17/07/2014

If you're a wondering nomad, you might like a NOMAD clip or card

NOMAD make USB cables, but cables with a difference, they're in the shape of a credit card or key fob. They also come in two varieties of each, micro-USB or Apple's Lightning connector.

Do you really need another USB adapter? Well the NOMAD devices (are they devices?) are really easy to carry around with you all the time, so you never have to be without a USB adapter.

The Card is just that, a credit card sized adapter with two bits that push out, one being the normal USB bit that plugs into a laptop or charger and the other bit is a micro-USB plug or Lightning plug. It's a bit thicker than a normal credit card, but not much and it will fit in a wallet credit card slot, Oysters holder, or jacket without much fuss.

The Clip is about the same length as a key and has a "loop" at the micro-USB/Lightning end. It does look a bit like a key when viewed at the right angle. This easily fits on a key ring and won't look out of place.

Both products are pretty durable, though if either was REALLY bent a lot, the plastic could become stressed, though it would require a LOT of effort.

Though they can both be ordered off the NOMAD site, they're now available on Amazon.

The Apple Lightning version of the Clipand Card and the the micro-USB versions Card and Clip, each cost £16.

That sounds quite a lot for what's basically a USB cable, but it's not much for being able to carry something around all the time, so being able to charge your phone or tablet wherever you are (ok you might not have a charger, but it's often easy to find a USB port somewhere, the issue being never having the right cable with you). The NOMAD solutions just fit the bill - well your wallet or key holder.

24/05/2014

HTC One (M8)

The HTC One (M8) comes in a box resembling an Apple Mac Mini and sliding off the top reveals the phone in all its glory. It's a well made phone and feels very solid in construction with an aluminium body and big screen (the phone is bigger than an iPhone), coming in at 160g the weight matches the solidness of the chassis. It's also 9.3mm thick which feels right (and not clunky).

The screen is very bright (Gorilla Glass form Corning) and it uses Super LCD technology supporting 1080 x 1920 (HD) pixels with a wide viewing angle it's 5 inches from corner to diagonal corner, it's possible to watch a movie on this and really appreciate the vibrant colours.

The M8 also supports the latest generation of Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU, the 801 with 4 cores (ARM) - though it's a 32bit CPU (Apple's new CPU is 64bit), though there's a lot of power and the phone doesn't feel underpowered in the slightest. The CPU also has on-board graphics, a DSP and support for the latest GPS technologies.

The battery is also 2600mAH which allows the phone to operate for a sensible amount of time before recharging (obviously dependant on application use, but it can last a full day on a full charge).

There's front and rear cameras and front facing HTC Boom speakers which don't sound too tinny.

The phone comes with Google's latest Android Operating System Kit Kat and some HTC application pre-bundled. HTC Blinkfeed is an app that manages all your social feeds (and email) in a single view, which is actually quite nice to use. there's also Sense TV which is a TV remote on steroids and works with both terrestrial TV channels and services like Sky and Virgin Media. There's also all the standard Google apps like Maps, Google Now and voice actions (like Apple's SIRI).

There's 8GB of internal memory which is enough to run quite a few apps, but there's also a MicroSD slot which can take a 128GB card which should support most people's app desires.

There's also NFC, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 & 5 GHz) and DLNA allowing wireless streaming to another DLNA device such as a TV.

The cameras should also be mentioned as HTC has done some magic with the rear camera (well it's actually two), the primary camera is an HTC UltraPixel™ camera, BSI sensor, pixel size 2.0 um, sensor size 1/3”, f/2.0, 28mm lens, HTC ImageChip 2. 1080p Full HD video recording with HDR video and the secondary camera is used to capture depth information. This allows a picture to be taken and the depth of field changed (so the foreground or background can be brought into focus).

The front camera is more 'normal' with a 5MP, BSI sensor, wide angle lens with HDR capability, 1080p Full HD video recording. Gallery with UFocus™, Dimension Plus™, Seasons, Foregrounder, Image match.

The phone is really best of breed and it's one of the snappiest phones around, there's no lag and the screen really is fantastic.

O2 kindly lent the phone and it's on their O2 Refresh service which costs from £38 to £48 per month (with a zero upfront cost for the phone) or £13 to £28 per month paying the full £609.99 for the phone.

25/04/2014

The future of jewellery is 3D printing

This week Wonderluk, a new e-commerce site went live (well into beta) that sells 3D printed jewellery and accessories for the more avant-garde woman.

Though there's not a huge amount on the site on the moment (there are 17 items of jewellery and 3 iPhone cases), this is just the beginning. Currently all the designs come from Wonderluk themselves, though it could easily add 3rd party items and become a (the?) destination site for 3D fashion items.

3D printing has the power to revolutionise jewellery and accessories as designs can be conjured up mathematically that are almost impossible to imagine mentally and impossible to construct using normal jewellery fabrication methods. Mathematics is beautiful, nature uses it in everything (think of a sunflower head and the spiralling of the seeds). It will also open up the use of new materials which aren't currently used by jewellers.

All the designs are currently made out of nylon in various colours, but there's no reason in future metal or other sintered materials couldn't be used and in combinations (both in material and colour). Any piece on the site can be printed in various colours (white, black, caramel, indigo blue, ice blue, green, purple, pink, red, sunset orange and yellow).

Prices aren't cheap for what some may think of as something made of plastic, but then the pieces are exquisitely designed and made to a very high standard. If the site really takes off, volume effects will probably come in and costs may go down.

Though the site is squarely aimed at women, the iPhone cases would happily suit a Shoreditch hipster or even a geek who like tech and the thought that their phone is both protected, looks nice and comes from a 3D print.

03/04/2014

Microsoft gives Windows Phone away

Microsoft, who aren't known for giving away anything for free, have decided to drop licensing fees for Windows Phone 8 (for devices with displaces less than 9 inches). Though it only has about 3% of the phone market, that's still quite a big hit to cope with as current fees are around $5 - $15 per phone, though that's estimated to be less than $1bn per year.

Of course Microsoft do get a nice revenue stream from Android licensees as they still have to pay royalties to Microsoft for their mobile patents.

This might just tip the balance and get more handset manufacturers to switch to Windows Phone and though Microsoft won't get direct revenue for the OS, they will get revenue from the add-on services such as Office 365 which users are encouraged to sign-up to.

Ada Lovelace the future of schools

Ben Southworth has launched the website for the Ada Lovelace Academy which wants to train the next generation of entrepreneurs in Hackney, giving them the skills to succeed in the new digital age.

The Academy is looking for a home and will teach children aged 16 - 19, hopefully opening in 2015.

The skills on offer will be: -

  • Design & Digital Comms
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Business Skills
  • Presentation Skills
  • Latest Technologies
  • A sense of community
Ben has already been involved with education designing courses for both General Assembly and Decoded. He spent a year with Government being the Deputy CEO of TCIO (or as it known now as TechCityUK) and now is on several boards.

This is a great initiative and anyone wanting to help should contact Ben. It's also possible to donate on the site itself.

02/04/2014

Ofcom statement on utilising 870 to 876 MHz and 915 to 921 MHz for SRDs

Ofcom, the Super regulator, has made a statement allowing the use of short range devices to use the spectrum in 870 to 876 MHz and 915 to 921 MHz.

The spectrum will be made available in a license exempt manner and Ofcom expect to publish the technical requirements in April 2014, though there may be changes to allow higher power and duty cycles (suitable for use as network relay point for Internet of Things devices) which will be published later in the year which should allow implementation in Q4 2014.

The main objection seems to come fem the railway industry as these bands may interfere with proposed railway GSM systems (E-GSM-R) though they are not in use at this time. The UK met office also uses potentially conflicting frequencies for wind profiling radars. Ofcom will monitor the situation.

The full statement is on-line as a PDF

01/04/2014

Ofcom proposing upping power on 1800MHz bands

Ofcom, the Super regulator, who look after radio spectrum is proposing to allow increasing the transmit power on the 1800MHz PCN band. Ofcom varied the original licenses so the band could be used for UMTS, LTE and WiMAX services. The new variation would allow a 3dB to 65 dBm per carrier for 3G and 3dB to 65dBm on the 5MHz channels for LTE and WiMAX.

EE Limited (“EE”), Hutchison 3G UK Limited (“H3G”), Telefonica UK Limited (“Telefonica”) and Vodafone Limited (“Vodafone”) have all requested that their 1800 MHz licences be amended in this way.

Ofcom's preliminary verdict is to allow these variations, however the results of the consultation will be taken into consideration.

Any stakeholders may respond to the consultation on-line.

06/03/2014

Apple announces Carplay, but what's underneath the hood?

Apple wants to own the entertainment space, it first created the iPod with its companion iTunes which soon completely disrupted the music industry. With the advent of iPods and iPhones which could play video, Apple then went into the film distribution and rental business too.

Now it's the car industry that is getting the Apple makeover with a play (Carplay to be exact) to integrate your iPhone into your car experience which when you plug your iPhone in, will now support Apple services such as Maps (maybe you'll get to where you want, though Apple is improving Maps all the time), iTunes, messaging and other services. Everything can be voice controlled through Siri or the car's own voice recognition system.

Though Apple is meant to be announcing embedded iOS 7 for exactly these types of applications, it seems that Carplay actually uses Blackberry's QNX (Blackberry purchased QNX a while back and it's now the basis of BB10). QNX is a "micro" kernel realtime operating system and has been around for a long time and powers many ATMs and devices such as that. QNX also pushes their OS to auto manufacture to power their "infotainment" systems (formally known as ICE or In Car Entertainment) and it's exactly this use that powers Carplay.

The first cars to support Carplay will be Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo, followed by BMW, Ford, General Motors, Honda and Jaguar Land Rover.

If Carplay gets widely deployed, it could be Blackberry's saving grace, though maybe Apple will just buy them.