Check out Jibo: the social robot

Here’s an interesting one. It’s a little robot called Jibo that can be your digital assistant. It’s fixed in one place but has a multitude of sensors to help it find out what’s happening in the world around it. It can see, hear and speak thanks to a couple of webcams, 360 degree microphones and natural language processing and can learn from the world around it to adapt to your daily patterns and actions. There are a couple of offerings that claim to do all this, but where Jibo is different is in that it communicates using moves and displays that are emotive and expressive to help make it more social and relatable. You can sign up to learn more at their website here: Jibo

In the meantime, if you want to learn more and figure out how to build for it, there’s an SDK available to figure out how to access Jibo’s motors, speech technology, facial recognition and tracking, touch input technology, and more. It also gives you an easy way to build Jibo Skills (robot applications) through animation and behavior editors. Check out the SDK at the Jibo Developer Portal.

In the meantime, check out this video showing how to use the SDK

Playing with Litecoin

So, after a foray into Bitcoin and NXTCoin, it’s time to play with some Litecoin. I got my hands on a Gridseed miner and wanted to play with it. Mining Bitcoin is getting exceedingly hard at the moment, so I picked Litecoin as a target to generate.

I eventually got my rig up and running using my Raspberry Pi:

2014-07-14 17.40.23

It’s happily running at 360MH. Will take a few years to cover the cost of the hardware, so not expecting to retire off my mining efforts anytime soon 🙂

I’m also taking another approach to mining, using a Digital Ocean droplet to do some cloud-based hashing. It’s nowhere as effective as an ASIC based approach, but it will be fun to see what a $5 a month server can do.

Learnt lots of stuff along the way, but happy that I’m confident with Litecoin 🙂 Oh, and if you have any running around that you want to send me, my address is: LhrVSVbxVgQp9fbYUKonCVRfpcCnKd9Dp3

Label your discs the professional way with CD printers

There are many sophisticated types of CD printer on the market today, making it simple and easy, as well as cheap, to print your designs on to CDs or DVDs.

Whether you are creating CDs or DVDs for home use or making copies to give to friends and family, of if you’re using them for business promotion or other uses, it is always preferable to have a good quality CD printer.

This is because the end result not only looks better but it’s safer to use. Some people just stick labels on their CDs or DVDs but these can often come off in the drive, whether in a computer or CD or DVD player, and damage the internal workings of the machine as bits of paper come off at the high speeds of rotation at which the players operate.

When fixing labels to discs using adhesive, the result can end up not uniform and the overall look can be sloppy and unprofessional. You don’t what that, even if it’s just for your own use, never mind the potential damage it could do to a player.

The beauty of CD printers is they allow you to fully customise your own labels for discs. You can choose what background you want, what images should be on it and also the text. When it’s printed, if you’re using a good CD printer, the results can be photo-quality and highly professional.

CD printers allow people the convenience of adding labels to their discs, in easy processes that are simple to understand and not time-consuming.

Another major benefit of CD printers is the cost factor. It’s usually much cheaper to print this way rather than going to the expense of getting separate labels made up and then sticking them on. You must, of course, make sure that when buying your stock of CDs or DVDs that they are printable, and compatible with the type of ink — normally inkjet — that the printer uses.

Designing your CD or DVD labels is simple with software especially designed for the purpose. Much of this software allows people not only to make labels for the discs themselves but also for the containers, such as plastic case covers. Inserts for the cases can also be created and printed, meaning you get an overall professional result.

Nowadays, with the advent of the digital camera and subsequent availability of powerful cameras on ubiquity smartphones, people are taking so many pictures – often dozens daily – that they cannot possibly hope to store or catalogue. The days of occasional family holiday snaps that can be easily housed in a few albums are long gone, and so many are turning to CDs and DVDs as a way to store their most important digital images.

To turn your discs full of precious images into great-looking keepsakes that you will have for many years, proper labelling is the only answer. CD printers allow you to effortlessly do that.

For more information on CD printing please visit the website:

Evohome – a step towards a smarter home!

As you probably know, I’m always looking for gadgets and devices to play with and having a smarter home is one thing that’s high up my list. I’ve been looking at Nest recently, but while I think it’s a really cool device, it doesn’t really allow you to easily split your house into zones that have different requirements. You know how it is, it’s nice to warm up bedrooms in the evening and early morning, but those areas don’t need to be heated during the day.

Well, recently Honeywell announced that they’re launching their evohome offering in the UK and this might just fit the bill. Besides controlling your boiler like Nest does, it also lets you split up your home into up to 12 zones that can be managing centrally; really allowing you to optimise your energy usage:


There are a number of cool features to evohome, the zoning ability is just one of them. Communication across all devices is wireless (868 MHz), which means you don’t need to run cables or mess around with wires to get your installation set up. All you need to do is install a central control unit and change the control on each radiator to Honeywell’s motorised radiator controls. Each radiator can be assigned to a particular zone, and then controlled centrally, either manually or automatically.

hero_device@2xEvohome does promise ultimate control. Not only does it come with a colour touchscreen (shown alongside), but there’s also a mobile app which allows you to control your heating from anywhere you may be. So, if you’ve taken the family out for the day, you can override the heating controls to leave the heating turned off while you’re out, saving a substantial amount of energy. In fact, Honeywell claim that upgrading basic timer and a thermostat controls to evohome smart zoning could deliver as much as 40% savings on heating your home. If you think about the rising cost of energy, a saving like that could be massive and can offset the price of an intelligent system like this.

So, what do the costs look like? The evohome Connected Pack includes the new colour touchscreen plus the boiler controller and the network gateway and has an RRP of £249. The radiator zone kits have an RRP of £77 and both items will be available for purchase in the UK from January 2014. The cost is not insubstantial, but it does allow full control of your heating in the same way you can control the electricity you use to light your house. If you had to compare current heating technology to lighting, at the moment you would be turning on all the house lights when it gets dark and turning them all off when you go to bed. Evohome lets you control room by room heating in the same way we control our lighting, turning it on when we need it and off when we don’t. Pretty exciting stuff!

Optical Image Stablization – Meet Lizzy!

What can we learn from Lizzy the chicken?

Great video huh? As you can imagine, this blog post isn’t really about a chicken, but about the LG G2, one of the top phones on the market today. There are a couple of features on this phone that make it stand out from the crowd, and one is this is the camera on the device. It’s a 13-megapixel camera, with scratch-resistant sapphire crystal glass to make sure quality doesn’t degrade as the phone gets older. The image stabilization tech is what really caught my eye though, the camera lens actually moves around to keep the image stable; a far superior method to digital stabilization techniques in my opinion. I also love the camera software that comes with the phone, particularly the ability to capture video off both the front and rear cameras simultaneously.

lg-feature-img-quickremoteThere’s another feature that caught my eye, one I’ve been wanting for some time now. The phone has an IR emitter that can mimic the remote control used by TV’s DVDs and other devices; meaning you can control all your equipment from one place. I guess this is also a convenient feature for controlling TVs where the controls are not within easy reach 🙂

The specs on the phone are pretty impressive. From the 2.26 GHz Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 800 Quad-Core Processor, the 5.2” Full HD 1080p display and my favorite, a 3000 mAh battery, which should keep the phone going for as long as you need. While these are awesome, there are a couple of innovative features I hadn’t seen before; there’s a button on the rear of the phone for example, and also the ability to wake up the phone by knocking on the screen. Without using these I can’t really vouch as to how effective they are, but it’s nice to see manufacturers trying something new.

So, tempted? For me, it’s right up there with the HTC One and the Samsung Galaxy S4 as one of the best phones to get right now! You can read more about it one the LG G2 site.

This post is sponsored by LG G2. However, I only tend to publish posts that I think my readers would be interested in, and with a phone as awesome as this, I had no trouble writing the post above.

Awesome Inflatable RC Android – hours of fun!

A few days ago I got my hands on a RC Inflatable Google Android ‘Pump and Play’ inflatable toy. As the name suggests, it’s an inflatable remote control device shaped like the Android mascot. And as my friend Nathan was so quick to point out, it’s not controlled by your Android phone, but rather by the supplier remote. (On a sideline, why is it so hard to find 9V batteries nowadays? Took me ages to get my hands on one!)

Anyway, back to the robot. Assembly was quite simple. With the kid’s “help”, we pumped up the robot then tried attaching the wheels and drive assembly. After a few minutes fiddling with it, I reluctantly dug out the instructions and discovered they have to be attached BEFORE inflating the robot. So we let it down, attached the wheels and pumped it up again. It took us a couple of days to try out, because the remote control needs a 9V battery and I didn’t have one handy, but once we got the robot going we had loads of fun. Being inflatable, the robot can take a certain amount of abuse, and our 3-year olds loved pushing him around. It also automatically rights itself (thanks to the heavier base), so can handle being knocked over or being driven off a step.

So, where did he come from? He was sent to me by a Gadget Website – Gadget Inspector, who have a huge collection of similar toys and gadgets, including a remote control R2-D2 for all the Star Wars fans out there. He normally retails for £49.99, but is currently at £27.99. You’ll have to hurry if you want one though, there are only 500 available in the UK (well 499 as I’m not giving mine up!)

If you want to see him in operation, here’s a video showing you all he does:

Much recommended!

Playing with my Watchbot

wb_black_1000pxSo, a couple of weeks ago I got my hands on a Watchbot, a wifi-connected webcam that can be controlled from your computer or your phone. I’ve been wanting to play with one of these for a few years now. You may remember the early days of the Internet, when webcams were a novelty; well, back then I had wanted to set up a fishcam, a webcam trained on my aquarium for the world to see. Well, we’re older and wiser now, so I’ve gotten over the whole fishcam idea, but with 3 year olds running around the house, a webcam is just perfect to keep an eye on them; and I’ve got the camera rigged up so I can watch them on my smartphone while I’m at work. How cool is that!

The Watchbot comes all packed in a box with all the bits you need. Setting it up was pretty simple; just a matter of attaching the wifi antenna, plug in the power adapter and hook it up to your router. The box includes some software, but as the configuration on the webcam can all be done using your browser I never got round to installing it. Pointing your browser at the webcam you are presented with a login screen, and once this is traversed you have a whole selection of configuration options, including the ability to see what the camera is seeing. This is where it gets really cool; the camera can be panned and tilted using the web interface, which means you can follow what’s going on in the room regardless of where it’s happening. It even has an option to automatically pan around the room and see what’s happening. Here’s what the control panel looks like: Watchbotcapture

One great feature of the camera is that it automatically configures itself to be available from outside your home network if you wish. It does this by using uPNP to configure your router to allow communication to the webcam, and publishing the details using a Dynamic DNS entry on the domain. All you need to do is take note of the URL, remember your username and password and you can view your webcam from anywhere you like. You can even get apps for your phone that make it really easy to watch what’s going on.

I’ve really enjoyed playing with this one, thanks to the Wifi, you can mount the camera anywhere you like in your house, all it needs is a power connection. You can even configure it to contact you if it detects motion. It even has sound and IR capabilities for night-vision. Everyone should have one of these 🙂

Oh yes, and if you’re getting one this month, use code WB730782 for a 50% discount from the Watchbot website