Spring 2014 : A Glimpse of the Technology
This is not an article for anyone under thirty (say). But how up are you on modern computer-cum-communication technology? Scanning over the Computing Pages of Rochford Life recently we realised afresh just how much technology has leapt forward in the three years since we have been running.
Three years ago we were talking about PCs and laptops but we’re living in another world now. I have lost count of the number of times I have been in a public place and there are (elderly – so often) people playing with a tablet – no not the sort out of a bottle! Younger people seem (I may be wrong) to spend more time clicking away on their smart phones but tablets are definitely ‘in’ with older people in areas where there is free wi-fi. (perhaps it’s to do with larger screens!)
If you read through what follows and yawn, OK you’re young and on top of it. Otherwise here’s a little starter for ten points to see if you are part of this incredibly-fast-changing world. (In two years time anything on this page will probably be right out of date!) Here are the essentials for understanding what is happening around you if you are part of the 50% (only) of the population who apparently don’t have a tablet. Here are basics about communicating in our world today. (For more see the Silver Surfer’s article, “Help, I’m a Data Junky!”
A Smart Phone is a mobile phone that is able to perform many of the functions of a computer, typically having a relatively large screen and an operating system capable of running general-purpose applications.
An iPhone is a type of smart-phone. The iPhone offers many of the advanced features found on competing devices, but it also differs from other smart phones on the market. The iPhone runs the iOS operating system, or OS. The main competing operating system is now Android.
Thus the two main operation systems tend to be:
iOS: Apple’s operating system, which runs the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. It's simple and easy to use, with the largest app selection.
Android: Created by Google as an open platform to entice a variety of manufacturers, and is now very widely used on the wide range of tablets available today.
A tablet computer, or simply tablet, is a mobile computer with display, circuitry and battery in a single unit. Tablets are equipped with cameras, microphone, and touch-screen, with finger or stylus replacing the computer mouse and keyboard. An on-screen, pop-up virtual keyboard is usually used for typing. Certain types of tablet have a detachable portable flat keyboard. Tablets are typically larger than smart phones etc. at 7 inches (18 cm) or larger, measured diagonally
Apple was the number one original tablet manufacturer with the iPad, followed by Amazon who introduced the Kindle Fire, and Google who produce Nexus tablets and Microsoft who have produced the Surface tablet, and there are others. (I suppose we should mention the Hud1 from Tesco although Computer Active magazine recently gave it a poor rating for slow responses, perhaps because it is incredibly cheap for a tablet.)
The latter mentioned tablet, the Surface, runs Windows and Office (also versions of Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint) and has a detachable flat keyboard and can be the workhorse for office users on the move. The latest Kindle Fire also uses an Office Suite and is considered to be much faster than the earlier ones.
Those in the know swear by the latest iPad mini, but for those who don’t want to be enmeshed by Apple, for superb communication and internet usage (although you need a local wireless availability) the Nexus is probably the next best alternative (unless you want an office – see Surface above)
(Incidentally if you are a Nexus owner you can get a free nexus guidebook by going to Google Play, click on the magnifying glass and type in “nexus guidebook” and get the free version for your particular tablet.)
For shear internet search facility speed something like iPad or Nexus will probably leave all but the most recent PC or laptop standing. As somebody said, “Just speaking to my Nexus a question for the Internet, produced an instant response on the Google search system and was onsite within a second or two. Awesome!” We have to agree.
Now we need to put in a disclaimer here. If you are thinking of buying a tablet, go on line and check comparison articles. Different tablets have their own fans and it is incredibly difficult to decide “what is best”. My wife uses a Surface, I use a Nexus, and other members of the family use iPads. We all claim ours is best.
But consider the jump in technology available to us in the last three years. Take my Nexus 7 for example: it has a great 7inch screen, I use Skype, BBC iPlayer and have watched catch-up films on holiday, collected my e-mails, made the odd note, downloaded music, films or talks and regularly play games or search for information online, and taken photos, plus lots more. The world out there is now in here.
Back with one of the cheapest smart-phones, I can go online wherever we are, use maps to find out where we are, use the phone’s camera and so on. Small screen disadvantage.
I recently heard someone in the business saying that 50% homes in the UK now have a tablet. (I think for PC’s with Internet access, it is over 90% now)
An app, or mobile application (for those who have not yet ventured into the mobile device world) is application software designed to run on smart phones, tablet computers and other mobile devices. Probably the two biggest sources are Apple App Store and Google Play. According the constantly varying figures I’ve been told, the former have hundreds of thousands of apps and the latter tens of thousands of apps. Apps may be free or may cost you.
How do we communicate? Another world of constant change!
If you want to contact some people, Facebook is still the best way. For others Twitter is where it is at. Texting still goes on at a furious pace and sometimes people still do talk to each other over their (mostly) mobile phone. For face to face at a distance, Skype or similar.
The biggest issue of contention today in the communication world? Privacy and Google Glass!
What is it?
“Google Glass is a wearable computer with an optical head-mounted display that displays information in a smartphone-like hands-free format, that can communicate with the Internet via natural language voice commands.”
i.e. you wear glasses (spectacles) that show you visual information which you can command with voice commands. It’s only in its developmental stage.
Google’s advert declares: “Become a Glass Explorer. We're looking for bold, creative individuals who want to help shape the future of Glass,” and shows different people wearing them, even a cyclist! Without sounding too much of a Luddite, if it is illegal to use a mobile phone when driving because it distracts, how much more will ‘Glass’?
In the beginning of March 2014 the Telegraph reported a ‘Glass’ wearing girl in a bar in San Francisco being attacked. Why? Because the high point of a ‘Glass’ is its camera and people don’t like being video recorded without their consent. Privacy issues rule OK.
Well there is a taster of today, more of an awareness thing really. If you are not there yet, we hope this will have been of a little help. Remember things change so quickly that in two years time this page will almost certainly be quite out of date, but who knows!