Ask Adrian: Our technology editor tackles your trickiest tech problems
Question: I was interested in your article on health and fitness trackers [ed's note: see 'Ask Adrian', April 27 on independent.ie]. I have been fitted with a pacemaker and wonder if a health tracker gadget would interfere with it. Breege Staunton (via email)
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Most advice out there on this topic suggests that there isn't a problem using both. I've certainly never heard of an issue linking the two.
For its part, Fitbit is fairly adamant about it.
"Using a Fitbit tracker will not interfere in any way with your pacemaker," the company says. "Fitbit has tested their products and they are very safe to use." The company nonetheless recommends "to consult with your cardiologist so he or she can also advise you in this matter".
In general, most modern mobile tech devices are considered to be a low risk for interfering with a pacemaker. This includes everything from phones and tablets to Bluetooth gadgets, including smartwatches.
The American Heart Association does say that one might keep some types of headphones at least six inches away from your chest (for example, not letting them dangle down around that region of your upper body) because of a small risk that magnets in side might cause some slight interference. But again, this is a very low probability.
And the US Food and Drug Administration, which is tasked with safety certification across a whole range of things, has a section on its website discussing potential interference with pacemakers.
Once again, it generally says that the gadgets we're currently wearing are quite benign in this regard. It does accord some cautionary procedures with regard to mobile phones, though.
"Phones would not seem to pose a significant health problem for the vast majority of pacemaker wearers," it says.
"Still, people with pacemakers may want to take some simple precautions to be sure that their cell phones don't cause a problem. Hold the phone to the ear opposite the side of the body where the pacemaker is implanted to add some extra distance between the pacemaker and the phone. Avoid placing a turned-on phone next to the pacemaker implant (for example, don't carry the phone in a shirt or jacket pocket directly over the pacemaker)."
I have a five-year-old laptop with Windows 7 which is said to cease after January 2020.
If this is so, my laptop will be useless, I am told. I do not use my laptop a lot and think
I might buy an iPhone or tablet instead. I would like to have your advice on this.
Evelyn Kirwan (via email)
Your laptop won't be useless, it will still work. But it will be riskier to use. What is happening after January 2020 is that Microsoft will cease giving you security updates for Windows 7. Over time, this makes your laptop more and more vulnerable to viruses and malware, especially scary things like ransomware. So in general, it's a good idea to use Windows 10, one way or another. However, it costs €145 to download (from Microsoft.ie). I would wonder whether it's worth it in the case of a five-year-old laptop.
In general, laptops have a useful life of about five to six years (at most). You may be investing in a machine that will start to exhibit other issues, such as a fading battery, end-of-life screen or slowing engine. On the other hand, if your laptop was a high-end model, it may still be perfectly capable for another two years, in which case it could be good value to pay the €145 and postpone investing in another model.
If you are considering a replacement machine, you ask about a smartphone or a tablet.
If you only use your laptop occasionally, it might be a wise choice to choose a mobile device instead. In general, these don't lose their speed and power as quickly as laptops (the average lifespan of an iPad is at least five years). They're also light and generally easier to use than laptops.
If you're thinking of one mainly for home use or the occasional trip on a train or plane, I'd go for Apple's 10.5-inch iPad Air (€459). It's the newest model and a great compromise between high-end power and economy. You'll want a keyboard with that, too. Apple's Smart Keyboard (€179) is a decent choice, but it's at the upper end of the price bracket. You'll get a good one from Logitech or Zagg for around €100 if you want to save a bit of money.
If this seems a little pricey, a cheaper option is Apple's basic iPad (€369). It comes with less storage memory, less power and a slightly smaller screen.
However if you're not a tight budget, I don't think this entry-level machine is worth the saving of €90, especially if you're going to rely on it for the next five years.
Recommendation: Apple iPad (€459 from CompuB or Harvey Norman; Apple Smart Keyboard €179 from the same outlets)
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Anker Soundcore Motion +
€120 from Amazon.co.uk
With summer finally here, you may want a portable outdoor speaker. Anker's latest model, the Soundcore Motion+, has a few things to recommend it. Other than USB-C connectivity, it's waterproof. 30-watt output also means very decent audio quality at this price point.
€179 from Halfords
A dashcam can be the difference between proving someone crashed into you and you taking the blame. Nextbase's new 522 model is as close to a top-of-line model as you can get. As well as HD-plus recording and a larger sensor for night recording, the 3-inch screen gadget now lets you operate voice commands using Amazon Alexa.