Welcome to my blog - Read and enjoy

Thank you for visiting my Scooby1970 blogspot. I update whenever I can and when I have something interesting to share. You will also find published work of mine at Gaming Illustrated. Gaming Illustrated is where most of my work now takes place, but I will transfer some of my more popular articles from there over to this blog, in extended format.

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I've just started a new blog for my upcoming book releases: http://mark-adams-writes.blogspot.co.uk/

Also check out my 10 Quick Facts for more sites I run.

Enjoy the blogs, and relive my ups and downs in life, view some interesting reviews and just enjoy the site. If you are interested in learning something about some of my favourite music then click here it's the official Jan & Dean Site that has taken me and my friend from across the sea, June many years to keep updated.

:) Mark

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Why Now Is The Time To Use Cloud Services

Way back in 2011 I wrote an article about Ubuntu One’s cloud space and the uses I had for it. At the time it was a relatively new thing, and although I was excited about the idea of the cloud and what it had in store for everyone, it’s potential was never fully reached at the time and I only used the service for a number of things. This was due in part to Ubuntu One not being as flexible as other cloud services. Today however, things have changed and cloud services are a whole new breed.

Before we let you know why using cloud services should be part of your everyday life, perhaps an explanation is needed on exactly what a cloud service such as Google Drive is. Basically, you should think of it as a storage place, similar to that of your hard-drive that is built into your PC. Your files are sent up to a server which is run by a company such as Google, where your work and files are safely stored, and can be accessed anywhere there is an internet connection.

This access to your files allows you to do various things with them, such as upload, download, edit and delete. Some services allow files and folders to be automatically synced on your PC or other device, while others allow you to drag and drop files into a dedicated folder that connects to your cloud account. It’s all very simple, and computers such as the new Google Chromebooks solely run using a cloud service. That’s how powerful the internet is, and what you can now do with it.

For many, there are a lot of options to choose from, and there may not be enough reasons to use them. Well, once you start using them, you’ll realise just how handy cloud services are and how you really can’t live without them. Here then, are the services that I use in my day to day use, and how I use them.

Google Drive
This is my main cloud service, and the service I use to do all my donkey work. Google Drive along with Google Documents is a powerful combination that allows you to store everything you need, and access it exactly when you need it.

All my writings are held on Google Drive, and although the service gives to 15GB of storage space, all files created within Google’s own applications (such as Documents, Presentations, Spreadsheets etc) do not eat into that space. So this leaves 15GB to play with for other things.

I have various .PDF files stored on Google Drive, such as manuals, timetables, menus etc. I have various Word documents which I have used in the past, plus a couple of photographs, some music and even a video file.

To access Google Drive simply click on my Google Drive Bookmark, and it takes me to where I can create or edit files. If there’s a file I have downloaded to my computer that I want to save to Google Drive, I simply drag it into the Google Drive Folder on my laptop where it is automatically saved to Google Drive.
I have my Android mobile phone tied to my Dropbox account. The account is capable of storing 50GB of data, and to make the most of this, every time I take a photograph with my mobile phone, the image is uploaded up to my Dropbox cloud account.

Dropbox can, just like Google Drive, be installed onto your PC so that there are folders which sync to the cloud. I have just stayed with Google Drive for this, and use Dropbox solely for mobile devices. When I access Dropbox from a PC, it’s via the Dropbox website. This site gives access to the files quickly and easily, and keeping two separate cloud accounts means I can manage my data with ease, knowing what’s where, and where to place things.

Amazon MP3
Something that I use now and again is Amazon MP3. This is used on my mobile devices, and means I can access all the albums I have ever bought on Amazon and stream them to my device.

Unlike the Google and Dropbox options, there is not much else you can do with this account, other than upload more of your own music to the web. It is however useful, and an option if you want to upload music to the cloud (and of course, Google has it’s own cloud service for uploading music should you ever buy music off them).

Other Cloud Services
As well as the three that have been mentioned, there are cloud services from many other companies, including Microsoft, Box, Justcloud, iCloud, Ubuntu One and the list goes on and on as other companies get in on the cloud services act.

There are options there for light users and heavy users, and prices differ drastically depending on your need. But don’t be fooled by price, as there are some great free options, including Google Drive which gives 15GB of space and is my number one recommendation for a cloud service.

Final Word
Just think about how many times you use your mobile phone or tablet these days. Think also how often you use your PC, and just how often you use the internet. Think how many times you have taken photos with your mobile phone… It’s almost guaranteed that you use your PC differently now to when it was used before the advent of ultra-powerful smart-phones and tablets.

It’s so easy to have all your files with you at all times, no matter what device you have with you. Should I wish to check out the latest .PDF booklet I have on HTML code, I can simply jump on any device I own (laptop, iPad, Samsung Galaxy S3) and open that booklet and read it. If I forget any of my devices, it doesn’t matter, because I can get the file I need from a borrowed device that has a web-browser on it! It really is that simple, and most of all that reliable.

There shall never be a time when I can’t get a file that I require because it’s there on the cloud waiting for me, and you should be the same. Whether you enjoy reading, writing, creating online art, storing photographs, it doesn’t matter because with cloud storage it’s only a click away!

If you enjoyed this article, please read through my blog. The last few updates have been particularly tech-oriented and aimed at new and old PC users alike.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Google Keyboard For Android

Google Keyboard vs Stock Android
Stock Android keyboards are good at doing their job, and most people don't realise that you can actually change them for other keyboards. There are other keyboards out there, but Google's own keyboard is an exceptional choice for those who want to type a lot of text quickly and accurately.

The Difference
Most keyboards do the job quite well, however spelling mistakes can be common and they don't always offer a variety of options. What Google Keyboard does is look good and perform to a level you simply won't be used to on your Android mobile phone.
It's key feature is the ability to swipe to type. You simply drag your fingers over the rough direction of the letters on your pad and the keyboard places that word on the screen. Without even thinking about it, it's quick and intuitive and this article was written using it on a Samsung S3 with not a single error while writing it. Swipe and type... Boom... That simple.
Even if you're a regular typist hitting each letter by letter, you'll notice the difference as this keyboard really know how to spell! I deliberately typed a few words incorrectly and without hesitation the keyboard corrected them for me. Words that are not in the dictionary such as place names or strangely spelt Christian names can be added easily to the dictionary and work perfectly once added.
Worth The Change?
Google Keyboards is free to download and use. It works better than the stock Android keyboard and genuinely saves you time. It has direct access to voice dictation and direct access to the keyboard settings.
An article like this would normally be tedious to write on a mobile phone, however it was simple to write and saved a lot of time compared to using the standard keyboard.
Swipe is accurate, type is accurate and voice input is accurate. This keyboard should be considered if you keep getting spelling errors on your current keyboard as it offers a lot considering it is a free application.
Simple To Replace
As a final word on the application, Google Keyboard is simple to install and configure. It talks you through configuration when you first run it, so as long as you follow the simple instructions it's easy.

UPDATE {November 9th 2013}
Google has updated the keyboard, the main difference is now that the streak that shows you where your fingers have been is now white instead of blue, while you can now keep your fingers sweeping and go over the space-bar to trigger new words. This works very well, and once mastered, typing becomes even faster then ever.

Also there are no emoticons that can be accessed straight from the keyboard, quickly and easily. With updates like these, Google's keyboard goes from strength to strength.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Living With A Chromebook

I’ve been obsessed with Chromebooks lately. They’re appealing to me because of their simplicity, and at the same time because they offer an intriguing new concept of computing. For those of you who do not know what a Chromebook is, it’s basically a laptop designed by Google that only has access to the internet, along with a minimal 32GB of onboard flash storage.

What this means to the average person is that this computer does not run Windows, however, for anyone who can use a web browser, it should be an intuitive experience that once you’ve tried, you realise just how effective it is. In order to replicate the experience, I have lived life in a web browser for a while now, and hunted for programs that can be used to deal with video, music and general programs which you take for granted on a fully blown Operating System such as Windows or Linux.

Ok, skip the bull… can you live with a Chromebook?
Well, the simple answer is yes! Unless you’re a dedicated gamer, or require a dedicated high-powered application  such as photoshop, then there is no reason why the average man or woman on the street cannot live with a Chromebook.

Think about how often you use your mobile phone for things now, that has replaced a lot of your PC time with you doing everything from streaming music, watching video and even answering emails! If you have a tablet such as an iPad or Android tablet, then there’s a chance your PC is gathering dust for most of you, and you probably only use it now and again.

The Chromebook can be seen as one of these devices but with a keyboard. It looks and acts like a laptop, as most of the time the majority of people only ever have a web-browser open on their machines.

So for the majority of people, a Chromebook would be an ideal computer, no need to worry about viruses or constant windows update,it just turns on in under 10 seconds and away to go!

And what does cloud computing offer?
Just as an example, here are some programs that you can use in a web browser based environment. I’ve chosen some of my favourite ones, which may not always be the best, but are easy to use and do the job perfectly well. All these can be accessed from your Google Chrome App Launcher.

  • Google Docs - Word, Excel, Powerpoint are all at your fingertips, these can be opened in Google Docs and if you don’t use them then you can just go ahead and use Documents, Spreadsheet, Presentation and more. What’s more, the documents sync to all your devices so you can start where you last finished off from any machine.
  • Google Keep - A neat little notebook that syncs with all your devices.
  • Pixlr Editor - A powerful photo editor with layers, filters and much more.
  • Pixorial Video - A video editor online! This may be simple compared to some stand-alone editors, however it does the job perfectly for the average person who just wants to edit videos quickly and easily.
  • Sumo Paint - Think Microsoft Paint or Paint.Net and you can’t go far wrong. This drawing/art program is powerful and even features layers. You can save your creations as you would on a normal paint program.

The above is just a brief list, but it goes to shows how versatile a browser is these days, and just how anyone can live without a powerful PC. The future is cloud computing no matter what we may think today, so why not embrace it and give these programs a try out (all can be found on Google Extensions).

Thursday, 10 October 2013

The Demise Of The PC

The humble Personal Computer is selling less year-by-year. Figures out this week show a 9% decrease in sales of PCs, and this is in no small part to the abundance of Android Tablets, iPads and Mobile Phones.

Only a few years ago, the thought of living without a PC would have been unbearable for many. However, with the modern power of Tablets and Mobile Phones, less and less people feel compelled to upgrade their PCs when they finally stop working.

Looking at the situation, there really is nothing much you you can’t do now even with a humble mobile phone. And as most people only ever use a PC for browsing the internet, for some, there really is no need for a PC.

Internet use is perfectly acceptable on a tablet or mobile phone, downloading music and movies is just as easy on a tablet and phone, games (although of a different caliber) are widely played on mobile devices, even printing out paperwork such as maps and school-work can be done on any wireless printer with solutions such as Google’s Print Cloud.

For many who crave a “real” keyboard to do minimal office work, there are many bluetooth keyboards available which will turn your tablet into a pretty smart and powerful computer. Simply pair the keyboard with the tablet and you have a PC! Coupled with the powerful Google ecosystem for example (with it’s Google Drive Cloud computing capabilities and Google Documents), this is a powerful set-up that should not be underestimated.

It is predicted that PC sales will continue to fall, and of course as long as people have just one laptop or PC in their house for emergency use, the general public will continue to cuddle up on the sofa and play on their iPads and Android tablets. There’s something about a tablet that is just more comfortable to use than a laptop or PC. It’s an altogether more personal experience, and one which the general population seem to be enjoying.

PC’s are all well and good in work, but the once humble tablet and mobile phone have become mini-computers in their own right. There is nothing that can’t be done on a PC now that you can’t achieve on a mobile device. As an example of this, both Windows and Ubuntu have the same operating systems on their PCs as they do on their computers. What’s more, Ubuntu’s mobile phones can be plugged into a docking system and be used exactly the same as their PC counterparts with the full Ubuntu Operating System being in use on the mobile phone!

My advice, just keep your old laptop or PC as backup for the times you may need to dedicate some time to these ancient devices, and get to grips with your Tablets and Mobile Phones. There’s so much you can do with them, there really is no need for a PC!

Monday, 7 October 2013

My Google Life

Google is taking over our lives, and while some people are horrified at that thought, some of us have really embraced the whole eco-system. If a company puts together a suite of products that genuinely help you in your day to day life, then let’s make the most of it and enjoy the benefits that they offer. What’s more, Google’s products are free, so integration into your everyday life costs you nothing at all.

So, programs do I use and how are they integrated into everyday use? The list is quite long, and hopefully will give you some ideas of things you can use to keep your day to day life running smoothly.

Google Calendar
There are many calendar applications and programs around these days, however Google Calendar is available for your PC and Tablet or Phone and works a treat. I input a date I need to remember on my Samsung S3, and it syncs with my PC and iPad, so that when I go on those devices, I don’t forget anything.

The god thing is, no matter what device is used, they all sync perfectly. You can set up alarms and reminders which will let you know when you are close to the time, and you can schedule slots of times so that your life is fully organised.

I find Google Calendar a God-send and even though I do not push the program to it’s limits, it works perfectly well and I wouldn’t be without it.

Google Keep
Another useful Google program is Google Keep. It’s, at it’s most basic, a notepad where you can jot notes down at times when you need to remember things. It really is simple to use on phone, tablet and PC, and again whichever platform you use, it will sync to all platforms so that you never miss a thing.

There are useful things that you can do with Google Keep, such as set up reminders and add images, plus change the colours of the notes to highlight important ones. It’s a simple program, but one of the most useful programs you can use.

Google Docs & Google Drive
This article was written in Google’s Documents program (essentially a basic and useable version of Microsoft’s Word) , plus it offers Spreadsheets (just like Excel), Presentations (similar to Power Point) , Forms (allows you to design and send questionnaires), Drawings (a simple but powerful art program) plus it will integrate other programs such as Pixlr Express.

The beauty of Google Docs is that everything is saved on Google’s cloud service, Google Drive. So you can access your work anywhere there’s an internet connection and anywhere you have some hardware to access that connection.

The beauty of Google Docs and Google Drive cannot be underestimated, it offers a truly powerful suite of productivity programs as mentioned above, plus 15GB of web-storage that everything gets instantly backed up onto (though Google Docs themselves do not take up any of that storage). And when I say instantly, I mean just that. If you’re writing an article and your computer dies on you, then next time you go to your Google Drive, the article will be there at exactly the point that you left it. Amazing, and important!

You can upload anything you want to your Google Drive, from music and video, to photos and anything else in-between. All can be accessed from your PC or Tablet/Phone at any time, so it really does become part of your everyday life.

Google Mail
Everyone has a mail client they use, however Gmail has to be one of the best these days. What's more it organises your mail into the order that you decide it to be organised (ie Primary, Social,Updates and Forums etc) which means you can get the important mail you need while ignoring the not so important stuff.

Google Mail lets you store almost infinite emails and attachments and of course you can use Google to collect your email from other email address’ that you may have, so everything can be accessed from one place.

Google Sound Search
Just as Shazam and SoundHound have programs that listen to songs from your mobile device and discover them to tell you what they are, Google has Sound Search which works just as well and is very simple to use. This time this is a mobile only device, but one which should be on everyone’s phones.

Google Chrome
Last but not least is Google Chrome, Google’s internet browser. To give you some perspective of how good Google Chrome is, I was an ardent Mozilla Firefox fan for many years before trying Chrome. I tried it and fell in love with it instantly.  It’s fast, slick and has everything from your Google world integrated into it.

Google Chrome is synced across all your devices, so your favourites will be where you expect them to be, and available on your phone, tablet and PC. Yes, other browsers can do this, but Google Chrome seems to do it seamlessly, so much so you don’t even know it’s doing it.

Google offers more services, such as Blogger and YouTube which I also use, and of course YouTube is used by everyone on this Earth, so thats how big Google is. There are also other services that Google Offer, and as time goes by, there’s no doubt they I will be using them more. At the moment though, knowing that whatever I do on my phone will be shared with my other devices, and vice-versa makes life so much easier. In fact, if I wanted to I can share any of my Calendar reminders, or documents with one simple click to other users, thats how flexible the whole system is.

Don’t dismiss Google, because it has a lot it has a lot to offer, and of course it’s all free!