Archive for March 2016

Gadgets :: March 30, 2016

by Gregg Ellman

(@Greggellman)

 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.

http://yourhome.honeywell.com $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.

http://myblossom.com 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.

http://nyrius.com $39.99

Gadgets :: March 21, 2016

by Gregg Ellman
(@Greggellman)

 The PRYSMAchrome is an atomic clock, working as a nightstand alarm clock as well as a weather station.

It measures the indoor temperature and _ more important in my mind _ the outdoor temperature with the included remote sensor.  You also get humidity levels and a weather forecast with icons for sunny, cloudy, rain, etc.

The modern-looking 7-inch LCD shows the time (re-sets for daylight savings), date and even changes colors with changes in the outdoor temperature.

Included is an AC adapter for power; the remote sensor is powered by two AAA batteries. An alarm with the ever popular snooze feature is built-in.

I found the temperature readings to be accurate with the sensor and on the only day in my few days of testing with a significant weather change, the display told me it was raining and sure enough when I looked outside the raindrops were falling.

www.oregonscientific.com $99.99 available in white or gray

Electrohome’s AC powered retro alarm clock is another cool and functional nightstand accessory. Obviously with the title it has a retro look, almost exactly like the wind up alarm clock I had as a kid, except this one isn’t an ugly green.

There are no moving and ticketing hands like my old clock. Instead there’s an LCD with dual alarms, which is handy for waking up multiple people or on different days of the week.

Daylight savings time is also accurately detected to go forward or backwards, depending on the time of year.

It has a battery backup and 20 radio presets (10 AM, 10 FM) for listening or waking  up to.

When the alarm goes off (sounds or radio) a motion sensor lets you wave your hand to activate the snooze and the sunrise lamps. The top-sided lights gradually brighten  starting a half hour before the alarm rattles your brain. Or you can do the old fashioned way of hitting a snooze button on the top.

If you’re like me, the sunrise lamps won’t have an effect since I can sleep with a flashlight directly in my eyes, but my wife wants the room dark for shuteye so this will be effective to get her going.

If you don’t want the wakeup light, you can disable it.

The sensor also acts as a night light. Just wave your hand over it during the night to get the light on and so the same to turn it off.

There’s also a nap timer, sleep timer and displays for time, indoor temperature and date.

Everything is controlled by six front facing buttons, including settings and volume. I read the instructions once to see that each button did, just to be sure, but it’s pretty easy to figure out without the manual.

A CR2032 coin cell battery fits in the bottom in the event the power goes out.

http://electrohome.com $29.99

Smaller and, most important thin, accurately describes the LifeCard compact portable power source.

The compact design (3.5-by-0.2-by-2.1-inches) lets you carry it in your pocket or wallet to easily give a smartphone or tablet an emergency boost.

You won’t even need a cable to connect it to Lightning or microUSB devices since the cable is built-in.

The brushed stainless steel battery has LED indicator lights to display how much battery power remains.

With 1,500 mAh of power, you won’t be able to give your device a full charge, but it will easily give you a needed boost of power when you’re desperate.

www.plusus.com $49.95 microUSB, $64.95 for Lightning, both available in cooper or silver.

Gadgets :: March 14, 2016

by Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

Like many other music fans, my conversion 25 years ago to CDs and then digital music  files put an end to my vinyl listening. But I could never get my self to part with my collection, so it has moved around the country with me, always finding a spot for the milk crate of records in a closet.

My collection came to life recently after Crosley sent me their new C200 turntable.

There’s a quick setup, attaching a few parts and pieces, connecting the needle (Audio-Technica magnetic cartridge) and balancing it to rest on the vinyl properly. A damped die-cast aluminum platter and felt slip mat for the records to sit on drop into place.

This takes just minutes, along with connecting the included RCA cables to your existing receiver.

Once connected and playing, I loved the sound of the needle dropping down to play  along with the clean static noise you get from this type of music hardware.

I actually found myself flipping through my records thinking about what would be the best choice for a first listen and the winner was Boston’s debut album, which to this day is still on my iTunes playlist.

Functionally, it’s a direct drive, high-torque motor with a built-in preamp, has a start stop button, an adjustable counter-weight balanced, hydraulic lift control arm and plays 33 1/3 and 45 RPM records (with the included adapter). 

One thing I did remember during my testing was that decades ago I shed my 45 collection, so much to my disappointment, the 45RPM adapter sat unused.

As for the appearance, I’m not up on how other companies are making the look of turntables but I really like how Crosley kept a vintage look, while also appearing modern with a matte black finish.

While meeting with Crosley company representatives at a trade show earlier this year, they fed me some facts about the vinyl industry making a robust return the last few years. This includes manufacturing, sales and the return of people like me.

www.crosleyradio.com $279

A lot of people stay away from battery smartphone cases to avoid the excess bulk and weight. Moshi’s iGlaze Ion battery case two-piece battery case for the iPhone 6/6s solves that problem since it’s just that; two pieces, which you use as needed.

Your phone sits in a nice looking and thin profile case but when you need the battery boost just attach it to the outer charging case.

Inside is a 2,700 mAh battery, which connects to the lightning port on the iPhone and charges while your phone is still on your desk or held up to your ear on a call.

 

You can keep the battery attached at all times or remove it to eliminate some bulk and weight when it’s not needed.

The battery charges up from any USB power source.

www.moshi.com $99.95

Another great new iPhone accessory case is Pelican’s IP68 Marine waterproof case.

I don’t usually like to put my iPhone in water but since I’m a big fan of Pelican, what the heck. It’s promoted to withstand being submerged at a depth of two meters for up to 30 minutes.

I didn’t go that far but it did get a few minutes in my kitchen sink and it worked to perfection.

Along with the waterproof features, it keeps your phone dust and dirt free. It’s constructed with durable impact absorbing materials and military standards of advanced shock protection for drops and impact.

The scratch resistant coated protector for the LCD is crystal clear for viewing and keeps the touchscreen fully functional.

www.Pelican.com $79.95 for the iPhone6/6S and Galaxy S6, $89.95 for the iPhone 6 Plus and 6S Plus

Gadgets :: March 7, 2019

by Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

Activity wearables are a booming business that helps you track your daily activities, contributing to an active and healthy lifestyle.

Now your dog’s activities can be tracked by attaching a PitPat to the collar of your best four-legged friend.

After it’s attached you download the free PitPat app to your Android or Apple iOS device to follow your dog’s stats.

The app records the activities and sets guidelines for your pet based on its breed  (over 200 choices), age and existing measured activity.

The PitPat measures 1.5-by-1.2-by-.6 inches and weighs 0.42 ounces. It attaches with Velcro to your dog’s existing collar (fit collars up to 40 mm wide and 5 mm thick) and is waterproof (IP67) for quick dips in ponds and splashes.

I attached it to my 12-pound dog, she didn’t really show any reaction. As expected, she didn’t do much while I was working (just as a remote camera showed me years ago) and pretty much spent the day shut eyed.

The goal of the PitPat is to keep your dog healthy for a longer and happy life, just as an activity tracker does for you and me.

If you have multiple pets, the app can support up to three individual PitPat devices. It’s powered by a small coin-sized battery (CR1632) and should last for about a year.

One thing I did wonder was answered on the PitPat site: does the device emit harmful radiation that could harm my dog? And the answer is No, the PitPat uses standard Bluetooth technology, which is perfectly safe for humans and pets.

www.pitpatpet.com $55.48

The Monster Power black platinum 1200 power strip does everything you would expect from a high-end surge protector.

It has 12 AC outlets attached to a 6-foot cord, 2 USB charging ports (3.4amp), provides fireproof protection, noise filtration and cable/satellite TV coax protection.

The main attraction is the power surge protection aspect, which you should use on all your valuable electronics – computers, gaming units, TVs, etc.  A power surge is a spike in your data or power lines, most often caused by weather, but it could also be from heavy usage on the lines or utility company issues.

What really interested me in this device is the power line (PLC) communication, which I was not familiar with.

I spoke with a representative from Monster to explain what PLC is and simply, it’s a communication protocol that uses your house’s existing electrical wiring for electrical outlets to carry and transmits data.

So after you plug you’re existing data into Black Platinum 1200, you send your existing Internet signal to another part of your house for a wired Internet connection.

A great aspect is that you set this up yourself; just plug in the included power line adapter to an AC outlet near your existing modem. Then use an ethernet cable to connect them.

Figure out where you want your computer or whatever needs a wired Internet connection. Then plug the power strip into an AC outlet and an ethernet cable to the ethernet port on the power center.

This replaces the need of a long ethernet cable or it can reach where a cable can’t.

You also get $1 million insurance to guarantee the Black Platinum 1200 will protect the equipment connected to it. Check the Monster warranty for details.

www.monsterproducts.com $199.95

In no particular order, the Marley Chant Sport portable Bluetooth speaker has great sound and great looks.

The Bluetooth sound comes from a pair of speakers (4.5W, 1.75-inch drivers and a  2X passive radiator) inside a 360-degree sound chamber covered by a black mesh grill.

As for the looks, it shouldn’t be a surprise since Marley really put a great emphasis on their product’s appearance.

The outside is made of recycled blended bio-plastic, silicone and recyclable aluminum.  It has an IPX7 water-resistant rating so it can withstand getting caught in a quick rain shower but just don’t take it for a swim, although it will float.

It measures 7.75-by-3.65-by-3.65-inches and is shaped like a water bottle to  conveniently first into a cup holder.

Inside is a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, good for about 8 hours of play and a built-in microphone for handsfree calls.

ww.thehouseofmarley.com $79.99

Gadgets :: February 28, 2016

By Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

So how would you like it if someone paid for every speeding ticket you get during the next year?

Well, thats what will happen if you purchase and register a K40 Electronics radar detector.

I’ve used the K40 RLS2 (all-band radar and laser detector with GPS technology) for a while and fortunately for me, I haven’t gotten a ticket, nor have I a pushed temptation with my gas pedal. Never-the-less, this radar detector is packed with amazing features past the Ticket-Free Guarantee program.

It detects law enforcement radar and announces what band and approximately how far is is from you. This includes the newest KA radar band, K band and all the way back to the oldest X Band, which according to a K40 customer service representative is very rare these days.

If you’ve ever used a radar detector you know it goes off for non-police radar sources. To combat that, the Quiet Ride feature is perfect. Through an easy to navigate menu, you can eliminate alerts from anything until you get to the speed you set it to, to make the alerts go off.

False warnings can also be eliminated with the Mark to Mute setting for false alerts, along with alerting you for upcoming school zones, stop signs or traffic lights.

K40 promotes a consultant system, which I called to get some tips and tricks. The rep suggested using the device horizontally (obviously aiming forward) for the best performance.

Another suggestion I really liked is the Wake Up setting to shorten the startup when it’s turned on. This enables quicker departures over time.

Overall there are 13 customized settings, including the brightness of the display, customized audio and visual alerts and mark alerts, which might be highly patrolled by law enforcement.

As for  the Ticket-Free Guarantee program, K40 claims to be the first radar detector manufacturer in the world to offer this program. The full policy on what’s covered or not covered (speeding in school zones etc.) along with the complete policy is on the K40 site.

A windshield mounting bracket with suction cups, a 12V coiled power cord and straight power cord for a custom hardwired installation are included.

www.k40.com $399.99

The PhotoFast iOS card reader is built with a lightning connector that plugs  directly into any iPad or iPhone supporting the lightning connection.

What makes this more than just another device is that it stores a microUSB memory card (up to 128GB) for extended the internal storage capabilities of your device.

Once the memory card is in the reader, it’s essentially plug-and-play to transfer, stream and backup digital images, audio, video, calendars and document files. All this is done through the free i-FlashDrive ONE app, which also stores and backs-up from cloud storage and social media.

This essentially gives the iOS devices the memory and ease of use to get content on and off and even transfer from a non-Apple device.

The app has security features, supports Touch ID and has a lock to keep the tiny memory card secure.

www.photofast.com available with up to 128GB capacity, prices start at $39.99

Sticky Sounds is a mountable speaker for extreme sport enthusiasts.

It’s built with an IPx6 waterproof rating, enabling it to withstand splashes of rain, dirt and dust along with small drops.

You can use it with most GoPro adapters and mounts along with a bunch of third party accessories for mounting on bikes, water accessories, backpacks or most anything you can secure it to.

An internal battery keeps it playing for about 8 hours and is charged via USB, so you can mount a portable battery (not included) for extended use.

You can insert your microUSB memory card full of music to listen to or just pair it to your device with Bluetooth.

After a day on the muddy trails, wipe the speaker with a damp cloth and you’ll be ready for the next adventure.

http://stickysounds.com $48.95