Head in the (tech) Cloud? Or a bit fluffy around the edges?

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We often hear talk of ‘The Cloud’ but was is it and more importantly, how do you use it? Here’s our quick (not super tecchie) heads up on the basics.

What is the Cloud? It is essentially an internet based, space saving, data storage service rather than a physical device, although ‘behind the scenes’ of the internet, the Cloud is linked to a network of mega servers all over the world. In basic terms, if you take a photo on your smart phone and upload it to Facebook or Instagram, you are essentially uploading it to the Cloud.

Why do I need the Cloud in my life? If you are storing lots of photos, music or files on your smart phone/ tablet/ laptop/ desktop these will eventually slow your device to a snail’s pace, frustrating the heck out of you, using up space that leaves you deleting things like a maniac or worse still, if your device goes bang/ gets stolen/ is lost, you lose all your precious files! EEK! Cue the Cloud: it’s automatically backed up, stored and saved to your Cloud account all your photos (even the ones you’d hoped you’d deleted), files, music and documents averting catastrophe and saving the day – you just need to login and it’s all there.
You can even run programs via Cloud services such as Adobe or Microsoft Word without the need to install memory munching packages. Just open your browser, eg Chrome or Explorer, and you can open up Google Docs and get cracking on that report. Similarly, open up Spotify to listen to your music collection or Netflix and catch up on TV and films. Clever stuff!
One of the great things about Cloud is that you can share photos privately with family and friends via sites like Flickr without having to stick them all over Facebook. On a more professional level, Google Drive allows you to work with other people collaboratively online.

Sounds great, how do I get some Cloud in my life? Have a mooch around on your devices, you may well find that they have Cloud services built in (personally, I’m an Android, so I have Google Drive on both my phone and tablet, Mrs W however is a iBod – not a tech term, just a Mrs N one – so uses iCloud on her mac, iPhone and iPad). If you are an iBod, follow the prompts on your device to sign up for iCloud, that way all your pics, music, mags, books, notes, movies – your whole life pretty much – is available to you across all your iDevices. For Google Drive, go to Google homepage and click on the icon in the top right hand corner to get started with Google Drive (there’s a little presentation to explain it to you in clear concise language so I won’t try to confuse you here!).

Not convinced? How about giving these a whirl instead?
Set up your own ‘Cloud’ at home in the form of a WiFi connected hard drive like WD’s My Cloud (loads of different brands available on Amazon). Once set up and linked to your device, you can access your hard drive from anywhere.

Free Cloud Apps to get you started:
Dropbox – for Mac, PC, iOS, Android and Blackberry. Very user friendly, 2GB (about 500 photos worth) of free storage, you can upgrade this to 100GB for £6/mth. You can privately see all your files on all your devices and if you want to share them with friends/ family, you can send them a link to access it. Data is kept encrypted.

Google Drive – for Mac, PC, Android, iOS and Blackberry. 15GB of free storage (4000 pics, 1500 songs or thousands of Word docs). Create, edit and share using Cloud based Google Docs. Clever.

Evernote – for Mac, PC, iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows phone. I love Evernote. I use it as my scrapbook in the sky, writing lists (no shocker there!), taking snapshots that I can clip notes to, recording silly audio of the kids, you can use it ‘properly’ though and collate articles, itineraries, maps, confirmations – whatever you fancy really, all neatly filed within notebooks and easily accessible across your linked devices. You can upgrade to ‘premium’ should you choose for £4/mth but I’m happy on the freebie one.

I hope that if you weren’t Cloud savvy before that you feel a bit more in the know now… We always welcome tips and advice here, so if you have some good’uns to share, please do in the comments.

Right, I’m off to empty my busy head into Evernote, safe in the knowledge that the photos I took on my phone of the kids having a water fight earlier are safely stored on my Google Drive *happy face*.

Mrs N x

Get to grips with your cluttered inbox…not as scary at it sounds!

Image from here

Image from here

Are you sinking under more emails than you can actually deal with: newsletters, correspondence, bills, special offers, junk mail – the list can be endless, and even if you aren’t on the receiving end of huge amounts of electronic mail there’s a strong possibility that you still check your account more often than strictly necessary during the day or get distracted by social media, texting etc. There is a regular flow of electronic messaging in our day to day lives, fact, which can leave us feeling overwhelmed and occasionally (if you’re being honest) panicked.

So how do we counter this relentless flow of electronica? Fret not, we’re not suggesting anything so crazy as ditching the lot and doing a so called ‘detox’ from social media sites, texts and emails, this is far more revolutionary…and *whispers* has a modicum of good old common sense. Here goes: you own your phone, it does not own you: just because it pinged, doesn’t necessarily mean you need to pick it up and check it – it’s not a small helpless baby, it’s tech, you are it’s boss not the other way around. Revolutionary thought no?!

Ownership established, as the majority of us are smartphone users, let’s start simple: set a different tone on your phone for your notifications so that you know instantly if you have received a text, email or social media notification. Sounds simple enough, and many of you may already be on to this, but combined with some will power this will help you cut down on data distraction no end. Schedule your email checking so that (unless you are waiting for something specific – though do remember the old adage ‘a watched kettle never boils’ – or your job is such that more frequent email checking is required) you aren’t wasting precious time refreshing your screen on the off chance there might be something interesting there in your inbox.

Limit yourself to checking it two or three times a day if you can, and if you set yourself specific times to actually sit, engage and nail the influx rather than flitting back and forth between screens you will get it done far more efficiently. Email and social media can become the electronic form of constantly checking the fridge when you’re bored, just in case something super tasty appeared in there since the last time you checked it! Obviously within some lines of employment hourly might be preferable, but you will find your own schedule with practice. For the really disciplined amongst you, take it a step further and switch your email alert to silent once your working day is done or it’s guaranteed to ping and niggle away at you until you just have to check it…then reply… and boom, it’s 10pm and you are still working even though you left your desk hours ago. You’ll probably find it bugs the heck out of your other half too…

Next up is a bit of a biggie: be honest, do you have an organised inbox or is it a mish mash of tasks needing to be dealt with, active conversations, offers from Amazon and the like, junk mail, unopened old messages and general dross? If it’s the latter of these two, consider yourselves gently scolded: this is your inbox not a general dumping ground! Do you leave post and junk mail ‘filed’ on the floor at the front door? No? Didn’t think so. Be brave, make a folder in your inbox and call it ‘backlog’, move any mail that is older than say 3 months and put it all in to this folder. Realistically, if it were urgent or needed a response, whoever sent it would have either resent it or called you by now. You can either be brazen and delete the lot or go through it methodically and filter out the rubbish and archive the rest. If an email comes in and you know instantly that it’s either junk (hopefully you have sent junk/ spam filters on your inbox so shouldn’t get too many of these) or you don’t need to read it for whatever reason, rather than ignoring it, delete it straight away. If it is something that you don’t need to action but do need to keep, file it in a folder for later. Emails that do require actioning should be dealt with as soon as possible then archived off into the relevant folder. Hey presto, much cleaner, leaner looking inbox!

Most email providers offer methods of filtering your inbox aside from the usual junk folder, so you can group conversations together, Gmail for example filters mail into ‘social’ ‘promotions’ and ‘primary’ – I’m sure it does much more too but I will put my hand up and say I’ve not mastered it fully yet as I’m still an old Hotmail (now Outlook) girl at heart!

Sounds straight forward enough really doesn’t it…just spend a little bit of time putting it in to practice and hopefully this will reap rewards for you too. Let’s us know how you get on or if you have any other tips to share please!

‘New To Us’ App Roundup!

  • Bloom.fm – is the online equivalent of your local library, however, you aren’t borrowing books, but you can borrow something for your ears instead. A 22 million-strong library of songs and hundreds of radio stations that stream for free if you don’t fancy getting yourself subbed up. Prices (per month) start from £1.49 for 20 tracks, £5 will get you 200, while £10 provides you with as many as you can handle. Available on Android and iOS
  • Circa – Smartphone users have traditionally visited the website of their favourite newspaper or lifestyle publication for their daily news fix. Many of these websites have produced their own apps for an experience better suited to mobile. Circa, is a little bit different… It’s available purely in app-form and been designed to make it easier to keep tabs on breaking news stories. Circa editors distil news into the essential latent points so the user doesn’t feel as though they’re being bogged down with details or having to trawl through huge amounts of text to get to the bare bones of a story. With Reuters’ social media editor on board too, it should be a grower. Available for both iOS and Android.
  • Sportlobster – Sportlobster is a social network designed around your favourite sports and promotes itself as a “one-stop shop for sports fans”. The app lets users track their favourite teams and sports, view live standings, fixtures and results, as well as make predictions on the outcome of the match, race or game. It actively encourages armchair pundits to pen their own articles for the rest of the community to discuss and share. Worth a follow on Twitter too – if you are sports minded. Available on iOS
  • Younity – pumped up cloud storage … provides the user with access to all of their files, across multiple devices, at the same time, eliminating the need for syncing completely. It also allows you to share your files with other younity users. Available free on iOS devices
  • Songkick – Allows fans to track their favourite artists/bands, keep tabs on upcoming ticket details and tour dates. SongKick collates its information from all over the web, even if your tastes are slightly obscure you won’t feel left out. Available on Android and iOS
  • Cameo – Do you find that Vine videos frustrate you? Thank heavens for Cameo then, an app that aims to challenge the world of mobile video. The app (together with the cloud) lets users edit clips and transform them into two-minute-long short films. Available on iOS
  • Link Bubble – The smartphone internet browser that you have been waiting for! It aims to bypass slow loading times by always opening your links in the background, thus allowing you to continue what you’re doing until your link is ready. The app will also integrate with your existing apps, for example, it will always load videos using your YouTube app. It will even smugly remind you how much time it’s saved you. Available for free for Android devices.
  • PayPal app – looks set to make it easier to pay for your meal at a restaurant, or order a takeaway. The online payment company has teamed up with over 2,000 high street shops and restaurants, making it possible to pay through PayPal using just your smartphone. Available free for iOS and Android devices.
  • AlarmPad – who enjoys the sound of their morning alarm going off? Sadly, an app is unlikely to change that, however AlarmPad is looking to make it a little easier on your fuggled brain… the app (hopefully) will wake you up, and can also greet you with weather reports and a reminder of your calendar activities for the day. Even better, it can be deactivated using your voice, which might make going back to sleep a little bit too easy…Available free for iOS and Android devices.
  • DocuSign Mobile – The ability to fill in forms online and on mobile devices is great, but when it comes to signing them, scanning in a signature can be ridiculously frustrating (just us?!). No matter what the format, DocuSign will allow you to scrawl your signature on screen and add it, wherever you need it to be. Available free for iOS and Android devices.
  • Booktrack – A lovely app for the bookworms among you, booktrack aims to give your reading a new soundtrack. An e-reader featuring thousands of different books, both classic and contemporary, but what sets it apart from the many other e-readers on the market is that it gives each book its own specifically designed soundtrack. Available free for Android devices.
  • Pocket – An app that lets you save for later – put articles, videos, text, pictures or pretty much anything into Pocket. Save directly from your browser or from apps like Twitter, Flipboard, Facebook… If it’s in Pocket, it’s on your phone, tablet, Kindle, Kobo, computer etc. You don’t even need an Internet connection to view later when you have time. Available on Android and iOS free.

What is all the #fuss about?

Twitter. A word that splits the room in the social circles we hang out in. We both love the Twitter here at Nicholas & White with Mrs N being the resident expert, but it seems to scare a lot of people who seem to think that we all tweet about our breakfast…
It’s hard to explain it to someone who doesn’t use it though. Really hard. Even to those who are very au fait with Facebook. So, instead of me trying to mutter something not very helpful, I’m going to pass you over to this blog by DorkyMum which explains it just excellently. Brilliant isn’t it?
Then we get on to the subject of the #hashtag which is being used all over the shop incl fb. It still surprises Mrs W that when she tags stuff, it gets found and looked at and commented on – who knew?!
Case in point, she instagrammed a pic of a couple of Christmas gifts and tagged in Arctic Monkeys – within minutes, a fair few teens who like the AM were clicking like on a pic of her pj’s (which are all kinds of awesome btw) and albums.

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We think a hashtag should be used sparingly though, maybe 2 or, at the absolute most, 3 per post. There’s nothing worse than #trying #to #read #through #the #hashtags. Also, watch your spelling, spellcheck won’t pick it up when preceded by one of these babies. #justsaying


Mrs W has personally learnt loads from twitter,  news updates, “proper” news and otherwise, and we’ve made lots of great “friends” and contacts. We have a joint account here, Mrs N’s personal one, Mrs W has one for NYROrganic, one for her other blog and she tweets for someone else too. We’re yet to have a tweet-up though….
So, if you use twitter, are you following us yet? Click the little button up at the top there… If you don’t use twitter, are you now feeling better about dipping your toe in the water? Go on, we promise we won’t tell you what we had for lunch….

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Tech vs Old School

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The debate often comes up at home between Mr N and Mrs N as to just how much technology we need in order for our family life to function relatively hitch free. Mr N is committed to his phone, whilst it does all the usual things (text, email, calls – remember them? – social media, Strava) it also runs his work life for him, synching up his devices, diaries, schedules, programs etc.

Whilst Mrs N has in fact a very similar phone to Mr N, hers is not used in quite the same way, it probably could do many more tricks than she allows it to do but at heart she’s a bit more old school than her husband.

The major difference between them being the diary facility: Mrs N seems to be hardwired into requiring the visual prompt that only a wall calendar (six column job, one for each family member and a spare for birthdays, anniversaries) and a chalkboard in the kitchen can give her: it’s almost as if she doesn’t quite trust the planner on her phone to be as reliable as an ‘old fashioned’ i.e. hand written diary. Yes, she’s a list addict like Mrs W, and an avid fan of the Evernote app (feeding the list addict in her) but is rarely without a notebook and pen somewhere about her person. Growing up, Mrs N had a family diary in the kitchen, as one of five kids, the rule was ‘if it’s not in the book, it’s not happening’ so all school info, play dates, sports fixtures, parties, appointments etc were committed (in pen if she was feeling super brave!) to ‘The Book’ and this habit is something her kids have now picked up too…after 15 years together, she’s almost cracked Mr N…but not quite!

Are you all about the tech and gadgetry or are you more old school? Or are you a happy mix of the two? We’d love to hear from you.