Heads in the Cloud

10.10.3Last week Apple released a new update to their current ‘Yosemite’ operating system – it’s rather catchily named ‘ten point ten point 3’ or 10.10.3. For those of you who aren’t clear what an operating system does, it’s the software that runs your computer, and every so often the manufacturers send out updates to improve (hopefully) the way you can use your device.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 16.57.40Apart from a few ‘back office’ updates that help with stability and security on your computer, this operating system (OS) update is mostly focused on the Photos application, which in theory replaces iPhoto as the best way for Mac users to organise, edit and share their photos – more on that in a minute. There has also been a lot in the tech press about the addition of around 300 new ’emoji’ characters  which allow you to choose a skin tone for the various smiley face-type icons. To access the emoji, just press the combination of cmd+ctrl+space in any text entry field (i.e. a document or a text, or indeed a blog post). Find the emoji you want to use and click on it to show the variants. Sadly though, as one reader pointed out, there is still no red-head option.

photos_iconAs I mentioned, the major part of this update is the release of Photos. At first glance it won’t look that different from iPhoto, but there are some clever new ways in which Photos now works to synchronise your images across all your devices.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 17.57.541. Organisation – the new Photos app works in a way that you might be familiar with if you have photos on your iPhone or iPad – the pictures are organised according to the time and location they were taken, to create ‘Moments’. By zooming in or out with one click, you can have a yearly overview of all your photos (as above). You can also view your photos according to the type of image – panorama, photo bursts or even movies – and as before, you can create your own albums easily.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 18.01.282. Editing – according to Apple, the new app allows more detailed editing than iPhoto did; for most of us, the ‘enhance’ button will be enough to automatically adjust exposure problems and make the colours look better, but if you want to make more specific adjustments you can use the simple sliders for colour, light and black and white, as well as fun filters, cropping, red-eye removal and other retouch options.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 17.17.053. Sharing – if you want to post the latest baby photos on Facebook or quickly send a picture of your new shoes in a text message, just use the sharing button in the top right of the Photos app. This isn’t really new, but the thing that Apple are most excited about is the iCloud Photo Sharing option, that is linked to …

4. …iCloud Photo Library – this is a new feature from Apple that brilliantly syncs all your pictures across all your iThings. Once you switch on iCloud Photo Library (in Settings), your photos will be uploaded to your iCloud account, and any photo taken on any device will be automatically saved to the library and available to view on all your other Apple devices.Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 17.55.19

The biggest advantage of this new way of storing photos is that you don’t have to take up precious storage space on your computer, phone or iPad; iCloud Photo Library automatically stores the original, high resolution images in the cloud, and you can access the pictures on your phone or iPad wherever you are.  The downside (inevitably) is that you need to pay for the storage space if your photo library is bigger than the 5GB you get free (I’ve got about 13,000 photos which is around 40MB). You don’t have to switch on this feature – you can store the photos on your computer as before, but of course there is a trade off in terms of being able to access them anywhere.

Here’s my usual health warning – before you update your OS, make sure you have everything on your computer backed up. 99.5 times out of 100 everything will be fine but once in a while, a software update can cause things to go a little haywire, so it’s a good idea to be safe. Once you have completed the update, you’ll find your existing iPhoto library transfers seamlessly across to the new Photos app, and you can start having fun with your pictures again 😃


Wish you were here


Wish you were here!

When was the last time you received a piece of personal mail through the letterbox? Usually the only things I get are birthday cards (once a year, obviously), or a wedding invitation (hardly ever). Aside from these, it’s thank you notes from various nieces and nephews who have been coerced by their mothers into writing to me.

But now I’ve discovered Touchnote, that makes it so easy to send a personalised card, directly from your phone. No more rummaging in the bottom of your drawer for a suitable card. No more hunting down that crinkled stamp stuck down the back of your purse, or trying to find a shop that sells stamps in the depths of Delhi.

TouchnoteTouchnote is a brilliant app that takes your photos and turns them in to a physical postcard, posts it off to your friend anywhere in the world, straight from your phone. And all for around £1.50.

To create a card, first load up your app with some credit – you pay less per card if you buy in bulk. Then open the app on your phone (it’s free for both Android and iPhone users) and touch ‘Start a postcard’.

You’ll have the option to choose a photo from your camera roll or from any other photos you may have stored on your phone. You can change the layout of the card, choose more than one photo and add a caption if you want.photo 1


Once you’re happy with this, you can go to the back of the card and write your message and add the address of the recipient. The app stores addresses you have sent cards to previously, so it becomes really easy to send something to your granny each time you go away.photo 3

My favourite feature of this is that you can create a personalised stamp for all your cards, or you can change it for each card you send – I chose my dog because I’m slightly obsessed!

photo 2


I’ve used this app for loads of different occasions – saying thanks to friends, using a photo of our time at their place, or sending a ‘traditional’ postcard to parents from holidays (they never see my Facebook photos so it’s a great way to share images from our trip). But what I like best is it’s so simple to persuade my children to send thank you notes – they don’t need to find a pen, look up from their smartphones, or worse, make that torturous 100 yard walk to the letterbox.

You can also use Touchnote on your computer and here you make greetings cards as well as postcards. Perhaps it’s something to think about for Christmas cards – after all, there’s only 15 weeks to go!