Biolite Camp Stove: 2 minute Test & Review

I recently got a chance to try out the Biolite camp stove.  While I’ll be putting it to the test on an upcoming camping trip and will write more in an upcoming blog, here’s the quick first impressions on how quickly it was able to boil water, and how it did powering gadgets via its thermoelectric generator.

Cool EcoCapsules Are the Future of Housing

eco1I found these cool homes while surfing the web for new tech news and ideas.  Ecocapsule is a portable house offering, “an unmatched dwelling experience. With its immense off-grid life span, worldwide portability and flexibility it is suitable for a wide range of applications: from an independent research station or a tourist lodge to an emergency housing or a humanitarian-action unit,” according to the company’s website.

Ecocapsule is said to be a low-energy house packed into a compact form.The design uses what the company dubs, “an energy efficient shape, compact volume and off-grid capabilities with the luxuries of a warm bed, running water and a hot meal.”

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The Ecocapsules can hold two adults, along with a kitchenette, storage, bathroom and eating area, but the bed looks pretty cozy for two!eco plan-1024x677ecoinside ecoinside2

These pod homes are said to be off-the-grid living, since they get power from a built-in wind turbine plus a set of solar cells that charge a high-capacity battery. The shape of these capsule homes is also optimized for rainwater collection.

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Ecocapsule fits into a standard shipping container, and can be shipped, airlifted, towed or even pulled by a pack animal!

While these could be used as emergency housing, they’d also make really cool campers!

BioLite’s cooking and camping gear charges devices and may blow your mind

rsz_biolite_recropI’m forever sourcing out new camping gear. Every time I pack up, I realize how much duplication we have, how heavy or unwieldy some of our items are, or that we often bring things we just don’t need. So when I read about BioLite, I was intrigued. The company develops and manufactures what it dubs, “advanced energy products that make cooking with wood as clean safe and easy as modern fuels”, but recently it’s also been working on ways to create electricity to charge your electronics too.

BioLite for Cooking and Charging

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BioLite NanoGrid lighting system.

The BioLite CampStove was the company’s first production piece. The concept is simple and genius at the same time: the CampStove creates a smokeless campfire that can cook meals and boil water in minutes. Setup is easy, fuel is free, and the company says, “flames are hyperefficient with performance on par with white gas stoves”. Then at the same time, the stove’s heat generates usable electricity for charging LED lights, mobile phones, and other personal devices. The stove’s USB connector will charge up most devices, and every twenty minutes of charging with a strong fire gives you about an hour of talk time on most smartphones.

BioLite also has several options for lighting up your campsite, but the one I most want to get my hands on is the NanoGrid. BioLite calls it, “a revolutionary lighting and energy storage system” that consists of a main PowerLight, and peripheral SiteLights. The PowerLight is the central hub, and can be used as a flashlight or a lantern, plus it will power your gadgets and devices. Interestingly, Biolite says the PowerLight doesn’t have any burning-bright hotspots, because it uses what the company calls ‘Edge-lighting’, where the lantern’s panels “bend light around the internal battery, resulting in a compact design and soft light”. The SiteLights connect to it, and then allow you to string more lighting around your campsite. These extension lamps throw off about a 10-foot circle of light and they can be individually controlled, and even dimmed.

Read about the rest of the gear in the BioLite line on the Best Buy Plug In blog I wrote.

All About the Smart and Modular Sonos Music System

rsz_sonos_speaker_pair_6x4For decades, the best audio systems in the world have consisted of giant, heavy tower speakers, huge components and accessories, and meters of speaker wire wrapped around your room. Wired systems have limits, obviously, and getting them into, say, your bedroom or bathroom? Forgeddaboudit. Fortunately times have changed and so has technology, and getting top quality sound exactly where you want it has never been easier, thanks to new advancements by Sonos.

What is Sonos?

Sonos is a smart system of HiFi wireless speakers and audio components. The speakers can be placed anywhere, and are controlled by one app that you run from any device. Sonos speakers run off your home’s wifi network, and the Sonos app is where things really get interesting. It allows you to use your smartphone, tablet or other device to access all the music you have, on any device, and from any internet service. Looking for a specific song? Just search it using the Sonos app, and it’ll figure out where you have it, whether it’s on your computer, your kid’s phone, or Songza, Spotify or SiriusXM.

Read the full article I published on the Best Buy Plug In Blog.

4 Awesome Things to Do with All Your Digital Photos

ERIN WALLPAPERWe’ve all got hundreds, and possibly tens of thousands of digital photos on our devices. For the most part, they sit on those devices and collect digital dust. So this week on Tech Talk on CTV, we’ve got a few ways you can bring them to life.

1.  Print Them!

Pocket-sized photo printers are available and allow convenient at-home or on-the-go printing of your photos instantly. I love how easy it is to operate this printer, and that it’s so small you can take it to parties, or nights out, so you’ve got a virtual photo0 booth at the ready!

Polaroid Zip photo printer.
Polaroid Zip photo printer.

Polaroid Zip

The Zip is a small palm-sized printer that used photo paper sheets to print pics instantly.

Polaroid Socialmatic

The lap-sized Polaroid Socialmatic.
The lap-sized Polaroid Socialmatic.
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Vintage Polaroid camera.

The Socialmatic is a hybrid when it comes to photo printing.  This device is actually a camera and printer combo. You can take pictures and print them on the spot; it takes about 20 seconds to spit out a small 2×3″ photo with a stick-back option. These photos are printed on a paper-like edge-to-edge film. While the camera is much smaller and slimmer than the old fashioned Polaroid Instant camera you may remember, it is large and rather unwieldy.  There is convienience in having an all in one camera and printer, however.

Fujifilm Instax Share

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Another pocket or palm sized printer, I found this one to be the easiest to use.  I also preferred the film paper used by Fujifilm; it looks much more like the traditional Polaroid film with its white papery edge frame that you can doodle or write on.

2.  Bring them into your home!

From wall hangings to toss cushions, you can turn your photos into beautiful decor art.

Toss Cushions by Photobox

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A toss cushion I made using a photo I took of a local landmark.

This is a great idea I bet more folks would grab on to if they knew about it.  I made some cushion covers featuring 2 major Calgary city landmarks.  If you have a favourite place, a flower you love or just a photo you took that you’re majorly proud of, putting it on a cushion is a great way to show it off and celebrate what you love. Toss cushions also lend themselves nicely to using squared off Instagram photos.

Photo Fabric by Spoonflower

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Take your favourite landmark, person or event and put it on fabric.  Printing your own fabric gives you a lot of flexibility with how you use the image.  You can make an apron, table linens, napkins, even clothing if that’s your bag.  The possibilities are endless, particularly because if you can’t find just the right fabric for a project, you can make you own.

Wrapping Paper & Wallpaper by Spoonflower

A great way to present custom gifts, and particularly corporate gifts, wrapping paper will make your gift stand out.  Again, if you have a favourite place, scene or photo, you can also look at putting it on wallpaper, for a permanent and prominent reminder.

Canvas Art by Photobox

Getting photos printed on canvas is easier and more common now, but it still looks slick.  Getting a wrapped canvas print of a favourite photo is a great way to create art for your home and keep memories close.

3.  Create Accessories!

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Cell Phone Cases by Photobox

Printing durable photo cases with a photo of your choice has never been easier.  Photobox has cases for a variety of cell phones including Samsung Galaxy, iPhones and iPads. Put your baby or child on your phone case, or use a favourite location or vacation snap.

4.  Eat Them!

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Many bakeries can print your digital photos on edible paper with edible inks, meaning they can change cakes and cookies from boring, to personalized.  Check for bakeries in your area, but we got ours from Cakeworks in Calgary.

What have you done with your photos that’s unique and memorable?  Let me know in comments below!

Testing the Polaroid Socialmatic Instant Camera and Printer

polaroid socialmaticJust when you thought digital cameras were dead thanks to the proliferation of cell phone cameras, the Polaroid Socialmatic arrived on my desk.  This camera is different from other cameras, mainly because it has a built in printer.

One of the first things I noticed about the Socialmatic is that it’s nowhere near pocket-sized.  This camera is large, square, bulky and not easy to hold. To do some initial tests, I brought it to meet some friends at the pub and took some shots.  Sadly the photos were rather dark on their own.  Adding the flash helped, but gave the photos a bleached out overly-bright look.

That said, the convienience of being able to print photos on the spot is appealing.  I’ll post a full review after further testing.

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The large lap-sized Polaroid Socialmatic during testing.