Archive for September 2016

Gadgets :: September 28, 2016

By Gregg Ellman
(@Greggellman)

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.

www.Logitech.com $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.

https://idevicesinc.com $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.

www.elgato.com $79.95

Gadgets :: September 14, 2016

by Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

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.

www.kanex.com $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.

www.mycharge.com $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.

http://distilunion.com $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.”