I try not to review paid products too much, but I'll make an exception for Readly, which I've described as the Spotify for magazines. Basically, you take out a subscription for £7.99 a month and you can read as many magazines as they have available. That is to say 30,240 issues. That's a total of 1515 magazines, including back issues, with one single subscription. The magazines are not ones that you've never heard of either, they are the kind that you'd probably buy in Smiths or the supermarket. In particular I read computer magazines, movie mags, photography, politics, comics, history and so on. I've taken a screenshot of a few of the magazines that are available to you:
There are options to also read magazines published in other countries, so as I'm a keen historian of the American Civil War I found 3 that I wanted to read within moments.
Not only do you get the current edition, but you also get a back run, and you can simply view any of these directly, or you can download them onto your device to read later. It's worth saying that it's the actual magazine itself, not a cut down version.
However, it also gets better. You can download the app and read magazines on your phone, tablet, laptop or desktop; it's device independent. It gets better again, because for the same price you can have up to 5 profiles; so you can put your partner, children and so on onto your account and they can set their own profiles to read what they want to read. You can cancel a subscription at any time, although obviously you won't get to keep the magazines that you've downloaded, so think of it as an ongoing subscription service in exactly the same way that Spotify is.
You'll get a month free to try it out, rather than the shorter trial version that you get with the normal download of the app (and in the interests of transparency, if you then subscribe I also get a month free as well). So as I said I don't normally push or try and 'sell' resources that cost money, but I'm really impressed with this, and if you buy a lot of magazines anyway, this will probably end up saving you money!
Edited to add: I was asked about how easy it was to read what's on the screen. I wouldn't recommend a phone to try and read on, but I have tried it out on a 7" tablet, an iPad Air and an iPad Pro, and have absolutely no problems - it's as easy to read as reading the physical magazine.
This is what a page looks like on an iPad Air in profile view.
The above image is a 2 page view in landscape. It's actually sharper than it appears here, and is certainly easy to read.
I've zoomed right into the page for this shot - I could have got closer if I had wanted to. So it's actually far better than reading the printed version - unless you have a magnifying glass to hand!
If you're a Twitter fan, you'll want to take a look at Social Rank. It's a very neat tool to slice and dice the followers that you've got. Simply log in with your Twitter credentials and start to have fun with all of the different filters.
You can sort by Most valuable, and in my case it's the British Library, followed by ReadWrite. I can check details on these followers by seeing who they follow, have as followers, the number of tweets they've put out, and their Klout score. You can also see their most used words and hashtags.
Alternatively, I can search via biography keyword - biographical details, names and handles. (want to find out how many of your followers have a podcast? This'll find it for you in a matter of seconds).
I can filter on words and hashtags, location, verified accounts, activities (as in recently tweeted, previously tweeted, never tweeted), company, number of followers they have. You can also compare accounts.
Facebook never fails to surprise me. Just when you think you've got a handle on the damn thing, something else comes along and surprises you. Did you know that you've got another inbox, and that it's quite possibly full of messages from people which you haven't replied to?
If you go to your Messages option on the left hand side of the page and open it you'll see something that looks like this:
Click the 'More' option and you'll see you can look at Unread, Filtered or Archived:
'Filtered' is the option that you want. Click on that and you will see messages from people you don't know, have never had contact with directly and so on. I found about half a dozen from people this year. I've spent the last few minutes going back and forth with messages, all starting with 'I'm sorry that I haven't replied to you before but...' and then blame Facebook. (If in doubt, blame Facebook. If really in doubt, blame Facebook and Google. If totally screwed, blame the Internet.) Try it - let me know if you've found messages that you didn't know you had! While you're at it, check out the Message Requests option as well. You might find even more memos from people there as well. I don't know why Facebook puts some in the Message Requests section and others in the Filtered section, but I doubt that they are going to be telling us any time soon.
Need to find a postcode from somewhere around the world? I was asked this question the other day and so I thought I'd share a nice resource that I've found. It's called - surprise surprise, Postal Codes. Very simple to use - just find the country you're interested in and type in the location that you need a code for. You then get a really nice long and comprehensive listing of post codes and their areas. It also works the other way around - you can type in a code that you know, and it will show you where it comes from, plus link you into the Google map page for the area.
StartPage and Ixquick are working together to provide an alternative, private search option for Google. The two search engines have always been fairly closely intertwined but this is only going to get closer in the future. Ixquick is no longer going to marketed, and results will in future come from StartPage, which in turn gets them from Google. However, they have not given up on it entirely, because the European version Ixquick.eu is still available. The latter version will continue to provide results drawn from a combination of various different engines such as Yahoo and Yandex. It will also continue to use specialised search engines to deliver the best possible results. However, if you're not bothered by any of that, simply move across to using StartPage instead.
StartPage does not collect IP addresses, use tracking cookies, or collect any personal information. Since they are based in Europe, they offer the crucial protection of being outside U.S. jurisdiction, where they are not subject to the Patriot Act and other U.S. data collection mandates.
Results from the engines does differ. A search for 'fox red labrador' gives me the same results on StartPage and Ixquick (which given what they've just done doesn't surprise me), but in comparison to the .eu version only 2 results were the same, and differed markedly in their positions on the first page of results. In comparison with Google UK there were 3 common results, and with Google.com there were 4 common results.
In summary therefore we don't seem to be that much better off. We're swapping StartPage AND Ixquick for StartPage. Except that we've still got Ixquick as an .eu resource. The results that we get from StartPage and Ixquick are the same, but they differ to the Ixquick .eu version and they all differ to Google.uk and Google.com
Need expert ideas and opinions on stuff like the Internet, apps, gadgets, infographics and the like? Obviously you'll read my weblog, but even I can't cover everything, so take a look at TechReviewPro. They say of themselves "Techreviewpro.com is excited to announce the 2016 Tech Expert Pro-Views! Since the turn of the year our team have been reaching out to the best technology experts across the world to gain their valuable insights. The reviews intend to be an every growing source of information that can one day end up being a time capsule. Some of the greatest tech enthusiasts, journalists and IT professors all came together to share their opinion on what the future might hold!"
I had a look through the site and it's really quite interesting. Click on a category to see all of the different reviews and settle down with a cup of coffee. It's a really nice and informative site - loads of adverts to get past of course, but that's a minor issue. It's certainly somewhere to keep in mind if you need to keep up to date on what's happening in the world of tech.
If you can't remember the name of a film it can be a real nuisance, and it can nag at you for ages. Well, worry not. There's a new search engine called What is my movie and you can simply type in some basic concepts and it will try and find matches for you. I tried several and it found them every time. For example I tried 'gunslinger looking for gold in the American Civil War' and it came back with The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, 'man looking for family in the Civil War' gave me Shenandoah, 'two men on holiday in the lake district' resulted in Withnail and I. You can also try it with film quotes 'all the towns in all the world' came back with Casablanca (the best film ever made).
They say of themselves "Whatismymovie.com is a showcase of the technology of Valossa, which is a spin-off company of the University of Oulu, Finland. We aspire to create a new, descriptive way of searching video content. Our technology understands the contents of video files itself. Ranging from text to pattern recognition, we reach down into data that has not been searchable in the past."
You can help improve the engine by clicking on the buttons for a good or bad match. You can also run searches on Titles, Actors, Directors and Traditional Search. It's not clear to me what that last is, but you can use it! The display of results is really nice - you get a picture of the movie - usually a film poster, a nice abbreviated synopsis, a link to 'more like this' and you can also click on a link to watch the film, which runs an Amazon.com search and returns a price as well.
It's a really nice engine, and one of those 'Oh, I'll just ask it one more thing' resources that keep you there for hours. Many thanks to Val Skelton for finding this one.
I don't know if anyone else has seen this, but Facebook has started to roll out a new search function. It's looking at posts that you have recently commented on, and is then suggesting what it regards as appropriate search terms. It looks like this:
I'm really not sure that it's a sensible idea. I find the notification, which sits in the searchbar window to be annoying:
In the example that I've given I have no recollection of commenting on a post about Ikea.... oh hang on.. yes I did. It wasn't anything at all to do with Ikea, it was about a friend who posted that he wasn't well enough to go there, so I made some comment about man flu and shopping. The fact that it was related to Ikea was entirely beside the point. If Facebook is keen on getting me to use search more often, they might want to try increasing search functionality, rather than faffing around with novelty ideas.
You will probably remember the 'Snoopers Charter' that has appeared and disappeared over the last few years. However, it's now coming back with a vengeance. The new powers will allow the police to look at your browsing history. Internet Service Providers will have to hang onto that information for a full year and hand it over to the police if requested. A straightforward concern comes up here - that's a huge amount of data, and ISPs will have to invest in more computing power to do it, and they're going to pass the cost onto the consumer. The draft bill will also make it legal for the police and other ancillary bodies such as the Home Office and tax officers to hack into your computer. They will be able to pretty much look at anything they want to; the limitation of only looking at 'illegal' sites has been removed. Even more worryingly, the police will NOT require a warrant to do this.
Another point of considerable concern is the desire of the government to look at what you're doing on messaging systems such as What's App and iMessage. This means that end to end encryption will no longer be allowed, since the authorities want to be able to look at what you are saying, who you are saying it to, and when you're saying it. This means that companies would have to include back doors into their encryption software, thus crippling the idea of personal security and privacy. Because if the government can easily hack into your account, it's not going to take long before criminals can do it as well.
There are a whole host of problems with this approach. Chiefly among them is the fact that this won't work. Terrorists are not going to waste their time using popular apps in the first place; there are plenty of other tools out there which they can use to encrypt their conversations. Anyone with any sense is going to start to use resources such as the Tor browser, which means that everything is encrypted, including where you're going and what you're looking at. In order for this to work companies are going to have to agree to create backdoors in order for their software to be used in the UK. It also then leads to a two tier system where a product has to be created twice, and I honestly can't see that happening. However, let's say that it does. When we get visitors to the UK for business or pleasure, are we going to make their delete their existed, encrypted software for the duration of their visit? Or are we going to ask them to surrender their devices when they arrive?
You can't have a 'bit' of encryption. You either have it or you don't. And if you don't want people to have it, you need to go to extraordinary lengths. For example, it's perfectly easy to put software onto a memory chip or USB stick, so are the border officials going to look at every single stick, every single computer, every single smartphone?
This attack isn't just happening in the UK of course - in the United States we're seeing companies such as Apple coming under increasing pressure to provide access to data belonging to individuals. I still have trouble with the idea that otherwise seemingly intelligent people have problem with a simple concept - you either have encryption or you don't.