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Feb 10, 2012

Trying to save on petrol?

Poynt application on a Windows phone

With fuel prices, around here at least, stubbornly stuck at their highest point in a very long time shopping around can save you a tidy sum over the year. Shopping around isn't easy though - you can easily eat up any saving through the extra miles you use - for the average car a 1p difference in price is only about 50p on a tank, or put another way if you're getting 40 miles per gallon, then drive more than 4 miles and you're out of pocket!

On several occasions I've driven to my local 'cheapest' garage (usually a local Asda) only to find on that day they are the same price as Tesco - two miles closer!

If you're away from home things are even more difficult because you don't know the local competition.

Poynt have teamed up with Whatgas.com to provide real-time dynamic petrol pricing information. When your tank is getting low simply check nearby prices and plan your journey accordingly!

The application runs on Apple iPhones, Blackberry's (tablet and phones) and Windows phones. The picture on the right is running on a Windows phone.

Feb 10, 2012

Need a TOUGH camera?

Olympus tough TG-620 compact digital camera

Actually most of us could probably do with something somewhat more rugged than many of the products on the market. Queue Olympus! This stalwart of the photographic industry has just launched the TOUGH TG-620 and TG-820 - which as well as being tough are available in a number of colours to match your wardrobe.

Both models boast a "shockproof, waterproof and freezeproof exterior" - I'm not sure why only the exterior - but I expect that suitably protects the internals as well. Given how cold it is here right now freezeproof seems a particularly attractive feature!

They also both provide a 12M pixel sensor - which is good enough for most personal photographic needs and supports full 1080p HD video capture for those that like to capture more than just a snap. If your hand isn't too steady the image stabaliser technology is also available in video mode.

The two models seem to be very similar with the 820 adding "more" : a stronger crush proof case, waterproof to a depth of 10m rather than 5m and 'drop-proof' from a height of 2m rather than 1.5m (for tall people?).

No viewfinder of course, as is standard these days with a 3" LCD screen displaying images and status.

Feb 2, 2012

Mio Cyclo 300 and 305 Bicycle SatNav products

Mio Cycle 305 Cycle SatNag GPS system

Being a little lost in a car isn't usually a huge problem as long as the petrol gauge isn't hovering at, or just below, empty!

Being lost on a cycle though can be more of a problem, especially if you've been cycling all day and really just want to get home.

Sat-Nav on a cycle then makes a lot of sense, especially if you're out and about in unfamiliar territory.Mio Technology have just launched two SatNav devices targeted directly at the cyclists amongst us - the Mio Cyclo 300 and the Mio Cyclo 305. Out of the box these have maps installed and are ready to use.

Maps are just the start of what these devices can do however providing much more than just help when you're lost. When you've been travelling the country under peddle power there are a whole slew of stats that can give you that warm satisfied feeling that you've done your body good! The Mio Cycle products can not only tell you how far you've gone, how fast you went, how high you got (I'm assuming here that's altitude they mean!) it'll also tell you how many calories you burnt in the process.

The Mio Cyclo 305 adds to the 300 by including an ANT+ sensor that will connect with heart rate monitors and wheel sensors allowing additional accuracy.

Prices are as follows:

  • RSP Mio Cyclo 300 with Regional Maps £249.00
  • RSP Mio Cyclo 300 with Western-Europe Maps £299.00
  • RSP Mio Cyclo 305 with Western-Europe Maps £349.99

They should be in the shops from April so do watch out for them!

Full press release here.

Jan 27, 2012

New Year's Resolutions? How's your fitness promise going?

Ki Fit armband fitness sensor and display
click to enlarge

It's almost the end of January already so maybe mentioning New Year's Resolutions seems a little late - many such promises are forogtten not long after the chimes that start the New Year!

One of the most common areas that we all promise ourselves are either to get fit or loose weight, or both! Did you promise to stick to the latest diet you heard about only to find it totally incompatible with living a hectic life?

A much better approach is to exercise - even moderately. Taking the stairs rather than the lift. Walking to the local shop rather than driving. Dusting down that bike you've had unused in the shed for the last five years!

How do you know how much exercise is enough? Did you brisk walk to the shop really balance out that rather yummy cream cake you found when you were there?

Gadgets - that's what you need. There must be a gadget that help you keep track of all that hard work and actually tell you when you've walked, run or climbed off those extra calories you couldn't resist.

One of the latest gadgets to hit the market is the "Ki Fit". The main component is a special armband, which you keep on 24 hours a day - yes even when you're sleeping, although I suspect you may want to remove it for the shower! Packed with technical wizardry the armband continually measures what your body is doing, collecting an amazing 5,000 data readings per minute storing all that data in memory.

Ki Fit stats display
click to enlarge

As well as measuring the usual things we all associate with fitness and weight loss, the Ki Fit also measures your sleep patterns - how long you slept and how good that sleep was. Huge amounts of research has gone into the importance of sleep showing longer sleep helping athletes performance and how sleep patterns affect weight loss. While we all recognise that sleep is important it's actually a very difficult thing to measure. Just how well did you sleep last night? Did your promises of an early night really come to fruition?

The Ki Fit monitors this for you along with standard metrics such as steps taken, level of physical activity and the resulting calorie burn. With this information you can start to understand how your body works and what works best for your body allowing you to potentially make some simple changes to your lifestyle that'll give more benefit than any number of faddy diets.

Of course having all this data locked in the armband isn't a huge amount of help, and simply knowing how many calories you've burnt doesn't help you compare that with the number you consumed. For this you import your data into a Ki Fit web-application which stores your data and lets you record an accurate food diary (no - the armband as clever as it is doesn't look over your shoulder and work out that you're currently devouring a cream eclaire!). The application is paid for on a subscription basis so you pay as you go.

While I don't particularly have a weight issue I do like to try and stay in shape and I suspect that having numbers to play with would be quite a boost to a fitness regime!

I've not had a chance to play with the Ki Fit but it does look like a very interesting development. If you have one please do leave some comments below and let us all know how well it has helped you stick to your resolutions!

There's more information on the Ki Performance web-site.

Oct 19, 2011

Novel way to the seven-year-itch

Postal authorities in Beijing have a unique way of helping reduce the soaring divorce rate -- love letters sent with a seven-year delay. The new service allows couples within the first flush of romance to post a letter their partner will only receive seven years later, the China Regular reported on Tuesday, saying that was when relationships occasionally started to chill.

Divorce is becoming increasingly common in China. In Beijing, the divorce rate has risen from 11,582 in 2004 to 21013 last year, in line with government data.

Special envelopes containing a card for an individualised message went on sale in Beijing on September 9th -- considered auspicious since the words "nine nine" in Chinese sound very similar to the word "forever".

Couples who marry in one of the capital's 17 registration offices may also receive one of the special envelopes.

"we are hoping the affection recalled in these letters could avoid marriages falling apart in the future" a postal official reported.

A fewpeople were less hooked on the idea. "It would be so depressing if I received a love letter from seven years ago" Tsinghua schoolgraduate Sun Lubin told the China Regular.

Sep 2, 2011

New from Pogo Plug

Pogoplug Mobile serves as a mobile cloud companion, allowing users to stream unlimited quantities of photos, music and movies from their homes to their iOS and Android mobile phones as well as iPads.

For iOS users, it gives them unlimited, instant streaming of entire media libraries.  This will be a great companion for iCloud (streaming!)

For Android users, it's a unified streaming and sharing service and also enables automatic home backup of all photos, movies, music and other content on the device.  Content is backed up automatically in the background - kind of an iCloud for Android users, but in your home.

There are no storage limits.

No need to re-download the same content to multiple devices.

Includes brand-new software design and user interface for easy streaming and storage of content.

A review will follow once item is fully tested.

May 10, 2011

Skype is purchased by Microsoft

I count myself among the 633million users of Skype. I have used it more or less from the beginning. Perhaps the writing was on the wall when it was purchased for a lot of money a while ago by eBay. However this now seems to be a good deal - as far as eBay are concerned - as Microsoft have just spent $8.5 billion to buy it from them. 

Apr 12, 2011

Flip Video..... RIP

Flip Video Mono HD

We've reviewed many of the innovative 'Flip' video family of products over the last few years. Pure Digital Technologies, the creative little company behind Flip, left all of the well established camera and video vendors playing catchup. Larger, slower, less innovative companies see the acquisition of these agile small start-ups as their way to 'catch-up'. Innovation by proxy as it were. This was the case with Pure Digital Technologies - although in this case rather than an established camera company the suitor was networking giant Cisco. Now this was obviously not a particularly good fit for a company whose main exposure to the consumer market was through those little boxes that sit in the corner, only really because you have to have one. Ask your average consumer about Cisco and you're likely to be matched by a blank stare.

Not unpredictably Cisco now finds itself in a hole. In the US tech sector if you're not growing spectacularly then you're history and Cisco so don't want to be history. In a story repeated time and again a large company flush with cash buys companies seemingly at random for prices that seem absurd (Cisco paid $590m almost exactly 2 years ago) only to close them without a backward glance a short period later.

Why does this happen so often? It seems that very few large companies have what it takes at the head to generate any sensible strategy or to ignore the short-term quarter driven view of investors to see the long game. Companies that can do this are few and far between and it doesn't last forever. Regardless of what you think of Apple, they do innovate, they do take a long term view and they have a healthy disregard for short-sightedness!

Apr 2, 2011

Nuromol, a new painkiller available only from Chemists

Nuromol is a mixture of Ibuprofen and Paracetamol but constructed in such a way that the ingredients that normally work at different speeds act together to give the same pain relief for longer.

With computers and their software if something does not work correctly most will be told RTFM (read the f… manual) here however the answer is RTFL (leaflet) as a large number of people continue taking painkillers without reading the leaflet supplied.

In a recent survey overall nearly a quarter of respondents did not know the difference between Paracetamol, Ibuprofen and Codeine. This rose to 37% of those in the age group of 18-24 year olds.

Medicine misuse is rife, 65% take painkillers for more than four days without seeking advice, over 30% take more than the recommended dose and perhaps most startling 29% do not read the on pack warnings let alone the leaflets inside.

Overall if you have pain that will not go away go and see your doctor or pharmacist. Numomal will not be available from corner shops or service stations just Chemists. The maximum number that should be taken in a day is six. Nuromol is available in packs of six, twelve, eighteen and twenty four and as stated only from your Chemist.

Apr 1, 2011

Not sure about 'tablet computers'?

ViewSonic ViewPad 7 Android powered tablet computer

Tablet computers have been around for a good few years but it took the iPad to open the flood gates and now everyone seems to want one. Is this just a fad or are tablet computers or 'pads' something worth your hard earned cash in these 'austere' times?

While the iPad grabbed the initial spotlight and launched this sector into the mainstream consumer market, Google's Android operating system soon started to appear with products from numerous vendors. Like the idea but still not sure what all the fuss is about? Worried that after the initial enthusiasm that cool Tablet might end up sat on the sideboard gathering dust?

ViewSonic are pretty sure that this won't be the case and that once you've tried this new experience in computing you'll be hooked! To that extent they are offering customers a "Try for Free" opportunity. Buy a Google Certified ViewPad 7 and try it for 30 days. If you're not completely satisfied with the experience you can return it for a full refund, including return postage up to £10.

This offer is only available until the end of April - so take the opportunity now. Full details are available on ViewSonics dedicated ViewPad Try for Free website.