A British tech icon: the Psion 5mx

My Psion 5mx

Rarely had I been so excited to unbox a new ‘toy’. It was March 2000, and I’d just driven back to Cardiff from meetings in North Wales. The anticipation kept my tiredness at bay. It was a joy to take my new Psion 5mx personal organiser out of the box and turn it on for the first time.

I wasn’t disappointed. I’d never seen an electronic device quite as gorgeous. In the days when laptops weighted a ton, and mobile phones did little more than make calls and handle text messages, I marvelled how Psion had shrunk the essential elements of a laptop into a device that fitted in a pocket (just). Best of all was the keyboard, which flipped seamlessly into the clamshell case when you’d finished your tasks.

Continue reading

Dyson: endless wait to replace faulty Pure Hot+Cool heater

Warning: a £550 Dyson Pure Hot+Cool heater that never works

I’ve admired Dyson’s electrical devices since I bought one of its early vacuum cleaners in 1998. I love the elegant, clever designs. I also admired James Dyson’s long battle to bring his invention of the cyclonic, bagless cleaner to market.

So when our central heating failed just before Christmas, I was quick to order a Dyson Pure Hot+Cool heater for our large kitchen. It worked like a dream, so after almost a week without heating I bought another. This time, as I turned on the second Pure Hot+Cool for the first time, I saw a stark warning triangle in place of the display:

I called customer service, and eventually got the device working.

At least once a day the dreaded warning triangle would come on again, and while it was displayed the device would not do anything. After a week, the Pure Hot+Cool stopped working for good.

I called Dyson on Thursday 14 January, and was put through to an engineer. I was very impressed that she conducted a video diagnosis of the machine, which led her to conclude this was a faulty machine that needed to be replaced. She arranged for it to be collected, and a replacement delivered, the following Monday, 18 January. She explained that the courier would bring a box for the faulty machine.

Monday 18 January came and went without anything happening. I called a day or so later and was told that the Pure Hot+Cool was out of stock until early February, so there was no replacement available. It looked like I’d have to wait, despite what I was told by the helpful engineer.

At the end of January, I received a ray of hope. Dyson emailed to say ‘Your Dyson guarantee is now active’, showing a Dyson Pure Hot+Cool purchased on 28 January. From our experience with three purchases in December, Dyson sends these registration emails a day or two before you receive your machine. I waited for an email with delivery details, but got nothing.

The faulty machine, four weeks after it should have been collected and replaced

I called Dyson yet again on Monday 8 February and was told that Dyson would ask the courier company what had happened. The agent said this could take up to five working days. Seven working days later, no one from Dyson has contacted me. The useless machine is sitting in the house, as it has for 30 days.

Needless to say, my view of Dyson has taken a big hit. Having spent £1,400 in 10 days in December on two heaters and a vacuum cleaner, I expected so much better.

PS: fortunately, our central heating was mended in late December.

Update, Thursday 4 March

The replacement finally arrived today.

Why I love the Garmin Edge 1000

IMG_3669

Ride data from the Edge 1000: uploaded from my iPhone

I blogged in 2012 why I loved my Garmin Edge 800 cycling GPS. I’ve now upgraded to the Garmin Edge 1000 – and I’ve fallen in love again.

Here’s why:

It’s so easy to set up. I went for the Garmin Edge 1000 performance bundle from Wiggle which includes speed and cadence sensors. I spent ages setting up the Edge 800 speed sensor so I was relieved and delighted how easy it was to fit and activate the new generation sensors for the Edge 1000. No magnets here – accelerometers rule! Once you have fitted them, the Garmin Edge 1000 head unit finds them in a flash – and you’re done.

Instant upload of your rides. Once you’ve paired your new Edge 1000 with your smartphone, and selected various other options, your ride data will upload to Garmin Connect and Strava. No more plugging in USB leads to sync – you can do this whenever you have a data signal on your phone.

Strava Live Segments. This is brilliant. When you’re approaching the start of a Strava segment that you’ve starred as a favourite, your Garmin Edge 1000 will tell you, and as you ride the segment it will tell you how your ride compares with your personal best (or the KOM and QOM) so you can up your pace. I recorded a personal record for two segments within the first two miles of today’s ride. Just make sure you pace yourself over longer rides…

The screen is brilliant. A lot better than the Edge 800, and I was always happy with that.

If you’ve used an earlier Garmin, you need to remember some of the set up tricks that you may have forgotten. For example, the auto pause and resume feature is really useful – twice today I forgot to set the new Edge 1000 recording again because I was so used to the Edge 800 doing this automatically after a break.

I can’t wait to get to know the Garmin Edge 1000 better over the coming weeks.

PS: when I got my Garmin Edge 800, I found the Frank Kinlan and DC Rainmaker blogs hugely helpful. Frank seems to have stepped off the blogging treadmill, but DC Rainmaker is as useful as ever. Highly recommended.

Apple Pay arrives in the UK

Apple Pay arrived in Britain today. The new service lets people pay for things in store and in apps on the latest Apple devices, including iPhone 6 and Apple Watch.

I’ve been talking to analysts and journalists about PayPal UK’s view of the new arrival. Most people assume that Apple Pay is a competitor. The reality is different, as I explained to techradar editor in chief Patrick Goss in a meeting in London today. While people focus on PayPal as Britain’s most trusted and widely used digital wallet, behind the scenes we also help countless businesses accept other ways to pay, including Apple Pay, through Braintree, our mobile payments arm. Patrick’s article explains why Apple Pay is good news for PayPal and the other big names in mobile payments.

Continue reading

Two weeks with Apple Watch

Time for Apple Watch

Time for Apple Watch

I didn’t have the happiest starts with Apple Watch. As I blogged 10 days ago, setting up Apple Watch was painful. But this post explains that we’ve got on better since – even if Apple Watch is a work in progress, by contrast with the original iPad in 2010.

The watch itself is a delight. It’s beautifully made, as you’d expect from Apple. Battery life is better than expected: after heavy use today, it’s still showing 47% battery remaining. I’m beginning to think I needn’t have splashed out of that spare charger.

For me, iPod in 2004, iPhone in 2008 and iPad in 2010 were a revelation. They both made an instant impact. Apple Watch has had nothing like the same affect, which makes me think sales will be slower after the initial rush from early adopters. I had no hesitation recommending those earlier devices to family and friends. I won’t be doing the same for the watch – simply because I’ve not yet seen a similar benefit. I knew that the iPhone was dramatically better than my old Sony Ericsson and BlackBerry phones. I can’t yet say that the Apple Watch meets a compelling need not fulfilled by your smartphone and traditional watch.

Here are my reflections on two weeks with Apple’s watch.

Apple’s apps for the Apple Watch need more work You’d have thought that Apple would have the best apps for its own watch. In my experience, Apple hasn’t applied its usual attention to detail to its Watch apps. And it hasn’t thought enough about what people might want on the watch.

Activity doesn't add up...

Activity doesn’t add up…

The Activity app on the watch is a mess. After two weeks I still don’t understand it – or trust its findings. On Monday, for example, it said we walked 9.47 miles in London (we were doing the wonderful Shaun the Sheep in the City trail) and burned 729 calories – yet claimed we only exercised for 34 minutes. Tuesday was similar, with the app discounting an eight mile bike ride. This is not uncommon.

Siri – so unreliable Siri, Apple’s voice recognition tool, should be a vital part of the Apple Watch ecosystem. Apple rightly recognises that no one will want to type on the tiny watch screen. What could be better than to say what you want the watch to do? Well, anyone who has found Siri wanting on a larger screen may need convincing. Sure enough, Siri is even more unreliable  on your wrist. Oddly, it is more reliable in some Apple Watch apps than others. It seems to understand me well when I’m dictating a text message. It does slightly worse when I ask it to play a music track. And it does really badly when I try to navigate. That probably reflects the ongoing failures of Apple Maps – as bad as ever almost three years on. Here’s an example. I asked Siri for directions to the local household waste depot. The nearest it located was over an hour’s drive away. By contrast, Google Maps spotted the nearest was seven minutes away.

Anyone worked out Maps for Apple Watch yet?

On my first morning with the watch, I was amazed that the watch’s map app told me I was 10 minutes from work. How did it know I was going to work? (I hadn’t set up any directions.) The same thing happened going home. But the wonder was tarnished by the fact that the timings failed to take account of the (very usual) traffic. And for some reason it stopped telling me the time to destination with half a mile left to run.

Most apps need work

I tried the Strava Apple Watch app today. I was impressed by the way that my ride was transferred to Strava on my computer. Syncing that info was certainly a lot easier than on my Garmin. But I was left crying out for more. At one point, the Strava watch app showed a nice map of my ride. I opened the app later to show this to a friend. But I couldn’t see an option to do anything more than start a new ride. Similarly, The National Rail watch app gives departures times from stations – but nothing else. Pointless: I want to know journey times and where the train stops. Last rant: I started the activity app before launching Strava for this afternoon’s bike ride, but the app didn’t seem to capture anything.

Summary: an intriguing novelty that needs serious work

If you’re not an early adopter, don’t rush to buy an Apple Watch. I don’t regret my purchase, as I know Apple and others will do amazing work on Watch apps in the coming months. The likes of Garmin and Fitbit can rest easy knowing that Apple hasn’t (so far) done anything to threaten the position of dedicated health, fitness and navigation devices. But, knowing Apple, they can’t assume this will continue. Cupertino will throw money at making Apple Watch the must-have smartwatch before it moves on to its next big thing.

PS: it’s hard to illustrate Apple Watch without its natural habitat. Sorry for the hairy wrist…

Apple Watch is smart but set up painful

IMG_1021

Apple Watch in the flesh

Apple’s first wearable device is here. It’s lovely, but set up was incredibly frustrating, unlike every other Apple device I have owned. Perhaps I was just unlucky. The glitch was in language selection. It started well: choosing and confirming UK English.

Apple Watch: choose your language

Apple Watch: choose your language

Apple Watch: confirm language

Apple Watch: confirm language

But when I tapped the tick to accept, I was given a stark choice to rest the phone or cancel. And the whole doom loop started again. Repeatedly.

Then, breakthrough. I was out the other side. I was asked to choose which wrist the Apple Watch would grace, and to add my iTunes account. At which point the whole thing ground to a halt again:

Apple Watch: two factor frustration

Apple Watch: two factor frustration

As I have two factor authentication set up on my Apple identity, I got the two step screen. But as I was pairing the iPhone to the Apple Watch, the iPhone didn’t appear on the list of devices. At this point I gave up and had dinner. But when I got back, I was right back at the very beginning – that language glitch.

After multiple attempts, I got beyond the language doom loop again, and finally got the thing working. A very unApple experience.

I’ll do another post about Apple Watch when I have used it for a few days. If you have problems setting up yours, keep trying.

How I solved my iPad storage full problem

It was so frustrating. My two year old 64GB iPad 4 running iOS 8 was constantly flashing ‘storage nearly full’ warnings. I couldn’t understand why: the first generation 64GB iPad it replaced always had around 50% capacity free. What was going on?

Today, I bit the bullet and did a reset to factory settings (Settings/General/Erase all content and settings) after doing a back up. As a result, I now have 31.5GB free space. It appears that the device is storing data from multiple back ups. Either way, I now have a working iPad again.

Solving my O2 overseas mobile data problem

No surfing today: could not activate mobile data network

No surfing today: could not activate mobile data network

It was so frustrating. As soon as I reached an international destination, I’d get a text from O2 telling me that I was on O2 Travel so paid just £1.99 a day for using the internet while abroad. Yet when I tried to surf the net I got this error message: “Could not activate mobile data network: you are not subscribed to a mobile data service”.

I complained several times to O2 (after trips to Dublin and Luxembourg) but each time they told me I was signed up for O2 Travel, so it wasn’t their fault.

When this happened yet again when I arrived in Madrid on Thursday I resigned myself to another fruitless call to customer service. I checked the iPhone settings – and yes, all was set up for overseas mobile data roaming. What was going on?

It's fault of the EU (Internet)

It’s fault of the EU (Internet)

Then I had a brainwave: try changing some of the less obvious setting and see if that made any difference. I spotted a setting (Settings/Mobile) called EU Internet (above). It was on. I turned it off, then tried to load a webpage. It worked! Problem solved.

So if you’re blocked from getting online overseas on your mobile, check whether this option is turned on. I’m assuming that this doesn’t affect the £1.99 O2 Travel deal. After all, I’m using an EU smartphone in the EU on an O2 EU contract.

The only remaining mystery? What on earth is the point of this iOS EU Internet option in settings? And is this new to iOS 8?

Sorry O2 for blaming you…

How I organised my iTunes music library for Sonos

As I blogged last week, I love my new Sonos Play:1 music speaker. It’s such an elegant and simple way to play my music. But it has forced me to tame the iTunes monster.

The reason? The Sonos system won’t play music from iCloud. Any music in your iTunes music library has to be on your device rather than the cloud. (By contrast, Spotify and other streaming services work fine, although Spotify has proved temperamental with Sonos.) This revelation showed how much of my 10 year iTunes collection is in the cloud.

Continue reading

Sonos Play:1: a sound decision

Sonos Play:1

Getting to know my Sonos Play:1

Ten years ago, my wife gave me an iPod as a Christmas present. I loved it from the start: I had joined the digital music revolution. This Christmas, Karen gave me a Sonos Play:1 speaker. What a great piece of kit.

It wasn’t a chance present. I’d put a lot of time into researching various wifi speaker options. Initially, I was leaning towards Airplay speakers, but I was put off by reports of sound dropping out. (That tallied with my frustrating experience with Apple TV.)

My early experience reflects the positive reviews of the Sonos Play:1 on Techradar and elsewhere. The sound is excellent – it has made me rethink the idea that quality sound needs two, stereo, speakers. I’ve not experienced any lost connections. It was amazingly simple to set up my Sonos system. The only gripe was that Spotify disappeared from Sonos on Boxing Day but once that was sorted I found it really easy to play Spotify through Sonos.

Highly recommended.

PS: I got childish pleasure today from getting music to play on the Sonos speaker in the living room while I was upstairs. It reminded me of my schoolboy trick of startling my grandmother by changing TV channels on our first TV remote control in the 1970s when I was in another room…