Author Archive | Rex T. Redstone

Amazon

Ok, maybe it’s not the same as a personal chef, but let’s face it, an item that can heat up food while we sit on the couch is a win.

Amazon has just introduced its AmazonBasics Alexa-powered microwave, letting you tell Alexa to start heating things up. Even the installation (if you can call it that) is easy, provided you have the Amazon Echo already set up (it is required for the microwave to respond to voice commands). Just plug in, connect to the app, and away you go!

You’ll have the option to activate the microwave the same way you do with Echo, by saying “Alexa”, or you can hit the “Ask Alexa” button on your microwave and proceed with your instructions. Voice presets will help eliminate the need for you to know how much cooking time is required. For example, you can tell Alexa to cook a potato, defrost peas, or reheat a cup of coffee. It’s practically magic.

Can’t get enough of stay-in movie nights? If you so choose, you can sign up to automatically reorder popcorn. Alexa will keep track of how many times you use the Popcorn button or voice command, and reorder popcorn for you when it knows you’re running low.

For those of us that aren’t quite ready to embrace voice technology, the microwave still has the “old-fashioned” keypad.

For the affordable price, the compact size, and the ease of use, this microwave is perfect for your dorm room!

Size: 17.3″ x 14.1″ x 10.1″
Cavity Size: 0.7 cu.ft.
Power levels: 10
System requirements: Alexa app, Echo device
Price: $59.99 USD
Buy: Amazon.com

Amazon

When you’re grinding through those hefty assignments, having a pump-up playlist in the background can make all the difference in keeping you going. With hundreds of bluetooth speakers to choose from, a student-sized budget can really narrow down the options. However, not all inexpensive speakers are poor in quality!

The best, most affordable bluetooth speaker we’ve come across is the DOSS SoundBox Touch, which comes in at a delightful $28.99 and comes in four colours – blue, red, white, and black. It boasts a high-def, 360 degree stereo sound and fingertip controls and up to 12 hours playtime for your all-nighters (though you should expect 9 to 10 hours). It’s sleek and attractive, and both looks and sounds more expensive than it is – which is always a plus!

You’ll only need to connect your phone to the speaker once; from then on, the speaker will automatically connect to the last used device.

Keep in mind this speaker isn’t water-resistant, so you may want to refrain from using it for pool parties, but the sound is loud enough that you’ll be able to add a soundtrack to your sunny days in the park.

Overall, it’s hard to find cons for this device – for the price, the quality is superb!

Sound: 12W high-performance drives; <1% harmonic distortion; 360-degree stereo sound Battery Life: Up to 12 hours at 75% volume; recharge in 3-4 hours
Compatibility: Connect to bluetooth-enabled devices up to 33ft; aux-in; micro SD card
Colors: Black, white, blue, red
Size: 6.6 x 2.9 x 2.7 in
Accessories Storage bag, aux cable, USB charging cable, audio adapter
Price: $28.99 USD
Buy: Amazon

Image by paulbr75, pixabay.com

We know technology has grown exponentially over the past 20 years in ways that make our lives fun and efficient, but it has also made life easier and safer for some. Here are three tech advances in 2017 that are really changing lives:

1. Smart watches for blind people
Think about the last time you had trouble finding where you were going. Now imagine being disoriented again, only this time you’re blind. Sometimes we take things like vision for granted, and Sunu is changing things. Fernando Albertorio is co-founder of this company, and legally blind. He recognized a need for a product that could help him navigate without bumping into objects, and created a wristband that emits ultrasound waves and uses varying levels of vibrations to let him know how close objects are. Not only is this product practical for the blind or visually impaired, but it increases their confidence and way of living. Albertorio even ran a 5K race wearing it.
Price: $299
Availability: Starting August 2017

2. Self-driving wheelchairs
You’ve heard of self-driving cars – so it’s only logical that self-driving wheelchairs would be just as possible. A Canadian research team has claimed to develop technology that would allow wheelchairs to drive themselves. The idea has presented itself before, however, the price for one of these was in the range of $30,000 – not exactly affordable. Toronto’s Cyberworks Robotics and the University of Toronto say they can create one for a cost of $300-$700. Self-driving wheelchairs would assist those who have low mobility in their upper body and may not be able – or find it difficult – to use joysticks and similar features on current motorized vehicles. While still a work in progress, it’s a good move towards improving the quality of life for those confined to wheelchairs.
Price: TBD
Availability: In development

3. A device to prevent sexual assault
Sexual assault cases are constantly in the news, and MIT researchers wanted to develop a way to help detect it and prevent it. Too many times on campus, students are intoxicated and end up in situations where their judgment isn’t clear. The Intrepid Smart Sticker was created with the idea that it can be fastened to the inside of your clothing and sync to your phone. The sticker recognizes when clothes are being removed, and sends a notification to the wearer’s phone asking for consent. If a response isn’t received, the phone will start buzzing loudly, and if a response is still not received, the identified contacts in the user’s “safety circle” will be notified and receive their location and a phone call. The app will also start recording the phone call and any other noises. Based on input from assault survivors, volunteers, and users, the Intrepid team believes this device could really help cut down the number of assault cases.
Price: TBD
Availability: In development

Ooh, shiny.

Yes, I got distracted by the look of the new Asus ZenBook 3. It’s a shiny metal – something I’m not used to at all with other laptops – and it has gold trim around the edges. Definitely different, definitely bold. And I definitely like it.

The ZenBook 3 is boasted as being the more powerful, thinner, lighter laptop as compared to Apple’s MacBook. Asus is taking on Apple in a big way. Although the feel of the laptop is a plus, I’m a little hesitant about the use itself. Can Asus compete? The specs sure sound strong, however, until I’m actually able to put a full day’s work into it, I’m going to hold off on a solid response. Asus claims the battery can last 9 hours – I’ve never experienced this in the past, so forgive me if I’m a bit reluctant to believe it. The MacBook also claims 9 hours, but many days I’m lucky to get 5.

I’m also not a fan of the one USB-C port. I like having the flexibility to plug in more than one thing to my laptop. However, if you ask me how many times I actually have more than one thing plugged in, the answer would be very rarely. So this can be solved with a simple dongle attachment. Not worth a check in the “con” colummn!

For a more powerful, thinner, lighter laptop, you can’t complain about the price. It starts at $300 less than the comparable MacBook, $999 for 4GB RAM, 256GB SSD, and an Intel Core i5 processor.

So the question is – will you give the underdog a chance?

The Details:

  • Intel Core i5 processor
  • 4GB RAM
  • 256GB SSD
  • 16:9 screen ratio
  • 12.5 inch display
  • 11.9mm thin
  • 910g
  • One USB-C (Thunderbolt) port
  • 1 headphone jack
  • 4 speakers
  • 9 hour battery life
  • Material: aluminum alloy (supposed to be 40% stronger than other laptops)
  • Price: $999 USD

window

By download.net.pl on Flickr

Microsoft’s release of Windows 10 gives customers a new look into how future operating systems might function in the future. For users coming from Windows 7 or 8, the changes will be very apparent at first. For the purposes of this article, we’ll be looking at the changes since version 8.1.

As expected, installing Windows 10 was a bit of a lengthy process – it took about an hour to install a 3GB size download. Downloading the operating system itself and switching over to it caused a few hiccups (involved re-installing drivers for my GPU). Other PC users encountered similar issues after installing the OS where GPU drivers were forced to be upgraded or had to be re-installed. Such a process isn’t too lengthy and for many users did not occur, so there’s no need to expect the worse when downloading.

Once Windows 10 is loaded and installed, the first thing you will notice is the darker theme that Microsoft has chosen to go with. While it is only the default theme and can be changed, previous defaults on Windows 7 and 8 were of a much lighter shade. Applications in the taskbar and desktop have not changed, but volume and and wifi icons have. In addition, the action centre icon has a new appearance and will open up a sidebar with a list of notifications when clicked on. The default changes that Microsoft has made should not confuse a user of older OS’s; in fact, it’s a nice visual change.

Microsoft has brought back the start menu that many people enjoyed in Windows 7, but in a new form. When clicked on, the start menu opens up a “drop up” menu with app icons, file explorer, setting and power options. Windows 8.1 users will surely enjoy this new take on the start menu rather than being taken to an entirely new page filled with default Microsoft apps. The hot corners/sidebars that Windows 8 had are also gone which will benefit many of the touchpad or laptop users who may have been annoyed by the feature.

Using many of the Windows 10 features such as the new browser “Edge” proved that Microsoft has dabbled in new areas while attempting to optimize the user experience. Both the browser and the Microsoft store are easy to navigate, with the Edge feeling a bit basic as a brower. The lack of customizability with Edge is a bit of a nuisance, but the integrations of Outlook and Google Calendar work so well that you might forget about it. Certainly for Google Calendar, a new addition, the app works very well and is incredibly easy to navigate. Other key apps that stand out include the new Word, Excel and Powerpoint mobile which can be used on tablets with ease, and also on a Windows 10 PC.

Though Windows 10 has a tendency to be buggy within the first couple of months, it should be not be overlooked as a new operating system. While you may encounter bugs post-installation or during use, the many new additions and features on Windows 10 are sure to impress users. As a user who has upgraded from Windows 8.1, I would definitely recommend upgrading to Windows 10 or upgrading once the first service pack has come out.

Highlights:

  • New start menu
  • No hot corners
  • Cortana (For American users)
  • Google Calendar App
  • Mobile Word, Excel and Powerpoint
  • New look
  • Microsoft Apps improved all around

Cons:

  • Buggy (Can be a big issue for some)

Click here to download Windows 10.

Image by Stanley Young, Flickr

Image by Stanley Young, Flickr

The Noontec Zoro HD headphones are stylish headphones that deliver with great sound quality for a great price. Going Between $50-$80 on Amazon, these headphones are perfect for the casual listener who wishes to upgrade their basic headphones.

The build of the Zoro HD is fairly standard as headphones go. As an on-ear headphone, these one’s are very light and potentially prone to breaking if not taken care of properly.The frame itself is fairly durable, but users should wary as it bends easily and should be treated harshly. On the ear, these headphones are fairly comfortable with upper part putting more pressure on the ear then the bottom. Wearing glasses with the headphone are an issue as it will put a lot of pressure on the upper ear holding the glasses. As such, I couldn’t wear these headphones with glasses for longer than a couple minutes before my ears became very irritated.

Long use of the headphones do cause a bit of pain as well because of the pressure, but it does block out a good amount of noise from the environment. For working out these headphones work very well, blocking out a decent amount of noise while also having great sound quality.

The sound quality of the Zoro HD is the main attraction that has kept me using the headphones despite some comfort issues. Not too bass heavy, I found the sound to be incredibly balanced and clear. The headphones will satisfy almost any user, unless they crave that deep bass other headphones might offer. Listening to a bass heavy track such as The Weeknd’s “King of the Fall” sounded incredible, with the all around balance of the sound standing out. An older track like ELO’s “Fire on High” had a just as incredible sound quality where the sound balance stood out even more. The Zoro HD’s can be used to listen to a wide variety of genres and provide quality sound that users will thoroughly enjoy.

While the Zoro HD has comfort issues for long term and glasses use, the sound quality is unmatched at the price range it sits in. Commuters, gym rats and casual users will certainly enjoy this headphones if they are upgrading from a basic pair. Those who wish to purchase a great pair of headphones should look no further as the Zoro HD provide sound quality on oar with headphones double it’s price.

Highlights:

  • Sound Quality
  • Great Price
  • Lightweight
  • Small

Cons:

  • Not for glasses wearers
  • Comfort issues for long use
  • Not too durable

L (3)

By Pabak Sarkar on Flickr

The Tablift Tablet Stand is a unique product from Nbryte that is designed to help consumers get the most out of their tablets. The tablet stand is designed to help people use their tablets while in spots that may cause neck pain or be hard to use. Ideally, the stand would be used while on a sofa or bed where using the tablet by itself may be uncomfortable.

The design of the tablet stand is quite simple and is incredibly easy to learn. The bendable legs allow the position to be adjusted to the type of surfaces and level you wish to hold the tablet at. The stand is accompanied by three slots which allow you to place the tablet in the preferred viewing position. A clip attached to an extendable cord holds the the tablet in place in one of the three slots. The size of stand may seem quite large at times but its adjustability allows it to be used it very small spaces. In most instances, the tablet stand made using my tablet much easier and placed less strain on my neck.

While the tablet stand is propped up, use of your tablet is noticeably easier. Putting pressure on the tablet by typing does not shift the position of the stand and the base points of the legs stay in their original positions. The stand is also exceptionally good when having to do other tasks like cooking or eating. It positions the tablet optimally and is very useful for people who have a busy schedule. Dropping the tablet is also taken out of the equation when using the tablet stand, which is another bonus (especially for particularly clumsy people).

The Tablift Tablet Stand is a great product for any tablet user. While not everyone may need a stand, regular tablet users may see an enhancement in their experience with one. At just under $60, the stand may seem a bit pricy but the improvement it adds to one’s tablet experience is noticeable at first use.

Purchase the Tablift Tablet Stand here.

Highlights:

  • $59.95
  • Leg stability and malleability
  • Ease of use
  • Can be transformed to fit most surfaces
  • Three positions for viewing with clip for stability
  • Benefits for neck and back pain