Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Sleep Tech - Using technology to improve sleep

Sleep is always a big topic. We all know we need it, but we often don't get enough of it. We always see time and time again that top performers get a lot of sleep whether it's in athletics or in life. I will show you some of the things I use to get more sleep.

Let's start with our phones. I am currently using the iPhone 7 Plus so it features some built-in sleep enhancing tools. First, it offers a bedtime feature which will let you know what time you need to get to bed (and remind you) to get a user selected amount of sleep. I like a good amount of sleep, so I chose 9 hours. This also encourages you to get up at the same time each day which can improve the quality of your sleep. I have found this to be a very useful feature and have been using it on weeknights for a long time. The next feature it offers is night shift.  This gives your phone warmer colors for a couple hours before bedtime, because white light is supposed to make you less sleepy. There is still no proof that this works, but it's a nice feature and I feel like the warm colors are easier on my eyes.

As far as tracking your sleep goes there are a number of options. One great option is just using the built-in tracking feature that tells you how long you slept when using the bedtime feature. Other better options include the Under Armour Band or the Fitbit Sleep Band + a FitBit. These are great options, but you have to wear them and they are quite expensive. They do let you track your sleep quality which can be very useful when trying to adjust your sleep. If you don't like wearing a wristband the Beddit3 sleep tracker could be a great option although they are frequently sold out lately. The Beddit3 is simply a pad that you place under your sheet and can track the quality of your sleep as well as the temperature of your room. It is one of the more expensive choices though.

The next important thing is the climate of your bedroom. I use a weather station to track the climate in my room and if its dry I use a humidifier. I also keep an air purifier going at night which drowns out noise while keeping the air clean. Temperature is a much harder thing to control since most of us are bound by our central air system and it can be impractical to get an air conditioner for a bedroom. Although if you have an Ecobee3 it can help to place a sensor in your bedroom, but I am not sure what kind of an impact that would have on your heating and cooling bills.

Check out my post on my TV.

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Monday, April 24, 2017

You no longer have to spend a fortune to get a robotic vacuum Pure Clean

Update: This is more of a floor sweeper than a vacuum. If you want something that has good suction and cleans multiple surfaces well I would recommend the iRobot Roomba 690

If you think you have to spend $300 dollars on a robotic vacuum this will come as quite a surprise to you. Not only can this clean floors it can even handle pet hair. Something the original Roomba couldn't even handle. It will clean for quite a while up to 90 minutes on a charge. This will keep your home very clean with minimal effort. It works great on hard floors too and will keep you from needing to drag out your broom and dustpan.

The only problem this unit does have is that it can get caught on rugs and doesn't work on high pile carpeting. It may also get caught on different things around the home so you may find yourself robot proofing, but that can be a problem with any unit. It also lacks the ability to program so that it stays away from specific areas and you have to manually start it up. At this price, it really is a steal and I am surprised it works as well as it does.

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Saturday, April 22, 2017

How far can you automate your home with $1000 dollars?




I have alway loved the idea of home automation, and there has been a lot of progress recently. Shows like Eureka make you want it even more. If you haven't seen that show, you need to start it right now. Basically, the idea of having a home that you can talk to and has a personality as well as being able to control every aspect of your home is amazing. It is interesting though that many people don't even like talking to Siri yet alone their home due to the lack of privacy and awkward feelings. Although that is another story.

So where to start. First off you won't be able to have everything for $1000 dollars. This type of budget virtually eliminates the possibility of most smart appliances, but what it does allow is a few nice features around the home.

Let's start with lighting. First, you will need a starter kit. The Philips Hue starter kit is one of the best, they have been around for a while now and are currently in their third generation. If you want to have a real smart home feel you will need color which also adds a lot to the price. At the time of writing this $199.97 and you will need more than the 3 bulbs included with the kit. At about $50 dollars for each additional bulb, your budget won't go far with all colored bulbs so you may want a few white bulbs at $30 dollars a piece to fill in. My 2 bedroom home needs 3 colored bulbs for the living room and about 2 bulbs for each bedroom plus 1 white bulb for the hallway and 1 for the entry way. Just for lighting, we are up to about $460.00.
Next, let's talk about the thermostat. One of the best thermostats around is the Ecobee3 the kit that comes with 3 sensors which are perfect for my home and can monitor temperatures in all of the important rooms. The kit is expensive at about $277 dollars. It will monitor whether a room is occupied and keep the heat/ cooling on longer or shorter in order to better control the temperature in occupied rooms.




A nice option to control your smart enabled devices is the Echo Dot about 3 will cover a home quite nicely all for about $130. This gives you the ability to control lighting and temperature settings with your voice as well as the many apps it natively works with. You can do anything from asking it to play music, what the weather is or even order pizza.




Finally, you will need a smart lock for your door. One of the best options right now is the Schlage Connect. This offers passcode entry as well as the ability to connect up with Alexia giving you the ability to lock and unlock your home anywhere. No longer do you need to worry if you locked the door. This product comes in at $150 it's expensive but its one of the best smart lock products around.



So how did we do?

$460 for lighting
$277 for the thermostat
$130 for the Echo Dot
$150 for the smart lock

For a total of about $1017. Now if we had a slightly larger budget we could do a lot more such as replacing appliances and improving heating and cooling systems, but this could give anyone a great start in automating their home. I will continue to post more on cool home automation innovations as they come along since innovations seem to be coming almost daily in this area.



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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Choosing the best antivirus software


These days it's easy to feel like the built-in antivirus tools on you PC are enough to protect you, but it's still best to have a paid version running. My current favorite program for PCs is Norton. I find that it's much cheaper if you buy it on Amazon rather than going directly to Norton. I also found that even if you're a current subscriber, you can still extend you membership by buying it from Amazon so you never have to pay full price.

My old favorite antivirus program was Trend Micro which is still great, but no longer my favorite. They still do offer great protection and features, but I would no longer buy the product. They do offer an excellent free virus scan which can be a wonderful second check if you think you have a virus that Norton didn't catch.

Another company I've used for many years was McCafe. I figured they were great, but one of my family members got a serious virus while it was supposed to be protecting them. They even ended up having to use free spyware and virus tools to remove them. It crazy that a free program will detect viruses that a paid program will let slip right by. They really need to step up their game.

Now back to why I like Norton first it seems to have the least impact on computer performance. Not only that it also has some built-in tools to keep your computer running quickly. Like all of them, it tells you when you need to scan your computer and is very good at identifying threats. It frequently comes out on top for detecting new viruses. I have a high level of trust that it will be able to detect and block viruses and also that it will be able to remove tracking cookies and other threats during scans.

For mobile devices, I don't use the included protection from Norton. Instead, I use the app Look Out which is free to use. It can detect a variety of threats and will also notify you when your device needs to update. It will also back up your contacts which is a nice feature in case you need to reset your device.

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Today's Great Tech Deals

Here are some of today's best tech deals. Check them out and check back often for new products.


Monday, April 10, 2017

Tired of your cords peeling and how I know I will always have juice for my phone


This is the last time I will have a cord that does this.

If you are sick of the rubber on your lightning cords peeling away you need to try these cords. I have gotten sick of replacing lightning cables for my iPhone so I decided to try Rhino Lightning Cables and was very impressed. I have been using them for about 4 months now and love the high quality feel and have had no signs of wear yet. I opted for the long 2 meter cords to have extra length in my bedroom and living room, but am planning on buying a 1 meter cord for my car. For other phone users they also make a Rhino Micro-USB cord.

On the topic of keeping your phone charged I like to have a power pack on hand. Personally I use PNY AD10400 10400mAh 1A/2.4A PowerPack-Portable Rechargeable Battery Charger, Silver (P-B-10400-24-S03-RB) which is great and high capacity. It will even charge the new Macbook and other laptops that support USB charging if you have the right adapter. I love the peace of mind in having a good day or two of power for both my phone and tablet even if the power goes out. Its also great if you have long commutes on public transportation, since you can just throw it in your back pack and charge it up overnight or while your at work.



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Saturday, April 8, 2017

Review of Mixcder ShareMe Headphones


If you are looking for great over-ear Headphones at a moderate price look no further. The build quality is great and the audio is better than you would expect at this price. They are well balanced, not too bassy, but give just enough. They have nice controls I like having the volume buttons built in and even have a built-in microphone. The battery life is unbelievable, they truly last 30 plus hours and then charge up quite quickly.

One of the best features these headphones have is that they allow you to plug in a second pair of headphones into the 3.5 mm jack. This allows you to share the connection with someone else or even use them as a Bluetooth dongle if you don't feel like having over ear headphones on, like say your lying in bed. Sometimes I plug in my in-ear earphones just so I can have only one ear in at a time. You can also use the ShareMe feature to connect multiple pairs wirelessly which can be very nice if multiple people want to listen to something late at night.

The only thing I don't like about these is that it feels like your holding down the power button for a very long time before the device comes on. Also, some of the buttons aren't quite as responsive as I would like. Sometimes I end up going too far when adjusting the volume because I pressed the button too many times before I could hear a change. The microphone is also a little lacking it works if you need to use it for a quick call, but it's not something you should be purchasing these for.

Overall these are great headphones that I would recommend to anyone looking for a great pair of headphones. They have features that you won't even find in many $300 pairs. If these are your first wireless headphones you will truly appreciate the freedom of being detached from your devices.

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Friday, April 7, 2017

Product Review: Samsung UN40KU6300 40-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV

The Samsung UN40KU6300 40-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV (2016 Model) is one of the best TVs I've seen. It offers great picture quality at a fraction of the cost of many TVs. The Smart TV apps are about as expected and it also works great as an extra large monitor when I hook it up to my computer.

One of the best features it has is built in Bluetooth. It's not perfect since the TV doesn't allow you to change the volume, but it has been a life saver since my TV is in the bedroom and I often want to be able to listen without bothering anyone. This may not be necessary for everyone if they watch most of their tv through a laptop or they use an Amazon Fire TV | Streaming Media Player. Since they have built in Bluetooth.

The only think I don't really like about this tv is that you still need a box like Amazon Fire TV | Streaming Media Player or an Apple TV to get apps like Watch Disney Channel and Nick. You also can't directly mirror your phone without some additional box.

Overall this is a great TV and I would recommend it to anyone look to get a premium TV for a moderate price. I also like the ease of use and quick set up. If you need a good cheap pair of headphones I use Mixcder ShareMe headphones. They work great for the price and will probably give a review of them later.

Be sure to pick up an HDMI cord which you will need if you want to hook up your laptop. The one I use is the AmazonBasics High-Speed HDMI Cable - 10 Feet (Latest Standard). This one is cheap and works great. There is no point in spending a ton on an HDMI cord except for in a few circumstances.

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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Trade in your old phone and get what you want

If you're looking to update your phone to the latest phone or just have an old phone lying around. Amazon has a great trade-in program that I have used a couple of times now. I love the fact that it leaves you trouble free after you send them your item and who couldn't find something they need on Amazon. So if anyone has an old phone or tablet laying around now is your chance to get some money out of it.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

An Appreciated Update to Apple Carplay

I have a long commute and enjoy using Apple Carplay. I love the ease of use and the ability to call people safely and message hands-free. There are a couple recent of updates to Carplay in IOS 10.3.1. First, I am happy to see they improved music playback when using google maps. It's not quite as offensive as it was when speaking directions, although I am not sure that it wasn't just me. Pandora also didn't glitch out the first time I used it although that will require further testing. It would often be slow and not smooth when starting in the past. Unfortunately, podcasts still pause when maps is speaking directions, but at least they don't seem to crash as much. The most notable thing they added was an easier way to switch between recent apps. As you can see in the upper left, they added three buttons which will take you to recently used apps. It used to be that only maps would show up in that corner so if you went from Pandora to Maps you couldn't just jump back to Pandora that same way, but now you can. These may be minor updates, but since they get rid a few of the negatives I had with Carplay, they are welcomed.

 


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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

My First Post on fivesecondtech


I am a huge fan of technology and thought I would just share things that I find that are interesting. I will start with a little bit about me. I have loved tech my whole life, as soon as I could crawl I was already trying to get on the computer. My parents said they used to have to put barricades up to keep me away from it and I would still manage to get on it. Now flash forward twenty-some years, and I still have a great love for tech. I love learning about the latest and greatest products from the tech companies big and small. I especially love smartphones. I love the fact that you can carry a relatively powerful computer in your pocket and the incredible innovations that have allowed them to become more and more practical.

Apple CarPlay still has a few problems I wish they would fix

I am a big fan of Apple CarPlay ever since I purchased a compatible car. I love hands free calls and texts and being able to ask Siri if ...

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