Category Archives: Telephony

Battery care

Batteries are an important part of our lives, whether in phones or laptops. The technology is evolving, as is best practice to maintain your batteries in their best health.

An early contender was NiCad (Nickel Cadmium) followed soon my NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride). NiCad couldn’t store much power for their size, in both NiCad and NiMH, the power drained away quite fast and had another big problem. This was that they could lose capacity quite easily, due to overcharging. When most laptops used NiMH batteries I recommended taking the battery out if using it mostly on the mains. Otherwise the battery gets ‘cooked’ and won’t hold charge. Then the battery tells the computer it doesn’t feel well and the computer won’t start unless the battery is removed.

NiMH is still used for conventional rechargeable batteries like AA

Battery technology has moved on and for devices built around rechargeable power (Phones, tablets and laptops) Lithium-ion is the current market-leader. This is more efficient for its size, retains charge longer and can be moulded around other components. This means that it is quite hard to remove the battery, but fortunately modern devices have circuitry to prevent the overcharging of batteries. Nevertheless there is still a downside, which is the number of full recharge cycles affects the capacity of the battery. So, unlike NiCad and NiMH, it is a bad idea to run Lithium Ion batteries right down. Recharging at 20% or so will prevent a full recharge cycle and preserve your battery for longer

The latest technology is Lithium Polymer, which is safer than other batteries. These batteries can also be made in much thinner sizes and also hold more power for their size, although they have a shorter life. Apple uses this type of battery quite extensively. These batteries tend to be in pouches rather than rigid container and the main downside is as they get to the end of their life, they tend to expand. I’ve seen a phone with the back pushed off and had a laptop which ‘blew’ the back off when I took the screws out.

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.

Copy files from your phone

Nearly everyone these days is using a phone or tablet as a camera. But how can I get my photos (and other stuff) from my phone to my computer so I can print, email, etc.?

Like most I’ve suffered through trying Wi-Fi, USB cables and other black magic

I’ve been using a great free app called AirDroid (for iOS and Android). Simply download the program to your computer and set up an account. Then load the app on your phone, login and you are off. Select any file you want to send and then send or share it via AirDroid. If your have both devices on the same network it will be copied virtually instantly. Be aware that some security programs on your computer might need tweaking to allow AirDroid access

Simple and AirDroid can do much more such as remote control, send and receive SMS and whatsapp on your computer.

Block unwanted phone callers

I keep being besieged by scam and spam calls. So what can I do?

On my landline I could implement call screening where anyone ringing my number has their call intercepted and they are asked for their name. But that seems a bit brutal for a business as it would probably put off new customers.

So a bit of a difficulty, maybe. But you can block specific numbers on your line without needing a fancy telephone.

Talk Talk and Sky customers can block the last caller by dialling 14258 and pressing ** to confirm that they want the last number that called to be blocked. Pressing 1 next reports it as a scam call

BT has a similar system on 1572.

In all cases you can manage the blocked numbers in case you want to unblock one.

On my Android mobile, I open the phone app and either select the call and ‘block number’ or click the three dots at the top right the settings and call blocking to add numbers directly.

Iphone users need to go to the phone app, then the recents tab. Tap the ‘i’ symbol by the unwanted number and ‘Block this caller’

Stop dialling 999 by accident

The emergency services are getting a bit fed up with iPhones that ‘accidentally’ dial 999. This is because they have an ‘emergency SOS’ feature that sounds very useful but is actually easy to set off inadvertently (such as when it is in your purse or the children are playing with it)
All you need to do to dial 999 is to press the siude button five times rapidly. You can turn this off and still press the side button and any volume button to call 999.
To turn it off go to settings-emergency SOS and turn auto call off.

Blur backgrounds in Skype

Sometimes we may wish to disguise what is behind us during a Skype call – maybe to make the bedroom that we are working in look more like an office or hide our taste in wallpaper. Maybe you just want the fashionable ’Bokeh’ effect that you can get on smartphone cameras.

Now PC versions of Skype have that capability. So Android and iOS versions are out of luck. Right-click on the video button and select ‘Blur my background’.

It’s a software effect so the good news is that it will work with all webcams, but the bad news is that some computers may not have the capability to process it.

Send text messages from your computer

Google has set up a service where computer users can send text messages to Android phones direct from their PC.

You’ll need to check that your phone is set for this by going to settings-apps on the phone and ensuring that the SMS/messaging app is set to the ‘Messages’ app. If youdon’t see it, go to the play store and download ‘Android Messages’ by Google LLC

Now use a web browser on your computer to go to to find a QR code and a slider called ‘Remember this computer’ that you want to set to on so that you can see messages next time you visit the website.

Next open text/messaging on your phone, press the three vertical dots at the top right and select ‘messages for web’. Then scan the QR code that is on the computer screen and watch the messages appear on your computer.

You can delete messages, send new ones and more – such as attaching photos from your computer. It uses your phone to actually communicate, so SMS/MMS charges may apply.

Is it worth buying Chinese phones?

I ask this question as I’ve just bought my second. The first is still going strong after three years but is a bit behind the latest ones and is a little tatty.
Chinese phones are very good value for the same specification as the big brands. In fact, even people in phone stores think my new one is a £900+ phone. But it actually was £350.
What are the downsides? Well China is a long way if anything goes wrong. Fees and charges can add quite a bit to the purchase price – maybe 20% plus an admin fee. It can take a while to arrive. And that is about it really.
To get round these problems, I bought mine on a great deal from Amazon (delivered from Italy in two days) so I knew the price and have Amazon behind me if it goes wrong.
On the upside, build quality is pretty good and you can search for tests to get some comments on your intended purchase. Even their £100 phones can be a great buy.
Add on a SIM-only deal for £10-15, relax and wonder why people pay money up front as well as £50 a month.

Phone keyboard not typing my name!

I have an android phone and use Gboard for typing. So far so good. But recently I’ve not been able to ‘swype’ my name in texts or emails. I’ve had to peck at the keyboard letter by letter. Not so good.
It appears that Google regards my name, ‘John’ as an offensive word and by default Gboard is set not to produce offensive words! I nearly came up with a few of my own, but my mother taught me well.
Anyway, if you have also been given an offensive name by unsuspecting parents, here is what you do on android at least:
open settings and find the ‘languages & input ‘section (it’s in ‘personal’ on Android 6 and ‘system’ on Android 8 Oreo)
Tap ‘virtual keyboard’ and then Gboard . If you see it more than once keep pressing until a menu appears.
go down to ‘text correction’ and turn off ‘block offensive words’