Category Archives: Blog

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.

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 3 : where to look

A lot of people think they have to buy a new computer. How many of us buy a new car? No, we save money and get a fairly new car for a lot less.

I did buy my desktop new as I had an exact specification that I required (lots of speed, RAM and super-fast storage) so I customised a desktop spending money on parts where I got the best value for me.

But for the two machines we are discussing, I looked down the refurbished channel. These are reconditioned computers. Most are ‘open box’ where a customer has returned the computer as not what they wanted or ex-demo. Others are repaired faulty units. Some are office computers replaced on a periodic cycle. All have some form of warranty and will be graded from A (like new) downwards.

Personally I wouldn’t go too old as the processors on older computers won’t have the power to run modern programs properly. However my customer is on a tight budget and really just wants to get on the web so we can relax here.

First thing when buying a refurb is to look a for a new computer that has the spec you want. This gives you a top-line price to compare against.

Now use a search engine to find sites that sell refurbished computers – there are a lot out there. Many are attached to new computer stores so look for a name that you recognize and read some reviews. If you are unsure, Currys sells refurb items on eBay and even Amazon sells them!

Most sites will have filters where you can narrow down the results to closer to your specification. Then sort by cheapest first.

Now browse the results and find items that you like to look of, especially if it is a laptop, tablet or phone. You will spend a long time staring at it, so buy one you would like to look at!

Review the spec against your needs and also use a search engine to find reviews of the item to get an idea of how old it is and that it does what you want. Search for something like

ASUS ZenBook 13 Flip UX363JA test

Make sure you put in the product number (in this case UX363JA) to make sure you are searching for the right specification. Modern laptops, especially, have more variations than a Volkswagen Golf! Also search for ‘test’ rather than ‘review’ as the latter brings up customer feedback rather than professional reviews.

Use a credit card to buy it to get more protection in case of problems but pay it off in full.

Finally I would stay away from second-hand items, except on auction sites. Most owners have an optimistic view of the value of the item and it clearly isn’t doing what they want so will it help you?

Buying a new computer 2: Set your requirements

I’ve always found it helps a bit to decide what you want the new machine to do and be in terms of physical (Like Size, weight) and functional capabilities (separate video card, processor, etc).

In my case I am replacing my on-site laptop. I already have a powerful desktop for any heavy lifting, so I wanted something:

  • small and light as I take it to customers and away with me;
  • As time is money, it should have a fast processor and speedy storage. That will extend its lifetime;
  • Decent battery life if I can’t plug it in;
  • Good HD screen;
  • Reasonable disc space to store programs and data;
  • connections to most things – USB, ethernet, video. USB can do most of this for us now, so three USB sockets is the minimum.

I decided that for me I was looking for:

laptop

ssd 512

RAM 8gb

Recent intel Core or AMD Ryzen processor

This is a reasonable spec for an office computer. If you want a gaming machine, your needs will be different.

My customer has simpler needs. They want a desktop to use email and the internet, but also have a tight budget. Most of their computer use is via the cloud, so the desktop doesn’t need to be very powerful. I’m looking for:

desktop;

hdd of 512gb or bigger;

RAM 4gb;

Any intel Core or AMD Ryzen processor.

Here’s my video discussion:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8uRZSOb5QQ

My next post will have some technical stuff on specifications!