Archive for August 2019

Gadgets :: August 28, 2019

by Gregg Ellman

You might not think of changing your office chair’s wheels but after you hear about Stealtho high-tech elastic polyurethane wheels, you’ll think about bringing your chair into the pits for a beneficial wheel change.

These wheels slide and glide just like rollerblade wheels, in a smooth and silent manner. On top of the smooth ride, they pose no threat of damaging hardwood floors since the elastic polyurethane wheels won’t scratch anything. Once installed you’ll be able to get rid of the ugly protective office chair mat, which is also a magnet for trapping dirt on its backside.

Stealtho states the wheels can withstand up to 660-pounds without damaging floors or carpets. And for any wheel junkies, ABEC9 bearings are built into the wheels, which are the same used in most expensive skateboards.

Most every standard office chair has wheels that just snap out with a little pull. Turn your chair on its side and give it a try. Once the old wheels are out, the replacements press right in.

The smooth-rolling wheels also roll right over cables and if they get even as little as 15 minutes of daylight or 1.5 hours of room light, they will glow in the dark.

The Stealtho wheels will fit standard office chairs, which have the universal grip ring stem. $39.99 for a set of 5 

We all need USB gadgets; in fact many of us just can’t get enough and Plugable Technologies has some great choices for using in your work or play time.

If I had to choose three words to describe Plugable’s folding Bluetooth keyboard ($54.95)  I’d say “simple, cool and useful.”

I’ve used other folding portable keyboards, which worked well but the keys weren’t always comfortable to type with. Using this Plugable’s keyboard was comfortable and I can see it being durable for long-time use.

When it’s open, you get a laptop layout of keys with six full rows including specific keys to support Apple iOS, Android and Windows functionality. I used it with iOS on my iPad and adjusting volume, copy/paste and all the basic essentials worked great.

The full-size wireless tri-fold keyboard has stainless steal hinges and is a perfect travel companion for working remotely or doing some surfing in front of your TV.  Any location you chose, it’s a great device and comes with a protective leather-like case, which converts into a handsfree smartphone and tablet stand.

When opened, the keyboard measures 11.5-by-4.6-by-0.5-inches and also comes with a micro USB cable for charging or using as a direct wired keyboard into your device’s USB port.  A charge will keep the keyboard running for weeks.

The Plugable USB 3.0 7-port hub ($28.95) is compact and portable for making sure all your USB devices are connected and charging.

If your device is USB, it will work since the USB 3.0 hub is backward compatible with USB 2.0 and USB 1.1 devices. Using it is simple: just plug the included USB cable into an open port on your computer and from there it’s plug and play.

One features I instantly liked is that all the ports are on one side with the power and connections USB cable on the other. Other simple devices have ports on multiple sides, which causes cable confusion on my desk. 

Included in the ports are 2 BC 1.2 fast charger ports (ports 1 and 7 on each end) to use with your own charging cables.

The Plugable site lists compatibility with most Windows 10, 8.1, 8, 7, Vista, XP, Mac OS X, Linux (kernels 3.0 and later), and Unix systems. They also list the hub to support USB 3.0 transfer rates up to 5Gbps (640MBps).

A 36W power adapter is included. 

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

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