Howie’s Tech News

Resident ‘Gadget Boy’ Howard takes a look at the month’s news in tech, science, and stuff that he would like people to buy him. Please.

(scroll down for this month’s top gadgets)


Trump’s Space Force is go… apparently

US President Donald Trump recently announced that he wished to create a wing of the armed forces charged with defending American interests in space. His Space Force (a name which probably took him several weeks to come up with) is actually gaining traction, despite not yet having been approved by congress. Already action has been taken to organise this new military branch, which Donnie imagines will be like Buck Rogers, but in space ships all named after him. Or something.

Trouble is, as stupid as it all sounds, he’s probably bang on the money. Space defence is something that all governments should be looking into, despite being representing a depressing future where humanity can’t keep their endless conflicts on terra firma. Trump’s suggestion of the Space Force is pretty logical, although – as many have pointed out – the Air Force is already charged with matters of extra-atmospheric goings-on.

I assume all this research and money invested (should it get approval – if congress even exists in the future) will result in satellites that can fire missiles at any target on earth from orbit in seconds. Space Race 2 has most probably begun, and this one won’t end in something as universally uplifting as landing on the moon.


French school to ban smartphones

In a bid to help kids concentrate on their studies, and to fight the rising tide of phone… addiction (sorry, just got a notification I had to check), the French government passed a law recently to ban smartphones in schools. The pupils will either have to leave their phones at home for the school day, or completely switched off.

Wait? So, they can still take them to school, but they have to remain switched off? Oh, okay. Sure, that’ll stick. I’m sure teenagers will totally resist the temptation to quickly turn their phone on, check their messages, and then power down before monsieur ou madame notices. Sure.

To be fair to Macron’s government, they also recently banned phones being used in cars, regardless of if you’re driving or not. That’s a good idea, as people who use their phone while at the wheel are total scumbags. Hey York drivers – if you’ve ever been fiddling with your phone between 8.15 and 8.45am on the road to Haxby and a cyclist on a black road bike has shouted at you, calling you a dick, if was definitely me.


NASA funds competition for printed Mars houses

While Donald Trumps swishes toy space ships around his head in the Oval Office, pew-pewing at Melania, and bragging that he plans to open his next failed Hotel venture on Mars, NASA is actually getting the job done. They recently started sorting the finalists of a very special competition; one that could see the winner scoop $2 million and the chance to advance our species to another planet.

For the past four years they have been accepting entries based on the concept of 3D-printing habitats on the surface of Mars, giving future astronauts (and colonists) some place to live. As simply flying a bunch of bricks and builders up to the red planet would be impractical, the space agency wished to explore how robotic machines could use the materials already up there to ‘print’ a dwelling. Swish.

I’ve experimented with 3D printing myself in the past, although never anything more advanced than a plastic Batman symbol that I mistakenly taught my eldest son to throw like a batarang. It was dangerous. Printing an entire house on the surface of an alien planet is slightly more difficult I imagine, but it makes total sense to have a lovely home ready for humans after they first step foot on Mars.

But hey, just like my first (more like sixth or seventh) attempt at a Batman symbol went wrong, imagine going all the way to Mars to find the printer ran out before finishing the toilet. Lol.


I’m concerned people are watching me

I live in a smarthome; that is to say, my home has lots of internet-connected devices, from my lights that I can turn on with my voice, to the thermostat I can fiddle with from another country. However, I got quite alarmed recently after discovering that security camera maker Swann had failed to notice a flaw in it’s cloud-based systems which allowed just about anyone to log into a private network and have gander through a stranger’s home camera system.

I don’t have any Swann cameras, but most of my house is covered by these WiFi-enabled peepers. I got them for security, obviously, and also to be ‘that guy’ who is always flicking through an app on his phone to check that his house plants haven’t turned into Little Shop of Horrors-style monsters that are eating the guinea pigs. However, I’m worried that a Russian hacker is, right now, peering at me from across the internet, judging me for having not yet done last night’s dishes.

Swann say they’ve now fixed the issue, and I hope that has led the makers of my cameras to look more closely at their own potential security flaws, because – and those who know me well will confirm this – I am a fan of the nakedness. I’m nude right now, actually. Don’t take my word for it; ask my neighbours. I’m sitting in the garden while writing, and they’re pretending not to notice on the other side of the low fence. Still, better them then some dodgy Russian bloke.


Gadget Guide

Nerf Laser Ops. Laser tag is back! Nerf, maker of foam flinging toy blasters, has recently released a new set of light-shooting guns. The new Laser Ops sets use your smartphone and augmented reality to have fun, and there is absolutely no chance that you’ll get a foam dart in the eye, as there is with normal Nerf blasters. The toys look pretty great, and – we’re happy to learn – are big enough to be comfortably wielded by adults. Nice. £40 from




Blinkers. As the nights will soon start to draw in, cyclists should once more begin to consider their night-time riding visibility. Blinkers is one set of lights that draws inspiration from cars, as they’re indicators for your bike. Hook them up an use the wireless remote control to signal to other road users, telling them which way you’re turning. Blinkers also feature a bright heads-up light, and a laser light that projects around you. Many birds, one solid technological stone. £99 from


Fun gadgets under £20

Mini Karaoke Microphone. Hook this wee thing up to your phone and sing. Damn you, sing! £9.99 from

Game of Thrones Egg Cup. Give your breakfast the Westeros treatment with t his Iron Throne replica. Because. £9.99 from

Kickstart this

We check out a new product currently seeking funding on

Smartibot. This is the world’s first artificial intelligence enabled cardboard robot that you build yourself. Smartibot works with your smartphone, meaning you can use your mobile as a remote control, or by attaching it to your robot, as it’s brain.


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