The Gadgets Page

December 27, 2010

Skagen Disney Watch

Filed under: Watches — Michael Moncur @ 12:07 pm

I picked up this Skagen watch at Disneyland. It looks just like their normal 3-dial watch, but with two of the dials moved in to touch the third, forming a “hidden mickey”. It’s about the most subtle Mickey Mouse watch I’ve ever seen.

Disney Skagen Watch

December 6, 2010

Review: InCase Convertible Magazine Jacket for iPad

Filed under: eBook Readers and Peripherals,Misc. Gadgets — Michael Moncur @ 4:32 am

InCase Magazine Jacket

I’ve gone through about five different cases in less than a year of owning an iPad. Apple’s case is thin and lightweight, but has ugly seams and sharp edges. Most of the others are so thick they double the iPad’s thickness. This new entry from inCase is my favorite so far.

The Convertable Magazine Jacket is loosely based on InCase’s leather Book Jacket for iPad, one of the cases I ruled out because it adds far too much weight and thickness to the iPad. By contrast, the Magazine Jacket is thin—it’s the only case I’ve reviewed that can be considered as thin and lightweight as Apple’s case.

InCase Magazine Jacket

The Magazine Jacket functions as a cover for the iPad, complete with a Moleskine-like fabric band to keep the cover closed. It easily snaps onto the iPad, and the plastic corner mounts offer some protection if the iPad is dropped. It’s very slim, with two plastic protrusions on the back (which facilitate use as a stand) the only thing making it significantly thicker than an un-jacketed iPad.

InCase advertises “One working position and two viewing positions” when using the Magazine Jacket as a stand. I had trouble figuring out what these positions were at first, and the drawings on the package left both Laura and I scratching our heads. After half an hour of experimentation, we figured it out.

The “working” position, shown at the top of this article, works well for typing. The cover folds into a triangle and supports the iPad at a low angle, slightly lower than that of the Apple case. It works great for typing on a table but isn’t completely stable when used on my lap.

InCase Magazine Jacket

The first “viewing” position, shown at right, uses the same triangular fold, which nestles under one of the case’s protrusions for a very stable TV-like viewing angle, slightly leaning from the vertical. This configuration can also be used in portrait mode, which positions the iPad vertically.

InCase Magazine Jacket

The second “viewing” position, shown at left, was hard to figure out—in fact, I just tried it again for this picture and it took a moment to find the position again. The cover folds into an L-shape and rests on the second protrusion on the back. This is a shallower angle that works well on my desk. It’s probably the least stable position, but still works for light typing.

The great thing about this case, once you figure it out, is the ease of switching positions. I previously used a Macally Microfiber Case which was so difficult to put into position as a stand that I almost never did. With the Magazine Jacket I can switch it from stand to cover and back very quickly, and as a cover it’s sleek and comfortable to use.

This case is hard to find right now at most stores, but it’s available in the Apple Store for $49.95.

October 22, 2010

Halloween Apps for iPad and iPhone

Filed under: eBook Readers and Peripherals,PDAs and Phones,Software — Laura Moncur @ 2:27 pm

Halloween is just around the corner! Get into the mood with these apps.

Angry Bird Halloween Edition

I’ve played Angry Birds on the iPad a few times and it amused me, but when Rovio came out with a Halloween edition of the game, they were suddenly my favorite game of the month! Here is a video showing the action.

You can download the games from iTunes here:

Ghost Radar

I talked about Ghost Radar before here:

It is such a fun app, that I’m going to have it running in the background in the kitchen during my Halloween Party. Here is a quick video showing it:

You can download the app here:

Halloween Movie Vault

Halloween Movie VaultFlingsoft has brought us a huge collection of old movies that you can stream onto your iPad. It’s a stroke of genius. I thought maybe all of the movies would be really bad, but there are some good ones there including: Dementia 13 (directed by Francis Ford Coppola), White Zombie (with Bela Lugosi) and The Last Man on Earth (with Vincent Price).

You can download Halloween Movie Vault here:

There’s nothing like a bunch of scary movies to make Halloween feel even scarier!

October 18, 2010

Parrot AR.Drone iPhone Controlled RC Quadcopter

Filed under: Toys and Games — Matthew Strebe @ 12:05 pm

AR.DroneThe AR.Drone is a completely new type of flying toy enabled by the capabilities of smartphones. Using the iPhone (or iPad or iPod Touch) as a controller, the AR.Drone receives tilt control and commands from the iPhone’s sensors and sends video back from its two onboard cameras.

The result is a totally new type of experience: Augmented Reality First-Person Flying. When you get good at it, it’s just like playing a flying game, except that you’re really controlling an actual flying machine and the video you see on screen is what you’d experience if you were onboard the machine piloting it.

AR.Drone iPhone AppBefore you can use your AR.Drone, you have to download the AR.Freeflight app from the Apple App store. Once you’ve got it, you power up the AR.Drone, go to settings on the iPhone, and set your WiFi base station to the drone’s SSID. This creates a high-bandwidth wireless connection directly between your phone and the AR.Drone. Launching the AR.Freeflight app provides a videogame-like view through the Drone’s front camera with virtual thumb-pad style controls on the screen, which you will use to control the AR.Drone.

Here is video of our first flight:

Using the iPhone to control the AR.Drone is simple. When you first launch the AR.Drone, you will naturally control it from this third person frame of reference, by watching the quadcopter and matching movements using the iPhone’s tilt feature. The AR.Drone tilts as you tilt your phone, providing instant controllability that’s easy to understand so long as the iPhone’s orientation matches that of the AR.Drone. Because the tilt mechanism is so simple, literally anyone can fly the copter out of the box with about a minute’s worth of practice. It’s immediately accessible and great fun right out of the box.

In addition to tilt control for move forward, move backward, move left, and move right movement, there’s a soft thumb pad for controlling altitude (up and down) and orientation (turn left, turn right). Up and down is simple, but rotating the quad-copter is where things get tricky: When rotated, the iPhone’s tilt orientation no longer matches the quadcopter: If you rotate 180 degrees, controls are opposite. tilting left moves right, and tiling forward moves back. It’s difficult to map this in your mind while watching the quadcopter in third person.

Now, if you just want to fly around without watching through the camera, you never have to rotate the quadcopter—you can tilt in all directions and move anywhere you want precisely without ever rotating the quadcopter. Rotation is used when you want to change the point of view of the camera because you’re piloting by looking through the camera in first person perspective, rather than looking at the quadcopter in third person perspective. It’s a paradigm shift in control that takes a while to get used but gives you something to skill up at, which is what makes the quadcopter so much more fun than a typical RC device.

Watch yourself with the AR.Drone camerasFirst Person flying occurs when you look at video from the camera on the iPhone, ignore the actual helicopter, and fly first person from the camera’s point of view. As soon as you do that, the tilt controls make sense again in your mind, as if you’re onboard the machine. First Person flying takes more skill, and leaves a lot of room for learning. At first you’ll find yourself jumping right back out to look at the quadcopter and confuse yourself about the orientation, but once you learn to trust what you’re looking at on screen and you’ve found the control setting options you like, you’ll be flying around as if you’re a miniature pilot onboard the AR.Drone. It is quite amazing.

Onboard sensors and a powerful ARM9 microprocessor (in the same family as the iPhone processor) stabilize the quadcopter and perform the automatic flying functions so you don’t have to think about hovering and the machine never goes “haywire” if you lose control of it. If for any reason you can’t figure out why it’s doing what it’s doing (usually due to mismatched rotation), you just stop touching your phone and the quadcopter will halt and stabilize in mid air. If it hits anything causing any rotor to slow, it will shutdown immediately and drop to the ground. You can also hit an emergency soft-button to drop it at any time. Otherwise, there’s a soft-landing button that will set down gently on its own.

One of the sensors is an ultrasonic altimeter that the quadcopter uses to control its height over the floor. Flying over objects like boxes or couches will cause the quadcopter to hop up because it’s tracking a specific height over the ground for stability.

With the indoor hull on, the copter is quite safe. All the rotors are enclosed, and they’re not really capable of seriously injuring a person even when exposed unless they perhaps somehow hit an eyeball directly. They will sting if they hit you while rotating however, so fly with the indoor hull on until you’re an excellent pilot. I deliberately stuck my finger in the rotating fans, and while it smarted for a few minutes, it didn’t break the skin (or the rotor).

Downside #1: $300. It’s pretty expensive for a toy. Totally worth it, but still pretty expensive. Considering the fact that you will get addicted, you will buy extra batteries, and you will buy repair parts, and you’re looking at easily spending $500 on it in the first few months. Again, totally worth it, but expensive.

Downside #2: Battery life vs. charge time. My charge time is 70 minutes, and my run time is 17 minutes. That’s 3x+ more time to charge than to play. This means you’ll need at least three batteries and at least two chargers if you want to fly without waiting.

Downside #3: Repairs. You will damage and eventually break the AR.Drone. The upside is that Parrot sells literally every piece of the device as a repair part and the parts are not particularly expensive. The repairs appear to be rather simple. During my initial flying, I ran the quadcopter into a chair and one of the rotors took a raisin-sized chunk of Styrofoam out of the hull. A dab of glue and it was as good as new. But you should expect to spend money keeping it repaired, pretty much as you would with any vehicle.

Here is a video of a crash and fall:

I totally love the AR.Drone. It’s both a toy and a videogame, with the best features of both. It’s the most fun I’ve had with a pure toy ever, bar none, and I put it amongst the top ten gadgets ever, alongside the iPhone, iPad, Legos, Atari computers, and other gadget greats in my life.

The GadgetsPage purchased this AR.Drone retail for this review. Two more videos after the break: (Continue Reading…)

September 30, 2010

Aida Case for the iPad

Filed under: eBook Readers and Peripherals,Reviews — Laura Moncur @ 9:00 am

The minute I heard that the Aida Keyboard Case for the iPad was available, I ordered one. It arrived a couple of days ago and I’m eager to share what I’ve learned.

I was worried that it would be too thick to still fit in my purse, but the case hasn’t caused any trouble. It IS twice as thick as an iPad without a case, but compared to many other cases, it is similar in thickness.

Aida Case for the iPad

I also like the magnetic closure. I kept having trouble with other cases opening up in my purse. This one stays closed.

Aida Case for the iPad

I was also worried that it wouldn’t fold flat so I could read magazines, books and websites. Fortunately, it folds easily and I can hold it to read without any trouble.

Aida Case for the iPad

I’ve had trouble with my iPad and Bluetooth keyboards, so I was worried I would run into the same trouble, but the Aida keyboard paired with my iPad without a single hitch. It also charged quickly and I haven’t had to recharge it in the last two days.

Now, for the bad news. The case uses only gravity to keep the iPad upright when you’re typing. That works fine if you are typing on a table, but if you’re at a conference and have your iPad on your lap, it will NOT work. The iPad will flop down every time.

Aida Case for the iPad

I tried to fix the problem by adding industrial strength velcro. This makes the case almost useable on my lap, but not quite. There is still a lot of flopping and the sound of the velcro ripping when it finally fails to keep it upright. I just wish a case manufacturer would use laptop hinges instead of relying on gravity.

Aida Case for the iPad

The worst problem of all is the keyboard layout. If I had been able to see the actual buttons on the keyboard before I bought it, I wouldn’t have bothered with this case.

Aida Case for the iPad

There are a few issues:

  • There is only one shift key on the left side. The right shift key has been replaced with a key for the equal sign and an up key, so every time I try to capitalize like normal, I end up either typing an equal sign or moving the cursor up one. This is a major pain in the butt.

  • The apostrophe is in the lower right hand corner under the period key. I’ve never had a keyboard with the apostrophe there, so I have to learn how to type all over again just to use the apostrophe.

  • The keyboard feels mushy. I prefer a keyboard that’s silent, but this one is so floppy that I can’t tell if I’ve pushed a key or not. This ends up giving me double letters at some times and missing letters at others. I find that I have to correct my work just as often as when I use the virtual keyboard.

There are some good things about the keyboard. Copy, paste and cut work using the command button (i.e. Command+V for paste). This streamlines some of my workflow, but it doesn’t make up for the other issues.

In the end, don’t bother with the Aida Case. You’ll probably type faster on the virtual keyboard and you won’t have to worry about charging a keyboard and setting up Bluetooth. Sometimes the best solution is the one Steve Jobs gave you.

September 24, 2010

Magazine Apps for the iPad

Filed under: eBook Readers and Peripherals — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

OK Magazine is my shameful pleasureI have been reluctant to write about Zinio and the People Magazine iPad apps because honestly, I didn’t want anyone to know how many horrible magazines I read. I LOVE reading them, but I don’t want the whole world to know that I love them.

I have easily spent over a hundred dollars on digital magazine subscriptions since I bought my iPad. Magazines that I would never allow into my mailbox or sit on my counter or pass through my checkout line are happily loaded onto my iPad. I still feel guilty reading them, but I CAN read them without anyone knowing how white trash I am.

Zinio Magazine AppBy far, my favorite app is Zinio Magazine Newsstand & Reader [iTunes link]. I have subscribed to US Weekly, OK Magazine, Cosmo and Elle. All four of these I would never allow in my home because I’m so embarrassed by them. I’ve also subscribed to Weight Watchers, Smithsonian and Bicycle Times. I wouldn’t have ever bought a subscription to them before because I couldn’t deal with the clutter of unread magazines in my house. Recycling them without reading them is just too painful for me, so I just didn’t bother with those kinds of magazines for years because I knew I wouldn’t read them every month.

I love the freedom of a digital subscription because I can delete or download whatever issues I want. I can read them at my leisure and if it takes MONTHS to get around to looking at them, it doesn’t matter because they’ll wait, sight unseen in my iPad until I have the time to look at them. I can take screen shots of things I want to buy and I NEVER have clutter in my home.

People Magazine App for iPadThe PEOPLE Magazine App [iTunes Link], however was so irritating that I had to delete it. There are so many things wrong with this app that it’s hard to know where to start. They offered the lure of additional digital content, so I thought they would be better than having the same subscription with Zinio, but I was sorely mistaken.

  • You MUST buy the print subscription: People Magazine is just barely reputable enough to be allowed in my mailbox, so I didn’t have a problem with their requirement to buy a subscription. I DO have a problem with the paper magazines that show up in my mailbox every week, however. I would much rather prefer the digital only version, even if I had to pay the same price.
  • It’s a TIME SUCK: Downloading issues takes at least ten minutes and it HAS to be done over wi-fi, so that’s a pain. After I read an issue, I can’t delete it, so when I sync my iPad, it takes easily a half hour for iTunes to back up all my stupid back issues. After I deleted the app, my sync time went from over forty minutes to less than two minutes.
  • It isn’t even the full People Magazine: When I compare it to my print copy, the digital version is missing almost all of the advertising and the crossword puzzle. Some people might not care about missing the advertising, but honestly, sometimes the ads are better than the content with People Magazine, so I really felt like the digital version wasn’t as good.
  • The extra digital content is useless: There ARE videos that aren’t included in the print version that I can watch and I kind of liked those, but they certainly weren’t worth the forty minutes of my time it takes to download them and back them up on my computer.

Time Inc. should take a look at how Zinio is handling things. I have spent FAR more money on digital subscriptions with them and I like them WAY better. The People Magazine App isn’t worth the time to download it.

In the end, I absolutely LOVE getting my magazines digitally on the iPad. It decreases my household clutter and I get to enjoy my shameful pleasures without anyone looking down on me. Thanks, Zinio!

September 23, 2010

G33K and G4M3R Girls Anthem Featuring Seth Green

Filed under: Toys and Games — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

I absolutely LOVE this California Gurls Music parody. It’s a shout out to all the geek and gamer girls out there.

Geek and Gamer Girls Song

I wish I looked as hot as any one of those girls. I guess I’m happy with my geek skillz and I’ll have to work on being a hottie as well.

You can download the song here:

September 22, 2010

Kensington Bluetooth Keyboard for iPad

Filed under: eBook Readers and Peripherals — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

This video shows an iPad keyboard case for the iPad. It looks pretty good.

The iPad sits upright using a notch that holds it in place (much like other cases) instead of a laptop-like hinge.

Kensington iPad Keyboard Case

The case looks incredibly slim.

Kensington iPad Keyboard Case

Unfortunately, the keyboard case isn’t available yet. I’ve checked all the retail sites as well as Kensington’s own site, to no avail.

The Aida iPad Keycase is available NOW, however.

Aida iPad Keyboard Case

If you are looking for an iPad case that also has a Bluetooth keyboard built in, I predict the market will be FLOODED with them within six months. It’s hard for me to wait for the leader to work its way to the front of the pack, so I’ll probably end up buying several until I find the perfect one for me. If you can wait, you’ll be able to learn from my mistakes. Stay tuned for iPad keyboard case reviews.

Via: Found Footage: Kensington Bluetooth keyboard case for iPad

September 21, 2010

Maybelline Mascara: A LONG Tradition of Gadgetry

Filed under: Health and Beauty Gadgets — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

This advertisement for the Maybelline Magic Mascara from 1959 really surprised me.

Maybelline Magic Mascara 1959

1940's Mascara BrushFIFTY years ago, Maybelline was promoting a mascara with a new spiral brush. Before the advent of the spiral brush, women were using flat brushes that were similar to a brow brush. It would be rubbed on a pan of mascara wax and then you would apply it to your eyelashes. The process was difficult and the advent of a spiral brush made it much easier.

Maybelline Define-A-Lash Pulse Perfection Mascara at Amazon.comNow, Maybelline’s makeup gadgetry has advanced to a vibrating mascara brush called Pulse Perfection. It’s the same mascara as their Define-A-Lash brand with a brush that vibrates. Here is a review of it by AmyBabyDoll on YouTube:

Amy says that the mascara is nice, but the vibration isn’t worth the extra money.

Although I like how it looks on the lashes, I do think the vibrating part is completely pointless because I’ve used the Define-A-Lash mascara in the past and it has given me the exact same effect. The vibration is so slight and gentle that I really don’t think it makes that much of a difference… Also you have to be quite patient, because you have to do it so slowly. I would rather get in there and get it done really quickly.

Maybelline has a long history of gadgetry with their makeup and they always have something new for us gadget girls, but it looks like the Pulse Perfection doesn’t quite live up to the original spiral brush on the Magic Mascara fifty years ago.

September 20, 2010

Konexi: Balance Your Words Carefully

Filed under: Toys and Games — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

Konexi at Amazon.comOur family is always on the lookout for fun games to play together and we’ve been big fans of Scrabble. When I heard there is an interesting game out called Konexi, I jumped at it. It’s like a cross between Scrabble and Jenga. You balance the letters carefully to create words. The strange thing is that the letters don’t have to be in the correct order to count as a words as long as all the letters are touching. Here is an explanation.

Konexi Rules

In this example, you could add the letter N to the left branch to create the word “wine,” but you couldn’t add it to the right branch because that doesn’t make a word and it doesn’t connect to the W and I on the left.

Sadly, every place I’ve found that sells this game has none in stock. I guess I’ll have to wait until it becomes available to try it out with my family.

Via: Konexi Word Game is Scrabble Meets Jenga |

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