Category Archives: Gadgets

Xbox Doesn’t Want To Upgrade Its Xbox Game Console

Bloomberg reported that Microsoft Corp’s video gaming chief Phil Spencer said he doesn’t “feel an imperative” to come out with a major upgrade of its Xbox game console. (The rest of Bloomberg’s article appears to be behind a paywall.)

Fortunately, IGN reported that Phil Spencer is adamant that consoles are “critical” to Xbox’s business going forward, saying that dedicated gaming hardware is “the future of Xbox.”

According to IGN, in Xbox’s “What’s Next for Gaming?” Panel, the Xbox head was asked about the place of console in Xbox’s strategy. It’s a question some may have been wondering about in particular due to Spencer’s past comments seeming to deprioritize hardware in the grand scheme of the company’s strategy. If that was the case back in 2019, it doesn’t seem to be any longer.

“We know that for players, especially Xbox players, where we come from is people sitting in front of their television with a console plugged into their television. It’s what developers are targeting. It’s what so many of us play. Console is critical to the success of what we’re doing today and the future of Xbox. It’s not the only thing we’re going to focus on. We’re going to focus on player choice. But we know that console is the core of how people think – box is in the name of our product. Xbox. Console is critical to what we are building,” said Phil Spencer.

Spencer also reported that the team has been hearing positive feedback on the Xbox Series S, noting that “for some people around the planet, $500 for a console is too much for their situation,” and that the price point for Series S has brought many new customers into the Xbox ecosystem. However, he acknowledged that the 512 GB storage was a limitation for some.

ArsTechnica posted information about Bethesda’s Starfield Direct game. There is an embedded YouTube video of a “Starfield Direct – Gameplay Deep Dive” on ArsTechnica.

According to ArsTechnica, for Starfield’s character creation engine, Bethesda says it scanned faces from a variety of age groups and ethnicities to make a system that the developers used to create every character and NPC you see in the game. After choosing from one of 40 preset characters to start, you can modify everything from piercings to teeth settings to skin blemishes in a series of sliders.

ArsTechnica also reported that beyond physical traits, you’ll also be able to pick a background for your characters with options ranging from cyberneticist to chef. These can come in handy at unexpected times during missions; maybe someone is asking for a specific dish during a particular quest. You can also pick from a number of optional “traits” that come with their own pros and cons – being “hero worshipped” means that fans may give you gifts, but it also will annoy you with non-stop praise and commentary.

I think it’s cool that the developers of Starfield Direct put time and effort into giving players plenty of choices about what their character will look like. This is a great way to offer a variety of different looking people of various ages and genders. It’s always more fun to play a game with a character that resembles you.

TickTime 2 Digital Timer Review

The TickTime 2 Standard Timer is a kinetic gadget that does only one thing: measure elapsed time. It’s simplicity itself to use – place the timer on its side and it counts down, place the timer screen down and it counts up. Can it really be that simple? Let’s take a look.

Think of the TickTime Timer as a digital egg timer. It is the size of a large egg, but it’s shaped nothing like an egg. It’s hexagonal like a small piece of the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. The outside is a silvery plastic with the numbers 3, 5, 10, 15, 25, 30 embedded on the flat sides. One end has a simple light up display and speaker grille but the other has small circular colour screen with push buttons on each side and a USB C charging port. There’s a short USB A to USB C cable for charging but no charger (not that I’d really expect one).

This display shows the count down / up time, with tiny little indicators for volume and battery. There’s an outer ring that loses segments as the time counts down.

The TickTime has three modes of operation.
1) If you want to measure elapsed time, place the TickTime screen down and the light on the end will flash. When you’ve finished timing, pick up and turn it over to see the elapsed time on the screen.
2) If you want to time 3, 5, 10, 15, 25 or 30 minutes, place the TickTime down on a flat side with the desired number of minutes upwards. The selected time will flash blue and countdown time will show on the screen.
3) If you want to time a specific interval, e.g. 1’30”, use the buttons on the left and right of the screen to set the time. Then place the TickTime down and it will count down from the selected time.

Obviously when the countdown gets to zero, the numbers light up and an alarm goes off – it’s a simple beep-beep – and there are four volume levels including a silent level. At full volume, the alarm is piercing and you’re not going to miss it.

The timer has one final trick up its sleeve as the base is gently magnetic meaning that it can be stored on a fridge, steel noticeboard or any other magnetic surface. It’s a nice touch but the magnet could be a bit stronger as it sometimes wouldn’t stay at the selected orientation. For example, I couldn’t use the built-in 10 minute timer as it would twist round and reset the timer.

The screen doesn’t come out particularly well in the photos but it’s very readable indoors. In terms of battery life, I used the TickTime for a couple of weeks for the review and the battery level is still at three bars.

On the whole, the TickTime timer does exactly what it’s supposed to do – and it’s perfect for use in the kitchen or for playing games when you need to set a limit to the turn time. There are a few flaws though. It can be tricky figuring out which way is up! Sometimes I’d be staring at the numbers on the screen in confusion until I turned the timer over and it was the right way up.

One minor irritation is the when counting up, the screen goes dark, so you can’t have a sneaky look at the elapsed time by lifting it up without turning it over. It would be handy if the display stayed on. I’d also be tempted to colour the push buttons silvery-grey to match the outside and provide a little more visual interest.

In addition to keeping control of turns in games, the TickTime will be of interest to practitioners of the Pomodoro technique. This is a time management methodology that splits activities into pomodoros of 25 minutes each followed by short breaks of 5-10 minutes. The TickTime is perfect for tracking those activity and rest periods.

The TickTime was originally an Indiegogo campaign back in 2020, raising over US$400,000. Today on it’s UK£38.99 though there is currently a 5% discount coupon available. According to CamelCamelCamel, the price has previously been as low as £23 but that was a few years ago pre-pandemic. At full RRP, I think that’s a little pricey, so look out for the occasional price drop. Obviously there’s competition out there, mainly from apps on phones or digital assistants like Alexa (though I can’t get Alexa to count upwards), but if you want a dedicated timer without distractions, the TickTime seems a reasonable choice.

Overall, it’s a neat little gadget with a few flaws and if timing is your thing, it’s worth a look.

Disclaimer: The TickTime 2 Standard Timer was provided for review by TickTime at no cost.

Epic Games Reportedly Made $3 Billion in Profit in 2018

Epic Games, the creator of the incredibly popular Fortnite game, has reportedly made $3 billion in profits in 2018. This number comes from unnamed sources who spoke to TechCrunch. Epic Games itself did not respond to a request for comment from TechCrunch.

Epic Games had a good year in 2018 as any company in tech. Fortnite became the world’s most popular game, growing the company’s valuation to $15 billion, but it has helped the company pile up cash, too. Epic grossed a $3 billion profit for this year fueled by the continued success of Fortnite, a source with knowledge of the business told Tech Crunch.

Personally, I’m always a bit skeptical of information that comes from anonymous or unnamed sources. However, in this specific case, I think there is good reason to believe that Epic Games made a lot of money in 2018 from Fortnite. While I haven’t played the game myself, I do find it entertaining to watch people stream it.

Forbes reported that Fortnite is free-to-play. Players can choose to purchase a seasonal Battle Pass which allows players to unlock epic loot. In addition, players can spend real world money on cosmetic items. But, no one has to spend money if they don’t want to or cannot afford to.

There is another thing about Fortnite that I believe is increasing its popularity. As Anoop Ranganath posted in an informative thread on Twitter: “Fortnite isn’t a game, it’s a place.” Kids are using Fortnite as a place to hang out and talk with their friends, much like people of my generation used to hang out in shopping malls.

Battle for Azeroth Pre-Patch Goes Live Soon

The upcoming World of Warcraft expansion is called Battle for Azeroth. It is going to launch on August 14, 2018, worldwide, at the same time. Before that happens, a pre-patch will go live. This is going to happen on July 17, 2018.

Blizzard Entertainment, creator of World of Warcraft, points out that players will need to update their drivers for the Battle for Azeroth pre-patch.

To make the most of Battle for Azeroth and avoid potential issues, it’s important to update to the latest DirectX 12 drivers. Please note that AMD and the Intel GPUs will default to DX12, while NVIDIA drivers will remain at DX11 with the option to update at a later time.

Some of the new features of the pre-patch have been revealed. Others will be revealed later in the official patch notes (which, at the time I am writing this blog, is described as “coming soon”.)

Features that are arriving with the pre-patch include:

  • War Mode, PVP Talents, and More: War Mode tears down boundaries and server rule-set distinctions, allowing players on any realm to decide when they want to jump into a world PVP experience full of like-minded players in the ongoing battle between Horde and Alliance.
  • Legion PVP Post-Season:Join in the PVP action and earn some new gear just in time for the launch of the Battle for Azeroth.
  • World of Warcraft Communities: Bring your friends and family of the same faction together cross-realm through our new World of Warcraft Communities feature.

Get in the Spirits with PicoBrew’s PicoStill at CES 2018

At CES 2017, PicoBrew showed off their personal beer brewing machine and this year, they’re back with a little something to take home alcohol production to the next level. Todd finds out more from George.

For existing PicoBrewers, the PicoStill brings an opportunity to “up their game” and start distilling small batches of spirits safely and more precisely. 500 ml takes about 4 hours to produce, and up to 180 proof is possible with will multilevel distilling. Alternatively, the PicoStill can capture the essence of hops and other oils to give unique flavors and aromas to food and drinks.

The PicoStill is on pre-order for US$249 ($349 SRP) but it’s an accessory for other brewing appliances (Pico S/Pro/C) so check compatibility before ordering.

Also on show is the Pico C, a smaller and cheaper beer brewing machine for US$549.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at

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Sengled Pulse Solo Review

Sengled LogoLast year I reviewed the Sengled Pulse, a pair of Bluetooth-controlled LED lights with built-in speakers. The Pulse pair sounded surprisingly good but were somewhat indiscreet, being big and bright red. For those wanting something a bit more subtle, Sengled have developed the Pulse Solo, a smaller single LED bulb in white and silver that still provides stereo sound. Let’s take a look and see if the new Solo still delivers big impact from a small space.

I was recently on holiday in Mallorca and used the trip to test out the Solo. Never one to pass up a few gratuitous body shots, here’s the Solo soaking up the sun by the pool.

Sengled Pulse Solo

Sengled Pulse Solo

With a standard E27 screw fitting (B22 bayonet available too), installation is simple and the smaller bulb size makes it much easier to find suitable lamps. The dimensions are 72 mm x 142 mm, weighing in at 340 g, which is hefty enough for a light bulb. In terms of lighting, the bulb is more of a spotlight than anything else, though it’s not tightly focussed. As a result the Solo casts good light if the lamp is high up or intended to be directional, but I wouldn’t use the Solo in a side or table lamp. The brightness is rated at a maximum of 550 lumens which is slightly less than the 600 of the original Pulse lamps but is comparable with other LED smart bulbs, such as Philips Hue.

The LED light is on the warm side of white at 2700K – that’s extra warm white according to some commentators. Here’s the Solo powered up in one of Ikea’s finest illustrating the light colour and distribution.

Sengled Pulse Solo in Lamp

Once screwed in and powered up, the Solo is available for Bluetooth pairing in the normal way. I paired successful with a couple of devices, including a OnePlus 2 smartphone and Nexus 9. Once paired, the Pulse Solo works as a Bluetooth speaker without any further intervention. For greater control of the volume and brightness, there’s the Sengled Pulse app available for both Apple and Android devices. The app appears to connect to the Solo via a second Bluetooth device but the app handles that pairing by itself.

Sengled Pulse Sengled Pulse Sengled Pulse

The app’s changed a little since the last time and it’s now possible to control both the brightness of the lamp and the volume of the speaker from the same screen. Overall, this is an improvement but there’s no visual feedback on the volume level. You do end up with two volume controls, though, one for the Solo through the app and one for the mobile device itself.

As with the bigger Pulse, the Solo’s speakers are “JBL by Harman” and Sengled have managed to squeeze a pair of 1″ 3W speakers into the Solo. Obviously these aren’t going to be hifi quality as the stereo separation is neglible, bass is limited and they struggle with the treble (“esses” suffer) at maximum volume. However, it’s easy to focus on the negatives when the Solo is actually very listenable and fills a small room at full blast. It’s also quite fun when people can’t work out where the music is coming from.

To summarise, the Sengled Pulse Solo is a smaller less obtrusive solution than the larger red Pulse, but the reduction in size is at the expense of audio quality. Aside from my foreign travels, I found the Solo was a tidy solution to desk clutter too, as I could put the Solo into my work lamp, providing both warm light and musical entertainment without cables everywhere

In the end, I think that people who like high quality sound for listening will find the Solo wanting and should perhaps considered the larger Pulse, but for many people who want a little casual backgound music, the Solo will work out fine. The Pulse Solo can be bought direct from Sengled for €59.90 though the bayonet version (B22) is available for only GB£27.93 on

Thanks to Sengled for the review Pulse Solo.

Playbrush Brings Fun to Toothbrushing at Gadget Show Live

Playbrush LogoGood oral hygiene is important for everyone but getting children to brush their teeth can be a bedtime battle. Playbrush should help win the war, bringing fun into the bathroom. I get the toothpaste out with John to find out more about Playbrush and continue coverage of the British Inventors’ Project.

The Playbrush is small bulbous gadget that slips over the handle of a manual toothbrush and turns the toothbrush into a game controller. Communicating via Bluetooth, the toothbrusher plays a game “Utoothia” on their tablet or smartphone, encouraging correct brushing technique and duration. The Playbrush can be shared among a family with game apps supporting up to six people. It’s rechargeable and will last around four-to-six weeks on single charge, depending on use. The games are in both the Apple and Google app stores.

Playbrush with app

Originally a Kickstarter Project, the Playbrush launched back in November and is available now from the Playbrush store for GB£31 (says the store). There’s a bathroom kit for an extra £8 which is a vinyl pocket to hold the smartphone during brushing and keep it toothpaste free. It sticks to tiles or a mirror using suction cups.

I think this is neatly executed idea that’s very affordable, especially as it can be shared with more than one child, though I think Playbrush need a neutral colour that’s not blue or pink!