Android Wear: LG G Watch – Day 1

gwatchSo, I have an Android Wear device. More specifically the LG G Watch – the reason we went with this over the others is purely fiscal – it was £100.

So, what have I found on the first day of use? Is it as amazing as I’d hoped? Is it a gadget to bring Sci-Fi comms units one step closer to reality? Or is it something Dick Tracy would have discarded in favour of his wrist radio?

Pros

  • Notifications for SMS, Hangouts, Mail and Calendar are amazing.
  • The screen is nice and easy to read in all light conditions.
  • It’s more comfortable on a bigger wrist (such as mine) than I thought it would be.
  • The vibration notifications are apparent, but not as overly strong as I feared. Discreet!
  • The set up was unbelievably simple.
  • It charges fast on the supplied unit
  • Voice recognition and dictation is surprisingly good. It even gave me a delightful Wikipedia article on ‘Bollocks’ when I poured coffee on my hand mid demonstration.

Cons

  • To be effective, you have to fully enable all features on your phone. Location services being a big one.
  • This enabling of features caused my battery to go from 100% to 22% in under two hours of light use. This could well be a bug or a fault with my phone, but it only started when Android Wear was installed.
  • The battery life of the watch itself isn’t two days, as I’ve heard thrown around. At 18 hours of use, we’re at 33%. That’s not going to last 48 hours.
  • You’ll really need two charging cradles if you plan to use this at home and the office.
  • The home screen could do with some tweaks – it’s just not effective enough to allow changes to the settings or apps.
  • More watch faces that haven’t been designed in what looks like MS paint please.
  • A few more ‘disconnections’ than I’d like, given that my phone never left my pocket.

So, all in all, I’m enjoying it and I hope that the battery issue (both my Nexus 5 and the LG G Watch) is one I can solve with some fiddling and investigation. As with most technologies, I have to adapt to it to a certain degree, although talking into a watch will always make me feel like budget Dick Tracy, only fatter and without a yellow flasher’s mac.

 

We’ll see how we faired after  a week then.

Pixel art – Making a sprite into a lump of plastic

pixel_artWith a little one of the way and being a massive geek, the wife and I decided that the little one’s room should have a bit of geeky decoration.

What could be more geeky than 2D 16-Bit (and some 8-bit) sprites made from beads? I still love my 16-bit and 8-bit consoles, and the characters from the games I loved so dearly obviously have a special place in my heart. So, given that I’d seen pictures of these creations all over the web recently and being the kind of person that likes to have a go and making anything I can, we gave it a shot.

Firstly, let me say – this is easy. In terms of arts and crafts, this is one of the most simple things you can do.  Secondly, it’s cheap. For example:

Equipment needed

  • Pot of Hama (or equivelent) beads. 10,000 for £5 here. However the colours are very basic. I’d recommend getting some other shades too direct from the supplier, if you plan to do anything with the correct colour palette.
  • 4 peg boards. £5.50 for 4.
  • Ironing paper. £2 for 15 sheets.
  • An iron. You should own one of these unless you like creased clothing. If you don’t own one, grab one for £5 from Amazon you lazy wretch.

That’s enough beads, boards and paper for you to make 30+ of the white and green mushrooms above. That’s all for less than £15.

Then it’s just a matter of finding a sprite you wish to recreate, mapping it to a grid to save you going insane, and pegging it out line by line. Once you’re done, cover the beads with the ironing paper and smoosh with a hot iron until the paper is trasnparent. Then your beads are melted and can be safely pulled from the peg board and paper.

The Link sprite above (which is woefully colour matched due to a bead crisis) took around 10 minutes from start to finish. I could have even melted the beads more to remove the ‘holes’, however that was a first attempt. We’ll see what we can do with some practice.

So, give it a shot, it’s a particulary relaxing pass time and allows you to harness that inner geek!

 

 

3D printing on a budget

3d-printingI really like the idea of 3D printing (and have used Shapeways and i.materialise in the past), especially for my prop replica projects as it gives me the ability to rapidly construct a clean master copy with clay or sculpting with epoxy.

Anyhow, I’ve been watching machines along the way and waiting for pricing to drop to affordable levels (well, affordable for me anyway), and have seen quite a few models now that make home 3D printing a reality. Having said that, beyond (possibly) backing the MOD-t, I haven’t yet put my money where my mouth is, so my opinions have no basis in reality. Pretty much like most other tech blogs then.  Avante!

If you’ve not seen it, the MOD-t (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/new-matter-mod-t-a-3d-printer-for-everyone) is perhaps the most exciting. A 3D printer (which appears to have decent specs and print size) for under $299. Well under in fact, as first round early-birders could have nabbed one for $199 – astonishing value if it does what they claim.

Of course, the good old Makerbot is there as well, with an exceptionally polished offering, however the cheapest and smallest model on offer is $1,375. Still, cheap for a 3D printer, but expensive compared to the MOD-t.

Maplin in the UK are offering  the Velleman K8200 for £499 now, however it is in kit form, so patience is required to get it up and running. I generally think the kind of people who’ll buy a 3D printer are more than capable of putting a kit together, so it could be a solid and affordable choice for UK peeps.

For the mega cheap, there is also the mega-tiny Peachy Printer for $100.  This little box of tricks isn’t going to be printing anything large format, however it’s so tiny and cute, it’s almost worth buying for a party piece. That’s if you go to those kind of parties where the main attraction is someone with a 3D printer that takes several hours to make a chess piece.

Anyway, if anyone else has any good recommendations or ideas on how to get a replicator into every home, I’d love to know!