Exploring iOS 12: Screen Time

Screentime: A Wake Up to Tech Addiction

For quite some time now we have all been commenting on the increase in technology addiction and how people using social media and phone apps engage less and less with the “Real” world and those around them. Screen time is out to change that.

Apple have put together the Screen Time app that easily and clearly shows us how much time we are spending on each and activity. Prepare to be shocked by your own habits! It goes one step further than just showing us, it allows us to actually set an allowance of how much time you want to spend in each app each day.

So if your an instagram addict or a facebook fanatic and you want to get some control over how much of your life you invest in these apps you can set your own limits an get warned when you are approaching them.

When you hit your limit you’ll be met with a blank screen with a warning and a button to let you extend your time in the app -which means that any extension of time is an affirmative action by you - so you only have yourself to blame!

We think its a really positive step that, despite at first appearance seems to fly in the face of what a tech company’s normal motivations are, could end up improving Apple’s reputation and bringing back some Humanity to the technology we use.


Speed up your web browsing on Mac and iOS with one simple change.

What is DNS?

So this post may at first appear to be geeky and jargon laden but stick with it.

When you visit a website you type in its web address in your browser. Something like dujio.com , for example, but this isn't actually the real address of a website.

The real address of a website will be a number (IP address) that looks something like this:

192 . 168 . 1 . 15

Obviously it's too difficult for people to remember numbers so there is a technology known as DNS or Domain Name System. This system is like a giant telephone directory that converts the text address that you type in into the IP address or number that actually represents a website.

Many organisations provide access to the sytem from your internet service provider, mobile phone company or even via Google or other DNS projects such as OpenDNS.

These organisations act as a gateway to the DNS directories but for many reasons their speed and effectiveness varies but more concerning is that they are able to gather data on your network usage and use it to target ads or sell on to third party companies.

Who is Cloudflare?

Cloudflare is a company that specialises in securing and optimising websites and their back ends - increasing their robustness and safety in world filled with threats to our online lives. They have debuted their own DNS system that appears to be significantly faster than the competition.

With one simple change you can greatly increase the speed at which websites load in your browser and also increase your online safety at the same time. Unlike Google, Cloudflare doesn't harbour your data and make use of it.

What About My iPhone/iPad?

Well you're in luck, in the past few days Cloudflare have also released an app to enable you to easily get the same benefits on ios. Yous simply download the app from the App Store (just search for Cloudflare). Its very simple and guides you through the process. The app actually installs a VPN profile to your device and is simply an on or off switch.

How Do I Use It On My Mac?

Its quite simple but Cloudflare do a good job explaining it. Simply type 1.1.1.1 in your browser to visit their website and get easy instructions about how to use it with your Mac.

Let us know in the comments what you think?


So what's a HEIF anyway?

HEIF or High Efficiency Image Format is the new format that Apple is going all in on for their devices and products from the release of iOS 11 onwards (any day now). It will replace JPEGS as the standard format for iPhones (which happen to be the most used cameras in the world).

Of course any changes like this tend to cause panic amongst those used to doing things a certain way so we will take a moment to explain what HEIF is and how it will (or won't) affect you.

What is it?

HEIF is actually the still image form of the H.265 video format that is now a go to standard. The biggest advantage to you and me is that a HEIF file will take up roughly half the space of an ordinary JPEG but will actually be higher quality in terms of clarity and colour reproduction. This will mean you will free up a huge amount of space on your iPhone, as it is generally photographs that take up the majority of space on our devices these days, this is particularly useful for those who opted for a 16gb iPhone (I couldn't cope!).

JPEG (Joint Photographic Expert Group) has been around a very long time and significant advances have been made in imaging technology so it seems only right that it should now be replaced with a superior and more efficient format.

So other than space what else can this new format do?

The efficiency of HEIF means that it should also be less taxing on your devices processor and ultimately the battery too. Encoding of the format is hardware accelerated on Apple devices.

The other point is rather than being just a filetype, a HEIF is actually a container. What this means is that it can be more than just a simple image. It can be a collection of images and include sound. If that sounds familiar it should, Apple's Live Photo feature has these elements and this is partly why Apple are choosing this format as it allows them to experiment with photography on their phones with greater flexibility. It can also handle transparency like a GIF file.

The only way is up! Right?

There are no downsides I can think of in using HEIF over JPEG. Currently JPEG is king in the world of photography. Apple has made it clear that when using HEIF in iOS 11 - you won't notice any difference in what you do. The images are taken in HEIF but when you need to send them to someone or upload them somewhere they are dynamically converted to JPEG to ensure complete compatibility.

So you don't need to worry about converting anything or incompatibility. Basically until the rest of the world catches up and switches over, you will benefit from extra space and speed. When the world (and indeed the web) switches over to this format browsing websites will be much faster and that can only a good thing.


Smart Home

Smart Stuff = Smart Home

It seems that everything these days is given the moniker "Smart" but what does it really mean?

Well, in a nutshell, its an easy way of saying that the device/object/thing is interactive, usually via WiFi or bluetooth and more than likely via a mobile app. The idea of the connected home has been a fantasy since the 60's, but now it is slowly becoming a reality.

Here I will run through a few of the most popular and some unusual smart devices available today.

 

1: Okidokeys Smart Locks

 

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So some might hesitate at the idea of an electronic lock, but they have been around for a while and seem to pass muster. The new part here, however, is the ability to unlock with your mobile device. The advantage here is that you can grant temporary access to trusted parties, i.e friends, neighbours feeding the cat etc and revoke at any time - all remotely.

Price: between £110 - £163

More Info: https://www.okidokeys.com

2: Philips Hue Connected Lighting

 

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Philips introduced the Hue system over a year ago and it has had an exclusive deal with the Apple Stores. This lighting system is very popular because it consists mainly of colour changing bulbs, meaning that you can use your existing light fittings and lamps to create beautiful atmospheric lighting. The boon of Hue is that you can control the overall design of a room - the bulbs are aware of each other and you can create schemes and gradients using the mobile app - even grabbing colours from your photos. There are also modes that assist with relaxation, concentration and sleep.

 

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Recently, Philips also introduced two new members of the hue family, lightstrips - perfect for behind televisions, desks, kitchens etc and Bloom, a connected lamp that flood lights whole walls. All of the hue devices are connected via a little box that you plugin to your home router known as the bridge. Its very simply to set up and can create beautiful light-scapes.

Price: £49.95 - £179.95

More info: http://www.meethue.com/en-GB

 

3: Withings Body Analyzer

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Withings create several health based devices that all have corresponding apps. The first one is the Withings Body Analyzer. This clever little scale is able to record your weight, body fat percentage and also your heart rate. Interestingly, the latest version, also checks your air quality, measuring CO2 readings and the temperature every 30 minutes.

Great for families, you can setup multiple profiles to track goals and measurements separately. Withings has its own tracking app but there are lots of apps that their devices are compatible with.

 

Price: £129.95

More info: http://www.withings.com/en/bodyanalyzer

 

4: Belkin Wemo Switch

 

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The Wemo Switch by belkin is simply an adapter that you plug any electrical device into allowing you to remotely control the power from your mobile, wherever in the world you are. You can schedule switches to come on and off at set times. There is a version which comes with a motion sensor to trigger power based on movement and there is also a new version called "insight" that will allow you to track individual expenditure for each device you have connected to a wemo insight adapter. They work in tandem and you can use many throughout your home.

Price: Starts at £39.95

More info:  http://www.belkin.com/uk/Products/home-automation/c/wemo-home-automation

 

5: Parrot AR Drone

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Whilst not quite a domestic essential, the AR Drone from parrot is a boat load of fun. The quadrocopter is controlled via an app on your iOS or Android phone and has an on board camera to record video or take stills. Perfect for checking out which neighbours have swimming pools!

Price: £279.95

More info: http://ardrone2.parrot.com/ 

 


Going Paperless

My office is far from spacious and as such the paper mountain is just simply not an option. Despite most of the world going digital, so much of our lives is still paper based.

Until companies, governments and our employers get with the programme we still have to battle against the accumulation of dead trees.

This is where technology can really play its part in simplifying your life and streamlining how you handle your paper work.

The first thing you should think about is investing in a really powerful scanner. Not the kind for scanning photos but the kind that can scan quickly and two sides at the same time. The Fuji Scan Snap range of scanners are pretty flawless.

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The Scan Snap ix500 is the latest from Fuji and packs many brilliant features but the most interesting is the ability to scan straight to you ios devices.

It is certainly not cheap but its super speed double side scanning and the fact it handles all different sizes of paper at once means you can fill it with invoices, bills, business cards and receipts and in a couple of seconds the whole lot is digitised.

 

There are lots of services and software out there for the storage of your docs. Here are some links to some that you might find useful.

Evernote - The ever useful and ever free evernote is superb for scanning to and is often integrated into the scanners software.[/one_half_last]

Paperless - I use this software as its very similar to the Finder you have on your mac and it has basic OCR (optical character recognition  what this means, in a teeny tiny nutshell, is that the documents you scan are converted into searchable pdfs, saving time in tagging and naming files as all the text is searchable.

Yep - This little gem is great for those of you that like to use tags to organise your world. You can download a demo from their website.

 

One of the other elements of my near paperless life is the ability to make reasonable scans with my iPhone. I only have an iPhone 4 and yet the camera is more than suitable enough to scan documents. There is an app that makes things very simple and that is Genius Scan.

There are hundreds of scanning apps for iPhones and I have tried many of them and this one is heads and shoulders above the rest.

The main trick for me is its ability to auto crop and size your snaps as well as converting to High Contrast black and white which means that those wrinkled up thermal printed receipts that are normally so difficult to capture are made super clear and easy to read.

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Genius Scan - An iPhone app I simply can't be without!

 

 

What do you use? do you have any gems to share? If so please leave a comment below :)