CoalPower Cobalt, Carbon, and Power Fast Wall Charger

We had a great chance to review some great Coal Power products right after CES, and when I was able to obtain the great battery known as the Louie.

The Coal Power Cobalt

Now, I had a chance to review the Cobalt, and it is very similar to the Louie.

We are looking at 8,000 mAh with about 2 ports: 1) Type-C and 2) USB 3.0 (5v 3. A). It also comes with Tri-Force cable with micro, lightning, and USB-C to USB.

You can get the Cobalt with its lovely blue color and cool sexy pattern for about $45 on the Coal Power site.

The Coal Power Carbon

So now I’m going to move on to the Carbon. This version that I got to try was the 12,000 mAh version. In addition to the power increase, the color change makes it hard to see the sexy pattern I talked about before.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that this has three different ports: 1) Type-C and 2) USB 3.0 (5v 3 A) and 3) USB (5v 2.1 A). So that means that you can charge two different devices, and I will say that this battery, which fits in a breast pocket, has a lot of juice, no matter which version you have.

You can purchase it for $55 on the Coal Power site.

Coal Power Fast Wall Charger

I am using a small name for this particular product, but I believe that the full name is: “48 Watt Dual port wall charge with QC 3.0 for Android or Apple”. At some point, you have to abbreviate.

Needless to say, it has QC 3.0 for what I am told is a very fast charge. Not only that, it comes with that Tri-Force cord that I talked about in my aforementioned CoalPower reviews.

This particular device is available on the Coal Power site for $55.

One last thing before I close this review. The Coal Power products will be available exclusively on Amazon. So those links I just gave could be…misleading.

Our Review of The Spectrum Retreat video game

The Spectrum Retreat is a first-person perspective game that uses a lot of puzzle-solving. I am told that the creator, Dan Smith, got a BAFTA Young Game Designers Award (YGD) when he was 18, and it is easy to believe. Assuming that this is Mr. Smith’s first effort, it is quite a good one.

I will have to say from the get-go that The Spectrum Retreat is an acquired taste. If I had to compare the game to anything, I would say Myst. Granted, it is not as picturesque as that adventure on the surreal island, but The Spectrum Retreat is thick with elements of surrealism.

To begin, the main character (you) wakes up in a hotel, and finds there is someone at the door. It turns out to be a robot, and the Pemrose hotel seems to have one type of model that you can see in the image. The robot greats you like he was a human bellhop, and tells you to go to breakfast.

Of course, you need to do what the game tells you. Now here is where I have to question the game. You see, since the game is in first person, I cannot tell what the person’s reaction should be within the context of the game. After all, if I were staying at a hotel, and was greeted at the doorway of my room by this automaton, I would freak the hell out. By the way, I like the minimalist look of these robots with their white shell of a skin and speaker for a mouth.

However, I don’t think that I am spoiling the game in revealing that you play a character who has amnesia. I have heard that this is a lazy video game storytelling convention, and done to death because it is easy to write a game in which the main character knows as much as the player about the game’s setting: nothing.

This is one of those games where you have some kind of voice with you to give you advice. It reminds me of The Journeyman’s Project 3 (another cool nineties game), but the voice isn’t funny. In fact, that voice is pretty serious, attempting to guide you through the hotel. In some cases, I believe that the voice gives you too much advice, as she reveals clues that are a little too much. I won’t spoil it like she does, but take my word for it, you will know what I’m talking about when you play the game.

Note that I didn’t say “if you play the game”. I would recommend this game if you like games of the nineties with their point-and-click functionality. Much of the images of game, including the one that I use, show the beautiful art-deco design of the Pemrose hotel. This is a big feature of the game, and of the hours that I have played so far, it appears the main character must go up the floors of the enigmatic hotel while solving puzzles in between.

It’s the puzzles that I really want to talk about. While the Pemrose hotel has a really cool art deco look to it, many of the puzzle levels have a sterile look to them. As the vocal assistant says, much of these puzzles involve changing your PDA/Smartphone/I don’t really know into something of the same color of a wall or a floor to walk through it. Again, this makes sense when (again emphasized) you play the game. You might be disappointed as the visual style of the puzzle areas is such a stark contrast to Pemrose.

Still, The Spectrum Retreat has a backstory that I’ve not finished discovering as yet, but I enjoy finding the clues for it. Again, you can draw similarities between Myst and even Bioshock. The one thing that this game has is that unnerving feeling. I mentioned in my review of The Station how games with no music create an eerie atmosphere, making the player jump with each unknown noise. The end result is nothing short of unsettling, and it works to the game’s advantage.

You can play The Spectrum Retreat on Steam, PS4, Xbox One, and the Nintendo Switch. Again, I’m going to emphasis that you really should do this.

Amber: Your Personal Hybrid Cloud Storage Platform

The era that we live in is strange. Remember back when we took photos on a camera? This was where all our pictures came from, complete with the inconvenience of development. Back then, most of us organized our pictures into an album, or, to a minimalist degree, a shoebox. Now, our pictures are completely out of the box, on smartphones, tablets, computers, and occasionally…a camera, assuming we even own one. So where does that leave us? A place where we have our pictures, videos, and other memory data…in every place. This is where Amber comes in.

What is Amber?

Amber is a way of automatically gathering photos, videos, music, and any other kinds of documents from household devices. It can do this automatically and store them all in one place, and that place is a digital fortress of solitude for our memories.

You can see in the photo below that there is some hardware involved. In the two photos that I have shown so far, there isn’t really a good feel for the size of this hard drive box. I have been told that the Amber box is over six inches in height, which might seem kind of large, but there is a lot of memory (1 or 2 TB) and a router inside. However, I think that what Amber does is worth a device three times its size.

I had a chance to talk with Dr. Pantas Sutardja, the founder, president, and CEO of Latticework, and creator of Amber, his company’s first product. Considering that the user can access their files from about everywhere thanks to a handy Android and iOS app, I asked if Amber was a “personal cloud”. He told me that he wanted to avoid the term “personal cloud”, but the Amber website calls it “Your Personal Hybrid Cloud Storage Platform”.

Copyright Universal Studios

When I asked why it was called “Amber”, his only response was that the name was bright sounding, and implied that this will preserve people’s memories in Amber. Hey, if it worked for dinosaur blood in Jurassic Park, why not? I’m sure Dr. Hammond would “spare no expense” to put his memories of his grand-kids in a digital file in Amber, along with his dinosaur DNA.

Amber Can Be Used From Anywhere

Okay, I probably extended that Dr. Hammond metaphor way too far. However, do I need to talk about the benefits of Amber? I mean, I’ve got a family, and we all have smart devices that are full of pics, videos and other files. It just makes sense to put in them a place that is secure and centralized. If Amber can do that, more power to it.

Best of all, if I want to show someone a video or photo that is on Amber, I can do it from anywhere that I get cellular phone service or Wi-Fi. All I need to do is open up that application, and I can access whatever photo, video, or any file that I want. Oh did I mention that Amber can hold pretty much any type of digital file? It can. I should also mention that Dr. Sutardja told me that Smart TVs should be compatible with Amber. Oh, and don’t worry about privacy, because you will have that too.

While I am the subject of things about Amber that I like, the slogan is the best: “it’s not just your data, it’s your life”. Now to something else that I need to address, this video:

Okay, I have to say that this video brings up a lot of good things, as it is great to have memories. Then the video gets kind of potentially dark as it appears that the father is not in some of them. Especially when it gets all black and white, he’s wearing a fireman’s uniform, and you hear some radio chatter. Then there is the little kid asking about his father not being in the video. All I could think about was how it gave me the serious “feels” more than a Pixar movie, because I thought the daddy was killed in the line of duty.

I had to admit, it was pretty serious, even, dare I say it, “hardcore”. Fortunately, the father was alive and well, and the mother could do a search for his pics with an image recognition software alone. I will admit that I like that, and makes up for the video’s serious…seriousness.

After all, we all have photos and memories that have the potential of getting lost in our daily routine, and if Amber can put them in a place where they are easily accessible from anywhere, than it has paid for itself. This would be a good time to discuss price.

The Price of Amber

According to the Amber website, the device itself (an appropriate black box) costs about $399.99 (early bird price) for the 1 TB model. An upgrade of another TB is about $250, and should be available in October 2018, just in time for the holidays. Oh, by the way, there are no subscription fees, and it is all private.

We at The Geek Church review a lot of devices during the holiday gift-giving season, and if you have a family in mind, this seems like a perfect gift that you might want to order before the holidays really kick into high gear.

The Geek Church is Changing!

(Warning: This post contains spoilers for the Disney movie Moana. Of course, the film is over a year old and ready to watch on Netflix, so if you haven’t seen it now, you probably never will.)

(Another Warning: This post contains a writer who is trying to make a meme out of something. It’s shameless, I know, but I like spreading good news.)

It’s been a while since I have posted, and that always means that I’m trying to figure stuff out when it comes to the site. For the past year or so, we have been doing our usual product reviews, but we want to really kick it up a notch. Several notches, indeed.

When I started this site about a decade ago, I wanted to create a site that brought the latest in tech to the Christian, church-going crowd. As my wife and I wrote about a year ago, we left the Christian church because we felt they had lost faith in what truly matters, accepting a culture readily available to them that does not embrace the biblical values they think it does.

I’m going to break this fourth wall of being writer more than I usually do in the majority of my reviews. The issue is that I embraced the conservative Christianity of the early nineties because I was sick of the negativity of the world. At the time, it was a great jump-start, but I see now that much of the Christianity has become part of the negativity, and this included myself.

Note I use that in the past-tense. About a year ago, I started a job in order rescue me from drowning in even more debt, even though it was a job I was reluctant to take. I’ll talk about that work in another post, but sometime I discovered the movie Moana.

This was a film that I didn’t want to see, and heard hardly anything about. (The fact that Frozen gets a whole lot of praise and no one talks about Moana is a horrendous crime, by the way.) I dismissed Moana as one of those films that I would see if I could watch it for free, and I found a way. I then found that once I started watching this film, I couldn’t stop watching it.

There was a good reason for this. In the film, Moana is about to become the new chieftain of her tribe, who live peacefully on some Polynesian island in some ancient time. Moana is constantly trying to see what is beyond the reef, but her parents know from experience that it is dangerous to go out too far into the ocean. Eventually, the plants and the fish in the village begin to die, and Moana can no longer accept the false safety of her island, and is forced to leave.

This leads to the typical hero’s journey adventure, and a big part of Moana’s realization of her identity is a symbolic stack of stones. In context of the film, this is how her island passes on their leadership, by placing a stone atop another.

The other day, while I was on the way to work, and I noticed some stacked rocks near the road. It is clearly not a natural formation, and I don’t know who took the time to create stacks of rocks like in Moana. Granted, they are not stacked as high as the one on Moana’s island, but I took advantage of it.

If you have seen the film, then you know that Moana doesn’t put a stone on the stack, but a shell. I remember when I first saw that, I thought: “Now no one can put their rock on that stack of leadership”. Then I realized that this is the point.

The truth is there are times when it is necessary to stop a tradition, and yet still honor it. Yes, putting a shell on top of the stack of rocks stops the tradition right there, but it is a necessary change. There comes a time where you need to embrace the danger, or neglect will take you over completely.

For me, I happened to have a seashell. I honestly don’t remember where I got it from. I think we picked it up at the beach years ago, and I believe my daughter was going to throw it away. Needless to say, I’m attempting to jump-start a meme with it:

Therefore, I’ve decided to dedicate this site to telling positive news. We are going to still do product reviews, but you are going to find a lot of commentary about just about everything. The point is, I’m going to really do a lot on this site, and it is going to lead to some massive growth.

All I can say now is stay tuned, or subscribe, and stuff.

Edifier S350DB Bookshelf Speakers

Okay, it’s been a while since I reviewed some stereo speakers, and I just finished hooking them up right now. Needless to say, I was pretty glad to hear the Hamilton soundtrack as it was connected to my phone.

The sound is very good, and the bass is shaking the floor. I believe that my dog is very afraid. That is about is good as I can say about any stereo speakers, honestly.

You can see that the design of the speakers is “old school”, and I am not going to dispute that. As someone who remembers having some seventies speakers, they do remind me of that with their wooden textures and black color scheme.

This is a 2.1 system, so you can take from that what you will. As far as the specs are concerned, we are looking at an 8-inch subwoofer with two bookshelf satellite speakers that in turn have titanium dome tweeters (3/4 inch in size).

The controls of the speakers are on the side, with treble, bass, and volume. When I first connected the speakers to my phone, I couldn’t get it to work, so then I had to push in the volume like a button. It was kind of weird.

While I am on the subject of controls, it does come with a remote. It allows for switching of inputs. I should probably let you know that this takes optical, coaxial, auxiliary, and even Bluetooth, if it is range. The remote is this circle-shaped thing that comes with its own battery.

I don’t know what else that I can say other than it is cool deal, and it is available for purchase on the Edifier site for about $299.99.

Jisoncase Microfiber Leather Standing Wallet Case for the iPhone X

So, you know that I like to do reviews of some awesome accessories, and I suppose cases for smartphones are the coolest. I have to admit that I never heard of the Jisoncase, but if their products look like this, then I am going to hear more about them.

This is a case made for the iPhone X with microfiber leather. I am told that this is hand-crafted, and it most certainly feels good on the hand.

This is one of those cases which can double as a wallet, and it has two pockets that are more than big enough to hold a wallet or credit card. In fact, they might be too big.

Like most reviews, I was given a review unit to try out. Now, this image looks like it can be used as a folio stand, but the one I had didn’t look like it could work in such a manner.

Don’t let that turn you off, because the Jisoncase is one great quality product on sale on the Jisoncase site for $18.98, marked down for $24.00. It comes in many different colors as well.

Our Review of the Audio-Technica Solid Bass Wireless Headphones ATH-WS990BT

Yes, it is time to review another Audio-Tehcnica product! This time, it is an awesome audio product with the ATH-WS990BT Solid Bass Bluetooth headphones!

So, what does this have? Let’s not bury the lead as it has 53 mm drivers, and not just any drivers, but Deep Motion Drivers. They have large, high-flux magnetic circuitry, made for low and high frequencies.

So yes, the sound is good. However, if you are worried about having too much sound and drowning out the world, you don’t have to. Yes, it has noise-cancelling as well as hear-through functionality, which means you can chose the level of blocking out reality. I have to admit, this was the first time I have seen this option on headphones, and it is worth bragging about.

As far as the rest of the features are concerned, let’s talk about the controls and microphone located conveniently on the left earcup. Other features are the 30 hours of continuous wireless use, which is good for 1,000 hours of standby.

It is available on the Audio-Technica website in any color, provided it’s black. Yeah, I think it was Henry Ford who said that about his automobile, but check this one out for about $249.00 if you want some very decent sound for your money.

Control Your Appliances Smartly with Sonoff S20 Smart Socket

Our fourteen year old son was the first in the family to really get into smart home products. He saved up his Christmas money to buy a Google Home Mini. Suddenly his room became the smartest room in our home. He has the ability to turn his lights off from his bunk bed, and set an alarm to wake him up in the morning. I’ve been a bit jealous of the convenience he enjoys. I was really happy to get this new Sonoff S20 Smart Socket to review.

 

 

photo credit: Sonoff

What’s in the Sonoff S20 Box?

The smart WiFi socket, which has an input voltage of 90-250V AC 50/60Hz. It has an output voltage of the same. The max load of this socket is 220V. You’ll need a 2.4GHz WiFi connection. A slip for a 2 year warranty accompanies it, as well as the quick start guide.

Our Experience with the Sonoff S20

Admittedly, it took me a while to get started with this product. First, you need to download the eWeLink app. The Sonoff company is a Chinese- based country, and the translation for instructions weren’t totally straight-forward.  I will say that the company was willing to give me some tech support through Skype, but I figured out a way to register on the app finally through my son’s phone. For some reason, it wasn’t accepting the e-mail addresses I entered on my phone as valid. It worked after I registered through another phone, though.

I’m pleased to say that after I registered on the eWeLink app, I was able to pair my socket with my WiFi. I plugged in my lamp to the socket, and with a tap on my phone, I’m able to click the light on and off. Success!

Now, the app says,”You can create scenes to turn on/off a gang of devices with one tap.” It adds, “Let your devices operate automatically, you can even get rid of your phone.” There’s also something about being able to “trigger on/off the devices by the data range from sensors or by the status changes from other device.”

So, needless to say, I’m still working on my ability to fully comprehend how this all works, but I think that the ability to not have to get up to turn the lamp on is totally worth the $12.86 that this socket costs on the website. You can also use the device with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Nest. Hopefully, I will soon get the total hang of this product, and use it to its full capability.

Thanks to Sonoff for sending us this product for free to review in exchange for our fair and unbiased opinion. No other compensation has been offered. Let us know what you would power with your Sonoff device in the comments below!

Review of Nomad Products for Your Phone

Nomad is a company that we’ve had quite a bit of experience with. It’s been almost a year since we’ve reviewed Nomad products. They are a company that builds for those “seeking adventure.” We have three different products that we’re reviewing for you today that are ruggedly made for the adventure seekers.

Nomad’s Clear Folio for Samsung S9

This clear protective case has a real, quality leather case crafted by Horween. The leather has the distinct aroma you would expect a leather product to have. The inside of the leather cover has slots to hold six cards, and one for cash. Who needs a wallet anymore, when you can hold it all with your phone? The clear, polycarbonate material has a slim design, and wraps around your phone to keep it well-protected. It has a 6 foot drop protection.

If you want to purchase this case, it’s $49.95 on the Nomad site.

The Nomad Wireless Stand

Need a stand to wirelessly charge your phone? This one can do it in two positions- standing up, or flat on a surface.It has a non-slip rubber base for added stability, and charges at a 7.5W.  The aluminum kickstand tucks right under the product when charging your device on a flat surface.

This product also has a leather surface, and can charge all iPhones and Android devices that have wireless charging capabilities.

We think that this is a quality product, and it can be purchased on the website for $59.95.

Nomad’s USB-C Cable

This high-quality cable that was sent to us is 3 feet long, and has several features that make it extra rugged. It’s flex-tested to meet military standards of 4K. The 100 W output will ensure rapid charging. The outer layer is 500D ultra-rugged nylon. There is a moisture barrier that is 2x thick to protect the 2x RF shield for fast sync, and the 4x Polyamide central core. A rugged person could go through a lot of charging cords, but this one should be extremely durable to last a long time. This sturdy cord is a good buy at $39.95

Nomad sent us these products for free to review in exchange for our fair and unbiased review. No other compensation has been given. Photo credits go to Nomad.

The Wacom Intuos Tablet for Digital Drawing and Painting

It’s actually been a couple of years since we’ve had the chance to review any Wacom products. We got the opportunity to review the Wacom Intuos recently, and with a budding artist in our house, we jumped at that chance.

This Intuos tablet from Wacom comes in two different sizes- small and medium, and has an option to buy with Bluetooth or without. We happened to receive the medium tablet with Bluetooth, but here are the specs for both sizes:

Wacom Intuos Specs

Small size is 7.87 x 6.3 x 0.35 inches with an active area of 6.0 x 3.7 inches and weighs 8.8 oz(with Bluetooth)

Medium size is 10.4 x 7.8 x 0.35 inches with an active area of 8.5 x 5.3 in. This one weighs in at 14.5 oz.

Buttons across the top of the tablet will allow for the creation of different shortcuts as well.

The pen that comes with the tablet is a 4k battery free pen. It’s wireless and pressure sensitive. Inside the pen, you will find an extra 3 standard nibs. It weighs a mere 0.4 oz. Two buttons on the side of the pen are programmable to add shortcuts at the tip of your finger. There are 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity, and you can use different styles of nibs to fill your own personalized needs.

You’ll also get a 4.9 ft PVC-free USB to micro USB cable with L-shape plug. This connects the tablet to your device when you do not have it in Bluetooth mode.

 

 

 

Use of the Wacom Intuos tablet

When you register your Wacom Intuos tablet, and create a Wacom ID, you’ll have the ability to download three different software programs for free. We downloaded Corel Painter Essentials 6 on our Windows computer, and after playing around with it for a bit, our daughter created this drawing:


She’s really excited to use it more and make some magnificent creations! The program wasn’t necessarily user intuitive for her, but fortunately, Youtube has some great tutorials that will explain how to use the different programs, and I would suggest checking out videos to help out if you are new to using these types of programs and equipment.

Buying the Wacom Intuos

Do we recommend the Wacom Intuos tablet? Yes, yes we do! We received the size Medium in exchange for our fair and unbiased review, but you can purchase it for $199.95. The small size with Bluetooth is $99.95 and the small size without Bluetooth is $79.95.