Amazon Fire Stick

This is the new version, with Alexa, bought during the Prime day jollifications. I have a Chromecast, but wanted;
a) To stream Prime on my (non-smart) TV
b) To stream without having to use a second device to "feed" the stick

The device itself is easy to set up, but beware that it needs a plugged power supply to run (which could be an issue if you're used to using the USB sockets in your TV, or only have those available - they probably won't supply enough power).

In use, it's snappy, with the hunt and peck action with the remote working smoothly because of the speed of the interface. Prime video has the same issues it has elsewhere (if you've started a series episode, it will attempt to start the following episode when you re-enter the application, rather than resuming the one you were on, it isn't great at showing you the things you're currently watching, etc) Actually streaming is smooth and the quality seems decent.

The other apps that I Chromecast are supported too, Netflix runs nicely (and integrates into the Fire homepage well), Eurosport player is available and runs well. Notable omissions (for me) are iPlayer Radio (TV iPlayer is present and runs well) and Cricinfo (I'd love a live scoreboard while I listen to TMS). Simply Yoga is a nice discovery though.

I've not used Alexa much, although my impression is that it's a bit hit and miss, with some odd results returning for some of my queries.

Overall, it's a great solution, especially if you have a Prime account - more versatile than the Chromecast in some ways, because there's no need to have a second device feeding it.

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I wonder how many times they can be dumped into Room 101.
Same old, same old here.
Wait all day for delivery.
Email at 6.10pm saying that they have "attempted a delivery".
I can see the driveway.
It's a lie.
This is a business address that's open 24/7, 365 days per year.
They have not attempted a delivery.
This happens time and time again.
Whatever the real reason for not arriving, they lie and claim that they've been here when they haven't.
I think that telling the truth would make Amazon customers much less irate than knowing that they're just telling lies.
But then maybe the driver would be in trouble if the truth was that they just ran out of time or didn't bother.
I don't get why DPD can provide a superb Courier service, hourly time slots, email, driver tracking, and this poxy outfit are still trusted as some subsidiary company of Amazon, damaging their name.
Just spent 20 minutes on the phone to someone from Amazon (who could barely speak English) who claims that she's going to make them "come back". They can't come back, I say, because they haven't been here! The irony was lost.
Well, I'll sit here waiting then shall I...

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Seems like those with a sweet tooth are better off with a biscuit to dunk instead of (even) one spoon of sugar in the drink. Average biscuit = 1.5g but a spoon is 4g. So I'm led to believe. Not a scientific study! Course, we're better with neither, but I am partial to a Coconut Ring ;-)

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So often I see people posting about an item that is somewhere between Whatever Works and Room 101 - so here you are! We'll call it Halfway House and I'll put the first thing in...

Silicone Bumper/Ring ( £7.40 all-in.
Ever since I got my first Mod for the Moto Z I've been looking for a casing solution. I was hoping this would be it. And on the face of it, it could be! It's a great and simple idea. A big rubber band to go round your phone which, nice and tight, becomes a 'case' that'll mould itself to fit. Brilliant! And it does, once in place, it makes the phone non-slippy, even grippy! It's not going to protect it much in a fall, but that wasn't my quest - it was about making it less slippy than naked.

But then come the problems in terms of fiddle-factor and design and why it must be landed into Halfway House :-(
It's incredibly tight! Putting it on gives one a hernia! The hole that is supposed to be in line with the microphone on the phone's top doesn't align. OK - I hear you cry, this is designed for a Moto Z Play. A fair point. There wasn't one for the Z. But the microphone hole is in the same place anyway. Well, it's on the other side, but it's equally 'central' to the top width. And then the next thing, there's no hole for the charger. So every time you charge it, you have to take it off. Then a new hernia! I tried 'stretching' it to allow for the charger to get in there, and that works, but obviously that stretching each time, I guess, will make it floppy in time.

On the plus side, it fits with pretty much any Mod in place. It's so tight that it 'fits like a glove' and looks just fine when settled into place. The silicone is very thin so as long as you know where your buttons are as you can't see them!

All in all, it's a great little item, but with my reservations. It's also 75% of the cost of the superb Cruzerlite Bugdroid Circuit, but of course they don't make one for this Moto model, hence the quest :-( Click below for the photos in the Album.

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Episode 39 - Cold Feet Feat!
The latest episode now available via the link here or your podcatcher of choice any minute! This time +Ted Salmon and +David Rich chew over all sorts of thoughts of the perfect world(!) from Reflexology to Perfect Coffee and much between! We hope you enjoy the show and thank you for your contributions to the G+ Community.

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If you go camping, or like me take the absolute minimum changes of clothing on holiday, you will need to wash and dry stuff. Some hotels do provide clothes lines over the bath, but many don't.

The Sea to Summit clothes line comes with its own small bag, so it won't get tangled up with other stuff in your bag. It has a series of beads that slide along the lines to hold your clothes, so you don't need any pegs. It's often on offer for around £5 from various Amazon suppliers.

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The first impression of this Bluetooth Speaker coming out of the box was how small it was. Dinky, tiny (about 2" x 2"), beautifully made of metal, black (though various colours available), attractive and very 'Sony' in look/feel and quality. The base has a rubber ring which ensures a stable hold on surfaces, not toppling here until about 45 degrees. The 'speaker' is on the top and is covered by an attractive metal grille with Anker emblem, centre. On the front is a nicely rubberised and sized three-button controller with Plus, Minus and Play icons. Under this is the status LED which flashes blue when looking to pair and is unable to locate the last paired device or continue with last used service.

Push in a MicroSD card to the slot on the back and it starts playing the tracks in order (no way to select tracks individually) with track up/down working with Plus and Minus long-presses (no FF/RW ability). I'm testing with a 128GB card and it's working perfectly. Next to the MicroSD Card slot on the back is a MicroUSB socket for charging (and another function which I'll come to), 3.5mm socket for Audio-In, On/Off physical slider-switch, Mode button and Microphone.

The surprise in the package, which is not advertised anywhere I can see, certainly not on the AmazonUK page, is FM Radio! Cool! Love it! As previously reported, a way of playing FM Radio and not having to pay for streaming services is an absolute peach for those looking to minimise cost and connectivity. A cable plugged into the MicroUSB socket acts as an aerial and it works brilliantly! Obviously depends on where you are for signal etc. but laying that aside, it picks up really well here. It's a bit tricky to know which station is which as, clearly, there's no display on this unit. Long-press the Play button and it scans, finds the first station and connects, then short-presses of the Plus button moves onto the next station. Bit of a fiddle, I guess, but, as I say, a real bonus I wasn't expecting. If you turn the unit off, mid-play of FM Radio or MicroSD Card music, it returns to pairing mode, but press the Mode button again, and it gets back to where it was. Leave the MicroSD Card in the slot and it can then be selected again by another Mode press. If you don't take the card out, and power doesn't die, it'll continue from where last played.

Hooking up to various units by Bluetooth (4.0) is easy-peasy and flawless in my experiments here. Plug in a Audio source to the 3.5mm socket from anything playing music and it'll take over whatever else the unit is doing. It's a super little speaker and one of the brilliant uses for me is having the FM Radio running, charge cable plugged into a powerbrick (or whatever) acting as an aerial. Low power consumption, good clear signal (here) and a great option OffGrid. I know, I've got a bit of a thing going on just now about FM Radio, but this is a great option to have rather than not.

Bluetooth range seems very good. I just did a test (walking down the road like a buffoon!) and the music started to break up at 46 yards. Way in excess of the claimed 66ft. There's a microphone for using as a hooked-up mobile phone, controlled by the Play button of Call/End works well with Google Voice Commands here, though it didn't seem to restart the music after the call ended. You can also talk to the unit via an Android phone to select music by voice etc.

And so to the sound! Apparently it contains "an advanced 5W driver and passive subwoofer". Obviously if you want to equalise the sound in any way, you need to rely on your source unit being able to do that - which works very well after a short pause for thought - as there's no controls to do it in-speaker. But that's not unusual. If you get silly and wind up the bass, yes, it's pretty easy to distort the speaker, but I found used on 'flat' settings there's no problem. So for the purposes of this assessment, I'll use music from a plugged in MicroSD Card playing 320kbps MP3 tracks. On full volume there's more than enough sound to fill an office/bedroom/lounge sized room for casual listening or a dinner party, for example. You'll be turning it down! The sound produced shows evidence of a very pleasant level of bass and treble by default. It's clearly not going to be the bass'y powerhouse of bigger units, but hey, this has a 2" footprint! It's a nice rounded sound.

Physically, it's almost pocketable! Coat pocket, fine. Jacket pocket maybe not. But we're heading down that way. I'm continually amazed at how good speakers have become for their size. The evolution of hardware and software support pushing out music in smaller and smaller units seem to know no bounds. Where will it end! The implications for smartphones becomes more and more exciting. The gold standard just now of the Marshall London is nowhere near this sound, but it's not a million miles away and I can just see the gap getting smaller if phone manufacturers actually take music playback outside of earphones seriously.

Battery claim is 15hrs and charge time seems to be about 1-2hrs. It charges quickly and the battery does indeed seem good for that kind of playback claim. Full volume of course and you can expect less. Less, more! There are so many rubbish units out there which only do 5-10hrs which are substantially bigger physically than this, which makes this a great performer. This is typical for Anker, who clearly specialise in batteries with my SoundCore 1 continuing to provide 24hrs on a charge.

I remain impressed with pretty much every piece of hardware made by Anker and thoroughly recommend this unit, too. For £17.99 ( I don't think you can go wrong. And no, I did not have to write this review for the company because they gave it to me - it really was a free gift, no strings attached from a company reflecting good customer service.

(Backstory: Anker sent this over to me as a gift following my previously reported dissatisfaction regarding a SoundCore 2 unit ( in which an 'always-on' functionality had been removed after it had been 'upgraded' from SoundCore 1 - which could be left on for convenience when plugged into, for example, a TV and power. I contacted support about that at Anker, who replied promptly apologising that yes, indeed, this was the case. In a subsequent email after I had returned the unit, they then told me that I could have attained this functionality by leaving a 3.5mm audio cable plugged into it. Clearly, I didn't have the opportunity to then test this as it had gone back. Anyway, to cut that long story short, and in order to provide good customer care, they offered to send me another unit up to the value of £20 as a gesture of goodwill. I decided that I'd choose this one, which they promptly arranged for AmazonUK to send to me. I think that the Anker customer service is very good and this incident was an unfortunate communication issue over functionality of their products and the representative who fielded the initial enquiry.)

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Room 101 submission

Neighbours who tell you off for cutting the hedge "too early."

Just had a heated discussion with my neighbour about the time I have chosen to cut my hedge. He believes the middle of July is too early. I couldn't care less, off work, hedge untidy, have the energy, the hedge is getting cut.

Instead I have to have a 5 minute lecture by my elderly neighbour that my timing is poor and I should wait until the middle of August.

This isn't the first time, nor is it the first neighbour. The previous neighbour told me I would damage the hedge by cutting it too early in the year.

It survived and to my dismay grew back.

It's hard not to enter into Teds Rude people 101 entry and my tongue has some pretty severe teeth marks in it.


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Netgear Orbi

For most people nowadays, having a reliable home wifi connection is as important as having a reliable electricity, gas or water supply. And yet, up until fairly recently, it was not especially easy to get a consistent wifi signal in all parts of an average sized house. Unless your router was right in the middle of the house (not often the case due to external phone wiring), you might need to use wifi repeaters or powerline technology - both having compromises in terms of speed and reliability. This could also involve managing multiple SSIDs or using a single SSID but accepting that devices might not switch gracefully to the strongest signal.

Enter a new breed of 'whole home' wifi routers that claim to solve this problem. You get a router plus one or more satellites which communicate between themselves via an extra reserved wireless channel. Although the router will probably still be positioned close to your external phone point, the satellite(s) can be positioned in the middle of the house for maximum coverage. They also look more aesthetically pleasing than old-style routers (an important factor for my wife).

So how does this work in practice? The answer is that it works really really well. You get excellent wifi coverage throughout your home and none of the glitches that would often beset older repeater/powerline technology. Both 2.4g and 5g frequencies are implemented but everything is on a single SSID. Devices connect to the most suitable frequency and 'roam' between the main router and the satellite completely seamlessly. Both router and satellite have ethernet ports available for equipment that needs a wired connection.

The downsides? Well, it is still a fairly new concept and prices are high compared to traditional routers. Prices will almost certainly come down over time. Also, at least in the case of the Netgear Orbi, some features which appear on older routers like Netgear Parental Controls and Netgear Readyshare are not yet implemented.

In summary, if you want state-of-the-art wifi coverage and are willing to pay a little extra for it then I can recommend Netgear Orbi. There are competing 'whole home' systems (eg. from Linksys, Google, BT) but I don't have first hand experience of these.
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