Marco Polo Coming to Netflix

Posted in Entertainment with tags , on November 29, 2014 by shutterbuggeek
Kublai Khan of Netflix Series Marco Polo

Courtesy of Netflix

Mark your calendar for Friday, December 12 at 12:01 AM PST, because Netflix will debut their epic story of Marco Polo. This will be yet another powerful Netflix original series, and they will release ALL 10 episodes for those binge watchers. I’d prefer to watch them daily or weekly to totally absorb the story before moving on to the next episode.

Marco Polo is based on the Venetian merchant explorer, who was not the first European to travel to China, but the first to document his experience and influenced future explorers. He was also the first European to meet the mighty Kublai Khan. Marco Polo was then swept into a world of self-indulgence, greed, and betrayal, so this is not a series for kids.

This powerful drama was filmed in Italy, Malaysia, and Kazakhstan, which lends to stunning cinematography. It was written by Academy-Award nominated John Fusco (Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron), who was also the executive director along with Dan Minahan (Homeland, Game of Thrones), and is directed by Academy-Award nominated Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg (Pirates of the Caribbean: Deadmen Tell No Tales). This is just the tip of the iceberg of talent involved with this series that is produced by The Weinstein Company for Netflix.

I’ve been waiting for months to watch this series, and based on the trailers, it looks like a winner!

Acer Aspire Switch 10 on the Go

Posted in Gadgets, Hi-Tech, Lifestyles with tags , on October 6, 2014 by shutterbuggeek

I received the Acer Aspire Switch 10 a few weeks ago, and after a couple of days of using it for work and play wrote this post. Now after working on it more in-depth, I can say this Acer 2 in 1 is great on the go. I used it during a meeting, at the library, and while traveling, with and without wifi.

Driving to my destination, I connected the 2 in 1 to my car with an audio out cable, since I used Bluetooth with my phone at the time. I listened to a  new playlist, and loved non-commercial selections of my favorite tunes.

DropCam Screenshot

I downloaded the Dropcam Pro app. I like to use Dropcam as a surveillance device while I’m away. I could monitor the exterior of my home, and keep an eye out for any deliveries.

Tip: Bluetooth has to be enabled before pairing devices. Click the arrow next to the keyboard icon at the bottom right of the screen. It will open the Acer Quick Access menu. Scroll to the top and slide the Bluetooth toggle to the right. Now you can proceed with pairing.

I paired my Braven speaker to give the audio more bass and a richer sound. This made singing and dancing at my friend’s house a lot more fun!

Once Upon a Time Screenshot

I like to watch movies on planes, in hotels and on cruises, sometimes alone with headphones, and other times with my family paired with speakers. Tent mode works great for this purpose, but occasionally, I can connect the 2 in 1 to the HDTV so we can all watch on a big screen in our room. I can do this with my micro-HDMI adapter. It worked beautifully! With a wifi connection, we watched TV shows on Hulu and Amazon Prime Instant Video directly from the site using the browser and streamed movies using the Netflix app, watched Ultraviolet movies via the Flixter app, and watched TV shows using CBS, ABC or one of several other network apps.

I also took advantaged of wifi by video chatting with family or friends via Skype.

OneTable Screenshot

The OneTable app to made making dinner reservations easy peasy, and racked up points towards a $20 dining check. This app also allowed me to discover restaurants in the area. I found a great  restaurant that I can’t wait to eat in again!

Acer Aspire Switch 10 Dual Screens

I am experimenting with the Office Suite apps so I can share Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations on a larger screen at upcoming meetings and events with the screen in presentation mode, using dual screens. The micro USB adapter I purchased made the connection a snap!

I like to take a lot of photos wherever I go, especially on vacation. When I shoot video as well, I transfer my files, and I did this easily by connecting my camera to the USB port on the keyboard.

Considering the brains of this 2 in 1 device is all behind the monitor, makes this ultra convenient. I have even used this as a laptop without the keyboard. This means I am using a tablet to do things that I should only be able to with a laptop, like watch Hulu.com. Score!

It allowed me to bring this with me for business and travel. It didn’t matter if I was in a café writing a document and sipping on chai tea, or at the park listening to an audio book while taking photos, the Acer Aspire Switch 10 has been able to keep up with all of my on-the-go needs so far. It packs a big punch for a small price, and I like that!

#spon: I’m required to disclose a relationship between our site and Intel. This could include Intel providing us w/content, product, access or other forms of payment.

Intel 2 in 1

Netflix Original Series

Posted in Entertainment, Entertainment-Movies, Lifestyles with tags , on September 26, 2014 by shutterbuggeek

Netflix House of Cards and Orange is the New Black

I’m obsessed with Netflix, especially after binge watching a few TV series over the summer. I’ve been a fan of Orange is the New Black, but didn’t start watching until after the first season had ended. It made me curious about other Netflix original series.

One series I’d heard so much about is House of Cards. I usually like political dramas, so I thought this wouldn’t disappoint me. Not only did it NOT disappoint, but it was beyond what I imagined. HoC really goes THERE. Much like OITNB, it’s a no holds barred show, and nothing like what I see on network TV.

Netflix has certainly evolved since starting out as a DVD home delivery company, to adding streaming to the plan, and now offering a selection of amazing original series with more on the way.

The current lineup includes Arrested Development, Bad Samaritans, BoJack Horseman, Hemlock Grove, House of Cards, Lilyhammer, Orange is the New Black, and Turbo FAST. As if this wasn’t good enough, Netflix has a number of new quality series lined up.

Love, a Judd Apatow series is coming to Netflix, as well as the sci-fi series Sense8 from the Wachowski siblings. PLUS  Marvel has a few superhero shows heading to Netflix, featuring Daredevil, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage, there’s the Pablo Escobar drug drama Narcos, and I’m also looking forward to the adventure epic Marco Polo!

Movies and TV hits used to be the big draw to Netflix, but now that they will have a small arsenal of amazing original series, viewers might not use too many other apps for entertainment.

Work Hard, Play Hard With a 2 in 1 Device

Posted in Electronics, Gadgets, Hi-Tech with tags , , , on September 15, 2014 by shutterbuggeek

I’ve seen commercials and ads about 2 in 1 devices and have always been intrigued by them. Needless to say, I was excited to join the Intel 2 in 1 Smart Squad to get hands on experience with a device.

I received an Acer Aspire Switch 10, which has a Windows 8.1 operating system, powered by an Intel Atom CPU, Gorilla Glass, and included Microsoft Office Suite! I am exploring this 2 in 1 device using it as a laptop and a tablet at home, and on the go. But I wasn’t the only one who was curious about this 2 in 1. My family wanted to check out how it would hold up to power users.

Acer Aspire Switch 10 with Edjing App

I connected it to a friend’s DJ system to play music at a school picnic using the Edjing app. I am in no way a professional. However, I did get many compliments for the job. Score!

Acer Aspire Switch 10 with Canon 7D

As a photographer, I like to transfer my photos (and videos) to a device with a larger screen, not only to check for sharpness, but also to edit. So I downloaded Canon’s software to make that happen. It was as easy as working on my desktop.

Acer Aspire Switch 10 in Acura MDX

We love hearing music in the car. In addition to listening to XM & FM radio stations and CDs, we enjoy specific playlists. A simple connection to the audio jack made everyone happy!

Acer Aspire Switch 10 Showing Avengers

I’ve read the news, magazines, and part of an eBook using the Kindle app. I’ve transferred some music and listened to it with my headphones in addition to in my car, watched a couple of TV shows and a movie on Netflix, and started writing a blog post.

Acer Aspire Switch 10 on Schwinn Exercise Bike

Acer Aspire Switch 10 with OverDrive app

My family took turns streaming movies and shows, watching sports on ESPN live while working out, listening to an audio book using the OverDrive app, and playing games.

We’ve only had it for a few days, but have put it to good use. With time, we will have a chance to work on spreadsheets and presentations, connect it to a flatscreen TV with an HDMI micro to HDMI converter, and more. This 2 in 1 definitely knows how to work hard and play hard!

#spon: I’m required to disclose a relationship between our site and Intel. This could include Intel providing us w/content, product, access or other forms of payment.

Intel 2 in 1

Binge Watching in Summer

Posted in Entertainment with tags , , on June 30, 2014 by shutterbuggeek
20140630-091600-33360301.jpg

Photo Credit: Netflix

Summer is here, but regular season TV shows are on hiatus. This time a decade ago used to be inundated with repeats, but now reality shows have flooded the airwaves. Looking for more substantial content to balance the guilty pleasure of watching a Real Housewives or Big Brother episode? Stream some shows you haven’t watched over the regular season.

Three summers ago I finally caught up with Mad Men via Netflix. Early last fall I stumbled on Orange is the New Black, and this summer I’m hooked on Once Upon a Time. I also found Suits and Covert Affairs on Amazon. I binge watch shows for instant gratification and to discover programming I normally don’t have time to watch.

Summer is a great time to discover new shows online. You can watch every episode, having marathons with friends, making a party out of it, or viewing alone during free time. Orange is the New Black recently released all 13 episodes of season two at once, understanding the trend to binge watch.

I’ve heard so much about House of Cards that I think I’ll give it a chance this summer. Like Orange, HoC is a Netflix original show. Streaming sites have followed the lead of cable stations by producing more gripping content than some of the networks. Amazon also produces original content for their Prime Instant Video customers.

Beware! Idle binge watching could easily make you a coach potato. While I do sit down and relax during a portion of my marathons, I also try to working out, cook, etc. to keep active and make tasks more enjoyable.

What are some of your favorite shows to binge watch?

 

eLibraries Change How We Borrow Content

Posted in Entertainment-Movies, Entertainment-Music, Hi-Tech, Lifestyles with tags , on June 16, 2014 by shutterbuggeek

Princeton Public Library eLibrary

Summer reading programs have begun, as well as vacations, so kids, teens, and adults are searching for reading material. Princeton Public Library has revamped their eLibrary to make life more convenient for cardholders. It’s easier than ever to get collections of books and other content to you without a visit.

In these days of instant gratification in the form of streaming and downloadable content, Princeton Public Library is constantly redefining itself to meet the needs of the community. Hoopla, Mango, OverDrive, and Zinio allow you to read, watch, and listen to content for free on your desktop, laptop, eBook reader, tablet, cell phone, or iPod Touch.

Unlike some free e-book apps that merely provide the classics, Hoopla and OverDrive e-book and audio book selections are bestsellers from authors like John Grisham, Veronica Roth, Judy Blume, Nora Roberts, James Patterson, John Green, Markus Zusak, Katie DiCamillo, and EL James. There’s something for all ages and both genders.

In addition to audio books and e-books, Hoopla also provides movies, music, and TV shows. Zinio gives you current and archive issues of popular magazines, such as O (Oprah), Car and Driver, Macbook, The Economist, Cosmopolitan, Popular Photography plus others that will pique the interest of most men and women.

The eLibrary doesn’t end there. Leaving the country for business, vacation or relocation, or studying abroad in a land where the language is foreign to you? Download the Mango app and learn a new language or refresh your skills at home or on the go.

The best thing is, these collections are available 24/7 wherever you get wi-fi. So you can still get a book and some magazines at the airport or at your final destination if you’ve forgotten to download before you left home.

A four-hour training session will be held at the library on June 26th to learn how to use the eLibrary for those who are not as technically incline, so make an appointment today if you’re interested. The librarians can also offer you quick help over the phone if you’re a bit tech savvy.

There is also an e-book challenge for the month of June. Load up on e-books using OverDrive, and help the Princeton Public Library win $1,500 to further build their digital collection. You can check out up to five books at a time for 21 days.

Not near the Princeton Public Library? Check out your local library’s digital collections. Happy Reading!

Orange You Glad It’s Back?

Posted in Entertainment with tags on May 23, 2014 by shutterbuggeek
Orange is the New Black Season 2

Photo Credit: Netflix

Network television has not been the only choice of programming since cable channels started producing their own shows. Even internet streaming providers are supplying us with original content.

Netflix has a few of its own series, and my favorite is Orange is the New Black. The characters are nicely developed, and the writers push the envelope regarding story lines.

I didn’t think I would like this show because it takes place in a prison. Everything would be explicit and rude, and I prefer content that makes me think or laugh. My curiosity got the best of me and I watched the pilot. It offered more than I thought it would. It’s poignant, humorous, and gritty. The writing got me hooked from the beginning.

If you’re a fan, you probably know Season 2 begins on June 6th. You have time to review Season 1 to refresh your memory. If you haven’t watched the show yet, you should check out the first episode, and you can binge watch it before the new season.

If you’re not a subscriber yet, you can get a free one-month trial membership. Watch an episode everyday or pick a rainy day to have a marathon. Then you can be up-to-date for Season 2. Make your free trial worthwhile and watch some other programming exclusive to Netflix like House of Cards or Season 4 of Arrested Development. My 12 year old daughter loves Turbo FAST.

What do you think about Orange is the New Black? Is it quality programming or overrated?

Throwback Thursdays

Posted in Entertainment-Movies, Entertainment-Music, Social Media with tags , , , on April 24, 2014 by shutterbuggeek
Photo Credit: Netflix

Photo Credit: Netflix

If you use social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, I’m sure you’ve noticed the trending hashtag #tbt (Throw Back Thursday). This day is dedicated to reminiscing, usually posting old photos from childhood, weddings, vacations, etc.

They say a picture is worth a 1,000 words. When you look at one, you’ll have flashbacks of an activity or event capturing that moment. There are also other stimuli that trigger memories. I find music, movies, and TV shows bring me instantly back to a point in time, whether it was singing a song with my best childhood friend at the top of my lungs, or bringing my kids to the movies.

Music can easily be shared to social media sites via Spotify, or videos from YouTube. I used to share music under the hashtag #Music Monday years ago, but now I can share my love of New Wave (New Order, The Smiths) and Grunge (Pearl Jam, Soundgarden) using #TBT instead.

I can share movie and TV show memories with my kids by showing them the classics of my time via Netflix. I like to show them TV shows like Family Ties, or movies like Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves; Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; and Doctor Doolittle. To share what you’re watching on Facebook, connect it to Netflix accounts by clicking the Social Settings link, or from a device that supports Facebook social features. 

So, instead of posting photos from your childhood every Thursday, why not mix things up a bit, and share the joy of music, film, or television?

 

Battling the Winter Blues With Kids

Posted in Entertainment-Movies, Gadgets with tags , on January 24, 2014 by shutterbuggeek
The Croods

Courtesy of Netflix

The Northeast (and other parts of the country) keeps getting hit by snow and frigid temps this winter. Kids are home from school either because of a snow day or the flu.

If it’s a snow day, the kids can entertain themselves for a while sledding, making snowmen, building fortresses, and having snowball fights.  But when they get too cold or if they’re sick, they’ll be looking for something to do. There are some options, but one of the easiest is to watch a movie.

In these days of streaming video, Netflix has the biggest selection, along with a cool profile feature that allows everyone in the family to choose their favorite movies and TV shows. I even created one for my mother for when she visits during holidays.

We have an Apple TV, Blu Ray player, Wii console, iPads, and smart phones to view movies at home or on the go. We usually have a movie night every Friday, but on those days when one of my kids are sick or they’re home on a snow day, they can select something to watch from their own profile and not disturb anyone.

My family loves Daddy Day Care and Hoodwinked. My daughter is a fan of the Beverly Hills Chihuahua movies. But we’re all waiting for the 29th when The Croods will become available for viewing! There’s nothing like laughter to make you feel better (and chicken soup).

Philips ShoqBox SB7200 Bluetooth Speaker – Review

Posted in Entertainment, Gadgets with tags , on August 20, 2013 by shutterbuggeek

Philips ShoqBox SB7200 - White

The Philips ShoqBox SB7200 Bluetooth Wireless Speaker shows how this genre of speakers is evolving. The original Bluetooth portable speakers were designed for indoor use. Now they are made durable enough for outdoor entertainment as well.

Pairing

Pairing the speaker to my devices was a breeze. The speaker initially asks you to choose a language, then informs you that it’s ready for pairing. There is a confirmation tone once your device has been paired. So far, this has been the easiest speaker for me to pair with. Even my second gen iPod Touch (though it states from 3rd gen on) and my old LG Optimus phone paired with it in seconds, and I sometimes have an issue pairing them with newer devices.

Testing

I tested the ShoqBox for sound quality of music and video playback as well as voice on the speakerphone on both the speaker and receiver ends. I listened to diversified sources to test the frequency range, and noise ratio of the speakers. The content came from files and streaming sources from iPod Touch, iPad and mobile phone. The MP3′s bit rates ranged from 128 – 256 kbps.

The volume is adjusted with a large dial on the top or the side, depending on how you place it on a surface. If your mobile device is connected via cable, you must control the volume from your device. If you press the power button twice, you can pause and skip a track forward or reverse with the swipe of your hand over a sensor on the speaker. This eliminates fumbling for control buttons.

You should only use the included power cable to charge the speaker. I accidentally grabbed my phone charger and it took twice as long to charge it half way. You’ll notice the power button flashing red and blue if this happens.

I intentionally dropped the ShoqBox from three feet, which is about the height of a table or the distance from your hand to the floor/ground without blemishes or sound quality issues. I also splashed it with water without problems.

Audio Playback

This little speaker handled everything I threw at it. I played classical, jazz, new age, R&B, pop, hip hop, and reggae. Starting with the mid-range, it sounded a bit muddled, but this is typical for many speakers this size. The highs weren’t too sharp, and the bass, while not tight, is deep and would satisfy most.

The two drivers deliver 4-watts per channel, making the volume quite impressive. I cranked up the source and the speakers to maximum, and I walked around a 5,000 square foot house with an open floor plan with no other sounds present. I could hear the music playing everywhere through open doors, except for some remote spots. However, there was a little distortion at the highest level depending on the content. Turning it down just a notch made a difference. The volume was higher while using Bluetooth vs. being connected with a cable. Happily, there was very little noise for a Bluetooth speaker.

This was fantastic using outside while dining or entertaining. I chose my playlist and enjoyed the music all afternoon and evening. Having it stand vertically used a smaller footprint on my table. It was also great poolside and at the beach, and was affected by sand or water.

The test playlist is below. However, I played other music for hours without listing the songs. Playing the volume at half the loudness gave me about eight hours of listening time.

  • Amazon Cloud Player: David Garrett – He’s a Pirate (Pirates of the Caribbean), Makiko Takeda – Japanese Roots, John Mayer – Gravity
  • Music App: Gyptian – Hold You, Boccherini – Minute in A, Op. 8/2, Shakira – La Tortura, Alex Clare – Too Close, Justin Timberlake – Suit & Tie, Flo Rida – Good Feeling
  • Pandora: Spyro Gyra – The Voodooyoodoo, Robin Thicke – Complicated, Andreas Vollenweider – Night Fire Dance

Philips ShoqBox SB7200 - White

Video Playback

The Philips ShoqBox can be used horizontally (for better L-R stereo sound) as a sound bar with your laptop, tablet or phone. It allowed me to really enjoy watching movies on my mobile devices. Considering the drivers are so close to each other, there is a nice bit of stereo separation with enough ambience to create simulated surround sound depending on how the audio was mixed.

  • ABC Player666 Park Avenue
  • Amazon Prime Video – The Avengers
  • Crackle – Wasabi
  • HBO GOAnna Karenina
  • NetflixThe Hunger Games
  • Trailers – Thor – The Dark World
  • USA – Suits
  • YouTube – Katy Perry – Roar

Gaming

My gaming adventures were also taken to another level thanks to the ShoqBox. I was in the zone when playing Angry Birds, Blue Skies, Cut the Rope, Tap Tap Revenge 3, and Touch Sports Tennis. This will really enhance your gaming experience without feeling bound to headphones or earbuds.

Noise-Canceling Speakerphone

I had someone call my cell from a landline and had a conversation. The voices were loud, but somewhat muddled over the speaker. The noise-cancellation did a great job on the other end, allowing a good sound listening from the landline. The sound was not at tinny like from the speakerphone of many mobile phones.

PROS

The Philips ShoqBox SB7200 Bluetooth Wireless Speaker comes in black, white, purple, and green, and has a rubberized exterior. It’s fantastic for kids, teens, and adults for both indoor and outdoor use, and is great for travel or at home. It has a speakerphone for higher quality conference calls. The design allows for easy volume and selection control, and it’s loud. Take it to the beach or camping, use it around the pool, in the backyard hanging from a market umbrella with a carabiner clip, in a hotel room, for business conference calls, or clip it on your belt for trekking or mountain climbing. Playing at lower volumes left me with a half full battery after nine hours.

CONS

The bass isn’t tight, and the mid-range is a bit muddled, so it’s not for audiophiles.  A couple of other colors would be nice. Playing at full volume only gave me 4 hours of use.

CONCLUSION

This is a good choice for multiple uses, especially outdoors. TIP: ShoqBox SB7200 can be used in a car for those without a built-in Bluetooth connection, but this is better for city driving (highway driving is too loud). Also, if you have two ShoqBox speakers, you can use them together for great stereo separation, plus get better coverage/louder volume in larger spaces. I rate the Philips ShoqBox SB7200 Bluetooth Wireless Speaker 4.1 out of 5.

Philips has provided me with this complimentary speaker for the purpose of a review. While it has NOT influenced this review, I believe in full disclosure.

Snugg as a Bug – Review

Posted in Accesories, Gadgets with tags , , , on August 8, 2013 by shutterbuggeek

IMG_3588

We invest a good amount into our smart phones, so we should properly protect them. Snugg sells cases and pouches for smart phones, plus iPads and other tablets, the Kindle, the iPod Touch, MacBook Air, and they have Nano accessories. I was recently sent a case of my choice to test out.

Snugg offers their cases in many colors and materials, i.e. PC, leather, suede, silicone and bamboo. There are the most choices for the iPhone 5. I choose the bamboo wood case for my Samsung Galaxy S3 because I like the feel of a natural material, and how it looked surrounding the white front. This case is made of sustainable wood, and the cut-outs are precisely placed around the power button, volume rocker, USB port, camera lens, etc. The interior is lined with black velvet to prevent scratching. This is definitely a quality product.

It’s easy to slide into place, putting the top portion on first. The bottom section slides on and locks into place. It indeed fits snugly and will not separate no matter how hard you try to pull it apart. It feels secure in the hand, even if it’s wet.

I intentionally dropped my phone from three and five feet to test how it lands. These are about the distances where you would have it in your hand with your arm down or up near your ear when the phone might slip and fall. The case stayed intact, prevented chipping from the sides and scratches from the back, and prevented the glass from cracking.

Snugg Bamboo Wood Case for Samsung Galaxy S3 Review

Removing the case was puzzling at first. Since I had it on for a few days before removing it, I had forgotten how it snapped into place. There are no instructions, so I contacted customer service via the chat option. The rep was friendly, and told me to push down on the bottom, while pulling out. That didn’t work, but then I remembered how it connected, and inserted a credit card in the slit where it connects and pushed down on it while sliding the bottom away. Voilà!

Overall, this Snugg case offers good protection in a slim-fitting, attractive shell. I love the bamboo wood case, and don’t plan on taking it off any time soon. If you like a simpler, streamline look, and a non-slip case that doesn’t add bulk or much weight, this brand might be right for you.

Cool and Practical Gadgets for Power Outages

Posted in Gadgets, Hi-Tech, Lifestyles with tags , , on February 7, 2013 by shutterbuggeek

Items for Power Outages

The power seems to go out periodically no matter what time of year it is. You might be one of the fortunate ones to live in the heart of town with the fewest outages. I’m not that lucky. It seems like every other month the power is out in my grid for about an hour, but sometimes it’s out for one to seven days because of a storm. And since it’s the season for snow storms, I am listing cool gadgets to buy for those without a generator. Some are practical, and others are for entertainment.

Rechargeable items are listed becausethere’s always somewhere in town with power that offers free charging stations, or you can buy item #12 to power them up while driving. These sources will help juice up devices and power packs for an evening of work or play. Finish cooking dinner before it gets too dark unless you have powerful lighting like item #1.

  1. 27 LED Superbright Worklight/Flashlight – This is really VERY bright. The magnet allows for attaching under an over-the-range microwave oven for cooking (if you have a gas range), or hooking onto anything for hands free light.  The best part is it only uses 3 AAA batteries (no hard to find Cs).
  2. Energizer 7 LED Headlight – Wear this around your head for hands=free reading or working. The pivoting head allows you to target the light.
  3. Tablet – A laptop is great, but requires too much power to operate. Tablets can be charged faster, have practical and fun apps
  4. Smartphone – This is even more efficient since it charges in 1 – 1.5 hours, and keeps you up to date with news.
  5. FrogEye Power Play P80  – Charge phones, tablets and other small devices on this list. It has a 8,000 mAh lithium battery that can charge an iPad nearly full.
  6. Brookstone HDMI Pocket Projector – Stream video or play movies stored on your device. This will provide a couple of hours of entertainment.
  7. Jambox Wireless Speakers – Enhance the sound of your smartphone, tablet, or above projector with a Bluetooth speaker. The popular Jambox has the bass many like. The Braven speaker (pictured) has a built-in power bank and can be connected to other wireless speakers for a bigger sound.
  8. Seagate Wireless Plus – Store up to 1 TB of videos, music, photos, and files on this re-chargeable storage device. It has its own wi-fi network, so you can stream the same content wirelessly to up to eight devices or three different movies to three devices simultaneously. You can create a portable home theatre combined with the projector and speakers above. This will certainly entertain family and friends. Not too shabby during a power outage. I’m currently using the older Kingston Wi-Drive, which only offers 8-64 GB .
  9. Wired Phone – An old school technology that comes to the rescue in a time of need.
  10. Charcoal or Gas Grill – This will allow you to cook if you don’t have a gas stove.
  11. RadioShack Emergency AM/FM/WX Crank Radio – Stay in the know.
  12. DC/AC Power Inverter – Plug it into your car, and you can charge your mobile devices while you drive.
  13. APC UPS Battery Back Up – This is great for when you’re working on your computer  and the power goes out. You’ll have at least 5-15 minutes to save documents and shut down properly. It also has surge protection.
  14. Solar-Powered Backup Battery Charger – Power up small devices.
  15. ReadyBright Lighting System – Small light devices stay plugged in outlets to charge, and come on in an outage. They can be unplugged and used as flashights.
  16. Fashy Fleece Covered Hot Water Bottle – Not a gadget, but can keep you warm if you can boil water or get hot water still from your tap. Place it your bed to warm it up at night. Many come with fleece covers. The one pictured has a polar bear fleece cover, and is great to snuggle.

FrogEye HotBox S7+ Wireless Speaker Review

Posted in Entertainment, Gadgets, Lifestyles with tags , , , on January 28, 2013 by shutterbuggeek

FrogEye HotBox S7+ Boxed

FrogEye is a new company that has just introduced an awesome line of lifestyle products. The HotBox S7+ is one of their Bluetooth speakers. Like their S6 model, it has a noise-cancelling microphone to use as a speakerphone, but it also has an integrated power bank to charge mobile phones.

Unboxing FrogEye HotBox S7+

UNBOXING

The packaging is of premium grade materials. Heavy stock cardboard houses what looks to be compressed foam board that cradles the speaker. The external packaging is asymmetrical, allowing the product to peek through the clear plastic on the right side. The accessories include a micro USB cable, a 3.5 mm stereo cable to connect to non-Bluetooth devices, and a water-resistant carrying pouch. There’s also a user guide, which in these days of online manuals is not a given. Right off the bat I had high expectations due to their marketing. So far, I’ve been impressed. Let’s see if this speaker can live up to its branding.

PAIRING

Pairing was quick and easy to a 3rd gen iPad and LG phone. It took a minute to pair a six-year old iMac. A 2nd gen iPod Touch and an iPad 2 needed several attempts before pairing was possible. Re-connecting was easy for all except the iPad 2, which seems to have had a general issue with Bluetooth.

TESTING

I tested sound quality of music and video playback as well as voice on the speakerphone on both the speaker and receiver ends. I listened to diversified sources to test the frequency range, and noise ratio of the speakers. The content came from files on my iPad, streaming sources from iPad apps, and streaming files via my iMac. I also connected the HotBox S7+ to a Toshiba laptop with the included cable. The MP3’s bit rates ranged from 128 – 256 kbps.

FrogEye HotBox S7+ Streaming Music from iPad 3

AUDIO

This little speaker handled everything I threw at it. I played classical, jazz, new age, R&B, pop, rock, hip hop, reggae, opera, and new wave (county & western from a video source). Starting with the mid-range that usually sounds muddled from most speakers this size, the HotBox S7+’s was natural and clear. The highs weren’t too sharp, and the bass was tight, though I could’ve used just a little more, but that’s usually at the sacrifice of the mid-range at this price ($199 at Amazon). The test playlist is below.

The two drivers deliver 3-watts per channel, making the volume quite impressive. I cranked up the source and the speakers to their maximum, and I walked around a 5,000 square foot house with an open floor plan with no other sounds present. I could hear the music playing everywhere through open doors, except for some spots upstairs. There wasn’t even distortion at that level. The volume is higher while using Bluetooth vs. while connected with a cable. Happily, there was very little noise, especially for a Bluetooth speaker.

Amazon Cloud Player : Duffy – Mercy, Three Mo’ Tenors – La Donna è Mobile, Andreas Vollenweider – Moonday, David Garrett – Smooth Criminal, Samuel Barber – Angus Dei (Adagio for Strings)

iMac: New Order – Shellshock, Tchaikovsky – 1812 Overture (op 49), Gwen Stefani – Hollaback Girl

iPad 3: Pearl Jam – Black, Bennie Man – Dude, David Sanborn – It’s You, Black Eyed Peas – Imma Be, M83 – Midnight City, John Mayer – Daughters

Pandora: Chairlift – Bruises, Sting – Englishman in New York, Solo Banton – Music Addict

Toshiba Satellite: Bobby Valentino – Slow Down

FrogEye HotBox S7+ Paired with iPad 3

VIDEO

The HotBox S7+ allowed me to really enjoy watching movies on my iPad and mobile phone. There isn’t a lot of stereo separation since the drivers are so close to each other, but there was enough ambience created to fully immerse me in whatever I was viewing.

ABC PlayerNashville

Amazon Prime Video – Thor

CrackleS.W.A.T.

Trailers – Olympus Has Fallen

YouTube – Katy Perry’s Wide Awake video

GAMING

My adventures were also taken to another level thanks to the HotBox S7+. How could I ever go back to listening to my iPads’s speakers? Asphalt4, Temple Run, Real Soccer 12, and Rock Band were played with much more enthusiasm.

NOISE-CANCELLING SPEAKERPHONE

I called my cell from my landline and had a conversation with family members. Their voices were loud and clear over the speaker. The noise-cancellation did a great job on the other end, allowing an equally amazing sound listen on the landline. The only difference was the volume was a bit lower, but not at all hollow or tinny sounding like from the speakerphone from mobile phones. This can definitely be used for business conference calls.

FrogEye HotBox S7+ as Power Bank Charging Android Phone

POWER BANK

The HotBox S7+ can charge mobile devices. After about seven hours of playing music and video, I was still able to charge my phone to 50% in a couple of hours. I think this is great as an add-on feature, and is pretty good in a pinch, but I wouldn’t rely on fully charging devices if you’ve use the speakers for a few hours. FrogEye sells a standalone power bank dedicated strictly to charging devices. I’ll review that another time.

PROS

The HotBox S7+ speaker comes in seven different colors, suitable for all lifestyles. It’s made from high quality materials, comes with good accessories, and in outstanding packaging. It’s fantastic for kids, teens, and adults for both personal and business use, and great for travel or at home. It has a speakerphone and a power bank, and can be used wired and wirelessly. The design is sleek and it has large control buttons on top. It’s loud, and small enough for traveling. Best of all, the sound quality is amazing!

CONS

The bass is tight, but a little light, yet about on par with other speakers of this size. Pairing can be frustrating on a few devices.

CONCLUSION

I prefer the sound quality of the HotBox over the JamBox (3.8) and Braven (4.3) wireless speakers, because it has a cleaner and more natural sound. TIP: the HotBox can be used in a car for those without a Bluetooth connection. This is definitely my go-to mobile speaker because of its big hi-fi sound. I rate the FrogEye HotBox S7+ wireless speaker 4.3 out of 5.

FrogEye has provided me with these complimentary speakers for the purpose of a review. While it has NOT influenced this review, I believe in full disclosure.

The Ultimate iPad/Tablet Accessories

Posted in Gadgets, Lifestyles with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 24, 2013 by shutterbuggeek

iPad and Tablet Accessories

iPads and other tablets were a hot ticket on Santa’s sleigh, so if you weren’t on the naughty list, you might’ve received one this past holiday season. After a few weeks of use, you’ve probably discovered that you could use some accessories to enhance your user experience. I’ve compiled a list of the ultimate accessories for your new iPad, iPad mini, Android or Windows tablet. This includes the Kindle Fire and Nook HD.

Frogeye Hotbox S7+ – It’s a brand new Bluetooth speaker that includes a power bank to charge mobile devices, and a noise canceling microphone to use as a speakerphone. The sound is spectacular for such a little box, and it has a crisp mid-range. It’s very loud and comes in seven colors to fit your lifestyle.

eComfort Tablet Pillow – This tablet holder makes tablet use in bed very comfortable, but can be used anywhere else, i.e. in the car, on a plane, or at a table.

Sensū Portable Artist Brush & Stylus – Use the brush end with various art apps to create digital masterpieces, or the stylus end for art, writing, or playing games.

Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad – This super sleek Bluetooth keyboard is very stylish for iPads, comes in black AND white, has an auto-off feature like the Apple cover, and is comfortable while typing. For a universal model good for smart phones, the iPad mini, or Android tablets, check out the ZAGGkeys FLEX.

Frogeye PowerPlay P80 – This mobile power bank can charge two items at once, including topping off a tablet.

Apple Camera Adapter Kit – Place an SD card in it or attach a card reader with a CF (other) card to transfer photos to your iPad or iPad mini.

Cocoon Grid-It – A fantastic organizer that uses elastic bands attached to a pad to neatly keep your chargers, camera connection kit, earphones, etc. in place.

Apple TV – This media player gives you access to free and paid content via ‘apps’ on the device, as well as, audio and video files on your computer or iPad via wi-fi. In many cases you can either use Air Play to view video on your large screen TV, or you can mirror video apps or games onto the screen for  better viewing.

Bowers & Wilkens Headphones – The B&W P5 is stylish and has a pure sound. This is one that adults AND teens would use.

Smart Phone with a Hot Spot – A hot spot will allow your device to tap into your mobile phone’s 3G or 4G service to gain data service. This should be included in your monthly fee if you have a new contract since August 2012, otherwise you’ll have to pay a monthly fee for use of a hot spot. You can usually tether 3 or more devices to one hot spot.

ion Audio iCade – This turns your iPad into a retro arcade using a 30 pin connector. Works great with the Atari game app.

Belkin @TV Plus – A media streamer (think affordable Slingbox) that has built-in wifi, so there’s no need to connect it to ethernet. You can watch live TV, recorded DVR content, or record live TV on your tablet thanks to the free companion app.

Seagate GoFlex Satellite – Rechargeable storage device (500 GB) that uses its own built-in wifi to wirelessly stream different audio and video content simultaneously to multiple tablets. Great for entertaining kids of all ages in the car, at airport terminals, etc.

Belkin Kitchen Cabinet Mount – This will allow you to easily watch live TV or Video on Demand in the kitchen using the Comcast Xfinity TV Player, Verizon FiOS Mobile, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, ABC Player, HBO Go, WatchESPN, and other  apps. It ‘clamps’ under the cabinet to free up counter space.

Eye-Fi Wifi – In conjunction with the free Eye-fi app, you can wirelessly stream photos from your camera via the SD card sized accessory to your iPad.

Thirsty Bag – A clever bag that absorbs liquids from tablets that have gotten wet.

aLoksak – A waterproof storage bag that prevents your tablet from getting wet. The touchscreen can be used while enclosed. You can even use it underwater to take photos or shoot video.

HDMI Pocket Projection – Connect your tablet to this mini projector from Brookstone to view content anywhere up to 60″ diagonally. iPads require an extra adapter.

Belkin Mini Surge Protector With USB Charger – This is a must have for traveling (or at home). Plug in up to three AC power cords and two USB connectors from one outlet.

Some items can be purchased locally. You can get Apple products at Creative Computing. The projector, grid organizer, and tablet pillow are available at BrookstoneBest Buy has the bluetooth keyboard, Eye-fi, surge protector, headphones, and GoFlex, and the iCade is at Radio Shack. If there are any other add-ons you’d like to share, please list them in the comment section below.

2012 Holiday Gift Guide

Posted in Gadgets, Lifestyles with tags , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2012 by shutterbuggeek

Do you or someone you know deserve some cool gifts this year? I’ve got your back. Here’s a list of some awesome gear to put on your list or to buy for that special someone.

3M Streaming Projector

3M Streaming Projector – Use it as a standalone portable projector that’s battery operated for about 1.5+ hours to watch video on the go or at home, or connect the included Roku streaming stick to stream content, i.e. Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, HBO GO, and Hulu Plus with a wi-fi connection. The Roku stick can also be used separately with an HDTV. Available exclusively through Amazon.

Canon Speedlite 600 EX-RT – This external flash uses wireless two-way radio signals allowing an expanded zoom range.

Speedlite Transmitter ST-E3-RT – It’s a two-way radio controlled transmitter that allows communication to up to 15 of the new 600 EX-RT Speedlites.

Canon EOS 6D – The ultimate prosumer full-frame DSLR.

Hydroflask – This reusable stainless steel water bottle has a double wall, and is vacuum insulated. This keeps your hot beverages HOT for 12 hours, and cold drinks COLD for 24 hours.

Fitbit One

Fitbit One – It tracks your activities and how many calories you’ve burned during the day, and measures your sleep cycle at night.

Samsung Galaxy S3 – The features blow the iPhone 5 out of the water. Yes, it’s still on many wish lists!

Wii U – Nintendo takes the Wii to the next level adding a game pad giving you a second screen.

iPad Mini – The new kid on the block is the perfect sized tablet for taking photos and video.

Kindle Paperwhite – There are some people (like my sister-in-law) who don’t want a tablet. They just want to read books, and like having instant access to content. This is the quintessential eReader. You can actually read eBooks in broad daylight, even on the beach without glare, and a single charge lasts eight weeks!

Control4 – Home automation at its finest. You can control your home theater, lighting, HVAC, audio, and security with a remote, smart phone or tablet.

FROGEYE – Has just debuted a few new lifestyle products. They are currently only available exclusively through pre-orders on their site or through Amazon, but they’re worth the wait. The first two products listed below have another option. Amazon is offering LOW introductory prices, so pre-order quickly!

Power Play P80 – A mobile power bank that has a 8000mAh rechargeable lithium battery, and comes with five interchangeable charging tips so you can charge just about any device. FrogEye’s specialty is it has a standard and a fast charging port, also giving you the capability to charge two devices simultaneously, plus gives you up to four charges.

Hotbox S7+ – This bluetooth speaker has excellent sound quality, a built-in 2-way noise canceling speakerphone, and comes in seven different colors. What makes FrogEye different from the popular JAMBOX is it has a built-in power bank, and 3 watts/channel (6 total), which makes it louder.

Renegade H10 Bluetooth headphones with a stylish design like Beats Wireless by Dr. Dre, but that’s where similarities end. FrogEye’s wireless headphones has an over-the-ear vs. beat’s on-ear design, has noise cancellation, and a built-in 2-way microphone to switch between music and calls. It also comes with an audio cable for flights and low battery.

 

Composing Memorable Photos: 5 Easy Tips

Posted in Photography, Photos with tags , , on November 29, 2012 by shutterbuggeek

Composing Memorable Photos: 5 Easy Tips

When taking pictures, it’s natural to center the subject. The photos actually appear fine until you learn about the Rule of Thirds. This rule is used to guide you were to place your subject and other objects to create more interesting photos.

Using the Rule of Thirds, you place your subject and other objects along the lines of what’s basically a tic tac toe grid. Some newer cameras actually have a grid option to help with composition.

Read more…

How to Get Free Video Content For Your Apple TV 3 Without A Jailbreak

Posted in Apple-Mac, Entertainment-Movies, Gadgets, Hi-Tech, iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad, iTunes, Lifestyles with tags , , , , on November 21, 2012 by shutterbuggeek

Apple TV is a great device if you’re part of the Apple ecosystem. The problem is, it doesn’t come fully loaded with apps like the Roku or Boxee Box. You can buy or stream content via your iTunes account, subscribe to Netflix, Hulu Plus, MLB.TV, NHL, or NBA, or use a few other included apps, but that pales in comparison with the competition. There are jailbreaks for previous Apple TV models to provide more content, but the 3rd generation has none as of yet, and owners have to rely on other resources.

You can choose the ‘Computers’ icon and view everything in shared iTunes accounts from a Mac or PC. You can also use AirParrot to enable desktop mirroring from your Mac or PC or app mirroring from your Mac. This costs $10, but it’s a one time charge and will let you stream video from sites like Hulu.

If you have any iDevice, you can tap into some new content by using the AirPlay feature. I’ve come across a few apps that are configured for it. Note: Any network shown on Hulu Plus, which is an Apple TV app, will not be configured for AirPlay, so NO NBC, ABC or affiliates like Disney. It also doesn’t allow HBO Go or Amazon Instant Video.

TV & Movie Apps Screenshot on iPad 3

Some AirPlay Configured Apps

  • Bravo
  • BBC (Video & Live Radio)
  • Cartoon Network
  • CNET
  • CNN (Live)
  • Crackle
  • CW
  • Discovery
  • ESPN
  • Food Network
  • PBS
  • Smithsonian
  • TBS
  • TNT
  • Today
  • VEVO

iMedia Share

iMedia Share Lite is configured for DLNA products, and AirPlay. The following channels can be found, with more channels added to the full version.

  • AutoBild.tv (German)
  • axs.tv HD
  • Animal Planet
  • Audi tv (both English and German)
  • Beet.tv
  • Bild.de (German)
  • BREAK
  • CBS News
  • CNBC
  • cnet
  • CNN
  • content one (German)
  • DW (Deutsche Welle in English and German)
  • Daily Motion (International)
  • Discovery Channel
  • Driving Sports HD
  • euronews
  • Facebook
  • France 24
  • funny or DIE
  • Harvard Business Publishing
  • Motorz
  • NASA
  • The New York Times
  • PR Newswire
  • Picasa
  • PortalZINE.tv SD (German)
  • Reuters
  • Revision 3
  • Spiegel Online (German)
  • Showtime (Clips)
  • TED SD
  • twit
  • Onion News Network
  • Victoria’s Secret
  • Video Bash
  • Vimeo
  • The White House – Washington
  • YDN Design Guide
  • YouTube

The Boxee app adds mostly YouTube and Vimeo content, but there are some others.

AirPlay on iPad 3

Mirroring

So here’s the BONUS! If you double click on the home button of an iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad using iOS 5 and greater, and swipe left to right, you’ll find an AirPlay button next to the audio control buttons once the Apple TV is set up. Tap the AirPlay button to display your device plus Apple TV. Choose the latter to reveal a Mirroring option. Turn it on to display your device’s screen. It will mirror what ever you display, though there is about a second lag time. This will enable you to Watch ABC, NBC, Disney, etc. PLUS play games like Angry Birds, Asphalt 7, Fruit Ninja, Temple Run, or Infinity Blade II on your big screen.

At least there are some options out there to get more free content on your Apple TV 3 without a jailbreak in the near future. If you have any other suggestions, please leave them in the comment section below.

Quick Photo Editing Tips and Tricks

Posted in Photography, Photos with tags , , on November 18, 2012 by shutterbuggeek

Quick Photo Editing Tips and Tricks

I love looking at my friends’ pictures on Facebook, but one of my pet peeves are when some of them are too dark, not sharp, or the subject is so small that I can’t make out who or what it is.

If you’re guilty of this, I have a fix for you no matter if you’re uploading from a camera, tablet, or personal computer. By editing your photos, you can turn a mediocre picture into a beautiful photo in a few quick and easy steps.

Read more here.

What’s in My Gear Bag?

Posted in Gadgets, Lifestyles with tags , , , on November 17, 2012 by shutterbuggeek

Gear Bag and Contents

I’m often asked what gear I carry in my bag. It contains everything from gadgets and their peripherals to camera gear. And of course, the combined contents get me through professional duties and entertain me. Many items in the bag are multi-taskers.

The iPad (3) – I have the 16 gig wi-fi model.

Logitech Keyboard Case by Zagg – This bluetooth keybad for the iPad is the logical item for blogging.

Android Phone with Hot Spot – There’s no need for the iPad with 4G because I can tether it to my phone. With wi-fi I can access DropBox and other clouds to stream or download content.

Jawbone Bluetooth Headset – For driving (car rentals)

Braven 600 – This 6W bluetooth speaker has great volume, crisp sound so I can happily listen to my music or watch TV shows or movies with much improved sound. It also has a great noise-canceling speaker phone function, and I can daisy chain another speaker if necessary. I can also charge portable devices with it.

myCharge Battery Charger – This can charge up my phone on the go, and give my iPad some juice until I can fully charge it.

Camera Connection Kit – I can attach a card reader for my CF card, or attach my camera to my iPad using the USB connection.

USB Drive/SD Card – Stored recorded or ripped videos under DCIM Folder and renamed movies to match camera’s file name, i.e., IMG_1234, help give me extra content when I can’t access my clouds like when on a plane or a cruise. I place the file into the folder on an SD card, flashdrive or other storage card if I use a card reader. I can import a movie via my Camera Connection Kit into my Photos app, and play it from there. I only import one at a time, and delete it once I’ve watched it.

Card Reader – To use with Camera Connection Kit.

Belkin Mini Surge Protector – It contains three AC ports and two USB ports (FYI, it’s not a USB hub). Sometimes there’s just not enough outlets to charge my gear.

Canon EOS 7D – This semi-pro body is great for low-lighting, action, and more!

Canon EF 17-40/4 – A nice wide-angle. It’s my ‘go to’ lens.

Canon EF 70-200/2.8 – My telephoto lens.

Canon 430 EX – A good flash that reaches to 105mm.

Extra CF Card – Just in case

Lens Cloth– I store one in film canister to keep it clean.

Lens Brush – Another great lens cleaning item.

Remote Release – Excellent for Long exposures like fireworks.

GorillaPod SLR Zoom– A lightweight mini tripod that’s easy to travel with.

Klipsch Reference One Premium Headphones – Very comfortable, quality on the ear headphones that don’t cost an arm and a leg.

Etymotic hf3 – Great quality noise isolating earphones (not for those who crave a super deep bass).

Cocoon Grid-It – Keeps my devices and peripherals organized.

Loksak – Zip bags that can be hermetically sealed to prevent my devices from getting wet.

Accessories – Chargers, adaptors, patch cords, etc.

Canon Deluxe Backpack 200 EG – I was warned NOT to get this. I bought it six years ago, and liked the construction. I wondered why I had to pay more to buy a Kata or Lowe bag. This is perfect. The only disadvantage is it has Canon in a chrome-tone displayed, which makes it obvious that you have camera gear in it. I sometimes carry my Canon 7D, XT, 17-40, 70-200/2.8, flash and more in this bag internationally, and use it while hiking, in the city, or around town. Love it! Lots of other accessories in here like, B+W ND & polarizing filters, camera battery charger, USB cables, and possibly extra lenses (50/1.8, 85/1.8, 11-16/2.8).

Capturing Fall Foliage

Posted in Photography with tags , , on October 19, 2012 by shutterbuggeek

Fall is my favorite season. I love eating butternut squash and Brussels sprouts, the crispness in the air, the smell of a freshly baked apple pie, and of course, Halloween and Thanksgiving. Most of all, I love shooting fall foliage!

Not everyone is fortunate to live in the North East (especially New England) and have the gorgeous fall display, but most people will have some change in color, so here are some tips.

Read the rest at The Woven Life.

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