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Showing posts from June 21, 2017

Pandora Pulls Out Of Australia And New Zealand, US Only Service Now

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Pandora always struck me as a service you'd use if it were the first one you happened across and were disinterested enough in music to never bother changing. Its radio-like offering never struck me as something I'd choose to pay money for, having absolutely no advantages over true on demand streaming; and not something I'd choose to use for free, given its weakness compared to other free services.
With subscription based on-demand streaming finally on the cards it seems a strange time to be withdrawing from markets, but an announcement today confirmed exactly that - the two places where Pandora is available outside of the US - Australia and New Zealand - will shut up shop over the next few weeks.
For New Zealand at least, this plays into Spotify's hands. With an existing deal with Spark (NZ's number one mobile service provider) to provide premium subscriptions as part of both Pay As You GO and Post-Pay accounts it is in a position of strength. And its free tier is…

Technology In The Air - How I Survived A Day And A Half Flying

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With the prospect of an eighteen hour flight followed by an eight hours transit and a further eight hours in the air my journey from Auckland looked like being something of an epic trip. So the technology I was going to be carrying needed to be carefully selected to ensure that the maximum could be extracted from the journey.
Aside from the issues surrounding the Qatar travel blockade, put in place by its Middle Eastern neighbours, there was also some concern over whether the laptop ban which affects US travel from the Middle East was going to spread to European countries. The dire warnings of anything larger than a smartphone needing to be stowed in the cabin were enough to focus the mind when packing for this particular trip.
In the end it turned out that the travel ban didn't happen and I was able to travel with technology bag intact. 
So what did I carry to get me through the journey? First of all I had my Sony PS Vita. For all its faults and lack of game titles the basics ar…

Taking The Longest Flight In The World With Qatar Airways

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Auckland is a long way from anywhere, so if you're travelling anywhere outside of Oceania or the South Pacific you're guaranteed a long flight. Earlier this year Qatar Airways introduced a new flight from Auckland to Doha, running to an epic eighteen hour flight time and crossing 12 time zones.
The flight currently uses the Boeing 777-200LR, the only plane able to cover the 17,000 flight with sufficient fuel reserve for emergencies. Qatar splits the plane into seven rows of Business Class seats, laid out in three pairs of two seats; and 23 rows of economy class seats laid out in three groups of three seats.
The Business Class seats are quite impressive - unlike the pod arrangements used by other airlines and on other aircraft the seat itself forms the whole bed, with no use of a ledge under the seat in front to extend the length of the bed. The space between the seat rows is epic - the entertainment unit has a huge screen because its so far away that anything smaller would be…

Google Has Failed With Tablets

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I've written a lot about the new iPad Pro and Surface Pro in the last few weeks, comparing and contrasting the different products and their paths in their respective parent's evolutionary path. What I haven't included in that discussion is Android.
There's a good reason for that: Google hasn't managed to get its collective head around how tablets should work, why people buy them and how to persuade developers to rebuild apps to work on a bigger screen.
Samsung has done a good job of working around those limitations in the past, but the limitations remain nonetheless. And in truth the best size for an Android tablet is 8" because at that size blown up Android phone apps remain viable.
The latest round of Android tablets from Samsung adds stylus support (yay!) and throws out the 8" model completely (boo!)
In terms of hardware the Galaxy Tab S3 is close to the iPad Pro in many areas. In terms of software, well let's just say it isn't. 
Yet Samsung h…

How Microsoft Replaced Apple As The King Of Desktop PC Design

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Over the last eighteen months we've been seen a strange reversal in the position of Apple and Microsoft in the way the company's are perceived and the desktop products they have launched.

Apple has been guilty of leaving products to age too long, before delivering weak or poorly planned upgrades; and generally displaying the lack of vision it has previously been renowned for.

Microsoft, on the other hand, has been on a run of success which stretches back to the Surface Pro 3. A willingness to take chances, push the envelope and an enhanced appetite for risk have characterised a hardware line which has, from a standing start, become a premium brand of PC hardware which matches anything on either side of the PC / Mac divide.

This despite suffering a relatively early setback with the original Surface.

So whilst Apple continues to rake in significant profits from its desktop line, Microsoft has built a multi-billion dollar business from being more adventurous, demonstrating a bet…

Harman Kardon's Cortana-powered Invoke Might Just Be The Home Speaker You're Looking For

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Apple's HomePod has been getting plenty of column inches since its WWDC unveiling, however there are some specific limitations which may prevent you from choosing this device, even if you're comfortable with its pricing.
It's only useful if you're all in with Apple technology and use Apple Music as your music streaming service. Right now that limits its potential market to around 27 million customers worldwide. Then there are the questions around Siri's performance. Is it really capable of being the voice assistant you can rely on around the home?
There is an alternative  for those looking for audio quality who also want quality in their voice assistant, if you're prepared to wait until later this year that is.
Harman Kardon's Cortana powered speaker is now official, after an embarrassing early leak, and it promises to bring the full suite of speaker / voice assistant capability to a wider group of customers.
The Invoke will support multiple streaming serv…

OnePlus No Longer Offering Value As Differentiator

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This is the new OnePlus 5, the latest from the Chinese manufacturer that places premium smartphones in the mid-market value battle. Or rather, it used to. The new OnePlus 5 is priced so close to Samsung's highest spec Galaxy that it no longer makes any kind of value proposition.
The 5 is a disappointing phone in many ways. Despite demanding a hefty price tag it doesn't have the wherewithal to compete with the S8, nor many of the other premium tier Android phones from LG, Sony or HTC. 
No, the OnePlus 5 has gone for a particular market sector and made its best play for those customers who shop within it. That section of the, predominantly, Chinese market which wants an iPhone but can't quite run to one and will settle for a lookalike.
As a result OnePlus has made great efforts to ensure that the 5 looks almost identical to an iPhone 7 at first, second and even third glance. I mean really, look at it, OnePlus has been quite brazen in the way it rips off the iPhone design.

Getting An iPad Pro Ready For Primary Computing Vs Getting A Surface Pro Ready

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So, you've decided that you're going to make the move to a single device which can do everything and free yourself from the tyranny of multiple machines, complex workflows and relying on cloud services for synchronisation.
It's a good plan and, depending on which machine you choose to do this you'll need to get things setup in rather different ways. In either case the goal is to minimise the amount of time you spend on other devices as close to zero as possible.
Starting with the iPad Pro. For starters you'll need to decide how you're going to use the iPad.
If the iPad will be used on your lap you can throw away Apple's keyboard case and search out an alternative which makes the iPad more stable in your lap. In my experience the Brydge Keybord is the best option here.

If you're planning on using the iPad on your desk you'll need a Bluetooth keyboard and one of the available Lightning to display adapters. The iPad's display can then be mirrored …

Siri And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Voice Assistant

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Apple has lagged behind not only Microsoft and Google in the quality of its voice assistant, but now severely lags Amazon. That was brought home to me today when trying to use Siri in my car over the built in (and high quality) Bluetooth connection.
Let me start by saying this connection has never been a problem with Cortana or Google. Both of which happily track close to 100% accuracy day in and day out. Siri? Every conversation is an adventure.
This evening on my way home from work I spent nine minutes trying to send one, relatively important, message. It was very much beyond the capabilities of Siri. In the end I had to make an unplanned detour so that I could stop and pick up my iPhone to type the message out.
Given the message was just thirteen words that's all kinds of fail.
That's going to make ownership of the new HomePod something of a challenging experience, relying as it does on Siri for its control interface. Whilst Amazon targets very specific actions with Alexa,…

Did The iPhone Really Come Into Existence To Spite A Microsoft Exec?

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Scott Forstall broke his post-dismissal silence to speak on the approaching tenth anniversary of the iPhone. Most interesting output from the talk? That would be the suggestion that Steve Jobs started the iPhone project to spite Microsoft employee who rubbed him up the wrong way.

It's a great story, whose veracity can't really be verified. The details certainly seem to reflect the positions of Apple and Microsoft a decade ago.

True or not, the suggestion of perhaps the most important, certainly the most valuable product of the last thirty years, being kick started by a Microsoft employee showing a distinct lack of class seems too good not to enter industry folklore.

Protect Your Accounts With Good Password Management

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In the last couple of weeks I've noticed a big uptick in the number of unsuccessful login attempts against some of my internet accounts, mostly originating from China. It's highly likely to be part of a wider campaign targeting user credentials leaked by some of the sloppier web services out there.
So now is a good time to refresh my advice on good password management and the safety net you can throw around your own accounts. Never use the same password across multiple services This should be an obvious one, but so often I get asked to help remediate issues which arise from exactly this mistake. For sites or services you infrequently use or login into choose a totally random password and use the 'forgot password' link when you need access If a service stores its login on your PC or smartphone there's no real benefit to you remembering it once you've logged them both on. Choose something long, random and untied to everything else you use, then use the password …

I'm Not Saying Spotify's Windows 10 Store App Is Popular, But...

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It looks like Spotify's new Windows 10 Store version is so popular it broke the Windows Store! The above error, together with the code 0x0000FFFF relates to an inability to connect to the Store's servers. 
Seems to be too much of a coincidence that this happened almost immediately after Spotify's download link went live. The Centennial version of the desktop app has clearly proved to be popular with Windows 10 users, to the point where Microsoft's servers seem to have choked on demand.
Spotify recently announced it had hit 140 million users and we know there are half a billion users on Windows 10, clearly there's a large overlap in those two numbers and the resulting download storm may take a while to clear.