MARK'S (NOT SO) DAILY BLOG
Mark_Pilgrim_hot919_aug2017

My latest gadget review

My wife is not so gadgety, so when I get a new device I like writing a quick blog about it in layman's terms without all the technical mumbo jumbo.  I got 2 new devices this past weekend that I quite like and thought I'd share with you:


Beats Solo 3


You get 3 main categories of headphones:
  • In-ear earphones: These are the types of earphones you wedge into your earhole (like those that come with your smartphone)
  • On-ear headphones: These usually have a band over your head and have medium sized capsules that are about the same size as your ears
  • Over-ear headphones: These have a bigger capsules and completely cover your ear and normally seal the sound off (like radio studio headphones)
Unless you want to look like you're in a control tower trying to communicate with a plane, you'd rather go for a set of in-ear or on-ear ones when at gym or travelling.

Whilst I do already have reasonable set of in-ear earphones, I find that I'm constantly fiddling with the things in my ear and I can still hear a lot of ambient room noise, so they are often just not loud enough for me. So this past weekend my wife bought me a pair of Beats Solo 3 wireless "on-ear" headphones and I'm in love. With the headphones. And my wife.

Beats Solo 3
There are those in the industry who say you're paying too much for a Beats product. Yes, you do pay a premium, but you are getting a premium headset. The Solo 3's fit snugly on my ears and produce a phenomenal sound (some people find Beats have too much bass... for me, I like a good thump).

Besides the audio quality, this specific model has another little gem up its sleeve... battery life. Now that Apple have the licence rights to the product they've spruced it up with a W1 chip. What does that mean for you? This chip has increased the battery life from an average of 12 hours (which the previous model had) to an industry leading 40 hours! It only takes about 2 hours to fully charge the headphones again.

Also, if you're an iPhone user its now even easier to sync the headphones with your device. You simply hold headphones close to your phone and you get a screen-pop up asking if it can sync for you. No more having to go into bluetooth settings and trying to pair the devices manually.

Most retailers are selling the headphones for about R4999, but Takealot often runs them on their site at a few hundred rand less.

Zagg Ignition 12


How often do you find yourself scrambling to find a power outlet because your smartphone or iPad is about to go flat, but you still need to use the device? Well, the solution is to have a portable power charger with you. It's essentially a spare battery that you have pre-charged and it supplies power to (and charges) your own phone's battery without you needing to find a plug socket.

They come in all sizes, but if you can think of it like a bucket, the larger the bucket, the more water (or in our case, power) it can store. The "size of the bucket" is usually measured in mAh. Don't worry about what it means, suffice to say a device that might be the size of a triple thick credit card might charge your phone once and is about 2300 mAh. A power bank the size of a pack of 20 ciggies might be about 5000 mAh and charge your phone twice.

Well, I just got sampled with the Zagg Ignition 12, which is the size of a tiny clutch purse (an analogy for my wife) and packs 12000 mAh, which means it can charge your smartphone 4 times before going flat, or fully charge an iPad and smartphone once. That's a lot of portable power in your hands.

Zagg Ignition 12

But what makes the Zagg Ignition 12 stand out for me is 2 extra little features built in.
  • It has 2 charge speeds. It has a 1Amp USB port (that charges about the same speed as a normal phone charger) and a 2.1Amp USB port (which charges an iPad at normal speed or an iPhone much faster).
  • A little gimmicky, but could come in handy, it has a LED torch light built in. 
This is not the kind of power bank you want to keep in your pocket as it's quite heavy, but it's ideal if you're going away for the weekend camping and need to keep your phones charged, or as an emergency power backup at home. It should retail in stores for about R699 (the supplier did mention it's in the Takealot store, but I couldn't find it there sth time of writing this blog).

Happy gadgeting!


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Parenting with the help of gadgets

It's been quite a while since I've done a parenting blog. I'm by no means the expert parent. My girls are abundantly loved and hugged every day, but they also make me pull my non-existent hair out. Admittedly, there are times when I know I probably shouldn't drop the f-bomb, but it's the only way to overcome some or other parental calamity that's unfolding. Let's face it, when an adult and child have an argument, there isn't always a "meeting of minds".  But that's how parenting goes... you just get in the trenches and do what you think is the very best for your kids.

In my attempts to continually provide my girls with a routine and structure I've been using 2 apps in recent weeks that I think is making life a little easier at home. I thought I would share them with you as it might help you reduce the F-bombs too.

The first is the iPad timer


Kids countdown timer
My girls are really big dawdlers in the mornings, and despite telling them a million times that they need to be ready at 7am as we need to leave for school, they are inevitably still only scratching the surface of their mountain of cornflakes with just seconds to go.

I've now made it easier for them, by using a countdown app on an iPad. There are many available in the app store. I use VISUAL TASK TIMER. It's a simple visualisation, both in numbers and by means of a continually closing circle. When they wake up in the morning we set the app to countdown to 7am. The girls know to be ready when it finishes and as the alarm goes off, they (normally) switch off the TV and go downstairs to get in the car.

Countdown app

The second app is the bean counter


Bean appI got this idea from my daughter's class where the teacher has 2 jars with marbles in them. The shiny balls flow between the "good" and "bad" jars as the day progresses. What I like about it, is that they're communal jars and the results impact all the kids. They have to uplift each other to ensure that they're not all adversely affected by a few naughty kids in the class. At the end of the week, if they have more 'good" marbles, they get to watch a movie in class.

I searched high and low to find an app version of this that I could use on the girls at home. The closest I have come to it is BEAN.

There are "green beans' which they click on when they are good, and the "red beans" which I usually land up clicking on when they are not so good. It works quite well. If they are squabbling, they hear the click click of the red beans and often stop fighting straight away.

Bean app
When they wake up they get green beans as follows:
  • Getting out of bed without moaning - 5 beans
  • Having a morning wee - 2 beans
  • Brushing teeth - 2 beans
  • Getting dressed without an argument - 5 beans
  • Eating their breakfast - 2 beans
If they're naughty I assign red beans depending on how many green beans they have (it's the card up dad's sleeve so i get the result I want).  If they go to bed with more green beans they get to watch TV and play with iPads the next day. If they go to bed with more red than green beans, there is no TV the next day. Period. So far it seems to be working and its a bit of a game to get as many green beans as possible each day.

Hope these tips help your day! If you have any more gadgety tips, leave them in the "comments" section.

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Our new rules at home... breaking the smartphone obsession

No matter where you are these days (in the shop, gym, or office) you can see almost everybody has their smartphone in their hand. And most are browsing it. Sometimes it's to respond to an email, but often it's a quick glance at Twitter or Facebook. We've become obsessed and I'm probably the most guilty.

I hate being chained to my phone, yet it's an addiction. At home in the evening my daughter could be asking me a question, but I prioritise a quick tweet over answering her. Sometimes I'll be chatting to my wife and she doesn't respond. She'll be looking at her phone, smirking at some photo meme that's doing the rounds on Facebook.

The time has come to break the habit... and as a family we're starting right now.

The Phone Box


There's only one way to not look at your phone and that's to not have it on you. Nicole has implemented the "phone box". Come 5.30pm every evening we place our iPhones in the box (that's left upstairs so we don't dip our hands into it like a cookie jar). 

iPhone obsession

I've got to be honest, when I put the phone in I can almost hear it whispering in my ear to be picked up again, but moments later I feel quite chuffed I broke the spell and wasn't sucked back into the vortex. 

We're not suddenly becoming Amish. If a phone rings, we can hear it downstairs and will answer it. The box just stops us from being unsocial as a family.

Dinner is at the table


Our kids (4 and 6 years old) have been raised eating dinner in the playroom while watching TV. It wasn't a conscious parental decision. It just landed up being that way. Not only has it created a war zone as the girls fight over what should be watched on the screen, but they become sullen at the end of the evening when it's time to go up and bath. That came to an immediate stop as of yesterday.

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Now, Nicole sets the dinner table and we all eat dinner together at the same time. Nobody leaves the table until all of us are done eating. The girls still have ants in their pants and ask about watching TV, but already after 2 days I can see them accepting the situation and becoming more engaging and chatty at the table. Nicole is giving them roles such as laying out the place mats. Also, they each get a candle they can light when they sit down to eat, and get to blow it out when dinner is over (oh, the small things kids love doing).

After dinner, if they have some spare time between bathing and bedtime, they've traditionally watched more TV. Now, no more. They're allowed to play for a bit, and already they're being nicer to each other and playing with their dolls etc. 

Morning school bell


This one we've had for a while, but are being quite disciplined with it again. At 7.30am each morning the kitchen computer sounds a "school bell" alarm. This means the playroom TV goes off (no moaning allowed) and it's time to make their way to the car for school.
School clock

It might sound like we're being militant, but it's about just wanting to be a traditional family that engages with each other, laughing and crying together.

I'll keep you posted how it goes! If you have any other suggestions, pop a message at the bottom of the blog.

Cheers!
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The new iPhone 7... in non-gadgety language (that my wife can understand)

Whenever Apple do a media event I always try and decifer the nerdy technical blurb for my wife so she can make an informed decision on whether to upgrade or not. Even before looking at the iPhone 7, my rule of thumb is, if I am 2 iPhone generations behind, then it's probably worth the upgrade. I am using an iPhone 6 so will definitely get an iPhone 7. If you just bought yourself an iPhone 6s, then even though you won't have some of the new features in the iPhone 7, I'm not sure upgrading would be worth spending upwards of R15000 - R20000 for.

So here is the news in a nutshell:

Apple Watch


The Apple Watch is the 2nd biggest selling watch brand in the world and the #1 selling smart watch in the world. And the big news is the new generation Apple Watch Series 2 is here.

It's the same shape as the old one, but the 2 major advances are it's now fully waterproof (up to 50m) which is great for swimmers and also has built-in GPS (great for runners who don't want to take their iPhones along with them when they run). It's also faster and brighter.

Apple watch series 2

That said, nothing is worse than having an original Apple Watch (probably acquired through Discovery) and feeling "watch envy". I don't feel it, thank heavens. I'm not a runner or swimmer so won't be dashing off to get the new Series 2.

Both the original Apple Watch and Series 2 get the new software update (WatchOS3) next Tuesday.

iPhone 7


iPhone 7

This was what we were all waiting for. Some of the big advances are:

1) Water resistant (not the same as waterproof. The difference is you can now fall in the pool with your iPhone 7 and it will be fine, but get out the water quickly. Don't decide to stay in and have a cocktail).

2) New cameras on front and back that are super-dooper (iPhone 7-Plus has 2 cameras at the back!)

3) Stereo speakers that also push out volume levels 2x louder than before

4) On average, 2 hours better battery life per charge

5) Increased storage of 256GB (which means many more photos and videos). They have dropped the 16GB version.

6) This is the biggest change. Goodbye to the old headphone jack. It comes with earphones that have a lightning connector (this plugs into the same port you charge with). It's new technology and we need to embrace it. Just a bummer if you were trying to listen to music and charge your phone at the same time. If you do still want to use your old earphones they include an adapter in the box along with the new lightning EarPods.

Lightning connector

The solution really is to move over to wireless earphones and they have also released Apple Airpods (it's their earphones without the cables).  I think they're cool, but my concern is their wired ones always pop out my ears, so I would probably lose the wireless ones.

Wireless Airpods

Will I get the new iPhone 7? I've already placed my order with my local Vodashop! No news yet on when they will be in SA , but the first batch of countries get their shipments on 16 September, with another 100 countries announced a week later (we might be part of that).  I think we'll have the iPhone 7 in SA by mid to late October, which is much quicker than in years gone by when we'd only get them late December.

As for the cash price... prepare to pay an arm, leg, testicle and ovary. My guess is that the top end 256GB model will be hovering around the R20k mark. I hope you are due for an upgrade.

By the way, even if you have the older iPhone, the new software (iOS10) will be available for download next Tuesday.

One rumour that didn't pan out was wireless charging for the new iPhone 7. Oh well, there's always the iPhone 8 to look forward to next year.

Cheers!
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Apple updates, without the jargon!

This is a blog dedicated to my wife who's not a gadget person at all, but uses an iPhone and a Macbook Air. After every big Apple announcement, she asks me to highlight some of the elements that will effect her user experience without the jargon. So here we go.

Let me start by saying the conference where the keynote was held is for Apple developers and focuses more on software than hardware, so we didn't expect the announcement on the iPhone 7 here.

Apple Watch (watchOS)

If you use an Apple Watch, version 3 of the software will enable apps to load 7 times faster, with background updates (you don't have to wait a few seconds for the info to update once the app has loaded).

To reply to a message you can now "scribble", which is a way to handwrite unique replies without only being able to use preset replies or voice reply.

Apple Watch SOSThe biggest update is SOS. By pushing the big button on the side you have the option to dial SOS which in the States dials 911. They say it updates for each country (so I'm hoping it can manually override as I would rather it dial Netcare 911). The magic is, after the call, it automatically sends a distress message to your emergency contacts along with a map pin of where you are, and at the same time displays your medical data on your home screens.

Apple TV 4 (tvOS)

This one will bore my wife, but apps I download to my iPhone that have a sister app on the Apple TV (4) will auto download to the little black box.

Sadly, no hardware redesign of the Apple TV 4 remote. It still sucks.

Macbook (macOS)

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This is what my wife heard me cheering about in the lounge when they made the announcement. I so often go to my Macbook which is in screen lock mode and have to enter my password 4 times because I type it in so fast I make spelling mistakes. Now, if you have an Apple Watch, it will know it's you and auto unlock! I have no doubt if you don't want this feature you will be be able to disable it, but I think it's brilliant.

The naming convention is getting simpler in that the software for MacBooks will no longer be "OS X", but simply "macOS" and the follow on from El Capitan will be SIERRA (which will have all the changes).

SIRI (voice activation) is coming which means you can just talk to your computer and ask it to do things.

The other BIG thing is the ability to cut and paste across devices. For example, if I have a password on my iPhone that I want to put into a webpage on my Macbook, I simply "cut" it on the phone and then right click and "paste" when on my Macbook.

iPhone (iOS)

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The iPhone screen now wakes up as you pick it up (it doesn't unlock, just auto displays your locked screen that might be displaying widgets or notifications).

Accessing your camera from a locked screen is easier, simply swipe to the right (you used to have to swipe up and then click on camera icon). So it's gone from two movements to just one gesture.

Thank God the MUSIC app is totally redesigned to be simpler and more graphically user friendly.

The PHONE app is integrating with VOIP services. If I've already lost you, it means apps like WHATSAPP will work a lot closer with your PHONE app for messaging and displaying photos of who's calling.

Voicemail will be transcribed into a text so you can read it without having to dial in.

Messaging will become a lot more personalised with more graphical ways of your text appearing in the blue iMessage bubbles.

Predictive emojis based on what you are saying now pop up so you don't have to search through 100 icons to find the one you want.

The updated software is due this Spring.

Conclusion

If you're an Android lover you might be cynical and say half of these features you have already. Good for you. As an iPhone user, I have nothing against Android and at the same time don't care who got what feature first.

I'm an Apple lover and really only care how my life is made easier using my Apple products.




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GADGET REVIEW: Panasonic Smart Home

If you're not a gadgety person, you might want to skip this blog :)

I'm a BIG gadget lover and really like smart home products that enable you to implement a DIY system of some kind at home. They generally land up being a lot more cost effective in terms of installation and often work just as well as the systems that cost 10 times more and wired in your home by an installer.

My house doesn't have conduiting for a wired home camera monitoring system (and I don't have drop ceilings to lay down cables), so for about 10 years I've been using IP cameras. These are stand-alone internet based cameras that use your Wi-Fi to stream images. Fortunately Wi-Fi technology and IP cameras have improved over the years and they work quite well. I have 10 cameras at home that all use my Wi-Fi to broadcast images to my phone and home computer. The down side to this system is that it's quite taxing on my Wi-Fi network and congests the pipe for other other things I want to do (such as stream Netflix etc). Also, the cameras only work well in rooms where you have strong Wi-Fi.

This is where Panasonic's new Smart Home comes in handy.
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It uses the premise of wireless home monitoring, but is not reliant on your existing Wi-Fi network to connect to the cameras as it creates its own Wi-Fi signal that is a closed system just for it's cameras (however, it will need to tap into your Wi-Fi to broadcast the camera feed out of your home to your phone. There is no LAN option for the hub to connect to your network). It's ecosystem connects more than just cameras, because in the box you also get a motion detector and a glass pane detector (that picks up if a window breaks). There's also a cordless phone system attached. Overseas the system also comes with a smart plug socket, but these haven't yet been configured for the South African market as far as I know.

hubIt's all run from a central hub that emits the Wi-Fi signal (runs on the DECT system of transmission). It's definitely got a strong signal and can pick up the cameras through a wall or two, but I did find that if I placed the hub at one end of my house it couldn't pick up it's camera at the other end. My personal Wi-Fi covers a much broader area of my house so at this stage I would have to say my own IP cameras are more effective as an all-in-one solution. For the Panasonic system to replace my IP cameras, I would need to have more than one Panasonic hub in my house so that it can reach it's cameras throughout home. The problem with this is, the hubs work independently of each other so cannot be somehow daisy chained. Another slight disadvantage of the current hub is that it can only connect a maximum of 4 cameras. Should you want more cameras, you would need to get a second hub.

You view and control the entire system via the app on your phone (android or OS) and Panasonic have made multiple updates over the past few weeks to get it running smoothly. The app is quite intuitive and is easy on the eye. My only concern, and this affects the rating of the system as a whole, is that when trying to get the app to remotely connect to the hub I often get a connection error, or it takes for forever to connect to the system. This means you cannot always simply view your cameras within seconds of opening the app. I'm hoping subsequent software updates will eradicate this glitch.

When the app works, it works well. Using the software on your phone, you can arm or disarm the entire system and configure the settings too. It pushes through alerts to your device the moment the alarm is triggered.

Should you decide to run two hubs in your home I'm not quite sure how it would work with the app. Bearing in mind the app will only connect to one hub, you would theoretically need a duplicate version of the app on your phone to run the second hub.

So what's the conclusion? If you are not presently running any system at home then the Panasonic Smart Home is a reasonable "out the box" solution. They do need to still focus on:
1) Allowing more cameras to connect
2) Somehow having a signal range extender for larger homes
3) Giving the hub a LAN port so you can connect it directly to your router without using your home's Wi-Fi
4) Sort out the app connectivity to the hub so there are no connectivity errors.

The Panasonic Smart Home is a great first attempt and early adopters will love it. The more mainstream consumer might want to wait for version 2. At the time of publishing this blog the price point and stockists was not clear (I'll update the blog when it becomes available).

This is not a sponsored blog and Mark is not a technical guru. He's simply a pro-consumer enthusiast who likes playing with gadgets and reporting on them in a "non-geek" language. The Panasonic Home System was provided by Panasonic SA for the purposes of a long term demo with no promise of a review.


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Kids and iPads. Draining more than just batteries.

Holy crap, parenting can be tough. You love your kids so much, yet at the same time they can drive you dilly. Someone once said (figuratively of course) that all parents want to murder their kids as some stage. The difference with good parents is... they hold back and don't.

I'm quite the disciplinarian. My oldest daughter HATES being told what to do. She's so strong willed that if I had to describe her in one word, it would be "defiant". This doesn't make for a continually smooth running household and having a headache by 8am is not uncommon in the Pilgrim household. I should try and get Panado to endorse my house. I'll even let them put a flag up on my roof as a means of me admitting defeat!

I've mentioned this a few times before and I still think there is something to it. The moment my girls spend more than about 20 minutes on their iPads, it's as if they struggle to re-focus on what's around them and that "tunnel-vision" puts them in a bad mood. I say "they", but it's amazing how angelic the other daughter is once dad has blown a gasket and sent the naughty one to her room (I'm referring to myself in the third person here because I'm generally a very calm person and don't like being a screaming banshee).

At least by sending my daughter to her room she actually does calm down and comes out when she's ready to acclimatise herself back into normal society. I only started sending her to her room once she was able to open the door herself (didn't want her to feel locked in). So when she was smaller she would have to stand in the naughty corner under the stairs like a free-range version of Harry Potter who was placed in a cupboard under the stairs. The problem was she would just stroll out a moment later, so being able to now send her to her room is much better. She spends an hour or so playing with her "My little Pony" figurines and comes out a happy person again.

So once again, the iPad is on rations. No iPad on school mornings, at a meal table or in the evenings close to bed time.

Apples are not always good for you.



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Latest Apple news in non-gadgety language

As you probably know, I'm a big Apple fan. About twice a year they do a big reveal of the latest and greatest in terms of software and hardware, and last night was one of those Apple Events.

For many people though, it wasn't a wow night as there was nothing extraordinary launched. It was more a night of adding new options to existing ranges. Here it is in a nutshell.

iPhone SE

Before the iPhone 6 and 6S shapes we had the iPhone 5 which was still the smaller 4 inch size with straight sides. They have brought it back but crammed iPhone 6s features into it. The new iPhone SE is for people that want a current phone in a smaller chassis.

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Apple Watch

No new software just yet. Just nylon straps.

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Apple TV 4

A small software update, with the biggest news being you can now organise your apps into folders.

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iPad 9.7" Pro

They have taken the current "normal sized" iPad and beefed it up to be more in line with it's big daddy, the 12 inch version that was released a couple of months ago.

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iOS9.3

The latest round of software updates are now available for your iPhone and iPad. Probably the most notable addition being the "NightShift" setting, which changes the blueness of your screen to a warmer yellow tint at night so your brain is not confused thinking it is still daylight (supposedly this change will help some sleep a little better).

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And that's it. Boom.
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APPLE vs the FBI

It's a fascinating story that movies are made of... and here is my layman's explanation of it.

The FBI are in possession of a terrorist's iPhone 5c and believe crucial information is on it. The terrorist is dead so he can't tell them what his passcode is to unlock the phone. Also, as the iPhone is a 5c model, it doesn't have fingerprint recognition, so they can't take the dead man's finger and touch it against the phone. Until the passcode is entered, the data on the phone remains encrypted and can't be accessed.

The FBI want to attach their computer to the phone that will start guessing all the combinations of a 4 digit code. Based on a speed of 1 code every 80 milli seconds, the computer can open the iPhone in 30 minutes.

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Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac


There's only one problem. Well actually two. Firstly, if the terrorist opted not to used the standard 4 digit pass code, but rather an alpa-numeric code (using numbers and letters), then the FBI are screwed in terms of guessing the password.

Secondly, and probably more worrying for the FBI, there is a setting on the iPhone that can instruct it to wipe the data after 10 incorrect password attempts. Now the FBI don't know if this setting is active or not on the phone and so can't take a chance at starting to enter passcodes. So they are asking Apple to run a firmware update (supposedly just for this particular phone) that disables the 10-strike option. They want to be be able to keep entering 4 digit numeric passcodes without the terrorist's phone locking up or it delaying any entries after x amount of attempts.

Apple is saying NO. If it's done for this iPhone, it paves the way for any and every phone being hacked.

The case continues...


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GADGET REVIEW: The NutriBullet

If you've followed my blogs over the years, you'll know that I love writing reviews on gadgets, so I thought I would share my views on a new generation of blender. A few days ago I was given the NutriBullet to try out with no obligation to say anything good (or bad) about it.

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I've been put off blenders in recent months, because more and more information shows that to use a simple juice extractor (thereby drinking the juice, but leaving all the pulp behind) is not good for you as it spikes your sugar levels. The fibre and pulp of fruit not only slows your sugar absorption, but also fills you up more so you don't land up "drinking" too much fruit/sugar in a single sitting.

That's where the NutriBullet is different. It doesn't extract the juice, it simply blends everything into a drinkable pulp. The level of consistency simply depends on how much water you add to the mixture. Here's a pic of my concoction: apple, strawberry, carrot, banana, orange (with the skin) and nuts:

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The deliciousness is limited only by your imagination of what you can put inside the blender. What I have learnt though is that there are certain pips you should NEVER blend, as they contain natural cyanide which is released when crushed up. This includes Apple and peach pips.

The NutriBullet is really easy to use and doesn't have a million different pieces that need cleaning and putting back together like the world's toughest jigsaw puzzle. In fact, to balance the review with something that is not great about it, I really had to think about it for a while and the only thing I could come up with is that the blade mechanism cannot be placed in the dishwasher (the mixing container can though).

Designed by a South African, The NutriBullet is flying off the shelves in the U.S and is now available in South Africa at most leading retailers such as @Home, Dion Wired and Hirsch's and retails for about R1999. For more info, check out their website on www.nutribullet.co.za.

This blog was not sponsored or paid for by NutriBullet or its stockists.  
Mark is simply a lover of gadgets and was offered a unit to try out. This blog was written of his own volition. 






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Apple...what's new?

Whenever Apple do a big product launch I always think of what my wife would take from it. She's not a gadget person so don't throw terms like megapixels and A9 processors at her. She wants a simple summary of whether it's worth an upgrade.

So with that in mind I like writing this quick gadget blog which isn't technical (there's a lot of sites that will give you all the "under the hood" information). It's a simple explanation... for my wife.

iPhone 6S

History has shown that every 2 years there's a major upgrade to the iPhone, and every alternate year (which is this year) there is a more of just a tweak here or there and the phone gets the "s" moniker.

This year it should have been called the "double s" because Apple did do something fundamentally different to the new phone that will change the way you use it. They introduced force touch, or what they are branding it as "3D touch". The phone can detect whether you are pressing lightly are harder and different quick menu options pop up depending on that you do. It's aim is to make your life simpler. In my books it is a major advancement over the iPhone 6.

It also has upgrades, such a new processor that makes it 70% faster (90% faster with graphics). The fingerprint sensor is now twice as responsive. It also now comes in a rose gold colour.  There was no mention of a better battery life though.

It has a MUCH better camera for photos and even shoots 4K video (much better than HD), and also shoots what is called a live photo, meaning your photo has movement (it's not a video). Also,when taking a selfie, your display screen will act as a flash (the screen will fight up 4 times brighter than you are normally used to).

Is it worth the upgrade? If you have an iPhone 5 or older, most definitely. If, like me though, you have an iPhone 6, I'm probably going to hang on to my valuable upgrade and wait for the iPhone 7.

Apple TV

This has always been Apple's forgotten child... until now. The new Apple TV is slightly thicker and they have tweaked the visual interface. The biggest change will be that developers can now create apps for it...I look forward to a plethora of games and also TV channel apps. They have added Siri commands which enables you to just talk to your TV to get it to do various things (including asking typical google type questions for quick answers). It has a faster WiFi speed so if you have a powerful router there could be less buffering as it transfers data.


It has a much better remote (less likely to slip between the couch cushions) and the rechargeable battery lasts about 3 months with typical use.

I'll definitely get one, but won't replace all 4 of my Apple TVs with new ones just yet. The old ones will still work just fine.

Apple Watch

They mentioned a bit about the Watch, but I am so not into it yet, I can't tell you what was said... I popped off to the kitchen to get a glass of wine!

iPad Pro

This was the star of the evening. I've gone off using iPads as I prefer using my new tiny 12 inch Macbook, but this iPad Pro is a game changer. Besides a 12.9 inch screen (it weighs about the same as the original iPad), it has a super fast processor, has an optional "hard keyboard case" that connects the moment you slide the iPad into the case (it has small connectors so doesn't use bluetooth).

The revolutionary element is the new Apple Pencil that you can use with it (and Steve Jobs hated the idea of a stylus). But this is more than just a plastic stick. The technology inside it is quite advanced and it detects the angle you are holding the pencil for wide strokes. Even the iPad can pick up if you are pressing down lightly or hard for different effects. It is a rechargeable device (that can be charged by the iPad itself). This is going to change the way we use iPads.


So there you have it. Apple is definitely forging ahead to keep their products ahead of the pack and as relevant as possible. Just make sure your budget is big enough... it doesn't come cheap!








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MY QUICK REVIEW: The new tiny Macbook


I am a Macbook lover and got the new tiny 12 inch Macbook a few days ago. Ironically it is 2cm narrower than the 11 inch Macbook Air

It is amazingly light and for the first time I don't even notice I'm lugging a computer around with me!

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I think many of us thought the iPad was revolutionary in terms of making your office mobile, but it never worked for me when it came to documents and having all my files on hand. The iPad is now relegated to my girls games. But this new Macbook has literally changed the way I work. I don't have to dash back to the office anymore to get some paperwork done. Using Dropbox, all my files are on both my office Macbook Pro and this tiny Macbook! It's not designed for high processing power and I'll always use my bigger laptop in my studio, but for being on the go this new 12 inch Macbook is brilliant.

Well done Apple!!

Onto other news. I'm so excited about my latest project. After 4 months of writing, I have just finished writing my book called Beyond the Baldness!

It's not a scandalous, but rather a (hopefully) inspirational autobiography for anyone that wants to achieve their goals in life, whether it be in personal or work related ambitions. I talk about my journey with cancer and how it pushed me to follow my dream of being on radio. I also cover the various television shows I've done with some behind-the-scenes stuff and also focus a lot on my personal experiences of being a Dad to to young girls.

Here's a snippet...

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It now sits with editors for about 3 months before going to print and being published by about October.






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Apple news in a layman's nutshell

After a big Apple media event there are many sites that go into detail as to what was launched the night before. If you' re after some of those sites you can click here on Cult of Mac or MyBroadband.

My blog is always just a quick summary for those that aren't too gadgety! Here we go!

APPLE WATCH


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This was expected to be the highlight of the media event, but turned out to be a little lacklustre as not too much more was revealed... except the price! The bottom of the range will cost (I'm guessing here for SA prices) about R6000 and the limited edition gold version STARTS at about R120000!

Battery life expected to last about 18 hours with medium usage and Tim confirmed you can answer calls on it, which means a whole new generation of people will be talking to their wrists like CIA agents. I think the Watch is a great idea and I am usually an early adopter of gadgets, but I am personally going to hold back for a 2nd generation edition in about a year when it's features and practicality has expanded somewhat.


MACBOOK


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This is what stole the show last night. Apple have totally redesigned the laptop and the new 12inch retina display Macbook was launched last night.

It has a lot of under the bonnet advancements (such as a new method of the keyboard buttons working, backlighting and even the trackpad), but in a nutshell, it is the thinnest and lightest macbook ever, not even weighing 1kg!

The biggest leap in technology though is that it is fanless! This means, not only is it as quiet as an iPad, but it means they could make the housing even thinner as it doesn't need space for the fan and motor.

It also has a new USB-C connector, which means it has only one port that does everything, from charging, the HDMI, VGA and USB. I would imagine you'll need to buy some sort of hub adaptor to plug various items in. The premise of this laptop though is to not plug things in, and rely much more on "over the air" listening and watching etc using Wi-Fi and bluetooth. I want to see this in the flesh to see the practicality of these adaptors. It may be the clincher that stops me buying one.

It comes with a 256GB or 512GB solid state drive, but with it's M-Core processor it's not the most powerful laptop around. If you use intensive programmes on your laptop (like Pro Tools) it might still be better to get the Macbook Pro or Macbook Air (both have just received spec upgrades).

This laptop does not have the "Air" or "Pro" moniker. It's simply called the "Macbook", a version of the name Apple discontinued a few years back when they stopped producing the white and black models.

Now, us more hardcore laptop users wait for them to bring out a fanless version of the higher specced i7 chips and also wait for finger sensor recognition as well.



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Tired of being stuck in traffic? Here's a suggestion or two.

Traffic is a nightmare. Even more so because of the recent load shedding. Here are 3 things I use that help me navigate the chaos (which can only be described as a clusterf&^k).

Firstly, I've been spending a lot more time on my Vespa (my traffic buster!). And I'm seeing more and more people riding them as well.

Having said that, for the first time in 6 years it left me stranded this week when the engine cut out on me. I have to say though, the Vespa after-sales support is phenomenal. Not only did they bring a van out to collect me from the side of the road, but an hour later the bike was fixed (it was a faulty fuel pump) and I was back on the road! There's definitely something to be said for paying a little more for a solid brand and getting great service, even after the purchase. And the reason why the Vespa service is so good... the guys live the brand. If you go to a dealership, the guys live and breathe on these scooters. Oh, hang on... a Vespa is not a scooter, it's a lifestyle! Thanks to Trevor and the team!

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Staying with what's happening on the road, for the last 2 weeks I've been using the WAZE navigation app on my phone and what a difference it's made to how I navigate the traffic disaster around Sandton everyday! Before I go any further, let me say this is NOT a sponsored blog (how I wish it was, I have school fees to pay). I just like promoting apps/gadgets that really work.

If you use APPLE MAPS or GOOGLE MAPS, you might have noticed they highlight the road in red when there is congestion up ahead. A lot of that info is sourced from WAZE. The big difference being that if you use the actual WAZE app, it intelligently monitors your route and when an incident happens up ahead, it automatically recalculates a detour so you don't get snarled up in the traffic.

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It's information source is...you! As you come across incidents such as accidents or traffic jams, you simply push one or two buttons and it shares the information with other users (and it's also this info that gets pushed to Google and Apple Maps).

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WAZE is massive in the States and is getting bigger and bigger in South Africa too. In the last 2 weeks I have not travelled anywhere in my car without WAZE on and it's saved me from more than one traffic jam. Sometimes you wonder why it's suddenly taking you on a different route, but you just have to have faith in the app...it knows what it's doing!

Of course, if you are using your phone's navigation apps, it doesn't help having your device on your lap or in the centre console. You need it where you an see it. Recently the iStores brought out this great little car smartphone holder, called the Kenu Air Frame that hooks onto your air grille:

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It's not bulky and doesn't look like a octopus sucked onto your windscreen. Brilliant. It's not a charger, so there is no bulkiness to it at all. It's for any smartphone and the grip is elasticated so it can stretch to fit your phone:

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When I bought mine a month ago, there was plenty of stock. I actually went to 2 iStores today to buy one for my wife and they were all sold out. So keep a look out for them, and if you see it on the shelf...buy it!

So, as load shedding shows no signs of abating, safe travels and here's hoping you get around safely and on time!!


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Dashcams. Why you should have one.

I originally wrote a blog about my dashcam about a year and a half ago. At the time it seemed like a novelty and I was having fun with it (I felt like policeman!). The true test of a gadget though is whether, after a few months you pack it away, or you continue using it.

This is one gadget that is here to stay.

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I have used it everyday since 2013. It sits unobtrusively on my windscreen. It switches on and off by itself as I start and switch off the car (powered from the cigarette lighter). The memory card never gets full and stops recording as it automatically erases the old recording to make space for the new one (I have about a 2 hour loop on my card).

So do you NEED a dashcam? No. But you also don't need DStv, but I bet you can't imagine being stuck with only SABC. A dashcam is more than simply a "nice to have". It's your eyes and ears for any incident and is irrefutable proof should you need to support your case. It could be a cop that pulls you over and asks for a bribe. It could be the guy that swerves in front of you. I catch a lot of company cars jumping red lights etc and post still images of it on twitter. Here's one I posted yesterday of a "Don't Waste" van skipping a red light and doing an illegal u-turn:

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Russia are big into their dash cams. Here's some visuals:


Cars already have cameras for reversing. I have no doubt that within a few years, all upmarket cars will have built in dashcams too. I think of it as an insurance policy. It's the kind of thing you forget is there... until you need it.

There are a few good brands/dealers in SA. Here is one I recommend: www.SACarCameras.co.za

This is not a sponsored blog. Mark is simply passionate about gadgets that make our lives easier.


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The kingdom for a selfie stick

At the end of last week I spent 2 days in Swaziland on a shoot for one of my clients. I love this small country. Here's a pic of my crew and I rehearsing a link in Mbabane, the capital of Swaziland (I was probably forgetting my lines again):

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Let's be honest though, Swaziland is all about the King (and his many wives). King Mswati III's face is everywhere, even on their traditional dress (which I donned for one of the TV show links):

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if you've ever flown to Swaziland, you'll remember the dilapidated airport with ceiling boards missing (amongst other things). Well, the King has just built his nation a brand new state of the art international airport. Here's a pic I was able to take before security banned me from snapping any more shots:

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The only downside to the new airport is that it takes 1.5 hours to drive from the airport to the nation's capital, whereas from the old airport it was about 15 minutes. 

I look forward to visiting this great, yet tiny, nation again soon. I just hope we don't stay at the Royal Swazi Sun again. I've mentioned this before, it truly is Sun International's forgotten child.  I don't think it's had a revamp since 1985. In 2015, at a 5 star hotel you should not have to pay for Wi-Fi or stand in a bath to have a shower. 

In other news, my selfie stick arrived at the end of last week. Yay!


I know it's cheesy, but you get to take some great shots with it. Here's Alyssa's first attempt:

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I think the trick is to try and angle it so you don't notice the pole... we'll get there!!


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Boys and their toys. My latest gadgets.

If you follow this blog regularly you'll know I'm obsessed with gadgets. Not novelties or weird complex stuff that only an engineer would be able to figure out, but the simple things that make my life a little easier... and more fun!

My latest toy is my quadcopter (drone), which I am LOVING! Out of respect for my neighbours though I'm not really flying it in the complex much, as it sounds like a swarm of bees on steroids when in the air. Also, I'm sure they don't appreciate the "big brother" eye in the sky, as it has my GoPro attached and records high definition video!


The DJI Phantom 2 drone is more advanced than the smaller ones which you simply fly by tiling an iPhone. This one has a full radio controller where you have to manoeuvre thrust, yaw, roll and pitch at the same time.

If you are used to flying radio controlled planes or helicopters it'll be a breeze, but if you haven't flown before, you might want to do do some simulator flying before taking just under R25000 up in the sky. (I highly recommend Aerial Concepts in Woodmead for any sales or information. They are fantastic and have a huge variety of planes, choppers and drones. 011 8028500).

I never had a GoPro before getting the drone and am absolutely loving the video quality. SO much so that I'm now also using it when riding my motorbike, using it as a helmet cam:


I use the GoPro Hero Silver 3+. I get a few stares from people on the road when I pull up next to them and they see a lens and a red blinking light looking back at them, but it's amazing how more well behaved people are at the thought of doing something wrong and it landing up on the internet!

Also, I've had a dashcam in my car for almost a year (the DOD430):


You almost never need to look at the footage, but you never know what could happen right in front of you (and it could help out with any insurance claim too!).I got my camera from www.sacarcameras.co.za.

Finally, thanks Afrihost, my car is once again a Wi-Fi zone. My MIFI device is back up and running, so my passengers can do some great surfing while I drive... and internet radio becomes a lot cheaper to listen to as well!


This is just a quick round up of some of my latest gadgets that I'm playing with at the moment.
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I'm being watched!

I think I have officially watched too many cop shows over the years, because for the last few days an "RV" caravan with tinted windows has been parked across the road from my house, and I can only imagine that there's 3 guys in there with cameras and headphones.


Every time I leave my house I think I can hear the radio coms saying "This is Alpha 1, the bogey is leaving".

That's okay though, because I am going to spy on the spies! Yesterday I bought myself a quadcopter and camera! Ha ha to the men in black. That mosquito sound you might be hearing above your head is me watching you and I'm chatting into my radio saying "Alpha 2, the smokeys are locked and contained. Over".


There again, it might just be someone's caravan parked in the road.

P.s, if you want to buy a DJI Phantom Quadcopter, my mate Dean owns Aerial Concepts, the biggest flying hobby shop in the country. He's based in Woodmead. Tell him I sent you and he must give you a good deal! 011 802 8500.
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Ingenious: My Doggy Poo Cam!

I'm a bit of a gadget nut, and every once in a while I have to give myself a pat on the back when an idea works.

Our 9 week old chihuahua puppy (Cappuccino) needs to go to the loo every couple of hours. Here's the dilemma: at night it's a bit like playing Russian roulette. Do I wake up every few hours and just take him out hoping he'll poo? What if I get my timing off, step out of bed and stand in his crap (and then my toenails will grow like a trolls... that's a blog for another day).

Bring in... the poo cam!!!



Actually, I'm sure Axis didn't manufacture their camera (M1031) to alert a user when a puppy is about to dump a load on a newly laid wooden floor, but it works SO well.

It really is just a camera with a motion sensor on it. When it detects movement it lights up the area. I've also set it to emit an audible alarm as well. That way, the moment the pup gets out of bed to start his bedroom hunt to make a deposit, the camera wakes me up immediately. Like a swooping falcon I intercept Cappuccino before he hunkers down and does his deed. One quick trip the the garden and business is complete.

It saved me twice last night. Thanks technology!
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My latest practical gadgets

Hi, as you may know I am a gadget nut. Not the useless things that land up in the cupboard after 3 days of use, but the practical gadgets that make my life a little easier. Here's what I bought this week:

POOL GATE ALARM

At home we're always very aware of the dangers posed by swimming pools. The pool gate is always locked and the key placed in a jar which the kids can't reach. But it's always concerned me when the gardener pops into the "zone" to clean the pool or tend to the shrubs next to the pool. It doesn't help having a fence and gate if the gate is left open. So this week I got the Doberman Pool Gate Alarm:

They're very inexpensive (cost me R99 from Home Security Store in Sandton), but quite effective. It emits a 100dB alarm if the gate is open, forcing the gardner to close the gate VERY quickly.

FASTER WiFi FOR APPLE MACS

Another gadget i've just bought from a site in the U.S. is a WiFi dongle called the AC Nano that, when plugged into my computer, replaces the existing WiFi card and enables my Mac to connect at 802.11ac speed. This is the new WiFi speed that is 3 times faster than the current "n" speed. Some new computers are coming out with the "ac" speed built in, but what about the rest of us that have perfectly good computers and don't want to replace the whole thing just to get a faster WiFi speed. The AC NANO dongle works like a charm and my Mac Mini now streams my videos to the Apple TVs without any more buffering. (by faster speeds, i'm referring to the speed of your internal WiFi network, and not your internet connection speed such as ADSL).


The device costs $59, and once you include shipping charges, it's just over R1000 to import from www.quickertek.com.
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Apple's latest gadgets explained (without the jargon)

Last night was the big reveal of the latest tech from one of the most loved tech companies in the world. Here's what is new in a nutshell without all the technical jargon:

Mavericks Operating System

The most advanced computer operating system is here. It has many behind the scenes improvements so that it uses your computer's resources more efficiently. It has so many great new user options as well. 

Even better, Apple announced the upgrade to Mavericks is free. That's a radical departure from the norm. Their positioning of this is so clever (and why we love the brand so much). Instead of saying it's free because they want to dominate the market with their new software, Tim Cook said it's free because they want YOU to have the best user experience possible. 

I'm downloading it at the moment. It's a large file. Sitting at almost 6GB, you definitely want to be on broadband before downloading it.

Macbook Pro Laptops

The 13 and 15 inch range have both been updated. They are thinner, faster and have improved battery life. They also use the new generation 802.11ac Wi-Fi that's 3x faster than the current widely used 802.1n Wi-Fi. 

What's remarkable is that (in the States at least), they are going to be cheaper than the existing ones!

iLife and iWork Software

They have done a radical overhaul of iPhoto and iMovie (all packaged as iLife) as well as iWORK (their version of Office). These will all be bundled free with any new Macbook purchase.

I still prefer using Microsoft Office for Mac rather than iWork, but one of the nifty things they've come up with in Pages, is that 2 people can "collaborate" and work on the SAME active document at the same time. That has great business applications.

New iPads

The biggest news of the night was the launch of the new iPad. Instead of being called the iPad 5, it's moniker is the iPad AirIt's 20% thinner, has a smaller bezel (border), approximately 20% lighter. It is 2x faster (A7 chip). It will replace the current iPad 4.

There's also a new iPad Mini with Retina display. It's 4x faster than the old one (and has the same chip as the new iPhone 5S). That's a remarkable improvement. The original iPad Mini will still be produced as well.

They say the new iPads have better wifi than before, but I'm surprised it didn't incorporate the new 802.11ac speed Wi-Fi.


Apple TV

I have 3 of these devices at home and use them all the time. Interestingly there was no mention of any software of hardware upgrades here.

In my attempt not to get technical I've left a few things out that they mentioned last night, but that's the gist of it.

Enjoy placing your Apple orders with Santa this Christmas!
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Gadget review: Dashcam. Why you need one in your car.

Being a devourer of gadgets, and also a lover of reality cop shows where they show footage of amazing incidents, the two married together nicely when I got my very own dashcam!

My wife's first question was "why"? My first answer was "why not"!

But what is a dashcam and why are they becoming increasingly popular?

In a nutshell, it's a wide angled camera that attaches to your windscreen with a suction cap and continually sees and records what you see as you drive. It's relatively unobtrusive when attached. Here it is in my car alongside the rearview mirror.



In Russia almost every car has a dashcam, hence them being able to record amazing footage as the meteor streaked across their skies about 8 months ago. Another recent piece of footage caught on a dashcam was the horrific Pinetown truck accident:



So why would you want one in your car? Think of it as an insurance policy. Should you being involved in an accident you have a visual record of events to prove non-liability (if you are actually innocent!). It can also record criminal activity. Think about the next time that cop pulls you over. Not only do you get their face on camera, but with full audio recording, you get the soliciting of the bribe as well. Nice footage for Derek Watts on Carte Blanche! How about placing one in your teenager's car to monitor their driving. At this stage they don't have a live feed back to home base, and simply record onto SD card, but you can never have too little information when it comes to your kids.

In fact, depending on the model you go for, it's also great for business vehicle tracking as it also has full GPS recording, so you know the vehicle's speed and location while it's filming the visuals. Here's screenshot of the information you get (this is a still image taken from my dashcam at the scene of the horrific head-on collision of 2 motorbikes yesterday in Lanseria):


The model I have is the DOD LS430 (available from www.sacarcameras.co.za) for R2900. With it's 140 degree wide angle lens, it records in full 1080p and records in car audio as well. This is the quality of the actual footage, compressed here for web streaming (out of respect for the families of the fallen bikers, it's not the actual footage of the above accident scene):