Sunday, 7 October 2012

Restoring/Downgrading/Clearing iPhones

There's a few scenarios why you may want to do this:
  • You want to clear out the iPhone as it has slowed down over the year(s)
  • You want to sell your iPhone (or change owners) 
  • You want to unjailbreak it to take it back to the Apple store

Generally speaking, you can do this by simply connecting your phone into iTunes and then clicking "Restore"; this will wipe your phone and install the latest iOS available... this, however, may not the solution if you want to keep your iPhone jailbroken or on an older iOS.

If you need to take your phone back to the Apple store, you will need to unjailbreak your phone and update to the latest version. From Apple's point of view, if you are not using the latest iOS, then you have not attempted everything to resolve the problem you wish to discuss. This obviously means you will have to re-jailbreak the iPhone post visiting the store... if a jailbreak is actually available for the latest iOS. 

Downgrading or Re-restoring your iPhone
  • Re-restoring means, you want to remain on the same iOS version you currently have on the iPhone e.g.  iPhone currently on iOS 5.1.1 and restoring to a clean iOS 5.1.1. because iOS6 jailbreak is not available.
  • Apple stopped signing iOS 5.1.1 in Sept 2012. This effectively means that the following process will not work if you want to remain on iOS 5.1.1. I've detailed the steps below as it will work if you are on the latest iOS release: 
    • Download the IPSW file for your device: LINK
    • Put your phone into DFU mode: Link to Instructions
    • Connect your phone to the PC and load iTunes 
    • Hold Shift + click Restore button  (Alt/Option + Restore on Mac)
    • Point the file to the downloaded IPSW
  • Note: for iPhone 4S, you will need to wait for Redsn0w to release an update of their software - skip to "cleaning your iPhone without re-restoring" below.
  • To be able to downgrade or re-restore your iPhone 4 (or lower model), you will need to save your SHSH blobs and use Redsn0w to stitch it to the IPSW file.

Clearing your iPhone without re-restoring
  • Why? All the processes above will not work because, Apple has stopped signing the iOS you want  AND you currently cannot use the SHSH blobs (e.g. iPhone 4S A5 device as at Oct 8th 2012)
  • Non jailbroken iPhones:
    On the iPhone click:  Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Contents and Settings.
  • Jailbroken iPhones:
    • Removing all apps and accounts
      • Sync the iPhone with an empty iTunes account/library
      • Log out of iTunes store
      • Manually delete any remaining data: Messages
      • Run iCleaner to clear any random caches, etc. (see previous blog entry for details)
    • Removing all Cydia Tweaks
      • I have not tried this, so please backup and read all the instructions carefully prior to attempting anything. 
      • Link to removing all Cydia Tweaks on ijailbreak

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

iPhone Backups

iCloud backups are great... if you pay for the service to increase the size AND like waiting.
iTunes backups are also great... if you constantly connect your phone to your computer and click backup.

Pros: As they are Apple products, these methods complete a full backup and fairly hassle free.
Cons: You cannot partially restore files/sections of your phone; only a COMPLETE restore can be done.

If you're like me, I'd like to have some control in the way I backup things; preferably incrementally and wirelessly. Below details advice on how I prefer to backup the data on my iPhone.

FYI - to do a complete backup on iTunes, I always:
  1. Right-click on iPhone in iTunes and click on Transfer purchases. 
  2. Once complete, click on Backup. 

Backup: Calendar & Contacts
  • I've seen so many iPhones setup without auto-magically backing up their calendar and contacts to their gmail accounts.
  • Once setup correctly, every new contact or calendar event that is added on your phone will automatically be synced onto gmail so you'll never have to worry about data loss. 
  • This also means if you decide to move to another phone device (e.g. android), you simply need to input your gmail account details into the phone to download all your contacts and calendars! 
  • If you also use Outlook and want to keep Outlook-Gmail-iPhone synced, this adds another level of complexity. Although I haven't not tried this, have a read of this link I've found that seems useful:
Requirement: Google mail account
Detailed setup link:
Setup Procedure Summary: 
  • When inputting the setting into the iPhone, use Microsoft Exchange option (not Gmail!)
  • Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Add Account... > Microsoft Exchange
  • Email: enter your full Google Account email address. 
  • Domain: leave blank
  • Username: Enter your full Google Account email address
  • Password: Google Account password
  • Tap 'Next' and choose 'Cancel' if the 'Unable to Verify Certificate' dialog appears.
  • Server:
  • Press Next to then enable Mail, Contacts, Calendars complete the process.
  • If you have never saved contact/calendar information onto Google: when prompted "what would you like to do with the existing local contacts/calendar events on your iPhone?" select "Keep on My iPhone" .

Backup: Photos
  • I prefer using these third party apps to back up my photos wirelessly so that I know full-well that the photos are backed up AND accessible/viewable. e.g. backing up to iCloud does not allow you to view your own photos via the iCloud login.
  • I've been using CameraSync and have set it up so that when I load the app, it will automatically scan for new photos and copy them across to my FTP server. Another great feature is that it renames all the photos to yyyy-mm-dd
  • Opening a or account and using the Box/Dropbox App will also allow you to upload your photos to your box account. (Please use this link to sign up: dropbox referral)
App: CameraSync or Box app or DropBox app (all via App Store)

Alternatively, if you want to back up and delete your photos using the iPhone cable connected to a PC:
  1. Use iFunbox to extract the photos in the original folders as found on the iPhone
  2. Use Advanced Renamer to rename the photos to yyyy-mm-dd
    I use the following details in the program:
    <Year Modified>-<Month Modified>-<Day Modified> <Hour Modified>.<Min Modified>.<Sec Modified> <Img CameraModel>
    Name Colission Rule: Append incrementing number, separator: -
  3. Use iTools to delete the photos from the iPhone
  4. Respring the iPhone so that the photo database is rebuilt. 

    Backup: SMS
    I use iBye to backup the SMS folder on the iPhone (/private/var/Mobile/Library/SMS) to my FTP server. The app compresses the folder to SMS.tar.gz before transferring it over wifi. The app also allows you to backup to dropbox and has options to backup other system files (e.g. Cydia, Phone, Contacts...)

    App: iBye (only for Jailbroken iPhones)
    • via Cydia:
    • Another recommended app is PKGBackup (BigBoss repo for $9.99) 

    Backup: Cydia Packages
    From experience, I haven't found one app that is 100% reliable yet. That's why I've opted to use all three apps to attempt to backup my Cydia packages and sources. If all fails, it's not the end of the world as I keep a manual list of Cydia packages I like in my original jailbreaking blogpost.

    Apps: APTBACKUP, OpenBackup and iBye  (all installed via Cydia)

    • Feedback and experiences: 
      • First time I used APTBACKUP and clicked on restore, it seemed to do nothing so gave up after 10mins; no progress bar. It may have possibly been extremely slow due to the server load(?)
      • Using OpenBackup to restore, restored about 50% of my Cydia apps and tweaks. 
      • Following this, I went into Cydia, added the sources, and queue the tweaks/apps in small batches at a time to install. The restore process actually kept all my settings so as soon as the Cydia app/tweak was re-installed, it worked exactly as I had set it up e.g. SBSettings had the correct theme. 
      • "If restoring from iBye, don't have the cable plugged into your computer - it did some weird stuff once with this scenario (the apple logo appeared in the background with the loading bar, like if you were updating the iOS - freaky.).... Annoyingly iBye didn't restore mail account details, photos, or other things; only SMS and notes only."

    Please let me know if you find new/better ways of completing the above tasks :)

    Monday, 1 October 2012

    Make your iPhone faster!

    Besides un-installing unused apps clogging up your iPhone to help speed it up, there are two additional things I have done to speed up my device. Unfortunately (fortunately?) it requires your iPhone to be jailbroken.

    Rather than write a long "how-to" guide, I'll let the videos on YouTube do the talking for me...

    1. iCleaner (BigBoss repo)

    This Cydia app clean up all the unnecessary & temporary files built up over the months/years. Running it will free up some space and speed up your iPhone. I recommend running it every month or two.

    2. Speed Intensifier (  or

    This tweak simply speeds up the animations on your iPhone making it feel faster. The setting on my iPhone 4S for this tweak is +6 as I find it provides a good balance between animation and speed.


    Sunday, 30 September 2012

    iPhone Cases

    It's that time of the year again... when people are looking at upgrading their iPhone. If you're like me, I like keeping my phone in mint condition... that means a good case and screen protector (good in both quality and value for money of course!)

    At the moment, I've decided I'd quite happily stick with my iPhone 4S, but I thought I'd share my research on cases for the 4S as the same brand and principles will apply when looking for cases for the iPhone 5.

    These were the cases I narrowed my selection down to:

    Incase Slider
    Loved this case for my 3GS; tight fit, durable, relatively scratch resistant, has a lip so the phone can be placed on the table face down without any worries. Caution: if you are sliding it on and off, be sure to clean out any dust from the case as the tight fit can cause the dust to scratch the back/side of the phone.
    With regards to the 4 or 4S version of the case, there are reports stating there are of wear and tear unlike 3GS case. This is to do with the finish they decided on; the 3GS was shiny and the 4/4S is slightly rubberised.

    Speck Pixelskin HD
    Nice, snug fit, good camera cut out, good impact absorption. Some rare comments found about dust being trapped underneath and scratching phone! Highly recommend this and have seen my friends who have had this for over a year and have not noticed any dust/scratching problem

    Thin, professional looking and adds minimal additional weight/size to the phone. The negatives (in my eyes) is that there is little/no lip on the front so facing the phone face down would result in the phone's screen touching the table surface. It also offers very little drop protection

    Other cases I read up but quickly decided against were: 
    Griffin Reveal Etch Case (Graphite)
    SGP iPhone 4 Case Linear Color Series (Gun Metal)
    Incipio NGP Matte TPU Jelly Case (Black)
    Switcheasy Vulcan

    Finally, the one I ended up getting and highly recommend is:

    CaseCrown Slider
    • 2 piece, slim and compact design
    • Felt lined interior to protect iPhone from scratches
    • Great quality
    • Good screen protector included
    • A range of colours including my favourite: metallic finish with two gradient colours
    • Cheap!

    I liked it so much that I even left a review on Amazon!
    If you found this article useful and want to purchase a case, please click on the adverts above :)

    Good luck case hunting!

    Wednesday, 15 August 2012

    Ainol NOVO 7 Aurora (7" Tablet)

    I've owned Ainol NOVO 7 Aurora Tablet since April 2012 and thought I'd share my experiences with you. Having researched various tablets on the internet, I may just start with why I decided to buy this tablet:
    • I wanted something cheap and cheerful (<£120). I will still be using my iPhone 4S for most of my activities, so the tablet was just for browsing, videos and reading (books, comics and magazines).
    •  Wanted an Android tablet to learn more about Android OS
    • 7" is perfect for portability and light-weight (minimises wrist fatigue)
    • Reviews on YouTube show it was powerful enough to run HD video and render 3D games; indicates to me that it should suit my needs perfectly.
    Technical specifications:
    • CPU: AllWinner Many Core A10 1.2GHz processor.  GPU: Mali 400.
    • 1GB DDR3 RAM, 8GB internal storage, microSD slot 
    • 7 inch IPS Capacitive Screen 1024×600 pixel resolution  (LG version i.e. V3)
    • WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, 3.5mm audio, mini USB, mini HDMI
    • Size and Weight: 189mm x 123mm x 9mm, 313 grams

    Overall... very happy with the device!

    However, if I had to purchase a tablet now, I think I'd struggle to pick between the Novo7 Aurora II and Nexus 7. Without looking at in with much depth, I am slightly swayed towards the Aurora II purely due to the microSD card. I use my 32gb card all the time! 

    Added 25/9/2012: If you want another option (only slightly more expensive than the Aurora II) then have a look at the Novo7 Fire: 1280x800 IPS screen, dual core processor, front and rear camera, 5000mA battery.

    Added 10/02/2013: If 10" is what I want, it would be between the Novo Hero 2 and Google Nexus 10... purely from a pricing a features point of view, I'd buy the Hero. However, if I wanted an excellent high-res screen and want the latest factory android iOS, I'd get the Nexus 10.

    Note: The Aurora had 3 versions released. Knowing which version is important when you want to install a custom ROM. To determine the release model, simply look on the box above the barcode:
    • 201201 = Aurora v1  (Hitachi screen)
    • 201202 = Aurora v1
    • 201203 = Aurora v2
    • 201204 and above = Aurora v3  (LG screen)

    Learning points to share:
    • The Aurora comes pre-rooted and CWM installed!
    • If you need to change the language because the ROM defaults to chinese: Settings menu > option "A" icon > choose the first option
    • ClockworkMod Recovery (CWM) is activation: Hold the BACK button and press POWER button for approx. 2 sec, then release POWER; keep BACK button pressed until CWM mode/menu is activated (it may take approx. 10 sec). Release the BACK button.
    • With the factory installed ROM, the opened android logo with red exclamation mark is actually CWM mode: press BACK button for CWM menu.
    • Updating to a different ROM (been trying feiyu, Mobiz and ConRom v2-7) to make the Aurora even faster/smoother. I was using ConRom v7 (CM9) for some time but now on Quarx CM10 nightly.
    • Installing busybox into the wrong directory can cause the tablet to self factory reset on each reboot and result in errors.  Ensure you install BUSYBOX to /system/bin  (not the default xbin). This issue is caused by the busybox install, caused by an incompatibility between busybox and ICS (Android 4). What happens is the a couple of vital directories containing user data FAIL TO MOUNT. The reason is that the program /system/bin/busybox is missing. As you will not be able to download anything from Google Play at this time (No space - volume not mounted) you have to get hold of term.apk, The android terminal emulator, and copy the busybox in xbin to bin. Then reboot.
      Type into the terminal emulator: cp /system/xbin/busybox /system/bin
      Alternatively: Complete a full format flash.
    • LiveSuit 1.09 unable to recognise AURORA in DFU mode (hold down volume-up, plug USB, press power 6 times) on my computer! (Windows 7 64bit).  I tried absolutely every driver combination to attempt to get it to recognise the tablet, but gave up after 4+ hours. Eventually, I used another laptop I had access to and it work right away (same version of Windows!)

    Apps I have installed:
    • SwiftkeyX  CM10 keyboard is great
    • SetCPU  (Min 408. Max 1056 - interactive), Screen Filter
    • Opera Mini, Dolphin Browser (and mini)
    • Ghost Commander File (+ SMB plugin)
    • K-9 Mail
    • PerfectViewer (+PDF plugin) (to read comics)
    • Adobe Reader, ezPDF Reader, Flipboard, gReader
    • YouTube , BBC News, iPlayer, Sky News, TED, TVCatchup
    • MX Player & BSPlayer
    • Nova Launcher (Quarx CM10 20120901 launcher currently has problems)
    • Lucky Patcher
    • Superuser, Root Explorer, Advanced Task Killer, Quadrant Standard
    • Terminal Emulator, SManager ads (for V6 script)

    Quarx CM10 10121209 install procedure
    1. Using Livesuit v1.09 (and press YES for format), install/flash Feiyu 0429 ROM - aurora_v1_feiyu_mod (0429) 
    2. Load CWM to install the following:
      Activate CWM mode: Turn device off. Press & HOLD "back" key. switch device on. Let go of back key once CWM screen is loaded.
      1. CWM6 (
      2. Feiyu 0429 V3 touch patch (aurora_v3_patch_(0429).zip)
      3. Quarx 1209 (
      4. Aurora V3 touch drivers (
      5. Gapps (
    3. Install Nova Launcher (via Play Store)
    4. Download and install YouTube 4.1.47.apk (via Google)
    5. Use V6 SuperCharger script to optimise memory and remove lag:
      1. Install BusyBox v1.19.4 to /system/bin (Play Store)
      2. Install SManager (Play Store)
      3. Use SManager to run the newest release of V6 SuperCharger Script.pdf (run as "SU")
      4. Patch and install services.jar using Ultimatic Jar Patcher Tools (Windows PC)
      5. Use SManager to run 99SuperCharger as "SU" and "On Boot"
      6. Use V6 SuperCharger Script to "SuperClean & ReStart!"
      7. Use V6 SuperCharger Script to "Fix Emissions"

    Useful Links

    Beginners guide to improving Novo 7

    Full list (with google translator)


    Deleting APKs:"Deleting apk from /system/app is like uninstall.
    Check this cyanogen website or this link to find which apk's is safe to remove.
    Since Aurora didn't have 3G/phone function, it's safe to remove Contacts.apk, ContactsProvider.apk, Phone.apk and TelephonyProvider.apk"

    Supercharger V6 script

    Sunday, 27 May 2012

    Jailbreaking iPhone 4S iOS 5.1.1

    Please note that you can only jailbreak an iPhone 4S 5.1.1 if the firmware is currently installed on the phone; you cannot upgrade from 5.0.1 or downgrade from 6.0 as Apple has stopped signing iOS 5.1.1. My advise for you is to remain on your currently jailbroken iOS. If you want to do anything, then make sure you save your SHSH blobs and try Redsn0w as it now "supports" iPhone 4S (A5 chips); please read the details on their website.  [Added Jan 4th, 2013]

    If you have updated to iOS 6+, please see my iOS 6.1.2 jailbreak post [Added Feb 20th 2013]

    In this post, I will explain my process of updating jailbroken iPhone 4S iOS 5.0.1 to iOS 5.1.1 UNTETHERED jailbreak.

    Save SHSH blobs
    [approx 5mins]

    Backup Cydia apps
    [approx 10mins]
    • Using Cydia, install APTBACKUP, OpenBackup and iBye
    • Press backup in all programs. 
    • I recommend more than one as I have not found one that's 100% reliable yet.
    • Read my iPhone Backups blog post for details

    Backup iPhone to iTunes
    [10-20mins depending on when you last completed a backup]
    • Connect iPhone to iTunes
    • Right-click on iPhone in iTunes and click on Transfer purchases. 
    • Once complete, click on Backup. 
    • Read my iPhone Backups blog post for details and other methods
    • (Whist you are waiting to backup, download the IPSW file in the next step)

    Update to iOS 5.1.1 
    [approx 10-20mins depending on internet connection]
    • Download the IPSW file for your device: LINK
    • Put your phone into DFU mode: Link to Instructions
    • Connect your phone to the PC and load iTunes 
    • Hold Shift + click Restore button  (Alt/Option + Restore on Mac)
    • Point the file to the downloaded IPSW 

    (Reset all content and settings - do this step if you updated iOS via another method)
    [approx 5-10 mins]

    Jailbreak iOS 5.1.1
    [approx 5-10mins]

    Install some Cydia apps
    [approx 5mins]
    • AppSync 5+, APTBACKUP, OpenBackup, iBye
    • This will allow all your previous apps to be transferred back to the iPhone during the restore process. 

    Restore your iPhone
    [approx 1-2 hours - depending on how much data you had on your phone]
    • Connect the iPhone to iTunes and RESTORE to the most recent backup point. 
    • Then Wait... wait... and wait some more.... 
    • This process restored most of the settings & data e.g. email settings, photos, SMS. I needed to re-input my giffgaff phone network settings. 
    • Note: during the restore process, iTunes created a new backup point and my mac required 8gb of space for my iPhone which currently has 16gb of data.

    Sync apps and media
    [approx 20mins]
    • In iTunes, click on SYNC. 
    • Half way through, my phone rebooted itself without completely restoring all my apps. After it rebooted, I simply clicked SYNC again, and all my apps were back. 

    Restore Cydia apps & tweaks
    [approx 20-40mins depending on server load and how many tweaks/apps you have from Cydia]
    • As jailbreak for 5.1.1 has ONLY just come out, I believe the cydia servers have been very busy/slow. Please be patient. 
    • I initially loaded APTBACKUP and clicked on restore and gave up after 10mins. I wasn't sure if it was working or not as there is not progress bar. It may have possibly been extremely slow due to the server load(?)
    • I used OpenBackup and clicked restore. This restored about 50% of my Cydia apps and tweaks. 
    • Following this, I went into Cydia, added the sources, and queue the tweaks/apps in small batches at a time to install. The restore process actually kept all my settings so as soon as the Cydia app/tweak was re-installed, it worked exactly as I had set it up e.g. SBSettings had the correct theme. 


    If you are wondering what Cydia tweaks/apps to install, or wondering why you should jailbreak your device, have a read of my previous post:

    Other useful iPhone related blog posts found here:

    Sunday, 8 April 2012

    Finding good coffee in London... Yum :)

    I'm not a coffee *geek* nor am I intending to be one, but I do enjoy a good smooth flatwhite...

    Where do I find a good coffee?
    • For starters, a couple of years ago, I stopped going to the big chains in London (Starbucks, Nero, etc) and looked out for independent cafes. Lucky for me Dose Espresso opened up en route to work which made avoiding the chains an easy option. 
    • As I explored London cafes, I realised that those with a La Marzocco coffee machine would generally serve a very nice cup of coffee. Having had the opportunity to visit the factory in Florence and learning that each machine is hand-made, starting at no less than ££££ digits, I realised that those that own this piece of machinery knew what they were doing. 
    • Lastly, the iPhone app called London Coffee Map made my life locating great cafes a whole lot easier. The app uses GPS to locate closest cafe and provides me with information about opening times, reviews, and a link to google maps. Perfect!

    Lantana Cafe (Simple decor and relaxing atmosphere)

    Here are some other London Coffee websites worth checking out:
    Please let me know if you come across any great finds in London!

    La Marzocco Factory in Florence

    Saturday, 7 April 2012

    HSMP/TIER1 valid for 4 years & 11 months = ILR dramas

    It took me over a year to find the answers to my problem when applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). As a couple of other friends were in the same situation, I thought I’d share my experiences online for others to learn from. To clearly explain the problem, here is my one of my letters to UK Border Agency (UKBA):
    Dear UKBA,
    Can you please provide me with information as to whether or not it is possible to to apply for settlement (ILR) if the HSMP/Tier1 is to expires exactly at 4 years and 11 months? (short 27 days of 5 years). Toillustrate the question:
    -         HSMP date = 19/5/2006
    -         5 years from the HSMP = 19/05/2011
    -         Able to apply for settlement 28 days prior 5 years: (19/05/2011 - 28days) = 21/04/2011
    -         HSMP/Tier1 VISA is valid until the SAME date = 21/04/2011
    So, the question is, based on the dates alone, would I be able to apply for ILR if I make an application at the public enquiry office (PEO) on 21/4/2011? Ideally, I would like to book an appointment at the PEO to apply for ILR on this date, however, if this option is not appropriate, I would like to find out what do to extend the leave to remain.
    I have found this forum/letter that suggests I there may have been an error with my leave to remain:
    Paragraph 9 of "Migrants who currently hold HSMP leave and have either applied for an extension of stay or will need to do so in the future " states:
     "If an applicant meets these requirements we will grant them:
     a. Three years' leave; or
     b. Enough leave to enable the applicant to complete the qualifying period for settlement, whichever is the greater."

    This letter made recommendations for this individual to submit their passport with a cover letter explaining the error:
    I am wondering if I should follow the same instructions? (Note: I am based in central London)
    I anxiously look forward to a response urgently as I would like to know if I could book an appointment at the PEO for the exact date.

    After 3 attempts at writing snail mail letters to UKBA and not getting the response I had hoped for (turnaround time of approx 6-8 weeks!) I decided to write another email to

    I had the same LONG generic response, but this time, I read the all of the fine print in the email and stopped at: "If you have read this message and looked on the UK Border Agency website, but you have not found the information you require, please re-send your enquiry with "FAQ" in the subject/title line to:"
    One day after changing my subject to FAQ, I received a most welcoming response:
    From: IND Public Enquiries <>
    Date: Wed, Mar 2, 2011 at 1:16 PM
    Subject: RE: Require urgent information about ILR and HSMP error

    Thank you for your enquiry.
    Please be advised that from the information that you have provided, you will be eligible to submit your application on 21 April 2011. As your current leave also expires on the same day, please ensure that you either submit your application in person at our Public Enquiry Office on 21 April 2011 or submit your application via postal route using Royal Mail Recorded/Special Delivery service as date of posting is deemed as date of application.
    Please visit the following website to make an appointment at one of the Public Enquiry Offices listed below:
    Full details of the service they provide can be found on the UK Border Agency website at:
    Please note, if you are unable to secure an appointment, you should send your application by post to the address on the form before your current leave to remain expires. Application forms can be downloaded from the UK Border Agency website at:
    I hope that this information will be of assistance to you.
    Yours sincerely,
    Amrit Haria, Immigration Group, UK Border Agency
    If you intend to reply to this e-mail please ensure that you re-send all the information from your original enquiry.
    On the day of my appointment, there were no questions asked about applying exactly 4 years and 11 months from my qualifying period! Having said that, I had a friend in almost the same situation, but was told she had to extend her TIER1 a second time! All I can say is, if you are reading this in detail, then I wish you the best of luck. :) 

    Other useful information saved during my research:

    Why all the hype with Hunger Games? Watch Battle Royale!

    Watched Hunger Games today and walked away slightly disappointed. No, I haven't read the book, but I couldn't help wanting to compare it to Battle Royale... A movie very high in my all-time favourites list.


    Friday, 6 April 2012

    Free your iPhone... Jailbreak it!

    Many of you have asked me why and how to jailbreak their iPhones... 

    Why? Watch this video...

    • Below is my jailbreaking list of links, tips and tweaks. 
    • Please remember BACKUP your iPhone before you attempt anything. I highly recommend using  iTunes: Right-click on the iPhone in iTunes, and click on both "Transfer purchases" and "Backup iPhone". Please see my iPhone Backup blog post for more details.
    • Once your phone has been backed up and then jailbroken, you can "RESTORE" your device. This will place all the data and apps back onto your device (SMS, settings, etc...)

    Jailbreaking Information

    Post-Jailbreaking Information

    NOTE:   Items marked with ">" are sources and cydia tweaks I have installed

    Cydia Sources:
    In Cydia, click Manage > Sources > Edit > Add:
    > (currently offline)
    >   (for in-app purchases: DLC)

    If you cannot add it manually, look under:
    Cydia Homepage  > More Sources...

    Other sources I've used before:

    Installed / Recommended Cydia Tweaks  [list updated 05/02/2013 for iPhone 4S 5.1.1]
    (Note: I tend to choose packages from BigBoss repo, then iHacksRepo, then others)
    > OpenSSH
    > AppSync for iOS 5.0+, AppStorelous3
    > Installous 5 (currently taken down)
    > vShare, Zeusmos, AppCake+ HD, HiPStore
    > Speed Intensifier
    > SBSettings
    > Backgrounder,  KillBackground
    > Lockinfo (cracked) (need repo as it needs WeePreferenceLoader)
    > OpenNotifier & OpenNotifier Premium
    > iFile cracked, No Update
    > MarkThatMessage Cracked, Merge
    > 3G Unrestrictor 5, ContactPrivacy, User Agent Faker
    > SwiftShiftCaret
    > Springtomize 2 iOS5+, Infinifolders, MultiIconMover
    > FastLock, AnyAttach, Applocker, Notificator, Switchy
    > iCleaner, AptBackup, iBye, OpenBackup
    > CameraTweak Cracked, Photo Info
    > TetherMe Cracked
    > User Agent Faker, BatteryLogger Plus
    > Wifi Analyzer, Wifi Passwords
    > Ushare, EmojiPro, Smart 3G, YTOpener, Nownow, Appinfo

    Change root and mobile password
    1. Open mobile terminal
    2. Enter "su root" then hit return
    3. Enter "alpine" (This is the default password) then hit return
    4. Enter "passwd" then hit return
    5. Enter YOUR NEW PASSWORD then hit return
    6. Enter YOUR NEW PASSWORD AGAIN then hit return

    This will now take you back to the root directory
    7. Enter "passwd mobile" then hit enter
    8. Enter YOUR NEW PASSWORD then hit enter
    9. Enter YOUR NEW PASSWORD AGAIN then hit enter
    Now your done. Close mobile terminal

    Block ads with modified host file
    Install OpenSSH and iFile (via Cydia)
    (You can also use cyberduck, diskaid, ispirit or any other iphone folder browser)
    Download this replacement hosts file.
    Use iFile to navigate to /etc/ and BACKUP your 'hosts' file by renaming it.
    Use iFile to setup a "web server" to upload the host file into the iPhone
    Restart your iPhone!

    "SAFARI USERS READ: downloading this file saves it as a .txt and won't work. Please use Firefox or another browser. Thanks to drzcharlie for pointing this out! Will keep this file updated to block as many ads as i can please let me know what needs adding. I know theres a few adblock on here but most of them were crap, this works loads better and uses less memory and space"


    Saturday, 31 March 2012

    Why Photoshop when you can Lightroom?

    You've all heard the phrase "I'll just Photoshop that!" right? Funny enough, as you get into photography, you begin to realise that although Photoshop is an amazing (and complicated) piece of software, large numbers of people will happily avoid Photoshop all together and use one of the many readily available photo editing programs… a popular one is Adobe Lightroom, which I want to share with you all.

    Lightroom has become very popular since version 1 and has developed into quite an advanced piece of software (now version 4). This program allows you to sort and edit your photos, quickly and easily. An excellent feature is that the editing of photos is “non-destructive” which allows users have their original photos left intact. It is only until you have finished with the processing when you “export” the photos for your peruse.

    So where do you start?
    Try the trial software from the website (available for both mac and pc):

    A few training videos to get you started:

     My setup:
    • I’ve always been a person who likes to manually maintain my files. Music, movies, photos. What I mean by this is I like to have folders setup in a neat logical order and do not rely on programs to sort and organise these files. Why? Because databases become slow over long periods of time, and if it becomes corrupt, you can potentially be left with serious problems. A good example is iTunes which manages the music library. If iTunes fails in any way, you’re going to have a headache sorting that problem out.
    • For the first couple of years, I only had one Lightroom database/catalog for my photos, however, this got too big and impaired performance. I then decided to try creating one catalog per project/album and have stayed with this system ever since.
    • My folders are setup like this:

    • This folder structure allows me to backup all photo related files very easily.
    • I created two new filters called “Flagged Only” and “Flagged and Star”. They have been setup like this:
    My workflow:
    • Copy photos from the camera to a folder called “Original” (see above image)
    • Open Lightroom, and click on "New Catalog". Point this to the parent folder, and simply type in “Lightroom” for the catalog name. This automatically creates a folder called “Lightroom” as seen above.
    • Drag and drop the original photos from Windows Explorer to Lightroom.
    • Import the photos: Ensure default options state the photos stay in the original location.
    • Press Shift-TAB to hide all tool bars
    • Press “L” twice to turn the “lights out” – for a pleasant review of the photos.
    • Review all photos and press “P” to pick/flag the good photos. “U” to unflag.
    • Once the selection process is complete, press Shift-TAB, then “L” to return to the original viewing screen.
    • Choose “Flagged Only” filter
    • Go to the Develop tab and edit the photos. (see training video links)
    • Once I finished editing the photo, I then press “1” to give it a star. This will make it disappear due to the filter. I tend to start on my favourite photos and work backwards.
    • When I finished editing the wants I want, I would review them all by changing the filter to “Flagged & Star”
    • Finally, I would go back to the library, select all, and export my edit photos to a folder called “Processed” (see above)

    After Lightroom

    Original Photo

    I’ve found Lightroom a suitable editing software for almost all of my photos; from simply cropping to a completely transforming the photo. However, from time to time, photoshop is required… here’s an amusing video that illustrates times you may want to use photoshop :)

    Have fun Lightrooming! 

    Monday, 26 March 2012

    "Which camera should I buy?"

    A question I keep getting asked is "I want a new camera to take better photos. Which camera should I buy? I want to get an SLR". Unfortunately, there is no quick answer.... I normally give them some advice and ask them questions to think about:
    • Yes, DSLRs will take a better quality photo, capture shots faster (frames per second) and come with a range of other bells and whistles that I won't go into details about; there are plenty of articles on the web to do that for me e.g.  Buying a digital SLR on dpreview. The question to ask is, do you need all these features? What are you doing with the photos? Are you simply sharing them all with friends and family or doing professional prints for money?
    • Those that tend to ask me this question are those that simply want to take "better" photos for personal reasons. The answer I give them is the best camera choice will be the one you will take out and use the most. The more photos you take, the more they improve. 
    • What features are important to you? Excellent quality down the the pixel? Will bulkiness and weight deter you from taking the camera out? Need a compact camera for low light? Waterproof for water and snow trips? Compact camera with good zoom? DSLR with one lens only? What is your budget? At the end of the day, only you can decide which camera is best for you. 
    • Once you have some idea of which category of camera you want (compact, micro four-thirds, DSLR, etc), read some reviews out there (e.g. If you can't decide between two cameras, throw that question into google (e.g. "Canon s100 vs Lumix LX5"). 
    • Go to a shop and play with them. Jessops and Jacobs near Tottenham Court Road Station in London have quite a selection.

    Ok Ok Ok... so you want me to make some recommendations? Here are some, in (what I think) order of ascending image quality:
    • Sony TX10 --- very pocketable water/beer/snowproof compact camera
    • Canon s90/95/100 ---  Good quality, low light photos, compact camera
    • Panasonic Lumix LX3/5 --- Same features as Canon S90/95/100 but slightly more bulky and less pocketable, however, I find the external controls easier to use. 
    • Panasonic GF/GH series --- Micro four-thirds. Better quality than compacts and a good range of lenses available. A good choice that sits in the middle of a compact camera and a DSLR.
    • Sony NEX 5/7 --- Excellent photo quality and some lens choices, but not as user friendly as other cameras.  
    • Fuji X100 --- I would really love this camera, but you need to understand the limitations
    • Fuji X-Pro1 --- On my wishlist!
    • DSLRs: Canon 60D, 7D, 5D MK2/3 --- depending on your budget 

    P.S. I'm slightly biased as I've owned various Canon DSLRs, a Panasonic LX3 and iPhone 3GS & 4S.

    Once you know what you want, finding the best price is simple. Try these two sites for a start:
    The last thing worth thinking about is that for items of high value, like cameras, consider buying it directly from a shop in case problems arise; sending faulty products and waiting for new shipment can be a very frustrating process.

    Good luck with your camera shopping. 
    Go out and enjoy taking photos! 

    Here are some of my photos for some inspiration: 

    Canon 40D



    Panasonic Lumix LX3



    iPhone 4S



    Sunday, 25 March 2012

    Studying tips for Life in the UK test (ILR and Citizenship requirement)

    Thank you Anna for adding the comment below on 31st of Jan, 2013:
    "The UK government has released a new handbook, and a new test will be effective March 25, 2013. I think most of your good tips will still be relevant. For your readers, here is an article about the new test: New life in the UK test. It looks like this new test might be a bit harder. They sure don't make it easy to become British!"


    Having successfully passed my Life in the UK test, I thought I'd share my studying techniques with you.

    Official Life in the UK book
    It's definitely necessary to have and read the official book. Just be sure that you have the latest edition as there may be new information in the book. e.g. statistics from 2011 census(?). Although the book seemed somewhat comprehensive:
    • The first third of the book (grey pages) is just an interesting read you don't need to memorise. 
    • The second third of the book has all the information you need to know. It also has some good questions you should attempt to answer in detail as part of studying. 
    • The last third of the book was definitions which I simply skimmed through. 
    The book itself was an interesting read to begin with, but dry to study from. I found the pages too shiny and reflections from the light slightly annoying! I also wished it had more diagrams/tables as I find I learn much better with these visual aids.

    Audiobook CD
    I listened to this once... boring as batsh*t, but I did pick up a few things I may have skimmed across when reading the actual book. The only benefit is that it was convenient to listen to when you're standing on the tube like sardines in a can during peak hours.

    Life in the UK iPhone App
    This was the most useful study tool out of the bunch! I tested both the official and unofficial apps in the appstore, but found some mistakes in unofficial ones. In the end, the official app was sufficient and used it in the following manner:
    • After reading a chapter in in the Life in the UK book, I would sit there and do the "Quick Practice" and complete multiple sets of questions (batches of 30 questions) to reinforce what I learnt. 
    • During the week leading up to the test, I would complete at least 3 x 20 questions each day (usually on the tube journey). 
    • When I made errors, I screen captured the errors and created a photo album full of questions I got wrong to review later (thank you Ammy for this clever tip!)
    • For the questions I answered wrong (or guessed right) and was still unsure about, I would go to the page reference in the book review. 

    Self-study notes
    I was lucky enough to have a typed-up copy of the book to highlight and make my own notes all over. I found this the best way of revising and memorising stupid numbers and figures. If you have access to the PDF book, you could print this off and do the same. (Thank you Jason for the book and notes!) 

    On the day of the test
    Although I crammed on the morning of the test (due to work related drinks that intended to be "one" drink), I felt confident about the questions. Whilst waiting until the actual start time, I was able to read my notes in front of the computer and do practice questions with my iPhone app. The actual test itself was easy as most of the questions were ones I had come across before. I just want to point out although the iPhone app was quoting actual figures and percentages from the book, one of the actual questions was: "How many countries are in the Commonwealth? Choices: about 20, about 30, about 50, about 70. Overall, there were only 4 questions I had found the need to make an educated guess. 

    iPhone App 

    A sample of my study notes
    (please excuse my poor chicken-scratch hand-writing... I understand it :P)

    The actual screen at the testing centre 
    (photo taken well before waiting to be briefed and starting the test)