Category Archives: Hardware

Create memories from your holidays

OK, a bit of a rant. I’ve just come back from a great time away and I’ve got lots of memories – in my head. What I noticed is that so many other people only saw what I saw through a phone screen. They didn’t actually see anything at all.

Screens aren’t the same as your eyes: they don’t show the depth of the scene or the grandeur (even if you do have a 6.9 inch screen!). That’s why looking at other peoples’ holiday snaps is rubbish – it’s not like being there.

My epiphany came at an event about ten years ago when I photographed everything all day (on a real camera, even) and realised that I hadn’t really been at the event. The viewfinder and screen created a barrier to being part of it – I had seen nothing at all for real.

So, yes, take pictures but then put the technology away and look at it for real. Savour it; appreciate it.

I can see the images in my mind of all the amazing things and places that I saw: the depth, the colours, the magnificence. So much better than a flat image. And I still came back with 2,500 photos!

Mobile roaming in Europe

When we left the EU, most mobile providers said that they would retain free roaming in Europe. Now many are backtracking on this.

So before you go to Europe, check whether you do have free roaming. In many cases it depends on when you took your contract out: before a certain date there is free roaming, after that there’s not. If you have to pay, there may well be a better-priced add-on that you can buy before you go to keep the cost down. So check on your situation before you go

If you don’t want to pay anything, divert all calls to voicemail before you go and record a suitable message. If you don’t divert all calls whilst in the UK and you connect to the local provider, then – even if you turn the phone off – all calls that go to voicemail will be charged as international calls. So put your devices in flight mode and use wifi – Skype, Zoom and WhatsApp will still work for keeping in touch.

Stop your laptop being stolen

OK, let’s say ‘try’ as a determined thief will get anything given enough time, but we can increase the time to make it not worthwhile.

The most vulnerable time is out and about, when we have the laptop on a table in, say, a coffee shop. Some laptops cost North of £1,000, so we can spend a bit of money on securing them. Most laptops have a slot to insert a cable (usually Kensington slot, Kensington nano-slot or Noble lock). MacBooks don’t but you can get a lock-slot that clamps or sticks onto the MacBook. You can use the stick-on devices for other items like tablets.

Buy a suitable cable, like a ‘Kensington lock’. This is a cable with a loop at one end and a lock at the other. Put the cable round something like a strong table leg, put the lock end through the loop, put the lock into the slot on your laptop and turn the key. Now it is much harder to whisk the laptop off the table.


These are popular devices and for good reason. I’ve got one that records front and rear. Just make sure it is discreetly mounted and not right in front of you, like many I see!

Many people ask whether there are dashcams that record all the time and the answer is generally ‘no’ as they are for evidence whilst driving and not security devices.

However Garmin has gone two steps beyond with a dashcam that is designed to be permanently powered and that broadcasts what it sees over the mobile data network so that you can see what it sees from any computer or mobile device.

It can also show you where your car is, alert you if someone else drives it and record any incidents whether the car is moving or not. Sounds amazing.

Potential downsides are that being on all the time will deplete the battery so you need to drive the car a lot and frankly the cost!

But pushing the frontier forward.

Why coin cell batteries don’t always work

You may find that sometimes your mercury or coin-cell batteries won’t work in some devices but will in others. Odd.

Well the reason is that these batteries can look like sweets to children, who try to pop them in their mouths. So manufacturers may put ‘bitterant’ on, which has a disgusting taste to deter the batteries being eaten.

But some negative terminals are behind the bitterant layer if it is large.

So the answer is to check where the terminals are and scrape the coating off the battery in the right place.

Beware of USB sticks that you ‘find’

People are naturally curious, so if they find a USB stick or one turns up in the post, they often plug it into a computer to see what is on it.

Don’t. Many are scattered around with malware or worse on them, while others with very convincing programs claiming to be on them are posted out that may well lock your computer.

It’s not worth the risk unless you have an old computer that you don’t mind losing everything and reinstalling Windows.

If you weren’t expecting the stick or any other device, just say no to plugging it in.

Printing multiple documents

When booking holidays, or it seems doing nearly anything, requires printing document after document. It gets to be a bit of a pain. Print Conductor claims to simplify that for you. Just add the items to be printed to a list, select the printer and off you go.

Besides this, there are many features like different paper sources for different pages, watermarking and printing email attachments with the email. The basic program is free while the Commercial license is $149.

How long will my Chromebook last?

Chromebooks are great devices – low powered but very capable. However, like Android phones and tablets, they have a shelf life before they stop being updated. It’s called the Auto Update Expiry. It used to be five years from introduction (not purchase) for Chromebooks but that has now been extended to eight for machines released from 2020.

You can check this on your Chromebook by select the time and then the settings gearwheel. Now select ‘About Chrome OS’ , ‘Additional details’ and finally look at ‘Update Schedule’.

So before buying a Chromebook check out to find the model you are thinking of buying.

Keeping secrets from Alexa and Google Assistant

Now, I love my Amazon Echo, but I also love my privacy. So I like to keep what is stored about me to a minimum.

So for Alexa, to to, sign in and click ‘accounts and lists’. On the right-hand side click’ manage your content and devices’. This will let you delete things you have said, smart device history and manage how your data is stored and used.

With Google, go to and sign in. You will then see recent activity across all of Google’s services. Use the filter to view just those for Assistant. Then review or delete entries as you wish. If you remove the filter and go to ‘web & app activity’ you can manage what is or is not collected, such as voice and audio activity.