At the moment I am in the doghouse – well not literally but my cat no longer considers me his best mate and is doing his best to ignore me. The reason for this unfortunate state of affairs is the arrival of the Sphero 2 from Orbotix. I have been testing this device much to the cat’s disgust and annoyance as he can not understand what it is or why it does the things it does.
For those not familiar with the Sphero, either in its original incarnation or this latest version, I should explain that this cat-annoying piece of kit is a robotic ball. It can perform a range of activities under the control of a number of apps developed for the iOS and Android platforms. I almost wrote “under my control” but, as yet, that description would fall somewhat short of the truth but I am improving if only rather slowly at making it do what I want.
The Ixus units are perhaps the best small camera range on the market, and while some may scoff – the size is everything group – just examine the results with any similar costing camera on the market and the results will show.
The Canon Ixus 140 compact digital camera measures 9.5x5.5x2cm when closed; the last can increase by 3cm when fully zoomed. It weighs only 132grams. Being an older user my brain says all cameras should be black; however the dark red of this unit almost looks right. For the novice there is a multi language Getting Started Guide with the first ten pages in English, for more detailed help there is a .PDF manual on the CD-ROM which also has some rather good software.
As winter draws on it is becoming more and more useful to have a torch with you. Not only does the ifrogz GoLite meet this need it also provides a pocket sized universal battery backup for virtually any smartphone.
The GoLite has a polished black plastic surface and is 105mm long. It has a roughly square cross section with its gently curved sides being patterned over two-thirds of their length. This makes it easier to find the “business end” in the dark when needing to use the torch. Conveniently positioned to be reached with one’s thumb is the three-position slide switch: torch on / off / charge external device.
This is a DAB and – for the regions that support it – DAB+ radio, however you can also use it as an Auxiliary player via 3.5mm lead and perhaps more usefully a Bluetooth output completes this black boxes understated offerings.
The Tivoli Audio Alber o+ measures 17.5x11x12cm and a meaty 62cm eleven piece rod aerial extends from the back, this can clip into the back when not in use. The unit weights one kilo. Slightly indented into the back are four connectors, headphones, external speaker, Auxiliary input and DC input. The DC input lead is 1.8metres ending in power brick with mains at the top of the back so be aware if you have shirting board sockets.
While “familiarity breeds contempt” might not totally be the appropriate comment, in some respect it could apply in this situation. After all the more we use our Windows computers, the less responsive they become when reacting to our needs and commands. Often we are kept waiting for a boot-up sequence to be completed and programs, which previously loaded speedily, now appear to crawl as if they are spending time admiring the innards of the computer and its operating system. Of course we could just sit back, twiddling our thumbs or contemplating our navels, while time ticks away or we could attempt to tackle the problem at source with software designed for the purpose. One such product that I have used over a number of years is TuneUp Utilities which is now available in its new 2014 version.
When installing TuneUp Utilities you will need to enter a 35-character product key. A search will be conducted for an earlier version of the software and if one is found then it will be removed. Options will be made available to include TuneUp Shredder and TuneUp Disk Space Explorer as part of the installation plus adding TuneUp Undelete facility to the Recycle Bin Context (following a right mouse click) menu.
The Jabra Solemate is a small portable speaker capable of being totally wireless, it can be connected via Bluetooth or 3.5mm lead and as it runs on a solid battery does not even require a mains lead so here a small speaker that really can claim to be ‘wireless’.
The Jabra Solemate Bluetooth speaker measures 16x6x6cm and weights 603grams. While I quite often moan that boxes once opened are impossible to close up again as you have to break them open to extract the contents. Not so here as the plastic sleeve is opened by holding the ends and being solid it will protect the 'Solemate' when reinserted.
A flip book was the method use to create moving images when I was a child. Now modern technology can be used to create a similar effect.
Described as an Edutainment product, Stopmotion Studio 4.0 is a tool designed for the creating of stop-motion videos as you capture a stream of images posed slightly differently. Released by Honestech, this product is being marketed as a fun educational software offering for the creation of movies for school projects. Naturally the budding movie maker will need to provide their own capture device which could be a webcam, camcorder or DSLR camera.
Hotels appearing in games tend to be portrayed as establishments where you would not want to spend too much time. The hotel’s reputation is often sullied with tales of misadventure, missing residents, wandering spirits of which many are evil, and even the occasional murder. Take the Haunted Hotel featured in this next game for instance.
Subtitled Charles Dexter Ward and available in Collector’s Edition format from Focus Multimedia, this Haunted Hotel Hidden Object Adventure game sets you the task of finding the aforementioned Charles Dexter Ward who happens to be your brother who has mysteriously gone missing. While the police and press believe Charles has just left town but you known differently as your brother always kept you informed as to his whereabouts.
These are designed for Gamers as their life – or lives – may depend on hearing tiny sounds that most sets of headphones cannot pick up. The result is something that some may think is overkill others may rejoice that they are not killed.
The headset itself is comfortable; any gaming headset has to be as it is often worn for many hours at a time. The earpieces are coated in a breathable material and for any folically challenged person the headband is well padded. The Quick Start Guide is eight sides of heavy card, unfortunately it is multi language and what it says would surely be said better in a single page per language. There are two models but the only difference is colour, either white or black.
Western Digital, or WD as it is referred to by friends and family, is best known for its hard disk products in various formats. It is therefore not surprising that the company’s next product is based on one of its hard drives. Basically this is a method of providing the user with Cloud-like services while retaining full control over their content from their local base.
This Western Digital NAS solution, appropriately entitled My Cloud, is currently available in 2 and 3TB versions with a 4TB product due in the near future. Along with its local and network capabilities, the My Cloud offers Cloud-like access to remote devices via free downloadable apps for the iOS and Android platforms but more on this aspect a little later. Encased in an upright white box with dimensions of 170.6 x 139.
This is a small and light Windows 8 notebook with touch. On a unit of this size touch makes sense as it will be within reach of a finger, so if Windows 9 is for you then this latest offering from Samsung may have everything you need.
The Samsung Ativ Book 915s measures 21.5x31x1cm and weights 1560grams. The viewable screen is 29.3x16.5cm which gives a notional diagonal imperial measurement of 13.3inches. The default screen resolution is 1366x768. This unit comes with a 128GB SSD drive and for most without further storage may be a little snug with today’s bloated applications. The available space is 99GB with around 35GB used so you have around 64GB available.
Two items that would make ideal gifts that would get used there's a battery charger to charge Ni-MH ‘AA’ or ‘AAA’ batteries, both things almost everyone uses and not just live in a cupboard. Second a pen – and more - from a well-respected company, second .
This charger can also charge the smaller 'AAA' batteries as well as 'AA' ones. As sent to me it was the charger fitted with four 'AA' batteries. Unlike the design of some other units it externally looks like it is made solely for 'AA' use but remove the supplied batteries and 'AAA' one will fit lower at the front and sit into the same chamber at the back. It is 12x7x6.5cm but 1.5cm of the first figure the length and around 1cm of the width is the overhang of the fitted 13amp plug.
As part of its family of protection software, Norton has released the latest version of its popular Norton Internet Security product.
I am sure whether to claim that this next product is the latest version or not. Having checked the product box carefully, I could find no indication that the version of Norton Internet Security was, in fact, the 2014 offering. However the box does clearly state that this product is always up-to-date as it automatically updates to the latest version so presumably Symantec feels there is no need to add a version identifier to the product’s title.
A small Tower PC but with everything you need apart from a Panel and speakers and if you connect via HDMI you do not even require speakers. While they are no longer fashionable this is small and has far more connectivity than a notebook.
The Acer XC600 small tower system measures 37x10x26cm and while it will work horizontally it is designed to work vertically. The front has two USB2 ports and a multi card slot it also has 3.5mm sockets for microphone and headphones. Behind a flip open door is a DVD multi recorder drive. The right side and top have extensive ventilation slots.
In its various versions, Paint Shop Pro has been a regular resident on my computer systems dating back to its Shareware days. This product is now a popular member of the Corel family.
Back in 1991, Robert Volt, a qualified pilot and software engineer, developed a graphics program entitled Paint Shop Pro. This software, which originally could easily fit on a 5.25-inch floppy disk with space to spare, has grown in size and increased in functionality so that the latest version comes on a DVD. This is Paint Shop Pro X6 which is available in Standard and Ultimate versions.
Developed by Nijumi Games and available as a download from Avanquest’s GSP catalogue, Stones of Rome is a puzzle game. This title belongs to the popular Match 3 genre of puzzle game. It makes use of a format of Match 3 game play that I have not encountered before.
While this is a Digital Camera it makes an excellent bridge unit for those intending to make the jump to a DSLR unit as it has that rarely seen item a viewfinder as well as a decent TFT screen so all groups are catered for.
The Canon PowerShot G15 compact digital camera measures 11x4x7cm when switched off, you can add another 3.7cm to the middle figure the width. It weights 350grams. It does have a pop up flash unit but it also has a shoe so you can attach an external flash as well.
Like Adobe Photoshop Elements 12, Adobe Premiere Elements 12 is a less powerful and more economic version of one of Adobe’s marketing leading products used by many professional users. So if you feel that Adobe Premiere video editing software is too expensive for your current financial situation then you might like to consider Adobe Premiere Elements 12 which could well be within your budget range.
As with its companion product, namely , Premiere Elements 12 opens with a flash screen providing access to Organizer and Video Editor Modules plus various video tutorials covering a range of topics found within this product. The Organizer module has a rather neutral style of interface which consists of various shades of grey. This module shares its underlying database with that used by Photoshop Elements 12 and will access its data if it is available.
A set of headphones designed for use with Apple products but they work on other devices, Apple do have high standards – as well as high prices – so the headphones here give excellent sound quality as well as a good frequency range.
Yes as we mere mortals using a PC know Apple kit is expensive and these are designed for Apple use but they work just as well with a PC or audio system. Open the box and you know it’s luxury, first way it can be closed again as you do not have to destroy it to get the headphones out.
The only link these two items have is that they both came from a ‘Christmas In July’ event organised by Lakeland. While they are best known for Catalogues, they also have shops and of course a Website to help you choose.
Scales designed for the young cook, easy to use and small, mine was a orange colour and of course they are easy to clean. The only control is the pop out display and this is also the on/off switch. It runs on two ‘AAA’ batteries (not supplied), these fit into a bay in the base, beside this is a slider switch to determine if the scales show in grams or ounces. The pop out measure is 6x3cm and its display is 3.5x2cm. It has a single line showing the number of grams on the scale.