Posts tagged Computer Weekly
I have now taken the reigns of its Inspect-a-Gadget column, where my remit will be to cover where emerging technology meets with business IT. Or, less elegantly, what the latest gadgets and consumer tech mean for the workplace.
Among my recent stories there, I have looked at how the all-new Bluetooth 5 standard ups the ante for the Internet of Things, got an early hands-on with the QWERTY-equipped BlackBerry KEYone smartphone, and visited London Tech Week to meet a UK startup that claims to have cracked Siri for the office with its UMA conversational AI:
Earlier this week, I began looking at some new entries to Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies 2017.
This story first appeared in Computer Weekly in February 2015, you can find the original here.
Performance boost plus Windows 10 support for new Pi PC
The new Raspberry Pi 2 was announced today promising enough of a performance boost to make it ‘the second PC in the house’.
The credit-card sized computer debuted in 2012 and has since been embraced by schools, maker communities, industrial automation engineers and even the UK Space programme.
At today’s launch event its creator Eben Upton revealed a ripened Raspberry Pi with a quad-core ARMv7 processor and 1 GB RAM, claiming 6 times the speed of the previous B+ model.
This improved performance opens the door to a range of additional applications in schools and industry, as well as in the home.
Its in-home credentials may have been further boosted by the announcement that the Pi 2 will support both Ubuntu Linux and, thanks to a 6-month collaboration with Microsoft, Windows 10.
However, exactly what you’ll be able to do with a Windows-powered Pi isn’t entirely clear, even whether it will include a desktop user interface.
Speaking to Computer Weekly, Upton confirmed that the version of Windows 10 that Microsoft is to make available for free would be an IoT edition “more like what Microsoft did for Galileo [an Intel-based Arduino-compatible developer board].
“Microsoft has yet to make a statement about its exact capabilities, we don’t want to create an unjustified impression as to what capabilities it’s going to have.”
Despite the power-up the Raspberry Pi 2 maintains full compatibility with previous versions, sporting the same credit-card form factor and, importantly, the wallet-friendly price.
Since its release total sales of the maker machine have topped 4.5 million, and Upton anticipates a further three million units will ship this year alone. Not a bad return when initial sales projections for the Raspberry Pi were in the ‘tens of thousands’ range.
The Raspberry Pi 2 goes on sale today priced £24.94 + VAT.
First published 2nd February 2015 in Computer Weekly. Articles, features and reviews are reproduced on this site by prior arrangement as samples of my work and remain the property of their respective publishers and copyright owners.
Recently I got an early hands-on with the striking new Nokia Lumia 930 smartphone. Writing for Computer Weekly, here were my first impressions:
This article first appeared in Computer Weekly in July 2014, find the original feature here.
Nokia Lumia 930 Hardware
The Nokia Lumia 930 is a substantial handset in more ways than one. First up, the body: Nokia has adopted a sturdy aluminium unibody for its latest flagship, but has still chosen to decorate its back with the signature polycarbonate – neon green and orange get the Lumia treatment this season, with white and black completing line-up.
The Lumia 930’s Full HD 5-inch OLED screen is striking too: blacks are black, colours pop and despite the high-gloss it repels greasy fingermarks well, remaining readable even in direct sunlight. The bezel is narrow enough, and the curved edges of the scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass 3 screen lap onto the handset’s chassis, mirroring the contours on the rear.
The volume rocker, power and camera shutter buttons all sit along one side of the handset. This keeps the aesthetic clean but means that securing the 930 into most after-market car kits will result in one or more buttons being permanently depressed. Form 1, Function 0.
Beneath the vibrant exterior sits a quad-core 2.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chipset, 2 GB RAM and 32 GB storage. While the CPU is last-year’s model it’s certainly no slouch. Despite the missing MicroSD card slot Microsoft now bundles 15 GB of OneDrivecloud storage for free, and 1 TB if you’ve an Office 365 account.
Battery and Wireless Charging
As with other unibody handsets the 930’s battery isn’t removable, although I found the 2420 mAh unit lasted through the day.
Having toyed with wireless charging on the Lumia 920, Nokia once again integrates the feature and this time includes an induction charger in the retail box.
Disappointingly, I found it a bit flaky. On more than one occasion I left the handset atop the charger to find it hadn’t charged the phone. Software bugs need to be ironed out too, with the 930 insisting it was still charging hours after its removal from the charger.
Wireless charging is seen as a panacea by some but until reliability is improved many might still prefer the reassurance of a cable over the questionable convenience of a mat.
Also worth pointing out is that the chassis can get very, very hot on charge or in use.
The Lumia 930 features a terrific 20-megapixel PureView camera which makes shallow depth of field shots look natural without any clunky software processing. Optical image stabilisation, ZEISS 6-lens optics, dual-LED flash and lossless zoom top out the specs, but again the Lumia’s screen steals the show, making pictures pop like a print.
Windows Phone 8.1 is the newest version of Microsoft’s mobile operating system introducing features which many hoped might bring it in line with its competitors.
Action Centre apes the notification bars seen in Android and iOS. A swipe from the top of the screen recalls missed messages, a customisable quick menu and a shortcut to the phone’s main settings. A welcome addition to the operating system.
Swipe-style typing also debuts and, once you’ve the hang of it, is very accurate. However, Cortana, Windows Phone’s answer to Siri, hasn’t made it onto UK handsets yet – expect to see it (her?) on Windows Phones by the end of the year.
Email and Productivity Apps
For many email will be a main driver and Microsoft makes setting up accounts simple. I didn’t get the chance to try the 930 with an Exchange mailbox, but it handled multiple outlook.com, IMAP, Gmail and POP mailboxes with aplomb.
Windows Phone 8 also does some useful things around the concept of the unified inbox. Instead of a single inbox encompassing all configured accounts, individual email accounts can be grouped or ‘linked’ together. This makes it possible to combine work email addresses into one unified inbox and personal accounts into another, each accessible through its own live tile.
The bundled Bing News and Bing Sport apps are intuitive and well designed pulling news from a variety of credible sources. Fundamentally, for a news app to succeed it needs to leave me feeling as if I’ve caught up – these do exactly that, with style, and allow custom feeds too.
Microsoft Office connects you with documents stored on your OneDrive or Office 365 cloud as well as with email attachments. Excel, Powerpoint and Word are well executed apps, although losing what feels like two-thirds of the display to the over-sized on-screen keyboard is a shame.
Windows Phone UI
Microsoft’s spartan UI works hard to differentiate itself from its identikit competitors and, in general, it works well. However, for the sake of productivity I’d prefer to see more actual content on the screen.
A case in point is the official Twitter app – even with the smallest font I can see no more than three or four tweets per screen; similarly, the email app reveals up to six messages before scrolling. At 5 inches and 1920 vertical pixels there’s a lot of screen real estate on the Lumia but the important apps just don’t seem to fill enough of it.
Despite the ’80s-styling on the rear the Nokia Lumia 930 is Windows Phone’s most mature handset to date.
Its productivity credentials are top notch, and OS integration with Microsoft cloud apps and services mean it’s a capable business workhorse as well as a fun down-time device.
All the Windows Phone ecosystem needs now is more apps, and with high-quality handsets such as this they’ll be sure to follow.
Specs at a Glance:
- Screen: 5-inch AMOLED 1920 x 1080 Full HD
- Camera: ZEISS 20-MP PureView
- Chipset: Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 @ 2.2 GHz
- Memory: 2 GB
- Storage: 32 GB (no expansion)
- Operating System: Microsoft Windows Phone 8.1
- Connectivity: LTE, HSPA+, GSM, WCDMA; NFC, Bluetooth 4.0 LE; Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
From free with a £28.00/month contract, or £438.16 SIM-free. Details correct at time of publishing (July 2014).*
First published 22nd July 2014 in Computer Weekly. Articles, features and reviews are reproduced on this site by prior arrangement as samples of my work and remain the property of their respective publishers.
Picking up my pen once again for Computer Weekly’s Inspect-a-Gadget column I spend some quality time with BlackBerry’s brand new handset, the Q10.
The Q10 is the first BlackBerry device to feature a physical keyboard since the release of its new operating system and Z10 all-touchscreen smartphone earlier in 2013.
The familiar looking handset is a big deal for the recently renamed canadian tech firm, marking its first real foray back into its core corporate market since adopting BB10 as its strategic OS.
Head on over to Computer Weekly to read what I make of the BlackBerry Q10.
Question: What do you get if you cross a Microsoft Kinect controller, some 3D glasses and an augmented reality platform with an Enterprise SAP HANA in-memory real-time big data-ready database?
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post for Computer Weekly in which I questioned whether Augmented Reality really is ready for the masses, concluding that while the technology and platforms themselves are getting close, a lack of real purpose and compelling content may be AR’s Achilles’ Heel.
Augmented Reality for the Enterprise
But then last week, while filming an item for the SAP Innovation Show at an event in London, I saw perhaps the most innovative application yet of AR for business.
As part of my original story I interviewed Matt Mills, Head of Innovation at Aurasma, part of Cambridge-based/HP-owned firm Autonomy and one of the main software houses developing commercial augmented reality platforms and applications.
While the offerings from the likes of Aurasma and Blippar are primarily consumer-focused (typically around marketing campaigns) Matt was also able to share with me some tantalising and genuinely useful applications of augmented reality in education and business, as in this example of using AR to install HP networking equipment.
But then last week at an event I had naively considered an unlikely candidate for showcasing gadgety innovation, I stumbled across what can truly be described as Augmented Reality for the Enterprise.
Spatial Operating Environment
CEO Vision combines an Augmented Reality platform with Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect controller to deliver a distinctly futuristic-looking data visualisation tool.
Aimed at non-technical executives, CEO Vision sources its data from an SAP HANA in-memory database and using an assortment of 3D eyewear, motion control and display technologies presents what Keytree calls its “Spatial Operating Environment”.
Viewers wearing the headset can peruse and interact with rich, animated datasets retrieved in real-time from the back-end database.
(and if you have some red/cyan specs handy there’s a 3D version of the video just for you)
Parallels will inevitably be drawn with Google Glass which last week also released a sneak peek of some footage filmed using its AR goggles, although CEO Vision perhaps scoops top marks inasmuch as anybody can try it for themselves right now.
Big Data means Big Glasses?
Personally I believe that technologies such as these from Keytree and Google will be essential tools as we attempt to visualise, digest and capitalise on ever-growing volumes of both business and personal big data.
But wearing my actual reality glasses for just a moment I don’t see that the technology is mature enough quite yet. The CEO Vision user interface boldly aims for Minority Report but credibly lands somewhat closer to Lawnmower Man.
Nevertheless it’s still impressive to see it in action at all and, as with Google’s intentions when announcing Glass, I suspect it acts as more of a signpost to the near future than a genuine stake in the ground for now.
Note: A version of this post also appears in Computer Weekly.
Last week I posted a piece for Computer Weekly about how Apple is losing touch with how its users use its mobile devices. You can read it here.
Unlike around three million others over the first three days of its launch (and no doubt record-breaking millions since), so far I’ve mostly resisted the urge to upgrade my 2010 original to the new third generation iPad.
I say ‘mostly’ as I did detour to a couple of stores to see what all the fuss was about, only their lack of stock saving me from a difficult decision and a sweaty store card.
Nevertheless, I am beginning to harbour some real reservations about the direction that Apple is, or rather is not, taking with the development of its mobile platforms, neglecting its users’ needs in favour of – well, what exactly?
I’ve been getting all tingly and excited lately about Siri, Apple’s all-hearing personal assistant technology.
Speech recognition has never reached the heights of the public’s lofty expectations, but in its inimitable style Apple has re-invented and re-invigorated a stagnating technology.
In this post for Computer Weekly a few weeks ago I explored how Siri is far more than just a neat trick inside an iPhone.
Siri can – and should – be embraced to help us interface better with other everyday objects. Think of it as a Universal Remote Control but instead of pressing buttons it listens to what you ask it and sends the commands to your TV, DVD player, alarm clock, central heating, washing machine, car – the possibilities are endless. This use of the iPhone as a VR Gateway has recently been demonstrated by some clever people using Siri Proxy.
You can read my full post in Computer Weekly right here.
Finally, I couldn’t help but share this video: just imagine if Apple had announced an Apple TV set at during its announcement last week (who knows what they might have called it: iTV, ATV, Apple TV?) and had gone ahead and integrated Siri rather than a traditional hand-held remote control. Might it have looked like this?
I got hands-on with the new Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 at the London press launch last week.
You can read the piece I wrote for Computer Weekly just here, or watch the interview/hands-on video I put together just below.
I reviewed the original Parrot AR.Drone quadricopter* in 2010 not long after its award-winning debut at the Consumer Electronics Fair in Las Vegas and you can still see for yourself why I should never be given a pilot’s licence.
At this year’s CES 2012 Parrot pulled an updated AR.Drone 2.0 out of its hat, this time promising flight controls and stunts that even I could manage, plus the ability to record and upload high definition video of my aviation triumphs.
From my Computer Weekly piece, here’s a quick video showing how I got on:
* To clarify a minor point (only because it had me confused), there’s a very subtle distinction between the quadrocopter/quadrotor, both of which appear to be generic terms for flying devices sporting four rotors, and the quadricopter, which appears to be Parrot’s product-specific term for its four-rotored AR.Drone.