Question: I have a Nordmende 32-inch television but I find that the sound quality is very poor. Could you recommend speakers that I could connect up to amplify the sound? I don't want anything too powerful but just to have decent sound without me having to max the volume on the television as I have to do now. I don't want any additional remote control with speakers. - Noreen O'Neill, Limerick, via email
Noreen, the problem you have is one that almost everyone who has changed their telly in the last three to four years also has.
Ever since televisions moved to a flat screen format 20 years ago, the audio has suffered. But it's gotten so much worse in the last couple of years as TVs have become wafer thin. This is great for wall-mounting, but it's disastrous for built-in speakers, which have become almost universally tinny.
You have a couple of options with regard to an external speaker (or 'soundbar' as they're often called). But before shelling out, try one thing first: adjust the TV's position. TVs with rear-facing speakers, for example, can often sound a lot better when the set is placed between two and six inches from a rear surface such as a wall. The sound is naturally amplified - this may be enough to become bearable without an additional speaker.
If you've tried this or it just doesn't apply, you can buy one of dozens of speakers that can be connected to your telly.
The first thing to check is what physical means you have to connect a speaker to the TV.
Some tellies still have a traditional 3.5mm headphone port (like the normal one you'd see on a laptop or an older phone). If it has this, you can connect most speakers (big or small) that you'll find in any electronics shop, or maybe even one you already have, using a €5 connection cable with dual 3.5mm tips.
This will give you a relatively basic sound, but you won't need to mess with any secondary remote controls.
For more sophisticated systems, most tellies have a few different ports around the back (or side) that let you do this. For example, you might see a slot that says 'HDMI Arc'.
This will work with medium to high end home cinema audio systems.
However, given that the TV you mention is a budget model, I'm assuming that you're not in the market for something of this ilk.
(I'm currently trying out Panasonic's highly-rated HTB-700 home cinema speaker and, while it's excellent so far, it costs over €400, which is probably more than the cost of any Nordmende 32-inch TV.)
That leaves you with either a budget cable-connected soundbar or a wireless model.
You can expect to spend between €50 and €100 on either of these, although be warned that most TV soundbars do indeed come with their own remote control.
However, even a basic version will be a lot better than the speaker you have on your current TV. For a 32-inch soundbar, Panasonic's HTB8EB (€70 from Harvey Norman) is probably perfect although it does, alas, come with a remote.
It can be connected by cable or wirelessly over Bluetooth (if your TV has that).
My elderly mother recently got a phone bill with a number of calls apparently made in the middle of the night when she's fast asleep. She has been on to Eir customer service who thought it might be Phonewatch but the Phonewatch people insist it's not. It's not a lot of money, about €6 per month. But we're at our wits end wondering what it could be. Could her phone be hacked?
If it was being hacked by a scammer, it's likely that the amount would be a lot more than €6 per month as it would probably be to premium-rate calls. That said, there are scams that deliberately keep the amounts low so as not to arouse suspicion.
However, if Eir's customer service has looked at it and there are no red flags activated, it begs the question whether there is any other connected entity in your mother's home that may be making those calls. For example, are there any care devices that could be connecting to the phone line, maybe on an automated basis?
A family friend recently found that her father's SOS button, worn around his neck, had been making similar regular calls. What happened in that instance was that the device had been mislaid for a few weeks and had been checking in with a pre-designated number. (In this case, there was a worrying issue about the service apparently not following up on any of those many calls back to base, but that's another column.)
It's worth doing an audit of any or all phones and devices that connect to the phone line: sometimes it's easy to forget that certain gadgets were signed up to a particular number.
Recommendation: Panasonic HTB8EB (€69 from Harvey Norman, Expert or DID)
Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Ring Door View Cam
€220 from Littlewoods
This is the newest version of Amazon's 'smart' Ring doorbell, which acts as a remote interactive video camera. Like its predecessor, it has a microphone, camera and speaker so you can see (and talk to) who's at your door via a live feed on your phone. It will also send you 'motion alerts' and works off a battery.
Arlo Pro 3
€250 (from April)
Arlo, a well established home security camera brand, has just launched its new Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight Camera. It runs on rechargeable batteries and can blast 2,000 lumens of floodlight onto an area when it detects any movement. It has high definition video, two-way audio, night vision and a built-in siren.