StickNFind – Never Lose Anything (or, Anyone) Ever Again

I flew to China once and found that my luggage had not flown with me. It took a couple of hours, though, to come to this realisation - since the airline wasn't very helpful. After losing a few more bags in transit on other trips, I began to wonder when the day would come when I would be able to determine if, indeed, my bag had made it to my destination with me. Well, that day has come.

StickNFind are small stickers (the size of a US Quarter coin) that you can stick to anything you like: bags, keys, kids, remotes... They contain a small battery (good for 1 year) and emit a bluetooth signal. By using an App on your Smartphone, you can locate the item when it is within range by using a 'radar detector', or asking the sticker to emit a sound, or flash a light (when searching for it in the dark).

You can also set certain thresholds, say, for when a particular StickNFind goes out of a certain range (which they call a 'virtual leash'). This is useful when you want to monitor something and keep it close. For example, you're in a crowded airport and want to read a book, but are afraid of someone nicking your laptop bag. By setting a distance threshold, your phone App will create an alarm if your bag should move away from you past a certain range (that you set). You can keep monitor the location of your kids, pets, and other household items in this way.

At the moment, it's an Indiegogo fundraiser - which means that the product does not yet exist on the market. However, there are prototypes that you can look at on the StickNFind fundraising page.

This looks like a really clever product that has many more uses than those dreamed up here. Watch their video for a full introduction.

Rambler Socket Designs by Meysam Movahedi

Rambler Socket by Meysam Movahedi

It may simply be a proof-of-concept prototype but the rambler socket is full of great ideas. True, you might have questions about health & safety - namely, fire regulations - and the like. Not to mention, what happens if such a unit were to break down. But, let's not let reality get in the way of a good idea.

Honestly, wall sockets, extension cables and power leads could really use a make-over. Many of them are bulky, unwieldy and inconvenient. Many countries like to use their own, proprietary designs. All of this adds up to one thing: nuisance.

Movahedi's designs are refreshingly simple and actually look as if they'd make wall sockets a joy to use. Can you imagine that? A joy?

This is good design in motion: taking something mundane, irritating and overlooked... and turning it into something playful, useful and fun.

Check out some of these other socket designs:

HD TV over CAT5 – The Saga Continues

When I renovated my house, I put oodles of CAT6 cabling throughout. I figured that - at some point in the future - everything would be run over CAT6. Not only audio-visual data... I even saw PoE (Power over Ethernet) lamps and light fixtures in development.

My first pet project was to get High-Definition all over the house on CAT6. The reason being that I wanted to centralise all of my Audio-Visual equipment into a single rack at a convenient location. The rack would be properly vented & cooled, backed up by battery power (UPS) and it would have all the patch-panels I would need to route signals towards any location and in any configuration I wanted. Also, I was annoyed that Cable TV and Satellite installers were going to charge a fair amount to string very inflexible cable to additional set-top boxes in inconvenient places. It would be unsightly.

All I wanted was a single CAT6 coming out of the wall to the HDMI port of my Televisions - nothing else. Furthermore, I liked the idea of sharing equipment. One box per television was a waste of resources, when I was unlikely to need to watch separate channels on three different televisions at once. Rather, I wanted to switch the box to whichever television I happened to be in front of.

I started out purchasing IR over Ethernet repeaters, so that all my audio-visual remotes could be relayed from whichever room back to the cabinet. This turned out to be the easy part. I bought a bunch of tranceiver/receiver units from Keene, which then terminated into an IR hub back at the closet, which distributed the signals to thin IR cables that I stuck onto the equipment. In some cases, I just had an IR blaster mounted on the door of the cabinet - if it was in line-of-sight of several pieces of equipment. This has worked well for a couple of years now.

However, I have not been so lucky with the HDTV signals. In truth, HDTV over CAT6 isn't really ready for prime time. There is a lot of equipment out there but nothing has, so far, proved to be reliable.

The first HDTV over Ethernet solution I used was CYP. It used two Ethernet cables (one for video, one for audio) in order to get 1080i from the rack to my Television. Conveniently, it included IR signal pass-through on the device (but, I didn't need this, as I had the Keene IR over Ethernet devices). It worked for a couple of months and then broke. I sent the tranceiver/receiver kit back to the manufacturer. It had been expensive and I was not amused.

Next, I tried the Octava. They cost me a little more but I figured that you get what you pay for (I didn't, as you will see). The Octava, also, used two Ethernet cables - but, also, provide IR over Ethernet as part of the unit. However, I think it was prone to problems if the run was too long. It, too, worked (intermittently) for a few months, then died. Naturally, I was disappointed. But, more so, because I had good experience with Octava equipment in the past. In particular, I had a 4x4 matrix HDMI switcher which has performed well. It allows me to switch 4x HDMI sources to either or all four of the 4x HDMI outputs. This was how I was able to switch the same cable TV box to one or more different TVs throughout my house.

Finally, I installed the Cablesson HDMI over Ethernet solution. This was the cheapest of all (less than half the price!) and actually gave 1080p performance over a single CAT6 Ethernet cable. It worked for three months, then died.

At this point, it seems as if none of the manufacturers can produce HDMI over Ethernet products that won't fail after a period of time. I figure that I have no choice but to purchase two Cablesson kits and keep one as spare. So long as they die within the warranty period, I'll keep sending them back for replacements until the manufacturer manages to sort out their quality control issues. It's not ideal - and it doubles the cost of equipment - but, at least, the costs have been coming down over the past year.

Products discussed in this article:

Octava HDMI + IR HDMI over CAT 5/6 Extender [REVIEW]

The problem with writing reviews about products you love is that you can jinx them. At least that's what I discovered after covering the CYP Puma PU-106/107. I had used a pair of these to run HDMI video over a single CAT6 cable. However, after six weeks they died on me. I bought the CYP 108 and, then, after a couple of months, it died on me, too.

So, suffice to say, I think that the CYP have quality control issues. But I needed to find a solution, because I had a cable TV installation that I needed to transmit to a basement and there was no way that I'd be able to drop a suitable BNC cable down there. In fact, I learnt a lot more about cable and satellite than I ever wanted to. It seems that CAT6 cannot support the signal bandwidth required to transmit what comes down a cable/satellite cable from the street/roof. Consequently, there is no such thing as a transceiver for this signal over CAT6. So, I was back to square one. I needed an HDMI to CAT6 transmitter/receiver kit, if I had any hope of getting video from my cable installation down there.

After doing some research, I went with the Octava CAT5/6 extender. One of the reasons I chose it in the end is that it uses 2 CAT5/6 cables instead of one. This may sound like a step backwards but, frankly, HDMI is really fiddly and you increase your problems when you try to get it down a single CAT5/6 cable. One reason for this is that the signal becomes more susceptible to problems the longer your cable is. And, if you terminate your cables into punch-down blocks before connecting them to your equipment with additional leads, then you compound the problem. At the end of the day, you can increase the length of your run and get away with lesser quality cable if you use two instead of one.

I've been using the Octava for over a month and so far so good. It isn't completely trouble-free. The other day, there was snow on the TV and intermittent picture and sound problems. I went to the transmitter, pulled out the power cable, waited five seconds and then put the power back in. The problem went away. Not the end of the world but somewhat irritating.

I guess that, for the time being, there really isn't a trouble-free solution. Nevertheless, if you have a similar situation to mine, you don't have a choice. I'll keep you posted if I have any problems but, for now, I'd recommend you put your money on Octava - rather than CYP.

One handy thing about the Octava - as opposed to the CYP hardware - is that it only needs power at the transmitter end. The receiver gets power from the CAT5/6 cables that you are using. This removes the need to plug it into the wall where the TV is.

RF Wireless Keyboard with Touchpad from SMK-Link

SMK-Link Wireless Keyboard

Despite the market flooding of headless servers, media servers and assorted devices to entertain you via your large, flat screen televisions... good wireless keyboards are few and far between. Here's a new wireless keyboard from SMK-Link that provides a good balance between size and functionality.

First off, it's diminutive. For some, perhaps too much so but at 5 x 4 inches it's extremely portable. It uses two AA batteries (sadly, not rechargeable - but you can add your own). One battery goes into each side of the device to give it a more comfortable weighting when sitting on your lap.

Wireless is RF-based, which means it has an effective range of roughly 33 feet - far better than bluetooth in most cases. It uses a USB dongle to pair the device with your equipment. For most people, this should be a driverless and painless process. However, because of the lack of driver, you might not be able to use more advanced features that people have come to expect from their keyboards - such as one-button scripts and the ability to tap the touchpad to simulate a mouse click.

SMK-Link Keyboard closeup

Nevertheless, for a touchpad based, no-frills keyboard it has everything that most people need, including dedicated 'joy-pad' style buttons for media play, pause, fast-forward, rewind and page up & down. This allows you to use your thumbs to do most of the work.

It would have been nice if the keys lit up in the dark, considering that many people will be using this in their living rooms to watch videos. Otherwise, it's a very clever little product at a good price.

Where to Buy:
Amazon USA

Airplay Speaker – Loewe AirSpeaker

Loewe AirSpeaker

If you are an iPhone/iPad user, you are probably already familiar with AirPlay and its ability to stream audio/video content from any of your Apple devices to other AirPlay devices. For instance, send video from your phone, laptop or iPad to your AirPlay compatible television, or any television with an AppleTV device attached to it.

Several manufacturers have already put out AirPlay compatible amplifiers but here's a new one from Loewe - an amplifier/speaker combo called the AirSpeaker. Essentially, it's similar to having a powered, wireless speaker - except that it uses the AirPlay protocol to communicate with your Apple devices.

The unit contains a pair of tweeters, a pair of subwoofers and two mid-range speakers for a total rating of 80W. The unit is not really meant to be used in a directional manner - as in a traditional stereo setup - but meant to fill an entire room.

The footprint of the unit is similar to a stack of iPads. Price is expected to be £700.

US customers will find it difficult to find. Europeans can use the Loewe dealer locator to find a dealer nearest to them.

Elliptical Bicycles – Take you gym on the road

Cycling gets Elliptical

There's something stately about striding a bicycle and taking a leisurely ride through the city. But only with the handlebars up high. Crouching down like a beetle arched for coitous is hardly flattering, which is why I do not enjoy racing cycles. But, lately, I've seen a range of cycles that use different forms of locomotion.


The Elliptigo

The Elliptigo is what you might expect it to be: an elliptical cross-trainer on wheels. You stand and move yourself forwards as you might at the gym.

Cycling while standing might be a better posture for the body than sitting but it does make you look as if you're exercising outdoors and couldn't afford a gym membership.

Fitness enthusiasts will be happy to know that using the Elliptigo is less energy efficient than a bicycle, meaning you will burn more calories using one. However, this makes me pine somewhat for the elegance of design of the humble bicycle. Call me a Purist.

The product is pitched at a variety of users but one group that might get the most out of it will be ex-runners with knee and joint injuries who want to recapture the feeling of pounding the pavement without the consequences.

Plus, the experience doesn't come cheap at over $2,000.

Buy Elliptigo direct from the manufacturer

StreetStrider Black

The StreetStrider

While the Elliptigo uses handle bars to brace yourself, the StreetStrider takes the Elliptical analogy all the way - and uses alternating, moving vertical handlebars… just as would an actual elliptical. The end result really is taking your gym on the road.

You look pretty stupid riding one but you'll feel better because you're getting a decent work-out.

Buy StreetSlider direct from the manufacturer


Netgear N600 Router – Personal Cloud Server

Netgear WNDR3800 N600 Router

It's been a long time since Netgear updated their home router products (over a year, in fact) - probably due in large part to the success of the WNDR3700, which proved to be a reliable product. However, the wireless router n market has become overheated and you've probably noticed that wherever you go, you find lots of available WiFi networks to connect to.

All of these WiFi devices create crosstalk and interference. Add to that microwave ovens, cordless phones and baby monitors and you soon realise that the home environment is more of an urban war zone for WiFi than the office. Wireless routers have had to compensate by channel hopping in order to maintain a clear signal. Users have experienced drop-outs and latency in service - all of which reflect poorly on the router manufacturers. In other words - flaky Internet connectivity.

Netgear is hoping to address this situation with their brand new N600 Premium Edition wireless n router (aka WNDR3800). Reviews are starting to come in and it looks likely that this could be the best wireless router 2011.

Be forewarned that Netgear has a hopelessly complex router model numbering system. There are many models that go under the 'N600' umbrella. This one is the WNDR3800 - NOT the WNDR3700 or the WNDR4000 (which was a bit of a flop).

For a detailed review of the previous WNDR3700r2, check out this post from SmallNetBuilder. It should give you a good idea of what to expect in the new N600 model.

The first thing that the WNDR3800 does is upgrade its microprocessor and flash memory (16MG Flash and 128MB RAM), enabling it to managed higher sustained throughput. It says 300Mbps on the box but user reports for the WNDR3700r2 showed that a 400Mbps sustained throughput was possible on the previous model. Equally important is its ability to take full advantage of the speed of your Internet connection, given that faster bandwidth is coming online all the time. This is crucial given the need to run firewall security services and NAT addressing for your network devices. All-in-all, these added computations take processing power and, if the router isn't up to it, you won't be getting the full benefit of your Internet speed over WiFi.

Netgear dropped WEP security support for some reason on the WNDR3700, even from the 'guest' network - so we expect the same for this model. As for whether you still cannot restart the device from the browser admin client, this remains to be seen. Please let us know if you have any info on this!

The WNDR3800 is advertising a new technology that Netgear is branding as, "Clear Channel Selector". The idea behind this is to allow the router to navigate the airwaves to move smoothly between channels and find ones with the least interference while maintaining connectivity with your WiFi devices. Real world tests are hard to come by but this should add stability to your network.

As with previous Netgear router products, you can attach a printer or a hard drive to the router and share them with your network. Network printers are easily found by your computing devices over the Bonjour protocol. Enjoying video content over your network is more exciting if you have a DNLA compatible receiver. This allows you to stream the video content directly from your hard drive over Wireless to your television, for example. For more information on how to do this, check out Netgear's info on ReadySHARE.

Netgear's ReadySHARE service for printers & hard drives
Netgear DNLA Video Streaming

The other novel addition to the N600 product is Netgear's "ReadySHARE Cloud service". This essentially turns your netgear device into a free cloud server. What is a Cloud Server, you ask? Well, it's similar to what Apple hopes to roll out soon with iCloud but is a little less integrated with all of your iOS devices and it's more agnostic (supporting Windows).
Netgear's ReadySHARE Cloud Server Service

By plugging a hard drive into the USB port of the N600 router, you can make all the contents of the drive available not only to all your networked devices but, also, available over the Internet. In order for this to work, you need to register the device with Netgear's Cloud service. Once you've done this, you'll be able to browse the hard drive from anywhere in the world. Netgear also provides an iPhone and Android App to do the same thing on an iPhone/Android device. You can even take a photo on the iPhone through its native App and then post that photo directly to your personal Cloud Server device (e.g. the hard drive that you have attached to your Netgear router).

Cloud storage is likely to be the buzzword of 2012. At least you can enjoy some of the benefits now with the N600. If anything, it would be very handy to have access to all of your photos, music, movies and documents from anywhere in the world.

Where to Buy:
Amazon USA

FireText Smoke Alarm – Sends SMS Alerts if your house is burning

FireText Smoke Alarm

It's a very simple but clever idea. This fire/smoke alarm has a quad-band GSM chip to allow it to send SMS alerts to your phone whenever it detects smoke. Great for the Smart Home.

FireText SIM card

Considering how glued we are to our mobile phones, this is a useful feature. I would like to know if there was a fire in my house, even if I'm not there to hear the ear-splitting scream of the smoke detector.

According to the manufacturer:

Each Text Messaging Smoke Alarm has a 9V Lithium battery that will provide a minimum of 36 continuous activations. Zero activations can result in a life span in excess of 5 years. Average usage should result in a battery life of 2-4 years. If tested weekly the battery will need to be replaced every 3-6 months.

Each unit comes with a bespoke pay-as-you go SIM.

Where to Buy:
Amazon UK

Baby Monitor with Infinite Range – Evoz

Evoz iPhone App

Evoz advertises itself as service that allows you to stay connected to your baby wherever you are on the globe. It makes me picture a pair of jetsetting parents globetrotting in style, while the baby is left behind. Well, perhaps that's not what they intended. But the point really is... that the Evoz has infinite and unlimited range.

How? Because it uses two iOS devices to keep in touch. For instance, you leave one iOS device (iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad) in the room with the baby connected to WiFi. Then, using another iOS device (such as your mobile phone) you can connect to that device - over 3G, for instance.

All you need to do is run the Evoz app on both devices in order to get a live audio feed from the device in the baby's room, as well as text/email alerts whenever they cry. There's even a data collection service that tracks the baby's crying and sleeping patterns over periods of time and, apparently, allows you to compare it to other baby's data. Interesting.

The product is currently in beta. At some point in the future, they will release a monitor product (so you don't need an iOS device in the baby's room). This will be welcome if it's less than $200 (the current price of a 4th generation iPod Touch).

Evoz intends to make money from the sales of their monitors (not yet available) and from different service subscriptions. For example, email/text alerts are part of the "premium" package, whereas unlimited listening is part of the "standard" package.

Even if you don't need the global monitoring aspect of the service, it might be useful in a house that presents all sorts of interference issues. For instance, I find that when I'm in my basement I can still get a phone signal, whereas other radio signals are blocked.

You might also be interested in...
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Travel without any luggage - First Luggage Baggage Service
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The Best Sunscreens and Suntan Lotions [REVIEW]

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