Category Archives: The Gadget Man

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the consumer market, once heavy and cumbersome, the large motors needed to stabilise heavy camera equipment has now been replaced by tiny brushless motors powerful enough to steady our mobile phones.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 – 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

 

Chipolo Card, tracking and finding my wallet and helping others track theirs!

The Chipolo Card is a really nice looking device, designed to help track personal items. It’s unique low profile design lends itself to slotting into your wallet or purse and the speaker is loud enough to be heard however deep it becomes buried in your money and receipts. Even cooler, if you do lose your wallet and team of other Chipolo users can help you find it again!

Chipolo Card showing dimensions
Chipolo Card showing dimensions

The device was born from a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign which raised nearly 2000% of its original target of $15,000! Now, five years later Chipolo sell three different types of Chipolo tracker, the Classic, the Plus and the Card. I was sent all three to test, but this review discusses the Chipolo Card, an ideal size to slip in my wallet.

The Card’s dimensions of 36mm x 68mm x 2.15mm make it perfect to slide into a wallet and tucked deep down in mine to keep it unobtrusive and nice and safe. When tucked in your wallet, it’s not obvious it’s there, so if you are unlucky to have it stolen, you might be lucky for it to be unnoticed by a thief and thus help you find it again.

Out of the box, the Chipolo must be paired with either your iOS or Android device, this is very simple using the dedicated phone app and within an instant my device was working. I was able to name the Chipolo and also assign it a relevant icon to distinguish it from the others. In my case, I named it Wallet and assigned it with a wallet icon. The devices are paired using low power Bluetooth virtually guaranteeing a long battery life of at least a year. You can also assign a ringtone to the device which will help you recognise it in a noisy room.

Once setup, the app constantly regularly communicates with the Chipolo over low-power Bluetooth and saves it’s position to your account. You can also share your Chipolo with other users where the item is precious or might be something available to more than one person.

Now, getting to the nitty gritty of actually losing personal items. Being easily distracted, I am constantly looking for my keys or wallet and with this in mind the Chipolo’s have been amazing! I have a habit of leaving my wallet in my bag and then spending half an hour trying to remember where it is! Problem solved! Now all I need to do it press the RING button on my phones Chipolo Widget and immediately I can hear it ring.

So, armed with by trusty Chipolo and smart phone, no more losing my wallet around the house. There are also some nice little touches too, you can also use the Chipolo to trigger the camera on your smartphone to take selfies. Position the phone, get comfortable with your friends, double click the button on the tracker and hey presto! Instant Selfie.

But, what about REALLY losing something, away from home? Well, I have experienced this too, whilst the Chipolo app happily provides tracking for your own devices, it also monitors for devices that have been lost by other users on the network. So, should you lose your item and searching for it using the app proves fruitless, you can then mark the item as LOST.  Should another Chipolo user happen to pass within range of the tracker, it notifies the owner that it has been found and provides feedback to the person that actually found it! It’s a great use of ‘crowd’ networking or as Chipolo call it “Community Search”. So as the network grows, so does the chances of finding your lost items.

Chipolo - Thank You. You helped somebody find a lost Chipolo! How cool is that?
Chipolo – Thank You. You helped somebody find a lost Chipolo! How cool is that?

The Chipolo Card gives you a device that fits easily into your wallet or purse, being 2.15mm . It has a 200ft range from your smart device, the speaker is 95dB. The battery will last a year and the device is water-resistant.

Priced at around £25, I think they are great value and look out for the new ‘FRUIT’ editions with provide added fun!!

You can purchase YOUR Chipolo by clicking HERE

Chipolo Fruit Edition
Chipolo Fruit Edition

Thanks to the guys at Chipolo for providing me with the Chipolo Card for review!!

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.

 

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.

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