Thursday, 30 January 2014
The battery is often (but not always, as you will read below) small enough to fit inside the earpiece itself, so they tend to only be about an Inch in total length and only a couple of millimetres in diameter (yeah, I know, I mixed my measurements, get off my case already…). The external batteries I’m talking about below are a little bigger, but even they are typically not much bigger than 2-3 Inches long.
Now, the received wisdom regarding rechargeable earpiece batteries is that you cannot change the Lithium Ion batteries once they give out. It is also said that you cannot improve battery life by adding better batteries to your earpiece, both edicts are actually untrue. If (for whatever reason) you are emotionally (or physically, hey, I’m not judging) attached to your earpiece and you don’t want to buy a new one, then it is actually possible to replace the battery. It’s a bit tricky, but this is how it’s done.
First, you have to obtain a new Lithium Ion battery (obviously). Then, you remove the outer casing of the earpiece itself.
Inside most Bluetooth earpieces, you’ll find a circuit board, which is attached to the earpiece’s own internal Lithium-Ion battery (usually by a couple of wires). Nudge the board and the battery loose until they are separated and easily accessible. Next, cut the wires carefully, severing the link between battery and board.
Now, carefully solder the remaining wires together with the new battery’s wires (or the new battery itself, depending on what model you happen to be using) and fold the whole thing back together just as you originally found it. If you’ve gone for a better battery, your new external battery ought to work just as well as the old one did, except with a far greater battery life and thus, far better talk time. The external battery can be a bit of a pain, so I don’t recommend this procedure unless you are absolutely sure that you want it.
If you’ve opted for the same battery again, then the approach detailed will also work, but you’ll be without the added annoyance of having a much bigger earpiece.
Wednesday, 29 January 2014
Members of the British comedy group ‘Monty Python’ will reunite for a one-off live show next July. According to a press conference given by the comedy legends, the group wants to see if they are “still funny”.
Original members Michael Palin, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones will perform together for the first time in over 30 years.
According to the group, the show’s content will include “some of Monty Python’s greatest hits, with modern, topical, Pythonesque twists”. However, John Cleese has promised that there will also be some new material.
‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’, a surreal, DaDa inspired comedy sketch show, first hit British screens in 1969 and remained extremely popular with audiences until it ended in 1974. The show acted as the voice of a new generation, with a fresh approach to comedy and an irreverent, sometimes controversial, edge. Many of the group’s most famous sketches have become treasured parts of British popular culture.
The group released their first feature film ‘And Now For Something Completely Different’ in 1971, but it wasn’t until 1974’s ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ that they filmed an entire movie of new material. The film is an enduring comedy classic, as is its sequel, the controversial ‘Monty Python’s Life of Brian’ (1979). The group’s third feature film ‘Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life’ (1983) was a jet black comedy that was closer in style to the sketch show format of the series, but did not fare as well critically or commercially, despite garnering strong fan support.
In 1989, founding member Graham Chapman sadly passed away from cancer, which put any future reunions in jeopardy.
Following Chapman’s untimely passing, Eric Idle famously stated, “We would only do a reunion if Chapman came back from the dead. So we’re negotiating with his agent.”
Since then, the Pythons have occasionally reformed, with the shows usually featuring an urn containing the ‘ashes’ of Chapman (in reality, his ashes were scattered on Mount Snowdon, Wales by his partner David Sherlock). The urn was, in one instance ‘accidentally’ knocked over on stage before being vacuumed up with a Dust Buster.
The new show is going to feature classic sketches that have never been performed live. Idle, who is also the show’s director, has said that it is going to resemble “a huge musical” in style, whilst John Cleese warned, “The main danger we have is that the audience know the scripts better than we do.”
During the aforementioned press conference, Michael Palin stated that the group “still enjoy getting together to be very silly”.
“After you turn 70, you can be absolutely shameless,” joked Terry Gilliam.
Prior to this news, the troupe’s most recent live performance took place at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles in September 1980, but it has been 40 years since the Pythons last performed on stage in the UK.
The most expensive tickets have been announced at £95, but the cheapest seats will costs just £26.50, with Idle quipping that it was “only £300 cheaper than The Stones”
“I hope to be able to pay off my mortgage!” said Terry Jones.
The show will also be made available on DVD & Blu Ray later in the year.
Monday, 20 January 2014
That’s actually quite tough to pinpoint. Computer scientist Alan Kay first came up with a concept (and then a prototype) for what he called a ‘Dynabook’ in 1968. Depending on which version you look at, the Dynabook concept can be viewed as a prototype tablet PC (as well as a direct ancestor of the laptop).
In science fiction, tablet-like devices can be seen in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ as well as ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’. While in comics, Jack Kirby’s ‘Motherboxes’ (as featured in the 1970’s ‘New Gods’ series) can be considered to be ‘super-tablets’ by any other name. So the idea for the tablet was firmly entrenched in fiction and popular culture long before the iPad was even a glint in Steve Jobs’ eye.
Jeff Hawkins developed the first modern-style tablet PC in 1989, this invention led to a prototype named Lombard (for some silly reason) that was released in 1992. However, before that, in 1987, Apple had designed hardware for a touchscreen and stylus operating system, which was a primordial version of the iOS that you would use today on the aforementioned iPad.
In 2002, Microsoft launched the ‘Tablet PC’, which was a grand idea on paper, but, for too many reasons to list here, the invention never took off. It would take ten long years (and the rapid rise of mobile phones) before Apple dusted off the idea and proudly produced their iPad, in 2010.
So, in a very real sense, no single person invented the tablet PC. It was a culmination of wild-eyed science fiction dreamers, wild-haired computer scientists and the market-driven will to profit as utilized by companies like Microsoft and Apple.
Personally, if I had to pick just one name out of the hat, it would be Alan Kay. Now, before all you tech-bods rush out to correct me, consider this: John Logie Baird invented the television, but his initial invention is barely recognizable compared with today’s net-ready, Blu-Ray playing, surround-sound enabled living room leviathans, so its just a question of who had the first idea.
I’ve seen sites that credit Jeff Hawkins, which is fair, but honestly, the idea (and an early version of the eventual tech) actually existed 30 years or so earlier, so I’m not going to personally subscribe to that one.
Who Invented the Tablet PC?
Sunday, 12 January 2014
In an article for ‘The Straight Dope’, published in 1987, Cecil Adams (who ran a similar, but far superior, column to this one) explained it far better than I could. He said,
“Most modern receivers use something called a “local oscillator,” which is sort of an internal transmitter. The oscillator generates signal A, which is mixed with the somewhat raw incoming signal B to produce nice, easy-to-work-with signal C. There’s usually some sort of shielding around the oscillator, but it’s not always effective and sometimes errant signals leak out to make life difficult for other radio equipment nearby. If the other equipment happens to be an aircraft navigation device, somebody could wind up digging furrows with a $25 million plow. So do your bit for air safety and bring a tape player instead.”
Of course, you can replace ‘tape player’ with ‘iPod’ and not lose anything in the discussion…Feasibly, you could replace ‘iPod’ with ‘smartphone’ and lose even less.
However, the oscillator isn’t always going to cause a major problem, in fact, 9 times out of 10 you’ll be fine, but is it really worth endangering the lives of every passenger aboard the plane just so you can catch up on the football results?
Any answer other than ‘no’ would be inhumanly monstrous. Unless, of course, its a penalty shootout…
Actually, I’m over-exaggerating somewhat, in fact, not even your mobile would be likely to cause that much damage. In theory it could, but the reality for phones being banned is a little bit less terrifying, as www.Wired.com’s Cliff Kuang explains:
“Sure, your mobile can interfere with avionics — in theory. But in practice, it’s far from likely. Cockpits and communications systems have been protected against electromagnetic meddling through safeguards like shielded wiring and support structures since the 1960s. So why the resistance? Part of it, naturally, comes from the call carriers. When phones ping for signals at 35,000 feet, they can hit hundreds of towers at once, necessitating complicated parsing of roaming agreements. Providers don’t want the hassle if they’re not being properly compensated, so the government has left the plane ban in place”.
So, essentially, it’s not worth the risk to use a radio receiver on a plane and you can’t make calls because it would be a bugger to regulate, as well as a logistical nightmare to deal with, for the phone companies. That’s about it, really.
Why Can’t I Use a Radio or a Phone on an Aeroplane?
Friday, 10 January 2014
As an opening line, it’s right up there with the one about the dead dog in the alleyway that greets you as you first read ‘Watchmen’. Right away, you can tell that this book is something special. It just grabs you and steadfastly refuses to let go.
Ignoring the controversy caused by this particular reprinting (that’s a blog for another time), what we have here is an enduring graphic classic. It is a gritty piece of exquisitely rendered pulp-noir that has been in high demand since its first printing (in four single issues) back in 1987.
I’ll delve into the backstory, even though you probably know it all by now. In 1986, DC comics decided to revamp their entire line of characters and comic books. Following a monster comics event known as ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths’ the readers and creators found themselves with a veritable tabula rasa upon which to create new stories and furnish them with the rich tapestry of established DC comics concepts, characters and ideas. To this end, The Batman was given an expanded origin story that reflected the sombre, acidic, sometimes brutal nature of his more recent adventures.
Writer Frank Miller volunteered for this daunting task and hand picked rising young star David Mazzucchelli to tackle the art duties. The rest, as they say, is history.
I’m not even going to bother to find faults or flaws with this masterful piece of pulp storytelling. I’m sure they are there, if you care to look for them, but I’m afraid that, when it comes to this volume, I’m like the old man who still swears that his aged wife is as beautiful and radiant as the day he married her. I don’t see flaws, only beauty.
Told largely from the point of view of young Lieutenant Jim Gordon (recently transferred to the Gotham Police Department from Chicago), ‘Batman: Year One’ follows both the Dark Knight and his greatest ally through their most formative 12 months. There are no supervillains; there is no Bat-signal, no Batmobile and no Robin. There are just two men who have embarked on individual missions to make this world a better place and happen to cross paths somewhere along the way.
Everything in this book is stripped back, stark and uncompromising. A freezing cold colour palette (although that depends on which version you read) amplifies the emotional alienation of both men, as Gordon becomes slowly separated from his Wife and Bruce Wayne becomes (arguably) annexed from his sanity.
The violence is savage, claustrophobic and hard hitting. A nihilistic riposte to the day-glo captions of the Adam West and Burt Ward TV show of the 60’s, its cartoon ‘BIFFS’ and ‘POWS’ rendered here as achingly wince inducing as possible.
Here, Batman is forced to rely on training and ingenuity, he makes mistakes, but he’s still Batman and that’s what counts.
Both men are stretched to breaking point throughout the course of this book, but, crucially, both men find ways to rise above it with single-minded, (some might say obsessive) determination and a staunch clarity of vision only possible in great works of fiction.
Mention this book to any seasoned comic reader, no matter how cynical and web-weary, and they’ll grow misty-eyed and nostalgic. It is, like a classic of cinema or an album that tethers one to a benighted, embellished youth, an experience to be savoured and enjoyed. Again and again.
Saturday, 4 January 2014
The advantages of plasma television are numerous, aside from improved picture, which is a given, plasma TV is also easier to attach modern peripherals to and is entirely digital of course. It even takes up far less space in the room than the bulkier models. It is utterly modern, and it looks as swish as swish can look.
On an LCD television, I watched ‘Evil Dead’ and it was like Bruce Campbell was coming right at me! The picture quality is simply outstanding. Everything is so clear, it’s like you’ve been watching TV with cataracts your entire life. A plasma TV says something about you, it says that you are the kind of devil-may-care rogue who isn’t satisfied with merely watching ‘Evil Dead’. Oh no, not you. You want to be splattered with dog food and karo syrup too! (nerd joke).
Of course, if you hook it up with a Blu Ray player and 5.1 surround sound, then you’re really setting a dangerous precedent. You might think your plasma tv is real life and mistake your Blu Ray collection for actual memories. Imagine, if you will, texting your best mate thus: ‘Can’t come over 2nite m8, got to blow up the Death Star then raid the lost ark.’ Though, knowing my friends, they would probably think the second one was a rude euphemism, and it’s doubtful that ‘Death star’ is on predictive text.
Work days would fly by, rent and phone bills would go unpaid, but what could you do? You were at Woodstock…Your girl/boyfriend would shack up with your best mate/sibling (whichever sounds worst) and sooner or later the police would kick down your door and find you in your dressing gown swinging a flashlight around and calling yourself ‘Obi Wan’. But you know what? There’s every chance that you won’t end up being a plasma TV casualty. In fact, there’s every chance you will simply vastly improve your home entertainment system. However, I’m still not responsible if you stick cutlery between your fingers, gel up your hair and make people call you ‘Wolverine.’
Friday, 3 January 2014
So what can you do?
Well, our advice is to look into getting them their own tablets. That’s right, they make tablets for kids.
I’m talking about tablets that look good with rice crispies and snot smeared across the screen, tablets that can be thrown down the stairs twenty-three times a day and still function happily, tablets with buttons that are specially designed for little fingers to press.
Not only are these tablets wonderfully designed and made, they also come complete with a vast (and growing) collection of educational apps. So the kids will be learning something at the same time as playing.
I reviewed one such tablet, the LeapPad Explorer 2, and this is what I thought.
The tough screen, thick outer casing (described on at least one site as “tantrum proof”) and heavyset design of the LeapPad 2 all speak to adult concerns about technology in the hands of children. However, the bright colours and toylike plastics demarcate this model very clearly as your child’s tablet, setting it apart from your own version.
The screen’s resolution (480 x 272) is pretty terrible, but perhaps not so much when you consider the mess your boy or girl probably makes of a bowl of spaghetti. Screen wise, the major screen problem here is not low resolution, but is, in fact, the stylus, which can often miss the target completely (spaghetti or no spaghetti).
Elsewhere, the 500MHz processor isn’t really up to much and tends to be prone to odd slip up here and there, even when its only processing 2D puzzle game apps.
The LeapPad runs on four AA batteries (up to nine hours), or an optional charger, although the amount of charged stored is, frankly, abysmal.
£62 is a great price for a tablet, but is perhaps a bit much for a children’s toy. However, if you want a decent junior tablet, then this price (and up) is what you’re likely to be looking at, I’m afraid.
Reading all that back to myself, it does seem like I have a bit of a downer on this tablet, but honestly, I really don’t.
All told, the LeapPad Explorer 2 is a fine little device. As a junior tablet, the LeapPad is fun and uncomplicated in all the right ways and its special kid-friendly operating system is a great first step towards the more demanding worlds of iOS, Windows or Android.
The apps are generally good, with rudimentary puzzle games and learning software based around science, music, maths and even foreign languages. On the downside, the apps, while mostly very good, can be a bit pricey. To make matters worse, a lot of them are depressingly simplistic, even for a five year old. Being shown what to do at the start of every turn quickly becomes depressingly repetitive, no matter how old you are (which also serves as a sorry testament to how many times I had to go back and restart them during testing).
Aside from the minor niggles, however, this tablet generally performs very well.
As a way to prevent little hands from finding their way to your iPad or Surface, the LeapPad is an excellent purchase. As a learning tool, it is both well designed and fun, but as a tablet, it leaves rather a lot to be desired.
It is easy to imagine children getting annoyed with the slow response times, occasionally choppy animations (due to lack of processing power) and apps that, whilst generally fun and likeable, can also be annoying and overly patronizing. The other worry here is that your little ones may well outgrow this tablet before you finish paying for it.
However, all things considered, this is a fun little device that should, at worst, provide a few weeks’ distraction and, at best, give your children a helpful leg up into multiple scholastic areas, as well as information technology.
Get the Leappad 2 from amazon here