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Simple, Smart, Small Bluetooth Music System to your Speakers

One of my bug bears is having plugin my phone into a cable to listen to music. With a cable plugged in to the phone, it becomes "tethered" to my desk and therefore don't have quite the same freedoms to use it as a phone.

The Avantree Roxa Bluetooth Receiver works brilliantly if you have a set of wired speakers or perhaps a hifi system which is set up on the opposite side of the room from where you happen to be sitting.

The Avantree is so easy to setup with only two very logical steps:

1. Plug the Avantree into a wall socket.

2. Pair your bluetooth capable device with the Avantree. 

and that's it!

The Avantree also has a USB socket which provides sufficient power (1 Amp) for charging iPhones, iPads and any other device that can be charged over USB.

This really is a very capable device and one that would be at home in any home or office.

I got this from MobileFun where there are lots more smartphone accessories.

JBL OnBeat Micro Lightning Speaker Dock

Last week, I ordered a speaker dock system for my iPhone 5 with the lightning connector. Nearly a year after the release of the iPhone 5, there are still only a few speaker dock systems using the now-not-so-new lightning connector.

JBL are renowned for designing speaker systems which produce high quality sound. This is no exception.

As a Head Teacher, I've been in lots of classrooms and observed lots of lessons and fun activities where teachers want to play music from their iPhones, but instead resort to the complexities of having to copy the sound file to a computer in order to burn a CD. Schools need kit like this to make teaching and using ICT resources so much simpler. Dock your iPhone and press play should be as difficult as it gets.

I'm really liking this speaker dock. It comes well equipped with an AC supply adapter, USB port on the back for connecting other devices, perhaps with the 30-pin dock connector, and also a 3.5 stereo jack as an input from another audio source. This is a very versatile speaker docking system.

Removing the cover on the base of the unit reveals a battery compartment, requiring 4 AAA batteries for it to operate wirelessly.

This is a must have item for any home or classroom!


Travel Tidy Cables

Whenever I travel with technology of any kind, I always find myself carrying a nest of handy cables and adapters. Clearly, when travelling light and with hand luggage, smaller and lighter are the two key words.

So here is my latest technical addition in that quest for light-weight and compact.

Raspberry Pi Retractable RJ-45 Ethernet Cable

Despite most hotels offering wifi solutions. I still find myself plugging in occasionally. This is exactly what you need. 

Tidy Desk, Tidy Mind!

My MacBook Pro connects directly to an Apple Cinema Screen. Whilst my Cinema screen is somewhat old with a standard DVI connector, my MacBook uses the Ultra-cool Thunderbolt interface. 

As many Mac fans will know, the early Cinema screens has a multitude of connectors all clustered together at the end of it;s single, reasonably bulky cable. I have a DVI to Thunderbolt connector, but I disliked the array of other connectors sprawled across my desk - quite unnecessarily and each connector was a perfect habitat for dust. 

Having spotted this Thunderbolt extension cable, I wanted to see if this solved my issues. 

All I have now on my desk are three connectors. Power. Ethernet. Thunderbolt.

If you are looking to do something similar, this is what you are looking for!

Dr. Bott 2m Mini DisplayPort Extension


(ps. this doesn't prevent the nest of cables tucked away, tangled but crucially out of sight, behind the desk!)

Portable Bluetooth speaker - the Veho 360 M4

As many of you know, I often retreat to the sanctuary of my allotment and greenhouse at every opportunity. I love its peacefulness and love the social nature of meeting like-minded gardeners. However, there are times when I miss listening to a radio station, or music and whilst some use small portable radios, I've opted for a portable Bluetooth speaker which interfaces with my iPod or iPhone. It's small, compact and has an inbuilt rechargeable battery which makes powering it so convenient and easy to keep powered.

One major weakness of small speaker systems is the lack of bass and this isn't completely solved by the Veho. Its small size makes it almost impossible to overcome the problem of producing deep, rich bass notes, however, it makes a very respectable attempt at trying to.

The Veho speaker system is very well equipped:

  • rechargeable battery pack (built in)
  • micro USB for charging
  • audio in jack socket (3.5)
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • micro SD card slot for playing music directly from memory storage

The controls on top of this unit are also well designed, with volume, skip forward / back, and power (both stop and on/off.)

Desk Pets - the gadgeteers favourite pet

As a Deputy Head Teacher of a primary school in Essex, I have become renowned for my cupboard of gadgets, electronic toys and gizmos. The collection started from a humble beginning, researching the interaction between young children and toys, looking specifically at the learning that takes place. It was a fun(!) research project and gave me plenty of scope to try lots of different types of toy.

Of course, the electronic gadgets now feature in my teaching, with Control Technology very much at the forefront of the ICT curriculum. With the children playing with iPads, building roller coaster simulations on the Mac, using Hex-bugs, roamers, bee-bots, and the like, there are always plenty of devices to explore.

The latest addition to my "collection" is the DeskPet which is an iPad / iPhone accessory.

The children have responded well to using the DeskPet which is essentially controlled using an iPhone app with a transmitter plugged into the headphone jack. This was a surprise and had anticipated something plugged into the Dock connector. I suppose using the headphone jack makes the DeskPet quite versatile and therefore not limited to iOS devices. Weirdly, I couldn't get DeskPet to function initially, but then realised that both my iPad and iPhone were muted. Control signals to the DeskPet must be in the form of sound waves, which are completely inaudible, so presumably operating at the very high frequencies.

The children have really warmed to the DeskPet and love setting themselves challenges of following courses and routes. This is not only a great addition to my cupboard, but one that is very popular too!

iPad Mini case

The iPad Mini is designed to be carried everywhere. It wants to just slip into a small bag. Now that my wife uses hers to read, it gets put in her handbag wherever she goes. As with all Apple products, they look gorgeous naked and dreadful when fully clothed in a huge unwieldy case.

I think we have discovered the perfect case which offers practical protection from scuffs and scratches whilst being carried, to enabling its natural beauty to be showcased whenever in use.

This is the Encase designed pouch in a charcoal wool finish. Snug, sleek and very well protected.

More iPad Mini cases can be found online here.

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