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Author Archive for Janet Cloninger – Page 2

KitchenAid brings a whole new look to the SodaStream Sparkling Beverage Maker


Julie reviewed the SodaStream a few years ago and determined it was an economical way to make your own sodas at home.  It gives you the option to make regular, diet, and caffeine-free sodas and flavored waters, but it did look a bit utilitarian.  Big deal, you might say, but there are some people out there (like me) who like a coordinated look in the kitchen.  If you do, and you are a fan of those gorgeous KitchenAid stand mixers, these new SodaStream machines are for you.  The new KitchenAid Sparkling Beverage Maker Powered by SodaStream has an all-metal design, just like their stand mixers.  It measures 13.7″ D x 12.6″ W x 21.4″ H and weighs 20 pounds, so it won’t get tipped over by accident.  It uses SodaStream’s technology, canisters, and syrups to make sodas, and it comes with a 60L CO2 tank, 1L BPA-free reusable bottle, and a SodaStream 3-flavor starter pack.  Its built-in CO2 pressure gauge ensures precise beverage carbonation; it uses 3 AAA batteries, and your first set is included.  It’s available in a range of colors to match your KitchenAid appliances:  Onyx Black, Green Apple, Tangerine, Aqua Sky, Empire Red, White, Contour Silver, and Cobalt Blue.  The KitchenAid Sparkling Beverage Maker Powered by SodaStream is $199.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond.

This new LEGO set puts girls in their places – working as scientists in the Research Institute


LEGO worked with  Ellen Kooijman, a geoscientist, to create this new play kit that shows female minifigs as scientists working in the Research Institute.  Then LEGO Ideas members selected this kit that contains everything these three scientists need to “explore the world below, around and above us.”  The chemist figure has a lab with glassware and other equipment, the paleontologist studies details of her T-Rex fossil with a magnifying glass, and the astronomer studies the sky with her star map and telescope.  The set has 165 pieces, and it includes building instructions and a booklet with information about the creator and the professions featured in the set.  The Research Institute set is only $19.99 from LEGO.  It’s sold out at the moment, but you should keep an eye on the LEGO site to see when it comes back in stock.  It’s the perfect gift for all the little girls on your holiday gift list to pique or encourage their interest in math and the sciences, and it’s a great gift for women who already are blazing a trail for the younger generation.  (Like me – I have a BS in chemistry and would love to have these little scientists sitting on my desk!)

The SIMPLcase iPhone case holds up to three SIM cards for your travels around the world


The SIMPLcase World Travelers iPhone Case is a slimline, snap-on back cover for the iPhone 5/5s.  Inside, between the case and the back of the iPhone is a storage column that stores up to three nano or micro-sized SIM cards – sized to fit the iPhone 5/5s, iPhone 4/4s, or iPad, so you can keep up with all your SIMs.  There’s also a SIM eject tool that stores in there.  The back of the SIMPLcase World Travelers case has slots that will fit a standard credit or membership card; the card becomes the easel that turns the case into a landscape or portrait stand.  The case is available for the iPhone 5 or 5s in Vapor (white) with turquoise, Graphite (black) with blue, or Admiral Blue with yellow for $30.00 from Fancy.

iRig Mic HD is the first handheld digital microphone priced for everyone


IK Multimedia has introduced the iRig Mic HD, which they say is the first first affordable high-quality handheld digital condenser microphone for singers, podcasters, and home studio enthusiasts – “anyone who needs to record high-definition digital audio on the go”.  The iRig Mic HD comes with two cables, one with a Lightning connector to plug directly into an iPhone or iPad, and another with a USB connector to plug directly into your Mac or PC.  (There’s an optional 30-pin Apple cable available as an optional purchase, if you need it.)

  • High-quality 24-bit, audiophile-grade A/D converter
  • 44.1 – 48 kHz sampling rate
  • Gain control with multicolor LED indicator
  • Handheld design – also compatible with standard mic stands
  • App/software bundle (Rig Recorder, VocaLive, and iOS & Mac/PC versions of AmpliTube), mic clip, and carry bag included
  • Rig Recorder, VocaLive and AmpliTube (iOS & Mac/PC versions) included
  • Available in black or in an exclusive silver version (only available at the Apple Store)

You can order the black iRig Mic HD directly from IK Multimedia for $129.99.  The silver version is available only at Apple.

Control your Philips Hue lights without a smart device


I have a set of Philips Hue lights that I got for Christmas last year that can light up my living room and foyer with white light or with colored lights – whatever I choose.  I can define light “recipes” where I can make each Hue bulb whatever color I want so set the mood for relaxation, reading, or energizing myself.  I can control the lights over the internet to turn on/off at my command, use geofencing to turn them on when I come home at night, or control them with timers.  My daughter doesn’t have the app on her iPhone, so she can’t control the lights at all (because she doesn’t want to add the app…).  Visitors also can’t turn the lights on or off, either.  Philips has introduced the Hue Tap, which they say is the world’s first wireless smart switch.  The Tap has four buttons that are used to control the Hue system by turning on a light recipe or selecting a favorite color scene or simply turning off some of the lights.  You can mount the Tap on the wall by a door, leave it on the coffee table, or carry it with you throughout the house.  Philips says the Tap is powered by kinetic energy from your touch, so you don’t need batteries for it.  Philips has a list of vendors on their Hue site, or you can pick up the Hue Tap at Apple for $59.95.

The Android app for Belkin’s WeMo line of home automation products is now available


I reviewed the Belkin WeMo Smart Home Automation Switch about a year ago, and at the time, you really needed an iOS device to control the products.  There was an Android app, but it was in beta, but Belkin announced late last month that the Android app is ready.  Just like with the iOS app that I use, the Android app will be able to control all WeMo devices, including the WeMo Insight Switch (or the old, now discontinued Smart Home Automation Switch that I still use), the WeMo Light Switch, and even the Crock-Pot Slow Cooker with WeMo.  You’ll be able to control your lights and other appliances from anywhere over WiFi and 3G/4G networks.  “The app also integrates with IFTTT, an online service that creates triggers using different Internet-based services such as email, weather and social media. For example, you can use IFTTT to create a rule that will send a text to your phone whenever a WeMo Switch + Motion senses motion or trigger a WeMo Light Switch to turn on your lights when the sun sets.”  This Belkin WeMo app requires Android 4.0 or higher and is free on the Google Play store.

Now you can see what your cat has dragged behind the stove, without having to move the stove


If you’ve ever seen those big, gooseneck inspection cameras that plumbers use to inspect pipes, you may have wished you had access to one when you drop a ring up under the bed or the cat has dragged off your socks behind the fridge.  DinosaurLifeStyle (alas, Andrew Baker, it still suffers from a dearth of dinosaurs…) has a small version that’s sized and priced right for home use.  The WiFi Battery Inspection Camera for iPhone and Android Phones has a 3-foot viewing tube (9mm diameter) and a 640 x 480 PAL CMOS viewing sensor.  It connects, via a free app, to your iPhone or Android device and transmits 30 frame/second video to your mobile device.  You can use the app to take still shots or video of what the camera probe is exploring.  The camera has an IP67 dust and waterproof rating, works in 14-122 degrees F temperatures and 20-85% relative humidity, a 48-degree viewing angle, and it comes with a set of hooking tools for various inspection conditions.  It requires four AAA batteries.  The WiFi Battery Inspection Camera for iPhone and Android Phones is $96 for the camera alone or $102 for the camera and storage box from DinosaurLifeStyle.

Your refreshments will be assimilated by the Borg


This cute little Borg Cube can keep your food or beverages at the proper temperature.  It has a temperature switch, so you can refrigerate or warm the contents.  It measures 11.5″ in each dimension on the outside, and the storage area inside is 6″ x 7.5″ x 8.25″.  It’s more like a desk-top fridge than a dorm fridge, but it is big enough to hold nine 12oz beverage cans.  It has green glowing lights on the exterior, and a green light inside, too.  It runs on either standard 120V AC power from a wall outlet or on 12V DC power from the power outlets in your car.  It has rubber feet to protect the surface it sits on, and the door locks to prevent accidental spillage while you’re carrying it or using it in a moving vehicle.   The Star Trek Borg Cube Fridge is $149.99;  it’s exclusive to ThinkGeek.


Microwave your lunch in your lunch bag and eat directly from it, too


We’ve mentioned a couple of different Unikia products for carrying your lunch in the past.  One was a Compleat Robust lunch box, one was a Compleat FoodSkin that cradled your sandwich to keep it together as you assembled it (see related posts at the end of this article).  Today’s product is the Compleat FoodBag.  Like the FoodSkin, the FoodBag is made of 100% food-grade, 100% BPA-free silicone.  It looks like a paper lunch bag, but it has a strap with snap to close it.  It measures 5.9″ L x 3.35″ W x 7″ H open; the height is 5.7″ when rolled closed.  Because it’s silicone, you can put your food directly into the bag without using other containers.  You can eat directly from the open bag, and you can even microwave in it (when opened).  It’s dishwasher safe, and it rolls up into a 1.6″ diameter cylinder for easy storage.  The Compleat FoodBag is available for €9.95 from Unikia in Norway (ships globally), or you can order it for $12.95 from The Grommet in the USA.  It’s available in blue, gray, green, lavender, or red from either source.

Leave your reminders and to-do lists on your door, so you’ll never forget them again!


When I need to remind myself to do something that’s not part of my normal routine, I leave a note on the front door.  I don’t like taping things to the freshly painted door, and tiny little sticky notes can be overlooked or fall off during the night.  I usually write my reminder or to-do list on a piece of printer paper, tear a hole in the paper, and slide the paper over the deadbolt button.  I can’t get out of the house without seeing it.  The Hook It Post-It Door Hangers are a neater, less wasteful way of leaving myself notes.  They have plenty of room to write on, then I can just hook them over the doorknob or even on the deadbolt button.  You can get a pad of the Hook It Post-It Door Hangers in pink, yellow, or blue for $10 from Fancy.

This is a stylish way to add a charging cable to your keychain


If you need a microUSB cable to charge your phone or tablet, you have two choices from Native Union.  The Power Link Knot has the microUSB and the USB plugs hidden inside the leather pouch, and the corded knot hanging below the pouch is the cable.  Native Union also offers a microUSB-to-USB option in the Power Link Tassel Micro-USB.  Again, the cable plugs hide in the leather pouch when not in use, and the leather tassel hangs from the charging cord.  If you have Apple devices, the Power Link Tassel is available with a Lightning connector.

All versions of the Power Link are made of top-grain cowhide with handcrafted edge finishing, and they all have a metal lobster-claw clasp to clip them on to your keyring or bag.  The Power Link Knot is available in Gold Tan or Marine Blue for $39.99.  The microUSB version of the Power Link Tassel is $49.99, while the Lightning version is $59.99; both Tassel versions are available Coral Red or Marine Blue, and the Lightning version is also available in Gold Tan.  The Power Link cables are available directly from Native Union.

Nomad is selling what they call a “battery upgrade for your Apple charger”


When you get an iPhone, you get a little cube-shaped wall charger.  Wouldn’t it be nice if that wall charger also served as a backup battery for your phone?  Well, the NomadPlus doesn’t exactly make the iPhone’s charger into a backup battery, but it adds one to the charger.  The NomadPlus fits around Apple charger and plugs into its USB port.  It adds some extra size and a couple extra ounces of weight to the Apple charger, but it also adds a battery that holds an extra 70% charge for your iPhone.  You plug the NomadPlus into the wall outlet, then plug the iPhone’s charge cable into the USB outlet; the phone charges first, then the battery will charge.  Although it requires an iPhone charger, the battery itself can charge other USB-chargeable devices.  Nomad is currently taking pre-orders for the NomadPlus.  It’s $39 and will ship November 30.

This simple doodad can make using a ceiling fan easier


There’s nothing world-changing about the Harbor Breeze Brushed Nickel and White Pull Chain set, but it will make it plainly obvious to everyone in your family and to visitors which chain turns on the light attached to the ceiling fan and which adjusts the fan speed.  The brushed nickel chain pulls look like a tiny light bulb and a set of tiny fan blades.  Just connect the beaded chains to the appropriate pull chains on the fan, and you’re set.  The Harbor Breeze Brushed Nickel and White Pull Chain set is $6.98 at Lowes.

Belkin Qode Thin Type Keyboard Case for iPad Air review


I’ve reviewed a lot of keyboard cases for iPads and iPad minis in my day, but I’m always game to try another.  I find that some are pretty uncomfortable to type on and some do very well for an undersized keyboard.  Then there’s the Belkin Qode Thin Type Keyboard Case for iPad Air, which is a surprisingly wonderful keyboard.  What makes it so great?  Well, almost everything! Read More →

Keyport’s DEVGRU Camo Slides benefits Homes for Our Troops


I received an email from Keyport asking all their customers to help them raise awareness of Homes for Our Troops, which is a “privately funded national non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization committed to helping those who have selflessly given to our country and have returned home with serious injuries since September 11, 2001.”  HFOT raises funds, community awareness and involvement, building materials, and professional labor so that specially adapted homes can be built and given, mortgage-free, to these Heroes.  These houses give the injured Veterans and their families a safe, suitable home to begin rebuilding their lives without the long-term financial burden of paying for a house.

To support wounded Veterans and the HFOT organization, Keyport will be giving a portion of their sales of the DEVGRU Camo Slide and the USA Slide, and the USA, Digital Camo, and Woodland Camo Side Plates.  You can get yourself a nice key organizer and help our Veterans as they heal and rebuild their lives.

Keyport asked their customers to spread the following message:

@theKeyport donating a portion of specific product sales to @HomesForOurTrps to build homes for our injured #USA #heroes. #ThankYouIsntEnough

Don’t settle for a boring mouse. Get the full Spectrum with this Satechi mouse!


If you’re tired of your boring white or black mouse but you can’t decide on a new color, get the Satechi Spectrum Wired Optical Mouse and get all the colors!  The mouse has an ergonomic design that’s comfortable in the hand, and it has 1000dpi resolution for precise mousing.  It may look white in some of the pictures, but it’s a shiny chrome mouse that will look nice on your desk.  Turn on the LEDs for a little visual spice; the LEDs will cycle through seven colors, or you can lock it into your favorite (at the moment) color, or you can turn off the lights when you feel like being a little more subdued.  The wired optical mouse is plug-and-play, and it’s compatible with Windows or Mac computers.  It’s small and light enough to throw in your gear bag, and it works great in your office.  The Spectrum Wired Optical Mouse is available at an introductory price of $24.99 at Satechi and Amazon.

The latest Tokyoflash Japan watch uses its words to tell you the time


Instead of interesting graphical displays, the latest Tokyoflash watch uses a word matrix to tell you the time or date.  The words needed to display the information flash on the face of the Kisai Kaidoku Wood watch, so you don’t have to learn to decode a pattern to tell the time.  As a matter of fact, the word “kaidoku” means decode.   The watch has a stainless steel case and a custom-made wood body and strap.  It’s available in dark sandalwood with a blue LCD, red sandalwood with a green LCD, or maple with a purple LCD.  The Kisai Kaidoku Wood watch is available from Tokyoflash Japan at special release price of $109 for 48 hours, until Friday, July 31, 2014 at 11am Japan time.

Turn any light bulb into a WiFi-connected bulb


This Kickstarter project gives you the tools to turn any dimmable light bulb into a WiFi-controllable bulb.  You don’t need hubs, and getting your house connected is as easy as signing the bulb into your router.  The emberlight is a screw-in base that you can use with any of your current light fixtures or lamps and with any dimmable light bulb, including incandescent, halogen, and dimmable CFL and LED bulbs.  Using an app on your iOS device or Android device with Bluetooth LE, you’ll be able to control emberlights to turn on when you and your Bluetooth LE device enter the house or room, operate on a program, or turn them on/off from anywhere in the world.  You can control a single light, all the emberlights in a room, or all of them in your house with just a couple of taps.  You’ll need an account to access and control your lights, and you can grant access – permanent to your household members or temporary to guests – so they can control your emberlights, too.   (For security, people who have access to control your lights will need to set up their own accounts.)  The funding period ends Friday, September 5, 2014 at 1:45 AM EDT.  A pledge of $45 gets you own emberlight, and there are other levels that provide you with up to 10 emberlights for $399.  The funding goal has already been exceeded; shipping is expected in February 2015.

Tailgate or camp with the comforts of home


It hardly seems possible, but it’s only a few weeks until my daughter leaves for college – and that means football and tailgating season isn’t far behind.  And of course, it’s still summer, so it’s still camping season.  Why should you have to rough it while participating in either outdoor activity when you can take along the Picnic Time Portable Reflex Travel Couch?  The Reflex is sized to seat two adults, and it has four backrest positions from flat to fully upright.  It has a steel frame, polyester exterior, and a high-density interior foam padding for comfortable seating.  The armrests have pockets to hold your phone or beverage.  It measures 45″ X 23″ X 3.5″ flat or 45″ X 19.25″ X 13.5″ in the upright seating position, and it folds up to 27.75″ X 7.25″ X 23″ for transporting.  It even has a detachable shoulder strap for easy carrying.  You can place it on the ground or on the tailgate of a truck, or you can even use it in your house or dorm room.  The Picnic Time Portable Reflex Travel Couch is available in blue, black, or red for about $120 from Amazon.

This tiny Bluetooth speaker is big on design and features


The EDGE Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker and Handsfree Speakerphone is a tiny little cube that’s only 2.6″ on a side, but it’s loaded with functionality.  The 2″ speaker inside the cube produces 3W of sound for music, movies, games, and even phone calls.  A 3-hour charge of the  built-in lithium-ion battery provides about 5 hours of sound.  The Bluetooth speaker is compatible with any Bluetooth-enabled phone or tablet.  It has about a a 30-foot range, and it has a built-in microphone so you can use the EDGE as a speakerphone.  The speaker looks like an exploded cube, with lights behind the “cracks” that serve as accent lighting or a nightlight while the speaker is in use.  The control buttons make use of these “cracks” to hide the control buttons to keep the design sleek and minimal.  The EDGE Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker and Handsfree Speakerphone is available in white only for $49.99 at Pyramid Distribution.

Feeling too lazy to hold your tablet? Let the LazePad hold it for you.


Have you ever fallen asleep with your tablet in your hands and woken up when the tablet falls out of your hands and smacks you on the nose?  I have, more than I care to admit.   With the LazePad case, you can sleep easy without fear of a bruised nose or a bloody lip from falling tablets.  Just pop your iPad or other tablet in the easel stand, and it can sit safely on your chest or mattress while you read in bed.  It also makes a nice hands-free stand for working at your desk.  The LazePad is made of an ultra-dense but soft rubber that protects your iPad by gripping the sides when you slide it in the channels.  (The information at the LazePad site mentions that it works for “tablets”, but then they specify that it’s designed for iPad 2/3/4.  I imagine those iPad models fit snuggly into the holding channels.)  The LazePad is suitable for adults and children, and its anti-static properties prevent static shocks from damaging the tablet, when even some younger users may not know how to protect against static.  The LazePad is available in black, blue, or pink for $54.99.

Here’s the perfect projection screen for the tiny, power-saving home theater projector


If you are thinking about replacing your big, power- and space-hogging flat screen TV with a tiny projector like Chris Haynes did, you are probably considering what you can project the image on for the best picture.   You can just project it onto a white wall, but that doesn’t give you the best picture, and it means you’ll need to leave that wall space empty.  Buying a projection screen means you’ll either have to find a place to store it out of sight when you’re not using it, or you’ll end up with one permanently attached to your ceiling.  With the 120″ Spandex Projection Screen, you’ll have a piece of fabric that folds up to fit in a shoe box and attaches in seconds to hooks in the ceiling that are almost invisible on a white ceiling when not in use.  The screen is made in the USA of the “highest-quality Micro-Supplex material” that stretches out to remove wrinkles for a smoother viewing surface. It measures 9′ X 5′, fits 16:9 aspect ratio images, is 3D DLP compatible, has an approximate gain of 1.0, and is even suitable for backlit projection.  You’ll get two sets of hooks for use in two rooms, and there’s nothing to build – just screw in the hooks.  The 120″ Spandex Projection Screen is $84.99 at Amazon.

You want to dress like Captain Picard? Make it so!


This jacket is as much like the original jacket worn by Jean-Luc Picard in the Star Trek: The Next Generation show as it can humanly be.  An original, screen-worn jacket that’s been preserved by a private collector was used as the pattern for this replica.  Synthetic fabrics were carefully color-matched to the original, and details, like the quilted shoulders, were carefully reproduced in microsuede.  It has a full front zipper, satin lining like the original, and a hidden interior pocket to store your wallet without ruining the lines of the jacket.  The Star Trek The Next Generation: Picard’s Jacket is officially licensed and is available in sizes Small through 2X.  It’s available at ThinkGeek for $299.99.  Now all you need is a communicator badge ($14.99 at ThinkGeek)!

Udemy probably has lessons for anything you want to learn


What do you want to learn more about?  How to program or start your own business?  How to take better pictures, decorate a cake, play a musical instrument?  How to dance or do yoga?  Udemy can provide you with classes on all these subjects – and many more.  Udemy is an app for iPhone or iPad, and there’s an Android version on Google Play.  The app itself is free, and some of the course content is free, but you’ll have to pay for most of the course offerings.  Once you’ve purchased a course, it’s available to you 24/7, so you can learn on your own schedule.  You can make your way through the lessons at your own pace, too, and you can even slow the speed down or zip through it at 2X speeds (on iOS only at this time).  You can even save courses on your device for offline viewing, to make best use of your time when you’re commuting or away from internet access.  There are thousands of classes to choose from, and prices vary by course.  Download the free Udemy app to your device and start browsing for your interests.  It’s never too late to learn to code, or play the guitar, or …

You can even cook in this emergency preparedness kit


This survival kit is expensive, but it has 25 life-saving items inside a box that you can even use to cook in.  The SOLKOA Survival Kit for Best Made is stored in an 18.75-cubic inch box machined from a single block of aircraft grade 6061 aluminum.  The box can be used for cooking or for boiling drinking water.  It’s held securely closed by a rubber gasket and Velcro strips.  Inside you’ll find a variety of tools: emergency blanket, duct tape, fishing kit, sewing kit, steel wire, thread line, and Kevlar line, multi-tool, first aid supplies, waterproof matches and a fire starting tender kit, signaling mirror, saw blade, and more.  You can see the complete list of the contents at Best Made.  The SOLKOA Survival Kit is available at Best Made for $170.00.