Adonit Pixel - it's no pencil (but close)

Adonit have been making styluses for iPads for a while. The latest incarnation is the Pixel (which is slightly longer and thinner than the previous Script so it feels more like a pen). It still uses a 1.9mm pressure sensitive point at the end, but it's been improved so it feel more like a pen on paper.

It has rechargeable battery which is charged via a small USB adapter which plugs into a USB port and then the Pixel can "sit" on that.

It can work with any iPad or iPhone as a dumb stylus, but the magic happens when you power it up and then use it with applications that know about stylus' (there's usually an option is the settings area of the application to enable it).

As it uses Bluetooth it only works with iPhone 5, 5c, 5s, SE, 6, 6 Plus, 6s, 6s Plus, iPad Mini, iPad Mini 2, iPad Mini 3, iPad Mini 4, iPad 4, iPad Air, iPad Air 2 and iPad Pro 12.9 (don't quite know why it won't work with the smaller iPad Pro). Packages that support it are Photshop Sketch, Concepts, Procreate, Illustrator Draw, Autodesk Sketchbook, Astropad, Picture Photo Studio, Goodnotes, Penultimate, Notes Plus, Noteledge Cloud, Noteshelf, Myscrypt Smart Note plus many more (and more being added all the time as Adonis have an open SDK that people can use to integrate the Adonit features into their apps).

In terms of features, the Pixel's nib is pressure sensitive so things like line widths or increased/decreased shading will correspond to the pressure being applied, there are also two short-cut buttons that can be defined within the application (say to change brushes or undo/redo). Supports apps also support palm rejection (you tell it your pen holding style) and that can make a big difference as putting your palm on the screen will normally confuse the app and may apply paint (or whatever's being drawn) where your palm is. This can allow a much more comfortable drawing position without worrying about where your palm is resting.

The only gripe is that if you have a screen protector on your Apple device, it can make it feel a bit squidgy (the screen protector in use has a soft texture, a glass screen protector would fair better).

If you're into drawing or note taking on an Apple device, this could be a useful addition for you.

Amazon stock the Pixel for £79 but it can be had online for £59 if you look (it's also cheaper than the Apple Pencil which is only supported on iPad Pros).


There's a new business bank in town and it'll wash the competition (it's called Tide)

There's a new business mobile first bank which will be launching soon. It's called Tide and it looks pretty good.

Though there are a slew of new banks coming on-line, Tide is aiming for the business market with no fees (they make their money on various services that a banking customer might use and they're not unreasonable).

The first thing to say is it very easy to sign-up. Just present a valid ID to the app and take a photo of it, then clever magic works out who you are (which you confirm) and then it asks what company you're going to use (it looks up your details in Companies House).

You then get an account (a real account number and sort code).

Once set-up you can do all sorts of things through the app, like invoice customers, pay invoices from suppliers etc. When invoicing it can track incoming payments and send out reminders if the customer doesn't pay. If you need to take a credit card payment, it can do that too, just scan the customer card, it will then ask the customers for the CCV (the number on the back of the card) and that's it (there's a fee for handling the payment, that's where Tide take a small percentage), but no card readers to worry about etc.

The service is currently in alpha to a few select customers (the alpha client looks very nice, though the version tested was a sandbox'ed version so not doing live transactions, the real alpha client does the same thing in a live environment) and it will hopefully launch in beta very soon.

Though it's mobile first, all services are also available on-line (web access) and there's a (developing) API on to everything, so if you want to build your own client and offer new services, you'll be able to do so.

If you want to sign-up for access, use this link Tide Preview.


Blink (and the thieves are gone)

There's a new home security security system, it was originally a Kickstarter project and was delayed a long time. But now it's here and it's called Blink.

There's a sync module and then camera units (the system can cope with 10 units in total i.e. 9 cameras and 1 sync unit). Currently it all works over WiFi, but as there's an Ethernet port on the sync unit, it's expected that it will be enabled with some future version of the firmware.

Set-up is relatively simple, install the iOS (or Android) app, create an account and then it will look for the sync unit (it initially uses its own WiFi), connect to it and select the WiFi network you want it to work with.

It then asks to set-up the cameras, which is done by adding the number printed inside them (you have to open them to put the batteries in anyway), they then get added (and you can name them) and they also connect to the WiFi network.

The camera install is relatively straight forward too, open the back, put in the batteries, push out the bit of plastic in the hole where the mount goes, put it all back together (snaps), put the mount on, then affix the two sided pad and stick it on a wall (or wherever suits).

Though they're battery powered, they should operate for a year under normal operating conditions. The cameras have a motion detection on them (infrared red) and also an LED flash (for night time usage) which is VERY bright. If a burglar were to break in, they'd probably be more put off by being blinded rather than a camera being in the room. The cameras can take a photo or video (720p with audio) and the system can be alarmed and when triggered, your phone will notify you and get a video or photo.

People have used the cameras outside, but they're not waterproof so if that's required, mount them somewhere where they'll be protected from direct rain (like under the eaves or similar).

A single sync module and camera costs $99 (available from Amazon.com or directly from Blink), a 2 camera kit is $159, 3 camera kit $219 and 5 camera kit $399. Additional cameras are $70. Unfortunately they don't seem to be directly available in the UK yet (though Blink will ship to the UK).


Plazmatic X dual beam lighter

There are lighters and then there are lighters, the Plazmatic X dual beam lighter definitely falls into the second category.

The lighter is 7.3cm x 3.6cm x 1.25cm which makes it about twice as high as it is wide (which feels slightly wrong, being used to a Zippo to size), this is probably needed to fit a decent battery and the high voltage electronics.

Amazingly the lighter doesn't use any fuel (no gas or petrol to worry about) as it uses plain old electricity to produce a dual plasma beam. Say lighting a cigarette, you hold it near the beam and suck and the beam bends and quickly ignites the cigarette. Very satisfying experience. It's also mean to be able to light all sorts of other smokables (no judgement here).

The lighter can also be used in all sorts of weather conditions including wind as the plasma beam will still be generated (as long as there's a charge of course).

A full charge will give 50-100 lights (though it's so pretty that it's likely people will just click on the button to see the effect. It charges via a micro USB port (USB cable supplied) and charges to full in about 2 hours.

The lighter comes in various finishes (though they seem to be skins attached to the same base model rather than say anodising the body itself).

The lighter is available directly from the Elementium website for $59.95 (there's free shipping at the moment to the US). This may seem a lot for a lighter, though never having to buy fuel should offset it.

Rate: 9/10 (only because of the case).


Garmin Dashcam 35

The Garmin Dashcam 35 is a little camera that can be mounted on your card dashboard and then as soon as power is applied it will start recording. It's size is 9.43 cm x 4.85 cm x 3.89 cm and it has a 3" TFT LCD display and weighs about 113g.

The supplied mount need to be pushed into the socket on the front of the camera (it takes a fair bit of effort to snap it in) and the mount then attaches to the windscreen with a sticky pad. Unfortunately that means the mount is pretty well permanently attached to the the windscreen as it's pretty strong glue, it's a shame there aren't other types of mount that say attach to a heating grill or some other part of the dashboard that can easily be removed. A bodged mount can work by attaching some sticky tape to the mount and the bottom of the camera and it will just about sit on the dashboard with an unobstructed view ahead.

The system records HD video (1080p or 720p) and will stamp the video with GPS coordinates and the system records in a continuous loop i.e. if it runs out of space it will overwrite older video. The system should come with a 4GB microSD card (though the unit supplied didn't have one) which is enough for about an hour of video. It supports up to 64GB cards.

It also has a microphone which records what's happening in the car!!! There's also an accelerometer which will detect a collision (and start recording if it isn't and log GPS coordinates) which is detected as an "event". However when it's recording an event can be pushing the mount into it or it falling off the dashboard on to the car floor.

There's no software in the box, though Garmin's Dash Cam Player is available for download (for Mac and Windows) through their site. This will show the video and the GPS route next to it (when run it will look for an attached camera or videos on the SD card and import them on to the PC/Mac). The actual video files are MP4 so can be viewed in pretty much any video player. The player shows the route taken, speed and time (there is a pointer on the route that moves as you play the video).

A quite nice feature is that it's possible to select Bing (default)/ Baidu or OpenStreetMaps for the map display. It's also possible to convert any unsaved videos to saved (on the PC/Mac), export GPS positions to a GPX file and take a screen shot.

It's also possible to by a Cyclops subscription from the Garmin store (for various countries including UK/Europe) which will alert the user to speed cameras etc.

Apart from the niggling permanent windscreen mount, it's a nice little unit. It retails for £159 from Garmin, but can be had on-line for at least £20 cheaper.


Misfit Ray, it might actually be the first wearable that actually looks like jewellery

A while back, Misfit released the Ray. Basically a tube with a single LED and straps coming out either side (initially only silicon, which are a bit ugly, but now leather straps are available, which look much nicer - though obviously not made for sports/water). The tube is made from aluminium and comes in Carbon Black or Rose Gold.

Apart from the lack of LED's, the Ray has pretty much the same functionality as the Shine2 and measures steps, activities and sport and works with Misfit Link to trigger actions (and can link to IFTT to trigger pretty much anything).

Progress is tracked by the LED flashing different colours (under 25%, 25%+. 50%+, 75%+ and 100%+ i.e. goal met) and it flashes blue when syncing with the Misfit app over Bluetooth (it supports Bluetooth version 4.1). It will;l also indicate incoming calls, incoming texts and wake-up alarm.

The Shine2 uses a single CR2032 battery while the Ray now uses 3 x 393 button cells (which should also give 6 months usage).

The Ray is also 50m water resistant so can be used for swimming.

Misfit are promising a range of new straps and other accessories so it can be worn, say, as a pendant.

The sport band version retails for £72.87 and the leather for £87.45, not the cheapest units out there, but probably (at least for now) the prettiest.


Speed-up your headless Mac Mini

The Mac Mini is Apple's smallest Mac and though it can be used as a workstation, it's often used as a server for offices/workgroups and even in datacentres. Apple even supplies software to make it function as a server (unsurprisingly called OS X Server - currently v5.0.15 is the release version and the beta variety v5.1 beta 2).

The server software supports various functions including a mail server and even remote Xcode compilations. However sometimes it's useful to remotely access the Mac Mini using Apple's remote desktop so getting a virtual screen on to the unit itself. Unfortunately if it's in headless mode, the on-board GPU is not enabled and all graphics is handled by the main CPU, which can make the system seems extremely slow as the CPU is spending it's time rendering the screen, animations and doing screen refreshes etc.

Now there is a solution to this and Newertechnology have produced an HDMI Headless Video Accelerator (t's about the same size as a small Bluetooth or WiFi adapter) that is plugged into the HDMI port and then the Mac Mini then thinks a screen is attached and thus the GPU is enabled meaning all screen handling is done by the GPU rather than the host CPU and everything runs smoothly again.

The adapter supports a maximum resolution of 1080p (and up to 3840 x 2160 on a late 2014 model). Other models supported are Mid 2010 through to the latest. OS X 10.6.8 is the earliest version of the operating supported (no drivers are required).

It can be found on-line for around £21.99. A really useful little edition if using a Mac Mini in headless mode and accessing it remotely (it's also true for using it for remote animation and anything that uses the GPU).