I know another gadget is just wrong but…

ipad miniSo another birthday has materialised; they do seem to come around very quickly these days. With the announcement of a bonus this week, I thought I’d treat myself to another gadget and so decided to go for one of them iPad mini’s that everyone is raving about. I must admit I have been thinking about getting one since the launch back in October, but kept putting it off until now.

The main reason I wanted the smaller version was to be able to take it to work as the larger version it a bit too bulky to carry around. The smaller footprint model will be ideal as a device to use around the office; especially as our work internet is so slow sometimes.

As for the other iPad I am hopeful the smaller one won’t make it redundant; I’ve heard that lots of people who have bought the mini version now no longer bother with the bigger one, I guess time will tell?


Taking the publishing world by storm…

Well not quite, but you may recall I mentioned in one of the February blogs that I was in the process of writing a couple of iBooks using the new free Apple application iBooks Author, an interactive book creator. Well over the past few weeks I have been working on my first book (I got disillusioned with writing the ones about my website and a daily diary but might finish them some day) and decided to do something a bit different.

Having a keen interest in all things to do with Space (I did go and see a Space Shuttle launch you know), I thought that it would make a good subject to cover in an interactive book so I did some research and found loads of information within Wikipedia. Now I know that Wiki’s can be inaccurate but as my iBook was going to be mainly photos I thought it would be an ideal source of information and it also gets over the issue of copyright as the majority of photos within Wikipedia are covered under the ‘Creative Commons‘ agreement. I could have signed up to use some stock photos but as that would cost me a fortune and I had no intention of selling the book I thought it would be perfect.

Therefore I started planning the book, deciding what to include and looking for some interactive content to include. I found some 3D models of the Space Shuttle, Saturn V Rocket and the sun which would be ideal and contacted the owners to seek permission to use their work in my book. I created a couple of timelines of space exploration using an app called ‘Timelines 3D‘ which produces superb presentations which can be inserted into the iBook. I built an interactive picture giving information on our solar system and the different components of the sun.

I finally pulled it together on Monday and submitted it to the Apple iBooks store and sat back and waited. According to others, the the process of actually checking the books for quality by the Apple people can take up to two weeks to complete so I didn’t really expect to hear back until next month. So I was particularly pleased when I woke up this morning to find an e-mail stating that my book had been published and it there waiting for anyone in the world to download and read. Just think anyone with an IPad 2 or later can view my little masterpiece. The book can be downloaded from the iTunes bookstore or below if you don’t have an iPad.

I wasn’t quite sure at what age group to aim the book at but in the end just left it as general as it might interest anyone who fancies to look at some pretty pictures. I appreciate all the same information can be obtained through the Nasa site or Wikipedia, but my book is more pictorial based and hopefully people will enjoy looking at it (I’m not looking forward to the reviews as I’m bound to get some criticism).

High from the excitement of publishing my first book on Monday, I then thought about creating another; this time something of my own creation. So I decided to bring together my holiday journal when we went to California last year with many of the photos and videos I took. Again, it would be an ideal way of displaying the trip in an interactive way and hopefully some people may find it of interest. As I was off this week with some time to spare, I started compiling the content, deciding on the photos to include and converting the videos I have previously edited and putting them all into an interactive version. I also created some maps showing the routes we took on each of the days we were travelling.

As most of the work had been done i.e. I’d already written the journal whilst I was in America, it was a fairly quick process, especially as I’d learned many of the nuances of iBooks Author when creating the Space book. And by yesterday morning the book was done and ready to submit. Again I assume that there will be a delay whilst Apple give it the once over but hopefully by this time next week I’ll have my second iBook published.

For those that don’t have an iPad (shame on you) I have created PDF versions of the books but of course they’re only going to show screenshots so you won’t get the full interactive experience. You can download The Interactive Space Book and the California and Nevada Travel Journal but be aware they are large files due to the size of the images contained in them.

So what’s next?

If reviews of the two books are positive I might add my other journals to the list!

Be afraid Mr Murdoch, be afraid!


Tina and I decided that for our wedding anniversary rather than go away for the weekend, instead we would travel down to London for the day to watch a West End show, do a bit of site seeing and maybe some shopping.

We drove to Huntingdon station and we were soon on our way, the train filling up with weekend travellers to a point where there was standing room only as we neared the capital.
I was looking forward to seeing the refurbished Kings Cross station as we pulled in, but then overheard another passenger say that it didn’t open until Monday. Oh well maybe next time.

We made our way to the underground, our usual mode of transport when in London and we were surprised how busy it was, especially as it was a Saturday. The Piccadilly line took us straight to Leicester Square, where we intended to get our show tickets. We soon found a ticket booth and purchased matinee tickets for Stomp, playing at the Ambassadors Theatre.

We then started walking towards Coventry Garden, as I had indicated I would like visit the Apple Store to take a look at the new iPad, which had been launched on Friday. I guessed that as there had been a lot of excitement about its release, with long queues at the store on launch day, I wouldn’t get a chance to look at one, let alone actually buy one. I was pleasantly surprised as we found Apple had loads of tables with demo iPads set up to test. I had a play and was instantly sold; the HD display was so crisp and clear and seemed much quicker that my iPad 2. I looked at Tina and she knew straight away that we were not leaving the shop until I had a shiny new one in my hands.

At this point, dear reader, you may be thinking back to last year, when I bought myself an iPad 2 for Xmas. And you are right. The mistake I made with that model though was that I only ordered a 16GB version and I was finding I was running out of space and having to delete lots of apps. I also couldn’t store all the thousands of photos I’ve taken over the years, which was one of the prime reasons for getting an iPad in the first place.

Back to the Apple Store and I soon selected the device I wanted; a 64GB wifi only version and within minutes we were leaving the shop, me carrying my new toy in a distinctive Apple logo’d bag.

We stopped for some lunch, before I suggested we get the tube to Oxford Street, where Tina could do some balancing out on the spending front, by visiting her favourite jewellery shop, Tiffany’s, that is housed within Selfridges. It didn’t take long for Tina to spot a necklace she liked and soon I was handing over my bank card.
We then wandered down Oxford Street, dodging the thousands of people who were out shopping in the rain before heading towards the theatre to watch Stomp.
The Ambassador’s Theatre is quite small and it didn’t take long to fill up ready for the afternoon performance. We both thoroughly enjoyed the show, different to anything we’d seen before, but worth watching all the same.

Afterwards we wandered back to Leicester Square, but by this time the rain was quite steady so we agreed on an early dinner and found our favourite Nando’s which is just north of the Square.
By six o clock we had eaten and then decided to try to book tickets to the cinema. We walked back to Leicester Square but unfortunately all the films we wanted to see didn’t start until around nine o clock. As my back had been playing up all day (even dosing up on Codeine and Ibroprofen didn’t help) we agreed to head back to Kinds Cross and travel home.

And so in the end it proved to be an enjoyable, if not expensive day out in London. We didn’t do much site seeing due to the wet weather but did have a good time despite that.

We both agreed that we would not go anywhere near the place during the summer months when the Olympics are in town, as the place will be heaving and very difficult to travel around. There seemed to be a lot of roadworks, station refurbishments and generally loads of building works everywhere which I assume will all complete by August, when the games start. Otherwise visitors will get a poor impression of our capital as one that was not up to the challenge when it comes to showing off London at its best.

Snap shot into my world…

And it’s not very exciting!

Last week I ordered an adapter that allows my iPhone to be stuck on a small tripod which then can be sited in a place to capture some time-lapse photography. I then I decided to set it up in the living room to watch us for an hour. It was set to take one photo every fifteen seconds and some of the shots are of me writing this blog on my Macbook Air.

If you look really careful you will see the odd appearance of Rio, who was in and out of the living room throughout the filming period. Then Tina spotted it and wondered what I was doing. I don’t think she wanted to be photographed in this way.

Half way through recording the iPhone switched itself off and I had to change the auto-shutoff settings on the phone. Then it started to get darker so you will notice the light went on allowing more to be seen.

Finally I stuck some dubbed music from YouTube on to liven it up a bit.

I don’t think helps 🙂


Christmas is coming…

So it must be time for a new gadget!

“So what do you want for Christmas?” Tina enquired whilst we were shopping at Peterborough yesterday.

“Hmm, I said, I’m not really sure I will have a think”, not really having a clue what to suggest.

When I got home I thought I’d check out the Apple site to see what was new when I spotted that they were having a ‘Black Friday’ sale for one day on the 25th November. Not one to miss a chance for a new Apple gadget I checked the prices today and saw that the iPad 2 had been reduced in price, £30. Still I already have an iPad 1 so could I justify getting another? I then recalled there are were number of online sites where you can sell your old gadgets, sometimes for good prices. So a google search later and I found ‘Gadget Panda‘ and got a really good quote for my existing iPad, which is in pristine condition. I still have the original box, which meant I would get the top price too.

And so I ordered the new iPad, along with a Smart Cover, which cleverly protects the screen when not in use and have agreed it can be wrapped up as a Xmas present to open next month. When I mentioned it to Matt he said he was thinking about getting one too, so he ordered the same model this afternoon (we agreed to give him some money towards it for his Christmas present).

With the old iPad packed up and posted to Panda, I just hope the price they have quoted is honoured or else it could be an expensive present!

My Kingdom

I have a field of rubies and orange groves interlaced with tailor shoppe’s; another with a pyramid and oasis and a third snow-laden field with a gingerbread house and a swiss chalet. The top area is a mish-mash of cottages, spooky trees, fences as well as a cemetery, shoppe’s of all-sorts, Rapunzel’s Tower, a butterfly garden, a prison, a gladiators arena and lots and lots more.  The final area is well presented with a moat, lake and windmills, jewellery stores, magic emporiums and cheese shoppe’s. This is also where I grow the Magic Cauliflower and Honeydew Melon’s.

I have completed most of the quests that have challenged me, except I cannot get the Wedding Chapel, but I will soon. I have ordered many goods from others on the social map and allowed many to order goods from me. I have achieved all of the available awards and am currently at Level 43. I have only bought mojo once.

So what, do you ask, am I on about?

Well, of course, anyone in the know would realise I am talking about one of the most popular downloads on the  iPhone and  iPad, namely  ‘We Rule‘, the extremely addictive and compelling game published by ngmoco.

I got the bug shortly after getting my iPad and despite rushing around in the morning to get ready for work I still manage to find time to harvest my crops, tend to my shoppe’s and purchase goods around other kingdom’s. And when I get home I have to check my crops again, sow new seeds and reap in the gold coins, which I am saving up for my next purchase.

So now the advice…

If you don’t want to become a sad, addicted, game-dependent individual don’t, on any accounts, install We Rule on your device or you may regret it.

But then again you might just try it and see why I keep playing!

All ‘gadged’ up!

OK, how many more gadgets could a man have?

Since starting work and earning money I have always been drawn to the latest electronics and gadgets to the dismay, but resigned understanding, of Tina.

I think the first electronic device I bought was a pocket electronic calculator in the mid-1970’s whilst on an exchange visit to France. This was the talk of the school as it was one of the first liquid crystal devices around but unfortunately someone took a fancy to it and it got stolen. My memory doesn’t stretch to what model it was though.

In the early 1980’s, with the age of personal computers just kicking off, I bought an Acorn Electron and this really started my interest in the world of PC’s. A very basic device, it had limited memory but it did help me to understand the principals of computer programming, which I still use today in my job.

Computers aside, I also continued to purchase the smaller pocket devices including digital address books, handheld pocket computers such as the Tungsten Palm C moving on to smart phones including the HTC TyTN ii and lately the iPhone.

Last year i blogged about the purchase of my iPad, a fantastic device that just blows your mind at the usability and flexibility of a hand-held device, it’s pretty much made my laptop redundant.

And so to my latest gadget…

OK I will admit it was a bit of an over-indulgence as I could probably continue to read my ebooks on my iPad, but I treated myself to an Amazon Kindle for my birthday. One of the issues of having so many apps and news readers on the iPad is that I get distracted by them and therefore don’t bother to read the ebooks on it. My theory is that with a Kindle, a smaller and more portable device, I will carry it around with me all the time, ensuring I read the books rather than get distracted by the lovely iPad.

Time will tell.

I’m hating the tax man

You may recall a post I made earlier in the year, where I declared that I loved the tax man.

Well my love affair is well and truly over!

Today I received a tax statement showing that I had underpaid tax by the amount they refunded back in the summer. It seems I made a mistake on my tax return and they found the error when they recently audited my accounts.

So that iPad I bought with the refund is now not looking such a good idea after all!

Passing the time

It’s been a disappointing week weather wise hear in Kent, which has meant I have spent more time in our accommodation than I would have liked to. So thankfully my iPad has come to the rescue and kept me entertained during the heavy rainfall we’ve experienced. Light showers wouldn’t normally stop us from venturing out but the quantity of rain over the last couple of days has been quite restrictive. We did go to Dungeness and got soaked, the adjacent picture showing the rain on the window carriage of the light railway that got us there.

As I’m normally an early bird, I find it difficult to adjust when on holiday, so usually get up and go for a walk on the beach or do some exploring before the family gets up, but this week I’ve not bothered as the weather has been so crap.

Instead I’ve stayed in bed and watched some of the tech video’s I’ve subscribed to and previously downloaded (iPad today, This Week in Tech to name but a few).

Another use of the iPad this week that I haven’t really used before is it as a games machine. Whilst I have many games apps installed, I hadn’t really bothered with them, much preferring to read or watch content rather than play. But due to the additional time sitting around waiting for the weather to improve, I have been playing Scrabble and We Rule, a very addictive social game where you try to build a kingdom by growing food for gold coins which allows you to buy buildings which make more gold coins (sad I know but as I said very addictive once you start).

And the last use of my iPad has been to write this blog using a WordPress app, whilst lying in bed listening more rain outside. Looks like another day of iPadness.

iPad wonderment

I know I shouldn’t get emotional about a gadget but I am extremely impressed with my new iPad, in fact I could go as far to say I love it. I’ve now been ‘playing’ with it for just under a week and it is certainly living up to the accolades it has been receiving in the press.

I found the iPad easy to set up, with a straightforward sync to iTunes to pick up all my exisiting apps that I had already installed on my iPhone and searched within App Store for a few ‘iPad’ specific applications that, by the way, look great on the bigger screen. I haven’t even minded upgraded some of the apps I had on my iPhone to the HD versions for an additional cost.

The touch screen is gorgeous; easy to navigate, clear to read both inside and outside the house and can be fixed to view landscape or portrait at a flick of a switch. I was concerned whether the WiFi would be up to scratch but so far it has worked everywhere in the house and garden. 

Another concern was the weight as I’d read that some people found it uncomfortable to hold for a long period, but I haven’t found that an issue; in fact I purchased a leatherette case from eBay and that has not only made it easier and safer to carry around the house  but also has a built in stand to place it on your lap.

Battery life seems really good, with a days playing still not resulting in it dropping below 40% battery capacity.

Although the apps specifically designed for the iPad are still limited, the ones I have particularly liked so far are:

Amazon Kindle – an eBook reader, very easy to use and will probably mean I’ll never buy a paperbook again.
Pulse – an RSS reader, very easy to use although currently limeted to only 20 newsfeeds.
Wikipanion – a Wiki reader for the iPad.
Wordpress – enables me to write entries to my blog etc.
HowItWorks – a science emagazine that you can purchase subscriptions to, I’ve only downloaded the free copy at the moment but will probably subscribe to a few more at some point.
The Elements – A visual explanation of the elements, great graphics and written in an easy to understand language.

So how has it made a difference then? Well previously if I was watching a programme or needing some information in a hurry I would have to fire up my laptop or leave the room and use my desktop pc, not the fastest of responses. But  now I just reach for my iPad and hey presto I have googled using Safari on the iPad and the information is to hand.

So are there any negatives to having an iPad? Well the only one I can see is the fact that everyone who has seen it so far wants to go on it, meaning I can’t!