HP OfficeJet Pro 8620 e-All-in-One Printer Review

on Tuesday, December 30, 2014

What constitutes a printer has changed radically over the last few years: once a printer printed  and that was it! Today printing is just one of the functions as the technology contained has morphed into a scanner, fax machine and Internet-capable device. HP’s OfficeJet Pro 8620 e-All-in-One Printer stands out from the others not so much due to its competent and efficient technology, but because  it loses the worst bugaboo of any inkjet printer: running out of ink just when you need it most.

The 8620 has a fairly large sized chassis with a decent sized “footprint.” This is due to it not just being an inkjet printer, but including a number of office-caliber devices (although its use for the SOHO or even the pro-sumer individual shouldn’t be discounted). Because of built-in WiFi, placement is freed from the cable and it can be located pretty much anywhere within a reasonable radius: for my testing it was over 50 feet from the WiFi transmitter (including a wall) and the connection was never lost, most likely due to the use of the “N” WiFi standard. Nor must you first attach a computer to the 8620 — a bright 4.3 touch screen can be used to do the overall setup as well as operate all of the functions possible (complete with colored lights and icons to indicate what the printer is up to). The screen provides help menus and, during the initial setup, text that details what must be done — for example, attaching the optional duplexer that does double-sided printing. There’s even includes animated sequences to provide a visual confirmation of what’s to be done — such as inserting ink cartridges. So for those looking to avoid reading manuals, it’s pretty much of a fast ride.

The top loaded flat bed scanner holds material up to 8.5″ x 14″ inches and has an optical resolution of 1200 (interpolation can take it higher). That is more than sufficient for scanning documents at 300 dpi or greater. There’s also a built-in 50 sheet document feeder which will take sheets and run them through automatically. HP doesn’t provide OCR software, but the standard sw provided for PC and Mac use is sufficient for  everyday uses and, at a basic level, doesn’t require an learning curve to speak of. Mac computers, such as mine, automatically recognize the correct printer driver, while procedures for loading the right one in for PC use is no more difficult either. There are also dedicated icon touch buttons that will activate printer apps; these include being able to “send” a scanned image directly into an email, send a file to a network folder and more. The printer will also work as a fully functional bxw or color fax machine, necessitating the addition of a telephone line connection. The fax portion of the printer can also automatically receive faxes. For those without landlines, this feature is defunct, although faxing through the Internet is an acceptable alternative.

The resolution of the printer is more than sufficient for documents and for casual photo printing (but not what is needed for high-quality color printing of photographs). As the printer was not designed for photos specifically, as some are, it shouldn’t be held to account because of that. As an example, I compared a high resolution scan of a scenic printed on a photo-specific color inkjet printer with that of the 8620: the OfficeJet didn’t come in first place but wasn’t so far behind as to be told to sit in the corner. For the occasional and non-pro use, it does fine. The resolution of the printer also makes it less useful for scanning negatives or slides, and since it doesn’t include the hardware for doing this, it’s fair to say that it’s not designed to handle such work.
Printing is certainly an important “function” of a printer, and one that moves along at a better than reasonable speed — especially when black and white is being printed instead of color. The 8620 can print up to 21 bxw pages a minute, with color far from far behind at 16.5. Realistically this speed was never quite attained, but short of massive print documents hogging the use of the printer, the “wait” time for any queuing will be brief enough not to cause a conniption fit. But for those who are impatient, I say just stick with black and white printing. The paper trays consist of a 250-sheet input tray and 150 output.
All of the features noted above can be duplicated through use of the built-in color LCD touch-screen panel, as opposed to using a computer or sending a file to print from a mobile device’s app. One nice feature of using the panel is the ”Help” function  noted earlier, and it’s a quick press to select from the setup or initiate the WiFi settings through the Setting menu. Additionally, using the panel is the most direct way to access files placed on a thumb drive which have been inserted into the USB socket.

We now come to the ink cartridges, arguable the more expensive and replaceable part of this $299.00 retail printer. Similar to most color inkjet printers now on the market, there are separate cartridges for cyan, magenta and yellow, along with one for black (and which is about twice the size of its companions). These cartridges fit easily into their designated slots and, following the loading procedure, result in the printer being ready for action within a few minutes. The normal procedure that now follows is to use the printer, doing color and black and white as needed, until one gets a warning that a color or the black is running low. Then you try to squeeze out every drop you can until it’s time to replace the cartridge with a fresh one purchased earlier and that’s lying in a drawer (versus the more “green” method of waiting till the cart expires and then going to the store to get a new one and give them back the old for disposal). HP, however, has another idea and it’s a doozy.

HP sells a subscription service called Instant Ink. What it does is to place you in monthly plan. For a set amount, you are “allowed” to print a designated amount of sheets (color and/or black and white). For example, the basic plan cost $2.99 and lets you print 50 pages. If you print less than 50 that month, it rolls over into the next month’s total (up to 50 sheets worth) and if more, you pay a $1 fee per each additional 15 pages. The real value of the plan is that you’re sent a replacement ink cartridge(s) before you know you need one. The ink cartridges you’ve installed (and which are “geared” to the printer) transmit their status to HP which sends out a replacement through the US mail when needed. You get the cartridge(s) in the mail, replace that which was sent with the one in the printer and then return it in the postage-free box for HP to properly dispose of (although I think it likely they reuse it). You never pay for the ink itself, which saves money like billio. Since HP is not monitoring WHAT is being printed, just the volume of ink outputted, even those leery of the NSA shouldn’t take umbrage. Just don’t toss out the aluminum foil hats, they’re hard to make! Also, don’t toss out the starter inkjet cartridges that come with the printer — you have to install them as normally before applying for Instant Ink replacements. Additionally there’s a bit of a time lag between signing up for the service and getting the cartridges, but once they’ve come and been inserted, the service charges begin as the printer informs HP that all is now in progress.
Bottom line: The HP OfficeJet Pro 8620 e-All-in-One Printer is a moderately sized printer, scanner and all around useful office e-device. Taken into account with the Instant Ink service, the sum of its parts is well worth the cost of the whole.

D-Link AC750 Wi-Fi Portable Review

Anyone who travels knows there’s some inconveniences that can’t be avoided — back in the day that might be having to pay extra to make a phone call from a hotel, but now it’s all about wireless access. Travelers expect WiFi in their hotel room, but sometimes all they get is a wired wall connection to plug into. Or an added fee if “wireless” is part of the room’s billings. But those visiting relatives or going to summer homes have just as much trouble when it comes to WiFI, because joining an existing network might not be possible or cause fits to those who own it. Either way, D-Link’s AC750 Wi-Fi Portable Router and Charger will take care of that and then some.
The AC750 is bigger than most routers of its genre: being about the size of one of today’s smartphones, complete with a smooth exterior and a muted off-white color. Perhaps the size is a function of it having 802.11ac wireless technology: D-Link says it’s the first of its kind to employ the faster wireless technology. The simple “candy bar” design places its user-accessible parts primarily on one side: consisting of two USB sockets (the top side placed charging a phone/tablet, accessing a thumb drive/storage device or a 3G/4G USB cellular modem, the bottom side placed similar except for the modem and tablet). At the bottom is found a micro-USB slot for charging the 4000mAH internal battery and an Ethernet port for wired access, while the top provides the “mode” switch (selectable between ON/OFF/CHARGER) and a WPS button for quick connecting to a router. Tiny LED lights indicate status functions.

There are a number of ways in which the AC750 can be used — all involving WiFi and networking. One is to use it with a cellular modem for mobile use (i.e., outside, in a car, etc.). Another method involves directly connected it to a router for use as a “hot spot” for multiple users; I found this extremely helpful when I was helping an elderly neighbor who wanted to see a YouTube video her granddaughter had put only, but her old Windows computer couldn’t cut it. I connected the AC750 to her router (she had no WiFi), established a WiFi network and then was able to show the video to her on my iPad.
The other ways in which it can be used goes beyond that of simply providing a connection to the Internet. Streaming content can be accessed, providing that a thumb drive or other USB storage device has been plugged into the AC750. This then finds its way to the mobile device that is running the free Sharepoint app. Thanks to having two USB sockets, it is possible to increase the amount of content that can be streamed — I’d rather use multiple GB thumb drives that lug around or use a USB hard drive, no matter how small they are these days. The app also allows for a private Cloud mode, and has features to restrict others when using it (i.e., the “Guest Zone” mode). I’ve used other D-Link products with the app for streaming and didn’t find the process any different, but yes faster it seemed on average due to the 802.11ac wireless. What’s more important is the stability that the AC750 provided for what it was doing, be that Internet accessibility or content sharing. I didn’t give it any special treatment and used it primarily with it standing upright. Granted that lying flat it would be less likely to tip over, but my “rabbit antenna ears” muscle memory had me thinking that would be for the best.

The “mode” switch on top can be used to turn the AC750 into a charging device only — this works best when charging a tablet. The instructions say that you can charge a smartphone while also using the router’s functionality, but I‘d avoid doing that unless absolutely necessary as I’ve found most devices are at their most stable when the power supply isn’t being diverted from the WiFi transmission system. Obviously this doesn’t apply if the AC750 is being powered by the included AC power supply.
Recently I had to kill some time at the airport while waiting for my flight and rather than draining storage space from my iPhone, I streamed across a movie from a thumb drive placed in the AC750. Obviously I had first had it join the airport’s free WiFi — a process no different that if I had done it in a Starbucks or retail store offering free WiFi via the web browser. The AC750 had plenty of juice to run the movie, although I imagine if I had tried to use it for charging my phone, and then returned to the router’s functioning, the amount of “ON” time the battery is rated for use would have decreased significantly.

OKIDOKEYS Smart Lock Review

The name might be too clever but the idea of a “smart lock” is right up there with other conveniences that only the 21st Century can provide. So what makes the OKIDOKEYS Smart Lock worth considering, no make that worth having? The fact that it does what you would want it to and doesn’t require home repair skills that usually end up ruining something. $189.00 gets you the starter kit which handles one door — that might be all that’s needed but if not, additional modules can be added later on for reasonable costs. Color schemes available too with the starter kit, courtesy of cover plates, should matching the interior decor be a big thing to you or yours.

Screwdriver. Screws. Patience.

Read the instructions, view the online video. You’re going to remove the interior deadbolt (above the doorknob) then mount the Smart Lock module in place on the inside of the door in such a way that it holds onto the external key cylinder — none of this is visible from the outside of the door. After a plate has been attached, the module itself is lined up and connected, with a door sensor then connected to the module, followed by a sensor magnet. This is less complicated than it sounds but use of the instructions made it straightforward. Batteries are then installed and a recording of the serial number made. A button activation is then put into effect, with colored LEDs indicating the status (i.e., successfully aligned). I was then able to use “hard” buttons on the module to test the door sensors door-opening abilities, followed by placing the outer cover on. I then had to register/create an account on the OKIDOKEYS website. I followed this by installing the app and created a PIN to use.


Because my iPhone had the right sort of Bluetooth, I didn’t have to physically place it against the OKIDOKEYS — also if I had a Smart-Gateway from the company, apparently I would not have needed to do this even if I had a non-BT 4.0 phone. A free license must be activated so that such functions as sharing keys, controlling OKIDOKEYS devices and managing individual users of the system (up to 10) can be enacted. This can be done through the website and also via the Apple/Android app — with the app having less restrictions on control. But to fully use the system and not be constrained, the $24.99 yearly license will seem a good deal to most.

I See Nothing

The outside lock looks normal so nobody is the wiser. There are 5 modes to choose from — activated from the Smart-Lock itself. These consist of “Normal,” wherein locking/unlocking is done with authorized “smart keys,” “Passage” for the lock staying in the unlocked position, “Passage with Tone” where a sound is emitted each time the door is opened (requiring the door sensor to be in place), “Alarm” where unauthorized attempts to unlock the door sets off the sound (or if the door is forced open) and “Mechanical” where no electronic features are activated. Plus you can add a Smart Reader (seen outside the door) which will work with the lock and let you use RFID tags (card, wristband, etc.) plus it works with non-smart cells.

Look Ma, No Hands!

Besides using the app to unlock the door when you are near it, you can also lock it, create send or cancel “keys” for others to use with the door, receive notifications when the door is unlocked and get a warning that it’s being opened from the module itself (an alarm). I liked the inclusion of  having it re-lock itself after the door is closed too. For all its sophistication, OKIDOKEYS is a simple electronic/wireless door locking system that only requires minimal installation skills. The big plus is the actual use it brings to one’s home.

Ozobot Robot Review

on Monday, December 29, 2014

I once ran across a really old Popular Mechanics “How to” that described making a robotic “rat” where a roller skate added circuitry and a motor for driving itself across the floor while reading a line drawn on the floor. Looks like the 21st Century finally caught up, because Ozobot picks up where that lets off and doesn’t soak you either — it costs just $49.99.

The Design’s The Thing

As befits a modern design, Ozobot is small, circular and an attractively clean silver white-like orb. With wheels beneath its skirts, obviously since it can move on its own. But first a micro-USB slot has to give its battery a boost or it’ll just stare at you. But powered up the “head” can light up and the motor has more than enough “oomph” to move it at a steady pace. Not that it decides on its own what to do.

A Toy That DOES Things

Ozobot is a “physical” toy that DOES things — it expects real-world integration, courtesy of paper, colors, game boards, or pretty much anything that can be drawn on and which it can sit on and move about on. Basically it will follow along a line once it’s put on one — but that’s just the start. You use colors to create codes of colors (i.e., a marker) which inform Ozobot’s “brain” to react — so yes it’s a form of high level programming that anyone can easily do; as an example, draw a blue-yellow-blue marker and Ozobot, which has been sedately cruising along the track (i.e., the name for the lines drawn), gives a Turbo kick and picks up speed.

Digital Doesn’t Get Left Out

Ozobot also works with apps and can move about on a tablet (9” large as a 7” too small). It has to be calibrated to the surface first (as is the case with real-life use), The app opens up different types of games and activities while helping you become familiar with the color codes. It’s less messy than the “real world” too, especially if you’re the one corralled into cleaning up the markers and tracks afterwards. Also I’ll admit that I’m looking forward to the OZOGROOVE music and dance app to see just how Ozobot will perform choreographed dance routines. Should be fun watching the little guy gyrating around.

But I wish I had had another Ozobot so that I could have tried working them in tandem. Still, one’s enough to prove the point: analogue beats digital all hollow when it comes to the tactile sensation of having a robot performing in real-life, right before your eyes. Just remember it’ll need a recharge after about 60 minutes of play.

Petcube Camera Review

Pet owners rejoice — Petcube is here to answer the ultimate question: what does your dog or cat do when they’re home alone? Now you’ll know because this wireless video streaming camera lets you see what your pets are up to.

The Cube Is Here

Shaped like a cube, the front consists of a wide angle high-resolution (720p) fixed focus lens — this gives a clear and encompassing view of whatever it’s aimed at (just a little distorting at the edges as is always the case with w/a lenses). Below is a low-powered safety red laser — no it’s not there to attack intruders, but to provide some quality fun time with a cat. For a dog, not so much.

Download the free app (iOS/Android) because it won’t work without it. My iPhone’s ready to go, so I placed the cube at one end of the kitchen and plugged it into an AC outlet through the included USB cable adapter. I later discovered that there’s a tripod mount on the bottom, but don’t expect it to stand on a mini-pod easily; this 4 x 4 x 4-inch cube is seriously heavy aluminum. And when I say “AC” I mean that the Petcube needs the full power coming from the wall outlet — connecting it to a USB socket on a laptop won’t cut it.

Simple Enough For Humans

Setup is echoed by a color LED strip at the cube’s bottom. After pairing it first with the cube’s own WiFi, I transferred the signal to my home network. Oh — I also registered with the company since the streaming goes through their servers. Once done, I accessed the Petcube and could see that the image was well defined and clear. I watched my dogs walking through the kitchen with what seemed to be only a very slight delay — maybe not super-smooth but not those jerky movements one’s come to expect from video streaming using a home camera either.

I left my apartment later and used a Starbucks WiFi to access the Petcube. Again I saw a clear picture and the movements of my dogs as they went back and forth through the kitchen had the same frame rate as when I was right there. I turned on the “Sound” setting — this let me not only hear what was going on but also speak to them — they found this intriguing since they couldn’t find me (don’t use this when nearby because it will cause horrible feedback).  I also worked the laser and made a red dot appear at a few places on the floor and kitchen cabinets: the dogs noticed it and one yawned. So yes, not having a cat does make the laser superfluous. Oh – tapping the screen while watching the video feed saves what is seen as a picture/snapshot too.

One Price, Many Uses

Petcube doesn’t have any ongoing fees or monthly subscriptions. So the cost of $199 is all you’re paying for.  So yes you can now put a price tag on piece of mind when the pets are left home alone.

iHome IBN 6 Speaker Review

There’s a lot of Bluetooth envy going on when viewing iHome’s IBN 6 Bluetooth speaker; it seems to have taken all the attributes touted by other speakers and assimilated them like the Borg. This heavy, obviously sturdy and durable speaker does everything one could ask of an outdoor “portable” (too big for a pocket but a knapsack, sure). And it sounds good too. So we’re out and about, camping or hiking or taking a long walk and it’s time to stop and play some tunes. Here’s why this $119.99 BT speaker shines:

Large Size

Its large size means that the speakers — two front firing 1.25” full-range drivers — are big enough to be heard above the normal, and not-so-normal sounds found outside. And there’s room for added refinements due to the chassis’ size, like to improve on the bass response through the addition of a rear-firing 2.25” passive radiator. Plus those speakers are stereo and, again due to the size of the iHome, there’s enough room to separate them for a better sound field.
The large size also means a large battery — one that can last for up to 14 hours of playing (in the “Eco” mode). If the whole idea of being away from an AC outlet is to be taken in stride, having a speaker give up the ghost after 2-3 hours is a joke.

Expects to Be Outdoors

The iHome expects to be used outdoors, so the weather-resistance is taken to the top: IPX7 thanks to a rubberized housing. The speaker construction also means being manhandled, dropped on dirt, etc.,  isn’t going to have it running home crying to its manufacturer either.

Added Tech

The iHome was made with some conveniences in mind: for example, NFC lets one-touch pairing work between the speaker and the Bluetooth-enabled phone or tablet (or sync with BT the old-fashioned way). Plus a a USB port for charging other devices (that large battery means siphoning off juice won’t leave the speakers dead).
And since a smartphone is there, the speaker might as well have a speakerphone built in for using Bluetooth for taking/making calls. So it does.
All of the above seems to say that this is the BT speaker you want to have when the call of the wild starts up, even you’re not going any farther than the backyard.

Renny HOME Smartphone Hub & Ringer Review

How many people have a land-line telephone anymore? What’s the need, you ask, when the cellphone’s always in a pocket? But that’s not true at home when the cell’s been put down in one room or connected to a charger in another room, or the volume’s low or its been set to Mute or Vibrate and left that way. The results are lost calls because nobody heard the ringer. That’s when the Renny HOME Smartphone Hub & Ringer licks its lips; it’s a speakerphone with the right kind of tech inside, like the ability to sync two phones and connect to them automatically over more distance than Bluetooth is supposed to do. Plus it has a loud, loud speaker that you can’t help but hear when a call’s coming through. And it doesn’t matter how the phone’s volume has been adjusted either, as long as Renny is turned on any incoming call is going to get noticed.

Renny Hears Better

So Renny looks like a speakerphone built around a U-Clamp: all glossy black with a series of blue LED press-tabs surrounding a speaker grill. Charging its battery via USB takes care of a lot of hours and makes it portable, but if you use its USB out to charge your phone or even a tablet, expect to have to power it up again soon. The biggest thing to keep in mind is that the swiveling antenna shouldn’t be aimed straight up — a bit of an angle towards the farthest area of your place will help.

Look Ma, No Hands!

After a simple BT pairing, Renny’s ready to go and all its blue lit up icons say that. I’m expecting a call and here it comes — Renny is doing the ringing from one of its built-in ringtones. Because I’ve got the Handsfree mode on, I just say “Answer” and now I’m talking through its mic and listening through its speaker. When the call’s done, I press the phone icon to disconnect (which I could have done to answer the call too). And since Renny also has a Caller ID”-like function that will announce a person or the number of the incoming call, if I don’t want to answer I can just shout out “Ignore.” All this is going on with Renny hanging out at my desk in the living room while my phone’s charging in the bedroom. Cool.

Where’s That Music Coming From?

The other icons handle audio volume and playback because — if set so — Renny can function as a Bluetooth speaker and stream music from the phone. The downside is that every single sound the phone makes comes from the Renny —so if this rankles, just push the tab away from this and over to where it just performs as a speakerphone, sans music streaming.

The Renny HOME Smartphone Hub & Ringer makes it easy to answer calls at home –but more importantly, it makes sure you know you’re getting them. No WiFi network to worry about either. The music streaming is just icing on the audio cake to be found in a small and compact package for $139.99.

G-Project G-Drop Wireless Speaker Review

Still got some holiday shopping to do?  Then you might wanna consider G-Project’s G-Drop speaker.  It costs $50, and for the money you probably won’t do much better.  Why?
First off, it’s IPX7.  That means waterproof.  I took mine in the shower where I was able to use the built-in hook to hang it from my shower rack.  Those 4 knobs each house a button; left for track control, right for volume.  There is also a set of smaller buttons to turn the speaker on, pair it with a new device, and control the EQ.  The latter button didn’t have much impact on my music, though.

To charge the Bluetooth speaker (via micro USB), or play back music from an AUX cord, you’ll have to open the small door located on the top. Simple enough.  However, during the initial setup process I nearly split a few finger nails, as the door is protected by a locking mechanism.  Unfortunately, my version’s locking mechanism wasn’t centered, which meant that when I over rotated the lock – which it allowed me to do so, albeit ever so slightly – it meant I was in effect locking it again.  So look closely and make sure you line things up as the door doesn’t need much torque to open it.
Pairing the speaker is a standard affair with things coming together in a matter of seconds.  It doesn’t look like BLE is part of the G-Drop, which means you won’t be able to power on the G-Drop from an app, but that’s probably a moot issue for most.  That said, at $50 I wouldn’t expect it to have such, but it’s worth noting nonetheless.

What it does have, though, is a 2.5″ driver paired with a passive bass radiator.  And for the size, this thing is more than ample (in sound) for traveling, lounging by the pool or perhaps scrubbing the dirt off in the shower.  And as mentioned it’s IPX7 rated, which means it can survive in up to 3-feet of water and work in temperatures as cold as -14F, or as hot as 122F.    Lastly, the battery is good for up to 6 hours of playback at medium volume, though your mileage will vary depending on how loud you play it.
If you want one of your own, head to G-Project or buy one direct from Amazon.

BlueDriver Bluetooth Review

Everything we have is computer-based and that even includes our cars. But unlike a smartphone, who knows the first thing to do when a light goes on to scream out that there’s a problem with the vehicle we rely on for getting around? Considering how much it costs just to drive into a garage for a mechanic to take a peek — why isn’t there an app for that? There is — but only because of OBDII, which is a port on the car for reading its guts by the professionals. Only now I can do it too, thanks to BlueDriver.

OBDII Turns The Key

The OBDII port is usually beneath the steering wheel and there it is just below and to the right inside of a cut off of my Mazda 3 (it’s been put on all cars since 1996, fyi). The BlueDriver’s got a socket at one end and fits right onto the OBDII port, I must have done it right because a blue LED on the BlueDriver started blinking, indicating that its Bluetooth was being powered up. This being the first time I used it, I then went to my iPhone and synced to Bluetooth like it was a speaker.

Start It Up

I followed this by starting the engine and then tapped the free app downloaded earlier. This is where it got good. The BlueDriver app starting “reading” the car — performing diagnostics on it and displaying the results for me to review. And in moments it displayed my car’s VIN number and other general info about it, so I knew it knew what car it was looking at.

This was followed by my doing some checking to see if any trouble codes would be displayed — fortunately I got an “all clear.” But if something had showed up, I could have used the app to tell me what the code meant. Actually the app even included the manual and videos to make BlueDriver easy to use (one even showed how to attach to the OBDII port, maybe I should have checked this first before rushing ahead). No problem if I had had an Android phone instead of an iPhone, since there’s an app for Google’s OS too.

What To Look For

The app provided data and a look as to info on such things as a Smog Readiness Check, Mode 6, Freeze Frame data and Repair reports. There’s live gauges/graphs to view, plus the ability to save the data to Dropbox. Some of this stuff I just didn’t get first time around, but compared to feeling powerless when a car light on the dashboard goes off and a trip to the shop is gonna mean lots of $$$, I’m willing to learn and think about that ounce of prevention cliche for real.

BlueDriver can be pulled out once the engine’s off and kept until it’s needed at another time. That means it isn’t locked into being used for just one car. Plus it’s small enough to sit in one of the cup holders. A bit of a learning curve to use it effectively, sure. But the results are worth it, even if it’s just knowing that the mechanic isn’t blowing smoke when he starts spouting off codes and rattling off repairs.  I’d pay a one-time fee of $99.95 for never getting glazed over like a too-warm doughnut that someone bit into. Getting BlueDriver took care of that.

Bubl Bulbcam Review

Bubl Is The First True 360-Degree Camera

Panoramic cameras, even “spherical” cameras, aren’t really anything new. In fact, we’ve been building, testing, and playing with them for years now. But, they can always improve, and the Bubl might actually be an enormous step forward, for a fairly simple reason; it doesn’t have a blind spot.

Coming From All Directions

It’s a pretty straightforward design, actually. There are four wide-angle cameras on the Bubl, one pointing in each direction. That’s really the easy part; anybody who’s used a panoramic camera is very familiar with this design.

What’s unique, though, is the software. Bubl has imaging software that manages to stitch together all four images into a complete sphere. No blind spots, no weirdness (well, beyond the fisheye lens), nothing. As far as the viewer is concerned, it’s absolutely seamless.

Also welcome is the lack of proprietary gear. If you want to use the Bubl, it’ll tie to your desktop, your iPhone, or your Android equally well. It’s true that the software isn’t all there yet; the company is still working on cloud support and it wants to offer more native support for different ways of using the Bubl. For now, you’ll likely be making use of the microSD card you can slot in the unit for many applications.

But it’s a well-designed idea, and it actually manages to deliver on its promises of seamless, blind-spot free video. So, if you need a wider view, look through a Bubl.

LG Curved LED Monitor Review

Ah, Christmas…that time of year when you can get a truly widescreen monitor without feeling guilty about it. Whether it’s on your wishlist or is a belated present for yourself, LG’s 34UC97 Cineview Curved Ultrawide LED monitor will officially leave every other monitor you’ve seen in the dust.
That’s a whole lot of adjectives for a monitor, and you can be forgiven for assuming it’s actually an enormous TV, but this screen is designed to hook up to a tower or laptop with its D-Link or HDMI cables (if you use a Mac, you’ll have to buy your own Thunderbolt cable).
The 34-inch monitor offers 3440 x 1440 resolution, and LG claims that this is the first monitor to offer a 21:9 ratio. If you’re wondering what that’s good for, here’s a hint: The LED monitor also supports multitasking through a screen split that can handle between two and four screen sections, if necessary. Assuming you find a desk big enough to put it on, the LED screen also has a reader mode for studying documents up close without burning out your eyes.

Curved screens are a bit of an odd choice for a living room TV. The curve is designed to enhance the image primarily for one viewer – the person sitting in the middle. People off to the side tend to get a poor view. But the curved screen makes a lot more sense for a computer monitor, where it is more common to have only one person in front of the screen.
Of course, with such a high resolution, large screen, and notable curve, LG’sLED monitor is specifically designed for a few situations. If you are a computer gamer, you probably won’t find a better monitor for displaying the best visuals. If you have forsworn a TV and use your monitor for entertainment, this is a great choice. It could also be a boon to professionals who need a lot of screen space for graphic design or daytrading or other roomy projects. You can buy the LG 34UC97 Cineview monitor for around $1,400.00.

Breathometer Breeze Breathalyzer Review

Driving drunk is for the birds.  Meaning you’d be an idiot to do so, especially in this day and age of Uber and Lyft.  But let’s face it.  We’ve all done it: head to the a bar or restaurant, plan on having just one and end up slugging back three or four.  Not good.  And that’s why every one should carry a portable breathalyzer, such as the Breathometer Breeze.
Now, the Breathometer Breeze isn’t the first portable breathalyzer I’ve reviewed.  But it’s the first that doesn’t require charging.  Powering the keychain sized device is an included watch battery.  To install, just unscrew the top half of the Breathometer Breeze and pop it into place.  I struggled for a few minutes to get it back together, but with some trial and error did so.
Included in the box are a few mouth pieces an attachments.  I immediately tossed the mouth pieces aside since they just mean more to lose, which will surely happen, and more to carry around.  As alluded to, there is a keychain attachment, but since I drive just one car I’ll be storing the Breathometer Breeze in my car for those “just in case” moments of weakness.
With the battery installed, it’s as simple as hitting the button near the mouth piece to power it on.  You’ll know you’ve done so when the LEDs light up. The last few steps are pairing it to your phone and downloading the Breathometer app.  Both are a quick and painless process, so no qualms there.
To begin a reading it’s a single button press on the app and then blowing into the Breathometer Breeze.  Comparatively speaking the Breathometer Breeze works very fast; it only requires that you breath into the device for 5-seconds, where as other Breathylyzers require more time.  Moreover, the device resets fairly quickly after each use, though it will error out if used too many times in a row (this only happened once after excessive testing).
Because the Breathometer Breeze runs off a watch (cell) battery, which is good for up to 16 months, it does shut off automatically fairly quickly.  I never measured the actual amount of time, but it’s a moot issue since it powers on just as fast.
Compared to other Breathylzers, it tended to understate my BAC (that, or the other ones overstated it). But only marginally.  And since the exercise isn’t to determine how drunk I was (well, sometimes) but whether or not I was close to or had exceeded the legal limit.  Regardless, it seems to be a strong indicator of this, though I would have prefer to have it overstate my BAC; a “better safe than sorry” mentality.
You can buy the Breeze Breathometer direct for $100.

Jaasta E-Ink Keyboard Review

Think e-ink is on the way out? Jaasta’s e-ink keyboard is designed to make you think again. This low-profile wireless keyboard is designed to work with a variety of tablets and computers, but comes with a very specific twist: The common key signs and letters are actually e-ink, allowing them to shift.

Jaasta has several exciting ideas about how this e-ink keyboard can be used. Each key has its own e-ink screen, which means it can show a number of different characters based on what you want to do or program. One big possibilities is typing in other languages – no more annoying incompatibility with Asian, Spanish, or even European English keyboards. This keyboard can simply switch between 50 different languages to whichever one you are familiar with or need to use (one can imagine the benefits for Internet cafes around the world).

You also have the power dip in and do a little custom key rearranging yourself. Choose new placements for that awkward delete key – or take the extra step and totally delete a character you never use and replace it with a better option. You can program your own key options as well, such as “.com” or “www.” for faster typing. Jaasta also promises accessories like trackpads and drawing pads that you can attach for more work.

The Jaasta keyboard has a special place in the heart of professional designers and coders who can program keys for complex functions that make their jobs a whole lot easier. However, if you are a casual user you can also program in a bunch of emoticons for chatting, which is pretty fun, and the benefits for foreign users remain obvious.

Currently the Jaasta e-ink keyboard is in the crowdfunding stage and a release date has not been announced yet, but you can sign up to be notified. The wince-worthy part of the deal is the planned price, which is pretty steep at $299.

Vert Jump Sensor Track Review

Vert has one job: It measures jumping. In a world of fitness wearables that are finding increasingly complex ways to measure dunks, throws, hits and speed, it’s refreshing to find a wearable do devoted to this particularly simple niche.

Jumping, as it turns out, is a bit easier to measure than other more complex physical activities. You buy the Vert sensor, clip it onto a piece of clothing like a waistband, download the MyVert app, and get to jumping. The sensor will then start measuring a variety of jump data. It starts with the vertical height of every jump: At the end of a session, it can give you a variety of information on your average vertical, highest vertical, total number of jumps made, and more.
You can probably see how this would be beneficial for several different sports – and Vert is already the “official jump technology” of USA volleyball. Improving your jumps could also prove helpful for basketball players, cheerleaders, and others. The goal is not only to track and improve your jumps, but also keep you from going overboard in your practice and attempting regular jumps that you aren’t ready for yet.

Vert sells the fitness sensor as a single device, but it also sells a team pack and a variety of Vertbelts for you to clip them onto. A single sensor will cost you around $125. Oh, and if you’re thinking, “How am I supposed to practice jumps with a cell phone stuck in my pocket?” then you should know that the Vert sensor also includes an LED indicator that, beeper style, can indicate the height of your latest jump for a quick check.

Nifti Selfie Iphone 6 Review

The selfie is dead: Long live the selfie. These days – especially these holidays – the selfie is moving on from teenage posts and dating sites toward more acceptable venues. A family selfie, for example, can make a great photo to send to the relatives, while a romantic selfie can look surprisingly classy under the right light. And now there’s the nifti iPhone 6 Selfie Case, which wants to make the process even more professional.
Regardless of what you think about Selfies, the Selfie Case has a neat feature: a small tab on the case slides out and acts as a remote control for the iPhone 6 camera. Pop off the Bluetooth remote, position your phone just so, then click the shutter button to take the photo. The remote takes only a moment to turn on, and it charges via a Li-ion battery within the case itself, so it won’t drain your phone battery to work.
If you’ve ever tried taking a selfie on an iPhone, you know that the biggest problem is getting the angle just right and then fumbling for that touchscreen photo button – not the easiest proposition. By allowing you to take photos from around 30 feet away, the Selfie Case opens up a lot more possibilities, and allows you to take better photos with the average number of human limbs.
On the other hand, if you are against selfies entirely, you can always use the case to take more traditional pictures instead of resorting to selfies, as long as you find a stable surface or a friendly stranger to set your iPhone on while you pose

You can pick up the Selfie Case for around $30. Keep in mind that the case is designed for the iPhone 6, but that the remote works across a number of devices. This means you can pop the remote out and use it with an iPod Touch or an iPad, and even Android phones, as long as it forms a Bluetooth connection with the device.