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Tony Smith

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Jaja Binks and Co

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Star Wars Special Editions

Star Wars special I had just turned ten when Star Wars was released in the US in May 1977, but I had to wait almost a year before I got to see it – at the ABC Torquay in April 1978, since you ask. The movie didn’t premiere in Britain until December 1977, and in those days movies took a while to make it out of London and into the sticks. I was a …
Tony Smith, 17 Dec 2015
Vader

Old jet bits, Vader's motorbike gear, sonic oddness: Hats off to Star Wars' creative heroes

Star Wars special The Star Wars universe is undeniably George Lucas’ creation, but many, many other people helped realise his conception by designing and making the clothes, the devices, the environments and the starships of his imagination. They contributed enormously to sense of physical reality the films project and which is just as much a …
Tony Smith, 15 Dec 2015
Google Chromecast 2

Google Chromecast 2015: Puck-on-a-string fun ... why not, for £30?

Review OK, so we all know what Google’s Chromecast is, yes? Someone at the back – why are they always at the back – seems unsure. In a sentence, then, Chromecast is a small Wi-Fi-connected slug that you slip into a spare HDMI port on your TV, and which plays video and audio under the direction of a remote control app. Google …
Tony Smith, 06 Oct 2015

UK's National Museum of Computing celebrates 10 glorious years

The National Museum of Computing (TNMoC), which yesterday celebrated its tenth anniversary as an independent organisation, will this coming weekend formally inaugurate a new membership club for enthusiasts of Britain’s computing heritage, and supporters of the museum. The decade has not been without its growing pains, among …
Tony Smith, 01 Apr 2015
FiveNinjas Slice Media Player

Hackable media box based on the Raspberry Pi compute module: Five Ninjas Slice

Review My original idea was to review the Raspberry Pi Compute Module. But the thing about the Compute Module is that it’s not an end-user product: it was designed for manufacturers looking for an ARM-based platform on which they can build devices they can sell. FiveNinjas Slice Media Player FiveNinjas Slice Media Player Unlike …
Tony Smith, 16 Mar 2015
MIPS Creator CI20 development board

Chewier than a slice of Pi: MIPS Creator CI20 development board

Review Time was when chip-makers’ processor evaluation boards were well beyond the reach of ordinary mortals. That didn't matter, of course: ordinary mortals weren't interested in small, nude motherboards designed to help designers of embedded systems judge a microprocessor's suitability for the application they were working on. MIPS …
Tony Smith, 09 Mar 2015
GrovePi+ Starter Kit

Get yourself connected: GrovePi+ Starter Kit

Review When it comes to hacking hardware, there’s an easy way and there‘s a hard way. The hard way involves connecting peripherals direct to one of the standard buses supported by your Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Beaglebone or whatever. Buses like I²C, SPI, UART and 1-Wire. You’ll need to take care with your wiring: have you got the right …
Tony Smith, 24 Feb 2015
Withings Activité Pop watch and fitness tracker

Strap on fitness finesse: Withings Activité Pop

Review One problem with wearable fitness trackers: you may not want to wear one when you’ve also got a watch on. This may be especially the case if, like me, you have a tracker not to monitor an aggressive fitness regime, but simply to ensure you don’t spend the entire working day parked on your arse. And you’d like it to be discreet …
Tony Smith, 29 Jan 2015
Apple Mac Mini late 2014

The late 2014 Apple Mac Mini: The best (and worst) of both worlds

Review The Mac Mini is a machine I half expected Apple to quietly drop. The decline of the desktop personal computer business in general, and the fact that you’ll never see a Mac Mini as a prominent piece of product placement, means this miniature micro is unlikely to ever to hold a place in Apple's heart like the iMac. Apple Mac …
Tony Smith, 05 Nov 2014
B+ raspberry pi

Raspberry Pi B+: PHWOAR, get a load of those pins

Review You might think that as a purveyor of a nifty compact computer selling in the millions, you’d consider two years after the debut of your first offering that it was high time you tempted back the buyers with a go-faster, more capacious and shinier model. Heck, Apple and others don’t even wait that long: they upgrade products year …
Tony Smith, 27 Aug 2014
Pimoroni/Cyntech Pibrella

Hungry for humbler Pi? Check out kid-friendly LED-laden Pibrella

Review There is no shortage of clip-on boards designed for the Raspberry Pi, almost all designed to make the tiny computer’s GPIO pins more accessible in order to ease the connection of devices to it, particularly ones that operate at voltages that are not Pi friendly. Pimoroni/Cyntech Pibrella Jump to the beep: the Pibrella from …
Tony Smith, 08 May 2014
Sinclair Research Pandora

Loki, LC3 and Pandora: The great Sinclair might-have-beens

Archaeologic We all know about the ZX80, the ZX81, the ZX Spectrum and its successors, and the QL. But these weren’t the only microcomputers Sinclair Research worked on during its brief life between 1979, when it emerged as the renamed Science of Cambridge, and 1986, the year its brand and products were bought by Amstrad and it was shut down …
Tony Smith, 19 Feb 2014
Pebble

Samsung Gear splurge skews smartwatch market Google’s way

Strategy Analytics, a market watcher, has provided an object lesson in how statistics can give a potentially skewed picture of the evolution of a new product category. Samsung Galaxy Gear Around a million Samsung Galaxy Gear were pumped into the channel after its launch SA yesterday claimed that Google’s OS, Android, …
Tony Smith, 14 Feb 2014
Micro Men

Micro Men: The story of the syntax era

Monitor is an occasional column written at the crossroads where the arts, popular culture and technology intersect. Here we look back at the BBC TV movie Micro Men, a retro-tech fan favourite which tells the story of the rivalry between former colleagues Sir Clive Sinclair and Chris Curry, and how the two men kickstarted the British …
Tony Smith, 14 Feb 2014
Amstrad CPC 464

You’re NOT fired: The story of Amstrad’s amazing CPC 464

Archaeologic It was a home computer that embodied so many contradictions. It was launched months after the British microcomputer boom of the early 1980s had peaked. It was a rush job: the machine that was revealed to the press in the Spring of 1984 hadn’t even existed nine months previously. It was one of the best-produced British micros of …
Tony Smith, 12 Feb 2014
Apple 20th Anniversary Mac

Rotten to the core: Apple’s 10 greatest FAILS

Feature There has been no shortage of rose-tinted retrospective adulation marking the 30th birthday of the Macintosh over past weeks. Here at El Reg, we’d be the last to deny Apple’s significance and continuing influence on the history of personal computing. But to put everything in perspective, we thought it was worth looking back at …
MoPi

Boffin dreams up smart battery gizmo for Raspberry Pi fiddlers

Raspberry Pi-packing makers who are devising mobile projects or seeking to set up stationary Pi-based devices that operate beyond the reach of the mains will get a big jolt of help next May if a new doohickey wins sufficient backing on crowd-funding site Kickstarter. MoPi is a T-shaped board that drops onto the tiny computer’s …
Tony Smith, 05 Feb 2014
Intel Galileo

The other end of the telescope: Intel’s Galileo developer board

Review Any notions that the Arduino platform is completely wedded to the Atmel ATmega family of microcontrollers have been shattered. The ARM-equipped Arduino Tre, which is based on Texas Instruments’ Sitara chip, is coming in the spring. And here, now is Intel’s Galileo, an Arduino board based on one of Chipzilla’s x86 processors, the …
Tony Smith, 29 Jan 2014
HP Chromebook 11

HP Chromebook 11 quietly slips back on Google Play shelves... but where's the FIRE?

HP and Google have returned their long-absent Chromebook 11 to the Play Store. The £229 cloud-centric notebook is in stock and ready to be “dispatched from warehouse in 1 - 2 business days”, the site says. HP Chromebook 11 is back HP launched the Chromebook 11 back in October 2013, in particular pitching the laptop’s ability …
Tony Smith, 24 Jan 2014
Science of Cambridge MK14 close-up

Ian Williamson: The engineer who gave Sinclair his first micro

Archaeologic Before Sinclair Research and the QL, the Spectrum and the ZX81, before even Sinclair Computers and the ZX80, there was Science of Cambridge and the MK14 microprocessor kit. Released in February 1978 - that’s when the first adverts for the mail-order-only offering appeared, at least - the MK14 entered the SoC pipeline late in the …
Tony Smith, 16 Jan 2014
Nest Labs' The Nest

Google's Nest gobble: Soon ALL your HOME are BELONG to US

Analysis Google’s proposed $3.2bn purchase of Nest Labs, a maker of internet-connected round-the-home devices, shows that the online advertising giant considers the Internet of Things a serious proposition. A very serious proposition. It’s easy to be dismissive of the move. Nest is best known for an internet-enabled thermostat and a …
Tony Smith, 15 Jan 2014
Sinclair QL

Sinclair’s 1984 big shot at business: The QL is 30 years old

Archaeologic In May 1983, Sinclair Research Managing Director Nigel Searle began briefing the press about the successful British micro maker’s next big release. It was 13 months after the company had launched the Spectrum and although that machine had become a huge success, punters and market-watchers were keen to hear about what Sinclair …
Tony Smith, 12 Jan 2014
Acer C720 Chromebook

Why 2014 might just be the year of the Google Chromebook

Can Google’s Chromebook become the laptop platform of choice during 2014? Probably not, but there’s certainly demand for it. According to US market-watcher NPD, during the 11 months from January through November 2013, the platform’s share of the computing device market had risen to 9.6 per cent from just 0.2 per cent in the same …
Tony Smith, 10 Jan 2014
Razer Nabu

Spock-style gadget can SMELL my PEE! Weird gizmos of CES 2014

CES 2014 The Las Vegas-hosted 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is still running, of course, but the majority of the announcements have been made: a fair few before the show even started, in a bid to get ahead of the rest. Like early morning shoppers, though, everyone figures out the pre-show press release trick soon enough and now …
Tony Smith, 09 Jan 2014
Intel Edison

Intel bungs PC on an SD: Tiny computer for Internet of Things and wearables

CES 2014 Intel has put a PC into an SD card-sized casing. Dubbed Edison, the micro-microcomputer marks the chip giant’s first attempt to address the emerging wearable computing business; part of its strategy to cope with a world where punters buy far fewer traditional personal computers. Or, more specifically, where ARM and not Intel …
Tony Smith, 07 Jan 2014