How do you recreate Formula One? Which home security camera is best? Is there such a thing as a manly smartwatch? All these questions and more answered by our friendly tech sage.
How can I recreate the thrill of Formula One at home?
Guru has a great tip for this. Put one of those fairground merry-go-rounds in your garden, place an effigy of Lewis Hamilton in one of the little cars, let it go round in circles for several hours, and at the end Lewis wins. No?
OK, how about this: your own guided tour of the Ferrari garage? Just go to shell.com/SFU for the full Scuderia Ferrari Uncovered experience. It works on any device, but on the iPad your tablet serves as a kind of AR window on the garage, letting you look around like a nosey postman.
There’s an absolute information overload, with everything from briefings on aerodynamics to a seat in the cockpit of the Fezza Fastmobile – as Guru likes to call Ferrari’s race car – to a word with the drivers (“No, we don’t know why we can’t beat Hamilton. Please go away.”)
Then there’s the vexed question of how to mix the team’s Shell V-Power fuel and Shell Helix Ultra motor oil. Because Shell sponsored and built the app, you see. For F1 fans, it’s a must. Want to drive ‘for real’, more or less? Take a trip to Horley (no, Guru neither), where Let’s Race (letsrace.co.uk) has ten networked, full-motion F1 sims waiting for you, with sessions starting at 15 quid. There’s simulated golf too and, for all Guru knows, quite possibly simulated food and virtual toilets.
“But Guru,” you ask. “What if I want to drive for real, more or less, in the privacy of my own shed?” Good news: there’s a solution, and it comes from Motorsport Simulators (motorsportsimulators.co.uk). Buy one of its sims and choose from feedback through the steering wheel only or the entire chassis.
Nearly every F1 track is meticulously recreated down to the last detail on a wraparound HD screen, and there’s also the option to have it rise out of the floor, if your mansion space is tight. The not-such-good news is that the kit starts at £35,000, and rapidly heads north of £75K as you add on options.
Which of the 9,000 smart- home video cameras should I go for? Too… much… choice!
Guru has been testing IP cams, ‘nanny cams’, or whatever you want to call them, for months now, trying to catch out Mrs Guru during one of, Guru suspects, her many illicit liaisons with delivery men and Jehovah’s Witnesses. No joy so far.
Canary (£160) is a decent all-in-one. It’s got sensors, a 90dB alarm – that’s almost the same volume as GaGu snoring – and, obviously, a camera. It looks like some kind of weird ornament – a Martian sporting trophy, maybe – rather than a camera. Hey, why not? Canary is both a device for spying on your nanny/loved ones/pets AND a semi-proper security cam, thanks to the alarm and the ability to connect to the fuzz direct from the app, once it’s alerted you to the presence of a scrote touting a bag marked SWAG.
MyFox, at £170, has a big shutter that comes down over the lens, so your guests can feel reassured you’re not perving over them. The security element of this system comes as a second package, for a further £249. MyFox’s tech, like a real fox, is cunning, though unlike a real fox, it doesn’t kill chickens for fun. It knows whether a visitor is you coming home noisily, or the vice squad smashing the door down with a jack hammer, thanks to a Bluetooth key fob for you, and a door sensor that can tell the difference between a shove and attack by power tool. Aptly, if it suspects the latter, it makes a noise like a fox having it off.
Finally, the Logi (formerly known as Logitech) Circle, £160, and Withings Home, £170, are almost the same thing: constantly streaming cams that store hours of footage for you to dip into when bored. They also both allow two-way communication, but only the Home has an air-quality sensor, meaning you can tell remotely when your partner has broken wind, with no risk of being told, “He who smelt it dealt it.” That’s a very winning feature, to Guru’s mind.
I want a smartwatch that looks like a real watch!
There’s now a burgeoning scene for blokey-looking watches that also let you receive notifications such as, “When are your f**king pages coming through, GaGu? They’re a week late!”
First up, there’s the Vector range. This brand’s CEO is an ex-Timex bigwig, so it knows how to build and market watches – although the battery-saving screen is a bit dull, to GaGu’s eyes.
Mondaine, maker of the Swiss Railway Clock watch oft found in the rear-end ad pages of Sunday supplements, now does variants of
its Helvetica piece with step-counting and sleep-tracking built in. The best of these look cracking, the cheaper ones, well, a bit cheap.
But the joker in the pack here is Garmin. Yes, the sat-nav king has made a remarkably cool, power-dressed variant on its huge Fenix 3 running-watch-that-also-does-notifications.
GaGu would explain what it looks like, but the product name (Fenix 3 Silver Sapphire [glass] With Leather Strap) kinda gives it away. Chunktastic.
What’s a good leaf blower?
Hmm, let GaGu have a think about that. Oh yeah… THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A GOOD LEAF BLOWER, YOU BIG IDIOT! What’s the point of blowing leaves around your garden like some kind of demented wind god? Unless you’re going to blow them all into your neighbour’s garden – in which case, fair play.
What you want, GaGu suggests, is a leaf vac. Like the Trivac from Worx. For £80, it’ll suck up your dead tree foliage into a little bag, ready to be used to stuff pillows, or whatever.
If you still want to annoy ‘them next door’, you can always wait until they’ve hung washing out, then burn all the leaves in a big, smokey fire. Ah yeah: that’s what Guru is talking about.
Is there a no-outlay way I can make a mint online?
If you’re of an artistic persuasion, it so happens that Teespring.com has just launched in Europe.
This very clever service lets you design T-shirts (and shopping bags, and hoodies, and other things you might want to put a design or logo or “You don’t have to be mad to carry this shopping bag… but it helps!” on), for zero upfront cost to your good self. The way it works is you upload your design, stipulate how many you want to sell (minimum five), then wait for the orders to roll in. Only once the requisite number has been placed and paid for does Teespring start printing (and taking its cut, of course).
Teespring boasts that there are thousands of users make a living from the site, and claims that “20 people made over $1million last year”. It’s gotta be worth a try, right?
Settle this now: best Bluetooth speaker?
GaGu has oh so many Bluetooth speakers. His current big three are…
#3: the Kef Muo (£299). This steel tube o’ sound is for quieter, more nuanced music. But GaGu never listens to that, so he’s even more of a fan of…
#2: the B&W T7. Industrial-looking, with more beef than you’d expect for its size, this justifies its £299 wedge.
Call him a freak, but Guru’s #1 is Marshall’s £180 Kilburn. Loud, leathery and with some DSP mucking about to give a pseudo-analogue sound,
it could only be more rock ’n’ roll if it were soaked in bourbon, nursing a jazz cigarette and evading tax.
Gadget Guru’s magic box
GaGu would love to one day have a whole army of robot slaves. Mainly for sex, to be honest. In the meantime, he’s happy to settle for a robot vacuum cleaner or two, with this month’s models being the Neato D Series (from £400) and the excruciatingly named Hoover Robo.com3 (£500). The former specialises in sucking up hair – pets’ or your own, it doesn’t discriminate – while Hoover’s effort boasts Wi-Fi, so it can be sent into action remotely and then send you messages saying, “I’m stuck under the sofa again. Please send help! Oh no, it’s the dog!”
Guru likes nothing more than to settle down to watch something challenging, preferably in Czech and shot in black and white Super 8. Three cheers, then, for the desktop and mobile BFI Player, a superb showcase for off-the-beaten-track celluloid gems. Pricing is suitably avant garde; downloads range from £2.13 to £5.10. There’s free stuff on there, too.
Want to convince burglars you’re at home when you’re not? FakeTV (£25) offers “realistic TV-programme simulation” that has “no light or colour pattern repeats”. It’s a panel of multicoloured LEDs, basically, and uses “less power than a night light”.
In the Fifties and Sixties, Braun made tech that was the stuff of the young Jonny Ive’s wet dreams. These days – though GaGu still admires the functionality – not so much. However, one area in which the German giant is still visually very strong is watch making, and its black ceramic watch deserves two awards. One is for its use of innovative materials. And the other? That’s for having the longest and stupidest name of any watch ever: the Braun BN0171BKBKG (£275).
Finally, speaking of Braun, Raumfeld makes wireless speakers that recall the glory days of its Bauhaus-influenced aesthetic. GaGu was fortunate enough to go to the UK launch of its imaginatively named Soundbar (£999). It’s a punchy number with support for multi-room music via Wi-Fi, and your TV’s sound via HDMI. Wunderbar!