RHP Multimedia MirrorCase for Sneaky Snaps

RHP Multimedia MirrorCaseAfter years in surveillance industry, RHP Multimedia have gone out on their own with MirrorCase, an iPhone case for taking sneaky photos. Andy and Courtney take a peek with John Palmeri.

Taking a photograph with a smartphone (or any camera for that matter) is somewhat obvious and there are times when you’d like to be a little more discrete. The MirrorCase is an iPhone case with an angled mirror which allows a photo or video to be taken when the iPhone is held horizontally. A free camera app is included which has a “boss” mode, showing a fake app screen with a flick of the finger.

The MirrorCase is on pre-order at the moment for $80, with deliveries expected before the summer. An iPad version is in development.

Interview by Andy McCaskey and Courtney Wallin of SDR News and RV News Net.

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Second Line App for Smartphones from Line2

Line2 PhoneIf you’ve ever wanted a second line on your smartphone but don’t have a dual SIM phone (and let’s be honest, who does?), you’ll be interested in this app from Line2. Andy and Don get a demo from Peter on what the app offers.

The Line2 app provides a second line by using a VoIP connection over 3G or wi-fi. All the features of a telephony service are present with a phone number, voicemail, text messaging, call-forwarding and so on. There’s also HD audio if you are calling another Line2 user.

Being a data service and able to use wi-fi means that it’s possible to send and receive calls where there’s no mobile phone signal but there is a wireless connection. SIM-less devices such as iPod Touches or wi-fi-only tablets can become phones too.

Available for both iPhone and Android, monthly subscriptions start at $9.95 a month.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and RV News Net, and Don Baine, the Gadget Professor.

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PrivacyStar Blocks Unwanted Smartphone Calls

PrivacyStar LogoAs on-line marketers transfer their cold-calling attention away from land-lines to cell and mobile phones, their calls are becoming increasingly an annoyance when you are out-and-about. PrivacyStar offers a multilayered solution for Android and Blackberry to cut unwanted calls. Andy finds out more.

PrivacyStar is a smartphone app to block unwanted calls and SMS texts. At its simplest, user-specified phone numbers can be blocked to prevent calls or texts coming through and bothering you. The app also features SmartBlocking which blocks the top 25 numbers blocked by other users in the past week, so if there’s a major calling campaign on, those numbers pretty quickly get blocked.

Other features include CallerID lookup, where if the phone doesn’t know who is calling, the app consults with an on-line directory and displays the caller. For really persistent callers, complaints can be filed directly with the FTC.

The app is currently only available for Android and Blackberry, an iPhone version will be released before the summer. The app is free for a week and then $2.99 per month after that.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and RV News Net.

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iOnRoad Warns Drivers of Danger

As well as being a really bad pun, iOnRoad is an augmented reality app that helps car drivers become safer drivers. Courtney gets into the fast lane to find out more about this app which was awarded a CES Innovation Honoree prize.

Available for Android smartphones now and the iPhone soon, the app uses the smartphone’s camera, GPS and accelerometer to provide warnings and guidance to car drivers as they drive. By looking at the white lines, the car in front and correlating data from the GPS and accelerometer, the app can warn about lane departures, tailgating and speeding. The iOnRoad includes a couple of other features, including reading text messages and a car locator.

Obviously the phone has to be mounted on the dash with a view to the front of the car, but you can test the app using the video here. The app is currently free with a charge of $9.99 to be introduced in the future.

Interview by Courtney Wallin of SDR News.

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PaySaber Point-of-Sale Terminal for iPhone

POS PaySaberAndy chats to Matt from PaySaber at CES‘s Showstoppers about their iPhone-based point-of-sale (POS) solutions.

The PaySaber is a portable handheld POS terminal sled that incorporates a barcode reader, card swipe and thermal printer into the unit. An iPhone or iPod Touch slots into the PaySaber to provide the screen and the wireless communication for the transaction.

The flexibility provided by the iPhone allows credit processing in the normal way, but gives additional benefits such as emailed receipts. From the moment the card is swiped, the whole transaction is encrypted and secure, so the credit card information is never transmitted in cleartext. As you’d expect from any POS system, PaySaber can be configured to interface with inventory systems to automatically deduct items from stock as a sale is completed.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and RV News Net.

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Remote Monitoring/Home Automation

For several years, there has been a small but dedicated group of people experimenting in the world of what has been dubbed home automation. Until now, this field has been fragmented with clunky, often expensive products that don’t integrate well and often make the consumer jump through multiple hoops to even get them to work.

In a recent article I talked about installing a Nest remote-controlled thermostat in my house. The Nest thermostat has so far proven to MORE than live up to the promises made by its manufacturer. The Nest thermostat was remarkably easy to install and makes it amazingly easy to remotely monitor and control my home heating/air conditioning system via iOS or my Android smartphone. Once installed, the Nest simply works. The Nest is worth every penny of its $249 dollar price tag.

Now that I’ve lived with the Nest a while, I’m more excited than ever about the possibilities of remote monitoring, remote control, and home automation.

What I want next is a remote camera system that works with the absolute ease of the Nest thermostat and Nest app combination. The ideal remote camera system would offer at least 4 network-connected weatherproof cameras along with a controller/app system that could be set up with the no-muss, no-fuss ease that the Nest thermostat offers. I want to be able to open an app on an iOS or Android device/smartphone and have my remote camera views simply show up, perhaps with the ability to pan, zoom and tilt individual cameras if I wished right from within the app. Furthermore I don’t want to have to worry about firewalls or port-forwarding to try to get past my home router or ISP firewall

I would also like to be able to use my iOS device or Android smartphone to be able to remotely monitor my refrigerator.

Now that most of us are equipped with smartphones, I see a huge opportunity for a company or companies to step into the home automation/remote monitoring arena and fill the void. The standard to meet revolves around ease-of-use.

Invoxia VoIP Desktop iPhone Dock

Invoxia Logo

Todd talks with Eric from Invoxia about their latest office product, a stylish dock that converts iPhones and iPads into a VoIP desktop phone. Winner of a CES 2012 Showcase Engineering Award, it’s really quite stunning.

The NVX 610 can use Skype or a SIP telephony provider and control of the desktop phone is via an app on the iPhone which uses Bluetooth to communicate with the dock. The unit has built-in speakers, creating a hands-free phone and a music dock all in one.

Available on-line now for $599. Cool but pricey.

Invoxia nvx-610 Desktop Phone and iPhone Dock

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Official CES Android App

2012 International CES CES 2012 officially starts on Tuesday January 10 and runs through Friday January the 13th. CES started in 1967 with 200 exhibitors and 17,500 attendees it has grown 10 fold since them. It now has over 2,000 corporate members with booths in 17 different categories spread over 6 halls. If you are going and you have an Android phone I recommend you download the official CES Android app.

You can check the location of the various exhibitions that you plan to visit and then see their locations on the floor map. You can also add your own schedule to the app. It allows you to enter a title, time of event, location and notes. You can see who the keynote speaker is for each night and when and where they will be speaking. It also gives you a list of the various events and who will be speaking at them. Twitter set to the keyword CES is integrated within the application, so you can keep up with the latest CES news without having to leave the application. There is also a travel and hotel tab within the app which allows you to make hotel and flight reservations. You can also check the various shuttle and monorail schedules and routes.

There are some problems with this app. If I was going to CES I would want to be able to tap on an event and automatically add it to my schedule. You can’t do that with this app you have to add everything manually. Also the maps are view only, you can’t mark booths or add notes. You can’t add notes to events either. To add friends you have to exchange 6 digit code, which seems a little old fashion. Despite these problems I still think this is a valuable app if you are going to CES.  The app is also available on the iPhone and iPad.

Nest Remote-Controlled Learning Thermostat

As an over-the-road truck driver, I spend most of my time traveling. For many years, I have set my home thermostat when I’m away to 45 degrees in the winter and 95 degrees in the summer. The idea is to prevent frozen plumbing in the winter and to keep things from literally melting in the heat of the summer.

This system has worked quite well over the years, with one big drawback. When I do come home, it can take several hours to bring the house to a comfortable room temperature.

For the past couple of years I’ve been looking for a simple remote-controlled thermostat solution that would allow me to remotely change the temperature via the Internet at home several hours before getting home so that I come home to a comfortable house that is neither too hot nor too cold.

There are a number of Internet remote-controlled thermostats available, but none of them has excited me much. Most of them are downright clunky and require one to jump through a number of hoops just to get them to function.

Enter the Nest Learning Thermostat available at www.nest.com. The Nest thermostat is the brainchild of Tony Fadell, Founder and CEO of Nest. Mr. Fadell led the team that created the first 18 generations of the Apple iPod and the first three generations of the iPhone. The Apple design philosophy is clearly reflected in the simple, clever design of the Nest Learning Thermostat. Obvious care and incredible attention to detail went into the design of the Nest. Like Apple products, the Nest simply works. The Nest has a satisfying tactile feel to its build quality. A lot of thought also went in to the packaging, which results in a very Apple-like un-boxing experience.

The Nest can easily be remote-controlled via iOS and Android apps. The apps are tied to a user account the owner creates at www.nest.com. Once the apps are linked, it’s easy to bring up the app and view or change the Nest’s temperature setting. The design of the Nest allows it to easily sidestep typical ISP firewall issues. Again, the Nest design simply works without making the owner jump through a bunch of hoops.

The acid test was with my Mom, who just turned 87. While Mom has been using a computer and cell phone for a number of years, she questioned me as to whether she or Dad would be able to run the Nest. The answer is an emphatic “Yes!” Walk by, and the Nest’s display automatically lights up displaying the temperature setting. To raise the temperature, rotate the outside ring to right, and to lower the temperature, rotate the outside ring to the left.

More complex settings can easily be accessed by pushing the outside ring, very much like a mouse click, and rotating the ring to select various options.

If you are in the market for a remote-controlled learning thermostat that can help you cut down on your energy bills, I highly recommend the Nest Learning Thermostat.

My Tree Lot Finder: Find Your Perfect Christmas Tree

My Tree Lot Finder

My Tree Lot Finder

Looking for that perfect holiday tree? The lots seem to pop up within 24 hours of Thanksgiving. But which one do you go to?

A new application has hit the Android market. My Tree Lot Finder ™ can help you find the best tree lots; those “Mom and Pop” lots that use quality trees for best selection. That way, you don’t have to search for hours to find that perfect tree.

The app helps you not only save time and money by locating the perfect tree, but also gives you care instructions for your new purchase. That way, if you are a N00b when it comes to trees, you don’t have to act like one.

“Have you ever headed out after dark to find that perfect tree?  Kids in tow?  The first lot you go to had nothing but dead and dried trees,” says Wayne Irving II, creator of My Tree Lot Finder. “ Wouldn’t it be nice to know where the next tree lot to you is?  So you are not driving further than you have to?”

You can search trees by Zipcode or just scour the map within the app. Target a lot and get driving directions. It will also let you know where the tree farms are and where the non-profit lots (like Boy Scouts, fund-raising lots, etc) are located.

Some lots also have other amenities, such as selling ornaments or if the tree farms have other cool events like hay or pony rides, if they also offer things like Yule logs, wreaths or more.

The application is only available for Android at this time. The parent company – Iconosys - is a member of the National Organization for Youth Safety (NOYS).