Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Vodafone Smart 4 Turbo - initial hands on


Today I get to play with a fresh new 4g device from Vodafone. The Smart 4 Turbo. Minus the racing stripes sadly. But for two weeks I'll be chatting about the device from both a budget concious users perspective and a parents perspective.

Firstly let's do the initial hands on thought. (The video will be embedded above this)
On seeing the device I was worried the phone would be a cut corners to cost Alcatel junker, but no. They've used a new manufacturer, hugely popular in China to create a well specced device on a darned good price point, now to many specifications mean nothing but for the budget concious geek the more bang you can easily get for your buck the better. So for you to decide I've pulled the specs of GSMArena as they're listed in the best format on the GSM scene in my opinion. - Thanks Guys!

GENERAL2G NetworkGSM 900 / 1800 / 1900
3G NetworkHSDPA 900 / 2100
4G NetworkLTE 800 / 1800 / 2600
Announced2014, Q2
StatusAvailable. Released 2014, Q2
BODYDimensions134.5 x 67.5 x 10.4 mm (5.30 x 2.66 x 0.41 in)
Weight155 g (5.47 oz)
DISPLAYTypeTFT capacitive touchscreen
Size480 x 854 pixels, 4.5 inches (~218 ppi pixel density)
SOUNDAlert typesVibration, MP3 ringtones
3.5mm jackYes
MEMORYCard slotmicroSD, up to 32 GB
Internal4 GB, 1 GB RAM
SpeedHSPA+; LTE, Cat4, 50 Mbps UL, 150 Mbps DL
WLANWi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Wi-Fi hotspot
Bluetoothv4.0, A2DP
USBmicroUSB v2.0
CAMERAPrimary5 MP, 2592 х 1944 pixels, LED flash
FEATURESOSAndroid OS, v4.4.2 (KitKat)
ChipsetQualcomm MSM8926 Snapdragon 400
CPUQuad-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A7
GPUAdreno 305
SensorsAccelerometer, proximity
MessagingSMS(threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Mail, IM
GPSYes, with A-GPS
JavaYes, via Java MIDP emulator
ColorsBlack, White
- Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
- SNS integration
- MP3/WMA/eAAC+ player
- MP4/H.263/H.264 player
- Organizer
- Document viewer
- Photo viewer/editor
- Voice memo/dial
- Predictive text input
BATTERYLi-Ion 1880 mAh battery

While the specs are possibly low to mid range compared to some of the latest and greatest 4g devices it's a well thought through device, especially with additions like NFC and even a 3g only variant (I won't lie! Get the 4g version it's worth it) 
I won't lie I think vodafone have done a great job here on the first few hours. We live in an area where signal is hard to come by without a Sure Signal, in places where the go to Nokia 3510 can't squeeze any signal out the Smart 4 Turbo seems to pull it through, even Edge/2g seems to work better where it refuses to on my main sim! (I should say Vodafone have lent me a 4g sim to play with too.) We'll be trying the device in 2g, 3g, faux g(Hspa) and 4g LTE networks over time.

I'll let you know more about the phone over the next two weeks. Including benchmarks, gaming with the kids trying it out and a few other bits and bobs.

If you have any ideas drop them here and I'll test them out.

The Smart 4 Turbo is avaliable for £135 in Vodafone stores prepaid, and avaliable on contract with Vodafone Red 4g plans.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Remember your #PartnersToo

Morning all.

Today I'm here to chat to you about Supporting Our Partners Too, a new campaign by the miscarriage association. It's a bitter sweet post as I understand how some people need help, not the usual help but the kind when you're told you've lost a baby in miscarriage and feel lost in the mud with no escape. Now for many people we stick by our partners and try to support where we can, sometimes we don't know what to do and many feel useless or a failure, especially when you know your partner is probably feeling the same!

When the good times turn to tragedy we are usually powerless to change this and I'll admit I'm tearing up while talking about this here so rest assured it's normal for everyone!

As many who've contacted me in the past will understand miscarriage and ectopic or molar pregnancy can be one of the lowest, scary and most isolating experiences for both men and women and partners. The questions that float into your head are awful, especially ‘Why?' I'm only thankful to be able to offer my support to anyone who needs help, as for many it's extremely hard to find people who understand, who can offer support and a listening ear.

New research amongst 160 people whose partners had been through a miscarriage showed that:

Before the miscarriage the majority of partners said they felt ‘happy’, ‘excited’, ‘thrilled’ or ‘delighted’ about the pregnancy. 55% had already picked a name for their baby, over half had read a pregnancy book and a third read parenting books too.

After the loss many partners reacted with feelings of sadness (85%), grief (63%) and shock (58%). But nearly a quarter didn't share their feelings with their partner, usually for fear of upsetting her more or saying the wrong thing. Those who did share their feelings often found that it helped them both through their loss.

Also many people forget partners when Miscarriage happens, it may not be much but to be asked if your ok can make the world of difference. I promise you that.

This is why I support the amazing work of the Miscarriage Association's Partners Too Campaign to highlight the simple fact that we ALL need support in situations like these and while I can't help everyone the Association will be there to offer a shoulder to cry on and offer practical advice to those at one of the worst points anyone can experience, they can be contacted by telephone on 01924 200799

Over the course of today I'll also be here to chat with if anyone needs to. My email address is in the contact/about tab and I'll be on twitter as much as I can be too and directing help where needed the most. I only hope i can help in any way possible.

Love and Support

Sunday, 20 July 2014

A #Wishlist of epic proportions Pt1

Evening all!

Wednesday I was invited to visit Amazon's Christmas Wishlist 2014 event to try out some of the latest, greatest and most anticipated Christmas gifts this year around the world. Little did I know I would be blown away by some of the things I'd see and wish I could sneak some of them home with me at that moment.

I won't lie my attraction to tech, cycling and a few things in-between pulled me to this event like a moth to a flame, including a few burning questions I had for the team at Amazon Instant Video and got the chance to put them direct to the marketing director Russell Morris! I must say he's a proper gent who took time out to listen to a concern I have with Instant Video, to discover it was already being addressed already by his team with a fix coming very soon. It was a refreshing to see a company listen to customers in this respect especially as the issue may not be as documented as I originally thought. That said I'll be focusing on Amazon Services in a separate blogpost as to someone who's not even used a kindle the list is enormous not mentioning the recent new additions to the Prime name so want to talk about these properly.

The whole event was choc full of amazing products, despite me wanting to spend all day at with the gadget and electronic goodness it would have been unfair to do so and with everything under one roof you could easily be forgiven for losing track of time here and I must admit I did lose track of time, barely making to school run on time, thanks to some train and bus ninja skills.

I won't lie I fell in love with a many things I saw but these are the things that caught my eye and screamed BUY ME NOW!!!!!!!!! So consider these my wishlist. Oh TheJess - keep eyes peeled! I have also applied to loan some of these amazing items for review too, with this means more videos and posts - YAYS!

Seeing as the tour begins in the electronics area let's begin with the the Hercules DJControlWave.
This is a Bluetooth enabled mixing deck for the iPad, and possibly other devices, I forgot to ask. It's very solidly constructed and worked well with the bundled software once paired to my somewhat battered tablet worked well. The free software bundled with it does a good job of laying down your beats, even if it's aimed in the middle of both learners and intermediate users. However it's downside is the lack of third party app support, which concerns me that for the price it could miss out especially with the WEGO 2 at a similar price point and third party app support, I only hope Hercules consider changing this as for some it would be a deal breaker.
From a hands on perspective I'm hoping to see if we can borrow one for a fortnight to review and bung a mix or two onto youtube for you all!

Next to get me excited under the collar was the Lenovo Yoga 10 tablet, I've had my eye on this for a while and plan to save and buy one now the ipad is dying on me slowly and for ease of use an android tablet would be easier to deal with, especially when utilising my Google calendar and other useful tools which help my day to day life run that smidge smoother (stop laughing) With it's 10 inch HD screen, large storage and enormous battery life of 18 hours and multiple modes and attachments available from launch day it sounds like it could be an ideal contender to apple's offerings without the ultra high price point. It's something I'll be happy to buy in the future.

While walking through I wandered through the kitchenware display, my cake baking senses went haywire when I fell in love with discovered these cake tins from Nordic Ware came into view. While I could not bake a cake in the middle of London the weight of these and choice of elegant designs are perfect for any occasions, from birthday parties to celebrations to those entirely random I WANT CAKE moments we all get here in the land of hooker1uk and these are the tins to make them in. Equally impressive was the Lékué bread maker silicone tin. This daddy's house will be full of the sweet smell of win while baking lots of bread and cake goodness if I get my way!
The Oracle coffee machine by Sage also got my attention, but as a tea drinker I'll leave that be for now.

Next on my travels I backtracked to Home automation.
There is a running joke in our house that when we move home will use more bandwidth than the people residing there. As bold a statement this is. the way it's going it's going to be true when I do implement  automation and security tools to help us save energy and protect my family and the walls we live in. Some of the devices shown were to me not important, for some they would be amazing due to their plug and play nature. However I'd prefer to be able to make everything work for the whole family which the HomeWizard HW-Amazon Exclusive Home Automation Kit can do with ease, with some of the additional hardware available this system can work side by side with the tiny computer all geeks love, none other than the Raspberry Pii
With inter-operable components and a good layer of compatibility I could see home automation becoming a more desirable thing in the near future. I actually plan using a dedicated system that can work with other devices and code when we move to ensure we can keep our future castle locked up and safe as best as possible!

After playing with a Raspberry Pi I took a walk around to the sport and fitness area, I'm looking to integrate wearable technologies into the new bikefit project we've got planned with local groups over the oncoming months and also to invest in a seperate bike just for training too, no trailers on this one just pure training for Balls Of Steel 2015! so tracking progress and being able to use this information to smash goals and be able to help others who join my project can also benefit too. time constraints meant I didn't get chance for a play with smart watches or fitness bands but did notice the Withings Pulse O2 Activity, Sleep, Heart Rate and SPO2 Tracker and the iHealth activity and sleep tracker. They are both compatible with for iOS and Android as good rounded bits of kit with many features the average user would love to use. There were a slue of android smart watches like the Sony SmartWatch 2 which could be fun to own, but for now practicality is more important to me right now.

I won't lie, I walked away from these purely as I'm looking for another singlespeed or 3 speed hub ride to make my own, but the Eastway FB 2.0 Alloy flat bar bike growled at me, while it could have been a toy behind me, I saw naughty potential in this bike, Especially when we've got a (dead) Naughtybike, retired Grumpybike and this could be our Evilbike. I wonder how it would pull the trailers?
These bikes were designed for city roads and can take a severe pounding on those less loved roads, something all cyclists wish our rides could deal with more.

I know the girls have their own wishlist as long as the m25 but with some things in life are a certainty worry is one of them but the Flamm Worry Eater is a beautiful idea to help children gobble their worries up. It's to me a simple idea but one that could work so, so well especially for those who worry or children with autism. It could benefit a wide range of children. I've mentioned on here that a few items are in my to buy list, and many will be money permitting, but this will be a buy purely to help the girls as they seem to be taking change a bit weirdly. Especially the change from early years at school to year one or year one to year two changes.

Here are some of the other amazing things that caught my attention through the event. Time got the better of me so I didn't get much playtime so I'll leave the reviews on these for now, but I'm hoping to get some hands on time with some of these amazing in the near future.

BackBeat FIT Wireless Stereo Headphones with Armband for Smartphone - Green

The Hands-Free Intelligent Wearable Camera

Instax Share SP-1 Printer
Instax Mini 8 Instant Camera Gift Bundle with 40 Shots

Ascend P7 UK phone
Ascend Y330 phone

844 8” Tablet

AC762S AirCard 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot

Idol Alpha Smartphone
Pop 7S Tablet

Espresso Portable Wireless Universal Bluetooth Speaker

KidiZoom Smart Watch

Malibu House (why can't it be like the one in Barbie and the Dreamhouse web series)

Universal SmartWatch 2 SW2 with Bluetooth & NFC for Smartphones with Android 4.0

Bodyclock Active 250 Wake-Up Light Alarm Clock with Extra Audio Options

While I'd love to talk about more goodness right now I've got to get on with the Amazon services, including a review of many services Amazon have to offer now and in the future (Kindle Unlimited FTW)

If there is anything you'd like to see on the list reviewed I'll try my best to do these,

Monday, 7 July 2014

Music Monday people!


It's monday and I think I should restart Music Monday again. No theme just a tune you love and I've chosen a classic song from my past that's bought me hope when homeless and the outcome looked real bleak, a song that may be silly to some but has importance to me in a fantastic way! On top of this it sounds great in the summer and I've got a video of my son rocking out to this video somewhere! Oh bar Michael Jackson it's one of the only songs to have one swear cut out on TV but the next one moments before or after ignored

I give you - Tenacious D - Tribute

I also asked some friends to give me some good music for today too.

The gorgeous PinkOddy ;) suggested a bit of Justin Timberlake with Suit and Tie

The stunning KidsChaos suggested Kelis. Friday Fish Fry from Glastonbuty 2014.
Damn she's got a voice!

The delightful Missie from Me and my Shadow chose Chrissie Hynde - Down the wrong way

The sporty Mr's C chose George Ezra - Budapest

Here's hoping these will make your week that bit better. Add your own below too! If we get a good response I'll think of mixtaping a few bits together!


Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Computer project love!

It looks like this school holiday is going to be a geeky goodness event for me.

My poor unloved Commodore needs to run again, but she's in bad shape thanks to one of the kids dropping her accidentally, and while it sucks I know sugru will fix the internal damage caused so I'm not as worried. Bar what colour I'll be spraying the beast once I've completed all the mods and repairs I want to do.
Those are as follows
Image Credit: OldComputersnet

New power supply,
There is a reason all C64 owners should make or find someone to make a new PSU loom is thanks to the absolutely stupid decision to fill the supply casing with epoxy resin, causing heat issues and this cooks the internal circuit goodness inside. the failures vary but in many cases it leaks power into the C64 and cooks components. To fix this you utilise a 9VAC 1amp power supply. and a 5VDC 1.5amp supply, the old power cable chopped into it, and it's cool. But there are probably better mods with a 24Volt AC supply. for this which I may end up doing but for now I've got a 5V and 9V supply here I can use for testing. (should of grabbed them both from self storage this morning D'oh!)

Reset Button - An easy enough mod, but to make it classy the choice of button will be essential.

SD2IEC - One of the best floppy drive replacement tools ever manufactured and the prices of these have dropped over the last year or so.

Case repairs with sugru - Ronseal really but If it's going to save me some hassle to get the beast looking good It's worth it.

Sprayjob - It'll probably be a cool colour but unsure yet of this as I want to make it special.

Svideo or VGA Mods - This will be the hardest thing to sort as it'll be the most expensive component change or modifications. So for now an afterthought until I get a donor board for practice on!

Dual SIDS for music creation.
Now I'm hoping the SID will be ok as it decided to stop working with the current power brick. to test it I'll be using vicious Sid 1 and 2  as they seem to have SID modules which work amazingly well with failing chips, also can show where a chip is failing by the filters that it can trigger. It's a good test from the awesome people in the scene. However I'll be adding another SID chip for stereo sound goodness and for using music software. for the giggles I'll embed them both to show you how far developers have been able to push the C64's audio to new levels and still do, (Musik: Run/Stop by Mahoney for example) Hence perfect for benchmarking a SidChip's health and validity too (I kid you not the fakes are a plentiful, many work but many crap out)

New ceramic and electrolytic caps - the largest killer of computers is the capacitors, the electrolytes inside the cap dry out and fail. so it's always best to replace them, especially when they're 30 years they'll be as close to death as they can be so devices can go wonky even with good internals. Some of ceramic caps are due replacement but if they need doing I'll happily send the board to be fully recapped and the IC's socketed to local electronics experts if possible. (Why did Surplatronics in luton close)

The Keyboard is also getting some love with the Keys being lovingly cleaned and drying on the sill now in the coolish air. while the keyboard internals have been wiped down with a damp cloth. 31 years of grime... YUK!

Now while this is a lot of work to do it'll be cheaper than buying a "RARE C64 UNIT UNTESTED LOFT STORED NOT AMIGA OR ATARI" especially when most of them

have dying parts inside them or worse untested or swapped for dead parts but labelled untested.

Also one of my other projects I'm getting into os either the Grouchbox or the SlyBox, depending on what I decide to make

Image Credit
The Slybox is an old Pace Sky digital Box, gutted and inside will be a Mini Itx motherboard, in this case the VIA EPIA 800 model, small hard disk and windows installation. inside this will be powered with 12 volts 80watt nano ATX power supply. The reason is simple, inconspicuous computer nobody will think of stealing.

I'll be posting the Slybox,or Grouchbox and the C64 work progress over the next few months as it'll be a slow set of projects both mentally and financially purely down to the amount of work I'll be pouring into them all.

I'll also be hoping to get a Raspberry Pi computer to help me and the girls learn how to code again, I've seriously forgotten. Then again my pinnacle game at college was Who wants to win a pack of beer and Slap the stoner, all on a crusty 16bit copy of Turbo Pascal written, worked well but useless in real word applications, but the principals could be similar to basic I feel. Then again I wish we were given better programming languages at college too as TurboPascal was good but I'm not sure it was relevant these days. Please correct me if incorrect.

For now I'll leave it with a c64 in bits while the keys are drying off so expect some instagram love on this later!


Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Bike Week. School run fun!

Morning all.

As part of bike week and bike to school week  I've teamed up with Sustrans to talk about their campaign for safer streets and why I think it's important for safer streets as a cyclist and also explain how I do the school runs using the bike and trailer.

Where I live we're fortunate to have Travel Choices, a joint project with Central Beds Council and Sustrans and together they actively work within the community to get more people out and about and trying to educate the wider community to make the streets safer, while some of the changes have been a tad annoying to the town it's not going to be an overnight conversion it's a darned good start.

Our school runs are usually a mix of bus, Bike/trailer or and scooters depending on the girls moods and the state of my knees and back. The bus being reserved for the more extremes of weather or pain levels.

We spend the majority of the school year cycling and scooting to school, the benefits of this being less hassle for the girls and I lose a bit of belly in-between!

On bike the girls jump into the trailer and gabble, argue while i make the mile journey to school.

It'a an awesome little trip which can be (for the girls) epic depending on the route we take, being the Luton and Dunstable busway or the main road.

The busway path is a crushed lime which needs to be replaced with tarmac or a hardcore and sand mix as it can be unstable and with the trailer on the back I've wheelspun and bashed the trailer and nearly the kids with loose stones spinning off the tyres, It's not the preferred choice mainly due to it's exit on an active and very busy industrial estate, if the pathways were upgraded It would improve things there. So we go the main roads mostly.

The main road takes us down two busy roads, but set out well with comfortable and wide dual use pathways so there's less risk of getting in the way of anyone here and lots of good light too. The girls use this to sing lots of Frozen songs, Hug Roo and Tigger (Not Boo, Roo and Tigger Too! D'oh!) when they're having a grumpy day and gabble like awesome little monsters do!

What I love about riding and scooting with the girls is how happy they are when out riding and scooting with me to school it's an instant grump fix, no matter the cause of the grinch!

You should try it as it's fun. Yeah it's a learning curve but awesome experience.

If there's anything you want to know. let me know.

Paul, the kids, Naughtybike and grouchotrailer