The Gadgets Page

January 19, 2012

Earbud Knitting Kit

Filed under: Audio and Video — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

There is a design flaw in this Earbud Knitting Kit from UncommonGoods.

A truly awesome earbud organizer would not only roll up into a untangled mess in a little package, but also be a cross body bag to hold your iPod or iPhone. These earbuds aren’t connected to the case, so they are just something that makes your earbuds more bulky, but less tangled.

December 6, 2011

Polk Audio Ultra Fit 3000 Sports Headphones

Filed under: Audio and Video,Reviews — Christy Strebe @ 11:39 am

Polk Audio UltraFit 3000 Headphones at Amazon.comThe nice folks at Polk audio sent me the Polk Audio Ultra Fit 3000 Sports headphonesto review. They were such a nice surprise to arrive in my mailbox because they are AWESOME. These are the first pair of head phones I’ve used that don’t come out while I’m riding my spin bike. Usually I have to put my head phones back in three or four times. The Polk Audio Ultra Fit 3000 Sports headphones have an ear hook that looks like it would be uncomfortable to wear, but once they were in place I didn’t notice it.

The sound quality is remarkable too! The headphones come with three different cable lengths, so if I have my iPhone in an arm strap I don’t have a long cable dangling down, or I can attach the headphones to my Nano and clip it on my shirt collar.

The cables are also flat so it doesn’t get all tangled up if I just throw it in the pocket of my gym bag (they come with a nice carrying pouch where they are normally stored). I would definitely recommend these to anyone who’s headphones routinely fall out, or if you’re just looking for a great pair of sport headphones.

November 17, 2011

Technical Innovation + 12 Years = Progress

Filed under: Articles,Audio and Video,PDAs and Phones — Michael Moncur @ 6:16 pm

Today, Apple’s iTunes Match service went live. For a small yearly fee, iTunes Match allows you to keep all of your music online. Apple stores it in their iCloud servers, and you can play or download it from your computer, iPhone, or iPad. To save you the trouble of uploading your 100GB of music, Apple’s service conveniently scans your MP3s. If iCloud already has a copy of the song—quite likely given Apple’s user base—it will simply “match” the song rather than uploading it. Thus, you can have access to your entire music library from all of your devices in a very short time.

Thanks to iTunes Match, you have a backup of all of your music, instant access from anywhere, and the chance to upgrade your MP3s to a higher quality.

Sounds like progress? To me it sounds like a blast from the past.

Remembering My.MP3.Com

January 2000. Google was only a couple of years old. Facebook didn’t exist. Apple was a company that sold funny-looking computers. They wouldn’t introduce the iPod for another year. The most sophisticated smartphone looked like this.

This was when, originally a site for musicians to share their own music, launched a feature called This was a cloud-based music service that let you stream your entire music collection from any computer. It used a matching algorithm so that you wouldn’t have to upload a track if they already had a copy. Does that sound familiar?

Unfortunately, didn’t ask for permission from record labels. They were sued by Universal Music Group for copyright infringement, lost to the tune of $53 million, and went out of business.

What if there were no legal objections? I’m still not sure would have succeeded. It was limited to music you bought in CD form at a store—there was no way to buy music from their site. It’s hard to scale servers to support this kind of load, and their service was limited by the technology of the time—you had to use a computer to access your music, and few people had broadband Internet access.

Progress Takes More Than Technology

This is an important lesson in how technical innovation is only a small part of progress. had the cloud servers 12 years ago, and they had the same matching concept as iTunes Match. They even had a great domain name. But they didn’t have the industry connections to make it legal or the infrastructure to make it practically useful.

Apple introduced the iPod in 2001, along with the first version of the iTunes music store. While the iPod and later Apple products are mainly praised for their design and technical features, Apple also made amazing progress in doing all of the legal wheeling and dealing necessary to make the whole thing legitimate. It took years for iTunes to reach the point where it had licensed music from all of the major publishers, with some popular bands like the Beatles taking 10 years. Finally, after a ton of work from Steve Jobs and Apple, iTunes Match brought the same features as to the real world. The service is much more useful, too, since you can play music from your phone over a 3G network.

My point here is not to complain that copyright law needs to change (which it does) or that we live in an overly litigious society (which we do). But if you’re wondering why a new feature hasn’t been released yet on your favorite gadget, or if you’re considering selling something yourself, remember that a great idea and a technical innovation always have the potential to bring progress. But if the company doesn’t deal with the legal issues and the infrastructure, It just might take 12 years to arrive… and it might be a different company that succeeds with the idea.

September 1, 2010

High Tech Turn Ons

Filed under: Audio and Video,PDAs and Phones — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

I was browsing through my old Seventeen Magazines from 80’s and I found this AWESOME article in the May 1986 issue called High Tech Turn Ons.

High Tech Turn Ons by Seventeen Magazine May 1986 from Starling Fitness

Pocket Watch by Panasonic from The Gadgets PageThe most interesting gadget is the second one on the list:

Pocket Watch: Liquid crystals may sound like something in a diet drink, but the only thing they make thin is a TV set. A liquid-crystal display (LCD) makes a TV set flat because it replaces the whole picture tube, much as a tiny microprocessor chip replaces a clunky, old-style circuit board. Less than an inch thick, Panasonic’s CT-301 Pocket Watch is the first high quality TV to use a liquid-crystal display. There have been other color TVs with LCDs, but this exceptional new model is the first to deliver a subtly hued, finely detailed TV picture. Measured diagonally, the screen is 3 inches across. $300

Here we are over thirty years later and now 20% of Americans have a tiny TV in their pockets at all times. It ALSO is a phone, a keyboard tutor [iTunes link], music player, and game machine. In fact, my iPhone can replace EVERYTHING that was featured on this High Tech Turn Ons article all for less than the cost of ONE of these items.

After reading this old article, I realized that the future is AMAZING. The iPhone and other smartphones are everything I wished for as a kid and MORE. I thought that I’d have a flying car by now, but I guess I’m willing to forgive that in exchange for my iPhone.

February 2, 2010

CES 2010: Euri Case and IRTronix

Filed under: Audio and Video — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

We have finally reached the point where we can send a movie in a greeting card. Euri has created ring boxes and LCD greeting cards that can display video and audio.

Euri Case and IRTronix

You can see how they look here:

They have teamed up with American Greetings and Target Stores, so you’ll be able to buy a greeting card with video and audio that you choose yourself soon!

January 25, 2010

CES 2010: Cy-Fi Wireless Speaker

Filed under: Audio and Video,PDAs and Phones — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

If you ride your bike often, the Cy-Fi Wireless Speaker might be a good option for you. You can connect your iPod or iPhone to it and it will play your music and act as a hands-free speakerphone. Here is a video from CES showcasing it.

It comes in both Black and Silver designs:

Here is the commercial for it:

When I was riding my bike to work everyday, this would have been a godsend for me. I used to listen to my MP3 player with earbuds, but that made it so I couldn’t hear around me as well. Something like the Cy-Fi wireless speaker would have let me hear the cars around me AND my music.

January 14, 2010

CES 2010: Samsung Video Art

Filed under: Audio and Video — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

The most brilliant way to make me to stop for a moment and actually WATCH a Samsung television was to show off video art.

CES 2010: Samsung Media Art Gallery

It was easy to miss, but along the side wall of Samsung’s booth at CES this year, they displayed gorgeous video art. My favorite was “Desire Has No History,” which is a quote by the famous photographer, Susan Sontag. You can see it here:

The vision of three beautiful and active gadgets being ground down to nothing is striking, but the reversal of the video is brilliant. It’s as if the gadgets were being made before my eyes instead of torn down.

Here is a clip from Mike and Matt’s favorite video, “Life as a flower to be near you.”

The description of the video was interesting:

The woman making the cake represents the expression of love. The man eating the cake represents the act of receiving love. The spinning cake (which was filmed over a 4-week time span) represents the progression of love.

That was an interesting concept, but the look on the face of the man haunts me even now. He looked so incredibly SAD to receive that cake.

Samsung did a brilliant job of getting me to stop and look at their televisions. I usually don’t write about the myriad of TV choices, so I would usually just rush past their booth on the way to something a little more interesting to me. These art installations were enough to attract my attention.

It was so loud on the show floor that the actual audio for both of these videos was unusable, so I added some music that was similar to what was playing. The music credit is Altean Twilight from Royalty Free Music.

January 8, 2010

CES 2010: Pure Sensia

Filed under: Audio and Video — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

For me, the best design winner of CES Unveiled was definitely Sensia by Pure.

CES 2010: Pure Sensia

CES 2010: Pure SensiaWhen I saw the Sensia, I didn’t actually care WHAT it did. I liked the design so much that I wanted to know more. Unfortunately, the more didn’t impress me much. It is a wi-fi enabled radio. So it can play FM radio as well as all the Internet radio stations that you love. It can also connect to Facebook, Twitter, weather and plethora of other Internet features.

What is DOESN’T do is more important. It doesn’t dock with your iPod. It doesn’t show videos on that gorgeous five inch screen. It doesn’t go portable without the optional ChargePAK.

It’s a shame that such beautiful design work was wasted with this crippled inner workings. Of course, Pure could add those features in the future, but for now, the Sensia just doesn’t live up to its lovely design.

Here is a walkthrough video from

December 15, 2009

Eight Track VS. Cassette

Filed under: Audio and Video — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

Seeing this advertisement from Hitachi makes my head spin.

Hitachi 8 Track VS Cassette

It reads:

8-track or cassette… let Hitachi end the argument.

She wants 8-track stereo… He wants cassette stereo. That doesn’t mean they have to argue.

They both can have their own way with Hitachi.

When I was a kid, 8-track tapes were the newest technology. They were supposed to replace vinyl and be the new wave of portable music. Then came cassettes. Then came CDs. Now, we have MP3s.

The way we consume music has changed FIVE times in my lifetime. FIVE TIMES!

The music industry expected me to pay for the album, the 8-track, the cassette, and the CD, and then they complained when people downloaded MP3s of the same music they already owned.

They’ve done the same thing with movies: Beta, VHS, DVD and now Blu-Ray. I still haven’t bought a Blu-Ray player. If you replaced DVD and Blu-Ray on this old advertisement, that is the argument that’s raging in our house right now.

I’m beginning to think that they are doing this on purpose.

Ad via: vintage_ads: Hitachi Eight Track VS. Cassette

September 21, 2009

Review: Altech Lansing Backbeat 906 Bluetooth Stereo Headset

Filed under: Audio and Video,PDAs and Phones,Reviews — Matthew Strebe @ 10:00 am

I’ve been waiting for wireless stereo Bluetooth to become an “actual” reality for years now. The A2DP stereo wireless protocol was developed years ago, but has only recently become ubiquitous amongst players and computers. First attempts at stereo Bluetooth headsets resulted in ridiculously large and uncomfortable headsets with poor battery life that were expensive and poorly supported by devices without an external dongle.

Altec Lansing BackBeat 906 Stereo Bluetooth Headset at Amazon.comThis has all recently changed. With A2DP support now available in iPhone OS 3, Mac OS X, and Windows, I can finally actually use wireless headsets. So I headed down to the Apple store to look at what could be purchased retail, and after looking at the options, I came home with the Altech Lansing BackBeat 906 headphones. I paid $99.

These headphones double as a Bluetooth headset with their built in Microphones. Noise canceling is good—they’re the best Bluetooth headset I’ve used, although I may be biased by hearing the call in both ears, which I like. Annoyingly, the iPhone switches the audio source back to the internal mic and speaker when you take a call while listening to the iPhone, so you have to manually switch it back while you “hello? Hello?” the caller to keep them from hanging up.

Styled like two behind-the-ear BT headsets connected by a cable that runs behind the head, they’re actually the most comfortable wireless headphones or headset that I’ve ever used. They have a silicon waveguide that directs the sound into the ear canal from external earbud style speakers, which is more comfortable than in-the-ear foam inserts. The only usability problem I’ve encountered is that leaning your head back against a pillow will cause the earbuds to move, just as with any behind-the-head headset. Unfortunately they’re too large to fit inside a motorcycle helmet.

Buttons are provided on the headset for call hook (left side) and audio controls (right side). Play/Pause is the main audio control button, with a lever for audio up/down. Holding the up/down lever for two seconds provides next/previous track, and the controls work seamlessly in iTunes and on the iPhone. The headsets come with a Bluetooth adapter compatible with all iPods that have dock connectors (as shown in the photo). iPhones can drive the headsets directly from the built-in Bluetooth and don’t need the plug-in adapter. Bluetooth range is about the same as any BT headset, which is to say you can use it in the same room as the source, but as soon as you round a wall, the signal drops out completely.

Sound quality is quite good–the best I’ve heard via wireless Bluetooth. Interestingly, it’s dramatically better with my iPhone than with my Mac (Unitbody Powerbook 17”) running iTunes. On the Mac, there are audible distortion effects irrespective of the compression level of the music or volume. It’s hard to understand why a completely digital audio stream would be affected, especially considering that I would think the codebase and hardware between the Mac and the iPhone are quite similar. It’s clearly the Mac, however, because on the iPhone audio is clean and crisp at all volumes.

For casual listeners, the Bass is good but not booming. You’ll definitely hear the bass line in 50 Cent’s Candy Shop. The ominous sub-aurals in Batman Begins are vivid, although not as lush as with Sony’s top of the line ear buds. Brass and synthetics are bright, and beats are crunchy and pop. You’ll like these phones.

No Bluetooth wireless headset will satisfy an audiophile. Distortion, bandwidth, and compression effects are all audible, and distortion at higher volumes can be distracting. Bass response lacks depth, and there’s a general flatness and lack of vibrancy and dimension across the dynamic range, leaving horns sounding especially brassy. Noise levels during silence are pronounced, as they would be on worn vinyl. The headphones can get quite loud—maybe a little too loud, but I’ve already lost hearing so it works for me. At peak volume, the distortion can be annoying. You’ll hear noise spikes in the attack of beat transitions and compression artifacts in the tail of white noise envelopes. Distortion at mid level volumes is only mildly apparent. These effects are apparent irrespective of the compression level of the source audio files (I tested up to 320kbps on my iPhone. Even uncompressed audio had distortion on the Mac, but I’m putting that down to a problem in a processing on the Mac since those effects are not apparent on the iPhone).

Fortunately, I’m not an audiophile, so love these little gems. They’re the best Bluetooth headphones I’ve heard and they’re they ideal mate to my iPhone.

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