Category Archives: The Gadget Man

The ASUS Transformer Mini T102H Review – Is it a Laptop or a Tablet?

For the last few weeks, I have been testing the ASUS Transformer Mini, a device which can be a laptop and tablet depending on your mood.

ASUS Transformer Mini T102H
ASUS Transformer Mini T102H

The idea of a tablets with keyboards is not a new one, these were generally add-on keyboards for iPads or Android tablets which worked well, but seemed out of place on a device that was designed to be operated without one. There have also been laptops with detachable keyboards which in turn felt out of place running software which was designed for one.

The key change is the introduction of Windows 10 which can seamlessly transform itself from a keyboard and mouse centric operating system into a touch and swipe based tablet and back again, simply by detaching and reattaching a keyboard,

ASUS Transformer Mini T102
ASUS Transformer Mini T102H

ASUS have been in the ‘transforming’ tablet market for some time and the Transformer Mini T102H brings a very useful addition to the table with a 10.1″ LED backlit HD screen which uses ASUS’s ‘Splendid’ and ‘Wideview’ Technology to give great viewing angles.

ASUS Transformer T102H
ASUS Transformer Mini T102H

Powered by the Intel® Atom™ x5 Processor and 4 GB of RAM. The hard disk is in fact Solid State memory and gives your 64GB of silent running. Everything on board is low power and there didn’t appear to be any internal fans to cool the device.

The graphics are fast and snappy helped by the integrated Intel HD Graphics processor and there’s also an inbuilt 2 megapixel webcam for Skype or other video chat applications.

The great thing about Windows tablets is the number of connectors, the Transformer has a 3.5 mm combo audio jack, USB 3.0 and Micro USB ports, a micro HDMI socket, Fingerprint reader for login, volume controls and micro SD card slot.

ASUS Transformer Mini T102
ASUS Transformer Mini T102

The detachable keyboard was really easy to use and attaches using a powerful magnet and always seemed to line up properly and was responsive to use with the inbuilt trackpad. My Transformer also came with a stylus which is battery powered and looks and feels like a real pen, it was great for drawing and painting using the bundled apps and can also be used to write on-screen sticky note.

 

ASUS Transformer T102H
ASUS Transformer Mini T102H

I really enjoyed using the Transformer and it makes a great device for people who are comfortable with tablets, but also need a real keyboard for their work, possibly an idea for students? At £449 it is reasonably price too.

Facebook swamped with FAKE supermarket voucher codes AGAIN!

Another weekend in the UK and Facebook users are both being SWAMPED  and are SWAMPING the web with fake voucher codes AGAIN!

Despite repeated warnings by supermarkets and trading standards across the country, there seems no let up in the social sharing of these codes along with the very high chance of having identities stolen or at the very least being added to email spam lists.

The method of sharing these scams are by using ‘Social Engineering’, ie. Friends and Family share them and add legitimacy to an other wholly illegitimate fraud.

By clicking on these fake vouchers and accepting what appears to be a vaguely official looking terms and conditions, people are effectively handing over their personal details in return for absolutely nothing…

So, what are the giveaways?

  1. An example FAKE voucher

    The vouchers contain an expiry date in US date format

  2. The barcode is the same for each voucher, these would need to be unique.
  3. The issuing store is ALWAYS Greenhithe.
  4. It can ONLY be redeemed with your original receipt
  5. All of the vouchers seem to mention ADSA Direct rather than the store they are supposedly issued under.
  6. The domain name is suspicious to say the least, The URL has not relation to Morrisons other than a VERY DUBIOUS domain name.

All of these would lead me to be extremely suspicious of the validity of the offer. So let us look at the domain name morrisons-f50f83o.grabinn.us

For starters I see no logical reason for any large company to be using such a cryptic URL for anything, but lets look at where this website lives. We do this by using a common command call ‘ping’.

ping morrisons-f50f83o.grabinn.us.
PING morrisons-f50f83o.grabinn.us (178.32.50.152): 56 data bytes
64 bytes from 178.32.50.152: icmp_seq=0 ttl=49 time=31.111 ms
64 bytes from 178.32.50.152: icmp_seq=1 ttl=49 time=31.736 ms
64 bytes from 178.32.50.152: icmp_seq=2 ttl=49 time=32.421 ms
64 bytes from 178.32.50.152: icmp_seq=3 ttl=49 time=30.546 ms

We are returned an IP address, this is the physical address that this voucher code lives at, in the case of this voucher code it resolves to 178.32.50.152

We can then lookup the IP using domaintools.com and it gives the following results

  1. The host (or computer holding the web site is located in France. This makes the tracing of the owner much more difficult as it requires international law enforcement cooperation
  2. This shows that 30 other websites are located on the same server. I would suggest these are probably variants of the web address, possibly other store names.
  3. This is the ‘abuse’ contact for this IP address, in this case it is abuse@ovh.net . This is the email address people should contact to report unlawful behaviour. Worth noting.

We now have the contact details of the host in order to report unlawful behaviour.

OK, we can now lookup the domain name to find out it’s owner. In this case it is using subdomains, so we can comfortably ignore the morrisons and hieroglyphics and concentrate on the TLD or Top Level Domain grabinn.us

  1. GRABINN.US is the domain name used to host the voucher
  2. NAMECHEAP is the registrar (or company holding the domain name)
  3. Lisa Alex is the registered owner of the domain (probably a fake name)
  4. This is the registered address of the domain owner (probably fake too), it doesn’t look like a valid address and the telephone and fax numbers are also fake looking.

So, by the look of everything, we have a domain name that cost 99p to register using a LOW COST registrar, hosted on a server that charges £1.60 per month on a  LOW COST server by a fake name at a fake address in Pakistan (supposedly).

Now, YOU need to ask yourself the following question,

Would a multinational company employ a person to run it’s national voucher system whilst sitting behind fake credentials on low cost hardware? Or would they use their own existing IT infrastructure?

Why not spend the time you might have spent being duped by reporting these people to the ‘abuse’ email address and help STOP this kind of thing from continuing.

If you live in Suffolk or Norfolk, we now have our own Cyber & Serious Crime Department which can be contacted by dialling 101. I have spoken to several officers working in this division and they are all very professional and take cyber crime very seriously.

The Gadget Man – Episode 100 – Cross Peerless Trackr Pen LIVE VIDEO review

Welcome to the 100th Episode of The Gadget Man, this time I set myself a very big task of LIVE STREAMING a technology review of the brand new Cross Peerless Trackr Pen. I hope you enjoy it below. The review itself starts at about 2 minutes in!

A few weeks back I was invited to London to attend the launch of the new Cross Peerless Trackr, the worlds first trackable pen.

Cross have been making writing instruments since 1846, so it was a pleasant surprise to see an established traditional brand embracing technology without losing what makes the company appealing.

The pen has Bluetooth technology carefully embedded inside it which works alongside what’s called ‘Crowd GPS’. This means that if you are unfortunate enough to misplace you pen or worse have it stolen, a league of other Trackr users immediately start helping your reunite your prized pen.  When a person running the Trackr app comes within up to 30 metres of your pen, they detect it and immediately an anonymous message is sent to you informing your of it’s current position.

Upon receiving the notification, you can then go to that location and using the app on your own phone, you cause the pen to light up and sound an alarm to give you an indication of it’s exact position, after a little bit of searching or discussion with it’s new temporary owner, the pen can be returned to you.

Conversely, the pen itself can be used to locate your phone, so if you are hunting around the house in the morning for your mobile, simply hold down the button on the side of the pen and your phone will start ringing!

The pen itself comes in a very nice presentation box along with instructions for pairing and using the pen, spare batteries, a nice suede case sleeve for the pen and your guarantee from Cross.

Once taken out of the box, the pen feels just weighty enough to feel comfortable and writes smoothly. As a pen on it’s own, it was nice and of course the ‘techie’ addition of the tracking appealed to me too. You should bear in mind that the crowd GPS functionality requires a ‘crowd’, so losing it in the middle of a deserted field isn’t going to help. Saying that, most towns have a large number of Trackr users and Central London was packed with them. You can even see how many people use Trackr by visiting their website.

If you are looking for a high end pen for meetings or a nice birthday or anniversary gift for someone, look no further than the Cross Peerless Trackr 125 Pen, available from all good pen shops for around £212.00.

Thanks to Rachel and Dan at Small Man Media and of course Cross for their kind invitation.

 

The Gadget Man – Episode 98 – The Return of the Nokia 3310

The Nokia 3310 is set to make a comeback in the second quarter of 2017
The Nokia 3310 is set to make a comeback in the second quarter of 2017

Once again this week I was delighted to chat to James Hazell. Today we discussed the relaunch of the Nokia 3310, an iconic mobile handset in it’s original form which went on to sell 126,000,000 units.

In 2017, HMD the new licence holder of the Nokia phone brand will be launching 4 new phones, three of these phones are Android handsets, namely the Nokia 3, Nokia 4 and Nokia 5. Alongside these modern smartphones will be the reborn Nokia 3310. Make no mistake this is a brand new ‘feature’ phone, but there exists the spirit of the original 3310 which is held in such high regard.

Listen in to the stream and find out what I think of the new handset and also what other tech could be making a comeback.

Gadget Man – Episode 97 – Working From Home

Fantastic to be back on BBC Radio Suffolk this week, even more special that I was invited to James Hazell’s home for a very special outside broadcast, where we talked about effectively working from home and I got to play Star Trek Pinball!!

Thanks to James and Isaac for the invitation, fabulous fun!

Listen, Like, Subscribe and Share!!!

 

Forget BST and GMT, All you need is Matthew Mean Time!

I sit here after reading debate after debate on the need for BST or British Summer Time and it has brought back some fond memories with my own personal battle with time keeping aged 17 – 22 years.

In 2016 there is no reason to EVER be late for anything. We have electronic gadgets to remind us by phone, text, email, popup reminders and our wrists now buzz with the wide variety of wearables. Simplicity is supposed to be the key, we can now set alarms then pause (or snooze) or even postpone them completely. Of course everything is now synchronised on all manner of electronic equipment connected by WiFi, 4g, 3g and bluetooth, it now seems we don’t have any excuse to be late anymore, we can even ask our gadgets to do things without actually physically interacting with them. With the advent of a new generation of ‘smart speakers’ such as Amazon Echo and Google home we won’t even need to remember when it’s time to go to work because these devices will already know. It truly is the dawn of artificial intelligence and machine learning. We are now standing on the precipice of self aware technology.

Sam Fox 1986 Calendar, popular in the 80's
Sam Fox 1986 Calendar, popular in the 80’s

Now… let us take a step back 30 years to 1986 where things were oh so different.

Smartphones? What the hell are they?. Bluetooth was a long lost King of Denmark and email was something people at Berkeley University used to send to each other between classrooms. Calendars hung on walls, normally fixed on one particular month if you happened to own the 1986 Sam Fox Official Calendar.

The master of timekeeping was sitting next to your bed, a wonder of technology who’s sole purpose was to ease your from sleep to awake in an instant, an efficient mechanism which could wake your either brutally with a ear piercing beeping noise or with the assistance of DJ Mike ‘Smithy’ Smith (Rest in Peace) gently coaxing you from your golden slumber, easing you into realities of Monday mornings.

What ‘Gadget’ do you speak of? What mastery of 80’s technology could this be?

Of course this invention was the ‘Digital Clock Radio’.

Mine was your ‘bog standard’ affair, equipped with Radio or ‘Beep’ alarm with the addition of snooze. An amazing invention to be ignored, paused and sworn at for many years until 1993 when lack of sleep and long hours of work forced be to put my fist through it early one Sunday morning!

There was however a big problem with my digital clock radio, a VERY big problem.

My boss enquiring as to my expected arrival time at the office.
My boss enquiring as to my expected arrival time at the office? Bosses in the 1980s provided workplace based motivational encouragement under a dark cloak of unpleasantness and aggressive threatening undertones.

The device only only allowed one alarm to be set at any one time of the day. This would work fine if every morning you had to rise at 6:50am. During the weekend you would switch the alarm button to OFF, allowing you a short lay-in on a Saturday or Sunday morning (what are they???) and making sure the switch was placed in AUTO on Sunday evening to avoid that ‘Where the HELL are you? call at 10.50am from your boss the next day!

Setting the alarm on a clock radio
Setting the alarm on a clock radio. A strange contortion of finger and thumb was needed to alter the alarm time.

However, my work hours weren’t regular back then. Sometimes a project needed completing early and the alarm  would need to set a couple of hours earlier for the next day. The radio didn’t allow for setting the alarm back a hour, it required repeatedly clicking one button whilst holding the other in order to advance the alarm 22 hours to set it from 7am to 5am, the buttons were never that comfortable or ‘ergonomic’ thus 22 hours of clicking would mean a cricked thumb and sore fingertips. Setting the alarm forward two hours was obviously much less painful. Things got more frustrating when you ‘missed’ an hour whilst cycling past it in haste,  causing yet more endless clicking until the desired hour was found (lets not even get on to minutes!).

It came to me in an instant, the solution was obvious
It came to me in an instant, the solution was obvious!

it was while advancing the alarm through this 22 hour period that it suddenly hit me like a bolt of lightening!! A solution found my accident, by the slip of a thumb, an accidental advance of time rather than alarm! There was no need to go through this tedious task at all! Setting the alarm back 2 hours was easily achieved by simply advancing the main clock forward 2 hours and leaving the alarm where it was, 8pm became 10pm, then the alarm would be shifted forward an hour, the ‘real’ time remaining still, time adjustment was always achieved by setting alarm or time forward, there was not tediously clicking needed anymore.

Thus on that fateful day in 1986, MMT was born, but this wasn’t the internationally recognised Myanmar Mean Time, no this was my personal time zone named Matthew Mean Time, a constantly moving time zone designed to allow me to get into work on time without sore fingertips!

A nonsensical time to visitors
A nonsensical time to visitors who remained befuddled and annoyed at the clocks apparent state of incorrectness . Interference commonly threatened the  consequence of unplanned, unexpected  and unwanted early morning awakenings.

The nonsensical mess of time displayed on my Digital Clock Radio that mean’t so much to me, the protector of timekeeping, the barrier from verbal and written warnings for repeated lateness at work mean’t absolutely nothing to visitors who remained confused and befuddled by the meaningless number displayed on my bedside clock. Some would bring the ‘error’ to my attention even offering to correct it for me. On one occasion a friend adjusted the time to GMT for me whilst I was out of the room and thus cause the alarm to sound at 2.30am the next day! But still MMT continued until 1991 when it travelled with me to live in Harrow but was deemed unacceptable by my partner and it’s use immediately ceased.

Although a good idea, MMT was sometimes met with confusion and derision
Although a good idea, MMT was sometimes met with confusion and derision. Frustration led to attempts to correct the time which in turn had drastic implications.

Whilst I sit here writing this article, the day after the clocks have ‘gone back’, the end of British Summer Time 2016, with the inevitable drag of darker, colder evenings, I lament at the demise of MMT and it’s five year reign in my life, along with the repeated “What the HELL is wrong with your clock Matt?” and it’s proud reply…

“Oh that? Don’t worry, that’s just Matthew Mean Time”

Happily the need for such amateurish horology related hokum is unnecessary in todays world. Altering your alarm time is now as simple as uttering the words ‘OK Google’ and crossing your fingers.

Gadget Man – Episode 90 – Samsung Galaxy Note 7 recall part 2 – Can consumers expect Zero Failure in the 21st century technology arms race?

The human race’s relentless pursuit of technology has now surpassed the scale of the Industrial Revolution of the 19th Century, it has seemingly eclipsed the USA vs Russia arms race of the Cold War era, becoming itself a 21st Century Technology Arms Race, with commercial ideologies hand in hand with the our unquenchable thirst for better, brighter, faster and ‘always on’ technology and media.

The two super powers in todays ‘Tech Cold War’ are Apple and Samsung both locked in a unbreakable battle to outsmart each other in the multibillion dollar mobile device market.

On the left is Apple ($586 billion) , mega rich tech/lifestyle company with enormous pockets and a fanbase likened to a religious following, unable to do wrong in consumers eyes even beyond the infamous ‘Bend-gate’ and worse.

On the right in Samsung ($161 billion), super diversified tech company with mega deep reserves of cash and the ability to dodge any amount of bad press which would leave other smaller companies broke.

In between, the likes of LG, HTC, Huawei and others mop up the remaining market. Smaller R&D and marketing budgets and the lack of ability to manufacture it’s own components mean they can only look on in amazement and possible jealousy as the two tech Super Powers guide the market as they see fit.

Over time, Samsung and Apple have began aligning their products directly against each other. Initially Apple took the design lead , Samsung followed whilst taking design cues directly from it’s competitor. Apple struck gold with the iPhone and with a mega-hit on it’s hands, were happy to stick with tried and tested form size leaving Samsung to experiment with large screens, ultimately resulting in the almost silent success of the ‘phablet’ sized Galaxy Note range.

Under the command of Steve Jobs, Apple discounted this large screen device as a diversion, a mistake that  took Apple a good few years to cotton on to, but finally resulted in the large screen iPhone 6 and 6 plus.

Make no mistake, these devices are absolutely crammed full of technology of every kind and even without riding on the back of Moore’s Law, the mind blowing miniaturisation that has taken place to enable such a vast amount of technology to be placed inside of these devices leaves the consumer standing back in awe and wonder,. So little room now remains inside the iPhone that Apple we forced to take the decision to remove the ageing headphone socket from its latest devices in order to make room for newer and better tech.

This race and the urgency that it is being run surely means that eventually something has to give, today the news of the 2nd recall of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 might give an indication that things are simply moving too fast and too precariously.

Smartphone technology is like a comic book filled with heroes and villains, the heroes are the big bright super hi-res screens, fingerprint readers, heart monitors, styluses and beautiful aluminium cases. The villain is the battery, manufactured using the inherently unstable Lithium Ion technology, prone to all manner of faults that can cause breakdowns in components and as reported recently, fire.

Li-ion is not a new technology, with pioneering work started in 1912, but it wasn’t until the mid 70’s that they became readily available for use in equipment that required high loads of power such as drills. Along with this miracle came instability, the cells were prone to ‘thermal runaway’ when charging with resulted in them bursting into flames.

Manufacturers began miniaturising the Li-ion battery and consequently they became higher density cells. The distance between anode and cathode ( + and – ) within the batteries separated by walls of 20-25µm (microns), less that half the width of a human hair!

In reality,  Lithium-ion batteries have reached their theoretical energy density limit and this may give us some insight into the failures in the Note 7, that it was only a matter of time that the thirst for technology should exceed what could be delivered.

Back in the real world, Samsung have stopped production of the phone, informed shops to stop selling it and have advised owners to power off the device and return it until the fault can be located and fixed. It may be too late now for the Note 7, it’s reputation now damaged and we might not see the ‘line’ again.

So, should we as consumers expect Zero Failure on one hand and on the other demanding phone batteries that last for days when the only technology available to achieve this is unable to live up to the first demand?

It’s not an easy question to answer as we are used to failure as a race and the actual percentage of failure in Li-ion is very low. However with enormous quantities of devices being sold containing these batteries, the manufacturers now need manage the expectations of the consumer against their safety in the future.

I spoke briefly about this on BBC Radio Suffolk earlier today, to listen in to the stream click the play button at the top of the page.

What do you think of the Samsung battery issue, let me know by commenting below.

 

 

Gadget Man – Episode 89 – Star Trek 50th Anniversary – Fantasy Gadgets that are now Reality

uss_enterprise_ncc-1701-aToday we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek which first aired in 1964! Amazingly the series only ran for 3 series before being cancelled NBC. The show was an instant hit with a core group of fans now called ‘Trekkies’ or ‘Trekkers’. Star Trek went on to be shown on repeats or reruns many times over the years.

leonard_nimoy_as_spock_1967
Leonard Nimoy as Mr Spock. Image courtesy Wikimedia

Star Trek went on to spawn 13 motions pictures starting in 1979 with ‘Star Trek – The Motion Picture’ and 5 subsequent televisions series including The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise. As well as the ‘Animated Series’ and a planned ‘Discovery’ planned for 2017. Along with all of this visual entertainment comes an enormous library of novels, audiobooks and reviews and in depth analysis of all of the above, it’s almost breathtaking!

star_trek_william_shatner
William Shatner as Captain James T Kirk. Image courtesy Wikipmedia

Star Trek is now surely etched in science fiction folklore possibly (and arguably) only surpassed in popularity by the monolithic and multi billion pound Star Wars franchise

What makes Star Trek so attractive is it’s almost prophetic vision of gadgets of the future. Today in the 21st century we can make use of gadgets and technology first shown a half a century ago.

From sliding doors, universal translators, natural language conversations with computers, tablets computers, personal communicators, virtual reality to food replicators and more!

So, what do we have to look forward to in the next 50 years?

Well, personally I can’t wait next movie instalment and next years TV series, but moreover, I REALLY looking forward to Warp Drive, Matter Transporters and Interstellar Space Travel.

In the words of Mr Spock (and spoken in the language of Mr Worf:-

qaStaHvIS yIn ‘ej chep

(“Live Long and Prosper” in Klingon)

Earlier I spoke to Mark Murphy at BBC Radio Suffolk about how these devices now form an integral part of our lives, so listen in don’t forget to comment below.

qaStaHvIS yIn ‘ej chep

Gadget Man – Episode 88 – 500,000,000 Yahoo accounts stolen in Worlds Biggest Hack

Yahoo HQ
Yahoo HQ – image credit Yahoo

On Friday, I spoke to Mark Murphy on the Morning Show on BBC Radio Suffolk about the breaking news story concerning the massive data breach at Yahoo, possibly converning over 500,000,000 user accounts and by far the largest leak in history.

Listen to the short interview where I explain what I think happened and what Yahoo users should do to ensure their accounts are kept safe and secure from now on.

Yahoo has released a statement concerning the breach, we can be read here

Featured image credit Can Pac Swire on Flickr

Grumpy Old Gits – 9th September 2016 with Matt Porter, Neil Bowles and Tim Edwards

Grumpy Old Gits came to an end a couple of weeks ago. Here’s the episode from 9th September 2016 with Matt Porter, Neil Bowles and Tim Edwards all kept in order by Mark Matthews!!

Queuing, a very British passtime
Queuing, a very British passtime