The days of arguing over a copy of the double-issue Radio Times about what to watch on Christmas night are long behind us. With a virtual branch of Blockbuster in your front room, courtesy of all the streaming services out there, the choice is literally limitless. If there is an argument now, it is more likely over which one to subscribe to.
If ever there was a time to take advantage of the free trials they all offer, this is it. So long as you remember to cancel before the month is out, you can take your pick from Amazon Prime, Netflix and Now TV, all holiday long.
If you have a smart TV, you should be able to receive all of these – as well as the iPlayer, ITV and Channel 4’s on-demand streams – without additional hardware. Once you’ve signed up on a PC or phone, just follow the on-screen prompts to connect your accounts.
It’s probably the easiest bit of tinkering you will do this Christmas, especially if you also get embroiled in setting up someone’s new laptop, phone or tablet – the most annoying aspect of which is removing all the pre-installed software you don’t need in order to free up space for the stuff you do.
Almost every manufacturer is guilty of padding their products with “bloatware” whose purpose generally is to serve as an advert for a program they want to sell you. Several phone manufacturers customise the operating system with a layer of unnecessary software of their own, and not all of it can be easily removed. Some of it serves little purpose other than to collect your data.
Smart toys, of the type that will fill many a stocking on Tuesday, are also a honeytrap for data collection, and it is a good idea, before the item disappears to a child’s bedroom, to turn off cameras and location settings that are not strictly necessary for everyday use. The Information Commissioner’s Office is among those warning of the safety risks involved in leaving these settings at their defaults, especially where wearable devices are concerned.
With luck, information you don’t want to share will be outweighed this Christmas by material you do, and photographs will be chief among these. You can create the modern-day equivalent of a slideshow by beaming your snaps from any phone to a smart TV from Google Photos, or a similar app. For private viewing, you can simply share them with as many people as you like.
Videos, too, can be beamed to a nearby TV, and while there are many ways to do so, few are more convenient than using YouTube, with which every smart set, stick or box is compatible. You don’t need to make your content publicly viewable if you don’t want; there are options to restrict access to just yourself or those to whom you have given a unique address.
If you shoot videos on your phone, you can also use YouTube to edit them, and you can do so on the phone itself or any PC. The facilities are rudimentary but fine for removing the unwanted parts and adding a few jingle bells to those that are left.
Last but hardly least, there is the question of Christmas itself, and it will be no surprise that you can now entrust the timings of cooking the turkey, sprouts and potatoes to an app. Perfect Christmas Dinner, for iPhones, is one of many that will serve up recipes and tell you when to put each course in the oven. We’ve come a long way since the only things you had to plan your dinner around were the Queen’s Speech and the Morecambe and Wise Show.