Editorial

By October 22, 2014 Read More →

Be Bond: try these gadgets

james-bond-gadget-caseThe bomb will explode in 40 seconds, so you better hurry up, Bond. You run through the metal corridors of the underground lair, eliminate four henchmen with your Walther PPK and chuck a defusing device at the bomb, seeing its timer stop at 00:07 seconds.

With that, the queen suddenly materialises in front of you, clutching a medal of honour and giving you a wry smile and a subtle wink. “Your majesty!” you exclaim, as you kneel on the ground.

It’s at about this time that you wake up, clutching your bedside lamp and saluting at your still-sleeping girlfriend.

If this is an experience you recognise, then it might be time to get those master spy fantasies out of your system.

With a few of these gadgets, you’ll be able to live your life like the suburban Bond you long to be. And stop saluting at your girlfriend in your sleep – it’s weirding her out.

Maintain an eagle eye

Just a decade or so ago, trying to hide a security camera was like concealing a woolly mammoth under your jumper. With their mass of wires, hefty lenses and loudly whirring rotation mechanism, they were about as subtle as a Brian Blessed cosplay convention.

How things change. Now, surveillance cameras can be concealed in replica Coke cans, BIC lighters, Blu-ray players and pretty much anything else you like.

Whether you’re meeting an ex-KGB informer, rendezvousing with a double agent or want to prove to your girlfriend that you did say to meet at eight, not quarter-past nine, these hidden surveillance cameras can be invaluable for the home. 

Glass yourself

Google Glass, that pair of hi-tech spectacles, has been making waves in the press, and rightly so. This versatile piece of kit could put Q out of a job, if he’s not careful.

You can essentially have the entirety of the internet in your eyes with Google Glass. Whether that means you want to Google someone’s name to think of new conversation topics or record the world around you, the possibilities are endless.

Some have criticised the device, claiming it’s leading our already dwindling attention spans to their death knell. But don’t let such negativity bother you – the Glass is the next step in technology.

See through the night

Do you ever stare into darkness and wonder what’s going in the inky black of the night? Then, ignoring the fact that you’ve got too much time on your hands, night vision goggles are perfect for you.

Even the cheaper end of the scale now allows you to see in complete darkness. Perfect for camping trips, reconnaissance missions or sneaking around your house with the lights off (everybody needs a hobby), pick up a reasonably priced pair and enjoy the pleasures of the night.

Posted in: Editorial, Gadgets
By October 2, 2014 Read More →

Making the iPhone 6 more affordable

iphone_6_pricesApple have done it again and have brought users a brand new, larger, handset, however, the only problem is how you make purchasing the iPhone 6 more affordable? As with the launch of any new piece of tech, the cost is substantially high and as such people franticly shop around for the best contract deals available. The only thing is, while you may be able to save the odd pound here and there by researching which network and tariff is best for your budget, there are other ways to make bigger savings to make the cost of the latest handset more affordable.

There is no denying that selecting a contract iPhone 6 or 6 plus will be the cheapest short term option, you don’t have to pay too much up front and you get a gorgeous new phone. Sadly, however, the costs start to sting your bank account when your monthly contract payments go out – new phones are notorious for being quite pricey when selecting contracts, so long term you’ll end out paying a lot more than you expected or would like.

Another option, and probably one of the cheaper in the long run is to choose a SIM only contract. Although this means you pay for the handset upfront, you benefit from being able to move freely between networks and deals without having to deal with the confines of a locked contract. The issue with this decision is most people don’t make it because they feel they can’t afford to spend that much money in one go. If that sounds like where you stumble when purchasing the new iPhone you could turn to Apple’s finance payment plan to help you make that handset obtainable.

The finance package with Apple means you buy directly from the company and then pay back what you owe, with interest, over a select period of months, the most common being 24 months. However, while it definitely sounds a lot more money savvy, you do have an APR rate of 14.9% added onto your repayments, which obviously means you end up paying more than what the handset is worth. This is where you might want to consider a 0% credit card instead, as this option means you can enjoy a long interest free period (maximum of 20 months), and only pay for the handset with no added extras.

By breaking it down and comparing the two options, the latter is more financially sound. When you buy an iPhone 6 (16gb) via Apple finance, you’ll pay £620.54 with repayment costs of £25.86 monthly for 24 months, however, when you buy an iPhone 6 via an interest free credit card, you’ll pay the SIM-free cost of £539.00 and pay back £26.95 monthly for 20 months. Despite the fact that you’ll pay out a little bit more each month if you choose the credit card option, you pay off the handset sooner and essentially make a saving of £81.54; and the saving for handsets with more storage is even greater.

As expected with a new phone, it’s all about shopping around for the best deal, however, that doesn’t restrict you to just what contracts are on offer in the high-street stores. There are many other avenues to research and consider before making a final decision, and weighing them up first and making the right decision can save you money in the long term.

Posted in: Editorial, Phones
By September 23, 2014 Read More →

Microsoft tablets that put the fun in functional

14469697956_7cb0aa01e7_hDespite the fact that global sales of PCs and laptops are in decline, several consumers still require functional, practical and workaday machines, which can perform more tasks than standard touchscreen tablets. 

Thankfully, Microsoft’s range of Surface devices makes this possible and you can pick one up at stores including Tesco and popular electrical retailers. In addition to their lightweight construction and expansive displays, they also feature comprehensive operating systems and various input methods. Here’s the full lowdown on all three models:

 

Surface 2

Full of features and incredibly good value for money, the Surface 2 might well be Microsoft’s entry-level tablet, but it still packs an impressive punch. Boasting a 1.7 GHz processor, Nvidia Tegra 4 chip, 2GB of RAM and a 10.6-inch screen, the Surface 2 can deal with a multitude of tasks and applications. When you add into the bargain a two-position kickstand, USB 3, MicroSD slot and Microsoft Office with Outlook as standard, it quickly becomes the best option for those on a budget.  

 

Surface Pro 2

Perhaps the ultimate tablet for professions that require portability and power, the Surface Pro 2 has everything you could possibly need. With an Intel Core i5 processor, 526GB of storage and the option of Microsoft’s entire Office Suite, this particular device takes all the benefits of a PC or laptop but manages to fit it in a truly attractive package weighing just 900 grams. Even so, it features a multitude of connections, commendable battery life and a full HD display. 

 

Surface Pro 3

The latest and possibly greatest tablet offering from Microsoft is the Surface Pro 3. On first impressions, the tablet’s look and feel is difficult to ignore, as the substantial 12-inch display and sleek magnesium frame are outstanding. But it gets better, as the Surface Pro 3 also comes with two 5MP HD cameras, stereo speakers featuring Dolby sound, a full-size keyboard and trackpad as well as a pressure-sensitive stylus. This means interacting with the pre-installed full version of Windows 8.1 is both easy and enjoyable.

So even if you’re looking for some fun from your tablet, you can get a great deal of functionality too with a Microsoft Surface device. Just be sure to choose a tablet that’s right for you and meets your requirements.

Image by Scott Akerman, used under the Creative Commons license.

 

 

Posted in: Editorial, Laptops, Tablets
By September 16, 2014 Read More →

Gareth’s top phone from IFA

P1010464Recently I have returned from IFA in Berlin and I have felt the need to report on one device in particular that really impressed me to no end. This year we saw some very interesting products from Samsung, Sony and even Phillips, however there was one device that, in my opinion, really stole the show if everything I was told is correct.

Weighing it at a possible £275-£300 is the Alcatel Hero 2. This little known French company grabs the bull by the horns this year and produced a phone that is, on the one hand budget friendly, yet on the other it manages to capture almost everything that every other manufacturer has injected into their latest and greatest. We have no affiliated with Alcatal, and to my knowledge never have, how this Hero 2 handset impressed the sock off me. 

Case and point.

Yes, the Hero 2 features a 6″ TFT LCD display. The TFT technology is a little off putting these days, however at the 1080p resolution (367 ppi), and with Dragontrail glass for protection  and oleophobic coating this phone almost looks just as good at a Note III. Certainly setting it next to the Note 4, the difference will be night and day however the average user will be looking for something that is easily passable for usage and this is will certainly meets the challenge.

Inside the Hero 2 is a MediaTek MT6592 chipset with an octa-core 1.7GHz Cortex-A7 CPU and 2G of RAM. Internal storage is 16GB expandable by up to 32GB via the microSD card slot. Things run smoothly and with a refreshingly sparse overlay. There are still additions from Alcatel however no where near that we see on the Samsung and Sony devices shown. It was nice to go back to a more familiar interface having spent time with the likes of the Sony Xperia Z3.

You also get Wi-Fi 802.11n, Bluetooth 2.0, NFC and 4G. The battery of the Hero 2 is a hefty 3,100mAh rated at a 10hours of 3G talk time (4.5h in 4G mode) and stand-by time of 380 hours. A rather decent 13MP OIS camera  sits on the back with a single LED flash and recording video of up to 1080p@30fps. There is a stylus in the Hero 2 and it’s very similar to the Samsung S Pen. Alongside this are a couple of peripherals. For example a game pad, touch screen game controller that click onto the Hero 2 providing protection and simple interaction. 

Of all the phones on display in Berlin, this is the one that made the biggest impression on me, and I have thought most about since. Certainly, Lenovo, Samsung and Sony all had strong offerings featuring revolutionary technologies, however it was Alcatel who produced a simple, elegant, well made and modestly priced road warrior. Provided the price translates when crossing the channel…

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Posted in: Editorial
By September 11, 2014 Read More →

Gareth’s Top TV from IFA

TV FranceWalking around Berlin’s IFA show you will realise the most important aspects of ever stand is the display. Every device and unit there relies on the most eye popping display to attract attention. Samsung, Sony and LG stands are full of jaw dropping panels with ever increasing size, beauty and novelty.  However, on closer inspection you can see colour contrasts pushed up and false vibrancy used to achieve an eye popping result. Most of these panels are eye popping for a minimal amount of time.

Panasonic was the only company to happily display their older panel beside their latest offering for direct comparison.  You can get right up and examine the pixels and colour representation within millimetres of the screen. Most other companies have their panels roped off.

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LG and Samsung brag them have true black on their screens however you can see they are not. Panasonic are refreshingly honest with their approach, true blacks are very hard to do, they aren’t their yet however they are close. They can show the progress from where they were this time last year.

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One of the most endearing things about the Panasonic flagship is their pride in the design. Having visited a number of shows I have spoken to many engineers over the years about the development of their products, however I have never had an Engineer ask me what I think of specific design aspects, only to step back and continually admire the work their company had produced. Panasonic’s engineers have taken pride in their work, not for profit, not for glory, but as a personal achievement in creating something that stands out and impresses.

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Panasonic have made a lot of effort to turn a Smart TV into an actual Smart TV. Most consumers have Smart TV features forced on them when buying a new TV, the functionality is usually half baked, slow and prone to bugs. It is normally turned off and a set top box used to replace. Panasonic have added a feature set to their high end devices, and some diluted features to the lower, that will impress those out hunting for the living room replacement model. A combination of services that integrate with the users lifestyle to produce a truly Smart experience.

Much like an Xbox One, the new Panasonic has a built in camera with facial recognition and the ability to build a profile for each registered user. Once the user has been recognised, or selected when multiple users are in one place, the TV can, even from standby, show information pertinent to the user. Weather, social updates, relevant TV content and recommendations based around viewing habits. Smart TV features a user would benefit from, and not what a manufacturer wants to throw are the user on a clunky interface. Panasonic’s Mystream and Infobar are simple, elegant and useful without interrupting or imposing.

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Adding in the ability to stream to devices over 3G and 4G, scheduling and recommendations Panasonic is making extra effort to evolve the television into a companion to spend time with in your freetime. This is something other TV’s cannot boast. LG and Phillips have adtoped mature operating systems for their models in WebOS and Android however these are not specifically designed to deliver the content directly to you, however you need it. Running ontop of a specifically designed Quad Core Pro5 chipset the AX 902 can handle most anything required and the software runs smoothly without issue.

Panasonic’s Viera AX902 is a head turner if ever there was one. Less gimmicks that the other manufactures, more progress in delivering a better TV viewing experience. A team of engineers have built a TV they would want to use themselves, not one they that solely to please shareholders.

By August 29, 2014 Read More →

Excellent Ways to Speed Up Your Computer

59917_397977230306843_1517103048_n5Thanks to modern technology and the ability to access truly massive amounts of data, our computers are capable of feats that would have been unheard of only a decade ago. However, we must also remember that accessing the Internet and its terabytes of information will also rely heavily upon the speed of our computers. So, what are some sure-fire ways to boost our computing speeds with a minimal amount of effort? Let’s take a look at this question in a bit more detail.

 

Extra Memory

Do you find that your system seems to be running very slow? One of the reasons that this could be the case may be due to a lack of memory. In essence, we can think of storage capacity in the same way that we view a glass of water. Depending upon the size of the glass, there is only so much liquid that can be held. By increasing the memory of an operating system, we will likewise provide a greater storage capacity. This can help free up valuable hard drive space and increase overall speeds.

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Virus Scans

Another common reason that a computer is running slow could be due to the presence of a virus. This is especially the case if you have noticed a drastic drop in speed within a short period of time. If this is the case, there are many software packages which will scan your system and detect if any viruses are present. If this is indeed the case, removing the infected software will usually help increase the speed of your computer.

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Incoming Information

Another aspect that we should keep in mind is that the speed of a computer is partially based upon the type of Internet connection that it employs. For example, dial-up technology was only able to handle what we would today refer to as rather limited amounts of data. On the contrary, modern communications methods such as fibre optic broadband and wireless technology have enabled systems to enjoy millions of bits of information per second. This will obviously have a direct effect on the apparent speed of any device.

 

Housekeeping

One of the easiest ways to speed up your operating system is to regularly discard any items of folders that are no longer being used. Of course, you can perform this manually (although it may take a bit of time). Another option is to choose to “defragment” a hard disk. This will help to eliminate any files which are corrupted or otherwise useless. A final step is to reset the entire system back to an earlier date when it was operating more efficiently. However, be certain to back up any important files before you choose this option!

These are some of the easiest ways to increase the operating speed of your computer. As these systems offer many user-friendly aspects, most steps can be carried out with little hassle. So, be prepared to enjoy light-speed Internet access and download times!

 

Posted in: Editorial
By August 26, 2014 Read More →

4 Simple Steps to a More Ergonomically Friendly Workplace

shutterstock_182853062Back pain and other related symptoms are among the top 10 reasons workers visit a physician, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In many cases, this pain is a direct result of how we hold ourselves at our work stations. Referred to as ergonomic injuries, these typically include symptoms like discomfort or pain in the back, neck or shoulders; pain in the wrists or other parts of the body, tingling or numbness in the fingers or hands, and swelling and joint stiffness.

Whether you are  working, studying or have chosen opt for a microsoft e-learning course, then having the right workplace is essential.

As the University of California Riverside notes, these often-painful symptoms are the direct result of what are called ergonomic risk factors. These include things like sitting for a long time in an uncomfortable posture, straining the body, repetitive use of one part of the body, contact pressure, and exposure to vibration.

Fortunately, there are steps that business owners can take to help make the workplace as ergonomically friendly as possible. The following tips can help create a comfortable working environment that allows for maximum productivity along with a minimum of injuries:

Posted in: Editorial
By August 8, 2014 Read More →

Features your Free Business Email is Sorely Missing

8373031051_04ea3f7b90_zThere are a number of free email providers out there, and many are used by the general public. While they may be good enough for tiny businesses and for personal use, emails can be a very important part of the office day – and just choosing the free options means your business could be losing out on some key perks.

While Google and Microsoft might offer free emails, the fact is that they aren’t secure or efficient enough to use in business. Here are some key paid email features that are worth considering when choosing a business email provider.

 

Posted in: Editorial
By August 7, 2014 Read More →

3 Recruiting Tech Tools for Strategic Hiring

shutterstock_187011389Recruiting expert Dr. John Sullivan warns recruiters and hiring managers that as the economy improves, they will quickly be faced with new recruiting challenges. Some of those challenges include intense competition in recruiting, corporate growth that overloads current recruiting systems, out-of-date recruiting strategies, rusty hiring managers and recruiters, the wrong recruiting metrics, and lack of recruiting resources.

The recruiting process traditionally involves many steps and time-consuming processes. With the rise of social media and mobile technology, recruiters who designate time out of their schedule to hire will get to the top candidates before the competition. Companies must make strategic recruiting a priority to compete for the top talent they need, and recruiting technology can help make that happen.

Jobvite

Jobvite is an innovative recruiting platform that includes applicant tracking, recruiter candidate relationship management, and social recruiting modules. It enables recruiters and hiring managers solicit referrals, improve the speed and quality of hiring, provide a positive candidate experience, and reduce recruiting costs.

Jobvite’s modules are Refer, Engage, and Hire, designed for employee referrals, candidate relationship management, and a total staffing solution. Refer lets employers automate the employee referral process with tools to encourage and measure social recruiting, including real-time metrics and reporting, plus ATS integration so employers can use Jobvite Refer within their existing systems.

InsightSquared

InsightSquared is a sales forecasting tool that helps sales managers and business owners use their sales data to analyse and drive sales staff performance. They can use it to identify strong and weak performers and the areas they can improve. This is valuable in workforce management, giving companies the data they need to plan for training or getting rid of poor performers.

InsightSquared’s other features include dashboards and scorecards that make access to valuable data fast and easy, call data integration so sales managers can analyse sales calls by employee, and goal tracker.

iCIMS

iCIMS is an easy to use talent acquisition software that provides a comprehensive cradle to grave recruiting solution, all the way through onboarding, with social media integration and automated reporting.

iCIMS three suites consist of Recruit, Connect, and Onboard. Recruit is a social applicant tracking system that enables recruiters and hiring managers to cut time out of the recruiting process and quickly find and recruit top talent. It includes mobile-optimised career portals, unlimited job posting, employee referral programs, and EEO compliance tools to streamline applicant tracking, provide easy ways for candidates to apply online, and circulate job postings throughout the web to expand posting reach.

Connect is a tool to build a qualified candidate pool and keep candidates engaged until hire. It includes effective marketing processes that incorporate videos and social networking groups to help improve candidate experience and employment branding. Employers that stay connected to a managed pool of engaged passive candidates always stay ahead of recruiting needs.

Onboard is a total recruiting solution that incorporates social distribution, expanded job board posting, branded career micro-sites, video screening capabilities, and automated I9 forms and E-Verify processing.

Posted in: Editorial
By August 6, 2014 Read More →

Samsung Galaxy S5 Video Comparison

S5 ArtyThe Samsung Galaxy S5 has been out for a little while now and has met with some of the more mixed feedback we have seen for a flagship smartphone. There is always a battle of the camera and in a series of videos we hope to help you make your own mind up on which device has the best video quality for your needs.

Test video quality isn’t an easy thing, there are many factors to deal with, just as still shots. I find the best test is a dashboard mount as over a few minutes the camera will have to pull focus multiple times, deal with an extreme variety of light conditions and constant movement, not to mention shakes. In addition the microphone’s performance will also be put to the test with the constant background noise, whilst balancing vocal input.

The following are the Samsung Galaxy S5′s attempt to deal with a quick journey through my home town in my 3.0 litre pick-up truck on the four different settings available.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Ultra HD setting:

Samsung Galaxy S5 Full HD setting:

Samsung Galaxy S5 HD setting:

Samsung Galaxy S5 VGA setting:

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