MyIDKey brings secure passwords to USB storage

One of the companies that GNC had the pleasure of meeting at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month was MyIDKey, who introduced a new biometric USB stick (thumb drive), meaning you will be using your fingerprint to unlock the device. The new drive is a bit small, but it does pack some powerful data protection, more so than we have seen in the past from such products.

While only storing 2 GB, it is mainly used for user name and password storage, meaning that the file size should be good enough for even the most demanding power user. The drive also has a tiny microphone and LCD screen, making it easy to search for a service for easier access.

This USB drive is a great alternative to web apps like LastPass. It is expected to ship in the second quarter of 2013 and retail for $99. There is also a 16 GB version for $199. Head over to MyIDKey to pre-order one.

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

ChargeDR claims it can boost USB charging time

If you have ever charged a device like a smartphone or tablet from a computer USB port then you have quickly realized how much longer it takes versus a wall outlet. There is a substantial power output difference between the two. Now a company has unveiled a new dongle at the Consumer Electronics Show that it claims will help fix this problem.

ChargeDR from Digital Innovations claims that it is designed because computers have less than half the power for charging smartphones and less than a quarter for tablets.

ChargeDr USB Charge Booster

Until this can be tested by users it remains a steep claim, especially since the company loves to talk watts, but to my understanding amps are just as important. In other words, there may be a bit of snake oil in this claim.

The product is currently listed as “coming soon” on the web site and no price is given. GNC will attempt to get one for independent testing of the claims.

UPDATE: I have spoken with Digital Innovations and will be receiving a ChargeDR for testing and review.

WiebeTech UltraDock v5 Review

Over the years I have owned a number of devices that allowed me to connect a bare drive to a computer. I have box full of these types of devices as they where always one off solutions. This past week I have had been reviewing the WiebeTech UltraDock v5.

This dock is incredible! I can connect to bare 3.5 & 2.5 Sata Drives, 3.5 IDE drives, 2.5 Notebook drives, 3.5 & 2.5 Sata, 1.8 Toshiba Drives, 1.8 Zif Drives, USB Drives and the best part is I can connect it to my PC or Mac via Serial ATA, Firewire 400/800, USB 2.0 or 3.0 . But this dock is what I would call “smart” it has a LCD display that gives you details about the drive you are connected to, capacity, error, warning messages and other relevant drive info.

The LCD screen was invaluable to me as I had a box of drives of various types and I was able to connect to drives that I had failed to be able to do so in the past with other docks. This allowed me to clean up some drives that I had not been able to do so in the past.

Wiebetech has stated the the v5 version of the dock is substantially improved over the v4 version. They say that it has an upgraded chipset and faster host connections (USB 3.0, eSATA, and FireWire 800), and is 24% faster than its predecessor with benchmark speeds of up 211.9 MB/s

A cool feature is that if you have drives with a Host Protected Areas (HPA’s) or Device Configuration Overlays (DCO) you can now create, modify or remove the areas. Programmers may want to modify or upload their very own builds.

This dock is priced at $249.00 but I found the price to be justified as they have developed this into a docking solution that works both on the Mac and Windows operating systems. The LCD screen in my opinion is one of the best features. Being the dock is compact and versatile in being able to connect to nearly every format it is worth every penny. Do not forget the speed factor with data transfer clocking in at 211 Mbps this bad boy screams.

BTR006 Bluetooth Audio Receiver Review

BTR006 Bluetooth ReceiverA2DP Bluetooth rarely comes as standard in cars except on prestige marques, but most new vehicles at least come with a 3.5 mm audio socket on the audio system for plugging-in mp3 players. If you want a quick and cheap way to upgrade the car’s audio to Bluetooth, take a look at he BTR006 Bluetooth Stereo Receiver.

The BTR006 is a small plastic rectangle just a few millimetres deep (45 x 33 x 8 mm). It has only one button for on/off, an activity LED, a DC power socket and a 3.5 mm audio jack on the end of short lead. It’s a doddle to use: charge up, connect the jack into the 3.5 mm audio socket, pair with smartphone and starting playing music from your smartphone through the audio system. Simples!

Audio quality is perfectly acceptable given that it’s Bluetooth anyway and the receiver successfully paired with every device I tried it with. The receiver supports both Bluetooth 2.1 with both A2DP and AVRCP.

There’s an internal battery that’s good for 12 hours according to the spec, which is probably about right based on my experience. I get a whole week of podcast listening which means somewhere over ten hours based on weekly commute and other travel. Contrary to some reviews, it is possible to charge and use the device at the same time. The confusion arises as connecting the charger does turn off the BTR006, but turning it back on again lets the receiver charge and play at the same time.

One of the best features is that it automatically powers off when the Bluetooth connection is lost for a few minutes so the battery doesn’t run down when the car is parked and not in use. Obviously the receiver has to be turned back on, but that takes seconds to do.

BTR006 Installed in Car with Velcro

Unless there’s a convenient nook or cranny in your vehicle, the BTR006 will hang down from the audio socket, especially as the lead isn’t very long. Of course, the easy solution is to use Velcro, with a small strip on the back of the BTR006 with a matching strip on the dashboard. The BTR006 can be easily detached for charging at home or in the office via the supplied USB charging cable. Here’s what it looks like installed in my car….yes, I probably should have cleaned the dash before taking the picture.

Note that the BTR006 does not have a microphone so it’s not possible to use it for hands-free calls but regardless this is an excellent buy to play music through your car’s audio system via Bluetooth.

Available from Amazon for around £15 or $28 – just search for BTR006. Disclaimer – I bought this device personally.

iLuv DualJack Review

Its pretty hard to get excited about cables, after all most of us probably have a drawer full. I know I do, but I am always looking for ways to dual purpose cables for when I travel or to simple clear the clutter. The iLuv DualJack helps me out in both of those goals.

The iLuv DualJack  is a combination sync and charge cable for Apple devices and most smartphones. Whats cool is the cable has a standard USB Jack on one end, then a Hinged jack on the other that has both the Apple 10 Pin connector and a Micro USB all in one.  The cable is 3ft long an USB 2.0 compatible. It retails on the iLuv site for $29.99. Nice dual purpose cable to have in my travel bag.

 

Audi-Branded IDAPT Charger

Both Todd and I are fans of IDAPT products; our reviews of the i4 and the i1 Eco are elsewhere on GNC. They’re great products that reduce the number of chargers, cables and general clutter lying around the house.

IDAPT has also shied away from only offering their products in black and white, with the i4 available in a raft of finishes, from solid colours through to funky patterns. Admittedly, they cost a bit extra over the black and white versions but at least they’re an option.

Taking this further, I recently noticed that IDAPT has created a few promotional versions in conjunction with Audi. I snapped this one up from ebay last week. Apart from the graphic, it’s a standard i4 universal charger, with three charging points on the top and a USB socket on the side. There’s a second version featuring a rev counter but I’ve not seen one of those at an affordable price.

IDAPT Audi

I subsequently found the Audi Merchandise Shop but the chargers don’t seem to feature there at the moment.

Perhaps IDAPT could offer a version that you could customise yourself, maybe with pictures of your family or similar. For a device that is often on display in a hall or study, it would be a nice touch.

 

Power Sockets with USB Charging

Last week I was at a trade show for electrical wholesalers and I came across these single and double power sockets with a USB charging point built-in.

Power Sockets with USB

As soon as I saw them, I thought, “Those would be handy…” and then I saw the price…£62.74 for the single and £76.60 for the double socket and they’re trade prices too (ex VAT). In US money that’s $99 and $120 respectively. As Todd would say, “Are these guys smoking crack!?” Who in their right mind would pay that kind of money for a built-in USB socket and a single USB socket at that? I can only hope that it’s a pricing error or a multi-pack.

With a bit of searching, I subsequently found another company that charges a far more reasonable £15 for a single socket and there are doubles going on ebay for £30 which is still pricey enough.

From the specs, it would appear that 1A is the rated current which will be fine for most phones and mp3 players, but tablets will take their time to charge.

For those who despise wall warts and power bricks, it’s a neat way to go, but make sure you aren’t paying over the odds.

IDAPT i1 Eco Universal Charger Review

The Idapt i1 Eco is the portable member of Idapt’s family of universal chargers: by using the same interchangeable tips as the dual and triple versions, the usefulness of the system is extended from the home to the car and travel.

Idapt i1 Eco Universal Charger

If you aren’t familiar with Idapt, their system offers a wide selection of charging tips that are snapped into a charging station which has anything from one (i1 Eco) to three (i4) changeable charging points. The benefit is that the charging station can be uniquely customised to your mobile device usage. For example, your phone might have a micro-USB connector, your iPod has an Apple connector and your Nintendo DSi has its own connector. By using the relevant tips, all three devices can be charged at once. Geek News Central reviewed the Idapt i4 earlier in the year.

Within this context, let’s take a look at the i1 Eco. Out of the box, you get a the i1 unit itself, a mains power connector, a USB power connector, a car USB adaptor and three charging tips – mini-USB, micro-USB and Apple.

Idapt Charging Tips

The main unit takes only one of these at a time, but there’s an additional full-size USB port on the side, so two devices can be charged simultaneously.

The i1 Eco can be powered either from the mains or from a USB power source: the cables interchange at the lime green coloured multi-connector. As you can see from the picture below, these are standard connector types, namely micro-USB and IEC “shotgun”.

The power transformer is incorporated into the body of the Eco 1 so there’s no “wall wart”, only an ordinary plug on the end of the cable. The advantage of this will become clear shortly and when buying the i1 Eco, UK, USA or Euro mains plugs can be specified.

Power cable

At the other end of the Eco 1 is the socket for the charging tips. These pop in and out and are exactly the same as the ones used in the tabletop models, which is handy if you have invested in a range of tips.

Tip Socket Tip Inserted

The USB socket on the side is used to charge a second device via a cable, which is best used for tablets or other larger devices which can be unwieldy to connect on the end of the i1 Eco.

i1 Side Shot

As might be guessed from the name, it’s intended to be a green charger. The packaging is all recycled cardboard and the body of the i1 Eco is made from recycled plastic. Even more unusual is the presence of a power button on the side of the i1 Eco, which is there to help save energy.

Most consumer electronics chargers don’t have an on-off switch and most gang extension sockets don’t have on-off switches either, which means that to fully turn off a charger, it has to be pulled out of the socket, which is pretty inconvenient and most of us don’t bother. The chargers continue to consume power even when there’s no device being charged and this power is completely wasted.

The i1 Eco eliminates this problem by having an on-off switch and by automatically powering off when the recharging gadgets are fully charged. This is a great feature and as a result, no power is wasted when gadgets are connected but fully charged and the Eco 1 can be safely plugged in all the time.

Overall, it’s all very clever, useful and green to boot!

Are there any downsides? There are a couple but nothing too serious. First of all, the USB car adaptor that goes in the cigarette lighter socket is a bit flimsy and lets the overall package down. For comparison, the Griffin PowerJolt is a far better adaptor.

Secondly, the auto-power off feature is sometimes a bit over-enthusiastic. On occasion I’d connect up my tablet (Motorola Xoom 2 ME) to charge and I’d come back later to find that the i1 Eco had switched off while the tablet was still only part charged. Other times it worked perfectly with the tablet and I had no problems with other devices (Bluetooth headset, mp3 player, ereader). To be fair, the included literature does mention that some smartphones can be incompatible with this feature so I guess this includes tablets too.

Update: Idapt contacted me to say that with troublesome devices, simply hold the on-off button down for about a second when turning the charger on and this reduces the auto-off sensitivity. I carried out some further testing of the i1 Eco with the tablet and can confirm that this solution works so problem solved. Thanks, Idapt.

The i1 Eco is a clever and flexible portable charging solution that will particularly appeal to those who have already bought into the Idapt way and have a full set of charging tips.

The i1 Eco is available from Idapt for £19.99 and extra tips are mostly £5.95.

Thanks to Idapt for providing the i1 Eco for review.

Veho Mobile Gear at The Gadget Show

Pebble Power PackVeho probably isn’t the first name that springs to mind when thinking about gadgets but they have a sizeable range from miniature video cameras to digital photo frames and Bluetooth headsets. In the UK, their products are sold in the main big boxes – PC World and Currys.

On Veho’s stand at Gadget Show Live, I played with a USB microscope which showed magnified images on the PC screen. Perhaps a little limited with just two magnification levels (20x or 200x) but good fun nevertheless.

In this interview, James Farmer from Veho takes me through some of the Veho range, including their Muvi miniature DV cameras, Pebble portable battery packs and Mimi wireless speakers. I really liked their Pebble range of battery packs as they had a lovely smooth shape, like the original Palm Pre.

 

IDAPT Universal Multichargers at The Gadget Show

The need to charge today’s mobile gadgets on an almost daily basis is one of the downsides of faster processors and bigger screens. Although companies like Palm have tried to introduce inductive charging, most gadgets need to be simply plugged in. This leads to the proliferation of wall chargers and a mess of cables.

IDAPT‘s solutions bring order to the chaos with multi-device chargers that have interchangeable charging tips to suit the device being charged – smartphones, portable game consoles, tablets, digital cameras, even rechargeable batteries.

The i4 can charge three devices on top with a fourth on the side (right) and the i2+ takes two on top (bottom left). The i1 eco is a portable charger (middle) and only charges one device but is made from recycled plastic.

IDAPT Charging Units

The bright yellow IDAPT S1 Universal Speaker is shown below with an iPad but it’s device agnostic and uses Bluetooth rather than the device connector to transmit the music. I’ve been looking for a decent speaker dock that works with something other than an Apple device so I’ll be taking a hard look at this one.

IDAPT Loudspeaker Dock

I chat with Myles Pomfret, IDAPT’s country manager at The Gadget Show Live to find out more about these versatile chargers.