Saturday, July 2, 2022

ChimpKey converts PDFs for EDI

It's hard to recall how businesses functioned before the arrival of the PDF format in the early 1990s. Adobe's Portable Document Format allowed computer users to create and share formatted documents that could be viewed on a wide range of computer platforms and software. 

In today's business world, invoices, purchase orders and other documents are routinely generated  in PDF format because, like US dollars, PDFs are accepted anywhere and everywhere. 

But rivers of PDFs don't always flow smoothly between one computer system and another. Some companies want to extract the the information contained in a PDF document, like customer names, dates, products ordered and prices, and store that information in their own systems and databases.

Some unfortunate employee might be tasked to retype all that data. But a better solution would be using an automated service like ChimpKey. ChimpKey offers a conversion service designed for PDF to XML or PDF to EDI, a standardized format for electronic data interchange.

ChimpKey customers send their PDF documents to ChimpKey's servers where PDF data aid extracted and delivered in a manner that follows a customers's data maps. Documents can be sent manually or through an automated flow process. ChimpKey monitors the process to find documents that fail to to map. The process is adjusted until all documents can flow smoothly. 

For more details about ChimpKey and how the service works, visit the ChimpKey website where you can submit a sample PDF. 


Monday, June 6, 2022

Drone has advanced features, nice price

I’ve wanted to get a personal drone for several years but the ones that had the features I wanted were beyond my budget. Then I discovered the EC 20 drone from UNTEI. 

This is a drone made for adults. It’s not a toy for the kids to play with a smash up. It comes with a high-resolution 4K camera and, a controlling app and GPS auto return home capability. The brushless motors are high quality and the battery delivers more than 40 minutes of flight time. 

The drone is east to pair with the manual remote. But for the advanced features you’ll want to get the WOWI FLY app which is available for free in the iOS and Android app stores. 

When the app is linked to the drone, you phone’s screen presents a view from the drone’s camera. That makes it easy to find your target for shooting video or taking still photos.

The remote has multiple control buttons including one-key launch, an emergency landing button, camera controls, and auto return. 

The WOWI app delivers more advanced options. For example, you can tell the drone to fly a circle pattern above your head or fly a mapped route by entering waypoints on your phone screen. You can also tell the drone to follow you from behind.

The EC 20 comes with a custom carrying case, a 256GB memory card and two rechargeable batteries. This is everything that I wanted in a drone that’s available on Amazon for less than $250.

Check out my video below to see how much fun I had learning to be a drone pilot.


Misa robot wants to join your family

Ever since the 1960s when robots had featured roles in TV shows like Lost In Space and the Jetsons, inventors have been trying to create an actual robot that would be a welcome and productive addition to a modern household. They were generally unsuccessful. 

For three decades, I attended consumer electronics trade shows where almost every year a new household robot or personal robot was introduced with much fanfare and hyperbole. Do you know anyone who has their own robot? I don't either, unless you count robotic vacuum cleaners.

But that could change with  the arrival of Misa, a small and friendly personal assistant that has a far more practical skill set than most sci-fi robots. While Rosey cleaned house for the Jetsons and  the Robinson's robot carried defensive weapons, Misa uses its brains to manage a calendar, send messages, find information and play games with children and adults. 

Misa's body stands just under one foot tall with feet that can propel it across smooth floors. Misa's smiling face is projected on a 7-inch video screen powered by a 1.8 GHz CPU that runs the Android operating system. 

He (or she) has dual microphones and high-definition cameras and a series of sensors that help it avoid obstacles, calculate forward distances and respond to touches. The robot's battery delivers 8 hours of talk time and 48 hours of standby time between charges.

Like Siri, Google, and Alexa, Misa responds to spoken commands and requests. Users can say "Hey, Misa, take a selfie of us," "set a timer for 5 minutes," or "Show me hotels in Chicago." 

In addition to English, Misa also speaks German, French, Spanish, Dutch, Korean and Japanese. New languages including Polish, Swedish and Arabic are scheduled to be added this year.

Misa has a companion mobile app that lets you move the robot around the house, make video call, and use Misa as a video monitor.

The Misa robot currently sells for $399 on the Misa website. You can also learn more about Misa on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and @MisaRobot on Twitter.

Get a closer look at Misa, check out my unboxing video below and the videos on Misa's YouTube channel.


 

Sunday, June 5, 2022

These ANC earbuds do the trick

Finding the right earbuds can seem as daunting as finding the best match for your next car or pet. After all, you plan to spend a lot of time together and you want to be comfortable with each other.

My current ear buddies are the Truly Wireless Noise Cancelling Earbuds from iLive and so far, we’ve made a pretty sweet match. 

These buds have all the features that are important to me, starting with clean, crisp sound. In addition to music, I listen to a lot of spoken audio from podcasts and audiobooks and with my hearing level, the middle registers are especially important. I want to hear dialogue and lyrics and not be overwhelmed with heavy bass lines and the iLive buds are right on the money. 

I also appreciate that the buds come with a well-designed charging case. When I’m not using them, the buds get their fuel topped off while they’re nestled safely in the case.          

But perhaps the most welcome feature for me is Automatic Noise Cancellation. I want my everyday buds to filter out a good bit of traffic sounds when I’m walking my dog and tone down the hum from my weed trimmer and other tools when I’m working in my yard. 

I think noise cancelling is a big challenge for any earbuds and I don’t expect them to deliver the filter power of expensive over-the-ear headphones. 

But I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the quality of the active noise cancellation I get with the iLive buds. My ears say it’s comparable to the noise cancellation I’ve experienced with buds that cost more than twice as much as these.

The iLive buds were easy to set up and put to work. When fully charged and removed from the charging case, they automatically created a link to each other and went into pairing mode. After a few seconds, the model number popped up as a new Bluetooth partner option on my iPhone. 

The short stalk on each bud has a flat surface with a touch-sensitive area at the top. Hold your fingers on that spot for 5 seconds to turn each bud on or off. A 3-second press cycles the bud between normal, transparent and active noise cancellation modes. A friendly voice will announce each stop. 

Taps also launch other functions. For example, a single tap will play or pause music or answer or end a phone call. A double on the right bud will skip a track while triple taps adjust the volume.

The buds are also said to be sweat proof for those of us who exercise to that level (me, not so much) and they let you deliver voice commands to personal assistants on Apple or Google devices.

The Truly Wireless Noise Cancelling Earbuds also come with a pretty nice price tag: $69.99 on the iLive website. That’s about half of what some of the big-name brands charge for their buds with the same features. 


Friday, June 3, 2022

Bezgar RC truck can take a licking

Like most kids, the children in my family love to play with radio-controlled vehicles. But they are still pretty young, age 6 - 10, so finesse and subtlety are traits they haven’t quite yet acquired. 

They’re favorite vehicles are ones that can take some punishment, off-road trucks that don’t wimp out on dirt tracks, jumping hills and gravel roads. 

The Bezgar Crawler truck looked to be just right for them.

At 1:14 scale, the Crawler is bigger, heavier and stronger than most RC trucks. It’s almost 10 inches long and 7.4 inches wide. It comes with wide oversized tires that have deep treads and heavy-gauge suspension springs.

The roof, hood and door panels are made of actual metal, not the flimsy plastic on other RC cars that I’ve seen go flying when the car takes a tumble. 

We also like light bar mounted on the Crawler’s roll cage. It provides an extra measure of fun on hot summer nights when we take the Crawler out after dark. 

The Crawler comes with two 6-volt battery packs that recharge using the standard USB cable found on most RC vehicle sets. The pistol-style controller has a trigger loop for moving forward and back and a wheel for turns. A trim lever on the truck’s underside lets you make alignment adjustments. 

We’ve put more than a few radio-controlled vehicles through their paces on neighborhood yards and driveways and this one deserves its “Big Foot” nickname.

This particular version of the Bezgar Crawler, Model TB141, sells for about $45 and is available on Amazon.



Monday, May 30, 2022

FastComments powers online discussions

What's the most important online link between an organization and its members or customers? Don't overlook the "Comment" option on a blog or website.


A visitor or regular user who posts a comment is creating a personal link between themselves and an organization, whether it's a product seller, an educational institution or a neighborhood chat line. Making that link easy and responsive serves the interests on both sides of the connection.


That's primary goal of FastComments, a California company that creates high-quality discussion software for websites and other digital platforms.


FastComments' products include features that help create a rewarding experience for users. For example, FastComments supports SSO - single sign on authentication that lets users sign on once for access to multiple services. It's how Google users can sign in once to use Gmail, YouTube and other platforms.


FastComments users can also create a personal profile and use direct messaging to contact other users.


Organizations that install FastComments get support for notifications, reply emails and activity feeds. FastComments can also be deployed in high-volume discussion environments. The service offers plug-in for WordPress, APIs and migration from other discussion platforms.


FastComments pricing starts at $5.99 a month for three sites and one administrator.


For more details, pricing options and to read success stories, visit the FastComments website.


Monday, April 18, 2022

Datagrasp helps companies manage security defenses

It seems that hardly a day goes by when we don’t hear about some company, organization, or government agency falling victim to a data attack or intrusion. 

As international tensions heat up following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, more American companies are strengthening their data defense measures. Many are using expert consultants and online tools to help them verify that they are taking the correct steps. 

Datagrasp was founded last year to help corporations and other entities discover and analyze potential security risks. It provides a cloud-based platform that clients user to determine how well their organization adheres to current compliance laws and policies. 

Datagrasp provides a digital toolbox that can be used by any designated person within an organization, no security expertise required. The system guides users through the process of examining their security programs and organizing their documentation and audit trails so they will be ready when auditors come knocking.   

The Datagrasp system collects and stores documentation on internal and external audits. It also creates an internal audit checklist that includes a ranking and comparison to current business practices and processes. Audit reports and risk analyses can be retrieved quickly using the Datagrasp dashboard.

Some of Datagrasp’s primary assistance tools are available for free in the starter package available to companies with five or fewer employees. They include a security assessment, risk register, and compliance checklist. 

Packages for large businesses or enterprises are also available. For more details, visit the Datagrasp website.




Monday, March 28, 2022

WeGym brings high-tech to resistance bands

If you believe what you see in television commercials, you would think you have to have an expensive exercise bike or weight machine to get a solid workout at home. But many fitness experts say that a good set of resistance bands can also deliver a solid workout without devoting half of a room or half of your credit card. 

The WeGym Resistance Band System is a good example of how much can be done with resistance bands. This set is affordable and portable. It can be used almost anywhere, indoors or  outside. And get this: it also has the ability to track and record your exercise routines on a mobile app.


The primary items in the kit are a pair of the Rally X smart resistance stretching bands. Each band can be adjusted for the type of exercise that you want and the amount of resistance that suits your body and condition. 


The tip of each band contains sensors that determine the band's resistance level and your stretching reps. It also has a Bluetooth transmitter that sends the collected data to the WeGym app. The app is available as a free download on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store.  


The kit includes what WeGym generously calls a User Manual, but don't expect it to be a lot of help. It's really just a sheet of paper folded into 3-by-6-inch pages. The photo illustrations are small and dark and the text is downright tiny. 


Fortunately, you won't need the "manual" to connect the bands to the accessories. That's just a matter of snapping carabiners onto loops. There's more guesswork involved in connecting the tracking tips to the WeGym app. The printed instructions are confusing and peppered with grammatical errors. But if you've ever connected an app to a wireless speaker or headphones, you can probably muddle through.


The good news is you may well appreciate these exercise bands and the associated app even if you don't set them up to log your workout metrics. 


I especially like the Rally X bands for their versatility. They can be used for either freestyle routines or anchored to a stationary point such as a door or a basketball goal post. 


For freestyle, attach the bands to the wrist and ankle loops that are included with the kit. For stationary stretching, clip handles to one end of the bands, then connect the other ends to an anchor spot. The kit includes a pad and short straps that can be slipped into a door jamb for a secure anchor spot. The kit also has a strap to wrap around a tree or post.


Once I had the bands set up, I needed a little help to get started. That's where the video workout routines on the app came to my rescue. The app contains a library of video how-to workouts for anyone from beginners to regulars. 


I started with a 5-minute, low-intensity "Newbie" routine designed to strengthen abs, arms and back. According to the video, this exercise will result in "42 Kcal" burned. I'm guessing that mean 49 calories, and that sounded perfect for a sofa slug like me. 


The videos are well made and easy to follow and they begin with some simple stretches before moving on to the resistance bands. The app also offers music tracks for workouts with choices like "Cheerful burning music," which sounded more my speed than "Blood burning music.".


I also like how all of the bands and straps fit into a small mesh bag that WeGym thoughtfully provides. Even fully loaded, the bag weights less than 3 lbs. and is small enough to find a spot in my carry-on luggage or my car's trunk. And  the WeGym Resistance Band System is available on Amazon for less than $150. 


So now I'm out of excuses. If I don't shape up, it won't be because I can't afford the tools or don't have room for them.  




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