MacBook Pro Review

My main computer is a 2009 MacBook Pro, which I received and unboxed on December 23rd 2009. Right now, it might be a little late to do a review on my MacBook, a computer that is now nearly three years old. However, I want to give new Mac users a basic idea of what OS X is like, and how a Mac can last quite a long time for most users.

My MacBook Pro came with a 2.53 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4 GB of RAM which has now been upgraded to 8 GB, and a 250 GB Hard Drive which has been upgraded to a 512 GB SSD. In other words, my Mac was a step up from the base model of the MacBook Pro. I got the step up model because a friend knew someone who worked for Apple and could get a good discount in it.

MacBook Pro

My MacBook Pro has the same design as the MacBook Pro’s you can buy today. This design is over three years old, yet it still looks good. The outer shell of the MacBook Pro is made from aluminium. That means there is almost no flex, if any. Because of the aluminium unibody, the computer also feels like a high quality machine.

My MacBook Pro originally shipped with OS X Snow Leopard, but it has had two operating system upgrades and is now running OS X Mountain Lion. One of the main reasons I bother upgrading my Mac to the next OS is because it is cheaper. The OS X Lion upgrade was around £20 and the OS X Mountain Lion upgrade was £14. In comparison, most Windows upgrades cost over £100. I hear that upgrading to Windows 8 will be cheaper, but I also hear it will still cost more than OS X upgrades.

OS X is a great desktop operating system. It has great window management, with Mission Control as a way to see all your open windows grouped by applications, all your fullscreen apps and if you want, your dashboard. Another feature I love in OS X is the App Store, which like the iPhone, allows you to use iTunes credit to purchase software instead of sharing your credit or debit card details.

Besides great features, OS X is also a lot more stable than Microsoft Windows. Saying that, most operating systems I have tried are more stable than Windows, including Ubuntu. However, most people don’t know about Ubuntu and while I think Ubuntu 12.04 is mostly ready for the average user, it doesn’t have Mission Control and the developers of Ubuntu only control the software, which means that some of the drivers for internal hardware might not work correctly.

OS X is a great operating system and if you want to find out more about it, you will have to go into an Apple store or check the Apple website. However, like all operating systems, there are some things I don’t like about OS X. Firstly, it has more applications you have to pay for than other operating systems. This is not Apple’s fault, but at the same time, Apple could provide the iWork applications out of the box, as the days of paying for office software have mostly ended due to Google Drive.

Another problem I have with OS X is how Apple add their software to their iOS devices, but completely ignore Android. Android is an iOS competitor, but Windows is also a competitor with OS X, yet Apple still make iTunes for Windows. I would like to see iTunes for Android which would allow me to purchase iTunes music and sync my phone with iTunes, and an iCloud app which would allow me to use more of iCloud than just the email part of it.

While OS X has it’s problems, it has had Boot Camp since Apple switched to Intel processors in their Macs. That means if I wanted to go back to Windows for a bit, and I didn’t mind buying it, I could have a dual boot setup. However, I think the problems with OS X are less of a pain to deal with than the problems with Microsoft Windows.

Tuesday 7th August 2012 - Leave a comment

OS X Mountain Lion Review

 

I recently upgraded my MacBook Pro to OS X Mountain Lion and I am going to go through the upgrade procedure and some of the new features, including some small changes that I actually like.

Before I start on OS X Mountain Lion, I want to make it clear that Apple released Safari 6 to OS X Lion. Certain features have been left out, but if you are planning to upgrade to Mountain Lion just to get full width tabs in Safari, and to be able to Google stuff from the URL bar, check Apple Software Update first.

Upgrading my Mac to OS X Mountain Lion went fairly smoothly. I was not able to download the upgrade straight away because Apple’s servers were too busy earlier on. This is not surprising as many Mac users have been wanting to get their hands on Mountain Lion for months.

The download of OS X Mountain Lion was quite large. It is approximately a 4GB download, which is almost double the size of an ISO image of the Windows 8 Release Preview. The download size of an Ubuntu ISO image is approximately 700MB, less than 1/5 of the OS X download. Large file sizes aside, I did not have much trouble upgrading my Mac to OS X Mountain Lion.

The image above is a screenshot of my desktop. As you can see, I have changed the wallpaper from the default wallpaper to a picture of the Milky Way Galaxy. I don’t remember seeing this wallpaper in OS X Lion, and there are a lot of other wallpapers that were just added in OS X Mountain Lion.

Apple made some very small changes to OS X. One change I like is the dock, with a new background. It is more minimal, but it still has the cool 3D look and the slight reflection of the desktop. Another small change in Mountain Lion is with the scroll bars. When you hover over them, they get wider, making it more obvious that you can scroll the old fashioned way if you wish. There are other small changes, including rubber band scrolling in grid stacks on the dock.

Apple have also renamed a couple of the applications in OS X. Address Book is now called Contacts and iCal is now called Calendar. Those changes are very small and I’m sure they could be made in any version of OS X in a user account with administrator privileges. However, it makes me wonder when System Preferences will become Settings and when iTunes is split into Music, Videos and Books.

As for bigger changes, Apple have added social network integration to several applications in OS X, with the ability to share website links on Twitter for now. Apple say Facebook will be added in a future software update. However, I do not see why it couldn’t be included now, as a lot of my friends don’t use Twitter. I would also like Google+ integration to be added in the future.

OS X Mountain Lion comes with a few improvements to iCloud, which is one of the main reasons I upgraded. In iWork, I am now able to save presentations, documents and spreadsheets to iCloud. This means that when I go to school, I can take a lot of my notes on my iPad. I will probably be able to leave my MacBook at home more, and I will be able to annoy everyone else in class with the clicky sound you get in the iOS keyboard.

Apple added a few iOS applications to OS X. OS X now has Reminders, Notes and Game Center. I do not know if I will be using Reminders and Notes on my Mac, but they are now there if I do decide to use them. As for Game Center, I am not much of a gamer and I never used Game Center on my iPod Touch or my iPad. However, there are people who use Game Center on their iOS devices and they will start using it on their Macs.

With the release of OS X Mountain Lion, Apple also released Safari 6. It has a few features that you can only get on OS X Mountain Lion, such as share sheets, iCloud tabs and a pinch gesture that allows you to preview all your open tabs. Pretty much everyone I know has switched to Google Chrome, but Apple are still trying to compete in their own way. Safari doesn’t have a screen for web apps like what is found in Google Chrome, but perhaps Apple will give OS 10.9 iOS-like web-app support, allowing users to add websites to the dock and launchpad as applications.

One of the biggest new features in OS X Mountain Lion is Notification Center. I am able to see notifications for supported apps with a quick swipe on the trackpad. As of writing this post, the applications on my Mac that support notification center include Calendar, FaceTime, Game Center, Google Chrome, MagicPrefs, Mail, Messages, Reminders, Safari and Twitter. I have figured out how to show the birthdays of my Facebook friends in the notification center by syncing calendars between Facebook and my Gmail account.

The upgrade to OS X Mountain Lion costs around $20 in the USA and around £14 in the UK. Apple will let you upgrade from the latest version of OS X Snow Leopard, 10.6.8, or from any version of OS X Lion. More information about upgrading can be found here, including whether or not your Mac can be upgraded. You can install the upgrade with an Internet connection and the first season of South Park. The download from the App Store will take a while, so make sure you have a good DVD or something to kill a bit of time.

Thursday 26th July 2012 - Leave a comment

Custom ROMs on Smartphones

I recently decided to start hacking my smartphone. I am not talking about the illegal type of hacking that everyone knows about, where someone steals people’s bank details and all their money. I am talking about simply making changes to my smartphone that will allow me to install different operating systems, or ROMs as they are generally referred to as on smartphones.

Installing, or flashing a custom ROM basically means installing an unofficial version of Andriod, such as MIUI or CyanogenMod. The good thing about flashing a custom ROM to my phone is that I can get features on my phone that are not included in the official ROM on my phone.

Flashing custom ROMs on a smartphone will generally void the warranty. This means that if you are unsure about taking risks that could potentially brick your phone if you make a mistake, it is probably not a good idea to take those risks. However, if you have a bit of experience, or if you are experimenting with an old phone you don’t care about, go ahead! You probably won’t screw up your phone anyway.

I use the MIUI ROM on my Desire S. MIUI is developed in China, in Chinese and English. It is then translated to many other languages by developers around the world. MIUI looks very different from any other Android ROM and in my opinion, it is the best looking ROM available. This ROM is very user friendly and when you start to get bored of the look and feel, you can install a fresh new theme quite easily.

If you want practically unlimited customisability with some great features added, and if do not care too much about looks, CyanogenMod is an excellent ROM to try out. It is not as pretty looking or as user friendly as MIUI, but the look and feel of it is a bit more like stock Android. This is a good thing because it will probably look right with a third party launcher that you might install. It is hard to explain it, but MIUI simply just isn’t made for third party launchers.

You may like the idea of installing a custom ROM on your Android phone. However, the steps involved in preparing your Android for custom ROMs are too complicated to fit in this blog post. It involves unlocking the ROM storage in your phone and in many cases, rooting your stock ROM to install a new recovery partition. Those steps also vary depending on which phone you use.

If you want to find out more about hacking your phone, check out the XDA Forums. This link will open as a new page in your Internet browser. When you go to that website, simply type the phone you use in the search bar and there will be loads of threads about that phone, nearly always including how to root it and install custom ROMs. If there are too many posts, just use Google.

Friday 6th July 2012 - Leave a comment

Project Bet@ Template for WordPress

The Project Bet@ Template is a stylish, minimalistic WordPress theme. You may download, alter and redistribute it as you like. However, if you are going to make changes to it, please keep in mind the following requests:

  • In the CSS file, please give the theme two authors – Jack Durrant and yourself.
  • In footer.php, please leave the notice at the bottom saying that this site uses the Project Bet@ Template.

If you do not follow these requests, I will not take any action. However, those two requests are not much for a free theme and even though I am not publishing this with copyright, I still think that I deserve credit for making the theme.

Please keep in mind that if you use this theme on your main site without making any changes to it, your email address will be displayed publicly. I will not accept responsibility for spam emails in your inbox.

As you can tell from the name of the theme, it is a beta and always will be a beta. That means that while it can be used, you should expect to find problems with it. If you find a problem, you can Email me or write your problem down in the comments. If I get enough emails and comments, I could add a “known issues” section to this blog post.

Download

Known Issues

  • The font size for the navigation is quite large, which could result in two navigation bars if there are too many links, which would take away from the clean look.
  • Embedded YouTube videos only have rounded corners on the preview screen, and only when the user has enabled the HTML5 video player.
  • Lists on the website look a bit crowded, as there is no spacing between list item elements. This problem will be fixed in version 2012.2.
  • In the comments section of a blog post, comments that can be edited have edit links with brackets around them, which takes away from the clean look. This can drive users mad and is one of the main reasons for version 2012.2 still being in development.
  • Some of the CSS properties in this theme may be incompatible with older Internet browsers, including Internet Explorer, still one of the most widely used browsers in Windows.
  • The template is not optimized for smartphones or larger displays. There is a mobile version of the template that you can try out on your phone, but it is still very much a work in progress. I hope to sort out CSS for both the desktop and mobile sites in version 2012.2, but that is not a promise.

Changelog

  • 2012.2 – 11/09/2012 – Coming soon! This update is still in development.
    • New, cleaner look
    • Added links to the bottom for contact, admin tools and the homepage
    • More visible search bar, still with a clean look to it
    • Custom comments template added, future changes possible
    • Hopefully mobile compatibility (No promises yet, but this feature will be added eventually…)
  • 2012.1.7 – 26/06/2012
    • Added padding to #wrapper for better viewing on tablets and smaller computer monitors
    • Removed list tags from top navigation
  • 2012.1.6 – 24/06/2012
    • Added proper borders to input boxes to make them more visible
  • 2012.1.5 – 24/06/2012
    • Fixed incorrect rounded corners for share buttons in Really Simple Share
  • 2012.1.4 – 24/06/2012
    • The theme now has a screenshot thumbnail
  • 2012.1.3 – 24/06/2012
    • Added rounded corners to more elements in blog posts
  • 2012.1.2 – 24/06/2012
    • Fixed threaded comments
  • 2012.1.1 – 24/06/2012
    • Updated Theme URI
  • 2012.1 – 24/06/2012
    • Released

Sunday 24th June 2012 - Leave a comment

My Thoughts on Chrome OS

Chrome OS Screenshot

Google’s Chrome OS is a Linux distribution with only one application – Google Chrome. Google noticed that people are using the Internet more and more and because of that, they decided to make an operating system that works entirely with an  Internet browser and uses web-apps. The advantage of Chrome OS is that with this concept, they are able to optimize a Linux distribution to boot really fast, as it is only required to run an Internet browser.

I really like the idea of Chrome OS and would love to own a Chromebook. However, there are a couple of problems which I would like to see fixed before I order one of  those Chromebooks. A Chromebook would be really useful for me, as I would be  able to take that to to my school with me instead of my MacBook, which costs a lot more, weighs a lot more and has a hard drive which is more prone to failure and causes my Mac to take longer waking up from sleep mode.

Google Drive

The first thing Google need to sort out is Google Drive. More specifically, they need fix the document editor. I love the user interface in the document editor and while it has most of the features I need in an Office suite, there are a few features that Google left out. The biggest feature that I would like to see added is the ability to merge cells in the document editor. It is a very basic feature found in iWork, Microsoft Office and even LibreOffice. If Google can’t add that feature to a web-app for some reason, they could at least install a cleaned up or slimmed down version of LibreOffice to Chrome OS.

The Price

Chromebooks are a great idea and I would love to buy one, but I’m sorry Google – I just don’t want to pay £350 for a glorified Internet browser. There are netbooks that you can get for nearly as low as half the price and while I hate netbooks, there are some people who don’t have a problem with them, and it is easy for anyone to download Google Chrome on one of them.

Thursday 31st May 2012 - Leave a comment

What I Want to See in iOS 6

Apple have put their invitation to this year’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference on the Internet, and while Apple probably won’t announce the next iPhone, we all know they will announce iOS 6, as well as talk about some new features in OS X Mountain Lion.

Apple WWDC 2012 Invitation

I have already written about Mountain Lion and what I think Apple will do in the future, so I decided to write about what I want to see in iOS 6. I am not going to just write a top-five list like a lot of tech bloggers seem to be doing, because to be honest, I can think of lots more improvements that Apple need to add to iOS.

Dashboard
Apple need to figure out a place to put widgets on the iPhone. I know, there is Notification Centre and that has a couple of widgets, but that doesn’t count because there are only two widgets and they can’t be added in the iPad notifications.

A New Lock Screen
The lock screen in iOS is simple. Five years ago, it was an excellent idea, and everyone loved the simplicity of it. However, today, that same lock screen is a bit out of date. Apple have added notifications and a shortcut to the camera, but the lock screen in HTC Sense for Android is much better. Apple need to think of something new for the next iOS lock screen.

Online Accounts API
Android has had support for online accounts for any websites since, I think, the beginning. That basically means that I am able to sync my Facebook friends with the contacts on my phone, and since a lot of my Facebook friends share their number on their profile, when I add a friend, their number is already in my contacts list. And if I get a new phone and for some reason, I have to change my Gmail account, all I have to do is sign into Facebook and half my contacts are already saved on my phone.

Mission Control
It can be done, especially on the iPad, and it would be awesome. We might not see this until iOS 7, but hey, this is everything I want to see in the next update. Plus, this would be a place where they could fit in the Dashboard if they decide to add it.

Siri for the iPad
Before Apple announced the iPad 3 or iPad HD, whatever you call it… Anyway, everyone was expecting to see Siri, but that is not the case. I don’t know if Apple are going to add that feature, but they should.

A new colour scheme
I’m not going to lie – I stole this idea from someone else. I saw it in a YouTube comment. The toolbar in Mobile Safari at the moment is a blue-ish colour on the iPhone and iPod Touch, but a grey gradient on the iPad. I actually think Apple should replace anything that colour with the glass effect used for the toolbar in the photos app.

A better YouTube app
The YouTube app in iOS at the moment is essentially the same as it was five years ago. It has changed a bit, with the ability to sign into YouTube and thumb ratings instead of star ratings, but it hasn’t changed like the rest of YouTube has. I think Apple should simply remove the YouTube app. Then, people can start going to YouTube.com, and the mobile website is actually really good. And, if Apple removed the YouTube app from iOS, Google would probably add their own YouTube app to the App Store.

Third Party Siri Plug-ins
Siri is an excellent feature on the iPhone 4s, but it doesn’t really allow you to do much. Apple need to add the Siri API to iOS when they release iOS 6. Then, Facebook could add the “Update Status” command and Twitter could add the “New Tweet” command. Then, people might actually start using Siri.

Facebook and Google+ Integration
iOS 5 has Twitter integration, which means if you watch a YouTube video in the YouTube app, you can share it on Twitter. While I prefer Twitter to Facebook anyway, everyone I know uses Facebook and I want my friends to see the video. Apple could add that feature to online accounts if they decide to go that way, but however they decide to do it, I think this feature needs to be added.

Ability to Remove Preinstalled iOS Apps
This isn’t a big deal, but it is a bit annoying to have icons on the home screen that you never use. The Game Center icon isn’t a big deal as it can be hidden away in a folder. However, the News Stand icon can’t be hidden away and it’s quite annoying. We don’t need to delete these things, but we should be allowed to turn them off in the settings.

I may add more to this blog post later on, so if you want, you can go back to this website. Otherwise, I’m sure you can also think of stuff that needs to be added in the next software update.

Wednesday 23rd May 2012 - Leave a comment

Windows 8 and the Future of Operating Systems

I am a Mac user. I use a MacBook Pro and I loved using it since I first got it. The main reasons I started using a Mac were because I got an iPod Touch a year earlier and loved that, and because I was using a Windows Vista laptop as my main computer when I decided to make the switch. One great thing about the Mac is that it is really easy to use and I was able to figure everything out when I took it out the box it came in. The Windows user interface felt more familiar to me at the time but that was mostly because I had been using Windows computers for years and I knew what I was doing. To figure out how to use a Mac, I watched a few YouTube videos and then I found it easy.

Windows 8 Screenshot

When Microsoft first introduced Windows 8, I wasn’t really a big fan of the Metro UI. I think Microsoft could have done a better job with Windows Phone 7 and that bring Metro to the next major release of Windows is a terrible idea. However, the Metro UI is also good in some ways. For a start, by giving the desktop and mobile versions of Windows the same user interface, new users will only have to learn one user interface to be able to use the other operating system. Another good thing about Windows 8 is that while many people say it is a terrible user interface if you are using a keyboard and mouse, Windows 8 will be installed on tablets and for the average user, a computer with a mouse and keyboard won’t be necessary.

Another good thing about the Metro UI is that it is programmed in HTML, CSS and JavaScript. That essentially means that it doesn’t take much processing power to generate the user interface than it takes to generate a website, possibly even less, since it doesn’t require the use of Flash Player or Java. In other words, the Metro UI, even with all its animations, will not slow a computer down if it has decent hardware. However, more importantly, the Metro UI might mean web app versions of Windows programs. While most people use Windows anyway, having web apps as an alternative to full desktop apps will allow people to look at their stuff on somebody else’s computer whether they are looking from a PC, a Mac or a Linux based operating system.

While Windows 8 is a great operating system for newbies, it is not good at all for power users, or even for people who like using their computer with a mouse and keyboard. Touchscreen computers might solve the problem for people who simply want a physical keyboard to type on but even then, not many people are going to throw their six month old computer in the bin and get the new HP TouchSmart. Basically, the only people who will buy Windows 8 are probably people buying their first computer. Even for those people, Windows 8 isn’t going to be the best experience and I can see people switching to Mac.

To be honest, I think that with a bit of work, the Aero user interface from Windows Aero could be good on touch screens. In fact, I think it would be better for certain things such as multitasking. If Windows Phone had a scaled up taskbar that you could bring up with a swipe from the bottom of the screen, I think that would be better and that it would make more sense than holding down the back button. I don’t think Windows Phone should have a full Windows Aero desktop and window management system, but my point is that Windows Aero could be made touch friendly with some tweaks but the Metro UI isn’t very usable when it is being used with a mouse and keyboard.

Thursday 1st March 2012 - Leave a comment

HTC One Series

HTC announced their new line of smartphones a few days ago, the HTC One devices and because I use an HTC and love their phones and tablets, I decided to write about what I think of their new phones and HTC Sense 4.0.

The One V is now a lower-mid-range phone, with a 3.7 inch WVGA display and a single core 1GHz processor. I don’t really think mid-range smartphones really need dual-core processors because my phone has a single core processor and it works great. I haven’t properly tried out a dual-core smartphone and I’m sure I would notice a difference in performance when multitasking, but my phone works.

The One S is a mid-higher-end phone with a 4.3 inch qHD display and a dual-core processor. If I was going to get a new smartphone from the One line, this is probably the phone I would choose. It isn’t as powerful as the quad-core One X but I don’t think I will need a phone more powerful than my MacBook just yet.

The One X has a massive 4.7 inch screen with 720p high definition resolution. The quad-core processor means that this phone is very future proof. That is because a new version of Ubuntu has been developed to run on Android smartphones. Of course, it is possible to use Ubuntu for Android with a dual-core smartphone without any problems but the quad-core processor would be able to allow Ubuntu to run on two or even three cores.

All three of those phones look great but I can see room for improvement for HTC Sense 4.0. More specifically, I think HTC should have put more thought into the homescreen for the new version of Sense. I don’t think there’s much wrong with the new homescreen, but the main problem is the dock bar at the bottom. The only problem I have with it is that it has five icons, while the rows on the homescreen only have four icons. Nobody else seems to notice that but it could be just because I have OCD. I think the app drawer icon should be hidden, with a swipe gesture to bring it up.

Another slight problem with these phones is that the back, home and multitasking buttons are still separate from the screen. If they were instead placed at the bottom of the screen, a lot more could have been done with them. For example, they could have added the option to have a search button down there with the other three buttons. Some people use the search button in Andriod and other people don’t so I think it needs to be a choice. They could have also merged the on-screen buttons with the HTC Sense dock bar on the home screen, because I don’t think many people on their Androids use the home button while they are on the home screen.

Apart from that, HTC Sense 4.0 has some great new features, such as the changes they made to the camera app, allowing users to take pictures while recording video. I also think the Dropbox integration was a good idea, and giving everyone with an HTC One 25GB of Dropbox storage for two years will increase the sales of their devices. Sense 4.0 also has a new minimalistic look. Because of the changes they made, I am hoping that my Desire S will get the update.

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OS X and iOS

Apple have released the first developer preview of OS X Mountain Lion. It looks like OS X Mountain Lion will essentially be the same as OS X Lion, but with a few more features from iOS. It looks like in the next few years, the two operating systems could merge. That seems to be what Apple is hinting to everyone, by removing the Mac branding from OS X in the about screen in the image below.

I have my doubts on whether OS X and iOS will merge completely. That is because Macs have quad-core processors and 500GB+ hard drives, as well as large HD screens while an iPhone usually has 16GB of flash storage and a 3.5-inch touch screens. However, that could happen and  I do think Apple will eventually merge the user interfaces of the two platforms one day which, to the average user, is essentially the same thing. I wouldn’t be that surprised if Apple brought Mission Control to iOS 6. I couldn’t think of how Exposé could be bought to the tiny iPhone screen but putting Mission Control on that screen shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

I also think Apple will make a miniature version of Dashboard for the iOS devices at some point because while some people probably don’t use that feature, I do and it has some useful widgets. However, I think some changes will be made to this feature at some point in the future. I think the Launchpad and the Dashboard will probably merge into one screen. Basically, I think the iOS homescreen will get widgets. That is one of the things holding it behind Android and while I love my Mac and other Apple products, I don’t like the seemingly infinite grid of icons as the default user interface, which is one reason I use an Andriod phone.

One other change I’m expecting to see in future OS X releases is that Apple will move the Launchpad to the desktop. At first, people will probably have the option to turn that feature off but I would actually like to have the Launchpad showing when I’m only looking at my desktop. Besides, saving documents to your desktop in nearly any operating system can slow it down. I also expect to see more use of full screen applications on the Mac. By that, I mean that some applications on the Mac will open in full screen by default. Some software, such as iTunes, can be set to open up in full screen by default. I have set that on my Mac by simply clicking the full screen button. Now, when I open iTunes, it opens in full screen because it remembers my previous choice. However, when I open up a new Safari window for example, it is set by default to open up on the desktop. I think that we can expect that to change, possibly in OS X Mountain Lion.

Another change I think Apple could make before OS X and iOS merge is allowing iOS users to download apps from places other than the App Store. Obviously, people will have their doubts on whether this will happen but I think it could. However, if Apple do merge iOS and OS X, I don’t think Mac users will be forced to use the App Store. I can’t see Apple allowing Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox to show up on the App Store. Loads of people I know on Macs use Google Chrome and if I can’t have Firefox on my Mac, I will not be able to properly test code for web pages I write and while most people use Chrome, I know there are some people who still use Firefox because it was one of the best browsers two years ago and some people just don’t want to switch browsers. Therefore, if Apple want to merge the two operating systems, the only option I see is to allow iPhone users to download apps from third party sources and websites, or at least to allow people to add sources from other websites to the App Store.

One more change I expect to see, hopefully in OS X Mountain Lion, is for Apple to sort out the gestures for things such as activating mission control on the Magic Mouse. I don’t know if other people have the same problem as I have, but I find that two finger double-tap gesture really awkward for activating Mission Control and I’m not going to use the F3 key for that. However, after Apple make those changes and a few more final changes to unifying the touch gestures across the trackpad, Magic Mouse and touch screens, I think Apple will be ready to merge OS X and iOS, or at least have one name for all the operating systems.

Please feel free to write down your thoughts of what Apple will do and post them in the comments below.

Wednesday 22nd February 2012 - Leave a comment

Which Smartphone Is Right For You? February 2012

I use an HTC Desire S and since I got the HTC Sense 3.0 update, I love the phone I have. A lot of people shopping for a smartphone would get a BlackBerry or an iPhone, depending on how much money they have to spend. A lot of people at my school use BlackBerries and a lot of people I know use iPhones. However, I will be discussing the advantages and disadvantages of these phones, as well as why you might want to get an Android or Windows phone. Another option for buying a smartphone would be to go with a Nokia. However, the situation with Nokia is a little more complicated, as their phones use different operating systems, which are not as widely used by other manufacturers.

If you want a  smartphone that is easy to use, I would recommend getting an iPhone or a Windows Phone. If you are fairly new to technology and you are not very used to touch screens, Windows Phone would be a good choice. Windows Phone has a touchscreen user interface, like many other smartphones have, but the on-screen buttons are quite large and the on-screen keyboard has autocorrect so when you are typing a text message, you don’t have to hit every letter exactly right. Another great advantage of Windows Phone is that it will integrate really well with Windows 8. While Windows 8 hasn’t been released yet and won’t be released for a while longer, when it is released, assuming all Windows phones get the required software updates, your phone and a Windows 8 PC will work really well together.

Another great option, as I mentioned earlier, is getting an iPhone. An iPhone is a good option for someone who understands technology but is not an expert on it and just wants a phone that will work. It is also a good phone for a Mac user to consider, as iPhones and Macs are made by the same company which is an advantage because if an iPhone is plugged into a Mac, the Mac will usually detect it and set it up automatically. However, the best advantage of buying an iPhone is that if you buy the latest model, you can expect to get the latest software for it a year or two after you buy it. One disadvantage is that the iPhone’s on-screen keyboard doesn’t have autocorrect. However, that feature is on its way and should come in a software update in the near future.

My favourite mobile operating system is Android. That is because of how much it can be customised by the user. It is incredibly easy to change aspects of Android such as the homescreen and the on-screen keyboard. Another great thing about Android is the overall user interface. The homescreen supports widgets and live wallpapers which can not only move but also be interacted with by the user. Android might not be a great mobile platform for absolute beginners, as some people might not know how to change what widgets they have on the homescreen. However, if you are not my mum, you shouldn’t have too much of a problem getting to understand Android. My favourite Android phones are the ones made by HTC, because of HTC Sense and because their phones have good build quality. However, I have also heard good about the Samsung devices. The main disadvantage of Android is that no matter what phone you buy, there is no guarantee that you will get future software updates because Android itself and smartphones running Android are made by different companies. Manufacturers make customisations to Android to give their users a unique experience and when a new version of Android is released, before manufacturers release the update to their devices, they have to make sure their changes will work on the new OS and if they don’t work, they have to change everything.

BlackBerry smartphones are good for people who want a phone with a great keyboard. I haven’t had great experience typing on a BlackBerry keyboard but I hear that they are great to type on so I’m guessing that it takes a bit of practice but you can eventually type really fast on a BlackBerry. The BlackBerry platform also has good value, because the phones don’t cost too much and they all come with BlackBerry Messenger, an encrypted chat client which, if you buy a BlackBerry, you can use as much as you like, for free. However, I think BlackBerry might be a dying brand because on-screen keyboards are getting better and as for BBM, which from what I can gather, is a selling point of BlackBerries, you can get a Pay As You Go plan on Three in which £15 top-ups can get you unlimited Internet access which can be used for communicating with people using tools such as Facebook Messenger, which can be used on nearly all smartphone platforms.

Nokia smartphones are quite interesting, as their smartphone are very different from a lot of other smartphones. A lot of Nokia devices such as the N8 and E7 use Symbian. As far as I know, Symbian is only used by Nokia. However, since Symbian was probably around since the late 90’s, the latest Nokia devices use different operating systems. The Nokia N9 and the Lumia 800 have essentially the same design. However, they are very different phones. The Lumia 800 uses Windows Phone 7 while the N9 uses MeeGo, a Linux based operating system. I’m not entirely sure what changes Nokia made to MeeGo to put it on their N9, but I imagine they moved things around quite a bit. The N9 has a very simple user interface which uses a lot of swipe gestures throughout the operating system. It has a very simple multitasking interface which I actually like a lot. However, the disadvantage with a lot of Nokia’s phones is that because such few phones run MeeGo and Symbian and because not very many people will buy them, not very many third party apps will be developed for those devices.

I don’t have any recommendations for smartphones that everyone should get. However, I would actually recommend looking at smartphones to see which phone or platform is right for you. You could watch reviews on different phones. TechnoBuffalo do good reviews at youtube.com/jon4lakers and PocketNow do good reviews at youtube.com/pocketnowvideo. Another way to get a good idea of what type of smartphone you want is to just go into a phone shop and actually play with the phones. The good thing about doing it this way is that you don’t have to know all the mobile operating systems. You simply just have to play with all the different phones and buy your favourite phone.

Saturday 4th February 2012 - Leave a comment