The coffee pot that only works in windy weather

Seriously. Coffee when it’s windy. Not because it’s cold outside and the coffee is warming. Instead because it’s windy outside and it’s the power from a turbine that’s warming the coffee. Researchers at Lancaster University have developed the Windy Brew, a kettle which can only boil when there is exactly enough energy from a nearby wind turbine.

Read more about how and in particular why.

Use your phone to make coffee

Not by stirring. By tapping. On the WeMo app that I’m sure is used for far more sensible things but now is how to control the Mr Coffee 10-Cup Smart Optimal Brew machine from Belkin. Basically, it’s a kettle.

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 08.57.47

Bean there, done that? If you’re instant-ly sure you want this then let me take you off the boil for a second and say it’s currently only in America. But don’t hold back: go buy it from Amazon USA for around $142 US (prices vary a tiny bit).

You’re smart, you know what it does. It makes coffee. You tell it to by tapping on your phone. And yes, it sends messages back. But there is more.

Sleep in a little longer by setting up a brewing schedule in advance. Then monitor your brew status from your smart device to make sure you don’t get out of bed before the coffee’s ready. The free WeMo® app lets you configure weeks’ worth of brew times at once.

Mr Coffee 10-Cup Smart Optimal Brew official site

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve though, hmm, it’s nearly December, better get my early morning coffee kettle sorted out for the month.

Actually, I’m more of a tea drinker. Ever since I worked in a pub lugging barrels around and coffee was the only thing available, I’ve come to associate it with being outside and working so I will often have it then. Always black, always very strong. If you can’t chew it, I don’t want to know. But for the rest of the time when I’m in my office or at my desk – and I’m a writer, the rest of the time is a lot of time to rest in – then I’m a tea jenny.

Which means it is my civic duty to point out that there is already a tea iKettle and it is available in the UK. Here it is on Amazon UK. Curiously, Amazon USA doesn’t stock the tea kettle, only this new coffee one. Is this national stereotyping gone mad?

The 5 tools you need for writing, definitely

Actually, you could do this with three and those would be:

1) Computer
PCs are cheaper, Macs are better. I vote Mac because I put a big value on the time I no longer have to spend piddling about getting Windows to damn well work. But Macs don’t suit everyone; if you like piddling, save yourself some bucks and get more geeky enjoyment with a PC.


If you’re buying a PC, you have a million options and every one ends up with you having to make a choice between models that have some clear and obvious difference like a 1Mhz speed increase or something. Ignore salespeople, they will – seriously – just read you the spec sheet you were already puzzling over. Instead, ask a friend who has one, get their recommendation and then see if you can find it on the end of this Amazon UK link. That way, if it all works out for you, I get some pennies from your having bought this way and if it doesn’t, it’s your friend who gets your support calls. Everybody wins and it costs me nothing.

If you’re buying a Mac, you’ve fewer options and they always end up with you needing to make a choice between two very similar models. In all cases, save money by buying the cheaper processor speed and spend money on extra RAM and extra storage space. You’ll thank me later, which is nice as I am going to suggest an Amazon link – here it is, do check this out – but I also think you should go into an Apple Store and ask there.

If you’re looking at me like that for the bit about processor speeds and RAM, Apple Store staff will just tell you straight what Macs are good for and not so good for. They’ll ask what you expect to be doing with Mac: be honest. Tell them straight that you should be writing but you’re going to distract yourself with a photography habit that you only do to be social, that you can stop any time.

They will translate processor speeds – actually, no, they won’t bother translating, they’ll just tell you what it means in terms you can use. And Apple Store staff are not on commission so they’ll push this stuff but it’s more from genuine enthusiasm.

Last, if you’re havering between a laptop, desktop or tablet computer, they all work, they all do the job. You will just typically get more done on the desktop, you will be substantially freer with the laptop and the iPad will do everything, everywhere but you need to think about it more as you go.

2) Word processor
Microsoft Word if you have to, if it’s already on your computer or if you know you like it. Google Docs is fine, if a bit clunky looking. If you did buy a Mac, you’ve just got yourself a word processor called Pages and the odds are that you may never need anything else.

3) Email
How else are you going to deliver work? It’s also great for pitches. Just for god’s sake make sure you get a sensible email address.

Get and use these three and you’re away to the races. But I’d recommend two more:

4) Somewhere to track what and where and when your work is
I track invoices in the Numbers spreadsheet and jobs in Evernote. I track tasks in OmniFocus and I keep an eye on my week with Calendar in Mac OS X.

So this would be one of the five tools and I’m saying it’s – wait, counts on fingers – four different applications. Yes. You could do it all in your word processor though. And the time it would take you to pick up and figure out all these applications would probably be better spent at first on learning what your word processor can do. You’re smart, you can use anything but they all have nooks and crannies that are worth exploring for how they may be able to speed up your work.

When you know your word processor well, though, then start branching out into these others.

5) Kettle
Enough said.

The world’s first wifi kettle now on sale in the UK

ikettleDon’t let me buy this.

For the past few months, I’ve mentioned this kettle in my Blank Screen workshops but have had to say that it’s only available in the States. Now it’s officially here in the UK but I’d like you first to wait until it’s actually stocked – Amazon UK says temporarily out and Firebox says coming 23 April – and second to just think about what a wifi kettle means.

Stumbled in the front door from work exhausted? Nervy half-time ad break during the World Cup final? Slaving away on a late night project and can’t waste a second? Whatever the urgent hot-drink scenario, a simple one-touch setup allows you to instantly control the iKettle from anywhere in the house with your smart-phone.

iKettle on

I work at home and wouldn’t know one end of a football from the other, but yeah, otherwise, that’s me. I am drawn to the idea of being able to tap a button on my iPhone and have this kettle go boil itself in my kitchen. And for it to then send a push notification back that it’s done.


The kettle is £99.99 UK, or will be, depending on whose release date you see first. That’s not a problem. Well, it’s not a convenience either, but if you were in the market for a kettle and were looking north of whatever’s on sale at Tesco, you could spend a lot more. Seriously more. Amazon lists some kettles for over £300 apiece. So the £100 iKettle with wifi isn’t a bargain but it looks like one next to these others.

That’s not the except.

The except is that I know. I know. I absolutely know that I would press that button without having thought to put water in.

So I reckon that would work out at about one hundred pounds per mug of tea.