Category Archives: Matt Porter

Gadget Man – Review – Transcend DrivePro 550 – Driver and Passenger Safety, both inside and out

I’ve been doing a lot of driving over the past few weeks and consequently, I’ve had the chance to test a few different gadgets that help to keep us safe and use a variety of different methods to track the driving habits of both ourselves and others. This month’s review is the Transcend DrivePro 550 dashcam, a camera that not only films ahead of your vehicle, but also features a 180° rotatable second camera to capture the interior of a vehicle and provides protection for both driver and passengers.

As with other Transcend cameras, the DrivePro 550 was exceedingly easy to install. The camera comes with a powerful suction mount and a very long Micro USB power cable with built-in 12v plug allowing for permanent installation in most vehicles. A 32gb MicroSD card is also supplied in the packaged, which gives hours of video footage capture.

The front-facing camera features a Sony 1080p image sensor with a wide angle lens recording at 30fps. The second rotatable camera is packed with four infrared LED’s which automatically trigger in low light or night. Both give extremely good results with the second camera recording 720p video. The dashcam recording 2 separate videos concurrently, timestamping them and adding geo-tagging information using both GPS and GLONASS satellite tracking which gives very accurate positioning information.

The front facing camera using special Wide Dynamic Range technology, which equalises both dark and light areas of the video to ensure that bright skies are not blown out and darker parts easy to recognise. The results were excellent!

Aside from simply recording video footage, the DrivePro 550 also features a WiFi mode which allows you to connect to the camera using your smartphone or tablet via Transcends own app. You can then video live footage on a larger screen or access the video files already recorded and transfer them to your device. I noted that I could only display either front or rear facing cameras, not both at the same time using the app. I could, however, see both on the rear built-in 2.4” colour TFT screen.

The camera comes with a built-in battery which ensures continued video recording in event of an accident or in ‘parking mode’. The camera can detect accidents and record the video in ‘emergency mode’, making it much more difficult to delete. Parking mode can be used to detect movement in the field of view of the camera and begin recording whilst you are away from the car.

Other useful settings are ‘lane departure’ warning, forward collision warning (when you get too close to the car in front), a heads-up display for current speed, headlight warning and driver fatigue reminders.

What sets this camera apart from standard dashcams is the interior facing camera, a feature which would appeal to delivery companies, transport providers, taxi and chauffeur companies. It allows for the recording of driver behaviour to ensure appropriate behaviour and both driver and passenger safety, I thought it was a great feature and the addition of infrared cameras makes it superb for night driving.

The camera is priced reasonably at around £140 and can be ordered from Amazon using this link: https://amzn.to/2S829d8

Matt Porter
The Gadget Man

Gadget Man – Episode 116 – Digital Photo Overload

Twenty years ago, we all relied on photographic film when taking pictures of friends, family or interesting places and landmarks. We were always very careful how and when we took these photos as at the time exposures were limited to either 24 or 36, there was also the case of having the photos developed by the nearest lab. The entire process would take from days to weeks depending on whether we were to wait until our return from our holidays.

Oh, how things have changed! We can now snap away with abandon and anything and everything! There is now no limit to how many photos we take, the storage on our cameras or phones allowing for thousands. If we do begin to fill up our devices, we can push these photos to ‘the cloud’ and start again.

In this episode, I speak to BBC Radio Suffolk about how many photos we now store and how we can safely store them away for future generations. I also talk about the possibility of hardware failure which can result in the loss of our memories.

 

Gadget Man – Episode 115 – To Binge or Not to Binge? The Rise and Rise of Streaming TV

With the incredible rise in popularity of on-demand streaming services from Netflix, Amazon Prime, Google Play, NowTV, Rakatun and more, there is now no better time to watch our favourite movies and TV programmes.

We can now consume our TV using a variety of devices - Image Credit: Netflix
We can now consume our TV using a variety of devices – Image Credit: Netflix

We are not just simply watching TV, we are ‘consuming’ it! This fascination and above all, choice of programming has led millions of people to ‘binge’ on entire TV series over short periods. Evenings can now be spent watching multiple episodes of a series, with seemingly limitless content being served up automatically at the end of each episode, with entirely new content provided at the end of series.

The BBC have not ignored this either, they too are releasing entire series on their platform iPlayer whilst broadcasting the series in the standard week on week format on traditional television.

Now we are all comfortable with the digital switch-over, the set-top boxes can now begin serving up content over the internet without us even realising this is happening, the broadcasters have found their pot of gold.

Stranger Things has been a massive success for Netflix - Image Credit: Netflix
Stranger Things has been a massive success for Netflix – Image Credit: Netflix

Personally, I am a massive Breaking Bad fan, now enjoying it’s spin-off prequel Better Call Saul, both available on Netflix, but switching to Amazon Prime for The Grand Tour and watching movies on Google Play, all available using low-cost devices from Amazon, Roku, Apple and many more!

Apple also have been investing heavily in the streaming marketplace - Image credit: Apple Inc
Apple has also been investing heavily in the streaming marketplace with their Apple TV  – Image credit: Apple Inc

We have now turned a corner, once this technology was the go-to place for our kids, now we have embraced it, there is no going back. Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Google and Sky are now the streaming big hitters with astronomically large budgets, high-quality content and the power to break the traditional status quo enjoyed in the UK by the BBC and ITV.

Now WE decide what we watch.

Listen to my interview with Mark Murphy from BBC Radio Suffolk, where I talk enthusiastically about my personal experience of binge-watching streaming TV.

Matt Porter
The Gadget Man

If you have enjoyed reading and listening to this episode, please remember to Like, Subscribe and Share!

Gadget Man – Episode 114 – Too Much Smartphone Part II

You might remember a few weeks back, I talked about how smartphones have now officially taken over our lives, squeezing into every social, domestic and work situation.

Today, I spoke to James Hazell on BBC Radio Suffolk about how our very Government is considering investigating how to make the use of a smartphone safer for us all.

China continues to innovate in this area by providing ‘mobile friendly’ footpaths for phone users to protect them from walking into each other or falling into fountains!

A designated 'Cellphone Sidewalk' in Chongqing, China. Photo credit: China Daily/Reuters
A designated ‘Cellphone Sidewalk’ in Chongqing, China.
Photo credit: China Daily/Reuters

While you sit and ponder how we as an advanced civilisation found ourselves in this position? Why not listen into my interview with James.

If you like what you read or listen to, why not ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ this story.

DJI Osmo Mobile 2 – Affordable High End Image Stabilisation on your Smartphone

The Steadicam was launched more than 40 years ago and since then we have become accustomed to seeing smooth video at sporting events and in movies, most famously in the classic horror ‘The Shining’ with Jack Nicholson. This high-end equipment costs many thousands of pounds and thus keeps it well out the reach of hobbyists or home users.

Orwell Bridge Motion Timelapse

Over the past few years, the technology associated with expensive motion picture equipment has found its way into the consumer market, once heavy and cumbersome, the large motors needed to stabilise heavy camera equipment has now been replaced by tiny brushless motors powerful enough to steady our mobile phones.

DJI Osmo Mobile 2
DJI Osmo Mobile 2

As a commercial drone pilot, I have experienced DJI’s camera stabilising technology first hand using their drones which employ identical techniques to keep footage smooth in windy conditions, so I was excited to experience the DJI Osmo Mobile 2 Smartphone Stabiliser.

The Osmo Mobile 2 allows for the capture of extremely smooth footage using an Android or iPhone to capture the video itself. The mobile device is slotted into a rubber padded clamp, balanced manually using the adjuster on the Osmo. This initial adjustment means that the device doesn’t have to work as hard to stabilise the device and thus extends the life of the battery and motors when in use.

Orwell Bridge Motion Timelapse

DJI provides an app for both Android and iPhone to directly control the device via Bluetooth LE 4.0 and also includes a USB socket to allow you to charge your phone. DJI state up to a 15 battery life, so you should be able to comfortably use the device and maintain your phone battery life with plenty to spare.

After installing the device, you switch on the Osmo by long-pressing the button on the handle, the Gimbal springs into life, balances your mobile device and suddenly it appears to float in mid-air, silently holding your phone completely steady!

You can use the DJI GO app to take movies, photographs, panoramas and even Live Stream to Facebook, YouTube an more. The Osmo can be set to smoothly following your hand motion, removing judder whilst filming or can be set to maintain the position of the phone.

DJI Osmo Mobile Stabilised Video

For more advanced uses, there is Timelapse, Hyperlapse and Motion Timelapse. All of these modes produce really impressive results, my favourite was Motion Timelapse which allowed me to take speeded up sunsets and even panoramic shots of large structures, by setting the start, middle and end points of the movie, choosing a lapse time and the number of frames, when you click Go, the camera very slowly pans and produces a smooth and stable sweeping timelapse video, it was very impressive. The standard tripod screw mount at the base of the Osmo allows you to attach it to a tripod, so no tired arms when producing your masterpiece.

At 485g, the Osmo Mobile 2 is very light but feels high quality in the hand, you do also have to take into account the weight of the device you are going to use. The Osmo is comfortable stabilising anything from the size of an iPhone SE to an iPhone 7s, but check your phone is compatible before purchasing, especially with an Android device.

DJI Osmo Mobile 2
DJI Osmo Mobile 2

This is the second iteration of the Osmo Mobile and DJI have successfully brought down the cost of the original model without forsaking built quality and features. If you are a budding ‘vlogger’ or like taking footage of family and friends, this may be the gadget for you. There is even a ‘Selfie Mode’ with and object tracking to keep you all in the picture wherever you might be!

At £129, the DJI Osmo Mobile 2 is good value for money, has great battery life and the features are great too. I loved it!

The Gadget Man

www.thegadgetman.org.uk

Gadget Man – Episode 113 – What is Keyless Car Crime?

Following reports of an increase in car-related crime, I spoke to Mark Murphy on BBC Radio Suffolk about what can be done to reduce the chances of falling foul to Keyless Car Crime.

Keyless Keyfobs are devices that have come to replace the ‘traditional’ car entry methods which required us to actively press a lock/unlock button on our fobs. Instead the car constantly ‘polls’ the keyfob and when you within a short distance of the vehicle, automatically opens its to allow for entry. It also enables the driver to start and stop the car using on dash buttons.

As is usual, technology strives to make our lives easier, but also it seems gives criminals new opportunities to steal our vehicles. Readily available gadgets can be purchases specifically to scan for these ‘handshake’ signals between car and fob and upon interception, thieves can drive the cars with an instantly cloned device.

It is important to note that many cars will allow the car to be driven even if the key is no longer present. Check with your manufacturer if this is the case with your vehicle.

Rather than concentrate on the specific technology to achieving this wireless theft, drivers should concentrate in the short term on how they can ensure their cars are secure.

Leading car security organisation, Thatcham Research have published a list of steps we as drivers should follow to ensure this security. This very list has been adopted by Police forces across the UK.

  1. Contact your dealer and talk about the digital features in your car. Have there been any software updates you can take advantage of?
  2. Check if your keyless entry fob can be turned off. If it can, and your dealer can also confirm this, then do so overnight.
  3. Store your keys away from household entry points. Keeping your keyless entry fob out of sight is not enough – thieves only need to gain proximity to the key before amplifying the signal.
  4. Be vigilant. Keep an eye out for suspicious activity in your neighbourhood – and report anything unusual to the Police.
  5. Review your car security. Check for aftermarket security devices such as Thatcham-approved mechanical locks and trackers, which are proven to deter thieves. A list can be found on the Thatcham Research website, here.

You can also download the Suffolk Constabulary ‘Tips for Drivers’ factsheet below. I have also included links to key pouches that block scanners. These can be purchased from Amazon using the links below.

Don’t forget to ‘Like’, ‘Subscribe’ and of course ‘Comment’ and stay tuned for our reviews and comment.

Security Tips for Drivers with Keyless Entry Vehicles - Suffolk Police
Security Tips for Drivers with Keyless Entry Vehicles – Suffolk Police

Gadget Man – Preloved Chica Time Capsule with Elene Marsden on ICR FM

I‘ve been told on numerous occasions that I have an ‘eclectic’ taste in music, so when I was invited by Elene Marsden to be a guest on her ‘Time Capsule’ show on ICR FM, I put on my thinking cap! What music would I like to place in a time capsule as a gift to people of the future? One of the BIGGEST tracks in the four I have selected has never been far away from my playlist. Cafe Del Mar by Energy 52 is an absolutely stonking tune and the ‘Original Three’n One’ mix is particularly amazing.  The ‘Michael Woods Ambient Mix’ of the track was used our my wedding to my wife Vanessa whilst we signed the register, so it has particular importance.

My second track, Two Tribes by Frankie Goes To Hollywood was massively important in my early teens when the threat of global nuclear annihilation seemed to loom over humanity. The track bluntly sums up the feeling of gloom that pervaded at the time. The band played a big part of my life and due to the power of the internet, I’m now friends with members of the band. If you get a chance look up former FGTH lead guitarist Nasher on your streaming services, he producing some amazing material which deserves to be heard!

This brings me on to track three, by the German group Propaganda, a band I became aware of as they shared labels with Frankie in the early 80’s. Duel was a fabulous pop track on at A side which juxtaposed with the much rawer Jewel on the B side. Although perhaps less radio friendly, Jewel went on to be the soundtrack to WRC Rally programs in the 80’s, it’s driving bassline and hammering drums working perfectly. The version of the track I chose was however called ‘Bejewelled’, a intermingle of both A and B sides of the single package on the Cassingle release name ‘Do Well’ (It’s exhausting trying to explain it!). It’s a great track and gives the best of both worlds.

The final track of the four is of course My Way, but rather than crooned by Frank Sinatra, instead it is nothing short of destroyed by the late Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols. Many would argue that he murders the song and does it little justice. I would argue that this moment of genius summed up the feelings of the late 70’s where music had ground to a halt with super groups wading through 25 minutes of guitar solos and at the same time,  disco was self combusting on itself and leaving a void to be filled by culture of very angry young people who felt disconnected by society and were going no where. Although by the time of recording, the Pistols were no longer really fighting for the jilted generation and apparently ‘flogging a dead horse’, the track starts gloomy and pitifully sung, but suddenly bursts out of itself and plants Sid Vicious as a cultural legend. My reasons for picking this song, is simply that I have always wanted to do things ‘my way’, but in a rebellious way, so who better to convey that but this song.

Don’t forget to listen in to Elene’s show using the link below (or at the top of the page). Thanks for inviting me on the show Elene!

 

Gadget Man – Episode 112 – Too Much Smartphone!

The Genie is now officially out of the bottle! We use our smartphones too much!

Most of us will already know this though, how could we miss it? You only have to travel on buses, trains and planes to see myriads of people sitting quietly staring at their smart phones, glued to Facebook, Snapchat or Twitter, scrolling through the latest news.

In restaurants alongside the place settin will sit a smartphone, ready at a moments notice to be snatched up and used to photograph a plate of food of a group selfie.

At rock concerts, the crowd is now lit up by mobile phone screens at they live stream or record a band whilst watching on those same screens, perhaps forgetting to watch and enjoy the band live rather than by proxy.

A designated 'Cellphone Sidewalk' in Chongqing, China. Photo credit: China Daily/Reuters
A designated ‘Cellphone Sidewalk’ in Chongqing, China.
Photo credit: China Daily/Reuters

In homes across the world, millions of people are sitting scrolling through their devices, then standing and walking into the kitchen, the phone still in front of their faces, then to bed, when finally after another 10 minutes of messaging, the phone is plugged in to finally rest and recharge, it’s peace only broken in the middle of the night as a hand reaches out to grab it and check Facebook.

Apple iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are one of the most popular smart phones in the UK
Apple iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are one of the most popular smart phones in the UK
Image Credit: Apple

As morning breaks, a sleepy hand reaches out, slowly grabs the device and the day begins again.

This information overload is affecting peoples brains, our bodies are fooled by the blue light from an LCD screen and now we believe it is daylight 24 hours a day. We are conditioned to rely on our devices for everything, for affirmation from our friends, to give that affirmation back in a pre-formatted ‘Sending Hugs 🤗🤗🤗’ .

So, have we forgotten how to communicate? Are we now so reliant on our smartphones, that we no longer feel the need to use it for it’s original purpose? That of speaking to people and conveying our true feelings without relying on pre-programmed ’emotions’ invented by clever people in California.

Samsung Galaxy S9 with Infinity display
Samsung Galaxy S9 with Infinity display providing vast displays in the palm of your hand.
Image Credit: Samsung

Time will tell, but no amount of intervention by software giants will put that Genie back. We as a race have to take that step.

I spoke to Mark Murphy at BBC Radio Suffolk about the obsession with smart phones this morning. Listen to the stream above, I would love to read your comments on the subject.

Matt Porter
Gadget Man

Gadget Man – Episode 111 – Cashless Society

The cashless society is economic model that removes physical money from our wallets and replaces it with fully digital transactions. So, we no longer carry banknotes and coins, instead we carry our traditional bank cards or mobile devices. These transactions can be made in our home currencies (in my case Pound Sterling), an international currency or even a digital currency such as Bitcoin or Ethereum.  When using our traditional currency, we can completely remove a ‘standard’ bank from the equation and use alternatives from Paypal or Amazon.

Gadget Man 111 - Cashless Society

Apple Pay and Google Pay give us access to our bank accounts to transact contactless payments using our mobile devices and also track our payments using linked cards, thus attempting to give us the best of both worlds. The sting in the tail is the utterly endless opportunities to spend at will which will surely lead to intervention by governments to protect individuals from spending above their means.

Consequently, cashless and contactless systems give us greater power to transact business quickly and painlessly. However, whilst online and large businesses can easily transfer to these systems, there is a great danger of smaller businesses being completely crowded out either by lack of infrastructure or lack of funds.

Yesterday, I was interviewed by Tony Gillham at BBC Guernsey about the cashless society and how businesses in remoter islands in the Bailiwick, such as Alderney, can continue to transact business in a rapidly cashless world.

Listen in by clicking the link above. If you have a comment, please feel free to add your opinions below. Don’t forget to like and subscribe and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Bowers & Wilkins PX – Headphones with show-stopping noise cancelling audio and aptX-HD® Bluetooth™

I spend a lot of time working in a shared office space, so it’s important to be able to shut out unwanted background noise when I want to be able concentrate.  So, when a pair of Bowers & Wilkins PX Headphones landed on my desk for review, I was excited to find a high end pair of phones that would completely remove background noise from my workplace, but also provide with a superior Bluetooth™ Audio experience, enhanced by aptX-HD® technology.

The B&W PX headphones are predominantly Bluetooth™ driven, although you can connect up manually using a 3.5mm jack cable supplied with them. Thus, they must be paired to each device and this proved fairly straightforward using the supplied instructions. In order to make full use of the noise cancelling an personalised experience, it was also necessary to download the B&W PX app which is available for both iOS and Android. In my case, I downloaded the Android app to run with my Sony Xperia XZ Premium. The app itself was developed in conjunction with Coderus who very kindly worked with me on the app for my Tesla road trip last year, so I was looking forward to both testing the headphones and also reviewing their app at the same time.

After downloading the B&W PX app, I set about trying out the different environmental settings available and I have to say I was immediately impressed. I was able to choose my desired audio profile and also the noise cancellation settings. As noise can sometimes prove an issue here in the office, I got stuck in straight away with testing these features.

 

Noise Cancellation

The headphones are activated by simply placing them on your head and immediately after the noice cancellation kicks in.

Initially you are given three customisable options for noise cancellation, allowing you to pick Office, City or Flight, these three option will give you a preprogrammed cancellation profile based on the background noise you are likely to experience in each of these modes. Interestingly, City worked best for my office. The settings automatically pick the most common voice passthrough settings for the headphones, either off (my preferred setting), Natural or Amplified. All three settings worked great and I liked being able to filter out general noise and still be part of a conversation.

Other options include ‘Wear Sensor’, so when placed on the head, the phones automatically switch on and connect to bluetooth with further adjustment using the ‘Sensitivity’ options.

Aside from the Environment filters, the app also shows you the current battery and firmware status. Yes, we live in a world where improvements to the operation of the headphones can be rolled out to owners, something I experienced with the Tesla Model S.

If you are lucky enough to own a modern Qualcomm compatible mobile device, you can also take advantage of the aptX-HD which is another name for High Definition Bluetooth® wireless audio. This will improve the sound quality of the headphones giving you 24bit sound quality over Bluetooth.

Bowers and Wilkins PX
Bowers and Wilkins PX

Comfort

Without doubt, these are the most comfortable headphones I have ever worn, these absolutely reek of quality and fit brilliants over my ears. Even switched off, they still muffle ambient noise brilliantly.

Real World Use

As expected of a set of high end headphones, the sound quality was rich and bright with great bass and treble production. When testing out audio equipment I am particularly fond of playing Metallic Spheres by The Orb, featuring Dave Gilmour, an album which cries out to be played on high end audio equipment.

I wasn’t disappointed. The B&W PX headphones picked up the layered soundscape of the album majestically and I was happy putting them through their paces more than once during my review.

In Summary

Bowers & Wilkins have produced a superb set of high end Bluetooth Headphones. They have excelled on all fronts, from the excellent build quality, superior sound quality to the intuitive app which makes synchronising the phones a doddle. If your budget stretches to around £329 and you want to listen to music as the artist intended, the B&W PX Bluetooth Headphones are a perfect option available in Space Grey or Soft Gold.

Matt Porter
The Gadget Man