A man’s hands typing on a laptop
A man’s hands typing on a laptop
Espanso can save you from keyboard grind (Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash)

Avoid constantly retyping the same lines, phrases or code snippets with this brilliant, free utility

We’re spending enough time in front of our screens during the pandemic as it is, without wasting time typing and retyping the same things over and again. Espanso — a cracking little open-source text expander — has been relieving the grind in my office for the past couple of weeks.

What’s a text expander? It allows you to type a short code, such as “:date” and have the expander automatically insert today’s date (01/20/2021).

That’s not a brilliant example, as the total fingerwork required to type the date is not massively more onerous than typing the keyword. …


Apple is rumoured to be removing the Touch Bar from new MacBook Pro. Here are the reasons I hope the grapevine is wrong.

The MacBook Touch Bar showing a Spotify icon
The MacBook Touch Bar showing a Spotify icon
The Touch Bar is much underrated. Photo by Agê Barros on Unsplash

If the rumours are to be believed — and they’re frequently not — then Apple is about to tear a strip off its keyboards. Namely the touch-sensitive strip that runs above the number keys on certain models of the MacBook Pro, the so-called Touch Bar.

Few Apple innovations divide the crowd as much as the Touch Bar. When I tweeted the other day that I thought the Touch Bar was brilliant and that I “genuinely do not understand people’s antipathy to it”, my replies lit up from both haters and fans alike.

Below, I’m going to explain why I’d be sorry to see the Touch Bar retired, with input from the people who replied to my plaintive tweet. If you’re a Touch Bar hater and don’t change your mind by the end of this…


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CES has done its best, but it’s a long way from perfect

I never thought I’d write these words, but I miss CES. The sore feet, the queues, the 16-hour days, the traipsing from hall to hall, the queues, the 10-hour flight to get there, the scuffles to get a desk in the press room, the queues… did I mention the queues?

Without wishing to sound crass, Covid-19 might be the best thing to happen to CES, because this year’s virtual conference makes you appreciate just how valuable the real thing is.

The CES organisers have done a reasonable job of hosting a virtual conference, but it’s been nowhere near as useful as the Las Vegas jaunt. …


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This is what the new Outlook for Mac looks like, so I’m told (picture: Microsoft)

How many things can you break at one time? Microsoft’s going to need a counter soon.

The “new” Outlook for Mac was released in mid-October, giving it a visual revamp to match macOS 11 (Big Sur to its pals).

Alas, while Microsoft was busy polishing icons it managed to break some of the fundamentals, such as support for email accounts. Y’know, the primary job of Outlook.

Consequently, when you attempted to flick the little switch in the software that promised to deliver “New Outlook”, you were warned you were going to cut off any accounts that use the IMAP/POP 3 protocol. …


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Late night smartphone sessions are a bad idea

It doesn’t take ten minutes with a smartphone to convince you the world is a terrible place. Four or five should do it. Doomscrolling — “the act of consuming a large quantity of negative online news, typically without pause, to the detriment of the mental health of the person consuming it,” according to its Wikipedia definition — has become an everyday activity during the Coronavirus pandemic. It’s a dangerous habit.

Many people get their news from social media, many exclusively. In the absence of human contact caused by the pandemic, social media has filled the void — but it has also filled your timelines with doom-laden, inaccurate or deliberately provocative posts that cancel out or even reverse the benefits of finding out how your friends and family are doing. …


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Google Stadia keeps throwing games at me

This sounds like the ultimate first-world problem and, of course, it is, but I’ve got too many videogames.

In an age where new games often cost £50/$60, this wasn’t a problem I expected to have. Indeed, until recently, I would normally buy two or three games a year and be quite happy with my lot.

Now it seems companies can’t stop throwing games at me. And not rubbish either, but decent-looking, full-blown, AAA games that might well have cost £50 or so when new.

I’m a Pro subscriber to Google Stadia, and every month that service throws a handful of new games at me, many of which I’ve never even fired up. Games such as Superhot, Hello Neighbor, Metro Last Light Redux, Get Packed, Rise of the Tomb Raider and many more sit in my library, barely touched. …


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This is my most ‘liked’ photo on 500px. I knew it would be a hit the moment I uploaded it. There’s only one problem: it’s not really mine. At least, not all of it is.

The picture of the pier itself is mine, taken on Sunday, as I went down to Brighton beach in search of the starlings swarming over the pier. I was a day too late.

I took a perfectly nice photo, which I converted to black and white and uploaded to 500px on Sunday evening and it was fairly well received. …


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Stadia is not short of games, despite what the critics say

It’s been just over a year since Google Stadia launched and I sense the common perception is it’s been a failure. Nobody uses it, there’s no decent games for it, it’s blighted by lag.

Most of those perceptions are wrong. I’ve spent the past year as a Google Stadia Pro subscriber and I’ve no plans to stop subscribing, despite the arrival of an Xbox Series X.

Here, then, is what works with Stadia, what doesn’t, and what Stadia needs to become the mainstream gaming service Google clearly hopes it will be.

What works

Instant gaming

By far the best thing about Stadia is you can click on a game and be playing in seconds. There are no 25-minute waits to download 70GB patches, no delay when you buy a game. Everything is updated/pre-installed and ready to go when you are. The only caveat here is that game updates sometimes take a little longer to arrive on Stadia than they do on other platforms. One Football Manager 2020 update was about a fortnight behind the PC version, for example. …


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When it comes to operating systems, avoid the crush (Photo by davide ragusa on Unsplash)

It looks like Big Sur (macOS 11) is causing big problems for some customers.

Reports suggest owners of older MacBook Pros are finding the new operating system has effectively bricked their laptop, leaving them unable to even reach the recovery menus.

Meanwhile, those who dived in as soon as the new operating system was made available for download on Thursday were finding that they faced long delays when trying to open apps on their Mac, as Apple’s servers struggled to check the certificates that prove the software on your system is what it claims to be. Not a good start.

As with any major update to an operating system — be it macOS, Windows, Android or iOS — there’s rarely much benefit to rushing in and plenty of reasons to let the dust settle, take your time, and only press that upgrade button when all the early bugs have come to light and (hopefully) been squished. …


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The Samsung Galaxy M31 has a dual-SIM slot (image credit: Samsung)

I bought a Samsung Galaxy M31 earlier this year and it’s been one of the best tech purchases I’ve made in years. It’s a fraction of the cost of the flagship S20, has all the features I need and has a massive battery that can last for three days between charges. The stress of going out and wondering whether the battery will conk out before I get home has been entirely eliminated. (Sadly, it’s been replaced with the stress of NOT being able to go out, but that’s hardly the phone’s fault.)

The Galaxy M31 has one feature that I didn’t even give a second thought to when I bought the phone and that’s a dual SIM slot. I don’t have a dedicated work line, so the only real advantage of dual SIM for me would be the ability to pop in a local SIM when travelling abroad. …

About

Barry Collins

Freelance writer, editor and photographer. More at: www.mediabc.co.uk

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