As we enter the final year of the second decade of the 21st century, the smartphone will surely be considered the most revolutionary gadget of the last 10 years.
Our phones are now firmly ingrained in our lives, joining us at home, at work, at play, at the dinner table, in bed, they come with us everywhere! Our lives are documented in detail, where we go, what we do, what we think and what we eat. We’ve now become news gatherers, critics and voyeurs all without realising it was happening in front of us.
The use of mobile phones stretches to every age group, from the elderly to the very young and with this comes concern as to the use of these devices. Should young people be allowed to use their phones at any time of the day OR night? Does it reduce conversation? Are we become LESS social?
I have now covered this subject twice in the past, you can read a listen in here and here, however now reports are informing us that phones DON’T cause our children harm, listen in to the podcast, where I talk to Mark Murphy on BBC Radio Suffolk about this latest contentious report.
As ever, if you enjoy listening in, Like, Share, Subscribe and Comment, I will see you soon!
As the new year dawns, we again look back, but this time it’s more than 30 years to yet another audio format resurgence. Now that Vinyl has once again become freely available to the masses after being all but condemned by CD’s, MP3’s and then streaming music, another format becomes the trend of choice. Yes, we are now being encouraged to revisit the Cassette Tape! Another Hipster trend or is there more to it?
HEAD’S UP!! You can listen in to me talking on BBC Radio Suffolk with Mark Murphy about my memories of cassette tapes, don’t forget to Like, Share, Subscribe or Listen directly.
For me, it’s difficult to understand how revisiting this format has any real appeal. The audio quality was mediocre, to say the least. Unless of course, you could afford $2,500 ($5000 in today’s money) for a Nakamichi Dragon Cassette Deck which in 1991 was widely considered to provide the best audio reproduction available.
For those of us unfortunate enough to be devoid of 5000 bucks, we instead looked at more portable alternatives, either in the shape of your unfriendly neighbourhood ‘Ghetto Blaster’ or the even smaller ‘Sony Walkman’. Whilst our aspirations for these two devices may have been the popular ‘break dancing’ movies of the era, we would have to face up to lesser versions of both.
The giant Ghetto-Blasters we dreamed of with 20 D-Size batteries, would, in fact, end up with less bulky and much less ‘blasting’ boom-boxes.
The incredibly sleek Sony Walkman’s would also be too expensive and thus instead we ‘made-do’ with cheaper and much poorer alternatives featuring tinny headphones and literally all DSP (digital signal processing) technology removed to either keep down costs or avoid licensing fees being paid by the manufacturers.
Tape Cassettes did launch the car and personal stereo experiences, which went on to launch the digital experience that we all enjoy today. So just for this alone, we should be thankful. It does not, however, mean that cassette tapes sound any better than anything else that is currently available. We now don’t need to arduously fast-forward or rewind to our favourite tracks and we most certainly do not have to spend hours fiddling around with pencils to re-tension cassettes, it’s now so much easier. So maybe they should stay consigned to charity shops and eBay.
Another year passes and as we move into 2019 we can look forward to another year of unstoppable advances in technology.
If I was able to predict upcoming tech, I’m happy to suggest that my number one for 2019 will be the folding mobile phone with potential devices from LG and Samsung already breaking cover in various forms.
Both companies have already demonstrated their flexible display technologies and with the Mobile World Congress in February coming up soon, we should expect demonstrations of foldable, rollable or bendable screen tech from these companies.
Artificial intelligence is sure to continue its unstoppable march towards self-awareness (I jest!!), but all the same, we should be seeing multi AI ‘bots’ training directly with each other very soon! Who could forget the Facebook AI bots which invented their own communication language shortly after being switched on! More of this in inevitable, hopefully with the necessary safeguards in place.
The big 3 tech companies continue to advance home-based smart technology with integration into every part of our lives, add to this more AI and who knows what we should expect from the likes of Amazon, Google and Apple.
Holograms are a little way off, but augmented reality is making leaps and bounds with more advanced filters on spectacles providing with illusionary-holographic images a reality soon.
Phone batteries continue to provide us with more and more screen time and further advances in battery and charge technology will give us even more excuse to distract ourselves on a daily basis.
This year we look forward to the beginnings of the 5G roll-outs, giving us impossibly fast download speeds, but also extending decent internet speeds to rural areas of the UK.
Ultimately, we are not about to be overrun by killer robots and 2019 will be bringing some pretty astounding new technology, strap yourselves in and enjoy the ride.
I talked on air with James Hazell from BBC Radio Suffolk about my predictions for the coming year. Have a listen and don’t forget to Like, Subscribe, Share and Comment and I will see you very soon.
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
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.
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 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.
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!
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.
The Gadget Man
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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.
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.
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!
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.
Contact your dealer and talk about the digital features in your car. Have there been any software updates you can take advantage of?
Check if your keyless entry fob can be turned off. If it can, and your dealer can also confirm this, then do so overnight.
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.
Be vigilant. Keep an eye out for suspicious activity in your neighbourhood – and report anything unusual to the Police.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.