Sunday, 22 December 2013

Beth Stobbart & Gary Amers Interview

Last week I interviewed, Beth Stobbart (Princess Jasmine) and Gary Amers (Aladdin) from the 2013 Christmas Panto at Darlignton's Civic Theatre.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Windows 8.1 Review

Windows 8.1, the latest version of Windows following the controversial and confusing Windows 8, started rolling out to customers worldwide earlier this year. The update is being called by many 'what the original Windows 8 should have been' because it includes lots of tweaks and improvements rather than new features.

The iconic Windows 'Start' button has returned in Windows 8.1!  The button is the new Windows logo and is located at the bottom right of the screen in Desktop mode (like where it has always been).

The 'Start' screen has remained the same though with only some small changes. You can now swipe down to see all of your apps and programs, plus you now have more choice with the background. 

New features don't go completely absent though, Bing is now built into 'Search' and the search results are extremely impressive as they scan the web and everything on your PC. The results are then displayed in a beautiful page of links, embedded images and inline information. However, since this is triggered by anything you type into the search charm this means that you can no longer search through an app using the search charm; instead, a separate search box is now in Windows 8.1 apps. I often find this annoying and confusing, for example when searching for a TV Show in the Netflix app I will open the search charm instead of using the app search box. It will just take a while to get used to.

New Apps

There a verity of new Bing apps including Bing 'Food and Drink' and Bing 'Health and Fitness', and a handful of new Microsoft apps which really should have been in the original Windows 8.

Bing 'Food and Drink' has recipes built in from a verity of sources (including 'Great British Chefs') which you can follow step by step whilst you cook and operate the app by simply making gestures with your hand in front of the screen. This means when your fingertips are covered in egg yolk, flower and other ingredients you are not wiping it on your computer screen.
The app also helps you create meal plans, write shopping lists and it even offers tips for techniques you will use when cooking.
When using the app I've found the 'hands-free' mode is temperamental and often doesn't work properly however apart from that, the app is pretty good: they have thousands of recipes which all have easy to follow thanks to step-by-step instructions.  

Bing 'Health and Fitness' allows users to track how many calories they have ate and then sync the information to 'Health Vault', track how much exercise they are doing (so the app can then recommend workouts for you) and it even has a symptom checker because everybody loves the outcomes of being diagnosed by the internet.
The app has many useful features, admittedly some are hidden under various menus, however if you are calorie conscious or enjoy to tone your body I would definitely recommend you use this app.

The new calculator app has a scientific calculator built in and even a converter which puts on par, if not better than most other native calender apps on other platforms however it puzzles me why Microsoft has also left the calculator program in desktop mode. It is outdated and doesn't have as many features as the 'metro' calculator so it seems a bit pointless it being there.

The alarms app is also new, it has a funky design which makes it easy to set alarms, start a timer or use the stopwatch. I feel like there is a lot of wasted space in the apps though as the functions only take up one half of the screen.

'Movie Moments' is an interesting new app built by Microsoft which in the future will probably be a 'Metro' replacement to Windows Movie Maker (last seen in Windows 7) however at the moment it is nowhere near that standard. It allows you to shorten video clips, add a soundtrack and add funky titles however that is as far as functionality goes for the time being. We will probably see some major updates to this app in the near future.

Microsoft has also added apps named 'Sound Recorder' and 'Scan' which basically do exactly what they say on the tin.

Updated Apps
Almost 100% of the apps build by Microsoft have had a redesign for Windows 8.1, they're now cleaner, faster and have more features. Some apps such as the 'App Marketplace' have a completely new look and feel however other apps such as the 'People' app have only had a minor design change.

Desktop Mode
After many Windows 8 RT users complained about the absence of Microsoft Outlook 2013 in Windows 8 RT Microsoft has responded and added it in Windows 8.1. The program is simple to use and is extremely similar to previous versions and is available to use in Desktop mode.

Most of the settings from the 'Control Panel' have now migrated to the PC Settings menu found under the charms bar however there are still some options and features that you still need to access through 'Control Panel' in Desktop Mode.

I've been using Windows 8.1 since it's launch in October now and I love it, the only drawback is that not all apps have been updated to Windows 8.1 which means stuff like Twitter and Sky News won't snap together with a 50/50 view. This, however, can not be blamed on Microsoft - it is the developers fault. So overall, Windows 8.1 is a well built, stable, reliable operating system with a developing app store so I can't wait what Microsoft is going to do next with it.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Photoshop: Obliging or Obstructive

Would this picture look better with an improved
sky and some colour enhancements?
Although I’m not that good at it, I love photography and can see myself doing a lot more of it in the future. I was in a beautiful part of the lake district earlier this year on a stupidly long but enjoyable hike with my friends and some others. We were taking pictures of the unique scenery as we passed it and then at the end compared images to see who had the images with the best quality, best view, best aperture, ect, ect…

Then one of my friends, who had an amazing shot of some hills and a lake, suggested that we Photoshop the image and put better skies on the image instead of the cloudy ones that looked over us that day.

I am familiar with what Photoshop and other similar computer programs are however I’d never used one before. They’re not only ridiculously expensive, I've never found the need to, I've always thought that it is cheating if you start enhancing your pictures on a huge scale like that.

The only good reason I can think of for why you would want to use Photoshop is if you’re editing wedding pictures. People like those pictures to be, well, picture perfect and look enhanced so the focus is only on the people. However not all of the world is perfect and we need to embrace that fact through photography instead of cheating our way to have slightly better looking pictures.

Also, surely, it takes the skill out of photography if you are re-editing your picture after you've taken it. Why do people buy cameras where the manufacturers have put a ton of settings into the camera when people are going to make it perfect in post-production anyway!

The airbrushing feature on Photoshop is definitely the most controversial thing about Photoshop. Magazine covers airbrush celebrities to make them look thinner, prettier and more attractive in general. I, and millions more, are against airbrushing because it isn't a true reflection of what the celebrity looks like and it deludes young people (especially girls) to make them think that they need that perfect – unachievable – figure. You hear about this in newspapers every day; girls starving themselves and being bulimic just so they get the dress size that magazines say ‘all the celebrities have’. It’s stupid and magazines need to stop changing what celebs look like.

Jenifer Lawrence (right) has recently been the subject of controversial airbrushing. Unlike many celebrities, Jenifer has been fighting pressure from the press to loose weight as she is happy with her figure - and so she should be. However she was made to look thinner on the front cover of 'Flare' which has sparked a debate about her body image.

Overall, I believe that all post-production on photographs (apart from the occasional crop) will ruin the art of photography. It will make photographers lazy. Eventually the best photographers will no longer be the people with a good 'eye for a picture', it will be the people who know Photoshop and other softwares like the back of their hand.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Microsoft 'Threshold' Rumours

Less than two months after the launch of Windows 8, rumours have already started emerging about the next version of Windows. It's code name for the time being is 'Threshold' and rumours suggest it will launch in early 2015.

Apparently, 'Threshold' will add more features to Windows, Windows Phone and Xbox to unify the three platforms even more. It is also highly likely that Windows will soon just have one App Marketplace for Windows, Windows Phone and Xbox which will replace the current 3 app stores. This is similar to what Apple has, as they only have one app store for iPhone and iPad.

In my opinion, I think making one platform for all form factors of device will be very risky; it will probably either reestablish Microsoft in many markets or it will break Microsoft meaning they have wasted millions of dollars and over two years in research. I, personally wouldn't want my smartphone running the same operating system as my Xbox however I'm sure some people disagree.

Microsoft are putting all of their eggs in one basket and in an an operating system which hasn't even been proved that popular.

I saw this coming earlier this year: Microsoft One

Friday, 15 November 2013

Flipboard for Windows 8.1

Earlier today Flipboard launched for Windows 8.1. This app, which is basically a feed of all your social networks and news sources combined together, is debatably the best app you can currently get on tablets computers. Since Windows 8’s launch last Autumn, Flipboard has been teased on forums and at various event, then at Build 2013 we discovered that a Flipboard app was in the works. The app was finally revealed at a Nokia conference last month. There the app, customised for Windows 8.1, was running on Nokia Lumina 2520 and boasted many of the same features that are included in the iOS and Android versions of the app.

The app became available to download from the App Marketplace earlier today and it has already started a buss on various websites and social networks. The app is admittedly not as nice as the iOS and Android one; the colours aren’t as mice, it keeps coming up with a warning message and then crashing every time I try and add something to one of my magazines plus it seems quite slow (however that might just be because I am running it on a Microsoft Surface RT).

Despite this, Flipboard seems to have made use of the wide screen on my Surface because some of the content displays in new ways unseen on the iOS and Android versions. Some of the content even displays in a beautiful full screen box.

As far as functionality goes, you have the same discovery tab at the top that you would find on other versions of the app, you can create and add content to your magazines, and GIFs and YouTube clips even play inline (without you needing to open the link).

Flipboard has made some changes to optimise the app for Windows 8.1. For example, if you use a mouse on your PC, you can flip through your content by simply scrolling down. Also, you can pin feeds to your Start screen for easy access.

In my opinion, Flipboard will be on parr with the iOS and Android versions as soon as the bugs are fixed. It is a great app and available for download here:

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Three reasons why you won’t be driving electric cars any time soon

It’s a well-known fact that fossil fuels are running out at a rapid pace and car manufacturers worldwide have been forced to search for an alternative fuel source to petrol and diesel. Companies such as Renault and Nissan have already built electric cars which can be charged at charging points which are situated at various places around England, Tesla even build a powerful electric car which can give super-cars a run for its money. Unfortunately though, electric cars are still ridiculously impractical. So, here are 3 reasons why the world won't be driving electric vehicles any time in the near future.

Charging Stations
A few weeks ago I was talking to a journalist who had spent a week with a Nissan Leaf (probably one of the most popular electric cars you can currently buy) and he hated it. It was ideal for whizzing round town in however anywhere further than 30 miles away he didn't dare venture to go just in case he didn't have enough power to make it back home. Even if there was a charging station at the place he was going, it takes so long for Leafs to recharge it makes them ridiculously unpractical. There is also the issue of finding a charging station, because there is not that many.

A Tesla Model S in America recently set on fire after the battery, which is situated on the bottom of the car, was struck by a piece of metal. Luckily fire fighters were able to put it out before it hand chance to get into the drivers compartment on the inside of the car.

Not Cars
Motoring enthusiasts love the sounds super-cars roar and spit out however unless you buy a CD with engine noises on, that thrilling sound will soon cease to exist. Electric Cars make little to no noise which not only makes them boring, also quite risky. Texting teenagers may not look up to see if there are any cars when they are crossing the road if they can't hear any engines, so my guess is going to be that there will be more road accidents as electric cars get more popular. The injuries caused by electric cars won't be severe though as most of the time they don't have the power to pick up that much speed anyway.

Monday, 21 October 2013

'Captain Phillips' Film Review

Captain Phillips is an absorbing film based on a real life story about a cargo ship getting attacked by Somali Pirates looking for a quick pay day. Fortunately the main character, Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks) does everything he can to try and stop the small group of Pirates from getting their way. Captain Phillips tries his hardest to protect his crew and attempt to stop the Pirates from getting on board the vessel.

Tom Hanks portrays Captain Phillips as a determined and  heroic character who always puts his crew first. This film will have a tight grasp of your attention from start to finish and will keep you on the edge of your seat.

The real Captain Richard Phillips was described as "reckless" by his crew and he told white lies to make himself sound more like a hero when he was swamped in media attention. He is now a published writer who has written a handful of books and who said the film "portrayed my crew very well, and portrayed the work truly. We're not the best dressed, we don't talk the nicest, but we're pretty regular people."

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Smokefree Action Coalition Briefing – House of Commons 2013

Have you ever been in a car whilst an adult has smoked carelessly allowing the fumes to linger in the car or have any of your friends started smoking because it looks ‘cool’? It’s time for those things stop and there are many British organisations trying to achieve that goal.
In front of Big Ben
So, accompanied only by my wingman (so to say), I made the journey down to Westminster on October 15th for the Smokefree Action Coalition Briefing event where representatives from many different organisations and groups could mingle and confer about the work they've been doing. The aim of the event was to inform people about where the government currently stands with many matters regarding anti-smoking. From standardised cigarette packaging to smoking with children in cars the dozens of campaigners came out in force from organisations such as the British Lung Foundation, ASH, Fresh NE!

Early in 2013 I was promoting standardised packaging for cigarette packs in the UK via a video for Fresh NE. This sparked a speech that I made during March at a Fresh NE conference and I then wrote letters to members of parliament about where they stood regarding standardised packaging.
More information here: My fight for against Cigarettes (Smoking in Cars and Plain Packaging)

Anyway, after a swift wander around London we made our way to the historical and iconic parliament building which lingers in the shadow of the Elizabeth Tower. At airport like security in the entrance, the police had the guts to rummage through my bag; to their disappointment they didn't find anything apart from a can of Pepsi.

As I waited in a circular room directly between the House of Commons and the House of Lords, I allowed the extravagant, high ceiling, the polo white statues and the high class atmosphere soak in.

At approximately 4PM I was lead through a maze of corridors and staircases to a compact emerald room overflowing with people. After an anxious start to the event I was soon in flowing and intriguing conversations. The organisers of the event worked like match makers to try and get certain attendees to talk to certain other attendees, because nobody could talk to everyone so the organiser made sure you made the most of the 2 hours you had at the event.

This meant I was introduced to fascinating people who had travelled from all over England. They all had a different story to tell and different reasons for their campaign against the tobacco industry.

John McClurrey (independent newsagent from Gateshead and Liberal Democrat Councillor) was without a doubt one of the most intriguing people I met simply because of the results he had from the research he had conducted. He informed me that selling cigarettes isn't as profitable as you may assume, he went on to say that he actually makes more money from selling gum than he does with cigarettes!

One of the most interesting things I got given was a prototype of what the standardised plain packs could look like if the Government decided to implement them. Despite the pack being a vile shade of green and being littered in graphic health warnings there was a beauty to the packs that only few people will see. Many people, like me, will see the beauty because it is evidence that all the work they have done petitioning for standardised packaging might soon pay off.

Unfortunately, standardised packaging is a touchy issue which not everyone agrees with so many experts, over the course of the day, informed me that it is unlikely the current Government will implement them with only around 18 months left in power. That is the only logical reason anyone could think of – standardised packaging is actually quite practical: it is cheap, easy to implement and would require little enforcement.

Even if the government was freshly in power there would still be some very political aspects they would view the situation from. 5000 British people are employed directly by the tobacco industry and a further 80,000 jobs rely on the industry so if the government did implement standardised packaging, they would see thousands of people become unemployed. Also, it may surprise you that the Tobacco industry actually has a significant amount of influence in White Hall so they can pressure and manipulate MPs if something isn’t going their way. One thing is for sure, the poison producers are not to be underestimated, they will attempt to lie and cheat out of anything. They are too rich and too powerful.

The current official government line is that they are seeing how standardised packaging goes down in Australia and if it is beneficial they will seriously consider introducing it to Britain.

Hopefully though, politicians will have the courage to look at the key statistics regarding health: Smoking remains the major cause of preventable premature death killing 100,000 people a year, more than the next six causes put together including alcohol, obesity and illegal drugs! 567 children start smoking every day in the UK which is approximately 207,000 a year. In research conducted by the British Heart Foundation, 87% of 2700 surveyed 16-25 years olds found plain packs less attractive and 77% of them believed that people to smoke less or quit.

As a teenager who sees people my age smoking, I’ve noticed that the glamour of it has a lot to do with why some of my friends started the disgusting habit. The attractive, colourful and shiny packing attracts people of all ages, especially children. The tobacco industry deny aiming packaging at young people, they've even went so far to say that they don’t care about packaging at all, yet they still spend millions on getting a perfect design and shape for them.
I watched a video made by Cancer Research UK on the train journey to London on October 15th and it showed primary school children speaking about what they thought of cigarette packaging. The video was unscripted and some of the things they said were astonishing:
“It has a funky design”
“Looks quite posh”
“Bright colours and looks quite fun to play with, makes you feel almost happy by looking at it”
“The pictures look quite nice; ice cubes and mint”

Overall, the event and day as a whole were brilliant. I got the opportunity to express my views on standardised packaging in front of some very important people from around Britain who are campaigning for the same things, plus not many people my age get invited to such events like this especially in places such as the House of Commons so I feel extremely privileged to have even been invited.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Saturday 19th October 2013: In the News this Week

It's the week of Saturday 19th October 2013 and...

The new Bing Smart Search

Windows 8.1 Started Rolling Out
Customised tile sizes in Windows 8.1
Windows 8.1, the latest version of Windows following the controversial and confusing Windows 8, started rolling out to customers worldwide earlier this week. The update is being called my many 'what the original Windows 8 should have been' because it includes lots of tweaks and improvements rather than new features. New features don't go completely absent though, Bing is now built in and the search results are extremely impressive as they scan the web and everything on your PC, there a verity of new Bing apps including Bing 'Food and Drink' and Bing 'Health and Fitness' and a handful of new Microsoft apps to such as a calculator and alarm. All the Microsoft Apps have been redesigned and made faster also.
The update allows you to personalise your computer more with more options on your background, different colours and the ability to re-size apps so you can have them really big or really small.
After complaints about Windows 8 that it lacked a 'Start' button, it has returned in Windows 8.1, the button takes you back to the 'Metro' Start screen and appears in the bottom left corner.

Government Advises People to Wear Jumpers
Westminster, the centre of brilliant ideas in England, has once again failed to disappoint with their latest piece of advice they've gave out to help people save money in Winter. They say that you should 'wear jumpers' to save spending money on heating. The announcement was on Thursday's episode of Newsnight where the spokesman for the Prime Minister also said "I am sure people do wear jumpers, I wear jumpers at home."

Chinese Parents Sell Baby for iPhone
Two parents have been arrested after they sold their baby daughter and some of the proceeds went towards a new iPhone! The parents had apparently advertised the baby online asking for somewhere between £3000 - £5000 for the unborn child. According to Chinese press the money was also used to buy some "high-end sport shoes". 
This is not the first time something similar to this has happened. A few years ago a teenage boy sold his kidney so he could buy an iPhone!

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Saturday 12th October 2013: In the News this Week

It's the week of Saturday 12th October 2013 and...

Apple 'Spaceship' Campus Model
Earlier this week a scale model of the new futuristic Apple campus was shown off. The images show a black and white doughnut shaped building surrounded by trees and 2 blocks of car parking space just off a road to the side of the building. It has not been decided yet if the building will be constructed yet however a vote in the near future will give us that answer.

Bearded Muslim pupil allowed to return to School
A 14-year old Muslim boy is allowed to return to school on Monday after spending a month in isolation and being excluded from school after refusing to shave of his beard. The facial hair did not comply with the school rules at the Accrington secondary however the boy argued it was part of his religion to keep it. Another boy at the school still has an unresolved case and is needing to stay at home until it is sorted out.
Headteacher and the Governing Body at the school where 1/3rd of pupils are Muslims are not planning to change any of their appearance policies anytime soon which means this dilemma will continue to go on.

American Army Iron Man Suits
One of the richest armies in the world, the US Army, announced earlier this week that they were developing a new suit of armor which would give solderers "super human strength". The "revolutionary" exoskeleton concept designs include a smart material fitted with sensors to monitor body temperature, heart rate and hydration levels.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

'Prisoners' Film Review

How far would you go to protect your family? That was an important decision which father of 2, Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) needed to make when his infant daughter disappeared on thanksgiving along with her best friend. The two families struggled through what was the toughest time in their life as the police let them down because they could find no evidence to help discover who abducted their children and why.

Staring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, ‘Prisoners’ is a dramatic and creepy which has captured the UK box office making over £1.37 million in its opening weekend. The whole film is gripping and the first half an hour is significant as everything discussed over thanksgiving will be referred to later.

The film is packed with twists and turns which come as a surprise, there are many occasions during the 153 minutes when you think that every loose end has been tied up and the film is drawing to a close but then something will happen out of the blue which will intrigue you.

Overall, this film is long however there is not a dull moment; you’ll be on the edge of your seat through some parts, wincing through others and the ending will certainly not disappoint you.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Saturday 5th October 2013: In the News this Week

It's the week of Saturday 5th October 2013 and...

Ghost Dating Website
Young people in their 20 or 30s are the people most likely to use a dating website, the odd OAP uses a dating website to however a whole new market has been blown open today as got launched - a dating website for ghosts.
Ghosts who are interested in using the new service just need to submit their gender, how many centuries old they are and how they died (either mysteriously, suddenly, tragically or horribly). Once the website has this information, ghosts are able to find their perfect matches. The site even gives dating tips for ghosts!

And on the subject of dating: App stops people from Iceland from dating their Relatives
There has not been much immigration to Iceland over the last few decades so most people from Iceland are actually related so an app has been launched which allows them to check if they are related to the person they are about to go on a date with. The app informs you if you should or shouldn't date them (anything closer than 3rd cousin is a big no no) and it gathers it's information from official records which accurately date back to 1703!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

SMMT North Test Day 2013

The gurning mug of a Jaguar F-Type
Like me, you will giggle like a school girl every time the gear shifts up in the Jaguar F-Type V65. The car will spit and aggressively croak every time you apply pressure to the flappy-paddle gear leavers and then you will dive into another gear. The g-force will make your hair dance in the wind and the open road ahead will belong to you. Why Jaguar bothers fitting a stereo into this car is unknown, the natural song this car sings will be music to your ears.

Petrol head motor journalists from the North of England gathered at Wetherby Racecourse on October 1st for the 2013 SMMT test day. The organizers who have been 'driving the motor industry' for the past century had everything from Bentleys to Skodas to be thrashed around the North Yorkshire countryside.

The day started in a large hall where car manufactures had tables set up with brochures, laptops and gimmicky free stuff to give away (like pads, pens and sweets). Each manufacturer had come from their main PR office and were dying to give out the keys of their latest models to willing journalists.
A car park of finely engineered motors
As expected, most of the journalists there were men who knew exactly what to look for in a car; handling, acceleration, sound, feeling, ect ect. One journalist I talked to explained that it is easy for manufactures to tick all of those boxes but they also need to achieve an "x factor", something which gives the cars soles which stops them from being mere machines.

Over the course of the day, I got a chance to be driven in a variety of speedy cars, some more exciting than others, and some which lacked the mysterious 'x factor'.

Is it a Mini Cooper? Is it a van? It is a Mini Van
The car which was the most surprising of the day was a Mini Van (Mini Cooper D Clubvan) which was diesel, lacked back seats and, as you will have guessed by the name, a van! The interior of Minis have always intrigued me, the combination of circles and boxes mashed together to create a funky dashboard is unusual. Also, the fact that they've ceased to change much over the last half century is amazing.
The only reason we ended up trundling along a country road in a Mini Van is because the 208bhp John Cooper Works Paceman had already been taken out. 
There was one round about about a quarter of the way through our journey when our conversation came to a sudden standstill and the Mini proved it's self, our disappointed faces lifted as the handling and grip exceeded original expectations. Of course, this car was not in the same league as the F-Type however for less than half the price of the Jaguar I didn't expect it to be.

The wind picked up under the pillow of clouds as the day came to an end. The last drive added to our conga-line of cars was a Porsche 2nd Generation Panamera. This is a nippy saloon which was let down because of its size. The sport button did add a little excitement however this car lacked the 'x factor' I mentioned before, and who would use the sport mode in a car like that anyway?

Overall, the day was thoroughly enjoyable, I can't think of a better way to spend a day than with a room full of motoring journalists, tables overflowing with freebies and a car park packed with some of the finest cars of 2013.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Best Camping Gadgets

More and more people go camping every day and because of its increasing popularity there are thousands of gadgets trying to make your camping trip more relaxing so you can enjoy the tranquility of the countryside more.

Biolite Campstove
One of them, probably my favorite one too, is the Biolite Campstove. For around £80 you can purchase this minuet yet powerful stove. Once you’ve lit it with a small amount of cindering, the special vents situated around the stove doing the rest of the work keeping the fire inside burning hot. Plus, this stove can charge your smartphone (or anything that charges via USB), it simply uses the flames to power it!
The company behind this awesome invention have recently released on a kettle and a grill that clip on top of the camp stove, it heats them up swiftly and efficiently.

Petzl Nao Headlamp
This head torch is the king of all head torches, it uses sensors to detect how far you are looking and adjusts the brightness of the light depending on that.
The light also predicts where you will look next and it shines the light there also so when you are navigating your way bag from the bogs in the middle of the night you don’t fall into a fire pit or river.
The Headlamp costs around £110 and it is, without a doubt, the most impractical thing you would ever buy. It has a box strapped to the back where the battery and computer is and the build quality isn’t the best; there are lots of unnecessary wires, so I doubt it would survive a week at camp.

Hi Gear 5 LED Remote Control Tent Light
When you return to your warm sleeping bag at night you don’t want to be scrambling around in the dark tent looking for your torch so why not just install a Hi Gear 5 LED RC Tent Light in the roof of your tent. Just keep the remote in your pocket and click the lights on when you need to enter your tent. The battery life lasts for around 36 hours which is pretty decently considering you won’t need it for any more than a hour every night and for only £15, you can’t go wrong!

Ever had one of those meals where are panicking because you can’t decide if you’ll need a spoon or knife and fork? Well, worry no longer, you can now do all 3 at once with a Spork!
Not all gadgets need to be complicated and expensive, in fact some of the best gadgets (like the Spork) are extremely simple.
As you probably guessed by the name, a Spork is a spoon, knife and fork all in one which makes it perfect for any meal at camp.
It’s a well known fact that you’re not a proper camper until you have owned a Spork!

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Saturday 28th September 2013: In the News this Week

It's the week of Saturday 28th September 2013 and...

Humans are to blame for Climate Change
The summary of a UN report on climate change was published earlier this week and stated that they are 95% sure that humans are to blame for global warming however Scientist are now extremely worried that people no longer care.

Scientists believe that the people who have the power to change the future are the government and they are well informed about this subject; despite this, unless they bring in a policy sea levels will continue raising and the green house effect will only get worse.

National Geographic did a feature in this months issue of their magazine about raising seal levels. They showed a world without ice and where the seas had raised by so much that counties had been submerged in water. By 2100 there are 4 possible scenarios of how much sea levels will have raised by. These have been predicted by scientists and the predictions variety from a sea-level rise of only 0.6 feet all the way to a huge rise of 6.6 feet. If the sea level did raise by 6.6 feet, the flat country of Holland would become a sea bed.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change also said this week that temperatures will rise between 3.3 and 4.8 degrees Celsius by 2100.
The full report by the UN will be published on Monday where there will be more information released.

Microsoft Surface 2
This week Microsoft announced the Surface 2, a Windows 8.1 tablet with a dock, new attachable keyboards and kickstand which can support 2 angles. The Surface 2 is faster, lighter and has a longer battery life however it has many of the same problems as the original Microsoft Surface.

The target market for this device is not clear, is it businesses or normal consumers. The app store is also weak and the whole operating system inside is confusing and unappealing.

Microsoft did announce a new cover which clicks onto the bottom of the device. The cover has easy volume controls and works with a new app so you can mix songs together easily like a DJ. The cover is perfect for the app and DJs however it is going to be expensive, this will unfortunately limit the amount of people who purchase it.
It would be great news for app developers if Microsoft allowed 3rd parties to make touch covers. This would allow film editors to have a bigger track pad and more playback options, writers to have a better keyboard and programmers to have a keyboard which would give you commands easily. Problem with this is, would you want a different keyboard/cover for every app you use? Exactly.

There is a new dock which allows the Surface Pro 2 to slide in and then power up to another 2 displays. The dock is small and is perfect to have at your workstation whether your office or your study.
Overall, the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 could easily give a MacBook Air a run for its money, they both have super fast graphics and amazing processors however the operating system lets the Surface down. And the Surface RT 2 is great competition for the iPad however the app store lets it down.
Without a doubt, it is clear to see that Microsoft has built 2 new amazing Surfaces however it is now down to the marketing department to advertise it correctly (hopefully better than they did last year).

Monday, 23 September 2013

Microsoft Surface 2 Announcement

Earlier this afternoon Microsoft held an event in Redmond, Seattle where they announced the Surface 2.

The original Microsoft Surface wasn't even that popular, combined - the RT and the Pro version sold less than 5 million units causing the price to rapidly decrease last month with over £100 being taken off both versions. Despite this, the Microsoft Surface was one of the best devices running Windows 8 and if a consumer was going to invest in the platform, chances are they would buy a Surface.

On the stage, there was technology which teased the press and developers at the before the event. Some of the unusual accessories included a variety of new touch covers in new colours and with different keys.

As soon as the event started, Panos Panay (Microsoft Vice President) got straight down to business and didn't dwell on the past. Instead he announced the Surface 2 and said that Microsoft are only improving on what they had in the original Surface not ‘re-inventing the wheel’.

The new HD screen on the Surface Pro he was using has more vibrant colours and they are a lot more clear, it has an increased battery life almost 50% better than the last Surface Pro and the speakers are now better to.

In terms of big changes, Panay announced the Surface Pro 2 is 95% faster than most laptops today because of the new haswell processor. As expected, Microsoft have also had the ‘kickstand’ adjusted so it isn't stuck at 22 degrees, it also had a 55 degree option which works great for when working on your lap. It has more 'lapability'.

To prove how powerful the Surface Pro 2 is, Panay ran some 6K video footage through an editing program on desktop mode so he could show how smoothly it could be played and edited.

The new Type covers for the Surface Pro 2 also have built in 30wh batteries so users can have up to 14 hours battery life, which is 75% more than the original Surface Pro. And of course theses covers are wrapped in a soft fabric.

A second generation of Touch Covers are also getting released. These come in new colours such as purple and pink however what really makes them amazing is the fact that they are a whole 1mm thinner than the previous Touch Covers. This is ridiculously thin!
The new Touch Covers now have 1092 sensors to detect where you are pressing and how hard which is an improvement from the 80 sensors in the original Touch Covers. Finally, to top that off, it is also back-lit so you can type in low light/darkness and still see the keys. Unfortunately this is coming next year, so don’t expect to see it any time soon.

Microsoft is also releasing a new generation of covers specifically for different jobs so there will be covers that are perfect for DJs, covers perfect for accountants and, hopefully, even some 3rd party covers so app developers can have a custom cover for their apps. There is a new cover is perfect for the new DJ app Microsoft has built which allows you to remix music from the ‘XBOX Music’ apps. The cover gives users easy access to volume controls and the ability to change tracks easily.
Of course, these new covers are stupidly thin and will be available on the 22nd October 2013.

The highlights of the Windows 8 App Marketplace
Next, Panay went on to talk about a new docking station Microsoft has made. It has three USB 3.0 ports, one USB 1.0 port, a Mini DisplayPort, an Ethernet port and audio in/out ports. The Surface Pro slides straight into the dock with the iconic Surface ‘click’ and then you can even power another screen just using the dock! Microsoft said a couple of months ago that they weren't making a Surface dock however since they have, it should be interesting to see what other things they have up their sleeve.

The Surface RT is the next device that Microsoft has revamped. The Surface RT 2 is to compete with tablet devices such as the iPad. In the opening video, Microsoft announced that the Surface RT 2 is lighter, thinner and faster.

Panay then returned to the stage with a silver Surface RT 2 and started talking stats. It now has a 1080p HD display, a better camera which handles light better and has Microsoft Outlook RT built into desktop mode.

The Windows Store now has over 100,000 apps and both Flipboard and Facebook are coming soon (when exactly that will be is still unknown).

Skype is one of the key features in Windows 8 so Skype will come free for one year with free international calling and free Wi-Fi for anyone who buys a new Microsoft Surface.

Although both of the new Surface 2s have an even better build quality, all of your data will now be stored on SkyDrive and encrypted so hackers can’t get at it. If you buy a new Surface you will also get 200GB of free SkyDrive storage for 2 years!

Panay finished off the event by announcing prices and release dates, the Surface 2 RT will cost $449 (around £280) which is amazing value for money! And the Surface 2 Pro will cost $899 (around £560). Both are available for pre-ordering tomorrow however they are released on the 22nd October.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

BlackBerry Messenger for iOS and Android

This weekend BlackBerry started rolling out BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) on iOS and Android devices.

BBM used to be one of the key features on BlackBerry smartphones and people would invest in BlackBerrys just because they had that encrypted messenger service. Business men and teenagers loved it however that was years ago. Now names such as Facebook, Kik and WhatsApp are the apps people use to contact each other over.

BBM used to be exclusive to BlackBerry devices and the reason for them making available for other platforms now is unknown however I think this decision will either make or break BlackBerry. The app might be a huge success, which is unlikely - however it could happen which would allow BlackBerry to invest in their other services and make them better and more attractive to consumers. I doubt this will happen though, I think BlackBerry Messenger on iOS and Android will struggle to get more than 1 million users and the company will just keep declining until it goes up for sale in November.

BlackBerry announced earlier this week that they were cutting 4500 jobs and I think that is just a sign of things to come for BlackBerry.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Saturday 21st September 2013: In the News this Week

It's the week of Saturday 21st September 2013 and...

iOS7 launches
Earlier this week, technology giant, Apple Inc launched iOS 7, their latest operating system which has new graphics, animations and whole new design. Only a few new features have been added (such as iTunes Radio and 'control centre' which you can get to easily by just swiping up from the bottom of your device). Apart from that the only differences you will notice have been in design. All of Apple's official apps have had a new coat of paint and they now operate slightly different to.

Every other update Apple has released before this one, consumers have loved because it has just added additional features however because of this redesign Apple had done to make the OS more 'flat' some customers have been put off. You iPhone will look completely different and there are a few new gestures you will need to learn to.

iOS7 is available to anyone with an iPad Mini, iPad 2 (or higher), 5th Generation iPod Touch or iPhone 5 (or higher).

BlackBerry cuts 4500 jobs globally
After loosing over a billion pounds since BlackBerry 10 launched around a year ago BlackBerry has been fading out of the smartphone market. During June Windows Phone even took over them for the 3rd biggest smartphone market share, so earlier this week BlackBerry announced that 4500 of their employees would loose their jobs.

BlackBerry is apparently planning to put themselves up for sale in November however this is not official and even if it does turn out to be true, I can't think who will want to buy them. Big tech companies such as Google, Apple and Microsoft won't be interested in purchasing BlackBerry because BlackBerry is a pretty independent company - not collaborating with any other corporations on projects or products. Maybe if BlackBerry started building unique and powerful Android phones they would survive a bit longer however for that to happen they would need to close down lots of their divisions meaning even more people would loose their jobs.

Breaking Bad Auction
If you are sad that Breaking Bad will cease to exist in 1 month time and you want to have something to remember the show by, you can bid for one of the items from the iconic program. The props on auction include everything from Hector "Tio" Salamanca's creepy bell to Skyler White's Jeep. You can find the online auction here:

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

New Bing

From early this year we knew that Bing would be getting a redesign however the changes which are going to take place are way bigger than ever imagined! To the right is what the Bing logo was rumored to change to and below is what it actually changed to. I'm pleased they did change their idea because the new Bing logo looks surprisingly good.

Microsoft thought deeply about the changes to Bing and all the changes they've done to the design fit in perfectly with the rest of Microsoft's services.

The new Bing can give you inline information like what Google does. So you just need to type key words such as David Cameron's Birthday and it will immediately give you the date you need without needing to open any links.

It also has Facebook built-in. The old version of Bing had this promised however for some reason nobody ever saw it however in this new Bing you can see your friends latest posts about whatever you have typed into the search box.

These new updates have not taken effect yet however you can expect them over the coming months.

In the Windows 8.1 update coming to Windows 8 users in September, you will notice two new Bing apps on your Start screen. Bing 'Food and Drink' and Bing 'Fitness and Health'.

Bing 'Fitness and Health' combines over 1,000 exercise videos, nutritional and medical references and diet trackers to help you stay fit and healthy whilst Bing 'Food and Drink' is packed with thousands of recipes and hundreds of cooking tips. There is even a hands free mode that allows you to get to the next stage of the recipe by just swiping your hand in front of your webcam.

These two apps also make Windows 8.1 more attractive however I'm concerned how much space the Windows 8.1 update will take up, especially on Surface RTs which don't have much internal storage at all!

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Saturday 14th September 2013: In the News this Week

It's the week of Saturday 14th September 2013 and...

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary
Earlier this week the BBC announced the name of the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special which will be aired on the 23rd November 2013. It will be called 'The Day of the Doctor' and star both Matt Smith and David Tennant. If that wasn't enough, they also announced that the episode will be 75 minutes long (not 90 minutes as rumored) and they showed off the first poster for the episode. Doctor Who fans around the globe are eagerly anticipating the episode and I for one cannot wait!

Apple announces new iPhones
At Apple's annual iPhone press conference earlier this week Apple announced two new iPhones: the iPhone 5S and the iPhone 5C.
The iPhone 5C has been brought out to replace the current iPhone 5, it is made from plastic and has pretty much the same specifications as the iPhone 5. It will come in a verity of colours.
The iPhone 5S however is Apple's flagship phone which boasts a finger print sensor at the bottom and a chip 45x faster than the original iPhone. It comes in 3 colours: silver, gold and 'space grey' and, of course, it runs iOS 7.
Unfortunately though, no new features were announced. Everything from the fingerprint sensor to the plastic iPhone 5C had been leaked to the press months before the event.

Better Call Saul
Chemistry fans globally have been extremely disappointed recently since their favorite program (recently voted highest rated TV program of all time) is drawing to a close. Yes, Breaking Bad is ending soon however you shouldn't feel too bad. Earlier this week, the network which airs Breaking Bad announced a spin of show called 'Better Call Saul' staring the mischievous lawyer Saul Goodman. The series will take place before the events of Breaking Bad.

"Don't drink and drive - but if you do call me" ~ Saul Goodman.