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December 22, 2015

Last Minute Tech Gifts

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:28 am

Do you need a present for a geek right now!  Well, you do not have much time left.  Christmas is in days.  What can you run out and get right now since Amazon does not have enough time to get it to you before the big day?

Here we go on a quick trip of tech gift ideas which do not cost too much.  All of them can be found around town in different stores…if you hurry.

Wrapped Presents

How about a thumb drive for your tech friend to store portable files on?  Or in the case of people whose cars have a USB port in the radio, they can load their music to it and listen as they drive about town.  I have seen and purchased 64 GB ones locally for $9.99.  Depending on how they have compressed the song files that thumb drive could hold an estimated 10,000 to 18,000 songs. They can also be used to store duplicate files from the My Documents or any other folders on their computer. 

ChromecastsNow a suggestion from Google.  If you have a Chromecast you know how well they operate.  They basically give you the ability to broadcast anything to your TV from your phone or computer.  If your friends have a Smart TV you already have many of the features. But if not, all you need is a HDMI port on your TV and you are set.  The retail price is $35.

Next how about a surge suppressor?  You have seen your friend’s desktop computer with everything plugged directly into the wall.  You know that sooner or later there will be a power spike of some sort that ruins his system.  Get a surge suppressor with several outlets and also ports for USB cables.  For anywhere from $12 to $50 you can save them a bundle. 

Everyone can use an additional USB charging cable.  People have phones, MP3 players, watches and many other devices that use them.  They get lost and even wear out over time.  There are many different types of connectors on the other end of the USB cable, so make sure you find the correct one.  Depending on the type I have seen them this week from six dollars to $15. 

How about a Tablet?  If your friend does not have one and wants to try one out now is the time.  How about for you kids and grandkids?  Just do not let them be on it all the time.  I found one for mine at $40.  In this price range the resolution is not that great for reading.  But the kids are playing games and they are fine for gaming.  I did see some quite serviceable ones for $80 that I would easily consider.  Of course, tablets get better and better for up to the $300 range.  These good prices are for Android devices only.  Windows and Apple products will cost significantly more.

Now I have recommended all of these gifts for your friends.  But let us be honest…these can be gifts for you too!  Either way, have a very Merry Christmas! 

December 1, 2015

A Watch for Christmas, Part 2

Last week I introduced you to Smartwatches.  I think they are terrific gadgets…especially for the more geeky among us.  They provide lots of information as I mentioned last week when I outlined many things the two I have are able to do.  We will compare them today. By the way, the prices listed are for the versions I have (first version of each brand) not the newer versions now available.  Check current prices if you are interested in these and online for other brand names.   

The Moto 360 (original version $250) is a much prettier watch.  It has a very colorful, bright sharp screen and a tremendous number of interesting and useful watch faces.  As a matter of fact I have even made a couple of my own.  I can see very little pixilation unless I get my eyes closer than necessary to the watch. 

When you swing your wrist up to look it lights up so you can see it for a few seconds, then goes back to black.  It stays lit for a very short period of time.  You may have five items you want to check and have time to see two or three. 

There is one button control and touch screen control.  When you get a phone call you can see the number calling, and the picture of the caller if it is in your address book.  You can slide the face one way to answer and another to hang up.  You cannot use the phone to talk to the caller (Dick Tracey would be sad) so you still have to pull your phone out of your pocket or wherever it may be to answer. 

The largest problem that I have with the Moto 360 is the battery life.  It charges so you do not have to replace batteries; however, a max of 12-14 hours on a full charge is not good performance in my book.   

The Pebble (original version $149) watch faces are more limited and not color but consistent with most regular digital watches today.  It has the standard gray/black screen. (See DoubleClicks.info for a few views.)  However, that being said the watch is constantly viewable.  It uses e-ink which allows me to see the watch all the time unless in the dark.  As with the Moto 360 you flip your watch-arm up as you normally would to view the time, then the light comes on.

The Pebble has four button control without touchscreen.  The biggest PLUS for me is that once a week is usually the only charging it needs. 

They are both interesting and good functional gadgets.  Still with the charge time and the constantly visible watch faces I vote for the Pebble, even though it is not as cool and "glamorous" looking as the Moto 360.  Pebble now has some color versions which I have not seen so it may be even better now.  

Below are the Moto 360 (left) and the Pebble (right) with their chargers.

Moto 360 being charged                                Pebble shown with charger

November 24, 2015

A Watch for Christmas, Part 1

A Watch for Christmas

I recently had a chance to test out two smartwatches for an extended period of time: The Moto 360 by Motorola which came out in 2014 and the Pebble from 2012.  The Pebble was a Kickstarter project which raised over $10 million in 30 days by donations from complete strangers who liked the idea.  That was the biggest and quickest of Kickstarter at the time.

What is a “Smartwatch?”  Today “Smart” means connected to the internet like a smart-TV.  A Smart TV allows you to access the internet and watch programs there instead of on cable or broadcast shows.  So basically smartwatches are connected to the internet currently through your smartphone’s apps.  They connect to each other with Bluetooth, some with Wi-Fi, then on to the internet.

They are not quite as “new” as you may think.  The first smartwatch was called the “Wrist Computer” which was released in 1985 under the name of “Seiko Epson.”  There were others of note leading up to the current day selection of many brands and models.

They allow you to see who is calling, answer your phone, read text messages, emails, weather alerts, temperatures, battery strength of the watch or phone and more.  They both allow you to see text messages along with from and subject lines of emails and maybe a few lines of the email.  However, neither will let you answer those emails and texts with anything but prewritten messages.  These are similar to, “OK,” “I’m running late,” “I just left,” etc.  You can also create some of your own canned responses.  The two I have can give you maps that vibrate before you need to turn.  So basically they are gadgets.  Smartwatches seem to be coming out with new “smart” features most every day.  Of course there are apps which allow you to sleep better, wake up gently, count steps you take, inform you of how many calories you have burned by taking those steps and more.

The Pebble has a rectangular portrait shape and the Moto 360 was the first round smartwatch.  But as round as it is, it has what is referred to as a “flat tire.”  The bottom of the screen has a dark, flat area where the ambient light sensor and display drivers are contained.

Pebble Watch Face

Pebble Watch Face

Moto 360 Watch Face

Moto 360 Watch Face

They both have unusual chargers that do not “plug” into the watch but do have a regular USB port on the power end.  The Pebble has a magnetic charging wire with four posts that attach to on the left side of the watch.  The Moto 360 lays in a cradle to charge wirelessly except for the power to the cradle wire.

Next week we will take a look at my comparison between the two types of smart watches as they are different in many ways.

December 11, 2013

2013-12-11 WSVA Show Notes

Hey there I hope you are ready for a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  Today we discussed some presents you may want to put under the tree in a week or so.

You can listen to the podcast here and check the actual links below.

I hope your families are able to get together and enjoy the Season!

Ron

Christmas 2013
Most popular items this year are predicted to be Tablets, with starting prices


You can get free eBooks for Android.


Popular Gadgets

  • AR.Drone2, quad-copter with video you can watch and record it on your phone. Has a front and a bottom camera. $370.
  • OtterBox, this is the ultimate protective case shop anywhere around. Whether you have a phone, tablet, headset or just need a different sized INDESTRUCTABLE case.
  • PowerUp Electric Paper Airplane Conversion kit can help a paper airplane stay airborne for at least 30 seconds. Of course, you’ll need to fold the paper into a plane yourself, the “engine” is just $16.99.

How to find better pricesUse your smartphones and their perspective App Stores to look for:

  • Amazon Price Check
  • BuyVia
  • Consumr
  • RedLaser
  • The Find

Some have scanners, some you can order from the stores, some check local advertisements, etc. Try them out.


Geek and Gadget Online Stores

  • Dude I Want That, one of a kind products. This site also has a Gift Guide arranged by categories.
  • ThinkGeek, Ron’s favorite geek, junk store. Of course, tons of Doctor Who items.

December 17, 2012

2012-12-17 WSVA Show Notes

Here we are again, this time for the last show of 2012. I hope you can listen to the show, read these show notes or listen to any of the podcasts (like today’s) and learn (OK, and have some laughs along the way too).

See you next year and before then have a very Merry and Blessed Christmas and Happy New Year!

Ron

Tech Presents
You can probably get a MS Surface computer really cheap-soon!
Sorry, Microsoft (MSFT) — consumers just aren’t that interested in your tablet. Ipsos conducted a poll for Thomson Reuters last week showing that just 4% of people in the United States interested in buying a tablet were considering buying a Surface. This compares to a whopping 42% of prospective tablet buyers who were interested in an iPad mini, 16% who wanted a Kindle Fire and 14% who were interested in one of Samsung’s (005930) Galaxy tablets.


pivotHeadPivothead, Video Recording Eyewear, pivothead.com
Great looking sunglasses that have HD video camera and mic built-in so you can record all your adventures. Slick man-toy for about $299.

Check out videos filmed by others at the site.


hi-Call Bluetooth Talking Gloves

hi-Call is a Bluetooth glove that allows you to talk through your hand. The left glove has a speaker and a microphone sewed into thumb and pinkie, in order to speak to the phone, while protecting from cold.

A pair of warm gloves, perfect for every sport, from skiing to running, with hi-Call you can control the touch screen of your smartphone thanks to the capacitive technology.


Touchscreen gloves (less expensive)
With technological innovation comes unexpected challenges. Consider, as freezing weather approaches, the touch-screen device.

The sensors in A.T.M.’s, iPads and BlackBerrys are made to respond to the electric signals transmitted through the skin. Traditional gloves interfere. But you and your gadget-bearing loved ones need not go barehanded. Glove makers have devised ways to complete the connection even with a covered fingertip. A conductive thread attached to the fingertips of a pair of regular gloves. Now they work with touch-screen devices.

Ron: You can find these much less costly online and in local stores. My wife got a pair of knit gloves with touchscreen fingers for $5.


Tablets
Apple iPad Mini
$329 for the 16GB model with Wi-Fi only, or $459 for the 16GB model with Wi-Fi and 3G/4G mobile data (with support for AT&T, Verizon and Sprint services in the U.S.). The 32GB and 64GB models are an additional $100 and $200, respectively.

Google Nexus 7 Available for $199 (16GB), $249 (32GB) or $299 (32GB with 3G/4G mobile data support from any provider).


LiveScrive Pen, livescribe.com

With a LiveScribe pen you can write your notes (if you remember how to write with pen and paper) on special paper and it will transfre it to your computer/tablet/phone along with audio notes when you tell it to record those also.

Automatically and wirelessly transfer your recorded notes and audio to your Evernote® account for playback on nearly any digital device. Enjoy the convenience of any time, anywhere access to your notes.


Government Deals, govdeals.com
A little late to get items by Christmas but GovDeals provides services to various government agencies that allow them to sell surplus and confiscated items via the Internet.

Just about anything the govenerment has confiscated at airport boarding gate up to cars, boats and the list goes on.

Similar to the eBay bidding system.


Logitech Washable Keyboard K310, logitech.com
Designed to look and function like new – even over time. From a light dusting to a soak*, this washable keyboard with drainage holes is easy to clean and easy to dry.

Key characters are laser printed and UV coated to ensure the letters don’t fade in the wash.

*Hand wash only. Use mild soap and a soft cloth in warm water less than 30cm (11 inches) deep and less than 50°C (120°F). Do not wash in dishwasher. Do not use abrasives, alcohol, solvents or harsh detergents. Do not submerge the USB cable.

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