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Author Archive for Julie Strietelmeier – Page 3

Julie’s gadget diary – How I set up handsfree media control in my MINI Cooper

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I love everything about my 2013 MINI Cooper except the stereo system which is pretty lame by most gadgeteer standards. When I ordered the car, I opted not to go full tech and buy the premium connected package because it was an expensive upgrade and the sales person at the dealership talked me out of it saying that it’s just tech that will quickly become out dated. He was right and I’m glad I didn’t spend extra for it. But what I did get wasn’t much… The stock stereo features Bluetooth, but only for calls. It does not allow audio streaming from a connected device. The stereo also lacks a nice display to show track info. While listening to SiriusXM satellite radio, it would take 2 or 3 button presses to show the artist and song title. One year of satellite service was included with the purchase of the car, but knowing that the free year was about to run out and that I wouldn’t be renewing, I went looking for alternatives to plain old FM radio or CDs.

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Record your travel adventures with the new Moleskine Voyageur notebook

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I always like to take my journal with me when I go on vacations so I can go back later and read about the things I’ve seen and done. I usually print out a Google map with the trip route and stops and glue it to the page that starts the trip. I also glue in other things like ticket stubs, flyers, etc. My journal looks more like a scrapbook than a journal, but I don’t mind. Moleskine has just added a new travel inspired notebook to their line up that incorporates some of these same ideas. The Voyageur notebook is 4 x 7 inch (an odd size compared to Moleskine’s normal offerings) and features a brown cloth bound hard cover, with 208 pages and a sheet of stickers. The notebook is divided into ruled, dotted and plain page sections which are marked by colored tabs. There are also detachable perforated pages that are perfect for creating packing lists.

Need inspiration for your next trip? Check out this video:

The Voyageur notebook is priced at $24.95 which seems way too expensive for what it offers. Although I know people will buy it just because it comes from Moleskine, so it has to be good – right? I prefer to just use a plain notebook that’s less than half that price, but if you want a Voyageur notebook for your next trip, they  are available from Moleskine.

Docks for Macbooks, rings that make music and more – Weekly roundup

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It’s Saturday, so you know what that means, we give you a nice easy to use list of everything that we’ve posted in the last seven days. Click through to see the full list of news, reviews and articles from this past week.

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VTech announces Kidizoom Smartwatch for kids

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The Kidizoom is a kid-durable smartwatch that has been designed to withstand drops and bumps as well as being splash proof and sweat proof. It is powered by a rechargeable battery that lasts up to 2 weeks. In addition to normal watch functions (alarm, timer and stopwatch), the Kidizoom also features 50+ clock displays, a 1.4 inch color touch screen, a camera for taking photos and recording videos, a voice recorder with 5 voice changing effects and 4 games. This might be just the thing for your little gadgeteer – especially if they’ve had their eye on your Samsung Gear watch with jealousy.

The Kidizoom Smartwatch is recommended for ages four and up and has an MSRP of $59.99. Visit VTech for more info.

Protect your new LG G3 smartphone with a case from Incipio

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Last week I pre-ordered an LG G3 from Verizon to take advantage of their fantastic $99.99 sale price. I’m very excited to be upgrading to this killer Android smartphone from my Samsung Galaxy Note 2. I loved the Note 2, but it’s time to move on. See ya Samsung! I don’t normally use a case with my phones because I like to keep them in their birthday suit. But like a new car, I’m always a bit tentative and careful with a new phone. I know it’s going to get some bumps and bruises at some point, but want to move out that first one as far as possible. For that reason I’ve been looking for a case and was interested to learn about Incipio’s new line of LG G3 cases that they just rolled out today. Their new collection of LG G3 cases include 6 different styles that have names like Octane, Feather and Highland. Each case offers something different, from the ultra thin Plextonian (what?) shell of the Feather case, to the Aluminum and dLast core of the DualPro. The cases are available in different colors and prices range from $24.99 up to $39.99 each depending on the style.

Visit Incipio’s LG G3 page for more info about these cases.

IK Multimedia iRing motion music controller review

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I don’t consider myself a musician even though I can play a few instruments (barely). However I do consider myself a musical hobbyist because I enjoy doodling around with the ukulele and music apps on my iOS and Android tablets. When the people at IK Multimedia contacted me to ask if I might like to do a review of their iRing motion music controllers, I didn’t take too long to say yes. I’ve been playing with the iRing for a few days, let’s see if I have been able to create sweet music with it or if I’ve hit a sour note.

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New pen insert available for Keyport

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Yippee! Keyport, my favorite key organizer, just announced the availability of a new ink pen insert. That’s a tool I’ve been waiting for. Available in black or blue ink, the Pensert as they are calling it fits in an open Keyport slot and provides you with a handy writing instrument that’s available when you need it. The Penserts are available for pre-order with the expected ship date of August 1st. Each insert is $8.99, with pen refills priced at $3.49.

Visit Keyport for more info.

Starbucks summer giveaway!

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The folks at Starbucks want to help you enjoy the warm summer weather with some coffee treats. For one lucky winner we have a ceramic tumbler and a box of Pike Place Roast K-cups. What are you waiting for, hurry up and get your entry in!

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ShaveMate is a razor with a shaving cream dispenser in the handle

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What is a ShaveMate? It’s a 6 bladed disposable razor that has a shaving cream dispenser built into the handle which holds enough cream for a week’s worth of shaves. That’s right, everything you need to feel smooth is in one easy to use item. Razor + shaving cream = genius. The ShaveMate is available in male and female versions which appear to be identical in form and function, but have a different color handle and shaving cream. The razors are consumable and disposable which means that you can’t refill them with more shaving cream or add new blades. They seem like the perfect toiletry item to take on vacation and are TSA compliant according to the website. You can buy a ShaveMate for $5.98 each or $11.98 for a pack of 3. Visit ShaveMate to order or for more info.

Henge Docks Vertical Docking Station for MacBook Pro review

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When I decided a few years ago that it was time to ditch my 27″ iMac and down size to a 13″ Macbook Pro, it took a little while to get used to the loss of screen space. However, what I lost in screen space, I gained portability,  so the switch was worth it. I’d been happily working with just my 13″ Macbook Pro w/Retina for some time when I was offered a 29″ LG display to review. Suddenly my desktop was cluttered again with an external keyboard, a mouse, a monitor and their associated cables. I gained a huge amount of screen space but my portability was lost again because every time I wanted to take my Macbook into another room I had to disconnect all the cables. Possible solution: Henge Docks Vertical Docking Station for MacBook Pro. Let’s take a look.
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Brando offers wood alarm clock with Qi charging and Bluetooth speaker

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The W2 QI Wireless Charging Wood from Brando is an attractive light wood clock that features a Bluetooth speaker with A2DP and Qi Wireless charging. Just place your Qi-enabled device on top of the clock and it will be charged and ready to go when you wake up in the morning. The wood clock displays the time in digital format that also includes the ambient room temperature. It also offers an alarm feature with snooze and media controls on top. The W2 QI Wireless Charging Wood is priced at $98.

Visit Brando for more info.

VOXOA HD Wireless Headphones review

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I’m not normally a fan of over the ear style headphones because they feel a little too isolating and usually aren’t that comfortable to me. When the VOXOA HD Wireless Headphones were offered to me to review, my first thought was to offer them to Bill H. or the rest of the Gadgeteer team, but the fact that they were wireless headphones piqued my interest so I accepted the offer. They showed up on my doorstep a few weeks ago and I’ve been using them to listen to tunes streamed from my Samsung Galaxy Note 2. Thumbs up or thumbs down? Keep reading to find out.

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Is Tic the future of button fasteners?

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A couple of days ago I took us on a trip down gadget memory lane when I remembered the Ronco Buttoneer button fastener from the 1970′s. Today Luis Reyes left a comment that there’s a new button fastener in town and it’s called Tic. Designed in Sweden, Tic lets you permanently fasten shirt buttons without using needle and thread. How does it work?

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Tic is a folding plastic clip that has a tiny two pronged plastic spike that goes through the garment material and the button holes. The clip is pinched together and then wiggled back and forth to break the spike from the clip. What you’re left with is a button attached permanently to the material. Tics are available in black and white and come in packs of 4 for a price of 5.50 EUR ($7.48 US). For that price you’re obviously not going to use them for every clothes item in your closet with a missing button, but it might be worth having a pack in your gear bag for those emergency situations when you don’t have time to sew a button back on with needle and thread. For more info visit Tic.

To better understand how it works, see the demonstration video below.

Misfit Beddit Sleep Systems confirms that your sleep patterns are wonky

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Do you toss and turn all night? Maybe your partner snores like a freight train and that keeps you from getting the necessary amount of sleep each night. Or maybe you’re a lucky one who will fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow and wake up all bright eyed and bushy tailed. We’ve looked at sleep trackers before since a lot of the current wrist worn step trackers have that featured built in. But the Misfit Beddit Sleep System doesn’t require you to wear anything in order to track your sleep. It’s a very thin sleep sensor with advanced signal processing technologies, that can measure sleep cycles, heart rate, respiration, movement, snoring, and sound. The Beddit sensor rests on the user’s mattress, under the sheets and pairs via Bluetooth with an iOS app (Android coming soon) that records the sleep data. The app can play soothing sounds to help you fall asleep and functions as a smart alarm, waking you at the right time so you’ll feel refreshed and ready to tackle the day.

The Beddit Sleep Monitor is now available at http://store.misfit.com/ for $149.99.

Ten One Design is having an art contest for tablet doodlers

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If you like to create artwork on your iPad, Android or other tablet with Ten One Design Pogo styluses, you should check out the 6th Annual Pogo Art Contest in honor of the company’s Pogo-branded sketching tools. The contest runs from July 7 through August 31, so you have plenty of time to get creative and create some original artwork to submit. Ten One Design will be giving away $1,000 worth of cash and prizes, with the grand prize winner receiving a top secret, unannounced Ten One Design product along with close to $700 in cash and prizes that includes $150 cash, a booq Boa flow laptop backpack ($195) filled to the brim with high-tech goodies like a USB Power Pack Charger ($80), Twelve South BookBook Travel Journal ($99), eskuché Control v2 headphones ($65) and a ScreenGuardz® Pure® Glass Screen Protector ($79.95). Four secondary winners (for each category) will receive a Cocoon® Central Park Professional Backpack ($79.99), Twelve South BassJump 2 USB-powered subwoofer ($69.95), $100 credit at www.tenondesign.com as well as the not-yet-announced Ten One Design product.

Judges will critique submissions in four different categories: Current Events, Wildly Creative, The Way You See It, and Obviously Abstract. Judges have been carefully selected based on their knowledge of mobile art and their desire to expand this community of unique artists. Find out all the contest details here.

JK Rowling has written a new Harry Potter story – wait, don’t get too excited

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I’m a big fan of the Harry Potter books. I’m not a crazy fan, I just really enjoyed the books and movies. So much so that I’ve yet to find another book series that I’ve liked better. I was bummed after watching the final movie because there would be no more books or movies to look forward to. JK herself even said there would be no more Harry Potter books. Then today I found out that she had posted a new Harry Potter short story on the Pottermore site. I almost tripped over my fingers getting to the site to read it only to discover that I had to make an account and that the site was too slow and bogged down by all the other Harry Potter fans trying to get a fix. I finally got in and found the story. It’s actually an article in the Daily Prophet newspaper written by the sleezy reporter character from the books, Rita Skeeter. It gets worse… the story is about Harry and his best buds Ron and Hermione all going to the Quidditch World Cup match together. This may be blaspheme for a HP fan, but I hated all the quidditch parts in the books. So I was a little let down right from the get go. But it didn’t get any better, because it’s not actually a story. It’s just a bunch info about Harry and his pals 15 or so years after the end of the final book. Harry has grey hair, Ron’s hair is thinning and Harry has a mysterious cut on his cheek. That’s it. It feels like a tease from JKR and not the good kind of tease that makes you look forward to something good. Oh well…

Check out the story at Pottermore.com

Gadget memories – Ronco Buttoneer

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Tragedy struck this morning when the button fell off my pants and I’ve been walking around all day hitching my pants up every so often just because I’m too lazy to go searching for a needle and thread. The situation caused me to remember a gadget from my childhood – the Ronco Buttoneer. Does anyone else remember this gadget from the 70′s?

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Kinivo BTC450 Bluetooth Car Kit review

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A few weeks ago I posted an article about two of my Cummins co-workers who had integrated a Nexus 7 tablet into their vehicles. I was really impressed by their ingenuity and was inspired to inject a little more tech into my 2013 MINI Cooper. You’d probably think my car would have all the tech bells and whistles that you could ever imagine, but it doesn’t because the dealership talked me out of the expensive tech package when I bought my car last year. I ended up just getting Sirius radio and Bluetooth hands-free calling. My free year of Sirius radio expires in just a few days and I’ve decided not to renew because it’s too expensive when I only listen to 4 stations on a regular basis. I figured with all the music streaming apps that I could just use my Android smartphone (Samsung Galaxy Note 2) as an alternative to satellite radio. But unfortunately the Bluetooth in my MINI does not allow for audio streaming. It’s strictly for calls only. But did I let that stop me? Heck no, I bought the Kinivo BTC450 Bluetooth Car Kit. So hop in the passenger seat, buckle up and let’s take it for a spin.

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NuNaturals sweet giveaway!

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A few weeks ago, the nice folks at NuNaturals sent me an email asking if they could send me a sample of their latest stevia based product – NuStevia Cocoa Syrup. Stevia is a natural plant based sweetener that has zero calories and zero carbs. Since I’m a diabetic, I was very excited to try a chocolate syrup that is sugar free. I ended up making a batch of homemade goat’s milk ice cream over the weekend just so I could try the syrup. And the verdict is: YUM! It’s hard to believe NuStevia Cocoa Syrup doesn’t have any calories at all. It has a very rich chocolate flavor that works great lightly drizzled over ice cream and I bet it would make a great cup of hot cocoa too. Now it’s your turn, NuNaturals has generously offered to give away samples of their products to 4 lucky winners. If you have a sweet tooth you’ll want to enter. Contest details after the break.

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Pressy programmable Android button review

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I bet I’m not the only person who misses the good old days when phones (even smartphones) had a physical button for every task. There was a button to answer a call, a button to end a call and so on. Once touch screens became popular, smartphone manufacturers seemed to stop using buttons almost overnight. One of the main reasons I’ve continued to use Samsung phones is because they still have an actual button at the bottom of the screen. But that’s just one button. I want more, so when I saw the Pressy programmable Android button Kickstarter project last fall, I plunked down my money and waiting for my reward to be delivered. The wait was a long one, but I now have my Pressy in hand, so let’s check it out and see if it was worth the wait.

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Magnets, flashlights, silicone wedding bands and a blanket in your pocket – Weekly roundup

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Another week has gone by and in those last seven days we’ve brought you some great news and reviews including a review of some cool bullet shaped magnets, a unique flashlight that can be stored in a case that also holds three extra batteries, wedding bands made from silicone and a full sized blanket that you can fold up and carry in your pocket. If you haven’t read these posts yet, what are you waiting for? Click through to see the full list of news, reviews and articles from this past week.

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Quick tips: How to really dim the screen of your Android smartphone

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This quick tip is for those of you who like myself, use your Android smartphone as your alarm clock.

Problem: When you check the time on your phone in the middle of the night or early morning hours while it’s still dark outside, you get blinded by the display. Even if you have the brightness turned all the way down, it can still be much too bright when you’ve been in the dark or asleep for many hours. It can almost be painful.  Read More →

Firefly turns wheelchairs into 3 wheeled “motorcycles”

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Rio Mobility’s Firefly offers a new method of transportation for adults and children who are confined to a wheelchair but still have use of their hands and arms. The Firefly is an electric powered handcycle that straps to an existing wheelchair that doubles the speed and distance of conventional power wheelchairs. It’s fully adjustable for compatibility with a large variety of different sized makes / models of wheelchairs for children and adults. The Firefly features a motorcycle-style throttle with 5 power levels and 12mph speeds. The high-capacity lithium battery provides a 15 mile range that includes hills. The large front tire will even let you go on off road adventures. It weighs about 25 lbs (without the battery) and easily snaps on and off your wheelchair for easy storage when its not in use.

Check out this video of it in action:

The Rio Mobility Firefly is priced at $1950.00. Depending on the circumstance, health insurance, non-profit organizations, or through grants may be able to help with the purchase.

Visit Rio Mobility for more info on the Firefly and their other mobility products.

LazyBunz are water floats that let you sit upright

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Summer activities often include spending time at the beach or lake enjoying the water. If you’re not a fan of inner tubes, swimming noodles, and life jackets as a way to float in the water, check out the LazyBunz water floats for adults. They are bright vinyl covered floats that are made in the USA and can hold up to 300 lbs. What makes them unique is that they are designed to be straddled and turn into a floating “chair” when you sit on them, allowing freedom of movement for your arms and legs. LazyBunz lay flat, so they store easier than some of the other floatation devices. Be aware though that they are not approved as a US Coast Guard lifesaving device. They do look like fun though! LazyBunz are available in 4 colors and are priced at $39.99 each which does seem too high to me for what it is. Also be aware that shipping is $14, but if you buy $100 worth of LazyBunz floats, shipping is free. Visit LazyBunz.com for more info.

Kensington’s new KeyFolio Thin X3 keyboard can charge your smartphone too

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We review a lot of external battery packs here on The Gadgeteer. They come in all manner of shapes, sizes and colors, but they all suffer from one problem – they are just one more thing you have to carry around with you. One solution to this problem is to use gadgets that have a dual purpose like the new Kensington KeyFolio Thin X3 keyboard. The X3 is a Bluetooth keyboard made especially for the iPad Air that features what Kensington calls PowerLift technology which allows the user to draw power from their keyboard case to charge any smartphone. The battery capacity is only 1650 mAh, so it might not fully recharge your phone, but it will provide enough power to continue working for a few hours. The keyboard also offers high-performance scissor keys, a row of dedicated shortcut keys, and a KeySense Power Channel that automatically turns the Bluetooth keyboard on and off when it’s opened and ready for typing.

The Kensington KeyFolio Thin X3 keyboard is priced at $99.99 and is available for pre-order through Kensington and Amazon. The keyboard will be available August 1st.