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.

IF This Then That Comes to the iPhone

IFTTT Today If this then that (IFTTT) came to the iPhone. If you are not familiar with IFTTT, it is an automator tool for the Internet. For example I use Feedly and Pocket and I use an IFTTT recipes that sends any article I save on Feedly to Pocket. There are hundreds of recipes that users have created on IFTTT from the very simple to the very complex. If you find yourself doing the same thing over and over again on the Internet that can be described as If A happens then Do B then you need to take a look at IFTTT.

Previously IFTTT was only available through the desktop. Today it was released to as an application to iOs, specifically for the iPhone, although it will work fine on the iPad. The app has added Contacts, Photos and Reminders function to IFTTT adding more recipe possibilities. I have already set one up that sends any photo I put in a specific iPhoto album automatically to Flickr.

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The bad news per Gizmodo is the app has to be active on the iPhone for the recipe to work. Unfortunately Apple doesn’t allow apps to run persistently in the background. This means that if you want to use a recipe you will have to open the IFTTT app first and then proceed. This kind of removes the automatic part of the equation. This problem will not exist on Android which does allow apps to run in the background. Despite this I do think it is worth downloading and giving the IFTTT app a try.

Videolicious

I’ve been playing around with video recording and editing for a number of years. One constant with video editing that can always be counted on is that it’s editing video is time-consuming.

That is all about to change. Enter Videolicious, a FREE video app for iOS. This is an amazing app. Videolicious makes it possible to produce short (up to about 50 second) videos in a tightly-edited, documentary style complete with background music and voiceovers.

You start by recording short video clips. I do this all the time – I have my own name for them – “video snapshots.” I take plenty of short video clips, generally following the “rule of thirds” for good photography and holding the camera as steady as possible, compensating for the cheesy fixed iPod camera lens by getting in close and using angles as much as possible to create visual interest.

Once you have up to 10 video clips, you are ready to quickly put them together into a movie in Videolicious. Step One in Videolicious is to select the video clips or still photos from the iPod (or iPhone or iPad) Camera Roll. Touching the thumbnail in the sequence you want to talk about the clips and photos will number them. You can have up to ten per video.

Once You have selected your clips and/or photos, you move to Step Two. Record up to a 50 second long video of yourself talking about the clips, ideally in the order you numbered them in when you selected them in Step One.

Once you have recorded yourself talking about the clips and/or photos, Step Three consists of selecting background music. Videolicious comes with six background tracks though you can also select any other track present on your iPod. I suggest sticking with one of the tracks that comes with Videolicious, since these are public domain and will keep you out of trouble with the copyright police if you share your video publically on sites such as YouTube or Facebook. Once you have selected your track, the video will quickly render into a final *.MOV file, ready to share with the world.

The remarkable breakthrough with Videolicious is that it has predefined parameters that it follows in order to create a tightly-edited final result. Playback starts with video of you talking and then quickly cuts to the scenes you have selected in the order you selected them. Still shots automatically have the so-called “Ken Burns” effect applied. At the end of the video the shot cuts back to you ending your description of the clips, resulting in a brisk documentary style video that takes what would have been boring clips by themselves and makes them into visual elements of your spoken story discussion of the clips.

It is possible to produce a tightly-edited, to-the-point video in just a few minutes and share that with the world, which is an amazing accomplishment.

Videolicious is not a replacement for traditional video editors. It is a way of placing video clips into bins where the software itself decides makes most of the editing decisions. Videolicious spits out surprisingly watchable, entertaining results in a matter of a few minutes. This is a task that can easily take hours with traditional video editing tools.

Pocket Computers As Learning Devices

Normally I have very little interest in games. However, a friend got me to install an app on my iPod called “Words With Friends,” an iOS/Android cross-platform app that allows games between people and utilizes push notification to let you know when it’s your turn to play. This allows for asynchronous play in spare moments.

That caused me to start thinking about other possibilities. I searched the Apple iOS App Store for the term “vocabulary” and found quite a number of different apps, both free and paid, that are designed to help the user master words for purposes such as taking an SAT or GRE test. Or, as in my case just enjoying myself. I know, I know, it’s weird, but I enjoy perusing words and their meanings.

After experimenting with a couple of free apps, and a “lite” version of a paid app, I ended up buying a $4.99 app called “GRE Smart Vocab.” One thing I really like about the app is that it figures out your level of progress and deliberately concentrates on helping you learn words that you don’t know or have trouble remembering the meanings of. The app has two alternating modes, a study mode as well as a quiz mode.

Even though you may be penurious or feeling impecunious, acquiring vocabulary apps such as these will fill your torpid, vapid, prosaic hours with a turgid, torrid plentitude of fun.

Smart Phones Getting Smarter

Smart Phones Getting SmarterWith my recent purchase of the Sprint HTC Evo 4G, I’m on my third smart phone. It’s been quite an interesting ride.

The first one was an HTC PPC-6700, running Windows Mobile 5 with the original incarnation of Alltel EVDO, integrated WiFi, and a slide-out keyboard. The phone had terrible battery life, and the operating system was sluggish. I personally found the slide-out keyboard to be next to useless, and it’s presence made the phone too thick. On long phone calls or with intensive data usage, the phone could get hot enough to cause it to lock up or reboot without good ventilation. Nonetheless, I kept it for a couple of years, passing it on to one of my younger brothers when I was done with it.

Smart phone number two was a Sprint HTC Touch. It had the same sized screen, but was much thinner and sleeker. It had a bit better battery life than the 6700, but not by much, and no WiFi. The operating system was still a bit sluggish. Sprint and HTC upgraded it to Windows Mobile 6.1, and with the integrated GPS chip, it functioned with the included Sprint GPS Navigation software, which is actually quite good. For about a year and a half, I used this phone as my podcast aggregator (with a paid aggregator app) and playback device, which actually worked reasonably well. A $20 dollar keyboard app gave me an iPhone-style onscreen keyboard to replace the next-to-useless software keyboard included with Windows Mobile. I used this phone up until a few days ago, keeping it for about two and one half years.

Enter now the Evo 4G. I have to say this is probably one of the most impressive, satisfying gadgets I’ve ever owned, and that’s saying something. Compared to the HTC Touch, the Evo is about ¾ of an inch longer and ½ an inch wider and about the same thickness as the Touch. The Evo’s large touch screen is spectacular, and the Android operating system is extremely responsive and smooth regardless of how many apps I have running. The integrated WiFi hotspot is fantastic and works incredibly well, though it can cause the need to reboot the phone after downloading about 1.5 gigabytes of data. The Evo stays very cool while in use.

My conclusion? The best computer is the one that’s in your pocket.