Tech to tease you

The web doesn’t always work.

The other day I popped out for some top tucker at Aumbry, a little but vaunted restaurant in the centre of Prestwich. It had been regaled as some kind of culinary utopia by some of my foodie pals – the creator of Aumbry, and a former mentee of one Heston Blumenthal, was actually on Great British Menu this week - and I was desperate to try it for myself.

So armed with our Hi-Life card and an order to try the black pudding Scotch egg, we arrived with no little excitement.

The menus were presented, and shrieks ensued. No black pudding Scotch egg on the menu for us cheapskate Hi Life diners. Utter pandemonium.

As it happened, the meal was perfectly edible. Some nice little free accoutrements, but I would have felt stiffed paying £40 a head (half that with the dining discount card, thank heavens) for four tasting plates.

Anyway, the thrust of it all is you should give the web a wide berth if you have a precise requirement up your sleeve, and humanise your request with a phone call or, at worst, an email. It’s all too easy thinking the internet has the answers to everything, in real time, but all too often things aren’t updated at the speed of you.

Here’s my weekly column…

I’m back! You might have sensed Mr Angry had conducted a hostile takeover of this column in the past couple of weeks. Chest now decongested of ire, I’m poised to resume our discussion on the great things about everything that bleeps.

So let me share with you my experiences hosting a live web chat all about technology a few days ago with readers of the Daily Post Wales, sister paper to this esteemed publication.

Though we’d penned an hour in for the event it went way beyond that, with dozens of questions to answer. Unnervingly, most pundits knew more than me – though they do say to succeed you should surround yourself with cleverer people.

And this chat was a real wake-up call for me. Not only did it give me the chance to help a bunch of people do things smarter, or simpler, but it gave me a glimpse into what the raging topics really are when it comes to technology.

While I’d been thinking you lot wanted to know the best websites for doing x, y and z, what really plays on your mind – gives you tech tantrums and digital dilemmas – is the stuff of computer security, mobile phones, doing better business online, and tablets.

Mr Angry back in the box, and since it’s Valentine’s Day, I wanted to show you my love by giving you some great tech tips resulting from that chat.

Let me tackle PC security, first. In the dim past us PC users by and large had two choices: Norton this, or McAfee that. Now we have one choice, and we don’t pay for it. If you have Windows 8, it’s called Windows Defender and it’s built in. If you have any other version of this operating system, go to davethackeray.com/mse and grab Microsoft Security Essentials.

I won’t bother with the Apple Mac. Users say they never get viruses, so I’ll leave them to it.

Now, here’s some important news if you connect to the internet on your travels. Mobile phone network 3 is saying it will offer customers unlimited 4G data (that’s whizz-fast) if it gets a licence to do so. I think it will. If you’re looking to upgrade your phone to the very best, haggle with your provider on a Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE (LTE means 4G). Prices do vary from network to network, so do some research before you start negotiations with Bangalore.

Surprisingly my second choice of smartphone would be the ZTE Blade III, just £80 pay-as-you-go with Virgin Mobile (davethackeray.com/zte).

Blazingly quick phone, not 4G but very, very usable at an irresistible price.

Entrepreneurs, take note. If you want to boost your business online, get a blog. Write some genuinely useful, valuable articles for your customers. Make what you publish essential to them – advice on using your products better, suggestions on how they can work with you to make more money – or share something funny. You need to evolve from a brand to a friend. Ultimately your goal is to have them buy more from you, or refer new customers. So you need to be trusted, helpful, and create loyalty by giving all your knowledge away. It’s all covered in my book, Sharing Superheroes, that I’ve finally got round to printing (not everyone has a Kindle to read books on!).

You’re always welcome to email me at hello@davethackeray.com if you have any specific questions about building your business on the internet.

Finally, to the tablet. I’ve discussed this before, but I have no truck in repeating myself: It all depends on what you want to use it for. If you want one to replace a computer in the house, go big – there are some great 10″ tablets knocking about such as the Nexus 10 (16Gb, £319, davethackeray.com/nexus10) and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (16Gb, £269, tesco.com) that, when combined with a keyboard, will do you right. Or you might consider the brand new Microsoft Surface Pro (£tbc), which packs a mighty tech punch integrating a touch screen and Windows 8 – the perfect combination when tag-teamed with the detachable keyboard.

If you’re wanting a tablet to pocket or drop in your handbag, a 7-inch model is the way to go. My picks at this size are the Nexus 7 (16Gb, wifi only, £159 – or 32Gb, 3G and wifi, for £239, davethackeray.com/nexus7) or the iPad Mini (from £269, davethackeray.com/ipadmini). Or here’s a cheeky curveball: if you want smaller but equally functional you might even consider looking at a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 (from £480 to buy outright at amazon.co.uk or on contract, free, from £26 per month on various mobile phone providers), available with or without 4G/LTE, which is a 5″ phablet – literally, a phone that thinks it’s a tablet.

Send your tech questions to me at hello@davethackeray.com.

Dave Thackeray Column, February 14th 2013

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