The Daily Telegraph turns Torygraph

I cancelled my digital subscription to the Daily Telegraph today. A shame, because it’s one of my favourite news apps. But I’m not willing to pay £10 a month for what has become a general election propaganda sheet for the Conservative party. I’ll get enough of that for free through the letterbox. It’s living up to the Torygraph tag.

Hold the front page: business leaders support the Tories. In other news, the Pope's a catholic

Hold the front page: business leaders support the Tories. 

Every front page lead story for the past six days has attacked Labour or carried a pro-Tory message. Today’s reported that 100 business leaders think that Labour threatens the economy.

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Solving Daily Telegraph iPad app problems

Daily Telegraph iPad app

Daily Telegraph iPad app

I love reading newspapers on my iPad. I get them delivered to my tablet without having to go to the letterbox, never mind the newsagent. I can catch up on the news wherever I am in the world, as long as I’m online. The Daily Telegraph iPad app is one of my favourites, as it’s one of the most elegant apps.

But it’s not the most reliable. It rarely if ever downloads automatically, unlike the Guardian and Sunday Times. And recently it has stopped downloading at all: it sticks at 8% downloaded.

Time to use the app equivalent of turning a pesky computer on and off again: I deleted the app completely and downloaded it afresh. This is where I ran into difficulties. It asked me to enter my details as a subscriber. I chose ‘digital subscriber’. But it didn’t recognise me. I tried again. And again. Still no joy. It kept asking me to buy a subscription, which I already had.

At this point I called the 0800 number. A helpful man told me I needed to take a different route: click on the cogwheel on the bottom left of the app screen. Click subscriptions, then choose restore purchases. Enter Apple ID password – and you’ll not be asked to buy a new subscription.

Restore purchases

Choose restore purchases

This solved the 8% hitch. It still doesn’t download automatically though…

I love my first generation iPad – but its days are numbered

iPad 1

Taking the tablet: iPad arrives, 27 May 2010

I got my iPad on 27 May 2010 – the day before it went on sale in the shops. (I had ordered it in advance.) It was love at first sight, as I explained in a blog post that evening. I went on to rave about how quickly it got me to my chosen websites. For the first time in my life, I was an early adopter.

It’s been a constant companion ever since. I’ve used it to watch movies on flights to California, to blog about major events and to read books. I’ve enjoyed listening to music on Spotify’s iPad app. I’ve read the Guardian and Times iPad editions while on holiday and business abroad.

But it’s showing its age. Apps crash far too often. The Daily Telegraph’s iPad app won’t open if I’ve got any other apps open. The Guardian’s iPad edition’s letters links don’t appear most of the time. In short, it’s time to upgrade.

Some will argue that it’s shocking that a device less than three years old costing over £500 (I bought the 64GB model) no longer works properly. I’m more understanding. The iPad changed everything. It wasn’t the first tablet computer (far from it) but it was the first to make the tablet popular. Later models were more powerful, and apps developed to match their higher specs.

I’ll keep my original iPad – but it’s time to accept that it’s no longer good enough.

Denis MacShane: yet another disgraced MP

Three years ago, Britain was scandalised by the Daily Telegraph’s exposure of MPs’ appalling – and in many cases criminal – expense claims. Duck houses, moats and phantom mortgages featured heavily.

We thought it was all in the past until Labour’s Denis MacShane was forced to resign today after a parliamentary committee found he had submitted 19 false invoices which were “plainly intended to deceive” Parliament’s expenses authority.

Judging from the Parliamentary Committee on Standards and Privileges’ report, MacShane shamelessly used taxpayers’ money to fund his personal and political interests. Bizarrely the police dropped an investigation into MacShane’s deceit for lack of evidence – let’s hope they read the parliamentary report, which will provide the evidence they were incapable of finding.

By coincidence, this week I’ve been reading Robert Winnett and Gordon Rayner’s book about the Telegraph’s 2009 expenses scoop, No Expenses Spared. The story of how MPs tried to keep the scandal secret is as shocking now as it was in 2009. The Telegraph deserves huge credit for the way it investigated more than a million expenses documents in a matter of weeks. My main reservation was that it focused only on Labour ministers for the first few days, giving the impression that this was a Labour scandal.

Meanwhile, here’s my blogpost from May 2009, written the evening MPs were being ripped to shreds by the BBC Question Time audience in one of the most compelling editions of that show. I pointed out that the MPs’ excuses were groundless. And here is my manifesto for a new politics in the wake of the expenses scandal.

The Guardian: too much Apple coverage?

iPhone 5: does it get free and easy publicity from the media?

The Guardian’s readers’ editor Chris Elliott today devoted his Open door column to respond to reader criticism that the paper has, in Elliott’s words, been,'”brainwashed” by Apple to give the company and its products excessive amounts of favourable publicity.’

Elliott makes a comparison of the paper’s coverage of Apple phones compared with the rival Android mobile phone operating system over the past 12 months:

“There were 900 references to Apple in the paper and on the website in total; 470 of those were in print. There were 340 references to Android phones, of which 30 were in print.”

Elliott’s article was balanced without reaching a verdict on the claims of Apple bias. He quotes the paper’s technology editor Charles Arthur:

“The statistics show that people read about Apple stuff. If a story involves the company, it gets huge readership. We aim to write about it fairly. If it gets a lot of coverage, that’s because what it does can move entire markets – stock markets, other companies’ shares (eg suppliers who win/lose contracts), how we use devices (so it might not have been the first company with a touchscreen phone, but it set the standard all the others followed).”

Arthur was criticised heavily by readers last month for posting a 5 star review of the iPhone 5 that didn’t mention the flaws in the new Apple Maps app that replaced Google Maps in the iOS 6 operating system that powers the new phone. Arthur reassured readers who may be concerned about switching to the Apple app: “Don’t worry – it’s very good.” Within 24 hours, his colleague Juliette Garside reported ‘significant glitches’ in Apple Maps, including the disappearance of Stratford upon Avon, new airports and relocated towns.

Charles wasn’t the only reporter to publish a glowing review that didn’t mention the maps fiasco. The Telegraph’s Shane Richmond wrote a similarly euphoric write up the same day. The challenge tech writers like Shane and Charles face is that readers and publishers demand an instant appraisal of new tech products. They don’t always get enough time to get under the skin of the latest phones and other devices. It was much the same with the last truly new iPhone model – the rumpus about the reception problems of the iPhone 4 (the predictably named ‘antennagate’) broke a couple of weeks after the launch, long after the glowing reviews had appeared.

UPDATE: Shane has pointed out in response that he wrote a parallel story the same day as his iPhone 5 review highlighting that iOS 6 isn’t as good as it could be: “Unfortunately, in the version I tested, Apple’s Maps are missing places such as railway stations and frequently misplace cafes and restaurants, often putting them streets away from their actual locations.” Charles has highlighted his piece last week asking ‘Why do some people really hate Apple?”

The cult of Apple … and Android

It can’t be easy to be a tech writer. Anything you write about Apple or Android leads to an torrent of vitriol from fans of the rival systems that is literally beyond reason. Take one comment on Chris Elliott’s article:

“For most purposes Apple products suck. If you want to do any serious professional work using a computer you do not use Apple, but instead PCs running Microsoft Windows or a version of Linux…The only people who use Apple products are those who buy the product as a fashion accessory, or because they think it is cool and rebellious not use Windows.”

It’s hard to think of any other type of consumer product that provokes this kind of religious/cult style over-reaction. Do Ford car owners condemn Vauxhall or Mercedes owners as stupid for their choice of car? Or Canon devotees about Nikon users? It seems unlikely.

My view is that Android and Apple phones are amazing devices. They offer features that we could only dream about five years ago – and are so much more user friendly than earlier smartphones. (Just try using a BlackBerry if you want to see how awful smartphones were before the iPhone.) iPhones are brilliant for people who want a simple yet powerful user experience but aren’t bothered about customising how everything works. Android is terrific for anyone who wants more flexibility – in handsets, software and customisation. You choose.