Jamie Balfour BSc

Welcome to my personal website!

Technology enthusiast

I am very interested in technology, particularly relating to computer science. I am most interested in web design and development.

My main hobby is programming. One of my most well known products from this is ZPE. I also am the sole creator of BalfBlog, BalfBar and BalfSlider.

A little bit about me

In 1997, when I was six years of age, I got my very first computer. I was always very interested in the ins and outs of it and dismantled it to see how it worked.

Years later, in 2016 I received my BSc (with honours) in Computer Science, obtaining a First class degree.

I'd like to welcome you to my website and hope you enjoy using it as much as I have enjoyed building it!

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Jamie Balfour BSc
Full stack developer

Personal Blog

I am not saying smartwatches are finished, but if you look at the figures they are hugely on the decline. According to one report, only 2.7 million devices were sold in quartile 3 in 2016, with Apple still at the top with 1.1 million shipments. Garmin are the only manufacturer to be actually increasing market share, with Apple being the biggest loser here.

The thing with smartwatchs is that most people probably do not need it. This is the main reason behind me not buying one, because I could see it becoming something that would never see any use. I understand it saves people time when you get a text because you don't have to reach for your pocket to get your phone, but that just doesn't appeal to me.

Now then, the question is, how much longer will Apple continue to make smartwatches? Sure when Apple Watch 3 comes out it might attract a few million customers, but Apple Watch 2 failed to amaze the world, instead just leaving a disappointed feeling. According to the original report, Apple's Q3 sales have not been great for the Watch, which reinforces the point made by Trusted Reviews about it's lack of new features. At the moment, sales of the Apple Watch 2 are more than likely to be to new users than original buyers, since the second iteration doesn't add a massive selection of new features, and I guess the same will be the case with the Apple Watch 3. Once everyone owns at least some smartwatch, it will be very difficult to sway them to another one - it's just not like the smartphone market.

For the very first time in my life I will be switching to an Android powered smartphone. This switch will be one of the biggest ones I have ever made, much like the way I switched from Windows to Mac OS X in 2011.

My smartphone history

Apple have been my thing for the last seven years or so (although I've wanted a Mac since I was in my fourth year of school in 2006, just my parents refused to see any benefit since my dad worked for companies such as Microsoft, HP, IBM, Dell and Fujitsu amongst others). The switch to Apple from Windows was easy - the hardware of the Mac appealed and OS X was a side effect of that hardware. After using it for some time I got used to OS X and it became my daily driver OS. 

The first time I owned an iOS powered smartphone took place all the way back in 2009, but I would not say I switched from Windows Mobile completely (I have been a smartphone user for a lot longer than the majority of people, since I owned my first smartphone in 2005 and second in 2008). When I got my iPhone 3GS in July 2009, I was somewhat disappointed and decided in 2011 to switch back to Windows for my smartphone operating system. I assumed that it would be somewhat similar to my old Windows Mobile devices and that with time the operating system would get better. Indeed it did, with the release of Windows Phone Mango I got a few new updates, but most of them were not enough to make the phone as usable as my old iOS powered device. Every day owning my Windows Phone I felt envious of my friends with the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S.

In October 2011, I got my first MacBook Pro, a 2011" 13" model. It was a great machine and ran Windows exceptionally well, and whilst I originally was just a Windows user on it, I occasionally switched to OS X and messed about with it. As I became more and more interested in shell scripting and, more importantly, became a web developer, Mac OS X appealed more and more to me.

In October 2012, I went back to Apple for my next iPhone. This time the iPhone 5 (which also just so happens to have been my favourite phone I've ever owned at it's time) was the big thing. I had to terminate my contract with my old Windows Phone and took out a new contract with Orange (who became EE shortly after). I got 4G and many new great features with this phone that I could only have dreamt of with my Windows Phone device. 

My iPhone 5 lasted until October 2014, but I had originally planned on not upgrading it for a while. However, the iPhone 6 got my attention with it's much larger screen (and although the smaller screen appeals to me again now, at the time, the larger screen was worth looking at) and within a few weeks I had myself an iPhone 6 for less than I was paying for my iPhone 5 with more data and unlimited texts and so on. The iPhone 6 lasted me well and I planned not to replace it with a new phone but when it's contract came up for renewal I put the three deals that I found side-by-side comparing the possibility of an upgrade to the iPhone 7, a SIM-only deal that was a third of the price of my current contract with eight times the amount of data or a Samsung Galaxy S7 for the same price and a £29 up front payment. In the end, I chose the latter.

A Samsung Galaxy?!

I think many will be shocked at my decision to make the switch. However, I made this switch for two reasons.

First of all, curiosity. I've used an Android tablet before for some several years, only to replace it with an iPad two years later. I was curious to know exactly what an Android powered smartphone would be like for me. If I like it enough, would I be prepared to infiltrate my Apple ecosystem with an Android device again in the future? Would I replace my iPad in the future with another Android tablet (very unlikely)? Would I be prepared to drop the whole Apple ecosystem and just select what devices appeal the most to me? And finally, could I live without the interoperability of all of my Apple devices? These questions are ones which will be answered from the first couple of weeks of use of the Galaxy S7. Whilst I would say I am somewhat confident I could switch my iPhone for another device that has pretty much the same (and more) capabilities as it, I am still not certain that it will become the phone I have always wanted. 

The second reason, change. I needed a change from Apple's iOS on my smartphone. I've used it now for two smartphones in a row. Even when I took out the iPhone 6 I was a bit worried I'd become massively bored of iOS after several weeks. As a technology enthusiast, Android also appeals to my developer side more than iOS. This reason was even more important than the first reason because it opens me up to the wider market, meaning I won't be restricted to iOS if I like Android enough.

I already swear by Samsung's AV equipment and have been buying Samsung televisions since 2006. My last Samsung phone was in 2006 also - a phone which I adored since it was one of the first slide phones with 3G (so I could watch live TV on my phone at school, pretty awesome to be honest).

The answer to this will be revealed only with time (and in my review which will be coming soon).

WWDC is getting less exciting as the innovation begins to get less innovative. I'm personally no longer shaken by the new releases of iOS since version 7, which was the last real iOS that I could say was exciting. Since then Apple's software releases have become less exciting and certainly don't hold the same level of innovation.

Anyway, WWDC last night was the moment Apple dropped the name OS X and named it macOS. So now, my Mac will no longer run on OS X but on macOS. The new version will be known by the name macOS Sierra. I'm happy to say the inclusion of Siri is something that I am excited about. This is something OS X should have had a long time ago.

iOS 10 is opening up to developers and third-party apps more and more. First off, Siri is being given an SDK and opened to developers so that apps can take advantage of the power of Siri. Third party developers such as WhatsApp will have more power over the iOS device too.

The most interesting part however was with tvOS. I feel that Apple has made a few crucial updates such as the new dark mode, which you may think is not crucial but let me tell you, it is. There was also the addition of the new single-sign on option for different apps stream through cable TV. 

Overall, WWDC 2016 was very lackluster and one of the least interesting WWDCs of all time. A lot of this is down to the fact that Apple have run out of fresh innovation since they've already implemented most of the important features of our smartphones - all they do now is move things around.


Today is the day. WWDC 2016. Have you thought much about what we might expect?

One of the main things that I am expecting is Apple finally dropping OS X and naming it macOS (stylised exactly like that). Doing this would make macOS feel right at home with iOS, tvOS and watchOS.

Of course, iOS 10 is expected and OS X 10.12 (or macOS 10.12). Apple will probably also announce tvOS 2 and watchOS 3. Also, there may be a few more watch straps announced today. With macOS 10.12 I am expecting that Apple will finally bring Siri to us Mac users.

Anyway, that's my thoughts. Let me know what you think below.

Let's be clear here; for the majority of Mac users, Thunderbolt is only ever used as a display connector, only utilising the DisplayPort properties of this interconnect. 

Apple and Intel's joint venture surprised many and was one of the key reasons I bought myself a MacBook Pro when I did. Since the MacBook Pro I originally owned (a late 2011 13" Thunderbolt version), Thunderbolt has progressed a long way. Not only has speed been increased, but in terms of the devices using it. Nowadays, it is not surprising to see a docking station adding more video ports, more USB 3.0 ports and gigabit Ethernet to a laptop which has but a few physical connections. Thunderbolt 2 was released in 2013 with a maximum theoretical speed of 20Gb/s compared to the original Thunderbolt specification which could achieve 10Gbps. This was due to the fact that instead of using PCI-Express version 1, Thunderbolt 2 used PCI-Express version 2, which achieves 500MB/s per lane, equivalent to 40Gb/s over a single lane. 

As many of you will know (if you read my website), my biggest interest in computing is physical computer connectivity, which I have had since about the age of 7 or 8 (where I became obsessed with PS/2 and parallel ports).

To me, physical connectivity is the way forward, wireless is a step backwards (in terms of data, not networking, although I still use almost all of my devices through our rather dated [1997/1998] network in the house which only receives moderate upgrades from time to time). This is why I have backed FireWire and Thunderbolt over many wireless standards.

At the same time, Intel has been busy (again working with Apple) developing USB-C, a full-speed USB 3.0 port which has the physical footprint of a Kensington Lock, allowing computers to get thinner and thinner as well as the ability to send video signals (including DisplayPort) and power (back to the device) over the one cable.

Combine USB-C and Thunderbolt together and you get Thunderbolt 3. Thunderbolt 3 supports PCI-Express 3.0 which achieves 78.8Gb/s or 985MB/s per lane. Thunderbolt 3 itself is given a maximum speed of 40Gb/s, which is a crazy amount of speed. What this now means is that a PCI-Express version 2 graphics card could be used external through the Thunderbolt 3 interface with no real problems. Intel even demonstrated this with the release of Thunderbolt 3.

What I am really hoping for now is Apple to release a USB-C-Thunderbolt 3 combination display that also features more than one damn input (this is the reason that I still do not have one of these displays and probably never will). This way they could ditch the MagSafe power lead and replace it with the single connector and it really would be the most fantastic way to dock your Mac.

Other than that, the bonus speed Thunderbolt 3 offers would be nice too, but perhaps not worth the extra money for a new computer at the moment.

To me personally, the release of USB-C was one of the most important releases of the last decade due to the fact that it really could become the connector that appears everywhere (oh how this saddens me too).

Yes, it's true. I am beginning to like Microsoft again.

Let me tell you a little secret. Since Ballmer left Microsoft, I have slowly began to like them more and more. I'm not talking about everything - I mean certainly not the Nokia side of Microsoft and Windows Phone. But there are parts of Microsoft that I believe are good and doing well, and one of those is the way they are going with Windows 10.

I was not, latterly, a fan of Windows 8, but I do believe it works well with devices designed specifically for it - touch devices. 

Truthfully, I never disliked Microsoft, and I certainly don't dislike everything they do. I just became to obsessed with Apple. 

Mac Mini

Well of course the Apple Special Event tonight has excited me very much because Apple have satisfied my hopes for a new Mac mini!

Not only that, they have really gone out on it and updated it with the new Haswell CPUs, given it Thunderbolt 2 and removed FireWire 800 and replaced it with another Thunderbolt port and kept the RJ-45. They've given it 802.11ac (almost Gigabit WiFi, similar to my MacBook Pro, although I will not be using WiFi as I prefer to use Gigabit Ethernet so that I'm on my wired switch first and foremost).

One thing to note as well by the way is that there appear to only be dual-core versions of the new Mac mini, which may make it a lower performer than the previous models, but we will have to see what Apple does with these.

Of course they also released the iPad Air 2, the iPad mini 3 and the iMac with Retina display as well. They've really gone all out and that's what they should have done on the 30th Anniversary of the Mac.

I'm so happy to see the new Mac mini, but will Apple have gone for a closed system and stopped users changing the RAM as they have with all other Macs?

It's not new news that Apple is having it's next major product event on the 16th this month. I along with others am very excited and cannot wait to see what gets released.

For starters, the iPad will probably receive an update. Some believe that the way Apple will amalgamate the MacBook and iPad is by releasing an 'iPad Pro' - a larger and more powerful iPad. Others believe it also may run on a combination of Mac OS X and perhaps iOS as well.

Another major announcement could be the final release of Mac OS X Yosemite (for those who do not know, this is pronounced yo-sem-it-ee) which is currently in it's 5th beta release. 

Another possible release is the iMac with Retina display. This has been a long awaited upgrade for the iMacs which are falling behind their mobile counterparts because of this. A Retina display would up the resolution on the 21 inch model to about 3840 by 2160 and the resolution on the 27 inch to about 5120 by 2880 if they doubled pixel density again.

A final possiblity is the release of a new Mac Mini. Apple's affordable bring your own keyboard, mouse and display Mac for all has not been updated since 2012. It's a shame for me because I really wanted a small Mac desktop that I can use particularly for storing data safely. If the Mac Mini is re-designed, it will likely look like a small version of the (in my opinion) ugly Mac Pro, which will likely mean that all ways of expanding the system will be completely removed - which would be sad.

Until then, we'll just have to wait, only three days to go!

It's been speculated for sometime that a new Mac Mini is next on the line up for Apple. Well, once again, the Belgian store computerstore.com has placed on their site a new Mac Mini, featuring Iris graphics.

The picture below shows that the CPU and RAM have yet to be placed here but the Iris graphics definitely sounds like a new feature. From this, we can assume it to be Haswell powered and not a future generation of Intel CPU that is going to take us by surprise in April.

Mac Minis on display

The lack of a new Mac Mini is frustrating

Finally, the long awaited MacBook Pros have been released. The new range sports a Core i5 and i7 configuration in the larger 15 and 17 inch models. The standard configuration of the 13 inch however still features the old Core 2 Duo and now 4GB of RAM. Pricing starts at £999.99 for the 4GB Core 2 Duo and the battery life has gone up to 10 hours from 8 on the 13 inch model.

MacBook Pro

I must say that I am getting more impressed by the MacBook Pro range every release now and I am edging towards actually liking these notebooks. Anyway, the 250GB hard drive is now standard but 500GB comes at £120 more which is actually a rather good deal considering Apple's high pricing. Solid state options have also increased in capacity and decreased in price here. However, as with all Apple products, you pay such a high premium to get their devices that consider premium goods.

They all still feature the same connections (FireWire 800, USB 2.0 x2/3, SD card reader, mini DisplayPort, Ethernet and that awesome combi-port that combines a microphone and headphone jack). The 17" features an ExpressCard 54 slot as well.

The resolutions are just the same; the 13" is 1280 * 800, the 15" is 1440 *900 and the 17" is 1920 * 1200.

Now the really good feature is the graphics card. The Nvidia 330M is now included but what makes it really cool is that Apple has developed a smart system which switches graphics cards (only in the i5 and i7 configurations) between the built in graphics included in the 15" or 17" and the 330M which will result in a significantly longer battery life (as the integrated Intel graphics use less power than the 330M). The 13 inch features the 320M with up to 256MB integrated graphics.

Nothing else appears to have changed drastically.

In October 2011, I bought myself the 13" MacBook Pro Core i5. This machine is amazing.

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