Leuchtturm1917 v Moleskine Notebooks

For all today’s gadgets, there’s a great deal still to be said for pen and paper. It’s cheap, reliable and you don’t need to worry about the battery life. Setting those practicalities aside, I find great pleasure in a beautiful notebook and a fine fountain pen, though my handwriting still leaves much to be desired. I’m not a alone in this pleasure with a resurgence in paper notebooks and the legendary Moleskine has pushed to the fore. Is it the best? Here we have two lined notebooks, one from Leuchtturm1917  and the other from Moleskine – let’s take a look and find out.

Leuchtturm1917 and Moleskine Notebooks

Both Moleskine and Leuchtturm draw on their heritage. Moleskine’s dates back into the early 20th Century name-checking Picasso, van Gogh and Hemingway. Although originally French, it died out in the 1980s, only to be resurrected in the late 90s by an Italian publisher. On the other hand, Leuchtturm goes back to 1917 (hence Leuchtturm1917) with roots in Hamburg, Germany and a reputation for stamp collecting albums, which continues today. These stories are laid out by both companies in small cream folded inserts that accompany each book. The message is clear; you aren’t buying only a notebook, you are continuing the traditions of culture, history and travel.

Physically both notebooks are very similar but there are subtle and useful differences. I’d call them medium or A5-sized notebooks though strictly the Moleskine isn’t wide enough for A5. Both are 21 cm tall with hardcovers but the Moleskine is only 13 cm compared with the the Leuchtturm‘s 14.5 cm. Each has an elastic enclosure band, page marker and an expandable pocket inside the back cover. They also come in wide range of colours and pair well with 7″ tablets, such as the Nexus 7.

Leuchtturm1917 Moleskine

Opening the notebooks shows that both have lined pages with the same line spacing, but with the Moleskine, that’s about it. Although both have an Owner page at the front, the Leuchtturm goes further with three Contents pages and each page is numbered for easy reference. In addition, there are eight perforated pages towards the back that can be removed, along with some stickers to assist with archiving once the notebook is full. The Leuchtturm1917 is for those who want to be organised! “Datum / Date” is printed at the top of each page too, which may put people off but suits me fine.

Ink BleedBoth notebooks have lovely paper which is a joy to write on with pencil and ballpoint. However, the Moleskine has a problem with pen ink bleeding from one side to the other, particularly with black ink, which makes the Leuchtturm a better choice for fountain pen writers.

Overall, both the Moleskine and the Leuchtturm are stylish notebooks with a great feel both in the hand and under the pen. For me as a fountain pen owner, the Leuchtterm wins out by default, but the contents pages and page numbering make it my choice for those reasons too. Pencil owners and people looking for something a little neater may prefer the Moleskine. Whichever you choose, you’ll never go back.

Available from all good stationery retailers, the Leuchtturm1917 retails for around GB£13 with the Moleskine for a few pounds less.

Tablift Review

tabliftTablift is the most “borrowed” review item by my family members that I have ever had the pleasure of reviewing. They say a picture is worth a 1000 words and in this case it really is.

Let me start out by saying that if you have ever used your tablet in bed your going to love this device. I will often spend a Sunday afternoon relaxing with a good book on my tablet. But after a couple of hours of reading that lite weight tablet may as well weigh a 100 pounds.

In steps Tablift whether your laying down, hanging out on the couch Tablift can hold your tablet in place. The most innovative place I saw Tablift being used was by my son. He reads sheet music on his tablet, and he uses Tablift to prop up his tablet on his desk in his bedroom so he could practice he Cello.

With the built in restraining strap, he could change pages quickly and not knock the tablet over.

For $59.00 you are going to get a lot of utility out of this device going hands free with your tablet, and if your like my house your gonna hear someone shout who has the Tablift.

Archos Smart Home Review

Archos LogoThese days it’s either i-this or smart-that with new gadgets measuring and changing our personal environment. From Fitbit to Philips Hue, the internet of things is steadily growing and into this increasingly connected world, French firm Archos have stepped in. Their Smart Home tablet wirelessly connects sensors to a central hub that monitors and initiates actions based on conditions. Archos kindly lent me a Smart Home to raise the IQ of my house. Let’s take a look.

Archos Smart Home Box

In the box there’s the Smart Home tablet, plus six connected objects; two mini-cams, two movement tags and two weather tags. The tablet itself looks much like a digital photo frame but it’s actually a small 7″ device running Android 4.2.

Archos Smart Home Front View

Archos Smart Home Rear View

In the looks department, the Smart Home tablet fits the bill with styling that wouldn’t look out of place in a living room. It is all plastic, including the screen which seems to be acrylic rather than glass, but perhaps will better withstand being knocked. Some thought has been given to the design as the screen’s viewing angle appears to be have been adjusted slightly so that screen looks good when someone looks down at it, rather than straight on. There’s only about 2.5 GB of free memory on-board but there is a microSD card slot to boost the Smart Home’s capacity. Performance-wise, it’s no speed demon with a 1.2 GHz ARM processor, but as most of the time the Smart Home just sits there receiving data, it’s a not a big deal. A camera and a thermometer are built into the tablet too and these can be used to take pictures and measure the temperatureas well as the connected objects.

The connected objects are shown below with the mini-cam, weather tag and movement tag from left to right. All have sticky pads which allow adhesion to flat surfaces round the house. The mini-cam ball is held in the foot by magnets and it means the ball can oriented in almost any direction. The weather tag measures temperature and humidity, and the movement tag can measure both motion and door opening / closing.

Archos Smart Home Sensors

Getting setup is easy and straightforward. Running the Archos Smart Home software initially asks for the different rooms where devices are located.

Smart Home Rooms

Once the rooms are setup, the connected objects can be added into the relevant room. The objects use Bluetooth rather than Zigbee and pairing is simply a case of holding down a button on the connected object for 5 seconds. It worked flawlessly. The pairing screen shows all the objects available, not only the ones in the box.

Accessories

Once all setup, the Smart Home tablet presents a view with the room and all the objects in the room.

Hall

In the Hall, I had two mini-cams, a weather tag and a movement tag. Tapping on any device in the app then gives more data or information – here’s the weather tag showing data over the past week for both temperature and humidity.

Temperature and Humidity

Great but how do we get from monitoring the weather to doing something smart? Archos have the answer by building simple “if this, do that” programs. For example, if temperature falls below two degrees Celsius, email to me “It might be slippy.” Or more usefully, if the door opens, take a picture and send an email – like this.

Program

Sure enough, when the front door is opened, I get an email (my personal email is address is obscured by the black box).

Mail

 

The mini-cam also takes a picture (or a short video) but they won’t show a live feed, presumably because Bluetooth can’t transfer the data very quickly. You’ll notice one of the slight problems….the Smart Home doesn’t really take pictures fast enough as in many of the photos the person who opened the door has already moved out of shot. These are all real life photos, nothing was staged. A mini-cam positioned further down the hall generally did better at getting people entering the property.

Minicam Pictures

Out of the box, there’s a fairly limited range of actions such as send email, turn on plug and so on, but Smart Home can use the Tasker app to do more. Tasker supports a wide range of actions, including starting other apps, which makes it quite a powerful solution. However, even this simple email-me-on-the-front-door-opening is useful when wanting to know if someone has arrived home safely (or a thief has broken into your house!)

Other nifty features are that the Smart Home can be accessed from other tablets or smartphones. After a straightforward authorisation process, the system can be viewed from other devices both inside and outside the house. Here’s what it looks like on my smartphone.

Smartphone View

Overall, the Smart Home worked well, mostly sitting on the table doing its job. I did find that I mostly used my ordinary tablet (a Nexus 7)  to work with the Smart Home rather than picking up the unit itself. I set the Smart Home tablet up as a digital photo frame using the standard Android Daydream screensaver to fit into the room.

There were a couple of problems, the first being the range and penetration of Bluetooth. I live in a modest house with brick walls which meant that the weather tag at the rear of the property couldn’t be picked up if the Smart Home tablet was in the front room. Secondly, battery life – the mini-cams seemed get through a set of batteries in about a fortnight and each one took three CR2450 button cells. The movement and weather tags weren’t quite so bad – perhaps a month and only one battery. As an aside there’s no way of muting the low battery warnings that appear in orange on the screen. A connected object could be disconnected but that deleted the historical date at the same time.

Bizarrely, the other problem was how I felt about spying on my family, which is not anything to do with the Archos Smart Home, so I’ll save that for another post. I can see the Smart Home working for families with children that come home when the parents are still at work and the email notifications would give any parent a measure of comfort that their son or daughter is home safe.

The Smart Home costs GB£199 from Archos’ online store. Other additional connected objects are “coming soon”, including an HD weatherproof camera and a siren tag. In summary, the Smart Home is a well integrated system that has room for expansion with more types of connected objects but watch out for the limitations of Bluetooth range and battery life.

Thanks to Archos for the loan of the Smart Home.

 

Motorola Moto X (2013) Smartphone Review

Motorola M LogoMotorola’s been busy since I reviewed the Moto G back in January, with the Moto X, Moto E and a 4G version of the Moto G filling out their range of smartphones. With IFA on, a refresh of the Moto X is expected very soon and rumours swirl regarding the next Nexus smartphone, the Nexus X (which neatly sidesteps any legal issues around the Nexus 6 name).

Back in reality, Motorola kindly lent me the Moto X for a long-term test, so I’ve been using the Moto X for over three months instead of my Nexus 4. Let’s take a look.

Given that the Moto X is over a year old in the US and over six months in the UK, the specs aren’t important, but for the record it’s a 4.7” 1280 by 720 Super AMOLED screen powered by a Qualcomm 1.7 MHz dual-core S4 Pro processor supported by an Adreno 320 GPU. There’s 2 GB RAM and 16 GB of storage and comes with Android 4.4 KitKat out of the box. A 2200 mAh battery keeps the Moto X going, with Motorola reckoning on around 24 hours use. It’s a GSM phone with 4G LTE on the 800/1800/2600MHz (B20/B3/B7) bands. Dimensions are 65 x 129 x 10.4 mm (5.7 mm at the narrowest point) and weighs in at 130g.

Moto X Front View

Using Geekbench 3, the Moto X clocks in at 666 single core and 1258 for multi-core with the LG Nexus 4 scoring 501 / 1664. This bears out the specs with the Moto X having a higherclock speed (1.75 v 1.5 GHz) but fewer cores, (2 v 4). In real world use, there’s nothing between them.

The Moto X looks good, and is nearly all black with only the on/off  and volume rocker in chrome. As with the Moto G, it fits well in the hand and the curved back still reminds me of the Palm Pre and its pebble design cue. Unlike our transatlantic cousins, the fantastic range of Moto X backs isn’t available to us Brits, so we’re stuck with only black and white variants of the phone.

Moving round the phones, the right-hand side has the chrome on/off button and a volume rocker. There’s a micro-USB socket at the bottom and 3.5 mm audio jack at the top. The back has the rear-facing camera with flash and there’s an interesting little dimple in the back. It’s all very similar to the Moto G but thinner and lighter. Powering the phone up reveals two things….first the screen is tremendous and second that Motorola haven’t strayed too far from the stock Android experience. Although not a full 1080 HD screen, the 720 in 4.7″ gives a high pixel density and apps look good. Colours are strong and vibrant, and slightly richer than on the LG Nexus 4. Blacks are black and contrast is good. I like it.

Moto X Back

Returning to the user interface, anyone familiar with a Nexus device will be totally at home. It’s all fairly standard and what Motorola has done is to tweak some of the standard apps and include a few value-adding apps which you can use or not use, as you wish. They’re actually pretty good and I covered them in my review of the Moto G.

Windy DayAssist – a personal assistant-type app that sets up rules for when the phone needs to be quiet, based on driving, meetings or sleeping. Motorola Migrate – this app helps transfer information from an older phone to the Moto G. It covers text messages, call history, SIM contacts, media and volume settings. Innovatively uses wifi and QR codes. Moto Care seems to have been replaced with the a more mundane Help, though it seems to be broadly the same app. The Moto X doesn’t have an FM radio, so there’s no app for that.

New since I reviewed the Moto G is Alert, a personal security and emergency response app that notifies friends and family in the event of trouble. Connect is a cloud-based management app for Motorola devices which also lets the phone interact with the your PC or laptop. New too is Spotlight, a player for interactive three dimensional animations. It’s quirky and cool with two animations, Windy Day and Buggy Night. The former was created by Jan Pinkava of Geri’s Game and Ratatouille fame.

Where the Moto X really steps away from the Moto G and most other Android phones is that it’s always listening. Simply say “Ok Google Now” and the Moto X responds, switching over to voice recognition. From this point you can search, dial phone numbers, set reminders and otherwise control the phone. The touchless control is really cool and works well (though it doesn’t play very nice with PIN locks).

Touchless Control Set Reminders

There’s also Active Display which automagically shows notifications when you are nearby. No idea how it works, but it works well – you walk over to the phone and it comes alive showing that you’ve waiting emails or texts.

Active Display ActiveDisplay

Using the Moto X on a daily basis I’ve come to appreciate what Motorola have done with the Moto X. The general trend is for top-end phones to come with fast processors and big screens. But rather than focus on specs, Motorola have brought the innovative features of Touchless control and Active Display to a phone that would be defined as mid-range. The result is a phone that works hard towards putting the smart into smartphone.

The Moto X is available online for around GB£280 which puts it on a par with the Nexus 5. It’s a tough call as to which is the better but let’s see what Motorola has to offer shortly.

Thanks again to Motorola for providing the Moto X for review.

MonoPrice LED Light Bulb Review

led1Recently I placed an cable order at MonoPrice.com, and in the order I added 5 of their LED Light Bulbs on a whim. Last time I checked online LED Light Bulbs where pushing $100.00 a piece at other vendors. I was quite shocked to find them for about $6.00 at MonoPrice.

If you are one of the people that hate the light given off from CFL bulbs, you are going to want to buy a couple of these and give them a try. I replaced my bedroom reading lamps current CFL bulb with one of the  A19 2900k Warm / Soft LED Light Bulbs from MonoPrice.

I am not sure how you get excited about a light bulb but I did,  and when that long lost familiar warm / soft glow emanated from the bulb I could not be happier. The folks at MonoPrice have a wide range of LED Bulbs.  Be careful in the ones you order they are broken down by (Warm / Soft 2900k), (Warm Netural 4000k),  (Daylight 6000k) in various wattages.

I am sure you know this already, but their is no other place on the planet to order cables than MonoPrice.com they have absolute the best prices and high quality.

led2

SweetBeatLife App with HealthPatch Review

sweet1Over the past 18 months I have been fascinated with the rapid explosion of health based app and devices. In the recent past I have been reviewing and testing a number of devices this week was no exception. For the past week I have been testing the SweetBeatLife App on my iPhone while wearing a HealthPatch monitor attached to my chest.

Let me start out by saying this was probably the coolest thing I have reviewed in a while. Not only were people I showed this to intrigued, I was able to get insights into my own health and stress levels.  Lets first talk about the HealhPatch. I received two HealthPatch’s as part of my review kit. As seen in the picture the HealthPatch is like a big Band Aid with sensors and electronics. inside. Once activated, the HealthPatch is paired via Bluetooth to communicate with your phone. There are simple instructions on how to attach the HealthPatch to one of three locations on your chest.

I opted to place mine in the upper portion of my left chest. For the fellows you will have to shave a section of your chest as the HealthPatch requires a smooth surface to adhere to,  so that the two probes on the skin side of the patch can make contact with your bare skin.  The instruction book says the patch should stay on for 3 days. Mine started to peel at about day 5 and I was using the Active lifestyle patch with max adhesion.

sweet2I was not particularly careful with my HealthPatch when I was in the shower, I let the water blast on it and at the same time I did not take care to shield it from soap. The HealthPatch folks were pretty slick in how they designed it to keep the electronics dry.

Once stuck to my chest the SeetBeatLife app took over.  I had to record a baseline, and I did that laying down in my living room and following the apps instructions. From then on all I had to do is turn the App on if I wanted to measure my Stress Level, Heart Rate Recovery & HRV for Training. I used the Monitor Stress the most, and tested Heart Rate Recovery several times after 20 minutes on the treadmill.  The App and monitor do much more though. You can measure with hospital-grade accuracy, your heart rate, heart rate variability, respiratory rate, calories burned, stress, steps taken and other health indicators twenty-four hours a day.

sweet3In all honesty, there where some measurements that this device made that I had to go Google to figure out. I had no clue what some of the results meant, and if the measurement was good or bad. I am not sure this app is ready for everyday regular consumer usage. But for athletes that are training for competitions, I can see where the monitoring this app can provide would be very valuable in preparing for an event.

I encourage you to preview all of the information screens that the SweetBeatLife App provides to get a handle on the incredible data sets that this app can provide. I would think that health professionals would love to have this as an inexpensive way to monitor a patients health, that he or she was concerned about without ordering a full heart study.. We have all known folks that have had to wear a heart monitor for a couple of weeks and the bulkiness of carrying around the monitoring device.

The cost of SweetBeatLife app itself is $9.99. The starter HealthPatch kit is $199 which includes 5 HealthPatch’s. Refills are $99.00 for 5 more HealthPatch’s. Due to the ongoing cost, I feel this as well will limit consumer adaption. But for the athlete that is training for an upcoming event, the risk of over training is very real and this app and monitoring system will likely be very useful. The benefits compared to other system is pretty simple once you stick the patch on your good to go, and there is nothing bulky attached to you.

I will have to admit though it was pretty cool to watch my heart beat on the app screen and compare my respiration rates to national averages and the host of other readings. The only final concern I have with any of these health apps is with Privacy. You are storing very private health information in the cloud, and largely with a unknown third party. There are currently no laws on the books to prevent the resale of collected information.

Disclaimer: SweetBeat and MySweetBeat are not medical devices or medical applications. SweetWater Health, L.L.C. does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Disclaimer: Geek News Central review of this device does not constitute a substitute for proper medical care, and anyone experiencing any health concern should seek the treatment of a licensed doctor. Information provided in this review is meant to be informational only, and not an endorsement of the device accuracy or health benefit.

 

Sprint Samsung Galaxy S5 Sport Review

sprintDuring the past 3 weeks I have been using a Samsung Galaxy S5 Sport from Sprint. The Samsung Galaxy S5 Sport is an exclusive Sprint Spark-enabled smart phone. The Sport brand is obviously focused for health conscious users. It has all of the standard benefits of the S5 along with Sprint Fit Live.

This phone design has a custom finish that feels more rugged, and has a textured feel very different than the standard Galaxy S5.  Comments from current S5 owners told me that they wish their S5 had the same finish texture. The change in finish was made to make the phone easier to hold, and prevent it from slipping out of your hand. The Galaxy S5 Sport is also IP67 water and dust resistant2 so it can be as active as its user. The textured body also had three hard keys for easier navigation. I honestly liked this slight deviation in design. There was no need to look at the phone when handling it, as you could feel the home and backup button without looking at it.

With Sprint Spark technology the phone is designed to take advantage of advanced network capabilities in certain markets that deliver peak wireless speeds of up to 60Mbps.

The phones major difference is that it came with an complete health and fitness package, under the “Sprint Fit Live” a brand which included bundled fitness applications in a easy to access menu.

Key Features of Sprint Fit Live included the following:

  • Track, monitor, and share workout activity with 12 months of free MapMyFitness MVP
  • Spotify Premium 3 or 6 month subscription included.
  • S Health, an integrated mobile health platform to access health info, map out workouts, and make healthier eating choices.
  • A barometer, compass, flashlight and stopwatch from a single screen
  • Heartbeat Monitor, Pedometer and Exercise Monitor and goal setting.

Most of the health and exercise information is integrated on the front screen or placed on the wall paper of the phone, so that I could just glance at the phone to get the updated info. The phone was running Android 4.4.2 KitKat when I reviewed it

The included MapMyFitness service uses GPS to track all fitness activities, and records work out details, including duration, distance, pace, speed, elevation, calories burned and route traveled on an interactive map. It was neat to review a days workout and check performance.

The Samsung Galaxy S5 is a great mobile phone all on its own. Those that are health conscious, or wanting to take advantage of the customization Sprint has done with the “Sprint Fit Live” platform should give the Sport a look.

Sprint Fit Live also will be available on all new Sprint Android-powered smart phones in 2014 which will give you more shopping options.

Tens Sunglasses Review

Tens LogoThis summer I’ve been feeling uber-cool with my Tens “Real Life Photo Filter” sunglasses. In a classic style, the Tens sunglasses are tinted to give a “an extra burst of colour to your summer” and that they do, with everything coloured that little bit brighter. Everything’s richer and more vivid – I love them.

Originally, an Indiegogo campaign, I took a chance on these shades, partly because I needed new sunglasses but partly because it was good to see a campaign from the British side of the Atlantic. The team’s actually based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Overall, I’ve been very pleased with the Tens sunglasses. The frames seem solid, with sturdy hinges and the lenses are clear and distortion free. I find them comfortable to wear too. Here are some photos to show you what they’re like.

Tens Sunglasses

Tens Sunglasses Hinge

The Tens sunglasses come with a neat little drawstring bag to keep them free from scratches when not in use.

Tens Sunglasses Bag

I was lucky enough to get in on the Indigogo campaign and paid only GB£44. Available in a choice of four frame colours (black, navy, deep red and teal), if you want your own pair of Tens glasses, they’ll currently set you back £64. I’ll probably buy a second pair once they start doing prescription versions.

Fingers crossed for a few more days of sunshine before summer comes to an end!

SDI to HDMI Under $100 from MonoPrice.com

monopriceI have long been a fan of MonoPrice.com for a long time, their cable prices are simply incredible. If you buy from anyone else you’re flushing money down the toilet. I recently picked up several new products from MonoPrice one ofthe was a SDI to HDMI Converter/

Unless you’re a Pro-Video person you are not even going to know what SDI is, but lets keep it simple.  SDI is a Video format that is outputted on high end video cameras, and video processing gear. The studio here at Geek News Central has about 10 converters of various types HDMI to SDI (most popular), SDI to HDMI and SDI Splitters..

The sub $100.00 SDI to HDMI converter from MonoPrice  was ver inexpensive. I other similar converters in the studio that cost me upwards of $400.00 each.  Long story short, I plugged it in, hooked it up, and bam works like a charm. So I want to send kudos over to MonoPrice for literally kicking the butts of the major pro players.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that they introduce an HDMI to SDI converter as well and start building switches. When I can buy 3-4 devices for the price of one.. Well you know where I am going to be spending my money.

StarTech HDMI Wireless Extender over WHDI – Review

In my Studio I have been looking at ways to place a High Definition TV in a location that has power but nearly impossible to run a cable. The folks at StarTech.com sent over a HDMI Wireless Extender using WHDI  in the 5.1 to 5.9mhz. This HDMI extender is capable of extending a HDMI signal  strait line of up to 50 ft.

startech1

Here is how I employed it. I have Mac Mini that I used to monitor the social media stream while we are live on the air. I have always had trouble looking at the monitor it is attached to. So I used a 1×2 HDMI distribution amplifier and hooked one output to the monitor, and the other output to the StarTech  HDMI transmitter. The HDMI Transmitter is very tiny maybe 1 inch by 3 inches and comes with a 90 degree adapter if needed.

I then hooked the receiver up to a flat screen TV in the back of my studio so that I can observer without looking away from my primary camera. This all took about 15 minutes to hook up..  I am here to tell you running that cable 20 feet would have sucked, and my wife would have been pissed as the studio would have had a cable running across the wall.

The best part is that the receiver can support additional transmitters so all I need to buy is more transmitters and I can send two wireless signals to the HDTV and when I want to switch. So it will be cool to watch a movie in the studio when not on the air.  The StarTech kit include a wireless remote control that brings up a on screen menu for its system config and pairing, I can also easily changes sources with a click of the button.

Going wireless is going to set up back about $285.00 on most of their retailers. When it is impossible to run a cable this is the way to go i’m in love already. You end up with a clean install and crystal clear picture as if it had been plugged into a cable. Supported resolutions include 1080p, 1080i, 720p, 480p.

I am not sure why I waited so long to implement a solution like this but it really keeps the cable deployments to a minimum and works like a charm.