D-Link Wi-Fi Smart Plug Review

smartplugI have had a huge interest in home monitoring of electricity for quite some time, and love to have more control of the plugs I have stuff plugged into.  So I was excited to get my hands on the D-Link Wi-Fi Smart Plug model DSP-w215. In fact I tried to get D-Link to send me enough of these for my whole home to do a case study sadly that did not happen. What is cool though is that they are cheap enough @ $49.95 each that I can buy as many as I need over time and will have a near 100% picture of power consumption and control of power in my home.

I installed the Smart Plug in my garage on a plug that powers a band of stuff. The kids have a gaming center there, and I also have a network cabinet with some gear in that runs 24/7.

The D-Link smart switch allows me to turn the power on/ off on a schedule or via the Smart Plug app. The smart plug also reports back the temperature in the room, and of course the actual power usage.  I found when all gaming gear is off, and only the network cabinet running that I’m burning about 67 watts continuously. When the big screeen LCD and the gaming gear is turned on it jumps to over 400 watts.

With the monitoring I can tell know during summer vacation how much time the kids are gaming and if need be I can turn off the switch via the mobile app. The smart plug app and device can be set up to actually shut off the power when your budget for that smart plug has been reached.

The plug communicates via Wi-Fi and setup was as easy as pushing the WPS button on the device.  Priced at $49.99 for those in high energy areas the smart plug cost can likely be recovered over time.

Leef Bridge USB 3.0 Drive for Android Review

leefbridgeThe Leef Bridge 3.0 is the first time I have reviewed an Android Data Transfer device.  It’s design is unique in that it has 2 plugs, a full sized USB plug to stick on your computer and Mini Jack USB that will plug into your Android devices.

I copied a couple of media files from my PC to the Leef Bridge, and then plugged the Leef into my Android Device and used a popular file browsing application to access the media. The Leef Bridge could not be anymore easier to use. The drive I received was a 16gb drive and is perfect for loading some movies.

I love dead drop easy solutions that have a lot of utility. The Leef Bridge is a bit smaller than a standard USB stick and will be easy to carry in your pocket or purse. There is a list of compatible devices so be sure to check their website. At $18.99 the price is right as well.


D-Link Wi-Fi Dual Band Range Extender Review

dap-1520I have reviewed 4-5 Wi-Fi extenders over the past couple of years, and I usually dread the setup. Expecting no less pain this time, I was shocked when I plugged in the D-Link DAP-1520 Wi-Fi Dual Band Range Extender it was shockingly simple.

1. Plug it in
2. Connect to it via Wifi
3. Configure it to connect to my homes Wi-Fi
4. It reboots and your finished.

All told 5 minutes to set it up that includes opening the package and plugging it in. Next was the speed test. I tested with Speed Test on my primary home connection and had 50mbps down and 5mbps up to a server 2400 miles away. Then I disconnected from my home network and connected to the Range Extender and run the same speed test. 47mbps down and 5mbps up.

My installation point was about 50 feet from my primary wireless router, the kids are happy no because they have a strong signal in the back bedrooms. Great device at a $69.00 you cannot ask for a more easy way to extend your primary Wi-Fi signal.

Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear Headphones Review

Sennheiser LogoI was watching an ABBA retrospective on BBC4 last night and to my surprise, there was Benny and Bjorn wearing Sennheiser HD414s in the recording studio. Lest anyone think that I’m a complete Sennheiser nerd, the HD414s have bright yellow earpads and are very recognisable. With the trip down memory lane complete, let’s take a look and a listen to an entirely more modern set of headphones, the Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear.

Momentum On-Ear

Extending Sennheiser’s Momentum range, the On-Ear is is more compact version of the original over-ear Momentum, and is aimed squarely at the fashion-conscious, iPhone-toting music lover. Although lighter and small, the On-Ear retains much of the luxury and audio quality of its bigger brother but with smaller cups that rest on the ears rather than enclosing them completely.

It’s the attention to detail on the headphones that really stands out – the adjustment, the fixings, the stitching, the soft Alacantara material on the headband and ear cups. The Momentums are a pleasure to handle, hold and wear. I found them comfortable but the trick to extended listening was to keep the cups slightly forward. Too far back and my ears started to get sore.

Ear AdjustmentScrewsStitchingEar Cups

Audio-wise, the Momentum On-Ears are everything that you’d expect from headphones in this price range. Excellent definition and clarity, with musical subtleties coming through beautifully. As might be expected, on lower bit-rate MP3s the On-Ears easily showed up the limitations of the format, while with higher bit-rates, the sound filled out nicely revealing the detail. Plugged into an amp (a Yamaha DSP-AX763) with a CD player source (a Technics SL-PG580A) , the music was incredibly good. I could really listen to the tracks rather than just hear them. It’s hard to get over the audio experience in words, but let’s just say I’m impressed.

ConnectorIncluded in the box with the headphones is a semi-rigid case, a soft carrying bag and two leads. One has a standard 3.5″mm stereo jack for connecting into digital music players or amps, but the other lead has an in-line iRemote for use with Apple products such as the iPhone. The leads have a neat little moulding on the headphone-end that secures the connector into the headset so it doesn’t come out unintentionally.

The Momentum On-Ears come in a range of seven colours – high-gloss black, classic brown, red, ivory, blue, green and pink. There’s a new Samba edition to tie in with World Cup in Brazil this summer which has yellow cups, bringing us back to the original 414s.

Priced at £169.99, these aren’t pocket money, but they are lovely headphones. As with all things hi-fi, there will always be better and more expensive headphones but the Momentum On-Ears seem to occupy a good spot, balancing cost and audio quality. Try them out for yourself.

Thanks to Sennheiser for the loan of the Momentum On-Ears.

GNC #951 WWDC Predictions

Wow this show is 100% packed full of tech news and info. I also cover WWDC Predictions and update you on my Transformation.

Download the Audio Show File
[Read more…]

Robot Underpants: 05.28.14 (155) “The Self-Driving Show”

Mat “Langley” Luschek, Eric “Retweet” Rice and “Starman” Michael Gaines discuss hits and misses of the past week, including: Google’s latest self-driving car, Reading Rainbow, the Daredevil TV show, and more!

Google Car
* Reading Rainbow Kickstarter
* Daredevil TV
* Castle Bran for Sale
* Indy Jones Monkey Head Cups
* CNN Scares Everyone with False Asteroid Story

Zynga Will Close Hidden Chronicles Game

Hidden Chronicles Zynga appZynga has announced that they will be closing down their Hidden Chronicles game. It has been around since January of 2012. The game will disappear from both Facebook and the Zynga website on July 22, 2014. As of May 28, 2012, Hidden Chronicles is no longer open to new players.

Current players are being offered “special packages” that will help them get started in one of Zynga’s other games. Specifically, Zynga is suggesting that players of Hidden Chronicles try FarmVille 2, Puzzle Charms, or CastleVille Legends.

The decision to close Hidden Chronicles does not surprise me. The game was a competitor to the Gardens of Time game from Playdom. Both games required players to find objects that were hidden in an image. Doing so enabled players to unlock special buildings or decorations that they could put into a virtual space of their own and move around as they liked. Each game had its own, somewhat limited, storyline.

In April of 2014, Playdom removed their Gardens of Time game from the Playdom website and from Facebook. At the same time, Playdom also removed all of their games that could be played through their website. Zynga’s Hidden Chronicles game outlasted its competitor, and it appears that Zynga doesn’t feel a need to keep it any longer. The company may feel that it served its purpose.

Part of the message that current players of Hidden Chronicles got from Zynga said: “We are making the tough decision to close Hidden Chronicles so we can put more time and energy into developing new games that we hope you will love just as much.”

The wording is extremely similar to part of the message that Playdom sent Gardens of Time players when it announced the closure of that game. They said: “Although it is a difficult decision to shut down a game, this decision will allow us to focus on building new, more engaging games.”

It is also worth pointing out that RockYou purchased, and will assume operation of, three of the games that Playdom closed: Gardens of Time and Words of Wonder, on Facebook and mobile, and City Girl on Facebook. There is no evidence at this time that suggests that RockYou has any intention of purchasing Hidden Chronicles from Zynga.

Spotify Notifies Users of Unauthorized Access

Spotify logoSpotify users may want to consider changing their passwords. A post on the Spotify blog titled “Important Notice to Our Users” makes it clear that Spotify has had some “unauthorized access” to their systems and internal company data. Another way to phrase that would be to say that Spotify has been hacked.

The blog contains some details about what happened and gives advice to Spotify users. In their blog, they note that their evidence shows that only one Spotify user’s data has been accessed, and that this did not include any password, financial or payment information. (They also mention that they have notified that one, unfortunate, user).

As a “general precaution”, Spotify will be asking certain Spotify users to re-enter their username and password to log in “over the coming days”. In addition, they are going to guide Android users to upgrade over the next few days. Spotify also points out that offline playlists will have to be re-downloaded in the new version. There is no action recommended for iOS or Windows Phone users.

Libratone Zipp Wireless Speaker Review

I first came across Libratone at the The Gadget Show earlier in the year where their colourful hi-fi speakers with interchangeable covers stood out against the more run-of-the-mill Bluetooth speakers. On the back of my interview, Libratone kindly sent me a Zipp, a portable wireless AirPlay speaker, to further my education in their products. Let’s take a look and a listen.

Libratone Zipp Box

The Libratone Zipp is very much fashioned in iStyle but takes a welcome break from monochrome with interchangeable coloured covers. The Zipp comes with three covers in the box from three collections and the supplied Zipp came with the “Funky collection” – pepper black, plum purple and pineapple yellow. Additional covers are £39 which may seem expensive but the covers aren’t felt or fleece, they’re Italian wool. Here’s the Zipp in its different clothes.

Libratone Zipp Magenta

Libratone Zipp Mustard Strap

Changing a cover is easy – just unzip the cover, carefully remove it, fit the the new cover and zip it back up. There’s a small frame which fits around the control panel but it clips in firmly and helps get everything lined up. The panel’s neatly hidden behind the leather carry strap.

Libratone Zipp Mustard Strap Up

As a wireless speaker, the Zipp uses wifi rather than Bluetooth to stream music and until relatively recently, you would have needed Apple products to use AirPlay. Android users can now join the party as the Zipp now provides a DLNA interface which several music apps now support including Robin Davies’ 2player, which I used for this review. Sadly, many don’t, including Spotify, which is a shame.

The speaker can work in two modes, DirectPlay and WiFi Play. In the first, the speaker creates its own little wifi hotspot and the smartphone or tablet connects to the hotspot. This mode is used both for initial configuration and for playing music away from home, say, at a friend’s BBQ. With the WiFi Play mode, the Zipp connects to the same wifi network as the music-playing device, which is the way you’d use the Zipp at home.

Setting up the Zipp is a little fiddly but otherwise straightforward and only needs to be done once. Libratone’s free app helps with this but the steps are broadly turn on the Zipp, connect to the Zipp’s wifi hotspot, enter the main wifi key and restart the Zipp. It’ll then connect up to the main wifi network and the speaker will be available for music output.

Libratone App 2player Erasure

Obviously the Zipp is only a single unit, although it has an amazing capacity to fill a room. Libratone have developed a set of acoustic tricks called “FullRoom” which let the Zipp’s tweeters and drivers expand the sound, but you need to tell the Zipp where it is in the room to take full advantage. The Libratone app helps with that too. You can hear the impact of some of the changes if you fiddle with the settings while music is playing but much of the change is subtle.

Voicing Position

In addition to setting the spatial characteristics, the type of music can be enhanced through preset equalisations such as “Easy Listening” and “Rock the House”.

Aside from the interchangeable covers, the other cool feature is that the Zipp is portable and has a built-in battery which Libratone says will last about 4 hours playing music over wifi and twice as long using a cable. I didn’t try running the Zipp very long from a lead but the time seems about right for wifi. The Libratone app helpfully shows the battery level so you know when to recharge. There’s a small bag included in the box but Libratone could do with a dedicated Zipp carrying bag as it’s heavy to lug around – it’s portable but it’s not a travel accessory.  I liked the liberty that this gave as I moved the Zipp between rooms and was able to have music in rooms that didn’t normally have sound without using headphones.

Libratone Zipp Panel Libratone Zipp Top Control

The pictures above show the panel on the side and the top-mounted controller. The USB port on the side-panel can be used to power the music player (and for configuration when using Apple devices) when using the 3.5mm jack for the audio feed.

Generally the Zipp worked well. I did have the occasional problem with the Zipp not being recognised either as an output option in the 2player app or by the Libratone app when trying to change the FullRoom config. Usually a restart of either the app or the Zipp itself would sort it out but it’s a bit irritating when the dropout occurs halfway through an album. To be fair, the issue could lie with my wifi network or with the music app itself and I’ve no experience with other AirPlay devices for comparison. For now, it’s something to be aware of.

As a reminder, Android users needs to confirm that the apps that they want to use with the Zipp are AirPlay or DLNA-compatible. Unlike Bluetooth speakers, where the driver is at lower level and makes almost any app capable of outputting sound to a wireless speaker, the apps needs to be DLNA-aware to use the Zipp wirelessly. Searching the Play Store reveals several good apps that can be checked for full compatibility.

So….does the Zipp sound good? In short, it’s very impressive with music retaining clarity and detail even at higher volumes and the Zipp has a surprising amount of volume for such a small unit. Obviously any single speaker unit is going to be lacking in comparison with hi-fi separates but the Zipp knocks into a cocked hat any of the speaker docks that I’ve heard. Finally, it’s absolutely, definitely the best portable speaker that I’ve ever listened to. At GB£369, it’s not cheap but if you have a bijou pad that needs filled with sound, you should give the Zipp a listen. It looks great too.

Thanks to Libratone for the loan of the Zipp.

GNC #950 Transformation

I talk about the transformation I have stared with Purium. Plus share what has been happening here over the past week. Plenty of tech news as well surprisingly.

Download the Audio Show File
[Read more…]