Category Archives: Gadgets

Ryo USB Adaptor – A Cool Gadget for Travellers, DJs and Virtually Everyone

A week or so I was contacted by the team at RYO Tech, who it turns out, are regular readers of my blog, asking me to give them a bit of a shout out on the blog.  As a rule, I don’t do this – I only ever write about gadgets or gear that I’ve personally owned or used.

That said I was intrigued, as it turns out – it’s a New Zealand made product that is currently going through it’s first round of funding on the crowdsourcing site Kickstarter (which I first used when Matt Inman announced his forthcoming card game, Exploding Kittens after the success of the awesome Cards Against Humanity).

The more I read about their product, the more interested I got. Originally I asked them for a prototype to test out, which they kindly agreed to and have sent to me. Well they are in NZ and I’m in San Diego – DHL literally delivered some prototypes for me to test out as I was half way through writing the draft of this blog post. This morning, I backed their project with my own cold earned (i.e. my wife’s credit card) cash. The reason, I think it’s a really cool product and will have real life usefullness to me, both when I’m travelling and when I’m DJing (usually drunk).

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So what does their product do?

Well, it’s kind of revolutionary in it’s simplicity. Anyone who has used USB devices (and we all have), knows that most of the time, we try to plug it into a charger, computer or other device and get it wrong most of the time.  For those of us who are DJs using products such as Serato or Traktor, let’s face it – we are often drunk and working in a dark night club as well. Generally we are plugging stuff in while someone else is DJing and any messing around with cables is distracting to the current DJ and just plain rude.

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It baffles me that it’s taken a decade for something so simple to come to market. That is, a USB adaptor that doesn’t matter what way you plug it in. I tested it on the best test subject possible – my wife. While Sarah is absolutely brilliant academically, she often struggles with technology. And yes, she even screws up with USB.  Well, these worked great for her, and she loves the concept.

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The prototype models I have are not the final retail models, so are slightly more fragile than what the end user is likely to experience.  I was a little rough with one when plugging it into my Apple keyboard, and the metal receptor did detach from from the PCB and rubber and stay inside the female USB plug of the keyboard.  Removing it was easy, and I was able to super glue it back on and it worked afterwards without any hassle.  Again – I repeat, this is a PROTOTYPE model (created with a 3D Printer), and the final release versions will be far more rugged (which is the entire point of the Kickstarter project, allowing them to produce a high quality product with a proven manufacturer with extensive experience in creating specialist moulds), this is merely a proof of concept that they kindly provided me free of charge to trial. The final, finished and tested products will be shipping in September, 2015.

One of these will definitely be permanently attached to all of my digital DJing gear including my Serato SL3 box and Numark NS6.  I’m hoping that they will make some heavy duty coloured USB cables, or licence their design to equipment manufacturers so I can use the reversible cable without needing an additional adaptor.  Gear manufacturers, hit them up! This is something that I think the crew at companies like DJ Tech Tools should be stocking as soon as it’s available.

The way I see it, these are designed to be left on commonly used USB cables rather than removed and plugged back into them all the time. They work exactly as they are supposed to, come in both black and white and don’t seem to slow down any devices that I’ve trailed them on so far. Over the next few days I’ll try them out on:

  • An iPhone 4s
  • An android Phone (Alcatel One Touch)
  • A Serato SL3 box
  • A Numark NS6 midi controller
  • A 3TB Hard Drive being used for a time machine on a macbook

And any other device I can think of.

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I’ve also received one of their prototype USB keys that will be sent out with those who back for a higher amount of $25. Once again, this is a prototype and not the final product.  The one that I have received is is a standard USB key with 8GB of storage and the moulded rubber “Kushi” character outer.  The one I currently have has the standard USB plug, while those that ship to Kickstarter backers will have the final RYO adaptor build into it as standard.

Check out the video below:

The Kickstarter project launched this morning, and is already 26% funded, which is an excellent result for launch. I’m confident that it will be fully funded way before the campaign ends, and I’m sure they’ll have some interesting stretch goals.

O-Corner: Vintage & Retro Video Games in Bangkok

I was taking my friend Sophie (AKA Ghettozoid) around Bangkok for the whirlwhind tour of food, markets and shopping (as well as avoiding the protestors who are everywhere at the moment) and came across this little gem that just had to be shared.

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Hidden in the back corner of the 6th floor of the famous MBK Centre is the O-Corner Wholesale Game shop, a market stall with a difference. Rather than selling pirated video games like all the other stores in the building, this shop specialises in the real deal.  But I’m not talking Playstation or X-Box.

They have a large range of: SNES, N64, Super Famicom, Sega Megadrive/Genesis (I even saw one built into a freaking TV!), Sega Master System, Gamegear, Dreamcast, NeoGeos – this place has serious geek cred.  Cartridges aren’t cheap (you are looking at 1000-1500 baht per cartridge, but if I had the money I’d be buying everything in there.. the place is nerd nirvana.

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O-Corner is the only store I’ve seen in my life that is absolutely full, from floor to ceiling with vintage video game products, of the sort that you just never see in the western world.  Staffed by a Thai guy, and I believe operated by a Japanese business partner,  they score the second hand markets in South East Asia to track down vintage video game cartridges and consoles that we grew up with in the 1980s.

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Find Them:

To find them take the BTS to National Stadium, get out at the MBK exit and go through the Tokyu department store into the mall itself. Take the escalators to the 6th floor and take a right towards the far corner, there you’ll find this treasure trove of vintage video gaming awesomeness.

444 MBK Centre, 6th Floor, Paco Zone
No. R44, R45 Phatathai Road.
Pathumwan, Bangkok, 10330
Thailand
+66 2 892104411
Ocorner_aoi@hotmail.com

Gadgets: Merlin BT-SPK06 Travel Speakers

Anyone who knows me will know that I usually have music playing all the time, and that I like my bass. Which means up until recently I’ve had to either wear big headphones, put up with annoying earbuds or crap sound quality.  Its hard to listen to dubstep DJ promos on macbook speakers!

I’d spotted some pretty powerful travel speakers at my friend Liam’s place in Germany, but they still didn’t seem up to scratch – and since travelling to Bangkok, I’ve seen lots of knockoffs down the Khoa San Road, but again they don’t seem to match the power/sound quality of these.  You only have to pick it up to feel the weight of the magnet in the driver, this thing has 3w of power – which might not sound like much, but is more than adequate for filling a room (I normally only have 2 bars of volume on my Macbook when using it – and its louder and better quality than when the Macbook is on full volume) and best of all, it doesn’t distort or bottom out when it has proper low end (think Digital Mystikz Anti war dub) through it.

It has both bluetooth and mini headphone inputs for audio signals, full bluetooth controls for playlists , an internal mic for use as a de facto headset for devices that support it and a TF card input (which is just another way of saying it supports MicroSD Cards) which is handy for dropping a 4GB card in full of a few mixes.

The whole device is charged by USB and has about 6-8 hours of charge time as well.

Quite simply these (or similar knock offs) are a must have for anyone travelling who wants to listen to music outside of headphones or tinny iphone speakers.

Cost: Approx $30 NZD
Purchased from: Dubai International Airport, it appears that the trademarks are owned in Dubai as well.
Manufactuers website: http://www.merlin-uk.com/ (note that this model doesn’t show up on the device, and I can’t find it ANYWHERE on the internet).

Must have iPhone apps for Travel

Smartphones and unprotected wifi/cheap data and local SIM cards make life so much easier when travelling. Here are the apps that I’m using the most.

NB: All screenshots are taken from the iphone store, not my own phone!

Accomodation:

Hostelworld.com Hostelworld.com is a simple way of searching, checking ratings and booking hostel rooms direct from your iphone. This is a must have.

CouchsurfingTo put it simply, the couchsurfing website user interface sucks, the app fixes this and all key features are easy to find and use.  I’ve only used it to far as a host, but plan to use it more as I venture into europe.

Flights:

Skyscanner.net /.co.nz Skyscanner is now my favorite airline aggregator, as it is faster and usually cheaper than expedia and other sites.  The app handles more airlines than any other I’ve seen including budget airlines and has a handy option of “anywhere” if you are travelling and don’t care where the next trip takes you.  A must have.

TripItTripit is great, combining all of your individual travel bookings into one, easy to use travel itinerary.

Currency Conversion:

XE Currency Again, I use this all the time.  Its very handy that it has an offline mode using the last update for currency, meaning you can still use it without roaming data.

Banking: 

ASB BankI’ve banked with ASB since I was (literally) born, and found them to have the best online banking in NZ.  The app is secure and simple to use (requiring a netcode first time you use it to authorise the device) then password protected.  It works overseas without a problem, giving you instant access to your cash when you need it most.  This alone is reason to buy a local SIM card with data, especially when combined with the Air NZ Onesmart Card (if only they could get an app as well!) – the two combined allow me to carry much less cash on my self, and avoid touching my credit card in “dodgier” countries

Communications:

ViberViber is a free communications app allowing you to call/text other viber users using your 3G or wirless data.  This is handy for getting around roaming or international text charges, as mobile data (with a local SIM) is cheaper than international SMS’s.  Note that both users need to have viber installed, it claims to be cross platform, but typically only iPhone users have it. Call quality can be a bit distorted/low quality depending on wifi signals.

WhatsApp:WhatsApp is similar to Viber, except that it doesn’t do calls, but does allow more functionality with messages including pictures, group messages, video calls etc.  This tends to be more cross platform and more people I’m travelling with are currently using it.

Skype:We all know skype, make free calls and chat… even your parents use it.  Apparently the developers think its for dog videos and shoe photos.

Sightseeing/General:

Triposo

Triposo is a free travel app that scrapes open source websites (such as wikitravel, dmoz, flickr, wikipedia etc) to put together an offline travel guide (history, accom options, sightseeing, maps etc) and easily replaces heavy travel guides in your luggage.  Simply find the city/country when you are near wifi, download and go. Probably one of my most used apps simply for the offline functionality.

TripadvisorHandy for reviews of places, sightseeing, accommodation etc.  A must have to separate the shit from the worthwhile, and to slag off hostels in Sarajevo who lose your clothing… ahem or to say thanks to the nice accom like the place I’m staying in now.

Google Translate

For avoiding dirty hungarian phrasebook situations, almost

Navigation:

Maps
Well its shit in iOS 5, I’d rather have the old Google Maps that actually works, but its native, and works,  in major cities.  Just don’t expect it to work in, well Bosnia for instance.  If you are stuck, there are always the offline maps in Triposo above.

Other apps I have, but use less often/don’t use at all

  • Booking.com
  • AirBNB
  • Grabaseat
  • Lufthanza
  • Easyjet
  • Eurostar
  • Expedia
  • Lonely Planet Guides
  • Kayak
  • Wotif.com
  • Webjet

Tripit.com – The Ultimate Itin Planner

One thing I’m finding is as I’m booking all my travel online (in order to cut costs) is how much of a nightmare it is to keep tabs on my itinerary (last year, I booked a flight from Christchurch -> Auckland which departed while I was in Kuala Lumpur, for instance!). Enter a programme that I downloaded on my iphone but then completely forgot about two years ago… Tripit!

Tripit is a very user friendly website/app that takes all your travel information from email confirmations of bookings for: Airfares, Bus Tickets, Flights and more, scans it then creates simple itineraries for you simply by forwarding the emails to plans@tripit.com – its that easy.

The pro version (which I haven’t tried) offers loads of other options including airpoints, live updating, auto scanning of alternative flights etc.  Which looks to be reasonable value for money for $50 USD per year.

Check it out at www.tripit.com and download the free app from the iphone app store.

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