Audio

The Gadget Man – Episode 120 – The Resurgence of the Cassette

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.

Nakamichi Dragon Cassette Deck
Nakamichi Dragon Cassette Deck

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.

Ghetto-Blaster or Boom-Box
Ghetto-Blaster or Boom-Box

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.

Sony Walkman Professional
Sony Walkman Professional

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.

Matt

The Gadget Man – Episode 119 – Technology to look out for in 2019

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.

Matt

 

The Gadget Man – Episode 117 – The benefits of Dashcams

Dashcams have officially become commonplace in society. As more and more drivers use our roads, the chances of accidents increase and being able to accurately document such unfortunate incidents has become more important than ever, especially with the rise in fraudulent claims.

I spoke to Mark Murphy on BBC Radio Suffolk about the use of dashcams and also helmet cams for cyclists and my personal recollections of having to use video evidence to report a motorist.

Image Credit: SWNS

Gadget Man – Episode 116 – Digital Photo Overload

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now WE decide what we watch.

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

Matt Porter
The Gadget Man

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

Gadget Man – Episode 114 – Too Much Smartphone Part II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Gadget Man – Episode 112 – Too Much Smartphone!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matt Porter
Gadget Man

Gadget Man – Episode 111 – Cashless Society

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

Gadget Man 111 - Cashless Society

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

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

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

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