While perhaps not as well known as various titles from Adobe and Corel, Xara Designer Pro has a long standing and well deserved reputation for its performance speed when completing different tasks. In fact several years ago Corel licensed an earlier version of Xara software because its speed of performance made its own software look a little like a tortoise.
Now up to version X10, and part of the MAGIX family of products, Xara Designer Pro is available in 32 and 64-bit versions. As usual with MAGIX products, you are given the option of a Custom or Standard installation with choices that include the destination and whether to have a desktop icon to start the program. Recently MAGIX have been including a bonus item entitled Simpliclean with their various software items and Xara Designer Pro X10 is no exception.
Focus Multimedia has bundled together two titles from the Big Fish Games Fear for Sale series of Hidden Object Adventure offerings. The games forming this bundle are Sunnyvale Story and Nightmare Cinema with both titles being based on mysterious disappearances.
In Sunnyvale Story you take on the role of a journalist who turns up to report on the discovery of a dead body in mysterious circumstance in Sunnyvale. However, as soon as you arrive in Sunnyvale, you are warned off by the mayor of the town although the local sheriff is far more welcoming. He seems keen for you to continue your investigations into the death and other events that are affecting the community in this Hidden Object Adventure game.
A rather nice set of on ear headphones. Nothing fussy just a good quality sound without doing any more than removing from the box and plugging the lead into whatever you normally use to output your sound files from and relax.
The box says ‘Sporty, lightweight and comfortable on-ear design’ yes I think that is another good way of describing them.
While entertainment devices generally have their own built-in audio output, it is not always of the highest quality. This next product offers to improve the audio output.
Its no secret that to me black coffee is a no no, my days of alcoholic excess are long gone and I prefer something smoother so milk is required. I do like my milk frothy so a device to pump steam in while making good coffee is for me.
This unit is 30x22.5x23cm. The unit is predominately white but the sides are a ribbed black and the area behind the coffee spout is also black. On top there is a chromed strip which lifts up to insert the pod and to the right of the front another chromed area the steam spout. There are three buttons on the face, bottom left on/off, top left heating button, top right steam button. On the right side at the top front a twist knob that is either off (vertical) or on (horizontal).
Where voice quality is important, a headset has a key role to play with vendors such as Jabra and Logitech producing headsets with noise cancelling microphones which are much more effective in meeting user needs.
Although loudspeakers and webcam microphones are suitable for conference calls where there may be a number of people involved, they are not ideal for one-to-one Skype calls and inappropriate when using speech recognition software. Furthermore, while there are many cheap headsets on the market many do not incorporate noise cancellation and, because of cost constraints, they may not be very durable and be uncomfortable for wearing for long periods.
Two useful things, the first for when the selfie needs to be more than at arms length as well as when you need not to be at that place. The second a small item to do just a single job that otherwise would involve several steps to complete.
This is from those clever USB people Brando in Hong Kong. The monopod pole when collapsed is 22cm long and can increase to 98cm. The rear end has a micro USB connection (for charging) and below this an on/off slider. The extended end has a tripod screw but this there to allow the two bits of the adjustable phone frame to be connected together. So once everything is connected your arm length will become something like 1.5metres or more.
If you have not had the battery of a mobile device die on you then you must be incredibly lucky. But do not tempt fate and check out this battery charger.
While data is generally easily accessible from almost any location via the Internet and an appropriate Wi-Fi hot spot, its availability will depend upon whether your mobile device has sufficient battery power to carry out the task. When the mobile device does not have enough power then problems can arise. It would be great if we could simply log on to the Internet or some other system yet-to-be developed and carry out recharging the battery powering our mobile devices.
Do you want a fool proof way to access your photos, videos and music on a range of devices? While OTG is great it does not work on all devices. This uses Wi-Fi to do the work so once the data is on the unit it can be accessed.
The unit is chunky at 14.5x8.5x2cm and weights 250grams. Data can be attached or removed by USB and this device has both USB3 and USB2 ports. Charging of this solid battery powered unit is by a lead provided. One moan that when charging there is an LED that shows red from empty till fully charged when it shows green, it would be nice to know something in between. There are three other LEDs on the face on, Wi-Fi working and Wi-Fi linking.
Vax has introduced a battery-powered upright vacuum cleaner, the Vax Air Cordless, targeted at those who want the power of a full-size cordless cleaner without the inconvenience of having a trailing mains cable to plug in or even trip over.
Weighing in at 4.2kg, it is largely grey in colour with royal blue details – mainly for switches and release catches. In addition to a removable dual-purpose cleaning wand and a soft cleaning brush it comes supplied with two Lithium ion battery packs and their charger. While one battery is on the VAC, the other can remain on the charger even when fully charged.
Look after your health and it will look after you so goes the saying and this next product could prove useful.
Personal health and fitness is an issue that should concern us all. However, for some it is easily ignored due to the demands of everyday living. Fortunately help is available from various wearable devices that offer to provide feedback regarding certain health issues. Originally these devices tended to concentrate their efforts on a single topic such as how far the wearer has walked in a given period. But now devices are available to check on a range of health issues.
This next Focus Multimedia offering bundles together two Big Fish titles that feature a magical world.
Mandolins are great for giving very thin slices of vegetables, they have one nasty problem they are very sharp, most are sold with a guard but these often produce a lot of waste, all other Mandolins are push action this is a pull action.
When I saw this demonstrated at a recent event I thought it was interesting and worth looking at myself, after all a lot of things look great when used by a professional, they are less good when used in the home. The first time I used it I was amazed I cut apple slices so thin that you could see through them, OK interesting but not a lot of use as who really wants apple slices that thin.
With a brand name that suggests an explosive device and an appearance that reminds me of a slightly squashed sweet I enjoyed when I was younger, the subject of this next review is a Bluetooth portable speaker unit.
Forming part of the BOOMPODS range of products, the Downdraft speaker adopts a circular discus-like shape with a diameter of 55mm and a height of 30mm at its thickest point. Weighing 112g, and with its compact size, the Downdraft can easily be transported between locations by slipping it into a pocket or bag.
Smartphone prices are falling fast, reaching the point where you may be thinking of buying your next one outright and topping up monthly with PAYG. Budget smartphones are the sweetspot, but you'll need to choose carefully if you're not going to end up lumbered with rapidly obsolescent technology. The brand new Moto G LTE at around £150 looks like a pretty good bet.
Let's first clear up the distinction between this new LTE (4G) version of the Moto G and the now year-old previous version, because I foresee some considerable confusion, not least because the two models are externally physically identical. There's a good deal of confusion too about what 4G (Fourth Generation) and/or LTE (Long Term Evolution) actually mean.
This is the latest small and powerful option from Gigabyte who are best known for their Motherboards. They do however make some rather nice powerful notebooks that may even satisfy the lust for speed of the modern gamer.
It is 33.5x23.5x1.7cm and weights 1719grams. The viewable screen is 31x17.5cm which gives the notional diagonal imperial measurement of 14inches. The screen is full HD 1920x1080. Going round the perimeter finds a Kensington Lock port, Ethernet port, VGA out, two USB3 ports and a dual external headphone/microphone 3.5mm socket; these are all on the left. The front is clear apart from five pin hole LEDs.
First a small round ball with a rubber strap to allow it to be attached to a bag or belt, the result you can take photos remotely on more than one device. Second a tiny 32GB microDuo OTG flash drive for transfer of data and this is USB.
With the amount of available content, either free or subscription based, you might need help to access it. This next product could help.
The Roku Streaming Stick, as it name might imply, is a product for adding streaming capabilities to a device. In this case it is your television set. Resembling one of the original flash sticks, the purple coloured Roku Streaming Stick has body dimensions of 70 x 25 x 10mm (L x W x D) and simply slots into a HDMI port of your television set.
This can work as a single triangular speaker or via a hub form a multi room offering. It can work wired, wireless, Bluetooth or even via an Auxiliary cable. If this is not enough with the right sort of TV you can improve the TV sound with the M7.
They are useable with or without a provided prop. The shape is rather like a large section cut from a round of cheese. Front to back the speaker is 20cm. Side to side it is 39cm. It is 13cm tall. The prop fits in the back near the connections and makes the unit stand firmly at 36cm. There is a curved cover for the back and remove it to reveal, mains lead connection, Ethernet, Service Port, 3.5mm input and two plus buttons for additional speaker link and WPS router connection.
Not everybody needs a printer with various bells and whistles such as Wi-Fi and remote printing capability. The subject of this next review is just such as basic device.
The Canon PIXMA iP2850 is an inkjet printer. This model concentrates all its functionality on the print aspect using two ink cartridges (Black and Colour). Connectivity is via Hi-Speed USB 2.0 with the user providing the necessary lead to link the printer to a computer. Apart from a couple of Canon Logos and a Fine Print sticker, the printer is decked out totally in Apple White signifying that Canon feels this unit has been designed specifically for home use rather than in an office.
Redemption Cemetery is a series of Hidden Object Adventure games, currently standing at five, published originally by Big Fish Games. Focus Multimedia has taken two of these titles and bundled then together in a single package which is priced at the companys usual £10.20 level.
Having done an excessive amount of walking over the recent weeks at the range of Christmas In July events this was lovely. In previous years shoulders and then backs have had Shiatsu attention, this year it is the turn of feet.
This device can be controlled by a toe as no need even to bend down to turn it on or off. It is 33cm wide, 35cm deep and 9cm tall at the edges just slightly higher between your two feet so it can even slide under a lot of furniture. Come in, shoes and socks off and relax the pressure of the day away and get your feet ready to face more work. The two feet panels are 20cm long 8cm wide at the heel and 10cm wide at the toes so all but the largest feet can be totally massaged.
If a wireless network does not work for you then this next Devolo product might provide a solution.
While Wi-Fi is the choice of many when setting up a home network, the technology does not suit every environment especially when obstructions can cause dead areas. A popular alternative solution is that provided by Powerline technology with products such as those developed by Devolo. The company’s latest addition to its dLAN Powerline series is the dLAN 650 Triple+ product.
Archos are a company that has made Tablets but a quick rack of my brain cannot remember any phones from them in the past. While this is a phone it is of course also a PDA and as it runs Android also a Tablet so a three in one device.
A Quad Core Processor with 4G capability, a 5inch screen, 8MP rear camera and 8GB of memory are just the main features. The screen resolution is 1280x720 so far nearer that of a PC than a lot of phones and web pages are very readable. It is 14.5x7x.7cm and the viewable screen is 11x6.2cm which gives the notional diagonal imperial measurement of 5inches mentioned above.
The latest version of Dragon Naturally Speaking (DNS) speech recognition software, Version 13, is more accurate, easier to train and works with a wider range of applications than previously. Consequently, an even wider range of people should be able to benefit from its use.
DNS is arguably the most popular speech recognition application with this latest incarnation, which is claimed to be 15% more accurate and easier to use than previously, available in Home and Premium versions. Hence, there is a one to suit most people's needs and make it easier to create and edit documents as well as sending emails. Advances in speech recognition technology have enabled Nuance to make the "training" far simpler than before.
A mobile charging device, not just a standard device but one that should be able to charge your devices it can do several at once for no additional cost after you have purchased the Freeloader. This feat is accomplished by using solar power.
The Freeloader iSIS measures 13x7.5x1.7cm and weighs 228grams. While no great claims are made about its rugged uses the rubber sides and ends are very extensive and should save it should it be dropped in most situations. The box states the case is impact and water resistant, the claim is a one metre drop which probably corresponds from most peoples waists. The back of the unit has a substantial belt loop 4x4cm belt loop and there is also a Velcro strap included.
This is not a case of Jam tomorrow as offered in Lewis Carrolls Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Did Next. Instead it is, in fact, Jam today as HMDX adds another device to its series of Jam portable speakers. This is the Jam Plus which, as you might suppose from its title, is the slightly larger sibling of the companys original Jam device that I reviewed last year.
The Jam Plus device is a Bluetooth speaker which adopts a barrel shape as it rises to a height of 8cm from a base with a diameter of 8cm. Living up to its Jam designation, the product arrives packaged in a container than could easily be mistaken for a jam jar. The resemblance to a jar of jam is enhanced by the various colours schemes used for these devices. You have a choice of blue, red, grey, pink or purple for this device.
This unit is designed to take up to a 15.6inch notebook/laptop. It does however have room for a few extras so could be just about big enough to contain a spare shirt and socks etc so could just about constitute an overnight bag.
The first thing I do is discover how many pockets in unusual places such an item has. This I found even has its own raincover in a little zipped compartment near the base of the outside, something I think you will never find in normal use as it will be on its base. Unzip the main compartment and you have the padded blue area at the rear for your notbook/laptop in front of that a 21x28.5cm padded area which could be for say a Tablet on the outside of this two 10.
While not everybodys favourite household task, a vacuum cleaner, especially a cordless one, can help.
Some company names have been known to take on an even greater significance through common usage. Rather than just representing the company and/or its products, its name is used as the generic term for a particular concept. One of the more recent and a prime example is that of Google with the name representing the company and that of a verb used to describe the act of searching for information.
With the various conspiracy theories, the assassination of J F Kennedy is an obvious target (no pun intended) on which the developers of games can base their work. One example of this is Hidden Files Echoes of JFK. Available from Avanquest GSP label, this game sets you the task of investigating more modern day events that are meant to have a connection with the assassination of JFK on the 22nd of November 1963.