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Filtering by Category: Gadgets

A few weeks with Coin

John Federico

As one of the original backers of Coin, I had completely given up on it. 

I figured it was an experiment in crowdfunding, one where I was the butt of the joke.

Imagine my surprise when, after almost two years, I received an email asking me to confirm the shipping address for my Coin. ("Wow. Is it *really* going to ship this time?")

A week later, I was finally holding the impressively engineered device in my hand.

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Twelve South BookBook Wallet Case for iPhone 6 Plus

John Federico

A number of years ago, I decided to simplify the number of items I carried day-to-day and consolidated my wallet and iPhone protection into a single case. (You can find some unique handmade items on Etsy.)

To date, I used a sleeve case with pockets on the outside for credit cards, ID, etc. This is primarily because I always preferred a "naked" iPhone instead of one that's in a case all the time. I've always liked the way the phone felt in my hand but also, a phone without a case is easier to fit into the mounts I typically have in my car.

All that changed when I purchased the iPhone 6 Plus.

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Double-Duty Dongles

John Federico

Chances are that if you have a MacBook Air, you have dongles.

You know, things like USB sticks, ethernet adapters, video cables for external displays and, thanks to it's two lonely USB ports, probably a USB hub. Or two.

I got fed up with carrying my Bag O'Dongles and in the process of looking for yet-another-dongle, stumbled onto a whole category of products to help with this first world problem.

The saga continues.

This past weekend I was prepping for a big pitch and was going through my gear bag to make sure I had everything I needed, which typically includes no less than three video display adapters: HDMI, DVI and (believe it or not), VGA. You'd be surprised how many times I show up to give a presentation and the only available input is VGA.

Again, I was fed up with carrying all this crap, so I jumped on Amazon. Behold, my newest find: a combination Thunderbolt to HDMI, DVI and Display Port adapter. For less than $20 bucks, too. ($17.99 at the time of this post.)

Sure, I still have to carry a VGA adapter, but now I can leave my DVI and HDMI dongles at home and simply carry this one replacement.

I'm a happy geek.

Planning for #Sandy (Or, "What to do when you can't find a generator")

John Federico

Almost exactly a year ago, we were without power (And heat. And fresh water.) for almost five days.

My wife and I vowed that we would never go through that again if we could help it, so we planned to buy a generator and transfer switch for this year's storm season so that we could power our home's basic necessities (heat, hot water, sump pump, fridges).

Long story short, we didn't. The money we budgeted for a generator went toward replacing our broken hot water heater, but we vowed to get a generator as soon as it made sense for our budget.

Then we started tracking Hurricane Sandy.

Thursday night, my wife said, "We should get a generator tomorrow." 

Powering our sump pump is critical for us, especially after installing a new hot water and heater and, six months earlier, replacing a broken washing machine - both of which are located in our relatively wet basement.

At 7 AM on Friday I began calling around, looking for generators. Most retailers laughed at my request while others were sympathetic to my search - but they still couldn't help me as there weren't generators in stock, anywhere.

So I started to do some research to find a creative solution. Here's what I came up with.

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WANT: iPad Mini. NEED: iPhone 5.

John Federico

I really want an iPad mini.

The only reason I upgraded from an iPad 2 to the iPad 3 (or whatever it's called now) is because I could get LTE tethering from Verizon, which has been a gift from the universe on the few occassions that I've needed it.

However, ever since I got the first iPad and gave my wife my first generation Kindle, I've missed the smaller form factor of the Kindle eReaders.

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Pure Wireless Digital Audio: WaveJamr from RadTech

John Federico

I love my Apple TV. Not just because of the video it allows me to watch, but the music it lets me play from our iPhones or Macs using Airplay.

I really want whole-house audio (a la Sonos, without the ridiculous cost) and Apple's Airplay can help me do that.

I have a bunch of high-quality stereo speakers from a variety of sources (PC speakers, home stereos, etc.) that I can place all over my house, but the only way that I can get whole-house audio is to purchase and install an Apple TV in every room while outputting audio to each via the TOS (optical) audio connector on the Apple TV.

But I really don't want to spend $99 per room to make this happen - plus an additional $30 for a TOSLink adapter for each set of these analog speakers.

I got to thinking: how small can Airplay device really get? Maybe someone makes one?

So, I started trawling the Interwebs and here's what I found: nothing. (At least as far as Airplay goes.)

What I did find was a product in the form factor that I wanted, but one that uses Bluetooth instead of Airplay.

It's called the WaveJamr from RadTech.

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It's time to bring back the .Beat

John Federico

In 1998, my wife bought me a Swatch Beat watch. I think she heard me mention it after reading about it in Wired magazine and she got it for me as a gift.

WTF is a .Beat?

Swatch, along with the endorsement of Nicholas Negroponte, who was then the Director of the MIT Media Lab, proposed a Universal Internet Time known as the .Beat.

It works like this: A day is divided into 1000 ".beats". So, one Swatch ".beat" is equivalent to 1 Minute 26.4 Seconds.

You set your watch according to Biel Meantime (BMT). (In a classic marketing move, Biel, Switzerland is the corporate headquarters of Swatch.)

So, when you want to schedule a phone call with someone across the world, you don't have to figure out time zones - you simply indicate that the meeting should take place @xxx .beats.

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Great Budget Espresso Machine

John Federico

Those of you who follow me on twitter know that I have a very special relationship with espresso. It's my morning (and afternoon) drug of choice and one of my favorite hot beverages. (Yes, I'm a Starbucks shareholder. That should tell you something...)

I've owned a variety of espresso machines over the years and while none of them would be considered "commercial" quality, some of them were quite expensive for "consumer" grade machines.

When you use a consumer grade espresso machine every day, it eventually dies, even with proper maintenance. They're just not made for that kind of frequency.

So, when my Super Duper Espresso Maker 9000 died a couple of months ago, my wife saved me from the oncoming withdrawal symptoms by stopping at a local Bed Bath & Beyond and grabbed a Krups XP3200 Opio. With tax (and a coupon) she paid just over $100 for it. (A the time of this post, you can get one on Amazon for $99.99.)

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Sparrow for iPhone: No Push? No Problem.

John Federico

Sparrow for iPhone was released yesterday and by all counts (including my own) it's great.

The one complaint that some people seem to have is that it doesn't support Push Email. I've rarely used the Push Email feature in the iPhone mail client due to the major suckage of power from the battery.

However, that doesn't mean that I don't want to be notified of new email.

I use Google Apps Mail (Gmail with my own domain name) and the connection to that service is plain ol' IMAP. Built into the technical standard for IMAP is something called IMAP IDLE mode.

Basically, if your mail client supports this feature of IMAP, you'll receive notifications when you have new mail. Of course, the iPhone Mail app doesn't offer this (and neither does Sparrow) but that's OK: for a couple of bucks, you can purchase a third-party app that can do this for you.

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DIY QR Code Pet Tags

John Federico

After seventeen years of being a one-dog household, we decided to double our dog ownership.

We adopted a ten-year old chocolate Cocker Spaniel named Oreo whose owner was moving from a house to an apartment and couldn't take him. Given our history with rescue dogs, we know that it's typical for older dogs to be passed over for adoption since most families want younger dogs or puppies.

We didn't want to see him spend the rest of his life in a foster home (or worse) so we decided to welcome him to our family. He's a great dog and gets along well with our Lucy, a four-year old, black and white, parti-colored Cocker Spaniel.

Oreo has a microchip but we don't know who the vendor is, so we can't find the registry. That means that the old guy definitely needed new dog tags.

I started poking around the Interwebs and found a few interesting things.

You can get pet tags with QR codes!

Unlike many of the silly uses of QR codes that I see, this is a brilliant use of the technology: find a pet, scan the QR code on its tag and find out all about them including their owner's name and address, eating habits, favorite activities, medical history - the works.

One thing really bugged me, though: the only QR code pet tag solution I could find is managed by one company: PetHub. I tried creating profiles for both of our dogs but I found the service slow and buggy.

Plus, as a person who calls himself "half-geek, on my mother's side," I knew I could do better, so I did. ;)

Here's how.

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You Give a Kid a Kindle - Then What?

John Federico

My son loves to read, so my wife and I decided to get him a Kindle Touch for Christmas.

He recently turned nine and we think that he's responsible enough to care for an eReader - and what better way to demonstrate our confidence in him than to surprise him on Christmas day?

The problem that we had (as do many parents of young children) is the lack of parental controls on Kindle devices.

Kindles have gotten cheap enough that they can serve as suitable replacements for kid's books without breaking the bank (or a kid's back) but they're still designed with adults in mind: one-click purchases for books, games, apps, movies, music and audiobooks. (Sorry, Amazon, but that doesn't work in our house.)

So, I set about figuring out how to handle this with our son.

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Tether your Virgin Mobile MiFi 2200 to your Mac

John Federico

A while back I wrote a post about my experience searching for pre-paid mobile broadband. I ultimately chose Virgin Mobile USA as my provider but one thing that bugged me was that I had to use the MiFi 2200 mobile hotspot since there were no drivers for their USB dongles for OS X Lion.

I've always known that the MiFi could be tethered to a Mac using its USB cable, but I also thought that the drivers for Lion weren't available.

As it turns out, I get the best of both worlds with the MiFI.

Either the drivers were recently update during an OS X Software Update or I just plain missed the fact that you can tether the MiFi 2200 to your Mac running OS X Lion. (At least using 10.7.2. I haven't tried to tether using earlier versions of Lion.)

The process is simple:

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Live HD TV on Your Boxee Box

John Federico

Starting in January, you'll be able to watch live HD TV on your Boxee Box using a new USB dongle from the company.

Announced today, the device will cost $49 and will enable you to view live HD channels from your local broadcasters - ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX with no monthly fee as these are over-the-air (OTA) HD channels produced for your local market.

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Wingstand Portable Tablet and Smartphone Stand

John Federico

If you're like me, you use a variety of gear to remain productive.

The mainstay of my workflow is my MacBook Air, with my iPhone being second in line, followed by my iPad.

In my opinion, any real work on an iPad requres a keyboard. Perhaps, if you grow up using an on-screen software keyboard, you might feel differently, but I get frustrated by the lack of tactile feedback that a real keyboard provides.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that I frequently live-tweet some of the professional events that I attend. I don't always have a net connection for my MacBook or iPad, so the iPhone is my fallback device. It's these times that I wish my iPhone also had a full-size keyboard.

While this has been possible as of iOS 4, using Bluetooth, the remaining problem is about placement and orientation: what do you do with the iPhone while you're using an external keyboard?

This is where the Wingstand comes in.

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