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The Post-PC Debate: Apple vs Microsoft… And Pop-Tarts and Hovercrafts.

Here are some articles that I found irritating:

Don’t worry about reading them – I’ll give you the gist of them and why they bothered me. Bear with me.

The first talks about research that states tablets will outship notebooks by 2016. The second talks about Microsoft’s hit-back at Apple for trying to coin the phrase ‘the Post-PC era’ with their own phrase; ‘the PC+ era’.

There are many, many more articles and blogs and tweets and interviews where various tech pundits are saying all sorts of things in a similar vain as what’s in these articles. These that I have referenced are merely examples that I have come across – so I’m not specifically singling them out for any other reason.

/end disclaimer

So why do they bother me?

The first article reports on some ground-breaking research data that has determined that tablets will outsell laptops in the future.

Well, duh.

Tablets are relatively inexpensive, portable and exciting devices. Everyone wants one. Some people even have a legitimate use case for why they need one.

But what really bothers me in this article is the question it poses to it’s readers – “do you see yourself replacing your laptop with a tablet in the not-too-distant future?”

If anyone answered ‘yes’ to that for a reason other than ‘I haven’t used my laptop in two years and get by with just my iPhone (or equivalent) these days’, then they are in for a surprise.

Tablets are not laptops. They are designed to meet different needs.
You wouldn’t replace your car with a boat… but you might have both.

This brings me to the second article.
This notion that we are entering into a post-PC era has been thrown around a lot lately, but I am yet to hear a satisfactory definition of what that really is.

What bothers me is that many have taken this far too literally. ‘Post-PC’ doesn’t have to mean that PC’s in the form of laptops and desktops will be gone forever. It just means that they will no longer be the only serious computing form factor around.

In much the same way as how the IT world has moved away from mainframes but it doesn’t mean they aren’t still around. You can’t just turn them off and throw them away if they are still serving a purpose.

The tech world moves very, very fast. But we’re not seeing a one-for-one replacement of old tech with new tech. What we’re seeing is the world making room for this new tech alongside the other gear we know and trust. This could be because our requirements are getting more complex. Or just because we like shiny, new things. It’s irrelevant, but true.

When the the first iPad was unveiled many, including myself, scoffed at the idea. “There’s no market for a device in between a laptop and a smart phone”, we all said.

How wrong we were.

Recently, at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference, Microsoft publicly said: “In our view, Apple has it wrong!” when talking about the idea of a post-PC era. They claim that it is more of a ‘PC+ era’, and Windows 8 is the answer.

I happen to believe Microsoft are right.

I also believe that Apple are right. Why does anyone have to be wrong? This the the main reason I was bothered by this one.
It’s like arguing about whether a Pop-Tart is breakfast food or not. Who cares? It’s a delicious snack. A snack that would taste as sweet if it were called by any other name.

The iPad has taught us that there is room in our complex and technical lives for completely new things to be shoehorned in virtually overnight. In a similar light, I think there is room in the world for both Apple and Microsoft’s take on this. And Google, too, for that matter.

Microsoft envisage that this PC+ era is one where we have a unified operating system, Windows 8, across all our devices. This way we can have the same, or similar, experience regardless of whether we’re on the train, in the office or at home. All over our data is in the cloud (Azure, in Microsoft-speak) and our experience is seamless.

This is really good stuff from Microsoft, and I love it.

Apple’s vision is not too dissimilar on the whole. The fundamental difference is that they give us two different operating systems to play with; iOS for our iPhones and iPads and OS X for our MacBooks and iMacs.

This does seem a little un-Apple-like and fragmented. The upcoming Mac OS X release, Mountain Lion, borrows much of the functionality originally developed for iOS to the point where the two operating systems almost seem to be converging into one. Microsoft have had the luxury of being in the back seat for so long that it seems they have recognised this and beaten Apple to the punch at their own game. But I digress…

It’s all very interesting and ultimately consumers win when there is healthy competition in the market. This is makes me happy.
With competition driving these tech giants to innovate and push the boundaries, we may well end up with a device that truly replaces the laptop/desktop one day. In reference to my earlier analogy – this would be like replacing the car with some kind of super hovercraft. I mean, we already have hovercrafts today, but there’s a reason why the masses aren’t rushing out to trade in their boats and cars in favour of a one hovercraft.

The only reason I was irritated by these articles (and more their content) was because they grossly over-simplify the situation.

It’s not laptop vs tablet. It’s not Post-PC vs PC+.

It’s arch enemies, Apple vs Microsoft, like old times. With a healthy dose of Google ruffling feathers.
This is a battle that I am thoroughly enjoying.

Welcome back to the fight, Microsoft.

Tablets. Still Just Scratching the Surface.

How the world of tablets has changed since the last blog post that I dedicated to the iPad 2 over a year ago… wait, actually nothing much has changed at all.

The new iPad came out. Meh. The only place I need retinas is in my eye balls.
The only place I like ice cream sandwiches is in my fat hands.
The only surface I plan to spend time on is my coffee table, where I usually eat dinner and use my iPad 2.

Yep, I’m still on the trusty iPad 2, and I can’t think of a single reason why I’d ‘upgrade’ it.

I use it for email and calendar.
I use it to access a couple of corporate apps (via Citrix).
I use it for taking documents to meetings (rather than printing).
I use it for taking notes, occasionally. With a bluetooth keyboard if I have to.
I use it for casual couch surfing.
I use it for drawing.
I use it for playing around with music.
And I occasionally play a game or too.

That’s it.

Or another way to look at it is; wow, that’s a bloody lot!
Not bad for a superceded iPad model, eh? 😉

So I wonder – why would anyone buy a new iPad (iPad 3) if they already had an iPad 2?
Why would anyone buy a new iPad if they could buy an iPad 2 for much cheaper?

I also wonder – if an iPad 2 can do all of that, why would you spend similar or more money on an Android tablet?
Is there something I’m missing?

Apple’s hardware is top notch. I could spend top dollar on a Samsung doozy that’s at best on par with Apple sexiness in terms of hardware… but I’m stuck with an OS that has been shoehorned into it by the manufacturer. An OS that is backed by a smaller App store than Apple and plagued with all sorts of bugs and performance issues, not to mention some inherently malicious developers.

Sure, Apple has its share of bugs and other issues. But by comparison it is rock solid.

As of last week, we got a new entrant into the tablet world. Microsoft. Well, they re-entered after virtually inventing the industry then failing miserably at it in the early 2000’s.

Pricing and even specifications are yet to be released, but we all know this – it’s going to have to be dirt cheap or outright brilliant to knock Apple and Google off their #1 and #2 spots. Probably both.

Microsoft have stepped on the toes of their tablet-manufacturing hardware partners with this news and sent the tablet world into a bit of a tailspin.

Are they going to deliver or is this just a ploy to draw attention to their soon to be released Windows 8 operating system?

Time will tell, my gadget-obsessed, fidgety friends. Time will tell.

All I know is that I see absolutely nothing in the horizon that will displace my iPad 2 from it’s place in my life for now.

How about you?

Keeping It Together

Is your online persona different to your real life persona?

It’s normal that it is. I mean, in real life we don’t usually roll on the floor laughing so hard that our asses literally fall off. But online it’s ok to say that this is actually is happening.

Where things are getting complicated is with our multiple of online personas.

Think about your Twitter account, your Facebook profile, your LinkedIn profile, your Google+ profile, your Flickr profile, your Foursquare profile, your Instagram profile, your BranchOut profile, your online gaming profile, your other Twitter account, your blog…

Depending on who you’re addressing, you probably use a different forum as your vessel and have a different persona on that forum. It might be a conscious decision. It might not be. What if you occasionally tweet work-related information from your personal Twitter account? Does this mean you have to maintain a level of professionalism on that Twitter account? And who decides? Does it matter?

There have been cases around the world recently that touch on this topic and many other related issues. The most notable probably being the case.

This is getting very difficult to manage. Lines are getting blurred. Wires are getting crossed.

We have so many online identities that if we lived like that in the real world we’d be diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, aka multiple personality disorder.

There have been growing concerns and discussions around security, online safety and identity theft. These are all criminal considerations. What about the psychological side of this? Am I crazy or just over-thinking it? (Don’t answer that :P)

So far, with the main online services that I use, I’ve gotten away with one Twitter account that’s quite public, my Facebook account is very private, my LinkedIn account is very professional and this blog which is real dumping ground (sorry!).

I’ve managed to keep it together for this long by being stringent about what forum I use for what but it’s getting harder and harder to stick to these ‘rules’ because there really aren’t any.

I’ve recently started writing for my work’s blog site – check out my first post here: System Center Operations Manager 2012: The Power of Knowledge – and I’m feeling the lines blurring again since there is an overlap between my work and personal interests.

So tell me. How do you keep it together?

PS. Extra points if you can name the character and the reference I’m making in the image above 🙂

Technical Difficulties: Technology is a Burden

Do you think cavemen ever sat around the fire in their cave, bored out of their minds, staring at an empty wall and thinking; ‘if only we had some kind of magic box with moving pictures right there to entertain us’?

Probably not. Ok, that was a pretty stupid statement. What I was hoping to do, though, was invoke some thought about what technology you have in your everyday life that our ancestors, or even our parents, didn’t have. I can think of a million things. Now ask yourself this; could you live without it?

What if no one else had it? What if it was never invented?

Unless you were thinking of ‘fire’ and the ‘wheel’, I’m betting that you and everyone else can live without it. I mean, if you go back far enough; we did. Right?
Better yet, I’m willing to argue that we might even be happier without it.

Don’t get me wrong. I love technology. I’d be a massive hypocrite if I tried to convince you otherwise. But what I find happens is technology makes me happy. Then my expectations and (perceived) needs go up. Then technology lets me down and makes me sad. Then I get new technology – and I’m happy again.

I call it the iCircle of emotion 😉

You might be wondering where all this has stemmed from. (Warning: techie, nerdy content coming up). I’m annoyed at my home storage and media woes.

I have hundreds of gigabytes of photographs I’ve taken with my digital SLR camera. I’ve got a library of movies, music and TV shows – all electronic. I remember a time not so long ago when I rejoiced at the thought of never having to store developed (or undeveloped) photos anymore. I was ecstatic when I ripped all my music CDs, dismantled my CD rack and packed everything away in box. ‘The digital era has solved all of our problems!’, I thought.

Boy, was I wrong.

Mo’ tech, mo’ problems; if you ask me.

What do you think?

Disclaimer: please don’t take this too seriously – I know I’ve completely disregarded how much modern medicine has helped the world. I’m not arguing with that. But what about the late Steve Jobs’ ‘gifts to the world’? Surely we could have lived without those? Discuss.

You’ve Been Served. Customer Style.

We’ve split the atom, put man on the moon and made artificially intelligent mobile phones yet we still can’t quite hit the nail on the head when it comes to providing good, quality service to our customers.

The clichés of good customer service are well known.
“The customer is always right”
“Under promise and over-deliver”
“Listen and empathise”
“Be friendly”

Is it really that simple? In my opinion; yes, it damn well is. As such, I’ve compiled some of my thoughts based on my humble observations of late. Experiences of both exceptionally good customer service and particularly bad customer service. Most remarkably, in some cases I got both with the same service provider and in the same transaction. That’s like being warmly cuddled then slapped in the face.

I’ve deduced that there are four main reasons for why organisations are failing miserably at customer service.

1. Inconsistent System

If you’re going to give the aura of five-star silver service fanciness then act like it, too. Not just sometimes. All the time. I put more value in being consistent with the service you give your customer than the quality of it. It’s a classic case of aiming too high. When the bar is set too high any shortcoming, no matter how minor, will not go unnoticed.

However, if you are more realistic about the quality of service that you, your staff and/or your product can offer then you are more likely to give your customer and smoother experience. It may be an unremarkable one, but that is better than being remembered for the wrong reasons.

2. The Blame Game

Sh*t happens. We all know that. No one likes it, but it is what it is. So accept it. Accept responsibility and whatever you do, don’t start blaming everything and everyone else because it doesn’t help.

If you throw your hands in the air, I will assume that you just don’t care.

3. Too Cool for School

A little bit of diligence can go a long way. You don’t have to be ‘Nigel no-fun’, but make sure all the ‘i’s are dotted and the ‘t’s are crossed. Australian readers will be familiar with hearing the old phrase “she’ll be right, mate” thrown around. While some confidence and optimism can and does help, it very quickly becomes undone if things go a little pear shaped.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

4. Yours Insincerely

Nobody likes a fake. Everyone can tell when they’re being shaken off and it is likely to hinder the situation. If you’re going to speak like the posh English butler of a billionaire you had better be a good actor (or indeed a posh English butler of a billionaire).

Being sincere and honest is most appreciated when dealing with a complaint or an issue that has been escalated. While mostly people can be won over with simple bribes in the form of gifts or discounts, if this has been done grudgingly or even with a hint of insincerity, it will stay with the customer.

I realise I have only scratched the surface of this. And that it goes deeper than just customer service. It comes down to basic decency as a human being. Being a better and bigger person will always help you provide better customer service and it will encourage others to reciprocate.

Have you got some customer service horror stories? From either side? Would love to hear about them in the comments, or via email or twitter.

I’m sure we’ll make the world a better place one happy customer at a time 🙂

Fugitive-life to Enlightenment

Did you ever play the computer game: ‘Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?‘?  It was that educational game where you had to use clues to, well, figure out where in the world the Carmen Sandiego was.  The reason it came to mind is because I felt a little bit like Carmen Sandiego recently.  No, I didn’t feel like a thieving villainess and former ACME agent.  I felt a bit like a fugitive, and it changed me forever.

In case you missed my previous two posts (Eight Pairs of Underwear and Boys Toys and Road-tripping With All My Apples in One Basket), I had embarked on an epic four month adventure across the Mediterranean, the UK and the US with my wife.  We breezed in and out of cities spending on average only three of four nights in each place.  If I had broken any serious laws or insulted any of the wrong people, they would have had a hell of a time trying to track me down.  Unless they Googled me and found my Twitter timeline, of course.

The adventure has come to an end now and no law enforcement agencies or otherwise have caught up with me (yet).  Either I didn’t do anything wrong or they don’t know how to drive Google.  Whatever the case, now that I’ve been in one city for about eight days and my brain registered the fact that I’m staying put right here for a long time, I began reflecting on my recent ‘fugitive-style’ lifestyle and what effect it has had on me.

Take a Time-Out

Well, rather unsurprisingly, a carefree life on the road going from one beautiful location to another is a pleasantly liberating experience.  But what was truly liberating about it was having the chance to live a minimalistic life.  Traveling with just a backpack each for the entire time, especially across varying climates, meant that we travelled very lightly.  Finding a laundromat every four or five days became a ritual.  One where on that day we accepted and allowed ourselves to do very little else. Killing time while watching the spin cycle gave us the chance to kick back, read a book or think about what we wanted to see and do next.

It was a forced time-out.

Something that I think everyone can benefit from in normal day-to-day life and that I will endeavour to keep up in the future. It doesn’t have to be a whole day, a laundry day or even that often.  But setting aside some time once in a while to just think, reason, wonder and dream can make really a positive difference in your life.

De-clutter, Simplify, Reconnect

You don’t really need much ‘stuff’ to be happy.  Sure, I had my DSLR, iPad 2, and iPhone with me the whole time, but considering I didn’t have my beloved MacBook Pro, plasma TV, media centre, 5.1 surround sound system, coffee machine, guitars and a million other things I normally surround myself with, I did pretty damn well.

I’m not saying that I’m going to go without these things but I’ve seriously re-evaluated how important these things are to me.

And, yes, when you’re in some exotic city in the world or in the company of new friends you made on a cruise ship then these material things can easily become a distant memory, but why not extend these feelings to your own city and your own friends and family?

The next time I find myself fussing about over my entertainment system or mindlessly clicking around on my computer, I’m going to go out and do something I haven’t done or seen in my city before or call my mum and dad and see how they are.  Time better spent.

Life is Short

I never expected a four month holiday to be such an enlightening experience.  The reason for the trip was only because it was an opportunity to take the ‘scenic route’ back to home to Australia after living in London for some time.  Any resultant soul-searching and enlightenment was purely incidental.

Reflecting back on it I’ve since realised that this is not something that many people do in their lives.  Because it’s hard.  Not just financially, but emotionally too.  At first you’re just escaping from your day-to-day life and living it up.  But after a while you feel disconnected and distant from the world.  And right after that comes the enlightenment… I swear!

I’m not encouraging you to quit your day job and run off into the sunset, unless that’s what you really want to do. I am, however, suggesting that you pause for a moment and take a time-out.  Maybe it is time you went on that holiday.  Maybe you should call your mum and dad.  Maybe you should do your laundry.  Whatever the case is, it took me a whole bunch of accidental soul-searching to basically have the epiphany that life is short.  It made me re-think quite a few things in my life.

Hopefully reading my blog post will be enough to get you there.  If so, you’re welcome – I just saved you a lot of time and money.

“I want to put a ding in the universe.” -Steve Jobs


I don’t have much to say about Steve Jobs’ untimely passing. I’ll admit; I don’t even know much about the man. In fact, I’ve learnt more about him in the past few hours than I ever knew. I’m sure this is the case for many. So I won’t compile a huge list of Steve Jobs quotes or miscellaneous facts about this great man.

I’ll just say that since I swiped to unlock my iPhone earlier today and pinched to zoom in disbelief of this terrible news, I’ve been thinking about Steve Jobs and all he has given us a lot. So much so that I felt compelled to lift up the smart cover of my iPad and write these very words you are reading.

“I want to put a ding in the universe.” he said. Well, Steve. Congratulations, mate. You did it.

Road-tripping With All My Apples in One Basket


Some would argue that the most crucial element of the two-week road-trip that my wife and I embarked on across the UK was the car we drove in. I suppose they would be right. But would you believe that after that (and after fuel, food and shelter), the next most important element was the humble iPhone?

Equipped with a car charger and windscreen mount, purchased for next to nothing off eBay (£2-3), and the Tom Tom app for iPhone purchased for the more hefty £42 from the App Store, my ageing iPhone 3GS was converted into a neat little satnav device. It was cheaper than buying a dedicated device and also much cheaper than hiring one as part of the rental car. What’s more is that the clever people who wrote the Tom Tom app were able to take advantage of the fact that it will be running off an Internet-connected iPhone. This allowed some pretty nifty features that aren’t as readily accessible on the old school dedicated devices and also the cheaper or free satnav apps. For example, ‘Google Search’ when entering your destination. Rather than painstakingly entering the address for your hotel and hoping it exists on the app’s offline database, you can just localise the search to a town and type in your hotel name. Tom Tom then goes off and finds all it needs from the Internet and plots your route. Magic.

Another £1.49 on an audio cable and I was able to pump the contents of my iPod library out of the car’s sound system. This saved us from the perils of poor radio options and patchy reception while cruising out in the countryside. Not to mention that when Tom Tom’s ‘Austalian Voice Karen’ (downloaded that especially 🙂 ) needs to tell me to turn right in 400 yards, she in all her robotic wisdom is able to fade the music down so that I can hear her instructions clearly through the car’s speakers. Nice touch.

I know what you’re thinking. We could have just made do with the radio, popped on a CD or engaged in riveting conversation. And we could have used a conventional physical paper map like in the olden days (what a distant memory!), or followed road signs and relied on the kindness of strangers for directions. Therefore, due to these aforementioned alternatives, the iPhone couldn’t possibly be rated as almost as important as the car, fuel, food and shelter. Well, aren’t you a smart ass.

Allow me to school you on this world we live in now. Thanks to modern infrastructure and technology so much more is possible now than anyone from yesteryear could have ever imagined. In less time we can see and do more. Perhaps this is detrimental to the quality of our experience. Perhaps this lessens our appreciation of our adventures. I’m not sure. What I do know is this: if you have the means to see and do all you want, why wouldn’t you?

Is he going anywhere with this, I hear you say. Well, yes I am. You see, a little bit of investment in the right tools gave my wife and I the ability and freedom to explore the Scottish, English and Welsh countryside well and truly at our leisure. When we landed in Edinburgh and picked up our rental car, we had only two nights of accommodation booked and absolutely no plan for where we were going to go and what we were going to see. All we knew was that we had to return the car to London Heathrow, 400 miles away, 12 days later. This wasn’t entirely on purpose – we simply didn’t have the time to organise anything more. If we made the time, it would have been at the expense of missing out on something else we wanted to do. Either that or we would have played it safe and just booked two or three well-known stops along the way and had a pretty dull trip.

Thanks to the safety-net of my iPhone, we were able to just wing it. As we chose where we wanted to go next we were able to jump online (, and get great deals on last minute accommodation, or in some cases read up on the area and decide to just pass through instead. And all the while listening to our entire music collection and looking up recommendations for a restaurant to eat in that night.

What we achieved was a holiday that was fun and spontaneous, without sacrificing any quality or paying top dollar! And it all hinged off a two-year old iPhone… Money well spent. Yep, all my eggs are in that basket and it hasn’t let me down yet.

PS. You might be interested to know that in keeping with my blogging on the go, as per my last blog post, this one was written at 36,000 feet somewhere above the Atlantic Ocean (en route to LAX from Heathrow). The adventure continues in the US… stay tuned!

Eight Pairs of Underwear and Boys Toys


As I write these words my wife and I are hurtling through the Greek countryside on a bus (see picture above – yeah that’s me typing out this very blog 🙂 ), breathing through our mouths for fear of passing out if we take in the pungent aroma of a nearby man who may never have had a shower in his life. Strangely, this seems to be a common occurrence yet always somewhat traumatic.

The aim of this blog post is not to entice you to imagine the complex odours that the human body is capable of producing. Rather, I aim to provide you with some ‘tech tips’ pertaining to travel that I have collated during my recent experiences. With this I hope that you might learn something, be inspired to travel or at least have an entertaining read. Please let me know your thoughts via the comments, or by any other means provided!

The Scenic Route Home

Yep, we’re going home but we’re doing it in style, damn it! This blog comes to you live, on location, at the half-way point of our return voyage.

Just for some background and context, this is what’s going on. Two months ago my wife and I packed up our London home save for what we could fit in a backpack each and set off on the biggest adventure of our lives.

Our final destination is to be Melbourne, Australia. Prior to that; the west coast of the US, but not before a road trip from Scotland down through the UK, and that is only after attending the opening weekend of Oktoberfest in Munich.

All that is yet to come. We’re currently coming to the end of phase 1: ‘Emiterranean’. The ‘Emit’ part refers to the name some of our friends have affectionately given us (Emily + Amit = Emit). We’re certainly no ‘Brangelina’, but the name has stuck all the same. The second part refers to our chosen destinations on this leg of the trip – all within the Mediterranean.

Essentially, we started in Portugal and have been making our way east across Spain, France, Italy, Croatia, Greece and finally Turkey.

Travelling Light

Before I get into the tech stuff, I have to touch on this topic lightly (no pun intended) because it’s been key to our survival.

Three words: travel super light. Hell, let’s make it two: travel light! It is worth every bit of stress endured while culling ruthlessly during packing. On occasion we have felt restricted by our wardrobe choices, however, the small sacrifice was more than justified. Usually most appreciated at times when we casually strolled past other travellers laboriously lugging 25kg suitcases across cobblestones with Grand-Canyonesque crevasses and up hundreds of steps while we just had 10kg backpacks and smug faces on. 🙂

And don’t worry – you don’t have to do the old inside-out then back-to-front trick with your undies. Laundromats are never hard to find. Eight pairs of underwear and no regrets. 😉

Now on to the juicy tech stuff…

Internet Access

Internet access is important to me and if you’re reading this then probably to you, too. Fortunately, wifi is everywhere – even if they pronounce it ‘whiffy’. Don’t be afraid to ask for the password at cafes and hotels. My friends, followers and enemies would have noticed that they’ve barely had a day’s break from my incessant Twitter-tweeting, Facebook-posting, Foursquare-checking in and GooglePlus-streaming.

On rare occasions when in need of a net fix or in a bind and not being near any hotspots, flicking on roaming data using a Vodafone UK prepaid SIM has been the ticket for me (while travelling in the EU). The £2 for 24 hours of cyber juice might sound steep, especially with the 25 MB limit provided. However, it is more than enough for lots of email, dialling up Google Maps and tweeting a few humorous pictures of a donkey. Other providers tend to charge per KB with no cap so even if you are diligent, you’d be lucky to keep it under £2 in a 24 hour period.

Before you think that was a paid message; in the UK I wouldn’t stick a Vodafone SIM in my iPhone if my ass was on fire and that was the only sure way to extinguish it. 😉

Mobile Phone

Whether you’re a tech-addict or a technophobe, you have to travel with a mobile phone these days – if for no reason other than security and peace of mind.

My gadget of choice for this is an iPhone, and I would strongly recommend one or an equivalent. Having access to a plethora of information right there in your pocket is invaluable. In fact, I can’t fathom how we travelled without smart phones several years ago!

You don’t need to spend a fortune on data roaming or on apps either. There are plenty of free or very cheap travel apps available for any of the major platforms that give you all sorts of useful information about your travel destination. Lonely Planet have even made available electronic versions of their famous travel guides on the iPhone as apps and they are fantastic. Leave your physical copies on the bookshelf at home and save even more weight in your luggage.

The other major advantage of a smart phone while traveling is making use of the GPS chip that most of them are packing these days. GPS doesn’t cost you a cent to use, either. While chilling at your hotel or at a cafe, jump on their wifi and fire up Google Maps. Look up the areas you plan to visit that day and scroll around the surrounding streets a little. Then when you’re out and about and can’t find your way back or to the main road, fire up Google Maps again (make sure your data is off) and you’ll still be able to see the maps that you looked at earlier, even while offline. This works because Google Maps caches what you recently looked at for performance reasons. (Nerd-alert!!!).

This little trick has helped us numerous times when in a hurry to catch a train or a plane and of equal importance; in preventing us from doing unwanted exercise by helping us find the most direct route to restaurants, bars and our hotel. 🙂

Mobile Computing & Entertainment

Usually on a weekender or even a one- or two-week holiday you wouldn’t worry about loading up your bat belt with too much tech. Grab your phone and charger and throw a book in your bag and you’re set. However, a few months on the road is a different matter altogether.

My gadgety goodie of choice here, unsurprisingly, is an iPad 2. I don’t want to get into why the iPad is better or not better than other tablets and I have
blogged about the iPad 2 recently anyway.

What I will mention is that for me, personally, the iPad 2 does the things that I need better than it’s competitors. Meanwhile, my wife chose an Amazon Kindle for her needs and it’s been great for her – more on that later.

So how did I land on the iPad 2? Firstly, for practical reasons I decided a tablet would be better than a laptop or netbook for travelling. Basically, the superior battery life and portability made it a no-brainer. The only other device I would consider is a MacBook Air, however, it was the price tag mainly that deterred me.

Now, with a tablet as the chosen form factor, there were two main categories that landed me squarely on the Apple bandwagon. One, the super-sexy hardware/build quality and two, the apps.
Sub-category, under apps (whoa!):
– I wanted to leverage my investment in apps I’d already purchased and was familiar with on my iPhone.
– I absolutely love some specific iPad apps (GarageBand, Noteshelf, Photoshop Express, WordPress to name a few) that appeal to my artistic side (music production, drawing, photography and blogging, respectively).
– I love the fact that there is an app for just about anything.

Thus far the iPad 2 has faired very well for me. For both of us, in fact. It’s been incredibly helpful for looking up trains, planes, ferries, hotels, researching cities, sights and attractions on the go. Then on off days we can settle in and watch a movie or some TV shows. ‘Buzz Player’ is my app of choice for video, by the way, since it doesn’t rely on iTunes and can play virtually every video format.

We’ve also been able to Skype with family on the go, which is all too easy on an iPad. I could go on and on but I promised that I wouldn’t. Just one more point, if I may. 🙂 I’ve grown quite fond of iBooks. Having an entire library of books on hand electronically has it’s obvious advantages, such as saving space and weight with not having to pack old school paperbacks, but I am also loving the fact that it keeps my books in sync between my iPhone and iPad. If I start a book on my iPad one night then find myself with a bit of time to kill on the bus the next day but with only my iPhone on hand, I can fire up iBooks and it just picks up where I was in the book. Brilliant.

On the topic of reading, I mentioned that my wife went with a Kindle for her tech toy of choice. Initially I scoffed at this most preposterous idea and went on to list the numerous ways in which my iPad 2 is far superior to a Kindle. But the simple fact is; my wife just doesn’t need or want all those extra features. And she powers through books at a rate that I find difficult to fathom.

I’d love to do the maths on the size and weight of the bag she would have had to carry if she brought a physical copy of every book she’s read in the past two months!

But here’s the real clincher; being a Kindle 3G, she’s had free access to the Internet twenty-four/seven, anywhere anytime! The experimental browser on the Kindle may be no match for Safari on my iPad, however, on a number of occasions I’ve relinquished to just reading an ebook due to the lack of wifi around. Then I’d glance over to see that my wife is sitting there blogging or checking her email… on a Kindle! That’s irony. To clarify, I do have a 3G iPad but am not usually willing to pay for data roaming unless it was to do something that couldn’t wait.

There’s been one other scenario when I’ve looked enviously over at my wife with her fancy little Kindle. When we’ve been relaxing outdoors, whether it be on the deck of a boat, on the balcony of our hotel or on deck chairs at the beach, she can quite comfortably read for hours on end whereas I find myself perpetually distracted with seeing my own reflection on the mega glossy screen. I mean, by the time I fixed my hair for the second or third time I just want to get on with the book. 😉

So with an iPhone, iPad and Kindle between us we’ve had all we’ve needed at our fingertips to last computer-less for two months so far. And we’re confident we’ll last another two with ease.
I must stress that the winning formula here is the smartphone/tablet/eReader combo and not so much the particular brands or products that we have gone with.

The only thing we both really miss is a full-sized keyboard for power-typing. Yes, I’ve already begun researching a bluetooth keyboard. 🙂

Technically Travelling

I started this blog post while on a bus in Greece. Then I worked on it in a hotel in Istanbul and on a plane flying into Heathrow. And here I am finishing it in a flat in London. Every word has been typed on my iPad. Even the picture was imported straight onto the iPad via a Camera Connection Kit.

It might not have come through fully in this post but I immensely enjoyed writing it because it marries together two things I absolutely love – travelling and technology. I hope you enjoyed the read on some level. 🙂

Follow me on Twitter for a live stream of my travel adventures – I like to think of it as micro-blogging. 😉
And another post will follow after we take on Oktoberfest, road tripping around the UK and the US!

Safe travels, and don’t forget to switch your electronic device to flight-safe mode before switching it off… Or whatever.

Google+ Is Not The Answer


Life online is a whole new world, and it’s a jungle out there. A Social Nightmare (as I previously blogged about). Jobs have been lost, relationships have been ruined and I’m sure a lot worse has happened from the wrong information falling into the wrong hands.

This isn’t about censorship or even security, which have been hot topics since grandparents and grandchildren and everyone in-between began using the Internet. This is about our real social interactions. This is about the fact that our parents, siblings, in-laws, the weird guy from drinks last night, our boss and the neighbours cat are all on there. And you wouldn’t walk into a room with all those people in it and say: ‘drinks last night was great but I drank too much and threw up on my shoe. Here’s a photo. I don’t know that weird guy holding me around my waist’.

Is Google+ going to solve that problem? No. There, I said it.
But it’s an attempt and a step in the right direction. This is going to take some time to get right. Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor was society.

How do you manage your online life?

Personally, I am giving Google+ a go but I still find that I use entire social networks as huge ‘circles’ that I share differently with. I.e. I tend to interact with different people on Facebook, Twitter and now Google+… and then there are those few social media junkies who I have across the lot. Takes one to know one I guess 😉

So have you jumped on the G+ bandwagon? Are you getting buy in from friends/family?
Leave me a comment here…or on Google+ :).

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