Tags in Mavericks

One of the updates that was touted with the coming of Mavericks are Tags. Tags can be used for both files and folders. When you first open up the Finder window, the tags are in the side bar. To change a name of a tag, hit Control click and then hit the Rename option. You can also change a name by going up to Preferences and then Tags and click on the name.

Only six tags will show up when you Control click on an item. These are your favorite tags. To change your favorite tags, in the Finder Window go up to Preference than Tags and drag the tags you want into the box at the bottom. To remove a tag from the sidebar simply control click on the tag and hit remove tag. This will just remove the tag from the sidebar, if you want to delete the tag altogether hit control click and then delete tag. You will get a warning that this will remove the tag altogether, so make sure that is what you want.

When you save an item, you are given the option to tag the item. You can either tag it with an existing tag or add a new tag. There is a couple of ways to add a tag to an existing item. The first is to highlight the item in the Finder Window and then click on the symbol in the tool bar that has the circle in the rounded rectangle and add the tag. You can also highlight the item hit Command I to pull up the information screen and tab down to the Add tag block and add the tag. To search for items with a specific tag you can enter the tag in the Finder search window or pick it from the sidebar. Strangely you can’t search for tags using Spotlight, maybe that will come in the future. It will be interesting to see how much tags are used. Some people have to have everything in a specific file or folder or they feel unorganized. I use to be that way, but the problem I ran into was I am terrible at name things and then remembering what I named them. By using tags I know longer have to worry about this, I simply search for an item by the tag. Personally I think I will be using the new tagging option, what about you.

Moxytronix CordCruncher Earbuds Review

Moxytronix‘s CordCruncher earbud headphones are the latest attempt to defeat that bane of modern life, knotted and twisted audio cords. These tangle-free headphones solve the problem by using a secondary rubber tube to retract and hold the cords when not in use. Cunning.

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The headphones come in a small pack, with three pairs of different-sized interchangeable earbuds. I would imagine that anyone who is used to wearing earbuds will have no problems here. The CordCrunchers are available in a range of colours, included a very hot pink which the photos below completely fail to reproduce – it’s a gamut thing.

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The picture above shows the CordCruncher in the retracted state with all the cord inside the rubber tube – it’s only about 18″ long. To use the headphones, hold the jack end and pull on the earbud cords, drawing the leads out of the tube to a full length of over 3 feet. The picture below shows the Crunchers with the cords extracted. The zigzag gives a clue as to how the cord “crunches” up inside the tube.

Headphones extracted

To pack the earbuds away, hold the jack in one hand and then pull the black collar away from the jack. The rubber tube is latex and stretches enormously until the cables are back inside. Gently relax and everything concertinas back up to the original length, tucking all the cables away. It’s not that easy to explain, so here’s a video.

After using the CordCrunchers for a week or two, I can confirm that they actually work and tangled cords are a thing of the past. I carried these round in my sports bag during testing and I never had a single tangle. Yank them out, stick them in your ears and get to work.

Sonically they’re not the greatest earbuds ever and in comparison with Sennheiser CX-300s, the sound is muddy and poorly defined. To be fair, the CX-300s cost about twice the price and audio fidelity isn’t the main reason for buying the CordCrunchers. However, I hope that Moxytronic do consider a higher end model in the future for those who demand more.

Pricewise, they’re around US$25 and here in the UK, they’re being sold by Advanced MP3 Players for a £19.99 in a range of four colours (pink, green, black and blue).

Finally, my six year-old daughter thought they were cool, which is probably more to do with the pinkness than anything else.

Thanks to DAD and Advanced MP3 Players for providing the CordCrunchers for review.

Verbatim Dual USB Power Pack Review

Verbatim LogoVerbatim will be known to many older geeks for their floppy disks but since the demise of this market, Verbatim have branched out into newer media, products including lighting and water filters, and accessories such as USB power packs. Verbatim have an extensive range of rechargeable packs from 1,200 mAh up to 10,000 mAh and on review here is their Dual USB Power Pack with a 5,200 mAh capacity.

First impressions are good. The Power Pack comes in attractive, easy-to-open packaging that doesn’t need to be attacked with a pair of scissors. Inside is the Power Pack, a short USB to micro-USB cable and instructions. The USB cable is only 10 cm long and can be used for both recharging the Power Pack and charging other devices. Some might quibble about the length of the cable but I think it’s handy and avoids all the disentangling. Besides, I have loads of long cables should I need one.

Power Pack Top View

The body of the unit is about 7 cm wide and 11 cm tall. Depth is 1.7 cm and tips the scales at around 175 g. The top and bottom faces are covered in a soft-touch rubber coating and the middle section seems to be metallic-looking plastic. On the bottom, there are four small nubs for feet and the top surface has four blue LEDs and a small button. Pressing the button for a couple of seconds illuminates the LEDs to show battery charge level.

Verbatim USB Ports

Round the edge are three USB ports, 2x standard and 1x micro-USB. The latter is used for recharging the Power Pack and the former for charging other devices. In common with similar products, one port is rated at 2.1 A (port A) and the other at 1 A (port B). However, unlike some of the Power Pack’s competitors, both USB ports can be used to charge while the device itself is being recharged.

The Power Pack is a 5,200 mAh unit which Verbatim suggests on the packaging will recharge a smartphone 2.5 times. My experience with recharging a Nexus 4 (2,100 mAh internal battery) is that this isn’t too far from the truth. Further, the blue LEDs are good guides to the battery level – consider each LED as 25%, so all four is 100%, three is 75% and so on. Below is the obligatory screen shot from Battery+ showing the charging rate for a Nexus 4, which is pretty much the same as charging from a mains charger.

Nexus 4 Charging

In summary, the Verbatim Dual USB Power Pack is a fine little unit. The soft touch rubber coating gives it a slight softer feel and the recharging-while-charging is a worthwhile feature. My only concern is that I think the Power Pack is a little pricey at an RRP of £41.99 and there are other models out there that offer more capacity for less money (but do watch out for those batteries which can’t charge and be recharged at the same time). As this is a brand new product, no “street price” has emerged but something around £25 would make the Dual USB Power Pack value for money.

Thanks to Verbatim who kindly supplied the Power Pack for review.

Jazooli’s Portable Tablet Desk Stand Review

For some time I’ve been looking for a decent desk stand to hold my 10″ tablet but all the ones tried so far have some annoyance or niggle. Usually the stand wouldn’t work well with the tablet still in its case, but others would be bulky, flimsy, only for the iPad or just plain rubbish. The good news is that I think I’ve found the answer in the shape of Jazooli‘s “Portable Lightweight Universal Foldable Desk Stand“. They’re fibbing a little with the “lightweight” but in all other respects this is a good product. It’s solid metal, folds up, has two positions and works while the tablet is in its case. Perfect!

When folded up, the Jazooli is nice and slim, fitting neatly into a little pouch. At 200g, it’s not what I would call lightweight but the mass does mean it’s not easily knocked over.

Jazooli Folded

There are two ways that the stand can be stood up. Here it is in the upright position, which is good for viewing movies or keeping an eye on Twitter.

Jazooli Upright

For typing on the tablet, the stand has a reclined mode, aka “I-dont-want-everyone-else-in-the-office-to-see-I’m-on-Facebook-instead-of-working” mode. This position works well with ultrabooks, notebooks and small laptops to give an angle to the keyboard.

Jazooli Lying Back

There’s an extra smaller leg that pops out from the main support – it’s more obvious in this close up. The metal finish is better seen in the image too.

Jazooli Close-up

Finally, here’s what the stand looks like with a 10″ Android tablet on board. Note that the tablet is still in its case.

Jazooli Stand with Tablet

 

In summary, Jazooli’s portable foldable desk stand is currently my favourite tablet stand. Obviously your needs may not be the same as my needs but as it’s currently available from Amazon.co.uk for £5.99 and from Amazon.com for $2.55, it’s hard to go wrong!

[Disclosure: this was a personal purchase]

Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro Review

The Samsung ATIV Series 7 Smart PC Pro is a Windows 8 hybrid: a touchscreen tablet that that slots into a keyboard, converting the tablet into a laptop. Sounds like a great idea but how well does it work in practice? Let’s get it out the box first – apologies for some of these photos, there was a bit too much reflection in the office.

ATIV Smart PC Pro Box

ATIV Pro PC tablet

The ATIV Smart PC is a big tablet. This is not unsurprising as it comes with an 11.6″ screen but here’s what it looks like next to a Motorola Xoom 2 which has a 10.1″ screen. And the extra size translates into weight. The Smart PC is 888g without the keyboard and it nearly doubles when the keyboard is added. For comparison, the Xoom 2 is 599g and Series 3 Chromebook is 1.1 kg.

Smart PC Pro v Xoom 2

The Smart PC has a good selection of ports and controls around the outside of the tablet. Most of the ports have small covers, which while maintaining the tablet’s sleek lines, become a bit of pain when it comes to plugging stuff in and out. On the left, there’s the volume rocker and and a mini HDMI socket. Along the top, there’s a headphone jack, on/off button, rotation lock button, USB 3 port and microSD slot. The right-hand side is bare except for the stylus silo at the bottom. Yes, the tablet supports Samsung’s S Pen and it’s pretty nifty. Finally, the bottom edge has the keyboard dock connector and the DC-in socket. To round the peripherals out, the Smart PC has cameras on both the front and back of the tablet, stereo speakers and last, the Windows button.

IMG_20130806_123013

Dropping the tablet into the keyboard dock is easy – it just slots in – and there’s a central eject button on the hinge for when you want to detach the two. The keyboard comes with the two further USB ports, but I don’t think they’re USB 3 as they’re not coloured blue.

ATIV Smart PC Pro Hinge

Together, the tablet and the keyboard ought to be a smooth, cool looking unit but the presentation is let down by various conformity declarations for the FCC, CE and others. Of course, Intel and Microsoft have to get their stickers on too and while those can be peeled off, the declarations are etched onto the case itself. The overall presentation of the device when closed up is unattractive and a disappointment. Honestly, it looks like the back of a desktop monitor.

Smart PC Pro Back

On the plus side, the hinge mechanism is positive and sturdy. When open, the keyboard is tilted at a very slight angle which makes it more comfortable to use. Keyboard is good and the touchpad is one of the newer button-less kind, which I found easy to use.

IMG_20130806_123358

Running Windows 8, the ATIV Smart PC is smooth as it should be, being powered by a 1.7 GHz Core i5 processor paired with an SSD. Animations are slick, the Live Tiles look great and apps are generally snappy. Regrettably Windows 8 is still the confused merger of a desktop and tablet OS but that’s hardly the Samsung’s fault so we’ll not hold that against it. What is surprisingly good is the S Pen, Samsung’s active stylus.

The S Pen stylus is a stubby affair reminiscent of a short ballpoint pen but the unflattering looks belie its usefulness. Simply, it makes “desktop” Windows 8 useful on a tablet as it provides the accurate pointing and clicking that would otherwise be delivered by a mouse. Without the S Pen, legacy Windows apps are at best, hit-or-miss, and at worst, a exercise in total frustration. The S Pen changes that completely. Further, Samsung have bundled their S Note app which takes full advantage of the S Pen, letting the user write notes and sketch on different pad designs. It’s a bit like a really colourful (skeumorphic?) version of Evernote. Handwriting recognition converts scrawls into text and the accuracy is pretty good. I was impressed.

Pricewise, the version with a 128 GB SSD and 3G connectivity costs nearly £1200. Dropping the 3G and the SSD to 64 GB will knock £200 off, as will losing the keyboard, setting the entry level model at about £800 (prices from Amazon.co.uk). Ultimately, the ATIV Smart PC Pro is an expensive and heavy tablet that will only appeal to those who absolutely need full Windows 8-compatibility. Anyone else will buy an iPad or Android tablet for about half the price. The S Pen is cool, but it’s not enough.

[Disclosure: The ATIV Smart PC Pro was not supplied by Samsung for review.]

Sleep Time by Azumio Review

Sleep Time I work from home, and although I don’t have a required schedule I like getting up around the same time each weekday morning between 5 and 6:00 AM. My goal is to get between seven and seven and half hours of sleep. Anything less than that I feel like a zombie all day and anymore then that my day always seems out of sorts. In order for me to get up this early consistently I need to use an alarm clock. The trouble with most alarm clocks is that they tend to jar you awake and you get “that where am I feeling.” It then takes several minutes to feel normal. The solution I found to this problem is an app call Sleep Time by Azumio.

Sleep Time is available both in the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store. With Sleep Time you set the time you want to get up and the alarm goes off by default within 30 minutes from when you set it. You can adjust the window of time under Settings then Wake Up Phase from thirty minutes down to zero minutes (which has Sleep Time working like a normal alarm). If you set the time period for anything other than zero then Sleep Time will wake you up during that window at a time when you are in light sleep status. This way you will wake up feeling refreshed and rested instead of like a zombie. Under settings you can change sound of the alarm or set it for vibrate only. You can also change or turn off the snooze time under settings.  Sleep Time measure your sleep status by using the phones accelerometer which measures how much you are moving. Sleep Time also keeps a record of how you have slept during the night, showing how much you were awake, in light sleep and in heavy sleep.

I like the Sleep Time app and have been using it now successfully for several months, however it is not without it’s faults. The first is that in order for it to work properly you must have it laying next to you on your bed. If you sleep with another person or animal Sleep Time will still work as long as you keep it close to you. It is also recommended that you keep the phone plugged in so the battery doesn’t go dead. So if you don’t sleep near an outlet you are kind of out of luck. Also some people may feel uncomfortable sleeping with an electronic device so close to their head. The second issue is if you are a restless sleeper there is a chance you could knock your phone off your bed. The final issue is that on rare occasions I have had the app freeze up on me, but this doesn’t happen very often. Despite these issues I like the Sleep Time app and would recommend it to anyone who is looking for an alarm clock.

Ouya Review

Ouya My Ouya finally came late yesterday afternoon. First a little background from me, I am not a gamer, I have no hand to eye coordination so I am not very good, but I enjoy playing them. I have been without a gaming console for a couple of years now and I miss not having one. I had thought about buying a Xbox 360 or a Playstation 3 but I couldn’t bring my self to pay $400 to $500 on a console that I knew was going to be replaced in a short time. When I heard all the noise about the new gaming console that was a Kickstarter project called Ouya I became intrigued. So, at the beginning of April after the Kickstarter project had become successful I preordered one. The email I received from Ouya stated that I would not receive the console until June, which was fine with me. I was aware how Kickstarter worked. However I have to admit when yesterday rolled around and I started seeing articles that the Ouya would be available for purchase at places like Amazon, Best Buy, Target and more I was a little upset that I hadn’t received mine yet. I was therefor very happy when my husband came in with it, saying it had been thrown in the bushes.

The Ouya comes in a small box about the size of a shoe box but slightly narrower. In the box you get the console, one controller, a power cable, a HDMI cable and a brief instruction book. The Ouya console itself is quite small. It is only three inches by three inches by three inches and is square with a rounded front. The console is made of plastic, but feels fairly solid and heavy for it size. There is a fan on one end and the power button on the other end. On the back there is a HDMI port, a power input, an ethernet input and a USB input. I was actually pleasantly surprised that a HDMI cable came with the console, although it is fairly short. The controller, which is bigger then the console does feels cheap. You can tell that it was made from a mold. The buttons on the controller are placed similar to how the Xbox controller is set up. Because it is so large and I have small hands (although normal I think for a women) it does feel a little awkward to me.

The setup went fairly smoothly after and initial hiccup. Because the Ouya is black I didn’t see the power button on the front, so when I first plugged the Ouya in and connected it to my monitor and nothing happened I was quite upset. I even tried a different outlet and still nothing. I was getting ready to send it back, when I took a closer look at it and noticed the indentation on the front face and when I pushed it the power came on. A simple red line around it to indicate power would have been appreciated. That problem solved the rest of the set up went fairly quickly and without a hitch. It does take some time since it has to be updated with the latest firmware. During the setup process you do have to provide a credit card number so you will need to have one available. Once setup is done you have to pair the controller. I had no problem with that once I figured out that the batteries went into the wings of the controllers. I have noticed also that the controller loses its pairing with the console occasionally. Not when playing a game but when I restart the console I will sometimes will have to reconnect the controller to it. Once you fire the Ouya up the first screen you will see is the management screen on it there is an option to play the games you have already chosen, discover new games, make a new games (if you are a developer) and manage your account, and the system.


Most of the games you will find on the Ouya are not ones you will recognize, unless you play a lot of independent games. However there are some that will feel familiar to you even if the names are different. There is one called Polarity which is a lot like Portal and another one called Puddle which reminds me of World of Goo my iPad. There were a some games I did recognize like Final Fantasy III, You Don’t Know Jack and Canabalt. I played a little bit of a couple of games, including Polarity and Puddle and everything seemed to work fine. The reaction time between when I pushed the button on the controller and the movement on the screen was a little slow, but not terrible. If this had been a $500 machine I would have said it was pretty bad, but for $99.00 it is fine. That is the one thing I would tell anyone who buys a Ouya  to remember is that this console only cost you $99.00 and if you compare it to an Xbox 360 or a Playstation 3 you will be highly disappointed. However if you remember that it is a $99.00 console I think you will have a lot of fun playing the games that are available on it. You may even find some independent games that you really like. Overall despite the few problems, so far I am happy I purchased the Ouya. If you are looking for a gaming console you can play on your TV and it will not break the bank, then the Ouya is worth a look.

New Trent iCarrier IMP120D External Battery Review

The fast processors and large screens of modern day smartphones draw power like it’s going out of fashion. A battery that would have lasted several weeks in the Nokia 6210 now struggles to get through a day of calls, email and web surfing. And that’s before starting to play Ingress.

Desktop chargers have their place but sometimes it’s not possible to get back to a power outlet to plug in. External battery packs and chargers fill this space and on review here is the New Trent iCarrier IMP120D external battery and charger. With a 12,000 mAh battery, it’s roughly 6 times the capacity of a smartphone battery and 3 times the size of a 7″ tablet’s. Physically, it’s around 9 x 9.5 x 2.5 cm and there’s bit of weight to it at 280g / 10 oz but it fits comfortably in the hand, especially with the soft curved edges of the iCarrier.

New Trent IMP120D

As the pictures show, it’s not unattractive for a battery pack and gets away from the standard rectangular brick. The black plastic enclosure has a blue central band with just four features – an on-off button, a power input socket and two USB ports. The on-off button lights up when charging  and a short press of the button briefly shows the iCarrier’s charge level using three blue LEDs for low, medium and high.

New Trent IMP120D - front

Two USB sockets obviously allow two devices to be charged at once. One socket is rated at 1 A and the other at 2.1 A, which practically means that you can charge a phone and a tablet at the same time. In the box along with the iCarrier, there’s an AC wall charger, a USB to microUSB charging cable, a charging cable for Samsung devices and a soft carry pouch. Contrary to the “i” moniker, the iCarrier will charge anything that will charge from USB, not just Apple devices.

Unlike some other devices, it’s possible to charge both the iCarrier at the same time as it charges other devices, which means that when travelling, only the iCarrier’s charger needed to get everything charged up overnight – the battery pack plus two other devices. The iCarrier does take a good few hours to get itself charged up, which given the larger than average battery isn’t to be unexpected. There are some other handy features too. For example, the iCarrier automatically shuts off once attached devices are fully charged.

In use, the iCarrier can be simply used as a backup battery pack to recharge phones or other devices when their internal batteries get low. More usefully, the iCarrier can be used to extend the life of portable equipment such as personal wireless routers. My MiFi can run for a couple of hours on its own battery, but connect it up to the iCarrier and I can get a whole day of use out of the hotspot without any trouble at all.

Overall, the iCarrier is a very handy gadget, essential for any heavy smartphone user or frequent traveller. It’s competitively priced at around $70 in the USA or £40 in the UK. Recommended.

Disclosure – The iCarrier IMP120D was a personal purchase.

G-Technology G-Drive Mobile Review

On review today is the G-Technology G-Drive Mobile, a 1 TB mobile external hard drive. Aimed squarely at the Apple MacBook crowd, the brushed aluminium finish and white LED compliments the host machine, and the combination of both USB3 and FireWire 800 show its Mac heritage. Of course the drive can be formatted for Windows or Linux use but the G-Drive is pre-formatted for HFS+ and is TimeMachine-compatible. As expected, the G-Drive is bus powered so there’s no power adaptor.

G-Drive Mobile

 

G-Drive Mobile Ports

The G-Drive Mobile has a couple of touches that set it apart from the other mobile drive offerings. To start with, it comes with all the cables that might be needed, so in the box there’s a USB3 cable, a FireWire 800 cable and a FireWire 400 to 800 cable. There’s no getting the box home only to find the cable need for your setup is missing.

G Drive Mobile Cables

Second, the packaging presents the G-Drive to best effect and the “Getting Started” instructions are printed on the inside  lid of the box. Again, it comes back to appealing to the Apple crowd who expect good design.

G-Drive Package

But enough of how it looks. How does it go? Pretty well actually. Connected up to USB 3, the G-Drive Mobile recorded the following data rates:

– hdparm gave 107 MB/s for buffered disk reads.
– dd gave write speeds around 105 MB/s.
- bonnie++ gave 104 MB/s for writes and 141 MB/s for reads.

I’m fairly sure that those figures make G-Drive Mobile the fastest USB3 unit tested, beating the previous holder by a considerable margin. Under FireWire 400, the figures were obviously slower, but are provided here for comparison.

– hdparm gave 36 MB/s for buffered disk reads.
– dd gave write speeds around 22 MB/s.
– bonnie++ gave 22 MB/s for writes and 55 MB/s for reads.

Price-wise, the model here costs £129.95 but if you want USB3 only, there’s a much sleeker and cheaper version at £109.95 in the Apple store. However, if you need FireWire with USB3, the model viewed above is hard to beat, giving historical compatibility with older gear while also offering fast data transfers on newer kit.

Thanks to G-Technology for providing the G-Drive Mobile to review.

Yamaha RX-V373 5.1-Channel AV Receiver Review

Yamaha RX-V373Recently my old Kenwood receiver gave up the ghost. It was time to replace it anyway, it was so old that it had a connection for a tape deck and a laser disc player. So over the holiday I picked up a Yamaha receiver, model RX-V373. This is part of the RX-V series of receivers. It is a basic receiver, but it has all the inputs and capabilities that I was looking for.  It has the following input and outputs.

  • 4/1 HDMI inputs/outputs,
  • 2/1 components inputs/outputs,
  • 4 composite video and audio inputs
  • 1 composite video and audio output.
  • 2 digital audio inputs (optical)
  • a USB jack
  • 1 headphone jack
  • FM and AM connection

You can connect an iOs device to the USB jack and the receiver will recognize the music on it. You can than play and control the music through the receiver, using the receiver’s remote control. The receiver will also recognize the music on a USB drive. Since I don’t have a iOs device I haven’t been able to test the iOs capabilities. I did connect a USB drive that had some music it on it. I could view what was playing and do basic functions, like play, pause, forward and rewind. Everything was in text and there was no album art. Using the digital audio input and a Toslink cable I was able to connect my Mac Mini to it. Now I can listen to my music library in full stereo.

As I said before this is a good basic receiver. However if you are looking for a smart receiver that you can connect to your network and has more advance capabilities this is not the receiver for you. If you are looking for a new receiver the Yamaha RX-V373 is currently available on Amazon for $249.95.