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Author Archive for Ian Lim

E-cigarette review – One year later

ecig1

Over 10 months ago I wrote a review of the Ego-T e-cigarette and 10 months later the article is still getting on average of around 100 hits per day. Is this a sign perhaps that e-cigarettes are becoming more and more popular?  For me it’s now over 12 months of vaping. Am I still using the Ego-T? Did I go back to the evil smokes?  Read on.

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Fitbit Force – May the Force be with you

fitbit force

Well the Force isn’t strong with me, that’s for sure.  I’d been umming and aahing for a while now and just last week I purchased a Fitbit Flex to keep track of how far I walk each day. Of course a week later Fitbit releases their Fitbit Force (I’d seen new items about it but wasn’t sure when it’d be released). With the addition of an OLED screen that can be used to display your statistics as well as the time and an altimeter for “stairs climbed”, the Force addresses two of the major “shortcomings” referred to in most Flex reviews.  In addition, an upcoming feature will be call notifications from your smartphone.

Priced slightly higher than the Flex at $129.95, the Force is available to order now from the Fitbit online store.

 

GoPro Hero3+ – Big things from little(r) packages

GoProHero3+

With the plethora of POV action cameras on the market these days, it’s hard to keep ahead of the competition.  GoPro, the defacto standard in the industry, has just released their GoPro Hero3+ Black and Silver line of cameras. The new Black Edition is 20% smaller and lighter, has 30% longer battery life, better audio, and has 4X faster built in WiFi  compared with its current Hero3 counterpart. Of course, none of this is any good without good image quality, and the Black Edition now includes a sharper lens, a new Superview immersive wide-angle mode, and auto low-light mode that intelligently adjusts the frame rate during low-light performance.

Along with the cameras, GoPro has also released a whole new range of mounting options.

Pricing starts at $299.99 for the Hero3+ Silver Edition, with the Black Edition (available in a “normal” and surf edition) at $399.99

Knog Blinder 4 and 4V bicycle lights review

knog blinder 0

Having given up the cigarettes for almost 10 months now  and feeling heaps fitter,  I decided it was time for me to step up my fitness.  What started as walking to the bus stop just outside the house, turned into walking about 2 kilometres to another bus route, which turned into walking the whole 5 kilometre walk to work each day.  :) The trouble is I live at around 250 metres above sea level, and there’s a set of steps going down that were playing havoc with me old knees.  What’s the solution? Buy a bike :)  Now it’s just coming into Winter down here, so sunset is around 4:40pm, so I have to ride home from work in the dark and lights are a necessity. Enter Knog, a collection of bicycle-related products designed by  industrial design company Catalyst based in Melbourne, Australia. (Just like the US Gadgeteers, I love promoting local companies :) ) Knog was good enough to send me a Blinder 4 Standard and Blinder 4V for the front and rear of my bike.

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X-Mini Uno and Max portable speakers review

maxuno1

If you read my article of Life as a Gadgeteer reviewer, you’ll know that review gadgets that get used frequently after reviewing are far and few between. It’s no secret that I loved the X-Mini Capsule II, KAI, and Max II (see related posts), and in fact these still get heaps of use and have gone way beyond review.  The kids love the portability of being able to take them to the beach, camping, and various other activities, plug in their phones or MP3 players and have music to share with their friends. I use them  to replace the often anemic sound on my phone, tablet, and notebook for music and movies around the house or even on the dashboard of the car to catch up with my TV shows while waiting for the kids.  X-Mini is a very copied speaker and one of the company’s ways of dealing with counterfeits is to keep developing and releasing new products to stay ahead of the pirates.  X-Mini was good enough to send me review units of their new UNO and Max. They promise “sound beyond size”; let’s see.

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Everyday Carry Gear – Ian Lim

EDC-IL1

All the other team members are showing off their wares, so suppose I’d better join the herd. :)  Problem is I actually have more than one EDC bag depending on things like day of the week, mode of transport, and destination. Things just seem to move in and out of different bags. I’ve just grabbed what’s in my currently most-packed work bag, as it’s probably the most representative.

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Android App Spotlight: CyanDelta Updater – Incremental Cyanogen 10.1 nightlies

CyanDelta

If like me your Android devices are rooted and running alternate ROMs  then you’ll be sick of downloading 200+MB files everytime an update comes out. If you’re running Cyanogen 10.1 nightlies then you’ll be downloaded these files, well, every night.  CyanDelta Updater is an app that does incremental downloads of your CM 10.1 nightly downloading only 10-20MB of downloads. Download your base nightly, run Cyan Delta to set your base version and you can then auto check for updates on a regular basis and only get incremental downloads.  Much easier, and makes it feasible to do ROM upgrades over 3G or similar.

GText from MightyText – SMS from Gmail

GText

I wrote an article on MightyText back in November; it’s a plugin that allows you to send and receive SMS texts from your Android phone via your browser.  I can honestly say that I use MightyText almost everyday.  Well it just got better.  While previously I had to have a separate MightyText tab open, GText is a plug-in that allows me to send and receive texts directly in Gmail, a tab that’s already always open in my browser. You get a “Compose SMS” button just under your standard email compose button and text exchanges appear like a Gmail chat.  Got Gmail? Got MightyText? Integrate the two. :)

Greenify *ROOT* Android app review

Greenify1I’m going to make a strange admission here for a gadgeteer:  I’m not really a power user on my phone or my tablet.  Though I use my devices for all sorts of things, though I love to play with alternate ROMs and want my devices to be fast and responsive, in the end I’m a pretty basic user. I don’t  use many social networking apps, and for those that I do use, I’m not worried about constantly getting notifications of updates or messages. My biggest concern is having enough battery power to get me through the day. To achieve this, I run a very lean ROM, deleting any unnecessary services and apps and underclock my processor.  In my search to find just that little bit more battery life, out of my Galaxy S3 phone especially, I came across Greenify *ROOT*. How does it work? Read on.

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Satechi BT Lite Bluetooth headphones review

Sometimes you really don’t want to be tethered by wire to your phone or MP3 player, and these days Bluetooth speakers and headphones are commonplace. Satechi was good enough to send us a pair of the BT Lite Headphones to review.  Now I’m used to being “Wired for Sound”, and I figured surely being wireless has to be a good thing.  How do they sound and compare to my normal in-ear Sony’s?  Read on.

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Henty Wingman review

Henty Wingman

When you need to travel with a clean shirt or suit – whether it be by bike, walking or airplane – the big problem is keeping your clothes neat and pressed.  Whether I’ve folded them into a carry bag or put them into a traditional suit bag, my first job when I get to my destination is to see exactly how neat my shirts are and whether I need to re-iron them. (And ironing’s not  my favourite job when I’m at home, let alone I’m away on a holiday or business trip and have just got into a hotel.)  Additionally in an effort to get a bit healthier, I’ve been riding my bicycle to work recently. It’s not a long ride, but the last thing I want to do is end up at work and have to go and see a client with sweat stains (either current or old) on my shirt or grease stains on my trousers. I’ve found a clothes-carrying solution, called the Wingman, which was designed right here in my home town of Hobart, Tasmania, by the Henty company.  How well does it work?  Read on.

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How to prevent your child from making in-app purchases on your Android device

Inapp purchase

As a followup to Janet’s article about restricting in-app purchases on an iPad, here’s the guide to doing it on Android.  Like Janet, I’ve heard so many of my less technology-bent friends complain that they handed their Android device to say their nieces and nephews to play games and keep them busy, and lo and behold, they find some strange charges on their credit card from the Google Play Store.  For instructions read on.

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What’s the oldest gadget you still use regularly today?

Oldest gadget

Let’s face it we live in a disposable age, phones have a desirable life span of less than 2 years, printer ink costs more than a new printer, things break within the first couple of years, and we just go and replace them.

A true Gadgeteer covets the latest and greatest, but in the “old days”,  things were built to last and last. I was thinking it’d be interesting to see what gadgets people still use from the “days of yore”.

Here’s my Gillette shell-pattern Pocket Edition razor from around 1914 . You can keep your 10 blade, battery-operated vibrating, sonic razor. There’s something special about shaving with an old double edge (DE) razor. The brush is a Kent KS7  from around 1949, and it’s made of catalin, an unstable, pre-plastic material. This brush started ivory white, but some reaction in the material has turned it this lovely butterscotch colour. I did have to replace the badger hair knot in it for looks, functionality, and hygiene.

What’s your oldest gadget that still sees use today ? Doesn’t have to be electronic, because believe it or not, there were days before electronics. :)

Tasker app for Android on sale

taskerJulie mentioned this app in her article on using NFC tags and promised a followup review. Well at the moment it’s on sale on the Google Play Store for $1.99. That’s 69% off it’s normal price of $6.49. I’ve played with Tasker and it’s a fantastic and powerful program allowing you to automate and manipulate all sorts of settings though it can be a bit complicated to wrap  your head around at times.  Well worth a look though if you want to extend  the functionality of your Android smartphone or tablet. No idea how long it will be on sale for so if you’re interested get on to it!

Manipulate your Gmail from the Android notification bar

Gmailnotifybar

Got the latest Gmail client for your Android 4.1.x (Jellybean) device yet? The new version allows you to choose if you want to archive or reply to a new email directly from your notification bar without having to open the client. Handy for short emails but not quite so good for longer ones :)

I’ve been with Gmail from its early betas when you had to try and swap something for an invitation and it just keeps getting better and better (on all platforms).

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite firmware 5.3.4 released

kindlepw
Amazon has just released a new firmware 5.3.4 for their Kindle Paperwhite.  Like the previous firmware upgrade, there’s actually no change log attached advising any details :(  You can wait to wirelessly receive the upgrade or manually download and install it right now.

Android Apps Spotlight: Remove that bloatware with Rom Cleaner

RomCleaner

Whether it’s put there by your Telco or your device manufacturer, bloatware is a pain.  Utilities that you’ll never use are taking up valuable storage space and system resources.  If your device is rooted, you can manually remove a lot of this app-by-app.  But every time you get an update for the ROM, you’ll have to manually remove them again – a time consuming process.  ROM Cleaner automates the removal and allows you to manually specify what you want to remove and keep, if you so desire.

From a device manufacturer’s point of view, ROM Cleaner supports  the Samsung Galaxy S3, Note II, Nexus, Tab 10.1, HTC Evo 4G, One X, One S, Desire HD , Sensation, Incredible S, and ASUS Transformer Prime. So flash your ROM update, run ROM Cleaner, and all that Samsung bloatware like Samsung Apps, S-Memo, S-Voice and  all those default live wallpapers and widgets will be fully removed from your system, including all associated services.  You can customise the status of what to remove and keep by editing a simple text file, should you so wish.

This utility saves me about 200mb in my System Rom area on my S3. It’s always nice to start with a nice clean and lean system. :)

Root required: Yes.

Different battery mod types for e-cigarettes

ecig1

I felt it was time for a quick followup on my original Joyetech e-cigarette review.  I’ve now been almost six months cigarette-free, that’s approximately 4500 cigarettes I haven’t smoked!  So no 4000+ nasty chemicals, a huge saving in money, my taste has returned, I’m feeling way healthier and my clothes (and I) don’t stink !  I’ve reduced my nicotine e-juice from 1.8% to 0.3% and about to reduce it either 0.1% or zero.  In my original article I mentioned that if you got into mods, then it could be a dark and deep rabbit hole. Luckily, I haven’t gone too far in. Many vapers will spend $200+ on a single battery mod, but I’ve managed to limit myself to cheaper Chinese mods.  What’s available to you?  Read on……

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Android Apps Spotlight: Siyah Kernel – dual boot your Samsung Galaxy S3

siyahkernel

If you’re like me, your Android devices don’t stay stock for very long.  Sometimes my devices are rooted and have alternate ROMs on them before I’ve even fired it up for the first time. Siyah Kernel is an alternative kernel for the Samsung Galaxy S3 (and S2) that allows you to adjust things like CPU speed, under- or overvolt CPU and GPU, and a myriad of other tweaks.  It also allows you to setup a dual boot system.

Want to run stock Samsung Touchwiz because of the great camera app or the FM radio, but also love to run an AOSP ROM like Cyanogen? Want to muck around with alternative ROMs just to see what added functionality you can get, but want to be able to easily revert back to your old ROM?  Siyah makes it easy to load and swap between ROMS (press volume up or down on boot ) and do things like easily swap the preferences of primary and secondary rom on initial boot.  There’s full support on XDA-Developers, but be warned that if you get into alternate ROMs, it can be addictive. :)

Root required: Yes

Android app spotlight : Friendcaster app for Facebook

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I’m not a big Facebook user, but these days it’s a bit of a necessary evil. In my opinion, the official Facebook app for Android is nothing short of atrocious. It appears just to be a different interface to the mobile web site. Friendcaster is an alternative client that makes using Facebook just that little bit more bearable, especially on a tablet like the Nexus 7.

Down the left side is an access bar that allows you to easily go to groups, notifications, messages, or pages you belong to, amongst other things, and you can change the order depending on your needs. If you need the “real estate”, you can also hide this bar.  The middle column is a summary like you get on the web client, and if you click on an item here, you get the full post with all its associated likes and comments on the right side.  Of course you can customize all the options, like notifications.

It’s a much nicer interface, including a nice scrollable widget.

Root required: No

Video Head Camera Helmet

videohead helmet

POV cameras are great, but one of the weak spots tends to be the mounting hardware. The Video Head Camera Helmet is perfect for sports like bike riding, skate board and similar, where this sort of helmet is appropriate. The built-in camera has a positional camera lens, and controls are built into the side of the helmet. A low-res 30fps VGA model will sell for $55, while higher specced 30fps/720P and 60fps/1080P helmets will be available for $120 and $200 respectively. Available in Spring 2013.

Barrett Alley Smuggler’s belt

Barretts Alley Smugglers Belt

Carrying cash and worried about pickpockets? Need to smuggle that micro-fiche past those foreign border guards? (oops micro-fiche… am I showing my age?)  The Smuggler’s Belt from Barrett Alley may be your friend.   It’s made of 10 oz (4 mm) US vegetable-tanned cowhide, 1.25″ (3 cm) wide and hand-cut and sewn in Texas and has an individually hand-forged iron buckle.  Each is signed and numbered and has a lifetime guarantee.  The hidden pocket measures 3 cm x 9 cm (1″ x 3.5″) and can only be accessed when the belt is removed.

Because each belt is handmade, you can be assured of a perfect fit, though I’m not sure how much money you’ll have left to put in the belt since the cost is $245.

Android app spotlight: LMT Launcher

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I often use my phone one-handed; however, with larger screens like like the 4.8″ screen on my Samsung Galaxy S3, my thumbs are just not long enough to be able to reach some Jelly Bean navigation keys on the other side of screen. :) . LMT Launcher is an alternative navigator which solves this issue, amongst other things.

Lightly touching on the left, right or bottom of the screen (it’s configurable) brings up a circular launcher (PIE). Each of the wedges is configurable, and additionally, each wedge can be configured to do a secondary action when long pressed. You can add a second level of wedges, as well. Actions include opening an app, turning off or on Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and other assorted functions.

A long wipe to the top left of the wedge opens your notification bar (much easier than dragging down your notifications bar from the top one-handed) and a long swipe to the right brings up settings. The PIE disk also displays information on things like battery power, date and time, and memory and processor information.

There’s much more you can do with the launcher, including screen gestures (e.g., draw a square on the screen to launch a video player) that can be customised to perform actions, but for me the PIE navigation is the most useful and now indispensable feature.

No more “Texting Thumb” for me. :)

Root required: Yes

Android app spotlight: Dice Player

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There are so many video players for Android out there, but my favorite player is Dice Player. Besides playing every format I’ve thrown at it, Dice Player has a number of handy features, including the ability to adjust the audio sync speed, boost your audio up to 400%, and the ability to adjust the video speed. Not something to use everyday, but useful to have if you’ve got a troublesome video.

Another great feature is the ability to run it in picture-in-picture mode (PIP – see header picture), something that’s really useful when you want to keep working but have your video running in the “background”. The size and position of the window is fully adjustable; you can control it, and full-screen mode is only a button away.

The PIP is really only useful on a tablet though, where you’ve got the real estate to play with it.

Android app spotlight: Skip Soft Root Toolkit for Google Nexus 7 and Samsung Galaxy S3

Roottoolkit

Got a Nexus 7 or a Samsung Galaxy S3? Read about all the advantages of rooting your device, but feel overwhelmed with all the information out there, and you’re scared you might brick your device?  XDA Developers member Mark Skippen has you covered with his toolkits for both the Nexus 7 and Samsung Galaxy S3 .

There are prettier graphical interfaces out there, but perhaps I’m showing my age as I prefer the text-based, green screen one. ;)

These utilities will do everything for you from downloading the latest and correct drivers to your PC, to rooting, to downloading a Recovery Utility, and so much more. It’s only about 4 steps to root, and all supporting files or utilities are downloaded dynamically and run from within the toolkit. Full instructions are displayed if you need to press phone button combinations or put files in certain fields.

And the nice thing is, it will also restore your device to stock and unroot it if you ever need to do it.