Beware: Low flying quadcopter

For Christmas this year I got my son a quadcopter. This wasn’t a completely selfless gift; I obviously wanted to have a go myself. :-) Above are the results from my first outside daylight (this part is important) flight.

I got him the UDI U818A 2.4GHz 4 CH 6 Axis Gyro RC Quadcopter with Camera RTF Mode 2. The camera is VGA (640×480) only, and struggles with low light – hence needing to film in daylight. Another limitation is battery life: up to 2 hours charge for 6-8 minutes flight time. Suffice to say we have some more batteries on the way!

This is a great starter kit, and has sufficiently whetted my appetite for more. I can see an AR.Drone or Phantom Vision in my future. :-)

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Audio to go

I’ve been hankering after a Bluetooth speaker for a while, but never seemed to get around to purchasing one. When I was in Kauai last week for a team meetup, one of my colleagues used his speaker continuously to good effect and reminded me how much I wanted one.

While the holy grail (for me) continues to be the Bose® SoundLink® Mini Bluetooth Speaker, I’ve also heard good reports about the significantly cheaper HMDX HX-P230RDA-EU Jam Bluetooth Wireless Portable Speaker – Red (available in several colours). However, I kept putting off getting one for, well, reasons.

This morning while picking up some pain au chocolate and baguette in Lidl, I spotted a diminutive “SILVERCREST” (one of their many in-house brands) Bluetooth Mini Speaker for £9.99, so how could I resist? (It would seem plenty of others couldn’t resist either; there were six this morning, and none when I was back there this afternoon!)

I’m no fool: I know a £10 device is not going to compare to something from Bose, but I can happily report that it was well worth a punt. The volume is far greater than you would expect from something of this size, and while there is some distortion you have have to ramp up the volume to trigger it. It has a built in rocker button that allows you to play/pause and change tracks forwards and backwards (assuming your device supports the correct Bluetooth profile; it works fine with my iPhone). It is too soon to comment on battery life, but claims are made of up to 8 hours from a 3 hour charge – I’m assuming this is when used with the auxiliary connection, and 4-ish hours with Bluetooth will be more likely. Charging is through the ubiquitous micro-USB cable.

On the negative side, although the casing finish is good (I got the plain black one), the controls are utilitarian. There is a rubber base, but when a track with significant bass is turned up it did start slightly moving around, so beware of placing it near the edge of the table! Finally the aforementioned auxiliary connection is through a custom 3.5mm to micro-USB cable which will almost certainly be impossible to find if I ever need it. :-)

I’ve not yet tried the built-in microphone, but it is a nice-to-have feature.

As with all Lidl/Aldi style deals, good stuff like these will disappear very quickly, so if you see one pick it up; I doubt you’ll be disappointed. If you do miss out, I did spot some on Amazon that looked identical (although with a different brand) yet even cheaper, so there may be bargains to be had.

Morning coffee

Desperately seeking caffeine

I’m a Monster addict. I typically have one can a day, and often two (occasionally more!). When I travelled to Portland, OR with my wife I was in heaven to discover the 24oz Mega Monster cans.

I know it’s not good for me, and over the last year I’ve been trying hard to wean myself off them – without much success. With four kids, a full time (fantastic) job, two school governorships, and – you know – life I feel like I need a little extra.

As a Brit I also like my tea; when I’m off Monster my tea consumption goes up and vice versa. However I don’t get the same kick from tea (unless I load it up with sugar, which defeats the health benefits); that oft-quoted fact about tea containing more caffeine is before the tea is brewed.

Since I’m a professional coder I feel like I’m letting the side down by not drinking coffee. I’ve tried – repeatedly – but I’ve never really enjoyed coffee. The smell, the taste. I’ve been told this is because I’m drinking the wrong stuff (instant == bad), but on the few occasions I’m somewhere that does decent coffee (or, you know, Starbucks) I typically go for my preferred Chai Tea Latte. It’s a hard habit to break. :-)

Every so often I’ll have another try at coffee; buying a different brand and/or loading it up with sugar & milk, but it never really works and back to the Monster/tea I go.

Last night while picking up a bit of shopping I spotted some Nescafe Azera Latte instant sachets on offer and – having seen one of my coffee drinking friends like the brand – I picked some up on a whim. We’ll see how this attempt goes…

BTW, the awesome handle-less cup in the photo was purchased on another trip with my wife to Copenhagen, Denmark.

Embracing the competition

I’m a sporadic podcast listener, and since I switched back to an iPhone I’ve been worse than usual. Today I remembered about the Overcast app from Marco Arment, so I duly installed it and started playing with it.

This section from the settings screen really resonated with me:

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The simple fact that he acknowledges and even encourages you to try out the competition speaks volumes. Well done.