Let's get back to my purses, I mean sacks. Sorry, bags. Whatever. A robotic recorded voice has just said: "Please wait while we verify your bags." Which is quite literally doubly amusing, because although I quite clearly have just the one bourse, the auto checkout robot thinks I have put two of my bourses in the bagging area. Oo-er, sounds a bit rude!Regular readers will remember that I have form with self-checkouts, as featured in another recent blast from the past. Bloody repeats.Hmm, should I do as I'm told and wait here feeling dopey (Cf. Snow White jokes) next to a flashing red beacon that seems to scream GUILTY! GUILTY! until a tired and frustrated supermarket employee notices my plight?No I don't think I will wait around, thank you, Tesco. This is a supermarket, not International Departures or a rock concert, so I don't think I need you checking my bags before I've even done anything. Nor am I a child who needs the help of a spotty adolescent in a blue tennis shirt, trainers and niqab to poke around in my Osprey backpack of computer kit and cables in order to confirm what a ****ing bag is.I was running late already and my backpack weighed a ton, so I dumped the intended purchases under the scanner and set off to find another shop.
Indeed, the bag was a little heavier than usual, as I confirmed to myself using the bathroom scales when I got home that night: it came to 8kg. I was teaching all day and the bag was stuffed not just with a laptop, tablets and cables but also with books, newspapers, magazines and handouts. Looking back, it's probable that the self-checkout machine was surprised at so much weight, not to mention width and girth, thrust to suddenly into its baggage area.But then I was only doing as asked after touching the "I have my own bag" button on-screen. The machine asked me to put my luggable in her receptacle before exposing my first item. So without further prompting, I unzipped right there and then, and dropped my hefty sack onto her tray.By then, Tesco will have stopped playfully teasing its customers with double-entendres. It seems that our angst is finally getting through and that someone in Tesco Towers has decided to do something about self-checkout machines.Unlike competitors such as Morrisons, which even ran an ad campaign promising it would provide more humans on tills, Tesco will be upgrading The Voice. Out goes "Unexpected item in baggage area". Out goes "Please take your items". Out goes "Sir Tom Jones".
Over the next few months, its self-checkouts will regale us with a totally refreshed range of naughty catchphrases such as: "Find your favourites or have a browse", (ooh missus); "Please check your packing area", (phwoar); and "Coupons can now be inserted" (way-hey).Some of the phrases are less welcome. Being a man of limited stature, I was a bit annoyed by "We'll be with you, shorty” until it was pointed out that I'd misheard and she was actually telling me “We'll be with you shortly”.A common theme whenever something goes wrong will be a curiously familiar-sounding promise of assistance. Can you spot it?I don't know who wrote the script but I’m guessing Tesco ran the trial in its Winterfell branch.Even though it's probably too late for the self-checkout machine developers to incorporate new ideas at this stage, I would like to suggest the following additions next time round:Yet I am not ashamed to admit that I, for one, will miss the familiar if unhelpful tones of "Unexpected item in baggage area". It was the perfect euphemism for almost every occasion.
This means I must now wait and make do with my personal innuendo store in old age. As I will tell my fellow retired geezers in the pub about my latest nubile live-in nurse, accompanied by a wrinkled wink: "Help is coming."One Education, an Australian offshoot of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project, has opened preview sales for an heir to the XO computer.The “Infinity” has a modular design so while the quad-core, 1.5GHz CPU is baked in, it's possible to replace the battery, camera and just about anything else thanks to the presence of three ports. The screen's replaceable too, so that one can add a touch panel or upgrade resolution as future modules emerge.The first models will ship with Android Lollipop, with Linux and Windows versions promised real soon now. USB-C provides connectivity and power. WiFi and Bluetooth take care of comms.One Education's thinking is that the OLPC's XO is lovely, but that kids will outgrow it and want better machines. By making the Infinity modular, it's hoped kids will not only upgrade their machines but then downcycle their old modules, thereby making it cheaper for younger kids to get their first machine. Or kids could swap components.
Modules will be ranked by Type, Generation, and Performance Level. The first is self-explanatory, Generation will describe when it was made and Performance Level describes grunt.The design of the Infinity is sufficiently advanced that early tests have occurred and the results have made One Education sufficiently confident that they can bring early models to market. If you're keen, the organisation's site is replete with options to reserve one of the first 1,000 devices. You'll need between US$249 and $299 to secure your rights to a purchase, but there's no indication of exactly when a device will trouble your post box. Pics Ever had a great idea but not everyone seemed to think so? That was pretty much what happened to Yamaha when it first launched MusicCast back in 2003. A CD-ripping music server with wireless client speakers and Ethernet too, if needed. What a great idea.
A cast of thousands... not quite but Yamaha's MusicCast is available on a broad range of audio products
What wasn’t so great was that you couldn’t load up the 80GB HDD with your pre-ripped MP3s from a PC, and it didn’t stream net music services either. A high price and not enough boxes ticked kept the MusicCast MCX-1000 and its audio satellites from gaining mainstream appeal.So, back to the drawing board and some 12 years later, Yamaha unveiled an entirely new MusicCast system in secret to the press in Hamburg recently, that it claims ticks more boxes than any other competing audio streaming kit on the market.One thing is for sure, Yamaha has stacked up an impressive range of MusicCast devices – 23 at the last count – all featuring Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, Ethernet and Bluetooth connectivity, plus Apple AirPlay support.At the event, Thorsten Eckartz, AV division director for Yamaha Europe explained that besides joining up to an existing network, each MusicCast product could function as an access point. The thinking here is that you don’t need to hook up to an existing Wi-Fi network to stream hi-res audio to a MusicCast device, as each supports Wireless-Direct streaming technology.Users with MP3, WMA and AAC audio files up to 48kHz, Apple Lossless at 96kHz, WAV, AIFF, or FLAC files at 192kHz can stream to any device. If you want to go a step higher to stream 5.6MHz DSD audio, then the supported kit falls into three categories: Hi-Fi active speakers, Hi-Fi receivers and AV receivers.
Alongside the SRT-1500 sound deck the app shows the audio selection menu of streaming service, AirPlay, server, internet radio, Bluetooth, HDMI, TV and analogue sources. Click for a larger image
Talking of support, controlling all of this is the MusicCast app for Android and iOS and Yamaha was keen to show it all in action on its new kit – many on show were still prototypes – and regardless of mobile platform, it didn’t miss a beat. So, no red faces there ... but the MusicCast presentation intro was another matter.I sat through it so you didn’t have to. Cheesy slides appeared with a voiceover – sounding a bit like he should be announcing where the nearest curry house was from your local cinema – that made great claims for the life-enhancing qualities of MusicCast. Eternity was mentioned frequently, and you can’t get more life-enhancing than that, surely.“A single flower and mellow music pull the two of us together in a special space. My wife softly spoke, gazing at a pinpoint of light reflected in the glass. I feel I caught a glimpse of eternity there.” So the medication’s working then..? There was more, but I'll spare you. To be charitable, it was perhaps a case of lost in translation.
Evidently, Yamaha wants to make sure that its MusicCast brand revival doesn’t underwhelm this time, as the whole ecosystem is designed to work with just about anything – smartphone, tablet, computer, NAS box, CD, even your TV can stream audio to MusicCast kit. And if you hook up a vinyl record player to a suitable receiver such as the R-N602, your record collection can be broadcast around your home too.Having Ethernet on every device enables areas with weak Wi-Fi reception to join in the fun if you’re networked up or have Powerline adapters. And of course, it doesn’t matter which platform you’re using if you’re simply going to rely on Bluetooth for playback, so even Windows Phone users can get streamy.A glance at the spec released today suggests that it's Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR (A2DP, AVRCP profiles) across the board. Its DSP tech does feature the proprietary Compressed Music Enhancer which has been featured on Yamaha kit for quite a few years now, that makes rather dubious claims "to restore what was lost" which is presumably some kind of equalisation profile and may well make MP3 playback easier on the ear.
Lest we forget having Apple AirPlay not only works for iOS devices but iTunes on Macs and PCs. Spotify, Juke, Napster, Pandora, Rhapsody and Sirius XM are also supported, depending on your region.Besides being the curator of the music sources, the iOS and Android app side of things also makes light work of configuring the connected zones in the home equipped with MusicCast devices. During the demo there appeared to be just four zones, however, up to ten available and even more if your mix of devices includes say, a couple of AV receivers. Get too much traffic going on though and you'll need a reliable network support it as each zone can be independent (playing different music) and zones can be grouped or set so all play the same music.Now some of those 23 devices mentioned earlier are going to be variations on a theme.For instance, the RX-V79 series for newbies and enthusiasts has the RX-V479, RX-V579, RX-V679, RX-V779, and the new Aventage RX-A50 family for audophiles comprises the A-550, A-750, A-850, A-1050, A-2050 and A-3050 – prices range from £400 to £2000. So that’s 10 off the list.