Easter Eggs

April 17th, 2014

As much as we’d like to obsess over large, chocolaty brightly foiled hollowed eggs for the entire length of a blog, instead we’re talking about Easter Eggs in the world of computing. Yes, they can be just as much fun (and far more slimming).


The term ‘Easter Eggs’ in the programming sense refers to an ‘undocumented novelty’ placed in a game (usually), for the fun of it – an inside joke by the developers, if you like. What initially started as ‘was that a glitch?’ has now developed into a purposeful hunt for the special treats hidden by developers by those exploring their virtual worlds. This blogger became aware of Easter Eggs thanks to having a teenage son with an Xbox, who perpetually hunted for ‘Easter Eggs’. I soon realised that there were Easter Eggs hidden in programs aside from games. They are not harmful to the program you are using nor the game you are playing and, unless you are lucky enough to stumble across them, you have to know how to find them.

It’s not just indie developers who enjoy installing little surprises, and it isn’t just for gamers. Big players like Microsoft and Google aren’t immune to the temptation either. Let’s take a look.

At one point Bioshock fans could enter the coordinates 63° 2′ N, 29° 55′ W into Google Earth which would direct them to an image of the (fictional) city of Rapture, an underwater city buried the middle of the ocean, originating from the Bioshock games. Although the city was removed, these coordinates now indicate Rapture Lighthouse.

It’s not just Earth-bound; fly over to Mars, search for ‘Meliza’ and you are flown to a Mars-based bot which can engage in some basic ‘bot chat’. Before you dismiss it as limited, ‘Meliza’ is one of the descendents of ‘Eliza’, the very first incarnation of responsive artificial intelligence (aka chat bots) developed in the 1960’s.

We’ve also tested another couple of currently working Easter Eggs. When it comes to Gmail, you may not know it but you can suggest a feature for Gmail. When you do, you could find something very helpful at the bottom of the ‘Helpful additions’ list, and yes, I clicked to suggest it.

Or you could try doing a Google search using “do a barrel roll”.

Here’s another mini-marvel: In Google Translate, choosing to translate German to German, copy and paste: “pv zk pv pv zk pv zk kz zk pv pv pv zk pv zk zk pzk pzk pvzkpkzvpvzk kkkkkk bsch”, without the quotation marks and await the ‘translation’.  Instead of ‘Listen’ you now have ‘Beatbox’; click to play!

And it’s not just games and websites which feature Easter Eggs. Open a new Word document and type “=rand(200,99)”, again without the quotation marks, followed by hitting the return key. This exercise is actually more entertaining in different languages, but interesting enough in English.

Animation Studio Pixar uses Easter Eggs in their movies; all explained in this entertaining short video released just in time for Easter.

Where did it come from? The Easter Egg dates back to 1978, with an Atari game called ‘Adventure’. The developer, Warren Robinett was just another salaried Atari employee at the time. Being an employee, he wasn’t able to get his name in the credits, so he added a secret room in the game where he could display his signature. Apparently this is common motivation for the Easter Egg.

Although there is some debate about whether certain functions are true Easter Eggs, and these are only the most basic examples, it’s still fun trying them out. And, as with the chocolate variety, Easter Eggs often don’t last long as some are removed by developers once the secret is out.

Have you found any Easter Eggs?

Catherine Howe is a Marketing Executive at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Total Ltd is a business that brings together and unifies all the component parts. For up to the minute business telecommunications news, please view the Total Ltd blog.

Google’s Project Ara – Revolutionising the Smartphone

April 16th, 2014

Project Ara is hopeful it can revolutionise the smartphone industry within one year by transforming the modular smartphone concept into a reality.

The Ara is made up of a metal endoskeleton, which can be described as the base of the phone, and is built so it can hold replaceable components (known as modules) which look like tiles.

Users can swap the modules based on their personal preference and the Ara phones will use electro-permanent magnets to hold the tiles in place.

The changeable modules consist of anything that helps run the device such as a processor, RAM, WiFi, power jack, baseband, camera, speaker, storage space, display and the battery.

An Ara phone configure app will also be available so users can import photo’s to customise their phones design in a particular form. To see Project Ara in action click here.

ATAP hope to ship the devices next January and plan on offering the Ara in three different sizes ranging from a six-module smartphone upwards.

The device will be heavier, bigger and thicker than your average smartphone do you think its customisation features will allow it to compete in the existing competitive smartphone market?

Let us know your thoughts.

Jamie Sansom is Marketing Assistant at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Total Ltd is a business that brings together and unifies all the component parts. For up to the minute business telecommunications news, please view the Total Ltd blog

Smart Printing

April 14th, 2014

Whilst it is likely that printing may eventually become a thing of the past, it is a function notably missing when it comes to our current smart usage. We take a look what’s out there in app and current hardware terms, along with a very interesting prospect on Kickstarter.

If you want to print from a tablet, for example, you need to ensure that wireless printing is at least enabled. And even if it is, it is unlikely to work with older printers.  Apple uses AirPrint, which is built into ‘many popular print models’ – as long as it’s ‘OS X Lion’ or later, or of course an AirPrint printer (full list of compatible devices here).  Although you can print photos, emails and web pages, you are limited on print options, with the only choice really being quantity.


Printing from your Android device is a different process and utilises Google’s ‘Cloud Print’. Whilst AirPrint is already installed in Apple devices, Cloud Print requires an app to be downloaded and a compatible printer purchased. Once the app is installed, when you want to print, tap ‘Share’ (as opposed to ‘Print’) to ‘Cloud Print’. Samsung has developed a specific app via ‘Samsung Mobile Print’ to be used in conjunction with its compatible printer, and seems to offer more functionality than AirPrint. Saving to a PDF follows the same process; however the PDF is saved to Google Drive.

When it comes to hardware, smartphone specific printers do exist, such as the Versus VP200 and are ideal if you just want to print photographs. Although the functionality is a little limited, it is compatible with both Android and iOS devices, which is docked onto the printer and carries on charging as it prints, and priced at under £100. There are many of these types of devices available for photo printing, but what if document or email printing – on the go – is more your thing?

Thinking very much outside the box is science-fact Kickstarter project ‘The Mini Mobile Robotic Printer. Realising we need a printer for our mobile devices which isn’t restricted to printing photographs or requiring a chunky printer, creators ZUtA Labs have developed a rolling, printing mouse-size robot.

The device is a rolling pocket-size and highly portable printer, containing ink and information which it trails across whatever size page you want, wirelessly connected to your smart device. As it’s not like anything we’ve seen before, I can only recommend that you take a look at the video. The first version will print in greyscale, but I have no doubt that a full colour version will follow in due course as support escalates. And particularly once the developers have chosen ‘the best partners to certify that this printer will do the best possible job and look good while doing it”.

Although the Mini Robot certainly gets my vote, there are a handful of alternatives available across the crowdfunding sites. Take a look, perhaps you will be inspired enough to back one of them yourself.

Catherine Howe is a Marketing Executive at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Total Ltd is a business that brings together and unifies all the component parts. For up to the minute business telecommunications news, please view the Total Ltd blog.

Beyond Entertainment

April 11th, 2014

Most of us use our smart devices for messaging, reading the news, playing games and downloading various forms of entertainment. I couldn’t help but notice that this week the spotlight has been on alternative, life changing uses for this technology.

If you haven’t read the story, or watched the video showing one little girl’s virtual trip to the zoo via Google Glass, then I will happily recap. Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital and Houston Zoo have worked together for some time, organising paediatric patient trips via Skype. However, both were able to take it to the next level following the Texas hospital winning a competition (there were 8,000 winners in total), with the prize being Google Glasses. Now, the children who are unable to physically leave the hospital can travel to the zoo virtually. Houston Zoo worked with the hospital to create a truly wonderful virtual reality experience which allows the children to get up close and personal with the inhabitants, and even take a step further than ‘regular’ visitors thanks to behind-the-scenes tours by the zookeepers. The hospital is currently the only one offering this experience to seriously ill children, hopefully setting a trend. And let’s also hope that VR adventures to Disneyworld and the North Pole will follow in due course.

Illustrating the versatility of Google Glass is the BATMAN group. Yes, BATMAN, which stands for Battlefield Air Targeting Man-Aided (K)nowledge and is part of the US Air Force’s most distinguished research and development faction. The Air Force is interested in using Google Glass for reasons varying from the ability to access information very quickly to battlefield criteria such as ‘it’s low in power, low in footprint, sits totally above the eyes and doesn’t block images or hinder vision’.

The team has plans to test the success of Google Glass to help aircraft locate targets and aid combat controllers’ communication with aircraft and ground troops.  The military has previously used laptops in combat, but there has been a distinct interest in adopting the latest tech of late.

The Office of Naval Research has confirmed that it intends to use tablets to automatically command an ‘Autonomous Aerial Cargo/Utility System’ (aka pilotless helicopter) to attend to situations too perilous for humans, carrying a cargo of weapons, batteries, food and/or water. With ease-of-use at the forefront, users were able to fly the helicopter within 15 minutes of trying the tablet-based technology, and the same system will eventually be used for a range of aircraft types with one goal being to enable medical evacuations.

Smartphones can save lives too, and what better way to demonstrate that than the ‘SMS Lifesaver’ app. We looked at this when it was first released. Originally rolled out in Stockholm, the project has since been expanded throughout Sweden. In short, if you are trained in CPR (over 2 million people are in Sweden), you can register with SMS Lifesaver as a volunteer to receive alerts in your geographical area when your CPR skills are needed in an emergency. When you are needed, you are sent a message with co-ordinates – and the opportunity to save someone’s life before the emergency services arrive and take over.

In Africa, text messaging is also saving lives. With television, radio and internet access inaccessible for most, it is surprising to learn that mobile phone ownership has grown significantly and even in the poorest areas. The Gooard project, developed by Nvia in Spain, now sends weather warnings via geo-targeted alerts. This ensures that warnings are received by recipients targeted by a grouped geographic location, helping minimise the devastating impact of natural disasters by allowing those living in the soon-to-be-affected area to evacuate.  With 63% mobile phone ownership on the continent (higher in South Africa), warnings can reach places where TV, radio and the internet currently can not.

Catherine Howe is a Marketing Executive at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Total Ltd is a business that brings together and unifies all the component parts. For up to the minute business telecommunications news, please view the Total Ltd blog.

There’s an app for that #15

April 10th, 2014

Too often we only hear about the negative effect smartphones and tablets can have on your sleep. Whilst it’s not advisable to immerse yourself in any high-concentration or flashing tech before bedtime, it is worth countering the current argument with something a little more positive: your smartphone may actually be able to help you sleep.

If falling asleep is the problem, try Deep Sleep with Andrew Johnson, a guided meditation recording for iOS and Android platforms. There are many incarnations available and this particular one comes with great reviews and is available for £1.99 on iTunes; a small price to pay for a good nights sleep. Even if you don’t use an app, there are many ‘hypno’ or soothing recordings available to download as an MP3. I have previously used a ‘restful sleep’ CD, initially with much scepticism, which I uploaded to my Google Drive (to save on storage) and listened to it through my smartphone. Needless to say, I regularly woke up in the morning well rested and still wearing my earphones. Although rest-inducing recordings don’t monitor your sleep pattern, they can be perfect for trips away and jet lag, when you just need a familiar recording to help you doze off.

If you wake up feeling tired every morning, Absalt EasyWakeup PRO could shed some light on your nigh time activity. As the first ‘smart sleep’ app, and having been running since 2008, the developers have incorporated users suggestions over the years to create a truly user friendly device. It is an alarm clock, but instead of the rude awakening we’re used to, EasyWakeup PRO senses when it’s the best time to wake you up, during a pre-selected period of time. Placed on your bed, the app senses your body movements during your sleep. As well as waking you up at a time that suits your body, users are also able to analyse the quality of their sleep by viewing the graphs and stats, which may offer some insights into your sleep pattern. Available on iOS for £6.99.

If you still want to use your device for non-sleep-app-purposes before bedtime, beware the blue light (technically known as ‘blue wavelengths’). You could try an app designed to reduce the level of blue light such as Bluelight Filter for Eye Care designed for tablets. Once installed, the shortcut remains in the settings menu and when turned on, changes the hue of the device to a softer and warmly tinted tone. Blue light tricks our brains into believing it is days more than any other light (it is twice as powerful as green light for example); it boosts our attention and stops the sleep hormone melatonin from being produced.

However it is worth considering a holistic approach because blue light isn’t just emitted by smart device screens. We are increasingly using LED lights in our homes, along with watching TV on our blue light emitting screens before bed, which is then ‘topped up’ by late night smart device activity. All of this could affect your night time melatonin production.

If you are determined to smart-read in bed, you could try the app. Or you could by ‘blue blocking glasses’, available for £30 to £60 for a good quality pair (available online or speak to your optician). Another effective solution for evening browsing could be to use a blue light eliminating screen protector filter like SleepShield, which comes in shapes and sizes to suit every smart device.

So, perhaps the answer isn’t to outwardly pinpoint smart devices for reducing our quality of sleep but to consider the overall use of blue light in our homes, and perhaps enjoy a few more candlelit dinners.

If you are interested in knowing more about blue light, you may enjoy Harvard’s fascinating article, ‘The Dark Side of Blue Light’.

Catherine Howe is a Marketing Executive at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Total Ltd is a business that brings together and unifies all the component parts. For up to the minute business telecommunications news, please view the Total Ltd blog.

Nokia’s ‘X’ range of mobile handsets

April 9th, 2014

In yesterday’s blog post we looked at Nokia’s latest ‘low-end’ smartphone, the ‘X’. In today’s blog post we’re looking at its parent models, the Nokia X+ and the Nokia XL.

All three devices run Android Jelly Bean however they have been modified to look more like the ‘Live Tiles’ we’re used to seeing on Windows phones.

This comes as no surprise seeing Nokia was recently acquired by the software giant.

The Nokia X and the Nokia X+ are virtually identical devices with the exception of RAM capacity. Nokia’s X features 512 MB whilst the X+ boasts 768 MB.

To see how all three devices compare, please see the table below:

X X+ XL
4 inch touch screen 4 inch touch screen 5 inch touch screen
480 x 800 pixels 480 x 800 pixels 480 x 800 pixels
3 MP camera 3 MP camera 5 MP camera
512 MB of RAM 768 MB of RAM 768 MB of RAM
1500 mAh battery 1500 mAh battery 2000 mAh battery
Android Nokia X 1.0 UI Android Nokia X 1.0 UI Android Nokia X 1.0 UI

The ‘X’ range of smart devices are all equipped with the same Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 MSM8225 system chip and Dual-core Cortex-A5 processor.

Do any of the handsets above appeal to you?

Let us know.

Jamie Sansom is Marketing Assistant at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Total Ltd is a business that brings together and unifies all the component parts. For up to the minute business telecommunications news, please view the Total Ltd blog

Nokia unveils its Android budget smartphone

April 8th, 2014

Finnish technology giant Nokia has recently released its latest flagship device, the Nokia X.

The ‘X’ is Nokia’s first ever smartphone to run Google’s Android OS operating system and costing users around £75, it could prove popular within the low-end smartphone market.

This budget smartphone boasts a dual-core 1GHz processor from Qualcomm, has 512MB of RAM and features a 4-inch WVGA display screen.

Other features of the Nokia X include:

  • A 1500 mAh battery
  • A 3MP rear camera (no flash)
  • 4GB of storage

Interestingly, this handset does run Android Jelly Bean however not the version we all know. The Android operating system has been modified to run and look more like a Windows phone.

Which makes sense seeing as Nokia has recently been acquired by the software giant.

Nokia has also installed its own Android store onto the Nokia X and will feature a number of pre-installed apps.

How do you think the Nokia X compares to the existing fleet of low-end smartphones currently on the market?

Let us know.

Jamie Sansom is Marketing Assistant at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Total Ltd is a business that brings together and unifies all the component parts. For up to the minute business telecommunications news, please view the Total Ltd blog

Kickstart your Monday.

April 7th, 2014

We’ve looked at some unique, innovative and inspiring UK based tech projects seeking funding at the moment. Would any of these get your backing?

HomeBeacons is perhaps a less intrusive way to find out where your child is than tracking their mobile phone. If you are a working parent, you’ll be familiar with worry about whether your child got home from school okay, especially when they don’t let you know they have arrived. HomeBeacons is designed to alert you using a motion activated Bluetooth ‘Smart Beacon’, a mobile and the iOS or Android app. The alert is automatically sent to you via email so that, if they forget to tell you they are home or don’t answer their mobile, you know they are probably simply attached to the Xbox.

With just a one-off cost for the unit and no ongoing subscription fees, HomeBeacons is currently seeking £50,000 to get off the starting blocks.

Frankenspiel FS-X. Naturally, we were drawn to this by the name. However this is no ugly monster, it is a highly stylised and extremely portable 100dB Bluetooth speaker, boasting 50 hours of playtime. There are plenty of speakers on the market, so what makes this one different? Well, the developers won the WhatHiFi Best Budget Award for its predecessor – which served to innovate them further, introducing powerful completely distortion-free sound into a wireless speaker offering 360 sound. And when you do get to the end of the impressive 50 hour battery time, recharge takes just 50 minutes. It looks great too.

Frankenspiel FS-X is seeking £36,000 in funding, and currently ebbing towards £8,000 at the time of this blog? Kickstarter ‘Party Pack’ or ‘VIP’ backers can get their hands on the Special Edition one in champagne gold – make your decibels bling! Will you be a Frankenspiel backer?


Altergaze boldly combines virtual reality with smartphones and 3D printing. With a goal to aiding ‘virtual reality into becoming mainstream’, simply slot your smartphone into the glasses, connect via Wi-Fi, pop them on and enjoy a 100 degree field of view of whatever virtual environment you wish to immerse yourself in. It makes sense when you view the video.

One of the most innovative aspects of this particular project is that anyone with a 3D printer can become an approved Altergaze manufacturer and distributor. And having almost reached half of its £25,000 goal, with nearly a month to go, it looks like Altergaze could be popping out of a 3D printer near you soon.

Do any of these projects inspire you?

Catherine Howe is a Marketing Executive at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Total Ltd is a business that brings together and unifies all the component parts. For up to the minute business telecommunications news, please view the Total Ltd blog.

There’s an app for that #14

April 3rd, 2014

It’s around this time of year, as the sun starts reappearing (albeit sporadically) and with the Easter holidays on the horizon, that we start to contemplate a holiday. Of course, there’s an app for that; not surprising when you consider that over a third of smartphone users use their mobiles to make travel reservations.

One very popular app is Skyscanner, which allows you to compare global flight costs. And it’s all about the ‘millions’; Skyscanner has over 25 million users, who compare millions of flights. For free. The app itself appears to be as user-friendly as the website, which has been running since 2003. Last year saw the number of visitors to the site double to over 30 million and the use of the mobile app increase by an impressive 400% since released in June 2013. Although flights account for 70% of the revenue, Skyscanner also sells travel insurance, hotel rooms and car hire. Skyscanner is available on iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows and Blackberry and comes with recommendations from The Independent and The Guardian. Have you used it yet?

City Maps 2Go Offline Maps is a ‘holiday support’ app rather than a booking app. Rather than using roaming data or trying to find a Wi-Fi hotspot,  City Maps has 6,700 interactive downloadable maps, complete with articles and tourist guides for you to use on your travels. The free app enables users to download five maps and a travel guide; in-app purchasing gets you the rest. This is ideal for locations where 3/4G isn’t great and handily replaces the paper map previously rolled or folded into your trusty tourist satchel. And if you need a map they don’t supply, developers Ulmon GmbH will ‘create a map for you immediately upon request’.

Communicating when abroad can sometimes be difficult or, at it’s worst, embarrassing. Prevent a ‘faux pas’ by downloading Google Translate onto your smart device before you go. Perfect for menu choices and road signs, Google translate now works from your photographs – cleverly including vertical Korean, Japanese and Chinese text. Providing speech is clear and the person you are conversing with is patient, it even offers vocal translation of around 80 languages. Users can now use Google Translate offline by easily downloading a language pack, so you won’t get caught out in areas without Wi-Fi (test whether this is working before setting off by setting your mobile to ‘Flight mode’).  Features depend on whether you are using iOS or Android, along with whether you are using a downloaded language pack. Either way, perhaps nous sommes un pas de plus vers le traducteur universel.

If you never know what you should pack, there is even an app for that: Packing Pro.  This isn’t one of our weird and wonderful ‘random apps’, this app has won awards in the USA, and heralded by the likes of CNN, the BBC, National Geographic and more. It is, in effect, a list creator and one which you can create and send to yourself or your travel companions. Rather than overwhelming users with options, you seem to get what you need – for example a pre-trip reminder to stop your post whilst you are away and post-trip reminders to turn timers off amongst other thing. You can list all travel essentials and even catalogue your clothing for the trip. It ‘automagically’ conjures up lists based on number of adults or children, and whether they are male or female and even includes suggestions for travelling with pets. For those who live by smart-scheduling: you will never find yourselves short of adaptors or socks again.

And a couple of Total Tips before you go: Don’t forget to contact your network provider before you go and find out the most cost-effective way to manage your mobile abroad. After you’ve booked, if you are on social media, just be careful who you announce your departure to. If your profile is public, and there are clues in your feed about where you live, it is probably better to keep it low key. Until you return with the holiday snaps that is.

Find more online holiday and travel booking tips here.

Catherine Howe is a Marketing Executive at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Total Ltd is a business that brings together and unifies all the component parts. For up to the minute business telecommunications news, please view the Total Ltd blog.

Sony reveals A4-sized E-ink display tablet

April 1st, 2014

Japanese technology giant Sony has recently unveiled its Digital Paper tablet which features a touchscreen made from electronic paper.

The tablet is 7mm thick and sports a 1200 x 1600 resolution dot display. Other features of the E-ink tablet include 4GB of internal storage and a stylus which can be used to add annotations to documents.

Sony has commented that its latest digital paper tablet will work for three weeks without needing a recharge and the device will go on sale in May costing users roughly £660.

Digital paper has built in Wi-Fi capabilities and displays documents in the Adobe PDF format.

Additionally, users can convert office files such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel into PDF documents and transfer them wirelessly to their Digital Paper tablet.

The tablet is aimed specifically at office users but is the £660 price tag for a glorified notepad justified?

Let us know your thoughts.

Jamie Sansom is Marketing Assistant at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Total Ltd is a business that brings together and unifies all the component parts. For up to the minute business telecommunications news, please view the Total Ltd blog