Category Archives: Reviews- Early

Mac: Free Alternatives to Microsoft Office

Some of my recent customers have been asking me to recommend alternatives to the Microsoft Office suite.
The current Microsoft Office Suite for the Mac range appears to be Office 365. This is sold via an annual subscription basis, or most recently as a one time payment only Microsoft Office 2016 suite.
From recent articles online it appears that MS Office version 2016 for the Mac appears to have SO many problems/bugs that most folks advise against using it.

Microsoft has committed to fixing the software issues, but I, for one, wouldn’t hold me breath for them

I’ve recently been looking at Libre Office as an alternative to the the Microsoft Office Suite.

Although it offers no email client like Microsoft Outlook, for the average, non cooperate user, to seems to rate really well and it’s free.

Take a look at it at

For the average user, in my humble opinion, Microsoft Office offers way too many options that we’ll never use.

That’s just my opinion. What do you think? I’m keen to hear from you.

Rob Plowman
iThings Bendigo

6 Useful Apps that are already on Apple Watch

In part two of my mini review of the Apple Watch, I’ll mostly focus on the inbuilt, standard applications of the device.

Some I find really useful and others, well, I’d prefer that they could be left out.


My List of Useful Apps

  • As I mentioned earlier, I personally like the variety and customisation of the various watch faces the watch offers. You not only get to choose which watch face you like, but you can choose small graphics like remaining battery life, your next appointment details and what the weather forecast is for your location.
  • The built in Fitness application is really good and it’ll encourage you to keep going when you’re close to reaching them. I’m about to reach my big 6 ohhhh birthday and I bike ride about an hour a day. The Fitness app is great to try and stretch myself in order to get to a good fitness level and the fitness app is great to help me in this respect.
  • The Apple TV remote control app is quite useful, especially now that I’m using Netflix through the Apple TV. It so much better than using the Apple TV’s silver-coloured remote.
  • The Calendar app is great for looking up what’s happening in the rest of my week and also for setting new appointments.
  • The Camera app, although I haven’t used it a lot, could be really useful. Not that the Apple Watch has a camera built in but think of it as a remote control for your iPhone’s camera it’s a useful thing to have.
  • The Music app. Now here’s an interesting use. There are two choices here. You can use it as a remote control for your connection to your iPhone’s stored music, or you can download about 2Gb of music directly to your Apple Watch and listen to it through some Bluetooth-connected headphones. This equates to about 200 decent quality songs. Personally, I’d rather leave the stored music on my iPhone and use the Apple Watch as a remote control to it.
  • Using Siri is a very positive experience on the Apple Watch. Siri keeps getting better and better.


Let me be really blunt here. The Apple Watch is really limited in it’s capability unless it’s connected to a close by iPhone in order to be really useful, because the Watch links to the iPhone for much of it’s data. Any internet or GPS data has to be sourced from an iPhone 5, iPhone 5S, iPhone 6 or 6 Plus.


My list of Non-Useful Apps

  • Personally, I have no use for the Stocks application on the Apple Watch or the iPhone. I wish I could remove them from the choices each device gives me, but it’s not possible.
  • To me, the Photos application on the Apple Watch is totally useless. Who wants to see a 42mm photo of anything I want to display? On the iPhone or iPad this makes sense but on the Apple Watch, why bother?
  • Passbook which is one of the standard Apps but doesn’t have much practical use in Australia.
  • And the really big one is Apple Pay, which has no use in Australia until maybe next year. Some Australian banks have promised to introduce it next year, but why would I need it?. It’s an alternative to other systems we don’t need, in  my humble opinion.


Readability of Apple Watch Screen

I thought it might be helpful to compare the Apple Watch Screen in different light, so you can see how it performs. I’ve attracted photos off the screen of  my Apple Watch both inside my house and outside on a fully cloudy day here in Bendigo.


Apple Watch Indoors: iThings Bendigo

Apple Watch Indoors: iThings Bendigo

Apple Watch Outdoors: iThings Bendigo

Apple Watch Outdoors


Rob from iThings.

Opening an Apple Watch: Part 1

Opening an Apple Watch

Choosing an Apple Watch version and ordering within a couple of minutes of pre-orders was a “leap of faith”. As I live in Bendigo, the closest Apple-owned Store was about two hours away.

I was excited to receive the Apple Watch and open the packaging. Apple excels on details, but even by their standards, the packaging was superb.

I purchased the lowest-priced “Sport” model with a black watchband and a 42mm screen. I’m glad I did.

If you happen to have a smaller wrist, there is also a smaller model with a 38mm screen. It’s slightly cheaper.

Although it’s important to get the right relative size for your wrist, Apple has a way of sizing the band so that regardless of your wrist size, it’ll fit you. Other colours are available too.

If gold is your thing, you can choose to buy the Apple Watch Edition for $US17,000. A collectors item indeed!


The Reason For Apple Watch

The Apple Watch enters a time period when people tend to wear watches less frequently. Especially for younger generations who see a smartphone as normal.

This means pulling the iPhone out of your pocket, or handbag, which can be annoying to reach for it.

Apple Watch puts this information back on your wrist, so that you can quickly check time and notifications, whilst leaving your iPhone safely where it lies.

Apple doesn’t simply hope to offer another iThing and strap it to your wrist. It aims to extend it’s capabilities and create an easier way of accessing information.


The Sea of Notifications

Upon linking my Apple Watch and iPhone, the setup assumes you want to have all notifications from all applications on your iPhone to appear on your Apple Watch. This quickly gets annoying.

Imagine your personal time or time with others being frequently interrupted with notifications. This is too much.

So if you get an Apple Watch, be very selective about what applications are important enough to interrupt your communications with others and deselect the rest.

I’ve deselected almost all the applications on my iPhone except for Text Messages, iMessages and emails.


Wearing an Apple Watch

One gripe I should add here is a very basic one and that it’s not as easy as it should be to put on your wrist.

I pick up the Watch, rest it face-down on a soft surface and then go through the process of linking the two parts together and tucking in the band.

It’s only after you get one that you’ll get what I’m referring to but the process is a bit awkward.


Apple Watch as a Time Device

Firstly, as a time-device, it’s fantastic. You have several choices as to the style of watch face you want to look at. In addition, you can also display things like battery life, your next calendar appointment, and your local weather conditions are. Very useful. And there are more options to display instead if you prefer.


Check out Part 2

I’m now evaluating each of the standard applications that are included with the Apple Watch and that’ll form part two of my personal impressions.



Apple Watch: A ‘must-have’ or a ‘toy’?

It looks like I was one of the first few hundred folks that ordered an Apple Watch, Sports Edition, as soon as the Apple Australia web site opened up for orders.

My order is due to arrive between April 24th and May 8th.

I’ll be posting my thoughts here shortly after I receive it and get a chance to put it through its paces.

My key criteria will be what most folks will likely be thinking:

Is Apple Watch a “must have” or just a “nice to have” or just a toy?

One of the challenges here will be evaluating Apple Watch as it works at the time of release (including Apps from other software developers) compared with what the Watch may be capable of doing when the software developers really get their thoughts together and truly add value to make it the product it could be.

Like a huge proportion of you, I’ll be keen to see what value and in what areas it can add to my daily life, versus it’s marketing hype value. I’m certainly not into buying an Apple Watch for the fashion or geek value.

Before even seeing it, I have formed some opinions, as I’m sure you have, but I’ll be sure to post them once I’ve had a chance to see how it fits into my lifestyle.