Business Technology

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Digital Life: Turn on the heating from your office

Ronan Price

Ronan Price

Early internet pioneers devised nerdy schemes to save on shoe leather, such as emailing the vending machine to see if there was any Coke left.

These days, we're still developing the "internet of things", the idea that everything in our world is connected and controllable. Wiring up your home -- switches, lights, etc -- has long been possible, but at great expense.

But the Belkin WeMo technology simplifies and makes affordable the notion with its 'intelligent' electrical plug/socket. Looking like an overweight timer switch, it plugs into any wall socket and hooks into your home wireless network.

With the aid of an iPhone app, you can thus control WeMo as easily from your couch as you can from the other side of the world.

The possibilities are endless: firing up the heating as you leave from work, start your coffee machine from your bed. An add-on includes motion detection so that you can scare intruders.

At only €50 per socket (or €100 for switch plus motion detector), home automation just got foolproof.

Microsoft made a lot of noise of the launch of Windows 8, but less about Windows Phone 8.

Maybe MS feels ashamed about the way it abandoned Win Phone 7 users. Maybe it's not that different from WP7. I'll go with the latter.

Looking and operating remarkably similarly (which is to say quite good), there are some nice innovations such as kids' corner (which locks down what the phone can do when you hand it to your nipper).

But as likeable as WP8 phones like the HTC 8X are, they offer little that iPhone or Android don't.

Console review - Wii U * * * ½

Never second-guess Nintendo. No one but Ninty fully anticipated the success of the weird-looking DS nor the wacky motion-control concept of the Wii.

So who would bet against the Wii U, a games console controlled by an iPad-like screen? Costing a hefty €375 (don't bother with the cheaper €325 version), it meets the recession head-on with a defiant belief in its own worth.

The second screen is intended to deliver new ways to bring games to life, but often ends up cumbersomely forcing you to switch focus between your TV and your lap. Some games can be played in their entirety on the small display, however, freeing up the telly but somehow defeating the purpose.

With clumsy, slow menus and a typically one-eyed Nintendo viewW of online multiplayer, the Wii U doesn't make a great first impression despite its full backward compatibility with Wii games.

But a stream of reworked Nintendo classics like New Super Mario Bros U (see below) could sway many minds.

New Super Mario Bros U * * * *

Wii U

We've been here before. A lot. See that "New" on the front of the title? It means even less than before, with this side-scrolling platformer constantly revisiting old ideas, albeit often with a slight twist.

Mario has made the great leap to high-definition, of course. That in itself almost confers must-buy status, the colourful worlds a riot of glossy pixels just dying to be conquered.

But if you're looking for NSMBU to justify your expensive new Wii U toy, well, most of what's here could have featured on the old Wii.

Two-player mode, where one assists the main player by hindering enemies and placing helpful platforms, comes closest to nailing it but it's an exception.

Nintendo Land * * *

Wii U

Ticking the obligatory box marked "mini-games", Nintendo Land exists chiefly to highlight the new touchscreen and motion features of the Wii U. But Wii Sports served a similar role much more successfully at the Wii launch.

There's little of the delightful physicality of Wii Sports here but some of the mini-games – such as Luigi's Ghost Mansion – display flashes of brilliance that illuminate Wii U's future as a possible multiplayer star.

You can buy Nintendo Land separately, but it only makes sense as part of the free bundle with the premium version of Wii U.

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