The Google Home Hub is now available for under £90

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A display designed for your home.
A display designed for your home.
Image: Google

Believe it or not, there are people out there who hop onto their phone in the morning to check the weather and traffic, organise their appointments in a paper diary, and then check their phone again to book a restaurant. All this switching isn’t necessary anymore.

There are devices out there that can answer questions, organise routines, play videos and music, and much more. That’s everything through one device, guys. It might be time to finally throw away your beloved diary, and upgrade to the Google Home Hub.

You can get answers from Google, command your audio, plan your day, and control your smart home through the Google Home Hub. This device is usually listed at £119, but is currently available for just £89 from BT.

You can control the Google Home Hub with voice or touch, and the display changes throughout the day to fit seamlessly into your home life. It’s the perfect housemate, going unnoticed when you don’t need it, and then springing to life when required.

Save £30 on a Google Home Hub and ditch the paper diary for good. 

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5 of the best self-cleaning cat litter boxes in the UK

Whether you have one cat or several, these litter boxes will save you scooping time.

Having a cat (or a few) can be an amazing experience. They’re soft, cute, cuddly, goofy in the best and weirdest way, and they’re always there for you on a bad day. Plus, there’s nothing better — or more relaxing — than falling asleep to the sound of their purring. 

But there’s one thing about being a cat mum or dad that is horrible: scooping and cleaning the cat litter box. This tedious, repetitive, gross, and smelly task takes up way more time than we want it to. And if you get lazy, even for a moment — say after a long, bad day at the office — your cat thanks you in the morning with a present in the bath.

Thankfully, over the last decade or so, there have been some pretty nifty advancements in automatic cat litter boxes that help take some of the work out of looking after your cat. Whether you’re looking for something that pretty much runs itself, something that will save you money on litter, or something perfect for your heavy litter-picky fur baby, we’ve got a self-cleaning cat litter box to fit your needs. 

Designed for cats over 15 pounds • Great for multi-cat homes • Battery backup • Removable automatic rake for easy cleaning • Paw-cleaning ramp • 10 minute safety lag • Good value for price • Durable

Noisy • Waste receptacles and carbon filter refills • Regular scooper track cleaning needed • Rake gets stuck if overfilled

The Bottom Line

While it’s best not to keep this litter box near your bedroom because of the noise, the large size makes it a good pick for homes with several cats or big ones, especially considering the price.

1. LitterMaid Automatic Multi-Cat Self-Cleaning Litter Box

With high sides and a 24-inch long basin, the LitterMaid Automatic Multi-Cat Litter box is the clear choice for households with multiple or large cats.

  • Dimensions:
    24 x 17 x 9 inches
  • Power:
    Plug-in and battery (8 AA, not included)
  • Litter Compatibility:
    High-quality, lightweight clumping litter only. Doesn’t work with paper-based, pellets, crystal or heavy clumping litter.
As any pet owner with a large cat or multiple cats knows, it can be tough to find a litter box big enough to keep your cat happy. Some have hoods with door openings that cats hate; others are too short, meaning that your cat sometimes misses the litter. And if your cat is a digger — forget it. You’ll be vacuuming litter mounds off your floor every day.  That’s why the LitterMaid Automatic Multi-Cat Litter Box is a great choice, not only for homes with more than one cat, but also for these picky, large ones. Built with multiple cats in mind, this box is 24 inches long and features high sides, giving your felines plenty of room to dig and move around without feeling compressed. This litter box also features a paw cleaning ramp to help cut down on litter tracking in your house. 
Ten minutes after use, a cleaning cycle is triggered, raking clumps into a sealed, waste receptacle to eliminate odour. Unfortunately, this cleaning cycle is a little loud —  and while it doesn’t seem like the noise is a deterrent for most cats, according to reviews, it does mean this box isn’t ideal for keeping near your bedroom or even in small apartments with thin walls. Another downside is that — unless you want to try experimenting with plastic grocery bags in the waste chamber like some reviewers have suggested — you will need to purchase new waste receptacles to keep your machine functioning properly — receptacles can be purchased in batches of 12.
But despite these drawbacks, LitterMaid is one of the more experienced automatic litter box makers on the market and there are a lot of reviewers that swear by this brand, claiming that their boxes are so durable, they’re still working five or seven years later.

Two colour options • Low litter tracking • Special odour-reducing crystal litter • Uses less litter than clay or clumping litte • Privacy hood • Health counter

Requires the purchase of litter tray refills or purchase of reusable forever tray • Crystal litter is more granular so not all cats like it • Must be kept away from areas of high humidity such as bathrooms or basements • Requires upkeep to keep running • Expensive Delivery

The Bottom Line

With disposable trays of crystal litter that trap odours better than conventional litter, PetSafe ScoopFree Ultra Self-Cleaning Litter Box is a great choice to keep your home smelling nice.

2. PetSafe ScoopFree Ultra Self-Cleaning Litter Box

The PetSafe ScoopFree Ultra Self-Cleaning Litter Box is the only automatic litter box that uses crystal litter, that’s known for its odour-locking properties.

  • Dimensions:
    19.13 x 27.63 x 16 inches
  • Power:
  • Litter Compatibility:
    Crystal litter trays or requires purchase of forever tray to use other types of litter.
Unlike most of the automatic litter boxes on this list, the PetSafe ScoopFree Ultra Self-Cleaning Litter Box isn’t an eyesore. It looks just like a traditional litter box, complete with a privacy hood available in two colours — purple and gray — to fit your home decor. It might look traditional, but this litter box does the scooping for you, thanks to sensors that indicate when your cat has left, prompting it to rake waste into a closed compartment for easy disposal. 
The litter box also has a health counter to let you know how many times your cat has used it — which is beneficial in helping you be aware of early signs of health issues. 
This box is designed to work with disposable litter trays of crystal cat litter, a type of kitty litter that controls odours better than traditional litter because it is better at absorbing and locking in moisture. The crystals trap urine and dehydrate waste to cut back on smells.
However, because crystal cat litter is so sensitive to moisture, it’s best not to keep your litter box in high-humidity areas of your house — such as the bathroom or basement. In addition, while these litter trays use less litter than clumping or clay litter, they can get pricey: a pack of three trays on Amazon costs under £50. And, according to some reviewers, certain cats do not like the feel of crystal litter. However, the good news is that it is possible to convert this self-cleaning litter box into one that works with all litter — you’ll just need to purchase the Forever Tray.

More affordable • Uses less litter • Continuously cleaning • Environmentally friendly • No additional accessories needed • Quiet

Best for cats under 15 pounds • Continuous cleaning movement can frighten some cats • Small size makes it not ideal for multi-cat homes • Using too little or too much litter can cause motor issues

The Bottom Line

For a single cat family on a budget, the PetSafe Simply Clean Automatic Box System offers a convenient option to cut back on the need for daily scooping.

If you want affordable quality for your cat, the PetSafe Simply Clean Automatic Box System can’t be beat. 
Unlike other self-cleaning litter boxes on this list, this PetSafe automatic litter box doesn’t use sensors to initiate a cleaning cycle. Instead, it’s a quiet, slow-moving conveyor that rotates in a circle every hour, continuously cleaning the box as it goes. 
The rotation of the litter tray is slow enough so as to not disturb most cats — but because of the movement and relatively small size of the litter basin, this litter box is best for cats under 15 pounds. You might also want to invest in a litter mat to help cut back on litter tracking and possible messes as, according to reviewers, some cats like to throw litter over the side. 

Quiet • Reasonably priced • No touch waste bag for easy disposal • Works with most clumping litters • Easy to assemble

Noisy • No privacy cover • Requires some basic maintenance to keep running

The Bottom Line

If you live in a small apartment, or are sensitive to noise, the SmartScoop Basic Green Self-Scooping Cat Litter Box is one of the quietest on the market.

Want an automatic litter box that doesn’t keep you awake at night with the sounds of raking litter? Then this is the one for you. 
Said to be quieter than the competition, the SmartScoop Basic Green Self-Scooping Cat Litter Box is clean, easy to use, and works with your favourite clumping cat litter — so there’s no need to invest in an expensive brand. 
It does require a little bit of maintenance to keep running, but that’s a small price to pay for a happy cat and home.

Works with most litters • Available instore at most major pet stores • Easy to operate • Cleans up after each use • Antimicrobial protection controls odours

Noisy • Gears can wear down after a few years of use

The Bottom Line

This easy to use, simple automatic cat litter box is a great choice if you want to stay with your cat litter brand.

If you’ve had your cat for a while, chances are, you’ve used a Nature’s Miracle product. 
Known for their pet cleaning products, this automatic cat litter box is designed to be an easy-to-use option that cleans up after your cat following each use. It also a great choice for cats that are picky about their litter because it works with almost all kinds. Plus the box is deep enough to help eliminate litter spillage.  
It’s not all positive. It can be a little noisy, and the gears have been reported to wear down after a few years of use, but that’s to be expected, especially if it’s getting a lot of use.

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10 cliché Instagram posts you'll definitely see this summer

Image: Getty Images

The sun is out and it’s warm again, which means summer gram is back in full force. 

Here’s the thing — when there are 1 billion Instagram users out there celebrating longer days and hotter nights, how many unique summer-themed posts can there really be? You’re bound to see one, or two, or 10 posts with the same poses and captions. If the account @insta_repeat has taught us anything, it’s that #wanderlust photoshoots aren’t exactly one of a kind. 

Here are 10 Instagram posts you’re sure to see this summer. 

1. Hot dogs or legs?

Can you believe it’s 2019 and people are still captioning their photos with this? Just post your nicely tanned legs and go!

(Except this cat, though. We will protect pet influencers with all our hearts.)

2. Hanging out on a pool float

It’s the age of Instagram, and we as a society are over basic pool floats. If it isn’t an elaborately designed inflatable bird, then what’s the point? As pool floats become more extra, you’ll probably scroll past a few this summer. 

3. Some kind of pastel-colored frozen drink 

Folks, it’s frosé season and we are all thriving! As it warms up outside, the rest of us will be cooling down over brunch and some adult slushies. And why bother going to brunch, if you aren’t at least going to post a nice Boomerang of your pals clinking glasses? 

4. “The tans will fade but the memories will last forever”

Unfortunately, you can’t preserve your sun-kissed glow for the entire year. But Instagram captions? Instagram captions are forever, and you’ll probably see a handful of these on your feed this summer. 

5. Someone holding a comically large ice cream cone

Eating ice cream off a cone truly is a race against time and gravity — is it even enjoyable? Unfortunately, cups just aren’t as aesthetically pleasing, so you might as well suck it up and get the shot before it all melts. 

6. Dude playing guitar outside

The sun is out and so is every guy who knows a few chords. You’re likely to spot him in his natural habitat – any park or beach where others are just trying to relax in peace. The Guy Who Plays Guitar thrives in public spaces, and is sure to post about playing guitar in public. 

7. Posing at a music festival

We get it, you went to a music festival! You had a life changing experience in the desert! You’ll post dreamy photos captioned “take me back” until the next festival! It’s the cardinal rule of Instagram — if you didn’t post about going to a music festival, did you really go?

8. Sunset over the ocean

Is it still socially acceptable to post sunset photos in 2019? Hell yeah. Nature is beautiful, and there’s no harm is sharing that with everyone. Just know that yours will be one of hundreds of thousands of beach sunset photos on the app. 

9. Someone working out outdoors

Fitspo influencers love two things: Shakes and working out near pools. If you follow any fitness gurus, you will probably see a video or two of them working out near a gorgeous pool or on the beach. We love some summer fitness inspiration!

10. A grainy video of fireworks

Buckle down for the Fourth of July — you’re going to see so many grainy videos of fireworks. Is it as impressive watching it through a five-inch screen as it is watching in person? Probably not, but your Instagram story will look great! 

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The new Aladdin is the best part of Disney's new 'Aladdin'

Mena Massoud, the single best reason to watch 'Aladdin'.
Mena Massoud, the single best reason to watch ‘Aladdin’.
Image: Daniel Smith / Disney

It’s a cliché by this point to wonder about the purpose of Disney’s live-action remakes. They make lots of money, they scratch a nostalgic itch, they reintroduce these stories to a new generation — oh, and did I mention they make lots and lots of money

But the question is impossible to ignore when the films themselves seem torn between recreating every magical moment you loved in the original, and trying to forge something genuinely new — and with few exceptions, the remakes rarely seem to measure up. 

There’s more of Aladdin than ever, but on the whole it’s less satisfying. 

Aladdin, alas, is no exception. It sweats and strains to deliver exactly the Aladdin you remember from your childhood, from the classic songs to the soaring carpet ride. Yet it feels most enchanting in the rare moments that it allows itself to relax a bit and lean into the chemistry of its cast.

The sorriest casualty of Aladdin‘s faithfulness is the Genie. He’s played here by Will Smith, who might have been a brilliant pick if the role had been tailored to his own cool-but-playful persona. But Aladdin seems unwilling to let go of Robin Williams’ Genie, and so Smith is stuck singing songs written for someone else’s talents and delivering jokes in someone else’s cadence, in the body of a character designed for a totally different medium. (No, the blue Genie never stops looking freaky.) It’s no wonder he doesn’t wear them well.

The character’s signature numbers, “Friend Like Me” and “Prince Ali,” are near-disasters, though that’s not entirely Smith’s fault. Director Guy Ritchie and his team seem to have no idea how to stage and shoot a musical number; instead of establishing a rhythm and letting us focus on the spectacle, they crowd the screen with so much stuff that it all blurs together, and then speed up the dancing to a bizarre unnatural pace.

Yeah, this never stops feeling bad and weird.

Yeah, this never stops feeling bad and weird.

Image: Disney

Then again, the “more stuff” approach fits with the rest of the film. Aladdin paints Agrabah as a city crowded with people and bursting with color, but it’s hard to understand exactly what the characters mean when they describe it as beautiful, since from our viewpoint it just looks like so many CG-rendered building blocks.

Likewise, the remake adds over half an hour of run time to the original’s slim 90 minutes, giving us more action, more supporting characters, more of Genie’s personal life, and more of Jasmine’s perspective, with mixed results. These additions present new opportunities for the film to dig deeper into the story’s themes and update its lessons, but the necessity of hitting all the nostalgic hallmarks means the story can’t actually get very far in exploring any of them. There’s more of Aladdin than ever, but on the whole it’s less satisfying. 

Still, the remake isn’t a total loss, and that is largely thanks to Aladdin himself. Mena Massoud is perfectly cast as Aladdin, and makes as much clear from his first crooked smile. He nails the character’s boyish mischievousness and his fundamental decency, and is so winning any time he’s onscreen that it suddenly becomes much easier to overlook the film’s major flaws.

Especially since Massoud happens to have fantastic chemistry with everyone else in the film. Smith’s most likable scenes are the ones where he and Massoud simply get to play the Genie and Aladdin as buddies who might egg each other on or help each other out; he and Naomi Scott, who plays Jasmine, sell the heck out of their fairy-tale romance. (Though this film’s “A Whole New World” still leaves something to be desired.) He even manages to build a convincing rapport with his CG monkey and CG carpet.

With Massoud, Aladdin hits that sweet spot all these remakes are aiming for: The comfort of the familiar, with the thrill of a new discovery. If only the rest of the film had been up to his level, this could have been a new classic. As it is, we’re left to wonder why we needed to go through this all again.

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From space, powerful thunderstorms look like boiling water

Storm systems just starting to form over the Southern Plains on May 20, 2019.
Storm systems just starting to form over the Southern Plains on May 20, 2019.
Image: noaa

The most potent thunderstorms roil and churn, like a pot of boiling water.

With the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) latest weather-imaging satellites, this aggressive storm behavior is easily visible from space. Such dynamic thunderstorm activity was on full display Monday, when conditions ripe for severe weather and tornadoes swirled over the Southern Plains. NOAA’s GOES-16 satellite captured the action from some 22,000 miles above Earth. 

“It looks like a big bomb going off,” said Jeff Weber, a meteorologist with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research.

The roiling storms here are supercells, a type of violent thunderstorm that can spawn tornadoes. And indeed, many of these May 20 supercells did form twisting columns of air that swept the ground in the region, noted Weber.

The key elements of this cloud churning appearance are updrafts — potent winds shooting up through a thunderstorm. “The ‘boiling appearance’ you are seeing is due to the strength of the updraft of the storm,” said Kristin Calhoun, a research scientist at NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory.

“It looks like a big bomb going off.”

The very nature of thunderstorms is to rapidly transport heat and moisture up from the ground and into the sky. “It rises six to eight miles in the atmosphere in a pretty short amount of time,” noted Brian Tang, an atmospheric scientist at the University at Albany. These rising winds travel at 30 to 50 mph, but have hit speeds of up to 100 mph, Tang said.

Eventually the warm air and water-rich clouds reach the top of the thunderstorm where it “billows out,” explained Weber. Gravity then pulls the clouds back down, creating the roiling effect. 

“That’s indicative of a very powerful storm,” said Weber. 

In severe-weather prone places, like the U.S. plains, a calm cloud can rapidly transform into a fuming supercell thunderstorm. That’s why, when viewed from space, these storms sometimes appear to burst out of the atmosphere. “On these really violent days we can see a cloud go from a normal cloud to a severe thunderstorm in a matter of 20 minutes,” said Stephen Strader, a severe weather expert at Villanova University who chases these storms through the U.S. plains. “Within 30 minutes [the storm] could have a tornado warning.” 

When we view NOAA’s satellite imagery, though, we’re seeing a sped up version of what’s transpired on Earth. It’s a time-lapse of detailed satellite photography. But the boiling motion is the same. “It’s moving,” said Tang. “Just like a pot of water on a stove.”

Today, this boiling atmospheric behavior is now clearly visible because NOAA’s newest weather imaging satellites, GOES-16 and GOES-17, can take highly-detailed images every 30 seconds. GOES-16, which captured the roiling storms above the Texas Panhandle, is situated over the equator and can see the entire U.S. 

A Colorado supercell on May 19, 2019.

A Colorado supercell on May 19, 2019.

Image: Kristin Calhoun / Noaa

On May 20, a number of powerful supercell thunderstorms formed because the right ingredients were available and then mixed together. There were bounties of moisture, colliding masses of warm and cool air, and amplified atmospheric instability as air within the developing storms twisted and changed direction while rising even higher.

Severe weather pummeled the region, infrastructure was mangled, trailer homes demolished, and people hurt — but there weren’t as many supercell storms as forecasters projected, explained Strader. “The models indicated that this would be a historic event,” said Strader. “That’s what didn’t unfold. Society got luckier than we thought was possible.”

That’s because in Oklahoma a cap of warm air suppressed one of the primary storm ingredients, instability, explained Strader. This cap, born in Mexico, sat over the thunderstorms, keeping a lid on some of the storm activity, Strader explained. 

But many roiling storms still formed. And some 20 twisters were spotted in the greater region.

“It certainly was not a busted forecast,” said Weber

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