Category Archives: Gear

Tinké by Zensorium



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.


Fitbit Force Review



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.


Morpher Folding Bicycle Helmet



Bicycle helmets are great pieces of equipment and take the brunt of an impact instead of your head in the unfortunate event of an accident. Most things that a cyclist is likely to hit are pretty hard, whether it’s a car, tree or the road itself, and a helmet can genuinely save your life. The sad fact is that in 90% of cycling fatalities the rider was not wearing a helmet.

However, the shape of a helmet means that they’re not that convenient to carry round in a bag or rucksack and take up lots of space. All too often the helmet gets left behind for the sake of convenience. In an attempt to solve this problem and save more lives, inventor Jeff Woolf has developed the world’s first folding bicycle helmet, the Morpher Helmet.

Morpher Helmets Open and Flat

 

As you can see from the picture above, the helmet folds flat from front to back making it much easier to carry around in bag with other flat things, like notepads, magazines and tablets. With an emphasis on safety from the start, the helmet exceeds all safety requirements worldwide and will be independently CE tested before the full launch. The inventor Jeff Woolf is no lightweight either having twice been awarded “British Inventor of the Year” and awarded an OBE for services to innovation and business.

To fund the production of the helmets, Morpher is launching an Indiegogo campaign. Early birds will be able to snap up helmet for US$59 (about GB£35) with a second tier at $79. The RRP is expected to be $110 so it’s a bargain but you will have to wait until April 2014 before the helmet arrives. The goal is to raise $35,000 over the next 47 days. As with all crowd-funded projects, bear in mind that there is not yet a finished product for you to buy.

Watch the video below to learn more about the Morpher helmet and the man behind it.


Looks like a great idea and I hope the project succeeds, especially as I’ve contributed myself for a Morpher helmet.


Perfect Packaging by Orlebar Brown



Apple’s a master at the complete end-to-end user experience and has elevated product packaging to an art form. Tech companies aren’t the only ones at this; I recently ordered some swim shorts from Orlebar Brown and this nondescript box arrived in the post.

Orlebar Brown Box

Pretty dull on the outside but open the box up and everything is a visual and sensory treat. The inside of the box is a rich red, the swimwear (not shown) is neatly folded within a branded drawstring bag, the clothing tags are quality card, and with Orlebar Brown one doesn’t simply get a receipt stuffed in the box; one gets a receipt in a crisp brilliant white envelope, reminiscent of an invite to an exclusive event. Glorious.

Orlebar Brown Inside Box

In all honesty, I have never seen mail order done better – I’m sold and I’m now customer for life. And that’s before I’ve even put on the swim shorts, which are equally fabulous. Now, if I can just get that six pack sorted over the winter.


Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch Needs a Woman’s Touch



Samsung Yesterday, Sept 4 Samsung announce the release of the Galaxy Gear Smart-watch. This is part of an expanding line of smart watches including the Pebble, the Sony Smart-watch and the mythical Apple iWatch. Smart watches are a portion of a larger group of wearable computers, which include Google Glass. Wearable computers are a key part of the contextual world, which according to tech gurus such as Robert Scoble, and others this is the future. If this is so , then the future needs some work before I am ready to greet it.

The Samsung smart watch has an 1.63 inches AMOLED screen, 320×320 resolution, an 800 MHz processor, 512 MB of RAM and 4 GB of internal storage. The 315 mAH lithium-ion battery is supposed to last a day, (it is not clear if a day is 12 hours, 24 hours or 18 hours) even if it is only 12 hours critics say this is being generous. Currently it will only work with the Galaxy Note 3 and the Galaxy Note 10.1. It may work with other Galaxy devices later this year once they get update to Android 4.3. However if you have any other phone for now you are out of luck. Samsung says there will be over 70 apps available for the watch. At this time according to Techradar twelve are known.

Having a lot of apps is great, but for people to buy the watch it must be more convenient for the person to use the watch then it is for them to pull their phone out of their pockets. which means the apps have to pull up fast, with no lag. Also the watch has to be something that you will want to wear daily. To me this is the biggest place that the Samsung Galaxy Gear Smart-watch fails, it is highly unfashionable. The screen size doesn’t include the bezel that is around the screen, so we are talking about a pretty bulky device especially for a woman’s wrist. The strap is made of plastic and comes in a variety of colors including orange, oatmeal, yellow and black. I don’t know about other people but when someone says plastic strap I think of the kind of watch I wore when I was eight or nine. I am not sure I want to wear it as an adult. I want to like the Samsung Galaxy Gear Smart-watch, but I just can’t. I see it as a small step toward a future that is coming, it just not here yet. Apple it is your turn.


Sonivo Easy Speaker-SBS-120 Review



Sonivo Easy Speaker-SBS-120 Sonivo Easy Speaker-SBS–120 use Near Field Audio (NFA) to produce its sound.  No wires, no bluetooth or wi-fi required. The speaker is small with dimension of 5“ by 2.75” by 2″ approximately and it is available in black and white. You are also supplied with a USB mini cable for charging the device and a 3.5 mm to 3.5 mm cable to be used with devices that do not have external speakers.

To use the Sonivo Easy Speaker-SBS–120 you simply turn the speaker on by the small switch on the side. Then you start the music on your device and lay the device on top of the Sonivo . There are two speaker icons on the top of the Sonivo Easy Speakers-SBS–120, to get the best sound you want to line up where the sound is coming out of your device with the two speaker icons. I tested it using my Samsung Galaxy Nexus and found that if I set the phone right in the middle of the speaker it didn’t pick up the sound, however if I moved the phone over so that the speaker icon on the Sonivo Easy Speaker lined up with the place where the sound comes out on the Galaxy Nexus it worked great. With the HTC One I simply laid it down on the Sonivo Easy Speaker and it worked. The one problem I did run into with the HTC One is that at one point I kept on hearing a buzzing noise and the audio was distorted. I solved the problem by moving the device back a bit and turning the volume down.

Once I figured out where to set my devices on the Sonivo Easy Speaker, I started to enjoy it. It did increase the volume of the device quite a bit. Not surprisingly there is no bass, but the treble is quite good. If you are looking for a small portable speaker that you can easily carry with you when you travel then you might want to take a look at the Sonivo Easy Speaker-SBS–120. The Sonivo Easy Speaker-SBS–120 is normally available at MobileFun for $25.49 however at this time they appear to be sold out. If you provide your email they will notify you when one is available.


AfterShokz Sportz M2 Review



AfterShokz M2 In my never-ending search for headphones that are comfortable and I can use while walking along the roadside in the morning I brought a pair of AfterShokz Sportz M2. What makes AfterShokz different then most other headphones is that it uses bone conduction to work. Instead of placing the earpiece in your ear, it lays in front of your ear along your jawbone. The sound is then conducted through the bone into the inner ear.

I wore it yesterday morning while walking two miles in hot and humid weather and it was quite comfortable. Once I figured out where to set them to get the best sound they stayed there, despite my sweating. While on the walk I listen to some music and a bit of a podcast. The podcast came through well, I could hear it clearly even when a car went by. The music was fine, the bass was a little weak but not bad. The volume control and on off switch is on a small box on the cable which you can clip on to your shirt. The model I brought also has a switch to answer phone calls. I don’t make or receive a lot of phone calls so haven’t been able to test that yet.

Overall I am happy with the AfterShokz Sportz M2. They were comfortable, stayed put even while sweating and the audio was fine. However they are not perfect, as I said before although the audio was fine the bass was weak. So if you like bass thumping music, these are probably not the headphones for you. Also if you wear glasses these are not the headphones for you. I tried to wear my glasses and it didn’t work, I couldn’t get the headphones to lay correctly. If you are not an audiophile, don’t wear glasses and are interested in headphones that use bone conductivity I would take a look at the AfterShokz M2.


Ouya Review



Ouya My Ouya finally came late yesterday afternoon. First a little background from me, I am not a gamer, I have no hand to eye coordination so I am not very good, but I enjoy playing them. I have been without a gaming console for a couple of years now and I miss not having one. I had thought about buying a Xbox 360 or a Playstation 3 but I couldn’t bring my self to pay $400 to $500 on a console that I knew was going to be replaced in a short time. When I heard all the noise about the new gaming console that was a Kickstarter project called Ouya I became intrigued. So, at the beginning of April after the Kickstarter project had become successful I preordered one. The email I received from Ouya stated that I would not receive the console until June, which was fine with me. I was aware how Kickstarter worked. However I have to admit when yesterday rolled around and I started seeing articles that the Ouya would be available for purchase at places like Amazon, Best Buy, Target and more I was a little upset that I hadn’t received mine yet. I was therefor very happy when my husband came in with it, saying it had been thrown in the bushes.

The Ouya comes in a small box about the size of a shoe box but slightly narrower. In the box you get the console, one controller, a power cable, a HDMI cable and a brief instruction book. The Ouya console itself is quite small. It is only three inches by three inches by three inches and is square with a rounded front. The console is made of plastic, but feels fairly solid and heavy for it size. There is a fan on one end and the power button on the other end. On the back there is a HDMI port, a power input, an ethernet input and a USB input. I was actually pleasantly surprised that a HDMI cable came with the console, although it is fairly short. The controller, which is bigger then the console does feels cheap. You can tell that it was made from a mold. The buttons on the controller are placed similar to how the Xbox controller is set up. Because it is so large and I have small hands (although normal I think for a women) it does feel a little awkward to me.

The setup went fairly smoothly after and initial hiccup. Because the Ouya is black I didn’t see the power button on the front, so when I first plugged the Ouya in and connected it to my monitor and nothing happened I was quite upset. I even tried a different outlet and still nothing. I was getting ready to send it back, when I took a closer look at it and noticed the indentation on the front face and when I pushed it the power came on. A simple red line around it to indicate power would have been appreciated. That problem solved the rest of the set up went fairly quickly and without a hitch. It does take some time since it has to be updated with the latest firmware. During the setup process you do have to provide a credit card number so you will need to have one available. Once setup is done you have to pair the controller. I had no problem with that once I figured out that the batteries went into the wings of the controllers. I have noticed also that the controller loses its pairing with the console occasionally. Not when playing a game but when I restart the console I will sometimes will have to reconnect the controller to it. Once you fire the Ouya up the first screen you will see is the management screen on it there is an option to play the games you have already chosen, discover new games, make a new games (if you are a developer) and manage your account, and the system.

Most of the games you will find on the Ouya are not ones you will recognize, unless you play a lot of independent games. However there are some that will feel familiar to you even if the names are different. There is one called Polarity which is a lot like Portal and another one called Puddle which reminds me of World of Goo my iPad. There were a some games I did recognize like Final Fantasy III, You Don’t Know Jack and Canabalt. I played a little bit of a couple of games, including Polarity and Puddle and everything seemed to work fine. The reaction time between when I pushed the button on the controller and the movement on the screen was a little slow, but not terrible. If this had been a $500 machine I would have said it was pretty bad, but for $99.00 it is fine. That is the one thing I would tell anyone who buys a Ouya  to remember is that this console only cost you $99.00 and if you compare it to an Xbox 360 or a Playstation 3 you will be highly disappointed. However if you remember that it is a $99.00 console I think you will have a lot of fun playing the games that are available on it. You may even find some independent games that you really like. Overall despite the few problems, so far I am happy I purchased the Ouya. If you are looking for a gaming console you can play on your TV and it will not break the bank, then the Ouya is worth a look.


Sony NEX F3 Camera Review



Sony NEX-F3 I purchased the Sony NEX-F3K/B camera through Amazon recently and have been using it for a couple of weeks now. The camera comes with a removable 18–55 F3.5–5.6 OSS Zoom lens kit, a battery along with a charging cable, charger and a camera strap. The Sony NEX-F3 is a mirrorless camera with an exchangeable lens. It is small and without the lens it can easily fit into a purse or even a large pocket.

It is easy to hold with a grip on the right hand side. When you hold the camera by the grip you can easily reach the trigger with your first finger. The viewing screen is about 3 inches across and 2 1/2 inches high. It can be tilted up to 180 degrees, making it perfect for taking self portraits. There are two buttons and one wheel to change the controls on the camera to the right of the viewing screen. The top button is the menu button which allows you to make changes to how the camera will work, you can decided whether to use automatic or manual mode, control the aperture, flash, track objects, use face detection, do initial setup and much more. The bottom button seems to let you go in and out of digital Zoom mode. The wheel lets you move through the choices that are available on the screen. I have to admit that there are a lot of controls and possibilities, many which I will probably never use such as a toy filter. I think that sometimes companies try to please everyone and end up just making things confusing. It has a sensor resolution up to 16.2 megapixels. The camera can also be used to record video with a resolution up to 1920 X 1080. On the top of the camera is the built-in flash, next to that is the play button which allows you to play through the pictures you’ve taken. Next to the play button is the record button. I did find how the record button work a little confusing. When you hit it, there is a slight beep and then the recording starts, when you hit the button again the word Recording pops up and the recording stops. I found that very confusing at first I kept on thinking I was recording when I was not and vice a versa. In front of the record button is the power switch. On the left hand side of the camera is the USB dock. The cover for the USB dock feels a little flimsy to me and I can easily see it getting broken over time. There are clips on both sides to connect a camera strap to. As I said before a strap does come with the camera, but I found that strap fairly flimsy and ended up buying a more substantial one. On the bottom of the camera is a tripod connection point. Next to that is the covered slot for an SD card. Right next to that is the battery compartment. The battery is removable and can be replaced. This is not an internet connected camera, so if that is something you are looking for this camera is not for you.  You can find a full review  of the camera specs. at Digital Photography Review

Overall I am very happy with this camera. The camera feels good in my hand, the grip makes it easy to hold on to while you take a picture.  I have included some pictures I took with it just to show some examples. I do this strictly as a hobby but I hope these pictures show the camera off at its best. The camera is available through Amazon for $499.00, I actually purchased it through the Amazon Warehouse for $378.17. If you are not ready for a DSLR but are looking for a camera that has a removable lens and that is above a point and shoot, than I recommend taking a look at the Sony NEX F3.


Review of the Verizon Jetpack 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot MiFi 5510L



Verizon MiFi I have been thinking about getting a portable mobile hotspot for a while. There are two basic reasons I have been looking for one. The first is I occasionally have coffee at a local Starbuck kiosk in a Kroger near me and it does not have any Wi-Fi service. At those coffee shops that do have Wi-Fi service it is often slow or the service just stops working altogether for no apparent reason. The second reason is because of security. I have listen to enough Security Now and read enough about using public wi-fi to know it is not the most secure environment. Before you say it, I know I could simply use my phone as a hotspot and tether my device to it. I have done that before, but it quickly killed the phone’s battery and to be honest I rather have a device that is specifically made for this purpose.

There were a couple of things that I was looking for in the device itself, first obviously it needed to work in my area of West Virginia. This automatically removed any Tmobile devices or services such as FreedomPop neither which work in my area. The second thing I was looking for was something that didn’t require a contract. I am already dealing with enough contracts and didn’t want to deal with another two-year contract. I wanted something that I would pay for on a weekly or monthly basis.
I ended up picking up the Verizon Novatel Jetpack Mifi 5510.With the Verizon Novatel Jetpack MiFi you can buy plans by the week or by the month. A single week plan cost $15 for 250MB, 3GB for $60.00 a month and 10GB for $90.00 a month. The first thing you have to do is activate your device, which requires you to type in a 20 character number which is printed on the back of the sim card, which is the size of my thumb nail in light blue ink. The first time I called the numbers especially all the zeroes ran together so I ended up hanging up, writing the number down and then calling back. After that the activation went fine. When you do the activation make sure you have a way to write down the number they give you.

The Jetpack 5510e is rectangular in shape with rounded corner. It is made of hard plastic. Some people complain that it feels cheap. Personally I think it feels fine, but I don’t have anything else that I can compare it to. The back is easy to open and the battery is replaceable. Unlike some portable wi-fi devices the Jetpack Mifi 5510 has no microSD slot or external antenna port. There is an LED screen on the front and on the home screen you can see the battery life, notifications, signal strength and number of devices connected. You can also change screens to see the Wi-Fi name and password, software updates and more importantly data usage. You can change screens and make selections using the function keys on the device. These function keys can be a little finicky but not too bad once you get use to it. Once I activated and register my device I was able to connect and my iPad mini with no problem. I used it for about 30 minutes to test it and it was great.

There are a some problems with the Jet Pack 5510. First it is an US only device, so if you need something for overseas travel this is not the device for you. Second like I said before some people think that it feels cheap and the function keys are finicky. I read some of the comments on the Verizon site and some people were trying to use this as a replacement for their home or office network, that is not what this device is for , first it would be way too expensive and second it is not built to run 24/7. After using it twice now this week I have to say I am overall happy I purchased it and went without a contract.