A new site is born – stephenpenny.com

I’ve been using WordPress for my blogging for about 4 years now. As a free service, and for someone who wants a simple, uncomplicated blog, it’s been a great tool to have at my disposal. But over the last few months, as I’ve again ramped up my job search and researched companies and people, it’s become apparent to me that the great companies I’ve been looking at, and their employees, generally all have really nice, slick websites and that this is something that maybe I should do to up my profile and get noticed a bit more (and more easily).

I had toyed with the idea in the past, but could never really justify the spending the money and was also a bit bewildered and put-off by the amount of time and energy I’d have to invest in planning it, creating and setting it u and then maintaining it.

A lot of tech shows and podcasts that I listen to are sponsored by SquareSpace and they’ve been in the back of my mind ever since I started listening to Leo Laporte – as they sponsor some of his shows and he and Alex Lindsay personally recommend them. So last week I decided to give their 2 week free a trial a go. I registered on the Friday and by Sunday night I had a pretty-much complete website. I’d expected it to take weeks to complete and get it to how I’d like it, but it just took a matter of DAYS. As I’d done the work, had it looking good (in my opinion, anyway), had brilliant service from their live support function (even though I was yet to pay a penny), I though I’d go for it. And so stephenpenny.com was born!

So from now on, this WordPress site will be discontinued. I will leave it up for the time-being, but will not be posting here. All of my content – posts, comments, etc – will be moved over to stephenpenny.com this week. Once that is done it’s just a case of minor tweaking here and there to get it all finalised.

So, please visit and bookmark stephenpenny.com. Have a look through the content and feel free to drop me an email or message with any comments, suggestions, feedback.

Thank you to everyone that has visited my blog on WordPress over the last few years. I’ve been blown away by numbers, shares, likes, comments and discussions. I hope to continue seeing everyone over at stephenpenny.com and an hoping to grow it even further in the future!

Much love.


ADHD …… or just a bit of an asshole?

I’ve been wanting to write this post for some time, but haven’t been able to decide how to approach it. It’s a potentially sensitive subject for some people, and I think my own opinions will potentially annoy or incite hatred from some people I know. But a recent article shared by a Facebook friend has spurred me on to actually write something about this modern-world annoyance of mine.

What I write isn’t based on any person or people I know. In fact, I’m not aware of anyone I know that’s directly affected by this issue (but I’m sure there will be someone). So, anyway, it’s time to share my opinion.

Now, I don’t agree 100% with the aforementioned article. I do believe ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) does exist and that are genuinely children and adults out there with psychological and behavioural issues. What I don’t believe, and become infuriated by, is the vast number of children around the world we now label with it and, in a lot of cases, pump full of medication in order to control a disorder they don’t actually have.

Based on my own experience, knowledge and opinion, I’ll go out on a limb and say that the majority of kids diagnosed with ADHD (or very similar disorders), don’t actually have it. What they have is a bad personality or an issue with the way they have been raised and their surrounding environment.

We live in a politically correct age these days. This can be a good thing, but it also makes people scared to talk about actual issues and to say the hard truth where others may not want to hear it. And this, I fear, is the problem we have here in most cases. We have a route out for the likes of doctors and teachers who do not want to offend. Instead of saying “I’m sorry, your child’s upbringing has affected their personality and they’re just a bit of a shit”, we try to diagnose and categorise it. “Oh, it must be a ‘disorder’ of some kind”. The truth of the matter is some people just have shit personalities. For every lovely and kind person in the world, there’s an asshole. But people are too afraid to say this – especially when said asshole is a child. Those ‘nice’ and ‘normal’ people believe that all personalities should be this way and, therefore, if you have a bad personality there must be something physically wrong.

Take all the kids under 16 that have been diagnosed with this disorder and I’ll bet that 80-90% of them are from a certain ‘social class’ and background. They’ll live in rough areas, hang around with certain social groups. A lot of the time they will have been bought up in not great circumstances – living on a diet of Coke, chips and fish fingers, and with questionable parenting / supervision / discipline.

We also have drug companies who push and incentivise doctors to buy and prescribe medications such as Ritalin. The global cost of mental health issues in 2010 was approximately 2.5 trillion USD, and is predicted to reach 6 trillion USD by 2030. Pharmaceutical companies that produce drugs such as Ritalin and similar behavioural-effecting drugs make a lot of money from this space.

Now instead of dealing with the actual issue(s) – the child’s upbringing, environment, social circle etc, the kids are just given medication which numbs their brains. It’s also a cop-out for lazy parents. They can ‘justify’ things like bad behaviour with a simple excuse – “Oh, he/she has ADHD and that’s why they’re misbehaving”.

I’ve been in shopping centres and have seen young children running amok and have genuinely seen parents ignore the behaviour of the child and actually say “They’ve got ADHD” when they’re told off or questioned, as if that’s some kind of excuse or justifies the bad behaviour.

I’m the father of a 3-year-old. I’m lucky that he’s been bought up well as is very well-mannered and behaved. But if he started acting up on a regular basis, was rude, causing trouble and generally behaving badly, I wouldn’t be carting him off to the nearest doctors for some tablets to calm him down! I’d be looking at what I’m doing with him, his other home environment (as he lives with his mother) and his school life, and would be looking for actual tangible reasons as to why he was being like this. In todays fast-paced, but still slightly lazy world, people are happy with a quick answer and fix.

As I mentioned at the start, I do believe there are lots of people in the world with actual problems such as ADHD. But I’m also of the belief that not everyone who is either badly behaved or has issues has some kind of ‘mental health’ problem, which could/should be solved by prescribing mind-altering medication. If a large proportion of this money was spent on educating parents, socioeconomic issues, schooling and regenerating certain environments, the world would be a much better and happier place!


Immigration, integration, and learning Finnish the hard way

Last week YLE (the main broadcaster here in Finland) published an article about the Finnish language courses that unemployed foreigners here in Finland have to attend and the overall benefit of them. I started one of these course 3-4 weeks ago, so was interested to read this piece and respond with some thoughts of my own about some of the good and not-so-good things about the course.

YLE got in touch with me last Friday and asked if I would like to record an interview – some of which they would use on a news piece the following week. This would be a great opportunity for me to discuss the topic and maybe get my face on the TV! From the tone of the original article it seemed that the focus of the piece was going to focus on the negative side of things, so during my first interview last Friday I tried to make my responses as positive and constructive as possible.

On the following Monday YLE got back in touch and wanted to discuss some further points. We arranged another interview via Skype, and again the focus of the questions was on things that hadn’t worked or that I didn’t like. As this was the way they wanted to set the piece up I answered honestly while trying to be constructive and we discussed not only the course itself but also some points made in some of my earlier blog posts about the difficulties I’ve encountered here.

As it turns out, I ended up recording nearly 50 minutes worth of stuff and maybe two to three minutes of that was actually aired in the final edits. There was a brief set-up on Monday for the main piece which was shown on Tuesday.

Monday 3rd March appearance (I’m on just after the 7 minute mark).
Tuesday 4th March appearance.

As my on-screen time was limited, I wanted to expand upon my answers and give some context and thoughts on the whole situation.

The clip used in the interview, as well as the first part of the second interview, are me discussing points from my blog regarding the issues I encountered when I first moved here – the poor process, lack of assistance, mis-information, long waiting and processing times etc – all of which can be read about in my previous posts.

The second clip in the second interview was specifically about the language course that I’m on and I had been asked about what I thought could be done better or improved upon, and this is where I wanted to elaborate slightly.

Firstly, I have to acknowledge that as a foreigner here, I’m very lucky to be afforded the opportunity to study the language. It’s a million miles away from English, so learning was going to be an eventual must. As foreigners, we’re lucky that the government provides this. Not all people want to be there (unemployment benefits depend on you attending), but as someone who wants to be here long-term, it’s definitely a plus and is welcomed by myself.
I also want to mention a point I saw on the comments section of the original article where a few people are complaining about the fact the courses are all done in Finnish i.e. everything, including instructions and explanations, is done in the language you don’t know and are there to learn. Now whether this is a good or bad approach is completely down to the teacher and the individuals in the class – it will personally work for some students, but not for others. It’s also done because normally in these classes there is no one common language and the teacher can’t sit there and translate everything they’ve said in to multiple other languages to cater to every person there. I’m personally very lucky – I’m in a class where the majority do actually speak English and we have a very good and understanding teacher. When speaking in Finnish he’s very animated and gesticulates, draws, writes – whatever it takes for everyone to get what he’s saying/asking. But if/when anyone is stuck, he can revert to English to explain to us. I’m bemused on a daily basis, but I can work through it with the people around me and the support of said teacher.

But, as per the original article, do these courses really benefit foreigners? There is no definitive ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer as it depends on the context and situation. On a personal level, yes, I believe the courses do benefit pretty much everyone that attends – you’re learning the language of the country you live in – that’s a good thing no matter what. On a professional / work-related level, no, I don’t think the courses are particularly beneficial – and there are various reasons for this.

The courses are arranged by the unemployment office here in Finland. Once you’ve been offered a place, you have to attend or your benefits get stopped. The course forms part of an ‘integration programme’ each unemployed foreigner gets when they register as being unemployed and claiming any kind of benefits. Now the ultimate aim is to get all of us unemployed in to a job and paying taxes etc (which pretty much all of us want to do anyway), but the courses do not cater or aim towards this. You’re taught Finnish as if you were just there to solely learn the language and nothing else. There is a lot of focus on grammar and the million or so way verbs can end and change depending on the context or the way a question is asked – all things that would come with time anyway. I went in to the course not even knowing the full alphabet or numbers, but this was skipped over and only visited when a couple of people on the course mentioned it as we were being asked questions and had no idea of the actual words/phrases being used in the first place.

One day in each week moves away from language learning and focuses on what I would describe as ‘social studies’. Learning about the history of Finland, it’s geography and such. Again, in a normal class, maybe useful. But to me, someone trying to learn the actual language and find work – zero importance or usefulness. The class is taught well and I appreciate that this is being tied in with learning new words etc, but never in my professional career will I ever need to know the length or width of Finland, or how Finland came to be, or it’s wars with Sweden and Russia.

These days could be much better used by allowing those of us with professions to go and do something work-related. Spend time online researching companies, looking for jobs, or even doing something that relates to our profession directly – I have a fellow student who works in HR, so why not an online course about HR related things in Finland such as employment laws etc – things we’d need to know when trying to secure jobs in Finnish companies.

In addition to this ‘social studies’ day this week, we also attended the local university. As part of the students’ courses they had produced exhibitions, talks and demonstrations on certain subjects, and various classes from my school were carted down there. The problem is that all of the things we were shown were aimed at the lowest denominator i.e. at someone who knew NOTHING. I attended talks that told me about healthy eating (someone genuinely stood there and told me, as seriously as they could possibly be, that carrots are good and burgers are bad – DUH!), how much alcohol I should/shouldn’t be consuming, what to do if I need a doctor and such-like things. There were even rooms on sexual health, showing grown adults how to put a condom on, and a room on mental health/wellbeing where we were told how we shouldn’t be ashamed if we’re feeling sad etc.

Now some of this is potentially useful to a minority of people from certain countries or cultures, but this is stuff that I, and a lot of others in my class, learnt when we were teenagers at school. And to make things slightly worse it was told to us by students nearly half my own age, and in a genuinely condescending and patronising way – as if we were all actually stupid and not aware of these VERY simple things. Again, this could have been a day spent doing really useful and productive things, but was wasted and was actually infuriating and, at times, even felt soul-destroying.

I’m not too sure what the figures are, but the Finnish government pumps a lot of money in to this project. The intentions are admirable, but the execution of it and how the money is spent is not so. These courses, as with any ‘product’ offered by any company/organisation, should be invested in correctly and not just for the sake of doing it – if you’re going to invest large sums of money, strive for that little bit more and really offer something GREAT, not just something that ticks a box. If the government truly wants people to learn and to then get jobs and contribute to society, they should look at the courses and what they actually offer people. To make people want to learn and to invigorate them on a daily basis the courses/product needs to be engaging, interesting, responsive and rewarding. Just like in business, if you make a poorly developed product that doesn’t give the consumer what they want/need, they will grow to resent it and won’t want to come back and use it again.

And finally, a supporter and fellow blogger friend of mine has also written a follow-up piece to this over at his site Migrant Tales. Go check that out, too.


Overqualified in the job market

Over the course of the last few years I’ve applied for many jobs in Finland – thousands, in fact. I’ve had every kind of rejection response possible – some justified, some utterly bemusing. But there is one that I’ve had a fair few times that annoys me so much – supposedly being ‘overqualified‘.

I’ve touched on the Finnish recruitment system in a previous blog. It’s a strange system, geared pretty much at Finns who have university degrees. If you’re not either or both of those things, getting a job can be ridiculously, and unnecessarily, tough!

Today I received some feedback regarding an interview I attended last week. Following the interview I had quite high hopes for the role. It went really well, I seemed to impress them, my experience matched everything they talked about, and I was ready and willing to start ASAP. But the feedback I got today consisted of – they were very impressed, you were a very strong candidate, but they feel you’re overqualified.

In regards to this specific role, how it was pitched to me, the salary I was put forward at, and the fact I had the head of the business area interviewing me, I went in there thinking I would be massively under-qualified!

Now I seriously don’t see how someone being supposedly ‘overqualified’ is even a weak point, let alone a reason for not hiring them – just the opposite, in fact! If I apply for a job, I want that job. I’m not applying for fun, and certainly not doing it for some kind of laugh, especially when I spend my own time and money attending interviews etc. I even spoke in the interview about how keen I was for the role as it was almost perfect for me. So, from a candidate perspective, that’s a box ticked. I want in. I want/need the job. I’ve proved how I can do the job. So being ‘overqualified’ (in its relation to me) doesn’t work as it’s irrelevant.

Now from a business perspective – this is what I find the most bemusing and infuriating – A candidate comes in who can do the job. They have experience and knowledge and can bring something to the company. You know they want the job because they’ve told you and they’re sat in front of you. SO how can ‘overqualified’ be used as an excuse not to hire them?!

As a business, especially a large international corporation, you should be pulling out the stops and doing anything and everything you can to find and recruit the best people. People that are willing, enthusiastic, experienced, knowledgable, and who can add value to your business, both now and in the future. So surely it’s impossible to have someone that’s ‘overqualified’ for a role. Just because someone is a very strong (possibly the strongest) candidate and is potentially very good, how/why can you turn them away?! What kind of business turns someone away because they’re potentially ‘too good’?!

Now if ‘overqualified’ is just a vague term being used because the business doesn’t actually want this candidate, again, how is that helpful to anyone? It shows the business in a bad light (for not providing decent feedback and using vague and untrue terms to not pick someone), and leaves the candidate scratching their head (as well as the consultancy company I would have been working through) wondering what, if anything else, they could have done, or can do in the future to secure a role.

I’m by no means saying the job was mine, or that I was a shoe-in for it, but, personally, what am I meant to take away from their ‘feedback’? That I was genuinely too good and, if so, why and how/where do I go forward? Or ignore it as it’s just some kind of generic response they give to people? But then that’s probably even more unhelpful as I have no idea where I went wrong or what I can do better on the next time. And that’s the most annoying part – not that I didn’t get the job, but that the feedback I got is the vaguest and most useless I’ve ever heard – and not for the first time.


The hypocrisy of football ‘fans’

I’m a huge football fan. I always have been. I grew up watching and playing football pretty much every single day as a child. Even now I will plan days/evenings around specific live games. A normal week for me will involve watching numerous live games, as well as my Sunday morning ritual of Sunday Supplement and Goals On Sunday. It can be infuriating at times, but I’m still very much in love with the game.

Football, like all sports, isn’t perfect. There are many negatives to it and things that annoy me. But there’s one that really annoys me. The sheer hypocrisy of football fans and, to a certain extent, the governing bodies of football, when it comes to players being abused by ‘fans’.

I still wince and cringe when I watch a game and see/hear some of the abuse given to players. I appreciate that as a fan you want to try to intimidate or put off the opposition so as your team can gain an advantage, but some of the stuff that comes out of grown adults mouths at times is embarrassing.

The abuse isn’t the only problem or issue that I have. It’s also the reaction of said ‘fans’ and then the likes of the FA should a player react to abuse that they receive. Banter in the stands is a good thing. Fans should be able to interact with players and be able to mock them or show their displeasure, but in pretty much every game played in front of a paying crowd there will be numerous ones that cross the lines of decency.

If you want to mock a player in order to try to put them off, that’s fine. But when you start screaming expletives at them and mentioning their family and children, that’s crossed the line for me. The other problem I have is that if a player then reacts by saying something back or giving them the finger, said ‘fans’ will often hurl more vile abuse and then even go so far as to report the player to the police. In such cases, the FA is also likely to intervene and fine the player, while the ‘fans’ are free to keep turning up each week and scream endless abuse at other players. I’m not saying it’s right for a player to react to verbal abuse, but I know that if someone said similar things to me in a bar or on the street, they’d problem get a punch in the head. These idiots seem happy to dish out vileness, but incapable of accepting responsibility for what they’re doing and saying, and accepting of any kind of retort.

The same goes for ‘fans’ who throw missiles at players during corners or goal celebrations. Seriously?! As a grown adult your only way to show your displeasure or dislike of someone is to hurl objects at them, which, if they struck them, could actually cause serious injury?! Again, if this happened on the street, the person would be arrested. And again, I’ve seen it countless times, a player has all sorts of potentially dangerous missiles launched at them, but if they dare (even gently/comically) throw something back or say something, it’s them that’s punished.

It was in fact this story, relating to last night’s Merseyside Derby, that prompted this blog post – even though it’s a view I’ve held for many years. The police are ‘investigating’, which means they’re looking through TV camera and CCTV footage to try to identify the culprits. They might get lucky and manage to spot them in the video, and then may get even luckier and manage to identify them. But what will happen? Probably not a lot. They might get a banning order for a year or two (although this will unlikely stop them attending games), or maybe a small fine under a ‘breach of the peace’ charge, and that’s pretty much it……… But imagine if Luis Suarez (or any player, for that matter) picked one of those coins up and tossed it back where it had come from – even if had done so in a lighthearted and comical manner. He’d be up on an FA charge by the end of the game, most likely resulting in a massive fine and a ban for ‘bringing the game in to disrepute’.

Another recent story, which again angered me, was this one from the North London derby a few weeks back. Walcott had probably got abuse and stick throughout the game from Spurs fans. As he went off injured he decided to have a bit of banter with them by highlighting the score (Arsenal were winning, and won, 2-0). As usual, the ‘fans’, despite the abuse they’d probably been hurling at Arsenal players all night, couldn’t handle this & pelted Walcott with coins. This could not only have injured Walcott, but also those medical professionals who were trying to carry his stretcher.

I’m not saying all Spurs fans in the above-mentioned story were abusive or throwing coins, or that every fan in a ground does this at every game. For every idiot doing such things there are thousands who aren’t and are there to enjoy the game. BUT, the problem persists. It’s still seen every single week, at pretty much every game. Next time you watch Match Of The Day, look at the closeups when a player is taking a corner or a throw-in in front of opposition fans. Watch if they score a goal and run past opposition fans when celebrating. These are people who I don’t want to see or hear at football games. And for those going to the extremes and resorting to vile verbal abuse and throwing missiles, I’d quite happily see them banned for life!

The bottom line is, if you can’t take any form of ‘banter’ back, don’t dish it out in the first place.


My iPhone Home screen and set up

I’m always intrigued as to how people have their iPhones set up and why. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, my iPhone pretty much runs my life. It tells where I should be and when, as well as how to get there. And for a foreigner living in a country where I don’t actually speak the language, having a device such as an iPhone is invaluable!

The guys over at iMore have recently been showing the set ups of their devices, so I thought I’d post mine as well as why it’s set up like it is and why I use certain apps.
Rene’s iPad Air set up can be found here.
Rene’s iPhone 5s set up can be found here.
Ally’s iPhone set up can be found here.

So now, here’s mine:
iPhone Home screen
iPhone page 2

Set up:
So my iPhone is the white/silver 16GB 5s on the Saunalahti network (part of Elisa) here in Finland. My phone also acts as a hotspot for me as my local wifi connection is only 2mb, whereas my 4G speeds via my phone normally run at 45-50mb – so it pretty much constantly stays connected to my MacBook Air. I’m also a big fan of the Do Not Disturb feature on the iPhone. Mine is set up to come on at 11pm each night until 9am – this ensures I don’t get woken by anything except emergency calls from certain people.
The wallpaper isn’t for all. It’s the blue BAPE camo design and I’ve only recently put it on there. I normally tend to stick to one background I like, but I’ve found recently I’ve been trying quite a few different ones ….. and I’m still undecided.

Home screen:

My Home screen is set up for the things I need, want and use the most – social media, messaging, and getting about in Finland (which after 8 months I still find confusing and bemusing at times).

- Calendar: This was one of the few things about iOS 7 I didn’t like & I had been toying with paying for Fantastical. But from the iOS 7.1 betas it looks as if some improvements are being made to the calendar, so I’ll stick with it for the time being.
– Reminders: I use this quite a lot, but I only need the basic functionality, so have had no need to upgrade to a different app.
– Notes: I’ve tried Evernote (along with on my Mac & in my browser) but just didn’t use it enough. The stock Notes app does what I need it to do, so I’ve gone back to that.
– Utilities folder: This is where I keep all the potentially handy things I may need, but might not actually use all that often or need to get in to quickly. In there is the likes of FaceTime, Instapaper, Wikipanion, Google, Dictionary, Speedtest, Dropbox, Convertbot, Airport Utility, Mega, Passbook, Google Drive, SkyDrive (OneDrive), Calculator, Find iPhone, Mobile Assist (for conference calling), 0800 Wizard, Box, and then the other stock apps – Safari etc.
– Instagram: A big fan of this and I use it to post my own pictures, as well as keep up with brands, companies and people that I enjoy following.
– Google maps: Gets me from A to B with no fuss when I’m out and about in the city. Apple Maps has improved recently and I like the new 3D mapping here in Finland, but Google still does it for me.
– Finland folder: Here are all my random apps relating to my life here in Finland, including various translation apps, dictionary apps, GuidePal for Helsinki, Helsinki Airport and a couple of apps for the train service, VR.
– iTranslate: My go to app for translations. Really well designed to fit with iOS 7 & has worked pretty much flawlessly for me out here.
– ReittiGPS: The non-social app I probably use the most. This gives routes, directions and times for pretty much any journey that involves public transport here in Finland. I use this pretty much every time I need to leave the house & get a bus or train somewhere, as well as when I’m in Helsinki trying to find my way around! Absolutely invaluable for anyone in Finland with an iPhone.
– Chrome: My browser of choice. I use it on the Mac too, so it’s great to be able to sync everything between devices. It’s memory and power hungry, but with the add-ons & auto-translate features it’s something I’d be stuck without.
– Messenger: I’m a big Facebook user, but not so much of the chat/messenger feature. Unfortunately, a lot of my friends are, so it tends to be the messaging app I end up using most frequently (but not out of choice).
– Foursquare: A nice app, some deals to be had (although not so much in Finland), and a great tool to see what’s around you, as well as reviews, when you’re in a country you’re still not all that familiar with.
– Sky News: I like to keep up to date with the news and this gives me the headlines at a glance until I’m able to get online properly & read from other various/numerous sources.

In the dock (my most used apps):
– Tweetbot 3: Best Twitter client hands-down. I’ve used most and none have been as good as Tweetbot. Version 3, with it’s new design for iOS 7, is well worth spending a few £/$/Es on if you’re a frequent user.
– Facebook: Big Facebook fan and user. Not really a fan of the app itself (see previous blog post), but it gives me what I need when I’m not near my Mac.
– Mail: I’ve tried various clients, but the stock app has been improved greatly through iOS 6-7, and this does what I need it to do.
– Messages: A big fan of iMessage, so this gets used a lot.

Page 2:

- Social: All my other ‘social’ apps such as Viber, WhatsApp, Skype, Tumblr, LinkedIn, WordPress, iMore, Tapatalk, Flipboard, Monster and BuzzFeed.
– Games: I’m not really a games fan, but saying that, I’m completely addicted to Simpsons Tapped Out and Jurassic Park Builder! The other games in there are for my 3 year old son to play with occasionally.
– Music: All the music related apps, such as Music, Remote, Vevo, Mixcloud, Shazam, Ringtonium (premium), Podcasts and the iTunes Store.
– Media: All other things ‘media’ related – IMDb, YouTube, Flickr and Videos.
– Finance: An app for my bank, S-Mobiili, PayPal & XE Currency.
– Football: All my football related apps – Sky Sports Football Score Centre, Caught Offside, ESPN Goals, ESPN FC and FourFourTwo Stats Zone.
– Weather: The stock app, which now looks very nice, as well as the beautiful Yahoo! Weather app.
– Sport: All other sports related apps – Sky Sports, BBC Sport, ESPN Sports Centre, Eurosport & Couch-to-5k.
– Travel: Since I left the UK, a LOT of apps in here have gone (I used to travel up & down the country every week for work), so now just the essential/useful apps – BA, Airport Angle, AroundMe, Europcar and Norwegian.
– News: A few other news sites in case I want to browse other headlines – BBC News, C4 News and Breaking.
– Shopping: Some online shopping retailers where I can look things up, research, check prices and order if need be (again, a fair few apps removed since I left the UK) – Amazon, eBay, Apple Store and ASOS.
– Hotels: Always handy to have a few of these to check prices and availability for trips and people coming to visit – Booking.com, Trip Advisor, Hotels.com, Expedia, Jurys Inn, Couchsurfing and Air BnB.
– Food/Drink: Some handy apps on local places to go, as well as things to make myself – Eat.fi, Yelp, How To Cook Anything, Drinks Free (cocktail drinks guide), Starbucks.
– World: Other mapping and webcam services – Apple Maps, HERE Maps, NASA, Google Earth and World View.
– Soundboards: I used to have quite a few as they were amusing, but I never actually ever used them. I seem to have kept the two that amused me the most – Quotatron (Peep Show) and Fonejacker.
– Twitter: My back-up apps – Birdbrain (for stats and usage), Tweetbot (2), Tweetings and Twitter for iPhone.
– Books: I don’t really use my iPhone to read, so iBooks & Newsstand are buried away in this folder at the end.

How do you have your iPhone or iPad set up, and what are your most used and favourite apps?


The demise of the iPod

As an Apple fan, I waited eagerly last night for the financial quarter report, & then this morning for the analysis & comments from the industry & various Apple & tech related websites I follow.

While all was fairly rosey in the iPhone & iPad world (sales up, with demand for the 5s being greater than expected – sales were even lost as there wasn’t enough availability, but not so much for the 5c, & iPad sales up thanks to the new Air & Retina Mini), & even the Mac world (up 0.7m to 4.8 compared to last year’s same quarter), the world of the iPod has not faired too well.

I just read a piece over on my favourite Apple site, iMore.com, by Peter Cohen, talking about the demise of the iPod, & as an iPod owner still, an iPod Classic no less, this got me thinking about the product, what’s happening to it, & where it’s going.

I’m one of the few people in the world that still owns, & uses on a regular basis, an iPod Classic. I have the 80GB version which holds about 50-60% of my music library. I have the Classic as I like to have a large & diverse chunk of my library with me. Nowadays, the 80GB version isn’t cost effective to make/sell, so to try to move people away from the Classic, Apple now only sells the 160GB version on it’s website – & even that probably won’t be around for too much longer.

The demise of this device, & the rest of the iPod range is fairly simple & down to a couple of main contributing factors;
– Saturation point – the iPod, in all it’s forms, has been around longer than the iPhone & iPad. It was another revolutionary product from Apple & they have sold millions over the years. But, as we’re now finding with smartphones, the product will eventually reach a saturation point – a point whereby the people that want/need one, have one, & therefore the customer base is smaller & sales then start to decrease.
– Combine the above with the fact that iPhone & iPad sales are still increasing, as is the smartphone & tablet world in general, & the you can see that the writing has been on the wall for the iPod for a fair while now. People now invest large sums of money on iPhones & iPads, & both these devices, since their first versions, have included an iPod app. An app that replicates an actual iPod & holds/plays all your music & videos. Therefore, why carry around two devices, when you can just carry around one?!
– Apple has also been pushing iCloud & iTunes Match for a while now. & while the services aren’t perfect, they do offer an alternative to having a large capacity device, while still being able to access all of your music library, no matter how big it is. So much so, that when I bought my iPhone 5 on launch day, I was discussing with an Apple employee about which capacity I wanted. In most retailers they would push you to the largest & most expensive one, but at Apple we talked about iTunes Match, iCloud etc, & I settled on my usual 16GB device.

Most iPod users are what I would call ‘general users’. They’ve got one lying around the house somewhere, it probably isn’t a latest model, but they can load music on it & it plays. They’ll probably use it when they go to the gym or for a run, or will just stick it on when they’re doing the commute to/from work. There aren’t that many of us that use it religiously – that don’t leave the house without it, that MUST have some kind of music playing no matter whether we’re just walking to the shops or flying to the other side of the world. Incidentally enough, when I left the UK to emigrate to Australia, the one thing I forgot in my rush to leave was my iPod (the Classic I still own now). I missed my train & almost missed my one-way flight as I HAD to return back to my house & collect it! Sad, I know.

As we become more reliant on smartphones, we become used to the way in which they fit in to our lives & make things easier & quicker for us. So, again, why would someone need or want to carry around a miniature super-computer which can do practically everything/anything you need, as well as another device just to solely play their music – especially when the first one can do that anyway? Well, unless they’re one of the very few like me, they wouldn’t & don’t – hence why the iPod sales are now slipping in such large numbers.

The iPod will always have a place in Apple’s inventory & sales, but it will never be the big earner like it was many years ago. There will still be people buying them as back-up devices, things to have in case they don’t want to take their phone, presents for friends/family, & then the likes of me who want to keep their music separate & have a single, dedicated device for it. But, alas, even that is changing. For a couple of years I’ve been debating increasing the capacity of the iPhone I buy & ditching the iPod (or at least just having it around as a back-up device). There are personal pros & cons to this;
– I would have to limit the amount of music I put on the device & would have to curate it accordingly (something I like about the Classic – I can just dump everything on there & not worry too much about space) – this would also mean using iTunes more, a thought at which I shudder.
– I would struggle for battery life – I listen to music a lot & use my phone a lot. I already barely make it through a day with my 5s’ battery, so more drain on it could cause more of an inconvenience.
– My iPod is now getting quite glitchy. I’ve had a couple of occasions where it’s just crashed & wiped itself. It also frequently (every 5-10 songs) will just freeze up as I skip through tracks. Having everything on one nice, new device would solve that issue.
– As mentioned previously, sheer convenience. No carrying around (or having to remember) two separate devices.

So as I struggle with my first world problems, what do others do? Do you still have/use an iPod? &, if so, which one? Any other Classic users out there?! Do you now just use your smartphone or tablet for music storage?

If you’re interested in seeing some of Apple’s Q1 2014 financials, head over to iMore.com for some really great coverage & discussion;
iMore show discussing the results
High level review of the Q1 results on one simple page
Tim Cook on the 5s & 5c sales


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