Useful, interesting and cool gear

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CES 2016 kicks off for press on Monday, Jan 4 and we’ll be there for the latest developments.  We’ll be looking for signs of maturity in 3D printing, signs of life in LiFi and robotics, how the Faraday Future electric car is shaping up and much more.



If you were in the right place at the right time at the 3M booth at CES you’d get one of these conductive touch screen 3M Smart pens.  Well we were and we did.  Bottomline – it works like a dream on the iPhone – better than the finger in our opinion.  That’s the good news.  The mild downside is that it is currently not sold in the US but it is available in Asia (and online)  for about $20 – $30.  It was developed by 3M Korea.  I am told that Korea is where the notion of using a sausage as an iPhone stylus during the Winter was conceived –  gloved fingers don’t register on the touch screen. makes a conductive glove but the fit must be OJ Simpson snug.  Heck, we want to use the Smart Pen all the time – hot or cold so the main advantage of gloves would be for multi-touch operations.  If you are a chopstick ace, you can do multi-touch with 2 Smart Pens.  Perhaps in the future there will be either a hinged dual tip “Gemini” pen or a finger tip attachment with a low profile conductive nub.  One on a finger and one on the thumb and multi-touch away!

Anyway, 3M USA was gathering usability/ user feedback at CES and they certainly must have also run comparative testing against the Pogo Stylus. I can’t help but think the overall reaction was very positive and it will soon be distributed directly in the US.  We’ll be doing some long term usage testing of the Smart Pen to see how it holds up.  The tip is a conductive fabric and there’s a spring-loaded rod behind it – the body of the Smart Pen feels like aluminum.    So if you’re tired of mis-typing or smudging up the touchscreen with finger oils, you’ll probably enjoy using a stylus.


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Moovida Audio Video Organizer Player

Moovida Audio Video Organizer Player

Have a bunch of video and audio files scattered on your computer? Turn Moovida loose and it will not only find all these files on your computer, it will match them against the Moovida database so you’ll have a nice display icon and important info like genre, director or artist, year, actor and other filters you specify. Then you can search on this data to find the movie or music you want. And Moovida can play every major video or audio format as well as many minor ones. Next up for Moovida is social networking so you can share comments on what you are watching with just your inner circle or the whole wide world.  It’s a free download.

iTwin Secure Remote Access Keys

iTwin Secure Remote Access Keys

Do you want to travel light yet have secure access to all the data on your home or office computer? Then take a look at the iTwin encryption key system.  It consists of 2 USB dongles that share the same 256 bit encryption key.  Plug one into the host computer and the other your remote client. (both have to run Windows)  You can then access the host and all data transmitted is encrypted.  Should you lose one of the twins, you can remotely deactivate the keys.  You can also require a password to initiate the connection session.

Looxcie Wearable VideoCam and BlueTooth Earbud

Looxcie Wearable VideoCam and BlueTooth Earbud

It’s a wearable camera! It’s a BlueTooth earbud! It’s the Looxcie!

This 480p color ear cam constantly stores the video & audio stream and when you want to save the previous 30 seconds just tap the Instant Save button. You can also answer phone calls via BlueTooth without interupting the capture. It can store up to 5 hours and you can interface it with iPhone or Android to send clips to social media sites. It weighs about an ounce and you recharge it via a micro-USB port. We’ll be doing a detailed review soon!



If you were wondering why there were no small or portable TVs when OTA (over the air ) TV went digital here in the US the reason was because the technical specification was still being finalized. Delivering a TV signal to a moving TV set requires additional signal processing.  We are now seeing TVs and receivers coming to market that conform to the ATSC A/153 spec aka ATSC M/H  (Mobile/Handheld)

The Hauppauge WinTV aero-m Dual Mode USB Receiver recieves both the ATSC M/H signal and the regular ATSC signal (A/53) for stationary TVs.  So you can watch TV on your laptop out by the pool, in a moving car or any place the ATSC M/H signal is broadcast.

If you’re on the move, you’ll use the ATSC M/H mode.  If you’re stationary, you can use either ATSC M/H or HD.    The aero-m has both a telescoping antenna and a terminal for an aftermarket antenna.  A remote control and antenna cable are included.  We’ll be doing a detailed review very soon.

Rover 4G WIFI Hotspot

Rover 4G WIFI Hotspot

Here are exterior and interior pictures of the new Rover Puck 4G mobile WiFi hotspot from Clear Wireless.  The Rover Puck can connect up to 8 WiFi laptops or smartphones to the internet.  How fast is it?  Well the Clear Wireless Rover 4G service is based on the WiMax protocol and can do up to 1 Mbps upload and 3 – 6 Mbps (million bits per second) download.  If you don’t know what a Mbps is, then just think of the Rover being about as fast as a pretty good home broadband connection – yes, this means you can watch video.

How well does it work in real life? Well 4G is very new – it rolled out this Summer and even in major markets, coverage is still being improved and expanded.  I tried out a Puck in Las Vegas and when I was able to get a 3 or 4 (max) bar signal things were great.  However, when moving at highway speeds things weren’t as consistent.  I am told that when moving at “high speed” the connection quality can fall to 1/10 of stationary levels.

In my empirical testing, I’d be watching a video (somebody else was driving!) and then after certain turns or bumps the video would stop.  I also tried the Puck while walking around and it performed about about the same as when stationary.  When walking around tall buildings I did find a few “dead” spots just a few feet wide in some of these urban valleys.

Clearwire is offering the first 2 days of service for free so if you get it I’d suggest you test out your most likely spots and routes right away.  I really like that there is no service contract with Rover – you buy the Puck ($149) or the USB single connection Stick ($99) and then pay $5/day, $20/week or $50/month for the service.

There are just 2 buttons on the Puck, an on/off switch and a signal strength button.  There’s a USB mini connection to power and recharge.  Battery life is about 3-4 hours depending on intensity of usage.  My Puck ran pretty warm when it was plugged into USB power and not in an air conditioned space.  It came complete with a USB power/recharge cable, AC to USB adapter, 12 volt cigarette lighter to USB adapter and a nice “rover” sticker.  There is no external antenna connection.  More information about the Rover service, coverage area and devices at

Biffy Bag - Now you can go on the go!

No, you’re not looking at a drawing of some sort of exotic Tropical island beachwear – aka sarong or lava lava.  Instead you are looking at the future of mobile human waste collection.  How about them horse apples?

Basically the Biffy Bag is a specially designed plastic bag that wraps around your waist and also channels your waste (#1 & #2) into a central pouch which contains a substance that solidifies liquids, enhances the natural decomposition process and neutralizes odor.   I’ve completely “evaluated” the Biffy Bag and let’s just say it’s rather forgiving of poor “aim” so just point “it” in a roughly Southern direction and let gravity take its course.  Ladies it’s a breeze – pack 2 in your purse, one to share and one just for you. Repeat after me “Sorry that was my last one – those leaves don’t look like poison ivy – go there.”

So can you do the Biffy in a moving vehicle and still stay spiffy?  I’d say yes, especially if you’ve Biffy’d before and the vehicle isn’t too crowded.  I imagine some rough humor could result if your driver suddenly takes evasive maneuvers – “Iceberg dead ahead!” or “Crazy Ivan”.   Hey what are friends truly for?

After the dirty deed is done, “everything” folds up into an opaque sealable pouch and yes toilet tissue and a nicely-sized moist towelette are included.  American ingenuity and innovation still live and a fine example awaits you at  They ship worldwide because we are one planet, one people, one log and “Let’s get together and feel all right.”

Relief Pod Extreme Storage

Relief Pod Extreme Storage

The Relief Pod is a multi-purpose container primarily intended for professional disaster response efforts. It is a rigid polymer shell roughly the length and width of a stretcher and a bit over a foot high.  (87″ x 29″ x 14″ or  221 x 74 x  36 cm)   They state that you can store 6 days worth of emergency supplies for 12 people in one Relief Pod.

It has padded aluminum carrying poles that run the entire length but also retract flush at each end.  There are multiple molded hand grab/lash down openings around the edges.  It has wheels on one end so it can also be moved about like a wheelbarrow.   The top surface is padded with closed cell foam for use as a bench, cot or stretcher and there are 4 webbing straps to secure either the patient or to lash down other items.  There is a mesh panel pocket on one end for quick access to small items.

You open and close the Relief Pod with wing turn latches and end up with 2 ~44 inch long halves.   By using this geometry, the Relief Pod is much more rigid and less likely to leak.   In fact, there is a gasket at that seam as well as a pressure equalization valve so you can open it should the pressure drop inside.   It also has a water valve at one end so you can use it as a water storage container

And yes, it floats.  On there are pictures of several Relief Pods (RP) tied together and used as a raft.   An empty RP weighs about 70 pounds (32kg) and has about 1000 pounds (450kg) of buoyancy.  Be warned – should you use the RP as a camp bed near a body of water, your mates may prank you by carrying you upon the RP down to the water and setting you adrift.   If this were the movies, you’d awake in the middle of a beautiful lake and then tip over and awake with a huge splash.  So chain it to an immovable object before going beddy bye or risk going on a 3 hour tour.  By illogical extension, how about grabbing a paddle and racing your RP?  Shoot the rapids?  Catch some tasty waves? Take on Niagara Falls?  Sled down Everest?

Seriously though, picture this – 2 RP halves, stocked with camping or emergency supplies and stacked on top of each other in your garage.  (Full RPs also nest/stack)   When you need that smaller version of your stuff, you load the RPs and Thunderbirds are Go.  If you need more than one, be informed that RPs come in different colors and you can stack assembled RPs 4 high. A promising accessory in development are rigid end cover panels so you can seal each half of an RP when they are not latched together.

Relief Pod also have a variety of compact safety/survival kits.  They are very well thought out, organized in color-coded sections and are packed in stylish pouches, satchels or backpacks.  Some are optimized for comfort or urban situations.  Others are for emergencies with more first aid and survival items and fewer toiletries.

Some even have packets of “lifeboat” water and rations.  A few decades ago I tried some “lifeboat ration” and it looked like a dense brick of oatmeal/granola soaked in molasses. I guess if you have nothing else even raw seagull aka  “Haggis of the Sea” would be yummy.  Well modern technology and the Mainstay company have brought us a life boat ration that closely resembles tasty Danish Butter or Shortbread cookie in taste, texture and color but with impressive warm temperature shelf life. And that’s what the RP kits have so hey nonny nonny see Haggis jerky no more.   You can see many more product details and specs, including several videos, on

Otterbox for iPhone

Otterbox makes a wide range of protective cases.  Many are seriously watertight.  They also have a broad line of cases for smartphones and other compact electronic devices.  Let’s start off with the black and yellow Defender iPhone case from  The design, fit and finish are excellent. Your iPhone 3G/Gs will be ruggedly armored, yet you’ll still have crisp response on your controls. It includes a thin rigid clear panel over your LCD yet your finger actions are still accurately received.

A 2 piece rigid plastic inner case snaps around the iPhone then the rubber outer layer is pulled into place.  I found the balance of grip & slip to be just right – it feels secure in my hand but slips easily into a pocket without the stickiness of some silicone cases. And it comes with a belt clip holster.  The belt clip rotates with detents so you can wear it in portrait, landscape or angles in between.  The holster also is a desktop stand – just rotate the belt clip for the angle you want – you may want to put the belt clip in the locked open mode.  When you snap the iPhone LCD facing inward on the holster it’s really locked in there, the LCD is covered/not visible and well protected.  If holstered with the LCD facing outward, a moderate jolt or bounce can dislodge it.  They sell the belt clips separately as well so you can easily get an extra one to modify and hard mount.

The earphone port, docking connector, and ringer switch are protected with attached, press in place/swing away rubber covers.  Mind you while the Defender will protect against misting & spray, it will not protect against heavy rain or immersion.

Also pictured is the blue Otterbox 2000 clamshell case which can hold 1 Defender or Commuter encased phone or 2 “naked” iPhones and is rated to 100 feet submersion.  The Otterbox 8000 and 9000 (not pictured) are swing top cases (100 ft rated) with belt clips (removable) and cord lanyards and can hold 2 Defender phones.  The hinge pin is 316 stainless steel and the inside of the opaque versions have a thin plastic foam lining. The clear version is unlined. Otterbox makes 4 other cases for Iphone including the waterproof  2600 and many other rugged cases big and small.   Well-named and well done Otterbox.