Thursday, June 22, 2017

Smart lightbulb is key to Notifi's video doorbell

I like the idea behind the video doorbells that will send an alert to your mobile phone when someone arrives at your front door. They also activate a webcam to give you an instant live view of your visitor.

But there are two things about the brands I’ve tested that stopped me from making one a permanent addition to my front porch. First, they quickly gobble up batteries if you can’t hardwire them to an electricity source. And second, the camera shows only one view: straight ahead.

The Notifi Video Doorbell System from HeathZenith avoids both of those issues. The centerpiece of the system is a a multi-purpose light bulb that screws in the socket of an ordinary porch light.

Attached to the bulb is a tiny video camera at the end of a 22-inch cord with a mounting bracket that can aim the lens  anywhere you want. Instead of the front door, you might prefer a view of an entry gate or the front yard.

The doorbell kit also includes a stick-on push button that only requires one battery and an indoor chime that plugs into any standard AC socket.

The bulb contains an LED light, a motion sensor and a built-in speaker so you can talk to your visitors. The camera captures the scene is 720p resolution and stores the video on your mobile device and online for 24 hours. A premium service that costs $5 a month will store all videos events for 30 days.

For more details about the Notify system, visit the HeathZenith website and check out the Notifi apps in the iTunes App Store and the Google Play Store.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Plugging into online book clubs

Reading a good book? People are talking about it over at Goodreads.

While the book chatter can be lively at Barnes & Noble's website and a few others, none of them can match the action at Goodreads. It's a book-lover's playground that boasts 25 million members, 29 million reviews and 20,000 book clubs.

With more of us reading books on Kindles, Nooks and computer tablets, we're making fewer visits to bookstores and libraries. But that's no reason to stop sharing opinions about the our favorite books and our latest reads. In fact, the Internet makes it easier to join a book club, meet other book lovers and even borrow books from people we don't know.

Online book clubs are blooming with dozens of discussions groups, reader guides, author information and connections to brands and celebrity sponsors.

The best-known book club is the one talk show host Oprah Winfrey launched in 1996 when the Internet was still in its infancy. Oprah selected a book each month for viewers to read and discuss and often followed with an interview with the author.

Today, the club has evolved into a section on Oprah's website where readers can read author profiles and interviews and download special ebook versions of here selections from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks and other sources. The Oprah ebooks are special editions that have Oprah's notes and comments in highlighted text.

Other clubs are hosted by The Wall Street Journal and NBC's Today Show. In the Journal's club, authors select a book by another author, then host a live discussion on Twitter and Facebook. One of the first events featured Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, talking about Hilary Mantel's historical novel Wolf Hall.

The Today Show's club puts authors online for a live chat in a Google Hangout. One of Today's first guests was Nancy Horan, who discussed her second novel, Under The Wide and Starry Sky.

Authors also make frequent appearances at the Barnes & Noble Book Club where the forums are divided among different genres such as Mystery, Romance and Fantasy. The most active areas include Teen Reads and the Harry Potter section, each with more than 50,000 posts.

While the book chatter can be lively at B&N and a few other sites, none of them can match the action at Goodreads, a book-lover's playground that boasts 25 million members, 29 million reviews and 20,000 book clubs. If you can't find one that fits your interests, you can start a new one. Someone out there shares your love of memoirs by punk rock stars from the 70s.

Goodreads connects to Facebook, so you can see what your friends are reading. It also lets you build lists of books you have read or want to read and a feature that will analyze your reading habits and offer books that you might like.

Can't afford to buy all the books on your list? Some ebook sellers, including Amazon, have a loaner program that lets you borrow or loan ebooks for a couple of weeks if their contract with the author allows it. You can pass a book around to members of a discussion group or use the website to connect with strangers who make their ebook library available for loans. The service only works with Kindle books and it tries to balance borrowers and lenders. The more books you make available to lend, the more you are allowed to borrow.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Doctor Spring offers fast online consultations

The Internet is loaded with medical information but it’s not easy to separate unbiased and independent information from content that’s more like advertising for a company or a  product.

Doctor Spring is a service designed to fill that gap. It offers users a fast online consultation with a doctor who is not trying to sell you something. Users submit a question along with a brief medical history and they get a response in a few hours.

Doctor Spring offers three levels of service. Users can get answers to simple medical problems from a certified family physician or general practitioner; consult with a specialist in areas such as oncology or cardiology; or get detailed reports from four specialists.

The service has more than 2,000 participating doctors covering 41 specialties. Prices for the service range from $18 for an answer to common problems to as much as $59 a month for the group reports with unlimited consults and follow-ups.

For more details and to read profiles of the doctors, visit the Doctor Spring website.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Reviews focus on PC software

Anyone who wants to get more than a basic performance from their Windows PC can take advantage of thousands of programs available that will add an extra layer of security or a shot of digital adrenalin.

But I would not advise installing any software without getting the story behind the program and the tasks it will perform. In other words, read the software reviews before diving inn.

One place to find information about helpful software is Tech Your PC, a website that specializes in software reviews of useful programs, primarily for Windows computers.

Some of the recent reviews include utility programs such a RegCure Pro, a program that keeps the Windows registry running smoothly, and Xilisoft Video Converter Ultimate, which can turn a video file created in one format, like WMV or MP4, into another format, such as MOV or AVI.

The site also has reviews of security and antivirus programs from Kaspersky Labs, a utility for uninstalling software, and a service that provides a virtual private network for safe browsing. Tech Your PC also has a section devoted to video games and gaming hardware.

To see all the reviews and articles, visit the Tech Your PC website.

Monday, June 12, 2017

App builds dating community for people with herpes.

According to government reports, about one out of every six people aged 14 to 49 years have genital herpes. And while herpes can be easily managed and often presents no visible symptoms, it can be a worrisome issue for single people who are looking for dating partners.

An app called MPWH - Meet People With Herpes - has created a special community that brings together only people with genital or oral herpes.

The app has the same features as other popular dating apps. Members can not only browse listings and send winks or messages, they can also swipe to add favorites or eliminate listings with a feature called Spark.

They can also see who has viewed their profile and shape photos, words or comments that might help attract interested parties. Privacy settings allow users to hide their profile, show it only to heir favorites and can check someone’s profile anonymously.

MPWH also says it will remove an account from the app if it finds that the owner is not living with Herpes.

The app can be downloaded for free in the iTunes App Store and from the Google Play Store. Membership fees range from 1 month subscription with auto renewal: $33.99 to one month to $109.99 for six months.

For more details, visit the MPWH website.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Website focuses on remote IT jobs

A report issued last summer by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the U.S. Department of Labor put a number to the growing trend of working at home. The report said that in 2015, 24 percent of employed people did some or all of their work at home.

With high-speed networks, video conferencing and other high-tech communication tools, there is often little need for employees, particularly in the IT fields, to be parked in cubicles in high-priced office building. Companies that are recruiting programmers and other IT professionals have even begun to advertise specifically for workers to fill remote jobs.

A website called NewITJobs specializes in posting job openings for workers who would do their jobs remotely.

As I write this article, the site has 27 openings for Javascript programmers, 22 positions for coders who can write Ruby on Rails, and more than 50 IT jobs for professionals with expertise in other areas including systems administration, design and customer service.

NewITJobs says advertisers can post a job opening for $50 for 60 days and reach 100,000 remote workers every month.

To check out the current postings, visit the NewITJobs website.

Service offers a VPN for BitTorrent users

My work takes me to a wide variety of Internet web sites and services and my view is that what I read or do online is nobody’s business but mine. That’s why I often use a cloaking browser like Tor and a virtual private network (VPN).

A VPN hides your IP address so that any person or machine monitoring my traffic can’t identify my digital fingerprint.

TorrentGuard is a VPN service aimed specifically at people who share data using BitTorrent, a communication protocol that is typically used for peer-to-peer sharing of large files such as video. By routing those files through TorrentGuard, only the IP address of the VPN is visible to sniffers and snoopers while the user remains anonymous.

A VPN can also be useful for connecting to a website or service where access is restricted to certain geographic regions.

TorrentGuard says its service provides unlimited and unmetered traffic without the speed penalty that often comes with VPNs.

The service costs one dollar for the first month and $4.99 a month after the first month. It’s also available for an annual fee.

For more information, visit the TorrentGuard website and check the FAQ page.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

LED bulbs give good light but prone to flicker

I started buying these bulbs about a year ago when we decided to replace the standard ceiling can lights with LEDs. I wanted bulbs that were more efficient and cooler than conventional bulbs and I was attracted to Hyperikon's prices, which are lower than the competition.

The first batch of four provided light that was comparable to the older bulbs they replaced. So far so good. But then, after a couple of months, one of them started to flicker.

I reported the problem to the vendor and they immediately sent a replacement. Then another would flicker and I got another replacement.

The bulbs are supposed to have a five-year warranty. I don't think I got five months of usage. Now a third bulb has started to flicker. While I appreciate the prompt response I get when there's a problem, I'm tired of this replacement cycle, so I won't be buying any more.

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