Wednesday, October 1, 2014

APPLE WATCH




“OH, THERE’S ONE MORE THING” ~ 
A timely statement from Apple’s Tim Cook…

© 2014 BOB SKIDMORE ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

BOB SKIDMORE

CORRESPONDENT


In the 15th century the wristwatch evolved from a spring driven clock that was invented by the German craftsman Peter Henlein. While improvements have certainly been made, the concept of keeping time in some form or another hasn’t really changed. In recent months we’ve seen various attempts to change that with the introduction of the “Smartwatch”.  On September 9th Apple’s Tim Cook may have changed that when he said, “Oh, there’s one more thing”, taken from a phrase that the late Steve Jobs always used, Tim introduced the APPLE WATCH, and then proclaimed, “Apple’s most personal product, ever”. This announcement had so much world-wide interest that it overloaded the Internet… Did you notice it’s not part of the “i” family, a sign the “i” symbol may be on its way out?

What makes the Apple Watch stand apart from all the other Smartwatches? First off, the rectangular watch with rounded edges, looks like a fine timepiece that adapts for right or left hand use automatically. It’s available in two sizes for men or women and three different models. Then with the push of a button you can interchange from a wide selection of wristband styles. The models include, The Watch, in either polished or space black stainless steel, The Sport, anodized aluminum in silver or space gray, and The Watch Edition, a 18-karat gold design developed to be twice as hard as standard gold. All models feature a polished sapphire crystal protective covering over the display and use a traditional side mounted watch crown to navigate the menus thus preventing obscuring the display. The watch face can be selected from many available designs. Apple Watch truly has the look of a fine watch and doesn’t give the appearance that you’re wearing a bulky electronic gadget! It’s really not a computer on your wrist, but rather a sophisticated link or remote control and display for your iPhone.

So, what does the Apple Watch do that makes it so unique? Well, it truly integrates with Apple’s iPhone models from the 5 series on up. This is something that was not typically possible with other Smartwatches. When linked to your iPhone you can make and receive calls, receive and text messages, read, mark and delete emails, control music, use Siri, walkie-talkie communication, calendar reminders, GPS turn-by-turn directions that tap on your wrist indicating the turn, remote camera operation, make purchases with *Apple Pay, and fitness/vital sign tracking that can be sent to others. Fitness and vital sign tracking could open the door for many life saving technologies in the future. Now that’s a comprehensive list of useful features with many more to come. I especially like knowing when a call is coming in because the watch taps you on your wrist. It also shows caller ID and text messages at a glance without having to pull out your phone. In noisy areas this can be a big plus.

The battery life is still a deep secret. The display only turns on when the watch is moved to a ninety-degree position, a feature that exists on other smart watches that conserves battery drain. Charging is accomplished by magnetic induction, a form of wireless charging.

The Apple Watch will be available some time in early 2015 with a starting price of $349.00. The Gold Edition may be very expensive, perhaps as high as $5000.00.



Earlier I referenced *Apple Pay as a feature. This is a service commonly known as mobile wallet. The concept is to negate the need for credit cards by simply communicating between your iPhone and a merchants’ special reader thus authorizing the payment of a sale’s transaction between the merchant and your bank. Apple has already aligned itself with several large merchants and service providers to make this form of payment possible some time in 2015 or sooner. A quick note, Wal-Mart and Best Buy have stated that they will not participate as they plan to use another form of a mobile wallet. Some have said mobile wallets will eliminate the need for credit cards as a form of payment and severely impact PayPal, but let’s not be too hasty as many people still do not have iPhones or Smartphones and may never have them. Also, even though Apple indicates that hacking will not be an issue, it seems someone always finds a way to break the code, after all it is Cloud based technology. Boy, true technology on the move and where’s Dick Tracy when we need him?

Graphic credit: Apple

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 avail

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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