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Viewing: Electronics, Tools & Gadgets
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Amazon Echo is the genie Alexa, an electronic, voice-activated assistant “who” can answer questions, report weather and commuting time, stream music on request, set alarms and timers, tell jokes, play Jeopardy with you, control compatible “smart” lights and appliances, and even get annoyed with you if you speak to her roughly (don’t ask how we know this). Echo has far-sensitive microphones and an amazing 360° speaker. Jeff Mirus is experimenting with Echo’s little sister, the Echo Dot (connected to Logitech’s Harmony Hub), to enable a visually-impaired relative to control entertainment devices by voice. Requires wifi.
With only anemic digital cameras under $100 and many $200 cameras struggling to be better than your phone, what do you do if you want a camera that feels like a camera and takes better pictures but you don’t have a big budget? In a rapidly-changing field, one good bet as of mid-2017 is the Canon PowerShot ELPH 360 HS. It manages to pack a 12x optical zoom with optical image stabilization into a comfortable form factor. It also has a decent flash. And its superb “intelligent” mode produces extraordinarily good results. Available in gray, black and (yes!) purple.
This iPhone case is attractive but not garish, and really protects your phone with a hard exterior and a soft, shock-absorbing rubberized interior. Available in White/Pebble Grey/Peacock Blue.
Investigating jar openers for home use, Jeff Mirus tried the incomparably simple EZ Off—a great choice if you can mount it under an upper kitchen cabinet. It opens jars of widely varying sizes. Just lift the jar into the mouth of the V, slide it back against the teeth, and turn the jar clockwise while the jaws keep the top from slipping. Very little strength is needed. There are, of course, all kinds of jar openers on the market: hand-held, stationary, and electric, ranging from about $6 to well over $100. Your needs may vary, but if you can mount this, look no further.
A powerful and affordable media streaming device which is highly useful for traveling, allowing you to connect to any modern TV and access your movies, TV shows and music. Does everything over the Internet, and you can operate it with your voice.
- Enjoy over 15,000 apps, games, and Alexa voice skills.
- Access just about anything even if you do not have cable or satellite TV service.
- Anywhere you are, pick up where you left off.
I’m sold on the Garmin Speak for navigation (Jeff Mirus). With other systems I was too often looking at a screen. The diminutive Speak is voice activated: It can answer questions about my route and take me to the nearest gas station—or Catholic Church. I mounted mine on detachable velcro on the center console where it isn't a distraction. The turn symbols it displays are still useful, as are the glowing lights which illuminate progressively in a circle around its edge as you approach your turn. When the circle closes, you’re there. Controlled by Amazon Alexa, the Speak can answer questions, play games, or play music—either through its own tiny speaker or via bluetooth or cable to your car stereo system. Requires smart phone to be present and running the Speak app.
Harmony Home Hub is winning awards as the easiest way to control home entertainment and “smart” devices. Supporting nearly 300,000 devices, the Harmony lets you use either your smart phone or a Harmony remote (sold separately) to control up to eight devices at once, including your TV or cable box. An IR transmitter lets you control devices in cabinets. Jeff Mirus has paired the Harmony Home Hub with the Echo Dot to add voice-activation to everything the Harmony controls—ideal for the handicapped. Wifi required.
Wishing for company-level output in a tiny home office? Meet Jeff Mirus when he moved the Trinity Communications office to his home. High speed output for teaching materials; excellent color for family products; duplex printing, copying, scanning and faxing all in one device: The solution was Hewlett Packard's fairly new line of page-wide inkjet printers. They print up to 55 ppm in draft mode, cost far less to run because of their high volume ink cartridges, and produce brilliant color prints at four times the resolution of comparably-priced lasers. This is the current version of the original in Trinity's home office.
Sometimes you just can’t get a good hold on some larger item to unscrew it or break it free. That’s where this Husky 8 in. Strap Wrench will save the day. Loop the rubber strap around the item, snug it up and lever the wrench in the direction that tightens the strap and unscrews (or pulls free) at the same time. And voila!
Kindles are the best e-readers for those who do not need color, and the new Oasis is the cream of the Kindle crop. You pay a high price for the differences with the basic Kindle Paperwhite, but it may be worth it if you value the larger 7" screen, superior backlighting, hand-grip space along the right side, ability to play audio books, and bluetooth connectivity—all in a lighter overall package with more storage. I know you thought you could read your older Kindle anywhere, but if you dropped it in the water, you discovered this was not true. The new Oasis is impressively waterproof. Choice of wifi or wifi + free cellular connectivity.
If you compare the standard Kindle Paperwhite E-reader with the more expensive Voyager and Oasis models, you’ll find it does not lack any of the features most people need. But if you choose the plain basic Kindle, you may well miss the higher resolution and screen lighting of the Paperwhite models, along with their ability to connect to the Internet over both 3G and WiFi. Kindle battery life is weeks, not hours. The Paperwhite display treats your eyes like a book, even in bright sunlight. But it is not for you if you need color. Shown: Kindle Paperwhite E-reader - White (also available in black).
If you're a guy who likes to listen to sports or Car Talk while you mow the lawn, you need a radio with a belt clip (so the buttons don't get bumped in your pocket) and an antenna in the wire for the ear buds (so you get good reception without a telescoping antenna). Though not dirt cheap like many little radios, the prize-winner in this category is the C. Crane CC Pocket AM FM and NOAH Weather Radio, with clock and sleep timer. Excellent reception, good quality sound, the features you need, runs on 2 AA batteries, and has a speaker along with a separate antenna wire for when you are working on quieter projects.
Kids drop things in hard-to-reach spaces in the car all. the. time. (Heck, so do I.) This claw makes retrieving those things possible for your kids (and for you). It reaches items up to 18 inches away. Also comes in a model which reaches 36 inches.
OK, it is hard to justify recommending that you spend over a grand for the best audio to go with your home theater or gaming system. There are excellent solutions for far less. Look through the Top Sound Bar reports on the Internet. But what if you do not spend much on outside-the-home entertainment, dining or travel? Far harder to fault you, then, if it is sound quality that keeps you relaxed and sane. This Samsung model was awarded top honors in a great many tests in 2017, and by a wide variety of organizations. So dream and, even if you don’t feel sheepish, tithe.
This has to be one of the most distinguished and just plain useful cases for the incredible (but inedible) Samsung Galaxy Note 8 phone (there may be similar products for other phones). It provides basic impact resistance to an already water and dust proof award-winning Android phone, while significantly enhancing usability. Features: (1) View/receive LED notifications directly on the cover (alarms, calls, messages, battery status); (2) Respond to incoming calls or alarms by swiping; (3) Designate specific LED caller ID icons to know who is calling; (4) Store cards using interior card pocket. And my favorite: (5) Phone automatically sleeps when cover is closed and wakes when cover is opened.
Tired of your favorite FM station cutting back to mono or dropping altogether? Jeff Mirus solved this problem with this amplified Terk antenna. It features adjustable gain, and works far better than the antenna wires (or plastic frames) that come with most tuners. It is inexpensive for a powered antenna, but it does requires a power source, either a nearby powered USB port or an ordinary household receptacle. Designed for indoor use; can be placed upright or on its side. If this sounds right for your needs, remember two things: (1) Make sure your tuner has the right connectors; (2) If no signal is reaching the area where you want to place the antenna, then there is nothing to amplify and no antenna can help. In that case, a rooftop antenna may be the only option.
Simple gizmos for hanging things on walls when the studs aren’t conveniently spaced. Installs in seconds. Use it to hang pictures, clocks, mirrors towel bars or anything else up to 90 lbs.
Reliable, durable and attractive, this is an automatic mechanical watch, meaning it doesn't run on a battery but is powered by the movement of the wearer's arm. Stainless steel case with a black canvas bracelet. Black dial with luminous hands and Arabic numeral hour markers. Arabic numeral minute markers (at 5 minute intervals). minute markers around the outer rim. Day of the week and date display at the 3 o'clock position. Seiko Caliber 7S26 automatic movement with about 40 hours of power reserve. Scratch resistant hardlex crystal. OK for swimming but not diving. Recommended by Phil Lawler.
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