Author Archives: AJClayton

An introduction to Apple CarPlay (and Android Auto)

If there’s been something that’s never really worked all that well since the introduction of the smartphone, it’s how they integrate with your car.

Perhaps this shouldn’t be a surprise as car manufacturers work many years in advance and they want to control as much of how you interact with their vehicles as they can. However, customers have been crying out for them to add support for Android Auto and CarPlay, the systems written by Google and Apple respectively to enable their mobile devices to communicate with vehicles.

Gradually support has improved and most manufacturers now offer both Android and Apple variants. Some (I’m looking at you BMW) are trying to charge their customers an annual fee to access the service (do what?) but most simply include it as part of the package.

And it does make a difference!

Yes, on older cars without Android Auto or CarPlay, you can still plug in your phone via USB or WiFi and see your contacts and sometimes music on the in-car display, however the implementation has been pretty unconvincing. What Android Auto and Apple CarPlay give you is access to the apps you might like to use on your phone while you’re in your car using a familiar interface. They also support Google Assistant and Siri making the whole experience even better. Say what you like about Siri, but when it comes to natural language queries, it’s generally far better than Alexa and therefore much better for when you’re on the move. Google Assistant is also no slouch in this area and is the pick of the bunch for this kind of task.

In the video accompanying this post, I take a brief look at Apple’s CarPlay and discuss it’s merits (and those of Android Auto, although not being an Android user I can’t demonstrate it in the film). I’ve only just started using CarPlay so if you have any questions please post them to my YouTube channel (or below) and I’ll make a follow up film.

Thanks for watching, and don’t forget to hit that like button!

What Mac did I buy in November 2018?

When it comes to buying a new computer, it’s not something that I do every day! Or even every year. Or every 2 years. In fact sometimes I go almost a decade between purchases.

When I bought my first Mac, a Mac Mini, it was 2005 and some people thought I was bonkers as Windows was very much king in those days. However, I’d become a bit disappointed with the annual wipe-and-reinstall that seemed to be necessary to keep Windows XP running optimally. Plus my experience with Windows Phone (on a crappy Motorola filp-phone) had nearly sent me insane. It was time for a change!

I loved Mac OS X Panther so much that 18 months after my Mac Mini purchase I bought a first generation Mac Pro. This was the last Mac to receive an update to Intel processors.

My next Mac came several years later, in 2014. A “trashcan” Mac Pro.

As you can see, my Mac life has entirely consisted of the headless variety. I brought my own keyboard and mouse (in latter years, those offered by Apple were my preferred options). However, in November 2018 I suddenly found myself needing to buy a new machine. The Mac Pro has something of a disappointing recent history and this isn’t going to be fixed until a completely revamped model comes out at some point in 2019, so what was I to do?

In the video above, you can find out what Mac I bought next, and why.

Thanks for watching! Catch you next time.

Getting a water softener

I’ve wanted a water softener for many years and in the video above, I finally take the plunge!

In case you don’t know, there’s a very good chance that you live in a hard water area. I certainly do. In actual fact, even if you don’t live in a hard water area, your water is likely to have some element of hardness to it. Even if your water is deemed “soft” by your water supplier.

Installing a water softener will make your water completely soft, i.e. as close to 0% hardness as it’s possible to get. This means that your white goods (such as your dishwasher and washing machine) will probably last longer. You won’t have to use so many chemicals when washing your hair or your clothes and can even do away with some additives altogether (such as the salt in your dishwasher).

In the video, I talk about the challenges I had in installing a water softener as I needed to move my stop cock and that wasn’t going to be an easy task to accomplish.¬†

I hope you enjoy the video. I’ll try to answer any questions raised over on my YouTube channel so feel free to ask anything if you have any queries. I’m no expert, but I’ll help if I can.

By the way, I’ve uploaded a few videos to YouTube recently and haven’t added them all to my blog – I’ll catch up on these pages as soon as can! Note to self – write blog more often. ūüôĄ

Couch To 5: Week 9: The End of the Beginning

This is my final vlog of the Couch To 5K programme when an unfortunate technical problem in the last 5 minutes almost scuppers my final run! In this video I reflect on the programme and start a somewhat unsuccessful Mexican wave.

This process has been something of a revelation to me. 9 weeks ago, I didn’t think for a moment that I could run for 30 seconds, let alone 30 minutes and yet, somehow, miraculously it’s happened.

The NHS/BBC Get Inspired Couch To 5K app is, simply, a great way to get moving and even if you pick a different¬†programme to achieve the same goal (there are plenty out there) how you get there isn’t really the point – just getting off your sofa and out and about (quickly, preferably) is the main thing.

At the start of this I was happy with my general fitness, my walking every day with my dogs and standing rather than sitting at my computer, however I knew that I could do better. Above all, I needed to do some kind of exercise that would raise my heart rate a bit. And running is the prefect way to achieve it. I’m not one for “going to the gym”, it’s just too much hassle frankly, but running is easy to do – just put on some suitable clothing and leave the house. “Simples!”

I hope you’ve enjoyed my vlogs. I plan to do a follow up at some point in the future but have no idea when that will be. In the meantime, I plan to work my way up to 5K (I don’t quite get to 5K in 30 minutes – in the video, you’ll see how close I get) and then after that I may look at “Bridge to 10K” which isn’t a programme as such but from what I understand is a series of challenges and tips to get you running for up to an hour.

An hour? Do what?!

Anyway. That’s for another day…!

Couch to 5K: Week 8: Penultimate Ponderings

It’s getting near the end now, and so this week I discuss how I made it this far and what’s still to come in the final week.

There are no terrible jokes in this video. It must be the hard work in making it to the seemingly dizzying heights of 28 whole minutes. However, despite the lack of poor comedy I do hope you enjoy my latest vlog about this engrossing challenge.

Thanks for watching! Don’t forget to subscribe on the YouTubes and to click that like button.

Couch to 5K: Week 7: The Toxic Twelve and a Half

I’m working my way through the NHS/BBC sponsored “Couch to 5K” challenge taking me from no running to 30 minutes of running 3 times a week in just 9 weeks.

This is week 7 where I tackle regular 25 minute runs. In this vlog I discuss how far a marathon is in metres, whether high heels are any good for running up hills and manage to get lost in the woods.

Will I manage to do a 5K run in just 9 weeks? Stick with me to find out!

Couch to 5K: Week 6: Pushing boundaries

It’s week 6 of the Couch to 5K¬†programme where I attempt¬†to go from only ever running to the¬†toilet after a¬†particularly hot curry to something¬†equating to actually¬†bonafide exercise in the form of real-proper-moving-generally-quickly running.

It’s turning into quite a journey!

In the accompanying video to this post, I try to run on some sand, wear an embarrassing T-shirt, try to run while listening to a BBC Radio 4 podcast and keep the world updated with my progress with this engrossing challenge.

This week the final run is a whopping 25 minutes! Will I make it? Watch the video to find out, and don’t forget to like, subscribe and, if you’re so inclined, get off your couch and have a go yourself.

Thanks for watching!

Couch to 5K: Week 5: Breaking records

Here’s another weekly video following my progress on the Couch To 5K programme.

This is week 5 where I contemplate whether I can actually run for 20 whole minutes and wonder if I’ve been using my washing machine correctly.

The prospect of that very long 20 minute run has been looming large on the horizon ever since I accidentally looked ahead to see what runs were coming up. I’ve been dreading it ever since. However, I’ve slowly realised over the weeks that having the correct mindset is crucial to achieving the goals being set in Couch To 5K. If you don’t believe you can do it, then quite simply you won’t!

I’m staying confident, putting my trust in the programme (which after all, is tried and tested) and continuing to vlog my way to 5K. Thanks for joining me for another week!

I hope you enjoy the video. Please like and subscribe on YouTube to follow me right through to week 9 (hopefully)!

Couch to 5K: Week 4: Hot and cold

Another week has shot by, and I’ve now completed the fourth set of runs as I attempt to get from my couch to running 5K in just 9 weeks.

I’m using the NHS and BBC sponsored app “Couch To 5K” available for iOS and Android devices, and also as a Podcast. You can download it for free and work your way through the programme. It takes you from “baby steps” in week 1 to a full on 30 minute run in week 9.

Week 4 is a pivotal point in the proceedings as the time running now exceeds the time walking. In this video, I also manage to correct the mistake I made last week!

I hope you enjoy the video and it encourages you to get off your sofa and do something active (walking is great if you can’t run). Getting out and active is wonderful for your mental as well as your physical health.

See you next week for the dreaded and much feared “Week 5”!

From Couch to 5K: Week 3: Seconds become minutes

Things are starting to hot up now and I don’t just mean the weather!

Couch to 5K is a programme to get you from your couch to running somewhere in the region of 5,000 metres in just 9 weeks, so inevitably at some point the length of time you need to run in one go is going to get longer.

And Week 3 is the start of that process.

In the first 2 weeks, you do a good deal of walking. And warming up. But in Week 3 you start to get a feeling of how things are going to be for the remaining runs. And I have to tell you, it’s a shock. Not, as you might expect, a shock that you have to do so much more running, but a shock that despite this fact, it’s really all rather enjoyable.

And that, my friends, is a big surprise to me.

I’m loving this running lark, and despite the fact that during Week 3 I make a schoolboy error in my timings (watch the video to find out what I did) this hasn’t dented my confidence. Much.

I hope you enjoy the video and join me as I vlog my way to 5K!

See you next week!