Category Archives: Information

Spotify rival SoundCloud arrives in the UK and Ireland


Music streaming has become a big deal with many major players like Google, Apple and Amazon in the game. However, the biggest player in the game these days seems to be Spotify, but it’s tough competition in a crowded market.

Now SoundCloud is trying impinge on its territory and it announces availability in both the UK and Ireland. The name may not be as familiar, but the streaming service is becoming a major player in this market.

This is a bit different, as it features up and coming unsigned artists as opposed to established acts. However, there are 125 million tracks available.Don’t worry though, there are top 40 songs as well.

“And just like in the US, we are sharing part of that advertising revenue with a growing number of creators. When you hear an ad, artists get paid”, the service claims.

There is also paid plans available, which run £9.99 per month in the UK or €9.99 in Ireland on Android and £12.99 / €12.99 on iOS.

272 million emails and passwords leaked from Gmail, Hotmail and more

It seems that not a day goes by without some security news, usually in the form of a breach. There have been some big ones too, from Target to Home Depot, as well as online ones, including the embarrassing Ashley Madison one.

Now we have the latest news, and it’s up there with the largest in history. 272 million emails and passwords from the likes of Gmail, Hotmail and others have been leaked.

Before you panic too much, realize that the data obtained consisted largely of data that had been seen before. Hold Security, which broke this news, claims that “Only 0.45 percent is new, meaning that only 1 out of 200 credentials are ones we have never seen before”.

The hacker was simply trying to unload the data and contacted the security firm asking only 50 rubles, which is less than $1 US. Not wanting to contribute anything to this cause the Hold Security company negotiated and received the information for free.

Hold claims “When we peel back the layers and dig deeper, we find that the hacker is holding something back from us. Within several days of communication and after a couple more strategically timed votes on his social media pages, he shared more useful information. At the end, this kid from a small town in Russia collected an incredible 1.17 Billion stolen credentials from numerous breaches that we are still working on identifying. 272 million of those credentials turned out to be unique, which in turn, translated to 42.5 million credentials — 15 percent of the total, that we have never seen before”.

Yes, this has the potential to be very bad, but right now we just don’t know. We also don’t know why the hacker was trying to unload it so quickly and then ended up giving it away. Stay tuned as this unfolds.

Startup Sleepbus Offers Comfortable, Affordable Overnight Rides From L.A. to San Francisco

Sleepbus LogoI live on California’s Central Coast, just about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. You’d think being in a location like this would make it easy to get to either of these urban centers. Unfortunately, that just isn’t true. The process is somewhat manageable by car, but that’s not always an option. There’s a local bus service that does limited shuttle service to L.A. Institutions like Greyhound and Amtrak are available but they can be costly and slow. Many solutions have been proposed to try and make transiting across California easier, with the most recent being a bullet-train style rail system that may never see the light of day. Fortunately, there is a new startup taking this challenge head on.

Sleepbus is a new company that carries passengers between San Francisco and L.A. Sleepbus gets its name from the overnight timeframe the bus operates. The Sleepbus coach comes with sleeping berths for passengers, as well as onboard Wi-Fi, snacks, and assorted beverages. A Sleepbus ticket currently costs $48 but is expected to go up to $65 in the near future.

Sleebus is such a smart idea, it almost seems like a no-brainer. Make it affordable and convenient to travel between two of the Golden State’s biggest cities. Hopefully, Sleepbus will be a great success and add a stop or two between L.A. and San Francisco. Even tho I’d only need to ride for half of a typical Sleepbus trip, I’d gladly pay the full fair for such an easy way to travel.

BikeDeck Stores and Transports Bicycles for Modern Living at Gadget Show Live

BikeDeck LogoToday’s apartments and smaller houses aren’t always conducive to bicycle ownership. Bikes don’t stay upright, handlebars mark walls and transporting them can be awkward. They’re all wheels and finger-nips. Mark and Julie’s BikeDeck looks to solve these problems and I chat with him as part of the British Inventors’ Project at Gadget Show Live.

The BikeDeck is a free-standing bicycle storage and transport platform. It holds the bike in a upright, free-standing position or the BikeDeck can be hung on a wall (from a suitably strong hook). BikeDeck keeps the bike ready for transport as it can be wheeled it along like a trolley suitcase or lifted easily into a car.

It works with any bike which has quick release wheels, and with practice, an owner can get the bike onto the BikeDeck in around a minute. Almost any frame size can be accommodated as the BikeDeck’s sliding system adjusts to length.


Currently in the prototype stage, BikeDeck is looking for partners to bring the product to the market.

Solar Impulse Resumes Around-The-World Flight

Solar Impulse planeSolar Impulse, billed as “the world’s first around-the-world solar flight,” has been grounded in Hawaii since last year. The experimental plane landed in Hawaii as part of its planned journey to circumnavigate the planet. But along the way, Solar Impulse’s batteries sustained damage due to overheating. This led to downtime as the project’s engineers repaired the problem. Now, Solar Impulse is ready to take to the skies again to complete its journey, flying east over North America, the Atlantic Ocean, Europe (or Northern Africa), and finally landing in Abu Dabhi, where the flight originated.

Solar Impulse was fortunate to find a shelter to protect its airplane during the winter on Kalaeloa airport, thanks to the University of Hawaii, Honolulu Community College, and the Department of Transportation. The polar Impulse steam also received valuable support from many people and institutions, such as the Governor of Hawaii, the authorities of Kalaeloa and Honolulu airports, and the Swiss Consulate (Solar Impulse was founded by Swiss engineers Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg).

Between late February and mid-April 2016, Solar Impulse accomplished a total of 13 flights. Maintenance flights, carried out by Solar Impulse’s test pilot, confirmed good performance of the aircraft and proper functioning of a newly integrated cooling system, installed to safeguard the batteries from temperature-related glitches. They were followed by a series of training flights completed by both pilots: André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, including a high altitude flight, in order to prepare for the remainder of the Pacific crossing.

When the weather is right, Solar Impulse will resume its round-the-world solar flight and take off for North America with Bertrand Piccard at the controls. The team is examining four potential destinations: Phoenix, the San Francisco area, Los Angeles and Vancouver. Based on what was learned in 2015, the decision was made to expand the range of potential destinations to leave a maximum flexibility for route planning. The final landing place will be chosen a couple of days before departure depending on the weather conditions. The mission will then continue onward to New York, Europe or Northern Africa and Abu Dhabi where it all started.

Smanos Launches K1 Smart Home at Gadget Show Live

Smanos LogoIn the last of my smart home interviews from Gadget Show Live, I look at one of the new entrants to the market, Smanos. The Dutch firm announced their new K1 Smart Hub at the show and while it’s a good-looking piece of kit, the K1 is coming into an increasingly crowded space. I chat with Rafael about Smanos and the difference it brings.

Coming from a security background, Smanos has brought its understanding of that space to the smart home. The first iteration of the K1 focusses on security: the starter kit includes a siren, door/window sensor, motion sensor and keypard with the Smart Hub. As might be expected, the devices use Z-Wave for communication and there’s an app for managing and controlling the system, so additional sensors can be added easily.

Smanos K1 Smart Hub

In order to set Smanos apart from the competition, the K1 has well designed sensors that wouldn’t look out of place in a bijoux pad. All white and chrome with surface detail, it’s clear that the sensors are part of a matched set, and not awkwardly thrown together to meet a functional need.

K1 Smart Home

In addition to the K1 Smart Hub (GB£249), Smanos launched the UFO panoramic Wi-Fi HD camera (£149) with a massive field of view, and a smart video doorbell (£159). Both of these look neat.

Reddit Expanded its “Block User” Feature

reddit-logo-01-674x501It appears that Reddit is working on making itself a nicer place to visit. The company has expanded its “block user” feature. This change was made at around the same time Reddit launched its new mobile app.

The Reddit announcement about the improved “block user” feature starts by pointing out that Reddit is a place “where virtually anyone can voice, ask about, or change their views on a wide range of topics, share personal, intimate feelings, or post cat pictures.” It goes on to acknowledge that this openness can lead to “less awesome stuff like spam, trolling, and worse, harassment.”

It turns out Reddit already had a “block user” feature. It was limited to apply only to private messages. The updated “block user” feature can be used to block users that reply to you in comment replies (in addition to private messages). All you need to do is click the “block user” button while viewing the reply from your inbox.

From that point on, the profile of the blocked user, along with all their comments, posts, and messages, will then be completely removed from your view. You will no longer be alerted if they message you further. As before, the block is completely silent to the blocked user.

In short, Reddit is making an effort to give users the ability to decide for themselves what kind of experience they want from Reddit. Or, as the Reddit post says: Our changes to user blocking are intended to let you decide what your boundaries are, and to give you the option to choose what you want – or don’t want – to be exposed to. The announcement encourages people to report harassment to Reddit’s community team.

Blocking a user means you won’t see anything else that user posts, but the blocked user will still be able to see everything you post publicly on Reddit. The expanded “block user” feature cannot be used to block entire subreddits and have them removed from your sight. It appears that that Reddit is planning on making more improvements. The announcement ends with: These are just our first steps toward improving the experience of Reddit, and we’re looking forward to announcing many more.

Productivity App Todoist Comes to Windows 10

Todoist LogoI’m a fan of to-do list/productivity app Todoist. I find its minimalist design allows me to really focus on the tasks I need to get done now, as opposed to just showing me a seemingly endless collection of things I could never really hope to accomplish. I use Todoist’s native Mac and iOS apps where they’ve worked flawlessly. Now, users of devices running Windows 10 will be able to get the full Todoist experience as well. Earlier this week, the app was officially released for the latest version of the Windows platform.

Todoist for Windows 10 is a universal app. It will run natively on desktop computers as well as mobile devices that use Windows 10. The app automatically adjusts to any screen size, making it easy to find the information you need. In full-screen mode, users can see an overview of all of the tasks they’ve entered into Todoist. When it’s time to focus on a specific task or series of tasks, a simple click or tap can change the screen to daily view, project view, or other list options.

Information is automatically synced between devices. Users can start entering a note on one device and then seamlessly update that note on another device. Todoist even has a robust offline mode. If a user enters information into the app while offline, it’ll update to all devices as soon as the user is online again.

Todoist for Windows 10 is available as a free download from the Microsoft Store. Following in the tradition of other platform-specific releases, Todoist is running a giveaway for a new Microsoft Surface tablet. Learn more about the app and the contest by following the link at the top of this entry.

The Gadget Show Live 2016

If you are heading to the Gadget Show Live in Birmingham, England this weekend then you are in for a treat. This is the fourth time that I’ve been and I think it’s the one of the best. Loads of stands, loads of activities, loads of gadgets. Busy for sure and I racked up over 15,000 steps in the pursuit of interviews, which I’ll be publishing over the next few weeks.

Gadget Show PresentersAt the press call, I was lucky enough to chat with the presenters  Jon Bentley and Ortis Deeley and I recorded an interview with Jason Bradbury and Amy Williams, though I wasn’t asking the questions (Birmingham Post?) and there’s a bit of background noise as they were still setting up the stage for the theatre event.

Underwater Jet PackLooking round, the key trends were personal electric vehicles with plenty of hoverboards, bikes and scooters; smart homes with offerings from Hive, Fibaro, Smanos and Samsung; and of course, drones.

The Gadget Show Live supports the British Inventors Project and it was great to see so many new and genuinely innovative ideas: I’ll be covering these in subsequent posts. Here’s one of the inventors, Supermarinovation and their underwater jet pack.

Morphy Richards ToasterSlightly surprisingly, the gadget of the show for me was a kitchen appliance. Morphy Richards have developed a glass heating element (Thermoglass) which gets very hot and have used the material to create transparent products including an iron and a toaster. Now you can see how brown your toast is in the morning!

The Gadget Show Live is on until Sunday 3 April 2016.

PitPat Activity Tracker for Dogs at WTS

pitpatIt’s all too easy for both humans and dogs to get a little overweight with a few extra inches round the tummy. The PitPat activity tracker is designed to help dogs (and their owners) stay healthy and fit. Andrew from PitPat explains more.

Around the size of a matchbox, the lightweight PitPat attaches to the dog’s collar using Velcro and records the animal’s activity throughout the day. Given the breed and age of dog, the PitPat app (free download from the Apple and Google app stores) shows suitable activity goals.

Pressing the tracker’s orange button transmits the data to the owner’s smartphone and the app shows the owner what the dog has been doing and whether the goals have been met. Future enhancements to the app will let owners share the activity with friends and social media networks.

The PitPat is waterproof for splashing around (IP67) and the user-replaceable battery will last about a year.

The PitPat has been on sale since January and is available from pet shops and on-line for around GB£40. Cuddly toy not included.

PitPat Dog Activity Tracker