a lower end Android phone from 2010, costing £100 at the time. It originally ran on Android 1.6 and was later officially upgraded to Android 2.1. This phone has a 600 MHz CPU, 256 MB RAM and 512 MB of internal storage, with 130 MB for apps. A 2GB micro SD card is also provided in the box. To complete the experience, this phone has a 3.0-inch resistive HVGA touchscreen.

Google Nexus 4

At first, I thought I was going to enjoy going back to the early days of Android. However, I quickly realised how wrong I was. In fact, when I was buying a SIM card for the phone, I was very tempted to buy an HTC Wildfire S as a temporary replacement. The Wildfire S is similar to the LG GT540, but it was released in 2011. It has a 3.2-inch capacitive touchscreen and a newer version of Android, for around £75.

The first complaint I had about the LG GT540 was with the screen. The screen is far too small to type on at a decent speed, and it is resistive. I found that a pencil makes it much easier to use this phone. However, I ended up using a stylus from a Nintendo DS. This puts me under a lot of shame as a computer geek, and I haven’t been able to laugh at anyone using an iPhone or even an old BlackBerry.

The second complaint I had with the LG GT540 was with the software. It is not well optimised for the hardware, and quite honestly, going back to this phone feels like using an alpha build of Windows Vista. LG’s pathetic excuse for an on screen keyboard had to be replaced with TouchPal, and LG’s custom launcher was quickly replaced with GO Launcher.

The third complaint I had about the LG GT540 was the pathetic amount of internal storage. I bought a 32GB micro SD card, so I have plenty of space for my music and photos. However, apps have to be installed on the internal storage, and 130 MB just isn’t enough. I can install apps I need, such as GO Launcher and Twitter. However, that leaves no space for Facebook or a theme for GO Launcher.

The forth and final complaint was that I couldn’t find a way to install a custom ROM on this phone to save my life. I couldn’t find a way to reboot this phone into the bootloader screen, even using ADB with USB debugging enabled. If LG aren’t going to make a decent software experience on that phone, the least they could do is to allow the developer community to have a go at it.

Although I couldn’t find a way to install a custom ROM on the LG GT540, I was able to root it using an application called z4root. This app uses a security exploit in Android to, well, get root access. Because of that, I can delete bloatware from the phone and underclock the CPU to save battery. However, I am not able to overclock the CPU, or tether my mobile internet connection to other devices.

If there is one positive thing to say about this phone, it is probably with app support. Although LG stopped pushing software updates to this phone a long time ago, many of the popular smartphone apps will work fine on Android 2.1, including the official Facebook and Twitter apps. However, Instagram requires a newer version of Android, and third party Twitter clients have a compatibility issue with my phone.

Although the LG Optimus GT540 is a horrible phone to use, I can still use it as my main phone. Since this phone is made entirely out of plastic on the outside, I don’t have to worry about the screen cracking when I throw it across the room. However, the Google Nexus 4 doesn’t need to be thrown across the room, and because of that, when my Nexus 4 gets a new screen, I’ll be very glad to start using it again.

Posted on Sunday 10th March 2013 - 1 comment

Cover-Mate Desktop Charging Dock Review

Nexus 4 with the ArmourDillo Case on the Charging DockThe Cover-Mate Desktop Charging Dock is made for LG and Samsung Smartphones. It should work with any phone with the Micro USB port on the bottom, and the wide end of the Micro USB plug facing the back of the phone.

As the name suggests, it is also able to work around a case. It will even work with thick cases like the ArmourDillo Hybrid Protective Case on the Nexus 4. When you place your phone on the charging dock, its weight will make small adjustments to the angle and height of where it sits.

This charging dock has a feeling of good build quality to it, for its price. It is made mostly from glossy plastic and, where the phone sits, matte plastic. There are two rubber feet on the bottom to stop it from sliding around.

This charging dock also comes with an extra Micro USB cable, in case you are using the cable you already have for something else. At around 1m in length, this cable will be far too short for some people to use. However, I think it is a nice touch.

There is one problem with this charging dock that can’t be easily avoided. When you are putting your phone on it, you have to hold the dock still and carefully place your phone on top of the Micro USB connector. This problem can be solved with wireless charging, and it does seem like something that will be used a lot more in the future. However, wireless chargers currently cost around £40, which is a bit steep. Besides that, most smartphones still don’t support wireless charging.

If you decide to buy this charging dock, I would recommend using it with care. Avoid using it on the edge of a table, or anywhere where the phone could get knocked to the ground. When the phone is on the charging dock, it is standing up and can be knocked down a lot more easily. I am mentioning this because even if your phone has a case on it, the screen of your smartphone can fall on top of the charging dock and get cracked.

This charging dock costs £19.95. I think it would be better priced at around £15. However, if you choose your next smartphone carefully, it should work with that dock. Because of that, the charging dock has good value for money overall. It can be bought from MobileFun.co.uk and MobileFun.com under Galaxy Note 2 accessories.

Posted on Tuesday 19th February 2013 - Leave a comment

Miniature USB Flash Drive Stylus Review

Header Image
The idea of using a stylus with a smartphone seems a little bit old fashioned today. Steve Jobs never liked them, and they were originally meant to make it easier to use old resistive touchscreens. As smartphones evolved to catch up with Apple’s iPhone, the stylus mostly died out. However, Samsung started their Galaxy Note series, with the S-Pen advertised as the main selling point. The Galaxy Note II is currently one of the most popular smartphones among the Android crowd, and it easily matches Google’s Nexus 4 with popularity. Clearly, the stylus hasn’t completely died out, and there are still several uses for one.

Using a good quality stylus is one of the best ways to prevent fingerprints on the screen of your smartphone. A stylus can also be used to draw quick pictures on your smartphone or tablet, to save paper. One of the best uses for a stylus is for when you are wearing gloves. Finally, a stylus might be used by someone who wants to use a smartphone, but isn’t used to touchscreens. Although most mobile software today uses buttons big enough for users to tap with their thumb, some people still find a stylus to be a more accurate pointing device.

The first problem I found with this stylus is its length. The stylus is too short to be used like a pen or a pencil, and it is awkwardly shaped, meaning there is only one way to hold it comfortably. It is possible to get used to the length of this stylus, and it is meant to be small. However, if this stylus was around half the length of a pen, it would still fit into nearly any pocket, and it would be a lot more comfortable to use.

Another problem with this stylus is that it leaves prints on a smartphone screen. If you are looking for a stylus specifically to avoid fingerprints, you will find stylus prints instead, and they are just as bad. This isn’t a big problem, as the marks can simply be wiped off. However, it is something to keep in mind.

Stylus Image
The biggest problem with this stylus is how it is made. The part used to touch the screen is covered in a thin layer of smooth plastic, to make it easier to use the stylus for swipe gestures. That layer of plastic started to peel off in about a day of regular use and some time in my pocket. Because of that, with too much swiping, the rubber tip at the end falls off. This problem can be solved by covering the end of the stylus with a thin strip of paper or sticky tape, but that way of fixing the problem makes the stylus look a bit cheap.

The other end of this stylus has a built in USB flash drive. This flash drive has 16GB to store your data, and it operates at a reasonably fast speed, only taking a few minutes to transfer around 1GB of data. It has always been impossible to have too many USB flash drives, and that is especially true today. Because of that, the USB flash drive adds a lot of value to this stylus.

USB Flash Drive
I would recommend this stylus for someone who just wants an accurate pointing device for their smartphone, or for someone who wears gloves a lot. I would not recommend this stylus for someone who won’t use the USB flash drive. Overall, this stylus is a good idea, and with the £15 price tag, it has good value for money. However, it could certainly be improved. This stylus can be bought from MobileFun.co.uk, under Galaxy Note 2 accessories.

Posted on Tuesday 12th February 2013 - 3 comments