Review


January 1, 2014: 8:01 am: Review

I have been using a pretty well made shoulder laptop bag. It has lots of good pockets and the stiching is not flimsy. However, it is still a shoulder bag and that gets uncomfortable during a 15 minute walk to and from work.

So I asked for the Cocoon slim backpack for Christmas. It is an exclusive for now through the Apple Store. This is the same company that brings us the Gridit products.

I asked for the backpack for two reasons. First, it has a built in Gridit section. Second the slim profile places the weight down the length of my spine better when carrying the backpack. Way better than a traditional shoulder bag.

The bag has a very solid feel. The zippers are well made and do not feel like they will separate as a lot of bags do. The sections do unzip to the point you can lay it open fully flat. That completely exposes the built in Gridit section. I was able to organize the items I want to carry but not always use onto the Gridit platform. I found my small Gridit board still fits flat just laying on top of the built in platform. This makes it easy for me to routinely pull out charging cables I need often without opening it all the way.

The laptop section has a soft sleeve area for an iPad or other tablet. Then an adjoining pocket for up to a 15\” laptop.

There are an external pocket on the front of the backpack closed by zipped for slim materials. And one in the front cover but within the laptop compartment. That\’s it. No other pockets as you would expect to keep it slim. Perfect for a back and forth backpack.

I\’m very satisfied with the backpack. An excellent well made bargain for the price.

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February 17, 2013: 1:11 pm: Review

\"Pebble\"

I was excited to find my Pebble waiting for me this weekend. Reviews by other backers have generally been good. You can find several others listed below so I will not rehash all of the common details. Instead, I want to touch on a couple of issues specific to my experience.

I wore my Pebble to dinner on Friday night. The $spouse\’s comment was that it looked like something out of a cereal box due to the black plastic. My reply was: I was just as excited to get it as when digging the prize out of said cereal box. Granted, it is not formal wear like a Rolex. It does handle the things that I wanted it for. Viewing information and controlling music on my iPhone when walking to and from the office or working out. Even the black rubber band it comes with works best for my immediate needs. I won\’t mess it up with water or sweat.

Issues – Siri and Bluetooth

I have run into a couple of the reported issues. The Siri blocking issue frustrates me most. This occurs most of the time when the Pebble is active with my iPhone and I try and trigger Siri. You will see the bluetooth selector next to Siri\’s microphone icon. If the pebble is selected then it dead ends the audio and Siri cannot hear you. Sometimes you can select the iPhone to get Siri working again. Often it will flip back to the Pebble if you have lost Bluetooth connectivity. Such as leaving the watch on your desk and carrying your iPhone around the house.

I did find that I never have the Siri issue when I am in my car. My iPhone is set to automatically pair with my car handsfree system. The non phone audio of my iPhone also automatically associates with my TuneLink bluetooth adapter that goes to the line in of my car audio system. Siri functions every time normally without hooking into the Pebble by accident.

There is another issue I have noticed that no one else seems to have mentioned. If I open an app that consumes a lot of iPhone memory and other resources I think the iPhone is killing the Pebble app. It comes back when the Pebble communicates with the iPhone. That triggers the popup to request approval for allowing the Pebble to talk to the phone again. This is something I hope Pebble can fix in a software update to better hook approved status and not keep prompting going forward.

Issues – Notifications

I have had a mixed experience on notifications. I had some sporadic issues with even normal notifications working such as iMessages. A reboot of my iPhone seemed to clear that up.

Email notifications gave me a brief headache. I did not want every single email showing up on my Pebble. So I killed display in lock screen on the main settings for my two primary mail accounts in the iPhone. However I left it active on my VIP list which is supposed to override the settings. I had hoped this would mean that I only saw email on the Pebble from that list of people. Unfortunately that temporarily broke email notifications.

I did a run through to reset all notification styles and got it working again. Then moved it back to VIP list only and that seems to have cleared it up for me. I am now just seeing email notifications on my Pebble from those on my VIP list.

I strongly suspect the reset notification hook dance has a tie to the Bluetooth reconnection after the iPhone and Pebble gets back into range of each other.

Update 2/17/13 7PM I have found I definitely have to do the trick of changing notification type to none and back to the desired type like banner after I have gotten the pop up requesting permission to give the Pebble permission to connect to my phone. It is consistent.

Summary Opinion

I love the watch so far despite the odd bluetooth and Siri issues. I think it will fit the need exactly as I intended. Future software updates should keep the experience improving. It is not going to be a purchase for everyone for a while yet. But perfect for my walking and exercising needs. One other scenario I look forward to with the Pebble. I listen to a lot of audio books. Now I can leave my iPhone plugged in and charging on the night stand with airplay of my books to speakers. I get to see important messages and pause the book if needed all without having to take the phone from it\’s charger.

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February 12, 2013: 1:24 am: Review

I have been using the Hue bulbs for a monthnow. I purchased the starter three bulb kit from the Apple store. It worked out well since I have a floor, table and kitchen overhead lamp in my apartment.

Setup

The setup was very straight forward. I just have to install the Hue app on my iPhone after hooking up the controller box to my router andinstalling the three bulbs. You just press the button on the controller and the app sees and associates the unit to your app. Nowyou can control the bulbs with any of the preset lighting profiles.

The App

Now the bad part of all this is the app. It is nearly pure garbage. It tries to sync the profiles between your online account and to alldevices with the Hue app connected to your controller. My experience has been that it often glitches and you get duplicate or missing profiles across devices. They would have done better to support iCloudor dropbox sync support. The worst part of the app by far is the timer function. You can set profiles to start and stop on a timer. Youwould think that the timer settings get loaded into the controllerunit. The best I can tell is that the timers only work if you leave the app running on the device where you set the schedule. Any glitches in connectivity can cause them to fail to go off as well. In a nutshell they are completely unreliable.

General Experience

Overall the setup was very simple. The app is the worst part of the experience for automation. The bulbs are 60W equivalent. If you needbrighter then these are not the bulbs for you. I did enjoy takingphotos and setting my own color profiles as long as I was satisfied manually switching to those profiles rather than scheduling them. I definitely do not regret the purchase, since I can climb into bed and flip all the lights off at once. If I need to get up in the middle of the night I can flip them all to a low power profile like “moonlight.”That is great so I can move around without waking myself up too muchfrom bright light.

Keep in mind the limitations of the scheduling if you are considering this purchase. That might be a deal breaker for most folks. Instead look at the Belkin WeMo to control your existing lights.

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April 23, 2011: 6:07 pm: Automation, Review

I picked up a Griffin Powermate last week on a whim. It is a usb connected solidly built alluminum control knob. You can press and turn it to trigger events. It also has a blue LED light for giving status feedback. It can work on Mac and Windows.

 

It comes with a number of default actions for controlling applications like iTunes, Safari etc. You can add your own and even trigger scripts with it. Griffin provides some apple script samples with the software for the powermate. These can do things like place the led into a triple flash alert mode.

 

I took the supplied scripts and saved them in a Scripts subfolder on my mac. Then I setup a new Control group for podcasting. You can only choose one active set per powermate at a time. Yes you can connect multiple powermates if you really want. I then found and added the applescripts for controlling skype that I found over at Mystic Coders. Next I put together triggers to toggle muting both an active skype call and the input audio level for my Mac. This way if I am on Skype with someone and they are recording I can mute for coughs, interuptions etc. I have the action also zero out then restore the input audio level as well. That solves muting my mic if I am the one doing the recording. ##Setting up the Triggers

 

For the Trigger: Mic-Mute: Under Advanced I check to match light state for “Default” This only runs the below actions if the light is in the default state. This keeps it from running twice once we change the light state while muted.
* Action: InputVolume-0: AppleScript: set volume input volume 0
* Action: Skype-MuteON: AppleScript: run the skype mute script from Mystic Coders
* Action: PM-LightPulse: AppleScript: run the Griffin provded script: AlertX3.scpt

 

For the Trigger: Mic-UnMute: Under Advanced I check to match light state for “Alert x3″ This only runs the below actions if the light is in the alert state as defined in the Griffin script. This keeps it from running twice once we change the light state while unmuted.
* Action: InputVolume-72: AppleScript: set volume input volume 72
* Action: Skype-MuteOFF: AppleScript: run the skype unmute script from Mystic Coders
* Action: Clear Light State

 

That does it. Now when I go to record a podcast I flip my active control set for my powermate to my Podcast set. Press the knob to mute and again to unmute. It flashes while muted to ensure I know I am muted to save me from talking for several minutes without getting it recorded.

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December 14, 2010: 6:09 pm: Network Tricks, Review

I saw mention of the DualComm Ethernet switch/tap on my twitter feed a few weeks back from @Pauldotcom.  It is really difficult to sniff traffic without a hub or business level switch.  Or you could do a pass through feed using a dedicated pc.   The DualComm tap provides a very simple and affordable way to tap traffic by putting a port replicator feature in a small switch.

So I ordered the USB Powered 10/100 Ethernet Tap DCSW-1005.  It cost $59.95 and they take paypal.

Ethernet Tap

Ethernet Tap

It works like a champ.  I plugged it into a spare apple usb power plug where all my network hardware is.  Then I patched the cable from my router wan port to the port two of the switch.  Port one then went to my cable modem.  I tested and found all my Internet connectivity works fine without issue or performance hit.  Then I just plugged the port five from the Ethernet tap to a old Thinkpad laptop I have for such things.  I did have to order a Linksys USB Network adapter to have the second interface on the Thinkpad for sniffing the traffic.  The onboard nic is used for normal network access, ssh, etc.  Testing Ntop, Dsniff, URLSnarf etc all work perfectly.  It was amazing that I could not find the USB wired network adapter in any local stores.  I had to order that Linksys adapter from Amazon.

All said and done.  The DualComm DCSW-1005 works great!  And having it be usb powered means no dedicated power adapters to be lost or mislabeled.  If you need an Ethernet tap for your security work this is a great find.

PS If you are like me and forget how to put an interface into promisc mode under Ubuntu linux.  Andrew Hay has a great post on promisc mode setup I keep handy.

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May 2, 2010: 8:58 pm: Review

I have loved this Belkin unit for a travel kit since it came out in 2008. Guess what? It can charge your new iPad just fine.

Std1_bz103050-tvl

http://www.belkin.com/IWCatProductPage.process?Product_Id=400738

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December 28, 2009: 4:33 pm: Review

I did a quick comparison shot between what is supposed to be a 5MP still shot ability of the Kodak Zi8 HD video camera and my old Canon S2 IS. The Canon is a 3MP camera. But it shows you how soft the Kodak makes still shots. It makes great HD footage when well lit. But there is no substitute for the right tool for the job. My old still camera with optical zoom is still a way better still shot camera.

Kodakzi8Canons2
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November 21, 2009: 3:04 pm: Review
I got my Owle Bubo (http://www.wantowle.com/) today.  It is a limited edition run and mine is 233/500.

 

It is very well designed.  Nothing blocks the dock connector so I can plug in my iPhone without removing it from the chassis.  The included mic comes in a nice little velvet pouch and is very sturdy.  It just plugs into the headphone/mic jack and a hinge lets you aim it to the front of the unit so your sound comes from where the lens is pointed.

 

Now to just get myself a nice LED light with the shoe mount that is on top of the Owle.

 

Img_0421Img_0422
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