Password Managers for Mac: Forget forgetting your passwords

You’re probably reading this post because you’re getting fed up with all those passwords. Maybe you just got locked out of an account because you forgot your password? A new set of super secure applications may be able to help you: password managers.

The leader in this space is 1password and the clue is in the name with these guys, you decide upon one password for the 1password application, then let it do the rest. It integrates with your desktop and browser so that, when you need a new password it’ll generate a super secure one for you, and remember it. Next time you need to login the application will sign you in, just using your 1 master password. You don’t need to remember all the different passwords.

1password say you can use the app, not just for passwords but for keeping your whole online identity safe, including all your personal information, too. In addition to your Mac, 1password is available for Windows, iPhones and Android phones so you’re able to login securely on all your devices. 1password actually communicate their value prop very clearly in this video (plus, we love this guy’s dead pan expression):

You install 1password directly on to your Mac from the AppStore. It does cost a few bucks, but this is worth it when you consider what’s a stake – you need a professional application which is super secure that you can trust. You’ll find it directly on the Mac AppStore here:

In the interests of fairness, there are others out there too (all with apps for most desktop and mobile platforms). Some are free, whilst others are paid for check out:




Python development on Windows 10

So, speak to most people in the Python community and they are going to be Mac users or Linux users. Python is baked into these operating systems and everything works nicely (most of the time). But, there are some of us who work on Windows (or, more precisely, all platforms) so how do we fair?

In the past, Windows has been a bit of a pain for the Python developer. What should be simple never was; if it wasn’t a build script failing, or a compiler not present, then it was lack of support for awesome tools such as virtualenv, easy_install and pip. Things just weren’t as simple as they were on OSX or ‘nix.

But here we are with Windows 10, and more importantly Visual Studio 2015. Now, Visual Studio was always a good development environment if you were writing for .Net. It was fully featured and had many happy users. With Visual Studio 2015 there are three important things to note:

  1. It is free. Yes, the community edition (with the Python tools) is 100% free. If you’re part of an organisation and you the want the Pro edition, there’s the usual Microsoft fee: Visual Studio 2015
  2. It has the brilliant Python tools for Visual Studio built in which gives you virtualenv management, with pip, requirements.txt, etc.
  3. It installs all those pesky compilers that you always had to hunt around for.

So, you download Visual Studio 2015 and go to install it.. make sure you select all the Python tools! This is a complete set of tools (you can also get them separately from GitHub here: https://github.com/Microsoft/PTVS if you miss this, but it’s just easier to install it all at once). When you install all these tools, you’ll find that the compilers that are needed for pip to be able to build your Python packages are installed to. Bye bye build errors.

When using Visual Studio 2015 with Python tools, you have to change your mentality a little bit from the OSX/Linux world. Much less is done at the shell, instead you click on things. You get all the Python syntax highlighting you would expect, and Visual Studio lets you manage your interpreters too. If you want to use a virtualenv you simply click on a few menu items and Visual Studio will build it for you – it has a rather cool feature too: if you have a requirements.txt file in your project, the env will automatically be built with pip setting up all your dependencies from the requirements file.

When you are in full coding mode, you’re going to need a decent debugger. Visual Studio give you a sturdy debugger which gives all the usual analysis – and it doesn’t feel like a bolt on at all. You even get a the ability to quickly pop open an interactive python shell for some quick hacking.

For further reading checkout the excellent Python Tools for Visual Studio on Amazon Kindle or Paperback (click here)
by Cathy Wong.

Of course, there are other IDEs out there that are good too. We particularly like PyCharm and use this across multiple OSes. The only issue here is that you have to install the compilers in Windows yourself (and we’ve been burned by this before).

Ultimately the choice of IDE is a personal one. However, Python development on Windows is finally coming of age and should not be written off!



Answered: Do I need anti-virus software for Windows 10?

Those that have been Windows users for a long time will be familiar with buying antivirus software. For a long time it has been essential, and potentially considered irresponsible to not use it (you can distribute viruses to others without knowing about it, for example). Apple Mac users used to look on smugly as their Windows using counterparts suffered attack after attack.

Windows users regularly installed software such as Norton, McAfee, Kaspersky etc. However, Windows 10 has is now here and stable. Windows 10 is a free upgrade (click here to find out how) for most, however if this isn’t the case for you or you are installing it onto a new computer you can buy a copy of Windows 10 Home on a USB stick from Amazon (click here for a direct link). Does it get rid of the need for anti-virus software? No, of course not. There are still plenty of viruses, malware and other nasties kicking around the web. However, Windows 10 comes with a comprehensive set of built in security tools that will more than address your needs. These all come under the umbrella of Windows Defender.

Windows Defender is a robust set of tools that automatically scan your computer for viruses, malware, spyware and more. It does not get in the way of your everyday use of the computer, letting you get on with your tasks at hand, but it does keep running in the background keeping everything secure.

A major point is that, whilst you can have the best antivirus software in the world, if its knowledge of current viruses is out of date then its performance will suffer. It needs up to date definitions to know what to look for, so you have to keep your software update date. This is where Windows 10 with Windows Defender really wins. Windows 10 is now an operating system as a service, which means it is updated in the background without you having to do anything (especially if you are on Windows 10 Home… Pro users have more responsibility to manage updates). New virus definitions are updated along with all the usual Windows updates, which you don‚Äôt need to take control of. The upshot is that your system will be as up to date with the latest virus definitions as it can be, without you needing to take any action.

With Windows 10 there is little need for additional security software (unless, of course, you are the type of person who prepares for doomsday) given what Microsoft have made available for free. Of course, you have to trust Microsoft to get it right, but that’s another story. ūüôā

How to play Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play Music, Deezer and more in your car for under $12

The automotive industry is lagging behind the rest of the technology world, it always has. We moved on from CDs years ago, first to downloads such as from the iTunes Store and then onto streaming services from the likes of Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play Music, Deezer, and more. We will show you how you can have all this music, in your car, wirelessly.

You can already listen to these services on your computer or phone, or stream wirelessly to your speakers via Bluetooth or TV via a Chromecast.

So why can’t you do this in your car? If you’re purchasing a new car you may be lucky and find that it has Apple’s CarPlay or Google’s Android Auto built in. If so, stop reading now and go explore this option.

For the rest of us we don’t have this option. My car just has a standard CD player. But there are still brilliant options which stream music from your (or your passenger’s) phone. In addition, if you use apps such as Apple Maps or Google Maps for navigation you’ll have both Spotify and your navigation instructions through the car speakers. So, your three options are:

  1. Plug in. If you can find the aux in or line in of your car stereo you can plug your phone’s headphone port into this. You’ll need a cable with a headphone plug on one end and, depending on your stereo, another headphone plug or a pair of red and white plugs. See these links as examples:
     


     
    The problem with this though, is that the cables become dangerous and they can get caught up in the car. Also your passengers in the back will struggle to join in.

  2. Bluetooth. This is our recommended option. With this you wirelessly pair your phone over Bluetooth to the car and then play audio over the car’s speakers. Anyone in your car can pair up and there will be no dangerous wires draped across the car. In this setup your phone is the transmitter so you’ll need a Bluetooth receiver which plugs in to that aux port you found. These cost less than $16, and are a brilliant solution that everyone can join in with. We’ve tested this model which plugged straight into the aux socket in our car and paired immediately to our iPhone.
     
  3. FM transmitter. If you can’t locate the aux port on your stereo then neither of the above options are going to work for you. However, I’ve yet to come across a car that does not have an FM radio, so you still have an option. What you need is an FM transmitted that plugs into the headphone socket of your phone, which you set to broadcast on a particular FM frequency (be sure to select one that doesn’t clash with an actual radio station in your area). You then tune your car stereo to this radio station and you’ll have your music. If you are on a long drive you may need to adjust the broadcast frequency if you clash with a local radio station. You’ll need something like this:
     

With one of these three options, you’ll be streaming music over your car stereo with very little cash or time invested.

Review of Home Security Cameras: Canary, Nest Cam, iSpy, Tenvis and DIY!

Home security no longer needs a massive investment of cash, huge installations and loads of mess. There are modern, contemporary solutions available at a great price. Here we walk you through a few of your options…

Canary
Canary are a relatively new entrant to the home security market, but they are definitely disrupting it.

The canary is a device which sits on a surface (table, shelf, etc) and as such it need no complex installation. The device is controlled and accessed via a mobile app with support for iPhones (find the app here) and Android.


Setup is easy, using the app you hook the Canary up to your wifi network, add members of your household to the device and then position it sensibly so the wide angle camera gets a good shot.

Videos are motion activated and streamed up to the cloud. This is important because if a thief steals the actually canary, you’ll still have all you videos. We’ve found the motion activation to be a bit sensitive, causing it to be set off by pets regularly. Recent software updates enable you to control the sensitivity of this though.

On top of high definition video with audio, the Canary also monitors the temperature, humidity and air quality of your home. This means that you should be alerted to fires also.

When there is movement in the house (and the app has detected that you are not home) you will get a notification with the associated video. You can then take action, either calling the emergency services or setting off a rather loud alarm in your home.

What’s particularly convenient, and perhaps unintended with the Canary, is that it doesn’t actually look like a camera. This means that you can leave it on a table surface and thieves won’t hide their faces from it!

Beyond the cost of the initial device, Canary offer you subscriptions which determine how long your videos are stored in their cloud service for (and hence are available in the app).

All in, for the price, the Canary is a very well equipped, useable and capable device. As it requires no physical installation into the building it is great for renters, but to be honest the usability of the app makes it great for home owners too.

Find it on Amazon here: Canary All-in-One Home Security Device

Nest Cam
Nest (now owned by Google) have been in the home automation market for some time now. Their Nest thermostat has been a massive hit in the US, and their Nest Protect Smoke Alarm has gained good traction in the UK too.

The Nest Cam is their home security offering (although it is advertised as having uses beyond security), and looks a lot like a traditional webcam.

It comes with some handy clips so that it can be mounted in various places around the home. Again, it requires a web connection and everything is accessed through their mobile apps and, a big bonus if you are already a best user, it will talk to your thermostat or smoke alarm.

Unlike the Canary it stores everything (in the cloud) rather than just motion activated clips, although it has ‘algorithms’ which determine when you need to be notified.

As with the Canary there is a storage plan which determines how long the videos are stored online for you.

Find it on Amazon here:Nest Cam Security Camera

Wifi Camera with PC Software

This option is a rather DIY approach, but is very flexible. You will need three things:

  1. A network camera, preferably with a wifi connection
  2. Software to control video recording from the camera
  3. A computer to store the videos on

Optionally you may also require some kind of cloud storage such as Dropbox, Microsoft Onedrive, Google Drive or iCloud.

First up you need to configure your camera. We found the Tenvis range acceptable cameras that produce recognisable images. However the quality is low and the colours are just all wrong. To configure the camera you first have to plug it into an ethernet connection (physical network cable), discover the camera’s IP address with the Tenvis discovery tool, log in using the web browser interface and finally connect it to your wifi network. The web interface is not particularly simple and is for the more technically minded.

You can then move your camera around the house (assuming you’re in wifi coverage) and view a live feed from your camera over your home network.

Next you need some software to control the recording of images. We use iSpy which is free and good software. You can configure it to store videos when they are motion activated and you can tweak many many parameters to do with video configuration and storage – again, not for the faint hearted but certainly a powerful tool.

This could be it with you up and running with a video recording system. However, we would recommend that you store the videos in a cloud storage device so that if your computer is corrupted or every stolen you still have your videos.

Summary
There is no real compelling case to go for the DIY solution anymore (unless you have a webcam kicking about the house). ¬†The solutions from both Canary and Nest are very comprehensive and seriously simple to use. ¬†We’d take either, but would recommend the Canary for the simple reason that it doesn’t actually look like a camera!



Google’s USB-C to HDMI adapter working under Windows 10

I’ve been looking for a decent USB-C to HDMI adapter for my laptop for a while now. ¬†I expected my Dell XPS 13 laptop to have a mini display port, but it just comes with a USB-C port.

There are lots of discussions on the web about poor quality USB-C cables, so I wanted a recognized manufacturer. I couldn’t find anything from Belkin etc.

I first invested a phenomenal amount of money in an Apple USB-C to VGA adapter designed for the MacBook (click here to see it on Amazon) on the assumption that it should have Bootcamp available drivers. Whilst this worked, the image quality was rather poor with the image appearing slightly fuzzy. Maybe it’s a driver issue, or some incompatibility with the Dell, but it doesn’t make for a great viewing experience.

I then came across a Google branded USB-C to HDMI adapter designed for the Chromebooks.  This, incidentally, is half the price of the Apple adapter.

The upshot is that, even though it is not designed for a Windows laptop, it works brilliantly.  Windows 10 recognized it immediately with no complicated setup or driver hunting.  The image is crystal clear and audio is delivered over HDMI as it should be.

It’s highly recommended and can be found on the Google Store¬†here.

In fairness, there a few other USB type C to HDMI adapters on Amazon that are from brands I don’t recognize but that may work well, I simply can’t comment.


Great apps for Windows 10 tablets

So, you’ve got your new Windows 10 tablet, maybe it’s a nice shiny Microsoft Surface device… now you’re going to need some apps to get you going.

If you’re running a Windows 10 laptop or desktop PC, this guide still applies to you however you have a wealth of programs that can be run in desktop mode (sure, you can run them¬†on a tablet‚Ķ but it may make you hate your tablet!).

This guide will list each application, along with a direct link to the Windows Store to download them.. No need to go searching!

Amazon Kindle

Amazon Kindle for Windows 10

Amazon Kindle for Windows 10

Everyone knows Amazon’s Kindle service. It’s the most popular e-reader out there, but you don’t have to use a physical kindle. This is a great application lets you access your library, read your books and keep in sync with all your other kindle devices and apps.

Download Amazon Kindle for Windows 10 here

Word Mobile, Excel Mobile, OneNote Mobile & PowerPoint Mobile

Office Mobile for Windows 10
Office Mobile for Windows 10

OK, not one app but four. These apps are specifically designed for a touch interface. This means that you won’t have lots of fiddle tapping on an interface designed for a mouse, and you don’t need to install the desktop version of the Office suite. You can view, edit and share the documents you work on, saving them to cloud services such as OneDrive and Dropbox.

Download Office Mobile for Windows 10 here

Netflix

Netflix on Windows 10
Netflix on Windows 10

I couldn’t live without my Netflix subscription, and sure, you could watch it in the browser but with a dedicated app you have native performance and an optimized touch interface. All we wish for here is that the app would support our Chromecast as it does on iOS and Android.

Download Netflix for Windows 10 here

Flipboard

Flipboard for Windows 10
Flipboard for Windows 10

Windows 10 actually comes with a pretty good news app by default, and we’re not knocking that… Its live tile is really good. However, you really can’t beat Flipboard for its coverage and scope for customization. Of course, it is free..you just have to sign up for an account..

Download Flipboard for Windows 10 here

Skyscanner

Skyscanner on Windows 10
Skyscanner on Windows 10

Your tablet is your travel companion, so book some trips. Skyscanner’s Windows 10 app hunts down the best deal for you so that you don’t pay over the odds. It is all touch friendly and lets you filter by flight duration, time of day, airline, airports and more.

Download Skyscanner for Windows 10 here

Minecraft

Minecraft for Windows 10
Minecraft for Windows 10

This is the ultimate classic game, now under the Microsoft wing. It does cost a few bucks, paid through the Store, but its worth it.. It’ll keep you entertained on those long commutes!

Download Minecraft for Windows 10 here

One Calendar

One Calendar for Windows 10
One Calendar for Windows 10

The built in calendar application in Windows 10 is a bit of a let down. Important features are just missing. Good job that One Calendar is here to step in. It is a fully featured calendar which syncs with most of your cloud services including Google Calendar.

Download One Calendar for Windows 10 here

Facebook

Facebook for Windows 10
Facebook for Windows 10

Admit it, you can’t do without Facebook can you! Facebook for Windows 10 offers a snappy, responsive and familiar user interface. Pin the app to your start menu to get nice snippets from your timeline without having to open the app.

Download Facebook for Windows 10 here

Of course, there are some key applications and functionality missing, which we’re hoping will appear soon. ¬†We’d love Chromecast support and please, where is the Spotify app?


HomeKit enabled iDevices announce tighter home integration

iDevices are one of the leading suppliers of HomeKit enabled smart home devices and today they are announcing gear that offers tighter integration into your home.

The Verge reports that iDevices announced that they will make switches, sockets and dimmers that integrate directly into your home by sitting in the wall… You know… Like normal switches do.

This means that those who want smart tech don’t have to leave lights and sockets permanently switched on (causing conflict between the switches and the smart tech) or feel like you’ve retro fitted something to your house.

Light switches work like light switch should, but they’re also smart inline with iDevices’ usual smart home gear.

This is also the first time this has come to a HomeKit enabled system.

You can see some of iDevices’ existing kit on Amazon :

The full article by The Verge can be found here:

http://www.theverge.com/2016/1/5/10706816/apple-homekit-light-switch-power-outlet-idevices-ces-2016

How to scan receipts and documents with your iPhone 

Gone are the days when you have to have your computer to hand to scan documents – you can do all this from your iPhone (or iPad)!

When on business to may need to quickly log that expense receipt; alternatively you may need to scan that contract as you head out of the office.

Scanner Pro is an iPhone application which lets you use the camera in your phone to easily create PDFs or JPGs of you documents or receipts.  Just point the camera at the paper and the app will recognise the border of the document meaning you have a nicely cropped image. You can even add a password to PDFs to secure them.

Once scanned the images can be printed, emailed or sent to a number of cloud services including Dtopbox, Evernote, Google Drive, iCloud or Onedrive).


SSH on Windows 10

Windows 10 is a great new operating system, however for programmers that need to access their Linux based servers it does not have the built in tools required. Don’t fear, they can easily be added with no weird hacks required as we explain below…

SSH

SSH is the most common secure remote access protocol for Linux servers. Windows users have always been able to download Putty, however this is rather clunky these days. A much better option is to install a free Windows app from the Store called Remote Terminal. You can find it at this link.

This app provides all the SSH functionality you would expect whilst keeping within the Windows 10 theme.

There are also some handy management tools, allowing you to save your frequently used connections; all you have to do is click the connection you desire to be presented with the usual ssh password prompt. You can even ditch the passwords completely and manage your keys from within Remote Terminal.

Pasting into your remote shell is easy. On my laptop I two finger press the trackpad to bring up a bunch of options, including paste.

The app is completely free and can be downloaded from the Store at the following link:

Remote Terminal on the Windows Store

SFTP

SFTP allows you to transfer files to and from your remote server in a secure fashion. It is usually accessed via the shell on a Mac or Linux system.  
To transfer your files over sftp in Windows we recommend Netdrive (http://www.netdrive.net). This application does cost $45 but it plugs straight into Windows Explorer and we find it well worth the small investment.

 In addition to accessing your servers it supports a bunch of cloud storage services which may be useful if that’s something you’re after.