Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Review - Sonos Play system

Hardware Review - Sonos music system 

We had been looking at various solutions for listening to music at home for a while now and after much deliberation, discussion and scouring the internet we decided to go for a Sonos system.
We wanted something which would let us stream our music between rooms and listen to internet radio. The most basic option would have been a wireless/Bluetooth speaker to play content from our phones or iPad. Sonos gives a bit more functionality and seemed like the best all round choice.

The speakers themselves come in a range of options from the entry level Sonos Play:1, through the Play:3, Play:5, soundbar and a Subwoofer. The speakers connect to your wireless network and can be added at any point. The speakers are controlled by an app on your phone or tablet and can be named when setting up to allow for easier management of your music zones. This gives you various options and this is what separates Sonos from a simple wireless or Bluetooth speaker.

From the main interface you can play music from various sources. It can be music stored on your device or across the network from a PC or NAS. You can also listen to internet radio stations via TuneIn radio. You can play music from various streaming music services too such as Spotify, Deezer or You have options for playlists, favourites, preset stations or shows and navigation between these is very straightforward.

The app allows you to play different music across each speaker or they can be grouped to play the same thing in different parts of the house. It's fairly easy to switch between rooms and sources or control individual volumes even when grouped.

Speakers can also be paired within a group to split the sound and give a more traditional stereo effect.
Over the last couple of years the Sonos range has expanded, the most recent edition being the Play:1.

The Play:1 is the recently released entry level speaker for the range. Priced to go against other wireless or Bluetooth speakers such as the Bose sound dock. This is a good idea as it would get users into the Sonos ecosystem where they may then add bigger components at a later date.

The most popular component is the Play:3, it uses three digital amplifiers and three speakers to give a full spread of sound. We have two of these and they are great, they easily fill the room with sound and its a good mix of bass, middle and treble to give a good spread to the sound.

The Play:5 is the biggest of the three main speakers. It has six speakers and amplifiers to give the fullest reproduction of the sound. Sonos have recently announced a new Play:5 with some touch sensitive controls and trueplay tuning which adjusts the sound to the shape of your room.

If you are in the market for some wireless audio or music streaming devices then in sure Sonos would be one of the options on your short-list. Check them out and let me know what you think. 

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Up Periscope!

One of the newest Social Media Apps is Periscope which launched back in March. 

The Android and iOS app allows users to broadcast a live video stream from their mobile devices. I've been using it for a couple of weeks now and have been impressed by how some brands are using it to get the most out of the app and its style of broadcasting.

The main difference between this and something like YouTube is that viewers can interact with the live broadcast by sending messages to the broadcaster, and by giving love in the form of hearts which scroll up the screen. This allows viewers to comment, question and almost direct the broadcaster whilst they are filming.

Periscope Hearts Graphic

Videos can also be watched at a later point, this is a bit more similar to YouTube or a SnapChat video in that you simply watch the video play through. Again however you can see the interaction between the broadcaster and the viewers who were commenting at the time of recording. It is associated with twitter so links into your follower lists. 

Periscope is starting to increase its user base and popularity. Some brands are now making sense of the style of content and how best to fit it in with their marketing. Periscope seems to be used to supplement their existing YouTube or snapchat video channels.

Car competition website Best of the Best have recently started using periscope to showcase some of their prize cars and a winner presentation. This works well for them as viewer can interact asking to see certain aspects of the cars or hear them rev the engine for example. 

Glasgow based wrestling company Insane Championship Wrestling have started using Periscope to show behind the scenes footage of their podcast and interview recordings.

Fitness and personal improvement entrepreneur Chalene Johnson has embraced Periscope in a big way. She is broadcasting some of her workouts on there along with interviews and some motivational speaking. Chalene has been hosting some Q+A sessions based around building a business and brand on periscope and highlighting other broadcasters to watch.

If you haven't tried Periscope yet it is certainly worth a look. You may find some of the users you follow on twitter are already active on Periscope, and perhaps find some new users to follow. Let me know your thoughts on it and if you have tried broadcasting on there or any other sites. 

Friday, 29 May 2015

Mini review - citizenM

We were staying in Glasgow recently and decided to book into the citizenM hotel on Renfrew Street. Whilst a hotel review might seem like a bit of a curveball for this blog the combination of cutting edge design and technology make it well worth a mention.

Having studied both Architecture and Spatial/Interior design I have always had a keen interest in hotel and bar design. Much like residential architecture its an area that can range from bog standard, ten a penny bland, to buildings and spaces that have a powerful impact. Hotels especially can become fantasy getaways, opulent and extravagant escapes into a world of classical refinement or modern whimsy.

A great example of this wide variety was the recent Sky 1 series Richard E. Grant's Hotel secrets. Well worth a watch to see the history, highlights and a peek behind the scenes of some famous and infamous hotels from around the world.

Interesting interiors 

Anyway, back to the citizenM. On entering the hotel the check-in is upstairs on the same floor as the bar and lounge areas. There's a member of staff on hand to help guide you through the process of creating your keycard and paying for the room, and to explain the facilities.

This first floor consists of a few lounge like areas each with their own styling and furniture. There is free wi-fi in and a separate computer area for internet access with netbooks which can be used in the lounge too.

Taking the elevator up to the accommodation levels brings you out into stark white hallways embellished with more design features. Shadow gap detailing around the doors and framing clearly identifies the spaces. Funky carpets which seem to be a Google earth style photo of a cityscape add to the drama. Each floor has its own style with quotes as artwork on the wall. Moving through this space brings you to the room itself.

CitizenM Room Glasgow

You could say it's a European take on a capsule hotel. Much larger than the oriental equivalent but a similar concept. The room is the width of the massive bed which dominates one end. Beyond this is a combo of blinds within the glazing, controlled by both wall switches and the multifunction remote, but more on this later. 

Shine a light on design

The room is fitted with a variety of feature and task lights which can be controlled independently for various effects. 

CitizenM Shower Glasgow

Flanking the door you have a vanity area with sink on one side and a frosted pod containing the shower and toilet. The shower space is also illuminated by the colour changing mood lights and can be set to be a feature of the room. 

Multi-function Remote
The TV, blinds, heating and the lights can all be controlled by the multifunctional remote control docked beside the bed and separate wall switches.

Since our visit the multifunction remote has been replaced by a tablet that let you control all aspects of the room.

Whilst the atmosphere and experience is down to more than just the gadgets they certainly add to the overall impression. The design of the rooms, the public spaces and choice of furniture set it apart from the standard chain hotel. The technology adds an extra layer on top of all this and compliments the modern styling. 

If you haven't stayed here yet its certainly worth considering as an option. The emphasis on design and the integration of Tech certainly raise it above the run of the mill hotels. The citizenM certainly seems to be the location of choice for a lot of our friends when having a night out in Glasgow. We would definitely have this on the short list for our next city stay-over.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Paying it forward. My favourite blogs

One of the things I wanted to do this year was given a mention to some of the blogs I've enjoyed over the last year or two. The ones that keep me entertained, informed or help motivate me to write or keep learning. They all publish high quality blog posts which I enjoy reading and give me something to strive for. As part of my positive mindset for this year I wanted to pay it forward and say thanks. It's a varied mix of writers and subject matter but hopefully you will enjoy them.

My social media success of last year was reconnecting with one of my friends from College and University. We hadn't seen each other for over 15 years but caught up last year on Facebook. Paul has always been a talented and creative guy. We met on a design course and I remember him drawing and making music then. 

Paul Feeney has his blog at  Sound and Fury: and can be found on twitter @UncleFeeney Paul is a writer with a keen interest in horror. His blog is mainly a mix of book and film reviews. 

Paul had his first short story The weight of the ocean published on Amazon last year. I think he has a few more works coming out this year and I look forward to seeing his career development. Check him out folks.

My second entry is a wrestling blog Snapmare Necks by Martin Smith @SmithyCFC1 on Twitter. For those that don't know Glasgow is at the centre of a resurgence in the UK professional wrestling scene. Insane Championship Wrestling is leading this boom, being featured on TV and in the press and holding sell out shows both here in Glasgow including the famous Barrowlands, and Edinburgh and now even touring across the UK. 

Written in an everyman style Martin manages to perfectly capture the humour, energy and emotions of these shows perfectly. His description of a thousand people exploding with excitement at the surprise appearance of Prince Fergal Devitt before he went to become Finn Balor in the WWE is a perfect example. As well as humour and action Martin's writing can be highly personal as he has written about his battle with depression and how wrestling has helped with this. Again I look forward to reading more of his work this year. 

My last blog is someone I first discovered on Twitter who shares similar interests to myself. We both work in technology, have an interest in food and love pistachio ice cream. Michelle Muirhead's Ananyah Blog is a great starting point to discover great restaurants in and around Glasgow. She also posts about food and beauty events and can be found on twitter  @ananyah Michelle recently posted a piece on her favourite Glasgow restaurants and that's certainly a good introduction to her blog. 

Lastly is a curve ball, this one isn't so much a blog but a YouTube channel. Nick Drossos is a Canadian Fitness and Self Defence instructor. He has a YouTube Channel which had hours of video's covering all aspects of self defence. He recently appeared on Canadian Breakfast TV giving self defence tips and ran a couple of social experiments on Knife Defence and Women's self defence, both of which are well worth watching if you watch noting else. His system is practical and down to earth without fancy and complex moves. Some of the video's do include swearing but he strives to make them realistic as possible rather than the more robotic and cynical traditional martial art/self defence videos. Look him up and make sure to check out those experiment playlists as they do contain great advice. 

So there you have it folks. A few of my favourite bits and pieces, have a look at all the ones mentioned, even if its not your usual cup of tea im sure you will find them enjoyable. Hopefully some of them will be added to your reading lists, they are the staple items on mine. 

To the writers I have mentioned, thanks for your blogs and the work you put into them. I'm still starting out on my blogging journey but I know how hard it can be for me, and cant imagine what it must be like for some of you who have such a high output. 

Let me know your thoughts on this post and the blogs mentioned. What blogs are on your essential reading list? What are your blogging tips? 

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Onwards and upwards in 2015

Happy New Year everyone!

Hope 2015 is a great year for you and that you can achieve all you want to this year. I think that recent events both very close to home in Glasgow and further afield in Australia and  Paris show that we need to make the most of every day.

Put your plans in motion, do the things you want to do, travel to the places you want to see. If you want to change career or start your own business go for it. Life is too short for regrets or missed opportunities.

This year I plan to get back up to speed with blogging, my output recently has been very poor. All the draft articles I've been working on will soon see the light of day.

My fitness is another area I plan to improve on. Hopefully I will manage some more bike rides this year as well as stepping up my general exercise levels.

Creativity wise, as well as blogging I hope to be more productive in general. Play more guitar, get back into drawing, take more photos.

Technology wise I have just got a PlayStation 4 which is great. The graphics are amazing, especially since my current/previous console was a Nintendo Wii. This might scupper all the other plans however as I can see it taking up a lot of my time if I'm not careful.

It's the CES technology show at the moment in Vegas. It's the annual conference where companies showcase their products that will be coming over the next few years. Its always a mixture of exciting glimpses of the future, some of the next big things and a collection of random nonsense. I'm sure we will see some of the key items making their way to the mainstream over the next 12 months.

Is there anything you are looking forward to in 2015, technology related or otherwise?