All I want for Christmas…

Money-Gift-PoundsAs Christmas approaches, the pile of gift catalogues on my desk grows as I search for interesting and exciting presents for everyone on my list. However most of my nieces and nephews, being tricky teens, just ask for money, which on the one hand is nice and easy, but on the other, a little bit dull. I tend to feel that even a gift voucher shows a little more thought.

FlybikeSome quick research into the UK gift voucher market revealed that I’m not alone in that thought, with the total spend on vouchers in 2013 reaching £5 billion – that’s about the same size as the perfume market. It’s not just ‘book tokens’ anymore – I’ve bought Westfield vouchers, Comedy Club vouchers, or the hot favourite for my dare-devil nephew, a voucher to take you for a day ‘fly-biking’ – it looks awesome!

I find the hardest group to buy gifts for are the older generation who seem to have everything they could possibly want or need. Last year the siblings clubbed together to buy an iPad for my father, but he hardly uses it – mostly because he is a bit scared of pressing the wrong button and deleting everything! VoucherWith that in mind, Fingertips has come up with the perfect solution – we’ve launched our own gift vouchers. They make an ideal present for a friend or family member who needs a bit of a guiding hand with their home technology. You can buy vouchers for one, two or three hours with a Tipster, by which time even the most low-tech person will be able to send emails, download apps to their iPad, or catch up with Strictly on the BBC iPlayer. Order yours by calling us on 020 8994 7773, or come to find us at the Chiswick PopUp tomorrow at the Barley Mow Centre in Chiswick.

Please note that we can only make home visits to customers in London, so if your Mum lives in Scotland or Southampton, I’m afraid we won’t be able to help her.

Time to upgrade your Windows

windows 10You’ve been so brave, gritting your teeth and just getting on with it, but now there is a light at the end of the tunnel; you just need to wait until the end of July and then life will be so much clearer …I’m talking of course about the perils of working with Windows 8 for the last 3 years, and the forthcoming launch of Windows 10 on July 29th.

For most of us, the launch of a new operating system is often a bit like a game of ‘spot the difference’. But when Windows 8 came along it was like learning a completely new language, with many of the functions I was used to on my computer seeming to be completely hidden. Gradually I’ve found out how it works, but that doesn’t mean I like it. So the good news is that the new operating system reflects the style of Windows 7 and one of the best things is that it incorporates that old favourite – a Start menu!

There are lots of good new features of Windows 10, so I’ve picked out a handful to give you a flavour.

Start menu
1. The Start menu is back – from here you can find the controls for turning your PC off (it sounds obvious but it was one of the hardest things to find with Windows 8), your most used apps, settings and File Explorer. The Start menu also features ‘live tiles’ which look  like Windows 8 – this means you can see what is happening in your most used apps, things like news updates, weather, calendar and mail.

Action center
2. There are no more ‘Charms’ (phew!) but instead you’ve got an Action Center. This is where you can switch your bluetooth or wifi on or off, switch on airplane mode amongst other things; if you’ve got an iPhone, it’s like the Control Centre.

edge13. New internet browser – Internet Explorer is being replaced with Microsoft Edge and according to the reviews it’s much easier to use and faster to load pages. I also like the way they have kept the logo very similar to the old one, so that it’s easy to find. You’ll be able to move your favourite and bookmarked sites to Edge when you upgrade.

Cortana1

4. Cortana – this is like Siri on Apple products – it’s a virtual assistant that can help you find things, either on your computer or on the wider web. For example, you can type in ‘what will the weather be like today’ or ‘show me an Indian restaurant in Chiswick’ and up will come various answers. You can also use Cortana by speaking to your phone, tablet or computer.

multitasking5. Multi-tasking is much easier – if you’re working in a few different apps at once, you can now have up to 4 apps showing on your desktop at once, which means much less flipping from one to another.

If you’re currently running Windows 8, 8.1 or Windows 7 you can upgrade for free within the first 12 months after launch. If you have an older version of Windows you will need to pay for it (we think this will be around £80) and do a ‘clean install’ – if you don’t know what that means, give us a call and we’ll help!

In one review I read, the new operating system was aptly described like this: “If Windows 8 was the steepest learning curve imaginable, Windows 10 is like meeting a great friend you once knew – it’s just they’ve bought some new clothes of which you really do approve.”

One final note of warning – operating systems take a long time to develop and once they launch there will be more updates all the time, to iron out little glitches. As we wrote here  a year or so ago, it’s sometimes worth waiting a month or two before diving in to a new upgrade, just to make sure you get the version with the fewest bugs.

A new site for Chiswick

11.5.cI’ve been a Chiswick resident for nearly 20 years now, and I’m quite smug about how great it is. I love all the fantastic restaurants and independent shops, the lovely parks, Chiswick House and of course the river, but it’s really the people who make Chiswick so great, famous, infamous or otherwise.

So I was thrilled to discover The Chiswick Calendar (our co-sponsors at the recent Bedford Park Festival) and to meet the editor Bridget Osborne. I asked her to tell me a bit about the website so that I could pass it on to all my lovely Chiswickian customers (apologies to those of you who don’t live here – you can still visit!) Here’s what Bridget told me:

Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 15.22.28

The Chiswick Calendar home page

Chiswick is a vibrant and beautiful place to live. The Chiswick Calendar is an events / listings website which will tell you what’s going on in the area on a daily basis. With a different beautiful photograph of Chiswick featured on the home page each day, you can use it as a computer desk diary as well as a resource to find out everything, from where to find live jazz in the area to what to do with children in school holidays.

Our video features celebrate Chiswick life: its inhabitants, institutions and enterprises. We regularly preview new plays on at the Tabard theatre and report on cultural events like the Bedford Park Festival and Artists At Home weekend, talking to the people who make Chiswick such an interesting place to live.

Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 15.45.16

What do you think of it so far?

We also put on our own events. In ‘What do you think of it so far?’ on Monday 13 July at the Tabard theatre, two celebrated political journalists who live locally – Peter Oborne and Julia Langdon – discuss the new government. Next month come and meet local authors at Waterstones on Monday 10 August, and learn how to use your camera better on a photography walk round Chiswick with professional photographer Dan Clarke on Sunday16 August, or come and meet us at the Chiswick Book Festival in September.

The Chiswick Calendar is a small team of creative people whose skills include documentary film making and website design. Bridget worked for many years as a BBC TV and radio journalist, and her team can also produce short videos for a website, helping you to tell a story about your business or project. 

Chiswick houseIf you’re a local resident and you’d like to have your photos of Chiswick featured on the home page of The Chiswick Calendar, just send them in to the site (click here) and you could join the ranks of famous Chiswick residents (even if it’s just for a day).

A trip down memory lane

Old betterWhat do you buy as a birthday present for an elderly parent who has everything? On my travels through the options – a personalized jigsaw puzzle, a heart-shaped perfume atomizer, putting their name to a star – I was spectacularly uninspired. But then a friend suggested a brilliant idea – a personal memoir, put together by a company called Lifescape memoirs.

The idea behind this is that everyone has a story to tell; you don’t have to be famous or rich to have had an interesting life, nor do you need to have achieved great things. For your family and friends, the moments that make up everyday life, the challenges of ‘normal’ living, can be just as fascinating. I know I formed a whole new opinion of my mother after finding out some of her earlier memories….

So I had a chat with Graham Booth, who runs Lifescape, and asked him how it works.

4-mum-spread_med_hr“A personal memoir is one of the most valuable legacies that anyone can pass on to their family, but it can be so difficult to know how to begin. So we’ve found a way to help people organise their memories and put them together in a beautiful book, complete with photos.

“We give each person a guide that explains the process, and an iPod on which to record their life story. It may seem daunting at first, but once they find their voice, it is an incredibly rewarding experience for the narrator.

“Once the recordings are received, we transcribe and edit them, split it all into chapters and add in any scanned photos. The book is printed and bound, having agreed on a design and materials.

whife_smaller_med“We print 10 copies of the book, which would usually be around 120 pages, and it’s illustrated with your own photos, in a custom-designed hard back cover.

Graham can also help to create the memoir by doing a series of interviews with the ‘narrator’, to give them more guidance about what to talk about and keep them on the right track. Here’s a link to the website if you want to get in touch or find out more. www.lifescapememoirs.co.uk

Happy 2On the subject of birthdays, Fingertips is two years old this week. We’ve got some way to go before we’ll be producing a memoir, but I’m very proud to have made it this far!

Black Friday, Cyber Monday…

BFCMApparently it’s Black Friday tomorrow and Cyber Monday on Monday….

If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry – it’s much better than the names suggest.

Those of you from across the pond will know that Black Friday originated in America – it’s the day after Thanksgiving, the day when people traditionally start to think about their Christmas shopping. So back in the 1930s and 40s some high street shops began to offer great deals to encourage customers to buy early.BLack Friday queue

According to the BBC, the term Black Friday was originally coined as a reference to a New York Stock Market crash in 1869, but came into use as a national term with its current meaning in America in the 1990s.

It’s a bit of an odd name, with its connotations of disaster, for a day that spells such opportunity for bargain hunters, but despite efforts to change it to Big Friday in the 1960s, the name has stuck. And Black Friday is undoubtedly the biggest shopping day of the year in the US.sale

Now, mainly thanks to Amazon and other online retailers, Black Friday is big in the UK too and there are some amazing deals to be had, many in the world of electricals.

Cyber MondayCyber Monday began as an online version of Black Friday, but as Black Friday is online too, the whole weekend has become a bargain bonanza.

This year, UK analysts are expecting sales on Black Friday to be the highest ever, with Visa predicting an increase in spending of 22% on last year, as customers are expected to spend £6,000 per second on their cards tomorrow.

CartoonMany offers have started online already (Amazon), others begin at 00.01am tomorrow (Apple) and many stores will open early in the morning (John Lewis, PC World, Asda all open at 8am), while others are opening at midnight tonight (Game, Argos).

It’s also worth noting that the biggest retailers will ship internationally, so with the weak dollar and deeper discounts in the US, you may find the best deals are on American sites.

So set your alarm, dust off your credit card and bag some bargains. Beware of getting carried away – there are still 4 weeks to go!Trolleys

How good is the Google dongle?

images-2We often hear the phrase ‘streaming content’ – but what does it actually mean? If you catch your favourite programme via the BBC iPlayer or if you watch a YouTube video on your phone – you’re streaming content. In other words, watching something via the Internet.

But if you’re fed up with watching The Great British Bake Off via the BBC iPlayer app on your tablet or phone and want to watch it on a larger screen there are various options. Before Christmas we looked at Apple TV, Roku and Now TV boxes , and last week Google entered this market with their much-anticipated ‘Chromecast’, so we thought we’d have a look and see how it compares.

The Chromecast is a ‘dongle’ (looks like a USB stick), not a box like the others, so it tucks neatly behind your TV and it’s small enough to pop into your pocket if you’re travelling.

images-4To set up the Chromecast, just connect it to a HDMI port on your TV. It also needs a power source, which you can either get using a USB connection on the TV or use a regular power socket.

Next you need to connect to your local wi-fi network, and then you’re ready to start streaming (or ‘casting’). Chromecast doesn’t have it’s own remote, instead you can download an app (for free) to your phone or tablet, or even use the Chrome browser on your laptop.

The Chromecast is pretty good value at £30 – Roku are about to launch their ‘streaming stick’ for £50 – but the selection of content that you can stream is quite limited at the moment. It gives you access to BBC iPlayer, Netflix and YouTube, plus lots of other channels you’re unlikely to watch (unless you’re especially keen on Korean movies).

You can use Chromecast to view your own content, like videos you took on your phone, but you’ll need to install another app to your mobile device so it’s a bit fiddly. If you’re an Android user you can stream films from your Google Play account, in the same way that you can watch iTunes films through Apple TV or Sky Movies through a Roku box.

imagesSo what’s the verdict on Chromecast? If you’re an Android user with lots in your Google Play library, it’s pretty good, with great picture quality. It can’t do all the things that the competitors can – yet – but being a Google product, new apps will inevitably change that before too long. If you’re an Apple devotee, then go for Apple TV because it’ll talk nicely to all your other devices. If you really just want BBC iPlayer, Netflix and 4oD, Roku looks like the best bet – wait till April 21st for their new stick.

If you’re still wondering about the best way to smarten up your TV, get in touch and we’ll be happy to chat through the options.

This week’s blog has been written by our newest Tipster, Graeme Young.

Vague but exciting…

Sir TimLast week we heard a lot about the 25th anniversary of the invention of the world wide web and the genius of Sir Tim Berners-Lee (left). So we thought it would be fun to look at some of the highlights of the coverage and present our favourite web facts:

1. Tim Berners-Lee presented his idea for the web in a paper called “Information Management – a proposal” in March 1989. It was originally designed to be a forum for the scientific community to share their research online; his boss’s initial response was ‘vague, but exciting’

2. The worldwide web was almost named TIM (The Information Mine)

3. A measure of the success of the web is how long it took to reach 50 million users: it took broadcast radio 38 years and television 13 years. The web got there in four.

4. Three quarters of UK adults use the web every day, but 4 million people still don’t have access to it. There are 4 billion people worldwide who can’t access the web.

5. The availability of answers on the web means that we’ve forgotten how to remember things – now that almost anything can be found in a few clicks online, it’s hardly necessary to retain information anymore. Researchers believe this is making us superficial thinkers.

Web - internet6. The web isn’t the same as the internet; the internet is the network of computers that sends information around the world; the web is just one of the applications that uses this network, in the form of millions of pages of data. I like the analogy of the postman and the letter.

7. There are almost a billion websites globally, although ‘only’ around 180 million are active. Every month Google processes 100 billion queries, and of these, about 15% are questions that it has never seen before.

8. The Observer columnist Henry Porter describes the worldwide web as “not merely the greatest invention since writing” but “the most revolutionary event in the history of the human psyche since the first hunter-gatherers began to conceive of gods who had access to their most private thoughts”.

9. Our addiction to the web leads to some anti-social behaviours – according to The Times, 36% of children and 33% of adults use electronic devices during family meal times, amazingly that figure is 88% amongst 12 -14 year olds.

stawberry10. This is my favourite ‘fact’ – the internet (including the web) weighs as much as one strawberry. Apparently, physicist Russell Seitz has worked this out based on some atomic physics assumptions and the billions and billions of ‘data-in-motion’ moving electrons on the internet, and come to a figure of 50 grams – the weight of a strawberry.

So happy birthday to the web, and happy birthday to Fingertips too – we are one year old this week, something only made possible by Sir Tim’s vague but exciting invention.