Category Archives: Wireless

Is the Amazon Echo worth it? REVIEW


If you’re an Amazon Prime member then you were probably given the chance to order an Amazon Echo early and for the introductory price of $99. I took them up on their offer and ordered the Amazon Echo a few months back. I wasn’t really sure what it would do for me or if it would be worth it. I received my unit and went through the setup process using the iPhone app. It was pretty easy to setup, connect it to my WiFi network and configure it with my Pandora Radio and iHeart Radio accounts. From that point on I could just say “Alexa” and ask it pretty much anything that I wanted to know. Rather than write about it I decided to give you a video demonstration:

I gotta say that I’m pretty impressed with it and especially the accuracy of the voice recognition. I use it for music the most. It’s cool being able to say play songs by _______ or have it play any of my Pandora Radio stations. I don’t have a daily commute, but if I did it would be great to say “what’s the traffic look like?” and have it give me current traffic conditions from my home to my work place. To answer the question, YES the Amazon Echo was absolutely worth the $99 special price. Now the question is is it worth the current price of $179.99? I would say mostly yes for the music aspect of it and the home automation potential. It’s also cool that new capabilities are being added to it on a regular basis. It works as advertised. One way to justify it is to keep in mind that there are bluetooth speakers out there that cost just as much and do a whole lot less. The sound coming from Amazon Echo is as good if not better than most other “dumb” speakers out there today.

You can get the Amazon Echo here.

Review: Elgato Avea iPhone, iPad & Apple Watch Controlled LED Lightbulb


I love home automation products. My first X10 remote controlled lights date back to the early 1980’s. Long before smartphones and bluetooth wireless. I always thought it was cool to be able to remote control several lights, appliances, etc. all from one control pad or timer module. I haven’t looked that the advancements that closely over the years, but when the Elgato Avea came across my review desk I was excited. The Avea Dynamic Mood Light is a 7W bluetooth controlled LED lightbulb. Unlike other products on the market this one doesn’t require a network connection or any other hardware to drive it other than your iPhone or iPad. Once you take it out of the box you merely screw it in to any standard light socket and set it up with the App on your iPhone. Rather than go into more detail via text, check out this video of how it works:

I was so happy with the review unit that I immediately ordered another one for another room. I was also pleasantly surprised to see and use the Apple Watch support. Being able to turn lights on and off as you walk around from your wrist adds another level of convenience and cool factor. I was also pleased to see that the lights can be controlled from either device at any time. When it comes to the iPhone vs. iPad vs. other iPhone, whoever opens the App first has control. This eliminates the pain of having to constantly unpair and pair differing mobile devices. My only two complaints are that I wish they offered a higher watt (brighter) version and that they made the app easier to control different lights than it is now. While the bulbs are plenty bright when using the “white” color setting, they colored settings/moods can be a bit dim. The App does allow you to turn on a mood for one or more lights at the same time, it seems like that control is buried another level deeper in the mood presets. I would like to see this setting moved up in the UI. My gripes are very minor. I’m very pleased with this product and will probably order more of them.

You can get the Elgato Avea on sale here.

I have Gogo Wi-Fi on my Long Haul International Flight – Finally!



I’m headed back to Atlanta from Amsterdam today. The flight time is just over 9 hours. I did my usual downloads from my TiVo DVR the night before so that I would have some shows to watch and of course I have my MacBook Pro so that I can get some writing done. The last thing I expected on this Delta flight was to have WiFi internet all the way home! Sure I get my hopes up each time I board an international flight by looking for the familiar WiFi stickers found on 99% of all Delta domestic flights and like always there were no stickers present on this flight. However, once we got up to 10,000 feet I noticed that my phone was asking me to login to my corporate IPASS account (a roaming partner of Gogo). I just figured someone on the plane was faking a Gogo hotspot. However, it worked! I was blown away because I figured I wouldn’t see this until at least 2016. I asked the flight attendant just to make sure and she confirmed that “some” planes have it now and that we were “lucky” today. Lucky indeed!


So what does it cost to enjoy this international benefit? Since I have a corporate plan from work that covers Gogo InFlight WiFi I didn’t even think that about a cost difference at first, but as I started writing this I figured my readers would want to know. I went back to the regular logon page and the prices are high indeed. $19.95 for one hour and $39.95 for the whole flight. While I appreciate this  being a work perk, I gotta say that I would gladly pay $39.95 for WiFi on this 9 hour flight. The amount of stuff that I can get done (including this blog post) is worth it to me. The next question is how fast is it? Gogo inlfight wifi in the states uses a celluar system (plane to ground) and from I can see it’s based on 3G technology. When it first came out the speeds were decent, but lately they have been slow to almost unusable. Still slow is better than nothing, so I use it all the time. 


Since connecting to the ground over the ocean is not feasible, any plane offering international service requires satellite connections instead. One of the first thing I did was run 4 consecutive speed tests to get an average speed and while it’s not screaming fast, it’s faster than the domestic service. I’ll take it!



The Bottom Line

I remember wishing for WiFi on long haul flights for years. It almost brings a tear to my eyes to see it finally making its way into my life and I commend Delta for making these investments to make air travel a little less painful. 

The Logitech Type+ for iPad Air 2 is Just Right


This is probably my third or forth Logitech keyboard for iPad and this one by far is the closest one to being perfect. The Logitech Type+ is a both a bluetooth keyboard and protective case. What makes this one better than the previous models is that Logitech made it even thinner so that it doesn’t add much bulk to your nice new iPad Air 2.


The keyboard layout is also better. With the previous mode I was constantly hitting the  the home key (returning to the home screen) when trying to type a 1. They moved the home button up to the row at the top on this layout (thank you!). Lastly I love the way that they integrated the ability to lay the iPad flat over the keyboard when you just want to use the iPad without using the keyboard without having to remove it from the case.


Actually the keyboard is activated when you put the iPad in the “stand” position where it magnetically held in place right above the keyboard. The only thing keeping this case from being “perfect” is that you cant’ use it if you want to stand your iPad up in the vertical position. Sure you can hold it vertically, but you wont be able to stand it that way.


If you have an iPad Air 2 this is the best keyboard case I’ve seen. You can get it here.

If you have the original iPad Air, then I’d recommend this one.

My New Favorite Travel WiFi Router


I’ve traveled religiously with an Apple AirPort Express Base Station for years. It’s portable, it’s fast, and pain free in terms of setup. It just works. However, there’s one thing that made me look for a new solution. More and more hotel rooms and locations that I’m in on the road are now WiFi Only, meaning that newer hotel rooms are no longer equipped with wired ethernet jacks. Even those rooms that do have the wired ethernet ports are often disconnected. Sure I could just connect my devices to the WiFi network offered but that offers a set of challenges that I was avoiding by bringing my own router in the 1st place. When you connect to the hotel WiFi (free or paid) chances are each device has to go through a sign-in, login, accept the terms process. Usually this login is only good on average for up to 24 hours before having to repeat the process for each device each day. On the other hand if I connect my own WiFi router (hotspot) then I use one device to sign on/login etc. and all the other devices on my network can surf freely without the need to have to sign on/login individually.

Why the AirPort Express is no longer the solution

The AirPort Express is great and even the newer form factor has grown on me, however the AirPort Express requires a wired connection to the internet in order to work. If I’m in a hotel with WiFi only the AirPort Express has to go back in my bag. Sure the AirPort Express can be used to extend an existing “AirPort network”, but I have yet to see a hotel equipped with AirPort Base Stations, let alone the access needed to make that kind of configuration work.

Netgear built the WiFi Travel Router I was looking for

The Netgear Trek  N300 does the one extra thing I need. It allows you to connect to an existing WiFi network and then share that connection via the WiFi network that it creates. Having my cake and eating it too. It can work in either a wired or wireless setup. If there is an Ethernet jack in the room then the Netgear Trek N300 can plug into it and route it just like the AirPort Express. However, if there is only a WiFi network you can have the Trek N300 join it and share it creating your own private password protected WiFi hotspot for the rest of your devices/guests.

How does it work?

As you might expect the setup requires a couple of extra steps when connecting it to an existing WiFi network. The first thing you’ll do is simply configure it with a web browser to set up the wireless network for your devices to connect to. Let’s say for example you want to create a network called “Get off my LAN”. Once you set that up with a password you’re all set to travel. Once you get to your hotel room or other public WiFi area, just power the Trek N300 up using the built-in foldout plug or plug in a standard micro USB cable (it comes with it) and power it via USB. This is a very nice touch because I don’t have to have an extra free wall outlet available. I can power it using my Anker 40w 5 port USB charger/power source.


Now simply connect to it from any of your devices. Bring up your web browser and enter the address of your Trek N300. Signin with your admin password and from there you will see a list of the visible WiFi networks to choose from. Choose the public network that you wish to connect to and you will likely be prompted by the public WiFi’s login page. Login as you normally would if you were connecting to this network directly, but you are actually connecting the Trek N300 to it. Once you’ve successfully logged in or paid your Netgear Trek N300 will be online and able to route that WiFi connection to your private WiFi network “Get off my LAN” for all your other devices/guests to connect to.

This Router/Range Extender works GREAT, especially after I upgraded it to the latest firmware. Unfortunately it won’t speed up a painfully slow hotel WiFi connection, but it will make it less painful for you to use by eliminating device limits and multiple device logins. Also it will give you one more layer of security because all of your devices will be behind the Netgear firewall and not visible to the public WiFi network.

The Bottom Line


The Netgear Trek N300 didn’t disappoint. I’m using it this week on the road as I write this post from my room at a Hampton Inn. There are no ethernet ports here in the rooms and without the Trek N300 I would have had to connect each device to the hotel public WiFi and sign in each device separately. You get an extra Ethernet port on it to connect wired devices too.

Also when you compare the price to the AirPort Express it’s a no brainer.

You can get the Netgear Trek N300 on sale here.

They also have an iOS App to manage it that you can download here for iPhone:


Or here for iPad:



I went with this color laser printer


A few weeks ago I posted on my Facebook page asking for recommendations for a new printer. The requirement was that it had to be color and be ready to print when I’m ready to print. In other words I print very infrequently and my frustration with inkjet printers is that some models dry up when not used regularly and take lots of ink just to get the nozzles clean and printing again. My previous office printers had all been Xerox Phaser (dry ink) printers. While these printers have always served me well, it was going to be overkill to get another one as I just don’t print that often anymore. When it comes to photo printing I usually send them out (Mpix, Costco, etc.) So in house high quality photo printing was not a requirement either. I got lots of different recommendations about Canon inkjets, HP laserjets and others. I decided that for the cost of consumables and again the infrequent use, I would be better off this time with color laser. The other requirement was that it had to be wireless. I did look at the Xerox color laser printers, but it seems that Xerox just doesn’t get it when it comes to wireless. In order to go wireless with Xerox I’d have to go with their midrange Phaser 6600, which lists for $499 and still requires a $99 wireless add-on to do WiFi?? WTH! Really Xerox? Wake up! It’s 2014!

My research led me to the Brother HL3170CDW

Not only did this printer meet all of my requirements:

  • Color laser
  • Wireless (WiFi – AirPrint – Google Cloud Print)
  • Automatic Duplex (2-sided) printing
  • Low cost & low cost consumables
  • Quiet
  • Small

But it excelled at all of my requirements as well. Setup went perfectly because I never had to plug in a single cable besides the power cable. The first thing I did after installing the 4 supplied toner cartridges was to power it up and join my WiFi network from the built-in control panel. Next I added it wirelessly to my MacBook Pro and MacBook Air. Finally I did a print test from my iPad and iPhone, which both saw it over AirPrint. Yes, this was the out of the box “it just works”, experience that I was looking for. The print quality is good as well. No problems to date.

What’s the downside?

I would say the only downside is that it’s not as fast as I’m used to with my Xerox printers. When I’m talking speed, I’m talking from the time I hit print til the time the printer wakes up, receives the job and prints it. After that it prints at a speedy 23ppm. My only other concern was that while reading other reviews for this printer, people complained that once it goes into “deep sleep” that it falls off the wireless network for AirPrint. In other words you would have to walk over and hit a button to wake it up to print or print from a computer. I’m happy to report that I have not had this issue at all. As a matter of fact I’ve not printed for two days now and it still shows up and ready to print from my iOS devices via AirPrint. It says “deep sleep” on the LCD. Now there is an option to let it power itself OFF after a user defined interval. At that point I would assume that you would have to press a button to turn it back on and that wouldn’t bother me. However, that option is off by default and the deep sleep conserves power (using less than 1 watt of power). I will turn it off when I’m away on business.


The Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a good quality, color laser printer that supports all the latest and greatest wireless protocols as well as printing via USB, then this printer is definitely worth consideration. It fit the bill for what I was looking for at less than half the cost of a Xerox printer with similar features. It’s also less costly to run than typical inkjets.

You can get the Brother HL3170CDW Color Laser Printer here.


The New Smaller 2014 Jawbone Era Bluetooth Headset


It’s been a while since I looked at Bluetooth headsets. After all my Jawbone ICON has been working just fine. However, I ordered the new 2014 Era by Jawbone because I thought I had lost my older model. I keep my Jawbone along with a couple of misc. adapters and wired Apple EarPods in a small vinyl pouch that I carry in my pocket. That pouch went missing for a week.  I couldn’t find it in all the usual spots that I normally leave it or drop it in. I figured that it was gone for good and that I had to replace the contents. I ordered the NEW 2014 Era by Jawbone. Although I hate buying things to replace lost, stolen or broken things, I wasn’t going to go without one any longer. When the new Era arrived I was immediately taken aback by how small it was. Oh by the way, I found the pouch containing my old gear one day after I placed the order for the replacement gear. It was at the cleaners, probably in one of my pants pockets. They returned it to me with all the contents intact. Anyway, I now have this new Jawbone Era (yes I could have returned it, but then you wouldn’t be getting this review 😉 ) and like I said, I was really taken aback by how small it was compared to almost all other headsets I had used. The only other small one that came to mind like that was the Apple Bluetooth Headset. Yes, Apple made their own for a while and then quietly discontinued it. The new Era is very sleek looking. Jawbone did away with the former cheese grate design and this one has smooth lines. It comes in four colors and rather than going with my default (black), I decided to live a little and get the bronze one.


Jawbone Era 2014 (Bronze) next to my Jawbone ICON

Setting it up

It came with four ear gels. You get  left and right small and medium size ones. I like to wear it on the right side and the small size was the best fit. After the initial charge I then made sure I had the latest version of the Jawbone updater on my MacBook. The software integration is what really sets the Jawbone headsets apart from the competition. Not only was there a firmware update waiting, but I also configured it with the more sexy “Bombshell” voice as well as set up about 14 out of my 20 allowed caller ID names. If you add in the names and numbers of up to 20 contacts your Era will announce their name in your ear when your phone rings. These are the kinds of bonus features that make using the Era fun and more elegant.


Sound Quality and Battery Life

This is what really counts with any Bluetooth headset. If you can’t hear your callers or if your callers can’t hear you then what’s the point? I have yet to use any Bluetooth headset that made me say “wow” when it comes to sound quality. In most cases the quality is “good” or as expected. For me the new Era is “good”. The Jawbone Noise Assassin is designed to help cut down or eliminate background noise and it does a good job of it. As far as battery life goes the smaller size means a smaller battery. Therefore your battery life will be about 3-4 hours of talk time. For many that may be a step down from the larger units. My older, larger Era got 4-5 hours of talk time. If you talk a lot throughout the day you will either want one of two things. You’ll either want the new Era charging case, which extends the battery life up to 10 hours of talk time, or you’ll want a different headset. I didn’t go with the charging case because I simply don’t spend that much time talking on the phone throughout the day. If I ever find that my talking on the phone is increasing I could always order the charging case separately.

Apple’s Siri and Google Now Integration

There are only two controls on the Jawbone Era. There is the physical on/off switch and the multifunction button on the end. When your phone rings you press the multifunction button once to answer the call. Press it again when it’s time to end the call. While the headset is idle and you’re not on a call you can press it once to hear the remaining battery time/status. However, if you press and hold it will activate Siri on the iPhone and Google Now on select Android devices. This is pretty cool as it gives you a more discrete conversation with Siri. I enjoy using Siri this way without having to physically pick up my iPhone to hold down the home button. Speaking of iPhone integration, you’ll also like the fact that the Jawbone Era’s battery indicator shows up next to the iPhone’s battery indicator on the iPhone display.


The Bottom Line

If you looking for the smallest, arguably the most stylish Bluetooth headset then look no further, the New 2014 Jawbone Era will fit the bill nicely. If you can live with the relatively short talk time of 3-4 hours then I would say save $30 and go with just the Jawbone Era here. However, if you want a full day of hands-free conversation, then go with the Jawbone Era with Charging Case here.

Chromecast – Stream web content to your HDTV wirelessly


If you’ve followed my reviews you probably already know that I’m a fan of TiVo and Apple TV. Between the two devices I pretty much have all my TV watching needs covered. TiVo is definitely the best DVR experience for recording and watching TV shows and Apple TV is great for streaming all my media content, watching Netflix, YouTube, HBO Go, iTunes rentals, podcasts, etc. With Apple TV I can even stream/mirror any content from my iOS devices OR my Macs. The latest Macs and Mac OS X has AirPlay built-in. Even with all these capabilities I was intrigued by Chromecast. The low $35 entry price was low enough to give it a shot.

What’s Chromecast?

Chromecast is a small “dongle” that attaches to your TV via HDMI. However, don’t let the picture deceive you as it did me. You not only connect it to your TV via HDMI, but you also need to supply power to it. You can either use the supplied power adapter and plug it into the wall or you can use the USB cable and plug into an available USB port on or near your TV for power. This freaked me out at first because my TV is on the wall and I didn’t want any wires hanging down. However, I was lucky to have a USB port on my TV right next to the HDMI ports in the back. I was able to plug in the Chromecast and power it right off the USB port on the TV as well. No visible wires!


Once it’s plugged in and you turn your TV on to that HDMI input you’ll be presented with a setup screen. Head over to your computer and download the setup app. You computer should see the Chromecast wirelessly. During the setup process you’ll give it access to your WiFi network and enter your WiFi password. Mine needed to download a firmware update then I was up and running. After the Chromecast install on the TV, you’ll need to download (Google Chrome if you don’t already use it) the Chromecast extension for Chrome. This extension lets you broadcast from any browser tab you have open in Google Chrome to your TV.


How is this better or worse than Apple TV?

First off it’s not direct competition to Apple TV. Apple TV does way more and costs more. Chromecast only works with whatever you can display in Google Chrome or from a Chromecast compatible app on your computer or mobile device. So no streaming of other things on your computer unless they are Chomecast aware. However, that’s probably the one thing I like about it over Apple TV. While I can use AirPlay to stream ANYTHING from my MacBook Pro to my Apple TV, it’s a direct mirror. I cant’ say stream a slideshow in Lightroom and then go work on another photo in Photoshop. It’s a mirror of whatever I’m doing on the computer. (UPDATE – with Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks you can AirPlay to an Apple TV and use the Apple TV as a second display/extended desktop and NOT mirror.) However, with Chromecast I can stream content from one browser tab and go work on anything else while that browser content is streaming in the background. That’s what I like about it most and I think that’s what people that are trying to cut the cable/satellite bills out of their lives will like too. You can stream Netflix, HBO Go, YouTube or any other site to your TV while not tying up your whole computer. There are times that I watch my Slingbox via my web browser. Now I’ll be able to stream that content to my TV.

What about audio? This is the tricky part. If your content is either Flash based or coming from an App that is compatible with Chromecast then your audio will also stream to your TV. However, if the content is not Flash based then the audio will play through your computer.

The Bottom Line

If you want to stream content from the web to your TV, this is your easiest most cost effective way to do it wirelessly. The playback rate is “decent”, not great or perfect, but certainly watchable without dropping too many frames. The picture quality was very good. It’s a one time cost with no monthly fees. I’m tempted to get another one for travel/hotel room use.  You can get one here for $32.88. If you want to MORE, then I’d still recommend getting an Apple TV.


Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad Air Review


Hands down the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover has been my choice for iPad keyboards. I had one on my 3rd generation iPad and even one on my iPad mini. When the iPad Air came out I decided it was time to upgrade and of course replace the iPad 3rd generation. The one piece I had already begun to miss was my keyboard. Don’t get me wrong, the iPad’s onscreen keyboard is fine for typing quick, short things. However, I often use my iPad during travel and in flight instead of my MacBook Pro. This usually means I’m responding to email and writing. For these longer sessions, I’m spoiled by a physical keyboard. Logitech wasted no time in getting out the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad Air. Just like the previous models it connects wirelessly via bluetooth, but it’s also a smart cover that magnetically attaches to the iPad itself. Once you disconnect the iPad from the keyboard you can stand the iPad Air up in the keyboard in either horizontal or vertical orientation.


Logitech made some refinements from the original model that I had. The first one is that they got rid of the shinny plastic on top. It now has a more matte feel/look to it that will definitely not be as much of a fingerprint magnet. On the bottom they’ve attached very small rubber feet that should help prevent the back from getting scratched up so easily. Unfortunately the cover isn’t any thinner. This means that it will add some thickness to your nice thin iPad Air. It pretty much doubles the thickness when attached and closed.


Overall I’m quite happy with this new version and glad to have a physical keyboard again. I did read some of the other reviews out there that complained about things like the magnet not being strong enough and I’ve no issues so far. As a matter of fact the magnet seems stronger than the previous model I had. My 3rd generation iPad would easily slide apart from the keyboard in my bag, but this one seems to stay in place. The battery life of the keyboard is insane. You can easily go weeks if not months between charges. It’s the best keyboard for iPad period.

You can get the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover in Black/White for iPad Air Here.

You can get the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover in Black/White for iPad 2, 3 and 4 Here.

You can get the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover in Black/White for iPad mini Here.

FaceTime Over AT&T 4G Cellular For All In 2013 – Finally!


Last November I wrote a post about how AT&T was hinting at allowing those of us who were grandfathered in to unlimited data plans to be able to use FaceTime over cellular. It seemed like a pipe dream as the feature worked for a few, but not for most including me. Yesterday, I saw the news that AT&T was FINALLY going to allow all customers to use video calling features over 4G by the end of 2013. Just for the heck of it, I checked my settings and to my surprise it was already enabled! Just to be sure I turned off WiFi and attempted a FaceTime call over 4G. It worked!

I’m glad that AT&T finally came to their senses on this one. It didn’t make much sense that I could use Skype, Google+ Hangouts, etc, but not the built-in FaceTime. I’m on a corporate dataplan via my employer, however, if I had to buy my own plan I would have definitely considered other carriers. AT&T has restored a little (very small amount) of faith with this move. Thanks!

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