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.

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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).

The joys of YouTube

You Tube logoI read recently that people upload 100 hours of video to YouTube every minute, and that if you tried to watch every video currently on there, (assuming no new videos are uploaded while you are watching) it would take you 60,000 years!  So it’s no wonder you can lose yourself for hours onSneezing panda YouTube,  watching anything from the latest movie trailers, music videos or just laughing at funny animals – this is one of my all time favourites (click on the panda picture) – be sure to have the sound turned on.

But YouTube can be really useful if you don’t know where else to look for help with something (I learnt how to re-grout my shower from a lady on YouTube) and that includes help with your home IT. Lots of people post tutorials that are designed to solve your IT issues, but they can be of variable quality and sometimes you Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 10.59.38can end up more confused than when you started. Also, with so many videos on YouTube, you can spend hours searching for precisely the information you need and never quite find it.

So this blog post is really just a shameless plug for the new Fingertips promotional video, that talks about some of the ways we can help with your cropped-small-helpdesk-finger1.jpghome technology. You can watch it here, or on the home page of our website. Please let me know what you think of it, or just send on your favourite YouTube videos for us to enjoy.

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 😃

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

Top Tips – iOS 8

8Just when you were getting used to the features that were introduced on your iPhone or iPad last year with iOS 7 (see our earlier blog), Apple have released iOS 8 and we’re being encouraged to upgrade. I finally took the plunge with iOS 8.0.2 hoping that the early bugs have been ironed out, and there are some clever new functions. To help you through the bewildering array of new features, and point you in the direction of those that will be most useful, we’ve compiled some top tips.

BackupFirst though, I know a number of people whose device got stuck midway through the update and they had to restore it using iTunes. This is pretty easy to do and shouldn’t be a problem at all – as long as you have backed up your device before you start the upgrade. I know we’re always banging on about backing up, but it can save so much heartache if anything should go wrong. If you’re not sure how to make a back up, have a look at this Apple support page.

So, you’ve upgraded to iOS 8 and nothing much seems to have changed on the face of it. Here are some highlights – and things to watch out for:

photo search1. Photos – an excellent new search function: go to your Photos app and touch the search icon (a little magnifying glass), then type in what you are looking for – such as ‘Jan 2012’, ‘Spain’ or ‘Chiswick’ – and all the relevant photos will be shown.

If you delete a photo, it isn’t immediately removed from your phone or iPad – it goes to a ‘Recently deleted‘ folder for 30 days; from here you can either permanently delete it, or if you change your mind, you can restore it to an album.

 

 

2. Email – flag, move or delete emails with just a sideways swipe – if you just quickly swipe to the left it’ll delete straightaway, so be a bit careful with this or you’ll be hunting in your trash folder more often than you’d like.

You can set up notifications for when someone replies to an important mail: touch the flag icon at the bottom of the mail, touch ‘notify me‘ then ‘notify me again. Then as soon as you get a reply, a message will appear on your screen to let you know.

New contacts from email: if you get an email from a new contact or someone who has changed their details, a box will appear at the top of the mail when you open it, giving you the option to ignore or add to contacts – so simple!

Family sharing3. Family sharing – this is big news for Apple and should be a really useful function, especially if you have a number of iThings in your family and you want to keep track of who is buying what. Family sharing means that up to 6 people can share purchases from the iTunes store without sharing an Apple ID. Once you’ve set up who is in your family, you can share photos and calendars too. The best thing is once you enable ‘Ask to Buy‘ you will be sent a request when your children want to buy from iTunes, iBooks or the App Store. You have control because you hold the purse strings.App request

4. Messages – predictive text is the big new innovation here – your phone or iPad will ‘learn’ how you communicate with different people in both messages and emails, and provide suggestions for your next word as you type. If you find this slightly annoying, you can switch it off – go to SettingsGeneralKeyboard and slide the button next to Predictive to off (no green showing)

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 16.27.17You can also share your location using Messages now – if you’re meeting a friend and they can’t find you, just go to Details in your Messages conversation and choose ‘send  my current location‘ if you are staying still, or ‘share my location‘ if you are moving around. Your friend will receive a map and can find directions to you, or track where you are going.

5. Apple Tips – there are loads more new functions we Tipscould tell you about, but Apple probably do it best. So have a look at a new app that will have popped up on your device when you upgraded to iOS8 – imaginatively called Tips. Here you’ll find lots more information about how to get the most out of your device, and Apple will be updating it over time, so keep watching it!