Tag Archives: hardware


I used to have a very simple clock, synced to the atomic clock at Rugby. It took a single AA battery, warned you when the battery was low, had a snooze, and basically it worked well. Unfortunately when Aimee was very young she broke it.

So I looked for a replacement and couldn’t really find one. In the end I found a Science Museum clock that was real overkill, it used batteries and mains and was rather big. I got it as a Father’s day present last year (but all that follows is my fault, I picked it). I ended up sending the following to the Science Museum:

This clock is appalling. It frequently fails to sync with the radio signal, in a position that worked for a similar clock for years, and having failed to sync resets the time incorrectly by minutes, hours, and sometimes whole days. When it attemps the sync – it does it midnight and 1 AM. During that time, and it takes a long time, the clock vanishes and is unusable. If that isn’t enough it beeps loudly for every button press, so setting the alarm with a partner asleep is a nightmare. You need to flick a switch to turn the alarm off in the morning, and it can be easy to forget to switch it back on. It is sadly a masterpiece of poor design. I hope other SM products I have bought as gifts have not been as poor.

To their credit I got this reply

Thank you for your email. I’m sorry to hear you have been disappointed by the performance of your clock.

Our buyer was very concerned to hear of your quality issues, and appreciates you taking the time to write to us with your comments. If you could send the item back to me at the address below, I will certainly replace it and contact the supplier for their feedback regarding any production problems. I am also happy to offer you a full refund, including any postage costs incurred. We take quality and safety issues very seriously, and do test our products thoroughly, but with 1200 different lines it is not always possible to monitor on an ongoing basis.

The buying team would like to pass on their apologies and hope that this experience does not deter you from visiting the museum and shop in the future.

Could be more accurate

I think I should take them up on this kind offer, since the photo attached shows that it synced three hours off the correct time last night :-(.

More about the rabbit

I’ve had some more time to play with my Rabbit (Nabaztag/tag) now, and can say a little more about my findings.

The hardware is lovely, well constructed and solid feeling. The rabbit sits around 20 cm in height. It has a slightly curved bottom so that you can see the pulsing violet glow that tells you it is connected to the internet. It has three large multi-coloured LEDs in its abdomen, and one in its face. It also has a microphone for voice recognition. The ears are on magnetic clips and are therefore easy to replace.

The service / software side is still a big problem. I finally found out that only the secure http website was down, the normal one was still running. I’ve finally been able to make configuration changes that stick, but there are still many issues:

  • many services just don’t work at the minute, including most RSS feeds;
  • there seems to be some serious flaws in the website, time values in 12 hour clock don’t seem to work well;
  • there may be a timezone problem too.

On the other hand, it has spoken, and the speech synthesis and messaging is astoundingly good. The mp3 functionality works well. I have got it flashing as a weather forecast, doing Tai Chi and so on. Nice…

The voice recognition currently is deactivated. When you hold the button on the top and talk, an LED indicates the device “hears” you. It’s just that nothing happens with that yet.

All in all, very rough around the edges (although I’m pretty used to that), but great potential.

Nabaztag / Tag

My new Nabaztag / Tag arrived today. This is the second generation wireless rabbit, and I hope it will be fun.

So far, it’s been an ambivalent experience. I had trouble connecting the beast (BTW, you will require not just a wireless network, but a wireless enabled PC or PDA (I used my Palm T|X) from which to configure it). I had a frustrating half an hour trying to connect it. It uses clever pattern flashes to tell you how far it is getting, but the problem is that this vital troubleshooting information isn’t “right in front of you” when you look. Seems to be my exotic setup that’s the problem: my linux server is my DHCP server, not the router, so I gave the beast a static address.

Great, so it connects, much to my delight, and I get into my.nabaztag.com from which all the configuration is done. Wow, this is a disappointing website, it is painfully slow and rather unintuitive. On many pages it says I can’t do anything since “I don’t own a rabbit” which clearly I do. I try to send messages to my own rabbit, but can’t since I’ve asked for parental control. I try to add myself as a contact for myself, but can’t see how to do that. I disable parental control and send myself a voice message. Much to my delight the rabbit moves and flashes, but no voice emerges. I try again, it’s just the same.

Now, after a frustrating attempt to configure my profile where the settings don’t seem to “stick” the site has gone down for maintenance. Argghhh! So I can’t do anything anymore. I’ve had this device an hour and more and haven’t enabled it to do anything interesting at all :-(. Hopefully when the site comes back up things will be smoother.

— Update

Two hours later I’m giving up. The site is still off-line and I can’t do the most rudimentary of testing without it :-(. Let’s hope tomorrow brings better service!

— Update

Wow. Over 9 hours later the site is still off-line. I finally (sending an email to the device) got it to speak a few words! Tried to send it an mp3 with no luck so far. I’m now finding a disturbing amount of correspondence on the users’ website indicating that virtually none of the services are working. I don’t mind beta testing, but I prefer to know up-front that nothing works yet! It seems voice recognition doesn’t work (it is to be enabled “soon”), the RFID detection doesn’t work (coming soon).

So far, I’m impressed with the hardware, but not at all with the software services :-(.

Sky Interference

We got Sky+ just before Christmas; since my daughter gets the say over the remote control while CBeebies is broadcasting, and then my wife takes over till about 11pm, it’s the easiest way for me to get to see anything.

We have had sporadic signal problems however. Today I discovered it was SRSSI – Starling Related Satellite Signal Interference. The retched things are sitting on the pole right between the LNB and the dish itself. Now I’ll have to patent some kind of bizarre scarecrow for fitting to satellite dishes.

Sony Ericsson K800i

I had a Samsung SGH-720 or some such. It’s been nothing but a pain in the butt… very buggy, especially the bluetooth, which required a power cycle to work correctly 75% of the time.

So I got a Sony Ericsson K800i. It seems to be a lovely phone, lovely crisp graphics, good menus and user interface generally. It also has an excellent built-in camera, a 3.2 mega pixel affair. It has bluetooth that … shock horror, actually works.

I was particularly pleased to discover a feature for over-the-wire software upgrades – though none is currently available at present.

However, I’ve had a few problems, which is the really the reason for this comment:

1) very minor, the key tone simply doesn’t work all the time. No real problem…
2) much more seriously, the phone fails to tracks calls some times – i.e. it doesn’t track made calls, and when someone phones you, it tells you there are 0 missed calls – very irritating. I’ve read a few others with the same problem… for me it worked to delete the whole call history and power cycle the phone… so far… it’ll be interesting to see if the problem re-emerges.

Palm TX woes

So yesterday my Palm TX wouldn’t switch on. After a lot of frustration I eventually hit the reset button on the back.

Then it kept crashed on the “Palm Powered” logo and entered into an infinite loop – well infinite until the battery ran out. I managed a warm reset and can get a lot of stuff working in that environment, but lots of stuff is unavailable – wifi for example, and blazer crashes the machine everytime.

I bought the TX with a mixture of the usual new gadget glee and reluctance. The reluctance was because I loved my Sharp Zaurus SL-5500, not least since it ran a rock solid GNU/Linux. My TX is nothing like as reliable, but is smaller, with built-in wifi and bluetooth and (unbelievably) better sync support with GNU/Linux desktops.

Looks like I need to hard reset my palm and restore, but I’m very tempted to play with Opie distributions I’ve just found for palm at hackndev. Of course, the real problem is I have a Palm because I haven’t that much free time…