Pocket-Sized Big Screen TV

Lumex_Picomax_SmartpodPocket-Wouldn’t it be cool if you could carry around a big screen smart TV in your pocket?

Actually, that is now possible.

I recently purchased a Lumex Picomax Smartpod pocket pico projector via Amazon.Com. A pico projector is a miniature pocket-sized projector that typically has a built-in battery that can also be operated off of AC household current. Pico projectors can produce surprisingly bright, crisp projected images and traditionally have been handy for people who are traveling and need to give presentations.

What sets apart a “smart” projector from a regular projector is the same things that set a smartphone apart from a feature phone, or a smart TV apart from a regular TV. Smart projectors include not only connectivity such as WiFi and Bluetooth but also come with a built-in operating system such as Android that includes access to the Google Play Store. With the Google Play Store comes video streaming apps such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime Videos, YouTube, etc., etc.

 

Projected_80_inch_imageThis is a picture of a streaming movie projected onto an 80 inch screen in a darkened room. The photo was taken from about 25 to 30 feet from the projection screen.

I drive a truck over-the-road, so with the Lumex Picomax Spartpod projector I can easily connect it to my MiFi hotspot and project a 45 to 50 inch screen onto a blank wall area of my truck’s sleeper. I connect the projector to a high-quality Bluetooth speaker for excellent stereo sound. Watching a 45 to 50 inch image is a much nicer experience than watching the same material on a much smaller iPad Air screen. It also has the added advantage of extreme portability so I can easily carry it with me and use it in a motel room.

The projector is about the size of a Roku or Apple TV box. It also has a variety of other built-in connectors, such as mini HDMI, VGA, Micro SD Card and standard 4 pin USB port. It uses Texas Instruments DLP chip and the light source is a 20,000 hour LED lamp. The projector comes with a small remote control, and also has a touchpad built-in to the top of the unit itself.

The unit will run about an hour and a half to two hours on the built-in battery. It outputs a 70 lumens when running on battery power and automatically jumps up to 100 lumens when connected to the included AC adapter.

It produces a bright, colorful image. The native resolution is 800 x 480, so it is not 720p, but 480p widescreen.

The WiFi and Bluetooth connect and stream flawlessly.at the same time. While the integrated touchpad mouse works okay, I prefer to use a wireless three button mouse. I plug the mouse dongle into the standard USB port on the side of the unit and the mouse instantly connects. With this configuration along with a wireless keyboard it could easily be used as a computer. There is a small integrated fan that runs when the unit is running in order to keep things cool internally. The fan is actually very quiet and doesn’t produce much fan noise at all.

I do have a few criticisms of the unit. First, the manual focus seems a bit sloppy. It is easy to rotate the knob past the optimum focus. When rotating back the knob will rotate freely about half a turn before it starts moving the focus back in the opposite direction, making it difficult to zone in back and forth to obtain the maximum sharpness.

Also, the integrated touchpad does not include mouse buttons like an actual mouse does. It is possible to scroll vertically running your finger along the black vertical dotted line along the edge of the touchpad, but it takes a bit of getting used to. A wireless mouse makes for a much more fluid and satisfying experience.

The tiny integrated speaker doesn’t produce much sound, so it is close to being useless. I strongly suggest using a wired speaker or a Bluetooth speaker for an adequate sound experience. Stereo headphones or ear buds can also be used.

Despite my criticisms I am quite happy with my purchase. The Lumex Picomax Smartpod WiFi projector currently sells for $399.97 on Amazon. It really is like being able to carry around a big-screen smart TV in my pocket.

Remote Control Lighting

2-pack-gateway_LRGFor the past couple of years I have gotten interested in home remote access devices and methods. Initially I started with inexpensive remote-access IP cameras. I next moved on to getting the original Nest thermostat, which I still have and has been worth every penny. You can read about my experiences here.

Lately I’ve been wanting to be able to remotely turn lights on and off. Let’s say I come home after dark. It would be nice to be able to turn on a porch light from my smartphone. How to accomplish this?

My initial thought was a Belkin Wemo light switch. However, this presents some problems. The current Belkin Wemo light switch only seems to come in a single switch format, so it would be unusable in a 3 switch in one setup. Additionally, Belkin Wemo light switches and wall-mounted plugs only work with wiring schemes that have a so-called “neutral” wire as part of the wiring mix. I know nothing about home electrical wiring, preferring to leave that to the professionals, so I’m not sure it would work with my home wiring.

My next thought was the Phillips Hue lighting kit. The Phillips Hue would certainly work for what I was trying to accomplish, but it seemed to be rather expensive overkill. The Phillips Hue kit of 3 bulbs and the controller sells for $200, with additional Hue bulbs priced at $60 each. Sure, the Phillips Hue can display up to 16 million colors, as well as connect to really cool services such as If This, Then That, but that really seemed a waste for exterior deck lights.

I continued to look, and I ran across an even better solution on the Home Depot website. Home Depot currently sells the TCP Connected Smart LED Light Bulb Starter Kit with (2) A19 LED Light Bulbs for $79.97 which is substantially cheaper than the Phillips Hue 3 bulb kit. They also sell the TCP Connected A19 bulbs sell for $16.97 each on their website. The TCP controller which must be plugged in to an Ethernet port on the home router can handle up to 50 bulbs each.

Initial setup of the TCP light kit is a breeze. I installed the TCP LED light bulbs into the external deck light fixtures. They are the same size and shape as a traditional incandescent bulb so there was no problem making them fit in the fixtures. They initially perform exactly the way you would expect a light bulb to perform, turning them on and off with the wall switch. Next, I simply plugged in the TCP controller bridge into an unused Ethernet port on my router with the supplied Ethernet cable, and plugged the controller bridge into power. Next, I downloaded the TCP Lighting app to my smartphone (there are both Android and iOS versions). Making sure my phone was connected to my home WiFi network, I ran the TCP Lighting app.

TCP Lighting AppThe first time the app is ran it will pop up with a login screen. You initially click past this screen leaving the fields blank. The app then quickly finds the TCP controller bridge and the TCP LED light bulbs.

Next, I was able to name the lights. During the individual light naming process with the bulbs turned on, they will automatically dim to let you easily identify which bulb is which.

The final step was creating an account on the TCP server, right from within the app. It asks for an email address and a password and quickly creates an account. This allows remote control of my TCP lights anywhere I have a data connection literally anywhere in the world.

I installed the TCP Lighting app on another mobile device, and all I had to do to get it to work was to enter my TCP account credentials into the initial app login screen.

The app also includes the ability to schedule the lights to automatically be turned on and off. The bulbs can also be dimmed from within the app.

The TCP A19 LED bulb produces a warm color temperature similar to conventional incandescent bulbs. They also put out about 800 lumens which is close to what a conventional 60 watt bulb produces. They are rated for 25,000 hours of use.

From an external network, the bulbs will respond to on and off and dimming commands with about a half a second delay which is more than acceptable.

Also of course, the wall light switch must be left in the “on” position in order for remote access to function.

So, problem solved at a more reasonable price than either the Phillips Hue kit or 2 Belkin Wemo WiFi wall switches which wouldn’t have worked anyway since I need a 3-in-1 wall switch version.

 

Switch Lighting LED Lamps

Switch Lighting Co.LED lamps are undoubtedly one of the most energy efficient ways of producing light, but even then the conversion from household AC to low voltage DC creates extra heat that needs to be dissipated. Switch Lighting Co have developed a technique that not only keeps the lamps cool but provides are more natural diffuse light. Todd and Don are illuminated by Gary Rosenfield from Switch Lighting.

Switch’s Infinia lamps are filled with a liquid silicone solution that distributes waste heat throughout the bulb, letting heat leave from a larger surface area. The warm white (2700 K) light is diffused over 300 degrees as well and the lamps can directly replace traditional 40W and 60W bulbs with equivalent Infinia bulbs of only 10W and 6W. The lamps are on-sale now with the 60W bulb available for around US$15 from good retailers nationwide.

Interview by Don Baine, the Gadget Professor and Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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QisDesign Designer Lighting from BenQ

QisDesignBenQ aren’t really known for their designer lighting but this is what Bob Wudeck brought along to Don and Todd at CES. BenQ has a range of about forty different lights and lamps sold under the QisDesign brand, and on show is a beautiful flexible table LED lamp. Inspired by the human spine, the Hatha LED table lamp won a series of design awards, including a Red Dot Design Award in 2012. It’s definitely designer lighting with a ticket of price of $450 and this is one of the cheaper ones!

BenQMore ordinarily for CES, Bob also brought along a BenQ GP20 projector. This 700 lumen HD projector is designed for cord-cutters and watching video rather than execs and Powerpoint slides. The HDMI input is ideal for connecting up a Roku for Netflix viewing and it’s quite portable at only 22 x 62 x 18 cm. Bob says in the video that it’s only 720p, but the specs at BenQ say 1080p; worth clarifying before shelling out around $700. It’s a nice little unit.

Interview by Don Baine, the Gadget Professor and Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Review: Striker Magnetic Light Mine

IMG_20130312_072601[1]

Despite not actually being in attendance at the Consumer Electronics Show, I was not immune to the fever as I covered the great videos being fed to the writing team here at GNC. One company in particular caught my attention — Striker was offering a couple of very cool little devices at even cooler prices. In short, writing about that interview ended up costing me a bit of money.

I purchased two different items, but I will get to the other one in a future review. Today I wanted to cover the Magnetic Light Mine — named such because of its resemblance to a World War II mine. The tiny protrusions each have a magnet, but they also provide stability that lets you rotate it and shine the light in virtually any direction, from a magnetic surface or just a tabletop or floor. It has a 360 radius.

The Magnetic Light Mine is about the size of a golfball, but has a high output, wide angle, intensely bright LED that does an adequate job of lighting up a workspace, especially handy for the underside of a car hood or the inside of an electrical panel door. Personally I purchased two and plan to use them mostly for my son and I’s camping trips, since they will take up almost no space in a backpack.

The light comes for only $6.99 from Striker, and there is a larger version that retails for around $20.

IMG_20130312_123206[1]

Switch Lighting

Switchlighting Switch Lighting was the winner of CES Innovation Award for Design and Engineering Award a CES 2013 for their latest LED three-way bulb,

What makes the Switch bulbs special is that they are filled with liquid silicon. This helps to keep them cooler than most LED bulbs. Because they are cooler the Switch lighting bulbs can be used in places that other LED bulbs can not like enclosed areas. Switch bulbs work like an incandescent light bulb, they are dimmable and spread the light out broadly. The newest bulb that won the award is the first three-way LED bulb.

Switch is based in California. Their bulbs range from $40.00-$60.00 and are available through speciality retail store. Their bulbs should last up to twenty-five years and are recyclable. At this time Switch Lighting mainly sells to businesses and government organizations.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine and by Scott Ertz of F5 Live: Refreshing Technology.

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Verbatim Demos LED Bulbs at The Gadget Show

Verbatim LED LightsVerbatim are best known for their data storage products and I can remember having piles of Verbatim floppy disks back in the day, as it were. Younger readers will know the company for blank DVDs, memory cards and USB memory sticks but Verbatim have recently launched an LED lighting business.

Offering direct plug-in replacements, the goal is to encourage consumers to replace existing incandescent lights with LED-based equivalents. The power savings can be considerable with 60 W bulbs being replaced by LEDs closer to 10 W in power.

Verbatim LED Lighting Demo

At The Gadget Show Live, Ian tells me more about Verbatim’s LED lighting products and why we should all switch over.

GNC-2012-03-29 #754 Tech News and Info

How many hours a week do you work, I read that working more than 49 hours a week is excessive.. I guess I have been working excessive hours for the past 30 years… Full stack of Tech News and Info. Heads up will be looking for someone to do the show on Monday as I do not think I will get into Indy early enough to do the show.

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GNC-2012-01-30 #738 The Voice

End of the month show, big Thank You to our sponsors and Thank You for supporting them. Starting to implement some hardware upgrades here in the studio we will see how they work out. If you have not checked it out yet be sure to listen to our live audio stream available 24/7 see sidebar links here on the website.

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Sony TV is Splitting to Three – LCD, Outsourcing, Next Generation TV

Sony

Sony

Sony announced that starting tomorrow, they will be re-organizing their TV division into three parts. The LCD TV, outsourcing, and next generation TV divisions. The idea is to better define the market to make better TVs.

Sony missed their July-September results last Wednesday, and analysts outlook is going to be under 200 bn yen (2.63 billion). It’s an eighth annual loss, Reuters reports.

Sony and Samsung Joint Venture in Jeopardy?

The LCD division is a joint venture with Samsung. As Market Watch is reporting, Sony might end this alliance that they had since 2004. Since LCD is changing to LED technologies, it is unknown how this partnership will stay fruitful.

Outsourcing Project

The outsourcing division is just that – certain TV parts are outsourced to reduce production costs. Sony began outsourcing in 2009 – which was odd for the electronics giant to do.  By outsourcing, they were able to compact their factories to bring profits up.

Next generation TV division researches the current trends of the TV. From Over the Top Television standards, to screen resolutions, OLED technology and sound breakthroughs.

Sony and Google TV

Of course, earlier in the week, Google announced upgrades to Google TV (which Sony produces for televisions and Blu-Ray players). With a better interface and the additional Android market, it breathes new life into the TV. While last years launch was not heralded, Google hopes this revamp will get Google TV in the right direction. Therefore, Sony could see a good bump in the market.

Whether this split will provide stability is to be seen. The division shakeup will happen on November 1st.