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I've had an issue with laptop bags for quite some time. Either they're too bulky, heavy, not in anyway attractive, or look so much like a corporate laptop bag they should have been embroidered with "STEAL ME NOW" on the front in glitzy letters.
However, my main niggle with laptop bags is the way they weigh down on one shoulder and inevitably end up falling off your blazer-clad shoulder and awkwardly landing in the crook of your elbow mid commute.
What I hate most about travelling to America for work is the huge, heavy laptop bag that weighs on my shoulder in the hour-long queue for customs State-side. Especially in this scenario, it's never just your laptop and its charger, you have a multiude of travel items, as well as business paraphernalia to get you through the trip. I think it is the laptop bag, rather than the nine hour flight that makes me want to hit the hotel mini bar as soon as I've collapsed on my king size bed.
While i-stay doesn't magically reduce your ancient 6kg laptop into a feather light ultrabook, it does distribute the weight across the whole of your shoulder.
In fact the College of Chiropractors has actually commended the i-stay for its potential to help users avoid musculoskeletal discomfort and to minimise the aches and pains associated with carrying a heavy shoulder bag.
The detatchable strap has two adjustment buckles which allows the special patented i-stay non-slip stap to stay in the centre and comfortably on your shoulder. The strap can be adjusted to a very generous amount, allowing it to easily slip over your head and across your shoulders which distributed the weight even better. However, a larger person might find this option a little snug.
I've been using the messenger bag for a few weeks now and I've found it incredibly useful - and not once has it slipped off my shoulder as I run for the tube.
Feather light on its own, the laptop organiser bag has five zipped compartments. The main one in the middle has a specific secure foam area for your device, while the other compartments allow you to store A4 notepads; magazines; tablets; and smaller items in the front two zipped areas.
The bag also has two handles which are comfortable to hold, even for longer periods of time. I found myself swiftly picking up the bag by these handles while commuting on the tube, and using the longer strap while out in the open air.
It's black. It's not particularly attractive, but yours will stand out next to the other array of bags out there with its red target-looking logo.
The company also sells a traditional laptop bag, and a rucksack version, as well as 10-inch bags for notebooks or tablets, and a messenger bag.
The laptop organiser bag from the review is £49.99, but the non-slip straps can also be bought individually for £12.99 making a healthy spine affordable.
"As the Custard Cream presentation moved into its third hour, the team found their enthusiasm regarding the choice of next week's office biscuits waning."
Congratulations Mark - enjoy your prize!
For the last few years I've used a Logitech Harmony 1100 universal infrared remote to control various devices around the house.
Logitech is moving away from such remotes due to the popularity of tablet computers and smartphones as universal devices. But tablets and smartphones generally don't include infrared ports, so they cannot be used to control home entertainment systems and TVs that rely on infrared remotes control codes.
The Harmony Smart Control is Logitech's answer - a gadget that translates Wi-Fi into infrared codes and bluetooth commands (for games consoles). It uses a gadget called the Harmony Hub in conjunction with a smartphone app, available both on the Apple AppStore and Google Play marketplace.
Logitech uses an online database of remote codes, to simplify the setup. Initially, you plug the Harmony Hub into a spare USB port on a PC or Mac and create an account on Logitech's MyHarmony.com portal. To get going you need Microsoft Silverlight and a plugin, both of which are available direct from the MyHarmony.com portal.
From here you can setup devices and associate activities - such as listening to music or watching a DVD - with a set of devices. For instance, to watch a DVD, you may need to switch on the TV, DVD player and surround amplifier, then select the right video and audio sources as inputs to get sound and picture from the DVD player.onto the TV.
This probably sounds quite complicated, but it is intuitive, especially if you have setup other Harmony remotes. Previous Harmony remote owners can also use the MyHarmony.com portal to transfer their remote settings to the Harmony Hub.
To complete the setup, you select Sync to send the configuration to the Harmony Hub. It can now be disconnected from the USB port, then plugged in to a power socket where it can relay infrared codes to your Hi-Fi, TV and other devices.
The above image shows the Android app running my "Watch TV" activity, which took a matter of seconds as Logitech automatically downloaded the relevant channels for Freeview.
Generally, I found the Harmony Hub easy to setup, but there were no actual instructions. You are told to log into MyHarmony.com. Personally, a step-by-step guide would have helped. For watching TV, the Channel logos are a good touch and the learning IR codes function works well.
But using my Nexus 7 with the Harmony Hub is no replacement for a dedicated remote control. Battery life is poor compared to the Harmony 1100, which would last almost a week on a full charge. I was also unable to create a custom screen on the app, with favourite buttons - something that was easy on the Harmony 1100.
In theory, the Harmony Hub can work work with any infrared device. For instance, I was able to control a Varlight infrared light dimmer. It would be brilliant if the Harmony Hub could accept commands remotely, ie not just over Wi-Fi, to control gadgets remotely from the MyHarmony.com portal. Imagine being able to link home to the internet cost-effectively. For the Logitech Smart Control and Harmony Hub to succeed I think Logitech needs to open up the platform to enable third-party developers to create apps that build on the MyHarmony portal. For now, however, it is a £109 add-on for a smartphone or tablet, that, in my opinion, is not as good as a dedicated universal remote control.
We have a Logitech Business BCC950 Conference Cam up for grabs.
We reviewed this nice little bit of kit last year and were suitably impressed...
Logitech claims that its ConferenceCam bridges the "small meeting gap" in the market. It accommodates groups of 3-4 people without them having to sit each other's laps. This removes the need for a large scale meeting room video system which can be very costly. It is also surprisingly light; weighing 568g it can easily be picked up and taken into a meeting room.
Additionally, this device would suit home workers, enabling employees to have meetings using software such as Skype in full HD clarity.
All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning the prize is come up with a caption for the following image:
We've all been there, so hopefully there will be plenty of inspiration. Make sure you comment on this blog post below (make sure you register with your email address so we can contact you if you win)
Closing date for the competition is midnight on the 30th of June and the winning caption will be chosen by the Computer Weekly team. Judges decision is final
This competition is open to UK residents only.
Terms and conditions
- This competition is open to all UK residents aged 18 or over except for employees of TechTarget and Logitech and their immediate families.
- The competition closes on July 30th 2013 at midnight.
- Each participant can only enter the competition once.
- The prize will be awarded to the individual that comes up with the best caption for the photograph.
- The winner will be chosen by ComputerWeekly.com.
- The winner will be notified by email.
- No cash alternatives are available.
- Entering the competition is free. No purchase is necessary.
- The ComputerWeekly.com's decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
- The name of the winners will be posted on Inspect-a-Gadget and will be contacted by email within 30 days of the competition deadline. All email notifications will be sent to the email address provided by participant entering the competition. The participant must respond to email notification within 14 days of the email notification. Unclaimed prizes will be forfeited and a new winner will be chosen.
Entrants can contact ComputerWeekly.com with any questions at the following email address: email@example.com with the subject of the email 'Logitech COMPETITION.' But all competition entries must be submitted via commenting on the blog post.
By entering the competition, entrants are deemed to have accepted these terms and conditions.
Relying on your name, brand and reputation is a dangerous tactic, one that Nokia and Blackberry know all too well.
Some of the absolute garbage and speculation I read regarding next generation products makes me want to walk across a field of lego pieces while setting mouse traps off on my fingers, all so the pain can help me forget what I've just consumed with my eyeballs.
However, when a company does actually make a significant change, like Apple when it revealed the redesigned "EarPods", can it bring old customers back, as well as tempt new users?
In comparison to the old earphones, the EarPods supersede them in every aspect, ascetics, build quality, sound quality and even name stupidity! For me, the old earphones were one of the worst things about the previous generation of iPhones and other iDevices.
I mean, there are other options out there on the market. Like with any product there are alternatives, varying in features and price point.
Immediately you can see that Thinksound are an eco-friendly company, with the packaging made solely from 100% recycled materials. Even the earphone casings, which look very striking, are made of renewable wood.
The second noteworthy thing about these audio offerings from Thinksound is the weight, up there with the lightest earphones I've ever slipped into my lugs at 12g.
The ts02's earphones also come with a mic, but unlike the EarPods, it doesn't have a volume control. Another noticeable difference is that the mic didn't pick up the sound as well as it should. The ts02's are a world apart from the Apple equivalent costing substantially more at around £75 but bringing a much more wholesome and well-rounded sound to the table.
The Sony product sits in the middle price bracket at around £39 but they come without a mic. They come off as mildly futuristic with a hollow ear loop to hold them securely in place. To look at you'd think they were uncomfortable but that was only the case when worn for extensive periods.
The XBA-C10s blow the EarPods out of the water in terms of noise cancellation and actual in-ear comfort but they did leave me a little disappointed, they look like they deliver more of a punch than they do.
The balanced armature driver tucked away inside the earpiece does however mean they come out on top of the Apple EarPods in terms of overall sound quality. Mainly thanks to the 100dB/mW sensitivity which ensures minimum distortion as you crank up the volume.
The EarPods suit many people down to the ground, those who want adequate and functional performance, with the ts02's matching up best with the environmentally conscious looking for something a little different, and finally, the Sony earphones are ideally built for use in hectic workplaces or the gym.
So back to using Apple as the example for the original question, I was very surprised that (back in September) they redesigned and substantially improved their earphones in the first place and it did restore a little faith. Ultimately though, the improvements were only such that there are still more appropriate options out there catering to specific tastes, many of which merit the increased costs. And you've just been introduced to two examples above.
For a small to medium business having trouble with Wi-Fi connections, this is a problem which can actually stop you dead in your tracks, or at least make you much less mobile than you would like to be.
If you have a conference room that isn't able to connect to the network or your office space might be on different levels causing connectivity issues, the solution can become costly and disruptive.
I had a similar situation at home, where my home router was just not powerful enough to travel a distance of several metres through walls and upstairs. The Buffalo Powerline Adapter came to the rescue, no need to drill holes and extend cables, or even buy a stronger router.
This solution was definitely a "plug-in-and-go" product. The box comes with two chunky units: use the Ethernet cable to plug from your router into the first unit and then plug it straight into the wall, I then took the second unit upstairs and plugged it into a second outlet. Within two minutes I was streaming HD content in areas of the house which were previously complete blackspots.
The units both come with individual access codes, so theoretically it can act like setting up a guest network for your business.
The technology runs the internet at top speeds of 500 Mbps through the home electricity grid - pretty clever if you ask me. And the whole solution couldn't be easier to set up.
At a price of ￡46.99 including VAT, it is a very cheap answer to your connectivity woes.
Now this was by far the coolest gadget I saw at The Gadget Show Live this week: Microsoft's Kinect for Windows software development kit, Kinect Fusion.
After all the (well-deserved) hype over 3D printers, I was seriously impressed to have a play with a 3D scanner which used only a Windows PC Kinect and this free developer software.
The software works by taking multiple images and fusing them together to create a 3D scan. It is still in beta developer mode, so can be subject to glitches, but it's a great way to allow people to have a go with this technology.
I got my head and shoulders scanned by the Kinect and the next moment it turned up on the screen in front of me. It took a while to get it right, as it seemed a bit sensitive as I twirled around on the spot many many times. But finally I saw a morphed version of myself on the screen. This image can then be manipulated in 3D on the computer and sent through to 3D printer to print out. While the scanning process took only a few seconds, once we got the technique right, the printing takes an hour or so to print a miniature head - sadly I wasn't allowed to have a mini-me printed out.
In order to show you how this worked, I asked an unsuspecting, yet curious, passer-by to give it a go so I could film the process:
Take one regular Gadget Show visitor:
The fundamental Boogie Board technology has been around for 20 years under the name Kent Displays, but for the last two years the company has concentrated on producing touch slates which replace the need for paper notebooks.
The cholesteric liquid crystal display (ChLCD) screen was developed out of the company's R&D, and the slates remind me of a darker Kindle screen.
English: The Taj Mahal, complete with ripples in the reflection (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The basic slate requires no power to generate or retain an image, and only a small amount to erase (supplied by a small watch battery, which will execute over 50,000 erase cycles).
The next stage Boogie Board (£80) connects to a computer via a micro USB, and as you write on the slate it can be seen replicated on the computer screen, alternatively it can be written away from the computer, connected and saved before erasing. I also played around with a prototype of the next generation device, which will be launched in Q4 2013, giving the Boogie Board wireless connectivity via Bluetooth.
It's not particularly glam, or sleek like a tablet, but I can definitely see the appeal in utilities, call centres and in health care.