Hardware

Audio 66’s BTS: My new favorite headset

Audio 66’s BTS: My new favorite headset

I am almost never satisfied with a majority of electronics because I’m the type of user that pushes them to their limit. I know what technology is capable of, so I tend to try to leverage it to suit my needs. One of my “needs” is to have a lightweight hassles-free headset. I wanted wireless so I don’t have to deal with getting tangled in cables, and plugging and unplugging it. I want one that can run all day (or a few days) on a single charge. And I want the sound to be good for casual listening—not that over-compressed first or even second generation wireless audio.

Bluetooth headsets have been out for a while. But they’ve been historically overpriced for what you get. IMO, they should be no more than $20 above the fidelity level of a wired headset. So, with Sony’s $100 MDR7 series the “standard” of a good price:fidelity balance, I figure a “sports*” headset like this should be no more than $50. When I found Noisehush NS400, it was exactly what I wanted, & only $35. I was very happy with the audio quality for the price and the sports band (where the band goes behind your neck) is the perfect balance of non-intrusive & convenient — meaning you can put them on and take them off in 2 seconds. But once I got used to them, I found one more “need.” I wanted to be able to connect to my phone, my computer and iPad simultaneously. Until the Bluetooth spec update that added “multipoint,” this desire was wishful thinking. With a street price of $50, Audio 66’s Bluetooth Sport is the first device to meet all my needs, including multipoint.

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If I chose a current AppleWatch

Waiting for the DT Camera version…

Investors are being fed news of some massive Apple Watch sales decrease since its release. Oddly the overall percentage of the market of people that use the iPhones (iPhone 5 & up) that work with the Watch that actually bought the Watch is inline with historic sales trends of other accessory technology. Most technology accessories, from bluetooth headphones to keyboards to eye wear face significantly lower sales numbers. At the current Apple Watch price point, the percentage is actually abnormally high given inexpensive accessories run under $100 and might get 4% adoption (this translates to something you can observe: less than 1 in 20 people that own a tablet have a bluetooth keyboard.) Whereas Apple Watch owners are almost equal to that within a 2 month launch for a device that starts at $350. While only 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have an iPhone, of those, the number that have or plan to get an Apple Watch are 1 in 10, conservatively.

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The Included watch band with special modifications

The Shine after 5 months. You can’t even see extra security I added from the front while wearing the Shine (scuff not included)

First off, full disclosure: Misfit gave me a Shine — not for review — but as thanks for spotting and letting them know about a minor error on one of their pages on the day they announced a related product. So, given that it was free, it was something I was grateful to receive, and established the goodwill of the people at Misfit. The thing is, I’m not exactly the type that monitors and logs everything I do. In fact, given my physical limitations (mentioned before), I can’t often follow a workout regimen to stay in shape anymore. However, I am naturally curious, and after almost 6 months using the Shine, I have been able to use it as a way to monitor my daily activity and adjust how much I eat. This review examines what is an almost perfect product at this price point from the PoV of someone that isn’t interested in (or can’t afford) the current smartwatch offerings. On this level, the Shine succeeds to offer a simple way to monitor daily sleep and wake activity. Read on to see how it accomplishes this.

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Last year my Airport Express (v1) was made obsolete by apple deciding to drop support for configuring it from 10.9. This year an Apple Extreme (802.11n Dual-band) that was in service for about 4–5 years finally started failing thanks to either age or heat problems. The heat issue is often important to some tech people because the amount of equipment in use easily spikes the temperature in our rooms 5°–10° or in the closets we have to stick them in. Not everyone thinks a mess of wires (properly tied or not) is a thing of beauty, so often we have to put them in closets and in spaces with little ventilation. This leads to heat building up and soon DSL modems and their UPSes and WiFi routers are dying. WiFi routers can last a long time if treated well, but if they are used constantly and under heavy loads with bad cooling, don’t expect them to last more than 5 years. As for the Airport Extreme, I am taking it to a less demanding/harsh environment. Hopefully, the lighter load will mean at least a few more years of service out of it.

As an aside: I once made the case for proper cooling in a new building when asked by the CFO if we needed Air conditioning. I said we don’t need it, but some of our equipment would burn out/malfunction 1–2 years faster costing at least a few K per year in increased maintenance and secondary costs (downtime, multiple backups, etc.)— maybe more.

I mentioned it to a friend and he said he was concerned with the iPhone 6 series’ ambient temperature ceiling (95° F). Another friend pointed out that that’s because Li-Ion batteries have this restriction, which neither of us was aware of. Checking our 5s specs, the temperature limits is also 95°F, which is interesting because the 5ses didn’t seem to have any problems in Nevada last month. So, maybe the phones Li-Ion batteries will die faster. No problem: I have replaced a few iPhone batteries and parts.

Interestingly enough, I looked and fewer and fewer manufacturers are putting this info in their specs sheets, leading me to believe some of support costs could be avoided by placing this info in the specs and making sure customers are aware of it. I know plenty of people that leave electronics with Li-Ion batteries in their cars (hidden of course). Luckily, non-operating ambient temperature ceiling are above 110°F.

Anyway, heat plays an important role in the lifespan of many electronics, and it occurred to me that few people even mention it. So, I am mentioning: If you are on a 3-year replacement cycle, paying attention to this fact isn’t too important. But if you are in the miserly camp of stretching your dollar by upgrading devices less than 3 times a decade, you might want to be aware of heat and operating temperature limits as a consideration.

Finding a current table of color laser Airprint capable multi-function printers (MFP) with prices and features is impossible. [If you are an Android user, just replace every reference of “Airprint” to “Cloud Print” since it is essentially a copy of Airprint, and would help Android users to find printers too] So, gathering info quickly to recommend a printer is laboriously slow at best. Adding Airprint capabilities to product page table lists and being able to filter by it (as “wireless” and “color” are valid filters on most company and shopping sites) would speed up information gathering. I only found out about Airprint coming to Xerox when I visited MacWorld Expo and asking a Xerox engineer. Worse, is this info has dropped Airprint off of HP’s list pages — but is at least still buried in each printer’s page in fine print.

When I spoke to the Xerox engineer he said some Color MFP under $1000 (for SoHo) and all Enterprise models had (or would have) Airprint, but looking at the official list today there was nothing to compete with HP’s $400 retail (~$300 street price) Color LaserJet M175nw MFP [now replaced by the M177fw] which offers Wireless print through Airprint — thus iOS devices can print without loading any software (and scan with software). Also, Canon had imageCLASS MF8580Cdw, at $600 coming out. At the show the Xerox rep, pointed out several sub-$600 Xeroxes that either had the feature or would get it with a firmware update. But since then, I have forgotten which ones those were. So, when someone shot me a quick email “Hey, saw that printer ____ and they told me to ask you about it. Which models would you recommend?” I looked it up, which led me to the first line of this post.

Airprint means that visitors do not have to go through an arduous process to print documents. No one has to call tech support, anyone with an iOS device can print simply by…

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TL;DR: These Rock. sound great, work well… 5 Stars

TL;DR: These Rock. sound great, work well… 5 Stars

A while back I wrote a review of the Kanex AirBlue, and gave it the thumbs up for its sound quality and easy of use. As I mentioned I was burned by Best Buy’s in-house Rocketfish Bluetooth headset, and didn’t want to spend north of $60 for another headset that ended up in the junk drawer. Well, I always keep an eye out for products, new or old that fit the bill: I wanted an (1) easy to connect Bluetooth Headset that had (2) good stereo audio quality for music and a (3) a mic for phone calls where (4) people could hear me clearly on the other end. The Rocketfish only fit the second and third criteria, and I had been using the AirBlue since the Rocketfish broke after 3 or 4 months.

I saw the NoiseHush NS 400 on sale at NewEgg for $35 — well under my $50 limit for a BT headset — about a month and a half ago. I don’t think I should have to pay much more for wireless headset than a tethered headset of the same audio quality. So, given I think decent quality can be found for around $25, if I add the battery, buttons and bluetooth transceiver, it should be less than $45. In case you are wondering, the NoiseHush NS400 meets or exceeds my criteria for what a bluetooth headset should be.

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Well 2013 is here and either we are just the holographic debris on an event horizon of a black hole, or reality is relative. I wouldn’t have minded being the Mayan Calendar maker who made the last calendar, because then when finished, and asked …

King: “What happens when we reach the end of thew calendar? This think will not work after that.”

Mayan Calendar Maker: “By then I hope we are using a better system.”

King:“But you said your system was great?”

Mayan Calendar Maker: “There is always room for improvement.”

With that said, (as I actually said when someone asked me about databases I created in the mid 1990s about Mac OS’s Unix calendar running out in 2038) I wanted to write about a few things, but a project has been eating time like the Cookie Monster with a box of chocolate chip cookies. (Cookie & Count were always my favorite.)

So, I will mash up a few things, left and right… Read of to find out about a new Bluetooth audio headset, a product warning, and whatever else comes out in this unedited memory dump:

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A few months ago, one of the feet on my laptop fell off. I called Apple hoping they could send out a replacement, but AppleCare personnel insisted the foot was attached at the factory, and I couldn’t do my own repair. So, after a few calls, insisting that I have been disassembling laptops for over a decade, I relented and took my machine in for a bottom case swap. At that time there were no other problems with the laptop. When I got the machine back, the next time I used the optical drive, it no longer worked. I had to take it in again and have that swapped.

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After I was hired to be a DTP monkey, I applied and refined my wild layouts, but had to tone them down quite a bit for business documents. (Wired back then was tame compared to my unrefined layout.) Being a bit of a perfectionist that cares about anything I do—whether paid or not—I started studying proper typography: I learned the difference between the hyphen, N-dash and M-dash, what x-height was and how to match serif and non-serif fonts. I studied the art of graphic design, the concepts and research behind the guidelines so I knew when I could break the rules and get away with it. I found traditional reports stuffy and boring. So, when I got the chance, I started refreshing the look of the company documents.

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I just looked at my almost 1800 word opinion piece I submitted to draft status on Dice this morning, and I feel guilty that my editor will have to read it all and whittle it down to a more usable format. I am pretty sure my wanton dreaming of a new set of UI conventions: “STIG” will hit the cutting room floor. If that happens, look for it here next week.

Stay “tuned” for my thoughts on Touch User Interfaces. (link forthcoming…) My tentative title for it is “TouchUI & The Misunderstood Paradigm.” I think it’s catchy, but SEO might not. :) If you read my blog posts you already know where I stand, this is just more elaboration on how I would make a Touch User Interface, the “SOOMY Tao” Rule and how far we still have to go. In my humble opinion user interfaces have barely scratched the surface of what they could be.

Speaking on Phase 2.5: At some point I will probably write about a new yet old interface that recalls a toy of decades past, that just needs a bit of an update: some styling love and sophisticated circuitry running XLP hardware. It could probably by developed and sold for less than $100. It could also be discreetly embedded in discrete common products to whittle manufacturing costs down to just the chips, circuitry and sensors needed. If you actually included kinetic energy generation you could conceivably power the device primarily through movement. Yup more wanton dreaming… Inspired by SciFi Books and Childhood dreams of Asimov’s “Significantly Advanced Technology.”

UPDATE20120507: The Article has been split in two, and will be run soon.