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Jan 8, 2013

BioLite CampStove

Hi All

Re: BioLite CampStove

BioLite CampStove Picture

This is my first ever post so go easy on me :-). I came across this fantastic little gadget (well at least it looks fantastic) whilst looking for a new camping stove. It's not yet out in the UK (available to pre-order though) but will be here at the start of February. I'm just wondering if anyone happens to have had any experience of it? It's called the BioLite CampStove and there is a review here for anyone that's interested. 

As a camping enthusiast I'm really excited by the thought of being able to chuck some pine cones into this device and subsequently be able to heat up my baked beans. No need for gas so environmentally friendly as well as free to run. Also, has the added bonus of being able to charge your USB gadgets whilst it cooks. Double bonus. I think I will take the plunge and order one but by any chance has anyone out there in the world of Gadget Speak had a go on one?

I look forward to hearing about your experience.

Cheers

GadgetMad

Apr 4, 2012

Is your home nice and clean? Why?

Kärcher Window Vac

OK - teenagers aside (and I have 2) we all like the idea of a clean home and many of us spend many hours at least trying to keep on top of the endless list of chores in this department. Why? Hygiene? The (hope) that you'll be more likely to find your keys in a tidy house?

No.

Now according to a piece of research by Kärcher, a company whose business is all about helping us get that sparkling finish. According to research conducted by this company our primary concern with having our house in a permanent stage of cleanliness is the fear that our neighbours (or other unexpected visitors I suspect) show up unannounced. 61% of participants in this study admitted to this fear of having our home on show in less than pristine condition.

I wonder how many others might admit to such a fear?

For those of us with limited funds and for whom a daily cleaner is not an option achieving a clean home is a chore. Many chores actually. Kärcher's research helps identify the most irritating with window cleaning, dusting, washing up being the three most annoying.

While this is all very interesting, Kärcher have not of course conducted this study simply to get headlines - as a producer of cleaning products they'd like to help us prepare for guests! In this case they want to tackle the top of the irritating list - window cleaning. This is so annoying and so difficult to get a good result that many of us only clean our windows every six months while others delegating this chore to a window cleaner.

Enter the Kärcher Window Vac - a combination of Li-Ion powered hand-held vacuum and squeegy. Wipe over your windows with a wet cloth then use the vac to remove all the moisture avoiding those annoying streaks you get when you leave a wet window to dry naturally.

Weight could be a problem here, especially if you have a lot of windows such as a conservatory to clean and so Kärcher have kept this to a minimum weighing in at only 700g while maintaining enough power capacity to clean around 45 windows (this is based apparently on an "average" UK window size of 1m x 1.5m, which looking at my house seems fair).

If you'd like to know more than take a look on the Kärcher web site

Feb 23, 2011

Buffalo launch new USB3 RAID capable drives

Buffalo have launched two new products to their range of external hard disk systems. The DriveStation™ Duo and the DriveStation™ Quad. As the names suggest these devices take either two or four hard disks respectively and are capable of various RAID configurations and high data transfer rates across a USB 3.0 interface.

I'm a great fan of external hard drives for backing up valuable data. Backups have always been important, as anyone that has failed to store data safely only to suffer a hard disk failure knows only too well. Hard-drive capacity has continued to outstrip every other storage mechanism to the point where the only practical way to back up your data is to another hard disk. With drive capacities now reaching the 3Tbyte level even dual layer Blu-Ray disks (50G capacity) will take 20 disks per 1TB.

Hard-disks provide the capacity, but there's another problem. You need to get your data from your main disk to your backup system. Most computers come equipped with general purpose USB 2.0 interfaces these days, providing a transfer rate of around 40Mbytes/second. Put another way that's about 4.5 hours per 1TB. OK at the moment you've probably not accumulated that much data - but you see the problem!

One way to improve performance is to use an eSATA interface - or 'external SATA'. This is simply a way of connecting an external drive directly to your computers internal disk controller. Much like an edge-connector of old (OK I'm showing my age!) connected peripherals directly to the CPU bus. This provides transfer rates of up to 400Mbytes/second - an order of magnitude better than USB. There's actually no need to go faster than this because it's also the speed you can suck data off your internal drive.

While eSATA is an excellent solution and works well for desktops, it's yet another port, yet another hole to fit into an already tightly packed laptop. USB 3.0 provides an alternative that, a little over 2 years after the specification was completed, is now starting to be seen on new computers. USB 3.0 is backwards compatible with USB 2.0, and so existing peripherals should work fine, but in it's new SuperSpeed mode can achieve an effective throughput of around 400MBytes/second - comparable with eSATA.

So now you have a backup media (hard disks) with the capacity and a transfer medium (USB3.0) to make backups practical. Unfortunately there's a chance that your backup hard disk fails and you may not notice until you need your data. Multi-drive solutions like the Buffalo DriveStation Duo and Quad answer this need through multiple drives running RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) configurations. A two disk configuration is the minimum you need, and hence the Duo. This will copy your data onto both disks automatically - should one disk fail you have the other and your can replace the failed drive with another and the system will automatically mirror the data to that new drive.

While two drives are good and provide redundancy it is somewhat wasteful. For every byte you want to backup you need to pay for two bytes of backup space. This is OK for most people but where the amount of data you want to manage grows even higher then this penalty is expensive. The four drive solution allows more efficient storage of data - instead of making multiple copies of your data the system will spread data across all disks such that if one fails there is always enough on the remaining drives to recover your data. RAID5 for example only reduces capacity of a 4 drive system by 1/4 to store redundancy data.

Jan 18, 2011

Nike+ SportWatch GPS Powered by TomTom

I don't think there are many runners out there that don't have at least a modicum of curiosity about the distance and the speed they manage to achieve. While I'm not a serious runner I do like to know how long I've been out, how far I've run and how I'm doing compared to previous runs.

Where there's a need of course there's a technological gadgety solution just waiting to fill that gap! Latest to come to the rescue of the curious runner is a partnership between Nike and TomTom to deliver their "Nike+ SportWatch GPS Powered by TomTom" - a bit of a mouthful but gives a pretty good idea of what they're delivering.

While there have been other GPS enabled running devices in the past these have tended to be somewhat 'chunky'. The fruit of this partnership however seems pretty sleek. And while some such products have an array of complex buttons that are almost impossible to navigate on the move this promises to be simple having only three buttons and a "tap screen" for navigation.

In addition to stopwatch functions and of course GPS capture of your distance and route the watch communicates wirelessly with a sensor in the Nike Shoes to give you accurate pace and distance information. The shoe sensor is optional so the other functions are available if you'd like to keep running in your existing favourite shoes.

Depending on your reasons for running and your level of geekiness the Nike+/TomTom watch can not only tell you how far you've run and how fast it can also tell you how many calories you've burnt - useful in this post-Christmas season.

Some people like to run just to keep fit which is really the category I fall into. As you'll appreciate though you soon get used to a distance or a speed and if you're not careful you can easily fall into a relaxed pace that I like to think of as 'plodding' - something I frequently find myself doing and out of which I have to shake myself! This Nike+/TomTom watch recognises this for you and encourages you to improve and push just a little harder by recognising 'Personal Bests' or as they call them "Attaboys".

One rather nice feature I like is that it recognises when you haven't been running for five days and reminds you to get your shoes on and get that heart beating!

Key features include:

  • Tap Screen for setting laps and activating backlight
  • Run History with data from past runs
  • Personal Records including those imported from Nikeplus.com
  • Quick Start with optional shoe-based Nike+ Sensor
  • Heart Rate Monitor compatibility

You can also upload your running information to the Nike+ web-site where you can maintain a record of your running history in a much more usable way than my current spreadsheet. If you're looking for inspiration you can also search for routes logged by other users in your area. Having just moved house this will be an interesting feature to try.

I'm hoping to give the rather exciting Nike+ SportWatch GPS Powered by TomTom a proper spin in the not too distant future. In the meantime it's a sunny afternoon and we don't get many of those this time of year in England so my own running shoes are calling to me!

Happy running!

Dec 7, 2010

Linsar UK launch LED TV range with built in PVR functionality

Linsar LED television with integrated PVR function

PVR (Personal Video Recorders) have been a popular product segment for a few years now, generally relying on an integrated hard disk to hold recorded programmes. Linsar have now merged this functionality into their televisions. Rather than bury a hard disk into the product the TVs provide you with a standard USB socket to which you can connect a standard Flash memory stick or an external hard disk - up to 500GB.

Apart from the effectively unlimited storage using external devices has a number of benefits:

  • Choose smaller Flash memory devices and use them as you once used VHS tapes - build up your own library. With an 8G stick being available for under £10 this makes excellent sense.
  • By storing programmes separately you don't loose your entire library when your product eventually gives up the ghost
  • Stored in standard video formats you can record your favourite programmes and then play back on laptops anywhere you want.

To distinguish this from traditional PVR functionality Linsar have coined the term PPR - Plug - Play - Record. Will it catch on?

Initially the range includes a 19" set along with two fully 1080p 22" and 24" versions. You can see the range on the Linsar web-site. Let us know what you think!

Dec 7, 2010

Introducing the Tweet-Towel - off-line twitter!

Tweet-Towel

While the government works hard to spend millions of our pounds rolling out 50M broadband to the country there are still those areas where the Internet at a usable speed is still a dream. For those people Twitter is often still the noise made by our small feathered friends sitting in the trees.

If your friends or relatives fall into this category then here's a cool way of bringing them up to speed with the craze that is Twitter without even the need for a slow Internet connection. Apart from having much better geographic coverage than the Internet this solution to the twit-challenged this solution can go places that would make most Internet connected devices wither in fear - the kitchen sink for example.

What is this little wonder?

Ummm - well it's a towel. A "Tweet Towel" to be precise. A tea-towel embroidered with your own personal 'tweet' - a special message for your grandpa or a gentle reminder to your partner that washing up can be fun!

While this is a fun, novelty present idea for the technophobe that has everything (they want) - there is a serious side. Each of the special personalised Tweet Towels cost £10. All profits made go to the charity "We Are What We Do" which campaigns to close the gap between the older and younger generations.

Nick Stanthorpe from We Are What We Do ways 

"The gaps between older and younger people are bigger than they’ve ever been and this is nowhere more striking than across the digital divide. There are 10 million people in the UK who are still offline and 46% of those are over the age of 65i. Yet, digital forms of communication make up 90% of how 11-18 year olds communicateii.

"There are now around 65 million tweets sent every day and more of that gigantic network could be used to increase contact and understanding between younger and older people.

"When more gets shared across generations, whether its internet skills or hand crafts, families and communities get stronger – and that’s what the Tweet Towel and our current campaign is all about."

Well we can't argue with that!

You can order your personalised Tweet Towel by visiting this link!

Nov 29, 2010

Finally! *usable* TV on your computer (or iPad) !

AVerMedia HomeFree Duet with Apple iPad

OK - this isn't the first time you've been able to watch TV on your computer, in theory at least. There have been TV tuner cards available for many years and we've reviewed a good number of them here at GadgetSpeak. The biggest weakness with these systems has been the quality of the TV signal. In the days of analogue TV you could just about get a fuzzy noisy picture. Now we're in the 'improved' digital age with DVB (Freeview) even that's not possible. Digital means binary which in turn means good signal: watchable TV, poor signal: no TV. Nothing in between.

For desktop machines it may be practical to connect to a traditional external TV aerial. Most of us though have a laptop. We don't want bits of wire sticking out the end we just want to watch TV unencumbered.

AVerMedia have come to the rescue with their HomeFree Duet network-attached TV tuner and we think they're onto a winner! Much like your network attached printer or your games console this cool little box sits quietly in the corner near your TV aerial, receives and decodes the available stations and then retransmits these over your home Wifi network. There are two completely distinct tuners in the system allowing two users to watch two different programmes.

AVerMedia is understandably pushing this product as a solution to "TV on you iPad" however video can be streamed to Windows 7 Media Center and to their own AVerTV 6 HomeFree software. Given the number of laptops in the world compared to iPads at the moment there are a lot of people that could use this product right now.

Full details are available on the AVerMedia web-site. Price is expected to be £149.99 and it will be available from Amazon and I'm sure other retailers around mid-December.

Nov 29, 2010

Need to dock your Apple iPad?

Altec-Lansing Octiv 450 iPad Docking station

A whole industry has been built around producing docking stations in various forms for various generations of Apple's iPod and iPhones. These products benefited from the universal docking connector adopted by Apple and so each product could support the entire range.

The iPad is a little different - it's bigger. There are bigger iPods of course but not that big. And while the iPad is ideally used on the move to do 'visual' things on that beautiful screen, there are times when you just want to listen t0 music or watch a movie in the kitchen while you cook. In short - you need an iPad docking station.

Recognising  this need Altec Lansing have just launched their new Octiv 450 iPad docking station. In many ways resembling it's iPod cousins, and of course being perfectly compatible with iPods, the Octiv 450 provides the ability to rotate your iPad through 90° supporting landscape and portrait viewing. You can also tilt the screen between almost vertical and almost horizontal allowing for comfortable viewing whatever the situation. And to save you having to reach over to your docked iPad Altec-Lansing have also provided a full featured remote control.

We expect to see a whole wealth of iPad accessories grow around this latest hit product from the Apple stable. In the mean time the Octiv 840 will be available from stores including Apple and John Lewis from the 1st December with a MSRP of £129.99.

Sep 29, 2009

Pioneer NavGate AVIC-F310BT Navigation, Entertainment and Communication

Pioneer NavGate AVIC-F310BT

The latest in Pioneers NavGate range of in-car systems, the AVIC-F310BT provides GPS navigation, entertainment and communication into a single package. To deter those with light fingers Pioneer have taken a tip from traditional in-car stereo systems by making the front fascia removable, which can then be dropped into a bag or hidden somewhere secure in the car.

The detachable screen has another advantage though. Take it indoors and attach it to your computer via a USB cable and you can analyse your journeys via a downloadable PC application available from the Pioneer site. In these days of escalating fuel prices the system will even provide you with an 'Eco Report' - where you're driving style will be taken apart for you (scary for those with a heavy right foot!).

The system comes pre-configured with maps for 44 European countries, which Pioneer claim is ten more countries than other vendors. I've definitely lost track of the number of countries in Europe, I'm pretty sure I can't think of 44 let alone 34!

The display and main control of the system is via a 4.3" WQVGA touch sensitive LCD panel. In navigation mode this will provide you with optionally 2D or 3D route information complete with directions using street names.

Given this is Pioneer as you'd expect some considerable attention has been taken with audio quality. The built in 50Wx4 amplifier should provide you with clear, crisp and powerful sound, assuming you've equipped your vehicle with suitable speakers! As well as CD playback you can also attach your iPod or iPhone via a cable. As far as I can tell no support for Bluetooth A2DP profile though for other media which would have allowed standard support for a wide range of media players and phones.

Bluetooth support is included to support phone operation giving you a hands free operation and allowing you to leave the phone in your pocket.

Pioneer offer a number of car mounting options a number allowing you to simply replace your factory fit audio system with the NavGate.

Official price for this Pioneer NavGate AVIC-F310BT is currently £649.99 although I note that it is available from Amazon for £569.45 including delivery.

You can find more details, although not full technical specs, on the Pioneer web-site:

http://www.pioneer.co.uk/navgate

Dec 3, 2008

Night time safety alarm for women

ila dusk personal security alarm

Security alarms for women are not a new concept. They are however a very good idea, particularly at this time of year when almost the only time you're outdoors is when it's dark!

Alarms though have often been very utilitarian - very little effort being put into make it attractive. It's an alarm, right? Well the problem with that is it'll be stuffed in the bottom of a bag or deep in a pocket and should it be required, difficult to find.

"ila Dusk" takes the alarm concept and make two changes. The first is to make it actually look good so that it's more of an accessory than a utility (of course looks are in the eye of the beholder and being both male and colour blind I'm probably not the best judge). It's fashioned such that it can be attached to a bunch of keys or to a handbag.

The second is the alarm itself.

There are alarms every where. Burgular alarms, car alarms, alarms alarms and more alarms. Many are simply ignored as a false alarm.

The ila Dusk (a literal translation from Sanscrit of "Goddess of Speech") uses a high pitched female screech rather than a mechanical sound. The sound is truly terrifying and very loud.It's also very easy to use - much like a hand grenade simply tug on the chain to remove a pin and off it goes.

I'm considering giving each of my daughters one for those times now, as the get older, where they are walking to clubs or to friends.

The ila Dusk is available from Marks and Spenser for £19.50 with one of three visual colour schemes.