Futuristic Retro

I’m loving the styling of the new Nikon Df, it’s both retro and futuristic at the same time. Interesting to see that they are using the tag line ‘fall in love with photography again’. The 35mm SLR styling is clearly more than a nod to photographers of a certain age – i.e. me – who cut their teeth on film based SLR photography and kind of miss it. The price point is clearly positioning the camera in the ‘well off boy’s toys’ bracket too at an eye watering £2,400. It looks beautiful though…

nikon-df_1 nikon-df_2

The aluminium and black styling looks effortlessly stylish and the crisp lines and detailing takes me right back to my early days with a camera in hand. My very first SLR camera was a Ricoh KR10, which was one of the first all black models. I do remember coveting the far more expensive (and therefore out of my price range) Pentax K1000, which had the traditional silver/black finish. I remember my parents buying me the Ricoh for Art College at the princely sum of £110, which back in 1980 was a lot of money, but as far as our budget could stretch. When I look at what cameras cost these days, £110 was quite a lot of money (that reminds me: I must phone my dad, remind him about it and thank him, again).


You can see the styling of the latest Nikon harks back to a cleaner, straighter aesthetic evident in the Pentax K1000. It’s nice to see design going full circle (just like skirt lengths or trouser widths I guess) and although a lot of revisions is due to designer whim,  classic and timeless design never really goes out of fashion.



Interesting to see below how my old KR10 isn’t quite as beautiful as the Pentax (although it was camera of the year I might add rather protectively) but the styling and proportions aren’t perfect. The black looked uber cool at the time where most of the cameras were ironically black and silver.

I still loved that camera, mind – it took some of the best photographs of my life and was built to last: it had a reliability and heft in the hand that was reassuring and was virtually bulletproof. The Ricoh KR10 sparked a lifelong interest in image making which continues to this day.




From kettle bells to rope and beyond…


Earlier this year I started a training regimen that was quite frankly a shock to my system. After years of relative inactivity, I embarked on a new adventure into what I hoped would result in a fitter me.

I’ve been hard at it, at least twice a week for past few months and I have to say it is making a difference. People are saying I look different and although I don’t see the gradual improvements myself, I can definitely say it’s an improving picture! My PT sessions continue to be strenuous and never seem to get any easier and I guess if they did, then Philip (my personal trainer) wouldn’t be doing his job would he? Recovery times have definitely improved and where I struggled to drive my car after the first sessions, I’m now more or less fully recovered after a day or so.

After embarking on this regimen, I bought a Nike Fuel band and this has really helped me to stay focused on achieving my goals on a day-to-day basis. This neat gadget tells you how active you’ve been by using an accelerometer to measure the movement of your body, which it turns into fuel points for you to accrue. It’s very motivational and combined with the training, it’s helped me keep momentum. As it stands right now, I’m on a 61 day unbeaten run where I’ve hit my goals every day.

I’ve even bought my own boxing gloves and wraps, such is my pugilistic enthusiasm for weekly boxing pad sessions. Your own gloves make a huge difference in boxing as the gym gloves are ill-fitting and smell really bad. The wraps go under the gloves and they give you the confidence to hit the pads hard without hurting your wrists. The gloves, although entry-level training affairs are great too, well padded and impressively branded by Everlast.

If you’d have told me in January that I’d have my own boxing gloves and I was quantifying my exercise using a wrist device, I’d have thought you mad!

The key driver for me has been the trainings sessions, with each session different and seemingly getting harder than the last. There’s a marked difference for me when I go to the gym alone, left to my own devices I have a good workout but never push myself to the very limit. It’s certainly not in my psyche to drive myself to the edge and over it as I see in other people. I fully accept I need spurring on and I’m completely fine with that. Augmenting training sessions with mini workouts suits me just fine at the moment due to my current lifestyle.

I said at the outset I just wanted to get fit and I think I’m on the journey there with some way to go. I’d like to think by the time I hit 50 in December this year, I’ll be even further down the track. Watch this space…


Ode to the iPod

When the iPod first landed on the scene it absolutely revolutionised music for me.

I’d fallen out with music a little bit – CDs just weren’t my thing, they seemed so soulless. So when a piece of technology arrived that could keep all of my music digitally in one place the size of a fag packet, I was all in.

Of course the technology raced on and subsequent iPods got smaller and thinner whilst their capacity got larger and larger. I can say hand on heart that the iPod and iTunes rekindled my love for music again, allowing me to have every single song in my library (once I’d painstakingly digitised the lot) at my fingertips. I have owned pretty much every generation of the iPod apart from the fiendishly priced original and revelled in the increased capacity of each version and the reduced prices too.

All of my musical consumption revolved around the ipod – I could have every single tune in my pocket when on holiday, I would plug in the Ipod to a dock and play it around the house. I sacked off my perfectly serviceable Denon hifi in favour of a reassuringly expensive Bose sound dock. The iPod drove technological innovation across the board for me and I thought it significant that it had its own section in my music magazine of choice, the now defunct The Word.

But technology marches relentlessly on and just as the iPod vanquished all in its path, progress will in turn kill it off in due course via The Cloud. I have, of course, embraced cloud based technology and all of my music now lives in the cloud so I can stream it all to multiple devices wherever I may be on whatever I like.

But I still love my iPod.

The tunes are physically on there and I like that. Oddly for me, I don’t need to have physical vinyl or discs, but the actual song files I’m quite happy with. I’m not sure if I’m comfortable just yet going 100% streaming, so I’ll be hanging on to my gradually outdated iPod as Apple don’t seem that keen on doing anything with it anymore.

But I think of it as a digital comfort blanket, always to hand, easily plugged in to a device, every tune I own, all in one place.



Black Ops DIY

Now this is ONLY the kind of DIY I’ll consider. The cool kind.

What’s the iPad really good at?


I’ve had the iPad for some time now and I can tell you what I think it’s strengths and weaknesses are, based on how I use it. It’s bound to be controversial, but I think it could be helpful if you’re thinking of getting one. And it’s my blog, so hey.

Lets start with the negatives – for those of you who know me, I’m a glass kind of full guy – so I’ll finish with the good news.

What’s the iPad not so good at?

1. It’s NOT a laptop and gets a bit frustrating at the moment trying to multi task. I realise this may change over time, but at the moment it’s rubbish. Quitting out of apps to do other stuff is annoying and not a patch on a laptop.

2. Unless you buy the 3G be prepared to be at the mercy of the UKs (and mainland Europe’s) random and expensive wireless coverage. I knew this when I bought the wireless version, but it doesn’t make it any easier to take believe me.

3. Sunshine – just like one of the vampires in Twilight, the iPad despises the sun as if it’s one of the living dead. Everything reflects and it’s pretty much hopeless to look at. The reflective screen explodes with light and is a waste of time.

4. Websites – some websites are still not configured to display sites for the iPad (Google reader is particularly duff in this instance) and whilst the simple, informational sites are fine – the cooler, flash based sites are a bit of a letdown at the moment, although I think this may change as the iPad dominates.

5. Tunes – it’s not that it does iTunes badly – it’s the same as the other devices – I just find myself not really using it for tunes. It’s almost like the format of the device defies you to listen to stuff on it and not watch.

What is the iPad good at?

1. Email. Twitter. Linkedin. Facebook. – the iPad is tailor-made for this social networking and makes the entire user experience a cut above laptop and light years above iPhone usability. It makes the laptop seem overblown and the phone seem miniscule.

2. Movies – having recently flown to Spain, the journey evaporated as I watched Star Trek on the iPad. The size of the device, the screen, the headphone sound – it was all way, way better than I’d expected. The cramped spaces of budget travel were made for the iPad. Movies on the iPhone or the iPod? Forget it – this is the real deal. There’s also the added value of other passengers flashing you envious stares as you tuck into the visual treat of the latest instalment of Vicar of Dibley (or whatever takes your fancy).

3. Books – funnily enough, this is the area that I’d expected to write off the iPad. I love paper and ink and I’m sure that nothing could exceed the reading experience of a REAL book. Oh no. The iPad is just different and it absolutely works. I tell you where it works with bells on – reading on dimly lit transport (planes, trains, cars) and in rooms where an ordinary book would require a lamp or ‘big light’ on. The reading experience too is silky and controlled, with lovely little touches like bookmarks.

The other thing that was a big revelation for me was the ability to buy a book from the store – as long as you have the connection – at our villa in the Andalucian hills recently I was able to buy the book I wanted. No more scrabbling around for the pre holiday book, ordering from Amazon, and the days it takes to deliver. Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis? Bought and downloaded in fifteen minutes.

4. Apps – clearly it’s early days on the App front and there’s lots to choose from – the iPad proves to be the prefect environment for some of the iPhone ‘upscaled apps’. I’ve particularly been loving the sheer practicality of The Times app. I download it religiously every morning and it acts as a digital newspaper, delivering news in a more responsive and intuitive way than the web (no more awkward folding of the broadsheet/tabloid on the train or plane, no grubby fingers from the ink either). It’s still got room for improvement, but the world has changed here and it’s definitely not going back.

Most other things just work as I’d have expected (mail, etc) and that’s Apple for you. No nasty surprises (unless you’ve got an iPhone 4 😉 And it’s obviously beautiful and feels right and all of that stuff

So there we have it – warts and all. Some winners, some losers.

Overall, the iPad is, in my opinion, living up to the ‘Game Changer’ tag a lot of people are giving it. It does some stuff OK, but it does an awful lot of stuff very, very well indeed.

Hard Graft

In Yorkshire, the word graft means work. And hard graft means proper work. I think it may translate South, but either way it means something to us working class Northerners.

When I happened upon a very cool company making poncy laptop sleeves and ipod accoutriments based in Austria, I thought it was interesting. So interesting, in fact, that I bought some of their very lovely product. It turns out that there’s indeed an English link with one of the founders from round these parts (ie the North).

If you’ve not come across them yet, then you’re missing out.

Have a look here and you won’t be disappointed. Your wallet might be quite a bit lighter than when you started, but I guarantee that although the products may seem expensive, they add value to my day to day existence – and it’s not often you can say that.

Now the iPad is lovely, so I won’t witter on about that again. But I wasn’t impressed with Apple’s shoddy rubberised case/stand thing – it looked cheap and devalued the beautiful design of the iPad. So I needed a real case. Hard Graft were on the case (see what I did there) with a few options and I went for the newest – and most expensive – option as luck would have it.

Well it arrived today and as per my previous purchases, it was exquisitely packaged. They certainly have an eye for the texture, presentation and quality of not just the product, but the way it is unveiled before your eyes.

Apologies for the packaging porn, but I couldn’t resist the lingering images of foil blocking and embossed loveliness. There is a symmetry here – a joy and care in the presentation, that reflects the time and effort taken to getting the sublime product just right, a feat that remains unattainable to the mainstream brands.

It’s arrived

So it finally arrived.

After weeks of feverish anticipation, the day came when my iPad was delivered by FedEx, a full day ahead of when it could be bought in shops. Typically, I wasn’t there to receive it as I’d started my new job, but fortunately the girl was in and took receipt of the delivery.

If you’re a fanboy, then the anticipation of opening the packaging is as much a part of the user experience as using the damn thing and this was no exception. Over the years, Apple has definitely got skinnier with the packaging (remember the early iPod packaging, it was a work of art) but it still delivers everything you’d want from a packaging design – building anticipation for its contents and looking beautiful too.

The web is littered with box opening sequences for Mac products (and there’s none more exciting than Stephen Fry’s iPad opening sequence) so I won’t go there. Here’s a gratuitous shot of it anyway.

OK – but what is it like to actually use?

Firstly, the heft in the hand is remarkable. It just feels good. Well made. Long lasting. The aluminium case sets it apart from the iPhone and moves it up towards the Macbooks and gives it a cold, metallic sharpness that just feels right. The sharper edges too of the exterior case move it on. I expect next generation iPhone will follow these design cues.

After the initial excitement of gliding, swiping and sliding on the screen (just like the iPhone) then you kind of settle into a right – ‘what content can I get on here’ kind of mood. There’s some lovely free (and paid of course) stuff on the iPad store and I can see that just growing day by day. It’s the scale of the presentation and the crispness of the display that hits you when you’re looking at apps for the first time.

For instance, the marvel App which looks cool on the Iphone, looks awesome on the Ipad and that’s not hyperbole. The Wired magazine app really does feel like a whole new genre with embedded video, interactive ads and content that looks incredibly handsome and also linked smartly throughout. This mass of content has the tendency to overwhelm too, but I think that’s more to do with the new medium – after all, this was a paper based magazine where you just turned the pages, last time I looked.

Websites render differently and some are better than others with the Safari interface being different, it takes a little getting used to if you’re used to browsing on a laptop. The standard Apple Apps all look and feel great on the iPad too, as you’d expect, and the seamless connectivity with Itunes is definitely par for the course these days. I did think it took ages to hook it up for the first time and I had a few issues with downloads, but they’re sorted now.

One gripe – I have a lot of movies and content that I have downloaded on to my Apple TV (am I the only person who uses and enjoys this forgotten bit of kit?) and I just can’t get them on to the Ipad. I’ve paid for them, but can’t get them on to there, which seems wrong to be honest.

Quite a random post in terms of my experience so far with the Ipad but I think it sums up the user journey I’m on with it – excitement, anticipation, expectation, all tempered by the reality of everyday use and where it fits in my wide array of existing mac products. I think it does sit perfectly in between the iPhone and Macbook Pro and I’m already using the iPhone less for Apps like Tweetdeck which just work better on the iPad when you’re at home.

I think it will crystallise the use of each device and make them more about delivering great user experiences rather than making do with one device that does lots of things but not super well.

All in all, you can probably tell I’m happy with my iPad.

I just can’t wait to see what’s going to be designed and produced for it that will drive it forward just as the Apps have changed the iPhone from just a telephony device into something genre defying.