How To Use Your Smart CCTV Security Cameras To Monitor Your Car

Image courtesy of MaxPixel

Everyone hates car alarms going off in the middle of the night. Unfortunately we’re so used to car alarms going off for no good reason most neighbours will be far more likely to call to complain about the nuisance than they are to call the police to report a crime. So how can you use your smart home tech to alert you if your car parked outside your home, or business vehicle is broken into and stolen while parked overnight?

There are a number of different devices which can be installed in your car or van that will alert you to when it is moving, and its current location. They can immobilize your vehicle if you don’t have the right key and no transponder is present, or they can simply make a hell of a lot of noise. Read more

Choosing The Best Network Provider To Suit Your Needs

TV, tv channels, choosing TV providerThe way television is being delivered is leaping into the 21st century and choosing how you get your TV and broadband package is becoming ever more confusing.

Up until the 80s there was only really one way to get TV, and that was through your aerial. Once Sky came to Britain satellite TV has been becoming ever more popular, but the free analogue channels were still the way most of us received television. In the 2010s we saw the Digital Takeover, meaning that we need a Freeview box to watch hundreds of channels, or listen to dozens of radio stations.

Satellite and cable TV still offers many more options than the free to air services do. However, with the introduction of internet speeds so fast that it’s possible to watch, download and record more than one thing at the same time the way subscription based TV delivery is changing too. Sky, Virgin Media, BT and many others are all offering fast broadband which will let you not only watch and record TV, you can do all your online browsing, shopping, gaming and run your Smart Home network with it too. Which begs the question, which is best for you?

Trying to identify which is the best is like trying to guess the length of a piece of string. Every home’s needs are different, and so the best packages will be different too. For example Sky Q offers a basic subscription service (including all the channels currently available on Freeview) which you can expand buy buying additional ‘passes’. These allow you to access additional channels which are devoted to kids movies, sport, entertainment, history, and so on. BT has introductory offers on TV and broadband which include HDTV, superfast fibre, additional disks to eliminate WiFI blind spots and other hardware including Amazon Echo, Fitbits, and Samsung Galaxies. Read more

How Can Anti Virus Software Protect Your Whole Home, Contents Included?

WiFi enabled tablet in persons handsIf you’re a PC user you’d never think of going onto the internet without first installing an antivirus software package. If you’re a Mac user you’ve been spared this hassle, although some pundits suggest that Macs need protection too, it’s never been an issue that has been taken too seriously.

But it’s becoming increasingly important, as people use their broadband for services other than surfing the internet that you get not only your computer, but your whole home wifi network protected, indeed, even when you’re using a Mac.

Because there are so many devices, including lightbulbs, CCTV, ovens and fridges which use a wifi connection to communicate with one another a comprehensive solution is required. It’s simply not possible to install a suite of malware, Trojan and virus protection on the chip that turns your lightbulb on and off so it’s vital that you protect your network at source, by installing antivirus on your PC and router. Installing antivirus on your router is almost as easy as it is on your computer, it simply needs following a few additional steps. Depending on the device you use it’s most likely to mean plugging the computer into the router via an Ethernet cable (which would have come in the router’s packaging when it was bought), downloading the software from a reliable source, and saving it in the place directed by the setup wizard. Read more

When Social Media Isn’t The Smart Answer For DIY Jobs

DIY smart devices, wireless, speakerBeing interested in all manner of smart home automation and IoT devices I’m naturally a member of several Facebook groups dedicated to the subject. Some are informative and worth staying with, some are a waste of time and better left rather than letting them annoy you unduly.

In one of these groups a question was asked by Danny: “So I was wondering anyone has done this or knows if it is possible. I use Google home across my house and I want to put approx 6 speakers in my ceiling and link them back to the Google home so the music plays through them. Does this involve taking the Google home apart and soldering new wires for the speakers ?

Now, I know social media is a great way to get tips, advice and help for a range of different DIY subjects, so I’m not criticising the original poster for that, but if you’re thinking of taking your electronic devices apart and soldering peripherals onto it, there’s a chance you might just void your warranty. Oh, and you might just add the risk of fire or electrocution if you’re an amateur permanently adding additional cable to your electronic devices. Read more

Is A Mesh Network Which Is Always Listening A Good Thing Or Bad?

We wrote previously on how a mesh network uses several routers to improve the overall WiFi coverage you’ll be able to get in your home, eliminating blind spots and making it possible to use a complete range of connected devices anywhere about the house no matter how bad reception had been in the past.

BT, along with their superfast fibre broadband, are offering additional routers they simply refer to as ‘discs’. Other ISPs let you add further routers and repeaters to your system, but don’t currently offer the extra hardware themselves.

But before you go out and buy a raft of routers to add to your home network to improve your WiFi coverage, take a look at what Amazon are doing with Alexa. Read more

Mesh Networks, What Are They and Are They Worth It?

Hands holding a wifi enabled tabletA few years ago anyone complaining about poor WiFi signal in their home would receive the sage advice “well, stand somewhere else then”. Today though, strong, consistent, reliable signal is not only something that we all expect wherever we go, it affects how our entire home communications and entertainment systems work, and it can even knock thousands off the value of your home.

Broadband service providers such as BT are tackling the problem with their superfast fibre broadband and discs, circular routers which can be placed about the home in poor signal areas in order to boost coverage so that all of your connected devices work perfectly. Several mesh network WiFi providers offer small, discreet additional points which act as routers and then there’s Powerline, a set of routers which plug into the power supply and extend the WiFi reach in whichever room they are located in. Read more

How Can You Hack Your Workspace To Achieve A More Creative Environment?

Why is it hard to be creative in an open plan office?The Connected Devices and IoT revolution continues apace, significantly affecting the way we interact with our working environment. The ease at which it is possible to switch on ‘creativity’ isn’t always available to everybody though. Some people love being able to service their clients from home, they dedicate their billable hours without having had to make the commute to their desk while others hate the lack of structure. They relish having to get up, turn up and get on, they need the face to face and the absence of home distractions to be able to deliver. It’s all just different strokes for different folks. But what if upon getting to work you find your creativity pops like a balloon on the point of a pin?

With the inexorable rise of the design led vanity office, one thing we have seen is that the open plan office, rather than being a collaborative, creative space is exactly the opposite. The idea is that you can just pop your head up and instantly produce a creative dialectic with the other people on your pod. You just have to look around and see what other people are working on and get inspired yourself. Of course the reality is we put our earbuds in in order to block out the distracting hubbub of chatter coming from all corners. Our shoulders are up around our ears as colleagues and managers peep over them silently appraising what we’re doing, and then there’s the near constant rounds of tea to be made. Nobody needs that much tea, it’s just a reason for people to bunk off while pretending to be productive or a huge hassle to remember a dozen different favourite mugs when you’re trying to do something important. Read more

Is Your Smart Home Vulnerable To Silent Security Breaches?

smart speaker vulnerability silent security attackYou’ve probably heard about the ‘friends’ who, late at night yell “Alexa, play Slayer at full volume!” through a neighbour’s letterbox. It’s an amusing story, it’s got the ring of authenticity because as a security breach, it’s not only plausible, it’s entirely possible. As a prank it’s annoying, but harmless But what it does highlight is one of voice control’s most obvious and easily exploited vulnerabilities: if you don’t train Alexa or Google Assistant to respond to your voice alone, anybody within earshot can make them do things.

For more than two years Google and Amazon have also been aware of another possible chink in the armour that surrounds voice responsive technology, that it’s so sensitive and works on frequencies beyond human hearing, meaning that commands loud and clear enough to get Smart Speakers and Home Hubs to do anything can be broadcast without the owner ever being aware. Read more

The Future Is Faster With Fibre

installing fibre opticVirgin Media is currently experimenting with 8Gbps, which is 22 time faster than the top speed of any current broadband provider, and more than 200 times the average speed a UK consumer receives.

If you have ultra high HD TV you could download a movie in 20 seconds instead of the hour it would take at normal download speeds. If you’re only watching in regular HD the film could be yours in five seconds instead of fifteen minutes that the average broadband customer would expect to wait.

While speed doesn’t necessarily equate to bandwidth, the fact that anything you do will be done instantly means that it will be out of the way and immediately, ready for the next task you throw at it. So those speeds will be brilliant for the connected home. As more devices are added to the network currently, if you’re only getting a standard service, things begin to lag. If you’re streaming a movie, the kids are playing an online game, someone is playing music in another room then you’re going to start to notice things take longer to happen, Alexa is slow to respond, movies freeze or start to buffer (and that always ALWAYS happens just when you’re getting to a good bit or pivotal point in the dialogue. I don’t know how it knows, but it definitely does!) Read more

Every Year Smaller And Smarter. What’s The Future For Miniaturisation?

miniaturisation, smart phone, tablet, computerAlan Turing is credited with inventing computer science, cracking Enigma and shortening the Second World War by two years. And while all this is true, there’s a person in his story who’s generally overlooked. Effectively written out of history, he’s not even mentioned in The Imitation Game, the movie of Turing’s time at Bletchley Park, and that is Tommy Flowers.

Tommy who? Exactly!

Flowers had been working on a machine for the Post Office which could increase the efficiency of telephone exchanges, turning them from mechanical or hand operated to electronic relays. He started off his wartime engineering adventures making a Bombe machine decoder (a basic mechanical computer akin to Babbage’s Difference Engine) for Turing which was intended to process thousands of bits of data every minute, but when Turing abandoned that idea he asked Flowers to build a machine which could crack the Enigma code. Flowers looked at the brief and thought “Actually, I can make it better than this!” and he did.  He created Colossus instead, a machine as big as the average bedroom which could process vast amounts of data even faster. With his engineering genius and Turing’s mathematics the German encoders working with an encryption machine which could only do millions of permutations had their work cut out trying to keep secrets from Hut 8. Read more