By Kyle Wilcox – Guest Writer As part of the Average Guy Tech Scholarship fund found at , I had three three baby monitors that I considered for the review: Angelcare AC1120 Video and Sound Monitor – Summer Infant Wide View Digital Color Video Baby Monitor – Motorola MBP33S Wireless Video Baby Monitor with Color LCD, Zoom and Enhanced Two-Way Audio – All three models seemed fairly similar and as of January 2016, each was selling for around $110. The decision to go with the Summer unit came down to the fact that it had a larger screen. First impressions are that while the WideView is made of plastic, it doesn’t feel cheap or flimsy the way some plastic products do. In the box you will find two power cords and they each have an icon on them indicating either the camera or the monitor unit. I plugged both in right away and got the video feed immediately. There was no pairing or other work necessary to get working. I browsed through the instruction manual and noted that it said to charge the monitor for 4-5 hours before first use. I just started using it right away. The Summer WideView is capable of connecting up to three additional cameras. I only have the one included camera and for my intended purposes, I don’t see a need to use more than that. The instructions show some basic things the monitor can do, but overall, the functionality is very simple and with the well labeled buttons, there is little to no use for the instructions unless you need to add another camera. In fact, there is a menu button on the monitor, and its sole purpose is to add, remove, or change cameras. I won’t be needing the menu button. The monitor: I like that it is a widescreen format, measuring 5” diagonally. The screen resolution is pretty terrible when comparing it to your modern smartphone, but for a baby monitor, it should be fine. The kick stand is solid and functional, though it doesn’t allow the unit to tip back very far. On the right hand side is a zoom button, flanked on either side by brightness control buttons. There are only two zoom options: press the button once, and the camera zooms in, press it again and it returns to the original position. The brightness buttons just have up and down arrows on them, so it is not immediately clear what they are for, but pressing them brings up an onscreen symbol showing the brightness level, and you can see the picture increasing or decreasing in brightness. These brightness options should be more than sufficient for almost all lighting conditions that a baby monitor would be used in. The top right-hand side has clearly marked volume buttons. Top left is the power/menu button, and the left side has a button to activate the microphone. The charger also connects on the left side. Based on initial testing, it appears that the video quality will be sufficient for use as a baby monitor. You can see the child clearly enough to identify facial expressions. The camera also has a night vision mode that functions well in all but the darkest rooms. The most disappointing aspect of the baby monitor is the audio portion. The camera has microphone on it, and from what I can tell, there is no way to turn it off. Even in a room with no noticeable noise, the microphone still picks up a lot of background noise. On the monitor, this produces a very annoying static sound. I have just resorted to turning the volume down to silent. The product also mentions that you can use the microphone on the monitor to calm down your child by speaking to your child from the other room. However, this audio quality is also very bad and I can’t imagine a child finding it soothing; most likely they won’t even recognize your voice. There is one useful thing about the audio. Above video screen are lights that show the volume level in the room with the camera. This feature works even if the volume is turned all the way down. The lights turn on from left to right and turn from green to red. If you see all the lights on and red, your child is making a lot of noise. You can turn the video screen on and get a better picture of what that noise might be. Part 2 of this review will come as we actually use the monitor with our ; More to come…
By Bill Rockhold – Guest Writer Initial thoughts on the Intel Compute Stick Windows BOXSTCK1A32WFC at Amazon at (Click on and picture to make it larger) Lets get the hardware out of the way. The Intel Compute Stick is a full computer in a form factor that looks like a large USB memory stick, but instead of plugging it into a USB port, it plugs into a TVs HDMI port. Obviously for around $130 on Amazon it isn’t going to have massive specs, but it isn’t completely unusable. There are two version, one with Ubuntu Linux and another with 32 bit Windows with Bing. The Linux version has 1Gb of ram and 8Gb of storage while the Windows version sports 2Gb of ram and 32Gb of storage. The Linux version can be found for $20 to $30 less than the Windows version, but the lighter specs of Linux version doesn’t have the resources needed for Windows. Intel only supports Ubuntu , other Linux variants may work, but they’re not officially supported. Of course from what I’ve read on the Intel support forum, there really isn’t much in the way of support for any kind of out of the box tinkering. Both versions have an Atom Z3735F CPU ( Ghz Quad core), Intel HD graphics, a Micro SD card slot, a USB port, WIFI (B, G, and N), and Bluetooth support. The Compute Stick is powered by what is basically a 2 amp cell phone charger using a micro-USB cable and the stick will start booting as soon as you plug it in. There is also a single power button on the side of the stick so you don’t need to mess with the power cable if you had shutdown the stick and want to start it back up. Intel also has drivers and mobile apps that can allow a person to use an Android or iOS device as keyboard and mouse. As soon as I got the stick I poked around the UEFI configuration. There are really only two settings that need to be explored. The first is a OS switch to pick Ubuntu or 32bit Windows. The second is a performance setting. The performance setting has three options. The low power and normal display a warning that it can drive up to 4 USB devices on a unpowered hub or 8 with a powered hub. The high performance power option warns that it can only support one attached USB device or more with a powered hub. I’ve tried all three options and didn’t see any noticeable difference in performance or with the power draw on a kill-a-watt, generally amps, but I’m running all of the USB devices on the powered hub. As soon as I got it out of the box… Before I started to do anything else with the Compute Stick, I setup a USB boot drive with Ubuntu and changed the UEFI OS setting to Ubuntu. I booted Ubuntu from the USB and used a built in command to create an image copy of the internal storage. I did this because Intel is not being very supportive of people who want to reinstall to a factory state. I did have issues creating the Ubuntu boot drive and I can go through the details on that if there is interest. I then switched the OS setting back to windows and and started using Windows I installed Kodi media center and and copied a few 1080p MP4 movie files onto the stick. I then went ahead an upgraded the stick to Windows 10. I needed to insert a micro SD-card so Windows Update had room to download the install file. I started the upgrade about 6pm one evening and it was still running the next morning. It was finished by the time I got home from work that evening. Other than the upgrade going slowly, it did complete with out any problems. I did need to download and install Window 10 drivers from Intel to get full use of some features. I’ve also setup a Bluetooth keyboard with the stick and it has been working fine, though I really need to test a Bluetooth mouse. Mice show Bluetooth issues faster than a keyboard does. I’ve setup the Intel Remote Keyboard app on my phone and it also works very well. It provides keyboard and mouse control from a phone or tablet over WIFI. Why did I want a Compute Stick? Before I got the stick I thought there were three things that the Compute Stick might be good at. A media device. (Streaming or Media Center) Network Storage or Very low power home server. Print server for a 3D printer in the garage. (controlled through remote desktop) But after getting it I’m really thinking that Network Storage is not a good idea, not that it can’t be done, there are so many ways of adding storage that is cheaper or better, or both. I was a little disappointed, “but then, in the midst of my preparation for hari kiri, it came to me”, (10 points for anyone that can name that movie reference without cheating with google), a better use for the Compute Stick is as a brain for a “maker” project instead of using a Raspberry Pi. I have always thought that the hardest part of building something with a Raspberry Pi is that I don’t realy know Linux or most of the programming languages that it supports. But Windows I know; and the programing tools, I’m very familiar with. Plus I can write and test on a more powerful PC and then deploy it on the Compute Stick when it is readyNow before you say why use a $130 stick in place of a $40 pi. Raspberry PI aren’t that cheap once your done nickel and dimming the other thing you need. Raspberry Pi $40 WIFI dongle $15 Bluetooth dongle $10 2 amp power $15 SD Card $10 HDMI cable $10 Cheap case $10 Total: $110 So it’s not much difference. I know the stick doesn’t have the GPIO pins, but that can be added, though it changes the price balance a little bit too. But I think the Compute Stick is still an viable the Compute Stick experiments that I’m going to try are: A media device. (Streaming or Media Center) Control server for a 3D printer in the garage. (controlled through remote desktop) To “make” something with the Compute Stick as the brain in stead of a Raspberry Pi. What I’ve learned so far: The CPU is adequate for light use without loads of multitasking. Web surfing is ok, but I’m not opening loads of tabs and I’m not running Chrome which is a resource hog. The internal storage is slow and the WIFI is rated for up to N, but I haven’t been seeing good speeds, but I think the proximity to the TV maybe a contributing factor. It will play back on-board 1080p MP4 videos with out half trying. Kodi with the HDHomerun plug-in connects to my networked TV tuners and plays HD TV shows with little to no issues. I did have issues with high def video streamed from YouTube, but that seams to be tied to the WIFI problems because they cleared up when I connected a USB Ethernet adapter. I also tried a USB N WIFI dongle to the hub which placed it further away from the TV and I got good throughput and watched high def video off of amazon and had no buffering or breakup issues. I need to find a longer HDMI cable to move the Compute Stick further away from the TV to see if that solves the WIFI bandwidth problem.
Disclosure – I was provide the Olixar BoomBrick Wireless Bluetooth Speaker for review by You can find it on MobileFun at or Amazon at The BoomBrick Wireless Bluetooth Speaker is the newest in a crowded market of Blue Tooth Speakers. Where the BroomBrick is different than many of the others however is that it features two powerful 3W drivers, providing you with a total output of 6W that enables room filling high fidelity audio. The BoomBrick overcomes bass problems by featuring a passive radiator, which extends the bass response of the two existing full-range drivers – providing adequate sound and ; I used it both inside and outdoor and its plays both soft enough for quiet office sound and loud enough to be heard across the yard. With dimensions of 180 x 65 x 48mm, it is easy to take with you for travel. I took it on several trips and used it as a speaker in the hotel room as I took calls on it with the built-in ; With good sound on both sides, its handy to have with you at all times. You can easily switch between playing audio and receiving calls with the multifunction button on top. The internal microphone is compatible with Bluetooth enabled phones and can be use with apps like Facetime or ; I also used it to play music from my phone in my ; Worked well and lasted most of the day when played ; With Bluetooth enabled, the pairing process was incredibly ; It supports any Bluetooth music device and you only have to turn the speaker on and search for it using your device. This sound system however also includes a standard jack to allow you to connect devices without Bluetooth technology. Pros Well built and easy to take with you on the ; Packs well in a bag or backpack. Very easy to pair via ; Worked every time I paired it. Great sound for the ; Surprising at times. Built-in Microphone sounds clear and is handy for calls on the road or in the office. Has a line in for those times you have device that is not Bluetooth. Worked well as a speaker for my iPod Shuffle. Cons No indicator of battery charge. Never knew if it was close to needing a change Because I packed it when traveling, the edges of the device could be rounded a bit better to get it in and out of your back easier. All status indicators are either lights or ; Sometimes it was hard to tell if I was connected. I found this at several sites with a wide range of ; From $75 to $30 at various sites, I would say anything under $50 would be a great deal.
By David Bradway – Guest Writer I was sent the Leap Motion device from the Average Guy Tech Scholarship Fund (Thanks Jim!). I thought I could test the device both as an Average Guy and an average coder. First up was unboxing the nice, Apple-like packaging materials. Unboxing (Click and an photo to enlarge) Software Installation It was a simple Plug and Play setup, software download and install. The Leap Motion software installs a desktop program called the “Leap Motion App Home” which contains some starter apps: Leap Motion App Store Playground, which is a set of training games. Put heads on the robots, Pluck flower petals, etc Collider, an app to use with the Oculist Rift headset Form & Function, a 3D anatomy browser Google Earth gesture navigation integration I tested out some of the apps, including Google Earth. After enabling joystick navigation in Google Earth preferences, I was able to fly around by moving, tilting and rotating my hand. I made a flyover video of trying to find Central Park. Leap Visualizer Leap Motion also provides a debugging tool which gives an inside look at the skeletal model for hand and finger tracking. There was a bit of lag on my system, and the frame rate I observed wasn’t that impressive. I image with a better CPU or GPU and , this would look a lot better. Developer Tools and Application Programming Interface (API) Leap Motion has a lot of good documentation for software developers and makers. There are example scripts and programs in several languages including Python. I modified the Python sample tutorial to do something different when the gesture ‘Screen Tap’ was detected. I then added an extra snippet to the Python code that enabled me to receive mobile notifications using Pushover. Pushover is a great multi-platform notification service which I purchased originally because of its IFTTT compatibility. Pushover has a nice, open API, and I registered an app I called ‘LeapEvent’ which listens for notifications from my Python program. Below is the screenshot from my phone of the detected gesture notification from my Python script. The “screen tap” Leap Motion gesture is a one-fingered poke forward in the tracked field of was used here an an endpoint my detected gesture. In the future, I might like my program to control some device like my Nest Thermostat or another smart device like lights. Leap Motion + 3D Slicer My day job is in medical imaging research, so I wanted to try to replicate some YouTubes videos (1, 2) that used the Leap Motion device for navigating medical images in 3D Slicer. The project had a website with useful info so I downloaded the code and dug in. To use the Leap Motion device in 3D Slicer, I also needed to download the Visualization Toolkit, or VTK. I forked the project repository and updated it with the new version of the API and code. As shown in the image below, I displayed the tracked finger positions (F_1, F_2, etc) on some example Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) 3-D data in Slicer, but I haven’t figured out how to control the visualization planes as in the YouTube video. If anyone has 3D Slicer experience, please send me a message! Future Work Some of the coolest uses for the Leap Motion sensor seem to be in conjunction with the Oculist Rift virtual realty hardware headset. The Leap Motion sensor can be mounted on the VR goggles, looking out into the room. It can then be used to detect hands, fingers, tools, etc and bring them into the virtual reality environment. I don’t have an Oculist headset, but I did pick up some super-cheap Google Cardboard-compatible viewers and heads straps from AliExpress in China. Some people have had success displaying tracked images using the phone display, so I might see if I can try that out. Wrap Up All in all, I think it is an interesting device, and when support is fully enabled in software programs, such as the Google Earth example, it can really enable unique and useful interaction. Without deep integration or a software development skill-set, people may be limited to the kinds of games and programs they find in the appstore. I didn’t do much exploration of the available paid apps, but there appear to some reviews available online. For someone with the skills to integrate this device into their own scripts and apps, I would enthusiastically recommend this device! For someone who just wants to play motion games, there’s a chance it could end up gathering dust after a few uses.
I was contacted by from who provided me with the Mophie Juice Pack Dock () or on Amazon at for this ; I purchase the Mophie Juice Pack Plus for iPhone 6 (3,300 mAh) case on Amazon at to go with it for this review. The use case for me is ; I often have to charge my iPhone in the afternoon when I use it during flights or long ; In November of 2015, I made the trek out to Seattle (flights were sponsored by the awesome ) and would have a 5 hour flight from Omaha to Portland, a 4 train ride from Portland to Seattle, long conference days with tons of phone use and not a lot of places to charge the phone and then the trip home in reverse. During the test period, I would run the phone down to 20% with just the phone ; The case has a switch on the back that then allow me to turn the battery part of the case on and rechange the ; The phone would recharge within an hour or two depending on my ; Once the phone was recharged, I would turn the switch off and allow the phone to run off it’s own battery for the rest of the ; The case also has a battery charge indicator what lets you know how much battery the case has ; In most cases, I still had half of a charge left at the end of a ; If need, I could boost the charge on the phone one more ; Here are some of the specs of the case below: Case Specs: Talk time: up to 17 additional hours, Web browsing: up to 12 additional hours, Video Playback: up to 13 additional hours, Music Playback: up to 60 additional hours High-impact protection (Level 3) featuring carefully designed internal bumpers add extra support to the edges and corners of the protective case for unrivaled support. Powerful 3,300mAh rechargeable lithium-ion polymer battery Pass-through charge and sync means you never have to remove your juice pack to charge and sync your iPhone 6. Charge on-the-go! Provides your iPhone 6 with more than 120% extra battery, Not compatible with iPhone 6 plus The Case Pros Gives very good protection to the ; I never wondered what would happen if I dropped ; The case doesn’t provide front facing protection ; I would advise using a screen shield for this. 2X charge capabilities makes it a must have if you are traveling and don’t have the ability to find an outlet. Cons The case is slippery in your hand and throws off the balance of the ; I am considering finding some stickers that can put on the outside to give it better grip. The case is bulky because of the ; Might be a tight fit in some places The Audio jack requires and extension and another cable to ; If you forget it, forget about listening to your music in most cases. The Power switches from Lighting cable to Micro ; Just bought all the apple gear for charging. To use my magnetic holder for the car, I would need to stick the metal plate on the outside of the case Price. At $65 to $100 for Mophie Cases, it might be out of reach for some The Charger Pros Great construction and well ; Looks great sitting on your desk or where ever you put it. Very easy to set up and ; The case fits nicely into the cradle Cons ; The base along runs $50 to $; Add another $65 to $100 for the case and it adds up. A good review with some addition pictures can be found at
By Sarah Collison – Guest Writer Review: Bluetooth Headphones Anear Stereo Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds for Sport Running Gym Exercise Sweatproof CVC Noise-Cancelling Wireless Bluetooth Earphones W/Microphone Compatible with iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 5 5c 5s 4 and Android–Black & ; On Amazon at Jim was sent these wireless Bluetooth earbuds to review, but I jumped on the opportunity as I thought they might be very useful to me. Doing professional housekeeping, it has been a nuisance to keep my phone in my pocket and a cord running down my back to listen to music. And there were times I used a Bluetooth speaker, but I’d have to quickly disconnect the speaker to take calls. I thought these earbuds might be a great solution to both issues. What came: Earphones – 2 earbuds connected by a 19” cable 8” Micro USB Charging Cable Both Black & Sheer White Silicon Ear Pieces – each in 3 different sizes Features: A Multi-Function Button (MFB) for powering on/off, play/pause for music, and various functions for calls “+” and “-“ buttons for volume control and forward/backward in a playlist Operating range: 10 metersTalk/Playback Time: 4-6 hoursStandby: 150 hours First I charged them, which only takes an hour and a half. I then paired them with my Samsung Galaxy Note 4. Simple. Then, I tested the music playback while I cleaned a house. The fit was good and it was very nice to not be attached to a cord and phone. The sound quality was good. They cancel noise decently, but not completely. The connection is fairly inconsistent though. The more I moved, even with my phone well within the acceptable range, there were frequent cut outs on the connection for 1-2 seconds. (I made sure this wasn’t due to alerts or notifications.) The cutting out isn’t too disruptive, but noticeable nonetheless. It took some figuring out to know how much pressure to use on the buttons without pushing that earbud out. Next, I tested a phone call. I was at home, in a quiet environment with the phone less than 3 ft from me at all times. The talkback quality was mostly okay, but the connection was very inconsistent. Again, the more I moved, especially if I reclined on the couch, the more the voice on the other end of my call distorted. At one point I failed to understand several whole sentences. That was about 10 minutes into the phone call, so at that point I disconnected and finished the call without them. For inexpensive wireless music playback, these earbuds serve the purpose decently. However, I cannot recommend them for regular, reliable phone calling.
By Randy Pearson – Guest Writer The model I purchased was an Intel NUC NUC5i3RYH , on Amazon at with a core ; I put 16GB of RAM and a 500GB SSD, complete overkill but I had some gift credits that I needed to take advantage ; The on board SSD is ; There is also a very nice mounting location on the inside of the cover for an internal ” drive that I mounted an extra 1GB spinning disk. Components: Samsung 850 EVO 500GB Sata III Internal SSD Crucial Memory LG Blu-ray Click any photo to enlarge: I originally purchased a very small FAVI Bluetooth keyboard/trackpad combination for use with the media ; The keys performed very well but the trackpad is not too ; So I changed out the FAVI keyboard for a Logitech K400 keyboard that while slightly larger is awesome. I have attached via one of the USB ports the OWC Ministac ; To this I installed a 2GB ” hard drive that I had lying around and purchased an inexpensive Blueray drive. I should add that this turned out to be far beyond what a media device needs to ; However, our condo is rather small and we spend a lot of time mountain biking, snow boarding, hiking etc. up there and I wanted this device to pull double duty as my computer as well as a media ; The video card is very nice and does an excellent job of driving a 55″ screen. As you can see I have a lot of local storage, mainly because I will be moving this system to our place in Mammoth Lakes, CA that we spend a significant amount of down time ; While all the tech pundits folks always seem to default to streaming media, our internet is not fast enough to consistently use Amazon, Netflix or ; Due to the need for onsite media I have become a bit of an Amazon bottom feeder searching for inexpensive DVD’s for sale to rip and store on a Synology ; Thanks to I just scored a 10 movie John Wayne western DVD for $!