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Top technology presents for Christmas 2013

November 17, 2013 1 comment

Christmas is just round the corner, I’m sure everyone is busy writing their Christmas list. With that in mind here are some of the presents that will be topping the Christmas list of every geek and gadget fan:

  • iPad Air: The brand new iPad is going to be at the top of every Apple fan’s Christmas list. It is of no surprise, the latest version is sleek to say the least weighing less than one pound. It does pack a punch though including a 9.7” retina display screen as well as the brand new A7 chip which is two times faster than its predecessor.
  • Microsoft Surface 2: The new tablet from Microsoft has a whole host of new features that are sure to win over consumers looking for a high-end tablet. The biggest change is the upgrade to Windows 8.1, a much improved version of the mobile OS. Also the screen is a mammoth 10.6” (huge for a tablet) and is full HD, making it perfect for watching videos or for work.
  • Nokia Lumia 1020: For you budding smartphone photographers out there, the Nokia Lumia 1020 is arguably the best camera phone on the market. No other phone can match the 41 megapixel camera sensor or the super high-resolution zoom. The Lumia 1020 also comes with Nokia Pro Cam which allows you to alter shutter speed, focus and white balance to take breath-taking photos.
  • PS4: One of the most talked about battles this year has been between Sony and Microsoft over their next generation consoles. The PS4 is due out on Friday 29th November 2013 and promises to deliver a more immersive gaming experience. Sony has developed enhanced graphics, more responsive controllers as well as a new social gaming experience.
  • XBox One: The other console fighting for your attention this Christmas is Microsoft’s XBox One. The new console utilises the cloud to provide a more personal gaming experience. Users will be able to use Apps and play games at the same time as well as having a personalised homepage when logging on regardless of which console you’re using and just for good measure a Kinect has been built into the console.
  • Fitbit Force: The Fitbit Force is the latest activity tracker and sleep monitor from Fitbit following up on the One and the Flex. The Force now includes a small but powerful OLED screen which displays steps, distance, calories burned, active minutes, floors climbed and the time to help monitor your daily activity. This is the perfect present for any gym freak or for anyone planning a new year diet.
  • Nexus 7: The new 7” Nexus tablet from Google is a first choice for anyone looking for a smaller tablet. Weighing in at only 290g it is light but powerful with 2GB of RAM and a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro Processor. Available from £199 it is one of the best value tablets on the market.
  • Kindle Fire HDX: The second generation of the Amazon tablet has been big hit, the low price coupled with a fantastic new screen makes this a contender to any tablet. The HDX screen makes images come alive with 100% sRGB. The Fire HDX is available in both 7” and 8.9” versions, prices start at £199 making it very appealing to new tablet users.
  • Roku 3: The Roku 3 goes beyond Apple TV to off you the ultimate entertainment experience. It delivers the best selection of streaming services straight to your TV including movies from HBO, Amazon and Netflix as well as music services like Spotify. The coolest thing about the Roku 3 has to be the remote, it includes a headphone jack when you want some quiet time and a motion sensor for playing games like Angry Birds.
  • Seagate Back Up Plus: The Seagate Back Up Plus is the simple one-click way to protect and share your digital life. This portable hard drive syncs with your social media accounts allowing you to easily back up content as well share pictures and video’s straight from your computer. This is perfect for any budding photographer or filmmaker.

Another website well worth a visit and who helped put this together is Insight UK, a leading provider of IT hardware!

What is on your Christmas list?

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Derek Gores | Artist

With the months turning colder and the evenings drawing shorter, my attention soon turns to indoor hobbies such as arts and crafts. Whilst looking for inspiration I came across the American artist, Derek Gores. His collages use magazines, newspapers, labels and found materials (handwritten notes, cd jackets, digital textures) to create large-scale pieces of art on canvases. His work features a wide range including: women, shoes, locations and motorbikes .

From studying his work I think it would definitely be fun to create a collage canvas this autumn. This can be achieved by plenty of magazine/newspaper collecting, Photoshop and not to mention, imagination! After you have decided on a design, which can be anything from human forms to still objects, you can use Photoshop to plan out your idea. The Photoshop cut out effect can help you know where to stick your cuttings. Simply, choose your photograph and apply this effect on Photoshop. You can then print out a copy, to the size you require and use this as a guide for your piece of art.

I like the fact Gores is quite messy with his collage and uses the ripping technique over cutting. This makes each piece unique and not too constructed. His work is certainly impressive and it is worth mentioning his one rule is that you can’t use pictures of the actual object when making that object.

My favourite Gores pieces include:

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To see his full artwork gallery click here. What do you think of his work? I will do a follow-up blog post as and when I complete my own collage this autumn/winter.

Many young people want their art to look like photographs. I say, the world already has photographers, and while there is lots of worthwhile stuff to learn in mastering the touch and control necessary to render a picture like a photograph, not all hands or interests lean that way.

Bec Winnel | Artist

Australia based artist, Bec Winnel, has created these beautiful female portraits. She is a self taught artist based in Kiewa Valley, and uses a mixed medium of coloured pencils, pastels and paint washes. I don’t think these pieces need any explanation and I came across them per chance whilst at work. What do you think? Visit her website here!

Bec Winnel - Honor

Cloud Seven - Bec Winnel

Spirit - Bec Winnel

Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2013: Magician show

Edinburgh Fringe 2013Over the years the Edinburgh fringe festival has been the stepping stone for many an actor, singer and comedian.  It’s not just  a Mecca for theatre lovers, but people who want to have a laugh, dance  and take in the sites of one of the most upcoming and inspirational cities within these British isles.

This fringe was my first, and wow what an experience; my only regret is that I didn’t stay longer.
But if you think that the fringe is a money-making scheme to capture the wallets of unsuspecting tourists, you would be wrong.

The past few years the Edinburgh fringe has introduced the “free fringe”, as an acting student this was just calling to me! The Free fringe covered everything; theatres, live music, stand up and magic. Magic was the start of our fringe expedition through the streets of Edinburgh. Now our magician didn’t go by the usual top hat and white rabbit gag. We were pleasantly surprised by a northern, ginger lad that went by the name ‘Dave the ninja ginger magician’. Now magic is by no means an easy job and as a society that constantly speculates and evaluates, a magician is always going to have a tough crowd. But this guy had the energy, the comic and the skills. He opened his show with ease and laughter, by declaring his similarities in appearance to fictional character, Ron Weasley as well as Chuckie from the children’s show, Rugrats. He may not have been a dynamo throughout the show, (bearing in mind this was his first day of the festival), but some tricks, were just unanswerable.

davidalnwickbOne trick that really wowed my friends and I was the ‘song trick’. Whilst waiting to enter the venue there was a dubious sign outside which requested every member of the audience to write the name of a popular song. For some reason I wrote Kiss by Prince: I’m not even a fan. Each piece of paper with a song written on it was to be folded into ‘quarters’, he was very adamant about this. Then the papers were put into a container. Nearing the end of his show of impressive card tricks and clever use of ‘ESP’ he returned to the folded up songs. Four members of the audience were requested to pick a piece of paper, myself included. Now the trick was that he would guess the song by playing his guitar; his only request was that we sing along in our head. Singing in your head no problem, that’s of course if you know the words and I’m very much ashamed for what I’m about to say, but I had ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ by Guns and Roses and the only part I knew was the chorus.

At this point I felt like the worst person in the world, in the space of a minute I could destroy a young man’s career because I didn’t know the words. But through the power of magic (I suppose), he did it. But of course that would be too simple for a magician to finish it like that. Whilst this was going on he had requested that random members of the audience write down 11 random numbers. The chosen numbers were then added up to equal an eleven digit number. This eleven digit number was then dialled from a member of the audience’s phone. A box which had remained on the stage throughout the show started to make noise. Inside the locked money box was a ringing mobile phone. (Ta-dah I hear you say). It went straight through to voicemail where a certain Ginger Ninja Magician was there at the other end, stating that he hopes he guesses the song ‘Sweet Child of Mine’.  Honestly I tried to figure it out but I’ve had no theories so far on how that ninja did it. Well that’s magic for you!

I truly think the fringe is something that everyone should experience, and now with the opportunities it offers with the free fringe, it is time to take advantage. However I think it’s important to remember that these performers are talented, yes they do this all for free, but as an audience we must acknowledge good work when we see it. Even if it’s a case of a couple of quid from your back pocket or even a note that remains scrunched up in your wallet, throw it in the bucket. Show these performers that the arts are not forgotten and that entertainment is still very much appreciated.

Visit the official Edinburgh fringe festival website here for more information on shows. Download the free Edinburgh fringe app to purchase tickets on the go and to find out which free shows you can attend.

Written by Charlotte Gibson, who is currently studying BA World Performance at East 15 Acting School.

Fringe festival 2013

Other Edinburgh fringe shows we highly recommend seeing:

Bad Bread: Glove Contractually – comedy trio tackling romantic comedies through a number of sketches, from ‘spermio and juliegg’ to a recreation of the famous tragic love film, Titanic, (bubble wrap and ice cubes are involved as well as mild spitting).

10 Films with my Dad – a father and son relationship based heavily on films, heartwarming and funny, this show is not to be missed! Free fringe show.

Phil Jupitus ‘Porky the Poet’ – Phil Jupitus aka Porky the Poet, eloquently recites a number of poems based on modern-day culture and important figures in society. His piece on Jeremy Clarkson is none other than spectacular. Go see him! Free fringe show.

Tramlines 2013: Sheffield music festival

Tramlines

Tramlines festival (19th-21st July) was definitely one of my favourite music festivals of this year (along with the Isle of Wight 2013). This festival took place at various locations across Sheffield and was a 3 day event not to be missed! I was lucky enough to attend all three days and enjoyed a decent variety of music including folk, indie and progressive rock.

My favourite venues were most definitely city hall, O2 academy and devonshire green. Having stayed at the Premier Inn, Angel Street, I was able to meander from one venue to another within a few minutes. I advise anyone planning on attending this next year to stay here. It is reasonably priced, open 24 hours and the staff are extremely friendly and helpful.

My favourite acts from the weekend were Two Skies, I LIKE TRAINS, The Pineapple Thief and Amplifier. Two Skies played at Viper Rooms, their funky psychedelic sound complemented the two for one cocktails very nicely indeed! I must insist that this three piece band are worth checking out, they are described as ‘big sound offering soaring vocals’. If you haven’t heard of the other bands I have mentioned then head over to Spotify to find out what you are missing.

Tramlines is the perfect opportunity to simply stumble from one place to another and discover new bands and acts, from the local area as well as far and wide. Tramlines had such a happy vibe and atmosphere in comparison to some of the other festivals I have been to; the streets were filled with people of all ages looking to enjoy music and delicious food.

My highlight from the weekend has to be from one of the bands who played the crowd-pleaser “Rollin’ ” by Linkin Park in a car park based stage. You can imagine the scene already. If anyone knows which band this was do let me know! Beers flying with head banging, jumping festival goers was the only way to truly appreciate this song. Tramlines 2014 can’t come around soon enough!

Did you attend Tramlines this year?

Twitter hashtags: the ones to remember (or bookmark!)

Twitter-hashtags

As I find myself spending hours on social media, I constantly rely on my saved searches for Twitter. I have produced this short but comprehensive list of my top used hashtags on Twitter, great for adding to Tweetdeck. I hope you also find it useful if you are a writer or are interested in social media. As a general rule of thumb hashtags help give a ‘tweet’ context. For those who are not familiar with hashtags it is simply the # symbol followed by the subject or keyword related to the tweet.

Studies show that hashtags can increase engagement by 50% (1.5x) for brands and each tweet using a hashtag is more visible. This in turn means you will gather more Twitter followers. (Data taken from ‘Twitter for Journalists’ PDF).

The best hashtags on Twitter

This is by no means a definitive list just a few of the best; I will add to it as and when.

General: #news, #love, #photography, #fashion, #health, #fail, #followfriday, #competition, #win, #bloggers, #writing, #mustread, #beauty, #music, #follow, #book, #travel

Business: #jobs, #business, #sales, #economy, #marketing,#socialmedia, #startup, #retail, #smallbusiness, #tech, #SMBs, #restaurant, #csr

Tech: #android, #androidgames,#iphone, #iphonegames, #ipad,#ipadgames, #app

Education: #edtech, #education, #lrnchat, #teachers, #edu, #edtools, #school, #edchat, #ptchat

Environment: #climate, #solar, #globalwarming, #drought, #environment, #green

Social Change: #socialgood, #cause, #volunteer, #4change, #charity, #nonprofit, #philanthropy, #aid, #climate, #sustainability, #earthtweet, #eco, #fairtrade

Sport: #sports, #football, #sportsnews, #rugby, #f1, #active, #fitness, #lifestyle, #tennis, #footy, #…followed by the football team you support

Hashtags.org is a website which allows you to search for hashtags and find the trending ones. It also lists a number of topics and their related hashtags.

Related links

Useful hashtags for writers and authors

How to find the best Twitter Hashtags – this in depth article has everything you need to know from how to find associated hashtags to using a Twitter trend generator map.

How to use Twitter for customer service – a really informative article from Mashable.

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