Tuesday 24 April 2018

Kurt Vonnegut and 'educating a woman'

Educating a woman is like pouring honey over a fine Swiss watch. It stops working. 
author Kurt Vonnegut in 1985

This statement is quoted in The Chauvinist's bedside book (1994), authored by David Olive.

However, there are two issues here. Firstly (and least significantly), it's not an accurate quote. The original line, from the 1970 play Happy Birthday Wanda June, is actually "Educating a beautiful woman is like pouring honey into a fine Swiss watch. Everything stops."

Secondly (and more importantly), this isn't a personal statement by the author but the words he wrote for Harold Ryan, a character in the play. Vonnegut's work is mocking hyper-masculinity and misogyny, not celebrating it.

As Penelope, Harold's wife, points out in her opening lines: "This is a simple-minded play about men who enjoy killing - and those who don't."

More information: Reddit; Goodreadsthe Daily Script;

Tuesday 10 April 2018

My April 2018 gadget guru conversation with TRE Talk Radio Europe

Here's a quick reminder of the technology I mentioned in my April 2018 TRE Talk Radio Europe 'gadget guru' chat:

New Apple iPad

This is the latest version of the 'standard' iPad with the 9.7-inch screen. Officially it’s the sixth generation, although that’s not counting a couple of other updates since 2010.

What’s changed since the last one? It’s got a faster processor inside; the same one you’ll find in the iPhone 7, in fact. The other notable update is the inclusion of support for the Apple Pencil and some other stylus devices. These let you write on the screen with something that looks like a pen instead of using your finger. You don’t actually get an Apple Pencil with it; you need to buy one separately.

And the Apple Pencil itself isn’t new: that’s been around since the launch of the iPad Pro in 2015.

In summary, what you get is a tablet computer with what Apple calls a ‘retina’ screen because the individual pixels are too small to see, a ten hour battery life on a good day, an eight megapixel camera on the back, a smaller camera on the front, either 32GB or 128GB of storage, a fingerprint reader for security and an overall weight of 450g.

UK prices start at £319 (up to £539, depending on spec), with an Apple Pencil costing you an extra £89.

Vion Bluetooth multimeter

If you do anything electrical around the house, you’ll probably have a multimeter in your toolkit. It’s a multi-purpose tester for anything from fuses to sophisticated electronic components. You plug a couple of probes into the front, touch them on the connections you’re checking and then see the resulting readings on a meter.

Allectrics, Inc. has done away with the meter part completely. You get two probes... and that’s pretty much it. They connect wirelessly to your mobile phone via Bluetooth – and it’s your phone that takes care of the display part. Not only does it remember the measurements, it’ll even speak the essential figures if your phone is in your pocket. The smartphone app can even help with diagnosing electrical problems.

Current pricing via Kickstarter is $50 plus shipping (around £35 / €40) – with delivery expected in June if all goes according to plan.

CloudRain smart garden irrigation

Hot on the footsteps of the smart home we have the smart garden, thanks to a new German company called CloudRain. Their product is designed to water your garden after checking local weather information so it knows what to do.

First, you need some kind of garden watering system. If you’ve got one, great. If not, you’ll need to buy some hosepipes or sprinklers.

You then fit special valves to your hosepipe system. If you’ve already got electrical valves that you can control from switches in your house, great. If not, CloudRain will sell you some that don’t need batteries or mains power because they have tiny solar cells to keep them working.

Next, you fit a control box. This works wirelessly with CloudRain’s solar powered valves and can also be wired into existing electrical watering systems.

Finally, you set up the app and it will then adjust the calculations depending on the weather.

This is another project on Kickstarter: for €259 you’re promised a controller, one special valve and a watering kit for up to 40 plant pots. There are various options available; delivery is expected in June.

ProofVision outdoor TV

If you’re saving time by not watering your garden, you’ll have more time to sit outside and enjoy it. You may even watch to sit outside and watch TV – but that’s not as easy as it sounds, because regular TVs and laptops aren’t designed to be watched in direct sunlight. They can’t really handle the heat, either. What you need is a television that’s been specifically created for this kind of thing – and that isn’t cheap.

That’s where ProofVision comes in. They’ve launched an outdoor television that is way more affordable that these things previously were.

For just under £2000 you can buy a high brightness 43-inch outdoor TV that adjusts itself to handle the glare, is water resistant and also handles any temperature between -20 and 60 Celsius – so you don’t need to bring it indoors in the winter. It has a Full HD screen and is less than 7cm deep. Of course, this isn’t just for houses – it’ll appeal to pubs and shops as well.