Monthly Archives: September 2016

Information About 5 of The Best Flat Speakers

You’ve splashed out on the expensive flat screen television you’ve hankered after for ages now – and it looks great.

And after one visit from a technician, a few hours on the internet and more time fiddling with the controls, you’ve finally achieved a picture that’s pretty close to the one that so impressed you in the shop.

But the film you watched on it last night wasn’t quite the experience you expected; if you’re honest, the sound was not as good as it used to be with your old television.

The problem, as with slim laptop computers, the slimmer televisions become the less room there is for speakers.

The unfortunate fact is that because you were so focused on the display – and didn’t want to be sold up to more kit – you didn’t buy those big speaker towers they had in the showroom.

You were a bit worried that they would have made the room look like something from the industrial revolution, and there’s always the chance the dog or the grandchildren would knock them over.

So what can you do about the sound quality?

Until recently, the best option was probably a sound bar, but these usually perform best when hung on a wall and can block sensors for the TV remote control and the like if put in front of the set.

So, assuming you haven’t gone for a wall mounted television which tends to look so hotel room; the answer is a speaker base which is sturdy enough to take the weight of the television and indeed is designed to do so.

Speaker bases have a number of plus factors including less cabling clutter, reduced obstruction to additional connections and because of the space available inside them you don’t need an extra sub-woofer speaker to increase the bass.

Usually all you have to do is connect an optical audio cable from the television to the base speaker. A lot of base speakers now have Bluetooth connectivity as well and so can work as additional wireless speakers if needed.

All bases should be able to cope with the weight of a 55in television.

Canton DM55

German Canton sound bases are a personal favourite. They feel exceptionally strong but like German cars they are not cheap.

The smallest unit is the sleek, glass topped DM55 in white, silver or black.

Upgraded from last year’s award winning DM50 it would be fine for small or medium-sized TVs.

Its six-driver design significantly improves TV and film sound with dialogue particularly clear. It also provides wireless music playback.

Upgrades include power-saving features, easier Bluetooth streaming and extra remote control operations.

A useful advanced function is lip-synchronise adjustment as speaker sound can be fractionally behind the moving picture which is intensely irritating.

Onkyo LST10

The LS-T10 provides huge room-filling sound, but while it is very strong on bass it can lose out on speech quality; though you can chose movie, music or news sound to cater for different programmes.

A six-channel digital amplifier powers the four full-range drivers on the front, the speaker on each side, and the subwoofer on the underside to generate a 3D feel to the sound.

A USB port caters for flash memory storage devices loaded with MP3s.

Installation and operation is easy. You just plug in a cable and can work the unit from your TV remote control.

OrbitSound SB60LX

The OrbitSound SB60 LX has two front speakers, which are good for speech, and two side mounted ones to increase general ambience.

Thanks to a large and solid wooden frame, it delivers good sound quality across a wide spectrum – providing you are not looking for too much volume.

At higher intensities some starkness becomes apparent, but if you are on a tight budget it is worth a listen.

A a pair of RCA phono inputs are fine for connecting a radio, CD player or Bluetooth receiver to turn the sound base into a sound system.

Panasonic SC-HTE80EB-K

The Panasonic SC-HTE80EB-K speakerboard also comes with Bluetooth wireless technology.

You can use cinema mode if watching a film or stadium mode for, say, a snooker tournament.

You can set up device pairing with a near credit-card-sized remote control.

It also has buttons for power, volume, input, sound, mute and set-up.

Pioneer SBX-B70

The Pioneer SBX-B70 from Richer Sounds (on offer for £249; normally £369) has a tough wooden case and with coaxial, optical and analogue 3.5mm inputs easily connects to your television and other equipment in your home network.

It will stream music from a laptop, PC or personal NAS server or from Spotify.

The device can also use AirPlay to stream from suitable Apple iOS devices.

An unusual feature for a sound base, the Pioneer SCX-B70 has a built-in radio as well.

Some Advantage of The Vinyl Revival

In 2015, sales of vinyl records grew for the eighth year in a row, with two million albums sold in the UK, the most since 1994.

Newer artists like Adele and Radiohead are big sellers, while older acts are reissuing their classic albums: the current vinyl top 20 includes entries from The Beatles, The Beach Boys and Fleetwood Mac.

This “vinyl revival”, as it’s been nicknamed, isn’t just for teenage hipsters and audiophiles either.

The renewed interest has sparked a new wave of affordable turntables, which is great news if you have an attic full of albums that have been gathering dust since the 1980s.

Many also include a USB connection, so you can digitise your favourite records to play on your computer or smartphone.

There’s never been a better time to revisit your old favourites, and with everyone from Sainsbury’s to Urban Outfitters now selling discs, perhaps discover some new ones.

Record players on a budget

If you’re not fussy about perfect sound you can pick up a turntable extremely cheaply. Steepletone do a range of players that start at around £35; they may not satisfy an audiophile, but they sound perfectly fine to our ears, include built-in speakers and can also be plugged into your existing stereo system.

Their classic designs mean they’ll look great in the living room too.

USB turntables

It can cost a small fortune to replace a record collection with files you can play on your phone or MP3 player, and some of those old discs you’ve picked up along the way can be extremely hard to find on the iTunes store or Spotify. USB-enabled turntables mean you can easily record your vinyl onto your computer.

Though there are cheaper models on the market (iTek do a passable £40 deck), you very much get what you pay for here, as a poor record player will mean a poor recording.

ION sell an excellent range of USB-enabled players; we’d recommend the Audio Max LP, which is affordable at around £79, is well built and looks extremely smart on a desk or shelving unit.

Retro turntables

Unless you’re an audiophile, you’re probably not investing in a record player in order to get perfect sound. The appeal is often in the comforting pop and crackle of the vinyl, in hearing the records exactly as they sounded the first time you played them. In which case, why not get a player that looks the part?

Crosley make a genuinely gorgeous range of record players, including “briefcase” style portable players, based on the classic designs of the 60s. The X UO Cruiser (£100) is beautiful and sounds great.

For the full retro effect Crosley also do a classic “Dansette” design, at around £230.

Higher-end players

Any audio expert will tell you that a quality record, played on a high-end system, will give you the best sound you will ever hear. There are even clubs in London and New York (“Classic Album Sundays”) dedicated to sitting in silence, listening to a classic record on the highest-end speakers and turntable available.

Pricewise, the sky really is the limit here, but assuming you’re not about to spend £3,000 on a record player (that will get you a Thoron TD 2035, by the way) you can get a really good turntable for around £300.

The Audio Technica AT-LP120-USB is pretty much the perfect balance between great sound and a relatively affordable price, going for roughly £280. Unlike cheaper players, Technicas last forever, and they’re also the model of choice for many professional DJs. A built in pre-amp and a USB port for connecting to your computer are also included.

You will need an existing stereo system to use the deck, but anyone considering spending £300 on their turntable might also want to start building a really good stereo system to go with it.

Know More About 10 Essential Smartphone Apps

Every year, I download hundreds of apps. I’m constantly seeking more productive, ergonomic, and social experiences on my smartphone.

Plus, I enjoy hurtling angry cartoon birds over trees.

Yet, in truth, most apps are novelties, fads, or pretenders to the throne. There are surprisingly few I find invaluable.

In fact, there are ten. These ten are the ones I turn to whilst standing in line at the Post Office, whittling away my commute, or indeed any time I find myself sitting around waiting for something to happen.

Wunderlist

Lists are everywhere online: the 10 movies you should see before you die, the 10 best burgers in London, the, erm, 10 essential smartphone apps.

Wunderlist makes it simple to create lists of the To-Do variety.

You may think, ‘I can do that already – with paper and pen’.

But this app lets you share lists with any nominated user. So, for instance, you can collaborate with your partner on a grocery list, ticking off items as you buy them, so you don’t unwittingly both go out and get milk.

You can add photos, too, so when you spot a recipe you fancy trying in a magazine, just snap a shot of the page, and attach it to your ‘recipes’ list. Tasty.

OS Maps

I’m dyspraxic, with virtually no sense of direction, so if sat-nav hadn’t been invented, I’d probably never leave the house.

I use the TomTom app in the car, and Google Maps for finding places on foot; both are excellent.

But a lesser-known GPS that’s a personal favourite is this official service from the Ordinance Survey.

Admittedly, it ain’t much use if you’re a town mouse, but if like me you enjoy a country ramble, this app will give you confidence to explore.

It quickly pinpoints you on a digitised version of the OS’ legendary maps, so you can find your way back via road, byway or footpath.

Though, I confess, when rain starts lashing down on your touchscreen, digital maps can lose their appeal.

Just Eat

It’s sometimes a little sad when new tech kills off the old ways of doing things. I mean, Gmail and Spotify are brilliant, but I still miss the delight of a handwritten letter, or the romance of making mixtapes.

But I have no precious memories whatever of using a landline to order takeaway. None. Remember waiting for ages to be answered by someone who didn’t speak good English, and in any case couldn’t hear you over the sound of the stir-fry sizzling?

Just Eat has put an end to all that, sorting local takeaways by cuisine, distance or user rating, and listing menus digitally, so you simply select an order and pay via credit card – or, if you prefer, opt to give the driver cash on arrival.

Facebook

Okay, so this is an obvious choice, but that’s kind of the point: a billion of us use Facebook’s app every day. So, if you’re not here, you’re missing out: most likely your pals, family and neighbours are all using it to share photos, exchange ideas and organise events.

To sign up all you need is an email address, and then you’re ready to find your friends. Yes, Facebook distracts us from work and turns us into selfie-generating narcissists. But, honestly, I’ve never felt anything other than pleasure using it.

It’s peerless at keeping people in touch with loved ones around the world, and those ‘second-tier’ friends – the chap you used to work with, the nice couple you met on holiday – in a much more meaningful way than a Christmas round-robin.

I think of it as my personalised newspaper, featuring news about people I know. In fact, with the new video features being added, it’s almost becoming a personalised TV channel.

Uber

I’d used Uber a little in London, but it was on holiday in New York that I became an evangelist. It was midnight, and I was drunk, on a roof terrace, somewhere in Brooklyn.

I’d strolled there from the apartment I was staying in, around three miles away, and had no intention of rambling back in the dark. But I’d run out of money. How to get home? I fired up Uber, tapped in the postcode of my destination, and hit Request.

Moments later, I received a photo of Shakil, the driver dispatched to me, and the registration of his Toyota Camry (had I been feeling flush, I could have booked a Lexus).

Four minutes later, I was en route home, without having to touch my wallet; the whole journey paid for, on a metered basis, using my registered credit card, which at the time was in my desk drawer in Hertfordshire. Magic!

iPlayer Radio

For the past decade, I’ve created podcasts – downloadable radio shows. So I feel rather obliged to recommend a podcasting app in this list.

But, honestly, Apple’s Podcasts app is still kind of clunky, and all the Android solutions I’ve tried are quite nerdy. I’m afraid it’s over to good old Auntie Beeb to offer up a friction-free listening experience.

You won’t discover independent podcasts like mine here, but all the BBC’s are easily searchable, playable and downloadable, as well as their recently broadcast radio programmes. The design is impressively simple – open the app, and you’re met with a tactile spinny disc showing all their radio brands and what is currently playing on each network.

Each just a tap away – even easier than switching on the wireless.

Thetrainline

I live twenty minutes away from a railway station, and there are only three trains per hour into town. So you can imagine how frustrating it is if I arrive for a train that then turns out to have been cancelled, with no information forthcoming.

Nowadays, I use thetrainline to check the live progress of departures before I even leave the house, to discover exactly which station my train is currently at, if there are any delays, and precisely which platform it will depart from.

You can also use it to book train tickets, and (if you give it permission to store your card details), this can be done in a convenient couple of taps; perfect for when travel plans change on the hoof.

SwiftKey

SwiftKey is a customisable keyboard that works across most apps on your device, rather than an individual app you’ll open up regularly, but you do have to download it in app form, so I’m including it here.

It’s a very clever (and British, hurrah!) bit of predictive text software that easily trumps the touchscreen keyboard bundled in with your smartphone.

By learning your most frequently used vocabulary, it prompts your writing at lightning speed, saving valuable seconds with each word you tap out, and can even guess what you’re trying to write when you glide your fingers through the letters – so you can literally communicate without lifting a finger.

Dropbox

It’s still good advice to back up your most vital documents to a hard-drive. But the cloud storage revolution means that for little outlay you can store every bit of content you crank out – photos, text messages, contacts, whatever – for future reference.

This may seem an unnecessary indulgence, until you lose your phone, and hundreds of precious memories along with it. Dropbox is superbly user-friendly: ask it once to back up your camera roll, for instance, and every time you plug your phone into charge, it’ll automatically upload all your photos over Wi-Fi to a secure server that’s accessible via password from almost any web-connected device you’re ever likely to use.

Pocket

Despite what the glossy in-flight magazines tell us, there are still places – planes and trains in particular – where getting online is damn near impossible.

Protect yourself from the ensuing boredom by downloading Pocket, in which you can store online articles for later offline reading.

It’s a little fiddly to install the accompanying Pocket ‘bookmarklet’ button on apps such as Chrome, Firefox and Twitter, but well worth the effort: once you’ve done that, all you need do is click ‘Save To Pocket’ whenever you stumble across an article you’d like to read one day, and presto, next time you’re rattling through the air in a 500 tonne metal tube, five miles above ground, you’ll have something interesting to read.

Steps to Download And Listen to Audiobooks On An iPad

Audiobooks take much of the hard work out of reading, and they can also help to bring novels and autobiographies alive – especially when they are read by their author, as is particularly common in the latter category.

Your iPad has a built-in program called iBooks that lets you buy, download and listen to audiobooks all through the same app.

You can also buy audiobooks through other companies, such as the subscription service Audible, which has its own iPad app.

Audible currently costs £7.99 a month, with the first month free: this includes one free audiobook a month, which can potentially save you money as many titles cost much more than this.

Using iBooks for audiobooks

The iBooks app is designed both for audiobooks and normal e-books that you read on your iPad’s screen.

Tap on ‘iBooks’ to open the app and you’ll be taken to the iBooks store: at the top, tap on ‘Audiobooks’ to start browsing.

Use the ‘Categories’ option in the top left or the search box in the top right to find an audiobook you want.

Buying and downloading audiobooks

Tap on the book and you’ll see more information, such as the price and other listeners’ reviews.

You should also see a ‘Preview’ option: this will play a short sample of the audiobook so you can get an idea whether you like the narrator’s voice, for example.

Tap on the price and then on ‘Buy Audiobook’ to start your download. You should be asked for your Apple ID details or at least your password.

Listening to your audiobook

If you bought it on iBooks, your audiobook will be stored with any e-books you have downloaded under the ‘My Books’ tab in the iBooks app (it’s in the bottom left-hand corner).

If ‘Books’ is showing at the top of the screen in the middle, tap on it and then select ‘Audiobooks’.

Tap on the audiobook’s title to play it. As with any audiobook player, it starts where you left off the last time you listened to the book – but you can skip forward or backward if you like.

You can also change the reading speed to suit or use the Sleep Timer to turn the audiobook off after a specified period of time.

Some Signs Your Email Account Has Been Hacked

Finding out that your email account has been hacked is often harder than you might think. Fraudsters are very careful to leave little trace of their actions, sometimes, its nearly impossible to tell.

But here are five sure signs of suspicious activity.

1. Your password has been changed

One of the most obvious signs of your email being hacked is discovering you cannot sign in to your account.

If your email password is rejected as incorrect and you did not change it, it could indicate that it was changed by someone else. If a hacker accesses your account, he is able to change your password to prevent you from logging in and retaking control.

“A fraudster is usually trying to obtain money or something they can convert into money easily,” said John Cannon, fraud and ID director at Noddle.

“Ultimately, having control over an email account enables the fraudster to read any emails you haven’t deleted and cleared from your email bin. That’s why it’s important you don’t share or store sensitive or personal information on your email server.”

Having a secondary email address or extra verification measures in place helps prevent a hacker from locking you out of your own account.

Check with your email provider to make sure the email service is running before assuming that you have been hacked.

2. Unusual inbox activity

Some hackers won’t change your password so you won’t notice that anything’s wrong.

One way to determine if this is the case is to look at your sent mail folder and see if there are messages there that you are confident that you didn’t send. If you find some, then you know a spammer probably has access to your account.

Also watch for password reset emails that you have not instigated. The hacker may have tried to change your password on other sites, using access to your email to perform password resets.

“You should keep track of all the user accounts you maintain on the Internet,” said Paul Fletcher, cyber security evangelist at Alert Logic.

“It’s also a recommended best practice to minimise the amount of personal identifiable information that you add to the profile of each of your accounts. Users should know what information is saved on these profiles, for example credit cards, address, date of birth. Only save the required data and track credit cards, which are saved to online accounts.”

The problem is that hackers will often take the extra step of going into the sent mail folder and remove what they sent from there so that they leave no trace.

3. You are receiving unexpected emails

“A fraudster could also use the details they gather from your email account to try and trick you into handing over further sensitive information,” said John Cannon, fraud and ID director at Noddle.

“Having access to your email account could reveal who you bank with, who your credit card is with and what your user name or account number is.”

If you get an email or phone call claiming to be from your bank which quotes the correct user name/account, it makes it a lot harder to tell if it is genuine or fraud.

4. IP addresses not matching up

Some email services have a tool that shows you the last time (or several times) that you accessed the account and the IP address you used.

That is, Gmail records your IP address every time you log in to your account. So, if a third party gets access to your account then their IP address is also recorded. To see a list of recorded IP addresses, scroll down to the bottom of your Gmail account.

You can click on ‘Details’ to see the IP address of your last five activities. If you find that the IP listed in the logs doesn’t belong to you, then there are chances of unauthorised activity.
5. No signs at all

Or then again, maybe you haven’t noticed anything.

Depending upon the attacker’s motivations, you may never see any warning signs and that’s why it is always a good idea to keep abreast of the news.

Lee Munson, security researcher for Comparitech.com, explains: “If you’ve heard that a website you use has been hacked, at least consider the worst and run your email address through a website such as HaveIBeenPwned.com. Such a service keeps records of millions of compromised email accounts and, if yours is on the list, you’ll be quickly alerted to that fact.”