Gadgets :: August 23, 2018

by Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

It seems like just yesterday students were trading books for flip flops for the summer. With the season just about gone, back to school is upon us so here is a few tech suggestions for most any student.

Satechi’s  aluminum Bluetooth slim wireless keyboard works interchangeably between smartphones, tablets, desktop computers and laptops.  With assigning Bluetooth 3.0 pairing keys, you can connect up to four devices. And don’t worry, it’s more than simple to setup, just press and hold a Bluetooth pairing key to assign each Bluetooth device. On top of how easy and versatile the keyboard is, it has a modern look with what the company calls diamond-cut chamfered edges along with a Mac looking brushed aluminum finish. 

www.satechi.net $74.99, available in silver or space gray

According to the Phonesoap website, your cell phone has 18x more bacteria than a public restroom. Cleaning the screen is nice but doesn’t do a whole lot, especially long-term. Phonesoap is the answer for sanitizing your smartphone, while simultaneously charging its battery. There’s no scrubbing necessary, just place your smartphone in the Phonesoap case and the UV-C light sanitizer neutralizes the bacteria covering your phone in just 10 minutes. This type of cleaning gets the screen, sides and the back of your phone along with microorganisms hiding in the crevices and corners, which are near impossible to clean with a cloth.

www.phonesoap.com  $59.95 

Moshi’s modern looking Hexa backpack is lightweight (23 ounces) and has an endless amount of storage. They designed it with single-panel construction, a weather-resistant exterior and an easy-to-clean lining. A spacious, 20-liter interior, including a padded laptop area for models up to 15-inches. A front zip pocket has a handy anti-theft snap enclosure. It also has an RFID Shield Pocket, which protects devices storing personal data or credit cards from digital snoops. A padded Airmesh backside and shoulder straps allow for breathability and comfort. Available in color choices of midnight black, forest green and khaki brown.

www.moshi.com $119.95

The Kingston DataTraveler Bolt Duo is one of those gadgets you don’t think you need, but once you have it you’ll wonder how you lived without it. The Bolt, essentially a flash drive but with an Apple Lighting connection, will give you extended/external storage for videos, music or photos. The setup is simple; download the free Bolt app and from there you can back even up your device or just access its data. Measuring only  2.5 x 0.78 x 0.43-inches, the Bolt won’t take up much physical space but the included key ring accessory comes in handy so you know where it is. The DataTraveler Bolt Duo also features an app security to set up a password or touch ID.

www.kingstongo.com 128GB $82.99, 64GB $56.99, 32GB $45.54

The Ventev wireless chargestand outputs 15W of power and is built with 

Qi and Fast Wireless Charging technology for wireless enabled smartphones. There are eight possible positions, including portrait and landscape, that you can place your smartphone on the desktop stand for charging. The Ventev site has a chart listing the optimal positions to get the fastest charge, depending on where you position the charging puck on the adjustable and well made aluminum stand. The charging puck can also be removed for using on a flat surface. A 6-foot UL-certified power supply is included to get power to the charger.

https://mobileaccessories.ventev.com $48.52

Mission Workshop’s new Spec Laptop Sleeve is available in two sizes. The small model accommodates most laptops up to 13-inches and the large holds most laptops up to 15-inches. Both are fully padded and designed to be used on its own or with any of Mission Workshops Rucksacks or Cargo Packs. There’s a flap on top, which can be left open for easy in-and-out use or close it for keeping the contents secure.  The Spec is available in choices of burly and light HT500 fabric (black and gray) or 500D Cordura (black camo).

https://missionworkshop.com large $65, small $60

Gadgets :: August 15, 2018

by Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

The BoxLock is designed to prevent theft of delivery packages left by the front door. In addition to the anti-theft aspect, packages are protected from bad weather, which has victimized me. Nothing like having a box socked in a thunderstorm, etc.

The BoxLock smart padlock solves both these problems.  According to BoxLock, this is the first of its kind, an internet-connected security padlock that is attached to a delivery storage box or anything of your choice. After a simple setup, you’ll see how well it works to protect your deliveries. 

Like many of you, when I open new gadgets the instructions often never get read, but with the smart lock, you’ll have to follow the included instructions. The setup isn’t complicated but to ensure it works, you’ll have to set up a BoxLock account with a secure password within the accompanying app (iOS and Android).

Once your account is active follow the instructions to get the BoxLock setup, which includes getting it linked with your Wi-Fi.

You’ll must have an online account with whoever deliverers your package, which can include Amazon and major delivery services such as FedEx, UPS and the USPS. The BoxLock instructions tell you exactly what settings you’ll need to set up, which is all straightforward and only has to be done once, during the setup process.

After the setup, as a BoxLock company representative pointed out, you’ll be ready to fight off porch pirates since the receptacle with the BoxLock remains locked until a package is delivered.

My biggest question, which I’m sure anyone has, is how does the system work as far as verification, and opening and closing the lock when a package arrives.

When  drivers get to your house for the delivery, they scan the package for their system (they all use handheld mobile scanners) and then scan the label with the BoxLock. Once the label is approved by the lock, it opens allowing the driver to leave the package securely inside. 

You’ll then get a push notification of the delivery.

As far as the receptacles to use, that’s really up to you, how much space you have and what you want it to look like. My father-in-law would have built me the most fashionable, stylish box imaginable, made of wood.

BoxLock sent me a Step2 ($99.99) deluxe package delivery box (25-by-15-by-11-inches) with my test lock and they were a perfect pair.  It features a water-resistant design, hinged lid, and a lock latch, which can be used with the smart lock or any traditional padlock. This is just one of several choices in a line of certified BoxLock storage containers available.

Whatever receptacle you use, think about mounting it to your porch or patio. If you don’t want it that permanent, how about dropping a 50 pound bag of sand in the bottom? That will certainly add a really inexpensive additional layer to the security.

The BoxLock (8.46-by-4.25-by-3.54-inches) has a weather resistant case, a push to scan button on top which activates a bottom side barcode scanner. Inside is a chargeable battery, good for 30 to 60 days.

I’ve always felt like if someone’s going to try and steal something, I’m going to do my best to not make it easy for them. This system adds a sold layer of protection, which is even better than having a neighbor look out for your upcoming delivery. Common sense alone tells me this is a better system to keep packages secure from those lurking for a free front porch score vs just sitting there waiting to disappear.

Late last week I asked one of my local delivery drivers what they thought of home delivery security systems such as this and instantly I got two thumbs up and a smile.

Certainly an unofficial endorsement but in my mind, enough said.

www.getboxlock.com $129.00 

Gadgets :: August 8, 2018

by Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

A water bottle is certainly nothing new, nor is a Bluetooth speaker. But combine the two, just as iHome parent company SDI Technologies did with the new Aquio,  and you have a cool, innovative product.

The device is well made on both ends. A 16 ounce water bottle is double-walled stainless-steel, designed to keep your beverage hot for 14 hours or cold for 24 hours. 

A 5-watt speaker on the bottom is covered by a black grill with premium woven fabric. Inside is a USB rechargeable battery, good for about 6 hours of playtime.

The speaker screws off easily so you can hand wash the bottle. It’s sized cup holder friendly and has a carry loop on the air tight cap for attaching it to a backpack or wherever you want.

And if you feel like talking to your bottle, go right ahead. It has digital echo cancellation to use it as speakerphone for handsfree calls along with audio caller ID. This ensures you’ll know who you’re talking to on the other end of your bottle conversation.

The Aquio is iP67 rated, which makes it water and sand proof.

Aquio said it the first time ever a premium-quality BPA-free water bottle has been designed with a removable high-quality iHome music system in a recent press release and I think they hit a home run with this one.

aquiobottles.com $69.99, available in color choice of seafoam, merlot, midnight and blush

Wireless means wireless when you combine a wireless charging Qi-enabled smartphone with myCharge’s new UnPlugged series of wireless, pocket-sized chargers.

The charger is truly cable-free for charging anywhere, anytime for devices needing a power boost. Just put the charger against your smartphone and the charging begins. You can talk on the phone, use any app or just have the two sitting paired on a countertop while charging.

There’s also a pair of standard USB ports on the bottom for connecting cables to charge non-wireless charging devices. The USB ports and with the wireless charging will all work simultaneously for charging up to three devices. 

The new power banks are available in four sizes  of mAh power: 10,000 ($69.99), 8,000 ($59.99) , 5,000 ($49.99) and 3,000 ($29.99).

Among the features built into the UnPlugged batteries is smart-sense technology to ensure complete device compatibility, hyper-charge for ultra-fast charging, rapid-recharge and pass-through charging so you can charge up the UnPlugged battery while devices are connected for charging.

With the varying amount of power, each charger is good for a different amount of charges, with the 10k model at the top for up to 5 times your existing battery. Obviously charging times and the amount of portable power can vary depending on the size of the device(s) battery being charged.

The battery’s exterior has a white soft touch finish, which is kind of unusual and helps it stay fingerprint- and scratch-free. A small power button turns it on and off and charges itself through the microUSB port.

The 10k model measures 2.8-by-0.8-by-5.8-inches with a weight of just 0.4 pounds.

https://mycharge.com 

TwelveSouth has released AirSnap, a full-grain leather case tailor made for Apple AirPods.

The stylish case (2.9-by-2.1-by-.98-inches) is made to protect the true wireless earbuds and has a swiveling carabiner style metal clip to attach it your belt or backpack for keeping them secure and easy accessible.  A metal snap closes the case and there’s a cutout in the bottom so they can be charged while in the AirSnap.

www.twelvesouth.com $29.99 available in choices of black, deep teal and chocolate 

Gadgets :: August 1, 2018

by Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

Wireless earbuds are totally awesome except when, all too often, you turn them on and the battery is dead and they’re temporarily useless.

To the rescue comes the IFrogz Cocoon earbud charging case.

It’s shaped and sized similar to a hockey puck and built with a 580 mAh rechargeable battery, good for about five earbud charges.

The hard-shelled case is perfect to store earbuds while charging or just while not being used. This keeps your earbuds dust-, dirt- and damage-free. A quick-latch silicone band easily opens and closes the compartment. 

Along with the earbuds, there is room for a few more cables, keys, spare charge or other small items. Inside is a charging port for the included microUSB case.

A battery indicator is built into the case so you’ll know when the case needs a charge itself.

www.Zagg.com $29.99, available in color combinations of gray/navy and gray/red

Zagg has a few new keyboard solutions for increased tablet productivity with the launch of the Normad Book and Messenger Folio keyboards.

The Nomad Book ($99.99) is a universal solution that can be customized to fit a variety of today’s tablets. It’s built with two detachable bumpers, allowing the keyboard to fit most tablets sized 10.5-inches or smaller. This includes the Apple 10.5-inch iPad Pro, Apple 9.7-inch iPad Pro, Apple 9.7-inch iPad (2017-18 models), Apple iPad Air 2, Apple iPad Air, Samsung Galaxy Tab S3, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2, according to Zagg.

It also has multi-device pairing for connecting and using the keyboard simultaneously with a tablet and another device.

The Normad Book can be changed to different modes, adjusting the screen angle for optimal viewing. A reverse kickstand is included and a rechargeable battery can last up to two years between charges.

The Zagg Messenger Folio ($59.99) is a lightweight keyboard case for the Apple 10.5-inch iPad Pro. It transforms the iPad Pro into a practical workstation. It also features a built-in holder for an Apple Pencil, for easy access and safe storage.

A magnetic closure keeps your iPad security closed when not in use and Inside is a rechargeable battery for Bluetooth connections, which will last up to three months.

www.Zagg.com 

The new Mission Workshop Transit Arkiv weatherproof laptop briefcase is ideal for both daily and long-term travel use.

What caught my attention was the weatherproofing and its wax-coated exterior canvas (500HT nylon), an interior made with 140/70d nylon with TPU coating and YKK water resistant coated nylon zippers. 

Always keep in mind that weatherproof does not mean waterproof, meaning you’ll be fine if you get caught in a rainstorm but I wouldn’t consider taking a swim with the Arkiv in tow.

Inside is a fully padded laptop compartment (fits a 15-inch Macbook Pro), internal file organizer, mesh zip pocket, end cap water bottle pocket, and quick-access external zippered pocket for a smartphone, other small electronic accessories, wallet or keys.

Other features include a luggage pass through, removable shoulder strap with quick adjust hardware, waist-stabilization straps, bike rack attachment straps, inside pockets and zipper mesh pockets

The new case can be combined with Mission Workshop’s Radian, R2, R6, And R8 packs to create complete travel storage systems.

https://missionworkshop.com $255, available in black, gray, black camo, brown waxed canvas, olive waxed canvas

Gadgets :: July 25, 2018

by Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

The Omni 20 is 20,400 mAh of portable power. And while it’s not pocket-sized, it easily stores in a computer bag or backpack. 

On the box, it’s promoted as perfect to power anything anywhere, including laptops, cameras, tablets, phones, speakers and more. I have all those devices and I knew it would work perfect for all of them.

But a real test would be during this summer’s Dallas heatwave, with weekly highs approaching 110 degrees. I chose to do my testing away from my office and kitchen, but not too far away. Just a few dozen steps into my yard and I was powered poolside.

Along came my blender and some frozen beverages, which are perfect poolside or on location in a pack.  The Omni 20 powered my Kitchen Aid blender perfectly for several rounds of frozen margaritas.

Remember, the power pack is not waterproof and I’ll assume neither is my blender. So please use with caution along with being responsible when consuming adult beverages.

Built into the Omni 20 is a pair of standard USB ports, a standard wall socket AC and a DC out port. You also have pass-through charging, so when you’re charging the Omni 20 itself, you can recharge your devices at the same time.

With over 20,400 mAh of power inside, cell phones can be charged up to nine times and smaller digital cameras up to eight. Charging times and frequency will depend on the devices needing the power.

The Li-ion battery measures 5-by-4.8-by-1.1-inches and weighs 1.4-pounds and has a lifecycle of 500 charges.

Turning it on is as easy as hitting a power button and an Oled screen has displays and setting controls, including auto shutoff, battery remaining capacity, battery temperature, charge time remaining and other options.

https://www.omnicharge.co $249.99

It just so happens I was listening to satellite radio with new Beem United fitness BeActiv E300 wireless earbuds while I was using my above mentioned review using my blender outside. And I know, yes my job is horrible some days.

The neckband headset is built with Bluetooth 4.1 and has a nice 6-hour battery life, which only takes 1.5-hours to charge. 

Magnetic tips are built into the earbuds to connect them so they stay in place when not in use (I love that feature). I’ve turned into a fan of neckband headphones for daily use, travel and active lifestyle for bike rides as well as yard work.

As for the sound, inside is 10.66 mm dynamic speaker drivers, which produce clear and a nice amount of bass. The BeActiv E300 sound can be enhanced with it’s internal 5-band fully configurable EQ presets, which increased the bass greatly for those who want that experience.

The ergonomic ear tips attach to the lightweight flex-form neckband and wear with comfort so you won’t even know they are on, if not for the sound. Inline controls and a built in microphone are there for controlling iOS and Android devices.

They price friendly headset is available bright color choices of metallic blue, camo and cool white. Four sets of sized ear tips are includes along with a carrying case.

http://beemunited.com $99

Gadgets :: July 18, 2018

by Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

Power, charging and charging on-the-go has been summed up nicely with Mophie’s new charge stream travel kit.

In many ways a charger is a charger, but the new kit keeps everything in one place to pick up and go or just reach into your backpack and have it all in one place in the 7.87-by-6.69-inches pouch.

The compact, pocket sized pouch has everything you need to connect your power hungry devices to a power source. It includes a 2.4A wall charger, a 2.4A car charger, and a 4.9-foot USB-A to microUSB cable and the all new charge stream pad mini.

The charge stream pad mini delivers 5w of wireless charging and is compatible with Apple, Samsung, and other Qi-enabled smartphones. Once you have the pad connected to a power source, just place your device on the pad for instant charging.

It has a rubberized non-slip grip from slips and scratches. You can even charge through some cases, typically up to 3 mm thick, according to Mophie.

After a recent trip with the kit, I found you can add a few extra cables inside the pouch, including a small portable USB battery, which came in handy several times.

Mophie sells the kit as a whole for $49.95, but if you just want the new charge stream pad mini, it can be purchased for $24.95.

www.Mophie.com

It doesn’t require a plug, power, USB, firmware and it’s not even sold in electronic stores. But I still think the new Cave Tools stainless steel grill pan is a gadget worth having and telling you about.

Cave Tools has developed the pan the last few years and got it right, even though it’s pretty simple. They researched other grill matts and found many are made with teflon, which when heated to high grill temperatures, can release a toxic gas. Obviously that’s not a good thing to breathe or cook your food on.

On the press release announcing the product, they said directly “If you own a grill mat, then please take my advice and throw it out immediately!”

True or not, the new Cave Tool stainless steel grill pan is simply awesome. It measures 5.3-by-13-by-1-inches and will work for breakfast, lunch or dinner; from eggs, pancakes to gilled onions and peppers or any piece of meat.

One side of the flat surface is slotted to allow flavors to come up through and give excess grease a place to fall to the grill.

Cave tools includes 25 professional barbecue recipes, a free app and a lifetime guarantee on the pan or any product they sell.

cavetools.com/products/bbq-grill-pan $17.99

A few months ago I reviewed the Rachio’s 3 smart sprinkler system, which I thought was great.

Rachio let me know that the wireless flow meter, an accessory for the smart home sprinkler system, is now available.

The flow meter helps prevent leaks and provides additional insights to your outdoor water use. This includes broken sprinkler heads, pipes and leaks. Since it’s a smart system, you’ll get a smartphone notification of the problem, hopefully allowing you to catch it before it gets worse.

With the new flow meter, when a problem is detected it will shut down your sprinkler system.

The Rachio 3 sprinkler controller system connects to your existing WiFi network to fully manage your lawn watering, An easy setup lets you determine watering days, how long each zone waters, scheduling (odd, even, every three days, etc.) or manually with a user-friendly app.

During the app setup, it automatically finds a local weather station, which determines the amount of rain in the area and whether watering is needed.

There’s a whole lot more to the Rachio system, which is even better with the flow meter.

The Gen 3 system is available in 8 zone ($329.99) or 16 zone ($379.99) models with the flow meter.

www.rachio.com/smart-water-system

Gadgets :: June 27, 2018

by Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

You can say the recent release of the TwelveSouth AirFly is timed perfectly with the summer travel season upon us, or you can say anytime is perfect for that matter.

The wave of Bluetooth headsets work great with your smartphone or tablet, but connecting them to wired headphone ports is impossible. That’s why almost every airline has installed for in-flight entertainment. 

Now you connect the tiny AirFly to the 3.5 mm wired headphone jack with the included audio cable and pair is wirelessly to your handheld devices Bluetooth.

It works great with wireless earbuds, headphones and true wireless earbuds. I tried all three successfully. 

While it works great at 36,000 feet, there are still ways you can use it on the ground. Using a wireless headset with a TV was a challenge until I tried the AirFly, which solved that problem. Also connecting to audio systems at a gym is now a breeze to keep yourself from being tethered to a workout machine with an audio cable.

A built-in USB rechargeable battery will last for about 8 hours and works indefinitely if you have a power source plugged into it while in use. Besides the microUSB charging port and the 3.5 mm audio connection, the only other button is for pairing.

To pair, press the button on the AirFly for a few seconds and the pairing button on your headphones. There’s no display, app or anything to show that the connection is made, it just works. After the first time they are paired with your device, a connection is made whenever the AirFly is turned on and in range of each other.

It’s another gadget to carry around, but the AirFly measures only 1.8-by-.13-by-.39-inches and weighs just .55 ounces.  A travel pouch is included. Apple AirPod fans will like the comparison, which has it just a slightly smaller than the wireless earbud case.

One obvious reminder, remember to unplug it before getting off plane or leaving the gym. Otherwise, I’m pretty certain someone will be enjoying the wireless freedom.

www.twelvesouth.com $39.99

Speaking of true wireless earbuds, another great set I tried is the Altec Lansing’s new True EVO Wireless Earbuds.

Aside from great sound and the wireless aspects (not even a wire connecting the two earbuds),  they are packed with features.

Most true wireless earbuds come with a hard storage case, which doubles as a charging case. This lets you charge them while they connected to a USB power source or just sitting in your pocket.  

Altec has added Qi wireless charging to the case, so just put the case on any Qi charger (not included) and it will charge the earbuds and the case cable free. You’ll get about four full charges, which takes three hours per charge out of the case, before it needs a charge itself.

Aside from being packed with these great features, we generally purchase audio equipment for the sound and these do not disappoint. The clarity and bass along with an affordable price make them ideal for any user.

Lawn work or exercising during the summer heat generates sweat, which isn’t a problem with the Altech EVO earbuds and it’s IPX6 water resistant rating.  One button Bluetooth pairing is simple and handsfree calls worked perfect.

Several sets of earths are included to ensure a proper and snug fit.

www.alteclansing.com $99.99

Gadgets :: June 20, 2018

by Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

The Royole Moon 3D Mobile Theater brings big screen movies right to your head. 

The headset has two full-HD 1080p Amoled displays with a resolution over 3000 ppi, which create an amazing theater effect right in front of your eyes. All this built into a front-facing display with a minus 7.0 diopter for nearsightedness and plus 2.0 for farsightedness.

The display emulates a giant curved screen with stereoscopic 3D. Moon wears like headphones in great comfort with padded ear cups broadcasting hi-fidelity sound with active noise-cancelling. 

A VR experience is what you want out of this device, and while I’m no expert in audio/video headsets, the experience I got was amazing and in great comfort.

On the Moon site, they state the goal of the headset is to “deliver a truly immersive, 3D movie watching or gaming experience that could be enjoyed anytime and anywhere,” which they absolutely did. What they didn’t say is how addicting they can become!

I’m sure gamers will love these, I tried them with a gangster movie and the effects were stunningly delivered in a cinematic experience on the adjustable virtual 800-inch screen for 3D or 2D viewing. All without lagging or ghosting. 

Content is accessed via WiFi, HDMI or you can store digital files in the 32GB of internal storage. A 6000mAh battery charges is 2 hours and is good for about 5 hours of video playback. They also have a foldable design, which are great when tucking them away to keep your mobile theater in a backpack.

While the price can be a little alarming, you must realize all you’re getting in one complete package. And obviously when you spend $799 on a headset, you want to know a lot more about it. The Moon site is really thorough on formats, sound and specs for everything you would need to know.

With every new purchase of a Royole Moon, consumers will be offered three SD, HD or 3D movies from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

http://www.royole.com/moon available in choices of matte, gold with matte, and white with high-gloss finishes

Amped Wireless WiFi Smart Plug is as simple to use as any smart plug I’ve tried.

The plug has a single 120v grounded outlet and one USB charging port (5V/1.5A) built with an overload protection circuit breaker and surge protection. 

As for the smart home aspect, it connects to your existing WiFi (802.11 b/g/n) and after you download the free Amped app (iOS and Android) you can control up to 150 devices (according to the Amped site).

I tried it with some basic home lights and small kitchen appliances and it worked perfect. With the app, you can turn the plug on and off manually as you wish, or set up a schedule with specific times and days.

In my case, I had my coffee maker up and running during my wakeup time (which can spoil you very quickly) and I had a lamp turning on and off at specific times.  No matter what I tried, it worked perfect.

If you have multiple lights in different rooms you want going on or off at the same time, you can add multiple Amped WiFi Smart Plugs and just run the identical schedule with the app. The smart plug can also be paired to commands with Amazon Alexa.

The USB port is handy to charge smartphones and many other USB devices needed a boost of power.

The smart plug controls just one device at a time, but Amped also has a WiFi Smart Power Strip for controlling multiple devices.

http://www.ampedwireless.com $69.99, priced at $19.99 at Amazon

V-Moda has announced the new Crossfade 2 Wireless Codex Edition, for those who seek professional-grade audio quality. The Bluetooth headphones feature three audio codecs for improved wireless audio quality and universal compatibility. 

The Crossfade 2 Wireless Codex Edition can be operated in wired mode, with the included V-Moda audio cable inserted into headphone jack, which switches off all electronics and achieves zero latency. 

A built-in hidden microphone is there for handsfree calls and a 1-button speakeasy cable for wired use is included. A rechargeable lithium-ion battery provides over 14 hours of continuous use.

For a limited time, V-MODA has a trade-in program available for customers who purchased the previous Crossfade versions. Those who purchased the first version can upgrade to the Codex Edition for just $100 when trading in a Crossfade 2 Wireless, or $150 when trading in the original Crossfade Wireless.

http://www.V-Moda.com $350 available matte black, matte white and rose gold.

Gadgets :: June 13, 2018

by Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

Many of us have boxes of negatives waiting for the day when we either buy a scanner to digitize them or take them to a retail location for them to scan. Either way, that day doesn’t seem to be coming, yet.

I can tell you that as a photojournalist for 30 plus years, I have an endless number of negatives ready and waiting. Getting to the project has been on my list since the digital era began 20 years ago. 

Most people are just looking for a way to get the images into a digital world, not to make billboards out of them. This week I found my solution with the Kodak Scanza digital film scanner.

The easy-to-use scanner comes with all the adapters and inserts to convert 126, 110, super 8 and 8 mm, 35 mm film negatives and slides to jpeg files.

A little about the scanner: it measures just 4.7-by-4.7-by-5-inches and has a fold out 3.5-inch LCD color display to clearly see the image you’re working on. 

Each image is scanned into optimized 14-megapixel or interpolated 22-megapixel digital files, which go directly onto an SD card.  When you’re done scanning, take the SD card and put it into your Mac or PC and work with your own photo editing software.

The scanner’s size  and the direct scan to memory cards enable great portability so you can do your scanning without being connected to your computer.

The scanner front has buttons for power and a one-touch one-step scan and save button, which makes it so easy.

You can make some image adjustments in the scanner for RGB levels and brightness levels. I personally liked how fast the image scanned and then did my adjustments on my desktop iMac with Photoshop.

A film cleaning brush, HDMI cables for viewing images on a TV, AC power adapter and a USB power cable are included. They all connect to the scanner on the back, which is where your SD memory card is inserted.

Before you begin your scanning, hopefully you’ll be able to locate a small light table and a film loupe just like I did to help the project. Note; my intention was to only scan in a few images; about 11 hours later I was still at it. It’s that easy, fun and productive.

The Kodak Scanza is available from its North American brand licensee, C+A Global for $169.99.

https://www.kodakphotoplus.com

It’s a good time to mention an item I’ve written about in the past, Pine Mountain ExtremeStart Firestarters, which are ideal for a safe and simple way to get camp fires or fire pits started fast and safe.

The breakfast bar-sized packs are placed in the middle of where you want the fire started; light the outside pack and add some wood or charcoal. 

Next thing you know your fire will be going great, without any dangerous fire starting fluids. But obviously, with fire proper cautions should always be taken

http://pinemountainfire.com $5.99 for a box with 12 starters

Cave Tools has had a tremendous response to the launch of their BBQ Smoking & Cooking Journal App. In the first week more than 550 iPhone and 400 Android users download the app, which is free right now.

The app has features to keep details on you’re cooking recipes and allow you to share the step by step directions you followed to prepare your perfect meat.

There’s also wood smoking and internal meat temperature guides, which provide all the reference information you need to prevent overcooking or oversmoking your food.

One feature that caught my attention right away on the clean and simple designed app was its ad-free and no annoying push notifications.

https://cavetools.com

Gadgets :: June 6, 2018

by Gregg Ellman

(@greggellman)

You’re on the clock for Fathers Day shopping, check the calendar, it’s only a few weeks away. To avoid panic shopping and buying dad a gift he won’t want but is afraid to insult you and return it, here’s my list of cool and useful choices.

DeWALT’s Flexvolt 60V Max 2.5 Gallon Cordless Air Compressor is part of the DeWALT  Flexvolt line, designed to give you the power of a corded tool but untethered from a wall outlet. What this means is the compressor (21.5-pounds without a battery) is powered by a rechargeable 6.0Ah battery, good for up to 1,220 nails for a floor, baseboard or anything of his choice on a single charge. The compressor has an oil-free pump and a single regulator for pressure adjustments, compared to two in many others. Just turn a knob to get your desired PSI. It’s built in a roll cage for durability with rubber feet.  The maximum tank pressure is 135 PSI.

www.dewalt.com  $299, the Flexvolt Cordless Air Compressor comes with one 6.0Ah battery and a fast charger for $299

I can see how the myFlipShade comes in handy for every dad who has a smartphone. The pop-up shade is portable and attaches on in seconds to help shield the sun (or rain) in broad daylight, making it simple to read the LCD without hiding the the sun or finding a shady location. And if it’s not sunny or raining, you can use the shade for some privacy from those never ending prying eyes at home, banks or those close airline seats. The thin profile myFlipShade slides on top of a smartphone and attaches with an  adhesive strip. When not in use, just tuck it behind the phone or use it as a stand for handsfree watching. 

www.mycharge.com $9.99 at Amazon and Target

Grill. Melt. Eat. Repeat. Thats the theme of the Party Grill, which should get repeated over and over and over. It’s designed for simple and continuous use so the party continues while the grilling goes on. How often do people want to eat at different times? Put the grill right in the middle of the table and guests can grill at will. The electric and smokeless tabletop grill is ideal for cooking and entertaining inside or out. On the top you can cook your meat, potatoes, veggies and sauces; cheese and other sides can be headed up on the bottom side in non-stick trays.

https://partygrill.com $99, includes reversible grill top, 8 non-stick pans and 8 scrapers

When I was younger and my dad got a bug zapper he made sure we all knew when a one got zapped. If your dad’s the same, he must have the Stinger On-the-Go Insect Zapper, which has 400 square feet of zapping coverage. It can be powered by AC or four AA batteries (neither included) or go really portable with the internal battery, which has a USB charge good for three hours. With a weight under 2 pounds and a 10-inch height, the lantern looking zapper is great to use anywhere at home, lakeside or any buggy summer activity. Inside the zapper is a black UV light to attract flying insects, which are greeted by Stinger’s slow release NOsquito Mosquito Octenol replacement lure, which includes 735 mg of octenol. The lure should be replaced every 30 days. The zapper is made with weather-proof plastic, clog-free design and two operating modes; zapping or ambient light.

www.stingerproducts.com, $19.99 for the zapper, replacement bulbs $9.99, 

replacement lure $6.99

The myCharge’s home and go portable battery is small (5.6-by-2.78-by-0.62-inches, 0.68-pounds) and simple but useful 24/7/365 for dad to charge his cell phone, gaming unit, tablet or any other portable USB gadget on-the-go. With 8000 mAh of power, it will extend the life on most devices several times. A pair of USB ports lets you plug in your cables to charge two devices at once. It’s built with fold-out wall prongs to charge in any standard AC wall outlet, while also working as a charger while recharging itself. Four-light LED battery indicator are on the battery so you see how much power is left.

https://mycharge.com $49.99

Sennheiser’s new CX SPORT in-ear Bluetooth headphones will help dad turn the world off while he sits poolside, mows the laws or a while working out since they are splash- and sweat-resistance. Along with the great sound, the features packed into the portable are endless. For comfort, you got four sizes of ear adapters along with three fin sizes. This will ensure you get a comfortable and secure fit to keep the sound in your ears but block out unwanted outside noise. An inline mic and controls handle calls and music selections. The internal battery charges in 10 minutes for an hour of sounds and fully changes in 1.5 hours for six hours of sound. You can also connect the CX SPORT to two devices simultaneously to hear the wireless (Bluetooth 4.2) Hi-Fi sound.

https://en-us.sennheiser.com $129.95