Driving in my car

More and more we hear of the dangers of using a hand-held phone in the car. Some modern cars have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto that connect your phone to the car’s systems. These let you use the system on the car display screen or by voice.

But what if you don’t have either of these? There are some great apps out there that can help.

Smart Dash Cam uses your phone camera to record a continuos loop. It detects a collision and saves the recording.

Drive Mode Dashboard is mainly aimed at two wheels but works for cars as well. It presents a simplified screen with maps, speed, direction and other stats.

If your main need is navigation, then Google Maps is very good but have a look at Here WeGo on the app stores. It warns you of speeding and also provides offline navigation for when you are abroad.

Keep your stuff safe and avoid stolen items

Hopefully we have all got lots of presents. Let’s keep them safe. For protecting/tracing other items, then the UK National Property register at https://www.immobilise.com/ lets you register valuables and helps Police get your stuff back to you.

There is always a danger of buying electronics that are not sold by the rightful owner. One useful site is imeipro.info. This lets you check the IMEI number of a phone (basically its serial number) against a list to see if it has been stolen. It also lets you register that yours has been stolen.

You can find your IMEI by dialling *#06#, on an Android by looking at settings-about phone-all specs-status-imei or for an iphone settings-general-about. Make a note of the number.

Keep your stuff safe and avoid stolen items

Hopefully we have all got lots of presents. Let’s keep them safe. For protecting/tracing other items, then the UK National Property register at https://www.immobilise.com/ lets you register valuables and helps Police get your stuff back to you.

There is always a danger of buying electronics that are not sold by the rightful owner. One useful site is imeipro.info. This lets you check the IMEI number of a phone (basically its serial number) against a list to see if it has been stolen. It also lets you register that yours has been stolen.

You can find your IMEI by dialling *#06#, on an Android by looking at settings-about phone-all specs-status-imei or for an iphone settings-general-about. Make a note of the number.

Now you can encrypt WhatsApp backups

WhatsApp has a great reputation for secure end-to-end communications. It also offers a ‘chat backup’ facility to save conversations to Google Drive or iCloud. Really useful if you are swapping your phone, resetting it or whatever. The trouble is that they are sitting out on the web unencrypted.

Now you can also run Whatsapp on your PC or Mac. Just download the program, run it and follow the instructions to link your phone. It will then mirror your phone which is still needed to connect to WhatsApp. I find it much easier to copy photos and generally keep up to date.

Do more with PDFs

I like sending documents, etc., as PDFs, so that the formatting stays as I want it. If you send them as document files then the printer that others have installed can make your documents look very different as their printer might set different default margins.

One way to make your bigger PDF more exciting is to turn it into a flip book, which simulates turning the pages of a real book. Www.flipbookpdf.net is an interesting site where you upload your pdf and it returns a link to the flipbook that it has created. There is also an admin section where you can customise a few things and download a copy. This means that you can either send people to the link or email the zip file.

On the other hand, if you want to copy the images in a PDF, then using a screen capture tool will just give you fuzzy pictures. Go to the PDF24 image extraction tool, upload the PDF and it will let you download a zip file of all the images at the original quality.

Scammers are still succeeding

Nearly a million people fell prey to scammers over the summer according to OfCom research. 45 million people were targetted by emails, phone calls or texts between June and September.

So we still need to be on our guard. One new service is the 159 number. Calling this from a different phone will get you through to the customer services department of your bank (nearly all major ones are signed up). So if you get a call from your bank, the police, HMRC or any financial matter call 159 to check it out.

Buying a new computer 4: what did we get?

In the end I bought an ASUS VivoBook M413DA from Laptop Outlet, through Amazon. The spec for this model is AMD Ryzen 7, 8 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD, Windows 10 – remember what I said about VW Golfs! The reason is the spec will give it a long life and it meets all my requirements. Not cheap, but cheap for what I got.

Co-incidentally, my customer’s machine was also from Laptop Outlet but via their website. They now have an HP EliteDesk 800 G1 SFF Desktop PC containing an Intel Core i5-4570, 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD. The processor is an early generation but the price was under £100 and will meet their needs.

See more here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PuoNhQds8uA

Creating your own leaflets

I create a lot of documents, adverts, flyers and so on. Whilst one can use Microsoft Word or LibreOffice, something more specialist makes life a lot easier. My favourite is Affinity Publisher which has lots of capabilities while being remarkably cheap.

However these packages, whilst great, sort of give you a blank canvas. Maybe you want more of a helping hand. In that case Adobe Spark might be more up your street. It’s free and takes you through the creative process with lots of templates and ideas to make your work stand out.

Buying a new computer: Here’s some technical stuff

Cheap computers can be poor computers. So here are a few ideas of technical specs to maximize value-for-money:

Generally go for an AMD Ryzen or Intel Core i3/5/7 processor (or ‘chip’). Ignore Pentium, Celeron or AMD A series as they are old and slow. The Intel Atom is slow but very conservative with power so is good for small hybrids. For the ‘Core’ chips, the higher the number, e.g. i3-8227, the better. AMD chips are a bit cheaper and the AMD Ryzen ‘x’ gives better performance than the equivalent Intel Core’x’.

A Core i3 or Ryzen 3 is fine for most jobs, Video editing can benefit from an i5 and an i7 is for extreme gamers. The chips have one or more letters at the end. K – unlocked, U and Y – optimised for battery life not speed, H – high performance for laptops.

As replacing the chip is right up there with triple heart-bypass surgery, go for the best one you can.

RAM needs to be at least 4gb. It’s easy and cheap to upgrade if you need to keep costs down now.

1Tb HDD (hard drive) is the norm. More can cost a lot more and less saves you little. It can be upgraded and a new 2Tb HDD is about £70 (Aug 2020). There are drives called ‘SSD’ which are much faster but more expensive. A normal SATA HDD drive is fine for most people. Get the biggest HDD or SSD you can – at least 256gb and that still won’t go too far. 32Gb is far too small. Really.

Some computers have dedicated graphics. These are higher quality if you do a lot of graphics work or games. For email and general office work, they are not essential.

Screens vary enormously in image quality (brightness, colour accuracy, etc.)and it is hard to make a recommendation. The resolution varies by size, but 1920*1080 (the same as a High Definition TV screen) is good to have. Again, get the best you can afford. You can also often connect another screen or TV to expand the desktop. Look for an HDMI socket.

Best to put the model you are interested into a search engine and add ‘test’. This will get you some expert reviews, but bear in mind these are from when the computer was first released and quality comments may refer to a much higher price. If you use the word ‘review’ you will just get customer comments, which are much less valuable.

Buying a new pc is a bit like buying a car: there are hundreds of variations (processor, memory and much more). So when reading tests or comparing prices, make sure they refer to the variation you want.

Finally, I never buy any extras like internet security, extended warranties or software when I buy a computer. The ones that are pushed hard at you are rarely the best value, so I’d do my own research at home.