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Hive + OhmConnect = Home Automation, Energy Savings & Saving the Earth

In Consumer Electronics, Gadgets, General, Hardware, Sponsored, Technology by Michael SheehanLeave a Comment

At first glance, talking about electronic gadgets to help save energy and save the Earth sounds a bit like an oxymoron. I mean, how can something that consumes power actually save power? Well, there are ways to look at this. Some things will always consume power but what varies is the amount of power they actually consume. In other cases, adding a new energy consumption device that controls and regulates larger power-hungry devices can actually reduce overall energy consumption. And then, of course, there are those devices you add that just consume energy, but in this article, I’m not going to discuss those. Every Earth Day, many people look to do something to help our only home, Planet Earth. And while some people chose very active ways to help, others may do the bare minimum or nothing at all. It depends on your values, your lifestyle, your resources, and your commitment. In the end, however, it is truly important to make the attempt to make a difference. And interestingly, this is what the smart home automation company, Hive, is doing with their partnership with OhmConnect, a California-based software energy management company that allows its subscribers to maximize energy usage in return for cash payment. These two companies are leveraging each other’s services to save the planet, one watt at a time. (*Disclosure below.)

LED bulbs

Last year, I decided that I would make the investment in LED light bulbs. I must have purchased 20-30 bulbs to replace all of the old, incandescent bulbs in light fixtures throughout my house. It was a bit of an expense, but when you realize how little energy they actually use coupled with how long they last, the long-term cost savings becomes immediately apparent. This goes to my first example in the previous paragraph. Yes, I will always have the need to turn on a light, but how much power the light bulb consumes can be changed in a downward way – saving energy in the process.

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Review: BenQ ScreenBar is an LED Desk Light that’s Better than Traditional Ones

In Consumer Electronics, Gadgets, General, Hardware, Review, Technology by Michael SheehanLeave a Comment

I have to be honest here. When I was asked to review a light, I was not really that excited about doing it. I mean a light is a light is a light, right? And nowadays, lights “need” to be smart, right? You need to be able to control them remotely. Or they need to be intelligent in some way. Well, remote control is not always needed. But intelligence of some sort is a definite plus. But then let’s think about desk lamps. Sure they can have innovative designs or looks, or perhaps turn on or off when you touch the base. And they have multiple dimmer settings perhaps. But then I got my hands on the BenQ ScreenBar e-Reading LED Task Lamp and my idea of what a good, work lamp changed dramatically. This “desk” lamp (and I wanted to emphasize desk here because it’s a bit different than what you might think) brought much better lighting to my computer workspace. (*Disclosure below.)

BenQ ScreenBar Review - in the box

Let me set the record straight here, the BenQ ScreenBar is really not what you would think about when you envision a desk work lamp. In my mind, it seems like the BenQ engineers took a step back and then designed this lamp based on some common issues and scenarios that traditional desk lamps face. And then they crafted a solution that seems to meet a majority of the needs of workers. And I will be diving into these refinements.

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OMG! My Wife Loves the Odd JBL Soundgear Personal Bluetooth Speaker

In Audio, Consumer Electronics, Gadgets, General, Hardware, Review, Technology by Michael SheehanLeave a Comment

Looking a bit like a mix between a crashed alien spaceship that you might find in Area 51 and a whiplash collar, the JBL Soundgear is an odd portable Bluetooth speaker. It definitely is unique in its design but yet it fills a really nice niche. Headphones are great when you are on the go or want to have some privacy when you are on the phone. And speakers are great at home but they are tied to a room or specific location. The JBL Soundgear merges these two features and even creates its own space. And, my wife loves the Soundgear, so much so, I haven’t been able to test it much. (*Disclosure below.)

HTD JBL Soundgear & BTa unit

When I first unboxed the JBL Soundgear I thought “wow, this is a strange speaker.” It is curved and designed to fit around your neck. I actually haven’t seen too many designs similar to this out in the market. But I was intrigued. What kind of an experience would it be? How is the sound? Would people around me hear what I am listening to? When would I use the Soundgear and how would I use it?

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Got a Flatscreen TV with Crappy Sound? Try these Inexpensive Logitech Speakers

In Consumer Electronics, Gadgets, General, Hardware, Review, Technology by Michael SheehanLeave a Comment

Flat screen TVs have dropped in price tremendously. I just picked up a nice HD one for about $100. Great picture, great streaming hub, absolutely horrible sound! And it’s not the only flat screen TV in my house suffering from the same crappy sound. The bass is pretty much nonexistent, it sounds tinny, and simply uninspiring, definitely quite there opposite of the picture. Luckily Logitech came to the rescue with some small, low-priced speakers that bring enjoyment back to viewing, listening, and even more! (*Disclosure below.)

HTD Logitech Speaker review - small speaker

I would be surprised if you didn’t have a similar situation at home. Sure, you could buy a pricey and high-end surround sound setup or an equally pricey sound bar. But would you really want to spend more on the speakers than you spent on the TV itself? Probably not. So I set out looking for some sort of power external speaker that wouldn’t cost much.

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Review: Rachio Gets Even Better with its Gen 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller

In Consumer Electronics, Gadgets, General, Hardware, Review, Technology by Michael SheehanLeave a Comment

Sometimes the best smart home and home automation technology is one that you basically set and forget. And when I was contacted by the folks at Rachio to find out if I wanted to test out the new Rachio Gen 3 smart sprinkler controller, I realized that I really hadn’t done much with the Gen 2 version, other than program it about a year ago. Since then, my Rachio has been silently watering my lawns without any intervention from me. So, I was indeed curious about what could be improved upon in a product that was already pretty great. Well, the folks at Rachio listened to user feedback and made some pretty nice improvements. Read on for my initial impressions having tested out the Rachio Gen 3 version. (*Disclosure below.)

HTD Rachio Gen3 Review - cover off view

For the past few years, California has been in a pretty severe drought, that is until the last rainy season when we got some pretty good rainfall. And during those dry years, I decided to let my lawn just die. My brown and dread grass was like a badge of honor – I was doing my part at conserving water. This is what my lawn looked like then:

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Review: Naztech VOLT Power Station – 27,000 mAh Battery, 3 Speedy USB Ports, AC Outlet & More

In Consumer Electronics, Gadgets, General, Hardware, Review, Technology by Michael SheehanLeave a Comment

If you don’t have a portable battery charger in your tech tool chest, I honestly don’t know how you survive. I have a variety of batteries for smart devices in our home, ranging from what I call “lipstick” chargers (small, easily carried batteries that my kids use to quickly charge their iPhone), to solar power batteries for emergencies, to larger battery packs that can charge up iPhones and iPads a few times. You can’t be overly prepared, right? And my kids actually get lazy and use these portable batteries even though they are near plugs…they just like the convenience. Well, I now have a high-capacity portable battery, the Naztech VOLT Power Station, which tops out my battery collection thanks to the folks at Naztech. And it’s pretty darn nice. (*Disclosure below.)

Naztech VOLT Power Station review - boxed

A battery is a battery is a battery, right? Well, not exactly. When shopping for a portable charging solution, I have found that there are several things you should think about, specifically
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Review: Electrostatic vs. Electromagnetic? The BenQ treVolo S Bluetooth Speaker Rocks Both!

In Audio, Consumer Electronics, Gadgets, General, Hardware, Review, Technology by Michael SheehanLeave a Comment

Do you know how a speaker works? Or do you just sit back and listen to the sound coming from a box or tube? The physics behind moving air in regulated patterns is fascinating. (Oh, and by the way, all of those space movies and TV shows are breaking the laws of physics since space is airless and sound waves cannot travel through a vacuum – that explosion you hear in the movies? That’s Hollywood at its finest! But I digress.) A majority of speakers on the market today use this process of a flexible dome or cone vibrating and moving air to produce sound. But there are some other speakers, like the BenQ treVolo S, that employ a newer and different type of technology to produce rich, crisp, and clear sound. It’s an electrostatic speaker. How does it work? And more importantly, how does it sound? Read on for more! (*Disclosure below)

HTD BenQ treVolo S speaker review - open

Before I dive into my review of the BenQ treVolo S electrostatic speaker, let’s do a quick explainer on how traditional speakers (electromagnetic) and electrostatic speakers work. First, let’s talk about electromagnetic speakers. The concept is fairly simple. There are 3 fundamental parts to an electromagnetic speaker: the cone, the coil, and the magnet. The cone is on the front of the speaker which consists of fabric or paper or a flexible material. You can think of the cone as a type of drum. The outer part of the cone is essentially fixed to the full speaker, making it immobile. And the inner part (more at the center) is attached to an iron coil which, in turn, is in front of a magnet. The magnet is attached to the back of the speaker, also immobile. So, the only part that moves is the inner part of the cone that has the iron coil.

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