If you are a business owner with products or services to proffer, you need a way to get your information “out there” for the masses of potential consumers to engage with and experience. Enter technology. There are a variety of ways to work with and use technology to your continued advantage.
Everybody seems to have a mobile phone. They are practically extensions of oneself at this point. You use your phone for shopping on all levels, ordering food, purchasing tickets, research, and entertainment, and the list goes endlessly on. This is why you need to engage with a professional company for mobile application development.
Can you imagine seeing your company as an app on a smartphone? Consider the endless ways you can meet your customers’ needs and meet them where they are at that moment. When they need something, they press the tile and the world which is your company opens up for them to engage with.
If you think that creating an app is a daunting prospect, think again. A team of developers will meet with you to discuss your ideas and gain knowledge of your company. If you already have a website in place, they will use that as a building block in the creation process. Next, they will create a bespoke solution that will grab your app users’ attention and keep them coming back for more.
The term social media has different connotations for different groups. While the distinctive platforms connect people socially on a personal level, they can be masterful tools to wield to create a professional online presence.
Create company accounts on a variety of social media platforms for maximum exposure. You can use Instagram to create curated stories about your company and any social programs you and your employees support. Show your followers who you are and what you stand for. Make videos on TikTok showing how your product functions in different settings. Craft expert videos for YouTube showing tutorials and guides for how to use your products. Use Twitter to keep your followers up-to-date on the latest product releases or offer teaser tweets for upcoming events.
Here is a quick overview of how to use social media to help your business.
An actual human employee is certainly not part of the technical equation; however, if you notice an increase in digital traffic across apps, websites, and social media platforms, it may behove you to designate an employee to monitor these. Having either a full-time focus on these areas or adding it as part of a current employees’ job description will prove beneficial.
When your company can respond to comments, whether they are positive or negative, and answer questions about your products or services, that immediate attention to social media will show the world that you care enough about their thoughts and concerns to be attentive and respond. If a dissatisfied customer posts something negative, or even an honest review that does not reflect well for you, your employee can acknowledge their issue and offer to remedy it.
This is all done in the public eye and reflects transparency. All of this effort further advertises and promotes your company. Today, consumers want to know more than the product they are purchasing. They want to know the values and ethics of the company behind the product.
The cloud is the most practical and secure way to store your photos. You’ll have continual access to a digital backup of your memories. You also won’t have to worry about overloading your hard disk or your smartphone. With cloud storage, you can share your photos as well, but providers also give the option to set privacy restrictions. They have state-of-the-art resources to keep them encrypted for you. There are certain features you need to look for in a cloud storage provider. Here are some of the top ones reviewed, both paid and free.
Tips for choosing cloud storage
Cloud storage is great for those working from home and sharing documents. It’s also ideal for backing up your photos. There are several key cloud storage features to look for when choosing a cloud storage provider. Cloud services come with an app so ensure this is compatible with your brand of smartphone or tablet. Not all providers are free, but they will offer a certain amount of space before you need to sign up for a subscription.
Generally, all providers accept JPEG files Certain providers will allow you to upload different types of files including TIFFS, RAW, and video or music files. Before signing up with a provider, it’s a good idea to calculate how much space you’re realistically going to need and for what type of files. This way, you can work out whether it’s worth paying for a subscription or not. If storage is becoming an issue for you, you also have the option to delete duplicate photos from your smartphone, this article explains how to do it, https://backlightblog.com/delete-iphone-duplicate-photos. It’s up to you whether you decide to move your photos to the cloud.
Top cloud storage providers
There are several big names in cloud storage and Google, Microsoft and Adobe all have their own version. Other top cloud storage providers include IDrive and pCloud. Here is a quick review of each.
IDrive is great for photographers who use multiple devices and are concerned about security. It’s a very reliable cloud storage provider and has an excellent security rating. Your photos are protected by biometrics and you can set up face recognition for accessibility across all devices. The free plan allows a maximum of 5GB which can fill up quite quickly, depending on the number of photos and other files you have. If you need more space, you can upgrade to a yearly subscription. IDrive is user-friendly and fast. It also has features such as syncing photos and robust reporting tools.
pCloud is ideal if you want to store files of various types. It’s not free but the provider offers a unique lifetime subscription for a one-off payment of £159 for 500GB or £309 for 2TB. There are also monthly plans available. pCloud provides state-of-the-art encryption and only the user will have access to their accounts, not even the company’s administrators. You can store any type of video or image file including RAW files, and you can share your files with up to four family members or your business. You can essentially send and receive large files to and from anyone. pCloud is a Swiss company and follows Swiss data laws, they also use first-class safety measures.
Google Photos offers storage for photos and videos and each Google account comes with up to 15GB for free. Google Drive is set up for file sharing and it’s easy for multiple users to access and edit files. It couldn’t be simpler to use although it isn’t the most stylish of platforms. It is, however, fully compatible with other apps as part of G Suite and can be synced with any devices and cameras with WiFi access. You can also top up your storage for as little as £1.59 per month for 100GB. The great thing about Google is that it also uses machine learning technology to label and archive photos, and makes suggestions to you based on your history and preferences. It uses metadata which allows you to find pictures easily based on date and place, and in general it’s very quick and convenient to use.
Microsoft OneDrive provides a similar cloud storage service to Google, but is an integrated part of the Microsoft Office package. It is possible to use Microsoft OneDrive as a standalone deal, however, which is free up to 5GB and then £1.99 per month for up to 100GB. The other Microsoft Office apps aren’t included in these packages, so it depends on if you need them or not. The full Microsoft Office 365 starts at £5.99 a month. Microsoft OneDrive is easy to use and can be accessed on unlimited devices. While it’s not solely designed for photographers, it’s still a safe and convenient place to store your pictures.
Adobe Creative Cloud
Adobe Creative Cloud is more specifically aimed at photographers, professional and amateur alike. This does, however, mean it’s a little bit more expensive than other more basic cloud storage providers, but there are more advanced photography-based features such as stylish image libraries and editing options. Adobe offers a free trial for those interested and the basic photography app starts at just £9.98 a month. You can upgrade this to include all the Adobe apps for £49.94, which is a good deal for those with a passion for photography. Adobe Creative Cloud is compatible with Windows, MAC, Android, and iOS and you can upload all types of files from any device.
The cloud storage provider you choose depends on what you’re going to use it for, how many files you have, and which type. If you’re an experienced photographer or you want to develop your skills, Adobe Creative Cloud has more photography-based features. If you’re on more of a budget and simply want a backup of a few family photos, then a basic free cloud storage option is probably more suited to you. Upload and protect your memories on the cloud today.
Such are the strange times we live in, many of us now face working from home for the first time along with caring for our children.
I have worked from home extensively over the past 20 years and I thought I would try and share some tips on how I have been able to work effectively in a home environment.
This morning I spoke to James Hazell at BBC Radio Suffolk about the trials and tribulations about working from home. Listen in to the stream to hear what I had to say and especially the advice at the end.
Stay Safe and Healthy
If you have been given a laptop to use at home, then there is a danger that you may find yourself sitting in an armchair trying to work and you will soon find this isn’t going to work well.
Set up a work environment in a spare room or even your bedroom where you can away from disturbances and distractions as best as possible.
Find a comfortable chair and if possible sit near a window so you can get fresh air while you are working.
Set up your computer, so that is a semi-permanent environment and will allow you to separate work from home and give you a place to ‘go to work’
Get dressed, you don’t go to your place of work in your pyjamas, so again, getting dressed gets your prepared for work.
Take plenty of breaks. If you have children at home, you will need to be able to give them attention. If you can set specific times during the day to stop work, get up and walk around and make yourself a drink.
Try to begin and end your work-day as you would if you were going to your place of work. Let your employer know that these are your work times. Setting these boundaries will mean that you aren’t on-call 24/7.
Most home-working requires an internet connection. Over the coming months, our communications links are going to be under a great deal of strain. The video streaming services are going to be used extensively and this will put a great deal of pressure on internet connection speeds. Home internet is very different to work internet due to what’s called ‘contention ratios’, so you should be prepared for slower than normal connection speeds.
Ask your employer to provide you with a mobile device that can be used as a ‘tether’. This means that should traditional broadband experience issues, you can fall back onto connecting to the internet by connecting via a ‘personal mobile hotspot’.
Make sure all of your internet-connected devices are up to date. This means ensuring anti-virus is updated where applicable and any operating systems updates on your computers, set-top boxes, TV’s, IpCams etc are updated
Keep all of your battery-powered devices charged up, but don’t leave mobile phones plugged in all of the time as the batteries don’t work as effectively if they all continuously charged.
Use a trusted VPN connection to secure your broadband connection further. I recommend Ivacy VPN. Using a VPN or Virtual Private Network secures your connection.
Finally, regardless of whether you are working at home or not, you WILL find the number of scam calls you receive will increase, mainly because you will find yourself at home so much more. NEVER give out any personal bank details over the phone including PIN numbers or passwords. Ignore all automated calls and just hang up. These people care little for the health or financial wellbeing of their victims. If in doubt, speak to a trusted friend or member of your family before taking any action that will cost you money.
I spend a lot of time working in a shared office space, so it’s important to be able to shut out unwanted background noise when I want to be able concentrate. So, when a pair of Bowers & Wilkins PX Headphones landed on my desk for review, I was excited to find a high end pair of phones that would completely remove background noise from my workplace, but also provide with a superior Bluetooth™ Audio experience, enhanced by aptX-HD® technology.
The B&W PX headphones are predominantly Bluetooth™ driven, although you can connect up manually using a 3.5mm jack cable supplied with them. Thus, they must be paired to each device and this proved fairly straightforward using the supplied instructions. In order to make full use of the noise cancelling an personalised experience, it was also necessary to download the B&W PX app which is available for both iOS and Android. In my case, I downloaded the Android app to run with my Sony Xperia XZ Premium. The app itself was developed in conjunction with Coderus who very kindly worked with me on the app for my Tesla road trip last year, so I was looking forward to both testing the headphones and also reviewing their app at the same time.
After downloading the B&W PX app, I set about trying out the different environmental settings available and I have to say I was immediately impressed. I was able to choose my desired audio profile and also the noise cancellation settings. As noise can sometimes prove an issue here in the office, I got stuck in straight away with testing these features.
The headphones are activated by simply placing them on your head and immediately after the noice cancellation kicks in.
Initially you are given three customisable options for noise cancellation, allowing you to pick Office, City or Flight, these three option will give you a preprogrammed cancellation profile based on the background noise you are likely to experience in each of these modes. Interestingly, City worked best for my office. The settings automatically pick the most common voice passthrough settings for the headphones, either off (my preferred setting), Natural or Amplified. All three settings worked great and I liked being able to filter out general noise and still be part of a conversation.
Other options include ‘Wear Sensor’, so when placed on the head, the phones automatically switch on and connect to bluetooth with further adjustment using the ‘Sensitivity’ options.
Aside from the Environment filters, the app also shows you the current battery and firmware status. Yes, we live in a world where improvements to the operation of the headphones can be rolled out to owners, something I experienced with the Tesla Model S.
If you are lucky enough to own a modern Qualcomm compatible mobile device, you can also take advantage of the aptX-HD which is another name for High Definition Bluetooth® wireless audio. This will improve the sound quality of the headphones giving you 24bit sound quality over Bluetooth.
Without doubt, these are the most comfortable headphones I have ever worn, these absolutely reek of quality and fit brilliants over my ears. Even switched off, they still muffle ambient noise brilliantly.
Real World Use
As expected of a set of high end headphones, the sound quality was rich and bright with great bass and treble production. When testing out audio equipment I am particularly fond of playing Metallic Spheres by The Orb, featuring Dave Gilmour, an album which cries out to be played on high end audio equipment.
I wasn’t disappointed. The B&W PX headphones picked up the layered soundscape of the album majestically and I was happy putting them through their paces more than once during my review.
Bowers & Wilkins have produced a superb set of high end Bluetooth Headphones. They have excelled on all fronts, from the excellent build quality, superior sound quality to the intuitive app which makes synchronising the phones a doddle. If your budget stretches to around £329 and you want to listen to music as the artist intended, the B&W PX Bluetooth Headphones are a perfect option available in Space Grey or Soft Gold.
Having reviewed some of Sphero’s line of robots over the past three years (including the amazing gravity defying BB-8), I was absolutely made up when R2-D2 dropped onto my desk a few weeks back!
[videopress M2IGPVT7 hd=”true” autoplay=”true”]
For those of us who haven’t been near a movie theatre of television for the last 40 years, R2-D2 is character from the enormously popular STAR WARS movie franchise, appearing in 9 of them (sofar!). The droid (robot) is portrayed as a skilled mechanic, fighter pilot’s assistant and has many hidden skills which have been gradually revealed over the course of the movies.
Sphero have clearly made sure that their version of R2-D2 is as authentic as possible and it is absolutely crammed with technology which mimics the character from the movies. With front and rear LED lights, rotating head, integrated speaker and most amazing of all articulating legs, which mean when Artoo is stationary, his legs are position straight down and he stands upright. As soon as he is commanded to move, the middle leg drops down and moves forward, his side legs then move backwards to form a tripod (as he does in the films).
Artoo is controlled using Sphero’s Droid App (iOS or Android), after scanning for the app, you are presented with a selection screen showing the available droids within Bluetooth range, after selecting R2-D2 from the list he suddenly lights up and chirps. The app screen then shows controls for moving the droid and also for triggering his signature moves.
These moves really make the whole experience authentic as they mimic scenes from the film, such as when the Jawas disabled the droid and caused him to fall on his face in A New Hope. There are simply too many to detail here, but you could recreate pivotal scenes from Star Wars using these moves alone.
Aside from these features, the app also allows for Holographic Simulation and the ability to explore difference places and ship interiors from the Star Wars galaxy. It also supports Droid to Droid experience, where R2-D2 will interact with other Sphero Star Wars droids.
There is a ‘Watch With Me’ feature was one of my favourites, which allows you to select a movie from the Star Wars saga and R2-D2 will react to difference scenes, such as acting scared when Darth Vader appears on the screen and much more.
Charging the droid is done using the included stylised USB cable and will give over 1 hour of full use between charges.
I’m a big fan of Star Wars, so I have to admit I was a bit star-struck when I realised just how good the Sphero R2-D2 really is and at the current price of under £95, it feels like good value for any of fan Star Wars.
It should also be noted, that along with Sphero range of robots and droids, R2-D2 is fully compatible with Sphero-Edu which gives budding young coders the opportunity to learn about programming using their favourite Star Wars character.
Following on from the ongoing Facebook / Cambridge Analytica scandal, I was invited to be a guest on James Hazell’s show on BBC Radio Suffolk. We talked in depth about how social networks and apps are using our data.
Please listen in by clicking the ‘play’ button above. Don’t forget to Like, Subscribe, Comment and Share.
In the lead up to the East West Road Trip in October I was looking for a smartphone to enable me to document the trip both with photographs and video and was particularly keen to live stream the video where possible.
Initially I was looking to live-stream the trip using a 360° camera, unfortunately this didn’t come off and I was faced with a last-minute race to find an alternative literally 2 days before we were departing!
Fortunately, I was offered the Sony Xperia XZ1 phone with 30gb of data from EE. This solved by data anxiety problems immediately and having used Sony Xperia devices in the past, I was confident they would step up to the plate with image and video quality.
Sony are an extremely well-established tech companies, in fact for many years they were ‘the’ tech company of choice and it’s no secret the mobile phone market is dominated by two other big tech brands, so I was interested to see how the XZ1 would differentiate itself in an ultra-competitive industry.
Out of the box, the Sony XZ1 is a sleek, smooth, black device, with Gorilla Glass 5 front facing glass and deep black aluminium at the back, a departure from the super-sized XZ Premium from earlier in the year which was covered from and rear in glass. With dimensions of 5.83″ x 2.87″ with a thickness of 7.4mm, this is not the most gigantic handset and its smooth edges make it comfortable to hold, although it is very smooth, so hold on tight! Aside from black, the device is also available in Moonlit Blue, Warm Silver and Venus Pink, so plenty of choice.
The phone is preloaded with the Google Android™ O (or Oreo) operating system and Sony have been very sensitive by not trashing the ideals of the OS by avoiding in the addition of their own ‘enhancements’ in the most part.
The phone packs a very bright 5.2″ TRILUMINOS™ display driven by BRAVIA® TV technology given HDR compatible playback X-Reality™ producing 138% of standard display colour spectrum, the companies experience in the display market really comes through. The display is noticeably brighter and colour more natural that other phone displays and playing HDR video from YouTube, Netflix or Amazon Prime is incredible. X-Reality™ intelligently removes noise and from videos produces exquisite results, it really is impressive. Some people would criticise the use of a Full HD screen HDR screen instead of the perceived standard of UHD and above, but I would beg to differ, having tried both UHD and 4K mobile devices, I see no real benefits, even when using VR Goggles.
The beating heart inside of the device is provided by a Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 835 Processor, positioning the phone in the same bracket at the competition. In addition, storage comes as 4GB of RAM and 64 GB of super-fast UFS internal memory with support for an addition of a up to 256GB micro SDXC. It’s pleasing that support for additional memory has been included with the phone, although it’s quite fiddly adding and removing both Sim card and SD cards with the phone, but on the plus side it’s very accessible. It should be noted that around 9.5GB is used up by preinstalled firmware and applications.
The phone is powered by a 2700 mAh battery, featuring Smart Stamina 3.0 and Qnovo Adaptive Charging which prolongs the life of the battery by ensuring it is charged quickly and safely with the addition of Qualcomm® Quick Charge™ 3.0. I’ve come across battery charge management in the past with electric cars and particularly the Tesla Model S, this too allows for quick charging, but upon reaching around 80% full, charging speed is tapered off to ensure the lifetime of the battery. Sony does a similar job with the Xperia XZ1 by intelligently noting owners charge habits and adjusting the charge rate of the phone if for instance you are sleeping and don’t begin using your phone until 7.15am. It is also possible to use the phone to charge other devices using an Android OTG adapter, but in fairness mobile phone battery is at such a premium that use of it for anything other than for the phone itself is rare.
With normal use the phone easily provides a days use with something left over at the end and this will be using all of the phones features, even some of the cooler ones which I will talk about later. Charging is provided by a Qualcomm® Quick Charge™ 3.0 charger and USB Type C socket.
Moving on the the front and rear cameras, Sony has yet again infused the phone with their high quality optics and sensors. The rear facing 9MP Motion Eye™ camera with 1/ 2.3” Exmor RS™ with 1.22μm pixel pitch. The lens is a 25 mm wide G Lens F2.0. Sony again use their own BIONZ™ for mobile image-processing engine to give superb results. There’s a ton of features such as Predictive Capture (motion / smile), Autofocus burst, x8 Digital Zoom, HDR Photo, 0.6 sec Quick Launch & Capture, Predictive Hybrid Autofocus, Anti-distortion shutter, Triple image sensing technology, SteadyShot™ with Intelligent Active Mode (5-axis stablisation) and 4K recording at 30fps.
However, the ‘pièce de résistance’ is the inclusion of a 960 fps Super slow motion video capture. This is achieved by the inclusion of addition hardware installed directly into the camera sensor in the form of hyper fast dynamic memory which allows for raw footage to be saved directly into the sensor and then drip feed and standard speed back to the standard hardware. Due to the colossal amount of power required to pulling 960 frames per second, the sensor only actually captures .18 of a second at 720hd, stretching it to around 6 seconds of footage.
This is called Motion Eye technology and personally I’m looking forward to seeing how this develops for the future, because it’s really impressive. As expected, you need bags of light to capture at this speed, so it works best outside in daylight, I also noticed light flicker in my office due to the refresh rate of our lights. Normal lighting does not cause his problem though.
The front facing camera is a saner 13MP 1/ 3.06” Exmor RS™ for mobile image sensor with 22mm wide angle lens at F2.0, again Sony includes it’s proprietary SteadyShot™ 5-axis stablization technology.
There is one simply AMAZING feature included with the XZ1 which is the 3D Capture mode. This uses software developed by Sony, utilising both processor and camera to allow you to 3D scan objects, share them and even have them 3D printed. It takes a little practice and Sony actively limit the modes available to give you time to get used to simple scans until you are ready to scan ‘freehand’. My initial results were ok, but I soon became adept in scanning some great objects, from peoples’ faces, heads, food and any other object I could think of. This is a tipping point in this industry, no longer do you need super expensive scanners and solutions, you can now use your Sony Xperia XZ1 (and now XZ Premium) to scan 3d objects. It truly is incredible.
Sony has chosen to stick with traditional Xperia design, this means that the trend of big screens and no bezels isn’t a feature of this phone, instead the phone packs stereo speakers at top and bottom of the phone which in landscape mode gives supreme stereo sound, making use of the Qualcomm® aptX™ HD audio features, the phone can ‘upscale’ lower quality audio to a near uncompressed sound when streaming across Bluetooth. There are a host of other features such as High-Resolution Audio, DSEE HX™, LDAC, Digital Noise Cancelling, Clear Audio+, S-Force Front Surround, Stereo Recording and Sony’s Virtual Phones technology. The speaker volume has also been increased by 50% over previous models.
Gaming wise, the phone is going to be able to handle pretty much everything thrown at it at the moment due to it’s highest end spec, but also included is PS4 integration using Remote Play. this allows you to connect to your own PS4 remotely and play your installed games, you can even pair a PS4 gamepad if that appeals.
The phone retails at £599 off contract, but at the time of writing there are some pretty appealing deals including some nice add-ons, but in the UK you are still looking above £50 per month for two years and more if you want better data allowance.
Although the XZ1 doesn’t pack the 4K display of the XZ Premium, the screen is quite possibly richer, especially in HDR mode, the sound it great and performance very very quick. In a world where it is perceived we only have two choices, Sony have yet again produced a solid handset capable of sitting amongst the best.
I did end up streaming a fair amount using the Sony Xperia XZ1 during and after the trip and found it to be a very capable device and coupled with an effectively limitless amount of data, it worked well.
On a side note, EE’s 4G network is very impressive and we were able to live stream both through Glencoe and arriving at Ardnamurchan, they pretty much had us covered.
A little over a month has passed since we arrived back from the Scotland and as promised, we have donated the remains of our Gadget Road Trip fund to British Red Cross.
This afternoon, I transferred the remaining balance of £42.32 from our Monzo Card to the British Red Cross charity and thus rendered the account empty.
I was personally extremely upset by the Grenfell Tower disaster earlier this year, which I know also affected Paul. The British Red Cross were on the ground there immediately after it happened and provided much need assistance to the poor families that had lost their loved ones, their homes and everything they owned in a matter of minutes. It is because of this, that I wanted to donate to this charity. Since Grenfell, other disasters have continued to affect the people of our planet and the British Red Cross have continued to provide much needed support for these people who have lost absolutely everything they own and still lack the basics of clean water, electricity and food. If you would like to continue to help them, you can also donate via this link
Thank you so much again to the following people and organisations for their kind donations of funds or services!
XSItems Ltd ACPlus Favorite Fried Chicken Free Reign Internet Coderus Gavin Dadd Patrick Lohan Jackie Robinson Ian Brown Olive Porter Sandra Grilli Callum McGilvery.
We wouldn’t have been able to feed ourselves during the trip and have something soft to sleep on. Thank you again.
Thanks also to Hillcroft Park in Ullswater for allowing us to stay at their lodgings for two nights (They will be featuring in the upcoming sitcom ‘Home from Home’ with Johnny Vegas, so keep an eye out!) and Far View Bed & Breakfast in Kilchoan (I won’t forget little Gracie exclaiming “My wellington boots fell over!!” as I took her and her dad on a little test drive).
As I continue to ride the wave of euphoria of completing the 1200 mile east to west Gadget Road Trip with my lifelong friend Andy. Today I joined BBC Radio Suffolk’s Sarah Lilley on the Sofa in Ipswich and explained how the challenge came about and how it felt to drive 1200 miles in an Electric Car and why I love Gadgets!
I also talked about how I met Vanessa, how I listen to music and an ill fated trip to Tunisia in 1996.
Listen in to the stream, bookmark the site, we have a LOAD of reviews coming up over the next few weeks, so stay tuned!
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