Thursday, September 1, 2016



Displaying your photos in style.

© 2016 BOB SKIDMORE ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

BOB SKIDMORE

CORRESPONDENT


We live in a digital world. Gone are the days of film and videotape. Digital media seems to rule the world. So, what do we do to view the old and the new media easily? The simple answer may be the use of a digital frame. Such devices allow you to store your photos, and in some cases short video clips, on some form of storage media and have them displayed on a small portable flat screen. Features and reliability vary and depend on the make, model and the price you’re willing to pay.

I’ve tested several models from various manufacturers for this column. I decided to write about the NIXPLAY 15˝ DIGITAL FRAME, a frame I found to have the best quality, phone support and bang for the buck. NIXPLAY offers a wide selection, so, I narrowed my research to the non-wi-fi 15-inch model with a 4 x 3 aspect ratio. Wi-fi models are also available that allow interaction with numerous social media sites.

(TIP: 8˝, 10˝, 12˝ and an 18˝ with a 16 x 9 aspect ratio, non-wi-fi, models are also available, as are Wi-fi models that link to the cloud.)


The 15˝ size seems to be the easiest to view and still maintain a 4 x 3 aspect ratio, since most photographs use this ratio. The screen is extremely sharp and features a very high-resolution display of 1024 x 768 pixels. While not being part of the Apple Retina family, it certainly has the look of one. The instructions are easy to follow. Live phone support with “knowledgable techs” is standard. I found that type of support lacking with many other brands I tested. The frame accepts USB drives, SD/SDHC cards and plays both photos and videos. The photos are based on the JPEG standard so transfers from digital cameras, phones, iPads, scans, and saved social media pictures are compatible. It also supports MPEG-4 and AVI720p video. Photos and video clips can be intermixed. A setting allows alphabetical, date or shuffle sorting with additional display settings including screen rotation, slideshow effects and interval timings in several selectable increments of 3 seconds to one hour. When a video clip pops up the interval setting is overridden by the length of the clip. Adjustable motion sensing is also an option that allows the display’s data to pause and the screen to go to black. When motion is once again detected the screen returns to normal and the data continues where it left off. 


You may also opt to display the date and time in the bottom right of the screen, or select a split screen calendar effect if you desire. A wireless remote, two built-in 1.5 watt, speakers and headphone jack are included. This model is designed around the 4 x 3 aspect ratio, however, a “fill screen” option is selectable.

(TIP: Horizontal and vertical orientation can be a problem with many of the other frames I tested. This unit displayed 99.9% of the same material tested in other brands,  in the correct horizontal or vertical orientation. In the event you do encounter a problem it may be caused by the photo clip’s pixel count being too large.)

I found the NIXPLAY 15˝ DISPLAY to be a great way to enjoy your photos. If you can’t scan your old snapshots, many photo kiosks offer scanning services. This will permit their inclusion. The frame includes a 8gb thumb drive, but can accept up to a 32gb storage media card or USB drive allowing for thousands of videos and photos to be stored and displayed. The supplied instruction book is written in plain, understandable English. Phone and email support is responsive and USA based, something, if even available was not found in most other brands I tested. It supports tabletop or wall mounting and a 5v DC switching power adapter is supplied making it a world-wide product.

(TIP: The number of photos and videos that a 32gb memory device can store is determined by the pixel count of each photo or the length of the video clip. I would suggest creating a backup of your frame material in the event the media you use fails; You would also be well advised to name each photo or clip making it easier to locate specific ones for other purposes in future applications.)

GADGETEER’s RATING: ★★★★★

MSRP: $149.99 ~ 15˝ (4 x 3 aspect ratio)
  
For more information go to: http://bit.ly/15ITjdh

Graphic credits: Nixplay, 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.

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Monday, August 1, 2016

SCAMS



SCAMS ~ What to look for to avoid fraudulent schemes and how to protect yourself….

© 2016 BOB SKIDMORE ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

BOB SKIDMORE

CORRESPONDENT


We live in a technological world that offers many opportunities for scammers to thrive. The Internet, mobile phones and landlines have all enhanced the possibilities. It’s not just the communication interconnection capability, but also what services these mediums offer, not to mention the worldwide easy access all this encompasses.

At the top of the list are two well-known entities, Microsoft and the IRS. Naturally they get your immediate attention due to their importance in our lives.

The first scam is receiving a call by the alleged Microsoft Technical Department. The call or email informs you that Microsoft’s Technical Department has been monitoring your computer and has detected some sort of problem with its operation. 



The caller, usually with a foreign accent and speaking in broken English from what is commonly known as a “boiler room”, alleges that Microsoft has spotted a serious problem that if left uncorrected could cause major issues. You’re advised that it’s an easy fix by simply allowing the caller to access your computer. A link or web address is given to you and you are asked to access it and then permit the caller to take control of your computer. Once you’ve done this, your computer has been hacked. Now the operation and access to your files and programs by you is limited or not accessible at all.  You’re now told that to fix this problem there will be a charge and your credit card information will be required. Once you’ve given this information the problem may be resolved, however, the caller now has continuous access to everything on your computer including your credit card and banking information and probably they have already accessed it. The only solution is to immediately disconnect from the Internet and notify the various financial institutions of your dilemma. You’ll want to follow up with a reputable computer repair shop to check for hidden issues and also possibly change Internet providers since the caller now has your IP address. Change all passwords by using a different computer and Internet connection. Moral of this story is to never allow remote access by anyone you don’t trust. Microsoft and other companies do not monitor customer’s computers. If a problem exists with their software they generally notify you via an email, snail mail or in the media. A follow-up call to the company in question is advised. Look at your software documentation or call your local repair company for contact information. Microsoft offers 24/7 tech support at 877.721.7724 or 855.565.4366. A quick call will verify if this notice is legitimate. Caution is also advised when you receive requests to change passwords on your smartphone, iPad or computer as well. Never purchase any software from such callers.

(TIP: Most phone services now include caller ID. This shows the phone number from where the call originated and/or the city/state where the call is made. In some cases your own phone number may appear, which would indicate you’re calling yourself, obviously not true. Be aware that there are ways for the caller to fake or eliminate this information with what is known as “Spoofing Technology”. This technology causes the telephone network to indicate to the receiver of a call that the originator of the call is from a number other than the originating caller’s number. In other words, it could appear legitimate, but it really isn’t. If, on the other hand, it’s accurate you can compare the number with the real one. As you can see there’s no sure fire way to know it’s accurate. You can also Google the number and you’ll quickly find out what others have experienced. It’s amazing what you’ll find out.)

The second most popular scam is a notification from the IRS that you owe them money. The notification comes usually by phone, indicates that you are delinquent in taxes and that failure to make payment immediately will result in your arrest. Callers generally have your full name, address, family member’s names, employer, education and the last four digits of your social security number. This makes you think the call is legitimate. A demand for your credit card information is made. The caller becomes quite insistent and persists to threaten you by even indicating that law enforcement has been notified and is on the way to take you to jail. Another form of the IRS scam is to claim that you are due a large refund. To complete the transaction they request your social security number and banking information for a speedy direct deposit to your account. Once again, government agencies such as the IRS, do not call you for money, ask for financial information, refund you money over the phone, or by email. If they wish to contact you regarding any matter, you would receive a formal written notification in the mail with local contact information that you can easily verify. The immediate solution is to just hang up. Report all such calls to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800.366.4484. Fake calls from alleged government agencies are a federal offense and usually considered a felony. If they originate from outside the country, which they often do, prosecution is next to impossible.

(TIP: Most VOIP, Voice Over Internet Protocol, services, such as Vonage, cordless home phones and smartphone devices offer “CALL BLOCK”. If unfamiliar with how to access this feature contact the service provider, or the manufacturer of your phone for advice. Be aware that many scammers and robo callers use multiple phone numbers to call from, so you may still get calls from these people, but eventually you’ll beat them at their own game if you use the CALL BLOCK feature on every number they call from.)

Another common scam is having a message come up while your accessing a web site that says you are accessing a known hacked site and asks you to call the number on the screen for immediate assistance. The message on the screen stays locked on the screen preventing you from continuing to the site, or deleting the site, making it appear that you must call the number for help. It looks very official and even includes major credit card logos. Don’t be fooled! Don’t do it! Quit the browser if necessary.

So what preventative steps can you take? Avoid sharing personal informational data on social networking sites. Use strong passwords and update them frequently. Avoid using debit cards on the Internet and with remote payment devices. Don’t give your personal information to anyone you don’t know unless you are in direct in-person-to-person contact and/or in a reputable place of business. Following these simple rules may initially be an inconvenience, but in the long run could save you a lot of time, money and grief.

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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Friday, July 1, 2016

Prolonging the life of your Apple's USB cables....



Prolonging the life of your Apple’s USB Cables.

© 2016 BOB SKIDMORE ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

BOB SKIDMORE

CORRESPONDENT


We’ve all experienced the frayed cable syndrome at the connecting end of a USB cable. These are typically cables used for charging that are included with your iPhone, iPad, iPod and Apple Watch. Up to now the only solution was to throw away the defective cable and purchase a replacement, something that can become expensive. Well Tudia Products has created an interesting solution that may just prolong the life of the cable and offer other benefits too.



The Tubia Klip Cable Protector is a small two-piece shroud type device that easily slips on each cable end just below the connector. It’s designed to add strength and stability to this most vulnerable section of the cable reducing strain by as much as 80%. These cable ends are subjected to constant bending, pulling and pushing, causing the cable to be damaged or frayed. Customer feedback indicates such problems may appear generally after six-months of use.

Installation is simple. The long shaft piece slips around the cable and is snuggly positioned up to the actual connector. Once properly installed you simply slip the locking cap over the shroud thus preventing the Klip from coming apart.

(TIP: Your first installation may be a bit cumbersome, however, practice makes perfect and you’ll soon become a KLIP installation expert.)

I’ve tested this not only with lightning ends, but also with standard USB and thirty-pin Apple connectors as well. I’ve used various round or flat cables, and had great results.

The Tubia Klip Cable Protector works well and can prolong the life of your charging cable. It can even salvage partially damaged cables as long as the cable is still in one piece and the center conductor’s bare wire is not exposed. Once installed it gives you better gripping power for easy insertion or removal of the cable from your device. Klips are available in five colors ~ blue, green, pink, gray and yellow making color-coding possible. 



A great cost-saving solution to a common and annoying problem!

GADGETEER’s RATING: ★★★★★

MSRP: $7.00 individually ~ also available in bulk packs at substantial savings.

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

Graphic credits: Tudia

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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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

VINYL & TAPE TO DIGI

BEHRINGER UFO202 WITH PRE-AMP FEATURE

A practical primer.

© 2016 BOB SKIDMORE ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

BOB SKIDMORE

CORRESPONDENT


The age of vinyl records and magnetic tape recordings has come and almost gone. Some present day recordings are still being released in very limited quantities in these formats. I say “almost” in that there appears to be a slight resurgence of this past technology by the purest, but for us normal folk what do we do to preserve and enjoy these recordings?

 (TIP: There is a debate by some that the quality of vinyl and magnetic tape far exceeds that of the various digital media currently available. Some also believe that the vacuum tube produces better quality than does solid-state technology. While there may be some truth to all this, an adult’s hearing, after the age of 30, gradually looses its ability to hear higher frequencies and continues to do so to the point where hearing aids become a necessary evil. Some of this was as a result of listening to music at very high volumes in our younger years.)

There are several ways to convert your old media to a CD, computer file or memory stick. In the case of vinyl recordings you need a turntable that either has a USB output, or the more common analogue RCA connectors. If you have USB you can connect it directly to one of the spare USB ports on your computer and then use a software program that we’ll discuss later to make a recording. If you have a turntable with RCA connectors you will first have to plug this into some sort of pre-amp. A pre-amp boosts the very low signal from the stylist to a level acceptable for recording purposes. I’ve found the Behringer U-Phono UFO202 a perfect solution. This device has a phono pre-amp built-in that can also be switched off allowing various other analogue tape recording devices such as tape decks to also mate up with your computer. A USB cable is attached allowing direct connection to virtually any computer platform and provides a high-resolution 48 kHz conversion for high-end audio quality. It’s also used to power the unit. The green LED is a USB status light that indicates power is coming from the USB connection. Two analogue RCA output jacks are provided allowing you to plug into the audio input of other devices. An eighth-inch headphone jack and accompanying volume control are built-in allowing you to monitor the conversion process. A selector switch turns the pre-amp off for non-vinyl conversions. If you’re interested in only converting analogue magnetic recordings you might consider the UCA202, without the pre-amp feature, but since it costs about the same why choose it?

BEHRINGER UCA202 WITHOUT THE PHONO PRE-AMP FEATURE


TIP: The UFO202 is outfitted with a ground lug. You will need to connect a small wire to it and to the metal frame, not plastic, of the turntable. This is necessary to eliminate any hum or buzz that may be picked up from the electrics in the turntable mechanism. Worry not, you won’t be shocked when making this simple hookup.)

Any audio recording of this type requires a software program to make it work. I’ve found AUDACITY, a FREE multi-platform program, works very well. Not only can you use this as your recorder, but you also can edit, filter, speed correct, and equalize the material. Behringer offers this and many other downloads for FREE on their web site. Once the recording is complete it’s just a matter of saving to your hard drive, a CD or memory stick.

So, don’t throw away your precious recordings, transcribe them to your computer and store them on a CD, memory stick or other storage media. Turntables, reel-to-reel recorders, audiocassette and 8-track decks are readily found on EBAY. Happy listening!

GADGETEER’s RATING: ★★★★★

MSRP: Behringer UFO202 (with pre-amp) $39.99 http://bit.ly/1ZQA476
Behringer UCA202 (no pre-amp) $39.99 http://bit.ly/1OtcAyO

Available at retail or from Amazon.
  
Graphic credits: Behringer

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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