Tuesday 29 September 2015

After a difficult life...

I've been doing some research into Rebecca Snooke. Rebecca was the aunt of 18th-century naturalist Gilbert White. Notably, her tortoise - Timothy - was passed to him after she died. It's this tortoise that features heavily in Gilbert's book The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne... and it's also this tortoise that features on the village sign for Ringmer.

Rebecca's husband Henry is buried below St Mary's church in Ringmer. There's a black marble tablet in the aisle, bearing a Latin inscription:
Post vitam difficilem
Hic quiescit
Henricus Snooke Armr.
de Ringmer
Ob: 19 Jan: 1763
Æt: 69.
["After a difficult life here rests Henry Snooke esquire..."]

Rebecca and Henry Snooke had both lived in Delves House (which is now the location of a sheltered housing development alongside the churchyard).

Apparently Henry's widow Rebecca - aunt of naturalist Gilbert White - was later buried with her husband, although there's currently no visible indication of her grave.

However, page 298 of The Topographer (volume 4) from 1791 tells us "in the same grave is buried Rebecca Snooke, widdow of Hy Snooke, Esq, who died March 8th, 1780, Aged 86. She was the 2d Daughter Of the Revd Gilbert White, of Selborne, Hants."

Incidentally, Timothy's final resting place is the Natural History Museum in London.

Tuesday 22 September 2015

September's TRE Talk Radio Europe 'gadget guru' conversation

I was back on TRE this afternoon with my regular radio round-up of the latest gadgets. Here's what caught my eye:

iPad Pro
On the 9th September, Apple announced a couple of new iPhones and also a new iPad. The phones have some smart new features but it’s the iPad Pro that is literally the big deal. It has a 12.9-inch display and runs on Apple’s new 64-bit A9X chip, which apparently gives it the same power as most laptops. It can also be used with an optional stylus called the Apple Pencil, which lets you draw on the screen, and with a separate keyboard. There are stereo loudspeakers and a battery that’ll run for up to ten hours. It can even multitask, with two apps running side by side. Despite all this, it’s just 6.9 millimetres deep and weighs only 713 grams. European pricing hasn't been confirmed; US prices for the Pro start at $799 for the 32GB WiFi-only model, which converts to roughly £520/€715.

Xtreamer WinKey
This is a tiny computer that's not much bigger than a memory stick: 11cm long x 4cm wide. It’s got an HDMI plug on the end, so it can plug straight into most modern TVs, and also has a mains adaptor. What’s notable here is that the Xtreamer WinKey runs Windows 10 - the very latest version of Windows - on a quad-core Intel processor, with WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity. All you need to add is a keyboard or a mouse, which will cost you a few pounds and connects via Bluetooth (although there is a USB socket as well). It has 32GB of built-in memory, which isn’t loads but is enough for most everyday stuff, and it does have an expansion slot. Price is €149 (£110); shipping is due to start from 1st October.

Sphero BB-8 Droid
If you’ve seen a trailer for the new Star Wars film, you’ll have seen a little white and orange robot with a round body. When it moves, the body rolls like a football but its head always stays on top. You might think it’s all done with computers – I did when I first saw it – but it turns out that it’s a physical device… and you can buy your own toy version. Better still, you can control it from your mobile phone. Sphero, the company behind this, have been making remote-controlled round robots for a few years, so the technology is pretty sound. The mobile app gives you two virtual control sticks, rather like a conventional radio control. One is for motion and direction, the other helps you make sure it’s facing the right way. There’s also basic voice control and what the manufacturers describe as a ‘personality’, which sounds like it won’t always do what you ask. I've seen it on sale in the UK at £129.99 (€180).

These are described as ‘Ear-Free Headphones’ and look like a hairband that you wear horizontally rather than vertically (the band goes round the back of your head and the arms go above your ears). They work by bone conduction, so instead of playing sounds through your outer ear, they conduct vibrations through your skull. Effectively they send sounds straight to your inner ear, which means there’s less distraction. It’s not a new idea but what’s nice here is that the company has included a microphone and Bluetooth connectivity, so you can listen to music from your phone without wires and you can even answer phone calls. It works from rechargeable batteries that plus into a standard USB socket on a computer, running for up to 6 hours of music playback. You control the thing from touch sensors on either side. At the moment it’s raising funds on crowd-funding site Kickstarter, with a pre-launch price of $149 (£100/€135). They’re expected to roll off the production line in April 2016.

Tuesday 8 September 2015

Start small and make it good

Sugru is mouldable glue – ‘21st Century Duct Tape’, said Forbes – created by Jane ni Dhulchaointigh. Here she is at the 2015 reasons.to conference, talking about the advice she was given when “we’d basically spent all the investment money and I’d put four years of my life into mixing those chewing gum things” but they still hadn’t had a major commercial breakthrough. The customer base was enthusiastic yet very small. “There was a point, kind of Christmas 2008, where I thought… ‘Have I done all of this for nothing? Is it not going to amount to anything?’ Because we had no money.”
I went for a cup of tea with a friend – another designer – and she basically gave me the best advice that I’ve ever had. She just said "Look Jane, I know you want it to be big and I know you want it to be in every kitchen drawer and I know you want to affect millions of people… but you can’t just do it like that. You’ve got 100 people that are sending you pictures. Focus on them. Get those, get another hundred, you get them, you’ll get a thousand, if you get them, you’ll get another thousand." And for me, that was just like – yeah – I mean, it totally changed my mind. And I was like "Yeah, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m just going to make it small. And I’m going to make it brilliant."

[This post is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0]