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Here One: Wonderful Tech That Could Kill You

There’s a couple of hours in my day that are tricky, and I was hoping Here One could solve the problem.

Anyone who has cycled at anything above walking pace knows the omnipresent flutter of wind in their ears. It’s invigorating most of the time – the faster you go the more whoosh in your ears. When wearing regular earphones like Apple’s Earpods, the wind noise is present but not intolerable. The frequency of the noise is low and constant, so it’s possible to listen to speech or music at a reasonable volume while your brain tunes out the wind noise, but it’s far from ideal.

The more critical issue is safety. When cycling you need to be listening for sounds within the general drone of the streetscape that signal impending death. I’m lucky that 90% of my commute is on a separated cycleway, so listening for cars and sirens is not much of an issue. For the on-road parts of my commute, I always drop out my road-side earphone (and sometimes both sides) so I can stay alert. But again, adding music to my commute comes at the cost of some safety. Continue reading

Cleverloop Security System Review – Update

Update: Cleverloop have responded to the criticisms in my review in a brilliant way.

They have:

  1. Rolled out a firmware update to the base station which disables the dynamic DNS feature of the IP cameras. This was my main concern, and with the fix it means that the cameras are not so easily exposed to the outside world.
  2. Fixed the issue with wireless configuration of the indoor camera – yay.

They’re also looking at the default password setting: “In terms of the default camera credentials, from within the app there has always been the option for users to change the username & password through the camera settings page. You’ve made a really good point though that this should be included as a step for people during the set up process. We are making this change and will include it in our next firmware update, which will go to the app stores next week (a few days later for iOS users).”

I’m extremely impressed by Cleverloop’s response to these issues: it gives me huge confidence in their ongoing support for the platform.

Read the original review here.

Cleverloop Security System

Update: Cleverloop have resolved problems I highlighted. They replied rapidly to the security issues and have closed the holes. I’m super impressed by their responsiveness.

Home security cameras come in three broad categories these days: cheap and cheerful Chinese IP cameras (often wireless); cloud-connected cameras like the Nest Cam (formerly DropCam); and full-on surveillance cameras tied to a DVR. All of these options come with some limitations:

  • The cheaper IP cameras usually have appalling web interfaces, and are often a security nightmare thanks to their default passwords and dynamic DNS settings.
  • Nest Cam is a bit easier to set up and has a much nicer interface, but comes with a fairly hefty monthly charge to unlock alerts and cloud storage.
  • “Proper” surveillance camera systems that tie multiple cameras with local storage are bloody expensive.

Cleverloop (launched as an Indiegogo campaign in 2014) tries to bridge across these three categories. Combining cheaper IP cameras with a smart hub to provide local monitoring, cloud storage, and alerting for a one-off price. How does it measure up? Continue reading

Orbitsound SB60 Airsound vs M9 Soundbar

A little while back, I was contacted by reps from Orbitsound to ask whether I wanted to check out their SB60 Airsound Base. I’ve been looking for something with a bit more oomph than the plain old TV speakers, so I took them up on the offer.

SB60 Airsound™ Base

If I’m honest, I was pretty unimpressed with the SB60. It added a bit more volume to the TV output, but I found the overall output very muddy, especially when it comes to voices. Not being able to clearly distinguish voices from background noise and music is a fairly fundamental flaw for a device designed to sit under your television.

I’m not sure if it was the particular acoustics of our TV cabinet, or a fundamental flaw with the SB60, but it was bad enough that we found ourselves using the TV sound more often than not.

So, when I returned the SB60 and Orbitsound came back with an offer to also try their M9 Soundbar, I wasn’t expecting to be impressed.

Continue reading

Livescribe 3 SmartPen

I’ll admit to being a bit of a pen nerd. I’ve been know to spend silly amounts of time and money at jetpens.com, and yeah I’ve owned and used a fountain pen. Hey, at least I don’t wear a fedora.

Despite this, I don’t actually write a lot. I spend 95% of my time behind a keyboard, and have got to the point where it really is faster for me to get my thoughts out with Evernote and a decent keyboard than it is to pick up a pen and paper. It is however the Evernote connection that got me interested in the Livescribe 3 SmartPen when the team from smartpen.co.nz got in touch.

smartpenSo what do I think of it? It’s a chunky pen. Not much bigger than a nice Cross or Rotring, but – surprisingly – a lot lighter. I’ve drawn a rendering of the pen, using the pen, at right. The ballpoint nib is at the very front tip of the pen, and behind it is a little cavity that I presume contains a camera. The nib being offset is a little weird at first, but you get used to it quickly. You operate the pen by twisting the middle section, which pops out the nib and turns the pen on.

By itself, the pen doesn’t actually do anything more than a regular ballpoint. The magic comes when you pair it with a smartphone and start writing on their special notebooks. Using the pattern on the paper, the pen can track what it is writing and send it direct to your phone. It’s pretty techy, and works incredibly well.

The required Livescribe+ app is serviceable, but not stellar. It works fine to sync pages from the smartpen, but I find I use it mainly as a bridge to Evernote, rather than for any particular heavy lifting. Here’s an example of what a page looks like once it’s synced to Evernote. I’m impressed with the clarity and resolution, and the pen doesn’t seem to miss any strokes even when I’m moving very fast.

Each page in the notebook has “buttons” for recording audio and tagging notes. I was a bit disappointed that audio recording requires the app to be running – the buttons on the notebook simply signal the app to start and stop recording. If the pen itself held the recordings, I’d use that function a lot more, because the offline pen mode is brilliant otherwise. That is: you can simply use the pen without your smartphone connected, and take many pages of notes before syncing with the app. This is perfect for conferences or lectures.

The Livescribe+ app will also convert your handwriting to editable text. I found this about 80-90% accurate, but my chicken-scratch handwriting is very sub-par. In experimentation if I slowed down just a little bit and concentrated on writing clearly, the accuracy was more like 98-100%. If you have neat handwriting, this would work ok.

livescribeI’ve found I use the pen a fair amount to capture a quick scribble, an image or perhaps a mindmap; sometimes a  page of notes in an environment where I don’t feel comfortable sitting bashing away at my laptop keyboard. I think if you’re a big pen-based note taker this pen could genuinely change your world, but for me it’s supplementary.

Still, for the size and weight, this thing is bloody remarkable. I like it.

 

 

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