Shock Mount (Black Aluminum) for the Blue Yeti Microphone by Auphonix

Shock Mount by Auphonix

With the ‘fixed mount cradle’ for the Blue Yeti microphone having its limitations such as being bulky and often requiring to be propped up to get the positioning right (well mostly) I have been on the lookout for a decent shock mount for the Blue Yeti, but it has been a long time come and after many months finally a decent (£25) and affordable shock mount for the Blue Yeti found at http://amzn.eu/6bd69jp .

Many issues exist for a decent shockmount purchase:

  1. Blue’s own offering is costly (and reportedly fraught with issues if loose clamps – especially for the price)
  2. The Yeti does have a standard fixing, so there are not many offerings (some bespoke offerings that have been flash in the pan’s)
  3. The Yeti is one heavy beast and there are numerous reports of any point that require tightening not holding out (see point 1)
  4. There are a reported batch of Blue Yeti’s that do have the 3/8″thread overcut by a 1/16″ (causing poor fitting to any mount, and not any issue with mounts themselves)

Now I purchased my Blue Yeti for a very handsome price of approx. £65 and there was no way I was ever going to purchase a mount in excess of that so point 1 is out of the question. I toyed with the idea of creating my own (point 2) and even drew up plans but never got round to it! Something specific needed for the yeti due to its non-standard fitting and needing to carry it’s weight (point 3) was also a concern for any attached boom (see later). The only solutions for an overcut fixing was either and new Yeti or as I have read on the web to use plumbing tape (PTFE) to ‘take up the slack’ and not have the Yeti drop off, thankfully I did not need this solutions.

The Auphonix offering was getting great reviews (a cheaper plastic and a reasonable priced aluminium offering were available) but I hesitated and lucked out on the silver aluminium @ £30, then a rather elegant black version showed up for £5 less! a result – and most Booms are black anyway. So now an accompanying boom was required to be purchased – I was conscious of the weight of the Yeti but on Amazon was the recommendation for under £12 the Tencro Professional Microphone Boom for Blue Yeti ( http://amzn.eu/g4CTVSO ), specifically having the key point of being heavy duty designed for supporting almost all microphones up to 4.4 pounds / 2KG.

Both are now fitted and I found that mounting my Yeti above the mount, rather than below, suited my rig better as I will be swinging my mic up and out the way often – kids can be too inquisitive! The difference between the original fixed stand against the dampening properties of the boom & shock-mount are excellent and given my setup prior to this purchase noticeably picked-up ‘shocks & knocks’ and caused me to be extra careful when recording to minimise disruption the cost @ less than £40 is a great solution and one that I cannot recommend myself if you want the best from your original audio recording with your Blue Yeti.

 

DESTEK V3 Virtual Reality VR Headset

DESTEK V3 Virtual Reality VR Headset

VR (Virtual Reality) is definitely on the horizon and one of the ‘next big things’ in the world of interactive entertainment and educational technologies. From exploring terrains or areas that learners would not be exposed to or the mountain of risk assessment alone making it impossible can suddenly transport your learners from differing perspectives such as helicopter rides over London to distant lands and the rim of a live volcano and onto an on-stage presence at gig or musical. Coupled with an immersive audio experience is one hell of a ride! but i shudder at this future and fear for the learners that will feel my pain – literally!

So why the negativity? well a fact about me, I get physically sick when playing 3D games! Now this may seem daft, especially teaching (albeit in the recent past) game 3d engines. But I have never been able to get beyond it, this is a huge concern to the likes of the military that whilst saving a fortune by having their personnel train in VR environments there are those that still need the real thing due to suffering debilitating nausea. Something like 1% feels any ill affects withe 0.1% of those having physical reactions -its worthy of research to further make savings. I for one would welcome any solution (even in part). I am rarely able to play more than say 30 minutes before feeling queasy – often physically ill, and recovering for over 6 hrs+. To just be able to play Minecraft with my little boy would makehis day, and not have him feel guilty when I do play and have to stop due to illness. But there are other worse than me, even being set off by waterways and supermarkets (I kid you not – read the art5icle on the BBC – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-south-east-wales-38715719 )

So despite all the ill-feeling I splashed out on a reasonably priced  DESTEK V3 Virtual Reality VR Headset, it fits my iPhone 6 Plus (without case), is well constructed and has the Magnetic switch (a must in my opinion s  for low end, low cost VR goggles). Fantastic device, if a little uncomfortable at the bridge of the nose it has allowed me(and my six year old) to go ‘wow’ at VR. Don’t get me wrong VR is still in early days (we dare not mention the flash in the pan 3D TV) but for sub £30 its a worthy expense. Yes it makes me sick but to have a ‘go’ at VR that is although not matured is not exactly fledgling either and the price tag certainly does not make my blood boil when i suffer from ‘curiosity killed the cat’, here’s hoping that the earlier link bears some useful findings to support those like me.

So linking back to the educational aspect and all I hear about the fact that VR will play a part, well I am already seeing that I will be those in the minority and hope that ‘differentiation’ will be considered when there are not an insignificant amount of learners (and educationalists) that will break out in a cold sweat at the very thought of VR in an educational programme – beneficial or not! (there may be a surge in travel sickness remedies!)

Note: VR should not be something that you expose those under seven for any length of time!

Betron HD1000 Headphones

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I have reviewed Betron headphones in the past, three varieties of earbud, each of them performing really well and living up to a lot of their hype. In fact the Betron B850i’s (http://wp.me/pspi8-tC) are actually my preferred replacement headphones for my Apple earbuds. Recently I received in the post the Betron HD100 Headphones to review and I have to say these are a pretty awesome pair of headphones. According to Betron the following specifications exist:

  • Powerful neodymium magnets for stereo sound with powerful punchy bass
  • Extended frequency response for accurate, reliable sound reproduction
  • Increased sound pressure level (110dB) to handle demanding use
  • Rich, crisp bass response
  • Good attenuation of ambient noise
  • Lightweight & comfortable
  • Powerful sound reproduction
  • Optimised for portable audio including MP3, CD players, iPad, iPod, iPhone and mobile phones (iPad, iPhone and iPod are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.)

Claiming to have a wider range of sound and enhanced clarity as well as lightweight and durable and comfortable whilst speaker build material dissipates heat and minimises sound leakage these headphones with a RRP of £79 that are currently selling on Amazon for £29 have a lot to live up to. (Current details from http://www.betronstore.co.uk)

Firstly I have to say that the packaging is excellent, in the first instance a minimal black box with ‘Betron’ and the model number ‘HD1000’ on the top I’m white lettering with a few specs that are outlined below on the side:

  • Driver Unit:  40mm
  • Impedance: 32ohms +- 15%
  • Sensitivity: 108 =-3dB
  • Frequency Response: 20-20Khz
  • Max. Input Power: 100mW
  • Cable Length: 1.7M (I actually found the cable to be 1.8M)

Inside the outer box is a ‘D’ shaped carry case in black nylon with carry handle and double zip that when opened up reveals the headphones sitting in a velvet-like interior that is shaped to hold the headphones snug.  Betron was off to a good start, especially as I only ever got a thin drawstring nylon bag with my SkullCandy Hesh headphones that I will be comparing these to!

At first sight the headphones look gorgeous and have a classy retro look to them in a  rich brown wood and gold effect styling. Getting to grips with the headphones themselves and the feel of the headphones is one that reveals some highs and lows. On the plus side the 3.5mm gold plug is one where the cable exists from the side of the plug at 45 degrees, with a high quality feel braided cable and gold splitter, offering tangle free cabling. The L/R indicators for each side are discreetly labelled inside the headphones above each earpiece, with a subtle branding on the outside. On the downside is the feeling of materials cheaper than they appear, especially around the area of the headband joining to the earpieces – but let me be clear that this does not mean they are not well build. Betron claim that there are no visible screws which there are none, however there are visible rivets.

As stated earlier Betron claim that the headphones are comfortable, cool and a clarity of sound with a deep rich bass. Upon the first point I can wholeheartedly agree, my current headphones of choice have been Skullcandy Hesh over-the-ear headphones and I have found them heavy and too hot after a prolonged use of anything over thirty minutes and I don’t like the feel of on the ear headphones such as the Skullcandy Lowriders as they are uncomfortable and unlike the Hesh model let in too much surrounding noise ( plus they slip off if you are doing anything beyond sitting still). The HD1000’s are a joy to wear, comfortable, lightweight, they don’t get hot ( and that has been in the recent 30 degree weather) and they reduce ambient noise far more than other on-the-ear headphones.

So onto the all important bit, the audio, and do these headphones live up to the manufacturers claims? Well I listen to a diverse range of audio – including podcasts, audiobooks, radio plays, music and a variety of video and films. I even listen to text to speech conversions when I need to listen to reports and I am travelling between locations (these are not the easiest to listen to) and always willing to allow for others opinions I even asked my wife to try them out, as a fitness professional and having to listen to a wide range of music that requires choreography I though her opinion would be valid ( The wife’s choice of headphone is the Skullcandy Lowriders that I am not a fan of – even less now I have used the HD1000’s). Overall I can report that the quality of the audio is superb with a rich definition to the audio that is not affected by the  increased bass.

The wife definitely stated that the audio was excellent and that the headphones were extremely comfortable in comparison to the Lowriders and I feel that the audio is actually compatible to the Hesh headphones.At the RRP the quality up close lets the headphones down but if you are looking for well priced, comfortable and good quality audio these are great headphones. At £29 they are an absolute steal!

Betron has provided me with this product for purposes of providing a personal review and I have received no payment for this unbiased review.

iPad, Mini’s & iPhone

iPad, iPad Mini, iPhone

 

We have had a bit of a splurge in the household over the last six months with four new apple devices crossing the thresh-hold.

  • iPad Air 2 128gb (Mine)
  • iPad Mini 3 128gb (wife’s)
  • iPad Mini 3 64gb (6yr olds)
  • New Apple Tv 5th Gen 64gb (Mine)
  • iPhone 5 64gb (Wife’s)

With the exception of the Apple TV (more on the Apple TV in a later post) each iPad has been purchased as a refurbished device costing a heck of a lot less than the full price. Initially purchasing my lad one (he was unlikely to have been fussed with the odd dent or scrap, especially once it was in a bumper case) as we did not want to splash out for a Mini 4 but did not want to be limited to a Mini 2 32gb. Settling on a Mini 3 64gb.

We was so impressed with the quality that one for myself and one for the wife quickly followed with an iPhone 5. Admittedly the original iPhone purchased was scratched and dented but this was quickly replaced. I would normally be upgrading my phone in October, although I have no desire to upgrade yet, I will seriously consider a refurb in future.

Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter (for podcasting)

Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter

Although Apple have had a Camera Connection Kit in the past they have not had one included pass-though power that allows for more power hungry devices to work. In the past devices have either not worked or have required all equipment to be all but plugged together with the final connection being the lightning connector to the iPad, often still displaying a warning message.

The USB speed is only supported on the bigger brother iPad Pro and the adapter does not allow pass-through syncing but not only can you use connected cameras to import photos and videos but you can use it with the iPhone 6 as well, allowing you to plug in…

  • USB microphones, such as the Blue Yeti and the Samson Go Mic
  • Midi Interface
  • USB Ethernet adapter
  • Memory Sticks

For me this adapter is great, I can now throw my Samson Go Mic, stand and pop filter in a bag along with a powerpack (Anker are my choice) and I can pretty much record anywhere with my iPhone 6 Plus!

 

Veescope Live Remote Control

The Veescope Green Screen app in a prior post has the ability to be remotely controlled, originally by another iOS device, more recently through the use of the Apple Watch (see screenshot above). I have access to three other iOS devices:

  1. Wifes iPhone (unfortunately with here most of the time!)
  2. iPad classic (does not like anything beyond iOS 5.5, and the Veescope app is iOS 6)
  3. iPad mini (from work and locked down tighter than Southend piers footings – but I am working on it)

I did however pinch the wife’s to have a go, first its a clear simple interface:

  • record
  • snapshot (Apple Watch does not seem to have this? – only going by screenshots seen)
  • next background
  • prior background

My first concern was that I needed to be on the same network and thought this may well cause issues at work (I could at least try out at home) – but fear not as it functions on Bluetooth connectivity, having enabled Bluetooth of both devices, and was a breeze. It may not look fancy or offer obscure options but it works an absolute dream.

I don’t think it’s likely but I would love the option of having this controlled from a Pebble Smartwatch!

 

Andy

Printer Woes

I love Canon printers, they have always delivered amazing print-outs at superfast speeds and their tanks have always been great value (the “start” time has never been great, but I can live with that!). My first Canon printer cost me over £300 and just because it was a “photo quality” printer with separate cartridges (that I could drill into and re-ink with a syringe and a blob of hot-melt to seal).

I have since then owned in total four Canon printers, each one offering advantages over the previous. Currently I am the proud owner of a Canon IP7250 and all the functionality it has – CD printing, two tray feeds (one for standard A4 paper one for photo paper) and now Wifi and smartphone support. It has lasted less than 3 months! Now don’t get me wrong this is not the issue, it’s that I ordered from Amazon and it’s surprisingly difficult to sort out items that have failed within their guarantee. Difficult in the sense as to find how to go about replacing or fixing, as the item is out of 30 days ownership time-frame it is immediately not eligible. Oh how the time I have spent trying to find online help – don’t – there is nothing. Just find the contact page (or as I did the online text support) and let them do the work (just wish they had a document outlining that!)

A refund later, a re-order and a final packing up of damaged printer and its all good again. But what did get me thinking is the price tag of the printer…. £50, with ink! at that price the concerns of third part ink vanish. Why? well at £50 for a new set of ink I might as well but 3rd party inks for next to nothing, in fact 2 sets for about a £1 a cartridge, just over £10. The printer can break anytime it likes (as long as I get to use my two sets of 3rd part ink and I am quids in!).

I would still buy Canon everytime!

 

Andy

Microsoft Showcase Classroom

https://twitter.com/glennwoolaghan

(c) @GlennWoolaghan [Twitter]

Yesterday I spent the day with Microsoft looking at their Showcase Classroom. I really did not have a clear perception of what to expect other than looking at different mobile devices. So what did the day entail (and was it worth it!)?

Firstly it was free other than the cost of getting to London, Victoria and back for 10:00am – 3:30pm. A cup of coffee and a pain-au-chocolate later and we was shown a brief “Sway” presentation before the big reveal, doors slid open in our relatively small room, showing a much larger room with bright colours, comfy stool and giant bean bags. We grab a mobile device… this is going to be interactive! I pick a rugged grey “Stone” tablet with keyboard and a carry handle, colleagues pick HP tablets or Surface Pro’s – they all do the job they need to do.

We are asked to rate out the following out of four possible options: Don’t know what it it, aware, used a bit, used a lot using coloured post-it’s.

  • Windows 8.1 – its search capabilities and seamlessness
  • Yammer – social networking in a safe environment
  • Office 365 – buckloads, I even learnt about “Delve” (did you know a 365 account gives you 5 downloadable office’s?)
  • OneNote – the collaborative side utilising OneNote Classroom
  • OneDrive – limitless
  • Lync (Skype for Business) – connect to others and record sessions!

Now I was able to answer “used a lot” for all but that’s more a comment upon the organisation I work for and the projects I am involved in. I found the delivery that followed upon these technologies well thought-out and verging on seamless. a worthy day for the less tech proficient for sure. We had an outline of Mix and Sway (yes I felt an over whelming smugness) and then a hard-sell pitch for taking back-end services and pushing to our learners – progress, options, etc. (way off but lord-able goals). Finally we had highlighted windows 10 and  HoloLens.

I certainly found the day worthwhile but I took a number of key things with me…

  1. The organisation I work for are certainly embracing the tech discussed
  2. Although the room looked funky the backless “stools” were not nearly as comfortable as the “sit-in” bean bags
  3. Despite discussing how being untethered from the front of the classroom is ideal, it wasn’t applied (beyond a demonstration)
  4. A number of technologies will not work fully until we are in a 1-2-1 device position (such as OneNote)
  5. I cannot see myself bringing everything together under one platform, I am all for diversity in technology (Our D.A.V.E. intranet covers the likes of Delve and Yammer)
  6. Finally, there was a lot of discussion around learners subverting the technologies. More of this on a future post.

Andy

Storage Solutions

No this is not a post about the famous Swedish home furnishing store (however nice the meatballs are) but about a question posed regarding digital resource storage solutions available today. Formats have not necessarily expanded but have become readable by more than their proprietary systems, such as open office reading MS office docs. Some have been superseded for newer and wider adopted standards (the beloved Xvid & DivX seems to have made way for MP4). YouTube has now adopted HTML 5 as its main playback format over the long established Flash format.

It wasn’t so long ago that you choices were limited to local hard-drive, network drive (server), USB memory sticks or websites themselves. Those options have exploded in recent years and I started to reel of a list of options and soon found the list growing out of all-proportions. As a matter of documenting please see below (and it is not exhaustive):

  • Local Hard-drive
  • External drives (traditional drives 2.5″ or 3.5″”)
  • Memory Sticks – reaching capacities as great as 256GB
  • Solid state memory as in phone memory (i.e. iPhone)
  • Classic server/network drives
  • VLE or CMS (Virtual Learning Environments, Content management Systems)
  • ePortfolios (Mahara)
  • Cloud Services – dropbox, box, pogoplug, icloud
  • Temporary cloud services such as filedropper
  • Websites, both traditional and newer user content driven (web 2.0) that move beyond the forums. Such as this blog!
  • Web services e.g. Poll Everywhere, Socrative, Popplet, Padlet
  • Apps (built in info)
  • Social Networking (these can hold images, website addresses) Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, delicious

A number of these crossover more than one category. have I missed a category? any of your resources stored that do not fit in the above list?

 

Andy