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


Griffin MicConnect for iOS at CES 2013

Posted by Andrew at 5:51 AM on January 26, 2013

Griffin MicConnectJeffrey Powers goes all Pop Idol when he chats to Jackie from Griffin Technology about the newly announced MicConnect, which connects iOS devices to XLR mics with phantom power.

The Griffin MicConnect is a small brick adaptor with an XLR socket (input) on one side for the microphone and a 3.5 mm jack on the other to connect into an iPhone, iPod or iPad. A 3.5 mm socket provides for headphone monitoring of the sound source and for condenser mics, the unit takes two AA batteries to provide phantom power (48V).

(As an aside, I’m not 100% clear if this is iOS only – the 3.5 mm jack looks pretty standard and there’s no reference to special apps being required so if Android is your OS of choice, it might be worth contacting Griffin directly.)

Included in the interview is Griffin’s updated Mic Stand Mount, which is now compatible with all iPad models (not Mini), and unsurprisingly holds an iPad on a mic stand. Jeffrey reckons the MicConnect and the Mount are a great combo for the mobile podcaster. Pricing-wise, both the MicConnect and the Mount are $39.99 but the MicConnect won’t be available until June.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine for the TechPodcast Network.

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Amazon Introduces AutoRip

Posted by JenThorpe at 2:07 AM on January 15, 2013

AudioRip logo Amazon has introduced a brand new service called AutoRip. This is a very different way of looking at music storage. In short, it takes the CD that you purchased from Amazon and puts it into your Amazon Cloud Player. It also will make that album available on your PC or Mac, Kindle Fire, Android phone, iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Right now, this service is only available to customers in the United States.

This is a rather unexpected move in a time when record companies are screaming about pirating and copyright. Perhaps they aren’t complaining about AutoRip because it only allows users to put CDs that they really have purchased into the Amazon Cloud Player? I’m not sure.

It is clear that gifts of CDs that your friends or family purchased for you from Amazon are not eligible for AutoRip. There is also this interesting piece of “fine print”:

Some record companies require us (Amazon) to insert identifiers in the metadata that accompanies music when you download it from the Amazon MP3 Store or Cloud Player. This includes the music you have purchased from Amazon.com and matched music imported to Cloud Player from your device.

These identifies may include a random number Amazon assigns to your order or copy, purchase date and time, an indicator that the music was downloaded from Amazon, codes that identify the album or song (the UPC and ISRC), Amazon’s digital signature, an identifier that can be used to determine whether the audio has been modified, and an indicator whether the music was purchased from the MP3 store or imported to the Cloud Player.

Look for the AutoRip icon in search results and CD detail pages to find out if it is one you can use with this new service. The MP3 versions of your past AutoRip eligible CD purchases are already available in the Cloud Player, where they are being stored for free. CDs that you purchased through Amazon, from as far back as 1998, are eligible for AutoRip.

4iiii Innovations Announces Viiiiva at CES 2013

Posted by JenThorpe at 2:33 AM on January 9, 2013

Viiiiva4iiii Innovations has created the first heart rate monitor to enable an athlete’s ANT+ devices to “talk” to their iOS devices without the need for awkward adapters. This incredibly handy device is called Viiiiva. It can easily communicate with your iPhone or iPod touch in real time.

Viiiiva is a lightweight, comfortable chest strap heart rate monitor. The Liiiink Connectivity Module inside it is what turns your iPhone into a cycling computer or running monitor. Go get some exercise while wearing Viiiiva, and it will seamlessly deliver all the data about it to the free 4iiii app or any of the popular fitness apps. It uses an ANT+ to Bluetooth Smart bridge to do it.

This allows athletes to monitor their heart rate activity on an iPhone as well as a sport watch. You can adjust settings, review activity summaries, and receive performance feedback from your iPhone or iPod at anytime, anywhere.

Here are some quick features of Viiiiva HRM:

* Works with Garmin, TIMEX, adidas, and other popular displays
* Accurate heart rate measurement on your Bluetooth Smart iPhone without awkward adapters
* Liiiink can send heart rate, cadence, power, and speed, data to most popular iOS fitness apps, including Endomondo, MapMyFitness, Runtastic, Runmeter, Strava, Training Peaks, and Runkeeper. (when applicable ANT+ compatible sensors are connected)
* Viiiiva stores your data in .FIT files
* No need to recharge – Viiiiva runs on a coin-cell battery for over a year.

4iiii Innovations is at CES 2013, where they will be displaying Viiiiva HRM. Find them in the Las Vegas Convention Center, South Hall, at the ANT+ booth #26700.

Image by 4iiii Innovations

Griffin Expands Kid Friendly KaZoo Line at CES 2013

Posted by JenThorpe at 7:41 PM on January 8, 2013

KaZoo Line GriffinGriffin Technology has expanded their line of animal inspired headphones, cases and accessories for kids. The line is called KaZoo, and it is easy to see how the “Zoo” part got into the name. It features adorable monkeys, frogs, penguins, lions, zebras, elephants, and pandas. Super cute!

KaZoo MyPhones come in two varieties and feature either a bright green frog or a black and white penguin with a yellow beak. They are over the ear headphones designed for children. The headphones have built-in volume-limiting circuitry that keeps the sound pressure down to levels recommended as safe for young ears. It caps at 85 decibels. KaZoo MyPhones sell for $19.99 from the Griffin website.

KaZoo for iPod Touch are cases made from durable, yet soft, silicone. It gives you easy access to the multi-touch display and headphone jack while protecting your iPod touch. Choose from a zebra, penguin, lion, elephant, or monkey. Each is priced at $24.99 on the Griffin website.

The KaZoo Aux Cable line are AUX cables that are designed to be used with an iPod. Each heavy-duty cable has a colorful animal on it and has strain relief built into each plug. These are priced at $9.99 on the Griffin website, and will become available in February of 2013.

The Capper Stylus is awesome! You can see it in the photo above. It is a colorful, removable, stylus that slides onto a regular pencil just like a typical pencil topper would. Put it on the eraser end of a number 2 pencil, and you can use the Capper Stylus on all capacitive touchscreens. It has been designed in three styles: an orange pencil, a blue rocket, and a purple ice cream cone. These will sell for $9.99 and will become available in March of 2013.

You can find Griffin at CES 2013 where they will be displaying their full line of products. Find them in the LVCC North Hall at Booth 5212.

Image by Griffin Technology

Kid Friendly Accessories for iPhone, Android, and iPod Touch at CES 2013

Posted by JenThorpe at 6:28 PM on January 8, 2013

Nickelodeon AccessoriesGriffin Technology has partnered with Nickelodeon to create fun accessories for children’s mobile devices. The inspiration came from several of the popular characters that your child watches in cartoons that appear on the Nickelodeon channel.

The first three lines of cartoon inspired mobile device accessories for kids feature SpongeBob Squarepants, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Dora the Explorer. Each will be introduced at CES 2013. The products are slated to become available in Spring of 2013 at major retailers nationwide.

The SpongeBob Squarepants line includes a SpongeBob Folio iPad case with several characters from the show done in 8-bit style. (The nostalgic aspects of this one might appeal to adult fans of the cartoon as well as the kids!).

This line also has Faces for iPhone 5G. It is a case that looks like SpongeBob, and you can interchange six different eyepieces and three different mouthpieces to make customizable expressions. In the photo above, you can see the SpongeBob Woogie, a huggable, squeezable, five-legged plush SpongeBob doll that doubles as a protective case for iPhone, iPod touch, and Android devices.

The Ninja Turtle accessories include a Shell for iPhone 5 and iPod touch, which is made of a hard, durable, exterior that protects against impacts and scratches. The photo above shows the Folio for iPad that has Ninja Turtle artwork on the front, microsuede lining, and a loop to carry a stylus.

The Dora the Explorer line might appeal to preschoolers. This line includes a Dora the Explorer skin for iPod touch. It is made of a durable, yet soft, silicone that allows for easy access to the camera and all ports, controls, and connectors. As you can see in the photo above, it also features Dora herself on the back.

Griffin Technology is at CES 2013 where they are displaying their line up of products. You can find them in the LVCC North Hall at Booth 5212.

Image by Griffin Technology

You can turn your Android into an iPod, but why?

Posted by Alan at 4:12 PM on November 28, 2012

Not long ago an app called Idrod surfaced in the Google Play store. What is this you say? What if I told you it was an app designed to make your Android look exactly like an iPod? You may say “cool!”, but I say “why?”. Before you begin your attack please hear me out and then you can hurl your insults.

First of all I get it — nostalgia. After all, the iPod is fast becoming yesterday’s device. Sure, it is largely credited with turning Apple around when the company was on the brink of failure. It solidified Steve Jobs’ place as a genius of design and marketing, although the latter should be considered the biggest part given that Apple didn’t invent the MP3 player.

Second — yes, the app is very cool. It’s well done, looks authentic, has lots of options, etc., etc. There are plenty of people who still want an MP3 player, although those numbers are quickly dwindling. And, yes, the iPod is the all-time classic in the field.

But, and here is my point, who stores music on their phone these days? In 3+ years with Android handsets I have never once transferred a single song to a device. I own more than 80 GB of music, but every bit of it is available for streaming from anywhere via Google Music. In fact, it’s also on Amazon Cloud Player as well, just for a backup to the backup. If I grow tired of all of that then I have Pandora to fall back on — I even pay them $4.99 per month for ad-free service. Those who don’t care for Pandora have countless other choices like Spotify and Rdio to choose from.

My real point isn’t to make fun of Idrod — it’s a very cool, well done and a good looking app. It’s more to wonder why this, or any other MP3 player app, is even necessary today. Do you have an answer? By all means, let me know.

An Airbus A380 Flew Over My House

Posted by JenThorpe at 5:24 PM on November 23, 2012

My husband has been using a really fun app called Plane Finder. Today, he discovered that an Airbus A380 flew over the house. He heard a loud plane outside, and wondered what kind it was. Plane Finder had the answer!

Plane Finder picks up ADS-B plane feeds that are used by both commercial and private planes to transmit information. It has the name of the plane, its position, callsign, status and more. Plane Finder’s own servers then add some more information. They give you the departure airport that the plane came from and the destination where the plane is headed. Select one of the little planes on the map and you will get a picture of what the plane looks like.

The Plane Finder app is free, and is compatible with iPhone and iPod touch. There is also a version that works with Android devices. If you have an interest in planes, then this is the app for you. Right now is the busiest travel season of the year, so there should be plenty of opportunity for you to use Plane Finder to find out what kind of plane is flying over your house.

Pinkfroot is the company that makes Plane Finder. They also make a free Ship Finder app that tracks ships. Both Ship Finder and Plane Finder update when Pinkfroot has more stuff to add to it.

Update On Belkin “YourType” Folio + Keyboard For iPad 2 & iPad 3

Posted by tomwiles at 7:08 PM on October 20, 2012

Belkin Bluetooth Folio KeyboardRecently I purchased a Belkin “YourType” Folio + Keyboard for my iPad 2. The unit operates via Bluetooth. When I initially began using it I noticed there was a rather prominent problem with rather frequent lost or multiple keystrokes when a given key was only hit once. I didn’t know if this was a Bluetooth problem, or a problem with iOS 6 taking too many CPU cycles on an iPad 2. An iPad 3 might not suffer from the same lost keystroke problem when connected to a Bluetooth keyboard since it comes with a faster processor with much improved performance.

So, I started a bit of troubleshooting. One of the things I suspected might be stealing CPU cycles was app notifications. My one and a half year old iPod Touch really became sluggish after installing iOS 5 on it. I was able to mitigate the sluggish iPod response problem somewhat by turning off push notifications for the vast majority of apps. So, I turned off all of the push notifications on my iPad 2.

Turning off all push notifications did seem to help, but did not entirely fix the problem. I started experimenting with typing old standby typing phrases such as “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.” This phrase seemed to type in just fine with no lost keystrokes. But then when I started typing other things, I noticed the lost keystroke problem immediately reared its ugly head once again.

What could the problem be? What about that automatic spell check that is enabled by default in iOS 6? Could that be an issue? I went into the iPad settings and turned off the automatic spell checker, along with the automatic correction feature, as well as eliminating the sample shortcut that comes with iOS 6, and that helped out even more.

For good measure, I also went through and deleted as many apps as I could that I really don’t make use of on my iPad.

Since my iPad 2 is WiFi only, I also have an external “Dual” GPS unit that connects to the iPad via Bluetooth so I can use the iPad as a GPS device with apps such as TomTom, USA Atlas (Hema) and Co Pilot. I noticed if I turn it off while I’m using the Belkin Bluetooth keyboard, it helps reduce the occasional lag problem even more.

All of these things combined have improved the Bluetooth keyboard response dramatically. There are still a few dropped keys now and then, but at this point they are much less frequent to the point where the keyboard is now quite usable.

It’s likely that had I never upgraded the iPad 2 beyond iOS version 4, there likely wouldn’t be a Bluetooth keyboard lag problem. Why is it we seem to always scream for the latest iOS updates, but then ultimimately end up annoyed by poor performance?

Android Apps Accelerate

Posted by tomwiles at 10:34 PM on October 19, 2012

When I got my first Android phone a bit over two and a half years ago, an HTC Evo from Sprint, the Android Marketplace was a confused and confusing place. The Apple App Store had the clear advantage. Android apps that did exist then were often clunky.

A lot has changed in two and a half years. Today, the aptly renamed “Google Play” store contains Android apps that very often match their Apple app counterpart in both they way they look and in their functionality. Google Play also contains a lot of other content for sale, including magazines, music and movies.

My HTC Evo had a limited amount of primary memory, so it was effectively limited in the number of apps that could be installed. As a result, I mostly ignored the app store because I couldn’t install anything new without giving up some other app or combination of apps in order to free up that memory. I experimented with apps mostly on my iPod and iPad. Since replacing my HTC Evo with a Samsun Galaxy S3, which has no similar memory issues, I have been experimenting with new apps like mad.

What I’ve found is that for the vast majority of apps I use on my iPod and iPad, there are Android versions of the same app. So, I am able to use apps right on the Galaxy S3 such as Flipboard, Skitch, MyRadar, Adobe Photoshop Express, etc., etc., etc. In other words, most of the apps that I use on my iPod and iPad now have Android versions of the same app that function, look and act the same as the iOS version(s).

The Google Play store is better organized than it used to be. One of the major advantages of Android over iOS devices is that the apps can be set up to automatically update without any user intervention. The automatic updates function like clockwork. One you’ve installed dozens or even hundreds of apps on a device, there are always several apps per day that have updates. With iOS devices, the update process must be initiated manually. Let your iOS devices sit a more than a day or two without updating them, and the apps needing updates rapidly escalates. With Android, the updates simply happen automatically and leave a pull-down notification of their success.

Apple still has a clear advantage when it comes to iPad apps versus the confusion that still exists in the realm of Android tablets. However, when it comes to phone devices such as the Galaxy S3, the app advantage once enjoyed by iOS has greatly lessened.

Competition is a wonderful thing for the consumer. It makes products far better. The explosion of hand-held computing devices and fast broadband wireless networks is resulting in a continuing explosion of future possibilities and possibilities realized.

Review of Spider + App by Brainium Studios

Posted by JenThorpe at 1:32 AM on September 3, 2012

Lately, I’ve become a bit nostalgic for some aspects of what computers were like in the early days of the internet. Remember when PCs used to come with one, simple, solitaire game installed? I spent countless hours playing with the virtual cards on my computer even though I had a perfectly good deck of real cards that I could have been using. There was something relaxing about playing solitaire on my computer, and it was nice to not have to put away the cards when I was finished.

Today, many of the “time-waster” games have gotten rather complex. I’ve grown tired of the games that require you to get online, log into Facebook, and hope that your friends will send you enough “virtual stuff” to complete the quest, build something, or advance in the game. It started to feel very tedious.

Recently, I asked my friends to suggest an easy, “time-waster” game that did not require me to log into Facebook every time I wanted to play it. The game that got the most mentions was Spider Solitaire. I now use a Mac, and a brief search of the App Store revealed a game called Spider + that was created by Brainium Studios.

The app costs $1.99 on the Mac App Store. The version for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad requires iOS 4.0 or later, and is free. The Android version cost $0.99. You can find a quick link to whichever version works best for you through the Brainium Studios website.

I am really enjoying this app! The cards make a flicking sound as they are placed. If you move a group of cards from one row to another, it makes a soft, “shh” sound. The game is very relaxing! You can customize the design that appears on the back of the cards, and the background the cards sit on, by choosing from a few different designs, or by selecting an image from your computer.

The game keeps track of how long it took you to win in the last game you played, and your best (and fastest) time completing the game. It also shows you how many moves it took for to you to complete the last game, what score you earned in that game, and a total of all your scores. The cards shuffle quickly, and I haven’t had any glitches or bugs at all. I highly recommend this game to those of you who long for the days when you could easily spend a couple of minutes playing with virtual cards.