…and Happy Christmas in advance.
First of all, thank you to everyone who helped with my little survey of three questions the other day. The new thing I was testing worked for most people, but it’s especially helpful to know the ones where it didn’t, so I can fix that before I use it!
Anyway, onto today’s newsletter and I’ve got a few different things to tell you about this time, and I’ve managed to make all three of them more-or-less related to Christmas! Sort of…
Watch Christmas TV you miss on your TV via a laptop, iPad or other gadget
I know quite a few readers have ipads, Nexus 7s or some other touchscreen tablet (and who knows, after Christmas maybe a few more will have too!). And one of the things we use the work ipad for when it’s at home for “research” is to watch TV online. I never seem to want to watch anything when it’s on, and never seem to remember to program the TV to record it.
So we end up watching things online after they’ve been on, using BBC iplayer, ITV player or even YouTube.
You can do it on a PC, too, but the iPad is handy for being easy to put in front of you while you curl up on the sofa.
The only problem is the screen is pretty small – compared to a TV nowadays anyway! That’s all right if it’s just me, but sometimes it might be me, Julie, Alastair and Edward all crowding round a small screen. (Alastair’s suddenly become fascinated by Doctor Who – though I don’t think he understands as he calls a small lego man with a red cross on “The Doctor” and starts playing with him after watching an episode…)
So I bought a cable that lets me plug the ipad into the TV, so we can watch online TV on the big screen.
And I thought you might like to know how to do something similar, even if you don’t have an ipad.
First of all, though, if you have a recent Smart TV, you might not need to – Smart TVs can access the internet themselves, so you can watch online TV from BBC iplayer and so on directly on your TV.
And if you don’t have an ipad but do have a laptop, Nexus 7 or 10, Kindle Fire or some other touchscreen tablet, don’t worry – most of them can do something similar.
There are fancy ways of wirelessly “pushing” the video to the TV from you gadget – personally, I’m picking the simpler way of plugging something in!
All you need to do is get the right cable and plug it into a socket on your TV that’s labelled “HDMI” (You might have a spare one or you might have a DVD player or something already plugged in – you can either keep plugging and unplugging or buy an “HDMI switch” to plug both into.)
For a laptop, you need to check you have an socket labelled HDMI on the laptop – then buy an HDMI cable (from any TV or PC shop or online) and plug one end into the PC, the other into the TV. Then make sure your TV is set to use the HDMI setting (you might have to check the TV manual for that) and that’s it.
For an ipad, you need a little gadget. Here’s the one I bought for about £6: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/380715787203 – but check what version of the iPad you have before buying one as you need the right version. You still need an HDMI cable as well, to plug the gadget into the TV.
If you have a newish Kindle Fire, you can use a cable that has a full size HDMI plug on one end (for the TV) and a small version on the other (for the Kindle Fire) – the best thing is to go to www.amazon.co.uk and type “Kindle Fire hdmi cable” into the search box there.
And if you have a Nexus 7 or Nexus 10, you can use something called a slimport to HDMI cable – again, easiest to search on Amazon for “slimport Nexus 7” – make sure you check the one you buy is for the right version – some will say for the 2013 version of the Nexus 7 for example, so it depends on when you bought your tablet!
One more word – I bought a pretty cheap gadget for the ipad and it worked fine, but some of the very cheap cables for a couple of pounds can be a bit hit and miss – if you find one on amazon.co.uk, scroll down the page to read the reviews and see if it worked well for other people.
Phew – that took a bit longer to explain than I expected because it’s different depending on whether you use a laptop, ipad or whatever. But the main thing is you know for most tablets or laptops, it’s just a matter of buying the right cable for a few pounds.
A way camera, phone and tablet manufacturers save a tiny bit of money – that could catch you out
I know every year quite a few people get a new digital camera, mobile phone or touchscreen tablet over Christmas. And the other day I got a question that I’m sure could catch out lots of people. (It was actually from my wife and as someone with a degree in Physics, she’s usually pretty good with technology.)
She wanted to plug a digital camera into the computer (though the same issue can come up with mobile phones and touchscreen tablets). I’d told her the cable was in the drawer and she said only the charger was in the drawer, not the cable to connect it to the PC.
The thing is, a lot of manufacturers nowadays save money by only making one cable – one end plugs into the camera (or whatever it is), the other end has a USB plug, which you plug into the PC. But the USB plug also plugs into a three pin plug that goes into the wall to charge it. So if that cable is already plugged into the three pin plug, it just looks like one cable and you might not realise you can unplug the cable from the three pin socket and plug it into the PC.
So if you think you don’t have a cable to plug your gadget into the PC, check whether the cable unplugs on the charger. It might be that one cable does both.
A handful of last minute Xmas present ideas
If you’re stuck for Christmas ideas, there just might be a few of our books or videos that might suit, depending on the person you’re buying for!
The Royal Mail promise us things we send now should still reach people in time for Christmas, but we’ll make sure by sending everything first class.
Anyway, here are a few ideas – see if they’d solve any last minute ideas (or even if you fancy any of them to treat yourself!):
Family History on the Internet
Ideal for someone who’s always promised themselves they’ll trace their family history – or wants to carry one with some research someone else in the family started.
eBay One Step at a Time
If you know anyone who keep promising themselves they’ll clear out the spare room, new year could be a good time for them to learn how to sell things they don’t want any more on eBay. (If you want more in depth help, there are some videos, too)
Struggling with technology?
If someone you know struggles with PCs or with other bits of modern technology, the Ordinary Person’s Guides to PCs, laptops, smartphones and touchscreen tablets could be ideal.
Whether it’s to get better photos of the family at Christmas, understand a new camera that was a present, or simply to spend the New Year finally getting to grips with it, these videos help with using a digital camera (to get the best results) and then putting the photos onto a PC and what you do with them then.
(While I’m talking about photos, there’s also The Photographers’ Guide to The Lake District, ideal for any landscape photographers looking for tips and the best spots. This one’s nothing to do with me really – it’s written by Ellen who works with me here – you can buy that one on Amazon.)
You can order any of our books or videos by clicking on the links I’ve put above – or ringing us on 01229 777606 might be easier (Laura and Louize will be in at 9am on Monday morning).
And if you’ve already completely finished your Christmas shopping, you can award yourself a sit down with your feet up!
Well, have a lovely Christmas – and you’ll hear from me again in the New Year.