Category Archives: Technology

Gadget Man – Episode 110 – Electric Vehicle Charge Points in the home

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has announced proposals to change building regulations to encourage the mandatory installation of electric vehicle charge points in new homes and offices. New street lighting columns which service on-street parking will also have charging points in appropriate locations.

Along with these changes, the government has also promised more money to fund the charging infrastructure.

Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP as Secretary of State for Transport
Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP as Secretary of State for Transport. Image Credit: HM Government.

Mr Grayling said the proposed measures would mean the UK having “one of the most comprehensive support packages for zero-emission vehicles in the world”.

“The prize is not just a cleaner and healthier environment but a UK economy fit for the future and the chance to win a substantial slice of a market estimated to be worth up to £7.6 trillion by 2050”.

Tesla Destination Charger, Adelphi Distillery
Tesla Destination Charger, Adelphi Distillery – Image Credit: Matt Porter

I’ve tested 14 different electric and hybrid cars and I’m obviously sold on the idea of alternative fuel cars. Having travelled from Ness Point to Ardnamurchan in Scotland in a Tesla Model S 100 D and found the charge network was already in place, but improvements and investment from the Government would be very useful. With mass production of electric cars and more importantly lithium-ion batteries, the costs should come down in line with petrol and diesel powered cars. We should also look forward to electric powered lorries in the near future too. Exciting times indeed!

This morning, I spoke to Mark Murphy at BBC Radio Suffolk about the proposals. To listen to what I had to say, click on the stream above.

What do you think about electric cars, do you think they will be mainstream in your lifetime? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Gadget Man – Episode 109 – Mobile Devices in the Classroom

On Friday I spoke to Jenny Kendall-Tobias on BBC Radio Guernsey about children carrying mobile phones in classrooms.

This followed an interview  in the Daily Telegraph two weeks ago with Matt Hancock MP, Minister of State for Digital and Culture. He gave his views on the use of mobile phones in class by children and what he believed headteachers should be doing to tackle the issue.

Matt Hancock - All rights reserved by Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Matt Hancock MP – Credit: Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

“Technology makes being a parent much harder. And schools have a big role too. I enthusiastically support using technology for teaching. But we also need to teach children how to stay safe with technology. Why do young children need phones in schools?”

“There are a number of schools across the country that simply don’t allow them. I believe that very young children don’t need to have access to social media. While it is up to individual schools to decide rather than government, I admire headteachers who do not allow mobiles to be used during the school day. I encourage more schools to follow their lead. The evidence is that banning phones in schools works.”

“Studies have shown mobile phones can have a real impact on working memory and fluid intelligence, even if the phone is on a table or in a bag.”

Following this article, I was asked to appear on Jenny’s show to discuss my thoughts on children carrying mobile phones in classrooms.

Mobile phone use in school - Credit: IntelFreePress / Flickr
Mobile phone use in school – Credit: IntelFreePress / Flickr

You might be surprised to hear that I don’t think mobile devices have a place on the classroom. They are an enormous distraction and I think they pose a very real safeguarding issue within the school where they could be used inappropriately and there is also a very clear issue of peer pressure, with device cost stretching to £1000. There is also a problem with children carrying extremely valuable devices to and from school, which again exhibits a danger of theft.

If you feel differently, please let me know if the comments and of course you can listen in to the interview by click on the link above.

 

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 with InfinityEdge Screen

In the never-ending battle of the tech giants, 2018 has most certainly been the year of the bevel or indeed lack of bevel. TV’s have become almost bevel-less, transforming from boring black rectangles that have been slowly consuming our living rooms to ambient wall furniture which can now disguise itself as the wall-covering it once blighted like some kind of digital chameleon.

In our hands, the swift removal of bevels from around our curved smart phone screens has introduced us to the ‘notch’ as manufacturers desperately seek new ways to hide fingerprint readers and front facing cameras. Along with these gadgets, we now see the same happening with computer screens, laptops and of course the 2-in-1 or convertible touchscreen notebook / tablet devices.

Three Dell XPS 13 (Model 9365) Touch 13-inch notebook computers, codename Aventador.

The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is just one of those devices, a beautifully sleek device with the almost bevel-less screen in the form of Dell’s own ‘InfinityEdge’ display and a power packed Intel Core i7 processer and SSD drive.

The XPS 13 2-in-1 is a convertible laptop which with the help of Windows 10 converts into a 13” tablet by simply folding away the keyboard and transforming into a lovely device to please artists or note-takers alike.

The 2-in-1 comes in a nicely branded black soft-touch box. Inside you find the laptop with its lid and base polished aluminium with embossed Dell logo in the centre. Opening the lid to expose the keyboard and screen isn’t quite as graceful as other laptops due to the lack of weight, but this is a small issue as once revealed, it provides a very pleasant view for owners.

The keyboard is nicely recessed, typing is very tactile and feels high quality with a good sized touch pad below. Surrounding the keyboard and touchpad is what looks a feels like carbon fibre, this this looks really nice and gives good grip when ‘manipulating’ the device, but is also a bit of a fingerprint magnet. There is also a fingerprint reader for use with Microsoft Hello.

Now down to the display itself, which I have to admit is absolutely stunning! Dell have gone for a gloss glass screen which makes colours rich and vibrant, blacks are… well black as they should be with no obvious backlight ruining your viewing experience. My unit was a 1920 x 1080 FHD screen, but there is also a 3200 x 1800 model giving even greater clarity. The screen is also multi-touch (10 touch points) capable and for artists the Dell Active Pen can also be used which is sold separately.

Powering the device is the 7th generation Intel Core i7 running at 1.60Ghz along with 8Gb of memory and a 240Gb Solid State Drive (SSD), as expected the machine runs very quickly indeed with almost instantaneous boot up and excellent performance. Running Adobe Photoshop was a breeze and I can imagine with the Dell Active Pen would provide an excellent environment for artists.

As the machine runs on Windows 10 Home Edition, the majority of owners will be familiar with finding their way around the system and with a device designed to work directly with this software, the journey is relatively painless.

If you are looking to plug in your peripherals, you will find that the XPS 13 2-in-1 has now joined the USB Type C charging club and thus has no traditional USB ports other than using an adapter. Thus, you have 2 USB-C ports for connectivity or charging the device, a Micro SD port for transferring data, a display port connector, a Thunderbolt™ 3.0 connector and headset jack port. The frustration of losing the standard ports we have all grown used to can be easily remedied by after-market adapters.

Dell have yet again produced a high quality machine which sits right up there with other manufacturers hardware. It would be very useful for business people who need to work from remote locations or whilst commuting and I’m pretty sure that a few lucky students would also benefit from using it.

Starting at around £1150, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is by no way an entry level device, but if you are look for a very nicely designed notebook or tablet, then buying a 2-in-1 may well be your solution.

Matt Porter
The Gadget Man

R2-D2 from Sphero, the ever faithful Star Wars droid in the palm of your hand #r2d2 #sphero

Having reviewed some of Sphero’s line of robots over the past three years (including the amazing gravity defying BB-8), I was absolutely made up when R2-D2 dropped onto my desk a few weeks back!

For those of us who haven’t been near a movie theatre of television for the last 40 years, R2-D2 is character from the enormously popular STAR WARS movie franchise, appearing in 9 of them (sofar!). The droid (robot) is portrayed as a skilled mechanic, fighter pilot’s assistant and has many hidden skills which have been gradually revealed over the course of the movies.

Sphero have clearly made sure that their version of R2-D2 is as authentic as possible and it is absolutely crammed with technology which mimics the character from the movies. With front and rear LED lights, rotating head, integrated speaker and most amazing of all articulating legs, which mean when Artoo is stationary, his legs are position straight down and he stands upright. As soon as he is commanded to move, the middle leg drops down and moves forward, his side legs then move backwards to form a tripod (as he does in the films).

R2D2 from SpheroArtoo is controlled using Sphero’s Droid App (iOS or Android), after scanning for the app, you are presented with a selection screen showing the available droids within Bluetooth range, after selecting R2-D2 from the list he suddenly lights up and chirps. The app screen then shows controls for moving the droid and also for triggering his signature moves.

R2D2 from SpheroThese moves really make the whole experience authentic as they mimic scenes from the film, such as when the Jawas disabled the droid and caused him to fall on his face in A New Hope. There are simply too many to detail here, but you could recreate pivotal scenes from Star Wars using these moves alone.

R2D2 from SpheroAside from these features, the app also allows for Holographic Simulation and the ability to explore difference places and ship interiors from the Star Wars galaxy. It also supports Droid to Droid experience, where R2-D2 will interact with other Sphero Star Wars droids.

There is a ‘Watch With Me’ feature was one of my favourites, which allows you to select a movie from the Star Wars saga and R2-D2 will react to difference scenes, such as acting scared when Darth Vader appears on the screen and much more.

R2D2 from SpheroCharging the droid is done using the included stylised USB cable and will give over 1 hour of full use between charges.

I’m a big fan of Star Wars, so I have to admit I was a bit star-struck when I realised just how good the Sphero R2-D2 really is and at the current price of under £95, it feels like good value for any of fan Star Wars.

It should also be noted, that along with Sphero range of robots and droids, R2-D2 is fully compatible with Sphero-Edu which gives budding young coders the opportunity to learn about programming using their favourite Star Wars character.

Moobox – The Easy to Setup, Wirefree Security Camera

I‘ve setup and installed a few different IP cameras in the past and one of irritations of such devices are that although they are now generally WiFi enabled,  there is always some kind of wiring required to power them. This means that they have to be situated near a power outlet and moving them to another location can be troublesome.

So when the Moobox camera arrived here for review, I was intrigued to see how using an IP camera without wires would actually stack up.

Continue reading Moobox – The Easy to Setup, Wirefree Security Camera

Gadget Man – Episode 108 – Why we should care about what our data is used for?

Facebook MobileFollowing on from the ongoing  Facebook / Cambridge Analytica scandal, I was invited to be a guest on James Hazell’s show on BBC Radio Suffolk. We talked in depth about how social networks and apps are using our data.

Please listen in by clicking the ‘play’ button above. Don’t forget to Like, Subscribe, Comment and Share.

Continue reading Gadget Man – Episode 108 – Why we should care about what our data is used for?

Transcend ESD220C Portable SSD – The Perfect Companion For Any Road Trip #gadgetroadtrip

It’s nearly six months since we embarked on our EPIC Gadget Road Trip from Ness Point to Ardnamurchan and Back!! During our trip we called on all kinds of tech to assist us with the Gigabytes of data we were generating, mostly in the form of video and photos.

Most notable and indeed most important was removable backup storage and in this area we were able to call upon our friends at Transcend. Not only were they able to provide us with previously reviewed dash-cam hardware, but also with the amazing ESD220C Portable SSD drive.

Transcend ESD220C Portable SSD
The Transcend ESD220C is both small and light

The ESD220C is indeed portable in every way. It is both small and light, in fact small enough to fit into a wallet. This size and weight is due to the Solid State storage, which means that rather than storing your data onto a physical, spinning hard-disk, you are in fact using memory chips (TLC NAND flash) to store the information and thus weight and size stop being an issue. It will easily fit in your pocket and the case had a scratch resistant coating to keep it looking pristine.

The drive uses SuperSpeed USB 3.1 Gen 1 interface and built-in SLC caching technology to give read/write speeds of up to 410MB/s and 400MB/s respectively. It also supports UASP (USB Attached SCSI Protocol to further boost file transfers on supported computers.  The drive’s lifespan is also extended by the addition of RAID and LDPC and your data is safe with ECC encryption.

Also included is a USB3.1 Type A (for your computer) to USB Type C connector (for the drive). By Transcend using a Type C connector, it enables the drive to be connected to a mobile device (using an additional adapter) and allows for direct file transfers from Android OTG (On the Go) enabled phones and tablets. As you can imagine, this was a real winner in the depths of Scotland as we were able to pull photos and videos straight off our mobile devices in transit as the drive is powered from the same cable.

Using the ESD220C, I was able to transfer files from Paul’s Samsung Galaxy S7, my Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, a Sony Xperia XZ1, my nVideo Shield K1 tablet and the Dell Rugged Laptop we also took with us. Of course I also transferred video from the DJI Mavic Pro‘s MicroSD card.

So, you can see that the tiny little device was indeed the seamless hub for secure storage for the entire journey. We also transferred the data from the Transcend drive at night to a second 1TB drive which enabled us to free up space for use during the day.

I should finally mention that the device also has a ‘one touch backup’ button for use with Windows PC’s running Transcend’s included software.

Transcend ESD220C Portable SSD
Transcend ESD220C Portable SSD

Of the many gadgets that I review and then have to send back, this will be one of the those that I will miss the most for it’s speed and sheer usefulness.

The drives are available in 120Gb, 240Gb and 480Gb storage options with prices around £66, £95 and £165 respectively. I tested the 240Gb model, which I think is excellent value for an portable SSD device.

Matt Porter
The Gadget Man

Gadget Man – Episode 107 – Sphero Mini – Educational Robot

This morning I joined Wayne Bavin at BBC Radio Suffolk to both discuss and demonstrate modular coding with the help of the Sphero Mini Robot.

It was a great opportunity to show how coding can be fun with the aid of a trio of programmable robots.

You can click on the link above to listen to the stream, thanks to Wayne for making me so welcome.

If you would like to purchase any of these products, the links are below.

 

Latitude 14 Rugged Extreme – The perfect laptop for any road trip #gadgetroadtrip

Before departing on our electric road trip in the Tesla Model S in October, we were kindly lent lots of kit to make the journey easier and more tech-packed.

Of all the tech we used and tested on our trip, one of the most useful was the Dell Latitude 14 Rugged Extreme, a gadget perfectly suited for the journey to Scotland and back.

Dell Latitude 14 Rugged
Dell Latitude 14 Rugged Extreme at Leicester Services.

As the name suggests, this is a Rugged laptop specifically designed to withstand some pretty extreme conditions. It is aimed at people who need to be working out in the field in all kinds of weather conditions. Perfectly suited for the west of Scotland then!

Dell Latitude 14 Rugged
The Dell Latitude 14 Rugged Extreme comes with Resistive Touch Screen and Stylus fir ease of use in wet conditions.

The Latitude 14 Rugged was to be the central hub of our video and blogging management, allowing us to edit video whenever the chance presented itself and manage blogs and social media in a full screen environment. Video was edited using Adobe Premiere Pro CC and uploaded over EE’s 4g network.

Dell Latitude 14 Rugged
Dell Latitude 14 Rugged Extreme Designed for ‘in the field’ use.

As laptops go, this is a seriously luggable device, it’s bulky and heavy to the point that it has an integrated carry handle. The bulk and weight are due to it’s armour added to protect it from fairly substantial drops and providing it will water resistance.

Dell Latitude 14 Rugged
All I/O ports are rubber sealed.

Each of the myriad of i/o ports are rubber-sealed to protect them and it’s touch screen is resistive rather than the market standard ‘capacitive’ touch in order for it be used in wet conditions and dell have even provided an inbuilt stylus to aid use of it in cold conditions where you wouldn’t want to expose your fingers to the elements.

Dell Latitude 14 Rugged
Integrated finger print reader is included.

The model we tested was packed with hardware features including a Intel Core i5-6300U Processor (Dual Core, 3M Cache, 2.40 GHz), 8GB 2133MHz DDR4 Memory, 128GB Solid State Drive, Intel Integrated HD Graphics 520, Intel Dual Band Wireless 8260 (802.11ac) with Bluetooth, Dell Wireless Qualcomm Gobi 4G LTE (DW5809E for Win8/Win10), 35.6cm (14.0″) HD (1366×768) Touch Display with Microphone Camera with Privacy Shutter all powered from E5 90W AC Adapter.

The Dell Latitude 14 Rugged
The Dell provided excellent battery performance during our trip and we ensured we topped up overnight where possible.

The processor, memory and solid state drive all helped to run Windows 10 Professional with ease. I was able to happily edit 4K video footage in Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2018 and upload these files with a EE 4G data Sim card. Everything was taken care of without having to mess around with secondary devices to connect to the internet. In retrospect, we could have employed the Latitude as a virtual studio for our video broadcasting, but time constraints simply didn’t give us the time to set this up.

All in all this was a seriously impressive device, although this is in no way a practical machine for use in an office,  but when used for it’s intended purpose in extreme weather conditions and less that welcoming environments, it simply excels with a feature packed all in one solution with water resistance and extreme durability.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that these features come at a premium, the Dell Latitude 14 Rugged Extreme is priced around the £2900 mark.

Matt Porter
The Gadget Man

 

 

Apricorn Aegis Secure Key 3z USB Drive – Move over James Bond and Ethan Hunt, this data really can self destruct in 5 seconds!

Mission Impossible : Rogue Nation - USB Memory Stick deletion scene - image credit: Paramount Pictures
Mission Impossible : Rogue Nation – USB Memory Stick deletion scene – image credit: Paramount Pictures

If you watch Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, you will find a scene near the end of the movie where Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) hands a USB drive to her ‘handler’ Atlee (Simon McBurney), he then proceeds to surreptitiously erase the contents of the USB stick using an combination of distraction, slight of hand, a Nokia 930 smartphone and a copy of the Financial Times. Thus Faust is oblivious to the smoke and mirrors that has just taken place and continues on with her mission (should she choose to accept it!).

All of the above just seemed completely unnecessary and it was with this still in mind that I began testing and reviewing the Apricorn Aegis Secure Key 3z, a storage device which not only hardware encrypts your data but also includes a self destruct option for those most inconvenient moments when your only option is to completely destroy the data!

The majority of disk encryption is at software level which means that you can access the information, but it is in effect ‘scrambled’ using a password or code. Try enough times using either brute force or dictionary attempts and you may just crack the key and thus give yourself access to the information.

Gadget Man Reviews the Aegis Secure Key 3z
Additional technology is simply not required to secure your data with the Aegis Secure Key 3z

The Secure Key 3z uses a hardware based encryption, namely 256-bit AES XTS. AES is an acronym for “Advanced Encryption Standard”, originally invented in 2001 as the “Rijndael Cypher” after it’s creators Daemen and Rijmen. AES is a widely used encryption standard able to be resilient against attacks. It is in fact so highly respected, it has become to ‘go to’ encryption method for security agencies, banks and governments to trust it with their highly sensitive information and state secrets. The 3z uses 256 bit encryption, which gives a hundred thousand billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion combinations of keys. With the further addition of the XTS cypher, it renders data stored on the device effectively impossible to access or decrypt.

Gadget Man Reviews the Aegis Secure Key 3zOut of the box, the Secure Key measures in at 81mm x 18.4mm x 9.5mm and weight 22 grams and has an internal rechargeable battery. Once unpacked, you will need to set up your Admin pin number straightaway as there is no pre-programmed key. This must be between 7 and 16 digits, you cannot set consecutive numbers or numbers which are all the same, this pin is users to set up the Secure Key allows to to manage other features, but more of that later.

As soon a you’ve added your admin user, you can then (if you like) add a standard user. You would use this feature if you were going to manage the Secure Key and were going to issue it to another person to use. Again, this is a fairly straightforward and covered in the ‘quick start guide’.

Gadget Man Reviews the Aegis Secure Key 3z
In its locked state, the Secure Key is is not recognised when plugged into a PC, Mac or mobile device

Whilst locked, the USB is effectively useless, plug it into a computer’s USB port and you will find the computer won’t even recognise the device as it is hardware disabled, in other words it’s switched off. This is indicated by a ‘red’ led illuminating on the device. To unlock the device, you press the green padlock key and then enter either the user or admin pin number and press the green padlock again. The red LED will switch off and the green LED starts flashing, this indicates that device is unlocked and ready for use, it is simply a matter of plugging it in to a spare USB port.

The Aegis Secure Key’s FIPS 140-2 validation covers 11 areas of its cryptographic security system, including physical security, cryptographic key management and design integrity.
The Aegis Secure Key’s FIPS 140-2 validation covers 11 areas of its cryptographic security system, including physical security, cryptographic key management and design integrity.

The key itself is USB3.1 but is backwardly compatible to v3, v2 and v1.1. This gives it a surprising turn of speed of  to 190MB/s read and 80MB/s write.

OK, so the key performs really nicely and had government grade encryption, what happens if I lose the key and it gets into the hands of an enemy?

Apricorn Aegis Secure Key 3z
Apricorn Aegis Secure Key 3z

First off, the key is encased in a IP58 Dust and Water Resistant tough metal shell with polymer coated wear resistant keys. Inside the electronic components are protected by a filling of hard epoxy resin, making a physical attempt to access the electronics virtually impossible without causing catastrophic damage.

PIN entry ‘brute force’ protection means that if you enter the code number incorrectly more than 3 times, the space between entry of subsequent pins slows down, if the incorrect entry of keys hits 10, the red light on the key will start flashing rapidly, at this point you have 10 more attempts left, if you fail to enter a correct pin within these last attempts, the key will consider itself as under attack and will delete it’s data as a precaution.

Apricorn Aegis Secure Key 3zShould you be left in the position of Faust and Atlee in Mission Impossible : Rogue Nation, there is in fact a better option for destroying the data on the card (or in fact having a third party do it for you). Yes, the Secure Key supports the entry of a self destruct key, a key which is designed to delete all data on the key and reformat the device, this key is then assumed as the standard key for the device and it will behave as a brand new drive.

It was quite fiddly to set up, but I was successful in testing the ‘Self Destruct’ mode, it worked as documented and didn’t give me any indication that it was taking place.

Apricorn have made a very solid product with the Secure Key 3z, it looks and feels the part, it worked very well and the security features were exceptional.

I loved the fact that a company is working SO hard to make the theft of data so difficult. In times of cross border data theft, the counter-measures employed by the Secure Key 3z are both impressive and comforting.

Matt Porter
The Gadget Man

Starting at £74 for the 8GB to £228 for 128GB models, the USB Storage Key is reassuringly priced for the corporate market.