Connected Data’s Transporter: Off-Cloud Social Storage

Transporter

There’s a lot to be said for the magic of the modern age. At the touch of a button everything I say or do can be transmitted across the world to an audiences of tens. And “cloud” storage has created an impressive array of possibilities for people or small businesses who want to access all sort of information at any point in time, anywhere. Although as Louis CK [link] likes to point out, “Cloud” is a euphemism for “big building with no windows and lots of security guards posted outside”. The amount of personal data we willing beam off into space and entrust into the hands of faceless corporate giants is insane. If I had to write down on paper all the things I send to Apple and Google on a daily basis I’d have some *serious* reservations. If I ever got movie amnesia I’m pretty sure Apple, Google and Facebook could tell me exactly who I am, in harrowing detail. Then again I like being able to share my data with friends and family. And have things like photos and documents backed up seems like the commonest of common sense in this digital age. So what is a boy to do? Enter Transporter.

The Transporter is an off-cloud social storage drive for privacy sharing, accessing and protecting one’s files. There are already a host of drives that enable shared storage – QNAP for example do an amazingly comprehensive NAS. But the Transport is built with regular people in mind, with usage more in line with day to day social sharing – not just the needs of a small business’s IT department.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=4WtrvTBDA18

The key feature of Transport is that you own and control all the data that is stored on the device – making it your own private cloud. Users can access files across the internet and the Transport can quickly and easily make contact with other Transporter devices and users (saving many a headache). Because all the files are stored on the device and nowhere else, usage is 100% private – so you don’t have to worry about a sudden change in terms of service ala Instagram’s famous slip up.

The Transporter people also eager to point out that there are no recurring fees for the device. After you purchase a unit, you have the ability to share thousands of files with as many people as you like irregardless of size. All the magic of Dropbox with none of the restrictions. I do a lot of work with video and the ability to share huge HD files globally is a huge boon to productivity. You can also do this on a smaller scale with photos or confidential documents via connected folders. And because files aren’t in “the cloud” but secure hard drives you can circumvent regulatory prohibitions that can cause issues for certain professions.

If you’re an SME, you can also create secure Iron Mountain-style offsite backups by buying another Transporter, storing it in a secondary location and voila – changes on one device are automatically reflected on another. You can even hide and encrypt data on the remote backup.

Intrigued? Find out more at Connected Data. The Transporter w/ 2TB Drive is $399 with UK pricing expected later in the year.

Sugru: the “Best Invention Since Sellotape”

Sugru

Few things are built to last. Whether it’s a damaged mobile charger, a broken handle or a hole in your shoe, when something breaks we just fling it on the waste pile. Well, Sugru aims to change all this and get us fixing things again with its space age Play-Dou.

Like something concocted in the Nutty Professor’s lab, Sugru is modelling clay you press into shape before leaving it to dry to form a tough rubbery material. Heat proof, water proof and electrically insulating, the ways you can use Sugru are endless. From fixing a leaking shower to adding bumpers to your iPhone or even to create grips for sports equipment, the inventor’s website is packed with examples of how Sugru has been used to ‘hack things better’. This includes being used by explorers to the North Pole and by the British Olympics fencing team to create custom grips for their cutlasses (if that’s the official term).

The result of 6 years of research and 5000 experiments by its determined young inventor, Sugru has been available to buy online for the last three years. But after shifting nearly a quarter of a million packs and selling out on QVC in four minutes, retailers have finally taken notice. You can now get hold of this space age Plasticine from 300 branches of B&Q stores across the country.

Sugru-Packs

Sugru has plenty of admirers, with TIME magazine naming it one of the top 50 inventions of 2010 (even ahead of the iPad) and the “best invention since sellotape” while Forbes has dubbed it “21st Century Duct Tape”. Check out what The Economist and Wired out to say about this highly versatile silicone rubber.

So if you’ve got things that need fixing around the home, want to “drop proof” your iPhone or need a custom grip for your tennis racket, head down to B&Q to grab your packet of Sugru before the three month trial ends.

You can also buy 8 mini-packs of Sugru online for £11 from Sugru.

Nikon COOLPIX A: The Pocket-Sized DSLR

Nikon-CoolPix-A

It’s a brave new world in the digital camera market these days. With profit margins decimated at the lower end of the compact range, fuelled by the growing popularity of smartphone cameras, manufacturers are trying to carve new niches higher up the pyramid, and Nikon’s new COOLPIX A – launched 21st March – encapsulates this perfectly.

At first glance, its key stats – large sensor and prime, fixed, 18.5mm (28mm equivalent) lens in a compact design – is nothing new. This is a market already populated by the likes of Fujifilm, Sony and Sigma, but Nikon has one major trick up its sleeve – or in this case, its jacket pocket. It claims the 16.2MP COOLPIX A is the world’s smallest camera to feature a DX-sized sensor, the same APS-C sensor as found in its mid-range DX7000 DSLR camera. By removing the optical low-pass filter and incorporating high ISO settings (100-6,400,extendable to 25,600), it’s renowned for producing very detailed images, even in low light, making it perfect for those frustrated by their smartphone’s inability to take anything but blurred, low-detail shots while out on the town.

The COOLPIX A is also powered by the EXPEED 2 image processing engine, and is capable of taking 14-bits compressed RAW images – all high-end DSLR functions. The DSLR features don’t end there, with Nikon adopting the same menu system on the COOLPIX A’s 3-inch LCD screen as found in its DSLR cameras too. It’ll also be compatible with other Nikon DSLR accessories.

It all sounds great so far, but there’s a hefty premium to pay for owning such a compact camera, and the eye-watering £999.99 price tag is only part of the story. Despite costing significantly more than its immediate rival, the Fujifilm X100, the COOLPIX A has no built-in optical viewfinder, an omission that CNET considers a competitive weakness along with its “abysmal” 230-shot battery life. Adding the optional DF-CP1 viewfinder will increase the cost by a hefty $450, although PC Magazine points out there are no shortage of legacy 28mm finders available that will work just as well.

Tech Radar’s Amy Davies has more positive vibes about the camera, noting it feels solid and looks elegant despite its small footprint. She’s also impressed with the customisable buttons, manual focussing ring and camera’s overall responsiveness, and found the LCD screen bright and reasonably glare-free, although she was disappointed by its lack of touchscreen.

We can see who Nikon is aiming the COOLPIX A at: the professional or enthusiast who wants to be able to take DSLR-quality shots in situations where they’d normally be fishing out a smartphone or cheap compact. But while that embryonic market may exist, we can’t see many people happy to hand over a grand for the privilege of owning a camera that makes so many compromises to fit into your jacket pocket. The lack of an optical viewfinder, interchangeable lens, battery life that makes you go ‘meh’ and image quality that doesn’t blow cheaper competition out of the water will all make the COOLPIX A a difficult sell.

Mind you, having blown all that dosh on it, we suspect you might start clawing some of that outlay back by limiting the amount you drink on a night out – after all, you won’t want to be leaving this camera at the bar, in the cab, on the kerb, etc!

Sonos Launch the PLAYBAR Soundbar: Review Roundup

Sonos-Playbar

Despite humble beginnings in the not-so distant past (founded in 2002), Sonos have catapulted themselves to the forefront of the AV market, becoming the byword in wireless audio technology.  The latest innovation comes in the form of a soundbar, bringing Sonos into the world of home cinema.  It has long been clear that the quality of the speakers in today’s TVs simply hasn’t kept pace with the significant enhancements made to picture quality and screen size.  There are plenty of solutions out there for those of us who have decided that it’s about time the noise matches the picture, but, having helped to revolutionise home HiFi, Sonos have decided to apply their own considerable expertise to the Home Cinema experience.

Sonos seem to think they have hit the nail on the head with their latest offering and they aren’t shy about telling us exactly that, with Sonos Inc CEO, John MacFarlane, saying “Playbar will change everything about the sound experience in your living room, bringing together amazing HiFi sound for your TV and wireless access to the world’s music in a radically simple way”. But do the experts agree that the Sonos Playbar is about to revolutionise the AV experience in your home?

What HiFi: It’s great for sports, opting for a more immersive sound.

The big question, of course, is how the Sonos Playbar sounds, so we kick off (excuse the pun) with a spot of Premier League football. Within just a couple of seconds it’s clear that this is a massive improvement over even the most impressive-sounding flatscreen TV. The width of the soundstage that’s created is mighty impressive, and there’s detail, weight and tonal balance that a TV on its own simply can’t deliver.

SlashGear: A smart piece of tech with nifty features; there is no remote, but that need not be an issue.

Sonos has fitted the PLAYBAR with an accelerometer so that it knows which way up it’s placed: that means it can automatically figure out if it’s on the wall – with the “top” facing out – or sitting flat, and adjust the equaliser settings automatically. There’s also a pass-through IR system, which repeats your TV remote’s commands in case the TV’s own IR receiver is blocked in some way.

T3: It sounds good, but the addition of a Sub is almost essential.

Add the Sonos SUB to create a ‘3.1’ system and things change. Having that dedicated bass channel allows the PLAYBAR unit to concentrate on higher frequencies, thus creating a more balanced sound. Like us, you’ll have to play around with the SUB settings, as having it too loud can be overkill.

Wired: It beats the competition for looks

Stocked with an impressive nine drivers, the compact, low-profile Playbar employs rounded corners and silver accents to earn more style points than most sound bars, which tend to be black, boxy, and décor-damaging. At just 3.3 inches tall, it can sit in front of your TV without blocking the IR or the screen itself.

Gizmondo: It’s expensive, but for those with the money it will live up to expectations

The Playbar does a lovely job, but you could get something that sounds just as good with more features for less money. That said, Sonos is a luxurious, simple, and satisfying way to listen to music. If you can afford it in the first place, you won’t be disappointed.

All in all, the consensus is that the Playbar is an attractive and well featured piece of kit. All of the usual Sonos features are included and it makes a great addition to an existing Sonos system. However, the Playbar is not cheap and to really get the best from it the cost skyrockets further as you add the all-important Sub. If style and substance are your primary concerns the Playbar is well worth considering, but if your credit card bill is of more importance, perhaps it is worth seeking a cheaper alternative.

PLAYBAR will retail for £599 and will be available for purchase at Sonos.com, and other retail partners around the world. For more information on SONOS PLAYBAR, including technical specifications and more, please visit Sonos.com/playbar.

ZTE Grand Memo Smartphone: Ghetto Phabulous

ZTE-Grand-Memo

ZTE has recently introduced the Grand Memo, its latest smartphone, or should that be tablet? With a whopping 5.7-inch screen, the device is being entered into the phablet market due to its expansive display and processing ability.

The Grand Memo features a high definition 720 x 1280 display, an impressive 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 8000 processor and 2GB of RAM. Other notable aspects include a 13MP rear-facing camera with the ability to shoot 1080HD video, Dolby Digital Plus Surround sound, a 3,200mAh battery and Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean OS.

Comparisons to other similar products on the market are likely to be drawn, with the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 and to some extent LG’s Optimus G Pro sharing certain design aspects. A factor both manufacturers’ legal teams might like to take into consideration. Nevertheless the Grand Memo is aesthetically pleasing, if a little uninspiring.

“We have really tried to make this device fun for use at home, and practical for use in the office. By combining both of these factors, we have created a well-rounded large-screen handset that is suitable for any situation.”

He Shiyou, ZTE EVP and Head of the Mobile Devices Division

In my opinion, as a mobile phone the Grand Memo is gratuitously large, with the device likely to attract unwanted attention on public transport but unlikely to fit in one’s pocket. As a tablet, I’m not sure it possesses the characteristics to deal with any worthwhile tasks, such as productive word processing or comfortably reading an e-book.

A hands on review from techradar.com noted that the device’s size made it “a little unwieldy in the hand and we found ourselves really having to stretch our fingers to properly grasp the Grand Memo.” The reviewer also went on to mention that “the screen itself is bright and clear, although on closer inspection its not the most detailed of displays we’ve had the pleasure of ogling.”

Therefore it looks like the Grand Memo might struggle against its more established and higher quality rivals. However if it comes in at a lower price, it could enjoy some moderate success. For the now ZTE’s latest offering will only be available in Europe and China, but customers in the US and elsewhere still have plenty of other phablet alternatives to choose from.

Best iPhone Photo and Video Accessories

RotoLight-iPhone-

As the old adage goes, the best camera is the one you have with you. And more often than not these days that will be your smartphone. Pretty much all modern smartphones have great cameras. That’s a given. And there are a range of amazing apps out there on all OSs to enhance your photography, as well as a range of retro filters if you value pretension and inauthenticity. What gives iPhone users the edge is the wonderful 3rd party ecosystem of accessories that help you take your photography and film making closer and closer to a professional standard.

Rotolight OWLE
I shouldn’t have to say this but lighting is one of the most important elements of recording visuals. You’d be shocked at how often people forget and you wind up with terrible, terrible looking footage or images that are either too bright or too dark. The OWLE HD VIDEO KIT for iPhone 4/4S adds some serious clout to your mobile cinematography. It comes with the award winning Rotolight RL48-B HD LED Ring light and a range of filters so you can create perfect soft fill-in light. This alone is a great addition but the OWLE also includes a custom 37mm wide angle / macro lens, high quality 180 degrees adjustable Vericorder microphone and tripod mount threading on all 4 corners so it’s the most versatile high-end tool on the list.

When I spoke to Rotolight at the Gadget Show they promised an iPhone 5 version was coming. Still no word on when.

£215.99
Find out more: Rotolight

Joby GripTight GorillaPod
Joby-Gorillapod-GripTight

Shaking hand syndrome ruins so many videos and almost every photo I’ve take would have been better had I used a tripod. Hence the Joby GripTight GorillaPod – a tripod and clamp system that helpful works with most modern smartphones and folds up neatly into your bag when not in use. I have one in my bag right now. And obviously the upside of the GorillaPod is that it’s not just a regular tripod and seems at times almost infinitely versatile – you can manipulate the legs into numerous combinations that enable you to capture more exciting shots.

£25
Find out more: Joby

olloClip

OlloClip

The olloClip is an old favourite and one of the earliest to the iPhone lens game. The pocket sized, high quality three in one lens, including a Fish Eye, Wide Angle and Macro lens, simply pops on to the edge of your phone. However, this does mean that olloClip does not play nicely with iPhone cases, and it does feel a little exposed at times filming with an iPhone in its naked state. The fisheye lens captures approximately a 180° field-of-view, the wide-angle lens nearly doubles the iPhone’s normal field of view and the macro lens applies roughly a 10X magnification.

Find out more: OlloClip
£69.99

mobislyer

MobiSlyder

Sadly for videographers only the mobislyder allows you to take smooth tracking shots that can breath life into your cinematography. The mobislyder is developed by the world’s No. 1 camera slider company, Glidetrack, so it’s has some fairly substantial clout behind it. It’s incredibly sturdy, with an articulated mount and there are all sorts of amazing shots you can pull off once you have one (there’s also the incredible temptation to go a bit overboard).

http://vimeo.com/31045367#

Fortunately the mobislyder is compatible with all sorts of hand-held camera devices, including the iPhones, Android, compact cameras, small DSLR cameras and small camcorders.

Find out more: MobiSlyder
£75