Portable wireless speakers have become the standard for many homes. After all, if you’re not ready to invest in a premium home theatre system, chances are a wireless system or speaker will fill the void until you are. That’s why companies from basic to elite are offering portable options. But more than just a compact size, you want a small speaker that will sound good, be able to fill a room, and give you true-to-life audio. Bang & Olufsen (or B&O for short) have entered this market with some portable wireless speakers that not only aim to look cool but sound great too. I recently received a test sample of the B&O Beoplay A2 speaker for testing and review in my home. Continue reading “Bang & Olufsen B&O Beoplay A2 review”
Start dreaming of summer now. Playbulb has a brand new smart light that lets you decorate your pool, pond or yard with multi-coloured light. It’s the newly launched Playbulb Solar. Continue reading “New Playbulb Solar made for pool & outdoors”
There are two types of people when it comes to lighting up the house for the holidays; the gung-ho Clark Griswold types, and those for whom the thought of climbing a ladder in the cold inspires dread.
If you’re in the latter camp, know there are easier ways to make your home festive thanks to technology.
Holiday Hack #1: Smart Plugs for Automation
Want to control your Christmas lights from another room, or even another city? Smart plugs like the WeMo Switch allow you to plug in virtually anything, from Christmas lights, to mobiles or animated figurines and turn it off an on with your smartphone or tablet. This works really well for tree lights in particular, since crawling under or behind the tree to pull out the plug is often a pain.
Smart plugs can also be used on automatic timers, coming on at dusk and turning off when you want.
Holiday Hack #2: App-connected string lights
MiPow, makers of Playbulb lights has come out with a smart connected string light for this holiday. These smart LED light strings give you smart functionality via a Bluetooth connection; you can turn them on or off with your smartphone, adjust colour to dozens of different subtler hues, you can set timers, or use a handful of special effects, all automatically. Best of all, these are for indoors or out.
With a kit like this you don’t even need a smart plug. Read my full review of String here.
Holiday Hack #3: Stick-up LED Lights go anywhere
Philips Hue String, Osram Lightify Flex and MiPow Playbulb Comet are just three great examples of lights you can stick anywhere for holiday decor. If you use removable 3M Command adhesive tabs, it makes moving them and removing the tape even easier.
Use these light strips on the inside of a window frame to show your neighbourhood your red, green or icy blue colours. Coil them into frosted glass vases for temporary colourful lamps, wrap them around large mirrors, or stick them under furniture for holiday ambiance.
Want to go to another level? Nanoleaf Aurora is a unique set of flat plastic panels that can be stuck pretty much anywhere; you can use them to create a holiday-themed wall decoration, and adjust the lights to flicker red and green or frosty blue and white.
Holiday Hack #4: Make a light-up Christmas Tree
Feeling creative? Why not use the Aurora to create a flat panel Christmas tree in a small space where a real tree is just not realistic? Simply arrange the triangular shaped panels in a tree shape, configure the panels to turn green (go for a gold on on top, reminiscent of a star!) and you’re holiday ready!
Read my review and all about the Nanoleaf Aurora here.
Table setting is an art, if you ask me. Matching dishes to napkins and selecting florals requires some level of flair which I struggle to achieve. That’s where I pull in smart lamps; I can turn the Mipow Sphere glass globe green to match my good china, or I can set the Philips Hue Go lamp to a cool snowy hue for a winter feast. The Go lamp also works well under the Christmas tree to give it some extra colour pop or by the fireplace.
Holiday Hack #6: Use coloured bulbs for decor
As I’ve written before, smart lights are an easy way to decorate your home for any occasion. Painting your room with light can warm up a room, cool it off, or give it a holiday theme with the touch of an app. Lights like Philips Hue smart bulbs can be set to holiday red or green easily, you can use LIFX’s ‘scenes’ to create a holiday glow, or employ a MiPow Playbulb to provide both a light show AND music from its built-in speaker!
Holiday Hack #6: Use the Internet of Things to automate … ANYTHING
If you haven’t experimented with IFTTT (If This Then That), you’re missing out. IFTTT uses apps and smart devices to create actions that happen automatically. I wrote about how you can use it to turn coloured smart lights blue when snow is in the forecast. But you can also use it for holiday fun. Need a quick lesson on how it all works? Click here.
If you own a smart doorbell and some smart lights you can use an IFTTT ‘recipe’ to play Christmas music on a Sonos speaker when the doorbell is pressed, and to set lights flashing green and red. Read more about how to do that, or to achieve the same effect with a motion sensor, via the Yonomi app here. You can also surf the IFTTT website for holiday light and sound recipes that have already been created and borrow one that suits you.
Do you have a Holiday hack or IFTTT recipe we should try? Post your ideas in comments below!
Lighting is important when you’re out in the wilderness. Flashlights are a must, and headlamps are handy, but you need options that aren’t just burning-the-eyes-out bright.
I tested three new lighting gadgets on a recent road trip through the northwestern US and found each of them handy.
Brunton Lightwave Amp Speaker & Lantern
When camping, you need to minimize gear, so it helps if you have gadgets that do double-duty. The Brunton Lightwave Amp is both a lantern and a portable speaker. The lantern part of it has a fully bright or dimmed white light, plus it connects to your smartphone so you can also change its colour to any hue you choose. The free app is also used to connect to the speaker that’s built into the base of the lamp. The audio quality isn’t what you’d call pristine, but for something you’re taking on the road or into the woods, it sounds just fine to my ears.
The lantern part is a good sized device; it’s abut the same size as a ‘standard’ Coleman lantern. I really liked the colour changing abilities of the lantern and often put it on a subtle purple, or red or blue, which seemed not to draw bugs. The brightest setting was enough to cook or even read by, while the dim setting cast a subtle glow.
This tiny light resembling a light sabre from Star Wars is light, portable and provides enough light for tasks that need more subtle illumination. I found it infinitely handy for taking night photos, as it lights up the camera body well so I can read the buttons, without the bright eye-searing glare of a traditional white flashlight. The Glowstick base twists to turn it on and off and it has a long lasting LED bulb, so it won’t drain the battery too quickly. I used it on a two week roadtrip nightly and it’s still going strong. NiteIze says it’ll run 60 hours on the 4 included AG-3 batteries, which you can replace when they die. They come in several colours and for the whopping $3 they cost, you can get a set and hand them out to the family.
BONUS! I also was able to use these sticks to do some interesting night photos. If you’ve ever heard of the steel wool light trick, you can do something similar with the Glowstick; just clip the included caribiner on one of these to a rope and spin it for some fun photo opportunities!
Biolite NanoGrid multi-light kit
This genius device is two lights on one… well, maybe even three. The nerve centre of the gadget is the small lantern. It has a soft rounded shape that distributes light evenly and without bright spots. Then, in the flat base of the lantern, a directional flashlight that casts a bright beam over a good long distance. You can even have both ends of the lantern on at the same time.
The other part of the light that I absolutely love is a pair of overhead lamps that you can string on a clothesline or a tree to provide overhead light easily. I found this section and its long braided cable very handy for suspending over a picnic table during food prep. It give you more of a flood of light as opposed to narrower glaringly bright areas with some camp lanterns. The NanoGrid is also available from Best Buy .
Biolite’s super-versatile CampStove lets you cook, generate heat, or create your own portable power all with sticks, twigs and biomass that you can find at any camp spot. The ultra-portable stove can boil water in about 6 minutes, and with different adaptive pieces (not included) you can even grill on it. A handy light on a flexible gooseneck shaft helps you see what you’re doing in the dark, and it’s powered by the heat generated by the stove. It’s great for backpackers, or campers who aren’t ready or willing to invest in a big heavy Coleman-type stove yet.
Need to see for yourself how it works? Watch the video!
Do you know of a camping gadget or lighting option I should check out on my next visit to the forest? Let me know in comments below!
Not 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.
On CTV Tech Talk this month, we looked at a few of these fun and helpful gadget picks.
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.
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.
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 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.
Winners of this month’s Tech Talk Contest are: Elaine Watt and Jonathan Howes. CONGRATULATIONS and thanks for watching!
Want a great, easy way to jazz up your garden, yard, or walkway? Check out my installation and review of the Osram Lightify GardenSpot Mini outdoor lighting kit.
Watch my 3 minute video!