Reviews & How-To

4 Unique Gadgets to Improve Your Home Life

By Erin Vaughan – Guest Writer Modern life isn’t perfect. There are so many chores to do and things to remember, and sometimes it can be downright overwhelming to keep track of it all. Fortunately, there are lots of cool gadgets on the horizon that will help save you time and hassle, and that will make you feel like your home is cool and space-aged to boot. Smart Locks Anyone who’s ever felt the pain (and expense!) of locking themselves out of their apartment or home will be pleased to learn that the tech field is on the case. These cool new smart locks, like the Kwickset Kevo smart lock (On Amazon at ) or the Goji smart lock, keep your home secure and the locksmith at bay. Once the lock is installed and you’ve downloaded and set up the app on your smartphone, you can unlock the door just by touching the lock.   Via Kwickset   Wireless Charging Here’s one that we at Modernize want to run out and buy right now: furniture from IKEA that charges your devices wirelessly. Think about the number of times you’ve had to untangle a wad of cords in order to pull your charger loose. Or how often you’ve been imprisoned next to the outlet, waiting and waiting for your phone to charge. Well, no more! Plus, if you are aesthetically-minded, you’ll enjoy the cool look of these lamps, side tables, and desks. Unfortunately, this awesome new device won’t be available in the US until 2016, but looks to be more than worth the wait.  Click here for Wireless Charging options on Amazon   Via IKEA   High Tech Trash Cans and Recycling Bins Let’s face it, ordinary trash and recycling bins do not look good. They smell, they spill bulky materials all over the place, and on top of that, they just aren’t cool. But now you can get a space-aged garbage or recycling bin that looks sleek and manages problem garbage smells. The MINUS garbage bin keeps your trash as cold as ice, which prevents bacterial growth and smells from spreading around your home. Or maybe your problem is that you’re tired of taking the recycling out every day. Science has a solution. The ecomod recycling bin automatically sorts your recycling materials into separate compartments and compresses items like aluminum cans, and it has a neat, futuristic design to boot. Via Coroflot   Evolved Dishwashers Another way to zap your leftover food into submission is to throw your dirty dishes into the fancy Eco Cleaner dishwasher, which sends ionized waves over your soiled plates to clean them and moves food scraps and leftovers to a composting department—ecofriendly and economical. But if you can’t deal with the idea of cleaning your dishes with waves, there are also some more traditional dishwashers with cool high tech flairs. Whirlpools Sixth Sense washers connect to your electrical grid and monitor the times when electricity is cheapest, then automatically run the dishwasher at these times, saving your money. The KitchenAid AquaSense washer keeps your water consumption low by reusing water from rinse cycles on previous loads to pre-rinse the next batch of dishes. Via Pinterest
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Reviews & How-To

Crowdfunding Spreads the Word About Important Solar Projects

By Maria Ramos – Guest Writer Web-based crowdfunding platforms, like KickStarter or IndieGoGo, are an excellent way to take promising projects with funding needs beyond the originator’s financial resources. They also offer individuals the opportunity to become backers in return for a share of the eventual profits or products. This can be said for virtually any project, no matter how ridiculous it may seem, but one such area in our society that needs more support is renewable energy. With individuals becoming more environmentally-conscious, there is sure to be a consumer market aimed at one of the most viable forms of clean energy: solar power. These crowdfunded projects have already made great strides in progressing the development of alternative resources. Bill Nye’s LightSail is an ongoing project to launch mylar sails aboard a small CubeSat satellite to collect solar radiation from above the Earth. The Kickstarter launched on May 12, 2015 and before the end of June, the LightSail was able to reach a total of $1 million from 19,000 backers. As of today (August 13, 2015), the project has gained 23,331 backers who have pledged $1,241,615. In 2016, the continuation of the LightSail, sponsored by the Planetary Society, will test the possibility of propelling a CubeSat satellite in open space solely from the pressure of sunlight on the sails. An implication for space-based solar power might be solar panel equipped satellites with huge mirrors that collect sunlight and reflect the rays to a solar collector, afterward beaming the solar energy safely down to Earth as microwaves or laser beams. Although incredibly important and groundbreaking, the LightSail seems to be confined to space. However, there are many various projects that have been successful and make a direct impact here on Earth. According to Tech Republic, some successful crowdfunded solar-related projects have been backed by Oakland-based Mosaic. This includes the installation of solar panels on 1,500 military homes in Fort Dix, NJ, as well as the installation of a solar roof on Pinnacle Charter School in Denver, CO which doubled as clean energy education for the students. Kickstarter may be the most well-known crowdfunding platform but there have been others that dedicate themselves solely to various solar projects. CollectiveSun finances solar projects that help nonprofits switch to solar to save on energy expenses while supporting their missions, and has successfully funded solar energy system installations at Oberlin Dance Collective in San Francisco. The government has also recognized the importance of renewable energy in a world where fossil fuels are dwindling. On August 7, 2015, the White House launched a new initiative to increase solar access for all Americans. It focuses on assistance for low- and moderate-income housing and community solar. Although the initiative does not explicitly call out loans and subsidies to big companies like SolarCity and Tesla, it has many benefits for the solar industry. They include a greater penetration of solar power among lower income communities, achieving the greatest level of diversity among the nation’s workforce, and boosting solar as an essential element of our national energy. Direct Energy points out that the United States currently gets about 84 percent of its energy from fossil fuels, so hopefully this initiative will encourage many to decrease their use of this “dirty energy” and recognize solar as a viable resource. Because of the well-defined and limited scope of the initiative there remains much room for crowdfunding solar projects that will have broad appeal in more specialized venues such as the arts, education, places of worship or military housing. Crowdfunded solar projects generate buzz, and having concrete examples of successful solar energy projects in the collective public eye do their part in enhancing the solar industry in general. There are numerous amounts of projects just waiting to make a difference in our homes, communities, and eventually the world. Kickstarter’s solar projects have included Solar Roadways, a modular system of solar panels that can withstand the weight of trucks, SunPort using solar energy without solar panels, and Lowline, a solar-powered underground park in New York City. Some, like Solar Roadways, have generated wide, and continuing interest. As we persist in the coming years to support and spread knowledge about solar energy, perhaps many others, like wind, water, and even algae, will come into the limelight and eventually replace the majority of fossil fuels.
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Reviews & How-To

Hands on Review of the Anear LED Spotlight with PIR Motion Sensor

On Amazon: Full Disclosure – This unit was provide to me by Anear with the express purpose of review and was not purchased. Notes: I was contacted from Anear about reviewing the Anear LED Spotlight with PIR Motion Sensor for the #160; Since I had the perfect spot in the garage to install it, I took them up on the #160; Currently in our garage, I have a switched light that we always end up leaving on since the switch is in a very bad #160; I installed a florescence light there to help with the energy savings, but the light is still on 24/7 First off, the packaging was #160; The box included the unit, some mounting screws and a #160; The front face of the light unscrews and exposes the battery #160; That has two clips that release the back of the cover and allow you to insert the 4 D #160; It all snaps back together very simply. (Click any image to enlarge)   Once the unit is back together its ready to install where ever you need #160; 3 screws mount to just about any #160; It’s a drop dead easy install!  In my case, I mounted it in the garage, very near the light that was always #160; I found the stud in the celling and mounted the 3 screws directly into the #160; 5 minute install (Click any image to enlarge)   Bright enough to see in the garage at night and enough light to fill the space without waking up the #160; Light goes off after 30 seconds of no #160; Easy to use, easy to install and easy to #160; Documentation says about 3600 activations for each set of #160; If it comes on 10 times a day, that would get me about a #160; About $9 worth of batteries!  #160; After a week of use,  it’s a keeper! Questions?  email   Here are some of the specs from Anear’s site Ultra-Bright: 4 Ultra-Bright LEDs Produce 500 Lumen that turn night into day. Energy saving: Powered by 4 D-cell alkaline batteries for up to 3,600 activations (lasts 30 seconds per trigger) Intelligent Sensors: The light’s sensors have been designed to respond to the heat and movement signature of the human body, reducing false activations Durable: Our light’s casing is made from ABS materials that provide excellent resistance to heat, impacts, low temperatures and chemicals Instant Security: Safeguard your home or business both inside and out with our Motion Sensor LED light.   Product Description The Anear Motion Sensor LED Light can provide automatic illumination to your home, garden or business. In fact, thanks to its small size and light weight, it can be installed almost anywhere. And, you won’t need an electrician on hand either. The light has been designed so that anyone, anywhere can install it in a matter of minutes. Automatic – The unit’s built in light sensors mean that the light doesn’t operate when the ambient light is above a certain level. Once this threshold is crossed, the light will automatically enter standby mode and will activate if movement is detected by the motion sensor. The light will stay on for 30 seconds, and, if no further movement is detected, automatically turn off. Ultra-Bright – Our lights are equipped with 4 ultra-bright LEDs that provide fantastic illumination across a wide area. It does this all with just 4 D Cell Batteries. Instant Security: Safeguard your home or business both inside and out with our Motion Sensor LED light. Versatile – The light can serve multiple purposes from lighting up a shaded area to deterring intruders from entering your property. Instant Security: Safeguard your home or business both inside and out with our Motion Sensor LED light. Its sturdy casing is made from materials resistant to heat, light, freezing temperatures and the effects of chemicals. It’s also has an Ingress Protection Rating of IP44 meaning it can stand up to whatever the elements have in store. Outfit your home or business with Anear’s Motion Sensor LED Lights and you’ll have peace of mind in minutes. And all with the minimum of fuss. Warranty Information: We guarantee the Led Spotlight for a lifetime of normal use
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Home Tech

Hands On Review with the Mohu Leaf 50 Indoor HDTV Antenna

I purchased the Mohu Leaf 50 on the recommendation of a friend on Facebook as a replacement for the two roof-top antennas I was using that I had installed inside my attic.  They were not giving me very good reception and the wife acceptance factor was dropping by the day!  Here is what I run inside the house. Windows 7 Media Center PC 1 – SiliconDust HDHomeRun HDHR-US Dual Networked High Def Digital Tuner 8-VSB (ATSC over-the-air digital TV) QAM64/256 (unencrypted digital cable TV) IR Receiver (signal PC with a standard remote control) 100baseTX high speed network 1 – SiliconDust HDHomeRun Dual High Definition Digital TV Turner HDHR3-US Two Digital Tuners, Anywhere on Your Network TV sources: ATSC digital TV (antenna), Unencrypted digital cable TV (Clear QAM) Works with popular DVR software Seamless operation with multiple computers Requirements: Dual core recommended for HD playback, 1 GB RAM recommended, 1-4 GB per 1/2 hour of DTV recording I live in the Omaha, Nebraska TV viewing area When I installed the roof-top antennas a couple years ago, I ran cable up to the attic from the basement where the tuners are.  About a half a day of install to get them up there and on short poles that I installed myself. The Leaf was a entirely different set up.  It comes in two units.  The flat antenna part, that at first glance is not confidence inspiring.  I kept thinking, this flat piece of plastic is going to get better reception that those two big metal antennas?  I was a doubter.  I installed the antenna up in the attic next to the old ones.  I just hung it loosely from the rafters.  A 5 minute install. The second part is the power booster that was installed in the basement where I have the two HomeRuns installed.  Very easy set up.   Once the unit was set up, it was just a matter of scanning the tuners in Media Center and watching TV again. The signal was greatly improved over the roof-top antennas I was using and all channels in my view area were coming in with 4 or 5 bars.  I the past I was only getting 3/4 of the channels and weather had become a factor.  Those days are gone. We have now been using the Mohu Leaf for over 6 months with great results.  Contact me with questions
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Reviews & How-To

The Average Guy’s Windows 10 Know it Guyde

I spent some time three years ago making sure everyone had a simple guide for finding everything they would need for Windows 8 and you can find that here:   I thought it might be nice to make another one for Windows 10 and keep it up to date as well.  It’s a working document, growing and changing as time passes.  It can also be influenced by you.  Leave a comment here of your favorite Windows 10 resource, send me a link in twitter (), post it out to our Facebook group or send it to me in an email, and will get it updated!   Last Update: 7/1/2015 Find a Store, Hours and Location of a Microsoft Store.   Windows 10 Basics – Reserve Windows 10 – Features   Windows 10 Software (Prerelease Windows Insider) – Download Windows 10 Insider Preview ISO – Keep Track of all the Build Numbers   Blogs – The Windows Blog – WinBeta – Windows 10 Update – Windows Central Blog – CNET –   Overview / Helps / How-to – Backup and Recovery – Calendar – Taskbar – Start Menu – Quick Access
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Reviews & How-To

The WWDC Has Exciting News for Hardcore Techies

By Maria Ramos – Guest Writer In this new decade, competition in the computing and gadgets sectors has reached a fervor not seen since the early days of the PC and gaming industries. After quite some time languishing in self-induced proprietary obscurity, Apple has begun to take the competition from the likes of Google very, very seriously. Apple’s plans to compete with the now juggernaut were made all too real at the recent WWDC, where a number of massive upgrades to existing Apple technology, as well as updates on forthcoming new marvels, were shown to the masses. With the increasing dominance of Google and, to a lesser extent, Microsoft in the mobile and wearable era, exactly what weapons will Apple be bringing to the battlefield henceforth? Rethinking OS X Officially labeled OS X , El Capitan seeks to successfully bridge the gap between the PC/Notebook, tablet, mobile phone and wearable tech in a way Microsoft tried and failed to do. Integrating much of the app management and interaction technology refined over several releases of its sister system, iOS, tries to be a touch-friendly PC operating system without brutally excluding those used to classic computer interfaces. A number of new gesture designs oriented around cursor use are a good sign that they have indeed learned from Microsoft’s Windows 8 debacle. A Smarter iOS The primary focus of improvement in iOS 9 is a much smarter Siri. Context sensitivity, the lack thereof resulting in many hilarious “Siri moments” chronicled across the web, is set to be introduced in 9. This may sound like a small innovation, but the ramifications are in fact huge. With properly-designed context sensitivity, Siri will be able to respond to more obscure commands, or the overly-worded and “polite” requests many users can’t help but make. Along with this will be better multi-purpose hands-free use of iPhones and iPads, with Siri being able to understand more complex input while interacting with more diverse applications and content. We’ll All Pay One of the more interesting novelties unveiled this year was Apple Pay. In conjunction with its unveiling was the reveal of buyable Pinterest pins which could be purchased through the system, as well as an announcement of a forthcoming reader device by Square, compatible with it. Of course, the bigger Pay-related reveal only matters to those in England, where transportation, credit card systems and other financial tools are set to become compatible, directly and natively, with Apple Pay in the months to come. A Swifter… Swift The unveiling of Swift , especially in regards to the HomeKit, may encourage third party development. This, in turn, would serve to open devices compatible with the HomeKit up to wider and more diverse applications. On top of being a sign that Apple has realized the importance and benefit of openness to third party developers, it also shows that Google isn’t the only company taking the burgeoning industry of IOT (internet of things) seriously. The new HomeKit will be compatible with multiple smart devices such as the Honeywell Lyric, the Tempo Environment Monitor, ADT Home Security, the Hue Automated Lighting System and other computerized home infrastructure. Along with forthcoming controllability via Apple Watch, this could be one of the first IoT kits successfully productized. Wrist Action Of course, the WWDC wouldn’t have been complete without an update on the much-awaited Apple Watch and watchOS. Unfortunately, Apple wasn’t terribly forthcoming, as has been their policy regarding this technology, beyond one very interesting bit of news. An announcement of a revised watchOS API indicates that the watches will be able to run software natively, rather than utilizing an iPhone or iPad via Bluetooth as an external processor. If this is the case (and it’s not entirely confirmed), these novelty gadgets will very quickly become a lot more useful than any smart watch made by any company to date. Facing the Music Having been losing ground for a long time in the digital music industry, Apple’s ready to make its way back with a re-envisioned Apple Music. Breaking away from the infamously frustrating iTunes system, Apple Music is more like the personal digital radio stations we’ve all become so addicted to in the mobile 4G era. Looking to compete with the likes of Spotify and Pandora, Apple Music offers a clean media player interface with album covers, a revamped playlist manager and, of course, music videos as well. While this is a major bolster to Apple-powered audiophiles, it’s not likely to beat out Google Play, Pandora or Spotify for users of non-Apple devices. This year’s WWDC keynote has, above all proven one major thing. Apple has woken up and taken a look at the world around them. They’re showing a willingness to step outside their comfort zone of unnecessarily proprietary hardware and software, embrace third party support and pursue much-neglected niches in the technology field.
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Reviews & How-To

Hands on with the Tech Armor iPhone 6 Active Case, HD Ballistic Glass and Premium Lightning Cable

Contacted Back in April, I was contacted by Tech Armor to do a review of a few of their #160; Since I had just picked up the iPhone 6 in February, thought it would be great to look at a screen cover and #160; They also sent me a 6ft braided Lightning Cable in the #160; All items where shipped and delivered to me without purchase on my #160; I have been working with the products over the last several weeks to provide the best possible review Here is what was sent     Case I first tried out the Tech Armor iPhone 6 Case, inch – Active Sport Series Space Grey/Black Ultra Rugged Protection ()  and on Amazon at #160; The case is advertised with extra drop protection, screen protector friendly, raised edges for screen protectors and easy to press buttons. Features: Fingerprint and Scratch Resistant Backing Durable PC/TPU material infused in each case Contoured cutout access to ports, cameras, buttons, and microphone Compatible with iPhone 6 ( inch), all carriers, all models. Tech Armor No-Hassle Lifetime Replacement Warranty. Compatible with All Tech Armor Screen Protectors. Compatible with all Tech Armor, Apple and Amazon branded lightning cables. Polycarbonate/TPU material provides extra protection and rugged durability   Use: I used the case for a week in my normal work #160; I typically carry my phone with me all day and use my back #160; I pull my phone out every time I sit down and lay it on the table or something near #160; It was the only phone I used while #160; I also installed a Wizgear () Magnetic plate between the phone and the case for mounting in the #160; The case was thin enough for the magnetic mount to work. I also use the Braided cable (review below) in the car to power the #160; My 2006 Honda Civic comes only with an AUX connector for the #160; I cable that connection. While I found the case to be tough and durable (not sure I was up to testing it in full force with my phone), I personally like a case this is a little more #160; Something that will hold in my #160; I often felt like this case was going to slip out of my hand while I was using it. I like something with a little more #160; However, I know others who like cleaner design that slips easy in and out of #160; This case would do that well. The real treat was the totally frustration free #160; Getting the case out takes seconds and should be kept for future shipping or #160; A nice touch! Cover I had actually just cracked my Invisible Shield Cover that I purchased from the Best Buy Store when this cover #160; Getting the old shield off was not a problem and it gave me a good reason to try and test this #160; I have to say, in the store, these covers are way over #160; At the time of this writing, this one from Tech Armor is just $#160; You can find it here () at the direct site and here () on Amazon Important: They offer FREE SHIPPING and and a Lifetime Replacement Warranty!  The Invisible Shield wanted $ for shipping a new #160; I tossed it. Features: • Protection from Drops • Protection from Scratches • Way to Maximize Resale Value • Bubble free Installation • HD Display Clarity • Touchscreen Accuracy • Hassle-Free Lifetime Warranty   Installation: This screen was very easy to install and I did it #160; If I was doing it again I would be careful to make sure I got the corners stuck down properly the first time, but all in all, a very easy #160; You just have to make sure the phone is very #160; They provide all the proper tools. I had no issues with bubbles or air pockets the first #160;   Use: The cover works great and I have had no issues with using #160; Feels good to the touch and has the right amount of #160; The screen looks great as well and does nothing but make the screen look better. Tech Armor has other covers like the HD Clear and the HD Clear+ at a lower price #160; Don’t bother and go directly to this #160; Well worth the $#160; Note: I didn’t push it with any scratch or drop #160; Cable   The cable came to me as a #160; I was glad it #160; Not long after it came, the lightning connecter on the 2 ft cable that I had purchase on Amazon for my car snapped off the #160; For a $12 cable, I expected #160; It also only had a one month warranty!  Tough lesson to #160; For example purposes, you can find that cable here ().  I liked the Tech Armor cable so much, I am going to replace it with the 2ft #160; Purchasing that at Amazon here () Tech Armor sent me the Premium Apple Certified Lightning Cable – Space Gray – Braided 6ft found here at the Tech Armor site () and at Amazon here ()   Features: Apple MFI Certified Premium Braided Tough Jacket Featuring New New Strengthened Connector Apple Lightning to USB A Premium Sync and Charge iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 5, iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C, iPad Air 2 and Air, iPad Mini (all models), iPod Touch 5th Gen Hassle-Free Lifetime Warranty In the car with works great (6 feet of cable is a bit much, but worked for the testing).  It’s also tough enough that when I get the 2 ft cable in and replace it in the car, it will go in my travel bag and go on the road with #160; You can never have enough cables! Conclusion I am glad Tech Armor reached out to me for this #160; I would have not considered them in the past but will now see them as an option when purchasing new accessories for my #160; Prices are most often better than at the big box store and most products come with a lifetime #160; Worth checking out for #160; You can find Tech Armor at 
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