10 Must-Dos in London

10 Must-Dos in London
10 Must-Dos in London

Venice Trip Report

Venice Trip Report
Venice Trip Report

Disneyland California Trip

Disneyland California Trip
Disneyland California Trip

Apple iPhone will be on O2, Orange and Vodafone

O2 has not exclusivity to the iPhone. Starting late this year Orange will also be selling the iPhone 3G and 3GS. Early 2010, will see the iPhone on Vodafone. You can currently get the iphone 3G for about £350 and the 3GS for £440.40 locked to O2 including 1 year's free web and wifi. On contract, the least you'll be paying is £30 a month for 18 months for 75 mins and 125 texts plus £97 upfront.

Orange and Vodafone will hopefully cause a price war and the iPhone should be available to buy from the Apple online store unlocked so that you can choose where to use it. A price drop to around £300 for the 3GS would be the best move here and could spark the replacement of pretty much every BlackBerry by a shiny new 3GS. Apple may also announce the iPhone 4G, as it is currently being dubbed, around the time of MacWorld which could possible come with a better camera and better battery life as well as a lower price.

The next iPhone launch remains to be seen until at least January 2010 but with the Orange in before that we might see price cuts or a more competitive data plan. O2s unlimited web and wifi is limited to just 250MB a month. Perhaps Orange, which claims to have the largest 3G network in the UK, will improve things a bit?

Competition is never a bad thing for consumers, so if you're going for an iPhone, give it a couple more months.

Major Freeview Rollout Tomorrow - Retune

To make channel 'Five' more accessible to a wider range of the country, tomorrow September 30, 2009 you will need to retune your TV. If you have access to Five now, you will lose it until you retune. This also will make space for the HD broadcasts which will start early next year. Up to 400,000 people may lose access to ITV3 and ITV4, so if you can live without 'five' but not ITV 3 & 4 then don't retune - though at some point you will have to.

You may also find that some channels may move into the 800s though this should only be temporary and you shouldn't notice any quality difference. Some older freeview boxes will not work after the switch over.
BBC news says:

The boxes which will no longer work are: the Daewoo models DS608P and SV900, Labgear DTT100, Triax DVB2000T and Bush IDVCR01.
Meanwhile, Ofcom has also revealed that there are 29.7 million DTT-enabled TVs in the UK and that 700,000 homes now receive free digital TV - either via Freesat or Freeview.


Where will technology be in the next 5 years?

The last five years of technology have brought us many new delights. Apple now makes a mobile phone which has gone through several iterations and is unrivalled, Microsoft has released a version of Windows with so many flaws it's unforgivable, we can now get download speeds in the UK of up to 50mbps and you can now listen to music for free legally. So what will the new 5 or so years have in store?

  1. Less wires - The most annoying part of setting up a new computer, TV or any other device is the wires. You have to: fit the correct wire into the correct port, sometimes multiple times to get the device working; find somewhere to elegantly hide the mess that the cables cause; and constantly replace them as there is always a new standard and the old wires become obsolete. The truth is we don't want wires! You can now transmit video wirelessly over your home network, even in HD without stuttering. Faster routers will make this even easier. You can now even send electricity wirelessly and power a TV wirelessly! This will undoubtedly cause problems where devices won't connect but it will be for the better of everyone. Imagine being able to get into your home and have your new podcasts automatically synced to your iPhone. Technologies such as those inside of the Amazon kindle make life so much easier!
  2. More efficiency - The 2nd most searching-for after feature of a new TV, after price, is energy efficiency. Manufacturers know this. Consumers want to save the planet and their wallets, so it's a win-win situation. Also our lives will got more efficient - the Roomba can already clean out floors and carpets across the house while you're out, what could come next?
  3. Personalised gadgets - Our lives revolve around ourselves a lot, we already have news channels which deliver coverage from your city including your local weather. Gadgets such as the iPhone are likely to give you this and much more information as soon as you wake up - in fact Apple has filed a patent to include a home screen which changes depending on your local and current conditions
  4. Intelligent transportation systems - Unfortunately waiting for a bus can be a long, hard and boring process. Currently in London you can check from your Mac, PC or iPhone how many minutes until the next train or tube service - these are all real time. 2000 bus stops also have displays telling you how many minutes until the next bus and the order in which they will arrive, however this information is only useful once at the bus stop. All of London's 6,800 buses on over 700 routes are GPS equipped, meaning the introduction of Countdown 2 in 2010 or 2011 will be exciting for all Londoners and for the rest of the world. You will be able to check how long it is until your bus right at home - there's no excuse for being late now.
  5. Rising fuel prices - This one is a given really, the demand will keep rising, the supplies will deplete and the prices will rise, eventually to the point where it will be completely useless to use a car and only for the very rich, expect higher public transport prices, higher airfares and even higher food prices. Unless we get a reliable source of clean energy that is not oil - we will suffer. Will the oil run out in the next five years? No. Prices will however still rise. Will we have any oil left in 50 years? Not at the current rate. If we develop new technologies and focus on green energy we may well do.

Stream music for free and legally

There are increasingly more and more ways to purchase and get free music online, so a small round up here will keep everything in order. Only legal methods are mentioned.

To buy music you can always download iTunes which has a massive stake of the online market and you can also get DRM-free tracks on 7digital.com - both offer songs from about 59p to just a bit over £1. Amazon MP3 is my go-to store however as they offer the best prices on songs - when it launched in the UK they gave away millions of copies of a free song which was a massive succes.. Now they still have songs for just 29p and up and I haven't seen anything over £1 on there. Songs for 29p - you surely can't beat that, right?

Well there are free songs available online. YouTube allows you to watch tons of music videos all for free and as many times as you want, last.fm allows you build a radio station around music you like although you can only stream a particular song a set number of times and we7.com offers millions of tracks from the big labels to be streamed as many times as you want. You can make playlists which can be accessed anywhere.

However, arguably the biggest new service is Spotify. It allows you to stream over 4 million tracks with almost 100,000 new tracks added every single week. They have just about every new and old song you can think of and have contracts with all 4 of the major music labels. It works just like iTunes - there is no lag at all, you click a song and it starts instantly. There is a 30 second advert every 15 minutes or so which is perfectly acceptable and usually very interesting too. Best of all? It's free.
If you pay £99 a year or £9.99 a month, you can get an Android, S60, iPod Touch or iPhone app which allows you to cache locally every song you want from your Spotify playlists and they can stay on your phone or iPod Touch for 30 days. That's access to unlimited music everywhere for £99. The price of a concert ticket and transport. Or the price of a few albums.

There is one downside to all of these free services though, and Spotify, the music is never truly yours and if the company were to go out of business any money you have put into it won't come back.

So there's no reason for you to bittorrent music. Seriously, can you not afford free? Can you afford to pay the fines and face the consequences of being caught file-sharing.

Little Big Planet Water Beta details and review

A friend of mine has been accepted into the LittleBigPlanet (PS3) water beta and i have some secret insider information. Technically he hasn't told me anything, I just saw this through my own eyes. So what is happening? Read on and find out.

You can now fill the entire area with water when building your level. You can adjust the water level, the amount of waves, the colour of the water, the murkiness of the water, the frequency of the waves and more. You can also get scuba gear and a bubble machine and you can die underwater if you stay there for too long.

I won't reveal any more now, but bookmark this site and check daily as you might just find something later this week and more this month.... ;)


Microsoft and Apple both getting in the tablet field?

Rumours are flying around that not only Apple is making a brand-spanking new tablet. Apparently, Microsoft has decided to get in on the action as well. Despite, the emergance of hundreds of cheap netbooks running the Windows operatin system, Microsoft is rumoured to be working on a tablet, much like Apple's. Although neither company will confirm nor deny these rumours, it would make perfect sense.

Consumers have realised that they don't need to spend hundreds of pounds on a new powerful computer for when they are surfing the web. They have also realised that a tiny netbook isn't the most comfortable thing to use. A tablet however would make sense, you could wake up and read the paper on it, then watch some TV on demand and finally put it in your bag and take it to work. You could be watching a film or TV show while on the train and then use it for work while in your job.

If Apple does come out with such a device, it will likely be launched in the UK at a price pound of between £600 and £800. Microsoft could probably do the same, without all the glits and glamour, for half the price. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that both competitions are coming out with tablets as will many other companies such as Acer, Dell, Lenovo and the such.

Whether they will take off will be determined by one factor however - Apple. If Apple does not release a tablet computer, the general public probably won't understand how it will work and why they would use it over a netbook with a physical keyboard. Only Apple would be able to launch a marketing campaign putting the tablet in front of everyone's eyes as the future of computing.

iPhone 4G features and what might be coming next...

The next iPhone (the 4G) could be announced at any time and as the new general announcement cycle is January 2010, we could well see it then. What could be coming? A totally revamped home screen with weather and location based information (as applied for by an Apple patent), Flash finally, better battery life, a 5MP stills camera, a HD screen, radio/FM tuner. These are all relatively reasonable assumptions, except perhaps the HD screen.

The new Apple tablet may be released possibly to replace the Apple TV which seems to be phasing out. If the tablet could sync it could be your morning newspaper, your TV screen, have your podcasts ready when you wake up - all in a perfect 10" screen.

iTunes may also be finally opening to a subscription model meaning all-you-can-eat music, sort of what the Zune pass does. This wouldn't be unreasonable considering the whole iTune store has just been redesigned and a new version of the program has been released.

Perhaps the Apple TV and Mac Mini may be getting long overdue overhalls. The iPod touch could also do with a video/stills camera and the iMacs are reaching the end of their usual 8 month life-cycle.

If all of this were to happen in one big announcement in January, Apple would steals the spotlight for months. It would also be the perfect time to boast about how well SNow Leopard is doing sales-wise and how many new bugs are likely to have been found in Windows 7 in just three months.

Which of these are likely to happen in January? iPhone refresh, lower Mac prices across the board and news about the Mac Mini or Apple TV. The Apple Tablet may be announced in January but whether it will available then is anyone's guess but Steve's and of course all those Apple employees who can't say a word.

When is Freeview HD coming? and much more.

UK consumers have had the privilege of getting over 30 free channels over the air as well as digital radio on their TVs. This uses the DVB-T standard and almost every new TV has a tuner (or more) built in. Now, we are also getting the courtesy of up to five channels broadcast in HD. Unfortanetly all these new TVs being shipped right now will come with incompatible tuners meaning once HD is enabled over freeview, you'll have to buy a new box.

Starting December 2nd on the Winter Hill transmitter, some of the UKs households will have access to HD TV over Freeview. Unfortunately, there is currently no way to get these HD broadcasts with any Freeview receiver. The new boxes are expected to be released in January 2010 with UK brand 'Pace' already demonstrating it's new unit. Freeview says the following on their website:

 "Viewers who want to watch the new channels will have to buy a new set-top box incorporating the superior MPEG-4 rather than MPEG-2 compression technology. MPEG-4 is twice as efficient as the MPEG-2 standard , while a new European transmission standard (DVB-T2) will increase capacity by 30%. These boxes are still being developed and discussions are taking place on when they will be available to buy in shops. "
The HD rollout is expected to be fully completed by the time all of the analogue transmitters are off in mid-2012.

Meanwhile, the BBC are trying a crafty move to encrypt their TV channel guide so that cheap Freeview box makers won't have access to their HD channel guides. Considering the tax-payer owns the BBC it is unlikely this will be taken lightly. The BBCs proposition has not yet been approved.

If you'd like HD channels now - FreeSat offers the same service as Freeview at a more expensive price of around £150. You will need a dish installed and you'll be able to receive a couple of HD channels immediately.

Apple 9/9/9 event - what a disappointment

After many rumours flying around, yesterday was set to be an exciting day for Beatles fans and iPod Touch owners. Both of which have been alienated.

The iPod Touch 8GB was reduced in price to £149 from £165 or so. A tiny drop of just £15. Nothing else has changed in this iPod. No camera, no microphone and no upgrade to 16GB capacity. In fact, you can't even buy a 16GB iPod Touch. That means that the 8GB iPod Touch should have been a 16GB model for £149, not 8GB. A 32GB model costs £229 and a 64GB model a whopping £299. By the way, thanks Apple for ripping us off in the UK - yet again - as $399 = £240 NOT £299. The 32GB and 64GB models have a faster processor...but no mic and no camera. Apple tried to push consumers to buy an iPhone this time and they will see that was a total flop as their Touch sale numbers will radically reduce.

The Nano got a camera, microphone and FM tuner. Three very useful additions which should have been on the Ipod touch. The £115 for 8GB and £135 for 16Gb still seem a little high despite these new additions, especially considering that the iPod Nano is just an MP3/MP4 player with iTunes syncing and doesn't offer any apps at all and has no access to the app store. The camera, by the way, can't take photos just videos, Jobs said that photo cameras are much to big to fit into a Nano's design at the moment.

The shuffles are now available in many colours and at 2GB for £45 or the old 4GB version for £59.

Perhaps must surprisingly, the Classic got a refresh and a whopping £189 you can get 160GB of storage - up for 120GB.

There was no tablet, no Beatles onstage and no Beatles music in iTunes. Steve Jobs was present and there is now iTunes 9 which to be honest isn't a big improvement except the introduction of app management.

Overall, I was very disappointed. No iPod Touch upgrades was the biggest shock and it's shocking that Apple argues that the Touch is now seen more as a gaming device (Mind you, with only 6 hours gaming battery life) than an iPod. I would have rushed out and bought the new Touch within a couple of weeks, Apple would gain more users and the £15 price drop isn't going to encourage anyone to rush out and buy the new Touch, especially as on Amazon I paid £5 more 6 months ago and was happy with the price.


What will be coming from Apple on 09/09/2009

With Apple having officially announced an event coming on the 9th September 2009 rumours are already flying around about what might be happening. Below are some of the rumours and what I think are really likely depending on logical reason.
  • Are the Beatles coming to iTunes? - This is one of those announcements which has been rumoured for years but has still not come to fruition. The date is the same day that Beatles for Rockband comes out and there are references to the number nine in several songs. Could this be a coincidence? I think not but I don't think that EMI would give up all the money it will make over the Christmas from their new remastered CD version, so I don't think this will happen.
  • Is the new tablet going to be released? - Not yet, it'll stay way too early and Snow Leopard has just been released. More below.
  • Is Steve Jobs coming back to present a keynote? - I think Steve himself will have to decide this a couple of days before the event and this is in no way determined yet. I think if Jobs appears, the tablet won't be coming until early 2011. If he doesn't appear, Apple may be saving him for the big announcement of the Tablet in January 2010.
  • What will the iPod updates be? - I think either the iPod Shuffle will be discontinued or the iPod Nano will be discontinued or the price will be lowered for the Nano. The iPod Touch 8GB will be discontinued as well as the iPod Classic. The iPod Touch 16GB will be the same price as the 8GB and come with a camera built in and possibly a microphone. A 64GB version may also be introduced to replace the Classic being removed. The iPod Touch camera is a definite certainty but the microphone not so much. This will mean all the new iPods will be using SSD drives instead of Hard Drives. The Nano may also be getting a camera if it stays.
  • Is there going to be an iTunes update? Most likely there will with Facebook integration and possibly Twitter integration. There is a high possibility of Blu-Ray support which could mean Blu-Ray drives in the next round of MacBook Pros and iMacs.
  • Will there be updates to the Apple TV? Well something is happening as the current 40GB model has a 1-2 weeks delivery date - this could mean it is upgraded or simply more likely discontinued. The second version may be upgraded to 250GB indicating subscription services may be coming soon to iTunes which would be a useful addition.