Category Archives: Technology

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.

IPTV in Thailand – IPTVThailand and ThaiExpat.tv

I’ve been looking at different IPTV options since I started travelling, and am a big fan of sidereel.com for tracking what I’ve watched as well as legitmate (and less than legitmate) streams of shows while I’ve been overseas.

While I was at the local paintball field I spotted a HD tv running an IPTV set top box available from IPTV Thailand.  I’m really keen on grabbing one of these, as it has a wide variety of foriegn TV channels available and works over wifi.

I’ve also recently come across another service provider advertising on the various expat facebook groups, ThaiExpat.tv.  I spoke to the owner on facebook and he arranged a trial account for me to use for the next two days.

At first I recieved and email which linked me to a web interface that only worked with Safari.  The UI was less than impressive and not very functional but the stream was high quality and fast.  About an hour later I recieved a second email with a software download for Mac.  This was much better, faster and had a proper working EPG as well as the last week of TV on demand.

Personal opinion is that IPTV Thailand has a better range of channels, but is less useful for travellers who do not have a TV, while ThaiExpat TV is more flexible but has less channels available, and is more UK focused (though they do talk about other channels in the future). From what I understand the MaigeTV is the better option than the superiptv box as it has movies Video on Demand and ahem.. some “content” that isn’t normally available in Thailand (see 7 minutes into the above vid).

The legal status of both products is debatable as both appear to be accusing the other of rebroadcasting via (slightly unprofessional) emails that have been posted on Thaivisa forums.

Hulu in Thailand
Of course, another option is Hulu which is geoblocked in most countries – this geoblock can however be got around by using Chrome with the very handy Hola Unblocker Plugin.  Get it here for free. 

Sidereel.com: How to watch your favorite TV shows anywhere in the world

Note: Some of the links provided in sidereel.com may not be legal to stream in some countries due to copyright/piracy restrictions.

Its not exactly easy to watch your favorite TV series if you are travelling around the world.  More often than not you won’t have access to a TV, and if you do, its going to be in a foreign language, in a common room, or just have nothing on.  ISPs and content providers are cracking down on torrent use, but for now – streaming (in most countries) still seems to be pretty safe (especially if you are in places that actually allow you to watch legitimate streams). Enter sidereel.com, a website that has been around for some time, but has really improved since I last used it, allowing you to set up profiles, link them to your facebook account and track what you have watched (really handy for keeping track of what episode you are up to) as well as providing info about upcoming shows, cancelations, episode guides etc. Its really easy to use once you have an account, simply search for the show you want to watch, track the show, and start watching episodes, after each episode click “watched” so you know where you are.   There are a mix of legitimate and not so legitimate content sources, so make sure you choose the ones that are legal to watch in the country you are visiting so you don’t get your internet account holder in trouble.

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