Archive for February 2013

Gadgets:: This Apple guy gives HP, Windows a try with Spectre ONE

By GREGG ELLMAN

Twitter.com/greggellman

HP Spectre ONEIn general I stay away from reviewing Windows-based computers, basically because they get so much coverage on their own and also, to be honest, I’m a long-time Apple user.

So when I was offered a chance to check out the new HP Spectre ONE (23-e010se) all-in-one desktop PC, I looked it up online before accepting. It’s hard to not compare it to an iMac, so I had to get ahold of one.

There’s no need for me to go into what the Windows 8 operating software does in a computer like this; Microsoft does enough promoting on its own.

What’s packed inside this gem is a 3rd Generation Intel Core i5-3470T dual-core processor 2.9GHz, along with a 1TB (5400 rpm) hard drive and my unit had 10GB of RAM for testing.

Before I even plugged it in, I had to admire its 23.6-inch glass LED-backlit display (it’s not a touch screen), which is slightly less than a half inch thick and is home to the computer itself.

Like its competitors, HP had to eliminate something to get it so thin, so you’ll have to purchase an external optical drive to use or burn CD’s or DVD’s since there isn’t one built in.

The entire system has just one wire, a power cable, which is plugged into the back of the display stand. After you connect the power, hit a button on the top right of the display to get it going.

All the accessories are wireless and work with a USB dongle under the display in a live USB port.

A pair of AA batteries each goes into the keyboard, mouse and trackpad for power. After that just hit the connect button on each device and from there it’s almost plug and play.

The operating system goes through a short startup to connect to your Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n) network, or plug in a network cable to the back of the monitor.

All of your connections are on the base of the monitor, which includes a pair of USB 2.0 ports, HDMI, power and a Kensington lock. A pair of USB 3.0 ports are on the right side of the base, while a SD card reader and headphone port are on the left side.

A HP TrueVision HD webcam is built into the front of the display, inside is Bluetooth.

You really can’t get a clearer display than the 1080p this produces and the sound, which is listed as Beats audio, sounds great.

Even with the latest Window’s operating system, it still seems like a chore to do anything for a Mac user but after a few days on the Spectre One, it’s obvious HP has finally made a PC you would call fun.

Details: www.hp.com starting at $1,299.99

EPSON WORKFORCE PRINTER IS A WORKHORSE

WorkForce WF-3540The Epson WorkForce WF-3540 is another in what seems like a never-ending line of all-in-one desktop printers for home or small businesses.

Regardless of the brand, we all feel the same way about the cost of ink so you have to look at the features of a printer when choosing what to buy.

This one has everything, including Epson Connect, which allows you to print digital files (emails, photos, documents) from anywhere around the world.

With the group of mobile apps, Apple devices and other computers, tablets or smartphones can be linked to print on the 3540.

The printer is a little big and bulky (17.7-by-22.2-by-12.1 inches) so it will take up a little more space than the average ink jet printer.

The all-in-one describes printing, copy, scan and fax. For most, printing is the key feature and it’s endless what you can do.

Among the printing features is double sided printing, a 500-sheet paper capacity, a 3.5-inch touch screen LCD and is rated for 1 sided 15 black pages per minute and 9.3 for color.

A four color DURABrite ink system is used (black, cyan, yellow and magenta) that comes in high-capacity sizes, that lets prints come out in dry and smudge free prints.

Scanning (up to 2,400 dpi) is simple with scans able to be saved as PDFs that are text-searchable and can be saved to flash drives (not included) plugged into the USB port. Single pages can lie right on the scanner or use the 30-sheet auto document feeder.

Other options for connecting is an Ethernet port and built-in Wi-Fi for wireless printing and even emailing.

A card reader is built-in for direct access to files on removable media, and it prints envelopes, labels and card stock.

Even with all these wireless functions, it still can be connected directly to most any computer with a Windows or Mac operating system.

Faxing: that’s so yesterday, but the 3450 will take care of it if need be.

Details: www.Epson.com $149

FATCAT PORTABLE POWER GREAT TO HAVE ON HAND

FatCat mPowerWith the portable electronic world growing at a rapid rate, I could write every week about portable power options to keep your devices running. This week’s entry is the pocket-sized FatCat mPower Travel Charger Series.

The chargers come in a variety of colors but most important are the size choices of 2,000, 4,200 or 9,600 mAH. All you need to understand with those numbers is bigger is better.

They give you the option to charge most any portable USB-powered device at least twice or with the biggest model can do a mobile phone up to about eight times.

Power hungry tablets such as the iPad will need the bigger 9,600 for the 2.1 amp charge they require.

Details: www.fatcatgear.com Powerbar 2000mAH $49.95, 4200 $69.95 and the 9600 $119.95

Contact Gregg Ellman at greggellman@mac.com. Follow him on Twitter: @greggellman

Gadgets:: Hooked on a Trackpad

Bobby Malish

Logitech Rechargeable T651It’s taken me a little while to get used to the Logitech T651 Trackpad for Mac but now I’m hooked.

The square shape (actually 5 x 5 1/4-inches) works like a laptop touchpad except this one is Bluetooth enable. It can be connected with a laptop or desktop computer and be used up to 30 feet away.

An ergonomic design has it laying flat but with it angled lower towards your wrist.

It has a glass surface where you use your fingers to scroll, click and zoom.

The mechanics also allow for left and right click, which we are used to having on a mouse, is accessible with the trackpad in the lower corners.

As mentioned, it takes some getting used to but after a few days it’s like I never worked without it.

A quick driver download added a Logitech Preference Manager option in my system preferences to allow controls for speed, clicking options, zooming, battery level and more.

It’s built with a rechargeable battery, which is charged with the included microUSB cable.

Logitech says a full charge is good for a month but the on/off switch lets it save power when not in use.

www.Logitech.com $60

SWITCHAnother entry in the crowded portable Bluetooth speaker market is the Switch from Native Union.

The powerful sounding speaker is shaped like a brick (7.75 x 2.75 x2.7-inches) so it’s not going to fit in any pockets but the sound makes it worth the portability.

Hooking it up is as simple as any other Bluetooth device; just pair it and you’re set. Your device should remember it even after turning both on and off.

Past that, its just rocking good sound with lots of bass from the Switch, which has three divers and an active subwoofer. When in use, it can be left on a flat surface in either horizontal or vertical orientation.

The speaker has controls for the pairing, power and volume. If you have it paired with a cell phone and a call comes in, the speaker automatically switches to call mode for a handsfree speaker phone.

A USB-out port is built into the side to give you the option of charging your mobile device right from the speaker.

It charges in four hours for up for up to 14 hours of use with the included USB cable.

www.nativeUnion.com $149.99 available in black, blue, gray, red and white.

dashport r2200Both of the previous items can benefit from the Ventrex universal rapid chargers.

We live in a portable power-hungry world and these chargers will work at home, cars, airports or even in the air.

They are available to charge just about any device including Apple, Android, Galaxy, GPS, tablets, e-readers or anything taking a USB connection.

The Dashport Dual rapid charger is particularly handy with a pair of USB ports built into 12V car charger. It’s also available with a single port.

The Wallport AC is available with single or double ports for rapid charging.

The company is really proud of the design and appearance of the chargers and while the do look cool, the bottom line is they work.

www.Ventev.com prices range from $20 – $35 in color choices of blue, gray, green, orange, pink, red and white

Gadgets:: Dropbox customer service or lack of

By GREGG ELLMAN
Twitter.com/greggellman

DropboxBy far and away the number one email I get from readers is about lousy customer service. This includes the frustration of having to fill out online support tickets and the lack of customer support with old-fashioned way - talking to a real live person on the phone.

I had a first hand encounter with Dropbox recently, where I needed an answer pretty quick to solve a problem.

Some 24 hours later, I still hadn’t heard back from them on my issue so I filled out a media request form asking;

What is your time frame for contacting a user, who has filled out a help ticket on your “Contact Us” page? Also is there a phone number for people to call you to speak to a live person instead of emailing back and forth?

I got a reply to my media request about six hours later, which isn’t bad, although I’m still waiting for them to answer my questions. Almost immediately after filling out the media request, I got an answer on my help ticket from the day before.

Coincidence or not????

After filling out this media request, I got an answer from a Dropbox external PR team member (Allison+Partners) who said they weren’t a spokesperson so I couldn’t quote them.

Why would a media request be routed to a PR firm, who can’t be quoted?

helpIts a week later, I still don’t have the answers from Dropbox, but this is a company who wants the world to trust them with your irreplaceable digital photos, video’s, work and personal documents in a cloud?

But they can’t tell me how to contact someone when there is a problem and get a timely answer?

I’m going to work on a bigger story on customer service or lack of.

For sure Dropbox will be included since at this point I’d classify them as horrible. I’ve had personal encounters with other companies on customer service and in my mind there is no one who is as bad as XM-Sirus radio

Dropbox is giving them a run for the money…….more to come.

I will say, up to this one issue, Dropbox is an outstanding Cloud service. Obviously they need a little tweaking on the customer service end but that shouldn’t be difficult – hopefully.

Please email me with your customer services problems or compliments.

Gregg Ellman  twitter: @greggellman

Gadgets:: The Doxie scans with speed, folding sound and a backpack with endless storage

By GREGG ELLMAN
Twitter.com/greggellman

DX1_AngledThe Doxie One portable scanner is a computer-less scanner, which is one of the easiest  to work I’ve ever seen.

Operating this scanner is as simple as a push of a button to you scan photos, documents, receipts or just about anything you can feed into it in sizes ranging from business cards to 8.5 x 15-inches.

The scanner is portable to a point (1.7 by 10.5 by 2.2, 13.6 oz) where you can put it in your computer bag but don’t stick it in your back pocket.

There isn’t much to this scanner, except for great results.

You have several choices to power it up; use the included AC wall power adapter or purchase four AAA Ni-Mh rechargeable batteries on your own.

Then insert the included 2GB SD memory card, where your scans will be stored. Third party companies such as Eye-Fi make wireless SD cards, which can be used to wirelessly send your scans to a Mac, PC or even some tablets and smartphones.

To get your scans out of the scanner you can insert the memory card in your computer or just connect the included USB cord from the scanner to your device.

Output formats include JPEG, PDF and PNG files in both color and black and white.

A calibration sheet and a protect cover is included to insert your photos into the scanner, which is great to help protect them.

Scanning 4 x 6-inch images takes just 5 seconds each with a 300 DPI color resolution or about 8 seconds for a full document scan also at 300 DPI color.

Doxie software (Windows and Mac) acts like an inbox and allows to send the scans directly to other apps on your computer or just sent them to selected online cloud services.

The purpose of a scanner like this is it’s portability and ease of use, the results are great quality for email, web use or smaller prints.

I would call this scanner a great device for archiving that shoebox full of prints many of us have but don’t seem to have the time to deal with. The Doxie one can easily conquer that shoebox in an afternoon.

www.getdoxie.com $144

sh190bm-002While trolling around the Ableplanet display at CES, I had a quick conversation with someone, who is obviously a big fan of the product since he stated that his headphones from the company are the best he has ever owned.

While I can’t agree or disagree with his statement, I can say every set of headphones I’ve tested from the company has been nothing short of outstanding. includes the latest I’ve gotten my hands on from Ableplanet, the Musicians Choice stereo headphones.

One thing I like is how the padded over the ear, cups are flexible and turn sideways for space saving.

As for the sound, which includes the companies Linx Audio sound, when you consider the price ($89 at Ableplanet.com or $44 at Amazon) you’re getting a great deal.

As described on their site, Linx Audio creates high frequency harmonics that enhance sound quality and speech clarity of difficult to hear words or notes, and increase the perception of loudness without increasing volume.

An in-line mic controls your sound and music selections on Apple portable devices along with other smartphones and tablets.

They are available in 11 different colors and come with a soft carrying pouch.

www.ableplanet.com

renegade_black_hiresOn a quick trip last week I tested out the OGIO Renegade RSS backpack, which has more storage compartments then even someone like me had to fill up with, including a laptop, tablet, cables, accessories and gadgets.

Each pocket is easy to access and seems to lead to more compartments, which are all zippered shut, padded and protected.

A unique design from OGIO called Red Protection, is obviously red in color but also identifies the safest storage compartment.  In this case it was the back of the backpack, which I used for my 15-inch MacBook Pro, although a 17-inch size would also fit.

That compartment is also built with a Reactive Suspension System, which translates into a safe and padded storage area.

Pockets, zippers and padding seems to be everywhere you look and it also has padding  on the backside so it rests comfortably on your back.

Another specific feature includes a crush-proof Tech Vault, which I used for storage but opted to not test the crushing part, I’ll just take their word for it.

There’s also a tablet pocket but you’ll have your choice of many different places to store that device.

I’ve seen a lot of computer bags and storage solutions and this one is as well constructed and designed as any backpack I’ve seen.

Although it costs more then others, when you factor in how much you spend on the products you store in any computer bag, it makes sense to store them in something that’s going to protect them, suck at the Renegade.

www.ogio.com $149

Gadgets:: MacWorld still a draw for Apple junkies

By GREGG ELLMAN
Twitter.com/greggellman

The MacWorld Expo trade show (last week in San Francisco) isn’t what it used to be, but if you’re an Apple junkie it still has a lot of appeal.It’s pretty much all Apple, with a little PC thrown in here and there.The show featured an endless number of innovative features your Mac or iOS device, even cooking, cleaning and singing. Here’s a round-up.

JAM MAKES EVERYONE MUSICIANS

Jam for iPhone is the iOS Instagram for music, according to company representatives. It turns anyone, including those like me who are musically challenged, into rock stars by turning their singing into musical masterpieces.

Your lyrics are recorded and then the app turns into a song based on the melody, scale and cords supported in it, and can add musical instruments such as trumpets and guitars.

After you’re done it can be saved to social media or just made into an MP3.

The app is free and extra features can be added for 99 cents each.

Details: www.dreamwalk.com.au

GARMIN GPS SLIMS DOWN

Garmin 3597The super thin Garmin Nuvi 3597 does everything needed to get you where you need to be, with directions that now include specific points of interest such as recognizable landmarks, stop signs and traffic lights.

It’s built with an incredibly thin body of a half-inch thick, and has a five-inch diagonal touchscreen LCD.

Features include a new powered magnetic mount, which has a pass-through charging.

It directs you in friendly tones, telling (and showing) you what lane to be in, landmarks to look for before turning and when a street light is approaching.

Right out of the box, it’s loaded with detailed maps of North American and includes free lifetime updates.

Details: www.Garmin.com $379.99

A VIRTUAL YOUDouble

For $2,000 you can put your iPad in the driver’s seat with the Double from Double Robotics.

It looks like a Segway, except there is no human on top just your iPad, which is controlled remotely from anywhere in the world with WiFi via an app.

Described as “the simplest, most elegant way to be somewhere else in the world without flying there,” you can use it to watch your sick kids at home while you’re at work, roam around an office or directly face anyone speaking in a conference call.

The controls let it go backwards, forwards, up and down and runs on an internal rechargeable battery. The company is promoting it as ideal for educators, conference calls and the medical world.

Details: www.doublerobotics.com

EYEPIECE ADDS TO PHONE-AS-CAMERA MOVEMENT

Daylight ViewfinderThe Daylight Viewfinder helps iPhoneographers take photos in high-glare or bright conditions.

It’s an eyepiece that works as an extended viewfinder, which you can adjust like a diopter for each user.

After you download the free app, it works with Apple devices with retina displays and attaches to the touch screen like a suction cup and doesn’t scratch your screen.

Details: www.daylightviewfinder.com $29.95

TWIG CHARGE CABLE BENDS TO HOLD YOUR PHONE

TwigAt first glance, the Twig looks like any other four-inch Apple 30-pin charge and sync cable.

But after unpacking it, you can see the usefulness when it folds out into a tripod to hold your iPhone or iPod in place.

Each leg is wire so you can bend it in any direction or just leave them flat. It’s strong enough to plug it into an AC outlet, bend it upward and you can have an instant wall charging dock.

It’s available in six colors for $20 each in the 30-pin charging model. A Twig lighting connection is expected later this year.

Details: www.richardtracybrand.com

PROTECT YOURSELF ON PUBLIC WI-FI

Cloak is software for Mac and iOS to prevent hackers from watching what you are doing while on public Wi-Fi networks.

Once it’s loaded, everything you do is encrypted and decrypted in their cloud and then sent to where you want it to go. It will automatically detect unsafe conditions and secure them before the bad guys can get ahold of your data.

Depending on the level of safety needed, it will cost you $7.99 up to $14.99 a month.

Details: www.GetCloak.com

WATER-RESISTANT SPEAKER GOES ANYWHERE

Boom UrchinBoom’s Urchin is a Bluetooth, water-resistant speaker, which is described as “ready for anything” in their company catalog.

It’s shaped like a bladder and includes hardware for mounting in your shower, strapping it on your backpack and a soon-to-be released bike mount.

If you are into colors, this one is for you, with about 10 silicone skin options.

Oh, and it sounds really good.

Details: www.BoomMovement.com $149.99, due out in mid-February

GET ANIMATED

CrazyTalk7 lets you create your own animated facial images in just minutes.

Just import a digital image, work with the software to create a grid in the image specifying specific facial feature points. Then add music or any audio you want for up to a five minute clip.

It automatically generates lip-synced life-like talking animated videos.

Details: www.Reallusion.com $29.99

MOSHI’S EARBUDS LOOK, SOUND GOOD

Moshi MythroMoshi’s Mythro earbuds are one of the many I tried at the show but these had the combination of sounding good, looking good with its aluminum body and had a reasonable price of $29.99.

They include an in-line mic and are available in multiple color combinations.

Details: www.moshimonde.com

WRAP YOUR DEVICE

Just about every display had some sort of case or covering for computers and iDevices but the Slickwraps far and away stood out from the others with innovative choices.

This included a sandpaper/skateboard, ostrich and an ultra suede finish, which was just as you’d see on furniture.

The coverings are made for just about any device to keep it scratch free and looking good.

All the products are USA made and even come in glow-in-the-dark choices to glow for about 8 hours before needing a 10 minute charge of light.

Details: www.Slickwraps.com $11.99 to $30 depending on the device you want covered

PERSONALIZE, PROTECT YOUR PHONE

My iPhone 5 has a nice new case, which features a nice photo I supplied of my dog, thanks to PhotoUSA.

The process takes any photo and in a matter of minutes turns it into a permanent case for just about any portable electronic gadget.

It’s done with a dye-sub printing system, heat transfer process but only takes a few minutes. The finished product is a fully wrapped image, which can’t and won’t peel off.

Details: www.vivoprint.com pricing starts at $17.99

WHAT GOES BEST WITH AN APPLE? CHEESE, OF COURSE

A company named Daiya has nothing to do with the electronics world, but since I spent more time there than any other display, I thought it’s worth mentioning.

A company representative said they were displaying their dairy-free cheese-alternative products at the show because they want to share the product with people who like innovative products.

The company’s slogan is “deliciously dairy free” and after sampling more than my share of pizza and grilled cheese sandwiches, I was certain that if you didn’t know what the product was, you’d think it was made with 100 percent natural cheese.

The ingredients are all plant-based, making it vegetarian, lactose-free, kosher and cholesterol friendly.

Details: www.daiyafoods.com

Contact Gregg Ellman at greggellman@mac.com. Follow him on Twitter: @greggellman