Category Archives: review

Free Podcast Media Kits – Review

For many years I paid for a media kit for this site’s podcast. It was expensive and had to be updated regularly. The team at Blubrry Podcast now provides all of their podcasters with a free media kit. So what makes up a good media kit, and how much do they usually cost.

A podcast media kit is a comprehensive document containing information about a podcast and its host or hosts. A media kit promotes and advertises the podcast to potential sponsors, advertisers, and other partners. Media kits usually include essential facts and figures about the podcast, such as the topics it covers, the number of downloads it receives, the demographic of its listeners, and other essential metrics. They may also contain a bio of the podcast’s hosts and any awards it has won or media coverage it has received.

A media kit is essential for podcasters looking to increase their visibility and reach out to potential sponsors, advertisers, and other partners. It provides a concise overview of the podcast and its hosts, allowing potential partners to quickly and easily determine the podcast’s value and the kind of audience it appeals to. It also shows that the podcast is professional and well-organized, which can help to set it apart from the crowd.

The host can use the media kit for various purposes beyond advertising. For example, it can be used to apply for awards, pitch to media outlets for interviews, and even apply for speaking engagements. It can also be used to create a professional-looking website for the podcast, as well as to create a press page on the website to promote the podcast.

The cost of creating a podcast media kit will depend on the kit’s complexity and the number of elements that need to be included. Generally speaking, a basic media kit can cost anywhere from $ 100 to $ 500, while more complex media kits can cost upwards of $ 1,000.

The free media kit provided by Blubrry Podcasting to its hosting customers is a comprehensive and well-designed document that contains all the essential information about a podcast. It includes a detailed overview of the podcast, its audience metrics, social media, and audience size. The kit consists of a podcast bio and a list podcast’s episode performance. The media kit provided by Blubrry Podcasting is an invaluable tool for podcasters looking to increase their visibility and reach out to potential partners.

Blubrry Podcasters can create their free podcast media kit within the podcast statistics section of the Blubrry Podcaster Dashboard. The best news is that the media kits update every 24 hours, automatically including all the most recent statistical data included as part of the Podcast Hosting package at Blubrry Podcasting.

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.

GE BIAX CFL Light Bulb Long Term Test

Way back in the mid-noughties, my wife and I were preparing to have a family. Our small house suited us perfectly but to cope with little ones we needed a bit more space and so converted our roof space into bedrooms. During the conversion, our downstairs hallway was completely trashed installing the staircase but with a spot of redecoration, all was well. There were new light fittings and I needed eight 40W-equivalent bulbs.

Looking back at 2007, LED bulbs were rare and expensive, so the choice was incandescent or CFL. The lights in the hallway are probably the most used of all our lights, so with an eye for the running costs, I went with CFL and ended up with a pile of GE 9W “Extra Mini” bulbs, officially GE BIAX Electronic. That’s 72 W total instead of 320 W with old-style bulbs.

This evening, I think the very first one of these failed. That’s over 15 years of use and surprisingly when I got a spare out of the cupboard, that’s exactly what it says on the box!

To formally review these bulbs, they output 480 lumens in a warm white. The bulbs turn on instantly but take a few minutes to come to full brightness and whiteness. They won’t work with dimmers. The short stubby size means that the bulbs will fit in most light fittings but they’re not great to look at. Opaque shades only. And they last for 15 years. Buy.

I only have one spare bulb which is now in use, so as the others start to fail, I’ll have to switch over to LED bulbs. They’ll only consume about 5 W and cost about £3 each from a reputable manufacturer.

The price of light is amazingly cheap when you think about it.

What’s the best Bluetooth tracker for Android?

Arriving in Spring 2021, Apple’s beautiful AirTags shook the Bluetooth tracker market in a way that only Apple can, by combining great design with large market share to create an almost irresistible product. When every iPad and iPhone is looking out for your AirTag, it’s a fantastic proposition.

For those of us Android users on the other side of the mobile fence, it’s a different situation. Samsung is probably the only OEM which could mount a viable challenge to Apple: it’s top dog worldwide, though Xiaomi and OPPO are snapping at its heels. Both Samsung and Xiaomi do have Bluetooth trackers in their portfolio but I’ve only ever seen the Samsung SmartTags.

The Bluetooth tracker marker is a tough one. I was a big fan of TrackR for years but they shut up shop in 2021. Those with long memories will recall that they were one of the first big Indiegogo successes and were feted at CES back in 2015, though they’d been in operation for longer. I reviewed the Mynt Tracker in 2017: a stylish Red dot-winning product but it too has gone. I would imagine Tile is the longest lasting of these companies, starting out in 2012 and still going, though it’s recently been taken over by Life360. Chipolo is only slightly younger than Tile, going back to 2013.

So today I’m looking at Bluetooth trackers from Tile, Chipolo and Samsung from the perspective of an Android owner. What’s the best for returning my gear when it’s been misplaced? Let’s take a look at each in turn.

Tile has the widest range of the three suppliers on review here with four different trackers. Sticker (£25), for sticking to things such as a laptop or remote control; Slim (£21), for keeping in wallet; Mate (£20) for attaching to key rings or bags and Pro (£30) for long-range tracking. Disappointingly, only the Pro has user-replaceable battery: that’s not the way to go in this age of reducing electronic waste and I can’t find anything about recycling on their website. The previous generation of Mates did have a replaceable battery and that’s the one on test here. Plus points go to Tile for producing plenty of special editions throughout the year in different colours.

Chipolo has four trackers in its product line up, though really they’re variants of only two models, a wallet card and a round tag. Chipolo’s Spot range is designed to work with Apple’s Find My feature and the non-Spot variants of the Chipolo ONE (£22) and Chipolo CARD (£30) work with the Chipolo app, which available for both Android and iOS. Confused? As we’re only talking about Android we don’t have to worry. The Chipolo ONE comes in plenty of colours and has a user replaceable battery. The CARD battery can’t be swapped out but recycling through Chipolo entitles you to replacement at half price.

Samsung has two trackers in the range, the SmartTag and the SmartTag+. The former is your basic Bluetooth tracker whereas the latter is equipped with UWB (ultrawide band) which allows an augmented reality app to direct you straight to the missing tag. A SmartTag costs around £25 but the plus ones are closer to £40, though discounts are available for packs of two or four.  Samsung doesn’t have a card-style tracker for wallets but points in the SmartTags favour are a range of colours and replaceable batteries.

Samsung’s SmartTags integrate with SmartThings and appear as a device with the smart home system. However, this brings me to their biggest failing. The SmartTags only work with Samsung phones and tablets. If you are sporting anything else, you’ll get a message saying, “SmartTag is only supported on Galaxy devices running Android 8 or higher.” If you are fully invested with Samsung and live where Samsung is popular, these could well be the trackers for you. For anyone with an Apple, OnePlus, Motorola, OPPO or Xiaomi phone these are totally useless. I think this is a big fail from Samsung as I would otherwise be keen personally due to the integration with SmartThings.

However, if you are in the Samsung world, this devices do appear to work well and as will be seen from Test 3 there are enough Samsung phones out there to make tracking lost items a real possibility.

The Tests
I conducted three tests with all three trackers to see how they each perform. Test 1 was a simple loudness test to check the tracker would be heard from down the back of the sofa. All three passed this test with flying colours and no real discernible difference between trackers.

Test 2 was a simple range test: how far away could the tracker be before it lost touch with the phone (or in this case a Samsung Galaxy Tab S6) in free air. Each tracker’s “Find my phone” feature was used to ensure a working connection and I didn’t simply rely on what the app said: the tracker had to be able to ring the tablet.

First place goes to both the Samsung SmartTag and the Tile Mate. Both managed to maintain a connection at 100 m (at which point I ran out of road). Bring up the rear was the Chipolo One. It lost connection at around 50 m which was disappointing as the specs say 60 m.

Test 3 involved putting the tracker into the postal system to see whether a lost tracker was ever picked up by someone else. I wasn’t terribly confident that this test was going to work at all but happily I was proved wrong. Each tracker was put in a padded envelope and dropped in a post box outside of a popular shopping centre. They went in the post box late on Saturday knowing that they wouldn’t get collected until Monday, maximising the chances of the signals being detected by strangers.

The expected path of the trackers in the postal system should have been:

  1. Post box
  2. Collection depot
  3. Sorting office
  4. Delivery hub
  5. Home

The Chipolo One performed the worst. It was only detected by myself in the post box and when it finally arrived home. It was not detected at any time within the postal system. Obviously there aren’t any other Chipolo users in the area.

The Samsung SmartTag easily performed the best. It was detected quickly in every location and sometimes while on the road between the sites. This undoubtedly reflects the large number of Samsung phone users out and about – there’s easily as many Samsung users as Apple users here in Northern Ireland.

The Tile Mate came somewhere in the middle. The Mate was detected in every location but always after the Samsung was picked up and fewer times. It was never detected between the main locations. Frankly, I was surprised at the outcome given that Tile isn’t a phone manufacturer and has to rely on Tile users, not phone owners.

A commanding win by Samsung with a good show by Tile.

To bring the test to a close, here are my recommendations.

  • Forget Chipolo. The range was the shortest and it was never once picked up while in the postal system. There’s not a critical mass of users to make it effective.
  • If you are in the Samsung ecosystem, go with the SmartTags – it’s a no brainer. Range was excellent and the SmartTag was picked up by Samsung Galaxy devices on multiple occasions during its trip through the post. The Tag was detected in at all the locations plus a few times between locations. It’s a real shame that Samsung doesn’t allow its use with other vendors’ phones.
  • Tile is a worthy contender. The range was as good as the SmartTag and the Mate was detected in two locations by others. If you aren’t into Apple or Samsung, this is the one for you but there’s that pesky £30 subscription cost for features that others offer for free. And don’t forget the current Tile Mates don’t have replaceable batteries, so that’s another big cost every few years.

With hindsight, the postal test was going to be an easy win for Samsung. There are loads of people with Samsung phones and my guess is that the tracking features are built-in to the phones – someone doesn’t have to own a SmartTag to contribute to the search effort, they only need a Samsung Galaxy S-whatever and pass by.

In contrast, only people who have Tile trackers will have the Tile software installed, which makes it even more surprising that the Mate was found as often as it was. If you are thinking of going with Tile, the big downside is that Tile charges a subscription fee of nearly £30 to get the most of out of the trackers and the current Tile Mates don’t have user replaceable batteries.

Personally, I’m disappointed with Samsung too. I’m bought into the SmartThings ecosystem and the SmartTags fit into it nicely but I can’t use the Tags with my OnePlus 9 phone which makes them pointless for everyday tracking. It’s actually doubly bad in that I can’t even see the current location of the Tag in SmartThings even when it’s being detected by a different device. You just get a final “SmartTag is only supported on Galaxy devices running Android 8 or higher.” Come on Samsung, do they right thing and setup SmartTags on other phones.

That’s it. Samsung SmartTags competes well with Apple AirTags, and Tile’s available for everyone else.


Anker Wireless Vertical Ergonomic Mouse Review

Anker is best known for its chargers and battery packs but one of its outlier products is a vertical ergonomic mouse. The idea is that holding the mouse in an upright position keeps the wrist and forearm in a straight line and avoids the twisted position needed for a conventional mouse. This may help with conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) or repetitive strain injury (RSI). Of course, it goes without saying that I’m not a medical professional but let’s take a look.

The Anker Wireless Vertical Ergonomic Mouse is a full-sized device and my male hands rest easily on it. I think most adults would be able to use the mouse but those with small hands or short fingers might struggle with the scroll wheel. (They might want to consider Lift from Logitech.)

Vertical computer mouse in front of laptop keyboard. USB dongle rests in front.

Under the fingers, the mouse has left and right buttons plus a scroll wheel acting as a centre button. By the thumb are buttons for page up and page down. The buttons click satisfactorily and the scroll wheel is easy to turn. That’s all fairly standard but the Anker mouse has one trick up its sleeve. There’s an extra button on the top edge which toggles the mouse’s “dots per inch” between 800, 1200 and 1600 dpi. Simply this means that the amount of screen movement for a given mouse movement can be adjusted on the fly. It’s handy for games and such.

Vertical computer mouse in front of laptop keyboard with pencil for scale.The mouse runs off two AAA batteries stored in the bottom and the on/off toggle switch is up at the pointy end. To keep it safe, the USB transmitter (2.4 GHz) can be stored in the underside of the mouse when moving between computers. Battery life was “months” and the wireless range is easily a few metres.

I found the mouse comfortable to use but it takes a little bit of time to get used to the vertical orientation. Once that’s done, it’s plain sailing and I personally found it less tiring than using a standard mouse. Ultimately, I found the Logitech Trackman Marble trackball more suited to my needs for daily use, though sadly it seems to have been discontinued now.

Vertical computer mouse to the side of black keyboardThe only downside of the mouse is that it’s covered in that soft touch rubber which eventually gets a bit sticky. I’ve had my mouse for a few years and it’s getting to that point where it’s becoming unpleasant. There are some tricks on the internet on how to strip the coating but I’m not sure that I can be bothered given its rare use now.

The Anker Vertical Mouse is available in two versions; one wired, one wireless. Obviously, this is the wireless version. Priced at US$30 / UK£24, it’s available direct from Anker and other good retailers. The wired version comes in at £17. Unless there’s a really good reason for the wire, I’d splash the cash and get the wireless one.

Vertical ergonomic mice are available from other suppliers such as Logitech but they’re three times the price so I’d be tempted to try out the Anker and see if it works for you first. I’ve noticed that what appears to be the same mouse is available from other suppliers such as Trust and Perixx so do shop around.

For the purposes of disclosure, this was a personal purchase.

Xiaomi Mi 12 Hands-On Review – Lots to Like

Xiaomi Logo - an orange squircle with stylised white MI lettersAccording to Counterpoint Research, Xiaomi has consistently taken the #3 spot in worldwide smartphone shipments behind Samsung and Apple over the past three years and that’s without even officially selling smartphones in the USA. However, there’s no such problem here in the UK and I’ve managed to borrow a Xiaomi 12 smartphone from their PR folks for a couple of weeks and put it through its paces. And you know what, I can see why it’s #3. Let’s take a look.

Smartphone resting on boxWhile the Xiaomi 12 looks like so many of the current generation of smartphones with a six-inch plus screen, gently curved sides, frosted back and camera array top left, overall it leaves a good first impression of quality with a bright clear screen, a smooth without being slippy back, a little weight to the device and a power button resting just under my thumb. This is not a phone to be embarrassed about even if the name’s a little hard to pronounce. The phone comes in three colourways simply described as grey, blue and purple without additional hyperbole. It’s the purple version in my paws.

Let’s check out the specs to see how it shapes up on paper. Physically, the phone is 152.7 x 69.9 x 8.2 mm and weighs in at 180 g, so it’s slightly smaller than some of the recent phones I’ve reviewed but it’s millimetres to be honest. In other characteristics, there’s a USB-C port on the bottom, power button on the right, volume controls a little above, stereo speakers top and bottom. The SIM tray is at the bottom next to the USB port and supports two SIMS that are inserted back-to-back and a SIM ejection tool is included in the box. Unsurprisingly, there’s no audio jack.

Smartphone face down on boxOnto the screen: the Xiaomi 12 has a lovely 120 Hz AMOLED display with slightly rounded vertical edges. These seemed to be a happy medium between a completely flat screen and some of the very curved screens on other phones. The glass itself is Gorilla Glass Victus which should provide some protection against scratches. With a resolution of 2400 x 1080 pixels (FHD+) and a screen size of 6.28″, it comes out as 419 ppi, and I think the colours look great – bright and vibrant. The front-facing camera is a centre top hole punch, and there’s an in-display fingerprint sensor which I found accurate but perhaps not as nippy as the sensor in the OnePlus phones

Under the hood, and there’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, paired with an Adreno GPU. The RAM is LPDDR5 and storage is courtesy of UFS 3.1 at either 128 GB or 256 GB. Naturally there’s 5G (it’s 2022!) Performance-wise, after a couple of runs with GeekBench 5, I had average scores of 1225 single-core and 3540 multi-core which puts it comfortably into the upper ranges of the scoring benchmark. The Snapdragon 8 is more than capable of playing Fortnite and there’s a selection of gaming tools to avoid interruptions and enhance play (Game Turbo), but the Xiaomi 12 didn’t seem to support video out over USB C.

Moving onto the cameras, there’s a 50 MP main lens, a 13 MP ultrawide with a 123° field of view and a 5 MP telemacro camera for close-up shots. The front camera is a 32 MP unit. The cameras do stick out the back by a couple of millimetres, so a case of some kind is going to be essential to avoid scratching. I thought the cameras took some good shots, though one thing I did discover is that night mode only works on the main lens. The photo app on the 12 is comprehensive with features like motion tracking, eye tracking focus and blur reduction on motion. Here are a few photos that I took around the neighbourhood – the two on the beach show the difference between the standard and wide-angle views, and those are the mountains of Mourne. Normally the beach would be deserted but there was a warm spell and the whole country went to the seaside. I’m no photographer but I was happy with the snaps: colours were good and the night shots came out better than expected.

Inside the phone is a 4500 mAh battery and 67 W charger, which I found charged the phone from 21% to 94% in 30 minutes. That’s very usable. The Xiaomi 12 has 50 W wireless charging – I wasn’t able to test high speed charger but it worked fine with my 10 W Anker wireless charger.
In terms of power consumption, I felt that the Xiaomi was better than average – I’ve no hard proof of this, but I often left work after an average day at the office with more than I would expect from my personal phone which as a similar size battery.

MIUI 13 is Xiaomi’s take on Android 12 along with a rich user interface. It’s definitely a bit more colourful than the stock Android experience and there’s some nice theming and wallpapers. There are a few special effects that look good, e.g. when an app is deleted, the icon explodes and the other icons jump in shock. There’s fair amount of customisation and settings aren’t always in where you’d expect them to be. For example, “Date and time” has been casually relocated to “Additional settings” along with settings like “Beautify for video calls and “Quick Ball”. Quick Ball itself is an interesting utility that provides fast access to a selection of shortcuts via a small ball on the screen. Xiaomi have lots of these little enhancements and it’s difficult to call out all of them. Sometimes the enhancements aren’t always an improvement, e.g. notifications are presented as individual bubbles rather than in a contiguous block. Looks good but there’s less info on the screen.

That largely wraps up this quick review of the Xiaomi 12. Any downsides? I have a few issues but nothing terribly serious.

  • The factory-installed screen protector is a dust magnet. I’ve seen this on other phones too.
  • Adverts. A couple of the factory-installed utilities display adverts. I think that cheapens the experience for a premium phone.
  • Placeholders for a couple of promoted games. Annoying but easily removed.
  • OEM versions of Google standard apps. For example, Xiaomi has its own version of Find My Device. Why?
  • Fingerprint scanner not quite as snappy as some other phones.
  • Notifications sometimes on the wrong side


Xiaomi 12
8 GB + 128 GB – GB£749 (currently £649)
8 GB + 256 GB – GB£849 (currently £699)
12 GB + 256 GB – not currently available

The Xiaomi 12 is available to purchase from Xiaomi directly and a word to the wise…Xiaomi frequently has promotions where there’s sizeable discounts so if you aren’t in a hurry, watch out for those deals. The current deal at £699 for 8 GB + 256 GB seems good value.

Overall, what’s my opinion? There’s much to like here. The phone is well-designed and feels good in the hand. It’s fast with good battery life. The cameras hold their own against the competition. MIUI 13 might be an acquired taste but there is some significant value-add in there. Ignore the cruft. The Xiaomi 12 is a strong contender in the tier of not-quite-flagship-phone (there’s a 12 Pro) and this saves £300 off the bottom line. Obviously there’s some competition out there (OnePlus 10T comes to mind) but it’s definitely worth taking a look at the Xiaomi 12.

Paramount+ Arrives in UK on Roku

Months after launching in USA (and the subsequent Star Trek Discovery PR disaster), Paramount+ finally arrived in UK today. Priced at £6.99 per month, the crown jewels are undoubtedly the Star Trek catalogue, but with ComedyCentral, ShowTime and MTV, there’s over 8000 hours of premium content including classics like Cheers! and Frasier. The new Halo live action series debuts on the service bringing another dimension to Microsoft’s long-running game series. It really is a golden era for television.

If you want to watch Paramount+, there are apps available from the app stores for Apple and Android devices as you’d expect. For the big screen, it’s bundled with Sky’s Cinema subscription but if you’re not a subscriber, a media streamer like a Roku is likely your best bet for now. The Paramount+ channel can be loaded from the Roku store and it’s then just a case of logging in with your credentials. I’m assuming Paramount+ will come to smart TVs and consoles soon but it’s not yet showing up on my LG TV or Playstation.

If you don’t have a Roku and want one, I’d recommend the Express 4K model which offers HDR and 4K output (if supported by the programming). It’s easy to use and is way less confusing that the Fire TV. Crucially, the Roku comes with a remote control so there’s no need to find your mobile phone to get going. Priced at GB£39.99, there are sometimes discounts for special events like Father’s Day so keep an eye out for those.

If you want to know more about the Roku Express 4K, check out my fairly comprehensive review below.