LugLoc Luggage Tracker finds your lost suitcases

lugloc22I’ve lost my luggage once, and almost lost it once more, so I think luggage trackers are genius.

Luggage tracking devices (there are different ones on the market. Read about TrakDot here) are usually small iPod-sized devices that you switch on, pop into your bag, and they will show up on a smartphone app if they go missing (or if you just want to follow your bag’s travels at whim).

How LugLoc works

IMG_6620LugLoc uses a rechargeable battery that can be re-juiced using a USB cable. It needs charging before the first use, then you just switch it on, tuck your little insurance policy inside your bag, and hit the road.

I used the LugLoc on a trip from Alberta to Ontario.  Fortunately, my bag made it safe and sound, but that’s the thing with luggage tracking devices; you’ll probably almost never need them, but when you do, you’ll be glad you have it.  LugLoc knows this, so it only charges you when you use their system to trace your device; every time a location request is sent, a trace is used. If you buy LugLoc through the company’s website, it comes with 15 days of unlimited traces from the moment you first activate the device. You can purchase more through the App or through www.lugloc.com. There are no activation or membership fees. LugLoc also comes with Bluetooth so you can also check the location of your luggage when in Bluetooth range.

So what happens if you lose your bag? The biggest problem as far as I’m concerned is that the airline often has no idea where your lost bag is, or how long it will take to return it to you.  That’s where the LugLoc can help. The battery will last over 15 days while in “on” mode (assuming a full charge at the outset) so you can give them a pretty big helping hand. The location of your luggage will be displayed in a map view within the LugLoc App.

LugLoc doesn’t use GPS, but like similar tracking devices, it uses cellular GSM-GPRS technology, which is usually cheaper, and smaller. GPS requires open areas to operate so LugLoc says it’s not ideal for airport locations.

lugloc3Is it worth it? Who’d need this?

It’s all about insurance.  This is the kind of device you’ll only need when you need it.  You’ll probably take dozens of trips with your LugLoc stashed carefully in your bag and never have it go massing, but the one time you don’t have this device, is the one time you’ll need it. If you travel with expensive gear, like camera equipment, golf or sports gear, or irreplaceable sales samples, this device is something you wouldn’t want to be without. It can save you having to replace goods needlessly. The travel industry thinks people need this device; LugLoc won “2015 PRODUCT INNOVATION AWARD” at the 2015 Travel Goods Show.

Will it get you in trouble?IMG_5109

The question many people have with luggage trackers is, will it interfere with aviation systems?  LugLoc says no, and you can be sure that it if did, this trend would be short lived.

How do I get a LugLoc?

The LugLoc is available for $69 USD/$91 CAD on Amazon and from the company’s website. It comes with 14 days of tracing, and extra traces are $7 for 5.

Another new TV acronym: What’s HDR TV?

hdr3If you’re in the market for a new TV, there’s a new acronym you’re likely seeing.  And if you haven’t yet, you will. “HDR” is a new TV feature that again raises the bar on video quality, colour, contrast and overall viewing experience.

What is HDR?Samsung-2015-TV-640

The Consumer Electronics Association or CEA, (which is the standards and industry organization for the US that’s kind of like the United Nations of electronics and gadgets) says HDR or High Dynamic Range TV “is a new capability that promises to deliver an expansive range of brightness and shadow detail, further enhancing the viewing experience.”

In a press release about HDR the organization explains, “HDR provides a significant step-up in delivering an incredible viewing experience for the consumer,” said Brian Markwalter, senior vice president, research and standards, CEA.”

So in a nutshell, a very small and simplified one, HDR is a format improvement that will make TV look better.  But how? And what will that mean to you if you buy a new TV?

This article was written for Best Buy’s blog. Click here to read the full article.

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Easy under-counter lighting with Osram Lightify Flex: review and how-to

IMG_6052 Of all the gadgets and devices I’ve tried over the last couple of years, smart lighting has to be one of my personal favorites.

I was very excited when the newest member of the Osram Lightify family arrived for testing: it’s called the Osram Lightify Flex.

Flex your lighting muscle with Lightify

In the pack there are 3 two-foot long strips of flexible LED lighting, along with a power pack and a controller that helps hook up to your home’s Wi-Fi network. Each of the two foot-long LED lighting strips will connect to the other one, giving you a full 6 foot run of lights wherever you need them.

I’m sure under counter lighting is going to be a hugely popular use for this product, but you could see getting really creative with it too: lighting around a mirror, a headboard, under a glass table top, or stone bar. There are endless possibilities because this lighting is ultra thin and completely bendable.

Setup and Installation

IMG_6056Installation was quite easy. Though there’s one important caveat that you want to note before you leave the store: you need to have the Osram Gateway in order for your system to connect to Wi-Fi and your smart phone. The Gateway is sold separately for about $30.
Setting up the kit and the Gateway was pretty easy. You snap the QR code on the back of the Gateway, which is essentially a very large AC plug. That takes you to an installation screen that helps you get the Gateway configured to your home’s Wi-Fi network. With that done, and an account set up, you’re ready to begin installing components from the Lightify line.  The Osram Flex kit will also work with your existing WeMo home automation system too if you have one.

With the Gateway as your central hub installed, all that’s left to do is install the various lighting components themselves. That was as simple as peeling the adhesive backing from the flexible plastic strips of lighting, sticking them to the underside of the cabinet, then plugging that strip into the controller, and finally plugging that into the AC power supply. As soon as that last connection was made the light sparked up.

I started with just one 2 foot strip over a coffee center in my kitchen. The lights are very bright, and even in daylight the brightening affect was noticeable and nice.

IMG_6428Once the installation was complete, which took really 10 or 15 minutes, I was able to begin playing with the app. On it you can control color temperature (warm yellowish light for subtle warm lighting and relaxation, or cooler bluish late for work and tasks), you can adjust brightness and dim the lighting strips from your smart phone, or you can change the color of the lights to pretty much any hue of the rainbow.

Click HERE to watch my video of the Lightify kit installation.

Fun with Colour
The color aspect is one of the things I love the most about smart lighting. No longer do you solely need to rely on paint and fabric to bring a dose of color or brightness to your home. Now you can adjust lights for dinner parties, special occasions, holidays, and even your mood, or what kind of work you’re doing inside the home. It’s absolutely brilliant, and you shouldn’t underestimate the power of colored light in your home.

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Read more about Smart Lighting, like why the no-glass Nanoleaf is the world’s most energy efficient light bulb, or all about the WeMo home lighting and automation system.

Once I got comfortable fiddling with the controls, which are pretty easy to use, I also noticed there are a few basic settings within the app that allow you to do a quick-adjust at the touch of a button. There are really only three quick-choice options: warm, daylight, and a plant light option to help you grow.

While the limited selection of presets is a bit disappointing, you can quite easily create your own, and save them to a quick touch menu. In fact, the Lightify had one of the easiest interfaces for setting up your own “favorites” that I’ve used in smart lighting recently, so I didn’t feel like I was missing having a bunch of presets within the app.

Set timers easilyIMG_6373
There’s also a very easy to use timer setting that will turn your lights on and off when you need them. For me that means having lights on when I wake well before dawn to get ready for work.  Since I’m frequently awake for my day job at 3 AM, there’s definitely something that juices my day when I wake up and the lights are already on over the coffee center before I rise with a nice, warm, sunny, bright color temperature. I feel like it helps get me going.

The Verdict
I found the Lightify App very easy to set up, and the Flex lighting kit very easy to install. I absolutely love how it looks in the kitchen, particularly the color options, and I really enjoy the timer settings.
I’ve already been sharing this one with friends because I think it’s super versatile, fun, and very practical. It will definitely save you needing professional or semi professional installation of lighting in your home. Plus I’m already thinking of getting another kit to add elsewhere in the house.

Get the Osram Lightify Flex kit from Best Buy. It’ll set you back about $149.

Always losing your keys, wallet, phone, remote, bag? You need a Pebblebee Honey tracking device

pebblebeeIf you’re the forgetful type, life just got easier.  A new tracking device from Pebblebee can help you find your lost stuff, not just inside your house, but anywhere in the world.

Pebblebee Honey is a small, flat circular tracking device about the size of a large coin. It holds a CR2430 lithium battery which can easily be swapped out when it reaches the end of its lifespan. The Pebblebee can be attached to your key ring, tied to or placed inside anything you want to track, or even stuck on to your wallet, phone, bike, remote control.. whatever. The tracker, combined with the free app will show you a map view of where your device is, and help you manage multiple trackers.

This device has some smart functions built right in; for starters it has a rangefinder, so when you’re tracking the device, you can tell how near or far you’re getting, and it has an audio alert function, so that when you get within a certain distance, you can have the tracker squawk out a sound to help you pinpoint the location. A small LED light is another option to spot the device in the dark. As an aside, it also comes in a really cute and small tin.

Surprising versatility: remote photo shutter too!

One neat feature this device has that I’ve not seen in other trackers is the ability to use the Pebblebee as a remote shutter for your smartphone.  The tiny on/off button on the side actually has double function.  Just adjust the pre-loaded settings to find your phone or take a picture using the button on your device.

How it works

Your Pebblebee communicates with your phone using Bluetooth LE technology. That signal will have a strong connection up to 150 ft depending on obstruction. Inside, your device will experience limited visibility, while outside its range will increase.

IMG_7698What’s a Pebblebee

Where did the idea for Pebblebee come from?  The company’s website says, “The Pebblebee idea first emerged in late 2012 as a necessary solution to a curious toddler’s endless ability to hide things. With generous support from over 3080 Kickstarter backers, we raised over $218K to make the Pebblebee the reality it is today.”

Help with setup

The app and device were a bit confusing to set up.  Initially I couldn’t get my Honey to pair with my phone.  However I was able to get quick and responsive customer service by emailing tech support.  IN the event anyone else is experiencing trouble with the pairing process, here’s the instructions that worked for me, as provided by Pebblebee support:

1. Hold down the button on the Honey for 5 seconds until you hear 2 beeps (3 means it is off)

2. Login to the app

3. Wait up to 10-15 seconds. A bar should appear letting you know you have an unclaimed device nearby.

4. Briefly press (not a long hold) the button on the Honey. This is not the same as holding down the button for seconds.

5. The app will ask you to verify the claim.

6. The Honey will appear in your Hive.

Getting the Map view

My next issue, once the device paired, was that I couldn’t see my device on the map view. More help from Pebblebee explained that was probably because I didn’t have location services enabled on my smartphone. On an iPhone, you can do this by going to your iPhone Settings, then down to the Pebblebee  app, then under location services make sure you have chosen either “Always” or “When the app is open.”

Pebblebee Lost and Found, with the help of other users

IMG_7802So how does the tracker find and pinpoint location on the map? While Honey does not have GPS built in, it  uses your phone’s GPS to track location. Anytime the Honey is within range of your running app, the location gets updated to the map, so the map will always show the last known location. Pebblebee tells me, “if you lose your Honey, you can mark it as Lost. When you do, any time the Honey goes within range of Anyone using the Pebblebee app, you will receive an alert letting you know when and where your Honey has been found.”

The company is working on a cool new style of tracker too, the Stone, which as the name suggests is a pebble-shaped tracker and remote control in one that’s already overfunded on Kickstarter.

The Pebblebee is available from the company’s website for $25 USD

Click here to check out more cool tech news and ideas to make your life easier!

Spy on your pets? Watch over your kids? Record intruders? New Myfox camera can do it

IMG_7768 Personal use cameras are becoming much more popular. From dash-cams in cars, to smaller home security cameras, it’s now easier than ever to monitor your environment for security, safety, curiosity, or to keep an eye on pets or children.

That’s the premise of the Myfox home security camera. This device is described as a “high performance home security camera remotely controlled by a smartphone app and is the only camera with a motorized, mechanical shutter to guarantee total privacy.”

Hands On with MyfoxIMG_7772

The camera is a very unique shape.  It’s just a bit bigger than a standard size hockey puck. The lens is in the side edge of the device, and features a sliding shutter that can open and close over the lens when you want it. The camera comes out of the box with a very long USB cord for power, which is a great unexpected plus, allowing the camera to be placed anywhere, at a good distance from any power source.

CLICK HERE to read the rest of this review on Best Buy’s Plug in blog.

For more awesome tech news, click here!

 Bellabeat Leaf keeps track of your life & health: tech testing begins

   
 I’m currently researching the marriage of technology and jewelry and was pretty happy to see one of the products I’ve been curious about arrive. The Bellabeat Leaf is a sleep, stress, movement and health monitor that looks nothing like typical fitness bands. And that’s a good thing. 

  
The band is wood and metal and comes with a leather bracelet wrap, a silver chain, or the ability to clip it to clothing, making it very versatile. 

  I’m doing some tech testing on this device and will have a full report soon. I’d love to hear your feedback in the meantime if you have any experience with the device or can recommend a unique and cool piece of tech jewelry I should add to my research list. 

If you’d like more info on Bellabeat,  click it!!

Cool tech for fall, as seen on CTV’s Tech Talk

tech talk oct 4This time we looked at gadgets from inexpensive to more luxurious, and from fun conversation pieces, to ones that can help with your health.

Belkin MIXIT Cables

With the battery life of many phones in a sad state, it’s imperative to carry extra cables or a portable battery pack. But they can be heavy, or clunky, or get tangled up inside your bag.

Belkin has come up with a WAY better option that I think is going to be a huge hit.  There are three smart additions to their MIXIT line of cables.

 

The Fancy Option

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Made from natural leather, the MIXIT Lightning to USB Tassel is a chic handbag charm that hides a premium metallic charging cable in its tassels. Belkin says, “its fringe design takes a purse from bleak to chic, keeps the cable tidy and prevents it from getting tangled.” I also love the chic lobster clip that makes it easy to attach and swap it from bag to bag.

This beauty comes in greyish white, brown/beige, coral and black for $34.99USD.

 

The Functional & Sleek Pick

This is the on all the guys will want. The MIXIT Lightning to USB Keychain has a durable stick-shaped aluminum body and can easily be slipped onto a keychain, so that it’s handy when you need a charge. The charging cable is a stick that rotates 360 degrees out of the cover for easy charging. The aluminum body  (available in different colour metals for $34.99) also protects the Lightning connector from damage when not in use.

Click here to read the full article about each of the cool Belkin cables.

Qwerkywriter

QWERKY111As a writer and journalist, I’ve been attached to a keyboard as long as I’ve been employed. While I missed the typewriter-in-the-newsroom era, I still understand the nostalgia of using one.  I first learned to type (self-taught, age 7) on a Smith Corona in the 80’s.  There’s something more  satisfying about the clomp-clop of typewriter keys mashing out your words, rather than the soft phush-phush of a regular computer keyboard..

That’s why I think the Qwerkywriter keyboard is going to be huge. This keyboard has multiple uses; you can use it with your laptop or desktop, or with your tablet or phone.

Qwerkywriter Features

Qwerkywriter is a solid aluminum metal (but not heavy!) keyboard that connects wirelessly via Bluetooth to iPhones, iPads, iMacs, MacPros, Macbooks, Android Tablets Devices, Windows Tablets, and more.It also has a functional carriage return bar that works as an ENTER key . But it’s also programmable, remembering up to 5 characters. (Qwerkywriter says it works by holding FN+Return Bar to record up to 5 characters).  The Qwerkywriter features a built-in stand that can accommodate tablets up to 10 inches wide and 1/2 inch thick. (iPads, Samsung devices, Surface 3, and more are all supported)

Click to read the whole blog about Qwerkywriter, and see how to get one.

QardioArm

IMG_5110It’s a pain, and a time-suck going to the doctor.  You have to find parking.  You sit and wait.. and wait… and wait some more.

What if you could take care of some of the routine tasks you see a doctor for, at home, WITH the permission of your doctor? A new gadget I found can help you do that.

The QardioArm is an at-home blood pressure cuff that works just like the one in your doctor’s office. You just strap it to your arm, pull the velcro closure tight, and use your smartphone to take a reading.

How it works
Download the Qardio app for iPhone or Android, and set up an account.  It’s quick and takes barely any time.  Once you have an account, you unroll the cuff, and slip the QardioArm over your arm, then cinch it tight.  A small box on the outside of the cuff holds all the technology. When you’re ready, tap the app to tell it to take a reading.  The cuff inflates, just like the one at your doctor’s office, and in a minute you have your blood pressure and heart rate, plus more.

Click to see what else it can do, and where to get one.

Thanks for watching Tech Talk on CTV.  If you have ideas for segments, or gadgets I should test, let me know!

Jewelry Fix: What to do if Your Sterling Silver is Turning Black, Grey, White!

Why is my silver jewelry turning strange colours? It’s a question I get asked a lot. I recently had a customer complain about a necklace “tarnishing” just a few weeks after purchase. His wife decided to use the polishing cloth to give the sterling silver a wipe, and was aghast when it came away black.

A well-used silver polishing cloth.
A well-used silver polishing cloth.

So he wrote me to express his surprise that his new necklace would discolour so quickly.  It made me realize it’s probably a great education opportunity.

When silver tarnishes, it’s a surface discolouration  caused by the interaction of oxygen (air) with the silver. As the British Assay Office explains it, “silver naturally interacts with oxygen and sulphur-bearing pollutants to create silver sulphide, resulting in a visible discoloration of the metal’s surface. Silver tarnishes in environments containing various sulphuric gases, even in very low concentration. The amount of tarnishing is determined by the relative humidity, ambient temperature, gas concentration, and the length of time the silver is exposed to the gases.”

With sterling silver this process is normal, natural, expected, and yes, it can occur relatively quickly.

Many things can speed tarnish; air pollution, the minerals in your water (and as such wearing your silver jewelry in the shower can speed this process too), living or working near a chemical, electric or manufacturing plant are all things that can cause discolouration more quickly.

Recent studies have shown tarnish develops microscopically within hours of being cleaned and exposed to air again.  You may not see it on the piece for several days or weeks, but it’s there, and will show up as a black residue on a polishing cloth.  A great way to keep seldom worn jewelry clean (and silverware if you have it), is to store sterling silver in a ziplock bag with all the air squeezed or rolled out of it.  You can wrap it in a soft cloth first too.  Oxygen and thus tarnish may still seep in and can still cause blackening especially if the pieces are stores for long periods of time, but it should keep things to a minimum.

Chemically tarnished rings. Oops!
Chemically tarnished rings. Oops!

Coincidentally at the same time as this customer contacted me,  I had a friend show me some rings I’d made for her.  The shiny sterling silver had turned a deep, dark black.  This was no tarnish effect, and she admitted she’d immersed her baubles in some household cleaner (Lysol) to spruce them up.  Instead, they’d become instantly and deeply chemically oxidized.

Now, she actually liked this look and referred to it as ‘edgy’, so she’s leaving them as they are for now.  If she did want them restored it should be a relatively simple process of buffing the chemical scarring off the surface layer, and exposing clean shiny silver beneath.  But this also serves as a leaning moment; only soap and water, silver polish or a silver polishing cloth should be used to clean silver.  Many household cleaners and chemicals can alter your precious silver.  In fact, I once had a ring turn bronze after accidentally spritzing window cleaner on it, and had other silver turn grey by getting baking soda onto it.  That too buffed out, but you’ll want to be careful with your jewelry.

How to Remove Tarnish-> Get this Inexpensive Polishing Cloth

If you do find some discolouration of your silver, you can remove it with a silver cloth (brand names include Sunshine Cloth, which is available inexpensively from me,  HERE or HERE). If that won’t work, stop while you’re ahead and take it to a pro for professional help.

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A Note about Grocery Store Silver Cleanser

I’ve purchased cleansers from grocery stores that just don’t work.  If you’re going to get a cleanser from somewhere other than a jewelry professional, test it first on a small area.  If the cleaner doesn’t remove tarnish instantly, it’s not working.  Proper liquid silver cleaners will remove all tarnish in about 3 seconds.  If you need to soak, or scrub, stop using it, rinse your silver, and return the cleaner to where you bought it and get your money back. (Keep your receipt!)

Fresh new polishing cloths.
Fresh new polishing cloths.

And for the jewelry ‘geeks’, the Government of Canada has written a helpful article about how to best care for your silver.  Read it here.

Have you got a horror story – or a home remedy for tarnish?  Post your comments below!

Check out some of my other blog topics HERE