Thursday, January 18, 2018

CES 18: Roaming the world

While the television crews flocked to the jumbo displays set up by Samsung, Intel, LG and other brands, I headed to a parking lot where CES had erected a huge temporary building for what it called the Design & Source Showcase.

The building housed 200 or more manufacturers from China, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and other countries.

These are the people who make the cables, headphones and other gadgets that turn up on Amazon, Alibaba or Wish, often under brand names that you've probably never heard of.

If you want to buy 1,000 Bluetooth speakers or if you have an design idea that you want to turn into a product, this is where you would go shopping.

With cord-cutting growing in popularity, I wanted to check out Zoomtak, a Shenzhen company that makes a variety of video streaming boxes that compare to devices like Apple TV or Roku.

The boxes run Android 6.0  and come with WiFi and HDMI connections. Also most Zoomtak include KODI, open-source media player and entertainment hub.

I also stopped it at the Sunchip booth. It's a Chinese OEM manufacturer that produces panoramic cameras, including one that works with a mobile phone, and virtual reality accessories.

In other aisles, Layon Science Technology was displaying a variety of Bluetooth devices, including several wireless earbuds. And Trangjan was promoting more than a dozen Apple-certified accessories, including an Apple Watch charger and several wireless charging platforms.

Among the many other wireless chargers on display was an unusual design created by Mossloo. This one combined Qi device charging and a Bluetooth speaker in a small white cube. The top of the box had an angled surface dotted with tiny suction cups that keeps your phone in place.


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

CES 18: Google’s revenge

After seeing Amazon's Alexa become the darling of last year's CES, Google came roaring back this year with an army of gadgets powered by Google Assistant.

So many devices that the company needed a house-sized building erected in a parking lot to show off all of them.

The lineup included alarm clocks and other tabletop products with video displays, plus speakers, watches, light bulbs, thermostats and even kitchen appliances such as a slow cooker and a coffeemaker.

CES 18: Samsung has a full-wall video screen

CES is typically a contest to see which television maker can show off the largest screen. This year Samsung was the clear winner. 

Samsung devoted an entire wall in its product showcase to a screen it calls The Wall.

The screen displays images in 4K resolution using a technology called MicroLED. 

The company said the screen is intended to be a consumer product - not just a concept item - and will be available for sale later this year. No price was announced.  

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

CES 18: A cat’s life

This robotic litter box is for felines and their owners. It automatically cleans and refreshes litter after each use.

CES18: Google glitch

"Hey Google where's my WiFi?" Googlers were turning away visitors at its gumball machine because it's WiFi connection was down.

The display invites people to pose a question to Google Assistant to win a prize.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Website helps outfit your smart home

My plans for a completely remote-controlled home are far from finished, but with several smart light bulbs, power plugs and Alexa devices installed, I'm making pretty good progress. And in a few days, I'll be checking out scads of new smart home devices at CES, the consumer electronics trade show.

I have also discovered a great website that is helping me focus on the best smart home products. WiseDweller features reviews on all of the latest smart home products, including light switches, thermostats and voice-activation devices.

An article featured on the site today is a head-to-head comparison of the Amazon Dot vs. the Google Home Mini. WiseDweller liked the Mini for playing music, movies and the TV but thinks the Echo has a better microphone. Check out the full report to see which one was the overall winner.

WiseDweller's section on smart light bulbs is a good example of how the service handles reviews. Products such as the Genie Prisma and LOHAS smart bulbs get a detailed report including a summary of Pros and Cons. WiseDweller also assigns ratings based on features, design, performance, value and ease of use along with an overall rating. That makes it easy to compare brands and models.

For all the reviews, news reports and brand information, visit the WiseDweller website.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

ProTech's kit jumpstarts electronics hobbyists

Earlier this month I wrote about Charles Platt's book Easy Electronics, which contains a instructions for building super-simple electronics projects. I also mentioned ProTech Trader, an online store that sells sets of components that are needed for Pratt's projects. 

Pratt's book is aimed at younger hobbyists and other novices who are just starting to explore the world of electronics.

But Pratt has another book called Make: Electronics 2nd Edition for folks who want to tackle something a bit more challenging. For example, it will explain how to program microcontrollers to work with things like home automation devices and even robots.

And ProTech Trader has a kit for that book as well.

The Make: Electronics 2nd Edition Component Pack is a double-sided carrying case that is crammed with items such as a solder less breadboard for prototyping circuits, bipolar transistors, low-current LEDS, battery connectors, potentiometers and other testing devices.

The kits come in a variety of configurations with prices starting at about $75. You can order them from ProTech's page on Amazon or through the ProTech Trader website.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Discounts available for Namecheap hosting services

As we roll toward the big Christmas holidays, my family is doing a lot of shopping online. And they're probably sick of hearing me repeat my online shopping mantra:

Before you buy, look for coupons.

They know about the coupons that come in the mail and in the newspaper, but they often forget that many websites provide coupons in the form of discount codes that can deliver some serious savings.

And not just savings on groceries or toys. One site I could offers discount codes for discounts on website hosting, domain registrations, and virtual private servers from Namecheap.

According to its website, Namecheap is an ICANN-accredited domain name registrar and web hosting company that manages about 7 million domains.

Namecheap coupons currently posted at the Saving With Coupons site offer a variety of discounts, from 10% off on domain registrations or transfers to 40% off on VPS hosting. Links on the site take visitors directly to the corresponding product pages at Namecheap where the discount codes can be redeemed.

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