Archive for April 2020

GADGETS :: April 29, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

With the GorillaPod Mobile Vlogging Kit, launched in Joby’s new custom Line, Mobile Accessories for Content Creation at Playlist Live, the tools will be a welcome addition for bloggers, vloggers or anyone wanting to create video content with clear audio and adjustable lighting.

Joby put it a nice way in a recent press release saying the new kit will eliminate any barrier to creativity and share one common theme – the versatility to be situation-proof.

The lightweight (19-ounces) and versitle kit consists of the flagship Joby GorillaPod with the GorillaPod Mobile Rig, Beamo Mini LED and the Wavo Mobile microphone in the kit. 

I’ve used many different-sized GorillaPods over the years and have written about several in this space. The flagship product is a tripod, ball and socket design with rubberized grips, designed to stabilize your camera on just about any surface or object. It sits perfect on flat surfaces or with its bendable legs they can snuggle up to a pole and keep perfectly steady. I’ve used GolillaPods to hold my original iPod in place while flying and to take selfies in the Caribbean and put cameras in remote locations.

With the GorillaPod Mobile Rig tripod (3.1-by-4.7-by-12.9-inches), you’ll have the same options to keep it flat, standing or wrap it just about anywhere, straight up or upside down – with its twistable and gripping legs. 

Your smartphone is held in the GripTight mount, which can be used in portrait and landscape views. To change views, just loosen a screw, change the angle and hand tighten it shut. 

The GripTight mount attaches to the tripod with the GorillaPod ball head, which has an industry standard 1/4’’-20 thread and rubberized grips. Two GorillaPod arms, two cold shoe mounts and a GoPro mount are included with the GorillaPod Mobile Rig for adding or taking accessories on or off instantly.

For capturing crisp clear audio, the kit includes the Wavo portable on-camera microphone, which attaches with a cold shoe mount. It’s built with Rycote Lyre technology to assist in shock absorbing movements for clear sound standing, walking or running. A deadcat cover is included, to help on windy days and remove other unwanted background noise. Camera and smartphone connection cables and a pouch are included with the microphone.

The last piece of the kit is the Beamo Mini LED light, which is the piece of the puzzle many people don’t use, but should. The on-the-go, compact and portable (1.5-by-2-by-2-inches) LED Light will make you or your subjects look great. It has 1000 lumens with 5 steps of dimmable lighting and will last 40 minutes of use at full power, 100 minutes at 50-percent before a USB-C charge is needed. 

The rugged Beamo 5100K light is waterproof up to 30-meters and also has a magnetic backing. With the myJOBY app (iOS and Android) lighting can be controlled remotely if the camera isn’t within reach or you want it adjusted while filming.

When you combine these pieces in the kit, it’s a complete package, you’ll save money compared to buying each piece individually. With little to no setup, the kit  stabilizes the image from the smartphone and adds much better lighting and audio compared to that produced by the smartphone. Use it to get on your next Zoom or FaceTime meeting and you’ll be asked why you look so good.

Joby has bigger kits, tripods, lights and accessories available on their site to work with just about any smartphone or DSLR. $199.95

GADGETS :: April 22, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

Did you ever leave your home and wonder if you left with the garage open (like I do often). Even if you have a security camera, which can show if its open or closed, shutting it is another story unless you have one of the newer Wi-Fi garage door openers.

An easy solution to control a non-Wi-Fi enabled garage door is to add the Nexx NXG-200 smart garage controller, which connects to existing Wi-Fi.

Before you order, check the Next website for compatibility with your existing opener.  You must know the manufacturer and model. If that information isn’t available, they show you how to quickly test to determine if the opener is compatible with Nexx Garage, using a small wire, pliers or paper clip (my option).

If it’s not compatible, don’t worry; there is an adapter available ($24.99) to make it work. I didn’t need it for my test but Nexx describes the adapter as an accessory that allows Nexx Smart Garage to work with incompatible garage openers.

Once you have the controller, installation only takes a few minutes. First, download the Next Home app (iOS and Android) and creating a free account. 

Follow the step-by-step instructions, which shows images of the parts to connect. The main power supply of the controller gets plugged into the AC power the garage controller is in and then connected with the included wire, to the same terminals on the garage controller, which you tested for the compatibility. 

The power supply is kept in place with tape, Velcro or cable ties. Plugging in the wire to those two terminals, which takes a second, is the only wiring required and there’s no hub or monthly subscriptions.

After it’s powered up and the proper lights are glowing, use the Next Home app to configure the setup to your Wi-Fi. One problem a lot of people have with smart home devices is the Wi-Fi. The router has to be within range, closer is always better and having it the central part of your home is typically the best option.

The last installation step  the sensor pairing. After it’s paired, the sensor is attached to your garage door with included Velcro to the top middle of the inside of the garage door. A photo showing you the location is in the setup guide.

And just as the instructions say, you are now good to go for opening or closing your garage door from anywhere by just tapping the garage door icon in the center of the app. The app allows sharing of the access or just open the garage remotely upon request for family, friends or workers.

The app also has the option to set up a schedule to open or close the door, along with a timer. Push notifications can be set and sent to a smartphone for alerts when the garage door is opened or closed and if you shared the access you’ll know who is using it. A history log also keeps track of the device history.

The Nexx NXG-200 works with voice assistants Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Siri and SmartThings. 

Just Drive Geofencing technology will tell the garage door to open when you’re in the driveway. Functionality for Geofencing is dependent on the user’s phone system, WiFi network, and individual settings.

For garage door controlling, this is one of the best I’ve tried for many reasons including explaining and showing compatibility before you begin, instructions, installation process and the app, which is simple to navigate and has a user friendly dashboard. $79.99

GADGETS :: April 15, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

I’ve always been one to go lighter, smaller and as portable as possible. The Rocketbook Core portable reusable notebook is a nice addition to my mission.

My school years were during the pen and pencil period, so I can only imagine how handy it would have been during that era. These stay-at-home days where my house chores and shopping lists end up with Post-it notes everywhere, the Rocketbook Core simplifies everything and even lets me save and uploaded the content in PDF or JPEG to cloud services such as Google Drive, iCloud, email and Dropbox to name a few.

But it got me thinking, if I thought it would have been a great benefit during my school years along with today, what would someone currently in school think, so I enlisted an able bodied college student to give it a try during the current home schooling days.

Within a few days she gave it an A+ and especially enjoyed the cloud upload with the reusable notebook. She also pointed out for some classes a  laptop or tablet aren’t needed, making the Rocketbook Core lighter and easier to tote around campus whenever they get back to that.

Appearance wise, at first glance it looks like a traditional spiral notebook, except instead of paper, it uses patented reusable technology consisting of synthetic paper, which you write on. Once you’re done the page wipes clean with a damp cloth for the next use.

Before erasing, uploading the content is a pretty simple step. With the Rocketbook app on your smartphone or tablet, the pages can be scanned for the cloud storage.

Writing is done using any pen from the Pilot Frixion line of markers or highlighters, which all give you a normal writing experience.

The cost friendly Rocketbook Core is available in letter size 8.5-by-11inches with 32 pages for $34 and the executive is 6-by-8.8-inches with 36 pages $32. Both are also availed with a dot grid pattern or lined.

You have eight choices of cover colors, a microfiber cleaning cloth and one Pilot FriXion pen is included with each.

Sure, some smart home systems are more complex than others but overall, most are really easy to set to operate devices in your home. Sure, turning a light on or off is easy. But setting it up on a schedule to do just that, enabling it to be off when you want, not running up the electric meter is just one example.

The latest smart home product I tried is the Vera Ezlo Atom smart home controller hub, part of the Vera controller family.

For the most part, the Atom looks like a flash thumb drive (1.1-by-0.4-by-2 inches) with a standard USB-A connector built on swivel hinge. Inside the Atom is a 160 MHz 32-bit LX6 processor, with NOR 16 MB of flash memory and SRAM 520 KB of RAM. It’s built with 2.4GHz Wi-Fi for connecting to your home network.

For operation, it needs to be plugged into any USB power source and along with the Vera mobile app, it controls smart home devices including light bulbs, thermostats, window sensors, motion detectors, locks and more.

Setting a smart home device intimidates a lot of users, but after using this Atom, I can say this is as easy as can be. If you can download the app and follow simple setup instructions, the Atom is plug and play for the most part. For my test purposes, I had it working to control light bulbs in seconds and then had it connected with a few other Z-Wave security devices I already had planted in my home.

The app has a user-friendly dashboard, which lets you set up new rules for schedules, shortcuts and instant control. 

I have to say, this worked really well and I’d recommend it for first-time smart home users or, if you have existing devices and want to get control of them in one place. It also works with smart home assistants, Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple shortcuts. $29.95


GADGETS :: April 8, 2019

by Gregg Ellman

With an attractive vintage look, Electrohome Birmingham’s retro Bluetooth speaker seeks  to bring back the era of mop tops and mullets from the golden age of rock n’ roll. I prefer to say it reminds me of a hi-fi stereo system my dad had long ago, although I did have a mullet in the past.

While the look takes you back in time, the sound and features are up to date and forward marching. It produces room-filling sound to any play list or can stream any music service with a Bluetooth connection from your smartphone, tablet or computer.

The exterior (9.5-by-13.4-by-7.1-inches) is hand-crafted from engineered MDF wood with a carrying handle built into the top. Producing the sound inside are dual full range 4-inch woofers with an Integrated amplifier (frequency response 60Hz – 20KHz).

To add to the vintage look, controls for adjusting the music, power and volume are all knobs along the top of the front side of the speaker. There’s also a 3.5 mm aux input for a direct connection and USB charging port to connect your cable for device charing.

Working as a Bluetooth speaker is the primary function of the Birmingham but there’s an appealing feature for guitar players when using so they can jam along. Since I have zero musical talents, I couldn’t try it; if you’re a guitar player you can plug into the built-in 1/4-inch input and customize the live sound with the volume and gain control. $149

Rather than having to remember a combination or have a key to open it, the Tapplock Lite uses your fingerprint.

The smart fingerprint portable padlock opens in under 0.8 seconds after being programed with your fingerprint. You can store up to 100 fingerprints for each lock, which are managed in the Tapplock app.

In addition to the fingerprints, you can use the Tapplock app to open the lock with Bluetooth or with a combination used via morse-code.

With the app you can remotely manage the Bluetooth access on any other stored fingerprints. Specific dates and times can be set along with revoking access.

The Tapplock Lite is built with a metal chassis and an IP67 rating, making it perfect for the outdoors since it can withstand being fully submerged in water or even sweaty/wet fingerprints. 

Inside is a rechargeable battery, good for 8 months or 1,200 unlocks. The app shows the battery level and when it needs a charge. A blinking light goes off on the lock when the level is below 10-percent. A nice features allows it to unlock with just an 8-second charge with a portable battery, in the event the locks battery goes totally dead. $39.00 each, 2-pack for $72 and a 3-pack is $105.00

Twelve South’s limited edition AirBag for AirPods and AirPods Pro will store, carry and protect the expense earbuds in a style like no other I’ve seen.

The mini satchel bag can be worn over your shoulder, around your neck or just take the leather strap off to carry it with the leather top handle or just carry it in a purse, pocket or backpack. 

Your AirPods will stay in the AirBag securely when closing the front sided  metal snap button while also allows wireless charging for the AirPods Pro. There’s also an opening for a Lightning cable for charing.

The limited edition AirBag is made with full-grain leather and protects all sides of the AirPod case. $49.99

GADGETS :: April 1, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

For obvious reasons, there’s a lot of spring cleaning going on and I’m no different, with my latest area being my office closet. Here’s a few items I unearthed and felt like they are worth telling you about.

There’s probably never been a better time to use Austere’s Clean and Protect professional quality display cleaner. After unpacking it, I went on a cleaning spree on monitors, TV’s, iPads and smartphones, all now temporarily shinny clean and most important germ-free.

The anti-bacterial, ammonia-free solution is unscented and comes with one of the best, if not the best, dual-textured cleaning cloth I’ve ever used. After it gets used a lot, just put the anti-bacterial micro-fiber cloth in with your next clothing wash.

The cleaning solution (6.8-ounces) comes in a specially designed applicator, which sprays the fine mist evenly to prevent screen streaks and fingerprints. $19.99

The Nimble wireless stand for Qi-Enabled devices worked perfect to charge my iPhone XS but there’s a lot more to Nimble than their great products. 

When you receive a Nimble product, it’s delivered in an Eco-friendly package along with a bag to recycle old electronics back to Nimble for free. They have zero plastic in the  packaging and it all works along with a line on the Nimble site where they state they are “Bridging the gap between your everyday modern needs and those of the planet.”

Back to the wireless charger; it’s covered in an attractive fabric, designed with a sustainable blend made from recycled water bottles and organic hemp. There is a small plastic strip on the front, which is necessary keep your phone in place.

A USB-C input keep it powered with the included cable and wall adapter. $41.96

As with many others, I’m willing to try anything to assist in a better night’s sleep. The iHome Air fan and sound machine looks like a small desktop fan along with producing natural white noise to work as a sleep aid.

The fan has dual speeds and works in an open position to expose the sounds or keep it closed, allowing it to be angled 90-degree to the direction needed.

Twelve built-in shooting sounds of white noise, nature recordings and sleeping sounds are accessed from bottom side buttons. Both the fan and sound can be programed with sleep timers to operate up to 8 hours.

I’ve used other white noise devices with great success. Now with the combined fan for better air circulation, I know sleeping will only get better with the AC powered iHome Air. $58.04

It’s pretty amazing how many features are packed into the Anker Soundcore Wakey Bluetooth bedside speaker and to no surprise they work perfectly.

First and foremost, the Wakey is a beside clock with a front facing display, programable alarms, FM radio station presets and white noise settings. You can set up to 15 individual alarms, with choices from the 10 different built-in sounds.

To me the selling point of the Wakey is the built-in high speed wireless charger for Qi-enabled charging devices. To charge your device just place it on the top side pad. Charging delivers a fast 10 W charge for Samsung phones and 7.5 W charge for iPhones.

To listen to your playlists, connect your device via Bluetooth or directly with an aux cable. Either way delivers great sound from the full-range stereo drivers. $89.99

The Dancing Queen Crossbody Wallet case for iPhone (11, 11Pro, 11Pro Max) is another that has it all. 

As described by the parent company Smartish, when you’re out on the town, on the dance floor or anywhere else and you have no pockets or purse for your smartphone, the Dancing Queen solves the problem.

The leather-like case with high-grip textured sides features a magnetic snap-shut wallet to hold five credit cards plus case, an adjustable and removable wristlet and crossbody straps. The straps have a loop for holding lip gloss.

D-rings on the bottom of the case are for attaching the straps on or off. When the straps are off, the loops do not get in the way. $29.99

The Momentum Meri smart Wi-Fi thermostat is a great way to keep control of your home air systems.  Once installed, your smartphone can be used with the companion app to set schedules or make temperature adjustments on the fly. 

On-screen color touch controls assist with the setup and let you set schedules and adjustments.

According to Momentum, recent firmware updates gave the smart home thermostat improvements to the room temperature sensor. It also added on-boarding flow, so once the device boots up it will walk the user through the Wi-Fi setup, system type selection and pairing to the app. $129.99

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