Monday, September 1, 2014

PASSWORDS ~ The Necessary Evil


© 2014 BOB SKIDMORE ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

BOB SKIDMORE

CORRESPONDENT


In this high tech world it seems that everything requires a password. It ranges from a mix of upper and lower case letters, symbols, numerical digits to a minimum number of suggested character combinations. Not only is this complex, how can you possibly remember them all, and still be expected to change them frequently? What’s a person to do?

So, here are some dos and don’ts: Don’t use the same password for different sites. Don’t use family names, pet names, hometowns, special memorable dates or any other information that may be available about you on line. Don’t save passwords or use “remember me” on a public computer since the next user could have access to it. Don’t reuse old passwords. Don’t use common choices such as 1234, the word password or your name. Do use longer passwords made up of numerous characters. Characters should contain upper and lower case letters, numbers and a various combination of symbols. Mixing them in the middle of a word also makes your password more difficult to hack. Use the number 0 in place of O and $ in place of S. An example would be Mind572iNg~0Pen6431Ca$h. These combinations will make hacking much more tedious and time consuming. “Longer is stronger” should be the goal!

Now that you’ve created all these long and strong passwords, how do you remember them all? Since nobody else has access on my home computer, I use a Rolodex system. I created a label file called Passwords on my DYMO label program. I include the web address, ID, password, security questions/answers and any other useful information. Since this is on my computer, I make sure that the file, not the program, is kept on a flash drive or memory stick and not permanently on the computer. This allows you to keep both the Rolodex and flash drive under lock and key, if necessary. Updates or changes are easy since once the change is made you simply print out a new label for your Rolodex. This method makes for a ledgeable and accurate record of your ID’s and passwords.

In the case of mobile devices, such as iPhones and iPads, I use an app called Password Manager that is password protected and is kept only in the memory of my device. Since the introduction of this program several years ago, a wide variety of similar apps are now available for various brands of smartphones and tablets. Make sure that the program you select is password protectable so anyone using your device will not have access to it. Numerous password creation apps are also available that randomly create unique password combinations.

Web-based options that create and store your encrypted passwords and allow you to automatically access them are also available. My hesitation with using any “cloud based” storage of passwords or, for that matter, files, is that I don’t want to entrust such sensitive information with a third party. No matter how secure they claim to be, access by someone else may be possible. In addition, the possibility of requiring a higher or additional fee to access your information could always be an unwelcome surprise at some later date when you desperately need it. Buyer, always beware!

Graphic credit: picgifs

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, make any legality of use claims, or endorse any of the products he reviews. 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 news sources available to the author.

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Friday, August 1, 2014

EPSON LW-600P ~ A Portable Label Printer





© 2014 BOB SKIDMORE ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

BOB SKIDMORE

CORRESPONDENT


There are label printers and then there’s the EPSON LW-600P. What makes the EPSON so different? It’s a portable, battery (6 AA) or AC powered, thermal transfer printer that can easily fit in a briefcase or toolbox, or just simply on your desk. Its purpose is to print various types of labels other than the common address variety, such as for marking cables, emergency exits or printing on ribbon stock.


I tested this unique printer and found the quality, ease of use with available software, numerous size-adjustable fonts and wide variety of label stock to be most impressive. Since it uses Bluetooth or a USB connection, it works well with iPhone, Android, iPad, Mac and PC computers, as well as various other tablets. The EPSON iLabel software is downloadable as a FREE App and includes over 100 label design templates, 400 symbols including the creation of QR code labels for content sharing, or barcode labels for inventory. You can import custom graphics such as logos and photographs to copy or paste on to the label design. There’s even a handwriting mode for custom drawing or annotation of labels using the touchscreen interface and EPSON has launched a developers’ program for further development of the capabilities making third party apps such as Scanlife and Stkr.it possible.

(TIP: Presently, vertical printing is not supported, but as with many other add-on features, will be possible with future software upgrades.)

The label stock, while a bit pricy, offers quite a selection that includes clear, fabric iron-on, metallic, pearlized, reflective, ribbon, fluorescent, “glow-in –the-dark”, and many other standard coatings. These cartridges are quickly interchangeable allowing for easy substitution of label stock for different applications. The applications are limitless. Label stock is available in 1/4, 3/8, 1/2, 3/4 and 1-inch sizes and are upwards compatible from EPSON’s previous LW-300 and 400 models.

(TIP: Epson labels have been successfully tested as water resistant. When submerged, however, the ink will remain in tact, but the possibility exists that the adhesive could dissolve causing detachment. Further testing is planned for this and other critical applications, and refinements made where necessary. Even though these labels use thermal transfer as the printing method, passing thru a laminator has no negative effect.)

Previously, printers with this capability would have cost hundreds of dollars and still not have offered the wide variety of printing possibilities. The EPSON LW-600P puts affordable unique portable label printing in the hands of the homeowner and small business entrepreneur making possible a whole new world of creative labeling.


GADGETEER’s RATING: ★★★★★

MSRP: $99.99 (Available at retail and on line)

For more information go to: http://bit.ly/1iR06q7

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, make any legality of use claims, 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 news sources available to the author.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

An MP3 Device That Records Phone Calls




© 2014 BOB SKIDMORE ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

BOB SKIDMORE

CORRESPONDENT


How often have you had to call Tech Support for help in getting something to work only to say to yourself, “what did they say to do”? Sound all too familiar? Sangean may have just the frustration eliminator.

The Sangean DAR-101 is a compact digital MP3 recorder that has the ability to record voice with its stereo internal microphone or an external microphone input, record from various other audio sources, and most importantly, from your telephone. The telephone feature is the unique feature that I will focus on for this article, as it’s a hard to find useful option.

There have been numerous products in the past to make phone recordings possible, but most offered poor and clumsy connection options, used magnetic tape and offered marginal reproduction quality. The DAR-101 includes a special patch cord that interconnects with the industry standard RJ12/22 modular jack found on most telephone wall outlets, making  hook-up to your phone line simple. It records on a commonly available SD/MMC/SDHC card in the MP3 format with various storage capacities up to 32gb. It has a built-in 3” speaker, headphone and line out jacks for various monitoring capabilities. A date/time stamp is included that shows up as part of the file description. A twelve-second-beep tone is selectable, that when engaged indicates to the other party that the conversation is being recorded. This feature generally satisfies local laws that may require some form of notification that the call is being recorded. Naturally, you can always verbally inform the other party that you are recording the call. The record level may be manually adjusted, or a setting allows for AGC (automatic gain control). There are three recording speeds, a/k/a density settings. Voice activation is included which is handy for unattended operation. An easy to read LCD display with backlight control is built-in to aid in making record level and system adjustments as well as finding recorded files/folders. The recorder can be battery powered, or plugged in the wall with the supplied 9 VAC plug-in power supply.

(TIP: CAUTION ~ Laws regulating telephone recordings vary from state-to-state and are subject to change. The main thing to remember is that if you plan to use such recordings to play to others, or in some sort of legal action, the other party usually needs to be aware of the recording taking place. To satisfy this requirement, the twelve-second-beep feature, or a verbal announcement, generally satisfies this requirement. A few states, such as Texas, simply require that one of the two parties be aware of a recording in progress. As strange as this seems, the party making the recording is in the know, therefore the requirement has been met. Check your local laws to ensure you’re in compliance and that the law has not changed.)

I have extensively tested the Sangean DAR-101 using a Vonage VOIP phone line and find that it performs exceptionally well. It’s easy to use and the sound quality is outstanding! It’s a great note taker. I utilize it when conducting many of my interviews. I use a 8gb SDHC card, although it will support up to a 32gb one, at a speed of 192kbps. This affords me months of recordings before needing to erase the card’s memory. Instead of using the built-in playback capability, I opt to remove the card for playback and to store a particular interview on my computer where I can also title it for future reference. Typically an optional card reader is needed to do this since most computers do not have one built-in. Since all files are time/date stamped, I can easily locate and copy the particular file I’m interested in to the desktop, still retaining the original on the card. iTunes is a common program used for this purpose.

(TIP: Be sure that you use a card reader that matches the type of card you’re using, as in SD/MMC/SDHC.)

GADGETEER’s RATING: ★★★★★

MSRP: $100.99 (Available at retail and on line)

For more information go to: http://bit.ly/1yXFHoh


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, make any legality of use claims, 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 news sources available to the author.

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Sunday, June 1, 2014

SLINGBOX



SLINGBOX ~ Watching Home TV On Your Internet Connected MAC, PC, Tablet or Smartphone

© 2014 BOB SKIDMORE ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

BOB SKIDMORE

CORRESPONDENT


These days, watching home TV on your MAC, PC, tablet or smartphone is nothing new. Many cable providers offer an app that turns many devices into a portable TV while you’re at home. Certain specific programming apps are available, ie: HBO, to remotely watch that channel only. The trick is, being able to watch all your home TV channels at any time and from anywhere in the world, when you have Internet access.

Sling Media has been supplying streaming boxes since 2004. In 2007, EchoStar purchased the company and since then we’ve seen many major improvements. At first glance, size is the most noticeable. The new Slingbox 350, the one we tested, is about half the size of the original model. Compression technology has been greatly improved allowing for slower Internet speeds while still maintaining a stable, clear image. A broader selection of viewing devices is now also supported. Installation is relatively fast and simple. I’ll share a few tips about that later which will help with this process.

The Slingbox 350 is the standard model and features 1080p high definition quality. It connects to your TIVO, DVR, cable set-top box or satellite receiver via component or composite sources. It does require a hard-wired Internet connection since it has no wi-fi feature. The Slingbox 500 offers all the same features and capabilities, but does also include, built-in wi-fi, IR blasters, as well as a host of additional streaming options. No tuner is supplied with either model. Your TIVO, DVR or cable box acts as your tuner.

(TIP: D-Link, one of several companies with connection solutions, offers a series of “POWERLINE” products that expand your wired network by utilizing your electrical house wiring in place of running an Ethernet CAT 5 cable from your router to the Slingbox. Simply plug one of two modules into a wall outlet next to your router and the other near your Slingbox. http://bit.ly/1iVE8vu Netgear offers wireless Eithernet bridges that use your wi-fi signal to convert back to a hardwired connection. http://bit.ly/1onHU5R A short CAT 5 cable at each end connects from the Powerline or the bridge module to the Slingbox and to the router. Your Internet connection is now made. Note: There could be a speed reduction using this type of device, so a bit more buffering may take place. This type of device may also be used for other Internet dependent gadgets when wi-fi is unavailable. http://bit.ly/1iVE8vu)

On the receiving end, the Slingbox supports most Mac’s, PC’s, Smartphones and tablets. A computer is required for the initial setup. Software for viewing on a computer is free, however on a MAC you must have OS 10.8 or 9, with Safari 6+, Firefox 25+ or Chrome 30+ as your browser. On a PC, Windows 7 or Windows 8 (Desktop mode), with IE 10+, Firefox 25+, or Chrome 30+ as your browser. Some of the published data may say otherwise, but my tests support these requirements. To access the Sling on a Smartphone or tablet you must purchase an app for a one-time fee of $14.99. No app or fee is required when using a computer.

Cable hookup to the Slingbox is easy with the supplied cables. Simply plug in the component video and the audio cables from the output of your TIVO, DVR, cable box or satellite receiver to the corresponding color-coded IN jacks of the Slingbox. Connect the Ethernet and IR emitter cable along with the power cable and you should soon see the power and Internet light lit, (upper front left), indicating all connections are active.

(TIP: The light under the horseshoe only lights up when someone is accessing your Slingbox on line.)

At this stage it is advisable to depress the RESET button, (right rear of the Sling’s power plug), for about 20 seconds. This step is missing in the instructions, but was advised as an important part of the setup process, by Tech Support. Tech support is excellent and available by live chat, numerous on-line tutorials or by phone where the agent, with your permission, can access your computer to aid in the installation should that become necessary.

The Slingbox is a great device that works exceptionally well. It does allow you to access your home’s live cable programming, recorded TIVO programs, or, to schedule programs to be recorded, and all with no monthly fees. A menu option allows you to access the remote for the source device. All functions that are on that remote are controllable. I have tested Slingbox on many devices both domestically and around the world and it works well. Slingbox boxes are available in many countries and they incorporate the TV standards of that country and are voltage compatible, however, no mater what country a Slingbox is located in you have viewing access on your Internet capable devices. Hookup from these viewing devices to your flat screen TV is usually possible with the use of third party cables. Slingbox is a great device for maximizing the use of your home television system when you’re on the go.

GADGETEER’s RATING: ★★★★★

MSRP: Sling 350 $179.95 ~ Sling 500 $299.99 ~ Netgear N300 bridge $44.99 ~ D-Link PowerLine AV500 $59.99

For more information go to: http://bit.ly/1ixeEHm

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.

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