Category Archives: Gadgets

All other gadgets

Amazon Alexa and Logitech Harmony

So you have got your nice Shiny Amazon Echo, with all the Alexa goodness!

But Damn, no IFTTT support in the UK at the moment, so how the heck do I get Alexa to turn off my TV?

Well Yonomi has support for the Harmony, as well as other things.

Just set Yonomi up, and link it to your Logitech account, setup the things you want Alexa to be able to do in Yonomi. Then add the Yonomi Skill to Alexa and link the two together.

Pop into Alexa and scan for new devices in the Smart Home section, it will find all the Yonomi tasks, and you can use them. I’ve not added them to a group, just seems to complicate things.

And now I can just say “Alexa turn everything off” and hey presto, all the media systems turned off.

August EP650B Headphone Review

I’ve been using some in ear headphones at work for a while now, and although they worked just fine, the office has become a very noisy place as of recent so I decided to treat myself to some over ear headphones to get some of the noise isolation I wasn’t getting with the in ear ones.

I didn’t want to spend a fortune on them (and hence Active noise cancel was out) and prefered if they had BT4 / APTx support so at least over Bluetooth they would sound half decent. So I went looking for what was around.

I found a few that had decent writeups and the likes, but just then I had an email arrive, Amazon had these at a discount on one of their “Deal of the Day” offers. So thought “what’s the harm” and took the plunge.


Bluetooth Specification: Bluetooth V4.0 (APTx and CSR support)
Operating Range: Up to 10m
Frequency Response: 60Hz – 20KHz
Speaker Output: 30mW
SNR: ≥85dB
Distortion: ≤1.0%
Battery: 3.7V/220mAh Built-in Li-ion Battery
Working Time: 10 Hours
Charging Time: 2 Hours
Standby Time: 30 Days
Weight: 235g
Dimensions: 176.6 x 188.6 x 71mm


Now I know the specs don’t look outstanding, but remember these headphones were under £30 shipped, and had all the features I was looking for, at least on paper. The Frequency range is above average for the price and support BT4/APTx while adding a good level of noise isolation.


OK, so they are headphones, so how do they sound? Answer… Pretty darn good! Now I will say straight away, they are bass heavy, but that is not necessarily a bad thing (depending on what you listen too obviously). I’ve tweaked this in the equaliser on my phone and PC, so they are less ‘boomy’ but if you are into metal/hard rock, I’m sure they would be just fine for you. Other frequency ranges are a lot more equalised, with mids and high’s representing themselves well, as long as not drowned out by bass that is. This could be read as a critical point, however other headphone hardware that cost’s a lot more (looking at you Beats) have the same sound representation, so it seems to be what all of the manufacturers are doing at the moment (only Sennheiser seem to have refrained at the moment), Sony started the ‘I can do Bass’ trend a while back. Hopefully it will move on at some point soon, as we all know that better magnets have allowed bigger bass, it’s like the whole blue LED thing, see them everywhere now, even on things that are designed for the bedroom, if the LED is on it’s like daylight in the room.


IMG_20160427_140656The build quality on the headphones seems to be sound enough. the fit and finish looks pretty good, and I know the ‘B’ spec units have had some tweaks over the original because of issues with the plastics around the headphone cups. Only time will tell however, so if anything happens I’ll update this post. They fold to allow easier travel as well, which is nice. Pity they don’t come with some sort of case (although one is available on Amazon if you want one). They are packaged with a USB cable and a 3.5″ Headphone cable.


One of the main reasons for purchasing them was the BT4 support, allowing me to use them to listen and take calls on from my phone (Nexus 6P). And in this regard they work admirably.  I have been pleasantly surprised with how well they handle calls over the phone and Skype for Business, with no complaints from the people I’m speaking to about the noise/quality.

Bluetooth audio quality is great, yes it’s not the exact same as hardwired quality, but as long as your phone supports APTx it’s well within the margins of the flexibility over quality weighing up. They also have the standard BT controls on the Right earphone exterior, so volume, skip and play/pause all work. Just remember, the controls only work over BT, and not over 3.5″ or USB.

NFC pairing is supported, and worked just fine on the Nexus when tested.

The one thing that I didn’t realise, and is not well documented on the box or manual, the USB connectivity allows for more than just charging. When plugged into the PC (Windows 10IP) it registers as a media device with both Audio and Microphone support, and so can be used as a device on that as well. With the extremely useful ability to be connected to both the PC (USB) and the Phone (BT4) at the same time, and switches between the most recently used source. So if listening to the Phone, and then you press play on the PC it sends a Pause command to the phone, and audio on the PC takes over instantly, and vice versa, Very useful!


Battery life is rated at 10 hours+, and I have no reason to doubt that. It’s obviously dependent on how loud you drive them, and what source you use to do it, but I’ve not run out of charge yet through a complete working day, so that’s fine with me.


I was surprised by the abilities of these ‘cost effective’ headphones, I bought them on a whim to see if they would do until I found something that I could live with long term, and to be honest, I’ve stopped looking. These are much better than the price would make you believe. In fact one of the nicest things to be said for them is that after I purchased mine, two of my colleagues have also purchased some for the same reason. Not much higher praise really if you ask me than three ‘geeks’ in the same team owning them.

Update : Got the travel pack for them and it’s perfectly functional, nothing special but hey, it’s only to hold them safe, so cant expect too much I suppose.

Buy now at

Plex for NowTV version 2.6.8

Just thought, seems as I’ve updated my personal one here’s the latest Roku Plex Client (2.6.8) packaged for the NowTV

Couple of bug fixes etc, here’s the quick rundown from the Plex Forums


  – Add transcode session info to the HUD. (press down on the remote while a video is playing)
  – Add a toggle for DTS support.
  – Fix a crash in Playback Options for non-library content.
  – Fix for Direct Playable content flung from iOS.
  – Fix H.264 level preference.
Download Here, install in the usual way (use a browser to connect to the NowTV box, upload the ZIP file, wait for the Install Success)

iPod protection

I was informed that Proporta have got a 40% discount on all of the ‘old’ iPod stuff they do.

Pop along to the Proporta site for the skinny on the deal. Also if you have picked up one of the new iPod’s, then pop and have a look at the 3G nano Classic Case and the 3G nano Silicone Case, both look quite good.

I can vouch for Proporta stuff, It’s always good, and always looks after the item it’s holding.

Fuji FinePix A700

The A700 is by no means a new camera, having been launched in October 2006. It is currently available at a very good price point, however – around £80/119Eur/$157.

The A700 is aimed at the home/first time user, and for this user the camera is good. However if you are looking for a camera to compliment your DSLR then this is probably not the camera you are looking for. I’ll explain why, but first some specifications:


Sensor : 1/1.6-inch Super CCD HR at 7.3MP
Resolution Support : 3,072 x 2,304 (7.3M) /3,264 x 2,176 (3:2) / 2,304 x 1,728 (4M)/ 1,600 X 1,200 (2M)/ 640 X 480 (0.3)
Video Resolution : 320 x 240 pixels ( 10 frames/sec.), 160 x 120 pixels ( 10 frames/sec.)
Lens : Fujinon 3.0x Optical zoom lens, F2.8 – F5.2 – 8- 24mm (Equivalent to 36-108mm on a 35mm camera)
ISO Speeds : 100/200/400 via an Auto mode
Flash : Internal flash. Wide angle (Approx.1.6 -12.5ft.), Telephoto (Approx. 2.0-6.6ft), Macro (Approx.1.0 – 2.6ft).
Flash modes : Auto, Red-eye Reduction, Forced Flash, Suppressed Flash, Slow Synchro, Red-eye Reduction + Slow Synchro.
Display : 2.4" 112000 pixel Amorphous silicon TFT (around 91% scene coverage)
Storage : Internal 12Mb plus xD Card (16Mb one supplied)
Power : 2xAA



The reason I mentioned that this camera is more suited to the home or first time users, is that this camera takes the concept of KISS ("Keep It Simple, Stupid") to a whole new level.

The Camera has no ‘manual’ modes to speak of, and in its default power up state uses a quite competent auto mode. This can be overridden, however it looks like the Fuji engineers believed that end users wouldn’t be messing about in the menus, and as such have spent very little time on their design and layout.

The point and shoot concepts of the camera work well; the zoom is easy to use, as is the display on the rear.

The camera is a little large in comparison to some of the other devices on the market (for example the Optio A20 which I reviewed earlier in the year).


The pictures the camera produces are a little hit and miss. In good lighting, or under ideal conditions for the flash, the camera produces photos that are at least on a par with more expensive equipment. Its abilities under extreme lighting conditions are not so good.

As you can see from the two pictures here (the right being the cleaned version), the photos do show improvement with just a little touching up. This however does not help in dark conditions. The camera just does not seem to pick up enough information for you to touch things up later.

The camera ‘s macro mode is also a little hit and miss. If you get the distance from the object just right, it produces some good quality shots (under good lighting). There is very little noise to be seen in the photos, even when zooming in on the image after it’s been taken. This shows that the CCD of the device is quite good. It seems that the downside to the device is probably due to the lens and software.

The lens issue also shows itself on shots where the lens is at its widest zoom, with a noticeable ‘fish eye’ effect seeming to happen, however the usual bugbear with cheap lenses is the corners, and this shows very little chromatic aberration.



The camera is certainly not the best of the current breed, but it’s not the worst either. It’s certainly very week on the features list, but some novice users will see this as a positive rather than a negative.

Framing of full frame shots could be an issue as the LCD display clips the edges, however this is not uncommon, and it seems to be the fashion to not put a proper view finder on compact cameras nowadays.

The flash is powerful enough for snap shot use, but can be a bit of a demon when it comes to red eye.

Photos, for the most part, are acceptable and after a little "photoshopping" look fine for most uses.

This camera would have been better if a little more thought was put into the design of its various sections. The case should be a little slimmer, the software a little more grown up, and the lens perhaps a little more in tune with the CCD.

That said, if these things were done I doubt the price would be as low as it is for this camera. Direct competitors are few and far between at this price point, the closest being the Pentax Optio E-20 or the Sony DSC-S600, however both of these are 6MP cameras and not 7MP, so not directly comparable.


If you are new to digital cameras, or need a compact and already own xD Cards then you could do worse than the Fuji A700.

However, I suspect you’ll outgrow it quite quickly, so it may be worth saving up and getting one of the newer 9 or 10 Mega Pixel compacts that are now available.

It would be an ideal kids first camera as it is built well, relatively light and requires no setup whatsoever.

If you cannot stretch the extra 60 pounds or so for the next level up, then this is certainly better than the ‘no-name’ cameras out there; although the lens is not perfect, and the software and features lack, it is still a decent ‘bang for the buck’ camera from a reputable manufacturer.

Author’s note – The thumbnail images link to the bigger original which are around the 5mb mark. Some of the photos have been touched up in PhotoShop.


I noticed that Gary  had given me a bit of a bash over my iPhone reaction.

I just wanted to make my impressions clear.

I've been an 'advanced phone' user for a good many years now, I have in the past used Nokia, Ericsson, Sony, and of late Microsoft (HTC) phones, and over the years seen them advance to the state of my current phone which my parents call my mini PC (HTC Universal).

The iPhone looks AMAZING! however it has some serious shortcomings, most of which should be expected, seeming this is Apple's first foray into the phone market (we will forget the RokR).

The iPhone falls short on some serious areas. What connected phone would be without 3G? I don't want to browse over GPRS, and it's damn sure that there will not be a WiFi zone like there is in San Francisco around where I live any time soon.

The lack of developer support is a joke, what's going on there? It runs OSX? yeah right just like my phone runs Windows Vista, the kernel may be loosely related but that's about it. All of the clever video voice-mail and the likes are network dependent, and not many of them will upgrade there infrastructure just for one phone. Do you think Nokia and SE have not looked at doing similar stuff for years?

There were also some strange decisions going on, first they say we are partnering with Google, then say that Yahoo! are going to be the iPhone mail partner. Who the the heck was smoking crack in the boardroom when that decision was made? Steve give up the hard drugs and go back to pot, cause that decision is just plain dumb! Google mail vs Yahoo! mail? I'd rather use Mutt or Pine than Yahoo! (in fact I would rather be sent to prision for a crime I did not commit, and accidentaly bend over to pick up the soap in an all black shower than use Yahoo!). However my dislike of Yahoo! asside, Gmail is possibly the best 'free' mail system out there at the moment, why use a decrepid aging pile of dog muck that get's blocked by almost every decent spam filter engine instead?

Like I said, I have nothing against Apple, I own my fair share of iPods and Macintosh's after all, and what I do confess is that Apple make very good designs.

I would like to see Apple do well with this device, but I'm afraid it's probably better off if they take the phone stuff out and put a hard disk in instead, that way we would get a decent Video iPod, and let's be fair that's what we all really wanted instead of the iPhone anyway.

p.s. While I'm bashing companies, Microsoft PLEASE call me back about my Xbox 360, I've had 3 now, none of them work and I want to play Rainbow Six : Vegas!

Terratec Cinergy DT USB XS Diversity

The Terratec Cinergy DT USB XS Diversity is one of the first Diversity devices to reach the market.

Diversity allows you to take the best parts of the signal from two aerial sources and combine them to create the best signal possible.

The box includes everything you will need to use the Cinergy DT USB XS Diversity straight away.

There is the device itself, a USB extension cable, remote, remote sensor, two magnetic aerials, two suction bases, converters for the mini aerial sockets, and the software.

Installation is as simple as inserting the device into a USB 2 socket, popping the driver CD into the drive and installing the software. After plugging the aerials in and scanning for channels using the Terratec Home Cinema software you are free to watch.

The version of Terratec Home Cinema that comes with the Cinergy DT USB XS Diversity includes the Diversity mode.

To test the diversity mode I decided to see if the included aerials were capable of holding a BBC1 signal whilst on the move in a car. I stuck the aerials to the two separate side windows of the car, turned on the Diversity mode, and tuned into BBC1.

I was not expecting the channel to remain watchable, but to my surprise the channel was rock solid whilst I was driving at 40Mph. Even going around corners and driving into built up areas did not disrupt the signal! Quite impressive.

After testing using my laptop – as if I was a mobile user – I decided to see if the little USB device was good enough to use in another of its likely locations, in the home.

The reason I class this as a likely location for use is because media center PCs are getting slimmer and slimmer, and most PCI/PCI-E dual DVB-T tuners are full height cards and won't fit in some of the smaller cases. This means that if you want a dual DVB-T tuner, the easiest way is to use an external one like the Cinergy DT USB XS Diversity.

To test the device in these conditions, I connected it to the Vista Media Center PC that I have been building to replace my Sky+ installation.

I was looking for a USB or half height dual DVB-T tuner, and when I had the chance to test the Cinergy device I jumped on it. The device fills all my needs: it should be reliable and well performing based on my previous tests of the XS's big brother the Cinergy 2400i DT, it is also well built and includes all the necessary drivers for Vista Media Center.

After plugging the device into my digital aerial and scanning for channels in Media Center I had a full channel lineup, a good sign as Media Center can be picky with channel reception.

I scheduled some recordings, making sure that some of them overlapped so I could test the Cinergy DT USB XS Diversity's abilities when recording two channels at once, as this usually shows up any issues that may exist with bandwidth on the device and between the device and the PC.

No issues located however; the Cinergy DT USB XS Diversity records two channels without any issues, and there is no sign of skipping and stuttering in the recordings, even on the channels that are difficult for some tuners to receive (Sky3/UKTV History).


The Cinergy DT USB XS Diversity is a great USB receiver. It is well built with a nice design, it has some really good features with the dual aerial inputs and the Diversity functionality. The only issue that I can see is that at the moment the Diversity functionality is only available when using the Terratec software, however some third party applications will enable its use shortly.

I can recommend this card to any laptop user that travels and would like to take a TV with them. I will also heartily recommend the device to anyone who does not have space in their Media Center PC for a full height card. The USB device could also be used to add two more tuners to an existing dual tuner Media Center setup, therefore allowing you to record three channels whilst watching a fourth (registry hacking is required to enable this).

The device retails for around 75GBP (111Euro/144USD) and for that price it is more expensive than some of its competition, but the build quality and Diversity functionality more than make up for the small price difference. Support seems to be as good with this device as with the Cinergy 2400i DT in that there is already 32 and 64bit BDA drivers for Vista available.

It is also worth noting that Terratec also sell an Apple version of the device, so even OSX users need not feel left out.

Terratec Cinergy 2400i DT

The Terratec Cinergy 2400i DT is the first PCI-Express dual digital tuner TV card on the market.

Let's have a look at the card, for my test's I will be using Windows Vista Ultimate as my bench operating system. This is great for two reasons, Windows Vista will have a much larger Media Center exposure than XP MCE 2005 (as it's shipped as standard) and most importantly has native 64bit support in Media Center, this means that for the first time we will need 64bit drivers for Media Center.

The great news is, that even though Vista is not officially released yet Terratec have already got drivers available for the card, and even more importantly they have both 32 and 64 bit versions of them available.

Unboxing the card showed that Terratec have put some thought into the card, the box includes everything you may need, the card obviously, but there is also a USB infrared receiver and controller that will allow you to control Media Center as well as the included software.

Talking of which as well as the Windows XP drivers, there is also the Terratec Home Cinema software that has all the usual DVB-T features. There is however another great addition is the inclusion of Cyberlink's Power Cinema software, so even those that don't have XP Media Center or Vista can get the nice Media Center style 10 foot interface.

The card itself is a really nicely put together piece of equipment with it's white PCB. 

Both of the Micronas tuners are well shielded and the card only requires one antenna connection.

Installation into a spare PCI-Express slot was a brieze, and after downloading the latest drivers for vista installation went straight in.

To make sure all was working well I popped on the Terratec Home Cinema software and kicked off a scan for channels.

I was not expecting too much in the way of reception, as the antenna that the card was connected to was a standard analogue one, and I live in a class 2 antenna area. To my surprise the software brought back all of the major channels, and only a few of them had some partial stuttering. The Terratec software also had another bonus hidden, it includes a subscription to the TVTV program data service.

After all went so well with the Terratec software I decided to fire up the Vista Media Center interface.

On first coming up, and going into the TV settings Vista Media Center said that a new tuner had been found, so I clicked through the screens to set the card up. After the setup all the channels found with the Terratec software where available to me in Vista Media Center. Why was this so surprising? The card that I was previously using (a Hauppauge Nova T) struggled to get some of the channels, and just did not find some of the fringe channels using this antenna.

After setting a few recordings up in Vista Media Center so that the card would have to use both tuners at the same time, and inspecting the output video it seems that both tuners on the Terratec Cinergy 2400i DT perform just as well as each other.

I have been using the card in this PC for a month now with no issues raising there head.

To benchmark the Terratec I popped the Hauppauge back into the box and disabled on of the Terratec tuners, this forced Vista Media Center to use the two different manufacturers of card to record dual channel recordings. Both cards were plugged into the same booster/splitter box and the Terratec Cinergy 2400i DT clearly out performed the Hauppauge on every test, I even swapped the aerial cables round to make sure it was not a badly screened RF cable. This showed that the tuners on the Terratec Cinergy 2400i DT are certainly more sensitive, and as such are more capable of holding a weak signal.

That said after plugging both cards into my DVB-T antenna they both received and recorded all channels available in my area, however even then the Hauppauge showed more dropout and stutter issues.


I would rate this card very highly indeed, everything that I have seen so far is good news. The card is relatively cheap (around 70GBP / 130USD / 100Euro), performs exceptionally well, and has great support (Hauppauge, who after all are the market leaders have very few 32Bit let alone 64Bit drivers at the moment).

I would highly recommend one of these cards for your Vista Media Center project at a drop of a hat. I'm very happy with the one I have, so much so that it has replaced my trusted Hauppauge card.