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REVIEW: Dux iPad Air case

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It's almost impossible to complete a daily commute in London without spotting someone using a sad looking phone with a badly bashed up screen.

Smashed iPads are spotted less frequently, but it has been done, and there's nothing sadder than squinting through a myriad of cracks as you try but fail to make out the latest episode of 'Game of Thrones' on the tube.

The Dux iPad Air case by STM bags promises military grade protection for your device to help you to avoid this very situation. This means drops from over 6 feet with no damage, and water resistance for clumsy days. It has been tested to 'meet or exceed' US Department of Defense Standard 810F/G durability tests, and hopefully that means it keeps your device totally safe.

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The case is quite heavy, and combined with the iPad feels weighty, but is still portable. It's very sturdy, and once you've put your iPad in it, there is no danger of it slipping out what-so-ever. The case adds a few millimetres to the outside of the device, but has very clear recesses exposing ports, speakers and microphones, and does not hinder their use. Unfortunately the same cannot be said about the volume and power buttons, which are enclosed in the case and can be quite difficult to press at times.

This isn't too much of a problem in terms of the power button, as the felt lined protective screen flap switches the iPad on when opened and off when closed to preserve battery. This magnetic flap also wraps around the side of the case, making it less likely to pop open if dropped. Sometimes the flap doesn't lay snug against the case, but this is easily solved by positioning it properly. You can see the back of your iPad through the clear rear panel, and STM suggests using this as an opportunity for customisation by inserting pictures.

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I tested the case with my iPad Air, and was told by STM that they weren't able to reimburse me if I dropped my device and broke it whilst using the case - although they assured me that a breakage was very unlikely. I dropped it a couple of times, and was brave enough to drop it on its corner from desk height and everything was fine. The sturdy corners prevented any damage and the screen didn't crack. I didn't want to tempt fate any further, so that's as far as my testing went. There are videos of more rigorous tests on their website, and I've included one below to show how durable the case really is:


Video: STM on YouTube

One criticism of the case is that the folding flap isn't very sturdy when folding it back to stand the case up. The case is meant to fold back and clip magnetically to allow you to stand the case for watching videos or typing. This didn't really work for me, and the case fell over a few times. 

All in all if it's durability you're looking for this case lives up to its promise of protection, and would better suit an environment where users are out and about or in danger of dropping the device during use. 

Huddle Note - File sharing for the future

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Huddle has launched a new app for enterprises to use as an alternative to Microsoft Office.

We've talked about Huddle before, and how it allow teams all over the world to work collaboratively on projects by sharing files and comments in the cloud.

Huddle Note iOS Screenshot 1.pngThe new Huddle Note application now allows teams to create, edit and store any content in the cloud, making sharing and cross-platform use easier. As explained by Huddle CEO Alastair Mitchell, it's a way for employees to share ideas wherever they are in the easiest way possible, without having to use other application or software.

He said: "People don't want to waste time skipping between apps, battling with legacy word processors, and then uploading documents to the cloud to share them with co-workers - especially when they're quick notes such as brainstorm ideas and meeting minutes. 

"With Huddle Note, we're adding an easy-to-use and intuitive way to capture content in Huddle, giving people a simpler, faster, mobile alternative to Microsoft Office and other bloated legacy offerings."

New features in the app include: creating and editing documentation in the cloud, sharing any content instantly with others and commenting and feedback. The app also has Huddle security features and an audit trail of activity so you can see when your documents have been read by others.

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This move away from "Jurassic systems" (Mitchell's words, not mine) will give workers everywhere a chance to share their ideas and be more productive in an environment where there's proper support available. 

With the workforce slowly becoming more and more dispersed, with people working from home, abroad or even on public transport, it's exactly what people need.

The new Huddle iOS application is also free to download from the appstore, so why not give it a go yourself? 

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Top five BYOD problems and app solutions

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Since the advancement of mobile technology, an office environment has become less and less important in business. Everyone would rather use their mobile or iPad to do their work and the need for corporate issue devices has become less important.
 
But Bring Your Own Device schemes aren't without their problems; employees often overwork or compromise the security of office data. So here's a list of common B.Y.O.D issues, and apps that can help to fix them. 
 
1.      Mobile device management and data protection

Security is the top priority for firms when considering external devices to be used for company business. If mobile device management is not handled properly, this can lead to stresses such as restricting the apps that employees can use on their own phones, which could lead to discontent.
 
This can be resolved by an app that acts as a virtual machine to allow the employee to connect to the office network within a secure environment, such as AppSense's MobileNow or the VMWare Mobile Secure Desktop. This allows the corporations a level of control over security and the device being used and the employee can still use their device as normal; safe in the knowledge that they can do whatever they want with it.

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2.      Device and data loss

Losing your device can be stressful enough without the added possibility of comprising any company data. That's why it is always handy to have an app that will help you find your lost device, such as Find My iPhone. There is also a risk of losing data. Corporations have many safe-holds in place to ensure that work is easily recovered if it is lost; something that many home-users don't consider. If you don't have a device that allows automatic cloud backup then looking into a way to keep data safe is highly advised, even if that is in the form of something as simple as SkyDrive.
 
3.      Over or under working

Bring Your Own device schemes work well for companies, as they allow employees to utilise their time and ensure that they are working whenever possible. But this can cause issues when the employee feels that they are putting more than their fair share of time, especially as the ability to work anywhere often means time spent at home is also spent working.
 
Similarly, when using your own device at work instead of a company-issued machine, there's the temptation to check personal e-mails and get sidetracked by whatever you might use your device for at home. An app such as HoursTracker can easily resolve this, as you can log the hours that you have been working, and what you have been working on, so that you can find out exactly how much time you spend working, and how often it exceeds the amount of time spent in the office.  

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4.      Lack of structure

Merging work life and home life can make it difficult to keep track of projects and tasks due to the lack of re-enforced work structure. As they say "Tidy desk, tidy mind" so understandably if half of your work is done away from the desk, it wouldn't be unusual to find it hard to organise your workload. Applications that already exist on most phones can help with this, such as a calendar. For a more project-oriented app, there's the LiquidPlanner, which allows projects to be planned, and scheduled amongst users, and notes and documents to be shared, to ensure that both employees and corporations are maximising their productivity.
 
5.      Lack of monitoring

Companies will want to have as much control over devices as possible, especially as data exchanged via devices brought from home could lead to a security risk if misused. But this can be an issue with employee owned devices, as they will want to have the freedom of using their device without interference from the company that they work for.

Innovations such as the Samsung Knox and the Blackberry Balance could be the future of B.Y.O.D technology, allowing one device to act as two separate devices, using an app that provides a complete work space which is separate from any personal use of the device, providing the perfect work and home balance. 

Perhaps this is a glance into the future of business?
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CES 2013 REVIEW: Tech Tips precision stylus

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Pop the piece of plastic on the end of your finger tip and make sure you practise for a little while. It's a bit tricky to get the angle right in order to make a connection with the screen, but these Tech Tips from a US start-up company try to compensate for sloppy handwriting and difficulties when clicking on tiny webpage links while using your smart device.

This fairly good idea, if not quite implemented as well as I would have liked, trying the tips out on my iPhone with a screen protector, proved a little sluggish (see video). My colleague tried them on a Samsung Galaxy S3, which worked considerably better, however the hard keys at the bottom of the device - which still require sensitivity to work - didn't work as well as your actual finger when being used with the Tech Tips.


The tip of your finger gets a bit sweaty from the plastic and it is not that precise when writing - so my handwriting wasn't great, but it was better than when using your finger tip.

However, it is great when you're on a website which has not been optimised for mobile use and the hyperlinks are really tricky to select with the pad of your finger.

Another problem is, how do you measure your finger tips to know what size to ask for, small, medium or large?

Capacitive touchscreens do not actually detect touch, but instead detect the presence of an electrically conductive object. Tech Tips have included this technology into small pieces of plastic to produce an electrical conductor that smart devices will recognise.

The company is looking to have discussions with UK distributors in the coming weeks, and Tech Tips will also be available on Amazon within the months.

At this point the individual retail cost for a single Tech Tip stylus is $3.49n (£2.17) and $9.99 (£6.21) for a multi-pack of four.

The company has also demonstrated Nano Nails - fake nails which include this technology. I don't wear fake nails myself, but I can see these as a really great idea that could take off as my friends tell me how difficult it is to use their phones when wearing ludicrously long pieces of plastic.

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Image: Tech Tips Nano Nails

Still in beta mode, the Nano Nail doesn't have official pricing as yet, however, they are expected to be around $10-12 (around £7) for 4-5 pack of nails. The company is currently still in the process of testing out the technology, for instance a set of nails which were worn for a week needed touching up with the nail polish, and Tech Tips is currently looking to see how the technology withstands to nail polish remover.

What other objects conduct the electrical impulses needed to work a touchscreen device? 

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REVIEW: Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K760, £69.99

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Does your over-worked Mac deserve a Christmas present or perhaps a New Year's sprucing up?

Well this is an environmentally friendly solar keyboard from Logitech works on Mac, iPhone or iPad. It uses solar panel technology to power the device and also allows you to connect to three of your Apple devices, allowing the user to switch between typing a text message to typing up on your iPad or Mac.

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Computer Weekly's sub editor, Phil, gave this gadget a go on his Mac and iPhone and his first impression was that it reminded him of the classic Casio calculator watch, not sure if that's a good or a bad thing? Inspect-a-Gadget went to ask him a few more questions...

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Q. So Phil, what were your initial thoughts, other than its nostalgic appearance of a gadget from the 80s?

A. It was a bit fiddly to set up and I needed to consult a tech product manual for the first time in a long time. But it actually turned out to be relatively straightforward to get going. It was no difference in terms of typing than my regular keyboard.

Q. Did you find the solar panel effective?

A. I was surprised that it does not seem to be affected by working in a gloomy office in December, but it does take slightly longer that my regular keyboard to wake up in a morning.

Q. How was it switching between Apple devices?

A. The Mac would take a couple of seconds to register, but the switch over to the iPhone was very speedy. However, the functionality is quite limited, meaning that you can't tab between things on your iPhone. You can type a person's name to send them a text message, but you can't then tab down to write in the message box, you have to go back to touching your iPhone's screen.

Otherwise, you have the home button functionality and you can also control your music from the keyboard, the Mac also has a Mission Control button which shows all your open windows.
Switching between devices would be useful in a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) environment if working on your iPad and a Mac at your desk.

Q. So marks out of five?

A. I'd give it two, loses marks for being quite ugly and doesn't provide me with any more functionality than my regular keyboard. Its extra functions are ill-conceived and it's not very useful at all.

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On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me... a Buffalo MiniStation Air

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We are seeing increased demand on devices such as tablets to be used on the move, but with the average high-end amount of storage in tablets being around the 64GB mark, there is a need for a more portable storage solution, for those who work with large amounts of data.

The Buffalo MiniStation Air is hoping to be a solution to this problem, by providing 500GB of storage for data on the move. The handheld device is compatible with PC, Mac, and also tablets and smartphones through the use of an app. Cleverly, the device has its own internal wireless data connectivity, which allows you to stream to and from your devices while on the move. It also transfers data very quickly from your PC or Mac thanks to its USB 3.0 connectivity. 

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My first hurdle was turning on the device. There are two buttons on the side of the device, and I couldn't tell if the device was out of battery, or if I wasn't pressing the correct button, or even pushing it hard enough. I managed to switch it on a couple of times and it worked, but then I tried the same button to switch it on again and it wouldn't, so I resigned to giving it a good charge before trying again. 

Again, I had trouble with the button, but after pressing it a few times, a couple of lights came up on the shiny black surface to indicate that it was on and that the WiFi was working. I then connected the gadget to my mobile device, by turning on the wireless and typing in the key which is on the back of the gadget. I then downloaded the accompanying app and was ready to give it a whirl. 

I was testing it out using my iPhone 4, and annoyingly the app kept crashing which soon became very irritating. I figured out that if I didn't click on things too quickly and allowed the app a little more time to think, it wouldn't throw a hissy-fit and chuck me out of the application. But as soon as I became used to the layout of the app again, I'd pick up speed in accessing the files, and yet again I would be chucked out of the app!

When I did manage to spend more than 30 seconds at a time inside the app, I found it well organised. Data can be transferred from your computer onto the device in the same way as an external hard drive or USB stick. You could also add data from your mobile device onto the MiniStation Air, and also transfer data from the MiniStation Air onto your mobile device.

I was also really pleased with accessing photos, music and videos because it was extremely quick and easy to do so. There was an added joy that while watching videos, the wireless connection was so good that I didn't need to wait for any length of time for it to buffer.

For £100, you get a fair bit of storage for your money, however the fundamental bugs with the iOS app was very disappointing, but hopefully something that can be quickly fixed with an update. 

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On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me... a Nexus 7 tablet

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MicroScope's Alex Scroxton takes the improved 16GB Google Nexus 7, widely seen as the tablet to beat in the 7 inch form factor space, for a test swipe.

With a couple of weeks remaining until the big day, Christmas 2012 looks like being the year of the 7 inch tablet, with offerings from Amazon, Apple and Google, among others, vying to be the belle of the ball. I took Google's 16GB Nexus 7 - widely regarded as the one to beat in the 7 inch space - out for a spin to find out what all the fuss is about.

First things first, physically speaking this is a nice gadget. It feels well put together and definitely better quality than its £159 price point would suggest, clearly Google's OEM partner Asus has put some work into this baby.

The power button and volume controls are tucked away discretely on the side while its micro USB slot, 3.5mm headphone jack and speaker are down at the bottom. The whole is backed with a dimpled, sealed plastic back, which is pleasant to hold, doesn't show up fingerprints, and gives you the impression that the thing could take a couple of knocks if it needed to, although I didn't test that out...

The seven inch screen with 1280 x 800 resolution is a pleasure to look at in most conditions, and of superior quality to some more expensive tablet options. Video played smoothly and looked great.

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Under the bonnet an nVidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor and a gig of RAM once again gives the Nexus 7 comparable oomph to something much more expensive. In short, it's quick and slick.

However it's not all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows; the lack of a microSD card slot will be a drawback if you want to beef up the storage capacity, and although Google is really pushing its cloud storage options with the Nexus 7, limited connectivity options on the basic 16GB model mean that when on the move you can't actually get at anything unless you plug into someone else's Wi-Fi or use your smartphone as a portable hotspot. This could get very expensive very quickly unless, like me, you are lucky enough to have an all-you-can-eat contract, so for a mobile worker the Nexus 7 might not be the one.

Speaking of the Wi-Fi, the Nexus 7 does occasionally have difficulty connecting to a network. On a two hour train ride to Birmingham it resolutely refused to have anything to do with my phone's  Wi-Fi, although this feature worked fine later on, and when I got to my destination - a castle in Shropshire if you were wondering - it struggled, although that may have been more down to the thick, 17th century stone walls than any failing on the Nexus 7's part. It turns out Oliver Cromwell didn't foresee mobile computing. Who knew?

The other issue on my snag list was with the 1.2MP top-mounted, front-facing camera, which is disappointing as a camera and really-badly designed for video chats - using Skype in landscape mode I had to hold the tablet at an awkward angle.

Setting up the Nexus 7 was a breeze. It was up and running in seconds flat and after I had tapped in my Google account details off it went and got me every app I use on my Samsung Galaxy and applied a sneaky Android OS update into the bargain! This turned out to be a blessing only up to a point, for as much as I appreciated having immediate access to Facebook, Twitter and so on, a week later I'm still finding and deleting some of T-Mobile's bloatware. You should also note that app availability for the Nexus 7 on 4.1 Jelly Bean is not yet great, and I was forced to give up, among other things, the BBC iPlayer.

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That said the Tegra in the tank means that the overall user experience can't be beat; with the majority of apps working quickly and smoothly and some, such as YouTube, seeming tailor made for the Nexus 7.

All-in-all, the Nexus 7 is a perfectly cromulent tablet and more than holds its own in the increasingly crowded 7 inch space. Would I buy one in a BYOD splurge? Probably not; for business use the 3G-enabled big brother will serve you better when Wi-Fi can't be found, but for personal use you could be paying much, much more for much, much worse.

Google recently extended its family of Nexus devices to include "small, medium and large". The existing Nexus 7 tablet now comes with 16GB or 32GB of storage as well as offering a version with mobile connectivity. The 7 inch tablet is also joined by the Nexus 4 smartphone and the larger tablet, the Nexus 10.

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On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me...MyTV2Go-M

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This nifty little gadget is an aerial which plugs into your iPad or iPad, locates freeview channels and plays them straight to the screen - no excuse to miss all your favourite Christmas specials this holiday season.

I was a bit dubious about the MyTV2Go-M, I use my iPad mainly for streaming programmes from LoveFilm and iPlayer or watching films, and I didn't think that this very small device would provide a decent quality picture. I was proved wrong.

Once the MyTV2Go was charged via a USB port, it took about two minutes to plug it in, download the requested app and start watching TV programmes live. It quickly searched and found the majority of freeview channels such as BBC, ITV, E4 and Dave and after a few seconds of crackling, produced a sharp, clear picture.

The app itself is very useful; it gives you information about channels and upcoming programmes, while also giving you an option to record shows (as long as the application is open at the time).

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The device's internal battery only lasts for two hours of viewing , alternatively you can change the settings to use the iPad to charge the device, which the manufacturer says will provides nine hours in airplane mode.

And the other reason why this gadget is such a good idea, is that you don't need the internet to stream, as it works via a TV signal. No hunting for a WiFi network or using up your precious data allowance again.

Available from £79.99 upwards from online retailers such as Play.com, Amazon and eBay.

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me... a pair of touch screen gloves

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Now these are not a new innovation - since the arrival of capacitive touchscreen devices, these handy gloves appear every winter. I've tried a couple of products so far which are a bit "stop-start" and not very effective.

A good little stocking filler, these gloves work better than the others I've tried, allowing all ten of your cosy digits will work on your touchscreen, rather than just your forefinger and your thumb.

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Touchscreen gloves have a tendency of not really working while texting, and I must say that these are also a little hit and miss.

They're not the thickest of gloves, so wouldn't be very useful in the coldest of weather, but great on the bus the way to work as they won't sweat your fingers off either.

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Available in medium and large sizes in a range of colours starting at £12.99, from the TouchAbility site - they are a little pricey as you can find these types of gloves in Poundland these days; however, they are the best that I've tried.

What other objects can you use to operate your touchscreen? My colleague, Matt, conducted an very scientific experiment, with surprising results!

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me... a Filofax iPad case

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I'm an iPad user who also likes to use a pen and paper to take notes and I love the comfort of writing appointments in a traditional diary, although it is something I tend to do less and less these days.

My first impression of the Filofax Pennybridge case was: "I need this on my Christmas list - it weighs a lot and would not fit in my brand new handbag - but I need it in my life."

I was even happier when I realised that the organiser is removable from the case, making the product lighter, however kind of defeating the point.

My colleague, who is known for not being Apple's biggest fan, said: "I don't even have an iPad and I want one. I want to buy an iPad just to have one!"

Just some slight enthusiasm there then.

So, there you have it, Filofax, known for its high quality organiser range, has done it again - produced a luscious product that we don't really NEED, but we really really WANT.

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It's one of those products that in the heat of the moment you think will change your life, however come February 1st, you will have probably resigned back to your Outlook calendar. That doesn't mean it isn't any less desirable, come on - imagine the jealous stares when you get this out in the boardroom? Additionally, as the organiser inserts are replaceable, this can be used year after year.

It is rather heavy as it has a full A5 filofax organiser inside, which is removable, as is the A5 ruled notepad. As a journalist, I tend to carry a fair few things around with me when out and about at events, having the option to carry a case which could potentially hold my iPad, pens, a notepad and my phone, is an excuse to buy one in my eyes.

It also has slots for cards inside and a useful outer back pocket to slot things in. Additionally the case has thought about the ergonomics of the iPad and has included a hole for the camera.

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I think this would be a lovely gift for someone who uses an iPad frequently for work and who is in need of a new diary this Christmas (*cough cough* - yours truly). Some tablet users would think it was counter-productive to have a tablet AND a notepad, but sometimes there are instances when only good old fashioned paper and pen will do the job.

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Negatives would be that if you do slip out the organiser section, the back cover to it doesn't match the rest of the case - it's made of black plastic and cheapens the product a bit.

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It's also a shame that you can't choose your organiser inserts, for example the paper colour and the type of diary, week to view, day to view etc.

It would be nice to see this organiser come in different sizes for different tablets, but that is unlikely to happen. With iPad still dominating in the accessories market, Filofax has obviously easily seen the opportunity in going down this route.

The Filofax Pennybridge comes in a gorgeous plum colour, as well as black and red in "leather-look" for £59.00.

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