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SpaceX astronaut launch: here’s the rocket science it must get right.

Two NASA astronauts, Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, will make history by travelling to the International Space Station in a privately funded spacecraft, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule. It will also be the first time astronauts have launched from US soil in nine years.

The astronauts will take off lying on their backs in the seats, and facing in the direction of travel to reduce the stress of high acceleration on their bodies. Once launched from Kennedy Space Centre, the spacecraft will travel out over the Atlantic, turning to travel in a direction that matches the ISS orbit.

With the first rocket section separating at just over two minutes, the main dragon capsule is then likely to separate from the second stage burn roughly an hour later and continue on its journey. All being well, the Dragon spacecraft will rendezvous with the ISS at 15:40 (GMT) on May 28.

Read more: SpaceX reaches for milestone in spaceflight – a private company launches astronauts into orbit

Space mission launches and landings are the most critical parts. However, Space X has conducted many tests, including 27 drops of the parachute landing system. It has also managed an emergency separation of the Dragon capsule from the rocket. In the event of a failed rocket launch, eight engines would lift the capsule containing the astronauts up into the air and away from the rocket, with parachutes eventually helping it to land. The Falcon 9 rocket has made 83 successful launches.

Docking and return

The space station has an orbital velocity of 7.7km per second. The Earth’s rotation carries launch sites under a straight flight path of the ISS, with each instance providing a “launch window”.

ISS orbit. Author provided

To intercept the ISS, the capsule must match the station’s speed, altitude and inclination, and it must do it at the correct time such that the two spacecraft find themselves in close proximity to each other. The difference in velocity between the ISS and the Dragon capsule must then be near to zero at the point where the orbits of the two spacecraft intersect.

Once these conditions are met, the Dragon capsule must manoeuvre to the ISS docking port, using a series of small control thrusters arranged around the spacecraft. This is due to be done automatically by a computer, however the astronauts can control this manoeuvre manually if needed.

As you can see in the figure below, manoeuvring involves “translation control” as indicated by green arrows – moving left/right, up/down, forward/back. The yellow arrows show “attitude control” – rolling clockwise/anti-clockwise, pitching up/down, and yawing left/right.

How to manoeuver a spacecraft. Author provided

This is complicated by Newton’s first law of motion – that any object at rest or in motion will continue to be so unless acted upon by an external force. That means any manoeuvre, such as a roll to the right, will continue indefinitely in the absence of air resistance to provide an external force until it is counteracted by firing thrusters in the opposite direction.

So now that you have a grasp of orbital manoeuvring, why not have a go yourself? This simulator, provided by Space X, allows you to try and pilot the Dragon capsule to the ISS docking port.

The astronauts will return to Earth when a new set are ready to take their place, or at NASA’s discretion. NASA are already planning the first fully operational flight of crew Dragon, with four astronauts, although a launch date for that has not yet been announced and will undoubtedly depend on the outcome of this demonstration flight.

New era for spaceflight

The launch puts SpaceX firmly ahead of the other commercial ventures looking at providing crewed space launches. This includes both Boeing’s Starliner, which first launched last year but was uncrewed, and Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser which is planned to be tested with cargo during a trip to the ISS next year.

The ability of the commercial sector to send astronauts to the ISS is an important step toward further human exploration, including establishing a human presence at the Moon, and ultimately, Mars.

Read more: To the moon and beyond 4: What’s the point of going back to the moon?

With companies competing, however, an open question remains whether safety could at some point be compromised to gain a commercial edge. There is no suggestion this has happened so far, but any crewed mission which failed due to a fault stemming from economic concerns would have serious legal ramifications.

In a similar way to modern aircraft legislation, a set of space safety standards and regulations will need to be put in place sooner rather than later. For commercial lunar and beyond missions we also have to ensure that any spacecraft does not contaminate the location they are visiting with germs from Earth.

With more nations and companies developing plans for lunar missions, there are obvious advantages in international cooperation and finding cost efficient launch methods. This is not least because it’s not as dependent on the whim of elected governments for direction, which can change completely from one administration to the next.

So for us scientists looking to expand our knowledge of space, it is a very exciting moment.

Gareth Dorrian, Post Doctoral Research Fellow in Space Science, University of Birmingham and Ian Whittaker, Lecturer in Physics, Nottingham Trent University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Working from home: Twitter reveals why we’re embracing it.

The effects of coronavirus on the economy already appear bleak. Unemployment and government borrowing are soaring and a recession seems inevitable.

Yet amid these worrying developments there are positive elements to be found. Many of those who have kept their jobs have found they can keep working without the need for a daily commute. Recent research suggests that up to half of UK workers can do their jobs remotely.

And it’s not just office workers. Teachers, GPs, politicians and judges have all swiftly adapted to professional isolation. In just a few weeks, the traditional workplace has been transformed.

Recent tweets – Working from home

Suddenly fears that technology will destroy job have given way to relief that it can help save them. (Although the prospect of robot doctors treating patients, drones transporting vaccines and 3D printers producing face masks does not seem like a bad idea all of a sudden.)

Of course, working from home (WFH) requires considerable levels of adjustment. But data from our ongoing research shows that, on the whole, people seem seem quite positive about this aspect of their restricted lives.

Read more: Working from home? Why detachment is crucial for mental health

In the middle of March 2020, we collected tweets using the hashtags #Coronavirus and #COVID-19 to observe how people were reacting on social networks to the pandemic. After processing 60 million tweets and removing the retweets, we focused on 6,500 messages from March 14 to April 6 that contained the hastag #WFH.

The idea was to assess how people were feeling about working from home. Overall, we found that 70.6% of the tweets reflected a positive sentiment towards the idea. The tweets that came from UK users after the lockdown on March 23 saw a rise in the positive feedback sentiment to 78.6%.

We used something called “sentiment analysis” to assess the tweets. For our purposes this was a lexicon-based approach where every tweet is represented as a group of words, which are each scored on a scale from negative to positive. A mathematical algorithm is then applied in order to a make a final assessment of the tweet’s overall sentiment.

Overall sentiment before lockdown, limited to #WFH.
Overall sentiment after lockdown, limited to #WFH.

We were also curious about the topics people were talking about. One of the more popular methods to extract themes from text is called “topic modelling”, which is essentially a way of processing large amounts of data – in this case tweets – to find out what words and phrases are being used the most.

Word power

Words such as “respect”, “inspire” and “proactive” appeared between 1,000 and 3,000 times in the #WFH tweets, indicating a positive response to the concept of working from home over the course of the pandemic.

Generating a word-cloud to observe the frequency of the words appearing in the tweets during this period, we also found the overall sentiment of the social media response to #WFH to be positive. There is a clear sense of productivity, with words such as “team”, “tips”, “satisfaction”, “service”, “remote”, “support” and “good” among the most prominent.

Word-cloud for tweets from 27th to 30th of March 2020 #WFH.

To build a deeper understanding of these positive feelings, we then mapped the sentiment generated from the tweets per day before the lockdown in the UK.

As the effects of coronavirus and lockdown intensified, so too did the mentions of working from home on Twitter. But there were dips too, most noticeably at the end of March 27, where there was a steep drop in #wfh references of nearly 50% which lasted for three days. We believe this could align with media reports highlighting concerns about children’s wellbeing during lockdown and widely expressed worries about the security of online meeting software, which were also expressed in some of the tweets.

There were negative experiences recorded too. For workers with children to look after, the changed dynamic of domestic life created new and widespread challenges. Yet this also inspired moments of gratitude and offers of help. The tweets we looked at showed evidence of small online communities forming, with people very happy to share #WFH tips and ideas.

Of course, working from home is not a new concept. But coronavirus has, in a very short space of time, forced it to become a normality for much wider sectors of the workforce. And overall, our research shows that the response to this has been positive.

This raises a new quandary about what will happen after the lockdown is lifted. Will businesses start to widen the practice to allow more flexibility to their employees? And if they don’t, how will employees feel about a return to the “old” ways of doing things? No doubt the response on social media will give us some clues.

Fiona Carroll, Senior Lecturer in Computing and Information Systems, Cardiff Metropolitan University; Mohamed Mostafa, Senior Lecturer in Data Science, Cardiff Metropolitan University, and Simon Thorne, Senior Lecturer in Computing and ​Information Systems, Cardiff Metropolitan University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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How Artificial Intelligence Can Save Journalism

artificial intelligence
Newsrooms need to take advantage of what AI can offer and come up with new a business model. (Shutterstock)

Patrick White, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM)

The economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented crisis in journalism that could decimate media organizations around the world.

The future of journalism — and its survival — could lie in artificial intelligence (AI). AI refers “to intelligent machines that learn from experience and perform tasks like humans,” according to Francesco Marconi, a professor of journalism at Columbia University in New York, who has just published a book on the subject: Newsmakers, Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Journalism.

Marconi was head of the media lab at the Wall Street Journal and the Associated Press, one of the largest news organizations in the world. His thesis is clear and incontrovertible: the journalism world is not keeping pace with the evolution of new technologies. So, newsrooms need to take advantage of what AI can offer and come up with new a business model.

For Marconi, journalists and media owners are missing out and AI needs to be at the heart of journalism’s business model in the future. As a professor of journalism at the Université du Québec à Montréal, I have been closely following the evolution of this profession since 1990, and I am mostly in agreement with him.

In Canada, The Canadian Press news agency is, for example, one of the rare media outlets to use AI in its newsrooms. It has developed a system to speed up translations based on AI. The _Agence France-Presse_ news agency (AFP) also uses AI to detect doctored photos.

AI does not replace journalists

Artificial intelligence is not there to replace journalists or eliminate jobs. Marconi believes that only eight to 12 per cent of reporters’ current tasks will be taken over by machines, which will in fact reorient editors and journalists towards value-added content: long-form journalism, feature interviews, analysis, data-driven journalism and investigative journalism.

At the moment, AI robots perform basic tasks like writing two to six paragraphs on sports scores and quarterly earnings reports at the Associated Press, election results in Switzerland and Olympic results at the Washington Post. The outcomes are convincing, but they also show the limits of AI.

AI robots analyzing large databases can send journalists at Bloomberg News an alert as soon as a trend or anomaly emerges from big data.

AI can also save reporters a lot of time by transcribing audio and video interviews. AFP has a tool for that. The same is true for major reports on pollution or violence, which rely on vast databases. The machines can analyze complex data in no time at all.

Afterwards, the journalist does his or her essential work of fact-checking, analyzing, contextualizing and gathering information. AI can hardly replace this. In this sense, humans must remain central to the entire journalistic process.

A broken business model

Marconi is quite right when he explains that the media must develop a paid subscription model, get closer to their communities with even more relevant content, develop new products (newsletters, events, podcasts, videos) and new content. AI can facilitate some of this by generating personalized news: recommendations for readers, for example.

In this sense, AI is part of a new business model based on breaking down media silos. There needs to be a symbiosis in the sense of establishing a “close collaboration” between the editorial staff and other media teams such as engineers, computer scientists, statisticians, sales or marketing staff.

In a newsroom, more than ever before, databases must be used to find stories that are relevant to readers, listeners, viewers and internet users.

And there are already various AI tools available to detect trends or hot topics on the internet and social media. These tools can also help newsrooms distribute content.

Beware of bias

Of course, newsroom size must be taken into account. A small weekly or a hyper-local media organization may not have the means to act quickly in adopting AI. But for the others, it’s important to start taking action right away. Journalists need to be better trained and begin to work with start-ups and universities to get the best out of this. AI is not a fad. It is here to stay.

Journalism is not keeping up with new technologies, writes Francesco Marconi in Newsmakers, Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Journalism.

Take the current example of COVID-19. This is an opportunity to analyze public health data to make connections, analyze and dig into the data neighbourhood by neighbourhood and street by street. AI can help with that. But it takes well-trained data reporters to do this work.

One of the dangers of AI, on the other hand, is algorithm bias. Because algorithms are designed by humans, there will always be biases that can alter data analysis and lead to serious consequences. And human verification of content before publication will always remain a safeguard against errors.

AI has also helped developing systems for detecting fake videos (deepfakes) and fake news, which are of course supported by experienced journalists from Reuters and AFP, for example.

In this sense, the transformation of newsrooms is only just beginning and Marconi’s essay is a must-read for identifying survival scenarios for media organizations and journalists. Because that’s what it’s all about. We need to better equip our newsrooms and completely rethink the workflow to achieve better collaboration and better content that will attract new and paying subscribers.

Patrick White, professeur de journalisme , Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM)

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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As the coronavirus interrupts global supply chains, people have an alternative – make it at home

Many items labeled “Made in China” could be made on people’s desktops instead. kynny/iStock via Getty Images

Joshua M. Pearce, Michigan Technological University

As COVID-19 wreaks havoc on global supply chains, a trend of moving manufacturing closer to customers could go so far as to put miniature manufacturing plants in people’s living rooms.

Most products in Americans’ homes are labeled “Made in China,” but even those bearing the words “Made in USA” frequently have parts from China that are now often delayed. The coronavirus pandemic closed so many factories in China that NASA could observe the resultant drop in pollution from space, and some products are becoming harder to find.

A sample from the thousands of items that can be 3D printed from free designs. Joshua Pearce, CC BY-ND

But at the same time, there are open-source, freely available digital designs for making millions of items with 3D printers, and their numbers are growing exponentially, as is an interest in open hardware design in academia. Some designs are already being shared for open-source medical hardware to help during the pandemic, like face shields, masks and ventilators. The free digital product designs go far beyond pandemic hardware.

The cost of 3D printers has dropped low enough to be accessible to most Americans. People can download, customize and print a remarkable range of products at home, and they often end up costing less than it takes to purchase them.

From rapid prototyping to home factory

Not so long ago, the prevailing thinking in industry was that the lowest-cost manufacturing was large, mass manufacturing in low-labor-cost countries like China. At the time, in the early 2000s, only Fortune 500 companies and major research universities had access to 3D printers. The machines were massive, expensive tools used to rapidly prototype parts and products.

More than a decade ago, the patents expired on the first type of 3D printing, and a professor in Britain had the intriguing idea of making a 3D printer that could print itself. He started the RepRap project – short for self-replicating rapid prototyper – and released the designs with open-source licenses on the web. The designs spread like wildfire and were quickly hacked and improved upon by thousands of engineers and hobbyists all over the world.

Many of these makers started their own companies to produce variants of these 3D printers, and people can now buy a 3D printer for US$250 to $550. Today’s 3D printers are full-fledged additive manufacturing robots, which build products one layer at a time. Additive manufacturing is infiltrating many industries.

3D printers turn digital designs into toys, household items and even medical equipment. Monty Rakusen/Cultura via Getty Images

My colleagues and I have observed clear trends as the technology threatens major disruption to global value chains. In general, companies are moving from using 3D printing for prototyping to adopting it to make products they need internally. They’re also using 3D printing to move manufacturing closer to their customers, which reduces the need for inventory and shipping. Some customers have bought 3D printers and are making the products for themselves.

This is not a small trend. Amazon now lists 3D printing filament, the raw material for 3D printers, under “Amazon Basics” along with batteries and towels. In general, people will save 90% to 99% off the commercial price of a product when they print it at home.

Coronavirus accelerates a trend

We had expected that adoption of 3D printing and the move toward distributed manufacturing would be a slow process as more and more products were printed by more and more people. But that was before there was a real risk of products becoming unavailable as the coronavirus spread.

The U.S. government is curating a collection of 3D printing designs for medical personal protective equipment. Dr. Beth Ripley, VHA 3D Printing Network

A good example of sharp demand for 3D printed products is personal protective equipment (PPE). The National Institutes of Health 3D Print Exchange, a relativity small design repository, has exploded with new PPE designs.

Already, because of the global impact of the coronavirus, 94% of Fortune 1000 companies are having their supplies chains disrupted and businesses dependent on global sourcing are facing hard choices.

The value of industrial commodities continues to slide because the coronavirus has put a major dent in demand as manufacturers shut down and potential customers are quarantined. This will limit people’s access to products while increasing their costs.

The disruptions to global supply chains caused by strict quarantines, stay-at-home orders and other social distancing measures in industrialized nations around the world present an opportunity for distributed manufacturing to fill unmet needs. Many people are likely, in the short to medium term, to find some products unavailable or overly expensive.

In many cases, they will be able to make the products they need themselves (if they have access to a printer). Our research on the global value chains found that 3D printing with plastics in particular are well advanced so any product with a considerable number of polymer components, even if the parts are flexible, can be 3D printed.

Beyond plastics

Making functional toys and household products at home is easy even for beginners. So are adaptive aids for arthritis patients and other medical products and sporting goods like skateboards.

Metal and ceramic 3D printing is already available and expanding rapidly for a range of items, from high-cost medical implants to rocket engines to improving simple bulk manufactured products with 3D printed brackets at low costs. Printable electronics, pharmaceuticals and larger items like furniture are starting to become available or will be in the near future. These more advanced 3D printers could help accelerate the trend toward distributed manufacturing, even if they don’t end up in people’s homes.

There are some hurdles, particularly for consumer 3D printing. 3D printing filament is itself subject to disruptions in global supply chains, although recyclebot technology allows people to create filament from waste plastic. Some metal 3D printers are still expensive and the fine metal powder many of them use as raw material is potentially hazardous if inhaled, but there are now $1,200 metal printers that use more accessible welding wire. These new printers as well as those that can do multiple materials still need development, and there’s a long way to go before all products and their components can be 3D printed at home. Think computer chips.

When my colleagues and I initially analyzed when products would be available for distributed manufacturing, we focused only on economics. If the coronavirus continues to disrupt supply chains and hamper international trade, however, the demand for unavailable or costly products could speed up the transition to distributed manufacturing of all products.

Joshua M. Pearce, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, and Electrical and Computer Engineering, Michigan Technological University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Microsoft Announces New Surface Lineup

Microsoft Surface Go 2

The most notable change is the bigger display up .5 of an inch to 10.5. The Go and Go 2 are the same size but the bezels have been made smaller. They’re not as slim as the sides found on their Pro X, but who currently wants that considering it can’t run x86/64 without emulation, right?

The resolution has been bumped to 1920×1280. Their base model (the one to avoid) has that nasty Pentium Gold processor comes in at $400 (They haven’t updated Ireland’s store yet).

The new Core m3 model is where it’s going to be at. It’s an 8th Gen processor and they state that it’ll have a 64% performance increase. Which should be sufficient as the original Surface Go was 40% slow.

The m3 model also comes with SSD instead of eMMC so performance gains all-round here. There’s also 8GB of RAM and a price tag of $629. (Probably around €580).

You can of course get the Gold processor combined with 128GB SSD which would alone be a good increase of speed over the original Surface, but if you’re going to spend any extra money – it should be for that processor.

Surface Go 2 – Source:

Microsoft Surface Go 2 – Source: Microsoft Surface – Youtube

Microsoft Surface Book 3

Microsofts new heavy hitter in the form of the Surface Book 3 is their most powerful laptop to date. It’s solely geared towards professionals who require desktop level performance on the go.

Microsoft claim it will have a 50% increase in speed over the old model ‘Surface Book 2’ and up to 17.5hours of battery life. Whoa, that alone makes me want to consider one! My Macbook barely gets 5.

It will come in two sizes 13″ and 15″ high DPI PixelSense displays, 10th Generation Intel Core processors and a choice between Geforce GTX or Quadro RTX GPUs (Wow!). You can max it out with 32GB of RAM. This will be a content creation powerhouse.

Surface Book 3 starting price is $1599 and available from the 21st of May.

Microsofts latest Surface Book 3 – Source: Microsoft Surface – Youtube

Microsoft Surface Earbuds

Earbuds are earbuds right?…. Not exactly

These new Surface Earbuds have some interesting features. You can let your voice do the typing – using Microsoft 365, you can type using dictation in Word, Excel or Powerpoint & Outlook email. Imagine that, working while going for a run. Madness.

Microsoft Earbuds snugly fit into your ear with a stylistic design. – Source:

They come featured with intuitive touch and voice control, all day battery, four in-ear anchor points to help with weight distributing comfort and three sets of silicone ear tips.

Full gesture support tap, touch and swipe meaning you can skip, change volume, call or get assistance with ease.

Microsoft Surface Earbuds – Source: Microsoft Surface – Youtube

Omnisonic Sound?!

They come with ‘omnisonic’ sound as Microsoft states. To us common folk that means custom designed precision drivers to deliver a great experience. Sorry Microsoft but aren’t all speakers “custom” and “designed to deliver exceptional acoustic experiences”. We’ll see. They also feature dual microphones which is the norm these days.


Microsoft are claiming their upcoming Earbuds will have 8 hours on a single charge and 24 hours total from the case.

Please note that the smaller print states:
[2] Pairing functionality requires a Surface PC running Windows 10 with the latest updates.
[3] Fast Pair requires Android Nougat.

They come in at USD $199 launch price, a $50 reduction than the retail.

Microsoft Surface Headphones 2

Offering better battery life & sound than its predecessor (Shouldn’t every product do that?) Anyway their first ones were a complete flop as they were charging top-tier Sony prices, and had no distinct advantages against the competiton.

Microsofts sleek looking Surface Earphones 2 – Source:

This time they’ve knocked the price considerably (US prices for original were $350, now $249 for the 2nd iteration) so they’re competing with an entirely different market. Way to say “We can’t compete with that quality or price”, Microsoft.

The design is much the same except they now come in black, have a cushy plush material on the top. Functionality in the design differs though, as the ear cups rotate 180 degrees to make them more comfortable for around your neck.

It has the same physical dials which seemed a little weird on the original model, but in the real world work better than touch controls. These are used for managing volume and its 13 levels of noise cancellation. They look like they’re made to last too!

Inner gears of the dial mechanism in the Surface Earphones 2 – Source:

They still feature a 40mm “Free Edge” driver as before.

All in all, the battery life would make it an ideal companion for anyone that travels a lot or requires a full days work without absoulutely peeling themselves off the floor when they trip over the cable. Though it’s battery life is still not as generous as Sony’s 30 hours of battery on their 1000XM3.

Microsoft’s latest Surface Headphones 2 – Source: Microsoft Surface – Youtube

The Surface Headphones 2 will be retailing for $249 USD, and they’ll hit stores on May 12th. For us in Ireland – who knows. Soon I hope.

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Apple’s Made It Less Annoying To Unlock Your Phone When Wearing A Mask

Currently, when an iPhone owner swipes to unlock their device – It will try to scan their face if Face ID is enabled on the device. If they are wearing a mask though, You need to tap the Face ID prompt or wait for the scan to fail before you can unlock your phone by typing in your passcode on a second screen prompt.

This latest update simply removes the wait for the Face ID unlock to fail.

When you first swipe to unlock, the device will attempt to scan their face while also offering a passcode input option on the same screen (Why this wasn’t done in the first place I’ll never know)

It only asks you to enter a passcode if the device detects that your mouth is covered though (Maybe this will work with an unruly beard which I’m sure some of you have right now!). If you’re not wearing a mask, Face ID will work as normal. 

Unfortunately this iOS Beta isn’t available to the public as of yet.

You currently have two options to sort out this issue

You can shut off Face ID completely in the settings of your device and just type your passcode eavery time you want to unlock your device.

Or you can also try to make use of a workaround that involves taking a new Face ID scan with a mask covering half of your mouth.

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Robots Connecting Elderly With Loved Ones During Coronavirus

zorabots james

The Belgian AI / Robotics company is lending a (friendly) army of robots to nursing homes to help residents keep in contact with all of their loved ones after the government banned visitors to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

The company, named ‘Zorabots’, said they would initially loan 60 of its robots named “James” to nursing homes as a trial, and if successful it could lend hundreds more if required. The friendly helper robot can navigate rooms, connect with others through video chat on Facebook or Messenger. They really should have called them Jeeves.

Josef Gouwy 93 happily waves to a family member on the ‘James’ robot’s “face” in Ostend, Belgium.

Belgium’s government has banned visitors from nursing homes much like Ireland, alongside measures including limiting shop opening times and closing schools to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Nele Vandewiele, director of Residential Care for the city’s government stated that the robots could help residents who were missing contact with the outside world and their families.

zora bots james
Adree Desmaelle, 76, happily getting a demonstration on how to connect to one of her family members

ZoraBots is an interactive and caring Robotic platform solution which runs on the world’s most popular “humanoid type” AI Robots, such as ‘Pepper’, which is often used for education as well as healthcare.

ZoraBots is an interactive and caring platform solution which runs on the world’s most popular humanoid robots. ZoraBots makes friendly, intelligent companions with just one goal: making your life better- more comfortable, fun, healthier and relaxed.


Video source Softbank Robotics

Do you think Ireland should be doing the same?

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Apps That Automatically Sort Your Files

We’ve all been there, Desktop and Download folder absolutely covered with files and then it takes an hour or more to sort it.

What if i told you there was an easier way?

You can download Apps for Windows & Mac That will sort your files according to terms you pick. Such as file type, location, size… This can happen either when an App is downloaded or when you scan certain folders using the app.

Great, now what do I do? Download some of these programs and try them out yourself!

1. DropIt

DropIt was selected as number one mainly because it’s free, and it gives you the basics of automatic file movement. There are no “if” or “then” statements at play here, which I personally find quite handy for automatically sorting and renaming Photos.

To organize files, you need to create some rules and actions. You Right click the float icon and choose Associations then Click on the + button to create rules. You can drag/drop files & folders into the icon also to start processing them.

Dropit – Source: Dropit

“You can define how to filter your files (by name, directory, size, date, properties, content, regular expressions) and associate one of the 21 available actions to perform (Move, Copy, Compress, Extract, Rename, Delete, Split, Join, Encrypt, Decrypt, Open With, Print, Upload, Send by Mail, Create Gallery, Create List, Create Playlist, Create Shortcut, Copy to Clipboard, Change Properties and Ignore)” – Dropit

Some other noteworthy features of DropIt are group association – e.g. one profile for work, one for home. You can also SPLIT and JOIN files or send files via Email using Dropit, which is pretty awesome

You can download DropIt here

2. File Juggler

File Juggler is free for 30 days then €47.00 after the trial expires. It probably is the most extensive on this list, so you would be better suited to at least try DropIt first, see how much it gets used then decide if you want to move to File Juggler.

Some of the features are moving files, renaming files, deleting files, organizing documents such as looking for keywords or dates in the contents of the files and then move/delete/rename them according to what it finds and where you specify to move it.

FileJuggler – Source:

The layout might seem a bit ‘algebra’ at first but really, it’s quite simple. You set the folders you want to monitor, then “if” any of the following – file extension is pdf / doc / ppt / xlsx.. “Then” Move file to “Documents”

You can download the free trial of FileJuggler here

3. Easy File Organizer

Easy file Organizer is another freemium option with some unique features such as charts showing you how many items you’ve organized, their kind, amount, size, date etc.

You can sort files by kind, extension, size, date, including searching in sub-folders, using custom rules. One nice feature is organizing files into folders generated from the file name – Which comes in very useful for photos.

Easy File Organizer – Source:

With Easy File Organizer you can set up multiple folders to be searched using the same filter. For example you have documents in your Documents folder, on your USB sticks & External Hard drives (Or want to save them to your External HDD) and also in your Downloads folder. You can then scan all of these directories automatically and put them wherever you want depending on filetype. So PDF’s could go into Documents/PDF and DOC files could go into Documents/

Another nifty feature is that all this is always reversible, so you can undo it if you can’t find something you just Downloaded for example.

You can download the free trial or buy Easy File Organizer here

Mac Option

“What about Mac” you say? Well, I’m actually using a ‘Mac’ and there (in my opinion) is only one option worth noting. It’s light weight, easy to use and un-obtrusive. It also gives a little popup every time it redirects a file, which is useful because you can click it and go straight to the file in Finder.


This thing is a godsend for Mac users, as we all know Finder is a bit of a nightmare to navigate sometimes.

Hazel can do almost everything any of the above can, but it has some extras that are awesome, such as moving files depending on what site they were downloaded from.

Hazel – Source:

Hazel can open, archive, tag and even upload. It will also delete your trash automatically after a certain time or if it’s over a certain size. Some of its other useful actions to note are: Spotlight integration, Photos & iTunes importing, Notifications, Tags, AppleScript & Automator. 

So for example, if you download a mp3 or album, it can automatically import it into iTunes to a specific playlist depending on what you choose – for e.g. Artist name, genre etc.

Hazel costs €30, and a free trial can be downloaded from here

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The Truth About The iPhone SE

Now before I start, I am a fan of some Apple products, I have owned numerous and still own some.

But these products are the original iPad Air, a 2014 MacBook Pro Retina 15 and up until recently a iPhone 7 (we’ll get to that shortly)

The newest iPhone SE to put quite frankly; is a bit of a joke. It looks like a phone that Apple just made from leftovers and bares no real resemblance to the original SE which was a massive hit.

The old vs the new

Why anyone would want a phone that looks like a 3 year old iPhone which at the time of released already looked old because all of the competitors were moving to semi-fullscreen phones. Keeping in mind the first SE was only a year beforehand. If they had any sense they would have made the SE design the same but slimmer and slightly larger. And let’s be honest they should have put two cameras in it at the very least. The 11’s camera is good but for the price – not really.

The reason people bought the original iPhone SE was for two reasons. It was small, fast, capable but more importantly for Apple users – it looked like a new iPhone and was stylish. The new iPhone SE in 2020 is neither of those things.

Keep in mind Apple recently started trying to sell castor’s for a Mac pro for 700 dollars. Four simple feet is 400 dollars. They’re really pushing the envelope on what they expect people to pay for these days.

Prime example being I traded my second hand iPhone 7 complete with dying battery for a brand new Huawei p20 lite with 48mp triple camera setup. It would have cost me an extra 250 euro to upgrade to an iPhone 8 which is really not much different to the 7.

The ecosystem of Apple is a great one but they’ve come to the point that the ecosystem is just too hard for the average person to easily join it. The very reason I don’t have an iMac or Mac Pro as I just made a hackintosh. It’s nothing but overpriced hardware. The only logical reason to get one is the software.

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Nintendo Switch’s New Update Lets You Transfer Game Downloads To SD Cards

Ver. 10.0.0 (Distributed April 13, 2020) of Nintendo Switch’s firmware is now available for download.

The latest update adds the ability for you to transfer any of your downloaded games directly from the systems onboard memory to your SD card, or vice-versa, allowing you to free up some essential storage.

Other changes in the update allow you to change your Avatar on your User’s Profile from a new selection of Animal Crossing – New Horizon icons, and the ability to remap your switch’s buttons. For example swapping ZL > L, possibly making some games such as Mortal Kombat a bit easier.

Nintendo Switch’s new Button Mapping interface.

Custom configurations can be saved as favorites in System Settings > Controllers and Sensors.

Custom configurations are stored on the Nintendo Switch system.

Configurations can be customized for the following controllers: Joy-Con (L), Joy-Con (R), Nintendo Switch Pro Controller.

Button configurations can also be customized on the Nintendo Switch Lite system.

This feature is not available for other controllers.

On each system, up to five favorite custom configurations can be saved for Joy-Con (L), five for Joy-Con (R), five for Nintendo Switch Pro Controller. Five configurations can also be saved as favorites for Nintendo Switch Lite.

A second screen switch?

More interestingly than all of this is that the firmware adds preliminary support for a new hardware model called “nx-abcd”. Within the DRAM profiles in the firmware – 3 out of 5 of these are for “nx-abcd” and it seems this has TWO displays.

Nintendo have commented publically stating they have “no plans” to release a new model of switch this year. But hey, have they ever lied about a release?.. (Yes… Every SINGLE time they’ve lied to us)

Some lesser important features in the update

  • A bookmark feature to ‘News’ – Limited to 300 bookmarks.
  • A new section in User Settings for ‘Play Activity’
  • General system stability improvements.

Performing the update

In most situations your Switch will automatically update. But if you are unsure, or wish to update… You can verify your current menu version and manually start the update by navigating to System Settings and clicking on “System Update”. Your current version will be displayed beneath this.

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How to Add a Ninja Forms Loading Icon

I searched everywhere on the web for this and only found one (that didn’t work), So here is my method of adding a loading icon / loading spinner to Ninja Forms (Or probably any form such as Gravity Forms / WPForms) using BlockUI.

The site I was working on had a lot of ‘Actions’ that ran in the background on Submit, so the form took forever to send, with nothing visually moving to let people know something is happening. Initially I wanted to append a spinner inside the button but I couldn’t figure that out (If you know how – hit me up below).

You can see the working loading icon at the bottom of the page. This will display in the centre of the screen with a semi-transparent background hiding your content.

What you’ll need:

  • Insert Headers & Footers Plugin (If you only have one form).
  • Insert HTML widget. (If you have multiple forms) – I used Insert PHP/HTML.
  • BlockUI js file.
  • FTP Access to your WP Site to upload BlockUI.
  • A fully CSS loading icon. I got mine (below) from here.
  • My below script to either go in your sites header or on each.

1. Lets get started.

Upload the blockUI file you downloaded to your webserver into this directory:

2. Headers & Footers Method

Skip to Insert PHP/HTML Method if you have more than one form.

  • Install the Install Headers & Footers plugin.
  • Login to your WP Site and Navigate to “Settings -> Insert Headers & Footers”
  • Copy & paste the code below (Edit it to match your BlockUI directory from Step 1 and your submit button id – We’ll get to that.)
<script src=""></script>
<!-- include BlockUI -->
<script src=""></script>
<script type="text/javascript">
    // unblock when form has submitted
    $(document).on( 'nfFormSubmitResponse', function() { $.unblockUI(); });

   $(document).on('click', '#nf-field-XXX', function() {
   $.blockUI( {
       message: '<div class="loader">Loading...</div>',
       css: {
            padding:    '15px',
            'text-align': 'center',
            color:      '#212121',
            border:     'none',
            backgroundColor:'rgba(255, 255, 255, 0.0)',
            cursor:     'wait',
            '-moz-border-radius':   '3px',
            'border-radius':        '3px'
        } } );

You need to change “” to your BlockUI location.

You also need to change #nf-field-XXX to your button id. This can be found by opening your website page with the form in Google Chrome, right click on your Submit button and click “Inspect”.

In the below example you can see it is #nf-field-582

3. Insert PHP/HTML Method

Skip this step if you only had one form and completed Step 2.

  • Log in to WordPress and Edit the page that has your form on it, using your editor of choice (I used Elementor).
  • Add your Insert HTML/PHP widget.
  • Copy & paste the code below (Edit it to match your BlockUI directory from Step 1 and your submit button id – We’ll get to that.)
<script src=""></script>
<!-- include BlockUI -->
<script src=""></script>
<script type="text/javascript">
    // unblock when form has submitted
    $(document).on( 'nfFormSubmitResponse', function() { $.unblockUI(); });

   $(document).on('click', '#nf-field-XXX', function() {
   $.blockUI( {
       message: '<div class="loader">Loading...</div>',
       css: {
            padding:    '15px',
            'text-align': 'center',
            color:      '#212121',
            border:     'none',
            backgroundColor:'rgba(255, 255, 255, 0.0)',
            cursor:     'wait',
            '-moz-border-radius':   '3px',
            'border-radius':        '3px'
        } } );

You need to change “” to your BlockUI location.

You also need to change #nf-field-XXX to your button id. This can be found by opening your website page with the form in Google Chrome, right click on your Submit button and click “Inspect”.

In the below example you can see it is #nf-field-582

Repeat this same process for every page that has a form. Changing only your #nf-field-XXX

4. Add your Pure CSS loader of choice. (Or Mine)

  • If you’re using a custom loading icon remember to change the line in the code you added to match. These work well as they are already called ‘loader’
<div class="loader">Loading...</div> 

Change “loader” to your “.loader_name” from the CSS you add. You can also change the ‘Loading…’ text or add:

<p>Your text here</p> after the </div> closing tag.

Adding your CSS loader

From your WordPress, go to Appearance > Customize > Additional CSS.

Copy and paste your loading icon CSS or use mine (The one at the top of the page)

.loader:after {
  background: #4a54ff;
  -webkit-animation: load1 1s infinite ease-in-out;
  animation: load1 1s infinite ease-in-out;
  width: 1em;
  height: 4em;
.loader {
  color: #4a54ff;
  text-indent: -9999em;
  margin: 88px auto;
  position: relative;
  font-size: 11px;
  -webkit-transform: translateZ(0);
  -ms-transform: translateZ(0);
  transform: translateZ(0);
  -webkit-animation-delay: -0.16s;
  animation-delay: -0.16s;
.loader:after {
  position: absolute;
  top: 0;
  content: '';
.loader:before {
  left: -1.5em;
  -webkit-animation-delay: -0.32s;
  animation-delay: -0.32s;
.loader:after {
  left: 1.5em;
@-webkit-keyframes load1 {
  100% {
    box-shadow: 0 0;
    height: 4em;
  40% {
    box-shadow: 0 -2em;
    height: 5em;
@keyframes load1 {
  100% {
    box-shadow: 0 0;
    height: 4em;
  40% {
    box-shadow: 0 -2em;
    height: 5em;

You’re Done!

You can edit the style of the “BlockUI” giving it a background by changing the transparency in backgroundColor field in Step 2/3.

I’ve set it to 0.0 which makes the Block fully transparent. 0.3 would be less transparent etc.

For more blockUI styling options & demos click here

If you have any issues with this, or know how to get a spinner to work within a Ninja Form submit button, let me know below in the comments.

Any method of ‘appending’ a spinner to a Ninja Form Submit button I found online simply didn’t work.

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How Cloud Helpdesks Give A Better Customer Experience

Why businesses are adopting Cloud Helpdesk Software to streamline ticket management workflows and improve overall customer experience.

Running a business is a challenging task, to begin with. But when you get down to it, you see there are plenty of other sub-tasks, some more important than others, that can prove to be quite tricky as well. Case in point: Effectively managing the customer experience.

Customers today have come to expect quite a bit from the companies they give their business to. Today, they want smooth and seamless service, and customer support has to be even more effortless. And what makes things even more complicated is the fact that their demands and expectations keep evolving at a rapid pace.

In the face of such circumstances, companies have felt the need for a robust solution that can effectively help them contend with this challenge. And the answer? Cloud-based help desk ticketing software. You see, on the outset, it would seem that such tools only serve a minimal purpose, i.e., enhance their help desk ticket management process. But the truth is that these tools are capable of so much more. In essence, they are comprehensive solutions that help companies manage customer queries/problems, deliver solutions, and track and generate reports for the overall process.

When used correctly, cloud ticketing software can completely overhaul the quality of the customer experience.

Here’s how they do that:

  1. Optimize ticket management workflows: One of the key benefits is that such software enables customers to submit their concerns and complaints to the company round the clock. It then automatically filters these tickets and assigns them an order of preference or whatever other criteria the business may have selected. And since all of this is on the cloud, one can manage tickets from wherever they are.
  2. Support across all channels: The basic principle at work here is that everything is first brought under the umbrella of a centralized database. It is then accessed via a dashboard that gives staff the requisite visibility along with the appropriate tools to resolve the customer support tickets efficiently and quickly. It also offers omnichannel support, i.e., the ability to use touchpoints like social media, emails, chat, and more to connect with customers wherever they are and deliver personalized support.
  3. Enhanced customer experiences: This is more of an overall advantage. In essence, you see cloud ticketing software enable a variety of functionalities and features, such as self-service, expedited resolution time, and security, among other things. And all of these factors, together, contribute to ensuring the delivery of a top-notch customer experience every single time they engage with your business. It is because all of these factors are fundamental to an ace customer experience, and when they are seamlessly managed, it becomes that much easier to achieve substantially better customer experiences.

As technology and the digital realm continues to evolve at a rapid pace, customers’ expectations will only become more complicated. And to effectively deal with that challenge, your business will need the robust support of a full featured Help Desk Software.


Top Free Helpdesk Software

  • ConnectWise Control
  • Deskero
  • Freshdesk
  • SysAid
  • ManageEngine ServiceDesk Plus
  • Zoho Desk
  • Hesk

Top Paid Helpdesk Software

  • Freshdesk
  • Zendesk
  • Casengo
  • Mojo Helpdesk
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What You Need To Know When Buying a HDMI Switch

HDMI is becoming the industry standard to connect HD devices to digital displays. Unfortunately, many consumers are tricked to pay outrageous prices for fancy unessential features.

If you want to purchase an HDMI switch with the right features, read on.

Personally I bought the UGREEN 3 Port HDMI switch, as it supports HDMI CEC, has 3 ports, 4K support and a sturdy remote control meaning that you can hide away the switch. It has helped expand my older HDMI TV so that it works with all my devices.

HDMI CEC ensures that when used with a CEC enabled TV/device, the remote for the device can switch the channel, without using the HDMI switch’s remote.

HDMI Switch Configurations

A HDMI switch connects multiple HD devices to one digital display. It means the switch has multiple HDMI inputs and one HDMI output. There are varied HDMI switch configurations available – 3 port, 6 port, and 8-port.

The best HDMI switch configuration depends on the number of HD devices you currently have. For example, if you have 3-4 HD devices in your home, the best HDMI switch configuration is a 6-port HDMI switch that will ensure you can connect all your HD devices to HDTV and you will also have some spare ports that would prove useful in case you buy more HD devices in near future.

HDCP Transparency

Audiovisual content is mostly distributed in digital form on the web and on physical devices. To protect unauthorized access or prevent copying of copyrighted content, the entertainment industry uses HDCP to protect the content at last stage of distribution stages.

If you want to play HDCP content, you need the HDMI source, HDTV, and all connecting devices in between to be HDCP compliant. The HDMI auto switch should be HDCP compliant or feature HDCP transparency which would ensure you can watch HDCP content on your HDTV in the best manner possible. Without HDCP transparency in your HDMI switcher, you would not be able to watch HDCP protected content on your digital display.

External Powering

The HDMI devices are not designed to power other devices. Many HD switcher manufacturers design the devices to draw from HDMI sources which might overload the HDMI devices. A good HDMI Switcher would have an external powering source that ensures the safety of HDMI devices and also ensure good quality HDMI transmission.

Intelligent Input Selection

As you know HDMI Switcher connects multiple HDMI sources to your digital display. A good HDMI switcher would have an intelligent input selection that will automatically switch to the recently activated HDMI source.
Without intelligent input selection, you might be required to walk to the device and select the desired HDMI source manually using the buttons provided on HDMI switch.

Remote Control

A remote control is a useful accessory in a device that allows you to remotely control the features of the device. In an HDMI switch, it is used to select any HDMI source with a press of a button. Without a remote control, you would be required to walk to the device and select the desired HDMI source manually.

The HDMI Auto Switch is a useful addition to your home theater setup that will bring in the much-needed convenience and allow you to enjoy content from multiple HDMI sources without any hassle.

Do you know any other important features in HDMI Switches?

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Sony unveils new ‘Haptic’ PS5 Controller

In a shock announcement from Sony on Tuesday – They revealed a new and “improved” controlled that will come with the next-gen PlayStation 5.

Their newly labelled ‘DualSense‘ controller has some shiny new features not found in their current PlayStation DS4 controller.

The first being a ‘Haptic Feedback‘ system (I’m assuming like the new Xbox One controller?)
They stated the system will offer more intricacy and immersion by expanding upon the type of vibrations possible. This seems a page out of Microsofts book by putting the motors under each finger tip for more precise vibrations.

More interestingly Sony stated: “We also incorporated adaptive triggers into the L2 and R2 buttons of DualSense so you can truly feel the tension of your actions, like when drawing a bow to shoot an arrow” – Now, whether this will make gaming more difficult by adding tension and possible vibrations(?) to L2 and R2 is another interesting question.

Sony says that it has renamed its ‘Share’ button which allows online users to share clips of their games with others in the PlayStation community, to the ‘create’ button. They offered very little detail on this, but usually in this context, ‘create’ means you will probably be able to edit your clips for that perfect 360 no-scope montage. Details on this will be revealed closer to launch date.

Image Source – Sony

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Artificial Intelligence & Advanced Machine Learning

Facebook met 2020 with a statement about what social media development trends will be relevant next year. Augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and machine learning were named among others.

It will be surprising for user experience designers to find out that in the future the main page of the site will turn into a kind of anachronism, and user interfaces will do fine without it. Its place will be taken by more targeted and personalized landing pages.

Advanced machine learning will help webmasters, web developers, and UX / UI designers get user information based on their browser history and location, for example.

In turn, this information will help site owners and designers to develop web pages relevant to the interests of these users that will meet people with offers of those products or services that visitors might want to look for, say, on an online store site.

Artificial Intelligence is no stranger to web design and development. Any automated system that provides a personalized experience based on user preferences and perceived behavior qualifies as AI.

The average web user will soon begin to wait (and demand) a much more multidimensional personalization of their online experience. It’s an online experience in which the websites they visit and interact with know what they want before they even realize it.

Brutalism in Web Design

Before material and flat designs jumped onto the stage, strict nets and blocks with sharp edges ruled the ball.

Last year, large companies diligently supplemented the organic designs of their sites like beauty packaging companies with smooth curved lines and smooth shapes, sometimes creating real works of art. The goal of such designs is to make the brands behind them more human, breathe soul into them and, thus, attract the attention of the target audience and earn its trust.

By the end of 2019, a new cohort of designers was formed, which sought to rethink the traditional layout of web design. In their work, they tried to emphasize the connection with the design of good old static sites with a clearly structured layout. The purpose of this was to express brand affiliation with the target audience through originality and individuality.

Sites with such a “wrapper” will not escape your sight: a combination of horizontal and vertical color blocks, a neighborhood of contrasting colors – the appearance of such web resources will differ in the presence of asymmetric visual effects, which are diametrically opposite to what we are all used to seeing in more conservative designs.

Moreover, brutalism has always placed above all the functionality of the resource, and often the aesthetic side of design was sacrificed to this functionality. Therefore, one of the most sought-after web design trends for next year can be called simplicity and accessibility. Of course, brutalism has the potential to create attractive and not without beauty sitesFind Article, but you can turn to this style if you need to create a simple and functional site that pursues exclusively business goals.

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Best Power Banks For Your Smart Device

There are so many on the market, but which is best for the money and your device? You might need it for your iPad when you’re traveling and then for your Phone or your Vape when you’re home. Read on to find out which Power Bank will suit you best.

We’ll review some of the best portable chargers for smartphones that are offered by recognisable brands. Some of these chargers are only recently launched by them, which means they have more up to date features such as USB-C and Laptop charging.

A few of the power banks that I am going to mention are high MAH which means that they can also be used to charge a laptop.

So let’s start discussing the best portable chargers that will suit your every need and make all of your trips more enjoyable.

Best Portable chargers for smartphones Reviews 2019-2020

  1. Anker PowerCore 10000 PD

Anker PowerCore 10000PD is one of the latest power bank offering by Anker brand. Anker became one of the top-selling online gadget stores which create its own products and supply to different countries worldwide. Mostly they manufactured powerbanks for mobile and laptops, hands-free’s, and other cell phone accessories.

This portable charge provides a fast charging of 18W. There is two types of USB port – That is Type C and Type A. It is 10000mah which is enough to charge 100% of any phone, period. But what we were impressed by in this model is its speed. So i suggest that if you have a 2000 to 4500mah smartphone you must try it.

  1. Mophie Power stations USB-C XXL

Mophie manufactured for devices like phablets and tablets. Because of the high MAh capacity, It can charge big devices which have 4000 or 4000+ mah battery size. It has a full capacity 19500MAH charge & 30W output, which is awesome. This is the charger that I mentioned earlier that you can use it to charge your laptops with. There are two USB-C and USB-A charging ports. Its size is a little big because of its high mah so it’s not exactly a ‘pocket’ charger, but considering it’s mostly for Tablets, iPad’s and laptops, you can throw it in their bag.

  1. Lifeproof Life Active Power Pack 10

If you are going for a long trip or you are a great traveler then this “power pack” is a great option. It has a fully charged capacity of 10,000mah. There is two USB ports on the side. There is a LED charge indicator installed to show you much charge is left in the power bank. It is one of very few portable chargers which is waterproof. Its cover is made up of strong rubberised material. If you work in construction or a trade, then this is for you.

  1. Ravpower USB-C Power bank 26800

One of the highest mAH power banks on our list of best portable chargers. Those who have big cell phones such as the latest iPhones or Samsungs simply have to buy it. Its 28,800 MAh battery will easily charge your phone and then your laptop as well. There is two port types available USB Type-A and USB-C. If you have a Macbook, then buying this to charge via USB-C is a great decision.

  1. Aukey USB-C Power Bank

Last but not least, the Aukey USB-C power bank has enough capacity to charge some of your higher capacity batteries. This charger would be more aimed at the Tablet market rather than laptops. This option is more slim and stylish design compared to the other large batteries on this list. There are four USB ports installed on this charger and all of them are USB-C type. Note you can get USB C to Micro USB cables if required.

Also, it reasonably sized, so you can easily carry it in your pockets. It provides 20000mah full capacity charge.