The Gadgets Page

November 15, 2006

Green Car Journal

Filed under: Cars & Transportation — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

I love to hear about cars that have incredible gas mileage, are smaller and more efficient or run on alternative fuel sources. That’s why I write about so many different transportation methods here. You can understand my excitement at finding this:

They have reviews of all the alternative fuel and hybrid cars that are and aren’t available. You can get your green car fix once a month with them and read their articles online all you want. They also have a pretty interesting forum that is active. I found this subject to be pretty good:

The worry about a car that can’t travel a long distance seems to be a common one that hasn’t been solved yet. Have fun investigating. I sure did!

November 14, 2006

Blackberry Thumb? Did None Of These People Play Video Games?!

Filed under: PDAs and Phones — Laura Moncur @ 6:00 am

Texting with a Treo by Laura Moncur 11-13-06The scare of worker’s compensation claims because of overuse injuries relating to texting and emailing with Blackberrys provided by your employer sounds like a trumped up charge to me. Did none of these adults play Intellivision when they were kids? Are they not playing Nintendo DS games now? Intellivision Thumb was around a lot longer than Blackberry Thumb. Maybe it’s not all Blackberry’s fault.

When I worked in a busy office processing claims, I was amazed at the carpal tunnel claims from one woman in our office. She wore braces, had a special desk and they even moved her to a position that had less typing and data entry. One day, we were just shooting the breeze and I asked her what she did for fun. She knitted. She was so happy to know someone else who knitted that she started showing me her projects.

That carpal tunnel syndrome was caused by knitting, NOT data entry.

If worker’s compensation claims are being made on Blackberry Thumb, it would be wise to find out how much other gaming the employee is doing and has done in the past. It might turn out to be a bad case of Intellivision Thumb instead.

As always, remember, if you are having hand pain from ANY gadget, lay off for a while. Take breaks. I know the game is REALLY fun, but you need to take a break if you want to use those fingers for anything else. Same goes for you Crackberry Addicts. That email will wait until you can get to the computer, I promise. I know the game is REALLY fun, but you need to take a break if you want to use those fingers for anything else.

November 10, 2006

Go To Sleep and Wake Up Easier

Filed under: Misc. Gadgets — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

I am constantly looking for an option to make waking up less of an ordeal. This lamp/alarm clock slowly dims the lights and reduces the volume of the nature sounds while you are going to sleep. Before the time to wake up, it reverses the process and slowly brightens and increases the volume until it is at its full level when you are supposed to rise.

I am always enticed by these sorts of alarm clocks, but not by their price. For $150, I think I will have to make due with my current waking methods. I refuse to pay that much money for an alarm clock that doesn’t even play my favorite music.

Via: Popgadget: Personal Tech for Women

November 9, 2006

Sony Ericsson Bluetooth Watch

Filed under: PDAs and Phones,Watches — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

The Sony Ericsson Bluetooth WatchPC Magazine has gotten its hands on the new Sony Ericsson bluetooth watch and are completely incapable of telling me whether it’s a good watch or not.

They were able to tell us that you would need to charge your watch about once a week, and that it’s the easiest-pairing Bluetooth device they’ve ever used, but they can’t give me the basics.

Is there a stopwatch?

Is there a daily alarm?

Is there dual time?

Can I change the digital display to show me the date and day of the week instead of the dorky icons?

Can I change the digital display to show me the time instead of trying to read the analog hands?

If the Bluetooth battery goes dead, does the analog watch keep telling time correctly or does it stop too?

Sadly, this looks like it’s just a toy for executives. Go ahead, Mr. CEO, buy the Sony Ericsson watch and it’s matching phone. You don’t ever need a stopwatch, anyway…

Via: Sony Ericsson’s MBW-100 Bluetooth watch reviewed – Engadget

November 8, 2006

Flickr: Better Late Than Never

Filed under: Software — Laura Moncur @ 1:11 pm

Flickr was a big fad last year. Everyone I knew discovered it last year and eagerly started posting their photos to the website. I was reluctant to try it, mostly because I have a bunch of my own weblogs and servers where I can post my own photos. I wanted to keep control of my photographs and I REALLY didn’t want to depend on a company that might go out of business next week.

Then Yahoo bought Flickr, so there was no risk of it going out of business. In fact, Yahoo was allowing Flickr to flourish. Even that news wasn’t enough for me to try them. I just let all my friends use those cool plug-ins that automatically uploaded pictures that they had taken to their weblogs while I did it the hard way.

Then one day, I decided to test it for The Gadgets Page.

Seriously, I thought that I should just try it out to see if it’s something that “normal” people could easily use. If my mom asked me whether she should upload her pictures to this Flickr-thing, what would I tell her? I found that it was extremely easy to use and was ready to give it a positive review when I found something that changed everything.

I love Flickr!

Does it bother me that my pictures aren’t on my own server and my webpages are at the mercy of Flickr and Yahoo? No, not really. Does it bother me that people can see my pictures anywhere, even if they aren’t reading my blogs? Nope again. If they find me on Flickr and go to my weblogs from there, that’s actually GOOD for me. Does it bother me that people could steal my pictures from there and use them on their own? They always could do that. In fact, I have a little more protection with Flickr because I have proof of the date I posted them from an independent source.

None of those reasons are why I love Flickr. I love them because I can upload a picture, write a blog entry and post it to my weblog all with my cell phone. Flickr makes it easy. See the instructions here:

Logically, I look at this and think, “This shouldn’t change things for me.” I’ve ALWAYS been able to blog using my phone, but I was never able to add a picture to my entries until Flickr came along. When I think of trying to text a blog entry using the tiny buttons on my Treo, it doesn’t really seem worth it. If I include a picture, however, it suddenly becomes worth it to me. Here is an example of a personal entry that I wrote while riding in the car:

It was easy to do and only took a couple of minutes. Trying to do that before I signed up for Flickr would have been so involved that I wouldn’t have even thought about it. Now, I can write anywhere. I may have come to Flickr late, but better late than never!

November 7, 2006

Gmail On Your Cell Phone

Filed under: PDAs and Phones — Laura Moncur @ 6:00 am

I have been able to get Gmail on my Treo 650 for a long time. They have had a mobile option that works pretty well. It’s a little clunky, but it works. Now, they have released a Java-based email program for your cell phone that is supposed to be even better. It’s supposed to be faster and more like the Gmail screens you’re used to.

Why haven’t I tried it?

Well, I’d have to put that Java stuff on my already stuffed phone. It works on my Treo, but more and more, I’m learning that sometimes things are “good enough.” I’m not talking about mediocrity for the sake of laziness. I’m talking about constantly trying to get the newest and best thing just to keep on top of the gadget trends. I’m not willing to put forth the effort of getting Gmail’s new software to work on my phone because the older system that they have works well enough for me.

If you have a web browser on your phone, use this URL:

http://m.gmail.com/

Try out the old Gmail and see if it’s “good enough” for you before you go to the trouble of getting a Java program to work on your phone. You might just find out that your cell phone does things you never knew it could do for you with little effort.

Via: Google Mail goes mobile. RSS too. | News.blog | CNET News.com

November 3, 2006

Review: ProClip gadget vehicle mounting system

Filed under: Cars & Transportation,Misc. Gadgets,PDAs and Phones — Matthew Strebe @ 5:00 am

ProClip

ProClip is one of those great ideas that seem obvious—after you’ve seen it. ProClip is a mount for various gadgets that doesn’t require modification to your vehicle and doesn’t damage it. The ingenious part is its two-part universal design: You select one component that matches your car, and one component that matches your gadget. Joining the two together (with screws) creates a customized mount that fits both car and gadget perfectly.

I’ll admit I was quite skeptical when I got my ProClip: I own a car that I’m loathe to damage in any way, firstly because it’s leased and I’m not allowed to modify it, and secondly because I want to keep it nice. So of course I’ve tried suction cup solutions, and you probably know about how well those work—you wind up tossing them after a week in frustration.

The ProClip fits into two of the seams in the car’s dashboard (different ones for each car) and uses the spring tension of the bracket to stay in place. In my car, the lower shim fit between the upper console plate and the bottom of the air vent, while the top shim fit between the dashboard and the top speaker grill (the bass speaker is in the center front of the dash in my car). The lower shim was easy—it slid right in and hooked behind the place when I rotated the bracket into position. The upper shim was a bit more work: There actually wasn’t any space for the shim between the dash and the speaker grill. The ProClip came with a little wedge shaped tool to “make space” between them—hence my skepticism.

But I used it as instructed, and it actually worked. The tool did open up enough space for the top shim of the bracket to fit into, and once it was fit, it stayed perfectly in place. Putting the gadget (in this case, a Treo 650) into the clip takes a little force because it fits snuggly, but the bracket was more than secure enough to stay in place. I worried about the top clip coming off or squeezing out if too much downward force were placed on the bracket as I put the Treo in, but I couldn’t get it to happen so it’s not an issue.

Most importantly, the whole ProClip could be removed easily and didn’t leave any evidence of ever having been there. The gap between the dash and speaker pressed right back together on its own once the ProClip was removed. Now, I don’t know whether or not a permanent gap would be left if the clip was in place for a long period of time, but even if it was, the gap width is less than 1mm wide and 2cm long, and in a position where you’d not notice it even if it did deform the dash plastic.

ProClips make a great hands-free solution for your gadget, and I strongly recommend them for any device you want to keep securely mounted in your car. Your bracket will vary and I couldn’t test them all, unfortunately, but if they’re all made with the precision that mine was, you’ll be quite pleased with them.

Many vehicles even include multiple bracket locations for multiple devices. Brackets cost between $30 and $40 dollars, with gadget clips costing between $20 and $35 dollars depending on type. You’ll need one of each, for a complete solution costing between $50 and $75 dollars. Fairly expensive for a clip, but considering the fact that there’s no installation labor and it doesn’t damage your vehicle, it’s more than worth it in my opinion.

ProClip also makes a handlebar mount for people insane enough to use a gadget while motorcycling, a dual-gadget adapter to mount two devices on any bracket, a move clip kit that allows you to easily move your clip between two vehicles, tilt swivel mounts, and numerous other accessories that will allow you to get exactly what you’re looking for in a device mounting solution.

ProClips are available for nearly all cell phones, iPods, PDAs, and for some specialty devices such as GPS receivers and DVD players. Check their website for complete details.

November 2, 2006

Belt-Driven Bike Engine

Filed under: Cars & Transportation — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Golden Eagle Belt-Driven Bicycle EngineI’m always in search of alternative transportation and here is another bicycle engine, the Golden Eagle Belt-Driven Bicycle Engine. If your commute is over twenty miles each way, this bike engine might be what you need.

Cool Tool has a review of the engine and the reason they even tried it in the first place.

“I tried bicycling the old fashioned way for a couple weeks, but 25 miles urban each way in a Phoenix summer is suicide no matter how good your physical condition. I began looking for an assist-motor for my bike. Most “whizzer” type bicycle engines are a hassle. Electrics don’t have the range for a 50 mile daily commute. Two-stroke motors are a pain and become expensive due to the necessity of pre-mixing oil and fuel. Friction-drive bicycle motors wear out tires rapidly and behave badly on rough surfaces & water.”

“I eventually found a 4-stroke motor and belt drive kit from Golden Eagle Bike Engines that weighs very little, operates quietly, and gets me to work and back for about 45 cents a day in fuel. This engine comes as a 25cc Subaru-Robin 4-stroke kit for $549 including shipping. It was delivered 4 days after I ordered, and it took me just under 1/2 hour to install on my $200 department store mountain bike.”

Instead of spending $7 a day in gasoline, he went down to 45 cents! Riding a bike to work might not be an option to a lot of people in the northern states this winter, but if you live in a more temperate climate, this just might be the best option for you to save money.

November 1, 2006

How to Turn an Ordinary Photo Into an Extraordinary Photo

Filed under: Cameras — Laura Moncur @ 1:55 am

Jon Armstrong regularly produces photos with an ethereal quality. In this tutorial, he shows you how to turn this:

Original Photo by Jon Armstrong

Into this:

Updated Photo by Jon Armstrong

You can see the tutorial right here:

To use his technique, you will need to have Adobe Photoshop, which isn’t an inexpensive program to own. This is NOT a beginner tutorial. If you don’t already own Photoshop, this tutorial will sound like a big mess of “layers this” and “settings that.” Learning how to use Adobe Photoshop is probably the best thing you could ever do for your photos. Even small tweaks can change things from “blah” to “wow!”

If you already own Photoshop and are familiar with it, Jon’s technique can create some extraordinary effects. Give it a try. So much of what he is describing is just playing with the picture until it looks right. It’s what changes photography from documentation to art.

Good luck, have fun and remember to “Save As…” before you even start so you don’t lose your original!

October 30, 2006

Xtreme Mac Microblast: The iPod Ghetto Blaster For REAL People

Filed under: Audio and Video — Laura Moncur @ 2:49 pm

XTREMEMAC IPN-MBL-00 MicroBlast for iPod nanoLast week, I blasted the JVC RAP10 for being a sucky iPod boombox, but what do I think is better? Honestly, there is nothing that is perfect, but the XtremeMac MicroBlast is the closest I’ve found. Here’s how it stacks up:

  • It Only Costs 40 Bucks: You’ll have to look around for that price or wait until it goes on sale like I did, but at $40, I can risk it being stolen off my desk or from behind my back. Even then, I’m going to cry, but I wouldn’t even be willing to take that JVC RAP10 outside the house if I dropped over 100 bucks on it.

  • It Sounds Okay…: I have to admit. The sound is nothing compared to the Logitech mm28 Speakers we have in the basement. At about the same size, the Logitech blows the Microblast out of the water, but the Microblast cost half as much. I get what I pay for.

  • The iPod is SECURE: My Nano clicks into the box securely and it takes a little work to get it out. When I pick the thing up to walk down the street, the cover snaps over my iPod and it’s safe as can be.

  • I Can Even Walk and Listen: Even with the plastic cover secured over the iPod and speakers, I can still listen to my music. The treble goes away and the sound quality is reduced even more, but I don’t care. I can blast my tunes while I walk around bringing the soundtrack of my life to everyone I meet.

  • It Runs on Batteries or AC: That’s cool when I want to listen to my music at home on at my desk at work, I don’t have to wear my batteries down. When I’m out and about, I can crank it with four AA batteries.

  • It Needs A Handle: It’s so small that it really doesn’t need a handle, but if I want to walk around town with it, I’m going to need to hack a cool handle. Anyone have any ideas, because all I’ve got is crochet skillz.

XTREMEMAC IPN-MBL-00 MicroBlast for iPod nanoSo, it’s not perfect, but it’s the closest I’ve ever found. Last summer, I sold my JVC CD boombox for ten bucks to the girl across the street. I realized that for the first time since 1986, I didn’t have a boombox. Ever since then, I have been searching for a good boombox that will work with Mike’s Nano. You can’t believe how disappointed I have been. When I saw the Microblast at the local music store, I didn’t buy it because I KNEW the speakers wouldn’t be the best.

I finally decided that sound quality isn’t as important as portability.

When I’m listening to my iPod with friends, I can offer them an earbud, but that is kind of gross. The iPod is amazing, but it isn’t meant for sharing music with buddies. It’s meant for personal listening. I finally caved and bought the Microblast and I’ve been happy with it.

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