From a technology point of view I didn’t feel that this was a year where there were many “wow” moments, if any at all, and the usual leaders in wow, Apple, seemed a little flat. In fact like many it seems as though iOS 7 didn’t hit the mark particularly with their new design. However, there were some things that caught my eye that I found particularly useful. I’m sure there is your own list but as I said these were some that caught my eye.
1. Tagging Files in OSX Mavericks.
Lets face it so many of us have so many files we often spend too much time looking for them and wondering which folder and perhaps even which device we stored it on. When OSX Mavericks came out Apple did their usual fanfare but honestly the only thing that made me sit up and notice was the ability to tag files with keywords and big have I put this to good use. I generate lots of files from documents to photos to video, I have thousands of photos.
Now if you have a Mac and you have Mavericks you have to try this, if you give them keywords, and each file can have more than one. For example, if I had a bunch of photos taken in London of buildings I tagged them up with the keywords London, building, architecture and perhaps the name of the building if I knew it. You are going to find this one of the most useful things. I did. Here is a little video I made.
I had to get another phone earlier this year, this was in addition to my iPhone as I needed one for work and one for personal. So I opted for a Samsung Galaxy S4. I did this because as a technologist it is always good to know both sides of the story and having an iPhone and a Galaxy gave me that perspective. It was interesting but one of the other reasons was the 4G capability and I was pleasantly surprised by how fast it was. Also using it as a wifi hotspot meant I could work with a good connection when out and about, assuming I had a 4G connection. As luck would have it I did when I needed it. It also came in handy when we had a problem with our landline connection at home which also resulted in losing broadband for about a week just as I was doing some important work.
Here is a little video I made on how to turn the Samsung Galaxy S4 into a wifi hotspot. Oh, and here is a link to one on how to do the same with an iPhone.
3. FaceTime Audio
Not everything was disappointing with iOS 7, although I still don’t like the interface and preferred the calendar in previous versions. Let’s not forget the searching feature, yuck. However, one feature I did welcome was FaceTime Audio. I find FaceTime useful but don’t always need to see the other person, it could be that I haven’t got a great connection and audio only uses less bandwidth or because I just want to use it as a phone as I’m walking along. Whatever the reason I have been using this a lot more. If you have iOS 7 when you go into your contact you have two icons to tap on one indicates a camera which is FaceTime with video and the other is phone handset which indicates FaceTime Audio, just tap on the one you want.
4. Windows Surface 8.1
Now this was a surprise. There I was minding my own business at work when I was asked if I would like to try a Windows Surface 8.1, this is the RT version. I had tried these when they first came out at an expo. I switched it on and I was pleasantly surprised. Now I like my iPad but as many of you know I like using Excel, a bit obvious from some of my previous blog posts. Now the great thing about the Windows Surface and other Windows 8.1 tablets is that you can use Word, Excel and PowerPoint, the RT version doesn’t have Access but I believe the really 8.1 does. Nonetheless I was pleased. Using Excel 2013 really does work well as do the other Office programs.
Another benefit was I could plug in a memory stick, hooray, now the other thing I would say is be careful as you can plug it in but if you put it down in a hurry you could bend it, so I used it with a short USB extension cable.
It is bigger than my iPad mini which is excellent for many other things but ability to use Office is winning me over. I’m now considering if I should have a proper Windows 8.1 tablet that allows me to install Access and other software.
I wonder if Apple will make something similar, aside from the iPad they haven’t made any of their computers touch screen.
5. Learning Online
There is no doubt that watching video online has exploded over the past few years and clearly I’m an advocate for learning online using video and there were two that caught my eye this year. First up was espares.co.uk. The rubber seal on the door of our washing machine needed replacing there was a tear in it but it wasn’t leaking…yet. My wife looked up how to fix it and came across eSpares, they supply parts for all sorts of household machines but it was their videos explaining how to do it that caught my eye, very clear and straightforward. Needless to say the whole lot including getting the tools, which they had came to less than £32. There was also a sense of satisfaction of doing it myself. If you’re like me and don’t mind having a go then check it out.
Here is the video I watched for our washing machine.
Another one I found on YouTube which was a bit more fun was martyzsongs, he has easy to understand videos on how to play songs on the guitar. Now, I am a terrible guitar player but I enjoy it, I never get very far. Marty Schwartz, no relation, has plenty of songs and the sort I like. At the moment I’m trying to learn how to play Johnny B Goode by Chuck Berry, wish me luck. Here is Marty’s video I’m using.