Patuoxun Bluetooth Headphones.

David Murphy:

My son has started blogging, and I pleased to say he chose WordPress.com (no pressure there, honest!)

Originally posted on Tristan Murphy:

Let’s start with some audio.

I recently bought some Bluetooth headphones as I have been wanting to buy some for a while, and the headphone jack on my phone was shot to hell.

After searching for some time, I found these under most popular. I wasn’t disappointed.

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They have a very sleek design, simple controls and the ability to use a standard audio cable to turn them into wired headphones. They have 11 hours of constant (moderately volumed) music, and 354 hours of standby time. There are small indicator LEDs, which are quite bright in a dark room, but not many other bad points. The audio quality is crisp and clear, and rarely stutters.

The charge time is also not bad, being only 2 hours. And by far the best point,They only cost £14!

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Bluetooth headphones on a MacBook Pro

More audio to go: Bluetooth headphones

At the end of 2014 I wrote about budget Bluetooth speaker I picked up for £10, which I was pleased with at the time and – I’m pleased to report – I continue to be pleased with. Even with regular use and multiple recharges the battery life significantly exceeds the advertised four hours (unless I max out the volume for a bit of air guitar).

I’ve since added to my collection of inexpensive gadgets with Bluetooth heart rate monitor and a pair of Bluetooth headphones, of which the latter are the subject of this post.

Priced at the princely sum of £19.99 from Lidl, and available in black – my choice -, white, red, or blue the SilverCrest® Bluetooth® Headphones (aka SBTH 4.0 A1) boasting a 15 hours battery life were my latest purchase.

Since getting the portable speaker my music listening has increased drastically, but I only tended to listen via (wired) headphones when I was either:

  • Running
  • Walking
  • Travelling (with a pair of noise cancelling headphones)

Unless I was trying to block out other noise, I would rarely bother or remember to plug a pair in when I was working; therefore my only reason for picking these up was the typically compelling combination of “shiny new toy” and “cheap”, with “no wires” being an afterthought.

I’m sure it will come as no surprise that this purchase has been a double-edged sword, but the good does outweigh the bad.

Positives

They do exactly what they are supposed to. They paired painlessly with my iPhone 6 Plus and MacBook Pro, and will happily connect to both simultaneously (obviously you can only hear audio from one source at a time). They are mostly comfortable, and I have worn them pretty much all day without discomfort, but on other days they’ve annoyed me after only a short while. Battery is as advertised or better, as it was with the portable speaker. Audio is good enough, but they do distort with heavy bass. For a pair of supra-aural (on-ear) headphones, they do a good job of reducing ambient noise, but at medium to high volumes others will be able to hear what you’re listening to. The built-in microphone is passable.

Negatives

When connected and in use a blue LED flashes continuously on the right ear, which are very noticeable in a darkened room. Occasionally when using the hands-free mode the connection will be garbled, and I’ll have to switch to the phone itself.

Both of those are minor details compared to the next one though, but the majority of the blame lies in iOS. I cannot use these headphones to watch video on my phone due to a significant delay between the video and audio. From my research this seems to be because iOS uses AirPlay for the audio, and even affects Apple’s own Beats wireless headphones. There is no delay when used with the MacBook Pro, nor when paired with an Android phone.

Despite that one glaring problem I’m very happy with them, and have been using them everyday for both music and podcasts.

Smartbrick

I love my smartphones, and I’ve been using them for a long time now. I think my first real smartphone was an O2 branded HTC Universal, followed by a Nokia N95. I’ve also had various models of iPhone (3G, 4, 4S, 5 and currently using a 6) and both a Nexus 4 and 5.

The common factor between all these devices was my choice of service provider: O2. I let myself get suckered into upgrade after upgrade to get the latest and greatest model, and always lived in hope of them improving network coverage in my neck of woods.

You see, I live in the middle of nowhere. We’re right on the limit for both getting ADSL and having pizza delivered, and our nearest neighbour is a quarter of a mile away. It’s a wonderful location, but not without its frustrations for a self-confessed lover of technology like myself. The problem is getting worse as my older children start to suck up more and more of our available bandwidth with Netflix, YouTube, and Xbox Live.

Coupled with the poor broadband connectivity is less than stellar coverage from O2. I can get 3G in Carlisle, but around where I actually spend 99% of my time I get GPRS or nothing. To add insult to injury, the GPRS connection rarely works for anything other than push notifications. This means that whenever I leave the house, unless I’m headed for “civilisation” I’m carrying the eponymous “smartbrick” in my pocket.

The christmas before last my brother-in-law was shocked and delighted to discover he could get a 32Mbps 4G signal from EE in my living room, compared to the paltry ~2Mbps my BT ADSL was providing to a house full of gadgets during a family christmas.

Being tied into a contract prevented me from switching to EE at the first opportunity, but as my contract is due to expire I’ve been checking out my options. EE with their 4G-in-my-living-room is a clear contender, but with my work at Automattic (by the way, we’re hiring!) I also have to travel several times a year – usually to the United States. Neither O2 nor EE have particularly great roaming prices there, and having had my fingers burnt with a few bills on my return from travels, I’m keen to get the best bang for my buck. Especially when roaming I rarely turn my data on – except in emergencies – so despite being in “civilisation” my phone remains a smartbrick unless I’m near a WiFi connection.

This lead to me Three. They have very reasonable pay-as-you-go bundles (I really want to be done with long term contracts), but most importantly they have a “feel at home” romaing deal which means I can use my full allowance in the US and other countries. A quick warning: the “all you can eat” data allowance in the UK is capped at 25GB when roaming. The cheek of it! Oh, and they have 3G-in-my-living-room, which is a massive improvement on O2.

So for my current trip to New Orleans for a team meetup (I’m typing this on the train to the airport in our excellent WordPress app, and using my Three 3G to post it) I’m trying out their “feel at home” deal and I’m looking forward to being able to use my smartphone as Apple intended!

A smartbrick no more!

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Auntie Lolita’s Omelette

When I was young my mother used to make “Auntie Lolita’s Omelette” which is, of course, good old Spanish omelette. Lolita was my mother’s friend and as such friends-of-parents do, she gained the “auntie” prefix despite being no relation to us.

Now I can’t remember whether I actually liked the dish or not; as a child I was a finicky eater and typically existed on baked beans and fish fingers so probably not! :-)

As my years have advanced my palette has developed and I now regularly eat food my younger self would have run screaming from (or at pushed it around my plate until my parents gave up trying!). I’ve also become fond of – and I would like to think quite good at – cooking. For my birthday last year my mother bought me a cast iron skillet, which was something I’d been hankering after for a while, and I became a convert to cooking with cast iron. Although I cook almost every day in the cast iron pot my parents bought gave to my wife and I at Christmas, the skillet typically gets used for pancakes, bacon, sausages and the odd omlette.

For some reason the spanish omlette popped into my head this morning, and so I decided to make one for lunch. I got out the peppers and onions out of the freezer (whenever I’m making a larger dish I keep some back and freeze them for use in smaller dishes), chopped up a bunch of chorizo (we use a lot of this in our household), cubed and boiled some potatoes and got started. Everything goes into the skillet with a little bit of oil and while they are browning/crisping I beat six whole eggs and generously seasoned with salt and pepper. Once I was happy with the contents of the skillet, I poured in the eggs, gave it a stir to even out the contents and put the whole skillet in the oven for 15 minutes.

Despite my (older) kids being well used to all the ingredients used, I still expected them to reject the “new” dish. I was wrong; they wolfed it down and I had to hide the remainder for my wife to try when she gets home. :-) 

 

A lovely, simple, filling dish that I suspect will become a regular request.