All posts by Jack Ellis

RAVPower Portable Power Solution Review

ravA daily pack out of my gear always includes Portable Power, since starting to play Ingress it seems I am usually carrying two power packs. Everyone is making Portable Power packs these days, but not many manufactures are producing power packs that are capable of charging at 2 amps.

The RAVPower RP-PBOZ has the capability to charge at both 1&2 amp on separate ports. It has a 10,400 mAh battery and weighs in a lot less than compareable chargers at 8.04 oz. Compatible with a huge number of devices.

I used the power pack for a couple of weeks and it delivered power without fault to a variety of mobile phones & tablets.

Priced at $37.99 you really cannot beat the price with free shipping available on Amazon.

Vizio Co-Star Review

vizio Co-StarOn the day that the Vizio Co-Star became available for pre-order I ordered one and it arrived late yesterday afternoon. It is small about the size of an Apple TV only thicker. The unit comes with a power cable, a remote, batteries for the remote and a quick start guide. HDMI cables are not included.   ifixit did a tear down of the device and all the specs are available on their webisite

The setup is fairly easily although there is some information you want to have in front of you. There are two HDMI inputs one to attach your cable box, if you have one, and the other one goes to your TV monitor. The Co-star has no sound output, so all the sound has to come from the monitor and what ever sound system that is attached to it. You are now ready to plug the Vizio Co-Star in. The Co-star has no on off button so you have to turn it on and off using the remote control.

Once you have it turned on, it will take you thru the setup process. In order for the remote control to pair with your cable box you may need to input the make and model of the cable box.  Although I was able to pair the remote with my Comcast cable box without having the model number. You can also pair the remote control with your TV, sound system and Blu-Ray Player. To do this you will need the make and model number for each.

During the set up you will quickly notice the limitations of the remote control that comes with the Vizio Co-Star. It has no back light, so it is useless in a dark room.  It hard to type on the keyboard. In order to type a number or symbol you have to hold down the function key while hitting the number. This quickly gets tiring when you are trying to type in a password for a web site. If you have an Android device I would recommend tossing the remote control that comes with the Vizio Co-Star and use the Able Remote which you can download from the Google Play Store.  The Google TV remote app from the iOs also works. However because the Vizio Co-Star doesn’t have an internal or cabled IR blaster the Able or Google TV remote can’t control your regular TV.  I am thinking about getting a USB ir blaster, but I am not sure that would work. Despite these limitation I still recommend downloading one of these apps, if only for the keyboard. I actual like the Able remote the best so far because it is customizable.

Having used the Vizio Co-Star for a day now I am happy I purchased it, however I am not sure it is ready for prime time. Part of the problem there are too many choices and those choices are not always clear. For example there is an app called Made for TV, which if you click on it allows you to easily access sites like CNET, Vimeo, Chow ,etc. However unless you click on it you would never know this. There is a USB input and I tried to attach a USB hard drive to it, but I have not figure out how to get the Vizio Co-Star too read the USB drive. I tried to follow the directions, but it didn’t seem to work. At this point I am probably going to download the Plex app and handle it that way.

The video playback has been very good so far, the only time I have had a problem is on a Web site that had an embedded live Ustream video on it. It kept on freezing, and occasionally crashing. I have had similar problems with the site before on a computer, so I think the problem maybe with Ustream and not the Vizio Co-Star.

I have both the current Apple TV and 1st generation Roku Player and the Vizio Co-Star is definitely replacing the Roku Player. I especially like the fact that I can easily switch from regular TV to TV on the web. You can also easily pull up and use sites like Facebook or Twitter, which is something you can’t do on a Roku Player. Plus the Roku Player buffers a lot and so far I haven’t had that problem with the Vizio Co-Star. I am going to move the Roku to the TV downstairs, where the Apple TV is.  If you are thinking about getting a Google TV, the Vizio Co-Star, at $99.00 is definitely worth a look.

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.

ToughTech Secure Q with WriteLock Review

External hard drives are a dime a dozen, so when I was give the opportunity to review a ToughTech Secure Q with WriteLock 128 Bit AES Encrypted Hard Drive Enclosure by WiebeTech I jumped on it. I consider a great deal of data that I have on my hard drives to be very sensitive. We have vendor contracts, proposals, user data that includes media statistics and a whole host of other material from running a business that would be very damaging if the data was stolen and ended up on the web or in someone possession.

The standard feature set on this drive is extensive. The unit I tested supported both windows and mac disk formats. I had mine delivered pre-formatted for a mac. The connection options included Firewire 800, 400 eSata and USB 2.0. All of the cables need to make those connections where included.  It came with a slot for a cable lock which allows you to provide another level of security to keep the drive from easily walking off.

I have used secure hard drives in the past that required a thumb print to unlock and access, but this drive is different. This drive actually come with a 128 Bit AES key. The key comes attached to a lanyard or key chain and you have to physically plug the key into the specified slot to unlock the drive “no key no access”.

The manufacture at provide you with 3 encryption keys that cannot be re-keyed without additional hardware. So forewarning is in order you loose the key provided your data will no longer be accessible. For business owners one key should go in the safe/safety deposit box, and the others should only be maintained by those you trust implicitly.

One of the best features is the ability to write lock the drive. Lets say you pre-load it with forms and data and you do not want this data changed on the drive in any way. There is a write lock button that once pushed locks the drive down.  If you want to re-enable write access you have to open the enclosure to unlock the drive.

Overall this is a great solution for small business owners that are storing sensitive information that they feel may be at risk from compromise in your office setting. They do have AES 256 bit devices available but due to federal guidelines for selling FIPS approved 256bit encrypted products they are restricted in sales of 256bit products to only approved channel partners.  128bit is available on their website.

Pricing was not readily available on the web site. If your looking for hard drive encryption this is the way to go.  This is a great way to secure that sensitive data you have sitting on a unsecured hard-drive. My advice is buy two units so you also have a backed up copy stored securely.


Wireless USB Audio/Video Adapter Set Review

Over the past couple of days I have been testing the Wisair Wireless USB Audio/Video Adapter set designed to extend your computer onto your flat screen TV or a secondary computer monitor.

If you want a wireless way to hook up your computer to your flat screen TV or a secondary LCD display this is a easy to use product. From the time I opened the box, I had what appeared to be a perfect video on my 32 inch Samsung TV at 1280×720 resolution in about 10 minutes.

This is really slick, does not mater if you have a Windows XP machine with SP3 or a Windows 7 machine you can extend your computer onto a flat screen TV. Please note that I tried using it on my 60 inch projection TV and it really did not work out well, that was to be expected as a projection TV is a whole different animal then a LCD TV.

Hookup is either by VGA or HDMI port. The computer needs to be line of site of the TV within 30 feet. For my testing I had the laptop 23 feet away from the TV and it worked just fine. I did have the connection drop on occasion between the two wireless units. This only lasted a few moments though.

Prices vary but will generally run you about $155.00 for the complete set and they also include a HDMI cable and external power supply. Here is the full feature list:

  • Wireless connectivity from notebook/PC to projectors, flat TVs and monitors
  • HDMI with video/audio support
  • VGA video connectivity with audio support through 3.5mm audio jack (stereo)
  • 32-bit True Color depth for high quality images
  • Up to SXGA+ (1400×1050) resolution (WXSGA+ optional)
  • 48 kHz, 16-bit Stereo sound
  • HD video up to 720P
  • Quick setup with pre-associated (paired) adapters
  • Fully standard solution (Wireless USB from the USB-IF)
  • Worldwide regulations compliance
  • Windows Vista/XP OS / Note: Windows 7 was Review Platform

Disclaimer I was provided a review unit for the writing of this post. It was used for a total of three days in my home with a variety of TV’s and monitors.