Price Points: Universal USB charger cables

Universal USB charger cables | H is for Home

Do the chargers on your tech devices wear out after just a few years? Ours do! Currently, the one that charges Justin’s tablet is being held together with a thin strip of gaffer tape. My phone charger is literally hanging by a few wire threads.

If we were people that upgraded our devices every time a new version was released we probably wouldn’t have this problem – new device… new charger.

Needless to say, every device has a totally different connector… so each needs its own cable! A genuine iPhone charger from the Apple shop will set me back £19 and one for the iPad Mini, also £19.

The solution is one of those universal USB charger cables which fits up to 10 different devices. We can get one for less than £2 and it will charge both our phones AND Justin’s iPad.

  1. 4 in 1 multi-pin universal USB charging cable – Android, iPhone 4 5, Samsung Note3: £1.99, eBay
  2. 10 in 1 multi-functional universal USB charger/data cable for mobile phone/MP3/MP4/GPS: £4.91, MiniInTheBox
  3. Retractable charging cable, 4 in 1 multi-functional universal USB charger cable for iPhone, Android, MP3, MP4 etc (white): £7.99, Amazon

4 essential ways to care for your tech devices

 

4 essential ways to care for your tech devices

You need to care for your tech devices in much the same way as you do your own body – looking after both inside and out. Whether it’s your mobile phone, desktop, laptop or tablet; games console or smart watch you need to look after both its hardware and software. These items can be pretty expensive to buy and to fix; having to live without them is unthinkable for some! Here are the top 4 things you need to do to properly care for your tech devices and keep them in tip-top condition.

Invest in screen protectors, covers and cases

Black leather iPhone cover

If you’re anything like us, you use your computer and phone whilst eating or drinking at the same time. Even if you think you’re being really careful, they still tend to get a bit sticky and grubby. Keep your devices clean with anti-bacterial spray cleaner and a specialist cleaning brush set for getting between the spaces on your keyboard.

Keep them clean, but also make sure you keep them covered… especially if you’re clumsy and prone to dropping things! Start with a clear screen protector – they only take seconds to apply, but they stop the glass getting scratched and can help save it from shattering. Enclose your mobile in a leather iPhone case, it safeguards from daily wear & tear and makes it look great at the same time. I use my iPad for following recipes as I cook; I use a case with integral stand to keep it upright and clean… save a few buttery fingerprints here & there!

Install anti-virus software

Install anti-virus software on your tech devices

One of the most stressful and scary things that can happen to your tech device is unknowingly installing a virus, Trojan horse or some other kind of malware. It can completely disable your machine and can cost a lot of money to get someone to put it right. And you may even unintentionally infect the devices of friends, family and work colleagues. These situations can be easily avoided by installing anti-virus software – and there are some good, free ones available.

AVG Anti-virus (AVG AntiVirus for Mac® | AVG AntiVirus FREE | AVG AntiVirus for Android™)

AVG AntiVirus includes real-time security updates, scans for both malware and performance issues, and even catches malicious downloads before they reach your device. It blocks unsafe links, downloads and email attachments.

Avast Security (PC, Mac & Android)

Avast is one of the largest security companies in the world using next-gen technologies to fight cyber attacks in real time. They have an immense cloud-based machine learning engine that receives a constant stream of data from our more than 400 million users.

Keep your hard drive spick & span

Snail on a keyboard

There are a few, simple things you can do to keep your devices running quickly and smoothly. By freeing up disk space you not only stop your device becoming sluggish, you also extend your battery life. Always keep your apps updated, developers are always tweaking them, fixing bugs and improving performance. Quit, don’t just close apps that aren’t being used. Don’t simply put files into your trash – delete them completely by emptying the ‘trash’/’recycle bin’. Keep anything that you don’t need every day on an external had drive – especially large files such as images, music and video.

There are lots of useful apps that can help you keep many of them are free or cost very little. Here are just a few.

AVG Cleaner (AVG PC TuneUp® | AVG Cleaner™ for Mac® | AVG Cleaner™ for Android™)

It quickly finds any hidden clutter you may have accumulated and clean it with just one click.

MacBooster (Mac)

This is a Mac maintenance tool to clean up junk, boost performance and remove malware and viruses.

AppZapper (Mac)

Everybody loves the drag and drop nature of OS X. Drag an app into your applications folder, and it’s installed. You’d think it would be that easy to delete an app – just a matter of dragging it to the trash. But it’s not. Apps install support files on your computer that generate clutter. Introducing AppZapper. Simply drag one or more apps onto AppZapper. Then, watch as it finds the extra files and lets you delete them with one click.

Reno Uninstaller (PC)

Has powerful features to uninstall programs scanning for left over files, folders and registry entries after uninstall.

Disk Diag (Mac)

Disk Diag is a free, simple and efficient tool for cleaning your Mac. It takes the hassle out of finding which files are clogging-up your Mac hard drive by instantly scanning and discovering what’s taking-up space.

Monolingual (Mac)

Monolingual is a program for removing unnecessary language resources from macOS, in order to reclaim several hundred megabytes of disk space. It requires a 64-bit capable Intel-based Mac and at least macOS 10.12 (Sierra).

Removing unused language packs is different for Windows® operating systems. Read about going about it here.

Prepare for if it gets lost or stolen

Mobile phone lost in undergrowthcredit

No one wants to think about the possibility of their device getting misplaced, lost or stolen; but it happens to people every, single day. There are things you can put in place if, in future, you need to locate a lost or stolen device.

For Mac products – iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple Watch and MacBook – the Find My iPhone app is a security essential.

Find My iPhone will help you locate your missing device on a map, remotely lock it, play a sound, display a message, or erase all the data on it.

For missing iOS devices, Find My iPhone also includes Lost Mode. Lost Mode locks your device with a passcode and can display a custom message and contact phone number right on the Lock Screen. While in Lost Mode, your device can keep track of where it has been and report back so you can view its recent location history, right from the Find My iPhone app.

If you have an Android phone, you need to enable the ‘Remotely locate this device’ and ‘Allow remote lock and erase’ settings in the Google Settings app. You’ll find them under Security → Device Manager. If your Android device goes missing, log into the Android Device Manager on the Google website and it’s location will be mapped out. From here you can ring, lock or erase your phone’s data.

Windows phones also have built-in settings to track missing mobile devices. You will find them here: Settings → Privacy → Find my phone. Tick the box to ‘Save my phone’s location periodically and before the battery runs out to make it easier to find’. So long as you have done this you will be able to search for your phone’s whereabouts via your Microsoft account. From here you’ll be able to ring, lock or erase it’s data.

Doing these four simple things will ensure that your tech devices will enjoy a long and prosperous existence!

[disclosure*]

Cabling your new home for the future

Cabling your new home for the futurecredit

Home automation of today would have been considered magic just fifty years ago. Lights turning on and off as you move through your house, motorised blinds that adjust on their own, music of your choice being piped into the room you’re occupying and security, power and environmental controls being adjusted just as you arrive home after a hard day’s work. One system can take action based on the input or the status of another, all without any human intervention.

The mainstay of this magic is the wiring. If you take the right steps concerning your wiring when building your home, then you will be ready for most new technologies that will be available in the near and not-so-near future. With the proper cabling, upgrades to any of your systems won’t require you to uproot the existing cables from the walls to install new ones. You’ll just need to replace the equipment and devices on either end. Even if you don’t have the cash to create the systems of your dreams right now, you can install the appropriate cabling for it and take advantage of it when you have the funds. The most expensive part of any home automation system can easily be the labour costs involved with the installation of new wiring!

Before you begin laying down cable, it’s a good idea to develop a plan. It’s actually a good idea to develop a plan before doing anything in life, but that’s enough philosophy for now. It may also be a good idea to get the help of a professional at this point. Decide what you need and where. Electrical and mechanical automation, network communications, telephony, television, video, security and audio are systems that can be included in your plan, but this list is by no means exhaustive. Depending on the applications you’ll require, you must then choose the proper types of cables.

Any British cable supplier can provide the myriad of cable types for any and all home automation and smart home needs, so acquiring the cables should not be a problem.

You can begin your plan by making a list of all the rooms in the house and deciding what applications you want each to have. You can also make a list of functionalities that you want everywhere, such as audio and smart lighting. Think about the long term as well. How will your needs change over the years? How about when the kids grow up, or the guest room is converted to an office? Even if you install cable that you never use, it will still be worth it.

Future-proofing your house in this way will not only allow you to enjoy the benefits of home automation and smart home functionality, but just the very presence of the cabling in the walls will end up increasing its resale value.

[disclosure*]

Christmas gifts of the day: Affordable tablets

Selection of affordable tablets | H is for Home

Technology has become a favourite Christmas present for many people. Tablets are gaining in popularity each year, not as small and fiddly as some smart phones can be, but not as large or expensive as laptops.

With a tablet you can store data, take photos, watch tv & films, listen to music, browse the internet and keep up with friends and current affairs on social media.

We’ve chosen to compare tablets that are of similar size and with, in most cases, similar storage capacities. Depending on what you’ll mainly be using it for will dictate the best one for you. For example, if your kids are going to be sitting in the back of the car watching films or playing games, you want something with a long battery life. If you’re going to be toting it around in your bag each day, you want something lightweight. If taking photos is your thing, you’ll want one with a 5 megapixel camera.

  1. Lenovo Tab 3 7″ 8GB tablet – black – £49.99
    • 5 MP camera
    • up to 10 hours of battery life
    • 9.9mm thick, 300 grams
  2. Fire Tablet, 7″ display, Wi-Fi, 8GB – £49.99
    • 2 MP camera
    • up to 7 hours of battery life
    • 10.6mm thick, 313 grams
  3. HIPSTREET Titan 4 7″ Tablet – 8GB, black – £49.99
    • 2 MP camera
    • up to 10 hours of battery life
    • 10mm thick, 300 grams
  4. Huawei Mediapad T1, 7″ Android tablet, 8GB, WiFi only – black – £79.00
    • 2 MP camera
    • up to 8 hours of battery life
    • 8.5mm thick, 278 grams
  5. SAMSUNG Galaxy Tab A 7″ tablet – 8GB, black – £113.99
    • 5 MP camera
    • up to 11 hours of battery life
    • 8.7mm thick, 283 grams
  6. ASUS Transformer Book T100HA-FU006T, 2GB 2-in-1 laptop – £179.99
    • 5 MP camera
    • up to 12 hours of battery life
    • 8.38mm thick, 590 grams
  7. Apple iPad mini 2, Apple A7, iOS, 7.9″, Wi-Fi, 32GB, Space Grey – £219.00
    • 5 MP camera
    • up to 10 hours of battery life
    • 7.5mm thick, 331 grams

Sleep tight with the S+ by ResMed

Win an S+ by ResMed | H is for Home

Three of my all time favourite things are wrapped up into one with the S+ by ResMed – tech, stats… and sleeping!

Boxed S+ by ResMed | H is for Home

I was sent a sample to review and another to give away to one of our readers. As you may have seen in a previous post recently, I’m really interested in tracking my fitness levels and the quality of my sleep. I’m up for trying out any gadget that can help on either or both of those fronts.

Unboxed S+ by ResMed | H is for Home

As ResMed explains:

The S+ measures movements using ultra low power radio waves (less than 110 of Bluetooth®). The basic principle is similar to the echo location system used by bats to hunt insects. The S+ transmits a short pulse of radio waves at 10.5 GHz and then listens for the echo of the pulse. As you move, the phase of the echo changes and is converted into a signal that reflects your movement.

S+ by ResMed set up at my bedside | H is for Home

It may be ultra high tech, but was very easy to set up. Firstly, I plugged in the device, then downloaded the app to both my iPhone and iPad, I then linked them to the S+ by ResMed via Bluetooth. The app asked a few questions… height, weight, do I sleep on my back, front or side; do I sleep with a partner or pet; the size of the bed; type of mattress and pillows etc. I registered on the S+ website and then went through a dry run whilst lying on the bed in the dark. Just look at the difference between my breathing patterns on left and right!

S+ app monitor | H is for Home

The app works continuously throughout the night to record breathing and movement to analyse the night’s sleep.

S+ app showing my sleep history | H is for Home

Not only does it show all the different stages of sleep (and any disruptions) it reports – every 20 minutes – on the temperature, light level and any noise in the room. It also works out how much body & mind have been recharged overnight.

My nightly sleep details via the S+ app | H is for Home

It scores a night’s sleep out of 100 and shows where ‘points’ have been lost. On the night in question, it took me a long time to fall asleep, I had a coughing fit and I also had a mild case of restless legs which really didn’t help. I just didn’t get enough REM or deep sleep.

My sleep score | H is for Home

Each night before setting the app, it asks questions such as how many caffeinated or alcoholic drinks had been consumed during the day. As you can tell from the scores on the following night, my sleep improved by 7%. Was it due to the couple of glasses of wine I consumed? Perhaps it was because the dog didn’t wake up, circle around and reposition himself, crashing into the side of the bed as he does most nights.

My sleep history recorded by the S+ by ResMed device

I’ve been using the monitor for less than a week so far, but I’m already totally hooked. I knew that for years I’ve been waking up each morning feeling exhausted, but not recalling the disruptions in sleep that have clearly been happening. The S+ mentor gives pointers as to how to up your score and, in so doing, improve your sleep.

The S+ Mentor

ResMed is offering an S+ sleep monitoring system to one of our readers. Just leave a comment telling us what keeps you awake at night.

S+ sleep tracking system by ResMed

Shared on: Superluckyme | The Prizefinder | Loquax | U Me and the Kids




Price Points: Home cinema sound systems

Home cinema sound systems | H is for Home

We always begin our annual hibernation right about now – around the time Strictly Come Dancing hits its stride! When given the choice between going out to socialise on a cold, dark wet evening or staying in with a bottle of wine, chuffing wood-burner and a Scandi drama we almost always choose the latter… you’d almost have to physically drag us out of the house kicking and screaming!

We always read user/buyer/expert reviews and recommendations to get a handle on electronic and tech products. These are the three home cinema sound systems we’ve short-listed…

We start with the Canton DM55. It has had the highest review on the Which? website to date (84% – 1 percent higher than the Sonos Playbar). According to their expert:

The DM55 is easy to use, and sounds great, with a strong dynamic range and convincing surround-sound effect… While it’s pricey, it’s also the best sound base we’ve tested, and gives Canton another Best Buy to add to it’s collection.

Coming in at a hefty thousand pounds (down from £1,400), the BOSE SoundTouch 130 is a system that not only includes a soundbar but also an Acoustimass module and control console.

We’ll be saving up to get ourselves the Sonos Playbar. Not only can we enjoy using it to watch live and recorded TV, we can also listen to music and digital radio through it via Spotify. We  already have a couple of Sonos Play:1s and a Play:3 – the sound they emit is amazing and connecting Sonos speakers to the wi-fi network and Spotify is a complete doddle.

  1. Canton DM55 2.1 virtual surround system – black glass: £329.00, Amazon (4.2 out of 5 – 35 reviews)
  2. Sonos Playbar: £599.00, Sonos (4.5 out of 5 – 710 reviews)
  3. BOSE SoundTouch 130 wireless home cinema system: £999.95, Currys (9.7 out of 10 – 18 reviews)