Monday, October 14, 2019

loveBuds let you share music, movies and video calls

When my wife and I travel together we often share a movie on my computer or tablet. But that only happens when I remember to bring along two sets of earbuds and a little splitter cable so we can both plug into the same headphone jack.

Then there are times when I want to share a song with her. What do I do - offer her one earbud and half of the the stereo?

Those are the times when I wondered why no one had created dual earbuds with two sets built into one plug.

It turns out someone has. They're called loveBuds and they're much more practical than a couple of standard earbuds plugged into a splitter.

For example, loveBuds have separate microphones and volume controls. Dual mics mean my wife and I can both participate in a Skype or Facetime video call. And the volume control lets me crank up the movie sound without blasting her.

The buds are colored black and pink, so users will always know which pair are his and which are hers.

And the cables are long enough to let us use them if we were sitting across from each other at a dining table, for example, or strolling through a museum.

The loveBuds have a standard audio pin plug so they would work fine with my laptop computer and with many mobile phones and tablets. Users who have newer Apple phones or tablets will need to have their own adapter.

You can get more details at the loveBuds website or order a set for $34.99 from Amazon.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

SEO expert has a plan for small businesses

Almost every day, I get emails from companies and individuals offering their expertise in search engine optimization to boost my website's online visibility.

The message I got from Colin Hamilton was different. He sent a link to a video of a presentation in which he shares his "9 Growth Hacking Tips For Top Rankings."

I clicked to the video but I was skeptical. I have written about SEO techniques and attended presentation much like Hamilton's. I didn't think I would learn anything new.

I was wrong. His best tips told me something I should have known, like using the social media icon links attached to a business listing in Google Maps, or something I had never thought of. A good example of the latter is his email trick. Instead of adding a business's website address to email correspondence, use a URLs based on a general Google search and Google Maps search.  Google will reward you for routing your potential customers through its pipelines.

Hamilton, the owner of iimhub Technologies in the Vancouver area. He focuses on techniques for generating sales leads. He is currently developing a collection of online hubs that would help companies and service providers enhance their Internet visibility by teaming up with others in the same line of work. Each member would have a website under the hub umbrella and would regularly contribute articles and other original content.

"We want to create a social media platform within an industry," Hamilton said in his presentation. His targets are "niche communities" such drywall installers, caterers or periodontists.

To get a closer look at Hamilton's ideas, check out the iimhub website

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Why do programmers love Python?

When my corporate job involved working with programmers to support the company’s website, the coders tended to favor using PHP to build our digital projects.

PHP, a general-purpose programming language that was designed for web development work, produced code that was easy to integrate into our HTML pages. If we needed a registration form or an interface to a simple database, PHP would deliver.

For today’s far more complex websites, developers are more likely to work Python, a programming language built around the concept of "pluggability" and reusable components. Developers can work faster because they can reuse components that have already been created and tested.

Because of its reliability, scalability and flexibility, Python has been used to create some of the biggest giants in the web including the Google search engine, YouTube, Yahoo!, Dropbox, Quora, and Reddit.

The software development house RED uses Python and especially the Django web framework for many of its development projects.

Recent surveys of developers show Python rising in popularity among while languages such as PHP and C++ are waning. In one survey, Python ranked as the 4th most popular language globally.   

One more thing to know about Python: the name has nothing to do with snakes. Rather it's a tribute to the British comedy troupe Monty Python.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

A telescope for your pocket phone

This is the type of scope that is typically used for target shooting or spotting wild game to hunt. I was hoping to spot bald eagle that has been known to visit the bare treetops in the woods around my neighborhood.

The scope has 20x-to-60x magnification, which suits my situation, and it’s waterproof, so our frequent hazy, humid weather wouldn’t fog the lens.

But what really drew me to the Creative XP GlassHawk were the accessories. It comes with a clip-on adapter that holds a mobile phone snug against the viewing tube.

The adapter was easier to use than I expected and after just a couple of tries, I have a bright, full-screen image on my iPhone camera.

With the phone camera, I could zoom in even more and shoot sills, video and time-lapse. It also allowed my grandchildren to enjoy the views, especially the full moon ascent that you’ll see in my video.

The GlassHawk also comes with a remote shutter release that works with both Apple and Android phone cameras.

I was also very happy with the price, which is significantly lower than other brands that have comparable features. 

The GlassHawk sells for $189 at Amazon.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Free app lets Amazon vendors estimate monthly sales

For every product listed for sale on the Amazon website, there’s a number that can be a key element in the product’s success. It’s called the Best Sellers Rank and it tells buyers and sellers how popular a particular item is in its product category.

At this writing, the iRobot Roomba 960 Vacuum Cleaner is ranked No. 1,170 in the Home & Kitchen category.

A product’s ranking is a good thing to know if you’re among the more than 2 million active Amazon sellers. An even better number to know would be an estimate of how many products a vendor might sell each month. Now a new app called SPM - Sales Rank Analyzer puts that number at a seller’s fingertips.

SPM is a specialized calculator that takes a product's Amazon sales ranking and determines its estimated monthly sales.

If you wanted to be one of the Amazon vendors who sell the Roomba 960,  putting that 1,170 ranking number into the app would give you an estimate of 3,900 in product SPM -- sales per month. SPM Analyzer will calculate the amount of units you can sell of that product and how much stock you should send to Amazon's fulfillment centers or to your own warehouse on a monthly basis.

Websites such as AMZ Scout or Jungle Scout provide a similar service through their site, sometimes for a fee. SPM Analyzer is free and it's currently the only mobile app that offers SPM data on an iPhone or other iOS device.

The app covers rankings in all 30 Amazon product categories and it lets users calculate sales for specific geographic markets such as Canada, Germany or Great Britain as well as the U.S.

For a closer look at SPM - Sales Rank Analyzer, check out the video below and the preview on the Apple App Store.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Yardian brings smarts to home water systems

I live in the Midwest where our issue with rain is there is often too much of it. My son, on the other hand, lives in an arid part of Northern California where his lawn and garden beg for water almost every day and where the local authorities have tight control over water usage.

I thought about him when I came across the Yardian. It's a smart sprinkler manager designed to fit nicely into his lifestyle and into the Internet of Things. It not only manages your irrigation schedule, it also works with a mobile app and responds to Amazon's Alexa and Google Assistant.

The Yardian is a replacement for the typical irrigation controller with its arcane settings and setup commands. The Yardian helps with the switch by providing numbered stickers for the wires and on-call assistance. It reminds me of how easy it was to swap out my decades-old thermostat for its slick successor, the Nest.

Once you have the wires plugged into the Yardian, you set it up using the free app available in the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store. The controller connects to your home WiFi and takes orders from the app.

During the setup process, you'll tell the Yardian where you live and what utility provides your water. Why does that matter? Because, like my son's water provider, your utility might have restrictions on how much water you can sprinkle on your property and when you can do it. Last summer he could only water after sundown and he could get in trouble if any of it landed on his concrete driveway.

Linking the Yardian app to the local water company lets you check on local rules and restrictions. And Yardian maintains a database of water restrictions to automatically revise a user's watering schedule to match local rules. It also checks local weather forecasts to optimize watering schedules.

The Yardian control box also contains a video camera to provide continuous monitoring of the area around it, typically a yard or garage. And the system can be set to automatically activate a sprinkler head when it detects an unwanted animal.

The Yardian watering manager is available directly from Amazon. A system to manage eight watering zones costs $159.99 or 179.99 for 12 zones.

For more details about the Yardian system, check the video below and visit the Yardian website.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

App creates augmented reality objects

The arrival of Pokémon GO in 2016 not only got people out of their home to search for digital creatures, it also introduced average folks to the mysterious world of augmented reality.  Suddenly they could see a Pidgey hopping around the shopping mall and a swarm of Zubats gathered on the library steps.

Now a new iOS app could expand the AR world even more by making it easy to create and share augmented reality objects.

Advncd AR allows users to create their own custom augmented reality objects using their own photos. It eliminates the need to comb the Internet looking for collections of AR objects to download and deploy.

With Advncd AR, users select an object that they would like to create, then upload photos and text to the app.

The app comes with libraries stocked with animations and simple screens. The app currently has six models and use cases to choose from and the developers indicate more could be added in the future. 

When the object is in place, the app generates a QR that to share with friends and associates. when they scan the code, they will see the objects you created.

Advncd AR is available as a free download in the iTunes App Store.

To get a closer look at the app, check out the video below and visit the Advncd AR website.

Friday, July 12, 2019

These earbuds can go for a swim

What’s my favorite way to get through a scorching summer afternoon? Floating on a raft while listening to an audiobook or podcast. And now I’ve found a way to do that without disturbing the neighbors.

I pop in my Sixpipes waterproof earbuds and listen in privacy. The buds have an IPX-5 waterproof rating, which makes them perfect for pool use. And they will run for 6-8 hours on a full charge.

The Sixpipes buds can be set up to play in full stereo when you use both buds or mono if you only want one. They come in a small charging case along with a variety of rubber tips to help users get the best fit.

The Sixpipes in-rear headphones cost about $40 on Amazon.

Check my video below to see them in action.

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