Reviewing the Sony “Extra Bass” SRS-XB2 wireless speaker

Sony extra bass 3Summer is the perfect season to test wireless portable speakers; whether travelling, camping, having friends over, or spending hours outdoors working on the yard, or barbecuing with buddies, there are all kinds of reasons you may want music on the go.

It was good timing, then, that the Sony SRS-XB2 Extra Bass landed on my desk for testing and review. This small pill-shaped wireless speaker is fully portable and rechargeable, but feels substantial all the same.

Setting up the Sony SRS-XB2 Extra Bass

Frequently I have trouble getting Wi-Fi or Bluetooth devices set up, and so do many others. It’s not that we’re inept, it’s that some electronic gadgets can be finicky, or perhaps their software and app handshaking isn’t fully bug-free yet.Sony extra bass 6

Not so with the Sony SRS-XB2 Extra Bass; and let’s just call it the “Extra Bass” from now on, ok? This speaker set up on the first try, and I was pumping out music in about 35 seconds after it was unboxed. It uses a Bluetooth connection to hook up to the music on your phone or tablet, and as I said, it’s very easy to connect. This is the kind of speaker you could get for your grandparents and leave them unattended with. The Extra Bass also stays connected via Bluetooth; you don’t have to set up, reconnect, or re-pair each time you use it, making it very quick and easy to use. Just hit the power button and dial up your music, podcasts or internet radio.

Right out of the box, the speaker does have a noticeably solid bass thump to it, which I enjoyed. Plus the cool colour options (blaze orange, and blue) make it more fun that a typical wireless speaker.

Want to know more? Read the full review on the Best Buy Canada Plug-In blog OR watch my video review on YouTube.

Misfit Shine Fitness and Activity Monitor – Review

misfit shine
The Misfit Shine is a sleek and chic fitness monitor and activity band that can be both worn on the wrist, talked into a sock or sports bra, or tucked neatly into one of the beautiful accessory pieces of jewelry the company offers.
Right out of the gate, the Misfit Shine is one of the prettiest options I’ve seen when it comes to fitness monitors. It looks more like jewelry, or live a matte river pebble than a fitness device, which is a nice change. The band comes with an included wristband, or magnetic clip, so you can choose where and how to wear it.

How Shine Works
IMG_1157While I was still gaga over how beautiful the device looked, I had difficulty getting it working out of the box. I went through all of the steps Misfit outlines to get the band set up,  but the device just would not work. I put the battery in and took it out again several times, hoping to get things working but to no avail. I even tried using a different battery than the one Misfit includes, just to see if mine happened to be dead. That didn’t work either. Looking closer at the inside of the device, I had an idea: it appeared to me that one of the metal connectors that is supposed to touch the battery was not touching properly, so I took some tiny pliers I have, and bent it to make better contact. Then I popped the battery back in, and voila!, it worked right away.  I’m pretty sure Misfit would not advocate for people to go mucking about with the interior guts of this device untrained, but this is what worked for me. Either way I was pleased that the device was now working.
The Misfit band works similar to other fitness bands, in that you also download a free companion app, set up a free account, and that’s the way you view and use most of your data.

The Device Displayshine lights
The display on the band itself is a circle of subtle LED lights. Depending on how much of your step goal you’ve completed, a different number of lights in the ring light up. I really liked this subtle display, despite the fact that it required some thought to calculate in my head, and was what I’d call at a glance.  Even so I’d know if I was a quarter or halfway to my goal, if not the specific numbers.  What I did, however, like about the ring light display is that it reminded me of looking up into the night sky at stars; it reminded me of staring up at constellations.

The App
The Shine uses “points” to calculate your activity levels. This is one thing about the device I did not like. With other bands, your actual steps ARE your goal, and to me that’s something tangible that I can see and understand.  I know that to get more steps, I take more steps.  But with the Misfit Shine, I’m not sure what the points mean, or exactly how I get  a good amount of them. IMG_1996I found that frustrating, but that may be a personal preference. I know some people who swear by the Nike fuel band, and it uses a similarly random system of points. To each their own I suppose. I should point out after that complaint that when you go into the app, you can actually get more specific details about how many steps you took, how far you went in terms of distance, and how many calories you burn, so happily,  the info is actually measured and available to you.

While I found the step count slightly off compared to the device I normally use, the actual mileage, or number of kilometers I went that day was actually quite similar. Ditto for the calories burned. While calibrating the Shine would be the ideal solution; unfortunately, it’s not an option, and that that is a source of frustration for other users too. One person I found on a chat board  pointed out that as a very short person, the device was vastly over calculating her metrics.

Sleep Function
Like many similar fitness devices, the Misfit Shine also will calculate and track your sleep.  The app will display deep versus lighter sleep in a grid, so it’s easy to read at a glance. It will also give you an overall number of hours you actually slept, versus what your sleep goal is (mine as it turns out is a rather unrealistic eight hours per night!)
I also found that sleeping with the Shine was quite easy; the smoothness and thinness of the band means it is very unobtrusive, and doesn’t get caught on anything, particularly on sheets or under pillows.   The device also has the option of allowing you to edit your recorded sleep, in case there has been an error. Not that I found any errors in my sleep tracking.

Other Functions
The Shine can also be used as a watch with simple taps, and it will display the time using solid and flashing lights around the edge of its lighted display. Another plus is that it is waterproof 250 m, so you can use it well swimming. It syncs wirelessly via Bluetooth which is always handy as well.

Battery

The Shine uses a small disc battery, about the size you find in a key fob (nickel sized), technically called a standard CR2032 coin cell battery.  That means no charging or recharging, which is nice.  Misfit says the battery should be swapped out every 4-6 months, or when it stops working.
MISFIT 44
The Verdict
In short, I really like the looks of this device, possibly better than any other fitness band on the market. While I didn’t appreciate the points function of the app and it’s calculations, the fact that my step count and distance are available within the app is important and means I don’t have to rely on Misfit’s points.   I am also personally a big fan of fitness devices that are versatile, or that have a core piece you can remove from the band, and tuck wherever you want. I use this feature frequently, and will tuck my fitness monitor into my bra, or a sock, if I don’t want to wear an obvious rubber athletic style band (my regular band, a Fitbit) to an elegant function, date, or night out. The nice thing about the Shine is people might not realize that it is even a fitness tracker.
While the app and it’s layout is not my favorite, the information is all there, and easy to read. It’s also very easy to navigate through historical data or previous days with a simple swipe.misfit grab
In short, I would definitely recommend this band to someone who is looking to start out on the fitness track. Particularly the type of person who doesn’t want everyone to notice they are wearing a bulky rubber band around their wrist, since the Misfit Shine is much more like a beautiful bracelet then a utilitarian fitness device. Form and function, all in one great and customizeable package, since different colour trackers and a variety of band options are available.

Misfit Shine is available for $99 on the company’s website, and for the same price on Future Shop’s site in Canada.

Looking to check out other fitness devices?  Read about the Basis Peak, Fitbit Flex, and check out info on some other devices that I featured on CTV News Tech Talk.

Why is my tech broken? Why do my devices crash? Why is technology unreliable? How can I fix it?

pixellated tvI’ve tested a LOT of technology, gadgets and devices as a tech writer, and if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that most gadgets will require regular maintenance to keep working well.

Just like your car, the fluids need to be topped up, and when you hear a rattle you need to take it to a mechanic and get it looked at to prevent a bigger problem down the road. It’s the same thing with all the high tech gadgets we buy; you’ve got to do your part to keep them in good working order.

Why is my tech not working?

In the last few months alone, I’ve had home automation devices stop working, smart light bulbs cease to function, headphones that crashed constantly, and many other devices where they’ve just stopped working altogether, or only function intermittently.  Here’s a few common reasons why your devices may not be performing as they should.

1. Software/Firmware Updates Need to be Done

What’s the difference – Firmware vs Software

For starters, what’s the difference between firmware and software? Software is a program you run, often designed to run on a computer’s hard drive.  Usually software is something you, the user, adds to your arsenal of programs by choice. Firmware is software that’s embedded my a manufacturer into a device, that’s absolutely essential to it running. Firmware often lives inside a tiny chip deep within your device.

With that said, some products bring in constant firmware or software updates, like every couple of weeks. Others far less frequently. The key is, when your device gives you those push messages that say it’s time to update, don’t ignore them.  Updates are designed to remove bugs, patch security flaws and keep things running smoothly.  That’s why when you call a tech support hotline for help, the first thing they’ll ask is if your device is up to date.

2. Integration with your phone is not quite perfect yet

Have you ever tried to write a program for an app or device?  Yeah, me either.  It’s frikking hard, time consuming and expensive. That’s why a lot of companies will start by writing a program for just one smartphone OS, and bring in the second one later.

Why is there only an Apple App for that?

Often the development team has a preference for one device or operating system over others.  Why? This article from The Guardian explains it pretty well: “Developing iOS apps means ensuring they work nicely on a small range of iPhones and/or iPads: generally 6-8 different devices depending how far back the developer wants to go. On Android, it’s a different story: nearly 12,000 different devices out there in the hands of people, with a wider range of screen sizes, processors and versions of the Android software still in use. Many developers’ lack of enthusiasm for Android is down to concerns not just about the costs of making and testing their apps for it, but also the resources required to support them once they’re launched, if emails flood in about unspotted bugs on particular models.”

So to that point, keeping every single device out there running smoothly with your software or firmware is no easy feat. So that means if you’re having troubles you can try waiting it out until the next batch of updates, and hope that helps.

3. The product wasn’t quite ready for market, but they released it anyway

I’ve tested numerous products this year where it feels like the company’s gadget was definitely not ready for public release, but they started shipping devices anyway. Selling units helps get cash flowing in, which in turn helps pay for customer and tech support, which is one reason companies might release a not-quite-ready gadget or device.  The other reason a product might hit the market too soon?  There’s no better way to beta test something than to put it in the hands of thousands of users and see what happens.  At that point, you need to hope they have really good customer service and fast developers to get things working well quickly.

Did I get a bum device or a dud gadget?

4. It’s a dud.

There’s another reason your gadget or device may be causing you to pull your hair out. It’s a bad apple.  From where I’m sitting right now, I can see four smart gadgets/devices that have had to be replaced within hours, or weeks of getting them, because they were duds.

How do you know if they’re duds?  I’d say these days, if you’re spending any more than an hour on set up or installation and it’s not working properly, you may have a did. Today, most quality, well-made devices are set up and ready to go in less than 15 minutes.  Any longer than that and you might have a problem.  If you’ve been fighting with a gadget for more than an hour, or repeating the set up process over and over and getting nowhere, contact your company’s help line.  They can — and will —tell you if you have a bad device. And in 100% of the cases where this has happened to me, they’ve replaced it within days, at no cost to me, and the new one has worked smoothly.

How can I fix my malfunctioning tech?

So to get back to the original question: what can you do to keep your stuff running smoothly?

  1. Plan to update your device.  When an update is ready, do it.  That will decrease the liklihood of problems.
  2. Don’t ignore problems, especially early. If a device keeps crashing your computer, performing poorly or otherwise driving you crazy, call tech support and get it dealt with. If it requires a replacement device, that’s easier done a month in, rather than leaving it three or four months because you’re just too frustrated to deal with it.
  3. Keep your receipts/order numbers. All my receipts and manuals for major purchases go in one drawer, so they’re always easy to find. You’ll likely need some kind of proof of purchase to get help or a replacement.  If it’s a gift, you can always redact (black out) the price and make a copy of the invoice or receipt for the recipient.
  4. Don’t take no for an answer. If you have your receipt, and are having legitimate troubles with a device and tech support can’t help you, don’t accept that.  I recently dealt with a company that basically told me of its malfunctioning gadget, “we don’t know what to do.. soo..”. That’s not good enough.  Ask to speak to a supervisor, who often has more experience, and the authority to do something for you.

Having specific problems with your smart light bulbs?  Try a reset.  Read my blog on How to reset Your Smart Light Bulbs here.

Do you have tips or advice for people dealing with glitchy tech?  Share your wisdom in comments.

A smarter workstation: iRizer makes working on the go more comfortable

img_2789You know when an invention is so smart, so simple, you wonder, ‘why didn’t I think of that’?

That was the first thing I thought of when the new iRizer by Matias arrived in its slim and sleek box.  I unboxed the lightweight laptop stand, which is made of matte black plastic, and latched the two pieces together in about 3 seconds and I was ready to use it.

This stand has several slots where the pieces can be slid together, allowing the stand to hold  your laptop at various angles for comfortable typing and better viewing.

iRizer – Light & Portable

If you travel a lot, and work on a plane, hotel desks, or awkward tables, you know how uncomfortable it can be to hunch over your laptop, using claw-hands to try to peck out your emails and documents. But carrying around something to help you has, until now, been just added bulk, space and weight.img_2803

Not any more.  The iRizer stand comes in two flat pieces which slip easily into a small fabric envelope, and will fit in even the slimmest of laptop bags (the stand measures just  0.55″ or 14mm thick ).

Adjustable comfort for your work space

While the iRizer stand is perfect for travel, it’s also great for a home office, which is where I tested mine.

My set up is not ideal; my chair is too low and the table too high, but I’ve just dealt with the discomfort. When the test model of the iRizer arrived, I was finally able to adjust my laptop to put the screen in front of my eyes, which was instantly much less stressful on my neck. Typing on the keyboard was still possible at the 20° angle, if a bit hard to get used to.  That was when I added a portable keyboard (which incidentally you can also get from Matias) and instantly my work area was transformed.

How Matias iRizer Works

The iRizer’s two plastic panels slide together; one piece slides into special notches in the second piece; four different openings allow you to angle your laptop 20°, 30°, 40°, or 50°. The stand feels solid and durable, but does allow some flexibility when typing. The stand also has the ability for its front edge to sit off the edge of the desk or table, further giving you options and angles to work at.

The iRizer also acts to cool your laptop; by lifting it from the work surface, air is allowed to circulate, keeping things from overheating. The stand can even work with your iPad or tablet too, meaning it’s ultra-versatile.

iRizer is recommended for use with a separate keyboard and/or mouse, but will work great on its own too.

Why lift your laptop?

Do you really need to raise your laptop? Ergonomics experts say yes.

“Unlike desktop computers, you cannot adjust the monitor and keyboard independently,” notes a University of Western Ontario article on proper laptop ergonomics. “Adjusting the keyboard to elbow height encourages neck bending when viewing the screen.  While, raising the monitor to eye level and accommodating eye height will position the arms awkwardly.”

The solution is to lift the monitor using a stand like the iRizer, while adding an external keyboard for additional flexibility when configuring your set up. This allows you to adjust both your screen’s eye-level, and to maneuver the keyboard for less strain on the wrists.

Testing the  iRizer Laptop Stand

My first tests were at my regular work desk as I noted above.  I found the stand made the most difference for me with respect to the screen’s viewing angle.

One thing I wasn’t used to was the slight bounce, or ‘give’ the stand had.  It was most noticeable while typing, and though it was a new sensation, it wasn’t unpleasant. This is also easily dealt with by using the recommended external keyboard.

Next I moved to the coffee table; a much lower surface. Normally I wouldn’t dream of working at the coffee table because of the discomfort, but the iRizer made it manageable.  I was able to type comfortably, sitting straight up and keeping my wrists level across my knees.  I also noticed that the stand had significantly less bounce to it if I dropped the front edge of the stand off the front of the coffee table.  As far as I’m concerned this is a great option for working at a low table; at home, or in a hotel room or lobby.

Bonus MiniRizer with your iRizer Laptop Stand!img_2792

A nice surprise in the box was the bonus miniRizer for my phone.  The credit card-sized holder works as a stand for your smartphone or even for business cards. I found it super handy for keeping my phone in view, and will be packing it on my next trip so I can easily watch TV on my phone next time I’m on an airplane.

Overall – The iRizer by Matias

While initially I wasn’t sure ow useful or helpful I’d find a laptop stand, I’m a convert now.  The iRizer does help me get better angles for both the screen and the keyboard, depending on my work environment du jour. I like how lightweight and portable the stand is, and how its many ways to configure the stand provide lots of options for getting a comfortable work space.  I also fell in love with the miniRizer, and it now resides on my desk as a place where I can keep an eye on my smartphone screen for incoming messages. One final plus that warms my heart; Matias, makers of the iRizer, are Canadian.  I love featuring great Canadian technology whenever I can so knowing such a solid invention is made by fellow Canucks makes me happy.

The iRizer is available HERE.

 

irizer_ipad_stand_large

This post is sponsored by Matias Corp. They did not request prior approval over this review.

 

Foreo Luna and Issa: hands on reviews of 2 Beauty Gadgets

img_0120Ultrasonic technology is big in beauty right now. The subtle vibrations are said to help shake dirt and impurities from your skin and even help clean your teeth.

I had the chance to test out two ultrasonic beauty gadgets; the Foreo Issa toothbrush and the Luna face brush. Scroll to the bottom for an update from my dentist on how well the Issa toothbrush performed.

What is Foreo Luna and what will it do?

The Foreo Luna is a skin cleansing device, designed to use ultrasonic waves to help clean your skin more thoroughly.img_9973

There are different styles of Luna from very smooth to a more obvious silicone bristle. I tested two models — a white one with no visible bristles on it (it’s simply a smooth silicone device, that looks somewhat like a bar of soap, with fine ridges on it), and a pink one with subtle silicone nubs.

Foreo says the Luna with its “unique combination of  T-sonic pulsations  with silicone touch points will gently exfoliate dead skin cells and unclog pores of make up residue as well as 99.5% of dirt and oil, enhancing the absorption of your other skin care products”.

It also makes claims that using this device will reduce the signs of aging, by offering “lower frequency pulsations that when applied to wrinkle prone areas reduces the visibility of fine lines and wrinkles”, and makes skin look firmer.

A cleaner way to clean?

The Luna devices are coated with silicone, making them very smooth and streamlined, and easy to grip.  That same silicone, according to Foreo, makes it resistant to bacteria, and easy to keep clean, presumably easier than some of the bristled face brushes that other companies sell, such as the Clarisonic.

I have been using the Clarisonic for several months now, and enjoy the feeling of deep clean I get using the brush. Read my review of the Clarisonic device here.

Knowing how much I enjoyed the Clarisonic experience, I was very much looking forward to testing out the Luna.

Which Foreo Luna is right for you?

The Luna comes in three different models with cleansing brushes it says are tailored to specific skin types. You can take a quiz on the Foreo website, and it will help you select the correct model for your skin type. The quiz wants to know if your skin is fine, has any red patches or oily areas, as well as information on imperfections and acne breakouts.

The quiz recommended I use the normal/sensitive brush, with its touch points for gentle cleansing, and some broader touch points near the top. But since I also had recieved a sample of the brush for sensitive skin, I decided to start with that one.

Luna for sensitive skin

On the day I received it, I charged the device and then put it to work right away. My immediate reaction was I found it uncomfortable and not enjoyable to use. The device is smooth and, even though it is wrapped in soft silicone, it’s very hard. I was rubbing it across my face, and pressing it lightly onto some areas, but it’s ultrasonic buzz really just made me feel as though my bones were being rattled. Particularly on areas of my face where the skin and flesh or thinnest, I felt as though my bones were being vibrated.

I cleansed my whole face and then stopped. I can’t say I was looking forward to the next experience after that. Even so, the next day I repeated the process, and got the same bone jarring experience. Now, what I mean by bone jarring here, is not that it is going to drill holes in your head. It has a very gentle vibration, but when those vibrations are applied directly to certain areas of the face, I found them rather uncomfortable.

Luna for normal skin

I had a much more enjoyable time using the Luna for normal skin. While the bristles are very soft, at the same time it makes it feel as though your skin is being cleansed deeply.
After my first use, I have to say I felt like the brush didn’t do as good a job as my Clarisonic device. But when I went to sleep and woke up the next morning, I was surprised my skin felt velvety, soft, and new. I was impressed.

I found that using this brush with it soft silicone bristles was much less bone buzzing than the Luna for sensitive skin. I think the little silicone nubs act as a bit of a buffer between the device and your skull. So, using this brush I felt I was getting the benefits of the ultrasonic vibrations, without the uncomfortable feeling.

Foreo Luna: The Verdict

I did feel like I needed more cleanser with the Luna, at least initially. While other brushes will foam up your cleanser, the Luna doesn’t. So the first few times I found myself adding a second dose of cleanser.  After a few uses, however, I started soaping up my face, not the brush and found I could use the normal amount. You still won’t get that foamy effect, though.

I also found the shape of the Luna a bit awkward to get into narrow areas, like around the nose, and it wasn’t as natural to cleanse the neck or the jawline, as the brush is not at all flexible. I preferred the normal skin brush of the two I tried as I liked getting a bit of a deeper clean. I also liked the variety of settings. Overall, I’ve been enjoying the ultrasonic technology, and I think my face is smoother, cleaner, and less prone to the occasional breakout, even just using it about twice per week.

The Luna brushes retail for about  $229 Canadian.

img_9117Ultrasonic toothbrush: the Foreo Issa

The Issa is a silicone toothbrush that uses ultrasonic waves to clean and polish your teeth. The brush is made up of two parts; the base and the brush head, and the brush heads are interchangeable and replaceable.

I love the idea of this toothbrush; it incorporates both the vibrations of an electric toothbrush, with the softness of silicone, and the ability to keep it bacteria free, unlike most regular toothbrushes that are simply gross toothpaste residue and bacteria magnets.

Testing the Basic Foreo Issa Toothbrush

The first model I tested out was the regular Issa brush. It has a rounded silicone brush head, that has a bit of a contour taking the brush from short bristles too tall bristles.

Foreo says “the combination of sonic pulse technology with a unique silicone design cleans and whitens teeth like never before”.  The company says its toothbrush brushes teeth effectively, but gently. I can definitely attest to that. Using this toothbrush is a very unique experience.

All my life, I have been used to using plastic bristled toothbrush is, and more recently plastic bristled toothbrush is with electric or battery powered technology. The feeling of this brush is completely different. It feels very gentle and more like you are merely rubbing a finger around your mouth. There is absolutely no sensation of bristles or brushing or, scratching, if you will.  The sensation of this brush is really just soft and edgeless. While that’s a significant difference and a nice touch, I didn’t really feel like it was getting into the nooks and crannies of my teeth and cleaning them. I did feel like the brush was definitely polishing the flatter surfaces of my teeth, but in terms of a feeling of overall clean in my mouth, I didn’t have that with this brush.  It’s worth pointing out that the is a hybrid brush has slightly different bristles. The company says “the hybrid is stronger on plaque and still gentle on gums.” More on that below.img_0004

I love the fact that the handle of this brush is nothing but smooth silicone, with no cracks, crevices, or griplines. I find the handle is the part of any regular toothbrush that gets the grimiest after months of use; it can be downright gross. But with this brush, even if it does get a bit dirty, a quick rinse under the top and everything is clean. The silicone dries quickly as well, preventing gunk buildup. Amazingly you can also wash Foreo products in the dishwasher if you do want a cleaner clean!

Testing the Hybrid Foreo Issa Toothbrush

This brush was my favourite from the get-go. The brush head has more regular toothbrush bristles in the centre, and silicone bristles surrounding those. From my first test use, I felt like I was getting a proper clean while still being gentle.

Help for ‘Aggressive Brushers’

I’m what’s called an ‘aggressive brusher,’ according to my dentist. I use more force than I need, apparently, and over many years that’s resulted in my wearing away grooves at the base of my teeth near my gums. It’s a problem because you can get cavities or extreme sensitivity in those areas, and some will even need to be given fillings to protect your teeth. My dentist recommended an electric toothbrush to tone down the back and forth cutting motion I was using brushing by hand, and that’s been effective for the last few years. Now, with the Issa hybrid, I feel like I’m getting a good clean, but with much less force.

I asked a Doctor for his opinion

I spoke to Dr. John Huynh, DMD,MS,D.Ortho, FRCD(C) who’s a Certified Specialist in Orthodontics about the Issa brushes.  He told me a quick search of PubMed (a database for medical publications) found no published articles about the Issa toothbrush at all, meaning not a lot of professional medical research has been done on the Issa, or if it has it hasn’t been published.

Dr Huynh had a look at the Issa line and told me, “I think the bristles on the Issa tooth brush are rather large. I don’t feel as thought they would be able to get into the tight spaces between the teeth. Basically, a tooth brush works by mechanically debriding plaque, biofilms and debris off of your teeth. If the bristles don’t actually contact your teeth because they are too large to fit into the small spaces, then it doesn’t really work. Pretty much every other tooth brush out there has fine bristles that can get into the nooks and crannies to clean your teeth.”

Regarding aggressive brushers, Dr Huynh said, “I can see it possibly being gentler on the root surface of a tooth though. That part of the tooth is made out of cementum which is a lot softer. That’s the part of the tooth that tends to get damaged when people have gum recession and are aggressive brushers. Usually using a soft or extra-soft tooth brush can help prevent this type of wear from occurring.”

Of course taking care of your teeth is about more than just the brush, which Dr John pointed out. “You have to remember that flossing is the other half of the equation that needs to be done. Brushing alone isn’t able to get right between your teeth to clean out all the gunk from between your teeth. The thing is…how many people actually floss daily? I bet not too many. So it’s extra important that you have a tooth brush that can get into the smaller nooks and crannies.”

Battery lasts a year on a single charge

Foreo says the brush can last a full year on the single battery charge. That’s impressive when it comes to an electric toothbrush, and so far I have indeed only charged it once.

There’s a kids version of the Issa and there are also several different attachment options for the is so brush. One is a tongue cleaner, one is a simple replacement head, and the other is what’s called the hybrid brush head. It incorporates more traditional bristles (but made with polymer) into the center of the silicone bristles. This is meant to keep the antibacterial properties that set this brush apart from traditional manual toothbrushes.

The Issa toothbrush comes in several colours and costs $229. Replacement brush heads are about $25-30.

Foreo Issa: The Verdict

It’s a bit weird getting used to the new brush shape and feel, so I’m not using it all the time yet, but I’m working up to it.  I feel like the brush is extremely gentle, maybe too gentle; it doesn’t quite feel like it’s getting the teeth in the back, and I need to really concentrate to get in the nooks and crannies. But the tradeoff here is that I’m damaging my teeth a lot less, I guess.

I’m also a bit concerned about the cost of replacing the brush heads. They’re about $25, but Foreo says you only need to replace them once per year. While this whole set up is much more expensive than a traditional $5 toothbrush or $10 drug store electric one, there’s longevity to consider, as well as the fact there are no batteries to replace, as I usually need to do in my $10 brush about 3 months in. Yes, the Issa is an investment, but if you’re like me, it may help you cut down on cutting into your teeth.

I am also interested to see what my dentist will say; whether she feels I’m getting as good of a clean from this brush after 6 months.   On that front, I’ll let you know.

UPDATE: The dentist’s view!

May 2016: I had my 6 month checkup, the first since starting to use the Issa brush. I brought the brush in to my dentist and showed it to both her and the hygienist.  They had both heard about silicone toothbrushes, but hadn’t been hands-on with one. They were interested in the Issa, and even more so at what my results were.  After a thorough dental exam by each of them, they proclaimed my teeth clean and healthy, and with perhaps slightly less plaque than they’d usually find on me.

While it was hard for either them or me to definitively say the Issa did a better job than a regular electric toothbruth, what was clear was that it did just as well and maybe even slightly better. Both the dentist and the hygienist agreed I should keep using the device, and I can say that was comforting news.  So now, more than 6 months later, I am still using, enjoying and having good results with the Issa brush.

For more information on these products, head to Foreo.com

How to be a better photographer: getting help in Calgary

Photography by Kristian Bogner © 2012
Photography by Kristian Bogner © 2012

Kristian Bogner is still haunted by a photo he didn’t get. A professional photographer, Bogner was in the front row for Canada’s gold-medal winning hockey game at the Vancouver Olympics when Sidney Crosby took a pass from Jarome Iginla, wound up, and shot, winning bragging rights for all Canadians.

Though Bogner got hundreds of amazing images from the game, the one he wanted was not meant to be; a shot of the puck touching, then leaving Crosby’s stick as it headed for the net, and a place in history.

“I think if I’d just been half a second quicker, I’d have the shot no one else did,” says Bogner.

We all have regrets when it comes to shots not taken, or photographic misses. Sometimes missing a shot is just luck, or timing, but often there’s skill involved in getting consistently great photos. That’s where Bogner comes in.  A Nikon ambassador, he also works with GoPro and Manfrotto, and enjoys educating amateur photographers about his craft, with helpful tips, tricks and basic education.

Bogner will be just one of the photography experts taking part in London Drugs #LDFotocon this month, where experts are available for advice and education at Calgary-area stores.

“I like to get them stoked and energized and to help them not be afraid to take their photography to the next level,” says Bogner, “It’s very rewarding, and one of the best parts of what I do.”

#LDFotocon aims to help photographersDSC_0892

You can take part in #LDFotocon events at many local London Drugs locations.  #LDFotocon is a series of workshops and info sessions where recognized experts in photography take you through various aspects of the craft.  Want to learn about using a DSLR? Maybe even a specific camera brand like Canon, Nikon or Pentax? You can get information, expertise and an education all month long at London Drugs.

Tips from a pro can really up your game

I’ve always been interested in photography, but I’ve only ever guessed at how to take a good photo.  So recently I decided to take a class with well-known local photographer Neil Zeller.  In just a couple hours, many of the basics of photography had been demystified for me.

I learned what all the dials and buttons on my hand-me-down DSLR did, what exactly an F-stop was, and how to adjust my settings based on lighting conditions.  The bottom line is, getting some pro help can make all the difference not just to your finished photos, but to your confidence too. I know because it worked for me.

DSC_0905Don’t let those pics gather digital dust!

You can also get help with what to do with all the photos that are gathering digital dust on your hard drive.  London Drugs also has classes designed to show you how to make the most of enlargements or gallery wraps, or how to get printed photos onto aluminum panels to create show-stopping home art. It’s all as close as your nearest participating London Drugs location.

But learning about what to do with your photos is just the beginning. Other learning opportunities at #LDFotocon include

•    Face-to face workshops with camera vendors from all the top brands
•    Learning about retouching and colour management
•    Preview the hottest new cameras, hardware or software products
•    Get point-and-shoot photography tips
•    Take part in a DSLR showcase from top brands: Nikon, Canon, Pentax
•    Compact system camera (CSC) photography and showcases
•    Learn about drone photography
•    See how to take better photos on your smartphone
•    Find out how to build a Moments photo book or calendarDSC_0860

Photo help in-store, without feeling intimidated

I’ve learned so much about photography lately that I’ve decided it’s time to upgrade my circa-2002 camera to something a little sleeker, smarter, and easier to use.

London Drugs is stop number one on my shopping excursion, because the selection is huge, and it’s right in my neighbourhood. I don’t need to go downtown or to a mall; I can get expertise and great prices right where I live.Photo 2016-04-23, 9 54 33 AM

When I went in to get hands-on with the cameras on my shortlist, the gent I spoke to was helpful, patient, and if there was something he didn’t know, he looked it up for me on the spot.

Bogner is also a London Drugs fan, having started shopping there well before he signed on to teach workshops.

“London Drugs is my saving grace whenever I needed equipment, filters, whatever; I’m always impressed with what London Drugs has to offer. And I’m always amazed how they have all the stuff I need, whether it’s LowePro or Apple, or Nikon, they have a good selection of accessories in particular. I’ve shopped at London Drugs for years, because it’s very convenient and nice to know they have all the high end products.”

Bogner is looking forward to being able to share some of his wisdom with participants, like the advice he often gives to new photographers; “if you see a moment and think, ‘oh, I’ll get it later’, it’s never the same.  Capture it now, don’t wait, because later will never be the same. It’s a unique moment”.

Take a look at the events, workshops and guest experts at London Drugs this month, by following the hashtag #LDFotocon on Twitter or Instagram. You can also find Kristian on both those platforms @KristianBogner

London Drugs #LDFotocon stops in Calgary on June 4th and June 5th, 2016. 
Click here for the schedule of events and to register.

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This post is sponsored by London Drugs. 

Carey Grant’s Palm Springs home sells for $3.5m

CaryGrantinhishomeinPalmSpringsThe Palm Springs estate of former actor and Hollywood heartthrob Carey Grant has sold for a whopping $3.5 million USD.

The property has been privately owned for many years, and the owners rented it our for weddings and special events.  Sadly that’s no more.carey

The six bed, six bathroom mansion called “Las Palomas” is set on 1.5 acres and covers 6,000 square feet at 928 N. Avenida Palmas in Palm Springs’ famous “Movie Colony” neighbourhood.

The home has a gorgeous pool and yard that’s lush and green despite the desert climate.

here are some more details abut the property, from the realtors selling it.

carey pool“Completed in 1930 by John Byers, AIA, an early pioneer of Spanish Colonial revival in Southern California, the estate was built as an exact replica of a 19th-century Spanish Andalusian farmhouse.

Its exclusive neighborhood became known at the Movie Colony due to its popularity as a desert hideaway among old Hollywood luminaries such as Cary Grant, who purchased the stately hacienda in 1954. Internationally adored as a Golden Age leading man for his work in such hits as The Philadelphia Story, None but the Lonely Heart, and Arsenic and Old Lace, it was love at first sight for the screen legend upon laying eyes on the property as he entered retirement. Grant commissioned Wallace Neff, AIA, a key player in defining the California architectural style, to build a guest wing known as The Alfred Hitchcock Casita, as the filmmaker was a regular house guest. In fact, it was during one of his visits that Hitchcock coaxed Grant out of retirement, going on to star in career-defining, box-office smashes To Catch a Thief, An Affair to Remember, and North by Northwest. During his ownership, Las Palomas served as a haven for fellow industry superstars like Howard Hughes, Sophia Loren, Katharine Hepburn, Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly, and Clark Gable to name a few, seeking refuge from the limelight.

carey 23“Walled and gated, a large drive and motor court lined by abounding greenery and palms lead to the secluded Las Palomas, whose impeccably maintained exterior of white stucco displays the original shutters painted in a fresh coat of cobalt blue. Inside, the two-story estate features vaulted ceilings with exposed wood beams and series of French doors to the surrounding gardens throughout the open plan. carey 24

“Although extensively restored, special care was taken to preserve many of its original elements such as terracotta floor tiles, wood-burning fireplaces, colorful art deco bathroom tiles, and custom cabinetry. Common areas include a spacious living room with double-height ceilings, dining and family rooms, a kitchen, and a great room with soaring 40-foot ceilings. Living quarters upstairs and in the guest wings feature six bedrooms, including a large master suite with a fireplace and access to balconies overlooking the grounds.

“The idyllic and beautifully manicured outdoors feature sweeping lawns, majestic 80-year-old eucalyptus trees, palms, agave, meandering bougainvillea, and an array of citrus, date, fig, Japanese plum, and pomegranate trees that bloom year round. A stone terrace offers space for sunbathing and entertaining beside a large pool and spa.”

Take a look at the listing, for as long as the link stays active.

Read more Palm Springs news and travel tips on the blog here.
Photos from The Agency/real estate listing and from thecarygrantestatepalmsprings.com

 

Fitbit Alta Contest winner

img_1693

We’ve drawn a name for the Fitbit contest and the winner of the Fitbit Alta is Kristin Kaluta of Calgary. Congratulations Kristin and thank you to everyone who entered.

Stay tuned to this page and to CTV Tech Talk for more great giveaways!

 

 

 

Is this remote strongbox the future of package delivery?

DOORBIRD PACKAGEIt’s frustrating missing the FedEx guy. If you aren’t home for a delivery, you have to either wait for another attempt, or go get it yourself. And let’s not talk about packages going missing after being left out front unattended.

But a new invention from German tech company Doorbird aims to change that. They’re announcing a Video Parcel Box.

This remote-activated delivery box allows its owners to see the delivery person, talk to them and open a large parcel box  from anywhere. You can also create customized access codes for regular  delivery people to open the box via a keypad.

Another interesting feature? You can save the tracking number of the parcel in Doorbird’s App. TDOORBIRD 2he delivery person then just holds the barcode in front of the camera and the Video Parcel Box opens automatically. In either case: DoorBird notifies you that the parcel arrived safely. A camera also records video of the delivery and lets you see who’s accessing the box.

The Video Parcel Box will be available in different sizes, colors and materials. Prices will start at $1.250.

 

 

Gorgeous fitness, activity & smart gadgets

For many years, fitness and activity trackers were utilitarian, rubbery and, let’s face it, sometimes ugly.

Now, a whole new generation of fitness and activity trackers, plus other smart devices have the look of fine jewelry, with all the smart functionality you need!

Fitbit’s new trackers

Meet Fitbit Altaimg_1691

The Alta is the fashionista version of an activity tracker. Slim and bracelet-like, the Alta actually looks a lot like the original Fitbit Flex (and comes with all the basic activity tracker features you’d expect), but with some improvements:

  • more sleek bracelet/band options including more watch/jewelry style options
  • vertical display on the front of the band with built-in watch
  • smart alerts come directly to the bracelet

The Alta is meant for a person who wants to be fashionable and not be seen to wear an ‘ugly’ rubber athletic band all the time. The band does the physical tracking and it pairs with a free smartphone app where you can store and access stats from day to day and long-term. There are also several pretty options for bands, from leather, to metal to the original rubber if you’re going to be working out hard.

Read my FULL REVIEW of Fitbit Alta .

Check out Fitbit Blaze

To use the Blaze you’ll need the Fitbit App if you want to keep long-term stats. With the app downloaded, you pair the device to your phone.

The Blaze has an interesting configuration; it’s essentially two parts; the band (which is interchangeable, more on that below), and the tracker unit, a flat, square device just over an inch square and slightly thicker than an average watch.  The tracker pops out of the band to allow for changeover, and must be removed and placed inside a tiny box for  charging.

At first I thought this band would be heavy and bulky, but after less than an hour, I had already forgotten it was on my wrist. Really, it doesn’t feel any heavier or bigger than my original Fitbit Flex, despite the obvious size differences.img_1456

I also like that the tracker unit itself can be popped out of the band, and tucked into a sports bra, sock, or pocket. This was one of my favorite features of the Fitbit Flex; it allowed me to hide the tracker if I didn’t want to be wearing something obviously athletic and rubbery on my wrist for a nice night out or a formal event. While the accuracy of the device may not be as exact if it’s worn elsewhere since it’s been made to be worn on the wrist, in my experience it wasn’t off enough to throw my day out of whack. And besides, the better looking these devices get, the less likely we are to want to hide them anyway, right?

Read my FULL REVIEW of the Fitbit Blaze.

Samsung Galaxy Gear S2 smart watch &

Samsung Galaxy S7 smartphone

Samsung Gear S2

I’ve been playing with this device for a week now and I love it’s clean lines and intuitive interface. While it functions as a chic watch, with a host of cool faces to match any style, it also has fitess tracking abilities.

  • Taking charge of your fitness goals is easy. It helps you track your daily activity levels,  and water vs. caffeine intake.
  • The Gear S2 helps you stay fit (even when you don’t want to!) with motivational messages, giving you the extra push, or much needed reminders.
  • The Gear S2’s battery life enables you to stay connected approximately 2-3 days on a single wireless charge.
  • No matter the weather, you can stay on your fitness track because the Gear S2 is water resistant and dustproof, so you never have to miss that much needed outdoor jog, even in the rain!
  • The Gear S2 will also track your heart rate.

The Gear S2 pairs with the  Samsung Galaxy S7

Features:

  • The Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge are the first Dual Pixel smartphones, letting you get the shot in 0.15 seconds. With a 12MP camera and a larger (f1.7) aperture, the camera owns the night and captures the moments that matter like never before, even in low light.
  •  With a stunning 5.1″ Quad HD Super AMOLED Display (5.5″ for Galaxy S7 edge) these smartphones are designed to not just look beautiful, but feel great in your hands. Plus, with an always-on display, stay up to date on the time, calendar and notifications without having to wake up your screen.
  •  Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge deliver fast wired and wireless charging technology. Additionally, the hybrid SIM card tray allows users to insert a microSD card for up to 200GB of additional storage

For Apple users, Samsung is working on an app that will allow the watch to function with iPhones too so more users may then be able to  jump on board.

Ringly Smart Ring

This little gem (pun intended) is a chic cocktail ring with smart functionality. Ringly rings come in a variety of metal finishes and stones. They work by sending you alerts when texts, phone calls or emails come in. You can also set it up to work with other apps and devices, like Fitbit, MyFitnessPal, Instagram, Twitter and many more.

The Ringly will vibrate on your finger, and you can set it for one buzz, up to four vibrations. The ring also sends a coloured light alert, via a tiny LED light in the side of the ring (the stone itself doesn’t glow). You can change the colout from orange to red, blue, green or purple, depending on they type of alert you want to get. It’s a fun accessory, but I recommend getting a size smaller than you might ordinarily, as the stone is quite heavy and falls to the size if not fitted properly. You’ll find that frustrating, and pull the ring off, so size appropriately.