Let the music play on….

With Strictly back on our TVs, dancing is firmly on the agenda for autumn. In June I wrote about music streaming services, and I hope you’ve been able to enjoy dancing to some new tunes as a result.  But having decided which service to use to listen to your music, what are you going to listen to it with? (Or should that be, with what are you going to listen to it?  On. With.  Whatever…!)

So, on to the hardware.  As always, there are various options for you to listen to digital music.

1. At its simplest you can use your computer and the sound system built into it. Or even your regular laptop speakers, but these do tend to be a bit ‘tinny’.

2. My son spent around £40 on a set of computer speakers; apparently they’ve got ‘two tweeters and a bass bin’ so he’s happy. They have a mini-jack connector and he simply plugs the speakers directly into his laptop or his phone’s headphone socket.  They sound quite good in his bedroom.

3. Go Bluetooth.  There are a variety of bluetooth speakers ranging from just a few pounds. You ‘pair’ your device with the speaker which means you don’t need cables.  As with most things, you get what you pay for. Our Tipster Mark swears by the Bose Soundlink 3. It’s Bluetooth and has a good bass sound and costs around £240.  It has a range of about 9 metres and will remember the last 6 devices it’s been connected to.  It runs on mains power, but it also has a fantastic 14 hour battery life. Ideal for garden parties, although maybe not this week.

4. Show me the Sonos!  It’s fab and my clear favourite! If you want an easy-to-use music system that covers your whole house and will play all of your music, no matter where it’s stored, Sonos is probably your best option.  You can have speakers in every room, all connected to one music library and one streaming account, and each playing different things if you want. It can handle the highest quality streams and music downloads. It can also cope with televisions, Internet radio, husbands and many children, plus you can even choose whether your speakers are black or white. There are so many options, starting from about £200. Why not take a look at their website, www.sonos.com and build your own system?

And as always, if you need help to sort out your Sonos, or any other home IT support, just get in touch. Meanwhile, keep dancing….

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Calling all book worms!

TurnItOffReadABook-v2white500.jpgI love this illustration because it conveys an angst that so many parents feel, that our children spend their days glued to their screens and perhaps they aren’t reading as much as they ‘should’. I won’t get into the discussion about how much screen time is too much – I’m sure you’ve read plenty about that already.

The point I want to make is that the two things are not mutually exclusive. Much of what I look at on my various screens is the written word, and (much to the horror of some of my book club colleagues) many of the books I read are read on a Kindle or (heaven forbid!) on my phone. Perhaps even more outrageous (for the book club stalwarts), I have now discovered listening books, which has resulted in me being ‘plugged in’ to my phone when I’m walking the dog, cooking the supper or doing the ironing.

Screen Shot 2017-09-01 at 15.35.26.pngI did a fair bit of research into listening books before I plumped for Audible, which is owned by Amazon. There are various companies offering audio books and they all seem to work in much the same way – you pay a monthly fee and for that you can download a certain number of titles (or unlimited titles in the case of All You Can Books, as the name suggests). For an Audible membership, you pay £7.99 a month for which you get one credit (1 credit = 1 book) and you can buy extra books too if one a month isn’t enough. The clever bit is that I can listen to a book on my phone, and then if I want to switch to listening on my computer, the story will start at precisely the right spot, without me needing to know which chapter I was on.

Screen Shot 2017-09-01 at 15.40.12.pngAs a lover of books (in all their guises) it was an easy decision for Fingertips to be a sponsor of the Chiswick Book Festival, now in its ninth year. The programme this year (running from 14th-18th September) looks just as enticing as ever, with plenty of big names taking part, including Clare Balding, John O’Farrell, Jeremy Vine and Maggie O’Farrell talking about their books. There will also be workshops as diverse as how to write an autobiography, developing great plot lines and the best way to research for fiction writing. Don’t miss the chance to be part of this wonderful celebration of reading (and listening) – you can book tickets here.

In the meantime, if you need help setting up your Kindle or iBooks on your iPad, or advice on a listening books membership, please get in touch here.

 

 

That’s where the (free) music takes me…

One of our Tipsters was telling us how her younger sister had come home this week aglow with excitement.  “It’s so cool!” young sister exclaimed.  “I’ve just bought a record player.  It can play albums!”  She apparently then spent an afternoon at a discery in Soho buying “old school” albums.

Another Tipster with a background in radio was telling us about the excitement the industry felt when Dire Straits made the then momentous decision to issue their latest album (‘Brothers in Arms’, one of my all time favourites) on the brand new CD format.  Then came iTunes, then music players and now today we don’t need to buy anything other than a streaming subscription.  A what?  Well, you no longer have to upload your entire music collection to every device you own.  You can sign up to a music streaming service, where the music is played to all your devices over the internet.  And in many cases it will cost you nothing.

If you decide to sign up, the good news is that you’re spoilt for choice. Whether you go for Apple Music or Spotify, you’re guaranteed to find a huge catalogue of music, a host of playlists to help you discover something new to listen to and offline playback so you’re not eating into that mobile data package on your phone.

But which one stands out from the rest and will give you the best overall music streaming experience?

We’ve been using –

 

over the past few months here at Tipster Towers to cover the leading contenders.

Our informed Tipster tip is… try them all!  That might sound like a bit of a cop out, but they all have at least a 30 day free trial. Apple Music has a three month trial.

Amazon music is included if you have an Amazon Prime membership and you can play it through your Alexa/ Echo device too. There’s not that much to choose between them all, for general use, although Spotify has a free version that runs ads.  If you want the full service they all cost around £10 per month although there are higher quality options of around £20 per month.

They all sound great.  Having said that, the most exacting of audiophiles using the most expensive of headphones or speaker setups should probably only consider Tidal or Deezer’s Elite option.  If you own a Sonos, the multi-room speakers are set up to work with both Tidal and Deezer’s high quality services, as well as with Spotify and the others at their standard quality.

My personal favourite is Spotify, but it really comes down to which one you like the look of and how easy you find it to navigate. As always, please get in touch if you need a Tipster’s Touch to tickle your tech.

Science fiction for today

kubrick_archive_2001_dress-rehearsals_spaceship_crew-2When I was growing up, the idea of ‘video calls’ was really far out and radical. On my travels round Australia and Asia in my twenties, I had to schedule a rather expensive phone call with my folks about once a week, or wait for those wonderful, tissue-thin airmail letters to arrive at Post Restante, half way across town.

Today, I have regular Skype calls with friends around the globe and we can see each other to chat for as long as we like, for free. With Christmas coming up, I thought it would be fun to introduce you to some of the many (free) video calling services out there so that you can easily share the festive season with far-flung friends and relatives (or those just round the corner). It’s sci-fi for today.

There are lots of great packages you can use, and most have mobile versions too, so you can video call from your smartphone or tablet, as well as your computer. Here are three that we like:

26456e06d545876f253b1538938624241. FaceTime: if you both have iPhones or iPads, then Apple’s FaceTime is a great thing to use. It’s simple to use because all Apple products come ready equipped with the app, and it connects with your contacts, so instead of phoning someone, you can just FaceTime them instead. If you live in a world of friends and family who mostly own iDevices, this is perfect for you.

facebook-messenger2. Facebook Messenger: yes, you may not realise it, even if you’re a regular Facebook user. But download the Facebook ‘Messenger’ app and not only can you send messages directly to your Facebook friends but you can talk for free and make video calls too! I just tested it out with my 16 year old son – it worked really well, but he was less than thrilled to see my face suddenly appear on his phone. This works just as well if one of you is using Android and the other iOS (iPhone). Not so easy to do on a computer.

skype_logo-svg3. Skype: this is the daddy of video calling services. Skype may be owned by Microsoft now, but it still has a strong identity of its own. On your computer, just open your internet browser (Safari, Chrome, Edge etc) and search for Skype.com. The webpage will open and you can set up an account for free, then download the desktop application that’s right for your computer (choose Mac or Windows). You can use Skype on a phone or tablet too, so you can use it anywhere you have wifi. Once you’ve downloaded the programme, you can log in and search for friends and family. You can make voice and video calls, send text messages or even use it to send panasonic-image-skype_video_chat2large files like photos. If you’re feeling especially clever you can make group calls too.

So there you have it. You don’t need to be Captain Kirk or Dr Floyd to use a videophone – the technology is simple, free and right there at your fingertips.

Snap happy

cornwall-2013-28It’s starting to feel decidedly autumnal, which means it must be time to tackle the task of getting all the photos I took on my summer holidays off my phone/ camera and on to my computer. For some people this is slightly daunting and so gets put off until the point when your camera can’t take any more pictures because the storage space is full. But it’s really quite simple and if you do it regularly you’ll find you can organise your photos into lovely albums that make it easy to find and show off your best shots to your friends.

pict0099Alternatively (or as well) you can use a cloud-based service to store your photos, and these can be set up so that they upload photos automatically from your phone. This means that should the worst happen (a spilt cup of coffee, leaving your laptop on the bus…), you’ve still got your lovely pictures safely stored elsewhere.

Here’s how to do both:

Manually upload your photos using a USB cable. The process for importing and transferring photos from a mobile device basically hasn’t changed for a decade. The process varies slightly between ecosystems and operating systems, but it’s typically a matter of plugging your phone or tablet in to your computer using a USB cable, and clicking the Import button, (or some version thereof). Once imported, you can delete the photos from your phone and free up space to take more.

Here’s how it works on my Mac: plug my phone into the computer with a USB cable and the Photos app (or iPhoto, depending on the age of your computer) opens up (you need to tick the box that says ‘Open Photos for this device’ to make this happen each time)screen-shot-2016-09-21-at-10-54-13The app will show all the photos on your phone, separating them into those that are already on your computer and any that are new.
Choose the photos you want to import by clicking on each image, or choose ‘Import new’ to upload all of them. Then click ‘Import selected’ and the process of uploading begins. This could take a few minutes depending on how many pictures you’ve got.

screen-shot-2016-09-21-at-10-55-46The process will be much the same if you’re using a PC and the Windows Photo app. Once the pictures have been imported, it’s a good idea to organise them into albums, so that you can find them easily later.

google-drive-logo-2esegzlUse a cloud-based service to have your photos automatically uploaded as you take them. This is a fantastic way to make sure you never lose any of your photos, even if you drop your phone in the swimming pool. There are hundreds of cloud storage services, and you may already be subscribed to one. If you’ve got an iPhone the chances are you already have an iCloud account and if you’ve got an Android phone, you’ve probably got a Google Drive or Google Photos account. Another dropbox-logopopular and easy to use service is Dropbox, and they all work in much the same way. The key is to make sure that you are signed in to the same account on your phone as you have on your computer, and to turn on the ‘automatic upload’ facility.

dropbox-camera-uploadI have my photos loading to Dropbox automatically which means that every time I am in a wifi area, any new pictures will be sent to my Dropbox account. To do this, I have the Dropbox app installed on my phone. Then in the settings section of the app (look for the little ‘cog’ icon) go to ‘Camera uploads’ and make sure this is set to ‘On’. Once this is set up, it means that if you delete a photo from your phone, it will still be on your computer, in your Dropbox account – genius! So you can take as many pictures as you like on your holiday and you should never run out of storage space.

icloud_ios7Google Drive and iCloud work in a similar way – just go to the settings in the apps and choose the ‘auto-add’ function for Google Drive, or switch ‘Photos’ to ‘on’ for iCloud. For this to free up space on your device, do not check the box next to iCloud Photo Library, but do check ‘Photo Stream’.

Be careful with iCloud  – if you use the relatively new iCloud Photo Library to store your photos, deleting images from your phone or iPad will remove them from the cloud too. You can find more information about how to use iCloud here. And we will talk more about this slightly complicated system another day.

As always, if you have any comments or queries, please get in touch. Until next time… happy snapping!

Meet Your New Top Tipsters

Team1Fingertips offers a different service because we visit you at your home or office and show you what to do to sort your particular problem. Some computer GeekCo’s will visit, fix and leave. If the problem happens again, you have to call them back because you’ll have no idea what they did. I’m keen for that not to happen with Fingertips. It’s more a sit-down at the computer for a cuppa with a friend, than a technobabble time with a technician.

So I thought this time on the blog it might be nice for me to introduce you to our newest, freshest, Tipsters. I’ve carefully and lovingly – well maybe not lovingly – hand-picked every one for their high-tech knowledge and low-tech appreciation. Some people shudder at the thought of technology. But it’s everywhere and going to get ever more ingrained in our lives. And once you know what to do, most tasks and technology are simple to sort. Just imagine if you’d never seen a car before! How to drive? All those foot pedals to push, buttons to press, wheels to turn, lights and dials! Computers are a bit the same. Once you know what to do, they’re fairly simple. Although like cars they can also crash! And if yours does, get in touch and you may be visited by one of these lovely folk!

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Saransh Tiku – joined us in November 2015. Saransh is great with both PCs and Macs. He’s also a whizz with all things Social Media. His proud boast is that he can assemble a PC from scratch in less than 10 minutes. And he can!

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Oli Bielinski – joined in October 2015. Oli is an engineering graduate and expert in everything to do with Windows 10 (he can help with Macs too!). He’ll upgrade your operating systems and organise your files, photos and movies into one place without so much as breaking a sweat.

Umair Maqsood – I mentioned Umair back in March. He joined us this January and he’s our network expert. He’ll encourage your wifi signal into the very furthest corners of your house.

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Juan Arango – Juan joined in April and he’s a PC specialist. He’ll come and set up your new kit, tease out nasty viruses and untangle your iTunes from your Google Play account.

No photo of Juan or Umair yet but in the meantime you can enjoy this cute Fingertip man created by our lovely friends at Our Tiny Marketing Co

FINGERTIPS_PORTRAIT_02D-WEB Graeme YoungOf course we’ve still got the fabulous Nick who is our Mac guru and Graeme who has a degree in computer forensics, and is happy to get down into the depths of your computer’s operating system – should the need arise.

Let me know if you are having any particular problems and I’ll try and answer here next time. Or, of course, send one of our Tipsters to help.

 

 

Protect yourself from password amnesia

james-bond Passwords used to be something used only by spies in on-screen thrillers and children in their games. But it’s a fact the more time we spend online with computers and other interactive devices, the more passwords are becoming indispensable. And, with every year that goes by, my ageing brain finds it harder to remember them all.

There are three ways to deal with this problem. The first way might be slightly counter-intuitive and very low-tech, but, as we suggested in the last post, just write your passwords down somewhere and keep them safe. Although if it’s a PIN or something that relates to a bank account be VERY careful.

The second way is the one I use, really because it’s so simple and is built in to my computer’s operating system. I’m afraid it’s only available for Mac users though as it uses Safari’s password management system and iCloud Keychain. Here’s how it works:

Next time you go to set up a new online account, say for Amazon, when you get to the password box, Safari will suggest a password for you:Safari password

You can choose to accept that one, or you can choose your own. Either way, Safari will remember if for you, as long as you hit the ‘Save Password’ button that pops up.Save password

Now, the brilliant thing is the next time you go to that site, Safari will automatically fill in your password for you. And, if for some reason it doesn’t, there is an easy way to retrieve that long, complicated password:

In the top menu bar, click on Safari -> Preferences -> Passwords. In the search window in the top right corner of this box, type in the name of the site (Amazon for example) and up will come your login name (usually your email address) and the password shown as **********. Password reminderTo reveal the password, check the box in the bottom left that says ‘show password for selected sites’ and voila!

The last reason I love this method is because if you have your Apple ID set up on all your iDevices, your passwords will sync across your iPhone and your iPad, which is a fantastic time saver and frees up your memory for the good stuff.

The third, and probably most robust way to remember passwords and keep them secure is to get a password manager.

PasswordKeeperThis is an excellent way not only to avoid the wasted hours spent trying to remember that clever, ‘unforgettable’ password you set up for your Ocado account, but it also goes a long way to protect you against hackers.  If you use the same password on lots of websites, the risks to your security increase dramatically. A breach at one site could expose all of your accounts. If that password is a lame one like “123456” or “password,” a hacker could get into your account just by guessing. The problem is, avoiding same passwords and lame passwords is really hard—too hard for most of us to manage without help. But the solution is simple—install a password manager and change all of your passwords so every single one is different, and every single one is long and hard to crack. Of course, if a major hack attack does expose thousands or millions of email accounts, including yours, there’s nothing you can do except change your password pronto. But a password manager will change all your logins to crazy-tough passwords like G2#iywoYXq$2T34d or %N!46vY758WEr#*8. And because the password manager remembers the passwords for you, all you need to do is remember one password to access all the rest.

There are lots of different password managers to choose from, so we’re just suggesting three here. All of these can be used for free, although more features (like syncing across all your devices) can be obtained for a small annual fee (around £10). Be sure to read the small print before you sign up – some offer the product for free but limit the number of passwords you can store – up to around 15. If you’re anything like me, you’ll need a lot more than that.

  1. LP-LogoLastPass 3.0  has been around for a while, and is still a great, completely free password manager. It has a breadth of features not found in the competition.
  1. Powerful biometric authentication is the star feature in 1U Password Manager. If that sounds lik1Ue techno-babble, it essentially means that the app scans your face and/ or fingerprint to check that it really is you logging on, and the rest works like magic. The password manager itself is pretty basic though, and it could use some user-interface work. But it’s worth a look, if just to marvel at the technology.
  1. DashlaneI’ve really saved the best ’till last. With secure sharing, an emergency contacts feature that passes on your data if something happens to you, and automated password changing, the full programme of Dashlane is not free, but remains one of our top picks for password managers. And even the free version works on Android, iOS, Windows and Mac.

So, no more weak password worries or time wasted searching for forgotten passwords. Please get in touch if you have any questions, queries or comments.