Category Archives: wifi

LIFX Color 1000 Smart Bulb Review



If you are looking for a last minute Fathers’ Day present then an LIFX smart bulb might be just the thing. Getting into smart lighting can be expensive as there’s often an additional wireless hub to control the lights but LIFX have taken a different approach with their lamps as each one connects via WiFi. There’s no Z-Wave or Zigbee here. The folks at LIFX kindly sent one of their smart bulbs for review, so let’s take a look.

LIFX offer four different bulbs, in a combination of two shapes and colour v white only. On review here is the Color 1000 in the A19 size (BR30 is the other size) in a UK variant with bayonet cap. A screw cap is also available and interestingly works across US and UK voltages.

LIFX Color 1000 in box LIFX Color 1000 in box

In the box, there’s the light plus instructions. In addition to the physical light, an app needs to be downloaded from the appropriate app store to your smartphone or tablet. Apps are available for Android, iOS and Windows.

The bulb itself is solid, weighing in at 243 g and measuring 117 mm tall and 63 mm wide. It’s no lightweight.

LIFX Color 1000 LIFX Color 1000

In common with most “IoT” Wi-Fi devices, there’s a two step setup process that the app takes you through. When first powered up, the light will create a small Wi-Fi network that your smartphone connects to. Using the app, you can then configure the bulb to connect to your home’s Wi-Fi, selecting the SSID and providing the passcode. Both the smartphone and bulb disconnect and reconnect as normal to the Wi-Fi network. With the configuration out of the way, you can now start to have fun.

During the setup, you need to create a username and password which you generally don’t need to use unless you are going to use the bulb with other smart home gear, such as Samsung’s SmartThings. More on this later.

As an aside, during my setup, the bulb needed a quick firmware update which all happened automatically and painlessly, though it did delay getting going by a few moments. Good to see that it’s easy to keep the bulbs up-to-date.

The LIFX app provides all the tools you might expect to manage bulbs in a smartly-lit house. Bulbs can be collected into names spaces, such as “bedroom” providing quick access to multiple bulbs based on location. Obviously in this example I only had one room.

Screenshot_20160609-001949 LIFX Colour Wheel LIFX White Wheel

The bulb can be switched between colour and white modes depending on you mood, with a straightforward wheel to choose the desired hue. The brightness can be controlled too using the control in the middle of the wheel.

LIFX White LIFX RedLIFX Greeen

LIFX say that the Color 1000 puts out a little over 1000 lumens which is equivalent to a 75 W incandescent bulb. It was definitely a bit brighter than my Philips Hue colour bulbs, though I did notice that the Color 1000 got fairly warm too and will consume 11 W at full brightness.

Fiddling around with the LIFX Color 1000 is tremendous fun and children will love co-ordinating with their favourite Disney colours. You can imagine the colours generated from Frozen…. There’s even a special effects mode which has selections like “Spooky”, “Flicker” and “Color Cycle”. Themes sets up preset colours for easy access and schedules can turn lights on and off automatically it’s all simple to use.

Contrary to my original review, the Color 1000 can be controlled from outside out of the premises. Using my mobile phone and 3G only, it worked as if I was at home, turning the light on and off, changing colours and so on. Great if you want to use the LIFX as a security light and turn it on when you are unexpectedly late coming home.(I’m not sure what went wrong the first time I tested and it didn’t work, but I can only assume it was a temporary connectivity problem from outside my home. It definitely does work – sorry LIFX.)

In addition to being able to control the bulb via the native app, LIFX have put some work into integration with connectivity from Nest, IFTTT, “Ok Google”, SmartThings, Echo and Logitech’s Harmony. I tried it with Samsung’s SmartThings and it was very easy and straightforwad. Select LIFX lights in SmartThings, stick in the username and password created during setup, and job done with the Color 1000 appearing in SmartThings for control.

In summary, the LIFX Color 1000 is a good choice if you want to get into smart lighting at a reasonable cost – the UK price of the bulb is £59.99. Admittedly that’s still not cheap and it is £10 dearer than the equivalent Philips Hue but you don’t have to buy the Hue Hub at £50 before you get going. LIFX have future-proofed the investment with their integrations, so if you get into smart lighting and then smart homes, the LIFX Color 1000 can still be used as part of the system. The Color 1000 is a big bulb so if there’s a particular lamp that you want to use with it, just check the bulb’s going to fit.

The LIFX is available from Amazon and other online retailers. Thanks to LIFX for the Color 1000 to review.


Devolo dLAN 550 Doubles WiFi



Devolo LogoPowerline specialists Devolo have given their mid-range adaptors a makeover, boosting speeds and updating the styling in line with the top-end models. The new dLAN 550 series takes over from the 500s, offering greater in-house range and faster WiFi transmission rates.

dLAN 550 WiFiThere are two powerline adaptors in the 550 series, the Duo+ and the WiFi. As might be guessed, the Duo+ is the wired version and WiFi is the one with wireless. The wired range has been boosted by a third from a notional maximum of 300m to 400m, though this will be affected by local circumstances.

The most noticeable change is likely to be with the WiFi unit. The wireless speed has been doubled, going from 150 Mb/s in the old 500 to 300 Mb/s in the new 550, courtesy of 2×2 MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) technology.

550 adaptors can easily be added into an existing dLAN powerline setup either using the Cockpit software or simply pressing buttons on the adaptors. Further, Devolo’s WiFi clone feature can reproduce an existing wireless network so that laptops and tablets see only one network and seamlessly switch to the strongest signal.

The dLAN 550 WiFi is now available online and in stores. The Starter Kit costs GB£99.99 and consists of a dLAN 550 WiFi and an additional dLAN 550 duo+ adapter. A Network Kit with three adapters (two 550 dLAN WiFi adapters and one dLAN 550 duo+) is available for £149.99, while single adapters for extending the WiFi network are available for £59.99.

GNC will be having a hands-on review of the dLAN 550 Starter Kit shortly.


Keezel Personal WiFi with VPN Security



KeezelVPNs are great for keeping snooping countries, Orwellian agencies and thieving criminals at bay, but they’re not always straightforward to setup and when you have a laptop, mobile phone and tablet it’s a pain to maintain the VPN on each of them. Keezel has a solution in the shape of a personal wifi hotspot which has VPN software baked into the firmware. Daniel finds out more from Aike Müller, Co-Founder and CEO.

The way the Keezel works is that when out-and-about in coffee shops and other public wifi areas, you connect all your personal devices to the Keezel wirelessly. The Keezel connects to the public wifi network, establishes a VPN connection to a secure server and then all your communications travel securely across the network. Neat.

The standard price is US$99 for the Keezel and then $5 per month for the VPN service. The Keezel is currently on Indigogo’s InDemand having been originally 540% funded back in August 2015. There are some special perks available with devices are expected to ship in March 2016.

Daniel J. Lewis is the host of the award-winning podcast about podcasting, The Audacity to Podcast. Daniel helps others launch and improve their own podcasts for sharing their passions and finding success.

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TP-Link announces the first 802.11ad router



Talon-AD7200One thing that can be counted on in the world of technology is progress. Yes, everything in the world moves forward, but some is faster than others and this field is one of them, advancing at a seemingly exponential rate.

Just when you thought you’d seen the fastest routers one comes along that will blow the doors off of it in terms of speed.

That honor currently belongs to TP-Link who has announced an 802.11ad router. Yes, that’s faster than the ac standard recently being promoted.

The Talon AD7200 packs speeds of up to 4.6Gbps on 60GHz bands and Qualcomm Atheros’ 802.11ad wireless technology.

“Qualcomm is continually investing in new, innovative technologies to meet the increasing bandwidth demands resulting from overcrowded networks”, says Rahul Patel, senior vice president and general manager, connectivity, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.  “We are leading the way with 802.11ac wave 2 with MU-MIMO to improve efficiency in the 2.4/5 GHz bands and now once again are bringing groundbreaking 802.11ad technology to commercial fruition. These technologies combined with the unique features of TP-LINK’s Talon AD7200 Multi-band Wi-Fi Router are designed to improve wireless networking and user experience”.

It will be available early this year, but a price was not announced.


Hunter Ceiling Fans Go Wireless For CES



Hunter Fan CompanyNow this is a cool idea. Ceiling fan inventors, Hunter Fan Co, have introduced Wi-Fi controlled ceiling fans integrated with Apple’s HomeKit for CES. Feeling a little warm? Ask Siri to turn on the fan for a gentle breeze to lower the temperature.

There’s two new Wi-Fi models coming to the market, Symphony and Signal. Symphony has a graceful, modern design and comes in fresh white, while Signal, with its satin nickel housing and reversible wood-finished blades, is a contemporary blend of sleek design and classic finishes. Symphony’s MSRP is $329; Signal’s MSRP is $379. Both fans are available Spring 2016 at online sites such as Hunter FanAmazonBuildBestBuyHomeDepotLowes and Menards. Of course they will be stocked in lighting showrooms nationwide.

Hunter FanAs with all HomeKit-enabled equipment, users can also create custom scenes involving the fans and the built-in lights. For example, one could create a scene to automatically turn on the fan’s light, lock the doors, close the garage door and set the thermostat to the desired temperature in just one step.  For emergencies, users can also set up HomeKit-enabled products to work together based on triggers, such as having the fan’s light turn on the moment the fire alarm detects smoke.

Hunter FanOur ceaseless innovation is why Hunter Fan is the industry leader, and these new Wi-Fi enabled fans, with added support for Apple HomeKit, are a testament to our heritage of progress and originality,” said Hunter Fan CEO John Alexander. “They’re beautiful, affordable, high quality pieces of decor that bring state-of-the-art Wi-Fi technology where it might not be expected: the ceiling fan. As we celebrate 130 years, we have several exciting developments to share with our customers, and are proud to kick off 2016 at CES with Symphony and Signal.

Symphony and Signal were developed in collaboration with industry leaders Ayla Networks and Marvell Technology Group Ltd., which will feature the fans in their respective displays at CES 2016.


Safeguard Against Water Damage with D-Link’s Wi-Fi Water Sensor



D-Link LogoHumans have done much over the centuries to try and control the flow of water around us. And in many parts of the developed world, we’ve created intricate water distribution systems that have helped to create a baseline quality of life unparalleled by anything in history. And while most modern indoor plumbing is generally reliable, sometimes it breaks down, potentially causing all kinds of damage. When plumbing leaks start, a quick response is crucial to avoid excessive water damage. But what do you do when those leaks occur in the middle of the night, while you’re asleep? Or when you’re not at home? D-Link has provided a solution with its new Wi-Fi Water Sensor.

The concept behind the D-Link DCH-S160 Water Sensor is pretty simple. Just place the sensor in an area of concern for potential water problems (near a sump pump or water heater, next to a washing machine, etc.) and plug it into a wall outlet. When the sensor detects water in its vicinity, it will immediately send an alert to the mydlink smartphone app, letting you know you should check out the situation. D-Link’s Wi-Fi Water Sensor can also be paired with a Wi-Fi siren to assure you’re alerted in the event of a water problem.

The D-Link Water Sensor retails for around $75.00 and can be found at most electronics retailers.


Teacher Wants Wi-Fi Removed from Schools



WiFi symbolThere are many schools, all across the United States, that make use of Wi-Fi. There are programs that involve assigning iPads to students. Students and teachers have school related email addresses. Most, if not all schools, have a computer lab. The list goes on. So, why does one California teacher want Wi-Fi removed from all schools?

Anura Lawson teaches English to eighth-grade students at Johnnie Cochran Middle School in Los Angeles, California.

She says that she started getting sick in 2012 after the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power installed a smart meter on her home. She claims that the radio waves that were emitted from the smart meter caused her to become sick. Symptoms included dizziness, migraines, and heart palpitations. At least one of her family members also got sick.

After having the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power remove the smart meter from her home, Anura Lawson said she felt better. An analog meter was reinstalled. The symptoms went away. She, and at least some members of her family, consider themselves to be sensitive to electromagnetic fields.

In 2014, the symptoms returned. Anura Lawson noted that this happened at the same time that Los Angeles United School District installed Wi-Fi at the school she worked in. Long story short, she went to the school board about the situation. In September of 2014, the school board agreed to turn off the Wi-Fi in Anura Lawson’s classroom. This makes her the first public school teacher in the United States to have been granted a health accommodation for electromagnetic hypersensitivity.

The World Health Organization (WHO) did a study on electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) and came to the following conclusions:

EHS is characterized by a variety of non-specific symptoms that differ from individual to individual. The symptoms are certainly real and can vary widely in their severity. Whatever its cause, EHS can be a disabling problem for the affected individual. EHS has no clear diagnostic criteria and there is no scientific basis to link EHS symptoms to EMF exposure. Further, EHS is not a medical diagnosis, nor is it clear that it represents a single medical problem.

As a former teacher, who has very severe allergies, I can understand why someone would want to have something removed from their classroom that they believe is making them sick. I know, first hand, how difficult it is to teach while trying to cope with illness. It makes sense to me to make the “no Wi-Fi” accommodation in her classroom.

However, Anura Lawson is taking things further than her classroom. She has started a petition at MoveOn.org that is titled “Stop Microwave Radiation and WiFi in California’s Public Schools!” It calls for California Governor Jerry Brown, and the California Legislature, to take out the Wi-Fi and replace it with “hard wired internet connections”.

Personally, I think that’s taking things too far. When I was a substitute teacher, I would remove scented air fresheners from classroom I’d been assigned to teach in because those things make me sneeze. I didn’t feel the need to start a petition to require all schools to go without air fresheners.

Image by FutUndBeidl on Flickr.


Devolo dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac Starter Kit Review



Devolo Logo

I’m a big fan of powerline networking and Devolo in particular because it helped me double the speed of my internet connection. It was simple; using one of their adaptors I was able to put my broadband router by my telephone master socket rather than at the end of a long extension lead. In one go, my download speed jumped from around 4 Mb/s to over 8 Mb/s. Result.

Obviously these speeds are trivial in comparison with data transfer rates achieved by gigabit networking and the limiting factor is the internet connection, but where a media enthusiast has set up a DLNA server in a house with multiple playback devices – smartphones, tablets, media streamers, smart TVs, games consoles – significantly higher data rates are needed and this is where the Devolo dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac Starter kit is likely to come in handy. Let’s take a look…

Devolo 1200+

For those who haven’t come across powerline networking before, it’s a way of using a home’s electricity sockets as a network infrastructure. A minimum of two network adaptors are required; plug one into a power socket near the router and connect with a network cable. Plug the other into a power socket near, say, your smart TV, and again connect via network cable. The two adaptors then communicate across the electrical network, connecting the smart TV to the router. It’s that easy.

Opening the box (courtesy of Devolo), there are two network adaptors, two network cables and a getting started guide. As can be seen from the picture, the adaptors aren’t small, but they do have power pass-thru, so there’s no loss of a power socket. Somewhat oddly the bulk of the adaptor points upwards, whereas the older adaptors tend to point downwards and were more discreet. These units are for the UK market, with different plug configurations available for other countries.

Devolo dLAN 1200

Devolo Hard to ReachBoth of the adaptors come with gigabit ethernet ports; there’s one on the smaller unit and two on the larger. The larger network adaptor takes the usefulness of powerline networking a step further with the incorporation of a wifi access point. It’s not just any old wifi either. It’s an 802.11ac implementation meaning that it broadcasts on both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, supporting data rates of up to 1200 Mb/s, which is broadly “state of the art” as it stands.

On the box, Devolo helpfully points out some of the areas where ordinary wifi coverage may be less than ideal, including the smallest room. It gave me a chuckle.

Devolo 1200+ Network Ports

Devolo Adaptor AddGetting going with the Devolo dLAN 1200+ is easy. As these adaptors come pre-paired out of the box, all that needs to be done is plug them in and connect up. The LED “house” light on the larger unit will flash red until connection is made and then go solid white – perhaps taking 20 seconds. Introducing the adaptors into an existing network is straightforward as Devolo has great software that helps with this too.

Devolo provides three ways of interacting with the dLAN adaptors. First, there’s a desktop version of their Cockpit software for Windows, Mac and Ubuntu Linux.

Devolo Cockpit PC

Second, there’s an app for iOS and Android. There are currently two apps for Android, Cockpit and My Devolo, both of which do much the same in terms of the dLAN adaptors, but My Devolo appears to be the newer. The screen shots are from Cockpit.

Devolo Cockpit Devolo Cockpit Devolo Cockpit

Finally, there’s a web interface.

Devolo Cockpit Web

The impressive part about the dLAN1200+ WiFi adaptor is that it isn’t just a wifi extender: it’s effectively a fully featured router with DHCP, access control, parental control and guest setup, along with everything else needed to configure the wifi. If the non-wifi dLAN 1200+ adaptor was connected to a pure cable or broadband modem, there would be no need for any other equipment. Very neat.

Devolo Web

Performance-wise, the Devolo dLAN 1200+ seemed both fast and solid. For over a month, I used the dLAN 1200+ WiFi supplied network services for most of the devices in my house, including smartphones, tablets, ereaders, laptops, a Chromebook, Sky+ TV on-demand, and two Roku media streamers. No problems to report with connectivity or stability. In terms of speed, I was able to stream three different HD movies to three tablets at the same time without any glitching or stuttering.

In closing, there are two features of Devolo’s products that I think set it apart from the cheaper end of the market. First, there’s great backwards compatibility with older products; I was able to use three generations of Devolo products in the one network. Second, their comprehensive management software which is available as an app, application and web service.

Overall, the Devolo 1200+ WiFi ac Starter Kit is excellent. The devices themselves are well-made, though perhaps on the large side but it’s a great setup for those where the the living room is far away from the main router. There are two gigabit sockets on the adaptor for any equipment that doesn’t have wireless, plus fast WiFi for those devices that do. With the option of using the 5 GHz frequency for congested areas or to spread the load, the wireless performance is great.

The Devolo 1200+ WiFi ac Starter Kit is available online at around £160, which isn’t cheap but considering what comes in the box, plus the performance and the benefit of getting wifi where you need it, I think it’s value for money.

Thanks to Devolo for the review unit.


Celestron NexStar Evolution at CES



celestronA few years ago I was lucky enough to visit Kitt Peak in Arizona for an astronomy night and it will be one of the highlights of my life. It was a revelationary moment when I looked up and saw the Milky Way properly for the first time; I was used to seeing a few bright stars with a few more during the cold winter. Nothing prepared me for millions of dots spread across the sky…the stars, like dust…  Jamie and Todd explore the cosmos with Bryan Cogdell from telescope manufacturer Celestron.

At the interview table is the Celestron NexStar Evolution, a portable computerised wifi-operated telescope with built-in rechargeable battery. The telescope itself is a Schmidt-Cassegrain optical tube which can be controlled wirelessly from a tablet (or smartphone) using the Celestron SkyPortal app for both iOS and Android. It’s very easy to use; simply find the celestial body of interest in the app and then the telescope will orient itself to view the galaxy, star or planet of interest. The battery lasts around 10 hours so there’s a whole night of viewing without recharging.

The NexStar Evolution is available now in three variants with 6″, 8″ and 9.25″ mirrors at around $1300, $1600 and $2200 respectively.

Interview by Jamie Davis of Health Tech Weekly and Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Peri Duo Speaker Case for iPhone



Peri Logo

When it comes to smartphones and tablets, there are few mobile devices that produce anything like a decent volume and as for stereo separation, forget it. Fortunately Peri can come to the aid of iPhone owners with the Peri Duo, a high-power wireless speaker and phone charger case. Todd and Jamie find out more from Cedric Sumimoto, co-founder of Peri.

The Peri Duo is a standalone wi-fi and bluetooth-enabled speaker and iPhone charger case all in one. As expected, music can be streamed via AirPlay but the iPhone doesn’t have to be in the case when playing the music, so the Duo speaker can be on the opposite side of the room while the iPhone is safely in a pocket. Even better, more than one Duo can be connected to a phone so one Duo can be assigned as the left speaker and one as the right. Alternatively, one phone can multicast to dozens of Peri Duos, which really gets the party going.

The battery is 2500 mAh which will fully recharge an iPhone once with a bit over, or else the Duo will play music for around 4 hours.

The Peri Duo will be available for the iPhone 5, 5s, 6 and iPod Touch. The MSRP will be $139 though it’s currently on pre-order at $99 via Indigogo. Deliveries are expected from April onwards.

Interview by Jamie Davis of Health Tech Weekly and Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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