RetroTouch: Let there be light – wirefree light

Usually, any changes to the lighting in your home have to be carried out by a qualified electrician, which can be a pricey and time-consuming affair, especially if you have to take time off work to wait for them to appear.

RetroTouch

Not only that, but if you want to add light switches, you’ll need to have rewiring done and either live with unsightly cable covers, or have channels dug in the walls and then you’ll need a plasterer to sort your walls out as well. If, like me just the idea of it leaves you losing the will to live, you’ll be happy to hear about a new innovation from Retrotouch.

The Completely Wireless Switch – RTS 2020W allows you to add light switches into awkward places – the porch, conservatory or loft for instance, without the need to rewire.

Just fix the 2 Way Touch light switch to the wall and you’ve got an extra light switch. Sure, it’s not cheap at £84.99 but its probably cheaper and quicker than calling out an electrician.

The light switch can also be used to bring light switches within easy reach of the disabled.

The wireless switch is paired with a wired switch, so it works rather like a remote control (with a reach of 20m). These switches are easy to install by a DIYer and cost £41. Up to four wireless switches can be paired to one master remote switch.

The wireless switch is available in chrome trim or glass versions and can be matched with coordinating Retrotouch plug sockets.

The single remote control can be used to set the brightness of your lights (cutting down on energy bills) or to set up a security light system for when you are away (meaning you can switch it off as you leave the house, perhaps leaving a light on in the living room and bedroom to make it look as though someone is in the house)

The switches can be purchased from www.retrotouch.co.uk.

Doro: Accessible mobile phones for the elderly

Latest Gadgets had a little bit of a sit down chat over olives with Doro MD Chris Millington about their new range of accessible mobile phones. There are few things more sexy in the tech world than the Dieter Rams-a-riffic iPhone 4, with it’s shiny mix of metal and glass. Conversely, there are few things less sexy than a range of feature phones for the elderly. So we went into the room with low expectations and quite frankly, were blown away by the level of care and detail Doro put into their phones.

Doro-Mobile

Doro is a Swedish company and produce a range of telecoms hardware, with a “simplicity first” aesthetic at their core. Chris showed me detail after detail in all their product range that emphasised this. They spacing between keys is wide enough to make pressing the wrong key extremely difficult. The texture and weighting of the phone makes it hard for it to accidentally tilt out of your hand. The power plug is triangular so it’s clear which side is up. The screen can be set to blue and white, yellow and black and other incredibly high contrast settings, vital for anyone with failing eyesight. The battery lasts for days. And countless other features all of which make the phones simple and accessible. The range includes features such as an easy to use (literally one button) Camera, 3G technology and a GPS enabled phone utilised to send a location when the assistance call button is pressed.

Other improvements across the range include extra loud, clearer and more amplified sounds. Doro has also included direct SMS access keys meaning text messaging is quicker and more simplified.  The phones all have three quick-dial keys for easy calling and integrated hearing loops (HAC M3/T4).

As someone with a lot of family members in their late seventies and eighties, the availability of easy to use, relatively inexpensive handsets than I can feel comfortable handing over and not getting countless “How do I do xxx?” type enquires for months to come is amazing.

Doro PhoneEasy 615

* Doro’s first 3G mobile

* 3.2 megapixel camera with flash

* Assistance button for greater personal security

Colours: black, Silver and red

SRP: £170  Available: July 2011

Doro PhoneEasy 610

* Direct access SMS function key

* Hearing Aid Compatible (HAC M3/T4)

* Assistance button for greater personal security

Colours: black, white, red and metallic silver

SRP: £130  Available: June 2011

Golla D-SLR and tablet bags review

You want to keep your gadgets safe… of course you do. But does everything protective have to look so drab. Golla think different and have launched a range of fun, colourful yet (importantly) functional bags and cases. As the label and beautiful models scream “Rule your world by colouring it.” Look at their website – seriously have you ever seen someone so happy about having a well protected laptop? I thought not.

Golla

We had a look at their general range at CES here (and I love that picture so much I ran it twice) but we thought we’d take a closer look at two of their cases – their tablet protecting sleeve and their DSLR bag.

Eschewing bespoke tablet sizing, the tablet protecting sleeve is device agnostic and will happily house anything up to 10” in size. You could probably even slip a MacBook Air or any other ultraportable into the sleeve or even a *shudder* netbook. Other than that it’s pretty basic – just a protective wallet that should help you avoid unwanted scratches, dents or spillages. If I were throwing my tablet/ultraportable in a backpack I’d be glad of the protective sheath. And the pattern on the front is fun and distinctive, which is always a bonus.

The DSLR bag is well compartmentalised with two zippable front pockets with room for notes, SD cards, CF cards (damn you Canon), batteries, white balancing cards and all the other useful bumpf you need to take with you for a shoot. The inner compartments have Velcro separators so you can adjust to make adequate room for you lens and body set up. At the base of the bag are super cool rubber feet  (well strips really) that hold the bag in place and keep all your goodies safe.  And there are lovely big flowers on the front

Check out the range at www.Golla.com

STM jet laptop bag review

Laptops these days are, more often than not, powerful enough to serve as a desktop replacement. For the average consumer, the extra horsepower in a desktop system simply isn’t needed.  And the beautiful thing about a laptop – you can pack it up and take it with you.

STM-jet

However, the outside world is pretty hell bent on destroying your shiny new toy, with all the elements conspiring to scratch, dent or soak it. Which is why a good laptop bag is always a great idea. I grew up with the typical “I’m carrying a laptop please mug me” style satchels, but over time a certain sense of style and utility has slowly crept into the world of computing fashion.

Exhibit A, STM’s jet laptop shoulder bag.  With room for your laptop, iPad, mobile and paperwork, the jet is pretty good at keeping you organised, although hopeless at giving you perspective over how many mobile devices you actually need. Two front zippered pockets hold quick access items such as cords, travel documents and keys, whilst the main front compartment houses an organisational panel. The laptop section suspends your notebook in high-density foam and soft, brushed fleece and the integrated iPad slip pocket is lined in soft, brushed nylex.

The backpack suspension has tuck away waist straps, an adjustable sternum strap, and comfortable air-mesh padding throughout to ensure it is always a comfortable carry. STM sent us a bag to try out (we gave it back!) and it was as advertised – a great way to lug around a 15” laptop. The weight was barely noticeable, the bag was nice and flush with my back making it unobtrusive and I never felt uncomfortable about being out in the open with my 7 year old Powerbook.

The STM jet is available in black and in two sizes to fit most 15” and 17” laptops.

Logic 3’s i-Station TimeCube review

So it would seem that iPod docks have become so prevalent, that simply playing back sound from your iDevice is no longer enough, and more and more dual (or more) function devices are appearing. Previously we looked at the GEAR4 Halo, a £99 alarm dock that had a lovely bass-filled kick to it and a superb app to accompany your listening experience. We also had a look at the We also had a look at the Exspect TIME iPod dock, which was about half the price, and looked stunning – but lacked the same level of audio quality as the Halo.

Logic-3-i-Station-TimeCube

Well now there is a new kid on the block. Though given its cube-like design one might say there is a new block on the kind. Although one probably shouldn’t. Logic 3’s i-Station TimeCube is tiny and designed to fit snugly on a bedside table. The design harks back to the chunky plastic alarm clocks of a bygone era, as does the massive shiny LED that dominates the front of the device.

The big chunky buttons that adorn the device carry out a variety of functions, such as adjusting volume, tuning the FM radio, or hitting that all-important snooze button. The snooze button also dims the bright red screen, useful if you want to cut down on glare. The buttons give off a nice satisfying click, which is good when adjusting in low light conditions. Or when you are half-asleep. The LED has a slight odd viewing angle – if you move it to extreme positions to the side, or above your eye line it becomes hard to distinguish. But at conventional viewing angles things work fine.

Sound quality is respectable. Like the TIME you probably couldn’t rock a party just using this, but it is more that adequate for the average sized bedroom. And the 3.5 mm dock allows other PMPs to join in on the fun.
At only £39.99 from an online retailer near you the i-Station TimeCube is definitely decent value for money and would probably make a great christmas gift for at least one person you know.

Swiftpoint: The ultra mini-mouse

Hate trackpads? Go on admit it I won’t tell anyone. Trackpads can be amazing – Apple’s multi-touch efforts are pretty swanky and in general the technology has improved since my early days battling IBM Thinkpad nubs. But for detailed work, or frustration free computing … it’s nice to have a mouse. But with laptops getting smaller and lighter (not to mention netbooks with smaller, even more frustrating trackpads and even less space to use a mouse) adding a conventional mouse to your set up doesn’t always make sense. If you actually have the laptop on your lap (or a snazzy Logitech Lapdesk) then having a mouse is a little awkward.

Swiftpoint-Mouse

Enter Swiftpoint Ltd, a New Zealand-based technology company and their super cute Swiftpoint mouse. Fitting snugly over your thumb, the Swiftpoint mouse is dinky yet packs a host of features and design points that Swiftpoint claim improve productivity. With all the buttons you’d expect, plus a carefully positioned scroll wheel the Swiftpoint mouse does seem like a step up from the clunky manoeuvring trackpads provide.

A tiny USB dongle links your laptop (or any computer really) the Swiftmouse and you are pretty much ready to go. An annoying message pops up on Macs but this can safely be ignored. The dongle also acts as a dock. A 90-minute charge will provide between 2-to-4 weeks of normal use, whilst a 30-second burst will give the user an hour of usage time, even if the battery has been completely drained.

I created the Swiftpoint Mouse because of my own frustration with the touchpad, which I and many others consider to be a very inaccurate and inefficient substitute for a mouse,” said Grant Odgers, CEO, Swiftpoint.

“After four years of intensive research, design, development and testing, we are proud to present the final result – a mouse that you can use directly on your palm rest to turn your laptop into a no-compromise mobile workstation, no matter how cramped your work space is.”

The Swiftpoint mouse is available from www.amazon.co.uk at a RRP of £59.99 inc VAT.

Samsung SF310: Style and substance?

People may be aware that Lilly Allen decided to trade in her battered old Macbook for a trendy new Samsung SF310 a couple of months ago. The multi-talented star was probably influenced by the sleek and elegant design of this brand new laptop.

The manufacturers decided to put the SF310 through In Mold Rolling, as they had done previously with their NF210. The result is a finely sculpted chassis which enables the keyboard and lid to fit snugly together when the laptop is closed.

Samsung-SF310

The new Samsung is quite small compared with rival products of a similar spec. While the SF310 is heavier than the average user might like, it is still relatively portable. Prospective buyers may be interested to hear that this computer is also rather durable and is expected to have a long lifespan.

The SF310 is ideal for individuals who regularly commute via train and plane, as it last for 6.5 after a full charge. The sleep-and-charge function is another attraction, which allows for the charging of mobile phones and cameras while the laptop is in hibernation.

People who are prepared to spend £750 on a new laptop will undoubtedly be looking for high performance. Thankfully the SF310 is kitted out with a dynamic dual-core Intel Core i5-460M processor and 4gb of RAM.

Fun seekers will enjoy playing all the latest games on a laptop which makes full use of the Nvidia GeForce 310M chip. People who are using less demanding applications will utilise the alternative GMA HD card.

Darren Matthews, General Manager of Samsung’s Note PC Division said, “we’re excited to announce that the SF310 is now available in store and I believe that this new look notebook will see the start of a trend for more stylish mobile computing in the industry.

“Combining style, portability and performance the SF310 is the ultimate all-rounder to our notebook range and with our webcam promotion running up until the 31st of January next year, there’s no better time to invest in a new notebook.”

The Samsung is currently on sale as part of a combined package with the Microsoft Livecam Cinema HD webcam. It is thought that buyers will enjoy video conversations with their close friends and family, using both the hi tech webcam and the 13.3” widescreen LED backlit display.

Ted Baker and Proporta team up to make pretty iPhone cases

There are plenty of brands associated with the iPhone, but Ted Baker and the House of Fraser are usually not among them. However, the latter thought so much of the former’s new range of iPhone cases that it threw them party, uncorked the champagne and poured some designer cases into our hands.

Ted-Baker-iPhone-case

Ted Baker, teamed up with accessory veterans Proporta, have crafted a selection of thirteen leather cases, pouches and hard shells to tie-in with the designer’s Autumn/Winter range. The result is some pretty sweet iPhone 4 cases, at less sweet designer prices.

The premium offerings are the male and female leather cases. At £39.95, you get quality leather with a rigid feel to it. You also get a protective flap that, for men, holds your most important cards. Women? You’re blessed with a compact mirror and a poppy print lining.

The best cases, as judged by the harem of females, were the Patent Leather Style Pouches. Aimed at the female market (although, you know, who are we to judge personal taste?) They come in red or black with either an embossed bow and pull tag, or an oversized zip for easy pouch access. The zip edition was the real favourite, drawing crowds and coos of “I wish that my [make of mobile phone] fitted in that!”

Luckily, we had an older iPhone available for testing, and we’re pleased to announce that for the Leather Style Pouches, older models of iPhone fit in without a hitch. In the Leather Cases, it’s a tight squeeze, while the hard shells are definitely anti-iPhone 3G.

Whilt the hard shells may not be as forgiving as the other models, they are the cheapest option (£29.95). They’re basically the same as any clip-on shell you might meet, except with some fancy prints and Ted Baker on the back. It’s a bit of a steep price, but they are some of the best-looking hard shell cases on the market.
We did an extended trial of the Leather Case for Men (no mirror, unfortunately) and found it beautiful and mostly functional. The magnetic-closing flap is a real joy to fiddle with, and comforting too. It’s as if some unnatural force has been harnessed to pull the case closed, protecting your screen from damage.

The Leather Case also avoids the mistake of reducing button availability. All of the buttons are accessible, and although the standby button is hidden, you can easily push it through the case.

Unfortunately, it’s a bit chunky. If you like skinny jeans or prefer unstrained pockets, it’s not for you. And the leather that holds the phone in place gets in the way of the touchscreen at times, creating a minor annoyance.
So while the jury is still out on the Leather Cases (they’re certainly fine on the eye), pouch fans everywhere should rejoice. Especially ones with feminine tastes; the women’s range offers the most stylish phone pouch in the world.