Category Archives: technology

Up Periscope?

imageI’ve been road testing the Periscope app. If you are on Twitter you will know it. If you have young/teenage kids then you ought to know of it and Facebookers…don’t tune out because it’s heading your way soon in a different guise.

Periscope is a Twitter app which enables you to video broadcast to the world LIVE, in real-time using just your device and wi-fi from wherever you are.

How does it work? Periscope when downloaded gets access to your camera and mic with your permission. You can choose to broadcast yourself turning the camera on you and inviting random anybodies to ‘talk’ to you and ask you about your life/interests. That’s what I found most teenage/young adults doing as I used the map in the app to scroll around the world and zoom in on live broadcasters (or ‘Scopers’) in dozens and dozens of countries to see how they were using it. I found that the vanity culture we live in sadly draws young and adults on to the app to expose their mostly mediocre lives to anyone who logs into their broadcast to interact with them if interested.

imageThe most interesting Scopes were where people were turning the camera on to scenes or events around them, rather than on themselves. In this way I was able to watch the recent London Marathon while out and about and not in front of a TV from the point of view of racers and fans rather than TV stations. Actually, I was in church at the time but as I’m sure my Pastors don’t read my crap I’m OK to reveal that. I toured the Old City of Jerusalem through the camera lens of some random tourist there and was able to comment with knowledge on what he was seeing as I know the place well and even direct him from my room in London as to where to turn his camera or guide his steps as to what he might find if he took a left or right turn from where he was.

How do you interact with Scopers? Well, when you log on to their broadcast they get a notification on their screen that @radiogeyser (my Twitter handle) is now watching. They can’t see or hear me. I can’t vocally communicate with them but I can see them or whatever their camera is viewing. I can message them a comment or question by text in the app which appears on their screen, which they can read and respond to vocally.

I thought long about whether to post this blog or not because I’m not a social media expert and I thought by now most people will know about Periscope – only they don’t seem to or are just not wanting to use/know how to use it. I know this by my many trawls around the live global map to find Live or dormant Scopers…and the map is surprisingly sparsely populated. So if this technology has been out a couple of years and it’s not taken off, why bother with it?

imageFacebook has already hinted it will introduce live citizen broadcasting in some form to its 1.65 billion active monthly users worldwide soon and the difference for me between Periscope and Facebook is that more people I’m closely connected with are on Facebook than Twitter. It will mean more to me if my more closely connected Facebookers watch any of my livecasts if I do any as it will if I see theirs – and if any of my close friends were about to livecast something, I would watch at least initially and then choose who to keep paying attention to. One thing I forgot to mention is that Periscope saves the most recent broadcasts of those you follow for review if you miss it live for a limited period. My Twitter followers are mostly anonymous people I know little about. My Facebook community is my inner circle and so livecasting in that context will have more relevance.

imageI like the potential of Periscope despite the vastly mundane, irritating and even dangerous nature of broadcasts I have seen. Let me just open this up for a sec. I randomly found a live Scoper in Sheffield, UK where I used to live. I logged in to his broadcast for that reason only to find a young guy ranting about gay people and advocating all sorts of harm, violence and death on them. I messaged him to stop. He didn’t. I warned him I would use the facility in the app to report his broadcast (which Periscope records) and he continued. I messaged him to say I had reported him and he continued. Finally, using the map facility I geolocated the street in Sheffield he was broadcasting from (but not the house number). I messaged up his street name and if I could have had the wits to screenshot the look on his face when he saw his street name come up I’d make it my screen saver. With an “OH SHIT!” He closed his broadcast down and I have no guilt at all thinking he probably had the first of a couple of sleepless nights.

imageScopes that draw me: Little is more and I stumbled across a French girl living in Nice, a place I love. She broadcasts in short bursts though the day. She has three goals: to show off her beautiful city, to engage with those whom she attracts and to teach them how to speak French. I am now in her daily morning class on Periscope with a link to her website I can visit if I want to deepen my learning but for now, I’m learning a bit of French every day with her and others in real-time on a beach in Nice. I give her my attention, though I’ve never seen her face because she has engaged me and I enjoy those few minutes of lovely views from a place I love while learning some French before getting out of bed to start my day.

Periscope may have a limited shelf life until Facebook or others unveil their rivals but the potential of citizen broadcasting, despite the pitfalls is an intriguing new prospect to communicate with the world around us. Like it or not, the digital space is the 21st Century market square.

Which news app?

If, like me, you are a news and current affairs junkie and you like to be in the know most of the time, then here’s a stroll through my favourite news apps of the moment. I’m an iPadder, so all apps reviewed are from the Apple store, though I’m sure there are Android alternatives for most of these. I’d love to hear back about any others I should try. There’s a distinct lack of major US news agencies simply because I’m trying to escape wall-to-wall coverage of their next election for as long as possible. So here in no particular order…


imageAs with all news outlets, whether or not you like or trust them depends on how you perceive their editorial bias. The Beeb, from what I observe, comes in for more than its share of stick being labelled too this or too that, too pro, too anti on almost any issue it reports on. That said, it still commands a huge amount of respect and credibility due to its sheer history, size and global network of correspondents.

Their recently relaunched app now includes a ‘My News’ section, enabling you to select your particular areas of interest and then displaying the top stories in those sections on one page after the Live Feed and Top Stories. After that you can drill down and more areas of interest, which are then added to a top menu bar for ease of access. If you allow notifications, you will get breaking news alerts but one point here is that the BBC tend not to be first with breaking news preferring to have stories verified before they issue and alert. In terms of look, I can’t help feeling that it’s too close to CNN and not in a good way but it is a must have among my staple of apps and my most often referred to.
The app is free to download and use or well I guess we pay to use it through the TV Licence Fee but at a fraction of a fraction of the cost of other apps. That said…considering all the other apps reviewed here are at absolutely zero cost that makes the BBC news app the most expensive in this array, bar the next one…
Rating: 4/5

SKY News

imageAgain, Rupert Murdoch-owned Sky might not be your thing but they are one of the speediest news agencies at releasing reliable breaking news alerts and for that reason mainly, their app is part of my collection. When massive major news stories break, Sky do tend to focus all their energies on them while other news agencies will flit around on to more stories so if you can’t get enough of a major event of concern, Sky is worth having. Visually I find it quite messy and haphazard to use and there is no facility to filter-off areas of specific personal interest. The app is free to download by everyone but only free to use if you are already a Sky TV subscriber. If you are not, then a monthly usage fee of around £5.00 applies and that’s a big negative to me.
Rating: 2/5

France 24

imageFrance 24’s English language service is growing in terms of the attention I give it. They are available in the UK now as a TV service, at least the English service is. Online, they are available in French and Arabic too. The English service is fronted by an array of presenters from the UK, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, and North America and they cover global news from a French perspective. You will find more coverage of European news than we get in the UK plus an emphasis on regions of the world that were formerly French colonies, mostly Africa and the Mid East. If you allow notifications, you will get news alerts from them and in my opinion they are often the first and fastest alongside Agence France Presse (AFP) with reliable breaking news. On opening the app, you will be taken straight to the English live video feed and very minimalistic menu of content options to the right and bottom of the live feed leading you to their top stories, sport, business, a compressed news bulletin and the weather highlights from across the globe. A hidden right side menu which, will open as you touch the button to the top left of the Live Feed gives you the option to drill further into news articles and a ‘favourites’ section to select specific areas of interest to you plus you can link into their Twitter feed to see what they are talking about or who conversing with there. The app is free to download and use.
Rating: 4/5


imageDepending how you use your Twitter account (if you have one), this can be one of the most interesting and immediate of all news apps (even though it is social media and not specifically news) but there is a deal of caution here. I don’t use my Twitter account to make friends or gather followers. I mainly use it to follow news and current affairs from as wide a perspective as possible in a language I understand and that means following news agencies on either side of political, cultural and conflict divides. So, for example I will follow Western English-language news agencies as well as Russia Today or the Chinese English service. I follow Israeli news agencies and the Iranian or Arab state broadcasters but I draw the line with ISIS scum. In doing so you can get some fascinating insights into differing geographical perspectives and emphases on news and very often hear about news stories not being covered in the UK. I also like to follow individual journalists and particular regional correspondents. While they are always careful in what they say so as not to give the impression that their views represent their employers, you can get fascinating insights into their personal perspectives and sometimes amusing banter between them. The most graphic content can be found in what they report on Twitter first hand from frontline situations, even describing violence and disaster around them with a blow-by-blow immediacy you don’t always see, hear or read when their reports are made public by their agencies. The big caution with Twitter is that it can also be the biggest rumour mill on the planet so caution is needed with breaking news unless from a reliable source. The Twitter app is free to download and use but you will need to set up a free Twitter account (and then spend a good year or so learning how to use it!).
Rating: 3/5

Reuters TV

imageThis is a new app on the market I’m still trying to get used to. Reuters claim to have created it for people who have switched out from watching live broadcast news for whatever reason. It’s a very simple app to use from one of the world’s most reliable and oldest news agencies. Essentially, you tell the app how much time you have to consume the essential news stories of the day – 5 minutes or 10, 15, 20 up to 30. The shorter time you allow and the app will deliver the top stories in video format on to your screen as a playlist of that time length. You can either just hit the play button and the app will play through all the stories in sequence of if you are more picky, you can choose from the playlist just those stories you are interested in. The longer you allow for your news the more diverse the news stories Reuters will provide. Over time based on monitoring your behaviour in the news stories you choose to view or avoid, the app will start to deliver more content it thinks you like. Noteworthy features are the ability to watch your content offline, connect to the global Reuters live feeds to consume news as it happens and upgrade to an ad-free version. The app is free to download and use, though there is a charge for the upgrade to the ad-free version. I’ve not been using this app long enough to give it anything other than a rating straight down the middle, though I suspect that might move upwards in time. Very pleasing on the eye.
Rating: 3/5

News 360

imageThis has been around a while and I’ve had it a while and can’t remember now why I took it off my iPad (probably an emergency memory storage issue). Very glad to have it back. It’s free to download and use and once you have it takes seconds to set up by offering you a very wide range of content from Top stories to lifestyle, entertainment, travel and LOADS of niche and specialist subject matter to add to your customised start screen and so the app will only ever serve up the news content you want to see. A sliding home screen will then display your news choices in a pictorial menu by subject matter and you select whatever content you want to read that moment. A really great feature with this one is the facility to link your social media accounts to the app. The app will never post to your social feeds unless you decide you want to share something. You can link with Facebook, Twitter and Google+ (if anyone still uses that) and once you give permission the app will browse through your profile page to see what subject matter you like to post on and then it will offer you content areas taken from what it sees to be your areas of interest for you to add to your News 360 Home Screen. So for me, surprise surprise for all who know me, News 360 offered me Airline news, British Airways, Christianity, gadgets and the Eurovision Song Contest to add to my content choices. Don’t worry, if you spend all your time on social media slagging off that silly cow who lives up the road you can rest assured that cows, tarts or slag heaps will not show as content options for you nor anything of that personal a nature.
Rating: 4/5


imageAnd finally Newsflash, though this has little to do with providing news flashes. This is another new one I’m trying and I can’t say I’m all that impressed at the moment though I need to give it a fair chance. Of all the news apps, this has the most boring look and interface though after Twitter it offers the most varied content and content providers of any apps in this review. It’s free to download and use and you can spend forever scrolling through the content options and media providers. A great feature is that you can mute some of the pre-selected news agencies (ie the Daily Mail for most of my social circuit) plus add others that are not on the pre-selected list. The thing with this app is that because the choice is so wide-ranging, when I go into it I get that same feeling as when I used to go out at lunch time where I worked to buy lunch only to come back to the office empty-handed as there was just too much to choose from and so settle for a bag of chips from Greasy Joe’s across the street instead (which I guess in media terms is the equivalent of settling for 5 minutes doing The Sun crossword instead of consuming something more wholesome).
Rating: 2/5

How to free up 8GB memory on your iPad instantly

imageiPhoto for iPad is the best photo editing app I’ve come across so far and ranks among my top 5 ‘do not delete’ apps (and I have many dozens). Or at least I used to think that way.

It has two main down sides: it is very wearing on the battery and it uses an incredible amount of memory space. The frustrating thing is, that there is no easy way to delete photos from iPhoto. The app will carry mirror images of every photo on your camera roll and store them in the app, so in effect you have two camera roll libraries. In fact you have even more. iPhoto also keeps a library of your edited shots, apart from your camera roll and it also has something called ‘photo stream’ which collects your edited shots for use as a slide show. More memory lost. This morning my iPhoto app had accrued 8GB of memory.

Today I ran out of memory on my pad. Went into settings to see what was using all the memory and what I could delete to free up some. Got rid of numerous apps I just don’t use but nothing that opened the tiniest hole on the memory usage. The main three offenders using up gigabytes of memory were in order my music, my camera roll and iPhoto.

imageSo having met the frustration of not being able to delete photos from iPhoto, I Googled for a solution and found that others shared my dilemma. The solutions offered were long and laborious. There had to be a simpler way. What if I just deleted the iPhoto app and re-Installed it? So I did – and got back 8GB of memory instantly. A word of caution here about doing anything like this or deleting from you camera roll, which I also did. I highly recommend installing the Dropbox app, which I have had for some months and which automatically saves every photo in your camera roll over a wifi connection. Yes a combination of your camera roll, Dropbox and iPhoto takes a heavy toll on memory space but as I proved today, deleting and re-installing iPhoto solves a huge problem. The great thing about Dropbox is that you can delete photos within the app. Oh…and if you don’t know what Dropbox is, it’s a way of storing photos and documents in the global data cloud. You can download anything back to your device anytime and should your device be lost or broken, everything in Dropbox remains safe and you can access it from any other device.

One final tip on using iPhoto, which I still highly recommend, is to turn off the photostream, which you can do in settings. You won’t need it.

Losing my religion

I’ve finally done it.  After all these years, I’ve decided to walk away from all that I’ve recently come to believe in when communicating with the great unknown. In the words of the song “it’s like losing my religion”. And I’ve lost it.    Yesterday, I divorced the iPhone.

The shock of my decision reverberated through my Facebook and Twitter circles. Expressions of incredulity: how was it possible I could do this and how now… so soon after the passing of St Steve of Jobs?  The answer is simple:  I need a PHONE that meets my needs.

There is an odd group dynamic I’ve found among followers of Apple products that projects a ‘you are either with us or against us’ mentality. I believe this all stems back to that old battle between the Apple Mac and the PC.  I’ve not yet met a user of the Mac that has not wept into (mostly) his beer when forced to admit the overwhelming victory of the PC over the Mac in terms of global commercial success and domination. The Mac is still…to them…the best thing ever invented that most of the world no longer cares about. They may well be right but I’m not a geek and I wouldn’t know but I’ll still take their word for it. Apple-ites, as I’ve started to call them, seem to be adherents to a brand in terms I would recognise as quasi-religious.  A reason I was often given not to ditch my iPhone (as I have threatened to do a number of times before now) was because it was Apple. The Apple brand was behind it and if it was in any way defective, Apple would fix it….but I would be a fool to leave the safety and aura of Appledom.

So what are my reasons for ditching the iPhone?  Well, actually to a large degree that is due less to Apple’s shortcomings but to their success in the form of the iPad.  This is my most prized piece of technology yet since its arrival at Maison Penwald, the need for all the benefits of the iPhone over and above telephony simply dissipated. iPad goes with me everywhere and while it does, there is no need for iPhone except to make a call if I need to.   I have hardly used any of the dozens of apps I have on iPhone since its big brother came along.

So, take away all the apps…what good is iPhone?   A music player? Yes true, but iPad does that and so does iTouch and Nano (both of which I have lying around plus an iPhone 3G somewhere). A camera? iPad takes far better pictures than iPhone with faster editing and sharing processes. A telephone then?   Ah yes and so to the main reason I’m ditching the iPhone. It is by far the worst of all phones of any kind I have ever owned full stop.  I’ve had 2 iPhone 4’s. One got stolen so I got a replacement on insurance. Both were as duff as each other. Both had poor reception, one I had to get a special cover for to aid reception as the way it had been designed meant holding it made it lose reception.  They both dropped out of service in mid-call so often.  There are numerous other niggles which in themselves are not huge in the scheme of things, but when iPad has taken away the previously only advantage iPhone had over any phone…then why settle for a substandard phone?

I’m shopping around at the moment contemplating the Samsung Galaxy 3, possibly Nokia, the one time global overlord of mobile telephony, or HTC.  All will deliver a better phone service.   Now it may well be that the iPhone 5, which ridiculous people have been camping out in front of Apple stores for days to buy, may have improved telephony but here’s the 3rd reason why I’m not going to bother: the shine is coming off the Apple brand fairly fast. To be expected in a way as the bigger you get, the more your failings are scrutinised.  The last string of Apple product launches that I’ve seen have been flawed: over-heating products, poor telephony,  bugs, glitches and just now the huge flaws in Apples new mapping app that has reverberated around the world with howls of derision from the media and fury from Apple users.  Fortunately, I have not updated my products with the new iOS6 software. My golden rule with Apple now is not to be a ‘first adopter’ but to wait until Apple get it right. True, they have the capability to issue fixes and updates any time, but hardly a Rolls Royce performance.

While I am less enamoured with Apple, I would not throw out the baby with the bath water either. There is no doubt that Apple has revolutionised the way we live and iPhone gave a kick up the mobile telephone market’s backside that it needed. But it isn’t perfect and it isn’t the only kid on the block and I’m no longer of a mind that you have when you are an Apple-ite…that to leave the brand is betrayal or to step into the uncool. I’m just thinking about what I actually need from a phone and not what parallel universes it might seek to offer me that others can too but with better phone service.   I may well return to iPhone in the future but for now, it will be nice to go to work on the Tube and have a phone that meets my needs and not necessarily one everyone else in the carriage is playing with…