Tuesday, April 1, 2014

PERHAPS THE MOST POWERFUL REMOTE?



© 2014 BOB SKIDMORE ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

BOB SKIDMORE

CORRESPONDENT


We all suffer from remoteitis, the, “we have too many remotes”, disease. While there is a number of universal remotes on the market that claim to cure this by combining all your remotes into one, they most often seem to leave one or two functions out. Ah, let’s also not forget that we generally can’t locate the remote when we need it. Sound all too familiar?

Well, here’s a twist, Zmart is a remote app made by Aspinn and marketed by Viatek Products, that claims to solve this problem. They provide a FREE app for iPhone, iPad and most Android devices that is downloadable from the Apple App Store or Google Play. Prior to operation you do need to purchase the Zmart Remote Pro, a small plastic sensor that plugs into your headphone jack.

(TIP If you have an external case or battery pack such as a Mophie, you will need to use the included adapter that extends the jack. This adapter is flexible which means you have to hold it while aiming to the device you wish to control. Naturally, you can remove the case or external battery pack before using the Zmark and it will work just fine without the adapter.)

Once the Zmart adapter is plugged in and you’ve download the app you need to activate it. Now you’re ready to program your phone or pad. Aspinn has over 95 brands with a selection of over 200,000+ models that are preselectable, so you just have to follow the simple instructions to add them to the app. If you don’t see your device among all these selections, and they do add new ones periodically, it is possible to but-up the device’s remote to the Zmart sensor and teach the app all the commands of your remote. I did this with an older HD widescreen and it worked well, however, it is a bit of a tedious task and requires some patience.

(TIP Zmart is not an RF device that sends out radio waves, but rather an inferred operating device. This means it must be aimed at the items you wish to control. It also does not use the Internet in any way, so you can’t control devices from afar.)

My results were generally positive. If you can use the Zmart without the adapter extension, it’s a very useful tool. Would I replace my remote with the Zmart? I don’t think so, but it’s handy when you misplace an original remote, or an original replacement is no longer available. It works with most Blu-ray players, home theater systems, cable boxes, DVD players, fans and the Smart Switch. The Smart switch, sold by the same company, but not tested by THE GADGETEER, allows you to remotely control most electrical appliances like fans, lights, coffeemakers, etc., with its own remote, and also with the Zmart app, you can control them on your phone or pad, too. Zmart is also compatible with the European Smartphone standard.

GADGETEER’s RATING: ****

MSRP: $24.99

For more information go to:
YouTube Instructional demo: http://bit.ly/1lpq5Vu

Graphic credits: Google Images

Bob Skidmore is a freelance writer, who may be contacted at bob.thegadgeteer.skidmore@gmail.com, or followed at twitter.com/bskidmore for the latest gadget industry news. He does not represent, or endorse any of the products he reviews and his opinions are solely his points of view and not those of the manufacturer. The manufacturer generally supplies products at no cost for the articles and no other compensation is received. THE GADGETEER is highly selective as to products he feels worthy of review so as not to waste the reader’s time, thus the reason for many superior ratings. Some information for this article may be gathered from various sources available to the author.

##


Saturday, March 1, 2014

DID YOU KNOW?




© 2014 BOB SKIDMORE ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

BOB SKIDMORE

CORRESPONDENT


As a writer of interesting gadgets and things I frequently run across items and shortcuts that are useful, but I simply can’t justify devoting a full article to them. In some cases they are pretty basic things, in others, the manufacturer offers little or no media support making it difficult to fully report on them. So, this month I’m featuring a few of these worthy of your consideration.

Did you know that Apple and various third party manufactures offer a 30 pin “Composite A/V Cable” for use with iPhones, iPods and iPads? The purpose of this cable is for easy distribution of analog video and stereo audio signals to monitors, TV’s, analog recorders and some editing devices such as the Casablanca. This cable includes RCA plugs for L/R audio and video outputs and a USB connector for charging purposes. It’s a quick and easy method for immediate hookup, but only interfaces with thirty-pin connectors. No, you can’t use a lightning connector to 30-pin adapter to adapt this since lightning connectors do not include contacts for audio or video output. I guess Apple decided you should only be connecting to digital devices that don’t recognize analog signals. With so many analog devices in use this seems to be shortsighted thinking on Apple’s part. Are we serving customer needs or those of the manufacturer? Available from MONOPRICE, is a 4ft component A/V cable to 30 pin connector with micro USB connector which allows the cable to also serve as a charge/sync cable for your Apple iOS® devices. Also available are 30 pin and lightning connector adapters for HDMI and VGA devices to interconnect with iPads and iPhones for direct hookup to various display devices.

Analog A/V cable Cost: $39.95 from Apple (considerably less from 3rd party vendors) (http://bit.ly/1ee3jwW )
Component cable cost: $22.85 ( http://bit.ly/1bebdn9)


WHATSAPP MESSENGER is a FREE app that acts much in the same manner as the normal texting app on your smartphone. Since WHATSAPP Messenger uses wi-fi, or the same Internet data plan that you already use for email and web browsing there is no cost to message and communicate with friends. Furthermore, since it’s Internet driven you can text around the world, cost-free. In addition to basic messaging, WHATSAPP users can create groups, send each other unlimited images, as well as video and audio messages, too. In addition, it links to your address book, displaying all your contacts and highlighting those contacts that use WHATSAPP since it does require the recipient of your text to have this app installed. WHATSAPP is cross-platform compatible and is available for iPhone, Blackberry, Android, Windows Phone and Nokia. Whatsapp is currently not supported on iPad or iPod devices. Whatsapp was recently purchased by FACEBOOK for some 19 billion dollars, so someone thinks highly of what they offer.

Available at: The App Store or http://bit.ly/1knPLNt


INSTANT HEART RATE app: This app is available in a FREE version for Apple and Android or for a one-time fee of$1.99 as an upgrade. It’s designed to measure your heart rate instantly by using your smartphone’s camera to detect the pulse from your fingertip. All you do is place the tip of your index finger on the phone’s camera, and in a few seconds your pulse is shown. It will also beep your pulse and a real-time chart will show you every heartbeat. Features include; Heart pulse measurement, real-time PPG graph, Continuous or auto-stop mode, heart rate zones, data storage and tags, exporting of data to registered users and sharing to Twitter and Facebook. The app is compatible with iPhone 5s/5/4/4s since they have a flash. iPhone 3gs and iPod Touch requires use in good light since they have no flash. The upgraded pay version on iPhone models allows you to store more than 5 measurements in your timeline, contains no ads, and enables you to turn your phone on its side to see a progress chart of your measurements. On the Android platforms the Pro version also contains no ads and stores more than 5 measurements in your timeline. Available at: The App Store; Google Play; Window’s Store or http://bit.ly/1bdwpGC

SHUTTING OFF APPS IN iOS7 (iPhone/iPad): As discussed in previous articles, it’s important to shut off unused apps on your iPhone and/or iPad to conserve on battery life. The new iOS7 operating systems for these gadgets uses a different technique from the previous operating systems. To shut down unused apps, double tap the home button (large button at bottom center of your device), which brings up three small images of running apps. Now, lightly place your finger on the center image and scroll upwards till it disappears. The app is now only turned off, not deleted. To skip over and locate specific apps to turn off, just swipe left or right to scroll thru the apps. 

Bob Skidmore is a freelance writer, who may be contacted at bob.thegadgeteer.skidmore@gmail.com, or followed at twitter.com/bskidmore for the latest gadget industry news. He does not represent, or endorse any of the products he reviews and his opinions are solely his points of view and not those of the manufacturer. The manufacturer generally supplies products at no cost for the articles and no other compensation is received. THE GADGETEER is highly selective as to products he feels worthy of review so as not to waste the reader’s time, thus the reason for many superior ratings. Some information for this article may be gathered from various sources available to the author.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

CES 2014


The Global Stage For Innovation

© 2014 BOB SKIDMORE ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

BOB SKIDMORE

CORRESPONDENT


Well the start of a new year brings CES, The Consumer Electronics Show, or, perhaps, THE GLOBAL STAGE FOR INNOVATION. This annual event held in Las Vegas featured over 3200 exhibitors and attracted some 150,000, including 35,000  international attendees. This year, considering the unusual worldwide weather conditions, could still be a record breaker since official figures will not be released till some time in late spring.

This show was originally created as a semi-annual preorder sales event for retailers with a summer show in Chicago. In recent years it’s become a sort of testing ground for new products and gadgets such as Ultra HD 4K Television and wearable technology. It gives the manufacturer the opportunity to meet the resale giants and show many prototype products allowing them to evaluate interest, make improvements prior to a release and to brainstorm on what to offer in the future. In short, it’s a toy store of interesting gadgets many of which may never make it to the market place. Interestingly enough, the exhibitors over the years have expanded to include automobiles and some appliances along with computer related products, and all the technology that makes them appealing. The show is not open to the general public, although a few years ago the show did sell tickets on the last day to consumers. Typically, exhibitors send most of the staff home on the show’s last day so one would assume that they were unable to cope with the inquiring consumers and thus the show remains industry affiliation only. Unlike CES, European shows generally offer public access on specific days.



Ford showed the C-MAX, a Solar Energi Concept car that’s a plug-in hybrid with photovoltaic panels on its roof that when parked can fully charge the car in one day. It has a 620-mile range, but can only rely on sunshine energy for 21 miles. C-MAX is a series of energy efficient models that currently exist, but minus the solar power feature. As usual, cost and availability is unknown, that’s why it’s a concept car… BMW and Audi unveiled their latest driverless cars with demo rides on the streets of Vegas. Nevada is one of the few states where it’s legal to test drive self-driving vehicles, although a person must sit in the driver’s seat… 


Toyota showed a four-seat concept car that looked like a futuristic Prius. It’s powered by a hydrogen fuel cell and will also be capable of powering your home for a week during an emergency. Toyota plans to start selling a version of this car in the U. S. next year. No price available, however they claim a big cost savings by utilizing an electric powertrain already in production in their current hybrid models. Bosch showed a smartphone app that parks your car in tight spots. No availability given… Chevrolet showed its “APP SHOP” feature that allows owners to add features to their cars thru apps. Sounds like a GM moneymaker to me!



Phonesoap Charger is a gadget that’s available for fifty bucks. Not only is it a phone charger, but it also sanitizes your phone by using UV technology, and it’s an acoustic audio amplifier. The two UV-C lamps in the device produce a very specific wavelength of light, which encompasses your phone, and pass through the cell walls of bacteria and virus to impair their DNA. Once exposed the cells die. Works with most smartphones and comes with a micro USB cable or you can use the 30 pin cable that came with your phone.

Wearable technology was all over CES. Exhibits included a Zepp sensor that mounts on golf balls, baseballs and tennis balls or even on a golf glove to analyze 1,000 data points per second that create 3D representations of a player’s swing. Or how about the Qardiocore heart monitor that can send an EKG to a smartphone and then forward to a physician for remote heart monitoring? And many more smartwatches that interface with your smartphone to provide duplicate functions on your wrist. Still waiting for one that’s totally compatible with the iPhone. Maybe Apple will offer one soon that’s really smart? Apple pulled out of CES several years ago to devote their time and efforts to their own events.


Last, but not least, Ultra 4K HD was again much on display. The difference this year was Samsung’s new concept of curved screens that create the ultimate immersive experience. Much like the old Cinemascope days that have come and gone, this technology promotes a new dimension to your viewing experience. They offer several large sizes including 105 and 110” models which seems to indicate that size is a factor to enjoying the experience. While certainly interesting, the big problem is there’s little to no programming available for the Ultra 4K format and none really on the horizon. The networks certainly are not gearing up for Ultra 4K HD since it’s all they can do to keep afloat with the competition of competing media of all kinds and there’s no prerecorded software since devices capable of such quality are presently out of the consumer’s price range. Think this may go by the way of all the 3D attempts of the past as that technology is slowly disappearing too? Your guess is as good as mine, but then that’s what creates the excitement in the technology industry and keeps us wanting more!

MSRP: Curved Ultra 4K HD unknown, but could be $5K - $10,000+ (Probably five years off from product availability at retail, if then)

Graphic credits: Google Images

Bob Skidmore is a freelance writer, who may be contacted at bob.thegadgeteer.skidmore@gmail.com, or followed at twitter.com/bskidmore for the latest gadget industry news. He does not represent, or endorse any of the products he reviews and his opinions are solely his points of view and not those of the manufacturer. The manufacturer generally supplies products at no cost for the articles and no other compensation is received. THE GADGETEER is highly selective as to products he feels worthy of review so as not to waste the reader’s time, thus the reason for many superior ratings. Some information for this article may be gathered from various sources available to the author.

##



Wednesday, January 1, 2014

TRACK YOUR LUGGAGE WITH VIEW TAG



© 2014 BOB SKIDMORE ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

BOB SKIDMORE

CORRESPONDENT


How often have you lost your luggage while traveling? On a recent trip to Europe I did, and not just once, but twice. It sure would have been nice if I could have been alerted to the situation and know the destiny of my bags.

Vanguard ID Systems may have solved the problem for both the traveler and the transportation industry. They have developed the World’s first “battery free permanent luggage tag”. Known as the VIEW TAG, the tag looks much like an ID tag commonly used to identify the owner of the bag. What’s different is, it’s E-INK based. E-Link is a specific type of electronic paper used in E-readers and various other mobile devices with an ultra-low power consumption. The tag works like a digital license plate that allows the user to control the process of checking in their bag at home with their cell phone and the tag’s QR code or the embedded NFC  (Near Field Communication) module in the tag. NFC is a set of standards used in 80% of smartphones and similar devices to establish radio communications with each other by touching them together or bringing them into a, 3 to 4 inch proximity. In other words while your downloading your boarding pass or QR code for the flight you will also activate the tag by replicating the same information to it. When you arrive at the airport you proceed to the express line, weigh the bags, show your ID and your done. Theses tags are backwards compatible thus allowing old technology, namely bar codes, to catch up with this new technology.

The user receives text messages and alerts at various points of the journey depending on what level of service the airline offers or makes available, or you subscribe to. Different levels, different possible fees if the carrier opts to charge for this feature. In any case it’s a way for the carrier to communicate directly with its customers. If the bags are not with you at your final destination a text would advise that they are delayed, their location and when you could expect them and might even ask you what hotel you are staying at so they could be delivered. This eliminates wasted time at the baggage carrousel only to find out your luggage is lost, and for the airline to avoid angry customers at the lost baggage office. This could be a big time saver and a saving grace for the airline!

Richard Warther, Vangard’s President, advises that these tags will quite likely be in use in a very big way some time in 2014. They are IATA (International Air Transport Association) certified and meet all their current standards. If the carrier’s computer is down it will still show the final destination. The user will either purchase the tag, buy luggage with the tag embedded in it or be given the tag by the carrier as part of a frequent flyer incentive or the transfer of frequent flyer miles. While he would offer no cost figures, he did agree that it should be less than $100. He says the marketing possibilities are endless and his company is exploring all of them. Furthermore, the travel industry sees this as a win-win solution that solves one of their biggest headaches. He underscores that the tag uses no batteries so the average traveler could easily expect more than five years of use with wear and tear being the biggest contributing factor. Currently compatibility is with all the Android phones, but they are working on iPhones as well. As far as a service fee is concerned it would be up to the airlines. Seems to THE GADGETEER that it could be another revenue stream for them since they nickel and dime you for everything else.

While I’ve not had the opportunity to personally test these tags I look forward to their availability and would certainly give it five stars if they work.

Bob Skidmore is a freelance writer, who may be contacted at bob.thegadgeteer.skidmore@gmail.com, or followed at twitter.com/bskidmore for the latest gadget industry news. He does not represent, or endorse any of the products he reviews and his opinions are solely his points of view and not those of the manufacturer. The manufacturer generally supplies products at no cost for the articles and no other compensation is received. THE GADGETEER is highly selective as to products he feels worthy of review so as not to waste the reader’s time, thus the reason for many superior ratings.

##