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Walls that talk: how to buy real art in lockdown, from budget finds to custom commissions | Art and design

Voice Of EU



You’ve been locked down and staring at the walls for months. It’s time for a change of scene.

But galleries are closed. You don’t know anyone who works for one. You don’t run with an art-savvy crowd. You’ve never been invited to an exhibition opening. And let’s say you’ve got $500 to spend, tops.

Sure, you could fill the empty space with a big Ikea canvas print of stags in the mist or wind-blown sand dunes. But you want something original, something made by actual human hands.

So how do you get some real art on your walls in lockdown without breaking the bank?

Think before you buy

Consider your space, says Sarah Johnson, a Sydney-based interior designer.

“If you are on a tight budget, start with a collection of smaller art works, such as a photographic print, a painted plate, colourful ceramics, or a small set of prints, and make a mini-gallery hang of them,” she says. “Lots of small pieces bring personality to a space.”

If you prefer a more minimal vibe, “choose one big impact piece that really tells a story or transports you to another place”, Johnson says. “Photographic artworks can make affordable big statements.”

A gallery wall of family portraits along a stairway wall
‘Lots of small pieces bring personality to a space.’ Photograph: Katie Fiedler/AP

Art can go in any room, Johnson adds, so go ahead and put art in your kitchen if you want. “Fill those funny little spaces above the coffee machine or next to the door. It’s important to have a bit of fun in the practical hubs like the kitchen or bathroom.”

Can I buy art online?

You can! Whether your budget is $100 or $100m, the entire art market is yours to browse at any time and without a gallery assistant at your shoulder quietly assessing your net worth.

The Australian art website Bluethumb is a good place to start browsing, refine your ideas and see what is available in your price range. A startup in 2012, it’s now one of the big players in the local market and caters to all tastes and depths of pocket. You can search more than 230,000 listed artworks by artist, style, size and orientation (landscape or portrait), and price bracket.

A limited budget doesn’t necessarily mean you are confined to postage stamp-sized works. You can buy big, colourful paintings 150cm wide or more, for less than $500.

Artfinder is a venture-capital backed marketplace based in London and Miami, Florida. Again, you can refine your search by size, style and price, with several pages of work by Australian artists available for $100 and up. It also has a no-questions-asked returns and refund policy.

Sydney-based site Art Edit offers magazine-style content (home design inspiration, expert advice, and so on) and a saleroom, searchable by price. It also offers free shipping.

State of the Art Gallery is worth a look, too. Founded in 2014 as a showcase for recent art school graduates, each piece is selected by a “curatorial panel” and works on offer begin at $95. There’s also an interesting selection of South African works (the site’s creator hails from Cape Town).

Just about every commercial gallery will have a website you can browse, though many don’t display prices. Chances are, if it says something such as “price on request”, it’s out of most people’s range. Art Guide Australia and Art Almanac have comprehensive nationwide gallery listings.

I want a work of Indigenous art. Where do I go?

It is possible to buy a visually arresting traditional Indigenous artwork or craft piece at an entry-level price, but there are some things you want to get right.

Firstly, you want to ensure that the artists are being paid properly and promptly for their work. The exploitation of Indigenous artists has been widely reported over the years and, though much of it has been stamped out, it still goes on.

Indigenous artworks in a studio
When buying Indigenous art, look for galleries that have signed up to the Indigenous Art Code. Photograph: Carly Earl/The Guardian

Secondly, you want to be certain that the work you are buying is authentic and not something made in India, Indonesia and China.

Look for online galleries that have signed up to the Indigenous Art Code. If it costs more than $250 and it’s the real deal, there should be a certificate of provenance with details about the artwork and its author. Insist on it.

Community-owned and operated art centres are a great source of information and inspiration, for example the Arnhem, Northern and Kimberley Aboriginal Artist (ANKA), the Aboriginal Art Centre Hub of WA (AACHWA) and Desart.

What if I’m afraid of commitment?

Artbank has been renting out artworks to the corporate sector and individuals for more than 40 years and its collection has grown to more than 10,000 works. Annual rentals start from as little as $165 per work (with a minimum annual spend of $550, which includes delivery and hanging). You can browse the entire collection safe in the knowledge that, if you change your mind about an artwork, you won’t have to live with your decision for very long.

Can you contact an artist directly?

You sure can, says portraitist Tom Christophersen. Visual artists have embraced Instagram as a shopfront. “I love it when people get in touch,” he says. “Right now, I sell a lot more via Instagram than any other channel, through my stories and people messaging me.”

Portraitist Tom Christophersen
Portraitist Tom Christophersen: ‘I love it when people get in touch.’ Photograph: Laura Du Vé Creative

If you have a specific idea – a sketch of a loved one,a particular view or landscape, even a larger-than-life portrait of your cat covered in glitter – you can commission an artist, says Christophersen. “But for less than $500 with an established artist, it will be on the small side, an A4 or A5 size. Again, check out the artist’s bio and that will give you an indication of the rates they accept. Personally, I always find it a bit of a thrill when someone gets in touch with an idea of their own.”

Above all, don’t be nervous, he says. There is no such thing as a silly idea and most artists aren’t the garret-dwelling loners of popular myth. “If an artist is on social media, it’s because they want to be social.”

Before you commission a work, “do as much research as you can”, says Christophersen. “Talk to the artist, look through their portfolio and be as sure as you can be before you hand over your money.”

You can even ask for a mock-up during the commissioning process, he adds. “It’s a bit like getting a haircut. You go into the salon with an idea of what you like and then everything else is negotiation.”

Will my artwork appreciate in value?

This isn’t something you can bank on. Treat your purchase as an investment in present-day contentment rather than future financial security. Buy it because you like it – that way, you might find you’ve got a friend for life.

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Ring Video Doorbell 4 review: pre-roll is a battery bell gamechanger | Amazon

Voice Of EU



The latest iteration of Amazon’s battery-powered Ring doorbell adds a new feature to capture the early details of events most competitors would miss without needing to be plugged in.

The Ring Video Doorbell 4 costs £179 ($199.99/$A329) and can be installed in any home with wifi. It tops Ring’s battery-powered range, which starts at £89.

The look and basic function of the Doorbell 4 is very similar to Ring’s older models. It has a camera with night vision, motion sensors and a large doorbell button.

When someone pushes the button Ring’s signature chime plays and an alert is sent to your phone. You can view a live feed and speak through the doorbell using the app from anywhere with internet. If you don’t answer, the new “quick replies” feature is like an answering machine for your door, recording caller’s messages. And it works as a motion-activated security camera too.

Four seconds of pre-roll

Ring Video Doorbell 4 review
A ring of blue LEDs lights up when the doorbell is pressed showing that it is active and something is happening, such as you answering the door through the camera. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Most battery-powered doorbells sleep until motion is detected to save power, which means they typically only capture the second half of an event as it takes time for the camera to wake up and start recording.

Ring’s “pre-roll” system fills in the gap before the motion sensor is tripped. It takes a clip from a looping four-second lower-resolution colour recording that can be operated all the time without draining the battery too much.

It is a gamechanger for battery doorbells, giving you a much better idea of what has happened before the main camera fires up.

Video, motion and replay

Ring Video Doorbell 4 review
The camera has a wide 160-degree horizontal field of view, but only a 84-degree vertical field of view, which means you can’t see packages left on your doorstep. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The main 1080p HD video is clear and sharp enough to discern faces and name tags, and recorded HDR (high dynamic range) to better handle the sun shining straight at your door. The infrared night vision is bright and clear, too.

You can adjust the motion sensitivity and define areas you want monitored so that you only get notifications when something happens in the chosen zone, which is particularly useful for avoiding notification overload if your doorbell faces the street.

Ring Protect

Ring Video Doorbell 4 review
All the settings, power modes and alerts are accessed through the app, which has an easy-to-use video recording timeline if you pay for the Ring Protect cloud storage. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

While standard motion and doorbell notifications, live view and pre-roll are free, you need to subscribe to Ring Protect to get the most out of the doorbell. A free 30-day trial is included so you can see what it does, and plans start at £2.50 a month, but it is essentially cloud recording for your videos as they are not stored locally.

You get up to 30-day event history, messages recorded by visitors from the quick replies feature and still snapshots taken every 14 minutes to fill in the gaps between events.

Ring Protect also enables smart motion alerts, to differentiate between people and other things such as cars, and rich notifications, which show an image of the motion or person within the alert on your phone.

Set up and battery life

Ring Video Doorbell 4 review
The quick-release battery can be swapped out in seconds for charging without having to remove the doorbell from the door. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Setting up the doorbell is very easy. It comes with screws and wall plugs, plus a bracket for angling the camera towards your door if needed and cables for attaching it to an existing doorbell wire and chime if you have one.

The doorbell can be held in place by sticky strips if you can’t damage the mounting surface, such as if you’re renting. I used a set of Command-brand foam strips, but Ring sells a £17 “no-drill mount” that achieves something similar.

Once it is mounted you just slot the battery in the bottom, open up the Ring app on your smartphone and scan the QR code on the side of the bell. The app will run through the rest of the setup in about five minutes.

Ring Video Doorbell 4 review
Depending on how close your wifi router is to the door you may need a wifi extender or the £49 Chime Pro (pictured), which as well as acting as a ringer also creates a wifi network specifically for Ring devices. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

If you don’t have a traditional chime you can buy the wireless £29 Ring Chime or use any existing Amazon Alexa devices in your home to ring instead.

Battery life varies depending on how many features such as snapshot and pre-roll you have on and the number of motion events and live views. With everything active and capturing roughly 45 events a day, the battery lasts about a month. I would buy a second £20 battery as it takes at least five hours to fully charge the battery via microUSB.


Ring Video Doorbell 4 review
Ring has had a few privacy concerns over the years, particularly in the US with regard its activities with law enforcement. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

You can block the recording of certain parts of the camera’s view such as your neighbour’s drive using privacy zones. Ring has recently added options to limit how long recorded videos are stored on a camera-by-camera basis, strengthened account security with two-factor authentication and, in addition to standard encryption, has enabled the activation of end-to-end encryption (E2EE) for videos.

E2EE offers the strongest protection and means only the mobile devices you select can decrypt and watch captured videos. No one else can see the video, not even Ring. But with E2EE turned on some more advanced features such as pre-roll, snapshots, the event timeline, rich notifications and Alexa integration for watching a live feed from an Echo Show cannot be used.


Ring Video Doorbell 4 review
The faceplate and battery can be easily swapped if damaged, while various screws, brackets, parts and add-ons are available direct from Ring.

The Ring Video Doorbell 4 is generally repairable and a range of spare parts, including the rechargeable battery, are available at reasonable cost. Most parts are also interchangeable with older models. The company will support its devices with software updates for least four years from the point it stops selling the device on its site, and continues to support all of the devices it has sold so far.

Ring offers trade-in and recycling schemes through Amazon for its devices, but it did not comment on the use of recycled materials in the Doorbell 4. Ring falls under Amazon’s climate and sustainability pledges.


Ring Video Doorbell 4 review
The removable faceplate, which is available in several colours to best suit your door, is held in place with a small security screw in the bottom of the battery. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
  • The response time to live view requests through the app is shorter than previous Ring models, but it can still take a few seconds to answer the door, so Ring has a separate stripped-down Rapid Ring app that is faster to load, which can be used for answering rings alongside the main Ring app.

  • Alexa smart displays can show a live feed on demand or automatically when the doorbell rings.


The Ring Video Doorbell 4 costs £179 ($199.99/$A329) and Ring Protect costs from £2.50 a month.

For comparison, the Ring Video Doorbell (2nd gen) costs £89, the Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2 costs £219, the Google Nest Doorbell costs £179.99 and the Arlo Video Doorbell Wire-Free costs £179.


The Ring Video Doorbell 4 is yet another great battery-powered smart doorbell from Amazon.

It intentionally doesn’t look any different from previous versions, so that parts are interchangeable and the older models don’t look dated. But it wakes up faster, the colour pre-roll captures much more of each event and its night vision is really good.

It can be installed almost anywhere but it needs good wifi so you might need a booster. You’ll probably need the extra £29 Chime too, which brings the real cost to £189 as a bundle, plus the £2.50 a month subscription to really make the most out of it as it doesn’t have local video storage.

Note the Ring Android app has an extremely annoying hard-coded pattern of four strong and long vibrations for every motion alert. It cannot be changed, which forced me to disable motion alerts entirely and lost the Doorbell 4 a star. Ring said it is working to fix the problem by the end of the year. This issue does not exist for the Ring iPhone app, however.

Pros: easy to install, clear video, great colour pre-roll, lots of accessories, solid iPhone app, faster, quick replies, snapshots, Alexa device integration, great as a regular doorbell replacement, end-to-end encryption available.

Cons: no local storage means you need Protect subscription for event review, no constant video recording, fairly wide for some door frames, battery needs charging once a month, Chime likely needed.

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-Werror pain persists as Linus Torvalds issues Linux 5.15rc2 • The Register

Voice Of EU



Linus Torvalds has revealed that winding back the decision to default to -Werror – and therefore make all warnings into errors – has made for another messy week of work on the Linux kernel.

“So I’ve spent a fair amount of this week trying to sort out all the odd warnings, and I want to particularly thank Guenter Roeck for his work on tracking where the build failures due to -Werror come from,” Torvalds wrote in his weekly missive about the state of kernel development.

“Is it done?” he asked rhetorically. “No. But on the whole I’m feeling fairly good about this all, even if it has meant that I’ve been looking at some really odd and grotty code. Who knew I’d still worry about some odd EISA driver on alpha, after all these years? A slight change of pace ;)”

Torvalds expressed his annoyance that his efforts have seen him enter “fix one odd corner case, three others rear their ugly heads” territory.

But he’s willing to wear the pain. “I remain convinced that it’s all for a good cause, and that we really do want to have a clean build even for the crazy odd cases,” he wrote.

And if he must handle this sort of thing in any week of the kernel production cycle, it might as well be the week of rc2.

“I hope this release will turn more normal soon – but the rc2 week tends to be fairly quiet for me, so the fact that I then ended up looking at reports of odd warnings-turned-errors this week wasn’t too bad,” he wrote.

Late last week, Torvalds also took some time to share what he described as “the true 30th anniversary date” of Linux.

On September 17th he wrote “a random note to let people know that today is actually one of the core 30-year anniversary dates: 0.01 was uploaded Sept 17, 1991.

“Now, that 0.01 release was never publicly announced, and I only emailed a handful of people in private about the upload (and I don’t have old emails from those days), so there’s no real record of that,” he wrote. “The only record of the date is in the Linux-0.01 tar-file itself, I suspect.

“Just thought I’d mention it, since while unannounced, in many ways this is the true 30th anniversary date of the actual code.”

So The Register though it worthy of mention, too. ®

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Remote working could save 14 days of commuting time a year, report finds

Voice Of EU



Research from Trinity College Dublin and workspace network NoCo identified time-saving benefits for workers as well as environmental benefits.

Remote working three days per week could save drivers up to 14 days of commuting time a year. That’s according to a study carried out by researchers at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and hybrid workspace company NoCo.

More than 540 people were surveyed about their commuting habits to ascertain how long people spent travelling to and from their workplaces and examine the environmental impact of these commutes.

Remote working three days a week for a year could reduce a drivers CO2 emissions by 670kg, the research found. Public transport users, meanwhile, could save almost 11 days of commuting time by working remotely three days a week.

Click here to check out the top sci-tech employers hiring right now.

Irish-owned Noco has been expanding its workspace network around Ireland, aiming to tap into the rise in remote and hybrid working. It currently has hubs in 350 locations nationwide, as well as an online service that enables companies to connect their team to a network of ‘close to home’ workspaces across Ireland.

“The slowdown of economic activities during the pandemic resulted in significant improvements to air quality and GHG emissions. At NoCo, we are preparing for the future which means addressing climate change,” said Brian Moran, co-founder of NoCo.

“None of us can afford to ignore our carbon footprints anymore and we believe that the shift to remote working will help to meet Ireland’s national carbon targets, as well as provide people with reduced commuting time and a better work-life balance.”

An extra lie-in in the mornings was another benefit of working remotely or working from home, according to survey respondents. When travelling to an office, 59pc of people said they left home before 7:30am. When travelling to a remote location, 76pc left after 7:30am.

Almost half of the respondents (49pc) said they would consider buying an e-bike for their commute to a local remote working hub and 14pc said they would consider buying a push bicycle.

A small number of people (15pc) said they were considering selling their car as a result of Ireland’s post-pandemic remote and hybrid work dynamic. The majority (80pc) said they believed it would be possible for their employer to implement a hybrid work scheme in the near future.

Prof Brian Caulfield from the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering at TCD said the research shows remote working hubs may play “an even more substantial role than we thought” in reducing carbon emissions from commuting.

“From a personal-time perspective, the findings of the survey demonstrate that remote workers are able to spend significantly more time at home and substantially less time commuting,” he added.

There were, however, some negative aspects to the new remote and hybrid work culture, according to participants.

Around 78pc of people said they experienced feelings of isolation as a result of working from home, while 85pc experienced Wi-Fi and general connectivity issues and 84pc experienced problems with inadequate home office space or equipment.

Don’t miss out on the knowledge you need to succeed. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of need-to-know sci-tech news.

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