Are we agreed on what we actually mean by 'green gadget'? Two DAB radio manufacturers have taken differing views on what 'eco' actually means.
Separated at birth: Pure Move vs Roberts SolarDAB
Are we all agreed what a 'green' device is? No? Perhaps it is any device that doesn't need to be plugged in? Certainly this is the definition that many consumer electronics manufacturers appear to assume is the case.
So, it's safe to say that any portable radio that does not include a wind-up mechanism, solar power cells or a wind turbine constructed on top of it cannot possibly be considered green. No! Wrong again!
This is certainly the view of the Eurocrats who have architected the Eco Design Directive to ensure that virtually every consumer device works with less than 1W of energy in standby and adopts various practices to ensure that products can be disposed of without harming the environment.
But Brussels has not yet started to hand out merit badges to those device manufacturers who have included any form of renewable energy mechanism, and perhaps with good reason.
Just because a device converts solar or kinetic energy in order to power its circuitry does not make it green. Neither does finishing the appliance in a jade livery mean that it will use fewer Watts. Yet there are devices available proudly demonstrating green credentials to consumers who are genuinely concerned about the environment, but confused as to the best way to serve their consciences.
Last year, Pure introduced the Move portable radio, which has obtained the endorsement of the Energy Saving Trust - a weighty endorsement.
Most DAB radios come with a heavy brick-style plug which, when turned on, hums as it heats up and are the main culprits for wasted energy. Thankfully, the plug on the Move is much smaller, but is also more expensive to manufacture.
Additionally, the Move uses a rechargeable battery, which, Pure claims, saves up to £330 a year - although I do not know anyone who spends this amount on batteries for just one device. Pure also claims to have reduced the packaging on all its products and switched to soya-based ink. However, the Move's construction looks a little fragile - and it looks a little tacky and dated with its plastic/metallic look.
The other main British manufacturer of DAB radios is Roberts, which has released a radio that can power itself by sunlight. About twice the size of the Pure Move, it is a robust looking device with a detachable aerial that can easily be stowed away on the back. The solarDAB is available in five different colours.
Signal quality is excellent - and the sound from the 80mm speaker is good considering it uses just 1W of power. The radio's design provides a good, solid platform, so the unit can cope with uneven surfaces when used outdoors.
Roberts says that the launch of the solarDAB comes just ahead of new EU legislation that will require the UK to start recycling up to 25 per cent of all batteries from 2012 and 45 per cent from 2016. Like the Move, the SolarDAB also uses rechargeable batteries, which are topped up by the radio's top-mounted solar panel.
But we would like to add one caveat: the creation of photocells is not as benign because it takes a great deal of strong chemicals and energy to produce photovoltaic materials. Considering the relatively short product lifecycle of a portable radio, it is debatable that, over the life of the product, it will save enough energy to negate the energy used in its manufacture.
Both radios performed well - with the Move lasting longer between recharges. However, the Roberts solarDAB theoretically could last indefinitely if exposed to enough sunlight on a daily basis - but how likely is this in the northern hemisphere? It does, however, have a superior construction and finish, even if it is significantly larger.
Technology clinic: wireless storage
A recent house move has given me the opportunity to upgrade my home network. I now have a one terabyte network attached storage device physically connected to an 802.11n wireless router. The aim was to consolidate all my data and media files onto this drive, but I find that streaming video is problematic as the stream has a tendency to freeze. Sometimes, I cannot see the drive on my network at all on my PC. Any suggestions would be gratefully received.
Phil Monk (posted on consumer technology forum, www.theiet.org/forums [opens in new window]).
Have you given your network a fixed IP address? This is often the most common reason why your drive sometimes cannot be visible on your network.
Additionally, a poor connection may be due to the distance or the physical obstacles between the router and your PC. You could add a 'range extender' to boost the single.
Thanks for the suggestions. I have given my drive a fixed IP address - and have not had a repeat of my earlier networking issues thus far (although it's only been a couple of days). If I still have a problem, I may have to cable up my house which is something I was trying to avoid.
I found your special report on wearable electronics fascinating. I simply was not aware that there were so many products on the market already. However, a great many of the products that you showcased were priced in dollars. Are these also available in the UK? Can you list any useful sources where we can buy products of this ilk?
Paul Smith (by email)
Thank you for the feedback, Paul. We sourced the garments and the products from many companies in the UK, North America and continental Europe. The prices were mainly supplied by companies themselves. Unfortunately, I cannot suggest a single source of wearable electronics - as the range of clothing and products (as you could see) is very diverse. However, I would recommend that you visit www.talk2myshirt.com [new window] - a regularly updated blog that frequently lists the latest wearable electronics products that are available - and often where to buy, too.
Recycling iPod batteries
I read your article on the new EU battery recycling directive with interest, but how am I supposed to recycle the battery in my new second-generation iPod Touch? The battery compartment is sealed and therefore, I cannot remove it for safe recycling. What are my options?
Kaval Shah (by email)
Unfortunately, very few! A quick check with Apple suggests that the company will recycle spent batteries - when replacing it with a new battery. This will be free within the one year warranty period. After this, there will be a charge. This is clearly not good enough.
In the US, Apple does operate a free battery recycling programme - but this programme is not, to our knowledge, extended worldwide. However, the EU battery directive will eventually mean that Apple will have to introduce a scheme in the UK and other EU territories. it will be compelled to alter its design so that the battery compartment can easily be separated. However, this will be at least a year away as the firm has just launched its second generation iPod Touch and iPhone range for this year.