Arctis 3 Headset Offers the Best of Both Worlds

arctis 3 headphonesThere are lots of headsets on the market, and if you like wireless gadgets, there are lots of wireless headsets, too.  Both wired and wireless have their advantages and disadvantages, but sometimes, you end up having to own one of each.

That’s because while Bluetooth is great for listening to music, it’s not so good if you’re a hardcore gamer.  Latency is not a good thing, and Bluetooth, for all of its charms, does have some built-in latency that can become a critical issue in the middle of online warfare.

That’s where the Arctis 3 headset comes in.  The latest headset from SteelSeries offers what ought to be the best of both worlds when it comes to headsets.  The Arctis 3 offers Bluetooth connectivity, making it great for listening to music from any Bluetooth-enabled source.

Great.  Lots of headphones do that.  But wait – the Arctis 3 also allows you to plug in to your favorite game console for wired connections when you’re gaming.

OK, lots of headphones do that, too.  But here’s where the Arctis 3 really shines – it will allow you to use both technologies at once.

There are times when it might make sense to do that.  You might want to listen to music while you’re engaged in gaming online.  The Arctis 3 would let you do that, as you could be streaming the music via Bluetooth while getting your gaming audio via the wired connection.

arctis 3The Arctis 3 offers low-distortion drivers that are said to deliver high-quality audio.  They also have a built in retractable microphone so that you can engage in voice communication while gaming.  Advanced circuitry also eliminates the bulk of background noise, allowing you to concentrate on hearing what you want to hear without being distracted by other sounds that might get in the way or get you killed in your virtual world.

The included SteelSeries Engine software allows you to create personalized audio settings, and a detachable cable system is flexible to allow you to use it when you need it but to have it out of the way when you don’t.  A built-in share jack also allows for multi-player listening.

According to SteelSeries, the Arctis 3 also offers unique capabilities for Nintendo owners:

Arctis 3 Bluetooth is now even more ideal for Nintendo Switch. Gamers can connect to their phones via Bluetooth to use the Nintendo Switch Online chat mobile app, while using the wired connection to hear game audio from their Nintendo Switch. This is the first headset with this type of compatibility for the Nintendo Switch.

Most gamers who also listen to music have been forced to spend big bucks to buy two headsets – one for listening to music and another for gaming.  That’s expensive, and it just adds to the cost of either the music or gaming experience, when you could be spending the money on tunes or more games.

With the Arctis 3, you won’t have to worry about that anymore, and you’ll find that you now have one less thing to haul around with you.

The best part is that the Arctis 3 headphones don’t cost a fortune.  Suggested retail prices is $129, but I suspect that you can find them at a discount if you’re willing to spend a bit of time shopping.

You can also buy them at the SteelSeries Website.


Pass the Smalt, Please

smalt smart salt shakerThese days, everyone has an idea for a “smart” device, and there seems to be no limit to what people can come up with.  Don’t get me wrong; there are a lot of places where making a device smarter can be helpful.

The problem is that not every device needs to be Web-enabled, controlled from a smartphone, or capable of playing back music, though it’s nice to have access to devices that do when you need them.

Still, in the rush to cash in on the “smart” craze, people are coming up with Web-enabled devices that are stranger and stranger as time goes on.

Which brings me to SMALT.  SMALT is a smart salt dispenser.

That’s right – it’s a device that sits on your dining room table and dispenses salt.  Like the one you likely already have sitting there, only much, much smarter.

What does SMALT do that your regular salt shaker won’t do?  SMALT will, of course, dispense salt, and yes, you can pick it up and use it to put some salt on your food.  That doesn’t seem to be what the inventors, who are crowdfunding the device at Indiegogo, have in mind.

Besides being able to simply function as a salt shaker, SMALT can also alter your evening’s mood, as the light at the top of the device is capable of changing colors.  Don’t feel like a red glow tonight?  You can make it green instead.

The SMALT has a built-in Bluetooth speaker, so you can play back music from the device of your choice.  It only has one speaker, however, so until someone comes up with SPEPPER, you’ll have to listen to your music in mono.

smalt salt shakerYou can control SMALT via a built-in LCD screen.   You can also use an app on your smartphone or tablet to control the device, and the app is both Android and iOS compatible.  You can also use the app to monitor your salt consumption in the event that you’d like to cut back a bit.

SMALT is compatible with Amazon’s Echo, so you can ask it to dispense salt for you. The salt will be dispensed into a tray at the bottom of the device.

The built-in batteries allow SMALT to run for up to 4 hours without recharging.

After a little more than a week of being listed in Indiegogo, SMALT has reached about 1/3 of the requested funding with three weeks remaining.  That’s a bit of money, but not an overwhelming amount.  I’ve seen projects that people really wanted funded in just 24 hours.  That’s not to say that SMALT is a failure or that it won’t get funded, but it does suggest that there aren’t masses of people who are clamoring to have their salt dispensed via an app that then requires them to get it out of a tray.

Of course, SMALT does have mood lighting, and it does play music and I will have to admit that I don’t yet own a salt shaker that has those capabilities, so perhaps I’m misreading the device and its appeal.

Here’s the video. I’ll let you decide if you need it.

All Day Wireless Earbuds

jabra elite sportEarbuds are convenient, and an acceptable way of listening to music privately, but they do have their downsides.  One of them is the cables, which have always been a nuisance.

That’s why the relatively recent invention of wireless earbuds has been a big help.  Until recently, they’ve suffered from various problems, including short battery life and being easily damaged, along with so-so sound quality.

The Jabra Elite Sport wireless earbuds address some of these problems pretty well, giving you the opportunity to workout or work while wearing them.  They have four microphones, which will allow you to be understood if you happen to be making a phone call while wearing them.

As earbuds that are designed for sport, the Jabra Elite Sport are more or less waterproof.  They’re also “sweat proof,” in that the company will warrant them against damage from perspiration for 3 years from the date of purchase.

They also have extended battery life.  The Jabra Elite Sport Website says up to 13.5 hours, though that’s a bit of an exaggeration.  They actually have a continuous battery life of 4.5 hours.  The case has a built-in recharging station, and that recharging station gives them two additional charges of 4.5 hours each.  That means that there’s a combined battery life of 13.5 hours, but you’ll have to recharge them twice to get that battery life.

The Jabra Elite Sport promise sound reproduction from 20hz to 20Khz, and they feature passive noise cancellation so that you can keep unwanted sounds out.

They work with Bluetooth and they’re compatible with both Android and iOS.  You can also use it with Siri and Google Now.

For sports use, the Jabra Elite Sport also offer performance tracking, and it can keep track of time, speed, distance, pace, steps, cadence, calories, heart rate and more by using the included app.

jabra elite sportThey’re waterproof to the extent that they can allegedly withstand immersion in up to 1 meter of water for 30 minutes.  I’m not sure that there’s any reason to test that, but that’s the claim on the Jabra Elite Sport Website.

As for colors, the Jabra Elite Sport earbuds are available in a total of two – black, and a combination of bright green and gray.

They’re said to be quite comfortable for extended wear, and 4.5 hours of continuous battery life is likely to be more than enough for most users.  There was no mention on the Website about recharging time, so I’m not sure how much downtime you’ll have once you run out of battery power, even if you happen to have the charging case with you.  You’ll have to experiment with that.

The Jabra Elite Sport also comes with three sizes of EarWings, three sizes of silicone EarGels and three sizes of FoamTips.  This ensures that pretty much anyone will be able to adjust them to fit their ears.  This will make them more comfortable, but it will also help with noise cancellation and give you better overall performance.

If you’re looking for a nice set of sports earbuds that are tough enough to last and which work pretty well, you should consider that Jabra Elite Sport.  They sell for $249 list.



An Improvement on the Selfie Stick

selfie droneThese days, everyone seems to be obsessed with taking pictures of themselves, or taking a “selfie,” to use the parlance of our times.  One can debate whether or not people should be doing such things so obsessively, but they are, and for purposes of this post, that is that.

Traditionally, people who take selfies have done so by one of two methods:

  • Awkwardly holding their camera in front of their face
  • Using an extension known as a “selfie stick” to awkwardly hold their camera in front of their face

Neither method is ideal, and both have their problems.  A particular problem is if you want to capture a larger area in your photo than your selfie stick can accommodate.  After all, a selfie stick is only so long, so it can only get so far away from whatever it is you’re trying to shoot.

That’s where the appropriately named “Selfie Drone,” from Hammacher Schlemmer, can come in handy.  Admittedly, it’s a drone with a pretty specific purpose, and at $300, not everyone is going to regard it as a worthwhile investment.  Still, it can help you take better selfies and it offers some pretty amazing advantages over existing methods.

The selfie drone is a battery operated flying device that you can control from your smartphone.  It has a built in 12 megapixel camera that offers both electronic and mechanical stabilization as well as a flash to let you take high quality photos from wherever you need to take them.

The camera is compatible with both iOS and Android, so you can use pretty much any smartphone to fly it.  The camera uses a micro SD card of up to 64 GB capacity and is also capable of taking video at 1080P and 60 frames per second.

selfie droneThe battery provides up to 8 minutes of flight time and takes 90 minutes to fully recharge.

The selfie drone measures 8″x8″x1″ and can take off from your hand.  It has built-in obstacle avoidance, which will help you minimize crashes.  It has a range of 98 feet, which, frankly, isn’t all that far as drones go.  Then again, this one isn’t built to go flying around the neighborhood, performing surveillance on your neighbors.  This one is for taking selfies, and chances are good that you won’t need it to be more than 98 feet away from you.

The selfie drone comes with two batteries, a 16 GB micro SD card, a USB charging cradle and cable, training bumpers and a carrying case.  The price is $299.95, and it’s available from the Hammacher Schlemmer Website.

I don’t know if this is something that a lot of people are going to need, but it does seem as though it will have some good possibilities as a camera.  Many inexpensive drones have cameras built in, but most of them aren’t very good as they’re intended to just be cheap drones and they’re not optimized around providing good quality photos.  This one may have some benefits, and the built-in flash will certainly help provide better photos.  What you do with it is up to you.


Turn Your Bike Helmet Into a Smart One

ahead bike helmetRiding a bicycle is fun and good for you, but it’s not a good thing to be doing while you’re using your phone.  You need both hands to ride a bike, and riding while handling a phone can be dangerous.

It can also be dangerous to ride your bike with ear buds, as they can get tangled up or even hurt you if you should happen to crash.

That’s why a clever new gadget called Ahead was developed – so you can use the phone and listen to music, hands free, while riding your bike and wearing the helmet of your choice.

Ahead was funded through Kickstarter, and it’s a small device (weighs about 2 ounces) that can mount to any bicycle helmet in several different ways.  The device connects to any iOS or Android smartphone as a Bluetooth device, and you can use it to talk on the phone or listen to music while riding.

The device uses a custom oscillator to pass sound directly to your helmet so that you can hear music and conversations directly.  This works with virtually any kind of helmet on the market.  The device also has two built-in microphones so that it will clearly pick up your voice when you’re on the phone.

Ahead is good for 8 hours of use or three days of standby time.  It can recharge in an hour and a half via USB.

If you’re done with your bike ride, you can take Ahead off of your helmet and take it to your desk.  The box in which the device was packaged acts as a resonator, so you can use Ahead to listen to music at your desk.

The device is also water resistant and dust proof, so that it will withstand the rigors of riding outdoors.  In addition, there is built-in noise cancellation circuitry that works at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour to ensure that your music and conversations remain crystal clear while you’re riding.

A lot of Kickstarter projects never get off the ground, but Ahead has been fully funded, and the device should begin shipping shortly.

Riding a bike is great, and if you’re doing that on a regular basis, you should keep it up.  Riding a bike with a phone in your hand is just looking for trouble.  You could crash, hit a car, fail to hit the brakes, or drop and damage your phone.  With Ahead, you won’t have to worry about any of that.

You can learn more about Ahead at the Kickstarter site.


The World’s First Smart Suitcase

Ordinarily, it’s hard to get excited about a suitcase.  If it holds your clothes and it shuts, that’s usually good enough for me.  But yes, sometimes suitcases get lost.  Sometimes you need to weigh them and don’t have a scale handy.  Sometimes…

…you just wish you had more features.

The Bluesmart suitcase does that.  It’s small enough, at 24″x15″x10″ to fit as a carry on in an airplane.  It’s made of strong, lightweight polycarbonate and aluminum, so it’s going to be sturdy without taking up a lot of weight that you could be using for contents.

Generally, if you’re carrying a piece of luggage onto a plane, you won’t have to worry about the weight, but what if you have to check it?  What if you’ve packed it full of bricks and you aren’t sure that it won’t be overweight?

Not a problem; the Bluesmart has a built-in scale.  That’s right; the suitcase can weigh itself.  I’ve always carried a portable scale with me, but the scale takes up space, and requires batteries, and has weight itself so it contributes to the weight problem.  That’s not the case here; the scale is built-in.

What if you lose it?  You’re not likely to lose it, but an airline employee very well might.  It happens to everyone, sooner or later, and it’s frustrating to be standing there without any idea where your bag might be.  Bluesmart has the answer, as the suitcase has built-in GPS capability.  Not only that, but it can talk to your smartphone via BLE + 3G + GPS.  Your phone will always know where your suitcase happens to be, and that’s true no matter where it might be anywhere in the world.  If you’re outside the United States, you’re covered there, too, with help from Telefonica.

You can also use your phone to lock and unlock your Bluesmart suit case.  No need to remember combinations anymore.

Even if you haven’t lost your bag, you can easily find it in the airport with this feature and your phone.  But what if your phone needs a charge?  You can charge it directly from the Bluesmart, which has a built in 10,000 mAh battery.  That’s enough juice to charge your phone a half a dozen times, or to charge 6 phones one time each, if you happen to be traveling with 6 phones.  It comes with a charging cable.

You’ll find room inside the Bluesmart for clothes, shoes, and more, as well as room for a 15″ laptop.

The Bluesmart isn’t exactly cheap; the start at a bit over $300 and one model costs twice that.  On the other hand, if you travel a lot, and many people do, then you may well find it to be a good investment.

You can buy the Bluesmart at the company’s Website.

Weld and Repair Plastic

Bondic plastic welderWhen plastic parts break, you usually attempt to fix them with super glue, and when that doesn’t work, you throw them away and buy a new one.  Sure, if you’ve got deep pockets, you can buy a 3D printer and make a new part, but that’s overkill for a lot of small repairs, where the investment in time to design the part just isn’t worth it.

A new product called Bondic offers another solution.  Bondic, which their Website says is “not a glue,” is actually a welder for plastic.  The applicator works rather like a pen, and you can “draw” plastic wherever you need it.  You can use this handy tool to fill cracks, attach two pieces together, or even create a new piece.  The liquid is fairly sticky, so it will stay in place until it hardens.

Here’s the fun part – Bondic will not harden until it has been exposed to ultraviolet light.  You can work with it to your heart’s content, and when you’ve finally got it where you want it, then, and only then, can you harden it by exposing it to UV light.  That’s easy to do, as there’s a UV light source attached to the other side of the pen.

How long does it take to harden?  Four seconds.

Even super glue doesn’t set that quickly, and Bondic isn’t glue.  It’s plastic.

Apparently, the product was created by a German dentist who was using similar material in his dental work.  He got to wondering why we couldn’t use the product for everyday repairs.  A short time later, he found a partner in the U.S. and brought the product to market.

The various videos on the site give numerous examples of how to put Bondic to use.  You can do all kinds of things with it.  The thing that impressed me the most was using it to attach something to the inside of an aquarium that was already full of water.  Put Bondic on the part, immerse it in the water, press it up against the glass, and then shine the UV light on it from the outside.  Four seconds later, it’s stuck to the glass wall.

Not only does Bondic get rock-hard in just four seconds, but once it hardens, you can do whatever you like with it.  You can paint it, you can drill holes in it, you can cut it with a saw, or you can sand it to shape.

There are a lot of good things about this amazing product, but here’s the best one – it’s cheap.  The basic starter kit includes the applicator with the built-in UV light source, a 4 gram tube of plastic, and a carrying case.  The price for all of this cutting edge technology?

Twelve dollars.

People have become pretty attached, if you will, to this product, and if you visit YouTube, you’ll find hundreds of videos showing how people have found interesting uses for this product.

I don’t have an immediate use for it, but it strikes me as the sort of thing that I should just keep in a drawer.  When you need it, you’re going to want to have it right now and not have to wait a couple of days for someone to mail it to you.


An Erasable Smart Notebook

rocket wave notebookDifferent people work best in different media.  While some people work best at a computer, using spreadsheets and word processors, others find their muse and get better results taking notes the old fashioned way – on paper.

That’s fine; paper still has its uses.  But paper tends to build up a lot of clutter.  You sometimes can’t find your notes when you need them.  And what if you decided that something you wrote down by hand would serve you better in the Cloud?

That’s where the Rocket Wave notebook can help you.  At first, I thought the concept was a silly one, but as I read more about it, it started to make more sense.

The Rocket Wave looks like a regular paper notebook with a spiral binding, just like the ones you used in school.  You can write in it with a special pen called a FriXion, which is available in different colors.  You can write in the Rocket Wave with this pen just as you would on any other notebook.  You can take notes, do calculations, draw doodles – whatever you like.  It acts just like a paper notebook, and you’ve got 80 pages to work with.

Then what?  Ordinarily, when a notebook gets full, you either file it away or throw it away.  You could do that with the Rocket Wave, but you really don’t have to, as it’s erasable.  To erase, just put the notebook in the microwave.  A logo on the front cover will change color when it’s done.  The special paper heats up and the ink turns clear when it reaches a temperature of 140°.   When it reaches that temperature, your pages are erased, and you can reuse the notebook.

According to Rocket Wave, the notebook can be erased five times.

That’s great, but for $25, it’s sort of an expensive notebook, given that you can buy five paper notebooks for a lot less money.  That’s where the Rocket Wave app comes in.  If you install the app on your smartphone or tablet, you can use it to transfer anything you’ve written in the notebook to the Cloud.  Each page in the notebook has 7 special icons, and you can assign those icons to specific online applications.

Then you can mark an icon on a page, and take a picture of it with your phone or tablet.  The page will be instantly converted into an online document and uploaded to your online application of choice.  You can send it to Google Docs, or Dropbox, or Evernote, and more.  That way, you can collaborate with others, even using handwritten notes.

The app works with both Android devices and the IOS, so you can use it with pretty much any device you like.  The Rocket Wave is also available in two sizes – standard (8.5 x 9.5 inches), executive (6 x 8.9 inches).

rocket wave appThe real magic is in the FriXion pen, which uses the special thermal ink.  You can use that pen on regular paper and heat it to erase it, but that doesn’t work as well as the specially treated paper in the Rocket Wave.  Besides, heating paper often leads to bad results.

Not everyone is going to need the Rocket Wave, as a lot of people have learned to work with other media.  If you’re old-school and like working with good, old fashioned notebooks, but still want to stay connected to the online world, the Rocket Wave offers a good opportunity to do both.

You can find the Rocket Wave for about $25 at Amazon, as well as at other retailers.

Affordable Tunes – The Audio Technica ATLP60BK Turntable

audio technica turntableVinyl is back, and records are selling more briskly than they have in decades.  While most people seem content to listen to music on their phones or tablets these days, a lot of people are embracing the “old school” method of playing vinyl record albums.

For that, of course, you’ll need a turntable, and you can spend a bit or you can spend an absolute fortune, if that’s your thing.  Most people who are just getting into vinyl are looking for something in the entry-level category.

At rock bottom, there are some players from Crosley, but they’re terrible and are made almost entirely of plastic.  They also come with a stylus that’s good for about 50 hours of play, tops, before it will have to be replaced.  Since most people won’t get around to doing that, they’re likely doing a lot of damage to their records after just a few plays.

A nice entry in the lower price range is the Audio Technica ATLP60BK.  This is a fully functional belt-drive turntable with an aluminum platter.  A metal platter helps with speed stability, as more mass is good.  Belt drive turntables are less prone to having problems with vibration, which can adversely affect the sound during playback.

One problem with most turntables is that you’ll have to have a phono preamplifier to connect them to some sort of stereo system.  Phono cartridges have lower outputs than other devices, such as MP3 players, so an additional preamplification device is necessary.  Back in the 1960s through the 1980s, premplifiers were routinely built into stereo receivers, but as vinyl died out and compact discs took over, most manufacturers started removing preamps from receivers as a cost-cutting measure.

The ATLP60BK solves this problem by having a preamplifier built in.  There’s a switch on the back that allows you to enable it or disable it.  That way, you can connect it to a receiver with a built in phono preamp if you have one, or a standalone phono preamplifier.   If you don’t have one, and just want to connect it to an amplifier or some powered speakers, you can use the built-in preamp and you’re good to go.

If there’s a downside to this turntable, it’s the outputs.  While the ATLP60BK includes two sets of output cables, you won’t find traditional cables in the box.  Traditionally, turntables have cables with male RCA connectors on the end, as that’s what most receivers and phono preamps are expecting.  This model includes two cables, but they terminate in either a male 1/8″ miniplug or a female version of the same thing.

If you want to go with the traditional hookup, you’ll have to acquire a set of RCA cables separately.  Aside from that, this turntable will play at 33 1/3 or 45 RPM and a 45 RPM adapter is included.  It’s available in either black or silver, depending on your taste, and a magnetic phono cartridge with a replaceable stylus is included.

It’s not high end audio by any means.  But if you want to get started playing back some vinyl and learning to understand why people like records so much in the first place, the ATLP60BK is an OK place to start.  It’s affordable, at about $99 or so.

If you want to spend about $30 more, there’s another model in the line that also has a USB output, so you can connect it directly to a computer.  From there, you can rip your vinyl to MP3 or some other audio format, and you can play back your records through your desktop computer system, if you’re so inclined.

Turn Your TV Into a PC

asus cs10 A lot of us like to keep our gadgets separate.  A PC is a PC.  A TV is a TV.  A smartphone is a smartphone.  If you have the luxury of space, you can do that, and allow every device to perform its single function.

Not everyone has that luxury, however, and sometimes necessity requires that you bundle devices into other devices just to save space…or money.

If you’re having that problem wit your PC and/or your TV, here’s the solution – you an turn your TV into a PC with the ASUS Chromebit CS10 stick computer.

The CS 10 looks like an oversized flash drive, but it plugs into your TV’s HDMI port, rather than a USB port.  You’ll also need to plug it into the wall, as HDMI, unlike USB, doesn’t provide power.  The CS 10 has Bluetooth capability, so you can use it with a Bluetooth-enabled keyboard and mouse and that, combined with your TV, gives you a fully-functional desktop PC on your television.

The operating system is Chrome, which is a Linux derivative.  The CS10 uses a ROckchip RK 3288 processor and has 2 GB of integrated system RAM and another 16 GB of storage memory.  You can also add a flash drive for additional storage capability.

Wireless networking is built in, with 802.11ac Wi-Fi, so you’ll be able to connect to your router and on to the Web.  You’ll also have access to a 100 GB Google drive in the cloud, so you’ll have plenty of additional storage space.  On the downside, you will have to sign into a Google account to use it, which could be a problem if you’re one of those people who isn’t a Google fan.

The CS 10 is surprisingly affordable, as it’s priced at under $100.  That’s pretty impressive for anything that can call itself a computer, though you’ll have to pay extra for the Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, unless, of course, you just happen to have those lying around.

asus cs 10 kitHooking up a device like the ASUS CS 10 to your TV can be a bit awkward, as I found out when I tried to hook up my FireTV stick a while back.  Fortunately, like the FireTV stick, the CS 10 includes an HDMI extender cord so you don’t have to plug it directly into the TV.  You’ll also receive 4 hook and loop fasteners which will help you organize your cables.

While the CS 10 is a fully functional PC, it obviously has some limitations.  It doesn’t have an optical drive, for instance, and some TVs are going to provide a better experience for doing work than others.  I’m not sure, for instance, that I want to do work on a 55 inch monitor.  Still, in a pinch, it’s a nice solution for someone who occasionally needs a PC or for someone who is just short on space.  If you’re in a small apartment and you’re having to make a choice between having room for a computer or room for a TV, and you don’t need to spend all your time on the computer, then a CS 10 might make sense.

It’s certainly about the most affordable functional computer out there.  Even if you have to buy a keyboard and a mouse, you’re still in for a bit over $100.  That’s pretty cheap.

You can find the CS 10 at Amazon, and probably at a zillion other places, too.


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