BlackBerry KEYone smartphone review

The rise and fall of Canadian technology giant BlackBerry is a well known story. But what you might not know is that BlackBerry’s climbing back up into popular culture once again with the release of its brand new phone, the BlackBerry KEYone.

The phone is BlackBerry’s first new offering I’ve paid attention to since I ditched my old Curve about ten years ago. Can it woo back business users and those for whom physical keyboards are a must have? I received one of the brand-new devices to test and review. Continue reading “BlackBerry KEYone smartphone review”

Switching from Apple to Android/Samsung – What you need to know

I recently decided to switch from my Apple iPhone 6 Plus to a new Android phone; the new Samsung Galaxy S8+. Anyone who’s made the switch from Apple to Android or vice versa knows it can be a big change. There are a few things you should know before you make the switch. Continue reading “Switching from Apple to Android/Samsung – What you need to know”

How to save Google maps directions for offline use & travel

Google-Maps 2 how to use offline no wifiGoogle Maps can get you out of a jam if you’re lost or trying to find a place, but it doesn’t help you if you’re travelling out of country and trying to a avoid roaming charges from your cellular provider. The fix is to save Google Maps directions offline so you can access the info without using data. Here’s how to do it. (Hint: do this before you go offline)

How to save Google Maps directions offline

For Apple Users:

1    On your phone or tablet, open the Google Maps app.
2    Make sure you’re connected to the Internet and signed in to Google Maps.
3    Search for a place, like Palm Springs, Madrid, you get the idea.
4    At the bottom of the page, tap the name or address of the place (in the white bar). If you search for a “place” like a restaurant, tap More.
5    Select Download.

maps download google maps offline use how to

How to store maps with no data – Use offline areas

You can save maps or areas for use later.  This is called “Offline Areas”.
After you download an area, use the Google Maps app just like you normally would. If your Internet connection is slow or absent, you’ll see a lightning bolt and Google Maps will use your offline areas to give you directions instead.
•    Get directions and see routes
•    Use navigation
•    Search for locations

It’s worth noting you can get driving directions offline, but not transit, bicycling, or walking directions. In your driving directions, you won’t have traffic info, alternate routes, or lane guidance. You also can’t modify routes like avoiding tolls or ferries.

For Android users:

Download an area to use offline
Note: You can store your offline areas on your device or an SD card. If you change the way you store your offline areas, you’ll have to download your offline areas again.

  1.   On your phone or tablet, open the Google Maps app .
  2.  Make sure you’re connected to the Internet and signed in to Google Maps.
  3.  Search for a place, like San Francisco.
  4.  At the bottom, tap the name or address of the place. If you search for a place like a restaurant, tap More .
  5.  Select Download .

How to store offline areas to an SD card
By default, offline areas are downloaded on your phone or tablet’s internal storage, but you can download them on an SD card if you prefer.

(If your device is on Android 6.0 or higher, you can only save an offline area to an SD card that’s configured for portable storage.)

  1.   On your phone or tablet, insert an SD card.
  2.  Open the Google Maps app .
  3.  In the top left, tap the Menu Offline areas.
  4. In the top right, tap Settings.
  5. Under “Storage preferences,” tap Device  SD card.

Android: Use offline areas
After you download an area, use the Google Maps app just like you normally would.
•    Get directions and see routes
•    Use navigation
•    Search for locations
If your Internet connection is slow or absent, you’ll see a lightning bolt and Google Maps will use your offline areas to give you directions.
Notes:
•    You can get driving directions offline, but not transit, cycling, or walking directions. In your driving directions, you won’t have traffic info, alternate routes, or lane guidance. You also can’t modify routes like avoiding tolls or ferries.
•    To save cell data and battery life, use “Wi-Fi only” mode. In this mode, when you’re not connected to Wi-Fi, Google Maps will only use data from the offline areas that you’ve downloaded. Before you use this mode, make sure you download offline areas. To turn on this mode, open the Google Maps app Menu Settings next to “Wi-Fi only,” turn the switch on.

Save money on roaming fees, save data usage and keep connected while travelling. Do you have map, gadget, or travel tips to share? Post them in comments below.

 

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 review

Samsung galaxy tab s3 2 how toTablets are now as much a part of our lives as laptops, and desktops, and in some cases, they take over those roles. They can because tablets have much more power and versatility than ever.  I recently had a chance to play with a new Samsung Galaxy Tab S3. Regular readers will know I’ve been an Apple user for much of the last 6-8 years so I’m finding it very interesting branching out to explore new brands and getting to know Android.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 – first look

The tablet is a very good sized 9.7″ device, though it does have a wide bezel all the way around the screen. I found that unusual right away, only because Samsung’s new Galaxy phones are basically all screen. Nonetheless, this screen is still large and vibrant. The tablet is impossibly thin with a nice rounded edge it feels good to hold in your hand and it’s not slippery. There’s also a physical home button on the face that doubles as a fingerprint scanner.

The device comes with a special pen that allows you to write on screen or otherwise control the tablet.

Though I didn’t get to sample this feature, you can also attach a magnetic keyboard to the Tab S3 to help provide an easier typing experience if you’re going to use it like a laptop.

Introducing the Samsung S-pen

Samsung galaxy tab s3 pen how it worksThe pen is relatively small and weighs next to nothing. Several smart pens I’ve tried before are fat, bulky, heavy, and make it very uncomfortable to write. The Samsung pen feels like your favourite pen; the one you want to grab for constantly when you need to take notes.

Using the pen to write on the screen is a surprisingly comfortable experience. If you’ve ever used a stylus on a glass screen before you know it feels kind of weird, but in this case the pen’s contact with the screen feels much more natural, almost as if you were putting pen to paper. None of that metal to glass scrape.

Amazingly, the pen never requires charging, I think that’s because the technology is built into the screen as opposed to the pen. So really it’s just acting as a stylus. The small 0.7 mm pen tip is very natural for writing. Unlike some other pens or styluses, you’re not blocking your view of the letters you’re forming behind the pen nib.

Turn handwriting into type or make notes with screen off

samsung write on screen off galaxy tab s3With the pen function you can write notes that are than digitized into typed format, you can draw pictures, edit videos, or even jot something down when the screen is locked. That ‘screen off memo’ function almost looks like chalk on a chalk board, and it’s a super handy and quick way to write yourself a memo.

Using handwriting to text feature

To use the handwriting-to-text feature, do a long press on the microphone button on the virtusal keyboard on screen this will bring up the bottom screen where you can hand write texts that will then be converted to tight text in the top screen

Using the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3

The home screen displays easy access to Weather information and time, as well as the typical Google search screen. There are numerous apps pre-installed on the device including Netflix, YouTube, and the full suite of Google apps. Anything else you need is as close as the Google Play store.Samsung galaxy tab s3 2 how to

The tablet features a 9.7 inch QXGA SAMOLED display that’s HDR video compatible to give you great looking programs.

Here’s where we’ll learn a little something while we’re here; HDR or High Dynamic Range (in a nutshell) makes colours bolder by using light more realistically.

What is QXGA? What’s AMOLED?

Without going into too much detail, QXGA stands for Quantum Extended Graphics Array—it’s is a computer display mode that has enough pixels to offer fine details — more like print on paper, and it’s great for people that want to see all the details or multiple images — and for gaming. the downside is that it’s expensive.

Finally, since we’re playing professor, AMOLED (active-matrix organic light-emitting diode) is a display technology used in smartwatches, mobile devices, laptops, and TVs. You’ve heard of LED or OLED TVs — Light emitting diode — that’s just the the ultra thin film display technology that uses organic compounds to create the display.
Ok lesson over!

The all glass design is sleek and shiny, but at the same time it doesn’t feel too delicate. In the construction of glass and metal have been fused together though it doesn’t feel heavy or metallic

Typing on the tablet is quick and responsive. With some other tablets I’ve tried it almost feels like there’s a lag between the time you press the button and the time the action takes place. With this tablet it felt very instantaneous.

Galaxy Tab S3 has faster performance

The tablet has made some improvements on previous versions; it’s 18% faster than galaxy tab S2, and the graphics load three times faster than the S 2. You can thank the snapdragon 820 processor inside for that.

4 built in speakers in Samsung Galaxy Tab S3

There are four speakers on this tablet for much better audio performance. The speakers that play will automatically adjust to the orientation of the tablet, ensuring you’re always getting the best sound.

Galaxy Tab S3 made for gaming

These tablets are made for gaming too. Though gaming isn’t something I’m into, it’s worth mentioning here. “The Galaxy game launcher it has been optimized for Galaxy Tab S3’s screen, offering a power saver mode, game broadcasting, and mute games or ongoing calls mode,” according to Samsung.Samsung galaxy tab s3 multi window

How to use multi-function window or split screen

Conveniently the tablet also runs Android’s newest operating system, Nougat, which allows you to open two windows at the same time. The ‘multi-function window’ as it’s called is a bit weird to get used to using. When an app is open in full screen view, just press and hold the recents key, then select another app to open by tapping the double rectangle in the top right corner of the second app.

How to close multi function window 

I was mystified about how to close the multifunction window. I thought I could do it by following the same procedure that I did to open it, but not so. You’ll need to grab the blue slider bar that splits the screen, and drag it up and right off the screen. The second window will wipe away.

Battery & charging

The S3 charges very quickly. You can get up to 12 hours of video playback with less downtime according to Samsung. The onboard battery is a 6000 mAh battery, which should last from 8-12 hours, depending on usage.

Tab S3 Camera

I’ve always found it awkward to use a camera on a tablet, though I’ve seen people doing it at national parks and the like. if you’re one of those people, you can look forward to a main camera resolution of thirteen megapixels while the front camera is five megapixels. A flash and auto focus are included.

Overall review – Samsung Galaxy Tab S3

Samsung galaxy tab s3Since my hands-on experience with Android devices has been limited, I felt like this as a whole new experience for me. I don’t have previous Tabs to compare to, so I’m coming at this as a completely new device.

Overall, I liked the tab S3. It’s light and easy to use and hold; it feels good in my hands. The screen is large and detailed, clear and vibrant.

The functions seemed fast and there was almost no lag.

I found some of the functions like using the handwriting to text or the multi window feature to be anything but intuitive. I had to go online and look up how to do some things. Perhaps that’s my lack of familiarity with Android, but my feeling about smartphones and devices is that you should be able to figure things out without research.

In short if you’re looking for an Android tablet that’s fast, sleek, sizeable and great looking, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 is a great pick.

Get a Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 for about $599 US and $799 CAD.

Leesa mattress in a box review

leesa mattress review mattress in a box how to pick mattressMattress technology has come a long way. Now you don’t need to go to a store; you can have a mattress delivered to your door in a small box. I thought the idea of a mattress in a box was a bit weird. Mainly because buying something you’ll sleep on for a long time without testing it seems risky. But the more I read about the Leesa mattress, the more I was intrigued. Continue reading “Leesa mattress in a box review”

IllumiBowl motion-activated toilet night light review

This light couldn’t be more fun and functional.  IllumiBowl’s toilet night light is just that; a way for you to find your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night, without the need to turn on harsh bright overhead lighting.
An alert reader asked me to check this light out and I have to say that while initially I thought it was kind of silly, now I love it. Continue reading “IllumiBowl motion-activated toilet night light review”

Christmas traffic; technology of when to avoid the road

It’s not your imagination; Christmas traffic gets crazy.  And there’s data to prove it. Waze, the guys who make the super cool traffic and navigation app, have released some info about when are the best and worst times to drive around some of the places that see a flood of vehicles around the holidays.

Is Christmas Traffic the worst?

How’d they do it? Waze analyzed Canadian user data from December 24, 2015 and flagged the busiest times for drivers and the worst periods for traffic. All of this lays out what times you should avoid certain destinations.   Continue reading “Christmas traffic; technology of when to avoid the road”

Misfit Ray is pretty; but does it track well? Review

ray4Want to automatically track sleep, steps, calories and exercise, without having to worry about constant charging? The Misfit Ray might just be for you. The Ray arrived to my test center recently for a review, and I strapped it on right away to get started.

Misfit Ray is a sleek cylindrical fitness band that looks a lot more like a chic bracelet than a fitness tracker made for the gym; and that’s a good thing. I had high hopes for the device after having a positive experience with the Misfit Shine previously, but I was to be disappointed with the new device.

What Misfit Ray doesimg_3456

The Misfit Ray is a lot like other fitness trackers with some notable differences. For starters, if you often forget to charge your band, and your 5K run doesn’t get tracked, you’ll like the fact the Ray doesn’t need charging.  It uses a replaceable battery (three tiny ones, actually) that should give you six months of tracking and data, according to Misfit’s website. Sadly that was not the case for me, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Ray also:

  • Automatically tracks steps, distance, calories, and light and restful sleep
  • Has vibration alerts for call and text notifications, movement reminders, and alarms
  • It’s swimproof, with anodized aluminum or stainless steel cylinder with multicolor LED progress display
  • Monitors sleep duration and quality
  • Shows steps taken and distance traveled
  • Allows for tagging of specific activities, like cycling or yoga
  • Tracks calories burned
  • Can be used to take selfies and control lights and music; Smart button enabled to control connected household devices

What’s in the box:

Inside the package you get the Misfit Ray, 1 Band (your choice of Sport or Leather), batteries and a Quick Start Guide. The leather watch-style band that came with my device was comfortable, easy to get on and off, and pretty.  Overall the device looked nice and felt very light on my wrist.  Almost immediately I stopped noticing it was there.

Getting Started with Misfit Ray

img_5351 img_5352 Installing the batteries was the hardest part of operating the Ray.  In the tiny pictograms in the Quick Start Guide, it appears as though a sharp tool is being used to pry the end cap off the Ray’s cylinder.  After much poking, prodding and gouging, I was mystified, since I could absolutely not get the device open.  An online tutorial helped explain the battery compartment is actually accessed by pinching the band as close to the cylinder as possible, then twisting it to the left.  Finally!  Armed with this new and more accurate info, the batteries slid into a small sleeve, and I was good to go.

Pairing Problems

As an owner of a Misfit Shine (read the review of that here) I figured pairing would be easy. I loaded up the app, and selected ‘devices’. Much to my disappointment, I was unable to pair the Ray.  It seemed to me to have something to do with the Shine, which was still on my account, blocking access to the Ray somehow.

After numerous attempts, I pulled the batteries out of the Shine (because there’s no turning it off) and started over with the Ray.  It finally connected!

Misfit Ray – Data & Statsimg_4645

I wore the Ray daily for several weeks, on the same wrist as my Fitbit Alta. After about the first week, I started comparing the data.  I saw immediately that the Ray was counting far fewer steps than the Fitbit.

I know my Fitbit is correctly calibrated for me, because I’ve adjusted it to my stride and counted along as I walked to verify it. For me my Fitbit is a very accurate benchmark with which to measure other devices.

No calibration, and step numbers were way off

img_4629The Ray was just not adding up for me.  Calorie counts I found were similar on both devices (but unless you’re inputting accurate calories with an app like MyFitnessPal, you’re likely just getting an average anyway).

Sleep seemed off a bit as well – sleep times for the Ray were actually overestimated, compared to the Fitbit numbers. The Ray clocked more sleep for me, by anywhere from 25 minutes to more than 50 minutes’ difference as compared to the Fitbit times.

Most concerning for me was the low step count, and no apparent way to adjust it. I couldn’t find any guides or help online in this area, so I reached out to my Misfit contacts to inquire if there is a way to calibrate the band to achieve more accurate results, however I wasn’t able to get an answer back even after several weeks.

App doesn’t give me what I want easily

The Misfit app was not my favourite either.  I found the focus on “points” instead of steps within the app confusing, and not tangible enough for me to take action. The number of steps is buried in the bottom right of the app screen, seemingly like it’s not as important as other data.

Accessing old data is hard

As I was writing this article I’d hoped to post a more detailled comparison of step counts between the Fitbit and the Ray, however the app only allows me to view my activity “points” when it came to historical data.  I couldn’t view my daily step counts like I can on Fitbit’s app.  Not very helpful for stats junkies or folks seeing concrete feedback. As a result, you’ll just have to take my word for it that the data was regularly incorrect.img_4772

Misfit Ray does other things too.. but…

Misfit knows it has to compete with other smarter devices like the Apple Watch, Fitbit and Jawbone, so it added some smart functionality.  There are message and app notifications for calls or texts, but other apps that play nice with the Ray aren’t likely to be on your must-have list of alerts; Skype, WeChat, Facebook Messenger, What’s App and Gmail are among the very short list of supported apps that will vibrate when an alert comes in.  However there’s no screen to check; alerts come in the form of a subtle coloured light on the top of the band. However I found it confusing trying to remember which coloured light corresponded to which app or service’s alert.

Batteries didn’t last .. or the device stopped working

Not really enjoying my overall Ray experience, I put the band away for a few weeks and then went to do some more testing.  I found I couldn’t wake the band up. Having only had it for about 3 months, I was surprised.  I pulled the batteries out and reinstalled them, tried waking the band, reinstalling the app, but the device was dead. It could be the batteries that came with this unit were duds, but by this point I wasn’t in love with the device enough to go and find new batteries, so I called it a day on the Ray.

Overall review of Misfit Ray

If you want a fitness band, do yourself a favour and get something other than the Misfit Ray. For the money, a Fitbit is more accurate, easier to use, and has more functionality and an easier to read and interpret app.

The Misfit Ray is pretty, but that’s it.  It’s all looks and not enough substance. It sells for  about $135 CAD/$99USD.

How to Clean Sterling Silver if yours is Turning Grey, White, Black!

There’s nothing worse then pulling a cherished piece of silver jewelry out and finding it’s turned black, grey, white or yellow.  Trying to figure out how to clean silver it  can be tough.That colour is called tarnish and it’s the bane of any silver-lover.

I love making sterling silver jewelry in my spare time. Occasionally I take on custom-made jewelry requests. But I recently had a customer write me to say a necklace I’d made for him had turned black after just a couple weeks.  He was surprised and thought something was wrong with the piece. Though it can look unsightly if not cared for properly, tarnish is a normal and natural process with sterling silver. But once tarnish or blackening is there, how can you clean silver?

What causes Tarnish?

A well-used silver polishing cloth.

A well-used silver polishing cloth.

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

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

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

Recent studies have shown tarnish develops microscopically within hours of being cleaned and exposed to air again.  You may not see it on the piece for several days or weeks, but it’s there, and will show up as a black residue on a polishing cloth.

How to clean silver

A great way to keep seldom worn jewelry clean (and silverware if you have it), is to store sterling silver in a ziplock bag with all the air squeezed or rolled out of it.  You can wrap it in a soft cloth first too.  Oxygen and thus tarnish may still seep in and can still cause blackening especially if the pieces are stores for long periods of time, but it should keep things to a minimum. Another great way to keep jewelry tarnish free?  Wear it!  Constant contact with the silver keeps tarnish from building up.

Chemicals can cause tarnish

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

Now, she actually liked this look and referred to it as ‘edgy’, so she’s leaving them as they are for now.  If she did want them restored it should be a relatively simple process of buffing the chemical scarring off the surface layer, and exposing clean shiny silver beneath.

Don’t experiment with cleaning silver using household cleaners!

But this also serves as a leaning moment; only soap and water, silver polish, or a silver polishing cloth should be used to clean your silver jewelry.  Many household cleaners and chemicals can alter your precious silver.  In fact, I once had a ring turn bronze after accidentally spritzing window cleaner on it, and had other silver turn grey by getting baking soda onto it.  That too buffed out, but you’ll want to be careful with your jewelry.  Chemicals can also permanently damage certain stones like topaz, opal and more, so don’t experiment; you run the risk of really doing permanent damage.

How to Clean Silver and Remove Tarnish-> Get this Inexpensive Polishing ClothSUNSHINE MINI.JPG

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

A Note about Grocery Store Silver Cleanser

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

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

 

 

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

 

Do you bring your valuable tech and jewelry with you when traveling?

Misfit_Ray_overlap-640x344

Whether you’re getting ready for a spring break vacation or planning a summer getaway, don’t lose sight of your tiniest travel companions — namely your jewelry.

A recent study by Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company found that more than 80 percent of fine jewelry owners will bring their pieces with them when traveling.* The two jewelry items most traveled with are engagement rings and watches. (Though it’s my guess lots of people are traveling with their smart jewelry now too!)Zultanite-Ring-1

“It’s no surprise that people bring their jewelry with them on vacation. Jewelry is part of who you are,” said Trina Woldt, chief marketing officer at Jewelers Mutual. “It’s meant to be worn and enjoyed, not left behind, especially a piece as sentimental as an engagement ring.”

However, Woldt said travelers should take extra precautions when planning their next vacation and encourages them to keep five tips in mind before heading out the door.

Here’s how to minimize risk of jewelry loss, theft or damage.

  1. Choose wisely. Take only the jewelry you’ll actual wear while traveling.
  2. Make a list. Document all the jewelry you’ll take with you, or take pictures or video.
  3. Carry it on. Never put jewelry in checked bags. Instead, wear it or stow it in your carry-on bag.
  4. Use the safe. Always store jewelry in the hotel safe when you’re not wearing it.
  5. Insure it. Get the right coverage before you leave. Look for a jewelry policy that covers loss, damage, theft and mysterious disappearance, and includes worldwide travel protection.

Bora-Bora-Island-6When you arrive at your destination
While the majority of the people surveyed said their jewelry never leaves their body while on vacation, experts at Jewelers Mutual recommend removing your jewelry before certain activities.

“Wearing jewelry in the hot tub or pool could damage certain precious stones and metals,” said Kay Kostelny, Jewelers Mutual’s Jewelry Recovery Specialist.

Kostelny condones leaving jewelry behind when wearing it could put you at a higher risk for damage or loss. When you are not wearing your jewelry, remember that it should be stored somewhere secure, not left on the hotel nightstand, in a purse or even in locked luggage.

According to the Jewelers Mutual survey, the hotel room is the most frequently mentioned area where jewelry is lost.

“These types of losses are preventable,” added Kostelny. “Storing it in the hotel safe is the best option next to wearing your jewelry and keeping it with you at all times.”

-This item has been reprinted from a news release supplied via Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company and Marketwired