Archive for July 2020

GADGETS :: July 29, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

I doubt a year ago many people, including myself, would be interested in a portable UVC sterilizer wand to kill invisible bacteria germs. Fast forward to today and we all want one, and Monos has announced the new CleanPod portable and rechargeable UVC LED wand.

So how does it work?  I’ll tell you exactly how Monos explains it: “Ultraviolet C (UVC) light has a very short wavelength and very high energy. Wavelengths between 200–300 nm are considered germicidal, as they are strongly absorbed by nucleic acids. UVC light is proven to be highly effective in killing bacteria and other pathogens, by scrambling their DNA or RNA (their genetic code). Once their genetic code is broken, they can no longer function.”

Using it is simple: Make sure the CleanPod’s  (8.6-by-1.3-by-1.5-inches) internal 2000 mAh battery is charged with the included USB-C to USB-A charging cord, slide open the safety lock and power button. 

Keep the CleanPod pointed and positioned a little over an inch away from the surface you want cleared of bacteria and sweep it back and forth for at least 30 seconds. Since it’s UVC LED, there’s no mercury so it powers up instantly. Pressing the power button again turns it off; a built-in 3 minute timer also shuts it off. 

CleanPod claims to kill up to 99.9% of bacteria living on surfaces and of course we all want to know how it works on killing COVID-19 bacteria. 

Monos supplied me with this statement concerning the current virus. “We have done rigorous testing for the CleanPod and have documentation proving its effectiveness at scrambling and killing the DNA of 99.9% of common bacteria and common pathogens.

“There have been many tests proving the capability of UVC light to kill a variety of viruses and bacteria and companies are now beginning to test UVC light against the coronavirus, as well. Due to the evolving nature of the virus we cannot guarantee the effects on certain virus strains, but Monos is committed to monitoring ongoing tests and will keep our customers updated on findings as we receive them.”

A downloadable PDF of the CleanPod’s official test report is on the Monos site.

This is not a replacement for social distancing, hand washing or any of the other sanitary habits we all need to be consumed with, but the CleanPod is a nice addition to the list The portability makes the CleanPod great for using it outside your home on keyboards, door knobs, in restaurants, shopping and while traveling.

There are safety instructions including a warning to not use CleanPod on skin or eyes with people or animals since the UVC light is harmful to all of them.

A lanyard and storage bag are included. $90

Trek Bicycle has launched the Bontrager JetWaveCel bike helmet for kids. It’s the first  kids’ helmet to feature WaveCel, a leading technology in the protection against cycling-related head injuries.

Trek’s WaveCel technology goes through a three-step change in material structure to absorb energy and provide protection for heads on impact.

With the technology built into the inside of the helmet, the way it works as described by Trek, the cells flex to produce initial frictional forces, then the cells crumble like a car bumper on impact. Then the WaveCel glides to redirect energy away from your head.

The helmet has a cool-looking skater-inspired design with Fidlock magnetic buckle for quickly, easy and safe on and off. Inside is thick helmet pads, which can be easily removed for cleaning and then reinstalled.

Two sizes of the Jet are available, child (48-52cm) and youth (50-55cm), both have a Dialed Fit System on the lower back of the helmet to adjust it for a comfortable and secure fit.

Each helmet comes with a crash replacement guarantee to provide a free helmet replacement if it’s involved in a crash within the first year of ownership.

A sticker pack for kid-friendly customization is also included. $100

GADGETS :: July 22, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

The resurgence of vinyl records never happened in my house, simply because they never left. If the comeback hasn’t reached your world, the Crosley’s Mini Cruiser and RSD3 turntables are a great way to start.

They won’t play any 33 or 45 rpm vinyl records; instead the portable record player plays 3-inch records. Personally, before I put my eyes on the mini turntables at a trade show I had never heard of them or the 3-inch records. While they aren’t commonly stocked at stores, the pocket sized records are easily found. Just do an online search, you’ll see.

The whole package with the mini turntable and records is eye-catching, some might say cool, other say cute, both with a retro look. 

The Mini Cruiser (5.79-by-8.15-by-3.35-inches) is truly portable. When it’s closed, it has a carry handle like a mini suitcase. This makes it a mini version of the bigger record playing Cruiser record player for 33 and 45’s, also built in a suitcase style.

It’s really amazing when you see them perform with all the features packed inside, including a clear dust cover, adjustable pitch control, built-in stereo speakers, a port to connect your headphones or wire it to a stereo system. There’s also a Bluetooth transmitter to connect portable speakers.

When I unpacked it and a few sample 3-inch records, I can honestly say without asking her, my wife was tired of hearing Jerry Lee Lewis’s Great Balls of Fire being played. I played it over and over at home and took it with us to show off for many friends during socially distant gatherings.

The silver toned RSD3 mini belt-drive turntable, $89.95, is also way cool and will be the talking centerpiece when you display it with a your sound system. It also plays the 3-inch records with sound coming from built-in speakers or use the 3.5 mm auxiliary port for output to headphones or a sound system.

Measuring just 6.16-by-4.50-by-3.25-inches, it’s built with a pre-mounted Audio Technica AT3600 moving-magnet cartridge and adjustable pitch control.

Sound from both of the mini turntable’s built-in speakers wasn’t room filling but don’t get fooled by that. It was way better than I expected and after I connect both to external speakers, they were a listening joy.

Power comes from a microUSB connection or four AAA batteries for the RSD3 and four AA batteries for the Cruiser. For true portability, I used the USB connection with my high powered portable USB battery. Both play the mini records at a 33 1/3 rpm speed.

A nice accessory for the mini turntables is the stylish Crosley mini record carrier case ($29.95), which holds 10 3-inch records. It’s a well made vinyl-wrapped case with metal hardware, a carry handle and rubber feet.

We always need more power and when it comes to USB-C devices, the small and powerful Aukey Omnia 100 watt PD GaN charger ($54.99) is the way to go. It’s part of Aukey’s new Omnia line, which includes five chargers with various combinations of USB-C and standard USB ports. 

The charger has a single USB-C port giving you 100 watts of power for charging, producing quick charging for powerful laptops and smaller smartphone batteries. All chargers are not the same, even if they all power and charge your devices. Specifically for the new Aukey Omnia Series, they have Aukey’s latest OmniaChip, which makes use of gallium nitride (GaN) to pack more power into the chargers.

And if you’re one who is on the go, you’ll love the size (2.2-by-2.2-by-1.2-inches), about half the size of the Apple MacBook charger I got with my last laptop purchase. Foldable plugs help with the portability, fold them out when you need to plug it into any standard AC outlet and fold them in when not in use. 

GADGETS :: July 15, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

Often I read about new security cameras and they seem to have one or two really cool features. Recently, I saw that had Hoop rolled out the Hoop Cam and Hoop Cam Plus, and they seemed to have everything I wanted.

Specifically,  high quality video, face recognition, a companion application for both iOS and Android, custom profiles, GeoFencing (my personal favorite security feature) and storage options for cloud or your own microSD memory cards. And it doesn’t end there, coming for  a really fair price.

Not long ago, setting up any home security system was complex, but not anymore.  Hoop makes it  as easy as it can get.

My setup began with the Hoop Cam Plus by downloading their app (iOS and Android), which included a security code sent to confirm  that you are you.

It then walks you through setting up a profile with simple step by steps instructions in the app for when you are home, away or in high alert. Different settings can be used for day or night, both with notifications.

The app will alert you if a new firmware version is available for the camera; update this if you get the message, it only takes a minute.

Every step I went to within the app was easy, which keeps the average users frustration levels down and in turn keeps the product from being returned. Setting up the profiles and rules was as easy as any camera I’ve setup.

When you do have clips to see, they are in a scrollable list for that day or you can go to a prior day. There’s a lot of great features, including integration with Google Home and Alexa, night vision and motorized 350 degrees motion panning and 45-degree tilting.

The Hoop Cam plus ($79.99) and Hoop Cam ($59.99) both feature 1080p wireless video streaming, night vision, motion-sensing technology and two-way audio from the camera to the app. A big different in the plus adds motorized 350-degree panning, 45-degree tilt.

As mentioned, storage can be done in the bottom side built-in microSD memory card slot with your own card or cloud subscriptions, which start at $12.99 per month for the first three cameras and $1.99 more for each additional camera.

One funny note, when the camera is plugged in for power with the included tangle free microSD cord, the camera looks like it goes through a stretching exercise, just as I do with my neck every morning. It’s really a self-check, but you’ll see.

Now I understand why Hoop is called “your clever little helper” on the Hoop site and boxes. Plus, they look cool –  true it’s a home security camera but with a fun, edgy, modern appearance so it doesn’t make your house look like a bank lobby. Both cameras are available in red, grey and white

If you’re not a Photoshop wiz or just don’t have the time, Vivid-Pix Restore is a great one click software for image restoration of digital images.

It’s really straight forward, select your digital image and the software then gives you nine choices, each with a slightly difference correction of your original image. From there choose what looks best and save it. Batch-editing is also a choice for large quantities.

You can do further adjustments, which I didn’t because I liked the choices the software (Mac and Windows) gave me. But you can adjust the contrast, brightness, color and rotate/tilt. 

Obviously pictures needing to be brought back to life with the software have to be digital files but once you scan in your prints or slides, color or black and white, the results are almost magical.  

Within the preferences you choose the JPG quality, sharpening and other features, which are all done when you do the single click. Images can be saved as JPGs or TIFF format.

Each image takes seconds and what I liked from the dozen or so images I tried Vivid-Pix Restore’s patented AI image restoration on, it didn’t blow out the colors and whites like other auto setting on photo softwares I’ve tried.  Metadata can also be added to the images. $49.99, a free trial is also available

GADGETS :: July 8, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

To the list of all the home improvements people have generated in the past few months, add an easy setup of extending the range of some of your home Wi-Fi smart products. The idea of doing this is great and a company called Lutron makes it a do-it-yourself easy project with a new Caséta Wireless Repeater and Motion Sensor added to Lutron’s Caséta smart lighting control system.

If you’re not familiar with Lutron, you need to be. They design and manufacture automated light and shade controls for homes and commercial applications.

It’s been common over the past few years to put the main controls for Wi-Fi, smart home products and Lutron systems centrally located in your home. That’s the best idea so the signal is strong enough for your TV as well as computers and scattered smart home devices.

At times the signal is still not enough; some new Lutron products help solve the problem so the signal reaches areas like a back closet tucked away in the corner of a house or a unique layout of your home, which has a restroom buried in another corner.

Lutron’s Caséta Repeater ($74.95) placed in your dead zones will extent your existing Lutron system range by 60 feet when placed within 60 feet of a Lutron Caséta Smart Bridge. The Smart Bridge is the central point of the system.  

Setup is easy, there’s no ethernet connection, the Repeater just plugs into any home outlet as long as its in range of the system. Then add it to an existing system through the Caséta App and you’re done. Once installed, scheduling, scenes, Smart Away and more are at your at your fingertips without the use of Wi-Fi.

The Caséta Smart Motion Sensor ($49.95) is perfect for a room needing hands-free control for lights or other products in the Lutron system.

It can be as easy as placed in a room where you want the lights to turn on as you enter or leave a room. That one sensor can control Caséta shades, lights, fan controls or anything within 60 feet.

Think of those hidden rooms, which are critical, hallways, garages or anywhere. With the sensor you get 180-degree field of view so it sees you coming.

Another cool thing is what Lutron calls flexible installation. I call it saving a hole in the wall that I won’t have to patch later. But since the sensor is wireless, it mounts on a flat surface, corner or whereever needed. It’s powered by a battery with a life of up to 10 years.

Another piece of the Lutron system I wrote about last year is the wireless fan speed control ($60.69).

Once installed, you have now turned your simple existing ceiling fan into a wireless smart home-controlled device for turning on and off, speed controls, programable schedules and scenes with other smart home products.

The Lutron smart lighting control system connects with smart home devices like Alexa, Apple HomeKit and Google Assistant. 

Mophie, a ZAGG Brand, recently launched the Mophie Powerstation Wireless XL, which has everything you need to charge today’s high powered, wireless electronic gadgets.

Inside the 10,000mAh battery is Qi wireless charging for input and output, which will work with the latest Apple, Samsung, LC, Google Nexus and other devices with the Qi system built in. With the output, you can charge your device, the input lets you connect it to  any Qi-compatible wireless charging pad for re-charging the powerstation.

There’s also an Apple Lightning input, a USB-C input and outport port and 18 watt fast charging. Thirty minutes should give your device 50 percent of battery life. So whatever needs a charge, this will give it you with style and power on-the-go. It can give devices like an iPhone up to 55 hours of extra use.

Other features include an LED power indicator with four lights to know the level of remaining battery power. With Priority Charging, the powerstation sends power to your device needing charging before charging itself when it’s connected to your charging pad.

The battery can also be recharged through the same Lighting cable that charges Apple devices or through the USB-C port. $99.95

GADGETS :: July 1, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

I’ve never seen anyone go around showing off their new hearing aid. But often I see people bragging about their new earbuds. The Olive Smart Ear has the appearance and style of a single earbud in but does the job of a hearing aid.

I’ll start off with some information supplied by the parent company, Olive Union, which caught my attention before I even opened the box.

It stated that 48-million Americans have trouble hearing, yet only 1 in 5 who need it use an assisted hearing device to correct for their impairment. Most often, hearing loss begins in just one ear. First comes little things like talking louder than you normally would, keeping the TV at a higher volume, or cupping your ear to hear better during a meeting.

All this sounds very familiar since I’ve witness these situations first hand with family members. So I was excited to give this product a try.

The Olive Smart Ear is built with state-of-the-art design and technology, patented sound technology for outstanding, clear and balanced sounds and is designed to work with hearing impaired with a loss less than 50 dB. They are designed for people who just aren’t quite ready for hearing aids, which by-the-way cost in the area of $2,000 to $5000, compared to $299 for the Olive Smart ear.

Along with a companion App (IOS and Android), it gives you a hearing test for recommended settings and the user-friendly dashboard gives you instant  adjustments from the basic default mode to TV watching and conversations. Feedback can be altered and other controls can easily be customized based on the user and the environment. Crowded restaurants need different adjustments than talking at the breakfast table.

It offers nice sound but what it makes it stand out is the amplified sound. I don’t have hearing loss so I enlisted someone close to me who does. We put ourselves in a normal environment with the TV in surround sound, but not on defining levels. 

With the Olive Smart Ear in one ear away from me, she definitely felt improvement on hearing the TV while still able to hear my occasional conversation.

Olive Union data on the earbud says Total Harmonic Distortion is less than 1.2% in each measured channel, to provide a clear spectrally balanced sound. It’s designed to instantaneously filter out unpleasant, sharp high pitch noises and has a Wide Dynamic Range Compression algorithm tuned to capture 99.8-percent of the sounds within your hearing range without distortion.

Like true wireless earbuds, alone it gives you seven hours of charge and when combined with the included portable recharging case, its good for over 20 hours. 

It’s not something you would wear all day but it’s so small and portable, when it’s needed it can be useful. With 16 channels and a dynamic
range of 96dB, it can only help. $299 available in white and black

Handy, efficient, all-in-one, power and unique are words I’d use to describe the new EGGTronic Power Bar portable battery.

All-in-one is a great way to describe it since it has two 7.5 watt Qi wireless charging spots, a single 5 watt Apple Watch wireless charging spot and a USB-C powered port with 30 watts of power deliver.

All at once, the 3-in-1 multi-device can charge an iPhone, Apple Watch and AirPods in the 7.30-by-1.02-by-2.67-inch Apple MFI-certified device, which has 10,000 mAh of portable battery power. The USB-C port can be used with you’re charging cable to power and charge a Macbook, iPad or iPhone. The same port is used for recharging the battery itself.

The four ports can be used simultaneously, but with all being used and especially with a laptop or tablet, the power from the Power Bar is appreciated.

So with all that, its easy to see why a battery like this is probably the most versatile portable batteries I’ve seen. In addition to the battery itself, the package includes a 3-foot USB-C to USB-C cable, a 3-foot USB-C to Lightning cable and a handy USB-C to USB-A adapter tip. Normally you get a single charging cable for the battery itself, instead EGGTronic has really made this a complete package with the accessories. $149.99

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