Monday, 23 November 2020

Now Google are going to charge for Photos.

As has become the pattern with Google, the freemium products that entice you in to use their services and devices, like Google Music, manifest to become something utterly useless, unless of course you pay. But now, with Google Photos even if you pay, that service is still going to become useless, until you pay some more, and the year after that, even more and so on...

I love convenience and if there's a solution that offers it, I will usually be an early adopter. Google Music was tremendous as it let you synchronise the music on your computer, with a cloud based service so you could access your entire music collection from your (Google) Android device. That switched to YouTube music, a service that is worse in every respect. Lower streaming quality, a dreadful interface, and no more streaming from your phone to your Chromecast Audio that you bought in good faith.... from Google. 

And the same thing is happening with Google Photos. That superb service that allowed you to easily back up your Android phone photos, is (one assumes) running out of storage space. The popularity has become it's achilles heel, so now you are going to have to buy some storage, regardless of the quality that you upload in (previously Google Photos allowed unlimited storage for 'medium' quality images). Now you may think that if you're a Google Drive / One customer that you're some sort of VIP, but that's not true either. If, like me, for business you use Google Drive and have say a generous 100+Gb of storage, that's likely to last around 7 months. So you'll need more, and as your photos are unlikely to reduce in size (who in their right mind will be deleting their holiday snaps from Lanzarote to save a few quid; no one) then you're going to need to pay more, and more and more. 

So thanks once again Google for leading us down the garden path like Hansel and Gretel to the Gingerbread house of wireless worlds and techno tricks. We must rewind our internet history, download our photos and find alternative solutions that don't rely on greedy corporations. 

So what are we all going to do? 

Well, the good news is, we have several months to prepare, these changes don't take effect until June 2021. Plus it's only new images that you upload to Google that will start to eat into your free 15gb quota. You could in theory, delete the App and thus pause any future backups so as not to eat into your drive allowance. Then go back to the good old days of losing all your images every time you change your phone. To be honest, most of my phone photos tend to be throwaway shots anyway, so If I do want to keep anything specific, I'll probably use a USB cable and the pretty useless Android file transfer. Or, I'll find something better between now and June. 

I'm going to use my WD MyCloud as a Time Capsule backup. My Mac and my External USB Samsung EVO SSD. My time for the next few weeks will be spent trawling and cross referencing the differences between what's in the Photos app on my Mac and my Google Photos account, downloading and importing the different images and once complete, I will export a backup from the Mac to my External HDD. I will let Time Capsule perform it's usual magic and I will once again, have three backups of my images, which, is enough. 

If you use Google Photos, I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news, my daughters Motorola Android devices ONLY have Google Photos on them, so they'll need to download the Motorola Gallery app from the play store and think about what they're going to need to do. In fact every Android user who uses Google Photos might now think twice about if they actually want an Android device at all and might want to consider the vast range of now cheaper iPhones. Every business decision has a consequence Google and this one is going to affect more people than your audiophile rug pull. 

Have a think everyone, because this affects 28 billion photos that are taken every week and backed up using this once mighty service. 

Friday, 20 November 2020

Transferring video files without losing quality.

Over the past few weeks and months I have been asked to produce a number of videos for virtual events.

For some I have done the filming which makes things super easy, but for others I have collated clips made by the clients. For some the most convenient way has been to use Google Drive, Microsoft One Drive or another cloud based storage solution, which from a Laptop or Desktop computer isn't too much of a problem. But capturing video on a mobile device makes so much sense, as the camera quality can be exceptional, and when paired with a lapel mic (which can be used with 99% of smartphones nowadays), a tripod and some natural light, near professional results aren't too difficult. 

But unless you're an everyday user of Google Drive, or Dropbox then transferring that video can prove tricky. Using Whats App or Email usually compresses the video to an unacceptable degree. Resolution is lost, sharpness is lost and the effort you put in, to get clear audio, can also be lost. 

So whats the easiest solution to send the file from your mobile device to your editor, without losing quality? Well a client of mine earlier this week used wetransfer from their mobile and the process is surprisingly easy, on both iOS and also Android although it does differ slightly. 


ANDROID 
First point Chrome or whatever web browser you're using to wetransfer.com
Tap Add your files (see images below)
Select your video file using the browser window that opens
Click Send and choose Email
Enter the person you want to send the file to's email, and your own. 

Once you have entered the information, you will be asked to enter a verification number that will be sent to your email. Enter the verification and your video file will send completely uncompressed. 



APPLE DEVICES
See pic below - On iOS again, point your browser Safari or Chrome to wetransfer.com
1) Accept the terms and conditions (might be 2 screens)
2) Tap the Blue + icon and then ...
3) Select photo library.
4) Tap the video in your photo library that you want to transfer.
5) Enter your editors email address, and then enter your own. 



Again, like Android, you'll be required to receive an authorisation code to your email which will enable the transfer to go ahead, at full quality. 

Is this the easiest way to transfer to clients without losing quality, or is there an even easier and faster way that you know about? Comment below if you know another way. 



Wednesday, 4 November 2020

Why my phone purchase gave me sleep anxiety.

I've had my Samsung S7 edge since 2017 and for the most part it's been a solid purchase.


It's a beautifully designed phone in gold, with wireless charging, fast performance, a tremendous camera an IP68 rating, glass rear, fingerprint sensor in the button, heart rate and O2 sensor. But now with my high usage, the battery is starting to let me down. Buying a replacement for a flagship handset has been a challenge. Upgrades should have all of the features of your old phone and then some, right?

Well, I also have a general rule which makes things far more difficult, I don't take contract phones (I have a £10 12Gb 30 day Sim deal from Voxi [voda] which is fine thanks, use link for the same deal and a £10 amazon voucher) and I don't buy phones for more than £500, in fact the S7 Edge was a bargain as I bagged it in a a Black Friday event for less than £380, so finding a replacement for this has been eye opening. The assumption that flagship features move down onto cheaper handsets, well I've found that's not really true. Waterproofing, wireless charging, high quality multi camera setups, aluminium frames and top notch gorilla glass, well that's where the prices stay high. 

So some compromises were needed, and my weeks of research have lead me down a path that might be useful if you're considering an upgrade soon. 

iPhone

First up, I wasn't precious about the operating system, I'm as comfortable with iOS as I am Android, so I could include the new much wider range of iPhone models in with my work. But here's the thing, no one really wants to buy a phone in 2020 without an edge to edge display do they? Which meant the cheaper iPhones were off the table very early on. Then we get to the iPhone 11 and I'll admit, I considered going over budget. At £599 now, these are an extremely tempting offer. But, over budget is still over budget, and the screen resolution, well, they're pretty low compared to others and it's only an IPS LCD display, which is old tech compared to the much much better AMOLED display I'm used to (seriously once you've seen a screen with perfect blacks, there's no going back). So, thanks Apple, when the 12 is £599, I could well be back.

Off Brand

So on to eastern manufacturers. Huawei were out because of Donald Trump, as a Google educator, I can hardly use an Android phone that's prohibited from using Google on it! Xiaomi, One Plus, Redmi, I looked at them all and always found one or two compromises that took their mid range phones into naff territory, and there are so many models to choose from that my work here was in depth and lengthy. While most features, were truly flagship busting, and most were better in one way or another, I found multi camera setups might have naff 2-5 mp macro or 'depth sense' cameras on them, LCD displays (Redmi), they didn't have expandable storage, or quite simply, they were too expensive. I honestly expected to find some that ticked all of the boxes within my budget, but none of them did. 

Motorola 

Motorola have made some amazing budget handsets recently so I thought a £500 budget would mean a flagship killer would be easy. Alas the £599 Edge is indeed a great phone, but it's got no official IP rating and one of the cameras is a meh-8mp telephoto, it's still well over budget and the design isn't quite as special looking as it could be. However if this was £100 cheaper, I'd likely own this now, it came closest of the also rans. 

Sony

If I wasn't working to a budget, I'd own the Xperia 1ii. The first handset I've seen that'll record in 25fps. The perfect companion for my UK (pal) camcorder that would be capable of capturing b roll footage that would fit perfectly into my professional life. But I am, and I'm stubborn and at £1100 this is a bit too much to be considered a win. The 5 looks ok, but no. If I bought that (which is still £800) I'd be constantly thinking how it's not as good as the 1ii..... Stupid names too. 

I considered if I need 5G 

5G tends to add a lot on to the handset price, and is only available in the sea off Llandudno in North Wales at the moment, plus, I don't need a service that could use my 12gb allowance in 3 seconds. I'm still fine with 4G. Speed is rarely an issue for my usage. In fact it's usually more dependable than my home broadband! 

Compromises and non negotiables

After all of this research I realised I needed compromises, I split must have features with things that were less necessary. 

Non negotiable - The new phone must have... an OLED display, once you've used a screen with truly black blacks, and you've seen the convenience of an always on display (that has minimal effect on battery life, because the black pixels are literally 'off') you simply won't want to use an LCD display again. A multicamera setup with no 5mp or less. I need these for quality photos, something good enough to capture B roll clips for my work. A 3500mah battery or higher. Fingerprint reader and an Aluminium frame. Image stabilisation & 4K recording. There, not too fussy hey?

The screen ppi, or pixels per inch is ridiculously high on the S7 edge, something over 300 should be fine, I turned it down to a lower resolution on the S7 as I couldn't tell the difference. 

Compromises - IP rating, although useful, waterproofing isn't essential. We did have fun with the old S7 on a holiday where we got video of jumping into the pool, but with lockdown the chance of that happening again are minute, so it wasn't a deal breaker. Also, as I'd be putting a Spigen case on it, the 'need' for a glass or aluminium back became moot. Although I quite liked the idea of Stereo speakers, they didn't really matter as I thought I'm unlikely to watch a feature length movie on my phone anyway, one speaker is fine for YouTube, which is my main video use on my phone. O2 and heartbeat sensor, they were novelty features really, I can live without them. 

But yeah, enough with compromises.... Oh and I wanted a headphone socket, and no notch, who wants a chunk of their screen missing? 

Back to the S range

So all this led me back to the Samsung S series handsets. Logically, the only way to get all the features is to upgrade the same model, right? The S20 though was well over budget and the S10 is ugly. Although the S20 is only £630 on Amazon (some £270 less than Samsung.com) it's still easy too much, although after my agonising research I did consider just biting the bullet. I saw the new S20 FE (fan edition), a budget version of the S20 with very little compromise for £599 abs was very tempted. Looking at the features, this does tick all of those boxes above. But still, it's a lot over budget. The Note series are ludicrously expensive, apart from, the Note 10 Lite. 

The Note 10 lite


Over budget, but only by £30, a massive 6.7" AMOLED screen, but edge to edge design means the handset is a very similar size to a Motorola G8 Plus, the one my daughter has, which was really handy for comparison (being in lockdown). Avoiding the tediously dull black option, the aura glow has a stunning rainbow effect rear case design. The Aluminium frame is polished and looks quite special. The battery is a hefty 4500mah, the Cameras are all over 12MP and useful too. Telephoto (x2), standard and ultra wide. In addition, you get the best features of the S pen. A handy tool used for note taking, writing on the calendar with scribbles (more useful than it sounds) taking screen shots of portions of the screen (something I do all the time) and doodling, something I've got back into. It's also a remote for the camera (as its Bluetooth) and students can get this with 15% discount via UniDays! 

So I'd done it, I did order it (and found a Spigen case that shows off the back colours), and despite it being delayed by a day (thanks DHL) I'm completely delighted with if. Apart from the focus on the outer edge of the ultra wide images being a bit naff, the rest of the phone is exceeding my expectations, battery life is great, the screen is amazing, the S pen features I'm using far more than I'd thought I would and now I've turned Bixby off (it's really rubbish) it's everything I wanted. 

I never want to upgrade ever again though. However if you're looking for an outstanding mid range phone, the S10 note lite is definitely worth a look. 



Simple laptop buying advice.