Feel the Beat of a Different Drum: Shokz OpenRun Pro Bone Conduction Headphones

Shokz (previously known as Aftershokz) have been producing bone conducting headphones for a while, their latest headphone is the OpenRun Pro. This has two sides connected by a titanium band that goes behind the head and over the ears, while each side has a "speaker" that sits in front of the ear connected to  a solid bit that connects to the loop (the right hand side has the charging connection and the on/off/volume buttons). This bit has been redesigned so the charging connection is on the angled back, which makes it impossible to even try to force the magnetic connector on the wrong way round. The left speaker has the multifunction button.

OpenRun Pro headphones

Bone conduction works by vibrating the bones which then transmit the sound to the inner ear, this does mean that if the volume is too loud, then you can feel a vibration against the skin (like being tickled) which can be annoying, but assuming the volume is at a sensible level, this doesn't happen. Being "open ear" means you still hear what's going on around you, which may not be what you want if immersing yourself into a movie or travelling on the tube, but for runners, cyclists and even working out in a gym when you want to be aware of your surroundings these definitely work well.

Though similar in design to the older Aeropex, the OpenRun Pro is slimmed down in size for a more lightweight feel and only weighs 29g.

Bottom view

Audio quality has improved markedly in the OpenRun Pro and sounds more balanced with better depth in the lower frequencies (TurboPitch). Higher frequencies have always worked better and are crisp and clear. The volume can be adjusted sufficiently to overcome wind noise without distorting. Unfortunately fidelity is unlikely ever going to match traditional headphones, the OpenRun Pro delivers pretty good sound quality (Shokz claim 20Hz - 20KHz frequency response).

Top view

On the base of the right hand there are only two buttons, volume up and down, the volume up button is also the power button, if the OpenRun Pros are off, long pressing it will turn them on (and the blue LED will turn on too), holding it down when on, will turn them off. If turning on and continuing to hold, then the LED will flash red and blue, indicating it is in pairing mode.

There's also a multifunction button on the left speaker that pressing will pause/play music, answer a call etc.

Power connection

There are dual microphones which pick up speech which means calls and video conferencing work well.

The OpenRun Pros are also IP55 allowing them to be used in sweaty environments. There is a built-in moisture detector.

Bluetooth is now version 5.1 (though 5.3 is the latest version), but that should allow more stable Bluetooth connections and supporting multipoint pairing (i.e. multiple devices). The SBC codec is supported as well as A2DP, AVRCP, HSP and HFP Bluetooth profiles.

Battery life is now 10 hours on a full charge (which takes 1 hour). A 5 minute charge will give 1.5 hours of usage. Standby is up to 10 days.

Shokz now provide an app (IOS and Android) that allows for 2 levels of EQ (equalisation) optimising for music or voice. The app also supports pairing, multipoint pairing, listening customisation, and user tips.

In the box there's also a hard shell carry case that holds the headphones and a USB-A charging cable (that can fit into the carry case under a strap).

Hard shell carry case

As an artefact of bone conduction technology, if you have slight hearing loss that is caused by something say in the ear canal or similar, sound can actually sound better (or louder) as it's directly stimulating the inner ear [NOTE this is NOT any advice re hearing loss].

Not the most expensive headphones on the market they can be directly purchased from the Shokz site or other retailers for £159 (purchasing from Shokz gives a 2 year guarantee in certain territories).


Ear's to Nothing: Why Nothing Ear (2) is Music to Our Ears

Nothing has come out with the second version of the Ear phone (earphone) called unsurprisingly the Ear (2) phone.

Founded by Carl Pei (previously having founded OnePlus), Nothing is his new mobile first company making tech that is affordable and aesthetically pleasing. The first product was the Nothing Ear (1) wireless earphones and now, they've raised the bar even higher with the release of their latest model, the Nothing Ear (2).

Nothing Ear (2) original package

The outer box has a tearable strip which allows the inner box to be removed.

Tearable strip

The inner box is very black.

Inner box

The top bit is the instruction manual in a sleeve.

Sleeve holding instruction manual

Removing the sleeve reveals the earphone case (in a removable plastic protective cover).

Case in protective plastic sleeve

Once the case is removed the side compartments are accessible.

Box side compartments

One side holds the USB-C to USB-C cable and the other the small and large silicon tips.

USB-Cto USB-C charging cable

Silicon tips

The case has a USB-C charging port and a button to initiate pairing.

Charging case

Charging case lid open

At first glance, the Ear (2) may seem like just another pair of earphones, but a closer look reveals its unique design and features that set it apart from the competition. The Ear (2) boasts a sleek, transparent design that showcases the inner workings of the earphones. This design not only looks futuristic but also allows for a better understanding of how the Ear (2) works.

Ear phones (2)

Looking from the other end, it's possible to see the metal filter that allows sound to pass through while now allowing ingress of particles from your ear.

Metal grill

But it's not just about looks – the Ear (2) also delivers top-of-the-line audio quality. With active noise cancellation (ANC), the Ear (2) blocks out all outside noise, allowing for an immersive listening experience. And now with an in-house designed impressive 11.6mm driver, the Ear (2) produces clear, crisp sound that rivals even the most high-end (fruity) earphones on the market. The diaphragm is made from graphene and polyurethane.

One standout feature of the Ear (2) is its press controls. With just a few presses, users can play or pause music, skip tracks, and even activate voice assistants like Siri or Google Assistant. The touch controls are also customisable, allowing users to set their preferred commands for even easier use. The Ear (1) used touch controls which could be triggered erroneously.

But perhaps the most impressive feature of the Ear (2) is its battery life. With up to 6 hours of continuous listening time and an additional 34 hours with the charging case, the Ear (2) can last through even the longest listening sessions. The earphone buds are also very light at 4.5g each (the case is 51.9g). Actual battery life will depend on use: -

  • Playback with ANC off: Up to 36 hours with case and 6.3 hours with buds only
  • Playback with ANC on: Up to 22.5 hours with case and 4 hours with buds only
  • Talk time with ANC off: Up to 20.5 hours with case and 3.5 hours with buds only
  • Talk time with ANC on: Up to 17.5 hours with case and 3 hours with buds only

Bluetooth is now at 5.3 supporting BLE, SPP, HFP, A2DP, AVRCP and AAC, SBC, LHDC audio codecs.

Water and dust protection has also been increased and is now IP54 for the buds and  IP55 for the case.

It's important to download the Nothing X app (iOS and Android) as many earphone features such as ANC/bud fit and balancer/equaliser are adjusted within it. It's also quite likely there will be a firmware update and this is performed through the app too.

Nothing X App

When these arrived they also came with a Nothing baseball cap and the obligatory sticker.

Baseball cap


The are available to buy from the Nothing store and cost £129 (actually cheaper than the Ear (1)).


Grounds for Good: How Dualits's Recycling Device Brews Sustainability

Whether you're a fan of Nespresso or not (the coffee can be quite nice), the pods are a pain to recycle. They either have to be taken to a Nespresso shop or getting Nespresso to pick them up in a Nespresso (or coffee shop) recycling bag.

Now there's another solution get a Dualit Nespresso Unfill recycling device. It's all plastic with a base.

Dualit Until base

Then there's a green bit that sits on the base and fits semi-screws on to it (or positions itself via a slotted bit). It's ribbed/strengthen underneath.
Dualit Unfill rim (from below)

Looking from above, there's an inner ring where the pod sits on (foil side down).

Dualit Unfill rim (from above)

The lid has an inner protrusion which matches the base of the pod.

Dualit Unfill lid

When put together the green rim sits on the base, then the pod is sat on the rim with the narrower part facing up. The lid is then pushed down firmly and keeping it as straight as possible.

The pod will then be inverted and all the coffee (well most of it) will end up in the the base (some does stick to the remains of the pod). The base holds 7 or 8 pods.

Rinse the pods off and then they can go in household recycling (if there's a few, then wrap them in aluminium foil and they'll be detected as aluminium recycling more accurately, they can be pushed into each other for a compact result).

The coffee grounds can then be recycled in food waste, composted or used to add to soil (allegedly slugs don't like caffeine) and there's goodness in the grounds too that plants can use too.

It's available for £9.99 direct from Dualit or many good retailers.


Get into Zen sleep with Amaz(ing)fit Buds

Amazfit (a Xiaomi sub-company) produce various fitness products such as watches and bands and also ear buds.

Now it has designed the Amazfit Zenbuds which are a pair of true wireless earbuds that offer a unique feature – they can help you fall asleep faster. These earbuds are designed with sleep in mind, with a number of features that are meant to help you relax and drift off to sleep.

In terms of sound quality, the Zenbuds offer clear and crisp audio. The earbuds are comfortable to wear and fit securely in the ear, making them a great option for sleeping or working out. The battery life of the Zenbuds is also impressive, with the earbuds lasting up to 8 hours on a single charge.

Zenbuds with small tips

One of the standout features of the Zenbuds is the ability to play white noise or guided meditations to help you relax and clear your mind before bed. These sounds can be customised and set to play for a certain amount of time, allowing you to drift off to sleep peacefully.

The buds are relatively small, with silicon tips (S/M/L) that fit in the ear canal. The outside of the buds have a silicon protrusion that helps hold them in place in the ear. They are also very light at 2g per bud.

One feature is the touch control system, which allows you to easily control your music and adjust the volume without having to pull out your phone. The earbuds also have a built-in microphone, allowing you to take calls or access your phone's voice assistant without having to remove the earbuds.

The buds come in a charging case with a USB-C port.

Zenbuds case (the lettering is silver and reflective)

The Zenbuds are also sweat and water resistant, making them a good option for working out or for use in wet conditions. The charging case provides an additional 4 charges for the earbuds, giving a total of up to 32 hours of use.

The top of the case swivels to open and the case has 3 white LEDs showing its charge. The left and right buds must be placed in their equivalent (correct) receptacles or they won't charge, but they do magnetically snap in.

Charge status LEDs

The buds have two electrical connectors for charging and they fit on top of the equivalent pins on their respective spaces in the case and are held magnetically.

Electrical connectors

The buds act like normal earphones but also have sensors in to measure heart rate when sleeping and in terms of connectivity, the Zenbuds use Bluetooth 5.0 technology, ensuring a stable and reliable connection to both Android and iOS devices. When sleeping The earbuds track your sleep patterns, including how long you sleep, how deep your sleep is, and how many times you wake up during the night.

This data is then synced to the Amazfit app, where you can view your sleep stats and get insights on how to improve your sleep quality. The app also offers sleep recommendations and suggestions for creating a better sleep environment.

Though the buds have the springy loop bit that fits into the ear, they can fall out, especially if your head moves around a lot and your ear rests on the pillow or mattress.

The current design only plays music/sounds for the set duration or until you fall asleep, but if you wake up again, the sounds don't resume which isn't much good for restless sleep. Though quoted for 8 hours, they can run out of power if you have a sleeping problem such as insomnia or don't fall into deep sleep so they don't detect your asleep at all.

An alarm can also be set in the app, so the buds will wake you in the morning.

They are available directly from the UK Amazfit store for £119 though can be found on other sites too.

They can help with sleep and white noise is preferential to other noises which can be annoying and stop you sleeping, it would be great if they detected you'd woken up again, and started the audio again to re-block external sounds.


Aeropex might Shokz you (after)

Aftershokz (now Shokz) Aeropex bone conducting headphones (now discontinued, but the Shokz Openrun are similar) sit over the ear in contact with the skin and rather than sending audio into the ear canal like 'normal' headphones or earphones, they vibrate and use bones in the skull to send the audio into the ear itself.

The front portion contains the bone conducting technology and then a loop gives over the ear to another unit containing the batteries/electronics and Bluetooth and another loop goes behind the head to connect to the same setup on the other ear.

Aftershokz Aeropex

The headphones are very light weighing in at 26g, have an estimated 8 hour playback time and are rated IP67 (so good for sweat resistance, but not for swimming). There is a USB cable for charging with a magnetic connector to ensure it aligns with the 2 pin charging port (and cant be put on the wrong way around).

Charging port

Bone conducting technology is a bit of a Marmite® technology (i.e. you love it or hate it). When it works well, it can work very well, or it doesn't.

(After)Shokz are a premium brand and their headphones aren't the cheapest on the market, however they tend to work well and lot of Chinese clones that claim to offer similar technologies will disappoint. An easy test is to turn up the volume and if a buzzing is felt on the skin (like being tickled), then it's probably not a good buy. All bone conducting headphones can suffer this, but cheaper ones will do this at lower volumes

The Aeropex have titanium parts internally with a soft touch covering. There's a single multi-function button and volume control with an LED indicator (charging, Bluetooth). A full charge takes around 2 hours and they should last for about 10 days on standby. Bluetooth is version 5.0, supporting A2DP, AVRCP, HSP and HFP and up to 10 metres away from the audio source.

The claimed frequency response is 20Hz to 20KHz, however the lower frequencies don't tend to pass so well through bone conduction as they get lost on the device to skin. There are also dual microphones to pick up sound for calls etc.

The multi-function button performs the following: -

Play/pause music - click once - one beep
Next song - double click - one beep
Previous song - triple click - one beep
Answer call - click once - two beeps
End call - click once - one beep
Answer call waiting and end current call - press and hold for 2 seconds - one beep
Ignore a call - press and hold for 2 seconds - two beeps
Activate voice assistant - press and hold for 2 seconds - beeps
Redial last number - double click on standby - Redial last number

Power/Volume+/Volume- combinations: -

Power On - press and hold vol+ for 2 seconds - Welcome to Aftershokz
Power Off - press and hold vol+ for 3 seconds - Power Off
Mute - press and hold vol+/vol- for 2 seconds (on call) - mute on/off
Change EQ - press and hold vol+/vol- for 2 seconds (music playing) - EQ changed
Check battery status - click vol+ or vol- (music paused) - Battery high/medium/low/charge me
Just volume - vol- or vol- (music playing) - one beep

The LED indicates: -

Solid red - charging
Solid blue - charged
Flashes red/blue - pairing
Flashes blue - incoming call
Flashes red (every 2 minutes) - low battery

The moisture detector will indicate the headphones are wet if plugged into the charger and they should be dried. 

Bone conducting headphones do take getting used to as the audio goes straight into the back of the ear, while allowing the ears to hear normally. This can be extremely useful for things like cycling or running so you're aware of your surroundings and what's going on. Probably less useful for wearing in a busy office environment and trying to zone out. They are extremely light and as they don't sit in the ear (or cover the ears) there's no long discomfort per se.

The only slightly irritating issue is the vibration on the skin if the volume is too loud or the frequencies in that particular range, but that's really a petty issue.

Though the Aeropex have been discontinued they are still available from sports' shops, the replacement Openrun is directly available from the UK Shokz site for £129.95, they come in black/grey, blue/dark blue, dark grey/light grey and red/dark red.

There's now also the Openrun Pro and Openrun Pro mini, which are newer models supporting Bluetooth 5.1, rated IP55, 12 hours play time, larger multi-function button and enhanced base also from UK Shokz site for £159.95 though they are 3g heavier.

Shokz now also do swimming bone conduction MP3 players and UC headphones.


Sky Stream, first look

Sky (known for the satellite broadcast system) introduced Sky Glass a while back which is a TV with integrated Sky that uses broadband to deliver Sky content, no dish/satellite required (Sky also own Now TV which is a subset of Sky's services also delivered over broadband using an app or puck/box).

Now Sky has introduced Sky Stream which is the same as Sky Glass (in terms of services), but is only a puck/box and a remote (and a power supply and HDMI cable). It connects via Ethernet or WiFi to a home network. The puck is actually running Linux so there are probably some hacks around.

Sky puck

The basic service is HD (1080) but a service upgrade allows UHD. Netflix (basic) is included (watch on a single device), but there are two upgrade options for Netflix Standard (2 devices) and Netflix Premium (4 devices).

TV upgrade packages are Sky Cinema, Sky Sports, BT Sport and Sky Kids.

The packages can be bought on an 18 month contract or 31 days rolling (the later being more expensive).

The box arrives pre-configured with the account set-up, just plug it in to the TV via the HDMI cable, if there's Ethernet, plug that in and let it boot, the can then be set-up in the settings.

It takes a while to boot and a Sky logo will be in white on a black background and when up and running the screen will go to the standard Sky blue colour with white lettering for the options.

Sky initial screen

Then get the remote and press buttons 1 and 3 simultaneously (you have to hold them for a while) and the box will ask if you wish to connect the remote (by pressing the middle button on the remote to agree).

If Ethernet is being used, the settings should automatically be picked up (i.e. IP address/etc), otherwise the WiFi needs to be configured.

If the UHD package has been selected, then the default mode can be moved the UHD rather than HD. Various audio options are also available (as is what format is sent to the TV).

Once that's done, hit the Home button and all the channels are available (including terrestrial channels).

Then there are "apps" for Netflix, iPlayer, ALL4, My5, Disney+, Apple TV+ etc.

Paramount+ is also available and the app  accessed through the Sky system, then an account set-up (again while in the Sky/Paramount app). The price will then be set to £0 per month (i.e. free) when a subscription is taken out.

If a current subscription to Netflix is in use, signing in through Sky means the billing is moved to Sky (i.e. free for Basic). Netflix will keep the current billing method "on file" such that if the Sky subscription ends, it will revert to the original.

The picture is very good and services work very smoothly, though using UHD means that at least 25Mb/s is required from the broadband service.

The packages are: -

18 month contract per month cost

  • Sky Entertainment and Netflix (basic) £26
  • Sky Sports £20 (offer)
  • Sky Cinema £11
  • BT Sport £30
  • Sky Kids £6
  • UHD and Dolby Atmos £6
  • Netflix basic SD (included, watch on 1 device) £0
  • Netflix Standard HD (watch on 2 devices) £4
  • Netflix Premium UHD (watch on 4 devices) £8

Getting everything would be £107 pm

31 day rolling cost

  • Sky Entertainment and Netflix (basic) £29
  • Sky Sports £22 (offer)
  • Sky Cinema £13
  • BT Sport £30
  • Sky Kids £6
  • UHD and Dolby Atmos £6
  • Netflix basic SD (included, watch on 1 device) £0
  • Netflix Standard HD (watch on 2 devices) £4
  • Netflix Premium UHD (watch on 4 devices) £8
Getting everything would be £114

Can then add whole home for £12 pm which allows additional pucks in the home (the first puck is free, more are £39 each).

Getting the full package on an 18 month contract saves £7 per month which is £126 over the lifetime of the contract.

Netflix have announced their new plans (from November) which correspond tp the Sky plans (including resolution and devices) i.e. Basic, Standard and Premium. There is an advertising supported basic plan for £4.99 per month, while the ad free services are £6.99, £10.99 and £15.99 per month respectively. So taking the Sky bundle is a saving if already a subscriber.

There are a few quirks with the system (hopefully they will be resolved in a future software update), the main bug bear is parental control. When accessing a channel where a program is designated that it needs parental control (12+ during the day), a PIN is required even if parental controls/daytime control have been disabled. If the program then changes to another (which also is deemed to require parental control), then the PIN needs entering again as the program changes.

The default PIN is the the last 4 digits of the mobile number registered with the service, but can be changed easily. Parental controls can be set to standard ages (U, PG, 12, 15, 18 or None)  and also all apps or individual apps may be PIN protected.

There's also voice control so it's possible to say "Watch BBC 1" and it will change to that channel (by pressing the microphone symbol on the remote).

Sky Stream remote
The buttons nicely light up when the remote is moved making it easy to find what you're doing even in a dark environment.

Another niggle is that it can take a while for the Sky puck to turn on even after the power button is pressed on the remote, but it tends to work after a few goes.

All in all, this is a nice way to get Sky without having to faff with satellite dishes if your Internet connection can cope.

p.s. the Sky links are referral but if signing up through it, you get discounts too.


Apple Photos does OCR

This feature seems to have appeared in Apple Photos.

Find a picture with some text in it, highlight the text and it's copied to the clipboard.

original picture

then highlight it

bounded box

The box will appear over the text when the mouse is selected at the start. Copy to clipboard.

The result of the clipboard is "BELSIZE PARK"

It works on horizontal and vertical text too.