Archives For Gadgets

Catching up with Simple.TV

Adam Miarka —  August 29, 2014 — 5 Comments

simpletv-home

Although our initial impressions of the dual tuner Simple.TV was less than stellar, the company has been hard at work not only updating the little cord cutting, place shifting black box, but also launching new features. Recently, I had the chance to talk to Simple.TV CEO Mark Ely to discuss some of these changes.

First, from a software perspective, Simple.TV will be moving away from Silverlight as the default player outside of Safari on Mac. Currently, if you’re using IE, Chrome, or Firefox on a Windows computer, you are required to install Silverlight for video playback of your shows or live TV. Chromebooks are not supported at the moment. A move away from Silverlight and to a more compliant HTML5 video player will allow Simple.TV to expand their device playback on Windows, but also for Chromebooks. Continue Reading…

wink-relay-controller

While Home Depot’s sell date may be 9/1, wireless Wink LED bulbs have started popping up on store shelves. And, along with them, is some very interesting box art… including the yet-to-be announced Wink Relay Controller. By way of Amazon and a Google cache, we learn the incoming device features:

  • 4.3″ multi-touch screen allows access to all your smart products via the Wink app
  • 2x smart light switches can be customized to turn lights, scenes, or other smart products on/off
  • Temperature, humidity, and proximity sensors put even more data at your fingertips
  • Microphone and speaker for intercom functionality (coming soon)
  • Replaces most single or double light switches

Continue Reading…

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