Archive for the ‘Apple’ Category

Top Home Automation

We live in the digital age, which means living in the dark—technologically—is an outdated idea. Since you should always be in the know when it comes to what makes your home and lifestyle easier and more convenient, here are a few of Modernize’s favourite home automation apps that will make your life just a bit easier.

Apple HomeKit

Apple’s HomeKit is a revolutionary framework that enables you to configure various accessories in your home. You can control these compatible devices right from the app, so the possibilities are nearly endless.

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One of our favorite HomeKit-friendly accessories is Elgato Eve Room. This smarthome sensor helps regulate air quality, humidity, and temperature. Tap Siri to assess your current air quality and conditions, and she can make necessary changes to keep you comfortable.

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iDevices switch allows you to remotely turn switches on and off. Whether it’s electronics or lamps, you won’t have to worry about leaving something on all day. Just click a few buttons, and you can rest assured knowing your home is safe.

SmartThings

SmartThings is another app that turns your phone into a remote control. Just connect compatible devices to the platform, and you’ll be able to monitor it all from your iPhone. The great thing about this app is that it lets you know if there’s a problem, and devices can communicate to create a stream of information.

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Did you leave the door open? Don’t worry. You can regulate your A/C so you don’t waste that precious (and expensive) cool air.

WeMo

Reduce your carbon footprint by monitoring electronics through Belkin’s WeMo. We all have “oops” moments, so if you leave your curling iron on, you can safely shut it off with your smartphone. You can even set up your coffeemaker to start your cup of joe right when you roll out of bed.

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WeMo allows users flexibility to automate as much as they want. The customizable app makes it easier to live and eliminates worry when you make mistakes.

Nest

Nest is an innovative home automation app that controls your thermostat, which conserves energy and your beloved paycheck. There’s no use wasting A/C or heat when the temperature fluctuates and you’re not home. You can easily control your home’s temperature on the go, so you don’t run into any surprises or high bills.

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Nest is a great first step if you’re not quite ready to fully automate, and some energy companies offer incentives for connecting your thermostat to Nest.

Philips Hue

You can control the lights in your home from your phone, too. Whether you’re having a party, hosting a party, rounding your friends up for book club, or just simply spending time with family, you can adjust the tone, color, and contrast of your lights to create soft mood lighting.

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Go festive around Christmas time with reds and greens, or spooky at Halloween with eerie orange and black light. You can control every bulb through the Philips Hue app. Guests will “ooh” and “ahh” about the added decor element!

Convenience and Reassurance

Home automation apps give you the peace of mind to leave the home and come back to a safe place with a perfect temperature. You can really cut down on energy costs and excess waste, which saves you money and reduces your carbon footprint. The days of worrying about what device you left running are over!

Our guest blog written by Kelsey Meyers from Modernize 

Following on from our review of the D-Link Smart Home Plug, we have decided to take a look at the other products in the ‘mydlink Home’ range. In this review, we’ll be looking at the Monitor HD video camera.

The PIR Sensor will be covered in an upcoming review.

Introduction

The Monitor HD is a 720p video camera that can be used anywhere in the home. The camera has night capabilities with IR LEDs capable of illuminating  up to 5m, and so for the purposes of this review, I will be installing it in my nursery as a baby monitor.

First impressions

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It’s a nice looking camera with a gloss white finish which should compliment most interiors. On lifting it from the box, the first thing that hit me was just how incredibly light it is. This may sound odd, but before I even start to use it, I want to weigh the thing down!

Setup

Sure enough, after plugging the mains cable in and positioning the camera where I wanted it, the slight curvature of the mains cable angled the camera away. It took a few attemps to get it to sit still in the right direction. Fortunately you can mount it on a wall using screws and D-Link kindly provide a drilling template in the box should you wish to go down that route.

As with the other products in the range, the camera has a WPS button on the side which when pressed in combination with the WPS button on your  router, will connect to your home Wi-Fi network.

D-Link advertise the camera as for use exclusively with it’s mydlink Home app (available on iOS or Android). Indeed, for most people, this will be what they use and it will be more than satisfactory. However, after digging a little deeper I discovered that it’s capable of operating as a standard IP camera over HTTP/S, RTSP and UPNP. It’s worth noting this as I don’t think D-Link are doing themselves any favours by ignoring traditional IP camera sales when it works so well.

So just to reiterate, you can view the video/audio stream in the mydlink Home app, or any IP camera app. The initial setup of the camera and any firmware updates will need to be done in-app though.

Firmware updates are applied in-app, automatically…

 

 

Performance

Here is a full colour daytime shot taken from the nursery window:


And a full colour daytime shot in the nursery:


This is a split view showing the D-Link DCS-935L operating as a traditional IP camera alongside a Foscam IP camera on the fantastic LiveCams Pro app.

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Top: D-Link DCS-935L (IR LED on). Bottom: Foscam 9804W  (IR LED on).

Extras

Audio is provided via a built-in microphone, but there’s no 2-way baby-soothing audio functionality.

Summary

As a starter camera, I can honestly think of nothing  better due to its integration with the mydlink Home app and the provided setup wizard.

It really is the kind of thing you could buy for your grandmother and she’ll be able to configure it for herself. Dig a little further though and D-Link have provided the features to make this a good investment as a standalone IP camera too. It’s a product that will grow with you if you’re new to this sort of thing.

 

TheTechSpy rating: 8/10

PF32

The PhotoFast 32GB USB 3.0 MemoriesCable for iPod, iPhone and iPad arrived for review last week and I couldn’t wait to try it out.

This little Lightning to USB cable houses storage (16/32/64/128GB) on the cable itself, allowing you to easily transfer files between iOS devices and your computer.

I’ve longed for an easier method of backing up photos and video on my iPhone and iPad for years now but have never found anything that fits the bill. PhotoFast think they have cracked it. Have they? Let’s find out…

When you first plug the cable into your iOS device, a popup will inform you that the accessory requires an app from the App Store:

The companion app for the hardware is the new PhotoFast One app, not that you need to know the name of it because clicking App Store on the pop-up will take you directly to it. It’s a nice touch.

Once the app is downloaded and installed, any subsequent cable insertions generate the following pop up. If you click Allow, you will be taken directly to the app.

The app itself is very well designed and packed with features. There are clear sections at the top of the screen for accessing In-App Storage and External Storage.

At the bottom of the screen are buttons for Music/Photos/Video, YouTube (downloader) Google Drive (browser) and Dropbox (browser).

Swiping to the right takes you to a second page almost entirely dedicated to backup buttons.

I tested the Contact Backup option first and it saved all 600 of my contacts to a .vcf file in a matter of seconds.

Next up was the Photo Backup, some 693 photos in my camera roll, all saved in under 2 minutes.

It’s all very impressive.

To test the transfer speed side of things, I copied a 1GB test file from my PC (using a USB 3.0 port) and was able to achieve write speeds of ~19MB/s. Read speeds of ~33MB/s were consistently achievable.

The app isn’t just for backups and file transfers though. It also has built-in music and video players which can be used to stream content from the cable storage. In fact, the video player is compatible with MP4, MOV, M4V, MKV, AVI, FLV, RM, RMVB, WMV, VOB and 3GP formats.

The Settings section is also full of features, including the ability to protect the app with a passcode or Touch ID.

There is even an option to completely encrypt the storage, although this will render the cable unusable on a computer. If you are just transferring files to and from your iOS devices though, this may be a valuable option.

The Auto Backup feature is what really interested me for the simple reason that Apple are bordering on the sadistic with their 5GB free iCloud storage limit. Granted, Apple are trying to upsell to their paid plans but 5GB is used up in no time, usually due to iCloud photo backups.

This is where Auto Backup comes in. Every time you open the app, an incremental backup can be performed.

So now I plug the MemoriesCable into my wall charger and iPhone before I go to bed, and the app takes care of backing up my photos, contacts and calendar items, all while charging.

I have set my iCloud backup to ignore photos now and as a result, I can backup daily to iCloud with no more of the annoying ‘Storage Full’ messages I usually wake up to.

All in all, this is an excellent product that really unshackles Apple devices and their famously non-expandable memory.

PhotoFast are currently running an Indiegogo campaign from the 3rd – 24th August, where units can be obtained for significantly lower prices than RRP.

More details here: http://igg.me/at/PhotoFast

TheTechSpy rating:  9/10

Fresh in for review today from Satechi is the Bluetooth Button Series.

The series consists of three buttons, the Shutter Button, Media Button and Home Button.

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The Shutter Button, as you might expect, is for taking remote photos on your smartphone and is ideal for tripods.

The Media Button allows you to control your smartphone video or music apps.

The Home Button is simply a clone of your home button.

All three of the devices have a solid industrial design with what looks like brushed aluminium edging.

So, let’s get on with the review…

Shutter Button

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This will probably be one of the easiest things I’ll ever have to review. By pressing the button when you have the camera app open on your phone, it will take a photo for you. Simple and effective. It’s also responsive enough for you to hold the button down and take burst photos.

Media Button

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The Media Button is what had me most excited. It’s a simple enough device, using the Bluetooth AVRCP protocol to access Play/Pause, Previous / Next track and Volume Up / Down.

Many devices have the same AVRCP functionality as the Satechi but nearly always as part of an audio receiver set. What I mean by this is that audio is redirected over the Bluetooth A2DP protocol away from the source device, usually to a headphone socket on the media remote.

Take a look at the Sony SBH-20 which at first glance looks like a competing product. It has the same media controls but the unit is both an AVRCP and A2DP device using what’s called a ‘Bluetooth Audio Sink’. This means that all audio is redirected to the headphone jack on the SBH-20 the moment you press a button.

The thing that gets me about the Satechi Media Button is that this kind of device is so rare and yet it’s perfect for parties. Let me explain:

Let’s say you have a few friends over for a BBQ.

You have an iPhone connected to your home stereo via a headphone > auxiliary connection, a couple of the speakers placed near the windows and you’re playing your favourite music through Spotify.

You’ve started playing a playlist and left your phone in the house with the stereo out of harms way.

You could take the Media Button out into the garden with all the food and drink and just leave it on the table. Skip a track? No problem. Turn the volume up? You got it.

You cannot do this with something like the SBH-20 or any other AVRCP device I’ve found online for that matter. The second you press a button, the music from the stereo would stop, re-routed to a device that nobody is listening to.

It really is as far as I can tell, a unique product.

The price of it also means it’s not the end of the world if your mate knocks his beer over it. Until all phones are waterproof, I’d much prefer this scenario.

Home Button

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The Home Button is simply a remote ‘Home’ button. On my test iPhone 6 Plus, it does exactly what the normal home button does – a short press exits applications, a long press activates Siri. Double tapping takes you to the app switcher.

The only use I’ve found for this is in my car. I mounted it to my dashboard using the supplied adhesive pad and can now dictate to Siri and keep my eyes on the road. For this one purpose, I’ve found it invaluable.

The Shutter Button and Home Button are normally available for £19.99 at Amazon, with the Media Button priced at £23.99.

However, Satechi have provided Amazon discount codes of 15% for readers of TheTechSpy, valid until 24/07/2016.

Media Button: 88EWX7F8 
Shutter Button : X9E6I4CR
Home Button : Z7HQ2TVZ

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I think it is safe to say that now it is a normal sight in society to see the majority of people carrying a smart phone. Most of us carry around our whole lives in these little devices, which have private information, social network logins and our lives in photos just a few clicks away.

The other issue is that not only is there a sentimental value to the device with everything it has inside, but we forget of the actual monetary value and most of us walk around in public openly looking at our smart phones without a care in the world.

Imagine walking down the road, holding £500 in cash in front of you for the world to see….I am not sure that would last very long as thieves look to make an easy steal.

The good news is that you can protect yourself with certain tweaks which a lot of iPhone owners do not know about.

Before I start the most important thing to have is a pin number or passcode to lock the device. Make sure you ALWAYS have a passcode as this is the first line of defence to someone snooping through your device. Also make sure your device auto locks itself after a few minutes, this will ensure that if you put the device down and walk away it will lock on its own and will need your unique passcode to unlock it.

Find My iPhone:

Firstly, make sure you have Apple’s very own “Find My iPhone” app which can be downloaded from the app store, as this will allow you to track your iPhone if it has been lost or stolen. With this app you can remote wipe the phone to at least give you some peace of mind and put it into “Lost Mode” which allows you to locate and post a message when the phone is turned on. This can be accessed via the internet on any web browser through iCloud.com or on one of your other Apple devices with the “Find My iPhone” app installed.

Once installed, do the following to turn the service on;

  1. Launch the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad.
  2. Tap on iCloud
  3. Tap on Find My iPhone.
  4. Turn On the option for Find My iPhone.

Recently I lost my rucksack on the train which had my iPad inside. On returning home I launched “Find My iPhone” from my iPhone and was quickly faced with all of my Apple devices in a list. I could see the iPad in question had not been turned on yet, so I clicked on the device in the list and put it into “Lost Mode”.

Lost Mode

This allowed me to firstly set a tracker on it which meant I would be notified as soon as it was turned on and its location. I then could set a phone number and a message allowing the person who turned it on to know who owns the device and how to get in contact. If you think you could be near the device you have lost, you can also set a loud tone to sound which will allow you to find it if it is in close vicinity and will annoy the person that has it.

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Three hours after putting it in Lost Mode, I was notified that the device had been switched on and of course the location of the device and within minutes I got a call from National Rail staff telling me that they had the device and that I could pick it up.

Now this does rely on two things, firstly that your iDevice has a connection of some sort as this is how it pushes info back to you and secondly that the person who switches it on actually gets in contact to return the device. If they do not get in contact, we recommend giving the details to the police as you will now have a location. At the very worst you will be able to erase all of the data on that phone through the app.

Safeguarding Your iDevice:

Now, criminals have got tech savvy and have realised that merely switching off location services disables the tracking feature which police can use to track the phone down, so here is how to stop them doing this;

  1. Click on Settings
  2. Hit General
  3. Select Restrictions – at the point you will be asked to set up a pass code, do this!
  4. Click “Enable Restrictions”
  5. Scroll down and look for Deleting Apps and toggle the switch to “Off” – This stops people deleting “Find iPhone” which aids in locating the phone after its been stolen.
  6. Scroll down to the section labelled Privacy
  7. Click on Location Services and then click “Don’t Allow Changes” – This stops location services from being disabled without your pass code.
  8. Lastly, scroll down to the Allow Changes section and click on Accounts, then hit “Don’t Allow Changes” – This will stop anyone disabling your iCloud account and will allow the phone to be tracked as long as a Sim card is in the phone. Even when a thief puts their own sim card in, your details cannot be taken off even with a system wipe.

This makes it impossible for your phone to be disabled, so if you do encounter the worst and your iPhone is stolen, call the police and hand over your iCloud account details and let them track your phone.

Nowadays our lives are dominated by screens. Whether it be your PC, Laptop, tablet or smartphone, we are all focused at some point in our day on them.

Although this seems like a bad thing, one thing is for sure, environmentally this is great, as paper is slowly becoming less of a part of our lives.

I am not sure if this is the same for you, but this does mean with all that finger poking at screens and mouse clicking, I almost feel like I have forgotten to hold a pen, as when I go to write a note it feels like I haven’t held one in years which I have to say I do miss.

But of course with most things recently, somebody comes along to bridge that gap and today we focus on OTM Technologies who have started crowdfunding Phree, the digital input device.

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This is the “write anywhere” device which lets draw, write, annotate on pretty much any surface. It will connect to all of your devices over a Bluetooth connection and is compatible with apps like Office, Evernote, OneNote, Acrobat, Google Handwriting Keyboard, Viber and more. So you can sketch or jot down ideas, thoughts or even take down details instantly.

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Personally, I can really see this being used in meetings, quickly jotting down notes and minutes to view digitally at a later date, but I have to say I do like the idea of being able to just pull this out and start writing anywhere.

One thing that really surprised us was the fact that not only is it an awesome digital input device, but it will also function to take calls as a headset and to briefly see texts and write to reply back to them…..now that is cool!

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The carry case will charge Phree on the go. The cap attaches magnetically to the body of the case to form an adjustable stand for any smartphone. Just place your phone in the stand, begin writing or drawing off-screen with Phree – you have an instant mobile workstation that actually works. Phree can be ordered with or without a case.

The dimensions are as follows L x 142mm, W X 18mm and a Weight of 30 gr with a touch swipe display on board the pen. Phree at the moment comes in 4 colours, but the designers will run a survey to properly deduce what colours people want.

We love this and have not seen anything like it. It is is fully funded on Kickstarter and you can currently nab yourself one for $189 with a case.

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Bluetooth is a wonderful thing, and since the likes of Apple have created AirPlay, our devices can connect to others to release our playlists from the palm of our hands. 

The problem most of us face, is having to move on with the times….yes we all have the iPod, iPhone or Android handset, but our sound systems do not connect wirelessly, pushing us to connect our lovely portable devices via AUX and leave them by the sound system’s side. 

OK, you could go out and buy a whole new sound system, plenty of Samsung, Onyko and Pioneer Amps now include AirPlay, but you will have to part with around £500 for the pleasure. 

In come the guys at Audioengine who bring us the B1. This little device is an adapter designed solely for Audiophiles (doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t get involved), with high-fidelity output that directly connects into your sound system. It lets you stream audio wirelessly via Bluetooth from your smartphone or Bluetooth enabled computer with superb sound quality. 

The B1 is housed in aluminium which oozes quality and sets to warrant the price tag. It measures 1″H 3.5″W by 4″D and has an adjustable antenna on the front. On the back panel we find the RCA stereo output for your receiver, a 24-bit digital optical output, and a micro USB port for power through the included power adaptor. The RCA cable is included in the box. 

B1 Rear

Under the hood, the B1 includes a 24-bit upsampling DAC (digital-to-analog converter) which provides the high fidelity music. This device will work beautifully with high quality music files and will play them at their best. A lot of the other devices on the market tend to make your music sound worse, this device will never degrade what you have and that is the beauty of it. 

The B1 supports the aptX codec and both the A2DP and AVRCP Bluetooth profiles and is simple to set up, with the iPhone 5S taking just seconds to pair. Inside the box you get a small drawstring carrying pouch in addition to the USB cable and power adaptor if you want to travel with it. 

This device performs well, sounds great and is the epitome of wireless audio for 2014. If you like your music and find that nothing out there does your playlist any justice, then give the B1 a go…..this is a force to be reckoned with!

£140 here in the UK or $189 for the US. 

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