Archive for the ‘Gadgets’ Category

Is it a new tablet, hand-held or an iPad rival?

23/04/2010 Leave a comment

Looking Glass

Looking Glass

Details are emerging of the new Dell “Looking Glass”.  It is early days, but already it is being touted as an iPad rival.  So what makes it so special?

The specification is as follows:

  • 7inch display – resolution of just 800×480
  • NVidia T20 (or Tegra 2) processor
  • 4GB of RAM
  • an SD card slot for additional storage
  • 1.3 megapixel front facing camera for video calling
  • optional digital TV tuner module so you can watch live TV
  • compatible with Mp3, WMA, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, AMR, Midi and WAV audio formats
  • supports H.263/H.264, 3GP, MPEG4, WMV and FLV (Flash) video formats
  • USB 2.0
  • a G-sensor
  • A-GPS
  • e-compass
  • a 2100 mAh battery
  • supports multitasking

An initial scan of the features shows it has some of the functions that the iPad lacks, but does it have the style and ‘desirability’ that Apple manage to breath in to their products?

As it is St. George’s Day (patron saint of England), perhaps I will be forgiven a bit of jingoism and say that the head designer for all Apple products Jonathan Ive, is a Brit.

Categories: Computing, Gadgets

NOT the iPhone 4G

20/04/2010 Leave a comment

Acer 521

Acer 521

After all the fuss about today’s Gizmodo story about the yet-to-be-released iPhone 4G ‘found’ in a bar, and the accompanying conspiracy theories, here is a story about a real product.

The Acer 521, at first glance, appears to be yet another Netbook.  What makes it different is the fact that it appears that it will not use the ubiquitous Atom processor, but will use the AMD Nile V105 processor.  This processor is a single-core processor, operating at 1.2HGz.  It has a total power draw of 9 watts, which makes it efficient for an AMD chip and supports DDR3 memory.  Tests will show it performs compared to the Atom.  It will also have ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4225, the letters ‘HD’ indicating the HD playback capability.  It remains unclear whether it will support 720p or 1080p HD video.

This Netbook the netbook will have optional Bluetooth 3 support and a compact charger with interchangeable plugs called MiniGo. The battery is supposed to be good for up to 7 hours.  It will have 1GB RAM, 160GB or 250GB hard disk drive and runs Windows 7 Starter Edition.  The 521 will be launched in June.

Categories: Computing, Gadgets

Jolicloud – a good OS (operating system) for netbooks

29/03/2010 Leave a comment



I have something of a reputation of being an early adopter.  This is not true, having only just bought my first Blu-ray player, I did not buy the first generation of the iPhone and I have not rushed out to buy a Nexus phone or order an iPad.  Having said that, one device which caught my early attention was the Asus EEE PC.  I quickly bought one and indeed persuaded my boss that we should buy one for any of our 60 staff who wanted one.

I specified the Linux version, and most staff were very pleased with what was for many their first use of Linux (Xandros Linux).  Several of us wiped it to install Ubuntu, and since then I have tried many other distributions such as Open Suse, Linux Mint, Mandriva – amongst others.  At last I have found a version which has been designed for the Netbook PC from the outset.  It is called Jolicloud, and is now in final pre-release version .  The interface is very similar to that of Ubuntu NBR, but I have found it to be much quicker, especially running the Chrome browser.  I am also pleased with the screen resolution which brings my Asus 901 to life (by the way, this is probably my favourite gadget and one I use every day).

There is a particular focus on cloud computing and social networking.  The inteface for installing additional applications is very easy to use. A constant bar at the top of the screen shows a great deal of useful information.  The opening screen has a panel on the left showing groups or categories of applications, and the right-hand panel shows all the locations that the computer is connected to.  All of this customisable, at least to a certain extent.

Tariq Krim and his team in Paris have done an impressive job on this OS.  If you have a Netbook, but are running Windows, then go to the Jolicloud web site and download a version to run off a memory stick.  This will allow you to boot from it, run Jolicloud and all its applications without touching your installed copy of Windows.   Linux has come of age, allowing the user to install, automatically pick up the drivers required and to use without any recourse to either a command line interface or a compiler.  I can thoroughly recommend Jolicloud. (Oh, did I mention in boots in 15 seconds?)

Categories: Computing, Gadgets

A free HUD (head up display) for your car

28/03/2010 Leave a comment



If you would like a fee HUD, there is only one requirement, apart from owning a car.  iHUDlite (not to be confused with a different app called iHUD) is a app for the iPhone.  As with many apps, it comes both as a free version and a pay for version.  It works very simply.  It uses the GPS capability to of the iPhone to determine your altitude, direction and speed.  The clever part comes in the way in which the display can be configured.

One of the options is to choose to display the speed only (in one of three different colours) and then to reverse the display, as a mirror image.  The iPhone is placed on the dashboard and the image is reflected off the windscreen.

Having tried the software, I found it works well at night, but the image is far too weak to be clearly seen in daylight.  Also, the glass in my windscreen is double-glazed, giving me two images.  The other problem is stopping your iPhone sliding around on your dashboard.  I am off to the Pound Shop tomorrow to get one of those non-slip mats you can put on your dashboard.  The app also has a database of the speed cameras in the UK, but I have yet to try this feature out.

Categories: Gadgets, Transport

Swiss chips

26/03/2010 Leave a comment

Swiss Army Knife

Swiss Army Knife

For many years the Swiss Army Knife has been the pocket tool which has everything – including the tool for getting stones out of horses hooves.  For some while it has come with a memory stick, but it has now been re-launched with a new version of the memory stick.

Victorinox, who make the Swiss Army Knife, say that their memory stick can not be hacked.  Indeed, they go on to claim that if the stick detects an attempt at unauthorised access it will “self destruct”.  They must be confident of their claims as they are putting their money ( a “six figure” sum) where their mouth is.  Hackers have been invited to visit their London shop and to put the memory stick to the test.  The stick employs sophisticated encryption techniques to encode its contents.  In addition it uses a fingerprint scanner to gain access to the contents.  However, rather creepily it is claimed that it uses an oxygen and heat detector in order to determine if the finger is attached to a live person.

The cheapest version of the new pocket knife, the 8GB version costs £100. The most expensive is the 32GB version and costs £315. Unfortunately, it is compatible with Windows PCs only.

Categories: Gadgets, Security

Technology convergence – the statistics

24/03/2010 Leave a comment

I came across an interesting video on the “The Future of Learning” web site.  The sources are all referenced, and look reputable.  Although the statistics are largely USA centric, they make interesting reading nonetheless.

  • In excess of 1 000 000 000 books are published each year, a Google book search scanner can digitize 1 000 pages an hour
  • Americans have access to 1 000 000 000 000 web pages, 65 000 iPhone apps, 10 500 radio stations, 5 500 magazines, 200+ cable TV channels (near identical to the UK, apart from the radio channels, if you exclude web radio channels)
  • Newspaper circulation in the USA is down by 7 million in the last 25 years, but in the last 5 years unique readers of online newspapers are up by 30 million
  • In the last 2 months more video was uploaded to YouTube than if all the major US broadcasters had been broadcasting 24hrs a day, 365 days a week, since 1948
  • The same broadcasters get 10 million visitors a month to their websites.  In that period FaceBook, YouTube and MySpace receive 250 million (none of these sites existed 6 years ago).
  • 95% of all the music downloaded last year was not paid for.
  • Wikipedia launched in 2001, has 13 million articles, in 200 languages and worldwide employs just 12 full-time staff (no, that was not a typo).
  • Cisco’s Nexus 7000 data switch could move all of Wikipedia in just 0.001 of a second
  • The average American teenager sends 2 272 text messages a month, one of  my daughters regularly sends 4 000 a month
  • Nokia is manufacturing 13 mobile phones every second
  • 93% of Americans own a mobile phone.
  • 1/3 of mobile phone users feel it is unsafe to use them to make purchases.  So much for the ‘digital wallet’.
  • In 2007 Dell claim to have earned $3 million from Twitter posts
  • In February 2008 John McCain attended fund raising events for his presidential campaign and raised $11 million.  In the same period Barack Obama attended no such events.  Instead his campaign team used social networks to raise $55 million in 29 days.
  • 90% of the 200 billion emails sent each year are spam
  • By 2020 the mobile device will be the primary device for accessing the Web
  • The computer embedded in your mobile phone is a million times cheaper, a thousand times more powerful and a hundred thousand times smaller than the single mainframe owned by MIT in 1965
  • The computer that once filled a building now fits in your pocket, and in 25 years from now will be small enough to fit in a blood cell.

The link to the original video is in the bottom right of this page.

How to drop your mobile phone in water and keep smiling

15/03/2010 5 comments

Wet Mobile Phone

Wet Mobile Phone

It is possible to drop your phone in water, and with a little bit of effort on your part to still have a working phone after the event.  As with many of these things, the advice is obvious when you see it written down, but a little less obvious in those first few moments of blind panic.

The most important thing is remove the battery, don’t pause to think about it – just do it !  The battery can be put to one side and dried off with a cloth.  It is not a good idea to apply a source of heat to ‘encourage’ the drying process.  At the same time remove the Sim card, the contents may be as valuable as the phone itself.  If the phone was dropped in sea water, remove the battery and Sim card and rinse the phone in distilled water.  Tap water will have to do if distilled water is not available, but it is important to remove the salt crystals.

Gently shake your phone to remove excess water.  Dry it off as much as possible with a towel.  If you have to use a paper towel, be careful not to clog up crevices with wet paper.  Remove as many covers and plugs as possible to allow drying.  Continue the drying process with a vacuum cleaner and NOT a hair dryer.  You want to pull water out of the phone, not push it deeper in to every crevice.

NEVER attempt to dry your phone in a microwave oven.  You had realised that anyway, hadn’t you?

If you have access to any desiccant material, small beads which absorb humidity, you should place your phone in a sealed jar of the material.  If not use rice.  Do you need to be told it should be uncooked rice?  The phone should be left in the sealed jar for at least 24 hrs.

When you take the phone out of the jar make sure it is completely dry.  If not, put the phone back in the jar again.  If the phone appears to be dry re-assemble it.  Turn it on to see if it works.  If not, try taking the battery out and turn the phone on connected to the charger instead.  If you still have no joy, and you are confident and have the right tools (probably Torx screwdrivers size 4, 5 and 6), take the phone apart and dry out every crevice.  Phones are designed to be water resistant so can be used outside in light showers of rain.  The very seals designed to keep water out, will keep the water in if it has got passed the seals.  If you know a physics teacher, placing your phone in a vacuum jar for about 30mins will help it dry out thoroughly.

From the time you drop your phone in water to the time you start taking the remedial action listed above is about ten seconds.  However, don’t panic and with a bit of luck you may be able to rescue the situation.  If not, you always have your household insurance policy.

Categories: Gadgets, Mobile Phones