Keep yourself and your stuff safe online

Microsoft has teamed up with author Linda McCarthy to offer a free downloadable version of her new book Own Your Space – Keep Yourself and Your Stuff Safe Online. The book covers a variety of computer security and online safetly topics and is aimed at internet savvy teens, as well as parents and educators. Personally I’d say that the chances of teens reading it all the way through aren’t great, but parents of online offspring should definitely get up to speed with this stuff.

Frankly I’d recommend that anyone who uses the internet and isn’t as capable as Sarah Connor at fighting off the machines, should read this.

Both PDF and XPS versions are available at the Microsoft Download Center.

Review: Jabra Clipper Bluetooth Headset

I’ve reviewed a couple of Bluetooth headsets on this site over the past months, and while I was quite impressed with both of them, they didn’t really fit my use pattern. I spend a lot of time listening to audio from my phone; sometimes it’s music, but mostly it’s audiobooks or podcasts. That being the case, I usually have a pair of stereo headphones connected to my phone. Sadly that isn’t helped my the position of the headphone socket on my Dell Streak (review coming soon), so I when gave me the opportunity to review a stereo Bluetooth headset, I jumped at the chance.

The Jabra Clipper suits my personal requirements very well, and judging my the number of people I see on my commute with headphones connected to their phones, I think it’ll suit a lot of others too. The device is in two parts – the clip, which houses the Bluetooth radio, controls, battery and mic, and the headphones, which are a set of in-ear buds on a shorter-than-normal wire, but otherwise not dissimilar to the pair that I wear normally, with three sizes of optional rubber tips.

The great advantage of this is that you can replace the provided headphones with your own set. Personally I’m using the supplied ones because they are the style that I prefer and I think they’re certainly on a par with my normal headphones of choice. However, if you’re the sort of person who likes to enjoy their music through a set of big cans, you’re golden. There’s no reason why you couldn’t plug in a pair of noise cancelling headphones either. The only issue would be that you’d end up with a lot of excess cable that the supplied buds don’t have. I’m glad to see that Jabra gives you the option since it seems to me that a lot of companies seem to think that they are capable of making the best set of headphones, to suit anyone, and staunchly refuse to be persuaded otherwise.

The clip itself is both light and sturdy. Jabra emphasise that you shouldn’t open it more than 4mm or terrible things will happen, but I don’t see that as a problem, having clipped it to a number of garments and the strap of my bag. Aside from a small hole for the microphone and +/- labels for the volume the face is plan black, but with a raised multi-function button and raised ring around it where the volume controls are. The only other features are “Jabra” along the spine of the clip and the headphone socket at one end of the hinge. Apparently we have the Danes to thank for the clean design; adding to their wonderful design back-catalogue which contains such successes as pastries and LEGO. Awesome.

Charging is done by a micro-USB connector under a discrete rubber cover on the opposite end of the hinge to the headphone socket. I found that a full charge (after a couple of cycles) got me a good 5.5 hours of playback with a couple of short calls thrown in.

One of the problems when reviewing a Bluetooth headset is that if you have any issues, you’re never quite certain whether it’s an issue with the headset or the device that you have it paired with. When I was making notes for this review, I had a few things that I’d marked down as “cons” that I later attributed to some combination of the implementation of the Bluetooth stack, or the media playing software, on my phone. One media player on my phone decided that a short press of the multi-function button should skip to the next track while another used it for play/pause. There’s nothing more confusing than inconsistency, but that’s not the headset’s fault. Other times I would find that playback would be fine, but after I’d paused it for whatever reason, when I restarted the playback it would stutter as if buffering for a while until I got sick of hearing it and either turned off Bluetooth on the phone, or power-cycled the headset so that the connection was re-made and I could continue smooth playback.

When I say “smooth playback” I really mean it. It’s been very rare that I’ve been able to tell that I’m not using wired headphones while I’ve been using the Clipper. The Bluetooth link to my phone seems to be very solid unless I really make a point of getting things in the way like metal and body parts at the same time (I don’t have any metal body parts, at the moment, so I don’t know if they’d cause problems on their own – if I’m able to keep my head alive Futurama-style when my body dies and stick it on to a T1000-like body in the future I’ll try it out and update this review). The range was pretty decent too – I was happily able to listen to my phone playing away on the kitchen bench while I did a few jobs in the garage, provided I kept roughly in line with the open door and didn’t get too much wall in the way.

Of course playback is only part of the story and if it was rubbish at making calls everything that I’ve said up to now would be moot to a point. I’m not big on talking on my mobile personally, but I would say that 90% of the calls that I’ve made/received in the last few weeks have been using the Clipper and not once have I had to repeat myself or has the person on the other end commented that I was difficult to hear. That’s good enough for me.

All in all, I think this is an excellent headset. I’m using it daily and expect that I will continue to do so for a good while to come. The dynamic range on the audio is certainly good enough for me and it’s a very neat, portable device. If I had to be really picky, the maximum volume could be a notch higher for use with quieter recordings, since it would be nice to have a little bit more available even if I wasn’t going to use it most of the time – normally though it’s plenty loud enough that if you’re listening to music, you shouldn’t keep it on max volume for long.

The Jabra Clipper is available from for a shade under £35, which makes it one of the lower priced Bluetooth stereo headsets, so I would say it was great value.