Archives For Gadgets

Samsung acquires SmartThings for a reported $200M

4SeTV

Because one video stream is never enough, a start-up company called 4SeTV is planning to introduce a $99 retail box that lets users display up to four TV channels at once on one screen. The company is launching a Kickstarter campaign for the device on August 19th, but it’s also making the rounds with cable operators to see if there’s any interest in tying the hardware to a subscription service. Calling its product “the industry’s first personalized mosaic mode device,” 4SeTV says its technology works with both cable stations and over-the-air broadcasts.

The hardware part of the 4SeTV product is a small box that connects to your home router and an HDTV antenna. (Presumably the box can also be connected to a cable set-top.) You control the video interface through a mobile app, and then have the option to cast it to a networked television set. The company says the software will work with Internet-connected TVs, but also with the Google Chromecast.

I can think of very few occasions where I’d want to watch four different channels at once. But pick your favorite sports season and maybe there are enough times when multiple games are on to make mosaic mode worthwhile. For more info, check out the 4SeTV demo video. Continue Reading…

How To Update Toyota Entune

Dave Zatz —  August 7, 2014 — 8 Comments

entune-update4

Coming upon the two-year mark of Prius ownership, I began searching for updates to Toyota Entune – the automaker’s app platform. Originally designed to be a revenue generating service, Toyota took it fee-free in 2013. It seems a number of usability quirks and connectivity issues have been improved since taking possession of my Prius. Unfortunately, my local dealer is either uninformed or doesn’t take action unless prompted, as our Entune system was never updated during numerous routine servicings. And, it turns out, my car may have been three revs behind.

Fortunately, the community has stepped up and documented a DIY manual upgrade. Of course, your mileage may vary and you risk breaking something by going down this path. But I was willing to roll the dice with the procedure, versus visiting my local Toyota service center given their apparent unfamiliarity with Entune and now that my two years are up as I’d be paying out-of-pocket for maintenance. Also, keep in mind, this platform update won’t refresh your maps. Lastly, you don’t have to be on 3.1 or even 2.1 to upgrade to the current 3.2 (which is several months old), as the updates are cumulative.

  1. Format a USB thumb drive using FAT32 and label it 14A
  2. Download and copy these files to the USB drive
  3. Insert the drive into your car’s USB port and turn the engine on
  4. Follow on-screen prompts to install update

The process is super simple and relatively quick. Sadly, my wife still can’t browse our uploaded contacts from the passenger seat while I’m driving and Android devices provided greater Entune capabilities than iPhone – primarily related to Apple restrictions, versus Toyota shortcomings.

Some items corrected via the ~300MB 3.1/3.2 updates:

  • Call volume through speakers is very loud upon first-time phone pairing
  • iPod® and iPhone® autoplays when connected via USB
  • Bluetooth® (BT) devices (in Bluetooth audio mode) autoplays when connected to the system
  • Roads flash on and off in certain zoom levels (when Entune is in use)
  • Discolored bands appear across the screen (when Entune is in use)
  • Map area on the screen is black and only buttons are visible (when Entune is in use)
  • Navigation freezes (when Entune is in use)
  • When Bluetooth is the last audio mode selected in previous ignition cycle, audio source switches back to Bluetooth when another source is selected immediately after the engine starts

2014-07-23 21.07.17

Back in 2013, Kwikset released Kevo ($219), a deadbolt created by Unikey that let users lock and unlock their doors with just their phone. This process utilizes Bluetooth Low Energy (BTLE 4.0) to determine the location of your phone or a keyfob and whether or not it’s inside or outside the door. So far, the release of Kevo has only been compatible with the iPhone 4s and later because of the BTLE requirement. But according to their support page, Android development is currently underway.

Now connected door locks have been around for a while in one form or another, but Kevo was the first to incorporate Bluetooth into a standard looking door lock. There have been others such as Lockitron and Jawbone’s August, but these are still not fully released. I had originally backed Lockitron, but after waiting a year and a half for the thing to ship, I cancelled my order. The August lock is set to ship later this year.

As for Kevo, they have just released a substantial update. These new features include:

  • New Guest and Scheduled eKeys
  • Faster Lock / Unlock Speeds
  • Improved User Interface

Let’s take a look at the Kevo itself, then go into each feature listed above. Continue Reading…

Goodnight Oyster, Amazon Preps “Kindle Unlimited” Subscription

staples-connect

If you’re just easing into home control and automation like me, Staples Connect is worth a look — moreso as the Linksys hub will shortly drop to a mere $50. With apps for most platforms, the hub communicates via 802.11b/g/n, Z-Wave, and Lutron wireless protocols. Along with the price reduction, broader retail distribution has been announced along with a second $80 D-Link hub $80 that will add Zigbee and Bluetooth LE communication. It seems pretty clear Bluetooth LE, aka Bluetooth Smart, will play a prominent role in this space (along with wearables), but its limited broadcast range may inhibit hub effectiveness and the existing model seems to do a fine job bridging most home automation silos. And we’re told the team is working through the process of Nest integration – which may be requisite these days. Continue Reading…

Jun 28