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


BTR006 Bluetooth Audio Receiver Review

Posted by Andrew at 1:28 PM on August 6, 2012

BTR006 Bluetooth ReceiverA2DP Bluetooth rarely comes as standard in cars except on prestige marques, but most new vehicles at least come with a 3.5 mm audio socket on the audio system for plugging-in mp3 players. If you want a quick and cheap way to upgrade the car’s audio to Bluetooth, take a look at he BTR006 Bluetooth Stereo Receiver.

The BTR006 is a small plastic rectangle just a few millimetres deep (45 x 33 x 8 mm). It has only one button for on/off, an activity LED, a DC power socket and a 3.5 mm audio jack on the end of short lead. It’s a doddle to use: charge up, connect the jack into the 3.5 mm audio socket, pair with smartphone and starting playing music from your smartphone through the audio system. Simples!

Audio quality is perfectly acceptable given that it’s Bluetooth anyway and the receiver successfully paired with every device I tried it with. The receiver supports both Bluetooth 2.1 with both A2DP and AVRCP.

There’s an internal battery that’s good for 12 hours according to the spec, which is probably about right based on my experience. I get a whole week of podcast listening which means somewhere over ten hours based on weekly commute and other travel. Contrary to some reviews, it is possible to charge and use the device at the same time. The confusion arises as connecting the charger does turn off the BTR006, but turning it back on again lets the receiver charge and play at the same time.

One of the best features is that it automatically powers off when the Bluetooth connection is lost for a few minutes so the battery doesn’t run down when the car is parked and not in use. Obviously the receiver has to be turned back on, but that takes seconds to do.

BTR006 Installed in Car with Velcro

Unless there’s a convenient nook or cranny in your vehicle, the BTR006 will hang down from the audio socket, especially as the lead isn’t very long. Of course, the easy solution is to use Velcro, with a small strip on the back of the BTR006 with a matching strip on the dashboard. The BTR006 can be easily detached for charging at home or in the office via the supplied USB charging cable. Here’s what it looks like installed in my car….yes, I probably should have cleaned the dash before taking the picture.

Note that the BTR006 does not have a microphone so it’s not possible to use it for hands-free calls but regardless this is an excellent buy to play music through your car’s audio system via Bluetooth.

Available from Amazon for around £15 or $28 – just search for BTR006. Disclaimer – I bought this device personally.

World Leaders In Their Underpants

Posted by Andrew at 3:49 AM on July 10, 2012

North Korea's Kim Jong-un

I’m generally not a big fan of politicians. There’s too many of them, they’re overpaid and they get their job through a blind popularity contest. At least with X-Factor and Pop Idol, the contestants have to show what they’re skilled at before we vote for them.

So it was with much glee that I came across World Leaders in their Underpants which literally strips politicians, dictators and royalty to their underwear. Created by cartoonist Nick Hilditch, he’s drawing his way through the world’s countries and now has over 120 of the world’s most powerful people in their smalls. All in the best possible taste of course. Regrettably, he’s not yet disrobed either the USA’s President or the UK’s Prime Minister so you’ll have to sign up to Nick’s RSS feed, follow @understates or like on Facebook to await their arrival. I’m told by Nick that Iraq is next.

The perfect antidote to Newsweek, Time and The Economist!

Picture courtesy of Nick Hilditch.

Yo no hablo español, Google

Posted by Andrew at 12:14 AM on July 9, 2012

MallorcaMass personalisation is one of the great benefits brought by the web. It’s no longer, “Any colour as long as it’s black,” but rather myriad options tailored to your individual circumstances. However sometimes the customisation goes a bit too far.

Take the Google Play Store app for example. As a customer I have only ever watched English-language films, read English-language books and generally been your typical English-speaking user. Consequently I was somewhat perplexed as to why I’d suddenly become a Spanish aficionado merely because I was using my tablet in Spain. Everything in the Play Store was being promoted in Spanish, which while interesting, wasn’t likely to encourage me to make a purchase.

For a couple of reasons, I think my IP address was being used to determine broad location (Spain) rather than GPS co-ordinates (Mallorca) but the point is somewhat moot; Google should not be switching languages based on location for existing users. Besides, in my Google profile under Language it says, “English (United Kingdom)”.

In some circumstances, it makes good sense for immediate localisation. Getting directions, looking for maps and finding nearby amenities would be obvious examples but not so much for watching a film or reading a book. Fortunately, I’d downloaded most of my holiday reading before leaving the UK, otherwise I’d be finding “El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha” fairly hard going.

Adiós.

FiiO E6 Headphone Amplifier Review

Posted by Andrew at 9:36 PM on June 24, 2012

The FiiO E6 is small headphone amplifier designed to improve the listening experience from personal music players and smartphones. With a couple of equalisation settings, the E6 can enhance the bass range to counteract the high-frequency tendencies of digital compression.

FiiO E6 in Retail Packaging

In the box, there’s the E6 itself, two clips for attaching the E6 to clothing, a USB charging cable and two stereo 3.5 mm cables, 12 cm and 75 cm. For hooking up iDevices, an Apple connector-to-3.5 mm jack is available to buy. There’s also a small instruction manual.

FiiO E6 Contents

The E6 is 40 x 40 x 9 mm, approximately the size of an Apple Nano. The main features are a mini-USB port for charging, two 3.5 mm stereo sockets (one in, one out), a volume rocker and an on/off slider. There’s a small LED on one side, but until the E6 is powered up, you might mistake it for a reset hole.

The E6 is quite light as the case is plastic. Coincidentally, the finish was a good match for from my Sansa  player and could easily be mistaken as a complementary accessory, but clearly that feature depends on your particular mp3 player!

Sliding up the on/off switch turns the E6 on, with a blue LED illuminating the silver corner. The volume rocker switch turns the volume up and down and as this is an amplifier, it’s possible to exceed the volume of the original device, so mind your ears. The battery life is given as around 10 hours which would be in line with my experience of the E6.

On the back, there’s a small pinhole LED showing the equalisation – off, red, blue and lilac. Each further upwards push of the on/off switch steps through to next setting. According to the manual, the four settings are equalisation off, 3 dB boost, 6 dB boost and -3 dB boost, i.e. reduction, but the effects are more subtle than simply amping up or amping down.

Generally, the equalisation boosted the bass while reducing the treble and while my personal preference was for the first setting, both were very acceptable. The equalisation was done well, in that while the balance of frequencies was being adjusted, the clarity was still there. Although reduced in significance, the higher frequencies weren’t muddied and the overall impression was of greater warmth.

A small amount of background hiss was only noticeable between tracks when using the earbuds in quiet surroundings. When using over-the-ear headphones, it couldn’t be detected.

Currently priced at £18.99 from Advanced MP3 Players, the E6 is an inexpensive personal amplifier. It might have a budget price but the E6 punches above its weight, counteracting the tinniness of digitally compressed sound with depth and feeling.

Most of testing was carried out with Sennheiser CX-300 earbuds, Sennheiser eH1430 headphones and a Sansa e250 mp3 player.

Thanks to Advanced MP3 Players for the loan of the E6.

Touchscreen Kleen Review

Posted by Andrew at 4:33 PM on May 8, 2012

Fingerprints are the bane of modern life. You’ve got your beautiful new tablet, you show it to your friends and before you can say, “oleic acid”, there’s a horde of greasy smudges all over the screen. Aaargh!!!

Here at Geek News Central we’ve seen several solutions to this problem, from carbon-based wipes to fashion self-cling pads. Touchscreen Kleen adds to the portfolio: it’s a special-formulated spray combined with a microfibre cloth.

TouchscreenKleen Package

It’s pretty simply to use….turn off the screen, squirt some cleaning solution onto the microfibre cloth and polish the screen with the cloth. Job done.
And it really is that easy. I cleaned tablets, smartphones, LCD monitors and they all came up looking like new, completely smudge free. Very impressed.

The microfibre cloth is washable so if you have to clean a really dirty monitor screen, the grubby cloth can be washed before the next use.

Touchscreen Kleen is available in two sizes, 15 ml and 50 ml, currently on special offer at £3.99 and £5.99 respectively in the online store.

Disclosure – Touchscreen Kleen was provided for review by Screen-Kleen Ltd.

Ford has In-Car Tablet Compatibility

Posted by JenThorpe at 2:02 PM on March 7, 2012

Ford has produced a brand new feature called SYNC. This is the perfect name for the first system designed to give you in-car tablet compatibility. In other words, SYNC will allow drivers to hook up their favorite tablet device to their car, and access it through voice commands while they are driving.

The voice commands make things safer. Drivers won’t need to actually look at their tablet, or touch it, in order to listen to an audiobook, a podcast, or a song. It truly makes a tablet into a hands free device, and does not require the driver to take his or her eyes of the road.

This is exciting in many ways! This is the first time that drivers will be able to safely make use of their tablets while they are driving. The voice commands that a driver uses to access their tablet make the road a safer place to be. We live in a world where people have gotten into car accidents, and died, while trying to send or receive a text message. The SYNC allows drivers to be entertained without making them into a distracted driver.

Imagine how great this would be for road trips! Tell your tablet to start reading you an audiobook. Choose your favorite playlist, and listen as you drive through places that you have never been before. The SYNC will charge some tablets and e-readers when they are connected through SYNC’s USB connection. You won’t have to worry about finding an outlet to plug your tablet into long enough to charge it. The Ford SYNC will do that for you!

Right now, Ford engineers are testing the SYNC’s compatibility with the new iPad3. The SYNC is already compatible with the original iPad and the iPad2. Other SYNC-compatible devices include: Amazon Kindle, Amazon Kindle Fire, HP Touchpad, HTC Flyer, Barnes & Noble Nook Color, and the Sony Tablet S.

The SYNC also allows you to make a hands-free call with your phone. Answer the phone with the push of a button. Make a call using a voice command. SYNC automatically downloads the names and numbers programed into your compatible phone. Tell your phone to call Mom, and it will do exactly that.

While you cannot put SYNC into an older model Ford, there are several different 2012 models of Ford vehicles that are SYNC compatible. They are the 2012 version of the: Fiesta, Focus, Fusion, Mustang, Taurus, Escape, Edge, Explorer, Flex, Expedition, Transit Connect, F-150, E-Series Wagon, and Super Duty.

Image: Autoshow by BigStock

Skunk Juice Sharing Earphones

Posted by Andrew at 9:27 AM on February 21, 2012

Skunk Juice Magnetic EarphonesSkunk Juice earphones have a little feature which not only sets them apart from other earphones but brings friends together. Jeffrey and Andy talk with Corissa from Skunk Juice to find out more.

The novel feature about Skunk Juice earphones is that they have a patented inline magnetic coupler which provides two benefits. One, if you move away from your music player, the coupler snaps open rather than yanking your player onto the floor and, two, you can insert more than one inline magnetic coupler in the chain, letting you and your friends listen in to the same music. Up to four friends can tune in at the same time before the sound volume starts to fall. Neat.

Skunk Juice will be bringing new over-ear headphones to market later in the year, along with a Bluetooth version as well. The current earphones are $35.99 (available in black and white), the new larger headset will be around $100 and the smaller headset will be about $50. Skunk Juice earphones are available in the UK too.

If you are thinking that you’ve seen a magnetic coupler like this on a fruity laptop power supply and are wondering how Skunk Juice managed to get a patent, the answer is that Skunk Juice got there first.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine and Andy Smith of Geocaching World.

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Sculpted Eers Off-The-Shelf Custom-Fit Earphones

Posted by Andrew at 10:16 PM on February 19, 2012

Sculpted Eers Custom-Fit EarphonesHow can they be off-the-shelf yet custom-fit? Easy, Sculpted Eers can be bought off-the-shelf in stores or online but come with a custom-fitting kit that takes five minutes to mould your ears and make a personalised earphone.

Nick from Sonomax, manufacturers of Scuplted Eers, gets Andy fitted with Eers at CES as you watch. The Sonofit custom-fitting kit inserts small bladders into each ear which are then filled with a quick setting silicone mix. The bladders expand to perfectly fit the ear and it’s completely painless. After 5 minutes the silicone has set, then it’s simply a case of detaching the Eers from the kit and fitting a small cap to each earphone to finish the process off.

Available now, Sculpted Eers cost CAD $199 for the single driver model and CAD $299 for the dual driver. There’s a store finder on the website or you can order on-line. New models are in the pipeline as well.

Interview by Jeffrey “Noddy” Powers of Geekazine and Andy “Big Eers” Smith of Geocaching World.

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spnKiX Motorised Shoes

Posted by Andrew at 2:49 PM on February 19, 2012

spinKiX Motorised ShoesIn possibly one of the most interesting things at CES, Peter from spnKiX demonstrates their motorised shoes to Jeffrey and John. No, really.

The SpinKix motorised shoes are the result of over 5 years research and development. Two 6″-ish wheels on the inner and outer sides of the shoe are driven by an electric motor powered by batteries will take the rider two to three miles depending on terrain and surface. Top speed is 10 mph and a wireless handheld unit controls the power.

Pre-order now ($649) for delivery in March – the production was funded as a Kickstarter project. There’s a also a video of the spnKiX in early product testing on their website. Totally awesome.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine and Andy Smith of Geocaching World.

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3feet Universal Smartphone and Tablet Stand

Posted by Andrew at 11:00 AM on February 19, 2012

3feet Universal Smartphone and Tablet Stand3feet almost need no introduction. Their universal smartphone and tablet stands are well-known for their neat design and their (probably) unique feature of being dishwasher-proof.

Being universal, the 3feet stand works with iPads, TouchPads, Playbooks, Xooms, iPhones, Nexus, Galaxies, Lumias, Nooks, Kindles… Pretty much anything that’s reasonably flat and you want to see. The 3feet can hold a device at three different angles.

Moving away from the gratuitous product placement, there’s now a wider range of basic colours (11) and the opportunity to have different colours for different parts of the stand. The stand is made from recycled plastic and it’s all made in the USA.

Available from good retailers for around $20.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine and Andy Smith of Geocaching World.

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