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Author Archive for Andy Simmons

Intellinet Network Solutions NSC11-WN Network Camera Review

Everyone occasionally wanders into a situation where they want or need to have an extra set of eyes watching their stuff.  There are a number of ways to do this by setting up a webcam, but getting a webcam where you need it can be difficult, and not everyone has the patience or know-how to configure such a thing.  Intellinet Network Solutions has what could be the solution to this problem in their NSC11-WN Network Camera.  But is it all it’s cracked up to be?  I got the opportunity to try one out and find out.

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Draco Design DRACO IV Case for iPhone 4/4S Review

It seems like every day there’s a new case out for the iPhone, and today is no different.  Today I submit for your perusal a review of an aluminum bumper-style case from Japanese design firm Draco Design, the Draco IV.  Is there enough here to differentiate it from the competition, or is it just another also-ran?  Read on to find out.

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Show Off Your Crafty Side With the DIY iPhone Case

One really nice thing about being an iPhone owner is that the third-party accessories market is so enormous that one is never at a loss for accessory options.  However, there is a trend in phone cases in general to lean towards the sleek and industrial or luxurious, often leaving those whose tastes tend toward the relaxed and unique out in the cold.

Fortunately for those people, Connect Design is now offering a DIY iPhone 4 case that allows the more skilled iPhone 4 owners to customize their phone with cross-stitch, thanks to a weave pattern on the back.  The case is available in six colors, and the Connect Design website even provides a number of sample patterns in case you’re not feeling terribly creative after all.

The DIY iPhone case is available now from Connect Design for $18.00.

Hang Your Keys Almost Anywhere With Hookeychain

Sometimes it’s hard being a gadget lover.  Here at The Gadgeteer, we’ve told you about and/or reviewed a ton of keychain tools over the years, and I’d be lying if I told you that for at least half of them, I’ve found myself flush with new-gadget-frenzy, my cursor hovering over the “buy” button, only to change my mind, close the browser tab, and never look back.

Why, you ask?  Well, as much as I love gadgets, I also love simplicity.  And when it comes to my keyring, the simpler the better.  It’s something I have to lug around in my pocket all day, after all, so unless it’s something I’ll use on a regular basis, its presence on my keyring simply isn’t justified.

That said, the Hookeychain from Megawing (the same designers that brought us oddities like the Armed Notebooks) may be the first bauble to make it onto my keyring in a long time.  Appearing to be a simple cylinder of aluminum, the Hookeychain has a magnet embedded in its angled end, allowing you to stick your keys to any ferromagnetic surface.  It’s not clear just how strong the magnet is, so while you probably can’t use the angle of the Hookeychain as a hook to hang your jacket on, you probably can hang a lightweight hat on it, and you can certainly use it to pin up a self-reminder note for later.

The Hookeychain is available from various online retailers, I found it for $16 at Molla Space.

JayBird JF3 Freedom Bluetooth Earbuds Put Wireless Music In Your Ears

If there’s one thing I hate about exercising while wearing earbuds, it’s that it’s far too easy to accidentally snag the cable on something and yank one or both buds out of my ears.  Bluetooth headphones solve the cable problem, but most Bluetooth headphones are either circumaural or supra-aural, and thus too big and heavy to wear while exercising.

JayBird has brought together the best of both worlds with their JF3 Freedom Bluetooth earbuds.  Designed specifically for active users, the JF3 earbuds are lightweight and sweatproof, and come with a selection of ear tips and secure fit ear cushions to help keep the earbuds seated during your workout.  The right-side earbud features volume and playback controls for devices that support AVRCP, and a microphone so that you can make or receive phone calls without missing a beat.  JayBird claims that the JF3 battery will last for 6 hours of music playback or phone talk time, which should be enough for even the most hardcore fitness regimen.

The JF3 Freedom Bluetooth earbuds are available now for $99 at the JayBird online store.

Extend Your Network With the Netgear WN3000RP Universal WiFi Range Extender

Not all of us are lucky enough to have a home that’s wired for Ethernet, and for many of us who have to depend on wireless for network access within the home, there are places where our wireless signal just doesn’t quite reach.  Wireless network extenders solve this problem, and are nothing new, but most of them require a fair amount of technical prowess to get configured and working properly.  Netgear’s WN3000RP Universal WiFi Range Extender looks to be a solid attempt at making the task of propagating your wireless network throughout the house a much simpler undertaking.

LEDs on the face of the WN3000RP help you find the optimal location for extending your network, and the unit plugs directly into an outlet like a power brick, so it can go just about anywhere you have power.  It supports Wi-Fi Protected Setup for easy configuration, and supports all wireless security standards.  Further, the WN3000RP can also be used as a wireless bridge, if you just need to get a wired device onto your wireless network.

The WN3000RP Universal WiFi Range Extender is priced at $89.99, and is available now.

TriMount Turns Your TV Into an Ugly But Organized Gaming Nirvana

Once upon a time, it was possible for hardcore gamers to ply their avocation inconspicuously, their games and controllers stored in boxes, and their consoles tucked away behind the doors of their entertainment center or component cabinet.  These days, however, motion is A Big Deal, and as a result, taking full advantage of a modern console requires placing a sensor of some kind out in the open, usually on top of your TV.  But HDTVs only have so much real estate on top of their ever-slimmer frames, and naturally the big three console makers have no interest in making it easy to use a competitor’s sensor in addition to their own, so the number of consoles a gamer can use effectively becomes limited by how many sensors one can haphazardly stack on top of one’s TV.

Well, multi-platform gamers need fret no longer, because the dreamGEAR TriMount is here to solve our sensor-placement woes for good.  Attaching easily to most HDTVs via an adjustable screw or to a wall via a wall mount, the TriMount provides space for the Xbox 360 Kinect Sensor, the PlayStation Eye, and the Wii Sensor Bar.  The resultant amalgamation of cameras and sensors ends up looking like some sort of dystopian Big Brother surveillance device, but at only $29.99 it may be just what the doctor ordered, presuming that your doctor’s last name is “Mario”, “Robotnik”, or “Wily”.

The TriMount is currently available for pre-order at the dreamGEAR website, and will begin shipping on 8/15/2011.

Expand Your Charging Options With the Aluratek Mini USB Charging Station

If there’s any single pain that is shared by all true gadget fiends, it’s the fact that there are never, ever enough outlets to accommodate all of the power adapters and chargers for one’s gadgets.  Aluratek’s Mini Surge Dual USB Charging Station attempts to solve that problem by turning a single grounded power outlet into three grounded outlets plus two USB charging ports, all of which are also provided with power surge protection.  The web site mentions that it works with iPhones, iPods, Blackberrys, and Android devices, but doesn’t specifically mention iPads, so it’s not clear whether or not the USB ports can provide the 1 Amp that iPads require for charging.

The Aluratek Mini Surge Dual USB Charging Station is available now for $19.99 through the Aluratek web site.

Etymotic Enhances hf3 and mc3 Headsets With Awareness! App

If you’ve ever worn a good pair of earbuds, you know that the noise isolation that they provide can be a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, it’s nice to be able to shut out the chatter of coworkers or other customers in the coffee shop.  On the other hand, shutting out the sound of traffic while you’re walking down the street can be a Very Bad Thing.

Etymotic has announced that their hf3 and mc3 headsets will now include a specialized version of Essency‘s Awareness! app, downloadable from the iTunes App Store (the download is free, registering the earbuds grants you a code to unlock all of the app’s features).  The app runs in the background and monitors background noise while you wear your headphones.  When background noise surpasses the threshold you’ve set, the app will pass the outside noise through to your headphones, and can pause or reduce the volume of your music, or vibrate the phone to alert you.

I’ve been using the regular version of the Awareness! app on my iPhone, and it’s quite nice for what it does; it’s just unfortunate that it doesn’t work with Bluetooth headphones.

The Etymotic hf3 and mc3 are available now for $179 and $99, respectively.

Put Some Joulies In Your Java

I’ll come right out and admit that I have an obsession with Kickstarter lately, and with the sorts of brilliant ideas that have been rolling out of there recently, it’s pretty obvious why.

One of the more recent projects up for funding is Coffee Joulies.  What appear to be large, shiny coffee beans are in fact food-grade stainless steel shells filled with a food-safe phase change material (PCM).  The PCM is a solid at room temperature, but when you drop the Joulies into a hot beverage, the PCM liquifies and begins absorbing heat, cooling your joe to a comfortable drinking temperature.  On the other end, when your drink begins to get cool, the PCM begins to re-solidify and releases the heat it has stored, thus keeping your drink warm.  Ultimately, the Joulies extend the window of time during which your hot drink is… well… drinkable.

The funding window for Coffee Joulies is open until May 2nd, and backers can scoop up a set of 5 Joulies in a storage bag for as little as $40 (plus $35 for each additional set), which is a decent savings off of the $50 per set that the inventors are planning to sell them for once they officially go to market.  Considering that the project has already more than tripled its funding target with more than a month to go, I suspect that these are going to do quite well.  I know I’m already in for two sets.

Would you shell out the cash for these Turtle pens?

There’s a shared obsession with unique writing instruments here at The Gadgeteer, so it’s sort of a big deal if I can beat my fellow Gadgeteers to posting about a new and different gadgety pen.  Turtle, a new company based out of the UK, has just released their first two contributions to the world of unique pens, the Turtle Work and Turtle Play.

Both pens feature Turtle’s patent-pending SNAPback mechanism, which pulls the entire nub of the pen (or in Turtle’s parlance, the “turtle head”) back into the stainless-steel body simply by pulling the two sections of the body apart.  This same action snaps the nub back into position for writing.

The Turtle Work features professional-looking all-stainless-steel body and your choice of black or white accents, while the Turtle Play adds a rubberized grip and substitutes accents in green or orange.  These pens run roughly $47-$54 depending on the model, and include a storage canister and one of their proprietary ballpoint refills.

I’ll be honest, no matter how cool or unique it is, I don’t know how I feel about dropping $50 on a pen that requires special refills that you can only get from a company that has been around for less than a year.  But maybe that’s just me.

EveryList iOS app Review

The iPhone is far from lacking when it comes to “to-do” list apps, so much so that the only ways for new apps in this genre to distinguish themselves are with unique functionality or a unique interface.  The former is relatively difficult (there is only so much one can change about a to-do list app before it becomes something else entirely), so many developers resort to the latter.  Also following this route is developer Tan Wee Giap’s EveryList app.

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ElementCase Vapor Pro case for iPhone 4 Review

Six months ago, I gladly tackled the task of reviewing one of the first machined aluminum cases for the iPhone 4, the Vapor case from ElementCase.  I found it lacking, and since that time, I’ve reviewed several other machined aluminum iPhone 4 cases, each with its own advantages and problems.  ElementCase has recently added a new entry to their product lineup, the Vapor Pro case, in the hopes that it will address the issues of their earlier attempt, and further become the standard against which machined aluminum iPhone 4 cases are measured.  Read on to find out ElementCase succeeds at this rather lofty goal.

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Element Case gets all stealthy with the Vapor Pro case for iPhone 4

You may recall that my review of the Element Case Vapor case for the iPhone 4 was not all good, citing problems with comfort, reception, and clearance in the cutouts for the headphone and dock connector.

Well, few things please me more than a company that can learn from its mistakes, and Element Case is trying to do just that.  The company has revealed a special edition of their newest case, the Vapor Pro.  The case configuration is now made of two L-shaped pieces (like the Kinetic Case), has larger connector cutouts, includes a carbon-fiber back plate, has a special electrolytic hard coat to preserve the finish, and contains an aerospace polymer insert that is designed to prevent the “death grip” signal loss issue.

The Vapor Pro First Edition is available now for $149.99 (yikes!) from the Element Case website.

Kinetic Case iPhone 4 Case Review

Over the past several months, I’ve had the opportunity to review a handful of aluminum cases for the iPhone 4, and so far I’ve not found anything that I’ve felt could replace a good plastic/rubber bumper-style case.  The latest entrant in the machined-aluminum case is the Kinetic Case; is it more of the same, or does it set a new standard?  I got the chance to try a Kinetic Case and find out. Read More →

Fusionwerkz Raw iPhone 4 Case Review

Back in September, I was given the opportunity to review the ElementCase Vapor case for the iPhone 4, and I just couldn’t give it my recommendation, due primarily to the fact that it was uncomfortable to hold.  I’ve now been given the chance to review another CNC-machined aluminum case for the iPhone 4, the Fusionwerkz Raw case.  Can it do the job without actually feeling like a raw block of aluminum?  Read on to find out. Read More →

Timbuk2 Snoop Camera Messenger Bag Review

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard it said that the number one way to make yourself a robbery target while on vacation is to walk around with very obvious expensive camera gear.  That neck strap that has the brand name of your camera emblazoned across it in bright colors, and the camera bag that likewise bears brand names and could be mistaken for nothing other than a camera bag, are like painted targets for would-be thieves.  As a result, a common piece of advice given to new DSLR owners is, “buy a camera bag that doesn’t look like a camera bag.”  More and more options in this category are becoming available, and now Timbuk2, maker of ridiculously sturdy messenger bags, has finally thrown their hat in the ring with the introduction of their Snoop Camera Messenger Bag.  Is their new offering enough to satisfy true photo gear hounds?  Timbuk2 sent me a review sample of their new bag so that I could find out.

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NewPotato TuneLink Auto Brings Bluetooth Audio to Your Car

While portable audio has been making major strides, and home audio has been doing its best to keep up, car audio has had a difficult time keeping up.  Most cars still include CD players, and who listens to CDs anymore?  NewPotato Technologies hopes to help get us out of the antiquated audio rut with their TuneLink Auto wireless solution.  The device itself plugs into your car’s cigarette lighter socket, pairs with your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch over Bluetooth, and then sends audio to your car stereo either over a direct connection to your car’s auxiliary input, or over its built-in FM transmitter.  Or as NewPotato says, “Plug it, pair it, play it, share it”.

The TuneLink Auto uses a specialized app for setting up the FM transmitter, and also includes a USB port for powering your iOS device (or probably even an unrelated device, such as a standalone GPS).  NewPotato emphasizes the “share” aspect of the device by pointing out that it allows multiple Bluetooth audio sources to communicate with it, so that anyone in the car can provide tunes for the ride.  And if that wasn’t enough, the TuneLink Auto also includes their “Humbuster” system for eliminating ground loop interference;  and if you don’t know what that is, consider yourself lucky.

The NewPotato TuneLink Auto is available now in the NewPotato online store for $99.99.

Draw iPad case makes a tasty-looking iPad sandwich

Welsh product design company Draw has recently unveiled their finished case for the iPad, and followed it up with a painful price tag.  The Draw iPad case is machined from a solid block of aluminum, given an anodized finish in black, blue, green, pink, or clear (natural aluminum color), and features a foam-padded lining and a magnetic closure system.  These certainly look hot, but you’ll pay handsomely for all of that hotness:  these are available only in the Draw online store, where the going price is US$200.

BBP Bags unveils DSLR Slinger with iPad slot

If it can be said that there is any unifying trait amongst contributors here at The Gadgeteer, it is that we love our gear bags.  I personally have a soft spot for bags that cater to specific gadget junkie proclivities.  Case in point, BBP Bags (whose Industries Messenger bag I reviewed not too long ago) has just revealed their new DSLR Slinger bag, which not only features a ton of adjustable compartmentalized storage for everything from your DSLR body and lenses to your flash(es), SD cards, and batteries, but also includes straps for securing your tripod, a padded slot for your iPad, and throws in a rain hood to keep all of that expensive gear dry if you get caught out in the elements.

The DSLR Slinger is available now from BBP Bags for $99.95.

HandlePod Camera Stabilizer Review

One of the first good “tricks” that budding photographers learn is that good, sharp pictures often require a tripod, or at the very least, require the photographer to brace him or herself against something solid to reduce camera shake.  Unfortunately, this just isn’t possible in many situations, and otherwise good pictures are sometimes ruined because of it.  Coming to the rescue of photobugs everywhere is the HandlePod. Read More →

Jawbone Jambox brings wireless speakers to Bluetooth devices

Aliph has just announced their new Jawbone Jambox wireless speaker/speakerphone.  Those familiar with Aliph’s Jawbone headsets will likely recognize the design motifs in these speakers, which come in four different colors, and house a pair of drivers, a small-dome speaker, a passive-bass radiator, and a built-in microphone.  The Jambox can be plugged into a computer and customized or updated using Aliph’s MyTALK platform.  Because it connects over Bluetooth, one should be able to use this to amplify audio output from tinny laptop speakers, from an iPad or other Bluetooth-enabled tablet, or to provide a better speakerphone experience with any Bluetooth-enabled phone.  The Jambox is priced at $199, and is available for preorder on Aliph’s website now, and will be available in stores on November 16th.

Susick Sea Shell Sifter Review

Odds are that if you’ve ever been to a beach, you’ve probably picked up some seashells and possibly brought them home as a souvenir.  And if you’ve spent any amount of time picking up shells, you’ve probably had one wash away in the tide just as you reached for it, or found yourself with sandy and salty hands when you were done.  But what if there was a gadget that not only prevented you from having to get your hands wet and sandy, but also prevented you from having to bend or stoop down to pick up the shells?  The Susick Sea Shell Sifter fills that need exactly.

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Timbuk2 Shows Shutterbugs Some Love, Finally

Timbuk2, maker of rugged, high-end messenger bags, has finally gotten around to addressing the needs of their photography-loving users with the release of their new Snoop Camera Messenger bag.

The Snoop looks a lot like Timbuk2′s standard and laptop messenger bags, but includes a padded and removable compartmentalized insert that will hold and organize your camera and a complement of lenses, flashes, and other gadgets.  The shoulder strap, buckles, etc. all appear to be standard fare for Timbuk2 bags, which is to say, quality.

The Snoop Camera Messenger is available now on the Timbuk2 website for $130.00.

Reminders! iPhone App Review

Hello, my name is Andy, and I’m a to-do appoholic.

Hello, Andy.

It’s a problem.  I have purchased at least eight to-do apps from the App Store, and I own licenses for three more on my Mac.  Sometimes I think I spend more time trying out new to-do apps than I spend actually doing the things on my to-do lists.  The worst part is that often all I want to do is make a quick reminder for myself to do something, and suddenly I find myself sucked into a task management quagmire, creating projects and assigning due dates, when all I really wanted was to remind myself to call my mom tomorrow.

But I think I might have found the solution to my woes in a little app called REMINDERS!

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