Category Archives: Ways to use technology

Just what to watch on the TV?

It seems that we have so much TV that it is hard to find something to watch.

OnTvTonightUK is an app that shows you what’s showing in your region on free digital channels including FreeSat. Select the channels you want to know about, then browse or search.

ReelGood is all about series and films across the major streaming services.

Flixi is about you rating whatever you watch. It then uses this information to recommend new series and movies to you.

Feeding the birds

I’ve got some bird feeders in my garden and I’ve seen an early announcement of the Bird Buddy, which is a bird feeder with a video camera. But that’s not all, oh no. It has a microphone, sends an alert to your phone over wifi when a bird lands on it, identifies the breed of the bird and allows you to rewind the video in case you miss the feathered visitor.

All this for a projected $199 and they seem to have enough kickstarter funding to start work.

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.

Use your phone to stay safe

With all the concerns about women being safe whilst out, I’d like to mention HollieGuard, named after Hollie Gizzard who was murdered one night.

Hollieguard is an app for Android and iPhone that uses the features of your phone to help people out and about.

Capabilities in brief include monitoring your progress along a route, sending emergency messages and location to preset numbers, as well as transmitting audio and video.

User reviews vary widely in their opinions but the app developers do respond.

Do have a look

Offline Google Lens

I’ve often mentioned how useful Google Lens is for all sorts of tasks like identifying things, translation, etc. But what if you are out of mobile range or it’s a photo you got from somewhere else?

Well the good news is that if you photograph what you want to work on, then you can do that when the connection is back. Simply swipe up in the picture area to see all the photos on your camera. Now just tap on one and Goole Lens will process it as if you were pointing your phone at it.

Make reuse, don’t make refuse

Lots and lots of electronic devices get replaced because our needs change, people want the latest flashy devices or contracts come to an end. That means lots of stuff gets sent to waste.

I’ve been helping a few people whose needs are more modest to get computers that do all they want at a much better price by buying refurbished machines. It just pays to buy from a trusted supplier. These will offer a warranty and your consumer rights are unaffected.

Some items are actually as new, being returned items that the purchaser didn’t want. Others are graded according to their condition.

Besides their condition, you need to ensure that the device is powerful enough for your needs. For example, the processor might be an intel i5 but there are many generations and types. Types L and P are low power, whilst U is even less power-hungry thus less powerful.

Don’t let that put you off: search for some reviews to get an impression of the item you are thinking of buying.

Some places to look at are:

Laptops direct https://www.laptopsdirect.co.uk/content/refurbished-store

Dell https://www.dellrefurbished.co.uk/

Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=warehouse

There are plenty of others as well.

Compare the price to new items, as many people (especially private sellers) have a very inflated idea of what things are worth.

Finally, consider going onto a SIM-only contract on your phone: either when the handset contract ends or buy a handset outright like I do. Plenty of new and second-hand deals out there.

Create your own QR codes

You may have seen rectangles with lots of dots – like this one:

These are called QR codes and are a way to code information so that a phone camera can easily interpret it. The one above has my contact details in a Vcard format and anyone who scans it will add my details to their contact list.

This may not sound like too much use to you, but many sorts of information can be encoded. For example, details of an event that you are asking people to in one code and location details in another. Then you can put them into your email, letter or advertisement so that people can add it to calendars with no fear of errors, (as long as you get it right!)

Displaying your photos

With phones and digital cameras we take thousands of photos and store them on our computers never to be seen again. I think it would be nice to see them again – well maybe some of them!

So what options do we have?

On your computer it is possible to have a single picture or a carousel of them as your desktop background. In Windows go to settings – personalisation – background and choose a picture or slideshow. For a Mac it’s either:

Apple menu – system & preferences -desktop and screensaver. In the list of folders press the + key to be able to add your own pictures

Photos app, control-click the image you want as your background and share-set desktop picture from the menu

Android and Apple phones also have this facility, but the method varies between phones.

Alternatively load some on your tablet and pass it around.

If you want to see them more generally, then think about a digital photo frame. These vary in size and quality, priced from £40 up. Maybe spending a little more is wise. In my mind, the most important thing is aspect ratio. Most digital cameras take photos in 4:3 or 3:2 ratio (That’s width:height) . Your widescreen TV is 16:9. If you get a 16:9 frame, then you photos will either be black at the sides (waste of money) or stretch (so everyone looks, um, wider than they are!).

Finally, bring back the good old days of slideshows for family and friends. They were fun, weren’t they? Most computers these days have an HDMI port (Macs may need a convertor). So buy a basic HDMI cable of a few metres for a few pounds, connect your computer to your TV, sit back and watch the engrossed faces of your guests!