The Register Columnists

Nigel Whitfield

Contact Mail Follow Twitter RSS feed
No junk mail. Pic: gajman, Flickr

The last post: Building your own mail server, Part 3

FEATURE The story so far: Over the last two weeks, I've explained how you can set up a mail server to provide you with POP3 and IMAP services, for your own email, with some basic filtering of inbound connections, and the ability to connect to it and send emails from just about anywhere. This week, it's time to add more serious mail …
Nigel Whitfield, 26 Sep 2015
Groucho Marx in Duck Soup

If you got Netflix for Miss Marple, you're out of luck (and a bit odd)

Breaking Fad It's not every day that I'm torn between the physical and the digital. Usually, I manage to make a firm choice one way or the other, or at least rationalise my equivocation. For instance, when it comes to books, I buy the majority of them electronically now, but there are still authors for whom I'll buy a new title in physical …
Nigel Whitfield, 25 Sep 2015
No junk mail. Pic: gajman, Flickr

The last post: Building your own mail server, part 2

Feature Last week, I explained the reasoning behind setting up your own mailserver, and the choice of software that I'll be using for it. This week, it's time to get hands on and show you how to do it. One word of advice, though: this is my configuration, and there are lots of options for tweaking, not to mention different ways to do it …
Nigel Whitfield, 19 Sep 2015
IBC2015 Entrance

UHD everywhere ... but it's not quite ready to drink, yet

IBC 2015 The annual gathering of the broadcast clans takes place in Amsterdam each September. At this year's International Broadcasting Convention, just as at IFA a week before there was UHD everywhere. But here, the focus is on production and distribution, not watching. While 4K – and the HEVC codec – are undoubtedly everywhere, there …
Nigel Whitfield, 16 Sep 2015
No junk mail. Pic: gajman, Flickr

The last post: Building your own mail server, part 1

Feature Email is one of those internet services that, like it or not, we all have to use. Yet the underlying protocols have been around since before the invention of spam (the electronic sort, of course), and have little in the way of protection. No junk mail. Pic: gajman, Flickr Internet email is far from perfect, but unless you …
Nigel Whitfield, 12 Sep 2015
EBU Satellite Dish at HQ

Euro telly bods say 'non' to spectrum sharing with mobiles

With WRC–15 only a few months away, the battle to protect terrestrial television isn't over yet. Last week the European Broadcasting Union released a fact sheet (PDF) that summarises the key issue – can LTE share spectrum with digital terrestrial television? The brief answer is “No, it can't.” The fact sheet explains some of …
Nigel Whitfield, 02 Sep 2015
Philips G8 range 1971

Scrapheap challenge: How Amazon and Google are dumbing down the gogglebox

Breaking Fad Online video content is becoming increasingly popular, thanks to the likes of iPlayer, Netflix and Amazon. For many of us, those services make it possible to find something to watch whenever we want. With Netflix and Amazon throwing huge amounts of money at their own original productions, it's likely that more and more people …
Nigel Whitfield, 27 Aug 2015
One Nation Under CCTV

Still safe as houses: More CCTV for the masses

Feature Last week, I looked at two home camera systems: Arlo from Netgear and Welcome from Netatmo. To recap, Arlo is pretty much a straightforward cloud-based CCTV system, offering you cameras with motion sensors and notification, together with an app to view things on your phone. Netatmo's Welcome is a stand-alone camera – again …
Nigel Whitfield, 15 Aug 2015
S6 edge and edge+

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+: 4K-positive fun for ... vloggers?!

First Look It's only a few months since Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, its latest attempts to make some money out of Android. They're pretty decent phones, as we concluded in our in-depth review. S6 edge and edge+ It seems barely larger than the S6 Edge (left), but the Edge+ (right) packs in a 5.7 inch screen On Thursday …
Nigel Whitfield, 14 Aug 2015
One Nation Under CCTV

Safe as houses: CCTV for the masses

Feature The technology to keep our homes safe has been remarkably static over the years. Most alarms still rely on the same tried and trusted techniques to work out if there's someone in your home when there shouldn't be. Typically they rely on motion detectors, door and window sensors, or pressure mats. Oh and you can have fancy light …
Nigel Whitfield, 08 Aug 2015
Doctor Who in Listen

Think beyond the Beeb: Gov consultation is crucial for free telly

Breaking Fad Do you like your free-to-air TV? It looks like a reasonable chunk of spectrum will be saved for terrestrial broadcasting at the WRC–15 meeting later this year, but the battle for Freeview is far from over. Doctor Who in Listen Listen up: it's time to have your say on the BBC A couple of months back, the BBC Trust gave the …
Nigel Whitfield, 31 Jul 2015
Acer Revo One RL85 System

Acer Revo One RL85: A pint-sized PC for the snug

Review Acer has produced a number of small form factor systems over recent years, and the Revo One RL85 is the latest incarnation. It's designed very much as a home PC, and comes in an upright enclosure that's about two thirds the size of a shoebox – 106.6mm square and 155mm tall – but still manages to pack a fair bit inside. Not the …
Nigel Whitfield, 24 Jul 2015
Meta35 film camera accessory

Roll up, roll up, for the Meta35: The hybrid snapper's data dumpster

Review For many people, digital photography is a no-brainer. You can shoot as much as you like, there's no need to worry about running out of film, and you don't need to carry a notebook with you to record all the details of every shot. At the very least, your digital camera will record exposure details such as shutter speed and …
Nigel Whitfield, 19 Jul 2015
Kobo Glo HD and Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

Kobo Glo HD vs Amazon Kindle Paperwhite: Which one's best?

Review Over the last few years, the market for e-readers and books has managed to both consolidate and grow. Many more people have an e-reading device, or use tablets to read, while at the same time the number of players has shrunk. Kobo Glo HD and Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Bought to book: Kobo Glo HD (left) and Amazon Kindle …
Nigel Whitfield, 04 Jul 2015
Kobo Glo HD

Q: What's black and white and read all over? A: E-reader displays

Feature Reading on screen can be something of a chore. As computers have become smaller and more pocketable, so it's become more possible to carry around a device that not only has a reasonable quality display, but weighs little enough to be considered a replacement for a book. Kobo Glo HD Get Carta: Kobo's Glo HD has the latest e- …
Nigel Whitfield, 28 Jun 2015
View-Master vintage advertisement

Humongous headsets and virtual insanity

Breaking Fad I recently visited the David Attenborough First Life virtual reality exhibit at the Natural History Museum in London, and as I wrote at the time, it's very impressive. It's an astonishing way of bringing things to life, and well worth checking it out if you happen to be in London between now and the 24 September. This sort of …
Nigel Whitfield, 26 Jun 2015
Attenborough's First Life - Still image

Virtual reality below the prehistoric waves: David Attenborough's First Life

Review One way or another, Sir David Attenborough has been involved in the adoption of many key consumer technologies of recent decades, from the introduction of colour programming as BBC 2 controller, through landmark TV series such as Life on Earth, to the stunning HD of Planet Earth – and 3D nature programming for Sky. It's perhaps …
Nigel Whitfield, 20 Jun 2015
Dell Venue 8 7840 Android tablet

RealSense possibilities: Dell Venue 8 7000 8.4in Android tablet

Review These days, it seems like the world and his civil partner has a tablet to offer you, whether it's a bargain basement offering like the Tesco Hudl 2 or something more media-centric, like the Amazon Fire HDX 8. One of the sweet spots for tablet pricing seems to be around the £300–350 range, where you'll expect to get a decent- …
Nigel Whitfield, 10 Jun 2015
Crossness Beam Engine

Taming the Thames – The place that plugged London's Great Stink

Geek's Guide to Britain At various times in the history of the UK, there’s been a massive stink at Westminster, accompanied by demands that “something must be done”. We’ll be stumbling through the demands for PR after this year’s election for a while yet, but spare a thought for the politicians of 1858 who had to endure The Great Stink. With a river …
Nigel Whitfield, 30 May 2015
RelaxAcizor ad from 1968

Wearable fitness tech: Exercising your self-motivation skills

Breaking Fad Fitness trackers, sleep trackers and more are all the rage these days. How many of you have a Fitbit, Jawbone, or other device that’s intended to either incentivise or depress you by reminding you of how far you’ve walked, or how long you’ve been sat down? Apple’s Watch will even remind you to stand up from time to time, as long …
Nigel Whitfield, 29 May 2015
William Davies, The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold Us Well-Being

The Happiness Industry, Seveneves and Confessions of a Tinderella

Page File El Reg bookworm Mark Diston is joined by Vulture South's own Simon Sharwood and Vulture Central's Nigel Whitfield to pore through the latest from the publishing world. William Davies examines the current political and corporate obsession with wellbeing. Neal Stephenson's latest sci-fi tome adds a satirical spin to saving the …
Bubblecar Bond MkD

Messerschmitts, Sinclairs and a '50s living room: The Bubblecar Museum

Review Sir Alec Issigonis' Mini may, perhaps, be the most famous of British small cars, and the Fiat 500 one of the most well known continental ones, but before either of those appeared, came plenty of other tiny vehicles, aimed at providing transport on a budget to people across Europe. With engines as small as 122cc, often only three …
Nigel Whitfield, 16 May 2015
Internet of Things book cover

Building the Internet of Things with Raspberry Pi et al, DIY-style

Page File The Internet of Things (IoT) is all the rage at the moment, with dozens of manufacturers throwing out kit like remote-control lightbulbs, weather stations, thermostats and plenty more. Some of those are great products and some of them are also-rans. Quite a lot, it turns out, are actually simple enough that you could probably …
Nigel Whitfield, 09 May 2015
Coffee Festival Brick Lane

London Coffee Festival: Caffeine, tech and martinis on show in Shoreditch

As many Reg readers will know, between the start and end of a project there’s often an awful lot of coffee. However you make it, a coffee is essential for many of us. It’s become such a part of our life – in many places supplanting the good old cuppa – that there’s a huge industry of coffee shops, roaster, machine makers and so …
Nigel Whitfield, 02 May 2015

High-speed powerline: Home connectivity without the cables

Breaking Fad Whether you’re a fan of the Internet of Things (IoT) or just a user of home technology, for many Reg readers IP connectivity is something that you probably want just about everywhere in your home, whether it’s to WhatsApp from the bath, or for things like media streamers and smart TVs in the living room. Compared to five years …
Nigel Whitfield, 30 Apr 2015
LIZARD WEARING A TOP HAT SITS ON A BRANCH.  Brett Weinstein pic - ALTERED BY JUDE KARABUS - licensed under  CC 3.0

E-voting and the UK election: Pick a lizard, any lizard

Feature On Thursday May 7, the UK goes to the polls for a General Election. For those from elsewhere, we use the First Past the Post voting system, with each MP representing a specific geographical constituency. So, a majority of one is enough to win a seat, and the party leader who can command a majority of votes in the House of …
Nigel Whitfield, 29 Apr 2015
Record Store Day 2015

Go for a spin on Record Store Day: Lifting the lid on vinyl, CD and tape

Feature Today, Saturday 18 April, is Record Store Day. Partly a celebration of vinyl, and partly a keen marketing drive to remind people that there are still places to buy music that don't involve massive offshore companies. No doubt there will be busy queues outside venues like Rough Trade East in London, and, alas, speculators buying …
Nigel Whitfield, 18 Apr 2015

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

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