The Gadgets Page

June 9, 2011

Easy Meditation with Ambiance

Filed under: eBook Readers and Peripherals,PDAs and Phones,Software — Laura Moncur @ 8:01 am

Ambiance iOS appI can hardly believe that I never wrote a review for Ambiance [iTunes link]. It’s one of my favorite iOS apps and I literally use it every day for both meditation and going to sleep.

There are a ton of sounds to download for free to use, which makes it incredibly versatile. For example, I have downloaded several nature sounds like the one shown here, Scottish Springtime. I’ve set my timer for fifteen minutes and the shuffle to change every minute, so I can meditate to various sounds of nature no matter where I am. When the timer runs out, I’m finished meditating.

My sister Stacey and her husband Dan, however, use Ambiance to distract the dogs. They have downloaded a white noise sample and use it to drown out the sound of children playing and neighbors walking past the house so that their dogs won’t erupt into a fit of barking when the two of them are not home.

There are always new sounds on AmbianceI love that there are new sounds available quite often. When I first downloaded Ambiance several months ago, I only had a few sounds, so it felt like I was meditating to the same sounds every day. Now, I have so many different sounds to choose from that it’s rare that I hear a repeat in a week. I adore that the app will push me a notice when they have new sounds available. I usually drop everything just to see what is available.

I honestly haven’t used all the features available to me in Ambiance. There is a way to record your own sounds to use with Ambiance, so you can populate your meditation with your favorite comforting sounds. There is also a rating and favorites system. I’ve never rated a sound because I’m pretty much happy with all the sounds I’ve downloaded and deleted the sounds that turned out to be jarring or inconducive to meditation.

Ambiance iOS appA favorite for me is the alarm feature so that Ambiance can wake me up. It will bring up a clock to sit next to my bed and it will play sounds to lull me to sleep and slowly fade out after a preset time. In the morning, it will fade in, gradually waking me up to my favorite soothing sounds. It’s a fully functional alarm with “normal” alarm noises and a snooze option as well.

I have enjoyed Ambiance so much over the last few months that I can hardly believe it only cost me three bucks. I remember looking at clocks at Sharper Image and Brookstone that would play relaxing sounds for me that cost easily ten times that amount and they didn’t have as much functionality as Ambiance has, much less the ability to add more sounds. It has been a great app for me and I literally use it every day.

You can download Ambiance here:

June 7, 2011

Taptic Toys Lets You Have A Virtual Presence

Filed under: eBook Readers and Peripherals — Laura Moncur @ 8:26 am

Taptic Toys, Inc. has been showing off its virtual presence device at E3. If you aren’t familiar with this sort of device, it will probably help you to watch this clip from Big Bang Theory.

Sheldon decided that he would be safer if he used a computer to experience the world, but this device can be used for employees who live in different cities from their offices. Instead of merely telecommuting and video conferencing, they can wander your office. Here is Taptic Toys describing their product, which uses an iPad to control the device.

This device isn’t available yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see things like this in the near future. In fact, Mozilla uses something similar for their employees. Check out this video from Mike Verdi:

Via: Taptic Toys iPad telepresence robot roams the WWDC keynote line

December 6, 2010

Review: InCase Convertible Magazine Jacket for iPad

Filed under: eBook Readers and Peripherals,Misc. Gadgets — Michael Moncur @ 4:32 am

InCase Magazine Jacket

I’ve gone through about five different cases in less than a year of owning an iPad. Apple’s case is thin and lightweight, but has ugly seams and sharp edges. Most of the others are so thick they double the iPad’s thickness. This new entry from inCase is my favorite so far.

The Convertable Magazine Jacket is loosely based on InCase’s leather Book Jacket for iPad, one of the cases I ruled out because it adds far too much weight and thickness to the iPad. By contrast, the Magazine Jacket is thin—it’s the only case I’ve reviewed that can be considered as thin and lightweight as Apple’s case.

InCase Magazine Jacket

The Magazine Jacket functions as a cover for the iPad, complete with a Moleskine-like fabric band to keep the cover closed. It easily snaps onto the iPad, and the plastic corner mounts offer some protection if the iPad is dropped. It’s very slim, with two plastic protrusions on the back (which facilitate use as a stand) the only thing making it significantly thicker than an un-jacketed iPad.

InCase advertises “One working position and two viewing positions” when using the Magazine Jacket as a stand. I had trouble figuring out what these positions were at first, and the drawings on the package left both Laura and I scratching our heads. After half an hour of experimentation, we figured it out.

The “working” position, shown at the top of this article, works well for typing. The cover folds into a triangle and supports the iPad at a low angle, slightly lower than that of the Apple case. It works great for typing on a table but isn’t completely stable when used on my lap.

InCase Magazine Jacket

The first “viewing” position, shown at right, uses the same triangular fold, which nestles under one of the case’s protrusions for a very stable TV-like viewing angle, slightly leaning from the vertical. This configuration can also be used in portrait mode, which positions the iPad vertically.

InCase Magazine Jacket

The second “viewing” position, shown at left, was hard to figure out—in fact, I just tried it again for this picture and it took a moment to find the position again. The cover folds into an L-shape and rests on the second protrusion on the back. This is a shallower angle that works well on my desk. It’s probably the least stable position, but still works for light typing.

The great thing about this case, once you figure it out, is the ease of switching positions. I previously used a Macally Microfiber Case which was so difficult to put into position as a stand that I almost never did. With the Magazine Jacket I can switch it from stand to cover and back very quickly, and as a cover it’s sleek and comfortable to use.

This case is hard to find right now at most stores, but it’s available in the Apple Store for $49.95.

October 22, 2010

Halloween Apps for iPad and iPhone

Filed under: eBook Readers and Peripherals,PDAs and Phones,Software — Laura Moncur @ 2:27 pm

Halloween is just around the corner! Get into the mood with these apps.

Angry Bird Halloween Edition

I’ve played Angry Birds on the iPad a few times and it amused me, but when Rovio came out with a Halloween edition of the game, they were suddenly my favorite game of the month! Here is a video showing the action.

You can download the games from iTunes here:

Ghost Radar

I talked about Ghost Radar before here:

It is such a fun app, that I’m going to have it running in the background in the kitchen during my Halloween Party. Here is a quick video showing it:

You can download the app here:

Halloween Movie Vault

Halloween Movie VaultFlingsoft has brought us a huge collection of old movies that you can stream onto your iPad. It’s a stroke of genius. I thought maybe all of the movies would be really bad, but there are some good ones there including: Dementia 13 (directed by Francis Ford Coppola), White Zombie (with Bela Lugosi) and The Last Man on Earth (with Vincent Price).

You can download Halloween Movie Vault here:

There’s nothing like a bunch of scary movies to make Halloween feel even scarier!

September 30, 2010

Aida Case for the iPad

Filed under: eBook Readers and Peripherals,Reviews — Laura Moncur @ 9:00 am

The minute I heard that the Aida Keyboard Case for the iPad was available, I ordered one. It arrived a couple of days ago and I’m eager to share what I’ve learned.

I was worried that it would be too thick to still fit in my purse, but the case hasn’t caused any trouble. It IS twice as thick as an iPad without a case, but compared to many other cases, it is similar in thickness.

Aida Case for the iPad

I also like the magnetic closure. I kept having trouble with other cases opening up in my purse. This one stays closed.

Aida Case for the iPad

I was also worried that it wouldn’t fold flat so I could read magazines, books and websites. Fortunately, it folds easily and I can hold it to read without any trouble.

Aida Case for the iPad

I’ve had trouble with my iPad and Bluetooth keyboards, so I was worried I would run into the same trouble, but the Aida keyboard paired with my iPad without a single hitch. It also charged quickly and I haven’t had to recharge it in the last two days.

Now, for the bad news. The case uses only gravity to keep the iPad upright when you’re typing. That works fine if you are typing on a table, but if you’re at a conference and have your iPad on your lap, it will NOT work. The iPad will flop down every time.

Aida Case for the iPad

I tried to fix the problem by adding industrial strength velcro. This makes the case almost useable on my lap, but not quite. There is still a lot of flopping and the sound of the velcro ripping when it finally fails to keep it upright. I just wish a case manufacturer would use laptop hinges instead of relying on gravity.

Aida Case for the iPad

The worst problem of all is the keyboard layout. If I had been able to see the actual buttons on the keyboard before I bought it, I wouldn’t have bothered with this case.

Aida Case for the iPad

There are a few issues:

  • There is only one shift key on the left side. The right shift key has been replaced with a key for the equal sign and an up key, so every time I try to capitalize like normal, I end up either typing an equal sign or moving the cursor up one. This is a major pain in the butt.

  • The apostrophe is in the lower right hand corner under the period key. I’ve never had a keyboard with the apostrophe there, so I have to learn how to type all over again just to use the apostrophe.

  • The keyboard feels mushy. I prefer a keyboard that’s silent, but this one is so floppy that I can’t tell if I’ve pushed a key or not. This ends up giving me double letters at some times and missing letters at others. I find that I have to correct my work just as often as when I use the virtual keyboard.

There are some good things about the keyboard. Copy, paste and cut work using the command button (i.e. Command+V for paste). This streamlines some of my workflow, but it doesn’t make up for the other issues.

In the end, don’t bother with the Aida Case. You’ll probably type faster on the virtual keyboard and you won’t have to worry about charging a keyboard and setting up Bluetooth. Sometimes the best solution is the one Steve Jobs gave you.

September 24, 2010

Magazine Apps for the iPad

Filed under: eBook Readers and Peripherals — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

OK Magazine is my shameful pleasureI have been reluctant to write about Zinio and the People Magazine iPad apps because honestly, I didn’t want anyone to know how many horrible magazines I read. I LOVE reading them, but I don’t want the whole world to know that I love them.

I have easily spent over a hundred dollars on digital magazine subscriptions since I bought my iPad. Magazines that I would never allow into my mailbox or sit on my counter or pass through my checkout line are happily loaded onto my iPad. I still feel guilty reading them, but I CAN read them without anyone knowing how white trash I am.

Zinio Magazine AppBy far, my favorite app is Zinio Magazine Newsstand & Reader [iTunes link]. I have subscribed to US Weekly, OK Magazine, Cosmo and Elle. All four of these I would never allow in my home because I’m so embarrassed by them. I’ve also subscribed to Weight Watchers, Smithsonian and Bicycle Times. I wouldn’t have ever bought a subscription to them before because I couldn’t deal with the clutter of unread magazines in my house. Recycling them without reading them is just too painful for me, so I just didn’t bother with those kinds of magazines for years because I knew I wouldn’t read them every month.

I love the freedom of a digital subscription because I can delete or download whatever issues I want. I can read them at my leisure and if it takes MONTHS to get around to looking at them, it doesn’t matter because they’ll wait, sight unseen in my iPad until I have the time to look at them. I can take screen shots of things I want to buy and I NEVER have clutter in my home.

People Magazine App for iPadThe PEOPLE Magazine App [iTunes Link], however was so irritating that I had to delete it. There are so many things wrong with this app that it’s hard to know where to start. They offered the lure of additional digital content, so I thought they would be better than having the same subscription with Zinio, but I was sorely mistaken.

  • You MUST buy the print subscription: People Magazine is just barely reputable enough to be allowed in my mailbox, so I didn’t have a problem with their requirement to buy a subscription. I DO have a problem with the paper magazines that show up in my mailbox every week, however. I would much rather prefer the digital only version, even if I had to pay the same price.
  • It’s a TIME SUCK: Downloading issues takes at least ten minutes and it HAS to be done over wi-fi, so that’s a pain. After I read an issue, I can’t delete it, so when I sync my iPad, it takes easily a half hour for iTunes to back up all my stupid back issues. After I deleted the app, my sync time went from over forty minutes to less than two minutes.
  • It isn’t even the full People Magazine: When I compare it to my print copy, the digital version is missing almost all of the advertising and the crossword puzzle. Some people might not care about missing the advertising, but honestly, sometimes the ads are better than the content with People Magazine, so I really felt like the digital version wasn’t as good.
  • The extra digital content is useless: There ARE videos that aren’t included in the print version that I can watch and I kind of liked those, but they certainly weren’t worth the forty minutes of my time it takes to download them and back them up on my computer.

Time Inc. should take a look at how Zinio is handling things. I have spent FAR more money on digital subscriptions with them and I like them WAY better. The People Magazine App isn’t worth the time to download it.

In the end, I absolutely LOVE getting my magazines digitally on the iPad. It decreases my household clutter and I get to enjoy my shameful pleasures without anyone looking down on me. Thanks, Zinio!

September 22, 2010

Kensington Bluetooth Keyboard for iPad

Filed under: eBook Readers and Peripherals — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

This video shows an iPad keyboard case for the iPad. It looks pretty good.

The iPad sits upright using a notch that holds it in place (much like other cases) instead of a laptop-like hinge.

Kensington iPad Keyboard Case

The case looks incredibly slim.

Kensington iPad Keyboard Case

Unfortunately, the keyboard case isn’t available yet. I’ve checked all the retail sites as well as Kensington’s own site, to no avail.

The Aida iPad Keycase is available NOW, however.

Aida iPad Keyboard Case

If you are looking for an iPad case that also has a Bluetooth keyboard built in, I predict the market will be FLOODED with them within six months. It’s hard for me to wait for the leader to work its way to the front of the pack, so I’ll probably end up buying several until I find the perfect one for me. If you can wait, you’ll be able to learn from my mistakes. Stay tuned for iPad keyboard case reviews.

Via: Found Footage: Kensington Bluetooth keyboard case for iPad

August 26, 2010

FINALLY! A Good Case For My iPad!

Filed under: eBook Readers and Peripherals — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

As hard as I’ve tried, I haven’t been able to get paper out of my life. Although I now keep a journal with my iPad instead of writing on paper, I have one weekly goal sheet that I still use. I also get handouts from Weight Watchers every week and I am continually ruining them because they don’t have a nice place to go in my iPad.

I’ve finally found a iPad case that is just as good as the Apple case AND has a spot for my papers and even a pen.

Acase Deluxe Leather iPad Case

The case easily holds a 5 1/2″ X 8 1/2″ paper, which is what I use in my journal. It could hold a 8 1/2″ X 11″ paper folded in half as well. I have some 7″ X 9 1/2″ composition books that looked like they would fit, but they are a little too thick to slip into the pocket. My 5 1/2″ X 8 1/2″ composition books fit perfectly, however.

There were plenty of pictures of the case on Amazon, but they didn’t answer all the questions I had about it. In particular, I wondered how the case propped up. Was there velcro? Did it just stay there? I have a pretty clear picture showing that feature.

Acase Deluxe Leather iPad Case

If you look carefully, there are grooves on the case that allow the flap to stay in one place. There isn’t much variation in the viewing angle, but the Apple case only had ONE choice, so this case is better than that.

The entire case is fatter than the Apple case, but it stands on a table with more stability than the Apple case does, so I feel like that’s a fair trade-off.

Acase Deluxe Leather iPad Case

When closed, the Acase isn’t as simple and pretty as the Apple case. You can clearly see the grooved section here. What it gives up in beauty, it gains in stability.

Acase Deluxe Leather iPad Case

I really appreciate the pocket for papers and the smaller pockets would be nice for ID or credit cards if you wanted to use this case as a wallet and a planner.

Acase Deluxe Leather iPad Case

I was worried that the flap would flop open all the time, but there is a nice little magnet in it that keeps it in place when you’re not using it. It sits so flat that I barely notice it unless I need it.

On the whole, I’ve been pretty happy with the Acase Deluxe Leather multi-view Case/Folio with Stand for iPad. Until I can completely excise paper out of my life, a case like this is very helpful.

August 23, 2010

PostSecret: I Love You And Hate You

Filed under: eBook Readers and Peripherals,Laptops,PDAs and Phones — Laura Moncur @ 9:55 am

This week’s postcards from PostSecret told a couple of interesting stories. Here is the first one:

It reads:

I liked you better before you got your iPhone.

But the second one tells a different story.

It reads:

I’m automatically more attracted to you if you use Apple products.

I found the dichotomy of the two interesting and even laughable. Our computers and cell phones are TOOLS. They shouldn’t make us more or less attractive to others, but they DO. Why?

This strange attraction (revulsion) might go as far back instinctively as our Cro-Magnon days. Those early humans started using tools and the best tools guaranteed survival. Mating with a human with better tools might be like mating with a human with a healthy glow in their skin or wide child-bearing hips. It assures survival of our progeny.

I find it interesting that Apple is able to elicit two very different instincts in people.


PostSecret‘s beneficiary is the National Hopeline Network. It is a 24-hour hotline (1 (800) SUICIDE) for anyone who is thinking about suicide or knows someone who is considering it.

May 6, 2010

iPad & Bluetooth Keyboard: Better Than A Laptop

Filed under: eBook Readers and Peripherals — Laura Moncur @ 9:00 am

iPad Bluetooth Keyboard Better Than A Laptop

I bought a netbook a little over a year ago. I thought it would be perfect for conferences because it was so small, but the battery life was so unbearable short that I was always searching for an electrical plug. At the last conference, I ended up going back to my trusty Macbook because at least the battery would last six hours. I endured the bulkiness in exchange for the convenience of not having to find electricity in every room.

With the iPad, however, there is a perfect marriage of long battery life and portability. It’s smaller than my netbook and the battery lasts easily ten hours. I haven’t fully acclimated to the onscreen keyboard and I prefer to have a real keyboard. The Apple Bluetooth keyboard works perfectly and even when I have to carry both around, they are still about the size of my netbook.

When we bought the iPad, I looked forward to reading books, playing video games and watching movies with it. I had no idea how good it was going to be for taking notes and actually working!

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