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.

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