5 USB Flash Drives With a Double Life

Clothes-Peg

With the advent of cloud storage, flash drives aren’t quite the essential items they once were. They still have their place though as a handy means of transferring data or carrying files that you don’t trust to the cloud. But rather than having a flash drive that just dangles from your keyring or sits in your pocket, wouldn’t it be useful if you could have one that had another purpose? Well, you can, we present the top five flash drives with a double life.

Clothes Peg

Not only does this neat little gadget offer you a generous 4GB of flash storage it also lets you hang your socks on the line after you’ve rinsed them out. Okay, so you may not be so desperate to dry your laundry that you’d want to use a flash drive but it does have a practical use. You can clip the drive to your bag or your coat so that you’ll always know where it is, or use it to keep together important papers on your desk.

The clothes peg drive is sold by HDE and is available via Amazon.

Pendant-USB

Necklace

Flash drives often come with a lanyard that you can hang around your neck, but the look isn’t exactly geek chic. For a more stylish alternative what better way of discreetly carrying your flash storage around than in a bit of bling? No one will guess that your sparkly pendant is in fact a 32GB flash drive. Unless that is you plug it in whilst you’re still wearing it in which case you’re going to look a bit silly.

The USB necklace is available from Focalprice.com and there are quantity discounts so you can buy them for all your friends.

S-Memory-

S Memory

The S Memory is a sleek, slim metal device that will slip into the credit card slot of your wallet. Fold out the USB tab and you can plug it into your PC when you need to access the storage. Even better than that it also doubles as a handy bottle opener so not only will you not lose your memory stick you’ll always be popular with your mates when it comes to opening a beer.

S Memory is currently a Kickstarter project and you can sigh up to register your interest and be one of the first to own one at Kickstarter.com

Victorinox

Victorinox Flash

The classic Swiss Army knife has been around for a long time but, since demand for getting stones out of horses’ hooves is not what it was, supplier Victorinox has launched a version for the 21st century that includes a USB drive. It’s available in various versions with 2 or 16GB capacity and the option of extra gadgets including an LED torch and a laser pointer. There’s also a model without sharp objects that’s safe to take on aircraft. You can see the various versions available at swisstool.co.uk Swisstool

Wristband-USB

Wristband

Everybody is familiar with the concept of wristbands these days, they allow you to show off your support for a charity or good cause whilst making a fashion statement and simultaneously getting caught up with your sleeves. The Sinophy wristband incorporates a 1GB memory stick and is available in nine colours making it a practical way of carrying your data around and looking cool into the bargain.

The Sinophy wristband is available from Play.com.

With a little help from my Music Angel Friendz

From Power Rangers and Avengers all the way to Constructicons I love a good team up. There’s something about a bunch of small guys banding together that gets me every time – be they Seven Samurais or mini Stereo Speakers. Yes Mini Stereo Speakers.

Friendz-daisy-chain

Music Angel Friendz are an annoyingly spelled collection of tiny stereo speakers. Despite the Zs they are really quite dinky and dare I say cute, fitting in the palm of ones hand and playfully available in a range of colours. The base, which has a layer of rubber to prevent scratching, also glows when switched on which complements the sturdy aluminium look – especially on the blue speaker.

Friendz

More importantly the Music Angel’s digital amplification is surprisingly good for something so small. Any device with a 3.5 mm jack can be plugged in – either into the 3.5 mm port or the micro USB port via the supplied adaptor. I’ll admit, seeing Line In over the micro USB port did throw me initially but there’s a method to their madness which I’ll delve into later. For a small, inexpensive 6W speaker the sound is pretty good and enhances the sound of most laptops and smartphones.

The speakers charge from USB – either from a dedicated port or a laptop – and can be filled with juice in between 1-3 hours. What makes the Music Angelz remarkable is their 120 hour playback time, which is impressive and according to the company unmatched on the market.

Music-Angel-Friends

Of course the Music Angel Friendz headline feature, the reason for my team up remarks at the outset and the “Friendz” in the name is that they can be daisy chained. If you aren’t making quite enough noise on your own, then you can invite a buddy (and their Music Angel) along and use a special USB to 3.5 mm to double down the disco. As this is all cable based it is ridiculously easy to set up and I had a tower of 5 speakers blaring in next to no time. I’m not sure what the limit is but you could probably keep going for a while. The sound does significantly increase in volume, although 5 Music Angels in a row don’t quite sound as good as a £125 speaker. Their wired simplicity is also a slight drawback as the back of the daisy chained set up will start to resemble a tangled mess. Bluetooth or some other wireless technology would certainly look more elegant – but would add to the cost and complexity.

Music Angel Friends are out now for just £25 from Amazon.

Blue Spark Digital Microphone: Mobile recording in a flash.

I was at a rock concert the other day and quite near the sound desk as it happens. The thing is, the sound engineer was nowhere near me; he was moving around the theatre with an ipad and controlling the mix from there.

Blue-Spark

Whilst this might not be headline news, it shows how technology has enabled the professional recording industry to recreate studio sound on the move and with the minimum of fuss. Not only that, it has allowed wannabee artists to record at home and with the power of social networks make a name for themselves without needing the muscle of a record label. Just ask Taylor Swift.

Blue Microphones have already cut a name for themselves in the audio market with a couple of very well received Apple centric microphones and The Spark Digital Mike makes up the trio. However this isn’t just a microphone to make up the numbers, Blue claims it to be the world’s first studio quality condenser microphone to bring professional recording class to any iDevice using the 30 pin Apple connector or laptop, tablet  or PC via USB 2.0

This is a microphone specifically designed for high quality on the go recordings for vocals, guitar, piano and drums and with a frequency response of 26 Hz to 20 kHz, coupled with 28 mV/Pa sensitivity monitored by Blue’s Focus Control technology, there is plenty of petrol in the tank for most on the road needs. There’s also the added bonus of zero latency which is so crucial for eliminating any irritating delays or when you’re handling multi track recordings or syncing.

One more handy bonus thoughtfully provided by Blue is up to 25 GB of storage and a transfer account for six months from cloud storer Gobbler and a six month Pro Account from SoundCloud to record, promote and share sounds on the web.

The Spark Digital, £199.95 available at Apple, Amazon, Curry’s, PC World and other electrical retailers.

For more information visit www.bluemic.com/SparkDigital

Humax Freesat freetime: Fixing broken TV

TV is in an odd state right now. I’m one of the those annoying people who will say “I don’t watch TV” even though I now – thanks to Netflix and other streaming services – watch more TV than ever before. But the idea of coming home and just popping on the “telly” now seems as antiquated as a rotary phone, or opposing gay marriage. More and more high-quality content coming direct from creators – amazing web series are springing up all the time. And non-traditional sources are supporting content – Yahoo worked with an amazing team to create Burning Love and Todd Glass, Bill Burr and Moesche Kasher all have specials out on Netflix.

Free-Time

So where does that leave hardware? Well it’s blindingly obvious that the future of TV is “connect” and the ability to control when and where you consume content should be the minimum entry requirement for any entertainment set-top box in this day and age.

Humax gave us a digital HD freesat+ box with <> to see what a modern set-top box has to offer. Installation was a relatively easy although it requires a wired ethernet connection rather than wifi. I get the logic (stable connections are important when streaming high-def TV) but running cable across a living room is a pain. They do suggest using Homeplug Adapters as an alternative but it’s already heading into “hassle” territory and “old world” technology.

The actual box is a little on the dull side but you’re supposed to be looking at the content not the device. Obviously there are HDMI connections but if you still have an older SCART etc device you can still get connected. I found the remote a built builky and plasticky but that’s probably because I’ve been spoilt by the frankly amazing remotes that come bundled with Samsung devices.

One you’re connected all the standard on-demand services such as the iPlayer, 4oD and itv Player. And all the regular Freesat programmes are there if you dish/antenna set up confirms to regulations.

Remote

The main feature of the box is it’s recording functions and dual-tuner Freesat PVR is easy to use. It’s also quite clever in the way it groups shows together making it pretty intuitive to work your way through Homeland or whatever the kids are watching these days. You can manually manage recordings and the box will automatically delete older recordings if you run out of space. For £20 over the 500 Gb base model you can get a 1TB internal HDD which is definitely worth it.

There’s a little USB port on the front for media playback and DLNA streamng is also supported with the system is able to handle HD MKVs if you’ve somehow aquired a bunch of those.

Humax-1000S

The standout feature of the unit however is it’s EPG which is a delight to use. Navigation is fast and fun and the slick interface is one of the better ones I’ve seen on this type of unit. Finding what’s on and saving things you enjoy is a breeze. Oddly, there doesn’t seem to be an app to record remotely via your smartphone but I’m sure one is in the works.

Overally the freesat box has “a fresh spin on an old classic”. It won’t revolutionise the way you watch TV but if your viewing habits match 90% of the population you should fine something for you in here.

The Humax 100S is out now and costs £280.

Aves Digital Lifts off With Bluetooth Speakers

Aves, is apparently a scientific name for a type of bird with a distinct vocal characteristic. That bodes well then for a company firmly entrenched in audio products. This new British brand has cut its teeth on DAB radios, but reckons it knows a thing or two about low cost Bluetooth audio too with the launch of its portable and non portable range of Bluetooth speakers using backwards compatible 3.0.

 

Aves-Classic

The top of the range Aves Digital Diamond is a pair of two way USB stereo speakers pumping out a combined 30 watts (2X15 RMS). The tubular shaped speakers powered by 3 inch full range drivers and compact 1.5 inch tweeters, are designed to provide a clear sound from any angle supported by full size bass ports for low frequencies. The rechargeable batteries offer up to 6 hours of continuous playback whilst the 3.5mm mini jack socket will connect with any smart device.

With its two smaller stable mates, the Aves Digital Aqua and the Aves Digital Crystal, both offering 1.5 inch full range speakers at 3 watts RMS, Aves looks to have an affordable speaker set for any budget conscious consumer.

There’s even a digital Bluetooth receiver you can buy as an added extra to turn your hifi or radio into a wireless speaker too simply by connecting it to your speakers via the 3,5 mm analogue input.

John Cohring Aves’ technical spokesman declares “We’re immensely proud to offer top quality sound and construction at a price that’s hard to believe. We are really going to shake up the market in the UK.”

The Aves Digital Diamond £89

The Aves Digital Aqua       £59.99

The Aves Digital Crystal    £59.99

Aves Digital mercury Bluetooth receiver £29.99

www.avesdigital.com

Denon MC2000 DJ interface: USB power to the people

DJing has always fascinated me as a transformative “power to the people” interaction of music and technology. Taking the music given to you by record companies and radio stations and being able to repurpose it to express yourself was all at once revolutionary and ancient – harking back to folk songs shared around the campfire and changing over time.

Denon-MC2000

In keeping with this idea of non-exclusive DJing Denon have released the MC2000 – a USB DJ controller that welcomes novices and pros alike and invites them to mix it up and start again.

The plug and play controller is really easy to get going. Denon lent me one for the weekend and I simply had to install Serato DJ Intro, pop the controller in and I was good to go. The software is pretty simple to use and you pretty much just have to drag a track into the respective window to get going. If you want to bring all your iTunes music and playlists into the fold you just hit a button and everything is set up for you.

In terms of hardware, Denon haven’t skimped and there’s a rugged metal chassis combined with the jog wheels and faders. Nothing feels at all plasticky and everything feels reassuringly solid. The whole unit runs off USB power making it pretty portable and there are a host of illuminated buttons which makes essential controls easy enough to access.

As you’d expect the MC2000 has twin jog wheels and faders for vinyl-like mixing so you can scratch and mix to your heart’s content. I will never enjoy mixing on a USB controller as much as an old fashioned vinyl but this is much, much easier to pack up and take to a house party, wedding or small club.

If you want a to make things a little more fancy the MC2000 also includes full sample control, loop control, on-board effects and auxiliary as well as microphone input.There’s high-quality audio output from both the RCA sockets on the rear panel and the front mounted headphone socket.

The Denon MC2000 is available for about £260 from October.

sonoro troy: They Reminisce Over USB

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone could just get along? This lament has particular pertinence in the tech world. Despite all the open source evangelists hailing our new era of sharing and collaboration there are as many if not more closed systems than ever before. Maybe there’s another way? sonoro audio, the German design and engineering company (who hate capital letters) aim to change that with troy – a compact desktop speaker and charging system for everybody.

sonoro-troy

I look at a lot of iPod docks in my line of work and I can’t help but feel sorry for people with non iOS devices – especially as that’s most people. Not getting invited to play in the iPod dock party, they simply have to “make do” with an AUX input around the back. The troy levels the playing field – everyone has to use the same 3.5 mm charging port (actually it has two but they’re both 3.5 mm ports). This is so simple it’s actually a radical departure from convention. I had a unit in to test and it took me ages to get working because I assumed that my iPhone would just start playing straight away. But iPhone users, Android users or even Windows Phone users all have to follow the same rules.

The compact 2 kg unit contains two USB sockets for charging different devices and a neat little top cover to hide away most of the cabling. One socket supplies a 1 amp current for smaller devices and the other offering 2.1 amps for power-hungry devices such as tablets.

The troy features DSP and a bass reflex port so despite being decidedly low-tech in it’s approach to connectivity the sound is decidedly hi-fi. There are two audio inputs that can be controlled via a simple switch. There’s also a rotary knob on the side for volume but that also acts as an on off switch.

“troy is a chic all-round speaker system with universal charging and storage. The fact that troy can be used with practically any music-playing device such as smartphones, tablet PCs etc. makes it the perfect system for those who value stylish design, high-class finish, balanced audio quality and multi-connection convenience.”
Marcell Faller, founder and CEO of sonoro audio

troy’s speaker cabinet is made of wood, with rounded corners, which stiffen the cabinet, reducing internal resonance, whilst the high-quality plastic top and bottom add strength but not weight. The top storage compartment is double sided, with simple felt on one layer and an angled holder on the other side for tablets. The storage compartment hides cable clutter. troy comes in four felt finishes: Black, Green, Red or Grey.

I like troy and what it’s trying to do. Of course I’d prefer a slightly more hi-tech implementation maybe with Airplay, Bluetooth and wireless charging but that’s something to wish for in future implementations.

The sonoro troy has a suggested retail price of £149.00. For more information please visit www.sonoro-audio.com.

Gift & Gadget Ideas for Father’s Day

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again – dads are difficult to buy for. But if they love their gadgets, then help is at hand. Here are a few ideas that you still have time to order in time for Father’s Day on June 17 2012.

Fathers-Day

If he’s decided to join the rest of us in the 21st century and swapped his paperbacks for an ereader, give Dad back a taste of the past with a Run for Cover soft padded cover for his electronic device – he might not want the Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland version, but Frankenstein, Dracula or the Wizard of Oz might float his boat. The cases only fit the Kindle Keyboard and the Kobo Keyboard models.
The covers costs £14.95 from www.red5.co.uk.

If your dad is more of a film fan than a bookworm, he’ll love these Mimobots – USB sticks that come in the shape of superheroes including Darth Vader, Stormtroopers, Optimus Prime and Batman. So let the superheroes save the day’s work – the flash drives have a 4GB capacity, have DC comic content pre-installed such as wallpapers, desktop icons, and original trailers, and are compatible with both Windows and Mac.
They cost £24.95 each from www.red5.co.uk.

We’re not convinced this is A Good Thing, but the Beacon for iOS will turn Dad’s Apple or Android smartphone or tablet into a Universal Remote Control. The Beacon gives fingertip control to his whole entertainment system including TV, DVD, Sky Box and Hi-Fi System via its infra-red signals. We can’t be held responsible if he turns into TV dictator though.

The Beacon for iOS costs £44.99 and is available from Apple, Beacon for Android is available from HMV. Check out our brief look at it here.

If Dad loves his gadgets but is notoriously clumsy, give them the protection they deserve with Griffin’s Survivor range of cases for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. The cases should protect the devices from clumsy dad, the kids and even the weather – they protect against sand, rain, shock and vibration.
The Survivor for iPad is £54.99 from Tesco, for iPhone 4 is £34.99 from Carphone Warehouse and the iPod touch is £29.99 from Amazon.co.uk

If Dad is also your taxi driver, treat him to the AirCurve Window Mount for cars without AUX-in stereos. The AirCurve works like an acoustic megaphone for iPhone 4/4S, and can amplify its built-in speakers by as much as 25 decibels. The mount sticks to glass or the dashboard and also allows users to hold conversations via handsfree speakerphone mode while driving, or hear GPS instructions over their stereo. And it’s wire and battery-free.
The AirCurve Window Mount, costs £24.99 and is available from Apple. Check out our review here.

If Dad needs a stylus for his device, but also needs to write on ‘real’ paper the dual-purpose Griffin Stylus + Pen is the perfect solution. The capacitive tip is ideal for busy dads who are constantly tapping at their touchscreen – to use it as a pen, just remove the cap for smooth ballpoint-on-paper action. The Stylus + Pen, costs £29.99 from Tesco.

Finally, if your Dad is more the outdoors type, perhaps he’d rather have a Bear Grylls Ultimate Multi-tool (£49.95) or a Pocket Fishing Road (£19.95), which can be carried round in a pocket and extends to 104cm when needed. Both available from www.red5.co.uk.