Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks


iDevices Release Two New Devices in time for CES 2014

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 6:16 PM on January 2, 2014

iDevice iDevices is releasing two new devices in time for CES 2014, the iGrill2 Bluetooth® Smart Meat Thermometer and the iLP® BluetoothSmart Liquid Propane Monitor. These are app connected products and if you grill often they will make your job easier and more enjoyable.  Right now they work with iOs only, but an Android version is in the works.

The iGrill2 allows you to monitor the temperature of your food on the grill from up to 150 feet away with the free iDevices Connected App. The devices have a bright LED display with a proximity wake-up, magnetic mounting, four probe ports and 150-hour battery life. It is more rugged than the original iGrill. The magnetic backing allows you to mount it anywhere you want on the grill. If you want to mount it on a non-magnetic surface there is an optional magnetic disc. Due to the bluetooth capability there is no need for manual paring and the connection is more stable. You can track four different temperatures with a multiple probe monitor. You can check the temperature quickly and easily with the bright LED display. It has 150 hours of battery life on just 2 AA batteries. The iGrill2 will be priced at $99.99 and be available through the iDevice website

If you use a propane tank for your grill you know the feeling when you run out of propane in the middle of grilling. Admit it we have all done it at least once, well the iLP® Bluetooth Smart Liquid Propane Monitor can help to prevent this from happening. The device mounts to the bottom of any propane tank and can be used over and over again. It will automatically tell you when the propane is getting low. It uses patented technology using ultra-sonic sensors to get the most accurate reading. You can track it from your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch using the 30 Ft. Bluetooth range. You can use one app to track multiple devices. The battery has 2 years of use in it. The pricing for the iLP will be released in 2014.

IDevices will be showing off the iGrill2, the iLp and other new products at CES 2014 at Booth #355866 in the Upper South Hall. They will be also having a press session by invite only on Monday, January 6 at 11:30 AM at the Mandalay Bay Conference Center.

Philips Hue and IFTTT

Posted by Andrew at 3:48 AM on January 2, 2014

Hue Personal Wireless LightingIn my first post on Philips Hue, I referred to “The Internet of things” where normally dumb devices such as fridges and washing machines are connected to the network. Having a washing machine with an IP address may mean that I can check whether the spin cycle has finished without getting out of my chair, but the real value of the internet of things comes when the devices start communicating among themselves. Not in a nefarious SkyNet way, but in a more practical sense: the washing machine counts the number of washes and when the soap is getting low, automatically orders your preferred brand from your preferred grocery service.

Obviously, it’s going to take a little while until this is a reality, but the web site IFTTT is beginning to show what is possible as more and more services are on-line and cloud-based. IFTTT is an abbreviation of “IThis, Then That” and reflects what IFTTT can do. It automates “If something happens, then I want that to happen”. In IFTTT-speak, a trigger on a channel generates an action on another (or the same) channel. A channel is typically an on-line or cloud-based service such as Twitter, Dropbox, Gmail, Evernote or Weather. An example of what could happen is, “If I get a tweet on Twitter, copy it to Evernote” or “Every morning at 7.00 am, text me the weather forecast”. These are recipes, as IFTTT calls them, and there’s a large range of them already cooked up on the IFTTT web site.

It’s at this point in the story that Philips Hue comes in as a channel on IFTTT, which means that the lights in your home can be controlled by external events via the recipes on IFTTT. Here are some examples of recipes already available; at sunset, turn on the lights; when it’s freezing outside, turn the lights blue; when you receive an email from a particular person, blink the links; when the stockmarket closes down, turn the lights red. Some recipes are perhaps more useful than others, but the range of channels means that there’s tremendous flexibility. There are currently 77 channels on IFTTT and you can browse by channel, so it’s easy to see all the recipes that involve Philips Hue.

Setting up your Hue to work with IFTTT is two step process but it only has to be done once. The first step is to register with the Philips Hue website and allow the site to access the bridge unit within your home. Once you’ve done this and have a username and password, you can control your lights from outside your home using the Hue app on your smartphone too, so it’s probably something that most Hue owners have already done.

Back at IFTTT, the second step is then to activate your Hue channel. You’ll need to supply your Hue username and password, and authorise IFTTT to access your account.

Activate Hue

Now I’m going reuse a recipe that someone else has already created. In this instance, I’m going to flash the lights when I receive an email with the latest GNC podcast. I’ve already activated my Gmail channel.

Gmail to Hue

All I have to do is put in the email address - geeknews at gmail.com - and any time I get an email from Todd, the lights flash. This is the basic recipe; there are others that use keywords or other information likely to be in an email. If I want to, I can choose one particular light or all of them. Once the information is typed in and the recipe has been activated, all I have to do is sit back and wait for the latest podcast email to come in. Blink, blink.

That’s it. All pretty straightforward. If you are more adventurous, you can delve deeper into the recipes to customise them to your needs but there are plenty on IFTTT to get you started and provide inspiration. Philips Hue aside, the insight into the possibilities of the “Internet of things” is incredible.

I hope you have enjoyed this short series of articles on Philips Hue. It’s the first time that I’ve done this kind of short serial, so I’d welcome feedback in the comments on whether to actively search out similar opportunities.

Thanks again to Philips for the loan of the Hue Personal Wireless Lighting System.

Five Moneual Products are CES Honorees

Posted by JenThorpe at 10:16 PM on November 20, 2013

CES-Round-UpMoneual has five new futuristic gadgets for connected homes. Each one has been named an International CES Innovations 2014 Design and Engineering Awards Honoree. That’s quite impressive! The products are: Smart Robot Vacuum System, RoboSpin, X-Pillar, 4S PC, and Smart Wristband Baby Monitor.

The Smart Robot Vacuum System is the next generation in robot cleaners. Its features include dust recognition and cleaning, self-diagnosis, and smartphone integration for cleaning status updates. Use your smartphone to set times and customize modes. You can even schedule automatic cleanings.

RoboSpin is a robotic cleaner for hard floors. It is wheel-less, and intended for both sweeping and mopping of hard floor surfaces. RoboSpin has two rotating pads, and can preform concentrated cleaning and polishing work. You can program the cleaning mode and place sensors around your home to protect the RoboSpin from collision (and protect furniture from damage).

X-Pillar is a modular 2.1CH speaker. You can attach your television to it, and suspend the TV in the air. It gives the appearance that it is mounted on the wall. The X-Pillar includes a tweeter, mid-woofer, woofer amp, SMPS, and a motion sensor. It is Bluetooth and HDMI ready.

The 4S PC is a compact desktop PC. 4S stands for “slim, shelf, stand, speaker.” It is a dual purpose monitor stand and keyboard shelf. This is a great product for people who have a limited workspace. It offers an elegant design with heavy impact-resistant glass, front panel acrylic, and steel inner brackets.

Smart Wristband Baby Monitor is a specialized baby monitor for the hearing impaired. It remotely alerts the user by an LED light and vibration on a wristband. The main console is made of plastic, and the wristband is made from urethane and rubber. It is water-resistant. The Smart Wristband Baby Monitor uses Bluetooth capabilities for short-range communication. It will vibrate based on the intensity and frequency of the baby’s cry.

You can check out Moneual at the 2014 CES exhibition in Las Vegas. They will be at Booth #13035 in the Central Hall. Their products will also be at CES Unveiled in the Venetian Level 2, Hall D, Booth #72063

Tinké by Zensorium

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 5:14 PM on November 20, 2013

Tinke I use a Fitbit Force to track the number of steps I take each day and I use the Lose it to count the number of calories I am consuming each day. What I can’t measure is how this is effecting my heartbeat and respiratory rate that is what Tinké does. The Tinké is a smart sensor about the size of a matchbook that can not only measure your heartbeat, respiratory rate but it can also measure blood oxygen level and heart rate variability. This is all done with the touch of a finger. It can also be used to measure your relaxation or Zen level which is created by controlling your breathing. You can use it to monitor your day-to-day changes and share your progress with your friends who also use Tinké.  It is now available with a  lightning connector so it can be connected directly to your iOs device.

Based on its engineering and design qualities and it’s intended purposes the Tinke by Zensorium has been awarded an International CES Innovations 2014 Design and Engineering Awards Honoree.   “It is an honor to have Tinké named on the honoree list of CES Innovations,” says Juliana Chua, Principal of Zensorium’s Business Innovation Group. “While the current Tinké is built for iOS devices, we like to inform our Android fans that they are not forgotten and a brand new compatible version will be revealed at the 2014 International CES.”

If you are going to CES 2014 the Zensorium’s Tinke will be displayed in The Venetian, Las Vegas Convention Centre, South Hall Booth 26613 at the 2014 International CES from January 7–10 2014.  I personally look forward to a Tinké model that works with Android.

Practical Meter for USB Charging

Posted by Andrew at 5:09 PM on November 13, 2013

Practical MeterWith the plethora of USB charging power sources and charging rates, it was probably inevitable that someone would develop a meter to measure the power going to a device. The bragging rights go to Utah-based Power Practical and the Practical Meter, a USB in-line power meter. Looking much like a USB dongle, 5 LEDs show the power transfer from 1 W up to 10 W.

Originally a Kickstarter campaign that met its funding back in the July raising nearly $170,000, the Practical Meter has been today recognised as International CES Innovations 2014 Design and Engineering Awards Honoree.  “Just last week we shipped out the 10,000 pre-order units we received during our Kickstarter campaign to have the Practical Meter come to market,” says Matt Ford, CEO of Power Practical. “It’s crazy that a week later we’re being honored by something as prestigious as the CES Innovations awards.

As a pure USB device, it will work with anything that charges via USB such as smartphones, mp3 players or battery packs. Practical Meter is available now for $24.99 online and includes a 3-in-1 fast charge cable with mini-USB, micro-USB and Apple connectors.

Practical Meter Charging

Fitbit Force Review

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 11:18 AM on November 13, 2013

Fitbit Force I received my Fitbit Force on Saturday, although I wasn’t able to pick it up at the apartment rental office until Monday. I have now been using  it for two days now and overall I love it.

In the package is the Fitbit Force, a charging cable and the wireless syncing dongle. The only directions you get is to go to the Fitbit setup site. It is there that you down load the software to link the Fitbit Force to your computer and finish the set up. The one thing I did appreciate was the fact that the Fitbit Force was charged up enough when I received it so that I could use immediately after the setup. After two full days of usage I am currently charging it. With a full charge it is supposed to last 7–10 days. It actually finished charging in about an hour.

If you are unfamiliar with the Fitbit family of products, they are basically pedometers on steroids. They measure the number of steps you have taken, how far you have walked or run and how many stairs you have climbed (except the Fitbit Flex). You can also use them to measure your sleep profile. The Fitbit Force is similar to the Fitbit Flex in that unlike Fitbit’s previous products you wear it on your wrist instead of clipping it to your clothing. However, unlike the Fitbit Flex the Force has a screen so you can see everything right on the device. I have used it both at night and during the daytime and  the OLED screen can easily be seen in both bright sunshine and in the dark. There is one small button on the side that you use to toggle through the various screens and to start or stop the stop watch if you are timing your walk or run. It can also be used as a watch, although you do have to hit the button for the screen to become visible. If you want to use it to track your sleeping habits you simply tap on the button twice just before you fall asleep to start the timer. Then in the morning tap it twice again to stop it.  The Fitbit Force can tell when you have been awake at night or restless and when you have been asleep.   It is also water-resistant, I wore it while bathing and washing dishes without any problem.  However I wouldn’t recommend wearing it swimming or snorkeling.

Now the bad news, the Fitbit Force is ugly. The band is made of a rubber like material and at this point comes in only two colors, black and a dull metallic blue. It is ugly but it appears to be durable. It is slightly wider then the Fitbit Flex for the screen. Everything is in one piece, so if you have a problem with the wrist strap or the screen you have no choice but to send the whole device back. It is also a pain in the neck to put on if you are doing it by yourself. You have to put little nibs into their corresponding holes and then press them together. Try to do that with one hand it is not easy.

I previously had the Fitbit Ultra which basically does the same thing as the Fitbit Force, except tell time. I liked it also; however I kept forgetting to clip it to my clothing, I would lose it or it would accidentally get put through the washer. I don’t have that problem with the Fitbit Force, it just stays on my wrist. However it is about two times as much in price. Whether it is worth twice as much is something you will have to decide.  Some people have tried to compare it to a smart watch, it is not a smart watch, so if you are looking for a smart watch this is not the gadget for you. However if you are looking for something that measures your steps and the distance you have walked and then syncs back to your computer or smart phone then the Fitbit Force maybe just what you are looking for.  I am happy with the decision I made and I would recommend the Fitbit Force.

Your Smartphone Smells Like Bacon

Posted by J Powers at 8:27 AM on October 28, 2013

ScenteeIf you love the smell of bacon, then you are in luck – your smartphone can start smelling of it without you having to put the phone on the griddle!

You will need an iPhone or Android device to run this, but this adaptor – created by Scentee - will emit a smell of bacon into the air. You can choose different fragrances – lemons, steak, pork, mint, Jasmine, cinnamon, roses…

You purchase the “balloon” which is Scentee’s adaptor (available on Amazon.co.jp) that plugs into the headphone jack and download the app (available on November 15th). The balloon is filled with your scent of choice. The idea is when you smell the food, you eat something low-calorie or low-price (like rice or lettuce) and the combination with the food scent will fill you up or help you eat cheaper.

You can also use Scentee to fill a room like incense or air fresheners.

Back to the bacon – Scentee is working on two different types of meat and baked potato smells. Engadget has done a full smell-test of the device.

How To Lose Weight

Posted by Andrew at 6:07 AM on October 23, 2013

You might be forgiven in thinking that we’ve moved from a tech blog into a lifestyle magazine but I wanted to share a little of my life from the past 18 months. In late spring last year, I visited my doctor and she pointed out that in the 20 years since I joined her practice, I’d put on over 20 kg in weight – about 44 lb – and that my blood pressure was up. All classic signs of a heart attack waiting to happen. I had to lose some weight, get the pounds off and lower that blood pressure or an early exit beckoned. Obviously I’m still here but did I shed the pounds and how did I do it.

First of all, let’s get over the fact that there’s no diet in existence that will make you magically lose weight; you have to work at it. However, the recipe for weight loss is very straightforward – there are only three ingredients really.

  • Eat less
  • Eat better
  • Exercise more

While the recipe for weight loss is easy, I’ll admit that following it isn’t. The good news is that you can have three square meals a day; the bad news is that it means no junk – no crisps (chips), sweets or late night peanut butter sandwiches. There’s no need to starve: just take smaller portions and if you are full, stop eating.

Wii Fit Balance BoardAs a geek, I also employed a bit of tech to help achieve my goal – a Nintendo Wii with Balance Board, a Fitbit Zip and food apps / web sites.

Most people will be familiar with the Nintendo Wii though sadly its discontinuation has been announced in the past few day. The Balance Board is bundled with WiiFit and WiiFit Plus, and while the associated programs are fun enough, I used the Balance Board as electronic scales to record my weight. Each morning, shortly after getting up, I’d weigh myself on the Balance Board. If my weight was down, I gave myself a mental high five. If my weight was up, it was a mental “you need to do better”. The Wii records your weight day by day and will show a graph of your progress.

Fitbit ZipThe second piece of gadgetry is the Fitbit Zip. It’s an advanced digital pedometer that will upload its data to your PC and onwards to Fitbit’s portal. I received this for Christmas and Fitbit tries to gamify the activity of walking further by competing against friends and awarding badges. While I don’t need any stinkin’ badges, I was quite chuffed to be awarded my 1000 mile badge last month. The Zip doesn’t make you fitter by itself, but it does make you aware of walking and now I often choose to walk where previously I might have taken the car. Every little bit helps.

Finally to help eat better, I used a range of foodie websites and apps to find new, interesting and low calorie recipes. I find the BBC’s offerings both on their main site and on the Good Food site are excellent. Many of the supermarkets, such as Tesco, have good recipes too. Look for sections on healthy eating. App-wise, there’s a Good Food app on Android too. It helps if the app and website cater to metric as well as imperial units and do the conversions properly as directly converting from oz to g doesn’t work terribly well.

A word of advice. When browsing the supermarket shelves, “low fat” is not a particular benefit when the product is laden with sugar to make up the taste so approach with caution any food which loudly makes those claims. Ultimately, I found that weight and calories were the best guides so read the nutritional information on the back of food.

Did I succeed in losing weight with help from this tech? Absolutely – I’ve managed to lose nearly 18 kg (40 lb) and 4″ in waistline. There’s still a few pounds to lose but I do feel tremendously better for it. It has been hard work even with the tech – it requires willpower to say “no” to food, and food is so very much part of Western culture. But you can do it as I did. Remember; eat less, eat better, exercise more. Take encouragement from your success and determination from your setbacks.

Jazooli’s Portable Tablet Desk Stand Review

Posted by Andrew at 2:29 PM on September 29, 2013

For some time I’ve been looking for a decent desk stand to hold my 10″ tablet but all the ones tried so far have some annoyance or niggle. Usually the stand wouldn’t work well with the tablet still in its case, but others would be bulky, flimsy, only for the iPad or just plain rubbish. The good news is that I think I’ve found the answer in the shape of Jazooli‘s “Portable Lightweight Universal Foldable Desk Stand“. They’re fibbing a little with the “lightweight” but in all other respects this is a good product. It’s solid metal, folds up, has two positions and works while the tablet is in its case. Perfect!

When folded up, the Jazooli is nice and slim, fitting neatly into a little pouch. At 200g, it’s not what I would call lightweight but the mass does mean it’s not easily knocked over.

Jazooli Folded

There are two ways that the stand can be stood up. Here it is in the upright position, which is good for viewing movies or keeping an eye on Twitter.

Jazooli Upright

For typing on the tablet, the stand has a reclined mode, aka “I-dont-want-everyone-else-in-the-office-to-see-I’m-on-Facebook-instead-of-working” mode. This position works well with ultrabooks, notebooks and small laptops to give an angle to the keyboard.

Jazooli Lying Back

There’s an extra smaller leg that pops out from the main support – it’s more obvious in this close up. The metal finish is better seen in the image too.

Jazooli Close-up

Finally, here’s what the stand looks like with a 10″ Android tablet on board. Note that the tablet is still in its case.

Jazooli Stand with Tablet

 

In summary, Jazooli’s portable foldable desk stand is currently my favourite tablet stand. Obviously your needs may not be the same as my needs but as it’s currently available from Amazon.co.uk for £5.99 and from Amazon.com for $2.55, it’s hard to go wrong!

[Disclosure: this was a personal purchase]

Mugenizer N11 Pairs Qi Charger with Battery Pack

Posted by Andrew at 5:39 AM on September 20, 2013

Mugen Power Batteries LogoMugen Power are no strangers to innovation but their latest product is genius. The Mugenizer N11 equips a USB battery pack with Qi wireless charger to provide charging on the go. As a user of both types of device on a regular basis, I think this is an excellent idea. It’s also going to be a big win for people who hotdesk and can’t be bothered with plugging and unplugging chargers each day.

image

As you’ll see from the picture, the unit looks much like any standard USB battery pack, albeit a fairly good looking one, with a charging port and power level indicator. The battery has a capacity of 4800 mAh which will fully recharge the average smartphone about twice. The Qi charging plate is on the top and should work with any Qi-enabled smartphone like the Nexus 4. According to the spec, you should be able to charge from both the Qi plate and the USB port at the same time.

The N11 is priced just under US$60 which includes a $10 early adopter discount and free world-wide shipping. It’s pricey enough and you probably could buy a battery and a charger separately for less, but the sheer convenience of a single unit makes it worthwhile. The N11 will be available in early November and I’ll try to get one for review. More information then.