Gadgets :: August 21, 2019

by Gregg Ellman

Anker’s Soundcore Wakey is a perfect all-In-one bedside companion with an attractive Apple-esque look.

The nightstand speaker/alarm clock has a built-in Qi charging system, which worked perfect with my iPhone XS. The cable-free charging is done with a top side pad, so all you do is place your Qi-compatible device on it for charging. 

Anker’s website rates it as a 7.5W charge for iPhones XR, XS Max, XS, X, and 8 Plus and 10W for Samsung S10, S10+, S9, S9+, S8, S8+, and Note 9.

Right behind the front-sided, light gray-colored cloth grill is an LED display for the time, which has five brightness levels you can select from the Soundcore app. Setting the time is easy, just connect your phone to the Soundcore app and the Wakey syncs the time. A backup battery stores the time in the event of lost power.

The Wakey gives you choices of 10 custom alarm tones, and you can set your own in the app. Bluetooth is built-in and there’s also a pair of USB ports to plug in your own charging cables for non-wireless charging devices.

It’s packed with other features including an FM radio and room for 10 FM preset stations, white noise mode for a better sleeping environment and an Aux-in port for connecting a separate device for playing. And yes, there is the ever-popular and critically important snooze button.

The sound comes from dual front-facing 5W drivers, which deliver the music at moderate volume levels in a clear, crisp sound.

The Wakey can also be used to help fall asleep with the app, which allows you to create a sleep-themed mix of up to 10 ambient noises and have them play as long as you want or just have them turn off once you shut your eyes for the night.

Using the preloaded white noise mode has choices to fall asleep to birds, rain, waves and other relaxing sounds.

One feature the Wakey doesn’t have, which I’m trilled with, is a connection to a voice assistant. Voice assistant’s are great for many things, but keeping them out of bedside alarm clocks is also great thing. 

A DC power supply is included. $99.99 available in white

Awair has launched the Glow C air quality monitor, which also functions as a smart plug.

It plugs into a standard electric outlet and has a pass through outlet and tracks chemicals, humidity and temperature along with how they change over time, which could cause sickness. Knowing this information can help you determine symptoms and help determine what steps to change in order to get some relief.

According to a press release announcing the Glow C, Awair, ‘’Poor air quality conditions can affect the body in a variety of ways. Exposure to high levels of chemicals (VOCs) has been known to cause respiratory and skin irritation and allergy-like symptoms. Abnormal humidity levels can cause dehydration, chronic skin and throat irritation, and can lead to dermatitis and eczema flare-ups. Studies have also shown that significant changes in temperature can decrease productivity, impair cognitive function, and aggravate asthma.”

With the smart plug feature, non-smart devices can be connected to the Glow C, such as a humidifier or purifier, which will turn on in reaction to the indoor air quality.

The Awair companion app controls the settings, which include telling it to turn on a fan plugged into the Glow C if the room temperature is to high. Other customize settings within the app can be triggered based on the air quality criteria and what you want it to be. The app offers tips on how to improve the air quality with the supplied readings.

The Glow C also features an LED light color, hue, and motion settings of their device to transform it into a customized smart night light with choices of hundreds of colors.  Glow C is also compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Next and IFTTT. $79

Gadgets :: August 14, 2019

by Gregg Ellman

Earlier this year Lutron Caséta added a wireless fan speed control to their smart home lineup. 

If you’re like me, you leave your ceiling fan on and the only time I seem to deal with it is when a storm flashes the power forcing me to find the remote and turn it back on. If you don’t have a remote, you have one with that attractive pull chain. 

That problem has been solved with the Caséta wireless fan speed. Other great features put full control of your fan in the palm of your hand.

Once installed, you have now turned your simple existing ceiling fan into a wireless smart home-controlled device for turning it on off, speed controls, programable schedules and scenes with other smart home products. The wireless fan speed controller is perfect on its own but if you want to create scenes and schedules with other Lutron smart home accessories, you’ll need to add a Caséta bridge ($78.57).

Assuming you have a ceiling fan installed and up and running, adding the Lutron hardware is not very complex but it does require switching out the in-wall fan control switch. With this type of installation, you have to turn off the circuit in your home, which controls that power and if you are not familiar with this setup, please get some professional advice or help.

Once the power is off, taking the old one out and putting the Caséta fan control in its place is simple and takes a few minutes. The instructions do note, a neutral wire is required. And make sure you follow the instructions showing what wire connects where.

If your not sure of the neutral wire or maybe haven’t heard that term, according to the site, a neutral wire is a type of wire that carries currents back to the source of power and or regular voltage allowing power to return to its original source. They also stated if your house was built anywhere from the mid-1980s onward, there’s a strong chance you’ll have neutrals throughout your home.

On products like these, I’m often emailed questions about the installation. I am not an electrician, nor will I even attempt complex electrical projects, but changing plugs, switches and installations like this, are pretty straight forward. The included quick start guide is well written with step-by-step instructions and graphics to make the installation simple and easy. 

The guide said it takes about 15 minutes for installing but it only took me about 9 minutes. If it takes you longer, no problem as long as it’s right. The results are great and gives you control over something you have always had but never gave much thought. Note, each Caséta will only control one fan. So for every fan you want to control, that’s how many wireless control units you’ll need.

During the setup you’ll link the wireless system to your existing hardware  The wireless fan control system has an accompanying app, which lets you have full control of your fan when your home or away from home. This is where you can set up schedules to make sure the fans are or off when need and with schedules and the bridge you can set you fans and lights to be on when you arrive home.

The app also adjusts times, daylight savings time and has a smart away feature to randomly turn on and off when you’re away from home.

The fan wireless controller is easy to work with buttons by pressing any of the five buttons for power, fan speed in its increments,  It displays the speed of the fan in LEDs. If you have voice assistants, the Lutron works with Alexa, Apple HomeKit, and the Google Assistant

While the Caséta works great, my wife and I agree having no more pull chains hanging down from a fan offer a great view. $59.95, available in choices of white, light almond, ivory and black.

Twelve South has announcement the tailored AirSnap Twill case for AirPods. 

The perfectly fitted case, woven in premium and attractive water-resistant fabric, stores, protects and gives easy access to the ear buds when needed.  A metal snap keep the case securely closed and a built-in clip keeps AirSnap Twill attached to your backpack or bag.

Charging is also done when the earbuds are in the case with easy access to the Lightning port or just put the AirSnap Twill case right on your Qi charger for wireless charging.

The AirSnap Twill case is fully compatible with first and second-generation AirPods cases. $34.99, available in smoke gray and fog gray

Gadgets :: August 7, 2019

by Gregg Ellman

The kitchen and I were never best of friends. Since my wife is an awesome cook, my assignment for bigger meals is grilling and if there’s one thing she won’t tolerate its when I bring something to the table undercooked.

When I tried the MEATER true wireless smart meat thermometer a few years ago, my undercooked grilling issues were solved.  Now the company has taken wireless cooking temperature control to a new level with the recent launch of the four probe MEATER Block.

If you have never used a wireless cooking device, have no fear. The setup is simple and with the well-written quick-start manual you’ll be cooking in minutes. 

It works on WiFi or in standalone mode. The standalone mode does not require a smartphone or tablet; instead, the information is sent and displayed on the MEATER Block. 

The block (5.1-by-1.5-by-6.1-inches) has a responsive touch interface, an easy-to-read OLED display and built-in speakers to hear alerts. It’s powered by four AA batteries or USB power for about 50 hours and to charge the probes. When charged, each probe will last for about 24 hours on a single charge.

The system has four cooking probes, each with an engraved identification number on the top end, which will show the temperatures of each.

After your grill or oven is preheated and your food is ready for cooking, insert a probe into the thickest area of the meat. The probes make a Bluetooth connection from the grill or inside the over to the MEATER Block to relay the temperature, with a maximum cooking setting of 212-degrees Fahrenheit. All four probes can be used simultaneously in different meats, with each probe displaying its own information.

Using it in the WiFi mode, the free companion app (iOS and Android) on your  smartphone or tablet reads and displays temperatures for internal, target and ambient along with  cooking time remaining. You can set up alerts, alarms and notifications, which are incredibly helpful if you get distracted by a game on TV while cooking – not that that would ever happen to me.

The app is loaded with great features including cooking presets, videos and tutorials and MEATER cloud access.

Along with the stellar performance, Apption Labs put a lot of time, attention and detail into the packing and presentation of the MEATER Block, which comes with a bamboo storage box. While this aspect has no effect on the performance, it does enhance the overall experience and absolutely seals the deal that you bought an excellent high end product. $269

Soul Electronic’s ST-XS2 lightweight wireless earbuds are a fine edition to the company’s line of solid-sounding devices.

I can write about wireless earbuds weekly and I still get asked about the concept since they’re still relatively new and unknown to many.  These small earbuds work via Bluetooth 5.0, requiring no cords. There’s not even a place to plug a cord in to the 5g weighting earbuds.

Once you open the case and turn on the earbuds, after the initial connection is made, every connection after should be automatic.

Each of the 6mm speakers’ earbuds charge in the included case. Right now I have the new Soul’s blasting away at 32,000 feet at high volume with great clarity on an Apple Music decades station as I write this column. 

The sound is perfect with Soul’s incorporated transparent audio mode, which allows background sounds to penetrate through the earbuds, providing increased awareness of surroundings for safe listening no matter where you are.

These are built an industry-leading IPX7 waterproof rating, which is great since so many people use these type of headsets for sweaty workouts. Soul rates them to be durable in up to 3 feet of water along with sweat and water proofing.

One thing I loved is that the charging case uses a fast-charging USB-C connection. More and more devices are switching to this; I hope it will be an industry standard soon. The Soul ST-XS2s are the first of the true wireless I’ve seen to charge with the C, but I’m sure others are out or on the way.

The case is good for 25 total hours of charging with 5 hours needed for each charge.

Included are various  sized ear tips, a charging cable, ergonomic C-shaped ear hooks and a carabiner to attach to the case.  Microphones are in the earbuds for handsfree calls. $99.99, available in matte black, navy blue, pure white and sakura pink

Gadgets :: July 31, 2019

by Gregg Ellman

A representative from Firewalla introduced the cyber security firewall home device to me perfectly when she said: “You’d have to be living under a rock these days to not be aware of the data breaches that occur on a regular basis.” 

This is so true and for the most part, any and all help we can get for cyber security and internet control is welcome. Never lose sight that all your digital information is invisible, and will not be caught by security cameras or window sensors.

The Firewalla is a small home device (1.2-by-1.2-by-1-inch) designed to set up a security barrier around your home network. It plugs into your existing router to monitor all devices, including smartphones, tablets, computers, smart home devices (think blocking outside access to your security cameras). 

The setup can be a simple plug-and-play device, but to access more advanced settings you don’t have to be an advanced IT specialist. There’s also no paid subscription service.

I loved Firewalla’s invitation to bring back traditional family time, internet-free, social media-free. This is as easy as a tap of a button for the Firewalla social hour, which blocks all major social networks for one hour. 

Apps (iOS and Android) monitor the activity you choose. Setting it up can be easy; much of what you’ll want it to do along with setting up a firewall around your network is done automatically.

I found the setup to be addicting in a fun way. Firewalla enables you to see who’s on your system and sites being visited and which shouldn’t be, such as gaming, gambling or porn with full customization for website blocking. There’s also a built-in VPN server for access when your away from home.

 As mentioned, the setup takes a little time, especially depending on any advanced settings you want. The online Firewalla installation guide is well-written in an easy-to-understand language for basic operation settings as well as customized controls.

Once you know what you want blocked, rules can be set up to completely block the sites or limit the access with the domain/IP, web address, specific internet access, or even cut off all internet access.

Alarm and app notifications can easily be set up for big situations such as possible cyber attacks or as small as a video game being played on the network. Much of what the device does is what you want it to do.

Every home and small business should have a Firewalla. It works that well. $108 for FIrewalla Red, $179 for Firewalla Blue, which has more processing speed (500 mb vs 100 for the Red), double the CPU and twice the RAM (1024 vs 512) 

If you’re like me you have an iPad, Galaxy Tab, Google Chromebook or one of many other tablets this size, which often does all you need on a non-work trip but you tug it along in a big bulky backpack just because that’s what you’ve always done.

Well, I’ll give you something to make a switch, which even incorporates spacesuit technology. The Phoozy is touted on its website as the World’s first sleeve that protects against everything.

They added a list, which includes defense against heat, cold, water, and those dreaded “oops” moments that come your way day after day.

No matter where you live, the hot or cold protection will work. For protecting against the heat, an Inside patent-pending Chromium Thermal Barrier reflects more than 90 percent of the radiation generated by the sun to help prevent overheating in the sun and heat. 

This same barrier insulates your tablet or small laptop from the cold, which will extend its battery life.

If that’s not enough, five layers of water-resistant materials and an iP66 water resistant rating keeps it somewhat safe from wet conditions. I’ll say over and over  there’s a big difference between water-resistant and water-proof. 

Being water-resistant (and floats with sink proof technology) the Phoozy will certainly protect your device from being water damaged if you’re caught in a storm, a splash poolside or even a drop in water. If the latter happens you need to retrieve it right away if your device is inside. I’m not brave enough to test this feature, but Phoozy company representatives have assured me it has been tested.

Obviously the Phoozy has ton’s of great features. But it has one key element, which people go for regardless of everything most anything other feature. It looks great. So it’s a win-win to get a case, which looks great but has unique features.

Other features include HydroGuard two-way zipper with pulls, detachable shoulder strap, a cushion lined pockets and a pocket for an Apple Pencil or other stylus’s.

The Phoozy is available in two sizes; iPad Capsule 11 inch ($59.99) for tablets up to 11 inches and the iPad/MacBook Capsule 13 inch ($69.99) for bigger tablets and other laptops up to 13 inches. Both have color choices of cosmic black, iridium silver, iridium gold and realtree timber

Gadgets :: July 24, 2019

by Gregg Ellman

Moshi’s SnapTo magnetic car mount for Qi wireless charging is a great, easy system for charging and handsfree smartphone use.

The easy part is the setup. Unbox it and figure out your installation location. Accessories are included for vent and dash/window mounting.

The vent mount can be a little tricky, but after you get the right angle it’s simple. I love the vent mount system for traveling since it fit every rental car I’ve tried.

Mounting on a flat surface depends on your vehicle, whether it’s a flat area or the windshield. Once your location is set, peel back the 3M adhesive and lock it in place.

With either mount, make sure you test the location before mounting it for use so the phone faces where you want with all the necessary views and access.

The key to the SnapTo system is the Moshi case, built with slots for the SnapTo magnetic system tabs. They come in many color, styles and fashions.  I tried it with the Moshi iGlaze case (iPhone XS) and it worked perfectly. The slots inside the case keep the tabs flush with the inside of the case so nothing scratches your smartphone.

A four-foot USB power cord is included to connect the charging mount to your car for power.

The real test after the 30-second installation was whether my phone was charging and how it worked while driving. During a weekend of errands, except when I manually pulled the phone off, everything stayed connected and charging.

Moshi also has a SnapTo wall mount ($18.95). So if you’re already using the system in your car the wall mount works with the same case to mount your phone on any flat surface in landscape or portrait modes. This includes desks, walls, nightstands, whatever. 

While using the wall mount, it doesn’t supply power but you can have a charging cable connected directly to the smartphones charging port for power. SnapTo Magnetic Car Mount with wireless charging $59.95 

New and more powerful portable electronic gadgets often translate to the need for more portable power with different connections.

The new myCharge PowerLumens ($59.99) from the Adventure series of batteries designed as rugged durable power for charging in the most extreme conditions. It’s available in 10,000mAh or 20,000mAh sizes, which are good for about 5 times or 10 times extra battery power respectively. Both models come recharged, ready to work

A pair of USB-A power ports are built into the side for a total fo 2.4A output.

While the battery power is the key element, there are a few other feature to make it a great, versatile device for everyday use, camping or even in some emergency situation.

One side panel has a built-in LED light with features including 500 lumens light levels, SOS setting and four brightness levels. Working off the internal battery, the light can shine for up to 41 hours continuously. A LED battery indicator to display remaining battery power is on the side.

An anti-corrosive metal kickstand folds out from the side, making it simple to stabilize and angle the light for perfect viewing. I also liked the handle for attaching it to my backpacks carabiner clip for easy access and I can see it being handy during early evening hikes. 

The power is the key and the charging is done with safe-cell to ensure safe charging and smart-sense ensures the battery is compatible with your device.

Another great battery from myCharge is the HubMax Universal ($99.99), and is true to its name. The battery has both Apple Lighting and USB-C cables built into the battery. 

If your device doesn’t fit one of those, no problem. Use your charging cable in the built-in standard USB port.  All three ports can be used simultaneously to pull power from the 10050mAh battery, good for up to six times extra battery power.

To recharge the HubMax fold out the built-in wall prongs and plug directly to any standard AC outlet. The outside of the 2.8-by-0.9-by-4.6-inch $99.99 battery is built with an aluminum body and both safe-cell and smart-sense technology are included. Pressing the power button on the side will display the battery level. 

Gadgets :: July 17, 2019

by Gregg Ellman

Just a few years ago some smartphones eliminated the 3.5 mm headphone port, forcing users to get an adapter or go the Bluetooth route. Then the true wireless earbud category was born, eliminating the wire connection for Bluetooth headsets. But many of the new wireless earbuds were costly. 

Now iFrogz (a Zagg brand) has launched the Airtime truly wireless earbuds, their first entry in the category and it seems to be a winner in all aspects.

In just a few minutes it was easy to see they are a winner with great sound and numerous eatures, and an affordable price.

 Built-in Bluetooth 5.0 paired the Airtime’s to my iPhone XS seamlessly on the first try and every time after when I opened the storage case in auto-pair mode. The case doubles as a charging case. 

The case gives you about 15 hours of listening before a power source is needed. There’s also a quick charge feature giving the earbuds 1.5 hours of playtime with just a 10-minute charge.

The sound comes from 8 mm drivers in each earbud, which really impressed me with  clear sound and a nice amount of bass at all volumes. They are built with three equalizer settings (signature, podcast, and bass); obviously I was stuck on the bass.

The earbuds have an ergonomic design and with three sizes of ear-tips included, it’s easy to get a snug and comfortable fit. Multifunction controls are easy to get used to,  just press on the earbud to change tracks, answer calls and access to Siri and Google Assistant voice assistants.

Each earbud also has a microphones for handsfree calls. Other features include a sweat-proof  IPX4 rating and ergonomic sport wings, which both help make these ideal for workouts or lawn mowing in 100-degree Texas summer heat as I did during my testing. $59.99, available in black, blue, peach and white

Another Zagg brand, InvisibleShield, is a leading touchscreen screen protection solution now available with the all-new Ultra VisionGuard and Ultra Clear for the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G in addition to Glass+ VisionGuard and Glass+ for the LG V50 ThinQ 5G. 

The Ultra VisionGuard ($39.99) and Glass+ VisionGuard ($44.99) protect your device and your eyes from harmful high energy visible blue light.  InvisibleShield Ultra Clear ($44.99) is clear and with advanced clarity,  a glass-like surface for and edge-to-edge protection for Galaxy S10 5G devices.

The InvisibleShield Glass+ ($39.99) has a smooth tempered glass surface and will protect from drops, scratches and smudges and can deliver up to 3X more impact protection than an unprotected screen. 

InvisibleShield backs its screen protectors with an industry-leading limited lifetime warranty and will replace the InvisibleShield if it ever gets worn or damaged for the life of the device.

Moshi’s Captus Rolltop backpack caught my attention when the description included among other things, a bottom section for shoes up to size 13.

The attractive backpack has numerous compartments for anything else you’ll want to carry including laptops up to 15-inches in a padded compartment. You’ll be packing and packing and packing if your goal is just to fill it (as I did) but remember, once it’s full with more than you need, you’ll have to carry it on your back.

Specifically Moshi lists the Captus with 45- liters of space, which is a lot if you think about liquid. But it’s not waterproof so I didn’t test it that way.

Zippered compartments keep everything you need locked in and a back pocket has a valuable RFID shield, making it ideal to secure your smartphone or credit cards to be stored safe.

The shoe compartment on the bottom isn’t for just shoes. Anything you want can stuff in there including a change of clothes, cables or whatever will fit. 

The backpack has everything you’ll need to make it fit right and tight with adjustable straps, padding and it looks great with models available in sandstone beige and denim blue. $199.95

Gadgets :: July 10, 2019

by Gregg Ellman

Not everyone has Bluetooth built into their devices but with Scosche’s new FlyTunes, you’ll instantly have it added to old and new audio devices. It’s so easy that after using it just once, you’ll wonder how you lived without it.

The pocket-sized audio transmitter (1-by-1.875-by-0.5-inches) plugs into a 3.5 mm AUX audio output and, via its internal Bluetooth transmitter, pairs with up to two Bluetooth devices simultaneously sending the audio wirelessly.

Now two people traveling together can watch and listen to the same movie on an airline’s inflight entertainment or with your own movie player without extra cables or connections. This device does it all and the setup is easy.

Traveling is just one way to use it; most TV’s have an audio output, which is rarely used and night time TV watchers can keep the outside noise silent to others with the FlyTunes. Home stereos, gamers and fitness machines are just a few other ways to make use of the Bluetooth audio connection.

If it has a 3.5 mm audio output, it should work. I couldn’t find anything it wouldn’t work on including my first generation iPod Shuffle. A multi-function button is on the center of one side and is pressed to pair a Bluetooth headset (not included), turn it on or off or play/pause your audio.

An internal battery will last for 8 hours of use, a USB-C charging cable is included along with a soft storage pouch and a 4-inch 3.5 mm extension cable.

Airplanes have been slow to adapt to audio systems, and since some old connections are still in use, the FlyTunes can adapt with its two folding prongs. They connect to dual outputs or just a single one.

If your headset is Bluetooth, it will work with the FlyTunes. I tried it with a dozen and had complete success. $39.99 available in black or white

The Para‘Kito is perfect for this time of year to keep pesky mosquito’s away from in style.

The bug repellent system has a mosquito protection wristband, which stores the mosquito repellent in a small pellets. Each is good for up to 15 days and slides in an out of a mesh pocket on the outside of velcro wristband bracelets, which can be worn on your wrist, ankle or wherever. 

My wife and I tested the bug repellent wear during a recent night out on a lake. While I can’t guarantee we would have gotten mosquito bites if we didn’t have the wristbands on, we came away from the night bug bite free.

What makes this even better is that the pellets are made with all-natural essential oils, not chemicals and annoying strong scents. They do emit a  fragrance, which is typical for most bug repellents, but was not offensive or annoying in any way.

The pellets’ active ingredients are citronella (34%) rosemary (22%) geranium (21%), mint (10%), clove (2.5%), peppermint (1.5%) and cinnamon (1%). Para‘Kito states the product is a Minimum Risk Pesticide.

The flexible wristbands are Velcro adjustable and are available in all kinds of fun, colorful and stylish choices for adults and children.

If a bracelet isn’t your thing, there are other choices to hold the pellets including repellent clips, which is the version I used (my wife went with the wristband) attached to a belt loop. 

Each wristband or clip ($19.50 each) is waterproof and includes two replacement pellets. Repellent refills are available in packs of 2 ($13), 6 ($34.95) and 12 ($78).

The all-natural mosquito repellent oil is also available in a roll-on ($19.50) with a 5-hour efficiency of each use. 

Gadgets :: July 3, 2019

by Gregg Ellman

Before I put the sound to my ears I was reminded by a Mixcder company representative that Mixcder is known for high-quality, cost-friendly  ANC headphones. 

After using the Mixcder E9 ANC wireless headphones for a week it’s hard to get that statement out of my mind so I guess that’s pretty critical because my impression shows it’s true.

I’m not saying they are the best headphones you can get but with excellent sound and all the features you would want makes the $69.99 price tag well worth the purchase.

They are built with an ergonomic design, lightweight (8.9 ounces), an adjustable black headband and comfortable soft and rotating foam ear pads. The latter is as important as the sound. Their portable construction allows them to fold nicely when they need to be tucked away for storage. An airplane adapter and a lightweight hard carrying case are included.

According to Mixcder, the sound is delivered from “40 mm drivers for a powerful, wide band frequency from 20Hz-20,000Hz with an impactful bass, rich and detailed midrange and clear treble for a crisp sound up to 94 decibels.” To me, the music is well-balanced with deep bass, mid tones and treble.

The active noise cancelling feature works well and you have it on or off. While it’s on, some of your outside surroundings will be blocked and when it’s off you’ll hear a little more. Either way, you’ll hear you music with great clarity. The ANC just determines how much outside noise you want.

If you’re poolside, you might want to block out the world but walking city streets might be a place to have some of your surroundings heard.

Bluetooth 4.0 makes the wireless connection and the internal 500mAh rechargeable battery will last for about 30 hours playtime with ANC off, 24 hours with it on. Recharging only takes 2.5 hours.. They can also be used with the auxiliary port.

Being a hands person, one feature I found so helpful is the larger buttons for on headset control of handsfree calls with the built-in microphones, music choices and volume. $79.99 or $69.99 when available at Amazon

ScanMyPhotos has a great summer project for everyone who has boxes of photos. Yes, actual prints, not digital copies, at least just yet.

The company can take 4,000 photos of these images and scan them for just $40 in a one cent photo scanning option. With that deal there really isn’t an excuse to not get your prints digitally scanned and protected.

The one cent scans have a 150 DPI, making them perfect for social media and website usage. There’s an upcharge for larger scanned resolutions with choices of 300 DPI for seven cents each and 600 DPI for 15 cents each.

There’s no limit to how many photos you can get scanned. The one cent option has a 10,000 photo maximum and $40 minimum per order (S&H not included).  Even if it’s just a handful of photos needing to be scanned, there’s a flexible pay-per-scan option.

Things to note, your photos must be at least 3-by-3inches and no larger than 8-by-10-inches and removed from albums, staples and anything else attached to them. Negatives, slides and other media are not accepted for scanning. Everything including instructions on how to package your photos for shipping are clearly explained on the ordering website.

Your original photos are delivered with the scans in options including thumb drives and DVD’s.

Other options with addition charges include same-day scanning and instant uploading, which results in the day the order is received it’s scanned, uploaded and in your possession.

I’m a past user of the service and years after getting my family achieves scanned, they are still looked at regularly, where the shoes boxes of closeted photos were basically never looked at when in print format. 

Gadgets :: June 26, 2019

bu Gregg Ellman

You can say the Pocketalk translator keeps the conversation going where a language barrier would easily bring it to an end.

My first words about it were “I can see how beneficial a device like this can be while vacationing in a foreign country or daily use on-the-go” to bridge the gab between spoken languages.

The oval-shaped pocket and palm sized device (4.3-by-2.4-by-0.6-inches) has its own custom OS (based on Android OS 8.1) operating system and needs internet access from your choice of a built-in mobile data plan, personal hotspot or Wi-Fi. 

Before using it I wondered why it would connect to the Internet and according to the Pocketalk site, it “connects to the internet for access to robust language engines and cutting-edge cloud technologies for highly accurate translations.” The language engines are accessed to get the translation.

The Pocketalk is available in two versions. One ($249) you use with your own connection to the Internet (Wi-Fi etc) and the other has built-in mobile data with a SIM card ($299). With the SIM card version, just turn it on and it connects to the Internet, which currently should work in 126 countries. The SIM activation lasts two years.

An 2200mAh internal battery keeps it running for seven hours of use or up to 10 days in sleep mode before a USB charge is needed. 

A touch panel display (320×240 pixels) on the front shows the conversation and translation. There are two built-in 1.5 watt speakers to hear the translation and dual microphones with noise cancellation hear your words with clarity. 

Other controls are for adjusting the text size, volume, sleep settings, clearing past conversations and the brightness of the display.

After you choose the two languages you want translated, there’s really not a lot to it beside pressing a button while you talk to get the translation. It can handle a up to 30 seconds of speaking for each translation. 

I tested it with a friend who speaks a few languages since I only speak English and he was overly impressed with the accuracy of the spoken results. We used it with Spanish, but there are 74 languages to choose from, with more expected.

Bluetooth 4.0 is built-in to allow the Pocketalk to connect to your own external speakers. 

It’s really hard for a smartphone case to catch my attention but the Grip2u did just that.

The protective case features a flexible band to do something pretty simple, keep it in your hand. But what makes it even better: when the interchangeable band isn’t in use, it rests flush on the back of the case without adding bulk, which is great in those rare cases when your smartphone isn’t in use and stored in a pocket.

And full disclosure, I’m not a PopSocket fan mainly because it interferes with wireless Qi charging. With the Boost sample I’ve used for an iPhone XS, wireless charging was not a problem.

The case is protective and not bulky with drop protection. Edges protect the sides and extend over the edges of the front screen But what makes the case work for me is the grip to add an extra layer to help prevent the expensive smartphone from dropping from your grip.

With a websites named, its easy to see the confidence they have in the Grip2u products.

Grip2u choices for iPhones and Samsung Galaxy smartphones are available in a nice choice of colorful options to mix and match the cases and bands. 

Three styles are available, the Boost ($29.99) is s standard case with the back grip, the Boss ($29.99) has slots for up to 3 credit cards and the folio ($39.99) is just that, a folio to open and close to expose the phone, which also has a few credit card slots. 

Gadgets :: June 19, 2019

by Gregg Ellman

Winter, summer, spring or fall, morning, noon or night. That’s just a sampling of when the new Honeywell Home T9 thermostats with room sensors are useful.

Honeywell gave me a demonstration of the system at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year. Instantly I knew for me these were a fit; the sensor was perfect for my house. And Honeywell representatives stressed how easy the installation is.

Like most homes, one of my thermostats is in a convenient centralized hallway and works great there. But what doesn’t work great is getting a consistent temperature in other parts of the house where that thermostat is in control but no where close to the room.

Sensors are placed in rooms that need more temperature control. During setup, interactions will walk you through a simple process for all your sensors and how they are controlled. 

First for the installation, I did it myself. I’m not a licensed AC repairman, plumber, electrician or anything else close. Nor do I do that type of work often. But I can read instructions, take a picture of the existing thermostats wiring and then follow colors, numbers and instructions to hook up a new one.  

For those who are a little more advanced, the instructions explain what to do if your system does not have a C-wire. My system already had one connected, but others without will need a C-wire adapter, which is also simple to install.

From start to finish this took less than 15 minutes, including marking and drilling holes for the included hardware to hang the wiring plate, filling the older holes to cover up the previous rounded thermostat and then snapping the new wiring plate and the display together.

And importantly, as instructed, I had the circuit for the power to this area of my house shut off before the installation began.

When I felt the installation was complete I called Honeywell tech support line, mainly to confirm my insecurity with the installation before I started the power back up. He confirmed everything was right and my house started to cool off right away.

Instantly after the T9 was powered up, on screen instructions walked me through a few steps to connect the T9 to my existing Wi-Fi system and smartphone. With the connection, the rectangular-shaped thermostat display and settings are controlled from the display or on your smartphone or tablet with the free accompanying Honeywell app. 

While it’s easy to set up schedules for when the air is on or off along with automatic settings, your schedule does change. For example, if your AC is supposed to go on to cool the house at 5 p.m. as the family begins to arrive home and plans change where no one will now be home til 11 p.m., it takes just a second to turn on the app and override the schedule. Now you’re saving money by not cooling an empty house.

Weekly or daily schedules can be made with specific hours, rooms, times and temperatures. Email notifications can be set up to alert you when it the system or even a specific room (think baby’s room) reaches a specific high or low temperature.

The system allows up to 20 sensors to be connected per thermostat. In the settings you have your choice of having the temperature entirely controlled by a sensor, have it averaged out or even have a sensor turned on with motion. It’s your choice to prioritize what you want and what’s most important. There’s no limit how often the settings and controls can be changed.

A pair of AA batteries and 3M tape is included for installing and powering the sensors.

Geofencing is another great feature. When you have it activated the system will know when you’re home or away. When returning to your home with geofencing the thermostat will sense your smartphone is within a certain radius and turn the heat or AC on. In reverse, it knows when you leave the area to turn the down to a specific energy target.

The Honeywell Home T9 works with Alexa and Google Assistant voice assistants  along with IFTTT and Samsung SmartThings. Honeywell Home T9 Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat with 1 Smart Room Sensor $199, Single T9 Smart Sensor $39.99 each or a two pack for $74.99

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