Category Archives: Information

Podcast Mirror: RSS Feed-Replicating Service



Blubrry podcast hosting company has launched Podcast Mirror a new feed replicating service that is a FeedBurner replacement for Podcasters. This is the first service of it’s kind that has launched specifically for podcasters since the introduction of FeedBurner so many years ago.

There are some significant differences in the service as Podcast Mirror does as it says mirrors the original podcast feed providing a host of features for podcasters. One of the biggest is 99.999% uptime on a high-performance network that guarantees incredibly fast feed load times.  Podcast Mirror meets all the requirements required for iTunes and other podcast applications such as: Apple’s official iOS app, Google Play Music, Stitcher, TuneIn, and more.

Podcast Mirror provides complete compatibility, security which allows podcasters who are looking to provide a better experience for their listeners by providing a formatted feed that does not present all of the XML code that often confuses a listener. All feeds are secure meaning they are served as https and future proofs the feed for changing times.

The best thing is podcasters retain their brand and drive subscriptions with the integrated subscribe tools. As in the image below you can see what is presented to a listener who may load a Podcast Mirror feed in their browser.

 


The holiday season in perspective [Infographic]



It’s that time of year. While thoughts should turn to things we are thankful for, they seem to more often turn towards what we lust for or want for our loved ones. It’s a bit petty, but it has been slowly ingrained in us over the years. Black Friday kicks everything off with near riots as those present fight for what they want – sometimes taking extreme measures.

But what does all of this mean for the retail business? Google took a look at it, mostly, as it could have been guessed, from an adsense perspective. In other words, not just what it means to consumers, but what it means to their bottom line.

The company expects staggering numbers with an 18 percent increase in spending over last year’s $21.6 billion. It then proceeds to lay out a plan for companies to get noticed.

It isn’t something the average consumer sees on a daily basis, but it provides some insight into what is behind the purchases made – the driving force that powers the wallet.


Beyerdynamic’s Aventho Wireless is a CES 2018 Innovation Award Honoree



Beyerdynamic has over 90 years of experience in developing audio electronics. They stand for innovative audio products with the highest sound quality and pioneering technology. Beyerdynamic has been named as a CES 2018 Innovation Awards Honoree for its Aventho wireless headphones.

For the Aventho wireless, beyerdynamic uses Bluetooth 4.2 protocol with the aptX HD codec from Qualcomm. This way, the best possible sound is guaranteed, even without wires. Additionally, beyerdynamic is working together with Mimi Hearing Technologies to allow for a truly personalized sound experience.

Mimi’s sound personalization technology makes it possible to create a personal hearing profile. This profile is based on the soundcheck in the “Make it yours” (MIY) app and then uploaded directly to the Aventho wireless.

This new high-end model also offers innovative operation: the right side serves as a touch gesture control pad. All functions can be activated using simple touches and gestures: next track, louder, take a call, hang up, lower volume, pause… it’s never been so easy to control your headphones, smartphone and music player app.

Via the MIY app, the sensitivity of the touch control can be adjusted to suit your individual preferences. There is also a tracking option within the app to gan an insight into your listening habits and measure duration and intensity of your daily listening. Further customization options will be made available via updates.

The CES 2018 Innovation Awards nomination comes with many benefits. The Aventho wireless will be displayed proudly with the rest of the Honorees in the Innovation Showcase at CES 2018. Beginning January 9, 2018, the Aventho wireless will be on display in the Innovation Awards Showcase within the Venetian Ballroom at CES Tech West.


How to disable and re-enble some Chromebook Touchpads



Do you have a Chromebook? They’ve beccome popular, especially in schools and businesses. The simplicity and pricing make them appealing. They do work a bit differently, though. There are some tricks to get used to and we have one for you today,

On a Windows computer there’s frequently a button that turns the trouchpad off and on. Quite often it’s an F Key in conjunction with ALT. However, Chromebooks can be unique in this case as they work in different ways.

Why would you want to do this? Personally, I did it because my wrists brushed the pad while typing and the cursor would jump into places that were done. I’d find myself typing a sentence in the middle of a previous one.

One common method for disabling the touchpad is by use of a software-hardware combo. Start via software  you”ll need to First, you need to enable an experimental flag named “Debugging keyboard shortcuts” at chrome://flags/#ash-debug-shortcuts.

Now we’ll move onto hardware. This is also a quick and easy step. Simply hold down Shift+Search+P and the touchpad will go off. Reverse the key press to turn it back on. It’s a simple process once the flag is done, and that’s a one-time deal the first time.

It’s that simple and you’re on your way to working on $150 laptop. Talk about saving some money.


Massive, Shiny New Headquarters Seem To Spell Doom. How Do Tech Companies Fare?



It seems that when companies construct and move in to massive new headquarters, more often than not the event ends up marking the beginning of their downfall.

Remember the Pan Am building in New York City? The downfall of Pan Am can be traced directly to 1963 when Pan Am moved into its brand new highly-visible headquarters. Pan Am is long since departed. For many years the building has been rebranded as the MetLife building.

18th February 1966: A helicopter landing on the roof of the Pan-Am building (now Met Life building), designed by Walter Gropius, in New York. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)

AT&T’s new building was completed in 1984 at the very same time that it had already been under an order to break up its telephone monopoly. Charles Brown decided to keep long distance and divest AT&T of the regional operating divisions that subsequently became known as the “Baby Bells.” Who remembers when long distance was actually a big thing?

Sears Tower opened in Chicago in 1973. About the same time, Sears stock began a decline from which it has never managed to recover to it’s former glory. Even before Sears Tower opened, there were already signs of trouble as they failed to recognize new competitors such as K-mart that were already eating into their business.

Tech companies seem to suffer the same curse of the new headquarters.

In 1999, Excite @ Home (remember that?) moved in to a shiny new headquarters across the street from it’s original location. Excite @ Home only had one profitable quarter. After the move to the new HQ, it entered a $35 billion dollar death spiral.

Remember when AOL merged with Time Warner? AOL Time Warner began building a new corporate headquarters in 2000. Between the time construction started until the building actually opened, AOL Time Warner stock had lost about 78% of it’s previous value.

Yahoo burned a bunch of money on new corporate headquarters a number of years ago. What ever became of Yahoo? Remember the jingle – “Yaa Hoo!!!”

So, when companies start talking about building that massive new headquarters, it is a safe bet to expect that their inevitable downfall has started in earnest.


The Smart nCube Home



The smart home marketplace is growing rapidly at the moment with new entrants on an almost daily basis. The original “one-trick ponies” like Hue, Nest, Hive and Ring are expanding their single USP feature into a portfolio of smart devices, and well-known electronics companies like Belkin and Panasonic are setting up shop too. Most of these big names sell their own branded accessories creating a small ecosystem and a straightforward user experience. Once familiar with the smart home space, it’s easy to spot that the branded accessories are often rebadged OEM items from specialists.

Underneath the big names, there is a veritable housing development of home automation hubs, including Fibaro, Cozify and nCube, each with their own speciality. Finnish Cozify has more radios than most and works with devices using 433 MHz, whereas Polish outfit Fibaro excel at the user interface with dedicated touchpads and visual controls.

British outfit nCube are notable for three things. First, the hub is blue which makes a change from the usual white; second, they only make the the hub and connect to other manufacturer’s sensors and systems; third, all local processing is done on the nCube hub, ensuring privacy and retaining personal information at home. It also means that it’s not a big problem if the internet connection goes down. Yes, interfaces to other cloud-based systems won’t work, but other activities will continue as normal, e.g. turning on a power socket at a certain time.

As nCube Home doesn’t make anything other than the hub, they connect to a wide variety of other people’s gear, with support for over 120 devices. For Z-Wave gear, nCube works with Everspring, Popp, Fibaro, TKB, Philio, Danfoss and Aeotec, covering heating, lighting, sensing, switching and alarms. As expected, nCube integrates with other home automation systems such as Hue, Nest, LIFX, Sonos and Belkin. Amazon’s Alexa now has an nCube skill, so you can talk to nCube via Echo and Echo Dot.

Done right, this is a great opportunity for an open system giving more choice to the consumer.

As expected, nCube have an app for iOS and Android, bringing together all the devices and controls into a single convenient home. “Cubes” is their term for automation, which could be a command like, “At 7am turn the bedside light on and play music at 20% volume.” Security features can be built in Cubes too, “If water’s detected under the sink, send a text message.”

Originally a Kickstarter project, nCube Home is based around the Raspberry Pi. I interviewed nCube back in 2016 at the Wearable Technology Show and the hub was just about to come to market. You can listen to the interview on Geek News Central.

The nCube Home can be purchased from nCube for GB£149.


Blizzard’s Battle.net App Adds Appear Offline Feature



Blizzard Entertainment announced the new social features that are now available in the beta version of the Blizzard Battle.net desktop app. The one that is likely going to get the most attention is the ability to appear offline.

The Appear Offline feature allows you to set your status to show you as “offline” to your Battle friends while remaining connected to Battle.net. You can launch the app and game away without distraction. That being said, it’s not exactly a “cloak of invisibility”:

Appearing offline will show you as offline to everyone in your Blizzard friends list. Once you have joined a game, the experience of appearing offline might be slightly different depending on which game you are playing. In the case of World of Warcraft, your guildmates will see your character come online and enter WoW’s in-game chat channels, and anyone who has you as a character-level friend will see you online on their friends list. Everyone outside of the same game as you will not see you online or playing any games.

Based on that description, it looks like players won’t be able to use the Appear Offline feature to avoid dealing with guild drama. That feature also won’t help a player to avoid a guildmate who has made them uncomfortable or who has been harassing them.

Another new change allows a player to send a message to a friend who is offline (or appears to be offline). Players who are using the Appear Offline feature can send and receive messages in the app. Blizzard points out that this allows players to decide when they want to respond to those messages. This is a step in the right direction, but it would also enable a mean person to quietly harass someone.

In addition, the beta Battle.net desktop app has a new Social Tab for managing all your various social interactions. Blizzard Groups is a new way for you to connect with your friends and plan your next mission.

Players can create and join Groups based on their common interests. Each Group can have multiple text and voice chat channels, and Group administrators will have tools to manage memberships, invites, and more. To me, this sounds like Blizzard is competing with Skype, Discord, and other similar things people currently use to talk to their friends in-game.


Blizzard and DeepMind Announce StarCraft II AI Workshop



Blizzard Entertainment is the creator of StarCraft II (and several other popular video games). They have teamed up with DeepMind, the world leader in artificial intelligence research and its application for positive impact. Together, the two will co-host the StarCraft II AI Workshop.

The workshop is an opportunity for AI researchers, academics, bot programmers, and industry professionals to get together, exchange ideas, and collaborate on all things AI, utilizing the recently-released StarCraft II Learning Environment and StarCraft II API as a development platform.

The event is described as BYOC, meaning that you need to bring your own computer. Attendees will be provided with power drops, dedicated wireless internet access, and a catered lunch. Engineers and researchers from Blizzard and DeepMind will meet with attendees and answer questions about SC2LE and SC2API.

Space is limited. Those who want to attend need to apply by filling out a questionnaire. A final group of attendees will be selected out of the applications. The workshop will take place November 3 and 4, 2017, at the Hilton Anaheim hotel. The workshop is not part of BlizzCon (which will be happening at the same time in the Anaheim Convention Center.)


Slack Collaborates with Marriott and Starwood



Slack simplifies communication for people who work for the same company. It provides a shared workspace where conversations are organized and accessible. Slack is now collaborating with Marriott and Starwood to make it easier for co-workers who need to attend a conference to figure out which hotel to stay at.

Slack has collaborated with Marriott International and Starwood Rooms. You can now compare and book Marriott and Starwood rooms directly through Slack. (This is possible because Marriott and Starwood merged in 2016.)

To do it, you need to add the Marriott Rewards app to Slack. Type /Marriottrewards and the city where you want to book hotel rooms into any Slack channel. You, and everyone else who is in that channel, will be able to see all available rooms and rates.

Not sure how it works? Slack has put together an example of a group of people looking at hotel information and voting on which one to pick. Personally, I found that watching the example made it a lot easier for me to understand how to book a hotel room on Slack. This might be very useful for people who are planning to attend BlizzCon this November.


OxyLED T35 LED Desk Lamp Review



The OxyLED T35 Desk Lamp is a small silver grey LED desk light powered by USB. It’s a neat idea given the availability of USB ports and reduces the need for mains power sockets, which are always in short supply. Let’s take look and see if the T35 can replace my Anglepoise.

The T35 has three main parts – a weighted base, an upright with microUSB power socket and a cross-piece with two rows of white LEDs at the end of the longer side. The cross-piece is hinged at the upright to raise or lower the light. and can fold parallel to the upright. The base is 13.5 cm across and with the cross-piece horizontal, the light is 24.5 cm tall. At full reach, the T35 is just under 45 cm. From a distance the silver grey finish does a fairly good impression of being metal, but it’s obviously plastic when you touch it.

In the box, there’s the lamp itself along with a 1.5 m USB cable. The cable is white, which might appeal to Apple lovers, but I would have preferred a colour matched cable in dark grey. Even black would have been better in my opinion. It’s also a pity that the microUSB port isn’t a bit lower down the the upright…or a right-angle microUSB plug would have been good too.

Some descriptions of the T35 refer to the lamp as being USB-charged but let’s be clear here: it’s USB-powered as there’s no battery. Pull out the cable and the light goes off. Obviously the T35 can be run from a USB battery pack if needed. The low voltage is good for children too – no-one’s going to get a shock off this.

On the plus side, the OxyLED lamp can adjust the LED brightness. Tap the on/off button once and the T35 comes on full power (160 lm), but now hold the button and the brightness will slowly fade to the desired level. Tap it again and the light will go completely off. I like this feature as I can get the light level just right. The LEDs put out a slightly yellow colour, which is much better than the harsh blue white of some LEDs.

The max power output of the T35 is 4W so clearly there are energy-saving benefits over a normal desk lamp that at worst, has a 60W incandescent bulb. The LEDs are expected to have a 20,000 hour lifespan. That’s over 2 years.

Where it goes wrong for the T35 is the price – it’s currently on Amazon.co.uk for a penny under GB£40 (though it’s a slightly more reasonable US$29.99 on Amazon.com). That’s too expensive for a plastic light without a battery no matter how stylish. I think somewhere around £15-£20 would be about right.

Thanks to OxyLED for providing the T35 for review. Unboxing video below.