Take your pet into the office on #BringYourDogToWorkDay

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Friday June 23rd is Bring your Dog To Work Day!

Today (Friday 23rd June 2017) marks national Bring Your Dog to Work Day. Obviously if you work as a bus driver or in a hospital that might not be particularly practical. But for a lot of office workers taking a dog into work can add to the positivity and productivity of your workplace.

Personally I’ve always loved dogs and would welcome them in any office, any day of the year. It’s also much better for the dog than being stuck at home by him or her self. However, I mostly work from home so it’s not so much of an issue anymore. 

You can get involved in the conversation online with the hashtag #BringYourDogToWorkDay and see the dogs of the UK’s workforce in the office! 

You can also see the four main benefits of bringing your dog into work here.

Samsung Futurescape – What is the ‘new normal’?

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Most people probably know Samsung best for its range of mobile phones, but it’s fair to say that the Korean giant offers a wide range of tech solutions for businesses as well as consumers.

Recently I went along to the manufacturer’s Futurescape event on behalf of The Daily Telegraph to see how Samsung is working with companies on everything from Virtual Reality to Artificial Intelligence.

For example, one of Samsung’s partners is Thomas Cook which is introducing Gear VR headsets in some of its 700 stores to help bring holidays and holiday excursions to life when people are thinking about booking them.

Other exhibits at this year’s Futurescape included a start-up estate agent that is using VR to guide people through homes and a company using wearable devices, such as Samsung’s Gear 3 smart watches, to alert retailers if a VIP walks into the building.

Says Graham Long, Vice President, Samsung Electronics, UK and Ireland: “I used to apologise to our enterprise customers about Samsung being a predominantly business to consumer brand and our lack of business heritage, but now the behaviour of the market has swung completely to our advantage.”

You can read the full article here.  Or see the content from the newspaper below.

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Daily Telegraph: Companies need to be more active in dealing with cyber security threat

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Too many companies take a compliance based view when it comes to IT. Rather than dealing with the potential cyber security threat, they are more concerned with putting in controls to protect their assets.

This needs to change, James Hatch, Director, Cyber Services, BAE Systems Applied Intelligence told me in a recent interview for The Daily Telegraph. He says that businesses, especially large businesses, need people in place who think more like attackers and the potential damage they could cause.

“We are still dealing with the same problem of how to protect the things we value in life,” he reckons. “People still want to want to steal from us, copy from us or disrupt our lifestyles; it’s just that technology has enabled them to do it more easily at scale.”

You can read the full interview here

 

Underwater MP3 player reviews – now published

swimmer2Remember a little while ago I told you about some underwater MP3 players I’ve been testing in time for the summer? Well now they’ve been published on Tech Radar here.

Personally I prefer the Finis design (pictured above) which you don’t have to put in your ears – it uses bone conduction technology to transmit the audio across your cheekbones.

It’s more comfortable to wear and doesn’t move out of position which can be a problem if you are wearing earbuds. The downside is that it’s a little more expensive than some of the others at around £80 (see here).

Most of the designs work surprisingly well underwater providing you give them a bit of a clean after swimming. I recommend a spray like Muc Off to get rid of any excess water and for cleaning out the charging points which can become corroded over time.

One question that people always seem to ask me about these devices is ‘can you listen to audiobooks on them while swimming?’ The short answer is no. Many people have tried but most report disappointing results when listening to dialogue.

However, for music these devices are great and some of them are very cheap (not much more than £25). Although I would definitely recommend the Finis, it can only be used in the water – it’s not suitable for land use. If you want something that can be used for running or cycling, then perhaps look at a model like the i360 instead which does both jobs very well.

You can buy the Finis Duo here

10 things I remember about swimming in the 1970s

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What else to do on a rainy Bank Holiday Monday than reminisce about the 1970s when swimming meant burning your skin off with Vosene Shampoo, ducking each other’s heads under the water and throwing yourself off the 10m diving board without bellyflopping. Oh and public information films. Who remembers this one below about Dave who shamefully couldn’t swim and lost his ‘bird’ as a result? You can read the full feature here.

 

Furbo treat tossing dog camera! Of course

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I love gadgets. I love dogs. So what isn’t there to love about a treat tossing dog camera. Yes you did hear me right. The wonderfully named Furbo has come up with a gadget that lets you toss treats via the smart phone app to your furry friend.

So you could be sitting in a meeting bored out of your tiny mind when you decide to chuck a treat to your pet. Or if your dog is barking you can talk to him/her via the two-way audio provided.

Warning, at first the dog will freak out at the noise of the Furbo, but pretty soon they’ll get used to it. Also, the gadget does sometimes randomly spit out two or three treats so best to avoid if your dog is on a diet! Apart from that it’s great.

You can see my YouTube review video below.

‘Going back to nature’ in Nissan’s X-Trail SUV?!

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‘Let’s offroad’, said no one in a Nissan X-Trail, ever

Yesterday I ditched my 21st century gadgets and reverted to my inner caveman. I left the comfort of my warm home office and instead found myself learning how to use a type of fungus to light my own fires on an exceptionally cold day in Sussex (I think I’m still thawing out now.)

Only I didn’t. Not really. Basically it was all an elaborate, tongue-in-cheek publicity stunt to link Nissan’s latest 2 litre X-Trail SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle) to the concept of Adventure with a capital A. Nevermind, that the biggest adventure this particular 4×4 will face is probably a trip to the admittedly quite steep Marks and Spencer’s car park in north London’s Muswell Hill.

The idea is that this is a vehicle for rugged, bearded, check shirt wearing, adventurer types who love nothing better than foraging for their own food and slinging a bit of roadkill on the back seat for supper. Not (of course) a relatively cheap and cheerful SUV which people will buy for the higher driving position and large amounts of legroom (as well as the fact there is the possibility of a dog-friendly edition for pet owners. See here).

OK I get it. But I must say that really I would much rather sit inside in front of a warm log fire, lit quickly with a Zippo, than rummaging around for bits of twigs and getting my hands dirty in dark bits of fungus that look suspiciously like sheep poo. In the same way as I would much rather make a call on my mobile than tie two bits of string together and put a tin can on either end.

Given the age we live in though, it’s perhaps not surprising to hear that there are even companies that specialise in these ‘back to nature’ excursions, including the one we were with: Hunt, Gather, Cook. A kind of culinary paintball for angst-ridden Londoners.

Founded around seven years ago by a guy who left a chef’s job in the capital and who described himself as a ‘fire enthusiast’ (don’t we call them arsonists), it specialises in taking people into the wilderness where they can learn different animal slaughter techniques. Nice.

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For a man who had to hide in the bushes with three quarter length trousers and no socks in virtually sub-zero temperatures, the ‘bearded hipster’ was a surprisingly cheerful chap!

Thankfully as a vegetarian, I was spared having to kill any innocent creatures to satiate any primal needs. Instead, the biggest challenge I faced was finding a ‘bearded hipster’ in a farmer’s field, see picture above, and making a fire so that he could have a much needed soya cappuccino. It’s all in day’s work!

But the day wasn’t just spent larking around the countryside making fires and rescuing pretend, stranded hipsters. As well as genuinely taking the X-Trail off road – albeit on the nursery slopes compared to the black runs intended for more serious SUVs – I also interviewed a guy who is setting off in a modified Nissan Leaf on the 10,0000 mile Mongol Rally with only his wife for company. Now that’s a brave man.

You can read the story about the Mongol Rally here: http://www.techdigest.tv/2017/04/adventurer-chris-ramsey-to-undertake-10000-mile-mongol-rally-in-nissan-leaf-electric-car.html. Full YouTube video to follow. 

 

I test out some of the best pet gadgets for ShinyShiny

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I really don’t need much of an excuse to write about pet gadgets. But as it’s #NationalPetDay in the US tomorrow, I thought I’d put together a feature on ShinyShiny, showcasing some of the best and most interesting out there.

What’s great is that thanks to the IoT (Internet of Things) any product can now become ‘smart’, whether that’s a dog collar or a camera so it’s now possible to monitor your pet more closely than ever before.

For example with a smart collar, available from a company like Nuzzle, you can track on a map exactly where your furry friend is. Furbo, on the other hand, takes things a little further, allowing you to talk to your dog via a two-way audio connection, view what they are getting up to in high definition video, even dispense treats from a machine!

Other smart devices for pets though I’m not so sure about including the Pellet which is basically a doorbell for pets. The idea is that the dog presses a big buzzer which sends an alert via an app to their owner that they want to go outside to play or go to the toilet! Sounds a little more hassle than its worth to me.

Testing out swimming gear for the summer

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When I’m not teaching in secondary schools or writing freelance tech pieces I’m often swimming, usually during the Winter in the outdoor HEATED pool at David Lloyd in North Finchley.

But in the summertime I like to venture a little further afield and swim in lakes and the sea.

Sometimes I combine journalism with swimming (though not at the same time as the Mac gets a bit wet). So this month I’ve been testing out some new Arena gear I’ve been sent which you can read about on my swimming blog, Goggleblog here.

Next week I’ll also be testing out some underwater MP3 players or SwiMP3 players for gadget website, Tech Radar, now that I’ve finally got enough players that actually work! Watch this space.

Now you can ‘photoshop’ your own selfies in seconds – thanks to ‘beautification’ mode

The camera doesn’t lie. Or does it? For years we’ve been talking about ‘photoshopping’ models to make them look thin or remove their blemishes, but it’s now easier than ever before to do it with your own smartphone.

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been playing with the latest Huawei P10. Although I’ve got massive reservations about the latest Android 7 platform after being so used to Apple iOS, I must admit that this phone is quite impressive – at least as far as the camera is concerned (I’m less impressed with the battery life but I’ll come back to that another time).

Like the iPhone 7, it’s got a dual lens camera system on the back which is great for creating arty pictures with a beautiful depth of field. One is monochrome (20 megapixels), the other colour (12 megapixels). What’s more both lenses are produced by Leica which is renowned for its high quality camera gear.

Another useful feature is the portrait mode which Huawei claims can track 190 points on a face. Handy if you want to airbrush a few of your imperfections in a few seconds!

Using the beautification tool, you can enlarge your eyes, whiten your teeth, even narrow your face. In addition you can improve your complexion and top up your tan at the same time.

Above you can see my before (left) and after (right) selfies. The effects are quite subtle and the picture is a little soft, but I especially like the teeth whitening feature which makes me look a bit more healthy. The bronzing feature works well too.

OK it hasn’t exactly turned me into Brad Pitt, but you can see some subtle improvements. Who knows with a bit more time in the editing suite, I may even look presentable!

And below here’s a shot of my little puppy Poppy without beautification mode switched on – because she doesn’t need it. I do think this camera is very, very good for a smartphone.

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