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Posts from the ‘Technology’ Category

Review: Why I’m in love with my Kindle Paperwhite

I like real-life books as much as the next compulsive bookshop browser. There’s something amazing about sorting through piles of books and deciding which you’re going to take home. I love how old books smell and I love how new books smell. I like the feel of paper under my fingers. What I definitely don’t love is finding somewhere to put them. At my last count, I had over 600 real-life actual space taking books in my house… and my house is not big – it doesn’t have its own library. I also begrudge having books on my shelves that I bought, thought I’d love and now feel ‘meh’ about. They were fine but I don’t need a copy of them. Yes, I know I can take them to charity shops (and I have) but, as I only have limited time to sort them, I haven’t really got around to doing a proper clear out.

Sony PRS 650

So in an effort to prevent myself becoming one of those obsessional hoarders off of the TV, I asked for an ereader for my birthday a couple of years ago. The idea was to buy ebooks and then if I loved any of them to buy nice, pretty hardback copies for my shelves. The Sony PRS 650 came into my life and my reading experience was changed forever. I loved how light it was to carry around and how I could switch from book to book whenever I felt like it. It’s no secret I love tech, but what I loved about this tech was how simple it was and, very importantly, how the e-ink didn’t strain my eyes. The only slightly annoying thing was that I had to plug it in to download books through a slightly complex system. When it inexplicably died, I was not happy to move my reading to my iPad. Although I love it, it’s not built for reading for long periods of time and after being on a computer at work all day, the last thing I wanted to do is to look at another back-lit screen.

Kindle Paperwhite

My Kindle Paperwhite came into my life in December. My eyes are so happy to be reading e-ink again. Although it does have a back light, it’s really easy to turn up and down so I haven’t had any headaches since I’ve used it.

Instant access to the Amazon bookstore has meant that when I see book recommendations I can be reading them five minutes later. A huge bonus for me is that I can email documents to a dedicated Kindle email address – this means I can send my PDF course materials to it (I’m completing a distance learning course at the moment around my full-time job), read them, highlight important sections and make notes on the go. I used to do this on my iPad, but due to the weight lugging an iPad everywhere is not ideal. And, realistically, sometimes I just want to take a normal-sized handbag out with me – the Kindle Paperwhite easily fits into all my handbags, my iPad 2 does not. Compared to a large hardback book, like Christopher Paolini’s Eldest (see below) it’s a much more practical option to carry around. Even when compared to a small paperback (Neil Gaiman’s Stardust), it’s still the most practical option.

Kindle Paperwhite

Although it probably won’t be a problem for me, I also like that you can have books and documents stored off the device to download to it when you need them, but not on the reader all the time taking up space. On the Kindle itself, the menus are easy to navigate with single touches and you can create collections to keep documents or books together.

Battery life is good. I’ve charged it once since I got it just before Christmas. Amazon claims it will last eight weeks on one charge (reading for 30 minutes a day with the wireless off) but even with quite heavy use the battery seems to hold up well. And, to be honest, for someone who lives or works somewhere with electricity (that’s you) it’s not that big a deal to plug it in every few weeks is it?

Kindle Paperwhite home screen

I bought the official Kindle Paperwhite Leather Cover and it has been surprisingly hardwearing. It holds itself shut with a magnetic closure, which even when chucked in my handbag every day still stays closed. The outside of it hasn’t scratched or dented. I particularly like that the front can be folded right back flat so it can be held in one hand.

All in all, I love my Kindle. I know that the Paperwhite has been a little overshadowed by the sexier Kindle Fire, but I already have a colour tablet. What I needed was a lightweight, easy-on-my-eyes book replacement and the Kindle Paperwhite does that very well.



Apple customer service fail

Image from Sinchen.Lin’s Flickr. When you buy from a luxury brand, you’re not just buying the product. You’re buying the experience and the customer service, too. As Apple products are priced at the top end of the electronics market, you would be forgiven for thinking that they fell into this category. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case.

When my brother spent hundreds of pounds on a Mulberry bag a couple of years ago and the strap frayed within a few weeks, he took it into a Mulberry store (a different one to the one he bought it from). He showed it to the assistant. She looked at it for all of about five seconds, took it off him, gave him a brand new Mulberry bag. That’s a luxury brand and one that you would buy from again.

When I got an iPhone 5 for Christmas, which is worth similar, if not more, money and I took it out the box I was immediately disappointed. The screen had a flashing line that intermittently appeared about two thirds of the way down and, also intermittently, everything below it shook violently. Think about an iPhone screen – that area is where the keyboard is. Later, I discovered that I also couldn’t receive SMS or iMessages.

Hoping, mistakenly, that Apple would happily sort this problem out of the box. I took my expensive, useless piece of Apple kit to my local Apple store.

The Apple Store

As a family, we have not had good Apple store experiences. When my brother turned on an iPhone 4S he’d bought from the Apple UK website, it displayed a message on the screen that it needed to be taken to a store. He took it to the local store (that’s an hour away) to be told there was nothing they could do because it was bought online. He was advised to call Apple Care when he got home. Apple Care told him there was nothing they could do, except organise for a phone to be ready for him to swap to at the Apple store he’d just left. Dubious and fuming, my brother returned to the store the day after. They had no idea what he was talking about. After many days without a phone, Apple Care finally agreed to swap the phone by courier. Brother is so furious by this point he says he’d have rather have his money back. Apparently that wasn’t an option.

My Macbook Pro started playing up when it was being charged. The trackpad worked erratically making it impossible to use when it was charging. The Apple store took it for repairs and charged me for them. It still wasn’t fixed, so I took it back in. They called to tell me they’d changed the same parts again and were charging me for it. I explained that those parts hadn’t resolved the problem, and asked them to keep it and fix it. They agreed. A few days later I received a phone call asking me to bring it in. I informed them that I hoped they already had it, otherwise we’d have a problem. They found it and replaced every part they thought could be connected to the problem. It was still broken and I’d had several weeks without my laptop. I gave up and bought a new MacBook as I need it for work.

My brother cracked his iMac screen – it was still useable, just annoying. Took it in to the Apple store. They said no problem, they could replace it while he waited. Took it out the back, shattered the screen taking it out and then discovered they had no replacement iMac screens in stock. The iMac was now unusable until their glass shipment came in.

So then came my iPhone 5. “Sure, we can just swap it for a new one,” said the assistant. Five minutes later… actually no they can’t because it’s an American iPhone 5. WTF? I calmly explained that as a multi-national company I would not expect this to be a problem. He stonewalled me and told me Apple Care would sort it if I called them. I’m sure you can imagine how well I took that.

Apple Care

After explaining my problem to Apple Care I was put on hold for a long time, then was put through to a supervisor. The supervisor then also put me on hold. When he came back, he explained that the only option the computer was giving him was repair in America. Did I have someone I could send it to in America who could take it into a store? No? I explained it was bought for me as a present in Dubai. He told me to take it back to the store, after telling me that there are no official Apple stores in Dubai. I reminded him I was in the UK and the cost of the flights would render this journey pointless. He then said that judging from my name I probably had relatives out there anyway. Yes, he actually said that to me. I, slightly less calmly, told him I was actually British but thanks for that. (Besides anything else I’m getting a bit annoyed that Apple’s faulty product is now my problem to fix.) Apparently every other product in the Apple range has a worldwide warranty except the iPhone 5. He advised me to write to the Customer Services department.

Letter to Apple Customer Services

So, in an age where electronics is king and I’m trying to contact one of the most respected technology companies in the world, I have to write a letter and put it in the snail mail. I explain that I now don’t have a working phone and I don’t understand why I am responsible for sorting the replacement for their faulty product. I figure it’ll take them five minutes to order an American iPhone replacement since this is apparently the replacement problem.

This morning, over a week later, I receive a letter that says that I have to get it repaired in the country of purchase. This, apart from being completely financially idiotic (I may as well buy a new iPhone [maybe that’s their plan]) is also impossible because apparently there are no Apple stores in Dubai. It also was clearly a cut and paste job – I’m glad that as an Apple customer I’m so valued. How do I know this? Well check out this…

So now I’m left wondering if I should just buy an Android or Windows phone and use that extra money to get myself a Mulberry bag.

Ice-Phone is confusing me

It came to my attention recently while the behind-the-scenes of a generic reality TV show was on in the background* in my house, that there is something called an Ice-Phone. Now, not only does this have a stupid name, it’s also taking us back about 20 years. That’s right, it has an actual handset like an old school phone that plugs into your mobile phone. It turns your smart, funky, high tech mobile into a house phone circa 1990. The website actually suggests you carry the handset around with you. Nuts.

However I think my mum would love it because apparently if you use it your brain is no longer impacted by mobile radiation. And teens will love it because they didn’t have the big, old school phones in the first place. It’s all new and shiny to them. Oh and grandparents are bound to love it because it reminds them of the good old days. Hey, hang on, maybe they’re on to something… I should have thought of it…

*For ‘on in the background’, read ‘on loud with me completely engrossed’.

High tech meets low tech – the Evernote Moleskine

You might remember, back in 2011 (I know that was ages ago) I wrote about my new-found love of Moleskines. Since then I have bought city guides, a reporter notebook for work and a variety of notebooks. They won me over.

Now I have found another reason to love them. The Moleskine Evernote combines my two favourite things – stationery and tech! This notebook allows you to take notes the traditional, low-tech way – pen to paper – and then, through the power of Evernote, translates it into something super technical.

Evernote is a searchable, electronic storage system, which allows you to share your drawings, images, text and much more across a whole range of electronic devices. What makes it extra-special is the ability to search text in the pictures – think about it… wine bottle labels, hotel names, contracts, business cards, the possibilities are endless. You can completely tailor it to your own needs.

The Evernote Moleskine is designed to be an extension of this. Its pages have been redesigned to have “improved image capture”, making it easier to transfer your drawings, writing or ideas directly to Evernote, and then store, search and share depending on what you want to do with them. It comes complete with ‘smart stickers’ to categorise your notes even further.

You can see the advertising video here.

iWant (78)

That’s right, I made an Apple-based pun as the post title, I’m not ashamed. iWant an iPad (that’s right, I did it again).

I had avoided knowing anything about it. No really. I had. And for any of you who know me at all, you will know that was taxing for me. It caused me stress, and headaches, and more stress. I didn’t look up the stats, I ignored the trending on twitter and I did not read any reviews. NONE. Not even one. Not even Stephen Fry’s. I’m proud of myself even writing this. I was so restrained.

Then today, I clicked that fatal button on the play video on the Apple website. And despite the fact I can’t take anyone on an Apple sales video as being absolutely genuine (aren’t they ridiculously enthusiastic “This is the change of the world and life as we know it… etc. etc.”), I want one. Even though the price is not accessible. Do you hear me Apple? £429 for the entry level model (which, lets be honest, no-one really wants) is not accessible for the average person. Sorry for having to break it to you like this, actually I lie, I’m not sorry! Yes it’s a great piece of kit, but then don’t pretend it’s cheap! That is not cheap! Did I say cheap? Sorry I meant “accessible”.

Then I tweeted about it, and it turns out people (@chrissteer and @ayjayoh21) thought I was the sort of person that would already have one. Some people might be worried about that. I’m totally not. I am that person.

I don’t have one though. This makes me sad. So in the spirit of making you sad because you don’t have one either below is the video. And if you are reading this from your iPad, how about you get me one? Please. PLEASE.

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