Ventev Mobile accessories & charging gadgets come to Canada

There’s a new provider of mobile and wireless accessories like cables, power banks and charging gadgets. Ventev, a US-based maker of gadgetry and smartphone gear, has arrived in Canada.

I recently had a chance to try out some of the gear, and was very impressed with its durability, sleek styling, simple design and versatility. Continue reading “Ventev Mobile accessories & charging gadgets come to Canada”

Top tech gift picks

There were so many great gadgets through my tech test center this year. I picked just a few as some of my most favourite for 2016.  Be sure to check out my longer “Top 10 tech gifts” list too. Continue reading “Top tech gift picks”

Great gear for back to school – CTV Tech Talk

tech-talk-sept16This week on CTV Tech Talk I showed you three cool gadgets that can make back to school easier and more fun.

Moleskine Smart Writing Set

moleskine-smart-writing-set-erinlyycThis gadget has really surprised me in terms of how versatile it is, and how well it works. It would be great for students, artists or just compulsive note-takers who never want to lose their notes, or who need an easy way to share them with others.

We barely had time to scratch the surface of everything this device can do on Tech Talk, so be sure to click the link below and read the full review.

The Moleskine Smart Writing Set  consists of a thick notebook in traditional Moleskine style; a bound and wrapped cover with an elastic to keep it closed, plus a special pen (called Pen+) that has the ability to connect to your smartphone, and automatically and seamlessly transfer whatever you draw or write in the notebook, direct to digital format, using the free Moleskine app.

The pen is larger than a standard pen and has built-in technology.  You push a button on the end of the pen, and connect it to Moleskine’s M+ Notes app.  Then, it tracks where you write on the page, and transfers it in real time to the app, in your own handwriting, or converted to text. The uses for this really cool technology are almost endless.

Read more about exactly how the Smart Writing Set works, and my full review of it here.

Roku Insignia Smart 4K TV4k-UHD-Insignia-Roku-TV-Best-Buy-Canada-1024x536

4K TV is the newest innovation in TV technology, and it’s all about the pixels. A 4K TV has millions more than the next best TV which is 1080p.

If you think of a TV screen as a giant grid made up of minuscule squares, a 4K image has about 4,000 horizontal pixels (that’s where the name “4K” comes from). In total, it has about 8 million pixels on the screen, or about 4 times as many as the next best TV. To explain it in a visual way, manufacturers are jamming as many total pixels as there are in all of a 1080p set, into about a quarter of a 4K screen. That’s a lot of pixels.

While the screen resolution is amazing, the Roku Insignia TV is also smart. You can stream shows with it, using Netflix, and you don’t need a seperate streaming device.  You can also surf the web, watch YouTube or play digital content. A 4K Roku TV brings you the best available resolution plus all the smartest TV features.

Click here to read the full review I did of this TV, as well as more about 4K technology.

Epson Ecotank ET-2550 Printer

It’s been more than a decade since I’ve had a printer in my home.  I haven’t missed having one for many years, that is until I started testing some new ones.

It’s not that I haven’t needed to print anything, but you know, you find other ways around that; snapshot photos, email copies, and yes, printing stuff at the office.

I have to say, that since I’ve re-adopted having a printer in the house, I’ve found them quite handy; and so has my family. Particularly because they’re now easier to use, more versatile, and there’s less fussing with ink and cartridges.

No ink cartridges in this printer!

epson-ecotankOn Tech Talk I showed off the Epson Expression ET 2550 EcoTank Printer. It’s a wireless printer/copier/scanner/fax/ethernet, which has a unique feature: it doesn’t use printer cartridges.  Instead it contains “eco-tank” ink bottles that are equivalent to about 20 cartridge sets. The printer I have includes enough ink to print up to 4000 pages in black or 6500 pages in color. That’s a long, long time before I’ll need to worry about running out of juice; possibly a couple years.

I reviewed a different model of EcoTank printer, one that has a slightly higher print capacity; read that review of the Epson Workforce ET-4550 here.

Whether it’s watching documentaries in glorious 4K resolution, printing book reports without the fuss of cartridges, or taking and sharing notes instantly and digitally, these three gadgets can help make back to school season easier, more productive, and more fun.

Contest – Enter to Win!

Want to enter the contest we talked about on CTV? Click here to be re-directed to the contest page. (*not active until Tuesday Sept 13)

Parrot Minidrones WINNERS!

parrot raceOn CTV Tech Talk  last week I told you how you could win one of two parrot minidrones. PLEASE NOTE THE CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. 

Congratulations to winners Shelley Parry and Jack McCullough.

 

parrot minidrone
The Fine Print:
There are two minidrones to be won, supplied by Parrot Canada/ Casacom. I’ll pick one winner at random from among all the social media and website entries. The contest is open for THREE DAYS – Only 1 entry per person, per day please; duplicate entries will be discarded. Contest closes at 11:59pm MT July 14, 2016. Odds of winning depend on the number of entries received. Not valid in Quebec.
Each winner will receive 1 prize. Prize will be shipped direct to the winner by Parrot Canada/Casacom. ErinLYYC.com bears no responsibility for prizes not delivered, delayed or misdirected, or not claimed after 30 days. This prize has no cash value.
I’ll get in touch with the winner via the email address supplied on entry or at WordPress comment registration. Winner must respond to an email naming them as the winner within 24 hours. Non-response within 24 hours, and I’ll redraw under same  24 hour timeframe until I get a winner’s response.
Winner’s name(s) will be posted to this website and/or social media after the drawing.
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.
By entering this contest you agree you have read and accept the rules and are to abide by them.

Making outdoors easy: Gardening Gadgets & App

img_3321Not all of us have green thumbs, but fortunately, technology can help! There are some amazing gadgets that can help make life outdoors easy this summer, plus, we can count on technology to beautify our yards too.

TECH TALK JUNE 2On CTV Tech Talk this month, we looked at a few of these fun and helpful gadget picks.

Fatboy Transloetje Table Lamp

This chic lamp (above) looks like something worthy of a design magazine. Its acrylic form is transparent, allowing you to see the light bulb and electrical workings inside.  It’s operated by using a small, visible touchpad to turn the light on, off and to adjust levels of brightness. It has a rechargeable battery, making it wireless, so it can be used anywhere, including the yard.  Fatboy says it’s waterproof too.

Mpowered Inflatible Solar lanterns

So many creative uses! Blow up these versatile lights and float them in your pool, hang them from trees, or sit them on a table. Without air inside they pack flat, and a small solar panel in the top of the lamp means it’ll recharge all on its own. These are available in white, or colours; where with the touch of a button they can be changed to a variety of LED light colours. Add in the sparkle that’s part of this light, and you’ll create a stunning outdoor atmosphere.

Parrot Flower Power plant sensor

This genius gadget is a small forked spike that you jab into the dirt of your garden, or an indoor or outdoor potted plant. Just tell the stick-shaped gizmo what type of plant it’s watching over, and you’ll get customized reminders to water, add fertilizer, or to move it to a sunnier spot. If you’re always killing plants, this gadget will help you remember to caretake them, and possibly keep them alive much longer.

MiPow Garden smart solar light & candle

Mipow makes very easy to use lighting gadgets that are fun to have around the home (Read about their other lights here)

With the Garden light, you can leave it outside so that it’s constantly recharged by the sun.  Then once it’s at full power, you can control it with your smartphone, adjusting brightness and even changing it to cool colours.

The Candle is battery powered, but it lasts like crazy, thanks to low-energy LED lights.  The candle can provide a candlelight glow, or have it flicker in a variety of colours. It makes a perfect addition to an outdoor dinner table because it can’t be blown out by the wind, but (Fun Fact!) you can blow on the candle to turn it on and off! Plus, you can turn it over and use it to hold real tea lights too.

Best garden ID App! MyGardenAnswers!

Also on Tech Talk I mentioned a great app for identifying plants in your garden; it’s called My Garden Answers (available via the App store or Google Play too). You snap a photo of the plant, leaf or flower, and the database will tell you what it is!  Perfect if you inherited plants or moved into a new space – or if you just want to know the proper names of the things in your garden.img_2916

Winners of this month’s Tech Talk Contest are: Elaine Watt and Jonathan Howes.  CONGRATULATIONS and thanks for watching!

 

How to publish your own book in 3 easy steps

img_9945You’ve always had a dream of publishing something.  Perhaps it’s writing a praise-worthy novel, or children’s book, or maybe even just getting some family photos or recipes together and sharing them with loved ones.

Publishing used to involve shopping your work around, and facing an endless string of pre-formatted rejections before giving up dejectedly.

Today, publishing your book is no longer so hard.  Self publishing has become far more common and far more inexpensive than ever before.

Like Blurb.  Blurb is a publishing website/platform that allows you to lay out your own book, then pay to print as many copies as you wish, as quickly as you want. I recently used it to publish a children’s book that I wrote with my husband.

How to Publish with Blurb in 3 steps

Step 1: Create

The first thing to do is write your great novel. Or illustrate that kids’ story. Or pen your comic book. Maybe you want to publish all your family recipes, print a wedding or anniversary book, a baby book or even a family history.  Well, now’s the time to get cooking, literally and figuratively!

Trust me, this will be the hardest step and 90% of people reading this won’t ever see step 2. Writing requires drive, dedication, determination, self-motivation and yes, preferably talent. (Though with self publishing, fortunately that last one is now optional because no one is judging you before you go to press — yay!)

Once you have the hard work behind you, the rest is easy.

Step 2: Layout

Once you have your material, and it’s been edited or otherwise proofed, you can download the free Blurb “Bookwright” software for Mac or PC. The software is super easy to use and is quite intuitive. You simply select “Start a new book” and then import your photos, images, drawings or text.  The software stores them in the layout software for you so you don’t have to go hunting every time you want to add a page. Trust me, dumping all your content into Bookwright up front will save you time and hassle down the road.

You can select how many pages long you want to make your book, and it’s easy to add pages as you go whether at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of the book so you don’t need to be too concerned with exact pagination yet.
Getting a look at your projectScreen Shot 2016-01-11 at 2.47.30 PM
The software is very easy to navigate. You can see all your pages at a glance down the left-hand side of the screen. In the middle and taking up the largest piece of real estate is your work screen. It gives you two pages side-by-side to look at and work on, with a list of your photos or images up above and some formatting tools.
From your image list, it’s as simple as grabbing and dragging each image and placing it on the page. Once the images are placed, you can adjust their size, zoom in or out, even add text.
Playing with Font, Style, Colour
Other features within the software are the ability to add page numbers and style them as well as such the background color of each page if you need it.
Bookwright watches over you
One of the features I found very helpful is that when you add each image to your book, the software gives it a little checkmark in the corner, which means you can see at a glance which photos or images have already been placed in the book, to avoid duplication or confusion.
Once done, the software checks for low res images and will also perform a final spell check. You can also make a last minute adjustments to paper, book size and style before sending it to print. You can also opt to pay about five dollars extra and have the book in PDF format as well, which in this day and age is genius.  Pay the $5.

Step 3: Print!

img_9088

 The book I selected is a Standard Landscape, 10×8 in, 25×20 cm with a total of 26 Pages. The cost to print it was $42 CAD.  Extras included the $5 for PDF/digital version plus shipping ($11) and tax ($3). That put the grand total around $62 CAD for a single copy.

Blurb Tips I learned along the way:

It took me MONTHS to get my book printed from the time I finished the content, until it was delivered to my door. Why so long?  Life got in the way. I started doing the layout, then got sidetracked here and there hunting down missing images etc. Then I needed to adjust the images from low res to high res, and had to re-find all the high res images I needed. Then I travelled, I worked my day job… blah blah blah. Finally I just decided to buckle down and get to it, but I learned a few tips along the way.

  • Making your book will take longer than you think. Trust me: It will take you a long time. Particularly if you are creating your content from scratch. Don’t expect to have a published book in a week.
  • Don’t tell people you’re publishing a book.  It adds unnecessary pressure.  Work at your own pace and save the social media sharing for when the book is in hand. Also, everyone and their uncle is a wannabe author with nothing to show for it.  Wait until you get the goods before blabbing about it.
  • Make sure you’re using hi res images. If you get in too deep with poor quality images, you’re wasting time.
  • The undo button is your friend. Use it. Love it. Experiment.
  • Gather up all your images, photos, pieces and parts and store them in a folder on your desktop. That way your productivity won’t be slowed by having to hunt for missing pages or images while you’re trying to do your layout.

**Contest is now CLOSED – Winner is Kate!**

Win $50 off YOUR Blurb Book! Enter below!

If you’re keen to try publishing your own book via Blurb, I’m giving away a promo code for $50 off a Blurb book!

Contest Runs January 12-17, 2016. Enter by writing a short note in the comments section on this blog telling me what kind of book you’d publish (Children’s, novel, comic, etc.).

You may enter once per day for the duration of the contest.

The Contest Fine Print:

I’ll pick one winner at random from among all the entries on this website. Only 1 entry per person please per day; extra entries beyond these parameters will be discarded. Contest closes at 11:59pm MT  January 17, 2016. Odds of winning depend on the number of entries received. Canadian entries only but contest is not valid in Quebec.

The winner will receive 1 prize: a $50 coupon code for a Blurb book provided courtesy of Blurb. ErinLYYC.com is not responsible prizes not delivered, delayed, or misdirected, or not redeemed after their expiration date, or for problems or difficulties encountered on the Blurb site when redeeming the code. Use of the code is at the sole discretion of Blurb. Offer is good for a discount off Blurb book publishing and can not be combined with any other offers or discounts. Prize has no cash value.

I’ll get in touch with the winner via the email address provided when you add your comment below. Non-response within 48 hours, and I’ll redraw under same 48 hour timeframe until I get a winner.

Winner’s name will be posted to this website and social media after the drawing.

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.com 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.

By entering this contest you agree you have read and accept the rules and are to abide by them.

img_9947