Tuesday 18 August 2015

My TRE 'gadget guru' gadgets for August 2015

I've just spent an entertaining few minutes talking to Allan Tee on Talk Radio Europe about an assortment of gadgets.

Today’s choices were:

Motorola X Style mobile phone

This is effectively the Mark III Moto X flagship smartphone, available as the ‘Pure’ in the USA and the ‘Style’ elsewhere. It has a 5.7-inch HD screen and will run on the Android operating system. Motorola says over three-quarters of the front of the phone is screen, which means there’s not much wasted space around the edges. It’s equipped with a 1.8GHz hexa-core processor, 3GB of RAM, a 3,000mAh battery, and up to 64GB of built-in storage which can also be expanded.

There are a couple of really noteworthy things: not only does it have a battery that’s theoretically capable of lasting all day but it comes with a fast charger that will give it around 10 hours of battery life from just 15 minutes of charge. And it has a 21-megapixel camera sensor, which the company says will make it ‘best in class’. It’s also customisable: if you order the phone online you can choose from a range of colours and materials.

Pricing without a connection ('SIM-free') is expected to be £359 in the UK, that’s around €500. Availability is expected early September.

BedJet v2 air-conditioning for your bed

This isn’t just about cooling you down or warming you up; it’s about helping you sleep better.

Apparently one of the problems with getting a good night’s sleep is that your core body temperature changes during the night. If you wake up in the middle of the night to kick the covers off, you’re less likely to feel refreshed when you get up in the morning.

So, when you get your BedJet, you tell it your gender, your age and a little bit about your body type – it then monitors the temperature in bed and adjusts it throughout the night. It can replace your electric blanket in the winter and saves you getting out of bed to change the thermostat in the room or to open the windows.

Essentially it’s a box that lives under (or next to) your bed and quietly blows air through your bedding. It’s got a remote control but the really clever stuff happens when you connect it to your mobile phone or tablet.

BedJet v2 is expected to sell at $500 (£320 / €450) but it’s currently on offer for much less if you order via crowd-funding site kickstarter.com. The company says it should ship in time for Christmas this year.

Touchjet Wave, turning a TV into a touchscreen computer

This is another piece of add-on technology to enhance what you’ve already got.

There’s a little arm that clips on top of your TV, a bit like a desk lamp, and a little box that plugs into an HDMI socket on the back. Connect it to the mains and you’re good to go.

When you switch it on, it powers up with the Android operating system and can link up with your home WiFi, like a giant tablet computer.

That little clip-on arm has an infrared eye to see where you touch the screen, so it’ll respond to your touch like a tablet, which means you can listen to music, download films, play games, do your social networking and browse the internet.

The company reckons they’ll ship the Wave from March 2016, with pricing at the moment from $149 if you include shipping (around £100 / €135).

Hoverkraft, a construction game that hovers

This was announced at the 2014 New York Toy Fair but has taken a while to make it into the UK.

The basic idea is similar to Jenga, where you try to build a tower of wooden blocks, or even building a castle from a pack of playing cards.

This new game uses magnets to make the playing board hover. The overall base is around 10 inches square, with a separate playing area that hovers above it and is tethered in place. You then need to stack 3D plastic pieces on the hovering board, a bit like the computer game Tetris, but in real life.

Price is £29.99 (€43).

Friday 7 August 2015

Trusting TripAdvisor

Online customer reviews are useful, but it's a system that may sometimes mislead. Positive and negative votes can be influenced by social media campaigns and an assortment of irrelevant factors, which is why I approach The Shed in Wadebridge with caution. At the time I visit it's number 3 in the TripAdvisor.com list of restaurants in Wadebridge, yet its tiny size makes it an unlikely candidate in any foodie directory.

First impressions are... how on earth can they cook anything in there? Yes, the venue's small - a few tables outside and some seats indoors - but the kitchen area itself is barely larger than a wardrobe. Service is friendly and helpful, demonstrating a genuine desire to please. We've arrived at lunchtime - walked in from Padstow, since you ask - and are feeling pretty hungry, which means we order our food and drinks quickly but carefully.

Our coffee arrives. It's good. Really good. These days most cafes are capable of producing a decent cappuccino. At The Shed, the coffee blend and the construction of our cappuccinos is exceptional.

Our food is equally impressive. Imaginative, well presented and packed with flavour. I've chosen oak-smoked kippers on toast with pink grapefruit (£5.95). The citrus cuts through the oil of the fish; simple, good-looking and very tasty. My wife's frittata is accompanied by a colourful 'superfood' salad: she's impressed with taste, quantity and appearance. A visiting customer suggests that Gordon Ramsay may want to add The Shed's 'Beached Benedict' - an updated Eggs Benedict with samphire replacing the bacon - to his menu. It certainly wouldn't seem out of place. Perhaps he'll become a regular visitor, having recently bought a holiday home a few miles away.

Ultimately, The Shed is somewhere I wish was my local cafe. And somewhere I'll make a point of returning to when I'm next on holiday in Cornwall. Thank you, TripAdvisor reviewers.

Wednesday 5 August 2015

Truro in the rain

The last time we came to Truro, it was a rainy day in the middle of our holiday and we were accompanied by a grumpy teenager. We visited the cathedral, had lunch at a little cafe and ended up in Marks & Spencer, where the teenager asked me to buy him five pairs of socks. I think that was his highlight. Everyone was pretty miserable.

Today, we have no teenager. He's grown up. But I'm slightly grumpy before we've even started, mainly because I've been reading a city guide that's peppered with greengrocers' apostrophes [yes, many greengrocers] and poorly-explained historical references. It's also raining. Again.

Time to leave the frustrating guide behind. We've come to the city because we want to give Truro a second chance. Theoretically a city - with stunning architecture, shops, cafes and galleries - is a good place to be on holiday when a sunny coastal walk is out of the question.

In reality, it's not. Not in the rain. Our first stop, the cathedral cafe, is struggling to cope with the number of visitors. We escape to 108 Coffee House, where the quality of the coffee, the friendly service and the honest food deliver a welcome respite from the grim weather. Later we drop into the Arts Cafe, which seems similarly cheering (although we didn't stop to eat). Lemon Street provides an attractive Georgian view. But overall it's a bit too practical, especially on a rainy Wednesday. If you want mystery and magic, stories of fishing and mermaids, druids and dragons, Cornwall is the right place. If you need to go shopping, Truro is undoubtedly a sensible destination. But if you're looking for an escape from damp reality, this isn't where you want to be. Sorry, Truro, maybe when the sun's out. Third time lucky?

Sunday 2 August 2015

The Prawn Supremacy

Prawn on the Lawn has recently appeared on Duke Street in Padstow, replacing the long-established Margot's Bistro. Much like the original PotL fish restaurant in London, Padstow's new seafood bar is also a fishmonger's shop, which means you could easily buy the main ingredients to re-create their dishes at home. Except... well, there'd be something missing. Because there's magic in the air here. The food is joyful. Simple in theory but, with apologies for the cliché, much more than the sum of its parts. We chose tapas-style dishes: seared tuna, razor clams, scallops and the open prawn sandwich that gives the place its name. All delightful.

But this isn't a review of Prawn on the Lawn. I wasn't making notes, mainly because I was enjoying the experience too much. Margot's was a Padstow landmark for over 20 years. Based on my visit, I'd say Prawn on the Lawn is guaranteed an equally long tenure here.