Sat staring at the screen in a trance

By | March 19, 2018
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A fairly long one this time – I’ve got three things to tell you about, starting with a very simple tip, then on to me staring at the screen in a trance…

A quick tip if you use a tablet to watch TV on (or to listen to music)
Sometimes, we watch TV on our tablet. Particularly in the winter – when it’s cold and dark we sometimes go to bed and watch something instead of sitting in the lounge and watching it on the actual TV.

I’ve even been known to listen to music on it – the speaker’s not great (and I have a bluetooth speaker that sounds great that I can use when I want to hear it properly that Mum and Dad gave me for Christmas – thanks Mum and Dad!)

If you ever do use your tablet (or come to that a smartphone) for this sort of thing, it’s worth checking how you have the case while you do it.

That’s assuming you have it in a case – it’s generally a good idea to protect it. I like the kind that fold over the front to protect the screen when you’re not using it. Then when you are using it, you fold the flap round the back.

The thing is, on most tablets the speaker is round the back. So when you fold the flap back, you’re covering the speaker. And it can make a big difference.

The thing to do is simply let the flap hang down from the tablet rather than neatly folding it behind – and the sound is much clearer.

Sat staring at the screen in a trance
There’s some pretty amazing technology around, you’ll probably agree. From being able to check news or weather on the web and get live information to “virtual reality” – there’s no end of things that 10 years ago would have seemed impossible.

It’s easy to get a bit blase about it – I’m definitely guilty of this sometimes.

But the other day I was using Google maps and was so gob-smacked I sat staring at the screen as if hypnotised.

To be fair, what I’d seen wasn’t THAT amazing – but it had me hooked. Maybe it just caught me after a long day!

Anyway, you’ve probably seen Google maps – and you’ve probably seen how you can choose “satellite” and get actual photos (some from satellites and some from aeroplanes) of the bit of map you’re looking at.

It’s quite impressive, but what I hadn’t realised was that if you zoom right in on some areas and move the map from side to side, it isn’t just a photo sliding from side to side – it’s actually in 3d.

It’s hard to explain what I mean but Nelson’s column in Trafalgar Square is a good example.

You can click and drag the picture to one side – and you can see not only the top but a bit of the left of the column. Drag it the other way and you can see a bit of the right side of the column.

The same thing works for trees, buildings and so on.

I think it only works on PCs/laptops for now, not phones or tablets. And to be honest I can’t think of a single use for it! But it had me mesmerised.

It doesn’t work for every place you can look at in the maps – they’ve obviously only got the relevant pictures for some places. I spotted it in Huddersfield (we visited there a couple of weeks ago and I was checking a place we’d been) and as I say, they have it in central London. They don’t have it around Millom though – so they may or may not have it where you live. But impressive anyway.

Here’s Nelson’s Column if you want to try it. Once you have the picture on screen just click on it and drag it from side to side to see the effect.

The Eiffel tower is another good example (and Blackpool tower, come to that).
(By the way, if you’re an Inner Circle member, you might want to have a look at the next episode of Inner Circle TV, which is out any day now. In it, I’ve done a little demo of this and one other Google maps feature)

Why would you want to use your smartphone as a camera?
You’ve probably seen me talk about the new Smartphone Photography books. But it occurred to me that it’s not necessarily obvious why you’d want to use a phone as your camera. And there are several reasons – so here you go:

  • First of all, they’re smaller than most stand-alone camera so they’re easier to have in your pocket or bag.
  • Most people have their phone with them more often than a stand-alone camera – so if you’re out and about and want a photo of some lovely scenery or you and a friend, you’re more likely to have it with you. (Whether you use it as your main camera or just use it when you don’t have a main camera with you.)
  • Unless you have quite a fancy separate camera, there’s a fair chance your mobile phone actually takes better quality photos! Mine (which wasn’t a particularly expensive model) takes better photos than my little panasonic stand alone camera.
  • It’s easier to share the photos afterwards – whether you want to get them printed, share them on Facebook, email them to people or share them in some other way – it’s easier than if they’re on a camera where you have to copy them to a PC first.
  • Depending on your settings, the photos can be backed up automatically. So if the worst happens and you lose or break your camera or phone, you haven’t lost the photos on it.
  • If you get a bit fancy, you can do things on most smartphones that are hard to do on a normal digital camera. Things like taking panorama shots and one or two other clever bits. They aren’t things you’d do all the time, probably, but when you do want them, they can be great.

So that’s why for a lot of people, it’s well worth knowing how to use your phone as a camera. If you want to know more about the books and what they cover (and how to order them), here’s the information about them.

3 thoughts on “Sat staring at the screen in a trance

  1. Alan MacMahon

    My one hate about using a tablet or a mobile ‘phone as a camera is when the sun is shining and the beautiful view vanishes and your left with a guessing game. There is no substitute for an eye level viewer in many circumstances.

    1. Tim Wakeling Post author

      I can certainly understand that. And some “stand alone” digital cameras don’t have a viewfinder, either, just a screen – it’s fine most of the time but can be difficult when it’s sunny.
      Changing the brightness on the smartphone or tablet is worth a go if it’s a problem – it won’t get rid of the problem completely but it might help a bit.

  2. Robert Haigh

    Hi Tim,
    I just wanted to say ‘re the Flickr app you recommend in your book “Get more from your smartphone ” , that it seems to take a long time to download photos onto it ( days in fact ) . Because of this we gave up with it .Have you heard of other people having this problem ?


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