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Mar 30, 2011

Lights, Camera, Action - LeapFrog's Short Film Festival Competition

Leapfrog

If the news is to be believed the ever increasing number of TV talent shows is leading a whole generation to dream of a future in front of the cameras or on the stage as a superstar. Lest we not forget that for every star of stage and screen there is a whole team behind the scenes doing a lot of very hard work.

It might be a little less glamorous being behind the scenes but no less rewarding to see the fruits of your labours on the big screen. To encourage the younger members of the family to get behind the camera, and to celebrate the success of its innovative educational gaming console and super cool video camera accessory, LeapFrog is searching for the best young directors in the UK, with one lucky short film maker in with the chance of winning a family trip of a lifetime to Florida.

The new competition is open to kids between the ages of four and nine, along with a little help from their families, can upload short (90 second) films to the competition site where they will be entered into the competition. The films have to be on the subject of "a family day out", and with the weather (hopefully) improving what better way to spend a warm spring day?

The competition closes on the 17th of April though so all you budding directors need to get out from in front of the TV and get the film rolling (OK - I guess there isn't a lot of actual film involved these days!).

A special judging panel will review the entrants and select the top-10 to attend LeapFrog’s Short Film Festival premiere. Taking place on May 31st in the heart of London’s bustling Covent Garden at the spectacular London Transport Museum (worth a visit in itself!). This is an amazing opportunity for young film lovers to see their own movie première at the cinema complete with red carpet and eager 'paparazzi' snapping away!

The winner will be announced on the evening after all the finalists films have been screened.

What are you waiting for - time to get out that camera and start to make some (short) movie magic! When you're ready here's the competition site!


Mar 2, 2011

Cebit in Cologne v Motor Show in Geneva

Ford made an announcement at Cebit in Germany yesterday, when the same announcement could have been made from Geneva in Switzerland at a Motor Show. It concerns a new car (range of cars) to be available in Europe in 2012, these are currently available in the USA.

I took the time to visit a link from Cebit in Germany – in a London hotel - and then a chance to have a video link (via Skype) to one of the presenters after their broadcast.

The technology in the new range of Ford Focus cars will be from Microsoft and perhaps the most interesting feature is that a lot of the technology in the car can be controlled by voice and this is provided by Nuance. So you can add your phone, Blackberry or iPod and play your favourite tunes or call your partner all by voice control, this as well as more mundane car controls such as temperature and navigation.

Perhaps another interesting feature is that a pan Europe 112 emergency number will get assistance to the car after an accident/breakdown using the language of the country you are currently in, another of the bits where Microsoft and Nuance will be working together.

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.

Feb 14, 2011

Three Reasons to Choose a Fitted Wardrobe

A design up of garments will make your liveable space overall and comfortable. Additionally, it gives you plenty of place to support items and goods and produces a terrific impact on your location.

Why should you first of all consider a fitted wardrobe? One of the several reasons is actually that they can utilise even the little available space in your rooms, even if it is a slant ceiling or a sloped stair. Building your closet carefully can save you a lot of space. That include for example glass display cases round the doors of the closet to improve the overall look of the place. When you've acquired lying down bedrooms with reduce lower, setting up garments selecting the entranceway through ways with together with base prints inside their fashion will help you in using the no cost tiny spot. Moreover, decide two even bigger through ways for your costume instead of a single, this gives the illusion of more height.

Specialised custom cabinets can go with any decorating look. Whether your home is an old country cottage or a modern town house, you can have your closet built to match the style of your home. With choosing long-lasting materials you could possibly accentuate your wardrobe to harmonise with your surroundings. With custom made wardrobes, you'll have the ability to blend things in accordance to your needs. To have enough space you could also include side-rails, trouser compartments, storage compartments, and safe closets for jewellery and other valuable items.

More storage place is essential to keep your clothing and belongings along with other items at a reasonable cost. And a customised closet is surely a complex demonstration of utilisation of the available space.

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!

Jan 1, 2011

mFlow part two

Update written 1-1-11 my mistake in the first item when you click on your name its LEFT click to enter your code.

I also note that album prices have been reduced today to the cost at 20p per track, so you no longer pay extra to download a full album in one go, however remember their sale lasts only to the 4th January.

A couple of people have contacted me to say there have been a few crashes but although I have had it happen to me it's only when I have been downloading a single track and I can immediately repurchase without problem. I would be more concerned if I was using my money than the credit via the link in the first article. However I now find it more solid than three days ago, remember this is still BETA.

Dec 29, 2010

mflow downloads 20p each till 4th January or even FREE

mflow

I recently received an email about a new download site - not that unusual - however on investigating further it became a lot more interesting. As it is not just pop, pop and more pop but also different genres including my vice JAZZ.

On first look I assumed that would be a few well known artists and little else, wrong.

Once a member you can listen – uninterrupted – to as much music as you like so you can definitely try before you buy.

The news just gets better as from now till the 4th of January all tracks are 20p each. So currently you can download a full album of tracks for less than the price of an album.

The album I am currently streaming is £4.49 normally but the nine tracks it contains downloaded separately will – until 4th January – cost just £1.80, that’s £1.80 for the full album.

However don’t just take my word for it www.gadgetspeak.com has been given a code allowing a good number of readers to try it for themselves with ‘over £5 worth of music available to download for FREE

The code you need is CHEEKYELF326 and the site to use it on is http://www.mflow.com

To redeem your code right click on your name top right of the mflow window and enter the code above.

A total of six clicks from selecting the album to having it on your PC and less than 30 seconds, try it!!!

Dec 15, 2010

Powertraveller portable power

This blog from Loving Outdoors gives a general overview of the Powertraveller range. Click the links for more info... 

We may as well face facts: we need gadgets. In the olden days we didn’t need them but now we do and that’s that. Even those of us who take to the countryside to ‘get away from it all’ need gadgets to feel truly at ease- however it might pain us to admit it.

Gadgets are great; they allow you to communicate, navigate or listen to our favourite music in places where such activity might previously have been impossible. But since the invention of gadgets many things that might previously have been impossible are now quite the opposite: possible. You can listen to Chris De Burgh whilst stood at the summit of Scafell Pike. You can, depending on your mobile phone provider, call your best friend whilst watching trout swim by on the river Dee. With the aid of GPS you can navigate through thick fog with relative ease…

But then your battery runs out. Chris De Burgh is stopped in his tracks. You find yourself talking to trout. Fog engulfs and disorientates you. You try turning your gadget back on (’just a glitch, surely’) …IT WORKS! Then it dies again; for good this time- the sparkling device that had so enhanced your outdoor experience now so much dead weight. You stare into the blank screen of exhausted technology and, knowing in that moment the overwhelming solitude of permenance, tremble.

…but then you plug in your Powertraveller portable charger and everything’s fine. Your ipod, mobile phone, GPS, or whatever,  is immediately reanimated and your on your way without any need for panic.

Designed to military specification, Powertraveller portable chargers can stand up to the toughest conditions to deliver dependable and long-lasting power when you go off the grid. Named after various primates, the diverse Powertraveller range will meet all your wilderness power needs….

A great emergency precaution, the Powerchimp will charge up mobile phones, ipods and will also recharge AA and AAA rechargeable batteries with enough juice to get you by.

The Powermonkey is aimed at those who don’t intend to be near a plug socket for a good few days. It’ll charge your mobile up to three times and is compatible with ipods and other devices including PSP games consoles.

Its photosynthesising cousin the Solarmonkey does the same but uses solar panel. Not only does this make it environmentally friendly but also allows you stay out for as long as you want without being bound by the plug socket (weather permitting, of course). For those who like having the benefit of both worlds there’s the Powermonkey Explorer which combines solar and battery power to make a versatile power source that’ll see you across continents.

At the larger end of the primate scale is the Powertraveller gorilla range. Designed for use with laptops these great apes can deliver hours of power to a multitude of different devices making them king of the jungle when it comes to portable power.

The Powertraveller Minigorilla, despite it diminutive title can deliver up to 6 hrs of extra power to netbooks and other devices simultaneously and it’s big brother the Powergorilla has that bit extra muscle needed to power laptop computers.

Being an environmentally aware lot at Loving Outdoors, the true pick of the bunch for us has to be the Solargorilla. Not only can this award-winning solar panel charge laptop computers (including Macbooks), it’s also compatible with Powergorilla so you’ll have no need to return to a plug socket (weather permitting, as always). As far as we’re concerned it’s the King Kong of portable power that shows exactly why the outdoor world is going bananas for Powertraveller products.

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!