16 Oct

Mirror conf 2017

I was really lucky to be able to attend this year’s MirrorConf in the beautiful Braga, Portugal.

#mirrorconf 🏟🎭🎟🎤📲⌨💻🖥🎨

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The event was spectacular, and everyone was buzzing with excitement and sugar from the pastries and cakes on offer.

Ready for day 2 of #mirrorconf #braga #theatrocirco

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Adeus Portugal, until next time!

Sad to leave Braga today, it’s been fabulous 🇵🇹

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17 Mar

She Codes Brighton’s Tech in 10

She Codes Brighton (@SheCodesBtn) put on a brilliant event last night, as part of the Spring Forward celebration of women in digital industries.

There was a fantastic variation of topics by the all-female speakers. The line up included ten minute technical talks on Ruby and Rails, Python and Django, WAI-ARIA, native mobile development, computer forensics, IT in education, Design for Hackers and an introduction to Arduino.

Highlights include:

  • a flip flopping, double splatting Glinda the Good
  • a dabble into real-life CSI
  • colour palettes on LSD
  • a demonstration on how to make Lego even more fun than it already is

Along with the informative and entertaining presentations was an atmosphere She Codes should be proud of. The friendly, supportive and welcoming vibes are exactly the way to encourage more women into programming.

Click here to visit their website and find out more.

 

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07 Feb

Samsung vs iPhone: the debate continues

I’ve recently upgraded from a Samsung Galaxy S2 to an iPhone 5s. These two phones aren’t directly comparable; the iPhone is a much newer version, equivalent to the S4 in real terms.

I have noticed a few major differences though.

The iPhone feels more substantial, and the actual device is nicer to hold. The screen is quite noticeably smaller though, and I find myself missing the larger functional area of the Samsung. The iPhone has a few annoying design flaws too. I find myself accidentally hitting buttons that have been placed on the touch screen in the wrong position. This never happened with the Galaxy.

There is also the difference between iOS and Android, with Android being an open source platform. For some, this is a deal breaker, but for other users this makes no difference whatsoever.

I still haven’t decided which I prefer. There are more similarities than differences, so it is hard to say definitively that one is better than the other. Next time my contract is up though, I’ll have a hard time choosing. There is another major difference – the Galaxy is cheaper. For some, the choice is clear. For now, I’m hanging on to my S2 as a back-up phone. Are you loyal to one brand in particular? I’d like to know your thoughts.

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22 Nov

Home screen apps

Homescreen
Homescreen

My android screenshot: The apps I use most

Take a look at your home screen and check out the app shortcuts you have on there. Are they your favourites/most used? I tend to update mine regularly, and switch them around to fit in with whatever wallpaper I happen to have that month.

MyFitnessPal during a health kick, Candy Crush Saga (see app review) during a particularly slow week, but there are a few that stick.

Facebook being one of them. Everybody has Facebook on their phone. How would you ever know how great your old schoolmate’s life is now without it? Check out this great list of statuses everybody writes and everybody hates on Mashable.

Twitter is another of those stay-forever apps. There is a lot of great content linked on Twitter, even if you have to sift through all the rubbish first. I’ve found some great resources on Twitter that would never be on the top pages of a Google search. Although there isn’t a better starting point than Google, which is why that stays on my home screen too.

How did people survive pre-search-engine? I remember a time, back when I was a very young girl, when I would ask my mum the spelling or definition of a new word and we would run off to the bookshelf and look it up in a dictionary. Now, anything you want to know, Google it. The internet: simultaneously making knowledge more accessible and people more lazy. Don’t even get me started on txt spk.

The BBC News app is a regular. I like to keep up-to-date with current affairs. I like to know what’s going on in the world, and the app is brilliantly simple to use.

As for Instagram, I’ve rather lost interest in it lately. This one might not last much longer on the list of usuals. It is primarily pictures of people’s dinners, people on exercise machines, posing in bathroom mirrors and “look at my new lipstick/dog/sofa”. All stuff that is interesting to the person taking the photograph, and of little/no interest to anyone else. There’s a great list on Buzzfeed illustrated by artist Joanna Zhou about the types of Instagram photos.

I also keep O2 Priority Moments on there, not because I use it a lot but just to remind me to check it. I would hate to think I was missing out on a free coffee. It takes a ridiculous amount of time to load though, and sometimes I lose interest before I’ve even made it past the loading screen.

What apps do you keep on your home screen? What is your favourite? Leave your comments below.

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09 Nov

The e-reader battle continues: Amazon infiltrates bookstores

E-reader

I was one of the early ones to switch sides and invest in a Kindle. I had the Kindle Keyboard for years, until the screen recently stopped showing nicely formed letters and started showing lines instead. I loved my Kindle so much that my most recent Valentine’s gift from a very generous husband of mine was a brand new Kindle Fire. It has become one of my most used gadgets, along with my smartphone and my laptop.

I love my new Kindle, despite it not having nearly as much battery life as my old faithful Keyboard, it’s definitely nicer to use, and has other functions that I use regularly and wouldn’t know now how to live without.

My favourite being the touch screen and automatic dictionary definition search. I’m reading a book, and stumble across a word I’m not familiar with. Previously, I would either whip out my phone and spent a minute searching it on there, or just make a reasonable guess from its context. Neither of these options really satisfied my thirst for quick, easy bursts of knowledge.

Now, I simply touch and hold the word I want to look up and a definition summary pops up on screen. Five seconds later, I’ve learnt a new word and I carry on reading knowing that I’m gaining a little from the whole experience. Brilliant.

I’ve been converted well-and-truly. I still prefer real paper books for certain things. Kids books don’t work as well on an e-reader in my opinion, and reference books, and books about art and design with a lot of images. I still have a small bookcase that houses these glorious items and I won’t ever give these up.

But for a regular novel, I have never looked back.

I have read some absolutely wonderful books, all stored safely on my Amazon account, taking up the space of less than one book and each one costing less too. From a consumer’s perspective, what is not to love?

At the same time, I would hate to see bookshops disappear altogether. More and more people are now adopting e-readers, and a quick Google search for “how many people own an ereader” returns some interesting research showing how massively they have taken off.

The most recent development is a move by Amazon to try and get independent bookshops to sell Kindles by offering them a small cut of e-book sales after the sale of the e-reader. I can only see how this will benefit Amazon, furthering their reach but hindering the other parties more, and that is the general consensus among high-street booksellers. What is to stop the customer going directly to Amazon?

The war between high-street and online rages on.

I don’t even know which side I am on. Can I chose both?

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04 Nov

Tesco ‘face-scanning’: Where do you draw the line?

It has been announced that Tesco will be installing face-scanning technology at tills in their petrol stations. The idea is to recognise the customer’s gender and a rough approximation of their age. I can see this going badly wrong…

My first thought is what a great way to anger your customers, advertising Tena Lady to women in their forties, and tampons to men with long hair!

Face Scan

Face-scanning: Would you be happy about this data being collected?

If this technological leap is anything like their self-scan tills, we can expect a whole host of teething problems. More importantly, however, is the issue surrounding how our images are to be used. A Tesco spokeswoman said, “No data or images are collected or stored and the system does not use eyeball scanners or facial-recognition technology”, but does this really fill you with confidence? Surely as any system, it will be vulnerable to hacking and security issues. Personally I, and I’m positive many will feel the same, don’t feel comfortable with my face being scanned every time I go in to fill up my car.

It’s all very big brother of Tesco to initiate advertising in this way. I even find banner ads showing those shoes I’ve just looked at a little creepy.

As one commenter on a BBC News article put it, “This is where technology is blurring the line between the reasonable and intrusive.” and I think ravenmorpheus2k got it spot on.

And that’s the problem with this. It is intrusive. And entirely unnecessary. Will it make me think twice about filling up at Tesco? Yes. And we’re not exactly spoilt for choice.

 

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24 Oct

The way in which we get customer service

It is never a good decision to give customers just one way to get in touch. There are times when an email is best – you don’t want to hang around on hold listening to the same song over and over, and it’s not that urgent anyway.

Sometimes a quick phone call is all it needs, then you can stop worrying and know that everything is sorted.

Phone Clock

Can technology reduce the amount of time we spend waiting on the phone?

And sometimes, yes even in this digital age, a letter is what is needed. I recently sent a letter to a company telling them what a good member of staff they had. It’s rare, but it does happen.

It’s irritating to say the least when a company is faceless. Take eBay for instance. How do you get in touch with someone just to explain a situation? It took me too long to find a number. I am certain that this is no accident.

We all have to deal with the endless phone queues though. As I write, I have been listening to the same ‘thank you for waiting, we will answer your call as soon as possible’ for over 15 minutes. All I want is a new PIN number. It’s not even an account I use much. Please, why is there no online contact form that I can just fill out and they can send me a new one?

Banks, council offices, utility companies, doctors surgeries, dentists… why is there no easy way to contact them? You’d think, in this day and age, they would have figured out that the longer they keep us waiting, the less likely they will be to get a polite and understanding customer on the end of the line?

There has to be a solution to this problem. Internet chat has come the closest for me, except at the point when they are clearly reading from a script – or when the problem is far from solved and they say ‘is there anything else I can help you with today?’

Surely technology can help with this. We are supposed to be in an age of global communication, and I have to wait twenty minutes to speak to someone in a bank I could have crawled to in this time.

 

*Note – 35 minutes and I gave up. What a way to make an issue out of something so routine!
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20 Oct

Where’s my phone?

If you haven’t seen this video yet (and there’s a good chance you have considering it has had well over 26 million views at the time of writing) then you should watch – and take note!

There is a lot I have to say on this subject. I am definitely in the ‘how rude!’ camp. It’s not as straight forward as this though. There’s a time and a place for the smartphone. I love my smartphone as much as the next geek, but I will never take it out during a meal. If it’s an emergency, which doesn’t come up as often as we are lead to expect, than I excuse myself like a normal person.

But that’s just it. Normal doesn’t mean enjoying the moment for what it is anymore. Normal has slowly become, “Oh wow! What a great time we are having – let’s Instagram it!”

I take photos every now and then. I have a DSLR for those important events, and yes, my phone is great for the unexpected moment. I do, however, have a problem with people uploading the same ‘selfie’ about fifty times a day. No, we don’t want to see every single morsel of food you put in your mouth, or how stupid you can look pulling a duck-face.

I think to myself when I see these accounts, how do you have the time?

I know how much time technology and especially Facebook can take up. I admit, I am guilty of a love-hate relationship with the devil that is Candy Crush. I’m on level three-hundred-and-something. I hate that I’ve spent so much time playing it, where I could have been doing something brilliant and productive like reading a book or going to the gym. (*Idea – Candy Crush at the gym?!)

I have had to tell my brother to put his phone away on a visit. I mention this because he is family, and it is acceptable to be blunt with your family in a way that you wouldn’t with say, a work colleague. I found it rude. We were out for dinner, and I was trying to make conversation as we hadn’t seen each other for months, but I was second best to a text that could probably wait.

The worrying thing is that more and more people are falling into the following categories;

  • Those who find this behaviour rude but are culprits unknowingly and
  • Those who just don’t care because it’s so common now.

The amount of families I see out to dinner with little ones on phones, iPads and the like. Then the parents worry why their speech isn’t developing normally. “But they are really smart because they know how to hack the passcode on my tablet!”

Like I said, I love my smartphone. I love having google right there to answer every ridiculous question I have at any time of the day. But there are times when maybe it’s just better to talk to the person next to you. Let’s face it, they might have something to offer that you can’t find on your phone…

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02 Oct

My recent and long-awaited leap into “Mac land”

I have always been a Windows gal. Until very recently, I just didn’t fuss over Apple like the rest of the world, it seems. I have owned the same iPod for years. It was definitely one of the first generations. Despite the masses going crazy for the next model, I held onto my clunky, old 30Gb video iPod because it still functioned. It did have a tendency to switch itself off regularly, and had trouble turning back on, but sometimes it still played music if it was in a good mood.

It was only a few months ago, when there was absolutely no signs of life even after charging for what felt like an eternity, I invested in another. Shuffle, this time – cheap and cheerful and perfect for the gym, I find.

My phone is Android. I have a Samsung Galaxy S2, which I guess is now considered old and out-of-date too, although I am reluctant to upgrade just yet, as if even after two years I haven’t quite finished with this one. Sure, the battery doesn’t last as long as it used to (a daily charge is now a necessity) and every now and then it freezes as if I’ve asked too much of its ageing processor.

Apple vs Android

For someone who loves technology, I am rather reluctant to give up my old equipment in favour of new devices with even more pixels and automatic functions. Maybe because my old phone, that I have spent so many hours browsing on, playing games on (damn you, Candy Crush) and maybe the odd minute actually talking on has become so much a part of my life. It’s funny how leaving my phone at home for just a day feels like I’ve left behind a limb. I’ve become quite attached.

So there was an event that caused me to invest in a Macbook. My laptop battery needed replacing, it became too cluttered and hideous and mistreated by me to even know where to start. It was a horrible thing. I can see that now, now that I have my Macbook to console me on it’s sudden death. I had no choice but to let it go.

What really made me decide to go Apple though, apart from peering over jealously at my husband’s Macbook every day, and pretending I didn’t want to touch it, was beginning a Digital Media degree. I’ve been waiting to return to university, and now is the right time to invest in some tech capable of me throwing a lot at it and not crumbling under the pressure. My Macbook Pro is perfect for my use, and what’s more, it’s so pretty I want to die. Using it feels nice. For someone committing to spending a huge amount of time in front of a screen, it might as well be a lovely screen that you enjoy looking at.

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