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Nigel Whitfield

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The coming of DAB+: Stereo eluded the radio star

Breaking Fad Among my collection of radios, I have a couple of DAB sets, a 1940 Pilot Twin Miracle, a 1950s Ferguson that needs a bit of repair, and a rather long-in-the-tooth Marantz tuner as part of the living room hi-fi. It's a while since I powered up the Pilot, but it still more or less worked, which is not bad going for something that …
Nigel Whitfield, 01 Apr 2015
NHM Coral Reef Aquarium

Coral Reefs: Secret Cities of the Sea exhibition – life beneath the waves

Review There's an undeniable fascination to coral reefs and the creatures that inhabit them, whether it's tales of shipwreck on tropical islands surrounded by a lagoon, romantic snorkelling adventures, or captivating documentaries about the Great Barrier Reef. Underwater Camer Underwater cameras have captured over 800,000 images of …
Nigel Whitfield, 29 Mar 2015
Pocket Kodak

Mono Magic: Photography, Breaking Bad style

Feature Digital cameras are cheap and convenient. But some people feel they also lack soul, or encourage us all to often to experience life through an LCD screen, firing off hundreds of shots we'll probably never look at, rather than absorbing our surroundings. Film, on the other hand, according to some, can lend itself to a more …
Nigel Whitfield, 22 Mar 2015
Retro room lighting

How many Androids does it take to change a light bulb?

Breaking Fad For an awfully long time, there have been just two types of lights, more or less. There were ordinary incandescent bulbs and there were fluorescent ones. Sometimes, there were fancy circular fluorescent ones, but that was about as complicated as it got – save for fiddly things like the battle between weirdo continental screw …
Nigel Whitfield, 05 Mar 2015
Panasonic TH-103PZ600

Telly behemoths: Does size matter?

Feature This month, the fabulously wealthy owners of houses with curved walls will be delighted to know that the world's largest curved TV arrives at the Knightsbridge tat-palace Harrods. With a 105-inch screen, LG's new set, the snappily named 105UC9V boasts a 21:9 aspect ratio, and all the latest technology. LG 105UC9 105-inch 21:9 …
Nigel Whitfield, 01 Mar 2015
Trackr Bravo

Be your own Big Brother: Covert home spy gadgetry

Feature Ah, lurve. The sweet strains of Barry White, the bouquets of flowers, the boxes of chocolates. That was Valentine's day. Now it's a week later, and perhaps the nagging paranoia is starting to set in. Why haven't they called? Is your phone still working? Go on, pick it up again and check. On the Street Where You Live On the …
Nigel Whitfield, 21 Feb 2015
Hughes Products 1960s videophone concept

Ofcom can prise my telly spectrum from my COLD, DEAD... er, aerial

Breaking Fad Ah, nostalgia! How often people round these parts wax lyrical about the days of the ZX Spectrum. And how quickly, if some get their way, we may be waxing lyrical about the spectrum that used to provide us with terrestrial TV. Yes, a bare few months after I suggested Reg readers might like to make their thoughts known to Ofcom on …
Nigel Whitfield, 06 Feb 2015
BOLIVIA, UYUNI, 17 SEPTEMBER 2014 - Internet and mobile communications in Uyuni, Bolivia, South America - pic via shutterstock

'Boutique' ISPs: Snub the Big 4 AND get great service

Feature As we've seen in recent weeks, broadband in the UK is far from perfect, and in some areas is still disappointingly slow, and with a limited number of choices. Much of the market belongs to a handful big companies such as BT, TalkTalk, Sky and Virgin Media. Like big companies in every market, they adopt a particular approach: …
Nigel Whitfield, 31 Jan 2015
1950s style illustration - Smiling woman talks into rotary phone

Landlines: The tech that just won't die

Feature For a huge number of Brits, mobiles have become our primary way of communicating, even when we're at home. When a call comes in, we know it's ours. We can reply with a text, or use apps like WhatsApp to communicate with friends abroad. Increasingly, we don't rely on our landline phones and, thanks to lax policing of the …
Nigel Whitfield, 25 Jan 2015
Alcatel Speedtouch USB ADSL modem

Future imperfect: A UK broadband retrospective

Feature It's astonishing how fast the world changes. It's not so long ago that my internet connection at home was a 64k KiloStream, with an ISDN line that was used for backup, or channel bonding if I wanted to download something at a whopping 128kbps. It was fearsomely expensive, but since I was writing about the net a lot back then, it …
Nigel Whitfield, 17 Jan 2015
CES 1978

CES 2015: The good, the mad and the POINTLESS

Breaking Fad Fresh from digesting the gadgets we got for Christmas, the thoughts of tech lovers everywhere turn to Las Vegas. Since it's CES, what happens in Vegas doesn't always tend to stay there, and the annual product-fest is awash with shiny, gleaming tech that could be destined for a living room near you later this year. CES 1978 CES …
Nigel Whitfield, 08 Jan 2015
Mamod steam traction engine

Ghosts of Christmas Past: The long-ago geek gifts that made us what we are

Product Roundup It's fairly well accepted that events and things from our past help to make us the twisted, misanthropic people we are today. Or perhaps that's just Team Register. It being the season of festive excess, we wondered if there were perhaps some geeky gifts that, as a kid, helped you explore science, tech, and similar areas, and …
Nigel Whitfield, 25 Dec 2014
Grindr

Lonely this Xmas? Nerds, n00bs and no-hopers' guide to dating apps, Pt.1

Feature Missed out on a date at the Christmas party? So did we ... but as the joke in the cracker said, "Why is a smartphone like a milkshake? Because it brings all the boys to the yard." Online dating has changed a huge amount in recent years. Not so long ago, even some of the big names in dating had sites that hadn't significantly …
Nigel Whitfield, 21 Dec 2014
EE TV Freeview PVR

Four tuner frenzy: The all-you-can-EEat TV Freeview PVR

Review Television's a lot smarter than it used to be, and there's an ever-increasing number of ways that the basic experience can be enhanced, whether it's by providing extra Over-The-Top (OTT) content with services such as Netflix, or convenient features, such as the ability to set recordings when you're out and about, using text …
Nigel Whitfield, 15 Dec 2014
Ollie by Sphero

Are you a Geek Dad/Uncle/Mum/Aunt? Ten Techy Gifts for kids this Xmas

Product Roundup It's that time again. Get ready to dig deep into your pockets, and spend your hard earned cash on gifts for the kids, the nieces and nephews, the neighbour's sprog and just about everyone else who's flung their arms round your knees and cooed "Unkle" appealingly. If you're torn between bankruptcy and a whole string of people …
Nigel Whitfield, 13 Dec 2014
The Rugby Tuning Coil

The Information Age: A day out for grown-up children?

Exhibition Review The Science Museum's new Information Age gallery opened in October to great fanfare. Most of that fanfare, however, was concerned with an elderly lady having sent a tweet, rather than the substance of the exhibition itself. Youtube Video So, with the Christmas holidays upon us, and a pressing need to find things to fill up the …
Nigel Whitfield, 06 Dec 2014
The Trax app gives you an 'augumented reality' view to help find the kids

Be your own Big Brother: With the help of Apple, Facebook ... oh, HANG ON

So far in this series, we've looked at ways of monitoring specific things, but this time round, people are the topic. There are, the media would have you believe, dreadful things out there – predators lurking behind every corner, dreadful accidents waiting to befall the unwary. The Trax app gives you an 'augumented reality' …
Nigel Whitfield, 30 Nov 2014

Festive streamers caught in Vulture's claws: Gadget-ogle for audiophiles, video geeks

Breaking Fad What was your first streaming device? Over recent months, there has been a glut of them, but the first to find a space on my network was a Roku SoundBridge (or, more accurately, Pinnacle SoundBridge HomeMusic, as it was known in the UK). Soundbridge Streaming devices have come a long way in a short time Soundbridge Streaming …
Nigel Whitfield, 28 Nov 2014
Monty Python dead parrot sketch

BAD SANTA: Don't get ripped off this Christmas

Feature The season of horror and expense will soon be upon us, and with it lots of gift guides telling you what you should be forking out for. But before we get stuck into that, how you should buy it is just as important. Youtube Video As the recent collapse of Phones4U showed, even something as simple as choosing the wrong way to pay …
Nigel Whitfield, 16 Nov 2014
Koubachi plant monitor

Be Your Own Big Brother: Going to pot

Feature A lot of the tech we've looked at so far in this series has been for safety – like monitoring seniors – or curiosity, like pet tracking. Another very useful area is productivity... and we don't mean the sort that involves management jargon. We're talking horticulture. With the right tech, even the least green-fingered of us …
Nigel Whitfield, 09 Nov 2014
Charlie Chaplin The Cure (1917)

Making an entrance: Remote door-opening tech

Breaking Fad For a lot of Reg readers, home automation is probably an internal affair – that is, if you're using technology, it's probably to control things inside the home, like heating, lighting and so on. And indeed, that also makes up the bulk of what's available when it comes to the major suppliers. Youtube Video One area that's fairly …
Nigel Whitfield, 30 Oct 2014
Cat on computer

Be Your Own Big Brother: Peeking at pussy

Feature Last year, the BBC's Horizon programme treated the cats of a Surrey village to individual cameras, and their own prime-time spot on TV to share the results. And now the Beeb is at it again with Cat Watch 2014, hoping to find out a little more about what our feline companions get up to. Youtube Video Whether you're a dog or a …
Nigel Whitfield, 12 Oct 2014
Vintage electric lamps

A moment of brilliance? UPnP for Internet of Stuff lightbulbs

Breaking Fad Home automation can be a lot of fun. However, it can also be the cause of an awful lot of headaches. So, you thought those remote control plug sockets from the DIY store were a good deal? Vintage electric lamps Shedding light on compatibility issues Maybe they were ... and then you find, when you get them home, that they use …
Nigel Whitfield, 01 Oct 2014

Cable guy, Games of Thrones chap team up to make Reg 'best sci-fi film never made' reject

It wasn't quite good enough for you lot, but it looks like Kim Stanley Robinson's award-winning Mars Trilogy is set for TV adaptation. Fans of Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars (insert RGB joke here...) can look forward to a forthcoming adaptation of the series, after the announcement by cable TV channel Spike TV that it's …
Nigel Whitfield, 01 Oct 2014
Alf Garnett and Else

Be your own Big Brother: Keeping an eye on Mum and Dad

Feature Time was, when relatives started to get old, they'd move into the spare bedroom. My grandmother's generation seemed to do a lot of that, with assorted great aunts taking up residence. But it's much less common now. Else and Alf Garnett, Mike and Rita Fancy an alternative to regular visits to Mum and Dad? Source: BBC, Till …
Nigel Whitfield, 27 Sep 2014
DTS interactive audio

Fake tape detectors, 'from the stands' footie and UGH! Internet of Things in my set-top box

IBC 2014 At this time of year, the tech press is often focused on IFA, the massive electronics show in Berlin where many companies unveil their latest products, including smartphones, flatter, curvier TVs than ever before, and all manner of other things. Taking place a week later in Amsterdam, IBC, the International Broadcasting …
Nigel Whitfield, 24 Sep 2014
Withings Home camera

Be your own Big Brother: Monitoring your manor, the easy way

Feature If you've ever had the misfortune to be burgled, you'll know how nervous it can make you feel. After my own experience some twenty years ago, it took a long time before I could leave the flat without fretting, and perhaps using my new-fangled mobile phone to call the home computer and check that it was still there to answer the …
Nigel Whitfield, 14 Sep 2014
Wired for sound

Pimp my lounge and pierce my ceiling: Home theatre goes OTT

Breaking Fad As Steve May wrote in the previous Breaking Fad, Dolby Atmos for the home is an impressive sound system, and this year will see the release of a range of kit that supports it from several manufacturers. Wired for sound Multichannel hi-fi upgrades are getting more and more complex Does that mean it's going to be the next big …
Nigel Whitfield, 02 Sep 2014
Gold Blend TV ad

Best shot: Coffee - how do you brew?

Review Youtube Video Whether it's to wake us up or keep us coding, for many techies coffee is an essential part of our daily ritual. With my bean-to-cup machine away being repaired, I've had to find other ways to get my fix. (required by the license) Coyau / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0 When all else fails, there's "moka" java on …
Nigel Whitfield, 23 Aug 2014
Freeview becomes Feeview

4K video on terrestrial TV? Not if the WRC shares frequencies to mobiles

Breaking Fad For fans of terrestrial television, this is the best of times and this is the worst of times. The DVB consortium has recently produced a draft specification for Ultra High Definition aka 4K, fitting the UHD video within the standard transport streams that are already used for SD and HD. As evidenced by the BBC's current closed …
Nigel Whitfield, 30 Jul 2014
Apple Homekit prototype pics?

Home automation while it's hot: Winter warmth for lazy technophiles

Breaking Fad Home is not just a place for the family; it's also becoming a place that tech companies are fighting over as they scramble to develop home automation equipment for lazy savvy suburbanites. Video clip of TV sitcom character Frank Spencer catastrophically failing to engage with an automated home. 1980s vintage clip. Of course, …
Nigel Whitfield, 24 Jun 2014
Sony KD-84X9005 84in 4K LED TV

4K-ing hell! Will your shiny new Ultra HD TV actually display HD telly?

Feature With just about every TV maker showing off 4K sets at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) earlier this month, and companies like Netflix promising to have content available in the format, it’s tempting to think that if you’re buying a new TV, 4K may be worth a look. Or, at least, worth hanging on for until it’s more sensibly …
Nigel Whitfield, 20 Jan 2014
Casio calculator

Ten classic electronic calculators from the 1970s and 1980s

Retro roundup Until sometime in the early 1980s, when you reached secondary school you were handed a slim book full of numbers during a maths lesson and taught how to use log tables. Sines, cosines, tangents, square roots - they were all in there too. While it made a change from long division, it caused its own share of headaches. But, to a …
Nigel Whitfield, 03 Jan 2014

Gift-giving gotchas: How to avoid Xmas morning EMBARRASSMENT

You might think, what with gift buying out of the way, the hard work of the holiday season is largely done. Not so. Before you reach for the wrapping paper and sticky tape, there’s a fair bit more you can do to ensure a trouble- and tantrum-free Christmas Day. Batteries not included If you’ve been buying gadgets, don’t forget …
Nigel Whitfield, 23 Dec 2013
Milton Bradley Big Trak

Ghosts of Christmas Past: Ten tech treats from yesteryear

Xmas Round-up Christmas isn’t just a time for celebration – it’s also a time for bitter, tearful reflection on the things that might have been and the gifts you’d have received if only you worked harder at that paper round, or your parents loved you enough. So we at The Reg decided to sift the salty tears of seasonal recrimination and seek …
Nigel Whitfield, 12 Dec 2013
Ciseco Pi-Lite

Ten top tech toys to interface with a techie’s Christmas stocking

Xmas Round-up ‘Tis the season for dropping unsubtle hints about gifts that YOU’D like to receive, or – if you prefer – for making a list of things that you would buy for nephews and nieces but, because you’re an evil misanthropic Uncle or Auntie, you’ll buy for yourself instead. At least that way there’ll be no tantrums round the tree and …
Nigel Whitfield, 11 Dec 2013

Have Brits fallen for Netflix, or do they still LoveFilm?

Feature BBC iPlayer turned five at Christmas, and the Corporation reported some pretty impressive usage statistics as it did so. While iPlayer is something of a juggernaut in the IPTV world, it’s only relatively recently made the leap from PC to living room and connected devices such as smart TVs and set-top boxes. Arguably 2012 was …
Nigel Whitfield, 25 Jan 2013
Toshiba's Viewster

Why do Smart TV UIs suck?

Feature Years ago, TVs were simple. My grandparents’ set, for example, had a single channel-change button which clunked through to the next VHF preset each time you pushed it. My own family's TV had two standards, enabling us to “Switch to U for BBC 2” in time for Play Away. Inevitably, matters have became much more complicated than …
Nigel Whitfield, 21 Nov 2012
TVonics HV250

Administrator eyes DVR firesale after TVonics collapse

UK DVR maker TVonics has gone into administration. The maker of Freeview HD recorders, including the DTR-Z500HD and DTR-HD500, was placed in the hands of Bell Advisory on 12 June. And, though it’s been in administration before and survived, back in 2008, things don’t look good this time round. A spokesman confirmed today that …
Nigel Whitfield, 27 Jun 2012
Draytek Vigor 2820

Soup up your home network

Gizmo Week Reg Hardware Gizmo Week logo small There can’t be many Reg Hardware readers who don’t have a home network. In fact, these days you’d have to look hard indeed to find an ISP that sells its connection as strictly single PC only and just tosses in a USB modem rather than some sort of router. A decade or so ago, just about any …
Nigel Whitfield, 13 Apr 2012
Nest Labs' Nest

The Hardware Hacker's Guide to Home Automation

Gizmo Week Reg Hardware Gizmo Week logo small The home of the future is a staple of both speculative fiction and comedy. Back in the 1970s, Frank Spencer caused havoc in an automated home during an episode of Some Mothers Do 'Ave Em. For some of us, the enduring image of home automation is either Michael Crawford chaos, worthy but dull …
Nigel Whitfield, 11 Apr 2012
BBC logo

WTF... should I pay to download BBC shows?

Feature The outgoing Director General of the BBC, Mark Thompson, recently announced plans for Project Barcelona, a download store for material from the BBC archives. At the moment, you can watch most BBC programmes for seven days after broadcast, free of charge using iPlayer. In a few cases, a whole series may be available for a little …
Nigel Whitfield, 20 Mar 2012
Roku 2 XS IPTV player

Roku 2 XS IPTV player

Review In the US, Roku has ridden to prominence on the back of services like Netflix and Hulu, and the phenomenon of ‘cord cutting’, where people discontinue pay TV services in favour of, well, paid IPTV services. That’s perhaps not surprising when their entry level box costs less than £40 including tax for US customers. Roku 2 XS …
Nigel Whitfield, 24 Feb 2012
Heatmiser PRS-TS WiFi RF Thermostat

Heatmiser PRT-TS Wi-Fi RF thermostat

Review With fuel bills ever rising, keeping an eye on your heating makes good sense, and Heatmiser’s Wi-Fi thermostat is intended to help you do just that. It’s based around a large, 3 x 2.5in touchscreen, which controls a timer/thermostat with its wireless features enabling configuration from an iOS device. Heatmiser PRS-TS WiFi RF …
Nigel Whitfield, 23 Feb 2012
Sleeper

21st Century Sex: the shape of things to come

NSFW Reg Hardware Sex Week In the 1980s, when the first HIV and AIDS awareness campaigns were launched, alongside the crashing tombstones, leaflets gave frank advice about the risks involved in digital intercourse. In those days, of course, that just meant pleasuring someone with your fingers. Concerns about computers and sex …
Nigel Whitfield, 14 Feb 2012
Netflix vs Lovefilm

Netflix vs Lovefilm

IPTV Week IPTV Week logo This month, at long last, US video streaming giant Netflix finally arrived on UK shores, with a £5.99 all-you-can-eat offering. It was swiftly matched by the local incumbent, Lovefilm. The Amazon-owned company pitched a streaming-only option at an introductory £4.99. But which is the best option for Reg …
Nigel Whitfield, 26 Jan 2012
Reg Hardware IPTV Week

IPTV UK: what's on tonight?

IPTV Week IPTV Week logo 2012 looks like it stands a good chance of being the year that IPTV really starts to go mainstream, with more services and a good range of content appearing built in to TVs and other devices, not to mention the web. And, of course, the launch of YouView will help raise the profile of IPTV still further in the …
Nigel Whitfield, 23 Jan 2012
3D_Glasses_SM

Strictly Come Dancing in 3D: the facts

Apparently some Brits are keen on the BBC's playground for sparkly attired hoofers, Strictly Come Dancing, which comes to its latest grand final this Saturday. Tech watchers have an interest too: it's one of the first BBC shows to be transmitted in 3D via Freeview HD. Don't want to miss the 'action'? Gone Digital's Nigel …
Nigel Whitfield, 13 Dec 2011
Smart TVs

Smart TV shootout

Review It’s about 18 months since I last rounded up internet-connected TVs - or "Smart TVs" as they’re now being named by all the manufacturers these days. Since then, all the brands have upped their game considerably, and just about all of their offerings are much more powerful than the 2009 models I looked at last time. As before, I' …
Nigel Whitfield, 29 Nov 2011
BBC logo

Inside the BBC's R&D Labs

Whatever your views on its programming, it is hard to deny that the BBC’s research labs have produced some pretty clever things over the years. Teletext, RDS and Nicam stereo are just some of the more well known ones, but the R&D Lab is also responsible for much of the work on the DVB-T2 standard that makes Freeview HD possible …
Nigel Whitfield, 23 Nov 2011