Tag Archives: laptop

My 2013 Favourites for Gadgets, Books, Apps and Industry Awards

At the end of every year, I’ve listed my highlights of the previous year. See the post from 2012 with links to previous years. Here are some of the highlights from 2013:

Favourite New Gadget

An unflattering photo wearing Google Glass
An unflattering photo wearing Google Glass

There are several contenders from 2013. After 4 years with my previous work laptop, I took the plunge and went for a new convertible tablet/ laptop, the Dell XPS 12. It’s good, in fact the speed is still as fast as the latest laptops in the office, but my original intention was to stop using my paper notepad, and the XPS with the touch screen just can’t replace it. If you are looking for a decent laptop and have the budget available, I recommend the XPS – but keep a paper pad close by.

I also swapped from my iPhone 3GS (or as I preferred to call it, my “iPhone Classic”) to a Samsung Galaxy S4. I prefer the Samsung to Apple in every area except the lack of the red underlining for misspelled words, and that alone is almost a showstopper.

Continuing the Google theme, in December we bought Google Glass at work, and I’ve used them as much as possible. Google Glass is the future without a doubt, however I think it’s a generation (of users) too early. After watching colleagues and some customers struggle to use them in the office, it’s fascinating to watch my kids use them so naturally.

The prize for my favourite between these three? Sorry to wimp out, but it’s a tie between the laptop and Glass.

Favourite Book

I don't agree with all of it, but it's still my favourite read of 2013
I don’t agree with all of it, but it’s still my favourite read of 2013

I’ve been fortunate to read several good books this year. Removing the fictional titles (I rarely read fiction but my ex-manager at Endava guaranteed I’d like a particular author so much that he’d pay for the books if I didn’t like them), here is my 2013 reading list:

  1. The Intention Economy, Doc Searls
  2. The Tao of Twitter, Mark Schaefer
  3. Search Engine Optimisation: An Hour a Day, Jennifer Grappone & Gradiva Couzin
  4. The Psychopath Test, Jon Ronson
  5. Total Recall: My Unbelievable Life Story, Arnold Schwarzenegger

I recommend all of them.

The Tao of Twitter provided inspiration, and results, of higher levels of engagement on Twitter.

I’ve recommended the SEO book to everyone I’ve met this year who has shown interest in natural SEO – it’s written in a simple, friendly manner with practical suggestions on almost every page.

The Arnie book caught my eye at Heathrow airport on one of my business trips this year. If you’re unsure about the book, just read the back cover – you’ll be surprised how much he’s achieved in his life.

However the award for my favourite book goes to Doc Searls. I didn’t like (or perhaps a more appropriate word is ‘appreciate’) some of his earlier work such as The Cluetrain Manifesto, and even in The Intention Economy I didn’t agree with all parts of the book (my major criticism is his firm view on open source – why isn’t his book open source if he believes in it so much?) If you need some inspiration for corporate digital transformation, this book will offer it. At Endava we are working with large consultancies who list The Intention Economy as mandatory reading for their senior directors.

Favourite iPhone/ Smartphone App

I’ve had to rename this since defecting to Android!

Strava is still my favourite. It’s the best cycling app available, mainly due to it’s implicit gamification. I sent them some suggestions for improvements which they implemented within a few weeks, so a big “Thank You” there.

A very close second is OneNote. I like how I can create a note in OneNote and it appears on my computer in OneNote. It’s quick to use, and comes with the Microsoft Office stack, so there’s no additional app to install such as EverNote.

Favourite Award

The Top 100 Digital Agencies Report 2013 – Endava came 17th

A huge well done and thank you to the team at Endava for ranking us as the 17th largest agency in the eConsultancy Top 100 Digital Agencies. The award was presented for our 2011/12 accounts due to Endava’s financial year finishing after the Econsultancy entry deadline, and so next year is likely to look even healthier.

As well as the Econsultancy, Endava also won a number of other awards which we are also very proud of.


This is likely to be my last post of 2013, so I wish you and your family a wonderful festive season, a Merry Christmas, a Happy & Prosperous New Year, or just some good old-fashioned time off.

Dell XPS 12 six month review

Dell XPS 12 - with only 2 USB ports, you'll need a hub
Dell XPS 12 – with only 2 USB ports, you’ll need a hub

The article on my new Dell XPS 12 laptop appears to have had received positive results from Google’s new search algorithm because traffic to the post has increased significantly in the last month along with a few emails and comments.

It’s been six months since I wrote the article so I thought I’d provide an update.

To remind readers, the Dell XPS 12 is a ‘convertible ultrabook’, which means it’s a Windows 8 laptop with a screen that swivels around to simulate a tablet PC.

Six months on, and the laptop is still very fast. It boots up in about five seconds from completely switched off and about three seconds from standby. iPad owners will scoff that their tablet switches on immediately, however, iPads take about a minute to switch on from a totally ‘off’ state, and ‘totally off’ is the most power efficient state to be in.

Searching through ten years’ worth of email, across several offline Outlook files (PSTs) is almost instant. Switching between apps is also instant. In fact I haven’t found anything that produces a significant lag, and I have monthly spreadsheets of over 28Mb that I need to manipulate.

I think the biggest factor in the laptop is the solid state hard drive which most new laptops have. Solid state drives are faster than traditional ones because there are no moving parts, and this also means they consume less power.

I originally selected the XPS was because I wanted to combine my paper notepad and laptop into one. And I thought the touch screen would do this.

The reality is that while the touch screen is excellent, it’s not a substitute for paper. It’s almost impossible to write, or draw, on the touch screen because if you rest your wrist on the screen while using a stylus, the screen thinks your wrist is also trying to write or draw.

Nevertheless, the touch screen is much better to use for navigation than I first thought. I use it for selecting icons and applications so much that when I hook the laptop up to an external monitor, I find myself naturally pressing the monitor screen by mistake. It makes you realise how inefficient a mouse is.

Using the Windows home screen with a touch screen feels very natural. I don’t understand how people without a touch screen use Windows 8, because it feels slower, too clunky and unobvious with a mouse. I don’t miss the Windows menu any more, but I read articles condemning Microsoft that it’s been removed. I guess those users don’t have a touch screen.

With touch screen, I’ve started using OneNote more. In fact, I sometimes use OneNote, with the keyboard, on the laptop instead of taking my paper notepad around.

Back to the XPS 12 instead of Windows 8, major gripes are the video connector which is now an Apple mini-DisplayPort which I’ve forgotten to pack with me on a couple of occasions for presentations. The min-DisplayPort adapters cost £25 each, so I have one at work and one in my laptop bag (just in case I forget it) – £50 for hooking up a laptop to an external display seems expensive though.

Another adapter that’s annoying is the power cable. I’ve had two previous Dells, so I have a power adapter at home, at work and in my laptop bag. But the XPS 12 uses a new type of connector, so I had to buy a new one for work and one for my laptop bag – each one is £20 (they were £30 when I first got the laptop). This means I still have one power block without a connector and luckily I’ve only been caught without a converter once.

My final gripe is that the laptop is quite heavy. I cycle to work and when I have to carry my laptop to or from the office, it’s an unwelcome 1.5kg.

The battery is much better than all previous laptops. I think it’s mainly thanks to the solid state hard drive. I can eek out about 4.5 hours by turning Wifi off, the screen brightness down and so on. It’s enough for a full flight to New York (taking into account you can’t use it during take-off and landing and probably won’t use it during the meal).

The touch screen really comes into its own on flights because I’ve seen peoples’ screens broken when the passenger in front leans their seat back and compresses the screen of the passenger behind in the alcove where the meal tray is stored. So on all flights I use the XPS in laptop mode.

In summary I’m delighted with the laptop because it’s fast and the battery is great. I haven’t quite discarded my paper notepad yet, although I use it less and work on OneNote more. Yes the flip screen is a bit gimmicky but the touch screen makes Windows 8 more usable, and less accident prone on flights.

Dell XPS 12 review


I finally got it!

After two months of frustration, trying to spend some money with Dell, I finally got my new work laptop, the XPS 12.

Regular readers will know that I have been searching for a single device to replace my paper notepad that I carry around everywhere, and my laptop. I need a fully functional laptop for working with documents, so an iPad is out of the question. I have been considering a Surface Pro for a while, but my current laptop kept crashing due to bad sectors on the hard drive and the Surface Pro is having even more supply chain issues than Dell (note to Microsoft and Dell – look at Apple for how to run a supply chain). And the battery was on its way out. And it was over four years old.

I did some research and went for a Dell XPS 12. It’s a ‘convertible ultrabook’, which means it’s a Windows 8 laptop with a screen that swivels around to simulate a tablet PC. Convertibles have been around for a while, but with modern battery technology and more importantly, modern hard drive technology, convertibles are now useful rather than huge cumbersome slabs.

I’ve been using Windows 8 for eleven months and I like it. I hadn’t used it with a touch screen and thought that the touch screen wouldn’t make a difference anyway. I’m sure I’m faster with a mouse than moving my hand to the screen. How completely wrong. Touch screens and much quicker and easier to use.

Well, they are if they’ve been designed for a touch screen.

Most websites have tiny, tiny links, making it difficult to get the accuracy. Using the rest of the apps though, such as Outlook, is much faster. I also thought I’d hate seeing a dirty screen, but oddly that’s subsided.

On the Dell XPS 12, the battery life is much better than my previous Dell laptop. It lasts for at least four hours, although charging it back to maximum also seems to take four to five hours.

Booting up is so fast. I can’t tell whether the laptop was in Sleep mode or was shut down – they both seem to fire up the laptop in less than ten seconds.

The hard drive makes a huge difference when using applications or Internet browsing. It is lightning fast at the moment (there’s an i5 processor and 8Mb of RAM) – certainly faster than an iPad switching between apps or browses the web.

I mentioned that I wanted the touch screen to carry around fewer items (i.e. stop using a paper notepad).

Two comments on this – firstly you need to buy a stylus to see whether handwriting recognition is good enough, but a stylus costs £20, and secondly, I might be able to resign from paper, but I now need to carry around a monitor cable.

The XPS 12 comes with a mini-display port, so I need to carry around a mini-display to VGA cable! That was £20 from PC World. Just when we have standardised every peripheral to use a USB connection, display connections have changed to various types!

Talking of USB, the XPS comes with two ports. I used to have a docking station with four USB ports, so that I could connect a keyboard, mouse, headset and external hard drive, so now I need to keep swapping them out.

And finally, back to the touch screen. It doesn’t always work. It has a nasty habit of not working when I demo the device (in tablet form) to people. To get the screen working again, I have to flip the screen back to laptop mode, send to sleep and wake up. It’s not exactly the best way to recommend the laptop!

The important question – would I recommend it? Absolutely. It’s slightly lighter than a standard laptop. It looks and feels nice with its carbon fibre shell, and is the fastest laptop I’ve seen for a while, regardless of Windows 8 or the touchscreen.

As for being able to discard the paper notepad – I’ll let you know once I’ve got a stylus.

So bear in mind, if you are going to buy the XPS, which I recommend, factor in the external cable and a USB hub and a stylus into the cost.

iPad review – at last


I’ve been pretty vocal about not-seeing-the-point of an iPad and so Alex Day at Endava lent me his iPad for a few weeks to see if I’d change my mind.

I’m now ten days into iPad ownership (more like borrowingship) and here are my thoughts.

It doesn’t replace any previous gadget. The thought of taking an iPad into work, or not taking my laptop home to do some late night work is frankly ridiculous. To open a Word document or PowerPoint requires buying some apps and I doubt they support some of the features we use at work (track changes, comments and Sharepoint integration). So it doesn’t replace my laptop for a moment.

I’m checking email much more often. One of the first things I did was to wipe the data (sorry Alex) and synchronise my personal email and work email. Which means the iPad alerts me when new calendar requests come in, etc. Now I realise why Alex lent it to me…

I’ve totally stopped having spare moments since the iPad came home. My wife and I charge our iPhones in the kitchen near the kettle, and every time I make a cup of tea, I’ll play on the iPad for a minute or so, rather than wait around doing whatever I did before the iPad.

The one app that excels above others on the iPad is FlipBoard. Flipboard takes your Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and other accounts including favourite RSS feeds, and converts them into a beautiful magazine style format (see the screenshot above). It takes images from links inside Tweets from people you are following and shows them as part of the article. It is the neatest form of personalised content I have seen anywhere. Content publishers should take note of this app as a glimpse into the future of content publishing. When you look at the Flickr feed on FlipBoard you need to remind yourself that this is user generated content – the quality of the photos and the screen are excellent.

And while we’re on the positive points, the battery is excellent. Alex’s iPad doesn’t have mobile coverage, just WiFi, which is fine considering it never goes outside of the house and office. I’ve only charged it twice in ten days. I guess that’s why the device weighs the same as a hardback book.

Everyone in the family is playing much, much more games. Despite owning a Wii and Xbox (with kinect) and 2 Nintendo DSs (DSes?) the iPad is the preferred device, especially for Mrs H. The graphics and general playability are superb, and that’s just on the free games we’ve downloaded.

And that’s why in think that I don’t get the iPad. I want it to replace my laptop and paper notepad, but it’s not that type of device at all. It’s not about productivity, it’s about entertainment. It’s a media device. It is a large iPod not a replacement laptop.

Yes you can convert it into a productivity tool, by buying £50 worth of apps and using the rubbish on-screen keyboard, which will probably give you RSI within five years, you can suffer whilst telling everyone you abandoned your laptop years ago. Ten years ago you were probably saying the same thing with a Palm V.

Why the single mobile device isn’t possible

A true story (all the stories I tell on this blog are true – it’s just this makes the story more dramatic) – I was standing in the kitchen washing the dishes last night whilst watching the television.

I find this to be the second most therapeutic place in the World – the first is in the shower (for more information about why we seem to think clearer in certain positions but never at our place of work, read Future Minds.

Anyway, back to washing the dishes, and I saw the new Sony Xperia Play advert shown below.

This got me thinking the same thing as the R&D guys and girls in every handset company in the World – what is the perfect handset/ mobile/ slate device? By perfect, I mean “what device will take over from all the other devices we own?” I remember conversations in the late 1990s when I worked at the Finnish Telco Sonera (for accuracy, I worked at a subsidary called SmartTrust – now part of G&D, however these conversations took place with the parent company) where we discussed more than 100% penetration of handsets in the World (i.e. more active handsets than people).

Why would people want more than one handset? Because you’d have a super smart/ fashionable one in the evening, an email device with QWERTY keyboard during the day, a sporty/ waterproof one on weekends and so on.

I remember hearing that the market research teams at Nokia (despite the recent bad news I’d recommend anyone with any technology interest to visit their amazing corporate headquearters in Finland) kept hearing that their users wanted tiny phones and massive screens; they wanted as few keys as possible and full QWERTY layouts; they wanted the simple, original, ‘flat’ Nokia menu and a gazillion functions on the phone. The users wanted the impossible – mutually exclusive functions.

After I’d finished the washing up (we have a large family and had guests that evening – these things take a while), I sat down and caught up on some recorded TV – Secrets of the Superbrands: Fashion when the penny dropped.

We won’t be able to have a single device because of the following factors:

  1. Fashion – too many of us want the latest new shiny (or distressed as I learned on the Secrets programme) thing, for the sake of having the latest new thing.
  2. Best of breed. I use the toaster because it makes the least mess; I use the microwave because it makes hot chocolate quickly and without getting a saucepan dirty; I use the oven to roast chicken because I imagine it’s going to taste nicer than the small microwave/oven (and I’m worried all future hot chocolates will taste a little chicken-ey).
  3. We want change. I like love Dairy Milk. But every so often I’ll have a Flake, or a Twirl or a Wispa. Think of your favourite yet balanced meal – why don’t you have it every night?

And for these reasons I don’t think the single device to take over our wallet, mobile phone, laptop and paper pad is ever going to come along.

The ultimate notebook

I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I don’t want an iPad because it doesn’t replace any of my work tools. I need something to replace my paper notebook and laptop in meetings.

I’m finding that I’m scanning my paper notebook more and more, then emailing the scans to other people in the office. But thats not searchable and ends up in large attachments. (Luckily my writing is legible).

The iPad doesn’t have great Office connectivity or a decent stylus with handwriting recognition. I’ve been keeping an eye on alternative products and this week I thought I’d finally found one. Here’s the video:

Wow – I thought I’d found it.

So I looked up the price. It’s not available in the UK yet, but in the States it’s $999. That’s more than my high spec work laptop!

And the final nail in the coffin was battery life – 2 hours. That’s insane.

So I’m continuing with my paper notebook. Battery life is infinite. Portability is excellent. Cost is about £2.50. The ultimate notebook is still paper.

The perfect iPad


Twice this week I’ve been asked why I don’t have an iPad – once at work at once at home.

The answer is that until an iPad-style device can totally replace one of the things I have to carry around with me all the time, I’m not going to start carrying around another item.

At the moment I have to carry around a laptop, iPhone (with work email) and paper notepad.

All three items are under A4 size because I commute on a motorbike, and it needs to fit inside my bike tailpack.

Don’t get me wrong, I would love to be able to stop carrying around my paper notepad and laptop, and carry around a ‘slate’-style device instead.

My requirements for the device are for the power to last longer than my laptop (a couple of hours), and most importantly – handwriting recognition. I carry my paper notebook everywhere, and I find myself scanning notes and emailing them round to other people. I don’t want to sit there typing up my own notes, so scanning them is quicker.

What I need is the Newton… a device like the first iPad from 20 years ago, which had an excellent battery and handwriting recognition!

Give me Power (for longer)

Yesterday I updated my Twitter status to say that I’m starting to like my new iphone, but I can’t believe quite how poor the battery life is.

Maybe this has coincided with starting to cycle the first few miles to work before boarding the tube, I don’t know.

When i started thinking that my laptop only runs for 2-3 hours and the iPhone in regular use only runs for 6 hours, I realised how basic battery technology must be.

The Twitter responses were to turn off wifi and push email, lower the screen brightness – but guys (followers?), doesn’t this defeat the whole object of owning an iPhone?

Of course, I’m not suggesting that I could ride my bike for 2 hours anyway!