BEDDI Glow smart alarm clock review; it wakes with light, can call you an Uber

Beddi glow smart alarm lightCan BEDDI Glow smart alarm clock help me wake up better?

There are few sounds that irk me as much as the screech of my alarm clock. It goes off each day at 2:50am so I can snooze it a few times before I finally crawl bleary-eyed and groggy from my warm covers at 3:30 to head to work. Believe it or not, snoozing like that actually helps me feel like I got ‘extra sleep’. (Does anyone else do that?)

I’ve always hated the sound of ringing alarms. I use the radio sometimes, but I find it disconcerting to hear people talking in my room before I’m fully conscious and know what the hell is going on. It’s all the more unsettling when I realize the radio is tuned to Coast to Coast AM and they’re talking about a phenomenon of people waking up with the demonic Hat Man shadow-person standing over their beds. Shudder.

Better, more gentle wake up?Beddi glow smart alarm light

There has to be a better, more gentle way to wake up, and I think I may have found it.
I was recently sent a BEDDI Glow smart alarm clock for testing and review. BEDDI Glow allows you to wake with a simulated sunrise light, your own music, or FM radio. It’s also got a host of other neat features that makes it pretty handy.

BEDDI Glow alarm Features

The BEDDI Glow smart alarm clock gives you options for your wake up. I’ve been using the simulated sunrise feature and the ‘relax’ sound effect. Continue reading “BEDDI Glow smart alarm clock review; it wakes with light, can call you an Uber”

Easy Halloween hacks; decorate with smart lights

Halloween is around the corner, and there’s an easy way to get your home ready.

Coloured light bulbs can easily transform your home into a spooky space; whether you want orange to light up your front window pumpkin, or some darker lighting scenes to create a creepier vibe. Continue reading “Easy Halloween hacks; decorate with smart lights”

Smart charging cables & accessories for your phone

belt-cable-long-native-union- chargingPhone batteries never last long enough, so making sure you’ve got a backup plan is important. I’ve been checking out some new charging devices and accessories that can help you stay powered up, while looking chic, and solving some annoying problems. Continue reading “Smart charging cables & accessories for your phone”

MiTagg lamp – multipurpose tech & charging center

MiTagg lamp 1I get some of my most interesting ideas for tech gear and blogs from coworkers; Neena stumbled across this unusual gadget, and had to know if it was all it’s cracked up to be. The MiTagg desk lamp is much more than a light; it’s a multi-talented tech and charging center.

What the MiTagg lamp does

The minimalist c-shaped lamp is purpose-built; the top is an LED light, with dimming abilities, while along the base are different options for charging; there’s an Apple Watch charger, a phone charger, plus a space to keep a power bank ready for when you need to grab it and go. You can use these docks individually, or all at once, with the lamp on or off.

The lamp is made from an aluminum skin and has been given a brushed finish.

Testing the MiTagg Power StationMiTagg lamp 2

This lamp would be at home in an office or a house, depending on your aesthetic.  I kept my sample on my desk at the office and had many a coworker come over to take a look at the unique contraption. Most people thought it was handy, and I have to agree.  All the plugs in our office are located under our desks, so charging anything while at work requires crawling around on the floor, and hoping for a spare outlet. Of course, there’s never one down there.

With the lamp handily on the desk (I unplugged another dumber desk lamp to make room for the MiTagg) and now fully powered, it was easy to dock my phone nearby while working, and have it stay powered up. Of course having this device take up just one plug, while allowing me to charge multiple devices, and still providing desk light was a smart solution, as far as I was concerned.

There’s no set up or complications with this power center; unpack, plug and it’s ready.

mitagg nukiOptional accessory – NuKi power bank

The lamp I tested came with a small battery pack or power bank called NuKi. The NuKi comes with a separate charging cradle, which seems redundant when most power banks today can recharge with any USB plug or outlet. MiTagg’s website calls this ‘frictionless’ charging, and indeed the NuKi can simply be dropped into its cradle for a recharge, but of course that cradle has to be plugged in via USB somewhere (probably your lamp).

Valued separately at a whopping $69 USD the extra power supply is “a compact, portable keychain backup battery solution with an integrated Apple® MFI Lightning Cable and convenient detachable keyring means you’re always ready for instant power on-the-go,” according to MiTagg’s website. Considering powerful and long lasting power banks can be had for a fraction of that cost, I’m a little surprised this one can only deliver 75% charge (1800 mAh) to an iPhone for that price and size.

Mysteriously, the NuKi also comes with a detachable key ring, so if you did want to weigh your keys down with a large and awkward key chain, you could.

NuKi has location trackingNuKi_Silver_4_large

NuKi also comes with built in location tracking, as some power banks are nowadays, probably because they’re so easy to set down, or plug in and walk away then forget.  You’ll need a separate app for that feature.

A thought for next time – MiTagg Power Station Lamp

If I had one complaint about this product, it’s that the light itself could be more powerful and cast a wider glow. As it is, the light is very down-focused, meaning it lights up the devices it’s charging on its base, more so than my work area.  It can’t be adjusted either; if the LED could be swiveled to provide more directional task light, I think it would be far more useful. I found myself not using the dimming feature, and instead wishing the lamp could be brighter, perhaps to spill off the base and get where I needed some light the most.

The MiTagg Power Lamp Station sells for $299USD and is available at the MiTagg website.

If you have a gadget I should check out, please reach out on Twitter or Instagram @ErinLYYC

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!

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 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.

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