Friday, May 1, 2015

The Gadgeteer: APPLE TV

The Gadgeteer: APPLE TV: APPLE TV ~ Demystified …. © 2015 BOB SKIDMORE ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BOB SKIDMORE CORRESPONDENT Apple TV is a...

APPLE TV




Demystified….

© 2015 BOB SKIDMORE ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

BOB SKIDMORE

CORRESPONDENT


Apple TV is a 1080p high definition streaming device that’s been around for some time in various models. This device, like many others, has preloaded apps that allow for the selection of specific television program sources such as THE HISTORY CHANNEL, CNBC, PBS and ABC NEWS. Many other non-network sources including music, HULUPLUS, NETFLIX and SKY NEWS are presently available. SKYNEWS is a British all news channel much like CNN that may be accessed without any fees or special requirements. Apple TV can also access your purchased movies, TV shows, and music with iTunes Match, right from iCloud. You can stream video, games and more from your iPhone, iPad or MAC to your TV by using AirPlay. Videos and photos can also be streamed from PC’s and MAC’s. In short, these apps have the ability to be displayed on your television by means of an optional HDMI cable.

(TIP: If your flat screen has all its HDMI ports in use, a simple fix would be to purchase an HDMI switch such as the Belkin AV10117 4-way with a wireless remote. This will accommodate the Apple TV,  plus leave you with three spares.)


If you do not subscribe to these services via your cable service, or have a TV that does not have preprogrammed apps like NETFLIX, Apple TV is an easy fix. However, many of the apps require that you are serviced by a cable provider that has paid the fees for these offerings. When you initially select the app, it will ask you if your cable provider is among those shown, followed by a form of verification. If your provider is not participating, you will be unable to access the programming from this app. You may think because you receive this channel over cable you would automatically qualify to receive it via Apple TV. Not so, as these fees are over and above what the cable provider pays for cable distribution. Nowhere in the marketing material or manual is this restriction indicated, so take heed. Additional program apps are made available through periodic upgrades. One such recent upgrade features HBO at $15.00 monthly.

(TIP: Apple TV comes preprogrammed with apps. These preloaded apps vary from country-to-country. It’s possible to travel with an Apple TV box loaded with U. S. A. region apps and use it internationally. You may, however, reset the region to other countries listed in the settings app. This should allow access to the apps for that region. You can easily reset the region to the U. S. in the same manner. Since it’s a very compact computer that uses a TV to display the signal, you need not worry about the TV standard of PAL or NTSC. It’s also multi-voltage and requires only a power plug adapter for the specific country you are in. If you purchase an Apple TV box in another country it will come set to the apps specific to that region.)

Apple TV allows for wi-fi or a direct-wired connection with the Internet. Since streaming video is speed and processor dependent you would be well advised to opt for a wired interface to minimize or eliminate buffering. The device also comes with a remote control. Its operation is somewhat clumsy, so if you have an iPhone 6 or iPad you can download a free Bluetooth enabled “remote Apple Essentials” app from the App Store that dramatically improves the process.

A handy under the screen mount, “totalMount”, is an optional accessory. It attaches the Apple TV box under the flat screen making for a simple line-of-site connectivity link between it and the supplied remote.


 Apple TV is a neat device if you have need for the programs that are actually available to you. It does not require a MAC to make it work, although some features may not be available with a PC in the network. Since it works in other countries it can provide you with a limited English speaking program alternative while traveling. If you travel in internationally having SKY NEWS is a benefit since it’s in English and the news coverage does include major U. S. stories.

The 1080p HD picture quality is outstanding, but does require a medium to high speed Internet connection for best results. Apple never pre-releases new product information, however, rumors abound that a new model may be released in June of this year. While no official details have been released by Apple, rumor has it that the new box will support TV, music and purchasable apps, have an expanded memory that goes well beyond the existing 8gb Apple TV boxes and will operate on an improved operating system that will support Siri voice controls. Furthermore, Apple may be planning to launch an online TV service this autumn in partnership with broadcasters possibly including ABC, CBS and FOX. They are also reportedly in talks with U. S. programmers. They plan to offer a “slimmed-down” cable-style bundle of roughly twenty-five channels that will be available to view across Apple TV boxes and Apple iOS devices including iPads and iPhones. Again, these kinds of services make it an ideal travel companion.

GADGETEER’s RATING: ★★★★★

MSRP: Apple TV $69.00 (current model) ~ Total Mount $19.95
Belkin AV10117 4-way HDMI switch $34.95

For more information go to: http://apple.co/1cBtcqW

Graphic credits: Apple; Belkin

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, April 1, 2015

APPLE's TIME CAPSULE


Return To The Past With Ease.

© 2015 BOB SKIDMORE ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

BOB SKIDMORE

CORRESPONDENT


Backing up your data stored on laptops can be a chore. The lack of a second hard drive and the mobility factor often times cause us to disregard the need for a backup until a drive failure or a previously deleted document is needed. While various backup methods exist, Apple offers a unique solution for their line of computers.

The Apple TIME CAPSULE is a tower shaped stand-alone device. It not only serves as a superfast Wi-Fi base station, but also as an easy to use backup system. This backup system, available in both 2TB and 3TB versions, automatically back ups any changes made to your Macintosh computers. If a laptop leaves your local network the backup procedure stops, but when the computer is returned it automatically continues with the backup process. The backup works in conjunction with a software program known as TIME MACHINE, included with all modern day Mac’s at no additional cost.

Some stationary Macintosh computers have slots for additional hard drives that can be assigned for backup purposes with the TIME MACHINE software. If that were the case TIME CAPSULE, as a backup feature would not be necessary. However, if you also have a Macintosh PowerBook, TIME CAPSULE is a must have accessory.

TIME CAPSULE’S backup operation is fully automatic. Simply follow the TIME MACHINE prompts for initial setup. Once completed you’re set to backup automatically. It can be programmed to accommodate multiple MAC computers.

(TIP: The TIME MACHINE software catalogs backups on a daily basis. When the backup hard drive or TIME CAPSULE is filled the oldest backup is deleted to create more space for a seamless backup operation. Since cataloged in this manner you can easily go back and find data that you may have previously deleted days, weeks or even months ago and return it to the main drive.)


As I referenced earlier, TIME CAPSULE also serves as a Wi-Fi base station. In other words there is no need to have an additional router to provide Wi-Fi access if you have the TIME CAPSULE installed. Unlike the backup feature, Wi-Fi will be accessible to any brand of laptop, notebook, PC, MAC, smartphone or other Internet dependent device. Printer and hard drive sharing are also possible. Since TIME CAPSULE features simultaneous dual-band 802.11ac, it transmits at both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency at the same time. So no matter which band your wireless device uses, it will automatically connect to the best available frequency for the fastest possible results.

TIME CAPSULE is a dependable method of backing up your data from any Macintosh computer. It will not, however, back up from a PC, smartphone or other Internet dependent device. It does provide a superfast Wi-Fi signal for any Wi-Fi enabled device and includes 3 Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports for fast-wired connectivity with a desktop computer, network drive, DVR or other device. The reliability and ease of operation make it a superior must have option, especially if you are a MAC user.

GADGETEER’s RATING: ★★★★★

MSRP: (2TB) $299.00  & (3TB) $399.00

For more information go to: http://apple.co/1stMTaZ


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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Sunday, March 1, 2015

VIZIO S2121W


A Sound Stand That Passes The Bar.

© 2015 BOB SKIDMORE ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

BOB SKIDMORE

CORRESPONDENT


The day of the bulky CRT television receiver or monitor has long passed. If you don’t have projection TV, most of us don’t, then you probably have some form of a flat screen. They come on all sizes and shapes that can easily be hung on the wall or tabletop mounted. The problem is sound quality and sound dispersion.

There are several ways to improve a flat screen’s sound quality with a sound bar being the most popular, but perhaps not the most practical. Sound bars are long and can be heavy making them more difficult to place or wall mount. Some come with wireless subwoofers that enhance the bass, but take up even more space. So, is there an alternative?

The Vizio S2121w-DO is a 2.1 Sound Stand with a built-in subwoofer. It’s a tabletop unit that is designed to accommodate flat screens up to 55” and sixty pounds. This makes it possible to place the flat screen on top of the Sound Stand thus minimizing space requirements. 



If you have a wall mounted flat screen the Sound Stand still works well since it takes up so little space and still offers great sound.

(TIP: Always place the base of the flat screen in the center of the Sound Stand. This is where the interior supports are positioned and will prevent possible damage to the Sound Stand and the set itself.)

The Sound Stand offers an analog input with RCA jacks and an analog input with a 3.5mm jack. A digital optical input and a digital coaxial input are also provided for connection to your flat screen. In addition it does accept Bluetooth connectivity making it possible to listen to smartphones, tablets or MAC/PCs as well. Since it does have analog inputs you can easily add a satellite radio receiver, CD player or Internet radio to the mix. This makes for a nice home theater system in places like the bedroom, den or screen room. The specs are quite impressive too, and include Dolby Digital, dts TruSound, dts Studio Surround and dts TruVolume and a sound pressure level of 101db with a frequency response of 55Hz – 19Khz. Led indicators on the front panel show sound level and input selection. The power requirement varies from 100-240vac, 50/60Hz, making it a true worldwide product. Power can be set to shut off automatically after five minutes of silence.

(TIP: TruVolume automatically regulates sound levels such as blaring commercials; TruSurround HD make the sound more realistic; dts Studio Surround is a simulated surround sound effect; Dolby Digital is a surround effect to enhance cinema sound.)

However, don’t expect true surround sound that can only be attained with a five (5:1) or seven (7.1) speaker array.

(TIP: You can improve on a surround sound effect by keeping the sound level of the flat screen “on”, but at a much lower level than the Sound Stand. Since most flat screens tend to disperse sound from the sides or rear, the sound will bounce off the wall and somewhat create a wrap around effect.)

The 14 controls are self-explanatory and are activated by the supplied remote.  Four basic controls are duplicated and accessible on the side panel of the unit. The response time to a newly selected input is somewhat slow. This is typical of many digital devices and can’t be avoided in the Sound Stand.

In general, the Vizio Sound Stand is a nice practical solution to improving sound quality in small areas. Since it has speakers on three sides and a subwoofer on the bottom it can reproduce a powerful clean sound for such a small box and it comes with all the cables. What I wish they had included, however, are selections for recreating the sound effect of various venues such as theater, arena, concert hall and clubs, but then again this is something that is also lacking with most sound bars.

GADGETEER’s RATING: ★★★★★

MSRP: $249.95

For more information go to: http://bit.ly/1ydrX9C

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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Sunday, February 1, 2015

CES ~ 2015





© 2015 BOB SKIDMORE ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

BOB SKIDMORE

CORRESPONDENT


This year’s 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, CES, wrapped up as the largest show in its history. It started in 1967 as a spinoff of the Chicago Music Show was moved to New York City and had an attendance of 17,500 with over 100 exhibitors. Thru the years it’s had many venues with Las Vegas finally becoming its annual home. Attendance this year topped 170,000 industry professionals. CES featured 3600 exhibitors and occupied 2.2 million square feet of exhibition space. While the show consists of electronic products currently or soon to be available, it has also become the stage for gauging the viability of possible new gadgets and other varied diverse items unrelated to its original intent. 2015 was certainly no exception. Admittance is restricted and not open to the public.

Perhaps one of the most interesting gadgets announced was Intel’s Compute Stick that plugs into the HDMI port of your HD TV.


The stick instantly turns your TV into a system running Windows 8.1. It consists of a quad-core Atom Intel CPU, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of memory at a cost of $149 and is due out in March. The device supports wi-fi and Bluetooth thus making it possible to connect a keyboard and mouse. Options allow for up to 128GB of extra storage. A scaled down Linux version at $89 will also be introduced. Could an Apple OS be far off?

The BEAM, by suitable Technologies, is a $16,000 roving robot with a large screen that allows people in remote locations to interact with each other. 



You simply tap into the BEAM remotely and drive it around the office allowing you to be a part of what’s going on. The person’s face is shown on a large screen at eye level making its interaction more natural.

In recent years the automobile industry has used CES to test the interest in possible technologies that might become a part of the cars of tomorrow. This year was no exception with the showing of Mercedes F 014, autonomous driving vehicle, a car that provides a full visual entertainment system since the driver’s attention can be diverted to more interesting activities. 



It’s powered by electrical power generated by its twin fuel cells that convert hydrogen into electricity and water. GM, VW, Ford and others had a presence too. Apple’s CARPLAY was visible in several of the automobiles exhibited. It includes a voice command system along with other features like call alerts, messages and music.

LifeProof fre is a four-proof case for iPhone 6 designed to protect against water to 6.6 feet for one-hour. Since it’s totally enclosed it is protected from dirt and snow and meets military specs (810G-516.6) for shock and impact protection. It also doubles the iPhone battery life with its 2600mAh built-in battery. It’s available now at $79 with lots of optional accessories available too.

Some other products worthy of mention include: VSN MOBIL offering a 360° camera with no frame stitching or breaks at $399. NIXIE, a wearable wrist camera that easily adapts to becoming your personal drone. Looks like GOPRO now has some competition. Belty, is a self-adjusting smart belt that makes losing weight a snap since it automatically adjusts to the slightest change in your girth. Available later this year; EDYN, a garden monitoring tool that monitors the soil temperature and the soil’s fertility ambient temperature, humidity and light. Data is then uploaded to the Edyn app for the user; iGrow from Apira Science, a device that the company claims is the first FDA cleared wearable device for hair growth. It uses light at the right frequency, wavelength and power to stimulate hair growth; Mybiody Balance, developed by BBRC Aminogram, a French company, is a wearable wellness body measurement device. It attaches to your ankle and then sends vital statistics including body mass to your mobile device or laptop; Sony reintroduced the Walkman. It reproduces higher quality recordings, 60 hours of MP3 playback or 33 hours of hi res playback from a single charge. Available in Spring.

TVs have always been a highlight at the show. However, the emphasis appears now to be shifting by the manufacturers. They plan to boost the range of colors their sets can display. The consensus of opinion is that the amount of colors current televisions display is too limited and doesn’t fully achieve what viewers are seeing on film in the movie theater and in real life. We can expect improvements in this area as well as more 4K and 8K models coming to market. For the uninitiated, 4K, four times the detail, and 8K, 8 times the detail, are much higher definition sets, but are limited by programming being available in these formats. Yes, some programming does exist, but the cost by producers for upgrading production equipment to these standards becomes a catch 22. Amazon and Netflix do offer some 4K streaming. Samsung says that by 2017 every TV it sells will be Internet compliant and the term SMART TV will disappear. Other new features include Firefox OS voice-controlled TVs.

With 3600 exhibits it’s difficult to talk about them all. I’ve tried to pick some that are my top picks and hope you found them interesting as well.

Graphic credits: Mercedes Benz – Intel – CES

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.