Monday, 29 September 2014

Where to Find the Best Hotel Deals – Travel Pony Website Review

Travel Pony Logo Always looking for the best cheap hotel deals - I only came across hotel booking website Travel Pony recently and have had a good look round, comparing prices of a few of the hotels offered with the proprietary hotel’s website, and also other various booking sites.

There’s no doubt there are some excellent deals here – just for example, luxury lover that I am I created a fake booking at the London Savoy Hotel.  Three nights in October would cost approximately £1,509 on Travel Pony, £2,100 on Booking.com, and slightly more on the hotel’s own website. 

Cancellation and Payment Rules:
Savoy Hotel Website – You can cancel your booking up to 6pm the day before your arrival.  (different rates may apply for different offers)
Payment on departure.

Booking.com – You can either pay in advance, or select a cancel the day before option which is quite a lot more expensive.  If you pay in advance it is not refundable.  You’ll find these options on many of the hotel booking websites.

Travel Pony -  You can cancel up to 72 hours beforehand for no fee, and if you cancel within less than 72 hours you pay for one night.  However, your credit card is charged straight away so you will be refunded by Travel Pony if you need to cancel.

You won’t find quite the range of hotels as you will on some other hotel booking websites offering ‘cheap hotel deals’, but there are quite enough here, with good location maps and over 3000 destinations worldwide.

Travel Pony is different in that it is social media driven, with their marketing via Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin rather than advertising, so they ask you to sign up using your social media logins (although you don’t have to). So once you’ve booked they ask you to share your experience with Travel Pony to your friends online.  Clever – and they’ll be copied I’m sure, but well worth taking advantage of right now.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Hashtag Etiquette on Twitter

Hashtags I have to admit that having been one of the very first to be asked to talk about Twitter on BBC Breakfast (Plane, Hudson River, Social Media etc), not knowing much but being a quick learner, I haven’t paid enough attention to it until recently and particularly hashtag etiquette.  That’s not to say I was doing the wrong thing, I wasn’t using them enough.

I always look at my recent followers to see who I want to follow back (rather than following everyone) and sometimes at their tweets.  Twitter has become a virtual market place, and the mix is extremely important, of conversations, re-tweets, responses, humour, interesting facts and news, and marketing.  Some concentrate only on the latter, not realising that that’s not the way to make it work properly, and others send out endless quotes.  I’m not sure what this achieves, particularly if they’re buffered and just pop up every hour.

Anyway on to the # hashtag, one of the most useful Twitter tools.  Think of them as identifying words or phrases in search, in twitter prefixed by a #, which group tweets together.  As soon as you use one you’ll see if it’s being used by others, or you can create your own.  You can use a hashtag in the middle of a sentence or at the end of your tweet.  It’s all up to you. 

Use hashtags to identify words that others may pick up on, or occasions such as #MFW (Milan Fashion Week) as W Magazine (@wmag) has done above.  Click on the hashtag and you’ll see who else is using it and what they’re saying.

Hashtag Etiquette

Manners – I’m totally against swearing on Twitter.  So many do.  Don’t take it to the next level and use a swear word in a hashtag, please.

Relevance – Hashtags should be relevant to what you’re tweeting about, otherwise they’re quite simply spam and being used by people who want to get on to a trending list.

Overuse – you may like a particular hashtag, but don’t use it too often.  It gets boring and will make people switch off.  Again it can become spammy.

Hashtag Stuffing – in the same way that keyword stuffing is not acceptable, neither is hashtag stuffing, in other words, filling your tweet up with them.  I sometimes use two or three to make a statement about what I’m doing or where I am but that’s all.  They’re there for emphasis and to make you easier to find, not as a short cut. 

Some seriously do not understand that hashtag stuffed tweets a) won’t get read, b) are impossible to read and c) are boring…..

Short and sweet is best.  Keep your hashtags short, meaningful and relevant. No hasthtag sentences needed.

So now you know:  The word ‘Hashtag’ was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in June 2014.

More about hashtags

Thursday, 18 September 2014

iOS 8 Five New Features – The Simplified Version

Apple iOS 8 iOS 8 has lots of new features and tricks, and it's going to take a while to get through them all.  Claimed to be the biggest and best iOS update it certainly took a while to download.  Here are my first impressions and already used iOS 8 features.

1.  Predictive typing is the bane to many, particularly those who have been used to thApple iOS 8 New Predictive Keyboarde easy keying  of a Blackberry.  Now predictive has gone even further, and iOS 8 will guess the complete word you’re typing before you’ve put in more than a couple of letters.  You get three options in the space above the keyboard, click on the one you want and it falls into place.  So far this feature has worked very well for me.

You can also change your keyboard to a 3rd party app such as SwiftKey.  However there are some privacy issues with these apps as they have access to everything you type including passwords.  Apple has improved its keyboard with iOS 8 and so for the time being I’m sticking with that.  Be aware that if you give a 3rd party keyboard app full access even if you switch it on and off your information may still be available to the developer.

2.  Reaching your most recent contacts: If you’re in a hurry and want to get to the most recent people you’ve contacted just double click the ‘home’ button and the most recent five will appear at the top of your screen, as icons you can then click on.

3.  Mailbox – Swipe to the left on an email and you can mark it immediately as read.  Swipe right, and you can bin it, flag it or more (such as forward or move to junk).  I still wish you had the option to bulk delete emails but that hasn’t happened yet.

4.  Audio Messaging.  Forget texting – now you can send audio messages as well, just by holding down the microphone icon beside your text box.  Then you can play it back and delete if you want to.  So the full options are traditional texting, sending photos and now audio messaging.

5.  The new health app that now appears can bring together in one place all the information you may use, and you can share it as  you see fit with your doctor and others.  Most useful of all to me is the Medical ID contained in it which records emergency contacts, conditions such as allergies and anything else you want people to know in an emergency. Essentially it can be accessed without unlocking your phone – ie – in an emergency.  To reach it within the lock screen click on Emergency and then on Medical ID.
Apple iOS 8 Family Sharing

Also:  Sharing on other devices via Family Sharing.  You can set up to share music, movies, tv shows and apps with up to 6 family members in total.  You can set up one credit card for all the shared devices, and set up a notification if anyone you’ve flagged as a child tries to use the card to buy something and prevent them from doing so.

This is great in many ways particularly as you don’t have to share everything.  Movies, music etc that have been purchased by one family member can be downloaded from the iTunes store, together with the option of hiding purchases you don’t want to make available to all.

You can also select which photos are added to your new family photo album, and opt to share (or not share) your location.  You can also hide your device from family members if you wish to.  There are plenty of options, some of them could be quite risky if you’re not paying attention.  Here’s the full run down from Apple on Family Sharing.

iCloud Drive – if you ‘just’ own an iPhone and use a regular PC or laptop then this isn’t for you at this time.  However iCloud Drive is going to become more and more useful as you (of course) add to your Apple Devices.  But don’t click this one yet.

What iCloud Drive does is update all your Apple devices so that you can start updating on your iPhone and finish editing on your Mac or iPad.  As they say ‘Edits you make on one device appear on all of them’.

But:  Read Mashable on why you shouldn’t update to iCloud Drive right now it’s clear and concise and basically says ‘wait’. 

To me most of these new iOS 8 features are excellent and helpful, and as we work inside them we’ll all learn more.  There’s certainly a lot to take in.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Should I Remove it Software Review to Speed up your PC or Laptop

http://www.shouldiremoveit.com/
PCs and laptops seem to slow down infuriatingly as time goes on, and you sit there waiting for programs and pages to load.This can be down to a number of different reasons, from malware to cookie overload to memory shortage, but frequently it will be due to software lurking in the background, that you've clicked on by mistake, trialled a while ago and forgotten about, or that was loaded on to your PC or laptop right at the very start that you never asked for and need to say bye bye to.

Click through to your program list and you'll no doubt find software you don't know anything about, and one of the worries is that if you should delete it, what will happen to your computer?  You can of course spend a while going through each program,  looking it up and uninstalling it.  Of you can download Should I Remove It - a relatively new piece of software which is fast, simple to use and does the job it's supposed to excellently. 

Make sure you download this from www.shouldiremoveit.com, and not one of the myriad other sites you'll be offered where frequently it's all too easy to click on yet another download for something you don't want and which you'll later have to remove. And even on this site make sure you click on the right download icon, which is clearly marked.

Save it with a desktop icon, click on it and allow it to do its job, listing all of your software.  You'll see beside each piece of software listed how many stars it has, what percentage of people have deleted it and then you have the option to click on 'what is it', which opens in a new browser to give you more details if you're in doubt, or to click on the 'uninstall' button.

All I can can say is that having used this on both my PC and my laptop, which was running frustratingly slowly, is that I deleted many unwanted pieces of software and both are now running much faster.  So give it a try.  It's an excellent tool.