Triple USB Port Car Charger

May 9, 2015

My family goes on at least two long road trips a year, and my three kids occupy themselves by using their iPhones, iPads, and Kindle readers. To keep their devices charged up, I have a 2-port USB charger that inserted into the car’s cigarette lighter port. One port could output 1 Amp of power, while the 2nd port would output 2 Amps. With the high power requirements of devices these days, It seemed that the 1 Amp port wasn’t good enough to charge the iPhones or iPads. So, my kids often fought over who got to use the 2 Amp port.

To resolve this issue for my upcoming road trips for this year, I did a little research on Amazon.com and decided to order the TROND 3 port USB charger. This device seemed to be of high quality construction, advertised to have 2.4 Amps of power for all three ports simultaneously.

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I tested it the other day by attaching two completely drained Android tablets and my Samsung S6 smartphone attached to a wireless charging pad. After driving around for 2 hours, both tablets were fully charged as well as my phone. So, this charger appears to work as advertised and only cost me $9.99 USD.


Magnetic Car Mount for my Samsung Galaxy S6 Smartphone

May 9, 2015

Normally when I’m driving in my car, I have my Samsung S6 smartphone connected via Bluetooth to the Ford Sync system and I’m listening to music streaming through the Pandora app or a podcast from the Pocketcasts app. My phone is either sitting in a center console cup holder or resting flat on a wireless charging pad on the front passenger seat. But, there are times when I wish I had my smartphone mounted up near the top of the dash so I can use it for navigation maps or seeing if I have any urgent notifications.

There are quite a few car mount options available, ranging from spring loaded holders with suction cups to attach to your car, or vent mounted devices. After reviewing several of them on Amazon.com, I decided to try the magnetic cell phone holder made by DAFQCO.

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This holder mounts to your car dash using a 3M self sticky pad. There is a metal ball attached to the mount, and on top of that is a magnetic base which can be swiveled around on the ball for different angles. You then place a small metal disk on the back of your phone, and you can then magnetically attach your phone to the car mount. What’s nice about this, is that you can place the holder base at any convenient location in your car, and your smartphone can be attached and detached very quickly with one hand.

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I’ve used this holder for two days now, and here’s my short review of the product. First, the 3M sticky pad does a very good job securing the holder base to my car dash (see below). I have no worries that it will fall off.

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Since I have a tight-fit rubber case for my S6, I didn’t want to adhere the small metal disk to the back of my case. So instead, I place the disk in between my S6 phone and the case. Even through the rubber case, the magnet holder was strong enough to securely hold my S6 upright on the base. Note, that since my S6 has a wireless charging coil built-in near the center of the back of the phone, I place the metal disk near the bottom of my phone to not interfere with the wireless charging operation. I’m actually quite pleased so far with this product, and below you can see some photos of my previous HTC One attached to the mount in my 2013 Ford Explorer.

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Here’s a photo of my Samsung S6 on the mount (you can see I placed the magnetic disk near the bottom of my phone).

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I have to say that even though the magnetic base is pretty strong, the phone case I’m using does reduce the magnetic hold considerably. So far, my phone has stayed attached to the base while I’ve been driving on the local surface streets and on the highway, but could see running over a big pothole in the street and having my phone fall off the mount. Everything has been good for the last two days, but time will tell. I do know that having my phone mounted near my main console has been great for using Google Maps navigation and checking for incoming notifications. Extremely convenient, and doesn’t require me to hold my phone in my right hand when using Google Maps.


Doxie Portable Scanner Mini-Review

December 28, 2012

I received the Doxie Go portable scanner (with EyeFi Wi-Fi SD Card) for Christmas and here’s my quick review.

I wanted a scanner for scanning in receipts and documents for printing and archiving, and the occasional photos. I also wanted something that was easy to use with my iMac desktop system. In the past I’ve been using an 3-in-one HP scanner/printer combo but using it wirelessly with my iMac is a real pain after Apple came out with the latest Mountain Lion OS update.

It seems that the Doxie Go portable scanner will do the trick. It’s relatively compact and can scan color images at 300 dpi and 600 dpi, and does so very quickly (much quicker than my HP scanner/printer!). It takes about 8 seconds to warm up, then it’s ready to accept 8-1/2″ wide documents for scanning. It has a built-in rechargeable battery and it stores scanned images in its internal flash storage or on an inserted SD card, so it can be completely portable and doesn’t require a computer to operate. Read the rest of this entry »


A skin for my Nexus S

July 22, 2011

From my previous posting you learned that I recently got a Nexus S smarphone to replace my Apple iPhone 4. The Nexus S is really slim (which is what I wanted), but the back of the phone is pretty slick too, making the chance of me dropping the phone pretty good over time. So instead of waiting for the inevitable, I decided to find a case that would make my phone less slippery but still keep it as slim as possible.

After some googling I came across the Incipio Feather case which is a semi-hard shell made of some plastic polymer. It fits tight around the back and sides of my Nexus, and gives it just enough grip so that I feel confident I won’t accidentally drop my phone. But, it also keeps the Nexus S very slim where I can slip it in my front pants pocket.

So if you need a slim case for your Nexus S check out the Incipio Feather– you won’t be disappointed!


Dragging my old laser printer into the future

April 16, 2011

I’ve got an old HP Laser printer which I inherited when the company I worked for abandoned their local office years ago, and I’ve been using it as my main printer workhorse ever since. As time progressed on, this laser printer continues to work well, but the advancement of technology will soon make this printer obsolete. For example, this laser printer has an old Parallel Port interface for connecting it to a PC. When was the last time you saw a computer with a Parallel Port? Most modern PCs and laptops have USB ports for connecting to printers and the Parallel Port has disappeared from nearly all motherboards. To get around this issue, I bought a Parallel Port-to-USB-Port converter cable which allowed me to use my PC’s USB port to access the laser printer for printing documents via a special device driver. This option worked well for me for a few years until I dumped my Windows PC in favor of an iMac. Unfortunately, this handy converter cable doesn’t work with my iMac since I don’t have the required special device driver.

Luckily, this HP laser printer has a RJ45 Ethernet Cable Connector on the back since it is a “Network Enabled” device. At my company’s office we had the laser printer connected to our local LAN so everybody could access it, and it seems that this may be my ticket for extending the service life of this printer for my use. So, how am I going to get this printer connected to my home wireless network so I can access it from my iMac and other computers I have in my house?

The solution I chose was to buy a Wireless Access Point device which will allow me to connect the printer to it, and have the printer available on my home network. There’s a few such devices available, but most of them were a bit too pricey for my wallet (over $100 US). I was able to find a model made by TP-Link which was selling for $35 US at newegg.com, so I ordered that and was able to successfully hook it up to my HP printer.

The way it works, is that the TP-Link Access Point is set to “Client” mode, and I configure it to connect to my home wireless network. The small device is placed upstairs in my office, and acts as a wireless access point. I can then plug any network device into the Ethernet Jack and be connected to my home network. It’s as if I’m connect my laptop, PC, etc. directly into my wireless router (which is located downstairs next to the cable modem). In my case, I connected my HP laser printer to it, and configured my laser printer to use a static IP address. I did this so that my wireless router wouldn’t change its IP address and I can use that address as a permanent network printer for my iMac. Luckily, after configuring everything my Windows 7 laptop easily found this printer on my home network and added it to my printer device list.

So, it seems I can continue using my ancient laser printer for a few more years until computer technology changes again. By that time, I’ll probably run out of Toner for my printer and will be looking for a new solution…


Apple Trackpad vs. Magic Mouse

December 28, 2010

For Christmas I received an Apple Magic Trackpad for use with my iMac desktop system. I decided to get one after playing around with one at the Apple Store when I made my original iMac purchase several months ago. The Magic Trackpad basically operates like a trackpad on the Macbook Pro laptop, but is physically bigger in size. I’m normally not a big fan of laptop trackpads (as I usually use a mouse), but I did like the responsiveness of the Magic Trackpad for the iMac.

So, I’ve been using it for the last 3 days with my iMac, and it seems to be working well. It does take some getting use to after using my Magic Mouse for so long.

Like with any trackpad device, you move the mouse cursor by sliding your finger on the trackpad surface. To do a left-click, you press down on the trackpad surface with your finger to physically active a pressure switch in the base of the device. The same goes for double-clicking, and you can assign a region on the trackpad (bottom left or right corner) to act as a right-button click. It does take some effort to do this kind of clicking action, so I’ve adjusted the preference settings for my Trackpad to use a single tap as a “click” and a double-tap as a “double-click” (just like with most laptop trackpads).

For a right-click you can do a two-finger tap. For scrolling, you can use two-fingers to swipe up, down, left, or right. There are several other options to fine tune the trackpad operations, but these were the basic ones that got me going.

For general clicking, moving around on the screen, and scrolling through documents and web pages, the trackpad works well. Zooming in and out of images also works nice, as well as zooming in/out of the main display. What’s tricky, is doing a click-n-hold with the left mouse (as when you drag a window around on the screen or highlighting text in a document) when using the one-finger tap method. So to move a window I need to do a quick double-tap on the window header, then drag the window on the screen to the desired location, then do a single tap to get out of drag mode. Also, to highlight text in a document I need to move the cursor to the beginning of the text, do a double-tap with my one finger, drag the cursor across the text to be highlighted, then do a single tap. Kinda cumbersome, but required if I use the one-finger-tap method for “mouse” clicking. Of course, this would be easier if I used the physical switch option but again that just seems too awkward for me.

It is obvious that using a traditional mouse is much easier for document editing than the trackpad (as you probably know by using any laptop trackpad). What would have been nice, is if this trackpad was angled completely flat on my desk instead of at an angle as that would relieve some hand strain that I’m noticing after several minutes of use. Normally you rest your hand on the mouse as you’re using it, and with the trackpad I’m noticing that my hand is hovering above the trackpad which can introduce some fatigue.

I haven’t fully decided whether the Magic Trackpad will permanently replace my Magic Mouse, so I’m going to give the trackpad another week of experimentation. I might also use both the Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad together as both can work simultaneously.

 


Recording TV shows on your Mac

September 14, 2010

For the last several years my wife and I have been using Microsoft’s Windows Media Center to schedule the recording of TV shows on our respective PC machines. In general WMC has been working well, with just a few glitches here and there. Using some external tools (i.e.,DVRMSToolbox and ShowAnalyzer) I have a process in place to record TV shows, cut out the commercials, and converted the recorded shows to WMV format for our Zune media players.

Last year, out of frustration my wife switched from her Vista PC to an Apple MacBook Pro laptop. Since she can’t run the Microsoft Zune syncing software on her MacBook Pro, I kept her PC still up and running to continue recording TV shows and processing them for her Zune 120 player. A few months ago her Zune device stopped working (hard drive failure) so for Mother’s Day I bought her an Apple iPod Touch (32 GB) as a replacement. Mainly because it will easily work with her MacBook Pro using the iTunes software. She still uses her Vista Desktop PC for recording TV shows, but now I’ve modified some of the processing scripts to convert the recordings to MP4 format for her iPod Touch.

Unfortunately, her Vista PC was having trouble recording her favorite TV shows for some reason or another (e.g., couldn’t download the latest TV listings, conversions stalled because of Windows updates, etc.). Twice, I had to reinstall the WMC software because the PC couldn’t download the TV listings from the Internet. So yesterday, I decided I would switch her over to a Mac-based system for recording TV shows from our cable TV service.

Upon doing some investigating, it seems that the product called EyeTV HD was what we needed. This relatively new product is designed to work specifically for the Mac OS X, and has the ability to work with cable set top boxes for changing channels via an IR Blaster. The only issue we currently have, is that this device requires component input for the video and audio, and our current set top box from Comcast only output a coaxial line.

So, I took our current converter box down to the local Comcast office and asked to switch it for a converter that has component output. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t specify I wanted HD component video output so they gave me an old Motorola converter box that has the very old composite video output (think of the old Pong game console that used the composite video connection) which just didn’t work for my needs. I did ask two different people in the Comcast office if this converter would give me digital component output and each of them said, “definitely” without even looking at the connectors on the back of the converter. As such, I came home to verify that this box wouldn’t work (as I suspected) and I called Comcast on the phone to see if they could mail me the right unit. So in about a week I’ll have the proper converter box to continue with my TV recording setup.

The nice thing about the EyeTV HD is that it has a onboard MPEG encoder, so it won’t use the MacBook Pro’s CPU for the encoding. Also, the EyeTV’s software can convert recorded TV shows to both iPad and iPod Touch formats at the same time. So if my wife chooses, she can watch her TV shows on either her iPad or iPod Touch. As such, I probably won’t need to jump through very many hoops to get her TV shows converted to the proper format for her iPod Touch, compared to what I needed to do for my Zune with Windows 7 and Vista.

If this all works out ok, I’ll probably switch over myself to a similar system and then I can shutdown my Windows 7 PC permanently.


Getting old perpherials working with my iMac

August 25, 2010

It seems that as time goes on various standards just become obsolete. For example, some of the new LCD monitors with the DVI inputs use a slightly different cable connector than the LCD monitors from just a few years back (I discovered this when I bought a 2nd monitor for my old PC). Also, video card slots in PC motherboards seem to change every year, so upgrading a PC for a DIYer usually means upgrading more components than you may want.

In my case, I have a very old HP Laserjet 4000N printer that has been my workhorse printer for over 10 years. For the longest time I used it with my various PCs making a connection to it via a parallel printer port (remember those?). A few years ago I upgrade my PC’s motherboard and it didn’t a parallel port, which made sense since most printers now use USB connections. As such, I was stuck until I found a Parallel Port-to-USB conversion cable that allowed me to extend the life of my HP Laserjet printer (yeah!). It did require a special PC driver, but after finding the right one on the web I was back in business.

Flash forward to today, I now have a nice shiny new iMac sitting on my desk with just a few USB ports on the back. Of course, the kludge I use with the Parallel Port-to-USB cable won’t work with my iMac. So what now? I hate to dump this laser printer since it still works (and I have an extra $100 toner cartridge for it in my closet). Fortunately, this is a network printer and has an ethernet port on the back of it. If I can connect the printer to my home network I can just print to it using its fixed IP address. Also, since it is a postscript printer I can print to it from my iMac… sweet!

The only problem, is that my home office is upstairs and the wireless router is downstairs in my wife’s office. I would need to keep the laser printer downstairs near the wireless router since I would need to physically connect it to the router using a network cable. Ugh!

Fortunately, I came upon a solution using a wireless network adapter that is used primarily for gaming machines (Xbox, Nintendo Wii, etc). The device I chose was a TrendNet Wireless N Gaming Adapter which has a CAT5 ethernet port for connecting to a network-ready device.

Basically you configure this device to connect to your wireless router and you can then connect whatever you want into it (via the ethernet port). I tested it using my laptop PC and it worked great, allowing me to surf the Internet in a web browser.

Getting this device connected to my D-Link wireless router was painless using the new WPS method (where you click on a button on the router and then click on button on the wireless adapter device). All the WiFi security WPA2 security stuff was completely taken care of.

I then configured my HP Laserjet to “Network Mode”, connected it to the wireless adapter and viola I was in business! On the Mac side, I just added a new line printer and entered the IP address of my HP laserjet printer and I was able to print out test pages. To make sure the IP address doesn’t change, I configured the D-Link router to assign a static IP address.

So, with a little luck and some ingenuity I was able to get my workhorse laser printer working again with my new iMac. Who knows how long it will last, but for now I’m able to continue using an ancient peripheral with my futuristic iMac computer.


Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2009

It’s Christmas Day and I hope everybody got what they were hoping for. It’s the best time for getting electronic gadgets, even for those who already have everything! 🙂

My wife got me an LCD Monitor and a Nikon Digital Camera as my Christmas gift, both of which I’m very happy to have. The LCD Monitor is identical to the Sceptre 20.1″ that I already have, so this will give me two monitors connected to my Desktop PC system (woohoo!). So I’ll have monitors spanning almost two-thirds the width of my physical desktop, so I’m stoked. The only thing I need now is a video card that can drive both monitors and an extra video cable.

I’ve ordered a Zotac GeForce 9500 GT video card from Newegg.com which has dual DVI output, so I should be in business sometime mid next week. Hopefully, Santa was generous to all of you as well.


Dell Netbook 6-cell battery is ridiculously big!

October 12, 2009

When I put in my order for the Dell Inspiron 11z Netbook, I contemplated getting the 6-cell battery since it advertises 8+ hours of life over the 3 hours for the standard 3-cell battery. However, I decided to just go with the 3-cell since 3 hours is probably enough for me to go without charging it. I’m glad I didn’t get the 6-cell battery, because it is humongously large and hideous!

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It sticks out the bottom like a big wart on this sleek and elegant system. What’s the deal with that? If I had a choice, I would rather it protruded straight out the back than down like it is currently designed. Apparently this is the same battery used in the Dell Mini 10 also.

With a price tag of $150 US, I’ll go looking for a power outlet every 3 hours than pay that amount for the giant wart battery!

An extra 3-cell battery is going for $130 on the Dell web site, but since it is the same battery as used on the Dell Mini 10 you can get one for $43 on eBay.com. Carrying two small batteries has got to be a better deal  than one giant battery that makes the 11z or Mini 10 look so junky!