HomeInsightsTech-Know – November 2012


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Tablet mini-frenzy Every time the Gnome tried to go to press on this edition of Tech-Know another tablet announcement arrived, and he had to update.  But that’s rather the same as being a tablet owner isn’t it?  Just after you’ve bought your new iPad they release an updated version, and you’re left holding a piece of history.  With the launch of the iPad Mini and Microsoft’s Surface, and the arrival at last of the Kindle Fire in the UK, the Gnome is pleased to say that there are now any number of padlets to choose from for Christmas. The contenders for favourites, other than the iPad Mini, are probably the Google Nexus 7, the Nook, the Microsoft Surface and the Amazon Kindle Fire HD. Tops for value are the smallest two: the 7inch Kindle Fire HD and the 16GB Google Nexus both compete at £159 (and you get the non-HD Fire for £129), whereas the iPad Mini and the Surface will cost you £269 and £399 respectively, although the Surface does have a keyboard built into its detachable cover.  The Kindle has Dolby audio, twin antennae like a beetle (inside) for faster downloads, and gives you unlimited free cloud storage for all your Amazon content.  Google’s version is very similar in spec but without the Dolby or same cloud storage. The mini iPad is the slimmest of the bunch and boasts 3G connectivity as well as Wi-Fi as an option, while the larger Surface is more of a business machine, running the new tablet version of Windows.  If you wait a little a 32GB Nexus 7 will be available with mobile connectivity for £239.  The Nook will be heavily advertised as the must-have e-reader, and the new GlowLight version is being sold with a wry smile as “amazing in bed”. If you can’t decide, Tablet Nation offers some good comparisons: http://tabletnation.com/.   Dear Father Christmas… Cogito Ergo Sum But have you heard of Ergo Electronics?  They make incredibly good value laptops and tablets, and the Gnome is proud to announce that they’re British.   This neat little 6-inch tablet is Ergo’s GoTab GBT6, and when it arrives in the shops (soon?)  it will apparently retail at only £59.  The Wi-Fi device will give users access to surf the Internet, send email, use of Facebook and Twitter, and it runs on Android Ice Cream Sandwich, so gives access to the 400,000-odd apps on Google Play.  It also comes with Hive e-reader software from Gardners (the book wholesalers) which allows you to assign your account to your local bookshop and give them a cut of the ebooks you buy. It only has 4GB onboard storage, but has a slot for a micro SD card for additional memory. Birmingham-based Ergo say they do tablets in almost size you like: 7inch, 8 inch, 9 and 10 inch, although at the moment the Gnome can find only the 7 and 10 inch on Amazon at £79 and £150 respectively. OM4G You can’t have missed the fact that 4G access is shortly to be made available in 11 of Britain’s major cities (limited coverage only for the moment) care of EE, or Everything Everywhere, and launched under the teenage-friendly tagline OM4G.  Of course you need a compatible phone, and there are only 4 or 5 models that are compatible at the moment.  EE got the go-ahead from Ofcom to launch their “superfast” coverage ahead of the other mobile operators on spectrum it already owns.  Other operators will buy necessary spectrum at auction early next year and launch their services by the end of summer 2013.  The 4G system was designed specifically for data carriage rather than voice, and so streaming video works more smoothly and at a better resolution. But the actual speed comparison between 3G and 4G will depend on many factors such as the number of users in a particular area, the proximity and number of local transmitters, and the bandwidth available to those transmitters.

BBC iPlayer Radio The BBC has launched a stand-alone iPlayer site (at www.bbc.co.uk/radio) and app for all its radio stations, so they no longer have to play second fiddle to the TV channel on the iPlayer. The app will give easy access to catch-up radio as well as a dial of live stations.  It even has an alarm clock which wakes you up with your chosen station.  The BBC’s promise is that the site and app will give it the opportunity to introduce video to accompany the radio experience, enable the BBC to give greater access to its radio archive, and introduce more social engagement to the radio experience. Dr Who in Ultraviolet

The Ultraviolet system was launched in December 2011 as a means to enable consumers to access content that they buy cross-platform, using the tagline “Buy once, play anywhere”, meaning that having bought the physical DVD, the consumer gets access to a digital copy which is held in the cloud and can be played freely on as many as 12 different devices. The consortium behind Ultraviolet consists of 75 companies and includes most of the major players in the content and media technology industries, including Warner Bros, Sony Pictures and Fox, Tesco, Sky, LoveFilm and Samsung. BBC Worldwide has just released its first four Ultraviolet DVDs titles, featuring the BBC’s headlines acts:  Dr Who (series 7 part 1), David Attenborough (60 Years in the Wild), Top Gear, and comedian John Bishop (Rollercoaster), thereby making Bishop officially part of the British establishment, whatever he may think.

Mind your Fingers with that Window

As reported in the last edition of Tech-Know, Windows 8 has a completely different interface to Windows 7: its panel system is designed for the touchscreen. So what we need is a touchscreen monitor, and here is LG’s offering. The 23 inch screen can, says LG, be used with all 10 of your fingers and thumbs at the same time. That’s called typing isn’t it?  There’s not much other information on this monitor yet, but the product will be on the European market some time next year.


With the Xbox being used more often as an entertainment hub than as a games player by users Microsoft knew they had to beef up their Zune music offering, and it’s finally here in the form of Xbox Music.  It’s hardly a standing start, then, and in fact Microsoft can claim a music library of around 30 million tracks, which if true beats both Spotify and iTunes, although let’s face it 29.9 million of those tracks you aren’t ever going to listen to are you?  Our Digital Entertainment Survey in March this year revealed that 35% of the population either own or have access to an Xbox, and another 7% intend to get one within the next 6 months, so there’s a massive potential audience for this service if it proves a worthy rival to the other two monsters of music.  Xbox Music will have free streaming, subscription streaming and download levels, and users will be able to synch their music across any other device running Windows 8 or Windows RT (the mobile version of 8).

Magnetic Apples

The website Patently Apple reports that Apple has been awarded a patent for a system of local communication between devices that rivals NFC (near field communication). The system works on the interaction between the magnetic fields created by compatible (obviously Apple) devices.   Apple notably did not include NFC technology in the new iPhone 5 so you can’t use it to buy that Big Mac and fries at your local McDonalds. Instead, try searching for a fellow iPhone owner to share your views on frying, and perhaps more (but not yet, you’ll probably have to wait for the iPhone 6 to enjoy that).

Planet Earth to be re-named

Facebook has announced that it now has over 1 billion users – that’s one in every seven people on our little planet.  And among the others stats released by Facebook to celebrate its global domination are that over half Facebook accesses are now by mobile, there have been 1.13 trillion “likes” to date and 219 billion photos uploaded, 140.3 billion friend connections, 62.6 million songs played some 22 billion times, and interestingly the top Facebook usage is in the emerging economies of Brazil, India, Indonesia and Mexico. The Gnome is wondering whether to join http://en-gb.facebook.com/gnometown.  Looks a bit suspect doesn’t it, like it’s not really run by gnomes.

The Ultimate Selfie While we’re getting on with stuff on earth, NASA’s rover Curiosity has sent back its best holiday snap yet from the red planet. In fact it’s 55 hi-res snaps worked together to show Curiosity enjoying the sunny weather in Gale Crater at the foot of the 3-mile high Mount Sharp.  Looks like life’s a beach on Mars.

Colour E-ink A Japanese consortium called Japan Display has developed colour screens that use reflected ambient light rather than backlight, like the ordinary Kindle’s e-ink display. While the colour resolution is not as fine as backlit LCD screens, the advantage of the new display is that like the Kindle, once the screen image is set the power consumption is minimal so battery life is greatly extended. The consortium is made up of Sony, Hitachi and Toshiba’s smaller screen divisions and the Innovation Network Corporation of Japan, which invested a $2.6bn in the joint venture, and now said to be the world’s largest LCD production business.

Beam me up Francois The EU Commission’s Community Research and Development Information Service (CORDIS) has launched an ambitious project to develop a system of beaming you from one place to another, just like in Star Trek.  The project really is called “beaming”.  OK you won’t actually disintegrate and re-integrate – instead your looks, shape, movements, characteristics (and for all the Gnome knows your smell) will be relayed to a remote robotic avatar which (who?) will become you. In return you will be able to hear, sense and experience the remote environment as if you are there. The project will involve the fusion of many different technologies including robotics, cybernetics, neurology, haptics, computer graphics and others, as there’s even an ethics committee which will consider the implications of people being and doing things in two places at once. It’s an ambitious project that won’t be delivering the results for a good while, inevitably.  So that’s why Dave wanted to increase our contribution to the EU budget…

Eh? What’s that then?

HAPTICS:  The technology of communication by meaning of physical touch.

And finally…

You’ve heard of the Terminator – this is the Popinator by Popcorn Indiana. Say the word “pop” and the Popinator will work out where you are, swivel its cannon to the correct angle, choose the correct elevation, and then fire your treat at you.  But it’s not all it seems.  The thing doesn’t yet exist as described, but who’s to say it’s a hoax when the company behind it claims that it’s a product “in development”?  A great piece of viral marketing that uses the power of the internet, and fun to watch: WATCH