Friday, 8 June 2012

TechFill - Pocket Cast for IOS

I mentioned this IOS app a few posts ago (the iphone 4S update I think). I'ved used the music player on the iphone 4 since launch and before that on ipad and various Ipod Touch devices.

As a consumer of podcasts I get through three or four a day and subscribe to around 25 to 40 on a regular or semi regular basis. So I'm chewing through dozens of hours of chat a week. Naively I've stuck to the native music player partly through not being aware there were good alternatives out there.

Pocket Cast (£1.49 on the app store) had been a bit of a mini revelation.

The user interface is great and intuitive. The homepage shows a grid of your subscriptions (for some reason the app seems better a capturing podcast artwork than the native player) with graphical overview of downloaded/undownloaded 'casts along with a note of played versus unplayed items. Tapping into the grid items takes you into overshow notes and more information on the individual shows. All very clear and well laid out.

There are menu tabs along the bottom of the screen for the main page, currently playing, search and settings - pretty standard but the icons and layout are very intuitive.

The search function is also good - picking up most of what any seasoned listener could want. There seems a bit of a bias towards podcasting networks that could leave the independent casters at the bottom of a search but I suppose this is simply a function of popularity and with more specific searches as you learn the interface you can find pretty much whatever you want to listen to.

The two main things I now have that were previously lacking are :

1) No need to sync with Itunes to update - I now manage all 'casts off my main device (the 4S) and importantly new 'casts are pushed straight to me now. This was a major issue with podcast management previously as either a manual check on itunes on the phone was required to check for new shows or a sync with itunes.
2) I'm a big user of the double click on the home button to access camera and the music player. Not sure if others have noticed this but the UI for the player when using this shortcut is a bit fiddly - the play and forward/reverse triangles are placed quite close together at the top of the screen below the time on the iphone - when rushing to start or stop a 'cast I regularly hit the forward or reverse button instead of the 'play' triangle. In native player this can be a pain in the arse. Hitting rewind takes you back to the start of a podcast automatically - 37 minutes in to a 90 minute show this is really irking. It's hard to find your place again especially if the 'cast if three or four people talking about one subject. The good news is that hitting the reverse when using Pocket Cast just swipes you back 30 seconds - that I can put up with.

On the downside, there's lots of info in a small space on the 4S so until you're used to the interface it can be a little confusing (but that's the same with any new or replacement app) and occasionally when double clicking the home button to resume playing the device picks up the last item played on the music player rather than Pocket Cast - this is despite the player not having been used in anger for some time - a minor point but a bit annoying.

Great little app, totally fits my use case and I have now deleted podcasts from itunes and as a result am syncing the phone (an annoying experience at the best of times) about once a week rather than daily.

Health Surveillance and Private Medical Experiences

I'm planning to write a series of blog posts/articles on health surveillance and peoples experiences with health screening and any subsequent required treatment taken privately. 

With this in mind I'd really like to hear peoples experiences of any of the above (either positive or negative) and here's the specifics of what I'm interested in :

  • Health screening either paid for or offered for free by your company
  • What the screen showed up (or didn't)
  • If you had private medical insurance cover and if any subsequent treatment was required
  • Your overall experience or rating - for example, if the screen found a problem are you happy knowing
  • It would also be really useful to know your age, when you took out PMI (if you have) and if it's personal or company paid (I promise not to sell to you unless of course you want me to !)

I don't need a massive amount of detail, rather a quick paragraph of three or four lines would be really useful.

The essence of the articles I'm planning will be to help clients weigh up the relative values of health screening and also the age at which they take up private medical insurance cover - the younger you are the fewer conditions tend to be excluded and the wider the benefits available.

If I do use your contribution I will check with you first and of course all health info will be totally anonymous.

Feel free to DM me back on Twitter/Linkedin or e-mail :

Thanks in anticipation.

TechFill Blog - Advent Amico

A little while ago I bought an Advent Amico - a budget tablet running Android 2.0 as a back up device to my first gen Ipad. Essentially the Ipad has become more of a family device as Mrs Localventure and the two LV children have begun to claim the device more and more leaving me bereft of evening browsing except for the tiny Iphone.

The Amico is one of two tablets launched by the highstreet retailer : Currys in late 2010 as a response to the Ipad - the Amico was the 7" budget version with 2GB on-board memory and a 300Mhz processor. It's Bigger brother was the Vega, a 10" tablet with 4GB and a 1.0 Ghz Tegra ARM processor which retailed for around the £200 mark. To be honest neither was an Ipad killer but there are plenty of them available on auction and second hand electronics sites now and I'd certainly say to have a play with one or the other.

However, having got the device and played for a few weeks I found it a little lacking - sure it's fine for browsing, e-mails and the like but having had the top end IOS devices I just found it a little laggy and limited.

Physically the device feels nice in the hand - the build quality is average (which you'd expect at the entry level price point). The Android interface takes a little getting used to following extensive IOS use but the home screen experience is good and everything is where it needs to be - one word of warning though, having entered my e-mail details I couldn't find a way of removing the account from the e-mail settings prior to selling the device short of bricking it totally. So I ended up changing my main gmail account password on-line (so deactivating access to my account on the Amico) then manually deleting the e-mails from the device whilst off-line.
It's also the devils own work to add any new apps to the device - a limitation of the memory and older OS I suspect - the only way I can see to do it to instal via the PK settings in the system menu using an SD card - again for a novice this is quite a complex work around and spending more to get a version of the OS with Google Play re-installed could be worth it.

In the end, although I wouldn't consider myself a 'power-user' by any stretch of the imagination but I was constantly demanding too much of the device. It's not for anyone who wants to poke around inside the OS settings and really aside from getting a feel for the Android OS on a tablet I've now given the Amico up as a very middling device and returned it to the electronic dealer in the sky (actually it's up for sale on Ebay at

If you're interested in having a look check it out. I'd only recommend this to someone who needs a basic device or as a super cheaper emergency back up. I picked mine up for £ 25 on an auction site and they seem to re-sell for between £ 20 and £40 depending on condition (mine was manufacturer refurbed and worked perfectly).