Friday, 25 December 2015

Could Donald Trump actually win the Republican nomination?

Donald Trump is the billionaire businessman and far-right GOP presidential candidate who had made controversial remarks about muslims, women, and immigration of late. Despite his concerning comments and his media manipulation, he is the frontrunner in the polls to be nominated as the GOP candidate. He is over 15 points clear of rival candidates and his lead only seems to be increasing. However what are the chances of Trump actually winning the nomination to run for president in 2016 and can the polls be wrong?

2016 Republican Presidential Nomination Poll - RealClearPolitics 24/12/2015

Opinion polls are to be taken with a pinch of salt. Although historically they have only been 1-2 points out, in the UK general election in 2015 they predicted another coalition government however that was far from the actual result. With the opinion poll for the GOP nomination, there is no source information clarifying how many people were in the sample or if they are even likely to turnout in the Republican caucus'. Thus, Democrat supporters might have been included in the poll.

Also, there is no such thing as a national caucus (what the opinion poll above is showing). Although the poll predicts who the most popular candidate is, that may not necessarily reflect the attitudes in every state. For example, if you look at the poll for the Republican caucus in Iowa, it is much more a close race and Trump isn't even winning.

2016 Iowa Republican Presidential Caucus Poll - RealClearPolitics 24/12/2015

Donald Trump says he represents a "silent majority" however there has been questions towards if the people he represents are in fact a majority. One would suspect that Trump's outlandish personality would turn supporters off however the more he is in the media, the more support he seems to gain. So are all of his supporters borderline racist, pro-life, anti-gay marriage, traditionalist conservatives? The video below from aims to investigate that.

Although the opinion polls can not be fully trusted (and not all of them even show Trump as the most popular candidate anyway), Trump does have loyal supporters who appear to be engaged with the issues he raises and the answers he is offering. Are they a majority capable of making Trump the Republican nomination though? We'll have to wait and see. But even if they don't, Trump has declared that he would then run as an independent candidate funded by his own money.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Lessons from Auschwitz

If you look into Auschwitz-Birkenau from the top of the watchtower above the entrance, the only things you can see are huts. Unlike the ones in Auschwitz I, which were used by the Polish army before World War Two, these huts were built by the Nazis with a specific purpose in mind: to hold Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, soviet prisoners of war, and political opponents.

If your eyes follow the railway tracks west through the centre of the camp, and past the rubble remains of the six crematoria, there is a lining of Birch trees (which is where the name Birkenau originates). It is within this large area, surrounded by 13 foot electrified barbed wire fences and partly-hidden by birch trees, where over 1.1 million people died during the holocaust.

On 22 October 2015, I, along with around 200 other students from the North of England, had the opportunity to visit Auschwitz via a project ran by the Holocaust Memorial Trust. A week before the visit, all attendees were invited to a seminar in Newcastle to listen to the testimony of Zigi Shipper, a Polish Jew and holocaust survivor.

Zigi spoke for an encapsulating hour about his life. Starting from when his father left for Soviet Russia when he was just a boy, all the way through to 1947 when he moved to England, met his wife, and started a family.

In 1944, following the liquidation of the Łódz ghetto where both Zigi and his grandmother lived, they found themselves on a cattle truck to Auschwitz. He said when he arrived the first thing he noticed was the terrible smell and smoke rising from chimneys. There were rumours that it was coming from a crematorium however he was still too young to even know what that word meant.

Within a few weeks, Zigi left Auschwitz to work in a series of concentration camps until 3 May 1945 when he was liberated from his German captors by the British army.

He lived in Germany for a while after the war until 1947 when he was reunited with his mother who was living in London. However, Zigi explained that she didn’t feel like family because he hadn’t seen her since he was four-years-old. His real family were his friends - who he had endured the holocaust with. To this day, he manages to stay in touch with these friends. They travel to Canada, the USA, and France among other places to see each other.

After Zigi’s touching testimony, there was then a chance for fellow peers to ask Zigi questions about his experiences. One person drew comparisons between the current refugee crisis and the large amount of refugees after the Second World War who needed to be relocated. She asked if Zigi thinks the attitude to refugees had changed since then. Zigi replied by saying that he thinks that people are just as compassionate now.

All the way through the question and answer session, Zigi stressed that race, religion, and sexuality are irrelevant. As long as you are a good person, that is all that matters.

The following week, on 22 October 2015, we took a 7am flight from Newcastle to Kraków followed by a bus to Oświęcim (where Auschwitz I is).

I imagined Auschwitz to be in some dark corner of the countryside hidden by tall trees with one road in and out because I assumed that if too many people found out about the place and what was going on there, something would have been done to close it down. Instead, the camp existed on the edge of a suburb, metres away from regular civilian life and nobody did anything… Hell, Rudolf Höss’ house was only a few feet outside the fence – where he lived with his wife and five children.

Rudolf Höss was the commandant of Auschwitz
Unfortunately due to plane delays of just over an hour, the organisers had to keep a tight schedule so we were hurried around the museum which now occupies the interior of the barracks at Auschwitz I. Because of timings, I felt unable to digest all the information that I would have lied to. Auschwitz is not a place that you should rush round. In homage to all the people who were once forced to live and die there, I was disappointed not to have had more time to read every testimony, watch every video, and study every map to gain more of an insight into true life at Auschwitz.

It’s easy to hear that over 1.1 million people died at Auschwitz, however to comprehend that number is near impossible. In Auschwitz I though, there are large rooms full of suitcases, glasses, prosthetics, and shoes to try and humanise the holocaust statistics and make you realise that each victim had family, friends, dreams, and ambitions just like you and I. The one room which shocked me the most was the one full of hair. Behind a large glass pane was hair from approximately 140,000 people. Hair is used in the current day as a form of expression and identity, and learning that millions of people had this robbed from them, against their will, was chilling.

It was by this point when I was starting to feel uncomfortable with where I was as I wasn’t quite sure what behaviour to adopt because I wasn’t sure (and I’m still not sure) what Auschwitz is today. Is it a museum, memorial, tourist attraction, or a combination of all three? Many, like myself, had come to explore the museum and learn more about the atrocities which took place. Others were lighting candles and placing wreaths next to the notorious “Wall of Death” between block 10 and 11. And, others were walking around with selfie sticks, snapping shots in front of barracks whilst they smiled with their friends. It seems like a juxtaposition that Auschwitz could be all three of these at once. For me, a place where tourists go to take souvenir pictures for Facebook couldn’t also be a memorial where people pay respects. A museum, which goes into the intricate details of what happened at Auschwitz, seems insensitive since many were using the same place as a memorial for their lost grandparents/great-grandparents. It left me in awe that Auschwitz seemed to have these three purposes: memorial, museum, and tourist attraction.

However, at the same time, it needs to be all three of these things. People need to be aware of what happened in Auschwitz and to never forget. Visiting the place helps you to learn more than you ever could from a book. Whatever people’s justification for visiting the site, if they learn just one thing from the visit and pass that on to a friend, surely it has made the visit worthwhile? It’s important that the victims are being remembered and to continue to raise awareness about the dangers of being a stander by – which is the theme of 2016’s Holocaust Memorial Day.

The “Wall of Death”
After our visit to Auschwitz I, we headed to Auschwitz-Birkenau. This was the place where people would arrive in overcrowded cattle trucks before being lined up for their fate to be decided by an SS officer. In one swift glance, the officer would decide whether they would be fit enough to work or if they should be sent straight to the gas chambers for execution.

After going up watchtower which looms over the entrance, we were shown two huts: one where men were put and one where children were put. The children’s hut was dark however writing and drawings on the walls could still be seen. The platforms for sleeping resembled large shelves. We were told that three children would be forced to occupy one. Words don't even begin to describe the living conditions children must have faced… but they carried on regardless because they had no other option.

At the other side of the camp was where men lived. The hut which we went inside had little light and the interior had been stripped. Only wooden beams and a hole for the toilet remained.

To round off the exhausting day, everyone who had come on the visit walked the kilometre from the entrance to the back of the camp where, next to the remains of the six gas chambers, a new memorial stood. It was here, Rabbi Garson made a powerful speech and read prayers before everyone lit a candle in remembrance of the 6 million who died in the Holocaust.

Rabbi Garson said that the last thing people said to each other when they realised they were going to die in the gas chambers was ‘I love you’. It shouldn’t take the fear of death for people to remind their close friends and relatives of this so Rabbi challenged every one of the 200 people on the visit to text a loved one and remind them that they do love them.

I took the long walk back to the bus in silence. Walking through the middle of one of the largest cemeteries in history is eerie to say the least. There was so much suffering in Auschwitz, it’s difficult to picture how some people managed to survive such a place. When I ask myself this question I think of the speech Zigi gave a week earlier. When he explained how he managed to survive, he said it wasn’t through some physical superiority or because he could out-wit anyone else. He says his survival was down to sheer luck.

The only picture I took on 22 October 2015.
This was a visit that I didn’t want to experience through a lens and screen.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Apple Surface / Microsoft iPad

Earlier this week Apple announced the iPad Pro. Remind you of anything?

Saturday, 22 August 2015

The Camp 2 - Slightly More Camp

Last year it was easy; nobody expected anything of the Summer Camp movie but, somehow, something we managed to splice together from shaky RAW footage actually turned out half decent. I'm told it was informative, intriguing, humorous, poignant and - most importantly - it didn't drag. The final product, received just shy of 400 views on YouTube which is 1/1,358,695th of the estimated views which James Cameron's Titanic got (what experts call the film most similar to 'The Camp 2014').

This year, planning for the sequel started weeks before summer camp when ideas were discussed with the production team at Seniors. Although we seemed to have found a winning formula with the original camp, we needed to make this year's film subtly different so people didn't find it repetitive. We also discussed possible names for the film. Rejected suggestions included '2 Camp' and 'Even More Camp'. In the end it was 'The Camp 2 - Slightly more camp' which stuck .

During Summer Camp the Scout and Seniors took it in turns filming different events. They had the ethos of: if you film someone for long enough, they're bound to do something funny. I also conducted my midweek interviews with Scouts, Seniors, and Rovers which were to be overlaid with the footage of the events to give them some context. By the end of the week, we had just shy of 40GB worth of footage.

Roughly a fortnight after camp, the Seniors, James and Neil met up at the den to begin the colossal job of editing. This took three days in total and involved no story board or formal plan - apart from the one in our head. We skimmed through the footage, inserted the appropriate scenes in an order which seemed to flow, move onto the next sections,  and then come back to it hours later when we'd notice some more useable RAW footage which we missed first time round. Although some may find this method questionable: hopefully it worked - however you can be the judge of that.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Future of the BBC to be determined this week

Director-General of the BBC: Tony Hall
Lately, the BBC has been under scrutiny as the review into the 2016 charter renewal continues. This will determine how the BBC will proceed and if they will still get funding via television license fees or through other methods.

The BBC, unlike any other British broadcaster, does not include paid advertisements on their television stations, radio stations, or even on their website. Instead, since 1946, they have been funded by a form of tax which they negotiate with the government. This is currently £145.50 per household.

The TV license fee raised a total of £3.735 billion in 2014-2015. Just under £2.4 billion is spent on TV, £653 million on radio, £201 million on online, £254 million on BBC World Service, and £519 million on other services.

The culture secretary, John Whittingdale, is to unveil a green paper this week in Parliament indicating what the future of the BBC will be. He has had eight experts advising him all with vast amounts of experience from across the industry. It's predicted that the green paper will not speak favourably about the BBC as Whittingdale has said in the past that the license fee is 'worse than poll tax'. It's also been reported that some of the eight advisors also don't approve of the TV license fee.

It is worth remembering though that unlike other broadcasters such as ITV, Channel 4, and Sky; the BBC doesn't just offer a range of TV channels and online catch up services. They also offer services such as Bitesize (a learning resource used by primary schools, secondary schools, and colleges up and down the country to help educate pupils), BBC News (an unbiased 24-hour news channel plus the sixth most visited UK website), and advert-free local radio and local TV stations. This week they launched their own simple computer called the 'micro:bit' to help teach students how to code. This goes to prove the BBC is much more than simply another broadcaster.

Even the services which they offer which are similar to those of competitors are far more supreme. For example: iPlayer (the BBC's on-demand service) has been executed far better than rival counterparts such as 4OD and ITV Player.

Supporters of the BBC are campaigning hard to retain the license fee as they claim "a diminished BBC would simply mean a diminished Britain".

However, it's undeniable that the BBC does waste money. According to the latest transparency report published in spring, there are 14 presenters/performers who earn over £500,000 every year. These are likely to include Jeremy Paxman, Fiona Bruce, Jeremy Clarkson, Gary Lineker, and Graham Norton.

Furthermore, in 2013 it was reported that £2 million was spent on food and drink including farewell parties for leaving staff. Also, John Linwood was fired from the corporation after he wasted £100 million on a failed 'digital media initiative'.

From a consumer point of view, many now splash out on subscriptions to other entertainment services including Netflix, Sky, BT Sport, Amazon Prime, and Virgin Media which are all significantly cheaper than the BBC licence fee.

If the license fee does stay, one of the compromises might be a change in programming. Despite the current Director-General of the BBC Tony Hall wanting BBC programs to continue to appeal to a diverse range of people (the BBC predicts that 96% of Brits consume their service weekly), there are rumours that suggest that a lean back to more educational shows rather than entertainment ones might be in order. This would mean an increase in programs such as David Attenborough’s Frozen Planet and Brian Cox's Wonders of the Universe, and a decrease in programs such as The Voice and Eastenders.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Who is the sexiest Member of Parliament? has went about answering the question that literally nobody is asking: who is the sexiest MP? The simple website presents visitors with two pictures of random MPs and they need to pick the one they find sexier. At the bottom of the page is the leader board so visitors can review where their member of parliament ranks.

The website, apart from being "the first ever parliamentary beauty contest", is also a quirky way of getting the British public to know their MPs.

More attention has been drawn to the website this week as it was revealed by The Telegraph that it was it is the most popular banned website in Parliament with staff trying to access the website 484,683 times. Sadly for them, most of the attempts were blocked by internet filters. The Urban Dictionary came in second with over 155,000 hits.

(At the time of writing, the Prime Minister David Cameron was ranked #209 and, the ex-leader of the opposition, Ed Miliband was ranked #231.)

Justifying Bercow's brawl with Greg Mulholland

Today, a segment from the televised 'questions to the Secretary for Health' in the House of Commons is going viral after the speaker, John Bercow, put Greg Mulholland MP in his place for taking too long asking his question.

The video, widely shared over social media, shows the end of the question asked by Mulholland before Bercow gives the honorable gentleman a roasting. Bercow, in a patronising tone, exclaimed "It's a discourtesy to the house to be long winded" before going on and saying "don't argue the toss with the Chair". This was is undeniably rude however debatably justifiable.

Lib Dem MP Greg Mulholland got told off today for talking too much. "Don't shake your head mate."
Posted by BuzzFeed UK Politics on Tuesday, 7 July 2015

The session was already overrunning and Mulholland's 'question' had already lasted 25 seconds before he was interrupted. That time was taken up by arguably unnecessary background information regarding a question which was previously answered. Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, will have been well aware of his previous correspondence so did not need to be reminded of it in front the rest of the House. In addition to this, most questions from MPs take just under 30 seconds to ask however when Mulholland was cut off at 25 seconds he didn't sound like he was close to coming to an end.

Bercow explained: "I am sympathetic to that, I respect that, but people can't simply take the attitude, 'my question's important and therefore I can be much longer' because that's not fair on other members".

The ordeal ended by Mulholland leaving the chamber, pointing angrily at Bercow for his controversial decision.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Greece Voted No: What Now...

Last night, many Greeks celebrated as the referendum on whether Greece should accept the offer from the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, and the European Central Bank produced a "no" vote. Out of 62.5% turnout, 61.31% voted όχι (no) because it would have launched the country into even worse austerity.

The referendum created large class division with many OAPs, young people, and lower classes leaning toward “no” and many middle-aged and middle-class people voting "yes".

In the week building up to the snap referendum, Alexis Tsipras (the Greek Prime Minister) and his party campaigned for the “no” vote. They claimed voting that way would help their negotiating power with the rest of Europe because they have a mandate from the people. The new negotiations started earlier today however without Greece's finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, who resigned this morning despite getting the result he campaigned for. One thing is for sure, these renegotiations will be difficult. Jeroen Dijsselbloem, President of the Eurogroup, stated that "the [referendum] result is very regrettable for the future of Greece."

Although Greeks voted against the terms that the European Union set out, most Greeks do actually want to stay in the EU.

Greek banks expected to run out of money within days so the Government is currently propping them up to make them "secure". Despite this, they still set to be closed for at least another next two days.

One source of money for Greece could be to revert back to their old currency: the drachma - which was ditched in 2001. If Greece does leave the Eurozone, it would be a complicated ordeal as there is currently no procedure for doing so because no country has ever left before.

Greece has already experienced 5 years of hopeless austerity. Many people who voted “no” think that any change must bring positive repercussions but, the reality of the situation is, the future is unclear.

Instagram to be in Full HD

Instagram is a social network based around sharing square pictures from your smartphone. Since the only way to upload pictures is from a mobile device (not a PC/Mac), the resolution of the images has been 640 x 640 ever since Instagram's launch in 2010. Since then though, cameras built into smartphones have come a long way and are capable of taking full HD pictures. This week, the source code on Instagram's website has revealed that photos are now being uploaded at 1080 x 1080 which suggests an update to the app in the near future will allow everyone to view the pictures at that quality.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Canon PowerShot S120 review

The Canon PowerShot S120 is the 2013 successor to the PowerShow S110 and is the latest in the PowerShot S line. It costs around £200-£210 new and is a steal if you consider the multitude of features which come built-in.

It takes (4000 x 3000) 12.1MP pictures at shutter speeds varying from 1/2500 of a second to 250 seconds. The automatic camera mode produces crisp images with deep colours which is perfect for simply capturing a moment. Though, there are also modes that prioritise shutter speed or aperture and automate every other variable if you want a picture to look a specific way without the process of taking it being too complicated. There are also full manual, custom and program modes for people who like to fiddle with every setting.

If you'd like to apply an effect, the camera comes with dozens including fish-eye, miniature, and background defocus – which produces SLR styled images. The HDR effect produces pictures with vivid colours however if the subject is moving quickly, noticeable outlines appear which spoil the image.
 High Dynamic Range

There are also numerous filters and modes so the camera can adapt for any scene or environment. These include an underwater mode, a firework mode, a portrait mode, and an impressive star mode. The star mode split into a further three modes: one which simply takes high quality images of stars, another which takes a picture of star trails (works best on a tripod), and one which records a video of the stars moving across the sky (also works better on a tripod).
Star trail mode

There are also a handful of settings available on every mode and filter for continuous shooting, self-timing, changing the aspect ratio, and determining the image size (as well as the really basic settings such as adjusting focus manually and turning flash on or off). The continuous shooting setting allows users to take 12.1 shots per second for the first five frames and then 9.4 shots per second for all the frames following.

On the front of the camera there is a control ring which you can change what setting it tweaks. By default, it controls the 5x optical zoom in most modes. This extremely handy feature, which is uncommon on most point-and-shoot cameras, makes zooming easy and effortless.

The PowerShot S120 boasts the ability to wirelessly share or backup pictures. You can connect your phone or tablet to the camera via WiFi to review pictures as soon as they have been taken, or even connect the camera to an online service such as Flickr, Google Drive, or CANON iMAGE GATEWAY to back them up.

One of the things that the PowerShot S120 does best is record videos. It can record 1920 x 1080 Full HD videos at 60 fps. The two slow motion modes allow recording at 240fps at a compromised 320 x 240 resolution or 120fps at VGA quality (640 x 480).

Regular video recording does expose one of the S120's major flaws. The microphone, unlike previous models of this camera, is situated on the top which is great if you're trying to record audio in all directions, however poor if you only want to primarily record the sounds in front of you (like what most people will want). This means that there is often lots of unnecessary background noise - especially when recording in loud/busy places. If you can get over the sound niggle, the video quality is very good overall.

The build quality of the camera is very high. The metal and plastic body make the camera feel well built and like it could survive a few drops. The control wheel on the front feels especially sturdy and the 3-inch multi-touch screen on the back feels like it's not going to crack easily. One problem is the battery life though - or lack of it. The Canon battery really doesn't last long which is a shame since this is such a good little camera. Sadly, the more settings you change and the more modes you use, the less the battery seems to last.

Overall, despite the unfortunate misplacement of the microphone and the short battery life, the picture and video quality more than makes up for the flaws this camera has. The sheer amount of settings, modes, and features this camera boasts makes it a very good product - and the high build quality only adds to that. I'd highly recommend this camera for day trips and weekend breaks however you'll always need to pack the charger with you if you go anywhere for more than a few days as the battery will simply not last.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Minecraft: as you've never seen it before

Today at Minecon 2015 in London, the trailer for Minecraft Story Mode was debuted. Despite the name, it is not actually a mode for the version of Minecraft that currently exists, it is instead a completely new standalone game. Story Mode, when released, will be an adventure game with a structured story line which will adapt to the player's decisions - rather than be a sandbox game like what Minecraft is where players can do whatever they want.

From what was revealed in the trailer, it can be gathered that the objective will be to defeat creepers, zombies, and other Minecraft monsters with a team of other characters. Although the trailer shows the game in third person, it's highly likely that the actual game will be first person just like what Minecraft is.

It is predicted that Minecraft Story Mode will arrive for computers, consoles and other devices later this year.

The best Vlogs on the Internet

Casey Neistat is a New York City based film maker known for his inimitable YouTube videos including 'Make it Count' for Nike and 'Bike Lanes'. In 2010, he also had a show on HBO with his brother Van. 100 days ago, on his 34th birthday, he took on the mammoth challenge of creating daily vlogs and uploading them on YouTube. They are beautiful short films (usually under 10 minutes long) which document his fascinating life.

Recurring topics which appear on the vlogs regularly include him talking very vaguely about his new business (which he hasn't provided the specifics of yet - or even what the company is called or does), question and answer sessions, spending time with his family, mail time, mooching around on a 'hover board' (see below), and lots and lots of meetings.

What makes these vlogs special, is the high quality in which they are produced. It's impressive that these videos have all been shot and edited in the same day. Everything in the vlogs from the beautiful time lapses of the New York City skyline to the gripping anecdotes he occasionally includes are fresh, unique and leave you wanting to watch more... Which isn't a big problem as another one is on it's way within the next 24 hours.

The first vlog:

Hover Boards:

One of my favorites:

Vlog 100:

Monday, 22 June 2015

Apple announce their first Android app - which helps users switch to iOS

At WWDC (Apple's conference for app developers) earlier today, the technology giant announced that they are soon going to be releasing their first Android apps. One of their new apps is called 'Move to iOS' which is designed to make the tedious task of moving messages, contacts, pictures, calendars, and books from an old phone to a new phone a lot easier - if your new phone happens to be an iPhone that is.

Even free apps which users have downloaded on their Android phone (such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook) will appear as recommended apps on their new iPhone.

Although Apple hasn't seen a significant fall in profit recently, this new app should ensure that they keep winning over Android users.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Seven Weird Moments from the 2015 General Election

The election trail took party leaders to all four corners of the country. Along the way, some very strange things happened...

1. Student drops trousers at sight of Nick Clegg

On the campaign trail in the West Midlands, Nick Clegg almost got to the bottom of things.

2. Polling Stations
Yes, that is someone's living room in Pica in Cumbria.

3. Miliband's trip

On the plus side, he fared quite well in front of the Question Time audience.

4. Paddy Ashdown eats his own hat... literally!

During an interview on May 7th, Liberal Democrat, Paddy Ashdown said he would eat his hat if the exit poll was accurate. Unfortunately for him, it was. The following evening, he was presented with an edible hat during Question Time.

5. Nigel on BBC bias

When all else fails, turn on the audience.

6. Is Ed Miliband tough enough?
Hell yes he's tough enough.

7. Murray's reaction
Al Murray's reaction to Nigel Farage losing out on the South Thanet seat was priceless. Murray actually ran in the election - but only got 318 votes.

How democratic was the 2015 General Election?

Not very. Just compare the amount of votes a party got and the corresponding amount of seats they got below.

How accurate were the opinion polls in the 2015 General Election?

Not very.

But the exit poll (taken on the same day as the election) is ridiculously accurate.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Microsoft encourages kids to code with Minecraft

During the second day of Microsoft’s annual developers' conference, they made an interesting announcement regarding Minecraft – the extremely popular sandbox game they bought for $2.5 billion last year. To encourage young people to get involved with computer science, they have added the ability to create Minecraft mods with Java into Visual Studio.

(A Minecraft mod – if you didn't already know – is a user created extension to the game. There are a diverse amount of mods available to download from the internet which do everything from add new bizarre blocks, to creating beautiful biomes.)

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

iOS and Android apps are coming to Windows Phone

Microsoft apps in 2013
The Windows store on both Windows Phone and Windows 8/10 devices has always been underpopulated compared to the app stores of Apple and Google. Microsoft is hoping to change that today with the announcement of four new ways to make it easier for developers to make Windows apps.

The first way is by registering their website with the Windows store. This then makes the website available in the store for users to download. When the website’s app is launched, it looks and feels just like a Windows app.

Secondly, Win32 apps and .NET programs are going to be able to be bought to the Windows Store. Microsoft announced Adobe Photoshop Elements and Adobe Premier Elements will be coming later this year.

Thirdly, Android, Java, and C++ apps are now supported in the Windows Store. With only a few modifications to code, they will be able to work seamlessly on Windows devices.

And finally, Objective C programmed apps (which is the programming language used to make iOS applications) will also work with both Windows 10 and Windows Phone. Developers can even quickly integrate the Object C apps with XBOX achievements. According to Microsoft, the Candy Crush Windows Phone app is already an example of an Objective C app.

With the promise of 1 billion Windows 10 users by 2018 – plus these new, easy ways to make apps for Windows – I can imagine many thousands more Windows apps arriving very soon.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Peter Kay's Car Share review

In the driving seat: Peter Kay in 'Car Share'
Peter Kay's new BBC 1 comedy, 'Car Share', premiered during April. The six-part sitcom has been in the works for many years now and tells the story of two supermarket employees: John (Peter Kay) and Kayleigh (Sian Gibson). They met each other when they were paired together in their work's car share scheme so almost all of the series is set in John's Fiat. Other series's set wholly in a car include Rob Brydon's 'Marion and Goeff' and 'Carpool' on Dave. 'Car Share' is a welcomed addition to the car comedy category.

The series is very amusing and heartwarming as the character's friendship grow. Comedies with simple settings, like Car Share, rely on well-written, humorous dialogue. The four writers of the show have thankfully done a great job; despite the whole show being set in a car, the two characters don't drive you mad.

From adults using children's crossings, to death, dogging and dating, the two characters discuss an array of typical topics that many will find relatable and humorous.

After no TV work from Peter Kay for over a decade, I was expecting more from 'Car Share' however it is an entertaining light watch if you've got time to kill. The show is sadly no where near the same level as Kay's previous work such as Phoenix Nights and Max and Paddy's Road To Nowhere. 

'Car Share' was debuted on BBC iPlayer between April 24th - 28th and was then broadcast weekly on BBC 1 from the following week.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

10 years since the first YouTube video was uploaded

On Valentines Day 2005, three former PayPal employees set about creating a new website called YouTube. The website allowed both individuals and corporations alike to upload, view, and share videos of different formats whether they be vlogs, shorts, TV clips or music videos. The first YouTube video, called 'Me at the zoo' was uploaded on April 23rd 2005 and it is still available to watch today:

YouTube became so popular, Google purchased it for $1.65 billion in 2006 and by 2007 it was estimated that YouTube consumed as much bandwidth as the entire Internet did in 2000!

YouTube in 2005
10 years on, YouTube is rated the 4th most visited website in the US and UK. They has recently released an app exclusively for children called 'YouTube Kids', the video player is compatible with 4K 3D video, everyone from politicians and celebrities to lonely teenagers living in back-bedrooms upload a total of 300 hours of content to YouTube every minute, and YouTube Music Key (launched late 2014) allows users use YouTube like a music streaming service. It hasn't been a completely smooth journey to where it is today though. YouTube is banned in multiple countries for both political and logistical reasons, controversial content uploaded by users have made them subject to numerous government inquiries, and similar services such as Vimeo have launched offering content creators appealing alternatives.

So can YouTube flourish for another 10 years? I hope so. Unlike some other Google products, YouTube seems to always be getting new features and design upgrades. Also many teens would struggle to survive without the a breed of celebrity called 'YouTubers' (such as Caset Neistat, Zoella and Syndicate). The developers of YouTube also have a good sense of humor which the internet appreciates.

However, Facebook has been working hard on their video player over the past few months and they were happy to report today that videos on their website are getting over 4 billion daily views. This was the number YouTube was at only 3 years ago. However, I predict Facebook still has a long way to go until it reaches YouTube's level of success with compelling content.

The world wouldn't be the place it is today without YouTube. It is a valuable service for so many storytellers, creators, musicians, celebrities, politicians and businesses around the world and it is the number one place for online videos - for now anyway.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Facebook launches It's Facebook Messenger without Facebook
Last week Facebook showed off a bunch of new apps developed by third parties which worked in line with Facebook messenger. These apps allowed messenger users to send each other GIFs, sounds, and other types of media which was impossible to do previously.

Today, Facebook has launched which gives users a sleek, clean interface for users to message each other with on a computer without needing to use the Facebook website. The website closely resembles the Facebook Messenger iPad app and has many of the same basic functionalities.

To send a thumbs up, users can click and hold depending on how large you want it to be, users can send pictures from their documents folders, and they have access to all the sticker packs that they have downloaded on messenger on their smartphone. The calling and video calling capabilities are even included.

Developers have already turned into a Mac app. Fingers crossed that a Facebook messenger Chrome extention is in the works too which can be used without a browser (like Google Hangouts).

For users who use Facebook messenger to communicate but don’t like to be distracted by creepy Teletubbies videos, friends’ mundane first world problems, and advertisements; is the perfect platform. However, I find myself constantly wanting to check other notifications - not just messages - so I need to revert back to using the traditional Facebook website.

Monday, 9 February 2015

OneDrive adds subtle new features for better photo experience

New photo album feature in Microsoft OneDrive
Microsoft’s service for securely saving your pictures, videos, Office documents, and other files in the cloud, OneDrive, has recently added some subtle new features which lay the foundations for a significantly better photo experience.

For years now, users of OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) have been able to automatically backup their phone’s camera roll to the platform and even manually save photos from their other devices on there. Once the photos are safely stored in the cloud, users are able to share them via a link – however that’s about it.

Meanwhile, Google has a similar service, which does the same, built into Google+. And, once photos are uploaded: magic happens. Google+ photos automatically recognises faces and locations, suggests what filter would look best on individual photos, makes similar photos into animated GIFs, creates photo stories, and automatically enhances every picture. From what was announced at the Windows 10 event during January and from what has been added to OneDrive recently, it looks like things are finally about to improve for OneDrive users… Maybe even to a Google+ standard.

In the recent OneDrive update, every photo added to an album is also displayed under the ‘photos’ menu in reverse chronological order so you can easily find recent snaps. These photos are displayed in a crisp, clean, edge-to-edge page.

Also, any photos uploaded to OneDrive can now be added to a photo album which automatically applies tags to pictures depending on what’s in the frame. The tags, so far, are things like #people, #screenshot, #text which make pictures easier to find photos via search. To search photos you can either use the search bar in OneDrive, or even Bing.

Although this seems like only a baby step as it is unlikely that the new features will be noticed by anyone who doesn’t use OneDrive a lot, it is a step in the right direction for OneDrive. Users have their fingers crossed for better sharing functionality, people tagging, and better editing/enhancing functions to come soon.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

What to expect in the next version of Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office is the software package which provides people around the world with the most popular word processor, spreadsheet software, presentation software, and email client.

Some of the features that are going to be included in the next version of Office (probably to be named Office 2016) were announced at Microsoft’s Windows 10 event during January.

The new version of PowerPoint on Windows Phone
Although Microsoft Office is currently available on Windows Phone, it lacks functionality and can be very slow; Microsoft hopes to change that with an updated version of the Microsoft Office apps. The update will allow you to do anything on your smartphone that you can do on your computer as the tabs ‘review’, ‘file’ and ‘format’ are available amongst others. The mobile user interface - which they gave the press and developers a sneak peek of in January - even looked like the familiar Microsoft Office 2013. Office for mobile will also support cloud printing.

On mobile, you will be able to view and edit Microsoft Word documents either in a page view – which shows how the document will look when printed, or a mobile view - which optimises the document so it is easier to view on smartphones.

Outlook in Office 2016
Word in Office 2016

PowerPoint will include sophisticated new animations and be able to wirelessly cast to screens. Outlook Mail has had a full redesign as well and Word is integrated for rich email formatting. Like what you can currently do on the Gmail app or the Apple Mail app, Outlook now lets you slide right on emails to flag them or slide them left to delete.

Apart from the mobile version and the desktop version, the next version of Office will also have a touch optimised version for tablets and convertibles. This looks very similar to the version of Office available for iPad.

Sadly, Microsoft doesn’t seem have a problem with a PC having two versions of Office installed; one for desktop and one for touch. I suppose they’ve done it for years like that with OneNote on Windows 8 which comes included both in Microsoft Office and also as Windows Store app.

Overall, Microsoft looks like it is continuing to do what it does best by maintaining Office’s status as the best software package for your office needs however they need to address the issue of multiple versions of the same software on one device.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

What to expect in Windows 10

Microsoft’s event in January played host to a number of announcements including the Surface Hub and the HoloLens. However, the primary purpose of the event, and the announcement which took up the most time, was showing off new features which are due to arrive in Windows 10.

Windows 10 was first announced at a tiny event last September and since then 1.7 million Windows insiders have downloaded the technical preview and given feedback to Microsoft on it. Some of the features included so far in Windows 10 include:
  • A new action centre when you slide in from the right which includes a list of notifications and quick settings (such as Wi-Fi, aeroplane mode, and a button to switch between desktop and tablet mode).
  • A new settings menu which combines the Windows 8 settings app and control panel which could only be accessed on desktop mode.
  • A new way of app switching when you slide in from the left which is now more ‘elegant and natural’.
Windows 10 action centre
It was Joe Belfiore, the man responsible for the design and software product definition of Windows services, who came on stage to announce the new Windows 10 features. Before he did, he stressed that what he would be showing was an ‘early build’ thus is prone to glitches.

Belfiore first talked about the new search bar which sits comfortably next to the iconic start button in the bottom left corner of the display. It has Cortana, Microsoft’s digital assistant, built in – which was previously exclusive to Windows Phone – and it can be operated hands-free like by shouting ‘Hey Cortana’.

To demonstrate Cortana’s new capabilities, Belfiore had a cringe-worthy conversation with her where he showed how it could track flights, display weather forecasts, push calendar notifications, speak the latest sports results, and even attempt to do impersonations. All of the data that Cortana learns about the user is stored in what Microsoft is calling ‘the notebook’. Users can go here and review what Cortana has learnt about them. This proves that Microsoft is being transparent about the data they collect about their users.

Joe Belfiore in front of the improved photos app
The terrible Windows 8 photos app has finally been significantly updated with a new, slicker, and simpler user interface and a handful of new features. Photos automatically uploaded to OneDrive are now auto-enhanced and duplicates are hidden – capabilities which are extremely familiar to people who currently use Google Plus Photos. The new photos app also automatically files photos into albums depending on where they were taken, when they were taken and who is in them. In the header of the albums include a list of people who are tagged and the name of the album so you can share it on the Internet – once again, functionality which is familiar to people who have been using Google Plus Photo Stories. (All the photo features can be turned off in settings if you don’t want them.)

Belfiore then briefly touched upon a redesign to the People app and the Music app. The new Music app allows you to store your whole music album in OneDrive and then stream it from any of your devices - just like what you can currently do on Google Music.

Windows 10 on a desktop PC
The new lightweight Internet browser which was rumoured last week was officially announced. ‘Project Spartan’ has a new engine which is better built for the current internet (unlike Internet Explorer which is running into an increasing amount of compatibility issues as the web develops). The new browser has ‘three significant new features’ one of which is the ability to draw on pages using a stylus or your finger, click to add comments to the page and share the page with friends via OneNote. The page’s current content is saved however the links remain working. The second feature is a new reading mode which standardises web pages so you can consume content in a clean environment and open PDF documents in the browser instead of having to download them. Reading lists are now synced and offline so you can read when not connected to the Internet. The third, and probably biggest new feature, is Cortana built directly into the search bar.

Windows 10 on
a smartphone
Regarding games, the XBOX app has been improved greatly and you can now stream XBOX One games through your Windows 10 device – something which Microsoft has been promising for years.

The most surprising announcement of the day wasn’t actually about any new software features, it was that Windows 10 will be a completely free upgrade for Windows 7, 8, 8.1, and Windows Phone 8.1 users in the first year. This terrific news was met by light applause. Microsoft said that devices will be updated until they literally can’t take it anymore which sadly might already be the case for Windows RT as no plans have been released to update those devices to Windows 10.

Windows 10 is predicted for release in late 2015. Until then, technical previews will be available to Windows insider users until spring and then Microsoft will add the finishing touches to the OS before it becomes available for the millions of people currently using Windows 7 or above.

Microsoft's new augmented reality goggles: HoloLens

Recently, Microsoft has been lagging behind companies such as Apple and Google when it comes to innovation however, at their Windows 10 event during January, that all changed when they announced a holographic headset called Microsoft HoloLens.

Microsoft HoloLens
HoloLens looks like something which has been plucked straight out of a futuristic sci-fi movie. Once a user puts the headset on, it spatially maps the world around them so they can look through HD lenses into an augmented reality world. In this digital world, they can play games (Minecraft was demonstrated in Microsoft’s announcement), make Skype calls, overlay designs on reality, and much more. All of these scenarios allow the user to move around and look at the holograms in 3D like they were really there. This is never-seen-before, exciting new technology isn’t something you would usually expect from Microsoft.

Microsoft says that the HoloLens includes a high-end CPU but that they needed to invent a new processor especially for this device because there isn’t currently one available that would have done the job well enough. This decision seems to have paid off because there has been almost no lag at all in the test demos.

HoloLens runs a special version of Windows 10 called Windows Holographic and Microsoft claims that Windows 10 apps can be adapted so that they work with the headset.

The user interface on Windows Holographic
Although Microsoft says HoloLens will ‘transform you living room into a surreal gaming environment’, the main demonstration of Windows Holographic featured an employee using HoloStudio – a Microsoft design studio which they said lets you ‘build 3D… in 3D’ – to construct a quad-copter out of various different shapes. Once the holographic app was launched, a 3D toolbox appeared which was full of different shapes with different holographic textures and paints. Users can summon these different items in two different ways: either by voice or by staring at what you need – HoloLens understands both. The words ‘tap and gaze, and tap again’ were repeated constantly during this demo emphasising how simple HoloLens is to use. Then, to put the icing on the cake, they announced that products built in HoloStudio could be 3D printed within minutes.

The outro to this unorthodox yet intriguing announcement was a video featuring Scientists explaining how, by this summer, they will be using HoloLens to both control Mars rovers and to immerse themselves in the Martian landscape.

Microsoft announces the Surface Hub: an 84-inch 4K touchscreen whiteboard

The new Microsoft Surface Hub
At Microsoft’s even in January, the technology giant announced that they were entering a whole new product category which appears to be a blend of a television and an interactive whiteboard. It is called the Microsoft Surface Hub.

This is not a product aimed at consumers; Microsoft isn’t even attempting to market it that way. Instead, businesses and organisations are the target market of this unique device which features a 4K display, dual cameras, microphones, and inbuilt Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC.

Like many of the Surface products, the Surface Hub comes with a stylus which, once picked up, automatically turns the screen white so it can be drawn on. The notes are then automatically saved to OneNote.

Skype for business plus other useful business tools are built-in. During the unveiling event of the device, Microsoft employees staged a conference call where notes were made and a virtual 3D model was toyed with. Once the call had ended, all the information used during the call – including the notes and diagrams - were then sent to the people involved automatically and the apps closed down so the device was ready for the next meeting. The Surface Hub looks like the ultimate conferencing tool.

Users can cast to the Surface Hub from their Windows Phone or Windows 10 PC either wirelessly or with a wire. This is ideal for PowerPoint presentations, showing off charts in spreadsheets, and even simply watching videos.

The Surface Hub is running Windows 10 however the apps have been optimised for such a large screen. This means that you can multitask and run two apps side-by-side.

The Surface Hub comes in two sizes: 55-inch and 84-inch. And, although there is no price point yet – it is highly likely that this thing isn’t going to be cheap. Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, said at the January Microsoft event: “We want to move from people needing Windows, to choosing Windows and loving Windows”. He hopes this will be a step in the right direction for Microsoft instead of a repeat of the $8000 PixelSense (Surface) table they announced in 2008 everyone has forgotten about (apart from Hawaii Five-0).

A disastrous flop: the Microsoft PixelSense in Hawaii Five-0 - a TV program sponsored by Microsoft

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Al Murray, pub landlord, to stand as candidate in forthcoming general election

Xenophobic pub landlord, Al Murray has turned his attention to politics recently with his announcement that he will be running as a candidate for South Thanet in the forthcoming general election.

Murray announced his political plans on his YouTube channel where he stated “The system is broken. We all know it is. You hear people saying you shouldn’t vote. Well, you should vote… for me.”

Al Murray: Future MP of South Thanet?
Murray represents FUKP (Free United Kingdom Party) who claim to have “common sense policies for common sense people” which have been laid out in a 13 point plan. FUKP’s pledges include National Service – but only for people who don’t want to do it, the unemployed to be locked up to reduce crime, and South Thanet to be made the new capital of the UK with a demilitarised zone set-up between North and South Thanet. Out of all of these controversial pledges, the one which stands out most is his promise for the penny pint – clearly influenced by his background as a pub landlord.

Many politicians have taken the news that Murray is running to become an MP with good humour however others are arguing that this stunt is a dangerous joke. In response to hearing the news of the comedy candidate Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP – the party that Murray is clearly parodying – said “The more, the merrier”. South Thanet also happens to be the seat that Nigel Farage is running for. Will Scobie, Labour candidate for that area also, said that Murray will “certainly make things interesting”.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

David Cameron proposes backdoor government access to messaging services

Services which could soon be monitored or banned by the
Government if the Conservatives win the next general election
In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo shootings last week in Paris, questions have been raised about how these kind of attacks can be prevented in the future. David Cameron, Prime Minister of Great Britain, pledged earlier this week that if the Conservatives win the general election they’ll introduce laws allowing the Government to access encrypted messages from services such as iMessage, WhatsApp, and Snapchat in hope that this would prevent acts of terrorism from being organised over the web.

David Cameron said: “If I am Prime Minister I will make sure that it is a comprehensive piece of legislation that does not allow terrorists safe space to communicate with each other.”

The controversial announcement was superficial and logistics were not mentioned. Messaging apps such as iMessage, WhatsApp, and Skype crucially market themselves as private messaging services where only the sender and recipient can view the messages – the companies themselves can’t even gain access to the encrypted messages. Therefore, technology companies have spoken out against these proposals; offering the Government backdoor access to user’s messages is not something they are prepared to do lightly as most companies would lose their unique selling point of offering secure and private messaging services. Consequently, messaging services would also see a significant reduction in users.

Even approaching this issues from the Government’s perspective, despite rumours of a new cyber-cell government organisation that will monitor communications, former security minister, Lord West, said “We probably do need a little bit more money for the security service”.

Even non-encrypted services such as Twitter and Facebook will be pushed by David Cameron and Barack Obama to co-operate with intelligence services as Cameron claims “they have a social responsibility to fight the battle against terrorism”.

If the law does pass in the next government and technology companies do not comply with it, it has been suggested that the government could ban or severely limit services. Plus, there is no guarantee that monitoring encrypted services will be successful; there is a large change that extremists will simply migrate to another medium of communication whether that be online on not.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Dell’s new XPS 13 is a stylish MacBook rival running Windows

Last week, when Dell announced the Venue 8 7000 at CES in Las Vegas I dubbed it the best Android tablet currently on the market. They also subtly announced the new XPS 13 – an Ultrabook - and it has thankfully followed suit of the Venue 8.

With a price point of around £1100 and a 13-inch display, Dell is marketing the XPS 13 as the ‘smallest’ Ultrabook currently available. The Ultrabook is undoubtedly a direct rival to the 13-inch Apple MacBook Pro. What separates this computer from the MacBook though is its Full-HD touchscreen – something which Mac enthusiasts have been lusting after for several years now.

The touchscreen isn’t the only feature which makes this computer stand out. It has the same ridiculously thin bezel around the screen, as seen in the Venue 8 7000 tablet, which Dell has coined ‘infinity’ display. Also, the glass touchpad is being called one of the best on the market with no lag at all.

The XPS 13 is currently boasting a 15-hour battery life however it is unlikely that that will be achievable in reality. But for when the battery is running low, Dell sells a compatible USB external battery which can be plugged in for working on the go.

Other than that, the Dell XPS 13 could easily be confused with a MacBook Pro. They share the same backlit keyboard, crisp screen, and appearance. Bottom line, this is a stunning MacBook Pro but running Windows 8.1.

If you are looking for a powerful, stylish Windows Ultra-book with a touchscreen, this the best thing on the market at the moment - and probably will continue to be for the rest of 2015.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

My 2015 Technology Predictions

  • Spring Launch of the Apple Watch. It will cost a fortune.
  • iPhone 6S with a faster processor and better battery life (as per usual). It will also have... well... what else can they improve on?
  • Apple to finally radically improve the Apple TV.
  • iTunes to be available from iCloud on the web so your music library is in the cloud.
  • Android M is launched - (Marshmallow maybe?)
  • First Android Auto vehicles get unveiled.
  • Android TV.
  • An explosion in Android Wear devices.
  • Another Microsoft Surface - maybe with no kickstand at all
  • Touch-friendly versions of Microsoft Office (similar to what is available for iPad) developed for Windows 8/Windows 10 devices.
  • New, faster, more functional Internet browser.
  • Cortana to be pushed out to more Internet devices. 
  • Microsoft to make a smartwatch. Live tiles on your wrist - maybe also a kickstand if it is branded with 'Surface'.
  • Little updates to Windows Phone 8 (if any). Focus to be moved onto Windows Phone 10.
  • Pricing structure for Microsoft Office is sorted out (it is currently free on iPad however £60 on PCs)

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Microsoft to ditch Internet Explorer in Windows 10 for a faster, more powerful Internet browser

For the last few months, there have been rumours that Microsoft has been working on an Internet browser for Windows 10 that isn’t Internet Explorer. Latest rumours circulating suggest that the replacement browser is currently code named ‘Spartan’ and will be more like Chrome and Firefox.

What the Internet browser on Windows 10 will allegedly look like
Over the last few years, Internet explorer has gathered a reputation for being slow and lacking functionality. But that might all be about to change with this new ‘lightweight’ browser that Microsoft is apparently developing. ‘Spartan’ is rumoured to have Microsoft’s digital assistant Cortana built in so when you need information, such as your personal flight times or package tracking, you just enter that in the browser’s address bar and Cortana will return with the results you need. Cortana’s integration would also mean that you could use your voice to ask questions and perform searches.

A second new feature allows users to draw on top of web pages using their stylus and then share the notes/doodles that they have overlaid – probably a feature built with the Microsoft Surface in mind (a device that comes with a stylus).

Like Safari, Chrome and Firefox, ‘Spartan’ will sync across devices so the desktop version will always be up-to-date with the tablet version and the phone version.

Even when Windows 10 has launched, updates will continue to be pushed out as ‘Spartan’ will be a Windows Store app – unlike Internet Explorer which changes only when a new version of Windows is released.

‘Spartan’ is being described as a really basic version of Google Chrome at the moment. The program is currently in early development and only has a few features however it is a step in the right direction and I think it will be good for Microsoft to finally replace Internet Explorer – well sort of… Although Internet Explorer will not be the primary browser, there are claims that it will remain on Windows 10 for backward compatibility reasons.

We are going to have to wait until Microsoft’s Windows 10 event on January 21st to find out more information.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Dell announces the thinnest - and one of the best - tablets in the world

The best tablet announced at CES 2015 was definitely the Dell Venue 8 7000. At 6mm thin, it is the slimmest tablet to date but it hasn’t made any sacrifices. The Venue features an 8.4-inch edge-to-edge OLED display which Dell is calling an “infinity display” meaning that the bezel is almost invisible. The screen is also crisp and sharp, with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,600.

The tablet is also one of the first to include Intel’s Real Sense 3D camera which allows users to take 8MP images and then refocus them – a technology popularised by trendy camera manufacture Lytro. There are two an additional 720p stereoscopic sensors to make the depth camera possible.

A large speaker and a 2MP camera for video calls and #selfies foot the screen on the front of the device.

The Venue has 16GB storage (plus a MicroSD card slot for additional storage), 2GB RAM and currently runs Android KitKat however Dell promises that there will be a Lollipop upgrade in the near future.

For $399 you can buy the Venue 8 7000 today in the US – it unfortunately isn’t available anywhere else yet. Dell says it will be coming to other markets in “early 2015” and in my eyes, it will be worth the wait. The only drawback I can see is the fact that this is a tiny tablet; with a screen size of 8.4-inches it is neither a tablet nor a phablet. It is somewhere in the middle. I can imagine most people wishing this tablet was a few inches bigger.
Impossibly thin: The Dell Venue 8 7000 is 6mm thick

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Blocks Wearables plan to launch a modular smartwatch by the end of 2015!

Remember Phonebloks, the company that teased and tantalised you with a video of a modular smartphone where you could easily interchange panels on the back for a better camera, improved battery life or additional storage. Well, another company, Blocks Wearables talked about a modular smartwatch at CES and unlike the modular smartphone by Phonebloks, the smartwatch might actually be launched!

Of course, the essential central block in the modular smartwatch will be the watch face. This will contain a screen and other basic hardware which is necessary for the watch to function. But then the strap, comprised of 6 blocks, will be interchangeable and each one will have different capabilities. You will be able to add links which extend battery, monitor heart rate, allow the user to make contactless payments, and much more.

This smartwatch will be dead in the water unless it gathers funding. Blocks Wearables anticipates to do this in June on; a crowd-sourcing website ideal for raising money for projects such as this one.

The concept of this watch is great, however I’m unconvinced it will be a success (if it even gets funding that is). Smartwatches were almost non-existent this time last year and I think it might be too soon for a modular smartwatch to be made; manufactures still haven’t managed to make an perfect regular smartwatch yet (although the LG G Watch and the Pebble Steel come close). The reason the Phonebloks modular smartphone was never made was because it was too complex and I feat that might also be an issue that Blocks Wearables might run in to.