Happy 102nd Birthday, Beverly Cleary!

This picture was taken two years ago on Beverly Cleary’s 100th birthday. Who could have imagined that the beloved author would still be alive today? From Ramona and Henry, to Ralph S. Mouse and his motorcycle, to the older teens experiencing their first crush, Mrs. Cleary has instilled a love for reading in many of us for generations. Today, schools across the nation celebrated National D.E.A.R.(Drop Everything and Read Day) in honor of this great author.

Beverly Cleary may have struggled in her early years learning to read according to her website. She could sympathized with struggling readers, as she started out in the low level readers’ groups at school. In third grade, she was encouraged by the librarian to write books for children when she grew up. She wanted to write the books as she would later describe as,  “From my own experience and from the world around me.”

As a result, she has written books for kids such as:

Henry Huggins– her first book published in 1950

The popular Ramona collection- of which there are 8 books!

The Mouse and the Motorcycle

FIFTEEN

Dear Mr. Henshaw

and more!

She was even asked to write some books based on the show Leave it to Beaver, and she wrote three of them- Leave it to Beaver, Beaver and Wally, and Here’s Beaver!

Her books are cherished all over the world, and have been published in over 25 different languages. She has received many awards and honors over the years including three Newbery awards for Dear Mr. Henshaw in 1984, Ramona and Her Father in 1978 and Ramona Quimby, Age 8 in 1982. In 2008, the Fernwood Grammar School she once attended  was officially renamed Beverly Cleary School.

As a child, I couldn’t get enough of the Ramona series and the books about Henry and his dog, Ribsy. I also enjoyed Dear Mr. Henshaw as a teenager.  What was your favorite book? Let us know in the comments.

 

Home Security can be Yours With 2GIG Rely

We’ve done many a review on cameras which assist in monitoring your home, but this might be the first time we do a review of an actual security system. Today we’re covering the 2GIG Rely Home Security Kit by Nortek Security & Control .

I’m going to focus on the basic kit that we were sent, but according to your needs, you can build on it even more.

2GIG Rely Kit 1 Contents

The basic kit comes with the Rely Security Panel, 3 thin door/window contacts, a passive infrared motion detector, and a four button key ring remote.

Rely Kit 1 Specs

The security panel is 3 1/2 x 5 x 1 inches. You can either hang it on your wall, or it sits on a flat surface with the stand to set it up at a 45 degree angle. An AC adapter and mounting screws also come included.  The remote to arm and disarm is small enough to fit on your keyring at 2 x 1 inches, and comes with a lithium coin battery.

The three thin door/window contacts have a magnet dimension of 1.3 x .435 x .312 inches. The sensors are 2.59 x 1.03 x .49 in. They also include batteries. Each one takes two CR2032 batteries.

Finally, there is the motion detector sensor. It detects motion within a 30 ft. by 50 ft. range. It also has the battery (3 volt lithium) included. It’s dimensions are also pretty small at about 3 x 2.5 x 2 inches. It comes with a few different mounting options. It will be immune to sensing your pets up to 55 pounds. If you have bigger animals, you might need to talk with the monitoring station you use.

Rely Kit 1 Setup

Once plugged in, you will need to download the 2GIG Rely app available for both Android and iOS. You’ll most likely be buying your kit through a dealer, and they will be able to tell you all you need to know to get it set-up. We did not actually do the set-up, as this system requires a monitoring service through Securenet or Aventguard. Again, your dealer will tell you all you need to know about setting that up. Here’s a video that explains how to set it up with your app, though.

2GIG Rely is Expandable!

We just received the basic kit, but you can buy more sensors, a wireless smoke/heat/freeze detector, a wireless glass break detector, window sensors, a wireless carbon monoxide detector, etc. This system really is versatile to work with your home security needs.

Here’s a video that shows what 2GIG can do for you:

 

If this product meets the need of your household, you can find a dealer near you on the 2GIG website. We haven’t been able to find the price of our basic kit, but found one with some of the extras on Amazon for $267.33.

We were sent this model to review, but not to keep, and no other compensation has been offered to us for our fair and unbiased analysis.

LifeProof SLAM for Samsung Galaxy S9

LifeProof has sent us phone cases to review in the past- the last one being the FRĒ for Samsung Galaxy S8. This time, we will be giving you our analysis of LifeProof’s SLAM case for the S9 (also available for the S9+). This case is designed primarily to protect your phone from drops.

photo credit: LifeProof
The case boasts the MIL STD rating 810G-516.6, and survives drops from 2 meters. It is not waterproof, like the FRĒ, but it is cheaper in price, and the S9 phones already have the IP68 waterproof rating, so you have coverage there.

Putting the case on is not too tricky. There is a plastic key included to snap apart the shell so you can put your phone in, and once you place your phone in the front part, the back will snap on with a bit of pressure on your part.

SLAM Design

The clear cover on the back allows the S9 owner to see their phone. There are added colors around the side bumpers, though. You can choose from Nightflash (green/black), Aloha Sunset (pink/blue), and Lava Chaser (gray/orange).  While the side wraps around the front of the phone a bit, there is not a lot of protection that seems to be offered for the phone face, so a screen protector is recommended.

The buttons on the side are covered, and the buttons on the case may be a bit stiff at first. The port cutouts provide easy access unless you have a third party headphone jack that has a wider diameter than the one that comes with the S9. Otherwise, you can access your fingerprint scanner and all perfectly fine. The thinness of the case is important for those who don’t want bulk, and ease of wireless charging.

Purchasing the SLAM

This case is available for purchase on the LifeProof site for $49.99. They have excellent customer service and free shipping in the US.

We also like the companies Giving Back philosophy,  and how they work with kids to prepare them for the future.

This review was done without bias and fairly, and LifeProof did send us this case to review free of charge.

Patchworks Protection Options for Samsung Galaxy S9

We’ve reviewed cases and screen protectors from Patchworks before. This time we’ll be reviewing cases and screens made for the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus. The glass screen protector is the ITG Full Cover. The cases are from the Level ITG series and the Monogrip.

First off, we’ll cover the glass screen protector. This protector has beveled edges that wrap around the screen nicely to fit the curved sides of the S9 Plus. Patchworks uses a unique heat bending technique to bend the edges- as opposed to other glass screen protectors that shave the glass to fit. This technique is said to improve the durability of the glass.

The screen protector boasts a hardness of 9H- which I have found does not equate to the Mohs hardness scale, but rather something like a pencil hardness test. We have not tested out the glass by trying to scratch it, but it’s more than likely to be pretty tough. The most important part is that it protects the screen underneath. The Patchwork page guarantees the scratch resistant part of it, so at worst, you could get a new screen protector out of it.

There is an oleophobic coating that will aid in preventing fingerprints and smudges. It is also very smooth and will give you a screen that responds beautifully to touch. On top of it all is an easy application, which makes the $24.95 suggested retail price a good deal. I saw a $15.95 pricetag on the WalMart website, though.

photo credit:Patchworks

Next up, we have the Level ITG series case. This one comes in black or red, and looks simple and basic, but it really does have what it takes to protect your phone- as proven in the Military grade drop standard 810G. The case wraps around the front and sits 1 mm above a glass screen protector to provide even more screen protection.

There are good sized cutouts for ports so everything is easily accessible, and the design around the flash will prevent the flash reflections.The buttons will be covered, but are tactile and easily-manipulated at the same time.

The dual layer TPU and polycarbonate case has air pockets to help cushion from any drops that might happen. It will be hard to drop the case with it’s textured grip on the side and anti-slip surface. As durable as the case is, it is very thin and works well with wireless charging. It retails for $24.95.

 

Last, but not least, we have the Monogrip case.

photo credit:Patchworks

This case is similar to the Level ITG in protection, accessibility, and many of the things we mentioned above. This one has a aluminum finish, but looks like a leather grain, and feels like it as well.

A triple layer of aluminum, TPU and polycarbonate give protection to the phone inside, and also has the ribs on the side to give the user something to grip.

 

The lifetime warranty protected case comes in black or taupe, and is also listed at $24.95. 

 

It’s hard to go wrong with any of these cases, and we appreciate Patchworks sending us these products for free in exchange for our fair and unbiased review.

FIXD: The Device That Can Save You in Car Repairs

A few years ago when TechnoMark and I were driving home from CES, our check engine light came on. We ignored it and continued to attempt to make it to our destination. Unfortunately, our van broke down on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. We got it towed to the nearest town, and would soon learn that the engine had blown. If we had FIXD back then, we might have saved our vehicle.

What is FIXD?

FIXD is a small device that plugs into your vehicle’s OBD 2 port, and combined with the free app for iOS and Android, you will have knowledge of what’s going on when your light comes on. This little gadget will save you a lot of money and headaches when it comes to vehicle repairs, and you can know if your maintenance guy is trying to fleece you.

How Will FIXD Help Me?

If you have a vehicle that is a 1996 model or newer, it is most likely to work for you. FIXD can scan for more than 7,000 problems that can be giving you a check engine light, and notify you exactly what is the problem. Sometimes a check engine light will come on for small things like a gas cap not screwed on all the way. If it’s something little like that, you can use the app to turn off the check engine light.

It can also turn off other lights that might come on your panel like TPMS, ABS, Airbag, and Maintenance and Stability Control. This feature will really come in handy for us when the tire pressure light comes on after we change our tires to snow tires. It definitely saves the hassle of having to drive to the shop and ask them to turn it off. It will also send notifications to remind you to take your car in for an oil change or maintenance.

Set Up

The app is simple to download. You do need to register to get it started, but it’s pretty painless. The app will show where to plug the sensor in for your particular vehicle if you don’t already know where the OBD 2 port is. Plug it in, pair it up with the app, and you’re ready to go! The sensor runs off the power of your car, so you don’t need to charge it or anything. If you have multiple sensors, you can put them in your other cars and assign them all in the one single app.

How to Buy FIXD

A single FIXD sensor sells for $59 plus shipping and handling on their website. But those who want them for multiple cars can get a special deal- $88 for two, plus free US shipping and handling. If you want three, you can get them for $118 plus free US shipping and handling. They pretty much pay for themselves, since many automotive places will charge to hook your vehicle up to their computer to figure out what’s wrong. There’s also a 30 day money back guarantee, so you really can’t go wrong. We give this product a thumbs up, and look forward to have better protection and knowledge about potential car problems.

Thanks to FIXD for sending us this device for free in exchange for our fair and unbiased review.

Review of IONA Dock for iPhone and iPad by Landing Zone

Finally, to wrap up our Landing Zone review series, we will conclude with the IONA dock for the iPhone and iPad.

The IONA is a great dock for those who are looking for something to hold an iPad or iPhone in order to FaceTime, watch movies, listen to music, read recipes, or do a variety of activities without having to hold your device.

Size and Aesthetics

The aluminum base is 4.5 inches in diameter. The dock stands at 6.5 inches tall and is a white, plastic material. It weighs in at 1 lb. Most of the weight is in the sturdy base which has a rubberized bottom to accommodate a solid hold. The base also rotates 120 degrees, so you can easily adjust to your viewing preference. The backing that your device rests on is an aluminum material like the round base.

Compatible Devices and Cases

Included in the box are different bumpers to make many different iPhones and iPads compatible. You can use it with iPhones 5 and 5s, and all the way up to 6s and 6s Plus. Do you have an iPad mini? The iPad minis 2 through 4 will work as well. The iPad Air and the Air 2 can also fit.

Most cases will fit on the dock. Thicker cases like Otterboxes and those with battery cases will not work. If you don’t have a case, there is a bumper to use. You’ll see this in the next video I post in…

Set Up

The IONA is relatively easy to use. Here’s a great video that can show you how easy it is to set up.

Other Cool Features

As you may have seen in the video, you can charge your device while it is docked. It didn’t use to come with a Lightning Cable, but the company decided to start including one that is 4.5 feet long, and it is an official Apple cord. You can also use the one that came with your phone.

There is a slot that makes the audio input port accessible, so you can plug in headphones or a speaker while your device is docked as seen here:

The designer, Mike Nuttall, made sure to make the dock stand at a perfect height and angle to match with other screens like the MacBook computer and Thunderbolt monitor shown here:

All in all, a great little docking station that sells for a very reasonable price of $19 on the Landing Zone website.

This concludes the series of Landing Zone products we were sent to review, and I’ll throw in the disclaimer that we have not received any compensation from this company, and this is my fair and unbiased analysis of the product. I’ll also include the photo credit to Landing Zone for all pictures used in these reviews.

Landing Zone USB Type-C Hub for the new MacBook Pro Review

For our 2nd Landing Zone review, we will be covering the USB Type-C Hub for the MacBook Pro. If you don’t need all the extra ports that the Thunderbolt 3 provides, read on to find out how this device could be useful for you.

 

This hub is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand (4 1/2 x 2 inches and about 1/4 inch high), but gives you several different ports to plug in all your devices, therefore eliminating the need for a bunch of dongles. Using the hub is as easy as plugging it into the ports on the side of the MacBook Pro. Similarly easy to unplug and slide in a pocket while carrying the MacBook. You could leave it plugged in, but it might not fit in your carrying case.

Featured:

  • 2 USB Type C ports, which will support 5K video output, 40 gigs of data transfer, and up to 100 W power
  • A port for HDMI cables- up to 4K capacity
  • A USB Type C 3.1 Gen 1 port with a transfer rate of 5 Gb/s
  • 2 USB 3.1  Type-A ports- again with 5 gigs of data transfer rate
  • and a SD card slot that supports up to 104 Mb/s data transfer rate

Landing Zone has thoughtfully included a Micro SD to SD card adapter.  There are rubber feet on the bottom of the all-metal casing- providing for stability and a decent quality.

If you have a 13-inch or 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar released in 2016 and 2017, or the 2016/2017 13-inch MacBook Pro without the Touch Bar, we think this product will be a good deal for those looking for some ports to plug things into.

You can buy it on their website for $99, and get a discount if you qualify under their student/educator deal.

We thank Landing Zone for providing a free review model in exchange for our fair and unbiased evaluation.

Landing Zone Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station for 15 inch MacBook Pro Review

Landing Zone is a Silicon Valley company that is dedicated to make docking stations designed for Apple users. They were generous enough to send us three products, which we’ll cover in three separate articles today. In this review, we’re going to look at another Thunderbolt 3 product- a Docking Station For 15.4″ MacBook Pro with Touch Bar.

This isn’t the first time we’ve reviewed a Thunderbolt 3 product. The last review of one was by Promise Technology- just last week. Landing Zone’s docking station has quite a different look and set up, but many of the same features. This Thunderbolt 3 actually fits the MacBook Pro on it which gives you a bit of an angle on your keyboard, but it has some good ergonomics.

There are several different ports to use:

  • 3 USB 3.1 Type-C Ports
  • 1 USB Type C Passthrough Port
  • 3 USB 3.1 Type A Ports (one with high speed charging)
  • an HDMI port
  • a Mini DisplayPort or HDMI Port (depending on how you want to use it)
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • SD card slot
  • Micro SD card slot
  • a 2 way audio jack
  • a slot for a Kensington Security key to lock up your MacBook Pro
  • and, of course a port for the power cord (a 96 W adapter is included)

Your MacBook Pro could be working for you like this one:

Note, while the docking station looks very metallic, it is actually made of a plastic material, which makes it lightweight, but it still feels sturdy and of reputable quality. It is easy to set up and use right away.

The cost of this device is $299, but if you are a student, you could qualify for a discount by purchasing it on the Landing Zone website.

Thanks again to Landing Zone for sending us a free model in exchange for our fair and unbiased review.

Creative Labs’ Outlier Sports and Aurvana Trio Earbuds Review

Recently, Creative Labs has sent us some great products to review including a bluetooth speaker, a gaming mouse, and a gaming keyboard. Today we will have another chance to review some CL products. Two different kinds of earphones/earbuds- some wireless ones for the gym, Outlier Sports, and some high end in-ears called Aurvana Trio.

Outlier Sports

 

photo credit:Creative

The Outlier Sports are a nice pair of lightweight, wireless earphones- perfect for workouts. They come in three colors- Fiery Orange, Midnight Blue and Neon Green. With a IPX4, they are sweatproof, but you can’t really take a shower with them, or submerge them in water.

 They have an in-line mic with controls that are easy to find because of their relief texture. The port for the USB to micro USB cable to charge the earbuds is right there on the side. The mic is great for picking up the user’s voice on phone calls.

Speaking of charging, once charged, the Outlier Sports last on a battery of 11 hours, which could give you several good workouts between charges. And connectivity? The Bluetooth reaches about 20 feet before cutting out.

What’s included?

You get a couple of different sizes of wingtips to make for a good hold in the ear. Three different sizes of silicone tips will give you the option to customize to your liking. Once in the ears, these silicone tips are great at blocking out everything around you. There’s a nice carrying case (also water resistant) to carry everything conveniently. You also will find a small charging cord that will need to be plugged into a USB port to charge. It does not come with a wall adapter.  A convenient clip to hold the earbuds to your clothing is also included.

They’re not high-end in sound, but good enough quality for this price range. These sports earbuds are sold for $69.99, a decent price for the quality that you receive.

Aurvana Trio

Moving from wireless to wired, the Aurvana Trio is so named because of the triple driver included in these in-ear pieces.  There is a balanced armature super tweeter, a balanced armature mid-range, and a bio-cellulose woofer. I suppose “Aurvana” is a play on Nirvana for the aural crowd.

The Aurvana Trio also comes with a carrying case, and some interchangeable tips to customize the best fit. The MMCX cable is detachable in case the cable frays and needs replacing.

 

A very basic in-line remote allows you to pick up calls as well. All you can do with this remote is answer, pick-up, and play or pause your music. Not as detailed as I would expect on the higher end in-ears, but it gets the job done. The listening experience is what makes the $149 price tag worth it.

Thanks to Creative Labs for sending us these quality in-ear headphones for us to review free of charge in exchange for a fair and unbiased analysis.

Our Review of the JBL Link 300 Voice Activated Speaker

We’re reviewing another product from JBL. This product doesn’t have cool flashing lights, but it can stand on its own features. This is the JBL Link 300, which is a voice activated speaker similar to Google Home products.

What Does it Do?

This is an alternative to Google Home Max- comparative in size, but without the large price tag. It pairs with Google Assistant to answer all your “Ok Google” questions. It has Chromecast built in, so you can stream music and you can also pair it with your phone with Bluetooth to stream music from your phone as well. It has nice sound that you would expect a JBL speaker of this size to have.

What it Doesn’t Do

It doesn’t do hands-free calling like Google Home products do. I can’t ask Google to dial friends and family. It’s not portable, either. It stays plugged in on your desk or coffee table- much like Amazon Echo and Google Home products. There is a smaller JBL Link 10 that is waterproof, rugged and portable, but we’ll do a review of that another time if JBL sends us one to review.

Design

There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles to this speaker. The dimensions are 9.3 x 5.4 x 6.0 inches. Weight is about three and a half pounds. The black matte plastic casing covers the top and bottom, and the cloth speaker covering surrounds front and back with the exception of the bass subwoofer that can really get thumpin’! The buttons on the top are the basic ones you would find on a JBL speaker. The one in the middle is the Google Home Assistant button in case you would rather tap it than talk to it.

There are two mics on top that can pick up your voice from far away. If you have music going, you might have to yell to make sure your voice is picked up, but otherwise, it’s pretty powerful.

Cost

So what it all comes down to is cost. Currently, the JBL Link 300 is $199– down from $249.95. That’s a pretty great value if you are looking to save money compared to the $400 Google Home Max.

Disclaimer- This was another free review product sent to us courtesy of JBL. No compensation was given to us for this fair and unbiased review.