Spyder Commuter is the ninja of extra power

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 11.15.10 AMSince our smartphones work as everything from digital wallets, to phones, to tracking devices and even keys for our homes, it’s more important than ever that they don’t run out of power.

That’s why it’s a good idea to carry extra juice with you whether it’s in your car, bag or pocket. The new Spyder Commuter pack will fit in any of those places, and can supply enough extra power to keep you going for several more hours.img_1167

The Commuter is a 3-in-1 universal battery charger. It can be used in the car, by plugging it into the wall, or as a standalone power pack for on the go needs.The wall outlet and car charger end both fold into the battery pack so it stays sleek and compact when it’s not in use.

The Commuter is a perfect companion for travellers, since it weights a scant 4.5 oz or 128 grams, and you can charge from an AC wall outlet, via USB on your computer, or in the car. Plus it works with any smartphone or tablet.

I found this device super handy for extra juice on the go. It has 2600 mAh, which on my iPhone 6 gives me one full charge. Though there are other power banks out there that will give you more power than that, often you’ll need to remember to bring along charging supplies like a car adaptor, cord or AC plug.  This one has it all built right in, meaning that even though you might need to recharge it more often, it’s much easier to do so.

Find The Commuter at Spyder’s website for $59CAD

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FlightHub’s Guide To Canada’s Biggest Tech Cities

While the latest slide in oil prices has shown that Canada’s economy has an over-dependance on natural resources, one sector in Canada that has taken off is technology. While some cities have struggled to cope with the shifting economies of the last two decades or so, other cities have embraced the high-tech sector and have thrived because of it.

I spoke with FlightHub, a product of Momentum Ventures in Montreal, about the rise of tech across Canada. FlightHub reviews cities across Canada routinely and has taken notice of the startup scenes as a recently formed tech company themselves. I asked them which three cities are tops for tech investment and innovation and FlightHub named three rising stars in Canadian tech.

Waterloo, Ontario

waterloo labelled for reuseRemember ten years ago when everyone had a Blackberry? Waterloo, Ontario does. As the home of Research In Motion, Waterloo benefited massively from the popularity of Blackberry. When Blackberry eventually faded into obscurity, the company’s layoffs led to dozens of startups being formed within the city. It certainly helps that Canada’s top computer sciences program, according to FlightHub engineers, is located at the University Of Waterloo, allowing for yearly crops of fresh graduates from a premier school to be recruited and employed locally. Canada’s biggest tech companies may no longer call Waterloo home, but you can bet there is a good chance that Canada’s next big thing will rise from the ashes of Research In Motion in Waterloo, Ontario.

Vancouver, British Columbia

Vancouver skyline labeled 4reuseThose within the Canadian startup scene have definitely heard of Hootsuite and Unbounce. These two startups are rising stars of the Canadian tech scene and are both born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia. While these two heavy hitters are the headliners of this bill according to FlightHub, Vancouver is loaded with new startups, especially in the rapidly developing Gastown neighbourhood. In addition to startups, Vancouver also has a thriving video game development scene, headlined by EA Studios.

Montreal, Quebec

Montreal_skylineFlightHub’s home base, Montreal is another big time gaming town. Whether it is newcomers like Ludia or established shops like Ubisoft and Bioware, Montreal is one of the biggest cities in the world for video games. Montreal also has a thriving startup scene thanks to its attraction to students. Quebec features the lowest tuition costs in Canada, thus attracting students who move to Montreal, learn, and form their own companies or join a growing startup. Popular ones include SportLogiq, Landr, and LightSpeed.

This blog has been sponsored by FlightHub.

Decorating with light: Playbulb Sphere & Candle review

Every so often, we all get the itch to redecorate. Depending on your budget and circumstances, that itch may or may not be able to get scratched. But if new furniture is out of the question, or a new paint job seems too tedious, there are still ways you can spruce up your home, and even give it a color makeover, without spending a lot, without moving furniture, and without needing to lay tarps all over the house.

MiPow is a new brand I’ve recently been introduced to, but already fallen in love with. They make a variety of smart lighting products, from simple portable lamps, to their well-known Playbulb light bulb that also doubles as a speaker, to LED task lighting, and even some other fun products too.

MiPow PlayBulb Candle

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I have absolutely fallen in love with this tiny LED candle. Not much bigger than any candle you would find in a store, this version is completely electronic, so it’s ultra safe for homes with pets or small children.

img_1026The candle is controlled via Bluetooth on MiPow’s Playbulb app on your smartphone, allowing you to turn the unit off and on, adjust colours, and even use special effects like a flicker or a color morph.

The company didn’t stop there when it came to making this candle ultra useful. If you need to, turn the candle upside down, and set a real tea light in the hollow in the base. You’ll still get the beauty of a colorful base, with a real candle flickering on top.

Also super clever? You can actually blow on this digital LED candle to turn it off, or even to turn it on.

Are you the type who prefers scented candles? MiPow’s thought of that too. The candle comes with three scented rings you can swap in to give it that extra sensory dimension.

Easy to adjust and use

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This candle was so easy to use. It connects easily, and works beautifully. Powered by 3 AA batteries, I find myself using it all the time because it allows me to place it in locations I wouldn’t dream  of using a real candle. I can place it under the glass top of my side table or even on the floor since there’s no heat and no flame. But I also use it on the coffee table, the dining table and even as a nightlight.
If you like to set a nice dinner table with matched napkins, plates and colours, the Playbulb Candles would be perfect since you can dial up whatever hue you like for your special occasion; matching napkins, plates or even the food.

MiPow Playbulb Sphereimg_1039

Speaking of special occasion lights, MiPow has another light that’s a step up above plastic LEDs. The Playbulb Sphere is a beautiful frosted glass globe lamp that rests on a small base when charging but it can be moved anywhere for a portable colorful glow. You can get 6-8 hours of light on a single charge.

The Playbulb Sphere works beautifully on the small side tables, or even as a chic dining table centerpiece since it’s only about 15cm in diameter.

Tap to change


The Sphere lamp can be adjusted via the app on your smart phone, allowing you to change color, dim the light, or even apply a handful of special effects. If your smart phone is not nearby and you want to change colours, you can tap the glass surface of the lamp to adjust it.

The Sphere is also water resistant so you can use it outside without worry.

Playbulb Sphere is another very clever lighting product I love and used constantly during testing. Whether it was to create a soft glow for a dinner party or gathering, extra task lighting, or even as a nightlight in a guest bedroom I found a multitude of uses for this pretty piece of tech.

Overall impression of the Playbulb Sphere & Candle

I really enjoyed both these products in the Playbulb  line. I found them very easy to set up, easy to adjust with the app, versatile,  fun to play with and quite durable. If I had one piece of constructive criticism for either of these devices, it would be they could each be a bit brighter on on maximum setting.

If you’re looking to add some lighting to specific areas of your home and want to experiment with some cool new technology, either of these lights would be perfect. These are lights I would definitely purchase to put in my home, and they’re inexpensive enough that they would make a fantastic gifts (great for a baby gift or housewarming) for others too.

Where to find:
Playbulb Sphere is $59 at Best Buy  and the Playbulb Candle is $24 at Best Buy (or 3pack for $60).

I have reviews coming too on more products in the Playbulb line, like the Garden light, Comet task lighting and the Playbulb Lightbulb/Speaker. Watch the blog for more.

Parrot Zik3 Headphones Review

parrot 3Just when I thought I’d seen it all when it came to headphones, I found myself surprised again! The Parrot Zik3 over ear wireless headphones seemed at first glance to be headphones like any other. It wasn’t until I started reading into and experimenting with all the amazing features these headphones have, that I realized how truly unique and revolutionary they are.

Set up: Parrot Zik3 Wireless Headphonesimg_1006

I give high marks to companies whose products are very easy to set up. No one wants to fuss with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connections and multiple attempts at getting their new toy working. Fortunately Parrot has it figured out. Once these babies are out of the package, you’ll need to install the rechargeable battery, then fully charge them before first use. The battery compartment is accessed by a hidden magnetic compartment in one of the ear covers. Once they’re fully charged, all you need to do is go to your smartphone’s Bluetooth menu and connect them. My phone found the headphones on the very first attempt, and they connected instantly. I was ready to rock out!

It’s worth taking note that these headphones can only connect to one device at a time. Some other wireless headphones are able to connect to multiple devices at once, allowing you to have both your tablet and your phone connected at the same time, for example. But not in this case; fair warning.

Comfortable and padded: Zik3 Headphones are easy to wear

One of the things I hate the most about over-ear headphones is that they are often very uncomfortable; either instantly or after an hour of use they press on your ears and lead to achiness and itchiness. Not so with the Parrot Zik3. The earpieces are well padded, and large enough so that they fit comfortably around your ear without touching or pressing down on it. Even the headband is nicely padded for additional comfort. Another nice feature; the headphones will fold down flat so they can be stored away, or packed for easy travel.Zik 3 control

Control the headphones with touch

The Parrot Zik3 are controlled via a brilliant smart touchpad on the right ear cover. Drag your finger up or down the cover to adjust the volume. Tap it to play or pause or receive a phone call. This function is extremely responsive and works marvelously.

Features that are made for travel

Parrot Zik3 are an ideal pair of over ear headphones for traveling, thanks in particular to one of their great features; noise cancellation. These headphones, when paired to your smart phone or device, allow you to set different levels of noise canceling. For example, you can set them to block out any and all outside noise electronically. Meaning if someone else in the room is watching TV, kids are playing, or an airplane is droning on in the background, you can mute this outside noise and focus on your music, podcasts, TV, or whatever you’re listening to.

Similarly, if you do need to hear what’s going on outside those headphones, such as if you do you have little ones you need to keep one ear on, or you’re walking around in a high-traffic area and need to stay alert, you can set the headphones so that you can hear conversation, noise, and talking around you along with your music. It’s a great effect, and it sounds really neat to have your ears sealed inside these over ear headphones, but still be able to hear a conversation going on next to you. Parrot-Zik-3-Wireless-Headphones

The Zik 3 also have an optional cable to connect directly to your smart device so that if you are on the road and want to preserve battery life, you can.

Parrot Zik 3 – Neat features

These headphones have a unique ability to allow you to adjust the music you’re listening to. Using the Equalizer function, you can adjust the levels of bass or treble, and give the music a different sound. You can choose ‘pop’, or ‘punchy’ sound,  or to put the focus more on the vocals. Whatever way you like to hear your music, these headphones allow you to adjust for it easily by selecting your option with the touch of your smart phone screen.

Another setting called Concert Hall allows you to adjust what I can only describe as the size of the sound in your ears. Selecting ‘living room’ for example gives you a more direct and intimate sound then the concert hall setting which provides a much bigger more 360° sound picture. It’s a neat effect that’s hard to describe, but fun to play with. Parrot’s website explains it like this: “The Concert Hall effect externalizes the music and reproduces the sound of a real stereo system. Several concert hall acoustics are reproduced for a harmonious and more natural listening experience, which also reduces tiredness during long listening sessions.”

Make and receive phone calls with Parrot Zik3

The Zik3 phones are able to work with your cell phone; no longer do you need a microphone and cables to make or receive calls with your headphones. These headphones have all of that built in. To receive an incoming call, you just tap the touchpad on the right ear cover. Music is muted and the built-in microphone picks up your voice. The headphones also have a caller identification feature you can enable where the headphones will use your phone’s directory to announce who’s calling so you don’t need to pull out your phone. I found the headphones were perfect for conference calls, allowing me to take notes without cords snaking across my desk.img_1008

More smart features: music stops if you take them off, starts when you wear them

Parrot has developed a ‘movement recognition algorithm’ which allows the headphones to react to your head movements.  Pull the phones off your ears and put them around your neck to stop the music or switch off a call. When you’re ready to resume, put the headphones back over your ears and the music or podcast starts up again. Never miss a thing!

Also handy; when starting up, the Parrot Zik 3 will automatically connect to the last device it was connected to. You can disable this feature if you use more than one device with your Parrot Zik. The Zik 3 also has an auto-off timer you can set, so if you’re they type who’s bound to forget your headphones are powered on, these will automatically shut off for you to save battery life. Speaking of battery life, these headphones are rechargeable via USB, and of course you can use them with a mini cable if you don’t want to go wireless.

Overall: Parrot Zik 3 Review

I really, really like these headphones. They’re very comfortable, they sound great, and the adjustable features mean you can fine tune any music or audio to your own personal listening preferences.  I think the  noise cancelling feature is one of the most useful; being able to block out noise in the comfort of the home is smart, and it’s also clever to be able to let in some of that external noise when you’re on transit, or walking in the street.

I also like the fact these phones fold flat for easy travel and transport too. I short, I’d definitely buy these as my next pair of headphones.

For more info, check out Parrot’s website. The Zik3 retail for $399 USD, and come in a variety of cool colours.

 

Robot housekeeper does the vacuuming while you’re away

img_0114There’s a new addition to my house! He’s small, only weighs a few pounds, but already feels like a member of the family.

Meet my Roomba! iRobot’s robot vacuum cleaner. While robot vacuums have been around for quite some time, I’ve never had the opportunity to test one until now. Frankly, I’ve had my doubts about how well they can keep the place clean, so I was looking forward to putting Roomba through his paces.

What’s in the box: iRobot Roomba 880


The Roomba vacuum is a large circular gadget, significantly larger than a dinner plate, and about three or 4 inches tall. While he’s weighty, he’s not heavy and he comes with a built-in handle so you can pick him up and carry him around. I received the ‘880’ model for this review, so these comments will all relate to this specific model.img_0118

Also in the box are a couple of devices that look like small towers. One of these is the “home base” station which will charge your Roomba. The other devices are what’s called virtual walls. More on those later. There’s also an extra filter and a remote control.

 

Set up


The Roomba is very easy to set up out of the box. You just pull the tabs off the battery, set the day and time (very easy; not at all like trying to program a VCR) and then set up the base station. The base station needs to be in a wide open area the vacuum can access easily, one that is not near stairs and is free of clutter like shoes or other junk. It should also be near a wall outlet for power.
Once the Roomba has charged himself up he’ll be ready to go.

 

Using the iRobot Roomba


The Roomba can be used at any moment simply by pushing the ‘clean’ button in the center of the vacuum. The robot will back away from its base station and begin cleaning in a somewhat hard to follow but linear pattern. The robot learns its way around furniture and is smart enough to back away from stairs. The Roomba will clean an entire floor of your house and then return to his base station when the battery begins to run low.

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While I was using the device, I had no problem getting the entire main floor of my house (about 1000 sq ft) swept on a single charge. The robot would go from room to room and find his way in through doorways and around beds or furniture easily. While the robot is short enough to go under beds and furniture, my beds sit directly on the floor, so I was unable to tell if the robot would automatically head under the bed to sweep up. However he did certainly sweep underneath all the other furniture in my house, something I’m glad I don’t have to do!

Roomba also has a ‘spot clean’ mode, so if you spilled something on the floor or have a particularly dirty or dusty area, you can bring the Roomba over and select ‘spot clean’, and the device will begin a series of swirl patterns and sweep up everything in that single area. I decided to test this feature by pouring some flour on the floor and then bringing the Roomba over to attack it.

Spilling stuff to test Roomba’s Spot Cleaning

Getting a spot cleaning done is a simple as pressing the ‘spot’ button on the top of the robot. Roomba immediately went to work, and started in a series of small circles that got larger and larger. In no time, all of the flour was cleaned up. As you’ll see in the video I made, I have some grout missing from spots on our tile floor, and while the Roomba did not have the suction power to get the flour out of those deeper crevices, he was able to get every last bit of flour from the tile surface. I was pretty impressed. While more suction would be nice, I also recognize that not everybody has giant grout gouges in their floor. So for most applications I think the spot cleaning would work great.

But could Roomba handle heavier spills like oatmeal, breadcrumbs, or even peanuts?
It was back to the test kitchen to find out. With this test, again the Roomba performed better than I expected. After initially rolling over top of the peanuts on the first circle, Roomba started scooping them up easily. The oatmeal and the breadcrumbs were no problem. In the end, my poorly grouted kitchen being what it is, the only remnants after one single rumba cycle were a lone peanut, and some stray oatmeal flakes deep in the grout holes. I ran a second spot clean cycle, and any additional bits were picked up. I did still need the broom and the dustpan for those deep grout cracks, but if you think about it, if you’re sweeping the floor as your regular method of cleaning, you still have to work to get down in any cracks or crevices. To see how Roomba performed, watch the video version below.

 

Schedule your robot housekeeper!!


One of my favorite features about this Roomba is the scheduling feature. It’s very easy to set the date and time on the Roomba with the buttons on the device. With that information programmed in, it’s another few quick clicks to set a cleaning schedule that works for you. I set the Roomba to clean every other day while we are at work, so we come home to a spotless floor.
Roomba knows how to untangle itself from cords
I will say I have come home a couple of times to find Roomba stopped at the edge of the stairs, or stuck on a rug or a stray sock. That’s because if the robot gets in a spot he can’t get out of, he’ll just shut down and wait for you to rescue him, squeaking out a few ‘help me’ beeps. He also has a built-in ability to untangle himself from any cords he may get caught on. I’ve watched Roomba do this; the robot merely backs away and reverses course over the cables and was always successful at disentangling itself.

 No more pet hair tumbleweeds

I feel like the amount of pet hair in our home was drastically reduced to the point of being invisible. While normally my husband and I would have to use a Swiffer or the vacuum to pick up dog hair tumbleweeds a few times a week, with the Roomba, that was just no longer necessary. I think the Roomba would be ideal for multi pet households where a lot of pet hair is a concern.


Will it upset your pet? Probably not.  Have you seen the video of a car riding the Roomba? Neither my dog nor my neighbor’s dog were bothered whatsoever by the robot. The Roomba even bumped into my dog one day while she was laying on the rug Roomba wanted to clean, and while she was a bit miffed, it was just a gentle push and then the Roomba moved off in a different direction. So it’s good to know that even if you have a lazy dog who won’t get up, the Roomba will just clean around him and not hurt him.

 

Cornering with the iRobot Roomba


img_0923-1Roomba will get around and under things where the pet hair tends to collect, like underneath chairs or in the hallways. And the robot even did a good job of getting into tighter spaces and corners, however his round shape means he can’t get into them perfectly. With that said, the tiny brushes that extend from the vacuum do increase the robot’s reach into corner areas. Overall I was not unhappy with how the robot was able to clean, and the spaces he was able to get into.

 

Clean shag rugs too!?


One of the biggest surprises for me in testing out the Roomba was the fact that it was able to clean my two shag rugs. Though they are rather thick, Roomba was able to roll up onto them and vacuum superficial dust and small objects. Roomba was not able to give these rugs what I’d call a thorough clean, (as you’d expect, it’s a shag rug! A regular vacuum can barely handle it!)  but I was surprised that he wasn’t scared to try it. I’ve also read that some robot vacuums will not clean black or dark colored rugs because they see that color as an empty space or a drop off. However once again, the black shag rug in my living room was no match for Roomba’s smarts.
Keeping Roomba in line: he can go only where you want him

One of the neat features of the iRobot Roomba is the ability to set up virtual walls and light houses. A virtual wall will allow you to block the vacuum from entering certain rooms or areas. In my bungalow, I found this unnecessary, since if I did not want the robot in certain rooms, I would just shut the door. However this would work very well for wide open concept homes where you only perhaps want the robot to focus on the kitchen, and stay out of the children’s play area. You simply set the virtual wall to create a border where the robot shall not pass.

With a lighthouse, the opposite happens; lighthouse placement will allow Roomba to specifically target certain rooms he might not otherwise get into. For example if you’re cleaning your main family room where the Roomba has his docking station, but also want to make sure he gets the playroom, or the bedroom, placing a virtual lighthouse at their doorway will ensure that he visits those two rooms after his initial room clean. Of course this is also subject to battery life.
Cleaning the Canisterimg_0939

Keeping the Roomba’s canister clean and emptying it regularly is important to helping your robot function well. iRobot recommends you empty the dustbin after each use. While I tried to do this, sometimes I forgot. Fortunately the Roomba will let you know if the dustbin is too full to continue. I was able to get about three days worth of sweeps on my entire main floor before it would fill up.
I did feel like cleaning out the canister was rather awkward, since it has a very narrow opening at one end of the canister. It’s hard to get pet hair out of it, unless you reach in with your fingers and try and pinch it out. Heavier dust or objects like the peanuts I used in my tests will fall out easily, but lighter debris needs to be shaken free. If I were to design a new room by canister, it would have a wider mouth for ease of cleaning all the junk out.  As it it, you’re probably going to get your hands dirty.

Overall: Verdict on the iRobot Roomba

I’m pretty happy with the Roomba. Having never tried a robot vacuum before I ws impressed with the cleaning ability and found it extraordinarily helpful with pet hair in our home.
I was surprised at how easy the robot was to program and schedule; even people who aren’t tech savvy could get this set up easily and quickly. In short, I’d definitely buy  a Roomba for my home.
Do you have experiences with Roomba, or other robot vacuums? I’d love to hear about them in comments below.

High tech home security

ERIN FEB 2On CTV’s Tech Talk this month, we looked at options for keeping your home and yard safe using several high tech wireless devices.

Dog & Bone Padlocks

 I can’t say enough about how easy these locks are to set up and to use.  Whether you choose the bigger more heavy-duty version, or the lighter, silicone covered padlock, they pair instantly, and are super responsive to signals from your smartphone.  You can add uses and give permission so anyone from visitors, to workmen can access your yard, shed, garage or anywhere you need to keep secure.  You can also get lists of who opened the locks and when, meaning you can keep tabs on teens accessing sports equipment, or neighbours borrowing tools.

Noke Padlock

 Who hasn’t momentarily forgotten their combination on a padlock at the gym, the back gate, or on the shed? I’ve misplaced (or outright lost, forever) the key to the padlock on my bike, meaning I need to both buy a new one, and find some bolt cutters to take care of business.

Now, a new product out from Fuz Designs (they made the really cool felted case I featured on CTV Morning Live and the blog not long ago!) shows that you no longer need those keys, or your faulty memory to open a padlock! Check out the 3 minute video of how Noke Digital Lock works: either with your smartphone or a Morse Code-like series of long and short clicks. Click here to read my full review of the Noke.

Kevo Smart Door Lock

kevo-Smart-LockKeys are so 2012! These days, keeping your home safe means going key-free and using your smartphone to lock and unlock your door . The Kevo smart deadbolt lock pairs with your phone, and has access you can share with others in the family, or temporarily with workers, housekeepers, babysitters, etc. The lock pairs easily with phones and unlike some others, is fuss free; I experienced no disconnections and no delays in opening and closing.

MiPow Garden Light

 Need more light in your yard, driveway or walkway? Don’t fuss with wires, stakes or unreliable dollar store solar spikes. Get outdoor lighting that’s versatile, and that works.  MiPow’s Garden lights will change colour, and can be moved anywhere to give you outdoor light where you need it. They’re solar powered and water resistant and once charged can run for 20 hours. You can also group several of these lights together via the MiPow smartphone app, and adjust, control and even dim them from your phone.

Smanos Wireless Home Security System

w020Gone are the days you need a technician to install a home security system. Today, systems are much more streamlined, don’t need a landline, and allow you the flexibility to customize, since there are no wires running all over the home.

Smanos home security bundle (W020) has an HD video camera, 2 door and window sensors, a remote control and the main hub. To install, you connect the hub to your home’s Wi-Fi, then add individual components to the system, such as the sensors, and the camera.  The system connects to your smart phone, and allows you control over it, as well as access to the video stream.

Then it’s as simple as checking your smartphone if you recieve an alert. You can arm, disarm or view what’s happening inside the home via the camera, then take whatever action is required; dismiss the alarm or call in the cavalry.

Win a Smanos Home Security System!

***CONTEST is now CLOSED. Congrats to contest winner Jenn Pink!.

Here’s how to enter: (**and please note you need to be able to come to CTV studios to pick up your prize)

–> Choose one of the following methods or websites below, you only need to enter once.

On this website: 

Write a (nice, preferably!) comment on this blog in the comments section below. Don’t forget to use the keyword I provided on TV.

OR On Twitter:

Follow me on Twitter, (so I’ll be able to DM you if you win! No DM, no win possible), then tweet me  @erinLYYC to tell me how much you’d like to win the Smanos kit.**Use the keyword I provided on TV.

Copy this sample tweet if you like: “I saw @ErinLYYC on CTV, and I want to win a @Smanos home security system #(insert keyword here) #tech #YYC ”

OR On Facebook:

Go to my Facebook Page, “Like” it, and write a short comment on the Contest section. (***Per FB rules, you need to do both to be properly entered. Without both Liking the Page and commenting, you won’t be able to win.)  **Use the keyword I provided on TV.

The Fine Print:
I’ll pick one winner at random from among all the social media and website entries. Only 1 entry per person please; duplicate entries will be discarded. Contest closes at 11:59pm MT tonight February 9, 2016. Odds of winning depend on the number of entries received. Not valid in Quebec. Prize has no cash value.
Each winner will receive 1 prize: a Smanos W020 Security System, supplied by Smanos. **Winner must be able to pick prize up at CTV studios. ErinLYYC.com bears no responsibility for prizes not delivered, delayed or misdirected, or not claimed after 30 days.
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If for any reason the Internet portion of the Contest is not capable of running as planned, including infection by computer virus, bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical failures or any other causes beyond the control of this website which corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity or proper conduct of this Contest, ErinLYYC reserves the right at its sole discretion to disqualify any individual who tampers with the entry process, and to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the Contest. Prize may not be exactly as show in accompanying photographs.
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Amazing ‘new’ gemstone is colour chameleon & sparkles like diamond: meet Zultanite

Zultanite

I was looking for a new TV show to binge-watch and stumbled upon Game of Stones. It’s a show about ‘the world’s most extreme gem hunters’; a band of guys from Texas who travel the world sourcing rare stones and sometimes getting into dangerous situations (carrying a hundred grand in cash in a backpack will do that).

One of the episodes focused on the discovery of the world’s largest Zultanite stone, which got me wondering, what the heck is Zultanite?

I’m a hobby silversmith and jewelry maker, and I love technology and science — geology in particular– so I was keen to learn more about this very strange stone that changes colours vibrantly.

Found in only one small place on the planet

Only found in one place in the world, Zultanite is mined in Turkey’s Anatolian Mountains at a remote location 4,000 feet above sea level. There’s just one mine that’s producing this rare and beautiful gemstone. Back in the 1980’s, the crystal was hand-hewn from the rock by individual miners.  Zultanite has only been in commercial production since 2006, and it requires pulling literally tonnes of Bauxite ore just to reach these colour-morphing crystals.

The  nearest village, Selimiye, is more than seven miles away, and there is no electricity or running water at the mine, making getting at the ore at this remote location extremely challenging. Even so, there’s an organization that now markets this unique gemstone, and they say production is growing.

zultanite2

Photo via Evelyn H.

Zultanite production may double

“Through increased mechanization Zultanite production will double this year, which will provide a consistent supply of quality gems in the quantities required by a wide range of jewelry retailers.”

What exactly is Zultanite? It’s a naturally colour-changing gemstone with colours that range from “kiwi green with flashes of yellow in sunlight conditions to raspberry hues in candlelight,” according to the Gemological Institute of America.

GIA says Zultanite is a “7/10 on the Mohs’ Hardness Scale (a system devised in the 18th century by a Viennese mineralogist Friedrich Mohs to measure the ability of a gem to resist surface scratching), has a refractive index of 1.75 and specific gravity of 3.39. These characteristics make zultanite an excellent jewelry gemstone. As 100% natural gemstone, zultanite is one of the few gems that has no known enhancements or treatments.”
There are other colour-changing gems in the jewelry world. Garnets can colour-shift, as can alexandrite, color-change fluorite, and some sapphires.

 What makes this stone so rare above the others? Its single-source mine, for one.  The Zultanite marketing group notes “only 50 percent of all Zultanite mined is suitable for faceting and up to 98 percent of the raw crystals are lost during the cutting, or lapidary, process.”  As a result, Zultanite can sell for $475 per carat.

 

 The largest Zultanite is the ‘Sultan’s Shield’

The ‘Sultan’s Shield’ is the name given to the world’s largest Zultanite which has been set in a necklace by Stephen Webster. It weighs an astonishing 96.20 carats.
The Sultan’s Shield

Zultanite is already becoming popular with celebrities and big name jewelry designers. Keep an eye out for it next time you’re shopping for something special.

Brand new Fitbit Alta is slim, pretty and does more

Fitbit-Alta_Family_GoldFans of original Fitbit Flex’s low profile, slim design and ease of use, rejoice!  The best things about the Flex have been carried over and improved upon in a brand new band, the Alta.

Fitbit Alta is a new stainless steel tracker, with a satin finish and a sleek, modular design that includes a quick-release feature that allows you to swap in new bands.  Fitbit-Alta-Family-2

You can now pick from classic fitness bands or  chic-er versions, like luxe leather bracelets or a  silver bangle. One of my favourite parts about the new bands? Tory Burch has once again partnered with Fitbit to design new styles specific to the Alta. I just love the Tory Burch jewelry-style accessories released last year for the Flex, and this only looks like there’s more options to love.

As for the new features that take the Alta up a notch from the Flex:

  • Reminders to Move to help you stay active and reduce stationary time
  • SmartTrack automatic exercise recognition, weekly exercise goals and all-day activity and automatic sleep tracking
  • Call, text and calendar notifications right on your wrist when your phone is nearby through on-screen messages and a gentle vibrating alert
  • An easy-to-read, vibrant OLED tap display shows your activity stats and the time
  • Works with Android, iOS and Windows mobile devices and computers

Fitbit-Alta_Cooking

Fitbit Alta is available today for $169.95 (CAD) for presale with retail availability starting in March 2016, joining the recently announced award-winning Fitbit Blaze Smart Fitness Watch. Alta will be available for preorders at Best Buy, Indigo and London Drugs, and at a number of other retaillers later on.

I’m hoping to get my mitts on one to test and review. Watch this space for more when they’re released! Meantime, read my review on the Fitbit Flex, or the Misfit Shine, or the Basis Peak.

Fitbit-Alta-Lineup