The Cloud with a silver lining

So you’re off on holiday for half term and you want to take the entire series of Breaking Bad to watch on your iPad (just incase the weather is terrible). The problem is you’ve only got 1GB left on your iPad so you can’t fit it all on. There is a solution though – in the Cloud.

We’ve all heard the term “Cloud” computing but how can it help you watch your favourite TV shows? In essence, the Cloud gives you access to loads of content that you can’t squeeze on to your devices, by storing films, songs and files on a computer that you reach via the Internet. If you’re an Apple user, you can access your stored media through iCloud, and for Android users, Google Drive does the same.

cloudWhat makes the Cloud so great is that you don’t need to download the film you want to watch on to the computer (or iPad/iPhone/tablet); you merely need to have access to the Internet. Apple and Google provide these services for free (up to a certain amount of storage) because it encourages their customers to buy from their online stores – the iTunes store or Google Play.

If, on the other hand, you’re off on holiday and you want to watch Breaking Bad during the flight, you can download it to your iPad or computer. Then simply wipe it from the device after you’ve watched it, to free up space. Don’t forget, the purchase is always linked to your account, so you still own the programmes, and you can still stream it once you’re connected to wi-fi. Google drive

Another great thing about the Cloud is that if you were to buy a TV show on the iPad and start watching the first 24 minutes of it, but then you want to go across to another device (linked to the same account), you’ll be able to continue right from where you left off.

icloudTo use to all this clever functionality, just make sure that you have your device settings configured correctly; on an iPhone or iPad, go to the Settings menu, choose ‘iTunes & App Store’ and switch the slider to green for Music and Videos.

For Android users, go to SettingsAccountsGoogle [your username]. Then locate ‘Drive’ in the list of things your device can sync to and make sure it is ticked. That way, anything in your Google Drive account can be accessed via your phone or tablet.

Happy half term!

All I want for Christmas is a Dukla Prague away kit

Half Man Half Biscuit are an obscure satirical rock band from the 1980s and my husband  wants their “Back in the D.H.S.S.” album for Christmas.

Half+Man+Half+Biscuit+-+Back+Again+In+The+D.H.S.S.+-+LP+RECORD-226238In the olden days, I’d have bought the CD so that he could unwrap something on Christmas Day (before copying it into iTunes and sticking it in a box in the attic).

The modern alternative then became a download straight from iTunes. If I chose this route, I could send my husband a romantic Christmas Day email from the iTunes store to tell him that “All I want for Christmas is a Dukla Prague away kit” and 16 other Half Man Half Biscuit tracks were now in his iTunes library. He says iTunes downloads are too compressed, but I can’t hear the difference and at £7.99 it’s £2 cheaper than buying the CD.

That’s expensive beside this year’s option. Over the last year streaming services like Screen Shot 2013-11-29 at 10.15.33Spotify have started to take over and they are free. A seismic shift is taking place: CD sales are in freefall and iTunes downloads are down for the first time this year. So whilst those of us over 35 (see last week’s blog) are just starting to get our heads around “owning” an intangible download from Apple, those born after 1978 have moved on.

spotify-logo-primary-vertical-light-background-rgbWith Spotify you don’t own the music, but you can listen to any of their 20 million songs whenever you want, so “ownership” becomes a less meaningful concept. If you pay £10 a month for Spotify’s Premium service, the quality is higher than iTunes and you can download tracks for when you’re offline.

We’ve got Spotify in the Fingertips office and the greatest benefit is not cost or convenience, but the way you listen to music. Suddenly you are free to explore, discover and rediscover without the emotional and financial commitment of buying. You can even just set Spotify to auto-pilot and let the “Radio” service select music based on a starter track that you choose.

Spotify Jake BuggToday we listened to Maria Callas (we tried to count how many Maria Callas albums Spotify have, but gave up at 250), Roxette (they’ve got a song called “Fingertips”!), the new Lissie album, Jake Bugg and, yes, Half Man Half Biscuit (they are truly awful). I’d never have bought any of those albums, so although there are lots of people in the music industry who don’t like what’s happened, I think – with the artists getting royalties for being on Spotify – that everyone’s a winner.

The best of both worlds is to combine a streaming service with your own music collection. This is exactly what Apple’s iTunes Radio service will do, if they ever decide to launch it in the UK. In the meantime I’ve taught my husband how to use our Spotify account and bought him a ticket for Half Man Half Biscuit at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. I couldn’t bring myself to buy a Dukla Prague away kit – it’s yellow.

Top Tips 2: myTunes and myMovies

itunesHere’s a shock for you – according to English copyright law it is illegal to copy your CDs and DVDs onto your computer. That means that any of us who have loaded our own CDs into our own iTunes library have committed a crime.

This is a peculiarly British situation. The law in other EU countries assumes that we will behave ethically – which means not selling or giving away copies of our CDs, DVDs and Blu-Rays – and so it allows us to make copies of these discs for personal use.

In the UK, things are less clear. No-one has ever been prosecuted for copying their own CDs and DVDs into iTunes, but as the law stands, both acts are illegal. That’s a bit rubbish – none of us want to be guilty of misdemeanours and so, as Vince Cable said last year, “We need to bring copyright [law] into line with people’s expectations and update it for the modern digital world”.

At Fingertips we can’t advise you to do anything that breaks English law, but we can tell you what we do when we’re on holiday in Spain… 🙂

We recently transferred every DVD that we own onto a pocket sized hard drive which is smaller than a single DVD box. We now have all 176 of our movies plus boxed sets of our favourite TV shows instantly available to watch on any of our TVs, computers or iPads. The quality is exactly the same as the original disc (with surround sound) and, best of all, the films start immediately – no rummaging around for the disc, waiting for it to load or having to watch the “You wouldn’t steal a car” video.

We got our calculator out and worked out that it would have cost us £1,500 to repurchase all our DVDs on iTunes. If that sounds like daylight robbery – and if you are going to be in an EU country in the near future – then give us a call.