Monday, September 19, 2022

A little bridge between lightning and USB-C

As an owner of multiple Apple products, I would be happy if the whole world of electronic devices were powered with Apple’s lightning cables. But that’s clearly never going to happen. 

USB-C will soon be the King of Cables, if it isn’t already. My MacBook Air uses USB-C and it’s appearing on other devices, including the battery charger for my action camera. Apple put a USB-C port on newer iPad models and I expect to see it on more devices in the future.

That’s why I was attracted to the CHAFON M3 multi-plug adapter. It’s a thick two-inch long cable with four different plugs: a full-sized USB, a lightning plug and two USB-C plugs.

Each end has a magnetic connector that turns the cable into a small loop when they touch. That makes it convenient to store in my computer bag or on a keyring. A rubber cover protects the two ends and keeps them from separating and the cable that connects the two ends is inside a very sturdy nylon sheath. 

During a recent vacation, I used the CHAFON cable to power my camera battery charger and to recharge my phone and my AirPods from my computer. The cable is also just the right size and length to connect an iPhone or iPad to a portable power bank.

The CHAFON cable would be a little more useful if it included a mini USB plug. I still have a few gadgets that use that format. You know, the one that you have to rotate two or three times to get it to fit. That plug is fading fast and devoting two of the CHAFON cable’s four tips to USB-C is the right way to go for the future. 

Friday, August 26, 2022

Yendili wireless mic is a cut above

How often have you seen videos on YouTube where someone has been recorded using a mobile phone and its built-in mic? The image quality might be acceptable but the audio is often downright awful.

When I started making videos to post on YouTube and product sales sites, I quickly learned that I would need an external microphone if I wanted the sound quality of my videos to be as good as my video.

For interviews, demos or any sort of on-camera speech, the best option for recording audio is a wireless lavalier microphone. The Yendili V10 is a significant step up from many of the wireless mic systems sold online. To hear what I'm talking about, watch the video below.

It comes with a wide range of special features that you may or may not find useful for your video productions. For example, you can use the remote control to insert a reverb effect, adjust recording volume or add laughter or applause on the fly. And it has special setting for capturing priceless karaoke moments.

My needs are less complicated. I want a clean and crisp voice track to go along with my videos. The V10 makes that easy to achieve. The system comes with a variety of cables. There's a dual USB cable for charging both the mic and the receiver; cables to connect the receiver to either an Android or iOS video recording device; and both single and stereo ear buds for monitoring live audio.

The system includes a recording mode that lets a video director - the person with the camera and receiver - speak directly to the person wearing the mic.

For basic recording, power up the receiver and the mic, connect the receiver to the camera device, attach the mic to a spot near your subject's throat and press the "Wireless" button on the remote. I was quite pleased with the results. Hear it for yourself in the short video attached to this review.

Most wireless mic systems use a tiny clip-on mic with a cable connection to a transmitter that can be easily hidden under the subject's clothing. The V10 combines the mic and transmitter into one very visible black plastic square that some video producers might view as an annoying visual interruption.

I think there are enough positioning options, like under a shirt collar, for instance, that the mic won't be noticed, especially if the furry wind shield isn't needed. And, of course, the mic doesn't have to be clipped to clothing. It would work quite well, for example, parked on a desktop for Zoom calls.

The Yendili V10 system is probably more elaborate than what I need for my simple product demo videos but it will likely be welcomed by video creators who do live broadcasts or just want a higher level of audio detail in their content.

Monday, August 22, 2022

This power strip fights cable chaos

Have you ever looked around your house or workplace and concluded that you have too many electrical outlets? Of course not. These days we are all slaves to electrical gadgets and devices that need either a constant stream of current or frequent recharging.

What’s worse, I too often find myself crawling around on the floor, scuffing my knees and bumping my head as I search for an open outlet on the wall or on a never-ending daisy chain to power strips.

The BQO desktop power strip offers a small measure of respite. Instead of nesting in a dusty corner of the floor, the BQO strip has a clamp mounted on its underside. The clamp allows the strip to be mounted on the rear or side of a desk. Suddenly it’s up where human beings can actually reach it without risking a concussion.

The sample strip that I received to review was made of heavy gauge plastic with a mounting bracket solid enough to keep it firmly in place, even if you have to tug a bit to remove a power plug. The business side of the strip has three AC outlets along with three fast-charging USB ports, two USB-A and one USB-C. I suppose that's enough outlets for most users, but I would have welcomed double the number of USB outlets.

BQO says its clamp will work on a desktop that’s up to 1.7 inches thick. That number may be a little too generous. My work desk is an old library table with a top that I measured at 1.5 inches and that turned out to be slightly too tick for the clamp to fit. So, my strip found its home attached to a bookshelf where I charge my laptop computer and a motley collection of tablets and mobile phones.

I was also concerned about the the power cord that feeds the strip. It protrudes from the bottom of the strip next to the clamp. That required me to bend the cord 90 degrees in order to create a snug fit. In their product information, the folks at BQO acknowledge that design issue and they say the squeeze won’t cause any distress for the power cable. The cord is thick and well shielded, so I’m not worried.

The clamp-equipped power strip offers some welcome relief for the cable overload that we all endure. And it’s designed to look sharp when it’s mounted on a modern desk. Just be sure that desk top isn’t too thick.

Sunday, July 31, 2022

New Pamu buds have ANC and more

I'm heading out soon for another summer evening's walk with my two regular companions: a 10-year-old weimaraner and a pair of Bluetooth ear buds. I love my dog, but he's not much for conversation so I'll be listening to a podcast, an audiobook or maybe an Apple Music playlist.

The only thing different about this walk is the ear buds. For the past few days, I've been wearing the Pamu Slide 2 buds, the latest product from Padmate, a company that scored well on Indiegogo with funding campaigns for earlier buds that featured noise cancellation and wireless charging.

The new Slide 2 improves on those models. They're smaller with a more stylish profile. And they have several new features including voice enhancement, transparency mode, active noise cancellation, app-based controls, and a low-latency gaming mode.    

The Pamu buds arrived nestled in a tray inside an attractive charging case. The case is a bit too large to fit comfortably in pants pockets, but it has other welcome attributes. Using the case to recharge the buds can extend their play time from 6.5 hours to 26 hours. The case has a nice line of LED lights to show its battery storage level and it can be recharged in 90 minutes using a Type-C plug or two hours with a wireless platform.   

I got my Pamu buds rolling after a couple of minor hiccups. First, I wasn't quite sure how to position the buds in my ears. The buds did not come with instructions or illustrations. It turned out that a slight twist forward locks the buds in place where they felt comfortable and secure. The buds come with an extra set of tips in four sizes for users who my not the the perfect fit right from he box.

Then, it took me two tries to get them registered on the Pamu app. The process requires a verification code sent by email and my first code expired before I could enter it. I'm glad I persevered because the app allows users to make a lot of custom settings that I'll talk about in a minute. 

Once those problems were solved, I was off and running. Or, rather, walking. The buds were very easy to pair with my iPhone and they now connect smoothly every time I insert them in my ears.

When I launched a podcast, I was immediately struck by the clarity of the audio. As someone who has minor hearing issues, I put a high value on clean and crisp speech. The Pamu buds also performed well on music tracks. They didn't sacrifice clarity for the sake of a thumping bass line. 

Like some other high-end earbuds, the Slide 2 responds to fingertip touches to the surface of a  pill-shaped protrusion. Single, double or triple taps can change audio tracks, answer and end phone calls, summon Siri and activate wind noise reduction or background noise cancellation. Volume is controlled by sliding your finger up or down the surface.  

Users who want even more control can consult the Pamu app for access to more than 20 different custom settings including EQ sound effects and Vocal enhancement, available in "low gear" and high grade."

I'm not yet ready to dive that deeply into the customizing pool but it's good to know that those options are available when I want them. For now, I'm just happy that the Slide 2 delivers smooth tunes, clear phone calls and plays nice with my iPhone.  

The Slide 2 is available for $79 on Pamu's funding page on Indiegogo. More information is also available in the video below and on Facebook and Instagram or @PadmateAudio on Twitter and @padmate on TikTok. 

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. 

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