Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category
This morning saw the announcement of another addition to the HTC One series of phones – the HTC One SV, the sixth smartphone in the series.
It’s a move which is sure to have consumers scratching their heads again over exactly which model of phone HTC is pushing most strongly given the sheer number of HTC phones available.
I’ve long believed that one of the main reasons HTC lag so far behind their biggest rivals is that, at any one time, most people haven’t got a clue what their flagship model is.
With new phones released almost continuously throughout the year, a quick glance at the collection of HTC smartphones available would be enough to convince most people who haven’t the time or patience to spend researching each phone to simply give up and opt for a manufacturer who make things a lot simpler for them.
Having established their position as leaders in the battle for mobile phone sales, one of the reasons why Apple maintain a strong share of the market is that there is no confusion over which of their mobile phone products the company wants you to buy.
Few companies have been as efficient at product marketing than Apple, something which is easier to do when there is only one product to market in the first place.
Replacing the iPhone was the iPhone 3G, followed by the iPhone 3GS and the iPhone 4. Only now, with both the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 5 on sale concurrently, do consumers have a choice over which iPhone they buy.
Even now, it is still obvious that one is newer, and therefore likely to be better. The only choice is to weigh up whether the advantages of the newer model justify its higher price.
Samsung, the main rival of HTC in the Android market, have many more than one phone, but the company’s marketing strategy ensures that there is no doubt what their top phone is.
The acclaimed Samsung Galaxy S2 was widely considered to be the best smartphone on the market when it was released. Its successor, the Galaxy S3, is rated every bit as highly – something that consumers are well aware of.
Anyone on the lookout for a top of the range Android-based smartphone won’t have to look at any other Samsung model – just as a year ago, they wouldn’t have had to look at any Samsung phone other than the Galaxy S2.
From the two companies covered so far, the choice facing a consumer looking to purchase the best phone on the market is between an iPhone and a Galaxy S3.
And so to HTC.
Early last year, upgraded versions of the HTC Incredible and the HTC Desire were released, each with the ‘S’ suffix. Later came the HTC Incredible, Amaze 4G, Evo, Explorer, and two further versions of the Incredible – all in addition to a whole range of lower specification models that were also brought out during 2011.
For the average consumer, there was never an obvious model that stood out so clearly as to be considered along with the Apple and Samsung options.
Without detailed research on the features offered by each model, how would people know whether the Incredible was better or worse than the Sensation, for example? And what about when each were upgraded? Would it be any more obvious when choosing between the Incredible S and the Sensation XE? And what of the more lightweight Desire S, which matched many of the specifications of the former two models?
That sums up for me why HTC have been unable to make as strong an impact on the smartphone battle as Apple or Samsung. There is simply too much choice between too many products which are ultimately too similar to each other.
Things looked to be changing in the spring, when the announcement of the HTC One series was first made.
There would be three models: the One V, a cheaper and more compact model, the One S, consisting of a typical screen size and more features, and finally the One X, the largest and most powerful model in the range.
Great, I thought, the lesson has been learnt and there is finally some simplicity to the choices of HTC product. But sadly, in the months since, confusion has returned.
Firstly, the Desire has been resurrected. And not just an upgrade, but three new models: HTC Desire C, V and X. None offer any significant improvements over the Desire S other than an upgrade to the operating system.
Then there have been further models of the HTC One, specifically the One XL and the One X+. According to a comparison on the HTC website, there are some subtle differences between each, but the specifications are largely the same. Yet all variants of the HTC One are available and today, the One SV was added to the growing number of HTC Ones.
One phone, six versions – and, probably, counting.
Given the constantly moving conveyor belt of new products, and marketing which fails to promote any one model particularly well, it’s worth asking whether HTC actually stands for How To Confuse.
But despite any shortcomings in the marketing of HTC phones, the products themselves compare extremely well with those of their competitors.
Reviews consistently rate HTC products highly, and from personal experience I can back up any such views. On choosing a HTC Desire S last year, I found that it compared favourably to the iPhone 4. The iPhone clearly had a better screen but in all other areas of performance, there didn’t appear to be any clear advantages.
If HTC focused on fewer products, or concentrated on a prolonged marketing campaign of a single model that they wished to pitch against the best that their rivals have to offer, then perhaps the share of the market would be more evenly split.
However, any such approach looks to be as far away as ever and that means that a company marketed as being ‘quietly brilliant’ may have to stay that way for a little while longer.
When was the last time you backed up the files on your computer? Or at least, the files you value?
Backing up data may once have been something that the ordinary home user didn’t need to be concerned with too much. As long as your schoolwork was saved on a floppy disc, there wasn’t a great deal on your PC that had much importance for the average computer user.
How that has changed.
Backups are now more important than ever, and it remains something that many people either aren’t aware of, or don’t take seriously.
Computers are used for everything these days. Not only photos and videos, but paperless bank statements, e-books and our documents – both business and personal. Files are now much more likely to be stored digitally, than for a printed copy to be filed away.
Additionally, the capacity of hard drives has increased to a point where there is far less need to backup files onto a disc in order to free up space.
When I bought my first digital camera, my PC had just a 6GB hard drive. Image file sizes were smaller but I frequently ran out of space on my computer and had to copy everything onto CDs.
With hard drives of modern computers frequently above 250GB, there’s no need for such measures and many people would find that they could go a decade or more and still not fill a drive of that size. But think of how much information would be lost if that hard drive failed? How many thousands of photos – taken over a period of years – would be lost if the laptop they were on was stolen, or damaged beyond repair?
The easiest way to backup is onto an external hard drive. A 500Gb drive can be purchased for around £50 and for simply backing up photos, that would be a sufficient size drive for the majority of people. For added security, back everything up twice. If one drive fails, you’d still have a good copy stored somewhere else.
Compared to the past methods of having documents in paper form, music on CDs and photos printed, it can seem as though having everything stored on one hard disk of a computer is much less of a safe method of storing important information. But with multiple backups, it’s easy to see how technology can make things more secure. After all, without buying everything twice or photocopying every document we received, we would only ever have had the ability to have a single copy of any information or photos/videos of importance.
While technology can be of huge benefit, it isn’t without risk. Just as that TV or toaster of yours stopped working without any warning, so too could the hard drive inside your computer.
So if you haven’t yet backed up the years of holiday videos stored on your computer, or the baby photos of a close relative, make it one of your priorities to do it as soon as possible – before it’s too late!
Purchasing a new camera can be quite daunting for people given the amount of choice available, the amount of technical jargon or the techniques used by high street salesmen to encourage a customer to go for a more expensive model.
As a semi-professional photographer with a long standing passion for photography, I am often asked to give advice to friends and family whenever they are thinking of making a new camera purchase, and I have noticed a few common themes which have repeatedly come up over the last 12-18 months.
The following three points address some basic myths and misconceptions that the casual photographer may have when on the lookout for a new camera.
1. SLR is best
Not strictly a myth, as a high-end SLR camera will generally achieve higher quality photographs. But… only in the right hands.
Over the last 12-18 months, so many people have asked me the question “Which SLR camera should I get?” My answer is always to ask why they think they need an SLR camera.
SLR cameras offer much greater control and flexibility, and the lower cost of entry-level models is helping them to become affordable for more and more people.
For anyone not seriously interested in anything other than taking casual snaps, the advantages are far outweighed by the disadvantages.
Most lenses lack the flexibility of many compact cameras, which can include the ability to take wide angle shots as well as having a huge zoom. To achieve that with an SLR, two separate lenses would be required, at greater cost, not to mention an additional kilo worth of bulky equipment to carry around.
The other drawback for the non-serious photographer is that you’d need to be familiar with some of the settings in order to get the most out of the camera. Sure, there is an ‘auto’ mode on the lower end and mid-range models, but these cameras are there to give the photographer greater flexibility in how they set the camera up. To never break away from using the ‘auto’ setting is like purchasing a £150,000 Ferrari, only to drive it around at 30 mph.
If you’re interested in photography or feel you may be in the future, and are prepared to invest in additional lenses, then there may be justification in purchasing an SLR.
If not, spend your money on the best compact camera your budget will stretch to. The chances are you’ll have much more fun, and get results which are at least as good.
2. Megapixels rule
Another frustrating argument is that the more megapixels, the better the camera. Not true! If it was true then Fuji’s 16 mp Finepix AV250, available for under £70, would make spending £3,500 on a 12.1 mp Nikon D3s a bit pointless. You’d be better saving the extra money to put towards that Ferrari.
The number of megapixels determine how big the photograph will be on-screen, and at what size it is capable of being printed without loss of quality.
A decade ago, it would have been a more valid argument. A 1 megapixel digital camera would struggled to look half decent at 6×4″, and only in 2002 did 4 megapixel cameras start to surface.
Such problems are now in the past, with the minimum standard these days closer to 6 or 7 mp, meaning that virtually any camera available today will produce photographs with a high enough resolution to print out acceptable quality photographs at any size up to A4.
It’s also worth noting that more megapixels result in larger file sizes, filling up your valuable hard drive space much more quickly.
If you need to be printing much larger sized photos on a regular basis, then it would be an advantage to have more megapixels. For everyone else, it’s no longer an important issue, despite what the high street sales people will try to convince you.
3. The more expensive the camera, the better your photos will be
In terms of technical quality, there is again some truth to this. Expensive cameras with expensive lenses should obviously be producing good quality results, from a technical point of view, but the subject of the photograph and the composition is never the result of the camera, and always down to the photographer.
Whether you have a cheap compact camera, or the finest SLR known to man, the photographer’s eye for a photograph will determine whether the image is good or bad.
An expensive camera doesn’t suddenly help someone to start noticing subjects which make a good picture.
Nikon caused a stir in September by stating on their Facebook page that “A photographer is only as good as the equipment he uses, and a good lens is essential to taking good pictures!”
The post was universally condemned, and rightly so. The subject and content of a photograph is only as good as the photographer taking the picture, and there’ll be little wrong with the image quality from the overwhelming majority of new cameras available.
If you are in the market for a new camera, do your research but don’t be conned into believing any of the myths which may be fed to you by salesmen, or Nikon.
Also, once you’ve narrowed down a shortlist of potential purchases, have a look at PBase’s excellent ‘search by camera‘ facility. You’ll be able to see photos which have been taken with the very same camera, and therefore make a judgement on the quality of the results achieved.
Following on from last week’s post about the Domain Registry of America, this post will explain how to go about getting your domain back if you have mistakenly transferred it to them.
Firstly, you’re not alone. There are countless stories throughout the internet of people who have unintentionally given the DRoA authorization to take their domain.
The transfer letters sent out to these people are styled by DRoA, quite deliberately, to look like renewal forms. Terms are used throughout the forms which speak of what will happen if you don’t renew your domain, and that you should ‘act now’.
Many do act now, and return the form with payment. In doing so, they have handed over their website domain to DRoA.
If you wish to return it to the company you originally registered with, as I recently had to do on behalf of a client who had been in the same situation of unwittingly transferring a domain to DRoA, here are the steps you will need to take.
Firstly, you will need to choose a new registrar. There are hundreds available, amongst which are Fasthosts, 123-Reg and 1&1.
Once you have decided on a registrar, you will need to unlock your domain in your DRoA control panel. This is to allow the transfer to take place.
After unlocking the domain, open a new account with the new registrar of your choosing. Then, request the transfer of the domain you are trying to recover. The transfer procedure at each company may differ slightly, though it is a common task and a “How to…” guide should be easily found in the help section of the registrar’s website if required.
It is likely that a fee for one year’s registration will be charged, but this will pay for an extra year to be added to the domain’s registration.
The next task is to get an Authorization Code from DRoA. This is an important step in the process which is not commonly known, and even for someone experienced at dealing with domains, there is no obvious way of getting hold of such information. It doesn’t get sent to you automatically, as some registrars will do. Nor is it available on the control panel for you to have access to, as is a method used by others.
Instead you have to ask for it.
Specifically, you must send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org from the specific email address which is registered to the domain. This will be the email address you wrote on the form which you returned to them. If a request is sent from any other email address, it will not be acknowledged.
Included in the email must be a request for an “authorization code” for the domain you are wishing to transfer. You must also include your control panel password in the body of the email.
If you have strictly followed the instructions in the previous two paragraphs, then you should recieve the Authorization Code required to complete the transfer, although it will be enclosed at the foot of a long email asking you to reconsider and renew with them instead.
So what do you do with your authorization code when you receive it?
Well as a result of placing a transfer request with your new registrar, you will have received an email asking you to confirm the transfer. The email will have been delivered to the email address registered on your DRoA account. Within the email, a link will be provided for you to either confirm or decline the transfer. Clicking this link will give you the option both to confirm you wish to transfer the domain, and also enter in the relevant authorization code.
On a successful entry of the code, the transfer will have been formally initiated. It should be noted that it may take up to five days to complete but if you, like my client, have enjoyed a less than pleasant experience dealing with the DRoA, it will be five days which will be worth waiting.
The Domain Registry of America, also known as NameJuice or Brandon Gray Internet Services have tricked many customers over the years into handing over the registration of their domains.
They operate by sending renewal forms to people or businesses who have domains which are due to expire within 6 months. The pre-printed forms are created in such a way that they appear to be the only way in which you can renew your domain.
The language of their letters is strong enough to convince you that they are your only hope of keeping that web address which you or your business have become known by.
And they have your address. So it must be legit, right? Wrong. Well, sort of.
They are a legitimate company, but the practice which they engage in simply should never have been legal. What the DROA are actually asking of you is not only that you renew your domain, but that you transfer it to them, rather than renewing with the company which you chose to register with in the first place. Your completed form is basically your consent for them to take control of your domain.
But how do they know your domain is appraching its renewal date? They know because registration dates are public. Your address too, in many cases.
So why do so many people fall for it? Well, a few reasons. What the DROA are actually doing is specified in the vast quantity of smallprint written on the back of their forms. Most people don’t read the small print. And those that do may not understand all of the technical terminology anyway and therefore won’t be fully aware of the repercussions.
To anyone who may recieve a letter from this company, you would be advised to ignore it. The company you registered your domain with in the first place would have been chosen for a reason. If you wish to change it, research other domain registrars and find reviews.
If you have already fallen into the trap and paid your money, you will be in the same boat as a client whose website I recently took over the management of. Five years ago they were dishonestly convinced to renew with the DROA, and subsequently handed over payment. And their domain.
Getting it back has been something of a battle, and in the next post I’ll explain just what you need to do if you wish to transfer your domain back into the more trusty hands of your original registrar.