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Review: Cheap and cheerful desk stands for iPhone 6 and 6 Plus

Posted on by Mike Evans

A desk stand for the iPhone or iPad is a very useful accessory, particularly for use in conjunction with a Bluetooth keyboard. It's also ideal for placing the phone at a suitable reading angle when sitting in Starbucks, something I have been known to do on occasion.

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Meet Mr. Gadd, 83, of Fontwell Magna in Dorset

Posted on by Mike Evans

"Meet Mr. John Gadd, 83, of Fontmell Magna in Great Britain. He keeps a diary. He keeps the most incredible diary I have ever heard of. It is huge,  as in 21,000 pages, filling 151 volumes, and also contains some 33,000 photos and ephemera. The diary dates back 66 years to 1947 and contains some four million pages."

These words are written by Nifty the Notebook Addict who writes a fascinating blog about notebooks and all things scribbly. I never cease to be amazed at the quality and quantity of esoteric information that comes into my inbox every day. While the established print media disappears inexorably behind its self-defeating paywalls, hundreds of thousands of individuals throughout the world now have their own voice. And, in the main, they write more interesting stuff than the paid hacks of the press ever did.

  The Parker 51 had a hooded nib which was relatively stiff but wonderfully smooth, quite unlike most fountain pens we are used to. This vintage Parker from  Penhome.co.uk  is similar to mine except that mine has a brushed aluminium cap, a sign of the basic model, which I much prefer

The Parker 51 had a hooded nib which was relatively stiff but wonderfully smooth, quite unlike most fountain pens we are used to. This vintage Parker from Penhome.co.uk is similar to mine except that mine has a brushed aluminium cap, a sign of the basic model, which I much prefer

Nifty's notebook blog strikes a chord with me. I subscribe to several other similar sites because I have always had an interest in journals, notebooks, pens, pencils and stationery in general. In my younger years I could spend hours in stationery shops, back in the days when there was really interesting stuff around.

Nowadays everything is bubble packed and stripped to the minimum; gone are the tooled binders, boxes of carbon paper, gummed envelopes (heaven preserve us from self-adhesive envelopes that lose their stick after a month or two) and paperclips by weight.

Pens, in particular, have been a lifelong passion. In this I follow my grandfather, Harry Evans, who had a rare collection of fountain pens dating back to his earliest days at the beginning of the last century. They were all bequeathed to me, unfortunately at such an early age that I failed to appreciate them. For my part, my first real pen was a Parker 51, back in the 50s when this was the pen to be seen with. It cost me all of £6.30, or six guineas, at Boots The Chemist in the Manchester Stock Exchange building.

I don't know what happened to this paragon of penmanship but it obviously dropped off the perch somewhere along the line. It was replaced with a long succession of Watermen, Scheaffers, Pelikans and Montblancs; but no pen ever provided the sense of satisfaction I derived from the Parker.

Miraculously, only last weekend, I found an exact replica of my old Parker at The Penman in the Portobello Road market. It is reconditioned expertly and writes like a dream; but it cost 13 times more than I paid for the original all those years ago. Of course, six guineas was two weeks' wages in those days, a quite enormous sum to spend on a pen. Now, £80 is almost petty cash. Were it still made, the 51 would probably be priced north of £300.

As a result of this surprise purchase I have made a resolution to write a page of notes every day, just to keep my calligraphy skills in harness. If you don't use it, you lose it: And this applies to handwriting as well as any other skill. Reliance on keyboards means that eventually none of us will be able to write fluently, Parker 51 or no.

I'm grateful to Nifty for reminding me of this. Mind you, I have a long way to go before I fill 21,000 pages with notes. Sad to say, my daily journal is kept in the Cloud via the estimable Day One app. I confess that, unlike the single-minded Mr. Gadd of Fontwell Magna, I have never managed to keep a handwritten journal going for more than a week or so. But with Day One I am now nearing four years of doings, all without missing a day. Sometimes technology helps; it's just that it's nice to have the best of both worlds. Welcome back, dear Mr. Parker 51, the best pen ever made.

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Soundbars: Readly leads me to the right choice

Posted on by Mike Evans

Last weekend the elderly Denon speaker system that has boosting the weedy sound of my television for the past eight years finally gave up the ghost. I had been meaning to replace it for some time but was stalled because of laziness and a lack of knowledge of what to replace it with. Apart from other considerations, the Denon's age meant that it lacked HDMI ports and the ability to work seamlessly with modern smart TVs.

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Speakers: A portable Bluetooth speaker for Christmas?

Posted on by Mike Evans

Here's a nifty idea for a quick Christmas present. 9to5 Mac has published an excellent review of portable Bluetooth speakers just in time to point you in the right direction. It's reviews like this that make consumer choice that much easier.

Read the full review here

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Amazon's Echo might just prove a winner

Posted on by Mike Evans

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The new Echo cylindrical speaker from Amazon is a unique beast. Apart from usual the speaker rôle of playing music, the Echo incorporates a Siri-style intelligence. It responds to the "wake word" (another one for the Oxford English Dictionary next time round) which is "Alexa", not to be confused with "Siri". 

Alexa listens for your every utterance and attempts to answer all your desires, including the usual Siri-style information but also ready to add items to your shopping list and other useful tasks. Echo is being launched in the USA and potential buyer can request an invitation that will allow them to buy the speaker for $199 when it is available in the next few weeks. Prime members can snap it up for only $99 for a limited time. 

Echo sounds like an interesting concept. Unlike the phone flop, Amazon could have a winner on its hands this time. When it gets to the UK I could be tempted.

Read more here

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iPad Air 2: Slim, light and beautiful to behold

Posted on by Mike Evans

On Friday I picked up a space-grey 128GB cellular iPad Air 2 from the Apple Store in Covent Garden. It wasn't an impulse buy, I had been planning this ever since the iPhone 6 Plus appeared and I decided to sell of my iPad mini.

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Apple's Cinderella Cinema Display: Will it ever be updated?

Posted on by Mike Evans

Lots of rumours about tomorrow's Apple event, mainly concerning the new iPad Air and the possibility of a retina-display 27in iMac. But there is one product that never seems to get the glass slipper treatment: Apple's ageing Thunderbolt Cinema Display. My 24in Cinema Display has done sterling work for over six years. I wanted to upgrade to the Thunderbolt version but have not done so because, for some unfathomable reason, it still supports only USB 2. 

 

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Review: Snugg leather flipcase and stand for iPhone 6 Plus

Posted on by Mike Evans

Two weeks into my iPhone 6 ownership and I have already explained how I decided to keep the larger phone instead of exchanging it for the 4.7in model. I like it and I do not find the size a problem. I also recounted my adventures with the cannibalised Logitech Folio Keyboard and I now have a serviceable, ultra-thin little keyboard to go with the 6 Plus. Just one thing was missing: some form of stand. The orange teapot was merely a temporary diversion.

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Apple's silicone iPhone case more grippable than leather

Posted on by Mike Evans

In anticipation of the arrival of my iPhone 6 Plus I bought a red leather case from the Apple Store. Quality is excellent, the leather is softer than I remember from previous cases. Yet when I clipped it to the phone I was not happy. It is too slippery and the phone feels less secure in the hand than it ought. I also took exception to seeing the red border around the front of the case. 

I have now exchanged the leather case for the silicone version, in dark grey, which is more practical and easier on the eye. 

The new case is slightly rubbery in feel and immediately I felt more comfortable holding and using the phone. It's £10 cheaper as well.  

 

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iPhone 6 Plus arriving in UK sooner than originally scheduled

Posted on by Mike Evans

When I ordered the iPhone 6 Plus last week I was quoted a delivery date between September 30 and October 3. Yesterday I got a revised delivery of this coming Monday, September 22. Today came another advice, threatening delivery tomorrow, September 20. This year Apple seem to have speeded things up considerably. 

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Relonch camera turns your iPhone into a bokehlicious device

Posted on by Mike Evans

After last week's flurry of news from Apple I turned my attention quickly to Photokina in Cologne and you can find my many reports on Macfilos Photography. One item that caught my attention and has a tech/Apple flavour is the Relonch camera which turns marries the iPhone with a pro f/2 prime lens. Read all about it here.

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Benedict Evans: How many motors do you own?

Posted on by Mike Evans

Benedict Evans on the Internet of Things:

My grandfather could probably have told you how many electric motors he owned. There was one in the car, one in the fridge, one in his drill and so on. 

My father, when I was a child, might have struggled to list all the motors he owned (how many, exactly, are in a car?) but could have told you how many devices were in the house that had a chip in. 

Today, I have no idea how many devices I own with a chip, but I could tell you how many have a network connection. And I doubt my children will know that, in their turn.

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