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Showing posts from May, 2014

WWDC 2014 Predictions

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Apple is going to be very busy next week if all those predictions being made about new products it's planning to launch are to be believed.

So far the front-runners seem to be the iWatch and a reasonably recent addition, some form of home automation service.

More unlikely predictions are the first glimpse of the new iPhone (whatever size it may be) new Beats hardware (though the purchase not being ratified suggests not)  and a new Apple TV.

What I am expecting to see are new versions of iOS and Mac OS X, with maybe some improvement to iCloud and the integration between Apple's two operating systems.

What I'll definitely miss are Samsung's 'Next Big Thing' adverts which poked fun at Apple in just the right way. And, on that point, it will be interesting to see how much home automation is actually in Apple's keynote, given how recently Samsung released its own such system - suggesting that as with the Galaxy Tab and Galaxy Note the role of leader and fast-fo…

Jalopnik Calls NYTimes Out On Mirage Review

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The New York Times' John Pearley Huffman recently reviewed the new Mitsubishi Mirage.  I say reviewed, but skewered is probably a more appropriate verb. The review called out several failings of the small car's design and build.

Now Jalopnik has reviewed the review calling it 'brutal' and suggesting that it demonstrates exactly what is wrong with reviews of cheap cars. You can find the article here.

There does seem to be a massive disconnect between car reviewers and the target audience for the car being reviewed - one that gets larger the more modest the car being reviewed.

What needs to happen is a reset of expectations when a reviewer gets into a small, cheap car. I'm not saying it's an easy thing to do when, for example, you've just spent a week in the latest Aston Martin Penis Extension and then have to try and critique a car designed to be an entry-level starter vehicle.

That's not to say that a cheap car should be allowed to get away with being …

That's Not A Car, Whatever It Looks Like

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Google has been making some waves in the last few days after announcing its plans to take its self-driving car testing to a hew level. Up until this week Google has been testing by strapping its technology onto existing production cars.

Now the company intends to create a short production run of 100 cars purpose-built for its self driving car experiments.

These cars have raised some eyebrows by doing away with motoring standards like a steering wheel or pedals or indeed any other user controls barring some emergency buttons. These controls will need to be restored when they are released onto public roads, at least until testing has been  completed and the cars are certified for use by the general public.

The cars have been given some very different specifications too. They look and perform like no other cars on the road. With a 25mph top speed there is little danger of these new cars scaring either their occupants or other road users with any road burning capabilities. The speed re…

Surface Pro 3 - Is There Really A Market For Hybrids

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Microsoft has bet big with the Surface Pro 3, gambling that users want to replace their laptop and tablet with just one device. I don't doubt that there are people who would like to do that, especially in enterprise environments where dropping the Surface Pro into a dock at your desk (or hot desk if the company you work for really gets it) reduces the level of compromise necessary to take this path.

For most users though there are too many issues with the Surface Pro to make that a viable option. I love my Surface Pro but if I had to choose only one device to retain it would lose out to my MacBook Air every time. That despite having stylus input that I find incredibly useful.

The problem is that however good Microsoft makes the flip stand it is always going to be less useful than a proper laptop hinge when used on a lap. And although we mainly use laptops on desks, laps are really where they earn their crust.

The answer is already out there - Asus solved it with its Transformer r…

Apple and Beats - Makes Sense If You Know What To Look For

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Apple and Beats confirmed the rumours of the acquisition of the latter for $3bn - marking Apple's largest ever purchase and making waves throughout the business.

The deal includes both hardware and software divisions and comes with promise of "coming up with ways of features that blow your mind and products you haven't thought of yet" according to an interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook published in the New York Times.

I'm not getting it. In fact I'm struggling to see where the value is for Apple if that was the driver for the purchase. Headphones? If Apple wanted to build a headphone business it could have done things a lot better and cheaper in-house - let's face it any audiophile will tell you that Beats headphones have less than stellar audio quality, being comprehensively out-performed by headphones at half the price.

Beats has a software streaming business too, but it strikes me that Apple could have put together something to compete with Spotify and …

What's It Like To Write A Story With The Surface Pro 3 Stylus? Nothing Like Read Write Says

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Read Write editor Dan Rowinski published an article this week entitled  "What's It Like To Write A Story With The Surface Pro 3 Stylus?" In the article he  makes no corrections to any transcription errors resulting from the use of the Windows 8 handwriting input panel.

The problem is that Rowinski totally fails to answer the question asked in the title.

The truth is that unless you never make an error typing and therefore never have to correct the text you have created, the clumsy, error strewn prose of the article is irrelevant  and tells you nothing.

What would have been a much fairer comparison would have been the creation of the same text with the Surface Pro stylus and a new (to Rowinski) keyboard.  A comparison of the time taken and perceived difficulty of the creation gives a much better indication of how good the Surface Pro stylus and Windows 8's handwriting recognition are compared to traditional input mechanisms.

In case you haven't already guessed fr…

F1: Monaco Once More A Hotbed of Controversy

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The Monaco Grand Prix has a special place in the sport, the jewel in the F1 crown.Over the year's it seen a fair few controversies. This year was no exception.

Mercedes team-mates and (now former) friends Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton fell out over an incident that occured at the end of the final qualifying session on Saturday when the German slid off the road on the downhill stretch to the Mirabeau corner, causing a yellow flag to be shown and ruining the laps of all those cars behind him on the track.

The net result was that Rosberg retained pole position - something that probably wasn't going to be the case as Hamilton had been substantially faster on his ruined lap.

The question was did Rosberg do it deliberately?

That's hard to say. Body language - the German was jubilant on returning to the pits - spoke strongly of that being the case. Hamilton was in no doubt and despite the stewards clearing his team-mate of wrong-doing was forthright in his views. When asked is…

iPhone 6: Thinner or Longer Lasting

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The new iPhone is a few weeks or months away from launch, depending on which rumour you decide to believe, and the consensus of opinion appears to be that the iPhone 6 will pack at least one larger screen - possibly even two of them.

What will be interesting is to see how Apple deals with the battery size of its new device. Will there be a further pursuit of thinness above all else or will Apple see sense and add in a few mm to allow for a bigger battery and hopefully better battery life?

The purported leaks and dummy handsets that have been pictured all suggest an even thinner device than before. Allowing for the fact that the surface area of the new phone will be bigger it is possible that Apple will be able to squeeze a larger battery in.

For too long the iPhone has delivered marginal battery life at best; and despite the wide number of charging options available that hasn't been good enough. The least that anybody who buys a new iPhone 6 should be able to expect is a battery…

Online Security - How Can You Improve Your Passwords

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We place an inordinate amount of trust in services that we use online, storing all sorts of personal and financial information on servers which we trust to hold them securely. The evidence of the last fortnight shows that this trust is misplaced and we need to take further precautions to mitigate the risk we accept when storing this information.

The first gateway to any service is your user name and password. If these are compromised you've presented an open goal to those attempting to gain control of your information. Often you'll hear that files containing millions of passwords have been stolen from a service and will be re-assured by the company responsible that because this information is encrypted you shouldn't worry.

Don't believe them. That encryption can be easily broken thanks to the amount of computing power that can be thrown at the task.

Protection comes in two forms - use a different password for every site and use long complex passwords that are more lik…

Split Screen Multi-tasking on iPad - Unnecessary Complexity

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With WWDC not too far away and iOS 8 expected to be the subject of Tim Cook's keynote speech, it's a good time to take a look at one of the features that is being strongly touted to appear for the iPad as part of the update.

Split-screen multitasking - as seen on Windows 8 tablets - has been loudly demanded by some iPad users even from the days before Microsoft made it a tablet reality. Samsung too have implemented a version of multitasking on its Galaxy tablets which allows multiple applications on screen at once.

Now even jailbroken iPad users get the option to try it out, thanks to a tweak called OS Experience.

However, I believe that the concept, on the iPad at least, is flawed and isn't something that anyone actually needs. The potential execution offer a number of land mines to be navigated too.

In Windows 8 apps snapped to positions at the left or right of the screen switch to a different display mode to suit the reduced screen real estate. In the screenshot below y…

Surface Pro 3 Demonstrates A New Clarity For Microsoft

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Microsoft has been gnawing away at the tablet market for two decades and despite many attempts along the way it has never managed to get the things 'launched'. Some of it was down to the gap between the vision and the technology's capability to deliver it. Some of it was down to misunderstanding just what the market was for these devices.

When the iPad came along and demonstrated that what was actually required from a tablet was everything that made a smartphone great with a bigger screen it must have been a painful dagger in the side of Microsoft's tablet team.

With the launch of the Surface Pro 3 Microsoft has demonstrated that now it actually understands how the tablet market works - and with the move to a larger device Microsoft has taken the Surface Pro out of competition with the iPad - a place that it should never have been in.

The iPad and it's Android competitors are a success because of the size, weight, simplicity and integration with the smartphones tha…

Samsung Gobbling Up Smartwatch Market Share In Anticipation of the iWatch, Android Wear

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Samsung sold half a million Galaxy Gears last quarter, marking a 71% share of the market over the period. That's a not insignificant number - although you'd expect the iWatch to do that sort of numbers in pre-sales once Apple announces it.

Whilst the original Galaxy Gear was big and clunky and tried to do too much, Samsung's launch of the revised device in March showed that it was capable of responding to feedback. The replacement Gear 2 still looks like an awkward sell to me, but the Gear 2 Neo and Gear Fit Samsung actually seem to have found a market for it's Smartwatches.

Samsung's numerical dominance of the market isn't going to last long - Apple's long-rumoured iWatch can only be a matter of weeks from announcement, whilst Google and it's partners will start delivering Android Wear smartwatches to the world as soon as July.

I'm still not convinced that there's a market there to make all this smartwatch activity worthwhile. Maybe Apple will…

F1: Ayrton Senna, Twenty Years On. Part Two.

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Ayrton Senna won his first Grand Prix in Portugal, on a day when the heaven's opened and driver's struggled to keep their cars on the track down the straights. Senna was operating on a different plane to the rest of the field. His margin of victory was over a minute and only the second-placed Ferrari of Michele Alboreto was on the same lap by the end of the race.

If the previous year's Monaco Grand Prix had demonstrated that Senna was a prodigious talent this race was the one that marked him out for greatness. The Lotus- Renault was far from the best car on the circuit that year, but as ever, introducing rain into the mix levelled the playing field.

And Senna was in a class of his own.

Eight years later, in a Mclaren-Ford at Donnington Park, Senna repeated his humbling of his peers when the notorious British weather made a river of the Derbyshire circuit. That race, though touted by many as Senna's greatest was perhaps tainted by Senna's disgust at being kept out …

F1: Black Jack - The Forgotten Champion

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Ask even the most passionate F1 fans to name those men who have achieved greatness through winning multiple championships and you'll find the same names on most lists. Everyone will remember Senna, Schumacher and Fangio. Most will include Prost and some with longer memories (or those who may just have seen Rush) will include Lauda and maybe Stewart. Much fewer will remember Piquet.

Almost nobody will have the name Jack Brabham on the list, despite a list of achievements to rival any of the others on this list.

Brabham's death earlier today gives us an opportunity to remember his, mostly forgotten, achievements.

Brabham came to Europe after a successful dirt-track career in Australia. He worked his way into the Cooper team and in 1959 took the World Championship in an epic battle with Phil Hill and Stirling Moss - the title being settled at the last race in the US when Brabham pushed his car over the line to clinch fourth place and the Championship after it had run out of fuel…

Samsung and Apple Sales Under Pressure? Not Likely

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You'll no doubt have read by now how Samsung and Apple lost market share in the worldwide smartphone market last year. Several sites are reporting this as evidence that the stranglehold the two have on the market is slipping.

Are they kidding?

Samsung shipped 85 million smartphones last quarter. Apple shipped over 43 million. Both were record numbers.

Samsung outsold Apple and the next three vendors (Huawei, Lenovo and LG) added together. Even more impressive was that Samsung sold 15 million more phones than this quarter last year, which on their own were more than Huawei's total sales for third place. Apple outsold Huawei, Lenovo and LG combined.

Samsung isn't going anywhere just yet and neither if Apple.

F1: Ayrton Senna, Twenty Years On. Part One.

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From the moment that Senna's Williams left the track I knew it was going to be fatal. I've seen accidents at Tamburello before - Piquet and Berger both spring to mind - but perhaps because of the accident which claimed the life of Roland Ratzenberger on the previous day, my mind was in a dark place ready to presume the worst.

For a sport with such a history of fatalities, in the early nineties there was a bizarre expectation that any accident was survivable. Since the death of Elio de Angelis in a freak testing accident in 1986 there had been no deaths in a Grand Prix car, since Riccardo Paletti's death at Montreal in 1982 none at a race weekend.

Ratzenberger's accident on April 30th 1994 changed things for a whole generation of F1 fans and drivers who had never experienced the sport as a killer.

Senna's accident, the next day, took things to a wholly different place, broadcast live around the world and with repeated slow motion replays, it was the first time we h…