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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!


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!

Wire-less Care-free Type-more Keyboard

For a while now, I've been searching for the perfect wireless keyboard. Not necessarily for any serious typing, a full size one is needed after all. However, there's something very neat about this particular keyboard, its size.

Originally I thought I'd use this for armchair control over my home entertainment system, a 24" iMac with wireless mouse. It means I can send commands and controls to the Mac using the key commands across the room using its Bluetooth connectivity. It works very well at this and I'm delighted with it.

I then tried pairing the keyboard with my iPad, iPhone, and now the latest, my little Raspberry Pi computer. The Raspberry Pi needs a bluetooth adaptor, but that was easy to source and hook up. Using an iPad 3 keyboard has made such a difference to typing information effortlessly.

What I love most about the keyboard is its function. It comes with a USB cable (for charging) and a small pouch with a lift-and-over end for securing the keyboard. A really nice device, perfect for use in the home and for traveling. Fab.


Synology DiskStation Audio Station

I've had the DiskStation running for a week now and I keep finding a whole set of new features. The device is a fully fledged media server offering a streaming service for a variety of media types, photos, audio, video and even security cameras.

I'm interested in how this device can be used in the school environment to share both learning resources and the digital creativity work that the pupils produce. The latter is such a big issue for me because so much work is created by pupils, yet there are few opportunities where this work can be shared, nevermind even accessed by a wider audience. I think the Synology DiskStation is about to change all that.

Audio Station

Starting the Audio Station service is easy. Simply find the application in the Control Panel and check the box.

Files to be shared are uploaded using the File Browser window. You can establish your own file system should you wish, or simply point your upload to a folder containing the media you wish to upload and the whole process is managed efficiently and effortlessly.

A progress bar shows what items are in the queue and also upload progress.

Once uploaded, you can view the collection of folders and files through the File Browser window.

However, this is only the storage of this media. What about being able to play this media across the Ethernet or Wireless network?

The DiskStation software allows the media to be streamed to device in several ways. Using the web interface, the media can be played through the Audio Station software which is essentially presented with a similar interface to iTunes. A neat solution for cross-platform compatibility since the display will appear identical on a Mac or Windows PC. Furthermore, in a school setting, this requires less training in order to use the software.


What I REALLY like about the DiskStation however, is the way in which multiple devices can access this same playlist. Here is the view on my iPhone 4....



This is staggeringly good. It makes me reflect on how we can simply do away with CDs being used here and there, skipping and jumping because the scratches from heavy and continued usage. Plugging a computer, an iPhone, iPod or an iPad into a sound system would just work. All of this works across the WIFI network.

The DS audio app is the player for the iPhone/iPad/iPod and is a free download from the iTunes Store.

...and finally. What better way of accessing shared music from a central source, than to make it available to the iTunes Streaming Service?

Here is my iTunes application on my Mac listing the contents of the iTunes library...

...and below, accessing and playing the "Shift Happens" film. 


This DiskStation is staggeringly good and so effortless to implement, administer, control and access.

Already, I am uploading videos that pupils have made, films that pupils are watching for the From Screen to Page writing programme and audio that might be used around the school and across the curriculum.

Learning really can be this exciting.

I can't wait to begin exploring yet another feature, which will probably wait until the next blog update!

Word is out! Dictate your thoughts on the go...

Wow pretty much sums up my thinking when I first explored this new application on the iPhone. 

I've seen and attempted (!) to use dictation software on a variety of systems in the past, all mostly, time consuming and wildly inaccurate. At first, I doubted likelihood of this software being any better, but I installed it and gave it a go!

It's really this simple...

Step 1. Load Dragon Dictation Step 2. Get ready to dictate! Step 3. Dictate!
Step 4. Edit any mistakes. Step 5. Choose an alternative? Step 6. Complete and post.



Inspired by the accuracy of this tool, I'll be introducing it to some teachers tomorrow to discuss how it can support learners who struggle with writing. This of course isn't a substitute for pupils writing, but initially, it will be highly effective at allowing unconfident writers to communicate their ideas, their story without having to worry about how words are spelt or letters are formed. This can be the cause of a huge frustration for young learners, especially those who find writing difficult further into KS2 where their peers are writing confidently and freely.

On further reflection, the dragon dictate software could be a useful tool to support speech and language work, providing that reassurance and reward when pupils are speak clearly and confidently. Lots of potential here I feel.

The software also works brilliantly on the iPod Touch and iPads. Could this be yet another use for these portable devices in the classroom?

How else could this software be used to support learning in home and school? Please add your thoughts here.


Flat-pack, foldable plug and built in iPhone charging socket

I'm really captivated by sleek, flush fitting designed hardware at the moment having just rewired and installed wiring in my new house. Looking back, my old house was just the prototype for much of what I'm doing now except without so many wires visible.

To create an automated home setup which includes controlling the central heating boiler, PIR security and TV recording and streaming devices around the house, there's quite a bit cable running under the floor, between walls and through ceilings. Keeping the cables hidden is quite a challenge.

Chargers are often the worse with long cables, most of which is left hanging or laying around.

Maplin Electronics sell a UK 13A plug socket with a built in USB charging socket. A neat solution for de-cluttering any kitchen or lounge. Reasonably priced at £14.99.







This week, I also spotted that designer, Min-Kyo Choi has won the Brit Insurance Design Award 2010 for creating a flat-pack plug. See photo above. I really liked the way several plugs can folded up and still plugged into a specially designed multi-way plug. Really smart thinking.

Check out the YouTube video....


iPhone Power Station - power to the people and phones

The iPhone travels with me everywhere I go. Most days it gets a lot of use from listening to music, taking photos, checking travel and weather reports, accessing email, diary, administering servers and my home (more on this later!) Some software on the phone drains the battery more than others, such as using it as a phone, or the GPS and Google Maps where data is constantly being downloaded. Often the iPhone struggles to even last the day without a top up or connection to my computer. Some days, this just doesn't happen as I'm constantly moving here there and everywhere.

I know about the battery 'jackets' you can buy for the iPhone, but I hate them, mostly because they make the phone chunky and who wants to lose the beautiful design?  No, I needed something I could just plug in, even momentarily and didn't rely on needed to be connected to the mains. There are hundreds of iPhone accessories out there, but few really make the grade.

The Mobile Power Station seems to be a pretty smart solution. It has a dock plug which is simply connected to the bottom of the iPhone with a simple battery level indicator to show how much charge is left in the device. It charges the iPhone and on a full charge will completely charge the phone in about 30 minutes. Of course the phone still works albeit with something piggybacked onto it.

When using Trailguru on the iPhone for tracking distance travelled on my bike this weekend, the iPhone rarely manages to complete a 2hr cycle because the GPS and screen power is just so draining for its battery. However, with the Mobile Power Station plugged into the iPhone which is mounted in the handlebar cradle it's just perfect. It's very inexpensive too.

Charging is simple, simply connect to a standard iPod/iPhone charger and if piggybacked into the iPhone, the charger will charge both.


Installing the XCarLink adaptor for iPod, iPhone - VW Golf V (MK 5)

The XCarLink adaptor is simply a box which interfaces between the iPod or iPhone and the CD radio head unit. The adaptor unit about the size of four match boxes and has two cables leading from it. One of the cables connects directly to the iPod or iPhone, the other to the CD changer port on the back of the head unit.


These instructions explain how I fitted the XCarLink adaptor into my VW Golf V (MK 5) TDI SE (2005)

The cable from the adaptor box plugs straight into the available CD changer socket on the back of the head unit. Before connecting, I ran the cable from the bottom of the centre console to behind the CD radio unit. In order to do this, the cigarette lighter and ashtray needs to be removed.

  1. Remove the gearstick cover. It pops out easily with little force needed.

  2. Beneath the cover reveals two screws. Remove these and the ashtray and cigarette lighter unit can be lifted up and out. You'll need to disconnect the cigarette lighter cable and ESP cable (if fitted.)

  3. I identified a suitable spot for locating the XCarLink interface unit beneath the ashtray and cigarette lighter unit.

  4. I routed the cable from the XCarLink interface box to the iPod / iPhone down a gap between the carpet and the centre console.

  5. Once all the cables are in place, switch on the CD radio and test the setup before putting the gearstick cover, centre console and dashboard back together.

  6. I use a piece of velco (the soft furry piece attached the iPhone) and the hooks attached the the dashboard. The iPhone isn't very heavy and the velco works well to support the iPhone in an upright position and within easy sight and reach for both the driver and passenger.

This was an easy install and took less than 45 minutes to complete from start to finish.


Good luck and enjoy!


I've checked out new iPhone accessories since posting this blog to find a suitable mounting system for the iPhone. See my later blog entry for more.

Location, Location, Location - Geotagged photos on Google & Yahoo Maps using iPhone 3G

At the beginning of August I attended the Essex International Jamboree in Thorpe-le-Soken. This photograph was taken at the closing ceremony using my Apple iPhone 3G. This device has a built-in GPS receiver and is able to determine the exact position for latitude and longitude whenever required.

Usefully, location information is made available to the camera application when taking photographs with the iPhone. The latitude and longitude information is stored in the photograph's EXIF header within the file.

Using Yahoo Map's API, the EXIF data can be read and once interpreted, a location pointer can be layered on a given map.

Ultimately this means that viewing sets of photographs can be location specific. Imagine browsing your library of photographs by location. Using a map of the world I could easily find my photographs scattered in far away places including New Zealand, Thailand, Caribbean, and America.

Of course, this isn't new technology as such. Placing photographs on a map has been achievable for some years and the process of 'geotagging' images with location data is well understood by many. What the iPhone does is make geotagging very straightforward as all the location information is stored automatically at the point of taking the photograph. All that's required now is for a piece of software that can interact with the mapping API to do the rest.

With a little bit of work I was able to develop a little module that allows the location of geotagged photographs to be displayed on a map. So you kinda get a "I was 'ere" tool that shows exactly where you were standing when the photograph was taken. Unfortunately, this uses Yahoo Maps rather than the very impressive Google Maps interface - but hey, nothing is perfect.

...oh, and to see the map you'll have to view the full blog entry.

More Moblie Blogging sites and a sense of community

Twitxr mobile blogging solutionHaving just written about mobile blogging and two online software solutions that I've been using successfully, here's another one, Twitxr.com. I saw this published on Tom Smith's blog, and thought I'd have a play too.

Jonathan's Moblog on Twitxr

From Tom's site, this then led me towards another moblogging site. This one slightly (!) more funky than any of the others I've seen so far. I really love the immediate sense of community and audience that my blog posts now have. The community 'feel' is something Blogger.com doesn't do particularly well.



The London Underground Tube Map for the Apple iPhone, iPod Touch

I carry a little folded up piece of paper in my wallet of the London Underground tube map to help me find my way around the Tube network. It's also helpful to have a map to refer to when there are delays and cancellations on the tube network, and that's more usual than not - or maybe it just seems that way.

I found an underground map for the Apple iPhone, which has been specifically designed for the iPhone's screen size. A single jpg image doesn't work because when the image is optimised for the iPhone, the size and quality of the image is reduced, meaning station names can't be read.


How to use and install on the Apple iPhone

  1. Download the underground tube network files from this site.
  2. Import the archive contents into iPhoto.
  3. Create a new album called something you can remember, such as "Underground" and drag the photos into the folder
  4. Set your iPhone to sync with that album via iTunes.
  5. Navigate to your Photos on the iPhone and the album name you created. Simply scroll between each section of the tube network map.

I've also installed a WebApp which shows the current status of the Underground Network.

Underground Tube Network Status for Apple iPhone webapp

iPhone camera built from the packaging of the iPhone box


The Register recently posted...

Most iPhone owners probably just chucked the handset's box in the bin seconds after leaving the shop. Not designer Scot Hampton - instead, he turned Apple's packaging into a 35mm film camera.

erm, not me - I love the way Apple package their products, so I tend to keep the boxes declaring them just too beautiful to throw away. In fact their boxes are just as pretty as the kit inside them!


If you think this is just a mock up image, read more to find out that Scott has actually put the components of a film camera inside. Incredible. 


Mobile blogging from iPhone using TypePad, Blogger, Flickr

Sony Ericsson blogging client for Blogger.comI've been running a mobile blog site for a long time now (since 2006), and although my main blog has been rather quiet over the past few weeks, I've found time to reflect on some recent activities using my new iPhone. In the past, I have used the Sony Ericsson software on the handset to send photos captured by the mobile phone's camera straight to a Blogger.com site.

Clearly this software wasn't available on the iPhone, but as with all sites that have a programmable API, there are plenty of other routes for creating blogs, many of them not new of course. Email to webpage technology allows web content to be authored within an email client and then published by sending an email which is read by the server and published. It's a really neat solution and although it has been around for at least the last 6 years it hasn't, for me, had a use until now.

The iPhone has a great web browser, and handles forms really well, so it's great for posting to any website. However, it won't allow you to upload photos because of the restrictions to being able to access the file system (with the exception of hacked iPhones.) The iPhone also has a great email client, which overcomes the problem of uploading images to a blog site.

iPhone email to web technology using Blogger.com

Using Blogger.com's email to blog option, I can take pictures on the iPhone, choose the Email Photo option and send it to a private address that only I know about, but one which Blogger.com receives and then publishes as a blog entry. A perfect solution, and quick too. Here are some of my most recent entries, all taken with an iPhone and blogged straight to Blogger.com using Mail.

Of course, it's not just Blogger.com that enables this technology as Flickr does this too, see my iPhone pictures on Flickr, in fact, you can see everyone elses iPhone pictures on Flickr.

Flickr will also publish your photos and accompanying annotation to most popular blog sites, or to any blog that supports xmlrpc, such as WordPress, Drupal, Movable Type.

For those of you who have a TypePad blog, the developers of TypePad have already created an iPhone interface.

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