For a while now, the site has been affected by various attacks that required disabling beginning around CES 2015. I believe that things are under control at the moment. We will see how long this lasts. Happy 2015 to all!
I was a good tech user: I backed up my iPad 3 tonight before I decided to plunge in and apply this newest system.
We’ll see how this goes…
Steve gave it a decent try: got in line before 8 am on Friday, September 19th. He was in the 25th position but the Apple iPhone 6 Plusses were gone by the 6th person.
He braved it later in the morning so I could go with him as I had nominally decided to consider the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 which was released from pre-ordering the day before.
In the interest of curiosity and research, I have opted to go with the also-recently announced Samsung Galaxy Note 4. After considering what made me unhappy with the Sprint-issued Samsung Epic 4G and the context of the limited audience that model served, I am committing the next 18 months of my life back to an Android-based smartphone. I’ll still very much have my iPad so I will still be dependent somewhat on the iOS universe. Besides, with my purchase last year of the Neo3do tablet, I never really left.
My phone is projected for an October 17th delivery date. Steve’s iPhone 6 Plus is some time in November…
Steve ended up canceling his order for the new iPhone 6 Plus. The problem was that the ATT website – due to rules regarding delivery – charged him sales tax twice. It took more than 5 people to (we hope) resolve the issue.
Steve is taking photos with his iPhone 5 right before we have July 4th supper at the South Coast Winery near Temecula, California.
Great wine, great restaurant!
Have you ever wanted to know what was going on at home while you were away? Do you want a security device to video record activity in your home? If these are questions you have asked, then maybe the iCam HD 360 is something for you.
The iCam 360 HD was first seen in the US at CES 2014. This is a product just hitting the market in the US. The device is made by AMARYLLO, which is based in the Netherlands. There are basically three models of the iCam. These are the iCam HD, iCam HD 360, and iBabi HD. All of these devices feature 1280 X 720 high definition video recording and a lens with a viewing angle of 100 degrees. Further they all feature night vision to capture video in complete darkness, a passive infrared motion sensor, an audio sensor, support micro SD recording and have a built in microphone. The iBabi HD also has support for Micro SD MP3 support to play music for the baby. Both the iBabi HD and the iCam HD 360 feature pan and tilt capabilities and provide for 360 degree viewing. Thus while they have some slight specification variations depending on your use and desired features, they work in basically the same manner.
What You Need
The iCam is a colorful cube shaped device that almost looks as if it were made from putting large LEGO blocks together. It connectivity is through Wi-Fi, so a good home Wi-Fi system is a necessity. Since it operates from a power plug, it needs to be positioned in an area of your home that has access to an electrical outlet either directly or by extension cord. Since the remote viewing is done through making a Skype video call to your iCam, a Skype account is necessary. Last, video recording is done on a micro SD card and then uploaded to Google Drive you will need both a micro SD card and a Google account. You get from AMARYLLO 15 GB of free storage on Google Drive. Before you purchase a micro SD card, check the AMARYLLO website for compatible brands and capacity.
Among the various remote cameras that can operate from an iOS or Android device, the key selling point of the iCam HD 360 was that you could connect to it over Skype and that it uploaded video to Google Drive. Further by giving simple commands via the Skype message feature, you could tilt and pan the camera. You type in L for left, R for right, and either a U or D for up and down. These features made it one of the easiest devices on the market to utilize, especially if one already had a Google and Skype account.
The iCam app provides the basic controls. The controls include recording at either 720 p, 480p, or 360p; voice controls for turning on the microphone, setting the speaker volume, and enabling two-way audio; Miscellaneous the enables you to turn on or off the night vision, set the time zone, turn on or off the motion control and the ability to grant control to other phones; Wi-Fi AP list showing the Wi-Fi system it is connected to; Skype viewer list that enables you to add Skype accounts for individuals that you want to be able to connect to the camera through Skype; and the controls for turning on or off the motion sensor, audio sensor and setting the audio sensitivity and whether to alert you through a snapshot or a text. Everything about the iCam is simple and straightforward. This makes it an excellent choice for those that are not that tech savvy beyond the basics.
Initially my experience with the iCam HD 360 was one of frustration. Despite the very clear and simple instructions for getting the device up and running, I found the process anything but easy. I just could not get it connected. After spending several hours attempting to set up the iCam I gave up and turned it over to my more tech advanced colleague. He also spent far more complicated than the easy 1-2-3-step process found in the instructions. He did get it to work finally. However, I felt that if I was going to write this review that I needed to be able to set it up myself. Thus, I wrote to AMARYLLO tech support and got a prompt reply back to do a device reset and use the specific iCam HD 360 app.
With that in hand I sat down to see if I could successfully set the iCam up. I followed the procedures to the letter and spent another 2 hours resetting, reinstalling the app, and faithfully going through the SIMPLE set up steps. My efforts and time were all to no avail. At that point I felt that I would never write this review or if I did was to pan the iCam as one ornery and anything but simple device. However, to be fair I again sent off an email to AMARYLLO tech support. Within 15 minutes of having detailed my latest trials and travails with the iCam I got a response asking me to send a picture of the QR scan sticker on the bottom of the iCam. Within 15 minutes of that I got back a response telling me that by mistake I had been sent the European version of the iCam HD that has a lion head logo on the QR code. Thus, I needed to install the iCam HD app rather than the iCam HD 360 app. In addition to the email response a member of their support team also sent a connect request to my Skype account and offered to walk me through the process step by step via Skype. Any number of companies could well take a lesson from the prompt and personal support given to me by AMARYLLO.
With this new information, I downloaded the app onto my smartphone and then reset the iCam and let it go through its startup process. I then followed the simple installation steps that are contained on the app. You enter your Wi-Fi password, take a picture of the QR scan code on the bottom of the camera, enter your Skype account information, hold your smartphone with a picture of a QR code on the screen in front of the iCam, wait until it beeps once and you are connected. Simple, straightforward and it all took about a total of 4 minutes. It really was as easy as described on the app and on the website.
Video Recording and Alerts
The last feature that I wanted to comment on was the video recording and motion alert snapshots. Below is an example of a motion alert snapshot.
Motion and audio alert snapshots appear within Skype. Audio detection alerts and motion detection alerts show up as messages in the iCam’s Skype account. Skype messages also show that the iCam sent a file. Currently the app version of Skype states “This version of Skype doesn’t support that yet.” However, I can download the snapshot files in the desktop version of Skype. The one above opened on my desktop within Skype and I then opened it with my preview program. Since the app version of Skype was just updated, I suspect that the transfer and opening of the file will be worked out in the future.
Note: there is some loud static at the beginning on this unedited video. Please consider turning down your audio level before playing.
The videos are easily accessed from the iCam app on your smartphone. All you need to do is to click on the Google Drive icon on the opening page of the app. The videos can also be accessed directly from logging into Google Drive. You get up to 15 GB of free storage on Google Drive. It is amazing the sharpness of the video. Anyone caught on camera in daylight would be very sharply identified with the HD quality of the video.
Another feature of the iCam HD 360 is that it has a built in speaker and microphone. This enables you during a Skype call to listen to what is going on in the room. It further allows you to speak and be heard through the device. The audio is not stellar (it sounds like talking on a walkie-talkie) but it is clear enough that one can hear what is being said. To clearly hear through the device, the sound needs to be fairly close by and loud enough to be picked up. I enjoy watching the startled look on my cats when I speak to them through the camera.
Despite my early frustrations, I have found the iCam HD 360 a very useful tool to monitor the activity of my cats when I am gone from home. It also gives me a way to monitor the back entry to the house. When you have the right iCam with the correct app, the set up is truly as easy as 1-2-3. Beyond the easy setup, setting up the features for the camera and viewing recorded videos is easily done from the app. Connecting to the iCam through Skype is also seamless and it is easy to give pan and tilt commands.
Support for the iCam is provided on the AMARYLLO website.
Click on the Support tab and it will take you to a series of questions about iCam settings and services. When you click these general questions it will take you to a page that will have a series of detailed things that you may be asking or wanting to know more about. Some of these are then linked to YouTube videos that demonstrate and walk you visually through what to do. If these resources do not suffice, then you can contact their support team by email. Given my issues, I found that I needed to do this and was tremendous impressed by how quick the team responded and solved my problem. Most impressive was how one of the team set up a Skype contact and was willing to walk me directly through the setup process while on a real time Skype video call.
The iCam HD 360 retails for $199. It comes in three colors, (red, white and blue; all white; or green on the top and bottom with white in the middle). The iBabi HD that comes in pink and blue also retail for $199. The iCam HD that lacks the remote pan and tilt control retails for $149 and comes only in white. All of the models can be purchased directly from AMARYLLO through the store on their website. B&H Photo Video also can supply the iCam at the stated list prices. If you do a Google search you may be able to find the device for $20 less. I would encourage you to carefully note shipping prices as they may make it more expansive than directly buying from the AMARYLLO store.
The iCam HD 360 is a very versatile remote camera that allows you to view its home area from your smartphone or tablet device. The iCam HD 360 does everything that it is advertised to do and does it simply and well. I will not let my initial experience downgrade my review as I discovered that their support services and staff were excellent.
- Easy to set up
- Connectivity through Skype
- Recordings viewable and saved on Google Drive
- Quality of picture
- Tilt and Pan
- Support Service
- Lack of more neutral or black colors
- Upgrades to Skype, Google Drive, and or AMARYLLO app
Since the iCam HD 360 needs to get along with Skype and Google Drive, any changes and updates with them will most likely require an update from AMARYLLO. I suspect this is the case currently in not being able to view the alert snapshots due to the app version of Skype not supporting the file type in the upgraded version of their program. This is a common problem today in getting everything to play together nicely all the time. Last, the bright colors that are offered do little to make the camera inconspicuous in a room. Thus, for a security device it is rather obvious to anyone entering the room. It would be nice to have it available in black and other neutral colors so as to better blend in with the home décor.
Device: 9 out of 10
Support: 10 out of 10
Stephen C. Anderson
It’s surprising to consider that I have had my current iPad for over two years. In that time, I have used it with various Apple, Zagg, Logitech and other wireless/Bluetooth keyboards. Some bare or separate, some as part of a case or cover combination. In the case of the Brydge+, I have encountered a Bluetooth® keyboard that is combined with a Bluetooth® speaker.
The Brydge+ keyboard/speaker combination normally lists for $149.99 but has been on sale recently for $99. There is a “speakerless” version which lists for $139.99 and has been on sale for $89. You get the Brydge+ with speakers unit, a Micro-USB charging cable, shims for the iPad 3/4 and sticker covers for the hinges (useful for those who want the hinges to blend better with black/slate iPads).
The premise is that, using shims to hold the iPad, you can use the keyboard as a cover for the iPad when transporting. The shims hold the iPad to the hinges, which swivel smoothly into various positions from closed to almost totally flat and open (there seems to be a default open position that which seems to be close to 90 degrees/right angle to the Brydge+, not necessarily a natural stopping point). The manual recommends that you don’t shake or dangle by just holding your iPad, as only friction is what holds the iPad to the Brydge+ unit.
Getting the iPad to recognize both the Bluetooth® keyboard and speakers was straight-forward. Reading the instructions is important. After putting the iPad in Bluetooth ®/discover mode, press Ctrl and K to make the keyboard discoverable. You will get a standard pairing code process to complete. Ctrl and B will make the speakers discoverable.
The anodised aluminum case feels very sturdy. The iPad 3 weighs 1.475 pounds without any other add-ons. With the Brydge+ with Speakers, it comes at a not-so-light 2.65 pounds.
The unit comes installed with shims for the iPad 2. These are securely attached by a pair of adhesive areas per shim. A warning card as well as the small manual admonished the user to carefully and fully remove the adhesive when switching to the shims provided for the iPad 3/4. I managed to scrape the top of my left index finger trying to rub off the adhesive. The hard aluminum won the battle against my finger. Not a good way to get started.
I would recommend to Brydge Keyboards that they do not install either set of shims. Augment the provided instructions to explain how to install the shims (a link to a streaming video clip perhaps?). Then you have no adhesive to rub off.
As a keyboard, it’s somewhat of a mixed bag. Steve Anderson, one of the key technotraveler.com contributors and our associate, Gary Gates, joined me in testing out the basic touch-typing use.
The various keys all functioned as depicted. As with many of my Bluetooth®-connected keyboards, there is a slight delay for recognition by the iPad if I hadn’t used for a period of time. The arrangement of the arrow keys and the shrinking of the right shift key to make room for the up arrow provided a challenge for all three of us. Both Gary and Steve found that they were spending a lot of time clicking on backspace to fix text that was altered because the up arrow key was struck instead of the intended shift key. Gary spends a lot of his professional work day typing, so being able to work without looking down at a keyboard just to type an “@“ or a capital “T” because the location of the shift key isn’t assured. The arrangement of the left, down and right key flush across the bottom row surely looks clean. I think that, for touch typists, this overall arrangement will take some getting used to. Having worked with other Bluetooth® keyboards, such as the Q-Madix and the Skech which also had small right-shift keys, this is not great. Otherwise, the keys being distinct does decrease accidental typing on other keys. We think that, while it is not optimal for fast touch typing of narrative, the Brydge+ keyboard is fine for light typing.
The speaker seems to provide a more robust sound that the iPad built-in speaker, when I am listening to music or streaming movie content. The direction of the speaker more directly aims the sound in my direction when I am using it while typing or while using the iPad as a viewer. To be more specific as to the different in maximum decibel I employed a basic audio meter. To compare the output, I played Adele’s Rolling In The Deep and the Main Titles theme for Star Wars.
I started the test with Adele’s tune. The built-in speaker at the bottom back of the iPad produces a maximum audio level that registers as 78.0 dB when I pointed my meter at the speaker from a distance of 10 inches. With the Star Wars theme, the meter registered 76.8 dB.
The two tunes were again played, this time with the Brydge+ speakers. The meter was positioned in front of the keyboard, 10 inches from the back of the speakers. Rolling In The Deep produced a 83.3 dB reading while the Star Wars theme had a maximum reading of 78.0 dB. The sound was not tinny at the high end and the aluminum must have helped produce a pleasant base but the difference was not huge. When in a noisy office, though – fan and/or air conditioning contributing significantly to the background – the Brydge+ was able to cut through with enough strength to justify its use.
The score tally started by taking into account the difficulty of switching the shims and the concern about the small right shift key and balancing these factors with the positives. The positives included the secure grip of the correct shims, the clarity of the available documentation, the general typing ease over all and the pleasant, robust sound produced by the integrated speaker.
We give the Brydge+ with Speakers, from Brydge Keyboards, an 8 out of 10.
Whoosh! is a new cleaner for use on device screens, particularly those we have to touch to use. Before Whoosh! I was going through lens cleaner packets at the rate of at least two per day (just being practical, not necessarily fastidious). Whoosh! is a spray-on cleaner which comes with at least one anti-microbial cloth, has no awful odor and is touted to “miraculously” resist fingerprints. The product was one of many that were honored as 2014 CES Innovations and Engineering Design winners.
It doesn’t require electricity, yet it is among the most useful of the CES 2014 items I have put to use so far. Despite having received samples of this amazing cleaner at CES, Steve and I each purchased the Duo+ package at our local Frys. That’s how good this cleaner is.
First, it does an amazing job just getting rid of fingerprints and other smudges. I’m one of those people who can’t stop messing with hair or face so my electronics get greasy quickly.
The part that is stunning beyond the amazing is that, like its press, resists subsequent fingerprints well. It doesn’t prevent them but I have to clean less often.
Now, you only need to use one cloth: spray the Whoosh! product (no ammonia smell!) on one side of the cloth, wipe in circles gently until all of your prints and smudges are gone. Go back over with the dry side of the cloth to dry and buff. With two cloths and a large device, I like to use one for the application of the product and the other one, which was dry, to do the drying and buffing.
Does what it is touted to do simply and well. After using Whoosh! for two months straight before committing to this review, I’m absolutely sure this is a 10-out-of-10 product!
It takes a nifty gimmick to specifically catch my eye at that circus-of-the-senses, CES. But this wall of customized SLR cameras (in the Ricoh booth at CES) in a rainbow array of color combinations was difficult to ignore.
The Pentax K-50 was this DSLR in all of these amazing combinations.
From Ricoh’s Press materials:
PENTAX RICOH IMAGING AMERICAS CORPORATION today introduced the PENTAX K-50 DSLR featuring advanced functionality beyond its mid-level classification. Ideal for photographers looking to transcend traditional DSLR offerings, the PENTAX K-50 combines a uniquely advanced feature set with a consumer-friendly price tag and 120 color combinations to meet an important additional demand of the creative consumer: personal style.
Rivaling many cameras higher in class, the K-50 boasts a long list of advanced specifications not found in other mid-level DSLRs. Beginning with its 81 weather seals, the K-50 incorporates PENTAX’s long-standing heritage of weather-resistant products making cameras that extend shooting environments to wet, rainy or snowy conditions. Building on this leading advantage, the K-50 features high-speed continuous shooting at approximately six frames per second, super-high-sensitivity shooting at ISO settings up to 51200 and high-precision SAFOX IXi+ autofocus with accurate subject tracking, guaranteeing crisp images even when in low-light or with a fast moving subject. Additionally, the K-50’s 100% field of view viewfinder, innovative shake reduction system, four optional interchangeable focusing screens and a fast shutter with the ability to shoot at speeds up to 1/6000 of a second enable photographers to push the boundaries of high-speed shooting while providing total confidence that their vision is framed accurately and captured in complete focus. And, with new Eye-fi SD card compatibility built in photo and video sharing a breeze! Users can enable automatic transmission of images and video to a smartphone for rapid sharing and even select their favorite images and re-size them before transmission.
The K-50 is available in 120 brilliant and eye-catching color combinations and sets a new standard in the customization of electronics. PENTAX’s Color to Order™ system takes advantage of a newly architected supply chain management system that is built to empower consumers to design the product they want.
“The K-50 introduces features that raise the bar in the mid-level DSLR class,” said Jim Malcolm, executive vice president, PENTAX RICOH IMAGING AMERICA. “Not only do the hardware and software specs outclass competitors, the Color to Order system is an industry first making it a truly unique offering among a sea of similarity.”
PENTAX has also strengthened its weather-sealed lens lineup with the debut of two new lenses; the smc PENTAX-DA L 18-55mm F3.5-5.6AL WR, and smc PENTAX-DA L 50-200 F4-5.6ED WR. The addition of these two lenses expands PENTAX’s extensive line of weather-sealed lenses which offer a wide variety of focal lengths and shooting perspectives ensuring there is a lens appropriate for many different shooting and weather scenarios.
It would be great to have had some funds in my budget to eventually purchase one of the models in purple for review, like this one on B&H’s site. Unfortunately, I have to steer my attention at other products for which the vendors or providers have been more collaborative or for which we had personally budgeted for purchase ourselves.
We are getting caught up with CES 2014 reporting, after getting some of the videos edited and uploaded. Steve Anderson had Achilles tendon surgery right at the beginning of February. Imagine: he walked all of those exhibition halls, including the ones at the Sands Expo Center, with this yet-to-be diagnosed injury!
Anyway, we had purchased Whoosh! Screen Shine at our local Frys after enjoying the sample we received at CES 2014. Suffice it to say that the product is great!
Video showing use to follow soon!
For those familiar with CES, many technology hardware products are delayed by weeks, if not months, after the show. The first item to be purchased by technotraveler.com to be reviewed is the Canon ELPH 340 HS point-and-shoot camera.
Announced just before CES 2014, the ELPH has these projected features:
- 12x Optical Zoom helps ensure outstanding optical performance and versatility.
- Built-in Wi-Fi® allows wireless transferring of images and video to compatible mobile devices*, select social networking sites and your Wi-Fi® enabled computer, and lets you remotely shoot using your smartphone or tablet.
- For easier Wi-Fi® connectivity, built-in NFC (Near Field Communication) allows quick and simple pairing to a compatible Android™ device.
- Creative Shot mode uses composition, color and lighting from your original image to create unique images with an artistic flair.
- 16.0 Megapixel High-Sensitivity CMOS sensor combined with the DIGIC 4+ Image Processor creates the Canon HS SYSTEM, which helps provide excellent low-light performance.
- Capture stunning 1080p Full HD video with a dedicated movie button.
The convenient Mobile Device Connect Button allows you to connect to your compatible Android™ or iOS® device* for quick and easy sharing.
- Hybrid Auto records quick video clips before each still and compiles them together to make a short highlight reel.
Smart AUTO intelligently selects the proper camera settings based on 32 predefined shooting situations.
While there just announced a Digic 6-based camera (i.e. announced after CES 2014, just in the last week), it doesn’t look like it would ship until mid-April.
We will first feature introductions to them here in early posts.
We are also following up with additional vendors, whose products were also of interest to us. If a product doesn’t quit match the mobile profile of technotraveler.com, it will be featured on our sister site, rexonline.us. We are hoping that the Polaroid 50″ 4K TV will be a featured review.