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Gadgets :: October 19, 2016

by Gregg Ellman

minipro Ventev Mobile has launched three dashmounts for keeping your smartphone handsfree in vehicles.

The minipro window has a suction cup mount to attach to any car window (or even some dashboards) and gives you 360-degree rotation of your attached phone. A universal adjustable smartphone mount will hold most smartphones, even while they are in a case.

While your phone is in the mount, you’ll get full functionality to the touchscreen along with all the other controls, headphone and charging ports.

The mini pro vent has all the same features, but instead of the suction cup mount, it clips onto your vehicles air vent.

A ball mount bracket with an adhesive backing is included with both.

A third option is the magdock 360 dashmount, which magnetically attach your device mount and then attaches to the cars air vent.

A magnet about the size of a quarter is included to put on the back of your case or phone to make the magnetic connection to the mount.  You’ll also get 360-degree movement and full access to all the phones features with or without a case.

Any of the three setup in seconds. $24.99

unspecifiedX-Doria replacement mesh bands for the 42mm Apple Watch install in seconds to give your watch a new look.

The bands are light weight, comfortable and have an adjustable style, which secures the watch in place with a magnetic strap.

They fit 130-180 mm wrists and are available with dark charcoal or bright silver finishes. $49.99

logitech3Logitech’s newly announced K780 multi-device wireless keyboards is designed to be a standard full-sized keyboard, but if far from ends there.

While typing, if you want to switch from your computer to a smartphone, all you do is press the easy-switch button. If you want to switch to typing on a table, that is also down with the press of a button.

A pair of AA batteries power the wireless keyboard for up to 24 months. It works on a Mac or Windows computer along with Apple or Android smartphones and tablets. You have your choice of wireless connections with Bluetooth or the 2.4GHz Logitech Unifying USB receiver

Typing is smooth and comfortable and an integrated rubber slot along the top securely holds many mobile devices in a easy to see reading angle.

The full-sized keyboard includes 10 keys for numbers on the right side and a row of programable shortcuts along the top.

There’s also a battery indicator light and an on/off switch. $79.99

ollo1The olloclip mobile photography lens set will be available for the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus in early November.

The interchangeable lens system attaches in seconds to give the smartphone camera fisheye, wide angle and macro lenses for improved photography.

Each lens fits flush with the phones lens and adds premium optics for crystal clear digital images. They are built with multi-element coated glass optics with edge-

to-edge clarity.

New for the iPhone 7 phones are the olloclip connect interchangeable lens system. The new system maintains all the features of previous versions and is now equipped to quickly configure with other individual iPhone 7 connect lenses so they can instantly adapted to your environment for any situation.

When not in use, the lenses can be tucked away in a pocket or backpack. Core Lens Set: $99.99, Active Lens Set: $119.99, Macro Pro Lens Set:  $79.99, Combo (Core Lens Set and ollo Case):  $119.99

Gadgets :: October 12, 2016

by Gregg Ellman

If your gardening skills are anything like mine, you have gone through an endless number of electrical extension cords the got cut and destroyed by hedge trimmers.

The Dewalt 20V Max Hedge Trimmer eliminates the cord cutting problem (and associated costs) since it operates off of a 5.0Ah Lithium Ion battery, letting you work cord free.

Using the 7.5 pound tool is as easy as attaching the charged battery, removing the protective cover from the blades and turning it on.

It’s designed to trim branches up to 3/4-inches thick with the 22-inch laser cut, hooked-tooth steel blades. The long-reaching blades enable high-reaching trimming, otherwise not reachable for many.

The trimmer is designed with a comfortable wrap-around auxiliary handle with an easy to reach lock, on/off switch.

A charger is included with the trimmer and battery; additional batteries can be purchased. $199 for the trimmer/battery combo, $135.49 for just the trimmer and $99 for extra batteries

Think Tank Photo’s Shape Shifter backpack has been an industry leader for photographers lugging around big, bulky and expensive equipment in a low profile form.

Based on input from pro photographers, Think Tank upgraded the backpack with the recent release of the Shape Shifter version 2.0, which gives it a narrower profile when empty, allowing photographers to configure it and have it expanded only when filled.

Even when full, expensive camera gear is well hidden from the public eye until it’s removed and it’s really amazing how much you can store in the backpack.

Like all Think Tank Photo products, the backpack has a comfortable design, top notch hardware, and numerous pockets and compartments with smooth rolling zippers.

Pockets are inside of pockets to carry photo gear, laptops up to 17-inches, smartphones, tablets, chargers, cables and it also has detachable water bottle pouch.

If you want to carry a tripod, an attachment keeps it easily accessible and weight centered.

A padded shoulder hardness is adjustable to make it simple for carrying the backpack in comfort and a removable rain cover and waist belt. available in three sizes, for 15 and 17-inch laptops; the Naked Shape Shifter can be totally customized

The innovative Yantouch EyE Bluetooth speaker works great as a standalone speaker, but it has additional great features.

The colorful bass enhanced speaker has a 10 hour battery life inside a flat, rounded design, which features a top side app controlled smart light. With the app you get the choice of 16 million glowing, changing colors, according to a press release. I only tried a few due to time limits.

I really liked the Natural Sleep/Wake-up feature, which lets the light and music gradually dim during bedtime and then wake me up with the sound of canaries singing.

If you have more than one Yantouch, they can easily be paired to form a left/right stereo system while sharing the same Bluetooth connection. The linking was as simple as described, automatically linking together with a beep.

The speaker is 6-by-2.3-by-3.7-inches and is available with black or white bottoms.  A remote control is included along with a stand for use on a flat surface or wall hanging. $99

Gadgets :: September 28, 2016

By Gregg Ellman

What if, with the press of a button, you could turn off the TV, lock the front door and turn on the lights?

Logitech’s new Pop switches make controlling multiple smart home devices that easy.

The home switch starter pack gets you going with a single switch and a bridge that plugs into any standard AC outlet. The bridge must be placed where it can pick up your WiFi signal and within Bluetooth range of the Pop switch. 

Once you have everything setup, you won’t need your smartphone or tablet within reach; just press the button for the controls you programed.

If you already have compatible smart home devices setup, the Pop app will scan for those devices and run you through the setup assigning specific controls for the Pop.

Each Pop can be assigned up to three actions, choosing from a single, double or long press. An internal battery should last for about five years.

The Logitech Harmony Hub makes a great partner with the Pop switches since the Harmony can control TV, games, movie boxes and more.

Other compatible smart home devices include LIFX, Phillips Hue, Lutron, and Insteon products. $99.99 for the starter pack, $39.99 for additional Pops

There’s nothing to not like about the iDevices thermostat, including how easy and fast it is to set up and get running.

Assuming you have wiring for a thermostat in place, just shut off the circuit breaker and follow the existing wire setup. If it sounds easy, that’s because it took me about 10 minutes from start to finish.

The setup includes connecting to your existing WiFi and using the thermostat with the iDevices connect app, Apple HomeKit or Amazon Alexa. I tried it out with all three and each worked flawlessly.

My preferred method is with the Apple HomeKit system and the new Apple Home app, which  also lets me use voice commands with Siri.

The quick-start guide gave an example of a customized scene mode, which I thought was such a good idea that I copied it for my nighttime mode.

I just tell Siri when it’s time for bed and the thermostat adjusts to my sleeping temperature and a light connected to an iDevices switch turns off. Eight hours later the thermostat adjusts automatically to my set temperature.

Both the thermostat and the Everything can be adjusted manually or with set schedules based on your routine.

It’s really that simple and just a little bit of a stretch to say it’s a plug and play system.

The pass-through iDevices switch is also fully programable; since it works off WiFi, you can control it from anywhere and program it with specific time schedules. $149.

Elgato’s Eve room wireless indoor sensor monitors air quality, temperature, and humidity with an internal sensor that analyzes volatile organic compounds.

The information is recorded to the Eve app via Bluetooth without needing a hub. You can view the recorded air quality by day, month or year.

Since the Eve system is Apple HomeKit enabled, you can use a Siri command for requesting humanity or temperature readings.

The sensor measures 3.1-by-3.1-by-1.3-inches and is powered by 3 AA batteries. $79.95

Gadgets :: September 14, 2016

by Gregg Ellman

It’s not often that I open one of my packages on the doorstep but since I had an idea of what was inside I was eager to see the Kanex portable Apple Watch charger.

Up to this point, portable chargers I’ve see for the smart watch are basically caddies to store your charging cable that came with the device.

Kanex refers the charger as the “World’s First Cordless Portable Charger for Apple Watch”, which is what caught my attention.
True to their word, it is portable (3.07-by-3.22-by-1.0-inches) with no need for any Apple Watch charging cable, theirs or yours. Just lay your watch on top of the battery, which has the charging plate just like on the end of the Apple Watch charging cable.

The system has an internal 4,000 mAh Lithium Ion Polymer battery, which should charge the watch up to six times.

In addition, there’s a 1A USB port for connecting your own cable to charge a smart phone. They can be used simultaneously.

There’s an LED indicator on the front and the battery itself is charged with a microUSB cable.

A great internal feature called Smart Priority Charging allows you to connect your watch for charging while the battery itself is hooked up to be charged. This pass-through technology gets your devices charged and then works on the battery power.

The portable charger is Apple MiFi Certified, allowing you to expect quality performance and reliability for charging all Apple Watches. $99.95

With the upcoming iPhone 7 removing the 3.5 mm headphone jack from the popular smartphones Bluetooth earbuds are going to be much more common.

Aside from cutting the cord connection, another daily chore will be added to users’ lists: charging the Bluetooth earbuds, which typically last for 4 to 5 hours before the battery needs some help.

The myCharge PowerGear for earbuds carrying case is a perfectly timed solution for charging the earbuds on-the-go while keeping them safe and easy to find when not in use.

The exterior (4.2-by-3.5-by-0.9-inches) is a hard shell material so it will protect the contents while in a pocket or backpack. The interior has a soft fabric lining so nothing will get scratched while keep the earbuds in place with a friction-fit closure.
A 1000 mAh battery is built into the case to safely charge the ear buds with Safe Cell Technology.

A built-in microUSB cable connects from the battery to the earbuds and then zip the case shut. It’s that simple.

Earbud charging is typically pretty quick; in my case Jabra Sport Bluetooth earbuds took less than an hour. $39.99

Your iPhone, Samsung or just about any smartphone or smaller tablet model is sure to work with the Distil Union Stanley Stand.

The leather desktop stand bends to landscape and portrait angle, keeping you’re charing cable in place in a pass-through slot.

There’s really not a lot to it besides being incredibly functional and an attractive accessory with a leather and felt exterior surrounding a solid steel-core constructed base. The steel is bendable but I found the shape fine right out of the box.

A 6-foot USB extension cable is included and is compatible with the USB charging cable your device came with. $59.99, available in aqua, clack, brown, gray, lime and red

16 Month Shoot Capturing New Drama for Dallas’ Landmark Renovation

(Gregg Ellman is the “Photographer” mentioned in this article.)

By Miles Weston

Photographer Hangs Out Over the Edge 561 Feet above the Ground to
Give Visitors Panoramic View of Dallas

Accustomed to capturing the adrenalin rush of NASCAR and the IndyCar Series with his camera, Gregg Ellman thought shooting  the 16-month renovation of  Dallas’ 561-foot Reunion Tower would be a proverbial “walk in the park. ”

But the project owners wanted more than just documentation photos of the renovation of Reunion Tower, which had originally opened to visitors in 1978 and is known locally as “The Ball.”  They wanted to take advantage of Gregg’s unique blend of photojournalism and his ability to make even routine work in the race garages and crew pits feel exciting.
Because of his nearly 30 years of newspaper, sports and corporate photography experience, they also determined he was the best person to provide all of the imagery for the Tower’s interactive tourism system.
Well before taking his first shot, Gregg developed a long-term shoot schedule that meshed with the construction crew’s schedule.  He also bought a fresh 2TB OWC On-The-Go (OTG) drive and set up several project folders on his 20TB Elite Pro Qx2 RAID.
“For a long-term project like this, I wanted an external drive that had never been written to so after every shoot I could download the RAW photos to my MacBook Pro, back them up and have three copies  – computer and OTGs – before I left the site.  You can never be too paranoid.” he explained.
For added protection, he also moved the files to his workflow production storage and backed that up.
These days, he has 3 Canon 1DX Mark II’s in tow and lenses ranging from 14mm up to a 400 2.8. Gregg uses Hoodman CF and CFast memory cards to record his images on to before sending them to OWC hard drives.
In between his scheduled shoots of the Reunion renovation, Gregg juggled his photo contract activities for corporate photography, college sports and pro bowling as well as the NASCAR and the Indy circuit.

“Auto racing coverage may seem to be glamorous,” he commented, “but that sexy part wears off quickly when you focus on visually telling the story of the race. Working all aspects of the racetrack, gives you the challenge of telling the full story of racing … preparation, attention to detail, teamwork and testing the limits of the drivers/machines.”

By being an extension of the racing professional team rather than a wide-eyed spectator, he is able to gain access to the drivers, garages, pit row and almost all of the behind-the-scene activities.
His thoughtful approach has resulted in hundreds of memorable images over the years from around the racing circuit, all safely stored on his OWC storage devices.  It has also meant he has racked up millions of air miles to capture the action around the country.
When he was on the road; his wife, a wedding and events photographer, kept Gregg current on the renovation/shoot schedule.
As the project neared completion, the Reunion Tower’s management asked Gregg to deliver a panoramic photo view of Dallas from the roof of the 561-foot structure for placement in the interactive visitor system in time for the Ball’s 35th anniversary grand reopening.

Skyline Capture  Securely tethered to the Reunion Tower and under the watchful eyes of fireman/photo assistant Robert Burn, Gregg Ellman hangs out over the edge 561 feet above the ground to capture a 360 degree view of Dallas for visitors.  His brother Glen (who is also a photographer) helped to develop a special steel bracket for the shoot but kept his feet firmly on the ground while Gregg captured the Dallas panorama for Tower visitors.

At the time, 360-degree cameras didn’t exist so he was armed with his favorite Canon cameras which he had come to rely on during his 30-year career.
The steel bracket for the shoot attached to the building’s window washing system.  After producing and testing more than a dozen units, with the help of a welder from the Fort Worth Fire Department, Gregg was able to deliver a solution that would protect the cameras, withstand the extremely windy conditions at the top of the open framed ball and guarantee nothing would fall to the ground.
Under the watchful eyes of Robert Burn, a Fort Worth firefighter who assisted in the shoots and used his experience to ensure Gregg was safe hanging out over the edge of the globe.  Both men wore harnesses while Gregg spent more than two hours shooting dozens of panoramic shots over the Dallas skyline on each shoot.

Dallas Skyline – Smoothly stitching the best of his top-of-the-tower shoot, Gregg produced a bird’s eye view of Dallas Reunion Tower that visitors can enjoy in the interactive system that is located in the visitor’s lounge.
With the photos stitched `into a smooth 360-degree view of Dallas, the photo is a favorite of Dallas Reunion Tower visitors and people from around the world.

Gregg continues to work on many projects including contracts for NCAA College sports contracts. This includes game coverage from tennis, basketball, baseball, softball and golf. Images are sent to the sports department for website slides shows, which have to be posted before the games end. After the games are over and the images are edited, they load everything to online galleries and then store the images on OWC Mercury Elite Pro Qx2 RAID systems.

“Without OWC’s products and service, I couldn’t even imagine how I could ensure my photos were safe in the field, archived in my office digital library and readily available when clients request them,” he concluded.  “Actually, I’m not certain how I could run my photographic business without fast, reliable storage.” 

Gadgets:: Amazon Echo, WeMo and lights to control your smart home

by Gregg Ellman


Amazon Echo is a hands-free speaker you control with your voice. Echo connects to the Alexa Voice Service to play music, provide information, news, sports scores, weather, and more—instantly. All you have to do is ask. Echo has seven microphones and beam forming technology so it can hear you from across the room—even while music is playing. Echo is also an expertly tuned speaker that can fill any room with 360° immersive sound. When you want to use Echo, just say the wake word "Alexa" and Echo responds instantly. If you have more than one Echo or Echo Dot, you can set a different wake word for each—you can pick "Amazon", "Alexa" or "Echo" as the wake word.

The Amazon Echo handsfree voice activated speaker w

orks off the Alexa Voice Service to control smart home features, give weather updates and much to my delight, give updated sport scores upon command.

When you first plug Echo into a power source, a voice directs you to the app (Fire OS, Android, iOS and desktop browsers) and an easy setup. This includes discovering any smart home devices currently being used, which Echo can also control.

According to Amazon, Echo works with smart home devices (sold separately) from WeMo, Philips Hue, SmartThings, Insteon, Nest, ecobee, and Wink.

Amazon Echo is a hands-free speaker you control with your voice. Echo connects to the Alexa Voice Service to play music, provide information, news, sports scores, weather, and more—instantly. All you have to do is ask. Echo has seven microphones and beam forming technology so it can hear you from across the room—even while music is playing. Echo is also an expertly tuned speaker that can fill any room with 360° immersive sound. When you want to use Echo, just say the wake word "Alexa" and Echo responds instantly. If you have more than one Echo or Echo Dot, you can set a different wake word for each—you can pick "Amazon", "Alexa" or "Echo" as the wake word.

You log into the app with your existing Amazon account, connect it to Wifi and you’re ready for Alexa to control your life.

I used the Echo for a few days and had it turning on and off lights, starting my coffee maker, reading me my calendar features for the day, adjusting my thermostat and updating me on the news of the day.

Echo comes preloaded as Alexa meaning all commands are started with “Alexa,” but if someone is named Alexa within your household you can change the command name in the app settings.

Whenever you want a command to stop, simply say “Alexa stop.”

It measures 9.25-by-3.27-by-3.27-inches and a top light indicates when you’ve sent Alexa a command. Other features include Bluetooth enabled, seven noise-cancelling microphones to hear commands from any direction and great 360-degree sound.

The microphones works so well, Echo even heard my commands while music was playing in the background from a different source.

Every now and then Alexa got stumped by my commands but as it got used to me the device learned voice, speech patterns and what I’m asking for. $179.99

The Wi-Fi enabled WeMo Insight Switch connects your home appliances and electronic devices to your Wi-Fi network, allowing you to turn devices on or off, program customized notifications and change device status - from anywhere. WeMo Insight Switch can monitor your electronics and will send information about the device’s energy usage directly to your smartphone or tablet. Perfect to pair with space heaters, wall A/C units, TVs, washers, dryers, fans, lights and more.

I used the Belkin home automation WeMo Insight Switch with the Amazon Echo for controlling my coffee maker. On its own it works like many other smart home plugs with a three-prong pass-through outlet.

It can be used to control lights, electronics and small appliances manually from an app or with a set schedule from anywhere via WiFi.

But what got my attention was a feature on the WeMo app that lets you know how much power is being consumed by the connected device along with how much the energy being used will cost.

You can also set it to alert you how long something has been on by sending a message to your Android or iOS smartphone. The WeMo app allows you to work with multiple devices simultaneously.

Belkin suggested you can even use it to find out if the kids are playing video games instead of doing homework. I’m grateful my parents didn’t have a device like this during my youth. $49.99

THE ALL NEW ILUMI SMARTBULB Let your lighting be so much more than just light. Let it enhance your life, improve your sleep, complement your mood, ramp up your music and connect your whole home. ilumi is an advanced wireless lighting system in a light bulb, that's easy to install. No boxes, bridges, routers or other complications. Using the free app, you can adjust the color and brightness of your lighting or explore amazing built-in programs to experience lighting like never before. Plus, ilumi lasts up to 20 years and is 5x more energy efficient than a regular bulb.

The ileum app-controlled smart home LED lightbulbs light up a room, change colors and have built in Bluetooth.

They can be controlled to go on or off from an everyday wall switch or more modernly through the ileum app. This allows them to be controlled from anywhere Bluetooth will reach.

The app lets you choose any color to illuminate a room with the touch of a color palette. Lighting can be dimmed for moods, waking up or going to sleep. The smart bulbs are available in standard size ($59.99), and indoor  ($59.99) or outdoor ($69.99) flood versions and do not require WiFi or a hub.

A feature called Vacation Security allows the light to turn on or off randomly while you’re away to give the appearance that your home.

According to ilumi, their bulbs last up to 20 years and are five times more energy efficient than a regular bulb.

Gadgets :: April 20, 2016

by Gregg Ellman

I knew about the Other World Computing used laptop program but never tried it until mine died on a recent road trip.

First off, I’m a Mac person and I’ve used OWC for many personal computer needs so I had full confidence in my quest . After my new/used laptop was complete they upped my belief in the company to the highest standards.

On the OWC website you have innumerable choices of used Apple computers and I knew I wanted a MacBook Air to reduce the weight.

Each choice has the internal specs including year made, processor, memory, storage and more.  Also, the condition of each is listed along with photos of what a standard refurbished laptop looks like and the power supply.

If you need extra power supplies (I keep one at home and one in my travel laptop bag) they sell used ones at a very reasonable price.

Every used Mac is inspected and tested by OWC technicians. The OSX operating system is installed and ready to boot, and free shipping is offered within the contiguous 48 states.

Everything comes with a warranty along with a 14-day 100 percent money-back guarantee. This can be if the computer is not right for you or you just change your mind. Past the two weeks, you get a 90-day OWC fulfilled limited warranty

After I found the right model, I wanted to upgrade the hard drive and this is another area where OWC is second to none. They have upgrades available for just about every hard drive along with instruction videos showing you how to do it yourself and then how to set up the hard drive you pulled out to use as an external drive.

With the MacBook Air I was purchasing, OWC recently announced the availability of the Aura SSD upgrades for mid-2013 and later Macs, which included mine.

The whole Aura SSD installation took me exactly 6 minutes. This included removing 8 screws on the bottom plate, disconnecting the battery, removing a screw to release the SSD, putting the new one in and replacing the screws and attaching the battery.

Apple, like many other computer companies, use specialized screws and tools, which  are included in the upgrade kit.

From there you have several choices on how to install your operating system on the new SSD, which I did from scratch to get a fresh copy of everything.

Since my new laptop has more storage space, I purchased a new OWC On-The-Go (Mac and PC compatible) portable hard drive to use as a Time Machine backup. They come in endless configurations of speeds, storage and connection.

The whole process is incredibly easy; it’s nice to purchase products from a tech company that really puts the customer first with great pricing, service and support.

Zagg has recently launched the mobile charging station, which isn’t just another portable USB charging battery pack.

The 5,000 mAh battery is advertised as One dock; twice the efficiency, which I totally agree with.

Along with a port for attaching a USB cable to charge smartphones, tablets, etc., it has a fold-up multi-position mounting system for charging an Apple Watch.

The top cover pulls over to expose a cable management system, which you can keep an Apple Watch charging cable (not included). You connect the USB end to the USB port and the magnetic charging end fits right into the charging mount, so the cable never has to be moved.

Both an Apple Watch and iPhone can charge simultaneously, even while the battery is being charged.

The USB ports inside the case indicates which port is for the watch and the other for Lightning connections. The cable management holds as many cords as you want and a small opening lets you expose the Lightning cable outside of the case.

A 6-inch microUSB cable for charging the battery and a 10-inch Lightning cable are included, with the charging station, which is about the size of my iPhone 6.

A power button, battery meter and microUSB charging port are on the end. $79.99

Gadgets :: April 13, 2016

by Gregg Ellman

The Flip-Pal mobile scanner (model 100C) does an amazing job of just that, scanning photos, documents and even books on-the-go. The devices stores easily in a computer bag or laptop for ultimate portability.

It’s powered by four AA batteries and works on its own, scanning directly to the included removable SD memory card, without needing a computer.

The scanner also supports wireless Eye-Fi SD memory cards (not included).

The device as a whole measures 1.3 by 10.3 by 6.5 inches and a pass-through scan viewing area is 4-by-6-inches

The SD memory card comes with stitching software to combine multiple scans, which comes in handy since often you’ll be scanning things larger than 4-by-6-inches. It worked well stitching tests of a document and an 8-by-10 photo.

You can choose resolutions of 300 or 600 pixels per inch and both were complete in less than 30 seconds, including time for the scanner to reset itself.

What I loved was being able to turn the scan over to copy photos mounted in glass as well as images from books (copyrights do apply, so always check). The scanner allows you to see through to the scanning area to make sure everything is positioned correctly.

After scanning you can view the results on the built-in 1.7-inch color LCD.

A press release for the scanner had some cleaver uses listed including a baby’s feet and Genealogy hobbyists. $149.99

For years it seemed we couldn’t get enough TV channels for movies, news or sports. Then recently we’ve encountered the “cut the cable” era, eliminating many of those channels. During that era the ways to get your local TV broadcasts changed dramatically.

The Winegard FlatWave Micro compact antenna is a great solution and costs only $21.99.  As a company representative pointed out, this is a one-time payment with no monthly fees.

The antenna receives local broadcasts from up to 30 miles away. It’s a thick piece of paper measuring 5.25-by-7-by-0.5-inches, which is a long way from the big and bulky rabbit ears my family had on TVs when I was a kid.

The size lets you hide it most anywhere as long as the attached 5-foot coaxial cable is within reach to connect to your TV.

Setup ting takes just minutes. Connect the cable and run a channel scan to see what it picks up; it’s that easy.

It worked at home in the DFW area and since it was small and compact I took it along on a recent road trip and most of the local channels came as if I had the hotel cable TV plugged in.

A few channels did have some static and moving around the antenna seemed to help, working best when I had it against a window. $21.99

A case and a Bluetooth speaker are essential for iPad owners. The slim (14 mm) designed SoundCover folio speaker for the iPad Air brings them together.

The speakers won’t produce the great head banging sound you get from many portable Bluetooth speakers but it’s better than the tablet’s internal speaker.

You must remove the iPad since the touchscreen faces the SoundCover for storage and protection. But once it’s removed and you open the kickstand, the two are synced for use (after the initial paring).

You’ll get up to 15 hours of playback before a USB charge of the 3300 mAh lithium polymer battery is needed. Once the iPad is back in the case it automatically shuts off to save power.

The speaker can be paired with other Bluetooth-enabled devices and has an internal microphone for phone calls, a 3.5 mm direct audio connection and includes a travel bag. $129.99 in black, gold and gray for the Apple iPad Air 1 & 2 generation

Gadgets :: April 6, 2016

by Gregg Ellman

Portable GPS units such as the Garmin Drive 50 amaze me by how far the technology has come, how well they work and how good they look.

According to Garmin, the four new models of the Drive line are easy-to-use portable navigation devices specifically designed to help increase driver situational awareness.

I took a Garmin Drive 50 along for a ride where I knew there was one of the sharpest curves I’ve driven on along with speed zone changes, commonly know in my language as a speed trap.

Sure enough the warnings came up with banner alerts on the top of the 5-inch resistive touchscreen display and a warning for a red light camera.

The new alerts include warnings for one-way streets, railroad crossings, school zones, sharp curves, speed limit changes and animal crossings. A fatigue warning even comes up on longer trips.

All of this is on top of the features Garmin is known for to  easily get you to your location. These include maps, traffic and the Foursquare POI data base, which  includes millions of places to eat and shop.

Directions from Garmin Real Directions tell you about the streets and landmarks on the way.

Accessories including Garmin baby cam, dash cam and wireless backup camera can be purchased separately and paired with the Garmin Drive series. prices from $129.99 to $349.99 depending on various map regions, navigation features, Bluetooth calling and display size and model, $129.99 for The Garmin Drive 50 as tested.

The Samson Go Mic Connect, a USB microphone, is incredible in many areas.

First and foremost is the recording quality; crystal clear is an understatement.

Once connected to your audio software, all you really do is select the Go Mic Connect as the audio input and aim it at the source of the recording.

It’s made with what Samson calls Focused Pattern Technology. According to the website, this aligns its dual microphone capsules to create a pickup beam that can zero-in on a designated vocal source. This lets you narrow its width for more defined results., which can be really helpful in loud environments.

Active noise cancellation also contributes to the high quality recordings.

Depending on your software, adjustments can be made for features such as  levels and the noise canceling.

I used it right out of the box for a FaceTime call, which I was told made me sound as clear as ever.

A built-in clip lets it easily fit on laptops and monitors or just use the included free-standing base. There’s a mute button on top and  headphone output port and a USB connection on the back for connecting to computers (Windows and Mac) and some tablets.

The small size 4.3-by-0.6-by-3.2-inches, 0.3 lb. makes it portable friendly. $79 available later this month

The Griffin Survivor Tactical case puts a safe protection on your Apple Watch touchscreen and sides with a stylish covering.

The two-material (Co-molded TPE and polycarbonate) shell forms a covering to protect it from scratches and bumps, while keeping the watch fully functional.

It clips on in seconds, with or without a watchband on the watch. While it’s on, both the retina display and the force touch functions work just like they would if the case was not being used.

If you want to give your stylish smartwatch a change of appearance,  the Griffin ultra thin cases snap on in seconds.

They come in a three-pack (polished metallic, matte metallic and clear in my sample pack) and are swappable for a new look to match any appearance you want or just to change things up.

The poly carbonate cases measure just 0.5 mm thick so except for the shell covering the outside of the watch, you won’t even know it’s there. The Survivor Tactical case ($29.99) and ultra thin case three-packs ($14.99) are made for the 38 mm and 42 mm Apple Watch

Gadgets :: March 30, 2016

by Gregg Ellman


 After installing the Honeywell Lyric Round thermostat (2nd generation) it instantly went on my list of gadgets I wonder how I’ve lived without it.

It senses that you’re actually home or close by through your smartphone and geofence technology. This adjusts the temperature from your “away” temperature to your preferred “home” temperature

The Lyric is a rounded device, with a glass front touchscreen.

The installation was simple; you can do it yourself as I did or seek professional help. For the most part, after shutting off the power from the circuit breaker, just match the colored wires from your existing thermostat. I took photos showing how my old one was connected to have a reference.

The app (iOS and Android) walks you through the setup connecting the thermostat to your smartphone and WiFi network.

From there it can be controlled from anywhere. If you’re on your way home, you can easily turn up the heat or AC, or if you left and forgot to turn the heat or AC off, you can do the same. All this adds up to a big energy savings.

The Lyric is so smart, it even adapts to your temperature lifestyle. Inside this 2nd Generation Lyric Thermostat is a HomeKit chip, enabling it to work with the Apple HomeKit.

The Apple HomeKit sits in the background, allowing smart home products to seamlessly work together

Check the Honeywell site for heating/AC system compatibility. A mounting bracketed and hardware is included. A level is even built into the inside plate to ensure its mounted straight. $249.99

The Blossom 8 smart watering controller extends your smart home into a low-maintenance smart yard.

Within the Blossom app on iOS or Android smartphone or tablets, you can control eight zones of sprinklers via Wifi.

The controller (6.93-by-6.93-by-1.55-inches) replaces your existing controller and after connecting it to your Wifi, you can set up watering schedules or run it manually.Blossom8_Controller_Cover

Once all the watering zones are connected, the Blossom 8 self-programs your sprinklers based the vegetation or rainfall numbers via cloud computing through your Wifi connection.

According to Blossom, this comes from local forecasts and daily data from thousands of weather stations and satellites.

All this provides the right amount of watering for shaded areas, sunny spots, trees or grass. You can use the set programs or create your own if you think more or less water is needed. In some areas, you’ll have to set up the watering schedule based on local watering restrictions.

The Blossom 8 must be positioned indoors and the installation takes about 15 minutes, assuming you have an existing system in place. available for pre-order for $99, expected to ship in May

The wireless Nyrius smart switch outlet is so smart it even knows when you’re in the room.

It has a pass-through AC outlet to connect an electronic device you want powered on or off. Then pair it via Bluetooth to your smartphone or tablet and download the free Nyrius app (iOS and Android).

What make this outlet stand out from other smart outlets is the near-field proximity control. With this you can set it up to detect when your in the room (with your smartphone or tablet), enabling a light to turn on and off automatically.Nyrius smart switch outlet 2

The app lets you set up a daily schedule, which I set up to turn on my coffee maker at my wakeup time, which was awesome.

You can set multiple timers. iOS devices can support up to three smart switch outlets, while Android devices can handle up to seven. $39.99