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

Best iPhone Apps for Londoners

Londoners have a tough time getting around the capital, with 7.5 million people moving around during the day there are bound to be some problems with public transport, on the roads and in emergencies. Luckily, to soothe your day a tiny bit below are some of the best Applications for Londoners with iPhones.

This article is from 2009, an updated article from 2013 is available here.

TubeDeluxe  (£0.59) - This application is the best transport app around for any city in the world. It gives you live status updates (including via Push Notifications if you enable the feature), station closures and service messages, a tube map (in both landscape and portrait), journey planning (works perfectly when offline), live departure boards so can check how long it is until the next few trains from pretty much every station, Timetables (first trains, now, and last trains) and weekend line closures. What more could you need?

London Bus, Tube and Rail Journey Planner (£0.59) - This fantastic application integrates with the TfL Journey Planner, you can locate your nearest stops, available routes and feed this into the journey planner or specify To and From locations or enter a postcode or an address, you can save your favourite routes and areas, whilst in transit you can track where you are along the route and follow your progress towards your destination and you can look up timetables for bus stops. There are 599 routes covered, 20000+ bus stops, 500+ Tube and Rail stations and real time TfL journey planning.

National Rail enquiries (£4.99) - As a matter of principal no-one should download this application in my opinion because National Rail forced Apple to remove all the other applications that did the same thing saying it violated their terms of service, a few weeks later they released this application for £5 to capitalise on people's need of it. However, as many people will need it - here are its features: Journey planning for single and return journeys across the whole UK rail network, with departure platform information (where available), you'll be told about delays and cancellations when searching for trains and be given alternatives, live departures and arrivals at all National Rail stations in the UK with live train progress, add multiple stations to the application's home screen to one-touch access to their live departures, automatically find your nearest stations and the 'Next Train Home' finds your nearest station and plans the quickest journey home.

London Mini A-Z (£5.99) - Essentially this is the whole London A-Z on your iPhone and this has a search function which is easier than searching in the index for streets. The one major problem, which may be fixed in the future by an update, is that when you are searching for streets you must type them exactly as they appear on the map, so if you were searching for "Great Street", roads that are on the map as "Gt. Street" (abbreviated) would no appear. After a while you may get used to this limitation and remember that instaed of typing "Gardens" you may have to type "Gdn" or "Gdns". There is no need for an Internet connection which is a big plus. If you do have GPS enabled you can find your location on the map which is rather useful.

Tube Exits (£1.79) - Ever wanted to know where the station exit is and on what carriage you should get on? Tube Exits has the answer. It can also tell you what carriage to get on for the nearest interchange to other lines saving you valuable time, especially in peak hours and will even tell you what side the doors will open on. No internet connection required. You can also plan journeys using the app.

iRefund (£0.59) - Have you ever been delayed by the Tube for more than 15 minutes? Then you are probably entitled to a refund (refunds cannot be made if the delay is beyond TfL or its contractors control such as: security alerts, third party action or adverse weather conditions. This also applies to service changes alerted in advance. For all other situations, you are entitled to a full refund, but this can be time consuming so the App does everything for you. When the delay starts, open the app and tell it, when it is over, tell it the delay has finished - the details are saved. Once back above ground click to submit. Your Oyster card, address, name  and other static details are only needed once and will be saved for all future claims. Literally, in under 30 seconds, you can be claiming your refund. It also keeps track of your claim history so you can cross-reference the claims that you have yet to be paid for. Best of all with just one refund the App has paid for itself! A definite must for londoners. (The image of the App on the top left has changed to one of a train lately)

However, some of these Applications have free alternatives which are just as good for no cost at all. Here they are below:

Tube Pro (usually £1.19) - This is essentially the exact same Application as Tube Exits above, but for free. It worked perfectly on the routes I tried. It is only free until 1st November 2009, so get your skates on!

Thetrainline - This is a free alternative to the National Rail Enquiries app but with no live departures or platform info, it only has timetables (which are available offline) and the 'Next Train Home' feature, as well as the ability to locate the stations which are closest to you.

London Tube Status - Check the status of the tube lines live. All the tube lines are covered.

Tube Board Free - Check how long until the next tube arrives, live and free. This covers pretty much every London Underground station. A premium ad-free version is available which also offers a favourites function.

Google Maps - It's already on your iPhone but it essentially is the A-Z but always updated (and free) but requires an internet connection although some maps can be saved (cached), to do this, visit the location where you want the map to appear for with Wifi/3G on, then you can open up that map at any time without an internet connection.

Creative commons looking for $500,000 - help!

Creative Commons, the creators of licenses that allow content-creators to share their work while being properly attributed, are seeking $500,000 to keep the service going.

At the time of writing Creative Commons is only $42,000 towards its goal and only has until December 31st 2009 to gain the remaining $450,000+. In early 2009, Wikimedia (the owners of Wikipedia) got to $6million in donations within days of asking for donations with many private individuals giving more than $100.

If you want to continue seeing free software, podcasts and more (that are currently licensed under Creative Commons) then please do donate! You can donate any amount you wish with the box part-way down the page. If you donate $75 or more you get some stickers, buttons and T-shirts shipped to you as well as some one-site features including Open-ID integration. If you wish to maximise your donation then you can opt-out of these gifts. Donate more than $300 and you can become part of the CC Conference Calls and decide the future of Creative Commons. Donors or $1000 or more get invited to special Creative Commons events which are held two or three times per year.

Payments are taken via Paypal and if you want you can pay in monthly installments if that makes it easier for you to help the cause. Please do donate to this great cause if you can as it really does help things keep legally moving online and it's legally binding contracts are the only way that some content creators can give away their content for free.

Click here to donate now.

Steam on Windows 7

With Left 4 Dead 2 being released in just under 3 weeks and Windows 7 out for four days now, it is reasonable to take a look at how Steam runs on Windows 7. Thankfully there seems to be no major problems and the games appear to run just fine. However, if you have a small bandwidth cap and are waiting for the release of Left 4 Dead to switch the Windows 7, this may not be such a good idea.

There are three main ways to get your games from your current Windows version into Win 7.

1. Format your drive, install 7, download Steam and ALL of your games one again and all your games will be there on your PC, this is clearly the most bandwidth intensive option.

2. Move all your games to an external hard drive and point to this location in Steam, install Windows 7, and Steam, then point Steam on Windows 7 to the same location. Done. No downloading of games.

3. Use the backup to disk feature then install 7 and restore from the backup. No downloading of games.

The 3 above ways are the quickest ways of upgrading, of course do backup your OS before upgrading and if you manage to do an in-place upgrade, e.g. Vista Ultimate --> 7 Ultimate, then none of this will need to be done. Except of course the initial backup.

iPhone coming to Orange UK on November 10th

The details of the release date of the iPhone on the Orange network have reportedly been released to the UK newspaper 'The Times' and the release date is poised to be November 10th, just one day after O2s exclusivity ends and just the right time for hundreds of thousands of consumers to switch to the orange network.

After having poked around the Orange site for a few minutes, it is clear that Orange does not sell many smartphones on it's website (except 3 blackberrys) on Pay As You Go, so will this be left to Apple's Online Store?

The Pay Monthly plans on Orange are currently better value than O2, for £14.68 a month (on Dolphin 15) you can get 100 minutes and unlimited texts whereas on O2 you'll need to spend £35 for 75 minutes and 125 texts on the basic iPhone contract.

Whether these plans will be available with the iPhone it yet to be seen as it is unlikely that Orange will want to lock people in for less than £25 a month.

Also interesting is the fact that Orange PAYG customers currently get "unlimited" (actual 25MB) browsing for £2 per day. Also, the cheapest plan you can currently get with a Blackberry starts at just under £30 a month but on top of that you must pay an additional monthly fee of £4.25 to receive email! iPhone users will not be pleased with this as the iPhone on o2 currently comes with "unlimited" free internet for Pay Monthly forever and for PAYG customers for 12 months.

World of Goo just 24 hours to get it for cheap!

The fantastic cross-platform game World Of Goo (PC CD) has a fantastic promotion campaign that allows you to pay whatever you want for the game. It is available for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X and runs great on Snow Leopard.

The objective of the game is to use blobs of goo to get from one end of the screen to the other while using triangulation to achieve a structure which doesn't fall. New elements and types of goo are added in every level, sometimes a freak weather-storm will happen, other times you will have different kinds of goo and need to use balloons to open the path ahead.

IGN called it "brilliant, stunning, and ridiculously fun ... World of Goo is so good that it oftentimes feels like a title developed internally at Nintendo,"

It usually costs $20 but you can donate as much as you like but you can't get it for free. You have just over 24 hours as it apparently end October 25th and I am going to guess that it will be at the end of the day rather than at the beginning. So go on over (link at the top of the post) and get buying!

P.S. So far I have completed around 25% in about 4 hours so even if you donate $15/20 you will be getting exceptional value for money and the replay value is fantastic!

Update: This special has now ended but World Of Goo (PC CD) is available at an even better price delivered to your door at Amazon!


Chrome for Mac closer to beta release, causes more problems for users

Google Chrome for Mac has reached version and with that it now has several very important features added but with it a slew of problems have emerged. Two major new features now available on Chrome for Mac are Printing and QuickTime; yes Printing still wasn't there for the Mac 13 months after the original Windows release.

However, I and many other users are experiencing more problems than before. With the introduction of Quicktime, my Flash videos sometimes now appear extremely choppy even when playing in HQ or SD on YouTube whereas as they play perfectly fine in other browsers. Also, I am now unable to Shut Down my Mac when Chrome is running, instead it refuses to close requiring a Forced Quit. Links now decide to have a rectangle drawn around them them when I click them.

On the other hand, a fix that I have noticed, although unreported, is that if I now click on the  "Leave this page" button on a pop-up it actually leave the page when I press it. Also Chrome which decided to be called "Google Chrome Helper" in the last build is now once again called simply "Chrome"

Google has commented that Mac printing was one of the reasons it had not released a beta, so now that it is finally here, I wouldn't be surprised to see the release of the beta version within the next couple of months and almost certainly before the start of 2010. A late 2010 release of the final version of the browser would be a reasonable projection so it could just be another 12 months of using Safari and Firefox before moving over to the speed-demon that is Google Chrome

Windows 7 Launches! Microsoft retail store opens and Microsoft Cafe!

As you undoubtedly know today is the much anticipated launch of Windows 7 and Amazon UK already has some good news: the pre-orders of Windows 7 beat the previous record holder for pre-orders Harry Potter -when that happens you know something Microsoft has done is seriously right. The visuals are stunning - almost, but not quite, on par with Apple; the stability is much improved and best of all for consumers it's not called Vista. In fact Amazon UK has no versions run out of their allocation of all full Windows 7 versions and are now offering upgrade versions only but even these are now pre-orders.

The price of £80 has definitely lead consumers into making this purchase, although some may argue it should be free after the blunder of Vista. Meanwhile, Microsoft has also opened it's first retail store today in  Scottsdale, Arizona and yes - there was a line outside of people waiting to get inside. The employees clapped, cheered and high-fived- as the first guests came in and cheers were heard throughout the mall. The store is very similar to an Apple store in design and frankly does look amazing. Video below:

At the same time, Paris has the world's first "Windows Cafe" as reported by Le Journal du Geek
Image courtesy of Le Journal du Geek. Full article here.

Finally, Microsoft is also selling many brands of PCs on Microsoft.com in order to gain soem more Windows 7 sales. For anyone looking for more Windows 7 coverage why not join Leo Laporte at his 2 hour Win 7 party on TWiT today at 19:00 London Time or watch CNET TV for loads of news, tips and tricks.

Apple releases new mouse, iMacs, MacBook and more

Today, Tuesday 20th October 2009 Apple released a range of new products on it's website. The products are all beautiful as ever, it is interesting to see that the long awaiting Apple TV has had no upgrade as of yet. This is expected to be the last release before the major upcoming holiday season. Interestingly there were no price drops but merely better value for money which may not have been the right decision for the competitive christmas season.
The Magic Mouse - "suddenly, everything clicks. and swipes. and scrolls." The new Magic Mouse is the world's first multi-touch mouse and is now included with every iMac and starts at just $69 (£55).

The MacBook - completely redisgned and now with a durable unibody enclosure and a $999 (£799) price tag. It has a brilliant LED-Backlit display, 7 hours of battery life, a glass multi-touch trackpad, Advanced NVidia graphics, a fast processor and up to 500GB of hard drive space, Magsafe power port, built in iSight camera and it has 2 USB ports and a combined audio in/out port.

The iMac - now with a 16:9 aspect ratio, meaning the displays have got bigger from 20" and 24" to 21.5" and 27". It has new IPS technology meaning the colours look the same from every angle. They have new redesigned speakers which "deliver louder, clearer sound with better bass response and less distortion." The keyboard that now comes is wireless and the previously mentioned Magic Mouse. You also get faster processors, more memory, advanced grapics and more storage. It has separate audio in and out ports, 4 USB ports, FireWire 800, Mini DisplayPort and Gigabit Ethernet. It also has an SD card slot. The £949 cheapest model now runs with a 3.0GHz processor, 4GB memory and a massive 500GB hard drive. There is now an i5 quad-core model available for £1599. Upgrading to 8GB costs £160 instead of the old £800. The Apple remote has also been redesigned. On the i5 Mac up to 16GB of RAM is available for an extra £1120. Blu-ray is not in any on the iMacs. 802.11n is now supported!

Mac Mini - For just £499 you can now get a Mac Mini with: 2GB of DDR3 1066MHz, five USB ports, 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor and a 160GB hard drive. A Mac Mini with Snow Leopard Server installed costs £799.

Overall a very impressive line up, a big shame the Apple TV wasn't updated which is long due an overhall, the fact that Blu-Ray hasn't been added and the fact that prices weren't reduced is rather unusual considering the current climate, then again Apple announced record profits yesterday so they do now deliver even better value for money!

Apple posts amazing growth of 46% - over 7 million iPhones sold and 3 million Macs

Live-stream ended.
Last updated: 22:56, London

Apple posts amazing growth of 46% - over 7 million iPhones sold and 3 million Macs. During the 'Apple Financial Results' conference call the following was revealed by Apple:
  • Over 3.05 million Macs sold - 1 Mac sold every 3 seconds worldwide during the past 3 months.
  • Over 7.4 million iPhones sold - one iPhone was sold per second worldwide during the past 3 months.
  • Quarterly net profit of $1.14 billion
  • Sales of $9.87 billion
  • 50% of all Macs bought were by people who have never bought a Mac before
  • 208,000 memberships of the One-to-one program were sold
  • Store to open in the Louvre in France
  • Cash Flow 3.1 billion in the quarter
  • $11.3 billion to 11.6 billion in December quarter expected
  • All in "extraordinary challenging times"
  • New products coming in the next quarter will be better value with lower prices and lower gross margins
  • Apple's tax rate is 30%.
  • Apple does not change the price it charges carriers for the iPhone when moving from exclusivity to multiple carriers - meaning not much more competition price-wise.
  • Over 20 million iPhones have been sold in the fiscal year
  • "In an exclusive relationship (Apple) can innovate" more and "an exclusive carrier may be willing to invest more".
  • Double the amount of Leopard sales with Snow Leopard in the first 5 weeks.
  • Demand outstripped supply with the iPhone 3GS and this did "create component shortages" - could this be the cameras on the iPod Touch? He said he cannot be specific about what this also applies too but it is just not phone.
  • 13,000 worldwide indirect suppliers - most in the international markets. 
  • The Mac grew must stronger "outside the US than inside the US, particularly Europe and Asia." Germany got 40% of the European sales, France had 39% of the European sales.
  • The September unit was benefitted from orders from the state of Maine and Snow Leopard.
  • In over 80 countries with the 3GS by the end of the calendar year.
  • The iPhone is deployed or tested in the top Fortune 100 companies in the US, and 50% of the Financial Times Top 10.
  • iPods account for 70% of the MP3 player sales in the US.

UK iPhone 3GS calling plans on Orange and Vodafone

With both Orange and Vodafone getting the iPhone 3GS within the next three months, I've been researching into what plans these operators are likely to offer in terms of texts, minutes and more importantly web and wifi.

Pay as you go customers on o2 can currently purchase their phone for £440.40 for the 16GB iPhone 3GS model. They then get "unlimited" web and wifi for 12 months (worth £120) - that is "unlimited" wifi at Cloud hotspots and "unlimited" 3G usage but apparently you aren't allowed "continuous streaming of audio/video content" according to O2 themselves. They have also in the past implemented a measly 200MB per month cap on their "unlimited" plan. After the 12 months it is £10 per month for Web and Wifi or just £7.50 for just the Web portion. If you top up £15 you can also be on a plan where you get 100 minutes and texts. So for £15 a month you get "unlimited" web and wifi + 100 texts + 100 minutes + £15 credit. Not too shabby. After the 12 months you'll only have £7.50 credit per month which still is very cheap - just £15 a month for an iPhone. 18 months would therefore cost you £710.40 with £225 worth of credit and unlimited Web and a hundred minutes and a hundred texts.
It have heard that this Web + Wifi promotion will be ending on the 31st October 2009.

Pay monthly customers get the iPhone for a highly subsidised price of just under £185 on the cheapest plan for the 16GB 3GS, then for £30 a month you get 125 texts and 75 minutes. After 18 months you'll have spend £725 and have no credit to use for other things. Doesn't seem like such a good deal now does it?

Orange boasts that it has the largest 2.5G/3G network in the UK which should be good for consumers. I checked the signal in area I would use 3G the most and it the reception does seem to be the strongest. Orange will have to do something to lure O2 customers off it's network - whether that is offering the iPhone with free Web at higher speeds, more minutes and texts for customers, or the iPhone for lower subsidised prices and for lower pay as you go prices. Perhaps the cheapest plan with 100 minutes and unlimited texts might do the trick. Currently on Pay As You Go a £10 top up gets free music and 300 texts.

Vodafone doesn't have the best network and will only be getting the phone last of the big three, so what can they do? I can only see two more options: to further reduce prices or just count on their existing customer base. This could fuel a war where the prices for the phones may be free on the cheapest plans or close to it as well as many more minutes for your monthly amount. What can be said as that the current O2 plan is a pretty good deal already, so the competition will need to work hard.

6 Life saving freeware utilities for Mac OS X

After having moved from a PC over to a Mac, it can be difficult deciding what programs you need to get. Surprisingly, many of the programs you would have to pay for on Windows have superior free alternatives on a Mac so the initial outlay may save you money in the long run. I do ask that you donate to the developers for their hard work if you can, please remember they developed this for free and used their own time, so please show some appreciation. Let's get straight into the list:

1. TimeOut - This utility sits quietly for 30 minutes (or whatever you configure) then as the time approaches it begins to fade out your screen - allowing you time to save what you are doing. Your screen will then be completely covered and it will display a countdown timer telling you to have a break. You can configure all lengths of time and add sounds and micro-breaks more often in addition to your longer breaks. Your eyes will thank you and so will your wrists - no more eye strain or RSI. This is developed free so if you do get some use out of it please do donate to the developer, even $10 will help. They are also developing TimeOut 2 which you will get the full paid version for free if you donate now - minimum $10. You will get TimeOut 2 as soon as it is released. (AntiRSI is also free and similar though more basic - also donationware!)

2. Caffeine - Developed by Lighthead this fantastic utility allows you to do one simple thing. As the developers put it "Caffeine is a tiny program that puts an icon in the right side of your menu bar. Click it to prevent your Mac from automatically going to sleep, dimming the screen or starting screen savers. Click it again to go back." Want to leave the screen on for a certain reason or want to make sure your Mac doesn't go to sleep? Give it some Caffeine. I can't find a donation link on their website so I guess it's straight up freeware!

3. Carbon Copy Cloner - This is the best hard drive cloning and backup tool I have EVER come across on any Operating System and it is significantly better than commercial solutions which can be very costly. Your backups are made on block-level so everything is cloned and the backups are bootable. There are scheduled backups which I have never seen from any backup tool that work reliably, let alone from a free tool. Even more amazing is the inclusion of incremental backups meaning only new changes are cloned making very quick backups after the initial backup. You can also backup to another Mac on your network. Donations for this program are recommended as this would sell for at least $60 if it were commercial.

4. Flux - "Ever notice how people texting at night have that eerie blue glow? Or wake up ready to write down the Next Great Idea, and get blinded by your computer screen? During the day, computer screens look good—they're designed to look like the sun. But, at 9PM, 10PM, or 3AM, you probably shouldn't be looking at the sun. F.lux fixes this: it makes the color of your computer's display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day.Tell f.lux what kind of lighting you have, and where you live. Then forget about it. F.lux will do the rest, automatically." I honestly thought this was ridiculous initially but now I have it on all my computers and my eyes are more relaxed and I'm not staring at the sun anymore at night. The developer also wrote Picasa before it was acquired by Google.

5. Handbrake - All those DVDs you have at home can now be ripped straight into iTunes and then synced onto your iPod to watch whenever you want. Just pop the DVD in and press Start come back an hour or two later and your DVD will be ripped straight to your hard drive. It can also transcode any video file into a different format. It is GPL-licensed and no donations are taken

6. VLC - Another GPL-licensed program, VLC is the best media player around. It is cross platform and available on Windows, OS X and Linux. It will open any file that you can throw at it without asking you for codecs or details - it will just work. It can also be used to convert video as a media converter and as a streaming tool too. 

Only free public-domain or independant software is above - there are thousands of other free programs but these are some that truly go further than any other commercial utility and do surely deserve a place. Also some programs like Handbrake and Carbon Copy Cloner are reason enough to get most Windows users to switch instantly - only if they knew.


5 ways to make a living off the internet

If you've always dreamed of staying at home and being paid for doing nothing then this is your lucky day, I have five proven ways to make money online although some effort will be required on your part.

1. Start a website - whether it is a social network, blog or any other type of website, find some sponsors and build a fan base and after a few years the money will start trickling in.

2. Podcasting - If you can get sponsors you can make a killing with this, Leo Laporte recently announced that he makes over $1million profit every year from his "This Week in Tech" series of podcasts.

3. Free money - websites such as http://www.topcashback.co.uk/ give you cash-back on every purchase you make which you can then put towards something like a holiday fund.

4. Get paid to click ads - Try a website like neobux.com and invest in referrals, some people make thousands per year by clicking a few adverts a day.

5. Free stuff for visiting a website - go to www.swagbucks.com/refer/giovannicosta and you get points for searching, these can be redeemed for prizes and sold on for cash. Or comment to get an invite to Lockerz.com (you have to be invited) where in a month from starting I now a PSP in my hands and I can sell this on for some easy cash.

Hopefully these tips will get you some extra luxuries or enough for that big summer holiday.

Mac OS 11 - features? release date?

With Mac OS X reaching the end of it's product cycle, we take a look at what may be coming in the next operating system and how this could be a really big game-changer for Apple and increase it's market share.

The 'classic' Mac OS ran for 16 years and in 2001, Apple announced the   launch of Mac OS X. Throughout the same number of years Microsoft has released Windows XP, Vista and now Windows 7. As the current operating system is now 8 years old a refresh is needed. What is likely to change?

1. The Dock - Although the dock looks very nice and is easy to use (and much better than the Windows  start button), a refresh is needed.

2. Speech recognition - This is one area where Macs could do extremely well, you can already do some limited speech recognition on a mac but this would be great for people with disabilities and if it were good enough, it could possibly change the way we interact with computers forever.

3. Free Cloud-Based Features - whatever these could be, being able to backup to the cloud for free would be something Apple could integrate in properly.

4. Reinvention of the finder - we interact with our computers the same way we have for decades, we click, click, click through folders then double click to open files. Perhaps the finder will be gone altogether and so will folders. All you'd need to do is use spotlight or similar and get the file instantly.

5. App store for the mac - how about being able to get all your applications from one place like Ubuntu includes as standard. It would be the end of the need to search online to find applications.

6. Multitouch - with the tablet rumoured to be coming with multi-touch and the iphone and ipod touch multi-touch friendly Apple surely likes the idea of eliminating buttons and touch us much more naturally intuitive - the mouse needs to go!

Google Wave invites

Today I received my official invitation from Google and I now have a few to give out, eight in fact. If you'd like to receive one, click the "contact this" link at the top-left of the page and then email me on the address there with "Google Wave" in the subject line. I only have 8 invites so get in quick! Also if you provide me with a reason why you should be chosen over the others that would be nice. Have fun waving! 
N.B. Google says that they make take some time to come through - whether that's hours, days, weeks or months - I don't know.

UPDATE: Down to just 1 invite!

UK Kindle users spend £5260 on books to break even

The Amazon Kindle will be released on October 19th to international users and for the first time users outside the US will be able to buy books and have them delivered instantly wirelessly to their device. The device itself costs $279 (£176.18) + import fees - an outlay that is not small and comes with no books included at that price. US users are able to get New York Times bestsellers for only $9.99 (£6.31). In order to make the decision whether the kindle is for me, I set out on a bit of researching by checking how much I could save by buying this magnificent device assuming I just just bought it and got it delivered for £200 - more than an 8GB iPod Touch and £40 worth of songs/apps.

The first book I checked was Dan Brown's "The Lost Symbol" which for some strange reason isn't available to me in the UK on the Kindle. Fine, let's try a different book. I also found that none of the Harry Potter books are available to me. I searched for several other titles - none of which are available on the Kindle to me either. The so called "choice" doesn't seem to be a very big one. I checked for Barack Obama's new book "Dreams from my father". This is available! The price here in the UK for a paperback is £4.49 from Amazon. The kindle price is $13.79 (£8.71). So I would be paying double to have my book delivered instantly - no thanks!

I widened my search, I found "The Silver Spoon: Pasta" on Amazon UK for £16.22, on the Kindle however it costs $26.37 (£16.65). Once again, no savings. So far, it seems to me that paying £200 for a device and then paying extra for books doesn't seem like a good deal.

However, I did find one saving: 'Roasting in Hell's Kitchen' costs just £2.00 on the Kindle but costs £8.46 in its physical format. After having found this I was sure to find more considerable savings right? No. 'Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook' costs £6.49 paperback or a very similar £6.30 for the Kindle version.

In conclusion, there are some rare savings to be made. Now if all the books were as discounted as Gordon Ramsay's book and I saved £6.46 per book, I'd have to buy at least 31 books to break even (and spend at least £150) to recoup the price of the Kindle. If the savings are more similar to the last book on the list of 19p - you'd have to buy over 1052 books to break even. If each book costs even £5 - you'd need to spend over £5260 on books before breaking even. 

The iPhone gets wireless charging

Powermat - a device which allows you to wirelessly charge up to 5 device at once - is being launched aggressively in the UK this month (October 2009). The claim is that you will be able to pop your cell phone down on a mat and pick it up again later on and your phone will be charged. However this isn't truly wireless or without it's faults. You will need to connect that mat itself to a mains socket or USB port on your computer, you will need to buy an adapter for each of your devices and phones and you'll need to spend a whole load of cash. All to save you a mere 5 seconds each time you charge a device. You see, the simple alternative is to plug the charger in and hey presto!

Plus, this doesn't come cheap the mat itself retails at £70 with the price of around £35 adapter for each device. Very few devices are supported: only the iphone, ipod touch, nintendo ds lite and dsi and blackberrys and currently supported and just to start charging one device "wirelessly" will cost you over £100.

Undoubtedly the future will be all without wires and all this will be built into our devices, we wont have to place our devices on a mat and all phones will have this built in, just walking into a room will do the trick. Perhaps, we won't even have batteries that only last a few days, but rather last a lifetime - eliminating the problem all together. All we can say now is that is you want a cool gizmo to show your mates the Powermat is it but with a price tag of over £100 to start one phone this won't be a cheap piece of kit.

Steam - the future of gaming? (Left 4 Dead 2)

With titles such as Left 4 Dead 2, Bioshock and Half Life 2 being released on the PC exclusively on the Steam platform from Valve, it's interesting to take a look at how these delivery systems have evolved over the past few years and how they may evolve in the future.

The advantages of using a download system such as Valve's Steam are very clear: fast delivery of games (usually quicker than going out to buy the game in the shop), immediate availability, quick payment, downloads over multiple computers, automatic patches, etc.

However, the disadvantages of download systems are also clear: you need an internet connection and the prices are not always the best. For example for £26.99 I can either order Left 4 Dead 2 from Amazon and I'll receive in on release date or a couple of days later and I have a physical copy of the CD, or for the same price, I can order it from Steam - here I can download it the second it's released (albeit very slowly as hundreds of thousands of people will be downloading it), I will have no physical copy and I will be wasting my bandwidth. Personally, for the same price I'd rather keep a physical copy and have it in the cloud than having everything online.

In order to gain consumer confidence, Valve needs to seriously consider its strategy. How can they justify selling a download which costs just cents to deliver at the same price as a CD which has to have a cover designed, printed, manufactured and all the data burned onto a CD. It simply makes no sense, also older games are available cheaper from Amazon etc than at Steam - they need to keep on top of their prices.

Also, Valve needs to make sure Steam is reliable - which for me it has always been and it's servers do need to deliver a quicker download speed than it's measly 250KB per second. Will Steam be the future of gaming? Possibly. It's certainly working a lot better than EA's system, all Valve needs to do now is make all it's games and Steam available on other Operating Systems including Mac OS X.

How 2010 will be Apple's most profitable year ever.

With cheaper iMacs, Mac Minis, MacBooks and AppleTVs rumoured to be coming soon and a cheap Apple Tablet in 2010 it seems that next year could be very successful. In fact, over the past few weeks it has been revealed that Apple was the fourth biggest selling PC maker in the US. How will their sales increase? Read on:

1. Cheaper Macs - the white plastic MacBook currently retails $999 (£749) for a similar price you can get two netbooks or a Dell Studio Laptop with a 15" screen for around $700, compared to the MacBook 13" screen and with 4GB of RAM and 250GB hard drive, compared with the 2GB and 160GB of the MacBook. At it's current price point the MacBook is ridiculously expensive. The MacBook should soon get a price cut to $799 or $849 and get better specs and then MacBooks will sell out fast. The iMacs and the Mac Mini are also expected to get a price cut and raised specs meaning buying a Mac will become even more accessible to all.

2. New Products - The tablet, rumoured to retail for $800 and be available in February will send sales through the roof and as manufacturing costs go down the profits increase.

3. iPhone available on more carriers - Canada will be getting an iPhone which is not exclusive to any network and the UK will also have 3 operators selling the iPhone - more operators means greater sales. A price drop of the phone out of contract would also increase sales as would yet another version of the phone - possibly the iPhone 4G?

4. iPod Touch with camera - this is expected to be announced in January or at some point next year - the manufacturing cost for the iPods has gone down ridiculously as parts become cheaper - adding a camera will boost sales and make the Touch even more attractive.

With all the following combined, essentially meaning more sales at lower price points with a new product Apple is ready to make a massive amount of money and will increase it's market share from it's current 10% to over 15% within a year. Let's just hope Apple can keep up with all the demand and that despite all these users, Macs remain virus free.

Do you agree or disagree. Comment below. No registration required.

Mint for UK users and it's free! (Mint.com)

If you've been annoyed that we can't use Mint.com - a financial service website - in the UK then fear no more. I have been testing a site which I found months ago and trust it so much that I am going to share it with you.

Mint.com allows you to aggregate your different bank accounts into one neat dashboard. It automatically categorises all your spending and you can set budget so that you don't forget that you can only spend £30 a month on clothes and it will give you alerts when you go over your budget. It also generates graphs which show you where your spending and income and going. If you want all this in the UK visit Kublax.co.uk - they have agremeents with loads of major banks allowing you to importing all the data into one account.

Better still, you are completely safe - if someone were to hack into your Kublax account, the most the could do is see how much money you have. You cant transfer any more or even touch the money - only view statistics. It's free and now Mint.com UK users finally have an alternative!

Update: 19th March 2013

Kublax became defunct in 2010, but there are now a few new services which have emerged. Take a look at MoneyDashboard.com and LoveMoney.com

Confirmed: New iMacs, Mac Mini and MacBooks coming this week

I have just received confirmation from several of my sources that there will indeed be a refreshed model of the white-plastic MacBook with a faster processor and a slightly more affordable price. I also have confirmation that a 2GB RAM Mac Mini will be available for either £399 or £429 starting next week and that a new model of the iMac will be released. The iMac will ship with a new touch-sensitive mouse and the same keyboard as before. It is also going to be thinner and may be sold at a reduced price point though the lower price point has not yet been confirmed.

My source tells me that this will not be a big announcement and should occur within the next week and at the latest by the 19th October. Stocks are being shipped to distributers during this week with stocks at Apple Stores being replenished first.

I have also been told that the Apple TV will be upgraded in the future - definitely by the end of January.


Monetising your content and whether it's ethical

We're all used to seeing ads on TV but why do we get so annoyed when we see them online? We turn the page of a newspaper and see a massive advert, yet an interstitial advert is completely unacceptable for many people. We walk around constantly being exposed to brand and yet we are unhappy to see a small advert on a website. So, is it right to monetise content and should you as a consumer accept it?

Every website online costs money to run - from the $8 fee for the domain to getting your website hosted which can run into tens of thousands of dollars for some of the bigger website - it all adds up. If content providers are posting content on their website, is it not right that they get paid for it? After all you wouldn't expect to see a TV channel without adverts or a free newspaper without adverts - someone needs to pay for the content writers to earn.

There are threee main ways of monetising a website:

  1. Text Ads/banner ads - these can either be product placement, blog posts, paid links or a service like Google Adsense, they are used so often that many people are now ad blind and many don't even notice them. 
  2. Video ads/ interactive ads - these can be the same adverts as shown on TV which have higher clickthrough rates. Interactive adverts can take over a whole page moving elements around and are usually amusing - Apple is very good at these adverts - click the following links to see videos of interactive adverts on The New York Times and on Yahoo Games!
  3. Sponsorships - these are where one company or a series of companies sponsors a website - all the adverts on the website will be for those particular companies.
The message: if you don't want adverts contact the website to see if they will take donations for a ad-free version of the website - either you pay for the content or the advertisers will.

Spotify offering downloads soon?

Spotify has recently announced that you can now store over 3,000 tracks on your hard drive offline for just £9.99 a month. That may seem like a good deal but ,in reality, is it a false economy? Under £10 a month may sound like a fantastic deal for the ability to listen to millions of tracks to your hear's content without adverts and the ability to save 3000 of them temporarily offline and a similar ability on the iPhone/iPod Touch. All for under £10 or £99 for a full year!

The reality is that essentially all this music is heavily DRMed because you cannot transfer it to any player and you can't even copy the files. With the ZunePass service available at an equivalent price of $15 per month, you also have unlimited streaming but in addition you get 10 free downloads that are DRM free and that you can keep - forever.

With Spotify you are essentially renting music - if they do go out of business all the previously paid months of music will essentially have been for the ability to rent that music as you own none of it. With the launch of the ZunePass, Spotify must be seriously considering making this an option as £9.99 a month could buy me 10-20 songs DRM free at up to 300kbps instead of Spotify's 192kbps bitrate.

Whether or not Spotify will be implementing this remains to be seen.