WakaWaka to donate 2000 solar lights to emergency relief in Nepal.

At Boxer we love the good things done by the chaps at Waka Waka and we wanted to take a moment and highlight their work to our lovely customers and suppliers.

WakaWaka ('Shine Bright' in Swahili) develops high-tech low-cost solar powered lamps and chargers that are indispensable products both in the developing world and in developed markets. Using the latest in patented solar technology the WakaWaka Light and WakaWaka Power are true lifesavers for those without electricity. Currently there are over 100,000 WakaWakas in use in crisis areas in Syria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Haiti and the Philippines.  

In the wake of the devastating earthquake that has already claimed over 2,500 lives and caused widespread destruction in Nepal, large parts of the country have been plunged into darkness. Access to light and power is critical for survivors and emergency response teams. WakaWaka will donate 2000 solar lights to emergency relief efforts and with your help we can do more.

Would you like to get involved? Find out more here 

Apple - One size no longer fits all

It used to be so simple. Steve Jobs would take the stage and tell us all exactly what it is that we’ll desire and buy over the coming months. Choice was an unnecessary evil. There was just one iPad, one iPhone, and fewer customisation options across the entire Mac line than you’d find on a single Dell PC order page. In one of his more humorous presentations, the Apple chief even poked fun at Microsoft’s tiered Windows pricing by detailing five “different” versions of Mac OS X Leopard, each one costing $129.”Seriously, we have one version of Leopard, it’s got everything in it,” said Jobs, “and we hope you love it as much as we do.” But now things are different.

Pay a visit to Apple’s online store today and you’ll find four distinct iPhone options to choose from. There are the brand new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus — measuring 4.7 and 5.5 inches, respectively — and there are the 4-inch iPhone 5S and 5C models, distinguishable by the quality of their materials and some internal specs like Touch ID. Factor in the full array of colour and storage options, and picking your iPhone becomes a choice from no fewer than 29 different variants.

Going further up in size, the 7.9-inch iPad mini bridges the gap between Apple’s smartphones and classic 9.7-inch iPad tablet. But even there you’ll find segmentation: there are mini iPads both with and without Retina displays, and there’s an extra-lean iPad Air option for those willing to spend more for a thinner device.

Throw in the 4-inch iPod touch, the 2.5-inch iPod nano, and the freshly announced Apple Watch — which has two sizes: 1.5 and 1.65 inches — and you’ve got Apple’s widest range of mobile screen sizes to date. This more varied product portfolio is bringing the Cupertino company closer to the practices of its most direct competitor, Samsung, which has a reputation for unthinkingly spamming out devices in every size and shape.

Though it may seem ill-considered, Samsung’s machine-gun approach with new devices has proven successful. One of its more daring moves came in 2011 when it introduced the 5.3-inch Galaxy Note — a device that was well built and specced, but didn’t seem to have a real reason for existing since the space between phones and tablets seemed too small to need filling. Since that point, every newer generation of the Note has sold better than the preceding one, and each year has seen sales exceeding 10 million units.

Apple hasn’t been deaf to the customer demand for phablet-sized devices and has clearly learned to embrace choice. The American company may still have its own beliefs about the ideal phone and tablet size, but like its Korean nemesis, it’s decided to try and sate user demand rather than steer it the way it used to. The Apple Watch is an entirely new product from Apple, but it already has two different size options, three choices of case materials, and a broad set of matching straps and watch faces to allow for customisation. It’s no accident that Tim Cook describes the Watch as “the most personal device” Apple has ever built.

While Apple has always celebrated the personal in personal electronics, its products have historically been antithetical to the act of personalisation. You could put a fun decal on your MacBook or accessorise your Mac Pro with a nice display, but that was about it. Today’s announcements from Apple show it is much more willing to dance to the tune of its customers — both present and potential — and to give them greater choice.

Market share statistics will tell you that the 4-inch iPhone 5S, even while being dwarfed by its Android and Windows Phone competitors, has maintained its growth in sales and popularity. There’s no immediate pressure on Apple to keep up with the race for bigger screen sizes, however the company has recognised that’s where user preferences are heading and is acting before it’s forced to. The same is true of the Apple Watch, which will enter a still-developing smart-watch market at the beginning of next year. 

The months of development work still remaining on the Watch are likely just the tip of the iceberg of a years long project to bring a wearable Apple computer to life. Similarly, the expansion in screen size options is the product of a gradual shift in the company’s approach. As iPhones and iPads become more commoditised — and less distinguishable from their competition — Apple is having to rethink its old ethos of delivering one ideal device for everyone. On the evidence of today’s new iPhones and Apple Watch, the Apple of the future looks like it will be more responsive to what users want than prescriptive about what they need.

 Josh Lomas - Boxer Engineer - joshlomas.com

CES 2014 Blog

Following on from my recent visit to the 2014 International CES Show I wanted to post a few observations. There are many good reviews of the show like ces.cnet.com and techradar.com/ces so I wont list every single item I saw but I did want to comment on some trends and specific technologies of interest to me and relevant to my work world.

1. 4K / Ultra HD Screens - They're here, they're clear, get used to them

They were everywhere. LCD and OLED and by and large they looked fantastic, particularly the OLED. Unsurprisingly it seems that the manufacturers are still experiencing yield issues with OLED and when they hit the streets they will be a premium product. Several people were showing sub $1,000 displays and the upscaling from HD seemed to work well so it may well be that in a relatively short time, Ultra HD effectively becomes the standard. There was also lots of talk about increased frame rates which will be essential for some content. Note for us with Victorian-semis in the UK: the majority of 4K displays I saw were 55" and over. The only way that they will fit in my house is if they replace a load-bearing wall.

2. 4K content - The new world order will be VOD and file (to begin with anyway)

Very interestingly all the major screen manufactures were talking about content deals and partnerships so the early-adopters will have something to watch. Samsung, for example announced Netflix, Amazon, DirectTV among others. There was definitely talk of 'some broadcaster support' but without offerings of set-top boxers and decoders that may be too far away for some users. This is good news and essential to adoption - as we know, many of our traditional broadcasters are only just completing the transition to HD now and 4K is not on their radar for sometime if at all. Compression wise Netflix is launching with HEVC (h.265) at 15.6 Mbps debuting with 'House of Cards' Season 2 in February - I'm sitting pretty with my basic service being 30Mbps fibre in our road but some folks on the end of rural ADSL are defiantly going to be buffering / downloading or sticking with HD for a while.

3. Curved TVs are the new flat - although not always

All of the major TV manufactures were showing curved displays. Apparently it gives 'a much more immersive experience'. Honestly, I'm not sure it does. I can see it creates a better viewing angle for some viewers and less reflections in some situations but I certainty didn't feel any more 'immersed' and ascetically I much prefer a flat panel. The LG pre-production curved OLEDs we only available with a stand, no wall mount option - this may hinder some purchases if taken into production but as if to appease a 'traditionalist' like myself, one of their displays was so thin and flexible you could choose on the remote control if you wanted it flat or curved - sold.

4. LG and Samsung fever - the not so new kids on the block

The LG and Samsung stands were massive and they were certainly among the busiest at the show. Still considered 'upstarts' by some, these were the guys showing the most innovation in the living room and they were doing it with style. Samsung were highlighting some interesting detail on their TV ranges that I think has been missed by many commentators - they were talking about how to upgrade their TV software and hardware platforms moving forward. Right now, they seem to be leading the way with a flexible software architecture but they were also showing user upgradable, plug in hardware modules to allow for changes in IO, DRM and 4K decode etc. This has to be applauded and is a must when evaluating a TV purchase. 

5. iPhone v Android - Fight

The general rules of thumb I came up with is that the hardware and bolt on folks are still overwhelmingly favouring the iPhone - to this end Lightning cables were everywhere, cases, a thermal imaging camera even a taser. The reduced number of hardware options clearly makes this a no brainer but on the application side there was much more parity between iOS and Android. 

6. Connected - everything

The ‘Internet of things’ took one more step forward at the show with masses of connected devices, watches, pendants, plant pots, rings, door locks, lightbulbs, shoes, toothbrushes - the list was seemingly endless. Low power BlueTooth and more efficient wifi chipsets seem to be the main enablers. Cisco were on hand to provide the backbone for this movement. There seemed to be good movement in alliances between vendors in some sectors, like home automation (Z-Wave), which is essential if the masses are to adopt these technologies without creating silos of discreet products.

7. Spot the PC - move on, nothing to see here

You  could hardly see a PC laptop, desktop or Mac on display save for a few people who make them and the odd accessory maker. Mobile and tablet seemed to be the main source of any innovation. That said the gaming / workstation PC from Razer was outstanding razerzone.com/christine - please, please put it into production. 

8. Automotive - Yes, cars need GPUs too

The car manufacturers were out in force with Audi, Toyota and BMW at the forefront showcasing both drivetrain technology and in-car systems. Interestingly Nvidia were showing a graphics system specifically designed to drive the plethora of screens and displays inside the latest generation of vehicles. BMW were offering short test drives in their new i3 electric car which was the perfect place to sit whilst moving at walking pace on Paradise Road and on the few stretches of open road it proved to more than hold it’s own. Apparently the i3 is as fast as M3 to 30mph and certainly was no slouch after that. The limited range is still the main headache but for a town car this actually felt like a real alternative. Oh yes - honourable mention for Audi for having a car with laser headlights - you need laser headlights.

9. Standards - you know you love them

HDMI 1.4 (moving to 2.0) and HD-BaseT seem to be the prevalent choices. HDMI 1.4 giving us 4K support and HD-BaseT offering video, network and power (unto about 90W) over 1 cat 5/6 cable. Not right for every screen but for some applications this will massively simplify the installation process and ensure smart TVs remain connected.

10. 3D printers - it wasn’t for you TVs

The darling technology of the show had to be 3D printing. The area of the show devoted to the genre was consistently busy with folks printing 3D sweets and chocolate, a drum kit, bits of Iron Man and a million comic character figures. The price is dropping and the quality is going up with several smaller stands showing real industrial potential as the technology scales. It is not the cure for all but undoubtedly this will affect all of us is some way and soon. Loved one concept of a 3D printed arm cast designed to support the specific break created with input from an MRI scan of the broken arm. The cast would be significantly lighter than plaster and could be full of ventilation gaps to make it a far more pleasant thing to wear. It could also be made to look like Iron Man’s arm. Just saying.

So there you have it - my CES in a nutshell!

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