Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

October 1, 2014
by Neil Turner
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iPhone 6 on Three (Part II)

iPhone 5 and iPhone 6

As I mentioned yesterday, this week I’m reviewing the new iPhone 6 on Three. If you’re like me and have just come to the end of a two year contract with the iPhone 5, then you may be interested to know what’s changed and whether it’s worth upgrading.

The biggest change with the new phone is the larger screen. It’s taller – enough for another row of icons on the home screen when compared with the 5/5S/5C, and two more rows when compared to earlier models like the 4S. But it’s also wider too. And you have the option of having more space on the screen, like I have done, or have everything increase in size to give a similar experience to earlier models but with bigger icons. Apps that have been designed for iOS 8 will work with no problems, but older apps may look a bit blurry as they scale up to the larger screen – a bit like how pre-iOS 4 apps looked on the iPhone 4’s then-new retina display.

The increased size does mean that it’s now much harder to use the phone with one hand, and even my relatively large hands were too small to access all of the screen single-handedly. You can double-tap – not double-press – the home button to move the screen down to be able to access the top in a feature called Reachability, but this feels a bit clunky in my experience.

Like the iPhone 5S this includes Touch ID, allowing you to unlock your phone by simply holding your finger over the home button. I was impressed at how well this worked, actually – it’s quick and simple.

The phone is about a millimetre slimmer, but its rounded edges mean that it feels even thinner than the iPhone 5. It also feels more comfortable to hold as there’s no longer a noticeable join where the glass screen meets the casing – it’s smooth now. I also want to say it’s lighter, but I’m not sure if it actually is – it certainly feels lighter but that might be because of the larger surface area. And no, it doesn’t appear to bend at all – my wife tried.

The lock button has moved. There is now nothing on the top edge of the phone; prior to the iPhone 5 the headphone port and lock button were here, and then the headphone port moved to the bottom edge in the iPhone 5. Now the lock button has gone too, and is now towards the top of the left edge. It takes some getting used to but it’s reachable with one hand now.

The camera has received a bit of an upgrade and can now do slow-motion video. It pokes out from the back of the phone, so unlike previous models it’s not flush with the casing. Unless you put a case on your phone, you’ll never be able to get your phone flat on a surface, and I am a little worried about the potential for the camera lens getting scratched.

I won’t have enough time to compare battery life reliably, but Apple claims that it will last longer than previous models offering around 2 more hours of internet browsing on 3G connections than the iPhone 5S.

Overall it’s a good upgrade, especially for those wanting a bigger screen. The phone feels like a quality product – solid and well-built, but with the design qualities that you’d expect from Apple.

September 30, 2014
by Neil Turner
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iPhone 6 on Three (Part I)

New toy to play with!

The nice folks at Three have loaned me a brand new iPhone 6 to review over the next few days. Sadly I don’t get to keep it beyond the end of this week but I’m intending to write a few things about it whilst I have it.

As you may know I’m an existing customer of Three, having switched to them four years ago when I first bought my iPhone 4. I’ve actually just renewed my contract with Three for another 12 months, albeit on a SIM-only basis because I need to save some money this year.

I like being a Three customer. Their network is pretty good overall; last month it was rated second-best in Britain after EE, its much bigger rival, and ahead of O2 and Vodafone. And rather than bundle on extras like cinema tickets, Spotify subscriptions and the like, Three focusses on offering a simple service with no hidden charges.

So unlike its rivals, calls to freephone 0800 numbers are free like they are on landlines. 4G is available to all customers with a compatible phone (including the iPhone 6) at no extra cost. Roaming in 16 countries is free too, including France, Ireland and the USA, so you only pay what you would if you were in Britain. And it only sells unlocked phones nowadays, so if you do decide to change networks, you can do so more easily.

Lastly, and most importantly, almost all of their deals include unlimited internet. By contrast, EE offer a maximum of 20 GB per month at a whopping £38.99, O2 max out at 8 GB per month, and Vodafone at 10 GB on their £42 per month deal, which is SIM-only and doesn’t even include a handset. Three, on the other hand, offers unlimited data for just £15 per month. Whilst I’m sure most users will never use more than a few gigabytes each month, it’s nice to know that you’re never at risk of hitting a limit.

Tomorrow I’ll be looking at the phone itself.

September 27, 2014
by Neil Turner
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Links from Pinboard for September 27, 2014

Here are the articles or web sites that I’ve found this week and linked to on my Pinboard Bookmarks:

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September 20, 2014
by Neil Turner
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Links from Pinboard for September 20, 2014

Here are the articles or web sites that I’ve found this week and linked to on my Pinboard Bookmarks:

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September 18, 2014
by Neil Turner
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Scotland decides

Edinburgh Castle

Today’s the day when Scotland gets to decide whether to become an independent nation. Those living in Scotland will be asked a simple yes or no question – Should Scotland be an independent country?

I’m going to disappoint you all and say that I’m firmly on the fence here. I’m not Scottish and don’t live in Scotland, so I don’t get to vote – consequently I haven’t decided whether I’m for or against independence. But I am very interested in the result. I last wrote about the referendum in December and back then the ‘no’ campaign was in the lead. This situation stayed the same right until a couple of weeks ago when one poll put the ‘yes’ campaign ahead (by a whisker) for the first time. Since then, all of the polls have essentially been too close to call – so the result will be very, very interesting as it genuinely could go either way.

Around 97% of eligible voters have registered, which will hopefully mean a big turn-out and a result that truly reflects the opinion of the Scottish people. And I very much looking forward to finding out what that opinion is when the results are out. We shall find out soon enough.

If you live in Scotland, please go out and vote. This is probably the biggest opportunity to have your say in the future of your country that you will ever have.

September 17, 2014
by Neil Turner
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Total eclipse of the heart

Birmingham Home for Lost and Sta...

I’ve lost two friends and colleagues to heart attacks this year. My friend Dave passed away in March, and today I heard that one of my colleagues had a heart attack at the weekend (BBC news article) and sadly didn’t survive. It’s been a huge shock, especially to those who worked closely with him over the 20 years he was at the university.

Please, please, look after your heart. You only get one.

September 16, 2014
by Neil Turner
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The Brontë Garden at Sowerby Bridge station

Brontë Garden

Last month a new garden was officially opened at Sowerby Bridge railway station. It’s called the Brontë Garden, and is maintained by volunteers from the Friends of Sowerby Bridge Railway Station. It sits on a small parcel of land next to the car park, opposite platform one.

The name comes from the station’s slightly tenuous link with the Brontë family. The Brontës hail from over the hills in Haworth, in the Worth Valley, but one of the Brontë siblings was employed at Sowerby Bridge station at its time of opening in the 1840s. He was Branwell Brontë, brother of the three famous sisters Emily, Anne and Charlotte. He was later appointed at another station further up the line at Luddendenfoot – this station succumbed to the rationalisation of the railways in the 1960s and no longer exists.

The Brontë Garden at Sowerby Bridge railway station

The garden isn’t particularly big but does house a bench and small gravelled area, along with some planters built using old railway sleepers. There’s also a restored luggage trolley, with opened suitcases serving as planters.

As well as the garden, the Friends of Sowerby Bridge Railway Station look after various other planters on the platforms, many of which are sponsored by local businesses. It’s a relatively young group, having only been formed in November 2010 (co-incidentally about the same time I moved to Sowerby Bridge). Whilst they are a voluntary group, they’ve done quite a bit to make the station look nicer – a hard ask, thanks to its brutal concrete architectural style.

September 15, 2014
by Neil Turner
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Honest Brew

Selection of beers from Honest Brew

The nice folks at Honest Brew offered me one of their Honesty Boxes to review. It came a few weeks ago, but with nine beers to try, I needed a bit of help – so over the weekend I invited my friends from the Bradford University Real Ale & Cider Society (BURACS) over for a beer tasting. Being students, the offer of free beer was too good to pass up and so four of us worked our way through the nine beers on Saturday, with a break for Doctor Who, of course.

What is Honest Brew?

Honest Brew is two things: a shop that sells individual beers in boxes of up to 24, and a subscription service that lets you receive monthly ‘Honesty Boxes’ with a selection of beers. You can select your favoured types and flavours, and the Honest Brew team will pick out a selection of beers that match your tastes.

My Honesty Box had the following (a list is included in the box):

  • Dark Star Espresso
  • Brewdog Dead Pony Club
  • Five Points Hook Island Red Rye
  • Camden Town Gentleman’s Wit
  • Wild Beer Evolver IPA
  • Fourpure Pilsner (this was in a can and isn’t in the photo above)
  • Partizan Saison Lemon and Thyme
  • Brew By Numbers 03|01 Porter
  • Honest Brew Straight Up Pale Ale

Of these, I’ve had the Camden Town and Brewdog beers before – they’re stocked in one of my local pubs – but the others were new to me. The last one was one of Honest Brew’s own beers and isn’t available anywhere else.

Honest Brew

Straight Up Pale AleTasting the beer

As there were four of us, we tasted the beer in two rounds. We awarded our favourite from each round two points, and one point to the second favourite. I then put those into an Excel spreadsheet, because all drinking sessions need a spreadsheet. Here were the results:

Beer rankings

None of us liked the Hook Island Red Rye from Five Points enough to award it any points. The clear winner was Honest Brew’s own Straight Up Pale Ale, the only beer that everyone liked enough to give points.

Ordering your own box

If you’re a regular beer drinker and want to try something different, then Honest Brew’s Honesty Boxes are a good way to do so. 9 bottles will normally set you back £28 each time, including delivery, which is broadly equivalent to what you’d pay in a supermarket, but with a much better selection.

If you like what you’ve read, then when you order your first box, use the code ‘MOREBEER’ for £10 off. Meanwhile, BURACS’ first pub crawl of the year is tomorrow at 7pm, meeting at the Sports Bar in Student Central, Bradford.

September 13, 2014
by Neil Turner
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Links from Pinboard for September 13, 2014

Here are the articles or web sites that I’ve found this week and linked to on my Pinboard Bookmarks:

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September 12, 2014
by Neil Turner
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A Blogger Apologizes For Not Posting In A While

‘I Let Everyone Down’: A Blogger Apologizes For Not Posting In A While:

After more than two weeks of radio silence, blogger Dylan Tafferty has finally issued a public apology for not posting in a while.

“I cannot tell you how ashamed I am,” Tafferty wrote in the latest entry on his blog, The Tafferty Take, where he writes about a variety of subjects for an audience consisting of mostly friends and family. “People were counting on me to inform them about my favorite hiking trails in the area and how Liz is doing at her new job, and I let them down. There is no excuse for what I’ve done.”

It’s satire but an accurate reflection of where I am at right now. Normal service hopefully to be resumed shortly.