More on the surprising announcement in a moment – but first, the mysterious QR codes:
Time after time I’ve come across bits of technology that promise to be easy to use and turn out to be like grappling with Medusa.
You’ve probably had the same experience.
But it’s less common to come across something that looks like it’s really complicated, but turns out to be much easier than you’d think.
A QR codes is one of those things.
The very name makes it sound complicated. I don’t even know what QR stands for! (I’ve just looked it up and now I do: it’s Quick Response Code, which sounds like it should be some kind of emergency service!)
What are they for? Well they originally were used in car factories – an easy way to label different components and boxes that could be read by a machine.
But nowadays they’re used as an easy way to take a phone or tablet to a particular website.
For example, suppose you’re a magazine publisher and you’ve run an article about baby seals playing. You’ve also got a video of it that you want to give readers a link to. You could put the link in the article – maybe something like: http://www.babysealmagazine.com/videos/babysealplayingwithmotheronbeachinwinter.htm (don’t follow this link, by the way, it’s not a real one!)
But it’s a bit of a pain for the reader to type in – and if they get one single letter wrong or add a space or a full stop where there shouldn’t be one, it won’t work.
Instead you could print a QR code and if the reader scans it with their smartphone or tablet, it’ll take them straight to that webpage. (Of course you might choose to do both.)
And it’s even more useful if you’re out and about – maybe if you’ve seen an advert on a bus stop and you want to check the details on it. Typing a website address in on a small phone screen can be fiddly, but you can quickly and easily scan the QR code (it’s like taking a photo of it but with a different app).
I’ve even seen them in museums if you want to find out a lot more about a particular exhibit.
And you can scan them on paper (if you see one in a magazine) or when they’re larger (eg on an advert on a bus shelter) or even on a screen (say if it’s on a TV programme).
So, how do you do it? How do you scan a QR?
First of all you need a suitable app. You might already have one on your phone or tablet – look for anything with QR in the name or that calls itself a barcode scanner of any kind.
If you don’t have one, you can go to the iStore (if you have an Apple device) or Google Play Store (if you have an Android one) and download one. You can search for QR code and find dozens – mostly free ones.
I use “Kaspersky QR scanner” and it seems to do the job well and without too many of its own adverts.
Once you have a QR app, start it up and point the camera on the phone at the QR code. You don’t need to press a button or anything, once it realises it’s pointing at a QR code it’ll scan it and take you to the webpage. Some apps will tell you what webpage you’re being taken too and check you’re happy with that first.
Feel free to try it out with this one – you should be able to scan it straight off the screen.
What everyone should know about Sleep, why it matters and how to get a good night’s rest (a surprising announcement)
I know – it seems odd – why am I talking about sleep when I normally write about computers, smartphones and tablets?
I mentioned a little bit about it last week – saying how technology can make it harder to sleep. So can the hustle and bustle of modern life (though that’s not a new thing – at least one science journal talked about people not getting enough sleep because of the pace of modern life – back in 1894!
But it is a problem – and a recent study showed on 17% of people sleep very well – which is pretty worrying for the rest of us! Especially when you discover the side effects a lack of sleep (or poor sleep) can have.
It’s something I was looking into recently – and was shocked at the mixture of advice I found. Of course, different things work for different people, but there were so-called experts peddling techniques as the only way to solve your sleep problem – that had never been tested.
Or worse, ones that have been tested and found to not work!
So we’re going to be publishing a book: Sleep – Cutting Through the Claptrap (What everyone should know about Sleep, why it matters and how to get a good night’s rest)
I can’t tell you exactly when it’ll be out yet, but the title pretty much tells you what it covers. We’ve delved through the tests that have been done on various techniques to find out what works, what doesn’t and how to try the techniques that can help.
Well, I say “we” but I’ve left most of the work to my wife (not doctor, but she is a scientist so she is used to sifting through the scientific papers and understanding what they’re saying) and Ellen, who’s a pharmacologist by training.
They’ve looked at all sorts: what actually happens during sleep, why it matters so much and what happens if you’re not getting enough or good enough sleep (this section makes pretty harrowing reading) and then the different things people suggest to help – whether they work and how to try them.
There’s also practical advice on where to start if you think you might not be getting enough sleep or sleeping well enough.
Anyway, I can’t tell you when it’ll be launched yet, I just wanted to let you know in advance… Watch this space…