Tag: iPhone (page 1 of 2)

My iPhone apps (April 2013)

Some people are surprised that I use an iPhone 4. It’s true that I’ve tried a Nokia N9 and several Android devices but (at the moment, until something better comes along) you’ll prise my closed proprietary device out of my cold, dead hands. Why? I can trust it to work as expected when I’m travelling. And that’s important.

It’s been a while since I shared the iPhone apps that I use, so I thought it was time for an update. I’m going to use Flickr notes to do this, so to get started click here or on the image below:

iPhone apps (April 2013)

Which apps do you recommend? Why?

Beyond Elegant Consumption.

Beyond Elegant Consumption

At the Mozilla Festival last year, Mozilla Chairperson Mitchell Baker stood up and gave a short talk. Something she said really resonated with me. In fact, it resonated so much that I baked it right in as a central message of my TEDx Warwick talk.

We need to move beyond mere ‘elegant consumption’.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with elegant consumption in and of itself. Reading, watching and experiencing other people’s creations put together in a thoughtful and delightful way is joyful. But if that’s all we’re doing, then we have a problem.

I’ve championed Apple’s hardware and software since buying my first MacBook in 2006. I love the way that their offerings are so easy to use. At some point over the past six years I think I’ve owned or used pretty much their whole product line.

So why this week did I install Pinguy OS (a Linux distribution) on my iMac and trade my iPhone for the open-source Nokia N9?

Until last year, it was possible to swap out almost any hardware and software and still have a functioning ecosystem. An individual or organization could first decide what they wanted that ecosystem to look like and then invest in the constituent parts of that ecosystem. I feel like that’s changed. Now it’s a case of choose your vendor lock-in. And worryingly, that choice seems to be increasingly an aesthetic choice.

Yes, it’s nice that Apple, through iCloud, auto-syncs all of my stuff everywhere. And it’s wonderful that Google can present me with a (mostly) seamless experience on their combination of hardware and software. But I don’t want to have to buy into their whole ecosystem to get the functionality I require.

I’ll tell you what I want. I want interoperability. I want standards. I want a world where I can plug one thing into another and it (mostly) works. And if that world is slightly less shiny than it might otherwise have been? Well, that’s fine with me. At least I’ll have learned to start worrying and love my data.

How to create searchable notes from books using Evernote and your smartphone.

Taking photos of books with Evernote on iOS

Note: This is an update to a previous post.

During the summer holidays before I headed to university I worked in a secondhand bookshop on Broad Street in Oxford. And then, to help support myself during my MA in Modern History I worked in Waterstones bookshop in Newcastle. I love books.

But, despite my affection for the printed word, I still prefer, on balance, reading on my Kindle. One of the main reasons for this is the ease by which I can highlight sections of text (non-destructively) which are then available at kindle.amazon.com.

Whilst I’m waiting for everything that’s ever been written to be digitised I need a solution for physical books that is:

  • Quick
  • Accurate
  • Citable

I think I’ve got that with the following system. Here’s what to do.

The Basics

  1. Sign up to Evernote. You can experiment with a free account but, like me, you’ll no doubt go Premium for the added data storage/transfer and functionality.
  2. Install the Evernote app both on your computer and your smartphone (I’m using the iOS version)
  3. When you start reading a new book, create a new notebook for it and take a photo of the front of the book. Title this first note something like Author (Date of publication) – Title, Place of publication: Publisher
  4. Every time you come across something you want to make a note on, take a photo of the text. Add any comments or thoughts you have and title it something like Author – page number(s)

After syncing, Evernote provides OCR (Optical Character Recognition) on the text of images, so you could stop here as you’ve now got searchable notes from books (as promised in the title). However, I’ve gone one step further.

Going Further

Now that the notes you want are in Evernote, it’s time to tidy them up and make the text copy-and-pasteable. Here’s what to do after carrying out steps 1-4 above:

  1. Create a Book Clippings notebook
  2. Sort the notes in the notebook to make ensure the note with the front cover is at the top
  3. Select all of the notes, click on ‘Note’ in the top menu and then select Merge Notes
  4. Type out the text you want from each photograph underneath it. Add the page number in brackets afterwards and delete the photo and references.
  5. Repeat. Yes, this takes time.
  6. Drag your tidied-up note into the Book Clippings notebook.
  7. Start reading your next book.


I’ve found this an extremely effective way of getting searchable notes from physical books. As a bonus, you might want to try using Evernote’s Web Clipper to import your Kindle notes so that everything’s together in one place.

Have you tried this? Have you got a different system?

10 things I did during Belshaw Black Ops.

For the past three weeks I’ve been on Black Ops, a better term than ‘digital hiatus’ to describe my being digitally incommunicado. It’s felt like longer, to be honest. I managed to stay off Twitter completely – the occasional, accidental, and hastily-deleted autopost from Amplify notwithstanding.

Email was a different story: although I had a ‘Black Ops’ autoresponder on my Gmail account, I had to use email for some of the following activities.

Here’s a list of what I’ve been up to:

  1. Collated and published Best of Belshaw 2010 (freely downloadable or available for purchase in physical form at cost price)
  2. Waited patiently for Hannah to give birth to our second child. She was due on the 28th December 2010, but still no sign. It’s the reason I’m not at the Learning Without Frontiers Conference today/tomorrow.
  3. Bought a fair bit of new technological kit and sold older stuff on eBay.
  4. Took my son, Ben, to the beach (to burn off excess sugar) almost every day.
  5. Experimented with Quora and Licorizer, re-joined Facebook, and unfollowed 90% of people I was following on Twitter.
  6. Lost all my iPhone contacts on Boxing Day whilst unjailbreaking my iPhone so I could upgrade to iOS 4.2.1 (text me your phone number if I had it before!)
  7. Kicked off a stealth project with Andy Stewart which will culminate in a manifesto and small events this year, building (hopefully!) to a large event in 2015.
  8. Wrote my first-ever journal article (it’s entitled Seven Types of Ambiguity and Digital Literacy)
  9. Engaged in some consultancy which I may develop a bit more in 2011. I’ve come up with a Hierarchy of Understanding which I’m going to work on (and may even turn into a journal article) before sharing.
  10. Played a whole lot on my Playstation 3, especially Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (the Vietnam expansion pack came out on my 30th birthday!)

More on the above over the next week or so. I may be sporadic given I’m both getting back into my digital routine and having to deal with the imminent arrival of a new baby. :-p

Intention vs. Effect

Like many people I had, up until a couple of days ago, the following appended to all my outgoing emails from my iPhone:

Sent from my iPhone.

My thinking? They’ll understand why I haven’t written a longer reply. That was my intention.

But the effect? Variously:

  • I’ve got an iPhone. You haven’t. Ergo, you suck.
  • You’re not important enough for me to spend longer replying to  you.
  • I’m busy. Leave me alone.
  • I don’t know how to change the default message on my iPhone. Ergo, I suck.

The effect was vastly different to my intention.

So what have I done about it? Replaced it with:

– – – – –



At the top is a shortened link to my Google profile, whilst underneath is a website that states that it is my policy to use no more than five sentences (where possible) to reply to an email.

How does that make the recipient feel now? Is the effect closer to my intention?

I think so.

A life in my technological day.


This post is prompted by 3 things:

  • Re-discovering Stammy’s Why I’m more productive on a Mac post from 2006.
  • Reading Cory Doctorow’s post What I Do where he outlines the hardware and software he uses (and why).
  • A discussion at EdTechRoundUp on Sunday night where I was asked to explain why the iPhone 4 is ‘better’ than the Dell Streak.

Read more →

10 reasons I returned my Dell Streak today.

It had nothing to do with it’s size.

  1. No multitouch. I didn’t realise until it was pointed out in an Android forum that this makes typing a whole lot easier.
  2. Lack of apps I use often. Having to use the National Rail website instead of it’s £4.99 app may seem trivial but it’s important to me. Apps pretty much always come out for the iPhone first because of the huge, standardized, user base.
  3. Lack of accessories. I could walk into almost any shop on the high street and purchase cases, speakers and other accessories for my iPhone 3G. How many cases did I have to choose from for the Dell Streak? One. And that was fugly.
  4. Unintuitive annoyances. Holding down the camera button should bring up the camera app. The device should charge if the power cable’s plugged in – even if it is in ‘aeroplane mode’ whilst I’m asleep.
  5. Email. Having GMail, Exchange and IMAP accounts means 3 different apps on Android. #fail
  6. Position of headphone socket. Why put it on top of the screen? Hold it landscape and the wire gets in the way. Put it in your pocket and it’s sticking out the side. Oh, and the volume up/down switch should do the same thing in landscape and portrait. #confusing
  7. Lack of website support. If you go to popular websites on the iPhone then you get a decent browsing experience because they’ve made sure it’s optimised for that platform. Navigating some websites on the Dell Streak was clunky, despite the lovely Opera web browser I installed.
  8. Apps that don’t work. The number of times I purchased apps only for me to have them refunded within 24 hours was ridiculous. I had to force-close so many I lost count.
  9. Lack of ‘magnifying glass’ function. If you’ve made a mistake in a text, tweet or email you to half-guess where to tap to get the cursor to go into the correct position. There’s no ability to ‘zoom in’. This leads to frustration.
  10. It’s not an iPhone. Close as I was to keeping it, the fact that I was indecisive about it kind of sealed it’s fate. I would have been tied into a 24-month contract with the Dell Streak. And that’s a long time for something you only like very much rather than love!

The Dell Streak is, technically, a wonderful phone, music player and internet device. It’s almost perfect for me. I loved the ‘Rooms’ (virtual desktops) feature and the ability to add widgets to these. Spotify was amazing on the big screen and Google Navigation is better than any Sat-Nav I’ve used. The Shapewriter app made text entry fun and the camera is top-notch.

It’s just that nowadays a phone has to be much more than the sum of it’s parts. And unfortunately the Dell Streak only consists of great parts reasonably well put-together… :-p

Weeknote #2

This week I have been mostly…

Talking to important people
I’m preparing the ground for a review of mobile and wireless technologies at work at the moment. This involves talking to some very important and innovative people so this week, for example, I’ve been talking to (amongst others) John Cook, Mike Ellis and Andy Ramsden. I even bumped into Graham Brown-Martin and his iPad!

Taking 6 hours to put together a 7 minute presentation
I decided a couple of weeks before the bMoble conference that I attended on Thursday that I would try a different method of presentation at the TeachMeet. Having read about the Lessig Method but never actually tried it, I thought I’d give it a go.

So, 6 hours and 124 slides later I was finished. That’s about 2.9 minutes creation time per slide and about and less than 4 seconds per slide in terms of delivery time. Well, you know, sometimes you have to challenge yourself and raise the bar a little… 😉

Deciding to end the ‘Wednesday Wisdom’ series at number 20
I really enjoy putting together the Weekly Wisdom series and I’ve had a couple of people give me positive feedback. However, it takes a while to put together and it’s clear from Google Analytics that it’s not as popular as my other posts.

What’s going to be in its place? I think I’ll use the space for short series of posts. I’m still weighing up the first of these, but it will probably be education-related.

Realising how much I love my iPhone
OK, so it’s only got a 2 megapixel camera, the battery life is shocking and it feels a bit slow sometimes, but I do actually take the functionality of my iPhone for granted.

I’ve realised this through researching in-depth (as I always do) my options in the form of the Google Nexus One and HTC Desire. They’re both great phones, but Apple provide an extremely high-quality ecosystem. And that matters.

Not doing enough work on my thesis
I’ve got a deadline to produce a journal article by the end of the month. I should be writing that instead of this…

Battery life: iPhone 3GS vs Google Nexus One vs HTC Desire

It infuriates me when I want a quick visual representation to make an informed judgement; all I wanted to do was compare battery life of the 3 major smartphones. Having not found an at-a-glance version, here you go (and you’re welcome!) 🙂

The question is, how much better (or worse!) is that than my current iPhone 3G? The latter is supposed to be capable of 3oo hours standby. Which is laughable, so take the above with a pinch of salt…

Links to the specs pages for each can be found below:

Roadbud: a new iPhone app for runners [Review]


I’ve explained many times on this blog about how great running is for your whole system of productivity. The trouble with running, though, is that it used to difficult to set yourself goals and targets. With the advent of Nike+ and GPS-enabled devices, however, all that has changed.

I first started GPS-tracking my running with my Nokia N95 a few years ago. I still haven’t found anything better than the Nokia Sports Tracker for ease-of-use and useful feedback, if I’m honest.

Since switching to an iPhone, I’ve tried a number of applications that can GPS-track my runs. Most recently I’ve been using SportyPal which I found pretty good and at a nice price (free!)

A few months ago, Mike Schoeffler, the developer of a new iPhone running app called Roadbud started following me on Twitter and reading this blog. I ended up joining the mailing list for updates and a free copy of the app upon release. After some delays, it was available in the App Store earlier this week.

For reasons only known to Apple, the free codes Mike generated are only available in the US (see the end of this post to win one for yourself!) Mike very kindly reduced the price of the UK version from £5.99 to £0.59 so that he kept his promise. Very noble and much appreciated (but this review remains impartial!) 😀


Given that SportyPal, my previous iPhone running app of choice, is free and Roadbud Pro is £5.99 it had better do something special. Fortunately, it has go some unique features. Not least:

  • Integration with iTunes music library
  • StrongSong (Nike+ style motivational track you can nominate for one-button access)
  • Audio feedback on distance covered, time and pace
  • Google Maps integration as you run
  • Weather information
  • One-button access to phoning a friend or emergency services (if concerned about safety)
  • Twitter integration (option to tweet your run straight after workout)
  • Auto screen-lock

There is a free version (Roadbud Rookie), to be fair, but to my mind that version doesn’t offer anything over-and-above SportyPal. It’s six and two threes…

Whilst I can only give my opinion about Roadbud and my particular running regime, there’s some things I really liked and some things that I thought could probably do with some improvement.

The good:

  1. Integration with iTunes music library is a real bonus.
  2. I love the one-button access to my ‘StrongSong’ for when I need that extra boost.
  3. The Google Maps implementation is seamless and shows at-a-glance whether your iPhone is locked-on to the GPS signal.
  4. The audio feedback is useful for focusing on running instead of having to keep looking at the screen.
  5. You can choose a workout length (time or distance) with your progress then being shown as a bar underneath time elapsed. Nice!

Room for improvement:

  1. Track information of the song currently playing.
  2. Feedback when you’ve lost GPS signal.
  3. Lower power consumption (25 min run took 40% of my battery life on iPhone 3G)
  4. A website, like SportyPal to develop more of a community.
  5. The ability to export data to Google Earth.

From my contact with the Mike, the first three of the above are already in development for the next version of Roadbud. 🙂

Of course, people have different concerns and needs than me. For example, when my wife gets my iPhone in a couple of months, she’ll no doubt want to use it for running. I’ll then be really glad of Roadbud’s one-touch emergency call facility.

Conclusion + free codes

Would I recommend Roadbud? Yes.

Do I think it’s worth £5.99? At present, probably not.

I’d expect it to be more of a £2.99 app. I certainly think it’s got potential to be worth the higher price, though! I’m looking forward to seeing how it improves given that the developers keen to make it the best it can be. 😀

Want a free version of Roadbud Pro? I’ve got 3 free copies* for those who reweet this post (using the button below) before midday on Sunday 2nd May 2010!

*US residents only, I’m afraid, for reasons given above…