Review: STM Goods Kings 15 Inch Laptop Backpack

The king of laptop bags

The trusty business laptop needs to travel in safety if it’s to be relied upon in that deal clinching meeting.

One careless impact between your office and your meeting venue could turn the latest and greatest in laptop technology into the most expensive door stop you’ve ever known, and so prevent the presentation of that contract winning presentation.

Slingtech Protection has been incorporated into Australian manufacturer’s STM Goods’ laptop messenger bags and backpacks for a while now. Slingtech ensconces the laptop in a padded sling which suspends the device from the bottom and sides of the bag where it might get damaged from an impact. It’s just the sort of innovation you’d expect from a company whose mission statement is to provide stuff that matters for the doers of the world, a group they refer to as “Generation Do”.

The STM Goods Kings 15 Inch Laptop Backpack is among the latest to be released by the Sydney company with Slingtech Protection.

STM Goods Kings 15 Inch Laptop Backpack

The backpack has two main compartments.

The main compartment is reasonably spacious. As well as having a document pouch, and a small pocket fastedned by Velcro for the likes of medication or an asthma inhaler, I managed to fit a small extendable umbrella, raincoat in a pouch, large lunchbox and a banana in to it, with a little leftover space.

The zippered flap which gives you access to the main compartment opens to reveal a zippered pocket on the inside which is fleece lined for your mouse or other peripherals, STM’s website suggests sunglasses. Another zippered pocket is on the outside for business cards or other items you need quick access to.

The Slingtech solution, for laptops of up to 15 inches, is at the heart of the second compartment. The comparted also includes a couple of quilted pouches for either documents or smaller mobile devices like a tablet or smartphone.

There’s a couple of hidden compartments to the side, big enough for power cables or mobile device chargers. There’s also a series of small holes allowing you to snake your charging cable from one pocket to any compartment to ensure your mobile device is charged when you arrive.

The STM Goods Kings 22 litre laptop bag is available in botanical green, china blue, desert brown or tornado grey. Heathcotes, JB Hi-Fi, OOBE and PB Technologies are among the New Zealand stockists of STM Goods bags.

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Review: Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock Bluetooth Speakers by Fametek

Set phasers on fun!

For that’s exactly the feeling this pair of Bluetooth speakers from Fametek evoke.

It feels like the American manufacturer have gone for a Pop! Vinyl sort of feel with this pair of speakers inspired by William Shatner’s portrayal of Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek: The Original Series. Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock is at Kirk’s side, as if he’s always been there and always will.

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Kirk carries a drawn Starfleet Type 2 Phaser with a Type 1 Phaser correctly inserted in his right hand and a tribble in his left hand.

Spock gives the Vulcan salute with his right hand while holding his left hand, fist clenched, behind his back. A Tricorder hangs around his neck and across his chest.

The speakers include a built in Lithium-Ion 500 mh rechargeable battery. They are charged by plugging the supplied micro-USB charging cable into the back of the speaker and into a computer USB port or 1A/5V charging block. The speaker’s red LED glows while it is charging, tuning off when it is charged.

A three-way switch on the rear of each speaker allows you to switch from off to Auxiliary Mode, allowing you to plug in any audio device via its headphone socket and the supplied auxiliary 3.5mm line-in cable. I tested this function with Engage: The Official Star Trek Podcast from my iPhone 5S and it was delivered clearly and crisply on the 1.5”/38mm Massive Audio driver. They sounded just as good in Bluetooth mode.

Bluetooth Mode is a flick of the switch to the left. On Kirk you get Shatner: “This is Captain James Kirk of the USS Enterprise”. On Spock it’s: “Live long and prosper”. Phaser fire accompanies Kirk’s pairing with your device and “Full ahead, Warp Factor One” when you disconnect. For Spock it’s the whir of a Tricorder and “Captain, I suggest the Vulcan mind probe”. There’s nine sound effects for each of the speakers, in all, which play in different scenarios. Or you can play them directly by pressing the SFX button for two seconds.

I made a call with the speakers, when connected to my smartphone. I could hear the recipient fine, but my voice was too quiet. Not a deal breaker.

Captain Kirk (Model FT-KRK) and Mr. Spock (Model FT_SPK) are available at a recommended retail price of US$49.95.

 

Review – Doctor Who – The Doctor Falls

Review – Doctor Who – The Doctor Falls

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What would you die for?

That’s the question the 12th Doctor confronts rival Time Lord the Master and Missy with as he goes up against an army of Cybermen in the hope that he might save a settlement of insignificant humans.

It would have been a beautiful moment had any of the previous Doctors issued the challenge, but it was made all the more wonderful coming from the lips of Doctor Number 12.

When Peter Capaldi was handed the role by Matt Smith in 2013’s Christmas Special, The Time of the Doctor, we got a grumpier, pricklier version of the character who described his companion. Clara, as his carer. “She cares, so I don’t have to.” Show runner Steven Moffat was emphasising the alienness of our hero, showing how hard it is for him to sometimes empathise with lower humans.

But in tonight’s Series 10 finale, The Doctor Falls, we saw the 12th Doctor continue his softening as he announced he was willing to die doing the right thing, being kind, as he put it. Oh what a journey Capaldi’s Doctor has been on these last few years. Was this part of Moffatt’s master plan, or is Capaldi finishing his time as the Doctor in this way by pure coincidence?

Moffat’s penultimate script (assuming he is on writing duty for the next Christmas special) might just be the best series finale in a long, long time.

This action packed story picked up after last week’s The World Enough and Time, in which companion Bill (Pearl Mackie) was converted into a Cyberman. It was laden with danger, horror and tragedy, not to mention the Master/Missy double bill, a marriage made in hell which ended, somewhat, predictably although you can guarantee we haven’t seen the last of the character(s).

Capaldi really shone as the Doctor, perhaps delivering his most powerful performance yet. This meant that the rest of the cast brought their A game to the table, particularly Mackie and Matt Lucas who, as Nardole, had some wonderful moments. You can’t help wondering if his story is at an end.

The Doctor Falls surely evoked tears, but the beauty of Doctor Who means that anything is possible. Where there are tears there is hope.

Review – Schumann and Barber – The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra at Claudelands Arena, Hamilton.

American conductor James FeddeckYou’ve got to take your hat off to the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

Just moment into its latest concert at Claudelands Arena, in Hamilton, the audience was transfixed and you could have heard a pin drop. But more of that later.

First up was Brahms’ Tragic Overture. Written in 1880, perhaps to commemorate the death of his friend and neo-classicist painter Anselm Feuerbach, In the hands of the NZSO, conducted by James Feddeck, the piece felt like it belonged to an earlier age. Close your eyes as the music plays and images of a Jane Austen like romance turned to tragedy is what is conjured up in just 13 minutes.

You have to see, and of course hear, cellist Danile Muller-Schott play Schumann’s Cello Concertto in A minor to believe it. It was as though the musician was wrestling every note out of his Ex Shapiro cello, made in Venice in 1727, which had almost as much stage presence as he did. It was a joy to watch the exquisite dance of pain and pleasure expressed on his face, and through his fingers, as man and instrument produced an aurally mesmerizing 25 minutes of music.

It got even better, after the interval, when the NZSO turned to Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, composed at the end of the Great Depression and the rise of Nazism. Wave, after mournful, wave of music hit the audience over the eight minute piece, bringing to mind those loved and lost. No wonder this is a piece played at the funeral of presidents and princesses.

Contrasting that beautiful piece was Barber’s loud and bombastic 19-minute Symphony No.1, Op. 9, memorably all drums and brass in parts, despite there being plenty for the whole orchestra to do. If the late film and television composer Leonard Rosenman didn’t take some inspiration from this last piece, I’ll eat my hat.

In the absence of the Founders Theatre, closed because it does not meet earthquake safety standards, Claudelands Arena is a reasonable second best. But back to that pin being dropped. Claudelands would be better still if some soundproofing could be done to prevent such concerts from being interrupted by the creaks of the building as it expands and contracts in reaction to the temperature.

The NZSO continues its Schumann and Barber tour around New Zealand.

The NZSO is back in Hamilton on July 6 for Bold Worlds.

Have a very techie Christmas

153_mainStruggling to find something for that techie in your life?

A technology inspired book of cartoons by Kiwi artist Jim, published following a PledgeMe campaign to raise $10,000, could be the answer.

It’s a dip into, anytime, sort of a book packed with the sorts of cartoons you would expect to find in a daily newspaper, but all inspired by human interaction with technology.

Innovation, devices, life online, technology at work, sustainability and the future, all get their own section of mainly single panelled cartoons. Failed, flash in the pan, technology takes its place alongside the stayers in this book which also reflects the trend of software being offered as a service as data is migrated to the cloud.

The occasional cartoon requires a second panel to drive the joke home.

There’s some instantly funny, laugh out loud, cartoons, such as the one printed on the back cover which shows a man at a computer being interrupted by a robot asking him what he’s working on. The title of the cartoon is Disruptive Technology!

Many of the cartoons are much cleverer, requiring a little or a lot more cogitation.

Nothing is off limits to Jim, who is actually at Microsoft New Zealand’s senior communications manager Brendan Boughen. Nanongirl herself, Michelle Dickinson, provides the foreword to this 132-page book. For more visit CartoonsbyJim.com

Review: Star Trek Beyond (2016), Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) and Star Trek (2009)

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The last three big budget blockbusting Star Trek movies seem a far cry from the morality tales delivered in the original television series of 50 years ago.

Some fans profess love for one and contempt for the other, with both iterations of Captain James T Kirk and crew having their fans and their critics.

But when you analyse the new films, and the original series that inspired them, you discover they have far more in common than you’d first think.

It’s no secret that the Star Trek series of 50 years ago was created by Gene Roddenberry so that he could tell morality tales that would be nixed by the censors on a conventional show. Star Trek commented on sexual and racial equality, and was deeply unpopular with the establishment for doing so. But it also slipped through other, less obvious, morality tales which flew right under the noses of the censors who couldn’t get past the science fiction format. For this reason, the original Star Trek series, ahead of all the others, is considered by many to be the best.

That same thinking often espouses televised Star Trek, which could tell deep and intimate tales in your living room, the definitive version. Star Trek on the big screen, it follows, is less than pure Star Trek because the format has to be altered to pull in the punters. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) is an example of Roddenberry trying to spin a small screen story on the big screen with a budget to match. While it did OK it did not bust blocks, and is widely criticised by some. (I happen to love it).

When you start reading up on the original series, and delve behind the scenes in books like Inside Star Trek and the brilliant These Are The Voyages series, you discover that while Roddenberry and his crew were breaking many moulds they were also forced to fit into some.

Star Trek’s first pilot, The Cage starring Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Christopher Pike, was rejected for being “too cerebral”. Roddenberry was forced to come up with something closer to the action and adventure format of other shows of the time like Bonanza. The second pilot, Where No Man Has Gone Before starring William Shatner as Captain James T Kirk, was more like it. And when it went to series fistfights were part of each morality play. Half a century later we remember the morality plays, but forget Kirk’s ripped Starfleet shirts.

The new films set in an alternate timeline have a similar genesis.

While telling engaging stories about Kirk, Spock, Bones et al, JJ Abrams reboots have also had to pull the paying punters in. In science fiction, these days, that means blowing up planets and starships. And, just like the torn Starfleet shirts and fist fights in the original series, we see plenty of that in Star Trek (2009), Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) and Star Trek’s 50th anniversary film Star Trek Beyond.

Star Trek (2009) skilfully sets up the alternate time line, created by original Spock (Leonard Nimoy), being thrown back in time to just before Kirk’s birth. It’s a film with an emotional wallop that goes some way toward explaining the loyalty and friendship of the original crew of the Enterprise.

Star Trek Into Darkness is a darker film, that tries too hard to emulate elements of the original series down to frame by frame recreations. The irony is this ended up being lost on the new viewer, who enjoyed Into Darkness as an action packed romp, while feeling contrived to the die-hard viewers. All that said, Into Darkness includes some heavy social commentary around the state of the world in 2013 if you’re prepared to dig for it.

Thankfully Star Trek Beyond gets us back on track, in Star Trek’s 50th year, and hones in on all the things that make Star Trek work. A central story point is the unity of the United Federated of Planets, and the film includes 50 new races to celebrate Trek’s half century. Kirk’s (Chris Pine) opening log entry about the 966th day in space winks to the audience since Star Trek was first aired in September, 1966. But at its core this film is about relationships between the main characters, and explores them in new ways. Kirk is paired with Chekov, played by the late Anton Yelchin, Spock (Zachary Qunito) with Bones (Karl Urban), Sulu (John Chow) with Uhura (Zoe Saldana), and Scotty (Simon Pegg) with a new, alien, character, as the story unfolds.

Kirk and Bones have a wonderful scene together, early on, that echoes a discussion from the first season episode Balance of Terror.

It’s these relationships that make the Enterprise crew strong, and Star Trek Beyond a worthy carrier of the Trek torch. Nimoy’s and Yelchin’s deaths, before the film was released, are also sweetly referenced in the film, as is a nod to the original cast.

Star Trek endures.

 

Daleks head to big screen

power-of-the-daleks-picThe cinematic competition will be exterminated on Saturday when a limited-run of Second Doctor Patrick Troughton’s first Doctor Who story begins in New Zealand.

An animated version of Doctor Who: The Power of the Daleks will screen at selected cinemas across the country for a week, BBC Worldwide announced.

Both Hoyts and Rialto will play The Power of   the Daleks.

The 50-year-old story is one of the most celebrated Doctor Who adventures, and yet no complete film recordings are known to have survived, BBC Worldwide said in a press release.

The master negatives were destroyed in an archive purge in 1974.

This brand new animation is based on the programme’s original audio recordings, surviving photographs, and film clips. The six-part adventure features the regeneration, or as it was then called ‘renewal’of First Doctor, William Hartnell, into Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton, and follows the Time Lord and his companions Polly (Anneke Wills) and Ben (Michael Craze) as they do battle with the Daleks on the planet Vulcan.

The Power of the Daleks is produced and directed by Charles Norton, with character designs from acclaimed comic book artists Marti Geraghty and Adrian Salmon.                      

The showing will also feature exclusive bonus content including interviews with members of the original cast.

“This is a great opportunity for Doctor Who fans to see all six-parts of Power of the Daleks brought to life using modern animation techniques,   and to experience this as a shared event,” BBC Worldwide ANZ Live Entertainment Executive Louise Hill said.

For show times check your local Rialto or Hoyts cinema. See you there!