QR codes and a surprising announcement

By | May 15, 2017
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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!)

And they look a bit space age. Here’s one – a sort of square barcode:

You’ve probably seen them on everything from adverts to cereal packets.

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…

11 thoughts on “QR codes and a surprising announcement

  1. Pam Niemann

    Hi Tim
    Thanks for the useful info on those pesky QR Codes -I’ve been wondering for ages if I could use them, and how to do so ! So far I have 4 of your helpful books & find them really useful. I’ve even helped out my neighbour with her Android tablet using the books. Please keep the emails coming – there seems to always be something new in technology & you help me to keep up with it. Well, almost ! It moves so fast these days…

  2. CATAstle

    I must be thick, but how can I scan a QR code on my iPad or iPhone? When I go into camera, I can’t see the QR, only the scene in front (or me behind). You suggest I try it out straight off the screen. How?

    1. Tim Post author

      it sounds like you might be going into the camera app rather than into a specific QR code reader app – you might well not have one on your iPad or iPhone already, so you might need to download one. The one I recommend in the article is the Kaspersky one, but to be honest it doesn’t make much difference which one you get.
      The you need to point the camera at the QR code – that does mean taking a photo of the screen, so you can’t scan it on the same device you’re reading the email/webpage on.
      Hope that helps

    1. Tim Post author

      That’s odd – has it just happened with this email that went out yesterday or has it happened with others as well?

  3. Joseph HACK

    I wonder if you can help me with the following . sometimes I am required to ” paste this in your browser ” and i haven’t a clue what to do next . it often happens when change of password is required .

    1. Tim Post author

      Yes – it’s a way to copy something (usually a web address) into your browser.
      Here’s how you do it:
      Select the text you want to copy by clicking with your mouse at the start, holding down the mouse button and dragging to the end of the text.
      Then right click on it and select “copy”.
      Then open up your web browser (eg Chrome) and right click in the address bar at the top. This time select paste, then press enter – and that’s it.
      If you’re doing it on a tablet, it’s a bit more fiddly but similar – except you can’t right click with the mouse so you tap and hold to get the same options, including caop and paste.

  4. Peter West

    Hi Tim,

    I assume you have seen the recent articles about sleep by Michael Mosely in the Daily Mail, and ‘The Truth About Sleep” shown on BBC1 on Thursday 11 May. Hasn’t that rather pre-empted you?

    1. Tim Post author

      yes, I’ve seen those. Interesting stuff. I don’t feel pre-empted, though. To be honest there were already dozens and dozens of books out there about sleep, but most of them take just one angle – when there are many different approaches you can take. Not everyone needs the same approach, so I still feel there isn’t a book out there that does what this one does.
      The TV programme was interesting, but it’s limited by being a short programme and having to be entertainment.
      In any case, if it all make more people think about their sleep and whether it’s good enough and whether it could be better, that’s good – both good for us (because they might want to know more) and good because it might help more people sleep better!

  5. Mary Allcock

    I was also going to mention the stuff presented by Michael Mosely – all good information which may be useful for Julie and Ellen to follow up as well. Incidentally when I tried to read your email in my normal email box it really didn’t like the QR code – very annoying BUT when I tried this way it worked OK.

    1. Tim Post author

      Yes, Ellen had spotted the TV programme before it was on so was already waiting for it!
      That’s odd about the QR code not showing – some email programs don’t like showing images until you click an option to allow it, so I suspect it was that. It’s one of the reasons I don’t tend to include images very often!


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