Have you ever wanted to increase the storage space on your idevice?

Apotop DW-17 Wi-Reader

Apotop DW-17 Wi-Reader

However much you like your idevice, it can be a pain that you can not connect either a USB flashdrive or an SD card to increase the storage capacity. This is particularly irritating at this time of year, of course, if you want to take some extra stuff on holiday with you – such as more music, downloaded movies, TV programs, and the like.

Well, I’ve found something that can go a great deal of the way to solving this problem. The specific item that I bought calls itself a Wi-Reader. There are other brands available and the specifications differ slightly.

The idea at the heart of this device is that it can read either an SD card or a USB flashdrive and transmit (stream) the contents via its own wifi signal direct to your iPad, iPhone etc. Clever, huh?

It’s not a perfect substitute for “onboard” extended storage as the contents are only available to a specific (free) app that you install on your idevice. That’s not quite literally true as you can make the contents available via FTP, but I don’t think that my own computer support clients would be likely to want to go off-piste into such rocky terrain.

I’ve been testing this device for a week now, and it works very well indeed within its limitations. The types of content that I’ve tested with it are:

  • Music – both aac format and mp3 format
  • Video – MP4 format
  • PDF files
  • Microsoft Word documents (docx files)
  • Microsoft Excel spreadsheets (xlsx files) – but it only show the first sheet in a workbook
  • Image files in tif and jpg formats

DW-17 Music View

Using the app’s “Music” view mixes all the albums together and lists tracks alphabetically…

I haven’t checked this out thoroughly, but I think it’s fairly safe to assume that all of the data is available in a “read only” format. In other words, I don’t think you can use this device to create or edit files.

I have almost filled a 128gb San Disk Cruzer Blade flashdrive (mainly with music and TV programs converted from DVD format to MP4) and the response time in finding anything specific is perfectly acceptable. This 128gb flashdrive is currently available from Amazon at the very reasonable price of £23.99.

The device itself is called an Apotop DW17 Wi-Reader. I bought it from Maplin for £39.99. If you look at these links, you will see that this particular model can also act as a battery charger for your iDevice. It will also work with Android devices using the freely available Android app, but I think it’s less likely to be needed on an Android device as they typically have SD or micro SD slots of their own.

DW-17 Folder View

…but using the alternative “Folder” view solves the problem

The only slight disadvantage that I’ve encountered is that you (obviously) need to connect to the wifi signal coming from the device in order to access its content. That means that you don’t have a wifi connection to the internet while you are accessing the wi-reader and the iPhone doesn’t attempt to connect to the internet using a 4G connection while the wifi connection is busy doing something else. Several times, I have wondered why I can’t check my email, only to remember that the iPhone’s wifi connection is otherwise occupied. However, that’s a small price to pay.

This solution is obviously not quite as convenient as having external storage slots available on the device itself, but it’s a very good alternative solution for anyone – like myself – who would like to have his entire record collection of about 1500 albums available with only about 120gm weight overhead in their luggage (including the charging cable and the San Disk USB drive). That comes to about 0.1gm per album, and at a cost of about 4p per album. Result!

What’s the difference between iMessages and Text Messages?

If you have a Microsoft or Android mobile phone then this doesn’t apply. iMessages are only available on an iPhone.

SMS Logo

SMS = Short Message Service = text message

Whatever your phone type and operating system, sending a text message is normally handled by your mobile connection provider (Vodaphone, EE, O2 etc). They route the message through to the recipient using their own servers. Depending upon your data plan (service agreement) with your provider, you may pay individually for all text messages sent from your phone, you may pay for any text messages over a certain “free allowance” per month, or all of your text messaging may be included in your plan.

Things change slightly if you have an iPhone (irrespective of your mobile provider), but only for the text messages that you send to someone else who also has an iPhone (and irrespective of their mobile phone provider). In this case, the message doesn’t get as far as being transferred to your mobile provider for onward transmission to the recipient. Instead, Apple intercepts the message and sends it via its own servers to the recipient (with whom Apple is in communication, of course, as that recipient also has an iPhone). In this case, Apple has intercepted your message and sent it as an iMessage (as opposed to a text message).

iPhone iMessageApple chooses to provide this service free of charge. If you don’t do an enormous amount of texting and/or your texting requirements are covered by your data plan, and/or you’ve got loadsa money, then it won’t matter very much whether your message is sent for free as an iMessage or charged as a text message handled by your provider.

I dare say, though, that it does make a difference to a young teenager responsible for funding their own mobile phone usage. In which case, Apple is probably being very canny in offering youngsters something that they will value as it will undoubtedly help in building brand loyalty. Part of the reason that Blackberry mobile phones were so popular at one stage was that they had their own private messaging service (BBM – Blackberry Messenger) that allowed Blackberry users to communicate freely and privately with each other.

On that subject,four years ago when we had the summer riots in London (yes, it really was that long ago – August 2011), I suddenly noticed a large increase in visitors to my website who seemed to have clicked on my Google Ad after they had searched for the term “PC World”. At that time, I thought that it was quite clever of me to use “PC World” as a keyword (a trigger) for Google to show my ads as I thought that anyone looking for PC World might well be looking for the kind of computer support service I provide. In the end I stopped using that keyword because it became apparent from the enquiries I was getting that people searching for “PC World” thought my ad appearing must mean that I am actually PC World!

iPhone Text MessageYou’d be very surprised just how often that happened. A lot of people seem to thing of Google Search as being a telephone directory rather than a search engine. Anyway, I concluded that for that brief, tense, strange time, lots of youngsters who didn’t have Blackberrys (Blackberries?) started enquiring about getting one as they were missing out on all the news and info because they didn’t have Blackberry Messenger. So, I ended up paying Mr Google lots of money for displaying my ads to irrelevant people. My fault – not Google’s. Since that time, Blackberry Messenger has been extended so that it is now available on iPhone and Android phones as well as Blackberry.

Back to the point, you can tell whether your text message is being delivered by iMessage or text message. When you are about to compose your message (after you’ve defined the recipient), the message area rectangle will include the grey word “Message” if your message will be delivered by text message, and “iMessage” if it will be delivered by Apple to an iPhone. When your delivered message is then displayed in a speech bubble above the message area rectangle, text messages have a green background and IMessages have a blue background.

I’m going to stop blogging about Evernote soon

…but I’d like to just share my latest findings and opinions in case this will help you to decide whether or not to take the plunge.

For the most part, I am still pretty confident that Evernote will become firmly fixed in my routines as my main admin and organisational tool. Of course, the more time, effort, and data you commit to these things the harder it is to back out later. I think I’m approaching that point of no return.

I currently have two big concerns about whether Evernote is up to the job:

1) Security

Marvin the Android

Marvin from the original BBC TV series (not the wussy-looking thing from the later film)

A big concern is the ongoing fuss (and fear, outrage, shrugging of shoulders, boredom, acceptance etc) about the NSA and it’s Prism program – sucking in the minutiae of everyone’s lives by stealing all our online data. Like all online companies, Evernote will reveal your data to the US authorities if compelled to do so by a Court Order. Whether or not the NSA already has Evernote data is anyone’s guess. But what about the portions of encrypted text in an Evernote data file? Will the encryption keep the US government out? No chance whatever. Evernote uses an ancient method of encryption called 64-bit RC2. Asking the US authorities to crack data protected by this method is a bit like asking Marvin to open doors ( “Here I am, brain the size of a planet, and they ask me to open a door” – Marvin the Depressed Android, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy).

Also on the subject of data security, it’s possible to prevent the casual snooper from getting into your Evernote data by protecting it with a password, but I understand that the data file kept on your hard drive is, in fact, unencrypted. A quick test of this was thwarted by Windows telling me that I couldn’t open the file because it was in use (which it shouldn’t have been as Evernote was closed). I think it’s prudent to assume that the data isn’t secure.

2) Data File Sizes

Those nice people at T-mobile gave me a new smartphone last week. It’s a rather nice Sony Xperia SP. I wasn’t sure why they had given it to me as we’d already agreed the details of my renewed contract. It dawned on me after I’d received it – it’s got 4G capability. I started getting text messages from them suggesting that I might like to upgrade my (freshly renewed) contract. I don’t like. Can’t see the point at the moment.

Android Logo

Logo of the Android operating system

Anyway, it’s an Android phone (nothing whatever to do with Marvin: “Android” is the operating system, like “IOS version 6” is the current operating system on an iPhone). It’s had good reviews and I thought it a good idea to bring myself up to speed with Android on mobiles, so I’ve been playing with it. I’m just getting to the tipping point where I might put my “proper” SIM into it. However, there’s a problem. The phone only has about 5gb of useable internal storage. That’s fine, normally, as you can fit a micro SD card of up to 32gb capacity. The problem is that Evernote does not allow the phone to move its data onto the SD card. It has to sit inside the internal 5gb. Well, my Evernote data is already 0.7gb and I’ve only been using it for a couple of months. There’s just a chance of there being a silly but big problem ahead when the data gets too big (and there will undoubtedly be other demands on that limited internal 5gb).

Nevertheless, I think I probably will make the move over to the Xperia as it’s very fast (especially with Evernote), has a bigger screen than the iPhone 3GS, and is rather nice.

The reason I keep pointing out the potential problems with Evernote as I find them is that I know what a big commitment it is to move over to a new admin system. In fact, I really like Evernote. It’s not perfect by any means but it feels solid and consistent, as well as flexible. Just to counteract some of the seemingly negative comments above, here’s a couple of tips:

Shortcuts – if you are already using Evernote, then you may find this link to some shortcuts useful.

Evernote List Sorted by Priority

Evernote List Sorted by Priority

Prioritising – one of my notebooks contains a list of “to do’s”. Each item in the “list” is a separate “note”. It is, of course, useful – and easy – to be able to sort the list into different orders, but Evernote does not have an inbuilt way of assigning a “priority” to a note, so sorting on this is not readily possible.

The answer is to create a tag for each of the numbers 0-9 (or more if you are even more neurotic about admin and organisation than I am). Then just add the relevant tag to the item (this doesn’t, of course, affect any other tags already assigned to the note). Then, just sort the list of items into tag order (see illustration). Since Evernote sorts each note’s tags alphabetically it means that the number tag comes to the left of the list and the entire list will be sorted on “priority”.

I wonder if Marvin could have thought of that.

Speaking of Marvin, if you don’t know what I’m talking about and have five minutes to spare, have a look at this YouTube clip

Since I bought my Sony Tablet S I’ve been trying to consolidate all the different bits of software I use so that as much as possible is available on both my main Windows 7 laptop and on the Android tablet. “Android“, by the way, is the operating system on the Tablet. In other words, it does the job that Windows does on most computers. It was specially designed for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet PCs where the screen is typically much smaller than that on a PC and where there is likely to be no physical keyboard.

So, if you want to move smoothly between a laptop and a mobile device with the same data and functionality available on each device then you have to consider:

  • Whether there is an identical or similar program available on both devices.
  • Whether these programs access the same data files so that you don’t have to worry about trying to reconcile different versions of your data.

As I said in my earlier blog on Tablet PCs, I am new to Android and I’m pleased and surprised at how good it is with these considerations. I haven’t got it all sorted out yet and some requirements are easier to satisfy than others, but so far I am encouraged and I think it is very possible for users with the typical needs and skills of my own computer support clients to get value from a smart mobile device. Some people may need some help to get started, but once things are set up they seem stable and user-friendly (Android devices, that is, not my computer clients – whose stability and user-friendliness is beyond doubt).

So, as part of that quest to get my main work needs met on a Tablet PC I went looking for a modern “Task Manager” (or “To-Do-List Manager”) that I could access from a Windows PC or Android Tablet.

ToodleDo logoI came across ToodleDo and certainly think it’s worth looking at. It works as follows:

  • It is web-based. You access it through a web browser (such as Internet Explorer or Firefox).
  • Your data (tasks, reminders etc) are held by ToodleDo on their servers.
  • Consequently, your data is available from any computer that can access the internet. It could be a Windows PC, a Mac, a Tablet PC, a smartphone.

This “model” or “arrangement” of working through a web browser is becoming more and more popular. You’ve probably heard the term “Cloud Computing” and this is it. You don’t install a program onto your own computer, you don’t have to back up your data (if you trust whoever is hosting your data to do it properly), and you don’t have to copy or reconcile different data files between different devices. It’s not really new, of course: web-based email programs such as Hotmail have worked this way for years. But it’s now becoming more and more popular for other types of programs and one of the reasons for the growing popularity is this need to have the same data available on lots of different devices.

There can be disadvantages to this approach:

  • You may need to have a working internet connection to be able to access your data (but some programs allow downloading of your data onto your own computer so as to make it available “offline” – ie available even when there is no internet connection).
  • You may be concerned about the privacy and security of your data as it’s online (“in the cloud”) and outside your own control.
  • Web-based programs are often slower, have fewer features, and are generally less pleasant to use than the equivalent “local” program would be.

A ToodleDo Screen

A ToodleDo Screen - click on image to enlarge it.

Despite the disadvantages, you don’t have to have lots of different devices to make it worth using cloud-based programs such as ToodleDo. There’s no reason at all why you can’t use it on your one and only PC. Some of the things I like about it so far are:

  • It’s free (there’s a “Pro” version available that has an annual subscription fee).
  • There are lots of ways of classifying, sorting, and prioritising tasks.
  • It’s easy to use.
  • You can receive a daily email listing the most important tasks for the day.
  • You can create tasks/reminders just by sending an email to a special email address linked to your account. This is useful for creating tasks as soon as you think of them, but it also means you can forward an incoming email to this special address so that it’s on your “to do” list.
  • There’s a data backup/restore feature (but not, as far as I know, a method for working “offline”).

So, whether or not you use more than one computer, if you are looking for a Task Manager I recommend looking at ToodleDo. And if you are thinking you may want to be using a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet in the future then I would definitely recommend bearing that fact in mind when choosing any new program or way of working.

© 2011-2015 David Leonard
Computer Support in London
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